Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Dining with the Bloggers, February 28th., 2007

Well HELLO! The woman just won an Oscar! If that isn't reason to celebrate and do a little DwB with the person on the recieving end, I don't know what is!

You know her - I know her - EVERYBODY knows her (and if for some odd, odd reason you don't, I'm not sure you're actually entitled to call yourself a foodblogger ;-)). Sam Breach of Becks & Posh and Food Blog S'cool fame not only busies herself with reviews of restaurants in San Francisco (or Las Vegas or England or wherever she may be at any given time) teaching us new things, promoting great purveyors, bay area bloggers and goodwill events - she also makes food. Real food, from scratch. Yes, siree. Not only that - she writes with an honesty and straightforwardness that I love. I may not be able to get the ingredients she mentions or go to the restaurants, but her writing makes reading about them plenty worth my browsing-minutes nonetheless.

She makes lots, lots and lots of food (this one had me scratching my head at first, though - then I got wiser). I don't know why it has taken me so long to make one of her recipes. So when I finally did, I tried three at the same time. Don't say I don't do things all the way when I finally decide to do them.

I had a tea party of sorts, for the girlfriends this past Sunday (and therefore, pardon the photos - or enjoy the "in-the-middle-of-it-actually-happening feel of them"). And seeing Sam is British, who better to turn to for suggestions?

A loooong, loooong time ago, she posted about Town Hall Scones with Ham and Chili Jam (that rhymes, doesn't it?) and in that post even graciously linked back to my recipe for sweet chili sauce - so naturally I had to try those. With Serrano ham and homemade chili sauce, and a dollop of thick créme fraîche underneith (sorry Sam, I know you want butter with your scones - but his is a really nice, almost buttery créme fraîche!) - they rocked. Solidly. I'd never have thought of the combo myself, but the dried ham and sweet-strong chili sauce, mellowed by créme fraîche and a crumbly, buttery scone played really well together. Sam said her recipe made 20 scones - I only got 10 out of the recipe, but seeing I cut them in half, they made for 20 "canapés" - which fitted my purpose perfectly.

Next up, I made Sam's modified version of Jamie Oliver's Bakewell Tart. Yes please. Now, I haven't tried the original recipe, but Sam's version worked a charm. I got enough topping for 16 small tarts out of the portion - and next time I want to try the muffin cup thing, 'cause they look absolutely adorable! Do make sure you use a generous amount of jam - you want to be able to taste that it's there.

Last, but definetly not least, I tried Digestives & Potted Cheese - instead of the mulled port wine jelly, I made a membrillo/quince bread ('cause I had some quinces lying around and you know I'm not about to throw anything out these days!) The Digestive recipe made about 40 (5 cm. diameter) and keeps really well (I still have some in a canister - great for the munchies) I really like the idea of the potted cheese, but please, please, use a decent cheese. Mine was only half way in that category and there's no doubt in my mind it would have been plain fantastic had I sourced a more interesting cheese. The sherry and nutmeg does come through, but that's no excuse to mask an inferior product - besides, Sam is all about the good ingredients, so it really wouldn't be in her spirit! Crumbly goodness with cheese on top - yum!

Now I just have to find a way to visit all of the restaurants she reviews!:-)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

[DANSK] Fastelavn, er mit navn... - Fastelavnsboller!

Late to the party? Who me? Noooo. But. To my excuse, Fastelavnsboller is not something we eat on a special day here in Denmark, but on any day around a special time of year - around Fastelavn. Fastelavn is, as far as I can gather just our version of Lent, but also sorta like Halloween - kids dress up, go trick-or-treating and bash up a barrel filled with candy (and in ancient times a cat - you know, to knock evil out of this world or something?! - it's our version of a piñata. But, back to the Fastelavnsboller - they take over after all of the Christmas goodies disappear from the shops, are here until the bakers seem to run out of them and then we don't see them until next year.

There are actually two (or more) versions: a cream filled one, like this one, and a more eat-on-the-go version which is more like a Danish (or wienerbrød, as we would call it here) I never tried making these before, but surely had my share of them when I worked at a bakery as a teenager. And not to toot my own horn, but these are TONS better! Heh! It's a yeasted dough, but you then treat it like you were making puff pastry, rolling it out and putting thin, thin slivers of butter, folding it up, roll it out, another layer of butter, etc., etc. It works a charm. And they go nice and buttery, and who doesn't like nice and buttery?

For other versions, check out Pille's regal looking ones or Dagmar's Marzipan-filled version.

