Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Creamy Peanut Butter Pie

A few months ago, I came across this recipe in the world of food blogs. A fellow food blogger lost her husband, Mikey, very suddenly, and in his memory asked that people make his favourite pie and share it with their loved ones. I didn't have a chance to make this pie then, but I finally made it a couple of weeks ago. I made it for my guy's father. It was his birthday and he adores peanut butter and chocolate. We ate this pie together the day before his birthday. I thought of Mikey as we ate it and how grateful I am to have such a wonderful guy whom I love so much. This pie was amazing and perfect for sharing with those that you love.

Creamy Peanut Butter Pie
Serves 10-12

Ingredients:
8oz chocolate cookies (I used Oreos after scraping out the cream filling)
4Tbsp butter, melted
4oz finely chopped semi-sweet chocolate
1/4 cup chopped peanuts
1 cup heavy cream
8 oz cream cheese
1 cup creamy-style peanut butter
1 cup confectioner's sugar
1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Add the cookies to the bowl of a food processor and pulse into fine crumbs. Combine the melted butter and cookie crumbs in a small bowl, stirring with a fork to mix well. Press the mixture into the bottom and 1-inch up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler and pour over the bottom of the cookie crust. Spread to the edges using an off-set spatula. Sprinkle chopped peanuts over the melted chocolate. Place the pan in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

Pour the heavy cream into a bowl and beat using a stand mixer until stiff peaks form. Transfer to a small bowl and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Place the cream cheese and peanut butter in a deep bowl. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce the speed to low and gradually beat in the confectioner's sugar. Add the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extact and lemon juice. Increase speed to medium and beat until all the ingredients are combined and filling is smooth.

Stir in 1/3 of the whipped cream into the filling mixture. Then, fold in the remaining whipped cream. Pour the filling into the prepared springform pan. Drizzle melted chocolate on top and refrigerate for three hours or overnight before serving.

Recipe barely adapted from In Jennie's Kitchen

Owl Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting

Now that I am living back in America, I get to do all the things had to miss out on whilst living in England. One of those things is going to my bestfriend's annual Halloween party. I knew I wanted to make cupcakes for his party and found these. I thought they would be the erfect choice because he LOVES owls! These were certainly a lot of work and took almost an entire day. The cupcake is really cholocately, light and moist. The frosting is very rich and creamy. I bought some Valrhona cocoa powder to use in this recipe and the investment was well worth it! The chocolate flavour was really intense and super yummy! This will definitely be my go-to chocolate cupcake recipe! These cupcakes didn't turn out as beautiful as I had hoped, but they tasted AMAZING!!

Owl Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting
Makes 24 cupcakes

Ingredients:
For the cupcakes:
1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp hot water
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks + 1 Tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
1 2/3 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup sour cream

For the Frosting:
1 lb. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
6Tbsp Dutch-process cocoa powder
6Tbsp boiling water
3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted
pinch of salt

For the Owls:
Pack of Oreos
Pack of mini Oreos
Brown Mini M&Ms
Junior Mints
Yellow/Orange Peanut M&Ms
Yellow/Orange Reeses pieces

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350*F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners (use mini cupcake pans with mini liners if making mini cupcakes). In a small bowl, combine the hot water and cocoa and whisk until smooth. In another medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Whisk to blend.

Combine the butter and sugar in a medium saucepan set over a medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally until the mixture is smooth and the butter is completely melted. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-low speed until the mixture is cool, 4-5mins. Add the eggs, one at a time, mising well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Blend in the vanilla and then the cocoa mixture until smooth. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the sour cream, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing each addition until just incorporated.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared liners. Bake until a toothpick inserted in teh centre comes out clean, about 18-20mins, rotating the pans halfway through baking. Let cool in the pan about 5-10mins and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, melt the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Set aside to cool until just barely warm. Meanwhile, combine the cocoa powder and boiling water in a small bowl; stir until the cocoa has dissolved.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and confectioner's sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3-4mins. Add the melted chocolate; beat on low speed until combined, 1-2 mins. Beat in the cocoa mixture until well blended. If the frosting is runny at this point, let it cool longer before frosting the cake.

To assemble the cupcakes, frost the cupcakes. Separate the Oreos and mini Oreos so that the cream filling is on one cookie and the other cookie has no cream filling. Cut the cookies without the cream filling in half. The mini oreos are used on mini cupcakes if you have made them. Place the cream coated cookies on the frosted cupcakes. These are the eyes. Place the cookie halves above the eyes so that the curves are on the inside and they are tilting out. Cover with frosting so that they look feathered. Using frosting, attach the junior mints onto the large Oreo eyes and the brown mini M&Ms on the mini Oreo eyes (these are the pupils). Place the peanut M&Ms on the larger cupcakes for the nose. Use the Reeses pieces on the mini cupcakes for the nose.

Cupcake recipe adapted from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes

Frosting recipe adapted from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook


Owl design adapted from Hello, Cupcake!

Monday, 10 October 2011

Chocolate Macarons


I have tried making macarons once before......it didn't go very well. This put me off making them for some time. But, recently, I felt the urge to try again. I used the same basic recipe from Tartlette (the macaron expert, in my opinion) and this time it was much more succesful! I can't wait to make these again and to try lots of different flavour combinations!

Chocolate Macarons
Makes about 30 macaron sandwiches

Ingredients:
For the macarons:
110g blanched, slivered almonds
200g minus 2 Tbsp confectioners sugar
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
100g aged egg whites* (from about 3 eggs)
50g granulated sugar

For the chocolate ganache:
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp butter
6 oz dark chocolate, chopped
1 tsp vanilla extract

*Age the egg whites on the kitchen counter if your kitchen stays at or below 80*F. To do this, seperate the egg whites and put them in a dish. Cover with clingfilm and then pierce the clingfilm liberally.

To make the macarons:
Pulse the almonds until finely ground. Add the confectioners sugar and cocoa. Pulse until fine and then sift. Pulse any remaining lumps until fine.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on a medium-high speed until foamy. Gradually add the granulated sugar and then whip on high speed until smooth and shiny with medium stiff peaks.

Add the amlmond mixture in 3 seperate additions, using a spatula to fold quickly after each addition. This part of the process is called macaronage and is crucial to get right. After folding in all of the almond mixture, there should be no streaks left and the batter should have a ribbon-like consistency. Do not be overly delicate with the meringue-you want to get rid of some of the air.

Place a silicon mat or parchment paper onto a baking tray. Transfer the batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large, round tip. Pipe 1-1 1/2 inch wide circles of the batter about an inch apart onto the mat. Bang the tray firmly onto the counter a few times. Let the macarons sit at room temperature for about an hour, until the tops are matte.

Preheat the oven to 280-300*F. Bake the macarons for 12-15mins. Let cool before removing from the baking trays. Please note: when I was baking mine, the ones on the bottom shelf cracked from the heat of the electric oven. I found that if I placed an empty baking tray on the bottom shelf, it helped to shield the macarons above it and they didn't crack.

Let the macarons cool throughly before piping on the ganache.

To make the ganache:
Place the chopped chocolate in medium heatproof bowl. Heat the cream and butter over a medium heat until it simmers. Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate. Let stand for 2min before stirring well until the chocolate has melted. Add the vanilla extract and stir until combined. Let the ganache cool throughly before piping onto the macarons.

