Sunday, 25 December 2011

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Christmas is coming...

Literally. Mince pies and Christmas pudding are on their way! :-)

It's our fourth Christmas here in Japan, and as each year passes I crave just a little more of the smells and tastes of home. Year one was a total write-off, with M (and therefor me) spending her very first Christmas in hospital with pneumonia. Year two, I attempted to make do with what I could buy in my local supermarket to make my own mincemeat and Christmas cake, unaware that the dried fruit was tropical papaya and mango rather than the traditional blend that I was familiar with. By year three, I was willing to pay the inflated prices of a single jar of Robertson's mincemeat and a mini-box of Quality Street from my local import shop (pretty much the only British items they had in stock!). And this year...

I am one happy Brit! And look what else will be in my super parcel...

Now you may mock, but after an extended absence you really do develop very strong cravings for such basics, and they simply cannot be found for love nor money on Shikoku (as far as I am aware). Oh thank you, Foreign Buyer's Club! Now if I could only talk them into stocking Marmite...

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Daring Bakers Challenge November 2011 - Filipino Desserts

Catherine of Munchie Musings was our November Daring Bakers’ host and she challenged us to make a traditional Filipino dessert – the delicious Sans Rival cake! And for those of us who wanted to try an additional Filipino dessert, Catherine also gave us a bonus recipe for Bibingka which comes from her friend Jun of Jun-blog.

The problem with being a Daring Baker is that our creations are hardly low on calories and generally come with a baked-in 'just-one-more-slice' factor. On the other hand, there is nothing better than being able to share the fruit of your toils with friends. And thank goodness I had friend old and new to help me eat this month's offerings!

As soon as I read the description of the Sans Rival, I knew that this would be exactly up my alley. I've always had a terrible weakness for the meringue and buttercream combination. Each birthday I would ask my mum to make a Gateau Diane, and on Saturdays lunchtimes I would sneak out of the shop I worked in to buy a Jap Cake... yeah, I've always had a sweet tooth :-D I couldn't wait to get started!

I used the given recipe, using chocolate and cashew nuts, and it all went very smoothly. I made the buttercream the day before, very dangerous as I couldn't resist checking it every now and then. I didn't bake the meringue in a tin, instead I just drew a circle on parchment and spooned it into shape. They weren't as crispy as I'd hoped they'd be, but that was entirely because I'd left it til late to bake them and I really needed to go to bed rather than hang around my oven into the early hours. Next time I will make sure to bake in the morning.

The finished product was utterly divine! I can see me making this again and again, although it would be fun to play around with flavours (I'd hoped to make a matcha and kinako version before the deadline). I am already mentally lining up social occasions to be able to try just another slice!

I also took up the optional challenge to make Bibingka. It was rather a last minute decision and I knew I hadn't left enough time to make the salted eggs, so I used quail eggs in the hope that they would absorb the brine faster (I had less than a week). I forgot to take photos of the first batch of eggs, but I have a second batch of hen eggs soaking right now as I will be making this recipe again for our church Christmas service (we have a lot of Filipino members and I thought they might enjoy a taste of home).

Like many other DBers, I had trouble dissolving the salt, in spite of simmering the mixture for a good while. The murky jar looks like some kind of science experiment, although the quail eggs did look far more pretty than the hen eggs. Oh, and I didn't have any brandy so ended up using some homemade umeshu (plum liqueur) instead. The quail eggs tasted great - I snacked on one or two as they were very fiddly to peel and some of them didn't survive in tact to make it to the cakes! ;-)

I couldn't find banana leaves anywhere, so instead opted to make Bibingka cupcakes (which worked very well with the smaller eggs). The batter was very easy to make, although mine was much, much thicker than the example we were shown and I have no idea why... Still, they turned out just fine. The only thing I did differently was to brown the tops of the cakes after sprinkling with the topping rather than before. Not that I was trying to be clever or anything, I'd just misread the instructions!

They were made for my friend (and pastor's wife) M-san, who will be celebrating her birthday on Tuesday!

