Sunday 29 April 2007

Tea with Bread and Jam

The day started out cold and miserable and so I decided to stay indoors and bake some bread. I found a recipe for Baguettes on ‘Anne’s Food’ another blog I regularly read. Having never attempted them before I decided to give it a shot. The original can be viewed here. She does state that the dough will be “very soft” but I’m not sure what I did wrong but my dough ended up so soft that it actually started to flow across the countertop after I turned it out after proving. I hastily scattered it with lots of extra flour and managed to work it into a more stable dough. Apart from this minor hitch the recipe was very simple to follow and produced a wonderful tasting, light dough with a crisp golden crust.

The overall taste and texture of the bread reminded me more of Ciabatta than a Baguette, not that that’s a bad thing. I will defiantly be making these again. If you want to eat this bread by the afternoon you will need to start preparing it early in the morning as it needs quite a long proving time.

Ciabatta Style Baguettes
(Adapted from ‘Anne’s Food’ blog)
600ml warmed water
800 - 850g strong plain flour
30g fresh yeast
1 tsp salt
Extra flour for dusting

Place the flour in a very large mixing bowl and gradually incorporate the water, whilst mixing together using an electric beater and a dough hook.
Add the salt and mix for around 3 minutes until you have a smooth, soft dough.
Crumble over the yeast and mix for a further 3-5 minutes. The dough should become very soft and stretchy.
Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to rise for 3-4 hours.
Line two baking trays with baking paper and lightly dust with flour.
When the dough has doubled in size, tip the batter out onto a very, very well floured surface and divide into two. (The dough will still be extremely soft).
Working quickly shape each half into a long baton shape and transfer each one onto a baking sheet.
Dust each one with a little flour and leave to prove for a further 30 minutes.
Meanwhile preheat the oven to 275C and place a cake tin full of water in the base of your oven to create a steamy environment.
Place the breads into the oven and bake for 10minutes. Then lower the oven temperature to 200C and bake for a further 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.
Allow to cool on the trays for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire wrack to cool.
Makes 2 baguettes.

Mango Jam
I bought a couple of mangos as they were ‘buy one get one free’ in my local supermarket. They looked and smelt lovely and ripe but on tasting one I was very disappointed to find it was very fiberous, with an astringent aftertaste. Rather than waiting in the hope that it would improve, I decided to turn it into jam as I find cooking poor quality fruit often improves it no end.

This jam is actually more like a fruit spread, than a jam as it doesn’t set quite as firm as a normal jam. It also doesn’t contain as much sugar, meaning it won’t keep as long but also means it’s not overly sweet and tastes very fresh and strongly of fruit which I prefer. It went wonderfully on the above bread. I should image it would also be great on toast, fruit buns, scones or as a filling for cakes.

It was very quick and easy to make and really transformed the mango, bringing out its sweet tropical flavour and fragrance. The colour is such a vivid, sunny, golden colour that makes it perfect for a summery afternoon tea.

1 large mango
50g caster sugar
160ml water

Heat the oven to 80C and place a jam jar and lid in the oven to sterilize.
Slice and peel the mango into strips. Cut each strip of mango into very small cubes.
Place into a smallish saucepan along with the water and sugar.
Heat on high until the mixture comes to the boil then reduce the heat to a simmer.
After 10 minutes the mango should be very soft and looking bright and translucent. Mash the mango using a potato masher to achieve a thick smooth puree.
Allow to simmer for a further 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the puree as thickened and turned jam like.
Remove the jam jar from the oven and fill with the mango jam. Quickly screw the lid on tightly (using washing up gloves to prevent burns) and allow to cool on the side before refrigerating.
Makes 1 large 370g jar

Thursday 26 April 2007

Thank You Brownies

As you may be aware it was my birthday a few days ago and I received lots of lovely gifts including an amazing 9 cookery books! One of them was Green & Blacks book of Chocolate Recipes, a truly indulgent book that was given to me by Chris. Chris is a complete chocoholic and he said he would be more than happy to taste test anything I made from it. Hint, hint.

