Friday, December 24, 2010

Cranberry Mince Pies

I am signing off this year with these gorgeous Cranberry Studded Mince Pies. I have used Pedro Ximenez instead of ruby port.
Sending these to the lovely host Sarah of Maisoncupcake's 
monthly blogger’s challenge “Forever Nigella”, an event for food bloggers to celebrate Nigella Lawson’s recipes.
Merry Xmas everyone and a Happy New Year!
Ingredients (Adapted from Nigella Lawson)
For the Pastry:
Ingredients 240g plain Flour
60g Vegetable shortening
60g cold Butter
Juice of 1 Orange
Pinch of salt approx.
Icing sugar for dusting
For the Mincemeat
75g soft dark Brown sugar
60ml Pedro Ximenez
300g cranberries
1 tsp ground Cinnamon
1 tsp ground Ginger
½ tsp ground Cloves
75g Currants
75g Raisins
30g dried Cranberries
1 Clementine, zest and juice
25ml Brandy
Few drops Almond extract
½ tsp Vanilla extract
2 tbsp Honey
Bring the pedro ximenez and sugar to boil in a pan so that the sugar dissolves. Add the cranberries , along with the cinnamon, ginger, cloves, currants, raisins, dried cranberries and the zest and juice of the clementine. Simmer and cook for 20 minutes, or until the fruit has gone mushy and has absorbed most of the liquid in the pan. Take off heat and allow to cool . Add the brandy, almond extract, vanilla extract, honey and stir well. Store the mincemeat into sterilized jars in the fridge for up to two weeks.
Take the flour in a bowl and add bits of vegetable shortening into the bowl, add the butter, diced small, and then put in the freezer for a bit.  Mix together the orange juice and salt  leave in the fridge to chill. Put the chilled flour and fat into the food processor and whiz until you’ve got crumbs. Pour the juice down the funnel, pulsing as the dough comes together. If all your juice is used up add some iced water. Turn the mixture  onto a  work surface and combine to form a ball of dough & pat into a disc. Wrap disc in cling film and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Grease tiny cupcake or tart tins. Preheat the oven to 220°C. Roll out the disc into a thin rectangle. Cut out circles a little wider than the indentations in the tart tins using a fluted cookie cutter. Press these circles gently into the moulds and Spoon the mincemeat into the moulds. Cut-out slightly smaller discs out of the dough and cover the pies. Bake them in the oven for 10–15 minutes. Cool and dust with icing sugar. Use stencils if you want designs like mine.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Boozy Fruit Cake

You know Christmas is here when
  1. The radio plays 'All I want for Christmas' & 'Last Christmas' endlessly
  2. Starbucks bring back their famous Christmas Lattes and Christmas blend coffee
  3. Markets, old and new, sell Christmas goodies.
  4. Shimmering lights light up the once dark gloomy streets.
  5. Deli's start stocking the shelves with fruitcakes, mince pies & puddings.
  6. Roads are slippery and you don't find salt for either cooking or gritting!
But for me its this time of the year when I go through a baking frenzy...With all the snow and bad weather outside there is something cosy about just staying home and baking.
I made fruit cake, mince pies, mince meat and xmas pudding this year, in spite of being down with flu bug. 
I make this fruit cake every year, experimenting with new flavours, & this time I made this cake using Pedro Ximénez an intensely sweet, dark dessert sherry that works perfectly for this cake. It gave the cake a gorgeous brown colour and fruity richness. I brushed the cooled cake with brandy to make it more boozy and christmassy, perfect to serve with a warm glass of Mulled Wine.
Boozy Fruit Cake (adapted minimally from Delicious)
Raisins - 250gms
Sultanas - 175 gms
Mixed Peel - 100gms
Glacé Cherries - 50 gms
Pedro Ximénez - 150ml (you could use all Brandy)
Grated Zest of 1 Orange and Lemon
Unsalted Butter - 200gms
Mixed Spice Sugar - 60gms (you could use all light brown sugar)
Light Brown Sugar - 80 gms
Dark Brown Sugar - 40gms
Eggs - 4
Sponge Flour - 275 gms
Baking Powder - 1/2 tsp
Ground Cinnamon - 1tsp
Mixed Spice - 1 tsp
Blanched Almonds - 100 gms
Mix the raisins,sultanas & currants in a bowl. Pour over warm water to cover & leave aside for 2 hrs. Drain the fruits through a colander and leave to dry overnight on a muslin cloth. Grease & Line an 8" loose bottom pan with grease proof paper. I used 2 sheets on the base & sides. Mix the fruits with the zest & Pedro Ximénez in a pan. Bring this to a boil and leave to cool. Preheat oven to 160C. Sift the flour,baking powder & the spices. Beat the butter & sugar till light. Add eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. Add the flour mixture and the cooled fruits, almonds to this and gently fold everything till combined. If the mixture looks very thick add a splash of milk. Spoon the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 1-1.15 min or until skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.Leave to cool for a few minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. When cool brush the top and sides of the cake with brandy.




