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Thursday, 22 December 2016

Nutty Chocolate Orange and Maple Loukoumades


My guess is that you've probably never heard of these before or unless you're from Greece. Loukoumades are Greek donuts and they're soooo unbelievably light but deliciously naughty. I don't really like traditional American/English donuts that much anyway so I suppose I'm gonna be more partial towards these round puffy doughy delights. 

Loukoumades take less time and effort than a usual donut recipe as well, with the recipe consisting of just one 1 hour rise. The initial mixing of the dough ingredients is easy and doesn't require any kneading, just stirring and adding enough water to until almost a sloppy wet consistency which is far from the usual bread dough you'd be used to. But don't be scared or put off, you can't go wrong as long as you stick to this method and avoid a lake-like puddle by adding more than 120 ml of water. 

Okay, so I've provided a solution that I find the best to shape and fry these little balls, but this isn't the traditional Greek way. They like to use just hands and fingers to squeeze the wet mix. (I've watched many a youtube video, though it's hard to explain the actual actions.) It's impressive if you can master the skill, however, I couldn't be bothered to give it a go as getting my hands into a complete gooey mess just doesn't appeal to me. I found that using an ice cream scoop dipped in cold water each time and with a quick release lever works perfect everytime for me! If you don't have one of these 2 tablespoons would also work. 

Below this recipe I've provided a few variations as it's a very versatile dish which can be altered in many ways and flavourings to suit whoever is lucky enough to eat them. Keeping the base dough recipe same, you can pretty much add any sweet toppings. They remind me very much of the trendy churro and someone once said to me that a dipping sauce wouldn't go amiss...so how about melting down a whole bar of your fav chocolate bar to accompany. After all, you can never have too much chocolate!! They make a great dessert with 3 to 4 per portion, or leave them as I did, on a big platter plate so everyone can help themselves. It would make an awesome addition to a party feast this Christmas as a sort of dessert canape, piled high like a cone of croquembouche. 

This recipe was created for my uni assignment in association with We Love Maple! It's a great website which promotes the use of pure 100% maple syrup, providing endless recipes for the stuff. I really recommend having a look at their website as it opened up my eyes to a whole new way of cooking with maple syrup, beyond the mundane pancakes and bacon.


Nutty  Chocolate  Orange  and  Maple  Loukoumades

Ingredients

Makes approx. 20 loukoumades


For the dough:
125g (¾ cup + 2  ½ tbsp) strong white bread flour
¼ of 7g sachet active dried yeast
Small pinch of salt
¼  tbsp caster sugar
110 - 120ml (about ½ cup) tepid water

For the topping: 
15g (1 tbsp, if already chopped) almonds
15g (1 tbsp, if already chopped) pecans
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cinnamon, plus extra for dusting
50g (¼ cup) dark chocolate

For deep frying:
Approx. 500ml (17 fl.oz) olive/vegetable oil

For the syrup:
75ml (2.5 fl.oz)  pure amber grade maple syrup from Canada
¼ orange – juice and zest, plus extra zest for serving

Method


In a large bowl, add in the flour, yeast, salt and sugar. Mix together. Slowly add tepid water and mix until the mixture becomes thick and foamy (to a consistency of a milkshake). Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to rest in a warm place for at least 1 hour. Prepare the topping, place almonds, pecans, ginger and cinnamon in a food processor and blitz until a fine crumb. Alternatively, finely chop the nuts by hand, pour into a bowl and stir in ginger and cinnamon. Then repeat with the chocolate, chopping or blitzing to small pieces. Stir chocolate with the nutty crumb. 

10 minutes before the dough resting time has finished, put the oil in a deep metal saucepan and heat until it reaches 180°C/ 350°F, you can alternatively use a deep fat fryer. Once up to temperature, using 2 metal tablespoons or an ice cream scoop with quick release, dip it into a jug of cold water first and then scoop small amounts of mixture. Drop slowly into hot oil. Repeat process until pan is full, but don’t crowd the pan. Dipping the spoon into water beforehand. Loukoumades will puff up and float to the surface. Turn them occasionally, until they are crisp, golden brown all over which takes about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain in a sieve lined with paper towels. Transfer to a warm platter. Repeat batch cooking with all the mixture. 

Pour maple syrup, orange juice and zest into a small saucepan over a medium heat until bubbling. Turn heat to low. Continue to bubble until it turns thicker and reduces slightly in quantity, about 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour hot syrup over the loukoumades. Using a spoon roll them around to evenly coat in syrup. Sprinkle each ball with the chocolate nutty crumb to coat. Transfer to a serving dish. Serve with more orange zest and sprinkle with cinnamon. 

