Friday, November 26, 2010

Crostata di Ricotta - November Daring Baker's Challenge, Take 1

November's Daring Baker challenge is fun, it's crostatas... Italian tarts.  Pasta frolla and hmm whatever topping you fancy!

I actually made 2 crostatas, Crostata di Ricotta, Ricotta tarte, and Crostata di Mele, Classic Apple tarte. I love making tarts and the pasta frolla dough is lovely, pastry is short, sweet and yummy.

I'm posting the Crostata di Ricotta first as this is the one featured in the Daring Kitchen page.

Thanks Simona from Briciole for this wonderful challenge, and the wonderful crostata recipes!

My yummy Crostata di Ricotta:

Pastry – Pasta Frolla:

200g plain flour (or 150g plain flour 50g almond meal)
100g cold butter diced
1 tbsp orange zest
1 egg, separated
70g castor sugar
1 pinch of salt


100g pitted dates, diced
40g candied peels, diced
50ml masala
375g ricotta cheese
1 tsp vanilla extract
250g mascarpone cheese or any cream cheese
110g castor sugar
100g toasted almond (or any walnut, hazelnut etc)
3 eggs


Use food processor, pulse to break down butter mix till it resembles bread crumbs.
Gently work the flour mixture to form a dough, don’t over work dough, wrap in cling wrap and put in fridge to rest for an hour.

Meanwhile, put chopped dates and peels in masala to soak for half an hour.
Whisk eggs and sugar, add in ricotta, cream mascarpone till smooth.
Fold in the fruits and almond.
Roll out pastry in 2 layers of plastic. Gently transform to a loose bottom tarte tin. Wrap the excess pastry in glad wrap and put in fridge.

Blind bake tarte shell with rice weight in 200C oven for 10 minutes. Cool.

Fill up with the filling, make stripes to go across, and bake in 180C oven for 40-45 minutes.

I did use the reduced fat cheeses for healthy reasons....
Crostata to be served warm...

White Christmas & Dark Chocolate Walnut Truffles - School Cake Stall

State Election day tomorrow.  The boy's school is normally set up for the booth on election days and parents are usually asked to bring some home baked / cooked goodies for the school's election cake stall, for fund raising.

It can be hard for varieties as we can't bring anything with fresh cream, meat etc, as the school hasn't got refrigration for the cake stall.

This time, I've decided on the White Christmas - which is a nice and easy slice during the festive season.  And some dark chocolate truffles (hmm, simple ones this time, I know chocolate always sell in the school cake stall) with dark chocolate ganache and diced roasted walnuts.

Thanks Amanda and Debbie from Exclusively Food for the yummie and easy White Christmas recipe.

It's really easy to make and makes a nice plate with the dark chocolate truffles (rolled in dutched cocoa powder)!

Please refer to the detailed recipe on Exclusively Food if you would like to make the White Christmas Slices, it's great for afternoon tea, gifts etc....
You will need:
Glace cherries, dried apricot, sultanas, rice bubbles, desiccated coconut, Copha, milk powder and pure icing sugar for this recipe.
I'm not aware of replacement for Copha, but it is a vegetable shortenning based on coconut oil. 
Other items might work:
Mixed fruit with peels, chopped marshmallows, crushed nuts, what ever fancies you and fit with the Christmas theme!
For the Dark chocolate truffles:
250g dark chocolate - 70% cocoa.
150ml double cream
80g roast crushed walnut
Dutched Cocoa Powder to roll...
There are some left overs for the family.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Truffle Load of Confusion.... But... They Like it.

I'm updating this post because I thought I had a cooking diaster, but turned out these truffles are well received by crowd....

Yesterday I wrote:
"Sometimes I really need to remind myself, less is more.  Truffle mistake.

