Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Coconut Butter Thins

Tuesday is the sweetest day.

This week in Tuesdays with Dorie, Jayne of The Barefoot Kitchen Witch selected Coconut Butter Thins on page 145 of Dorie Greenspan's epic tome - Baking: from my home to yours. Please see Jayne's site for the recipe, today's date.

This was certainly an interesting cookie to make. It has the texture of a shortbread with the chewiness of an oatmeal cookie. (sans oatmeal) The addition of sweetened shredded coconut and lime zest give it a slight tropical feel.

The dough gets made up and rolled out in a one gallon sized freezer bag and then refrigerated. Hopefully in a flat position. Flat positions are not to be had in my fridge - one has to straddle over milk, leftovers, assorted produce that does not fit in the bins.... Needless to say, my dough was less than flat when I finally had to cut it for baking. No mind - the cook gets to eat the funny looking ones.
Speaking of funny looking.. I forgot to dock the dough with a fork. I don't seem to be any worse off for it, they didn't rise or anything, so I won't punish myself too harshly.

So, how did they taste? Actually, these are my favourite of Dorie's butter/shortbread type cookies so far. I like the chewiness of them. I think I will add cardamom next time.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Cardamom Vanilla Pound Cake with Lime Glaze

Perhaps I was born in the wrong generation, but I quite like a Bundt cake. The balance of delicate density and the ability to soak up great flavourings. Like a good bread, a good Bundt cake will actually improve in flavour for a couple of days after it is baked.
I found this recipe for Cardamom Vanilla Pound Cake in the March issue of Gourmet Magazine, the recipe originally coming from The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham. (Not Richie's mom, the cook!)
I switched the lemon juice for lime, and added the glaze myself - never wanting to miss an opportunity to lend more great flavour to the versatile Bundt!
I love cardamom, I think it is an underused spice and could certainly take some of the burden off of cinnamon once in a while. It lends itself very well to traditional pie-type spicing as well as tropical flavours. For this recipe I built a bit on the tropical and added more lime flavour. Very tasty indeed!

Cardamom Vanilla Pound Cake - Gourmet Magazine, March 2009

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/8 cups unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 vanilla beans, halved lengthwise
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (I used the juice of 1/2 lime)
1 cup whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled
2 1/2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 F with rack in middle. Generously butter pan and dust with flour, knocking out excess.
Whisk together flour, cardamom, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Beat together butter and granulated sugar in mixer at medium speed, scraping side of bowl occasionally, until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean with tip of paring knife into butter mixture, reserving pods for another use, and beat until combined well, about 1 minute. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in lemon juice until combined well. At low speed, add flour mixture and milk alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture, mixing until just combined.
Spoon batter into pan, smoothing top. Gently rap pan on counter to eliminate air bubbles.
Bake until a wooden skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool in pan 1 hour, then invert onto a rack and cool completely, about 1 hour more.
For whipping cream: Beat cream with confectioners sugar and vanilla extract using whisk attachment of mixer until it just holds stiff peaks. Serve cake with whipped vanilla cream.

Lime Glaze
Juice of 1 lime
Small splash of water
1/3 cup sugar
Place all in small saucepan and heat on medium until sugar dissolves.
Brush on cooled cake.
* I served some of this cake again for breakfast this morning, with plain yogurt and slice kiwi, bananas and grapes. Nice!

Magazine Mondays - yes, sometimes we even cook from them!

