Sunday, August 31, 2008

Oh! I made éclairs!!

I did really! This is one thing that I never really thought of making myself, but that I now and then choose when in a café. They're not very common here, but one of my favorite places in Göteborg (Gothenburg) where I used to live usually has them.

The éclairs where this months Daring Baker's challenge. Hosts this month were Meeta K of What's For Lunch Honey and Tony of Olive Juice. They choose to make Chocolate Éclairs from a recipe by Pierre Hermé, recipe can be found, for example on Meeta's blog. Thank you both for an excellent choice, and a great job!

It was great trying my  hand at something I usually
 don't make myself. I haven't played around much with pâte a choux before. That was fun, seemed easy to work. Sadly enough I think I underbaked it a little, which probably was the reason they got a little deflated. The chocolate filling  and chocolate glaze (I followed the recipe to the letter this time) was quite a lot of chocolate for me, even though I was having a bad case of PMS :), so if I do this again I will probably do so
me other filling.
I made a small batch, since I thought they wouldn't keep in the refridgerator. The weird thing is, I actually think I enjoyed them more the next day, cold and all. :) Maybe I'm just weird.

So.. It's late, and I think I'll stop it there. I haven't managed 
to do the photoshop stuff yet, so I'll add the pictures tomorrow.

If anyone was wondering about my absence from here.. I'll be back. It's ju
st that summer is running out (by now, it's actually fall up here), work is starting to be regular again, and D. will be leaving again. August was something we somehow stole for ourselves, though it probably wasn't supposed to be. It's been good. I'm busy savouring our last days together in a while, saving up for the coming months. I'll probably start posting regularly again any time soon.  

Thank's again to this month's host and hostess! Check out all the other éclairs to by going to the Daring Baker's blogroll!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

So well... I'm back

Actually I'm back home since a couple of days, but we sort of just got things back on track after being away for so long. And now my parents are here visiting. But today is posting day for this months Daring Bakers challenge, I thought I should post about it. I actually managed to make the cake (after I got back, the kitchen in D.'s little appartment in Lille doesn't have an oven). And the cake was a succes with everyone who ate it (I brought it to a dinner at a friends house), except for possibly me. Personally, I think I need to work on my skills wit
h nut meal genoise before I'm happy.
Because of allergies of the host of the party I choose not to use hazelnuts, but used almonds instead. Also, I used rasberry liquor for the syrup and the ganache glaze instead of orange liquor. I didn't have time to take many pictures, but here is the cake packed into a larger spring form pan in order to transport it. 
A big thank you to this months host Chris at Mele Cotte! The recipe for the cake can be found at her blog, direct link to the post here

The recipe, I had no problems with most of it. Everything except for the genoise went without trouble. The genoise was trickier, but mainly due to my being lazy. I was thinking I had been doing this sort of thing kind of  a lot lately, and so I didn't pay as much attention as I ought to. Note that the recipe is a bit weird when it comes to the end of the genoise part. The part when butter has to be poured into a container and then the nut and flour should be folded in freaked me out. (I didn't read far enough ahead to notice that the nuts should be folded into the batter, not the butter. The recipe could be a bit clearer, I think.) And then the cake wasn't really finished when I pulled it out of the oven. Didn't notice that until I turned it upside down to cut, so I had to take it back to the oven again. Oh well. The result, as I said, was appreciated by everyone who ate it except for me. :)

And one more thing about last months challenge. I actually made it, before leaving for France. I just didn't have time to post about it, since finding an internet connection 
turned out to be trickier than I thought. And, since I made it when I was just about leaving I didn't really have time to find somebody that could eat it, so I froze most of the dough. I made one braid tho
ugh, with a strawberry filling, and it was tasty. And so much fun. 
I never made a laminated dough before, and was really curious about how that would be. Pitty it's so buttery, otherwise I would make it a couple of times just to play with it. Interesting!
The one photo I managed to snap is quite ugly, but anyway, here it is...