Thank you to Catherine for challenging us with such interesting and delicious desserts, it was great fun to do! :-D

Sans Rival:
Servings: 12

10 large egg whites, room temp
1 cup (240 ml) (225 gm) (8 oz) white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (3 gm) cream of tartar
¼ cup (60 ml) (20 gm) (2/3 oz) Dutch processed cocoa (optional and not traditional)
2 cups (480 ml) (240 gm) (8½ oz) chopped, toasted cashews

Note: You will need four layers which will mean that you might have to bake in two batches. Be sure to use fresh parchment paper and cooled pans for each batch.

1. Preheat oven to moderate 325°F/160°C/gas mark 3.

2. Line cake pan bottoms with parchment paper and butter and flour the sides really well.

3. In a large clean, dry glass or metal mixing bowl, beat egg whites on medium until foamy (2 mins.). Sprinkle with cream of tartar. Gradually add sugar, a couple of tablespoons at a time, continuing to beat now at high speed until stiff shiny peaks form. (about 7-10 mins.)

4. Fold in nuts, reserving enough to use for decoration.

5. Divide meringue into four equal parts. Spread in pans, evenly to edges. If doing batches, use fresh parchment paper and cooled pans for each batch.

6. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the meringue from the baking pans while still hot; allow to cool slightly. Peel off the parchment paper while it is still warm, it is difficult to remove sometimes when they have completely cooled.

7. When cool, trim edges so that all 4 meringue layers are uniformly shaped. Set aside.

French Buttercream:

5 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 cup (240 ml) (225 gm) (8 oz) white granulated sugar
1/4 cup (60 ml) water
1¼ cup (300 ml) (2½ sticks) (285 gm) (10 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature
Optional Flavorings: 2 oz (55 gm) unsweetened chocolate, melted, or 1½ teaspoon (7 ½ ml) almond extract, or 1½ teaspoon (7 ½ ml) vanilla extract, or any flavor you like


1. Put the egg yolks in a mixing bowl. Beat at high speed until the yolks have doubled in volume and are a lemon yellow.

2. Put the sugar and water in a heavy pan and cook over medium heat, stirring the sides down only until all the sugar is dissolved and the syrup reaches 235°F/112°C (or thread stage).

3. With the mixer on high, very slowly pour the syrup down the sides of the bowl, until all has been added. Be careful as the very hot syrup could burn you if it splashes from the beaters. Continue beating on high until the mixture is ROOM TEMPERATURE (about 15 mins). Still on high, beat in the soft, room temperature butter a tablespoon at a time. Add flavoring after you beat in the butter. Refrigerate the buttercream for at least an hour, and whip it smooth just before you use it.


Set bottom meringue on cake board with a dab of butter cream to hold it in place. Spread a
thin layer of buttercream and then place another meringue on top. Repeat with a thin layer of
buttercream, meringue, thin layer of buttercream, meringue, and finally buttercream the top and sides. Decorate with reserved nuts.

Refrigerate until ready to serve. It is easier to cut cold. May freeze.

Thank you to Jun, from Jun-blog, for his recipe.

2 cups (480 ml) (320 gm) (11.3 oz) rice flour
1/2 cup (120 ml) (80 gm) (2.8 oz) glutinous rice flour
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) baking powder
3/4 cup (180 ml) (170 gm) (6 oz) sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup (80 ml) (75 gm) (2⅔ oz) unsalted butter melted
1-1/2 cup (360 ml) coconut milk
6 pieces banana leaves cut into 8-inch (20 cm) circles
1 salted egg, sliced into 1/4-inch (6 mm) thick slices, recipe follows
Butter, salted or unsalted, for brushing the tops
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) white granulated sugar
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (10 gm) (⅓ oz) grated coconut (optional)
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) grated Edam cheese (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4.

2. Line six tart pans or ramekins with banana leaves and brush the leaves with butter.

3. Combine rice flour, glutinous rice flour, baking powder, and sugar together in a bowl. Beat eggs in a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle. Add butter and coconut milk and mix well. Add the flour mixture and blend well until smooth.