Pipe the ganache onto one macaron and then sandwich with another macaron on top. Try to match macarons that are similar in size. On some of the macarons, I also piped a small amount of creamy peanut butter into the middle of the ganache, making them chocolate peanut butter macarons. Very yummy.

Store macarons in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Macarons are at their best 3 days after they are made.

Macarons recipe from Annie's Eats and Tartlette
Ganache adapted from Annie's Eats

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Strawberry Ice Cream


So, I have just done a transatlantic move. Sadly, this meant saying goodbye to my beloved Kitchenaid mixer. I thought I would be without a mixer for quite awhile, but my guy's mom kindly gave me hers! I was only without a mixer for a week but as soon as I got it, I couldn't wait to get back to doing what I love. My guy happens to be a HUGE fan of ice cream. So, we treated ourselves to the Kitchenaid ice cream attachment and as soon as it was frozen, I made my first batch of homemade ice cream.

I have to say, that I was dubious about homemade ice cream. Could it really be better than Ben & Jerry's? Why try to improve on something already so good? I am happy to say that my doubts were unfounded. Homemade ice cream is seriously amazing. It is creamier and the flavour is more intense than any store-bought version. I highly recommend investing in an ice cream machine-it opens up a whole new ice cream world!!

So, my guy's first ice cream request was strawberry. I decided to try a David Lebovitz recipe, since I've heard such good things about his book, The Perfect Scoop. After making this recipe, I bought the book immediately! It is the creamiest, strawberriest ice cream I have ever had! You can't taste the sour cream at all-it just adds an extra creaminess to it.

Strawberry Ice Cream

Ingredients:
1 lb. (450g) fresh strawberries, rinsed and hulled
3/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp vidka
1 cup sour cream
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Slice the strawberries and toss them in a bowl with the sugar and wodka. Stir until the sugar begins to dissolve. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 1 hr, stirring occasionally.

Pulse the strawberries and their liquid with the sour cream, heavy cream, and lemon juice in a blender until almost smooth. It should still be somewhat chunky.

Refrigerate for 1 hr, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Recipe adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Salted Caramel Chocolate Hearts

The August 2011 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Lisa of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drive and Mandy of What the Fruitcake?!. These two sugar mavens challenged us to make sinfully delicious candies! This was a special challenge for the Daring Bakers because the good folks at http://www.chocoley.com offered an amazing prize for the winner of the most creative and delicious candy!

This month's challenge was exactly that....a challenge!! We were required to temper chocolate and use it to make at least 2 different types of candies. It took me 3 different attempts to get a well tempered chocolate. The first candy I made was peppermint bark, using a much loved recipe that has appeared on my blog before. Although the chocolate wasn't successfully tempered, it was really yummy!

The second type of candy I made was a chocolate covered honeycomb. Again, I wasn't successful in tempering the chocolate, but the results were still delicious! I might blog about that another day because in this blog post, I want to focuse on the successfully tempered chocolate candies I made. From my numerous attempts at tempering, I can say that the key to my success was patience..... something that I don't tend to have a lot of. Waiting for the chocolate to cool down to the appropriate temperature is a long process. And it is imperative that you raise it back up to working temperature veeeerrrryyy slowly, taking it off the heat often to ensure that the chocolate doesn't get too hot.

Ultimately, this was a great challenge and I was very proud of my chocolates. I will definitely be making more chocolate candy now that I have achieved the elusive tempered chocolate!

Salted Caramel Chocolate Hearts
Ingredients:

For the salted caramel:
2 cups sugar
1 2/3 cups heavy cream
2 Tbsp salted butter
1/2-3/4 tsp coarse sea salt or fleur de sel (to taste)

For the chocolate:
600g extremely good quality dark chocolate (at least 60%)


Method to make the caramel sauce:

1. Spread the sugar in an even layer in a large metal dutch oven or casserole, at least 6 quarts. Set over a moderate heat and cook without stirring, until the sugar near the edge just starts to liquefy.

2. Use a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula to begin gently stirring, encouraging the melted sugar around the edges toward the centre, delicately stirring up any sugar melting on the bottom as well. The sugar will start to look pebbly as it cooks, but keep going until it is melted completely and an amber colour.

3. Continue to cook until the sugar turns deep brown and starts to smoke. The darker you cook the sugar without burning it, the better the sauce will be. It's ready when it's the colour of a well-worn penny and it smells a bit smokey. Do not allow the sauce to burn!

4. Remove from the heat and quickly stir in about a quarter of the cream. The mixture will bubble up quickly, so you may wish to wear an oven mitt. Continue to whisk the cream, stirring as you go to make sure it's smooth. Stir in the butter and salt. Serve warm. This makes a lot of sauce, which can be stored for up to one month in the refrigerator.

Method to temper the chocolate:

1. Break up the chocolate into small, almond size chunks. Place 2/3 of the chocolate in a heatproof bowl, and place over a saucepan with a small amount of barely simmering water. Ensure the bowl does not touch the water and be very careful not to get any of the water in the chocolate.

2. Using a rubber spatula, gently stir the chocolate so that it melts evenly and very slowly. Use a chocolate thermometer and keep a close eye on the temperature of the melting chocolate. Once it reaches 45*C-50*C (113*F-122*F)*, remove from the heat.

3. Add small amounts of the remaining 1/3 unmelted chocolate chunks and stir in to melt. Continue to add small additions of chocolate, stirring frequently, until you have brought the chocolate down to 27*C/80.6*F.

4. Put back onto the double boiler and bring the temperature, very slowly, up to 32*c/89.6*F. This is the crucial stage so watch the thermometer carefully and do not let the temperature go over 89.6*F! Once the chocolate reaches 86*F, I would recommend taking it off the heat every time it raises by 1*F and giving it a stir, just to be on the safe side. The chocolate is now tempered and ready to use.

To make the chocolate hearts:

1. Holding the chocolate molds over the bowl of chocolate, pour the tempered chocolate into heart molds (I used silicone heart molds). Knock the mold against a heard surface to remove bubbles, then turn upside down over the bowl to let the excess chocolate drip out. Turn right side up and drag a bench or plastic scraper across so that all the chocolate in between the wells is scraped off cleanly, leaving only chocolate filled wells. Put in the fridge to set for 5-10 mins.

2. Remove from the refrigerator. Fill a pastry bag with cooled caramel sauce and use this to fill each of the chocolate coated molds with caramel. Do not fill all the way to the top, as there needs to be room left for the chocolate. Place in the refrigerator to set for 5-10mins.

3. Finish the molds with a layer of chocolate, using the same method as before. Allow to set fully in the refrigerator. Once set, carefully unmold the chocolates.

Salted caramel recipe adapted from the Sweet Life of Paris by David Lebovitz.
*Please note: the temperatures given are for tempering dark chocolate only.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Fresh Strawberry Pie


I think that the summer strawberries in England must be the best in the world. They aren't the biggest, but they are the sweetest and juiciest strawberries. I love using them in desserts throughout the summer to make the most of them at their best. I made this pie for our 4th of July celebration (I know, I'm very late posting!!). Everyone loved it-be sure to make this with summer strawberries before the season is over!!

