Friday, 20 April 2012

Crusty oatmeal bread

I had mentioned in one of my recent posts that we've been consciously incorporating quite a bit of oat into our daily diet, due primarily to my other half's committed effort to lower his cholesterol.  We've had quite a bit of oat-based muffins, pancakes, cookies, and most recently we made oatmeal bread!

This simple oatmeal loaf was so surprisingly good that I knew I had to share it here with all of you the minute I took my first bite.  Health benefits aside, what really surprised me was how crisp the crust turned out while the insides remained soft and moist.  I strongly recommend having this bread fresh out of the oven, once it has cooled slightly but still warm to the touch.  A day later the crust was still lovely but not as crispy as the day before.  Herr Scherrer made some pink salmon sandwiches with it for lunch and it was so yummy we regretted not making a bigger loaf as we ran out of bread!  I intend to try the recipe again soon, replacing a portion of the strong white flour with wholemeal flour.  

Recipe below makes 1 small loaf

1 tsp dried yeast
175ml water
188g strong white flour
125g oatmeal (I grounded rolled oats in a food processer)
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp honey

Sprinkle yeast into 50ml of water. Leave for 5 minutes then stir to dissolve. Mix flour, oatmeal and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in yeast mixture and honey. Pour in remaining water in 2 to 3 batches while gradually mixing in the flour to form a stiff sticky dough. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead till smooth and elastic. Put the dough into a clean bowl and cover with towel. Leave to rise until double in size, about 1.5 hours. Knock back, then leave to rest for 10 minutes. Shape dough into a loaf. Place on an oiled baking sheet or loaf tin and cover with towel. Prove until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Brush loaf with water and sprinkle some rolled oats over the top.  Bake in preheated 200 C oven for about 35 minutes until brown and hollow sounding when tapped underneath. Leave to cool on wire rack (out of loaf tin).

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Mini pistachio fraisier cakes

I received a pleasant surprise a couple of weeks ago from a good friend coming back from Switzerland.  He bought me a copy of Ladurée's Sucré: The Recipes!  

I've been wanting to get myself a copy for some time now, particularly after acquiring Ladurée's Savoury: The Recipes from a very charming bookshop in Duxton Hill (Singapore) called Littered with Books, which by the way is worth a visit.  The obvious lure of Ladurée recipes aside, these books are a delight to have for a number of other reasons: gorgeous pictures accompanying all recipes, it comes beautifully wrapped in soft crepe paper, has silver / gold page edges, velvety covers and packed in classic Ladurée pastel pink / mint green boxes.  You have to see it to know what I mean!  I almost bought a copy when I was in Ladurée's Zurich shop earlier in March but stopped myself when I realised it costs CHF60 and I could get it cheaper via at around GBP20.  Unknown to me my friend went to the same shop in Zurich a week after and got me a copy! I've now promised all sorts of dessert treats to him and his wife in return for the awesome gift!

The first recipe that I tried from the book is the pistachio Fraisier, which comprises almond génoise soaked with kirsch syrup, pistahio mousseline cream, fresh strawberries and pistachio almond paste.  The recipe is for an 8-inch round cake, but I had these new hexagonal mini cake rings that I've been wanting to use and decided to make mini versions of the Fraisier instead.  I also omitted the pistachio almond paste layer.

I thought the hexagonal shape moulds were quite suited given how the strawberries were laid out.  Taste wise, the pistachio mousseline turned out a little too sweet for my liking and I would definitely reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe if I were to make this again.  Other than that I think a pistachio lover would definitely take to this cake.  Strawberries could also be replaced with raspberries to make a Framboisier. 

Recipe below adapted from Ladurée's Sucré: The Recipes, makes around 3 mini cakes

Almond génoise cake
17g butter
67g cake flour
2 eggs
67g granulated sugar
17g ground almonds

Kirsch syrup
25ml water
25ml sugar
10ml kirsch liqueur
10ml raspberry liqueur

12 strawberries, of approximately equal size

Pistachio mousseline cream
45g butter
90g whole milk
1 egg yolk
25g granulated sugar
7g cornstarch
30g pistachio paste

Gel mirror & fruits as desired

1. Almond génoise cake
Melt butter.  Whisk eggs and sugar over bain marie till it is about 50C, thick, pale and tripled in volume.  Remove from heat and continue whisking till mixture has cooled down.  Fold in flour, then ground almonds and butter.  Pour into cake pan (around 9-inch round to get 1cm thick génoise) and bake for approximately 20 minutes in 170C preheated oven.  Allow to cool before cutting out 3 pieces exactly the same size as the mini cake rings and 3 slightly smaller (i.e. 2 pieces per mini cake, 1 slightly smaller than the other).

2. Kirsch syrup
Bring water and sugar to a boil.  Allow to cool before adding in kirsch and raspberry liqueur.  

3. Strawberries
Slice 9 of the strawberries into halves, 6 halves for each mini cake.  Cut remaining 3 strawberries into thin slices.

