Wednesday, November 26, 2008

TWD: Thansgiving Twofer Pie

This week's recipe is a combo of pumpkin and pecan pie. Now, we obviously don't celebrate Thansgiving in NZ, and I have never made pumpkin or pecan pie before, so I wanted to make this to try what seem to be American traditions. Unfortunately, I had to race out the door to work yesterday at 1pm, so I left it for the family to try first. I didn't get home til after midnight, but noticed half the pie had gone...always a good I cut myself a little sliver. Mmmmm, this was scrummy, so I cut myself another sliver. Oh my gosh, and that was not enough. Blow it, I helped myself to a hunk and sat down to enjoy it!!

What a yummy blend of flavours. It was easy to make. I used store bought pastry rather than making my own. I had a triffid pumpkin grow last autumn with a ton of pumpkins so I used one of those to make the puree. I have never seen pumpkin puree in a can before, and I am not even sure if you can buy it here. I followed the rest of the recipe exactly. I had to cook it for a little longer than recommended though.

Vibi from La casserole caree chose this week's recipe. You can find the recipe on her blog. And please check out what the other TWD bakers thought as well.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

TWD - Arborio Rice Pudding

I have not been cooking much at all lately. Been hideously busy at work, so doing lots of overtime. As I work 12 hour days, it does not leave a lot of extra time at the end of the day to venture into the kitchen. Plus I have been trying to finish a post graduate paper. It is very easy to get distracted by food, the garden or the computer, so I decided no internet until I finished the paper! And I have just come back from a small holiday in Oz. So, this week is really the first chance I have had to catch up on reading all the blogs, and actually getting back into the kitchen again.

I have joined the Tuesdays with Dorie group in which we bake an item from Dorie Greenspan's book "Baking: From my home to yours" each week. I already use this book a lot and it is definitely one of my favs.

This week's recipe is Arborio Rice Pudding. This is one of those great comfort foods that I remember from my childhood. I haven't had Rice Pudding for years. Both my mother and grandmother always added juicy plump raisins to the pudding and we often had different variations of it. I remember the last time I made it was about 10 years ago when I had a Japanese friend staying with me. He was quite disgusted by the fact that we used rice in a dessert. He likened it to having potato in a pudding if he was to make it for me. That does kind of sound eeewww!

Anyway, with the kids harping for a pudding I decided to make it last night. Again, like many of the others I wish I had read the message board first as I only cooked it for 35 minutes instead of 50. Apparently the 35 minutes in the book is a typo and it should be cooked for longer! It was still quite runny, but definitely edible. I added lots of raisins cos that is just how rice pudding should be!! There is a chocolate version too, but I had no chocolate so decided to juct make the vanilla version.

I would definitely make this again. It got the thumbs up from everyone here. See what the other TWD bakers thought. Thanks to Ina at Les Gourmandes d'Isa for choosing this recipe which is on her blog.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Oat Bran & Apple Muffins

I have decided to we need to eat more healthily. Not that we ever really eat a high fat diet or badly, but the pounds creep on over winter and with the warmer weather, that only means one thing...the layers of clothing need to be shed and the flab starts getting exposed!! We are off to the Gold Coast in a couple of weeks and the thought of putting on my bikini at the moment frightens me [and will probably frighten the rest of the swimmers as well :-)]

I love muffins but they are so high in fat. They make a good snack for the kids after school or for the lunchboxes, but thought I would try making a healthy version. I had a couple of apples in the fruitbowl, some buttermilk in the fridge that was near its due date so wanted something that combined these two things. Found a few recipes but nothing that looked particularly low fat so decided to make my own version adapted from Applesauce Oatmeal Muffins.

They were pretty good. Got a thumbs up from the kids and Tony. Next time I would probably put the cinnamon sugar topping on. I think they would be nicer warm rather than cold as well. It is a pretty wet mixture, but I think there is nothing worse than a dry muffin.

Oat Bran & Apple Muffins

I cup wholemeal flour
1 cup oat bran
½ cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
½ cup raisins
2 egg whites
1 cup chopped apple
1¼ cups buttermilk

Mix dry ingredients into a bowl.

Whisk egg whites lightly. Add chopped apple and buttermilk and mix.

Quickly mix the wet ingredients into the dry. Do not over-mix or muffins will be tough.

Spray muffin pans and spoon muffin mixture into pans.

Combine equal measure of cinnamon and sugar and top each muffin with this mixture.

Bake 180 degrees C for approx 15-20 minutes.

Makes 12

Friday, October 17, 2008

Apple Bread

A friend of mine gave me a recipe years ago that I made, loved, but never ever made again. I discovered it when I was having a sort-out of my recipes just the other day. I try only to collect recipes that I know I will make otherwise I end up with piles of magazines, bits of paper with recipes scribbled on them and notes jotted down here and there. I had bought myself a book to file all these jottings into and it was while I was doing this that I discovered this long lost recipe.