Strawberry Pie

Ingredients:
For the pie crust:
1 1/4 cups plain flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
8 Tbsp (4oz) cold butter, cut into small pieces
3 Tbsp very cold water

For the filling:
4 pints (3lbs.) fresh strawberries, rinsed and dried, hulled
3/4 cup jam sugar*
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 baked 9-inch pie shell

For the whipped cream:
1 cup cold heavy cream
1 Tbsp sugar

*Please note, I have used jam sugar in place of normal sugar and Sure-Jell in Annie's recipe. We don't have Sure-Jell in England, so I thought this would be a good substitute-it worked really well, and I lengthened the amount of boiling time slightly to account for the different ingredient.

Directions:
To make the pastry, combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Rub in the butter pieves until the misture resembles coarse sand and the largest butter pieces are no bigger than peas. Add cold water and mix until the dough just comes together. You may require extra water.

Roll the pie dough into a circle, and line a 9-inch pie dish with it. Trim and crimp the edges. Refrigerate for 30mins. Preheat oven to 375*F. Line the chilled pie with parchment paper and fill with pie weights. Bake until dough no longer looks wet, about 20mins. Remove the weights and parchment paper adn continue to bake 10mins more until the crust is lightly golden. Transfer to wire rack to cool.

For the filling, select 6oz misshapen berries, halving the large ones. This should be about 1 1/2 cups. In a food processor, blend into a smooth puree. You should have about 3/4 cup of puree.

In a medium saucepan, combine teh sugar and pureed strawberries. Gently warm until the sugar is completely dissolved. Then bring up to a rolling boil. Boil for 4-5mins, scraping bottom and sides of pan constantly. It should be starting to set. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in lemon juice. Cool to room temperature.

Pick over the remaining berries and measure out 2lbs of attractive ones. Halve extra-large berries. Add the berries to the bowl of jam and fold gently with a spatula until the berries were evenly coated. Scoop the berries into the pie shell, piling into a mound. If any cut sides face up, face them down. Referigerate the pie until chilled, about 2 hrs. Serve immediately and within 5hrs.

Make the whipped cream just before serving. Whip the cream and sugar on medium speed until small bubbles form (30 seconds). Increase to high speed and beat until medium peaks form. Serve wedges of the pie with whipped cream.

Recipes adapted from Williams-Sonoma and Annie's Eats

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Strawberry Cupcakes


This weekend we celebrated my friend's birthday. It has become a tradition for me to bake whatever my friends request for their birthdays. So, this weekend my friend requested something fruity. I really wanted to make some kind of cupcakes because it feels like ages since I have. So, I decided on strawberry cupcakes. After some time spent on food blogs, I chose this recipe and I'm glad that I did!

The cakes were really moist and the strawberry pieces in them really gave them a great texture and flavour! The strawberry meringue buttercream frosting was ok....but not my favourite. I had never made SMBC before and I was excited to try this out! I knew that this frosting would be really rich and creamy and not too sweet. But, I wasn't prepared for just how rich and creamy it would be! It was so silky smooth. After trying this frosting recipe, I think I prefer a normal buttercream. This one just wasn't sweet enough for me (and I don't like ultra sweet frostings). But, my friends loved these cupcakes and said that they preferred this frosting over a normal buttercream....I guess it's just down to personal preference!

Strawberry Cupcakes
Makes about 18 cupcakes

Ingredients:

For the cupcakes:
2 1/2 cups cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups chopped strawberries

For the Frosting:
1/2 cups fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled and coarsely chopped
4 large egg whites
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350*F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.

Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a medium bowl. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time until combined. Add buttermilk, oil and vanilla and beat until combined. Add flour mixture and stir until just combined. Fold in chopped strawberries.

Fill the cupcake liners 3/4 full with batter. Bake for 20 mins or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack.

To make the frosting: Place the strawberries in a food processor or blender. Purree until completely smooth. Combine the egg whites and sugar in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160*F and the sugar has dissolved.

Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 10 mins (the bowl should be cool to the touch.)

Reduce the speen to medium and add the butter, 2 Tbsp at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated. If the frosting curdles, continue to beat on medium-high speed until thick and smooth again (3-5 mins or longer). Change to the beater attachment and beat for about 2 mins, until frosting is smooth and creamy. Blend in the strawberry puree until smooth and completely incorporated.

Fill a pastry bag fitted with a frosting tip. Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.

Cupcake recipe adapted from Annie's Eats. Frosting recipe adapted from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes.



Sunday, 3 July 2011

Baklava


Erica, of Erica's Edibles, was our host for the Daring Bakers' June challenge. Erica challenged us to be truly daring by making homemade phyllo and then to use that homemade dough to make baklava.

So this challenge felt pretty daunting at first. I have attempted baklava before-about 5 years ago and it was NOT good! I have been planning on trying again-with a recipe from my friend's mother. So, when this challenge came up, it seemed the perfect opportunity to try her recipe. Although the phyllo dough seems challenging at first, you quickly get used to working with it and it gets easier as you go. It did take me over an hour to roll out the dough and assemble the baklava....but it was worth it! The end result was great. However, my syrup didn't thicken up enough. I have no idea why this is, since my friend's mother is very successful with the recipe. Anyway, I'm including a different syrup recipe here that I haven't actually tried but that will hopefully be thicker and more gooey.


Baklava

Ingredients for the pastry:
4 cups plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
4 Tbsp vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 cup water (or more if needed)
1 cup melted butter (for assembling)

Ingredients for the filling:
1 cup finely chopped pistachios
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 cup finely chopped almonds
3 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp cinnamon

Ingredients for the syrup:
3 cups caster sugar
2 cups water
1/2 cup honey
1 cinnamon stick


To make the syrup:
Put the sugar, honey and cinnamon stick in a small pan and pour in the water. Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved. Simmer without stirring for 5min. (It should be somewhat thickened-it may require more simmering time). Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature (using the syrup slightly warm is OK).

To make the dough:
Sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Make a well in the centre and add the eggd, oil and water to this. Slowly work in the flour with a fork. Do this until the dough sticks together. Knead the dough for approximately 15 mins. It should be smooth and supple. (At the kneading stage, I found I needed to add quite a bit more flour to get it to the right consistency. The dough still turned out perfectly-so don't be afraid to add more flour!) Cover and put in the fridge for 30mins.

To make the filling:
Mix together the ingredients for the filling and set aside.

To assemble:
Preheat the oven to 180*C. Grease a 9x9 in baking tinwith melted butter. (I used an 8x8 in. tin as it was all that I had and it seemed perfect)

When rolling out the phyllo, be sure to keep your work surface and rolling pin very well floured. Tear off a golf ball size piece of dough. Roll it out a little and then wrap around your rolling pin and roll very quickly. Rotate and repeat. (Note: you do not have to use this method of rolling out the dough. Just be sure to get the dough as thin as possible-you should be able to see through it.) Put the rolled out phyllo into the tin and brush it with melted butter. Repeat this 5 times, ending with butter.

Sprinkle 1/2 of the nut mixture on top.

Continue layering and buttering the phyllo dough, repeating 4 times. Sprinkle the remaining nut mixture on top. Layer and butter the remaining phyllo sheets (there should be about 7 layers on top). Tuck the edges in to give it a nice appearance. Butter the top and let stand for a few mins to harden slightly.

Using a very sharp knife, cut the baklava into 16 equal squares and cut each square into 2 triangles.

Bake for approximately 30 min, until golden.

Remove the baklava from the oven and immediately pour over the syrup. The syrup should be visible, but not completely covering the baklava.




