Wednesday, 28 May 2008

DB 3: The Phantom Of The Opera

It's Daring Baker time!! And after this month's challenge, I've come to the conclusion that the DBers are not the ninja pirates I suspected they were.

They are, in fact, MAGICIANS.

To explain: I messed this up in more or less every possible way. The thing was, I'd decided to halve it, cause the original recipe made such an epic sized cake. So as I went along, I used half quantities of sugar, flour, butter... and then my brain malfuctioned (#1) and in went ALL the almonds (I seem to have an unconscious desire to waste ground almonds), all of whatever else, full quantities of buttercream for a half sized cake... you name it, I messed up the amounts of it.

The cake came out of the oven looking suspiciously All Right. I eyed it pensively, decided this must be Daring Baker magic, and continued on my merry way.

Brain malfunction #2: Deciding it would be a good idea to colour the syrup (oh yeah; full quantities of that) pink rather than the actual cake. Meant my cake was kind of marbled in places where the syrup had been poured over the sponge. Does that sound pretty? It was actually kind of crap.

I just like to shatter your illusions there. Sorry.

Then there was #3: Mixing the buttercream, putting it in a tub to be assembled the next day, and then remembering I'd wanted that to be pink as well, scraping it out, colouring it, and piling it all back in again.

#4: Deciding reading the recipe was once again not for me when it came to the mousse, and instead of melting the white chocolate with a couple of tbsp of the cream, chucking it all in. My mousse was not so much mousse as sauce. It tasted fantastic. But it was sauce. I left it in the freezer, hoping it would solidify a bit (I'm an optimist) but let me just say that recipes? Are written down for a reason. Oh Daring Bakers, you teach me so much.

#5: Actually I don't know if this was the fault of my brain or of my culinary skillz (which is worse?) but I had serious issues with the white chocolate glaze; everything started melting and dying and seizing up left right and centre. I made full quantities of that (on purpose this time!) and had to glaze the entire cake rather than just the top to try and hide the sorry state of affairs.

And this is where the Daring Bakers show their true colours as practioners of the magical arts: this cake was gorgeous. Despite the mad quantities, and the failure of my mousse, and my lack of recipe-reading, and the travesty I made of the glaze, this really was delicious, and a massive hit with my mum especially, who requested it as her birthday cake (me: 'O NOEZ!! NOT AGAIN!! DDD='). Looks like the Daring Bakers were watching over me XD.

I might go and sacrifice a lamb or something to them now. Or at least a batch of cookies.

Daring Bakers' Opéra Cake
(white chocolate & rosewater)
Recipe is here. I used half quantities. Mostly.

Anyone got any ideas what else I can make with rosewater essence? I loved it in this, and am dying to use it in other things. Expect rose flavoured everything for a few weeks, until the novelty wears off XD.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Taken With A Pinch Of Salt

I have a lot of excuses to make, and most of them are along the lines of 'procrastination' and 'revision' and 'new job', so rather than dwell on the reasons I've pretty much failed as a food blogger recently, I'm going to ply you all with cookies to make you love me again. You do love me, right?
Shall I tell you what I love? Food, Glorious Food, and specifically, Antonia, for giving me this lovely award that it's taken me such a bad-mannered length of time to post about. Thank you so much Antonia!! I have no idea what Arte Y Pico means, but I do speak the language of... food? so when I pass the award on to five other deserving food bloggers - further down in this post - for their creativity, design, interesting material, and contribution to the blogging community (I copied and pasted that. You could tell, yeah?) you will know that what I really mean is 'YAY LOVE YOU, YUM YUM HEEEE'. And so on.

You know what else I YAY LOVE YUM YUM HEEEE? These cookies. You may have seen them before; they're the salted white chocolate oatmeal cookies from Smitten Kitchen. I imagine Smitten Kitchen as an actual big farmhouse kitchen with sheepdogs and a range and lots of these cookies; also, I want to live there. As a permanent resident. I ate one of these cookies fresh from the oven, and they were just the right mix of salty-sweetness and crispy-softness and other such culinary contradictions.

I don't know where sentences like that come from, I really don't. Sorry.

