Friday, October 1, 2010

New beginnings

March - Occupation: Financial analyst, 50 hours/week

September - Occupation: Full time pastry student, 35 hours/week

Yes, I've made the switch. Well, at least for the next 7 - 11 months. My offer letter from École supérieure de cuisine française Ferrandi came at the end of last April. And on the first week of last May, after many negotiations with my parents, I made the crucial decision. Fast forward 5 months and I have just completed the first 5 weeks of my pastry course :)

Pursuing this course came with a good many benefits. For one, I get to move to Paris! The most romantic city on earth. And second, I was introduced to the world of cheese. In the past, the only cheeses I would buy were parmesan, cheddar, mozzarella and maybe an occasional brie. But my oh my...In the supermarket here, there is an entire aisle (similar to the open ones they sell cuts of meats on) dedicated to cheese!

I discovered that the Camembert is heavenly when baked with honey and the Comte is amazing eaten with red wine, baguette de tradition and slices of salami or prosciutto. Even better if you eat them in the park below the Eiffel Tower. The cheeses have been my antidotes to the sweet things I taste everyday. Not that I am changing my mind, but eating pastry cream and variations of it for 4 days in a row can take its toll. 

So today with my big batch of brioche, I decided to bake something savoury. I've been eyeing this recipe for a while but since leeks aren't my most favorite ingredient, I use mushrooms instead. 

The bread pudding came out tasting a lot like a light quiche and it's nice as a snack, light lunch with salad or a side. There's also some liquid in the pan after baking. I'm not sure whether it's supposed to be there, but i'm good with it as it helps keep the bread pudding moist. My guess is that it probably came from the mushrooms as they always excrete water whenever they cook and shrink. If you have any ideas, let me know. Well here goes.

Mushroom & Comte Bread Pudding

6 cups 1-inch cubes brioche
1 tbsp butter
2 shallots
oregano, thyme, parsley
3 eggs
4.5 cups milk
salt & pepper
200g mushrooms
1 cup Comte cheese - grated

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C and toast the brioche cubes.
  2. Melt butter and saute shallots with oregano and thyme until tender (2-3 minutes).
  3. Toss the brioche, shallots and parsley in a bowl.
  4. In another bowl, whisk the eggs and milk until light and frothy. Season generously.
  5. Layer a 9x13 inch loaf pan with 1/3 of the cheese, 1/2 of the mushrooms and 1/2 of the bread mixture.
  6. Repeat the layer and top with the remaining cheese.
  7. Pour in enough milk mixture that will leave some bread cubes protruding. Season with salt.
  8. Let rest for 15 minutes.
  9. Bake in the oven for 55 to 65 minutes

Monday, March 22, 2010

To plate or not to plate

 I've recently discovered that plating and presentation make a lot of difference.

Your food can taste delicious, be the best (insert dish here) in the world...but if it doesn't look appetizing, you're gonna need some time convincing people.

On the other hand, you can fall on the other extreme. The food can be borderline but because it's presented so elegantly, people are attracted to try.

If I had to choose one, I'd rather pick the first. At least, once people know, they'll keep coming back and telling their friends. The latter will just end in disappointment. But why stop at option one? Work on both. With taste and image hand in hand, your customer with leave satisfied and amazed with the experience.

The reality is, it's not easy to have both. First things first, you need to be inspired. This creates the drive that will push you through your comfort zone. Second and more importantly, it takes practice and practice and practice. But you know what they say. Practice makes perfect :) Don't give up just yet. And last but not least, start from something small and work your way up. You need to walk first before you run.

