Thursday, 29 September 2011

Daring Bakers challenge: Croissants

The Daring Bakers go retro this month! Thanks to one of our very talented non-blogging members, Sarah, the Daring Bakers were challenged to make Croissants using a recipe from the Queen of French Cooking, none other than Julia Child!



Croissants  (makes 12)


Ingredients:
¼ oz (7 gm) of fresh yeast, or 1¼ teaspoon (6¼ ml/4 gm) of dry-active yeast (about ½ sachet)
3 tablespoons (45 ml) warm water (less than 100°F/38°C)
1 teaspoon (5 ml/4½ gm) sugar
1 3/4 cups (225 gm/½ lb) of strong plain flour (I used Polish all-purpose flour, which is 13% protein)
2 teaspoons (10 ml/9 gm) sugar
1½ teaspoon (7½ ml/9 gm) salt
½ cup (120 ml/¼ pint) milk (I am not sure if the fat content matters. I used 2%)
2 tablespoons (30 ml) tasteless oil (I used generic vegetable oil)
½ cup (120 ml/1 stick/115 gm/¼ lb) chilled, unsalted butter
1 egg, for egg wash

Preparation:
1. Mix the yeast, warm water, and first teaspoon of sugar in a small bowl. Leave aside for the yeast and sugar to dissolve and the yeast to foam up a little.
2. Measure out the other ingredients
3. Heat the milk until tepid (either in the microwave or a saucepan), and dissolve in the salt and remaining sugar
4. Place the flour in a large bowl.
5. Add the oil, yeast mixture, and milk mixture to the flour
6. Mix all the ingredients together using the rubber spatula, just until all the flour is incorporated
7. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and let it rest a minute while you wash out the bowl
8. Knead the dough eight to ten times only. The best way is as Julia Child does it in the video (see below). It’s a little difficult to explain, but essentially involves smacking the dough on the counter (lots of fun if you are mad at someone) and removing it from the counter using the pastry scraper.
9. Place the dough back in the bowl, and place the bowl in the plastic bag
10. Leave the bowl at approximately 75°F/24°C for three hours, or until the dough has tripled in size.
11. After the dough has tripled in size, remove it gently from the bowl, pulling it away from the sides of the bowl with your fingertips.
12. Place the dough on a lightly floured board or countertop, and use your hands to press it out into a rectangle about 8 by 12 inches (20cm by 30cm).
13. Fold the dough rectangle in three, like a letter (fold the top third down, and then the bottom third up)
14. Place the dough letter back in the bowl, and the bowl back in the plastic bag.
15. Leave the dough to rise for another 1.5 hours, or until it has doubled in size. This second rise can be done overnight in the fridge 
16. Place the double-risen dough onto a plate and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place the plate in the fridge while you prepare the butter.
17. Once the dough has doubled, it’s time to incorporate the butter
18. Place the block of chilled butter on a chopping board.
19. Using the rolling pin, beat the butter down a little, till it is quite flat.
20. Use the heel of your hand to continue to spread the butter until it is smooth. You want the butter to stay cool, but spread easily.
21. Remove the dough from the fridge and place it on a lightly floured board or counter. Let it rest for a minute or two.
22. Spread the dough using your hands into a rectangle about 14 by 8 inches (35 cm by 20 cm).
23. Remove the butter from the board, and place it on the top half of the dough rectangle
24. Spread the butter all across the top two-thirds of the dough rectangle, but keep it ¼ inch (6 mm) across from all the edges.
25. Fold the top third of the dough down, and the bottom third of the dough up. (Photos 17 & 18)
26. Turn the dough package 90 degrees, so that the top flap is to your right (like a book).
27. Roll out the dough package (gently, so you don’t push the butter out of the dough) until it is again about 14 by 8 inches (35 cm by 20 cm).
28. Again, fold the top third down and the bottom third up.
29. Wrap the dough package in plastic wrap, and place it in the fridge for 2 hours.
30. After two hours have passed, take the dough out of the fridge and place it again on the lightly floured board or counter.
31. Tap the dough with the rolling pin, to deflate it a little
32. Let the dough rest for 8 to 10 minutes
33. Roll the dough package out till it is 14 by 8 inches (35 cm by 20 cm).
34. Fold in three, as before
35. Turn 90 degrees, and roll out again to 14 by 8 inches (35 cm by 20 cm).
36. Fold in three for the last time, wrap in plastic, and return the dough package to the fridge for two more hours (or overnight, with something heavy on top to stop it from rising)
37. It’s now time to cut the dough and shape the croissants
38. First, lightly butter your baking sheet so that it is ready
39. Take the dough out of the fridge and let it rest for ten minutes on the lightly floured board or counter
40. Roll the dough out into a 20 by 5 inch rectangle (51 cm by 12½ cm).
41. Cut the dough into two rectangles (each 10 by 5 inches (25½ cm by 12½ cm))
42. Place one of the rectangles in the fridge, to keep the butter cold
43. Roll the second rectangle out until it is 15 by 5 inches (38 cm by 12½ cm).
44. Cut the rectangle into three squares (each 5 by 5 inches (12½ cm by 12½ cm))
45. Place two of the squares in the fridge
46. The remaining square may have shrunk up a little bit in the meantime. Roll it out again till it is nearly square
47. Cut the square diagonally into two triangles.
48. Stretch the triangle out a little, so it is not a right-angle triangle, but more of an isosceles.
49. Starting at the wide end, roll the triangle up towards the point, and curve into a crescent shape.
50. Place the unbaked croissant on the baking sheet
51. Repeat the process with the remaining squares of dough, creating 12 croissants in total.
52. Leave the tray of croissants, covered lightly with plastic wrap, to rise for 1 hour
53. Preheat the oven to very hot 475°F/240°C/gas mark 9.
54. Mix the egg with a teaspoon of water
55. Spread the egg wash across the tops of the croissants.
56. Put the croissants in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until the tops are browned nicely
57. Take the croissants out of the oven, and place them on a rack to cool for 10 minutes before serving. 

