21 March 2015

Home-made Ice Cream Sandwich

Recently I popped into my local Lakeland shop and spotted an intriguing tray in a corner - it had 6 indentations with square pattern for making ice cream sandwiches.

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Now I really don't have space for another uni-tasker like this, so walked away from it, once that I'd noted the brand. Back home, I searched for the recipe for these, but it seems these weren't available unless you go and buy the baking tray. But a lot of other interesting recipes came up and I liked the look of this one, which has very good step-by-step instructions with photos.

Ingredients
113 g unsalted butter
100 g granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
65 g plain flour
25 g unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ tsp salt
1 litre ice cream of your choice

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170 °C fan. Line a large cookie sheet with baking parchment.
  2. Gently melt the butter and remove from the heat before it boils.
  3. Transfer to a large bowl, add the sugar and whisk together.
  4. Add the egg and vanilla extract and incorporate well.
  5. Add the flour, cocoa and salt and mix in well too.
  6. Scoop the mixture onto the baking sheet and then using a knife or better an offset spatula spread out to about 3 mm thickness.
  7. Bake for 5 minutes, then turn the baking sheet around and bake for a further 5 minutes so it bakes evenly. It's ready when it looks dry on the surface.
  8. Remove from the oven and carefully transfer to a wire rack.
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  9. Once the cake has cooled, take the ice cream out of the freezer and if it's hard, let soften a little.
  10. Carefully cut the cake in two equal parts and transfer one of them onto a large piece of cling film.
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  11. Take the ice cream out of its box and cut about 1.5 cm thick slices. Place the ice cream slices on top of the cake which is on the cling film. Make sure to cover the cake up to the edges and leave no gaps between the ice cream slices.
  12. Place the other cake on top of the ice cream and push down gently, then wrap the cling film tightly around the whole thing and place in the freezer overnight
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  13. When ready to eat, cut into pieces and serve.

I baked and assembled the ice cream sandwich last night and served to Lundulph after lunch today as a surprise. He quite liked it and so did I. I used rum & raising ice cream and it was very soft to begin with, so I didn't really need to leave it out, but just had to quickly wiggle it out of the box. The assembling requires preparation and you need to work fast, so that the ice cream doesn't melt too much.

Sadly, despite my smoothing efforts, the cake was a bit thick in the middle. Also it was quite crumbly and even though I was careful, it broke in a few places. I think I could take advantage of the humid air in the UK and leave the cake out for a bit - that might make it a bit soggy. I could definitely work on making the sandwiches more attractive. Rum & raisin was a pretty good choice and was really nice with the chocolate cake.

Possibly try out a few other recipes as well.

15 March 2015

Another Cookie Press Fun Evening

Not only was it fun to use my new cookie press, I'm quite pleased that my Mum's also re-discovered how much fun it is too. But she opted for savoury versions with different types of cheese. In fact, for her birthday she made so many, I wouldn't be surprised they'll eat them for weeks to come. To begin with, my Dad had been very suspicious about them, but then ended up eating 6 in one go and my Mum had to hide the box.

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However, in my searches to find a recipe for my Mum, I came across this one which seemed to be a bit less unhealthy than many others and I decided to make a batch and take to work as thank you to some of my colleagues.

Ingredients

Makes about 80

115 g unsalted butter at room temperature
1.2 dl + 3 tbsp icing sugar
0.6 dl + 3 tbsp corn flour
½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp lime zest
a pinch of salt
2 tbsp coconut milk drink
2.4 dl + 3 tbsp wholemeal flour
colourful sugar sprinkles

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170 °C fan and place 3 cookie trays in the freezer to chill.
  2. In a large bowl, add the butter, icing sugar and corn flour and whisk together. The mixture should be crumbly.
  3. Next add the vanilla, lime zest and salt and whisk until well combined.
  4. Add the coconut milk drink, followed by the wholemeal flour a little at a time.
  5. Fill up the cookie press and stamp away onto one of the chilled trays, straight onto it, without lining or greasing.
  6. Sprinkle colourful sugar sprinkles and bake for 10 minutes until the cookies just begin to get some colour.
  7. Repeat until all the dough has been used up. You might need to place the cookie trays back in the freezer and use again.
  8. Once the cookies are out of the oven, transfer to a cooling rack.
  9. Store in an air-tight box.

Now, I had to convert the amounts from American to metric and I thought I'd weigh everything while I was at it, but I kept forgetting to include the additional tablespoons when weighing, so will have to weigh again next time. This of course meant I had to add things as I realised I'd forgotten them, so frankly the above instructions can probably be boiled down to "mix everything together, add the wholemeal flour at the end".

