Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Daring Bakers make crostata

This month's challenge was to make a crostata dough and fill it with our choice of anything at all. Time ran out on me, as it usually does, as I really wanted to make a savoury one. I did manage to make 2 small crostate, but I'll definitely have to come back to this one, especially as I still have some of the pastry in the freezer. The first one I made, shown above, was blind-baked and  filled with passion fruit curd and topped with raspberries. It tasted like summer, which is a treat, considering it's been alternating between freezing rain and snow here for the last 24 hours. You can find the recipe for the passion fruit curd here
The other one I made was filled with homemade applesauce and fresh blackberries. I find that a very English combination, but it was fantastic in the pasta frolla crust. I actually liked the crust better in this one--it was not as crisp and flaky, but very tasty from the filling. I topped it with a lattice and sprinkled it with raw sugar. I served this with whipped cream on the side, but it didn't need it at all. I had some warm and some cold and liked it both ways. 
Before topping and baking
Blog-checking lines:
The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.
After a bite or two
Full challenge PDF here. Thanks for a great challenge, Simona! Take a look at the Daring Kitchen to see a slideshow of all the lovely crostate this month.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cardamom sablés

If you love cardamom and butter, this is the cookie for you. I made a batch of these for a friend's birthday and mailed them off, and they arrived safe, sound and delicious. These are a buttery shortbread style cookie, and the variations are endless. This recipe is from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From my Home to Yours, and I first made it last Christmas, just before I joined the Tuesdays with Dorie group. This week is a rewind week, where instead of all of us making one recipe, we choose one we missed or would like to revisit. So, if you want to see a variety of recipes, click your way over to the TWD site

Makes about 50
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature, plus 1 large egg yolk, for brushing the logs
2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons cardamom, preferably freshly ground
coarse sugar (I used raw sugar)

You can use a hand or stand mixer for this, or make them by hand. I made them by hand this time. Using a wooden spoon, beat the butter until smooth and very creamy. Add the sugars, cardamom and salt and beat until well blended, about 1 minute. The mixture should be smooth and velvety, not fluffy and airy. Beat in 2 of the egg yolks, again beating until the mixture is homogeneous.
Add the flour, and mix gently to combine, just until the flour disappears into the dough and the dough looks uniformly moist. The dough will not clean the sides of the bowl, nor will it come together in a ball -- and it shouldn't. You want to work the dough as little as possible. What you're aiming for is a soft, moist, clumpy (rather than smooth) dough. Pinch it, and it will feel a little like Play-Doh.

Scrape the dough out onto a smooth work surface, gather it into a ball and divide it in half. Shape each piece into a smooth log about 9 inches long: it's easiest to work on a piece of plastic wrap and use the plastic to help form the log. Wrap the logs well and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours, preferably longer. (The dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months).

GETTING READY TO BAKE: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.
Remove a log of dough from the refrigerator, unwrap it and place it on a piece of parchment or wax paper. Whisk the remaining egg yolk until it is smooth, and brush some of the yolk all over the sides of the dough -- this is the glue -- then sprinkle the entire surface of the log with decorating sugar.
Trim the ends of the roll if they're ragged, and slice the log into 1/3-inch-thick cookies. (You can make these as thick as 1/2 inch or as thin as -- but no thinner than -- 1/4 inch.) Place the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving an inch of space between them.
Bake one sheet at a time for 17 to 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet at the midway point. When properly baked, the cookies will be light brown on the bottom, lightly golden around the edges and pale on top; they may feel tender when you touch the top gently, and that's fine. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest a minute or two before carefully lifting them onto a rack with a wide metal spatula to cool to room temperature.

Repeat with the remaining log of dough, making sure the baking sheets are cool before you bake the second batch.
These keep well in a tin for about 5 days or so, and can even be frozen if you haven't sugared the edges.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Roasted chickpeas and butternut squash with cilantro-tahini dressing

I think I could quite happily live on this dish all winter, and I don't even like leftovers much. It had great taste, texture, and temperature too, leaving me with nothing to dislike, which is saying a lot. I first saw the recipe on Smitten Kitchen, but it is originally from one of the Moro cookbooks. I made a few changes, by roasting the chickpeas and onions, and by pureeing all the dressing ingredients together. Why? Well, I usually soak and cook my own chickpeas, cause I'm a nerd that way, and because I don't always like the texture of canned, so I thought roasting them would firm them up. As for the onion, I figured if everything else was cooked, that I didn't want crunchy raw onion. And because everything is cooked I'm not calling this a salad. Why do people do that? Cauliflower and cheese sauce is the same idea and nobody calls that a salad. Oh, and the sauce! I have often bought tahini, but I can't remember ever finishing it. I usually throw it out when I move. Not sure why, but this container is going to go fast, on this recipe alone. Pureeing it with the cilantro and the roasted garlic and lots of lime juice and salt made it sing, and cut the sweetness of the squash in a very good way. Try this! Just don't call it salad.
Warm butternut squash and chickpeas with tahini-cilantro dressing
Adapted from The Moro Cookbook

