Sunday, September 25, 2011

nah-ni-mo bars

CAAAANADAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!! Last week I went to my one and only 2011 Rugby World Cup match, between Canada and Tonga. I think half the town must've turned up to see the game but  even so, I like to think that not one of those 17,000 people brought homemade Nanaimo bars. Or antlers and a red nose.

Nanaimo bars are, of course*, native to the harbour City of Nanaimo and they're uber sweet; pretty much just a chocolate base covered with a layer of thick vanilla icing, finished with a chocolate top. Whoo! I thought they sounded really sweet but the recipe was endorsed by the City of Nanaimo so I didn't really have a choice; they had to be made the Nanaimo way!

Most people thought they were great but a few found them too sweet - not surprising as the middle layer is pretty much sugar held together with butter. I'm glad I made them though, just to taste the almost real thing.

I took my camera to the game but didn't really have the time to take photos (priority was given to trying to shout over Tongan supporters) and the one time I took a photo, I didn't check to see if I'd turned the auto-focus back on. What a dork.

Nanaimo bars are circled, being enjoyed. Have no idea how NOTHING in this photo
managed to get in focus.

Nanaimo Bars
Adapted from City of Nanaimo

Even though I was dedicated to the traditional recipe, I couldn't help but add a pinch of salt to the base and to make it a bit easier to cook the base - I wasn't so keen on chocolate scrambled eggs!

Layer Un
4oz unsalted butter
pinch salt
1/4 cup sugar
5 Tablespoons cocoa powder
1 egg, beaten
1 1/4 cups crumbed graham wafers (aka Digestives)
1/2 cup roughly chopped sliced almonds

In a small pan, gently heat butter, salt, sugar and cocoa, stirring constantly, until butter has melted and merged with the other ingredients. It should be a hot mix so take it off the heat and let it cool down for 5 minutes.

Quickly whisk the beaten egg into the chocolate and put back on a low heat. Continue stirring the mixture until it begins to thicken. I actually used a temp. probe to make sure it didn't go over 80C (cooking the egg while avoiding the scrambled horror).

Quickly stir in the rest of the ingredients and push into an ungreased 8 by 8inch square baking pan (I tinfoiled mine beforehand to make sure it came out easily).

Layer Deux
4oz unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cream
2 tablespoons vanilla custard powder
2 cups icing sugar

Cream everything together and beat until light. Spread over first layer.

Layer Trois
4oz semi-sweet chocolate (I used 50% cocoa)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Melt chocolate and butter over a low heat, stirring constantly. Cool until cool as possible while still maintaining its pourability! Spread over second layer and chill until set.

Rough edges need to be trimmed off and eaten by the chef

*I sound like I've always known everything about Nanaimo when really I just google mapped it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Cake Slice Bakers: Cheddar Cheese and Apple Cake

I read the name of this cake and thought it was just craziness; the product of a recipe writer who's cracked under the pressure of cake.

Yum yum! Also, that's the hand of a 21 YEAR OLD. uuuuuuugh.......

So I told people at school about it and they were all, "Oh, you should try cheese on slices of apple" and I was all, "Yes, I know of that combination but this is a cake" and they were like "Oh, you should try cheese with grapes" and I was all, "Fine. I'll make it." And they were all, "Oh, you should try marmite and apple" and I was like, "uuum" and someone was all, "you should try peanut butter and cheese!" and I was just like, "No."

So I made it and it was surprisingly good! It was pleasantly sweet with a nice tang and not full of melted cheese like I'd subconsciously imagined. A good word for it might be refreshing... It had a nice texture too so all in all, a nice cake.

Sad stuff now:

No. 1 - To share this cake with those cheese/pear/grapes/etc. fans, I cleverly protected it from my feline housemates by wrapping it up in three layers of clingfilm. Which of course they very cleverly ripped off in the dead of night for the sole purpose of licking all the icing sugar off the top.

Can't prove it but here's the suspected Cake Licker. I'm watching him...