Fastelavnsboller - from Camilla Plum's Dejligt
15 g. fresh yeast
200 ml. milk, lukewarm
500 g. all-purpose flour
100 g. sugar
zest of one lemon
1 tsp. ground cardamom (original recipe calls for 2, but I think that's just a tad overwhelming)
2 eggs
175 g. butter, cold, cold, COLD!
1 egg for brushing

Dissolve the yeast in the milk. Add sugar, flour, lemon zest, cardamom and eggs, kneading to make a smooth dough. Leave to prove until double in size - I let my dough prove in the fridge overnight, about 8 hours and it worked a charm.

Roll out the dough very thin - as thin as you can. Now, for the butter/puff pastry-ish method: I froze my butter about an hour before I needed it for this, and then sliced it, ever so thinly on my mandoline. It worked really well. Cover the right two thirds of the rolled out dough, then fold over the last third on top of the middle third, covered in butter. Complete the folding by folding the double layer of dough and butter on top of the last butter-covered third. That made complete sense, didn't it?:-) Continue rolling and foldind until you've used all of the butter. Fold one more time, and roll out to a thickness of about 1 cm. Cut into desired shapes - amount depending on the size (mine were about 5 centimeters in diameter and I made about 40) Brush with beaten egg.

Leave to prove until well risen, about 2 hours. Preheat the oven to 190 Celcius and bake for 10 minutes, more or less. They have to be brown and beautifull on top, and baked all the way through - no worse thing than yeasted, buttery UNbaked dough!

Leave to cool, then cut in half through the middle. Fill with a teaspoonfull of your desired filling and a spoonful of créme (see below). Decorate with the funniest color of icing you can come up with and little piggies, if you have them. Or dust a shower of icing sugar on top or - you know, do what you like!:-)

For the filling:
some really nice jam (I used strawberry - a tart version of something might be nice, too. You could try marzipan, or maybe a dollop of apple compote also?)
Icing sugar for the icing
A nice thick, vanilla-y custard, with a bit of whipped cream folded in - use your favorite recipe or this one here:

4 egg yolks
85 g. sugar
330 ml full-fat milk
25 g. corn starch
250 ml. whipping cream

In your pan, whisk together the egg yolks and the sugar. In a bowl, whisk the cornstarch with a little of the milk, then add this and the rest of the milk to the egg yolk-mixture, whisking again.

Bring to the boil, while continuously whisking. Boil for about 5 minutes, until you have the desired thickness. Leave to cool. You can make the custard up to this step a day or two in advance.

When ready to use the créme, whip the whipping cream until a little harder than soft peaks form. Fold together the whipping cream and the custard.

One little piggy went to market... Two little piggies went to market... Three! little piggies went to market - and ate way too many fastelavnsboller!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Dining with Three Bloggers - February 14th., 2007

Even though I tried to NOT have it this Valentine-y way, it seems there is no way around it - these three all have love, love, love written all over them - so feel free to make any of these as a treat for your loved one - they come with my warmest recommendations!

Anything more sexy than a fig? Okay, maybe a couple of things springs to mind, but when in the world of fruits, I think we have a winner. Wanna do something good to it, head to Melissa's Traveler's Lunchbox and grab yourself a piece of Fig and Goat's Cheese Clafoutis. Sounds like an odd combination to you? Bannish the thought, 'casue people - it works. The "cake" is slightly squidgy and wet, with a pronounced, but never overwhelming, savory taste from the cheese and a sweetness from vanilla and figs. Good. I like how it's sweet, but not too sweet, yet not a cheese course either. And it's good on the second day, too. If there's any left, that is.

Traveler's Lunchbox was previously featured with a lovely recipe for Chai.

You want cupcakes? You got cupcakes! These are from, you guessed it, the Queen of Cupcakes, Cheryl at Cupcake Bakeshop. Peanutbutter Filled Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache. Chocolate is an afrodisiac, you say? Well, pair it with peanutbutter that, in this filling, reminds me of marzipan, tastewise (take care you don't go too easy on the milk when making it, 'cause you might end up with a more liquid version than you wanted - yes, speaking from experience) and add a thick chocolate ganache and you have what I, in the spirit of the season, wouldn't mind calling a Chocolate Orgasm. Ahem. Goes especially well after a Mexican dinner. Wait, no - goes especially well with just about anything!

Cupcake Bakeshop was previously featured with Red Velvet Cupcakes - oh, what color!

