Saturday, November 27, 2010

November 2010 Daring Bakers Challenge - Crostata!

The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.
For this challenge I decided to use what I had on hand for my crostata which was homemade strawberry jam and frozen mixed berries to make Crostata di Frutti di Bosco Misti. Using the weight measurements I made the Pasta Frolla recipe supplied by our host, Simona.

Crostata di Frutti di Bosco Misti

•1/2 c. minus 1 tablespoon [105 ml, 100 g, 3 ½ oz] superfine sugar 
•1 and 3/4 cup [420 ml, 235 g, 8 1/4 oz.] unbleached all-purpose flour
•a pinch of salt
•1 stick [8 tablespoons / 4 oz. / 115 g] cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
•grated zest of half a lemon
•1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten in a small bowl
•1 cup strawberry jam
•500g mixed frozen berries, thawed and drain well on paper towels

1.Whisk together sugar, flour and salt in a bowl.
2.Rub or cut the butter into the flour until the mixture has the consistency of coarse crumbs. You can do this in the bowl or on your work surface, using your fingertips or an implement of choice. I used the food processor for this process. 

3.Make a well in the center of the mounded flour and butter mixture and pour the beaten eggs into it (reserve about a teaspoon of the egg mixture for glazing purposes later on – place in the refrigerator, covered, until ready to use).
4.Add the lemon zest to your flour/butter/egg mixture.

5.Use a fork to incorporate the liquid into the solid ingredients, and then use your fingertips.
6.Knead lightly just until the dough comes together into a ball.

7.Shape the dough into a flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Place the dough in the refrigerator and chill for at least two hours. You can refrigerate the dough overnight.
Assembling and baking the crostata

1.Heat the oven to 375ºF [190ºC/gas mark 5].
2.Take the pasta frolla out of the fridge, unwrap it and cut away ¼ of the dough. Reserve this dough to make the lattice top of the crostata. Refrigerate this dough while you work on the tart base.
3.To help roll the crostata dough, keep the dough on top of the plastic wrap that you had it wrapped in. This can help rolling the dough and can also help when transferring the dough to your pan. You can also use parchment paper for this. However, you can also roll the dough directly on a work surface if you prefer.
4.Lightly dust the top of the dough and your work surface (if you’re rolling directly on a work surface) with flour. Keep some flour handy to dust the dough as you go along.
5.If the dough is very firm, start by pressing the dough with the rolling pin from the middle to each end, moving the rolling pin by a pin's width each time; turn the dough 180 degrees and repeat; when it softens, start rolling.
6.Roll the dough into a circle about 1/8th inch (3 mm) thick.
7.If you used the plastic wrap or parchment paper as rolling surface, flip dough over the pan, centering it, and delicately press it all around so the corners are well covered. Peel away the plastic wrap.
8.Trim the excess dough hanging over the edges of the pan. Press the remaining dough around the border into the sides of the pan making sure the border is an even thickness all the way around.
9.Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork in several places.
10.Take out of the fridge the reserved pasta frolla you had cut away earlier. Roll it with your pin and cut into strips or use cookie cutters to make small shapes (this is not traditional, but it looks cute); or roll with your hands into ropes.
11.Spread the jam evenly over the bottom of the crostata.
....and top with berries.

12.Use the prepared strips or rolls of dough to make a lattice over the surface, or decorate with the cut shapes.
13.Brush the border and strips of dough with the reserved beaten eggs. You can add a drop or two of water to the beaten eggs if you don’t have enough liquid.
14.Put the tart in the oven and bake for 25 minutes.
15.After 25 minutes, check the tart and continue baking, if necessary, until the tart is of a nice golden hue.
16.When done, remove the tart from the oven and let cool. If you have used a tart pan with a removable bottom, then release the tart base from the fluted tart ring. Make sure the tart is completely cool before slicing and serving.

Hazelnut Nutella Crostata

I also prepared a Hazelnut Nutella crostata by substituting 1/2 cup flour with 1/2 hazelnut meal in the pasta frolla and using as much Nutella as I needed to fill the crostata ( about 1 1/2 cups). For the first 15 minutes of baking I covered the crostata with foil to prevent the nutella from drying out too much.

This was delicious and rich. My son was thrilled to come home from school to find this very special crostata made just for him!

Both crostatas were tasty and though I enjoyed the fresh, fruity filling of Crostata di Frutti di Bosco Misti, the added hazelnut meal in the crust of the Hazelnut Nutella Crostata proved equally delicious.
So many wonderful crostata were prepared this month by the Daring Bakers like the ones from Mary Mary Culinary, Passionate about Baking and Cherry Tea Cakes . Take a look - you'll be impressed and inspired to bake your own!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Week 9 of Twelve Weeks of Christmas Cookies - Spicy Hazelnut Fingers

This week I was looking for something spicy as we are fast approaching Christmas and I think I found just the thing in these Spicy Hazelnut Fingers by a  great Australian chef Stephanie Alexander in her book "The Cook's Companion". What fun I am having with this Christmas Cookies challenge seeking out and trying new recipes.  How sad it will be when it is all over! But let's not worry about that and instead why don't you whip up a batch of these delicious cookies and be part of the fun. The original recipe called for 60g candied peel, finely chopped which I don't keep on hand because I really don't like it but if that's your taste add it in. It would enhance the lemon icing, I'm sure.

