Saturday, February 04, 2017

Baklava!

I've always loved this exotic treat.  It is the ultimate, super sticky treat!  I have only ever seen it when I am on the move, on holiday or some far away restaurant or shop.
baklava - still warm from the oven

It is super easy to make!  Okay, so the ingredients can be a bit pricey when totaled up.

Preheat oven to 180 C

Ingredients

Filling:
250 grams pistachio nuts
250 grams walnuts
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Syrup:
1 cup or 250 grams of sugar
1 cup of water
1/2 cup of honey
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Blitz nuts in the food processor until finely chopped.  Stir in the cinnamon and leave aside.

Pastry:
two packets of ready-made filo pastry - (get ready made unless you have an industrial sized kitchen and mad filo skillz.  I do not have the scope or talent to make my own filo)
250g block of unsalted butter


Unroll the packets of filo sheets.  Place the pan you're going to use on top of the filo and cut the sheets to fit.

Warm the butter in a small pan and then butter the bottom and sides of the pan with the melted butter using a pastry brush.

Lay the first sheet of filo in the pan and brush the sheet with more melted butter. Add the next sheet of filo pastry to the first one and butter it too.  Keep adding layers of filo until you have at least 8 layers.

Sprinkle half the nut mixture on top of the buttered layers.  Spread it all about until everything is all spread out evenly.  I find giving the pan a gentle shake helps.

Another 8 layers of filo and melted butter on top of the nut mixture.

The remaining nuts are added and then  . . . you guessed it. .. more filo layers.  Finish with at least 8  more layers.

Put the sugar and water in a pan over low heat.  Stir and heat until the sugar has melted.  Simmer for at least 20 minutes to reduce the water content.  At the end, add the honey and vanilla.

With a sharp knife,  Cut the baklava into squares. and pop in the oven for 30 minutes or the top has started to turn golden.

I use the baking time to simmer the syrup (see?  timing!)

When the baklava is done, remove from the oven and pour the syrup carefully over the baklava.  Try to cover all the pieces.

When it was done, I found dust from the ground nuts in the food processor.  I used that to decorate the pieces.

You're supposed to wait until it's cool to eat it.  Who can do that?  It is also best the next day . . . but I'll never know.




Sunday, October 25, 2015

Winter Vegetable Cobbler

Now that autumn is here it is time for more comfort food!  This has been a family favourite for years!
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Shopping list for this recipe:
Parsnips
Carrots
Swede
Leeks
Broccoli
(fresh cranberries - optional)
Vegetable stock
Mature cheddar cheese
Ground allspice
Plain flour
Butter
Baking powder
Salt
Milk

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This recipe serves quite a few people.  Use fewer vegetables if you want to make a smaller casserole.

2 parsnips, peeled and sliced,
2 or 3 carrots, peeled and sliced
1/2 swede/turnip/rutabaga, peeled and cut into small cubes
2 leeks, cleaned and sliced

1 head of broccoli cut into florets. Blanch with some boiling water, drain and set to one side

A pint or more of vegetable stock -

2 tablespoons butter or margarine and two big tablespoons of plain flour.

Melt the butter in a pot.  Add in the flour and stir to make a roux.  Cook the roux for a few minutes to get rid of the floury taste but don't brown it.

Add a half teaspoon of allspice to the roux.  Slowly add the vegetable stock and beat with a whisk so that there are no lumps.

Put all the vegetables except the broccoli in the pan.  Pour your vegetable gravy over the vegetables. Put over a very low heat and cook slowly until the vegetables start to be tender, stirring occasionally.

While the vegetables are cooking, make the cheese scones for the top.

I rarely measure ingredients, so I had to go back and make this while measuring things.

2 cups  of plain flour
1 big teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup or 4 oz of margarine or butter

Blend the ingredients together with your fingers until the mixture is like sand.

Add 1/2 cup grated cheese to the scone mixture

Add 1 cup of milk and blend. Gently roll out the dough on a floured surface and cut into shapes.

Place all the vegetables in the vegetable gravy in a large casserole dish. You can add 1/2 cup of cranberries at this point if you wish.

Carefully arrange the scones on the top of the vegetables.  Place the broccoli florets between the scones.   Place even more grated cheese on the top of the  scones and place it uncovered in an oven 200.  Bake until the scones have browned.  Remove and serve.


Friday, July 11, 2014

Snickerdoodles

My family LOVE these cookies and they have become the number one most requested cookie in the last few years.

When making these cookies, plan ahead.  You will have to refrigerate the dough.  They will still be okay if you skip that step, but they won't be nearly as good.

Don't preheat your oven yet!  Usually that's the first instruction but not today.