And now, for the sweetest story you ever heard - a man making his girlfriend lunch. Not just lunch, but a brown bag-able lunch. Can we hear you all go: aaaaaaaaaaaaww! And yes, that's right - there I go again, another recipe from Orangette. There are two things that make it borderline ridiculous for me to write about this thing here. One: it is from Orangette, and I have done tons, tons and one more TON of Molly's recipes, so much so that really, I oughta think about renaming Food & Thoughts "Orangette Wannabe";-). Anyways - the other reason? It's barely a recipe - it's more of an assembly instruction. The name just about says it all - Chickpeas with Parmesan. But oh, what an assembly. This is, as Molly said it herself, really one of those cases where the sum is so, so much more than it's parts - "like 200% more". Quick to put together, and scraping-the-bottom-of-the-tupperware-container-good. It's fast become a standard lunch item to bring to school in this household. Just make it. Or have your chosen one make it for you, or make it for your chosen one - 'cause it's all about the love, Baby.

Orangette has previously been featured with Shortbread Waffles, Alsatian Onion Tart and Bouchons au Thon.
Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

[DANSK] Glories of Butter, Sugar & Coconut: Drømmekage

I've recently switched to the new blogger - I know, you can't really tell, I've tried to have it look as much like my old one as possible. I'm not good with changes. Yes, I want a new banner, and new colors and - they will come, in their due time. Just not right now. For now, I just got really tag/label-happy and went over all of my posts and tagged along. That is one nifty feature, I must say!

But. It also made me realize that gosh! I do do a lot of sweet baking and such. Take a look at that, right there in the sidebar: 33 posts in Baking for the Sweet Tooth. At the time of writing this, that is. For some reason, I do believe it will grow, fast and furiously, within the next year. And, like, right now.

More Danish treats. I just can't help myself, and Martin is doing nothing to stop me. In fact, the last couple of weeks, his standard sentence when coming home from work has been: Where's the cake? What kind of cake are we having tonight? I better just comply! (as if I mind, lol!)

Drømmekage is, as Melissa so rightly said about the Brunsviger, one of those cakes that more than justifies and glorifies the excistense of butter and sugar. Here, we throw a little coconut into the equation as well, and what do you get? Sweet, vanilla-y cake with a sligthly crispy, chewy topping of caramelized coconut, the topping bleeding ever so slightly into the top of the spongy cake underneith it. Tell me you don't want a slice and I know you're lying!

Drømmekage fra Brovst

Just for the record, I often make half this portion, using a smaller cake pan. Lordy, imagine I made the full portion - we'd be all bellies and grease! So depending on the amount of people you need to serve, I'd adjust.

For the bottom part:

6 eggs
500 g. vanilla-scented sugar (or use regular and add 1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract with the eggs)
500 g. flour
4 tesapoons baking powder
4oo ml. milk
100 grams melted butter

For the topping:
350 grams melted butter
100 ml. milk
450 g. soft brown sugar
200 g. shredded coconut

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius. Grease (or line with baking paper) a 30 x 20 cm. cake pan.

Whip together the eggs and sugar until foamy and white. Mix the flour and baking powder and blend in. Add milk and melted butter, blend until combined. Pour into the prepared cake pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, until a wooden skewer comes out clean.

10 minutes before the cake is done, mix together the ingredients for the topping. When the cake is done, pour over the topping and bake for another 10 minutes.

Take out of the oven - the topping will still be slightly runny, but will firm up as it cools. Leave to cool for an hour or so, then dig in. Not that it will be bad if you wait until the next day, but who would want to wait that long?

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Back to School and School Lunches. Oh Yes.

It's back to school again! I really, REALLY need to get sensible about bringing lunch to school, 'cause the stuff I can get there ain't exactly three starred cuisine - but then again, it is expensive, so who can blame them?!?:-P

Therefore, I'm scouring magazines, books, blogs and websites for nice, little brown-bag'able items - if you've got any you know of, do let me know! (I'm trying Brandon's Chickpeas today)

This here is a salad inspired by Nigella, From Nigella Bites, I think. She uses leftover baked potatoes (a good thing in a lunch-to-bring-item: that it uses leftovers, and that you're able to put things together in the evening before) top them with a good dose of Maldon sea salt, sumac, lemon, olive oil and a sprinkling of parsley, should you feel so inclined.

I took it a step further and crumbled a nice cow's milk feta into the cut-up potatoes, added slivers of roasted red pepper and a fine dice of celery (because I had celery languishing in the fridge and no, I'm not throwing things out, remember?) Add to that lemon, sumac, olive oil, pepper and salt and a heavy dose of coarsely chopped parsley and I was fit for a day of 8 am -10 pm running-from-class-to-class-to-job-to-the-other-job-day. Oh yes, and one of the benefits of this salad is that it's actually best at room temperature - which face it, it will be, after having been lugged around like my lunch frequently does...