Sunday, 29 March 2009

La Mia Ribollita Preferita - Jamie Oliver

This Souper Sunday I have taken on Italian Ribollita, via one cheeky English chef. I have to admit I had no feelings for Jamie Oliver one way or the other until his more recent exploits in Italy (Jamie's Great Italian Escape) and then on his own hobby farm (Jamie at Home). I do like these two shows and the books that have come out of them.
This soup is hearty and filling. Very tasty, especially with the addition of shredded cheese on top. We used Pecorino Romano.
Ribollita is a famous Tuscan soup whose name literally means "reboiled". Like most Tuscan cuisine, the soup has peasant origins. It was originally made by reheating (ie. reboiling) the leftover minestrone or vegetable soup from the previous day.
There are many variations but the main ingredients always include leftover bread, cannelli beans and inexpensive vegetables such as carrot, zucchini, spinach or silverbeet, cavolo nero (Tuscan Kale)and onion.
- Wiki
My Favourite Ribollita (la mia ribollita preferita), Jamie Oliver
• 310g zolfini or cannellini beans, fresh, or dried and soaked overnight (I used cannellini beans)
• 1 bay leaf
• 1 tomato, squashed
• 1 small potato, peeled
• 2 small red onions, peeled
• 2 carrots, peeled
• 3 sticks of celery, trimmed
• 3 cloves of garlic, peeled
• olive oil
• a pinch of ground fennel seeds
• a pinch of dried red chilli
• 1 x 400g tin of good-quality plum tomatoes
• 310g cavolo nero, leaves and stalks finely sliced (I used half napa cabbage and half spinach)
• 2 large handfuls of good-quality stale bread, torn into chunks
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• the best extra virgin olive oil you can find
Add your fresh or dried and soaked beans to a pan of water with the bay leaf, tomato and potato – this will help to flavour the beans and soften their skins. Cook until tender – taste one to check they’re nice and soft. Dried beans can take up to an hour, but check fresh ones after 25 minutes. Drain (reserving about half a glass of the cooking water), and discard the bay leaf, tomato and potato.
Finely chop your onions, carrots, celery and garlic. Heat a saucepan with a splash of olive oil and add the vegetables to the pan with the ground fennel seeds and chilli. Sweat very slowly on a low heat with the lid just ajar for around 15 to 20 minutes until soft, but not brown. Add the tomatoes and bring to a gentle simmer for a few minutes.
Add the cooked and drained beans with a little of the water they were cooked in, and bring back to the boil. Stir in the sliced cavolo (it will look like loads, but don’t worry as it will cook down), then moisten the bread with a little of the cooking water and stir it in too. The soup should be thick but not dry, so add a little more cooking water if you need to loosen it. Continue cooking for about 30 minutes – you want to achieve a silky, thick soup.
Season the ribollita with salt and pepper and stir in 4 good glugs of good-quality Tuscan extra virgin olive oil before serving to give it a glossy velvety texture. Serve on a cold winter’s day with lots and lots of Chianti!
What Jamie has to say about Ribollita:
There’s often confusion as to what ribollita should actually be like. It’s not like minestrone, as it isn’t brothy and it has no pasta in it. It’s actually more like pappa al pomodoro, as it’s thick and based on bread. It’s very much Italian ‘peasant food’ and would have been eaten a lot in the days of no central heating and lots of hard manual labour. I think this recipe embraces the heart and soul of what peasant cooking is all about – cheap, tasty power food. Please do make it and reheat it the next day – you’ll find the flavours intensify.

Souper Sundays with Deb of Kahakai Kitchen, a comforting way to end the weekend.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna (Lasagne Verdi al Forno)

Buongiorno! Today the Daring Bakers from all over the world are sporting their very best Italian accents as they present their homemade lasagne. Surprised? You expected a cake maybe? Well, this baby is made in the oven and therefore baked... but it also represents the fact that the new Daring Kitchen will also be offering a Daring Cooks challenge for savoury flights of creativity. What better way to honour the new Daring Kitchen than with this triumph of Italian comfort food.
Buon appetito!
The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna (Lasagne Verdi al Forno)
(Serves 8 to 10 as a first course, 6 to 8 as a main dish)

Preparation Time:
15 minutes to assemble and 40 minutes cooking time

10 quarts (9 litres) salted water
1 recipe Spinach Pasta cut for lasagna (recipe follows)#1
1 recipe Bechamel Sauce (recipe follows)#2
1 recipe Country Style Ragu (recipe follows)#3
1 cup (4 ounces/125g) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Working Ahead:
The ragu and the béchamel sauce can be made up to three days ahead. The ragu can also be frozen for up to one month. The pasta can be rolled out, cut and dried up to 24 hours before cooking. The assembled lasagne can wait at room temperature (20 degrees Celsius/68 degrees Fahrenheit) about 1 hour before baking. Do not refrigerate it before baking, as the topping of béchamel and cheese will overcook by the time the center is hot.