No. 2 - this is my last CSBers post :( I've already gone through the new book they're going to bake from so I'm not so keen on going through it again. Good luck and happy baking to the continuing, and new, CSBers! You've been fabulous to bake with and I know where you are online now :)

Cheddar Cheese and Apple Cake
Adapted from Cake Keeper Cakes

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup quick-cooking cornmeal/polenta
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4oz unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
6 tablespoons milk
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 large tart apple (I used a Granny Smith), peeled, cored and cut into 1cm (or 1/4inch) dice

Preheat oven to 175C/350F. Grease and dust a 9inch round cake pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Thoroughly mix in eggs, one at a time. Stir in half of the flour until just mixed in. Stir in milk. Stir in rest of flour until just incorporated. Carefully stir in cheese and apple.

Pour into prepared pan, smooth top, and bake until the cake is golden brown and a skewer comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cool cake in pan for 10 minutes then cool completely, right way up, on a wire rack.

Dust with icing sugar and serve.

Store cake away from sneaky cats in a sealed container at room temp for up to two days.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

persimmon butterscotch cake

Persimmoooons! Yum, yum, YUM! Some people don't think there's much flavour to them but they're wrong. Wrong! In New Zealand, we pretty much only grow the non-astringent Fuyu, so I'd never even heard of the astringent Hachiya type until a couple of years ago. I know for a fact I haven't been missing out. I can't imagine eating the gloopy, stringy soup that is a super ripe persimmon. Blurgh.

Now, what!? Cream cheese icing?! Oh my, too good.

But of course, super soft persimmons are a bit easier to use in cakes than hard ones... And thankfully, once a persimmon goes even a teensy bit soft, it's over for me; there's no way I'm eating it raw. That persimmon and its buddies are sent straight to a bowl of apples and bananas to ripen even more!

note white chocolate chunks at 9 and 10oclock

Persimmon baked goods are normally spiced up (like a carrot or apple cake) but I wasn't too keen on that. I grabbed David Lebovitz's recipe and, thinking about the flavour of a persimmon, decided to go down the caramel route. And oh what a delicious destination! It's more of a caramel flavour than a persimmon one but it's a good one nonetheless :)

Persimmon Butterscotch Cake
Adapted from David Lebovitz

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 2/3 cup granulated white sugar
6 oz/170g butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups persimmon puree
3 large eggs, room temp
1 tablespoon butterscotch liqueur
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
1 cup chopped white chocolate (big enough not to melt completely when baked and small enough not to all sink to the bottom...)

Grease a 9 inch bundt cake pan, line bottom with baking paper and grease the paper. Preheat oven to 175C/350F.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and sugar. 

In a medium bowl, combine melted butter, persimmon puree, eggs, butterscotch liqueur, vanilla, and instant coffee. Gently fold into flour. Don't overmix!

Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake until a skewer comes out clean, about an hour. The sides of the cake may go a little weird halfway through but that's ok! Cool in pan for a couple of hours and then invert onto cooling rack.

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
6oz/180g cream cheese, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons persimmon puree
2/3 cup icing sugar, sifted

Cream together butter and cream cheese. Mix in vanilla extract and persimmon. Sift in icing sugar and combine. Spread over top of cake.

Monday, June 27, 2011

walnut cigars

Basically, I've ended up making Ms. Elegant Baklava's odd hotdog-shaped cousin. Wuh wuuh.

Blog-checking lines: Erica of Erica’s Edibles was our host for the Daring Baker’s June challenge. Erica challenged us to be truly DARING by making homemade phyllo dough and then to use that homemade dough to make Baklava.

phyllo pastry dough

Phyllo pastry made at home? Ho hum I don't think it's possible for me to do it! I mean, I got the pastry rolled out quite thin but I was too scared to roll it out even further in case it tore. Anyhow, because it was thicker than normal, I decided to use it for a baklava derivitive that likes a thicker pastry: walnut cigars. I used a recipe straight out of the awesome book, Warm Bread and Honey Cake by Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra.

I made the baklava at night (so not many photos) so I'm posting a pic of a toilet with a garden on its roof! The doors also said 'see you again' under a painting of a boomerang. Super cute! But I seemed to be the only one who thought so...

Check out the gorgeous creations from my fellow Daring Bakers!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

kaffir lime chiffon cake

Ever seen a kaffir lime? Well, I hadn’t until a month ago.

kaffir limes

Ever seen a chiffon cake tin? Well, I hadn’t until yesterday!

this cake tin has feet!

The flavour of this cake was limey but it was also a little bitter sometimes – I think it was the fact that kaffir limes have little lumps on their skin and when I zested them, I got more pith I would have than with a normal lime.

