Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Pistachio and Berry Gratins - Tuesdays with Dorie

This week for Tuesdays with Dorie, I made fruit gratins, raspberries and blueberries topped with nutty pistachio cream, baked until the fruit was bubbling and the topping golden and crisp. It looked delicious in the book photo and sounded even better.
But it didn't quite work out for me. First of all, there didn't seem to be enough fruit for 6 portions so I distributed it among only 4 ramekins and reduced the pistachio cream accordingly. Then during baking, most of the topping sank into the fruit (Dorie did say this might happen), sweetening it and thickening the juices. The result was similar to a thick berry jam topped with a thin, crunchy crust. 

I'm on the fence about this one. While I enjoyed the flavour, the texture wasn't my favourite. I think I prefer crisps and crumbles where the fruit retains more of its integrity and there's more of a distinction between fruit and topping.

Visit here to see what everyone else thought. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Spiced Lamb Burgers - IHCC Escape to River Cottage!

With this week's I Heart Cooking Clubs' choice of any recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's series of River Cottage books or TV shows, the possibilities were endless. I chose these tender and juicy lamb burgers that relied on freshly toasted and ground cumin, coriander, fennel and cinnamon (with a little paprika and garlic as well) for their flavour.
Wrapped in a warmed flatbread, a tangy minted yogurt sauce and some fresh lettuce and cucumber slices were the only finishing touches required.

The recipe is from the book River Cottage Every Day and can be found here.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Lentil and Squash Pasties - IHCC Pub Grub!

Hand pies...the quintessential portable food. Here I've done a vegetarian version that starts with Puy lentils simmered in stock with carrots, onions, celery, bay leaves and thyme with cubed butternut squash added in for good measure and mustard and vinegar for some zip.
Encased in crisp puff pastry - store-bought to make life easier - they are delicious hot from the oven or at room temperature.  

The recipe is from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's book River Cottage Every Day and since Hugh is the current featured chef at I Heart Cooking Clubs, I'm linking this post for this week's theme of "Pub Grub".

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Plain and Simple Almond Cake - Tuesdays with Dorie

This week's project from Dorie Greenspan's Baking Chez Moi is the type of versatile cake I like to bake: it uses just a few basic ingredients I always have on hand and it's quick to put together; it can be baked successfully in different shapes and sizes (I know from experience that this isn't always the case with some recipes); most importantly, it's light and moist with a lovely almond-vanilla flavour, delicious on its own or with innumerable accompaniments.
I've made it a few times and I did find it to be a little sweeter than I like the first time so now use 50g less sugar. I've enjoyed it with fresh berries and crème fraîche, as a layer cake filled with lemon curd, and, in my latest version, as mini cakes accompanied by toasted almonds and Greek yogurt.

To see what the other bakers thought, visit Tuesdays with Dorie.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Honey Whole Wheat Cake - IHCC Hit the Sweet Spot!

It's no secret that I love to bake and this week's IHCC theme gave me an excuse to try a new recipe, specifically this one from Hugh-Fearnley-Whittingstall's book River Cottage Every Day that I've had flagged to make for quite a while.
It called for whole wheat flour, ground almonds, brown sugar, butter, eggs, sliced almonds and honey, all basic ingredients from my baking pantry. Because that's what Hugh does - transforms the basics into something absolutely delicious.
This was such a lovely cake. Soft and moist, it tasted of caramel with the whole wheat flour and almonds adding nuttiness.....a perfect indulgence with a good cup of coffee.

Visit here to see what everyone else made this week.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Laurent's Slow-Roasted Spiced Pineapple - Tuesdays with Dorie

Our second fruity selection this month at Tuesdays with Dorie was a simple dish of slowly roasted pineapple. Apart from the direction to use orange juice, the choice of booze, jam and spices to flavour it was entirely up to you.
This was a lovely way to serve the fruit. I used apple jelly, a vanilla bean, and pink peppercorns, and replaced the booze with more orange juice. The intensified flavours of both the pineapple and syrup were fabulous. It was an elegant topping for some ice cream but I enjoyed it best on my morning oatmeal.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Parsley and Pumpkin Seed Pesto Pasta - IHCC Pantry Suppers!

With a well-stocked pantry, the possibilities for good meals are endless. This week at I Heart Cooking Clubs, we're celebrating them with current featured cook Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall who has a real talent for putting basic and often unremarkable ingredients together to create something completely delicious.

