Tuesday 30 September 2008

TWD rewind: Dimply plum cake

Since my blowtorch is on the fritz, I decided to take the option of doing a TWD rewind this week instead of messing around with my broiler for this week's intended Creme brulee recipe. Having read the glorious reviews that so many TWDers posted just last week, I decided not to go too far back into TWD history and settled on making Dorie's Dimply Plum Cake. Besides, it seemed like just the thing to celebrate the arrival of fall and makes for something different for a weekend breakfast.

Like many others had commented, I too found that Dorie must have used really tiny plums in her cake for my cake only took 3.5 plums to fill instead of the 8 that the recipe calls for. Still, I found that at this much reduced number, there was still a healthy plum-to-cake ratio, if you know what I mean. 

The cake was simple to make and baked up relatively quickly, but the reward sure outweighed the effort.

For recipe, click here.

Friday 26 September 2008

Daring Bakers: Lavash Crackers

This month's Daring Bakers challenge was a first in that not only were we given a baking assignment - Lavash crackers - we were also asked to make a dip / spread to go with it. Having recently tried some really yummy crackers which M's mom made during a recent trip to Sweden, I was really excited about trying my own hand at making some.

We were given the option of making regular crackers or gluten-free ones and I opted for the regular version. My main concern with this recipe was in making sure that the dough was rolled out thinly enough so that I would get really crisp crackers. Turns out I needn't have worried because misting the counter with some oil made it really easy to roll out the dough to the desired thickness. After sprinkling my dough with some paprika and sesame seeds, it was off to the oven.

I baked my crackers for about 15 minutes, but in hindsight, could probably have left it in the oven for at least another 2 to 3 minutes. The edges of my crackers were really crisp, but tended to get a little chewy in the middle. Still, it made for a great snack both plain or with the aubergine dip that I made to go along with it.

These crackers are definitely worth the effort so check out the recipe below.

Lavash Crackers
From The Bread Baker's Apprentice

1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz) unbleached bread flour 
1/2 tsp (.13 oz) salt
1/2 tsp (.055 oz) instant yeast
1 Tb (.75 oz) agave syrup or sugar
1 Tb (.5 oz) vegetable oil
1/3 to 1/2 cup + 2 Tb (3 to 4 oz) water, at room temperature
Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, or kosher salt for toppings

1. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt yeast, agave, oil, and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball.  You may not need the full 1/2 cup + 2 Tb of water, but be prepared to use it all if needed.

2. Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter.  Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the ingredients are evenly distributed.  The dough should pass the windowpane test and register 77 degrees to 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), satiny to the touch, not tacky, and supple enough to stretch when pulled.  Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

3. Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. (You can also retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator immediately after kneading or mixing).

4. Mist the counter lightly with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter.  Press the dough into a square with your hand and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour.  Roll it out with a rolling pin into a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches.  You may have to stop from time to time so that the gluten can relax.  At these times, lift the dough from the counter and wave it a little, and then lay it back down.  Cover it with a towel or plastic wrap while it relaxes.  When it is the desired thinness, let the dough relax for 5 minutes.  Line a sheet pan with baking parchment.  Carefully lift the sheet of dough and lay it on the parchment.  If it overlaps the edge of the pan, snip off the excess with scissors. 

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with the oven rack on the middle shelf.  Mist the top of the dough with water and sprinkle a covering of seeds or spices on the dough (such as alternating rows of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, kosher or pretzel salt, etc.)  Be careful with spices and salt - a little goes a long way. If you want to precut the cracker, use a pizza cutter (rolling blade) and cut diamonds or rectangles in the dough.  You do not need to separate the pieces, as they will snap apart after baking.  If you want to make shards, bake the sheet of dough without cutting it first. 

6.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top (the time will depend on how thinly and evenly you rolled the dough).

7.  When the crackers are baked, remove the pan from the oven and let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes.  You can then snap them apart or snap off shards and serve.

Makes 1 sheet pan of crackers

Tuesday 16 September 2008

Book Review: The Sharper your Knife, The Less you Cry

Two weeks ago, I received a copy of The Sharper the Knife, The less you cry, a book that is a combination of food writing / memoir. Specifically, it chronicles one woman’s journey through culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu Paris.

Those of you who may have read my blog when I first started, may recall that I myself attended class at LCB Paris. I, however, did just one semester of Intensive Patisserie Basic, while Kathleen Flinn, the book’s author, completed the Cuisine Diploma. Although my personal dream would be to complete the Patisserie Diploma, I was still very much looking forward to reading about Kathleen’s experiences. Perhaps, it would be just the nudge I need to finally follow my dreams – an idea that I have played with in my mind occasionally.

