Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Daring Baking! Pizza!

What a great challenge! Again, its one of those things where you think you've done it before and its a bit boring, but follow the recipe and learn something new.

Thanks so much to Rosa, Sher and Glen for this great challenge. This is dedicated to the lovely Sher, its so sad that she isn't here baking along with us all.

The challenge seems like a very familiar one but there were a couple of things I hadn't tried with pizza. The dough was fermented at low temperature overnight. This results in a much more elastic dough, that is much more flexible for shaping.

The second thing which was required was that we toss the pizza. As a Brit, this made me chuckle, thinking of Gordon Ramsay talking about the daring bakers being a bunch of tossers. Hee hee!

I did what was required, and had a go at the tossing, it was hard to get a photo of it in the air, I hope this will suffice. It was actually really good, I came out with the thinnest crust I've ever got. This technique requires lots and lots of practice, I don't know if I'll ever get really good at it, but I definitely approve of the super thin crust, it was totally delicious and my favorite way to eat pizza.

It evoked memories of my trip to Verona, the lakes, and Belluno in Italy a few years ago with my now husband. A wonderful trip, with the best pizza I've ever tasted.

My first three pizzas were topped with delicious kabochi squash, which had been sauteed in browned sage butter, spinach, mushrooms and smoked jack cheese. Mmmm.

The second time I made it, I took the frozen dough from the freezer, defrosted it overnight and then tossed it and topped with mozarella, tomato sauce, mushrooms and roasted peppers. Tasty but not as exciting as the first. The rounder pizza is my husband's, he obviously likes a thicker crust, and the second is mine, much thinner.

Please see rosa's blog for a lovely pizza and the recipe. I highly recommend that anyone tries this 2 day method.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Mmm Pumpkin Fudge

I got invited to a pumpkin party and so I was looking for the perfect pumpkin recipe to make for it. I decided I felt like making a pumpkin fudge. Yet again, epicurious came to the rescue with a recipe. It came out great. I read some of the reviews and some were quite funny saying it was too sweet and that sort of thing (er dur, its fudge mate, I think you'd expect super sweet!).

Its a lovely orange color, very pretty and autumnal.

I mixed up the pumpkin puree, sugar, syrup and milk, then got it bubbling away. The mixture is brought up to a temperature of 258, then it is taken off the heat, butter and pumpkin pie spice added, and I had to wait an eternity for it to cool down to 140 so I could beat it. An addition of walnuts and vanilla, then I started at it with a wooden spoon. It was dumped into a square pan and allowed to cool and it was just perfect.

Please check on epicurious to see the recipe. My additions were an extra 1/2 cup of heavy cream as I'd used fat free milk, and a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice.

My political opinions

I'm not allowed to vote, so I get to watch this whirlwind of politics from the sidelines just crossing my fingers that people vote for what I believe in. Hopefully in about 6 years they might let me become a citizen and I can actually state my opinion too.

There are two bills on this election I feel very strongly about.

1. Prop 8. I think that everyone should have the right to get married and be legally protected. PLEASE VOTE NO ON PROP 8! I also hate that the yes people are making stupid stuff up about schools to try and get their point across. I also hate the rock church for poisoning their members minds, managing to keep their tax-exempt status, and stealing my parking space at Trader Joes (yay, I brought it back round to food)

1. Prop 2. Please vote for the animals to have bigger cages and get treated better. Its time we started treating animals like beings and not like commodities. This prop doesnt go nearly far enough but its a start. And I'm sorry, but I feel bad for the farmers and all, but I think its important that we stop messing up our environment and treating animals like crap.

Thanks guys, I cant wait until next week when this is all over!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Back to Blighty!

Well, I'm back from a wonderful trip to England.

I spent a couple of days getting used to being home in Cambridgeshire, enjoyed a delicious pub lunch and Celidh.

Then I went to my hometown of Birmingham to catch up with old friends and enjoy a delicious curry at Sylhet. I felt like I'd died and gone to heaven when we were standing outside the pub and were trying to decide between 3 great curry houses all less than a minutes walk. I also had a great tapas meal with mum in a break on our visit to Warwick Castle. It was a jolly fun day out, although the wax figurines were a little disturbing!

Then it was down to London where I enjoyed more Tapas. The following day I made my way into town and enjoyed a nice bowl of soup at the intriguing Crypt restaurant, which was actually underneath Trafalgar Square. It made me chuckle a little that they offered a 'soup and pudding' lunch special, where pudding means dessert. MMMM.

Another day an egg and cress sandwich with a fantastic view of the Thames and St Paul's Cathedral. I met a friend in the borough market, enjoyed a pint at the Market Porter, followed by a wander through the city, then a glass of wine and a cheese plate at Vinoteca in Farringdon, then a stroll up to Angel and another brilliant curry at Masala Zone.

My final day was an all out blowout, I met a friend at the borough market (again!) and enjoyed a truly delicious Pain au Chocolat, then pub lunch at the Flask in Highgate and a really great Eritrean meal at Green Lanes where we only managed to eat half of what was given to us. Thankfully my friend Sean had a really big doggie bag to take home for the next day.

I was also really chuffed that I managed to check out borough market. It really is absolutely wonderful. It was another place that was just oozing history, having been there for over 200 years. I got to sample truly delicious cheeses, lovely brownies, tasty fudge and a truly wonderful Pain au Chocolat. I was very happy that it lived up to my expectations.