The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge, hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking, was to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.
Stollen is a bread-like fruitcake made with yeast, water and flour, and usually with zest added to the dough. Candied orange peel and candied citrus is also often added. Over the centuries, the cake changed from being simple, fairly tasteless "bread" to a sweeter cake with richer ingredients.
I played around with the spice combination, but pretty much stuck to the recipe Penny gave. I have added saffron, crushed cardamom pods, dessicated coconut and used a mixed spice sugar. I dusted the baked Stollen with vanilla sugar, cocoa and spices. 

Stollen Wreath

Plain Flour - 770 gms
Water - 60 ml
Instant Yeast - 2 Sachets
Milk - 240 ml
Butter - 140 gms
Sugar - 115 gms (I've used mixed spice sugar)
Salt - 1/4 tsp
Cinnamon - 1tsp
Eggs - 3
Grated Zest of 1 Orange & 1 Lime
Vanilla Extract - 2 tsp
Lemon Extract - 1 tsp
Mixed Peel - 135 gms
Raisins - 170 gms
Brandy - 3 tbsp
Glacé' Cherries - 12
Flaked Almonds - 100 gms
Desiccated Coconut - 1 tbsp
Crushed Cardamom - 1 tsp
Saffron - 1 tsp (dissolved in 1tbsp warm milk)
Icing Sugar for dusting
Melted Butter for brushing
In a small bowl, soak the raisins in the brandy. (I soaked them for a week). Warm the milk and water. I used my bread machine to knead the dough.  So all I had to do was dump everything except the cherries into the bread-maker and use the knead cycle, at the end of which I added the glacé cherries. Once the kneading was done I shaped the dough into a wreath by punching dough down and rolling into a rectangle. Starting with a long side, roll up tightly, forming a long, thin cylinder. Transfer the cylinder roll to the sheet pan (form it around a bowl to keep the shape). Join the ends together. Using kitchen scissors make cuts along outside of circle, in 2-inch (5 cm) intervals, cutting 2/3 of the way through the dough. Let the dough prove for 11/2-2 hours at room temperature, or until about 1½ times its original size. Bake the stollen for 40-50minutes depending on size.  The bread will bake to a dark mahogany colourTransfer to a cooling rack and brush the top with melted butter while still hot. Immediately sieve a layer of powdered sugar over the top. Wait for 1 minute, and then tap another layer over the first.
The bread should be coated generously with the powdered sugar. Let cool before serving.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Coffee Macarons

I got on my "Feet" again!I Whipped up these babies in 10 minutes flat...Whisked the aged whites with cream of tartar and (egg) whites powder. Blended the almonds ,icing sugar and ground coffee together. Folded them in whites and piped onto baking sheet (without a template). Once baked and cooled piped some chocolate ganache and sandwiched them. Perfect to be served with coffee after dinner.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Mac Attack 14: Savory Sweet - White Chocolate Pink Peppercorn Macrons with Passion fruit Lemon-curd Buttercream

