Saturday, 30 June 2007

Mini Chocolate Eclairs

My wife attended a seminar or workshop or something to that effect during the week. During the tea-break, they served some form of Chocolate Eclairs and my wife raved about them when she came home. Now that always strikes a raw nerve with me. Whenever she raves about something she's eaten outside, I feel compelled to try and make it.
And so it came to pass (I've always wanted to sound biblical!!) that I looked up a recipe today and learnt that Eclairs are made from Choux Pastry. I've never really been bothered to make pastry and always use the store bought variety for my pies and other stuff. Anyway the choux pastry recipe didnt look too difficult so I thought I'd try it out and see.
The recipe came from a Readers Digest handbook my wife had gotten as a birthday present some years ago. The recipe said it made 30 small eclairs so I decided since I was just testing it out, I'd halve the recipe. I really didnt want 15 mini eclairs either so I just piped them out into long, regular sized eclairs - making 3 and a half regular sized ones.
Well, the eclairs puffed up wonderfully and turned out well. I still didnt know how they would taste and I wasnt going to whip cream just for 3 eclairs. I did make up a tiny batch of chocolate topping (actually just a thicker and more cocoa added to my chocolate icing) and smothered it on the eclairs.
The verdict? Michael and Sarah absolutely loved it as did my wife! The problem was, Michael wanted some more and when I declared that they were all finished he looked at me quizzically and asked "Daddy! Why did you only make 3?!!!"
And so it was back into the kitchen to make up another batch of eclairs. This time I decided to make them mini so it would be easy to pop into the mouth. This is the recipe:

Choux Pastry
60 g butter
60 g flour
125 ml water
2 eggs

Filling
300 ml thickened cream
4 tbsp icing sugar

Method
Pre heat oven to 220C
Melt butter together with the water in a heavy saucepan. Bring to the boil and then take off heat. Add in sifted flour and mix well till combined. Return to heat and continue to cook till mixture is glossy and holds together well. Allow to cool.


Add in eggs a little at a time and beat till smooth and glossy again. [I actually transferred it to a mixing bowl and used the electric beaters as the first time, the hand mixing grew quite tiring - and the eggs didnt combine quite so well]

Pipe out 5cm lengths and then bake for about 20 mins till golden.

Then you are supposed to take the eclairs out and make a small slit to allow the steam to come out then put back in the over again for 5 mins. I didnt see any difference with making the slit or without - maybe I was just lucky.

Cool on a wire rack.



Meanwhile, whip up the cream with icing sugar till stiff. slice the eclairs lengthwise (but not to the end) and then pipe in the cream. Top with melted chocolate or chocolate icing.


Sarah wanted to decorate her eclairs with sprinkles.


Michael and Sarah stuffing their faces with the eclairs....!

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Whipped Cream - some tips

My son loves cream and loves it even better spooned over fruits. Since my parents were coming over for dinner, I decided to buy a can of fruit cocktail and whip up some cream. My wife often says that I've perfected the art of whipping cream. Any one that has whipped cream often enough knows that overwhipping cream causes it to separate and become an oily clotted mess. Underwhipping causes it not to hold its shape and it can become runny.

Well, it was an extremely hot day and the oven was on - with my casserole baking inside. That should have set off alarm bells but I thought I was too smart and too good to mess up whipping cream!

The cream started to double and thicken and then suddenly it went splat and separated! Fortunately I had bought a large carton of cream so I whipped another batch. It didnt whip too well either and so before it separated, I just stopped whipping and put it in the freezer.

I was most upset but the valuable lesson learnt is dont be too sure of yourself. The elements play a big part in cooking - especially when whipping cream! Some tips for those in warmer countries:
As a general rule, thickened cream whips better than whipping cream - due to the percentage of fat in the cream.
1)Make sure the cream is well Chilled
2)Place the bowl and beaters in the freezer for a little while
3)Use some icing sugar to sweeten the cream. This helps to stabilise it.
4)Start whisking at a low speed to ensure air is incorporated. Bubble will start to form on cream.
5)Increase speed to medium and continue beating. Make sure you move the mixer around the side and bottom of the bowl.
6)Continue beating till soft peaks or firm peaks. Stop beating before it separates (easier said than done!)

Enjoy your whipped cream!

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Fathers Day 2007

It was Father's Day in Malaysia today and I made an English Trifle for the family lunch at my parents. The kids helped out with decorating the trifle too!





Trifle is a fairly easy dessert to make and it goes down well with adults and kids alike. I think it ranks as one of my wife's favourite desserts!

There's no real recipe required - but this is what I do:

I start of with a layer of butter cake or sponge fingers. Then I soak the cake in some of the syrup from a can of fruit cocktail. Next, spread the fruits over the soaked cake. Make a packet of your favourite jelly (by Jelly I mean flavoured Gelatine - I think its referred to as Jello in the US?) and pour it over the fruits. Let it cool and set.

Meanwhile, make up a batch of custard. Either cook your own from scratch or use the instant or powdered kind - its your choice! Spoon the custard over the jelly and again let cool and allow to set.

Cover with Whipped Cream and decorate with roasted almond slices and/or other garnishes - maybe some chocolate shavings... whatever you like really!

Enjoy!

Saturday, 16 June 2007

Spicy Aglio Olio Pasta

As a prelude to Fathers Day tomorrow, I decided to make the kids a combination of some of their favourites. They love pasta - both tomato based and cream based. They also love sausages and mushrooms. I decided I'd do a pasta dish with a twist. Rather than the rich tomato or cream based sauce, I decided on a simple Aglio Olio (Garlic and Olive Oil) - but with a little twist. I added loads of Chilli Flakes!