Allow to cool to room temperature and sit overnight to absorb the syrup. Serve at room temperature. Baklava can be stored in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks (but it won't last that long!!) Apparently, it is freezable, but I have not tried this.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Shortbread

So, it was my guy's birthday at the start of the month. I offered to bake him any treat he liked for his special day. I was thinking of a new cupcake flavour....or a beautiful layer cake...something like that. He asked for....shortbread. Yeah....shortbread. A cookie! This didn't quite fit with my idea of what a birthday treat should be, but I did promise to bake him whatever he wanted, and he was insistent.


So, shortbread it was. He also wanted me to choose a recipe with a very high butter content (he has an unhealthy obsession with butter). And, here it is-Williams Sonoma's Scotch Shortbread recipe. This really is the most buttery thing I have ever eaten. In a good way. It tastes like cookie dough but absolutely melts in your mouth. I think this will be a repeat request!!

Scotch Shortbread (makes 27 pieces)

Ingredients:
16 Tbsp (2 sticks) butter at room temperature ( I would recommend using a really good butter as it is such a big part of the taste)
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 Tbsp for sprinkling
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/4 tsp salt

Directions:
Preheat oven to 300*F.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the beater attachment, beat the butter on high speed until fluffy (about 3-4 mins). Add the confectioners' sugar and 1/4 cup granulated sugar and continue beating until the mixture is no longer gritty when rubbed between your thumb and finger (mine never got to this stage despite excessive beating-I don't think this made it any less amazing). Beat in the vanilla.

Over a sheet of waxed paper, sift togther flour and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter and mix on low speed until just blended.

Using floured fingertips, press dough into an ungreased 9-in square baking pan (I used an 8-in one because it was all I had and this was fine). Sprinkle evenly with the tablespoon of granulated sugar.

Bake until the edges are golden-about 1 hr. Remove the pan from the oven and immediately use a thin, sharp knife to cut the shortbread into strips 3 inches by 1 inch. Use a toothpick or the tines of a fork to decorate the shortbread with a pattern of dots. Let the strips cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 mins before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.

Recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Mini Victoria Sponge Cakes

Things are stressful at the moment. I'm writing my thesis and working and still trying to have some kind of normal life at the same time. Last week I made some Oreo chocolate chip cookies for a friend at work. They were ok but not good. This scared me....what if I've lost my bakingness?!


This week was another friend's birthday....and another chance to see if my bakingness remains MIA. I asked my friend to choose what she would like me to bake for her birthday. She choose a fruit tart, but this worried me because I knew it would not be able to be refrigerated and might get soggy or something. So, I decided on these mini Victoria Sponge cakes. They still had the fruity taste that she wanted but were much more party friendly. I filled these with buttercream instead of the traditional whipped cream. They tasted great and held together better than they would have with cream.




Mini Victoria Sponge Cakes
Makes 14 mini cakes

Ingredients:
280g butter, very soft
280g caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
5 large eggs
250g self-raising flour (if you do not have self-raising flour, substitute all-purpose flour and 3 tsp baking powder)
30g cornflour (cornstarch)
3-4 Tbsp milk

For the filling:
1/3-1/2 cup strawberry jam
1 punnet of strawberries, finely chopped
125ml double cream or 1 recipe of buttercream


Vanilla Buttercream
Ingredients:
8oz butter at room temperature
2 Tbsp double cream
2 1/2 (300g) cup icing sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt

To make the cakes:
Preheat the oven to 180*C. Grease and flour two 8-inch cake tins.

Combine the flour and cornflour.

Cream the butter and sugar for 3 mins. Add the vanilla. Add the eggs, one at a time, adding a spoonful of the flour mixture between each. Fold in the rest of the flour mixture. Add a little milk as needed until the mixture passes the spoon test. To do the spoon test, lift a spoon of the cake batter up and allow to drop back. If it falls quickly, add a little more flour. If it doesn't fall at all, add a little more milk.

Pour the batter into the tins and bake 30-35mins, until the cake edges are beginning to come away from the edges, are springy to the touch and a cake tester inserted in the centre comes out clean. Leave the cakes in their tins on a wire rack to cool for 10mins before turning out and leaving to cool completely.

While they are cooling, make the buttercream, if using. Beat the butter on medium high speed until pale (2min). Reduce the speed and add sugar 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each. After every 2 additions, beat on high 10 seconds, then return to medium speed. Add vanilla and salt and beat until smooth. Add cream, beating throughout. If not using buttercream, whip the cream until thickened but still soft.

When cakes are cool, cut out rounds with a 2 1/4-inch biscuit cutter. Slice each round in half horizontally. Spread the bottom half with jam and add a few pieces of chopped strawberries. Pipe buttercream or whipped cream on top of jam and top with the other half of the cake. Dust the tops with icing sugar.

Recipe for Victoria Sponge Cakes adapted from Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddess


Sunday, 1 May 2011

Daring Baker's Challenge: Maple Syrup Mousse in a Bacon Cup


The April 2011 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Evelyne of the blog Cheap Ethnic Eatz. Evelyne chose to challenge everyone to make a maple mousse in an edible container. Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote for your favourite from April 27th to May 27th at http://thedaringkitchen.com/

This challenge was really fun, quick and yummy! I don't get any creativity points, as I just made the recipes that they provided. I love sweet/salty combinations, so a maple syrup and bacon combination seemed pretty perfect for me! The flavour of the maple syrup mousse is a very intense maple syrup flavour. It's amazing!

Bacon Cups

Ingredients
24 thin slices of streaky bacon

Directions
Preheat the oven to 200*F.

Take a muffin pan and turn it upside down and form aluminium covers on the back of the muffin cups.

Taking 2 strips of bacon at a time, crisscross the stips over the backs of the muffin cups and cut to size a bit longer than the bottom part of the cup. Now use 1 to 2 more strips to cover the sides of the muffin cups in a weaving fashio. You want a full tight weave beacause the bacon will shrink.

Tuck the ends of the bacon strips inside. Insert toothpicks where the crisscrossed bacon meets in the weave.

Place muffin in a cookie tray to catch dripping. Bake in oven for 25-40min until the bacon is golden and crisp but not burned.

Cool completely (at least 1 hr) before removing from foil.


Maple Mousse

Ingredients
1 cup pure maple syrup
4 large egg yolks
1 package (7g) unflavored gelatine (4 leaves)
1 1/2 cups whipping cream

Directions
Bring the maple syrup to boil and remove from heat.

In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks and pour a little bit on the syrup in while whisking.

Add the warmed egg yolks to the hot maple syrup until well mixed.

Measure 1/4 cup whipping cream in a bowl and sprinkle with the gelatine. Let it rest for 5min. Place the bowl in a microwave for 45 seconds, checking every 10 seconds to ensure the gelatiine has completely dissolved.

Whisk the gelatine/whipping cream misture into the maple syrup and set aside. Whisk occasionally for 1 hr until the mixture has the consistency of unbeaten raw egg white.

Whip the remaining cream. Stir 1/4 of the whipped cream into the maple syrup mixture. Fold in the remaining cream and refrigerate at least 1 hr.

