Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Coiled Delight

Baked Ensaymada
The August Daring Bakers' Challenge took us for a spin! Swathi of Zesty South Indian Kitchen taught us to make rolled pastries inspired by Kurtoskalacs, a traditional Hungarian wedding pastry. These tasty yeasted delights gave us lots to celebrate!

Actually, the challenge was to do either the kurtoskalacs or the ensaymada. Naturally, I chose ensaymada - the Filipino version that is. This recipe from my sister-in-law (Ate Eva) has been in my to-do list for years! I finally had a kick in the ass to do it.

The ensaymada of my childhood were very much like the original Spanish version. They were coiled flat and more flaky with lard often used for this purpose. Sometimes there were nuggets of raisins in it that were like little oasis of delight in my juvenile mouth. Yum! Nowadays, the modern Filipino ensaymada are more brioche-like. In fact some of them are so rich they resemble cakes more than a pastry. Nevertheless, they are equally wonderful and great as a midday snack. As with most things in Filipino food, the modern ensaymada combines the buttery sweet taste of the butter-sugar topping with the saltiness of the grated cheese so you get that familiar salty-sweet flavour with the soft pillow-like pastry.

Ensaymada resting
This recipe is indeed a challenge for me. I am not very experienced with pastry so when the dough came out very very sticky after the first rising, it took me a looong time to get it to a manageable state with all the kneading and adding of more flour. In the end it was still sticky but did not cling too much when handled. I think I'll reduce the liquid a lot the next time I bake this. This particular recipe is not the 'special' ensaymada variety they call in the Philippines. That one has *a lot* of eggs and butter which make it more cake-like and quite rich. Ate Eva's is less rich and more bread-like. As a matter of fact, when I tasted the finished product bare without any toppings I thought it was okayish. But when you combine it with slathered soft butter, sugar, and grated cheese on top it was great! Exactly what I intended to make.

Ensaymada out of the oven
As a note to myself, this is the actual recipe from my SIL (with some adjustments in some ingredients and more elaborate procedure steps). And it makes a ton of ensaymada! It roughly makes about 30 medium-sized ensaymada and probably double that for the muffin-sized ones. In which case I believe this can be done with just a third of the recipe if only to keep me from eating ensaymadas for weeks!
The freezer is my friend now.

Baked Ensaymada


Ensaymada

*Yeast mixture:
3/4 cup lukewarm water
3 tsp dry active yeast
1 tsp sugar

*Dough mixture:
6 1/2 cups strong flour (bread flour)
1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp melted butter
3 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup cooking oil

*Topping:
butter - softened to room temperature
granulated sugar
grated cheddar cheese or edam
  1. Mix the yeast mixture in a small bowl, cover and set aside. After about 15 minutes it should start to foam. If it didn't that means your yeast is probably old. In that case, throw away the mixture and start again. If you are using instant, rapid-action, or fast-action dry yeast you can skip this step and add the yeast and sugar directly with the flour and the water with the other wet ingredients.
  2. Combine the flour with the sugar in a large bowl.
  3. In separate bowl, mix the melted butter, egg yolks, and vanilla.
  4. Add in the milk. Mix well.
  5. With a wooden spoon or with a mixer on low speed, stir in the milk mixture and the yeast mixture into the flour mixture. Combine well.
  6. Add in the cooking oil and mix until well combined.
  7. Cover and let it rest to rise in a warm area for about 1 hour or until double the size.
  8. Punch down dough and turn out onto a well-floured surface.
  9. Knead the dough while adding more flour. In the end it should be soft and sticky but should come away from fingers when kneading.
  10. Prepare the baking moulds by brushing the bottom and sides with softened butter.
  11. Divide into portions - 75-80 g  for medium-sized ensaymada and 25-30 g  for small ones.
  12. On a greased surface, roll out each portion thin into a rectangle shape and brush generously with softened butter or with your choice of fillings - cheese, chocolate, ham, etc.
  13. Roll portion from the long side into a thin log (about 1/2-inch or less in diameter).
  14. Coil the rolled dough into a spiral shape inside the prepared moulds taking care to tuck in the outer end.
  15. Cover loosely with tea towel and let rest at room temperature for 1-2 hours. They will double in size again.
  16. Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C/fan 160°C/350°F for about 18-20 minutes for medium-sized ensaymada.
  17. Cool completely on a wire rack.
  18. Put toppings - slather softened butter then press top onto a small bowl full of sugar then sprinkle grated cheese on top.

