Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Lemon Meringue Pie-Happy Birthday Daniel

For my friend Daniel's birthday I said I'd make anything he wanted, and the request was lemon meringue pie. I was happy with this request as I'd never made it before, and it was also practicing a couple of my new pastry techniques, custard and meringues. Lets not even mention the excellent excuse to buy a wicked torch from Home Depot!

I did a search and found this truly beautiful tart on foodbeam. I couldnt possibly reproduce her wonderful styling, but had a lot of fun making this, and everyone thought it was the best lemon meringue pie they'd ever had! I usually get comments on my goodies, but people sought me out to tell me how wonderful it tasted! We only needed a little sliver as it was very rich and satisfying.

The lemon cream is absolutely unbelievable, I'm sure I'll be finding any excuse to try this in various guises!!

She said it made 1 large tart and 4 small ones, although I found myself with 1 large lemon meringue pie, two smaller ones and I ran out of meringue for the third mini tart.

Recipe: Adapted from foodbeam who adapted Pierre Hermé and Dorie Greenspan’s recipes
Pastry shell (I used the Jamie Oliver one again)

Lemon Cream
200 sugar
finely grated zest of 3 lemons
4 large eggs
130ml freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 4-5 lemons)
300g unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into big chunks

Italian Meringue
2 egg whites
35g caster sugar
5g dehydrated egg whites (optional)
50g water
150g sugar
pinch of salt

Lemon Cream
Fill a large bowl with cold water

Mix the sugar and the lemon peel together to release the juices in a heatproof bowl.

Whisk in the eggs and then the lemon juice.
Place the bowl over a saucepan of gently boiling water and slowly and constantly stir until the temperature reaches 85c or 185f. As soon as it reaches temperature, place in the cold water and cool to 60c 140f.

Slowly incorporate the butter, whisking constantly. Blend for up to 8 minutes with a hand held blender until completely smooth.

Place plastic wrap directly over the cream and chill for at least a day before using.

Italian Meringue
Whisk the egg whites until frothy. Add the sugar and salt and either dehydrated egg whites and a pinch of cream of tartar. Whisk on high until the egg whites reach a soft peak.

Meanwhile, combine the sugar and the water and heat until the mixture reaches 240f or 115c.

Carefully pour the hot mixture into the side of the bowl of the egg whites while whisking. Increase to a high speed and whisk until the temperature cools to warm.

To assemble
Spoon the lemon cream onto the cooled pastry shell, smooth and cool for an hour, then pipe the meringue on. Finish by caramelizing the meringue with a blow torch.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sad-no posh baking classes for me next semester

I just grappled with the grossmont registration process, and when I finally got into the system, the only class I really wanted to get on, the advance pastry and cake decorating, was full. Very sad. There isnt even a waiting list for this class. :(

I got into the basic culinary arts, so it sounds like at least I'll be wrestling with chickens next semester, so I will be moving forward a little with my skills.

If anyone happens upon this blog and knows of any other relatively inexpensive options as far as part time training in the culinary arts in San Diego, I'd love to hear them. I think I'll explore doing some classes at 'do it with icing' which should be fun.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Daring Baking! Potato Bread and delicious stuffing!

I was very excited with this challenge as I do like to play with yeast breads. The final product was a little disappointing for me, I guess I'm used to breads with lots of flavor and crunchy bits and this was fairly bland. I shaped the dough into a focaccia and rolls. The rolls were ok, nothing special, and the focaccia was a little bland. I found the white potato sheen a little unappetizing. The dough was quite hard to work with as it was sticky, but I was nervous I might incorporate too much flour and get inedible dry bread.

All was well by thanksgiving though, because I threw the focaccia in the freezer then got it out for thanksgiving to make a truly delicious traditional stuffing. I think the crusty potato bread was great, it was crispy and tasty and not all doughy and nasty. It was everyones favourite (after the delicious roast duck of course!!)

Here are the original focaccia and the rolls with the beady-eyed tina for company!

