Thursday, November 26, 2009

Daring Bakers: November

cannoli

I am very late with my Daring Bakers post this month, and not because I left the cooking part until the last minute as I usually do! I had planned a whirlwind weekend away, not realizing that the reveal date this month fell smack in the middle of it. So this is just a short post now that I'm home, slipping in just before the end of November. My coffee guy makes a great cannoli. Earth-shatteringly crispy with an amazing tiramisu flavoured custard, or if you ask real nicely, he'll do half tiramisu and half ricotta. I was kind of excited about this challenge because it was a new technique that I had never tried before and there are infinite possibilities as to flavour combinations.

It took a few attempts at frying before I actually got cannoli I was happy with. I tried to make some in the traditional shape using a pasta cannelloni tube to shape them, but the only cannelloni I found had ridges in the sides and were therefore almost impossible to remove. The photo above is the only one that actually turned out. The rest I made into cone shapes using some small metal cones that my parents brought back with them from the restaurant they owned twenty years ago. These were much more successful, once I got the hang of it. Regulating the oil temperature was a little difficult, but very important to getting beautiful cannoli.

cannoli cone

I filled some with a white chocolate and orange blossom cream, with a sprinkling of pistachio nuts, which was delicious and delicately flavoured, and really worked well. I made a gingerbread ice cream for the cannoli cones, which was pretty amazing. I flavoured it with golden syrup, ginger and black pepper, but I would like to go back and really get the recipe perfect before I share it here, hopefully just in time for Christmas. And in hindsight, a 43°C day was probably not the best time to try and photograph ice cream. Although this month didn't involve any baking at all, I quite enjoyed this new challenge.

The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.

Cannoli

• 2 cups plain flour
• 2 tablespoons sugar
• 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
• ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 3 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
• 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
• ½ cup white or red wine
• 1 egg white
• Vegetable oil, for deep frying

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer or food processor, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon and salt. Sir in the oil, vinegar and enough of the wine to make a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and well blended, about 2 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball, cover with plastic and let rest in the fridge from 2 hours to overnight.
2. Cut the dough into two pieces. Keep the remaining dough covered while you work. Lightly flour a large work surface and roll the dough until super thin. I used a pasta maker to roll the dough. Cut out circles of dough (your choice of size) and roll the cut circle into an oval.
3. Oil the outside of the cannoli tubes. Roll a dough oval from the long side around each tube and dab a little egg white where the edges overlap. Press well to seal and set aside to let the egg white dry a little.
4. In a deep heavy saucepan, pour enough oil to reach a depth of 3 inches. Heat the oil to 190°C (375°F) on a deep fry thermometer. Have a tray lined with paper towels ready.
5. Carefully lower a few of the canola tubes into the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan. Fry the shells until golden, about 2 minutes, turning them so that they brown evenly.
6. Lift the cannoli out of the oil with slotted spoon. Using tongs, grasp the cannoli tube at one end. Very carefully remove the cannoli tube with the open sides straight up and down so that the oil flows back into the pan. Place the tube on paper towels or bags to drain. Repeat with the remaining tubes. While they are still hot, grasp the tubes with a potholder and pull the cannoli shells off the tubes with a pair of tongs, or with your hand protected by an oven mitt or towel.
7. Let the shells cool completely on the paper towels. Place shells on cooling rack until ready to fill.
8. Repeat making and frying the shells with the remaining dough. If you are reusing the cannoli tubes, let them cool before wrapping them in the dough.

White Chocolate and Orange Blossom Cream
• 180g white chocolate, chopped
• 300g pouring cream
• 1 teaspoon orange blossom water
• Chopped Pistachios, to garnish

1. Place white chocolate, 100ml of cream and orange blossom water into a small saucepan and heat, stirring until chocolate has melted. Allow to cool completely.
2. Whip the remaining cream to soft peaks. Fold the chocolate mixture into the whipped cream with a spatula and refrigerate if not firm enough to pipe.
3. Pipe mixture into cannoli and sprinkle with chopped pistachios. Dust with icing sugar, if desired and serve immediately.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Seasonal Envy

chocolate cherry pudding

I seem to suffer from seasonal envy, no matter what time of year it is. At the moment, I’m sitting in short sleeves with the air-conditioner on and craving churros and hot chocolate. In the depths of winter, I dribble over delicious ice creams and summer desserts on almost every Northern Hemisphere blog I read. The recipe I’m sharing today came from Delicious UK, one that I found months ago and have been impatiently waiting to make with the season’s first cherries.

I went on a bit of a summer fruit spending spree on the weekend. I didn’t intentionally set out to do so, but I couldn’t resist and came home with a few peaches, some gorgeous mangoes and a huge bag of cherries. I knew that this was their fate even before I’d left the store. Half of the cherries are halved and pitted, and the others are left intact, and cooked lightly in a sweet white wine syrup that enhances their natural flavour. I will definitely be cooking cherries this way again (and likely other berries as well) to serve with ice cream, or in trifle, or with meringue. The possibilities are endless!