Cream of Pumpkin Soup
with sweet garlic, thyme croutons and drizzle of paprika oil
adapted from Guy Savoy: Simple French Recipes for the Home Cook
serves 4

1 head garlic
1 cup milk
1 small pumpkin (about 680g)
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1-2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Peel garlic cloves and place in a small saucepan along with the milk.
  2. Bring just to a boil, then remove from heat and drain, discarding the milk.
  3. Peel pumpkin, discard fiber and seeds, and cut the flesh into 1-cm cubes.
  4. Warm the butter in a large pot and add the pumpkin cubes and blanched garlic cloves.
  5. Season with salt and cook over high heat, stirring often and crushing the flesh of the pumpkin as it becomes soft.
  6. Add the chicken stock, lower the heat to medium low and simmer for about 40 minutes or until the pumpkin is very tender.
  7. Add the milk and cream and cook for 6-7 minutes.
  8. Puree the mixture in a food processor until smooth.
  9. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  10. Pour into the serving bowl and add your garnish.
Thyme croutons

3 slices of stale white bread (freeze it individually to ease cutting)
olive oil
salt and pepper
dried thyme 

Method: Cut the bread slices into 1-cm cubes. Heat oil in a frying pan. Add the bread cubes and coat well. Season with salt, pepper and thyme. Stir until dry and crispy. Alternatively, you can bake the bread cubes until crispy.

Paprika Oil
Heat some flavorless oil (like canola or grape-seed oil) in a frying pan. Add paprika powder and stir into the oil until it turns red.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Strawberry shortcake - Trifle style

I follow a list of food blogs. At least once a week, after a full day of sorting through data, rearranging them to make it more understandable, going through meetings or burning off stress with friends on weekends, I like to retreat, sit back, laptop on my lap, and escape to the world of food and culinary journeys.

Time hasn't been on my side for the past month since my last post. There were Fridays and Saturdays I had to be out of town. There were a couple of days I caught the dysentery bug so common of visiting or returning overseas students. There were days where...well, let's just say I have to keep a social life. On those times, the blogs were the next best thing to baking itself. For the other bloggers out there, your passion, recipes and warmth continue to inspire me and I want to thank you for that. Keep doing what you're doing.

I can't believe I'm at a point of time where I have to choose between what I have to do and what I love doing and sometimes I can't always have both. When I was a student, there was so much time that I can bake on impulse. Now, I have to plan when to bake.

But you know what. I still love it. And I promise you, I will come up with more creations soon :) I love cakes, I love making something out of the simple ingredients, mixing and matching recipe parts and I love the joy of sharing the food I make. And the smile on everyone's faces after they taste what's been made. That's what I call accomplishment.

So here's to baking...First visit back - strawberry trifle :) Enjoy~

Strawberry Trifle
adapted from Sky-High's Sky-High Strawberry Shortcake
Makes 6x250ml glasses

1 1/2 cups cake flour
2 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
70g butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs, room temperature
2/3 cup whole milk (or buttermilk)

500g strawberries
2 tbsp rum
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 180C and butter 2x20cm pans (you probably can substitute them with a rectangular baking tray/swiss roll pan).
  2. Whisk flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl until thoroughly mixed. Set aside. 
  3. Clean and hull strawberries. Cut them into nickel-thick slices.
  4. Combine strawberries with rum, extract and sugar. Coat well and leave for at least 1 hour.
  5. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, cream butter, sugar and extract on medium speed until pale and fluffy.
  6. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  7. Pour in the dry ingredients in two or three additions, alternating with the milk.
  8. Divide batter evenly among the two prepared pans.
  9. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and a cake tester skewer comes out clean.
  10. Leave a while before inverting to cool on a wire rack to room temperature.
  11. In another bowl, beat the cream and sugar on medium speed until soft peaks form.
  12. Cut the cake into slices that will fit the width of your glass.
  13. Layer the cake first, next add the strawberries with some of the juices (but you don't want the cake to be soggy), and then spoon in the whipped cream evenly.
  14. Repeat the sequence of the layers until you fill the glass, making sure the whipped cream ends up on top.
  15. Decorate with leftover strawberries slices and serve :)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Loving chocolate cupcakes

A recipe collection isn't complete without one for chocolate cake. At times when you're at loss of what to bake for family, friends or occasions, always go back to a chocolate batter. It's bound to be a crowd pleaser.

