Monday, 25 February 2013

Favourite Things: Red Cappucino

Red Cappucino

I love it when I have a favourite thing, and the company that makes it decides to make it even better without my asking!! Like when Kit Kat added peanut butter?! Best day EVER!!! The other best day ever? When they decided to make Rooibos tea into a cappuccino!

I've never been a big fan of coffee except for strictly practical purposes (staying awake!), so I play around with teas at lot. The flavoured varieties tend to be a little too artificial, so I rather switch between Ceylon, Rooibos, Green and Earl Grey. 

Rooibos strikes such a great balance between good-for-you and delicious. The issue I used to have is that, when it's made as a tea it just doesn't have all the flavour I crave. That problem is solved in this cappuccino!! Thank you Red Espresso people! Yay big evil corporate!

I think this might be the last time I post before the wedding. There's so much going on at the moment, suppers and visits and fittings that there's just no time or inclination to cook. I'm just going to settle into this blissful haze for the next month, and I'll see you when I get back!

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Love by Chocolate

Silky, Soft, Smooth and Spectacular Chocolate Cake

I wanted to write a love letter to women in the form of a cake. I don't know how I would go through my life without every single woman in it! There's this amazing supportive relationship that seems to just happen between women- and I'm super super SUPER grateful for it. Of course, by the look of the cake, you'd think I wasn't.. But if only you'd tasted it!

It was the weekend after Valentines Day, and the perfect time. I invited my gorgeous dancing girls to a picnic, and set about looking for something super decadent- completely over the top and just for girls! I found my answer on Foodie Bride.

 The cake was oh-my-goodness-perfect. The brownie base was chewy and crunchy, the chocolate mouse was oh-so-smooth, the cake was soft and moist and the ganache was just so silky.

Everyone that tried this cake absolutely raved about it, and not sharing it was harshly punishable, as poor Brandon found out when Ane found the tell-tale dirty lunchbox in his bag. Poor poor Ane- I mean Brandon!

Silky, Soft, Smooth and Spectacular Chocolate Cake
From Confessions of a Foodie Bride

78 g flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
85 g dark chocolate (I used Bournville)
85 g unsalted butter
280 g sugar
2 extra-large eggs
2 tsp vanilla essence

65 g  dark chocolate (I used Bournville)
1/8 cup cocoa
1/4 cup hot water
63 g sugar
110 g flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 extra-large eggs
1 extra-large egg-yolk
156 g sugar

85 g unsalted butter, soft

1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla essence

170 dark chocolate (I used Bournville)
1 7/8 cup cream
1 tblsp sugar

 1.5 cups cream
30 g unsalted butter
510 g dark chocolate (I used Bournville)

1) Preheat oven to 160 C. Grease and line a 9 inch springform pan.
2) Whisk dry ingredients (flour, salt and baking powder) in a bowl and set aside.
3) Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler.
4) Add sugar a bit at a time, whisking thoroughly.
5) Add the eggs one at a time, whisking well after each addition.
6) Add vanilla essence.
7) Add half of the dry mixture, and fold in gently, then add the other half.
8) Pour into pan, and bake for about 30 minutes, until a skewer comes out almost clean.
9) Take out of the oven and allow to cool in the pan.

1) Keep oven at 160 C. Grease and line a 9 inch cake pan.
2) Put chocolate, cocoa and hot water in a double boiler, stir until all melted. Add sugar and whisk thoroughly, then set aside to cool.

3) Whisk dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt) in a bowl and set aside.
4) Beat eggs thoroughly, then add sugar and beat thoroughly again, until the mixture is pale and fluffy.
5) Add cooled chocolate mixture to egg mixture and mix thoroughly.
6) Add butter bit by bit and mix thoroughly.
7) Add the flour and buttermilk alternately, starting and ending with the flour (3 additions of flour, and 2 of buttermilk).
8) Pour into pan, and bake for about 30 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool in pan until settled (about 15 minutes), then carefully turn out onto a wire rack.

Chocolate Mousse:
1) Put a bowl and beaters in the fridge or the freezer.
2) Melt the chocolate in a double boiler, and set aside.
3) Take bowl and beaters out of the fridge, and beat cream to stiff peak stage.
4) Add about a cup of the cream to the chocolate mixture and whisk in thoroughly.
5) Add the chocolate mixture to the rest of the cream, and fold in gently.
6) Place in the fridge until needed.

