What a sweet way to celebrate the passing of 2011 in the lunar calendar - chinese new year eve. Whilst I knew exactly what I wanted to make for dessert, 5 components to a lychee themed dessert plate (a good friend laughed at how I like to make themes for dessert!), I was utterly and completely blank with dinner itself! Luckily enough, my mother in law was here to help.
Lychees are not native to Australia and it is quite difficult and expensive to get it fresh here down under. However, during the chinese new year season, you do see quite a bit of lychees at the supermarket, no doubt not as plump and juicy as the ones you get from Malaysia. I don't know why I was thinking lychees this year, maybe because it's such a "chinese" type fruit, I've certainly heard of stories of the fruit being used widely as a delicacy in the Chinese Imperial Court. It's from Chine, no? Hence CNY = a lychee dessert??
This dessert was planned so thoroughly, started 3 days in advance. (And the rest of the menu in havoc, 3 hours prior!)
Lychee and nectarine frangipane tart
Fresh lychee ice cream
Lychee cream macaron
Lychee japanese jelly
And a green tea infused syrup (which I regretfully omitted in the end)
The frangipane tart was the hero, the recipe I adapted from Citrus and Candy. I love the buttery, very short, melt in the mouth pastry. Yum yum...
Almond Frangipane Tart, with fresh nectarines and lychees.
Buttery Shortbread Pastry (Pate Sablé)
Makes 1 x 20cm tart
125g plain flour
50g icing sugar
pinch of salt
100g butter, cold and chopped
1 egg yolk
In a food processor, add the flour, sugar and salt and give it a quick whirl to mix. Add chopped cubes of cold butter and process until it roughly resembles breadcrumbs. Add the yolks and process until the dough comes together.
Pat dough together into a round disk and wrap well in clingfilm (you might need a little sprinkle of flour if dough gets too soft or warm). Refrigerate until ready to use or until well chilled.
Lightly grease a 20cm loose-bottomed fluted tart tin. Roll pastry between two sheets of non-stick baking paper to a circle roughly 25-26cm in diameter and about 3mm thick.
Wrap dough around the rolling pin removing the baking paper from the bottom as you do so. Line the tin and tuck in the pastry into the sides and bottom. Remove the top sheet and run the rolling pin over the top of the tin to cut off the excess.
Use excess dough to patch up any holes or flaws. If the dough gets too warm and soft, refrigerate for 5-10 minutes to firm up.
Chill pastry for at least an hour.
Preheat oven to 180°C. Scrunch up a sheet of baking paper and lay on top of the tart shell. Fill with ceramic pie weights and blind bake for 15-20 minutes or until cooked, lightly golden and the bottom is ‘dry’.
Remove the baking paper and weights and bake for another 3-5 minutes until lightly golden. Remove from oven and cool on wire rack.
Note: This is a really buttery pastry so it isn’t exactly summer/humidity friendly. Be sure to refrigerate as soon as the pastry softens too much to make it easier to work with and rest it adequately to prevent shrinkage in the oven. It definitely needs to be rolled between two sheets of baking paper but don’t worry if you mess up a little when lining the tin. You easily can use the pastry to patch up any holes or mistakes.Almond Frangipane
150g butter, slightly softened
150g icing sugar
150g almond meal
1 egg yolk
20ml Grand Marnier
1 tsp vanilla extract
30g plain flour
Cream butter and sugar until pale, light and fluffy (at least 5 minutes). Add the almond meal and beat until mixed. Add the eggs, Grand Marnier, vanilla and flour and beat until combined.
Mixture can be refrigerated covered for a couple of days or frozen. Allow the mixture to come to room temperature to soften before adding to pastry case.
Spoon enough frangipane into your cooled shortbread pastry case and use an offset spatula to even it out (do not fill more than 0.5 cm below the top of pastry case).
Bake in a preheated 180°C oven for around 15 minutes until frangipane is puffed, cooked through and lightly golden (it’s ready when the centre springs back).
Remove tart and cool on wire rack.
Brush the surface of the warm tart with some warmed apricot jam then shower with sifted icing sugar. Allow to cool completely.
Tart is best served on the day but can be stored for a short time in an airtight container.
Lychee Cream Macaron
Macarons and me, we have a hit and miss relationship. I started with the french method (macarons au blanc monte) after a bit of research online, fell in love with My Tartelette, and then hovered over the Italian method (macarons au sucre cuit) after a few failed batches of macarons au blanc monte. And I still couldn't get it quite right.
Call me crazy but I am not a huge fan of 'em macs. Perhaps, maybe I like ONE macaron. Then it becomes sickly sweet. But I want to make them. I need to make it perfect. To achieve the standard beauty of a macaron, you need a smooth dome of a shell with pretty little ruffles down the bottom otherwise known as the feet. You could almost jump with joy at the first sight of "feet" hurrah!
So I went back to basics. I counted how many successful batches of french and how many italians, strangely enough, the french method wins! (The Italian method is known to be more stable and hence more feet successes).
I will not post the recipe for macarons here, but if you would like to make them, hop over to raspberri cupcakes. She has the most gorgeous looking macs and her ideas are just brilliant!
Lychee Ice Cream
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 whole vanilla bean, split
- 3 egg yolks
- 1/3 cup castor sugar
- 2 400g cans peeled whole lychees in heavy syrup
1. In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, cream, and vanilla bean. Place the mixture over medium heat and bring to a simmer.
2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until light. Pour a small amount of the hot milk into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the milk in the pan and cook and stir until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a metal spoon. Transfer the mixture to a bowl.
3. Drain the lychees, reserving 1/4 cup of the syrup. Place the lychees and the reserved syrup in a food processor or a blender. Process for 15 seconds, or until the mixture is puréed but with some pieces remaining. Stir the purée into the cream mixture until well blended. Chill.
4. Transfer the chilled mixture to an ice cream maker and churn for 30 minutes. Transfer to a freezer safe container and chill overnight.There you go! That was my lychee dessert plate for chinese new year eve. Never was I this excited over a dessert plate before. I think I had my dinner guests in a sugar high as we ushered in the new year. Beauty!