So as a thank you, I made him some chocolate brownies and took them round to him the following evening. He was very happy and ate not one but four, yes FOUR within the hour! That must have resulted in a serious sugar rush, but he said they were too good to resist.

These brownies are the sweet, gooey-chewy kind rather than the light spongy kind, which in my option make for a more decedent brownie. They are light, very moist with a crisp surface coating and a gooey chocolate interior. The recipe I used wasn’t actually from the Green & Blacks book as I originally intended as their brownies used mashed cherries and I wasn’t sure what to replace them with as Chris doesn’t like anything with his chocolate, expect perhaps more chocolate. So instead I adapted a recipe by Sarah Beeny from an old episode of the F-Word. The original can be viewed here.

These brownies are also my contribution to ‘Brownie Babe’ event hosted by Myriam from Once Upon A Tart. They may not look anything special, but they taste yummy and I have found that keeping things simple can give the best results.

Gooey-Chewy Choc Chip Brownies

115g butter
25g dark chocolate
115g plain flour
3 tbsp cocoa powder
2 eggs
40g white chocolate
230g caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 170C. Line the base and sides of an 8inch/20cm square tin with foil. Do this by cutting a big piece and carefully pushing it into the tin and up the sides. Then brush the base with a little oil to prevent the batter from sticking.
Break the dark chocolate into pieces and add to a large bowl along with the butter. Heat in the microwave until the butter has melted, stir until the chocolate has all melted in.
Add the flour, cocoa powder and sugar to the warm butter mixture and beat until smooth and thick.
Then beat the eggs in, one at a time. Chop the white chocolate into little chunks and fold into the batter.
Pour into the lines tin and bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes until a crust has formed but the middle is still very soft.
Allow to cool for 15 minutes in the tin before lifting onto a chopping board with the help from the foil.
Cut into 12 segments whilst still warm and lift the whole lot onto a cooling wrack. Serve warm or allow to cool completely before storing.
Makes 12

Update: The complete round-up of everyones enteries can be viewed here.

Tuesday 24 April 2007

Peach, Lime and Coconut Cake

Today is my 20th birthday. That sounds so much older than saying nineteen! I am no longer a teenager. However, I’m quite pleased about this as I was never a typical teenager. I don’t consider being out until 4am and throwing up from drinking too much to be a good time which is typically the view people have of teenagers, especially university students. Hopefully I will no longer be slotted into this stereotype now that I have become 20. I must now be considered a mature and sensible young adult, at least, that’s the image I hope to portray.

Anyway, ramblings aside, I made this cake at the weekend as a sort of early birthday cake that I could share with my housemates. I picked up a very cheap bag of desiccated coconut from the shops and wanted to make a cake that incorporated it. However, having never made a coconut cake before, I spent a few hours browsing through many recipes in the search of one that appealed. In the end I had it narrowed down to two. A coconut and lime cake or a coconut and mango cake. I couldn’t decide between the two and so I decided to mix all three components together and create this tropical sounding cake. I ended up substituting the mango for peach as I had a tin of peach slices in the cupboard and decided this would be just as good.

I was a little unsure how this cake would turn out as I ended up just weighing out and adding the ingredients to sight and required consistency, without actually following a recipe. The batter was quite runny which meant it required longer cooking than a standard sponge but was very quick and easy to make as I just threw everything together in one bowl. I was very pleased with the results. It was light and very moist thanks to the addition of the syrup. When you take a bite, the first flavour is of zesty lime and then the flavour of the sweet peach emerges. As you begin to chew your teeth grind down the little coconut strands which then fill your mouth with a burst of creamy coconut.

