Nadine Ingram is a master baker who needs no introduction. Owner of Flour and Stone, a Sydney bakery with a cult following, her name is now synonymous with the best panna cotta lamingtons, a sublime lemon drizzle cake and a stunningly sculptured apple tart. Oh, and don’t get me started on her jam doughnuts.
In this story, Nadine generously welcomes us into her culinary world. We're particularly excited to share her recipe for Dulcey salted caramel and honeycomb semifreddo and chocolate cherry fudge cookie sandwiches, just in time to give your Valentine's Day menu the sweetest of finishes.
RECIPE BY NADINE INGRAM OF FLOUR & STONE | Photography by Luisa Brimble | Styling by Cass Stokes
How did your culinary adventure start?
When I was growing up the food my family cooked and ate was really wholesome, but by no means was it going to break any culinary boundaries. This didn’t bother me because, as they say, you can’t miss something you’ve never had. Everything changed the first time I worked with some fancy chefs from Sydney as an apprentice in the Hunter Valley – suddenly my eyes were opened to a whole new world. The chefs, who were a couple had earned their stripes at Rockpool and Merrony’s restaurants, were now making a tree change to the bush. I was blown away by their skills and ideas. The female chef had been working with Lorraine Godsmark and I loved listening to her stories about Lorraine and how disciplined she was in the kitchen. That was a golden time because it gave me an insight into what was possible.
In stark contrast, my children have been exposed to many different types of food from an early age. We spend a lot of time eating at restaurants interstate and locally to see what chefs are doing, and the kids always come with us. It’s more fun that way. My husband says he pities the men they marry, because they have become so discerning.
What food belief do you live by?
At Flour and Stone and in life I don’t like to compromise on the quality of ingredients, and I am always generous with them. Of course you can only buy what you can afford, but in business being sparing and cheap with ingredients is a slippery slope.
I believe that if you give with a generous spirit you will never be doubted.
Can we talk a bit about one of your most iconic dishes – the famous apple tart?
This is still my favourite. I always feel the counter at Flour and Stone isn’t complete without an apple tart taking centre stage. It has been called a piece of art and I suppose it is, but it takes a real team effort to create it. One pastry chef makes the puff, another makes the crème patissiere, and a third chef slices 10 apples by hand for each tart, arranges them over the base and finishes with lashings of butter and sugar. Then finally the morning baker puts it in the oven and watches it like a hawk for 45 minutes to ensure the base is cooked but the apples aren’t burnt on top.
Tell us a little bit about the featured recipe.
The fudge cookies are a recipe from The Ivy petit four repertoire (I have just added sour cherries). We would dip them in chocolate and serve them on shiny silver plates to accompany coffee. If you don’t have time to make the semifreddo, do give the cookies a try. Big love on their own!
I prefer semifreddo to ice-cream because it doesn’t require churning so it's easy to make at home. Semifreddo just means semi cold, suggesting it is not completely frozen like ice-cream is. The air that is normally incorporated into ice-cream by a mechanical churner is instead created in the semifreddo by using whipped cream and eggs. Then when it’s frozen the air is trapped into it to create a consistency more like frozen mousse. Sounds scientific, but believe me the most taxing part of this recipe is separating the eggs, so if you can do that, you can make semifreddo.
Important tips: When whisking the yolks for the semifreddo, be sure not to let them scramble – this can happen if the heat of the water in the pan underneath is too hot. Feel free to remove the bowl of yolks from the heat now and then to ensure this doesn’t happen while you are waiting for the yolks to aerate and thicken.
If you can’t find Dulcey Valrhona chocolate, just use a good-quality white chocolate and replace 50 g of the caster sugar with soft brown sugar. It will be just as delicious.
Dulcey salted caramel and honeycomb semifreddo and chocolate cherry fudge cookie sandwiches
Makes 8 sandwiches
8 egg yolks
75 g caster sugar
21/2 tablespoons cherry brandy or marsala
250 g Dulcey Valrhona chocolate
1/2 teaspoon salt
150 g mascarpone
300 ml pouring cream
3 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
200 g caster sugar
1 tablespoon liquid glucose
3 tablespoons runny honey
2 tablespoons water
Chocolate cherry fudge cookies
500 g dark chocolate
1/2 teaspoon salt
100 g unsalted butter
130 g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 large eggs
350 g soft brown sugar
50 g dried sour cherries
- Make the semifreddo the day before you want to serve your ice-cream sandwiches.
- Firstly, make the honeycomb. Line a baking tray with baking paper and spray the paper with canola oil. This will stop the honeycomb from sticking.
- Measure out the bicarbonate of soda and keep it close to the stove. Combine the sugar, glucose, honey and water in a medium saucepan and stir over low heat until the sugar has dissolved. When the liquid starts to boil, increase the heat to medium and keep a close eye on the syrup as it turns a pale golden colour, like honey. This will take approximately 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and immediately add the bicarbonate of soda to the honey caramel. Stir until well combined, then spread out the honeycomb on the prepared tray. Allow to cool for an hour at room temperature, then break it into small pieces, leaving some pieces larger for contrast.
- Make a start on the semifreddo by placing the egg yolks, sugar and brandy or marsala in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water). Beat with a hand whisk until the mixture is pale and fluffy. You will see after about 10 minutes that it will double in volume and become lovely and thick. Once the mixture starts to form a ribbon like whipped cream remove the bowl from the pan and set aside, whisking occasionally until cooled.
- Place the chocolate and salt in a clean heatproof bowl and set it over the pan of simmering water until melted (don’t let the bottom of the bowl touch the water). Remove from the heat and stir until smooth. Set aside.
- Prepare a suitable container for the semifreddo by placing it in the freezer to chill for 30 minutes or so. I used a 1 litre loaf tin, but you could also use any 1 litre container.
- Beat the mascarpone and cream together with a hand whisk so that it is softly whipped.
- Gently fold the yolk mixture through the chocolate one third at a time to preserve all the lovely air you whisked in earlier, then fold in the whipped cream in the same fashion.
- Pour the semifreddo into the container in batches, layering it with honeycomb as you go. As the smaller pieces melt they will contribute to the caramel nature of the semifreddo, while the larger ones will add texture. Place in the freezer overnight or for at least 6 hours.
- To make the cookies, melt the chocolate, salt and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of boiling water (don’t let the bottom of the bowl touch the water).
- Sift together the flour and baking powder.
- Whisk the eggs and sugar together until they have doubled in volume and are light and fluffy.
- Fold the egg mixture through the melted chocolate, then fold in the flour and baking powder until there are no more streaks of egg remaining. Finally, fold through the sour cherries. Cover the cookie dough with plastic film and rest on the bench for a few hours until the dough becomes firm enough to pipe.
- Preheat the oven to 160C and line a baking sheet with baking paper.
- Using a spatula, half-fill a piping bag fitted with a plain nozzle with the cookie dough. Pipe the dough in 4 cm rounds onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving about 5 cm between each cookie to allow them to spread. If you don’t have a piping bag use a teaspoon or a small ice-cream scoop to dollop the cookie dough onto the tray. If you are using this method the cookies will be a more rustic shape and not perfectly round. You are looking to make about 20 cookies in total, just to allow a few extra.
- Bake the cookies for 7 minutes or until still a little squidgy in the centre. Remove from the oven and cool completely on the tray.
- Sandwich generous scoops of semifreddo between the fudge cookies. The sandwiches can be assembled up to 2 hours ahead and kept in the freezer. Or, for a bit of fun, let people make their own.