Friday, 27 June 2008

Coming soon......

I will be back! I am leaving the US tomorrow and will really try to update my blog once I get used to UK time again.

The next month is going to be really hectic - I need to start and finish my dissertation - but there are lots of recipes I want to try and photos are required for our new business Crushhouse so I promise to make it worth your while if you hang in there.

I also need to go back and grovel to the lovely Daring Bakers and see if I am still allowed to call myself one.....

First new post with holiday piccies next week.......

Friday, 14 March 2008

Big Brother Rocks!

Sorry not that big brother but my big brother (pictured with the lovely Lucy)! Hurrah I am going on holiday! Well I am going to Boulder to see my brother so leaving one damp, cold place for another cold place but I will get to see snow, drink Jamba Juice (god i miss it in the UK) and stroll round Wholefoods. I can't wait!
I had fantastic sushi last time I was there so I am looking forward to repeating that as well as the most wonderful hot beef Salvaggio's Sandwich Shop experience. We also had great BBQ, so great I am salivating at the thought!

Trouble is I am on a diet for his wedding in June (I ordered the bridesmaid dress a size too small as incentive) so I may have to stick to the salads or save for lipo...
Anyway I shall be baking hard this weekend to get my next Daring Bakers challenge done and photographed before I leave on Tuesday. I will also try to post some of the other bits and pieces I have cooked recently just in case anyone is reading!

Monday, 10 March 2008

Mothers Day Pudding Cake

Mothers day is on the first Sunday in March in the UK and since I have had my own house it is tradition for Mummy to come to us for the day. This year she and Pa slept the night much to Harry's delight - he loves his Auntie Mummy! For me it was a great excuse to pop out and buy new bedlinen, a new passion, as well as candles, nice soap, a mummy's day gift and best of all plan what we were going to eat.

We had turkey, an enormous monster I couldn't resist buying on Christmas Eve when they were all reduced. I braised peas and lettuce, made fab bread sauce, great gravy, sprouts, roast potatoes and yummy purple sprouting. Wonderful, just like Christmas without all the panic! Pudding was the most glorious light lemony cake courtesy of Nigella.

I love this cake it is meringue covered cake filled with whipped cream and lemon curd, what could be better? I love a lemon pudding and this one feels light and is easy to make ahead. Sorry about the photo but none of us could wait while I took one of the whole thing and this was all that was left over after 5 of us had attacked it...
Lemon Meringue Cake
(Adapted from Feast by Nigella Lawson)
125g v soft unsalted butter
4 eggs separated
30g caster sugar
100g plain flour
25g cornflour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarb of soda
zest of 1 lemon - I don't use this as I am not a fan of zest
4 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons milk
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
150ml double cream
Large splosh Amaretto (about a single measure)
150g lemon curd

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees. Line and butter two 21cm sandwich tins.

Mix the egg yolks, 100g sugar, butter, flour, cornflour, baking powder, bicarb and lemon zest in a processor. Add the lemon juice and milk and whizz again. Divide the mixture between the prepared tins, there won't be much mixture but it will just go so spread it out as evenly as you can.

Whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until peaks form then slowly whisk in 200g of sugar. Divide the mixture between the two tins, spreading the meringue mixture straight on top of the cake batter. Smooth one flat with a metal spatula and peak the other one using the back of a spoon. Put into the oven for 20-25 minutes.

With a cake tester, pierce the cake that has the flat meringue topping to check it’s cooked all the way through. Remove both cakes to a wire rack and let cool completely in the tins.

Unmould the flat-topped cake onto a cake plate, meringue side down. Whisk the double cream with the Amaretto until thick but not stiff then set aside. Spread the flat sponge surface of the first cake with the lemon curd, then spatula over the cream and gently put the other cake on top. Cut with a very sharp knife otherwise you can get sliding.

Friday, 29 February 2008

Daring Bakers - French Bread

This is Sarah reporting for the Daring Bakers the time - 15:00, the date - 29th Feb, the challenge - to make French Bread that takes about 10 hours and blog about it today!!

Step by Step

Bread & I are not friends. I can make a fab no knead loaf and a brilliant low GI seed loaf but they both have one thing in common - they are easy. They represent no challenge to anyone, you simply mix, leave to rise and then cook. Julia Childs French Bread on the other hand is a long winded as a French lunch break.