Assembling the Ingredients:
Have all the sauces, rewarmed gently over a medium heat, and the pasta at hand. Have a large perforated skimmer and a large bowl of cold water next to the stove. Spread a double thickness of paper towels over a large counter space. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius). Oil or butter a 3 quart (approx 3 litre) shallow baking dish.

Cooking the Pasta:
Bring the salted water to a boil. Drop about four pieces of pasta in the water at a time. Cook about 2 minutes. If you are using dried pasta, cook about 4 minutes, taste, and cook longer if necessary. The pasta will continue cooking during baking, so make sure it is only barely tender. Lift the lasagne from the water with a skimmer, drain, and then slip into the bowl of cold water to stop cooking. When cool, lift out and dry on the paper towels. Repeat until all the pasta is cooked.

Assembling the Lasagne:
Spread a thin layer of béchamel over the bottom of the baking dish. Arrange a layer of about four overlapping sheets of pasta over the béchamel. Spread a thin layer of béchamel (about 3 or 4 spoonfuls) over the pasta, and then an equally thin layer of the ragu. Sprinkle with about 1&1/2 tablespoons of the béchamel and about 1/3 cup of the cheese. Repeat the layers until all ingredients are used, finishing with béchamel sauce and topping with a generous dusting of cheese.

Baking and Serving the Lasagne:
Cover the baking dish lightly with foil, taking care not to let it touch the top of the lasagne. Bake 40 minutes, or until almost heated through. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes, or until hot in the center (test by inserting a knife – if it comes out very warm, the dish is ready). Take care not to brown the cheese topping. It should be melted, creamy looking and barely tinged with a little gold. Turn off the oven, leave the door ajar and let the lasagne rest for about 10 minutes. Then serve. This is not a solid lasagne, but a moist one that slips a bit when it is cut and served.
#1 Spinach Egg Pasta (Pasta Verde)
Preparation: 45 minutes

Makes enough for 6 to 8 first course servings or 4 to 6 main course servings, equivalent to 1 pound (450g) dried boxed pasta.

2 jumbo eggs (2 ounces/60g or more)
10 ounces (300g) fresh spinach, rinsed dry, and finely chopped; or 6 ounces (170g) frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
3&1/2 cups (14 ounces/400g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour (organic stone ground preferred)

Working by Hand: ( I have a pasta roller - thank goodness!)

A roomy work surface, 24 to 30 inches deep by 30 to 36 inches (60cm to 77cm deep by 60cm to 92cm). Any smooth surface will do, but marble cools dough slightly, making it less flexible than desired.
A pastry scraper and a small wooden spoon for blending the dough.
A wooden dowel-style rolling pin. In Italy, pasta makers use one about 35 inches long and 2 inches thick (89cm long and 5cm thick). The shorter American-style pin with handles at either end can be used, but the longer it is, the easier it is to roll the pasta.Note: although it is not traditional, Enza has successfully made pasta with a marble rolling pin, and this can be substituted for the wooden pin, if you have one.
Plastic wrap to wrap the resting dough and to cover rolled-out pasta waiting to be filled. It protects the pasta from drying out too quickly.
A sharp chef’s knife for cutting pasta sheets.
Cloth-covered chair backs, broom handles, or specially designed pasta racks found in cookware shops for draping the pasta.
Now, before you get started - it is very important that you grab your largest bottle of red wine, your very big glass, and your Dean Martin records. Ready? Now you may begin!
Mixing the dough:
Mound the flour in the center of your work surface and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs and spinach. Use a wooden spoon to beat together the eggs and spinach. Then gradually start incorporating shallow scrapings of flour from the sides of the well into the liquid. As you work more and more flour into the liquid, the well’s sides may collapse. Use a pastry scraper to keep the liquids from running off and to incorporate the last bits of flour into the dough. Don’t worry if it looks like a hopelessly rough and messy lump.

