Monday, December 28, 2009

Cocoa Brownies

I never thought cocoa brownies will taste this good and stay so moist. I've always attempted recipes which use baking chocolate, in addition to cocoa powder, but this recipe by Alton Brown beats all the previous ones I've made.

For the love of brownies, do try this out!

Soft butter ; for the pan
Flour ; for dusting pan
4 large eggs
1 cup sugar ; sifted
1 cup brown sugar ; sifted
8 ounces Butter ; melted
1 1/4 cups cocoa ; sifted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup flour ; sifted
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 150°C. Butter and flour bottom of an 8-inch square pan. Sift sugar individually.

In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the eggs at medium speed until fluffy and light yellow. Add both sugars. Add remaining ingredients, and mix to combine.

Pour the batter into a greased and floured 8-inch square pan and bake for 45 minutes. Check for doneness with the tried-and-true toothpick method: a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan should come out clean.

When it's done, remove pan to a rack to cool. Resist the temptation to cut into it until it's mostly cool. For clean cut pieces, refrigerate before cutting.

This recipe yields 16 brownies.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Oatmeal Cookies

I've always preferred soft cookies to those tough ones, though I have to admit I'm not a big fan of either. A friend of mine who came to visit loves Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. Having run out of raisins, I added currants instead. I can't really tell the difference; and I hope he can't either!

1 1/4 cups Brown sugar ; packed
227 grams Butter ; softened
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
3 cups Quick-cooking oats
1 1/3 cups All purpose flour
1 cup dried currants ; if desired

Heat oven to 180°C. Beat all ingredients except oats, flour and raisins in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed, or mix with spoon. Stir in oats, flour and raisins.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 11 minutes or until light brown. Immediately remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Bell Peppers Stuffed with Currants and Nuts

I wanted to make a salad-type dish of couscous, having already made it to accompany a lamb stew. I came across this recipe and found the photos irresistible. I've never liked bell peppers, though recently I've come to appreciate their sweet flavour once they're well baked.

The couscous was great, though I would bake the bell peppers until they're slightly charred the next time. The couscous can be eaten as a side dish without stuffing it into bell peppers; just don't mix in the egg yolk!

3 large Bell pepper
1 red onion
20 grams Butter
125 mililiters Vegetable stock
88 grams Couscous
1/2 teaspoon Olive oil
25 grams dried currants
25 grams roasted hazelnuts
2 1/2 tablespoon Fresh mint ; chopped
1/2 tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 egg yolk

1. Make a slit in the side of each pepper and carefully remove the core and seeds.

2. Peel and finely chop the onion. Melt the butter in a small pan, add the onion and cook until softened.

3. Put the couscous in a heatproof bowl. Pour the stock over, cover and leave to stand for 10 minutes.

4. Fluff up the couscous with a fork then stir in the oil, onion, currants, hazelnuts, mint and balsamic vinegar. Season generously and stir in the egg yolk to bind the mixture.

5. Using a teaspoon, three-quarters fill the peppers with the couscous mixture; do not over-fill as the couscous will swell during baking. Brush the peppers with oil and bake at 200°C (fan 180°C/390°F/gas 6) for 30-35 minutes until tender.

6. Serve the stuffed peppers warm or cold.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Rum and Raisin Muffins

I made these muffins for a friend who landed in hospital. Never mind that I forgot that he needs to fast before his surgery. Hopefully he enjoyed them once he came out from surgery.

I adapted the recipe from Kuali. The muffins were quite light with most of their flavour coming from the raisins.

110 grams raisins
50 mililiters rum
~~ -- Dry ingredients -- ~~
250 grams plain flour ; or cake flour
1 tablespoon Baking powder
1/4 teaspoon Fine salt
~~ -- Wet Ingredients -- ~~
1 Egg ; lightly beaten
145 mililiters UHT milk ; at room temperature
90 grams soft brown sugar
60 grams butter ; melted at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 teaspoon instant coffee powder

Combine raisins and rum in a small bowl. Cover and stand for 30 minutes until raisins puff up. Drain, set aside.

Sift flour into a large mixing bowl. Whisk well.

In a separate bowl, whisk the wet ingredients until well combined.

Preheat oven at 220°C. Add the wet ingredients to the dry. Fold gently until all dry ingredients are barely moistened. Fold in the raisins to the point that they are evenly incorporated, no more.

Spoon batter into a greased (or paper-lined) muffin pan. Put tray in middle of oven and turn down temperature to 200°C for about 20 minutes or until cooked, when a wooden skewer inserted through comes out clean. Stand muffins in the pan for five to 10 minutes.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Daring Cooks' Challenge: Salmon en Croute

The 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Simone of Junglefrog Cooking. Simone chose Salmon en Croute (or alternative recipes for Beef Wellington or Vegetable en Croute) from Good Food Online.

I was excited about this month's challenge. I've never heard of Salmon en Croute but I'm a huge fan of food with pastry. I tried the recipe in the challenge but the watercress mixture turned out very bitter. I'm not sure why I'm the only one with this problem. I think it's because some of the vegetables we get here are slightly different from the vegetables in other countries. I traced the source of the bitterness to the spinach. Maybe I should have used canned spinach instead of fresh ones.