And one more thing. Photos and things about Lille are coming. (Oh, market shopping! Can't be done here.) But I just can't find time right now, with parents visiting and all... I'm trying to read through a lot of blogs that I missed, just to see what happened in everyone else's life... Good to be back too, in some senses.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Falling downwards

Just a few lines before calling a cab to take me to the airport. I'll be gone for a month, but hopefully posting anyway. Seventh floor will be changed for something closer to the ground, and northern France will replace northern Sweden. Summer vacation is on here, and noone really cares where I decide to do my work right now, so I'm heading down to D. until the french summer vacation starts in July. If I get internet access I'll be telling you food stories from Lille instead, but so far the only way I know about getting internet access in France is to use the free wifi at McDonalds. That wouldn't be very good for me to do that often.. So bye for now, and if nothing else I'll get back in a month. Hopefully with a lot of good photos too.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

More Lentils

I wanted to add a few more photos today. Today is just another of those totally splendid days that we don't get that many of during a summer. Awesome, temperature around 27°C/80°F and sun all day. Makes me remember that being alive is such a good thing...
 One of the dishes I'm adding photos of is a lentil gratin I came up with yesterday that turned out absolutely great. The very simplest thing to make, and so many possibilities to tweak it. I will make it again, for sure, and probably change it, but I thought I should add th
e recipe. This time around, I used red lentils, but really, any kind should work. I think Puy lentils would be just great... Lentils were just cooked until barely tender and then put into a gratin dish together with a minced shallot and a sliced garlic clove, a diced tom
ato and some feta cheese. Some of the lentil cooking liquid came into the dish with the lentils. Also, salt and pepper was added, and some dried thyme (I didn't think the fresh thyme would really have any taste left after a while in the oven). I topped this with leftover bread which was about to go stale, poured maybe a dL of wine over it 
(until there was only very 
little space left in the dish) and put it into the oven at 200°C for maybe half an hour. I'm not quite certain of how much lentils I used, since I started to cook about 2 dL, but that was too much to fit into my gratin dish, so I used maybe a little more than half of the cooked lentils.
The other dinners in this post is just a simple tomato sauce pasta with some Västerbotten cheese on top, and todays dinner which was braised green cabbage and some marinated chickpeas. Or at least, I think this is green cabbage in English? In Swedish, green cabbage would be something diferent which I don't know what it's called in English, and this would be white 

I'm sitting here writing itching all over right now. Since today was rather warm, and the last few days actually have been warm and nice I decided to go out to the community gardens and see to the watering of all the seeds I planted last week. Actually, some of them are above ground by now! The radishes are at least. Maybe, just maybe, I might be able to have some radishes before I leave for France in two weeks. At least if the weather stays this good, which I'm hoping for since we're planning a picknick for tomorrow. Tomorrow is a holiday here, and I spent some of this afternoon on buying wine and ridiculously expensive beef (which should be ridiculously good, hopefully), planning to make a beef salad. I was also thinking about some kind of desert, but I really don't know what to make. Someone else is going to
 bring some cheese, so maybe we don't need desert after all? But then again, I really wouldn't mind an excuse to bake something sweet in addition to the olive bread I started to make. So I don't know... What are your best recipe for lemon cookies? That would be a good
 thing... and my last attempt was disastrous.

Note: Is using dL to measure things a uniquely Swedish thing? Google won't do the converting from dL to cups... A dL is a tenth of a liter, so 2 dL is 0.2L.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Just Like A Teenager

Oh my. It's ages since I did anything like this. And on a Sunday... And now I'm all awake, and it's past eleven and I don't know when I'll be able to go to sleep. You see, I've been drinking something like a liter of tea tonight. Give or take some...
A friend had been given a bag of different teas to taste. The store he got them from are considering to get some for selling and they wanted an opinion. And we were certainly happy to give them that, but since we got very enthusiastic we tried something like six different teas. Or was it eight? Don't remember anymore. And I just got home. It's totally lovely tonight by the way, I wish I could keep walking for an hour or so instead of going home and trying to get sleepy. It's 17°C (60-65°
F somewhere) and still almost daylight. If this place was like this all the year I would be totally happy. Also, if I got to drink teas like this every day, I would also be v
ery happy. That was one great way to spend an evening, but sadly I didn't bring the camera. Well, 
maybe not so interesting to see lots of different colors of tea in the same cup though...