I love the holiday season…Just few more days of work and then it’s time to mingle. All that's left to do is stay cozy with a cuppa hot chocolate, delicious nibbles and sweet treats with occasional visits to/from friends & family. The gifts are all done and packed; some with a mailman finding their way overseas, some standing proud on the kitchen top, some eaten & digested as soon as they arrive. The decorations have come-up around the house..some silver-white ones resembling the snowflakes outside, brown pine cones dusted silver-white just like the skeletal tree with a skin of snow, embellished with some reds, pinks and gold to add to the festive sprit. House is filled with the aroma of the season; cinnamon in one sniff, mulled wine and baking boozy bread/cake in the other. The weather outside maybe dull and grey but with streets  lit up in colors, brimming with overcrowded markets and stalls. Who doesn’t like these holidays? I have been busy donning the chefs cap and dared to go all new and avant-garde this season!
So for this month’s Mac Attack Challenge, Mac Partners Jamie and Deeba have asked us to create a macaron that blends the Savory Sweet! A macaron to be served on a silver tray as an apératif or hors d’oeuvres with a glass of champagne, as a special snack or part of a festive buffet. I usually stick to the tried and tested Mac recipes but not this time..I made this White Chocolate-Pink Peppercorn Macs using the Italian Meringe method and boy-o-boy I am glad I did it! These are the perfect Macs I’ve ever made...perfect texture, perfect bite, perfectly chewy and, of course, perfect feet... the list is pretty much endless and flavours are to die for! I sandwiched them together with a Passion fruit-LemonCurd Buttercream that gave these Macs the perfect tang with the sweet and savory. 
White Chocolate Pink Peppercorn Macarons
Egg White - 55 gms (1) (aged for 2-3 days on kitchen-top or in the fridge for a week)
Icing Sugar - 150 gms
Ground Almonds - 60 gms
White Chocolate - 60 gms melted and cooled
Caster Sugar - 150 gms
Egg whites - 55 gms
Water - 1/4 cup
Egg Whites Powder - 1/2 tsp
Cream of Tartar - Pinch
Pink Peppercorns - a few
Pulse the almonds and icing  sugar in a processor until fine. Sieve twice. Mix one part of the egg whites and white chocolate to this. The mixture should look like a paste. Meanwhile whisk whites till frothy along with the whites powder and cream of tartar. Bring the sugar and water to boil and let it reach 115-118 C in a candy thermometer. Add this to the whites and whisk on high as you pour till it form glossy peaks. Mix a part of the whites to the almond mixture gently folding it. Mix in the remaining whites till you get a smooth mixture that forms ribbons when lifted. Do not over-mix as the mixture will turn liquidy and difficult to pipe. Fill a piping bag with the mixture and pipe onto a baking sheet with silpat/ non-stick sheet. Sprinkle some peppercorns on top and leave it to form a skin for 1 hour. When you touch them they should not stick to your hand at this point, if they do leave them for some more time. Preheat oven to 160C and bake these babies for 10-12 min depending on size. They should come off the sheet once cooked. Transfer to wire rack and cool. Pipe desired filling and sandwich the macarons.
Passionfruit-LemonCurd Icing (Makes a Jar)
1 Recipe Lemon Curd from here or here
4 Passion fruits scooped out
Few tbsp of Heavy Cream
Mix the passion fruit along with the ingredients for the lemon curd except butter and cook over double boiler as the recipe calls for. Mix in the butter once off heat. Transfer to sterilized jars. Use about 2 tbsp of the filling. Meanwhile whip the cream till stiff peaks and blend in the passion fruit-lemon curd. Fill a piping bag with this and pipe onto cooled shells and sandwich.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut Meringue Cake


Have you had one of those days when you are left with too many egg whites ageing on your counter top, have friends coming over for brunch the next morning and you haven't thought of deserts yet? Last Friday was one of those days. I tweeted hysterically asking good old friends for ideas and lovely Jamie gave me the courage.

"@debugcooking Sure, why not? It's meringue and it's baked so I wouldn't see why not? How old?@lifesafeast"

I had an idea of using them up in some sort of meringue; I made this gooey very chocolately flour-less chocolate cake with chocolate hazelnut meringue on top. This cake is very much like a brownie with a crunchy meringue top, classic on its own or with a dollop of whipped cream.
I am sending my chocolate decadence to Ria of Ria's collection this month's host of Chocolate Extravaganza Monthly Mingle for the lovely Meeta.
Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut Meringue Cake (adapted from (here)
Butter - 140 gms
Vanilla Golden Caster Sugar - 150 gms
Eggs - 6 separated
Vanilla Extract or Coffee - 1 Tbsp
Amaretto - 1 Tbsp (optional)
Lindt dark Chocolate - 100gms chopped
Hazelnut - 100 gms chopped
Egg Whites - 4
Cornstarch - 1 tbsp
Cream of Tartar - 1/8th tsp
Sugar - 170 gms

Method: Preheat oven to 180C, grease a 9 inch springform tin and  line the bottom of the tin with parchment paper, butter parchment and set aside. Whisk butter and sugar until pale and smooth at medium speed and add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping the bottom and sides of your bowl if necessary. Add the cooled, melted chocolate, espresso (or vanilla) and (if using) Amaretto. Beat until combined. In a clean mixer bowl whisk the 6 egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form. Fold one-third of the egg whites into chocolate mixture. Fold in remaining egg whites and pour batter into prepared pan, and bake 25-30 minutes.

Combine the chopped chocolate, nuts and cornstarch in a small bowl. Whish the remaining 4 egg whites on high speed until frothy. With the mixer running, slowly add the cream of tartar, sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Fold in hazelnut-chocolate mixture. Remove cake from oven. Using a large offset spatula, spread meringue mixture on top of cake using as little strokes as possible. Bake until meringue is lightly browned and crisp, about 45 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and cool. Run a butter knife on the sides of the pan and slowly release the springform tin.
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