Chiffon tins, when turned onto their wee feet, ensure that the light cakes they hold don’t collapse in on themselves. Well, that’s the theory.

This was my first time using a chiffon tin and as documented in these pictures, it was a flop! The cake rose and browned on top beautifully but when I pulled it out, managing to turn it upside down at the same time, it ripped itself from the sides of the tin and fell out onto the table I’d rested the tin’s feet on. Aaargh!

I have no idea why it happened because I followed the directions quite carefully and I had strict instructions on how to use the tin... Well, I can’t wait to see my fellow Cake Slice Baker’s cakes so I can see if they had similar problems. I hope it wasn't the recipe we used (by Lauren Chattman) because that’d be so disappointing...

It's even more of a pity because the texture of the cake was amazingly soft and tender :)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

potato salad with pomegranate and avocado dressing

Blog-checking lines: Jami Sorrento was our June Daring Cooks hostess and she chose to challenge us to celebrate the humble spud by making a delicious and healthy potato salad. The Daring Cooks Potato Salad Challenge was sponsored by the nice people at the United States Potato Board, who awarded prizes to the top 3 most creative and healthy potato salads. A medium-size (5.3 ounce) potato has 110 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, no sodium and includes nearly half your daily value of vitamin C and has more potassium than a banana!

When I read what June's challenge was, I can't say I was exactly thrilled. Potato salad? Herrrrm.... That doesn't sound very daring. In fact, I put off thinking about ideas and put it off and put it off until, suddenly, it was the 14th and I hadn't thought of some genius healthy potato salad! So, like the champion I am, I gave it up and thought that was the end of it.

100% New Zealand grown and made avocado oil (represent) and Middle Eastern Pomegranate Molasses

That was until today, when my tutor mentioned he loved to make a vinaigrette using two ingredients that made it too intriguing to pass up! I've always wanted to use pomegranate molasses and avocado is super duper healthy sooo... voila! I had my daringness and my healthy potato saladness!

avocado oil on the left and pomegranate molasses on the right

Pomegranate molasses - it smells like cherry-flavoured medicine (ah, childhood memories), its thick and unctuous, it tastes like pomegranates and cherries, and its sweet but with a super sharp tang.

Avocado oil is ridiculously healthy, a gorgeous green colour, and it's tasty! It has a higher smoke point than olive oil, is higher in healthier monounsaturated fats than olive oil, is proven to lower cholesterol absorption and is cold-pressed (avoiding all of those highly processed chemical methods of oil extraction).

This warm salad is lovely with good crunch from the onion, softness from the eggs, and potatoes providing a nice backdrop to a slightly sweet, tangy, fruity vinaigrette. Daring to combine avocado and pomegranate definitely paid off! Also, I think it looks rather pretty for a potato salad :)

Potato Salad with Pomegranate and Avocado Dressing
Dressing adapted from BBC

2 large (about 1lb) all-purpose potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
2 boiled eggs (put into boiling, salted water for 8-9 minutes)
1 small red onion, peeled (to make about 1/3 cup sliced onion)
10-15 chive stems
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
6 tablespoons avocado oil
salt and pepper to taste

Put potatoes into cold, salted water (1 tablespoon of salt to 1 litre of water) and bring to a boil. Boil potatoes until cooked (15-30 minutes) then drain well.

Cut the eggs in half lengthwise and then slice from top to bottom. Cut onion in half and then slice along with the rings in the onion, creating thin strips (not chunks). Chop the chives into millions of teeny, thin rounds.

Whisk together pomegranate molasses and vinegar. Pour in avocado oil and whisk. Season with salt and pepper.

Put still warm potatoes into a medium bowl and roughly mash with a fork, creating a mix of small bits and chunky bits. Toss with eggs, onion, and chives. Stir through the vinaigrette and season with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

bombe alaska cupcakes

These babies aren’t only yummy, they’re rummy! Hahaa! But seriously, there’s definitely some rum action going on in these cupcakes. It’s not so intense that it overwhelms the other flavours but it’s definitely noticeable.

I made these cupcakes as an entry into Scoopalicious and Cupcake Project’s annual ice cream cupcake competition. The flavours were inspired by a coconut ice cream with pumpkin sauce recipe I found on the fabulous Australian Gourmet Traveller website. Gourmet Traveller also inspired the Bombe Alaskian element because I’ve always wanted to make the gorgeous meringue they use for their Bombe Alaskas!

