Saturday, September 6, 2014

A Tribute to my Dad and a Simple Soup for my Dad on Father's Day.



In 1952 a young man from Fiorenzuola D'Arda near Piacenza in Italy embarked on a journey that would take him halfway across the world to a land very unlike his own with a different language and different customs. Like many courageous immigrants fleeing war ravaged Italy this would become his home and a home he came to love.
He came to work on the famed Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme in New South Wales, Australia. Here he would learn the language and assimilate as best as he could. But in the Snowy's he did not stay, the lure of the sugar cane fields took him north to Ingham in Queensland where he worked hard alongside his fellow countrymen all keen to make a "few dollars" in the "lucky country".
By 1961 he returned to Italy to marry his sweetheart and bring his bride back to Australia.



 Within a year they lost their first born child, a girl, three days after her premature birth. His new bride was homesick but determined. Together they worked side by side to build a secure life for their future family. Soon they welcomed a second daughter...


...and then another.

 

The couple made many friends and lots of good times were had...beach picnics, swimming and parties always with lots of laughter.

Fifteen years into their marriage his beloved wife tragically suffered a fatal heart attack. He was a lost and broken man. Life was never quite the same again. He found himself dad and "mum" to his young daughters who were only 9 and 13 years of age... a very difficult task. And even though he later remarried there were always three in that marriage. He never stopped loving his first beloved wife.
 
 
In time, his daughters married. First one...
 
 
 ...then the other.
 
 
And his great joy arrived... grandchildren.
 
"The best word is Nonno" he would often say.
 
 
 
The grandchildren grew and he aged.
 
 
Soon it became apparent the unforgiving disease of dementia was taking it's toll.
 
This was my Dad.
 
Dad lost his battle this year on 29th April when he slipped away surrounded by his family.
Dad had a difficult life. Born in the depression, growing up in Italy in WW1. I'm sure he was often scared and hungry as a child but he never talked about this seriously. He always made light of his childhood. Maybe, he thought, if he told his story it would all be too real.
Dad taught me so much. To appreciate everything you have. He always said he never regretted anything in his life except losing our mum.
After mum passed away, Dad's cooking abilities gradually surfaced. He had learned alongside his mother.
The staple in our house and in Dad's repertoire was his "brodo" or broth. Made fresh several times per week taking all morning to simmer on the stove and then used as a light soup with a little pasta and parmesan cheese but also the essential ingredient in his more substantial soups, risotto, pasta sauce and his casseroles of varying types.
When I married and had my own kitchen I too made the "brodo" regularly until I decided I was way to modern for this palava and purchased stock or even stock cubes were way superior! How silly. It is only recently that I have reintroduced the brodo to my household but in a slightly modified version which works in my busy life. Using the slow cooker, I prepare the ingredient in the slow cooker as I clean up after our night meal and the broth will cook slowly all night.
 
I think Dad would be proud... well, once he tasted it!


 
 
My Chicken Broth (idea originally from Smitten Kitchen)
 
1.5 kg chicken wings
3 litres water
1 onion, cut in half
1 carrot, cut into large pieces
a bunch of celery tops and a stalk or two
1 garlic clove, smashed
a few peppercorns
a bayleaf
3 teaspoon salt, or to taste
 
Place all the ingredients into a slow cooker. Turn onto low and cook for 12 hours.
 
 
Just look at this golden goodness.
 

 
Even perfect with just a little good parmesan cheese.

 
This will make 3 litres because no liquid is lost using the slow cooker. It can be simmer very, very slowly on the stove for 4 or 5 hours but you may need to replace some water. Use this wonderful broth as my father would have...in risotto, casseroles, pasta sauces and soups or just as a flavourful broth. Freeze it and have great broth always on hand. It really is the secret to great cooking.
 

This is our first Father's Day without Dad
 
 
 
This Father's Day remember to tell your Dad that you love him and appreciate him. We often don't know what we have until it's gone.
 