There's just something about chocolate. Perhaps it's the sweet, tart and comforting, velvety taste. Or maybe it's the aesthetically pleasant deep and dark colour of whatever cocoa touches. could be the very nature of chocolate desserts themselves. Chocolate is a classic and it knows no cultural barriers. Heck, a bit of phenylethylamine doesn't hurt either. It's been found that chocolate contains 380 known chemicals. That compound and a few others are just the ones discovered to increase the level of happy chemicals (endorphin, serotonin) in our brains. Dark chocolate in moderation is good.

Dark chocolate in desserts is fantastic! But keeping in mind the downside of chocolate and sugar, it pays to search for the best chocolate dessert recipes. That way, the occasional indulgence won't go to waste.

After baking through 5 different chocolate cupcake recipes, I've finally arrived at one I am more than happy to keep. The taste of chocolate is just right (strong but not too sweet) and the texture is light and fluffy. My kind of cupcake. What I've noticed is that the chocolate flavour tends to come out stronger in recipes containing melted chocolate in addition to cocoa powder. Cakes with cocoa powder have a milder chocolate taste - or chocolate in the background as I like to call it. The original recipe makes 12 cupcakes but it's probably convertible into 2x20cm cake layers. Just bake the batter for 40-45 minutes.

Chocolate Cupcakes
adapted from Baking: From my home to yours
makes 12 cupcakes

1 cup cake flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
113g unsalted butter, room temperature
5/8 cup white sugar
1 whole egg + 1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
150g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), melted and cooled

  1. Place muffin paper cups in a 12-hole muffin tray and preheat oven to 175C.
  2. Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl until well combined. This step is to ensure you don't have discolouration or bursts of salt in your cupcakes.
  3. On medium speed, cream butter and sugar until well combined (2-3 minutes). They should turn pale and fluffy.
  4. Beat in the vanilla extract.
  5. Beat in the egg and then the egg yolk. Beat until the batter has 'absorbed' the liquid.
  6. On low speed, mix in the dry ingredients until just incorporated.
  7. Pour the milk gradually and beat until well mixed.
  8. Still on low speed, mix in the rest of the dry ingredients, again until just incorporated, and finish off by folding with a rubber spatula.
  9. Fill the cups 2/3 of the way and bake for 20-24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  10. Leave for a few minutes, then unmold and place on a rack to cool to room temperature.
I came across 17 and baking a few weeks ago and have been inspired by Elissa's creations ever since. I stumbled across one of her older posts and thought that it was such a cute idea.

I used my favourite buttercream recipe and modified it to orange.

For a less creamy alternative, either glaze the cupcake with melted chocolate or dust cocoa powder and icing sugar.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

If you're celebrating Valentine's with that special someone and wondering about what to give him or her, why not something out of the box? Instead of the usual chocolates, bake your own cake and wrap it nicely :)

The good thing about this gift is that you can add your personal touch, suit his or her tastes and is an almost foolproof gift for someone who seems to have everything! (It's not only if he/she doesn't like cake...but hey, that's rare). Here's just one idea for the cake. Click here for another.

Hope you all had a fantastic weekend! Happy Valentine's Day:)

Almond Sponge Cake with Chocolate and Raspberry
adapted from Gourmet Traveller
makes a 20cm (8") cake

Almond Sponge Cake
50g almond meal
190g cake flour
8 eggs
220g caster sugar
80g butter, melted and cooled

  1. Butter and line 2x20cm round cake pans and preheat the oven to 160C.
  2. In a food processor, pulse the almond meal and flour until fine. Triple sift.
  3. Beat the eggs and sugar until thick, pale and triple in volume (can take between 7-15 minutes depending on your mixer's speed).
  4. Fold in the flour.
  5. Fold in the melted butter.
  6. Distribute evenly among the pans and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and springy to the touch.
  7. Unmold and cool on a wire rack 
Raspberry Filling 
130g raspberry jam
1/2 cup raspberry
1 tbsp water

  1. Place jam, raspberries and water in a small saucepan over low heat.
  2. Stir until melted and well combined.
Dark-chocolate Raspberry Ganache
200g dark chocolate, chopped
50g raspberry filling
2 tbsp milk (can also be 200ml heavy cream)
  1. Place chocolate and raspberry filling in a saucepan over low heat.
  2. Stir together until melted and combined.
  3. Add the milk and stir until smooth.
  1. Spread the raspberry filling on each of the cake layers.
  2. Place one layer over the other, with the filling between them.
  3. Pour the chocolate ganache over the cake.
  4. Top with ferrero roche, dust with cocoa powder.
  5. Place in the refrigerator to harden

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Quick fix

Life doesn't always give you what you want.

