Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Bond - Home for Christmas



The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.

This time, due to the Christmas season, the posting date is anytime from the 23rd to the 27th. So I'm Not early...

And now on to Bond...Home for Christmas
Bond sighed as he scratched the stubble on his face as he looked left and right at all the different shops in the mall. He hated Christmas. No, that wasn't true. He actually liked Christmas, loved it even. What he hated was all the time spent shopping for all the presents he had to buy. Time spent shopping that could be better put to use in seducing willing women.

James scrathed his chin again as he thought that Christmas was always a dry season for him as far as nubile women were concerned. Heck, it was a dry season as far as ANY women were concerned. Somehow, they just didnt seem interested in him at this time of the year. The fact that the whole spy community somehow had an unspoken pact to keep it quiet around Christmas probably had a lot to do with it. Well, he was home. Home for Christmas...and all he was doing was shopping.




James wandered into a lingerie store and perked up considerably. The sight of all that lace, ribbons and other skimpy garments brought a smile to his face. He remembered his trip to St Honore, where the women wore nothing but Aprons

"May I help you Sir?" Asked the salesgirl, fluttering her eyelids and stealing a glance at his crotch.

James smiled at her. Not bad looking he thought. He did a quick glance down, she had nice legs. His eyes quickly flashed to her cleavage. Very nice low cut blouse and showing a lot of flesh. Very nice view, very nice indeed. Suddenly he froze as he glanced at her name tag - Ginger.

"Um, Sorry Love, I just remembered I have to be somewhere... Sorry!" Bond muttered.

"Come back anytime Sir," Ginger giggled softly, "I'll be wating for you."

Bond gave her one last longing look at her shapely legs as he he quickly left the shop. Her name had reminded him of Gingerbread - the latest task he had was to make a Gingerbread House for HRH the Queen! Dammit! The first woman to show any interest in him at Chrismtas-time and he had to leave. Dammit, Dammit, Dammit!

"I get off at lunch tomorrow!" Ginger practically screamed out at the retreating Bond.

Bond quickly rushed back, it was already past 8pm when he got home. Quickly, he dug out the recipe. He decided he was going to use the Scandinavian recipe given by Y - simply because he had all the ingredients on hand as well as the fact the he always had a soft spot for Scandinavian Women.

Mixing the dough was fairly straightforward and it all came together fairly nicely. The dough wasnt as dry as he thought it may be and he was suddenly confused whether he had added in the right amount of flour - was it 4 cups of 5 that he had put in. Bond reckoned it was 5. His hand held mixed started to protest and so Bond kneaded away with his well trained hands. He was careful not to overwork the gluten and then he put the dough away to rest overnight.

The next morning, the 23rd of December, Bond awoke bright and early. He made his way downstairs and took the dough out of the fridge. It was Hard as a Rock. He left it out to thaw while he sat down and reminisced about Christmas Pasts...

He remembered one Christmas when he was snowed in at the Swiss Alps. Fortunately he had met Carol who had kept him entertained throughout Christmas and for most of the week after the New Year. She had walked down the staircase wearing absolutely nothing. He always remembered her fondly as his Christmas Carol and he smiled quietly at how they had both shared their very own version of the 12 Days of Christmas...

Bond went to check on the dough again, it was still hard although not as hard as before...

He thought about Holly, who used to Deck the Halls with all manner of decorations and branches - mostly done while she was herself naked. Then there was Joy who, while such a lovely girl, was so caught up with world peace...

James shook his head and went back to work. He checked the dough and quickly rolled it out. He cut out pieces as per the template he had designed.



Bond then realised that he had enough dough for two batches of Gingerbread houses - one each for the children of his latest conquest. So while one batch was baking, he rolled and cut out another batch and also some circles, gingerbread men, christmas trees and reindeer.


He then whipped up the Royal Icing. He wondered briefly whether he should bow before making the Royal Icing as he had been conditioned to bow before all things Royal.

Bond was getting a little more excited with each passing moment. He used the Royal Icing as glue to stick the pieces together to form a house. Bond heaved a sigh of relief as his gingerbread actually resembled a house. He had done it!



Bond decided he was going to leave the decorating to the chefs at Buckingham Palace - it was high time they did some work instead of always depending on him. With a glint in his eye, he made his way back to the mall to find Ginger. He was certainly going to teach her a thing or two and maybe even some tricks from Christmas Carol...

********

I have to admit, if not for this challenge, I would never, ever have attempted to make a Gingerbread House! I also have to admit, that I wasn't sure how the House would turn out so I didnt spend too much time decorating it for fear that the house would collapse - or worse still, not even assemble into a house!