Anyway, after the first attempt, I decided to try a mixture of cream cheese and dill instead. This attempt turned out much better. I included a picture of that at the very end, but I won't be including the recipe.

Mascarpone or creamcheese 5.2 ounces/150 gr
Watercress, rocket (arugula) and spinach - 0.6 cup/4.2 ounces/120 gr
Shortcrust pastry - 17.6 ounces, 500 gr. Use a butterversion such as Jus-rol which is frozen or dorset pastry. or... make your own!
Salmon fillet (skinless)- 17.6 ounce/500 gr
egg - 1 medium sized

1.Heat the oven to 200°C/390 F. Put the mascarpone or cream cheese in a food processor with the watercress, spinach and rocket and whizz the lot until you have a creamy green puree. Season well.

2. Roll the pastry out so you can wrap the salmon in it completely (approx. 2-3 mm thick) and lay it on a buttered or oiled baking sheet (it will hang over the edges). Put the salmon in the middle. If it has a thinner tail end, tuck it under. Spoon half of the watercress mixture onto the salmon. Now fold the pastry over into a neat parcel (the join will be at the top, so trim the edge neatly), making sure you don't have any thick lumps of pastry as these won't cook through properly. Trim off any excess as you need to. Make 3 neat cuts in the pastry to allow steam to escape and make some decorations with the off-cuts to disguise the join if you like. Brush with the egg glaze.

3. Bake for 30 minutes or until the pastry is crisp and browned. To test wether the salmon is cooked, push a sharp knife through one of the cuts into the flesh, wait for 3 seconds then test it against the inside of your wrist; if it is hot, the salmon is cooked. Serve with the rest of the watercress puree as a sauce.

Shortcrust pastry
While this is not mandatory to do, I highly recommend making your own shortcrust pastry as it is very simple to do! As mentioned in the notes; please make sure to not add too much water as that is the key to having a successful shortcrust pastry. Watch this video to check the correct consistency of the dough Making shortcrust pastry

450 gr (15.8 ounces or 3.2 cups ) of plain all purpose flour
200 gr ( 7 ounce) cold butter
pinch of salt

Sift the flour into a large bowl, add the butter and rub in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. If you have a food processor you can use that as shown in the above video.

Stir in the salt, then add 2-3 tbsp of water and mix to a firm dough. Knead the dough briefly and gently on a floured surface. Wrap in cling film and chill while preparing the filling.

For best results make sure the butter is very cold.

Pictures of Salmon en Croute with Cream Cheese and Dill

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Chocolate Mousse

My parents went out to a dinner event the other night. When they got home, my dad was raving about the mousse served at the dinner. Now, mousse is a dessert I've been thinking of making.. just not so soon. However, with the dinner fresh in my parents' minds, I figured if I made the mousse now, I'll be able to glean some comparison with the professionally made mousse.

I came across this post in David Lebovitz's blog and decided to purchase some pasteurised eggs. The mousse had great texture. Only thing was, it was really way too sweet for me. Definitely cut down on the sugar if you intend to attempt this recipe.

This recipe is adapted from here and serves 3.

43 grams semisweet chocolate ; chopped
43 grams Unsalted butter ; cut into small pieces
1/12 cup dark-brewed coffee
1 large eggs ; separated
43 grams sugar
1/2 tablespoons dark rum
1/4 tablespoon Water
1/4 pinch salt
1/4 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Heat a saucepan 1/3 full with hot water, and in a bowl set on top, melt together the chocolate, butter and coffee, stirring over the barely simmering water, until smooth. Remove from heat.

2. Fill a large bowl with ice water and set aside.

3. In a bowl large enough to nest securely on the saucepan of simmering water, whisk the yolks of the eggs with the 2/3 cup of sugar, rum, and water for about 3 minutes until the mixture is thick, like runny mayonnaise. (You can also use a handheld electric mixer.)

3. Remove from heat and place the bowl of whipped egg yolks within the bowl of ice water and beat until cool and thick, as shown in the photo above. Then fold the chocolate mixture into the egg yolks.

4. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt until frothy. Continue to beat until they start to hold their shape. Whip in the tablespoon of sugar and continue to beat until thick and shiny, but not completely stiff, then the vanilla. Beat until stiff.

5. Fold one-third of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the remainder of the whites just until incorporated, but don''t overdo it or the mousse will lose volume.

6. Transfer the mousse to a serving bowl or divide into serving dishes, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, until firm.

Storage: The mousse au chocolat can be refrigerated for up to 4 days.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Water Caltrop

Water Caltrop is a fruit that looks like the head of a bull. For the Chinese, water caltrop is normally eaten during the Lantern Festival. When the shell is cracked open, the seed inside is taken out and eaten, usually with brown sugar.

Some people would boil water caltrop and drink the water or add water caltrop to certain dishes.
Water Caltrop tastes like water chestnut and does not have much taste of its own.