Monday, March 31, 2008
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Kia ora from Aotearoa! I am on holidays at present in New Zealand, so it it quite fun to be posting this DB's challenge away from home.
This month's Daring Bakers' Challenge is hosted by Morven of Food, Art and Random Thoughts, a fellow Antipodean. She has chosen Dorie Greenspan's recipe for the Perfect Party Cake, from Baking - From My Home to Yours as this month's challenge. You can find the full recipe on Morven's site, so I won't reproduce it here. Morven was very generous in that she allowed us to put our own "stamp" on the chosen recipe by experimenting with colours and flavours.
Initally, I was pleased about this challenge, as the cake in the book looks absolutely gorgeous, and I am, as my pseudonym suggests, a cake baker. I have also previously made two other cakes from Dorie's book, and they were just devine and very unique. However, during this challenge, the base cakes and I had several disagreements, so that I was in fact relieved when it finally came together and I could say that I conquered it.
My first problem arose when I left the cakes to cool in the tins for the obligatory 5 minutes or so after I removed them from the oven. The cakes retracted from the sides of the tins while cooling, but each cake stuck to the side of the tin in one spot, so that when the cakes retracted, they tore a little.
I next found that these cakes stuck to everything - they unmoulded just fine (even with the little tears), but they then proceeded to stick to the wire cooling rack, to the tray I flipped them onto so that I could line the wire rack with baking paper to avoid further sticking (causing a small hole to be gouged in the top of one of the cakes!) and to the baking paper that I used to line the cooling rack.
My final problem with the base cakes arose because the cake layers are not very thick, and when I cut one of the cakes in half (the pristine one without the hole), I cut it so crookedly that I had cut a small hole in the centre of one "half" ( and I use that word loosely). At this point, I decided that there was no going back, and forged ahead bravely, using the most robust layer (sans holes!) as the bottom of the cake.
And you know what - I was glad that I did. The buttercream frosting hid a multitude of sins and "glued" everything together. I decided to use home-made lemon curd in the filling instead of raspberry jam (which, although attractive in the original, would have been very sweet), and to flavour the frosting with passionfruit syrup instead of vanilla:
Now, I am not a buttercream fan, and you will notice from my previous posts that I rarely use it. I dislike the mouthfeel of it, which to me is quite greasy. For this reason, I cannot say that I loved this cake (although it tasted just fine). However, I took it into work to share with my colleagues, and most people loved it. (This is significant, because I bake so often now that they don't comment at all unless I really pull off something out of the ordinary.) One person went so far as to say he thought it was "spectacular"! Just goes to show that taste is a very subjective thing.
Thanks to Morven for hosting this month's event. You can check out other permutations of this cake via the Daring Bakers' Blogroll, which can be accessed here.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
As my final pre-Easter creation, I have decided to contribute to Bread Baking Day, which this month is hosted by Susan at Wild Yeast, with a theme of Celebration Breads.
Initially, I thought of making hot cross buns, a traditional Good Friday treat, as I have never made them before and I love them. However, I was feeling a little extra daring, and instead, I have made Russian Easter Bread. In addition to the traditional shaped loaf featured at the top of this post, I reserved some of the dough and made four little buns as gifts to go with the marshmallow bunnies that are still surviving. These buns are pictured at the foot of this post.
The recipe that I used for the Russian Easter Bread can be found here at Taste.com.au. I found this recipe really easy to follow, and it went off relatively hitch-free. However, I did need more than an extra cup of flour than the recipe suggested, and my decorative eggs stayed stubbornly un-coloured, even though I upped the ante with the food colouring substantialy to the one teaspoon stated. The only changes that I made to the recipe were to replace the sultanas and lemon rind with mixed dried fruit left over from Christmas, and to glaze the finished bread with sugar syrup to imitate the stickiness of hot cross buns. (Note that the finished bread is shiny from the egg glaze without the sugar syrup.) I also used fewer decorative eggs, because I made a smaller loaf (due to the buns). I shaped the buns using the same method as for French petit pains, and slashed the top of each bun with a cross.
Interestingly, I subsequently found that, despite the title of the recipe that I used, my bread looks nothing like a traditional Russian Easter Bread, known as Kulich. Oh well, it was fun to make, and looks good.
I hope that this bread tastes as good as it looks - I am taking it to work for morning tea tomorrow. Fingers crossed!
The roundup of celebration breads appears here at Wild Yeast.
I will be taking a break from blogging for a week or so over the Easter break, so this will be my last post for a little while. I wish you all a fantastic Easter, and hope you are able to enjoy a break to celebrate the season.
Hooray! I received the best surprise in the mail today, because a parcel for Blogging by Mail arrived for me from Smita at Smita Serves You Right. I had it sent to work so that it didn't get sent back to the post office, and had great fun opening it with Patsy and Amy.
