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Monthly Archives: March 2019

Hot Cross Bun Cookies

It will soon be Easter so it’s time to start the Easter baking. If you’re looking for something different from hot cross buns, these cookies are a good alternative. I wouldn’t expect anyone to give up hot cross buns of course, but adding these cookies to your repertoire is a great idea.

The recipe is based on one from Donna Hay, with my usual tweaks. There’s no “bun” in the cookies – but hey, they have all the flavour of buns so they are entitled to the name!

Ingredients

125g softened butter
175g brown sugar
2 free-range eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste
2 teaspoons lemon zest
375 self raising flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
80ml milk
80g sultanas
160g icing sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Line 2 baking trays with baking tray.
Cream the butter and sugar in a food processor. Add the eggs and vanilla, making sure the eggs are well incorporated.
Add the lemon zest, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, milk and sultanas to the food processor and mix in. Be careful not to over mix in case you break up the sultanas.
Refrigerate the mixture for 30 minutes or until firm. Roll tablespoons of the mixtures into balls and place on the baking trays.
Bake between 10-15 minutes, depending on the hotness of your oven, until the cookies are pale brown. Remove from the oven and cool on the baking trays.
To make the icing, place the icing sugar and lemon juice in a bowl and mix to a paste. Place the icing mixture in a piping bag and pipe a cross on each cookie. You don’t have to be too precise, the flavour of the cookies is more important than a beautifully executed item! Or that’s what I think anyway.

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Ottolenghi’s Chicken Marbella with Dates, Prunes and Olives

This recipe is from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Simple. I have cooked a few things from the book and I am impressed. I came rather reluctantly to this book, because, as the owner of a few Ottolenghi cook books, I couldn’t quite see why this one could add any more to my Ottolenghi repertoire. Of course, once I perused the book, I saw that he had pared down recipes to a “simple” version that were eminently do-able and easy/quick to prepare.

So apologies to the Architect, Doctor R and the Roadrunner if I was dubious about your recommendations!

What I love about this recipe is the way Ottolenghi has taken a classic dish from The Silver Palate, by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins, written in the eighties, and given it an update. I am a devotee of The Silver Palate recipes, and I have included here a photo of the original Chicken Marbella recipe from my much thumbed copy of the famous cookbook!

My recipe is to all intents and purposes that of Ottolenghi. However, the original Silver Palate recipe uses prunes instead of dates. I love prunes – so I used both. You can use either or both – they each give a jammy sweetness to the finished dish. I used thyme rather than oregano, and stuffed olives rather than plain green olives. This latter harks back to childhood memories of grown up parties at home where pimento stuffed olives were always served!

Ingredients
8 chicken legs, drumstick and thigh attached, skin on and scored 3 or 4 times to the bone – about 2kg
5 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
15g fresh oregano or thyme, picked, plus extra to serve
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
100g pitted green olives or stuffed green olives
60g capers, plus 2 tbsp of their juices
60g dates, pitted and quartered lengthways
60g prunes, halved
2 bay leaves
120ml dry white wine
1 tbsp date molasses
salt and black pepper

Method
Place the chicken in a large, non-reactive bowl and add all of the ingredients, apart from the wine and date molasses, along with ¾ teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Gently mix everything together, cover the bowl and leave in the fridge to marinate for 1 to 2 days, stirring the ingredients a few times during the process.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
Spread out the chicken legs on a large baking tray, along with all the marinade ingredients. Whisk together the wine and molasses and pour over the meat. Place in the oven and cook for 50 minutes, basting 2 or 3 times, until the meat is golden brown on top and cooked through.
Remove from the oven, transfer everything to a large platter, sprinkle over some freshly picked oregano or thyme leaves.

Serve with couscous, polenta or rice, and a green salad.

 

No Knead Bread!

I am sure many of you will be familiar with “no knead” bread, developed by Jim Lahey, owner of Sullivan Street Bakery in New York City. The technique has been used by many bakers to produce virtually effortless bread.

I discovered no knead bread only recently, via the TV program Paul Hollywood City Bakes – New York, when he visited the New York bakery, and Jim Lahey showed him the magic technique.

And yes it’s easy and yes it works! You only need to invest time, up to 24 hours, but the result is beautifully baked bread!

