Monday, 26 November 2007

Daring Baker November - Tender Potato Bread

This months challenge was chosen by one of the Daring Bakers' Queens of bread making - Tanna of My Kitchen In Halfcups.

This month celebrates the first Birthday of the Daring Bakers group, and my how Lis and Yvonne’s baby has grown wings and started to fly around the world. It has appealed to so many of us, who have wanted to push our own boundries and participate in a shared baking experience, the good and the bad, along the way!

Back to this month though, this months challenge is tender potato bread from Home Baking: The Artful Mix of Flour and Tradition Around the World by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. I’ve mentioned before that bread making is not my comfort zone, but one of the reasons I wanted to be a Daring Baker was to break past my faltering bread making attempts.

At this time of year (along with just about everybody else…) I have really very little spare time, so it was only yesterday that I managed to fit in this bread, and I was never a student who did her best work under last minute coursework stress! However, it was either give it a go and hope for the best or duck out completely: so here it is.

I’ve baked with potatoes before; I once made potato scones, and they were the most light and tender little scone / biscuits, memorable even though it was so long ago. I remembered the very soft almost light dough. So I was expecting the potato bread dough to be light as well, and it was compared to regular bread. The instructions said it would be a sticky dough – well they weren’t wrong there, I added the uper amount of flour in the recipe and had to use a spatula in one had to ‘knead’ it at it was extremely determined to stick to the work top! I persevered though, and it looked sort of normal, if still very sticky at the end of kneading. I proofed it, knocked it back and tried to shape it. It was more a splodge job than a shape it job! So I splodged (ahem, rustically shaped….) my bread into a round and some rolls, what we would call buns or softies here.

Upon second proofing the ‘formed’ bread was keen to go sideways, and only a little upwards. I am not a confident bread baker (cakes are more my thing!) so I am assuming it was me who did something wrong. I baked them and ended up with definitely European breads, they had the taste and texture of ciabatta, but as this isn’t what they were supposed to be something must have gone amiss somewhere. The buns would make great sandwiches, and the big bread a stuffed bread sandwich, and although they weren’t looking looking, I won’t hold that against them, as the taste was good, crispy outside and nutty with a little wholemeal flour and tender – sweet and savoury with the potatoes inside.

I do like to try things that are not in my normal baking range, as the more I do it the more I learn, it is a real challenge! Thank you to Tanna for choosing this months challenge and if you would like the recipe look here. More Tender Potato Breads on the sites of the Daring Bakers, just click away. Find the recipe here. Thanks you Tanna for a great challenge!

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Nigella Express….

Having released myself from a high target of recipes from Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson, my enthusiasm for it has returned again, it’s funny how something enjoyable can become a chore if you feel you are duty bound to do it. Ah well I’m sure there is a life lesson to be learned there, but I want you to be thinking happy thoughts, so I’m not going down that road at the moment!

33. Gammon
This one was barely a recipe, but I’m glad it was there because it was the pan juices from frying the gammon mixed with a little honey, parsley and vinegar, and it lifted them into something really delicious.

34. Ceaser Cornets
Unless you are vegetarian you have to give this a go, it’s simply cooked chicken and lettuce tossed with a kind-of-Ceaser dressing, and of course it’s really quick. It’s not so pretty to look at, but a definite deli delight.

35. Chicken Snitzel
Skinless, boneless chicken breasts sauteed in the pan with bacon juices and wine. This was okay, we wanted a bit more juices or sauce. Cream would have probably helped, but I wanted this as a weeknight meal, when I don’t always want the extra calories ….

36. Caribbean Creams
Anyone who has made Nigella’s Barbados Cream from How To Eat will see where this recipe has evolved from, I like the Barbados cream so felt I had to give this one a go! Bananas, Malibu, coconut yoghurt and cream, with some sugar sprinkled over the top. It’s not a pretty pudding, and I think it could drop the Malibu, but I loved this. I had to search out the coconut yoghurt, but then I had to stop myself from eating it, it was just that good! It was lucky there was enough left for the pudding!

37. Chocolate & Pear Pudding
I made this one last night, and it went down a treat. Having a soft spot for tinned pears (and peaches too for that matter….) I did have this one marked, but after seeing Nigella make it on the TV series – it had to be made and soon. Our weather had been bucketing for a few days now, and we’d been out for a teddy bears picnic locally in the afternoon. This was just the pudding! It needs the chocolate sauce (I used the one from the introduction to the recipe) and also a slick of double cream, in my opinion! Even better, it made a big pudding, so there is some left for tonight!

Also as an extra, being the Nigella fan I am I had to get a set of these for my Christmas time kitchen, Living Kitchen measuring cups in red melamine! They are incredibly red, and the box too.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Irish Cream Tiramisu

32. Irish Cream Tiramisu
I’m giving this one a whole post to itself, so that I can share my adapted version of Nigella’s recipe and also so that I can take it to Peabody’s virtual Housewarming Party, good luck sweetie in your lovely new home =)

I like tiramisu, and testement to this is the number of recipes for it I’ve tried. My other two favourites are Delia Smith’s one in The Winter Collection with rum and a berry one in the in one of the Avoca cookbooks (which was my ‘new’ tiramisu last year) with cassis and summer fruits. Actually I must make that one again…I try a new tiramisu most years and was very much looking forward to this one, especially after hearing rave reviews from fellow Nigella-ites.