Peach, Lime and Coconut Cake
For the cake
175g self raising flour
120g caster sugar
75g butter
75g desiccated coconut
2 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
Zest of 1 lime
Juice of half a lime
410g tin of peach slices in natural juice

For the syrup
Juice of half a lime
Juice from tin of peach slices
1 tbsp caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line a deep 7 inch circular cake tin.
Open the tin of peach slices and transfer the fruit to a large mixing bowl. Keep the juice for later.
Mash the peach slices into a pulp using a potato masher.
Add the rest of the cake ingredients to the bowl and whisk everything together using an electric whisk until all incorporated.
Pour the cake batter into the tin and place in the oven for 40 minutes.
After this time, remove the cake from the oven, cover in a layer of foil and return to the oven for a further 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, pour the juice from the tin f peach slices into a small saucepan and add the juice of half a lime and the sugar.
Heat the mixture until reduced by half and thickened.
When the cake is cooked, remove from the oven and pierce the surface all over with a skewer. Drizzle over the fruit syrup (you will only need half) and leave to cool completely before removing from the tin.
Keep the rest of the fruit syrup in a plastic container in the fridge. Drizzle a little over each slice of cake just before you eat it as this gives the cake a very fresh, moist, zingy flavour even a few days later.

Saturday 21 April 2007

Light Lemon Fruit Buns

These buns are incredibly light, soft and tender thanks to the addition of the egg and milk in the dough. I wanted to make some buns that were more summery than the spiced buns I often make and so I decided to adapt a recipe for a standard milk loaf and create a more delicate bun. I added lemon zest for a fresh zesty overtone and the colourful apricots and cherries which looked very pretty dotted throughout the dough.

The buns are great eaten as they are, spread with lemon curd or jam and are also great toasted. I even know someone who likes to eat theirs with cheese and marmalade.

These buns are also my entry to this month’s BREAD edition of ‘Waiter There’s Something In My…’ as hosted by Andrew over at SpittoonExtra. You can check out the entry requirements here.

Light Lemon Fruit Buns
350g plain flour
50g caster sugar
¼ tsp salt
25g fresh yeast
50g butter
200ml milk
1 egg
Zest of ½ lemon
50g sultanas
45g dried apricots
45g glace cherries

Combine flour, sugar, salt, yeast and lemon zest in a large bowl.
Cut the butter into small pieces and add to a jug along with the milk and heat gently until warm but not to hot. (It shouldn’t get hotter than body temperature).
Whisk the egg into the milk and pour over the flour.
Using your fingers bring everything together and then kneed with a dough hook or by hand, for 5 minutes until soft and stretchy.
Transfer to a greased bowl, cover with cling film and leave to prove for 25 minutes.
Weigh out the fruit ingredients and chop the apricots and cherries into small pieces using a pair of scissors.
Knock back the risen dough and kneed in the fruit until it is evenly distributed.
Divide the dough into nine even pieces and shape into bun shapes.
Place onto two lightly greased baking trays, loosely cover in cling film and leave to rise for a further 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 220C.
Brush the surface of the buns with a little milk and place in the oven to bake for 12 minutes. They should be risen and golden brown on top.
Remove from the oven and turn them upside down and place back in the oven for a further 3 minutes to firm up the bases.
Transfer to a cooling wrack and allow to cool before eating or storing in an airtight container.
Makes 9 lemony buns.

Update: The complete round-up of everyones enteries can be viewed here.

Friday 20 April 2007

Vegetable Bean Chili in Mole Sauce with Cornbread

This is a Mexican themed meal that I made for my family over Easter. It involved two recipes I had never tried before, but I was very pleased with the results.

In the last year I have suddenly developed a taste for hot, spicy yet flavoursome food. I still don’t like food that blows your head off, but I now like food with a good kick to it. A few months ago I went out for my first Mexican meal which was where I had my first taste of vegetables in a chili chocolate sauce. I have since learnt that this is the basis of what is called a Mole sauce and often served over meats in Mexico. An authentic Mole sauce should also include cinnamon, sugar and ground nuts but I decided to just experiment with the chili-chocolate aspect of it for my first attempt. However, being vegetarian I decided to take this concept and incorporate it into a bean chili.