The pantry staples needed to create Hugh's parsley and pumpkin seed pesto that I served with pasta:
As with most pesto, it took just minutes to blend up while the pasta cooked. Not as rich as a pine nut pesto, or as herbaceous as one made with basil, it had a subtle nutty flavour and the Parmesan and lemon really came through. I really enjoyed this lighter tasting, less traditional version.
The recipe for Parsley and Pumpkin Seed Pesto is from Hugh's book, River Cottage Every Day, but it can be found here as well.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Lemon Meringue Tart: A New Way - Tuesdays with Dorie

It's all about fruit desserts this month at Tuesdays with Dorie and I chose to make the lemon tart from Baking Chez Moi this week. Different from a lemon meringue pie, it comprises Dorie's sweet cookie crust filled with lemon pastry cream (instead of curd) topped with a fluffy meringue.
I made the crust and filling ahead of time and once the tart was assembled, all that was left was the meringue. While I'm not averse to eating raw eggs in food when they're well hidden, I don't like raw egg white meringues. I prefer to use an Italian meringue that's made by beating hot sugar syrup into whipped egg whites. It isn't actually cooked but it does have a different texture and flavour and better still, it's completely stable - no weeping.....ever! I used the Light Italian Meringue from The Cake Bible (Rose Levy Beranbaum) to top this tart.
Wow was it lemony! The lemon cream filling was very tart and really needed the sweetness of the crust and meringue as a buffer. As a fan of just about all things lemon, I enjoyed it, but some, even those who like lemon meringue pies, thought it was too sour. 

Visit here to see what everyone else thought of it. 

Friday, April 7, 2017

Honey-Baked Rhubarb - IHCC Welcome Hugh!

I'm helping to welcome Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, our new featured chef for the next 6 months, to I Heart Cooking Clubs this week. I was first introduced to him when I picked up his book River Cottage Veg a few years ago and became quite familiar with his approach to food and style of cooking as I cooked my way through about two-thirds of the recipes in that book with the Cottage Cooking Club
I enjoyed that experience so much, I bought another of his books, River Cottage Everyday and that's where I looked for this week's recipe, one that focuses on a locally grown, seasonal ingredient: rhubarb. Hugh describes this "vegetable with an identity crisis" as one of his favourite "fruits". 

His appreciation of it shows in this simple roasted compote. Judicious use of honey sweetens it just enough and orange juice and zest enhance its fresh and tangy flavour.
He offers several serving suggestions for it and I followed one of them, swirling it into a bowl of yogurt. Delicious!

The recipe for Honey-Baked Rhubarb can be found here and if you're looking for more ways to use rhubarb, he has some other great ones in this book. I can recommend the Rhubarb and Orange Smoothie, a wonderful pick-me up any time of day, and his fabulous Rhubarb Clafoutis, which has become one of our favourite desserts. 

To see the other welcoming dishes at IHCC, visit here.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Black-and-White Marbled Madeleines - Tuesdays with Dorie

We're baking madeleines again this month at Tuesdays with Dorie. We've already tackled the excellent classic lemon flavour from Baking Chez Moi but I love a good marble cake so I was looking forward to this one.
Soft and tender, the little tea cakes had a very good ratio of vanilla to chocolate, with neither overwhelming the other. A surprising addition was lime zest. Its fragrance was quite powerful during baking but its flavour was subtle and added some interest. I really liked these but I think the lemon will always be my favourite.

To see what everyone else baked this week, visit here.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Polish Chicken Schnitzel

Schnitzel, thin slices of tender, juicy meat, breaded and fried to crispy perfection is comfort food at its best. Some consider it a children's food but I've never met an adult who could resist it.

What makes the Polish version a little different from the traditional is the breading. Instead of the standard 3-step method of dipping the meat into flour, egg and then breadcrumbs, the meat goes directly into the eggs and is then dredged in a seasoned breadcrumb-flour mixture.

The coating is versatile and can be used with pork leg or loin chops, or escalopes of veal, but my family likes it best with chicken breasts.
 
Polish Chicken Schnitzel
serves 4

Ingredients:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 large egg
1 tbsp water
55g/1/2 cup dried breadcrumbs
35g/1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp sweet paprika
3/4 tsp fine sea salt or table salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley or 1 tsp dried (optional)

vegetable oil for frying

Method:
Remove the tenders from the breasts and set them aside. Place the chicken breasts between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. With the flat side of a meat mallet, pound them to a uniform thickness of about 5mm/1/4".

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg with the water until blended. Add the chicken breasts and tenders to the bowl and toss until they're well coated. You can dip them in the egg mixture one piece at a time if you prefer but I find mixing them all at once ensures an even coat (and it's the way my mum made them).