Here is the recipe/technique, based on that of Mark Bittman, who first shared the recipe in the New York Times in 2006. As Mark says “a wet dough and slow fermentation are the keys to success” as well as “the unique baking method — a heated covered pot — which creates essentially an oven within an oven to trap steam as the bread bakes.”

Ingredients

430g strong flour plus extra as needed

345g water

1g yeast  

8g salt 

Cornmeal, semolina, or wheat bran for dusting

Method

Combine the flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Add the water and stir until blended. The dough should be shaggy and sticky – add a little more water if it seems dry. Dont knead!

Cover the bowl with a tea towel or plastic wrap or my favourite, a plastic shower cap. Let the dough rest for a minimum 12 hours, or up to 18 hours at room temperature. The dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles.

Lightly flour a work surface, and turn the dough onto the surface. Carefully and quickly lift the edges of the dough in toward the centre, folding the dough over onto itself. Tuck in the edges of the dough to make it round. Don’t knead!

Generously coat a cotton tea towel with cornmeal, semolina, or wheat bran and put the dough seam side down on the towel and dust with more flour or cornmeal. Cover with another tea towel or plastic wrap and let rise for about 2 hours. When ready, the dough will be more than doubled in size and won’t spring back readily when poked with your finger.

At least a half hour before the dough is ready, adjust an oven rack to the lower third of the oven, and pre-heat the oven to 230 degrees C. Place a medium sized cast iron, enamel, Pyrex, or ceramic casserole pot, lid on, into the oven to heat up. I used a Le Creuset casserole.

When the dough is ready, carefully remove the pot from the oven and take off the lid. Turn the dough over into the pot, seam side up, by sliding your hand under the tea towel and quickly turning the dough over into the pot. It can look a bit untidy but the dough seems to settle into an acceptable shape in the oven!

Cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for another 20 to 30 minutes, until the loaf is quite brown. The bread should look really brown – I am sometimes tempted to take out the bread 10 minutes too early. Brown to dark brown is good!

Once the bread is done, lift the bread from the pot onto a wire rack with pot holders or tongs. Let the bread cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting the loaf.

Serve with lashings of butter, olive oil or a great dip!

 

 

 

 

 

Tropical Pavlova

Pavlova has to be one of my favourite desserts. I love any meringue concoction – light and fluffy pavs, meringues layered with cream, chocolate, berries or nuts like vacherin or dacquoise, or little meringues sandwiched together with cream in the form of meringue kisses. They are all delightful!

I was making a pavlova for friends recently. Everyone loves a pavlova filled with cream and strawberries, but this time I wanted to fill the pav with some seasonal flavours. There is an abundance of tropical fruit available in farmers’ markets and supermarkets at the moment, which is wonderful as we swelter through a hot, late summer in Sydney.

Pineapple, mango and passionfruit were the obvious choices. Pineapples in particular are fantastic – ripe, sweet and juicy.

I also love lemon curd as a filler for pavlova, and this time I made a passionfruit/lemon curd to top the cream and provide a base for the tropical fruit. Toasted coconut added the finishing touch!

I made the pavlova as a tranche – a long rectangle. It’s great for serving a crowd. The quantities here would also make a two layer round pavlova, or a very large round one for a party.

Ingredients

Pavlova
8 egg whites
450g caster sugar
1 teaspoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons cornflour, sifted

Passionfruit/Lemon Curd
You need one whole quantity of the curd, plus most of second quantity. I suggest making the curd in 2 lots, as I think it’s a bit tricky to make a really big amount. These are the ingredients to make 1 quantity.

Juice of 2 lemons
Juice and seeds of 2 passionfruit
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter
2 egg yolks, beaten lightly

1 small pineapple
2 mangoes
2 passionfruit
A handful of coconut shavings

600mls cream
½ teaspoon vanilla paste

Method

Pavlova
Preheat oven to 120 degrees C. Line a large baking tray with baking paper. You will need a tray large enough for a rectangle (roughly) 35cm x 20cms or 14in x 8in.

Place egg whites in the clean, dry bowl of an electric mixer and whisk on high speed for 3-4 minutes to soft peaks.

Add caster sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, allowing each to be incorporated before adding the next, whisking until mixture is glossy. The meringue will be shiny and will hold stiff peaks when the whisk is lifted from the bowl. 

Reduce speed to low, then add vinegar and cornflour, beating for about 30 seconds to combine.

