30.6.12

APPLE CRISP

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I write this post sheepishly as I'm embarrassed how long my blogging hiatus has lasted. I have been suffering from various forms of writer's block. Following the end of the school semester, I had high hopes of continuing my super productive daily schedule, bashing out my second thesis chapter and creating for you a culinary extravaganza full of delicious foods to stave off winter chills. Alas, my creative energies have felt somewhat stunted; I have not been able to get one word of academic drivel down, and whatever I have been cooking in my daily life hasn't seemed worthy of sharing with you.

Yesterday I decided it was time to reengage with my highly productive self: I sat down at my computer armed with various books and chapter plans and began to write. And then, armed now with a bag of near-fermented apples, I turned to the kitchen and made this soulful apple crisp, and it felt really good.

Ina Garten's apple crisp is one I make often. Apple crisp isn't much of an Australian thing, I've really only heard it mentioned in American cooking. I'm not exactly sure where the differences between crisp and crumble lie, but I know that Ina's apple crisp is delicious. The citrus peels/juices give it a subtle zing, and the topping is thick and crunchy. This crisp will also give your house that nostalgic almost Christmasy feel, wafting with the scent of cinnamon; I feel warm and fuzzy just thinking about it!



Apple Crisp
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Parties! by Ina Garten

Ingredients:
Approx. 2.3kg Granny Smith apples
Grated zest of 1 orange
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

For the topping:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar*
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup oatmeal
230g cold unsalted butter, diced

Method:
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Butter your baking dish of choice (I made individual crumbles in enamel bakeware this time but have just as often made a mega crumble in a large pie dish).

Peel, core, and cut the apples into large wedges. Combine the apples with the zests, juices, sugar, and spices. Pour into the dish.

To make the topping, combine the flour, sugars, salt, oatmeal, and cold butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the mixture is crumbly and the butter is the size of peas. Scatter evenly over the apples.

Place the crisp on a sheet pan and bake for 1 hour** until the top is brown and the apples are bubbly. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

*Ina uses 3/4 cup of both sugars - I find this too sweet, but you can adjust the amount according to your taste.
**Because I used smaller baking dishes, I found my crisps only needed about 45 minutes.

7.5.12

CRUMPETS

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I have recently been incubated in what I like to think of as my 'study dungeon'. During the latter part of the semester I detain myself in my bedroom while I toil through assignments. These hours are usually broken up by watching episodes of Project Runway or reading Vulture or cooking. Unfortunately, last night I suffered a ridiculous netball-induced ankle injury and thus my incubation period has become involuntary. The women at the doctors office got a real kick out of my old lady hobble, a feature of my ailment which doesn't allow for much cooking. Thankfully, this batch of crumpets will most likely last me the rest of my incubation period.

Crumpets are one of those foods that I crave when I'm sick. They are so comforting when toasted and covered in butter. These crumpets are much softer than the packet kind- they don't have that tougher top or spongey interior. They are almost like a mutation of a crumpet and a pancake. I must concede that after cooking four of these little babies in a fry pan, I felt like making the rest of the batch was a life sentence. Alas, I poured the remaining mixture into a hot, buttered baking tray and baked it (in a 180C degree oven) for about 15 minutes, which worked beautifully.





Crumpets
From Donna Hay Magazine, issue 62

Ingredients:
1/2 tsp caster sugar
1 1/4 tsp dry yeast
175ml lukewarm milk
20g butter, melted
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
225ml buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
20g butter, extra

Method:
Place the sugar and yeast in a bowl and mix gently to combine. Add the lukewarm milk and melted butter and set aside in a warm place for 5 minutes or until bubbles appear on the surface. Place the flour and salt in a large bowl and mix to combine. Add the yeast mixture and buttermilk and whisk until smooth. Cover and set aside in a warm place for 1 hour or until light and foamy. Dissolve the baking soda in 1 tablespoon of warm water and stir through the batter to combine. Cover and set aside for 30 minutes.

Melt the extra butter in a large non-stick frying pan over low heat. Half-fill 8cm lightly greased egg rings with the crumpet batter and cook, covered, for 12-14 minutes or until bubbles set on top of the crumpets. Remove from the pan and keep warm. Repeat with remaining batter.