The chocolate pudding came together quickly, and is sinfully rich. They would make fabulous dinner party desserts, and the pudding mixture can be made in advance and refrigerated for a few hours until you’re ready to bake them. Unfortunately mine wasn’t quite as gooey in the center as I would have liked as I forgot about them in the oven for a few minutes too long, but they were still amazing. Served with the cherries and a drizzling of syrup, this is a beautiful dessert, and definitely as delicious as it is pretty.

Gooey chocolate puddings with whole cherry sauce
Recipe from Delicious UK
Makes 6 puddings

Cherry Sauce
• 50g light muscovado sugar
• 100g cherries, halved and stoned, plus 100g cherries with stalks left on
• 150ml sweet white wine

Puddings
• 175g unsalted butter, cubed
• 175g dark chocolate, chopped
• 4 eggs, plus 4 egg yolks
• 75g caster sugar
• 75g plain flour, sifted

1. Place the muscovado sugar into a small saucepan with 2 tablespoons of water. Heat for about 2 minutes, stirring until the sugar has dissolved and starts to turn syrupy. Add the halved cherries and cook, stirring gently for 1 minute. Pour in the white wine and bring to the boil. Bubble for about 5 minutes to reduce, add the whole cherries and cook for a further minute. Set aside to cool.
2. Preheat the oven to 190°C. Grease 6 ramekins or cooking rings and place on baking tray.
3. Place the chocolate and butter into a heatproof bowl resting over a pan of simmering water, making sure that the water doesn’t touch the bowl. Heat until melted, then stir and remove the bowl from the pan.
4. Whisk the whole eggs, egg yolks and caster sugar with an electric mixer until very pale, foamy and doubled in volume. Gently fold in the melted chocolate mixture, followed by the flour. Chill for 10 minutes, or until the mixture has firmed up slightly.
5. Divide between the ramekins and bake for 8-10 minutes until risen and firm on the outside and squidgy in the center. Remove the puds from the rings or tins and place each of them on an individual plate. Spoon the cooled sauce over and around each pud to serve.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Macaron Day

macarons!

Happy Birthday Adriano Zumbo!

Three little words – Zumbo’s Macaron Day. Enough to make four sugar crazy girls and Karen’s Captain ditch whatever plans we had for the day and head down to Balmain. How does the legendary Adriano Zumbo celebrate his birthday? By creating sixty (!) flavours of macarons available for one day only! As far as we are concerned, Zumbo makes the best macarons in Sydney, not where technique is concerned, but the flavours he comes up with are so interesting and creative. We couldn’t wait to see what he had in store for us. And what better way to take part in the fun by ordering “one of each, please!”

macarons!

We took the box of goodies to the CafĂ© and sat down, admiring the colours. It was a thing of beauty. Zumbo didn’t quite make the 60 flavours he was aiming for, but our box contained 48 of the most beautiful macarons I’d ever seen. The list had been published the day before, so we chose at random, tasted and tried to determine what each one was. Here are my highlights:

Date and Orange – the first one we tried, but one I was still thinking about later that evening as a combination that worked incredibly well. Definitely kicked off with a bang.
Iced Vovo – Tasted so much like the biscuits, a great one for childhood nostalgia. The Finger Bun was also incredible.
Rice Pudding – Has been a firm favourite for a long time, so it was great to see it again!
Green Tea – Actually had a real matcha flavour, unlike so many green tea flavoured cakes and sweets, and I’m a green tea fiend so I loved this.
Lamington – Again, tasted so much like a real lamington with even a hint of strawberry jam, this was a real winner for me.
Chocolate and Passionfruit – It had been my favourite macaron at Lindt for a while, but this was so much better. An incredible balance of flavours.
Burnt Butter – Do I need to say more!
Mango & Tonka Bean – such a real, fresh mango flavour. Like biting into a mango when they’re at their seasonal peak.
Cheeseburger – I had to mention it, because I think it did what it set out to do, ie: taste like a real cheeseburger, complete with pickle and sesame seeds. It was a brilliant effort, but one I’m not sure I’d try again.
Other notable flavours were Caramello Koala, Strawberry Bubblegum, Popcorn, Blue Cheese and Pear, Olive Oil & Rosemary and Beer.

macarons!

It seemed like a good idea at the time, it really did, but after the fact, tucking into a huge box of greasy chips and gravy, with a headache from the sugar come-down and concerns about my blood sugar levels, we lament it might just be the craziest thing we’ve ever done. Until next year…

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Feels Like Yesterday

chorizo & thyme rolls

I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but every time I look at the calendar or flip the pages in my Moleskine diary, I am astounded by how fast this year has gone. It feels like yesterday, back this time last year, when I was stressed out of my mind finishing up major projects, thinking about graduating from college with a graphic design degree, and finding out the good news that my work wanted to put me on permanently.

