Thursday, May 26, 2011

Chocolate Macaroons

Now, here's one macaroon that doesn't intimidate the baker. If you've enjoyed eating them but hadn't the nerves to attempt to bake them yourself (it's a whole lot cheaper!!), try this recipe. If you can get over the fact that a macaroon is a macaroon, that yours aren't going to look anything like Laduree's and it's just going to end up in the mouth all the same... then do this. Using the French macaronage method, these taste delightful despite its lacking in the looks department - mine looked like whoopie pies here. It isn't as chewy as the French macarons because these are airier but not dry. I've been (luckily) successful in the 3 times I made French macarons (pieds and all) and I'd say these are lovely macaroons made without the stress!
p/s: Don't ask me why there are 2 spellings for this confection. The French spells it macaron, the Australians say that macaroons are made with dessicated coconut while macarons are just ground almonds and Nigella in her book spells it macaroon.

Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake

Ooooo...these are yummy (glad I baked THIS instead of the banana cake). It's dark, moist and kinda sticky, squidgy in a good way. Who would have thought something so luscious could come out of a watery batter?? I must say that I was very worried when the mixture turned out watery. I hadn't had very good experiences with liquid batters for cakes and when Nigella mentioned that the mixture will be "fairly liquid"... that's an understatement. It was watery but I went on to pour it into my lined loaf pan anyway (even put a tray under the rack in the oves as recommended for fear of spilling over as it rises). It rose nicely, spilled a little on one end but nothing severe. I left the loaf to cool overnight because Nigella said that it will improve. We had it for breakfast with milk (kids), coffee (the MOTH) and tea (me), it was a nice.

Banana Muffins

I had quite a bit of very ripe Pisang Mas (small and very sweet local bananas) in the freezer for weeks now and hadn't gotten round using them until now. Kids were having their mid-term exams the whole of this week and yours truly had to be the drill master aka most-hated-mum-of-the-week. Nonetheless, there were 2 recipes in the book using bananas and I opted to do a batch of muffins instead of a cake (had another plan for this). Muffins as I've mentioned before are the easiest to do - no need to wait for the butter to soften or the drag the mixer out. Just a melt-and-mix process. The muffins turned out fine and wholesome. Honey were used instead of sugar and that gave it a nice fragrance. Very good for children who wrinkle their noses at the smell of bananas.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Essential White Loaf

I know in my earlier post (My Brown Bread), I said that I will never attempt to manually knead bread. Well.....if you know me, you'll know that I don't give up that easily. I'm a control-freak to a certain degree and to realise that I'll always need a machine to knead my bread? Not good. So, on Sunday night after dinner, the MOTH suggested that he'll take a drive out to buy some dinner rolls for breakfast on Monday morning. That's like telling me I'm uptight. I react and I react quickly. Out came the mixing bowl, measured the flour and started mixing and kneading. I didn't use all 500g of white flour. Halved it with wholemeal flour...couldn't resist sneaking in fibre into the kids' diet. I also used only water instead of potato water. I kneaded, and kneaded. It's actually quite therapeutic and while I was at it, I suddenly remembered what a French chef said in a magazine about doing the window test! That's it! That's what I forgot to do the last time. To know if your bread dough has had enough of kneading, stretch a piece of the dough. It should not tear when stretched out. It'll be like a thin membrane. After a good 20 minutes or so of muscle-work, it was good. Left it for 30 minutes to rise, shaped it into rolls, rested it again and baked the rolls for 15 minutes. The bread was perfect. Soft crust with tender crumbs.


Ohhhh...these are super! Super easy to make, super sweet and super indulgent! Just thinking of it is makes my tooth ache. I finally had a chance to play with my new candy thermometer here! It's very easy to cook and no skills involved if you're using a thermometre. Otherwise, you'll need to drop a small amount of mixture into cold water and see if it balls up to know if the fudge's ready to come off the fire. These will be great as Christmas or party giveaways.

Monday, May 9, 2011

My Brown Bread

I had a free Monday (kids were home) and decided to do some muscle work. The book's recipe for the Essential White Loaf is very simple and the following My (Nigella's) Brown Bread is exactly the same except for replacing the white flour with a mix of rye, wholewheat and white. We're experiencing extreme hot weather now and I thought it'd be a great idea to make bread (temperature's good for rising bread). I usually use a machine to knead bread doughs due to the time factor but yesterday, I was in the mood for kneading. Trouble is, I underestimated the term "15-minute kneading" and it's effect on my arms in this heat! And because I chose to do the grain bread, there's a whole lot more strength required than kneading a white dough! Never again! I also opted the 2-hour warm rapid rise instead of the cold rise overnight in the fridge. The result - a very dense loaf with hard crust. I think it would have been better if it was left to rise overnight in the fridge to allow the gluten more time to work. Plus, the bread was awfully salty! Maybe she meant 1 teaspoon of salt instead of 1 tablespoon??