Wed 28 Apr 2010
Posted by andrew under Recipes Comments
The other key part of the recipe from my “Recipe Club” dessert (the previous part being the Ice Magic) was the ice-cream itself. The main problem here for me is that I don’t currently have an ice-cream maker; the last one exploded in the pantry when it got too hot one summer. So, I needed to find a recipe that explained how to make it without one.
I was rescued by a recipe book called Ice Cream (of course) by Joanna Farrow and Sara Lewis. Sadly, this book has been in my possession for several years now without ever being used. It survived several house moves when other books were culled, and clearly there was method to the madness since it turned out to have exactly the sort of recipe that I was looking for.
4 egg yolks
75g caster sugar
1 teaspoon (5mL) corn flour
250g white chocolate (happily Whittakers still makes good chocolate in 250g blocks)
2 teaspoons (10mL) vanilla extract
300mL whipping cream (~35% milk fat)
With the egg yolks, caster sugar and corn flour in a large bowl, stir with a fork until it is well combined and slightly bubbly.
Then pour the milk into a saucepan, place over a medium heat on the stove, and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and drizzle into to egg mixture, stirring all the while, and you’ll end up with a basic custard mixture in the bowl.
If you’re like me, you’ll have ended up with milk cooked onto the bottom of the saucepan, and will need to get another one or do a quick clean.
Pour the custard mixture back into a saucepan, place over a low heat on the stove, and stir constantly until the mixture thickens, perhaps to the consistency of a pouring custard. It will also get really smooth at that point, which is another good indicator. Don’t try to over-thicken the custard.
Remove the custard from the heat, and pour into a large, freezer-proof bowl.
Break 150g of the white chocolate into small pieces. Then gently stir those pieces into the hot custard, along with the vanilla extract. Leave it to cool for 20 mins or so, and then place in the fridge to chill. This should take about another hour.
Put the cream into a bowl (yes, another one), and whip it with an electric beater until it has thickened, but “still falls from the spoon”. You should see the cream beginning to form little lumps at this point, and it will have doubled in volume.
Remove the bowl of chilled custard from the fridge, fold the whipped cream into it, and put it in the freezer for three hours.
Remove it from the freezer. Using a fork, pull the icecream away from the sides of the bowl. Then, using an electric beater, blend together the frozen and unfrozen parts of the mix for about a minute. The ice cream mixture should be the same consistency as a good milk-shake. Return to the freezer again for another two hours.
Finely chop the remaining white chocolate, so that the pieces are about the same size as choc bits.
Remove the ice cream from the freezer again. Follow the same approach as before with the fork and electric beater, and this time stir in the white chocolate as well. The ice cream mixture should be the same consistency as a thick-shake. Return to the freezer again for another two to four hours, or until firm.
Makes about 1L of ice-cream, so will serve about 8 if presented in cones or about 4 if presented in bowls.
Tags: chocolate, dessert, home made, ice cream, joanna farrow, recipe, sara lewis, white, white chocolate
Tue 13 Apr 2010
Posted by andrew under Recipes Comments
I’m in a “Recipe Club”, where we get together once a month for dinner, to share food on a particular theme, and try out favourite recipes or those we hope will become favourites. This month, the theme was chocolate, and I had volunteered to make a dessert.
Towards the end of summer, I had gotten into Cottee’s Ice Magic again (although, to be honest, it was the Woolworths’ brand version). It had been years since I’d had it and was surprised that it was still good. And, as you do, I’d been wondering how it works and whether you could make some yourself that tasted *really* good.
So, this was in the back of my mind when I was trying to think up a chocolate dessert, and so I decided to see if the Internet knew the answer. And it did.
The main trick was finding refined Coconut Oil. It is the essential ingredient, as it is liquid above ~24 degrees Celcius but solid below that. Hence, it is liquid at room temperature (at least, in summer) but sets when poured on ice-cream.
I easily managed to find a jar of Melrose Organic Refined Cocout Oil (Butter) in a random health food store in Melbourne city. Unless you really want a coconut taste, make sure you get the refined variety rather than the virgin variety.
My final dessert was home-made double white chocolate ice-cream with almond praline and this recipe for Ice Magic over the top. However, that’s for another post.
40g good quality chocolate (it will taste just like the chocolate)
15mL refined coconut oil
If the oil has turned solid, stand in a bowl of hot water until it returns to liquid state.
Break the chocolate into pieces and place in a microwave-safe container. Place in a microwave on a low setting (e.g. 30% of a 800W unit) for a minute or so until the chocolate sags and is beginning to melt, then remove.
Stir the oil into the chocolate until fully combined, forming a chocolate syrup.
Pour the syrup over cold icecream to serve. It should set within a minute, forming a hard chocolate shell.
If the syrup sets while you are storing it, you can microwave it back to life or rest the container in a bowl of hot water.
Serves 2-3 people.