Chocolate Ganache:
1) Place chocolate in a stainless steel bowl.
2) Bring cream and butter to the boil in a small saucepan, and pour over the chocolate.
3) Let stand for 5 minutes, then stir until smooth.
4) Take 1 cup out and put in the fridge, and let the rest cool to room temperature.

Getting it all together:
1) Spread chocolate mousse on the brownie bottom.
2) Place chocolate cake on top of the mousse. Place whole stack in the fridge for an hour.
3) Remove springform tin, lining and bottom.
4) Spread room temperature ganache all arounf the cake.
5) Use the cooled ganache to pipe swirls onto the cake, and decorate the bottom.

The picnic was just wonderful.. I love it when other people cook and feed me delicious things- makes me feel all warm inside :-).

Monday, 18 February 2013

A Reminder of my Grandma

Cooked Buckwheat

In Ukraine, we would probably eat buckwheat at least once a week. It was a standard side for Beef Stroganoff and Schnitzels and even often served as a sort of porridge for grumpy children like myself.

This porridge is soft and has a flavour that some might describe as slightly nutty. With butter it's just so comforting and delicious. From what I understand it's lighter than starch sides, so it's just a little bit better for that Friday night when I just want some comfort.

When I eat food that reminds me of my childhood, I feel so so close to my gran. I can almost see what her tiny hands would look like dishing up my meal. She would always sit and watch me eat, like it was her favourite show ever.

Cooked Buckwheat
My wonderful mom

1 cup buckwheat
2 cups water  

1) First, wash the buckwheat with tap water.
2) Tip it out onto a pan, put on a medium heat, and dry it out and brown it a little bit.
3) Now put the water in a pot and bring it to the boil, add the buckwheat and put on a low heat.
4) Cover and let boil for 20 minutes. Don't lift the lid!
5) Add butter, serve immediately.

For grumpy children, add some milk instead of butter. I think I also convinced my parents to add some sugar?

Friday, 15 February 2013

Sunday Baking: The Meringue Wars Part 2

Lemon Meringue: Classic vs Modern Part 2

The second part of the experiment! This was by far the favourite lemon meringue! I've made it before, but I kept thinking about how I could make it even better. I had two ideas: Make lemony taste  so intense it made my brain freeze, and make the meringue creamy and denser. This time I took on the meringue.

I chose the italian meringue because a little tart hinted me towards it. I looked it up in the Larousse, and it didn't look too bad. It came out super creamy and I was really hopeful!! The only problem was, I kept waiting and waiting for it to brown, but it didn't.. Eventually the tips of the meringue peaks burned a bit and I took it out.

My goodness it was delicious. Do you think it's because it's made out of Tennis biscuits, butter, condensed milk and sugar? I don't even get to think about eating condensed milk when I'm not quietly sneaking it into one of these. I apologise for the picture below in advance, as, I just couldn't get a good looking slice out of this guy!

Italian Meringue
From Larousse Gastronomique

4 egg whites
200 g castor sugar
200 ml water

1) Put the water and castor sugar on the heat and bring to the boil. Keep boiling until they reach a temperature of between 120 C and 160 C (I tend to use one of these easy thermometers)- this is called soft balls stage.
2) While it's boiling, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks.
3) While still beating the egg whites, start adding the syrup in a thin stream (you probably need 2 people for this), keep beating until the mixture is completely cool!
4) Spread on top of a lemon meringue pie, bake for about 10 minutes at 180 C or until lightly browned.

This pie was such a huge hit! With me even more than the usual fans (Ane, my partner in this gorgeous endeavour!). I thought we were all out, but I found some leftovers in the fridge at work, and I literally jumped up and down!! Better than finding money in your pocket!

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Sunday Baking: The Meringue Wars Part 1

Lemon Meringue: Classic vs Modern Part 1

I've been wanting to experiment with lemon meringue for a while. So, I planned a play date for a Sunday with The Brownie Eating Monster, my gorgeous friend Ane. While we were at it, we planned a play date for the guys too- they took Ralph's toy helicopter to the park, and then arranged a scrumptious braai for us. It was a whole day of the best company, baking and cooking. My favourite kind of day.

