Friday, October 27, 2006

Chocolate Ganache Hearts

My hopes were high. My ambitions were big. My plans were tight. My petit fours were going to be elegant, cute and sexy, just like the girl I was envious of in highschool. I was going to make four. Four petit fours. Fitting, no?

All this in pursuit for this month's Sugar High Friday, hosted by Jeanne of Cooksister!. A worthy pursuit! After I was done however, I must admit that I was tempted to announce never to attempt petit fours again, such a disaster as I had. I am not one to say never, though. So I'll leave that open.

In the end I think I became a bit overwhelmed. Same day I had fruit mince to bottle, and on request cheesey scones AND rhubarb crumble cupcakes. My timing was not the best. In the end, the best looking plate were these chocolate ganache hearts. Simply two layers of chocolate sponge with ganache poured over the top to produce a glistening layered effect. The ganache was definitely the tastiest bit about it and I literally had to stop myself from diving into it. I should have just re-made these as a petite four, they were much more impressive!

Monday, October 23, 2006

An afternoon in The Orchard

A lazy afternoon spent in the dwindling sunshine of mid October. Apples and history holds on to the branches of burdened, sighing trees. I might have picked one to relieve the tension slightly, but an apple volunteered and let go. I read a poem instead. Whispers of families, friends and lovers hardly interrupt the silence, only the mesmerising flutter of the butterflies distract.

Tea for two with fluffy scones smeared in red. Clotting cream makes it go down easier.

The Orchard
Mill Way
Grantchester, CB3 9ND
Telephone: 01223 845 788

Saturday, October 21, 2006

In preparation: Fruit Mince

I've just finished preparing this year's batch of fruit mince ready for the Christmas season. This will be my second year now, and I'm continually trying to develop the recipe for the right balance of alcohol, spices and suet. Next year's batch will be even better, I'm sure.

For some reason, I get a great sense of accomplishment after bottling my homemade fruit mince. It's not that hard though, that's the thing. I guess it's just the feeling of preserving, of sterilising the jars and making sure that everything is just right.

Just a quick note on the name. I've stopped calling it mincemeat. Just the thought of a mincemeat pie conjures up images of Aussie meat pies smothered in tomato sauce. I don't like thinking of that when preparing fruit mince pies at Christmas. From this day forward, it will be known to me as fruit mince.

Christmas Fruit Mince

Makes 2.7 kg (in other words, a whole bunch)

350 grams of seedless raisins
225 grams of sultanas
225 grams of currants
110 grams of mixed peel
110 grams of chopped dried prunes
350 grams of soft brown sugar
450 grams of cooking apples, grated
225 grams of shredded suet
Grated rind & juice of 2 oranges
Grated rind & juice of 2 lemons
50 grams of chopped almonds
50 grams of chopped pecan nuts
1 tablespoon of mixed spice
1 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
150 millilitres of brandy

Simply mix all of the ingredients together, except half of the brandy in a large ovenproof bowl. Cover and leave to stand overnight.

Next day, preheat the oven to 110º Celsius, cover the bowl with foil and place in the oven for about 3 hours. Once cooked, allow to cool completely, then mix in the rest of the brandy and put into sterilised jars.

Allow to mature at least two weeks before using. Once sealed it may keep for up to a year.

- Last year I used animal suet, this year I've used vegetable. I think the vegetable will prove to be nicer, in the end, after preliminary tastings.
- This year the mix will be more citrus-y, so the quality of the fruits is definitely a factor.
-Be generous with the nuts, they are luxurious!
-Spice to taste. I love cardamom and cloves, not to mention the cinnamon.
-Go on... put a bit more brandy in ;)

Monday, October 16, 2006

Rieska - A Finnish Bread

In Finland you can find an amazing array of different types of bread for your eating pleasure. From the dessert-like leipäjuusto (breadcheese) best served with warmed cloudberry sauce through to a large variety of ruisleipä (ryebread). Today is World Bread Day and in honour of this all-important staple, I choose to serve up one of Finland's oldest breads, rieska. Rieska is thought to be the very oldest of all Finnish breads, as it was produced in the days before the fermentation technique was discovered. Every village and area of Finland has its own recipe.