Tags: chocolate, dessert, ice magic, magic shell, recipe
Mon 5 Apr 2010
Posted by andrew under Recipes Comments
If you’re anything like us, and had more Hot Cross Buns in your house this Easter than you knew what to do with, then this recipe is for you. Previously, I’ve recommended French-toasting them, but baking them into a pudding is also a very satisfying option. We served them up for a dessert at a family lunch today, and it was very yummy.
This is based on the recipe for Bread and Butter pudding from Donna Hay’s Modern Classics Book 2.
600g slightly stale Hot Cross Buns (we used an 8pk of Woolworths bakery buns)
~100g Spreadable butter
4 large eggs
4 cups (1L) milk
1/2 cup (125mL) brown sugar
1 teaspoon (5mL) vanilla extract
~1 tablespoon (15mL) raw sugar (a.k.a. demerara sugar) for topping
Water for hot water bath
Preheat oven to 160 degrees C.
Leave the buns in a block, and slice off the “crusts” from the sides and bottom (leave the crosses on). Then slice the block of buns in half, butter both sides and put back together.
Slice the block into thumb-width strips, e.g. 2 buns long and something like 1/3 or 1/4 of a bun wide. Butter the sides of the strips.
Grease a 6 cup (1.5L) round baking dish, and arrange the strips around the inside. A nice pattern is to put the strips in pointing up, but on an angle, arranged in concentric circles.
Place the eggs, brown sugar and vanilla extract in a bowl and whisk briefly. Then add milk mix to combine.
Pour the liquid over the buns in the baking dish and stand for 2-3 minutes.
While waiting, boil some water. When finished, sprinkle raw sugar onto the buns, place baking dish into a baking tray, and pour water into baking tray so that it comes half-way up the sides of the baking dish.
Put the whole thing into the oven and bake for 65 minutes (or until the liquid sets).
Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes before serving with cream or ice-cream.
Serves 6-8 people.
Tags: bread and butter pudding, dessert, donna hay, easter, hot-cross-buns, pudding, recipe
Sat 3 Apr 2010
Posted by andrew under Musings1 Comment
When I first got involved in property investing, I wrote a little program that scoured the real estate websites for details of properties that were in areas interesting to me. One of the stats that it tried to calculate was the average rental yield (the rent divided by the purchase price) for different areas. Unfortunately, the values I was getting back were utter rubbish.
After looking closer at the data, I realised that I’d fallen for a classic beginner’s mistake: I had tried to compare median values.
The median is an “average” measure of a set of values where there are just as many values smaller than it as there are larger than it. If there are five houses worth $100k, $120k, $125k, $190k and $250k, then the median house value is $125k (the middle one).
Medians are widely used by real estate agents because they are easy to calculate, aren’t skewed by the effect of a really expensive or really cheap property coming onto the market, and provide a simple message to buyers. They state how affordable an area is – if you can afford the median, then you can afford the majority of homes for sale in an area.
However, my mistake was comparing two median values in an area: 1) the median rent and 2) the median sales price. The set of properties available for rent was composed of completely different dwellings to the set of properties available for sale. For example, the median rent might have come from a 2 bedroom unit, while the median sale might have come from a 3 bedroom unit. As a result, the yields being calculated were much too low.
My mistake in comparing medians is repeated by many in the media every week in calculating property growth by comparing the median from one period with the median from another period. To be fair, it’s not entirely their fault, as they get their data from real estate agents.
Statisticians are aware of the problems with using the median for calculating growth rates and have come up with three improvements. Christopher Joye has written a detailed overview, but I’ll provide my potted summary.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and Australian Property Monitors (APM) both use an approach of grouping properties into related sets (stratifying the data) prior to computing medians. If the groupings are done properly, then any skewing in one group will not affect another group too much, so data from different periods should be more comparable. However, it doesn’t eliminate the problem that properties sold in different periods might not be comparable in the first place.
The main approach used by Residex is based on calculating the growth rate of properties sold in a given period based on how much they sold for last time. Comparing a property with itself clearly doesn’t have the same level of issue as comparing medians. However, a property might have been renovated (or even completely demolished and rebuilt) since its last sale, which adds a wrinkle to the calculation. Also, sales of new buildings cannot be included since there isn’t a prior sale to compare them with.
The hedonic method is less interesting than it sounds, but is the main approach used by RP Data. In this method, sale data is combined with data on the nature of each property, e.g. precise location, land size, number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, etc. In this way, like can really be compared with like, and more accurate growth rates can be calculated for properties in different areas. However, this approach is only as good as its data, and we need to trust that the statisticians at RP Data have gotten the good stuff. Also, historical data for all of these additional details are hard to find, so it’s not possible to do comparisons as far back as with the other approaches.
In conclusion, it is clear that the three improved approaches all have their strengths and weaknesses, but all are superior to the plain median. I was never able to update my little property stats program to collect enough data to make proper comparisons, but at least I learned the pitfalls of comparing medians.
Tags: average, growth, hedonic, hedonic method, investing, investment, median, property, real-estate, repeat sales, statistics, stratified