Dessert cooking class, Focus by James, Springwood

Vanilla panna cotta, chocolate and raspberry brownies, apple and pear galette or banana souffle - which do I choose?

Damn it - I'll have the lot plus white choc fruit and nut clusters!

And so I did, but first I had to make them. So we, my friend Lee (pictured above) and I, trundled down to Springwood for an afternoon of cooking delight at Focus By James Restaurant.  Head Chef Warren Maddox made it all very simple and clear with much of the hard work of measuring ingredients all done.  We simply had to do the cooking part under his watchful eye.

The cooking school is set up on tables in the restaurant which is closed to the public for the day.  We each had our own equipment and a small table stove to prepare the desserts.  It all worked very well and I learned a few new skills including how to toss toasted coconut like a pro - well almost!

Warren walked us through every step, checking our technique and offering helpful suggestions. There was something for everyone with both beginners and old hands experiencing a rewarding session.

Best of all, after we made the desserts we definitely had to try them.  It was clear we were not going to get through all the sweets, even my second 'dessert' stomach was not up to the task.  But Warren kindly supplied us with take out containers much to the glee of those at home.

Our first dessert was this delicious panna cotta and I was stunned at how easy it was to prepare.  I think the hardest part will be sourcing the dariole moulds which should be available from good kitchen stores.

Pouring panna cotta mixture into the moulds

Warren's tip was to make this dessert the night before a dinner party and whip it out at serving time.  I think it would be a breeze and my dinner guests would be way impressed.  Only thing I'll have to work on is refining my decorating skills with the strawberry coulis, as a dessert decorator I make a very good blogger!

Filled dariole moulds ready for the fridge to set.
Warren showed us that a well set panna cotta should not have too much 'wobble'.

Panna cotta is easily flavoured as well. You can try adding 3-4 whole cardamon pods or kaffir lime leaves. Just remove them before putting the mixture into the moulds.

Panna Cotta with Strawberry Coulis
Ingredients – serves 2:
Panna Cotta (set cream)
160 ml cream
40 g sugar
¾ leaf gelatine (or 5- 7g powder) (Warren suggested buying leaf gelatine from a quality kitchen supplier like Black Pearl)
½ vanilla bean
2 strawberries for garnish
vegetable or nut oil for greasing moulds

Strawberry Coulis
200 g fresh or frozen strawberries
100 g sugar

Wooden spoon
Individual moulds
Chopping board


Panna Cotta

1. Boil cream, sugar and vanilla
2. Soak gelatine in cold water for a few seconds, squeeze out
3. Add to hot mix and stir with a wooden spoon until gelatine is
fully dissolved
4. Strain and pour into individual greased moulds and refrigerate
5. Turn out of the moulds, place on plate garnish with coulis and
fresh strawberry

1. Place fruit and sugar into a sauce pan and bring to the boil
2. Pass through a strainer with a ladle and refrigerate

Here's our other creations -

Apple and pear gallete
Choc raspberry brownies
White choc fruit and nut clusters

Where are the classes held? - Focus By James Restaurant, Pacific Hwy Springwood

When?  Saturdays, from 11.30am – 2.30pm. The next Delicious Desserts cooking classes will be held on  April 28, May 26, June 23 and July 21. Find out more or book

More information at 

Disclaimer:  Kerry Heaney was a guest of Focus on James