To make the breading, combine the breadcrumbs, flour, salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder and parsley in a shallow dish that's large enough to hold a piece of chicken. Dredge each piece of chicken in the breadcrumb mixture, pressing lightly to make sure it adheres and transfer the breaded chicken pieces to a rack. If you have time, refrigerate them uncovered for 30 minutes to 2 hours. Air-drying helps the coating stick to the meat.

To fry, heat 5mm/1/4" oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the breaded chicken pieces to the pan without crowding. You may need to cook them in a few batches, adding more oil as needed. Fry them for 3-5 minutes or until golden brown and crisp and turn them over. Cook another 3-5 minutes until they're nicely browned and cooked through. Transfer them to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. To keep them warm - and crisp - put them on a rack on top of a baking sheet, cover them loosely with foil (so they don't dry out) and put them in an oven preheated to 100C/200F while you fry the remaining schnitzels.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Pithiviers - Tuesdays with Dorie

A French classic that Dorie describes as "one of the great forgotten pastries of France" was one of our Tuesdays with Dorie choices for March from Baking Chez Moi. Comprising two rounds of crisp puff pastry encasing layers of sweet frangipane and homemade prune jam, it was as lovely to look at as it was to eat.
I included the optional lemon zest in the almond cream which added a light, lemony flavour to the dessert, but if I were to make this again, I would also use the juice from the lemon to brighten the prune jam a little. Delicious nevertheless.

Visit here to see what the other bakers made this week. 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Steel Cut Oatmeal

I've always made steel cut oatmeal according to the package directions, cooked in water with a little salt, with milk, spices, fruit, sweetener, whatever I felt like having at the time, added to my bowl. Then I came across a recipe in Flour, Too by Joanne Chang that replaces half the water with milk. I was amazed at the difference it made....so incredibly rich and creamy you would think it wasn't good for you.
I still follow the package cooking directions for the brand I buy but replace half the water with milk and add some sweetener and spice to my pot so it tastes great just the way it is but you can dress it up even more with dried fruits and nuts, fresh fruit or fruit compotes so it's a different bowl every time.
Steel Cut Oatmeal
inspired by Flour, Too
serves 4

Ingredients:
200g/1 cup steel cut oats
540ml/2-1/4 cups low-fat milk
540ml/2-1/4 cups water
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp brown sugar or maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla  

Method:
In a medium saucepan, combine the steel cut oats, milk, water, salt and cinnamon. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, medium-low to maintain a simmer and cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the oats are cooked (soft with a bit of chew in the centre - al dente).

Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the brown sugar and vanilla. Serve with your favourite toppings.

Store leftovers in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a week.  One minute on high with 1 tbsp milk stirred in is all that's needed to reheat a single serving in the microwave.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Nun's Beignets - Tuesdays with Dorie

I rarely eat doughnuts and it's rarer still that I deep fry food but for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie, I did both. The things we do for our online cooking groups!  
These sweet treats didn't involve any yeast-raised dough, just an easy choux pastry that was fried until puffed and golden then rolled in cinnamon-sugar. They were crisp with a tender interior and quite delicious. Who could resist them? My family certainly couldn't - they disappeared as quickly as I could make them

To see what everyone else made this week, visit here.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Chrusty for Fat Thursday

The highlight of any Polish sweets table for me is chrusty. Mounded high on platters and dusted with powdered sugar, these delicate, airy confections are subtly sweet and crisp yet melt-in-your-mouth tender. They're also highly addictive; it's impossible to stop at just one. 
You'll see them often at Polish celebrations but they're also one of the traditional indulgences of Poles on Fat Thursday, the last Thursday and one of the last feast days before the Catholic Lenten fast begins on Ash Wednesday. My mother's friend Irena's are the best I've ever had and she very generously shared her family recipe so that we can make them too.

 Chrusty
makes about 50

Ingredients:
80g/4 large egg yolks
pinch salt
1 tbsp vodka
1-1/2 tsp white vinegar
1-1/2 tbsp sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
125g/scant 1 cup all-purpose flour

454g/1lb shortening or lard for frying

115g/1/2 cup icing sugar 

Method:
In a medium bowl, whip the egg yolks and salt on high speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the vodka, vinegar, sour cream and vanilla and beat 1 minute or until incorporated. Stir in the flour with a wooden spoon and mix until a ball of dough forms. The dough will be quite sticky. Turn it out onto a well-floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes, adding flour as needed, until the dough is smooth and elastic with a slight sheen, like pasta dough.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, melt the shortening. Place it in a large, deep skillet or a shallow dutch oven over medium heat, or in an electric fry pan, and heat to 175C/350F.