 
Happy Father's Day, Dad. xxx
We miss you but we know you are with the one you love.
Thank you for all you have shown us.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Chimney cake and a yummy Spanish Pastry: THE DARING BAKERS’ AUGUST, 2014 CHALLENGE


The August Daring Bakers' Challenge took us for a spin! Swathi of Zesty South Indian Kitchen taught us to make rolled pastries inspired by Kurtoskalacs, a traditional Hungarian wedding pastry. These tasty yeasted delights gave us lots to celebrate!

I always love yeast baking so when the August Daring Baker's Challenge was announced I was thrilled... yeast baking and something I have never made. Thanks to our great host Swathi of Zeasty South Indian Kitchen. I loved these pastries and so did my family. The Chimney Cake was tricky because of the baking on the rolling pin. My first was a near disaster! But then I got the hang of it.


However the Ensaimda were quite easy and absolutely delicious. Great dipped in my morning black coffee.


Both start off with a yeasted dough left to rise.


The chimney cake dough is portioned and rolled out into a circle and cut with a pizza wheel.


Rolled around a rolling pin.


Pressed and rolled into sugar to flatten slightly and join edges. Before baking on a fan grill setting



Oh no... this is what happened in the oven!


But the result was still tasty!


Soon I got the idea of turning regularly


The chimney cake slipped off the rolling pins easily.


A delicious treat!



Here is the recipe....

 Kürtőskalács /Chimney cake

Servings: 4

Preparation time:
 Preparing dough 15 minutes, first rise: about an 1 hour
 Cook time: 20 minutes in oven if you using roast function. Baking at 25 minutes (I used a fan grill setting and it didn't take long at all)

Ingredients
 For the dough:
 1¾ cups (8½ oz) (240 gm) all-purpose (plain) flour
 2¼ teaspoons (1 packet) (7 gm) active dry yeast OR 2 teaspoons instant yeast OR 14 gm (½ oz) fresh yeast
 2 tablespoons (1 oz)(30 gm) sugar
 1/8 teaspoon (3/4 gm) salt
 1 large egg, room temperature
 3 tablespoons (1½ oz) (45 gm) melted butter
 1/2 cup (120 ml) milk, lukewarm temperature

For baking/grilling:
 melted butter
 sugar

For the topping:
 Approximately ½ cup (3½ oz) (100gm) sugar
 For walnut sugar topping
 About 1 cup (4 oz) (115 gm) ground walnuts, mixed with about 1/2 cup (3½ oz) (100 gm) sugar
 2 teaspoons (10 ml) (1/4 oz) (6 gm) cinnamon

Directions:
 If you are using active dry yeast, add ½ teaspoon sugar to lukewarm milk and set aside for 5-10 minutes until it proofs (becomes foamy).

You can use the other yeast types directly along with the flour.
 In a large bowl combine, flour, sugar and salt. To this add egg, milk, melted butter, and yeast. Stir the mixture until it comes together to form a dough, and then knead for about five minutes.

It will be sticky. Don’t be tempted to add any flour. Grease your hand if needed.

Transfer to a well greased container

Allow the dough to rise for 60 minutes at room temperature until doubled in volume

 Prepare the rolling pins by covering them with aluminum foil, do at least two or three layers, to protect the pins from burning in the oven.

Make sure to cover the rolling pins very well. Brush them with melted butter.

Punch down the risen dough and divide into 4 equal parts about 4 oz (115 gm) of each.

On a well floured surface spread one portion of the dough

Shape into 1/6 inch (4 mm) thick square-shaped sheet.

Using a pizza cutter cut the dough into a long ribbons of about 1/2 inch (13 mm) wide.

Wrap one end of the dough strip around the spit/rolling pin, tucking in the end so the dough doesn't unwind.

Keep the dough very thin (under ¼ inch (6 mm)) as you stretch and wind it on the rolling pun. Then roll the whole thing slightly on the counter top to flatten it/press it together.

Brush with melted butter

Roll in sugar

Place in roasting pan and bake in a preheated moderately hot oven 375°F/190⁰C/gas mark 5 for 25 minutes.

