Friday, December 31, 2010
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book.........and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.
Fortunately we had some unseasonably cool weather in Sydney in December, so the baking was not too unpleasant. I followed the host's recipe closely, but I added dried mango, pawpaw and pineapple, used macadamias instead of flaked almonds and added marzipan.
I was quite happy with how it turned out. It had a nice dry-but-not-too-dry texture and a good spicy fruity warmth. It was very good lightly toasted with a cup of coffee.
I encountered a small problem with the homemade marzipan. It decided to be overly sticky, so I had to add it in small pieces, which you can see in the first picture in the collage above. I also found that the melted butter I used to coat the stollen was very yellow and caused the icing sugar to be discolored, no matter how much sugar I added.
Although the wreath was huge, we somehow managed to eat most of it before Christmas. But I did save some to make an extra special Aussie stollen ice cream for our Christmas Eve dinner. I used this recipe and replaced the brown bread with stollen. It was really yummy and made a great southern hemisphere Christmas dessert.
Thank you Penny for this terrific challenge. As I said, I love fruitcake anyway, but I especially enjoyed making stollen and I will make it again and again.
Stollen Ice cream
Adapted from a Gourmet Traveller magazine recipe
12 egg yolks
75g brown sugar
75 g white sugar
500 ml milk
500 ml pouring cream
Zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
100 grams stollen, in very small cubes
1 tbsp melted butter
1 tbsp icing sugar
35 gr toasted hazelnuts, chopped coarsely
75 gr sultanas
80 gr currants
1 tbsp brandy
1. Whisk egg yolks and both sugars together until sugars dissolve.
2. Combine milk, cream, cloves and zests in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer.
3. Pour milk mixture over egg mixture, stir to combine, then return to saucepan.
4. Cook over a low heat, stirring continuously for 8-10 minutes or until it coats the back of the spoon. Be careful here not to turn the heat up and split the custard. Cool the mixture and fish out the cloves.
5. Heat oven to 180 and toast the stollen cubes for 5 minutes or until light golden.
6. Drizzle the melted butter over the stollen cubes, then sprinkle with the icing sugar and return them to oven for a further 5 minutes. Be careful they don't burn.
7. Add the brandy, hazelnuts, raisins, currants and stollen cubes to the custard mixture and place in the fridge until very cold.
8. Churn in your ice cream maker, according to instructions, approx 30 minutes.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
I love poached eggs and have always wanted to be able to make them at home. But I have tried and failed so many times and had written them off as something I could never master. So it was a mixture of excitement and sinking dread for me when this month's challenge was revealed.
I decided to approach the challenge as scientifically as possible to see if I could finally crack a decent poached egg.
By far the most common tip for successful poached eggs is use fresh eggs. I found this part tricky. Sadly I don't have any friends with chickens who can provide me with lovely fresh laid eggs, so I have to rely on store-bought eggs. In Australia eggs are labeled with a "best before" date, so the question is, how does one work out from that when they were laid?
I did some research and discovered from The Australian Egg Labeling Guide, a guide to the applicable laws and regulations, that Australia eggs must be labeled with a "best-before" date and that means:
"the date which signifies the end of the period during which the intact package of food, if stored in accordance with any stated storage conditions, will remain fully marketable and will retain any specific qualities for which express or implied claims have been made".
Hmm, not very helpful. I gleaned slightly more information from the The Australia Egg Corporation Code of Practice for Shell Egg Production, Grading, Packing and Distribution, which provides that the best before date is calculated by reference to:
"a period of 6 weeks or less from the date of pack"
"eggs shall be delivered to a packing station within 96 hours of lay".
This still didn't give me a reliable way to work out how exactly how fresh the eggs I buy are, so I decided to simply work with what I had.
The other important factor seems to be the temperature of the water, so I used a candy thermometer to keep the water at around 70 c. I was surprised to find that at this temperature the water was not what I would call simmering. In the past I have definitely had the water too hot. I added vinegar to the water as directed, cracked the egg into a cup first, cooked them one at a time and used a timer to poach them for exactly 4 minutes. I was not up for the full Benedict so I served them with slow-roasted tomato and avocado for me, and with lashings of bacon for the bacon-lover in the family.
I was fascinated to see that they produced an egg that looked and tasted like a poached egg, but was cracked directly out of the shell into my bowl of udon. I guessed that the eggs must be pre-softboiled and thought this might be a way to achieve a more rounded poached egg with less white fly-aways. The method would be to parboil in the shell for say 2 minutes, then crack the egg into the pan of poaching water for a further 2 minutes.
I have experimented with this at home but am still yet to see the results I would like.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
I used the recipe from page 220 of Carol Field's The Italian Baker. It starts with a sponge, which then becomes a dough and there is a first rise. Then a second dough is incorporated and there is a second rise. Then the fruit filling is added, the loaves are formed and there is a final rise in the molds before they are baked. It took all day to make but didn't require much attention. The kneading was fairly strenuous as it is a big sturdy dough.
I am not going to reproduce the recipe here because it is 3 pages long, but I do want to quote the best part:
"Cool on racks for 30 minutes, then carefully remove from the molds and place the loaves on their sides on pillows to cool."
