12.31.2008

One last promise to keep

Pain d'epice / Honey spice loaf


In the post about my trip to Alsace I promised to write about the chestnut honey from the local market. So, while the sparkling whine cools in the fridge and the last hours of the year go by, I'll do a quick write-up to keep that promise. In the fall I read the Chocolate and Zucchini Cookbook
from Clotilde Dusoulier (who has a blog of the same name, as you are probably aware). The book ended up with quite a number of Post-it stickers, marking interesting recipes which I want to try sometime. (most of the stickers gathered in the rear section of the book, which deals with sweets and desserts). Among them was a "pain d'epice" or Honey Spice Loaf. The recipe uses a good
amount of honey and also "quatre epice" or four spices, a mixture of ground cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and ginger. I used half a teaspoon more quatre epice as required by the recipe (since this is the only recipe I know for quatre epice, why be stingy?) but this wasn't a good idea. The loaf leaves a peppery, slightly hot aftertaste on your tongue, which I would try to avoid or at least tone down at the next try. I took the cake to some friends for coffee, but their reception was a bit lukewarm. They thought the cake was nicely done texture-wise, but sweet cakes were much preferable to spicy ones. Well, you can't please everyone all the time. I will definitely make this cake again, but as it is very filling probably only as a half-batch.

Pain d'epice / Honey Spice Loaf

Source: Chocolate and Zucchini Cookbook by Clotilde Dusoulier, page 175

Ingredients:

- 2 tsp. vegetable oil (to grease the pan)
- 1 1/2 cup milk
- 2/3 cup honey (grease the measuring cup with oil, the honey will flow out easily)
- 1/3 cup mild flavoured, dark molasses (use the same trick as for the honey)
- 1 cup all-pupose flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
- 2 tsp. French four-spice mix (or 1/2 tsp. each of ground cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and ginger)

Instrucions:

1) Preheat oven to 350 F/ ~ 170°C. Grease bottom and sides of a 9 X 5 inch loaf pan with oil and line bottom with parchment paper.

2) Combine milk, honey and molasses in a small saucepan. Set over medium heat, stir until dissolved without boiling. Set aside to cool.

3) Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Form a well in the center and slowly pour in the milk mixture. Whisk until all the flour has been incorporated. The batter will be thin. Pour batter in loaf pan and bake for 40- 50 min, until brown and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

4) Set on a wire rack to ool for 20 min. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and unmould. Let cool completely. Wrap in foil and let rest at room temperature until the next day.

And now on to the party and a Happy New Year to everyone who's reading this.

12.29.2008

Daring Bakers December Challenge


French Yule Log

This month's challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux. They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand.
I began with roasting the coconut for the White Chocolat Insert. Then came the set-up for the creme brulee by letting the vanilla soak. Going on with the crisp insert, the coconut seemed to soak up most of the moisture, so I couldn't incorporate all of the Special K as required by the recipe. In spirit of Marion, who wrote on the forum that she prepared a test log in her small kitchen at home, and this article by some people who know a thing or two about cooking, I prepared the creme brulee in four ramekins in a casserole as a waterbath (as opposed to buying a new, slightly smaller casserole).


While the creme cooled, it was time for lunch. The next step was the preparation of the mousse. This proved to be the most involved step of the whole Challenge. But after re-reading the instructions like five dozen times, I managed to get everything ready at the right time. At this point, daylight began to fade (my kitchen window faces to the east), so from now on there will be only sub-par flashlight pictures.



Next I layered the first three elements into a loaf pan and set them in the freezer for two hours.

(first mousse layer plus creme brulee)

During that time the Dacquoise went by quite smoothly. The dough seemed a bit heavy, but turned out nice and golden. The baked Dacquoise tasted very sweet, but in the finished log the taste won't stand out, as it's refrigerated.


Finally, it was time to make the ganache. Everything went as practiced in November (tip of the toque to David Leibovitz for the advice of using a mesh strainer in the process). After pouring the ganache and layering the Dacquoise on top, it was time to close down shop for the night.


Late the next day I prepared the icing. It was a bit of a struggle to remove the cling-film from the frozen log, as it had formed some folds, which were frozen into the log. But finally it came free. The preparation of the icing was pretty straightforward and easy. And how did the log taste? I liked the icing best. The ganache was also good, if a little heavy and filling. The crisp, mousse and Dacquoise were good, but to me the vanilla flavour of the creme brulee couldn't quite hold up to the overall chocolate taste, and became a little drowned. I made this Challenge on Boxing Day, spending a leisurely day at home and in the kitchen. The Challenge as a whole was not that difficult to make. The key is logisics, i.e. figuring out a preparation sequence
without too much unnecessary waiting time. A big Thank You to Hilda and Marion for hosting this Challenge and for providing plenty of advice and encouraging words in the Daring Bakers Forum.