If using roast function (375⁰F/190⁰C) in the oven it will take about 20 minutes.

If you are grilling (broiling) over the fire cooking time is about six minutes, until it starts to take on a dark golden color. Turn the rolling pin at once least once (or more) throughout baking time to ensure uniform cooking.
 When cake is done roll it in sugar again

If you are using other toppings brush more butter, then roll the finished cake in the toppings of your choice.
 Tap the mold on a table top to release the cake and set it up right to cool.


Ensaimda 

Divide the risen dough into four portions.


Roll out and rub with  softened butter


Stretch out the dough until thin


Roll up from the long edge


Roll into a loose snail shell shape


and allow to rise



Bake until beautiful and golden


Devour!

Dust with powdered sugar if you like.


Here is the recipe...

Ensaimda - Spanish Pastry

Servings: 4

Preparation time:
 15 minutes, first rise: 2 hour, second rise 1 hour. Baking at 15-20 minutes


Ingredients
 Dough
 2½ cups (10½ oz) (300 gm) all-purpose (plain) flour
 2¼ teaspoons (1 packet) (7 gm) active dry yeast OR 2 teaspoon instant yeast OR 14 gm (½ oz) fresh yeast
 1/2 cup (120 ml) warm water
 1 large egg
 ½ teaspoon (3 gm) salt
 ¼ cup (60 ml) (2 oz) (60 gm) granulated sugar
 2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
 7 tablespoons (110 ml) (3½ oz) (100 gm) butter, softened
 Confectioners’ sugar/icing sugar/powdered sugar for dusting
 Olive oil/canola oil for greasing bowl and work place.

Directions:
 If you are using active dry yeast, add ½ teaspoon sugar add to lukewarm water and set aside for 5 minutes

Until it proofs (becomes foamy)

 You can use the other yeast types directly with the flour
 In a large bowl or bowl of kitchen aid mixer combine the sugar, egg and olive oil.

To this add flour, salt and yeast mixture.

Knead for 6 minutes if using kitchen aid mixer or 10 minutes by hand, until you get a soft and pliable dough.

Transfer the dough to a well greased bowl and covered with plastic wrap or covered with a cloth. Let rise for 2 hours or until the dough doubles in volume.

Degas your dough and divide into 4 equal parts and then shape into balls.

Lightly oil the work place and place a ball of dough, using a rolling pin roll out the ball into a long thin rectangle about 12x4 inch (30x10 cm) piece.

Divide your butter to 4 pieces. Place a butter portion on the rolled out dough and spread it into a thin layer.

Take pieces of dough between your fingers and try to gently stretch the dough to be even thinner and larger about 16x7 inches (40 x18 cm).

Roll the dough from the long end to into a tube.

Then roll the tube again into coil shape similar to a snail shell.

Make sure to keep the coil loose so that there is space in between the layers, this will help the dough to rise.

Repeat for the other three dough balls and butter portions.

Place the snails onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Slightly press the sides with your hand.

Cover the baking sheet with a clean cloth and let rise for 1 hour.

During the end of second rising, pre-heat oven to 180⁰C/350⁰F/Gas mark 4
 Bake ensaimadas for about 15-20 minutes. Watch them closely during the end of baking time. They should be golden brown in color.

When baked immediately place the ensaimadas onto cooling racks sprinkle generously with powdered sugar/confectioner’s sugar.





Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Checkerboard Cake - July 2014 Daring Bakers' Challenge


 For the July Daring Baker’s Challenge, Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to bake a cake. But not just any cake; she asked us to add in a special surprise for our eyes as well as our taste buds!  

A surprise cake.
Well, that could be anything. Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood set this challenge and gave a few suggestions...rainbow cake, zebra cake, a cake baked within a cake or a checkerboard cake. The ideas were endless and fun. However sometimes the cake gods seem to make up your mind for you. You know how it is... I was wandering around my local second hand store shortly after this challenge was announced and I came across an unused checkboard pan set. Someone had bought this set with good intentions but never got to bake the cake. For $6.00 it was mine. I had to make a checkerboard cake!