Old fashioned stuffing (inspired by Sauveur Magazine)
5 tbsp butter
1 small onion
2 sticks celery
2 cloves garlic
Small handful of herbs (rosemary thyme and sage)
4 cups cubed focaccia
1 cup better than boullion veggie stock
1 egg

Fry the onions in the butter for about 5 mins until clear. Add celery, garlic and herbs and cook for a further 5 mins. Put the bread in a big bowl, pour butter over them and mix. De glaze the pan with the stock and pour over the bread. Whisk an egg, pour over, mix well and pop into a dish. Dot with butter and cook in a 400f oven for around 30 mins until the top is nice and brown and crispy.

I liked that it is a fairly slapdash thing, making stuffing, you can add things and take away and still end up with a wonderful dish.

Tender Potato Bread
(from Home Baking: The Artful Mix of Flour & Tradition Around the World by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid; who also wrote Hot Sour Salty Sweet)
Daring Bakers Challenge #13: November 2007
Makes 1 large tender-crumbed pan loaf AND something more; one 10X15 inch crusty yet tender foccacia, 12 soft dinner rolls, or a small pan loaf


4 medium to large floury (baking) potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks.
Tanna Note: For the beginner bread baker I suggest no more than 8 ounces of potato; for the more advanced no more than 16 ounces. The variety of potatoes you might want to use would include Idaho, Russet & Yukon gold, there are others.

4 cups(950 ml) water, reserve cooking water
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
6 ½ cups to 8 ½ cups (1 kg to 1350g) unbleached all-purpose
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (130g) whole wheat flour

Making the Dough (Directions will be for making by hand):

Put the potatoes and 4 cups water in a sauce pan and bring to boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt and cook, half covered, until the potatoes are very tender.

Drain the potatoes, SAVE THE POTATO WATER, and mash the potatoes well. Tanna Note: I have a food mill I will run my potatoes through to mash them.

Measure out 3 cups(750ml) of the reserved potato water. Add extra water if needed to make 3 cups. Place the water and mashed potatoes in the bowl you plan to mix the bread dough in. Let cool to lukewarm (70-80°F/21 - 29°C) – stir well before testing the temperature – it should feel barely warm to your hand. You should be able to submerge you hand in the mix and not be uncomfortable.

Add yeast to 2 cups all-purpose flour and whisk. Add yeast and flour to the cooled mashed potatoes & water and mix well. Allow to rest/sit 5 minutes.

Note about Adding Yeast: If using Active Dry Yeast or Fresh yeast, mix & stir yeast into cooled water and mashed potatoes & water and let stand 5 minutes. Then add 2 cups of flour to the yeast mix and allow to rest several minutes. If using Instant Dry Yeast, add yeast to 2 cups all-purpose flour and whisk. Add yeast and flour to the cooled mashed potatoes & water and mix well. Allow to rest/sit 5 minutes.

Sprinkle in the remaining 1 tablespoon salt and the softened butter; mix well. Add the 1 cup whole wheat flour, stir briefly.

Add 2 cups of the unbleached all-purpose flour and stir until all the flour has been incorporated.
Tanna Note: At this point you have used 4 cups of the possible 8 ½ cups suggested by the recipe.

Turn the dough out onto a generously floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, incorporating flour as needed to prevent sticking. The dough will be very sticky to begin with, but as it takes up more flour from the kneading surface, it will become easier to handle; use a dough scraper to keep your surface clean. The kneaded dough will still be very soft. Place the dough in a large clean bowl or your rising container of choice, cover with plastic wrap or lid, and let rise about 2 hours or until doubled in volume.

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead gently several minutes. It will be moist and a little sticky.

Forming the Bread:
Tanna Note: It is at this point you are requested to Unleash the Daring Baker within. The following is as the recipe is written. You are now free to follow as written or push it to a new level.

Divide the dough into 2 unequal pieces in a proportion of one-third and two-thirds (one will be twice as large as the other). Place the smaller piece to one side and cover loosely.

To shape the large loaf:
Butter a 9 x 5 x 2.5 inch loaf/bread pan. Flatten the larger piece of dough on the floured surface to an approximate 12 x 8 inch oval, then roll it up from a narrow end to form a loaf. Pinch the seam closed and gently place seam side down in the buttered pan. The dough should come about three-quarters of the way up the sides of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 35 to 45 minutes, until puffy and almost doubled in volume.