12.23.2008

Peanut-caramel Biscotti

In my last post I promised to write about cranberry bars, for which I had found a recipe on a blog somewhere. (no point in naming names ;) ) Unfortunately these turned out as a complete failure for one reason or another, so lets get on with peanut-caramel biscotti instead. I had made the double-cinnamon-double-pecan biscotti from Caitlin of Engineer Baker sometime this fall and liked them very much. So I came back to the recipe and adapted it, to use up some caramel syrup, which was left over from the November Challenge.

Source: Engineer Baker , which itself is based on King Arthur Flour's Whole Grain Baking.

Ingredients:

- 166g peanuts (that was the yield of one 200g-pack of peanuts after shelling and skinning)
~ 120 ml caramel syrup
- 90g butter
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 3/4 cups wholeweat flour
- 1/2 cup rolled oats

Instructions:

1) Preheat the oven to 170°C / 350F. Cover one half-sheet pan with parchment paper. Grind the peanuts in a mortar or food processor.*)

2) Using a hand mixer, whisk butter and sugar until smooth. Add baking powder and salt. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add caramel syrup, flour and rolled oats. Fold in the peanuts.

3) Pour two, roughly log-shaped mounds on the sheet pan. Using your wet fingers, shape two smooth logs about 25 cm long, 6 cm wide, and about 3 cm thick. Sprinkle both logs lightly with water. Bake for 35 minutes, and remove them from the oven. Reduce the oven temperature to 150°C / 325F. After 10 minutes, sprinkle both logs lightly with water. After another 10 minutes,
use a serrated knife to cut them into crosswise slices, 2 cm thick. Biscotti do crumble easily, so be careful and be sure to use a serrated knife. Turn the biscotti, so their inside is facing upwards. Put sheet pan back into oven and bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool right on the pan. Yields about 38 biscotti.

*) I ground the peanuts quite coarsly in my mortar. It's a better idea to chop them up finely, because when you slice the once-baked biscotti, they will get torn whenever you hit a chunk of peanut which lies perpedicular to the direction of the cut.


The biscotti spread quite a bit while baking, probably due to the extra liquid of the caramel. One should up the dry ingredients a little, to compensate for this. Also the biscotti were a bit on the sweet side, so 1/2 cup of sugar would probably be enough. The combination of peanuts and caramel syrup goes together quite well, if I do say so myself. So whip up some caramel and give them a try. :)

Merry Christmas to all of you.

12.17.2008

Christmas Cookies III


Lemon Cookies


Before we go on with the next installment of Christmas bakery, let me just mention Menu for Hope V, a fundraising event for the UN Food Program organised by food bloggers around the world. To support this, you can buy raffle tickets for $10 each. You can choose for which prizes you`d like to have tickets. (two seats at Iron Chef America, anyone?) Of course, the more tickets you buy, the higher your chance to win. Check out the details at Chez Pim, the main organiser of this event, or go to Sara of Ms.Adventures in Italy for the list of the european prizes. This event runs from December 15th to 24th (Sorry, I`m a bit late for this, but I didn`t know this event would be coming up.), and all donations will support a school lunch program in Lesotho.

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So, back to cookies. Actually, I wanted to make some Pistachio Cranberry Icebox Cookies (recipe on epicurious), about which the Proud Italian Cook has blogged and which looked really yummy to me. Also, I haven`t tasted cranberries before and as I had bought a bag of dried cranberries some time ago, I was curious to try them. However, procurement of UNsalted pistachios proved to be impossible. I went to two big supermarkets, two organic/health food stores and three Oriental/Turkish grocery stores, but to no avail. The owner of the last grocery store told me that last summer has been much too hot in Turkey. As a result the pistachio harvest has been devastated, and there are no pistachios on the market, at least not at a price level, at which he can expect to make some revenue. So what can you do? Well, when life refuses to hand you pistachios, make lemon cookies. ;)

Lemon Cookies

Source: Lecker Sonderheft 2008 No.1

Ingredients:

1 lemon, organic
300g all-purpose flour
100g sugar
200g cold butter
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
30-40 almonds
1 Tbls. milk

Instructions

1) Wash and dry lemon. Zest one half of the lemon.*) Dice butter. Mix with flour, sugar, zest and whole egg using first the dough hook of your hand mixer, later on knead to a smooth dough with your hands. Cover and refrigerate dough for 30 min.

