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It has been a while isn’t it? Alot of things has happened since last post, good and bad.
You lost some, you gain some.I have moved to another country and back as well. Nothing beats home T_T
When I was really working non stop I really wished I can just be a bum and do nothing. I thought that would make me happy.
After one whole year of being a bum (self made choice of course!, I got pretty sick of it. Didn’t do anything productive at all as i reflect back on it.
I will be starting my masters next month. So looking forward to not just doing nothing anymore.
I might do something with this. Funny how when you shed a burden, you are energised for ANYTHING!
The August 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers’ cookbook Kaffeehaus : Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.
I apologise for the late post. This is my first DB Challenge and being late as well as well as not exactly happy about having a cake (due to my inept baking skills) to boot was not exactly the kind of start I want to be a DB’er. Anyway, the reason for the late post was due to me down with what I initially thought was a bad case of cold and headache was actually a sinus infection. After a visit to the doctor, I developed a reaction to the prescribed antibiotics. I woke up in the middle of the night having chest pains. It was so painful I thought I was having a heart attack. So I had to go to the docs again to ease the reaction and being prescribed new drugs. This has been 6 days ago, and today I finally felt better for the first time in close to 2 weeks since the symptoms started.
In between the sinus ordeal, bad weather, organising everything in preparation to welcome my new baby girl this coming Sunday, (don’t be alarmed, I am not giving birth, just getting my piggy girl a much needed companion) .
I will be adopting from the Melbourne charter of the Australian Cavy Sanctuary, a small privately run shelter that is supported by volunteers and fellow guinea pigs lovers. I wanted to take the time out to mention that, animals of any kind deserves our respect and care as with any other human beings. G-Force, the movie about guinea pigs doing all sorts of things may boost guinea pigs sale throughout the world, but I just want to say that, guinea pigs overbreeding is a major problem throughout the US, UK and even here in Australia. At any given time right now, each of these private shelters that is ran out of their love for guinea pigs are looking after more than 100s of pigs at a time. So, if you are interested in getting a guinea pig after watching the movie, PLEASE, do your read up properly before getting one. It is not the same as getting a toy that you can just discard afterwards. Should you really want to get a piggy even after you have done the proper read up to understand the great responsibilities of caring for them, please adopt rather than buy. Buying only fuel more backyard breeders who breed and keep them in inhumane conditions. ACS has a really great support network, so when you adopt, you are not only just helping minimising the overbreeding and the vicious backyard breeder cycle, you are also joining a network of massive support at any given time should you and your piggy need it. We are a family.
Back to the torte.
My torte may not looked like the original Hungarian torte, but rest assured that it does taste the alright albeit less sickly because I did not use the actual buttercream recipe, but instead a buttercream that is although similar is based on the french pate a bombe. This happened because of two reasons; I was not keen to use so much butter and I had too much egg yolks left over from baking so much macarons.
I also skipped the caramel layer as from all the feedbacks from the forum, most of the girls were having problems with the top caramel layer and was not really impressed by it. So I made a burnt toffee caramel flavoured with some intense espresso to get that slight bitterness and made a “ganache” with it. This is then used as a filling in the macaron. Technically, that is my caramel layer.
Again, a play on salt. Salted crushed peanuts to give the extreme sweetness of this cake a much needed reprieve and also after the sweetness of the cake, my tasters were taken aback by the bitterness of the macarons on first bite. That said, the macarons with the bitter filling was a bigger hit than the cake.
Cupcakes for little boys. I whipped up some last minute cupcakes for W’s mom to bring home to W’s 3 little nephews. Chocolate are always a winner and this is my Devil’s Food Chocolate cupcake with white chocolate ganache and decorated with Oreos.
It was a quick whip up.
DEVIL’S FOOD CHOCOLATE CUPCAKE
- 110 grams AP flour
- 112.5 grams caster sugar
- 30 grams cocoa powder
- 3/4 tsp baking soda
- 122.5 grams milk
- 57.5 grams softened butter
- 1 tsp vanilla paste
- 1 whole egg
- Mix A until just mixed. Then beat at high speed for 1-2 minutes.
- Add in egg and beat again at high speed for 2 minutes
- Pipe or spoon into prepared tray or cupcake liners and bake at 180C for 15-20 minutes.
WHITE CHOCOLATE GANACHE:
I always follow a ratio of 2:1 of white chocolate:cream. I will quickly zap the cream in the microwave and then pour over the chocolate. Let stand for 1 minute before whisk it evenly. I will then sick the chocolate into my freezer until it is just set, then take it out to give it a quick whisk.