Alright, this is what I had to face today.  A precious lesson learnt.
Starts off as a busy week for cooking - finally get my lazy butt back into the kitchen.  And of course, I got lazy again and try to do less, even when there's a task ahead.
Tomorrow, there's a morning tea at work and each of us will bring something to work.  I normally bring home made items and we usually think, shop bought stuff is not really that much of effort.  Work morning tea is the time for us to share our cooking, culinery backgrounds etc etc etc.
And there's the first pre-summer heat wave.  So I said to hubby, I'm not gonna bake.  So, I decided to make truffles.  Should be easy.  But, I've decided to make it a bit more complicated than it should be.  I remember last time I brought the flourless chocolate cake to work, people mmentioned that it was very rich.  I thought, hmm, that would mean the pure ganache truffle will be somewhat too rich as well.  After a bit of googling, I've decided on these items:

300g Lindts Pistacho Filled Milk Chocolate (with almond cream) - somehow I thought they gonna make creamier and tastier ganache.
120ml cream
1/4 cup dessicated coconut
80g roasted chopped walnuts
40g rice bubbles...

My initial thought was to use the coconut as coating.  For some reason, I changed the mind whilst making the filling and added the whole lot to the filling.
Made the balls (as a firm believer of bigger the better, my truffles are on the bigger side of the truffle world),

and let it set in the freezer.
Melt some dark chocolate and coated the truffles (guess even I realised more milk chocolate will make them supa dupa sweet).

Taste test. 

I wasn't too happy about it, but there's no time to make another batch.  Just have to live with it, take them to work and hope for the best tomorrow... ark...
I guess the chocolate I used for the filling (not the traditional dark chocolate) is already a load of flavours, and then I added so many more.  It's definitely too much, and too much confusion.

Next time, keep it simple, and keep it the normal truffle size.
Will definitely make more truffles in this festive season.  "

I took the truffles to work as planned. They were all gone and people kept telling me, you should definitely make them again!  well, maybe I need a new set of taste buds?  Oh well.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hainanese Chicken & Rice... A Simple and Tasty Summer Dinner

Well, we are still in Spring, late Spring, and very soon early Summer. It's 32C today so it's time for a cool change at our dinner table.

Hainanese Chicken & Rice, a simple hawker stall dish, has always been the 10 year old's favourite Asian dish, and he just assumed all Asian restaurants have them... ooops, not quite.

He was quite upset when he didn't get his favourite Hainanese Chicken & Rice in one of the Shanghai Dumpling Houses in Box Hill.

So I promised him that I will make it for him, well, the promise was for yesterday but I didn't get to do it until today.

I've never really done this dish before, it's a bit similar to Cantonese white cooked chicken and I have watched some shows about it, including the Food Safari.  Hmm... maybe having a lot of Malaysian friends doesn't mean that I can automatically cook Malaysian food?

Anyway, I made this with my own understanding and the kid actually thought it was good enough...

First of all, I make the broth (by the way, I forgot to buy coriander, do I need it?) with:
Fish sauce
light soy sauce
dash of shaoxin wine
1 lemon grass
1 knob of ginger
1 knob of galangal
White ends of 5 sprigs of spring onion.
bit of salt and some palm sugar to balance.

Bring the broth to boil, and soak the chicken in.   Medium heat, and simmer for 10-15 minutes depending the size of the chicken, I usually use small size chicken for those poached chicken dishes, so around 1.2-1.5 kilos.

Turn off the heat, close lid of the pot, and let the chicken stay in pot for a further 15-20 minutes.  After that, I was pretty sure the chicken was cooked through, and put it on some ice in a big bowl and let it cool in fridge.

Meantime, make rice.
I do remember the chicken rice is made from the broth after chicken was poached.  There was a bit of chicken fat and excess chicken skin I reserved for the rice.  Heat up a pan, in low heat, gently fry the chicken fat and skin, add some finely chopped ginger mince.  Add rice, and let it coat with the ginger flavoured chicken fat.  Well, then, I used the rice cooker.  Why wouldn't I, it does make good rice.  Add the same amount of chicken broth to rice cooker as the same amount of water required as the instruction of ricer cooker states.  And let it do the rest of the job.

By the time rice is cooked, the chicken should be cooled down to cut.... oh.... the sauces.

Hainanese chicken normally comes with 3 sauces, sweet soy, chillie garlic and white vinegar (or lemon juice), and ginger and spring onion.