The plan was to make two lemon meringue pies, different in their crust, filling, and topping. I wanted the first pie to be classic, so it came straight out of the Larousse

Lemon Meringue
From Larousse Gastronomique

Makes a 9-10 inch pie

225 g cake flour
50 g chilled butter
50 g chilled vegetable fat (Holsum in South Africa)
3 - 5 tblsp cold water

350 ml water
65 g cake flour
65 g corn flour (Maizena in South Africa)
250 g castor sugar
3 lemons, juiced and zested
4 egg yolks
25 g butter

4 egg whites
125 g caster sugar
20 g icing sugar

Shortcrust pastry:
1) Preheat oven to 200 C.
2) Put flour in a large bowl with chilled butter and fat. First use a pastry cutter, then rub in with your fingertips, until the mixture resembles bread crumbs.
3) Pour 3 tablespoons of water in, and mix with a palette knife until it all comes together. For me, I tried to keep it to that, but it was too little in the end- add a bit more if needed!
4) Form into a ball, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
5) Roll out and place in the pie tin, cutting away extra bits (more neatly than I did!).

6) Now, layer some wax paper into the pie tin, and fill it with something heavy, like pie weights, rice, lentils or beans. This will help the pie crust keep it's shape. Ane did a great job with ours!

7) Bake for 10 minutes.

Lemon Filling:

1) Boil water.
2) Add the flours and castor sugar into a pot, and gradually add the boiling water.
3) Put on the heat, bring to the boil.

4) Set aside and allow to cool. Then transfer to a bain marie (double boiler).
5) Add the lemon zest and juice, egg yolks and butter, and cook over boiling water for 15 minutes, whisking occasionally.

6) Pour into pie crust, and bake for 10 minutes- still at 200 C.

Lemon Meringue:

1) Put the egg whites into a super clean bowl, and add a pinch of salt.
2) Whisk egg whites to stiff peaks.
3) Gently fold in sugars.
4) Spread over pie (I made a couple extra- my pie dish was a little small).

5) Return to the oven for about 10 minutes, or until brown.

I got great compliments on this pie! It's much more humble than the other pie, it made me feel sophisticated and proper. It's soft and comfortable, but not over the top. Like something you would be proud to make for your mom in law. My mom in law would love this..

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Rolling Over

Swiss Roll

It was one of my resolutions this year to make a Swiss roll that actually rolled rather than folded and cracked. It seems like a sad kind of resolution, one of those "just don't screw it up!" things. But it's just so sad to make a delicious cake that's.. Broken.. Sad no more though!

The wonderful thing about a Swiss roll is that it's completely fat-free. There's not a stitch of butter in there! It makes it so much easier to eat.. and eat.. and eat.

The plan was for Ralph to take that gorgeous thing to work and away from me. But he forgot on Monday, and by Tuesday it was too late, it was almost all gone..  When you have a cup of tea in your hand, a Swiss roll just seems like the logical next step, and you wonder what you've done for every other cup of tea in your life because, surely it wasn't this good?

Swiss Roll
From The Ultimate Snowflake Collection

4 extra-large eggs, separated
135 g castor sugar
50 ml water
210g cake flour
2 ml salt
castor sugar for dusting
about 100 ml apricot jam
icing sugar for dusting (optional)

1) Preheat the oven to 180 C.
2) Cream the egg yolks and castor sugar.
3) Add the water and keep beating.
4) Sift the flour and salt together. Add to the egg mixture and fold in.
5) Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Add to the egg mixture and fold in using a metal spoon.
6) Grease and line a Swiss roll tin (23x32 cm). Pour the mixture into this.
7) Bake for roughly 20 minutes, but keep an eye on it and take it out when it browns.
8) While it's baking, take a damp dishcloth, lay it out flat and sprinkle it with castor sugar.
9) As soon as the roll it out of the oven, flip it straight onto the dishcloth.
10) Now, trim all the edges- this is an important part of preventing the cracks!
11) Roll it up using the damp towel and let it sit for about 5-10 minutes.
12) Now, unroll it carefully, and spread with the jam.
13) Roll it up again, sprinkling with icing sugar if you would like.

Enjoy with tea, but it's also absolutely wonderful with a glass of milk!

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Valentines Ideas

Valentimes Day Recipes

Valentimes is my way of splitting up Valentines Day (when you have to do something romantic on a specific day) and that day that's within a few days of Valentines Day when you have time to actually do something wonderful and romantic. Ralph and I mostly celebrate Valentimes Day :-), except when we get engaged :-).