Baked Ensaymada

Friday, 22 August 2014

Ludlow Food Festival - Do It On A Budget

Ludlow, set in the beautiful county of Shropshire is the perfect setting for one of the most popular and well respected food festivals the UK has - the Ludlow Food Festival. It’s been in existence since 1995 and in the twenty years since its inception, it’s been the ideal place to visit for those with more than a passing interest in good food, drink and excellent company – all with a local slant.

The event takes place in historic Ludlow Castle, which although built during the very early medieval period is probably best known for the fact that Catherine of Aragon lived there with her first husband, the future King Henry VIII’s older brother, Prince Arthur at the turn of the 16th Century. The rich history of its past blends perfectly with the present and makes it an ideal setting for such a great weekend.

Visiting a food festival as lovely as Ludlow can be made all the better if you plan ahead, especially with regard to money! It can be all too easy to pay a visit to an event like this and overspend without really realising it. One of the best ways of managing your money is to make sure you decide on your budget before you go – draw out the requisite amount of cash to take with you and leave your credit or debit cards at home. This makes it easier to plan and to have fun without worrying you’ll have bled your bank account dry.

This year the festival will take place on the 12-14 of September 2014. A few years ago, I was fortunate to attend it for a day. I enjoyed that visit immensely so next month I hope I'll be there again to sample the foodie delights this food festival can offer. It's just a matter of deciding which day to go!


Thursday, 14 August 2014

Baked Pasta with Chicken and Sun Dried Tomatoes

Baked Pasta with Chicken

This month, the Daring Cooks challenged us to think inside the box - the icebox, that is! Audax taught us some really cool tips and tricks for stocking our freezers with prepare-ahead meals that can keep our taste buds satisfied even during the busiest of times.

Apart from the Mac and Cheese, I've never done a baked pasta dish with white sauce. I thought this will be a good test if white sauces freeze well. And it really does. Thanks is in order to Martha Stewart's website for the recipe that I adapted. It just needed a little tweaking in salt and pepper department plus extra cheese to prevent the sauce getting too bland. This recipe also confirmed my dislike for chicken breast. Believe me, it didn't do anything to the dish in terms of flavour. It was just there as a cardboard-like protein but virtually no chicken flavour. I even bought a free-range one but it was just ... meh! So next time either I add in non-breast chicken meat or maybe put in some chicken powder in the sauce. This recipe is definitely still in the tweaking stage so don't be surprised if there are changes later. However, I do love the garlic in the sauce that really lifted it up from the ordinary.


Baked Pasta with Chicken ready to freeze


Baked Pasta with Chicken and Sun Dried Tomatoes

500 g  penne rigate or rigatoni
6 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1/2 cup plain flour
6 cups whole milk
2 tsp coarse sea salt
450 g  boneless chicken meat - cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tsp olive oil
300 g  white mushrooms - trimmed and thinly sliced
1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes - drained and thinly sliced
2 cups grated provolone or matured cheddar
125 g  [about 1 cup] finely grated parmesan
some salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Cook the pasta 3 minutes short of package instructions. So if it says cook for 12 minutes then cook for just 9 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Grease ovenproof pasta dishes and set aside.
  3. Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat. Pour in olive oil, heat for a minute then add the chicken. Season with some salt and pepper and cook until opaque throughout, about 5 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.
  4. In a 5-liter heavy pot, melt butter over medium heat.
  5. Add garlic, cook for about 1 minute or until aromatic.
  6. Add flour, whisk for 1 minute.
  7. Gradually add 2 cups of milk while whisking all the time. Bring to a simmer. Repeat this until all milk is used.
  8. Add 1 tsp of the sea salt. Simmer for another 2 minutes.
  9. Add the mushroom and sun-dried tomatoes; cook for 1 minute.
  10. Remove from heat and gradually stir in the provolone (or cheddar) and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese.
  11. Taste the sauce. If need be, add the remaining 1 tsp sea salt and some ground black pepper.
  12. Add the chicken and pasta to the sauce. Divide among the prepared dishes and sprinkle the remaining Parmesan cheese on top.
  13. Bake uncovered in a preheated 200°C/fan 180°C/400°F oven for about 25 minutes.
*Note:
  • To freeze: do up to step no. 12. Cover tightly with cling wrap and/or foil and freeze up to 3 months.
  • To bake from frozen: Preheat oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/400°F and bake covered in foil on a baking sheet until centre is hot, around 1 1/2 hours. Remove foil and bake until golden, about 15 minutes.
    *OR*
    Defrost completely and follow baking instructions in step no. 13 above.


