Archive for October, 2010

Sticky banoffee cake

I’m back! Apologies for my absence. My wonderful family has been and gone, and took with them a good taste of what the Promised Land has to offer them. But I miss them terribly and I can’t wait until they move here!

When I was a kid, nothing much irritated me. But as a 20-something year-old, I seem to have added quite a few things to the “PLEASE don’t do” list. At first I thought it was inherited, but now I realise that it is an inevitable symptom of getting older. Things just seem to irritate people more the older they get. Which doesn’t bode well considering many things already fire me up!

I was told off by an older lady last week for dragging my feet. Considering I wasn’t walking very far, I couldn’t understand why this would annoy her so much. She also likes to stand behind me and pull my shoulders back (I slouch something terrible), which reminds me of what my Gran used to do when I was a teenager.

The school run on the train has always annoyed me. Of course, “in my day”, we would have given our seats to adults. But we didn’t catch trains in South Africa, and I had the luxury of the front seat of our car (if I was lucky/made a deal with dude) so I wouldn’t really know how I would have reacted. But still!

And on the note of getting older (sorry Whitters, you are still a pup), it was Frank’s brother-in-law’s birthday last week. As is tradition, I made a cake to celebrate. Whitters is one of the best audiences to bake for – he loves baked goods and isn’t too fussed if they don’t look lovely as long as they taste lovely. Since he loves banana cake (well, I hope he does), I decided to make a banoffee banana cake. And since I had loads of icing left over, I made another one for the Pig Palace! The cake was simple to make, and tastes delicious! Perfect for afternoon tea…

Sticky banoffee cake – recipe from the BBC Good Food website

200g caster sugar
200g softened butter
4 eggs , beaten
200g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 mashed, ripe bananas

For the filling:

284ml double cream
4 tbsp tinned caramel/banoffee toffee

Heat oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Butter two 20cm sandwich tins and line with non-stick baking paper. In a large bowl, beat all the cake ingredients together including the vanilla extract and 2 mashed, ripe bananas, until you have a smooth, soft batter.

Divide the mixture between the tins, smooth the surface with a spatula or the back of a spoon, then bake for about 20 mins until golden and the cake springs back when pressed. Turn onto a cooling rack and leave to cool completely.

For the filling, whip the double cream and fold through the Banoffee toffee. To serve, spread half of the cream over one of the cakes.Sandwich together, then cover with more cream then decorate the cake with an elegant drizzle of Banoffee toffee. Keep in an airtight container and eat within 2 days.

October Daring Baker’s challenge – Doughnuts!

This was my first Daring Baker’s challenge, and what a fantastic one it was! The challenge forced me to confront my fears of hot oil, with the only downside being that Frank got to see exactly how much of a giant baby I can be. (Yes, he has seen me in a onesie, but this was far more similar to a cry-baby)

The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

Lori also encouraged us to make more than one type of doughnut from her recipes provided. And now for my excuses! I would have loved to get completely immersed in this challenge and get creative, but sadly I have just been too frantic to dedicate the time to it, and so I only made one type of doughnut. I will definitely take the recipes away however, and make them another time when things are more calm at the Pig Palace. With my new-found confidence! 😉

I chose to make traditional yeast doughnuts, as these are my favorite kind. I also decided to coat them in cinnamon sugar, as there is nothing better than fresh doughnuts with cinnamon! The recipe was wonderfully straight-forward, and the doughnuts turned out perfectly. The only hitch was the hot oil…
We borrowed a deep-fryer from Frank’s brother, as I was worried about deep-frying for the first time (oh yes!) on a gas stove. When the oil was at the right temperature I became too scared to put the doughnuts in, so I yelled for Frank and made him do the first round (while dancing behind him with all the teatowels we own, as he said this is the best way to put out an oil fire). He made it seem so easy that I pottered on and did the rest, and now I’m keen to try all sorts of other delicious deep-fried goodies!! Frank’s favorite part? The doughnut holes. Bite-sized deliciousness!

Yeast Doughnuts:

Preparation time:
Hands on prep time – 25 minutes
Rising time – 1.5 hours total
Cooking time – 12 minutes

Yield: 20 to 25 doughnuts & 20 to 25 doughnut holes, depending on size

Ingredients
1.5 cups Milk
1/3 cup butter/margarine
2 pkts Active Dry Yeast
1/3 cup Warm Water
2 large eggs, beaten
¼ cup white Granulated Sugar
1.5 tsp table salt
1 tsp grated nutmeg
4 2/3 cup plain flour + extra for dusting surface
Canola Oil DEPENDS on size of vessel you are frying in – you want THREE (3) inches of oil (can substitute any flavorless oil used for frying)
1/4 cup granulated sugar + 2 tsp cinnamon for dusting

Place the milk in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat just until warm enough to melt the shortening. (Make sure the margarine/butter is melted so that it incorporates well into the batter.)
Place the butter in a bowl and pour warmed milk over. Set aside.
In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and let dissolve for 5 minutes. It should get foamy. After 5 minutes, pour the yeast mixture into the large bowl of a stand mixer and add the milk and shortening mixture, first making sure the milk and shortening mixture has cooled to lukewarm.
Add the eggs, sugar, salt, nutmeg, and half of the flour. Using the paddle attachment of your mixer (if you have one), combine the ingredients on low speed until flour is incorporated and then turn the speed up to medium and beat until well combined.
Add the remaining flour, combining on low speed at first, and then increase the speed to medium and beat well.
Change to the dough hook attachment of the mixer and beat on medium speed until the dough pulls away from the bowl and becomes smooth, approximately 3 to 4 minutes (for me this only took about two minutes). If you do not have a dough hook/stand mixer – knead until the dough is smooth and not sticky.
Transfer to a well-oiled bowl, cover, and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

On a well-floured surface, roll out dough to 3/8-inch (9 mm)thick. (Make sure the surface really is well-floured otherwise your doughnuts will stick to the counter).
Cut out dough using a 2 1/2-inch (65 mm) doughnut cutter or pastry ring or drinking glass and using a 7/8-inch (22 mm) ring for the center whole. Set on floured baking sheet, cover lightly with a tea towel, and let rise for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oil in a deep fryer or Dutch oven to 365 °F/185°C.
Gently place the doughnuts into the oil, 3 to 4 at a time.

Cook for 1 minute per side or until golden brown (my doughnuts only took about 30 seconds on each side at this temperature).
Transfer to a cooling rack placed in baking pan. Once cooled toss in cinnamon-sugar mix.

A quick note from the Pig Palace Kitchen…

I would like to apologise in advance for my upcoming absence from the Pig Palace kitchen. (I also have to apologie TO the Pig Palace kitchen, but this will happen when Frank isn’t around to hear me…) Dude, Pea and Bean (my brother, sister-in-law and eight month-old niece) will be hitting the shores of the Promised Land on Sunday, and Frank and I will be spending the next two weeks showing them exactly what the land down under has to offer them. I can’t wait!

But I promise I’ll make it up to you when I get back. For now; bring on the baby wipes, the silly dancing, and the pureed veggies!

Until the end of the month, enjoy cooking!

x Cook Piglet.

October Daring Cook’s challenge – stuffed grape leaves

As it turns out, we can’t do everything. As much as we try, sometimes things have to take a backseat *shock*horror*. Frank and I have been very busy lately with work and friends, and getting the house ready for Dude, Pea and my beautiful niece Bean’s visit to the Promised Land (YAAAAY, I am counting down the days!!!!!) Ignoring the ever-increasing to-do list, I not only was game to do this month’s Daring Cook’s challenge, but a baking one as well. And I almost didn’t get to finish either!

Luckily I managed to scrounge some time on Sunday afternoon to nut out both challenges. I was disappointed I never have them the full dedication I normally do, but I am relieved to have them done. So apologies in advance for the sub-standard work everyone!

Our October 2010 hostess, Lori of Lori’s Lipsmacking Goodness, has challenged The Daring Cooks to stuff grape leaves. Lori chose a recipe from Aromas of Aleppo and a recipe from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food.

When I read what October’s challenge was going to be, I immediately thought: my mom would love this! From a young age I remember my mom saying how delicious dolmades are. I contacted Pistol (he is of Greek decent) to find out where I could get vine leaves from, and his suggestions of a Greek suburb near us were great. Of course with so many things going on, Frank and I didn’t get the chance to source the vine leaves. (And I’m not the biggest fan of them, I find them a  bit tough and stringy)

Our wonderful hostess Lori suggested that we could use cabbage as alternative, which I decided to do. I could only find dwarf cabbages in the supermarket, and with a whole head of cabbage I managed to only pull off 10 leaves intact! So I halved the recipe to make just enough dolmades for the two of us for dinner. The recipe was straight-forward and easy to follow. I’ll definitely be making these for when Mom comes to visit Australia in November!