With the aid of the scraper to scoop up unruly pieces, start kneading the dough. Once it becomes a cohesive mass, use the scraper to remove any bits of hard flour on the work surface – these will make the dough lumpy. Knead the dough for about 3 minutes. Its consistency should be elastic and a little sticky. If it is too sticky to move easily, knead in a few more tablespoons of flour. Continue kneading about 10 minutes, or until the dough has become satiny, smooth, and very elastic. It will feel alive under your hands. Do not shortcut this step. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and let it relax at room temperature 30 minutes to 3 hours.

Stretching and Thinning:
If using an extra-long rolling pin work with half the dough at a time. With a regular-length rolling pin, roll out a quarter of the dough at a time and keep the rest of the dough wrapped. Lightly sprinkle a large work surface with flour. The idea is to stretch the dough rather than press down and push it. Shape it into a ball and begin rolling out to form a circle, frequently turning the disc of dough a quarter turn. As it thins outs, start rolling the disc back on the pin a quarter of the way toward the center and stretching it gently sideways by running the palms of your hands over the rolled-up dough from the center of the pin outward. Unroll, turn the disc a quarter turn, and repeat. Do twice more.
Stretch and even out the center of the disc by rolling the dough a quarter of the way back on the pin. Then gently push the rolling pin away from you with one hand while holding the sheet in place on the work surface with the other hand. Repeat three more times, turning the dough a quarter turn each time.
Repeat the two processes as the disc becomes larger and thinner. The goal is a sheet of even thickness. For lasagne, the sheet should be so thin that you can clearly see your hand through it and see colours. Cut into rectangles about 4 by 8 inches (10 x 20 cm). Note: Enza says that transparency is a crucial element of lasagne pasta and the dough should be rolled as thinly as possible. She says this is why her housekeeper has such strong arms!
Dry the pasta at room temperature and store in a sealed container or bag.
#2 Bechamel
Preparation Time: 15 minutes

4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) unsalted butter
4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour, organic stone ground preferred
2&2/3 cups (approx 570ml) milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste

Using a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over low to medium heat. Sift over the flour, whisk until smooth, and then stir (without stopping) for about 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk a little at a time and keep the mixture smooth. Bring to a slow simmer, and stir 3 to 4 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Season with salt, pepper, and a hint of nutmeg.
#3 Country Style Ragu’ (Ragu alla Contadina)

Preparation Time:
Ingredient Preparation Time 30 minutes and Cooking time 2 hours
Makes enough sauce for 1 recipe fresh pasta or 1 pound/450g dried pasta)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (45 mL)
2 ounces/60g pancetta, finely chopped
1 medium onion, minced
1 medium stalk celery with leaves, minced
1 small carrot, minced
4 ounces/125g boneless veal shoulder or round
4 ounces/125g pork loin, trimmed of fat, or 4 ounces/125g mild Italian sausage (made without fennel)
8 ounces/250g beef skirt steak, hanging tender, or boneless chuck blade or chuck center cut (in order of preference)
1 ounce/30g thinly sliced Prosciutto di Parma
2/3 cup (5 ounces/160ml) dry red wine
1 &1/2 cups (12 ounces/375ml) chicken or beef stock (homemade if possible)
2 cups (16 ounces/500ml) milk
3 cans plum tomatoes, drained
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Working Ahead:
The ragu can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. It also freezes well for up to 1 month. Skim the fat from the ragu’ before using it.