This Apple Bread is one of those comfort foods, when one piece is never enough. In fact, between three hungry kids and myself we polished it off for afternoon tea! *blush* The kids have begged me to make it again but, like any bread it needs time for rising and all in all it takes about 4 hours at least to make. However, it is very easy and well worth making.

Apple Bread

1¼ tsp yeast
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp butter
2 cups flour
½ tsp salt
180 mls water

1½ cups chopped or grated apple
1 tbsp flour
2 tbsp butter
⅓ cup brown sugar
2 tbsp raisins
⅛ tsp ground nutmeg
⅛ tsp salt
⅛ tsp cinnamon

Put dough ingredients into breadmaker and set on dough setting.

Cook filling in pot stirring until apple is tender. Remove from heat.

Roll dough into a 32cm x 20cm rectangle on floured surface. Spread apple filling over centre third of rectangle.

Make cuts from filling to edge of dough at 2.5cm intervvals along each side of rectangle to make strips. Fold strips at an angle over filling alternating sides.

Cover and let rise in a warm place for 30-45 minutes.

Heat oven to 180 degrees Celcius and bake for 30 mins.


Monday, October 6, 2008

Lemon Curd

And with all those left over egg yolks, I had to find a recipe to use them up. I didn't feel like making hollandaise or aioli. After the hammering my arteries have taken from that Devil's Food White-Out Cake and all that junk food on Sunday, I thought I had best stay away from butter and oil. However, my daughter loves Lemon Curd (or Lemon Honey), especially on toast in the morning, so after a quick Google perusal, I found an easy recipe on the Australian Cuisine site.

I made this in about 10 minutes literally. It was very easy. The most time consuming part was making the lemon zest!! It only made one jar, but has a yummy tart flavour which I prefer to anything too sweet. Mmmmm, breakfast with homemade wholegrain bread, toasted just enough with lashings of melted butter and lemon curd.....Okay, okay, so maybe this isn't such a healthy choice after all!!

I settled for scones and lemon curd for afternoon tea. Used my new book "Ladies, A Plate please" which had an interesting variation of using cream instead of butter. Much easier than rubbing all that butter into the flour. Would definitely make both the scones and the lemon curd again.

I have had a busy week with little time for the computer. Needed to go to Wellington again for the last part of my university course. I did manage to fit in a quick visit to Moore Wilson though :-). Added a couple more cookbooks to my collection (like I need any more!!).... 50 Great Curries of India and Ladies, A Plate, and a candy thermometer. Lots of reminiscing in the latter book with cakes and biscuits I remember from my childhood. Some of my favourites are now my kids' favourites.

Been a busy weekend. Went to the Home and Garden Show in Hamilton on Saturday and got a phone call last night to say I had won the $1300 expresso machine and coffee grinder that the Red Cherry Cafe had up for grabs. I had bought some coffee beans and that entitled me to enter the draw. I was stoked and couldn't really believe it. I never win anything so I was very excited. I am such a coffee addict, so it will be a very welcome addition to my kitchen. The Red Cherry Cafe roasts its own beans and they do make very nice lattes! Not sure if I will be able to match them but it will be nice doing brunch on the deck with a mug of freshly brewed coffee.

Last night was my stepson's 10th birthday. It is a family tradition to have a meal and celebration with the family on special occasions like this. The birthday person gets to choose whatever they want for the meal, so his request was pizza, fries and cheerios. Pretty typical for a 10 year old boy and we just ignore any Heart Foundation warnings on this day!!! For his birthday cake he chose Devil's Food White-Out Cake by Dorie Greenspan.

I have always admired this cake on the front of Dorie's book, so what better opportunity than a birthday for it to make its debut. Unfortunately, my cake pans were a fraction too big, so it gave quite a thin layer of cake once it was halved. However, they were just what I had on hand, so I had to make do. The marshmallow frosting was easy enough to make, but it seemed to take ages for the syrup to heat to the right temperature, but my new candy thermometer came in very handy for this. The kids loved the cake, as did the hubby. It was very brownie-like with an interesting flavour coming from the marshmallow frosting. It didn't get the recommended time to refrigerate before cutting so was a bit crumbly, but certainly didn't detract from the flavour. It certainly kept his layers better today when I cut it.

