Saturday, December 22, 2007

Daring Baking! Buche de noel.

This was a wonderful challenge, my favourite yet. It was a delicious product but also very challenging and fun. I think it was wonderful at this time of year to do something festive, that reminds us of the true meaning of all our different holidays, Hannuka, Divali, and Christmas and other festivals that we think of something that will bring light and warmth into all our homes, which is what the Buche de Noel is supposed to represent.

I tackled the meringue mushrooms first, they were so much fun! It was really easy to produce something so fun and whimsical, just a case of piping tops and bottoms out, baking them, then attaching with a bit of saved meringue and baking to seal.

I then tried the buttercream, so it was ready for when I'd made my cake. It was hard, and I could imagine how it could have caused problems, trying to whip butter into egg whites is always a bit risky. Mine came out great. I added some chocolate for flavour and a darker colour. It tasted absolutely wonderful.

The genoise went well, although I worried I lost some of the volume as it was really hard to fold in the flour at the end.

The rolling of the genoise was hard, but I managed it, another stressful first crossed off the list!!
I made a few little marzipan mushrooms with regular and red dyed store bought marzipan for a bit of extra fun and then assembled the whole thing. I created the wood effect with a fork. A pastry comb was too uniform.

I served it to a crowd of hungry cyclists and it was literally gone within seconds. Everyone really loved the meringue mushrooms, they just thought they were sooo cute!! This is a very impressive creation, especially amongst people who don't do much baking!

I'd say if you follow the recipe really carefully you shouldn't have too many problems and its a wonderful centerpiece to any holiday gathering.

Sources: Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri and The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Dessert
Serves 12
Cake should be stored in a cool, dry place. Leftovers should be refrigerated
Plain Genoise:

3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
¾ cup of sugar
½ cup cake flour - spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off (also known as cake & pastry flour)
¼ cup cornstarch

one 10 x 15 inch jelly-roll pan that has been buttered and lined with parchment paper and then buttered again

1.Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.

2.Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so the water is simmering.

3.Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, salt and sugar together in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Place over the pan of simmering water and whisk gently until the mixture is just lukewarm, about 100 degrees if you have a thermometer (or test with your finger - it should be warm to the touch).

4.Attach the bowl to the mixer and, with the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high speed until the egg mixture is cooled (touch the outside of the bowl to tell) and tripled in volume. The egg foam will be thick and will form a slowly dissolving ribbon falling back onto the bowl of whipped eggs when the whisk is lifted.

5.While the eggs are whipping, stir together the flour and cornstarch.

6.Sift one-third of the flour mixture over the beaten eggs. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl on every pass through the batter to prevent the flour mixture from accumulating there and making lumps. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture and finally with the remainder.

7.Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

8.Bake the genoise for about 10 to 12 minutes. Make sure the cake doesn’t overbake and become too dry or it will not roll properly.

9.While the cake is baking, begin making the buttercream.

10.Once the cake is done (a tester will come out clean and if you press the cake lightly it will spring back), remove it from the oven and let it cool on a rack.

Coffee Buttercream:

4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
24 tablespoons (3 sticks or 1-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons rum or brandy

1.Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot.

2.Attach the bowl to the mixer and whip with the whisk on medium speed until cooled. Switch to the paddle and beat in the softened butter and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth. Dissolve the instant coffee in the liquor and beat into the buttercream.

Filling and frosting the log:

1.Run a sharp knife around the edges of the genoise to loosen it from the pan.

2.Turn the genoise layer over (unmolding it from the sheet pan onto a flat surface) and peel away the paper.

3.Carefully invert your genoise onto a fresh piece of parchment paper.

4.Spread with half the coffee buttercream (or whatever filling you’re using).

5.Use the parchment paper to help you roll the cake into a tight cylinder.

6.Transfer back to the baking sheet and refrigerate for several hours.

7.Unwrap the cake. Trim the ends on the diagonal, starting the cuts about 2 inches away from each end.

8.Position the larger cut piece on each log about 2/3 across the top.

9.Cover the log with the reserved buttercream, making sure to curve around the protruding stump.

10.Streak the buttercream with a fork or decorating comb to resemble bark.

11.Transfer the log to a platter and decorate with your mushrooms and whatever other decorations you’ve chosen.

Meringue Mushrooms:

3 large egg whites, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ cup (3-1/2 ounces/105 g.) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (1-1/3 ounces/40 g.) icing sugar
Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting

1.Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Have ready a pastry bag fitted with a small (no. 6) plain tip. In a bowl, using a mixer on medium-low speed, beat together the egg whites and cream of tartar until very foamy. Slowly add the granulated sugar while beating. Increase the speed to high and beat until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted. Continue until the whites hold stiff, shiny peaks. Sift the icing sugar over the whites and, using a rubber spatula, fold in until well blended.

2.Scoop the mixture into the bag. On one baking sheet, pipe 48 stems, each ½ inch (12 mm.) wide at the base and tapering off to a point at the top, ¾ inch (2 cm.) tall, and spaced about ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. On the other sheet, pipe 48 mounds for the tops, each about 1-1/4 inches (3 cm.) wide and ¾ inch (2 cm.) high, also spaced ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. With a damp fingertip, gently smooth any pointy tips. Dust with cocoa. Reserve the remaining meringue.

3.Bake until dry and firm enough to lift off the paper, 50-55 minutes. Set the pans on the counter and turn the mounds flat side up. With the tip of a knife, carefully make a small hole in the flat side of each mound. Pipe small dabs of the remaining meringue into the holes and insert the stems tip first. Return to the oven until completely dry, about 15 minutes longer. Let cool completely on the sheets.

4.Garnish your Yule Log with the mushrooms.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

WCB-Can you tell we're having guests

This seems to be every cat's dream. Nice clean bedding to shed all over.

Mum and Grandma are coming into town on Tuesday and she wanted to welcome them by leaving a little bit of cat litter and fur, so they feel at home.

Thanks Tina!

To see all the others, go to 'a cats perspective'.

Spinach Balls-healthy fare for holiday potlucks

I had these at a recent bookclub and they seemed a perfect thing to have in the fridge for mum and grandma to snack on or make into a little lunch without too much trouble. They'd be great for a potluck or a holiday party and its always nice to have something healthy around this time of year with so many temptations! Lots of wholegrain goodness, spinach for vitamins and cheese for a bit of calcium.

Be very careful to carefully remove as much water from the spinach as possible, and use lots of seasoning as some of the ingredients are a little bland. Mine could have done with lots more flavour and I forgot to add lemon juice. I had a lump of cheddar cheese in the middle but they'd make a great vegan snack without it.

Greek Spinach Rice Balls adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Low Fat Favourites

Makes 36 balls

2 pounds fresh spinach
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes in oil
1/2 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1 cup cooked brown rice
1 cup cooked bulgar wheat (or any grain on hand thats a bit mushy)
1 tsp dried dill
1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
dash of red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
6 oz low fat cheddar, cubed into 36 pieces
1 1/2 cup plain or herbed bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350f

Steam the spinach, drain carefully and set aside.
Fry the onions with the sundried tomatoes gently for 5 mins, then add scallions for a further minute.

In a large bowl combine all the ingredients and mix together, squishing the ride up a bit with a fork. Taste for seasoning, remembering that a lot of the flavor might dissipate into the rice.