In between two layers of chocolate-rum cake, I put a layer of coconut ice cream and a layer of pumpkin ice cream. The pumpkin ice cream had quite a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg and I think those spices were a little bit too much for the delicate flavour of the coconut ice cream. Coconut and pumpkin might seem like a weird combo but never fear as they’re brought together quite nicely by a common ingredient – rum.

I had no idea about this competition until a couple of days ago so these cupcakes are very last minute and very much on a 'beginner' level - I've definitely learnt a lot about using ice cream in cupcakes!

Bombe Alaska Cupcakes

Chocolate-Rum Cake

If putting ice cream into the middle of the cakes, make sure they’re baked into the same cupcake liners/tins you’ll assemble the cupcakes in – it’ll make it easier to get nice layers.

225g chocolate, 50% cocoa
1/4cup dark rum (I used Coruba)
2 large eggs (67g each), separated
60g butter, melted
40g all-purpose flour, sifted
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
35g caster sugar

Preheat an oven to 190C.

Melt the chocolate and rum together over a very low heat, stirring all the while so that the chocolate doesn't burn. When the chocolate is smooth and glossy, remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

Stir the egg yolks, butter, flour, vanilla, and salt into the chocolate. Meanwhile, whip the egg whites into soft peaks. Add the sugar to the whites and whip until stiff peaks form.

Fold 1/3 of the whites into the chocolate mixture until thoroughly mixed in. Gently fold the rest of the whites into the chocolate. Spoon the batter into cupcake moulds about 5mm from the top and bake until a skewer inserted into the cupcakes comes out clean and the tops are all cracky.

Coconut Ice Cream
Adapted from David Lebovitz via Leite’s Culinaria

The rum was of course added.

Pumpkin Ice Cream
Adapted from Karen DeMasco via David Lebovitz

This needed less cinnamon and nutmeg when used alongside the coconut ice cream. Again, rum was definitely used.

Very Lovely Meringue for Lighting on Fire

The whites and sugar mix doesn’t need to be perfectly stiff peaks because the corn flour and vinegar thickens it up.

4 egg whites
1 cup (220g) caster sugar
2 tablespoons cornflour, sifted
2 tablespoons white vinegar

Whip the whites into soft peaks. While still whipping, slowly pour the sugar into the whites and continue to whip them until stiff peaks form. Whisk in the corn flour and vinegar.

To Assemble
Using a ruler, measure and cut a 1cm base off each chocolate cake. Cut another 1cm off the top of the cakes*. Soften coconut ice cream (until just workable, not until melty!) and smooth a heaped teaspoon onto the base – it needs to be about 1cm high. Freeze the ice creamed base until the ice cream is solid. Soften the pumpkin ice cream and smooth a 1cm high layer of it onto the coconut ice cream. Put the cake top onto the pumpkin ice cream and freeze it again until the pumpkin ice cream is solid. Smooth the meringue onto the cupcakes in nice peaks and use a chef’s blow torch to caramelise the meringue a little (aka set it on fire!). Eat immediately because that ice cream’s gonna melt!

*Eat the middle parts mixed all through coconut ice cream.

Monday, June 6, 2011

queen of puddings

raisin bread slices

Happy Birthday, Queen Elizabeth! I tried to do you proud by making a famous English pudd but I'm not too keen on the result. Sorry! My English flatmate said it tasted.... 'English' which is good but not exactly brilliant if you know what I mean...

unbaked bready custard... hmmm

Anyway, what really could be more appropriate than a quintessential English pudding that also uses the birthday girl's title - Queen of Puddings. I'd never made (let alone seen) a Queen of Puddings so it was all very new. And odd. I used the most traditional recipe I could find, by Jane Grigson

not sure if it looks any better baked

Essentially, a Queen of Puddings is: a baked custard base that has bread crumbs mixed through it which is then covered in a thin layer of raspberry jelly which is then covered in a meringue. The thriftiness (egg whites leftover from custard used to make meringue) and the fact that there's breadcrumbs in this pudding all pretty much scream classic Englishness pudding :)

fig jam isn't helping either

I didn't go exactly traditional; instead of normal bread crumbs, I used raisin bread, and instead of berry jelly, I used fig jam.

