Sunday, February 27, 2011

February 2011 Daring Baker's Challenge - Panna cotta and Florentines

The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies

February's challenge was really easy and delicious. I don't know why I've never made panna cotta before. My teenage children loved it. One ate it for breakfast and the other for an after school snack! Thanks you, Miss Mallory!

I omitted the honey from the recipe and just sweetened with sugar and flavoured with vanilla bean! Served with mixed sweetened berries!

Panna Cotta

1 cup (240 ml) whole milk
1 tablespoon (one packet) (15 ml) (7 gm) (¼ oz) unflavored powdered gelatin
3 cups (720 ml) whipping cream (30+% butterfat)
1/3 cup (80 ml) honey, I ommited the honey
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) granulated sugar, I increased the sugar to 1/2 cup
pinch of salt
1 scraped vanilla bean

1.Pour the milk into a bowl or pot and sprinkle gelatin evenly and thinly over the milk (make sure the bowl/pot is cold by placing the bowl/pot in the refrigerator for a few minutes before you start making the Panna Cotta). Let stand for 5 minutes to soften the gelatin.
2.Pour the milk (at this point I added the scraped vanilla bean)  into the saucepan/pot and place over medium heat on the stove. Heat this mixture until it is hot, but not boiling, about five minutes. (I whisk it a few times at this stage).
3.Next, add the cream, honey, sugar, and pinch of salt. Making sure the mixture doesn't boil, continue to heat and stir occasionally until the sugar and honey have dissolved 5-7 minutes. I divided the cream and whipped half up to soft peaks and warmed the other half as the recipe states. I let the warmed cream/milk mixture cool before mixing in the whipped cream.
4.Remove from heat, allow it to sit for a few minutes to cool slightly. Then pour into the glass or ramekin.
5.Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight. Add garnishes and serve.

I made the florentines to the recipe except I didn't have dark corn syrup but saw some pure maple syrup in the pantry and used that instead. I didn't sandwich the florentines but just drizzled with choc. The florentines seemed a bit sweet on their own but with a touch of dark choc they were perfect!


2/3 cup (160 ml) (150 gm) (5.3 oz) unsalted butter
2 cups (480 ml) (160 gm) (5 2/3 oz) quick oats
1 cup (240 ml) (230 gm) (8 oz) granulated sugar
2/3 cup (160 ml) (95 gm) (3⅓ oz) plain (all purpose) flour
1/4 cup (60 ml) dark corn syrup
1/4 cup (60 ml) whole milk
1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1½ cups (360 ml) (250 gm) (9 oz) dark or milk chocolate

Preheat oven to moderately hot 375°F (190°C) (gas mark 5). Prepare your baking sheet with silpat or parchment paper.
1.Melt butter in a medium saucepan, then remove from the heat
2.To the melted butter add oats, sugar, flour, corn syrup, milk, vanilla, and salt. Mix well. Drop a tablespoon full, three inches (75 mm) apart, onto your prepared baking sheet. Flatten slightly with the back of your tablespoon, or use a spatula
3.Bake in preheated oven for 6-8 minutes, until cookies are golden brown. Mine took about 15 minutes to become golden brown. Cool completely on the baking sheets
4.While the cookies are cooling melt your chocolate until smooth either in the microwave (1 1/2 minutes), or stovetop (in a double boiler, or a bowl that fits atop a saucepan filled with a bit of water, being sure the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl).

5.Peel the cookies from the silpat or parchment and place face down on a wire rack set over a sheet of wax/parchment paper (to keep counters clean
6.Spread a tablespoon of chocolate on the bottom/flat side of your cookie, sandwiching another (flat end) cookie atop the chocolate.

This recipe will make about 2 1/2 - 3 dozen sandwiched Florentine cookies. You can also choose not to sandwich yours, in which case, drizzle the tops with chocolate (over your wax paper).

Check out our host Miss Mallory at A Sofa in the Kitchen and all my other Daring Baker friends who have excelled with the panna cotta and florentines this month!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Nigella's Churros with Chocolate Dipping Sauce

The most recent addition to my cookbook collection is Nigella Lawson's "Kitchen". As I skimmed through it I knew I would be trying out her Churros with chocolate dipping sauce recipe as soon as possible. I liked her recipe because it eggless. Most of the recipes I have seen for churros are basically a choux pastry rich in eggs and somehow it just didn't sit well with me. I have never like that gooey uncooked centre in a cream puff hence mine are always well baked! 

