Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Apple Crumb Bars



After seeing versions of Smitten Kitchen's Blueberry Crumb Bars on Brown Eyed Baker and Une Gamine Dans La Cuisine in the same week, I was tempted to make them myself. However we don't get blueberries in Pakistan, and as a fan of the classic apple crumble, I decided on good old apples instead.

These little squares of apple-crumbly goodness are just as good as breakfast, a snack, and even as dessert topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.


Apple Crumb Bars
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

4 to 5 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced (you should have 4 cups of sliced apple)
1 tbs lemon juice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ cup caster sugar
2 tablespoons cornflour

1½ cups flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ cup sugar
pinch of salt
4 oz cold butter, cut into cubes
1 small egg

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F (190C).
  2. In a mixing bowl, add the sliced apples and lemon juice and toss together. Set aside.
  3. In another large bowl, sift in the flour and baking powder. Add sugar and salt and stir to combine.
  4. Add the butter and egg. Using a pastry cutter or a knife, cut the butter and egg into the dry ingredients until the mixture starts to look crumbly and no large pieces of butter remain.
  5. Grease a sheet of foil and press into a 8x8-inch square baking dish or pan. Press half the crumble mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan.
  6. Add the cinnamon, sugar, and cornstarch to the apples and mix well.
  7. Spread the apple mixture evenly over the crumb base.
  8. Sprinkle the remaining crumble mixture evenly over the apples.
  9. Place in the oven and bake for 45 to 55 minutes.
  10. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before cutting into bars.
  11. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.
Makes 16 bars.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Chocolate Cookies


A few years ago I had a disastrous experience baking chocolate cookies, so I had absolutely no intention of baking Double Chocolate Cookies from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. It's heartbreaking when all that good chocolate goes to waste. I was flipping through the book looking for the Chocolate Muffins recipe when my sister persuaded me to bake the cookies instead.

The first time I baked them the batter looked very runny to me, not at all like cookie dough. So I ended up adding twice the amount of flour mentioned in the recipe. Some googling later revealed that the batter is supposed to be a bit thin, less like stiff cookie dough and more like brownie batter, and that I needn't have been alarmed. Both versions of the recipe turned out great though. The cookies made with more flour spread less during baking and so were slightly fatter.

Once the cookies came out of the oven and we finally had a taste, I was so glad I baked them. They turned out perfectly; intensely chocolatey, with chewy edges and soft, fudgy centres.

I have never baked anything that disappeared as quickly as these did.

Chocolate Cookies
adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery cookbook

Ingredients
50g (1.8 oz) unsalted butter
225g (8 oz) dark chocolate, roughly chopped
2 eggs
170g (6 oz) brown sugar
¼ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp instant coffee powder
85g (3 oz) flour
½ tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
Chocolate chips (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 325F (165⁰C).
  2. Line two baking trays with wax paper and lightly grease the paper. Set aside.
  3. Sift together the flour and baking powder. Stir in the salt, and set aside.
  4. Add the butter and chocolate to a large mixing bowl. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water in the pan.
  5. When the chocolate has melted, take the bowl off the heat and set aside.
  6. Add the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and coffee to a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until combined.
  7. Pour in the warm butter-chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and mix well. 
  8. Stir in the flour mixture.
  9. Using a large cookie scoop* portion out all the batter (the batter will stiffen if it's left to sit, making it harder to scoop it out). Sprinkle a few chocolate chips, if using, on top of each cookie.
  10. Bake for 15 minutes.
  11. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool on the baking tray for 10 to 15 minutes.
  12. Carefully remove the cookies and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

*I used a regular ice cream scoop (a large cookie scoop will also do the trick) to portion out these cookies. The scoop has a diameter of 2¼ inches and it holds about ¼ cup (approx. 3 oz) of cookie dough, resulting in 3½ inch cookies.

Make 9 cookies.


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Apple Crumble

Everybody should have a basic crumble recipe in their back pocket.


Once you have that down (and it's not at all hard to master), it can go on top of anything; fruit, muffins, cakes...

It can also be adapted however you like; add nuts, rolled oats, maybe some dessicated coconut, a hint of your favourite spice(s)...

I prefer to make my crumble by hand because I like the texture of a handmade crumble better. However, it can also be made in a food processor and that is actually the better approach during very hot weather, when the cold butter that the recipe calls for almost immediately turns to liquid. Or, you know, if you just don't want to get your hands dirty, then you could use a food processor too.

I've always made a crumble with the proportions given below and they're pretty perfect, so I've no reason to mess with them (I can't remember where I first saw the recipe; must have been one of my cookbooks). However, I haven't made an apple crumble in ages and recently, as I was attempting one for the blog, I couldn't quite get the quantity of apples right. Finally I came across a recipe on Bon Appetit which had just the right crumble-to-apple ratio.