For the non-traditionalists, here's what I made for Ralph to say I love you in the past couple of years:

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

White Butter Makes Everything Butter

Beurre Blanc

You know when you cook fish at home and it's just SO fishy? Then you go out and order fish and they say it's cooked with "lemon butter" and when they bring it out there's this creamy sauce layered thinly on the fish, and it tastes like HEAVEN? Music plays in your head, a smile appears on your face, your eyes develop that romantic fuzzyness that makes your partner extra gorgeous? That, ladies and gentlemen is Beurre Blanc.

What I did was a very simple supper, fish fried in olive oil with a bit of salt and pepper, and steamed broccoli. Couldn't be more boring or bland, right? But the addition of the magic (definitely black magic) sauce, just changed it completely! It tasted like something I would order at a restaurant, and rave about afterwards!

Fish has always been problematic for me. We didn't cook much fish when I was growing up so I've been a little lost about diversifying my cooking techniques and sauces. Beurre Blanc has been a huge breakthrough.. Just HUGE!!

Thank you Julia Child, for teaching me how to cook something this good for my fiance.

Beurre Blanc
From Mastering The Art of French Cooking

1 tblsp chopped shallot
60 ml white wine vinegar
60 ml white wine
salt and pepper
350 g butter, chilled and chopped into about 25 cubes.

1) Put the wine, vinegar and shallot into a small saucepan with generous salt and pepper pinches.

2) Boil until only about a tablespoon of liquid remains.
3) Take pot off the heat and turn heat source down to low.

4) Add two cubes of butter and whisk in vigorously.
5) When they start getting soft and melting, add another cube, and put pot back onto a low heat.
6) Keep whisking until the butter starts melting and adding extra cubes. The mixture should be thick and creamy.

7) You can add more than the butter specified (I added a bit more), but preferably not less, as that might make the vinegar taste too strong.
8) Drizzle onto fish and broccoli and enjoy!

I cheated a bit here.. I couldn't get shallots so I used onion chopped very finely. Also, I could only get white spirit vinegar which isn't very high quality, but even so the sauce was completely, life-changingly fantastic!!

Monday, 4 February 2013

A Choc-Chip Formidable Diet Enemy

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Baking is all about sharing for me. It has to be. For anyone who doesn't live with about 10 people, it just has to be. It's just the most wonderful feeling, feeding delicious tidbits to friends and family and making them happy. This isn't like cooking- it's not nourishing the body no no - baked goods nourish the soul.

 Chocolate chip cookies are very much like pizza- people have VERY specific tastes and what's Nobel prize deserving for one person doesn't even appear on the radar for another.

These cookies were large, super chocolatey and crunchy. They have that New-York coffee shop feel- they've got the American size, the luring peaking chocolate and that gorgeous oven tan.

Taking these to work to share with my colleagues, and Ralph's colleagues is just so wonderful. There are precious few ways for people to show warmth towards others these days- even the people with whom you spend most of your time. Playing it cool is much more fashionable, but unfortunately it isn't very me. This is how I compensate :-).

Chocolate pieces held together with minimal dough is how I try to take care of those around me. How do you show others warmth?

Chocolate Chip Cookies
From Smitten Kitchen

250 g cake flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
170 g melted unsalted butter
1 cup caramel sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tblsp vanilla essence
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 cups chocolate chips

1) Preheat oven to 165 C.
2) Sift together the flour, bicarb and salt.
3)  Beat butter together with the sugars. I thought I was going wrong here because this is what I ended up with:

but this was perfectly fine!

4)  Add the vanilla essence, egg and egg yolk and beat thoroughly.
5) Add the flour mixture and mix thoroughly with a spoon- don't beat here as this forms a sort of dough. 
6) Add chocolate chips and stir in to distribute evenly:

7) Now, make big balls of this dough- I measured roughly with a 60 ml measure. And place, quite far apart on a baking tray.(I used a Swiss roll tray and placed 2 per row- about 3-4 rows per tray, these are large cookies!)

8) The cookies should bake for about 15 minutes, you'll know they're ready when the outer edges of the cookie brown. Try not to do more than one batch at a time- I did and my bottom tray ended up baking very differently- my chocolate chips melted and burned and created a very hard unpleasant cookie- avoid this!