4. Pour the rice batter equally into the six pans or ramekins. Lay a slice of salted egg on top and bake until the cake is cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes. Take the cakes out of the oven and brush the top with butter. Turn the broiler to low and broil the cakes to brown the top for about two minutes.

5. Serve the cakes warm. Brush the cakes with butter and sprinkle with sugar, grated coconut, and grated Edam cheese.

Cooking notes from Jun:

• For the rice and glutinous rice flour, I recommend using the Thai brand commonly found in most Asian grocery stores.
• Use either tart pans or ramekins lined with banana leaves cut into circles. The cakes baked in 6-inch (15 cm) pans more closely resemble the traditional ones. The cakes baked in 4-inch (10 cm) ramekins are thicker and take longer to bake.
• Instead of a sliced salted egg, the cakes can be topped with slices of Edam or Gouda cheese.
• When using frozen grated coconut let the grated coconut thaw then place the thawed coconut on paper towels to soak up the extra moisture. Place them on a baking tray and lightly toast them for about a few minutes with the broiler (griller) turned on low. Use grated coconut and NOT grated young coconut.

Salted Eggs:

1 part salt
4 parts water
sichuan pepper corns
1 tablespoon brandy or whiskey
Eggs, duck or chicken (duck is traditional)


1. Boil all ingredients except eggs on the stove until the salt is dissolved. Let the liquid cool.
2. Place eggs in a clean mason jar, pour in the salt water, seal.
3. Place in your pantry for 2-3 weeks. To check if they are done, remove an egg, cook it, and taste it. You may decide that the rest of the eggs need a few more days.

Friday, 28 October 2011

October 2011 Daring Bakers Challenge - Povitica

The Daring Baker’s October 2011 challenge was Povitica, hosted by Jenni of The Gingered Whisk. Povitica is a traditional Eastern European Dessert Bread that is as lovely to look at as it is to eat!

When I discovered that this months challenge entailed rolling out dough on a cloth to be tissue-thin before rolling it, I was filled with utter dread. Memories of the strudel challenge came flooding back. Uh oh. But this is what being a Daring Baker is all about, right? I can't just wimp out because I failed in the past, I've got to at least give it a try! It sounded so delicious, I resolved to give it a go.

I set aside Sunday afternoon to get working. I decided to make just one loaf, as walnuts are very expensive here and the recipe called for a lot. In fact, I thought I'd bought more than plenty for my loaf but, when I delved into the cupboard for the filling ingredients whilst the dough was rising, I realised that I only had half the amount called for. Ooops. I did, however, find a bag of poppy seeds that needed using up (I read that traditional povitica is often made with poppy seeds), so I decided to go half and half and hope for the best.

The next hurdle I faced was rolling the dough out. My previous experience using a cloth resulted in in a serious mess, lots of angry muttering, and a strudel impatiently scraped off the cloth and messily plonked together on the baking tray. Rather than risk a similar episode, I decided to split the dough and make two rolls, using a silicon mat instead of my bed sheet.

Success! It was far easier to manipulate, and didn't stick at all - hurrah!

I was itching to try a slice, but this isn't a throw-it-together-and-bake affair and I was obliged to wait just a little longer...

Tadaa! Perfectly bronzed and an aroma making me drool, I still couldn't tuck in as it needed to cool before I could get it out of the tin... arghh!

But the wait was worth it - look who I found tucked inside! Or is it just me who can see the cute raccoon...

I think this was one of my favourite challenges so far. It was very interesting to learn about this bread and to search old recipes for advice and inspiration. I'd never heard of Povitica before, but I can certainly see myself making this again. Not too soon, though, as it is super-calorific and I had to give my bread to a friend to save me from myself! A big thank you to Jenni for such a great challenge - more like this please!


