Chocolate Creme Brulee

So, even though I used the exact same recipe as I did the first time, it decided to not set on me – which is possibly the most devastating (I do realize that’s overly dramatic) thing that could happen when working with creme brulee. In fairness, it was probably my fault as I messed with the sugar ratio and texture by blindly adding melted chocolate chips. The only thing left for me to do – aside from trashing it all – was to of course muster all the common sense I had to tackle this issue. So then I thought about all the ingredients I used and figured out which one was most likely the contributing factor. Through trial and error, I finally added just the right amount of egg yolks in the mixture for it to set properly, after reheating everything on the stove and chilling it overnight, (an undesirable and time consuming process that you will now avoid should you ever encounter this problem. You’re welcome.) it resulted in the perfect consistency. I even topped it with some berries just for aesthetics :). I’m getting better at this guys.

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See no evil, Hear no evil, Speak no evil

A lot of you may have noticed that I haven’t been blogging about my kitchen creations since my return to Brisbane. I’m not lazy, nor did I lose interest. Just that the student life is catching up to me. I have a shitty oven that merely holds a 5lb bird, and very limited kitchen supplies – ’cause it would be silly if I lugged it all back from Canada. Well, I have pots and pans and basic utensils. But I miss my electric mixer, baking trays, spices, and… coffee maker. The things I would give for my coffee maker right now. Nope, not about to get into what my instant coffee tastes like. Anyway, I find it frustrating to search for proper ingredients at grocery stores in this area. Last year, in an attempt to recreate a cupcake recipe of Martha Stewart’s, I quit after failing to find half of the ingredients at Coles. HOW IS IT THAT YOU DON’T HAVE BROWN SUGAR IN STOCK!?

… *ahem*

So, I’ve temporarily taken a new direction with this blog while I’m overseas. I will write about my new experiences with food as I utilize my precious last 7 months exploring Brisbane. A food-travel blog, if you will.

Of the 3 years I have spent in Brisbane, and being a cafe lover, I have found THE gem in this city. And from this place, located subtly on a street corner in a suburb called West End, the most delicious piece of chocolate cake was discovered.

The Three Monkeys

The first time I came here I almost missed it. It didn’t look like a cafe from the outside. Through the miniature front yard and sliding door, there’s an immediate claustrophobic feeling that is dissipated as quick as it came as soon as you walk down the side corridor into another backyard seating area. That’s probably what it feels like to enter Narnia from the wardrobe…

You can now sense that this is not just your typical cafe or a hole in the wall, but rather somewhere inbetween. It can be private and peaceful but at the same time filled with so much character that you cannot help but to come back again and again. ONE cake in the front display case hits the jackpot every. single. time. Their variety of teas is amazing; from the typical store-bought flavours to the tropical fruity herbal spicy soothing light surprising kinds whatever it’s there.

Filo wrapped chicken mushroom ham with garden salad seasoned with rosemary. It may not look like a big portion size but took me ages to devour this plate and still had leftovers. You can taste the quality and freshness of their ingredients. A nicely balanced lunch.

Saving the best for last. Who is Diane and what other heavenly cakes does she make!?!? Diane, if you’re out there, just know that I will bow to you when you show your face. Do not underestimate this piece of cake, for it is the best chocolate cake I have ever had. Moist cake and fluffy mousse layers. Covered in a thin coating of dark chocolate, but not thick enough that you need a glass of milk. That’s my rule for cakes: if I need a glass of milk to wash it down, it ain’t good enough. It’s obvious that I am about to make it my life mission to figure out the recipe. If you are a chocolate cake lover, or not, go try it. More importantly, if you know the recipe, don’t tell me. This is a personal challenge.

This post is dedicated to my best friend, who is just as unreasonably crazy about Chocolate Diane as I am. The obsession began when she visited me in Brisbane last year. I’m confident she will appreciate the fact that I have the advantage of enjoying this cake whenever I want since she is far away now. It’s a cruel world we live in. But no fear, when I have successfully imitated this god-sent cake, I will share the recipe with you all. 😀

To sum it all up, this is Three Monkeys in my books:

  1. Quality food. Check
  2. Reasonable price. Check
  3. Good atmosphere. Check
  4. Speedy service and friendly staff. Check

I would say my checklist is quite reasonable in terms of what I look for in cafes. But surprisingly it’s not easy coming across places that can check off all 4. If you’re looking to steer away from the hectic streets of the city, and the uncomfortable silence of your own home, Three Monkeys is your temporary escape.

Christmas tart

Ready for Christmas!

Thanks to my sister and Najin for having enough patience to cut and arrange the fruits on top! It is actually my least favourite part. I know this because I had to make another one the following week all by myself and boy is it tedious (especially peeling those kiwis). Even though the end result is totally worth it 😛

It’s not as complicated as it looks. I can assure you it’s a piece of cake (I had to).

For the tart shell you will need:

  • 1 1/2 cup of all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup of butter. Slightly softened.
  • 1/2 cup of confectioner’s sugar
  • Veggie oil (optional)

For the filling:

  • About 150g of white/milk chocolate chips (you can add more or less depends on how sweet you like it)
  • One package of Philadelphia cream cheese (I like using the light version. It’s better for you and I barely taste the difference)
  • 1/4 cup of whipping cream (18% cream worked for me too but it made the filling taste more like cheesecake)

For the topping:

  • Use any fruits you desire!

For the glaze:

  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons of white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • A “splash” of white wine (you can substitute with more lemon juice or leftover canned pineapple juice if you’re using pineapples for the topping. I got a little booze happy during Christmas though 🙂 )

Let’s get started:

Note: You can make the tart shell and slice up your fruits days ahead of time and store it in the fridge until ready to assemble and eat. This is very helpful if you’re on a tight schedule especially during the holidays.

  1. Preheat oven to 300F. In a mixing bowl, use your hands to mix confectioners sugar and butter until light and fluffy. I like using room temperature butter for this. Microwave the butter for about 10-12 seconds if it was refrigerated.
  2. Slowly add in the flour. It might be easier to do this on a board instead of a bowl. You really need to work it in with your hands. One way I can usually tell if it’s moist enough is when you grab a chunk of it in your fist. If it doesn’t crumble when you let go then it is ready to be molded into the tart pan! If it’s too dry, a bit of veggie oil will do the trick. Be careful not to go overboard with it.

    Have patience for this step! 🙂

  3. Place it on the middle rack in the oven for about 25min or until light brown. Then let it cool. If you want to store it in the fridge make sure you cling wrap the hell out of it!
  4. For the filling, empty the chocolate chips into a heat proof bowl and position it on top of a saucepan of simmering water at medium heat. Stir until melted.
  5. You will need a hand-held electric mixer for this step. Hulk-like biceps and a strong whisk would work too if you can’t afford the former. Add the cream cheese chunks at a time to the chocolate and beat until smooth and uniform. Then add the whipping cream and give it some more action until fluffy! Spread the mixture into the crust.
  6. Arrange the fruits on top in any pattern you like. Almost done!
  7. For the glaze, heat the lemon juice, sugar and corn starch on medium low heat stirring gently with a whisk. Add the wine and bring it to a bubbling thickened mixture. Remove from heat as soon as it’s boiling otherwise you will be cooking off a lot of the alcohol. Coat the fruits with a pastry brush once it’s cooled.
  8. Don’t say “just a sliver”. It’s Christmas! Enjoy a big piece 🙂

Note: This recipe is a derivation of Claire Darby’s creation on All Recipes.com