I got the kids to help out with the assembly as well as with the decorating and we all had a lot of fun with it. I am just so pleased that my Gingerbread turned out! Thanks to Anna and Y for spurring me on to do this superb Challenge!


Both the kids were extremely pleased that they had one house each and like me, were thrilled to be able to decorate their houses - or at least direct me to do what they wanted. If you notice, Sarah's gingerbread Man(woman) has an S on it while Michael's house has a shield on the door. He also has a gingerbread Santa climbing down the chimney while the reindeer waits downstairs.

My only regret is that I didnt make holes for the windows and doors - I was just too petrified that the Gingerbread house wouldnt turn out well!


HAVE A BLESSED CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!




Y's Recipe:
Scandinavian Gingerbread (Pepparkakstuga)
from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas http://astore.amazon.com/thedarkit-20/detail/0816634963

1 cup butter, room temperature [226g]
1 cup brown sugar, well packed [220g]
2 tablespoons cinnamon
4 teaspoons ground ginger
3 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ cup boiling water
5 cups all-purpose flour [875g]

1. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until blended. Add the cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Mix the baking soda with the boiling water and add to the dough along with the flour. Mix to make a stiff dough. If necessary add more water, a tablespoon at a time. Chill 2 hours or overnight.

2. Cut patterns for the house, making patterns for the roof, front walls, gabled walls, chimney and door out of cardboard.

3. Roll the dough out on a large, ungreased baking sheet and place the patterns on the dough. Mark off the various pieces with a knife, but leave the pieces in place.

4. [I rolled out the dough on a floured bench, roughly 1/8 inch thick (which allows for fact that the dough puffs a little when baked), cut required shapes and transferred these to the baking sheet. Any scraps I saved and rerolled at the end.]

5. Preheat the oven to 375'F (190'C). Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the cookie dough feels firm. After baking, again place the pattern on top of the gingerbread and trim the shapes, cutting the edges with a straight-edged knife. Leave to cool on the baking sheet.

Royal Icing:

1 large egg white
3 cups (330g) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon almond extract

Beat all ingredients until smooth, adding the powdered sugar gradually to get the desired consistency. Pipe on pieces and allow to dry before assembling. If you aren't using it all at once you can keep it in a small bowl, loosely covered with a damp towel for a few hours until ready to use. You may have to beat it slightly to get it an even consistency if the top sets up a bit. Piped on the house, this will set up hard over time.

Simple Syrup:
2 cups (400g) sugar

Place in a small saucepan and heat until just boiling and the sugar dissolves. Dredge or brush the edges of the pieces to glue them together. If the syrup crystallizes, remake it





Sunday, 20 December 2009

Channa Dhall - Chickpea Dhall



I've realised that writing up an interesting post to go with a particular recipe isn't as easy at is looks. I've also realised that I've got a fairly large backlog of photos/recipes that have not been posted. It would be fairly easy to just post a recipe together with the photos but then that kind of defeats the purpose of blogging.

Anyway, now you know that blogging isn't that easy and you also know that I have a backlog of posts.

Recently, The Lovely Wife has developed a penchant for all things vegetarian. No, she is not becoming a vegetarian (not yet!) and neither does she shun meat. She is cutting back on her meat intake though. There are a variety of reasons for this but suffice to say that it has something to do with the latest books she has been reading although she reckons it is more healthy for her - regardless of what the books may say.

What books? Well, Total Body Makeover (Bob Greene), Fit For Life (Harvey Diamond), The Enzyme Factor (Hiromi Shinya), The China Study (Colin Campbell, Thomas Campbell) and The Jungle Effect (Daphne Miller) are just SOME of the books that she recently read that have influenced her behaviour - and eating habits.

So anyway, to cut a long story short, I made this Chickpea Dhall as a meal one day. There is some debate as to what actually constitutes Channa Dhall. Some say that Channa is the same as Chickpeas while some say that Channa is actually yellow split lentils. I've always known Channa to be Chickpeas (or Garbanzo beans) so if I'm wrong, I stand corrected.



I've only ever made this once before, but I'm very used to making Sambar that is not terribly different but at the same time not the same either as Sambar is much smoother than Channa Dhall and Sambar contains a mix of vegetables while Channa Dhall doesn't. The similarity of course is that both take a fairly long time to cook although Channa Dhall takes a bit longer to become soft due to the thickness of the lentil.

This is my take on Channa Dhall.