I have been told by the doctor that I won't be able to eat as much chillie and acidic food as I'd like to have so I skipped the process and just made the ginger and spring onion sauce with a bit of chillie... well, just for the adults in the family, the kids never touched the sauces even when we ate out.

My first attempt, and I'm sure there's a lot of room for improvement - and probably will have to make it again and again until the boy grows up and leave home.  Guess I need some comments from the Malaysians out there, please?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Spanakopita with Home made Pastry....

I must admit that ever since I came back from our holiday to Asia in September October, I haven't been cooking or baking as much as I used to.

I haven't been well, on and off sick, and spring time is usually the worst time for me as I've got allergy to grass seeds.  I haven't been trying out as many recipes I'd love to try out and sometimes I'm grumpy because I'm lack of energy to make good food - I still cook every day, bake bread every week, but nothing exciting, make sure the family is fed, and very simple cooking.  I haven't even been making as much pasta as I used to.  Ah, the high lights have been the daring cook & baker challenges...

However, I did tell hubby I want to make spanakopita from scratch today. Well, I wouldn't call that a lot of cooking, as it's a very light meal, vegetarian, nothing heavy.   The only fun is probably making the pastry from scratch.  I've always liked the spanakopitas, from bakeries, markets, it's a pie that's good enough for warmer weather or the cool, eat on the run and for me, most of all, it's vegetarian and it's not heavy.  I do cook a lot of meat dishes for the family, but I myself, don't like meat at all. 

We need the normal ingredients for a common spanakopita, I don't have a lot of imaginations coming to the fillings:

Spinach (I've used silverbeet before, but this time, English spinach.)
Olive oil
Dill (only several sprigs)
blanched almond (pine nuts are better, but I've only got almon on hand)
Greek Feta
2 Cloves of garlic

200g plain flour
100ml water
pinch of salt
Olive oil (hmm I didn't measure)

However, I did think the dough is too soft and probably 80ml of water is enough.

Made the dough in the morning as we went out for shopping and the dough needed to be rested.... came back home after shopping, would've been too late.

Lightly toast the almonds in pan.  Set aside.

Saute the diced onion and crushed garlic in olive oil, add in roughly chopped spinach (it could've been chopped finer, most shops won't leave them this rough, but I like texture so kept it very rough), add in a knob of butter, some cracked black pepper, juice of 1/4 of a lemon and sea salt flakes, and zest of a lemon.  Leave it in colander and drain as much juice out as possible.

I used the pasta maker to roll out the dough into 4 sheets and stretched them on a lightly floured bench.... brushed with melted butter (clarified butter) and layed one sheet on the other (4 sheets will give me 2 big pies, about 20cms in diametre).

When the fillings is cooled, add the fillings to the stretched thin pastry, add on loads of feta (I didn't add too much salt when cooking the spinach as feta is usually quite salty) and roasted almonds. 

*here comes the first mistake today, the egg, forgot the egg, didn't I bring it out and listed in the ingredients?

Roll up the pastry, brush on more butter at closing, and curl them up like snakes...

*here comes mistake number 2 today.  Probably because I just baked a batch of sourdough buns yesterday, I put the unbaked spanakopitas on the floured baking tray where I normally bake sourdoughs or pizzas.  Silly old me, it should've been a lightly greased tray....

Anyway, they were brushed on with more butter and egg wash, and baked in 190C oven for approximately 35-40 minutes?  I have been checking the oven, however as I haven't been following recipes today, I just bake as I go....  one of those days, no recipe, do whatever mode I guess?

It seems like the spanakopitas survived the bread trays and I'm please to see that my pastry is thin and crispy enough (on the outside of course).

Not sure if it'd pass the taste test of my Greek neighbour?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Rise & Shine! November Daring Cook's Challenge - Chocolate Souffle

Souffles.... The minute I saw the challenge this month, put out by Dave & Linda from Monkey Shines in the Kitchen, I've decided on the Chocolate Souffle.

