Wednesday 28 May 2008

May 2008 Daring Bakers - Opéra Cake

Opéra Cake

It’s that time of the month again, Daring Baker time! My first year as a Daring Baker!! This months challenge was chosen by the co-founders Lis at La Mia Cusina and Ivonne at Cream Puffs In Venice together with two new members Fran at Apples Peaches Pumpkin Pie and Shea at Whiskful. They chose a cake that any keen baker would have on their list of to-makes – Opera Cake, oh la la! The recipe is a mix of different layers and recipes from two fabulous cookbooks - Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets and Tish Boyle and Timothy Moriarty’s Chocolate Passion. I own both, but up until now had not cooked from either.

The syrup soaked sponge layers and buttercream.

Opéra Cake is a cake of many acts, and is indeed a bit of a performance, but this is not a negative comment, as I enjoyed making and then assembling the parts to make a big, rich and decadent pastry shop cake. The layers are joconde (almond sponge), syrup, butter cream, white chocolate mousse and white chocolate ganache. The flavouring was up to the individual baker, but the colours were to be pale and Springtime like. I chose a French liqueur to flavour mine, Framboise (raspberry). I forgot to put the melted butter on the joconde, but it still seemed fine without it - I was very relieved =)

In the process of being cut into slices. The glitter was really over the top - just the yellow sugar was more elegant!

I decorated with pink edible glitter to reflect the Frambroise and yellow sugar crystals so that it would be yellow as well in keeping with the suggested dedication of this post to Barbara, who has worked so hard with her Taste of Yellow (in support of) LiveSTRONG Foundation cancer events. Here’s to you Barbara!

Yum yum!

Thanks to Lis, Ivonne, Fran and Shea for a fun challenge. As always if you’d like to see more Daring Baker Opéra Cake posts click to blogroll link here – I will be!

Thursday 15 May 2008

Budino Di Cioccolato with Chocolate Macaroons

Here is a lovely little chocolate pudding recipe, that is easy to make and so good to eat. I’ve been cooking a lot from Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson again, and there will soon be a multi recipe post, but I thought these little budinos deserved their own post.
If you think of American pudding like this butterscotch one I made last year, but made with chocolate you will know what sort of dessert this is. The pudding is silky, gorgeous and full of chocolate taste. The biscuits chocolatey and full of ground almonds – a little crunchy on the outside and chewy and moist in the middle. The children and adults that I served this to all loved them. I’m now wondering how soon I can make them again, very soon probably, judging by the requests for more I’ve had!
As with all my Nigella posts I don’t post all the recipes, because I couldn’t post a huge chunk from one book, but luckily the recipes for both these are online, so if you would like to make them click here for the budino and here for the macaroons. If you have the book you’ll find them in the Hey Presto chapter. These are no 46 and 47 in my Nigella project

Tuesday 13 May 2008

Cookbook & Other Memes

Well it's taken me far too long, but here I am catching up on some memes (please forgive me for the amount of time gone by!) but thank you very much to everyone who memed me, I appreciate it a lot. =)

Amanda memed me last August with two awards:


Thank you very much Amanda for your kindness I’m very honoured =)
I’d like to pass both of these onto:

Anna at Anna’s Kitchen Table
Lisa at The Chambermaid
George at Culinary Travels of a Kitchen Goddess
Brenda at Tea and Wheaten Bread
Cynthia at Tastes Like Home

My next meme also from last August was from Cynthia, a Middle Name Meme, I do have a middle name but I’ve chosen to use another name. Here are the rules:

Chose a middle name real or ficticious and give a fact about yourself for each letter of the name.


J - Jam making is not a lost art in our house – I love to make jam.

E - Enchiladas is a food thing that I only tasted for the fist time last week, they were good.
S - Sweet things and sugar are very close to my heart (just in case you all hadn’t realised this!)
S - Sugarplum is a word that I like a lot because it conjures up (for me) such visions of colourful prettiness and beauty.

Next Meme is a Cookbook one, and this is a real fun one! Thank you for passing this one onto me, thanks to Pat of Pat’s Food Blog and KJ of A Cracking Good Egg. Here are the rules:

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.

The first two books I looked at Healthy Appetite by Gordon Ramsay and Hello, Cupcake! By Karen Tack and Alan Richardson have pictures in p123! However here is the next one:

Three Guys From Miami Cook Cuban by Glenn Lindgren, Raul Musibay and Jorge Castillo

"Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer, uncovered, until all the water boils away – about 30 to 45 minutes. Don’t, as we have, take this opportunity to walk the dog, mow the lawn, or shoot the breeze with the next door neighbour. You must remain alert and vigilant."

I’d like to pass the last two memes (middle name and cookbook) onto:

Violets at Flowers In The Kitchen
Pistachio at Pistachio en la Cocina
Rosie at Rosie Bakes a Peace of Cake
Maria at The Goddesses Kitchen and
Patricia at Technicolour Kitchen

I hope you all enjoy them =)

Sunday 11 May 2008

Totally Chocolate Chip Cookies

The other night I was taken by the need to bake something, but not just anything. Something chocolate and comforting. I turned to Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Express and her Instant Calmer chapter, and these cookies seemed to fit the bill perfectly. They really are a totally chocolate experience, just knowing you had some of these in the house should be a calmer in itself!

These are also in print in Elinor Klivans’s Big Fat Cookies, where in turn Nigella found them. Recipes that pass from one cook to another like this are usually good recipes, ones that stand the test of several kitchens =) I mention this both to give credit and to show where the recipe hails from.

This is the full recipe here, but I halved it and just made 6 whopping cookies! I did consider down sizing them, but decided this wasn’t in the spirit of things, so left them as the six colossal cookies that they are. I’ve copied the recipe across from here. My note for the recipe is that I thought they were at their best a day or two after making them, they seemed to get more fudgy. Sometimes only chocolate will do!