Browning the Ragu Base:
Heat the olive oil in a 12 inch (30cm) skillet (frying pan) over medium-high heat. Have a large saucepan handy to use once browning is complete. Add the pancetta and minced vegetables and sauté, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, 10 minutes, or until the onions barely begin to color. Coarsely grind all the meats together, including the prosciutto, in a food processor or meat grinder. Stir into the pan and slowly brown over medium heat. First the meats will give off a liquid and turn dull grey but, as the liquid evaporates, browning will begin. Stir often, scooping under the meats with the wooden spatula. Protect the brown glaze forming on the bottom of the pan by turning the heat down. Cook 15 minutes, or until the meats are a deep brown. Turn the contents of the skillet into a strainer and shake out the fat. Turn them into the saucepan and set over medium heat.

Reducing and Simmering:
Add the wine to the skillet, lowering the heat so the sauce bubbles quietly. Stir occasionally until the wine has reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Scrape up the brown glaze as the wine bubbles. Then pour the reduced wine into the saucepan and set the skillet aside.
Stir ½ cup stock into the saucepan and let it bubble slowly, 10 minutes, or until totally evaporated. Repeat with another ½ cup stock. Stir in the last 1/2 cup stock along with the milk. Adjust heat so the liquid bubbles very slowly. Partially cover the pot, and cook 1 hour. Stir frequently to check for sticking.
Add the tomatoes, crushing them as they go into the pot. Cook uncovered, at a very slow bubble for another 45 minutes, or until the sauce resembles a thick, meaty stew. Season with salt and pepper.
*My only changes were to add an extra egg and some salt to the pasta dough, garlic and herbs to the sauce and a few extra fists full of cheese to the recipe. A lasagne that isn't dripping with cheese is grounds for divorce, according to my husband.
Oh, and I had to use two pans, as mine wasn't tall enough. That's ok, two lasagnes are better than one!
*See how straight that slice is? I took a picture of a cold slice, as it was firm enough to stay still for me!

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Whatta Winner, Chicken Dinner!

This week in Tyler Florence Fridays, I made a healthy and delicious chicken dinner. A simple roast chicken, rubbed with sweet and savoury Moroccan spices paired with a light and healthy tabbouleh salad with lots of crunchy veggies. I served them with a simple rice, just some basmati steamed with raisins, a touch of ground cumin, coriander and cinnamon, olive oil and salt and pepper. Then I served it up family-style on a platter, so the rice could soak up all the juiciness from the chicken. I got 5 meals out of this dish for a fairly small investment. Delicious and inexpensive - who could ask for more?

Roast Chicken with Moroccan Spices - Real Kitchen, Tyler Florence

Moroccan Spice Mix:
1 cinnamon stick, chopped in pieces
8 whole cloves
1 teaspoon cayenne
2 teaspoons cumin seed
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
11/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon brown sugar

1 (31/2 pound) whole free range chicken
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, halved
1/4 bunch fresh cilantro
1 head garlic
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

To prepare the Moroccan Spice Mix for the Chicken: Combine the cinnamon stick, cloves, cayenne, cumin, fennel, coriander, and paprika in a dry skillet over low heat and toast for just a minute to release the fragrant oils; shake the pan so they don't scorch. In a spice mill or clean coffee grinder, grind the toasted spices together, with 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt and the brown sugar. (A word of advice: make sure you thoroughly wipe out your coffee grinder before you make coffee again - Moroccan spices taste great on chicken but horrible with coffee.)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Rinse the chicken with cool water, inside and out, then pat it dry with paper towels. Massage the chicken skin with the spice rub; make sure you don't miss a spot. Season the inside of the chicken generously with salt and pepper. Stuff the lemons halves, cilantro, and garlic in the cavity and place the chicken in a roasting pan fitted with a rack. Fold the wing tips under the bird and tie the legs together with kitchen string. Drizzle the oil all over the chicken. If you have time, let the chicken marinate for 30 minutes to really get the flavors down deep into the meat. Roast the chicken for 1 hour; pop an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh; if it reads 160 degrees F, it's done. Allow the chicken to rest for 10 minutes so the juices can settle back into the meat.

