Friday, 16 February 2007

SLW Challenge: SplishSplash - DripDrop

One more post before I'm off for a vacation in Western Australia (I probably won't be able to post again before the beginning of March so I thought a little extra something might be appreciated...)
I'm really planning to take some pictures of the food there (something I usually forget on a trip as we're always very hungry and start shoveling in once it's served). However, since we're not planning any hiking tours and are heading for some gourmet areas instead (the wineries in Margret River, for example) there might be a possibility to pay a bit more photographic attention. Meanwhile I'd like to show you with what I've been amusing myself this week. The monthly challenge of my food photography flickr group StillLifeWith was SplishSplash - DripDrop. Really quite a challenge - it took me a while to get any shot at all. Apart from the technical side of capturing such a quick movement, one would not think how difficult it is to aim with a grape for a glass of milk while looking through the viewfinder... By the way, most of the milk was splashed for decoration but the last grape thrown with full force really made quite a mess... You can see more splash pictures on my flickr page!

More Sourdough Baking...

What I was doing during the last couple of weeks: slowly baking my way through all the recipes on Petras Brotkasten. Following you see my versions of Kasseler Brot, Country White, and Gutsbrot. Even if my breads usually look a bit different and certainly less perfect than Petra's - taste wise I'm pretty happy with the outcome. My only real problem is that I don't know where to get all those special flours... I'm going on a trip tomorrow but when I'm back I'll post about my recent bread baking experiences.

Thursday, 15 February 2007

SHF#28: Sweet Seduction

They may not look like it – but those mugs are well travelled. They’ve found their first home in a shared house back in Germany, got separated and after one and a half year were finally reunited in Australia. Hey, and they’re not even chipped, right?

Those mugs may not look elegant – in fact, they’re handmade by myself. They were part of the first Christmas present for my boyfriend after discovering that he did not own a single piece of crockery let alone cookware. Of course, while living in a shared house this wasn’t really necessary. But to me, at least having my own coffee cup would have been utterly necessary to feel at home. Knowing that in three months time he would leave Germany in order to move to Australia, I thought I had better paint my name on… So off he went taking the cup with my name with him and leaving me (and the other cup) behind. Ok, that does sound too pathetic. We knew already that I would come and join him later. However, we didn’t know that it would really take that long. Since then, the two mugs are quietly sharing the shelf with each other (and a couple of other mugs, too). We’re not quite sure yet where we will live in the next couple of years but I’ll make sure that those mugs come along.

While thinking hard about what to make for Sugar High Friday No. 28 "Sweet Seduction" - hosted by Jasmine of Cardamom Addict - my good old mugs gave me the well-needed inspiration to make something that could be spooned out of them. My boyfriend strongly voted for something chocolatey - and there you go!

Valentine’s Day Chocolate Pudding (or Mousse or whatever you’d like to call it)

The ingredients

300ml milk
1 teaspoon instant espresso (I forgot it in the end)
50g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
50g caster sugar
1 small egg
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract or vanilla sugar
Pinch of salt
1 heaped tablespoon of cornstarch (for dipping consistency, otherwise use 2 tablespoons)
1 heaped tablespoon of cocoa
1 tablespoon Rum (I forgot this one, too…)

100ml cream, whipped (20% fat works well in here)
1 teaspoon of cocoa
1 sachet vanilla sugar
1 teaspoon caster sugar

To serve: Blackberries and chocolate-drizzled sugar cookies for dipping

Yield: rather 3 than 2 servings (or 4 if you're not too greedy)

Using a wire whisk, mix milk, cacao, cornstarch, and salt (the instant espresso should go in here as well). While stirring continually, let it come to a boil (all the lumps should vanish by now). When the mixture is noticeably thickened, set aside.

In a metal bowl, mix caster sugar and egg. Prop the bowl on top of the pot with the milk mixture (providing they have suitable sizes) and beat until pale and fluffy. Take the bowl off the pot and continue beating for 1-2 minutes.

