Sunday, July 29, 2012

Random Recipes - my Cook Book Shelves

This is a fun and easy challenge set by Belleau Kitchen who has made the normal monthly challenge of cooking a recipe chosen at random into lets blog about the cook book shelves that you are picking your random recipes from.

I have a quite a few books scattered around and to help with remembering what I have I use both the Librarything website and more recently  Eat Your Books. Librarything is good for tagging where you are actually stored each book(if you have a system). 

We used to live in a 1930's house with high ceilings and loads of storage space. Now we are in a smaller 1960s bungalow with way less wall space and cupboards and the book storage has reached overflow but there are still so many books I want to buy so soon something will have to give.

Apologies for the photo quality, in too many you cannot actually make out what the book titles are but you may recognise them anyway if you have them.

I will start in the kitchen where I keep a small range of books on a shelf that was originally was dedicated to new purchases but that system has gone out the window and it is all a bit random now. The pottery owl is called Morse and he was made by a talented potter in County Durham.

Now moving into the study room (which is also our spare bedroom). I have tried to keep this shelf dedicated to baking and chocolate work. 

The organisation breaks down now but there are pockets of order with Christmas, and Jewish cuisine books on top and India lower down. To the right I store most of my America books.
A zoom in to get more of the titles.

On the other side of the room I share a shelf with my OH who collects stamps and has many of these in highly organized stamp album binders. So in the blurred photo below that shelf of red binders are for stamps.

Just to the right are some more cook books including my collection of Food of the World series.

Now we come to one of the floor stacks, books acquired since the shelf space ran out.

And here is the another floor stack. Just behind the stack in a box with a purple lid are my Gourmet magazines and a couple of recipe ring binders.

These two weighty tomes are hiding under the chair. Both come from charity shops and I have them for historical value more than anything. These would have been books of the trade when I was young and I remember a chef friend buying the Buffets & Receptions book to help with a new job hey had taken, this was a while ago, British cuisine has moved on! 

Now for the small stack.

Moving out of the study/bedroom into the hall we glance up at the loft hatch as I have a few books up there too. These are mainly the 1970's cooking for your freezer and 1980s how to cook in a microwave types. The ones you still see in Charity shops as people like me run out of space and ditch them first.

Now moving into a utility room/cupboard I have a few shelves of books that have little organisation to them but I just about find stuff when I need it
The shelf shown below also has some of my chocolate packaging stuff hence the dangling ribbon.

Still in the utility 'cupboard' a few more cook books with some gardening to keep them company.
And while we mention agrdening I have a few but not many books in the garden shed too.

Hope you have enjoyed the tour! belleaukitchen will be doing a round up very soon and bellau's own contribution to the challenge is here 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Scandilicious Baking from Signe Johansen

I had been eagerly awaiting the arrival of Signe Johansen's latest book having really enjoyed some of the recipes in her earlier book the Secrets of Scandinavian Cooking-Scandilicious

The Baking book is worth getting for the bread recipes alone which cover a broad range of styles and textures from delicate vanilla bread to light rye loaves, muesli bread, cardamom buns, danish pastries and crunchy seeded flat breads.

The first recipe I tried was the Sticky Ginger Spice Cake which is a gorgeously dark and spicy loaf that no doubt should have been left to mature a little but was never given the chance. Today I made the Vanilla bread and as it came out of the oven if you had closed your eyes the warm and buttery vanilla aroma could have had you believing you had just stepped into a French patisserie. It was that good.

The bread is flavoured with both vanilla extract and the seeds of a vanilla pod. I glazed the top of my loaf with egg yolk as I had one left over but it did make it colour up a little too quickly when baking. It would be better to stick with the milk glaze in the recipe.

So here is the loaf cut, after I had allowed it just enough time to cool because I was impatient to try it. It has a beautiful soft crumb, enticing aroma and I think I will be baking this loaf quite regularly for weekend breakfasts.

For more information about Signe Johansen you can go to the Scandilicious website and some recipes from the book have been posted here on the Daily Mail website.

Other Scandinavian baking books I have in my collection are :
Nordic Bakery Cookbook by Miisa Mink.
Great-Scandinavian Baking-Book by Beatrice Ojakangas.
Patisserie of Scandinavia by J Audrey Ellison (out of print).

If you are looking for specialist Scandinavian baking ingredients have a look at scandikitchen, they write a great newsletter and the cafe sounds perfect, and also try the german deli.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Currant Affairs - Jammie Dodgers

For this month's we should cocoa challenge I have attempted a rework of the old favourite, the jammie dodger. The challenge was to combine blackcurrants and chocolate and my initial inspiration came from Marcus Wareing's book Nutmeg & Custard which has a fine looking recipe for Chocolate and Blackberry jammy dodgers. In his version the shortbread type biscuit base is sandwiched together with a layer of milk chocolate and blackberry jam and then decorated with a drizzle of milk chocolate.