Tabbouleh Salad - Eat This Book, Tyler Florence
1 cup bulgur wheat (fine-medium grind)
2 cups hot water
1 pound ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped (about 2 cups) I added radishes and some celery
1 bunch green onions, white and green part, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1 hothouse cucumber, halved, seeded and diced (about 2 cups)
2 large bunches fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves finely chopped (about 2 cups)
1 bunch fresh mint leaves, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup) I didn't have any mint
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 lemons, juiced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Put the bulgur in a large bowl and pour in the hot water. Cover with a dish or plastic wrap and let stand for about 30 to 45 minutes to rehydrate. Drain in a strainer, pressing with the back of a wooden spoon to squeeze out as much water as possible.
In a mixing bowl, combine the tomatoes, onions, cucumber, parsley, and mint. Toss the salad well to incorporate the ingredients; season with cumin, salt and pepper. Add the bulgur; moisten with the lemon juice and olive oil. Fold everything together to incorporate the ingredients. The flavor will improve if the tabbouleh sits for a few hours. Serve at room temperature.
Choose, cook, share.
Round-up every Friday, check out the Tyler Florence Fridays site for details

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Peach Mango Oatmeal Bread

“Without wishing in the slightest degree to disparage the skill and labour of breadmakers by trade, truth compels us to assert our conviction of the superior wholesomeness of bread made in our own homes.”
Eliza Acton, Modern Cookery for Private Families (1845)

In celebration of breads made in our own homes, Zorra of Kochtopf baked up Bread Baking Day, a monthly adventure in the oven. This month's Bread Baking Day, #18 - Quick Breads, is hosted by Fun & Food Blog. Deadline: April 1st, 2009.

Quick breads are, by their very nature, um.. quick. They use baking soda or powder (or both) as leaveners, rather than yeast. If you are new to bread baking, this is an excellent way to get your feet wet, or hands, as it were.

I turned to my old friend King Arthur for ideas in the handy-dandy quickbreads section of Whole Grain Baking, where I found this treasure - perfect for breakfast. The texture is a little "muffiny", but quite good. And the smell! Like a bowl of fruity oatmeal. A great way to start the day.

Peach Mango Oatmeal Bread
Adapted from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking
Their original had only peaches, I added the mango.
Yields one 9 x 5-inch loaf, 16 servings.

2 cups (12 ounces) peeled, sliced peaches and mangoes; thawed if using frozen slices, well drained if using canned
2 cups (8 ounces) whole wheat flour
¾ cup (3 and 1/8 ounces) unbleached bread flour
½ cup (3 and ½ ounces) granulated sugar
½ cup (3 and ¾ ounces) packed light or brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup (3 and ½ ounces) old fashioned rolled oats
2 large eggs
1 cup (8 ounces) milk
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ teaspoon almond extract

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. Cut the peaches into small (¼ inch) pieces; place in a strainer to drain. Stir together the flours, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices in a large mixing bowl. Add the oats and peaches; stir to coat the peaches. Beat together the eggs, milk, oil, and almond extract in a small mixing bowl or large mixing cup. Add to the flour mixture, stirring until just evenly moistened.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for one hour. Test the loaf for doneness; if a toothpick inserted in the center doesn’t come out clean, cover the top of the bread with foil and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool in the pan for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, run a table knife around the edges of the loaf to make sure it’s not sticking, then turn it out of the pan and return it to the rack to cool completely before slicing.

Served with - fruity whipped cream cheese. Just leave your cream cheese out on the counter to come to room temperature, whip in the mini processor with a coupe of dollops of your favourite fruit preserves. I used apricot here, and topped with a little more preserves for garnish.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Blueberry Crumb Cake

Tuesday is the sweetest day.

This week in Tuesdays with Dorie, Sihan of Befuddlement selected Blueberry Crumb Cake on pages 192-193 of Dorie Greenspan's ultimate baking book - Baking: from my home to yours. Please see Sihan's site for the recipe, today's date.

