Sunday, June 29, 2008

Daring Baking! Danish Braid

Wow! This months challenge was a really fun one, laminated yeast dough. It was a lot of work, but really not that time consuming, another challenge that is best fitted around other things. I made the dough one weekend, then filled and baked it the next weekend.

Thanks so much to Ben and Kellypea for this delicious delight!

The dough is made, then chilled, and a butter block spread over it, taking care not to go too near the edges. It is then folded over and then re rolled several times to get the beautiful layers.

Its very important to chill the dough properly for at least 30 mins to an hour between turns. This ensures that the butter stays firm enough to give nice layers in the pastry. The layers weren't as pronounced as in a puff pastry but there was a lovely lightness, and they were visible on the corners of the pastry.

I divided the dough into two, and made an apple mincemeat braid with half and filled the other with frangipane, peaches and cherries.

The braiding wasn't too difficult once I'd persuaded the dough to roll out, it was a little stretchy, so it was quite tricky!

I then looked for a place that was 90f. Everywhere! It was stinking hot here in California at the weekend, so I put the braids in the garden and it was just the perfect temperature. I kept checking and they didn't look like they'd risen, but thankfully after ignoring them for a while, I realised that they'd risen beautifully.

They were then baked in a very hot oven, which was then reduced in temperature. They were looking like they were going to burn if I left them for the full time.

Please check out Sass and Veracity for the looong recipe!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

I love california!

What a great way to beat the heat! After an exhausting bike ride in record heat, this was a perfect recovery. My Bewise Ranch box this week had super sweet melon, luscious strawberries and beautiful blueberries(I didnt even get to the lettuce, oranges, apples, zuccini, bok choi, carrots, limes etc!), I also had some lovely cherries and super ripe peaches from Costco.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Healthy apricot peach bran muffins

When I saw that cookie madness had a new bran muffin I couldnt resist making myself a new afternoon snack. I've doctored this an awful lot from the original recipe!

I changed the fruit from pineapple to a peach apricot compote I had, and instead of just wheat bran I used a combination of wheat bran, oat bran and wheat germ. I also used mostly white, wholewheat flour rather than whole wheat pastry flour!

I really liked these muffins as a nice filling nutritious snack. They arent very sweet and they are pretty dense from the oat bran and wheat germ. I think I'd reduce the oat bran and wheat germ and increase the wheat bran for a slightly less dense muffin. I can now see how much the oil helps in the delicious pear muffins that farmgirl makes.

Bran, Peach and Apricot Muffins (adapted from Cookie Madness)

1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups skim milk
2 scoops protein powder (2 oz?)
1/2 cup wheat bran
1/2 cup oat bran
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
8 oz apricot peach compote (or tinned peaches, chopped, or fresh peaches with some sugar)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large egg whites

Combine pastry flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and stir very well to mix.

Combine milk, protein powder, wheat bran wheat germ, oat bran , brown sugar, pineapple and vanilla in a large bowl and let sit for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.

Mix egg whites into bran mixture. Add flour mixture and stir just until incorporated.

Divide batter evenly among muffin cups and bake for 18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Chocolate babycakes with lemon buttercream.

I should have put something next to these little babies as they are tiny little treats in petit fours cases! They were as tasty as they were adorable, thanks to the delicious recipe from Garret.

I had some buttercream left from my perfect party bicycle cake, and didnt want it to go to waste. This was the perfect place. The vanilla lemon buttercream goes really well with the delicious intense chocolate. I found it too much with the lemon cake, but perfect with the chocolate. I made the mini cupcakes in a mini muffin tin and they are so pretty the way they puff up with a perfect dome and stay that way!

Old School Chocolate Cupcakes from Vanilla Garlic
Makes 24 mini cupcakes plus 9 regular size! / 350 degree oven

1 cup of boiling water
3/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of butte(8 oz, 2 sticks), room temperature
1 cup of sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1) Pour boiling water over cocoa powder and mix throughly until smooth. Let cool.
2) Preheat the Oven to 350 f
2) Mix the flour, salt, baking soda and powder together.
3) Cream together the sugar and butter and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then add the vanilla. Add half the flour, mix briefly until just combined, then add the cocoa/water mix, mixing just until combined, then the rest of the flour and continue mixing slowly until combined. Do not overmix.
4) Place in cupcake papers to around 2/3 full, and bake for 18-22 minutes or 10 minutes for mini cakes until a cakes tester comes out clean. Let cook on a wire rack.

Buttercream (from Dorie Greenspan's Baking from my home to yours)

1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature, almost melting
1/4 cup lemon juice
1tsp vanilla extract

Whisk the egg whites and sugar in a heat proof bowl over simmering water until hot to the touch, about 3 mins. Transfer to an electric mixer and whisk on medium until the mixture has cooled down, around 5 minutes. Change to a paddle and add the butter, stirring, one stick at a time, then beat on medium for a further 6-10 minutes. Add the lemon juice, followed by the vanilla. Put plastic wrap against the surface of the buttercream if not using immediately.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

My first meme!

I thought I'd actually have a go at one of these things, being as dolores was nice enough to tag me.
What was I doing ten years ago?
In 1998 I was working at SmithKline Beecham as a chemist in sunny (ha) Harlow, Essex, UK. I went on a wonderful 4 week trip with my brother around Egypt and Israel.

