Monday, November 23, 2009

The Cookbook Challenge - Week 2 - Indian - Chai Cupcakes

I love Indian food. Tandoori, dhal makhani, jahlfrezi, naan, sweet, sweet naan… love it. I thought I could pull out my Indian cookbooks and whip up a curry, but fate stepped in and while I was looking through 500 Cupcakes for the citrus challenge, I came across these:

Chai cupcakes

There is a variation in the book which is for vanilla and white chocolate chai cupcakes, and since I received my order from USA Foods of Hershey’s white chocolate cinnamon chips last week, I thought they’d go perfectly with the Bondi Chai Club Cinnamon


 Perfect match?

Ok, so Bondi isn’t terribly Indian. Let’s focus on the chai and cinnamon part.

The Hershey's chips were shipped on what must have been the hottest day of the year and were left at my front door. They were in a semi-solid mass on my arrival home from work.

I needed to do some chopping, bashing it on the bench a few times did most of the work, but it just needed a little more.

I didn’t bother to look for buttermilk in the supermarket, to create 2/3 cup of buttermilk substitute I used 2/3 tablespoon of lemon juice and added enough regular milk to make up 2/3 cup.

That looks a lot more like a dough than a batter, and is almost too much for my monster 320 watt Breville Wizz mixer to handle. It certainly made some noises which indicated it was not overly impressed with what it was being asked to do. Set facial expression to sceptical… now.

The mixture was really thick and sticky, I wasn’t really sure how they’d go. I kept re-checking the recipe to see if I’d misread something or omitted an ingredient, but I couldn’t work out what I’d done wrong. From the baked result, looks like I didn’t do anything wrong (which was nice after my recent brownie misadventure).

I thought apple would go really well with the cinnamon, so tried baking a slice of apple on the top of a couple of the cupcakes. Taste wise this was a good idea although I’m not sold on the final presentation. Next time smaller apples, whole circle slices, less full cups.

What I found interesting about these cupcakes is that they only use egg whites, and no yolks. It’s the first cupcake I’ve come across that does that.

Chai cupcakes – 500 Cupcakes

2 cups self-raising flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon chai tea powder (I used Bondi Chai Club Cinnamon)
1/4 cup sweet butter, softened (I assumed this just meant unsalted)
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar (I used regular brown sugar – anyone know what ‘light brown sugar’ is?)
2 egg whites
2/3 cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees celsius (I preheated mine to 175 with the fan on, and it actually maintained its temperature – I think that’s the secret with my temperamental oven, use the fan).

Place 12 baking cups in a muffin pan. Mix the flour, baking powder, salt and chai powder. In a separate bowl beat the butter and sugar until smooth (I found smooth was a flexible term, just beat it until you get bored – that’s what I did). Add egg whites slowly, beating well, then slowly add the dry ingredients, then the buttermilk.

At this point if you want to do the white chocolate and vanilla variation, this is  where you add ½ cup of white chocolate chips and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. I added ½ cup of Hershey’s cinnamon chips, and no vanilla.

Bake for 20 minutes (mine took 20 minutes exactly).

The recipe suggests that it makes 12, and that’s what I produced, but next time I will make them smaller and make 18. And you can re-set your facial expression to hungry now, turns out my pessimism was unjustified.

And just because the book is such a pretty pink....

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Brownies by Request

Mmmmm brownies. My favourite recipe for brownies is from Donna Hay's Modern Classics Book 2 (it's reproduced in her Simple Essentials Chocolate book with 1/4 of a cup less flour). I had a special request for brownies about a week ago and didn't quite make it happen, so with the rain pouring down outside today I thought it was a good day for their chocolatey rich goodness. Unfortunately, despite making these more than 10 times before, today they didn't turn out the best. I could have denied the disaster, but would that offend the blogging gods?

As you can see, I was unable to keep all the yolks together when I cracked the eggs - I think it looks like a smiley face sticking its tongue out.

The cocoa I use is Cote d'Ivoire Red African Cocoa from Coffee Snobs which is 100% cocoa, no sugar, no fillers, no dairy, no nuts,  gluten free and delicious. I usually use a 60-70% dark chocolate like Lindt when I make these, but this time I used Cadbury Old Gold mildly dark chocolate (45%) as there were 8 220g blocks sitting in the pantry from a special offer that involved the purchase of 12 blocks for $5.99 from 1-day!   Unfortunately I can't blame my failure on using a different chocolate than usual, as I have produced quality brownies using this chocolate before.

I thought I'd make brownie muffins, and just reduce the cooking time. Can you say burnt? How about stuck?

They were only a little crisp on top and I didn't need to actually present them to anyone except my boyfriend, who luckily understands that I can't always be perfect, and the deliciousness was still there - a little drier than normal, but still quite good.

