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Archive for January, 2015

BakedBrie_Intro

To be honest, I had not intended on posting this recipe but the accolades it received at a party we had late last year with our neighbours, well, I just couldn’t ignore it. If you like warm, melty brie, chopped cashews and almonds, some chopped dried cherries, apricots and raisins then this is for you. Oh, did I forget to mention the home-made caramel sauce? Yes, you did read that correctly.

Ingredients for the Brie:

  • Small round of Brie
  • About 50 g chopped nuts (I used cashews and almonds)
  • 25 g chopped dried cherries
  • 25 g chopped dried apricots
  • 25 g golden raisins
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Ingredients for the caramel sauce:

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 tsp lyle’s Golden syrup
  • 3/4 tsp water
  • Dash of lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream, heated
  • 1/2 tbsp salted butter

Directions:

  1. Pre heat oven to 275° F (135° C).
  2. Combine the nuts and dried fruit with the spices and set aside.
  3. In a microwave proof measuring cup, add the sugar, syrup, water and lemon juice, whisk to combine.
  4. Microwave the sugar mixture on high until it JUST begins to darken (mine was a hair less than 1 minute 20 seconds, using a new microwave — watch it carefully). Remove it carefully from the microwave and set aside on a heat-proof surface and watch it turn dark amber.
    Meanwhile, heat the heavy cream until almost boiling. When the melted sugar had reached a gorgeous amber colour, slowly add the hot cream while whisking. Add hot cream little by little as it will bubble up. Stir in butter until melted.
    Pour hot caramel over spiced nut and dried fruit mix, toss until combined.
  5. Place Brie round in the centre of a heat proof vessel (I used cast iron so it will keep warm for a while). Pour the nut caramel mixture over the Brie and bake until Brie is hot and melty 5-10 minutes. Serve with French stick and crackers.
BakedBrie_Blog

I wish I had shot a pic of it right out of the oven but sadly it disappeared too quickly!

 

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Macarons

Strike one off the bucket list: French Macarons

 

 

 

Updated May 2016.

Do you have a cooking bucket list? I’ve had an informal (read: in my head) bucket list for quite some time; on it you’ll find duck, szalonczukor (a Hungarian fondant candy), spun sugar, puff pastry, phyllo pastry and last but not least, French Macarons! This post is about Macarons.

I was first introduced to these French Macarons a few years ago, a friend had brought a few back for me from Ladurée in Paris. My first bite experience was INCREDIBLE: crunchy, airy, lightly sweet, slightly chewy, fragrant, creamy, buttery. It was an awakening! It’s what you Aussie’s would call moreish and I would even go further to say needish, wantish, must-haveish!

The flavour combinations are limitless and I’ve even seen some savoury versions floating about the web-o-sphere (I must admit, a savoury version makes me cringe a bit). Today, I will share with you my second attempt recipe even though my first version turned out wonderfully, they were rather irregular in size and therefore not blog worthy. I used a Martha Stewart recipe for the meringue bit and a standard custard-based butter cream for the filling. The flavours I chose were: attempt 1 was lemon, attempt 2 were ice wine and pomegranate, chocolate and hazelnut. All were really delicious but my favourite was the lemon.

I will begin by saying that making Macarons are not as difficult as you might think; you need patience, a little know how and perseverance. The ingredients are simple and few. It makes me wonder why they charge so much for them, it must be the pomp and circumstance because it isn’t the cost of ingredients!

This blog post is an excellent reference; the professional baker did all the time-consuming comparisons and experimentation and documented it. My advice: Go with confidence and you WILL rock the recipe.

Bucket List

Macarons

Original Martha Stewart recipe can be found here.

Ingredients for basic Macaron:

  • 35 g blanched almond meal or flour
  • 58 g icing sugar
  • 1 large egg white, room temperature
  • 25 g granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp gel food colouring (I used Christmas red)

Ingredients for Favoured Macarons:

  • 35 g blanched almond meal or flour
  • 53 g icing sugar
  • 5 g flavour such as unsweetened cocoa powder (sifted) or espresso powder
  • 1 large egg white, room temperature
  • 25 g granulated sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F (177° C). Place the rack in lower part of the oven.
  2. Prepare your macaron template using your computer to draw 2.5 cm or 1″ circles about 2.5cm or 1″ apart. Print two sheets. Put the two sheets under your UNSTICK™ baking sheet liner to use as your circle templates.