Take a piece of cheddar, wrap some mixture around it and roll in breadcrumbs. Place in an oiled baking dish. Once all the balls are formed, bake in the oven for 25 mins until the balls are heated through and crispy on the outside.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas Pudding

SHF #38 - The proof is in the Pudding!

As soon as my mum decided her and Grandma would be coming here to celebrate Christmas, the talk turned to Christmas pudding. Its been a tradition for several generations in our family and the recipe comes from my dad's side, although I dont know how long its been in that side of the family. This seemed a perfect entry for this month's sugar high friday.

It differs from other puddings I've tried in that there is very little binder, its mostly just delicious succulent fruit, so the better the fruit, the better the pudding. I normally notice some alcohol is added, but in this case I think brandy goes all over it just before serving and it is set on fire. You can get really creative with the fruit, I think currants are grim so I substituted candied fruit, ginger and dried tart cherries. I also added dried plums so I could call it plum pudding!

I decided to fill ramekins with the mixture and then took the puddings out after cooking and stored in wax paper. I wasn't brave enough to keep at room temp and decided to keep in the fridge. The recipe states they can be put in a cool dark place and will keep for a year.

4 oz breadcrumbs
12 oz sultanas
8 oz raisins
8 oz currants
2 oz glace cherries
2 oz ground almonds
8 oz dark brown sugar
4 oz suet (I used vegetable suet-bought from a british store)
4 eggs, beaten

Mix all dry ingredients. Make well in center and add beaten eggs one at a time, stirring hard.
Leave overnight and stir again.

This fills two traditional pudding bowls, or 12 little ramekins. If cooking traditionally, steam 6-7 hours with greaseproof paper over the top (I think this means parchment paper).

I cooked for 3 hours at 225f in a water bath (I put an inch of water in a 1/2 sheet pan and put the ramekins in).

To serve, heat in microwave, around 2 minutes per pudding, stand 1 min and serve with whipped cream or brandy butter.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Hokey Pokey Ha ha ha!

Ok, so this is another first. Its the first time I've made something that made me cackle. I dont know why, but the sheer strangeness of the stuff you get out of such an easy process was an awful lot of fun. I was just about to comment on it being great for kids, but bubbling hot sugar and kids dont really go very well together do they?

I do like nigella. She loves her food. I was looking around for a gift to send my favourite vegan and I was watching 'Nigella Express' and she made this hokey pokey as a hostess gift. Perfect.

This stuff is absolutely lovely in ice cream, its big in New Zealand although I've had it at the fair in England, and we also have a version of it enrobed in milk chocolate, known as a crunchie.

This works great. I decided to double the recipe. The only thing I'd have caution about is that my idea of maple syrup is obviously darker than hers, I think I was close to overcooking it.

Be sure to get this into an airtight container as soon as its cool (within an hour). It goes all sticky and gooey. If you're popping bites in to a selection I'd advise wrapping them individually.

Hokey Pokey- Nigella Lawson

1/2 cup sugar

4 tablespoons golden syrup (dark corn syrup is ok, but golden syrup is better)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda (I sifted this in, lumps of bicarb-bad)

Put the sugar and syrup into a saucepan and stir together to mix. You can't stir once the pan's on the heat, though.
Place the pan on the heat and let the mixture first melt and then turn to goo and then a bubbling mass the color of maple syrup(very light maple syrup!) - this will take 3 minutes or so.
Off the heat, whisk in the baking soda and watch the syrup turn into a whooshing cloud of aerated pale gold. Turn this immediately onto a piece of baking parchment or greased foil.
Leave until set and then bash at it, so that it splinters into many glinting pieces.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Its my birthday, so I can bake what I want to!

Oh dear, what a mess, completely stuck to the pan! We had to just eat it out of the cake tin. So I know what is first on my christmas list! Springform pan! Thankfully it was delicious and it was my birthday, so I can have a rubbish falling apart cake if I want to. Its a lovely cake with a crispy top and dense chocolatey middle that most people will only want a little sliver of, being that its so rich

I'm so glad I halved the recipe, this was enough for about 12 people already, it would have fed a gigantic army! This almost overflowed in my 9" cake pan.

I also got a wonderful bunch of flowers, thanks to my mum, and being the total nutcase I am, I got all sad to find them sitting on the doorstep as they might have been there all day. Gosh I'm silly!

Bitter Chocolate Roasted Hazelnut Torte -adapted from River Cafe cookbook two-Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers

250g shelled hazelnuts
250g bittersweet chocolate
250g unsalted butter
250g caster sugar
6 medium eggs (I used 5 large)

Preheat the oven to 300f. Line a 9' springform pan with buttered parchment paper

Roast the hazelnuts in the preheated oven for about 20 mins. If they have skins then you can remove them by rolling in a tea towel.

Put the nuts in a food processor and pulse until they are roughly chopped. Dont let them become a fine flour.

Break the chocolate up and melt over a double boiler.

Meanwhile, beat the sugar and butter until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating between eggs. Add the melted chocolate, mix and then fold in nuts.

Pour the mix into a cake tin. Cook for 40-50 minutes until a toothpick comes out dry. Leave in the oven for a further 30 mins with the door open a little, then wait to remove from the tin until cooled.

Chocolate Ganache Topping
2oz heavy cream
2oz bittersweet chocolate
1/2 oz butter

Heat cream until nearly boiling, add chocolate, stirring. Add butter then drizzle over cake. Top with hazelnuts

Monday, December 10, 2007

Night out in North Park

We braved the rain on Saturday and got a cab over to North Park. I'm glad we did. We went to Urban Solace for dinner and it was really nice. I was surprised it wasnt as cozy as I'd expected, perfectly lovely decor, mind, but we were immediately happy with the beer selection and we got a seat at the bar while we waited for a table. We were a bit disappointed that reservations weren't possible, but we did get a table fairly quickly.

I'm really happy with the recent trend in having nicer and more diverse beers on tap, that can only be a good thing.

We chose biscuits and 'nibbles' for starters, the biscuits were outstanding and we had lovely pickled mushrooms, salty olives and sweet and spicy pecans. Mmmm.

For entree we had beef cheeks, and I had a lobster pot pie. Really good stuff! The beef cheeks were succulent, the mash was delicious and the pastry was all crumbly and nice on the pot pie. It was really nice not to be paying too much too, the entrees are around $15, which was very reasonable indeed.

I was too full for a dessert, but was tempted by the time we walked to heaven sent desserts. I chose a sarah bernhardt which was delicious, some kind of macaroon with chocolate mousse over it and a layer of dark chocolate. The plate was fussy (look at me, one semester of basic baking and I'm all hoity toity!) and the mexican chocolate I had wasnt great. I didnt care for the atmosphere, it was very bright and family oriented, I'm more interested in a dark and naughty dessert place with a nice dessert wine selection. Having said that, I'd probably find myself drawn to the place for that small confection I enjoyed if I was passing!!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

WCB-Festive felines

We decided to put up our rather pathetic IKEA christmas tree this weekend, and it got us all festive. Tina found a new favourite spot on the sofa. Thankfully she's not showing much interest in toppling the tree!

You can see she was happy to be indoors all cozy sleeping with all that rain and snow we've had here. Am I glad I decided not to ride up palomar this weekend, its very snowy!