Without further ado: I'm making an effort not to pass this award onto people I've tagged before (sorry, because a lot of you really do deserve it. Also I hope I can remember who I've tagged and not tagged before, but can't be sure X__X), so with that in mind, I'd like to give the Arte Y Pico award to the following five bloggers:

Nilmandra at Soy & Pepper
Salted Oatmeal White Chocolate Cookies
American measurements here at Smitten Kitchen
Makes 24

140g plain flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
200g unsalted butter, slightly softened
180g sugar
30g light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
250g old-fashioned rolled oats
170g good-quality white chocolate bar, chopped
1/2 teapoon flaky sea salt (for sprinkling on top)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and table salt in a medium bowl.

2. Beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Scrape down bowl with rubber spatula, then add egg and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Scrape down bowl again. Add flour mixture gradually and mix until just incorporated and smooth. Gradually add oats and white chocolate and mix until well incorporated.

3. Divide dough into 24 equal portions, each about 2 tablespoons. Roll between palms into balls, then place on lined baking sheets about 2 1/2 inches apart. Using fingertips, gently press down each ball to about ¾-inch thickness.

4. Sprinkle a flake or two of sea salt on each cookie

5. Bake until cookies are deep golden brown, about 13 to 16 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack to cool.

PS: And in case you were thinking I couldn't fail any more... huge thank you to Diva at The Sugar Bar for the 'You Make My Day' award, which I completely forgot to mention and now feel like a fool about. It made me smile so much! Rather than pass this one on, since I'm in a hurry and trying not to draw attention to how I forgot to tag others earlier, I'd like to ask everyone to take a look at some of the blogs on my -newly updated- blogroll (right); all of them are fantastic, and I visit them so often. They all really deserve this, because reading everyone's blogs cheers me right up XD.

As do cookies, but in a different way.

Monday, 19 May 2008

The Right Road

Yep. It's one of my infamous health foods again.

I have really good excuses justification for this one, though! This one has actual fruit in! In a dried, sweetened sort of way. Hear me out.

So, the original recipe looked more like this. Yes, these were originally Rocky Road Bars - I'm not exactly sure what they are now. A road somewhere else, presumeably. I cut out the cocoa powder (upping the flour to make up), added white chocolate instead coughcough, changed and reduced the sugar, added dessicated coconut (which I'm certain is healthy, but can't back up with any factual knowledge or anything. Now I've left school, everyone knows I don't have knowledge anymore), and swapped all the sugar-high toppings for... sugar-high fruit toppings.

So, those are my excuses for eating these. My excuses for making them?

...I don't actually have any. Yeah, it's true; I've run out of excuses to bake. My friends are all busy revising and working and so on, and I mostly sit at home procrastinating, singing the soundtrack to Wicked: The Musical and occasionally recreating a Native American sun dance (something I came across in my US History notes. Wait til I get to Russian History; who knows what that has in store?). When your days are filled with this sort of thing, it's hard to find someone who wants to hang out with you. Can I get an 'aww'?

Anyone? Fine then.

I've been reduced to actually baking for my family, who (sorry) usually don't deserve it. Firstly there was the Daring Baker challe-- only kidding, DBers! Put your hitmen back in their drawer! I'm not going to give that away yet. But needless to say my family are pretty shocked. It's maybe because of this that these bars have been such a hit - they keep eating more to check they're really there.

Me? Er, same.

Tropical Road Bars
Makes 16

115g butter
100g caster sugar
1 large egg
70g plain flour
1/4 tsp salt
120ml milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp dessicated coconut
100g white chocolate, melted

For topping:
40g dessicated coconut
80g milk chocolate chips (Okay, I didn't have a full bag for some reason)
200g dried apricots
100g dried sweetened pineapple

Preheat oven to 180C. Line an 8-inch square pan.

1. In a medium saucepan, melt butter and white chocolate, then remove from heat and stir in sugar, egg, flour, salt, milk, coconut and vanilla extract until well-blended.Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes.

2. Remove pan from oven and top with coconut, chocolate chips, apricots and pineapple, pressing them down with a spatula. Return to oven and bake for 5-7 additional minutes (I upped the temperature a bit, to toast the coconut on the top). Cool on a wire rack before slicing with a damp or lightly greased knife into 16 bars. Bars can be stored at room temperature or in the fridge.

3. My toppings kept falling everywhere as I hadn't pressed them down hard enough, so just in case I hadn't hit my sugar quota for the day I made a thin caramel syrup (10g butter, 4 tbsp sugar, a slosh of milk) to pour over the top of the bars while they were still in the pan, to hopefully glue the toppings on. This probably isn't necessary, but I just really like sugar.