Ingredients
1 inch ginger
3 cloves garlic
sprinkle of mustard seeds
4 cloves
1 large onion - sliced
2 tomatoes - chopped roughly
2 tsp tumeric powder
1-2 tsp curry powder
Chickpeas
Water
1 red chilli - chopped
2 tbsp milk
coriander leaves for garnishing
Method
grind ginger and garlic to a paste. Heat some oil and fry the mustard seeds, cloves, tumeric powder and curry powder. Add in the ginger/garlic paste and continue to fry. Add in onion and mix well then add in tomatoes and cook to a nice paste.
Add in the Dhall with lots of water. Mix well and allow to simmer for about 2 hours until the Dhall is very tender and mixture is thick. Add in some milk to thicken if required. Season with salt and black pepper. Serve with coriander




Channa Dhall is perfect as a meal on its own or as a side dish with other vegetable or meat dishes. It goes really well with Rice, Breads - like Naan, Chappati, Pita or even sliced bread. You really can't go wrong with this...!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Corn Muffins



My son has recently developed a love of corn. He loves Corn on the Cob, buttered corn kernels, basically anything with corn in it. With this in mind, I offered to make him some corn muffins. He wasn't sure whether he would like them but my little princess was game to try - and once she said she was game, my son willingly agreed.



I surfed the web for a recipe for corn muffins and I found a few but decided to try the one at Bakespace.com

The recipe is really quick and easy and produces tasty corn muffins.


Ingredients
1 cup flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 Tbsp baking powder
3 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 lrg egg, slightly beaten
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup corn oil
8 oz can cream style corn

Method
Combine dry ingredients. Combine all wet ingredients. Combine the two mixures and blend just to eliminate the dry spots. spoon into 12 buttered muffin cups. Bake in 220C degree oven. 15-20 min until they test done.

Serve hot with butter and honey





I had made a stew to serve together with the corn muffins but the kids preferred instead to just devour them - first plain and then with honey! My son really liked these muffins and has learnt that when Daddy offers to make something, never say no. Who knows, it may turn out to be a favourite!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Just a little pictorial of the kids putting up the christmas tree. My job is always to fix the tree, check the lights and then put them up while the kids and The Lovely Wife decorate the tree...
It's certainly looking a lot like Christmas!




Tuesday, 8 December 2009

I just Ordered the Book!

Yes! That's Right! I just ordered the book! What Book? The BloggerAid Cookbook of course!

I can't wait to receive it. Only trouble was postage to this part of the world is expensive so I had to choose the economic shipping option. Don't know how long that will take...

The exchange rate doesn't help either so while the rest of you get to buy a relatively cheap cookbook, I don't. It's Expensive - but at least it's for a good cause and so I don't mind. I coulnd't not buy it especially when it features ME! First time I've been published in a book.

So... does that make me a cookbook writer?? LOL!

Sunday, 6 December 2009

A Christmas Gift Idea - for a good cause.

Okay, so like many things in life, I am late in doing this.

Late on two counts. Firstly, Advent started last Sunday, 29 November 2009 but as we all know, I was otherwise occupied that day and had more important things to post about. Christmas season starts with Advent so I should have started talking about Christmas Gift Ideas then but as we all know, I was otherwise occupied that day and had more important things to talk about. And no, you are not having double vision, I'm just trying to be funny...

Secondly, this post is long overdue simply because I should have talked about this a long time ago. I have nothing to blame it on other than procrastination. So without further delay, let me just say this.

If you are looking for a Christmas Present for your loved one(s), a friend or even yourself, why not consider this:

The BloggerAid Cookbook

Yes! Yes! It's a cookbook! Click on the image of the cookbook cover above to make your purchase. You can also click the URL listed or copy it and send it out to your friends:https://www.createspace.com/3405882

What is it exactly? Well, The members of BloggerAid-Changing the Face of Famine have published a cookbook where 100% of the proceeds target children and education through the World Food Programme called School Meals. BloggerAid-Changing the Face of Famine is a collective of over 140 Food Bloggers from 60 countries and I am one of the contributors to this effort. I first spoke about my contribution to this cookbook back in January 2009.

As I mentioned, this is an effort by Food Bloggers to help make a difference to World Hunger. Remember that 100% - that's ONE HUNDRED PERCENT - of the proceeds will go to helping school children. To learn more about the group and this effort, click here


So if you want to get a Christmas Present and at the same time make a difference to a good cause, then this is a good bet. Go make your purchase now!!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Apple Cinnamon muffins



One of the things that I made for Michael's 8th Birthday was Apple Cinnamon Muffins. I've made these before but never posted about them. Both my children love muffins and cupcakes. To be honest, I dont really know what the difference is between Muffins and Cupcakes. I know that cupcakes usually have icing on them but then a cake without icing is still a cake!