In the aftermath of the cyclone with no electricity for more than a week and heaps of outdoor work to do, baking took step to the side. But I was having bad "baking withdrawal" symptoms! So, left to my own devices when the family made yet another trip to the dump, I set to work eager to surprise them with a sweet treat! And churros, it was! We really enjoyed these churros. I piped them thinner than the ones I have eaten so they were deliciously crunchy. The chocolate dipping sauce is a must!

Churros with chocolate dipping sauce (adapted from Kitchen by Nigella Lawson)
which Nigella claims should be enough for 4-6 but...

I doubled this recipe - I think Nigella must have be on a very strict diet that day!

50g caster sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon or to taste

125g plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
15ml olive oil
250ml freshly boiled water
oil for deep frying

Chocolate Sauce

50g dark chocolate
75g milk chocolate
150ml cream

Mix the sugar and the cinnamon together. Set aside for coating the churros in later.

Melt all the chocolate ingredients really gently in a saucepan until it all melts and combines. Set aside.

To make the churros: put the flour into a bowl and stir in the baking powder then beat in the olive oil and freshly boiled water from the kettle. Keep mixing until you have warm sticky dough. Leave it rest for 10 minutes while you heat up the oil to about 170C.
When you are ready fit a piping bag with a star shaped nozzle (I used about 8mm one) and  fill with the dough. Squeeze out lengths of dough. I just used my finger to break each one off the nozzle.
Cook only a few at a time until golden brown. Drain on absorbent paper then toss in cinnamon sugar.
Reheat the sauce if needed.
Serve churros with Chocolate dipping sauce in individual pots ( to avoid the double dipping dilemma) and dip away!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Surviving Cyclone Yasi

Two weeks ago, on the 2nd February, North Queensland survived Queensland's largest and most powerful cyclone ever recorded. The preceding days were filled with anxiety amongst a flurry of activity as we prepared to be pummeled by this monster. I cannot describe the fear as we realised we were directly in its path. As further reports were broadcast, the cyclone moved slightly north so we would escape the direct hit but not it's powerful outer winds. Reports by storm chasers in our area calculate the winds as somewhere between 250kms/hour to 309kms/hour. To grasp the size of this monster cyclone click here. The night of the 2nd February, 2011 was long and frightening and will not be forgotten for a long time.

 When we peered out of windows at first light, with winds still extremely gusty we were greeted with a changed landscape - trees devoid of leaves, striped of bark, others fallen and snapped, electricity power lines fallen and twisted, corrugated iron scattered and crumpled, mountains prickly with the outline of striped trees,sugar cane crops at an unnatural angle. Further north homes and crops totally destroyed. The first 3 or 4 days our area had no water, electricity or telephones. Utilities are being restored gradually with army and tradespeople from all over Queensland and beyond swooping on our area to help with the mammoth task. Many still have no electricity and camping and candlelit dinners are becoming tiresome.

Here I took a few pics of our property.

This 100 plus year old mango tree was uprooted not far from our bedroom.

The roots simply ripped out of the earth with the tremendous force of the winds.

Our machinery shed has a new skylight due to sheets of corrugated iron being ripped off during the cyclone.

Native trees are striped of leaves and bark hence their orange colour

Luckily for us bananas are not our lively hood but we won't be enjoying any bananas from these plants for many months.

The sugarcane crops lie at a 45 degree angle.

This dwelling once housed cane cutters of the district and now was good extra storage for our farm.

Trees snapped and in the background the sugar cane almost lies horizontal.

In the following days as we were able to get around I took a few more photos but honestly it was just too overwhelming to keep taking photos.

The local high school grounds. 

These steel  6 tonne capacity sugar cane "bins" were tossed about as though they were cardboard boxes.  
The Australian Army arrived to lend a helping hand.

Miraculously, only one life was lost during Cyclone Yasi. Police said the young man was killed by fumes from a generator he was running inside a closed room after the storm knocked out electricity.