Margaret Fulton
25 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
Vanessa Levis

Hints & Tips

Many of us can always make room for dessert, and a delicious, well-presented dessert can be the most memorable and impressive course of a meal.

Fruit desserts use just-ripe, good-quality fruits without bruising or soft patches. If the fruit is to be used raw, as in French-style tarts, it is particularly important that it be top-notch and flawless.

If using poached, canned or thawed frozen fruits, make sure the fruit is well drained, so that it will not make the dessert soggy.

Frozen fruits can be substituted for fresh in many desserts where the fruit is to be cooked, or in cooked fruit sauces. Where it is to be served raw or as an accompaniment, use fresh fruit, as it has a better texture and appearance.


There are two types: steamed (which this book does not deal with) and baked. For baked puddings, you will need ovenproof baking dishes or moulds. Cake tins can also be used, thought they are less attractive for puddings that are to be served at the table.

Making puddings

Butter the dish, tin or mould well, so that the pudding is easily turned out or served. Wipe around the edges of the container before baking. The pudding is easier to handle if it is placed on a baking tray while cooking. Some puddings will need to be baked in a water bath; see Note.


There are two types: unbaked (not covered in this book) and baked. Cheesecakes may have a pastry crust or a crumb crust; the latter is made by combining finely ground biscuits with butter, pressing the mixture into the tin, then chilling before pouring in the filling. The filling may be made of cream cheese, ricotta or other soft cheeses, cream and/or condensed milk, plus other ingredients.

Making cheesecakes a springform tin is essential for the traditional cheesecake, which can’t be turned out. Generally the cost reflects the quality. To ensure even baking and help prevent warping it’s worth investing in a quality brand with a good weight. Also, go for a reliable non-stick surface, which helps the crust release and makes cleaning easier.

For the crumb crust, a plain, sweet biscuit is best – however use chocolate, ginger or cinnamon-flavoured biscuits for an alternative flavour.

When pressing the crumb crust into the tin, you may find it easier to achieve an even, firm crust by using a straight-sided glass, rather than your fingers, to press over the base and sides of the tin.

For the filling, the creaminess of a well-known brand of cream cheese is hard to resist, but you can reduce the fat in your cheesecake by choosing a light cream cheese. Ricotta can be substituted; it is not as smooth, but is typical in Italian-style cheesecakes and similar desserts.

When beating the filling, use V-groove beaters or a paddle attachment rather than a whisk. The whisk will incorporate too much air, causing the cheesecake to puff up as it bakes before falling and cracking as it cools.

If the filling is overcooked, it will dry out and lose creaminess. At the end of baking the filling should still have a little wobble in the centre. As it cools it will become firm. Overcooked cheesecakes usually crack.


The charm of a soufflé, apart from its delectable flavour and airy texture, is its spectacular appearance. Rising magnificently above the rim of the dish, its height is determined by the size of the dish. Sizes vary from individual serving dishes through to 5-and 6-cup dishes and larger.

Making soufflés

To prepare a dish for a sweet soufflé, brush with melted butter and dust inside with a little caster sugar. Remove excess sugar by turning the dish upside down and tapping lightly on the work surface. For savoury soufflés, sometimes the dish is sprinkled with breadcrumbs.

For a high soufflé, tie a double band of baking paper around the dish to give it extra height. Cut a strip of baking paper 15 cm wide and wrap it around so that it stands like a collar above the edge of the dish. Tie with kitchen string.

Soufflés can be partly prepared ahead of time. Prepare the soufflé base mixture (which may be custard or a fruit purée for a sweet soufflé, or a béchamel sauce for a savoury soufflé), cover and refrigerate until just before it is time to cook the soufflés. Then whisk the egg whites, combine with the base mixture, pour into the dishes and bake as directed in the recipe.


A light meringue is often piled onto a baked, sweet pie or pudding and placed in a moderately hot oven just long enough to tint the meringue; it should be soft and marshmallow-like inside, while the crust may be crisp or soft, depending on the treatment. See Lemon Meringue Pie and Lime Meringue Pie.

Another favourite meringue is the Pavlova, which, topped with whipped cream and tart-sweet passionfruit or strawberries, is a dessert sweet-tooths can never resist.

Cooking in a water bath

Some desserts (especially ones containing a custard mixture) are baked in a water bath (also known as a bain marie) to ensure that they cook evenly and don’t curdle. Place the baking dish(es) in a baking tray, then pour boiling water into the baking tray to come to the specified level up the sides of the dishes (generally about halfway). Then carefully transfer the baking tray to the oven and bake as directed. When cooked, carefully remove the tray from the oven, then the dishes from the water.

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