Pipe ganache onto the chocolate, I just squirt them out using a #5 nozzle onto the middle of the cupcake and topped with Oreos which I tried to (if possible) break into halves.
Last Saturday edition of Herald Sun’s Weekend Food has a recipe of Jamie Oliver’s Sweet White Bean and Roast Tomato Soup. Which reminds me of my own version of a similar soup. My photos may not look as great as the one in the paper, but I hope this will not stop any of you reading this post to deter from making it. The ingredients are easy to get and the soup are so simple to prepare. Jamie suggest you make a grilled crostini with homemade pesto to go with the soup. I serve mine with homemade Black rye Guinness sourdough, toast/grill and serve with your best butter. I will include Jamie’s recipe for those that does not read Herald Sun and also my own recipe.
MY version of the soup.
- 800gm tinned cannellini beans, drain 1 tin, and reserve the liquid of another.
- 1 tin whole Italian Roma tomatoes
- 500gm really ripe fresh tomatoes
- 1 brown onion, chopped
- 1 whole clove or a generous handful of garlic pips. (I used really lovely and fragrant purple elephant garlic)
- 750ml chicken stock
- fleur de sel
- 1 big handful of chopped Italian or curly parsley
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 3 tbsp of Ketchup
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- few sprig of fresh thyme
- white wine or balsamic vinegar
- Shaved parmesan
- Guinness dark rye sourdough or any toasty bread for a satisfying meal.
- make a cross at the bottom of your whole tomatoes and core the tomatoes.
- Gently crush your garlic pips/cloves.
- Place both tomatoes (bottoms up) and the garlic with the skin on and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with some sea salt and crushed black pepper on a piece of parchment lined baking tray.
- Roast them at 200C for 45 minutes.
- Remove and pinch the skin off the tomatoes and garlic.
- Heat some oil (I prefer a higher smoking point and neutral cooking oil like canola to cook) and saute your onion until softened but not really coloured. Add in the garlic and saute together with the softened onion, and mashing the garlic on the way.
- Add in the sprigs of thyme with the whole roasted tomatoes and saute for a few minutes.
- Deglaze with white wine and toss in your tinned tomatoes and beans. Still continue to saute for a few minutes before adding in your stock. Mash your tomatoes into pieces and bring to boil.
- Reduce heat, add in salt and sugar to taste, also dashes of vinegar and the ketchup. Stir well and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Stir in chopped parsley and served sprinkle with shaved parmesan and toasted/grilled Guinness dark rye sourdough on the side.
GUINNESS DARK RYE SOURDOUGH
Breads are not my strong point, and sourdough are difficult to master. But despite it all, this lovely bread is a winner every single time and I have to say, is my favourite bread of all.
Part One: Soaked rye meal
- 67 grams cracked rye or coarse rye meal
- 113 grams water
METHODS: Soak overnight.
Part Two: Rye-Guinness soaker
- 255 grams rye/whole rye flour
- 227 grams Guinness beer (what you can do is boil the beer and cooled it to reduce the gassy-ness)
- 14 grams LIVE sourdough starter (I got them from the organic market)
METHODS: combine ingredients and mixed til smooth. Dust lightly with more rye flour. Cover and let stand overnight.
Part Three: The dough
- Part One
- Part Two
- 212 grams of LIVE sourdough starter
- 1- 1/2 tsp blackstrap molasses
- 128 grams high gluten flour
- 227 grams rye flour
- 2 tsp instant yeast (non rapid rise)
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp dutch cocoa powder
- Combine all ingredients and knead. If you are using a stand mixer, use the paddle to mix and the dough hook to knead the dough for about 5 minutes on low. Then up the speed to medium and knead for a further 5 minutes.
- Desired temperature of the dough should be about 25C.
- Transfer the now sticky dough to a lightly dusted surface and shape your dough. Alternatively you can use a loaf pan dusted with rye flour.
- After shaping, transfer dough to a dusted tray if not using loaf pan and dust top of dough with rye flour. Cover and let rise for an hour.
- Bake at 240C for 15 minutes (20 minutes for my weak oven) and then 190C for for another 40-60 minutes.
- Do not be alarmed if the bread is slightly gummy. Let it sit for a day before slicing. This is a very yummy bread.
Jamie Oliver’s version
- 1kg ripe tomatoes, halved
- 6 cloves garlic, skin left on
- Olive oil
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 sticks celery, trimmed and finely chopped
- 1 litre vegetable or chicken stock
- 400g tin cannellini beans, drained
- small bunch fresh flatleaf parsley
Serve: 4-6 Prep time: 10 minutes Cooking time: 50 minutes
- Preheat oven to 200C. Place tomatoes, skin side down, in a large roasting tray with the garlic cloves and a drizzle of olive oil.