I really enjoyed both creating and eating this dish, it was really delicious and the smells while it was cooking were amazing. The paprika added a smokiness and the ground chilies added a gentle heat that built up the more you ate. The addition of the cocoa powder added a deep richness to the sauce and gave a great aftertaste, not overly chocolaty but the same kind of rich bitterness that lingers on your tongue after eating a square of dark chocolate. I chose to serve this dish with some home made cornbread that was great crumbled over the top to absorb some of the sauce before eating.

Vegetable Bean Chili in Mole Sauce
1 onion
3 garlic cloves
2 green chilies
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp dried oregano
½ orange pepper
¼ red pepper
3 tbsp tinned sweetcorn
½ courgette
1 carrot
2 tsp ground cumin
1½ tsp ground chilies
2 tsp sweet paprika
420g tin black eyed beans
420g tin red kidney beans
270g tin mixed beans
300ml vegetable stock
400g tin chopped tomatoes
3 tsp cocoa powder

Peel and very roughly chop the onion and garlic before adding them to a food processor. Split the chilies in half and remove the seeds and add to onion.
Blitz until a smoothish paste has formed (watch your eyes, it packs a punch when you remove the lid).
Heat the vegetable oil in a large saucepan and add the onion/garlic/chili mixture along with the oregano. Cook until softened, but not brown.
Meanwhile finely dice the peppers, carrot and courgette and drain the sweetcorn. Drain the beans into a large sieve and wash under the cold tap to remove any brine.
Add the cumin, paprika and ground chilies to the pan along with the vegetables and cook for a further 2 minutes.
Add the vegetable stock, beans and tinned tomatoes to the pan and bring to the boil. Then reduce to a simmer and cook for a further 30minutes, stirring every 10minutes to prevent sticking.
Put the cocoa powder into a small bowl and add 1tbsp water and combine to make a smooth runny mixture. Drizzle this into the chili and stir well, the sauce should turn a darker colour and begin to smell chocolaty. Allow to cook for a further 10 minutes, which should allow the sauce to thicken.
Taste and add more ground chili or seasoning to preference.
Serve in big bowls with sour cream, nachos or cornbread.
Serves 5 – 6

(Recipe by Nigella Lawson)
This recipe is really really quick to make and very easy. It is very versatile and tastes great hot from the oven spread with butter or eaten cold with jam or even… nutella. In this case I served it in wedges that people could then crumble over the top of their chili mole beans. Using polenta will give you a grainer texture than cornmeal, but they both work well.

175g cornmeal or polenta
125g plain flour
40g caster sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1 egg
45g melted butter
250ml milk

Grease and line an 8inch/20cm tin and preheat the oven to 200C.
Place the cornmeal, flour, baking powder and sugar into a bowl.
Melt the butter and pour over the flour mix.
Beat the egg into the milk and add to the bowl.
Beat everything together with a wooden spoon until smooth.
Pour into the tin and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and coming away from the slides of the tin.
Serve immediately or allow to cool before gently reheating wedges in the oven, wrapped in foil, when required.

Sunday 15 April 2007

Crackly Topped Chocolate Meringue Cookies

I went hunting for a recipe to use up 4 leftover egg whites and happened upon a recipe for chocolate meringue cookies on another bloggers site, which amazingly required 4 egg whites. I happily set to work, tweaking the recipe to incorporate the ingredients I had available to me.

The result is one of the most intriguing and yet addictive cookies I have ever made. When cooked, they have a very cracked sugary surface, which yields a dense, fudgey chocolate brownie like center, with the sticky chew of soft centered meringues. The little pockets of dark chocolate and nutty pecans add to the whole texture/flavour eating experience. If you have some egg whites left over, I strongly suggest you make these! Plus, they contain no flour making them gluten free.