Friday, December 7, 2007


Just went for the most delicious szechuan food at Dede's on Convoy. Mmmm.

I steered clear of the husband and wife, as I dont eat meat, but they had delicious cold appetizers with edamame, bamboo shoots and seaweed type stuff.

The dishes that we had and really enjoyed were a dry fried whole chili shrimp, mushroom tofu, green beans, broccoli greens, I'm told the cumin lamb is just delicious, and the szechuan fish was really wonderful. It is really nicely fried with a crispy coating without being greasy and served with a spicy sauce. There were other beef and pork dishes that people really liked too.

I've been before, and I've been a little disappointed with my choices, but if you pick right, and go with tons of people and eat family style its an absolute gem!

Dede's Teajuice City
4647 Convoy St (between Dagget St & Opportunity Rd)
San Diego, CA 92111
(858) 279-5999

Sunday, December 2, 2007

WCB-Tina likes to roll around in the dirt

This is tina's favourite thing to do as soon as we open the door, she'll run out to the back patio concrete or the steps and roll around for ages, especially if its sunny!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Marzipan fruits

I spent a stormy Friday evening having a lot of fun at 'Do it with Icing'. Its a wonderful shop tucked away in a strip mall next to the 805 freeway. I didn't have a chance to look around the shop after the class finished, but I'm sure I'll be back. Its definitely the best place to go in San Diego for any kind of baking or cake decorating requirements, and they are all very passionate and friendly.

Linda went through a plethora of fruits and vegetables step by step and we all followed her eagerly. There were only 6 of us on the course, so we got lots of attention and lots of help if we were having trouble. I think my favourites were the pumpkins, they are just too adorable for words. Now I've had a poke in the right direction I'm sure I'll be trying much more of this as it is super cute and lots of fun!

I'm also hoping my Mum will be able to bring lots of marzipan over when she visits as its so much cheaper at home. Its available in big blocks even in your regular supermarket. We use it much more extensively, as a first layer in fruit cakes below a fondant or royal icing cover, or in the absolutely delicious battenburg cake (I must have a try of one of those soon! can I do Mr Kipling justice?!).

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Lemon Meringue Pie-Happy Birthday Daniel

For my friend Daniel's birthday I said I'd make anything he wanted, and the request was lemon meringue pie. I was happy with this request as I'd never made it before, and it was also practicing a couple of my new pastry techniques, custard and meringues. Lets not even mention the excellent excuse to buy a wicked torch from Home Depot!

I did a search and found this truly beautiful tart on foodbeam. I couldnt possibly reproduce her wonderful styling, but had a lot of fun making this, and everyone thought it was the best lemon meringue pie they'd ever had! I usually get comments on my goodies, but people sought me out to tell me how wonderful it tasted! We only needed a little sliver as it was very rich and satisfying.

The lemon cream is absolutely unbelievable, I'm sure I'll be finding any excuse to try this in various guises!!

She said it made 1 large tart and 4 small ones, although I found myself with 1 large lemon meringue pie, two smaller ones and I ran out of meringue for the third mini tart.

Recipe: Adapted from foodbeam who adapted Pierre Hermé and Dorie Greenspan’s recipes
Pastry shell (I used the Jamie Oliver one again)

Lemon Cream
200 sugar
finely grated zest of 3 lemons
4 large eggs
130ml freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 4-5 lemons)
300g unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into big chunks

Italian Meringue
2 egg whites
35g caster sugar
5g dehydrated egg whites (optional)
50g water
150g sugar
pinch of salt

Lemon Cream
Fill a large bowl with cold water

Mix the sugar and the lemon peel together to release the juices in a heatproof bowl.

Whisk in the eggs and then the lemon juice.
Place the bowl over a saucepan of gently boiling water and slowly and constantly stir until the temperature reaches 85c or 185f. As soon as it reaches temperature, place in the cold water and cool to 60c 140f.

Slowly incorporate the butter, whisking constantly. Blend for up to 8 minutes with a hand held blender until completely smooth.

Place plastic wrap directly over the cream and chill for at least a day before using.

Italian Meringue
Whisk the egg whites until frothy. Add the sugar and salt and either dehydrated egg whites and a pinch of cream of tartar. Whisk on high until the egg whites reach a soft peak.

Meanwhile, combine the sugar and the water and heat until the mixture reaches 240f or 115c.

Carefully pour the hot mixture into the side of the bowl of the egg whites while whisking. Increase to a high speed and whisk until the temperature cools to warm.

To assemble
Spoon the lemon cream onto the cooled pastry shell, smooth and cool for an hour, then pipe the meringue on. Finish by caramelizing the meringue with a blow torch.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sad-no posh baking classes for me next semester

I just grappled with the grossmont registration process, and when I finally got into the system, the only class I really wanted to get on, the advance pastry and cake decorating, was full. Very sad. There isnt even a waiting list for this class. :(

I got into the basic culinary arts, so it sounds like at least I'll be wrestling with chickens next semester, so I will be moving forward a little with my skills.

If anyone happens upon this blog and knows of any other relatively inexpensive options as far as part time training in the culinary arts in San Diego, I'd love to hear them. I think I'll explore doing some classes at 'do it with icing' which should be fun.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Daring Baking! Potato Bread and delicious stuffing!

I was very excited with this challenge as I do like to play with yeast breads. The final product was a little disappointing for me, I guess I'm used to breads with lots of flavor and crunchy bits and this was fairly bland. I shaped the dough into a focaccia and rolls. The rolls were ok, nothing special, and the focaccia was a little bland. I found the white potato sheen a little unappetizing. The dough was quite hard to work with as it was sticky, but I was nervous I might incorporate too much flour and get inedible dry bread.

All was well by thanksgiving though, because I threw the focaccia in the freezer then got it out for thanksgiving to make a truly delicious traditional stuffing. I think the crusty potato bread was great, it was crispy and tasty and not all doughy and nasty. It was everyones favourite (after the delicious roast duck of course!!)

Here are the original focaccia and the rolls with the beady-eyed tina for company!

Old fashioned stuffing (inspired by Sauveur Magazine)
5 tbsp butter
1 small onion
2 sticks celery
2 cloves garlic
Small handful of herbs (rosemary thyme and sage)
4 cups cubed focaccia
1 cup better than boullion veggie stock
1 egg

Fry the onions in the butter for about 5 mins until clear. Add celery, garlic and herbs and cook for a further 5 mins. Put the bread in a big bowl, pour butter over them and mix. De glaze the pan with the stock and pour over the bread. Whisk an egg, pour over, mix well and pop into a dish. Dot with butter and cook in a 400f oven for around 30 mins until the top is nice and brown and crispy.

I liked that it is a fairly slapdash thing, making stuffing, you can add things and take away and still end up with a wonderful dish.

Tender Potato Bread
(from Home Baking: The Artful Mix of Flour & Tradition Around the World by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid; who also wrote Hot Sour Salty Sweet)
Daring Bakers Challenge #13: November 2007
Makes 1 large tender-crumbed pan loaf AND something more; one 10X15 inch crusty yet tender foccacia, 12 soft dinner rolls, or a small pan loaf


4 medium to large floury (baking) potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks.
Tanna Note: For the beginner bread baker I suggest no more than 8 ounces of potato; for the more advanced no more than 16 ounces. The variety of potatoes you might want to use would include Idaho, Russet & Yukon gold, there are others.