Smita knows what I love, because I received lots of wonderful sweet treats plus some spicy sauce. I myself can be a little bit sweet and a little bit spicy, so I thought that Smita's selection was perfect.
A bottle of New York maple syrup - maple syrup is very expensive here and I love cooking with it, so I am stoked about this!
And last but certainly not least, a block of Ghirardelli Toffee Interlude chocolate - which is a deep, dark chocolatey experience spotted with crunchy toffee - yum!!!!
Thanks so much Smita! Also, a big thanks to Stephanie at Dispensing Happiness for carrying out the not-so-small task of organising Blogging by Mail.
Whether you are young or just young at heart, you have to admit that marshmallow rabbits are a cute and delicious way to celebrate Easter. I made the family of rabbits (plus one flower) above for my work colleagues and friends.
Unfortunately, being a perfectionist, I was not 100% happy with the marshmallow. I ever so slightly underbeat it, so that the bottoms which were open to the air while the marshmallow set developed a crust, and the gelatine settled out a little at the tops, leaving a "jelly" top. (This actually worked well for the flower, as it highlighted the petals.)
To make marshmallow is a breeze in theory. You need:
1 1/2 tablespoons gelatine
5 tablespoons cold water
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup hot water
Put the gelatine in a bowl and combine with the cold water. Leave to sit. Bring the sugar and hot water to the boil, then pour over the soaked gelatine. Beat the mixture until thick and white and cool, add colourings and flavourings (if desired) and pour into well-buttered moulds. Allow to set for at least 24 hours before turning out, painting details with food colours and rolling in coconut.
I then covered squares of cardboard with alfoil as platforms for the rabbits, and wrapped them up in clear cellophane tied with a ribbon for an attractive Easter gift:
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Ann at Redacted Recipes is hosting this month's Mini Pie Revolution, and to give our teeth some respite from sugar, she has chosen Mini Pot Pies as the theme. Your pie can be any savoury combination, so long as it is mini and has a crust (and is therefore a pie).
I have chosen to make single crust chicken and leek pies in ramekins for my entry. The recipe for these pies is from The Australian Heart Foundation's The New Classic Cookbook by Loukie Werle. The only changes that I made to the recipe that are worth mentioning were to add green capsicum to the filling (because I had one in the crisper that had started to curl up its toes) and to sprinkle poppy seeds on top (simply because it looks pretty!!).
2 teaspoons cooking oil
1 small chopped onion
200g sliced button mushrooms
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 cups cold water
1 bay leaf
600g sliced leeks
500g diced skinless chicken breast fillets
250g frozen peas
1 chopped green capsicum (optional)
1 teaspoon cornflour
8 sheets filo pastry
cooking oil spray
poppy seeds to decorate (optional)
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Warm the oil in a frypan, then add the onion and capsicum and cook gently until soft. Add the mushrooms and continue to cook until the mushrooms are soft. Finally, stir through the tarragon, remove from the heat and place the onion mixture in a large bowl.
Next, bring the stock, water and bay leaf to the boil in a pan. Add the chicken and the leeks and simmer until the chicken is cooked through. Pour in the peas, stir through until heated, and then remove the pan from the heat. Drain the mixture, reserving one cup of the liquid, discard the bay leaf and add the solids to the bowl containing the onion mixture.
Make a paste with the cornflour and 1 tablespoon of cold water. In a small saucepan, stir the cornflour paste through the reserved stock, bring the liquid to the boil and simmer for one minute. Pour the resulting liquid into the chicken and vegetable mixture, combine thoroughly and spoon equal portions into 6 ramekins.
Spray cooking oil between every two layers of filo pastry, and cut 6 rounds from the filo to cover the top of each of the 6 ramekins, leaving a slight overhang. Place a filo pastry "lid" on top of each ramekin, scrunching decoratively around the edges to seal the top, and spray each "lid" with cooking oil. Finally, sprinkle the top of each pie with poppy seeds, and bake in the pre-heated oven for about 30 minutes.
Serve with mash on the side. Delicious!
Monday, March 17, 2008
17 March is St Patrick's Day, a day celebrated all over the world by the Irish and the Irish at heart. Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, died on this day on which his life is now celebrated. For a summary of the history of Saint Patrick and St Patrick's Day, you can look here.
For this St Patrick's Day, I have baked some cute green (non-alcoholic) cupcakes to share with my work colleagues. I used my favourite vanilla patty cake recipe (from Margaret Fulton), dyed half of the batter green, marbled the cupcakes, and after baking, iced them with green glace icing and topped them with green sanding sugar:
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields,
And until we meet again,
May God hold you
In the palm of his hand."
