Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Loadsa Dough!

Just look at those gorgeous bakers and their amazing baps!

From left to right - me, the rather talented Janice from Farmersgirl Kitchen, and the amazing Jacqueline from Tinned Tomatoes

Last Saturday we all met in Freuchie for a day of baking bread with Colin from Bread In Fife

We did the Mediterranean Breads and I must say I had a brilliant day.  Colin runs the courses from his own spacious kitchen.  I just felt that it was such a lovely relaxed experience - very homely - and only the four of us leisurely baking bread with lots of breaks for cups of tea and to eat what we had made.

We made a LOT and got many useful tips and ideas from Colin.  We had all made plenty of bread before and still gained plenty but I know that Colin's course would be excellent for beginners too.  He has a range of courses such as rich breads or sourdough or essential breads.

We started the day by making breadsticks - nice thick ones - chewy in the middle and crispy on the outside.

We then made pretty fougasse.

As Colin said, this was really just an exercise in shaping the breads as the dough itself was fairly uninspiring. Would go well with a flavoursome soup though.  I was reminded of my first time making fougasse which I outline in this post - you can either have the pretty shape or you can have lots of interesting fillings.  I have yet to master doing both but I might try again and see if I can find a compromise. 

We then made our olive oil dough for the paninis and focaccia.  Colin gave us a display of his encyclopaedic knowledge and displayed many different kneading techniques and who they were attributed to.  We had plenty of time to practice different ones and find what suited us best and Colin was able to watch what we were doing and chip in with advice.  I think I have found my own kneading style but whether I use it or whether I stick with my trusty technique of using the Kenwood Chef remains to be seen!

Colin finished off with a demonstration of pizzas.  He made a savoury one and a sweet one.  The sweet pizza was my favourite thing of the day - he spread some thinned apricot jam onto the dough then added some sliced apples.  It was beautiful.  I know the boys will absolutely love having pizza for dessert so I'll be making this again next week.  I then plan to experiment.  I want to do a banana one and all sorts of pizzas for pudding.   

  We rounded off the day by sitting round to share our pizzas with some salad.

A hugely enjoyable day with great company and a bounty of bakes to take home.

I would thoroughly recommend Colin's classes to anyone near enough for a day trip.  As usual, I paid for the day myself so there is nothing influencing my recommendation. 

Here is the Bread In Fife website if you are interested and Colin does gift vouchers if you are looking for a Christmas gift. 

Monday, 29 October 2012

Pinnies And Petticoats Do Halloween.

The second night of the Aberdeen Baking Club - Pinnies and Petticoats at Tiger Tiger was a Halloween themed one.  

As a Mum of wee-ish ones and a huge fan of owls, I went with baking these Halloween Hoot Owl Cookies from Time To Cook - the blog by Mary-Anne Boermans, finalist from the 2011 Great British Bake Off.  She gives the full recipe and a link to the lady who came up with it. 

I just love these biscuits because they look so cute, are fairly simple to make and go well with a cup of tea.  I think they make a fine change to some of my over-the-top baking too.

I tried them out for Pinnies and Petticoats and when they were a success I repeated them for this weekend's Halloween party.  The party was for lots of little ones from a few weeks old up to 5 years so I felt the not-scary-at-all-but-still-Halloweeny owl biscuits would work well.  And the best bit?  My very own 5 year old loved them and helped me make them all.  We had a rather good team-working system running.  I cut the discs of dough and he put in the eyes and beaks.

And here is a picture of my boys in this year's costumes.  Adam is a dragon (I got the costume from etsy - from this store) and Rufus is a spider's web (which I fashioned myself - I'm not very crafty!). 

But, back to the point of this post which is to talk about Pinnies and Petticoats. It was a great success.  I was so impressed with the array of baking we had.  Our numbers had swelled somewhat from the 8 we had at the first one.  I was telling people we had about 30 people there but I see Foodie Quine has put the number at just over 20 and she is more likely to have counted properly. 