What did I learn today?
  1. Don't decide that your baking powder is probably a bit old and throw in a bit more to compensate, it's a brownie, not a volcano, it doesn't really need to rise that much.
  2. Donna knows best. If she says use a slice tin, use a slice tin.
  3. Give up on maintaining a constant temperature in my oven, or even achieving the temperature I want - today it was set at 220, preheated for 30 minutes, and fluctuated from 130 to 190, when I wanted 160.
Chocolate Brownies - Donna Hay Modern Classics Book 2
200g dark chocolate, chopped
250g butter, chopped
1 3/4 cups brown sugar
4 eggs
1/3 cup cocoa powder, sifted
1 1/4 cups plain flour, sifted
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees. Place the chocolate and butter in a saucepan over low heat and stir until smooth. Allow to cool slightly.

Place the sugar, eggs, cocoa, flour and baking powder in a bowl. Add the chocolate mixture and mix until combined. Pour the mixture into a 20cm square slice tin lined with non-stick baking paper. Bake for 50 minutes or until set. Cool slightly in the tin.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Cookbook Challenge - Week 1 - Citrus - No-Churn Lemon & Mascarpone Icecream

Rilsta from My Food Trail, Kat from spatulaspoonandsaturday, Iron Chef Shellie and Agnes from offthespork created The Cookbook Challenge. The idea is to create something each week over 52 weeks, from a set theme, using one of your cookbooks. It appears I may not be the only one who gets accused of never using the cookbooks I have and therefore not needing new ones (I don't know who comes up with this sort of nonsense - you can never have too many cookbooks).

It's been 30-40 degrees in Melbourne all week, so I thought icecream would be a nice treat, but I don't have an icecream maker. Along comes Valli, not only with a no-churn icecream recipe, but lemon & mascarpone icecream - perfect for this week's citrus theme! Is it cheating if I found this recipe on Taste but cooked it from the magazine?

Yes, I have Delicious magazines from 2005, and earlier.

I should have made this last weekend, as today it's not even supposed to reach 25 degrees, and has just started raining as I'm publishing this post. Oh well. Anytime is icecream time right?

The book you can see behind Valli (below) "Microwaving for 1 or 2 the Australian Way" by Sheryl Brownlee also made a guest appearance in the creation of this icecream. Originally published in 1987 it must have been popular as I have a reprint version from 1990, and it is part of a series which includes "Microwaving Main Meals and Desserts" and "Microwaving Vegetables the Australian Way" (first published as "Microwaving Vegetables the New Zealand Way" according to the National Library of Australia - I'm not sure how our methods would differ, culturally).

This book was f
ound in an op-shop by my mother when I left home, and obviously she expected most of my cooking to involve only a microwave, and no crowds. While she was probably right, this book contains some interesting, simple recipes to do in the microwave like Nanna's special curry mix - old school style with sultanas, curry powder and apricot jam although, sadly, that's not featuring today, this book is still useful even though my skills have advanced somewhat. I pulled it out for the crispy meringues and basic lemon honey recipes to incorporate into the icecream.

Microwave Lemon Curd (Basic Lemon Honey)
from Microwaving for 1 or 2 the Australian Way. Cooking times and temps adjusted for a 1200w microwave - the book uses a 650w. Makes 3 cups.

Combine 2-3 lemons, rind and juice (I used 4, I like it lemony), 250g sugar, 100g butter and microwave on medium (50%) for 3 minutes until the butter melts.

Hmmm, that seems like a lot of cornflour - I wonder if this will work?

Beat 2 eggs, 1 cup water and 2 tablespoons of cornflour in a separate bowl, then pour into the butter/lemon mixture and mix well. Microwave on medium for 3 minutes, stir, then microwave for a further 5 minutes.

Phase 1 complete.

Crunchy Meringues from Microwaving for 1 or 2 the Australian Way
All this needs is egg white and icing sugar. I used 2 egg whites, and a bit over 500g icing sugar - and ended up with far too much meringue mix, I used about a quarter of what this produced to make 175g of meringue. Whisk your egg white until it's frothy, but not firm, then mix in 2 tablespoons of icing sugar at a time until the mixture looks like fondant - it may take a while, the book suggests that it will take about 16 tablespoons per egg white. I got impatient and added a bunch at a time, which worked just fine.

Still not ready!

Once your mixture is dry to touch without crumbling, it's time to microwave!

Pinch off grape sized pieces and roll them into balls placing them, about six at a time, around the edge of a microwave safe plate lined with baking paper, I trimmed the paper to fit so that it wouldn't brush up against the sides of the microwave and knock about the meringues. Microwave on medium for 1 minute 45 seconds.

From this....

to this

Phase 2 complete.