I also know that muffins are generally 'heavier' than cupcakes but really, is there a difference?

Anyway, rather than worry about semantics, I made these muffins simply because they are delicious and the Children love them. A few of The Lovely Wife's friends enjoyed these too a few weeks ago when they came to visit.




This is how I make my Apple Cinnamon Muffins.


Ingredients
250 g Butter
230 g Brown Sugar
4 Eggs
4 tbsp Milk
1 Tbsp Honey
2 tsp Vanilla
250 g Flour
3 tsp Baking Powder
3 Large Apples
1 tbsp Cinnamon
2 Tbsp Brown Sugar

Method
Pare the apples and cut into small squares
Mix Cinnamon, sugar and Apples together, coating well. Set Aside
Cream butter and Sugar till light and fluffy
Add eggs a little at a time and continue beating
Fold in Sifted flour and baking powder
Add in Honey, Milk and Vanilla. Mix Well
Fold in Apples ensuring it is well mixed
Fill muffin cups ¾ full and bake in 190°C oven for 20-25 minutes or till done




Very easy to make, very easy to eat and very delicious too - not to mention healthy! The kids had the leftover muffins for breakfast the next day while we also gave some away to some of our guests - who were really all family anyway!

Sunday, 29 November 2009

It's my Birthday today and there's no cake in sight...

It's my Birthday today and The Lovely Wife didn't get me a cake...
She didn't get me a cake simply because she felt that I make better cakes than any of the shop bought cakes and so buying a cake would just not be worth it. So instead, she got me a tub of Ben & Jerry's ice cream in lieu of a cake! How sweet of The Lovely Wife!



I got some lovely presents too that included a non-stick pastry mat and pasta tongs. We had a busy day today where most of it was spent with close friends over lunch after celebrating their childs baptism.



The lunch kind of meandered into tea and then we had to go to exchange something at the nearby shopping centre. It was almost 6pm when we returned home and that is when the The Lovely Wife and the kids presented me with my Ice Cream! I knew something was up because the kids and The Lovely Wife kept whispering and sniggering half the time that we were out!



I suggested that we wait till after dinner but they insisted that I have at least one spoon of the ice cream. I fed the kids and The Lovely Wife a spoon each too. We'll enjoy more of it after dinner tonight...

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

A Birthday Pictorial

I'm a little late posting more pictures of Mike's 8th Birthday that fell on the 15th of November 2000 but here they are...


Michael looking under his bed for the presents that we hid there before waking him up...



Sarah's present to her brother - a pack of Army Men...both of them are still a little sleepy!


Mike with his Aircraft Carrier model that I ordered from eBay...


We got Mike a replica Chelsea Jersey - A boy grows up and learns to support his own football team, never mind that he used to support Arsenal due to the brainwashing from his Daddy that Arsenal is the better team. At least he still claims that Arsenal is his second favourite team...


Before the rest of the family arrived. They both decided they wanted to wear their replica jerseys. At least my princess knows which team to support!





Sarah had learnt how to play Happy Birthday on the piano and she played it while everyone sang along!




Blowing out the candles on the Aircraft Carrier Cake...



Brother and Sister with the Cake...

All in all a lovely time was had by all. Stay tuned for some of the food that was made for Mike's Birthday - this is after all, a Food Blog!!

Happy Birthday Michael!

Sunday, 15 November 2009

8 Years Old today with an Aircraft Carrier Cake...



Today is my son Michael's Birthday - 8 years old! As usual, we woke him up in his room and hid his presents under the bed...!

As each birthday comes to pass, the challenge to make the children their birthday cake of choice gets more and more difficult!

This year, Michael asked for an Aircraft Carrier cake. As usual, I surfed the Internet and got an idea of how others had made Aircraft carrier cakes. I had grandiose plans of trimming the cake in the shape of a V, and then having a flat top - just like how an Aircraft Carrier should - but I realised that the cake wouldn't possibly stand with any stability. So I just decided to make a large rectangle cake and then cut it so that at least from the top it would look like an Aircraft Carrier.



I had also planned on making the control tower out of cake but one evening as I looked at all the Lego my son has, I hit upon the idea of making a control tower out of Lego.


An Aircraft Carrier needs Aircraft and I looked at all the toy shops for little toy aeroplanes but couldnt find any. One of the presents that we bought for Michael was a plastic need-to-assemble model Aircraft Carrier. As luck would have it, when Michael opened up the Aircraft Carrier box this morning, it was full of tiny Aeroplanes! Yay! Problem of lack of planes solved!!