15:05 - I have messed up already. I have halved the recipe as we don't eat much bread and I am not certain enough to give any away. I forgot to halve the water. I was wondering why the hell the dough was sloppy, its because I used double the amount of water I needed. Instead of being intelligent and just making up more yeast and measuring the flour I have been daring (stupid) and just added until it feels right. Oh God this is going to be a disaster but for comedy's sake I will continue with the challenge.

15:24 - maybe everything will be fine I have battered the dough gently with my dough hook and it feels silk soft maybe a little tacky but my add flour instinct may be right after all. I am putting my baby to bed for the first rise, I will walk the dog during this period.
15:25 - Maybe everything won't alright I have no plastic with which to cover my bowl to enable my baby to rise. I hope aluminum foil will work just as well....

16:30 - It rises! It rises! I couldn't resist peaking, I am nervous and excited what if I don't love my baby?

16:50 - I am going to need drinks to see me through this long dark night. I am thinking raspberry daquiris and lemon drops will help. I am going out for supplies.

17:30 - I have my first bubble. I can't stop peeking which may of course ruin the end result...

17:35 - My first bubble has deflated. I must stop peeking...

18:30 - It appears to be growing warts, I am not sure I am going to love my baby...

18:54 - Dough deflated and turned into a puffy, yeasty pillow. Have sent boyfriend to collect drinking, I mean baking buddy for the evening. I can not leave such a young baby on its own.

19:00 - I must make supper, starting to chop tomoatoes for salsa, need to make burgers, potatoes and salad. Must also make a start on cocktails oh yeah must do that!

19:30 - 1 lemon drop down, 1 bag of chips with guacamole and 1 quesadilia. Oh yeah baby is rising again tough little sucker!

20:00 - Another lemon drop, scared but take a peek at baby. Its time. I remove carefully whilst Claire makes more drinks. The blender is off putting but I manage it without mishap. I shape the soft baby into 2 vague rounds. (Lemon drops are potent, 2 shots of lemoncello & triple sec in each). Now I must, no they must rest....

20:30 - Another lemon drop. We eat homemade burgers, a little dry, with rosemary potatoes, a little overcooked, I forgot the garlic - damn. I must not cook when drinking!

20:40 - Rise my pretties. Rise.

20:50 - Another lemon drop.

21:10 - another lemon drop.....

21:20 - another lemon drop.....must rise, please rise....

22:03 - must put in oven, must have another lemon drop. Have now turned doughy pillows and placed in oven hoping for the best. Bugger have also burnt my finger. Double bugger have also drunk best part of a 2 bottles of booze. Also burnt thumb, I hate my baby.

22:21 - last lemon drop. Me & Claire now tired need sleep, bloody baby keeping us awake. Could do with another lemon drop or hot chocolate with cream and whiskey.

22:35 - Finally it is done. History will either celebrate or curse me. I can not try it until tomorrow .

22:54 - I am tired. I must go to bed. Please excuse the poor pictures but the professional photographer I live with has left his cameras in a safe at work. The shame. I will update tomorrow after tasting the unattractive baby.

Goodnight and sweet dreams. X

UPDATE: My bread was surprisingly good! The crust was crispy and it had a nice crumb and good flavour. I always get a great deal of satisfaction making bread but it was a very long recipe! Thanks so much to Mary and Sarah who must have spent hours making it such an easy to follow recipe and for challenging us with an 11 hour recipe, I really enjoyed it.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Muddy Landslide Cupcakes

It was the American's birthday smack bang in Lent. She has given up all things sweet for 40 days & nights but she relented for the big day and demanded cupcakes - she is from New York I think they are demanding. I couldn't make just any cupcakes as this was her one shot at sweet heaven before lent rules applied again so I figured mix together her favourite cocktail and cupcakes and there is a pretty good chance they will go down well.

Now the favoured cocktail is the mudslide - Tia Maria, Bailey's, Cream, Vodka - all perfect ingredients for a cupcake. Full of anticipation I made Tia Maria chocolate cupcakes but foolishly I used a new cupcake recipe instead of sticking to faithful Magnolia Bakery's. They were bland, they tasted like store cupcakes not home made, organic delights. I couldn't taste the coffee even though I added half a cup of Tia Maria and espresso powder and I couldn't taste the chocolate. You won't be getting the recipe - yuck!