Yes, everyone knows that, it's a cliche. But what varies from person to person, and what's most important, is our response after we realize that what we've been working for and what we desire won't happen.

We're faced with three main options. We can sulk, scream, cry about, or argue our case until we get the result (which can be never). We can totally give up and let go of what we set out to do. Or we can find another way, maybe modify the goals, to still achieve the initial purpose. It depends on the circumstances but most of all it depends on you.

I find that the things eluding me can be the very simple or the very complicated, with most of the complicated events arriving later in life as tougher challenges accompanying work, relationships and age come along. This week though, luckily, I had a simple one. It was a matter of baking ingredients.

At first, I wanted to bake this hazelnut sponge cake filled with chocolate and raspberry cream. Due to the busier schedule this week, I had to postpone that recipe so I opted for white chocolate and raspberry muffins instead. After all, I was craving for something 'cakey' and with raspberries. 

Alas, when I arrived at the supermarket to buy the two star ingredients, there was none in sight. Fresh raspberries were currently out of stock and although the supermarket had a section specially devoted to Lindt chocolate, only one type of white chocolate was available...I'm finicky when it comes to chocolate now. It's just one of those ingredients that's quality over cost.

Either I have to choose another recipe with different ingredients or make do with what they have. Glad to say, I stuck by number two. I bought frozen raspberries and white chocolate toblerone. A good thing about the toblerone was it came with bits of waffles inside. They added an extra texture to the muffins.

Muffins belong to the family of sweets called quickbreads. Unlike their traditional bread cousins, they don't need yeast. Baking powder first makes the muffins rise when the dry and wet ingredients are mixed, and then when they come in contact with the oven heat. They are great bakes on occasions you're short on time.. The thing to remember is to mix the batter sparingly. It's okay if there are lumps and bumps. They give the muffins their famous open crumb texture.

I was also able to try out a streusel recipe with the muffins and it added a fantastic crunch to the muffin tops. Who could say no to that? Enjoy~ :)

Raspberry and White Chocolate Muffins
adapted from Baking from my Home to Yours
Makes 12

2 large eggs
3 tbsp honey
113g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup whole milk (or buttermilk)
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup white chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup raspberries

  1. Place the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 190C. Line a muffin tray with paper muffin cups.
  2. Pour the milk into a medium bowl and whisk in the eggs, honey and melted butter. (I'd like to use a measuring jug, it's easier to combine with the dry ingredients later).
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  4. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and with a whisk or a rubber spatula, gently, but quickly stir to blend.
  5. Stir in the white chocolate and raspberries
  6. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.
  7. Sprinkle the streusel topping and press them into the batter (recipe see below).
  8. Bake for 22-25 minutes until golden and springy to the touch.

Streusel Topping
also adapted from Baking from my home to yours

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar (white also works fine)
1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp nutmeg powder
5 tbsp (around 70g) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

  1. Whisk the flour, sugar and spices in a small bowl.
  2. Add the cold butter cubes and toss to coat.
  3. Using your fingers, rub the butter into the dry ingredients until they become irregularly shaped crumbs.
  4. Set aside in the refrigerator until you're ready to use them.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

A rise

Sorry for the slow update in posts.

To tell you the truth, I  have been kind of stuck lately. Firstly, it was hard to find the time to bake. I get off late from work and by the time I reach home, I'm so tired that all I want to do is hit the bed and relax. Secondly, I feel that my baking is stagnating. There were a few other things I tried to make in the first several weeks here that either ended up burnt at the sides, or tasting less than good. I know, it's supposed to be the oven right? It could even be the ingredients. I'm not the only one noticing that the same ingredients here - the flour, sugar, butter, and eggs - do not produce the same texture and taste as the baking back in Melbourne. But what's worse, I might be losing my touch...Now that is scary.

