Thursday, January 29, 2009

Daring Bakers: January

tuiles

After all of the richness and drama that came with last month’s Yule Log challenge, something light was certainly needed to restore some balance. Lighter-than-air tuiles were chosen to take the limelight this month, for the first challenge of 2009.

The January Challenge consisted of:
- Making tuiles using the recipe given
- Shaping them while warm
- Pairing the tuiles with something light or fruity

I will say first off that I was quite lucky to even complete the challenge this month, as the weather has been so hot and I wasn’t allowed to use the oven! On the one cooler day that I had planned to make them, I was sick with food poisoning and didn’t feel like baking at all. Luckily, last weekend I got another chance to give the recipe a try at my cousin’s house.

The final result as you see here was not what I had planned. Originally I wanted to shape the tuiles into little baskets, inside which I could put a scoop of raspberry sorbet, but it was much more difficult than I anticipated to form them into anything resembling a basket and I opted for rolling them into a wide cannoli shape using a small rolling pin instead. The raspberry whipped cream came together very easily and I love how pretty they look with a light dusting of icing sugar.

I’m glad I did get to participate in the challenge and make the recipe, even though it came with its share of frustrations when using an oven I’m not used to, and without the chance to have a second attempt at a later date. The first batch were over-baked and cracked when I shaped them, the next was slightly under-baked and they tore. And I can’t even count how many times I burnt my fingers! Luckily the failed attempts were delicious.

This month's challenge is brought to us by Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux.

tuiles

Tuiles with Raspberry Cream
Yields about 20 small tuiles

• 65g softened butter
• ½ cup sifted icing sugar

• ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
• 2 large egg whites (slightly whisked with a fork)

• ½ cup sifted plain flour


Raspberry Cream
• 2/3 cup thickened cream
• 2 tablespoons icing sugar, sifted
• ¼ cup raspberries, fresh or defrosted if frozen

1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC (350ºF). 

Using a hand whisk or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar and vanilla to a paste. Keep stirring while you gradually add the egg whites.
2. Add the flour in small batches and stir to achieve a homogeneous and smooth batter. Be careful to not over mix.
3. 
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up. (This batter will keep in the fridge for up to a week, take it out 30 minutes before you plan to use it).


4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease with either butter/spray and chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. This will help spread the batter more easily if using a stencil/cardboard template. Press the stencil on the baking sheet and use an offset spatula or palette knife to spread batter, leaving some room in between your shapes.
5. Bake for about 5-10 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown. Immediately release from baking sheet and proceed to shape/bend the cookies in the desired shape. These cookies have to be shaped when still warm, you might want to bake a small amount at a time.
6. To make the raspberry cream, place cream and icing sugar in a bowl and mix with electric beaters until soft peaks form. Roughly chop the raspberries and gently fold into the cream mixture. Pipe into the cooled tuiles and serve immediately.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Project

clafoutis

Back in November, when college was almost finished, I had a realisation. After 16 or so years of schooling in one form of another, I would be done with homework forever, and I have to say the thought sort of scared me a little. I needed a project, and what better than a baking challenge, where I could learn some fantastic new cooking skills and still ultimately enjoy the process with some delicious, tangible results at the end.

And where better to start than with my own bookshelf. I decided to bake a recipe from the gorgeous Tartine Bakery cookbook each month, because I’ve owned the book for quite a long time but hadn’t cooked a single recipe! I needed a partner in crime, and Mark from No Special Effects graciously agreed to join me on the challenges and promised to hassle me relentlessly if my motivation waned. Perfect.

The first recipe we chose was the Cherry Clafoutis, a classic French recipe. I’ve made clafoutis a few times, with strawberries and with plums but never with the traditional cherries. I would say with certainty that this is the best clafoutis recipe I’ve tried. The cherries have been wonderful this summer – I think I’ve almost eaten my own body weight in them – and they were just perfect baked in silky vanilla-flecked custard.