meringue looks nice but then, it always does

I'm not really sold but perhaps if I did it a bit more properly? I dunno - maybe there's a reason I've never had a Queen of Puddings pudding before...

finished pudd

I haven't given up on this pudding but I'll probably wait until the Queen's next birthday before giving it another go :). I have to confess that it's simplicity is probably what makes this pudding nice and my attempt to justify having raisin bread in the house might've been thte poor thing's downfall. Next time, I think I'll try a Delia Smith's recipe.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

banana cupcakes with bourbon creme patisserie

My flatmate had some bananas that were just a little bit too ripe for her so I used them to make cupcakes. That's pretty much it. Oh, and they were delicious. They had a lovely crumb and stayed rather moist for a couple of days after baking. The creme patisserie is just amazing.

Now I took a bajillion photos as I went along so I'm doing the classic step-by-step-food-blog-post. Here's what happened:

The bananas.  I mashed up 3/4 cup worth (about 3) and set aside.

Softened butter is made all smooth and nice.

Sugar added to butter and beaten until fluffy. It's def not fluffy enough in this pic but I really can't ever be bothered doing a stellar creaming job when I'm only using a wooden spoon!

Cheap vanilla essence added to butter - I always use more because the flavour isn't as good as vanilla extract. I used to not really care about using nice vanilla stuff until I compared the cheap stuff with Mum's homemade vanilla extract - spoilt for life.

Adding the eggs and banana to the butter will most probably make the mixture curdle but I didn't stress because...

Adding the salted flour...

Sorted that all out :)

Now, into the liners and off to the oven!

And here they are, all cooked and cooling.

And now for the custard! I've made cupcakes before with custard frosting but this recipe is definitely tops. In go the yolks and sugar.

Whisking in the cream and milk makes for a runny mix. But after exactly six minutes of whisking, the custard suddenly thickened and voila! I was working with...

So when it thickens? Ohhhh yum...

These pastry scrapers are fantastic for pushing anything through sieves.

Plastic wrap would be ideal but in a pinch, plastic does the job.

After an hour in the fridge, the frosting is ready to put on the cupcakes :)

Banana Cupcakes with Bourbon Creme Patisserie
Adapted from Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito's first book, Baked.

This recipe made me 8 cupcakes but it could make more depending on the size of cups. The sugar and flour amounts in the cupcakes seem a little odd but it all works! I had a little creme patisserie/pastry cream/custard leftover but it was never a burden :) Also the bourbon is quite subtle so next time I'll probably put a little more in. Instead of bourbon, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract would create a vanilla creme patisserie. 

3/4 cup mashed very ripe bananas (about 3)
1 cup plus 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3oz/90g unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/4 cup buttermilk or 1/4 cup milk with 3/4 teaspoon vinegar mixed in and left to kind of curdle for about 5 minutes

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F. Line a cupcake pan with 8 cupcake liners.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together into a large bowl and set aside.

Beat the butter until smooth, add the sugar and beat until fluffy and light in colour. Stir in the eggs and vanilla until thoroughly combined and then stir in the bananas until also thoroughly mixed in. Don't panic if the mixture curdles because it'll calm down when the dry ingredients are added to it.

Gently fold in 1/2 of the flour mixture, then fold in the buttermilk, and finish by folding in the final flour mixture.

Fill the cupcake liners 3/4 full and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the tops are lightly golden brown and a cake tester/skewer comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes until cool.

Bourbon Creme Patisserie
1 1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cup full-fat cream
6 large egg yolks at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons bourbon

Set a sieve up over a medium bowl.

In a medium saucepan, bring the milk and cream to a simmer and keep warm.

In a medium bowl, whisk the yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt together until the mixture is pale, about 1 minute. While whisking the yolk mixture, slowly pour half of the cream mixture into the yolk mix. Pour the creamy yolk mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the yolk mix and cook over a medium heat, always whisking, until it thickens, about 6 minutes (you can pretty much set a timer).

When thick, take the creme patisserie off the heat and whisk in the bourbon. Strain it through the sieve, cover with plastic wrap right onto the surface of the creme patisserie, and place it in the fridge for an hour, or until chilled.

8 dried banana chips or fresh banana slices

Pipe the chilled creme patisserie onto the cupcakes and top with a dried banana chip or a slice of fresh banana.

These cupcakes need to be stored in the fridge because of the creme patisserie.