My tasters did think they were good - Bobo however thinks anything someone else has cooked is good and same goes for Sam (I also think they are a little afraid of me). In light of this I figured a strong tasting frosting would be just the tickets so Baileys was the way to go. I was wrong. I did all the usual bits creamed butter added Baileys and sugar and more Baileys and again yuck. Too sweet, and strangely bland as well. Then it started to split and look very unattractive. I didn't take photos. Some poor souls ate them.

I was going to leave it at that but I also wanted to enter Cupcake Hero and knew my first efforts would not make the grade. The down side was I had already baked that week and Bobo tries to keep my efforts to a minimum - organic ingredients + yummy baked goods = shrinking wallet & growing tummy. I had to be sneaky, I planned and plotted and waited until he went out then I raided the kitchen with my well executed plan.

This time round I stuck to the Magnolia Bakery and tinkered adding ground almonds, Amaretto and almond extract. Oh these ones are good! The I made a chocolate buttercream and added Baileys to that and I have no idea how but it was the best textured buttercream I have ever made. Sadly I had made a half batch of these but they all went and Bobo managed 3!

Muddy Landslide Cupcakes (Chocolate and Amaretto Cupcakes)

(Adapted from Magnolia Bakery Cookbook)

1 Cup plain flour

1 Cup ground almonds

1tsp Baking powder

180g 70% Cocoa solid chocolate (I use Green & Blacks organic)

245g Soft salted butter

1 Cup golden caster sugar

1 Cup firmly packed soft brown sugar

4 large eggs

1/2 Cup milk

1/2 Cup amaretto

2 Tsp Almond extract

1 Tsp Vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 180C.
In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the flour and the baking soda and add the ground almonds, then set aside. Place the chocolate in the top of a double boiler over simmering water on low heat for about 5-10 minutes. Stir occasionally until completely smooth. Remove from heat and let cool for 5-10 minutes.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar till really fluffy and light, about 3 minutes on the medium speed of an electric mixer. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down and mixing well after each addition. Add the chocolate, mixing until well incorporated. Add the dry ingredients in thirds, alternating with the combined milk, Amaretto and extracts, beating after each addition until smooth.

Fill your cupcake liners about 3/4 full and bake for between 20 - 25 mins, it really depends on your oven or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of a cupcake comes out clean. Transfer them to a wire rack and let them cool completely.

Chocolate Baileys Buttercream Frosting

340g Soft salted butter

280g Really good dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)

250g Icing sugar sifted

5 - 6 tbs Baileys Irish Cream or similar

Melt the chocolate over hotwater as before and let cool for 5 - 10 mins so you don't melt your butter. (Although melted butter mixed with chocolate is filthy and gorgeous and I won't tell anyone if you don't).

Cream the butter for a min until smooth then add a spoon or two of the icing sugar. Pour in the melted chocolate and on a lowish speed mix until well combined. The point of the low speed is so you don't add air, you want a dense and velvet smooth frosting and lowish speeds and patience will help. Add a tablespoon of Baileys, mix (low speed) until combined then add a little more icing sugar. Keep going like this until you have added all the Baileys you want (keep tasting!) and all the icing sugar you want. I keep this fairly open as I like less sugar than most people and quiet a bit of Baileys but everyone is different thank God!

Frost your lovely little cakes and eat the left over frosting till you feel ill - I did...

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

No one is more commited... the idea of peas but peas from you in these circumstances is unacceptable. Very old joke that makes Bobo and Harry fall about laughing every time I cook peas. The joke must be done in your best Irish accent as it harks back to the days of Jerry Adams and Ian Paisley when they were trying to thrash out a peace (peas) deal.

Had these peas been on the table they may have been able to sort something out much more quickly. These peas are very, very acceptable indeed as well as easy to make and most comforting after a long hard day thrashing out deals.

I think the comforting thing is the cooking, glass of wine in hand you just chop a couple of things and then stir until you get the right consistency and then you can scoop it in to your mouth without having to cut anything. Perfect!

Just a quick word about rice. There are 3 types of rice suitable for risotto, the usual arborio which I find can go a bit mushy, carnaroli which I use as it holds it shape and bite whilst still being creamy and vialone nano which the Venetians use again it holds its shape but is smaller than the carnaroli.