For those who don't know what a checkerboard cake pan is have a look here. This one is just like the one I bought in the second hand store. The idea is to clip the separator onto one of the cake pan then pour different colour batter into each separate ring...lift the separator... wash the separator... clip onto the second cake pan and repeat and repeat again for the third pan. Now when I write it all down like that I realise why I had cake batter from one end of the kitchen to the other. Hmmmm, it is a lot of fussing for a cake. But then it is fun and the cake is fun!. Thanks Ruth! Great challenge making something I had never thought of making before!


Checkerboard cake 

Cake adapted from Brad

90g bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
4 large eggs
1 1/3  cups milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup plain flour, sifted

3 cups self raising flour, sifted
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
225g cup butter, softened

pink food colouring


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a set of three 9 by 1 inch checkerboard cake pans (Checkerboard Baking Pans are sold in a set which includes three 9 by 1 inch cake pans and a divider ring to enable you to separate the cake pan into 3 rings), line with parchment, and then grease and flour.
In a double boiler melt the chocolate over simmering water, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.
In a medium bowl lightly combine the eggs, 1/4 of the milk, and vanilla.

In bowl of electric mixer, combine the dry ingredients and mix on low speed for 30 seconds to blend. Add the butter and remaining milk. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed and beat for 1 1/2 minutes to aerate and develop the cake's structure. Scrape down the sides. Gradually add the egg mixture in three batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrape down the sides. 

Divide the batter approximately in thirds. Stir the melted chocolate into one of the batches of batter until uniform in color and colour a second batch pink with the food colouring. Fill 3 large pastry bags fitted with large round tubes 3/4 inches in diameter with the 3 batters. I used large clip seal bags
Place the divider rings in one of the prepared pans and pipe batter into each, pipe one colour into each section . The batter should fill the pan about half full. Using a small metal spatula or the back of a spoon, smooth any seams or divisions in the batter. Now carefully lift out the divider and rinse it off. 


When piping batter for the second layer, pipe each colour into a different section than the first pan. Pipe each colour for the third layer into a different section again. Like this....


Bake 20 - 25 minutes or until a tester inserted near the center comes out clean and the cakes spring back when pressed lightly in the centers. The cakes should start to shrink from the sides of the pans only after removal from the oven.
Let the cakes cool in the pans on racks for 10 minutes. Loosen the sides with a small metal spatula and invert onto greased wire racks. To prevent splitting, re-invert so that the tops are up and cool completely before wrapping airtight.


Now prepare your icing.
Easy chocolate icing (adapted from Allrecipes)


60g dark cooking chocolate
125g butter
3 tablespoons milk
3 1/2 cups (550g) icing sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa powder, sifted
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

In a large saucepan over medium heat combine chocolate, butter and milk. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and beat in icing sugar, cocoa powder, salt and vanilla. Beat until smooth then adjusting consistency with milk or sugar if necessary.


Level the tops of each cake. You can use the leftover cake for cake pops!


When stacking the layers, use a very thin coating of chocolate frosting to adhere the layers without disturbing the checkerboard effect.



Stack each layer. Press to adhere well.


Ice all over and decorate as you like.


Cut, surprise and enjoy!


Friday, July 18, 2014

Nigella's Pumpkin and Chickpea Hotpot


Here in North Queensland we are in the middle of our tropical version of winter. Some days can get quite cool...I think a minimum of about 8 degrees celsius... that's cool for us. But most days are just a beautiful fresh break from our usual stifling heat. The skies are clear and the breeze is cool. At this time of the year we can grow lots of veges. Tomatoes, lettuces, beans, corn, even broccoli and cabbages. The easiest of all are the pumpkins. And of course, there is always plenty to give away. I ended up with three gorgeous ones that needed to be used and I remembered this recipe I had seen in a magazine.
With a hit of red curry paste, chickpeas and coconut milk the pumpkin is transformed into a most luscious vegetable. This is my version of Nigella's hotpot, just tweeking a few ingredients here and there to adjust to what I had in the pantry.
This could be a soup, hotpot, curry or whatever. I boiled a bit of rice and put a spoonful in the bottom of each bowl before spooning over the golden, fragrant goodness. You could serve it with crusty bread.
Try it. You won't be disappointed.


