Monday, June 27, 2011
daring bakers, june.
God, is there anything better than chopping nuts by hand? Few things, to be sure. Melting chocolate, maybe. Halfway through making this month's Daring Bakers challenge, I was convinced there was not. I love chopping nuts - their quick crunch under the blade, the meditative motion of reducing them to a fine powder... so much more soothing than using a food processor.
And that's what this month was all about - doing things by hand. We were asked to make the phyllo and given the option of making any variations we liked - but I went classic. I love baklava. More than anything. I always wanted a baklava wedding cake, though that may be a contradiction in terms. Point is - nuts, spiced syrup, crisp pastry? What more could a girl ask for?
I made a bit too much, if I'm honest, and now have an entire roasting tin full of baklava. Even I, baklava addict that I am (I once ate about 12 servings when I was in Greece for 7 days) cannot eat it. I might need some help... any volunteers?
Erica of Erica’s Edibles was our host for the Daring Baker’s June challenge. Erica challenged
us to be truly DARING by making homemade phyllo dough and then to use that homemade dough to make
1 1/3 cups (320 ml) (185 gm/6½ oz) unbleached all purpose (plain) flour
1/8 teaspoon (2/3 ml) (¾ gm) salt
1/2 cup less 1 tablespoon (105 ml) water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) cider vinegar, (could substitute white wine vinegar or red wine vinegar, but could affect the
1. In the bowl of your stand mixer combine flour and salt 2. Mix with paddle attachment 3. Combine water, oil and vinegar in a small bowl. 4. Add water & oil mixture with mixer on low speed, mix until you get a soft dough, if it appears dry add a
little more water (I had to add a tablespoon more). 5. Change to the dough hook and let knead approximately 10 minutes. You will end up with beautiful smooth dough. If you are kneading by hand, knead approx. 20 minutes. 6. Remove the dough from mixer and continue to knead for 2 more minutes. Pick up the dough and through it down hard on the counter a few times during the kneading process. 7. Shape the dough into a ball and lightly cover with oil. 8. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let rest 30-90 minutes, longer is best.
Rolling your dough:
1. Unwrap your dough and cut off a chunk slightly larger then a golf ball. While you are rolling be sure to keep
the other dough covered so it doesn’t dry out. 2. Be sure to flour your hands, rolling pin and counter. As you roll you will need to keep adding, don’t worry, you can’t over-flour. 3. Roll out the dough a bit to flatten it out. 4. Wrap the dough around your rolling pin/dowel. 5. Roll back and forth quickly with the dough remaining on the dowel (see attached video for a visual,
its much easier then it sounds). 6. Remove; notice how much bigger it is! 7. Rotate and repeat until it is as thin as you can it. Don’t worry if you get rips in the dough, as long as you have one perfect one for the top you will never notice. 8. When you get it as thin as you can with the rolling pin, carefully pick it up with well floured hands and stretch it on the backs of your hands as you would a pizza dough, just helps make it that much thinner. Roll out your dough until it is transparent. 9. Set aside on a well-floured surface. Repeat the process until your dough is used up. Between each sheet again flower well. You will not need to cover your dough with a wet cloth, as you do with boxed dough, it is moist enough that it will not try out.
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) honey
1 1/4 cups (300ml) water
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) (280 gm/10 oz) sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 (2-inch/50 mm) piece fresh citrus peel (lemon or orange work best)
a few cloves or a pinch or ground clove
1. Combine all ingredients in a medium pot over medium high heat. Stir occasionally until sugar has dissolved. 2. Boil for 10 minutes, stir occasionally. 3. Once boiled for 10 minutes remove from heat and strain cinnamon stick and lemon, allow to cool as baklava cooks.