Monday, 19 September 2011

Flourless chocolate and almond cake


On Sunday we were invited to some friends’ for brunch. I had offered to bring dessert, and when I heard that the brunch’s theme was Italian, I thought I would make something from the River Café cookbooks. I chose the River Café Two Easy and the below almond and chocolate cake, but left the almonds a bit more grainy, so they would have a bit of a crunch. And also used 15% less sugar. I also did not put the vanilla pods into the cake, just the seeds. If I made it next time, I would leave it in the oven for longer, as I baked it for the recommended 25mins on 150C fan (does not say in the book if  the temperature given is for fan assisted or normal ovens, or maybe it does at the beginning of the book I just did not check) and it came out a bit brownie-ish. A bit too brownie-ish. But it was very nice. I think this is the first recipe I have done from this book and my impression is that this is not for beginners. The recipes just state the basics, and for example, it tells you to separate 6 eggs, and then you only need 4 whites. Maybe its just me who does not really thoroughly read recipes before doing them or me who does not separate 6 eggs into 12 small bowls :)
 

Anyways, I also wanted to praise my little plastic top for my 23cm cake tin, which worked really well  and saved the cocoa dusting on my cake in the horrible rain! I have been looking for cake ‘transporters’ and then when I needed a third cake tin for a cake, I found this and I am quite happy with it. It also takes up little extra space.

The recipe in a more user-friendly way and with my slight alterations:

Chocolate, almond cake, River Cafe


Ingredients:
-180gr 70% chocolate chopped
- 180gr unsalted butter cut in pieces
- 200gr blanched almonds finely (or as you prefer) grinded
- 8 eggs: 2 whole, 6 egg yolks and 4 egg whites
- seeds of one vanilla pod
- 200gr caster sugar
- 60gr cocoa powder
- a pinch of salt

Preparation:
- Preheat oven to 150C/Gas 2
- Line a c23cm cake tin and butter sides.
- Melt chocolate with the butter over simmering water and allow to cool.
- Meanwhile Beat the 2 whole eggs with the 6 egg yolks and 180gr of the sugar, then fold in cocoa powder and almonds.
- Mix in the melted chocolate and add the vanilla
- Beat the 4 egg whites into stiff peaks and fold in the remaining sugar. Then mix this into the chocolatey mixture
- Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 30mins. Wait until it cools down and serve dusted with cocoa powder. (I also put on a dollop of sour cream, just to ‘lighten’ it a bit :)

Fantastic plastic


Ok, so I am obsessed with plastic containers but this paired with a slight OCD results in my kitchen being proper organised.  

It all started with a few plastic containers for flour and sugar, which ended up at my sisters’ when I moved country. I dreamed big after that. I am now using just a couple of different types of containers: glass round ones for tea, muesli and paprika, plastic rounds for sugars which are easy to measure when baking, and the Rosti Mepal modula range for almost everything else. 
For spices, I use  Muji plastic baskets and they are organised by category, one is for marinades and ready-mixes, one for dried herbs and one for baking. Sometimes they go visit another box for a while, but are still easy to track down :)

(as you can see, the babies' stuff is organised as well)
I use matte tape and a CD-writer pen to label everything and the system is working so well, now I have also extended it my storage room.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Am I back...really?