    MacaronTemplate

    This is the circle template under the UNSTICK liner.

  3. In a coffee grinder, grind the almond flour in batches to a fine consistency (being careful not to make paste (marzipan) out of it). Omit if you can purchase extra finely ground almond flour.
  4. Transfer ground almonds to a food processor and add the icing sugar; process until combined, about 1 minute.
  5. Press the almond/sugar mixture through a fine-mesh sieve to remove the larger bits. You should have no more than 1 tbsp left, if you do, grind in coffee grinder again and press through fine sieve until you have no more than 1 tbsp left (save larger almond bits for something else).
  6. Whisk egg whites and granulated sugar by hand to combine. Then beat on medium speed (#4 on a KitchenAid) for about 2 minutes, then increase speed to medium-high (#6) and beat 2 additional minutes. Then beat on high (#8) for 2 minutes more. The beaten egg whites will hold very stiff, glossy peaks when you lift the whisk out of the bowl. DO NOT OVER WHIP.
  7. Add your choice of flavourings and food colourings and beat on the highest speed for about 1 minute. Just a drop if using flavouring or colour.
  8. Then add dry ingredients ALL at ONCE (yes, I know many recipes say to fold in gingerly, but you really don’t have to), then fold with a spatula from bottom of bowl upward and end by pressing the flat side of the spatula firmly through centre of mixture. Repeat this process until all of the almond/sugar mixture has been incorporated and the ‘batter’ flows like lava (I counted about 35 complete strokes).
  9. Prepare you pastry bag fitted with a 1 cm or 3/8″ round tip. Transfer the batter to the pastry bag.
  10. Begin piping the batter onto the prepared UNSTICK™ baking sheet liner directly over the circles you’ve previously prepared. I found starting at the outer edge and piping into the centre to the easiest way to keep the Macarons uniform, repeat until you’ve used up your batter. Martha suggests you pipe about 1 cm or 1/2″ above the pan, whatever you do, you must be consistent to keep the batter even (so your circles are all the same size). Gently slide out the template paper from beneath the UNSTICK™ baking sheet liner.
  11. Allow the pan to rest for 15 minutes, by doing this you give the peaks time to even out so your Macarons are beautiful and flat on top. Some suggest that you gently bang the pan a few time to remove air bubbles, I found I didn’t have many bubbles.
  12. Bake each sheet separately for 13 minutes, rotating halfway through if your oven doesn’t bake evenly. Gently slide the liner off the baking sheet and allow to cool for a couple of minutes. The UNSTICK™ baking sheet liner allows you to  pry off each macaron half easily onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely. You may freeze the Macaron halves at this point in a well sealed, air-tight container.
  13. Prepare your butter cream.
MacaronFlavours

Great flavours to make macarons with.

Basic Butter Cream Recipe:

Ingredients:

    • 3 egg yolks
    • 35 g granulated sugar
    • 3 1/2 tablespoons milk
    • 105 g unsalted butter, softened
    • 62 g icing sugar

Ingredients for Ice Wine and Pomegranate Butter Cream:

    • 5 g ice wine syrup
    • 1 g pomegranate molasses
    • 2 drops generic red icing colour

Ingredients for Chocolate Hazelnut Butter Cream:

    • 2 tbsp Nutella or hazelnut chocolate spread

Directions:

  1. In a small saucepan, combine the egg yolks, milk and granulated sugar and whisk. Cook over medium heat until the egg thickens to coat the back of a spoon (like pudding). Remove from heat and allow to cool COMPLETELY.
  2. When cool, beat the butter with the icing sugar until light and fluffy and add the cooked egg mixture and beat on high until very fluffy.
  3. To make two flavours, divide the buttercream in half (roughly) and to each half add the flavourings.
  4. Pair each Macaron half to a half that is more or less is the same size and shape, set aside.
  5. Onto one-half of each Macaron pair, pipe the buttercream but not to the edge. Take the other half and gently squeeze the to side together so the buttercream squishes almost to the edge. Set aside. When you have filled all the halves, set on a clean baking sheet and refrigerate until buttercream is set. Store in an air-tight container on their sides until ready to serve. Allow to come to room temperature before serving.