I used my newly purchased silicone baking mats which made lifting the cookies a breeze. Be sure to use silicone coated baking paper if you don't own the mats which will ensure you cookies lift in one piece. I pipe the cookies using a disposable piping bag with the end cut off the appropriate amount. Each cookie was about 5 cm long by about 1.5cm wide. This gave me 55 cookies. Plenty for everyone to enjoy!

Spicy Hazelnut Fingers

adapted from The Cook's Companion by Stephanie Alexander

2 eggs
200g castor sugar
few drops of pure vanilla
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
180g ground almonds
120g ground hazelnuts
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup pure icing sugar
juice of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 140C and line 2 baking trays with baking paper. Beat eggs, castor sugar and vanilla until pale and thick. Fold in cinnamon, nuts and baking powder. Using a plain nozzle, pipe mixture in figers onto baking trays. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.
Mix icing sugar with drops of lemon juice until you have a thinnish mixture. Dribble icing over biscuits as soon as they come from the oven. 

Below you can find recipes from all the other wonderful bakers sharing their favourite Christmas Cookies!
Week 9 Twelve Weeks of Christmas:

Sunday, November 21, 2010

An Award?....For Me?

How pleasantly surprised I was when I was contacted by She Whisks from Whisk Whisk Whisk to pass on the One Lovely Blog Award! Marcellina in Cucina to receive the One Lovely Blog Award! I can't believe it especially coming from Whisk Whisk Whisk. You must check out this blog because although relatively new to the blogging world she is obviously not new to the baking world. This lady is very talented indeed!
Now, onto the conditions:-
1. Accept the award. Post it on your blog with the name of the person who granted the award and his or her blog link.
2. Pay it forward to 15 other bloggers that you have newly discovered.
3. Contact those blog owners and let them know they've been chosen.

So here is the hard part. Choosing which bloggers to pay this award forward to. So many of you have such lovely blogs which inspire and amaze me so it has been hard to make my choices but he goes.

Mid-Western Girl with a Texas Address
Barbara Bakes
Level 2 Mommy
Testado, Provado e Aprovado ....Renata actually gave me this award as well! Thank you, Renata!
Baker's corner...Somewhere in my Kitchen
My Baking Adventures
Muchkin Munchies
Pane, Burro e Marmellata
From Apples 2 Zucchini
Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives
Of Muses and Meringues

Check out these great blogs! They really do deserve the One Lovely Blog award!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Week 8 of Twelve Weeks of Christmas Cookies - Apricot Almond Crescents

Don't you wish there was a rule that all cookbooks should have a picture for every recipe? Have you ever looked at recipe that has no picture to go along with it and  imagined how it would look and taste? Does it live up to your expectations or do you feel as if you a stumbling around in the dark? Some recipes are straight forward and you know what is expected but others especially if not written well are a little hard to follow. For the first time this week I was a little let down by an Australia Women's Weekly recipe. I know...shock... horror... we Australians would never think the "Weekly" would let us down.
Let me explain. I had been wanting to make this recipe for some time and had jotted it down as a "to-try" recipe. This original recipe called  for an almond dough filled with prunes and plum jam. However for my version, I substituted dried apricots and apricot jam. Once the dough is prepared the instructions state "Divide dough in half. Roll each half between sheets of baking paper until large enough to be cut into 22 cm circle". "Cut each round into eight wedges". That's 16 wedges, right? But the recipe states it make 28. Well, I couldn't figure out how this was going to work. So, each circle was cut into 12 wedges and 24 cookies were made. I was disappointed that the instructions were not clear and the cold pastry really had trouble rolling into nice crescent shapes. However, I am pleased with the flavour and would make them again.   Actually next time I would like to cut them into only eight wedges and make larger cookies which I think would make a great breakfast with coffee. This is wonderful cookie with a tart flavour of the apricots and a hint of lemon in the pastry. Certainly a great addition to the Christmas table. 

The cream cheese in the dough give great results.

Apricot and Almond Crescents

225g plain flour
60g almond meal
55g castor sugar
2 teaspoon lemon rind
90g cream cheese
90g butter, chopped coarsely
2 tablespoon milk
1 egg white
20g flaked or slivered almonds

60g dried apricots
80g apricot jam
55g castor sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Process flour, almond meal, sugar and rind until combined. Add cream cheese and butter, pulse until crumbly. Add milk, process until ingredients come together.
Knead the dough lightly on floured surface until smooth. Divide dough in half. Roll each half between sheets of baking paper until large enough to be cut into 22cm rounds. (Use a plate or a cake pan for this). Refrigerate 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 180C. Line baking trays with baking paper.
 Make filling by combining ingredients in a small bowl.
Cut each round into 12 edges, spread with filling, roll from the wide end into crescents. Place on oven trays, brush with egg white, sprinkle with nuts.
Bake crescents 25 minutes. Cool on trays.