Variation: Swap pecans or almonds for walnuts/hazelnuts. Use white/milk chocolate in place of dark. Remove cinnamon/ginger if preferred. 


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Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Recipe for the Perfect Christmas Gift

Still  looking  for  a  little  Christmas  gift  inspiration?  Then  read  this lovely  guest  post  by  my  good  friend,  Ellen  Dean...


Credit: Ideal Bookshelf 506, Cooking by Jane Mount


1. The  Cooking  revolution

As I rush around like a maniac completing my Christmas shopping last minute, I grudgingly access advice from some smug YouTube ‘5th dan’ shopper. Yes shopper, we all know CD sales are falling and most people, like me, find their entertainment online; all things considered, who has time for books these days? However one type of book apparently remains an acceptable, albeit traditional gift. Among mass online migration, the plucky little cookbook is standing strong; sales are on the rise and have been ever since 2001. ‘Today, if we cook, we Google it”, says writer and cook school owner Prue Leith, be we don’t simply stick to the screen: “New cookbooks lie on the coffee table and we drool over Tuscan landscapes and rustic ovens. Before ordering in a pizza”. Prue may not quite have that 'bake off buzz' but social media is literally bursting with bloggers, instagrammers and jam-packed with youtubers, sharing pics of mouth-watering morsels they have whipped up in an afternoon, all spurred on by their latest recipe book purchase, and although this should all be taken with a pinch of salt (excuse the pun), we have seemingly become a nation of pretty decent chefs.

The epitome of a celebrity chef? Nigella. Her not-so-private life being spread across the media like THAT recipe for avocado on toast! William Sitwell writes, “As she encouraged women to get baking, she claimed to feel liberated by the feel of dough in her hands.” The sensual way, in which she describes each and every ingredient provides entertainment across the nation; we may love to mick her sultry tones but 2.3 million of us still managed to tune in for Simply Nigella last year and nearly as many have bought the book! Isabella Beeton would be turning in her grave. I mean she doesn’t even wear an apron! SO, what’s changed form Beeton’s day? And what is so appealing about these personality chefs’ smiling at us from the glossy pages of magazines and cookbooks? The language of the recipe book draws us in, Nigella’s lush lexis translating to higher sales.



2.  What’s Changed?

Since the premier of ‘Nigella Bites’, her pioneer book in 1999, Ms Lawson has been a household name, the sort of recognition usually reserved for pop giants and footballing heroes. Seventeen years later and she’s still going strong, the embodiment of brand ‘Nigella’, known not only for her mouth watering recipes but also her creative use of language to convey her obvious passion. We may expect all women to use a more descriptive voice but in actuality, theory would contradict us; Robin Lakoff, renowned language expert, suggested women use more empty adjectives, describing words that simply don’t describe; how lovely, nice, fab, divine… This certainly seems to be true for Nigella, recent studies showing she uses up to twice as many as Beeton. But is this just a modern phenomenon? Or is it just evocative of the genre? Beeton’s inspiration, Elizabeth Acton (no I hadn’t heard of her either) would never have described the pleasures of cooking quite as emotively; to her it was simply a task that needed doing, making her writing more formal and let's face it, boring. No match for wordsmith Nigella: “feeling good, wafting along in the warm, sweet-smelling air”.


3.  Why so popular?

The scene is always the same, bookshelves lined with recipe books, which do little more than impress our friends, whilst we sit on our trusty phone or tablet. Blogging is big! Rising to fame through the medium of the internet, bloggers are taking over the kitchen. ‘Deliciously Ella’ (her first) was one of the highest selling cookbooks when it was published, simplifying kale…er, I mean healthy food for the masses. And it all started with a blog! Food writing is one of the few areas where writers can move against the tide from online to print. Even the most inexperienced home cook can relate to the pleasures gained from picking up a cookbook, thumbing through its pages until they are sticky and smudged from looking for their next culinary undertaking. But what is it that facilitates this huge jump? Without prior recognition can any chef make it big in the cookbook world?



Acclaimed linguist, Spittle (2002), writes; “A celebrity cookbook or cooking tool has a known and recognised personality behind it”. We’d all recognise that battered Good Housekeeping Guide festering at the back of the cupboard with its basic egg-boiling instructions, but where’s the ‘star’ in that? So then there’s the descriptive writing of culinary superwoman Nigella, who refers to cooking as “reclaiming our lost Eden”. Hellish hyperbole or perfect pun? Whatever … we go back and buy her books every time; perhaps it is the use of her highly creative metaphors as suggested by Lakoff or maybe the wide range of adjectives employed or more simply we enjoy being tempted with new and exciting recipes whilst drooling over glossy pictures. It was theories by Anne L. Bower (1997) that: “people read cookbooks as fictions because they have settings, characters, and plot - all the necessary components of literature.” Cookbooks provide the perfect getaway without leaving the house; you can escape to the sun soaked beaches of Italy or the crisp air of Scandinavia. Commissioning “the metaphoric use of word” (Lakoff and Johnson) writers transport us.

