Friday, February 29, 2008

Julia Child French Bread-Daring Baking

Well this was a proper daring baking challenge this month. A daunting, 14 page recipe with only 3 ingredients. The closer it got, the more dread I felt. I mean what if I put all the work in and its inedible. I'm not terribly good at following detailed recipes, so trying not to forget anything in an epic like this seemed almost impossible.

Thankfully the weather was horrible on Sunday and the perfect thing to do was to stay in and make bread. I'm also very lucky that my house hovers around 70 degrees most of the year, so there was no problem keeping at the desired temperature for the rises.

I set to work with the kitchenaid while I was making breakfast, then popped it in a safe place for the first rise. Not too bad really, the second rise was easy too. This is a picture of the dough after the second rise, when it had started to deflate.

The hard part was next, trying to coddle the dough between te
a towels into a nice shape for baking, and forming the loaves. I decided on two round loaves and a small baton. It really wasn't as bad as I expected, although this required the most concentration, and re-reading. Note that I covered them with plastic and then realised I was supposed to cover them with a towel, so I changed that! I think round loaves are a good way to go as they seem to support themselves.

I then slashed them, sprayed with water and threw them on the pizza stone, then was rewarded with a beautifully browned loaf and a rumbling tummy. I think one of the secrets to a lovely brown crust was spraying with water. I also had a pan of water in the oven, although I wasn't quite thorough enough to do the proper baking oven tricks.

Maybe the hardest part was waiting a couple of hours for the bread to cool! When we sat down to our dinner, a mixture of salad to go with our bread, we cut the loaf and it was near perfection. The crust was chewy and nicely brown and the middle was lovely and soft.

When I set out on this journey I was certain I'd never make this bread again, but you know it really wasn't that bad once I got going, and the active time was probably around an hour, really not bad for such wonderful bread. I was over the moon to see the fruits of my hard work, it was a very worthwhile challenge and next time I have a lazy Sunday I'll probably make it again.

Thanks very much to Keith, for lending me the pizza stone. It was definitely worth using and I might just get my own next time I'm out shopping.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Sipz Vegetarian Cafe

For lunch today we decided to make a foray out the Sorrento Valley Food Court (woohoo!!). I think it is almost an extension of Qualcom but no one stopped us for not being an employee!
I had a pho with 'beef' strips and a boba iced tea. I got what I think mmyoso would call a small amount of salad to throw in it then a very small side salad. The whole thing came to $10.67.
I was very excited to try pho as I dont eat meat, so I cant have the normal stuff, this was nice, I gather the thing to do is throw all the salad stuff in with some hot sauce and I had some hoisin too for good measure. It was fairly bland until I added the chilli, then it was SPI-CYYYY!! Lots of noodles, very filling and it made my belly feel all warm and nice. The boba was just an experiment, kind of addictive but not sure why as the tapioca balls dont taste of anything.
My companion had a scary dayglo orange 'chicken' dish with some bland mushroom spring rolls. All ok but a bit synthetic tasting.
I'll definitely be back to try the indian place, Sitar, there was a gigantic line there and the paneer dishes are always my favourite, there were several to choose from. If anyone has ever been there then please let me know how it was!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Walnut Pecan Bars and my day at the Farmers Market

These bars are just delicious. If you make them and you're anything like me, you need to get them out of the house before you eat the entire batch. And its a big batch too! I got the recipe from the wonderful people at the Elephant Deli in Portland. This bar tided me over on a sad plane ride home after a wonderful weekend there. Do bear in mind that they are a little gooey and messy though!

I had a stand again at the Farmers Market this weekend to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and I sold these. It was a very hard mornings work, but when we realized that we needed to have samples and talk to people, things picked up a lot. It gave me an enormous amount of pleasure to see how much people enjoyed my cooking. I think everyone that I gave a sample to ended up buying something. I had lots of different cookies and shortbreads, some low fat banana muffins and some of my english style flapjacks. It was a really hard morning, but we raised a fairly decent amount of money and my team-mate Jessica brought some delicious biscotti, brownies and banana cake.

Walnut Squares from the Elephants Deli, Portland, OR

Makes 24 squares

1/2 cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 cup plus 6 tbsp( 1 3/4 sticks) Unsalted butter
1 Egg
3 cups Unbleached Flour
1 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Baking Powder

1 1/4 cups Unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups Firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cups + 1 tbsp Plus one tablespoon granulated sugar
1/3 cup Honey
1/3 cup Light corn syrup
2 cups Toasted and chopped pecans
2 cups Toasted and chopped walnuts
1/4 cups Whipping cream
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Vanilla

Preheat oven to 350f
Grease a 10 x 15in pan and line with parchment paper allowing a 1 in overhang for easy removal

In the bowl of a mixer, cream sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until combined.
In a small bowl, stir together the flour, salt and baking powder. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until dough comes together. Pat the dough into the prepared pan, building up the edges slightly.
Bake for 17-20 minutes until crust begins to brown and set. Remove from oven and cool.

Reduce oven to 300f. Place a large sheet pan on the bottom oven rack to catch any drips.

In a medium saucepan combine butter, sugars, honey and corn syrup. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and boil for exactly 2 1/2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in pecans, walnuts, cream, salt and vanilla. Pour filling into cooled crust and spread evenly.

Place on center oven rack over the sheet pan and bake for 35-40 mins until the filling is bubbling in the center. Cool overnight.

Cut into squares and serve.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentines!

I wanted to surprise my valentine with his favourite food, bacon, so I made him a little bacon sandwich in the shape of a heart. This is the only thing that will make him really happy! He doesnt really like chocolate, or sweet things, or elaborate meals too much so this seemed like the perfect choice.

He's been wonderful to me, especially recently, I decided to make caramels for a valentines fundraiser and he helped me make the wrappers and wrap them all up without complaining once!

He puts up with me being grouchy when I do too much, taking on a night a week at culinary school as well as joining team in training and having to fundraise, train and help my mentees to do the same. I'm a very lucky lady!

I wanted to include this in 'a heart for my valentine' to honor my wonderful husband.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sweetheart Succotash

Since we're so close to valentines, and my valentine isn't too fond of his veggies, I'm always looking for a nice preparation that is delicious and nutritious. As a veggie, I dont add bacon, but I do add some smoky flavors with a dash of 'bacon salt' and a little bit of smoked paprika. The mixture contained some beetroot, and mixed with some creamy greek yoghurt turning it a valentine pink.

This is a very adaptable recipe, one could add green beans, lima beans instead of edamame or any number of mixtures. I like the creamyness of the greek yoghurt and smokiness from the paprika and the bacon salt.

I served these with trader joes soy nuggets and I'd say save yourself a trip, they are really grim.

Sweetheart Succotash
1tbsp Butter
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes in olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped finely
2 cups cooked beetroot (I microwaved them for a total of about 4 mins)
1 cup cooked diced carrots
2/3 cup edamame
1 1/2 cups sweetcorn (I used a mix of regular and the trader joes smoky sweetcorn)
1 cup chopped sugar snap peas
1 veggie oxo cube (dry veg boullion cube)
1 tsp smoked paprika
red pepper flakes
bacon salt
1/2 cup greek yoghurt

Sautee the onions with the butter and sundried tomatoes until cooked. Add all the other ingredients except for the greek yoghurt and stir until heated through. Stir in greek yoghurt and serve.