Please refer to Dave & Linda's PDF recipe for more different types of souffles, I actually used the chocolate souffle recipe as well as Gordon Ramsay's recipe, but cut back to just enough for 4 and half - I thought the 3 year old would be happy to have the baby one, and I was so wrong about that....

So it's basically about half of what Ramsay uses in quantity in his recipe, and I used 2 egg yolks, 4 egg whites.

The souffles were yummy and went very quickly with the crowd....

100g orange intense Lindt's Dark Chocolate with 70% cocoa,
2 Egg Yolks
10g corn flour
100ml milk
Till it's smooth and silky

4 Egg whites, whisked till peak with 75g caster sugar.

Fold the egg whites into the chocolate creme patissiere.
Ramekins brushed with melted butter (always have to make sure the directions are correct when brushing, upwards) and dusted with cocoa powder.

Top up the ramekins with the souffle mix, level it with a knife or spatula, and I ran my thumb around the edge....
And then 12 minutes in pre-heated 190C oven.
Unfortunately my mango sorbet wasn't ready on time for the serving...

 The baby size one was made in an espresso cup...
and that one is yummy as well....

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Salmon in Creamy Sauce with Home Made Pappardelle

I haven't made pasta for a while, and thought I'd better make some for the big salmon portions we bought from the newly openned Woolies in Richmond.  They are really fresh and I'd like to do some creamy sauce pasta.

Partially reminded by last Friday night's Master Class, of the Kiddie Masterchef show.

Pappardelles are great with ragus, but I also like the rustic taste of it for the creamy salmon.

This is really easy to make, the portions here will make 2 mains or 4 entrées.  Children friendly.

2 x 250g skin less bone less fresh Atlantic salmon portions
200ml cream
olive oil
10-12 capers
1.5 cup fish stock
1 tbsp plain flour
1 knob of butter
handful of fresh herbs, parsley, oregano, mint.
Olive oil.
Cracked black pepper
Ground white pepper
1 tbsp white wine
Salt to season
dash of Lemon juice
1 tbsp of dijon mustard.

For the dough:
2 large eggs, 59g
200g pasta flour
dash of olive oil.

My children like the whole egg pasta, so I haven't been playing with adding other vegies or herbs into the dough.  Simple combine the ingredients, form the dough, set for rest for an hour or so wrapped up, and pass through the trust worthy pasta maker.  The 10 year old boy was a bit grumpy at the time, so he got offerred to do the pasta machine. (certainly turned his mood around and he was very proud of himself, he always think he is a bit of a cook, well, that's what he thinks.)  For Pappardelles, I didn't make the sheets really thin, like I'd normally do with linguini, so the thickness I decided was 2 on the dial.  And we fold up the sheets after patted it with flour, and cut them into 1.5cms wide stripes, left them hanging up...

And then we turned to the salmon portions.  It's simple. Just cracked pepper and sea salt flakes, and pan fried gently in olive oil.  I added a dash of lemon juice before taking the salmon out for resting.

I used the same pan, added the knob of butter, added the flour to make the roux, and then just used the cream and fish stock for a simple white sauce.  Added white pepper, finely diced capers and white wine and made sure the sauce is the consistancy I wanted.

Mean while, roughly break the salmon up in chunks and return them to the white sauce, only for less than 1 minute maybe? Just to coat them with white sauce.

Ah, I did made the pot of salted water to boil my pasta at the mean time as well... the fresh pasta didn't take too long to cook normally and we usually just drain the pasta and add more olive oil before plating.

I didn't use the fresh herbs on the children's plates (we didn't want to have big portions at dinner time as we wanted to lose some weight before summer comes - got one month to go!  And we decided entrée size serves are enough for dinners these days) but did manage to load our plates up with herbs from the garden (I'm very glad that they are doing fine, however for some weird reason, I can't seem to find basil this year so basil has been missing from my garden).

I was very happy to see the children finishing their plates, as normally Luke won't tough creamy sauce pasta - guess he made them, he had to show every one he did a great job!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

It's Play Dough Time again.... Steamed Vegetarian Buns and Rye Sourdough

We had a day off yesterday, Melbourne Cup Day.

