Archive for May, 2010

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Croquembouche goodness

May 27, 2010


The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.

The recipes I am using for this month’s challenge come from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and were originally created by famed pastry chef, Nick Malgieri. Please note you must make your own pate a choux (puff pastry) and crème patissiere. And your piece montée needs to be a mounted structure with some height to it.

This was an amazingly exciting challenge, this was something that the Husband had wanted to make ever since an episode of Masterchef where they did it. So it was a challenge that he was going to get involved with. And, he did – big time! ended up with caramel burn for it and all. He was far to excited about dipping and building he rushed and burn resulted.

It however didn’t dampen his enjoyment, and so that was great! It wasn’t as difficult as I had always thought it would be so it was a lot of fun. And, we will defiantly be building it again! We went the traditional route of Vanilla Crème Patissiere with caramel glaze but next time we’re thinking of Coffee Pastry Cream with chocolate glaze!

Great Challenge!

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Crostata

May 16, 2010


The latest in my delving into Giada’s Kitchen – New Italian Favourites was the Crostata with Mushrooms and Pancetta.

A Crostata is a free-form pie or tart that can be served as either a savoury or a sweet, and since I’m trying to branch out into more savoury cooking this seemed to fit the bill!

The mushrooms I used were Shiitake & Buna Shimeji two varieties I’d seen and heard about but never eaten. So I thought since the recipe called for an assortment of mushrooms without being specific I’d do something a bit different. It was interesting to note that the Buna-Shimeji had a slightly bitter taste when it was raw that completely disappeared when it was cooked.

I also couldn’t get my hands on any Fontina cheese, which is a semi-soft cow’s milk Italian cheese. It comes only from the Valle d’Aosta in Italy, and a true fontina has an orange-brown rind. It’s meant to be a quite creamy cheese and very mild and smooth. I’m keeping my eyes out for one now to try, not having had any when in Italy and wanting to give it a go. I jumped onto trusty Google and looked for substitutes, and the suggestion was a Gruyere, which is also a semi-soft cheese, though with a texture that is a bit grainy – so not as smooth as the Fontina sounds. Though both are described as having a slightly nutty flavour, which I can attest to in the Gruyere finding that a lot easier to locate!

Crostata with Mushrooms & Pancetta


Pastry crust

1.5 cups all purpose flour
½ t salt
3 T cold unsalted butter cut into chunks
½ cup mascarpone cheese
1.5 T lemon juice
3 T ice water

Mushroom Filling

4 T olive oil
57g diced pancetta (I used bacon as its all I had on hand)
2 shallots, minced
450g assorted mushrooms
1 T chopped thyme
½ t salt
¼ t black pepper
1/3 cup grated smoked, mozzarella
1/3 cup grated fontina cheese
2 T fresh grated Parmesan
1 large egg for glaze

For crust
In a food processor combine the flour and salt, and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is finely chopped and the mix looks like coarse meal. Add the mascarpone and lemon juice and pulse a few more times & then pulse in the ice water until the mix is moist and crumbly but not a ball of dough. Turn it out onto some cling wrap and press into a disk. Wrap it up and put in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.

For Filling
Heat 2 T of olive oil in a large pan and add the pancetta cooking until crisp. Transfer this to a small bowl and set aside. Add the rest of the olive oil and cook the shallots for about 30 seconds and then add the mushrooms. Keep them cooking over a medium heat until all the moisture evaporates (about 12 minutes). Remove from the pan and add the pancetta along with the herbs. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat your oven to about 200C and unwrap the chilled dough and place it on some baking paper. Roll out the dough to an 11 inch circle and place this on a baking tray (on the baking paper, or another baking sheet). Stir the cheeses into the cooled mushrooms mixture. Place this on the centre of the dough, spreading out to about 2 inches from the edges. Fold the dough border up and glaze with egg. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes – or until golden. Slice and serve.

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Fastest Cinnamon Rolls

May 15, 2010


I made these awhile back, in January in fact if memory serves. They were a welcome back food to my SIL and BIL after their very long return flight from Europe. I figured after flying an Asian airline that perhaps something more ‘bread’ like for breakfast would be called for.