Pea Risotto

Carnaroli rice - I used 180g for 2 of us
2 pints hot stock - chicken for me and on such a simple risotto make sure the stock is good as it is one of the main flavours. The stock will need to be kept on the heat whilst making the risotto
1 large shallot finely chopped
1 stick celery peeled and finely chopped - optional
1 slug - about 50ml - white wine or vermouth
large handful peas about 100g blanched or just defrosted
olive oil
parmesan cheese - freshly grated

Soften the shallot and celery in some olive oil (about a tablespoon) for 5 mins then add the rice. Stir the rice round until it is a little translucent at the edges then add the wine and stir the rice until it has been absorbed. Now for the exciting part, your first ladle of hot stock! Keep adding the stock a ladle at a time stirring - not all the time but don't leave it - until it has been absorbed before adding the next ladle.

All told this part will take about 10 - 15 mins but you will need to keep tasting the rice to make sure it is cooked the way you want it (a little bite but very very creamy).

Once cooked add the blanched peas and as much or little parmesan as you like stir them in and serve. So good I can't tell you!

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Crazy about cake!

I have been lazy about posting some of things I have actually remembered to photograph. I am not sure why but when going back through my photos I found cupcakes and a birthday cake I never got round to putting on my site.

These are my halloween cupcakes:

These are birthday cupcakes for the Fantastic Mr Fred:

And this is Fantastic Mr Fred's birthday cake (you have to have both!):

Please forgive the crappy photos the last two were taken in my car on the way into work!

The cupcakes and the birthday cake are all chocolate - everyone's favourite at work - frosted with either white chocolate cream cheese frosting, chocolate buttercream or vanilla buttercream. I am a creature of habit and for all these used Magnolia Bakery's devils food cake, I love the real chocolate in the batter rather than cocoa which I find a little insipid on its own.

If you want recipes please do leave a comment & I will get back to you....

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Bang, bang Monday

So after Sunday night chicken we had leftovers and lots of them - that chicken was a monster! After making a sandwich of two there was still plenty left for a lightish supper and what better than spicy, nutty, crunchy salad to pep you up during a long British winter...

Bang, bang chicken originates in Sichuan, a small town in China, where street vendors would sell chunks of poached chicken covered in a spicy sesame sauce. Before serving the chicken they would beat it with a wooden cudgel know as a bang hence bang bang chicken.

My version is stolen / borrowed from loads of recipes and is more of the bung it all taste and add more as need variety. However please do try it it is divine, creamy, savoury, moreish, I could go one but I won't.

Bang Bang Chicken

2 Chicken breasts - poached or left overs ripped off the carcass are fine, in fact any bits of chicken you have

Drizzle vegetable oil

2 chillies finely chopped- I used red but any colour will do

2 tsps roasted sesame oil

3 tbs peanut butter - crunchy or smooth whatever you have

1 tsp grated ginger - or half a teaspoon dried ginger although fresh is nicer

1 tsp soy sauce - or more to taste

2 tsps brown sugar

1 tbs rice wine vinegar - or white wine vinegar

1 tsp tahini (optional - don't bother buying specially for this!)

1 tbs sesame seeds - or more!

Salad - I use crunchy green stuff like iceberg lettuce, cucumber, beansprouts, spring onions. For me it must all be green or white but I am fussy like that...

In the drizzle of veg oil fry the chillies and ginger for a minute or 2 being careful not to burn them. Then turn off the heat and chuck in the sesame seeds, peanut butter, soy, sugar, vinegar, tahini and sesame oil. Mix it all together until it forms a runnyish paste, taste and adjust seasoning as you see fit. Shred you chicken and pop on top of your salad then generously drizzle on the sauce. Mmmmm.....

Monday, 4 February 2008

Sunday Night Chicken and a lecture...

I love chicken, bronzed, crispy skinned and juicy. You can't beat it for Sunday lunch or Sunday evening with loads of bread sauce. I mean how beautiful does this little, well quite large really, bird look:

This is one of Waitrose's Poulet D'Or chickens. They are bred from slow growing French birds (a little like rare breed meat) so must be left for a minimum of 81 days so they taste like real chicken. They are fed corn and cereals as well as having unlimited daylight access to the outdoors to forage. They are kept in large barns overnight (1,300 per barn) and whilst they are chicks so it is not ideal but it is a close as I can get until Bobo earns more money and we can have a small holding.