Apple Crumble
adapted from Bon Appetit

Ingredients
2 oz butter, cold and cut into cubes
½ cup flour
½ cup brown sugar

1 lb (450g) apples
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon flour

1. Preheat the oven to 350⁰F (180⁰C).
2. Add the flour, sugar, and oats (if using) to a mixing bowl and stir to combine. Add butter.
3. With your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture looks crumbly. You want to try and get the mixture as fine as you can but it's fine if there are some big bits of butter in there. The topping should look something like the photo below:
(To make the crumble in a food processor: Add the flour and sugar to the food processor. Process for 2 to 3 seconds to combine. Add the butter and process for 2 to 3 seconds at a time until the mixture resembles a crumble.)


4. Refrigerate the crumble mixture while you prepare the apples.
5. Peel the apples, halve them, remove the cores, and slice each half into four to six slices.
6. Add the sliced apples to a mixing bowl, add the cinnamon, lemon juice, and flour; mix well.
7. Add the apples to a small baking dish and sprinkle the crumble mixture evenly over the fruit.
8. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the crumble topping is golden brown.
9. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream, custard, or cream. Store leftovers, covered, in refrigerator.
Serves 3 to 4.

For 6 to 8 servings, double the recipe and bake in a 8x8-inch square dish for 40 to 50 minutes.


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Chocolate Pudding


I had a pretty brutal wisdom tooth extraction last month. 

I couldn't eat anything hot the first day and couldn't chew for quite a few days after that.



One side of my face was very swollen and I didn't really want to go anywhere out in public with my asymmetrical face. No matter how much I tried to hide it with my hair, it still looked like I had stuffed a golf ball in my mouth.

I had taken time off work so I hadn't much to do. 

The only thing I really could do was get into the kitchen to occupy myself.


But what was I going to make that I could actually eat at the end too?


Answer: chocolate pudding.


Chocolate Pudding 
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

2 tablespoons cornflour 
1½ cups full-fat milk
¼ cup caster sugar
a pinch of salt
½ teaspoons instant coffee powder
4 oz semisweet chocolate (I used Cadbury's Bournville; you can use semisweet chocolate chips as well, or use dark chocolate if that's what you prefer)

  1. Add 1 cup milk, sugar, salt, and coffee to a saucepan and place on low heat, whisking occasionally.
  2. Dissolve the cornflour in the remaining ½ cup of milk.
  3. When the milk mixture in the saucepan starts to bubble at the edges, whisk in the cornflour mixture. 
  4. Add the chocolate and stir until it has melted.
  5. Once the pudding comes up to a boil and thickens, remove from heat.
  6. Pour the pudding into ramekins or bowls. To prevent a skin forming, cover the pudding surface with cling film.
  7. Allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.
Makes 3 servings.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Banana Chocolate Chip Walnut Loaf



I'd been having some trouble getting a banana loaf recipe right, but I've finally got one I'm happy with. Studded with chocolate chips and walnuts, it has a mild banana flavour and it's not very sweet either, so you may want to increase the amount of sugar in the recipe if you want a sweeter cake.

What's more, I used bananas I had frozen a week ago for this recipe. We had some overripe bananas (which are perfect for baking) but I didn't have time to bake with them so I popped them in the freezer. Saturday night I took them out to thaw and used them up Sunday morning. They will blacken further on freezing so don't let that alarm you, they're perfectly fine to bake with. They're a bit watery once they've thawed though so peel the bananas and place them in a strainer for a while to drain the excess liquid. Then mash them up and into the cake batter they go!



Ingredients

3 oz butter
⅓ cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1½ cups flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
⅓ cup milk
½ cup mashed banana
⅓ to ½ cup walnuts, chopped
3 tablespoons chocolate chips
½ tsp vanilla 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350⁰F (180⁰C).
  2. Sift together the flour and baking powder and set aside.
  3. Add the butter and sugar to a large mixing bowl and, with an electric mixer, beat together until light and creamy (about 2 minutes).
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix well after adding each one.
  5. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and milk.
  6. Stir in the mashed banana, chopped walnuts, chocolate chips, and vanilla.
  7. Pour the batter into a greased and lined 8x4-inch loaf pan.
  8. Bake for about 50 minutes.
  9. Remove from the oven, allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn the loaf out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Free-form Peach Tart

I try to make a stone fruit tart or pie at least once each summer. It's hard not to with the variety of fruit available. 

This kind of tart is really quite simple to make, and is a good option when you have little time and a lot of people to feed. You can make it ahead of time; it tastes great at room temperature, and cold from the fridge, and warm from the oven. 

I made this tart for a family dinner party a couple of weeks ago. We served it with cream and it was a big hit. Only one teeny tiny slice was left over. I hid it in a corner of the fridge and ate it the next day, before dinner, with warm custard. I didn't have any ice-cream but a scoop of vanilla would be have been perfect too.


The best thing about it is that it's no fuss. It definitely doesn't have to be perfect. Roll the pastry out into a circle, a square, an oval, invent your own shape. Whatever.