The dough was sweeter than the previous recipe I used, but adding the sugar sprinkles made them just right and they were well popular at work - people had seconds and thirds. There were still a few to take home and Lundulph was massively pleased.
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And I have ideas for next time - swap the butter for coconut oil to make completely vegan and also swap some of the wholemeal flour with ground nuts. And perhaps skip the sprinkles and dip in chocolate.

8 March 2015

Peruvian Roast Chicken

After making the Classic British Roast Chicken last month, I got wondering how other countries make roast chicken and a quick search came up with what claims to be a Peruvian recipe, which seemed quite intriguing, so I put it on my to-cook list. And since we were both hit by the nasty cold that's been doing its rounds this week, I thought a nice roast chicken dinner would perk us up nicely before the start of the new week.

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And it was indeed delicious.

Ingredients

1.3 kg chicken, no need for the giblets
1 lemon cut in quarters
5 cloves of garlic
½ tsp salt
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
60 ml + 2 tbsp white wine
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp paprika
1½ tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp dried oregano

Method

  1. Cut off any excess fat around the chicken cavity, then rinse the chicken and pat it dry.
  2. Starting from the cavity, carefully push your fingers under the skin and loosen it as much as possible, also on the thights, but be careful not to tear it.
  3. Peel and mince the garlic with the salt, then using a little of this paste at a time, rub in under the skin of the chicken, making sure to distribute as evenly as possible.
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  4. Using two of the lemon quarters, rub over the skin of the chicken.
  5. In a bowl, whisk together the vinegar, the 2 tbsp of white wine, the olive oil, paprika, cumin, black pepper and oregano, then brush the chicken all over.
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  6. Place the chicken in a plastic bag, pour in any left-over marinade, then seal the bag and turn a few times to distribute the marinade as much as possible.
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  7. Let the chicken marinade for 5 - 8 hours.
  8. Pre-heat the oven to 220 °C (non-fan assisted).
  9. Transfer the chicken to an oven safe dish and push the four pieces of lemon into the cavity, then tie the legs together and place in the oven to roast for 15 minutes.
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  10. Transfer the left-over marinade to a bowl.
  11. After the first 15 minutes are up, turn down the oven to 190 °C and brush some marinade onto the chicken.
  12. Continue roasting for a further 20 minutes, then baste again and repeat two more times. Check that the juices run clear, then the chicken is ready.
  13. Remove from the oven and pour out the juices from the roasting dish into a frying pan along with any left-over marinade and the 60 ml wine. Scrape off any bits from the roasting dish and add to the gravy as well and simmer for 3 minutes.
  14. Carve the bird and serve.

Lundulph and I have developed a taste for quinoa lately, so as both this recipe and quinoa come from South America, I thought that would work nicely together. I also added some cherry tomatoes and shredded Chinese cabbage (OK, so this kind of breaks the South American theme, but it's so nice). All in all, this was a lovely meal for the two of us - we put away half the chicken in one go.

Like the previous chicken, this one had cooked so nicely, it was coming off the bone, so I cleaned the left chicken half and it was ready for the next meal. As it happened, there were other things to eat as well, so Lundulph happily ate that on his own the next day.

14 February 2015

Mochi Ice Cream

After my Sister Bip and I tried the mochi ice creams, she's been wanting to try and make some at home. We did try over the Christmas holidays, but hadn't prepared properly and used rice flour we found in our Mum's cupboard. This was not a good idea, it wasn't the glutinous kind and so the gloopy mixture we concocted went straight to the bin. And Bip was well disappointed and upset. But she wrapped all the ice cream balls in a bag, ready to be wrapped in mochi dough.

However, this time she'd prepared and bought the fancy glutinous rice flour and we found our way back to the recipe we'd chosen. This is a very good web page, it has step-by-step photos and is very easy to follow.

The two things we did was to do our own measurement conversions to be on the safe side and also ignored the instructions for cooking the dough in the microwave - short bursts and keep an eye on it is the way to go.

The mochi dough is a very interesting thing. Lundulph looked up about the word glutinous in this context - it doesn't have gluten like wheat flour, but instead it refers to its stickiness like glue. Here's where the photos step-by-step proved really useful, because if I hadn't seen how much corn starch to use, I would have glued together half the stuff in the kitchen to myself.

What I mostly liked about the mochi was how it felt to the touch - like really soft and feather-light velvet. I was also surprised that even though I'd covered the mochi dough with so much corn starch, it quite happily combined back to a ball and allowed itself to be rolled out a second and a third time. But it's messy work and Bip didn't want to get too involved and wandered off to play with her phone towards the end of the mochi rolling.