Crackly Topped Chocolate Meringue Cookies
(Recipe adapted from ‘Anne’s Food’ Blog)
60g cocoa powder
300g icing sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 large egg whites
50g pecans
35g dark chocolate

Line two baking trays with greaseproof paper and preheat the oven to 175C.
Sieve the cocoa powder and icing sugar together into a small bowl.
Chop the pecans and dark chocolate into small pieces and set to one side.
Put the egg whites into a large bowl along with the salt and vanilla.
Whisk the egg whites until just before they start to form stiff peaks.
Then, whilst still whisking, add the cocoa powder, icing sugar mix a spoonful at a time until a glossy, thick batter has been achieved.
Stir through the pecans and chocolate.
Dollop smallish tablespoonfuls of batter onto the baking trays, allowing lots of room for them to spread during cooking. I only fitted 5 on each sheet and had to cook the cookies in two batches.
Bake for 12 minutes until they have a shiny appearance and a crazily cracked surface.
Drag the cookies, still on their greaseproof paper, onto cooling wracks and allow to completely cool before removing from the paper.
Makes around 17 fairly large cookies.

Saturday 14 April 2007

Cherry and Almond Biscotti

I decided to make these biscotti to use up some leftover marzipan I had from making the simnel cake a couple of weeks ago. I added cherries to the dough as I think these two flavours complement each other wonderfully. The cherries also add a lovely bright colour to what would otherwise be quite a bland dough.

The dough for these biscotti is quite soft, so you may need to flour your hands and work surface well when shaping them. The biscotti, while still crisp, also turned out slightly softer than some I have previously made, I assume this is down to the almonds in the marzipan. However, this makes them ideal for munching on their own as well as dipping them into your coffee or liquor. They had a wonderful aroma when cooking, almost that of a bakewell tart.

Cherry and Almond Biscotti
300g plain flour
1½ tsp baking powder
100g caster sugar
75 glace cherries
70g marzipan
3 drops almond essence
70g butter
½ tbsp milk
2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 180C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
Sieve the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Add the sugar and stir together.
Chop up the glace cherries using a pair of scissors (I find this easiest) and finely dice the marzipan into little cubes. Add to the bowl.
Add the rest of the ingredients, making sure the butter if softened, and mix together into a dough using a wooden spoon.
Transfer out onto a lightly floured work surface and shape the dough into two long log shapes.
Place on the baking tray, leaving a 5-6cm gap between them.
Bake in the oven for 25 minutes until golden brown.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes as they will be quite soft at this stage.
When slightly cooled, slice the logs on a slight diagonal into 1 cm thick slices.
Place cut side down on the baking tray and return to the oven for a further 16-20minutes, flipping the biscuits over half way through.
Allow the biscotti to cool completely on a wire wrack before storing in an airtight container.Makes 35 – 40 biscotti

Tuesday 3 April 2007

Super Smoothie

I had quite a few tired looking strawberries that I had bought at reduced price and a squashy mango lurking in my fridge and so I decided to make a scrummy, natural, fresh smoothie. It couldn’t be simpler, just blitz and drink.

The strawberries produced a wonderfully vibrant shade of deep red and a great flavour despite being out of season. The mango added natural sweetness and made the whole thing deliciously thick and smooth, almost creamy. I didn’t bother to sieve the seeds out of the strawberries as the smoothie was thick enough to keep them evenly distributed and I didn’t even notice them when I drank it. The flavour and texture of this smoothie was gorgeous and a perfect way to brighten up the tired looking fruit.

Strawberry and Mango Smoothie
450g strawberries
1 mango

Core the strawberries. Peel the mango and cut the flesh away from the stone.
Place into a container and blitz with a hand blender or in a liquidizer until thick and smooth.
Drink and enjoy.
Makes 650ml of smoothie