29.4.12

RHUBARB PIE

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You know your week has been dire when one of the highlights was consuming a pie. My wonderful boyfriend brought me home rhubarb from work this week. One of the perks when one's other half works at a fruit shop is the almost-mangey, near-expired item. The rhubarb which eventually found its home in this pie had been sitting on my kitchen counter all week, plaguing me. As a food fiend, I spend embarrassing amounts of time scouring food blogs/websites. Every recipe I came across in my quest to use this rhubarb seemed ill-fitting, until I found Martha's Rhubarb Pie. The combination of the tart rhubarb with the buttery, sweet, crisp crumble topping is out of control.

I was shocked by how easy it was to make the crust for this pie. My food processor looks like it was assembled by elves, yet I still managed to get the crust to come together in one wizz. The only difficulty I came across was during the rolling stage - I found the dough began to come apart at the sides. When this problem arose, I pushed the split ends back together and dabbed them with a little bit of water. I'm not sure if this practice is kosher within the pie baking world, but it worked for me. Also be aware that the crust will shrink slightly once it's in the oven, so if you're looking for crowning edges err on the side of excess when trimming the dough around the pan. 





Rhubarb Pie
From Martha Stewart

Ingredients:
Pie Dough (see below)
All-purpose flour, for dusting
1 3/4 pounds (about 6 cups) rhubarb, ends trimmed, cut crosswise into 3/4-inch pieces
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Pinch of salt
Crumble Topping (see below)

Method:
Place the pie dough on a floured piece of parchment paper. Using your knuckles, press edges of dough to help prevent cracking. Roll out dough to a 14-inch round.

Use the parchment to lift and wrap dough around rolling pin; carefully unroll over a 9-inch pie plate. Gently fit dough into bottom and sides of plate, being careful not to stretch or tear. Using kitchen shears, trim dough to a 1-inch overhang; fold under, and press gently to seal. Crimp edges if desired*. Refrigerate 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 200C degrees. with rack in lowest level. In a large bowl, toss rhubarb with sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Pour into pie shell; sprinkle with Crumble Topping. Place pie on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet.

Place pie in oven; reduce heat to 180C degrees. Bake until topping is browned and crust is lightly browned, about 1 1/2 hours (I found mine needed closer to 1 hour 40 mins). If the topping or crust begins to brown too quickly, tent with foil. Cool completely before serving.

*To crimp the edges, I used my right pointer and middle finger (in a sort of peace-sign shape) and my left thumb to push the edges together.

Pie Dough
Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces.

Method:
In a food processor, pulse flour, salt, and sugar several times to combine. Add butter. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few pea-size pieces remaining.

Add 2 tablespoons ice water; pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed (if needed, add up to 2 more tablespoons ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time). Do not overmix.

Turn out onto a floured work surface; knead once or twice, until dough comes together. Flatten dough into a disk; wrap in plastic, and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Crumble Topping
Ingredients:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (cut into small pieces)

Method:
In a medium bowl, mix flour, light-brown sugar, granulated sugar, and salt. With your hands, work in butter until large, moist clumps form. Chill, covered, until ready to use.

22.4.12

ANZAC COOKIES

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It has been an intense week. A week which culminated with me collapsing into a deep sleep on Friday afternoon. A sleep which I was subsequently ambushed out of twenty minutes later by the handyman who was supposed to fix my bedroom blind three weeks ago.

As I trolled the isles of the supermarket on Friday night in a post-nap delirium, I passed a tower of Anzac biscuit tins. How had I forgotten this wonderous part of Wednesday's holiday? I mentally scheduled a baking sesh for the following day, and now I bring you Anzac cookies.

Growing up I thought I didn't like Anzacs. They were one of those things like dark chocolate or fruit cake which adults seemed to like but left me baffled. Upon discovering Heidi Swanson's fantastic blog I was intrigued to try her version. These are not the standard brittle, from-a-tin type of Anzacs biscuits. These are chewy, oaty, buttery Anzac cookies. One of life's harshest challenges is not eating them all hot out of the oven.

In accordance with Heidi's recipe, I baked my Anzacs in muffin tins and therefore baked them for twenty minutes. Regardless of how you cook them, don't be tempted to take them out too early. Anzacs are not like normal cookies where you're looking for a golden tinge- leave these babies until they're deeply bronzed.