Ah, sugar. My true friend. You would never forsake me for Classics revision.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Summer With A Vengeance

There's always a sort of turning point, season-wise (and you know I've revised History too much when I start talking about 'turning points'). One day, you're making emergency provisions and feeling daring if you go out without an umbrella in case the weather turns on you, viciously. Ohh, that swine. And then the next day, you sit peacefully in the garden to read through your work, and when you come in a few hours later, you realise you have a more than passing resemblance to a cherry tomato.

Yes, I am sunburnt. I'm not even sunburnt in a normal way: one arm is still chalky white. The other is a rhubarb-esque shade. Apparently the white one is SUN-RESISTANT, and my writing arm... well, I can't raise it anymore without the skin on my shoulder screaming obscenities at me.
This is the point in the year where I start making salady, summery food for tea and my dad gets stroppy because he feels it isn't manly enough. I suspect he would prefer cow pie, or a large slab of bright red roasted meat.

Oh hey, I actually have a slab of bright red roasted meat to hand. Someone pass me a carving knife, and he can have my right arm.

This is a really simple light meal; I ate it in the garden, mostly because it was still warm and light yesterday evening but also a little bit because my father was still looking hungry. I served the tabbouleh more or less over the charred aubergines yesterday, but once everyone had eaten I stirred the rest of the aubergines into the rest of it and it still tasted great when I had some for lunch today. I have to say that I love all the compartments of this, but it's the feta that really makes it, as fat-loaded dairy products are wont to do ^__^.

Feta tabbouleh with aubergine
Recipe from Good Food magazine, June edition
Serves 4, 395 cals per serving
Counts as 3 of 5 a day

140g bulghur wheat
2 garlic cloves, crushed (has anyone ever actually succeeded at crushing garlic? I chop mine up. Share your secrets.)
4 tbsp olive oil
2 aubergines, thinly sliced lengthways
400g can chickpeas, drained
140g pack cherry tomatoes, halved
1 red onion
100g feta cheese
1 large bunch mint, leaves chopped
juice 1 1/2 lemons (I just used one juicy one)

1. Cook the bulghur wheat according to pack instructions (either in a pan with however-much water, or in a bowl covered with however-much water), then drain well. In a small bowl, mix together the garlic and olive oil, then use half to brush over both sides of the aubergine strips with some seasoning. Sear the strips on a hot griddle or in a frying pan for a few minutes (aubergine ALWAYS takes me longer than it says) each side until charred and softened.

2. Tip the wheat into a large bowl with the chickpeas, tomatoes, onion, feta and mint, then pour over the remaining garlicky oil and the lemon juice. Mix and season well, then pile onto plates with the charred aubergine.

Anyone who points out my current resemblance to parts of this salad gets beaten to death with a spatula. It's not a way you want to go.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

But Why Is The Rum Gone?

And just like that, school is over for good. I'm not even going to go into all the emotions and exhaustion and tearful hugging, but I will tell you the following: the boys' toilets are no longer the mystery they once were, likewise neither are the interiors of icecream vans, and candyfloss is very, very good (and can be added to the food-on-a-stick revolution: pure sugar on a stick! Why didn't I think of it earlier?).

Basically, I apologise in advance for any nostalgia that creeps into this post. Also I'm finding it slightly hard to concentrate, since the group outside the pub next door is singing loudly, 'YOU WASH YER FACE... YOU WASH YER ARSE-ENAL!' and it's a bit distracting. Not to mention oddly catchy.

This chocolate rum cake is a tradition among my friends and I - any momentous occassion (and some less momentous one - 'LET'S HAVE CAKE MONDAY IN THE COMMON ROOM!') has seen my friend Ed whipping one out of thin air. I'll never forget the first time - it was the last day of fifth year (when the usual school rules didn't seem to apply ^__^), and we got very silly on chocolate rum cake in our Art lesson (I have the notes from the time; Ed filled an entire page with 'rum rum rum' and announced that I hoovered up crumbs 'with [my] long proboscis'. Let me make it clear that I have no proboscis). Of course, Ed's recipe did differ a bit from the printed one:

'I put in the amount of rum it said... and then it didn't look like much so I put in a bit more. And then a bit extra for luck. And I put a bit more in the icing as well; and then as I was putting it all together I realised I had a bit left over... so I poured the rest of the bottle over the top.'

I have never eaten a more potent cake in my life XD. We couldn't let the teachers have any when they asked because it would be the equivalent of drinking on the job.