In my years in the US, it feels like the food there and here has improved in pockets. I really like the fact that the brits take their food seriously but arent too stuffy about it. This really came home to me when I listened to a broadcast of the food program on Radio 4 and they were discussing 'slow food'. The people in san francisco (much as I love them) were so far up their own arses that they couldnt have fun with their food anymore, isnt that what slow food is all about, dinner, conversation, fun and passion?!!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Smoked Trout Mousse

I'm really enjoying my buffet class at grossmont college, every Monday we get together, the chef brings a bunch of food, and we cook it into whatever theme we have for the day. Last week was hors d'oevres, and I adapted the rosemary crackers I'm so fond of into a little canape with a smear of goat cheese topped with some roasted veggies and shallots. This week was mousses. That sounded most unappetizing until I realised we were able to try our hand at smoking, and we didnt have to make wobbly jelly mousses, we could omit gelatin for a softer, lighter mousse.

Steve and I chose to make smoked trout mousse. It was my first time smoking anything, but we set about with it, steve expertly removing the bones, head and fins from the fish, and I made a rudimentary smoker by getting a deep pan, placing wood chips in the bottom and a cake cooler (poor pastry class!) over them. The fillets were seasoned with pepper and old bay, then hot smoked for about 10 minutes and it was deliciously tender with a subtle smoky flavor. It was then blended with some lemon juice, herbs, mayonnaise and a little wine. Whipped cream was folded in and the resulting mousse was piped into little pastry baskets.
Heres a recipe, quantities can be adjusted a little for taste.

Smoked Trout Mousse

13oz smoked trout cooked with old bay seasoning, careful to remove bones
3 oz mayonnaise
1 oz white wine
2 oz lemon juice
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp chopped chives
salt and pepper to taste
3 oz heavy cream
Combine everything except the cream and blend with a hand blender until smooth, this took at least 5 mins, longer than you'd think!
Chill for 30 mins or longer if you have time.
Whip cream until it has soft peaks. Fold in trout mixture carefully and chill for a further 30 mins
Pipe into baskets or onto crackers.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


I'm off to the UK for family parties and seeing old friends. Its been a year and a half since the last visit, so its long overdue! Very much looking forward to some nice curry and fish and chips!

Small scare over the last few days, where I lost my passport. Thanfully the ladies in the LA british consulate were very nice and I went and got a temporary replacement yesterday!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Cupcake lessons no 2

My second lesson in cupcakes is not to try using anything other than a basic buttercream frosting for elaborate cakes. This is what they are supposed to look like.

I thought it would be really cute to make pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and then use cream cheese frosting. I'd seen a lovely design in my 'hello cupcake' book so it seemed pretty straightforward.

Cream cheese frosting doesn't behave the same, so it was all a little on the gooey side! I'll know for next time that this frosting is only good for a quick piping in the shape of a flower.

I'm in such a quandry, they tasted just wonderful, but look worthy of a cakewrecks post!

Thanks to Martha Stewart, for the recipes: Cupcakes and Frosting. I followed them exactly! And thanks to Hello Cupcake for the decoration idea.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Cupcake lessons

One last try at non-artificial red velvet cakes!! I decided to take the Smitten Kitchen recipe I'd done so well with and add lots of beetroot puree. 2 whole cups of beetroot later, crazy purple cake batter, and baking produced brown cupcakes. Oh dear! At least I finally got to the bottom of the whole beet/velvet cake thing, I also was very happy with the way the frosting came out, and I got some very healthy cakes. I would add much more cocoa another time and just make them full on chocolate cakes.

As mentioned, I kept the recipe, halved the oil, and added 2 cups of cooked and pureed beetroot.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Happy World Vegetarian Day!

When I heard it was world vegetarian day, I had to mention it! I've not eaten meat for more than half my life, its just second nature to me now, and while my principles are a little bit foggy, I still dont feel the need to eat meat.

Studying more about nutrition has reminded me that most people eat far too much meat/protein and that maybe this is a good day to assess your diet for what you really need.

I wanted something delicious to do with my lovely leeks from Bewise, so started searching for a quiche. I had every intention to make a big, buttery quiche with lots of eggs, but heidi had such a delicious vegan one that I was interested enough to give it a try. This has a delicious oaty, sesame seed crust, and the tofu is delicious and creamy as a filling. I'd go as far to say that I prefer it to eggs, as they are so temperamental, sometimes being rubbery and overcooked, and sometimes weeping uncontrollably in a most unappetizing manner! If you dont tell people its tofu, they'll probably never realize.

I did make quite a few changes, I doubled the crust recipe to make mini quiches in a muffin pan, and reduced the oil. I tried a filling of leeks and onions instead of spinach and mushrooms. It didn't take anywhere near 3 hours, as suggested, I'm sure it was under an hour before it was tucked away in the oven.

Vegan Leek and Onion Quiche -adapted from 101 cookbooks
For the crust:
1 cup rolled oats
6 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly milled black pepper
2/3 cup unflavored soy milk or water (more if necessary)
1/3 cup light sesame oil or pure olive oil plus more for brushing the pan

For the filling:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup finely diced red onion
4 large leeks, washed and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons dry white wine or water
1 teaspoons coarse sea salt
3 garlic cloves, slice crosswise into 1/8-inch rounds
10 to 12 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
Pinch hot red pepper flakes
1 pound firm tofu, rinsed and patted dry
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon rice vinegar

Preheat oven to 350f
Toast the oats in the oven for 5 mins. Place the oats in a food processor, pulse until fine, then add other dry ingredients and pulse until combined. Add olive oil and water and pulse until dough comes together. Press into greased muffin pan and set aside.

Sautee onions, garlic and leeks for around 10 minutes until clear. Add herbs and seasonings and combine then set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, put quiche shells in oven for 10 mins while working on filling.

Place Tofu, vinegar, lemon juice and salt and puree until smooth. Combine with leeks and onions and mix, then put spoons of filling into each quiche cup.

Cook for around 45 mins or until filling is firm and crust is light brown.