After icing the ship, I still felt it needed a little enhancement so I printed out 'runway guides' and the Ship Registration number on Plastic Transparency. Why MA 49? Well, Michael likes the number 49 and MA are the initials of his first and middle names.



As I type this, there are some Apple Cinammon Muffins baking in the oven while The Lovely Wife is slaving in the kitchen making fried noodles. No party per se but since the Grandparents and the Uncles and their families are coming over, there needs to be some food...

Stay tuned for the Cake Cutting photos as well as photos of the 'pseudo party'!!


Friday, 13 November 2009

Ich bin ein Deutschlander

In November 1989, I was in my final year of University and stuck right in the midst of final exams. My university years saw the development of my political ideaology and the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9th 1989 was an event that was so significant. Never, ever did I think the Berlin Wall would fall. That event was the catalyst that brought about the end of communism in many parts of the world - especially Europe. The fall of the Berlin Wall led to the unification of Germany in October 1990.

I have visited Germany and in fact spent some time there on work. I used to go for two week stints practically twice a year from 1992 to 1996. I had the pleasure of visiting Munich (or Munchen as the Germans call it) and Hanover with brief visits to neighbouring cities like Mittenwald, Celle and even Dachau. Dachau used to be a Concentration Camp and visiting it was an experience that will not be easily forgotten. I really enjoyed Germany with its incredible history, culture, food and of course the Beer!


20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, it is sad to see that many other walls have not fallen. These walls may not be physical walls but rather invisible or virtual walls. The walls of Racism, Sexism, Inequality, Corruption and many others still exist but I believe that these walls will all come crumbling down one day.

The fall of the Berlin Wall taught me that nothing is impossible. It also made me a firm believer in the Power of the People. It showed me that no matter how strong a regime may be, how corrupt things may be, how difficult a situation may be, it is the will of the people that will finally come through. It may take a long time but change can only happen if the people will it. And once the people will it, change will come. History has shown us this not just in the Fall of The Wall but in the destruction of Apartheid in South Africa, the removal of many regimes in many parts of the world, the First Black President of the USA, the loss of the 2/3 majority of the Governing party in Malaysia's Parliament in March 2008 and many others.

These are all events that I never thought I would live to see but it has happened. And it has happened because of the Power of the People.

I celebrate the Fall of the Wall not just for the freedom it gave to the people of Germany but for what it symbolises to the rest of the world. In this age of globalisation and with the world becoming smaller through the use of technology and communications, we need to focus on our similarities and put aside our differences. We need to recognise that we are all one people no matter what our culture, our nationality or our religions.

With my frequent trips to Germany, I learnt a little Deutsche and also learnt the German National Anthem - Das Deutschlandlied (The Song of Germany). The original Anthem was 3 verses long and started off with Deutschland, Deutschland über alles, (Germany, Germany above All).

From what I was told, this phrase was not looked upon favourably after the second world war. Currently only the last stanza of the original anthem is sung. The first line goes Unity and justice and freedom
and although it is meant for the German Fatherland, I believe that today it is applicable as a call for Unity, Justice and Freedom EVERYWHERE in the world.

That is why, in commemoration of the 20th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall, I join ranks with the people of Germany and declare that in the spirit of Brotherhood, Ich bin ein Deutcshlander - I am a German. in further commemoration of the Fall of the Berlin Wall and in the hope and trust that all other walls will eventually fall, I reproduce the German National Anthem...





Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit
Für das deutsche Vaterland!
Danach lasst uns alle streben
Brüderlich mit Herz und Hand!
Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit
Sind des Glückes Unterpfand;
|: Blüh' im Glanze dieses Glückes,
Blühe, deutsches Vaterland. :|
Unity and justice and freedom
For the German fatherland!
For these let us all strive
Brotherly with heart and hand!
Unity and justice and freedom
Are the pledge of fortune;
|: Flourish in this fortune's blessing,
Flourish, German fatherland. :|




Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Homemade Hot Fudge Topping or Chocolate Sauce




I had always wanted to make my own hot fudge to serve with Ice Cream or as an accompaniment to various desserts. I tried many different recipes and each one never turned out quite right until I hit upon this creation!

Theres just something rather special about making your own hot fudge. You know exactly what goes in, there are no preservatives and it tastes good too. Time to get rid of your store bought chocolate sauce!



The Lovely Wife made some waffles the other day and I made this sauce to go with it. We served the waffles with bananas and chocolate sauce and it was really quite delicious!