Preparation time:

To make Dough: 40 minutes
Rising: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Rolling and Assembly: 20 minutes
Baking: 1 hour
Cooling: 30 minutes
To Make the Filling: 15 minutes, including the grinding of the nuts

Dough Ingredients (Makes one loaf 1.25 lbs/565 grams)

To activate the Yeast:

½ Teaspoon (2½ ml/2¼ gm) Sugar
¼ Teaspoon (1¼ ml/¾ gm) All-Purpose (Plain) Flour
2 Tablespoons (30 ml) Warm Water
1½ Teaspoons (7½ ml/3½ gm/0.125 oz/½ sachet) Dry Yeast


½ Cup (120 ml) Whole Milk
3 Tablespoons (45 ml/43 gm/1½ oz) Sugar
¾ Teaspoon (3¾ ml/9 gm/0.17 oz) Table Salt
1 Large Egg
1 tablespoon (30 ml/30 gm/¼ stick/1 oz) Unsalted Butter, melted
2 cups (480 ml/280 gm/10 oz/0.62 lb) All-Purpose Flour, measure first then sift, divided

Filling Ingredients

1¾ Cups (420 ml/280 gm/10 oz) Ground English Walnuts
¼ Cup (60 ml) Whole Milk
¼ Cup (60 ml/58 gm/½ stick/2 oz) Unsalted Butter
1 Egg Yolk From A Large Egg, Beaten
¼ Teaspoon (1¼ ml) Pure Vanilla Extract
½ Cup (120 ml/115 gm/4 oz) Sugar
¼ Teaspoon (1¼ ml/1 gm) Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
¼ Teaspoon (1¼ ml/¾ gm) Cinnamon


2 Tablespoons (30 ml) Cold STRONG Coffee
1½ Teaspoons (7½ ml/7 gm/¼ oz) Granulated Sugar
Melted Butter

1. In a small bowl, stir 2 teaspoons sugar, 1 teaspoon flour, and the yeast into ½ cup warm water and cover with plastic wrap.

2. Allow to stand for 5 minutes

To Make the Dough:

3. In a medium saucepan, heat the milk up to just below boiling (about 180°F/82°C), stirring constantly so that a film does not form on the top of the milk. You want it hot enough to scald you, but not boiling. Allow to cool slightly, until it is about 110°F/43°C.

4. In a large bowl, mix the scalded milk, ¾ cup (180 gm/170 gm/6 oz) sugar, and the salt until combined.

5. Add the beaten egg, yeast mixture, melted butter, and 1 1/2 cups of flour.

6. Blend thoroughly and slowly add remaining flour, mixing well until the dough starts to clean the bowl.

7. Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead, gradually adding flour a little at a time, until smooth and does not stick.

9. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover loosely with a layer of plastic wrap and then a kitchen towel and let rise an hour and a half in a warm place, until doubled in size.

To Make the Filling

10. In a large bowl mix together the ground walnuts (and poppy seeds!), sugar, cinnamon and cocoa.

11. Heat the milk and butter to boiling.

12. Pour the liquid over the nut/sugar mixture.

13. Add the egg and vanilla and mix thoroughly.

14. Allow to stand at room temperature until ready to be spread on the dough.

15. If the mixture thickens, add a small amount of warm milk.

To Roll and Assemble the Dough:

16. Spread a clean sheet or cloth over your entire table so that it is covered.

17. Sprinkle with a couple of tablespoons to a handful of flour (use flour sparingly)

18. Place the dough on the sheet and roll the dough out with a rolling pin, starting in the middle and working your way out, until it measures roughly 10-12 inches (25½ cm by 30½ cm) in diameter.

19. Spoon 1 to 1.5 teaspoons (5ml to 7 ½ ml/4 gm to 7 gm) of melted butter on top.

20. Using the tops of your hands, stretch dough out from the center until the dough is thin and uniformly opaque. You can also use your rolling pin, if you prefer.

21. As you work, continually pick up the dough from the table, not only to help in stretching it out, but also to make sure that it isn’t sticking.

22. When you think it the dough is thin enough, try to get it a little thinner. It should be so thin that you can see the color and perhaps the pattern of the sheet underneath.