I haven’t made them since, not because I didn’t like them. No no no, I haven’t made them because I liked them TOO much. I nearly didn’t make it out the door with them, I wanted to devour every last crumb for myself. Slowly of course because they were quite sweet, but I wanted them all for myself.

It’s a bit odd in that there is cottage cheese in the dough, and no yeast (which of course appealed to my yeast intolerant self) but rather baking powder. It does mean that the end result isn’t as light and fluffy as a normal cinnamon roll, it’s a bit firmer. And, whilst they taste good the next day (or the day after that in fact) they really are something is best consumed within the day of baking.

The fastest cinnamon rolls

1 cup of frozen cranberries, or ¾ cup dried (or other dried fruit)
¾ cup cottage cheese
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup buttermilk
4T butter
1 ½ t vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1T baking powder
¼ t baking soda
½ t salt
Filling
2/3 cup light brown sugar
½ cup dark brown sugar
1 ¼ t ground cinnamon
1 t all spice
¼ t cloves, ground

Preheat the oven to 200C, if using dried fruit cover with boiling water and set aside.
Place the cottage cheese, sugar, buttermilk, 4T melted butter and vanilla in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process until smooth. Add the flour, baking powder and soda, and salt the work bowl and pulse until the dough clumps like biscuit dough, 8-10 pulses. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead gently, folding the dough over and pushing away from you 4 to 5 times, until the dough is smooth. Do not over work. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough to make a 12 by 15 inch rectangle. Brush the entire surface with an extra 2T melted butter. Leaving a ½ inch border.
To make the filling, combine the sugars, cinnamon, allspice and cloves. Sprinkle over the surface of the dough. Pat to press the sugar into the surface. Drain and pat dry the dried fruit, or sprinkle unthawed over the sugar mix.
Starting at the long edge, roll up the dough jelly-roll fashion. Pinch the seam to seal the ends. With a very sharp knife, cut the roll into equal pieces (maybe 12). Set the rolls cut side up on the baking pan.
Place immediately on the centre rack of the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool slightly before eating.

Recipe adapted from Bread for Breakfast

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Green Chile & Grilled Chicken Enchilada

May 14, 2010

Our hosts this month, Barbara of Barbara Bakes and Bunnee of Anna+Food have chosen a delicious Stacked Green Chile & Grilled Chicken Enchilada recipe in celebration of Cinco de Mayo! The recipe, featuring a homemade enchilada sauce was found on http://www.finecooking.com and written by Robb Walsh.

I must admit I was both excited and saddened by this challenge. I love Mexican food, though my love affair with Italian cuisine is well documented, so the thought of giving this a go was exciting. I have a burrito mix that we use fairly regularly and is enjoyed by the Husband immensely so was certainly excited to give this a go. But, then, we face the reality that is my inability to locate some of the ingredients! Locating tomatillos would just be a joke! I could manage a bunch of the other ingredients but those would prove my downfall. Of course we were adviced of some variations thanks to Audax – and I could get my hands on some green gooseberries!

I loved roasting the green Chiles, the flavour of them really pops after you do. I didn’t make my own tortilla I must admit. Went with a store purchased variety, but, all in all I think that it worked out really well. The Husband loved it, only thing is I wished it was a bit of a deeper shade of green! I have seen some variations since creating mine, with people going an all vege option which I think would be great, or using pork which I think the Husband would love. But, I did stick to the original – chicken!

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Olive Oil Muffin

May 1, 2010


The latest in my delving into Giada’s Kitchen – New Italian Favourites I am going a bit “gung-ho” at the moment.

Only problem….well it speaks for itself, I’m not really sure what happened with the picture! I could have sworn that it was all good. But apparently not so good hey – which is a shame because it’s got a nice flavour.

It was an Olive Oil Muffin. Which is interesting because I expected there to be more of an underlying flavour of the olive oil, however, the overpowering flavour was that of the citrus zests and the almonds. There was only a very subtle aftertaste of olive oil, which just hit the back of your palette as you swallowed.

The muffin itself was basically a bit cake like in consistency and it was deliciously moist and delicate. I loved it! I think I could have eaten the entire batch to myself. It didn’t go down so well with everyone, my SIL wasn’t a fan it’s hard to tell with MIL & FIL who will eat things they don’t like just to be polite. The Husband? Well he said that he’d prefer it if I made a small change.