about 2½ pounds of butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1" cubes
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed and patted dry (or 1½ cups of cooked and drained)
1 garlic clove, peeled and halved if large
½ teaspoon ground allspice (optional--I used it, but couldn't really taste it)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 425℉. Toss all the ingredients above together on a baking sheet and cook for 25-40 minutes, till squash and onion are tender and touched with brown. Cool slightly.

¼ cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons water, plus extra to thin, if needed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium bunch of cilantro
1 clove garlic, fresh for a stronger flavour, or the roasted one from above for a mellower taste
Place cilantro in food processor and chop coarsely. Add the roasted garlic from the baking tray and process again. Add the remaining ingredients and puree. Taste and add salt--I liked this a bit salty. You should end up with a bright green and very flavourful sauce.
To serve, toss squash mixture with dressing, or serve it on the side so everyone can decide how much they'd like. Garnish with cilantro. I had lots of dressing left over and found it made a great dip for vegetables. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Daring Cooks make soufflé!

I realize there is a bottle of Amaretto right behind the soufflé, but there was no time to move it!
Watching a soufflé rise in the oven is way better than anything you can find on television. I watch what's happening in my oven all the time, but this was the best show I've seen in ages, and I wouldn't mind watching a repeat. In fact, I think there should be a specialty channel: Soufflé TV.
After a few minutes. They started out level with the top of the dish.
This month's challenge comes to us from the lovely Linda and Dave of MonkeyShines in the Kitchen. For my sweet soufflé, I couldn't decide what to make, meaning I left this close to the deadline. I had some lovely homemade applesauce from freshly picked apples, but then I made something else with it. Oops. Passionfruit? A favourite flavour, but I kept forgetting to pick any up. Banana? Possibly. Then I spied the bag of oranges in the back of the fridge. Orange and Amaretto are one of my favourite flavour combinations. I used a simple recipe and added orange zest, along with a couple of tablespoons of Amaretto.
After 10 minutes or so. MonkeyShines described these as rocket ships!
The soufflé mixture was fairly liquid, from the booze, I guess, and I was afraid it would spill over the edge and end up on the bottom of my oven. That didn't happen, and as you can see, they rose rather well. I was actually afraid they were going to propel themselves right out of the dish! I took the one on the right out after about 18 minutes, as I like a creamy centre. I left the other one in the oven while I took pictures, and it was fine--just a bit drier. These tasted wonderful--they were crispy on the edges from the sugar crust, and had a lovely orange flavour. The Amaretto was subtle, but I fixed that:
By scooping out a place for more Amaretto. Mmm. Getting pictures of these was the trickiest part, as they don't last long, and it was a partially cloudy day. The sun was playing cat and mouse, or, more accurately, playing chicken. I need to work on my food styling, but I was satisfied with the taste, and that's what counts for me. But that's not all...
I also made a savoury soufflé, a beet and feta one, soon after the challenge was revealed. It made a nice lunch, but didn't puff as much as I wanted. The texture was creamy, though, and the feta added bursts of flavour. It looked like a big fuschia cauliflower, I think.
Can you see me, reflected in the kettle?
Blog-checking lines: Dave and Linda from Monkeyshines in the Kitchen chose Soufflés as our November 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge! Dave and Linda provided two of their own delicious recipes plus a sinfully decadent chocolate soufflé recipe adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s recipe found at the BBC Good Food website.

Recipes and full challenge PDF after the jump.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Caramel-topped semolina pudding