I was planning to pick the blackcurrants from the garden but on Thursday when I had the time to make these it poured with rain all day. So I rummaged in the freezer and found some currants I had picked and frozen last year and not yet used. I am ashamed to admit there are often quite a few vintages of home produce lurking in my freezer.

The weather was so bad on Thursday that the chickens all stopped inside their covered runs and only my mucky ducks were delighted with the mud they could spend the day playing in. I was just happy to have a fun kitchen project to take my mind off the weather.

As I was thinking about the recipe in 'Nutmeg & Custard' I was wondering how I could get a bit more chocolate involved, after all this is a chocolate themed challenge, and I don't like to be mean with the chocolate.
 My thoughts turned to the oh so popular macaroons that are in every patisserie window in many a colour and flavour so I started planning a chocolate ganache filling for my dodgers and it wasn't long before the nuttyness of the macaroon idea had also translated into a hazelnut sable biscuit for my dodgers instead of plain shortbread. I then went one step further and changed the chocolate ganache filling to a chocolate and hazelnut praline centres as I had some hazelnut praline paste left over from Easter chocolate making.

So the final combination was from the bottom up:

  Hazelnut sable biscuit base round
  Layer of milk chocolate and hazelnut praline
  Layer of home made blackcurrant jelly
  Hazelnut sable biscuit top with centre hole to reveal jelly
  Decoration of piped milk chocolate

and here they are in profile:

So to make:

Blackcurrant jelly

If you make your own I would cook the blackcurrants gently until they are soft enough to sieve (this is a messy business but if you want silky smooth jelly a necessary evil).

Add an equal quantity of sugar to the puree and simmer gently until the jelly reaches a setting point. This is often determined by the wrinkle test on a cold plate. David Lebovitz has a good picture of that towards the end of this jam making post on his blog wrinkle test. Blackcurrants are high in pectin and the jelly should set easily.

I would go for a slightly softer set next time as my jelly was quite hard to spread evenly and certainly have the jam at room temperature when you use it.

Sable Biscuits

The sable  recipe came from the epicurious web site, a site I use quite a lot, but I halved the proportions and did not use toasted hazelnuts. I always have trouble with hazelnuts over browning in biscuit baking so I just use ground fresh hazelnuts and so far they have always tasted good and nutty once baked up. 

I chilled the dough for about an hour before rolling out and as I was trying to get the biscuit layers a little thinner than normal I rolled the dough between two sheets of parchment paper. I also used a nice heavy marble rolling pin that I recently found in a local charity shop for the bargain price of £1.50 and it worked very well. You will need a small round cutter to take out the inner circle for the top biscuit layer but if you do not have one any other small shape such as a heart would do. An old fashioned apple corer would possibly also work.

Hazelnut & Chocolate filling

Have the biscuits baked and cooled before you make the chocolate filling as it will be much easier to spread while freshly made, once the ganache or praline has set you could break the biscuit layer trying to spread it out evenly. The chocolate filling can be warmed very gently in a microwave if it firms up too quickly. It will set quickly once spread.

I made a milk chocolate praline with one quarter melted milk chocolate and three quarters hazelnut praline paste but praline paste is not widely available so you could use a good quality bought hazelnut chocolate spread (or make your own nutella spread), or make a firm chocolate ganache using  2 parts melted milk chocolate to 1 part double cream.See notes below on rations of chocolate to cream. I would always go for a firm ganache for a biscuit filling as the softer ratios are wetter (obviously) and will soften the biscuit layer far more rapidly than a firm ganache.

To build the biscuits

Spread an even layer of your just made chocolate filling over the flat surface (side in touch with the baking tray) of the base biscuit layer.

Cover this with a layer of milk chocolate filling as evenly as you can manage. A small palette knife is good for this.

Once the chocolate layer is set cover with a generous layer of blackcurrant jelly and quickly place the top biscuit layer firmly down onto it to push some of the jelly into the centre hole.

To decorate melt milk chocolate and pipe or drizzle across the top layer of the biscuit.

Make a good pot of tea and enjoy!

This blog post is being submitted to Chocolate Log Blog for the July  we should cocoa challenge. Check back to the hosting blog at the end of the month for a round up of chocolate and blackcurrant creations.

Ratios for Ganache
soft ganache: two weights of cream and one weight of chocolate
medium ganache: equal weights of cream and chocolate
firm ganache: one weight of cream and two weights of chocolate