Chicken welfare has been thrown into the public eye in the UK lately with celebrity chefs like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstale and Jamie Oliver trying to persuade the UK public to only by free range. The majority of chickens sold in this country are raised in large sheds which they never leave until slaughter time after 39 days of life. The chickens raised in these sheds have been bred to grow quickly in order to maximise profit and reduce costs. The problem is with rapid growth and unnatural conditions the chickens begin to suffer problems with their legs, lungs and hearts. This leads to about 5% of all chickens raised being culled before their 39 days are up, these chickens will never see a vet. These chickens also live about 40,000 to a shed.

It is well worth looking at the Waitrose web site to learn more about their chickens, they have videoed their 'Farm Assured' chickens to show how they are raised. Interestingly they have made improvements - increasing the natural day light, giving more room (although they do not say how mch more room) and they add things like straw bales to help with boredom. However the video does not show them once they get near to slaughter date so they seem to have lots of room and if you look at the chickens they all look shabby - feathers missing etc and quite lethargic.

Take a look at the organic free range chickens and you see a different story, you see real chickens running around plump and happy looking. These guys get to spend half their lives outdoors and aren't slaughtered for at least 70 days. They use a 'slow' growing bird - really a bird that grows at the right speed - so they do not have the issues with legs, heart and lungs (running around also helps these problems disappear).

What we should remember when buying chickens is they are all commercially produced so the conditions will never be a nice as we would like. At some point they will be cramped, many will die due to unnatural conditions and they will never taste as good as they will from a farmer that has only a few that get lavished with love. BUT you can and should know how your food is produced before you buy it so that you can decide if a chicken should cost £5.00 for 2 or if it should cost £10.00 for a free range bird or £19.00 like the Poulet D'Or ones.

Because I want taste and comfort that my chicken had tons of room in his shed and field and as long a life as possible I go for the Poulet D'Or ones every time. I just have less and use every last bit carcass included so a £19.00 chicken will feed the two of us 5- 7 meals roughly £3.00 per meal.

I think that as a nation we have become very lazy with the way we cook and eat because food is so cheap. We have become fat and unhealthy and very out of touch with nature if we think that a chicken should be 39 days old at slaughter and a pig at 3 months. Meat should be a treat not an every day necessity and so I think supermarkets should put their prices up and we should all think a little bit more about what we eat.

End of lecture! Please excuse the rant however this topic really winds me up! Anyway here is a piccie of Bobo about to tuck into the tasty chicken which I served with spicy lentils (GI diet thing) and peas because I was too lazy to do anything else....

The spicy lentils are really easy and although they look brown and uninteresting they are really sooo tasty.

250g Puy lentils

1 Onion

2 cloves garlic - finely chopped

1 - 2 chillies (however many you want) - finely chopped

Few strands rosemary - finely chopped

Glass red wine

1 Pint chicken stock

Wash the lentils, cover with water and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 10 mins until soft on the outside but still hard in the middle.

Finely chop the onion and fry in a little oil, when translucent add the garlic, rosemary, garlic and chilli. Fry all these for a few mins and then add the red wine, let this bubble away until you have about 2 tablespoons left then add the drained lentils. Stir them round and then add the stock, check for seasoning and chilli then leave the lentils for about 10 - 15 mins until they are al dente and most of the chicken stock has gone.

These are also great cold with cold chicken and salad....

Thursday, 31 January 2008

Hey Baby I cook you looong time.......

I am a useful person to have in an office, for birthdays I cook cakes (2 or 3 tier) or cupcakes or a selection of the 2. Most people love them (or say they do because I am the boss) and wolf them down pretty quickly however I have a friend who loves pork not cake. PP has an obsession with pork, if you talk bacon he starts to salivate mention sausages wrapped in bacon only if you have water proofs on.

PP (as I will call him for the sake of privacy) requested, yes I take requests as well, some form of pork cake. He was thinking along the lines of sausage, black pudding and bacon cooked in a cake shape. My thoughts immediately went to slow cooked pork shoulder and a form of doggy torture.

I went out to my brilliant local butcher (thank you Roger Brown) and purchased a large shoulder of pork, the whole thing, from a wonderful gloucester old spot pig who lived a cheerful life in a field grubbing about for food. It probably weighed about 4 kilos in total so just enough for PP with a little left over - PP is greedy.

To cook this baby I preheated the oven to 200 degrees and made a rub to anoint its precious skin and underbelly with. The rub is a slightly bastardised version of Nigel Slater's and consists of soy sauce, fresh ginger, chinese 5 spice (only a pinch), salt, pepper and chillies. You are looking for a paste rather than a liquid that will slid straight off.

