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Sunday, 30 March 2008

Perfect Party Cake - Daring Bakers

I'm starting to feel pretty left out now. Last month I had no idea who Julia Child was... This month, it was Dorie Greenspan that gave me the 'owls' - ya know, Who? Who? Who?

Sorry, you guys are gonna have to get a really large hammer and knock me on the head. I know most of you will be rolling your eyes and calling me all sorts of names... but hey, I'm serious, I had never heard of Dorie before. The only Dory I know of is the Fish.

So anyway, as usual, I did a search and it appears that Dorie isn't half as famous as Julia Child. Neither is she half as famous as Jamie Oliver nor Nigella Lawson (I do like her!! and I mean Her!) How do I get to this conclusion? Well simply because Dorie doesn't have a writeup on Wikipedia, while the rest do. Doesn't matter really. It appears that Dorie is rather famous - and good too by the looks and sound of things. Her books that is...

This months challenge was hosted by Morven and she selected Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake. The recipe is basically a layered sponge cake filled with rasberry jam and lemon flavoured buttercreama. However, Morven gave us a LOT of freedom. This is what she said:

Yes you can do what ever you want with this cake as long as you promise to use the basic cake recipe and the basic buttercream recipe. The filling/frosting flavours are completely up to you.

With these liberties accorded, I decided to layer the cake with Apricot Jam and to add cocoa to the buttercream for a lovely Chocolate Buttercream. White Sponge, Apricot Jam and Chocolate Buttercream. Sounded like a plan. The Lovely Wife was enthusiastic about this Challenge when I told her about it, as were my kids.

As usual, I woke up early on a Saturday morning to do the challenge. The timing was great as I baked this on Easter Saturday. The plan was to take it for lunch on Easter Sunday. We alternate celebrating Easter between both sets of parents and this year it was at my In-Laws.

The cake batter came together rather easily and the batter was a brilliant white. Since I didnt have 9" round pans, I used my 8" pans. No worries there. The cake was a little smaller but higher.

I let the cake cool while I pottered about the house doing some fixits. Then it was time to start on the buttercream. I followed the recipe as provided except I added
4 tbsp of cocoa mixed with a little warm water to form a paste. The buttercream turned out very nicely although in retrospect, I should have added a little more cocoa - or maybe some melted chocolate.

With the buttercream nice and thick, it was time to assemble the cake. I have a cake leveller - you know, one of those things that looks like a clothes hanger with a thin wire at the base. This is perfect for cutting a cake into layers. My only regret is that in my haste, I didnt cut the layers into equal heights - some layers were higher than others. Small problem though.

I spread Apricot Jam on the layers and covered each layer with Choc Buttercream. Then after all the layers were assembled, I slathered the whole cake with the Chocolate Buttercream.

By this time, the Lovely Wife and the Kids were waiting impatiently to try a piece - but I said we had to have lunch first.

So after lunch, I brought the cake out and my two kids wanted me to take a picture of them with the cake - they are very supportive of my food blogging!

My daughter specifically wanted a picture of her pointing to the "Yummy cake you made. This is your Caring Bakers cake right Daddy??!!" [Note: NO Spelling error there - she really thought its the Caring bakers. I did explain to her though that we are the Daring Bakers although we are Caring as well!!)

I was a little reluctant to take an untested cake anywhere so it was a good idea to cut it and eat it first. Anyway, I needed my Official Testers to tell me what they thought of it.

How did the Official Testers like it?
The Lovely Wife LOVED the cake! My son thought the cake was rather yummy while my daughter rubbed her tummy and said "mmmm'. So a thumbs up all round!

The Lovely Wife also commented that the sponge was really very, very good. She also reckoned that the cake would taste really good with Kaya (a kind of Coconut Jam). Now thats a thought!
I was planning on using the extra buttercream to pipe shells and decorate the cake a little more - but I'm sorry. I was just plain lazy...

We had another slice of cake that night too before taking to for Easter lunch the next day. The cake was a big hit at the In-Laws too! I will defintitely try this cake again but probably cover it in chocolate ganache rather than buttercream. Or maybe, layer it with some fruits and cream, or maybe some creamed cheese. The possibilities are really endless with this cake. I guess that's why its called the Perfect Party Cake!