From the day that I started the book, I found it hard to put down. It is an easy read, yet at the same time, I found it thoroughly enthralling. The descriptions of the demonstration rooms and kitchens brought back so many much-cherished memories of my time there in August 2005. In fact, as I would learn while reading the book, Kathleen and I may have crossed paths at LCB given that she completed her Superior cycle in August – November of 2005.

Although Kathleen’s book centers around her experience at culinary school, it is also at its heart a story about love, as it chronicles the progression of her relationship with her now husband – the man who encouraged her to drop everything and follow her dreams. We all need someone like that in our life and it made me remember once again why I love M so much – he, like Kathleen’s husband, has encouraged me to to re-enroll in LCB everytime I’ve brought it up.

As a bonus, Kathleen also concludes each chapter with a recipe. I’ve yet to try any of them but many of them do sound delicious!

If you’re a fan of food writing and / or are contemplating going to culinary school, I think you’ll enjoy this book.

The last of the cookies

As I mentioned in last week's post, this week's TWD pick is Chocolate Chunkers. As its name implies, its a chunky cookie crammed full of chocolate chips (both dark and white), salted peanuts and raisins. In fact, there's more "stuff" than cookie to this recipe, if you know what I mean, so it makes for a great (but indulgent) snack. 

Those of you who've been following the TWD cookie posts (Granola Grabbers, Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters and Chocolate Whopper Malted Drops) know that I'm a huge fan of the Granola Grabbers and its been that recipe against which I've compared all the other TWD picks. Until last week, in my book anyway, the Granola Grabbers reigned supreme. I'm happy to say that this week's Chocolate Chunkers is another winner! I like it as much as the Granola Grabbers, which for me, is a lot. I guess I have a thing for chunky cookies as that's what the two recipes had in common.

Although a huge cookie fan, I have to say I'm glad to take a break from cookies for now and turn to baking something else. Till next week, adios!

For recipe, click here.

Tuesday 9 September 2008

TWD: Another week, another cookie recipe

As I mentioned in my last post, this week's TWD pick is yet another cookie with a mouthful of a name - Chocolate Whopper Malted Drops. Just reading through the ingredient list of this cookie made my mouth water, literally. Filled with maltesers, chocolate chunks and malted milk powder, all flavours that I love, what's not to like?

Like most cookie recipes, this one was pretty easy to put together so I managed to do this in-between cooking dinner on Sunday night. The only slightly unusual thing about this recipe is the consistency of the batter, which as Dorie notes in her book, is more like a fudge or frosting texture than that of a traditional cookie dough. Having read the warning in the book, though, I wasn't concerned with the look of my batter.

As the cookies were baking in the oven, M caught a whiff of them and asked what we were having for dinner. When I told him cookies (jokingly of course) his response was "Sweet! Cookies for dinner." I don't think he was joking by the way. M has one of the sweetest tooths of any guy I know. Lucky for me since I need help devouring all the treats that TWD has me making!

All through dinner, both M and myself were thinking of the sumptious pile of cookies on the cookie rack and it was with incredible restraint that we managed to finish our dinner first being diving into the cookies. The verdict? I thought the cookie was nice and chocolately and I liked the chewiness of the maltesers in them. To be honest, I wasn't a great fan of the cakey texture of the cookie though - I would have preferred something with a bit more crisp in it. As such, of all the cookie recipes that TWD has done recently, the Granola Grabbers are still my hands down favourite. I just read next week's TWD pick however, and it looks like there's one more cookie recipe for next week. Stay tuned to see if it has what it takes to knock the Granola Grabbers off its throne.

For recipe, click here.

Monday 1 September 2008

TWD: Redeeming myself

After my slight mishap with the TWD cookie pick 2 weeks ago, I was eager to redeem myself with this week's choice - Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters. This was particularly so given my new found love affair with all things peanut butter, which started with a heavenly peanut butter dessert that I had while on honeymoon in Bhutan and was further spurred on by a peanut butter torte which I made several weeks ago.

Having been on vacation the whole of last week, I had to hurriedly whip together this recipe on Monday night after getting back from work. Slightly taken aback by the large quantity of cookies the recipe makes (60 cookies!), I decided to half it to make a much more manageable 30 instead.

All the while that the cookies were in the oven, I could smell the peanut butter aroma wafting through the kitchen and, indeed, the entire apartment. Try as hard as I might to resist eating them, I just had to pop one into my mouth while it was fresh from the oven. I thought the cookie was good, but personally, I found the nutmeg to be slightly overpowering. The granola grabbers from 2 weeks ago is still the winning cookie recipe for me although I think next week's pick of Chocolate Whopper Malted Drops may give it a good run for its money. Stay tuned to see which recipe will be the ultimate winner!

For recipe, click here.