Apparently if you cool panettone on a rack it will collapse. My beautiful loaves looked very cute nestling on a pillow while they cooled.
I don't have a panettone mold so I improvised by using a biscuit tin for one loaf and the basin part of my crockpot for the other. Both worked well but the crockpot was better as it allowed for a slightly higher rise.
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Thursday, November 25, 2010
75g brown sugar
1.5 cups (375ml) milk
1.5 teaspoons lemon juice
half teaspoon vanilla essence
Preheat the oven to 200C. In a small baking dish toss the bananas in the brown sugar. Bake for around 40 minutes or until the bananas are caramelised and golden. Turn them once during cooking.
Churn in your new icecream maker for around 30 minutes. Don't forget to add the brownie chunks in the last 10 minutes.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
It was easy to make and delicious. But it was not much like the original, which was much softer.
250g plain flour, sifted
250g wholemeal flour, sifted
1 tsp (7g/1 sachet) dried yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tsp sesame seeds
1 tsp nigella seeds
1 egg yolk
1 tbs olive oil
1. Combine flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a bowl. Make a well in the centre, then add water. Use a spoon to stir until combined, then use hands to bring the dough together in the bowl.
2. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 15 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Brush a bowl with oil to grease. Place dough in the bowl and lightly coat with oil. Cover with a damp tea towel. Set aside place for 1-1 1/2 hours or until the dough has roughly doubled in size.
3. Place a pizza stone on the middle shelf of the oven. Preheat oven to 230°C. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and cut in half. Flatten slightly with hands. Place each half on separate pieces of floured, non-stick baking paper. Cover with a damp tea towel and set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 15 minutes.
4. With floured hands, stretch each piece of dough into desired shapes. Leave on non-stick baking paper. Cover with a damp tea towel and set aside again for 10 minutes.
5. Combine egg yolk and oil in a bowl. Brush the top of each pide with egg mixture. Use floured fingers to make indentations on top and sprinkle with sesame and nigella seeds. Open oven door and slide 1 pide on baking paper onto tray. Cook for 8-10 minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire rack. Repeat with second pide.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Dave and Linda from Monkeyshines in the Kitchen chose Soufflés as our November 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge! Dave and Linda provided two of their own delicious recipes plus a sinfully decadent chocolate soufflé recipe adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s recipe found at the BBC Good Food website.
This is my very first month as a Daring Cook and (I hope you'll excuse the pun) I had high hopes. As soon as I saw that the challenge was souffle, I knew I would be making the twice-cooked goat cheese souffle from Stephanie Alexander's The Cooks Companion. Bizarrely, I can recite the headnote to the recipe - with its reference to the fact that the recipe cannot be removed from the menu of Alexander's restaurant in Melbourne - almost word for word, but I had never made it. In fact I am pretty sure I have never made any souffle before, although I have fond memories of souffle as something my Dad used to cook us when I was a kid.
I decided to halve the recipe as there are only two of us and I didn't think souffle would make good leftovers. I also reduced the amount of cream. The resultant souffles were delicious but did not rise spectacularly and were not as marshmallow soft as I suspect they should be. The white sauce was too thick and I should have had more egg white than egg yolk, but I couldn't bear to waste a yolk.
Despite these minor shortcomings, they were seriously yummy and made for a lovely dinner served with a French style carrot salad from a recent op-shop find, The Silver Palate Cookbook.
Big thanks to Dave and Linda for this very enjoyable challenge. I will be making souffle regularly now and am looking forward to cracking a big rise in the future.
Twice-Baked Goats Cheese Souffles
(adapted from The Cooks Companion, Stephanie Alexander)
Makes 4 small souffles
40 g butter
30 g plain flour
175 ml warm milk
40 g fresh goats cheese
1 T grated parmesan cheese
1 T chopped herbs - I used chives and parsley
2 egg yolks
2 egg whites
1/2 cup cream
Heat oven to 180. Melt 10g butter and grease 4 small ramekins or teacups.
Melt remaining butter in small pan over medium heat, stir in flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Gradually add milk and continue stirring for 5 minutes.
Remove pan from heat and add the goats cheese, herbs and parmesan and mix well. Add egg yolks and mix well.
Beat egg whites until firm peaks form. Stir on 1/4 of egg white to sauce, then quickly and gently add the remaining egg whites.
Divide mixture between the ramekins, then place ramekins in a water bath, so water comes about 2/3s up the sides.
Bake for about 20 minutes until firm and well puffed. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly, then gently remove souffles from the ramekins. Leave aside until you are almost ready to eat.
Heat oven again to 180. Place souffles, not touching, in a buttered ovenproof dish. Pour approx 1 tablespoon cream over each souffle and bake in oven for about 15 minutes.
Serve immediately, with the cream from the dish
Saturday, November 6, 2010
Sunday, October 31, 2010
1 cup burghul
6 cups boiling water
1 tsp salt
Place lentils and burghul in a saucepan, add the boiling water and salt, cook covered without stirring on low heat for 25 minutes.