You can find the rest of the Daring Bakers at the Official Daring Bakers Blogroll to see how they fared with this challenge.

This is the recipe as given:

Courtesy of Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours (page 250).
For the Cake

2 1/4 cups cake flour (updated 25 March)
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk (I prefer buttermilk with the lemon)
4 large egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure lemon extract

For the Buttercream
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For Finishing
2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable
About 1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut
Getting Ready
Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To Make the Cake
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.
Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant.
Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light.
Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed.
Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated.
Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients.
Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated.
Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean
Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners.
Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up (the cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to two months).

To Make the Buttercream
Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or another large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a plan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes.
The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream.
Remove the bowl from the heat.
Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes.
Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth.
Once all the butter is in, beat in the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes.
During this time the buttercream may curdle or separate – just keep beating and it will come together again.
On medium speed, gradually beat in the lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla.
You should have a shiny smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly.

To Assemble the Cake
Using a sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, slice each layer horizontally in half.
Put one layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper.
Spread it with one third of the preserves.
Cover the jam evenly with about one quarter of the buttercream.
Top with another layer, spread with preserves and buttercream and then do the same with a third layer (you’ll have used all the jam and have buttercream leftover).
Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and use the remaining buttercream to frost the sides and top.
Press the coconut into the frosting, patting it gently all over the sides and top.

The cake is ready to serve as soon as it is assembled, but I think it’s best to let it sit and set for a couple of hours in a cool room – not the refrigerator. Whether you wait or slice and enjoy it immediately, the cake should be served at room temperature; it loses all its subtlety when it’s cold. Depending on your audience you can serve the cake with just about anything from milk to sweet or bubbly wine.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Daily Tiffin - 3D Cakes

Can you believe this is already my 5th Post at the Daily Tiffin?

This time around, I share with you the 3D cakes that I have made for my kids birthdays together with detailed instructions.

Making 3D cakes are really not as difficult as many people think. I hope this article will spur you to try making 3D cakes for your loved ones. Read the full article over at the Daily Tiffin

Sunday, 23 March 2008

The secret is in the dough...

Pizza! Who doesn't love it? I've always been a great fan of pizza and the lovely wife and kids are no different. We can polish off two large Pizza's and still be a little hungry (read greedy!) I've made pizza at home before, but I've always used the ready made, frozen crust you get at the supermarket.

Just yesterday, I had to see to a few household fixits while the lovely wife took the kids for their immunisation shots. Just before leaving for the doctors, as we were discussing food plans, she said she felt like some homemade Pizza for dinner. She asked what ingredients I needed and I told her. As an afterthought, I added that I would try and make the Pizza dough myself for a change. She didn't seem too convinced though.

The reason why I wanted to try my own Pizza dough was simply because I have overcome my fear of baking bread. This is in a way thanks to my blog buddy - Breadchick who dared us all with the French Bread on last months Daring Bakers Challenge. I think I did a pretty decent job on that and I figured that if I can make French Bread, then a Pizza dough shouldn't be a problem. Also, Breadchick has often expounded the virtues of home made bread and I also had to push my boundaries didn't I! So thanks Breadchick for pushing me and for allowing me more belief in my breadmaking skills.

Both the Lovely Wife and I prefer a thin crust to a thick crust although whenever we order Pizza takeout, we normally go for thick crust. Simple economies of scale as a Thick Crust feeds more mouths...!

So anyway, I prepared myself for my Pizza Endeavour by surfing the web for Pizza Dough recipes. I found a few but I liked the one from Video Jug - complete with a video showing you how its done.

I doubled the recipe and substituted Instant Yeast for the Dried Yeast. I also dumped everything into my Kenwood and let the dough hook do its magic. I added a little flour as I now had a 'gut feel' as to what sort of texture to expect!

This is the recipe as I made it.