1 (5-inch/125 mm piece) cinnamon stick, broken into 2 to 3 pieces or 2 teaspoons (10 ml) (8 gm) ground cinnamon
15 to 20 whole allspice berries ( I just used a few pinches)
3/4 cup (180 ml) (170 gm/6 oz) blanched almonds
3/4 cup (180 ml) (155 gm/5½ oz) raw or roasted walnuts
3/4 cup (180 ml) (140 gm/5 oz) raw or roasted pistachios
2/3 cup (160 ml) (150 gm/ 5 1/3 oz) sugar
phyllo dough (see recipe above)
1 cup (2 sticks) (240 ml) (225g/8 oz) melted butter
1. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4.
2. Combine nuts, sugar and spices in a food processor and pulse on high until finely chopped. If you do not
have a food processor chop with a sharp knife as fine as you can. Set aside. 3. Trim your phyllo sheets to fit in your pan. 4. Brush bottom of pan with butter and place first phyllo sheet. 5. Brush the first phyllo sheet with butter and repeat approximately 5 times ending with butter. (Most recipes say more, but homemade phyllo is thicker so it's not needed) 6. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top 7. Continue layering phyllo and buttering repeating 4 times 8. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top
9. Continue layering phyllo and buttering repeating 4 times. 10. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top. 11. Continue layering and buttering phyllo 5 more times. On the top layer, make sure you have a piece of phyllo
with no holes if possible, just looks better. 12. Once you have applied the top layer tuck in all the edges to give a nice appearance. 13. With a Sharp knife cut your baklava in desired shapes and number of pieces. If you can't cut all the ways
through don’t worry you will cut again later. A 9x9 pan cuts nicely into 30 pieces. Then brush with a
generous layer of butter making sure to cover every area and edge. 14. Bake for approximately 30 minutes; remove from oven and cut again this time all the way through. Continue baking for another 30 minutes. (Oven temperatures will vary, you are looking for the top to be a golden brown, take close watch yours may need more or less time in the oven) 15. When baklava is cooked remove from oven and pour the cooled (will still be warmish) syrup evenly over the top, taking care to cover all surfaces when pouring. It looks like it is a lot but over night the syrup will soak into the baklava creating a beautifully sweet and wonderfully textured baklava!
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
I've been away again, leading to a bit of downtime here at the blog. Very sorry about that - but I promise there will be a Daring Bakers challenge by the end of the week, as well as some other things I've eaten along the way.
It's been a busy few weeks - in the run-up to last week, I was nose-to-the-books trying to finish a paper, which I then presented at the International Institute for Applied Aesthetics summer conference in Lahti, Finland. The conference, on urban nature, was just the most inspiring thing; populated by so many doing similar work to me, it was exactly the place to go for a boost in morale. It helped me come around to my recent decision to move to Toronto to begin my PhD at York University in the autumn.
Anyhow, eating in Finland is always a bit tough for me. It's not exactly a cuisine built on vegetarian staples; meat and fish figure heavily, but there is a preponderance of rye amongst the breads, which works well for me. But these kinds of things are often less about the food than about the company.
During the conference dinner, I tucked into a simple plate of vegetable gratin and potatoes, but barely noticed it for the quality of conversation. I was eating with my absolute favourite living philosopher, Arnold Berleant, discussing the future of the field and the future of my research. It was the most incredible opportunity for me, and really solidified my feeling that this is exactly what I want to be doing with my life.
Later, I tucked into an old favourite - essentially a cinnamon bun and a plain old cup of coffee. I don't know why this is so comforting, but it's the best part of traveling in Finland. No Danish pastry, of course, but a nice bun, a warm drink, and fantastic company make it just as good.
More to come later in the week.
Saturday, June 4, 2011
It's getting a bit late in the season now for borage, but I happened to have a little pot of it growing on the windowsill and figured I should put it to use. It's mild and subtle when young - but I wouldn't use it after its first few weeks, as it gets sticky, nettle-like, and a bit tough.
Here, I've chopped it with spinach, stirred it into ricotta, and stuffed the mixture into fresh, hand-rolled sheets of pasta. I topped the whole thing off with a simple, garlicky cream sauce and popped it under the grill.