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There was a lot of cling film involved and I felt bad about it and I wonder if there is an alternative that can be used instead.

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Once all the pieces were done, she helped in making the mochi ice creams by handing me the ice cream balls one at a time, while I rolled them up and gave back to her to place in the freezer.

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We couldn't wait to try them and did so a couple of hours later after lunch. This was a bad idea - despite working as fast as we could, the room temperature mochi dough had melted the ice cream balls substantially.

The next day we tried again and this time the mochi ice creams had firmed up nicely. What I didn't like was that the mochi dough felt rather bland - I'll try to add more sugar next time. And I think a sweeter ice cream would be worth using as well. Or perhaps nutella or dulce de leche or gianduja. It would be nice to trim off some of the overlap of the mochi dough as well, will need to think about that.

Lundulph kindly acted photographer as I was up to my elbows in cornstarch and although my camera has had its share of food splatter, I felt this would kill it for sure.

13 February 2015

Épis

This year my Mum is turning 70 and so we went to Sweden to celebrate.

Of course my Mum did most of the food, but she put me in charge of breads and as she was going to do a buffet table, we thought the Festive Christmas Bread would make a nice centre piece.

But Mum had invited quite a few friends, so more bread was required and I decided to try my hand at épis, which is French for ear as in the ear of grains like wheat. They are very decorative and quite easy to do and my Mum would be pleased as she likes crunchy crust on bread. Plus I quite fancied the idea of being able to tear, rather than slice the breads.

The tricky bit was the festive bread of course, but I managed to work out a a schedule to slot in the different steps of the two breads and managed to get everything done on the day of the party.

For the épis, I used Mr Bertinet's trusty basic recipe for white bread, double amount. This resulted in 5 good sized baguettes, which is what épis are. But rather than slash them prior to baking, grab a clean pair of scissors and snip the dough along the length of the baguette, but not all the way through. And with each cut, move the cut piece alternatively to the right and left. That's it.

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I also now know that my Mum's oven bakes very unevenly, even though it's fan assisted. Hopefully I'll remember that for the next time. I managed to burn one of the épis and also a couple of the petals of the festive bread. Still they all went as Mum had made a selection of lovely dips.

Despite my intentions for the guests to tear pieces of bread, none of them dared to start on the festive bread and I got the honour of pulling away the first piece. At the end of the party, the festive bread looked like it had been attacked by a lawn mower.

1 February 2015

Classic Roast Chicken

The other day, Lundulph commented that he fancied roast chicken and we both racked our brains and couldn't remember when we last had made roast chicken. Most definitely in our early days of dating, but not since then. So he put in a request for roast chicken and I set about with my quick internet searches to find something suitable and I did - "Classic Roast Chicken" - and it seemed to be easy enough to do.

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But as always, I end up tinkering - this time because the recipe didn't mention potatoes and I thought something green would be nice as well. So here goes. Now I have a lot of goose fat left over from Christmas. I filtered it as best I could and keep it in the fridge. I suspect I'll have to throw away most of it as it's bound to go off soon enough, but it hadn't yet, so I decided to use that. I'm sure butter will work just as well.

Ingredients
serves 4

1 kg waxy potatoes
4 medium-sized carrots
1 large onion
4 - 5 tbsp goose fat
1.4 kg whole chicken
salt and pepper
1 lemon
several sprigs of thyme
800 g button mushrooms
400 ml chicken stock from cubes
1 tbsp plain flour 1 tbsp soft whey butter
broccoli

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 190 °C.
  2. Peel and rinse the potatoes, carrots and onion, then cut into bite-sized chunks and place in a large deep-ish roasting tin. The tin should be large enough to fit the chicken and the vegetables without them being too crowded.
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  3. Use half of the fat and spread among the vegetables. Stir together to get them as well coated as possible. The goose fat should go runny in a warm kitchen.
  4. Remove any giblets from the chicken and discard or save for something else. Mix together salt and pepper and sprinkle inside the chicken cavity.
  5. Wash the lemon and thyme. Cut the lemon in two. Stuff one lemon half, some of the thyme, then the other half and finally some more thyme into the main cavity.
  6. Make some space in the middle of the roasting tin and place the chicken there on its back.Rub the remaining goose fat all over.
  7. If there's any more thyme remaining, sprinkle over the vegetables and put the odd sprig between the wings/legs and body of the chicken. Season with salt and pepper and bake for 40 minutes.
  8. Peel and clean the mushrooms, and add them to the roasting tin after the 40 minutes are up. Stir to get them coated with some of the fat, then bake everything for a further 50 minutes.
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  9. Just before the time is up, make up the chicken stock and place in a frying pan and bring to a simmer. Put the broccoli to steam as well.
  10. Remove from the oven and carefully pour out the juices from the roasting tin into the frying pan, the cover the chicken and vegetables with aluminium foil and let rest for 10 - 15 minutes, while you make the gravy
  11. Keep the gravy simmering in the pan and stir in the flour, followed by the whey butter. Keep simmering until it thickens a little and goes opaque.
  12. Carve the chicken and serve with the roasted vegetables, steamed broccoli and gravy.