Anzac Cookies
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

Ingredients:
1 cup flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup finely shredded non-sweetened coconut
scant 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup butter, cut into little cubes
2 tablespoons golden syrup or honey (I used honey)
1 tablespoon boiling water
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Method:
Preheat oven to 160C degrees. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl; flour, oats, sugars, and coconut. Mix well.

In a small saucepan over low heat combine the butter and syrup (or honey). Stir until melted and remove from heat. In a small bowl whisk together the boiling water and baking soda. Stir it into the butter. Now pour the butter mixture over the big bowl of oats and stir.

Butter a muffin tin (or similar) and press the dough in, half full. Alternatively, drop the dough into tablespoonful mounds onto a lined baking sheet. If using the former method, bake for 20-25 minutes until deeply golden. If you're using the baking sheet method, bake for about 12 minutes.

17.4.12

FRESH PASTA WITH MEATBALLS

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One of my great triumphs of 2012 thus far has been mastering the pasta machine. Prior to this year, I'd been nurturing a long running fear of pasta making. Like my apprehension towards kneading, making pasta seemed like a finicky task reserved for people far more calm than myself. However, after seeing Mr. Oliver crank pristine sheets of pasta out of his machine on TV recently my curiosity gave way.

This recipe fittingly comes from the 'Rainy Days' chapter of Nigella Bites, as it takes nearly an entire afternoon to prepare. However, sometimes I'm in a mood where this is welcomed. Part of what I love about cooking is its cathartic nature, and this wholly hands-on recipe is case in point; kneading the dough, rolling the meatballs, churning the pasta machine are all mindless, repetitive, therapeutic tasks. Plus, there is something incredibly satisfying about creating a meal entirely from scratch.





Fresh Pasta with Meatballs
Adapted from Nigella Bites

Meatballs
Ingredients:
250g pork mince
250g beef mince
1 egg
2 tbsp Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp Oregano
3 tbsp semolina or breadcrumbs (I used breadcrumbs)
1 pinch Pepper
1 tsp Salt

Method:
Mix everything in a large bowl and roll into tablespoon size balls. Place on a cling-wrapped baking sheet and reserve in the fridge until you're ready for cooking.

Tomato Sauce
Ingredients:
2 gloves garlic
1 yellow onion
2 tbsp olive oil
pince chilli flakes
1 tsp dried oregano
800g tinned chopped tomatoes

Method:
Put the garlic and onion in a food processor and wizz until finely chopped. Place in a large saucepan (I used a wok so there was plenty of room for the meatballs later) with the olive oil. Saute for 5 or so minutes until softened and add the chilli flakes and oregano. Add the tomatoes, filling up one emptied tin with water and adding that as well. Bring to a boil then turn down to a simmer and let it cook away for about 15 minutes until thickened slightly. Season to taste.

When your pasta is nearly ready, carefully drop the meatballs into the sauce one by one. Don’t stir the pan until the meatballs have turned from pink to brown as you don’t want to break them up. Cook everything for about 20 minutes, with the lid only partially covering it.

Pasta
This recipe is flexible depending on how many people you're feeding. All you need to remember is the 1 egg to 100g flour ratio will serve 1-2 people.
Ingredients:
400g '00' Flour
4 eggs
Fat pinch of salt

Method:
Either put the flour (with the salt) in a bowl and crack the eggs into it, or make a mound of flour on a worktop and add the eggs to that. All you do is mix the flour and eggs together, and then knead the mixture until it comes together in a satiny mass. I found this took about 5 minutes.

When the pasta is silky smooth, form it into a ball, cover with a cloth and leave for 30 minutes to 1 hour. When ready, divide the dough into six. Put through the no. 1 press of the pasta machine a few times, folding the strip in 1/2 and pushing it through again after each time. When the pasta dough's been fed a few times through the no. 1 slot, pass it through the remaining numbers on the gauge before pushing it through the linguine-cutters.

When you cook the pasta, make sure you've got plenty of boiling, salted water and start tasting as soon as the water comes back to the boil after you've put the pasta in.

7.4.12

HOT CROSS BUNS

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I'm feeling rather guilty as this space has been sorely neglected over the past few weeks. I've been entrenched in thesis proposals and mid-semester chaos, holding out for the glorious (ten day!) holiday break. Alas, I bring you magical hot cross buns.