Baked Pasta with Chicken

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

American Potato Salad

American Potato Salad
It's summer and it's barbecue time. That means potato salads are very much in demand in our household nowadays. This one that I adapted from Cook's Illustrated's The New Best Recipe cookbook is like any ordinary potato salad except it's made so much better with the addition of vinegar while the potatoes are still warm. It permeates the starchy potatoes and gives it so much more flavour. If you leave it in the fridge for a few hours before serving the flavour improves further.


American Potato Salad

1 kg  salad or waxy potatoes (Charlotte, Jersey, etc.) - scrubbed clean
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar or cider vinegar
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
3 medium hard boiled eggs - peeled and diced
1 celery rib - minced
2 Tbsp minced red onion
1/4 cup sweet pickle relish
2/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp minced fresh parsley leaves
  1. Put potatoes in a pot and add enough water to cover up to 1-inch above the potatoes.
  2. Bring to boil; turn down heat and simmer potatoes until done (a knife poked in the middle would easily pierce all the way through). This would take around 15-20 minutes for small potatoes and 25-30 minutes for medium ones.
  3. Drain and leave to cool just enough to peel and cut into large chunks.
  4. Toss in vinegar, salt , pepper. It is important to add in the vinegar while the potatoes are very warm so that it will absorb it well.
  5. Cover and cool completely (about 20 minutes). You may put this in the fridge while cooling.
  6. Add all other ingredients, toss to mix well, and season more with salt and ground black pepper if needed.
  7. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for next day serving.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Bibimbap

Bibimbap
Bibimbap-alula she's my baby ...

This is the longest recipe I've ever typed in this blog. I never knew something so homely can involve a lot of work! But I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and the eating so much more. I've heared about this intriguing dish from American friends and family and in a lot of food magazines. So it was a delight to find out that this was our next task in the Daring Kitchen.

The July Daring Cooks' Challenge took us to Korea, where Renata of Testado, Provado & Aprovado taught us to make bibimbap. This colorful rice dish can be customized to meet any taste, and is as much fun to eat as it is to say!

The traditional Dolsot Bibimbap involves a heated stone bowl which my kitchen definitely do not have. So the alternative is use warmed bowls which was quite sufficient as evident in the recipe that I adapted from Bon Apetit. I did not do the crunchy rice step because we're definitely not fans of tutong. My husband and I really enjoyed eating this sort of Korean hot salad and I was pleasantly surprised with the gochujang (Korean chili paste). It's not as scorchingly spicy hot as I imagined it would be. For me, the best part of this is the bulgogi. It's the one thing that I would definitely keep making over and over again. But with everything else considered I think it will take quite sometime before I make all of these again. There's just a lot of little things to do including a lot of washing up!



Bibimbap ingredients


Home-style Bibimbap

Marinate the bulgogi and prepare all the rest of the listed ingredients listed here.
Then proceed to the assembly section.


Bulgogi:
1/4 cup light soy sauce
1/3 cup finely grated Asian pear with juices (about 1 pear)
2 green onions - thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves - minced
1 Tbsp demerara or brown sugar
2 tsp grated ginger
500 g  very thinly sliced boneless beef (rib-eye steak or short ribs)
  • Mix all ingredients, except the beef, in a bowl until combined.
  • Marinate beef in the mixture for at least 3 hours or overnight.


Sesame Oil Mix:
6 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • Combine all to mix and set aside.


Sesame Bean Sprouts:
6 cups of bean spouts
gochugaru or ground chili
1 Tbsp sesame oil mix
  1. Bring a pot of water to boil.
  2. Add the bean sprouts and bring it back to boil.
  3. Once it boils again, remove and drain. Plunge in cold water to stop cooking.
  4. Drain well and let drip for at least 30 minutes.
  5. Transfer to a bowl or contained and sprinkle the sesame oil mix and gochugaru; toss to coat.