This is how I made my chocolate sauce...

Ingredients

4 tsp butter
8 tsp cocoa
¼ cup sugar
½ cup milk
3 tsp Liquid Glucose (or use Corn Syrup if you like)
1 tsp vanilla

Method
In a double boiler, combiner butter and cocoa.
Melt together and stir so that it becomes a smooth paste
Add in sugar and continue to heat
Add milk. Mixture will look like chocolate floating on the milk.
Keep stirring over heat and mixture will eventually combine.
Add liquid glucose a little at a time until desired thickness is reached. Remember it will thicken more when cool
Remove from heat. Add vanilla and let cool




Needless to say, it was a huge hit with the kids. My little princess really enjoyed it and my son has added my chocolate sauce to his list of favourites.



You can add more cocoa to make it more chocolatety. It goes really well with ice cream too and tastes just like something you'd find in an ice cream parlour. Try it out - its really simple and tastes really professional too.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Can you tell me how to get...

How to get to Sesame Street?!!



Did you know that Sesame Street is 40 years old? I didn't till I saw the google doodle (The modified google logo used to celebrate various occasions) that featured Sesame Street as celebrating its 40th Anniversary.

I grew up on Sesame Street but I never realised that I am older than Sesame Street. That would explain why all the characters, the human ones that is, haven't really aged all that much. Well, they have aged but havent we all...

I have always been especially fond of Sesame Street. So much so that I insisted that my own two kids watched Sesame Street rather than Barney (that infuriating purple dinosaur). In fact, Barney was banned from my home. I never liked the fact that Barney was a "dinosaur from our imagination" whereas I felt that Sesame Street was more real. Okay, so maybe I'm stretching it a bit to say that Oscar the Grouch, Elmo and Big Bird are real but they were meant to be real - rather than from your imagination. If you get what I mean...

Big Bird, Ernie, Bert, Elmo, Oscar the Grouch, Cookie Monster,The Count, Grover and a whole host of other Monsters, Bob McGrath and the other human actors (whose names I cant remember) all became a part of our lives.

I loved the songs from Sesame Street. I love the lessons of life. I loved how they addressed issues that kids would know and would feel. I loved how it could always bring a tear to my eye or make my heart light with laughter. I loved how it always made me feel good about myself. And I love how after 40 years, it still has that same effect.

Thank you Sesame Street for the wonderful times you gave my kids. Thank you even more for the wonderful times you gave me. I hope that Sesame Street continues to live on and perhaps, just maybe, the children of my children will enjoy and grow up on Sesame Street too...in the meantime, lets celebrate 40 years, (yes Count 40 years!) of Sesame Street and lets sing along. I know you know the song...!

Sunny day - Sweepin’ the clouds away,
On my way to where the air is sweet.
Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street.

Come and play, everything’s A-OK
Friendly neighbors there that’s where we meet
Can you tell me how to get
How to get to Sesame Street

It’s a magic carpet ride. Every door will open wide.
Happy people like you. Happy people who.

Like a beautiful sunny day sweepin’ the clouds away
On my way to where the air is sweet
Can you tell me how to get,
How to get to Sesame street, how to get to Sesame Street, How to get to . .

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Bond and a lesson in French Kissing





The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

And now on to another episode of Bond...
M sighed as she looked at the fax. "Surely No. 10 has better things to do than bother themselves with this." She sighed again, deeply this time.

"Moneypenny! Get me Bond." She barked. If anyone could get to the bottom of this, Bond could.

James swaggered into the office of the head of MI6. He bowed ever so lightly, "At your service M"

"Ah yes, James. The French are coming in next week and No 10 has chosen to pander to Carla's whims" M stated.

"Ahh... what's Mr Brown trying to do this time?" Bond smiled.

M frowned as she explained, "Well, apparently Carla has taken quite a fancy to French Kissing - can't quite get enough of it apparently. She simply adores the French version although she claims that the French copied it from the Italians."

Bond's mind immediately started to roam. He thought back to Jacquilynne, the litte French pastry chef cum spy and then his mind switched to Francesca Sofia Giada Alessandra Valentina del Piero, the Italian spy from Milan. Both were amazingly good kissers and he would be hard pressed to pick between the two - as far as kissing went anyway. For without a doubt, the French Jacqui had such beautiful and supple...

"Your mind wondering again Bond!" M barked, and not in question either.

"err.. sorry M. Just thinking of kissing the Frenchies and Italians - um, I mean sleeping with their spies... um, I mean working, working with their agents, M. That's It."