This time last year I was still skipping out to Bourke St Bakery in Broadway for a much-needed long black in the morning, and often grabbing a chorizo and thyme roll to eat for lunch. They became one of my favourites, and I often had thoughts of trying to replicate it at home, but of course I never got around to it. That is, until I bought the Bourke St Bakery cookbook and flicked to the page that had the recipe. It had been almost a year since my last chorizo and thyme roll. I couldn’t resist.

The rolls are based on an olive oil dough that you can make with a ferment, or without. I chose to do it without this time, because the ferment takes a day to make, although I might try it this way in the future. The dough comes together easily in a stand mixer and I found the recipe easy to follow and very descriptive, letting you know what to look for each step of the way. To make the dough by hand is a little more difficult as it’s quite soft and sticky, but it’s definitely doable so don’t let that put you off. The dough itself is a great base for so many other recipes too, I used half of it to make the chorizo and thyme rolls, and the other half as pizza bases, and they were absolutely perfect.

The chorizo, caramelised onion and thyme flavours work so well together, and it tasted just as good as I remember from the bakery. I love the smell of bread baking this made my kitchen smell absolutely wonderful. They are great as a light lunch or brunch, but would be delicious as an accompaniment to wintery soup on a cold night. You could also experiment with other fillings as well – maybe sun-dried tomato with chilli and basil, or pumpkin, rosemary and blue cheese for something different.

Olive Oil Dough
Makes 1kg of dough, or two loaves
From the Bourke Street Bakery Cookbook by Paul Allam and David McGuinness

• 600g strong flour
• 13g fresh yeast (or 7g instant dried yeast hydrated with 10% of the water in the recipe)
• 400ml water
• 20ml extra virgin olive oil
• 20ml milk
• 1 ½ tablespoons sea salt

1. If using an electric mixer, place all of the ingredients into the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix on low speed for 2 minutes, then increase the speed to high and continue mixing for 5 minutes. The dough should come away from the edges of the bowl and have a silky complexion when done.
2. Place the dough in a container that has been sprayed with olive oil, cover with plastic wrap and set aside to bulk prove for 1 ½ hours.
3. Knock back the dough every 30 minutes during the bulk prove – twice in total. To knock back the dough, turn it onto a lightly floured surface and press out into a rectangle about 2.5cm thick. Use your hands to fold one third back onto itself, then repeat with the remaining third. Turn the dough 90 degrees and fold over again into thirds. Place back into the oiled container, cover with plastic wrap, and continue to bulk prove for a further 1 hour. Once the dough has finished its bulk prove it is ready to be divided and shaped.

Chorizo and Thyme Rolls
Makes 8 rolls

• 185g chorizo, cut into 1.5cm cubes
• 1 cup caramelised onion
• 6 thyme sprigs, leaves picked
• 2 teaspoons milk
• 1 kg olive oil dough

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Arrange the chorizo on baking trays lined with baking paper and cook for 5 minutes. Turn over and cook for a further 5 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.
2. In a bowl, mix together the chorizo and onion with their oils and add the thyme. Stir in the milk until well combined and set aside until needed.
3. To shape the olive oil dough, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface and roll it out into a 45 x 15cm rectangle, about 1.5cm thick. Lay the long side parallel with the edge of the bench and mark the dough into thirds with your finger. Lay half of the chorizo mixture inside the middle third of the dough, spreading it evenly to the edges. Fold the right third over the middle and lightly press down to push out any air bubbles.
4. Evenly spread the remaining chorizo mixture onto the folded third and fold over the left flap, lightly pressing down to seal.
5. Increase the oven temperature to 220°C (425°F). Use your fingers to mark the dough into thirds, this time parallel to the bench. Fold the top third over the middle third, then overlap with the bottom third. Press the dough down and leave to rest for 30 minutes.
6. Cut the dough into four strips, then cut each strip into two pieces. Place on a greased baking tray, then place in the oven, lightly sprayed with water. Reduce the oven temperature to 200°C (400°F) and cook for 20 minutes, turning on the tray after 10 minutes, or until cooked and golden.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Going Back

mesa lunga

I mentioned how much I loved Adelaide, right? Since I got back, every time I see a sale airfare I ponder the possibility of going back over there soon. South Australia has some of the best local produce in the country and the high standard is truly evident in the quality of the restaurant dishes. One such example was Mesa Lunga, a tapas bar and restaurant on Gouger Street in the city. For lunch, we decided to try some pizzas, though their menu spans tapas, pasta and substantial mains as well.