12oz Plain Flour
2 tsp salt
2 tsp Instant Yeast
1 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
240 ml Warm Water
Polenta/Corn Meal for dusting

Sift flour. Make a well in the flour and add in the salt, yeast, sugar and Olive Oil. Then add in the warm water. Mix well. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes until a smooth, soft ball is formed. Place dough in a clean bowl and cover with a cloth. Leave to rise for about 2 hours. Dough will double in size. Cut dough into two and sprinkle with a little flour. Dust your rolling surface with a little flour as well. Roll out one piece of dough into a rough circle. Dust a pizza tray or circular tray with polenta (to prevent dough from sticking) and then press the dough to form a neat circle. Cover with your choice of Pizza Toppings and bake in a preheated 230C oven for about 20 minutes.

To get a thin dough, after rolling into a kind of circle shape, I let the dough hang from my fingers while slowly turning it - kind of like letting gravity stretch it out! When it was almost able to fit into the round Pizza tray, I spread out the edges and then patted it out onto the tray.

I only had one Pizza tray so what I did for the rest of the dough was to roll it out and then put a 9" round baking pan over the dough. I then cut around it to get a nice round Pizza shape! I baked the dough on Polenta dusted Cookie trays.

The measurement above gave me one 12" Pizza and two 9" pizzas. The Pizza dough turned out much, much better than I expected and the Lovely Wife was pleasantly surprised. She had expected my attempt at Pizza dough to be thick and chewy - sort of like the Foccacia that I had made before - and that was the reason for her reluctance to let me try to make my own dough. I was rather smug, I must admit! Okay, Okay... Very, Very Smug, actually!!!

For topping, I used a combination of Minced Beef, some Salami that I cut into strips, Cheese, Loads of Mushrooms and some capsicum. I also made my own sauce by frying lots of chopped garlic with basil, black pepper and oregano. Then I added some tomatoes and continued frying till a nice paste was formed. Add a little water and a whole can of tomato paste and I had this lovely Pizza sauce.

The kids thoroughly enjoyed my homemade dough and had their fill of pizza. I must say that it was very satisfying to be able to make my own pizza dough. Even more satisfying was how much the kids and lovely wife enjoyed the Pizza! I think we ALL overstuffed our faces...

As my son finished off his third Large slice of pizza, he commented with the trademark waving of his arms in the air.

"Okay! No need to order Domino's Pizza anymore, we can just have Dharm-ino's Pizza!"

Now I've always known that my son has inherited my sense of humour but even I was surprised at this gem!

Friday, 21 March 2008

Tangled Web of Deceitful Pasta

Ahh… What a tangled web of pasta we weave! In my last post, I explained that an Alfredo Sauce is a basic Cream sauce. I also explained that a Carbonara is a Cream sauce with egg yolks beaten into it. I went on to share how I make my Pasta Carbonara without using egg yolks but rather only cream. All my years of making Carbonara sauce, I have been rather proud of myself for being able to make such a lovely Carbonara albeit by cheating a bit and not using egg yolks

I’ve also prided myself on my rather lovely Pasta Alfredo. My children love my creamy Pasta Alfredo and even though they have tasted Pasta Alfredo at restaurants and cafĂ©’s they still prefer mine.

But I must now admit the error of my ways - thanks to a reader of this blog. I was wrong on the explanation of both the Alfredo as well as the Carbonara sauces. Many, just like me, have been Misled!

Please go and read the comments on my Spaghetti Carbonara post, the very first comment in fact. Never mind, Ill replicate it for you.

This is what the reader said:

Dharm, it is particularly difficult to say no to such a nice face, but no. Carbonara is not a cream sauce, has no cream. It is bacon (pancetta), water from
the pasta pot, grated Parmigiano and egg yolks. The secret is merely to put it all together, then remove from the cooker and beat, beat, beat those yolks in not getting them hot enough nor leaving them still enough to scramble.

Sob, Alfredo also is not a cream sauce and contains no cream.

Sob, sob, this is all too sad, but we can rename your original new recipe 'pasta alla crema di bacon'

the Italian Pedant

I’m very grateful that someone cared enough to set me straight! I’m thankful that you took the time to read and comment on my blog and let me learn. As I mentioned in my comment reply, I only wish you had left your e-mail or contact details so I could have gotten more information from you. Nonetheless, Thank You Italian Pedant for setting me straight!

So anyway. I thought I owed it to everyone to SHARE this important revelation.