If you need any more convincing, I’ll tell you that we made it yesterday afternoon and by the evening it was all-but gone. I had a little sliver here and a little sliver there, because I couldn’t keep away. I’m looking forward to making this recipe again, perhaps with other summer fruit substituted for the cherries.

clafoutis

Clafoutis
Serves 8-10
Recipe from Tartine by Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson

• 2 cups whole milk
• ¾ cup sugar
• 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
• Pinch salt
• 3 large eggs
• 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon plain flour
• 2 cups cherries, pitted
• 2 tablespoons sugar, for topping

1. Preheat the oven to 220ºC (425ºF) and butter a 25cm (10 inch) ceramic quiche mold or pie dish.
2. In a small saucepan, combine milk, sugar, vanilla seeds and salt. Place over a medium heat and stir to dissolve the sugar until just under a boil.
3. While the milk mixture is heating, whisk the eggs and flour together in a heatproof bowl until smooth.
4. Remove the saucepan from the heat and slowly ladle the hot milk into the egg mixture while whisking constantly. Pour the mixture into the prepared mold and add the cherries, making sure they are evenly distributed.
5. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until just set in the center and slightly puffed and browned around the outside. Remove the custard from the oven and turn the temperature up to 260ºC (500ºF). Evenly sprinkle the sugar over the top of the clafoutis. Return to the oven for 5-10 minutes to caramelise the sugar. Watch carefully as it will darken quickly.
6. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes before slicing. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

High Praise

brownie

I recently realised I had no recipes for brownies on my blog, a glaring omission if I do say so myself. I have tried several different brownie recipes in the time I’ve been blogging. From delicious cheesecake swirled brownies to intriguing chocolate chilli brownies, I have yet to encounter a bad recipe. The problem is, you see, that they disappear so quickly that I never get to take a photo! And these walnut brownies are so good, that I literally had to hide the last one so I could photograph it the next day!

I like the versatility of the brownie, they can be the perfect picnic food served unadorned or with a dusting of icing sugar, or they can be really dressed up, with additions such as rum soaked raisins or chocolate chunks or topped with a scoop of ice cream and a drizzling of chocolate fudge sauce. They are one of the most perfect ways to consume chocolate, bar eating it plain. I love a crackly, crispy-topped brownie with a slightly gooey, still-warm center. And they are so easy to make, it requires a fair bit of will power on my part not to make them every other weekend.

I served these brownies at an informal dinner for friends and they received very high praise. They smelled amazing while they were baking, and tasted even better. One friend even who admitted she doesn’t usually like brownies said they were amazing, which is, I think, the highest compliment of all. So for a dessert that requires minimal effort but never fails to impress, brownies are perfect.

Walnut Brownies
Makes 10-12 pieces
Recipe adapted from Flavours by Donna Hay

• 200g butter
• 125g dark chocolate, chopped
• 2 cups sugar
• 4 eggs
• 1 cup plain flour
• 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
• ¼ teaspoon baking powder
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 1/3 cup walnuts, roughly chopped if large

1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC (350ºF). Line the base and sides of a 20cm square cake tin with baking paper.
2. Place the chocolate and butter in a saucepan over low heat and stir until smooth.
3. Place sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder, cocoa, chocolate mixture, vanilla and walnuts in a bowl and mix to combine.
4. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking tin and bake for 45-55 minutes or until set. Cool before cutting into squares to serve.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Natural Sweetness

honey peach

There hasn’t been a whole lot of baking around here lately. The incessantly hot weather combined with the lack of air conditioning makes turning on the oven almost the same as stepping foot in one. What there has been a lot of though, is ice cream. My blog is named after ice cream, after all, so it might actually be about time I started posting some!

I am in love with summer stone fruit at the moment, and I just can’t get enough. I think I ate three plums yesterday, and a handful of apricots as well. Produce wise, this is my favourite time of year. I picked up some beautiful peaches recently, and wanted to do something nice with them before they all just got eaten (leaning over the kitchen sink, juice dribbling down your arms.) I’d always loved the look of this Honey Peach Ice Cream from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home to Yours and thought it would be just perfect for summer. It is.