Sesame Carrots:
4 medium carrots - juliened into matchstick size
1 Tbsp sesame oil mix
  • Heat a skillet over medium heat.
  • Add in the sesame oil mix and carrots.
  • Cook while stirring occasionally until just tender (about 3-4 minutes).


Soy-Glazed Shiitake Mushrooms:
3 cups of dried shiitake mushrooms
3 Tbsp light soy sauce
1 Tbsp demerara or brown sugar
1 cup water
1/2 tsp toasted sesame seed
freshly ground black pepper
  • Put the first 4 ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat medium-low and simmer until mushrooms are softened and all liquid is absorbed (about 15 minutes).
    If the liquid is drying out but the mushrooms are not yet done, add a few tablespoons of water and continue cooking.
  • Cool the mushrooms a little. Remove stems then slice thinly.
  • Transfer to a bowl then add in the sesame seed and black pepper. Toss to mix.


Garlicky Spinach:
500 g  fresh spinach
2 Tbsp sesame oil mix
2 garlic cloves - minced
2 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp distilled white or rice vinegar
  1. Cook the spinach in a pot of boiling water.
  2. Once it boils again, remove and drain.
  3. Plunge into cold water to stop the cooking.
  4. Drain well and squeeze out excess water.
  5. Heat a skillet over medium heat.
  6. Add sesame oil mix and saute the garlic until fragrant.
  7. Add the soy sauce and vinegar. Stir to mix.
  8. Add the cooked spinach and stir to mix. Separate the spinach as much as you can while mixing. Cook just enough to combine it well (about 1-2 minutes).


Sauteed Courgette:
1 medium courgette - julienned into matchstick size
1 Tbsp sesame oil mix
gochugaru or ground chili
  • Heat a skillet over medium heat.
  • Add sesame oil mix and courgette.
  • Cook, while stirring occasionally, until just tender (about 3-4 minutes). Season with gochugaru.


Green Onion Slaw:
2 bunches green onions - julienned into 3-inch lengths
1 Tbsp sesame oil mix
1 Tbsp distilled white or rice vinegar
gochugaru or ground chili
  • Place green onions in a bowl of ice-cold water (to crisp).
  • Just before serving, combined sesame oil mix and vinegar in a bowl.
  • Drain and pat dry the green onions then add in the vinegar mix. Toss to coat.


Wakame:
30 g  wakame (dried seaweed)
  • Cover wakame with boiling water and let sit until softened (about 10 minutes).
  • Drain, squeeze out excess water, and coarsely chop.


Gochujang-Date Sauce:
5 Medjool dates - pitted
1 cup gojuchang (hot pepper paste)
2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • Put the dates in a heatproof bowl, cover with boiling water, and soak until softened (about 15 minutes).
  • Drain and transfer dates in a food processor with the gochujang and sesame oil.
  • Puree until smooth. Set aside.


Rice:
500 g  [2 1/2 cups] sushi rice
3 cups water
  • Wash and rinse rice until the water runs clear.
  • Add in 3 cups of water and bring to boil on high heat.
  • Once it boils, reduce heat to lowest and simmer until all the water has evaporated (about 15-20 minutes).
  • Turn off heat and let sit for 10-15 minutes.


Assembly:

4 big ceramic bowls - warmed
Cooked rice
Bulgogi
cooking oil
4 fried eggs - sunny side up
kimchi (optional)
vegetable mix-ins prepared in advance - Sesame Bean Sprouts, Sesame Carrots, Garlicky Spinach, Soy-Glazed Mushrooms, Sauteed Courgette, Green Onion Slaw, Wakame, Gochujang-Date Sauce
  • Heat 1/2 Tbsp cooking oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan (preferably non-stick).
  • Cook the bulgogi in batches, turning once until cooked through and browned, about 3-4 minutes.
  • Divide rice among the bowls.
  • Put one fried egg in the middle on top of the rice.
  • Arrange the bulgogi and the prepared vegetables and sauce around it.
  • Serve with kimchi (optional).

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Lemon Fudge Bars

Fudgy Lemon Bar
Well well well, looks like the recipe I've been tweaking for the last 4 years has finally made it to this blog. It's not that bad really. I probably tried this once a year so that makes them about 4 tries. The original recipe that I adapted came from a cookbook called Brownies & Bars by Liz Franklin. I'm a sucker for gorgeous pictures of food and the accompanying photos of it makes it really look so scrumptious. That's the main reason why I didn't give up on it besides the fact the I wanted a dessert that's not plain vanilla nor chocolate flavoured.

