18 May 2008

Home Made Pasta

This is something I've been looking forward to making pasta for ages and I was so very happy to find durum wheat flour a couple of weeks ago in our local farm shop. The recipe I'd chosen was the one from my Cordon Bleu book, and had saved three eggs, that were required.

Sadly the recipe was completely wrong. In fact, it repeats the recipe once for manually mixing the dough and once for mixing it in a food processor and there's a typo in the second one, asking for a whole tablespoon of salt. But the worst part was that it called for 2.5 cups of flour for 3 eggs and 2.5 cups is 5.9 dl. I had large eggs and used 6 dl flour - about half the 1 kg packet. Lundulph looked at the book's own conversion table, which would have amounted to even more flour.

And so, my pasta dough never became a dough, at best it looked like polenta. I tried a rescue by adding more olive oil, but that didn't help much and I ended up throwing it all away.

A quick glance at the flour packet listed an almost identical recipe, but half the amount of flour. 250 g flour to 3 eggs. This sounded a lot more likely.

So I'm a bit sad now, but such is life. I'll buy more eggs and try again soon. I wanted to notify the publisher about these mistakes, but there does't seem to be anywhere to do this.

Otherwise, we've been living on salads lately, so that's the main reason for me not blogging.

12 May 2008

Opera Cake - Daring Bakers May 2008 Challenge

Well, this is my third Daring Bakers challenge and the best one so far, I think.

Final result

Though part of the reason for this is that the quantities of the previous challenges were way too big for me and Lundulph, we just finished the cheesecake pops the other day and most of the perfect party cake is still in the freezer. So this time I decided to reduce the recipe to a third of the original size. This produced a decent sized cake, that would serve 8 - 9 people.

The Opera cake is a layered cake with buttercream and ganache and a glaze on top. The sponges are called joconde and are moistened by a flavoured syrup.

So without further ado, here it is - light coloured Opera cake.

Joconde Ingredients

2 large egg whites
10 g granulated sugar
75 g ground almonds
1.2 dl icing sugar
2 large eggs
20 g plain flour
1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled + some for the baking sheet

Joconde Method

  1. Preheat the oven at gas mark 7 (220 degrees C).

  2. Line a deepish sheet with baking parchment and brush with melted butter, not forgetting the sides. A 27 x 31 cm baking sheet gives a 1.5 cm thick joconde.

  3. Beat the egg whites to soft peak stage, then add the granulated sugar and continue beating to hard peak stage. Set the meringue aside.

  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the ground almonds, icing sugar and eggs until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes on high.

  5. Switch to low speed and add the flour, whisk just long enough to incorporate it.

  6. Gently fold in the meringue, follwed by the butter.

  7. Pour into the baking sheet and bake in the middle of the oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

  8. Unmould immediately onto another piece of baking parchment and remove the parchment the joconde baked in. If it's a bit sticky, wet it with a little bit of water. Leave the joconde to cool.
Syrup Ingredients

30 g water
20 g granulated sugar
1 tbsp flavouring of choice, I used vanilla extract

Syrup Method

  1. Stir together all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil.

  2. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
Buttercream Ingredients

35 g granulated sugar
20 g water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
70 g unsalted butter at room temperature
1 tsp flavouring of choice, I used dark rhum

Buttercream Method

  1. Combine sugar, water and vanilla extract in a saucepan and bring to the boil on medium heat. Continue until the mixture reaches 107 degrees C. It's a very small amunt so may be difficult to measure. 107 degrees C is just under the so called thread stage, so this could be used instead of thermometer. The original recipe calls for 124 degrees C which is just over soft ball stage. Remove from the heat when the desired temperature has been reached.

  2. In the mean time, whisk the egg at high speed until pale and foamy.

  3. Reduce the mixer speed to low and very slowly pour the hot syrup into the egg foam, avoiding pouring it directly onto the whisks themselves, or it'll fly off to th sides and go solid.

  4. Increase the mixer speed to high again and continue to whisk until smooth and satin looking and cool to the touch. With such a small quantity this shouldn't take long at all.

  5. Once again reduce the speed to low and carefully incorporate the soft butter, a little at a time.

  6. Go back up to high speed and beat until thick and shiny, then add your chosen flavouring and beat for another minute.

  7. Refrigerate for 20 minutes to firm it up for spreading. Stir occasionally.
When I made this, as soon as I started to add the butter, the whole thing collapsed and went rather lumpy.