What can I say about this cake? I loved the crunchy topping of walnuts and brown sugar. Especially as it caramelizes around the edges of the pan. It went wonderfully with vanilla ice cream.
The only changes to the recipe that I made was to use the zest of the whole lemon. I am having the kind of week that is seeing me use up more zest than juice. Currently I have a little bag of naked lemons. I let them snuggle up to the other fruits to keep warm.

From WildBlueberries.com:
Wild Blueberries may be small but they pack a healthy punch! Sweet, tangy and intensely blue, Wild Blueberries are rich in phytonutrients — antioxidants such as anthocyanin, as well as anti-inflammatories. These natural substances, found in fruits and vegetables, are believed to protect against disease and promote healthy aging… and with their powerful natural antioxidant qualities, Wild Blueberries are at the top of the antioxidant “A-list”!

See! This cake is health food. Have two pieces and call me in the morning.

Did you know that blueberries are native only to North America?
My blueberries were my Nova Scotia wild blueberries from my (frozen) five pound box. It is almost finished now - but I do not regret using them for this recipe at all.
The wild blueberry is Nova Scotia's official provincial berry. Honestly. Who knew we had official berries? I wonder what the one for Ontario is..

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Lemon Currant Hot Cross Buns

Good Monday Morning!
I hope your weekend went well, and you are feeling refreshed and rejuvenated for the new work week.
I have some breakie ready, Lemon Currant Hot Cross Buns. Help yourself!
Having a hard-working, commuting hubby who gets up at the ungodly hour of 4:30 am, I try to keep breakfast fun and varied, but easy to serve when my brain is still asleep.
I made these hot cross buns late the night before, and just iced them in the morning before serving them.
The lemon adds a little burst of tartness to balance the sweetness of the currants and the richness of the dough. Perfect with a cup of coffee, even if it will be hours before the sun comes up.

Lemon Currant Hot Cross Buns - LCBO Food and Wine Magazine, Spring 2009

2 cups 2% milk, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. dry instant yeast
1 1/2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/4 cups dried currants

Hot Glaze:
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. water

3/4 cup icing sugar, sifted
1 Tbsp. lemon juice

1. For the dough, stir milk, sugar, yeast, lemon zest and vanilla in the base of a tabletop mixer or by hand and let sit 5 minutes. Add flour, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and currants and blend. Using a dough hook attachment, knead until elastic, but dough still sticks to the bottom of the bowl. (If mixing by hand, stir until stiff, then turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until elastic but still sticky.) Place in a large, lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm, draft-free place for 1 1/2 hours.
2. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and cut into 12 equal sized pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a ball and place in a greased 9x13-inch cake pan. Cover pan loosely with plastic wrap and let rise 45 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 350° F. (180c)
4. Bake buns for 40 - 45 minutes, until a rich golden colour. While buns are baking, prepare hot glaze.
5. For hot glaze, stir sugar, lemon juice and water in a small pot over medium heat until sugar has dissolved. When buns come out of the oven, poke holes with a bamboo skewer and brush buns with glaze repeatedly, allowing glaze to soak in to buns. Let buns cool in pan.
6. For icing, beat icing sugar and lemon juice until thick and pipe a cross onto each bun. Store buns in pan until ready to serve. The buns are best served on the day they are baked but can be baked ahead and frozen.

This is me, waiting for my commuter to come home. I look just like her. Ummm.... yeah.

Magazine Mondays with Cream Puff, what a way to start the week!

Canh Cai Kim Chi Nau Tom, with Noodles!

To go with my Vietnamese Shrimp Rolls on Friday, I made this simple cabbage soup. I added the leftover noodles from the rolls to make it a bit more filling for dinner. This soup is delicate but has great flavour. I recommend having small bowls of condiments such as chopped cilantro, salted peanuts, sliced green onions and hot sauce on the table to customize the soup.

This recipe is from Into the Vietnamese Kitchen: Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavours. A lovely book with lots of great recipes and beautiful pictures.