What is the difference between semolina and farina? This has been one of the burning questions this month on the French Fridays with Dorie website. Now, I tried to help, but I'm really not sure half the time. I sometimes buy semolina to make pasta (okay, I did once about 10 years ago), but is it fine or coarse? Is it durum semolina? How about I just skip the recipe and make something else on my very long to-do list? Um, please don't go to Wikipedia and tell me what they think. :)
I wasn't sure when I saw the title of this recipe, but you need to read on with Dorie recipes, because the title may actually tell you very little about it. It may even mislead you completely. This dessert is called a semolina cake, but contains no semolina and is not even slightly cake-like. Hmmm. What it did have, though, was an ingredient I was familiar with: Cream of Wheat. I even had some in my cupboard, so I got right to it.
We have been asked not to publish the recipes from this book, but for this pudding you hardly need one. Make cream of wheat as usual, with milk. Add sugar, flavouring and beaten eggs. Pour into a caramel-lined cake pan and bake till it puffs up. Invert, cool, and serve. I did not include the raisins, as my raisin aversion has been well documented here. I used my own vanilla spice extract, which is in a rum base. I also made half the pudding recipe but the full amount of caramel and divided it amongst 3 small ramekins. I could have made 4, as I didn't realize it would puff so much. in fact, mine were like little volcanos in the oven, spouting molten caramel. This is why the oven window is better than TV. Come back on Sunday for some photographic evidence of that.
I really liked it, and didn't find it resembled my winter breakfasts much. It was firm enough to turn out, but soft enough to eat with a spoon. The flavours of rum, vanilla, mace, tonka bean and sapote were understated, but definitely there. I didn't think it needed anything to accompany it, though apparently it's good with pineapple. Perhaps grilled? Even though I doubled the caramel, there wasn't a lot. Usually a custard is baked long and slow in a water bath, then chilled overnight, making lots of runny caramel. This caramel was still quite sticky, and I was able to spin it into all sorts of shapes as I ate it. I refrigerated one overnight to see if it had more, but it didn't--the pudding seems to absorb much of it. Also, the pudding was firmer and not as nice the next day. So, make it and eat it--neither will take long!
Some see the world through rose-coloured glasses--I prefer caramel.
See you Sunday with the Daring Cooks' reveal!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Raspberry shortbread, or maybe cake?

  • I don't love cranberries.
  • I don't need a big, possibly dry cookie thing hanging around.
  • I haven't got any soft butter.
  • It gets dark just after 4:00, thanks to Daylight Savings, or Standard Time, or whatever it is. I am living in the wrong place to take photos after work.
  • My oven is horrible.
These were just some of the excuses I came up with for not doing this week's recipe.
  • And why do cranberries have to be in everything at this time of year?
That was just me whining a bit.
Then I got over it, softened accidentally melted some butter, and perused my jam cupboard. I have half a dozen types of homemade jam, but decided to make a quick raspberry sauce to keep with the red theme. I added the zest and juice of an orange, some sugar and boiled it till it thickened a bit. I quartered the recipe and made 2 little cakes. I ate one right away, and it was good, even though it got a bit too dark around the edges, and the 'jam' was too runny to fit much in the crust. I may have to experiment with other types of jam. But not cranberry--you turkey lovers can have it. You know you're going to need it.
Thanks for the pick, Jessica! I'm glad I got over myself and made it. :)
Oh, and there's an interview with Dorie on Leite's Culinaria. Check it out. Here's the link.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Butternut squash, spinach and goat cheese tart

Update: I forgot that I added an onion! Revised recipe below.
I made this a few weeks ago, when I had some friends over for brunch. The brunch was an excuse to eat homemade doughnuts, but I thought I had better serve something a bit more substantial first. I wanted to use butternut squash, as a huge one had taken over all my (very limited) counter space, and I found this recipe, but it had been adapted from a book called Roast Figs, Sugar Snow by Diana Henry. I haven't got my hands on this book yet, but it sounds good--wintry recipes from all over the world. I used goat cheese, as I didn't have any blue cheese on hand, but I plan to make it with the stronger cheese next time. I thought this tart was fantastic--very flavourful and it made excellent lunches for me for a few days. Just eat any leftovers at room temperature, as microwaving destroys the crust. I used an all-butter crust instead of the shortening one (eeww), but used a lower ratio of butter to flour, as it was all I had. It was perfect--buttery and flaky.

1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and frozen
ice water, 4-8 tablespoons (mine took 7)

Combine flour and salt in food processor and pulse to mix. Add butter, and pulse until butter is broken up--some pieces will be tiny, but some should still be pea-sized. Add water a few tablespoons at a time and pulse. You don't want it to come together in a ball. Instead, open the processor and squeeze some of the mixture together. If it holds, you're done. I often put too much water in my impatience, but it'll be fine after resting. Flatten into a disc, wrap in plastic and refigerate for a few hours.
Preheat oven to 350℉. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface till it is about 13" in diameter. It'll be thin, which is how I like my crust. Transfer to a 10" tart pan or springform pan (I used a springform). If using a tart pan, you can fold down the pastry to make a thicker edge. If using a springform, trim the pastry so it is an even(ish) height all around. Freeze while the oven preheats. I baked the squash at the same time, so read below to have that ready. Prick the pastry with a fork, line it with greased foil and dried beans. Bake for about 10 minutes, then remove the foil and beans and bake for another 10 minutes or so. You want it set and dry, but only lightly coloured. My oven runs very slow, so keep an eye on it! Cool on a rack.