The Margherita Pizza with tomato salsa, fiore de latte, tomatoes and fresh basil leaves with garlic infused extra virgin olive oil and sea salt ($16.50) was gorgeous, fresh and full of flavour. But what really caught my eye was the Pizza Anatra with confit duck leg, raddichio, pecorino and orange dressing ($21). I can’t go past a beautiful duck pizza, and the combination of flavours and textures here was really interesting and delicious.

But what I loved most of all was the dessert – panna cotta with vanilla bean, gianduja bunelos and coffee ice cream. The flavours all worked so well together. The bunelos were perfectly cooked and crispy on the outside, and I liked that the ice cream wasn’t too sweet or artificial tasting. Unfortunately I didn’t photograph my glass of sangria ($8) but I’d like to make a mention of how special it was, delicately flavoured and dangerously easy to drink!

Mesa Lunga – Corner Morphett & Gouger St Adelaide

hoffman's winery

One of my favourite parts of the trip was the few days we spent in McLaren Vale. I love visiting wine country and seeing the grape vines line the roads left and right. Unfortunately for us, the Kitchen Door at Penny’s Hill was fully booked, but I did pick up a couple of bottles of my favourite Mr Riggs sticky. After driving through steep and slightly scary dirt roads, we found a winery called Hoffman’s. The restaurant there is a converted old shed with lots of character.

The Chicken Roulade was served on a bed of pan-fried polenta, baby spinach and apple slices. It was a great blend of flavours and he really enjoyed it. I had the braised Duck Legs, with pear, almond and paprika, served on a white bean mash with steamed spring vegetables. It was full of flavour and well cooked – the meat literally fell off the bones. I also liked that the white bean mash had some texture to it, to keep things interesting.

For dessert, there was a banana pudding, served warm with figs and vanilla ice cream. It was a classic, comforting dessert on a drizzly day. I had the chocolate mousse cake. It was served with a tangy lime yoghurt that was interesting, though I’m not sure it worked as well as it could have. The cake was delicious and rich, and we left with happy, full tummies. Surprisingly, the only let down about the meal was the glass of wine I ordered, which unfortunately overpowered the subtle spices in the main course.

Hoffman’s McLaren Vale – Ingoldby Rd, McLaren Flat, McLaren Vale

Monday, November 2, 2009

Picnic Basket

berry & hazelnut cake

We’ve had some gorgeous spring-like weather here in Sydney lately. The sun is shining, the jacaranda trees are in full bloom with fallen purple blossoms all over the footpaths, and it’s a magical time of year to be outside. Predictably, I’ve been thinking about picnics (as usual). It’s time to dust off the trusty checked blanket, squeeze some lemons for homemade lemonade, gather your favourite people and head off to your favourite park for a long lazy afternoon in the sun. Perfect.

Here’s a fantastic cake recipe that would be just perfect for your picnic basket, making the most of the great berries that are coming into season now, combined with the great flavours of hazelnut and ricotta. It travels well, and is quite easy and quick to make. It is also lovely served with ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream, and a nice cup of tea for an afternoon snack. I would also like to mention that I had a slice today for morning tea, two days after I made the cake and it was still surprisingly beautifully fresh and moist.

Unfortunately my cake doesn’t look much like the picture from Gourmet Traveller with a beautiful layer of berries in the middle, but it is still absolutely delicious, even if your berries sink to the bottom like mine did! I also thought that the cake definitely needed more berry flavour so I have increased the amount in the recipe below.

Berry, Hazelnut and Ricotta Cake
Adapted from Gourmet Traveller
Serves 8

• 120g soft butter
• 240g caster sugar
• 2 eggs
• 125ml (½ cup) buttermilk
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 225g plain flour
• 75g hazelnut meal
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
• 20g chopped hazelnuts (optional)

Ricotta Filling
• 150g ricotta
• 1 egg yolk
• 25g caster sugar
• ½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped

Berry Filling
• 250g mixed berries, such as strawberries, raspberries and blackberries
• 60g golden caster sugar
• 1 tablespoon lemon juice

1. Preheat the oven to 160°C (320°F) and center a rack in the center of the oven.
2. Beat the butter and sugar together in an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Add eggs and beat until smooth and creamy.
3. Add buttermilk and vanilla and beat to combine. Sift the flour, hazelnut meal, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda together. Add to the mixture and beat to combine. Stir through the chopped hazelnuts with a rubber spatula. Spoon half the mixture into the base of a greased and floured 18cm cake pan and set aside.
4. For ricotta filling, process ingredients in a food processor or with electric beaters until smooth, then spread over cake mix in pan.
5. For berry filling, combine berries, sugar and lemon in a bowl, then spoon over ricotta filling.
6. Spoon remaining cake mixture over berries and smooth the top. Bake for 1 hour or until golden and center is firm to touch when pressed gently with fingertips. Turn off oven and cool in oven.

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