Nigella’s rich and gorgeous one has Irish cream in it, and that to me means Bailey’s Irish Cream. I don’t drink much, hardly ever in fact, but the very occasional night cap of this drink is a little treat.

I’ve altered this recipe here by halving it to start with, as I was really trying it just for us, and we probably would eat the whole lot over two or three days! So I halved it and made it in an oval pyrex dish. I’ve made the coffee less strong, because I’ve learned that is how we like it, and although I halved it I left the egg whites the same to lighten the marscapone a little more.

This is a beautiful tiramisu, and the Bailey’s Irish Cream settles into it so well; it’s as if it’s always been there. It is not a very sweet pudding this one, but oddly that seems to be in it’s favour, as it seems to lighten it somehow, and balance it at the same time. I had a little debate with myself as to if or not I’d up the sugar next time – and there will be a next time – perhaps a little, but then again perhaps not. Ah if this were the hardest decision life would be so sweet…
Also for anyone who requested the hokey pokey recipe of a couple of posts ago, I've added on the recipe.

Irish Cream Tiramisu
Adapted from Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson

175ml coffee, made with 175 ml water and 2 teaspoons instant expresso or coffee
130ml Bailey’s Cream liqueur
1 x 200g Savoiardi (Italian lady Finger Biscuits) or trifle sponge fingers
2 eggs
40g caster sugar
250g mascarpone
1 teaspoon cocoa powder, heaped

1)Mix the coffee with 90mls Bailey’s in a shallow bowl.
2)Dip half the biscuits into this liquid, until damp but not soggy. Line the bottom of your dish with them.
3)Separate the eggs, keeping the 2 yolks and then one egg white. Whisk the two egg yolks and the sugar until thick and pale yellow, then fold in the remaining 40ml of Baileys, and the mascarpone to make a moussy mixture.
4) Whisk the single egg white until thick and frothy, fold into the mascarpone mixture, and spread half of this on top of the dipped biscuits in the dish.
5) Repeat the dipping and layering with the other half of the fingers into the dish and then top with the second half of the marscapone mix.
6) Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge over night. When ready to serve use a small sieve or tea strainer to sift over the cocoa powder. Serves 6.

Friday, 9 November 2007

Chocolate Owl Cupcakes

These little fellows came about as a project to make with children. I based them on a magazine article from Good Food magazine which was published last year or the year before (I think). It was about cooking for this time of year by Tana Ramsay, and she had done much bigger owls with different sweets and ears. I’ve played about with the decoration idea a bit and changed it onto mini cupcakes; the originals were a play on butterfly cakes. The only bit I have left from Tana’s original idea is the eyes, but still I feel I must give thanks to the original for its inspiration.

The cakes and icing both come from a new book called Secrets of Aga Cakes by Lucy Young (her third book). I’m planning another post on this book later, so won’t go into details, except to say I bought it for the author not the Aga aspect – as I don’t own one! Anyhow the cakes are the bases from her indulgent chocolate cupcakes and the icing is from a chocolate pecan traybake recipe. The cake has margarine in it, and I’m not big on margarine, but here it really works, and the little cakes taste light and chocolate-y - must be butter in the icing though!

Actually these are really good just as cupcakes with the frosting if you don’t want to go down the owl route, and I plan on making them that way later in the year with some wafer roses on top.

Chocolate Cupcakes
From different recipes in Lucy Young’s Secrets of Aga Cakes.
Makes 24 mini cupcakes
For the cakes:
25g cocoa powder
3 tablespoons boiling water
100g baking margarine
100g caster sugar
75g Self Raising Flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs

Mix cocoa and water, then add the rest of the cake ingredients and mix. Spoon into cases and bake for 10-12 minutes at 180 oC.

For the Frosting:
75g soft butter
225g icing sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons cocoa powder, sifted
1 ½ to 2 tablespoons boiling water

Mix together!

Owls Decoration
3 x Terry’s chocolate oranges (you’ll have odd shaped bits left over)
7 bags Maltesers
Mini chocolate buttons x 1 box
Orange icing tube x 1
Ice cakes with the chocolate frosting, then place two maltesers per cake and a slice of chocolate orange, which you’ve cut into 3 parts – use only the two outside angled bits – to make the ears. Place a splodge of orange icing on each malteser and top with a mini chocolate button. Finally pipe a small line between the eyes for the beak.

Friday, 2 November 2007

Nigella Express, nearing the end of the road.

I’ve decided. I’m changing the number of Express Recipes for the project to 40. I’m sure I’ll cook more than that, because I still love the book - but at a leisurely pace, and after the 40 you’ll just see the lookers! A lot of the food I’ve chosen isn’t really what I’d have planned to blog otherwise, and indeed I’ve never blogged everything I cook, but I’d rather blog from different books, after all this is Cooking The Books, not Book! I hope that you won’t think badly of me for reducing the number of recipes, and I hope that I’ve not disappointed anyone. Having bought so many new books with the end of year influx of new books, I want to write about what is current in my kitchen, and I feel a bit limited by my self imposed constraints.