Remove from the fridge adn divide equally among the bacon cups


Friday, 29 April 2011

A Royal Chocolate Biscuit Cake


Today the world watched Prince William marry Kate Middleton. I have been so excited about this royal wedding and planned to celebrate it with a tea party viewing at a friend's house. My food contribution was a chocolate biscuit cake-the very same as the one requested by William for his groom's cake. This recipe is from Darren McGrady's Eating Royally cookbook. His cookbook is wonderful, with lots of yummy recipes and provides a rare glimpse of palace life. This cake is meant to be the Queen's favourite tea cake....and I can see why. It is so chocolatey with a slight chewiness that makes it dangerously moreish! Don't wait for the next royal wedding to make this!!

Chocolate Biscuit Cake (Serves 8)

Ingredients:
1/2 tsp butter, for greasing the tin
8 oz McVities rich tea biscuits
4oz butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg, beaten
8 oz dark chocolate, for icing
1oz white chocolate, for decoration


Lightly grease a small (6in.) cake ring with 1/2tsp butter and place on a baknig tray lined with parchment/baking paper. Break each biscuit into almond-size pieces and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Melt the 4oz of dark chocolate in a double boiler. Add the butter mixture to the chocolate, stirring constantly. Add the egg, stirring. Fold in the biscuit pieces until they are coated with the chocolate mixture.

Spoon the chocolate biscuit mixture into the prepared cake ring. Press it into the cake ring to fill all the gaps at the bottom, as this will be the top when it's unmolded. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hrs.

Remove from the refrigerator and let stand while you melt the 8oz of dark chocolate. Slide the ring off the cake and turn the cake upside down onto a cooling rack. Pour the melted chocolate over the cake. Smooth the top and sides using an offset spatula. All the chocolate to set at room temperature. Carefully run a knife around the bottom of the cake where it has stuck to the rack. Transfer the cake to a dish. Melt the white chocolate and drizzle on top of the cake. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Note: I accidently doubled the butter when I made this. I thought the cake was perfect so, I have indicated the amount of butter I used in the recipe. If you would like to make the original version, only use 2oz of butter.

Recipe source: Eating Royally. This recipe also appears on Epicurious

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Daring Bakers' Challenge: Yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake



The March 2011 Daring Bakers' Challenge was hosted by Ria of Ria's Collection and Jamie of Life's a Feast. Ria and Jamie challenged the Daring Bakers to bake a yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake.

Argggghhhh! I'm late posting my Daring Bakers' Challenge AGAIN! I made this a week ago but have been so busy this week that I haven't had a chance to post it. So, finally, here it is!

This bread was very yummy, especially when served warm. It was pretty straight-forward and easy to make as well. The potential filling combinations are endless, but I went with one recommended in the recipe-cinnamon, nuts and chocolate? What could be better?!

Filled Meringue Coffee Cake
Makes 2 round coffee cakes, each about 10-in in diameter. The recipe can be halved to make one coffee cake.

Ingredients:
For the yeast coffee cake dough:
4 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 package active dried yeast
3/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature

For the meringue:
3 large egg whites, room temperature
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup sugar

For the filling:
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Egg wash: 1 beaten egg
Confectioner's sugar for dusting the cakes

Directions:

Prepare the dough:
In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups of the flour, the sugar, salt and yeast.

In a saucepan, combine the milk, water and butter and heat over medium heat until warm and the butter is just melted.

With an electric mixer on low speed, gradually add the warm liquid to the flour/yeast mixture, beating until well blended. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat 2 min. Add the eggs and 1 cup flour and beat for 2 more min.

Using the wooden spoon, stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a dough that holds together.

Turn out onto a floured surface and knead the dough for 8-10min until the dough is soft, smooth adn elastic. Keep the work surface floured and add extra flour as needed.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and turn to coat all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towl and let rise to double in bulk, 45-60min. The rising time will depend of the type of yeast you use.

Prepare your filling:
In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and sugar for the filling.

Once the dough has doubled, prepare the meringue: In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt, first on low speed for 30seconds, then increasing to a high speed, beating until foamy and opaque.

Add the vanilla then start adding the 1/2 cup sugar, a tablespoon at a time as you beat until very stiff, glossy peaks form.

Assemble the coffee cakes: Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Punch down the dough and divide in half.

On a lightly floured surface, working with one piece of dough at a time, roll out the dough to 20x10-in rectangle.

Spread half the meringue evenly over the rectangle, up to about 1/2-inch from the edges. Sprinkle half of your filling evenly over the meringue. Roll up the dough from the long side. Pinch the seam closed to seal.

Transfer the log to one of the cookie sheets, seam side down. Bring the ends of the log around and seal the ends together, forming a ring, tucking one end into the other, and pinching to seal. Using kitchen scissors or a sharp knife, make cuts along the outside edge, about 1-in intervals.

Repeat with the remaining dough, meringue and fillings. Cover the coffee cakes with plastic wrap and allow to rise 45-60min.

Preheat oven to 350*F (180*C). Brush the tops of the coffee cakes with the egg wash. Bake for 25-30min until risen and brown. The dough should sound hollow when tapped.

Remove from the oven and slide the parchment paper off the cookie sheets onto a table. Loosen the coffee cakes from the paper and slide off onto cooling racks.

Just before serving, dust the tops with confectioner's sugar. The inside will look something like this:


Monday, 14 March 2011

Pork Potsticker Dumplings


The other day I got a sudden strong urge to make Chinese dumplings. I don't know where this came from but I thought it would be worth a try! I found a great tutorial that broke down the process enough for me to feel like this might be achievable.

As you can see....my dumplings didn't turn out very beautiful. But, they tasted great and it was a fun experience making them!

Pork Potsticker Dumplings

Ingredients

For the pork filling:
1 lb. ground pork
4 large napa cabbage leaves, minced
3 stalks of green onions, minced
7 shitake mushrooms, minced
1/2 cup bamboo shoots, minced
1/4 cup ginger root, minced
3 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp cornstarch

For the dough:
4 cups plain flour
1 cup warm water
Extra flour for the work surface

Combine all the filling ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix throughly. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Make the dough: In a large bowl, mix the flour with 1/2 cup water and stir until the water is absorbed. Continue adding water one spoonful at a time and mixing throughly until the dough pulls away from sides of the bowl. You want a firm dough that is barely sticky to the touch.

Knead the dough about 20 times then cover with a damp towel for 15min. Take the dough and form a flattened dome. Cut into strips about 1 1/2-2 inches wide. Shape the strips into rounded long cylinders. On a floured surface, cut the strips into 3/4 inch pieces. Press your palm down on each piece to form a flat circle. With a rolling pin, roll out a circular wrapper from each flat disc. Take care not to roll out too thin or the dumplings will break whilst cooking. Leave the centres a little thicker than teh edges. Place a tablespoon of filling in the centre of each wrapper, leaving about a 1/2 inch margin. Fold the two ends of the dough together and pinch them tight. Move about 1/4 of the way down from the centre adn create a fold in the edge of the dough closest to you, fold it down and pinch it tight. Create a pleat in the dough. Repeat this 2-3 more times. When you get to the end, poke the end in and pinch shut.

Turn the dumpling around so the pleats face away from you and pleat toward the centre on the same side as the previously made pleats. The whole thing should curve into a concave crescent shape. Poke the end in and pinch the folds tightly to ensure the dumpling is sealed. A little water can be helpful in getting the pleats to stick together.

