Sunday, August 31, 2008

Daring Bakers: Chocolate Eclairs

The Daring Bakers have struck again. This time it is chocolate eclairs.

My efforts this month were very rushed. As is this post. Life is just like this sometimes.

The rule was that we must make use of at least one of a chocolate sauce recipe or chocolate custard recipe. I chose the chocolate sauce and then decided to use a canolli filling - ricotta, pistachio, stem ginger and finely chopped chocolate. I found the recipe here.

Overall, they came out very well. For some reason half the eclairs on each tray collapsed after taking them out of the oven. Which I found very odd. It's not as if their cooking conditions could be that different to their fellow traymates.

If you wish to see more eclairs a few million more can be found through the Daring Baker Blogroll. Thanks to Meeta and Tony for a great challenge. The full recipe can be found on their blogs (shortly if not already).

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Challenge Book #24 - Maple Banana Porridge

If anyone has any ideas about how to take a good photo of porridge, please let me know!! It just does not lend itself to aesthetics. It's beige and kinda lumpy and formless. The only thing I could think to do was focus on a spoon.

Just as well it tastes so much better than it looks. I found the recipe for this - Maple Banana Porridge - in Sydney Food by Bill Granger. I've only ever eaten plain old traditional porridge - a dash of milk with a sprinkling of brown sugar. I've never really thought that it could be anything else. It's just one of those functional foods that you never really think much about. So this flavoured porridge was a real revelation to me - pleasantly but not overly sweet with a delicious banana flavour.

Bill serves his porridge with buttered apples. But who can be bothered with all that first thing in the morning? I simply diced up some fresh apple. I think it went rather well. It added a lovely bit of texture, crunch and flavour. Really I think you can use any fruit you wish.

Sydney Food is book number #24 in the KJ Wants a Kitchen Aid Challenge. I love Bill Granger's cookbooks. I have quite a few. Strangely though, despite the fact that he is an Australian chef, I have never seen his TV show. It is only shown on pay TV and I am too stingy to shell out for Foxtel. Anyway I watch too much TV as it is, without another 30 channels to waste my time over.

Banana Maple Porridge
(adapted from Sydney Food)

1 cup rolled oats
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 cup milk
pinch salt
1 tbspn (4 tspn) brown sugar*
2 tbspn (8 tspn) maple syrup
1 banana, finely sliced

Place oats and water in a saucepan and leave to sit for 10 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients. Bring to the boil over a medium heat. Reduce to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes. Stir often until the banana is almost dissolved. Remove from the heat, cover and leave stand for about 10 minutes. Serve with warm milk, some extra maple syrup and additional fruit if you wish.

*This is an Australian recipe. 1 Australian tablespoon = 4 teaspoons. 1 US tablespoon = 3 teaspoons.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Double Chocolate Pudding Parfait

I am still watching the Olympics. And I'm happily cheering Australia on. Which is actually a bit odd because I have never been particularly patriotic about sport, except when it comes to cricket. There is nothing better than Australia beating England for the Ashes. But generally, I am more interested in the competition than who is winning. I generally think Australia goes way over the top in celebrating sports people and sporting achievements. But here I am kinda joining in, which is kinda disturbing.

But it's not all bad. The sport I have been enjoying the most is volleyball. Not an Australian in sight in this competition. There was a cracking match the other day between Germany and Serbia.

Again this has nothing to do with today's recipe of choice - Double Chocolate Pudding Parfait. I actually made this ages ago and it has been waiting patiently in my archives . I haven't been baking much lately due to some troublesome mouth ulcers. If I can't enjoy the fruits of my baking, the fruits don't get baked.

But the fact that I haven't posted this earlier doesn't mean that it was not good. Because it was. Silky smooth and deeply chocolaty pudding layered with chocolate cream. What's not to love!!!

It's more that I was not so happy with the photos. And I really need to get a full set of matching glasses. A pudding has to work hard to overcome the fact that it's being served in an old jam jar. Small servings are better as it is quite rich. I served one of these between two people. Luckily, we were all good friends and no one minded. I really need to get those glasses.

I found the recipe on Epicurious where it has excellent reviews. Apart from the person who said it was too much work and you're better off with instant mix and cool whip. I try hard not to judge but I did kinda snort at that one.

It's a fairly straightforward recipe. But you need to take a lot of care to avoid lumps. There's nothing worse than hitting on a lump in custards and puddings. I've found that if the pudding mixture starts to stick while its boiling and thickening, it's best just to lower the heat and avoid scraping up the bottom of the pan. If worse comes to worse get out the stick blender and give it a quick whizz before chilling the mixture down.

And now I'm off to watch more volleyball. The USA is about to take on Cuba. Go whoever!!!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Challenge Book #23 - Chocolate Melting Moments and Passionfruit Butter YoYo Bites

Like the rest of the world I have been watching the Olympics. Australia is coming third on the per capita medal tally (medals per head of population). Yaaaay us!!!! This is, I am sure, a peculiarly Australian way of looking at things. We will always find a way to win.

One thing that has become crystal clear is that there is no sport I would rather play less than water polo. Let's look at the pros and cons.