What are five (non-work) things on my to-do list for today?
1. Finishing this post.
2. Riding 2500ft climbing or more on my bike up soledad mountain and then home
3. Getting ready for my daring bakers assignment
4. Watching Top Chef
5. Having a cocktail

5 Snacks I enjoy:
1. cookies
2. oat bars
3. cakes
4. brownies
5. well anything, really!!

Things I would do if I were a billionaire:
1. Quit my job and go to culinary school.
2. Pay off the mortgage and maybe move to the top of the hill, where its nicer!
3. Go and see my brother for christmas in Melbourne, Australia, and my friends in England whenever I feel like it!
4. Save lots of unwanted pets
5. Establish a homeless charity that doesnt involve religion.

Places I have lived:
1. San Diego, CA
2. Bishops Stortford, England
3. London, England
4. Hove (actually) england
5. Birmingham, England

Jobs I have had:
1. Medicinal chemist
2. Bag packer/clerk at safeway
3. toner orderer for canon
4. checker at yellow pages
5. making sandwiches at a sandwich factory (didnt eat sandwiches for months!!)

Sharing the love... (Tag, you're it)
anyone who's interested!!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Strawberry Cupcakes

These little treasures were made for a wedding shower and I'm very happy with the way they came out in the end. I liked the cake recipe being a little on the healthier side, although they did seem a little heavier after just having made dorie's perfect party cake. The frosting is totally unhealthy, but delicious, and I'd say you only need a half recipe, even with putting in a pastry bag and piping. I topped with white chocolate buttons, as the bride to be is an enormous white chocolate fan.

I think my cupcakes were probably not as sweet as I used plain yoghurt which is unsweetened. The frosting more than made up for that! I would have liked them to be slightly pinker, so I think I would have also added some of the blended strawberries.

Dont be tempted to add too much strawberry puree to the frosting as it will curdle.

Strawberry cupcakes from cooking with amy
Makes 12
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 large egg
6 ounces Lowfat Yogurt (or any other fruit flavor of yogurt)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup fresh strawberries, diced

Sprinkles' Strawberry frosting from martha stewart
They say its for a dozen, I'd say its enough for 24!!
1/2 cup whole frozen strawberries, thawed
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, firm and slightly cold
Pinch of coarse salt
3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with paper liners. With an electric hand mixer, beat the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the egg, yogurt and vanilla, blending until smooth.

2. Measure the dry ingredients into the bowl and blend, then fold in the strawberries.

3. Divide the mixture equally between the 12 paper-lined cupcake cups. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.

4. Make the frosting
Place strawberries in the bowl of a small food processor; process until pureed. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together butter and salt on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce mixer speed and slowly add confectioners' sugar; beat until well combined. Add vanilla and 3 tablespoons strawberry puree (save any remaining strawberry puree for another use); mix until just blended. Do not overmix or frosting will incorporate too much air. Frosting consistency should be dense and creamy, like ice cream.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Strawberry Bicycle Cake!

My team did Americas Most Beautiful Bike Ride on June 1st, and had a truly wonderful time. When the team made it back to San Diego, we had a big party to celebrate our achievements. It was a little different for everyone, for me it was my first century where I felt really happy and not too achy after, for many it was their first ever century and everyone finished strong, and we were the last to leave the dance floor at the party after! We even made it to the scariest bar in Tahoe, Cabo Wabo!!

I decided to make the dessert, and what better dessert to make than Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake. Its a wonderfully light lemony cake, and I knew it was strong enough to make shapes with. I'm not a big fan of the buttercream, I hardly ended up using any of it! Between the layers I put lemon curd and strawberries, I think I would have added a smear of buttercream just to give it a bit more of a rich flavor, it was a little dry. I had leftover strawberry buttercream from another project, as I was worried about too much of the bland buttercream. It was really delicious, and although it looked a little curdled while I made it, it actually spread on nice. I used twizzlers for the decorating, buttercream on the sides, then placed strawberries on the outside. Not quite professional, but quite impressive for my first shape cake effort! And it went down well, I made a double recipe and the entire cake was gone by the time I left!

Perfect Party Cake is beautifully blogged about by Rosa, I wont repeat the recipe here!
Strawberry buttercream from martha stewart/sprinkles
Lemon Curd from Rose Levain's cake bible

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Harissa soup

Well would you believe it, memorial day weekend was just chilly and miserable. A perfect reason to use up an enormous amount of tomatoes in a soup. I've had a moroccan soup a couple of times recently and I thought I'd give it a try for myself.

This seemed like a perfect entry for a worldly epicurians delight(AWED), its a very simple soup, but also wholesome and healthy.

I took the tinned tomatoes and roasted them to intensify the flavor, added chickpeas, onions and garlic. I'd been for a wonderful trip to our middle eastern market, north park produce. I found all kinds of wonderful things, pomegranate molasses, rose water, wonderful eggplant and vegetables and harissa, which was the major flavor for this soup.

I wanted to try making harissa myself, but decided this time that it would be a bit of a hassle, so I bought it. I think it would be better home made. I had to add some pomegranate molasses to counteract the bitter/acid from the vinegar.

This was a lovely warming soup and I boxed it up in the freezer for a great lunch to take to work.

Harissa Soup
1 tbsp olive oil
2 large onions, finely diced
6 cloves garlic, chopped
4 cups tomatoes
2 cups veggie stock (I used better than bouillon)
2 cups cooked garbanzo beans/chickpeas
2 tbsp harissa (add more or less if desired)
1 tsp pomegranate molasses
Yogurt and cilantro to garnish
salt and pepper to taste

Saute the onions in the olive oil for around 5 mins, then add garlic and fry for a further minute. Add the other ingredients and boil for 10 minutes or so. Add salt and pepper to taste and garnish with cilantro and yogurt or sour cream if desired.