23. Spoon filling (see below for recipe) evenly over dough until covered.

24. Lift the edge of the cloth and gently roll the dough like a jelly roll.

25. Once the dough is rolled up into a rope, gently lift it up and place it into a greased loaf pan in the shape of a “U”, with the ends meeting in the middle. You want to coil the dough around itself, as this will give the dough its characteristic look when sliced.

26. Repeat with remaining three loaves, coiling each rope of dough in its own loaf pan.

27. Brush the top of each loaf with a mixture of ½ cup (120 ml) of cold STRONG coffee and 2 tablespoons (30ml/28 gm/1 oz) of sugar. If you prefer, you can also use egg whites in place of this.

28. Cover pans lightly will plastic wrap and allow to rest for approximately 15 minutes.

29. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4.

30. Remove plastic wrap from dough and place into the preheated oven and bake for approximately 15 minutes.

31. Turn down the oven temperature to slow 300°F/150°C/gas mark 2 and bake for an additional 45 minutes, or until done

32. Remove bread from oven and brush with melted butter.

33. Check the bread at 30 minutes to ensure that the bread is not getting too brown. You may cover the loaves with a sheet of aluminum foil if you need to.

34. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for 20-30 minutes, still in the bread pan. Remember, the bread weighs about 2.5 and it needs to be able to hold its own weight, which is difficult when still warm and fresh out of the oven. Allowing it to cool in the pan helps the loaf to hold its shape.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

September 2011 Daring Bakers Challenge - Croissants

O-hisashiburi... Long time no see. The last time I posted was just before heading to the UK for the first time in nearly 3 years. Less than two weeks before Japan was hit by the triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown. Not going to write about that right now, I'm sure you read and saw enough in the news reports. We live far away from the emergency zone, but even so those events knocked me flying off my feet. Writing about baking fancy cakes seemed frivolous

The Daring Bakers go retro this month! Thanks to one of our very talented non-blogging members, Sarah, the Daring Bakers were challenged to make Croissants using a recipe from the Queen of French Cooking, none other than Julia Child!

I've been keeping a close eye on recent challenge, looking for the right moment to jump back in. Some were just too expensive, others were never going to work in this sticky summer heat... But this time round I was over the moon to see a recipe that uses cheap (except for butter - 300 yen for 200g!) and easily available ingredients! :-) I immediately printed off the recipe to try and work out timings, and I could see that this was going to take some planning.

So, I carefully calculated exactly when I needed to do what, and set to work. Didn't take me long to realise that something was wrong, even though I was following the recipe to the letter... my dough was waaaay to dry, it was like trying to knead a block of rubber! A quick check of the Daring Bakers website revealed that there had been an error in the published recipe, which listed twice as much flour than was required... oh well. Starting again meant that I fell behind on my military precise operation, and I ended up working on the dough until past midnight, but I was determined that we would be eating delicious croissants for Sunday breakfast!

The dough was very lively and, even during the fridge proves, rose quite spectacularly - even bursting out of the plastic wrapping on one occasion. The final, overnight rise was unhindered by placing a heavy item on top of the package. Considering this, I was disappointed by the final rise after the croissant had been shaped. Perhaps they would continue to rise in the oven?

As I am currently counting every calorie I consume in a bit to be fit and healthy by the time I turn forty, I decided that I would make half of the batch of croissants that little bit more attractive to the children by including a chocolate filling. I had high hope that these might turn out something like the pain au chocolat I used to buy, fresh from the oven, on my way home from a night on the town during my my time in the south of France!

Well, they didn't rise much further so they were somewhat mini-croissants, but they were quite delicious! The texture was good, very authentic and not at all 'bready' (if you know what I mean). They were a tad salty though, so when I make these again (and I will) I must make sure to reduce the amount, but other than that there were no complaints!