I do have some pictures though. I finally made a very good bread again. Lately I've been eating through a sort of decent improvised bread I made two weeks ago, but now I managed to get myself together and make the real stuff. Though I hadn't made any sourdough, so I had to make do with some quickly thrown together rye flour and water, so it wasn't quite as sour as usual.

I can't remember if I actually ever wrote down the recipe for this bread.  This is how I make it...
You need a piece of dough from the last batch, about 300-400 grams, and about the same amount of rye sourdough (I make it by mixing equal parts in volume of water and rye flour, usually feeding it for a couple of days, but then, this time I made it maybe an hour before I started baking). 1 kg of flour and about 600-700 grams of water, and some yeast (depending on how long rising times you want, I've used everything between 3 grams and 15 grams) then after most of the mixing is done, 10-20 grams of salt. I let it rise twice, once in a box and second time after I divide the dough in four and carefully put it into baskets. One of the rises is usually done overnight in the fridge. This time I did the second rise in the fridge, and so I got to bake it for breakfast in the morning. I just can't resist fresh bread out of the oven... (I know I should wait until it's cold, but honestly... Can anyone resist that smell?)

Friday, May 30, 2008

Dining Lately

Woooha.. I'm on my new computer. And I just finished processing a few photos in absolutely no time at all. Also, I could see what I was doing to the pictures! Although I do love my little 12" Ibook by now it is actually several years old, and not at all suitable for some of the things I do, like try to edit my photos. Now, changing to a 24" screened Imac definitely have some good sides. And, since it's more than three years newer,  it's so much more powerful I can't believe it. Just saving a photo used to take loads of time, now it's instant. 

But, I'm not really here to rant about my new computer. I wanted to put up some more dinner photos. I've been waiting for the computer to arrive all week, and so I was lazy with fixing t
hose images since I knew it would be much quicker as soon as I got this to work. That's why you get a number of dinners in one post here. Top one is today's sesame seed salmon stir fr
y (today must be the day of alliterations). Then, my first real taste of summer. That's new potatoes (but I have to admit that they weren't that great, it's just not time yet.) I'll have to wait for a few more weeks for the real thing, but still, new potatoes with pickled herring and chives might be the most essential summer meal to me. Except for strawberries, that is. Further down is a quick fried rice with frozen peas (no way that the fresh thing is available up here yet, unless they fly it in from quite far off), and a tofu stir fry. 
And yes, there is some kind of stir fry emphasis this week. I'm sort of going through
 some of my cookbooks when making shopping lists. I pick one and sit down to find a number of meals I could make from it and write a list of things I would need. This week I happened to choose a Chinese cookbook, or at least a Swedish version of a Chinese cookbook. I'm quite convinced that not all of the recipes in there are totally authentic, but I sort of got inspired to learn more about Chinese cooking. Anyone has hints about the best books for learning more on the regional cuisines of China?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Leaning Opera Cake Tower

So, this is what this months Daring Bakers challenge came out like in my kitchen. A leaning tower of Opera cake. This months there was four people hosting, namely the two founders of the Daring Bakers, Lisa from La Mia Cucina and Ivonne from Creampuffs in Venice together with Fran at Apples Peaches Pumpkin Pie and Shea from Whiskful. Thank you all for a great challenge!
In addition to posting this challenge, they also suggested that posts could be dedicated to Barbara at WinosAndFoodies. While I do not know Barbara, I checked out her blog which is a very nice read. Barbara, even not knowing you, I would like to dedicate my cake entry to you and the fight against cancer.
So, now to my cake making. The recipe we used for the Opera cake can be found for example in Ivonnes challenge entry (it's really quite long, and I'm never totally comfortable about putting anyone else's recipe up on my blog without asking, so I link instead, hope that's OK).