To make a small loaf with the remainder:
Butter an 8x4X2 inch bread pan. Shape and proof the loaf the same way as the large loaf.

To make rolls:
Butter a 13 x 9 inch sheet cake pan or a shallow cake pan. Cut the dough into 12 equal pieces. Shape each into a ball under the palm of your floured hand and place on the baking sheet, leaving 1/2 inch between the balls. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about 35 minutes, until puffy and almost doubled.

To make focaccia:
Flatten out the dough to a rectangle about 10 x 15 inches with your palms and fingertips. Tear off a piece of parchment paper or wax paper a little longer than the dough and dust it generously with flour. Transfer the focaccia to the paper. Brush the top of the dough generously with olive oil, sprinkle on a little coarse sea salt, as well as some rosemary leaves, if you wish and then finally dimple all over with your fingertips. Cover with plastic and let rise for 20 minutes.

Baking the bread(s):

Note about baking order: bake the flat-bread before you bake the loaf; bake the rolls at the same time as the loaf.

Note about Baking Temps: I believe that 450°F(230°C) is going to prove to be too hot for the either the large or small loaf of bread for the entire 40/50 minutes. I am going to put the loaves in at 450°(230°C) for 10 minutes and then turn the oven down to 375°F (190 °C) for the remaining time.

Note about cooling times: Let all the breads cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Rolls can be served warm or at room temperature.

For loaves and rolls:
Dust risen loaves and rolls with a little all-purpose flour or lightly brush the tops with a little melted butter or olive oil (the butter will give a golden/browned crust). Slash loaves crosswise two or three times with a razor blade or very sharp knife and immediately place on the stone, tiles or baking sheet in the oven. Place the rolls next to the loaf in the oven.

Bake rolls until golden, about 30 minutes. Bake the small loaf for about 40 minutes. Bake the large loaf for about 50 minutes.

Transfer the rolls to a rack when done to cool. When the loaf or loaves have baked for the specified time, remove from the pans and place back on the stone, tiles or baking sheet for another 5 to 10 minutes. The corners should be firm when pinched and the bread should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

For foccaia:
Place a baking stone or unglazed quarry tiles, if you have them, if not use a no edged baking/sheet (you want to be able to slide the shaped dough on the parchment paper onto the stone or baking sheet and an edge complicates things). Place the stone or cookie sheet on a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 450°F/230°C.

If making foccacia, just before baking, dimple the bread all over again with your fingertips. Leaving it on the paper, transfer to the hot baking stone, tiles or baking sheet. Bake until golden, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack (remove paper) and let cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Waiter there is something in my Pecan Pie!

Wowzers this was just lovely, congratulations to Gourmet magazine again for a truly delicious dessert this thanksgiving!

I decided to submit it for cooksister's naughty 'waiter there's something in my...' as a topless tart:

I'm not a great connoisseur of pecan pie, but I gather its often cloyingly sweet and over the top. I'm an enormous pecan fan, and pastry is always a winner done well. This was just wonderful, as advertised, the chocolate contrasted nicely with the sweetness and the nuts mmmmm.

My changes to the recipe were that I used jamie olivers perfect sweet pastry recipe, and I dont even know what dark corn syrup is, so I put maple syrup in instead which worked wonderfully. The crust was overdone, and I think I would probably cook for slightly less time in the future, I'd say keep an eye on it after 35 mins.

1 (3 1/2- to 4-ounces) fine-quality 60%- to 70%-cacao bittersweet chocolate bar, finely chopped (I used trader joes belgian bittersweet chocolate)
Pastry tart shell
2 cups pecan halves and pieces (7 ounces), toasted and cooled
3 large eggs
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup maple syrup

Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle.

Break up the chocolate into a bowl and heat in the microwave in 30s intervals at most until melted. Spread over bottom of crust

Whisk together the eggs, sugar, vanilla, salt and maple syrup. Stir in pecans and pour over the chocolate into the crust.

Bake for 50-60 mins, check after 30 mins and place foil over the pie if it is browning too quickly.

If baking ahead, reheat in a 350f oven for 10 minutes

Serve with lightly whipped cream.

Short crust sweet pastry-thanks to Jamie Oliver

I find myself frequently dipping into Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver. It helped me with ravioli, he's great at risotto, there are some delicious desserts, and an absolutely killer, super easy chocolate tart.

This is also the source for my favourite pastry recipe. I find this very useful indeed and have used it twice this thanksgiving weekend.

Short Crust Sweet Pastry (from Naked Chef-Jamie Oliver)
makes 2 x 30cm/12inch tart moulds

250g/9oz unsalted butter
200g/7oz icing sugar/confectioners sugar
pinch of salt
500g/just over 1lb flour
4 egg yolks
4 tablespoons cold milk/water

Cream butter, sugar and salt in a food processor, then pulse in the flour followed by the egg until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Pulse in the milk/water and then pat together the ball of dough. Dont work with it too much, just pull together into a long sausage shape, wrap with clingfilm and chill for at least an hour.

Carefully slice off thin slivers of the chilled pastry to around 5mm/1/8 in thick and arrange them in the tart shell, pushing together to make the tart shell.

The pastry is best if chilled for an hour before baking. It can be frozen at this stage until ready to eat.

If baking blind, bake for around 15 mins at 350f.

Thanks Jamie!

Friday, November 23, 2007

WCB-Tina and the Tofurkey

Well, Princess Tina is a strange one indeed. She completely ignored the roast duck right next to her and proceeded to try and get at my tofurkey. What a funny one. Here is her enjoying some leftovers!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Am I a cupcake hero?

A baby shower seemed like the perfect excuse to flex my cupcake baking muscles. I found a delicious sounding carrot cake recipe from the wonderful Delia Smith, the British equivalent of Martha, the last time I saw her on the telly she had so much bright lighting I wondered if her kitchen was based on the surface of the sun. Her recipes are always delicious, she's helped me with marmalade and all sorts of recipes and she has a pretty extensive website with absolutely delicious recipes. This was no exception- a low fat recipe where the addition of syrup after the baking imparts the most succulent gooey cake, more the kind that might be slowly savored with a fork than chomped in hand as a quick snack.

Never having had a fresh cranberry, I popped one in my mouth to see what they taste like and YOWZERS! They are quite tart! So I added quite a lot of sugar. I gather this is a baking faux pas(one should always stick to the recipe or things go horribly wrong), but the cakes came out really delicious. Thankfully the cranberries baked down really nicely and didnt just taste horribly bitter. It seems to me that they need to be cooked to be enjoyed unless you're the kind of person that likes to chew on lemons for a snack.

My changes to the original Delia recipe were adding more sugar, subbing cranberries for some of the cranberries and omitting the raisins. I also added some walnuts as to me, carrot cake has to have walnuts. I left out the lemon juice to the syrup as I didn't need any more tart! The cream cheese frosting needed a little more sugar to my taste.

Recipe (derived from How to Cook Book One-Delia Smith)
7oz (200g) dark brown soft sugar
2 large eggs at room temperature
4 fl oz (120ml) sunflower oil
7 oz wholemeal flour
1 1/2 level teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons mixed spice
1/2 tsp salt
grated zest 1 orange
5 oz (150g) carrots, peeled and grated
5oz (150g) cranberries
1/2 cup (60g) walnut pieces

Syrup Glaze
juice 1/2 orange
3oz (80g) sugar

8oz low fat cream cheese
1 1/2 oz (40g) sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325f and put cup cake papers in a muffin tin
Whisk the sugar eggs and oil together in a bowl using an electric hand whisk for 2-3 minutes
Sift together flour, bicarb and mixed spice and mix together.
Fold in egg mixture, orange zest, carrots, cranberries and walnuts.
Spoon the mixture into the cake papers and bake for around 30 mins until a toothpick comes out clean when put into the center of one of the middle cakes.

While the cake is cooking, make the topping by mixing all the ingredients in a bowl until light and fluffy, cover with plastic wrap and chill for 1-2 hours or until needed.

Whisk together the orange juice and sugar, put in the microwave for 30s if it isnt dissolving.