So, maybe it's time to put down our phones and take a trip through our favourite cookbook. And that’s exactly what I plan to do, starting by consigning my YouTube shopper to the bottom of my basket, under a large pile of gift-wrapped cookbooks ready to simmer under the tree.



Friday, 16 December 2016

Gingerbread Madeleines




Here we are again, nearly another year over and let the Christmas baking season commence!! (As of today I can finally relax with a sigh of relief as I have no more uni work till the new year semester. Woooooo!!) 



I love this time of year, partly because for the first time I can say the cliche term "I'm going home for Christmas" since the past 4 months have been my first living away from home. Though I'm loving it in Birmingham, it will be great to get back to old times with family and friends in familiar surroundings. 



Guilty to say, it's been a good while since my last post, but it's been a very hectic few weeks that have involved writing culinary skills portfolios, nutrition reports and a whole assignment on a maple syrup recipe. Yes. You heard me right, on ONE recipe. I'm quite frankly sick of the stuff now, though I'll be sharing with you that said maple recipe very sooooon, I think it's also rather festive so perfect for this time of year.



And now onto madeleines. I've had a mould tray to make some of these for quite possibly years now but I've never actually got round to it. So I set myself the task that as soon as my mum brought the tray to me on her next visit to see me, this would be my next blog recipe for sure. Funny how most mums would bring the usual student essentials you've forgotten like maybe a tin opener or some stationary. Nope not for me, my essentials consists of french patisserie baking trays. Standard. 

Nonetheless the task I set myself is now complete! Of course I had to give them a Christmassy vibe which generally means throw in some winter spices and there you have it, gingerbread madeleines. If that doesn't scream out the festive period is here, then I don't know what will quite frankly?! 



For my first attempt I thought they turned out very well if I don't say so myself, and being a traditional cake of France, there's not really any other test suitable than to get the approval of my two French flatmates however I'm proud to say they were a success all round. 

These simple petite cakes made me realise that not everything needs to be faffed around with, (I mean I was tempted, not gonna lie, to do a bit of a glace molasses icing) but sometimes a classic flavour and some light, delicate sponge is all you need... and with a good of cup tea as well. They're beautiful with just a dusting of icing sugar and their golden slight crisp shell indentations still visible, making a perfect alternative to the regular christmas cookie or mince pie dare I say it. Also, they're reasonably quick to make, start to finish, so great for when you've got those unexpected last minute visitors who pop round and you want to hand out something with their drink. Or perhaps wrap a few up as a cute little gift. The recipe can easily be doubled or trebled even, (if you're that popular type who has soooo many friends that all need a present). 



I recommend warming them up in a microwave for a few seconds though if you're not going to serve them straight from the oven fresh. They just seem to taste better that way and it also permeates the room every time full of all those wintery spices which is a bonus. 

Gingerbread  Madeleines


Makes approx. 25 depending on the size of the mould
Recipe adapted from The Kitchy Kitchen


Ingredients


120g (9 tablespoons or 1 stick plus a tablespoon) unsalted butter, browned and cooled to room temperature, plus additional melted butter for preparing the moulds
2 large eggs, at room temperature
150g (2/3 cup) caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
130g (1 cup plus 1 tbsp) plain flour, plus extra for dusting trays
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tsp baking powder
Icing sugar (powdered sugar) for dusting

Method


Brush the indentations of a madeleine mould with melted butter. Dust with flour, tap off any excess, and place in the fridge or freezer. 

In the bowl of a standing mixer (or with an electric hand mixer), whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla for 5 minutes until pale and thickened and when you lift the whisk it leaves a trail of ribbon-like mixture on the surface for a short while. 

Mix together the flour, spices, and baking powder. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour as you sprinkle it slowly over the batter. 

Drizzle the browned butter into the batter, a little at a time, while simultaneously folding to incorporate the butter. Fold just until all the butter is incorporated. Don't over mix it or you will beat air out. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes. (The batter can also be chilled for up to 12 hours.)

To bake the madeleines, preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/ gas 7.  
Spoon enough batter in the centre of each mould that you think will fill it by 3/4′s. Do not spread it as it will spread out when cooking.

Bake for 9 to 10 minutes or until the cakes just feel set, (press the cakes lightly with your finger and if it bounces back they’re done. If it stays indented, give it another minute in the oven). Remove from the oven and tilt the madeleines out onto a cooling rack. Then dust with icing sugar to serve. Store in an airtight container. 
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