Friday, July 29, 2011

Citrus-berry terrine

Not sure what I can tell you about this, except that it was delicious! I made a half recipe sometime back in June, with oranges and an assortment of berries and enjoyed it for dessert with whipped cream, for breakfast (it's just fruit after all) and probably for lunch too, as I needed to clean out the fridge before leaving town. I may even have had it for a midnight snack if the photos of it sliced are any indication. So, you get the big picture and the end piece, okay? 
This is a French Fridays post--we don't publish recipes. Thanks to Laws of the Kitchen for being in a much earlier time zone--I was avoiding packing last night and saw her post, which reminded me to put my own up.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Daring Bakers make fraisiers

This was the perfect challenge for July, I think. There were still strawberries in the market, and who doesn't love a light, moist cake crammed full of berries and cream. When I say crammed, I do mean it in the most elegant way, with the cut fruit showing on the sides. Oh, and the almond paste on top was the crowning glory. I wasn't sure that I would be able to make this cake, as I am working in Toronto and I haven't got the kitchen equipment or the time that I do at home. However, I did find a springform pan in the cupboard and decided that I would make this for some friends. With a borrowed rolling pin and a trip to the market I was all set.
I followed the challenge recipe this time, using Amaretto in the syrup and making a vanilla chiffon cake. I had no trouble with the cream filling setting up, but I did find that the cake recipe didn't work as well as the one I usually make. There was some confusion over pan size, and I used the 8" pan recommended. The pan was dark and non-stick, not my preference for cake pans. It rose far above the top of the pan, then sunk a bit when it cooled, leaving me with a mushroom shaped cake. Not ideal, so I sliced it into 3 layers and only used the bottom 2. This made a cake that easily served 10. I decided to keep the decoration simple, so made only a single marzipan rose. All in all, a delicious cake, and one I'll be making again with other fruit, though I will use my favourite genoise recipe next time. What should I use next, raspberries or cherries?
Have I mentioned that I am also cat-sitting in Toronto? There are 2 beautiful, but incredibly inquisitive Siamese cats who made it very hard to make and photograph this cake. Not only does one circle my feet and bite them and my ankles whenever I am in the kitchen, but they shed a lot! So, after a thorough de-hairing of the kitchen, I got to work, shooing the cats as necessary. That means about every 30 seconds. The next morning, before racing out the door to work, I tried to get some photos, in the only place with decent light: the floor in front of the window. Well, you can see below how well that worked! The feline cake inspectors approved, I think.
Thanks very much to Jana of Cherry Tea Cakes for this challenge. There were some spectacular cakes this month, so check them all out on the Daring Kitchen homepage. Click here for the full challenge PDF, including recipes, links and photos. I hope that I can make the August challenge from another borrowed kitchen, this time in Montreal, but we'll see....

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Lemon-buttermilk sponge pudding with strawberries

If you are looking for something simple to serve with beautiful summer berries, look no further. These sponge puddings are tart and actually taste of buttermilk, which I can't say of many of the other buttermilk baked goods I make. The texture was like that of a moist baked mousse. I was expecting a layer of cake and a layer of pudding, but that's not what I got and it was a very pleasant surprise. I served these with some of the first local strawberries, and am finally posting it so that you can make it with the last of the strawberries. If local strawberries are finished where you are, don't use those crunchy, white-centred imported ones. Choose another berry or even peaches. Just mix them with a bit of sugar until a syrup forms. Enjoy!
Here's the link to the recipe.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Daring Cooks make noodles. By hand, of course!

This month, Steph of Stephfood challenged us to make noodles or gnocchi or spätzle,  but without the use of motorized machines. I rarely make fresh pasta, so this was a nice incentive to do so. In fact, it reminded me that I could shop after work and have fresh pasta on the table in time for dinner, with not too much effort and not too many dirty dishes. That's just what I did one afternoon: I picked up basil, eggs and I looked for my favourite brand of ricotta but couldn't find it. In a fit of pique, I bought a large carton of milk and decided to make my own. 
The dried pasta
I made the pasta dough, set it aside, then made the ricotta and left it to drain. I rolled the pasta very thinly and cut it with the wavy cutter, then I hung it on my laundry rack to dry a bit. I shaved some asparagus into thin ribbons and tossed it in with the cooking pasta for a minute. I topped it with a few scoops of the very creamy ricotta and some basil oil, made by pureeing blanched basil and olive oil. I can assure you that it was delicious, but you may be wondering why there is no asparagus in the picture above. Well, just as I was plating the pasta, a thunderstorm rolled through and turned a bright early evening into a pitch dark night. The storm was over in 30 minutes or so, but that was too long to leave me with a plate of hot pasta. So, you get the next day version, with the pasta I dried thoroughly and no asparagus. It was really tasty too. So tasty that I had it for breakfast in the midst of frantically packing for 2 months away for work.

