Saturday, January 29, 2011

Joconde Imprime Entremet - Daring Baker January 2011

The January 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Astheroshe of the blog accro. She chose to challenge everyone to make a Biscuit Joconde Imprime to wrap around an Entremets dessert.

We're making a what? To wrap around a what? I had never heard of a Joconde Imprime or an Entremets dessert. After some research I realised we were to make something one usually sees in the window of a fancy patisserie. Naively I thought: I can do that.

As the due date was the day after Australia Day I started plotting an extravaganza, reflecting the stars of the Australian flag with a fruit topping for the Union Jack. I know that blue is not the most appetizing color, but I was confident I could overcome that. However, once I baked my joconde I realised that it wasn't going to happen. The cheap food coloring I use would only make sky blue, not navy blue. My joconde burnt at the edges which meant there was not enough for the size I planned. The joconde was also very thin and would not support the weight. So I adapted my plan, using what we had in the fridge.

My eventual ad-libbed entremet was filled with banana mousse, strawberry yoghurt jelly and pomegranate gelee.

I was happy to complete it but I wasn't happy with how it looked. And the banana mousse was too soft, which meant the whole thing collapsed shortly after it was cut. But on the plus side, it was really quite delicious.

What I learnt:
  • The appearance was better when I colored the decor paste and left the sponge uncolored, rather than the other way around
  • In my (crappy) oven the joconde took only about 7 minutes to cook
  • When I used a Silpat to bake the joconde it didn't stick at all
  • You can do clever things with gelatine - the gelee was just juice, sugar and powdered gelatine, but it looked great.
Thank you to our host Astheroshe for this terrific challenge. It took me into completely new territory.

This last picture shows my masterpiece about 5 minutes after it was cut. It is not pretty but I love this picture - I think it captures perfectly the drama of being a Daring Baker.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Poh's Kitchen Roti

I sort of got the knack

Served with a yummy nonya chicken curry

I was given the cookbook Poh's Kitchen for Christmas. I didn't watch Master Chef because we don't have a TV, but I have seen her show on the internet and I really like her. The book contains a rather strange mix of recipes and styles. If I just say that it contains 3 separate recipes for fried rice alongside a recipe for melting moments, you'll get the flavour. But I like it.

The first thing I was keen to make was the roti. It was easier than I expected and we had fun trying to stretch the dough. It came out pretty good for a first attempt. Not up to Mamak standards but still delicious.

Recently I had lunch with some friends, including a professional chef. He railed against Poh and the whole Master Chef phenomenon, on the basis that the contestants attract far more attention and kudos than they deserve, book deals etc, compared with a professional chef who has trained hard for years to develop their skills. I just blushed and didn't dare mentioned that the banana cake I had brought was baked from a Poh recipe.

You can find the exact recipe as it is in the book here.

Kanangra to Katoomba December 2010

Coal roasted wild pork and sweet potato with cous cous. Incredible.

Trusty dhal with luxury fresh lime- to fend off scurvy.

Making pancakes on a very cold morning

Monday, January 10, 2011

Summer Cassoulet - Daring Cook Challenge January 2011

If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Or turn down the heat.

Our January 2011 Challenge comes from Jenni of The Gingered Whisk and Lisa from Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. They challenged the Daring Cooks to learn how to make a confit and use it within the Traditional French dish of Cassoulet. They chose a traditional recipe from Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman.

I so wanted to be a good little Daring Cook and rise to this challenge. I love the idea of cassoulet, with its intricate parts and interesting history. But I have to be honest and say that in the midst of a steamy Sydney summer, I couldn't think of anything I wanted to cook less than a cassoulet.
I toyed with the idea of a vegetarian version and got started by making the garlic confit. This was easy and smelled divine.

But I couldn't find gluten flour for the veggie sausages and somehow a vegetarian cassoulet didn't feel right.

Then, just when I was thinking I would sit this month out, inspiration struck.

BBQ season is in full swing right now in Australia which always means lots of left over sausages. So I decided to make a summer cassoulet incorporating the garlic confit and some really good quality left-over pork snags, plus some bacon to up the pork factor. I used tinned beans to save cooking time and replaced the breadcrumb topping with thin slices of toast, so it didn't have to be baked.
And? It was DELICIOUS. Way better than I expected and definitely the best thing I have ever made without following a recipe.

Thank you to hosts Jenni and Lisa for such an amazing challenge. I am sorry that I wimped out on the full monty and promise to make it up to you when winter rolls around down here. But I am also glad that I wimped out, because I really loved my summer cassoulet.

Summer Cassoulet
1 tbs olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery sticks, diced
2 rashers of bacon, diced
1 fresh bay leaf
2 fresh tomatos, chopped
2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
15 cloves of garlic confit (see below)
2 cooked left-over BBQ sausages, preferably high quality pork, chopped into small pieces

1. Place oil, onion, carrot, celery and bay leaf in a large pan over medium heat, and cook, covered, for around 10 minutes, stirring sometimes, until the veggies are softening.
2. Add bacon, stir and cook uncovered for a further 5 minutes.
3. Add tomato, stir and cook uncovered for another 5 minutes.
4. Add the beans, garlic confit and sausage pieces. Stir gently, trying not to break up the garlic and beans too much.
5. Turn the heat to low, replace the lid and leave to cook for a further 20 minutes, checking sometimes and giving a gentle stir.

Serve with salad, a thin and crispy piece of toast and, if you choose, a refreshing ale.

Garlic Confit
(adapted from here Saveur magazine)

Olive oil
1½ tsp sea salt (if using table salt, use ½ the amount)
10 whole black peppercorns
5 sprigs fresh thyme
60 garlic cloves, peeled and 1 bay leaf

1. Preheat oven to 150°C. Put ingredients in a pot adding enough oil so the garlic is submerged. Cover pot. Bake until garlic is golden brown and tender, about 1 hour. Let cool.
2. Transfer mixture to a glass jar; cover surface of oil with plastic wrap. Cover jar and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.