4 cups(950 ml) water, reserve cooking water
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
6 ½ cups to 8 ½ cups (1 kg to 1350g) unbleached all-purpose
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (130g) whole wheat flour

Making the Dough (Directions will be for making by hand):

Put the potatoes and 4 cups water in a sauce pan and bring to boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt and cook, half covered, until the potatoes are very tender.

Drain the potatoes, SAVE THE POTATO WATER, and mash the potatoes well. Tanna Note: I have a food mill I will run my potatoes through to mash them.

Measure out 3 cups(750ml) of the reserved potato water. Add extra water if needed to make 3 cups. Place the water and mashed potatoes in the bowl you plan to mix the bread dough in. Let cool to lukewarm (70-80°F/21 - 29°C) – stir well before testing the temperature – it should feel barely warm to your hand. You should be able to submerge you hand in the mix and not be uncomfortable.

Add yeast to 2 cups all-purpose flour and whisk. Add yeast and flour to the cooled mashed potatoes & water and mix well. Allow to rest/sit 5 minutes.

Note about Adding Yeast: If using Active Dry Yeast or Fresh yeast, mix & stir yeast into cooled water and mashed potatoes & water and let stand 5 minutes. Then add 2 cups of flour to the yeast mix and allow to rest several minutes. If using Instant Dry Yeast, add yeast to 2 cups all-purpose flour and whisk. Add yeast and flour to the cooled mashed potatoes & water and mix well. Allow to rest/sit 5 minutes.

Sprinkle in the remaining 1 tablespoon salt and the softened butter; mix well. Add the 1 cup whole wheat flour, stir briefly.

Add 2 cups of the unbleached all-purpose flour and stir until all the flour has been incorporated.
Tanna Note: At this point you have used 4 cups of the possible 8 ½ cups suggested by the recipe.

Turn the dough out onto a generously floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, incorporating flour as needed to prevent sticking. The dough will be very sticky to begin with, but as it takes up more flour from the kneading surface, it will become easier to handle; use a dough scraper to keep your surface clean. The kneaded dough will still be very soft. Place the dough in a large clean bowl or your rising container of choice, cover with plastic wrap or lid, and let rise about 2 hours or until doubled in volume.

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead gently several minutes. It will be moist and a little sticky.

Forming the Bread:
Tanna Note: It is at this point you are requested to Unleash the Daring Baker within. The following is as the recipe is written. You are now free to follow as written or push it to a new level.

Divide the dough into 2 unequal pieces in a proportion of one-third and two-thirds (one will be twice as large as the other). Place the smaller piece to one side and cover loosely.

To shape the large loaf:
Butter a 9 x 5 x 2.5 inch loaf/bread pan. Flatten the larger piece of dough on the floured surface to an approximate 12 x 8 inch oval, then roll it up from a narrow end to form a loaf. Pinch the seam closed and gently place seam side down in the buttered pan. The dough should come about three-quarters of the way up the sides of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 35 to 45 minutes, until puffy and almost doubled in volume.

To make a small loaf with the remainder:
Butter an 8x4X2 inch bread pan. Shape and proof the loaf the same way as the large loaf.

To make rolls:
Butter a 13 x 9 inch sheet cake pan or a shallow cake pan. Cut the dough into 12 equal pieces. Shape each into a ball under the palm of your floured hand and place on the baking sheet, leaving 1/2 inch between the balls. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about 35 minutes, until puffy and almost doubled.

To make focaccia:
Flatten out the dough to a rectangle about 10 x 15 inches with your palms and fingertips. Tear off a piece of parchment paper or wax paper a little longer than the dough and dust it generously with flour. Transfer the focaccia to the paper. Brush the top of the dough generously with olive oil, sprinkle on a little coarse sea salt, as well as some rosemary leaves, if you wish and then finally dimple all over with your fingertips. Cover with plastic and let rise for 20 minutes.

Baking the bread(s):

Note about baking order: bake the flat-bread before you bake the loaf; bake the rolls at the same time as the loaf.

Note about Baking Temps: I believe that 450°F(230°C) is going to prove to be too hot for the either the large or small loaf of bread for the entire 40/50 minutes. I am going to put the loaves in at 450°(230°C) for 10 minutes and then turn the oven down to 375°F (190 °C) for the remaining time.

Note about cooling times: Let all the breads cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Rolls can be served warm or at room temperature.

For loaves and rolls:
Dust risen loaves and rolls with a little all-purpose flour or lightly brush the tops with a little melted butter or olive oil (the butter will give a golden/browned crust). Slash loaves crosswise two or three times with a razor blade or very sharp knife and immediately place on the stone, tiles or baking sheet in the oven. Place the rolls next to the loaf in the oven.

Bake rolls until golden, about 30 minutes. Bake the small loaf for about 40 minutes. Bake the large loaf for about 50 minutes.

Transfer the rolls to a rack when done to cool. When the loaf or loaves have baked for the specified time, remove from the pans and place back on the stone, tiles or baking sheet for another 5 to 10 minutes. The corners should be firm when pinched and the bread should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

For foccaia:
Place a baking stone or unglazed quarry tiles, if you have them, if not use a no edged baking/sheet (you want to be able to slide the shaped dough on the parchment paper onto the stone or baking sheet and an edge complicates things). Place the stone or cookie sheet on a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 450°F/230°C.

If making foccacia, just before baking, dimple the bread all over again with your fingertips. Leaving it on the paper, transfer to the hot baking stone, tiles or baking sheet. Bake until golden, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack (remove paper) and let cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Waiter there is something in my Pecan Pie!

Wowzers this was just lovely, congratulations to Gourmet magazine again for a truly delicious dessert this thanksgiving!

I decided to submit it for cooksister's naughty 'waiter there's something in my...' as a topless tart:

I'm not a great connoisseur of pecan pie, but I gather its often cloyingly sweet and over the top. I'm an enormous pecan fan, and pastry is always a winner done well. This was just wonderful, as advertised, the chocolate contrasted nicely with the sweetness and the nuts mmmmm.

My changes to the recipe were that I used jamie olivers perfect sweet pastry recipe, and I dont even know what dark corn syrup is, so I put maple syrup in instead which worked wonderfully. The crust was overdone, and I think I would probably cook for slightly less time in the future, I'd say keep an eye on it after 35 mins.

1 (3 1/2- to 4-ounces) fine-quality 60%- to 70%-cacao bittersweet chocolate bar, finely chopped (I used trader joes belgian bittersweet chocolate)
Pastry tart shell
2 cups pecan halves and pieces (7 ounces), toasted and cooled
3 large eggs
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup maple syrup

Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle.

Break up the chocolate into a bowl and heat in the microwave in 30s intervals at most until melted. Spread over bottom of crust

Whisk together the eggs, sugar, vanilla, salt and maple syrup. Stir in pecans and pour over the chocolate into the crust.

Bake for 50-60 mins, check after 30 mins and place foil over the pie if it is browning too quickly.

If baking ahead, reheat in a 350f oven for 10 minutes

Serve with lightly whipped cream.

