Sunday, January 29, 2012

Nutella Muffins

This recipe is adapted from The Humming Bird Bakery Cake Days. Great book overall (despite the whole vinegar and bread soda thing here too) but they tend to make way too much icing (I only make about half of what they say. If you are into baking I would thoroughly recommend it. All the recipes from it that I've tried have been great and even if you don't like to follow recipes it's great for inspiration. Amazon have it at a massive discount

 I would regard them as breakfast rather than dessert muffin they were still really tasty. I made 12.

  • 300g plain flour
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 1tbsp baking powder
  • half tsp bread soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 90g butter melted
  • 160g nutella for the mix and as many tsp as you have muffins for the filling
  • hazelnuts to top
Just beat the mixed dry ingredient with the mixed wet ingredients (except for the nutella and butter) and stir in the nutella. Half fill 12 muffin cases (in a muffing tray obviously) with batter, add a spoonful of nutella and then fill. Sprinkle with crushed hazelnuts. Bake at 170 degrees Celcius for about 30mins (check at 25). Then cool on a rack.

The reason the muffin top is nicer than the bottom is that it can expand freely unlike the bit in the case so I  filled my cases completely (they suggest two thirds) to get a nice big top.

Next time I think I might try adding some frangelico to the mix for extra nuttiness or some chocolate liqueur. Or I might put melted chocolate instead of nutella and some walnut liqueur.

Red velvet cake

For the cake
  • 125g butter
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 3 small eggs or 2 large
  • 300g plain flour
  • 230ml milk with a squeeze of lemon juice/vinegar (or just if you have butter milk use it)
  • 1tsp salt
  • 2tsp vanilla
  • 30g cocoa powder (sieved)
  • 3tsp red food colouring
  • 1tsp bread soda
For the frosting
  • 160g soft butter
  • 140g icing sugar (sieved)
  • 400g cream cheese
  • 2tsp vanilla
Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. add the eggs, then alternate the dry ingredients with the wet ones. Divide between 2 round lined and grease baking sheets (I use the silicone ones, put just a roughly ripped piece of greaseproof paper on the bottom and brush with oil), spread the filling out evenly and bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 25-30mins. Cool on wire racks.

For the icing beat the butter and sugar together then add the other ingredients. You can just sandwich the rounds and spread with icing but I cut them in half to make 4 rounds and sandwiched these together with icing to make a prettier effect, then spread the whole lot with the remaining icing and sprinkled some decorations on top.

I took a photo as soon as I could but it was disappearing fast hence the small bit in the pic.

I am a bit dubious about the whole sifting things to get air in. I think the main purpose of sifting dry ingredients together is to mix them so providing you mix them together well you don't have to run out and buy a sieve. However cocoa powder and icing sugar tend to clump so I sieve them to ensure there are no lumps.

Oh and one more thing, a lot of recipes I see for red velvet something seem to end in the reader having to mix vinegar with baking soda. I do not understand this at all. All you have afterward is some sodium acetate (a seasoning) and carbon dioxide which is now gone and has done nothing for your baking. I get the whole carbon dioxide as a raising agent (hence the acidic buttermilk and the bread soda in the recipe) but they are not supposed to react before you even add them. So I ignore this step and the recipes have always worked.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Healthy breakfast bars

You can put pretty much any kind of dried fruit and nuts into these bars and they are perfect if you have to ear breakfast on the go or need a healthy snack. They are also really cheap to make since they involve store cupboard ingredients that keep well. The sesame seeds in particular give a really great flavour. Of course some pumpkin seeds can be used instead of sunflower seeds but I had sunflower seeds. Any kind of sugar can be used but brown sugar gives a nice flavour and soft brown sugar has small particles that melt easier and faster. I recently got some dried pineapple, papaya and mango which I can't wait to combine with dried apricots to make tropical fruit bars.

This made 8 but it depends on how thick and large you make them.

200g oats
100g sunflower seeds
50g sesame seeds
100g butter
100g light muscovado (soft brown sugar)
Handful of mixed dried cranberries, sultanas and blueberries
Handful of dried apricots chopped into pieces
Handful of chopped walnuts
I added 2 tsp of cinnamon and some orange essence to give them a wintery taste but use whatever you feel like.

Melt the butter and sugar together and add any flavourings you may wish to use then simply stir in everything else. You can also add a couple of spoonfuls of honey, golden syrup or maple flavoured golden syrup (regular maple syrup is not viscous enough) if you see the mix as being too dry or to add extra flavour. Then press it all into a tin and bake at 160 for about half an hour. Cut into bars when warm but leave to cool completely before you try to pick them up as until the toffee hardens they will not hold together. Should keep for several days.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Patatas bravas

I'm currently trying to learn some Spanish so I've decided to write up one of my favourite Spanish dishes. This is a really quick and easy meal. It can be padded out with some chorizo but I don't think it is necessary. This can be made as spicy as you like, personally I like it mild though the sour cream really dampens down the spice.