I hope you enjoy these and all the Christmas Cookies my fellow bloggers have come up with this week for the Twelve Weeks of Christmas Challenge! Check them out below!

Week 8 Twelve Weeks of Christmas:

Friday, November 12, 2010

Week 7 of Twelve Weeks of Christmas Cookies - Almond and Macadamia Shortbread

Shortbread is always popular in Australia for Christmas and there are many varieties that can be purchased at supermarkets and speciality stores but for the best variety you can't go past homemade shortbread. I love buttery shortbread at any time of the year and this is a particularly good recipe combining rich shortbread with the crunch of nuts. I have used a combination of almonds and macadamias because that is what I had on hand but any type of nut would work. Be sure to toast lightly in the oven to bring out the flavour of the nuts and do not have the nuts chopped too finely.

Almond and Macadamia Shortbread
(makes 45 cookies)

250g unsalted butter
110g castor sugar (superfine)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
100g almonds, slivered
100g macadamias, coarsely chopped
300g plain flour

Heat the oven to 170C and line oven trays with baking paper.
Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla until light and creamy. Mix in nuts and sifted flour. 
Take heaped teaspoonfuls and place 3cm apart on the lined oven trays.
Bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool on racks.
Dust with icing sugar to serve.

Check out the links below for some great Christmas Cookie ideas!

Week 7 Twelve Weeks of Christmas:

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

My Favourite Way To Eat Homemade Pita Bread

Back in October I made Lebanese Pita and said I would follow with a post of my favourite filling.

 Well.... it is!

Life just got in the way of posting this favourite of mine. 
On a sheet of baking paper lay a soft and fluffy, homemade pita. Ok, if you haven't got around to making them you can use the store bought variety - just warm it through because they aren't as soft. Now top with some crispy lettuce, ripe red, vine ripened tomatoes and a few thin slices of red onion.      

Prepare a good Tzatziki - try this one by George Calombaris.

1 cucumber, peeled, deseeded and grated
400g thick Greek-style yoghurt
3 cloves garlic, roasted and pureed
30ml white vinegar
40 extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon dill, shredded
salt to taste

Sprinkle the cucumber with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Leave grated cucumber overnight (or at least a few hours) in colander to extract excess juices.
Place yoghurt, garlic, vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and dill into a large bowl.
 Squeeze liquid from cucumber and add to yoghurt.
Mix well and season to taste.

Dollop over salad ingredients.

Have grilling some succulent marinated chicken thigh kebabs.
This is the marinade I use - again from George.

100ml white wine
250ml  olive oil
juice and zest of 2 lemons
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 teaspoon toasted cumin seeds, crushed
1 teaspoons toasted coriander seeds, crushed

Topped the Tzatziki with the Chicken kebab and remove the skewer.

Roll up using the paper to secure it all together and tuck in! 
I know you will enjoy it as much as I do!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Week 6 of Twelve Weeks of Christmas Cookies- Fudgy Choc-Cherry Cookies

Here we are half way through Twelve Weeks of Christmas Cookies. If you've come along on the ride with us you will know what a wonderful variety of cookies my fellow bakers have come up with. There is a cookie for everyone and we have 6 more weeks to go. By Christmas no one will be stuck for ideas. Easy cookies, a-little-bit-complicated cookies, chocolate cookies, nut cookies, sugar cookies, coffee cookies, cookies for foreign lands.... the list goes on.

 Today my cookies falls into the "easy" cookie category. These cookies are chewy and fudgy full of decadence - perfect for Christmas entertaining.  The degree of "fudginess" is determined by the oven temperature and cooking time. You may want to only bake a few at first then if you want them more gooey bake them at 150C/170C or reduce the cooking time. Try them and see how wonderful they are.

Fudgy Choc-Cherry Cookies
adapted from "Bake" by the Australian Womens Weekly

250g butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
165g castor sugar
165g brown sugar
1 egg
300g flour
25g cocoa
1 teaspoon bi carbonated soda powder
25g shredded coconut
80g glace cherries
200g dark eating chocolate, coarsely chopped
200g roasted hazelnut milk chocolate, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 180C and line trays with baking paper.
Beat together butter, sugars, vanilla and egg until smooth and creamy. Mix in sifted flour, cocoa and bicarbonated soda. Stir in coconut cherries and both chocolates.
Roll tablespoons of dough into balls, place about 5 cm apart on trays, flatten slightly.
Bake biscuits about 12 minutes. Cool on trays.


Week 6 Twelve Weeks of Christmas: