Archive for November, 2010

November Daring Baker’s challenge – crostata!

When I read the heading to this month’s challenge I thought we were making some sort of bread. I’m so happy to say that crostata is actually delicious italian pastry!

The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.

Simona gave us three choices of tart to make, all sounding utterly delicious. As I am still obsessed with creme patisserie after the May DBC, I decided to make my crostata with custard. Unfortunately I decided to make the pastry on one of Sydney’s 30-degree days! At first the pastry just would not work as it kept on getting too soft. I’ll even go so far as to reveal I threw a massive tantrum when Frank came in to help and flicked pastry blobs all over the kitchen counter….

After gathering the blobs and my frayed nerves, I decided to start again. I refrigerated the pastry after every step, and in the end it turned out fabulously. I didn’t have the right sized flan tin, so I used a spring-form cake tin. It gave the custard good height, and baked well. To quote Frank’s brother-in-law, this was one of my best yet! Definitely try it if you’re looking for an italian take on custard tart. Thanks Simona for the great challenge!

Pasta frolla (pastry)

Ingredients:

1/2 c. minus 1 tablespoon [105 ml, 100 g, 3 ½ oz] superfine sugar (see Note 1) or a scant 3/4 cup [180ml, 90g, 3 oz] of powdered sugar
1 and 3/4 cup [420 ml, 235 g, 8 1/4 oz.] unbleached all-purpose flour
a pinch of salt
1 stick [8 tablespoons / 4 oz. / 115 g] cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
grated zest of half a lemon (you could also use vanilla sugar as an option, see Note 2)
1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten in a small bowl

Making pasta frolla by hand:

Whisk together sugar, flour and salt in a bowl.
Rub or cut the butter into the flour until the mixture has the consistency of coarse crumbs. You can do this in the bowl or on your work surface, using your fingertips or an implement of choice.

Make a well in the center of the mounded flour and butter mixture and pour the beaten eggs into it (reserve about a teaspoon of the egg mixture for glazing purposes later on – place in the refrigerator, covered, until ready to use).
Add the lemon zest to your flour/butter/egg mixture.
Use a fork to incorporate the liquid into the solid ingredients, and then use your fingertips.
Knead lightly just until the dough comes together into a ball.
Shape the dough into a flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Place the dough in the refrigerator and chill for at least two hours. You can refrigerate the dough overnight.

Crostata con la Crema

you will need: One batch of pastry cream (Note: For the recipe that I used, see https://lollcakes.wordpress.com/2010/10/01/croquembouche/. Prepare the pastry cream in advance of assembling the crostata)

Assembling and baking the crostata con la crema:

Heat the oven to 350ºF [180ºC/gas mark 4].
Take the pasta frolla out of the fridge, unwrap it and cut away ¼ of the dough. Reserve this dough to make the lattice top of the crostata. Refrigerate this dough while you work on the tart base.
To help roll the crostata dough, keep the dough on top of the plastic wrap that you had it wrapped in. This can help rolling the dough and can also help when transferring the dough to your pan. You can also use parchment paper for this. However, you can also roll the dough directly on a work surface if you prefer.

Lightly dust the top of the dough and your work surface (if you’re rolling directly on a work surface) with flour. Keep some flour handy to dust the dough as you go along.
If the dough is very firm, start by pressing the dough with the rolling pin from the middle to each end, moving the rolling pin by a pin’s width each time; turn the dough 180 degrees and repeat; when it softens, start rolling.
Roll the dough into a circle about 1/8th inch (3 mm) thick.
If you used the plastic wrap or parchment paper as rolling surface, flip dough over the pan, centering it, and delicately press it all around so the corners are well covered. Peel away the plastic wrap.
Trim the excess dough hanging over the edges of the pan. Press the remaining dough around the border into the sides of the pan making sure the border is an even thickness all the way around.

Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork in several places.
Take out of the fridge the reserved pasta frolla you had cut away earlier. Roll it with your pin and cut into strips or use cookie cutters to make small shapes (this is not traditional, but it looks cute); or roll with your hands into ropes.
Cover the bottom of the crostata crust evenly with the pastry cream.
Use the prepared strips or rolls of dough to make a lattice over the surface, or decorate with the cut shapes. (Note: You can use dough scraps to make cookies: see the Additional Information section for some pointers)

Brush the border and strips of dough with the reserved beaten eggs. You can add a drop or two of water to the beaten eggs if you don’t have enough liquid.
Put the tart in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.
After 35 minutes, check the tart, and continue baking until the tart is of a nice golden hue. (Note: Every oven is different. In my oven it took 45 minutes to bake the tart until golden.)

When done, remove the tart from the oven and let cool. If you have used a tart pan with a removable bottom, then release the tart base from the fluted tart ring. Make sure the tart is completely cool before slicing and serving.

Boozy Christmas cake

Have you ever done something you know you shouldn’t do (and you’ve been told you are definitely not allowed to do) but do it anyway? I have definitely been guilty of that this week. One of the guys I work with has become my wine guru. He recommends fantastic vineyards I’ve never heard of that produce amazing wines, and points me to websites that sell wine for good prices. Which is where the trouble started…

I count beans for a living (accountant-type stuff), and because of this I am “careful” with my money. My grandparents are Dutch, so I was born with a natural predisposition to spend money only when it was a bargain or when the item was needed. When I was a kid, I used to stuff the $200 notes at the beginning of a Monopoly game under the board so I always had some saved at the end. No matter what it is, if I consider it of value I will squirrel it away for a rainy day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Combining my inner squirrel with an online wine auction site is a very dangerous thing. My wine guru sent me to this wonderful site, and Frank has been regretting it ever since. I have managed to bag some wonderful wines for a quarter of the price in the shop, but my love of a bargain has turned into an obsession. The other night I bid on two cases when I only wanted one, and Frank told me to no longer order wine until we’d finished what we had. But the next day I went back online, and two additional cases are due to hit the Pig Palace next week. (Frank doesn’t know yet, so I’m hoping he won’t notice the extra boxes in the dining room…)

My excuses are: a) they are bargains, b) we are having lots of guests to share it with, and c) the Festive season is almost upon us! And as I love all things Christmas so much, I thought it was high time we begin some Pig Palace Christmas traditions. First one off the block – boozy Christmas cake! Frank isn’t the biggest fan, but Mom and I are, so I’ve made two to stew in the cupboard until the great unveiling at Christmas.
This recipe is so easy and straight-forward. Give it a try!
Easy boozy Pig Palace Christmas cake – recipe from the BBC Good Food website

200g butter , softened to room temperature
200g dark muscovado sugar
200g plain flour
4 eggs , beaten
50g ground almonds
100ml sherry , sweet or dry, whatever you have in the cupboard
85g candied peel , roughly chopped
85g glacé cherries , roughly chopped
250g raisins
250g currants
100g pack pecans nuts, broken into big pieces
finely grated zest 1 lemon
1½ tsp mixed spice
1½ tsp rosewater
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp baking powder

Heat oven to 160C/fan 140C/gas 3. Line the base and sides of a 20 cm round, 7.5 cm deep cake tin. Beat the butter and sugar with an electric hand mixer for 1-2 mins until very creamy and pale in colour, scraping down the sides of the bowl half way through. Stir in a spoonful of the flour, then stir in the beaten egg and the rest of the flour alternately, a quarter at a time, beating well each time with a wooden spoon. Stir in the almonds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mix in the sherry (the mix will look curdled), then add the peel, cherries, raisins, cherries, nuts, lemon zest, spice, rosewater and vanilla. Beat together to mix, then stir in the baking powder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spoon mixture into the tin and smooth the top, making a slight dip in the centre. Bake for 30 mins, then lower temperature to 150C/fan 130C/gas 2 and bake a further 2-2¼ hrs, until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave to cool in the tin, then take out of the tin and peel off the lining paper. When completely cold, wrap well in cling film and foil to store until ready to decorate. The cake will keep for several months. If you want to, brush the cake with a small amount of sherry once a week until Christmas…

November Daring Cook’s challenge: Soufflés!

This month’s challenge gave us the option to make a savoury or sweet soufflé. What a fantastic challenge! I have never tried making soufflé before, but always wanted to, so this challenge came at the perfect time.

Dave and Linda from Monkeyshines in the Kitchen chose Soufflés as our November 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge! Dave and Linda provided two of their own delicious recipes plus a sinfully decadent chocolate soufflé recipe adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s recipe found at the BBC Good Food website.

It was mandatory for us to make a baked soufflé, but the recipe was up to us. I made a batch of raspberry and lime curd a month ago and had it sitting in the freezer, so I managed to find a delicious baked souffle from Delia Smith to use it up! The recipe was really straight-forward, and tasted fantastic. I would definitely recommend it if you feel like making a dessert that is easy but very impressive!