Curdled buttercream

When I took it out of the fridge, it had released some liquid as well.

Cooling didn't help

White Chocolate Ganache/Mousse Ingredients

70 g white chocolate
2.4 dl + 3 tbsp double cream
1 tbsp liqueur of choice, I used amaretto

White Chocolate Ganache/Mousse Method

  1. Melt the chocolate and the 3 tbsp cream in a saucepan on low heat, stirring until the chocolate has melted completely and the mixture is smooth.

  2. Take off the heat, stir in the liqueur and set aside to cool.

  3. In a separate bowl, whip the 2.4 dl cream to soft peaks stage.

  4. Gently fold in the whipped cream in the the cool shocolate mix to form a mousse.

  5. If it's too runny, refrigerate for 30 minutes to make it firm.
This is the first time I've made ganache or mousse and I generally don't like amaretto, the only reason I used it was to echo the flavour of the joconde. I wasn't sure if it would work at all with white chocolate. As it turned out, it was a very good combination.

Glaze Ingredients

140 g white chocolate
1.2 dl double cream

Glaze Method

  1. Melt the chocolate and the cream in a bain marie, whisking until the chocolate has melted completely and the mixtue is smooth.

  2. Leave to cool completely. If it still feels too runny, refrigerate for 15 - 20 minutes.
Because of the buttercream not being enough, I was a bit worried that the same might happen with the glaze, so I made the double of the above listed dose. This turned out to be a miscalculation on my part, since there was loads left over. It's ever so tasty of course and can be used for other things too.

Cake Constructon

  1. Cut the joconde into three equal sized parts.

  2. Place one part on a cake plate and moisten with one third of the syrup.

  3. Spread the buttercream over the joconde and place the second joconde part on top, moistening with the second third of the syrup. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

  4. Only enough for one layer

  5. Spread half of the ganche/mousse over the second joconde, then cover with the last part of the joconde, moisten with syrup and spread the second half of the ganache/mousse, then refrigerate again for about 1 hour.

  6. Ready to be chilled

  7. Finally pour the glaze over the cake and smooth with a spatula, then refrigerate to firm up the glaze.

  8. Glaze too runny

    The original cake should have two layers of buttercream and one layer of ganache/mousse, but because my buttercream curdled, there was just about enough for one layer. The mousse was quite sufficient for two layers, so this worked out nicely. Unfortunately, the glaze was way too runny and most of it disappeared down the sides of the cake and I managed to scrape off most of it away. Perhaps I'd used more cream in the glaze than the recipe called for, I didn't measure it too precisely. Also the idea of the cake is to see the layerings, so it would be a good idea, after the cake has been completed, to trim the sides to enhance this effect. To cut the cake, a large, sharp knife should be heated up a bit. This will ensure there is no smudging between the layers. The knife can either be heated up under the hot water tap, making sure it's completely dry before cutting, or over the flame of the gas hob, taking care not to overheat it, or it'll melt the creams of the cake.

    The above recipe yields 7 - 9 portions and combines nicely with tangy fruits like physalis. Because there was barely any glaze left on the cake, I used it as a sauce. This was before I'd refrigerated it and realised that it firmed up quite nicely.

    Final result
Most of the parts I made a day or two in advance as constructing the cake takes quite a few hours as well. It's best served chilled.

11 May 2008

Mrs W's Spicy Lamb Kebabs

A few weeks ago, Mrs W published this recipe and I got sold on it straight away.

Yesterday we had our second barbecue and I spent quite some time preparing for it, this last week has been stressful and I needed to relax and what better way than by preparing lots of food?


So the main thing was of course Mrs W's spicy lamb kebabs. I'd ordered a butterflied leg of lamb from the local butcher and I got to see him prepare it, it's quite a skill. He also kindly used a special stapler to puncture lots of holes everywhere, so that marinade could soak in better. Very nice. At home, I removed as much of the fat as I could, then diced it, stirred in the spice mixture and put it in the fridge. I realised only yesterday morning that I'd forgotten the olive oil, so I quickly added it then and decided to keep my fingers crossed that it would work.

On Saturday morning, I sliced the aubergines and sprinkled with salt and pepper and lined them up on a baking tray. I put a small bowl upside down under one end of the tray, so that any liquid that the aubergines would produce would gather in the lower corner. On the skewers I added figs as per the original instructions and they worked ever so well. The glazing didn't go thick, but maybe that's because I might have screwed up the proportions a bit. There was plenty left over as well.