In fact, the boys polished off the lot - thank goodness, otherwise I might have had to do that job myself! ;-)

Very happy to have learned a new skill and add a new recipe to the breakfast menu, I'd like to thank Sarah for hosting this month's challenge! Thanks to you, I am back :-)


Servings: 12 croissants

¼ oz (7 gm) of fresh yeast, or 1¼ teaspoon (6¼ ml/4 gm) of dry-active yeast (about ½ sachet)
3 tablespoons (45 ml) warm water (less than 100°F/38°C)
1 teaspoon (5 ml/4½ gm) sugar
1 3/4 cups (225 gm/½ lb) of strong plain flour (I used Polish all-purpose flour, which is 13% protein)
2 teaspoons (10 ml/9 gm) sugar
1½ teaspoon (7½ ml/9 gm) salt
½ cup (120 ml/¼ pint) milk (I am not sure if the fat content matters. I used 2%)
2 tablespoons (30 ml) tasteless oil (I used generic vegetable oil)
½ cup (120 ml/1 stick/115 gm/¼ lb) chilled, unsalted butter
1 egg, for egg wash


1. Mix the yeast, warm water, and first teaspoon of sugar in a small bowl. Leave aside for the yeast and sugar to dissolve and the yeast to foam up a little.
2. Measure out the other ingredients
3. Heat the milk until tepid (either in the microwave or a saucepan), and dissolve in the salt and remaining sugar
4. Place the flour in a large bowl.
5. Add the oil, yeast mixture, and milk mixture to the flour
6. Mix all the ingredients together using the rubber spatula, just until all the flour is incorporated
7. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and let it rest a minute while you wash out the bowl
8. Knead the dough eight to ten times only. The best way is as Julia Child does it in the video (see below). It’s a little difficult to explain, but essentially involves smacking the dough on the counter (lots of fun if you are mad at someone) and removing it from the counter using the pastry scraper.
9. Place the dough back in the bowl, and place the bowl in the plastic bag.
10. Leave the bowl at approximately 75°F/24°C for three hours, or until the dough has tripled in size.

11. After the dough has tripled in size, remove it gently from the bowl, pulling it away from the sides of the bowl with your fingertips.
12. Place the dough on a lightly floured board or counter top, and use your hands to press it out into a rectangle about 8 by 12 inches (20cm by 30cm).
13. Fold the dough rectangle in three, like a letter (fold the top third down, and then the bottom third up)
14. Place the dough letter back in the bowl, and the bowl back in the plastic bag.
15. Leave the dough to rise for another 1.5 hours, or until it has doubled in size. This second rise can be done overnight in the fridge

16. Place the double-risen dough onto a plate and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place the plate in the fridge while you prepare the butter.
17. Once the dough has doubled, it’s time to incorporate the butter
18. Place the block of chilled butter on a chopping board.
19. Using the rolling pin, beat the butter down a little, till it is quite flat.
20. Use the heel of your hand to continue to spread the butter until it is smooth. You want the butter to stay cool, but spread easily.

21. Remove the dough from the fridge and place it on a lightly floured board or counter. Let it rest for a minute or two.
22. Spread the dough using your hands into a rectangle about 14 by 8 inches (35 cm by 20 cm).
23. Remove the butter from the board, and place it on the top half of the dough rectangle
24. Spread the butter all across the top two-thirds of the dough rectangle, but keep it ¼ inch (6 mm) across from all the edges.
25. Fold the top third of the dough down, and the bottom third of the dough up.
26. Turn the dough package 90 degrees, so that the top flap is to your right (like a book).
27. Roll out the dough package (gently, so you don’t push the butter out of the dough) until it is again about 14 by 8 inches (35 cm by 20 cm).
28. Again, fold the top third down and the bottom third up.
29. Wrap the dough package in plastic wrap, and place it in the fridge for 2 hours.