That change is that I would make to the whole thing would be I would definitely use the slivered almonds that the original recipe called for. The whole ones were a bit too much – but I went with what was on hand because I was having people over and wanted to try something from the book to do it. So it was a quick case of toasting whole ones and making do!

Olive Oil Muffins


1 ¾ cup all purpose flour
2t baking powder
½ t salt
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs
2t grated orange zest
2t grated lemon zest
2T balsamic vinegar
2T whole milk
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2/3 cup almonds, toasted

Preheat the oven to 180C
In a medium bowl, stir the flour, baking powder and salt. Use a mixer to beat the sugar, eggs and zests until pale and fluffy. Beat in the vinegar and milk then gradually beat in the oil. Add the flour mix and stir by hand until just blended.
Add the almonds, then stir until just combined.
Fill the the muffin tin almost to the top. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes.
Transfer to a rack and cool in the tin for about 10 minutes, then take out and cool for another 5 minutes. Then serve warm.

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Strata

May 1, 2010


It has been awhile, it really has and yet it’s not one of those things that you forget about. It’s not like some things, where the memory seems to be so much better than the reality when you finally experience it again. The simple enjoyment that you get from heading into the kitchen grabbing the kitchen aid, tying on an apron and getting started. That enjoyment remains the same no matter how long you stay away.

I have fallen back into old habits, after a long hard day at work, when I’m so tired all I seem to be able to manage is to snap at the Husband (poor man) I head into the kitchen and after half an hour I’m “normal”. My method of communication reverts back to the way it should be and I feel I can be nice to the man who’s boundless patience puts up with my tired grumpiness all of the time (bless his cotton socks).

I have decided to take a bit of a different approach to my kitchen experiences though, I was doing Flavour of the Month and I probably will do it again sometime. But looking back I noticed a pattern forming. A sweet pattern! And I really am trying to be a bit more health conscious since returning from my travels, and unfortunately for me that means a lot less sugar in my diet – if I want to function without migraines at the very least. So I thought I’d try to do a bit more of the savoury side of cooking.

I love to bake (ergo – grabbing kitchen aid) but I do like to cook as well. It’s the art of creating something in the kitchen that soothes me. In mind with that I decided to delve into Giada’s Kitchen – New Italian Favourites as my muse so to speak.

There are 106 recipes, and I plan to do them all. I have no time limit on this I have time I am more than certain that I will have the inclination to bake/cook the lovely things found within. And, I will admit that yes, the reason I chose it simply was because I had such fun eating in Italy I didn’t want it to stop completely. I’ve never been shy in saying that Italian food is my favourite cuisine in the entire world!

So – first cab off the rank was actually first recipe in the book. Fresh Tomato & Goat Cheese Strata with Herb Oil. It’s a simple dish really, with a strong flavour that I quite enjoyed. I hoped fervently that the husband would enjoy it just as much as I, since he has been regaling everyone with tales of the cheese delights he experienced overseas, alas, Goat Cheese doesn’t seem to do it for him. Strong in a bad way were his words. I’m sure I could sub in a soft feta or even a ricotta and he’d enjoy it so perhaps next time?

Fresh Tomato & Goat Cheese Strata with Herb Oil


Goat Cheese Filling

(half-ish recipe)
125g goat cheese, at room temperature
1/8 cup heavy cream
Pinch of salt and pepper
½ cup walnut pieces
2 ripe tomatoes cored and sliced

Herb Oil

(full recipe – the leftovers can keep for a day or two and drizzled on a variety of things)
¾ cup fresh mint leaves
¾ cup fresh basil leaves
1 cup olive oil
Pinch of salt and pepper

To make the filling, combine the goat cheese and cream in a medium bowl and beat together using an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Season with salt & pepper.
To make the herb oil, combine the herbs in a food processor and pulse a few times to chop them. With the machine running, add the oil in a slow stream and process until very smooth visible flecks of herbs remaining and season.
Toast the walnuts and then allow too cool slightly.
Get yourself a slice of good crusty bread; place some of the goat cheese filling on this, topped with a slice of tomato, then a bit more of the goat cheese. Drizzle with the herb oil and sprinkle walnuts over the top.
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