Well. Its been a hell of a long time, I must admit. But I have two beautiful baby girls to show for it. I have been cooking and baking, but pictures have only been taken of the babies.
I have very little time still, but I have to keep this blog alive. I actually have come back to it during this last few months and have redone some of my own recipes, so if for no-one else, at least for myself I should continue. Maybe the girls will one day use it or just think their mom is weird. Who knows.
Anyways..
The changes I think I will be implementing will be widening what I write about. This does not mean I will be writing recipes of mashed potatoes with pumpkin for babies, but maybe there will be more than just recipes.
We'll see. Let's hope I come back in a few days. That's the first goal!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Ricotta and chocolate mini-muffins with lemon syrup


I had a pot of ricotta that is expiring today and I was just contemplating making this pasta recipe, when I stumbled on The Curvy Carrot's blog and this recipe. I made a few small changes, and substituted the blueberries for dark chocolate (can't live without it, sorry) and drizzled them with lemon syrup to make them a bit more lemony. They taste great, the ricotta makes them feel light and the lemon syrup gives them a bit of tang and sweetness that goes well with the dark chocolate. The size of the mini-muffins is just perfect for grazing :)

Ricotta and chocolate mini-muffins with lemon syrup
makes about 16 mini-muffins (using cupcake molds)
Ingredients:
- 1 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup wholemeal flour
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup semi-skimmed milk
- 113gr (8 tablespoons or1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 large eggs
- zest of 2 lemons plus juice of half (the other half will go into the syrup)
- a small handful of dark chocolate chips or chocolate cut into small pieces (about 30-40grams)
for the lemon syrup:
- juice of half a lemon
- 25gr or 1/8cup sugar
- 50ml water (little less than 1/8cup)

Preparation:
- Preheat the oven to 200C (400F)  degrees.
- Line a muffin tin with desired paper liners, or spray with cooking spray.
- In a large bowl, combine the flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt, mixing well.
- In another bowl, mix the ricotta cheese, milk, and butter at low-speed with a handheld mixer.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
- Add the lemon zest and then the lemon juice, mixing well.
- On low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, until just combined.
- Fold in the chocolate and make sure its combined well so all cupcakes get a bit :)
-  Evenly divide the batter between your tins, and bake until golden brown on top, about 25 minutes.
- While the mini-muffins are baking, combine the half lemon's juice with the sugar and 50ml water in a small saucepan.
- Bring to the boil. Boil until reduced by half or has a syrup consistency.
- When the muffins are done, with a spoon, pour over a spoonful of the syrup to each muffin and put on a rack so the excess syrup (if any) comes out, although this shoul;d not make a mess or ruin the paper cups!
- Leave to cool and enjoy!

Monday, 14 February 2011

Cold noodle salad and tempura veggies

The February 2011 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by Lisa of Blueberry Girl. She challenged Daring Cooks to make Hiyashi Soba and Tempura. She has various sources for her challenge including japanesefood.about.com, pinkbites.com, and itsybitsyfoodies.com

This noodle salad makes a tasty and quick lunch with millions of options to make it a bit different every time. It’s the first time I make a cold noodle salad, but definitely not the last! We had it for a quick weekend lunch and it was a huge hit. I have kept this version simple with just the basic ingredients.

Quick cold noodle salad:
Ingredients:
- dry or fresh noodles, prepared as per packaging instructions and cooled by rinsing with cold water a few times
- 3 tbsp soy sauce
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 2-3 spring onions thinly sliced
- 1 red chilli chopped
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 small bunch of coriander chopped
- a small handful of toasted and chopped cashews (optional)

Preparation:
- Mix well all ingredients except for noodles, coriander and cashews.
- Combine sauce with noodles and right before serving add nuts and coriander and mix well.

Tempura: (aaargh!!! I am working off a dongle and now I have temporarily given up on uploading pics, so sorry, this will have to come later)
Recipes courtesy of pink bites and itsy bitsy foodies Serves 4
Ingredients:
- 1 egg yolk from a large egg
- 1 cup (240 ml) iced water
- ½ cup  (70 gm) plain (all purpose) flour, plus extra for dredging
- ½ cup (70 gm) cornflour a.k.a cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- vegetable oil, for deep frying
- ice water bath, for the tempura batter (a larger bowl than what will be used for the tempura should be used. Fill the large bowl with ice and some water, set aside)
- very cold vegetables and seafood of your choice, I used aubergines/eggplants cut into strips, carrots thinly sliced and prawns

Preparation:
- Place the iced water into a mixing bowl. Lightly beat the egg yolk and gradually pour into the iced water, stirring (preferably with chopsticks) and blending well. Add flours and baking powder all at once, stroke a few times with chopsticks until the ingredients are loosely combined. The batter should be runny and lumpy. Place the bowl of batter in an ice water bath to keep it cold while you are frying the tempura. The batter as well as the vegetables and
seafood have to be very cold. The temperature shock between the hot oil and the cold veggies help create a crispy tempura.
- Heat the oil in a large pan or a wok. For vegetables, the oil should be 320°F/160°C; for seafood it should be 340°F/170°C. It is more difficult to maintain a steady temperature and produce consistent tempura if you don’t have a thermometer, but it can be done. You can test the oil by dropping a piece of batter into the hot oil. If it sinks a little bit and then immediately rises to the top, the oil is ready.
- Start with the vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, that won’t leave a strong odor in the oil. Dip them in a shallow bowl of flour to lightly coat them and then dip them into the batter. Slide them into the hot oil, deep frying only a couple of pieces at a time so that the temperature of the oil does not drop.
- Place finished tempura pieces on a wire rack so that excess oil can drip off. Continue frying the other items, frequently scooping out any bits of batter to keep the oil clean and prevent the oil (and the remaining tempura) from getting a burned flavor.
- Serve immediately for the best flavor, but they can also be eaten cold.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Healthy Houmous