A few notes:

    • I prefer weight measures over volume because it’s more accurate.
    • I ground my almonds in a coffee grinder because it results in a finer grind and apparently the grind is very important. Update May 2016: a fine grind almond meal is now available at my Bulk Barn so I no longer require to grind it in the coffee grinder.
    • I used Wilton’s paste food colouring for the ice wine Macaron cookies.
    • I ruined a batch using the convection setting in my oven; they didn’t spread nor did they rise or develop feet.
    • Over the years, I have made quite a few batches of these treats (the latest May 2016 was 146 macarons for our anniversary party). Two observations: Do not over beat the egg whites or they will not form feat and they will crack. Also, I found that they will crack if you do not fold the almond meal into the egg whites enough, the batter really needs to behave like lava, a slow moving thick batter.
    • Update May 5, 2016: I have also used this recipe from the very lovely Lorraine over at Not Quite Nigella and it is excellent. Her recipe makes 461 g of buttercream and by my estimation, each macaron takes about 14 g of buttercream (or if you make small macarons, only about 7 g of buttercream).
Macarons_2

Tender, delicious, delicate cookies

Macarons_4

Betcha can’t eat just one!

Macarons_1

Yes, I did get carried away with the photos!

FirstMacarons_2

For my first attempt, I didn’t grind the almonds quite fine enough and that’s why the macaron is not smooth.

FirstMacarons_1

This is my first attempt, it’s lemon flavoured.

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The holidays are but a memory and we’re all back to our normal routines but we’re still seeing old and new friends whom we didn’t have time to see over the holidays. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a simple yet flavourful dip to offer? This garlic infused goat’s cheese was an hors d’œuvres I had about 12 years ago at an old friend’s place and it always makes the cut; when I realized I hadn’t posted a recipe for it on the blog, I thought 2015 is the time! It’s really so easy it’s not even a recipe but an inspiration, thinly sliced cloves of garlic with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, fresh aromatic basil leaves and tangy sun-dried tomatoes makes this absolutely irresistible. Mix it up and add some sun dried black olives instead of the sun dried tomatoes. The longer you allow the garlic slices to infuse the goat’s cheese the better and make sure you allow this dip to warm up to room temperature before you serve it. And for heaven’s sake, please don’t forget to count the garlic slices and make sure you remove every single one of them before serving because it could be a rude awakening for some poor soul.

Infused Goats Cheese

Makes about 1/2 cup of goats cheese dip

Ingredients:

  • 4 cloves garlic sliced thinly (about 4-5 slices each, count the slices and take note)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 5 basil leaves sliced thinly
  • ~140 g goats cheese
  • 2 tbsp EVOO
  • 3 tbsp sun dried tomatoes in olive oil or chopped sun dried black olives

Directions:

  1. Spread the goats cheese into a resealable container. Spike the thinly sliced garlic into the goat’s cheese so it’s covering most of the cheese.
  2. Spread sliced basil over the cheese and poke them into the cheese. Sprinkle with salt and EVOO. Refrigerate at least 24 hours, longer is better.
  3. Before serving, transfer to a pretty plate and remove the garlic slices (this is why you count them). Dot with the sun dried tomatoes or chopped black olives.
  4. Allow the dip to come to room temperature to serve. Add more fresh basil, if you wish.

    This is the infusing process, the sun dried tomatoes or black olives are added just before serving.

    This is the infusing process, the sun dried tomatoes or black olives are added just before serving.

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DeliciousShow

Quite some time ago I was approached by the creator of a new lineup of products called UNSTICK™. We spoke at length about the product and various applications and when I saw the product was launched last October at the Delicious food show I was ecstatic and impressed. I called the inventor immediately to congratulate them on the success of the launch and we talked about a product review. Kitcheninspirations was provided with products 1-5 for testing/reviewing with no other compensation. The following is my unbiased review.

UnstickProducts

The packaging is beautiful and clearly colour coded — believe it or not, a lot of brands get this wrong — you know the ones that you have to stand in front of for 10 minutes before you can figure out which one you usually buy?

“UNSTICK™ is made of a premium quality PTFE, which is a Teflon coated fiberglass material.”(1) It is FDA approved and is safe to use to 500° F (260° C). These products are made for everyday kitchen use and should be cared for like a reusable silicon sheet, never use sharp utensils, store rolled or flat, you know the drill. The beautiful thing about UNSTICK™ is that they are affordable (retails for $15.99-$19.99 Canadian) and are designed to fit many sizes of pots and pans. The bonus is if you can’t find one that fits, just cut it to size; presto, a custom-made reusable non-stick liner!