One of my fondest memories of Finland is visiting Mummu (Grandma) at her smallholder's farm and eating her rieska straight out of the oven, hot with butter. When I went back in 2005, I was on the lookout for Mummun rieska, and as always, I wasn't disappointed. Her's, I believe, is made simply with barley flour, water, salt and maybe a touch of milk. They are made well in advance and are hung from the rafters to keep over the extreme winter that Finland experiences. Even though the ingredients are simple, what made Mummu's rieska different was her old, wood stove that after years and years of experience was used to its fullest ability to produce simply wonderful tasting rieska.

When Zorra invited us to participate in World Bread Day by baking any type of bread, I knew that I would have to bake rieska. Unfortunately, I didn't have any barley flour on hand but rye flour worked just as well. This recipe is taken from The Finnish Cookbook by Beatrice A. Ojakangas and uses buttermilk and cream. It was very, very tasty. Recipe after the jump.


125 millilitres of buttermilk
125 millilitres of double cream
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of sugar
1 cup of barley flour
1 tablespoon of melted butter

Mix together in a bowl the buttermilk, cream, salt and sugar. Stir in the flour and beat until smooth. Add the butter.

Pour the batter into a well greased and floured 9-inch cake pan. Bake in a very hot oven, 210 degrees Celsius, for about 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve hot with butter.

- I substitute the buttermilk for the same amount of milk with 1/2 a teaspoon of vinegar added to it. The standard rule is 1 cup of milk to 1 teaspoon of vinegar.
- I substituted the barley flour for rye flour and it was equally tasty.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The BBC Good Food Show, London

This is just a quick reminder that the London BBC Good Food Show is fast approaching, and as a lover of food festivals I'm just bursting at the seams with excitement. On the 11th of November, we'll be ordering our Christmas goose and mingling with the gourmands and spending too much money! What fun! If you haven't already bought tickets, you can find them here, and don't forget to check any recent Olive magazine for £1.50 off the entrance price. If you are going to be around I'd love to meet up! Give me an email at daydreamdelicious at gmail dot com and we can swap numbers! YAY, YAY, YAY!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

A sweet parcel from France

This month's round of European Blogging By Post was hosted by the gracious Johanna who is the Passionate Cook. Yesterday I received my parcel! I quickly discovered that it was from Cindy over at Gorgeous and Delicious. And here it is!

The parcel contained the largest bag of sweets that I have ever seen in my whole life! The bag included Cindy's favourite, bonbons, which I think I will adopt as my favourite - purely based on the name. The bag is now being shared out between my grateful colleagues!

Next up is this very tasty block of Lindt chocolate - macaron flavour, which is very nice, but unavailable here in the UK. Behind that is a box of La Paille d'Or, wafers with strawberry flavour jam which Cindy ate as a child. Lastly, behind that is a box of rolled crepes called Gavottes which Cindy uses to make a cake called Trianon. Unfortunately, I couldn't find the recipe on Cindy's blog... Thank you very much for the parcel Cindy!

If you'd like to see what I sent, please visit Betty over at Cuisine Quotidienne. To view all of the other participants go here! And finally, after the jump, is a recipe for the Hershey's chocolate cookies that I sent to Betty and the first recipe I've made from my newly acquired Hershey's Cookbook.

Chocolate Walnut Wheels

80 grams of butter
1 cup of sugar
1 egg
6 tablespoons of cocoa
2 tablespoons of light vegetable oil (such as rapeseep oil)
1/4 teaspoon of vanilla
2/3 cup of flour
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of chopped walnuts

Cream the butter and add the sugar gradually. Beat well until light and fluffy. Add the egg and mix well. Stir the cocoa and oil together to make a paste and add that to the mix with the vanilla. Add flour, salt and nuts and beat well. Form the biscuits with a teaspoon onto a baking sheet. Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for about 10 minutes, then let cool.