Half the rub is spread onto the top and then it is shoved on the oven for half an hour, take it out and turn over. This bit is tricky as the thing is now huge, hot and sticky I sort of man handle it with any implement to hand but do be careful. Once on its back slather on the rest of the goo, turn down the oven to about 100 degrees, throw in a glass of water, bung it back in the oven and leave for 12 hours.

This was the mean bit. Harry, the pooch, sleeps in the kitchen. The smell is frankly heavenly and poor Harry was very dehydrated from all the drool.

Anyway the following morning I carried the beautifully browned baby into work to finish off in the oven there in time for lunch. You will need to flip the pork back over and turn the oven back up to about 200 to crisp up the crackling, this won't take long so keep an eye on it.

To demonstrate how good this is PP & the office had great jerk pork and festival for breakfast yet still managed to polish pretty much the whole shoulder off. Mmmmmmmmm........

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

My, my Lemon Meringue Pie!

I love lemon meringue pie so when I discovered that's what we had to bake for the Daring Bakers challenge this month I was delighted. I thought I could make a few all the name of experimentation and getting nice photos and I thought I could eat them all. Then I remembered I have to lose 4 stone before my brother gets married in June. Bugger.

Fortunately really bad tooth pain kicked in. I am talking nearly passing out painful, whimpering quietly to myself kind of pain. Now I realise this does not sound great but it did / does mean I am on a solid diet of mush and soup whilst my recent root canal settles and the horrid abscess goes away. This diet of mush means I can still lose weight and eat the middle bit of the pie!! Always a sliver lining.

Anyway I invited my Mummy and Daddy round for Sunday lunch in order to make my pie. I cooked lovely chicken for them with all the bits - bread sauce, roast potatoes and real gravy - and I had mushed veg and more bread sauce than is decent. Then we had pie, yummy, yummy pie.

I had no problems with my lovely, buttery, sweet pastry although I did cheat slightly and used 1 cup flour one cup ground almonds as lemon and almond are my all time favs. I made one big pie and some small ones in a muffin tin, I baked them all blind and had no problems with pastry slippage (I did pop them in the freezer before cooking). The filling was fab thick and yellow until I added the lemon then it was thinner and yellow. (Tasty and thin just what I want to be!) Still undeterred I filled my pies and hoped it would thicken on cooling.

Well it did thicken in the mini ones but sadly not in the big one although I didn't leave it all that long so it didn't have much of a chance. However thick or not it was really tasty, I had never added vanilla before but it really added something and I would suggest you try it. My Daddy thought it was great and even had seconds (unheard of) and we all sat picking at it for quite some time until it was gone!

That was some good pie and I still managed to lose 3 pounds so a diet pie as well....

Lemon Meringue Pie
From Wanda’s Pie in the Sky by Wanda Beaver, 2002
(Makes one 10-inch (25 cm) pie)
For the Crust:
¾ cup (180 mL) cold butter; cut into ½-inch (1.2 cm) pieces
2 cups (475 mL) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (60 mL) granulated sugar - I used caster sugar
¼ tsp (1.2 mL) salt
⅓ cup (80 mL) ice water
For the Filling:
2 cups (475 mL) water
1 cup (240 mL) granulated sugar
½ cup (120 mL) cornstarch
5 egg yolks, beaten
¼ cup (60 mL) butter
¾ cup (180 mL) fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp (15 mL) lemon zest
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract
For the Meringue:
5 egg whites, room temperature
½ tsp (2.5 mL) cream of tartar
¼ tsp (1.2 mL) salt
½ tsp (2.5 mL) vanilla extract
¾ cup (180 mL) granulated sugar
For the Crust:
Make sure all ingredients are as cold as possible. Using a food processor or pastry cutter and a large bowl, combine the butter, flour, sugar and salt. Process or cut in until the mixture resembles coarse meal and begins to clump together. Sprinkle with water, let rest 30 seconds and then either process very briefly or cut in with about 15 strokes of the pastry cutter, just until the dough begins to stick together and come away from the sides of the bowl. Turn onto a lightly floured work surface and press together to form a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 20 minutes.
Allow the dough to warm slightly to room temperature if it is too hard to roll. On a lightly floured board (or countertop) roll the disk to a thickness of ⅛ inch (.3 cm). Cut a circle about 2 inches (5 cm) larger than the pie plate and transfer the pastry into the plate by folding it in half or by rolling it onto the rolling pin. Turn the pastry under, leaving an edge that hangs over the plate about ½ inches (1.2 cm). Flute decoratively. Chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Line the crust with foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden. Cool completely before filling.
For the Filling:
Bring the water to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan. Remove from the heat and let rest 5 minutes. Whisk the sugar and cornstarch together. Add the mixture gradually to the hot water, whisking until completely incorporated.
Return to the heat and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. The mixture will be very thick. Add about 1 cup (240 mL) of the hot mixture to the beaten egg yolks, whisking until smooth. Whisking vigorously, add the warmed yolks to the pot and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in butter until incorporated. Add the lemon juice, zest and vanilla, stirring until combined. Pour into the prepared crust. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming on the surface, and cool to room temperature.
For the Meringue:
Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC). Using an electric mixer beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar, salt and vanilla extract until soft peaks form. Add the sugar gradually, beating until it forms stiff, glossy peaks. Pile onto the cooled pie, bringing the meringue all the way over to the edge of the crust to seal it completely. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden. Cool on a rack. Serve within 6 hours to avoid a soggy crust.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