4. Pistachio mousseline cream
Leave butter out to soften at room temperature.  Bring milk to a boil.  Whisk yolk and sugar till it pales slightly, mix in cornstarch.  Pour about a third of the hot milk into egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly throughout to temper the yolk, then pour mixture back into rest of milk and bring to a boil., stiring constantly.  Leave to cool for about 10 minutes before mixing in half of the butter.  When cream has cooled to room temperature blend in pistachio paste and other half of the butter, using a electric mixer if necessary, till cream is smooth. 

5. Assembly
Place larger pieces of cut génoise pieces at bottom of mini cake rings and lightly soak with syrup.  Pour a thin layer of pistachio mousseline cream over génoise up to about 1cm high.  Arrange strawberry halves along the inside of the cake ring (as shown in pictures), cut side against the side of the cake ring, pushing them down into the cream.  Fill centre with thinly sliced strawberries, also pushing into the cream.  Cover strawberries with more mousseline cream, then place in second (smaller) piece of cut génoise on the cream before filling with remaining mousseline cream till top of cake ring.  Refridgerate till set before removing from cake ring.  Top with gel mirror and fruits as desired.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Pistachio & raspberry macarons (PH's Montebello)

I guess it's about time for another try of Pierre Hermé's macaron recipes. =D  This time, I really wanted to try one with a jelly insert.  The Montebello macaron caught my eye for its contrasting colours and the pairing of pistachios and raspberry flavors sounded so intriguing.

I was initially a little hesitant about the recipe after realizing how much colouring I had to add for the red shells - 11g worth compared to 3g for the green shells! I've never used up so much colouring on a single batch of macarons much less for half a batch.  Then I thought - its PH so I just need to trust it.  On hindsight I had nothing to worry about coz the red shells couldn't have turned out any better! 

The tanginess of the raspberry jelly really adds a lovely twist to the pistachio ganache.  Who would have thought pistachios and raspberry could pair so well?

There was a little hiccup was when I tried sprinkling some crushed pistachios on some of the green shells.  For some reason the ones with sprinkled crushed pistachios all had cracked tops whilst those without were fine, yet they all came from the same batch of batter.  Strange?

Have a good Easter everyone!

Recipe below makes about 72 macarons, adapted from Pierre Hermé's "Macarons"

Raspberry jelly:
300g fresh raspberries
60g caster sugar
2 pcs gelatin leaves

Soak gelatin leaves in cold water.  Puree raspberries and sugar together, then strain to remove pips.  Heat puree to about 45C and add gelatin leaves, stiring to incorporate.  Pour into gratin dish lined with clingflim to a depth of about 4mm.  Leave to cool 1 hr in room temperature then in freezer for 2 hours. Cut jelly into 1.5cm squares and return to freezer while working on the rest of the macarons.

Macaron shells:
Green shells:
150g ground almonds
150g icing sugar
55g aged egg whites
1g yellow food colouring
2g green food colouring

Red shells:
150g ground almonds
150g icing sugar
55g aged egg whites
11g raspberry red food colouring

Italian meringue:
- 300g caster sugar
- 76g mineral water
- 110g aged egg whites
- 1.5 tsp egg white powder (added to second portion of egg whites.  PH doesn't use egg white powder in his recipes in the book but he recommends using egg whites that have been aged for at least a few days.  I tend to add egg white powder to my egg whites if I didn't have the chance to age them enough.  It helps to strengthen the protein bonds that form when you whisk the whites and gives the same effect as using aged egg whites.)

For the shells, sift together icing sugar & ground almonds in a large bowl. Stir respective food colouring into egg whites, then pour mixture into icing sugar & ground almonds but do not stir.
To make italian meringue, bring water & caster sugar to boil at 118C.  At 115C, start whisking second portion of egg whites (with egg white powder, if applicable).  When sugar syrup reaches 118C, pour it over egg whites, whisking continuously till meringue to cools to 50C.  Separate meringue into 2 equal batches and fold each batch separately into red and green/yellow ground almond-icing sugar mixture.  Spoon each batch of batter into separate piping bag fitted with plain nozzle.
Pipe rounds of batter about 3.5cm in diameter, spacing them 2cm apart on lined baking trays.  Rap baking trays on work surface covered with kitchen cloth. 

PH's instructions are to leave shells to stand for at least 30 minutes until they form a skin, then bake them in fan oven for 12 minutes at 180C.  From past experience this doesn't always work for me under Hong Kong's weather conditions, so instead I dry the piped batter for 15 minutes in the oven at 65C, then without removing the macarons, increase the temperature to 150C and bake for 14 to 15 minutes.  Either way, during the last 4 minutes of baking open and close the oven door twice to let out steam.  Once out of the oven, slide shells on to cooling rack and allow to cool completely before removing from silicon mat / parchment.

Pistachio ganache:
225g whipping cream
225g white chocolate
35g pistachios

Blend pistachios with whipping cream in electric food processer.  Melt chocolate.  Bring cream & pistachios to boil and pour it over the chocolate in batches.  Stir till smooth. Pour ganache into gratin dish and press clingfilm over the surface of ganache.  Set aside in fridge for ganache to thicken.

Spoon ganache into piping bag fitted with plain nozzle.  Pipe a generous mould on either the red or green shells and lightly press a cube of raspberry jelly into the centre.  Pipe a dot of ganache on top then cover with another shell of different colour.  Store macarons for 24 hours in fridge and bring out 2 hours before serving.


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