Short crust sweet pastry-thanks to Jamie Oliver

I find myself frequently dipping into Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver. It helped me with ravioli, he's great at risotto, there are some delicious desserts, and an absolutely killer, super easy chocolate tart.

This is also the source for my favourite pastry recipe. I find this very useful indeed and have used it twice this thanksgiving weekend.

Short Crust Sweet Pastry (from Naked Chef-Jamie Oliver)
makes 2 x 30cm/12inch tart moulds

250g/9oz unsalted butter
200g/7oz icing sugar/confectioners sugar
pinch of salt
500g/just over 1lb flour
4 egg yolks
4 tablespoons cold milk/water

Cream butter, sugar and salt in a food processor, then pulse in the flour followed by the egg until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Pulse in the milk/water and then pat together the ball of dough. Dont work with it too much, just pull together into a long sausage shape, wrap with clingfilm and chill for at least an hour.

Carefully slice off thin slivers of the chilled pastry to around 5mm/1/8 in thick and arrange them in the tart shell, pushing together to make the tart shell.

The pastry is best if chilled for an hour before baking. It can be frozen at this stage until ready to eat.

If baking blind, bake for around 15 mins at 350f.

Thanks Jamie!

Friday, November 23, 2007

WCB-Tina and the Tofurkey

Well, Princess Tina is a strange one indeed. She completely ignored the roast duck right next to her and proceeded to try and get at my tofurkey. What a funny one. Here is her enjoying some leftovers!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Am I a cupcake hero?

A baby shower seemed like the perfect excuse to flex my cupcake baking muscles. I found a delicious sounding carrot cake recipe from the wonderful Delia Smith, the British equivalent of Martha, the last time I saw her on the telly she had so much bright lighting I wondered if her kitchen was based on the surface of the sun. Her recipes are always delicious, she's helped me with marmalade and all sorts of recipes and she has a pretty extensive website with absolutely delicious recipes. This was no exception- a low fat recipe where the addition of syrup after the baking imparts the most succulent gooey cake, more the kind that might be slowly savored with a fork than chomped in hand as a quick snack.

Never having had a fresh cranberry, I popped one in my mouth to see what they taste like and YOWZERS! They are quite tart! So I added quite a lot of sugar. I gather this is a baking faux pas(one should always stick to the recipe or things go horribly wrong), but the cakes came out really delicious. Thankfully the cranberries baked down really nicely and didnt just taste horribly bitter. It seems to me that they need to be cooked to be enjoyed unless you're the kind of person that likes to chew on lemons for a snack.

My changes to the original Delia recipe were adding more sugar, subbing cranberries for some of the cranberries and omitting the raisins. I also added some walnuts as to me, carrot cake has to have walnuts. I left out the lemon juice to the syrup as I didn't need any more tart! The cream cheese frosting needed a little more sugar to my taste.

Recipe (derived from How to Cook Book One-Delia Smith)
7oz (200g) dark brown soft sugar
2 large eggs at room temperature
4 fl oz (120ml) sunflower oil
7 oz wholemeal flour
1 1/2 level teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons mixed spice
1/2 tsp salt
grated zest 1 orange
5 oz (150g) carrots, peeled and grated
5oz (150g) cranberries
1/2 cup (60g) walnut pieces

Syrup Glaze
juice 1/2 orange
3oz (80g) sugar

8oz low fat cream cheese
1 1/2 oz (40g) sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325f and put cup cake papers in a muffin tin
Whisk the sugar eggs and oil together in a bowl using an electric hand whisk for 2-3 minutes
Sift together flour, bicarb and mixed spice and mix together.
Fold in egg mixture, orange zest, carrots, cranberries and walnuts.
Spoon the mixture into the cake papers and bake for around 30 mins until a toothpick comes out clean when put into the center of one of the middle cakes.

While the cake is cooking, make the topping by mixing all the ingredients in a bowl until light and fluffy, cover with plastic wrap and chill for 1-2 hours or until needed.

Whisk together the orange juice and sugar, put in the microwave for 30s if it isnt dissolving.

As soon as the cakes are out of the oven, make holes in them with a skewer and carefully spoon sugar and orange juice mixture over each one.

Leave to cool completely and then frost with the cream cheese mixture topping each cake with a walnut piece.

Weekend Cat Blogging-Tina in the box

As soon as I've got my groceries out of a box it becomes Tina's. For some reason she thinks that as long as she's in the box she's impervious to everything. Being a flighty little thing, she has quite a few things that she's scared of, including tin foil, kitchen timers, vacuum cleaner, my bike etc. As soon as she finds a box to sit in she feels safe.

Its weird inheriting a cat at 4 years old as we have no real knowledge of those 4 years. We get a surprise every now and then, we realised this week that she understands exactly what a pill box is and doesnt like pills!!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Home-made power bars for busy days and long bike rides.

I'm so glad I caught Alton Brown on his granola bar episode. These bars have powered me through long afternoons at work, and very long bike rides and they actually taste pretty good too. I get that funny after taste with some bars and all the strange additives dont seem good either. I can also have the right amount, which is around 150 calories on a relatively sedentary afternoon, or I can have little bite sized chunks when I'm powering up Palomar Mountain. I've just made myself a new batch, to keep some in the fridge and freezer, and to help me on my way around the beautiful El Tour De Tucson in a couple of weeks, that I'm riding in to raise funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

I'm told they taste a little like moon cakes, although I dont really see the similarity, some say they are a little like bread pudding. They are nice and filling, not overly sweet or fatty and I like they are moist instead of dry and crunchy like some bars.

The only down side to these is you need to keep them in the fridge, they cant really languish in a drawer or bike bag for weeks as they will be gross!
Recipe-Alton brown 2005
Prep Time: 25 minutes Cook Time: 35 minutes Yield: 24 (2-inch) squares
4 ounces soy protein powder, approximately 1 cup
2 1/4 ounces oat bran, approximately 1/2 cup
2 3/4 ounces whole-wheat flour, approximately
1/2 cup 3/4-ounce wheat germ, approximately 1/4 cup
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 ounces raisins, approximately 1/2 cup
2 1/2 ounces dried cherries, approximately 1/2 cup
3 ounces dried figs, approximately 1/2 cup
2 1/2 ounces dried apricots, approximately 1/2 cup
1 (14-ounce) package soft silken tofu
1/2 cup unfiltered apple juice
2 large bananas
4 ounces dark brown sugar, approximately 1/2 cup packed
2 large whole eggs, beaten
2/3 cup natural peanut butter
Canola oil, for pan

Line the bottom of a 13 by 9-inch glass baking dish with parchment paper and lightly coat with canola oil. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the protein powder, oat bran, wheat flour, wheat germ, and salt. Set aside.
Coarsely chop the raisins, dried cherries, figs and apricots and place in a small bowl and set aside.
In a third mixing bowl, whisk the tofu until smooth(hand blender very handy here).
Add the apple juice, bananas, brown sugar, eggs, and peanut butter, 1 at a time, and whisk to combine after each addition. Add this to the protein powder mixture and stir well to combine. Fold in the dried fruit.
Spread evenly in the prepared baking dish and bake in the oven for 35 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 205 degrees F.
Remove from the oven and cool completely before cutting into squares.
Cut into squares and store in an airtight container for up to a week or freeze for a month.
Notes: I switched around some of the fruit, added 2 thawed frozen bananas and had 14oz tofu rather than 12 but it still was lovely. Figs and bananas go wonderfully together in this recipe. I usually just use whatever dried fruit I have to hand and almond butter subs for peanut butter just lovely. Its a very forgiving recipe!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

My favourite thing at the weekend

I'm very lucky to have a little computer with a touch screen pad in my kitchen connected to speakers. So I can look at recipes on the internet and listen to the radio. I mostly catch up with whats going on back home, one of my favourite programs is the food program on radio 4. I highly recommend it if you like to listen to the radio on the internet or download podcasts. This weeks episode they talked about a room that was recently discovered in Chatsworth House, a truly magnificent country mansion, containing lots of really old cooking gadgets.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Julia Child-Lets try it again! Ratatouille and Tarte Tatin

Well book club got canceled last week, so Andy and I ended up incorporating a lot of cheesy puffs into the meals of the following days!!