I determined early on that it needed a lot of tweaks. For one, the pan size was too small. Then the cooking time is way too short. Maybe even the temperature needs tweaking. Other than that the recipe stands as it is. I really prefer this over the Lemon Bars where the filling can be quite cloyingly rich. This one is just right making it very moreish.


Fudgy Lemon Bar


Lemon Fudge Bars

*Shortbread base:
200 g  [1 1/3 cups] plain flour
100 g  [1/2 cup + 1/3 cup] cornflour (cornstarch)
100 g  [1/2 cup] caster sugar (superfine)
200 g  [3/4 cup + 1 Tbsp] butter - softened to room temperature

*Lemon Fudge Filling:
4 eggs
600 ml  [2 cups + 1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp] double cream (heavy cream)
300 g  [1 1/2 cups] caster sugar (superfine)
100 g  [2/3 cup] plain flour
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 lemons) - strained
zest of three lemons (optional)


*For shortbread base:
  1. Mix the plain flour and cornflour in a bowl.
  2. Cut in the butter into the mixture with a pastry cutter or two knives until they resemble fine breadcrumbs.
  3. Add the sugar and knead the mixture together to form a smooth, soft dough.
  4. Form into a ball, wrap in plastic and put in the fridge for 30 minutes.

*For filling and to assemble:
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/350°F. Grease a 13 x 9-inch baking pan and line with parchment paper.
  2. Remove dough from fridge and roll out or pat level into the bottom of the prepared pan.
  3. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden in colour.
  4. While the base is baking, mix the eggs, cream, and sugar together.
  5. Add the lemon juice and zest (if using) and whisk until smooth.
  6. Add the flour a little at a time while whisking and mix until well combined.
  7. Once the base is done baking, pull out the oven rack with the baking pan halfway and immediately pour the lemon-cream mixture on it.
  8. Push the baking pan back in the oven and continue baking for about 45-50 minutes or until the topping is set.
  9. Remove from oven and cool completely in the pan before cutting into bars.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Maltesers Cupcakes

Malteser's Cupcake

I wanted to make something different for the latest cake sale in my youngest daughter's school. So I went hunting for a recipe of Maltesers cupcake. There were quite a number in the internet and I chose Amy Jones' of She Cooks She Eats food blog. Thanks Amy for this scrumptious cupcake. I just tweaked it a little here and there to fit our taste. But for a first time bake it was fabulous! It would have been better if I had the proper piping nozzle for the icing. As you can see, I smeared it on using only a spoon which isn't so bad though it could have looked as good as Amy's.


Malteser's Cupcakes


Maltesers Cupcakes

175 g  butter - softened
175 g  caster sugar
175 g  self-raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 medium eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 Tbsp Ovaltine or Horlicks
2 Tbsp milk
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/350°F. Grease or line muffin pans.
  2. Combine the flour, baking powder, and Ovaltine in a bowl.
  3. In another bowl, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy.
  4. Add eggs one at a time beating well after each addition.
  5. Add vanilla, mix well.
  6. Add in the flour mixture - beat just enough to make batter smooth.
  7. Divide batter among the prepared muffin tins filling them up to 2/3 full.
  8. Bake for 13-15 minutes or until a skewer poked in the middle comes out clean.
  9. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes then transfer to a rack to cool completely.
  10. Decorate cupcakes with Milk Chocolate Icing and top with a Maltesers each.


Milk Chocolate Icing

100 g  milk chocolate
125 g  butter - softened
200-300 g  icing sugar (about 1 1/2 - 2 cups) - sifted
2-3 Tbsp cocoa powder (optional) - sifted
2-3 Tbsp milk
bag of Maltesers
  1. Very gently melt the milk chocolate on a double boiler. Watch carefully, if you see that the chocolate is getting lumpy at the bottom remove from double boiler and stir like crazy to keep it melted and not clumpy.
  2. Leave to cool slightly.
  3. Beat the butter until pale and fluffy.
  4. Add the icing sugar in batches beating well after each addition.
  5. Pour in the melted chocolate and cocoa (if using), beat and mix well.
  6. Beat in milk adding just enough to make the icing smooth.