Thankfully, this weekend something happened and gave me hope. I baked my first white bread. It was not perfect...but it was the best new baking that I did in a while. It gave me hope that I am still able to bake something unfamiliar that did not end up disastrous.

I found Richard Bertinet's book Dough in the local bookstore and it inspired me to venture beyond my comfort zone. I've always played it safe by trying out recipes with baking powder, baking soda or eggs as the leavening agent (making pizza was once-off as it was a group occasion). Yeast is a very tricky thing. A change in humidity, a change in temperature, can make it act differently. I have also heard stories of bread making. If you're not careful, they'll turn out as hard as rocks.

One thing I learnt is to be prepared. What I like about the book is that Richard explains the ingredients, the tools and the way to properly treat the dough. He even included a demonstration CD. It was very satisfying to see the bread coming out of the oven fragrant, golden and singing :)

If you want to learn more about baking bread, I really recommend this book. Below is just an outline of the ingredients and the steps. White bread dough can be turned to a whole range of breads, one of which is a fougasse.

Cheese Fougasse
adapted from Dough
makes 6

500g bread flour
10g yeast (instant dried/fresh)
10g salt
350ml water
parmesan cheese, grated

  1. Preheat oven to 250C.
  2. Rub the yeast into the flour until they disappear.
  3. Add in the salt and mix well.
  4. Pour in the water and using a dough scraper, mix the ingredients until they form a sticky dough.
  5. Turn out onto the work surface and knead until the dough looks smooth and silky.
  6. Rest the dough in a bowl covered with a tea towel/clingwrap until it doubles in size, about 1 hour.
  7. Carefully remove the dough from the bowl onto a floured work surface and cut into two rectangular shapes.
  8. Cut each rectangles into three more.
  9. Make a slit in the centre and two diagonal slits on each side.
  10. Be sure to pull the dough (gently, without deflating) and widen the slits to prevent them from closing while baking.
  11. Place on an oven tray, sprinkle with the grated cheese and slide them into the oven.
  12. Reduce the temperature to 230C and bake until golden for 10-12 minutes.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Orders up

A friend of mine once told me this.

"The best way to test your baking or cooking is to give them to little children. They are usually more honest in their opinions."

Well, sometimes that's true...Kids will tell it straight to your face whether they like what you made. If they like it, they'll eat it and ask for seconds. If they don't, they'll voice their reasons. On other times, however, kids won't have enough experience to judge the food's texture or the good taste from the better. Furthermore, if your dish is 99% right but it doesn't suit their preferences...let's just say you'll have to swallow your pride and find another judge.

But one thing I noticed is that children know what food they want and when they want it. This week, my 7-year-old brother and 5-year-old sister requested for a batch of brownies and a lunch serving of meatballs spaghetti. It's pretty surprising to find that my younger siblings are more aware of food than I was when I was their age.

I'm still in search of a brownies recipe as the ones I tried was too sweet for my taste. But Jamie Oliver's meatballs spaghetti recipe is a keeper. His use of Jacob cream crackers instead of breadcrumbs especially intrigued me and I'm glad to find that they did not affect the taste of the meat.

The verdict? My brother and sister preferred the thicker, richer tomato sauce that I made last month but this dish was a winner among my parents and my teenage sisters :D I've put up the recipe for both sauces. Enjoy~

Jamie Oliver's
Meatballs Spaghetti
adapted from here
serves 4-6

For the Meatballs
4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1/2 an onion
12 Jacob's cream crackers
2 heaped tsp Dijon mustard
500g minced beef
1 heaped tbsp dried oregano
1 large egg
sea salt and black pepper