I love houmous. Simple as that. But all houmous are not created equal: sometimes they just taste of tahini or of garlic, or they are too thick or too dry. I found an recipe where you add taste with sesame oil and soy sauce instead of tahini in The Food Doctor Everyday Diet Cookbook that is easy to make, is as light and healthy as can be and tasted lovely. The only change I made is that I baked the garlic cloves instead of using them raw to give it a smoother garlicky taste.


Healthy Houmous:
Ingredients:
- 400gr (13oz) can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 2 garlic cloves, baked in the oven until soft but not burned
- 3 tbsp very good quality olive oil
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- freshly ground black pepper, salt, and chilli flakes
- extra oil to drizzle on top

Preparation:
- Put all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz until smoothish or as you like it.
- Taste and season
- When you serve it, drizzle with a bit more olive oil and sprinkle with chilli flakes.

Chocolate pudding pots



Its funny that in the country where pudding is the word used for dessert, the pudding as we know it does not really exist. I have been having a real craving for those lovely pots of chocolate pudding, dark and semi-sweet, with a thin but intense skin on, so I decided to investigate how to make these at home.
I found quite a few recipes here and there, and ended up using as inspiration the recipe from smitten kitchen combined with the recipe in the book Pure Desserts (hence the cups instead of grams). I came up with a third version because I find that using chocolate for baking and cooking gives me the flavour of the choc bar I use, and so a lot of the recipes just end up tasting the same. So I substituted chocolate for cocoa powder combined with oil and I also used skimmed milk instead of full fat.
The pudding pots were beautiful and gone in an instant and so easy to make, that I think they are going into my best-of notebook. Now I just need to come up with a good vanilla version and layer the 2 J

Chocolate pudding pots (serves 4 or just one big choc-lover:):
Ingredients:
- ¼ cup corn flour a.k.a cornstarch
- ½ cup sugar
- a pinch of salt
- 3 cups of skimmed milk
- ½ a vanilla pod
- 8 tbsp cocoa powder
- 2,5 tbsp vegetable oil

Preparation:
-  In a medium sized bowl, combine the corn flour with the sugar and salt.
- Slowly whisk in the milk and add the vanilla beans scraped out of the pod as well as the pod and place the bowl over gently simmering water (just like you would when you want to gently melt chocolate).
- Heat and stir occasionally for about 15-20minutes, until it begins to thicken.
- Mix together the cocoa and the oil, just as much as you can.
- From your milky mixture, take out the vanilla pod and whisk in the cocoa and oil mixture, making sure it dissolves completely.
- Continue stirring for another 5-6 minutes until the mixture gets even thicker.
- Remove from the heat and divide into your serving cups and chill (then eat them all!!).

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Chocolate heaven bites

If you only make one recipe from this blog, it should definitely be this one (hoping your taste is similar to mine). This recipe was based on the Mexican chocolate thumbprints from Bobby Flay from the Good Housekeeping Dec 2010 edition I picked up at LAX in transit. The original recipe is more complicated and has a hole in the middle where you put dulce de leche. I mainly dell in love with the concept of chocolate soft cookies with cinnamon and coffee, so I added a real espresso and some chopped dried cranberries besides the cinnamon and the cocoa powder and left out the dulce de leche. I also made them into balls and baked them for less time, so they become melt in your mouth, intense and dangerously delicious. After baking them and filling the now famous cookie jar, they were just as delicious 5 days later and a fight erupted for the last piece. Now I am exercising self restraint by not making another batch until next week :)
Chocolate heaven bites (makes about 2 dozen)
Ingredients:
- ½ cup or 114gr  flour
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp salt
- 3 heaped tbsp cocoa powder
- 1 freshly brewed strong and short espresso
- 1 tbsp and 1/2tsp vegetable oil
- 1 cup or 113gr unsalted butter softened
- ½ cup or 114gr granulated sugar
- 1 large egg separated, white lightly beaten
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- a small handful of dried cranberries, chopped
- ¼ cup or about 50gr pecans, ground

preparation:
- in a large bowl, stir flour, cinnamon and salt until blended
- in a small bowl combine cocoa powder, espresso and oil, until it becomes a smooth texture. Best to use a spatula for this
- in another bowl, with a mixer beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolk on medium speed and the vanilla. Then add the cocoa mixture until combined.
- add the floury mixture to the cocoa mixture and add the cranberries as well, then  beat on low speed just until dough comes together.
- put the dough in cling film and refrigerate for at least 20minutes, or up to 8 hours
- when ready to bake, preheat oven to 350F/ 180C/160C fan
- roll 1 large teaspoon of dough into a ball and with fingers dip the top of the ball into egg white then pecans
- place the balls on a cookie sheet and bake for about 6-8 minutes
- cool and enjoy