I did more research (but of course!) and found that an Authentic Carbonara only uses egg yolks. No Cream Whatsoever. Contrary to all the recipes that say that Cream is used. Apparently, cream was added to make the dish a little richer. But once this is done, then it is no longer an authentic Carbonara. I always knew that my Carbonara wasn't authentic due to the ommission of egg yolks, but now I know I am REALLY cheating!!!

Secondly the Alfredo. That too uses no cream. Nil. Zero.

Again, going back to the word Authentic. An Authentic Alfredo is nothing but butter and cheese! The cheese should also be Parmigiano Reggiano. Legend has it that the Alfredo sauce was 'invented' by Alfredo di Lelio, the proprietor of a restaurant in Rome way back in 1914. Apparently his pregnant wife had not only completely lost her appetite but couldn't keep anything down. Desperate to find something that she could eat and enjoy, good ol' Alfredo experimented with different recipes. When he presented her with his a plate of fettuccine mixed with butter and cheese, she ate the whole plate! The dish soon found its way onto the menu.

Unfortunately, the majority of recipes found in cook books and on the web use Cream in their Carbonara as well as their Alfredo. Most of these claim to be 'Authentic' recipes too. Surely this is a case of misleading the masses? But then who am I to complain when I am just as guilty too?? I even checked bottled Carbonara and Alfredo sauces and both use cream in their ingredients. Who knows, maybe in a few years time everyone will think that a Carbonara isn't a Carbonara unless it uses Cream; and the same goes for an Alfredo. Scary thought that...

This is my attempt at trying to set the record straight.

So once again, my thanks to 'The Italian Pedant' for educating me. I will never be able to eat, let alone look at, a Carbonara nor an Alfredo in the same light again!!

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Spaghetti Carbonara - well sort off!

You know, for the longest time, I thought that a Carbonara was simply a creamy sauce with bacon in it. I also thought that a Marinara was a Seafood sauce, while a Bolognese was a Tomata based sauce.

Oh wretched fool!

In my travels down lifes path though, I've quickly learnt that:
a basic cream sauce is an Alfredo;
a Bolognese is a traditional meat sauce originating from Bologna that often contains tomato;
a Marinara is actually a classic Tomato based sauce - and does not need to contain any seafood. The term Marinara refers to the Italian word for Sailor - Marinaro.
a Carbonara is actually a cream sauce finished off with egg yolks!

I actually knew about the need for egg yolks in Carbonara sauce a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. To make a 'real' Carbonara, you are supposed to use add in egg yolks at the very end, quickly beaten into the hot cream sauce to form a nice emulsion and then served over very hot pasta so that the egg yolks continue to cook. This can be very tricky and often results in a curdled mixture.

That's why I have never used eggs in my Carbonara. So I suppose I can't call it a Carbonara any longer can I...

Now this is the beauty of cooking! There is this well known theory of Inductive Reasoning which states
If a bird looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it's probably a duck.

Therefore, following the same postulation:

If you can make a pasta sauce Look like a Carbonara, Taste like a Carbonara and Smell like a Carbonara, then surely it Must be a Carbonara - even if there are no eggs in it.


So that my dear friends is what I do with my Carbonara. No one has to know that there are no eggs in the sauce. For those of you that are reading this and now have the 'secret' knowledge that I do NOT use eggs in my Carbonara sauce... well, I'm afraid I am going to have to kill you.

So anyway, this is my recipe for a Carbonara Sauce:

8 Bacon Rashers (or use 50g Chicken shredded)
200 gm Fresh Button Mushrooms
200 ml Cream
1 tsp Oregano
3 cloves Garlic
½ Tsp Ground Black Pepper
1 tsp Corn Flour
Olive Oil
Salt to taste

Slice Mushrooms thinly and set aside. Chop the Bacon (or chicken) and set aside. Chop Garlic and sautee with Black Pepper and oregano. Add in the garlic and fry till fragrant
Add in Mushrooms and bacon (or chicken shreds if using chicken). Cook Well
Add in cream and bring to the boil.
Lower heat and simmer. Add salt to taste
Mix corn flour with a little water and add to mixture.
Cook till mixture thickens

And there you have your sauce!