As soon as the cakes are out of the oven, make holes in them with a skewer and carefully spoon sugar and orange juice mixture over each one.

Leave to cool completely and then frost with the cream cheese mixture topping each cake with a walnut piece.

Weekend Cat Blogging-Tina in the box

As soon as I've got my groceries out of a box it becomes Tina's. For some reason she thinks that as long as she's in the box she's impervious to everything. Being a flighty little thing, she has quite a few things that she's scared of, including tin foil, kitchen timers, vacuum cleaner, my bike etc. As soon as she finds a box to sit in she feels safe.

Its weird inheriting a cat at 4 years old as we have no real knowledge of those 4 years. We get a surprise every now and then, we realised this week that she understands exactly what a pill box is and doesnt like pills!!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Home-made power bars for busy days and long bike rides.

I'm so glad I caught Alton Brown on his granola bar episode. These bars have powered me through long afternoons at work, and very long bike rides and they actually taste pretty good too. I get that funny after taste with some bars and all the strange additives dont seem good either. I can also have the right amount, which is around 150 calories on a relatively sedentary afternoon, or I can have little bite sized chunks when I'm powering up Palomar Mountain. I've just made myself a new batch, to keep some in the fridge and freezer, and to help me on my way around the beautiful El Tour De Tucson in a couple of weeks, that I'm riding in to raise funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

I'm told they taste a little like moon cakes, although I dont really see the similarity, some say they are a little like bread pudding. They are nice and filling, not overly sweet or fatty and I like they are moist instead of dry and crunchy like some bars.

The only down side to these is you need to keep them in the fridge, they cant really languish in a drawer or bike bag for weeks as they will be gross!
Recipe-Alton brown 2005
Prep Time: 25 minutes Cook Time: 35 minutes Yield: 24 (2-inch) squares
4 ounces soy protein powder, approximately 1 cup
2 1/4 ounces oat bran, approximately 1/2 cup
2 3/4 ounces whole-wheat flour, approximately
1/2 cup 3/4-ounce wheat germ, approximately 1/4 cup
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 ounces raisins, approximately 1/2 cup
2 1/2 ounces dried cherries, approximately 1/2 cup
3 ounces dried figs, approximately 1/2 cup
2 1/2 ounces dried apricots, approximately 1/2 cup
1 (14-ounce) package soft silken tofu
1/2 cup unfiltered apple juice
2 large bananas
4 ounces dark brown sugar, approximately 1/2 cup packed
2 large whole eggs, beaten
2/3 cup natural peanut butter
Canola oil, for pan

Line the bottom of a 13 by 9-inch glass baking dish with parchment paper and lightly coat with canola oil. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the protein powder, oat bran, wheat flour, wheat germ, and salt. Set aside.
Coarsely chop the raisins, dried cherries, figs and apricots and place in a small bowl and set aside.
In a third mixing bowl, whisk the tofu until smooth(hand blender very handy here).
Add the apple juice, bananas, brown sugar, eggs, and peanut butter, 1 at a time, and whisk to combine after each addition. Add this to the protein powder mixture and stir well to combine. Fold in the dried fruit.
Spread evenly in the prepared baking dish and bake in the oven for 35 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 205 degrees F.
Remove from the oven and cool completely before cutting into squares.
Cut into squares and store in an airtight container for up to a week or freeze for a month.
Notes: I switched around some of the fruit, added 2 thawed frozen bananas and had 14oz tofu rather than 12 but it still was lovely. Figs and bananas go wonderfully together in this recipe. I usually just use whatever dried fruit I have to hand and almond butter subs for peanut butter just lovely. Its a very forgiving recipe!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

My favourite thing at the weekend

I'm very lucky to have a little computer with a touch screen pad in my kitchen connected to speakers. So I can look at recipes on the internet and listen to the radio. I mostly catch up with whats going on back home, one of my favourite programs is the food program on radio 4. I highly recommend it if you like to listen to the radio on the internet or download podcasts. This weeks episode they talked about a room that was recently discovered in Chatsworth House, a truly magnificent country mansion, containing lots of really old cooking gadgets.