  1. Pick the rosemary leaves off the woody stalks and finely chop them.
  2. Place the crackers into a plastic bag and smash them up until fine.
  3. Add to a large bowl along with the meat, mustard, onion, rosemary and oregano.
  4. Crack an egg and add a good pinch of salt and pepper.
  5. Mix them up well and roll into 24 balls.
For the sauce
a bunch of fresh basil
1 medium onion
2 cloves of garlic
2 x 400g tins of whole peeled tomatoes
2 fresh tomatoes, diced
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
seasoning: salt, black pepper, sugar, dried oregano+parsley

300g spaghetti
parmesan cheese, grated

  1. Pick the basil leaves and reserve the smaller ones for ganish.
  2. Finely chop the onions and garlic.
  3. Heat a large frying pan on medium heat and add 2 tbsp of olive oil.
  4. Add the onions to the pan and cook until they are golden and wilted, around 7 minutes.
  5. Add the garlic, and as soon as it starts to brown, stir in the large basil leaves.
  6. Add the canned+fresh tomatoes and balsamic vinegar
  7. Bring to a boil and season to taste with salt, black pepper, sugar and dried herbs.
Bringing it all together
  1. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to packet instructions.
  2. Heat oil in another frying pan and add the meatballs.
  3. Stir and cook them until they are golden, around 8-10 minutes.
  4. Add the meatballs into the sauce and simmer until the pasta is ready.
  5. Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce.
  6. Sprinkle the reserved basil leaves and some grated parmesan.

Tomato Sauce II

olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
150g tomato paste
4 fresh tomatoes, diced
1 tbsp dried oregano
1/2 tbsp each dried basil+parsley
1 tbsp sugar
salt & black pepper, to taste 

  1. Heat oil in a frying pan and fry onions until golden and wilted.
  2. Add the tomato paste and diced tomatoes.
  3. Add the dried herbs, sugar, salt and black pepper.
  4. Bring to a boil and simmer until sauce thickens.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

kickstart your day: orange and almond friands

The meal that I always can't go without is breakfast. I need to have that slice of bread, a muffin or a croissant before the start of the day. Many of my friends are often surprised when I tell them that I daily set aside a few minutes in the morning before even the earliest class to prepare food. They prefer to save the hours for sleep and make it up with a hearty lunch (or dinner :D). Breakfast is the key to concentration for the day.

And after you have started working, it helps a lot. One week has gone by and I survived my work :) I gotta say, the hours demanded were WAY more than university. It's close to 10 hours a day, 5 days a week vs 12 hours a week. Even though I was still in training, each hour needed my full attention. I made these orange and almond friands to help me start the day.

Before going to Australia, I have never heard or seen these cakes. Although friands are similar to light teacakes and madeleines, they're mostly eaten for breakfast back in Melbourne. What differentiate them from muffins are the large content of almond meal and denser texture. After trying a lemon and a pistachio one, I fell in love. I baked this batch to fill in the shortfall in the shops here. Enjoy~

Orange and Almond Friands
adapted from here
makes 12 muffin-sized friands

1 1/4 cup pure icing sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 cup almond meal
6 egg whites
185g butter, melted and cooled
1 tbsp grated orange rind
Juice of half an orange 

  1. Preheat oven to 200C and butter a muffin tray.
  2. Sift icing sugar and flour into a large bowl.
  3. Add the almond meal and whisk to combine.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk egg whites until frothy.
  5. Fold in the egg whites followed by the melted butter, rind and juice.
  6. Pour the mixture into the muffin moulds until they are 3/4 full.
  7. Bake for 18-20 minutes until golden and springy to the touch.
  8. Cool before unmoulding.
The friands can last up to 3 days if stored in an airtight container or up to 2 months if frozen. Dust with icing sugar to serve or make the syrup from the original recipe.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Party recipes

As promised, here are the recipes from last new year's eve dinner. Enjoy :)

I. Bacon, leek and onion tart
adapted from Donna Hay Magazine Issue 32
makes 70 mini-muffin sized or 18 standard-muffin sized tarts 

1 1/2 quantities of savoury shortcrust pastry
1 tbsp olive oil
1 brown onion, diced
1 leek, diced
9 eggs
1 1/2 cup single or pouring cream
2/3 cup of finely grated parmesan cheese, and extra to serve
sea salt and cracked black pepper
100g ricotta cheese
8 slices of bacon, chopped 