Pumpkin and Chickpea Hotpot
(adapted from Nigella Lawson)

3 tablespoons vegetable oil                  
1  finely chopped onion
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste                   
2 teaspoons Thai red curry paste, or to taste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 kilo peeled seeded pumpkin, cut into 1 1/4-inch chunks
1 425g can coconut cream
1 cup chicken stock, bought or homemade, more if needed
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 425g can chickpeas, drained
Freshly ground black pepper
boiled rice, to serve
chopped parsley, to garnish
 
Heat oil in a large pan then add the onion and salt. Saute to soften. Add the curry paste and fry off for a minute or so. Add the cumin and coriander.

Add pumpkin, coconut cream, stock and soy sauce. Bring to boil then reduce heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Don't let the pumpkin completely break up. We like to see bits of pumpkin.

Add the chicken and continue to simmer for 10 more minutes. Check for seasoning and add more curry paste if you think it needs it. Adjust thickness with more stock if needed.

Place a spoonful of rice into the bottom of the bowls then ladle over the fragrant hotpot. Sprinkle with parsley.
Serve and enjoy.


Friday, July 11, 2014

Chocolate and Marshmallow Woopie Pies


In December Bourbonnatrix, of Bourbonnatrix Bakes challenged us to make whoopie pies. This is my results...yes, 6 months late. Sorry Bourbonnatrix!

As an Aussie, the American Whoopie Pie facinated me. Is it a biscuit (or should I say "cookie")? Is it a little cake? Maybe it's something in between? What is the filling... buttercream or marshmallow? This is what I think I would like for a Whoopie Pie. Somewhere between a cookie and a cake with a squidgy marshmallow filling. 

So I need help now. The challenge is way over but I need opinions. Please US readers, how did I go? Is the the real thing? What am I looking for? If these are Whoopie Pies, well then, I love Whoopie Pies!



Chocolate and Marshmallow Whoopie Pies 

Chocolate Whoopie  (adapted from taste.com.au)

125g butter at room temp
160g brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
50g cocoa powder, sifted
1 tsp bicarb soda
300g plain flour
330ml buttermilk

Begin by heating the oven to 190C.
In an electric mixer beat butter, brown sugar and vanilla until light and smooth. Add the egg and beat to combine.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the cocoa and the bicarb soda. Then gently mix in the plain flour and buttermilk alternatively.
Have ready baking trays lined with paper.
Fill a piping bag fitted with a plain tube with your mixture. Pipe rounds about 3cm in diameter evenly onto the trays leaving room between each whoopie for spreading.
Bake for 10 minutes or until firm. Cool slightly before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.


I used my favourite marshmallow recipe which I was first introduced to during the July 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge. This marshmallow is a Gale Gand recipe and it really produces a no-fail, fluffy and light marshmallow.

Marshmallow filling
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website

 1/4 cup water
 1/4 cup light corn syrup
 3/4 cup (168.76 grams/5.95oz) sugar
 1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
 2 tablespoons cold water
 2 egg whites , room temperature
 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

 In a saucepan, combine the water, corn syrup, and sugar, bring to a boil until “soft-ball”
stage, or 235 degrees on a candy thermometer.
Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and let dissolve.
Remove the syrup from the heat, add the gelatin, and mix.
Whip the whites until soft peaks form and pour the syrup into the whites.
Add the vanilla and continue whipping until stiff.
Transfer to a pastry bag.
Pair up the whoopies, matching large one with large ones and so on.
Pipe marshmallow onto one half of a pair topping with the matched whoopie.



To stop sticky fingers and because they are festive I rolled each whoopie in 100' & 1000's letting them stick to the marshmallow.


Here are my first Whoopie Pies and I know they will not be my last.