Learning from last months challenge, I had decided that even though I had no real reason to make a huge cake, I would still enjoy the challenge. So I left work a bit early on a Friday afternoon (my brain had stopped working anyway, so I couldn't really write much more), dropped by a shop to buy a bit of white chocolate and got home and started to work on a mini version of the Opera cake. I decided to make a fourth of the recipe, and decided that I had two pans that would together be the right volume for that. I started to measure up ingredients. At this point the phone started to call. And suddendly I wasn't at all going to have a nice Friday night for baking, but was invited to a last minute put together dinner party. Oh well, it was still some time to go, and I had a few eggs separated, (and divided into parts since I wanted things like 6/4=three half eggs), so I decided to go ahead with the joconde and the butter cream. Luckily everything turned out well except for me freaking out about there being to little batter for two pans and decided to do it all in one of the pans. As you can see I ended up with somewhat to thick layers because of this. I decided to make use of some wonderful pistachios I had bought a few weeks earlier for this, so I substituted ground pistaccios for most of the ground almonsds in the recipe. Then I made a very lime-tasting butter cream by adding the zest of two limes and the juice of one to the butter cream. The butter cream was nice and easy, no problem to make. I actually heated the syrup for the butter cream all the way up to 124° C, since I didn't understand in what way that had gone wrong (and I like instructions to be explained...) I had no problems doing this, but maybe my butter cream would have been even better if I had followed the sugestion and only heated it to 107°C. Anyhow, it worked fine.

The next morning, after a nice dinner with some friends I went back to working on my cake. For the syrup, I choose to use a orange flower honey which I thought would compliment the pistaccios. And I also made a white chocolate mousse with some extra chopped pistaccios and a little bit of lime zest. Then, finally I made the glace, which I, as I remember it left plain and decorated the cake with some of those amazingly dark green pistaccios.
And when I had put it all together I realised that I really should have used two pans for the joconde, because, well, this was quite a lot higher than it was wide. But at least it looks kind of funny :)
Also, with this thick layers of cake, I really should have used huge amounts of syrup to get them all spongy. Maybe I was a bit to much in a rush to do this properly, because I think it could have been done a bit better. Also, the thickness of the layers made it quite hard to get all the layers into one bite. But, I made it, and I don't think I've ever made a cake with so many components before. And I was certainly enjoying myself while making it. So, thank you to all Daring Bakers that makes this event so much fun each month!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Exactly What I Needed

So tonight I threw together a pasta, quite simple, really almost no work. And it turned out to be exactly what I wanted tonight. Somehow fresh tasting, and still interesting enough to make it feel like a splendid meal. The chives I grew on the balcony last summer have survived, and I managed to find some fresh aragula lettuce. Yummy!

Yesterday I had dinner at a friends house, which included asparagus and some salsicca that was oh sooo tasty. I wonder if I will regret not going to the right store when getting some sausages to go with the risotto I was planning for tomorrow, when my mother will be visiting. Let's hope the ones I have will do.

And, the lentil soup I made on Monday by the way : It was extremely simple. Some minced onion (one small) and pancetta (four slices) sauted in a little oil. Vegetable stock (or should it be broth, I'm uncertain of the difference of those words in English? anyway, about 750 ml, a little more than 3 cups) and lentils (200 grams, about 7 oz) added, together with salt, a little pepper and few crumbled leaves of fresh thyme. Cooked until lentils where nice and soft and served with a little lemon juice and grilled pancetta. Be carefull not to throw all the grilled pancetta on the kitchen floor, pancetta is quite fatty and you will immediately need to clean the floor (speaking from experience). :)

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Decadent Saturday, and A Somewhat More Austere Monday

It seems as if I'm eaten at other peoples homes more than at my own place lately... And even though it's not entirely true, since I don't bring I do get less pictures to put here. I also was totally amazingly lazy duringn the weekend, and except for this one meal from Saturday afternoon I didn't really make anything I could even think of putting here, even though I'm trying to keep my ambitions for what's allowed here not too high. The idea of putting my dinners here was to motivate me to cook anything at all right now, remember? But this, on the other hand, was extremely good. So maybe that makes up for it? I don't buy meat for myself that often, but since I was doing my shoping downtown in a store that has very good meat from a farmm just outside town, I couldn't really resist. And polenta with blue cheese doesn't make it worse, don't you think?