Hot lemon-curd soufflés – recipe from Delia Smith

For the soufflés:
3 large eggs
2 oz (50 g) golden castor sugar and 1 level dessertspoon golden castor sugar
grated zest and juice 1 medium lemon (2 tablespoons juice)

For the quick-method lemon curd:
grated zest and juice 1 small lemon
1 large egg
1½ oz (40 g) golden castor sugar
1 oz (25 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 level teaspoon cornflour

To serve:
a little sifted icing sugar
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 3, 325°F (170°C)

First of all make the lemon curd by lightly whisking the egg in a medium-sized saucepan, then add the rest of the lemon curd ingredients and place the saucepan over a medium heat. Now whisk continuously using a balloon whisk until the mixture thickens; this won’t take long – about 3 minutes in all.

Next, lower the heat to its minimum setting and let the curd gently simmer for 1 further minute, continuing to whisk. After that, remove it from the heat and divide the curd between the bases of the ramekins. (This can all be done well in advance, but cover and leave at room temperature.)

When you’re ready to make the soufflés, separate the eggs, putting the yolks into a medium-sized bowl and the whites into a spanking-clean larger one.

Now, using an electric hand whisk, whisk the whites to the stiff-peak stage, which will take 4-5 minutes – start on a slow speed, gradually increasing to medium and then high. Then add the dessertspoon of castor sugar and whisk on a high speed for 30 seconds more. Next add the zest and lemon juice and the remaining 2 oz (50 g) of sugar to the yolks and mix them together briefly. Now take a tablespoon of the whites and fold them into the yolks to loosen the mixture, then fold the rest of the whites in using a light cutting and folding movement so as not to lose the precious air.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared ramekins, piling it high like a pyramid, then run a finger round the inside rim of each one. Next place them on the baking sheet and put this in the oven on the centre shelf for 15-17 minutes or until the tops are golden. Then remove them and let them settle for about 5 minutes to allow the lemon curd to cool.

They will sink a little, but that’s normal. Just before serving, place them on smaller plates and give them a light dusting of icing sugar.

Coconut & lime panna cotta with pineapple relish

Where has summer gone? This week I’ve been walking around in Frank’s jumpers and thick socks regretting taking the winter bedding off the bed. Apparently Sydney had the “third wettest October on record”, but for someone who immigrated to get away from the rain, this whole year has felt like the third wettest on record! (In my head I’m humming Crowded House’s “everywhere you go, you always take the weather with you”…) To be honest, there are only so many times you can say “well, it’s good for the farmers” with a smile on your face.

Having said that; Sydney decided to bring out the sunshine for Dude, Pea and Bean’s visit to the Promised Land. Thank you Sydney! We had some beautiful days, which allowed them to see what Sydney might be like in a non-wet year.
As it began to feel like summer, I decided to try my hand at panna cotta, and treat the family to some experiments! My mom sent me some lovely recipes, and the weather was just right for the deliciously light dessert.

According to Dude and Pea, it was delicious. I loved the pineapple relish, but the coconut milk in a dessert made it taste like thai curry to Frank and tinned beans to me (smooth and creamy tinned beans, but tinned beans all the same).  If you like coconut milk in desserts, definitely give this one a try as the texture is delicious. If not, substitute it with the same volume of cream and a teaspoon coconut essence.  Let’s cross fingers for some sunshine soon!

Coconut & lime panna cotta with pineapple relish – recipe adapted from BBC Good Food website

3 sheets fine-leaf gelatine
400ml can coconut milk
150ml milk
3tbsp caster sugar
finely grated zest and juice of 2 limes

For the salsa:
85g caster sugar
25g fresh root ginger , thinly sliced
250g fresh pineapples , cut into small pieces
1 red chilli , deseeded and finely chopped

Soak gelatine in cold water for 5 minutes or until soft.Put the coconut milk and sugar in a pan and heat until bubbling. Stir in the lime zest & juice and remove from the heat.

Lift the gelatine from the water and stir into the milk until dissolved. Pour into four 150ml moulds or ramekins, or even small cups. Leave to cool, then put on a plate in the fridge. Chill for at least 2 hours or until set.

For the salsa, tip the sugar and ginger slices into a small saucepan and pour over 100ml water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for another 5-10 mins until it turns slightly syrupy and light golden. Leave to cool, then discard the ginger slices. The syrup can be made up to 1 week in advance.

To serve, dip each mould into boiling water for a moment to loosen the panna cotta, then turn onto a serving late. Arrange the sliced pineapple beside each panna cotta and scatter with chopped chilli. Drizzle with ginger syrup to finish.


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