The custard base was relatively easy to make, and the most delicious custard I’ve ever eaten. The honey brought out the peaches’ natural sweetness, and it smelled incredible while they were simmering away. I might have actually swooned a little. The only change I would make next time is instead of adding diced, uncooked peaches to the churned ice cream right at the end, I would cook up and puree all of the peaches instead of just two, and add half to the custard, and the other half to the ice cream once it has been churned to create a nice peach swirl through the ice cream when it is frozen.

We ate the ice cream just by itself, but I can imagine it would be just perfect with a fruity pie, or a cobbler, or even to top a simple grilled or roasted peach. You could also substitute other stone fruit for the peaches. I think nectarines or apricots would work perfectly as well.

ice cream (11)

Honey Peach Ice Cream
Makes about 1L (1 Quart)
Recipe from Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

• 4 large ripe peaches, peeled and pitted
• ½ cup honey
• 1 cup milk
• 1 cup heavy cream
• 3 large egg yolks
• ½ cup sugar
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Coarsely chop half the peaches into 1cm chunks and place in a small saucepan. Add the honey and bring to a boil, and then lower the heat, cover the pan and cook, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes, until the peaches are soft but not mushy.
2. Transfer the mixture into a blender or food processor and puree. Set the peach puree aside while you make the custard.
3. Bring the milk and cream to a boil in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until very well blended and just slightly thickened. While still whisking, drizzle in about one third of the hot liquid to temper the eggs. Still whisking, slowly pour in the remaining liquid.
4. Pour the custard back into the pan and cook over medium heat, stirring without stopping until the custard thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon – if you run your finger down the bowl of the spoon, the custard should not run into the track.
5. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and pour the custard into a glass measuring cup or heatproof bowl. Stir in the vanilla and peach puree.
6. Refrigerate the custard until chilled before churning it.
7. Scrape the chilled custard into the bowl of an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. While it is churning, finely dice the remaining two peaches, then, just before the ice cream is thickened and ready, add the peaches and churn to blend.
8. Pack the ice cream into a container and freeze for at least 2 hours, until it is firm enough to scoop. It will keep for about 2 weeks in the freezer.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Super Foods

granita

My grandmother has a pomegranate tree in her back yard and ever since I can remember, I’ve loved the tiny ruby gem-like seeds inside them. I used to sit at the table help my grandpa dislodge the seeds and then often sneak a small handful from the large bowl that sat in the fridge, before or after a swim in the pool on a summer day. At the time, I don’t think any of us knew just how good they are for you – packed with antioxidants, they are one of nature’s very own super foods.

I was lucky enough to receive some bottles of POM Wonderful courtesy of the lovely Darcie at Zing. I was so excited to come home and find the beautiful bottles sitting in the fridge. My mind ticked over at all the things I could do with them – pomegranate cocktails were particularly tempting, but I decided on this wonderful pomegranate granita. And great minds think alike – Christie from Fig & Cherry made a pomegranate, lychee and gin granita recently too.

It is just perfect for a hot summer day, with no need to light the oven or even turn on the stove. All you need is a freezer and a fork. I think it’s something that my grandpa would have enjoyed too. It is such an easy to make and wonderfully refreshing treat. You can serve it with a wedge or spiral of fresh lime, or perhaps with some fresh pomegranate seeds. I love the dark ruby colour, and because I know you’re wondering…yes, it certainly does make your tongue turn purple!

Pomegranate and Lime Granita
Serves 6-8

• 2 bottles POM Wonderful 100% Juice (about 473mL each)
• 1 cup water
• Juice of ½ lime
• 2 tablespoons sugar

1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and stir to combine. Place in a large metal tray or cake tin and freeze for 30 minutes.
2. Use a fork to separate the ice crystals. Repeat every 30-40 minutes until you have a granita consistency, about 3 hours.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Sugarmill, Kings Cross

sugarmill (8)

As some of you know, I work as an in-house graphic designer for a company that owns and runs some of Sydney’s biggest bars and nightclubs. About fourteen to be exact, and needless to say, it keeps the two of us very busy! At about the time I started, the logos had just been finalised for two new venues opening in Kings Cross. From August to December, when they opened, I got a behind-the-scenes look at all the things that go into opening a bar. Now that Sugarmill and Kit & Kaboodle have been up and running for about a month now, I thought I’d go back and visit, for research purposes, of course!