Sometimes, in the absence of cream, I make a roux with flour and butter and add in lots of milk to simulate cream. Much cheaper and the taste difference is negligible. I also reckon that the best way to serve a Carbonara is with just a little sauce so that it coats the pasta and gets it all gooey. Too much sauce makes the dish too rich and you don't get the taste of the pasta and the subtle mix of flavours. That's what I think anyway.

As usual whenever I make pasta, I submit the post as an entry to Presto Pasta Nights hosted by my lovely friend Ruth over at Onceuponafeast.blogpsot.com.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Cultural Exchange, Satay and Honesty

I've mentioned in a previous post that one of the things I love about food blogging is getting to learn about other cuisines, ingredients and cultures. Just as I learn, I also like to share. So in carrying on with the theme of Cultural Exchange, I'm going to share with you one of Malaysia's best known foods. When it comes to food, Malaysia is a 'food paradise'. All of you Malaysian's that are reading this would probably agree that there is nothing quite so special or delicious than Satay! Any visit to Malaysia would be incomplete without partaking of our delicious Satay. So what exactly is Satay??

Satay could probably be classified as Malaysia's National Dish although it would be a tough fight with Nasi Lemak. Basically, Satay is pieces of marinated meat, skewered on a thin bamboo stick and then barbecued (or grilled - depending which part of the world you come from) over burning charcoal. The grilled meat is then served with Kuah Kacang - a piquant peanut sauce, fresh cucumber and onion slices as well as Ketupat or Nasi Himpit (compressed rice).

Satay can be found at most food stalls that abound throughout the country. Most commonly, Satay is available as Chicken Satay, Beef Satay and sometimes Mutton Satay.

The picture above shows Beef and Chicken Satay with the Beef being the darker colour, of course.

There are some shops or food stalls that serve Tripe satay as well. Supposedly, the best Satay is in a small town called Kajang.

The difference between a great Satay and a good Satay often lies in the Kuah Kacang (Peanut Sauce). Sometimes the sauce is a bit sweetish and sometimes it is a little too piquant. There is no such thing as a Bad Satay because.. well Satay can never be bad - always either Great or just plain Good. That's Satay for you!

Just last weekend, we were wondering what to do for dinner. The kids were in their 'I dont know' mode while The Lovely Wife suggested buying back some stall food and in particular some Satay. The kids seemed happy with that as we all love Satay. My son in particular loves the Ketupat with Kuah Kacang (Peanut Sauce).

When we got home, I casually remarked to my wife to please use a nice plate to lay out the Satay while I went to get my camera. My son, on overhearing me say I was going to get the camera, immediately objected.

Michael: "Daddy, I hope your not taking pictures for your blog! "

Me: "I am Mike. Why not? "

Michael:" Thats cheating, Dads! You didn't make the Satay!! "

I couldn't help laughing and I explained to him that I wasn't going to cheat but there was nothing wrong with posting about Satay just to share with everyone else - as long as I didn't claim to have made it. But I'm glad he knows the importance of honesty!

Some people like to eat the Satay with just a touch of sauce. Others, like me, like to have lots and lots of peanut sauce with their Satay. However you eat it though, Satay is truly a most delightful and wonderful dish!

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Lending the Queen a hand...

Not so long ago, in a Blog quite far, far away...

It is a period of great rejoicing.
The Queen has announced her wedding
to the handsome Roberto,
Minister of Technology from the St-Augustine System.

The Queen although so obviously happy
was concerned that her Royal Food Joust
would suffer due to her busy schedule
and perhaps even fall
to the evil Anti-Joust Empire

To allay the Queen's fears
a valiant Jedi Knight was chosen
Sir Obi-Dharm-Wannabe was chosen
to host the April Joust!

Yes, that's right! The Queen is getting married. Since she will be so busy, she asked if I could help out and... well, how can a Jedi Knight refuse his Queen??!!!

For those of you who don't know about the Royal Foodie Joust it's a fun cooking competition that is the brainchild of Jenn, The Leftover Queen.

The rules are fairly simple. 3 ingredients are chosen by the previous month's winner. All 3 ingredients must be used in your recipe but you can add as many other ingredients as you like. The recipes and pics must then be posted on the Leftover Queen Forum. Winners are decided by your peers on the Forum and the Winner gets a lovely personalised Apron! I was fortunate to win the January Joust and you can see for yourself the Apron that I won.