Admittedly, my heart sings when I see Cadbury's turkish delight easter eggs appear on the shelves following Christmas. However, I do relish the simplicity of a hot hot cross bun lathered with butter. These are some what jacked up from a traditional version - I've added various dried fruit to the mix. They are headily spiced, rich and fluffy.

This recipe is fairly straight forward and hands-off, aside from the kneading. Don't panic if little bits of fruit escape as you begin to knead -- I found once the dough came together everything stayed intact.





Hot Cross Buns
Adapted from Gourmet Traveller

Ingredients:
For the buns:
750 g plain flour, sifted
55 g caster sugar
2 tsp dried yeast
1 tsp allspice
½ tsp cinnamon
125g sultanas
125g currants
75g candied orange peel, coarsely chopped
25g crystalised ginger, coarsely chopped
1 orange, finely grated rind only
1 tsp salt
300ml milk
100g unsalted butter, coarsely chopped
1 egg

For the glaze:
55g caster sugar
¼ tsp mixed spice

Method:
Combine 700g flour, sugar, yeast, spices, sultanas, currants, orange peel, ginger, rind and salt in a bowl. Gently warm milk and butter over a low heat until butter melts and mixture is tepid. Add egg to milk mixture and whisk. Make a well in the centre of flour mixture, add milk mixture and stir. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes or until smooth. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and stand in a warm place for 40 minutes or until doubled in size. Knock back dough and cut into 16 equal pieces. Knead each piece into a ball, place in a lightly greased 22cm-square cake pan, cover with a damp tea towel and stand in a warm place for 40 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 220C. Combine remaining flour and ¼ cup water and stir to a smooth paste. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a fine nozzle. Pipe lines down each row to form crosses. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to 200C and bake for another 10 minutes or until golden. (They’re ready when they sound hollow when tapped).

For glaze, combine ingredients with ¼ cup water in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Brush glaze over hot buns, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

16.3.12

COFFEE CAKE

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Autumn is now upon us. Growing up, I was spoiled by the New England Fall rife with apple picking and pumpkin carving and that fresh, crisp air. The pang of nostalgia induced by this season inspired me to create an old-school coffee cake evocative of my Connecticut childhood.

I salivated upon seeing the 'Big Crumb' Coffee Cake over at Smitten Kitchen. Alas, (heartbreakingly) my cake didn't yield the same size crumb as Deb's, so I've omitted this feature from the title. I think my downfall was creating too daintily-sized balls with the crumb mixture before presenting the cake to the oven. Nevertheless, it tasted amazing.

I replaced the rhubarb with these beautiful blood plums in season at the moment, which turned out great. Mine were quite under-ripe and particularly tart which worked wonders against the richness of the cake.





Regular-sized Crumb Coffee Cake
Adapted from The New York Times via Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients:
For the plum filling:
230g plums
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

For the crumbs:
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 3/4 cups flour

For the cake:
1/3 cup natural yogurt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
85g softened butter, cut into 8 pieces.

Method:
Preheat oven to 160°C. Grease an 8-inch-square baking pan. For filling, slice plums 1/2 inch thick and toss with sugar, cornstarch and ginger. Set aside.

To make crumbs, in a large bowl, whisk sugars, spices and salt into melted butter until smooth. Then, add flour with a spatula or wooden spoon. It will look and feel like a solid dough. Leave it pressed together in the bottom of the bowl and set aside.

To prepare cake, in a small bowl, stir together the yogurt, egg, egg yolk and vanilla. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add butter and a spoonful of yogurt mixture and mix on medium speed until flour is moistened. Increase speed and beat for 30 seconds. Add remaining yogurt mixture in two batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition, and scraping down the sides of bowl with a spatula. Scoop out about 1/2 cup batter and set aside.

Scrape remaining batter into prepared pan. Spoon plums over batter. Dollop set-aside batter over plums; it does not have to be even.

Using your fingers, break topping mixture into big crumbs, about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch in size. They do not have to be uniform, but make sure most are around that size. Sprinkle over cake. Bake cake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean of batter (it might be moist from plums), 45 to 55 minutes. Cool completely before serving.