Monday, 29 December 2008

Caramello Ice Cream Sauce

There's not a lot of cooking going on here at the moment, but last night I melted a block of Caramello chocolate with a little bit of cream, and poured it over some ice cream. Yum!

Monday, 22 December 2008

Pistachio Biscotti

I've always been impressed by people who can make their own almond bread or biscotti, and thought it would be really difficult to do. It's actually very easy, it just takes a little while because you cook them twice.

I followed a Bill Granger recipe, and supposedly they will last for a month in an airtight container - but I don't know how anyone ever manages to keep them that long. Oli helped me with the flour sieving and stirring.

First you beat eggs and caster sugar together for 3 mins with an electric hand-mixer, and sieve in flour. Mix in until almost combined, then stir in almonds and pistachios. Form into a dough with your hands, divide into two and on lightly floured board, make each half into a 15 to 20 cm loaf. Transfer to a baking sheet and flatten to 2 cm thick. Bake 20 cm until firm (see above) and cool completely.

When cool, cut into 7 mm-thick slices and bake at 120 C for 20 min, turning over once. Cool completely on wire rack.

Very easy to make, and the bit I thought would go wrong (cutting the loaves into slices) was no problem.

150 g caster sugar
2 eggs
350 g plain flour
50 g shelled pistachios
50 g whole almonds

Two of the biscotti looked like little shocked faces - a bit like the biscuit version of the painting "The Scream"!

Sunday, 21 December 2008

White Milk Loaf

Another 'Apples for Jam' recipe - a soft white loaf. Having bought some fresh yeast I wanted to try it out in a plain loaf to see if it tastes better than the bread made with instant yeast.

You start by mixing the yeast with honey and warm milk, then leave for 10 minutes. Stir in bread flour, a beaten egg, butter (and a I added a handful of unprocessed bran which is not in the recipe but I think it adds a bit of body to white bread). Knead for a few mins, in the bowl if it's sticky, then cover and leave to rise for one and a half to two hours. Punch down the dough, put on a baking sheet or in a loaf tin, cover and leave for 45 - 60 mins. Brush with flour and cook for around 25 mins on 190 C until loaf is hollow-sounding when knocked on base.

This is a lovely soft loaf, and the fresh yeast is so much better than the instant! The bread tastes more 'bready' and has a fuller flavour, and doesn't have the slightly vinegary tang that the instant yeast seems to give.

250 ml milk, warmed so it's comfortable to your fingers
15 g fresh yeast, crumbled or 7 g active dry yeast
1 tsp honey
450 g bread flour (and a handful of bran if you like)
1 egg, lightly beaten
40 g butter, melted

Friday, 19 December 2008

Chocolate Loaf

Another recipe from 'Apples for Jam' - chocolate loaf is a bread, not a cake. It's made in the same way as an ordinary loaf of bread, but has cocoa powder added.

I managed to buy some fresh yeast recently, and this is the first time I've cooked with it since school cookery lessons! I wanted to see how it compares with the instant yeast, which is what I have been using.

For this bread, the yeast is crumbled into a large bowl, caster sugar and hand-hot milk are added, and this is left for 10 mins or so, until the yeast has frothed a little. Flour and cocoa powder (I sieved mine because it was a bit lumpy) and melted butter are mixed in to make a dough. Knead until smooth, then cover and leave in a warm place for one and a half to two hours until risen. Knock back, form into a loaf shape on a tray, or put in a buttered loaf tin, cover and leave for 30 mins to 1 hour then cook at 180 C for 25 mins or so until hollow when base us knocked.

15 g fresh yeast
40 g caster sugar
310 ml milk
400 g bread flour with a pinch of salt
40 g cocoa powder
40 g butter, melted

This made a beautiful-looking chocolate-coloured loaf, with a distinctive cocoa flavour. It's not at all sweet, and almost bitter. The book suggests you eat it at breakfast time with butter or jam, and to warn people that it's not a cake so they're not expecting sweetness. I'll have some in the morning for breakfast and see what everyone else makes of it, as I'm the only one who's tried it so far!

PS It's not particularly popular around here! It really needs to be eaten with butter and a tart-tasting jam such as marmalade, which to me makes it taste wonderful. I'll be freezing the rest and eating it myself I think.

Cheese and Pineapple Hedgehog

I made this in October for a birthday party just for fun, as I remember when I was a child (in the '70s) there was always one of these at a party.

But if you want to see a much more spectacular Christmas version, visit Sally's blog here

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Mincemeat Slices

This recipe is in in Delia Smith's Christmas, and is great if you want to make mince pies but can't quite bring yourself to make pastry.

You melt butter in a big pan, turn off heat, then stir in brown sugar. Mix in wholemeal flour and porridge oats, then firmly press half the mixture into a buttered pan. I used a square Pyrex dish and buttered and lined it with a strip of baking paper to make lifting the slice out easier. Smooth over a layer of fruit mince, then press over the other half of the oat/butter mixture. Cook in a 200 C oven for 20 mins or until the top is lightly browned. Cut into 12 pieces but don't remove them from the dish until they are cool.

150 g butter
75 g soft brown sugar
225 g wholewheat flour
110 g porridge oats
225 g mincemeat

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Baked Agnolotti and Vegetables

Time for a savoury dish after all those sweet things. This uses bought fresh pasta, and you can use whichever filled pasta you like. Today I used ricotta and spinach agnolotti which works really well.

Cook a finely chopped onion, and any other vegies you have hanging around, in a medium pan. Depending on what they are, and how long they will take to cook, you can finely chop them (zucchini, sweet potato, broccoli stalks, bok choy, red capsicum, mushrooms etc) and add them to the onion, or steam them first before adding them (green beans, broccoli, chopped carrot etc). Today I had some sweet potato and broccoli.

Stir in a jar of tomato passata, add salt, pepper, a little sugar and some herbs. Meanwhile cook the pasta and drain it, reserving a cupful of the cooking water in case it's needed to thin the sauce. Return the pasta to its pan, stir in the tomato/vegetable sauce. Tip into a baking dish and top with grated cheese. Cook in a medium hot oven for about 15 mins until cheese is golden.