Sugarmill is a bit of a throwback to the Kings Cross of old with intricate patterned ceilings, peeling paint on the walls and real antique tiling. ‘The Cross’ used to be Sydney’s own little bohemia, attracting the ‘artistically inclined’ and was famous for the restaurant scene. Touches of that history appear in the interiors at Sugarmill, like the amazing giant light fittings over the bar and the beautiful leaf-patterned wallpaper that leads you downstairs.

salad

fish & chips

The menu is also interesting, with up-scale pub food – steaks, ribs, schnitzel and subs – and a variety of share plates, but this is definitely some of the best pub grub I’ve ever had. The cocktail list is made up of primarily classic cocktails, but they’re done well, and reasonably priced to boot. However, if you want something a little more exotic, I’d suggest heading upstairs to Kit & Kaboodle. I had the beetroot, goat’s cheese and walnut salad with mandarin dressing ($13.50) and my cousin ordered the battered cod with fries and mushy peas ($15). I really liked my salad; it had a great variety of flavours and textures, from the crunchy walnuts to the tangy dressing, and it worked really well together. The fish was also delicious, encased in a tasty but not greasy batter. The fries were crunchy and crisp, and the serving was so generous that between us, we couldn’t finish them!

I really like the atmosphere at Sugarmill. I think it would be an equally great place for a party or a pub lunch, a few cocktails with the girls or a beer after work.

cosmo

Sugarmill on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 2, 2009

2008 Favourites

2008 favourites

Although it seemed to fly past so quickly, 2008 was a great year for me, with some accomplishments that I’m very proud of – I graduated from college, I got a job, I completed Daring Bakers December. I learned so much, and I feel like I’ve finally started to become the person I want to be. It’s a pretty good feeling. I’m hopeful that 2009 will be even better, for me and for all of you. Happy New Year!

I thought I would share some of my favourite recipes from 2008, the ones that really made me say yum. I hope that if you try them, that you enjoy them as much as we did. They’re in the order of when they were posted.

Chocolate, Whisky and Raisin Cake, the one that got Dorie Greenspan fired. I made it for my Nanna’s birthday last January and it was so great that most of us had a second slice, even though we were already full.

Lamb, Fig and Walnut burgers, this is actually a recipe I came up with myself after being given some figs from Nanna’s garden. We all loved it and I’m looking forward to making it again this year.

Carrot Cake, it’s my dad’s favourite and I think this time I perfected it. It’s absolutely delicious, especially with cream cheese icing.

Pear Crumble, with brown butter and vanilla bean, you just can’t go wrong. Perfect for autumn and winter, I think this is the recipe that started my Pear Obsession 2008.

Lemon Flan with Strawberry and Thyme Compote, this recipe was so much better than I expected it to be! It is a sophisticated dessert that requires little effort, perfect for dinner parties.

Strawberry and Rhubarb Pie, my first attempt at a lattice crust, and I think its safe to say that more practice is needed. I love rhubarb and I love strawberries, and I think I might have eaten half of this pie by myself.

Chocolate and Sticky Date Pudding, this recipe was a bit of an adventure but one of my winter favourites. The chocolate butterscotch sauce was the perfect accompaniment, and a scoop of vanilla ice cream of course.

Peter Reinhart’s Pizza, in 2008 I became obsessed with making home made pizza. This recipe was for the Daring Bakers Challenge in October, and it was absolutely delicious. I also got to pretend I was in Italy, and toss the dough in the air!

Blueberry and Sour Cream Icecream, another Dorie Greenspan recipe, this ice cream is absolutely perfect for summer. I love the vibrant purple colour and its slightly tangy taste.

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