Put the chocolate pieces into the milk mixture and stir until melted and thoroughly combined (at this stage, the rum should be stirred in, too) and let cool down.

Meanwhile, beat cream with cocoa, sugar and vanilla sugar until stiff.

Fold egg and sugar mixture and cream into the chocolate-milk mixture. Spoon into mugs and pop into the fridge until ready to serve.

The source

My own blend of several recipes found on Food&Wine

The hint

I have to admit that I was not patient enough to let everything cool down properly. This and the fact that I had only used one tablespoon of cornstarch led to a somewhat viscous texture. If you prefer it a bit more solid, I’ll recommend to follow the instructions and to wait patiently… However, the resulting pudding-mousse was not only rich and chocolatey but also very silky!

In case you want to know what we had as main course:

Roasted chicken drumsticks (marinated in honey, soy sauce, paprika, and chili flakes) with a salad of fried asparagus, diced tomato and croutons. I’m pretty sure it’s not a recommended match to have the Sparkling Shiraz of Bimbadgen Estate (Hunter Valley, Australia) with both courses – but Valentine’s Day was a perfect occasion to finally open this lovely bottle!

Monday, 12 February 2007

Almost a Pound Cake

At age twelve, when my mother started to teach me how to bake, my first attempt was a pound cake. Well, sort of a pound cake as it did not contain a full pound of each ingredient. It is said this type of cake is to be the easiest one of all. I strongly disagree with that.

Apart from the fact that there are quite a few steps involved where you can screw things up, there are so many different techniques and ingredients: using whole eggs/egg yolks/beaten egg whites, using margarine/butter/melted butter/oil, using caster sugar/powdered sugar, and using flour/starch/flour-starch-mix. You know what I mean? Even if you follow the same recipe with the same amounts of every ingredient once you start swapping ingredients as well as techniques you will end up with slightly different results. Ok, I’m not totally desperate. Apart from one completely under baked cake all my attempts so far were perfectly edible and got usually wolfed down in no time.

However, there is something that nags on my baker’s conscience: I have never been able to produce a cake with long strands of dough which give the cake a certain fluffiness while still being very moist. No matter how I might beat, whisk, or cream – I never came close to my ideal. Sounds a bit exaggerated? Maybe, but this legendary cake really does exist. One of my oldest friends, Martina, used to make a red wine cake just this way. Of course, I asked her for the recipe and she walked me through each step. However, while being tasty it still wasn’t like hers. It still isn’t.

That’s the reason why I’m always on the lookout for new recipes. You’ll never know when you’ve got a winner… This time, I found at Fool for Food as well as What’s for Lunch, Honey? recipes containing no baking powder at all. I never tried that, always felt too scared. But this time, taking up Meeta’s challenge ;-) I thought I’d give it a go. Meeta’s version was a bit too rich so I opted for Claudia’s version which was more suited for two eaters. Originally, this recipe comes from the highly-decorated chef Lea Linster of Luxembourg. That said, I was still a bit sceptical. However, much to my surprise, it really worked.

You have to use equal ingredients, 230g of each: butter, sugar, eggs, and flour (hence almost a pound cake). You let them come to room temperature - I placed my ingredients on the kitchen table 1,5 hours before starting which was alright. Mix the ingredients in the above stated order. Make sure that every egg is fully incorporated before adding another one and that the mixture is not over mixed once the flour is added. A pinch of salt is all you need for flavour but adding some vanilla or lemon zest won’t hurt (I used vanilla sugar, substituted some flour with cocoa, and added some chopped dark chocolate). The resulting batter was so smooth that it resembled butter cream. Could be eaten straight from the mixing bowl...

Fan-bake the batter at 150 degrees Celsius for 50 to 60 minutes (my cake took its time: 70 minutes). Despite my doubts, the cake was rising beautifully. You see, there is no need to use baking powder any more! However, I’m still missing those wonderful long, flaky strands in my crumb…

The ingredients

230g butter (at room temperature)
230g sugar
(at room temperature)
pinch of salt (at room temperature)
230g eggs (usually 4, at room temperature)
230g flour
(at room temperature)

optional: vanilla sugar, lemon zest, cocoa, chopped chocolate...