  1. Preheat oven to 180C. 
  2. Cook the chopped bacon in a frying pan. 
  3. Reserve the bacon oil and use it to fry the onions and leeks until soft (around 5 mins). If there isn't enough oil, add the olive oil. 
  4. Place the eggs, cream, parmesan, salt and pepper in a bowl and whisk to combine. 
  5. Add the cooked bacon, onions and leeks into the egg mixture. 
  6. Grease a muffin tray and cut rounds of the shortcrust pastry that will fit the muffin molds. 
  7. Gently press the pastry to fit the mold. Butter the underside of a piece of aluminium foil and gently press against the pastry. 
  8. Bake the crust for 5 minutes. Remove the foil, and continue baking for 4-5 minutes until the crust is slightly golden and dry. 
  9. Pour over the egg mixture. 
  10. Top with the ricotta cheese and sprinkle more parmesan if desired. 
  11. Bake for another 10-15 minutes until the egg is set and the top is golden.

II. Smoked Salmon Crostini
makes 40

1 loaf of french bread
400g smoked salmon
200g creme fraiche
100g ricotta cheese
salt and pepper

  1. Cut the french bread into slices and toast until dry but not brown. Divide bigger slices into two. 
  2. In a medium bowl, mix the creme fraiche and ricotta cheese. 
  3. Add salt, pepper, sugar and a squirt of lemon juice to taste. 
  4. Spread the creme fraiche mixture onto the toasted bread. 
  5. Top with a slice of smoked salmon and garnish with dill

III. Apple Pie
adapted from here
makes a 9.5 inch apple pie 

For a double crust pie dough:
3 cups of plain flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
183g unsalted butter, very cold and cut into cubes
1/3 cup of vegetable shortening, very cold and cut into cubes
1/2 cup ice water 

  1. Put the flour, sugar, salt in a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse just to combine. 
  2. Drop in the butter and shortening and pulse only until the 2 ingredients are cut into the flour (it's okay to have some butter pieces the size of peas and others barley). 
  3. Pulsing the machine on and off, gradually add about 6 tablespoons of water. 
  4. Use a few long pulses to get the water into the flour and a moist/soft dough forms. 
  5. Scrape the dough out and onto a work surface. Divide the dough in half. 
  6. Gather each half into a ball, flatten each ball into a disk and wrap each half in plastic. 
  7. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
For the apple filling:
6 very large apples
3/4 cup sugar
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp quick cooking tapioca
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp graham cracker crumbs
2 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into bits

  1. Butter a 9/9.5 inch pie plate. 
  2. Roll one pie dough to a thickness of about 3mm. 
  3. Fit the dough into the buttered pie plate and trim the edges to a 2.5cm overhang 
  4. Roll the other dough into a 3mm-thick circle and slip it onto a baking sheet. 
  5. Cover both the circle and crust in the pie plate with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 20 minutes. 
  6. Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 210C. 
  7. Peel, core and slice apples into 3-mm thick slices. 
  8. Put the apples in a large bowl and add the sugar, lemon zest, tapioca, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. 
  9. Toss everything and let the mix sit for 5 minutes, or until juice starts to accumulate in the bottom of the bowl. 
  10. Remove the pie plate and top crust from the fridge. 
  11. Sprinkle the bottom crush with biscuit crumbs and then turn the apples and their juices into the crust. 
  12. Pat the apples into an even mound and dot with bits of butter. 
  13. Moisten the rim of the bottom crust with water and center the top crust over the apples. 
  14. Either fold the overhang from the top crust under the bottom or trim the overhang. 
  15. Use a sharp knife and cut about 6 slits at the top crust. 
  16. Bake for 15 minutes. 
  17. Lower temperature to 190C and bake for a further 50-60 minutes (if the top crust is browning too quickly after 40 minutes, cover the pie loosely with a foil). 
  18. Transfer the pie to a rack and let it rest until just warm or it reaches room temperature


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