Wara Einab or Dolma/Cold Stuffed Grape Leaves – recipe adapted from Claudia Roden’s The New Book of Middle Eastern Food

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

24 – 30 preserved or fresh grape leaves (or cabbage leaves)
1¼ cups (300 ml) long grain rice
1- 3 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped or 4 tablespoons (60 ml) finely chopped scallions
2 tablespoons (30 ml) finely chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons (30 ml) crushed dried mint
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) ground allspice
1 teaspoon (5 ml) dill
Salt and pepper
2 tomatoes, sliced
3 or 4 cloves garlic
2/3 cup (160 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon (5 ml) sugar
Juice of 1 lemon or more

Notes:

If using grape leaves preserved in brine, to remove salt put them in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Make sure that the water penetrates well between the layers, and leave them soaking for about twenty minutes, then change the water a time or two using fresh cold water.If using fresh leaves, plunge a few at a time in boiling water for a few seconds only, until they become limp, and lift them out.

Pour boiling water over the rice and stir well, then rinse with cold water and let drain. Mix the rice with the chopped tomatoes, onion or scallion, parsley, mint, cinnamon, allspice, dill, salt and pepper to taste.

Place a grape leaf on a flat surface, vein side up. Place about two teaspoons (10 ml) of the filling in the center of the leaf, near the stem edge.Roll the leaf end to end, starting from the stem edge.

As you roll, fold the sides of the leaf in toward the center. The leaf should resemble a small cigar, about 2 to 2 1/2 inches (50 mm to 65mm) long.

Repeat with the remaining leaves and filling.(You can freeze the stuffed grape leaves at this point. Just line a baking sheet with wax paper. When firmly frozen, transfer to an airtight plastic bag place back in the freezer.)

Pack the stuffed leaves tightly in a large pan lined with tomato slices or imperfect grape leaves Place a whole garlic clove in between them for extra flavor. The tightness will help prevent the rolls from unraveling.

Mix together olive oil, 2/3 cup (160 ml) water, sugar and lemon juice and pour over the stuffed leaves. Put a small heat proof plate on top of the leaves to prevent them from unwinding, cover the pan and simmer very gently for about 1 hour, until the rolls are thoroughly cooked, adding water occasionally, a cup at a time, as the liquid in the pan becomes absorbed.

Cool in the pan before turning out. Serve cold.

Peppermint-chocolate mousse

I’m not sure if I’ve told you think before (and if I have, please feel free to switch off or yell “yes yes, I’ve heard this one already!!”) but I get bored easily. I’m always on the hunt for something new, and it doesn’t have to actually happen, just the idea is enough to keep me going for a week or two. I keep the shiny little gold nuggets that are ideas in the front pocket of my brain (along with some lint and a staple or two) and pull them out every now and again just to revel in the beauty of them.

The bonus of having a short attention-span is that I am also amused easily. I love stupid jokes, I laugh my head off at “Australia’s funniest home videos”, and when Frank gets into one of his comedic moods I am quite often in tears of laughter on the floor for ages.

Frank and I do the grocery shopping together. I think it’s only fair that he shares my pain. But it never ceases to fascinate me how unobservant he can be at times. Last time we went shopping Frank was tasked with picking out the eggs. We rolled up to the isle to find one broken egg splattered on the floor.

With what I assumed was neat avoidance, Frank reached up to pick a box of eggs and then attempted to put them straight into the trolley. So I said “best you make sure that none of them are cracked” (because that always happens to me), and he pulled the carton out and popped it open.

To his surprise there was one egg missing from the carton, to which I tried to say “oh, that’s where the one on the floor must have come from”, but before I could Frank had stepped right on the egg-mess and was wobbling on one foot! Just the sight of Frank made me laugh for about 10 minutes, and the fact that he never even noticed the egg on the floor made me laugh for another 10. Just thinking about it now makes me chuckle! (Although Frank wasn’t pleased with me laughing at him)

Good thing we discovered there was an egg missing, because I needed them for the wonderful recipe below. This is a classic, and I will always keep going back to it for dinner parties. According to my wise and wonderful friend Mrs Swede, mousse is meant to be made with raw eggs and not with cream. Sorry Mom!

Very chocolate-y mousse – recipe adapted from How to Cook Book Two (Delia Smith) and The Delia Collection: Chocolate.