- Season and roast for 30 minutes until the tomatoes are sticky and browned around the edges.
- Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a pan. Add the onion and celery and cook for about 10 minutes on a low heat until softened but not coloured.
- Take the tray from the oven and pinch the skins off the tomatoes. Discard the skins, then add the tomatoes to the pan with the onion and celery.
- Squeeze the garlic out of its skin and add to the pan with the stock and beans.
- Bring to the boil then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Roughly chop the parlsey leaves and stir into the soup. Drizzle with EVOO and serve with a slice of crostini smothered with pesto.
Jamie Oliver’s Grilled crostini and homemade pesto.
- 1/4 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 large handfuls of fresh basil leaves
- A handful of pinenuts
- A large handful of freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1 lemon
- 4 slices of ciabatta
- Pound the grlic with tiny pinch of salt and a handful of basil leaves in a mortar and pestle until you have created a paste.
- Add the rest of the basil and pound again until all the leaves have been used up.
- Add the pinenuts and pound until finely crushed. Alternatively, you could pulse in a food processor.
- Turn the mixture out into a bowl and add the parmesan, a small squeeze of lemon juice and enough EVOO to achieve a nice pesto consistency- you want semi wet but firm.
- Season to taste
- Griddle ciabatta slices, drizzle with a little EVOO and smear some pesto over the top.
That is how I would describe the week that has passed. It was a week of laziness and bitterly cold wind mixed with unpredictable weather. W’s parents were in town for the weekend to visit. He got the dates totally messed up, telling me they be visiting THIS coming weekend. I was flustered, I don’t think the house was presentable enough. But nonetheless. It was a weekend of bargain hunting with his mom, that said, it was a real bargain as we just happened to be at Steve Madden’s at the DFO Morrabin and it was closing down. Steve Madden shoes for aud 1.00 anyone? Yes. It was really ONE dollar. I don’t think I need to explain what happened next.
Coincidentally, another nearby fresh produce (mostly really lovely hard to find flours, nuts and lentils and beans) store were closing down as well and relocating with everything at a 50% off. Sadly, we went too late, I missed out on bargain almond meal!!! Grrr, imagine the amount of macarons I could have made, nonetheless, I made away with plenty of good quality polenta, made some polenta cheese sticks, (they were gone before I can even take some good pictures. Next time, when I make them again, I guess), a good kilo worth of hazelnut meal (only 10.00 Aud), lovely dark rye flour, besan flour, Spanish Saffron (2 gram for 1.49 aud), some organic fenugreek seeds, tomatoes, apples, and plenty of nuts.
It was also a weekend of herb and vegetables planting, I have managed for the first time with the help of W’s mom lovely green fingers in planting several kitchen herbs and vegetables. In a week’s time, I will know if the herbs survive or not and hopefully the borlotti beans and sugar snap peas seed will sprout. As does the blackjack zucchini that I have sown. I also lucked out on some really lovely lemon verbena and planted that in too, maybe beside the zucchini were not a very wise idea, but only time will tell how it goes. It was also for the first time I realised that the annoying tree that is opposite my kitchen windows is actually a feijoa! Never really saw them drop any fruits. Must be those darn birds…..
If my garden venture were to be successful, I am going to plan myself a fig tree, bay tree and an almond tree next.
I also went to the “A day in Pompeii” exhibition which is currently being held at Melbourne’s Museum on Sunday. It was a real eye opener and seeing the body plaster casts of the actual victims, you cannot help but really feel sad. The plaster of a man still being shackled to chains while trying to escape and he made it as far as the town’s gate by crawling with chains and balls before the boiling lava engulfs him. Ironically, today (24th August) is the day where Vesuvius strikes down on Pompeii. Sometimes, you cannot but feel blessed in times like this.
Ok, back to the topic, I have been continuing to bake macarons and beside one totally failed batch (never bake in anger) I had been successful in baking macarons and making my kind of flavours. Granted, it is still not as sophisticated as I wanted them to be, but taste and texture wise, I have to say I am pretty pleased.
I apologise for the pictures. These were some of the macarons that I made for W’s mom to bring home back to Wagga. Front row from the left are the Chocolate macarons with a peppermint dark chocolate ganache and Bourbon Vanilla macarons with a white chocolate vanilla creme. The back row from the left was the surprising hit my macarons flavours; Curry and coconut and the purplish colour (I really wanted a black black macarons but I cannot find black powder colouring) macarons is my Oreo’s macarons.