When it came to Leavers' Day, it was going to be difficult for Ed to bring one in, so I volunteered to make the rum cake (it was inconceivable for us not to have one) to eat at our barbeque in the evening. Obviously I a) bore the above approach in mind and b) knew this cake had to be a good one.

It's worrying when your friendship is symbolised by a chocolate rum cake, but to be honest, this cake is practically one of the gang.

Chocolate Rum Cake
Recipe from Mary Berry's Ultimate Cake Book
As made by my friend Ed, many, many times.

For the cake:
200g plain choc, broken into pieces
100g unsalted butter, cubed
3 eggs, separated
100g dark muscovado sugar
50ml dark rum
75g self raising flour
50g ground almonds

For the filling and icing:
225g plain choc, broken into pieces
100g unsalted butter, cubed
about 4tbsp apricot jam, warmed
(I used raspberry since my dad had apparently eaten the apricot X__X)

For the chocolate ganache for piping (optional):
175g plain choc, broken into pieces
4 tbsp single cream
50g butter, cubed
2 egg yolks
1 tbsp rum

If you are Ed:
much more rum.

Preheat the oven to 180C and grease/line a 20cm (8") deep round cake tin.

1. Melt the chocolate and butter slowly in a bowl (either in the microwave or over a pan of hot water) and allow to cool slightly. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl till pale and creamy then add the cooled chocolate mixture and rum, mixing well. Gently fold in the flour and ground almonds.

2. In a separate bowl, mix the egg whites until stiff but not dry, then lightly fold into the mixture. Turn into the prepared tin and gently level the surface (alternatively you could use two tins to save you having to slice the cake in half once it's baked).

3. Bake for about 45 mins or until firm to the touch. Allow to cool in the tin for a few minutes. If you are Ed, use a cocktail stick or skewer to make little holes all over the surface of the cake while it's still in the tin and pour more rum over it, but if you don't have an alcohol problem you can skip this. Turn out and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

4. For the filling and icing, melt the chocolate, add the cubed butter, and stir until the mixture has the consistency of thick pouring cream. Split the cake in half horizontally (or if you made two, whatever), and use a little of the icing to fill it.

5. Warm the jam and push it through a sieve. Brush this over the top and sides of the cake and allow to set before pouring the icing over. Smooth evenly with a palette knife and leave to set.

6. If you want to make chocolate ganache to pipe rosettes around the cake (that was the plan, anyway; my piping bag exploded halfway through so I just dolloped blobs on and swirled them around to pretend they were meant to be that way); melt the chocolate and cream together then beat in the butter a little at a time. Beat in the egg yolks and rum and leave until cool and firm, stirring occasionally (this takes at least an hour in the fridge, let me warn you). When firm enough to hold its shape, spoon into a piping bag with a star nozzle (pfft) and pipe rosettes of ganache to decorate.

Cool kids; I really am going to miss you guys so much in the autumn. We'll have to have alcohol/sugar-based reunions every other weekend XD. Love you all. ♥

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Oh, Crumbs

You may be starting to wonder something as you read this blog. 'Indy,' you might be thinking, 'when on earth do you leave school? What with your undeniable maturity and reliability, not to mention the wit and charm that you do, frequently, mention, surely you have outgrown the constraints of full time education by now? Shouldn't you be seeking your fortune, using the skills you have acquired during your formative years in the real world?'

Alternatively, you may not be wondering this. But I bet you are now.

Well the answer is: Friday. Friday is the day I leave school, forever. Except for when I have to go back to take my exams. But otherwise, Friday.

It's all very exciting and rather like the end of Grease (except without, you know, the leather and the teenage pregnancies. Well I don't know, other people might be wearing leather and getting pregnant. But not me personally), but one thing I have noticed as people sign my leaver's book is a bit of a theme.

A theme along the lines of 'so long, and thanks for all the cake'.

Is cake what people associate with me, I wonder? Is my role in secondary school not 'class clown' or 'official hottie', but 'inducer of sugar highs'?

I can live with that.

Actually, my mum said to me the other day, 'I'm quite glad you have a bit of a penchant for cake, you know, to keep you from getting too skinny.'


She hardly deserved a cake after that, but bugger it, this looked good.

Jam Crumb Cake
Gourmet December 2007
Recipe from
Gigi Cakes: American measurements at the link.