Spread ¾ of the mixture over the baking paper in a rectangle, smoothing the top. Place the remaining mixture in a large plastic piping bag and snip 1cm/½in off the end. Pipe the meringue onto the rectangle, in little blobs along all the sides, to make a rim.

Bake for about 1½ hours or until the meringue can be lifted easily off the paper without sticking. Turn off the oven, and leave in the oven for several hours, or even overnight, until the meringue is cold.

Passionfruit/Lemon Curd
Place all the ingredients except the passionfruit seeds in a double boiler or bain marie. Cook over a medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat, and stir through the passionfruit seeds, and set aside to cool. When cool, refrigerate until ready to use.

Cut the pineapple and mangoes into small chunks. You can, if you like, cook the pineapple in a couple of tablespoons of caster sugar and a couple of tablespoons of dark rum in a frying pan, until the pineapple is slightly softened. I think the pineapple is fine, though, without cooking.

You will need to lightly dry roast the coconut shavings in a hot frying pan for a few minutes until the coconut has some colour.

Whip the cream to soft peaks, with the vanilla paste.

To assemble, place the pavlova tranche on a large serving plate or board. Spoon the cream onto the pavlova, then top with the passionfruit/lemon curd. Place the fruit pieces on top of the curd, scattering the seeds of the other passionfruit. Finally scatter the toasted coconut over the pavlova.

The pavlova should be left for a couple of hours before serving. I think a pavlova is nicest the next day, when the flavours have had a chance to mature. A little bit messy, a little bit gooey, but definitely yummy!

Cinnamon Puffins (Buns)

So these delicious pastries are actually cinnamon buns, a recipe straight from the wonderful Claire Ptak from her book The Violet Bakery Cookbook. I have renamed them “puffins” as they are pastry cooked in muffin molds, just like cruffins are croissant dough baked in muffin molds. Not sure that it will take off, but I like the name!

I am really enjoying reading Claire’s book, as the recipes are really tempting but not overly complicated. It’s their simplicity which makes them so elegant and visually pleasing.

Here is the recipe from the Violet Bakery Cookbook with a couple of tweaks from me. These “puffins” work for me as the pastry doesn’t involve yeast, so is quick to make. They’re not difficult to make, with the hardest part cutting the dough into equal sized segments and depositing into the muffin molds. But even this step is not too tricky, as the puffins are pretty forgiving and will take the shape of the muffin cavities on baking.

Ingredients

For the filling
75g unsalted butter
250g brown sugar
1 tbsp ground cinnamon

For the buns
560g plain flour, plus extra for rolling
2 tbsp baking powder
2 tsp fine sea salt
2 tsp ground cardamom
240g unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes
300g cold milk
Caster sugar, for dipping
Butter, for greasing the muffin tray

Method

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Grease a 12-cup muffin mold. I used a silicone muffin mold, as muffins come out really easily with nice clean sides, but any muffin tray will be fine.

To prepare the filling, melt the butter in a saucepan or melt very carefully in the microwave. Mix together the sugar and cinnamon until no lumps remain, then set aside.

To make the dough, combine all the dry ingredients with the cubes of butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix until you have a coarse meal. Slowly pour in the cold milk while the mixer is running, until the dough forms a ball and comes away from the bowl.

Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured surface and leave to rest for a few minutes. Gently fold the dough over itself once or twice to pull it all together. Let it rest a second time, for 10 minutes.

Dust a benchtop or large surface lightly with flour, and roll out the dough into a large rectangle about 5mm thick. Brush the dough with melted butter, and before the butter hardens, sprinkle on the cinnamon sugar, in a thick layer.

Roll up the dough, starting at a long side, keeping it neat and tight. In order to get a taut roll, gently tug the dough towards you while rolling away from you into a spiral. Gently squeeze the finished roll to ensure the roll is the same thickness throughout. Use a sharp knife to cut it crossways into 12 even slices. Take a slice, peel back about 5cm of the loose end of the pastry and fold it in back under the roll to loosely cover the bottom.

Place in the muffin cavities, flap-side down. Repeat with the remaining slices.

Bake the puffin/buns for 25 minutes. Remove them from the oven, and immediately flip them on to a wire cooling rack, to stop them sticking to the cavities.

Dip each puffin/bun into caster sugar. Serve warm or at room temperature. They are delish!

 

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