Napa Cabbage and Shrimp Soup - Andrea Nguyen, Into the Vietnamese Kitchen

1 tablespoon canola or other neutral oil
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 heaping tablespoon dried shrimp, rinsed under hot water and chopped
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fish sauce
6 cups water
3 cups firmly packed sliced napa cabbage (1/4-inch wide ribbons)
1/2 pound small or medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1 scallion, green part only, thinly sliced (I used cilantro)
I added the leftover cooked Vietnamese noodles from Friday's Shrimp Rolls.

1. In a 4-quart saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook gently stirring occasionally, for about 4 minutes, or until fragrant and soft. Add the dried shrimp, salt, and fish sauce and cook for about 30 seconds to develop the flavors. Add the water, raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, or until the cabbage has softened and the soup is golden. If you are not serving the soup right away, turn off the heat and cover.
2. Just before serving, return the soup to a simmer. Here's where I added the cooked noodles. Drop in the shrimp. When the shrimp have turned pink and curled, add the pepper. Taste and add extra salt or fish sauce, if necessary. Ladle into a serving bowl and garnish with the scallion. Serve immediately.

Souper Sundays with Deb of Kahakai Kitchen. A warm hug to end your weekend.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Irish in the Oven

This week in My Kitchen, My World, we are travelling back to Ireland in celebration of the recent St. Paddy's day. A great opportunity to try out this fabulous Guinness Bread that I found on Mary's site - One Perfect Bite.
This is a deep, dark, and rich loaf, full of delicious stout beer. A beer that I don't drink but love to have on hand for stews, batters and the like. For drinking I am a bit of a wimp and prefer lager. Sigh.
This also marks the one year anniversary of my father's death. He was no stranger to a good beer himself, as well as being an Irish-blooded travelling gypsy philosopher type. He would have loved this bread. And finished of the end of the can for me. Who am I kidding? The rest of the cans!
Wizened beyond his 70 years from the hot desert climes he loved so much, he looked like a cross between Obe Wan Kenobi and Yoda. Sounded like a cross between them too.
I don't have him to share the loaves with, so I ran one across the street to my neighbour, a true Irish elf himself. He may or may not think I am crazy now for showing up at his door with bread. Time will tell.
If you love strong flavours, this one is for you. Just remember to leave the Guinness out of the fridge overnight!

Rye Bread with Guinness Stout and Fennel Seeds - As found on One Perfect Bite, originally adapted from Group Recipes.
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
24-ounces stout beer (i.e. Guinness), room temperature
3 ounces warm water
2 cups rye flour
5-1/2 cups unbleached flour + 1/2 cup flour for kneading
4 teaspoons table salt
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1) Combine beer and water in a large bowl. Add yeast and stir until completely dissolved.
2) Add rye flour and 3 cups of white flour; whisk until thick batter forms. Cover and let rest until mixture begins to bubble, about 2 to 4 hours.
3) Stir in reserved 2-1/2 cups flour, salt and fennel seeds. Turn batter onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead roughly. Dough will remain sticky and loose despite your best efforts. I've found it best to repeatedly fold and throw it onto the work surface. I use about 1/2 cup additional flour for kneading. At this point you want to incorporate as much air as possible in the dough. The mass will begin to resemble a dough as you knead, but it will be very, very loose.
4) Return dough to bowl, cover and rest for another 45 minutes or so.
5) Turn dough onto work surface and divide into 3 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
6) Lay dishtowels onto your work surface and lightly flour them. Re-shape dough balls into loaves and place on dishtowels to rise. I used Italian bread pans to hold my loaves because the dough was so loose I feared I'd have pita bread if it was not constrained. Let rise until double in size, about 1 to 2 hours.
7) Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
8) Diagonally slash loaves with a razor blade.
9) Mist sides of oven with water from a spray bottle. (Avoid light bulb!)
10) Slide loaves or pans into oven. Reduce heat to 425 degrees F after 5 minutes of cooking. Bake for another 25 minutes or until bottom of loaves sound hollow when tapped. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Yield: 3 loaves.
Hmmm, someone couldn't wait for a bite!
This bread is going Yeastspotting with Susan of Wild Yeast.