Thursday, 7 October 2010

Second Wedding Anniversary: Part Three

We did not find it hard to decide on Italy for a honeymoon.
We are both comfortable with the language and are not interested in just lazing by the pool all day and getting a tan. We love our city breaks; exploring the history and culture of wherever we are and finding a good little bar and restaurant that we will eat in most days of our holiday.

We stayed in Via Julia in a boutique hotel which had a veru nice, but very pricey, restaurant. Cappuccini every morning with a delightful selection of pastries, eggs, continental meats, fruit. The breakfast was second only to The Ambassor Hotel in Bloomsbury, London.

Rome has some of the most wonderful ruins I have ever seen. The Colosseum, Palatine Hill and the Forum are all incredible and make for a very enjoyable day of walking underneath the hot Roman sun. We walked down a street off Piazza Navona and found a maze of restaurant after restaurant and were stunned by the fact that each was full to bursting. We ate some wonderful meals there. Our favourite spot for drinks was just around the corner from our hotel at Bar Baccanal. L enjoyed a daily Peroni and I, a daily Peach Daquiri with a plate of Fiore di Zucca (a must try dish if you ever get the chance).
We also saw the Pantheon, the Trevi fountain, the Spanish Steps (so overrated!), and the amazing Santa Maria della Concezione; a crypt decorated with the bones of Monks who once lived at the church.

On sunday we went to St Peter's square to see the Pope. He was away visiting Sardinia but the number of people who went to watch his mass on the video screens was astonding. We took a turn around the Vatican museums, were shushed in the Sistine Chapel and were awed by some of the art from antiquity and the renaissance that are housed in the seemingly endless corridors.
L's favourite place was Castel Sant'Angelo. Hadrians Maussoleum that became a fortress and last stronghold for the Popes. It was exciting to see how the different layers of history were built on top of one another. At the very top, there is a terrace bar where we sat and, almost happily, paid 8euros for a beer whilst enjoying panoramic views of Rome and the seven hills.

And so to dessert. You'd think after gourging on baked Camembert, soup and warm homemade bread, that we would be full.

You're right. We were full.

But we managed pudding anyway. It was sickly sweet with three layers based on caramel and chocolate and a shortbread base. I dread to think how calorific these were but that was the last thing on our minds as we made our way through them.

Millionaires Shortbread Desserts (makes four)

For the caramel syrup
200g caster sugar
50g water
115g water
For the shortbread
60g unsalted butter
25g caster sugar
90g plain flour
 For the caramel mousse
130g caster sugar
240ml double cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract with seeds
75ml caramel syrup (made above)
For the the caramel-chocolate ganache
50g milk chocolate
100g double cream
small knob butter
50g cooled caramel syrup
For the chocolate ganache
40ml double cream
100g plain chocolate
small knob butter

For the caramel syrup

In a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, mix 50g water and 200g sugar together, then turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until mixture is amber, stirring only once or twice.

When an amber color is achieved, cover the saucepan with tin foil and make a small hole in the cover. Pour the remaining 115g of water through the hole. After the caramel stops exploding, whisk over medium heat until the consistency is even and syrup has reduced slightly. Set aside and allow to cool.
For the shortbread

Preheat the oven to gas mark 5 and lighty grease a 23cm cake tin.
Beat the butter and sugar together in a bowl until they are smooth.
Stir in the flour to make a dough.
Gently press the dough into the greased cake tin. Don't worry about making it neat and tidy. Once cooked, you are going to break it all up again.
Cook for about 15 minutes until golden. Cool for 5 minutes in the tray before dividing the mixture amoungst four glasses or serving dishes and pressing down until lightly compacted.
For the caramel mousse
Whip the cream and sugar for the caramel with the vanilla extract to soft peaks.
Fold in the cooled caramel syrup gently until well combined.
Pour the mixture into the serving dishes on top of the shortbread layer and put in the fridge for a couple of hours until set.
For the the caramel-chocolate ganache
Roughly chop the chocolate up and tip into a medium sized bowl.
In a small pan, heat the cream and butter together until warm.
Reheat the caramel syrup until just bubbling. Make another foil lid with a hole in and place over the caramel pan. Carefully pour the warmed cream through the hole and allow any bubbling to subside before removing the lid and whisking the contents of the pan until well combined.
Pour this into the chocolate bowl and whisk until the ganache has formed.
Once cool, pour as much or as little of the ganache onto the top of each mousse layer as you like, before replacing in the fridge to set for another hour.
For the chocolate ganache
Roughly chop the chocolate and place into a medium sized bowl.
Heat the cream and butter together over a medium heat until just beginning to boil.
Immediately pour the cream over the chocolate and leave to stand for 5 minutes.
Stir with a whisk to mix and ensure all the chocolate has melted.
Pour over the top of the chocolate-caramel ganache layer and leave to set for another 30 minutes before serving.

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