These are my Curry and coconut macarons. Curry flavoured shells with a coconut creme ganache and custard filling.
I am really exasperated by this. I want a midnight black colour. I have tried Wilton’s black colour paste and also the popular Americolor’s black gel paste. Wilton’s produce a purple colour while Americolor’s produce the above, a dark grey colour. I honestly believe black colour shells will really look nice with the Oreo’s filling, even though right now, they match in colour.
This one is my Oreo’s macarons made using Wilton’s colour paste. Main macaron is the standard size I have seen at Lindt’s and the one on the right is the smaller size which I much preferred. I like the little bite sized macarons which I think is just nice. Not overwhelming, so you would not be sick of it.
W’s dad does not like chocolate at all but he loves his strawberry jam. The above macarons were made this morning. It is a take on strawberry & cream. Pink macaron sandwiching strawberries cream made with St. Dalfour’s Strawberry jam. I would prefer to use fresh strawberry puree but it was a really last minute planning. So this was what I made. The olds both loved it and I packed them enough to bring back home.
Coming up, interested in some sourdough bread that has Guinness in it?
Ok, First recipe for the macarons. Of all the flavours that I had made, this one were the most popular, I have gotten rave reviews from all my tasters, and they are asking for more. Who knows, I may end up THE boutique macaron seller of Melbourne (haha, dream dream dream).
MACARON with a Burnt caramel/toffee with espresso ganache.
Now, before I start on these recipes, I just want to say that sometimes I have some pretty unconventional methods to make my life easier. It is not that I do not want to follow the proper way of preparing stuff, but for me, shortcuts is because I understand how they are, so I do all these things, especially with a microwave. So, I will share them with you should you not already realised these methods by yourself already, and to make your life easier too.
Always prepare your filling for macarons ahead. Planning is important. I like to plan. I started the filling by making a drop dead safe (no spattering sugar, this will only happened later) to make caramel. It only have 4 ingredients, and they are all dumped together and heat up. It is the same recipe from my layered banana cake post. You can half the recipe to make for the filling, because 1 cup will already make enough filling for 1 recipe of macarons.
Next up, 1 cup of the salted caramel is mixed with a coffee syrup. Use 3 tsp of espresso powder with 1 tbsp of boiling water, (yes I make them bitter, but you will understand why when you taste it). Now here come the fun part. You can microwave the caramel-coffee at a 30 sec interval on high until it turns quite dark and smelled this deliciously burnt smell (not burnt like Oh-no burn, but a desirable burn) then cool it in the fridge, and when it is almost set, give it a good whisk and transfer into air tight container and chilled overnight. If you have done it correctly (I did not use a candy thermometer, just by eye) you will get this lovely smooth paste that is reminiscent of Carambar. Do note that when you microwave them, do not do longer than a 30 sec interval because, longer than that, it will, spatter all over the place.
For the macaron shells, I prefer the French meringue method. It is quick, less hassle, and does not requires you to cook any sugar. Depends on the weather, just keep some whole eggs (in their shell) in a dark, airy, cool place. I kept my eggs like that for close to 2 weeks in this weather (Melbourne’s winter and inside our house is an average 20c). By then, the egg white is completely liquid, it will be easy to seperate and you do not even need to age it overnight. Just seperate them and leave the whites out uncovered on your table top for 2-3 hours. I will just crack mine and then proceed to sift the almond meal and sugar. By the time that painful process is over, the egg white can be whipped. To know if your egg white is aged real well, you will notice that immediately as you whisk it, it will form a lovely foam similar to beer foam.
MY STANDARD MACARON SHELL RECIPE
I shopped around for the recipes and compared them. I looked at Tartlette’s, Mercotte’s, Pierre Herme’s (I have the book) and also Stephane Glacier’s recipes.
- 90g egg white (it can be a little over the required amount, because as it aged, the moisture content will evaporate and you will get a lighter in weight egg white. Just reweigh before you whip them).
- 30g caster sugar
- 200g PURE icing sugar (those powder mix contains cornstarch in them, so its a no-no) and make sure you sift them well to get rid of all lumps.
- 110g almond meal – sift. make sure you really press into the sieve to get the maximum amount out of your almonds.
- 1/2 tsp + 1/4 tsp of egg white powder- this stabilises the meringue further so technically, if you failed even with this, I do not know what to say.
The thing is, you really have to sift the almond meal and the icing sugar really well. And I prefer to use them immediately after I sifted them because if you let them sat too long after sifting, they will lump up again. This is personal experience. So just sift and use immediately.