We rescheduled, so I had time to look for some Julia type recipes. I decided on Ratatouille and Tarte Tatin. I'd never made either and I was very happy with both.

We had a lovely discussion about Julia. It was a great book to read even for those amongst us who aren't that bothered about food and cooking. I don't know much about her apart from this book and she just sounds like a wonderful woman. There are a few people that you meet in life that just touch you so profoundly that just to be in their presence makes you feel inspired. She sounds like one of these people. It also was encouraging to those of us who aren't sure where their lives are headed, to realize that we should follow our dream and that there is still time for us to change our lives for the better.

Ratatouille was a dish I'd not thought about cooking for years. Having given up meat for over half of my life, I've seen bad versions of it on too many pub and restaurant menus to have any interest whatsoever. I'd seen a lot of people who were cooking it and it seemed the perfect way to use up my eggplant. I used the recipe from the Washington Post and followed it as closely as possible. I think it was worth the effort of cooking things separately, it might be easier and safer to cook in the oven next time for the final cooking. I'm not a huge fan of green pepper, so I'm pretty sure I'll be cutting down on that next time, there was tons of it!

Tarte Tatin is so easy I'm sure I'll be making it again, the lovely chocolate and zucchini steered me towards a caramel preparation which was just divine. I ended up preparing the caramel and apples the night before along with the pastry and then assembling and cooking the next day. I was too embarrassed to be taking pictures at book club so you'll have to be satisfied with seeing the tart before I added the pastry.

I found that instead of her delicious looking caramelized apples, I had some soft apples with a delicious syrup over them. It was nice and not soggy and got snapped up with no leftovers, but I will try again by making it and cooking immediately. I'd say this needs to be eaten immediately before the pastry becomes all soggy.

Incidentally, this is yet another style of preparation of pastry, combining butter and sugar with a fork, then combining flour with the fork.

My changes to the recipe were that I used a 9" cake tin and I substituted some golden syrup for the sugar. 'Cos everything is better with treacle! I'd say that it was on the sweet side, so the tartness of the apples dictate how much sugar needs to be added.

Tarte Tatin Caramel au Beurre Salé from Chocolate and Zucchini

- 5 apples (I decide 4 braeburns would be enough as America makes everything bigger!)
- 170 g (1 1/3 C) flour
- 85 g (1/3 C) sugar (preferably unrefined cane sugar)
- 85 g (3/4 stick) salted butter, at room temperature (I used half salted half unsalted)
- a little milk
- 70 g (1/4 C) brown sugar
- 35 g (1/3 stick) salted butter at room temperature, diced

(Serves 6 to 8.)

In a medium mixing-bowl, combine 85 g of sugar and 85 g of butter with a fork. Add in the flour, and keep mixing with the fork. When the dough forms even crumbs, add in a dash of milk, and knead the dough with your hands to form a ball. If the dough does not come together after about a minute, add in a tad more milk and knead again. The idea is to add the milk little by little to stop at just the right dough consistency (if you've added too much and the dough gets impossibly sticky, compensate with flour). Wrap in shrink wrap and put in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes.

Butter the sides of a 25-cm (10-inch) cake pan.

Put 70 g of brown sugar in a small nonstick saucepan, and put over medium-low heat until the sugar melts. As soon as it's melted (work quickly to avoid overcooking the caramel, which would result in a slight bitterness), remove from heat, add in 35 g of butter and stir to form a paste. Pour this paste in the cake pan, and use the back of a spoon to spread it over the bottom. It's okay if the bottom is not entirely covered, but try to make it as even as you can. Set aside.

Rinse, peel, and cut the apples in eighth. Arrange the apple pieces prettily over the caramel in the pan.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F).

Take the ball of dough out from the fridge, lightly flour a clean work surface, and use a rolling pin to roll the dough out in a circle slightly larger than the pan. Transfer the circle of dough over the apples, and tuck in the outer rims. Prick the dough in a few places with a fork.

Put into the oven to bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until the dough turns golden and your home is filled with wonderful caramely apple fumes.

Take the pan out of the oven, run a knife around the sides of the pan and flip it onto a serving dish. If one or two apple pieces have stuck to the bottom of the pan, just put them back where they belong on the tart.

Serve warm (not piping hot) on its own, or with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream or a dollop of crème fraîche/sour cream/yogurt.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Daring Baking! Bostini Cream Pie

I really enjoyed giving myself a new challenge by joining the daring bakers. I don't normally make chiffon cakes, and I've never made custard in my life! This was a very rich dessert, I had one and was very full when I'd finished. The chiffon cake was nice, but I was annoyed with myself for not being diligent and beating the egg whites enough and it was more chewy than fluffy. The orange was a delicious accent to the dessert. My favourite part was the custard, really decadent, and I was grateful for the fact it was nice and silky and didn't set as I usually don't like solid custard. I divided the recipe into 3 and made it into 4 desserts. I sent one in to work with my husband and some people shared the other two and they were gone within seconds, with lots of good reports, so maybe I was being a little hard on myself!

Here are the little mushroom cakes that I made in small ramekins, and the custard when I plated it. You can see that the custard was fairly firm but not completely solid...

Thanks so much daring bakers for accepting me with open arms, I think I'm going to learn a lot!!

Bostini Cream Pie

(from Donna Scala & Kurtis Baguley of Bistro Don Giovanni and Scala's Bistro)
Daring Bakers Challenge #12: October 2007

Serving Size: 8 Generous Sevings


3/4 cup whole milk
2 3/4 tablespoons cornstarch
1 whole egg, beaten
9 egg yolks, beaten
3 3/4 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 vanilla bean (EDITED:vanilla extract is okay)
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar

Chiffon Cake:
1 1/2 cups cake flour
3/4 cup superfine sugar
1 1/3 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup beaten egg yolks (3 to 4 yolks)
3/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 1/2 tablespoons grated orange zest
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup egg whites (about 8 large)
1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Chocolate Glaze:
8 ounces semi or bittersweet chocolate
8 ounces unsalted butter


To prepare the custard:

Combine the milk and cornstarch in a bowl; blend until smooth. Whisk in the whole egg and yolks, beating until smooth. Combine the cream, vanilla bean and sugar in a saucepan and carefully bring to a boil. When the mixture just boils, whisk a ladleful into the egg mixture to temper it, then whisk this back into the cream mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Strain the custard and pour into 8 large custard cups. Refrigerate to chill.