45 Totally Chocolate Chip Cookies
From Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Express.

125g/4oz dark chocolate
150g/5¼oz plain flour
30g/1oz cocoa, sifted
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda½ tsp salt
125g/4oz unsalted butter, softened
75g/2½oz light brown sugar
50g/2oz caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 free-range egg, cold from the fridge
350g/12¼oz dark chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3.
2. Break the 125g/4oz dark chocolate into pieces and place into a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. Heat, stirring occasionally, until melted.
3. Place the flour, cocoa, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large bowl and mix well.
4. In another bowl, cream the butter and two sugars together until light and fluffy. Add the melted chocolate and stir well.
5. Beat in the vanilla extract and crack in the egg, then mix in the dry ingredients. Finally stir in the chocolate chips.
6. Scoop out 12 equal portions of the mixture - an ice cream scoop and a palette knife are the best tools for the job - and place onto a lined baking sheet about 6cm/2½in apart. Do not flatten them.
7. Transfer to the oven and bake for 18 minutes, then test with a skewer - it should come out semi-clean and not wet with batter. If you pierce a chocolate chip, try again.
8. Leave the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 4-5 minutes, then transfer them to a cooling rack to harden as they cool.

Thursday 8 May 2008

Breakfast Barefoot Contessa Style

Having gotten myself into a bit of a weekend breakfast rut, I decided it was time to lift myself out of it, and were did I look for inspiration? Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. They have been running her shows on UKTV Food for a while now, and I manage to catch a few new episodes which led me into an Ina recipe spree (more of which in later posts).

As I made her strawberry scones and granola, I had visions of walking into her deli and buying them, which is a bit silly really I suppose as I’ve never been there, and because it’s now shut am never likely to get there! Still I imagine it was a busy place to be on a Saturday morning.

Since Barefoot Contessa Cookbook arrived a few years ago it’s the strained breakfast orange yoghurt that I’ve not managed to get past, we really love it, and I now have yoghurt in the fridge ready for straining, will do that this weekend. The past couple of weekends though had been lit up at breakfast time by strawberry scones and granola.

The scones are nothing like a British scone, they are a lot richer for starters, with a big amount of butter and cream in the mixture. They were a bit rich for me, but maybe I was being too fussy as everyone else who tried them liked them. What I did like about them was the diced up dried strawberries - it was like a little mouthful of jam when one popped inyour mouth, mmmmm.

Home made granola has taken me a while to get right, I’ve resorted to baking it at much lower temperatures in the oven, and this time this particular granola came out perfectly, a fabulous mixture of oats, fruit and cashew nuts. I liked that the sweetener was honey and not sugar, it fits in better with my healthy / natural image of granola.

The oats with their coating baked and crispy.

The fruit and nut add ins.

Mix together to arrive at this, a great, filling and energy giving breakfast! Now I’ve had my fill of granola as is with milk, granola muffins here we come!

A halved recipe from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Cookbook
Click here for the full recipe courtesy of the Food Network. My Note: I cooked this at 160oC for 30 minutes and used sunflower oil.

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 cup sweetened shredded coconut

1 cup sliced almonds

3 fl oz / vegetable oil

2 fl oz / 1/4 cup good honey

3/4 cup small diced dried apricots

1 cup small diced dried figs

1/2 cup dried cherries

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup roasted, unsalted cashews

Preheat the oven to 170oC / 350oF.
(1)Toss the oats, coconut, and almonds together in a large bowl. Whisk together the oil and honey in a small bowl. Pour the liquids over the oat mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until all the oats and nuts are coated.
(2) Pour onto a 13 by 18 by 1-inch baking tin / sheet pan. Bake, stirring occasionally with a spatula, until the mixture turns a nice, even, golden brown, about 45 minutes.
(3)Remove the granola from the oven and allow to cool, stirring occasionally. Add the apricots, figs, cherries, cranberries, and cashews. Store the cooled granola in an airtight container.

Monday 5 May 2008

10 Pictures and Awards!

I’ve recently been given a number of awards from blogging friends, thank you all!

First there is E for Excellence, which I was awarded by three lovely ladies - Elle of Feeding My Enthusiasms, Rosie of Rosie Bakes a Peace of Cake and also Anna of At Anna's Kitchen table. I’d like to pass it onto

Then there was the You Make My Day award which the lovely Maria of The Goddesses Kitchen gave me, thank you Maria!

I and going to pass this one onto Amanda at Little Foodies, who is I hope getting better every day after her operation – you are missed, hope you will be back before too long - I think of you often!

Finally, Anna from At Anna's Kitchen Table and Erica from Oh My Apple Pie also tagged me for Top Ten Pictures meme, this was really fun to do, and here are ten, seven from my pre-blogging days and 3 from here. I’d like to pass this onto

1. Chocolate Amaretti Cake from Giada De Laurentiis's Everyday Italian.
2. Carrot and Ginger Cupcakes from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook.

3. Victoria Sponge from nigella Lawson's How To Be A Domestic Goddess.

4. Gateau St Honore, my first Daring Baker challenge.

5. Snowman Cake. I was given a cake to decorate to raise money with a guess the weight of the cake.

6. Paella from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa at Home.

7. Cappucino Cupcakes from Nigella Lawson's How To Be A Domestic Goddess.

8. Peppermint Crisp Pie from Tessa Kiros's Apples For Jam.

9. Supremely Fudgy Brownies from Lisa Yockelson's Chocolate Chocolate.

10. Last but by no means least, Fudge Buttons from Dorie Greenspan's Baking From My Home To Yours, one of my very favourite pictures!