2) Half the almonds lengthwise. Cover two half-sheet pans with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 200°C / 175°C convection oven / gas mark 3. Spread some flour on workbench and roll out dough to 1/2 cm thickness (about 1/5 of an inch). Cut out cookies with cookie cutter of your choice and place on sheet pan. Yields about 60.

3) Mix milk and egg yolk. Spread on cookies and place one almond on top. Bake for 8-10 min. Place on wire-rack to cool.

*) I used the zest of one whole lemon.

These cookies look deceptively easy to make (and they actually are), but as I hadn`t made any doughs requiring cold butter before, I made some rookie mistakes and almost messed it up. First, I didn`t dice the butter, but just cut slices off it (like from a stick of butter lengthwise). These didn`t get incorporated by the dough hooks at all. The only result were some wavy patterns on the butter, but no coherent dough in sight. So I used a knife to cut the butter into small pieces and reread the recipe. Here I found out that I had forgotten to add the egg. *D`oh* After fixing that, and switching from the hand mixer to my hands the dough finally came together. Since you need to get your hands dirty anyway, you could mix the ingredients manually from the get-go. Thus saving you the trouble of fumbling the hand mixer out of the cupboard and having to clean the dough hooks afterwards. After refrigeration I halved the dough and formed two logs from which I cut the cookies. As I had plenty of almonds, I used two per cookie and then slathered them with the egg yolk. (This reverses the order given in the recipe, but I remember my grandmother doing it this way when making butter cookies.) The final cookies turned out quite large so again as in the case of the cinnamon cookies, for 2009 cookie cutters it is. The cookies are nice, lemony and not too crumbly. Why not give them a try?

Coming up next: Cranberry Bars

12.15.2008

Christmas Cookies II


Cinnamon Cookies

Source: Lecker Sonderheft 2008 No.1

Ingredients:

250g confectioners` sugar
3 egg whites
salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. lemon zest *
350g ground hazelnuts
flour
freezer bag (or piping bag, if you have one)
parchment paper

Instructions:

1) Line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper. Whisk egg whites and a pinch of salt, while slowly sieving in the confectioners`sugar. Fill 6-8 Tblsp. of beaten egg whites in freezer bag and set aside. Mix cinnamon, zest and hazelnuts. Fold in beaten egg whites.

2) Spread some flour on a workbench and roll out the dough to 1 cm thickness (a bit less than 1/2 inch). Cut out cookies. Dip cookie cutter repeatedly in flour. (prevents dough from sticking) Yields about 50.

3) Preheat oven to 150°C / 125°C convection oven / gas mark 1-2. Set cookies on sheet pan. Cut off one corner from freezer bag. Pipe icing on cookies and spread with a knife. Bake for approximately 15 min. Set aside to cool.

* I used the zest from one lemon. This really lets the lemon flavour stand out, but not unpleaaently so. I think 1 tsp. is not enough.

Traditionally these cookies are made with star-shaped cookie cutters. (just do a Google Image search for "Zimtsterne") As this seemed too fussy to me, I decided to just roll small balls and press them onto the parchment paper. The dough is quite sticky and the whole process was more messy than anticipated. So maybe using cookie cutters is the new unfussy? Also I think I`m beginning to see the point of using cookie cutters to achieve some optical variety. I will take this as the take-home lesson for next years Christmas. :) You can increase the messiness and turn your kitchen into a battlefield winter wonderland, if you have a stupidly designed hand mixer like me.
The power switch shifts from zero to the right, linearly increasing the speed via settings marked 1-2-3-4-5. To the left there is just one setting marked M (for "maximum surprise effect" or some such), which equals about 8 on the scale of the right side. As the egg whites stiffened, I lifted the mixer out, letting the whites ooze below it, further lifting and reducing the speed ever...so...gently. WHAM! AFTERBURNER MODE kicks in and sends the sticky, stiff egg whites flying. *sigh* Kitchen appliances designed by someone who probably never ever actually uses them. Don`t you just love it.
The icing should be spread on the cookies. However, due to its stickyness this will leave about half the icing on the knife and only half on the cooky. So I went with the "pointy hat"-approach you can see in the picture above. These are seriously good cookies. They taste great straight from the oven, no need to let them rest for some days. If the combination of cinnamon and lemon
sounds even vaguely attractive to you, you should make a double batch right away.

