Friday, 23 April 2010

Nuts... Noix...

Still on my bread making spree, a few days ago I tried another recipe from the new bread recipe book mentioned in my last post.

Pain aux noix is a french bread. Its typically made with a mix of white and wholegrain flour resulting in a fairly complex texture and flavor. Coarsely chopped walnuts are added to the dough at the end of kneading, hence the name, which literally means "nut bread".

The recipe in the book calls for walnuts but I had half an open pack of pecans so decided to give my pain aux noix a little twist by using pecans instead of walnuts... I'm not sure why walnuts are usually used - perhaps its more flavorful? I'm making a mental note to try it again with walnuts.

Three types of flour - white, wholegrain, rye - was used in this recipe, which I think contributed to a deep flavor in the loaf. The bread goes really well with cheese. I personally found the texture a little heavy than expected, not too sure if it was due to insufficient rising or just the combination of wholewheat and rye flour in the recipe... will try the recipe again soon to find out!

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Partying with bread

Recently I've been pampering (or maybe torturing? Hehehe...) Herr Scherrer with quite a bit of home-made bread for brekkie. Running out of interesting bread recipes to try, I recently purchased a new recipe book by Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno which had all 168 pages focused solely on bread - there must be about 100 different bread recipes in it! Yeeaah!

The first bread recipe that caught my eye was one for "partybrot" or simply "party bread" in English. Partybrot is a German bread made by baking individual dinner rolls together in a round cake tin. The rounds are then sprinkled with sesame or poppy seeds. I love how cute it looks - little rounded blobs stuck together. Its really pretty to have on the table, especially when you have guests over for dinner.

The recipe in the book suggested sprinkling alternate blobs with sesame and poppy seeds so there'll be a nice colour contrast but too bad I only had poppy seeds at home.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Scones - one of those all time favorites

My friend Jackie successfully made her first pandan chiffon cake last week using the recipe I posted here. It was very nice of her to share her experience with me! Seemingly on a baking spree, she sent me a text 2 days ago asking for a scone recipe. I'm usually very lazy about typing out recipes but since I have to do it in order to email the recipe to her, I thought I might as well post it up for anyone else that might be interested, along with my 5 cents worth of tips. =P

Scones are probably one of the least time consuming items to make when it comes to baking, yet it is often said that the ability to bake light, flaky, golden scones has long been considered the test of a real baker. I don't know about that... but I do know that baking a successful batch of scones can be easy once you take note of certain essential key points. I figured some of these out the hard way (= lots of failed, trial & error attempts) since many recipe books don't spell it out that specifically for you.

1. Cut butter into small pieces before adding it into the flour.
2. Butter should be cold while its being worked into the flour.
3. Do not over handle the dough. This is probably the most important point of all! I usually mix in the wet ingredients with a spatula (no hands) until a soft dough forms. Remember to stop mixing once the ingredients come together - under mix is often enough. Over handling will result in rock hard scones.
4. Depending on humidity conditions, flour absorbs different amounts of liquid. Freshness of the flour is also a factor. If you find your dough too sticky and difficult to roll into required shape, just add more flour. Conversely, if your dough is too dry, add more water.

There are tons of scone recipes out there, many yummy variations with milk, buttercream, yogurt, etc, plus all sorts of possible flavorings (raisins, nuts, seeds, fruits, etc) but here's a fairly simple one that I use often with sultanas (Recipe from periplus mini cookbooks, slightly adapted. Photo was taken sometime back - I used raisins instead of sultanas on that occasion.):

2 cups self-raising flour
30 g butter
1/3 cup caster sugar
1/4 cup sultanas
1 egg, lightly beaten
150 ml milk

1. Preheat oven to 220 degree celsius.
2. Sift flour into a large bowl, add butter and rub in lightly with fingertips till mixture resembles fine bread crumbs.
3. Mix in sugar and sultanas.
4. Combine egg and milk.
5. Make a well in the centre of the flour, pour in egg & milk mixture all at once, reserving about 1 teaspoon for glazing. Mix quickly to a soft dough.
6. Turn onto a floured board (use self-raising flour). Knead lightly. Press or roll out to form a round about 2 cm thick.
7. Cut using a floured plain round cutter or cut into triangles using a floured knife.
8. Place on greased oven tray and glaze with milk mixture (from step 4).
9. Bake for 10-12 minutes in preheated oven.
10. Cool on wire rack.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Pears and strawberries

It seems to me that when one is nursing a wisdom tooth extraction, one tends to crave for something cold, soft and sweet - that was how it was for me at least! Over the long Easter weekend I had my left bottom wisdom tooth taken out via a minor surgery and I've been gobbling down plenty of ice-creams, yogurts, puddings, etc ever since!

My craving for cold, soft and sweet yummies also led me to work on a new mousse cake recipe - creamy pear mousse placed on almond dacquoise base and topped with strawberry jelly layer. The entire ensemble was very light & fruity. I made the dacquoise base and pear mousse the night before so as to allow the mousse to set overnight in the fridge. The strawberry layer was cooled to room temperature before pouring over the pear mousse and allowed to set in the fridge. I've never matched pears with strawberries before so it was interesting to find out it does blend well.

Working on this recipe from scratch meant I had to try it twice before getting the respective quantities right - my initial attempt had the strawberry layer too thick and I felt it masked the taste of the pear mousse, not to mention it also weighed down too heavily on the pear mousse layer which is very light, almost fluffy. The second attempt is what you see here in the photos - the strawberry jelly layer was kept thin hence allowing primary focus (taste buds wise) to be on the pear mousse.


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