Lightly oil a cast iron skillet. Place dumplings in the pan, leaving a little space between each. Place over medium heat and fry 3-4 min. They will stick to the pan- DO NOT move them or the dumplings will rip.

Add about 1/2 cup of water and immediately cover the pan with a lid. This will steam the dumplings. Cook for 7-9 min.

Remove the lid and cook off any remaining water. Once dry, the dumplings will easily release themselves from the pan. At this point, if desired drizzle the dumplings with soy sauce and fry for 30-60 seconds to form a slightly salty, caramelised crust. Promplty removed the dumplings from the pan and serve.

Makes about 80 dumplings.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Vanilla Cupcakes

I can't even remember how long I've been on the quest for the perfect cupcake recipe. At times, it seems like it's an impossible mission. But, as a homesick Texan living in London, I have to keep trying!

This recipe is by far the best I have ever come up with. It's based on a recipe that I've posted before with some key changes. There's a few things I love about this recipe. First, it's super fast and easy to make the batter. Second (and more importantly) it makes a light, moist, tender cupcake with the perfect vanilla flavour (a rare thing, in my opinion). Third, it really is the perfect reminder of home and is the best cure for homesickness....or maybe that's just the sugar-high?


Vanilla Cupcakes (Makes a little more than 30 cupcakes)

Ingredients:
1 3/4 cup (280g) cake flour
1 1/2 cup (200g) plain flour
1 3/4 cup (440g) sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup (8oz) butter, room temparture, cut into 1 in. cubes.
4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat oven to 325*F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Mix on low speed until combined. Add butter in small pieces until just coated with flour.

Add eggs one at a time.

In a large measuring jug, whisk together milk and vanilla. With mixer on medium speed, add wet ingredients in 3 parts, scraping down the sides of the bowl before each addition. Beat until ingredients are incorporated but do not overbeat.

Divide batter evenly among liners, filling about 2/3 full. Bake, rotating halfway through, until a
cake tester inserted in the centre comes out clean, 17-20min.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.


Vanilla Frosting

Ingredients:
2 1/4 cup (18oz) butter at room temperature
3 Tbsp double cream
4 1/2-5 1/4 (500g-600g) cup icing sugar, sifted
2-3 tsp vanilla (to taste)
1/4-1/2 tsp salt (to taste)

Directions:
Beat butter on medium high speed until pale (2 min).

Reduce speed and add sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. After every 2 additions, beat on high speed for 10 seconds and then return to a medium speed. The whole process should take 5 minutes. I highly encourage tasting this frosting as you add the sugar-there is a fine line between yummy frosting and tooth-hurting sweet frosting.

Add the vanilla and salt to taste. Beat until smooth.

Add the cream and beat.



Seriously....the best. cupcakes. ever.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Panna Cotta and Florentine Cookies




The February 2011 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe adn Nestle Florentine Cookies.

I'm not really a fan of Panna Cotta. I much prefer carby desserts over dairy desserts. Saying that, I did actually like this quite a lot. The Panna Cotta was very smooth and creamy. I added scrapings from a vanilla bean to give it a little more vanilla flavour. The seeds sank to the bottom but you could still taste the vanilla throughout. Overall this recipe was simple and quick and tasty. The Florentine cookies were very good. I think I made mine a little too big but they were still yummy! I added cinnamon to mine which gave them a really nice flavour.

Panna Cotta
Ingrendients:

1 cup whole milk
1 Tbsp unflavoured powdered gelatin (or 4 sheets)
3 cups whipping cream
1/3 cup honey
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
Scrapings from a vanilla pod (optional)

Directions:

Pour the milk into a cold bowl and sprinkle gelatin evenly and thinly over it. Let stand 5 min until softened.

Pour the milk into a saucepan and place over medium heat on the stove. Heat until hot, but not boiling-about 5 min. Whisk a few times as it heats.

Add the cream, honey, sugar, salt, and vanilla. Make sure the mixture doesn't boil. Continue to heat and stir constantly until the sugar and honey dissolve (5-7min).

Remove from heat, allow to sit for a few mins to cool slightly. Pour into glasses or ramekins.

Refrigerate at least 6hrs or overnight.

Strawberry Gelee
Ingredients:
1 cup strawberries, rinsed and chopped
1/2 Tbsp water
1/3 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp sugar
1 sheet of gelatin

Directions:
Place sheet of gelatin in very cold water to soften for 5-10min.

Combine strawberries, sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until strawberries are slightly softened.

Press strawberry mixture through a fine sieve. Drain geltin sheet and add to the strawberry mixture. Mix well.

Cool strawberry gelee until it is at room temperature. Pour onto Panna Cotta and refrigerate until set.

This recipe was adapted from the Laduree Sucre Cookbook

Florentine Cookies
Ingredients:

2/3 cup unsalted butter
2 cups quick oats
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup plain flour
1/4 cup dark corn syrup
1/4 cup whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375*F. Prepare your baking sheet with silpat or parchment paper.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan, then remove from the heat.

Add the oats, sugar, flour, corn syrup, milk, vanilla, and salt. Drop a small tablespoon full of dough, three inches apart, onto your prepared baking sheet. Flatten slightly with the back of your tablespoon or a spatula.

Bake in preheated oven for 6-8 min, until cookies are golden brown. Cool completely on baking sheets.

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen Florentines.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Chicken Noodle Soup


I am all about comfort food at the moment. I think it's because I can see signs of Spring-the daffodils are starting to grow and the days are getting longer, so I'm trying to make the most of the last weeks of winter. I hate canned chicken noodle soup....so, I was interested to see what I would think of a homemade version. It is seriously amazing. It's so comforting and tasty and even though it takes awhile, it is really easy to make. The recipe is originally from Williams-Sonoma, but I've adapted it to make it a little more tasty.

Chicken Noodle Soup

Ingredients

1 Tbsp canola oil
1 chicken, 3 1/2-4 lb., quartered
2 large yellow onions, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch rounds
1/2 cup tinned sweetcorn, drained and rinsed
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
4 cups water
2 fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp ground corriander
fine egg noodles, broken into 2-inch pieces

Directions

In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, warm the oil. When it's hot, add the chicken pieces, skin side down, and wook until well browned, 4-5min per side. Add the onions, carrots, broth, water, bay leaf, thyme sprigs, and corriander. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently until the meat is nearly falling off the bones, about 1 1/2 hours. Discard the bay leaf and thyme sprigs. Transfer the chicken to a colander and let cool to the touch.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package instructions. Drain the noodles in a colander and cool under cold, running water, set aside.

Remove the chicken meat from the bones, discarding the skin and bones, and cut the chicken into 1/2-inch pieces. Skim the fat from the broth and return the chicken to the pot along with the pasta. Cook, stirring until the pasta is heated through, 3-4min. Adjust seasonings as needed. Stir in parsley and serve immediately.

Serves 4
Note: If you want to save any of this, I recommend portioning some out to save before adding the noodles.

Source: adapted from Williams-Sonoma

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Beef Stew



I have recently started eating beef again after 15 years of not even a bite. Wow....I have really missed it!! So, I am discovering a lot of new things....which types of cut I like, what beef dishes I like, and how to cook beef. This is my first ever attempt at making beef stew. It was super yummy and brought back childhood memories since I guess that was the last time I had this dish. I highly recommend this recipe- it is wonderful comfort food and so tasty!