Sunday, March 16, 2008
This pudding could have golden syrup, jam or lemon curd on top. I chose blood orange marmalade as a tart contrast to the sweetness of the sponge.
The verdict - a light, fluffy sponge pudding that is miles away from the much-maligned reputation of puddings as stodgy. In this photograph, the pud is accompanied by vanilla yoghurt, but icecream, cream or custard would go equally as well as an accompaniment. It could also be served hot or cold, perhaps as an alternative on the afternoon tea tray. Delish!
Friday, March 14, 2008
I had previously made black and white cookies, having been introduced to this phenomenon by Nic at Baking Bites. However, I was keen to try the red velvet experience, because I have seen so many people post about red velvet cake and how much they love it. (I had never heard of red velvet before I started reading blogs, because like black and white cookies, you don't really see it in Australia.) I decided that these cookies would be an easy introduction to red velvet, because they are smaller than a cake and therefore there is less overall red. Still, I was mildly shocked when I added the red colouring, which unsurprisingly turned the batter a very vibrant red. The interesting part about it for me is that when the cookies had baked, they turned a deep, mellow shade of red - phew!
These cookies are huge - the recipe is only meant to make 10 cookies, and I ended up with 15 of varying shapes and sizes. (I need to work on my technique with this one, as it is a little like making pancakes.) They bake up nice and soft, like black and white cookies are supposed to be. The chocolate icing also tastes very nice, consisting as it does almost entirely of chocolate. Although I cannot speak for the white icing, I am sure that it would taste great too!
If you are looking for a fun cookie to make that is a little different from the every day, I can recommend giving these cookies a go. Next step - the red velvet cake!
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
- Start with the amount of flour stated in the recipe when making pastry. If it is too sticky to form into a ball, add more flour; if it is too dry, add cold water tablespoon by tablespoon until the pastry is of the right consistency to work with easily.
- Refrigerating pastry wrapped in clingfilm for roughly half an hour makes it easier to roll out.
- I find it easier to roll out pastry on a sheet of lightly floured greaseproof paper. This stops the pastry from sticking to the bench, and makes it easier to lift once rolled out.
- If I find a particular pastry is hard to roll out without sticking to the rolling pin, I find that rolling out the pastry between two sheets of greaseproof paper is helpful.
- The greaseproof paper on which you rolled out the pastry can be used to lift the pastry into the pie dish without breaking. Draping the pastry over the rolling pin also helps with lifting it.
- Try and avoid making pastry on a hot or humid day, as it makes the pastry very soft and almost impossible to work with.
- If it is very difficult to line the pastry pan with a particular pastry in one piece (eg because the pastry is very soft), then you can always patch up any holes with leftover pastry and smooth over the patches with your fingers until they meld into the crust.
I find a food processor invaluable in making pastry, because it cuts out a lot of the elbow grease in rubbing butter into flour, and is much quicker. Partly for this reason, partly because it produces a great tasting pie crust that doesn't compete with the filling, and partly because it doesn't shrink much, I like to use this pastry recipe from Exclusively Food for sweet pies.
Thanks to Kitchen Parade for hosting Pi Day, and do check out the progressive roundup of pies here.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Now as everyone knows, beer and pizza makes a great combination. Unfortunately, I didn't have any beer in the house, so I have brought along stout - Guinness nonetheless - to accompany my pizza squares instead:
Monday, March 10, 2008
Danielle of Habeas Brulee is hosting this month's Sugar High Friday, and has selected Sweet Gifts as the theme. The gist of this theme is to make a dessert for someone, and share the story of why you made that particular dessert for that particular person.
For my entry, I made a rum baba for my friend, Charet, who invited me to stay at her house in a beachside suburb for the Labour Day long weekend. Rum baba is one of Charet's favourite desserts, so I decided to make it for her as a gift for her generosity in having me to stay.
Until Charet mentioned rum baba, I had never heard of it, and I didn't actually know what I was making when I started this project. Some research on the Internet informed me that rum baba is a rum-soaked yeast cake, sometimes served with cream and fruit. There were a lot of different recipes on the internet for rum baba, all generally along the same lines, but some contained dried fruit while others which did not. I opted for this version of rum baba, adapted from an Ina Garten recipe. However, I didn't bother with the cream, and I left out the rum-soaked currants (which turned out to be the right move!!). I was rather scared that the cake would fall apart after being drowned in all that rum syrup, but amazingly it didn't - so if you make it, don't be shy!
Charet shared her rum baba with me, and I was pleasantly surprised. It is certainly very different to the types of cake which I usually make, but pleasant all the same, and boy, does it smell like rum! Charet says that rum babas are often even rummier than this one, but that she liked my less rummy version because she could have more than one slice ;)
Thanks to Danielle for hosting this month's SHF, and do check back to her site for the roundup later in the month.