Dont think I need to tell you the recipe as its basically just loads of chopped garlic fried in Olive Oil with some oregano and basil and of course Chilli Flakes. Cook your choice of pasta and then toss it in the oil.

I fried sausages, bacon and mushrooms separately, so that my wife and kids could add on how much meat they wanted.

Everyone loved the dish and for me, that was the best Fathers Day present - my kids thorougly enjoying the food I cook for them!





I submitted this to the Presto Pasta Nights hosted by Ruth at onceuponafeast

Royal Foodie Joust #1

This is my entry for the July Royal Foodie Joust.

Jenn, the Leftover Queen started a Royal Foodie Joust - a fun online creative cooking 'competition'. How it works is that three ingredients are selected and you have to use all three ingredients in creating something delicous to eat. The three ingredients for the July competition were
  1. a dried fruit

  2. cheese

  3. nuts

This is my very first time on a web cooking competition and my initial thought was to make a chicken casserole infused with dried apricots and almonds and then smothered in cheese. My lovely wife, who loves cheesecake, suggested I do an Apricot Walnut Cheesecake.

Why are cooking decisions always so difficult??!! I decided to do the dessert rather than the chicken casserole as ultimately what matters is the 'partakers' of my food rather than any cooking joust..... especially since my 3 year old princess, Sarah, absolutely loves my cheesecake!


I wanted to make the cheesecake special and a little out of the ordinary. Since nuts were involved, I decided to make an almond meringue for the base of the cheesecake. I then boiled dried apricots and then pureed it into a paste to add into the cheese mixture.. For garnishing, I covered the top with chopped apricots and walnut praline.






This is my recipe.

Apricot Walnut Cheesecake with Almond Meringue Base

Base

3 Eggs whites
150 g castor sugar
150 g ground almonds

Filling

500 g Cream Cheese
4 eggs + 2 yolks (lightly beaten)
200 g castor sugar
3 tbsp self raising flour
1 tbsp corn flour
200 ml sour cream
200 ml thickened cream (unsweetened)
6 oz + 2 oz Dried Apricots
1 cup water

For the Praline

100g Walnuts
4 tbsp sugar

Method
Whip eggs whites and sugar till stiff. Fold in ground almonds.
Spread meringue mixture into a lined and greased springform
Bake in preheated 170C oven for about 40 minutes or till meringue is cooked.
Remove from oven and cool slightly. Remove springform and greaseproof paper from meringue. Allow to fully cool.



In a medium saucepan, combine 6oz dried apricots and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes so the apricots are soft and the water is almost absorbed. Remove from the heat and cool. Once cool, puree in a food processor.

Cream the sugar and cheese till light. Add in the sour cream and mix well. Add the beaten eggs a little at a time and continue beating till smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk the cream until it forms soft soft peaks.

Fold in the sifted flour into the cheese mixture and add pureed apricots. Mix well and then fold in the whipped cream.

Place the almond meringue back in the springform tin and pour cheese mixture into pan. Bake for 20mins at 180C and then reduce heat to 160C and bake for another 40 mins or till done. Remove and let cool




While cake is baking, make the caramel by melting 4tbsp sugar with a little water and leaving it on high heat till it starts to caramelise and turn brown. Quikly add in the nuts and stir to combine. Pour out onto a baking tray to solidify - mixture will be lumpy. Chop remaining dried apricots as well.



Once cake is cooled, chop the praline and sprinkle over the cake together with chopped apricots. Place cake in fridge for at least 4 hours but preferably overnight.





ENJOY!


Want to see what the other entries are like? Visit the July Royal Food Joust

I had a lot of fun with this and I think its a great idea. Looking forward to the next Joust!

Monday, 4 June 2007

The Foodie Blog Roll

I came across this great website by Jenn DiPiazza - LeftOverQueen.

She has created a Blog Roll for foodie blogs - so I couldnt help but join could I?!!!

If you have a food blog, or if you simply just like food - then go sign up and be a member of the Foodie Blog Roll. It seems to be growing really fast and I'm quite excited to be part of this community.There are some great recipe's on Jenn's website too.

Well done Jenn and thanks for linking us up!!

Saturday, 2 June 2007

Pavlova

Since I hadn't made anything special for a while, my kids were craving some dessert. My son wanted something fruity and creamy and so I decided on a Pavlova. The last time I made a Pavlova was almost 20 years ago - in my student days in Melbourne.



Needless to say, the kids loved it and want me to make it again soon. I found it a tad too sweet but that's the thing with making a meringue - the sugar is critical to hold up the whisked egg whites. Cutting back on the sugar will cause the meringue to become rubbery.


The picture I took didnt turn out too well but here it is anyway.



This is the recipe for my very own version of a simple Pavlova.

Ingredients:
4 egg whites
1 cup castor sugar
2 tsps Corn Flour
400 ml whipping cream
1 tbsp Icing Sugar
1 large can of Fruit Cocktail
Your choice of fresh fruits to decorate

Method:

Meringue
Draw two 8" circles on Grease proof paper
Pre-heat oven to 140C
Whisk egg whites till stiff
Add sugar a little at a time while continuing to beat
quickly add in Corn flour
Pipe or spread egg white on to the two circles
Bake for about an hour or till crisp.
Remove greaseproof paper and let cook

* I prefer a crispy meringue all through rather than the traditional crisp outside and marshmallowy inside. To make it crisp all throuhg, bake a little longer and then let cool in the oven so it dries out.

Filling
Whip cream till stiff
Drain liquid from fruit cocktail and then add into cream mixture
Spread one meringue with the cream and fruit
cover with second meringue and spread remaining cream and fruit on top
Decorate with fresh fruit

YummY!

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