Beef Stew

Ingredients:
2lb beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2 in cubes
salt and pepper
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 Tbsp plain flour
1 cup dry red wine
2 cups beef broth
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried thyme
3 large carrots, peeled, sliced and steamed/boiled
1 cup frozen peas

Directions:
Preheat oven to 325*F.

Dry beef and season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 Tbsp of oil in a heavy-based pot over medium-high heat. Add the meat so the pieces are spread in one even layer and cook, not moving, until brown (2-3min). Use tongs to rotate so all sides of the pieces are brwoned (this will take 5-7mins). Tranfer beef to a medium bowl and add another 1 Tbsp oil to the pan, repeating with the remaining beef.

Reduce heat to medium and add remaining 1 Tbsp to the empty pan. Add onions and cook, scraping the bottom of the pan for browned bits until softened (about 5 min). Add garlic and cook for a further 30 seconds. Stir in the flour and cook until lightly coloured (1-2 min). Add the wine, scraping the bottom and stirring until thick and flour is dissolved.

Gradually add the beef broth, stirring constantly, scraping up the remaining browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add bay leaves adn thyme and return to simmer. Add beef and simmer.

Transfer to a casserole dish, cover, and place in oven and cook for 3hrs.

When there are 10-15min left of cooking time, add the carrots and peas to the stew and continue to cook for the remainder of the time.

Discard bay leaves and serve.

Source: adapted from Annie's Eats

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Madeleines

I feel like I have been neglecting my girl friends lately. I have been baking lots of treats for my guy, but sadly not for them. Yesterday I decided to fix that by making them some Madeleines. I thought Madeleines were the perfect choice as they are dainty and lady-like and beautiful. I have made them before using this recipe from Epicurious. This time I made a few adjustments and they turned out wonderfully. They were very light and tasty. Apparently, Madeleines are meant to have a characteristic hump on one side...only a couple of mine got that but they all tasted divine!



Madeleines
Makes about 20

Ingredients:
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/4tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 cup of cake flour
10 Tbsp (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly, plus extra melted butter for greasing
1-1 1/2 tsp baking powder

Powdered sugar

Directions:

Using an electric mixer, beat eggs and 2/3 cup sugar in a large bowl. Beat for 10min until white and fluffy. Beat in vanilla and salt.

Add flour and beat until blended. Gradually add melted butter in a steady stream, beating until blended.

Refrigerate batter for 30mins. Preheat oven to 375*F. Generously gread a madeleine pan with melted butter and then flour the pan. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Spoon a scant tablespoon of batter into each indentation in the pan. Do not overfill the indentations. Bake unti lpuffed and brown, about 8-10min. Cool for 5min before turning out of pan. Gently remove from pan. Repeat process, buttering and flouring pan before each batch. (Can be made 1 day ahead but they really are best still lukewarm from the oven).

Dust Madeleines with powdered sugar


Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Oreo Brownies

This is my ultimate favourite brownie recipe made even more awesome with the addition of oreos. The brownie recipe is from Nigella Lawson's book How to Be a Domestic Goddess. I highly recommend this book. The recipes are very reliable and super yummy. I usually tweek recipes quite a lot......but I have been making this brownie recipe for over 5 years, and the only thing I have changed is the baking time. These brownies are super thick and soft, so if you wanted a more flat, chewy brownie, I would recommend making half the recipe but using the same size pan. I'm sorry the recipe is in metric measurements-I have the metric version of the book!

When my guy first asked me to add Oreos to the brownies, I was very dubious. The thought of a big hard Oreo right in the middle of this chocolate perfection was not appealing! I. was. wrong.

The Oreos softened so that they were the same texture as the brownies, and the slightly different chocolate flavour of the Oreos made the brownies more interesting and unique. Go make these now!!



Brownies

Ingredients:

375g soft butter
375g best-quality dark chocolate
6 large eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
500g caster sugar
225g all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
300g chopped walnuts
Oreos, slightly crushed but so that large chunks remain

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 180*C (350*F). Line a 12x9 in. pan with foil or parchment.

Melt the butter and chocolate together in a large heavy-based saucepan. In a bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar and vanilla. Measure the flour into another bowl and add the salt.

When the chocolate mixture has melted, let it cool a bit before beating in the egg mixture, and then the nuts and flour. Beat to combine smoothly and then fold in the Oreo chunks. Scrape out of the saucepan into the lined pan. The Oreos should not be sticking out of the top of the mixture, as they are likely to burn.

Bake for 25min (that is Nigella's advice. I find that these brownies need closer to 50min! But keep a close eye on them.) When they're ready, the top will be pale but the middle will still be dense. A cake tester inserted should have moist crumbs attached. It is important to watch them closely as a few minutes can make the difference between gooey brownies and dry brownies.

Makes a maximum of 48

Valentine's Day Sugar Cookies

This Valentine's Day, my boy and I decided to exchange handmade gifts instead of buying each other presents. He doesn't have much of a sweet tooth, but he does love sugar cookies. This adapted recipe from Annie's Eats is wonderful and her tutorial on decorating with royal icing is really helpful. I'm not great at decorating with royal icing, but with practice I am getting better!




White Sugar Cookies

Ingredients:

1 c. butter
1 c. powdered sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp almond extract
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 vanilla pod
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 c. sifted flour

Directions:

Cream the butter. Add powdered sugar. Cut the vanilla pod in half and scrap out the inside. Add to the beaten egg with the almond extract, and vanilla extract. Add egg mixture to the butter mixture. Blend in the flour and salt.

Chill dough until firm. Roll to 1/4" thickness on a well-floured surface. Cut with cookie cutters and place on greased cookie sheets. Bake at 375*F for 8-10 min. Cookies should not brown.

Allow to cool completely before decorating.

Yields approx 2 dozen cookies depending on the size of the cookie cutter.


Royal Icing

Ingredients:

4 c. powdered sugar, sifted
2 Tbsp meringue powder
5 Tbsp water

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in the cowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speend until the sheen has disappeared and the icing has a matte appearance (7-10min). Transfer the contents of the mixing bowl to an air-tight container. This will be the stiffest consistency of the icing and not intended to be used for decoration.

Add water a little at a time and stir by hand until fully incorporated. Continue until icing has reaches a piping consistency. The icing should not be difficult to pipe. Transfer icing to separate airtight containers and colour icing as desired.

Using a pastry bag, pipe around the edges of each cookie. Let stand until icing is set. Keep remaining icing covered at all times so that it does not begin to harden.

Once all the cookies are edged, thin the remaining icing until it drips off the spoon easily when lifted and smooths in with that still in the bowl within 5-10 seconds. If the icing becomes too thin, add more sifted powdered sugar to thicken it.

Once the icing has reached the desired consistency, transfer to a squeeze bottle and flood the area surrounded by the piping on each cookie. Use a toothpick to help spread it to the edges.

Drop dots of the second icing colour into the just-flooded cookie. Drag a toothpick through the centre of the dots. Allow to set completely.






Monday, 31 January 2011

Cheddar-Ale Soup

As if a cake of chocolate mousses wasn't rich enough for one day....we decided to make Cheddar-Ale Soup for dinner. This soup was y-u-m but super rich and with each spoonful, I could almost feel the cholesterol building in my veins! Still, it was very good-the flavour was rich but mellow. The texture was perfectly creamy. And it's a pretty easy, quick soup to make!