1 kilo brown onions sliced
1/2 cup olive oil
Place onions and olive oil in large saucepan or frypan with a lid over medium heat. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring often. Uncover and continue to cook, stirring often, until onion is as dark and caramalised as you like.
1 tin of sweetened condensed milk, endless possibilities for tooth-rotting goodness. After my last attempt at macarons failed ...
... I was keen to have another go and loved the sound of dulce de leche macarons. I used the same recipe I have always used, from Tartelette but I paid closer attention to the whipping of the eggwhites and to keeping the temperature even in our crappy oven. To my relief the shells came out much better. The combination of the caramel and the chocolate was, well, sweet. Too sweet. I think macarons probably need some sort of contrast between the shell and the filling and that was lacking here. It might be better with some salt added to the caramel. But they sure look pretty.
The other half of the tin of caramel was destined for alfajores. I surfed around for a simple recipe, which I now can't find again, but I recall involved only flour, cornflour, salt, sugar, butter and water. The texture was good but they were too salty. I have to remember not to blindly follow the recipe when it comes to salt, as it is often too much. Overall though they were delicious and got the thumbs-up from a South American colleague.
Saturday, October 16, 2010
Soak the beans in plenty of cold water overnight
Drain the beans. Bring a pot of water to a boil, add the beans, and boil them until they are soft enough to have their peels removed, about 10 to 15 minutes. Drain, then remove the peel of each bean (preferably while watching something good on TV).
Place the peeled beans in a crockpot together with the onion, tomatoes, and lentils and cover with water. Cover and cook on low for 12 hours.
Season with salt to taste.
Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, sliced hard-boiled egg, finely chopped parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
I recently discovered a really wonderful food blog - The Stone Soup. I found it when I was doing some research about living below the line and have been hungrily browsing the archive ever since.
I adore the peanut butter and chocolate combo. So much that my first ever macarons were choc-pnb flavoured - and almost got me DQ'd from the macaron bake-off at work because I forgot to label them as peanut-hazardous. But that is another story. My point is that when I saw these peanut butter tartlets they went straight to the top of my must-bake list. And boy, they did not disappoint. Sweet, salty, crunchy, nutty - I could eat ten. Actually I think I did eat ten.
The home-made peanut butter was easy to make and so tasty, even though I confess I didn't bother with peanuts in the shell. I used Butternut Snaps, which were easy to work with as promised, but just a little too sweet and buttery for my taste. Next time I would try a plainer digestive, or even a pastry case. I only had thickened cream so I used that and I think it messed with the texture - the ganache didn't quite set properly. But not enough to worry about. I had milk chocolate so I used that, but next time I would go dark.
I was also inspired by Stone Soup - and a giant $2 bunch of broccoli that I could not resist at Sentas Bros - to make a 5 ingredient broccoli soup. Olive oil, onion, broccoli, parmesan rind and buttermilk. It was so good that I polished all the leftovers off for lunch and forgot to take a picture. Use your imagination. And then use it some more to add a dollop of this sauce, which is amazing.
For the record, the rest of the broccoli and buttermilk is going to go into this. Yum.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
If a wedding equals cake then I think an engagement party equals cookies. I wanted to make heart shaped cookies for an engagement party, but I wasn't excited about any recipe I could find for cut-out cookies.
But then when I signed up to become a Daring Baker I saw the last challenge and all the amazing, beautiful and clever cookies. Suddenly I was very excited about making sugar cookies with royal icing. I won't officially be a Daring Baker until next month, but I used the recipe and came out with some pretty cute looking cookies. If I had been signed up last month I would have made cookies in the shape of a magpie and a bike - because to me September and spring means getting swooped.
I am still getting the hang of this food photographer thing but having lots of fun learning. I'll leave you a picture of with my favorite cookies of all.
When I have a pig-shaped cookie cutter and knew I would be making pink icing, how could I resist?
Friday, October 1, 2010
Sunday, September 26, 2010
My first experience with an almond croissant was back some time in high school. I was on my way from Canberra to the South Coast for a holiday with my best friend and her parents and we stopped in at the Braidwood Bakery. I still clearly remember it - it was a very large traditionally-shaped croissant, sliced open and filed with a thin layer of chocolate and a thin layer of pastry cream. On top was lots of toasted flaked almonds and lots of icing sugar. It was love at first bite.
The Braidwood Bakery has long since changed hands and no longer does an almond croissant. But I still love them dearly and buy them often. So I thought I should start an occasional series of almond croissant reviews.
The Central Baking Depot in Erskine St is an outpost of the famous Bourke St Bakery. They have lots of yummy pastry items in the window, including no less than 4 kinds of croissant –plain, chocolate, almond and almond chocolate.
The almond croissant is a traditional crescent shape filled with a small amount of pastry creme. It is topped with almond paste and flaked almonds, then sprinkled with icing sugar. It looks gorgeous, but for me the pastry of the croissant is a little too dense and oily tasting, and the pastry creme is too sweet. I never met an AC that I didn’t like, but I have been known to walk past this bakery and not buy one, so its clearly not up there with my favourites. In the interests of research I think I will have to try the almond chocolate version in the future, but that really does seem like gilding the lily whatever that means.
Central Baking Depot - 37-39 Erskine St Sydney no website!