I didn't bother peeling the peaches. Slice the fruit, toss it with sugar and flour, pile it messily on top of the pastry and bang it in the oven to bake. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. (Don't think I've used that phrase since I was six years old!)


I made one a while ago with apricots, cherries, peaches, and plums. Despite the tart being some shape that was a cross between a circle and an oval, it was delicious and looked beautiful studded with dark cherries and dusted with icing sugar. I don't have any photos of that tart though because my computer crashed and I lost most of my food photos, so you'll just have to take my word for it...

And don't be intimated by the pastry; that's easy peasy too.


Shortcrust pastry
4 oz cold butter, cut into cubes
1¼ cups plain flour
2 to 4 tablespoons cold water
a pinch of salt
2 tablespoons caster sugar (optional)

Stone fruit filling
700g to 750g peaches, white or yellow (or assorted stone fruit such as apricots, cherries, peaches, and plums)
3 tablespoons caster sugar
1 tablespoon flour

1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)

1. Preheat the oven to 400F (200C).
2. In a large bowl, add the flour, salt, butter, and sugar, if using.


3. With the tips of your fingers, rub the butter into the flour, until it starts to look crumbly.


4. Add the cold water, a tablespoon at a time, and mix with your hands until the pastry starts to come together. (Don't be tempted to add too much water; 2 to 3 tablespoons should be enough. It may seem like the pastry is too crumbly and dry when you add the water but as you form it into a ball with your hands, your body heat will start to melt the butter and the pastry will eventually come together.) Shape the dough into a ball, wrap it in cling film. Refrigerate the pastry for at least 30 minutes to allow it to rest.
5. Meanwhile, halve the peaches, removes the stones, and slice each half into 6 to 8 slices.
6. Remove the pastry from the refrigerator, unwrap it, and place it on a greased sheet of wax paper. Flatten the pastry with your palm...


... dust with flour, and then roll it out to any shape you want.


7. Transfer the wax paper sheet with the rolled-out pastry onto a greased baking tray.


8. Mix the sliced peaches with the sugar and flour, then pile the fruit into the centre of the pastry, leaving a 2- to 3-inch border.


9. Fold the edges of the pastry over the fruit.


10. Brush the beaten egg over the pastry with a pastry brush.
11. Place the tart in the preheated oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the pastry is cooked through and golden brown.
12. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Dust with icing sugar before serving.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

[July] Blueberry, Almond, and Poppy Seed Cantuccini



First Blogger wasn't working...

... and then my computer crashed!

I managed to transfer these photos before it completely died on me, so here's July's biscotti recipe.

The recipe comes from Leela Cyd's beautiful blog tea cup tea; I discovered it through Saveur a few months ago and it instantly became a favourite.

Recently, I have vicariously been experiencing Europe through her gorgeous photos of Portugal and Italy (browse through her travel posts here).

Another way I benefited from Leela's travels: her recipe for Blueberry, Almond & Ginger Cantuccini. Cantuccini, I have learned, is similar to biscotti but there's a slightly different technique involved resulting in a bit of a different texture too. The egg whites are beaten with the sugar like meringue and then the yolks and other ingredients are mixed in.

I've adapted the recipe slightly; mostly by eliminating ingredients I didn't have (agave) or didn't want to use (ginger).

I sliced mine at a very sharp angle which resulted in jumbo-size biscotti, so I suggest you slice yours at a larger angle if you choose to slice diagonally. Otherwise, just slice straight across.



Blueberry, Almond, and Poppy Seed Cantuccini

adapted from Leela Cyd

2 egg whites
200g sugar
2 egg yolks
½ tsp vanilla
250g flour
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
75g dried blueberries
100g almonds
3 tbs (blue) poppy seeds
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F (180C).
  2. In a large clean bowl, add the egg whites and beat with an electric mixer for about 2 minutes (the whites will form tiny bubbles and increase in volume as you beat them).
  3. Add the sugar to the egg whites and beat for another 2 minutes until the mixture is thick and glossy.
  4. In a separate small bowl, mix together the yolks and vanilla.
  5. Gently fold the yolk mixture into the white mixture.
  6. Sift together the flour and baking powder, stir in the salt, and carefully fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture.
  7. Add the blueberries, almonds, and poppy seeds and gently fold in.
  8. Grease a baking tray with veg table oil and line with wax paper or a Silpat, then lightly grease the wax paper or Silpat.. 
  9. Divide the dough into two parts and place on the baking tray. Shape each half into a log, about 3 inches wide, 1 inch high and 8 inches long.
  10. Bake the logs at 350for 20 minutes.
  11. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Turn the oven temperature down to 300F (150C).
  12. When the logs have cooled, cut each log into ¾- to 1-inch slices, either at a slight angle or straight across.
  13. Place the cantuccini back on the baking tray, cut side down, and bake for 20 minutes. Turn the cantuccini over onto their other side and bake for another 20 minutes.
  14. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
  15. Store in an airtight jar.