Devil's Food White-Out Cake
From: Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

For the cake:
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup (packed) light brown sugar
½ cup sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
½ cup buttermilk or whole milk, at room temperature
½ cup boiling water
4 ounces semisweet or milk chocolate, finely chopped, or 2/3 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips

For the filling and frosting:
½ cup egg whites (about 4 large)
1 cup sugar
¾ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Getting ready:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter two 8-x-2-inch round cake pans, dust the insides with flour, tap out the excess and line the bottoms with wax or parchment paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To make the cake:
Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the sugars and continue to beat for another 3 minutes. Add the eggs one by one, beating for 1 minutes after each addition. Beat in the vanilla; don’t be concerned if the mixture looks curdled. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the melted chocolate. When it is fully incorporated, add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk, adding the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the milk in 2 (begin and end with the dry ingredients); scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed and mix only until the ingredients disappear into the batter. At this point, the batter will be thick, like frosting. Still working on low speed, mix in the boiling water, which will thin the batter considerably. Switch to a rubber spatula, scrape down the bowl and stir in the chopped chocolate. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and smooth the tops with the rubber spatula.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pans at the midway point. When fully bakes, the cakes will be springy to the touch and a thin knife inserted into the centers will come out clean. Don’t worry if the tops have a few small cracks. Transfer the cake pans to a rack and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unmold them and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up. (The cooled cakes layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.)

When you are ready to fill and frost the cake, inspect the layers. If the cakes have crowned, use a long serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion to even them. With the same knife, slice each layer horizontally in half. Set 3 layers aside and crumble the fourth layer; set the crumbs aside.

To make the filling and frosting:
Put the egg whites in a clean, dry mixer bowl or in another large bowl. Have a candy thermometer at hand.

Put the sugar, cream of tartar and water in a small saucepan and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, cover the pan and boil 3 minutes. Uncover and allow the syrup to boil until it reaches 242° F on the candy thermometer. While the syrup is cooking, start beating the egg whites.

When the syrup is about 235° F, begin beating the egg whites on medium speed with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer. If the whites form firm, shiny peaks before the syrup reaches temperature, reduce the mixer speed to low and keep mixing the whites until the syrup catches up. With the mixer at medium speed, and standing back slightly, carefully pour in the hot syrup, pouring it between the beater(s) and the side of the bowl. Splatters are inevitable – don’t try to scrape them into the whites, just carry on. Add the vanilla extract and keep beating the whites at medium speed until they reach room temperature, about 5 minutes. You should have a smooth, shiny, marshmallowy frosting. Although you could keep it in the fridge in a pinch, it’s really better to use it right now.

To assemble the cake: Put a bottom layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or on a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper. Using a long metal icing spatula, cover the layer generously with frosting. Top with a second layer, cut side up, and frost it. Finish with the third layer, cut side down, and frost the sides and top of the cake. Don’t worry about smoothing the frosting – it should be swirly. Now, cover the entire cake with the chocolate cake crumbs, gently pressing the crumbs in to the filling with your fingers.

Refrigerate the cake for about 1 hour before serving. (If its more convenient, you can chill the cake for 8 hours or more; cover it loosely and keep it away from foods with strong odors.)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Gluten free lunch: Friands & Quinoa Salad

I have a very good friend who is gluten free and she was popping out for lunch today. Now, I knew Dorie Greenspan's chocolate chunkers were probably a no-go for a gluten-free lunch ;-) so I decided to check out a few blogs for some inspiration. Since we are heading into spring, I wanted something light and fresh.... maybe with a hint of herbs and crisp spring flavours.

Heidi at 101 cookbooks always has yummy, and very healthy recipes so I headed there. Found 2 great recipes...Lemon-scented quinoa salad recipe and Delicious big bowl - quinoa recipe. Hmm, which one to choose as they both sounded yummy, so I did a quick ingredients check.....Ok didn't have the entire ingredients for either of them, so amalgamated both the recipes. I added in asparagus (my first asparagus of the season, I have been waiting for this), cherry tomatoes, red onion and toasted pinenuts to the cooked quinoa and finished it with a lemon and garlic dressing and lashings of coriander. By now, you must know I love this herb, much to the disgust of the kids who always mutter, Oh no, not that smelly green grass again Mum!!!!

Quinoa is a fascinating grain. I love the way it goes from a hard, little ball and metamorphoses (is that a word, even?) into an alien looking worm thing. It is an ancient grain with a high nutritional value. It is light and fluffy when cooked, not unlike couscous, and has a slight nutty flavour. It is a versatile grain and can be used in loads of different ways. I prefer it as a salad and the beauty is that you can add whatever you like to it to have as a side dish or as a complete meal.

To finish we had Lemon and Blueberry Friands with coffee. A friand is a small French cake made with almond meal, egg whites, sugar and butter. Often fruit, such as berries, peaches or apples are added as well. They are crunchy on the outside, but light and sweet and melt in your mouth on the inside. These got another "Wow" from the Quality Control Inspector, as he tried to sneak a couple more from the plate when I wasn't looking.

The recipe I used for these was one by Allyson Gofton called Lemon Poppy Seed Friands. I didn't have any poppy seeds so omitted them. And to jazz them up a bit I pushed in 3 blueberries to the top of each friand before they went into the oven. Once they were cooked, I poured a lemon syrup over them. Mmmmm.