This said I will still continue until I get to 40, then move on to other kitchen adventures, with only the occasional revisit to Nigella Express.

28. Hokey Pokey
My Mum has told me that when she and her Sister where children and their Mum went out leaving Dad in charge he used to make sweets with them. Either Scottish tablet or this hokey pokey, which is also known as cinder toffee or in this locality as puff candy. It’s easy to see why it’s called puff candy, as it’s sugar and golden syrup boiled to a caramel then some bicarbonate of soda is added and it puffs up and causes air holes in the candy. You might be more familiar with what I mean if you think of our Crunchie Bar or Violet Crumbles in Australia.
I’ve come across hokey pokey before when we were in New Zealand, I remember a hokey pokey ice cream, which was a vanilla ice cream with very small pieces of honeycomb folded through it, mmm.
So I made this for my Mum and she was happy with it, it brought back totally different good memories for her and me too =)

29. Calamari
I have always loved calamari in batter with a garlic mayo or lemon mayo dip. When we are in Paris we have it for a main course in a little bistro opposite the hotel we stay in. I know it’s not very healthy, but every once in a blue moon it’s a treat. The flour and semolina that the squid rings are coated in has Old Bay seasoning added in, and it adds a savoury edge, though not a specific spice taste. I guess I should own up that I have only deep fried anything at home in my entire life maybe four times, so I’m no expert at deep frying! Still this was easy and pretty speedy too, even considering I had to sort out my own squid, as bought sliced is not available where I live.
We liked this, I think it could have been crispier, but that is, I’m sure, down to my lack of confidence deep frying. After I’d sliced the squid the hand that had been in contact with it became a bit sore, puffy and red. Ten minutes after we had finished supper I had a migrane headache. I must have some sensitivity to my beloved calamari, and I would never have thought that it could cause a migrane! It’s not fair (wail)!

30. Jumbleberry Crumble
This meant to be an on hand in the freezer pudding that just needs a few minutes assembling before being baked in the oven. I did use the suggested mixed frozen berries, but I just put the made up crumble in the fridge overnight, so it was very cold, but not frozen. Nigella made this on the TV programme to go with the book, but instead of the individual portions as in the recipe she doubled the topping mixture and altered the base quantities a bit. I made it as one big pudding, as crumble is Hubby's favourite pudding and a single helping might have seemed a bit ungenerous! I’ve given the quantities I used below, I think they are right to what Nigella made except that I added in a little more sugar to the berries, as I’ve found the boxed frozen berries to be green-rhubarb-sour in the past.
It was a lovely crumble, like the Blackberry Crisp previously covered in this project the fruit part had a wonderful colour, and I couldn’t help smile at the name ‘Jumbleberry’. I might just have to keep a box of berries in the freezer so that I have a fast pudding at the ready!

31. Banana and Butterscotch Muffins
These are a quick muffin recipe that Nigella came up with to use up the never-ending supply of over ripe bananas in her house. They are quick to mix up, as most muffin recipes are, and ostensibly a banana muffin but made something different with the addition of some butterscotch chips. Also good with white and dark chocolate chips the recipe says… They were good plain muffins, the only alteration to the recipe I made was to hold back some of the butterscotch chips and sprinkle on the top before baking in the oven. At their best very fresh.

Hokey Pokey
From Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson courtesy of here .
I was going to say that this isn't as fun as it sounds, but then I reconsidered. Hokey pokey is the Cornish term for honeycomb, and is wonderful eaten in golden shards or crumbled into the best vanilla ice cream. I include it here as it is the perfect present to take to a dinner party. Better than flowers, as they need to be put into a vase, better than chocolate, which people tend to smile politely at, but put away in a drawer. I've found no one can resist a bit of hokey pokey. The quantities I've specified don't make an awful lot - enough to fill a little tin 12 cm diameter and 6 cm deep / 4 and a half inches diameter and 2 and a half inches deep -but any more and you'd be sued by your dentist.

1/2 cup sugar

4 tablespoons dark corn syrup

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

Put the sugar and syrup into a saucepan and stir together to mix. You can't stir once the pan's on the heat, though.
Place the pan on the heat and let the mixture first melt and then turn to goo and then a bubbling mass the color of maple syrup - this will take 3 minutes or so.
Off the heat, whisk in the baking soda and watch the syrup turn into a whooshing cloud of aerated pale gold. Turn this immediately onto a piece of baking parchment or greased foil.
Leave until set and then bash at it, so that it splinters into many glinting pieces.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Halloween Cakes

Here are a couple of pictures of some easy cupcakes, vanilla sponge in mini cupcake cases (fairy cakes from Nigella Lawson's How To Be A Domestic Goddess) with some Halloween orange icing and bought jellies on top. The jellies are cute, and give ideas for at home icing in a year when there is a little more time! I made two pumpkin platters of these to take to a party, it was great fun, the little ones had such a good time =)