The ingredients for the April Joust were chosen by last months winner, who also happens to be one of my dearest blog friends - Valli of More than Burnt Toast. The ingredients are:
From the Sea (fish, scallops, clams, etc)
Lemon or lime

Pay a visit to the Royal Foodie Joust Forumfor more information on how you can participate in this month’s event as well as the general rules!

There are some MINOR changes to the rules simply because I am in a different Time Zone - I think I am about 12 hours ahead of The Queen who is in the US EST Timezone. So, as discussed and agreed with the Queen, there will be some slight changes to the closing dates of the joust as well as the voting as follows:

1. No more entries will be considered for the joust after 10 AM Eastern Standard USA Time on the 1st of April. (so in essence, you lose half a day - so get your entries in early!!)

2. Voting will close on the forum @ 10 AM EST on the 6th April (so in essence you get a half day extra to vote). I'll also try and announce the winner soon after.. but at the latest by 10AM EST on the 7th April. The winner will be announced on the Forum as well as on this Blog.

3. I've also decided that since I'm hosting this month's joust, I will NOT be entering. I May make something but even if I do, I will not enter it into the competition. Just wanted to set that straight right from the outset.

Come join in the fun and good luck to all the participants.

And as a final word, Many Congrats Jenn and Roberto!

Monday, 10 March 2008

Vanilla Kipferin

One of The Lovely Wife's favourite cookbooks comes from Malaysia's very own celebrity Chef. Say goodbye to Jamie Oliver, wave away Nigella Lawson (even if she IS wearing a slinky nightgown...) and say hello to Wan Ismail better known as Chef Wan!

I like Chef Wan as well. His cooking shows are a hoot to watch! He has a great personality while he talks a mile a minute. His recipes are also rather good in that (so far at least), they have all turned out well with a minimum of fuss.

So enough about my plug on Chef Wan, this post is really about the Vanilla Kipferin's that The Lovely Wife baked some time ago - for Christmas actually!

These lovely cookies are cruncy, nutty goodness and the crescent shape gives it some added 'personality'. Huh? Biscuits with personality?? I think you know what I mean. Apparently these biscuits are popular in Austria and Switzerland - especially at Christmas time. Also, it appears that because of their shape, they are sometimes known as Moon Crescent biscuits. Somehow, that doesnt surprise me!

The recipe comes from Chef Wan's Sweet Treats and goes like this:.

210g all purpose flour
70g ground almods
50g castor sugar
180g cold, unsalted butter, vut into small pieces
2 egg yolks
icing sugar for dusting

1. Combine flour, almonds and sugar in a bowl. Cut in cold butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add egg yolks and from the dough into a ball. Chill for an hour
2. Roll the dough into marbles by hand then form into crescents. Bake at 180C for about 8 minutes or till golden.

Dust with icing sugar.

Very pretty biscuits and very tasty too! The kids helped out with shaping the biscuits and had a lot of fun doing it. Nothing better for wholesome family fun than cooking and baking in the kitchen - although this time, I readily admit, the fun was had without me!!

Friday, 7 March 2008

Lime Freeze or is it a Lime Slurpee...

My son was reading one of his books the other day and apparently there was some sort of instructions on how to make lime juice. This became his 'flavour du jour' and he kept telling everyone how to make lime juice.

Coincidentally, I had dug up an old Ice Crusher and had been making the kids Ice Blended Chocolate and Ice Blended Ribena drinks the preceding two days.

It seemed like a good idea then to carry on using the Ice Crusher to make a Lime Freeze or Lime Slurpee. Remember the Slurpees you used to enjoy (or maybe still do?) at 7-11?

We bought a bunch of limes at the market and a bag of ice from the nearby store. The kids got involved in squeezing the juice from the limes and I taught them the well known trick of pressing the lime down on the table while rolling them prior to cutting to get more juice out. You didnt know that? Well now you do!

They had a ball of a time trying to squeeze all the juice out. They thought it was hilarious when the lime slipped out of my hand as I was trying to squeeze out the last bits of juice and the cut half ended up in my shirt pocket. Lots of fun really!