1 pound (454 grams) of butternut squash
olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
½ pound (250 grams) of spinach, washed and stemmed
2 large eggs, plus one yolk
1 cup whipping cream
2 ounces (about 50 grams) grated Parmesan cheese
3.5 ounces (100 grams) goat cheese, crumbled into large pieces
a few leaves of fresh sage, minced, or a grating of fresh nutmeg
salt and pepper

Cut squash into large cubes (about 1"/2.5 cm) and toss with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper on a baking sheet. Roast in the oven, underneath the tart shell if you're doing both, for 25 minutes or so, till tender. Set aside to cool.
Saute onion in olive oil until it is completely softened and nicely brown.
Blanch spinach in boiling water for a minute, drain, rinse with cold water, then squeeze till it's dry. Chop roughly. 
Mix the eggs and yolk, cream, Parmesan, sage or nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste.
Scatter the squash, spinach and goat cheese over the bottom of the tart shell, and pour the custard mixture over. It will be very close to the top of the crust, and that's fine. Bake at 350℉ for 40 minutes, until golden and set. Let cool on a rack for at least 10 minutes before removing from pan and serving. This tart is good warm or at room temperature.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Gevulde Speculaas (Spice cake with almond paste)

This is an autumn cake from the Netherlands, and if you like spices and almonds it's the perfect treat for you. If not, well, I've got a chocolate version in the works--stay tuned. It's quite rich, so it's best served in small slices. Don't worry--you can always go back for seconds! I definitely did. It's actually more like a cookie than a cake, as the dough is dry enough to roll out. The resulting confection is firm, sweet, spicy and crumbly, and perfect with tea or coffee. This is another recipe from Warm Bread and Honey Cake, my favourite new baking book in ages. I want to make almost everything from this book, as the writing and photos are wonderful.
Spice mixture*
1½ teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon aniseed
¼ teaspoon cloves
⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon mace
9 oz/1⅔ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
7 oz/1 cup brown sugar
6 oz/¾ cup unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
1 egg, well beaten
10½ oz coarse almond paste (I made my own, see below)
about ½-¾ of a beaten egg (reserve the rest for glazing)
  1. Combine spices, flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the beaten egg and run the food processor until the dough comes together. Try not to eat all the dough. Divide the dough into ⅓ and ⅔ portions, shape in discs, wrap separately in plastic and refrigerate. Chill for one hour. It can be made the day before, but will need to warm up before rolling to prevent it from breaking up.
  2. Preheat oven to 340℉/170℃  and grease a 9" cake pan.
  3. Mix the coarse almond paste with enough beaten egg to make a fairly soft, spreadable filling. Set aside. Roll out the larger portion of dough between 2 pieces of plastic wrap to an 11" circle. Make sure there are no creases in the plastic wrap. Use this piece of dough to line the pan, pressing it to the sides of the pan so it doesn't fall inward. Spread the almond paste evenly over the dough and fold in the dough edges so they rest on the almond paste. Reuse the plastic wrap to roll the smaller piece of dough into an 8½" circle. It should be slightly smaller than the cake pan. Trim it so the edges are neat. Moisten the edges of the dough in the pan and lay the smaller circle on top. Press the edges gently together to seal. Brush with the leftover beaten egg and prick with a fork in several places. I forgot to glaze it and it was fine. 
  4. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Leave to cool in the pan, then transfer carefully to a serving plate. If you can stand it, wrap this and let it sit for a day or two before serving for best flavour.
*I reduced the cinnamon, upped the cardamom and ginger, and left out the cloves and aniseed. Use what you have, making up any missing spices by increasing one of the first 3. This is the place for fresh and freshly ground spices, as you can really taste them. I also halved this recipe and made it in a 6" pan, which still made 16 slices. It freezes well, too. 
Coarse almond paste:
My new neighbourhood has a fantastic store for buying very fresh nuts, so I have given up on store-bought almond paste. They do not sell blanched almonds there, but the almonds were huge and very fresh, so I did it myself by covering them with boiling water and letting them sit for a minute or two, till the skins wrinkled. I then rinsed them in cold water and squeezed the almonds out of their skins.
8 oz blanched almonds
5 oz icing sugar
1 egg white
lemon zest (optional)
almond extract (taste first to see if it's necessary--I didn't add any)
Grind almonds in food processor until coarsely ground. Add icing sugar and egg white and process until it comes together. Best made a few days in advance and refrigerated. Can also be frozen.