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Pata-Tuesday: Spicy fusilli with chicken and vegetables


Its getting cold out there and I am feeling more and more like warm, spicy sauces and nice warm filling dishes. This pasta dish was inspired by something I ate the other day at a local Italian and was a lovely dinner and a just as nice lunch the next day!

Spicy fusilli with chicken and vegetables (for 2 hungry people)

ingredients:
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 2 red chillies, deseeded and chopped
- 1 bunch of fresh basil, stalks chopped
- 2 small chicken breasts, diced
- 1 courgette chopped
- 1 red pepper chopped
- 1 can of tomatoes
- 1 tbsp of tomato puree
- 1 tbsp of sundried tomato puree
- a handful of plum tomatoes, halved
- 2 tbsp of cream cheese
- lots of salt and pepper
- a teaspoon of oregano
- a tsp honey
- cooked wholemeal fusilli for 2

preparation:
Heat the olive oil and add the chilli, garlic and the basil stalks. After 2 minutes add the chicken and season with salt, pepper and oregano.
Fry for about 4 minutes and add the chopped vegetables.
Fry for another 3 minutes and add canned tomato with a bit of water, then stir in the 2 purees.
Add the honey.
Stir well and simmer covered for 20mins.
When chicken is cooked and tender and sauce is looking ready, mix in the basil and the cream cheese and cook for another 5 minutes.
Mix with the fusilli and serve.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Cookie-jar love: hazelnut cookies


Every time K and I wonder down to the kitchen and home section of Selfridges London, we end up going home with a cab. Why? Because we always fall in love with a variety of kitchen gadgets, tools or just some funny decoration, and neither of us stops the other. This was the case last Saturday as well, when we were there to buy coffee and binbags, and came home with a cookie jar!! We also bough a few 'friends' to go with it and placed the jar in the kitchen window (no snow though). So suddenly the challenge was to fill it, which I got into immediately, by making a batch of my favourite chocolate cookies. But the jar deserved more, so another batch of cookies were prepared based on the linzer cookie recipe from here.
I modified the above recipe a bit by substituting the almonds for hazelnuts and using apricot jam. I also made the cookies in a star shape without cut-outs so that the cookie jar and the chocolate cookies stay jam-free.

Hazelnut linzer cookies

ingredients:
1 cup (110 grams) whole hazelnuts
2 cups (260 grams) all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (227 grams) (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup (135 grams) granulated white sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large (40 grams) egg yolks
zest of 1 lemon
confectioners' (icing or powdered) sugar for dusting
1/2 cup (120 ml) apricot jam (can use other flavored jams)

preparation:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and bake the hazelnuts for about 10mins. Take out, cool and take the skin off by rubbing them with a tea towel.
Once the nuts have cooled, place in a food processor and process with 1/4 cup (50 grams) of the sugar from the recipe until finely ground. 
In a separate bowl, whisk or sift together the flour, cinnamon, and salt. 
In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter and remaining sugar until light and fluffy (approximately 3 minutes). Beat in the vanilla extract, egg yolks, and lemon zest. Beat in the ground nuts. Add the flour mixture beating just until incorporated. Divide the dough in half and shape into two rectangles about 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) thick. Wrap the two rectangles of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm (at least one hour and up to several days).
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Remove one rectangle of dough from the refrigerator. On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough until it is about 1/4 inch (1 cm) thick. Using a 2 to 3 inch (5 to 7.5 cm) cookie cutter (round, square, heart, star, etc.) cut out the dough. Place the cookies about 1 inch (2.54 cm) apart on the prepared baking sheet.
Reroll any scraps and cut out the cookies. Remove the other half of the dough from the refrigerator and roll and cut out the rest of the cookies. 
Bake the cookies for 12-14 minutes or until they are very lightly browned. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.
While the cookies are cooling place the  jam in a small saucepan and heat gently until it has thickened slightly. Strain if there are any lumps in the jam. Let cool.
On one of the cookies spread  about a 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon of jam and gently sandwich them together

November Daring Bakers Challenge: Walnut crostata with lemon filling

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.