Beat butter until pale and fluffy, add sugar, salt, and vanilla sugar. Beat thoroughly (sugar won't be fully dissolved yet).

Add one egg at a time, making sure that each is fully incorporated.

Add flour and mix until properly combined but no longer. For the sake of completeness: Lea Linster lets her batter sit for 45 minutes at room temperature before baking but I don't have a clue why you should do so and skipped this step.

Bake at 180 degrees Celsius (150 when fan-bake) 50-60 minutes (original recipe states only 45 minutes - use a skewer inserted in the middle to test doneness).

The source

Fool for Food respectively Lea Linster.

Thursday, 8 February 2007

Simple Breakfast Bread

That's what I do with my leftover yeast dough: simply bake it in a loaf pan and eat it for breakfast. It's not as rich as a regular brioche (not enough butter and eggs) but light and fluffy. If you want it a tad richer, simply add raisins, flaked almonds (my favourite), or candid orange or citron peel (definitely not amongst my favourites) - whatever you like best. You could also turn it into French toast or use it for bread and butter pudding - it's very versatile.

But to me, my simple breakfast bread tastes good just the way it is. Either plain or smothered with butter and honey - I love it!

Monday, 5 February 2007

Frozen Jogurt with Passionfruit

Embarking on an adventure while knowing that you don't have neither the experience nor the proper equipment is probably a foolish thing to do. However, when I saw the elderflower and honey glace on Lara's Cook&Eat quite some time ago, I decided that it was time to finally make frozen yogurt with passionfruit. Ok, the connection might not be evident but I simply didn't have (and didn't now where to buy) elderflower syrup and extravagant honey. However, when I saw the passionfruit sale at my local grocery shop (10 passionfruits for 3 Aussie-Dollars), I didn't have to think twice. The fact that I don't own an ice-cream maker couldn't stop me either. I am well aware that you shouldn't make ice-cream without a properly churning machine unless you use lots of cream, egg yolks, sugar, and alcohol. My parfait - vanilla, chocolate&rum, cinnamon, or walnut praline - is pretty good and so rich that it definitely doesn't need an ice-cream maker. No big ice crystal will ever be able to build up in this addictive mixture...

However, once in a while you want something lighter and I do love frozen yogurt. I have never eaten a homemade version but I took Lara's version as an inspiration and then decided to just follow my imagination - and the unfrozen mixture was heavenly creamy and yummy. I tried to stir during the freezing process as often as possible but at some point I decided to go to bed. So if you want to reproduce this, take my advice: start early in the day so the yogurt will be thoroughly frozen when you want to sleep... All in all, I ended up with a tasty frozen yogurt which unfortunately wasn't as creamy as I had hoped. If you don't insist on properly formed scoops, simply let it thaw about 15 minutes before eating and everything will be fine! Or - even better - go and get yourself an ice-cream maker...

Frozen Yogurt with Passionfruit

The ingredients

300g cream (20% fat)
500g yogurt (3,8% fat)
3 sachets vanilla sugar (about 3 heaped tablespoons)
3 egg whites
100g caster sugar
pinch of salt
10 passionfruits

yields about 2 litres (roughly estimated)

Pulp the passionfruits and set aside.

Beat egg whites with the caster sugar and a pinch of salt until stiff but not dry. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, beat cream with vanilla sugar until soft peaks form. Fold in yogurt.

Fold the meringue into the yogurt and cream mixture and pour into a container suitable for freezing. Stir every hour with a fork to break ice crystals.

When the mixture starts to get thoroughly frozen, fold in passionfruit pulp - either mix in completely or try to create separate layers of frozen yogurt and passionfruit.

The source
My own creation

The hint
Serve either with sliced strawberries or with vanilla ice-cream and topped with natural yogurt.