1/2 cup or 137 grams butter
1 cup or 200 grams sugar
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar - (for classic snickerdoodles this must be included)
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups or 250 grams plain flour
---------------
for rolling cookies later
quarter cup granulated sugar
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon powder

In a mixing bowl beat the butter until soft.  Add in 1 cup of sugar, bicarbonate of soda, and cream of tartar.  Beat until well combined.  Add egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Beat in the flour.  If you are using a blender, go as far as you can with the blender, scraping the sides of the bowl and then finish off with a big spoon.

Cover and chill the dough for at least an hour!  

In a shallow bowl mix the remaining granulated sugar and cinnamon powder.

NOW preheat the oven to 375 F or 200 C

Pinch or spoon out the dough and roll it into 1 inch balls.  Roll the dough balls in the cinnamon sugar and then arrange on ungreased baking trays.

Bake the cookies for 10 to 15 minutes OR until the cookies start to turn golden at the edges.

Transfer the cookies immediately to a wire cooling rack. If you let them cool on the baking trays, they will be STUCK there.  You have to move them.

Enjoy them!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Naan Bread - A MUCH Better Recipe

A few years ago, I posted a naan bread recipe. It was okay. Just okay.

I have a new recipe for naan that will make (in my opinion) naans that are as good as the naan bread on offer in the local curry house. You can make them fairly easily without the trouble and expense of getting a tandoor installed.

This recipe makes about six naan bread.
You will need:

1 sachet active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup white sugar3 tablespoons milk
1 beaten egg
2 teaspoons salt
4 1/2 cups flour
melted butter for brushing on the just cooked naan (very optional)

A flat skillet or griddle with a handle.

Dissolve the yeast in the cup of warm water in a measuring jug, add the 1/4 cup of sugar and stir. Let this sit until the yeast starts to go all frothy. Add in the milk, beaten egg and salt.
Put two cups of the flour in a large mixing bowl and add in the measuring jug of wet ingredients. Stir it until it is a smooth goo. Stir in the remaining flour until you have a nice dough. Scrape the dough out onto a clean floured surface and knead it until it is smooth. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with cling film or a clean kitchen towel and leave to rise. Depending on the temperature of the kitchen this can take as little as an hour or much longer. If you are making this dough ahead of time, cover in cling film so that the dough doesn't start to develop a dry skin. In the winter my kitchen is cold. I turn on the oven before I start making the dough and turn it off after kneading. I then open the oven and place the bowl with dough in the warm but-not-hot-enough-to-cook oven.

After the dough is risen and you are ready to cook the naan, divide the dough into what I can only describe as small handfuls of dough and on a surface that has been dusted with flour roll the dough portions into a smooth ball and roll them out until they are just about 1/4 of an inch thick. I never actually measured the thickness of the dough 1/4 inch is a guess. You don't want it as thin as a pie crust. Think American pancake or British drop scone thickness.
This is my griddle.

Heat a skillet or griddle and your oven's grill or broiler up and one by one place the rolled out dough on a skillet. Leave it to cook until you see small bubbles forming on the surface. Then WITHOUT TURNING the dough over, stick the whole thing, skillet and all under the grill/broiler. Naturally you have common sense and will leave the handle of the skillet or griddle sticking out and away from the grill/broiler element so that you can remove it when the naan is finished. DO NOT WALK AWAY from the bread at this point. You will have to watch it as it cooks very quickly. The bread will puff up. If the puffed bread touches the grill/broiler element, it will burn and you'll have to move the rack down a notch for the next one. When the bread is done on the top, it will be done on the bottom.

Tip the naan off onto a dish and put the skillet/griddle back on the flame to to do the next one. Brush with melted butter at this point if you want. Do this one by one until all the dough has been cooked into naan bread.

I make these just before I serve a curry so that they're still warm when we sit down to eat.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Brioche!!

I wanted to get this recipe in while my house still smells like a patisserie.This recipe is not for the beginner or the cook who likes a short cut. You have to begin the night before as the dough requires refrigeration overnight. It also takes one entire 250 gram block of unsalted butter. Don't even try to make a light version of this as you really are kidding yourself if you think there is a diet version of this exquisite bread.As I like the process of making food, this recipe pushed all my buttons.

The butter isn't mixed in until the dough has already been made. It will be a major pain in the neck, you'll have to have a good sized working space that is scrupulously clean, but this method results in fabulous brioche that you would not be ashamed to present to the snobbiest of food snobs. I have a lightweight electric beater and I know the old motor would go so I do this by hand. You can always TRY using that expensive mixer that you have gathering stylish dust in the corner or your kitchen. I don't have one so you'll have to let me know if it works.

This recipe makes two loaves

400 grams white flour
50 ml milk1 packet of dry yeast
4 large egg PLUS three yolks50 grams sugar
1 teaspoon salt
250 grams unsalted butter

The night (or even day) before you need to bake the dough:Pour milk into a glass measuring jug and heat it in the microwave until it is boiling. Remove milk from microwave and set aside to cool for a few minutes (you may need to top it up with more milk so that you have exactly 50 ml). When it is no longer scalding hot, stir the yeast into the milk.

