Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Merry Christmas!

Have a wonderful Christmas with all your loved ones and try to eat as many cookies as you can - CU again after the holidays!

Monday, 22 December 2008

Biscotti - definitely twice baked

Twice baked - and I mean it! And that's got nothing to do with the regular procedure to bake them, slice them, and then return them to the oven for added crunch and a golden glow.

Having seen lots of biscotti recipes in blogland, I wanted to know if they were really that good. My only encounter so far had been the rock-hard store bought kind that almost cost me a tooth. So, one of these days, I decided to give them a go. However, these biscuits turned out to be not quite as easy to make as I had thought. Not willing to be conquered by some cookies, I decided to start again a few days later, albeit again with mixed results.

But let's start with the first batch. Emerging from its first stint in the oven, it looked just perfect - from above, that is. Once I had the logs sliced up, I noticed that I almost burned the bottom sides. Cursing under my breath - it clearly must be the oven's fault - I returned them to the heat but carefully laid them out side wise as not to brown the bottoms any further.

For the second batch, I decided to turn down the heat and use the fan-bake setting. But disaster struck once more. When I took the logs out of the oven - pale golden but with darker edges - to be sliced up for the second browning, it turned out that this batch wasn't even done all the way. I quickly returned the uncut logs and peeped anxiously through the oven door. Luckily the baking powder was still doing its job and the logs rose some more. However, a little too much as it turned out. When fully baked, this batch with its cracked surface and less than smooth texture had a rather "rustic" charm to it - at least that's what I think smart people call their baked goods that aren't picture-perfect...

Taste-wise though, I almost preferred the charred batch. The over-the-top caramelization of the crust added more depth of flavour. Therefore, a third batch is in order some time soon - once I'm done with all the Christmas baking - and then with a double-layer of baking sheets!

Almond Biscotti

I started out with a recipe from delicious days and kept to its instructions but made a couple of modifications regarding the ingredients, most notably the addition of maize flour.

The ingredients

90g unpeeled almonds, partly whole and partly chopped
100g butter, softened
100g caster sugar
50g lemon caster sugar (in a jar, mix sugar with lemon zest and let it sit for a few days)
2 eggs
5 drops of bitter almond essence
pinch of salt
200g flour
80g fine maize flour

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Granola Trifle - by no means a trifle

As Y has put it so well, I have been on the longest short trip ever - and now that my in-laws are back in Germany and the most urgent of my work projects are finished, I find myself with only one batch of Christmas cookies baked and only one present bought so far - and Christmas is only a short week away...
Anyway, let's get back to the riddle: Tanna was pretty close, however, it's not a pecan, it's an almond! That said, the following recipe contains pecans as well as you can see..;-)

When thinking about the ending year 2008 in food-related terms, one thing comes to my mind: it was the year of the seemingly endless quest to make my own granola. Sounds like a pretty simple affair, doesn't it? Well, I'd better not say how many batches of substandard granola I had to eat before finally coming up with the winner recipe. Not that there aren't enough tried-and-true recipes for this breakfast staple out there. There are plenty and I've googled for them all.

But when something looks so deceptively easy to do, I can't help myself but tinker with every single one of them. Which resulted in many batches of either overcooked, not-so-tasty or just plain bad granola. In the end, I loosely based my recipe on the two granolas you can find at Butter Sugar Flour; and at long last, I finally figured out how not to burn my granola with my very uneven oven, as well as how not to make it either too dry, too wet, too sweet or not sweet enough.

Once that was done, I could finally reward myself with a beautiful granola trifle - inspiration courtesy of Zarah Maria - with homemade quark and store-bought apple sauce. Hey, there's only so much you can do yourself at a time...

My Granola

The dry ingredients

3 cups of rolled oats
1 cup of almonds, partly chopped
1 cup of pecans, partly chopped
2 tsp of cinnamon

The wet ingredients

1/4 cup grape seed oil (or any other oil of your choice)
1/2 cup runny honey
1/2 cup apple sauce
2 tbsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Mix all the dry ingredients in a big bowl.

Lightly heat the wet ingredients in a small pot and stir to combine. Mix into the dry ingredients.

Fan-bake at 120 degrees Celsius for an hour until golden and crispy. Don't forget to stir every 10-15 minutes.

Keeps in an airtight container for several weeks.

The source
Inspired by Butter Sugar Flour