I was unable to taste everything but I did get to try loads of amazing bakes and I managed to get photos of a few of them.  Check them out!

And that's just a fraction of what was actually there for us to sample.

If you are in the Aberdeen area and would like to come along, our next one will be held on Friday 16th November at 7pm at Tiger Tiger.
This will be our Christmas event so bring a festive bake and a Tupperware box for taking home some samples!

You can see my post to the first ever Pinnies and Petticoats here and you can find the Facebook page here

Sunday, 28 October 2012

What Can I Do With Maize-Meal?

What can I do with maize-meal?  Well, that's a good question!

Dom from Belleau Kitchen challenged us this month to rummage in our kitchen cupboards for a poor forgotten or neglected ingredient and to make something with it.

Well, believe me, I have many items I could have chosen for this challenge.  The one I chose, though, was the bag of maize meal.  A friend had picked it up for me when I had been struggling to get hold of polenta at one point thinking it might do a similar job.  I had managed to find polenta by this time, though, and so the maize meal has languished on my shelf.

I didn't think it would be difficult to find recipes to use it up - my old friend Google always comes up trumps.  And, it did again this time. I got lots of links to South African blogs or recipes and thought I had lots to choose from.  Unfortunately, though, when I started to read the recipes in more detail I kept finding glaring omissions.  Ingredients not listed in the ingredients lists kept popping up in the methods with no information to quantities.  In fact, this seeming mistake seemed to happen so many times from different sources that I am now wondering if recipes are written differently in South Africa.  Can anyone enlighten me?  Am I supposed to have some basic knowledge and assume that if a recipe doesn't list eggs or rising agents or sometimes completely different ingredients, they are there anyway and I should know how much to add?

Anyway, undeterred I thought I would use the titles of the recipes but just make up my own ingredients and methods and so I did.

First up is maize meal porridge.

This was okay and did me my breakfast for a couple of days.  However, I wasn't excited about it and prefer my nice Scottish oat porridge so I won't be making this again.  I decided to add cocoa powder to make a chocolatey version as the maize-meal has a pretty cardboardy taste on its own and I served it with bananas and cold milk.

Here's the recipe to serve 2 with big portions or 4 with small portions.  I recommend small portions!

Ingredients - 
80g maize-meal
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp light brown muscovado
2 tsp cinnamon
650mls water
pinch salt

Method - 
Pop all the ingredients into a large saucepan, mix well.  Simmer, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes.

As an aside to this post, I can recommend a tastier porridge.  While making Dan Lepard's Rye Apple cake, I kept eating the uncooked batter and thinking it was like a lovely spiced rye porridge so I decided to look and see if there were any recipes for porridge made with rye flour. I found this recipe for whipped berry rye porridge from Scandi Foodie.  It was lovely and obviously very healthy. 

So, moving on from breakfast to a main meal, I decided my next project would be for maize-meal pancakes.  This is based on recipes I found for fried maize-meal bread which seems to be served as an accompaniment to stews.  We were having Tinned Tomatoes' Jacqueline's braised lentils for tea and these actually went very well with it. The lentils dish was lovely - very comforting and satisfying - I recommend it and will be having it again. Another great way to get loads of fibre into the kids.  We also had some leftover meatballs so we served those alongside - sorry Jacqueline. 

Here's the recipe for the pancakes - 

Ingredients - 
120g maize-meal
120g plain flour (or what I did was 60g plain and 60g spelt flour just to keep the fibre levels up a bit more)
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
2 eggs, beaten
250ml milk
2tsp oil

Method - 
Beat together all the ingredients. Grease a frying pan with a little oil and heat over a moderate heat.  Drop tablespoons of batter onto the pan when hot.  Fry for about 1 minute or until bubbles form on the surface then flip over and fry the other side.  Serve warm with a comforting stew.