Sunday, March 9, 2008
Unfortunately, I am not creative, and I am not in the running for the prize as I openly took inspiration from the greatness of others. However, I didn't want to miss out on the fun, so I am bringing along Cider Braised Pork with Beery Warm Potato Salad, both of which have a distinctly Irish flavour (although neither recipe was touted as such by its author). The booze that I used is as follows:
For the Cider Braised Pork, I turned to the great Stephanie Alexander and her seminal work, The Cooks Companion. To make this dish, you will need:
4 roughly chopped cloves garlic
Preheat your oven to 150 degrees Celsius. Toss the slivered garlic clove in salt and pepper. Make small cuts on one side of the pork and insert a garlic sliver into each cut. Dry the pork's surface by patting with kitchen towel, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Bundle the pork into a rectangular parcel shape, garlic side in, and tie in place with kitchen string. (Make sure you don't use plastic string, otherwise you will have a Bridget Jones moment!!)
Brown the pork on all sides in a small amount of cooking oil in an ovenproof dish that has a lid (or just do what I did and use a frypan and subsequently transfer the browned meat to a casserole dish). Skim off any excess fat that cooks out of the meat. Once the pork has browned, pour the brandy and cider over the pork and into the pan over high heat, and toss in the onion, carrot, garlic, rosemary and stock. (Tip - Don't be too precious about how you cut up the veges, because you don't eat them - they are used for flavour only.) Once the liquid is boiling, remove the dish from the stovetop, cover the pork with baking paper, and cover the dish with the lid. Place the covered dish in the pre-heated oven and cook for 1 1/2 hours or until the pork is cooked through, turning the pork every 30 minutes during cooking to ensure even distribution of flavours.
Once the pork has finished cooking, lift it out of the dish, wrap it in foil and put it aside to rest while you make the gravy. Strain the pan juices, then add them to a pan with the knob of butter, the flour dissolved in enough water to make a smooth paste, and the mustard. (Stephanie directs you to make a roux with the flour and butter then add the other ingredients, but I stuff this up 100% of the time, including this time, so I find that the paste method works better for me.) Stir your gravy until it thickens and just reaches boiling point, then remove from the heat. Serve slices of pork drizzled with the gravy.
To accompany my pork, I made a beery warm potato sald, the recipe for which can be found here. I left the onions and parsley out, used white vinegar in the dressing, and of course, used Guinness in the dressing.
Thanks to Emiline for hosting this St Paddys Day pub crawl. Be sure to check out the other pub crawlers at Emiline's site here.
Saturday, March 8, 2008
Zorra at Kochtopf and Fiordisale are hosting a blogging event for International Women's Day today, 8 March 2008. To participate, Zorra and Fiordisale have asked us to make a yellow dish. The yellow represents the colour of mimosa (wattle) flowers, which are given as a sign of respect and an expression of solidarity with women in their support for oppressed women worldwide.
For this event, I have made lemon semifreddo with limoncello syrup from the March 2008 edition of Delicious magazine. The recipe is by Margaret River Providore in Willyabrup, Western Australia.
I can honestly say that this is one of the most delicious things that I have ever made. It is absolutely devine. If you make it, do not skip the limoncello syrup - this really makes the dessert.
The recipe is as follows:
for the semifreddo:
1/2 cup sugar
zest of 1 lemon
1/3 cup lemon juice
4 egg yolks
250ml pouring cream
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup vodka
zest of one lemon
100ml lemon juice
To make the semifreddo, place the sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice for the semifreddo in a saucepan and heat it, stirring continuously, until it develops a syrup-like consistency (~ 10 minutes). Remove from the heat.
Beat the egg yolks in a mixing bowl using an electric mixer until "fluffy", then while the motor on the mixer is still running, pour the syrup-like mixture into the yolks, and continue beating for aorund 10 minutes until cool.
Whip the cream to soft peak stage, then fold int the egg yolk mixture. Spoon the mixture into 4 dariole moulds lined with cling film, cover the tops of the moulds with more cling film, and freeze for a minimum of four hours.
To make the limoncello syrup, put the sugar, vodka, lemon juice and zest into a suacepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes until thickened into a syrup, then remove from the heat and allow to cool completely.
When serving the semifreddo, place each unmoulded semifreddo on a plate and pour over some limoncello syrup.
This is a smooth, silky, very adult dessert, which I would gladly make again anytime. The best part of it is that I have three more of these babies in the freezer ...
Do check Zorra's and Fiordisale's sites for the roundup of other dishes celebrating International Women's Day.
Let's celebrate great women everywhere!