This recipe will not give you chewy meringues, but they are very close in texture to the meringue nests you buy in the supermarket, and since that's what the Lemon & Mascarpone Icecream recipe calls for, they're perfect in this instance. If you have heaps left over, like I did, you can wrap the mixture in Gladwrap and keep it in the fridge for a week or so, and just make more meringues as you desire.

And now the icecream. I needed a container larger than the 2 litre container specified because, although
the recipe calls for 1 jar of lemon curd, I used the full 3 cups I made earlier and, like with the curd, I used more than the 2 lemons listed (2 zested, 3 squeezed), plus I stirred through 175g of meringue instead of 100g since some of the comments on the Taste website suggested the meringue isn't noticeable at the suggested quantity. The resulting mixture is delicious by itself without freezing, and would make a great dessert by itself, like a zesty, creamy, cheesecakey Eton Mess. If you can't wait, put half in the freezer to make icecream, and serve the other half straight away, layering with some larger meringue pieces, swirling in some blueberries. Now that's what I wish I'd done. Why didn't I think of that before I put it all in the freezer?

I was tempted to make my own mascarpone, like NotQuiteNigella did, but given I'm also supposed to be studying for exams this weekend, I thought that might be going a bit too far. If you aren't procrastinating like me, you can use purchased lemon curd and meringue nests, and save yourself some time while still impressing family and friends by making your own icecream.

Et voila! Creamy, homemade icecream, that you can't tell wasn't churned. It's gorgeously smooth, and has a strong, but not overpowering, lemon flavour, while the mascarpone gives it a cheesecake-like taste. If you prefer your lemon taste mild, following the recipes' recommendations rather than mine should give you what you're after. I didn't grate the rind in either the icecream or the curd finely enough, so I'll probably wait until I obtain a Microplane zester before making this again.

Week 1 of The Cookbook Challenge down with 3 recipes prepared, 2 books used and icecream to eat! Although, having used my freezer and microwave for this week's challenge hasn't advanced my justification of needing two ovens.

Looking forward to next week's challenge - Indian. Any suggestions?

UPDATE - Check out everyone's posts for Week 1 over at My Food Trail.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

[Insert Exciting Title Here]

Ok, so that's not the best name for my first ever post but it's the best I can do being a complete left-brainer.

Welcome to SomethingByKate. Since I'm about to move into my new house with two ovens (I can't say that without a massive smile) and many people just don't seem to understand, I thought I'd share how great it really is with other food nerds out there.

Well I don't have my two ovens yet, but this weekend I found evidence as to why I need at least one new one - half my meringue kisses were crunchy and half were chewy. Which is great, I like both, but was certainly not my intention! I had real trouble keeping my oven at a constant low temperature, it's almost 20 years old, gas and tends to go out if you keep it too low. Although, a contributing factor may have been my inability to pay attention and adding twice as much sugar as I needed for the number of egg whites. I couldn't work out why the sugar just would NOT dissolve and then I realised that I'd only used 2 egg whites, but 1 cup of caster sugar, so I needed to add more beaten egg whites. For everyone's reference - 1 egg white needs 1/4 cup of caster sugar. 1/2 cup is just too much!

What prompted my meringue massacre? A Sunday visit to the Yarra Valley Farmers' Market at Yering Station produced a jar of tangy and smooth 'Unforgettable' passionfruit curd. Unforgettable products suggested purchasing their mini meringues to use to sandwich the curd, but given I have far too many egg whites in my freezer, I thought I'd make my own.

See my stash? And I was very restrained, there were many, many delicious things.

I do love vegetables that taste like vegetables, and not moist cardboard. The gentleman manning the stall told me that the light purple and white eggplant is a variety called Angelina, although Google was unable to confirm this for me. It's a delicately flavoured eggplant, which when roasted was very creamy.

Ricci's Bikkie's cinnamon sugar turkish bread crisps were awesome - they were the first thing I tried when I walked in, but didn't want to crush them by having them at the bottom of my bag, and it was so good I remembered to go back and buy them! I also appreciate the Ricci's Bikkies' stall holder pointing me in the direction of the coffee stall - it was 9am on Sunday after an hours drive to get there! The chilli and parmesan sables' had a bit too much kick for me for that time of the day, but they were very good according to my companion, with a chilli hit afterwards.

Well, long first post. I intend to keep blogging, maybe I can bribe myself - if I can go 12 months and average one post a week, do I deserve a KitchenAid benchtop mixer?

Tell me, what do you do to to reward (read bribe) yourself when you've achieved something?

To find a farmers market near you visit the Victorian Farmers Market Association website.

Yarra Valley Regional Food Group Farmers Market
Unforgettable Products (website under construction)
Ricci's Bikkies
Free Hit Counter