140g all-purpose flour
90g of sugar
1 ¾ teaspoons of baking powder
¼ teaspoon of salt
85g melted butter
120ml of milk
1 large egg
½ cup of jam or preserves
(Not sure how much this is so I blobbed a good few tablespoons on. If you want guidance: the more the better)

85g melted butter
30g brown sugar
50g granulated sugar
¾ teaspoons of cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon of salt
140g + 2 tablespoons of flour

Preheat the oven to 400F. Generously grease and butter a 9-inch round pan.

1. For the cake: Whisk together butter, milk, and egg in a large bowl, then whisk in the flour mixture until just combined. Pour the batter into the cake pan. Dollop jam all over the surface, then swirl batter with a spoon.

2. For the topping: Whisk together the butter, sugars, cinnamon and salt until smooth. Stir in the flour, then blend with your fingertips until incorporated, then sprinkle crumbs over the cake.

3. Bake the cake until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool in pan for 5 minutes before inverting to completely cool.

Incidentally; I've just finished decorating not one, but two cakes for Leavers' Day: one as a thankyou present to the English department and one chocolate rum cake for our BBQ afterwards. Watch this space. ^__^

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Culture, The Edible Way

A short post today, since it's occured to me that I'm being a little bit discriminatory on this blog. Britain is getting great coverage, for example (I like to think of myself as some sort of charming, subliminal advertisement for British holidays. 'Come to England! We have cake, and royalty!' sort of thing), and Japan gets the odd bit of shameless, please-adopt-me-into-your-country type flattery, but anywhere else? I seem to have neglected the whole World Culture side of things.

Except for America. I've mentioned America a few times, but as one of my favourite hobbies is making sarcastic and dry remarks about the USA in an Oscar Wilde-esque manner, I probably shouldn't dwell on this in the largely American food blogging community. I mean it lovingly.

I love the Korean food that Ellie makes on Kitchen Wench, so I was bearing this in mind when I decided to have a go at the Korean pancake she made a while ago. Actually I was only bearing it a little bit in mind, since most of me was thinking, 'oh hey, that bag of frozen seafood is half price!', followed by, 'man, I love seafood'. But the rest of me was all about the culture.

I'm too lazy to, you know, go to museums and read books and stuff. So my culture is the edible kind. This was a light meal for last Saturday's tea.

Obviously, my pancake didn't exactly look like Ellie's, but honestly? I enjoyed this meal so much. I only made half-quantities as it was just me and my mum (let's not go into how my dad and sister would react to Korean/seafood), and we put it on a plate in the middle of the table with the dipping sauce between us and helped ourselves from the centre with chopsticks. My family don't get on particularly well the majority of the time, so it was so nice to have a relaxed meal with my mum, and actually be able to talk and be sociable.

This did mean I was completely unable to follow what was going on in Doctor Who, but a lot of the time I can't follow it anyway since I keep getting distracted by David Tennant's face (mm, lovely face) and forgetting to pay attention to the plot. I'll manage.

Hae-mul Pajeon
(Korean Seafood & Spring Onion pancakes)
Original Recipe here on Kitchen Wench.

Pancake ingredients:
280g plain flour
360 - 480ml (1.5-2 cups) water
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 large bunch of spring onions, washed and cut into thin 1.5 - 2 inch strips
I used a 500g bag of frozen mixed seafood (mussels, prawns & calamari) but check Kitchen Wench for specifics if you want them.

Dipping sauce ingredients:
4 tbsp white or rice vinegar
4 tbsp light soy sauce
1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp finely chopped spring onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp sesame oil

When it comes to making the sauce, if you can’t be bothered getting fancy, then just make a simplified version of equal parts light soy sauce and white/rice vinegar.

1. Mix together flour, water and egg bit by bit, making sure to beat out any lumps - this should be only a tiny bit thicker than thin pancake batter as you will still need the mixture to spread out on the frying pan, so add more water or flour accordingly.

2. Add the chopped spring onions and seafood to the batter, then mix thoroughly to incorporate all ingredients evenly.

3. Heat a frying pan and add some oil, when it’s nice and hot, ladle a big spoonful into the pan. You want this to be about 4-5mm thick, any thicker and it won’t cook through well. Fry until the batter is half-cooked (i.e. not liquid) on top and the bottom is nice and crisp and golden.

4. Carefully flip over and fry other side till golden, then remove from heat and drain on paper towels. Oil frying pan and repeat with remaining batter.

5. To serve, mix vinegar, soy sauce, chilli, spring onion, sugar, sesame oil and garlic and pour into a sauce bowl. Chop up the pancake into approx. 4cm x 4cm squares, then serve side by side with forks or chopsticks.