1) You're out there in a swimsuit. I mean enough said!!! You do have some consolation in that, unlike beach volleyball, most of you is underwater for a good bit of the match. But still. No!

2) It's just sheer hard work. Treading water for that length of time would just be an exercise in survival. There's not even a prospect of a breather. Let alone worrying about the ball and stuff. I would be outraged that anyone would expect me to score goals as well.

3) People are actively trying to drown you. Not to mention the kicking, clawing and jabbing. I am a delicate little flower. Why not just beat me with a stick on dry land and be done with it!!!


[...a clock ticks........crickets chirp.........another angel gets its wings]

I rest my case. Not that there is any real option for me to become a world class water polo player or anything. The only chance I have for Olympic glory is if I uncover some long hidden genius for shooting or archery.

At this point, you are no doubt wondering what all this has to do with the biscuits you see before you. Absolutely nothing. I just wanted to get it off my chest. My disdain for rigorous aquatic sports was really weighing me down.

These biscuits are Chocolate Melting Moments. They are well named as they are very soft and light. They are also deeply chocolately without being particularly sweet. Sandwiching them together with nutella adds a nice nuttiness as well.

Whereas these are Passionfruit Butter YoYo bites. Again these are lovely short biscuits. I love anything with passionfruit so these will always be a winner with me.

Both are very quick biscuits with simple and minimal ingredients. You can whip them up at a moments notice and they look so lovely and elegant. At least I think so.

Both recipes are from this book - The Australian Women's Weekly Wicked Sweet Indulgences. This is Challenge Book #23 in the KJ wants a Kitchen Aid Challenge. It's aptly named this book. Every page is mouthwatering. There is a particularly wicked cherry ripe mud cake in here that I have been known to make on occassions.

Chocolate Melting Moments
(adapted from Wicked)

125 gm butter
2 tbspn (8 tspn) icing sugar*
3/4 cup plain flour
2 tbspn (8 tspn) cornflour
2 tbspn (8 tspn) cocoa powder

Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Sift the dry ingredients and stir in.

Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a fluted tube. Pipe rosettes of mixture onto a lined baking tray.

Bake in 180C oven for 10 minutes. Allow biscuits to cool on the tray for 5 minutes. Lift onto a wire rack to cool.

Sandwich with nutella to serve.

Passionfruit Butter YoYo Bites
(adapted from Wicked)

250gm butter
1 tspn vanilla extract
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 1/2 cup plain flour
1/2 cup cornflour

Beat butter, vanilla and sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in sifted dry ingredients.

Roll round teaspoons of mixture into balls. Place on lined baking trays. Dust a fork with a little flour and gently press into the top of each biscuit to flatten slightly.

Bake in a 170C oven for 12 minutes. Allow biscuits to cool on the tray for 5 minutes. Lift onto a wire rack to cool.

Sandwich with passionfruit butter to serve.

Passionfruit Butter

Beat 80gm butter with 2/3 cup icing sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in 1 tbspn (8tspn) of passionfruit pulp.

* This is an Australian recipe. 1 Australian tablespoon = 4 teaspoons. 1 US tablespoon = 3 teaspoons.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Dutch Ginger Cake

Could you all do me a favour? Can you just imagine that there are some almonds studded into the top of this cake in a nice pretty pattern? And if it's not too much trouble can you make them all nice and toasty and inviting. Taaa. Much appreciated.

Because that would be how this cake would have looked if my Dad hadn't launched one of his devestating snack attacks during his recent visit. My Dad is a nut fiend. He has this uncanny ability to winkle them out of any pantry, no matter how well hidden or long forgotten they are.

It's not just nuts, either, this is a major talent he has. He never shops. He never cooks. But seemingly at a whim, he can wander in a kitchen and extract unimagined delicacies from the meanest of pantries. The high water mark was definitely when, during a late night sugar attack, he zeroed in on a packet of chocolate coated sultanas skulking behind the flour canisters. No chocolate coated sultana has ever gotten past me and lived, so this was like something of a minor miracle. I always imagine that if we were lost in the woods, he would just wander over and pull a whole Yogi Bear style hamper from behind a log or something.

Anyway, back to this cake, almonds or no almonds it is seriously good. It's not really a cake, it's more of shortbready biscuit - buttery and crumbly. Big chunks of ginger make it extra delicious.

It also had the added advantage of being quick and easy. There's nothing to it really.

The recipe came from Maggie Beer who made it on her TV show, The Cook and the Chef. I've spoken before of how much I love Maggie. This cake has just taken her up yet another few notches.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Challenge Book #22 - Small Cheese Pies

It's time to return to the KJ Wants a Kitchen Aid Challenge (where I have to make a recipe from every book I own before I can buy any new ones) with these Small Cheese Pies.

This time we are visiting Greece. Specifically, in the form of The Best Traditional Recipes of Greek Cookery by author unknown. I bought this book while on holiday in Greece quite a few years back. I loved Greece. My friends and I had a crazy time on the bus system, ending up in all kinds of unexpected places. A couple of times we had to end up hitchhiking because we did or did not get on or off at the wrong or right places. Happy days!!!!