To prepare the chiffon cakes:

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spray 8 molds with nonstick cooking spray. You may use 7-ounce custard cups, ovenproof wide mugs or even large foil cups. Whatever you use should be the same size as the custard cups.

Sift the cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Add the oil, egg yolks, orange juice, zest and vanilla. Stir until smooth, but do not overbeat.

Beat the egg whites until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Gently fold the beaten whites into the orange batter. Fill the sprayed molds nearly to the top with the batter.

Bake approximately 25 minutes, until the cakes bounce back when lightly pressed with your fingertip. Do not overbake. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack. When completely cool, remove the cakes from the molds. Cover the cakes to keep them moist.

To prepare the glaze:

Chop the chocolate into small pieces. Place the butter in a saucepan and heat until it is just about to bubble. Remove from the heat; add the chocolate and stir to melt. Pour through a strainer and keep warm.

To assemble:

Cut a thin slice from the top of each cake to create a flat surface. Place a cake flat-side down on top of each custard. Cover the tops with warm chocolate glaze. Serve immediately.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Cabin Fever and Everton Toffee recipe

I found myself indoors with the doors and windows closed for three days this week, trying to avoid watching too much tv as it was just starting to get me worried, with all the sensational reporting. I've since found out that my favourite farm has lost their home, so I'm really sad for them. If anyone knows of any way I can help then please leave me a comment.

On the first day I made myself feel better by baking rye bread from scratch, and the kneading definitely made me feel better. Simply recipes had a great recipe and I followed it to the letter although it made so much that I decided to half the recipe. I
incorporated flax seeds and sunflower seeds along with the caraway and they made a delicious addition. It made a wonderful cheese and pickle sandwich the next day!

On the second day I made ravioli from scratch. Now I know how easy it is I'll definitely try it again. The great Jamie Oliver came to the rescue, his book 'the naked chef' is very handy for these basic techniques.

Well fed reminded me I'd been meaning to make the delicious espresso muffins straight out of Heidi Swansons Super Natural Cooking. Wow, they are wonderful. Not too sweet but sweet enough. Perfect breakfast or a wonderful afternoon pick me up. They will probably replace my usual banana bread recipe. I might cut down the walnuts slightly next time as that does add a lot of calories.

The third day my friend from work came round and we tried Joe's shortbread, which was nice but somehow I found the ginger was maybe not quite to my taste. It either needed a lot more, or to be taken out. I do think this would make a wonderful base for a very naughty dessert, maybe a pumpkin cheesecake.

We also made Everton Toffee from my old english recipe book. I fancied caramels so I decided
not to go to the hard candy point, and it actually ended up settting up like fudge. Maybe this was because I decided to add walnuts just before I cooled them and it crystallized them. It was truly delicious and I took it to work and tried to keep away from it but it was really hard!!

Everton Toffee
from the Dairy Book of Home Cooking

60ml (4tbsp) water
100g (4oz) butter
350g (12oz) demerera sugar (I used soft light brown sugar
30ml (2 tbsp) golden syrup
15 ml (1 tbsp) black treacle/molasses

1. Put all ingredients into a saucepan
2. Heat slowly, stirring, until butter melts and sugar dissolves
3. Bring to the boil. Cover pan. Boil gently for 2 mins
4. Uncover and continue to boil, stirring occasionly for 10-15mins, or until it reaches 138c or 280f (I stopped it at 250f)
5. Pour into a greased 15 cm (6in) square tin. Leave until hard (I used a loaf pan)
6. Turn out onto a board. Break up with a hammer or rolling pin (mine was like fudge and I cut it into squares with a knife)
7. Store in an airtight container between greaseproof paper.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Cheesy Puffs and Julia Child

For bookclub this month we read Julia Child's 'My life in France', which I thoroughly enjoyed, it was really wonderful hearing about her cooking experiences, and inspiring to think that someone can make a go of a new career at 37.

I decided to make something retro-Cheese Puffs. This also helped me to practice a new technique from class- choux pastry which seemed like the oddest method I'd ever heard of! These turned out well, I served them with a UK staple, Branston pickle, the perfect accompaniment to cheddar cheese. I also discovered that the grated cheese made it really hard to pipe, I'd recommend dolloping them on the sheet pan with a teaspoon.

Another presentation might be to make the pastries a little bigger, and then fill with sour cream and sundried tomatoes.

Cheese Puffs

350c convection oven 15 mins then 325 for 8 mins (conventional 375-400 15 mins then 325 15 mins)

8 oz water
4oz butter
2 tsp salt
6oz bread flour
9oz eggs
6oz sharp cheddar
6 scallions, finely chopped, or chives

Boil the water and butter in a saucepan
Turn heat down and add salt and flour then mix vigorously over a low heat with a wooden spoon
Stir until it becomes a dough
Transfer to a mixer with a paddle and stir for 2 minutes on a low speed
Add eggs 2 at a time once mix has cooled.
Scrape down bowl and mix for another 30 seconds, mix in cheddar and
scallions then drop teaspoon sized dollops onto a wax paper covered sheet pan.

Bake in oven then open oven with a fork to release steam for the second cooking period.

Here are the piped pastries ready to cook.

Miserable with the fires

I'm lucky enough to be far away from the fires here in Hillcrest, San Diego. I've been sent home from work so I'm just watching telly and worrying about how everyone is doing. If anyone knows of any volunteering I can do in the area please let me know. :(

I hope everyone is ok and the wind calms down soon.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Eating out-La Vache

Well, we've recently revisited one of our local favorites, La Vache in Hillcrest. Its so close that it would have to be pretty bad for us to stop visiting. The restaurant is a nice cosy little bistro and is usually fairly busy, although they dont allow reservations for less than 4.

They definitely have their positives and negatives, on the plus side, they have delicious crusty bread with a lovely soft interior, with delicious chive butter. They also have a reasonably priced wine list. We find that the service is variable, despite the fact we've been visiting frequently for over 2 years now!!

Its the kind of place that we always order the same thing, the boys just love the charcuterie plate. It comes with some fairly average brie, a lovely pate, and a few different salamis. There is a really nicely dressed bit of salad on the side.

The boys always have exactly the same thing, steak au poivre with fries, medium rare. Its served more on the french side of medium rare and they never order anything else. They feel that there is no point ordering this dish anywhere else, la vache is without equal. The fries are very thin and just perfectly seasoned and cooked.

I order all kinds of different things, the shrimp and scallop salad is delicious, I've had their gnocci and pizza and the fish is ok. I often order the scallops on pastry with a saffron sauce, although I'm always a little disappointed by the over-use of saffron.

We've tried all of the desserts on the menu and they all seem to be from the freezer, bought from outside with the exception of the crepes, which were rubbery. The lemon tart is passable, creme brulee is orange flavored although its not mentioned on the menu. I'd advise going elsewhere.

WCB-Tina on the balcony

Oh crikey, could you get down from there please, its really high up!!

She did show off her big soft belly though, bless her!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Pumpkin Muffins

I discovered that pumpkins go quite a long way. I tried joe's pumpkin ravioli, which I enjoyed, but found that wonton wrappers were a bit slimy compared to real pasta, although it was definitely a good alternative at 7pm on a Wednesday, otherwise we'd have been having dinner at midnight!!
Then I saved the seeds, rinsed and toasted them (gosh that was delicious!!).

