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Monday, December 22, 2014

The DESSERTed Dinner Party - Christmas in July (in August)

     
      I know my blog has suffered neglect for so long now but a late blog post is better than never. This isn't a Christmas entry, but the theme is still Christmas as it's the Christmas in July edition of The DESSERTed Dinner Party dessert degustation/reverse dinner party that Ryan and I hosted in August (yes, August). We wanted to squeeze in at least one dessert degustation for 2014 despite renovations going on at my place and were keen to do the Christmas in July theme but the only time we could do it was the second week of August.
      We also usually give ourselves and our guests plenty of notice but this time with just a month to prep and manage rsvps, we weren't sure how fast or slow the uptake would be. We were worried about another mass influx of people wanting to come so were going to allocate seats raffle style but it seemed that with only a month's notice we were struggling to fill seats but all was good as we managed to get another good turnout of 20 of our friends in the end.

      Our Christmas in July menu, though it leans more towards Thanksgiving. Just realised I miss typed the hash tag but luckily most guests used the right one on the day except one stray photo from Jeroxie - sorry Penny! If you're on instagram and want to have a peek at the behind the scenes photos and photos of previous events search for the hash tag #desserteddinnerparty

      Transforming the back patio of Ryan's parents' place into our instant restaurant. I wanted to inject a bit of Christmas in the decorations but didn't want to go too overboard.

      We were also missing half the dream team with this event as Jessica was overseas and Celine attended with her mum as a guest instead. We managed to recruit our mate Phil and his girlfriend to stand in to help us but he had go solo in the end as his gf fell ill on the day but Celine couldn't help herself and still helped us out anyway - thanks guys!

      I packed everything but the kitchen sink over to Ryan's place. As we were still in the middle of renovations at home I couldn't do any prep at home.

Our run sheets for the week and the day of.

Mulled Wine.
       As our guests arrived they were warmed up with some mulled wine.We held this dessert degustation earlier in the afternoon due to it being winter. Though it was a bit of an odd time as it was a very late lunch/afternoon tea time. Some people were running late coming from other appointments and some had to leave on full stomachs only to have to eat all over again soon after. Hopefully next time we can have it at a more decent time and it will be indoors so we don't have to worry about our guests being left in the cold.


      First Course: Christmassy Bread and Butter Pudding with Brandy Custard.
      Ryan and I absolutely love bread and butter budding and we make a pretty mean one. This was a combined effort and we decided to put a Christmas spin on it and spiked the pudding (made with baguettes) with mixed spices and nutmeg and made a brandy creme anglais to go with it. Something so simple was surprisingly a big hit with everyone. Instead of individual serves Ryan thought it might be a nice way to start off with a shared dish so I found these cute little pots on sale. I was worried that the serving was too large but most of the pots came back empty. We almost forgot about serving spoons and bowls for everyone but that's why we have helpers on hand.

Second Course: Sweet Potato Fries with Maple Cinnamon Mayo.
      I accidentally switched the order of the savouries on the run sheet so we served up the fries as the second course or first savoury 'palate cleanser' to break up the sweetness in between courses. I love love love sweet potato fries. This dish is actually inspired by the baked sweet potato side from Outback Steakhouse where it's served with a dollop of whipped honey butter which I absolutely love. I did a bit of googling for some ideas for a sauce/dip for the fries and came up with the whacky combination of mayo, maple syrup and cinnamon. Ryan thought I was absolutely crazy until he tasted it. We knew we had a winner and everyone loved it too.

      I know I'm the dessert queen in the relationship but to keep it fare and balanced I assigned one dessert to Ryan. I loved the pumpkin pie he made for our Christmas lunch with friends a few years ago so requested that he make it again. He decided to put a modern twist on it.

Production line.

Third Course: 'Pumpkin Pie' - Pumpkin puree, macadamia crumble, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin chips, hidden pop rocks and eggnog ice cream.
      I loved Ryan's deconstructed pumpkin pie. Most people loved it, apart from a few whom thought it didn't work for them. Ryan took this feedback to heart but you can't please everyone! I think overall Ryan did a fantastic job. I loved all the different textures and flavours but you still got the essence of a pumpkin pie in every bite.

Fourth Course: Roast Turkey Sliders with Cranberry Coleslaw on home made Brioche Buns.
      Second savoury 'palate cleanser'. Even though the Americans have Turkey for Thanksgiving, I think we here in the land down under tend to eat it for Christmas. I thought some roast turkey sliders would be a cute idea as another savoury course. I made my own brioche buns however they were a bit on the dense side this time, baking in winter can get tricky and my dough didn't rise was much as I wanted it too. We also forgot to check on the seasoning of the turkey and Ryan went a bit overboard adding the onions into the coleslaw. Good idea but we could have improved a little bit on the execution of the elements.

      For the last dessert I wanted to do something special, something that would make everyone go 'wow'. Something that would push me out of my comfort zone, with multiple components, textures and flavours. I actually did a similar dessert a while ago which I called my 'rose garden' and one of my friends who tried it said that it should be on the menu for our next dessert party. I decided to give it a Christmas spin and I was really keen on making an edible Christmas Bauble so it was an amalgamation of that dessert and some ideas that I found while doing some research online and looking at different pastry chefs for inspiration.

      The other menu items we had were quite straight forward to prepare and considering Ryan was on his own for one dessert, this allowed me to get a bit technical. I attempted to temper chocolate for the first time, and picking the trickiest chocolate to temper - white chocolate. I also wanted to try my hand (or to be more specific get Ryan to try it) molecular gastronomy and wanted to make some spheres but we didn't have enough time to experiment so I had to resort to plan b which was the jelly. Ryan did help me a little on my dish though, mainly making my edible snow for me and also helping to cut my marshmallows up.

Fifth Course: 'Christmas Bauble' - White chocolate shell, strawberry mousse, rosewater meringues, vanilla marshmallows, pistachio praline, strawberries, cucumber jelly, coconut lime snow.

      My masterpiece - an edible Christmas Bauble. I was going to seal the two half spheres together but Ryan said that it was better to leave them unsealed so that the top half can be lifted off like a lid. Of course there were plenty of things I could do better, some of my tempered shells were uneven so some had a lovely crack whereas others were a bit thick due to the chocolate not tempering properly. The snow we could have done better too as there were some clumpy and gummy bits. But overall I was very very proud of my creation. I thought I was overly ambitious (and so did Ryan) but to be able to pull it off is so rewarding.
      All the flavours worked so well, and the cucumber jelly was a revelation. I wanted something refreshing to break up the sweetness and thought little exploding spheres would be nice but the jelly worked just as well. I even had someone reference this as the strawberry watermelon cake (from Black Star Pastry) and when I sat down later and ate some leftovers I could taste the resemblance.

      Not wanting guests to go home empty handed, I packaged up all the rest of the marshmallows into little gift bags.
      I also need to make a special mention to fellow food blogger and friend Thanh of the blog I Eat Therefore I Am who came all the way from Melbourne just to attend our dessert party. It started off as a joke over email but somehow on the Friday before the event we found ourselves picking him up from Sydney Airport. We hosted him for the weekend and ate a lot as food bloggers do. Here are some shots below from him.






      Thanks Thanh for the photos and thank you to all our wonderful friends and guests for coming along. Without you guys coming to support us we wouldn't be able to continue to do what we love. My parents place is just going through the final stages of renovations and will be the new location for future DESSERTed Dinner Parties. We look forward to doing it all again in 2015 and hope to see some new faces come along too. Life is short, eat dessert first.