That's My Boy

No food post, the GI diet has temporarily destroyed any creativity I might have had whilst I try to understand what I should and shouldn't eat. The strange thing is butter has no GI value therefore could be deemed OK but pair it with flour, eggs and sugar - as nearly all my favourite things do - and it is bad. Very bad. Beans and pulses are good as are greens, no one wants to visit us particularly as Harry is eating the left overs...

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Let the Excuses Begin!

Well what a December! Firstly we seem to have a dozen events at work that need organising - the one for 600 including 300 children was a challenge. The first part of the month disappeared in a round of finding 300 presents, wrapping them, labeling them and then creating the grotto to house them. Good fun but with normal work, the ever present dissertation and general Xmas panic i have been distracted.

I thought I had plenty of time to do the Daring Bakers challenge, end of the month to make a yule log - easy! The suddenly it was Christmas Eve, still no need to panic I thought I don't need to post until the 28th. Where the heck did I get that date from? I must be unable to read or I simply make things up to suit me not sure but apparently everyone else understood the need to finish and report by 22nd December. Bugger.

However I was still in ignorance at this time so on Christmas Eve I popped out for drinks, ate food and then went to bed to wait for Santa. Christmas day at Ma & Pa's, great goose, great company then on Boxing Day on to Rob's sisters past Nottingham then back to work in Brum on 28th. No worries I will make the yule log tonight. Easy.

Genoise sponge turned out great, really light and fluffy I also added a little Tia Maria to the mix for a subtle coffee liqueur flavour. Yum. Then I read the post again, I swore loudly as realisation that I had well and truly missed the deadline dawned. I went out for a drink, this in turn led to several drinks which led to the sponge being covered and thoughts of finishing it the following day.

The following day came with a hangover and Rob's admission that we were going to his parents house that day. The sponge is covered for another day.

I finally managed to make the butter cream three days after the sponge had been baked. The butter cream was a bugger and after it curdled unattractively I did give up as the sponge was also past its best. I made coffee butter cream instead and I hit upon chocolate ganache for the filling. The butter cream was pale the ganache darker and so the butter cream became the filling.

It was OK. The butter cream I could have eaten on toast, the milk chocolate ganache not so great - note to self always use 70% dark choc - the sponge 2 days too old. Pants.

Never mind I though I will post it anyway just to show I tried. At this point the gods that watch over bloggers decided they were bored and felt the need to spice it up for me. My laptop broke, arrrrrrgggghhhhhh and maybe even a few exclamation marks (no more than 6, only the truly insane have more than 6)!!!!! (5, you can count them if you like). Harry, being a selfish Labrador would not lend me his - sorry I am too busy emailing my felicitations and gratitude after the festive period (he reads too much dickens). I was stuck, my blog burning with shame at just how naked it looked and me frustrated that you can not put a laptop through double glazing no matter how hard you try.

Any hoo new year, new laptop, new resolutions to clothe my blog with all things daring and some other bits besides. Pop back in a couple of months if you fancy and I promise there will be better photos - if Rob pulls his finger out, it really is shaming that he is a professional photographer - and more regular posts with delicious food. Well maybe more of a list of my clumsy disasters but at least you can feel smug that your blogs are so much better....