I made a sweet crostata, halving the ingredients of the recipe below, as I had just bought this practical, smaller sized tin.
I am also not a huge fan of marmalade so I decided to make the filling using the cheesecake recipe that I had tried a few weeks ago, and just felt like eating again and again... To make it a bit more exciting, I replaced some of the flour with walnuts that I blitzed to almost powdery consistency. The only thing left was to reduce the baking time, and the result was lovely! I found the crostata recipe to be a great thing to have up your sleeve and use for sweet as well as savoury starters. Its quick and easy and tastes fab.

Walnut crostata with lemon filling

Ingredients for the crostata: 
- a handful of walnuts, blitzed to powder
- 1/2 c. minus 1 tablespoon [105 ml, 100 g, 3 ½ oz] superfine sugar or a scant 3/4 cup [180ml, 90g, 3 oz] of powdered sugar
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 3/4cup minus 2 tablespoons of wholemeal flour
- a pinch of salt
- 1 stick [8 tablespoons / 4 oz. / 115 g] cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- grated zest of half a lemon 
- 1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten in a small bowl

preparation: 
Whisk together sugar, flours, walnuts and salt in a bowl.
Rub or cut the butter into the flour until the mixture has the consistency of coarse crumbs. You can do this in the bowl or on your work surface, using your fingertips or an implement of choice.
Make a well in the center of the mounded flour and butter mixture and pour the beaten eggs into it (reserve about a teaspoon of the egg mixture for glazing purposes later on – place in the refrigerator, covered, until ready to use).
Add the lemon zest to your flour/butter/egg mixture.
Use a fork to incorporate the liquid into the solid ingredients, and then use your fingertips.
Knead lightly just until the dough comes together into a ball.
Shape the dough into a flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Place the dough in the refrigerator and chill for at least two hours. You can refrigerate the dough overnight.
To bake the crostata, heat the oven to 190C or 170C fan.

Roll the dough out and put it in the tart tin. My tin did not need any pre-preparation and came out easily with the loose base.
Make sure the sides are filled as well, using your fingers, and look all nice and rustic.
Fill the tart with the cheesecake filling and put in the oven.
Bake for 15-20mins, checking the cheese filling: it should not burn on top and should stay a bit wobbly.
Serve hot or cold.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Chocolate and cinnamon crumble


This recipe is inspired by something I found in a small BBC GoodFood book called 101 Cakes and Bakes. Even though the book is small and not very fancy, it is full of useful basic recipes, that you can use as they are or modify. I also used this book for the chocolate and strawberry cheesecake muffins that I also modified a bit. The book costs less than 5 pounds, so its a great stocking filler for Christmas!
I modified the recipe by substituting chocolate for cocoa powder and light vegetable oil, as well as halving the recipe.

Chocolate Cinnamon Crumb Squares (for a 19cm brownie tin)

ingredients:
for the cinnamon crumble:
- 25gr plain flour
- 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 25gr light muscovado sugar
- 25gr butter, cut into pieces

for the cake:
- 65gr unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2.5 tbsp light vegetable oil
- 90gr butter, softened
- 125gr caster sugar
- 2 eggs
- 85gr self-raising flour

preparation:
Preheat the oven to 150C fan - 170C regular oven.
Butter and flour the tin you will be using.
For the crumble, mix the flour, cocoa, cinnamon, sugar and the butter in a food processor until it has a crumbly consistency and set aside.
For the cake, put all cake ingredients in a bowl and beat for 2-3 minutes until well mixed.
Pour the mixture into the tin and smooth.
Sprinkle the crumble on top evenly.
Bake for about 25minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Leave to cool and dust with powder sugar if you like.
Cut into squares and tuck in.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Mediterranean risotto


I wanted to make a lighter version of a risotto with some added veggies, and the below is what I came up with. It was a huge success and not as heavy as usual risottos.

Mediterranean risotto (for 4 people)

ingredients:
- basic risotto recipe, using half the butter and half the parmesan cheese
- 2 handfuls of plum tomatoes
- 1 small aubergine chopped into small cubes
- 1 zucchini sliced
- 1 yellow pepper, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic
- a few basil leaves chopped

preparation:
Heat the oven to 200C.
Put the aubergines in a roasting tin and season with salt, pepper and dry chili flakes. Add a bit of olive oil and mix well. Put in oven and roast while you make start the risotto. After about 15mins, add the rest of the veggies and the garlic and mix well.
Make the risotto as usual: fry an onion and some chopped celery on a a tbsp of oil and butter. When soft, add the risotto rice and mix well, frying for about 2-3 minutes. Add a glass of white wine and stir until the wine disappears, then keep adding chicken stock ladle by ladle stirring regularly until the rice is cooked al dente.
When rice is almost ready (about 20mins from when you started, take the veggies out of the oven. 
Add the grilled aubergine, zucchini, pepper and tomatoes to the rice.
Squeeze out the soft centre of the garlic and stir into the rice together with the basil, a tbsp of butter and a tbsp of grated parmesan cheese.
Mix well and serve immediately.