Mrs W also recommended couscous or quinoa to go with the lamb and I decided on couscous, mainly because I'd never made quinoa before and couscous is very quick to make. I made 250 g couscous and stirred in 2 tbsp olive oil. When it had cooled down, I chopped about a handful of fresh coriander and stirred in. This worked out very nicely.

In addition I also made a green salad and this time I mean really green. Green peppers, unpeeled cucumber, parsley, peppermint, dill, iceberg lettuce and lime. Wonderfully tangy. All cut into small pieces, the lime peeled as well. And I got to use the parsley and mint from my new herb garden - an old set of stackable strawberry pots that I've put on the patio.


Then Lundulph said that we can't entertain without crisps and dips. Now I thought the lamb kebabs and aubergines and couscous were very Middle Eastern in style, so I thought I'd get matching dips. The hummus on offer in the supermarket didn't look too nice and I decided to make my own. Also I thought I'd try my hand at "сух таратор", that is suh tarator literally meaning dry tarator - like tarator but with strained yoghurt and with pickled gherkins instead of cucumber. Sadly it turned out I didn't have gherkins, like I thought I did and so only put dill in the strained yoghurt.

I'd never strained yoghurt before. I had two jars of my home made stuff, which isn't too sour. I put my large sieve over the wine bucket, then lined it with three layers of cheese cloth and poured both jars into it, about 1 litre in total. And it started dripping. I put the whole setup into the fridge, because it was taking time and I worried that the yoghurt would turn into cheese. Must remember for next time, do one jar at a time, smaller portions take less time.

If it sounds like I've been busy, then it's because I have. But it was great fun to do. And I remembered to soak the bamboo skewers for hours and still they caught fire, mostly at the end where we'd threaded the meat, I guess the fat that stuck is what made that possible.

Of course we also had dessert. I took this opportunity to make the Daring Bakers May challenge, so I'll blog about it when the time for that comes. All I can say is that it was delicious.

Finally, Lundulph had bought some nice chicken breasts for backup. We didn't use them, but I marinated them in the left over glaze for the lamb kebabs and have frozen them now. I think it will work out nicely in future barbecues - if the weather keeps up like it has this week, we're bound to eat more grilled things this Summer.

But the lamb recipe is a keeper and I'm very grateful to Mrs W for this. Sorry for the lack of photos, but we were busy eating and licking our fingers.

Пърпорени чушлета


The title would be pronounced as purporeni tchushleta and is something my Mum does regularly. It roasted chillies layered with fresh parsley and garlic and topped up with equal parts of water and vinegar. They are then left for about a day, then the water/vinegar mixture is drained and the jar is topped up with olive oil. The word purporeni is an onomatopoeic on the sounds the chillies make as they are being roasted.

As they are not peeled, they need to be washed and dried before roasting. Also I recommend using milder varieties of chillies. This one was a first for me and the chillies I got were rather hot, so we're working our way though the jar slowly.

Basically they are served as side dish and are eaten along with the main food, by people who fancy an extra kick of spicy heat. It's also a good way of preserving them. The garlic and the parsley are tasty as well and the vinegar too, becoming infused with the roast chilli flavour. Sweet chilli varieties are good this way too and work like any other pickle. The roasting enhances the flavour I think.

I'd been meaning to make these for quite some time and finaly had the pepper roaster out last week, when I made kyopoolu. And apologies for not posting sooner, this past week has been a bit busy.

4 May 2008

My Beloved Electrolux Assistent

I spotted this in an entry on The Fresh Loaf and wanted to share it. It's an old demo video from Electrolux about their Kitchen Assistent machine. I know it's old, because it has two buttons at the front. My Mum's used to have two buttons, one broke and my Dad mended it somehow with a switch. See one button would set the speed and the other would switch on and off. Mine only has one button - speed and on/off combined.

And I've learned something new - I'd never used the dough hook before, but will give it a try. The lady in the demo used it for a rye bread, so I take it it's for heavier doughs.

I'm getting the double whisk next, as my electric hand whisk is coming to the end of it's life and is struggling even with lighter batters these days. Or maybe I'm imagining, but I've had it for some 9 years already.

The pasta attachment seemed also very interesting, especially since I found durum wheat at my local farm shop, I've been dying to try and make my own pasta.