By the time we rememberred this is a day for horse racing, and switched on Tele, we just managed to catch a glance of Fashion on the Field (despite the rain, the ladies still look glamorous) and the race for the Cup was already over.  For me, the Cup has always been all about fashion, horses? Huh?  Oh no, I'd never actually go to the race myself, wouldn't really suffer the crowd and travelling through crowded public transport in sky high stilettos...  And this year's Cup Day weather just proved that I didn't need to gt drenched to enjoy the scene of the beautiful outfits.

We were not invited to any parties this year, no cup sweeps or other games.  So for my day off as just another normal day, apart from weeding in the garden, I turned to the doughs....  I do love yeast I guess.

Rye Sourdoughs and sweet egg loaf...
The rye sourdoughs before second proofing:

and Steamed Vegetarian Buns (fillings made by bok choi, shiitake, dry tofu etc).   Also made some "silver thread" steamed rollss for fun.
The super white Bao Flour was actually very light and fluffy after the first proofing..
One cut corner method is to use the patty cases from the shop, saving me cutting out baking paper.  Nice and easy.
They are much bigger after second proofing and steaming on high heat....

Monday, November 1, 2010

Carrot Cake with Walnut, Mixed Fruit, Coconut Cream Frosting and Crushed Walnut Praline

We didn't get to see my mother in law for her birthday, she's been travelling - in Europe, we've been travelling, in Asia.  And then, she was in hospital.  First time for us to visit her at her home after her back operation, I decided to make a classic cake, that she likes and of course, hubby.

The recipe I used today, was adapted from one of my favourite young Aussie Chef, George Calombaris, his carrot cake with cream cheese frosting was one of the taste test in Master Chef, and the recipe was published in the Masterchef Magazine.

I didn't use so many kinds of nuts, as I just had walnuts on hand, and I decided to use fresh thickened cream instead of cream cheese, also, unlike most carrot cakes, I used butter instead of vegetable oil.

It's a big cake, but very moist.

250g butter, room temperature, cut in cubes
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
330g firmly packed dark brown sugar
3 carrots, peeled and grated.
1.5 tbsp cream sherry
100g mixed fruit (or just use sultanas)
150g finely chopped walnuts
300g self raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp all spice powder

Coconut Cream Frosting
400ml thickened cream
150g desicated coconut
100g icing sugar

Walnut Praline
150g white sugar
2 tbsp water
80g walnuts

1. preheat oven to 180C. Grease and line a deep 23cm round cake tin.
2. Soak the mixed fruits in sherry and vanilla extract.
3. Using the bench top mixer, cream butter and sugar, until it's light (you won't need to cream the butter and sugar if you use vegetable oil or extra virgin olive oil like what George did).
4. Add in eggs, one by one, after finish the 4 eggs, whisk on high for 5 minutes until it's light and fluffy.
5. Sift in the flour, bi-carb soda and spices, and fold in the fruit mixture as well as the carrots.

6. Spoon the batter in the cake tin and bake on the lowest rack of the oven for 40 minutes.
7. Coverred with foil and bake for a further 30-40 minutes or until a skewer come out clean in the middle.

8. Cool the cake on wrack.
(I made the frosting the next morning, as we are going over to MIL's for lunch, however, I'd say wait till the cake is fully cooled down).
9. Whisk the cream and icing sugar until it's firm and fold in the desicated coconut.  I applied it to the cake with a spatular for the rustic look.
10. In a non stick pan, with low heat, lightly toast the walnuts for the praline and crush them roughly acatter on the prepared lined cookie sheet.
11. Make caramel using the sugar and water, it's a lot easier to make wet caramel.  When the liquid is turning blonde, watch it closely and move the pan to a prepared basin with cold water (icy water if possible) once it's light brown - or darker if you prefer a darker caramel.

12. Pour caramel over the crushed toasted walnuts and crush the praline roughly and scatter around on the cake.

The bit of crunchy praline and creamy frosting gives the cake a bit more layers of flavour.