Measure out 400 grams of flour. Steal two tablespoons of flour from the bowl and add it into the milk and yeast mixture and stir until it is a smooth paste. Cover the measuring jug with a small plate and let it prove for 30 minutes.
Cut the 250 gram block of butter into cubes. I separated the cubes onto a dinner plate so that they'd soften better. As it is still cold in the kitchen I will confess to popping the plate with the butter cubes into the microwave for 10 seconds. This softened but not melted the butter. I could pick up the butter cubes very gently.

Once that has started to get active, beat the eggs, yolks, sugar and salt together in a mixing bowl, and add in the yeast milk paste. I used my electric hand mixer for this to get it blended nicely. Add in the rest of the flour and stir it until a rough dough has formed. Then cover the bowl and leave it alone for another 30 minutes. That's right, don't knead it. It's too sticky anyway.

Before you start the next step is recommended that you fill the sink or washing up bowl with warm soapy water. You'll be so glad you did this in a few minutes.

Now for the messy part. Have a scraper or rubber spatula handy. Scrape the sticky dough out onto your clean (NO flour) work surface. You are now going to blend the butter into the dough. Start working the butter piece by piece into the dough with your hands. Stretch it out and flop the dough back on itself adding in a cube of butter from time to time. You'll have to use the scraper to keep all the dough in the one area unless you're a very tidy person. Stretching the dough back and forth until all the butter has been mashed into the dough. When there are no more lumps, scrape the dough back into a bowl and go wash your hands. Now cover the bowl with cling film and place it in the refrigerator. The dough can be refrigerated for up to two days before baking.

Baking:
Butter two loaf tins. Divide the dough into two and shape each half into a cylinder. OR if you prefer, roll it into a ball and put the ball on a buttered baking tray. It's your call. I did one ball and one loaf. I floured the work surface VERY lightly to get the dough into the shapes I wanted. Once in the tin (or baking tray) cover with a clean cloth and set somewhere to rise for a couple of hours or until doubled in height. Heat the oven to 220 C - brush the top with beaten egg and bake for 15 minutes. I garnished mine with sugar crystals. Reduce the heat to 180 C and continue baking for 20 more minutes or until your loaves have the wonderful golden brown of a real brioche.
Remove from the tin or baking tray and place on a cooling rack. How long will you wait until you slice into it? I could only wait 10 minutes.Congratulations! You've just made brioche! Doesn't it smell great?! It tastes even better!!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Cinnamon Rolls

There is nothing more comforting on a cold winter morning than a still-warm pan of cinnamon rolls with extra icing melting between the layers.

4 to 4 1/2 cups plain (all-purpose) flour
1 packet of dried yeast
1 cup milk
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
- - -
3 tablespoons of melted butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
-----
optional loveliness
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped pecans

1. In your large mixing bowl combine 2 cups of the flour and the packet of yeast; set aside. In a small saucepan warm the milk, along with the 1/3 cup sugar and the 1/3 cup butter until the butter is almost melted. -(It is not a crime if the butter melts completely) Add this warmed milk mixture along with the eggs to the flour mixture and beat with an electric mixer until it is smooth. Stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can.

2. Turn the dough out onto a clean and floured work surface and knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic. Shape the dough into a ball, and put it in a lightly buttered bowl. Turn the dough once or twice to ensure that the dough is lightly buttered as well. Cover and let it rise in a warm spot until it has doubled in size.

Preheat your oven to 375 F or about 220 C.

3. Punch the dough down (when my boys were little somebody always begged to be the one to punch the dough) and turn the dough back out onto your lightly floured kitchen surface. Let it rest a few minutes. While it is resting, grease a baking pan.

4. Roll the dough out into a nice big rectangle on your kitchen work surface. Brush the melted butter onto it and then sprinkle the cinnamon and sugar over the buttered dough. I must confess that at this point, I have never measured the amount of sugar and cinnamon that I sprinkle on. I keep a jar of cinnamon sugar in the kitchen for cinnamon toast and I just sprinkle this on until I think there is plenty on there. Sprinkle raisins and chopped nuts on with the cinnamon and sugar if you want them.

5. Beginning at the long side of your dough, start to roll the dough. In the end you will have a large log of dough with swirls of cinnamon and sugar inside. Don't try to pick the log up or handle it too much. It will start to unroll and just make a mess. Slice the log into 12 equal pieces and place the slices onto your greased baking pan.

Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes or until the top of the rolls are golden in colour.

