Wednesday, October 28, 2009
I got to wield a blow torch to release the mousses (mice?) from their moulds. Awesome.
The class wasn't as hands on as others I've done, lots was prepared prior to the class, but it was great to get a handle on working with choux pastry and making caramel. It was also vastly entertaining being taught French techniques by a wranger Venetian called Axle - 'now look-a at the caramelllll-a, it is changing-a-brown'!
And of course working in a commercial kitchen was fantastic (especially compared to my 'temporary' kitchen at home... big sigh...)
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Today I heard about Our Big Kitchen which is a community kitchen operating in Bondi. Individuals or groups cook or bake food to donate to emergency or homeless services and also share a meal. It's a registered kitchen for emergency food providers and stock is kept on hand to ensure responsiveness to emergencies. It's available to everyone - you can have birthday parties, cooking classes, team building or school programs in the kitchen, or you can participate as a volunteer.
This is just about the coolest thing I've ever heard of.
R and I have been discussing my aversion to having a hen's night. I cannot think of anything worse than parading around with a plastic penis attached to my head. In fact I would rather eat my own foot. Lately we have been discussing having an alternative pre wedding celebration and the thought of getting all our friends together for a big cookathon is just lovely, especially given that the proceeds go towards assisting people in times of crisis. At face value weddings are about celebrating 'happy', and less obviously about sticking together when life conspires against you. And this can happen to any of us.
Good idea or am I just a shameless dirty hippy?
Truth be told there are worse things than feeding people garlic bread. In fact if I had taken my Little's advice regarding the 'perfect' wedding menu we would be all dining on lasagne. After all, as Little succinctly put it, 'everyone LOVES lasagne.'
Hot melted cheese and butter. Fatty meat. Dripping oil. Not what I'd want to eat in the middle of February in Australia...
Anyway, these are pointless ramblings so I'll shut up now. Tomorrow I am going to a choux pastry making class with my mama so I should have something a little less putrid and a little more delicious to post later in the week. I am expending a lot of energy hoping and wishing that I learn how to make beautiful eclairs.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Monday, October 19, 2009
Friday, October 16, 2009
My friend Marley shared with me her super awesome no fail cookie recipe a few years ago and since then I've done a million variations, all of which have been amazing. Because I'm nice I'll share the love...
Marley's Super Awesome Cookies
125g unsalted butter
250g brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
225g plan flour
1 tsp baking powder
200g 'flavour' ingredients - eg. 100g chopped dark chocolate + 100g almonds + 1tsp cinnamon. I've also done white chocolate and macadamia, dark chocolate and dried cherries. Get creative!
Preheat your oven to 200 degrees celcius. Make sure your butter is room temperature, and then mix butter and brown sugar together well. Add your egg and mix mix mix. Add vanilla, and then the flour and baking powder and mix it in thoroughly. Finally, add your flavours and mix then in very well.
Line a baking tray with baking paper and then use a teaspoon to make little balls of mixture, roll them in your palm until they are very round, and then place them on the tray with space between them. As a guide I do 12 per full size oven tray.
Bake for 10-12 minutes. Less time means squishy centred biscuits. More time means harder biscuits. When they come out of the oven they will be squidgy so let them cool on the tray and they will firm up as they cool.
(Or you could just nibble on the raw cookie dough!)
Last year I was sitting chanel surfing through all the crap that’s on our television airways when I saw an interview with Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food.
Michael was discussing carrots. He talked about how much time and energy scientists have spent in order to discover and extract the goodness of the humble carrot – vitamin A. Phew, now we can just add that to the list of supplements and not worry about nutrition. Now comes the bit that really piqued my interest – what if it’s the inherent carrot-ness of the carrot that are good for you? Sure, vitamin A is in there, but is vitamin A so wonderful when all the other great stuff about the carrot is taken away?
As a society should we be throwing out the vitamins and eating carrots with gusto?