200g dark chocolate
115ml warm water
2.5ml peppermint essence
3 large eggs, separated
40g castor sugar

To serve:
Whipped cream
Mint leaves

First of all place the broken-up chocolate and warm water in a large heatproof bowl, which should be sitting over a saucepan of barely simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Then, keeping the heat at its lowest, allow the chocolate to melt slowly – it should take about 6 minutes.

Now remove it from the heat and give it a good stir until it’s smooth and glossy, then let the chocolate cool for 2-3 minutes before stirring in the egg yolks.

Then give it another good mix with a wooden spoon. Next, in a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites to the soft-peak stage, then whisk in the sugar, about a third at a time, then whisk again until the whites are glossy.

Now, using a metal spoon, fold a tablespoon of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to loosen it, then carefully fold in the rest. You need to have patience here – it needs gentle folding and cutting movements so that you retain all the precious air, which makes the mousse light.

Next divide the mousse between the ramekins or glasses (or in this case a tub to transport!) and chill for at least 2 hours, covered with clingfilm.

I think it’s also good to serve the mousse with a blob of softly whipped cream on top, with some chocolate shavings and mint leaves.

Aussie trifle, Swede-style

Men at work’s song “the land down under” is so Australian. In London they always pump out this song in the Aussie pubs and everyone (Australian and non) goes nuts. When Frank and I first decided to move to Australia I used to hear the song and get goose bumps with anticipation of moving to (what I liked to call) The Promised Land.

I lived in London for 5 years, and I’m only slightly embarrassed to admit that I refused to support England/the UK in any sporting events (and still do). I also refused to embrace it as home, and did not learn the national anthem. I suspect it was the shock of how different the UK’s culture is from South Africa, or the fact that I never intended to live there forever.

My friend T-bug, however, moved to London with the intention of staying for good. So when we all gathered for a night of watching South Africa vs. England in the rugby, he rocked up with an England rugby jersey on! Needless to say, Dude tried very hard not to kick him out the house and we all gave him a LOT of grief.

Now that Frank and I have settled in The Promised Land I have fully embraced the Aussie culture. I am Aussie-proud: I can sing the national anthem at sporting events, I support a rugby league team *go tigers!!* and I rather enjoy a game of Aussie Rules Football.  I think Australia just makes you love it, as my beautiful friend Mrs Swede feels exactly the same way.

When we went visited the Swedes a couple of weeks ago we were lucky enough to be treated to Mrs Swede’s trifle. But not just any trifle, Aussie trifle. I don’t normally like trifle, but this one was delicious. I’ve decided to replicate it (with a minor tweek) for Frank’s family gathering this weekend, and thanks to the ingenious Mrs Swede I get to share the recipe with you!

Aussie Trifle – recipe from Mrs Swede

1 pack ready-made lamingtons, sliced
1 pack raspberry jelly – made to instructions
1 batch crème patisserie (or ready-made custard will do)
300ml thickened cream, whipped
¼ cup tia maria/sherry
100g pecan nuts
punnet fresh strawberries/raspberries
100g chocolate-covered peanuts
150g dark chocolate, cut into tiny chunks

Best made in a big glass bowl.

Line the bottom of the bowl with the sliced lamingtons.

Cover lamingtons with the alcohol.

Cut the jelly into little squares and lay on top of the lamingtons.

Add in the chocolate peanuts and three quarters of the chocolate chunks on top, and top with the custard.

Finally add a layer of berries and half the pecan nuts and top with the whipped cream. Finally, decorate with the remaining pecan nuts and chocolate chunks. Refrigerate for an hour, or overnight.

Enjoy!

Croquembouche!

I originally started this blog to track my monthly Daring Cook’s challenges, but it rapidly evolved to showcasing whatever gets whipped up in the Pig Palace kitchen. I love the Daring Cook’s challenges, but they only come once a month and I’ve often completed them within the first week! So, being brave, I’ve signed up to be a Daring Baker as well.

I’ve been watching the Daring Baker challenge reveals of my fellow foodies every month, and the Baker’s challenges look like such fun. They also look rather hard! But, I’m a firm believer in putting your head down and doing it. After all, I thought, how hard can something be? (Feel free to scoff at this point, I certainly did in hindsight!)

Seeing a beautiful croquembouche on Not Quite Nigella’s website, I was inspired to give it a try. I wouldn’t normally have dared to try it, but I remembered there was a recipe for it on the Daring Kitchen website for their Bakers’ May challenge. Apparently It was featured on the first season’s Masterchef, but those recipes require a mandatory 5 days in the kitchen and I wanted my croquembouche sooner (and with less effort) than that!