Well, a quick search on the blog just now reveals that my original thought of not having had roast chicken for ages is not true. Methinks that we're getting old and forgetful. Lundulph did make roast chicken a a few years back. OK, so it's still "ages" but not as much as pre-dating the blog.

18 January 2015

New Year, New Toy

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Well, a couple of weeks ago I started my new job, so things have been a bit hectic and I've neglected my cooking and baking. But no more as I finally went ahead and bought myself a cookie press. My Mum's had one as long as I can remember and she used to make lots of lovely bickies. However these days are past. I think the reason to some extent is that it can be a fiddle until you find the knack for it and I suspect quite a few people just give up.

The cookie press was on a special offer and in addition to the 12 different patterns the press came with, there was the "Spring edition" pack with 6 more patterns on the theme of Spring. So I bought those too.

There were three recipes in the main pack, each claiming to result in a ridiculous amount of cookies - 12 dozen! So I chose the simplest one and halved it.

Ingredients
Makes about 75

170 g unsalted butter at room temperature
125 g granulated sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 egg, preferably large
½ tsp vanilla extract
250 g plain flour

Method

  1. Set the oven to pre-heat at 180 °C fan (200 °C otherwise) and place three baking sheets in the fridge to cool.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together butter, sugar and salt until it goes light and fluffy.
  3. Add the egg and vanilla extract and incorporate well.
  4. Mix in the flour, a little at a time to get a soft dough.
  5. Select a cookie pattern and insert into the press.
  6. Shape a part of the dough into a sausage and insert into the cookie press, then close it and click in the plunger until the dough begins to come out of the cookie pattern.
  7. Now take one baking sheet out of the fridge and press the cookies onto it.
  8. Once the baking sheet is full, place in the oven to bake for about 6 - 8 minutes.
  9. In the mean time, take the next baking sheet and continue to produce more cookies.
  10. Re-fill the cookie press as necessary.
  11. Once the cookies have baked, take out of the oven and carefully transfer to a cooling rack.
  12. If you need to re-use the baking sheets, wash them between each bake, using cold water and put in the fridge for a bit, if time permits.
  13. Store the cookies in an air-tight container.

The cookie press booklet didn't mention chilling the baking sheets, but a quick search on the internet indicated that this is quite key. Also it seems the baking sheets shouldn't be lined with baking paper. It wasn't clear if the sheets should be stick or non-stick, it seems people had had success with both types. My baking sheets are non-stick and worked fine mostly.

The thing to keep in mind is that the first two or three presses will most likely be wonky as the dough might not have fully "settled" inside the cookie press. Discard these and add to the remaining dough.

Also at the very end, my cookies didn't come out as well, so I just stopped and re-filled the press. This meant I ended up with a small piece of dough, about the size of a walnut, which I wrapped in cling film and froze for next time.

Another key thing is not to refrigerate the dough, it needs to be soft or it will be really difficult to press it. I think my Mum did refrigerate on occasion and ended up rolling the dough into cookies when she couldn't press them through.

I called Lundulph into the kitchen to see how the press works. His immediate reaction was that the cookies were too small and that he likes "normal"-sized cookies. I tried to oblige and did two presses/clicks per cookie in my first batch. This resulted in a better size for the cookies, but they didn't keep their shape as well as the smaller ones and they almost flowed together during baking. So for the remaining two sheets, I followed the instructions and ended up with small, but very pretty cookies.

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In all this baking took under 2 hours and I regret not doing a full batch of the recipe. However, I have cookie dough left-overs in the freezer, so I'll make another lot as soon as this one has been eaten. And I'll experiment and decorate - various coloured sugar crystals can be sprinkled on before baking or the cookies can be iced after baking. Or their bottoms could be dipped in chocolate and glued together. Lots of possibilities, even colouring the dough itself. I think my gingersnap dough would work very well with the cookie press, as long as I make sure to let it come to room temperature beforehand.