Just this week I decided to make the spätzle recipe that was also included in the challenge. I kept it simple and tossed it in lots of chopped parsley and topped it with onion bread crumbs and sage crisped in brown butter. I served it atop roasted green beans and green garlic and it was such a simple and satisfying meal. It was also nice that I could easily make it in a borrowed kitchen. 
Thanks for a great challenge Steph! I can't wait for the next one. Oh, wait--I'm hosting it! What will it be?? 
Find the full challenge PDF here, including recipes. I used this recipe for the ricotta (with ½ cup cream).
Blog-checking lines: Steph from Stephfood was our Daring Cooks' July hostess.  Steph challenged us to make homemade noodles without the help of a motorized pasta machine.  She provided us with recipes for Spätzle and Fresh Egg Pasta as well as a few delicious sauces to pair our noodles with!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Digestive Cookies

If this sounds like some sort of health food to you, relax and keep reading! Digestive cookies (or biscuits) are a common item on cookie shelves in Canada and the UK. I seem to like making cookies that are easy to find in stores, as the oreos, graham crackers and this recipe show. I'm not a (complete) nut, it's just that homemade is better! Digestives are available plain or chocolate dipped and are the perfect partner for a cup of tea or coffee. They are often used as cheesecake bases, but are also an ideal accompaniment to a cheese plate.
With cheese or with tea, you'll love them
Here in Canada, there is usually only one brand of digestives available, but when I was in England, Scotland and Ireland people had very strong opinions about which brand I should buy. I was a very good sport and tried them all! My first batch were crisper than store-bought, but I couldn't stop nibbling on them. The flavour was a bit sweet and salty, with a wonderful grain taste and texture. For the second batch, I made balls of dough and pressed them with the 'homemade' stamp. These were thicker than the first batch, and I didn't bake them as long, making them soft and crumbly. I really can't decide which I like better as they were both so good. I even made an ice cream sandwich with them, but I left it in the freezer when I left town, so I can't tell you too much about that!
I used whole wheat flour from a local farm, and it was milled from Red Fife wheat right in front of me at the farmers' market. You can also use half or all spelt flour instead, and while I also bought freshly milled spelt flour I haven't tried making the digestive with that yet.

Makes 35-40
From River Cottage Every Day

250 grams/8.8 ounces whole wheat flour
250 grams/8.8 ounces quick-cooking oatmeal
125 grams/4.4 ounces soft brown sugar
2 teaspoons fine sea salt (this gave a distinct salty edge--can halve it if you like)
2 teaspoons baking powder
250 grams/8.8 ounces unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
about 1 tablespoon milk (I needed a bit more)
  1. Combine all dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse to combine. This amount filled my food processor, but it was fine. Add butter and but in until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. You can also do this easily by hand--it's a bit like making pie crust.
  2. Gradually add the milk and pulse until it comes together into a slightly sticky dough. I found it easiest to do this by hand, after transferring it to a large bowl. 
  3. Flatten into a disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate about 30 minutes, or for a few days. Remove from the fridge about an hour before you want to bake it, as it gets very hard.
  4. Preheat oven to 180℃/350℉. Dust the table and dough with flour and roll to 3-4 mm thickness/¹⁄₈", or thicker for a softer, crumblier cookie. The dough is sticky and crumbly, but if you are gentle it's easy to roll. Cut with a 6-7 cm (2½") cutter and transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 10 minutes, checking after 5. You want them to be golden brown around the edges and lightly coloured on top. Let cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely.

    Monday, July 4, 2011

    Soba noodles with eggplant and mango

    No, I did not make my own soba again. Once was definitely enough for that! However, since I seem to have made peace with potatoes recently, I thought I'd try my luck with eggplant. It's another food I find texturally challenging. As for the taste, there's not much I can say about it, as it doesn't seem to have much. This recipe caught my eye when I was browsing Plenty, by Yotam Ottolenghi, and I decided to make it before I changed my mind. Even if the eggplant is not a favourite, the soba, the mango and the tart dressing called my name. This is the point in the post where I talk about the changes I made--how predictable am I? This time, I grilled the eggplant instead of frying it and replaced the rice vinegar with lime juice. I plain forgot the garlic, so that doesn't really count as a change, does it?
    And the verdict? This stuff is amazing! From the slightly chewy, grainy texture of the noodles to the perfectly ripe mango to the fresh herbs and lime, this was perfection itself. The eggplant? Whatever. It was there and it was fine, inoffensive but not crucial. Would I miss it if it wasn't there? Who knows, but I do know that I'll be eating a lot of this in the coming months.

    Adapted from Plenty, Yotam Ottolenghi
    Serves 6

    120 ml fresh lime juice
    40 grams sugar
    ½ teaspoon salt
    2 garlic cloves, crushed
    1-2 red Thai bird chiles, finely minced
    1 tablespoon roasted sesame oil
    1 eggplant, sliced about 1 cm thick
    250 grams soba noodles
    2 ripe mangos, thinly sliced or diced
    a handful each of basil and cilantro, chopped
    ½ red onion, thinly sliced or diced
    1. For the dressing: combine the lime juice, sugar, salt, garlic, chile and sesame oil and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside.
    2. Brush the eggplant slices with oil and sprinkle with salt. Grill until browned and tender. Set aside to cool.
    3. Cook the soba in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender. Mine took about 5 minutes. Drain and rinse well under cold running water, lifting the noodles with your hands to make sure all the starch is rinsed off. Drain, then place on a tea towel or paper towel to dry.
    4. Dice the cooled eggplant into 1 cm cubes. In a large salad bowl, combine all of the salad ingredients and then toss with the dressing. Set aside for an hour or two, or serve immediately.