Once the dough has rested, divide it in two and working with one piece while the rest remains well-wrapped, roll it out into a circle about 30cm in diameter and 2mm thick, dusting the dough and work surface with flour as needed. The dough should be thin enough to read a newspaper through.

Alternatively, if you have a pasta maker, divide the dough into three portions. Working with one piece while the remaining portions are well-wrapped, dust it with flour and roll it through the machine twice each on settings 1, 3 and 5, and once on setting #6.

To shape the chrusty, cut the dough into 4cm wide strips, then cut each strip crosswise into 10-12cm lengths. Cut a 5cm slit lengthwise in the centre of each piece, then pass one end of the strip through it and pull gently. Transfer the shaped chrusty to a parchment or silpat-lined sheet pan and cover them with plastic wrap to prevent them from drying.

Repeat the rolling, cutting and shaping with the remaining dough.

Cover some cooling racks or sheet pans with 2 layers of paper towel.

To fry the chrusty, make sure your melted shortening is at 175C/350F. Add a few chrusty to the hot shortening without overcrowding the pan. They will sizzle and start to puff immediately. After about 30 seconds, once the sizzling has subsided and the bottoms are a pale golden, turn them and fry the other side for about 20 seconds or until the bottoms are the same pale golden shade. Remove them immediately - a fork inserted through the opening works really well - first allowing the excess shortening to drip back into the pan, and place them on the paper towels in a single layer to drain. If they are browning too quickly, reduce the heat under the fat and if they take longer than one minute to cook, raise the heat. Continue cooking them in small batches.

Once they've cooled completely, use a sieve to sprinkle them with icing sugar. Since there's no sugar in the dough, be generous!

To store, stack them gently in containers and cover them loosely with plastic wrap.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Sunday in Paris Chocolate Cake - Tuesdays with Dorie

Tuesdays with Dorie members are baking up something sweet and chocolate-y again, another of the "Fancy Cakes" from the book Baking Chez Moi. The "fancy" part of the rather easy-to-make peanut-chocolate butter cake is in its presentation, either as mini loaves or a sleek oblong topped with dark chocolate ganache, chopped peanuts and chocolate shards.
Lacking the recommended pans, I baked the batter in a heart-shaped pan, and while I was about making changes, frosted the cake with whipped ganache, adding three times the cream to the chocolate, whipping it once it cooled.
We really enjoyed the cake: it had a deep, rich chocolate flavour that was balanced by the peanut butter and peanuts and it wasn't very sweet. But I think I over-baked it by a few minutes since it was a bit dry when I served it at room temperature (though next day's leftovers were quite moist straight from the fridge). 

It was a fun cake to try but if I were to make it again, I would bake as minis and decorate as the recipe directs as I think its appearance is part of its charm.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Marcella Hazan's Pasta Bolognese

Much has been written about Marcella Hazan's Bolognese meat sauce recipe and once you've tried it, I think you'll agree that the accolades are well-deserved. It was one of the first recipes I made from her book Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking and it, alone, is worth the price of the book. 
This rich and meaty pasta sauce is flavoured with simple ingredients: onions, carrots, celery, tomatoes. Slow cooked for five hours, first in milk, then wine, then finally with tomatoes, the meat becomes tender and almost silky and the vegetables dissolve into its saucy goodness. It freezes well so you'll want to make a double batch, half to enjoy now and the rest for a day when you don't have five hours but still want a fantastic dish of pasta.

The recipe can be found here if you would like to try it yourself.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Granola Cake - Tuesdays with Dorie

Our second project this month from Dorie Greenspan's Baking Chez Moi was a snack cake that incorporated ready-made granola. Since I had none on hand, I made a batch of Crunchy Granola from the book.
Packed with toasted oats, nuts, seeds, coconut, and chocolate, it tasted good but I still prefer my granola for breakfast with some plain yogurt.

Visit here to see what the other Tuesdays with Dorie bakers thought

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Maple-Yogurt Mousse - Tuesdays with Dorie

As you can tell from the title of my post, I didn't follow the recipe for "Honey-Yogurt Mousse" that the Tuesdays with Dorie group of bakers is making this month from Baking Chez Moi. Some in my family don't care much for honey as a sweetener so I went with everyone's favourite, maple syrup.
Maple syrup isn't quite as sweet as honey and I reduced the sweetness even further by using only 80ml. I mixed agar agar directly into the yogurt mixture without dissolving it first for a soft set, not quite as firm as the Greek yogurt I started with and much airier because of the whipped cream. 

The mousse had a lovely light texture and the tang of the yogurt played off the sweet maple flavour nicely. We really enjoyed it for dessert with some of our favourite Christmas cookies, Swedish Cinnamon Wafers.