I mixed up a sugar syrup with some hot water and added it to the lime juice. Then I whizzed up lots of ice till it was crushed and added in the juice and syrup to make a sludgy mix. Not as finely crushed as the Slurpees but all 100% fresh with no additives.

The kids loved it. Absolutely. You wont believe that these are two kids that just love sourish, citrus tastes. They even sucked on the lime slice that I used as garnish!

Note: Unfortunately after using my Ice Crusher repeatedly for a few weeks, the darn thing broke! That's what happens when you don't use an appliance for over 5 years and then suddenly use it continously. Now I have to go try and find another contraption as the kids just love their ice blended drinks too much.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Caramel Custard

Another recipe that has been passed on to me by my Grandmother is her famous Caramel Custard. It is no surprise therefore, that this is my Father's favourite dessert. The Lovely Wife simply adores my Grandmother's version as well. Unlike most Caramel Custards, this version is steamed and and produces a lighter and somewhat fluffier custard.

As a child, whenever we were sick, my Grandmother used to advocate making this custard as not only was it nutritious (because of the eggs) but it was easy to swallow and tasted delicious too!

Nowadays, we dont need any excuse to eat it. This is the recipe:

For the Caramel
5 Tbsp Sugar
2 tbsp water

For the Custard
4 Eggs
1 Tin Evaporated milk
1 Tin water
4 Tbsp Sugar
2 tsp vanilla

*You can use fresh milk too if you want. Leave out the Tin of evaporated milk and water and substitute with 700ml milk

• Put sugar and water into a heavy pan and place over high heat
• Stir till sugar melts and then leave to boil
• Sugar will caramelise – the edges will start to turn golden.
• Start stirring to ensure all sugar is caramelised. Mixture should be a dark golden colour. Take care not to burn as caramel will then be bitter
• Pour into a 8” Pan that can be steamed
• Mix eggs and sugar. Don’t beat too much as this will cause the eggs to froth and cause too many air bubbles.
• Add in Evaporated Milk and mix well.
• Fill the tin with water and add in. Mix well
• Pour custard into the pan containing the caramel
• Steam for about ½ hour or till custard is firm. The custard will be wobbly as the caramel underneath has turned liquid
• Chill for 3-4 hours

Not surprisingly, Caramel Custard has become one of the kids favourite desserts as well.

Usually we just scoop the custard out of the pan but if you are serving it as a dessert, just turn it out onto a nice wide, flat dish. Some of the custard may stick to the pan but I think this just gives it that nice home-made look!

Monday, 3 March 2008

Chocolate Brownies

Chocolate Brownies are without a doubt one of my children's favourite cakes. My son used to love taking it to kindergarten for his snack time and my daughter just cant get enough! They love their brownies so much that no birthday is complete without Chocolate Brownies. It's just one of those Must Haves!

This batch of brownies was made for Sarah's 4th Birthday. Fortunately for the kids, Chocolate Brownies are not limited to birthdays. They love eating these delectable, chocolatey morsels with a bowl of ice cream, maybe with a glass of milk or simply on its own.

This is my recipe for Chocolate Brownies:

250gm butter
2 cups caster sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup cocoa
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
100g walnuts - chopped
100g chocolate chips

Melt butter and let cool. Beat melted butter with sugar till nicely combined. Add in eggs one at a time and continue to beat until creamy.
Sift flour with bakign powder. Fold into cream mixture. Add in cocoa and mix well. Stir in vanilla, nuts and choc chips. Mix well
spread into a greased and lined rectangular pan and bake in a preheated 170C oven for 40 mins or till done.

The idea of arranging the brownies in a pyramid came from the Lovely Wife. Apparently "Nigella does it this way." I'm wondering when my wife got to be on first name basis with Nigella Lawson...

These brownies are very moist and chocolatey. The crust on top is nice and crunchy too. Most people dont believe that I only use cocoa in the mix and not melted chocolate. As I said earlier, the kids love these brownies and can eat them at any time of the day. The brownies never last too long as both The Lovely Wife and I also stuff our faces with it.

I think my daughter sums up these brownies the best. While stuffing her face she will announce "Daddy, I dont Like your brownies... I LOVE them!"


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