30. After two hours have passed, take the dough out of the fridge and place it again on the lightly floured board or counter.
31. Tap the dough with the rolling pin, to deflate it a little
32. Let the dough rest for 8 to 10 minutes
33. Roll the dough package out till it is 14 by 8 inches (35 cm by 20 cm).
34. Fold in three, as before
35. Turn 90 degrees, and roll out again to 14 by 8 inches (35 cm by 20 cm).
36. Fold in three for the last time, wrap in plastic, and return the dough package to the fridge for two more hours (or overnight, with something heavy on top to stop it from rising)

37. It’s now time to cut the dough and shape the croissants
38. First, lightly butter your baking sheet so that it is ready
39. Take the dough out of the fridge and let it rest for ten minutes on the lightly floured board or counter
40. Roll the dough out into a 20 by 5 inch rectangle (51 cm by 12½ cm).
41. Cut the dough into two rectangles (each 10 by 5 inches (25½ cm by 12½ cm))
42. Place one of the rectangles in the fridge, to keep the butter cold
43. Roll the second rectangle out until it is 15 by 5 inches (38 cm by 12½ cm).
44. Cut the rectangle into three squares (each 5 by 5 inches (12½ cm by 12½ cm))
45. Place two of the squares in the fridge
46. The remaining square may have shrunk up a little bit in the meantime. Roll it out again till it is nearly square
47. Cut the square diagonally into two triangles.
48. Stretch the triangle out a little, so it is not a right-angle triangle, but more of an isosceles.
49. Starting at the wide end, roll the triangle up towards the point, and curve into a crescent shape.
50. Place the unbaked croissant on the baking sheet
51. Repeat the process with the remaining squares of dough, creating 12 croissants in total.
52. Leave the tray of croissants, covered lightly with plastic wrap, to rise for 1 hour

53. Preheat the oven to very hot 475°F/240°C/gas mark 9.
54. Mix the egg with a teaspoon of water
55. Spread the egg wash across the tops of the croissants.
56. Put the croissants in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until the tops are browned nicely
57. Take the croissants out of the oven, and place them on a rack to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

February 2011 Daring Bakers Challenge - Panna Cotta and Florentine Cookies

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.

I can't believe that, considering I had this month's challenge done and dusted right at the start of the month, I didn't manage to post my results on time! It's been a busy month, and we're off to the UK on Saturday and there's still so much to get done...

I did manage to complete both elements of the challenge, although not at the same time. It was actually very straight forward, I didn't really have any trouble with the recipes (apart from trying to throw things together in a hurry, and I should know better by now).

I made the panna cotta for my MIL, and went with the vanilla recipe provided. I made a chocolate syrup and poured it in the bottom of each glass (not easy to see in the photos, I should have used a white background!), poured the vanilla panna cotta over the top (got a few bubbles around the edges) and decorated with melted dark chocolate.

The only thing I changed in the recipe was the vanilla pod - at 600 yen for one, I went for the much cheaper option of using vanilla extract! I also halved the recipe, as there were only a few people to eat the dessert, and cream here is far too expensive to waste (not that there would have been any left over, they went down a treat)!

Giada's Vanilla 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
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) granulated sugar
pinch of salt


  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 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.
  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.
The Florentine cookies got made a week or so later, which worked in my favour as the calorie count of the panna cotta and cookies together would most likely have taken me over one day's allowance in a single serving. These Florentines are nothing like the Florentines from back home (fruit and nuts, yum!) and really were a doddle to make. OK, I'll come clean and admit that the first batch was already in the oven when I realised that the syrup, milk and vanilla I'd measured out were still sitting on the kitchen counter - oops. I did wonder why the mixture seemed a little dry as I was spooning it out onto the baking tray. Funnily enough, they were actually very nice - crunchy but a little pale in colour :-) Once I'd stirred the liquids into the remaining mixture, the resulting cookies were pretty much as they should be.

I didn't enjoy these florentines as much as the ones from home - made with oats they had a rather porrige-y flavour - but once I'd sandwiched them together with some melted chocolate they reminded me of some biscuits sold at Ikea (Gilles?), oh my, they were gooood...

Nestle Florentine Cookies


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. 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).

Friday, 11 February 2011


It is very rare for our town to see snow that actually sticks around where we live. So when the boys got up this morning, there was no time wasted by getting changed out of their pyjamas (or even putting on a coat, for that matter).

I, on the other hand, stayed inside and watched from the (relatively) warm.

I know that my friends in the north of the country are laughing... you call that snow?! Yep. Maybe even enough to get me out of spending the afternoon at SIL's!