"Oh shut up Bond! Your mind is always in the gutter. This isn't really about kissing!" M thundered.

"B-but you were the one that started with the French Kissing M!" Bond watched M's heaving bosom and for a moment, albeit brief, he imagined himself pressed against her and kissing her wantonly. He shook his head quickly, wiping the image from his mind.

M's bosom shuddered as she exhaled in frustration. "Listen up Bond and pay attention. This is about Macs, not kissing."

"Ahhh... Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, onions, pickles on a sesame seed bun." Bond replied, almost in song.

"Good heavens Bond. Thats a bloody Big Mac. I'm talking abouts Macs! Short for Macarons, also known as a French Kiss. Sarkozy wants to give Bruni the perfect French Kiss, as in a Macaron - and now Brown has gotten himself involved. He's offered to serve French Macarons when the Sarkozy's come for their official visit next week. Britain Always has to undermine the French you see and No prizes for guessing who has to make it."

"Blasted Macarons." Bond muttered under his breath. "I'd rather be frenching with Carla."

"What was that Bond?" M practically screamed out.

"Um nothing, M... quite nothing at all."


** Scene fades and reopens **

Bond is lying in bed with a Halle Berry lookalike - wherever does he find these gorgeous women? Her naked body (Obviously) is covered by white satn sheets while Bond has the sheets only up to his waist, displaying his very manly and hairy chest - have you EVER wondered why this is always the case in the movies??

Bond was busy with his laptop. In addition to poring over the recipe, he was surfing for macarons. Every now and then he looked over to glance at the heaving bosom of his bedmate and to pause to inhale her sweet fragrance.

He had never tasted a macaron before nor had he ever seen one. Sure, he had seen pictures of macarons but never the real thing. He learnt that macarons were one of the more popular items in food porn, much like the Halle Berry lookalike next to him could put a porn star to shame. With thoughts of porn floating around in his head, Bonds fingers left his laptop and slid under the covers, teasing the silken thigh of his bed-mate.

"James! I'm reading!" She giggled as she lightly slapped his hand.

Bond frowned. This would never have happened to him before he started baking. Ever! He was Commander Sir James Bond. Agent 007. Women fell at his feet and did his every bidding. This is what happens when you age, lost your hair and grow a pot belly. Grumbling to himself, he continued to read about macarons, before he decided he was going to get to sleep.



James woke up the next morning and leered longingly at the gorgeous woman next to him. Her sheets had slipped off her during the night and her naked form beckoned him - much like a moth to the flame. He briefly considered having his way with her before he remembered how she had spurned him the previous night. "Humph," he spluttered grumpily to himself. "She'll not be getting any of Commander Bond this morning. Serves her right too" Bond didnt realise that he was really only depriving himself. Cutting his nose to spite his own face so to speak...

He got out of bed, pausing to cover her naked body - He didnt want her to catch cold but it was more to sto phim from giving in to his lustfully wanton desires. He washed up and proceeded downstairs to make the macarons. He decided he was only going to make half the measure. That is when he encountered the first problem for the day - the recipe called for 5 egg whites. How on earth would he divide 5 into two? Two and a half egg whites?

He called Q who quite knowledgeably told him to separate the third egg into a separate bowl and then halve that amount of egg white. James couldn't be bothered with such accuracy and so he just used two large eggs and one smaller egg. First problem overcome.

Bond then used his trusty Qenwood mixer (a gift from Q, modeled after the Kenwood Major but with a lot of hidden firepower) to beat up the eggs to soft peaks before adding sugar and whipping the whites to stiff peaks. The thought of stiff peaks sent his mind reeling back to his holiday in the German Alps with Helga, from the German Foreign Affairs Office. Helga had a very advanced bosom that she fondly referred to as the die Deutshces Turm - meaning the German Towers. He used to refer to them as the Twin Peaks. Bond smiled fondly at the memory.

He then gently folded in the sugar and almond meal into the mixture and then proceeded to pipe out small circles. He regretted not investing in one of these Hi-Tech non stick silicon pads but figured his silicon paper would do just as well. Egads and Heavens to Murgatroyd! He had run out of silicon paper and so he used non-stick baking paper instead.

Bond followed the recipe, baking the macarons at a low temperature, removing them from the oven and then letting the oven temperature rise before baking it again. Bond was pleasantly surprised to see that his macarons had little feet on them. Perhaps not as good as it should have been but there they were - feet! It was a good thing he didn't have a foot fetish, he laughed to himself.

Next came the question of what to sandwhich the macarons with as well as what to do with the egg yolks. Bond quickly heated a cup of milk and whisked the egg yolks into it to form a custard. He then whisked in some chocolate to make a chocolate pudding. With the egg yolk problem solved, James melted a little peanut butter with some chocolate to form a nice thick ganache. He mixed in a little of the custard to thin it a little and then sandwhiched the macarons with this mixture.


Job completed and Bond thought that he had done a pretty decent job of it. Now all he had to do was to serve it up at No.10.

He waited patiently for the the Browns and the Sarkozys to finish their main meal, passing the time by flirting with the kitchen maid and sipping a martini. As the head waiter signalled to him, he set the macarons up on a nice serving dish and carried it proudly to the dining table where the Sarkozy's were feasting with the Browns.

Bond purposefully walked passed Carla Bruni, glancing down at her cleavage, so obviously obvious in that little black dress. He placed the serving dish down and walked away, this time giving Carla a not so subtle look - she smiled at him, obviously quite thrilled that the great Commander Sir James Bond, Britains finest, thought she was worth his time.

Bruni reached over and placed a macaron between her red lips. Her eyes rolled upward, obviously rather enamoured with Bond's macarons. Gordon Brown smiled with pride as Carla clapped her hands gleefully stating that the Macaron was delightful - crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside.
"Ooo-la-la Ces't Magnifique! Eeet eez, how you say in Englizh, almost remindz me of Nikolas. He pretend he is tough on ze outside but really, he is a softy on the inside." she giggled and beamed as she stuffed her face with macaron after macaron.

Gordon Brown called M immediately, gloating over the success of the macarons and congratulating M on Bond's efforts.

"He's the best we have…although I'd never tell him." M said quietly to herself as she put the phone down.

Meanwhile, Bond was back in the kitchen, his hand deftly unclasped the bra of Chantalle, the vivacious and buxom Kitchen Maid. As his hands roamed, he gave her a free lesson in the art of French Kissing. This lesson however had nothing to do with Macarons...

Later, with her hair all in a mess, her clothes all over the kitchen and Bond long gone, the kitchen maid relived her time with Bond. Bond most Certainly was the Best she had ever had...and that made perfect sense as he was The Best that Britain had to offer...

*** ******


This was a really fun challenge and one that I didn't think I would pull off - seriously! I've read about macarons and how difficult they are that I was practically trying to ignore this challenge - but I'm glad I didnt!


Taste wise, these were SPECTACULAR! The Kids just Loved the macarons and couldn't get enough. The macarons were perfect - crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside. The chocolate and peanut butter mix gave it a lovely taste and they were simply delicious. The macarons practically finished off in one sitting and as my son reached for the last one, he asked if there were anymore - hoping that I had some still left in the kitchen. It was then that I wished I had made the full measure.


My son loved them so much that he stuffed a whole macaron in his mouth. I cant blame him as I have a tendency for doing stuff like that too. Greedy daddy, greedy son - the apple doesnt fall far from the tree!!

They both proclaimed that this was one of their favourite DB challenges so that is certainly a winner in my books and I am sure I will HAVE to make this again sometime. - probably soon!!



Notice the chocolate covered mouth and fingers of my little princess - who just couldnt get enough of these macarons!



Thanks for a great challenge AmiS. The whole blogosphere will be full of Macarons today so please go visit the rest of the Daring Bakers!


Ingredients
Confectioners’ (Icing) sugar: 2 ¼ cups (225 g, 8 oz.)
Almond flour: 2 cups (190 g, 6.7 oz.)
Granulated sugar: 2 tablespoons (25 g , .88 oz.)
Egg whites: 5 (Have at room temperature)

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C). Combine the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl. If grinding your own nuts, combine nuts and a cup of confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor and grind until nuts are very fine and powdery.
2. Beat the egg whites in the clean dry bowl of a stand mixer until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.
3. Sift a third of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold gently to combine. If you are planning on adding zest or other flavorings to the batter, now is the time. Sift in the remaining almond flour in two batches. Be gentle! Don’t overfold, but fully incorporate your ingredients.
4. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip (Ateco #806). You can also use a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off. It’s easiest to fill your bag if you stand it up in a tall glass and fold the top down before spooning in the batter.
5. Pipe one-inch-sized (2.5 cm) mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper).
6. Bake the macaroon for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and raise the temperature to 375°F (190°C). Once the oven is up to temperature, put the pans back in the oven and bake for an additional 7 to 8 minutes, or lightly colored.
7. Cool on a rack before filling.

Yield: 10 dozen. Ami's note: My yield was much smaller than this. I produced about two dozen filled macaroons.







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