Whip egg white with the egg white powder and add your sugar in SLOWLY, I do mine tablespoon by tablespoon and whisk it well each time. This ensure your meringue be smooth and shiny and would not be grainy. Really whip your egg white till very stiff peaks. Over whipping of egg whites will actually get you very dry egg whites, but to be honest, if you add your sugar correctly, and with the addition of egg white powder, you will have a very stable meringue. VERY.
After that, always fold in your tpt (almond + icing sugar) in batches. I do mine in 4 batches and fold in in a clockwise motion scraping the bottom each time (like how you would fold the sponge) to mix in the tpt. Do not mince at the meringue, will cause it to collapse. Oh, I have seen enough apprentices “mincing” at the meringue or even batter with their dough scrapper or spatula. Regarding the over-mix under mix part, the magma flow thing, well, google a video of how magma flows, and you will understand why people say that. So, to test, just do a flow test, if the batter drop back into the rest of the batter from your spatula flows like magma, and when you pipe, it does not have a peak, and even after you whack your baking tray to flatten it and release air pocket, it still holds it shape. Then its good. I do not rest my batter as some people does to form that skin, mine is just pipe and go, and they always form skin. So yeah, maybe I am just lucky. As for the temperature, each oven is different, I have a oven that is not very strong in heating, so as mentioned in previous macaron post, after 4 batches, I baked them at 100c for 30 minutes with the door ajar by propping a wooden spoon against it. Play with your oven and test. Do some research around the web and see what people temperatures are, and these will be useful to help you. If fail, try again, because the results will be worth it.
Do you love mussels? Flavourful but quick dish that you can make and impress ina hurry? (Think less than 30 minutes from start to finish).
Today, I was at the Victoria Market doing a spot of fresh produce shopping, walking around, the mussels looks great beside the rest of the frozen mollusc (they are also the only one thats ALIVE). I weaved my way through the stores and looked and compare the mussels, cleanliness and also the price. In the end, they are all about the same, so I bought a Kilogram worth (at $5.00 aud) from the one that looks like the most clean.
The thing with mussels is that, as with any other seafood, it is important not to overcook it. How many times have I ate rubbery deep fried mussels from the fish & chips shop? Its so bad, but for some reason, I seem to have amnesia, because I kept eating them. LOL
Anyway, it is important to clean the beards from the mussels and scrub them clean because if you don’t, you might catch some nasty food bug.
A tip: you can use a mussel to clean another mussel. Just use the flat bill part of the mussel and scrape the beard off the other mussels.
Ok, proceed to my quick and easy to impressed meal.
- Mussels (obviously I have a kg)
- Fresh basil (just pluck a few leaves and roughly torn them)
- Flat leaf parsley (roughly chopped a handful)
- 2 ripe tomatoes (roughly chop)
- Bacon trimmings
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1/3 onion, chopped
- A handful of button mushroom, quartered
- Red capsicum, small dice
- Half a zucchini, small dice
Seasoning: (note all cups measurement are in Australian standard cups)
- Ketchup ( 1 tablespoon)
- White wine (1 1/2 – 2 cup). I used a dry white chardonnay. If you do not have white wine, you can use beer. I prefer Lager.
- Fish stock or vegetable stock or Chicken stock (1/2 cup)
- 1 piece bayleaf
- Few sprig of fresh thyme
- 1 tsp curry powder (yes, I swear it is good)
- Pinch of sweet paprika
- Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
- Pinch of coriander powder (optional)
- Salt to taste
- Sugar to taste
- Heat up about 2 tbsp of oil in a high pot, I like a non intrusive flavour oil like canola. I only uses olive oil for dressing salads or finishing up a meal or a few drizzle before serving, never use it to cook because I do not like how it low it’s flash point is and how it likes to rob mild flavoured food of flavours.
- Fry the bacon trimmings briefly until slightly golden brown.
- Toss in onion and garlic. Saute onion and garlic together for a few quick minute, until you can smell the fragrance and onion is slightly translucent
- Add in all the herbs, zucchini, capsicum and mushroom. Give it a quick stir fry.
- Toss in the tomatoes and season with the spice. Give it a good fry until you can see the ingredients is a semi mush.
- Now, add in your cleaned mussels and with the heat on high, deglaze with the white wine, give a quick stir to coat evenly, and pour in your stock. (you can add extra stock, if you like the juice with the mussels, which I did)
- Mix in 1 tbsp of the ketchup and season with sugar. Cover the pot with a lid and on high heat, cook the mussel for 5-6 minutes, giving it a few shakes to cook them all evenly.
- Season with salt and discard unopened mussels.
- Serve with crusty bread and a slice of lemon.
If it ain’t good, I would not recommend it. 3 of us each ate 2 bowl.