The recipe provided was fantastic. I was convinced every element of the dish would be hard, but in fact it was only the assembly that caused a few tears and a large quantity of sailor-mouth. The Crème Patissiere filling was straight-forward and delicious, and the choux pastry (which I thought was very difficult to get right) turned out light and fluffy. Even piping the custard into the buns was simple. It was just that darned toffee!!

The toffee turned beautifully amber, and then just solidified. I used tongs so I didn’t burn myself, but ended up ripping some of my buns while trying to drag them through the solidified toffee. Then when I held the buns to place them on the plate I touched the toffee and flicked the bun across the room in reflex. The toffee stuck to the counter and the bun rolled away, and I was left nursing a (tiny) blister and a counter covered in hardened toffee. I wasn’t able to decorate the croquembouche as I’d like, but I managed to get it looking like a tower-ish.
Despite the injuries, the effort was definitely worth it! I’ll definitely use the Crème Patissiere and the choux recipe again, but leave out the toffee in future efforts…

Croquembouche – recipe from the Daring Bakers’ May challenge

You will need approximately 10 minutes to prepare the puff pastry, 10 minutes to pipe and about 30 minutes to bake each batch. The crème patissiere should take about 10 minutes to cook and then will need to be cooled for at least 6 hours or overnight. The glazes take about 10 minutes to prepare.

For the Vanilla Crème Patissiere
2 cups (450 ml.) whole milk
4 Tbsp. cornstarch
12 Tbsp. (200 g.) sugar
2 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
4 Tbsp. (60 g.) unsalted butter
2 Tsp. Vanilla

Dissolve cornstarch in 1/2 cup of milk. Combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a saucepan; bring to boil; remove from heat. Beat the whole egg, then the yolks into the cornstarch mixture. Pour 1/3 of boiling milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs do not begin to cook. Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking.

Continue whisking (this is important – you do not want the eggs to solidify/cook) until the cream thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat and beat in the butter and vanilla.

Pour cream into a stainless steel/ceramic bowl. Press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Chill immediately and until ready to use

Pate a Choux (Yield: About 24)
¾ cup (175 ml.) water
6 Tbsp. (85 g.) unsalted butter
¼ Tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup (125 g.) all-purpose flour
4 large eggs

For Egg Wash: 1 egg and pinch of salt

Pre-heat oven to 425◦F/220◦C degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.Preparing batter: Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. At boil, remove from heat and sift in the flour, stirring to combine completely. Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly. Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny. As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes. It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs.

Piping:
Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip (I piped directly from the bag opening without a tip). Pipe choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high about 1 inch wide.Using a clean finger dipped in hot water, gently press down on any tips that have formed on the top of choux when piping. You want them to retain their ball shape, but be smoothly curved on top. Brush tops with egg wash (1 egg lightly beaten with pinch of salt).

Baking:
Bake the choux at 425◦F/220◦C degrees until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes. Lower the temperature to 350◦F/180◦C degrees and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 20 minutes more. Remove to a rack and cool. Can be stored in a airtight box overnight.

Filling:
When you are ready to assemble your piece montée, using a plain pastry tip, pierce the bottom of each choux. Fill the choux with pastry cream using either the same tip or a star tip, and place on a paper-lined sheet. Choux can be refrigerated briefly at this point while you make your glaze.

Hard Caramel Glaze:
1 cup (225 g.) sugar
½ teaspoon lemon juice

Combine sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan with a metal kitchen spoon stirring until the sugar resembles wet sand. Place on medium heat; heat without stirring until sugar starts to melt around the sides of the pan and the center begins to smoke. Begin to stir sugar. Continue heating, stirring occasionally until the sugar is a clear, amber color. Remove from heat immediately; place bottom of pan in ice water to stop the cooking. Use immediately.

Assembly of your Piece Montée:
You may want to lay out your unfilled, unglazed choux in a practice design to get a feel for how to assemble the final dessert. For example, if making a conical shape, trace a circle (no bigger than 8 inches) on a piece of parchment to use as a pattern. Then take some of the larger choux and assemble them in the circle for the bottom layer. Practice seeing which pieces fit together best.

Once you are ready to assemble your piece montée, dip the top of each choux in your glaze (careful it may be still hot!), and start assembling on your cake board/plate/sheet. Continue dipping and adding choux in levels using the glaze to hold them together as you build up. When you have finished the design of your piece montée, you may drizzle with remaining glaze or use ribbons, sugar cookie cut-outs, almonds, flowers, etc. to decorate.


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