A note on hand-rolling pasta: it takes forever and quite a lot of muscle. If you have a machine, which I don't, go for it, but it's kind of satisfying to do it by hand. It's impossible to get the pasta paper-thin, but I roll until I can see my blue countertop through the pasta, then hold it up to the light to see my hand through it.
Borage and Ricotta Cannelloni
Makes enough for three or four.
Half a batch pasta dough - I used Jamie Oliver's, here. Roll into 6x6 inch sheets.
1 small tub ricotta
1 clove garlic
1 small handful tender young borage leaves, finely chopped
a handful spinach, finely chopped
1 cup whole milk
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. flour
salt and pepper
parsley and basil to garnish
1. Finely mince half of your garlic clove and stir into the ricotta. Stir in your greens, a splash of olive oil, and season to taste. 2. Melt your butter in a small saucepan and stir in your flour to form a roux. Toss in the rest of your garlic, minced, and whisk in your milk. Bring to a simmer and season to taste. Set aside. 3. Bring a pot of water to the boil and cook your pasta sheets until just cooked. Drain and rinse under cool water. 4. Begin assembly by coating the base of a baking sheet with a bit of olive oil and a spoonful of your white sauce. 5. Take each sheet of pasta and lay it out flat. Stuff with a few spoonfuls of ricotta mixture and roll up like a burrito. Line them up in the pan fairly tightly. 6. Pour over the rest of your sauce, grate over some parmesan, and pop in the oven at 400 F (200C) until golden brown. Serve with herbs sprinkled over the top.
Friday, June 3, 2011
There's one thing I absolutely can't get enough of in British summertime, and it's elderflower. Before elderflower, I never felt a conspicuous absence in my life or anything. I didn't feel like I was missing out on something enormous. But then, when I moved to England, it hit me! The only reason I didn't notice how much I'd been missing out on elderflower over the years was that elderflower is more subtle than that.
It's light, floral, and not at all in your face. So of course, I had no idea what I was missing.
Living next to the Heath, I have easy access to some of the nicest, fume-free elderflowers. This year, they started to come in around early May, but they will last another few weeks I expect. I picked these in a brief foraging frenzy along the top of Parliament Hill - but anywhere you are (in the UK, Scandinavia, etc...) you're likely to find some. Be sure to pick from trees that aren't next to busy roads, and pick heads with open, fresh-looking flowers.
With just a handful of flower heads, I made up a batch of cordial and a couple of bottles of champagne in about an hour - from tree to steeping. Both need a good day's steeping to get the flavours going, but the cordial will be ready immediately after sieving. The champagne is still tucked away under the kitchen table, hopefully fermenting - but I'll keep you posted on that!
10 heads of elderflower, shaken off well and picked over for bugs
800 grams sugar
1 litre water
1 1/2 lemons
1. Peel your lemon rind and slice the fruit, popping them in a large bowl with your elderflowers. 2. In a pot, mix together your sugar and water and bring to a boil. Once your sugar has dissolved, pour your syrup over the flowers and lemons. Cover with a plate or lid and leave to steep for 24 hours. 3. Once ready (it will smell strongly of elderflower), sieve through a muslin-lined strainer and decant into clean bottles or jars. Keeps for a few weeks, but can also be frozen in plastic vessels.
Ensure your tools are sterilised when making this!
2 heads of elderflower, shaken off well and picked over for bugs
500 grams sugar
2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
5 litres cold water
1. Put your elderflower in a large (at least 5 litre) container like a bucket or large pot. Add the peel of the lemon and the juice. Toss in your sugar and vinegar. 2. Pour over your cold water, cover, and leave to steep for 24 hours. 3. Remove the larger debris from your liquid, and then strain through a muslin-lined sieve. 4. Decant into sterile bottles (glass screw tops or plastic pop bottles work well) and seal up tight. 5. Leave somewhere out of the way for at least two weeks, longer for a better flavour.