Coming up next: lemon cookies.

12.10.2008

Christmas Cookies I




I discovered Susans Food Blogga just today and as I made some christmas cookies last weekend, here is my entry to her Christmas Cookies Event. (It`s season 2 already, so it must be good. :) ) Get some last minute inspirations at the round-up page.




Anis Cookies with Bourbon Vanilla
(or rather "Anis cookies with a pinch of home-made vanilla sugar")


Source: Lecker Sonderheft 2008 No.1 ("lecker" means yummy)

Ingredients:

125g butter (at room temperature)
50g confectioners sugar (+ 1-2 Tblsp. for sprinkling)
60g all-purpose flour
125g corn starch
1 pkg. vanilla sugar ***
1 Tblsp. ground anis
parchment paper

Instructions:

1) Whisk butter and confectioners sugar with a hand mixer until creamy. Sieve flour and corn starch onto mixture. Add vanilla sugar,anis and 1-2 Tblsp. ice cold water and mix with dough hook to a smooth dough. Cover and refrigerate for 30 min.

2) Preheat the oven to 175 °C/150°C convection oven/gas mark 2. Cover a sheet pan with parchment paper. Form about 40 cherry-sized spheres from the dough.* Set about 1/3 of the balls on sheet pan. Press a fork into balls to form a grille pattern.** Bake for 12-15 min.

3) Refrigerate dough balls until they go into the oven. Let cookies cool on a rack. Sprinkle with confectioners sugar.

* by rolling between both hands
** like you would for gnocchi
*** 1 package equals 12g. (Just went into the kitchen and checked. :) )
I used 2 tsp home-made vanilla sugar, which is more than 12g but the sugar is quite subtly flavoured, so it balances out.

The cookies did spread and rise quite a bit. When rolling the spheres, keep them at a size which would look a bit to small, if it were a finished cookie. When trying to form the grille pattern, the fork stuck to the cookie and lifted them from the parchment paper. Maybe if you refrigerate the dough balls longer or freeze them, this would not occur.

Actually, these are my very first self-made christmas cookies. (yay, me ;) )
They are a bit soft inside, not brittle at all.
Let`s see if their taste will develop, they are kept for some time.

Coming up next: cinnamon cookies.


12.08.2008

Schokoladen-Verlosung / Chocolate raffle

Über den kulinarischen Adventskalender kam ich zu Schokolade geht immer und von dort zur Schokoladen-Verlosung von Leben ohne Diät gesponsert von Vivani. Und da die ersten 100 Blogger , die darüber (bis zum 13.12.) berichten, eine Tafel Bio-Schokolade bekommen, kann ich die Gelegenheit natürlich nicht ungenutzt verstreichen lassen.

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Via the culinary advent calendar and Schokolade geht immer (loosely, "Chocolate suits everything") I discovered the chocolat raffle of Leben ohne Diät (loosely, "A diet-free life") sponsored by Vivani. (literally, Vivani ;) ) As the first 100 bloggers (until 13th of December), who mention this on their blog, will receive a complimentary bar of organic chocolate, I couldn`t let this one slip past.
Note: As all websites mentioned above are German and as Vivani is a brand of a German company (distributor list) , I`m not sure if and to what extend this offer applies to other countries. But maybe, if you ask nicely, you might be lucky.

Alsace




Some weeks ago on a beautifull autumn day a friend and I went to Wissembourg, a small picturesque town in the Alsace region of France, close to the German-French border. We took a stroll through the sun-lit streets and settled down for lunch at a bistro.


On the menu were Flammkuchen which were prepared in a wood-fired oven in the backyard. (sorry, no pictures) One of the interesting things when being in a foreign country is to shop for food and ingredients you can`t get at home. So after a brief shopping frenzy I found myself in possession of these