I still had lots of pumpkin left, so I made these muffins from Baking Bites. I wasnt going to mention them, but they grew on me. I put them in the freezer and had one as an afternoon snack and it was very tasty. I also tried one with a smear of ricotta with a persimmon for breakfast which was lovely. I pretty much stuck to the recipe but instead of the sunflower seeds I added 1/3 cup walnuts and 1/3 cup choc chips. I used half white whole wheat flour and wheat germ instead of wheat bran.

Would you believe I still had some pumpkin left!!! I blended this with some coconut milk and made it into a delicious panang curry. Mmmm.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Portland, Oregon- beer, chocolate, cheese and wine

We loved Portland, even with the chilly drizzly weather, it seemed like a lovely place. The people all seemed really nice and very funny, properly nice like they meant it. You could tell from their bellies that they liked a good pint and we also loved the surrounding outdoors. We were sad to leave and even after 4 days there, felt we hadn't even scratched the surface.

Day 1
We arrived at 8pm, enough time to wander out and get a pint and a snacky dinner before retiring. Our hotel was right in Downtown, so we started walking and came upon Henry's Tavern. It was a lively place and perfect for what we wanted.

My favourite thing we had was the spinach and artichoke dip. I'm not normally a fan, but it was really full of spinach and very tasty instead of the nasty weird vinegary pale green stuff I'm used to. Went really well with the heferweisen too!

Day 2
Bacon was a necessity in order to get Andy moving, so we found a lovely little cafe, Bijou Cafe. It was all decked out in blue check tablecloths and had the requisite bacon, and I enjoyed a nice bowl of oatmeal with raisins, hazelnuts and brown sugar. Mmmm. After wandering around in the cold for several hours, I started feeling quite miserable so the perfect solution was a lunch from mothers bistro. I had some warming vegetable bisque with half an egg sandwich and Andy enjoyed a real stick-to-your-ribs crab cake sandwich with some delicious fries. That was all very warming, with some local beer. I loved that they gave us a couple of delightful cookies with the check.

After all that eating we needed to do much more yomping, we wandered around checking all the cool shops in the Pearl District and nearly got lost in Powells but finally made it back out as the sun was starting to set. We looked for a reviving cup of tea at the hotel but couldn't find one, so headed back out to sample some of the bars that Portland is famous for. There was a nice little one at the corner of our road near our hotel so we started there, then made our way up to the Rogue brewery. We had a nice couple of pints, but the smoke really put us off, we ended up moving on, thinking it was about time for dinner, but we ended up in a rather soulless pub, if we were back home it would have been a Weatherspoons pub! We finally came upon Jake's Famous Crawfish (only now do I realise its part of a gigantic chain!!) and settled on a salad (now thats very uncharacteristic of andy!!) and crabcakes to share and quite a nice pint. It was good people watching but pretty average food. Oh well, at least we were close to our beds!

Day 3
I really fancied trying one of the bakeries for brekkie so we wandered over to Pearl Bakery. It was delicious, Andy was sated with a ham and gruyere croissant, I had a delicious chocolate croissant, and we shared a gibassier, a rich eggy dough with aniseed in and sugar on top. MMM. Highly recommend it.

This gave us lots of energy for exploring and we decided to make the most of the good weather forecast to go and explore. We drove to the coast, had a yomp around on some cliffs, then drove down to the pelican brewery for lunch. By this time we were absolutely starving and ended up a ridiculous amount of fried food! We got an enormous stack of onion rings and fish and chips. The chips were tops, the rest of it was a bit average. We celebrated our feast by running up a gigantic sand dune. That made us feel a bit better but andy felt a bit gippy from all that fried stuff well into the evening.

e popped into the Tillamook Cheese Factory on the way back. We loved looking at the workings of the factory and the cool robots (andy's favourite being the one that 'poos cheese into a bag'). And we got to try the cheese curds, mmmm squeaky!!

Thanks so much to Noble rot for putting up with us getting there, putting our name down for a table, then changing our mind twice! We had a few lovely glasses of wine, a delicious cheese plates and a salad with macaroni cheese. We really enjoyed it there, a really nice little neighbourhood bar.

Day 4

On Saturday I decided that more bacon was in order and we found a trendy little place, Cafe in the Pearl. They satisfied andy's liking for bacon, and I had some giant granola pancakes of which I just about managed half!! It was more interesting people watching, although it was a bit full of kiddies.
There seem to be an awful lot more kids per capita than anywhere I've been apart from Wall Mart. That gave us lots of energy, I got to pop into some more shops (yay tax free!!) and then we made our way up to the japanese garden. Very cool. We also had a wander around the rose garden and it was all very nice but we were chilled through to the bone.

We then went and dumped the car and made a pilgrimage to Sahagun Homemade Chocolates. I had a cup of chocolate and a delicious caramel with a hazlenut on top. Crikey! I got one of those
big chocolate buzzes on and felt quite strange!

Having satisfied my indulgence we continued west to the Elephants Deli, and enjoyed a couple of glasses of wine. Getting a bit peckish we decided to order a cheese plate. Forgetting we were in a deli, when the guy asked how much we wanted to spend we said '$20' and ended up with what seemed like our own body weights in beautiful double brie, stilton and something very stinky with ash running through.

After doing our best and finishing the bread, we walked the cheese around our systems for a bit by enjoying the delights of SW 21st street shops. There were some wonderful shops, I picked up some very cool boots.
We then got all dolled up for our special evening. We had a nice glass of wine at Vino Paradiso which contrasting with all the guide books, which said it was impossibly poncy, was actually friendly and empty with very cool artwork.

We then made our way to Blue Hour. Now that was impossibly trendy and I certainly felt a bit out of place, but I had my nice shirt on and they were very nice to us, although there was confusion over our table, and I'd have been happier just being seated and fed, instead of waiting and moving to another table. The highlight of the meal was definitely the main course, I had a beautiful sole, Andy had a delicious duck two ways. It was a truly lovely meal and a very nice experience.

I think the most amusing thing was what we decided was a 'cheese sommalier', a white jacketed man who had a bunch of cheeses encased in a perspex box, with many flourishes and much explanation. It conjured up images of Monty Python type humour and we couldnt help but snigger a little bit! Unfortunately we'd had more than enough cheese that day so we didnt get to see it first hand.

Day 5
We went for a walk along the river and gaped at all the marathon runners, then made our way to Veritable Quandry for brunch. Unfortunately it was a bit of a mixed bag, as Andy didnt read the menu very carefully, so he ended up with the bacon egg and french toast. Sweet french toast is really not his thing so he dint really enjoy it. Thankfully it was served with a delicious potato cake. I had a really delicious piece of rainbow trout, the skin beautifully crunchy, with a lovely lemony hollandaise sauce and arugula.

We managed a quick trip to the waterfall before going back to the airport and enjoyed a delicious picnic, the leftover cheese with some nice multigrain bread and salads from the elephants deli. I also enjoyed one of their walnut squares on the plane on the way home and it was absolutely wonderful.

We left Portland a little sad, and cant wait to go back and see more!