Lime cheesecake with chocolate base


Yes, a cheesecake again :)
I found this recipe from Nigella and decided to give it a try. I have tweaked it a bit as I did not want to buy any chocolate cookies to use for the base, but decided on digestives with cocoa powder added. I also halved the recipe and used a 19cm cake tin instead of a 21-22cm one.

Lime cheesecake with chocolate base:

ingredients for a 19cm cake: 
- 95gr digestive cookies
- 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- 37gr butter
- 375gr Philadelphia cream cheese at room temperature
- 100gr caster sugar
- 2 whole eggs
- 1 yolk
- juice of 2 limes

preparation:
Place a large overlapping piece of foil over the bottom of the springform tin, and then insert the pan ring over it. Fold the foil up and around the sides of the tin and place the whole thing on a second piece of foil, also folding it and pressing it securely up around the tin so that you have a water-tight covering. Process the biscuits with the cocoa powder in a processor, then add the butter and pulse again. Line the bottom of the springform tin, pressing the biscuits in with your hands or the back of the spoon. Put the tin in the fridge to set, and preheat the oven to 180°C.
Beat the cream cheese gently until it's smooth, and then add the sugar. Beat in the eggs and egg yolks, then finally the lime juice. Put a full kettle on.
Pour the cream cheese filling onto the chilled biscuit base, place the tin in a roasting tray and pour hot the hot water around the foil-wrapped cheesecake to come about halfway up the sides of the springform. Transfer it to the oven and cook for 45-50mins or so, checking after 35 minutes. It should feel set, but not rigidly so.
Take the roasting tin out of the oven, then gingerly remove the springform from its water-filled tin, stand it on a rack, peel off the outer layer of foil, tear away the side bits of the first layer of foil and leave it to cool. When the cheesecake's cooled down completely, place it in the fridge and leave it there till 20 minutes or so before you want to eat it.
Transfer to the plate you're going to serve it on, unclip and take the side off. 
Serve slicing with a knife dipped in water.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Grilled aubergine spread


Next time you feel like something fresher and lighter than butter and ham on top of your bread, make this simple aubergine spread. You only need to buy a few nice aubergines and the spread keeps in the fridge for quite a long time, I have tried 5 days with success.

Grilled aubergine spread:

ingredients:
- 2 aubergines washed
- 1 big clove of garlic with skin on
- olive oil
- salt and freshly ground black pepper

preparation:
Heat the oven to 200C.
Pierce the aubergines with a fork all over, so they do not explode in the oven.
Put the aubergines and the garlic clove in the oven and bake until all charred and completely soft, about 45 minutes. Check the garlic in between and take it out if you feel it might burn.
When the aubergines are ready, halve and carve out the soft mushy meat and mash with a fork and a knive. Some people say you should only use wooden utensils, but I have done it both ways and have not really seen the difference in the sourness.
Squeeze out the garlic and mix with the aubergines and let it cool down. You need to season when cold to make sure its to your exact taste.
When it has cooled down, add about 1 tablespoon of oil as well as salt and pepper to taste.
Spread over bread, wholemeal or white, toasted or not. Anything goes. It even tastes nice with drilled chicken!

Daring Bakers challenge: Cottage cheese doughnuts


October's challenge was to make some doughnuts. I am not a huge fan, so I did not use the recipe provided but dug out a recipe from my aunt which I remembered to have loved and eaten by the dozen. This is made with dry cottage cheese and is light and fluffy and beautiful with just a bit of powder sugar or dipped in peach marmalade.
this recipe makes enough for a huge football team, so halve if you are just a few.

Cottage cheese doughnut (for a big bunch of people):

ingredients:
- 250gr dry cottage cheese - I could not get hold of any in London so I drained for a few hours a low fat 300gr tub
- 250gr plain flour
- 3 eggs
- 2 tblsp sugar
- 2 dl sour cream
- pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
- oil for frying

preparation:
Break the cottage cheese with a fork and mix everything together. 
Heat the oil, but be careful not to overheat. 
Use an oily spoon to scoop out the batter and fry.
Sprinkle with powder sugar or dip in marmalade, preferably peach.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Daring Bakers challenge: sugar cookies with icing


The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.