and these


gadgets. I bought the financiers (clear plastic box in first picture), because I had read about them in Dorie Greenspans blog. They were quite nice, considering their supermarket-shelf origin. Maybe I will make these myself someday. The sausage in the foreground is chorizo, which is difficult to come by in my part of the woods. They were eaten with some braised kale but tasted a bit bland. Cocoa powder went into last posts Guinness Cupcakes. The galets d`hiver ("winter cookies" if my rusty French serves me right) are in the pantry, still unopened. Also the ramekins are awaiting their first service, but first I need to go and buy a blow-torch. (Yes, creme brulee. You got that right. :)) The anis seeds and the chestnut-honey will take center stage on this humble blog before the year is out. The other spices were bought for sheer curiosity without any definite plans to use them. (Okay, okay I know what to do with vanilla beans and have some vague idea for Tandoori and Masala, but Ras-el-hanout and Quatre Epice leave me a bit baffled. This may require some cookbook study.) And finally the white box with the barely readable print. It says Rebert. Like Daniel Rebert. We went to his patisserie for coffee and some delicious tartelets. The box contains (or rather did contain) some macarons. Again, apologies for not taking pictures. I made this trip when I was still toying with the idea of starting a food blog / joining the Daring Bakers but wasn`t sure if I would actually do it. I took the camera with me just to give it a spin, but obviously I hadn`t arrived yet in the proper foodie mind-set.

12.02.2008

Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes




As a student I spent one semester at University College Dublin, where I certainly learned to like my stout. So when I stumbled upon this recipe. from Marlena aka. the Repressed Pastry Chef my left hand hit Ctrl-D by reflex. ;) So last weekend after posting the November Challenge I decided to try this muffins as a treat. The dough is pretty straightforward to make. It uses the dry-wet-dry method practiced by all Daring Bakers for the November Challenge. Into the doug went some organic cocoa powder , which gave the muffins a nice strong chocolaty taste with (I think ;) ) some subtle undertones from the stout. The muffins rose very beautifully while baking in the oven. They will keep for several days, if you can restrain yourself that is.

P.S. To all the commenters (Thanks to all of you), who are interested in the peanut-caramel biscotti. Please bear with me, but I will probably only be able to make these in the last days before Christmas. So stay tuned.

11.29.2008

Daring Bakers November Challenge


CARAMEL CAKE WITH CARAMELIZED BUTTER FROSTING
(yeah, crappy lighting, I know, I know ;))


Hosting this months challenge are Dolores
(http://culinarycuriosity.blogspot.com/),
together with Alex (Brownie of the Blondie and Brownie duo: http://blondieandbrownie.blogspot.com/),
Jenny of Foray into Food (http://forayintofood.blogspot.com/)
and Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go (http://glutenagogo.blogspot.com/).

The recipe can be found at the website of Shuna Fish Lydon (http://blogs.kqed.org/bayareabites/2006 … he-recipe/).

As this was my first challenge with the Daring Bakers I was very excited if I could master it. The anxiety was further built up by the "dangers" of making caramel in your own kitchen.
(Basically what you do is to boil some sugar, which will reach about 200°C in the process, then you add some water to stop the caramelization. The water will instantly evaporate and send the hot sugar flying all over the place including your hands.) Fortunately, some very helpfull tips by David Lebovitz can be found at his website (e.g. it helps a lot to cover the casserole with a mesh strainer).

Here is a picture of the finished caramel syrup. (in the top left a dirty dish from the pasta bolognese I had for lunch is basking in the glory (and the flashlight) of the syrup)




















The preparation of the dough went quite smoothly. I halved the recipe and quartered the butter frosting. The cake baked for 45 min in total. It had a lovely smell of caramel and tasted very nice especially while still being warm. The frosting was very, very,very sweet and to my taste did a bit of a disservice to the cake. At the next morning the cake had become a bit dense and heavy.




















I`ve still got some of the caramel syrup in the fridge and I will try to use it for Christmas cookies.
Did someone just say peanut-caramel biscotti?

In summary, it was a very nice and fun experience to join the Daring Bakers. Thanks to this months host and her co-hosts. I`m looking forward to the next challenge. ;)

On an unrelated note: I came across a thoughtful blog post by Jeanne of Cook Sister! last week. Maybe you want to give it a read.

10.21.2008

Chiffon Cake

As first recipe for this blog I tried to make a chiffon cake from
Chocolate and Zuchini. I didn`t know what chiffon cake was and neither did some of my friends who I asked before attempting the cake. Which they should, because they have YEARS more baking experience than I. Instead of vanilla extraxt I used one sachet of vanilla sugar. I halved the recipe and baked it in a 20 cm springform. In the oven the cake rose nicely (note to myself: take more pictures from now on). But even though I let it cool in the oven with the door slightly angled, it collapsed again. The cake was quite fluffy in texture, despite not keeping its volume. Maybe 2/3 of the sugar would be enough? As you can see from the picture, I didn`t mix the whipped egg whites in properly, because I was afraid to push out the trapped air.


10.07.2008

Hello World

I set upt his blog for participaction in the Daring Bakers.
If i can find the time, maybe i will also blog about other
cooking/baking stuff.