Why use a reusable non-stick liner? It’s not always about the ease of cleanup, that’s a no-brainer, for me it’s more about creating less waste (that means that you needn’t throw away a scratched teflon pan, just pop in an UNSTICK™ liner and you’re good to go) . It also creates a smooth surface over and above the normal texture of the pan — cakes have a beautiful, smooth crust to slather on icing, cookies spread uniformly and bake evenly. OK, clean up is a cinch and when you’re stuck in the kitchen baking or cooking for hours, a quick cleanup means 10 extra minutes you can sit before you start the next round! UNSTICK™ also cleans well, there is no greasy residue that some of the other name brand reusable silicon liners seem to get (no matter how hard you clean them). When you clean UNSTICK™, it actually feels clean and dries quickly. There is absolutely no smell or taste residue on baked goods (sometimes I find silicon pans have an odour). Another bonus is that you NEVER need to use any oil or nonstick spray and that’s better for you!

My first experiment with UNSTICK™ was the small loaf pan liner, it’s a pre-cut rectangle to fit snuggly in a 9-inch (23 cm) loaf pan. I baked a pumpkin loaf in it and it was so easy to remove (just pull up on the sides and lift the loaf out), the liner slides off perfectly.

LoafPan_4143

The flat loaf pan reusable sheet.

Loaf_4144

The reusable sheet in the loaf pan.

The second go was Charles’ Swedish Chocolate Sticky Cake (Kladdkaka) in a 9-inch (23 cm) springform pan. Although the insert performed perfectly, I wasn’t so thrilled with the inevitable jagged edges the insert cuts left on the cake. Perhaps a few more cuts would smooth out the circle?

Round_4148

The flat spring-form reusable sheet

SpringForm_4146

The round sheet in the spring-form pan

RoundCake_4155

The jaggy cake. It’s 

The frying pan liner was next, most of my frying pans are cast iron perfectly seasoned, but I did give this a go and made an omelet roll (rolled like the Japanese omelet, tamagoyaki) filled with a crab and goat cheese mix. The egg cooked perfectly and because I wanted to roll it, the liner made it incredibly easy; just lift up one side, tuck under the edge and roll.

The baking sheet liner was a god-send over the holidays, many melty messes were easily cleaned up and the reusable sheets cooled down so quickly that I was able to reuse them immediately on subsequent bakings of the same batch (a definite plus over the standard silicon sheets which seem to take a while to cool).

UnstickBakingSheet_4194

Roasting and baking sheet liner.

The oven liner is A M A Z I N G! It performs perfectly, it does NOT change the oven temperature one bit (like tin foil would) and because it has similar properties to the baking sheet (although the oven liner and the BBQ liners are much thicker) they are easy to handle and also cool down quickly so I was able to pull it out of my upper oven and test it in larger oven without having to wait for it to cool to handle it.

I have not tested the BBQ liner yet, there was a snowstorm the day I planned to give it a test and then later there was freezing rain, so we bunkered down, lit a fire, popped open the wine and chilled (I know you won’t mind). I can tell you what the BBQ liner would be amazing for is camping! OK, I’m not much of a camper but I do recall when my family when on a picnic to a public park and we used the communal hibachi BBQs, my Mom would spend at least an hour scrubbing the heck out of the communal hibachi so it wouldn’t be gross. The UNSTICK™ BBQ liner would allow you to spend a minimal amount of time to lightly clean the grill and put the liner on top, presto: covers up all the grossness and makes it safe to cook your own food. You could also fry an egg on it WITHOUT a pan! So if you’re camping and you have to portage, you need only take the UNSTICK™ lightweight BBQ liner and you’re good to go! No need for bulky heavy frying pans! It will also prevent flair ups and sauces will not drip all over your grill, gumming up the element or gas. And clean-up is a cinch, the gooey mess slides off and a dip in hot soapy water renders this clever product like new.

All in all, I am very happy with the performance of these products and I would definitely recommend them; I’m going to put an oven liner and a frying pan liner in my food styling kit which I know will save me precious minutes for clean up when I’m on set. Check out the UNSTICK™ shop here.

(1) from http://www.unstick.ca/faqs/

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