- Hershey's suggest garnishing the biscuit with a walnut half before baking.
- When I'm making biscuits, I always make a sausage out of the dough with cling film before shaping. I then chill or freeze until needed. When its ready, it's so much easier to then just slice the cookies off the sausage instead of shaping them!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

A warming spiced pumpkin, carrot and sage soup.

It's official. October is my favourite month. I've claimed it. Especially this year. Cooler nights that are drawing in. Cycle rides where I keep cool the whole way. And a four month cough that is slowly starting to dissipate. My bets are that by end of October, it will be completely gone. I think I'm allergic to Summer.

Thursday brought with it another box of vegetables, as it always does but it gave a little hint of things to come. It was a small offering, half a medium sized squash, but it was a celebrated offering in the form of this warming soup inspired by Clotilde's own.

Spiced Pumpkin, Carrot & Sage Soup

Half a medium sized squash or pumpkin, skins removed and cubed
3 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 litre of vegetable stock
1 teaspoon of ginger (to taste)
a pinch of dried chili flakes
1 teaspoon of cumin
2 teaspoons of dried sage or 1 teaspoons of fresh sage

Saute in a large pot the onion in some olive oil until softened, add the ginger, chili and cumin and fry lightly until they become aromatic. Add the pumpkin and carrots and continue frying until they just start to catch on the bottom of the pot. Pour in the stock, and add the dried sage (if using). Bring to the boil and simmer until the vegetables are soft and tender, about 40 minutes. Add the fresh sage (if using) and puree with an immersion blender until smooth. Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, crusty warm bread and a favourite white wine. Thank the person who made it for you (thanks, Dan).

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Johannisbeer-Orange with Vanilla Jam Cupcakes

Following hot on the footsteps of the matcha cupcakes came these little mouthfuls of heaven. Each cupcake was one mouthful of absolute joy. I couldn't believe my tastebuds at first so I had to have another one, and another one and maybe another one after that. Since there was about 45 on my kitchen bench, I thought best not to tempt myself too much and we both whisked them off to our respective colleagues. "Oh my god", I heard along with "that's so good" and "how did you do that?". Cries from Dan's camp included "they're the best yet" and "I wish it was the size of a football". But alas, I cannot take credit for it, the magic ingredient was Petra's Johannisbeer-orange with Vanilla Jam that arrived in my parcel that she sent me.

To really highlight the flavours of the jam, I kept the cupcakes relatively simple, using a vanilla cake recipe and vanilla buttercream frosting recipe from my newly acquired copy of Crazy About Cupcakes. Hot out of the oven, I injected the cakes with a squirt of the jam from a baking syringe. After they had cooled, I frosted them. A whole pecan on top added that certain something to the texture that was previously missing.

Golden Cupcakes

110 grams of butter, softened
1 cup of caster sugar
2 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups of flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 cup of milk

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Arrange mini cupcake papers on a tray, ready to fill. In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, beating between each addition. Add the vanilla and mix well.

In a separate bowl combine the dry ingredients. Add them to the butter mixture a little at a time, alternating with the milk. Mix well once all incorporated.

With a clean whisk and bowl, whip the egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter. Fill the cupcake liners 1/2 to 3/4 full. Bake for 12 - 15 minutes until golden on top.

Straight out of the oven inject each cupcake with a little jam of choice. If the jam is too thick, thin it down by microwaving it for 20 or so seconds on high. Inject from the top and cover the hole with frosting once the cupcakes have cooled.

Don't get addicted.

Vanilla Frosting

1 1/2 cups of icing sugar
55 grams of butter
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 tablespoon of milk

Whip the butter and gradually add the sugar while doing so. Stir in the vanilla and milk. Whip until smooth and of spreading consistency.

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