Good morning dear readers. Today I have a question: How do you measure the success of your recipes? Does it need to be cheap and easy? Better than the mother-in-law's? Contain chocolate? I'm really strict when it comes to my own, and have a long list of boxes to tick before considering a recipe worthy of being remembered and remade.
First of all I have to like the sound of it. Either it has to have a great name, like Chocolate Insanity, or Hot Cross Bunnies, or Puddle cookies, or the name must tell me that this sounds interesting, like Salmon with Strawberry and Feta crust. Then the dish has to look good. By this I don't mean styled and dressed to death. I'm always slightly suspicious of dishes that has a hundred and one different garnishes, with a serviette folded into a swan on the side. Then again, plenty of dishes don't score high in the looks area, but taste divine, like stew, or chocolate tart, for that matter. Looks can bring you far, but is nothing without substance. A little bit like in real life.
It helps if a dish is made of fairly cheap and readily available ingredients, preferably already in the pantry, and doesn't take all day, but again this isn't essential. I'm very happy to spend time and money on something if I know it will be worth the effort.
And of course, it goes without saying, it has to taste fabulous. I'm happy to settle for delicious if it's dead easy and cheap and to be served on a Tuesday, but really, I prefer my dishes to be swoon worthy. Life's too short, as they say, to eat mediocre food. And both I and my guests must rate it this highly. I remember a fig ice cream I made for a dinner one night (I'll post the recipe one day): Everybody started off with their two scoops, but soon I had to bring out the leftovers, and at the end of the evening one of my guests was licking the bowl! Now that's what I call a success.
Which brings me to this post's recipe. I searched for a dish to use up stale hot cross buns, and found this chocolate and custard tart on taste.com.au. It was a bit different than your usual bread and butter puddings (which is delicious, don't get me wrong): you make a base of thinly sliced hot cross buns and melted chocolate (also a good way to use up easter eggs), cover it with a creamy custard and set it in the fridge. Sounds great, doesn't it? The reviews were mostly raving about it, so I decided to make it for a family gathering last night.
Everybody said it was delicious, and liked the idea of the hot cross bun crust, but I couldn't shake the feeling that they were just being nice. How do I know? Nobody, not a single one, had seconds, and there were plenty left. Now in my book, that's a failure. Admittedly, there are a few things I'd do differently next time, like sprinkling some liqueur over the buns, and have more of a custard filling that's not quite so creamy, maybe baked. Maybe chocolate. But will there be a next time? Do I really want to spend time on a recipe that's already let me down once? I'm not sure. What do you think, dear readers?
Chocolate and Custard Torte
70g (1/3 cup) caster sugar
1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
600ml thickened cream
4 egg yolks
200g good-quality dark chocolate (or leftover Easter eggs), coarsely chopped
100ml thin cream
4 bought hot cross buns, thinly sliced vertically
2 tablespoons warm water
2 1/2 teaspoons gelatine powder
2 teaspoons cocoa powder
Place the sugar, vanilla extract and half the thickened cream in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes or until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a gentle boil. Pour into a heatproof jug.
Place the egg yolks in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in the cream mixture. Return to the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring, for 4 minutes or until the custard coats the back of a spoon. Transfer to a heatproof bowl. Place in the fridge for 1 hour to chill.
Meanwhile, combine the chocolate and thin cream in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan half-filled with simmering water (make sure the bowl doesn't touch the water). Use a metal spoon to stir until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth.
Line the base and sides of a round 24cm (base measurement) springform pan with non-stick baking paper. Arrange half the hot cross bun slices, in a single layer, over the base of the pan. Spread half the chocolate mixture evenly over the base to cover completely. Repeat with the remaining hot cross bun and chocolate mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 1 hour or until set.
Whisk the remaining thickened cream in a bowl until soft peaks form. Use a large metal spoon to gently fold the cream into the custard mixture.
Place the warm water in a small heatproof jug. Sprinkle with gelatine and whisk with a fork until the gelatine dissolves. Gently fold the gelatine mixture into the custard mixture. Pour over the chocolate base. Cover and place in fridge for 3 hours or overnight to set. Dust with the cocoa powder to serve.