Naturally I rushed to the bookshop to buy Michael’s book and it was great. He calls it a manifesto but it’s pretty simple really – ‘eat food, not too much, mostly plants.’ This concept kicks the but of Atkins. And the Zone. And Weight Watchers.
He also discusses the rise ‘edible food like substances’, which should be avoided at all costs. If it’s a food your great grandmother wouldn’t recognise as food don’t eat it. If it has more than 3 ingredients don’t eat it. If it has unpronounceable ingredients don’t eat it. Another good tip is to beware products that make big health claims.
Here’s a great example of this principle in action. Which one is better for you?
Harmonie Organic salted butter
I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter
Vegetable Mono and Diglycerides
Calcium Disodium EDTA
Natural Soy Lecithin
Natural and Artificial Flavour
Vitamin A (Palmitate)
Scary stuff huh?!
This week I did a Pollan style pantry audit and I’ll be honest, a few things went into the bin. Since I read In Defense of Food I’ve made a conscious effort to make sure I used the best quality ingredients in my cooking. When I cook bread and butter pudding commercially baked bread is out, Sonoma sourdough is in. Any kind of ‘spread’ is out, organic butter is in.
Sure there are times when a person craves a Big Mac, but as a general guide to cooking and shopping I think Michael Pollan’s ‘manifesto’ is awesome.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
My Christmas wishlist has never been longer. Damn you internet!
Monday, October 12, 2009
I love pavlova. I love mini desserts. And I love lemon curd. What I don't much like is shortcrust pastry, so a lemon meringue pie inspired mini pavlova seemed like a top idea. And very easy.
Make some meringues
4 egg whites at room temperature
1 cup caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste
Whisk egg whites with an electric beater until soft peaks form, and then gradually beat in sugar, and finally vanilla. Pipe on to a baking paper lined tray and bake in a slow oven (140 - 150 degrees Celsius depending on the nature of your beast) for about 30 - 40 minutes (depending on the size of the meringues - I did about 14 from this recipe and baked for about 30 minutes). Open the oven door slightly and let them cool in the oven. These (and the lemon butter) can be made the day before you want to use them, which means you can quickly assemble this dessert when it's time to be served.)
Make some lemon butter (thanks to Stephanie Alexander for this recipe)
4 egg yolks (see, these two items were meant to be made together - no leftover eggy bits!)
2/3 cup caster sugar
100ml lemon juice
lemon zest (to taste)
Whisk egg yolks and sugar until well combined but not frothy. Pour into a heavy based saucepan and add remaining ingredients. Stirring constantly bring to simmer point over a medium - high heat (about 5 minutes.) As soon as bubbles start to appear remove from heat and continue to stir for about 2 minutes. Let it cool and then put it in the fridge overnight.
Whip some cream, chop up some fruit and then assemble. I spooned lemon butter into the meringue nests and topped with cream and chopped strawberries. Yum! The lemon butter had the same impact that passionfruit does - adds a nice tartness to offset all the sugar and cream.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
What's not to love? As I said in my post yesterday we are having a dessert table at our wedding which will be laid out based on the beautiful image above. It will be the middle of summer which to me just screams out berries, summer puddings, pavlova and ice cream. So imagine something like the collection of images below...
For more dessert table inspiration check out the wonderful work of Amy Atlas at www.amyatlas.com
Friday, October 9, 2009
(Daschund cake topper by bunnywithatoolbelt)
Monday, October 5, 2009
Thursday, October 1, 2009
I think I had very high expectations of what could be achieved with limited equipment, kitchen bench space and no microwave. I'm hopeful that pratice does indeed make perfect...
2. With the assistance of R, I baked new white chocolate mudcakes
3. I made ganache and let it rest in the fridge overnight
4. I battled with ganache when it would not soften up sufficiently to use
5. I layered and coated the cakes with ganache. It was very lumpy. Not Planet Cake style at all. I decided to ignore all their advice about the importance of smooth edges and perfectly symmetrical circles. This would prove to be to my detriment...
6. At least there were 2 use-able cakes