And now onto my final maize-meal recipe for pudding.  These are wee chocolate puddings and are inspired by a recipe from Shona's Kitchen - a blog with lots of South African recipes. They have a prune in the middle of each cake which gave me a bit of a double whammy as it used up a tin of prunes I found in the cupboard too.  And prunes are good for fibre - am I preaching too much? I served these with custard but I appear to have forgotten to photograph them when served so here they are still in the tin.

My recipe here - 

Ingredients - 
230g maize-meal 
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
115g caster sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1tsp vanilla extract
500ml single cream
250ml milk
12 prunes

Method - 
1. Preheat oven to 180C.
2. Mix together all the ingredients except prunes and combine well.
3. Pour mixture into 12 muffin cases.
4. Add a prune to each one.
5. Bake for 30 mins until set.
6. Serve hot with custard. 

And yes, I finished the whole bag of maize-meal with these three recipes. I am unlikely to buy it again but if I ever find myself with some, I'm going to go with the pancakes as my favourite way of using it up.  I would be fascinated to hear if anyone else has any maize-meal recipes - please let me know in the comments.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Cake Slice Bakers 17 - October 2012 - Chocolate Almond Torte.

The Chocolate Almond Torte is what I chose to make for The Cake Slice Bakers' last ever bake from The Cake Book by Tish Boyle.

Unfortunately this has been a somewhat hectic time for me so I haven't baked half of the items I should have with The Cake Slice Bakers this year.
I did, however, make the chocolate peanut butter mousse cake, meringue cups with lime cream and fresh berries, individual warm chocolate puddings, not-quite-the-pumpkin-cheesecake and the apple cake with maple frosting. I would actually only class one of those as an actual cake.  I think that was one of my problems with the book - too many complicated desserty type things and not enough simple cake.  I have enjoyed most of what I have made, though, and will certainly refer to it for other recipes when I need a reasonably nice dessert for a special occasion.

The other thing I have already mentioned but is worth saying again is that the author of this book is American but has made the effort to convert every measurement to metric which I hugely appreciate as it saves me a lot of time.  She hasn't converted the oven temperatures but I'll let her off with that as it just takes me one glance at the front of a Delia book to get that right.

For the last month of this book, we had a completely free choice as to what we would bake. I chose the chocolate almond torte when I was invited to a friend's house for a girly night.  There were about six of us going and I said I would bring the pudding.  I thought a chocolate torte was likely to be appreciated by most women.  I also saw there was brandy in the ingredients and I knew immediately I would swap that for some of my favourite - amaretto.  In fact, I chose to add rather a lot of amaretto which was a good choice in my opinion.

The torte was lovely.  Quite rich but moist and almondy and was really set off with some raspberries and cream.  Very quick to make too so I am likely to make this one again.

So, goodbye to The Cake Book and hello to our new book. I have already made the first cake from it and will post next month.  The new book looks like it will have more proper cakes in it so I'm looking forward to that.

Please have a look at the Cake Slice Bakers Blogroll if you are interested in what the others chose to make this month for their free-choice. 

Thursday, 4 October 2012

22 Minute Meal - And Kitchen Is Clean!!!!

Okay, if you saw my last post about Jamie's 15-Minute Meals, you will remember that I did my meal in 23 minutes and left the kitchen in a complete state.

My husband today beat my time by a whole minute and managed to fill the dishwasher and put everything away as he went along.  Oh dear!  I have to admit he is so much more the domestic goddess than I.

Steve chose to make Chorizo Carbonara and Catalan Market Salad.  He was impressed with the recipe and really felt that it was a more complex meal than you would expect for the time it took to prepare.  He thought the 15 minutes was ambitious but actually he was closer to 15 minutes than 30 and he had managed to clean up after himself as he went along.

The boys and I enjoyed the meal and we feel sure we would make this again.

A few more meals from this book coming up.  I am very pleased with it, actually, and think it will be fairly well used.  I do need to beat Steve next time, though.  Or maybe just tell him that as he is better at it than me, he should carry on and cook all our meals.