Saturday, November 27, 2010

Brava Crostata! Daring Baker Challenge

I was pretty excited about my first Daring Cook challenge, but even more excited about my first Daring Baker foray. I love to bake. But when the challenge was revealed I felt a bit deflated, just because I recently made a French dessert tart and the crostata looked similar. Then I started leafing through my Italian cookbooks and came across a line drawing of a Crostata di Quattro Stagioni. I saw the four little quadrants and my heart went all a flutter - I had found my challenge! The recipe comes from The Italian Baker by Carol Field and translates as Four Seasons Tart from Lake Como.

I made a practice crostata to start. I had some good left over pastry creme in the freezer, so I made a small Crostata con la Crema, and used the version 1 pasta frolla. I had a little trouble with my first pasta frolla. It didn't seem keen to come together and I think I overworked it. I also rolled it too thin. The crostata was good but the pastry was not particularly light or flaky.

After reading assurances on the forum that the pasta frolla was supposed to seem like it wasn't coming together and to just leave it like that, I set about a second batch. At this stage I also had a to choose the four fillings. In the head note to the recipe Carol Field says:

Raspberries for summer, wild amarena for fall, apricot preserve for winter and pastry creme for the spring ... but don't feel confined by the ingredients listed above; you should use whatever appeals to you and arrange it with your own fantasia.

I chose poached rhubarb because I love it and know a great way to cook it so it maintains its shape, fresh strawberries because they are cheap and tasty in Sydney at the moment, jarred cherries for simplicity and a blueberry preserve because I loved the color.

I was so proud when this came out the oven. I couldn't get over how gorgeous it was. The pasta frolla was lovely and sweet and light, and the different fillings were all delicious. (The rhubarb was my favourite.) Thankyou Simona for this wonderful challenge, I can honestly say that you gave me my proudest moment so far in the kitchen.

Crostata di Quattro Stagioni
(adapted from The Italian Baker by Carol Field)

1 partially baked crostata shell
100 g extra pasta frolla

1 cup poached rhubarb
1 cup fresh strawberries, sliced
I cup jarred pitted cherries, well drained
2/3 cup blueberry preserve
1 egg beaten
1/3 cup apricot glaze

Divide the extra pasta frolla into four and roll each into strands longer than the diameter of your tart shell. Gently twist two strands together to make 2 ropes. Lay the ropes in the tart shell at right angles so your tart is divided into 4 equal quadrants.

Arrange the 4 fillings into each quadrant as carefully and artfully as your patience will allow. Brush all the exposed dough with the beaten egg.

Heat your oven to 175c and bake the tart for around 25 minutes, until the pastry is lightly browned. Remove from the oven and gently brush the fruit with warm apricot glaze. Allow to cool before serving, with homemade custard if you are lucky.

For the poached rhubarb
Make a sugar syrup of equal parts sugar and water. Add half a split vanilla bean and 2 or 3 pieces of lemon rind. Slice the rhubarb into the desired shape and size and add to the syrup. Make a cartouche. (That means cut a piece of baking or greaseproof paper into a circle just larger than the size of your saucepan. Its easiest if you use the saucepan lid to trace around to do this.) Place the cartouche over the fruit and syrup so it is sort of sealed. Cook over lowest possible heat for 10 minutes. Test after 10 minutes, it should be tender. If not, continue for another 5 minutes.

The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Banana Brownie Icecream

I am in love with my new icecream maker. It started when I visited my sister and brother-in-law in the US this year. It was a hot LA summer and sis took the opportunity to get me hooked on her home-made icecream. Then when I got home she insisted, insisted on buying me my own icecream maker as a birthday present.

I took a little while to decide which one I wanted, but after a visit to Peter's of Kensington I came home with a blue Cuisinart ICE20. Sis has the ICE30 and she loves it but the ICE20 seemed like better value. And the nice lady in Peter's said that the Cuisinart rep thinks the 20 has "a better churn" than the 30, so that sold me.

The first thing I made was a very simple lemon sorbet from the Cuisinart booklet. I took sis' advice to halve the amount of sugar and it came out perfect.

Next I took things up a notch with a banana icecream with brownie bits. I used a David Lebovitz recipe, reduced the sugar and added some some left over brownies. Actually, there is no such thing as left over brownies. They were brownies saved especially for this purpose.

Banana Ice-cream

(adapted from a David Lebovitz recipe seen here)

3 ripe bananas chopped into chunks
75g brown sugar
1.5 cups (375ml) milk
1.5 teaspoons lemon juice
half teaspoon vanilla essence
Pinch of salt2 left over brownies, chopped into small chunks

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.

Put the bananas and all the other ingredients (except brownie chunks) in a blender and whizz until smooth.

Chill the mixture in the fridge or freezer until really cold.
Churn in your new icecream maker for around 30 minutes. Don't forget to add the brownie chunks in the last 10 minutes.

It was really really really good.

Thanks sis, I really love my icecream maker...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wholemeal Turkish Bread

A few years ago when I worked in the city near the David Jones foodhall I used to be able to buy a lovely wholemeal turkish bread. I have not seen it anywhere else since and wanted to try and recreate it home. I couldn't find a recipe specifically for wholemeal so I decided to 'half and half' a standard white version which I found here.

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

High hopes - Daring Cook souffles

Dave and Linda from Monkeyshines in the Kitchen chose SoufflĂ©s as our November 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge! Dave and Linda provided two of their own delicious recipes plus a sinfully decadent chocolate soufflĂ© 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.

I also tried the classic cheese souffle from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Again I halved the recipe and again the rise was anticlimactic. But it was still very yummy. That one was enjoyed with mmmm asparagus and a raw kale salad, inspired by this recipe at 101 Cookbooks. And it made very nice leftovers thank you very much.

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

Halloween food

This year I carved my very first Halloween pumpkin. It was so fun and much easier than I anticipated. I can't wait till next year to try out something more ambitious.

I used the pumpkin guts to make pumpkin and goats cheese empanadas and roasted pumpkin seeds. I am not inclined to post either of the recipes because they were both pretty forgettable. But I want this blog to be a record of both successes and failures in the kitchen so I am recording them here.

For the empanadas I used the dough recipe adapted from the Bourke Street Bakery book found here at stonesoup. I don't know what I did wrong, but the dough didn't really work out. It was too hard and chewy. They tasted nice enough but were definitely not great.

For the seeds I got frustrated with the plethora of recipes and techniques available on the internet and so just randomly chucked oil, salt, sugar and spices into the pan and the roasted at about 150 for 1 hour. Again they were okay but not great.

But one thing that was great was my pumpkin. Let see him again.