  • 4 portions of potatoes
  • olive oil
  • 1-2 onions depending on the size and how oniony you like it
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • a generous pinch of chilli flakes
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • A splash of white wine to rinse out the tin from the tomatoes (not essential but you might need some liquid to stop it getting too thick)
  • Tin of chopped tomatoes
  • A good sprinkling of thyme
  • Sour cream to serve
How you cook the potatoes is up to you. They should probably be sauteed but I often steam them and then lightly fry them. You can always use roasted wedges or whatever you feel like.

Anyway, gently fry the onions, add the garlic and chilli falkes (do not burn these! gently heat with oil so it's not direct). Add the paprika  (off the heat coz it's delicate) then the rest of the ingredients. Simmer for about 15 mins not forgetting to season. Always taste as you season and remember that the chilli and paprika will flavour oil better than water (oil soluble molecules) so start with a nice bit of oil (2-3tbsp) The sour cream, with it's high fat content, cools your mouth as it dissolves and carries away the chilli heat.

When serving put the potatoes in a dish with the sauce over them and a dollop of sour cream onto.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Our enchiladas

This recipe actually began years ago on my J1. I was living with my bf and we used to get jars of sauce in safeway. The chicken breasts were ridiculously big, in the packet they looked normal but they just kept unfolding and unfording! Anyway we'd fry some chicken breasts, onions and peppers then add the sauce and simmer. The fruit and veg in California was great and very cheap. We'd add some fresh pineapple chunks to counteract the sauce's spiciness. We'd fill tortillas with the sauce, grated cheese and rice, roll them up, sprinkle with cheese (and any leftover sauce) and bake them for 10 mins.

Today I didn't have the sauce (obviously) so I had to make it up. I fried up the chicken breasts with onions and peppers as before and then added at tin of chopped tomatoes. I mixed about 1 tsp each of paprika, chilli powder, cayenne pepper, cumin (slightly less than 1tsp as I often find it a bit overpowering), ground coriander and oregano. After adding the spice mix I seasoned the sauce and let it simmer until the peppers were soft. The rest of the recipe I carried out as we used to. I omitted the pineapple though (my flatmate doesn't really like it).

I thought about how to layer the ingredients. First the sauce because that way it would end up on the top and the sauce mix with the other ingredients. Then the cheese to bind it all together and finally the rice. I found it best to fold in one side then the top and bottom and the the remaining side. Obviously they were placed in fold down to keep them closed on an oiled baking tray.

I make 12 but that was using small tortillas so 2 of them would be a portion.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

New Year's Eve Feast

Since this is a new year's resolution I should start with ushering in the new year. It has sort of become tradition to have a Christmas dinner at our apartment to celebrate the new year. Having begun as an early Christmas dinner for just the flatmates it is now on New Year's eve with lots of friends.

This year was the biggest yet with 18 people to feed. I spend several days working on the menu using my favourite recipe source
Turkey with orange and thyme
Lemon and herb stuffing
Roast potatoes
Cranberry, pecan and ginger loaf
Trifle (pretty much the same as last year).

I multiplied the veg recipes by 3. Which in retrospect was a ridiculous amount of food and most of it didn't get eaten.

We could only find a medium sized turkey but it worked out in the end. I used orange zest and thyme butter to flavour it and giftwrapped it in bacon.

The ham was massive:7kg and had to be boned and rolled. The rolling was particularly challenging but by tying in X shapes the ham was defeated and managed to fit into the stock pot. It was soaked overnight and then boiled after the water was changed. In Molecular Gastronomy by Herve This I read about how cooked meat reabsorbs the liquid it lost during the cooking process while it cools so I always let my ham cool in the cooking liquid overnight. The next day I scored the skin, glazed it with honey and mustard (wholegrain and dijon) and roasted it.

I had to modify a couple of the recipes. The cranberry and orange stuffing in particular needed some work. The recipe suggested that the sugar be melted by heating directly and then the butter added. I really don't like the idea of heating sugar directly as it's a great way to burn your sugar. It's better to heat it with the butter to make a caramel of sorts.

I increased the quantity of spices used for the loaf (doubled) and used mixed berries (blue berries, cranberries and sultanas) and about 1.3 times what they used.

I might put up the trifle recipe some time soon. 

The Prodigal Blogger returns

Ok, it's been 4 years and I'm living somewhere new, living with a different friend and working on a PhD having gotten my degree. In short I am a different person. Somethings however have not changed, in particular my love of cooking and food.

In the intervening years there have been many recipes, cook books, cookery magazines and randomly inspired recipes. I cannot even remember most of what I have cooked and eaten but I will, hopefully, overtime include at least some highlights.

My New Year's resolutions include reviving this blog and making a proper effort with it. I want to archive what my foodie knowledge and inspiration.