I think this is the first thing I have made from this book. Somehow I have never really delved in Greek food. There are two reasons for this. First, Greek cuisine seems to be heavy on seafood and olives and I cannot stand either. Second, I just cannot get past the few great dishes I have tried and loved. I just go for moussaka every time. It's like it's pre-programed or something, I just cannot help myself.

Then there are cheese pies. When I was in Greece I almost ate the country out of these things. I would search out the nearest bakery type place and emerge with a little greasy bag of happiness - hot crisp buttery pastry, melted cheese, ham or spinach. They were just divine.

So when it came to choosing a recipe from this cookbook, what else was I going to try. In these pies the cheese filling is based on a bechamel sauce and ricotta cheese, seasoned with salt, pepper and nutmeg. They were good!!

I halved the recipe because it makes a lot. I mean party sized quantities. They were fairly straightforward, although I had to add another 1/3 to 1/2 cup of milk to get a liquid but thick bechamel. Admittedly, this could be from my dodgy mathematical skills in dividing 2.5 by 2. It's possible people. By the time I get halfway through a recipe, I forget that I'm altering it or how I'm altering it and anything can happen.

Forming the pies is also quick and painless. As you can see in the photos below, it's just a question of laying out the strip of pastry, adding a teaspoon of filling at one end, folding the pastry across the filling to form a triangle shape, and then folding forward along each inner edge until no unsealed edges are left. Then just slice off the pastry and then start again at the square end of the remainder of the strip of pastry. Like so.

Too easy!! This is the recipe for the full amount of pies.

Small Cheese Pies
(adapted from The Best Traditional Recipes of Greek Cooking)

1/2 kg of filo pastry
1 cup flour
1 cup butter
2 1/2 cups milk, warmed
350gm feta cheese, crumbled
3 eggs
1 tspn nutmeg
salt and pepper

Melt half the butter and stir in the flour and mix well for about five minutes. Add the warmed milk continuing to stir well. Add more milk if necessary, you should end up with a thick but liquid sauce.

Add the feta cheese, the nutmeg, eggs, salt and pepper to taste. Leave to cool.

Cut the filo pastry into long strips that are 3 inches wide. They can be made smaller, but they are easier to form if they are a bit bigger. Melt the remaining butter. Brush one strip with the butter and place another strip over the top.

Put a teaspoon of filling at one end and fold over into a triangle shape (as above). Place on a baking tray and brush lightly with the melted butter.

Bake in a 180C oven for about 35 minutes.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Brown Windsor Soup

Here in Canberra, I am suffering the depths of winter. I hate winter. It's cold. I hate being cold. Enough said.

For the last few weeks my parents have been braving this purgatory to visit me. This is quite something given that they have spent their entire lives in warm and tropical Queensland. As compensation, they demanded 1) free reign over the heater, 2) sole custody of the TV remote control while the lawn bowls was on and 3) good food.

I was happy to oblige with one. I coped with two by retreating to the kitchen in order to deliver on three. I can think of nothing more snoreworthy than an afternoon of Jack High.

The requests on the food front came thick and fast, but the longest and loudest was for soup. Lots of hot and steaming soup. It was the perfect excuse to try out a Jamie Oliver recipe I snaffled while waiting endlessly in my doctor's surgery a few weeks back.

It's called a brown windsor soup. Not particularly appetising is it. I don't know about you but any food described as 'brown' just screams bleeech. Which is odd because there are lots of delectable brown coloured foods - chocolate being the prime example.

Not to mention this soup which is quite simply delicious. It's flavour is deep and rich and hearty. No doubt ably assisted by this little number - Vegemite.

As you probably know, Vegemite is a peculiarly Australian staple. Unpalatable to many foreigners but much loved by ourselves. I practically existed on this stuff as a child and I still eat it almost every day. It's usually spread on toast, sandwiches or cracker biscuits, but it can also find its way into gravies, soups, casseroles.

Marmite is an (albeit inferior ;-}) alternative for those in the UK and NZ. However, for those elsewhere, I'm not sure what the options are. There's nothing else quite like Vegemite. Unless it's Promite and you can only get that in Australia as well.

Brown Windsor Soup
(adapted from Delicious Magazine July 2008)

a large knob of butter
olive oil
500g chuck steak, diced
1 tbspn vegemite or marmite
splash worcestershire sauce
1 red onion, diced
2 carrots, chopped
1 bay leaf
sprig of rosemary
1 tbspn plain flour
2 litres beef stock
1/3 cup pearl barley

Melt butter and add olive oil in a large saucepan. Lightly brown the meat and stir in the vegemite and sauce. Turn up the heat and keep stirring until all the liquid has evaporated.

Add the veggies, bay leaf and rosemary. Cover and sweat gently over a low heat for about 8 minutes until the veggies have softened.

Stir in the flour, and after about a minute add the stock. Season with pepper and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer. Add the barley and cook for about an hour and a quarter, or until soft.

Take the saucepan off the heat and discard the bay leaf and rosemary sprigs.
Whiz the soup with a hand held blender to allow it to thicken. Leave plenty of chunky bits.

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