Ingredients:
Serves 6

4 thick-cut bacon slices, cut into 3-inch strips
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 large onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup pale Ale
2 cups milk
2 cups chicken broth
1 1/4 lb. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Directions

In a 4 1/2 quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until crisp, about 8 min. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate to drain.

Discard all but 2 Tbsp of the fat in the pot. Reduce the heat to medium and melt the butter. Add the onion and carrots. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, about 20min.

Add the garlic and cook for 1 min.

Add the flour and cook, stirring for 3-4min. Add the ale and cook, stirring for 2-3 min.

Add the milk and broth, increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10-12 min. Remove the pot from the heaet and puree the soup until smooth.

Set the pot over medium-low heat and add the cheese by the handful, stirring constantly. Do not allow to boil. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and garnish with the bacon. Serve immediately.


Recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma

Dark and White Chocolate Mousse Joconde Entremet

The January 2011 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Astheroshe of the blog accro. She chose to challenge everyone to make a Biscuit Joconde Imprime to wrap around the Entremets dessert.


This really was quite a challenge! I spent 2 days making the Entremet and tried really hard to be precise in putting it together. I'm really happy with the end result. I'm usually an impatient and imprecise baker. But, this time I was determined to make a beautiful and tasty dessert.

I decided to fill my Entremet with 2 different mousse recipes. Unfortunately, the dark chocolate mousse turned out to be more like a ganache-very yummy but too dense and rich for this cake. Other than that it was great-the sponge and the white chocolate mousse were amazing!




Joconde Sponge

Yield: Two 1/2 size sheet pans or a 13"x18" jelly roll pan

Ingredients

3/4 cup almond meal
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup cake flour
3 large eggs
3 large egg whites
2 1/2 tsp superfine (caster) sugar
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Directions
1. In a clean mixing bowl, whip the egg whites and caster sugar to firm, glossy peaks. Reserve in a separate bowl to use later.
2. Sift almond flour, confectioners' sugar and cake flour.
3. On medium speed of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add the eggs a little at a time. Mix well after each addition. Mix until smooth and light.
4. Fold one third of reserved whipped egg whites into almond mixture. Fold in remaining whipped egg whites. Do not overmix.
5. Fold in melted butter. Reserve batter to use later.


Patterned Joconde-Decor Paste

Yield: Two 1/2 size sheet pans

Ingredients:
14 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened.
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
7 large egg whites
1 3/4 cup cake flour, sifted
Food colouring

Directions:

1. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
2. Gradually add egg whites and beat continuously.
3. Fold in sifted flour.
4. Tint batter with colouring to desired colour.

Preparing the Joconde:

1. Preheat oven to 400*F.
2. Using a piping bag with a large tip, pipe decor paste approximately 1/4 inch thick onto a silicone baking mat placed on a baking sheet. Pipe into a decorative pattern.
3. Place baking sheet with paste into the freezer and freeze hard (Approx 20min)
4. Remove from freezer. Quickly pour the Joconde batter over the design. Spread evenly to completely cover the Decor paste.
5. Bake at 400*F until joconde bounces back when slightly pressed, approximately 15min (mine only took about 7-10min so keep a close eye on it.)
6. Cool slightly before removing from the mat.
7. Flip the cooled cake onto a powdered sugared parchment paper. Remove the mat. Cake should be upright with patter showing.

Preparing the mold:

Start with a large piece of parchment paper laid flat on a baking sheet. Place a large piece of clingfilm over this.
Place a springform pan ring with the base removed on top of the clingfilm.
Pull the clingfilm tightly up on the outside of the mold. Line the inside of the ring with a curled piece of parchment paper overlapping the edge. Cut the parchment paper to be flush with the top of the mold.

Trim the cake of any dark, cripsy edges. You should have a rectangle shape like this:



Decide how thick you want your Joconde wrapper. Traditionally, it's half the height of your mold.
Measure the height and cut the cake into equal strips and cut a piece of sponge to fit the base.

Press the cake strips inside the mold, decorative side facing out. Once wrapped inside the mold, overlap the ends slightly. Gently push and press the ends to meet together to make a seamless cake. The mold is now ready to fill.

Chocolate Mousse

(adapted from Patrice Demers' La carte des desserts)\

Ingredients:
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 Tbsp granulated sugar
3 egg yolks
350g dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Beat the 500ml of cream into stiff peaks. Reserve.
2. In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks together with 1 Tbsp of sugar. In a saucepan, bring the remaining cream, milk, and sugar to a boil. Pour the boiling liquid gradually over the egg yolks, whisking constantly.
3. Return to saucepan and cook, stirring constantly until thick enough to cover the back of a wooden spoon. Pour the mixture through a strainer onto the chocolate and let sit for a mintue. Whisk together until smooth. Add vanilla extract.
4. Fold in 1/3 of the whipped cream. Fold in the remaining whipped cream.
5. Spread the mousse into the cake mold, filling to the top of the cake. Refrigerate until set.
White Chocolate Mousse

Ingredients:
3/4 tsp powdered gelatine.
1 Tbsp water
6 oz white chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1. Sprinkle the gelatine over the water in a small bowl and let stand 5 min.
2. Place white chocolate in a medium bowl. Bring 1/2 cup of the cream to a boil in a small saucepan.
3. Remove from the heat, add the gelatine mixture and stir until dissolved. Pour the hot cream mixture over the white chocolate and let stand about 1 min.
4. Whisk until the mixture is smooth. Cool to room temperature, about 5-8min, stirring occasionally.
5. In a clean bowl of a stand mixer, whip the remaining 1 cup of cream at medium speed until it begins to thicken. Increase speed to high and whip until soft peaks form.
6. Whisk in the white chocolate.
7. Spoon white chocolate mousse over the dark chocolate mouse and smooth top with an offset spatula.
8. Refrigerate for 2 1/2 hours.




When set, dust top with cocoa powder, if desired.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Chicken Pot Pie

This is one of my all-time favourite dinners! It is the epitome of comfort food and perfect on a cold winter's evening.



I consider myself something of a chicken pot pie connoisseur and this recipe is the best! It's easy to make, although it is time consuming. I use store-bought puff pastry because I find the idea of making puff pastry from scratch a little intimidating and store-bought tastes really good!

Chicken Pot Pie

Ingredients
3-4 chicken thighs, roasted and shredded
4 chicken drumsticks, roasted and shredded
1 cup petit pois peas
1/4 cup butter
1 chopped red onion
1 chopped garlic clove
1 sliced leek (optional)
1/4 cup plain flour
2 cups chicken broth
2/3 cup milk
unbaked puff pastry

Preheat oven to 220*C.

Boil carrots for 7 minutes, adding the peas for the last 3-4 mins. Drain

In a saucepan over medium heat, cook the onion and garlic in the butter. Add the leeks and cook until soft. Stir in the flour.

Slowly stir in the broth and milk. Stir well so there are no lumps. Simmer over a medium-low heat until thick (3-5min). Add the shredded chicken, peas and carrots.

Place the chicken mixture into the casserole dish. Cover with the pastry and cut away the excess. Tuck the edges under and seal with a fork, or pinch the pastry into ridges. Make slits in the top. Bake 20 min until the pastry is golden and the filling is bubbling. Cool for 10min.

Here is a picture of the filling....it's not the best picture, but it gives an idea of what the filling is like!