I used this recipe making 2 other versions as well, dividing the dough and replacing:
chocolate cookies: replace 2 heaped tablespoons of flour for cocoa powder and add a shot of espresso
lemon and poppy seed cookies: adding 2 tablespoons of poppy seeds, and the zest of one lemon and juice of half.
We had a theme, which was November. This month I am going on vacation so my theme was me (sugar cookie) before, me (lemon and poppy seeds) after a few days and me again (choc cookie) after 2 weeks under the sun :)

Basic Sugar Cookies:
Makes Approximately 36x 10cm / 4" Cookies
200g / 7oz / ½ cup + 6 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
400g / 14oz / 3 cups + 3 Tbsp All Purpose / Plain Flour
200g / 7oz / 1 cup Caster Sugar / Superfine Sugar (I only used 150grams and was still too sweet for my taste)
1 Large Egg, lightly beaten
5ml / 1 tsp Vanilla Extract / Or seeds from 1 vanilla bean

Directions
• Cream together the butter, sugar and any flavourings you’re using. Beat until just becoming
creamy in texture.
Tip: Don’t over mix otherwise you’ll incorporate too much air and the cookies will spread during
baking, losing their shape.

• Beat in the egg until well combined, make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Add the sifted flour and mix on low until a non sticky dough forms.
Tip: I don’t have a stand mixer so I find it easier to switch to dough hooks at this stage to avoid
flour flying everywhere.

• Knead into a ball and divide into 2 or 3 pieces.
• Roll out each portion between parchment paper to a thickness of about 5mm/1/5 inch (0.2 inch)
• Refrigerate for a minimum of 30mins.
Tip: Recipes commonly just wrap the whole ball of dough in clingwrap and then refrigerate it for an
hour or overnight, but by rolling the dough between parchment, this shortens the chilling time and
then it’s also been rolled out while still soft making it easier and quicker.

• Once chilled, peel off parchment and place dough on a lightly floured surface.
• Cut out shapes with cookie cutters or a sharp knife.
• Arrange shapes on parchment lined baking sheets and refrigerate for another 30mins to an hour.
Tip: It’s very important you chill them again otherwise they’ll spread while baking.
• Re-roll scraps and follow the above process until all scraps are used up.
• Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C Fan Assisted) / 350°F / Gas Mark 4.
• Bake until golden around the edges, about 8-15mins depending on the size of the cookies.
Tip: Bake same sized cookies together otherwise mixing smaller with larger cookies could result in
some cookies being baked before others are done.

Tip: Rotate baking sheets half way through baking if your oven bakes unevenly.
• Leave to cool on cooling racks.
• Once completely cooled, decorate as desired.
Tip: If wrapped in tinfoil/cling wrap or kept in airtight containers in a cool place, un-decorated
cookies can last up to a month.

Royal Icing:
315g – 375g / 11oz – 13oz / 2½ - 3 cups Icing / Confectioner’s / Powdered Sugar, unsifted
2 Large Egg Whites
10ml / 2 tsp Lemon Juice
5ml / 1 tsp Almond Extract, optional

Directions
• Beat egg whites with lemon juice until combined.
Tip: It’s important that the bowls/spoons/spatulas and beaters you use are thoroughly cleaned and
grease free.

• Sift the icing sugar to remove lumps and add it to the egg whites.
Tip: I’ve listed 2 amounts of icing sugar, the lesser amount is good for a flooding consistency, and the larger amount is for outlining, but you can add even more for a much thicker consistency good for writing. If you add too much icing sugar or would like to make a thinner consistency, add very small amounts of water, a few drops at a time, until you reach the consistency you need.
• Beat on low until combined and smooth.
• Use immediately or keep in an airtight container.
Tip: Royal Icing starts to harden as soon as it’s in contact with air so make sure to cover containers with plastic wrap while not in use.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

A quick word about baked chicken


All the big cheeses in cooking have at least one book with a baked chicken recipe. They also all have some kind of twist: fry the chicken before putting in the oven, cut small slices into the thighs, pre-boil the potatoes, etc.. I have tried them all and have realised that these are just to give you some extra value for your money. You would probably feel cheated if the recipe just said season chicken and put in oven, right?
Well, I have done the research and all the fuss makes no real difference. I use a very simple and foolproof recipe, so don't waste time with all the fancy extra steps :)

simple baked chicken with potatoes:

ingredients: (for 4 people)
- a 2kg organic chicken (the big secret is the quality of your chicken)
- a small handful of garlic cloves unpeeled
- 1 lemon, preferably unwaxed
- a bunch of rosemary, and a bunch of thyme plus extra sprigs of rosemary for the potatoes
- salt, pepper and very good quality olive oil
- 500-700gr potatoes depending of what other sides you make washed and quartered or halved depending on size
- optional: add quartered carrots and red onions if you like 

preparation:
Heat your oven to 180C.
Wash the chicken and pat dry with kitchen paper.
Microwave the lemon for about 10sec and pierce a few times with a sharp knife
Fill the chicken with the herbs, the garlic cloves and the lemon and close the cavity.
Rub olive oil all over the chicken and season generously with black pepper and salt.
Put in the oven for 30mins.
When the 30mins are over, add the potatoes (and other veg if you are using), covering them with the extra rosemary and lots of salt and shake the pan so they are covered with the juices of the chicken.
Put back in the oven for another 60mins and ready!

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