You can make some icing by putting in a cup of powdered or icing sugar in a bowl with just enough water to make it spreadable (you just need a few teaspoons). Drizzle this over the still warm rolls and enjoy them!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Dobos Torte

Dobos Torte, Dobos Torta or even Dobos Cake is a Hungarian delight introduced to me by my dear friends while in Budapest earlier this month.

As with all things, I have to try to recreate things in my own kitchen. For a first attempt, I don't think I did all that badly. Naturally the commercial version in the top photo is much prettier than mine but I like to think that my version is much more generous.

Please read the whole recipe through before starting. It isn't a particularly difficult recipe, but it does take a long time. The other thing about this recipe is that it calls for LOTS of sugar and butter. Don't try to "cut back" on any sugar or substitute low fat spread for butter. This is not a cake for dieters. If you're watching your weight or if your making it for somebody who is a calorie counter, make something else. Trying to convert Dobos torte to something healthier is going to waste your time and deny you the true pleasure of this wonderful desert.I found a very good recipe for Dobos torte at Allrecipes.com This seems to be a delightful recipe site geared for cooks at all levels of competence. As this particular recipe deals with melted sugar, you have to have your wits about you. In fact, I don't recommend leaving the kitchen once you've begun until you've finished making this cake. The last layer can be made much later after the rest of the cake has been built. It gives you a chance to get some of the mess cleaned up. I stuck an audio book in the DVD player in the front room and cranked up the volume so it could be heard in the kitchen and had a really nice afternoon's baking.

INGREDIENTS

  • 9 egg whites
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 200 g white sugar
  • 60 ml milk
  • 6 g lemon zest
  • 1 g salt
  • 8 ml vanilla extract
  • 190 g sifted all-purpose flour
  • 60 g shortening
  • 200 g white sugar
  • 1 recipe chocolate buttercream
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C). Have ready two 10 inch cardboard circles. Generously grease a 9 inch springform pan with soft butter, and dust with flour.
  1. Beat the egg whites until frothy, and gradually add 1 cup sugar. Beat just to soft peaks. In another bowl, beat the yolks with the milk, lemon peel, vanilla, and salt. Fold this into the egg whites. Sift the flour over the egg mixture, and fold in.
  2. Spread 1 1/3 cups batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 5 to 9 minutes, or until small, brown spots begin to appear on cake. Remove the cake from the oven, and remove layer from pan with a spatula. Dust the cake lightly with flour, and place on a rack to cool. Grease pan again, and repeat this process until all of the batter is used, about 5 times more. Place the layers between wax paper, and cover with a towel. Chill layers for a few hours. Make the Chocolate Buttercream.
  3. Layer the chilled layers on one of the cardboard rounds with the buttercream. Start with one layer; cover with the buttercream, and then press down with another layer to make a good seal. Repeat this with the remaining layers, but reserve one layer. Wrap the cake in plastic, and chill for at least 6 hours along with the remaining buttercream. Grease the other cardboard round with the shortening, and place the last layer on it.
  4. Place 1 cup sugar into a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Allow sugar to cook until the edges look melted and brown. Begin stirring with a wooden spoon. Cook until the sugar become an amber color, and is smooth. Carefully pour the caramel over the top of the last layer, and spread to the edges with an oiled knife. Quickly, using an oiled knife, indent the top of the caramel into 16 wedges. Allow to cool slightly, and then retouch the indents with the knife again. Place layer onto a counter top dusted with sugar, and allow the caramel to cool completely.
  5. Place some more buttercream on top of the chilled torte, and top with the caramel round. Frost the sides with the remaining buttercream. Chill the torte before serving.

Chocolate Buttercream

INGREDIENTS

  • 336 g bittersweet chocolate
  • 455 g unsalted butter
  • 1 g salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 480 g confectioners' sugar
  • 5 ml vanilla extract
  1. Melt the bittersweet chocolate, and allow to cool slightly.
  2. Place the butter or margarine, salt, and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Beat with a mixer until very light and airy, about 4 minutes.
  3. Add the powdered sugar a little at a time while beating on low speed. Mix well, and beat on medium speed for about 4 minutes.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, and beat for 5 minutes more.
  5. Add the melted chocolate, and beat 4 minutes.
My Note: If you add in the ingredients in a different order, it doesn't matter much.
You just have to ensure that it is all blended and fluffy at the end.

The recipe is hard on your electric hand mixer and the kitchen will look as though a bomb hit it (a powdered sugar bomb) but the effort is worth it!

My Notes: I am sure it would be easier if I had lots of baking tins and could bake more than one layer at a time. As the layers you are baking are thin, please keep a sharp eye on them. They bake quickly.

The chocolate buttercream does not handle well when refrigerated. I got all the layers built and the sides iced before I even thought about refrigerating.

If the molten sugar goes over the edge of the top layer, don't panic. You will be able to snap off the overspill and nobody will be any wiser.