Today though, after a lazy weekend, I went for something a bitmore healthy... Lentils, and pancetta soup with garlic toast, though I managed to burn the toasts a bit. And I don't want to talk about the pancetta... Really, I managed to get a first batch all over the kitchen table when I tried to turn them to grill the other side. I think some cleaning godess heard my secret thought about that I could maybe get away with not cleaning the kitchen floor until later in the week. But it made me feel a lot better about being lazy all weekend. Both the cleaning and the soup. And I can have lunch from the leftovers tomorrow. :)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

My Favourite Potato Salad

This potato salad was first made for me by my Bulgarian roommate Petya in Prague. She made it when she had recieved a care package, containing among other things Bulgarian goat cheese from her mother. She was a bit homesick at times, and I think this warm salad reminded her of food from home. And it's one of the best potato salads I've ever had, so I make it every now and then. It was March when she made it there, so it was made from winter potatoes. I don't think I had had potato salad that wasn't made from new potatoes before, but this works fine, at least tastewise. It looks a bit mushy though. And I had no Bulgarian goat cheese, so I used some lebneh that I found at a local ethnic store some time ago, which made it even mushier, but still tasty. I don't know if I mentioned it yesterday, but I finally had time enough to make some bread to. I used it for the toast. And then, now I just finished my dessert. Sometimes there's nothing like a cup of hot chocolate.

Monday, May 12, 2008

To Get A Lot Out Of A Little

The title refers to getting a lot of dinner out of relatively little work. And I'd say that's certainly what I did. I made some soup tonight, but the sallad was just using up leftover beans and adding some tomato. The soup was great though, made from a vegetable I had no idea what the English name for was, but according to wikipedia it seems to be called sunchoke or Jerusalem artichoke. Anyway, under it's Swedish name (jordärtsskocka) I have gladly used it for a long time. It's great in a potato gratin, or roasted, but it might be even better pureed in a creamy soup.
You see, spring hasn't really started yet up here. The birches are just beginning to look faintly green. On Saturday I went to a barbecue at some friends place, and they had actually sown some carrots about a week ago (so, still long time before anything is up really), but they have a very well protected place to keep them with a good micro climate. I'm considering sowing the coming weekend in my community garden. But from this part of the country there is still really -nothing- that has been growing this year. Sunchokes, on the other hand, can be harvested throughout winter when the ground isn't frozen. (At least I think so?) So while I read about a lot of people starting to use spring ingredients, that's not for me yet. If anyone is interested, the season for local strawberries up here is in July... On the other hand, the sun just dissapeared behind another building from my northern window. So, when season is here, it's here for real :)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Kitchen Therapy

So, I'm back home. Actually, I came back on Monday night, though I wasn't able to enter the appartment until after midnight, due to forgotten keys and security guards taking an hour to come and let me in. It was rather cold here on Monday night, about one degree above freezing. Guess who felt extreeeeemely foolish for forgetting keys? Because of all that, I was rather tired yesterday, and didn't manage to do what I thought, namely make one of those dinner posts I mentioned earlier. But here I am today! I actually got inspired and cooked a bit more seriously than I usually do for myself. And it was tasty. And I even got dessert!
While in France, I bought a book called le Petit Larousse de la Cuisine or something similar (I left the book with D. since it was rather heavy to carry back). I'm planning to use it next time I go there, since even though I can usually cook what I want, I really don't know that many of the ingredients names in French. So I thought, if I have a cookbook I can buy what it tells me, and maybe I'll learn some new words. But, this book also have some preliminary words on how to eat, very fascinating to compare with Swedish recommendations. For example, cheese was, as I understood it recommended to eat after both lunch and dinner, dayly. And dessert. So today, I took this to heart (not the cheese though) and cooked two different courses, and cut up some melon to have for dessert. For someone who usually just throws together some pasta with something to make it taste good when cooking for noone else, this is quite a feat. :)
The photo shows everything together. First some beans fried with onions and sweet pepper, then an improvised rice dish with spinach and hazelnuts and some melon with honey and yoghurt. I know this is no way a gourmet meal, but it was tasty, and the cooking of it really helped me slow down after a rather hectic day back at work.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Cheesecake Pops with the Daring Bakers

First of all, I have to admitt that I'm a convert. I really didn't think much of cheesecake before this last Friday. I have eaten it in cafés occasionaly, but it always seemed somewhat rubbery and not all that interesting. Now I know that it isn't cheesecake I'm not so impressed with, but rather that I did have not very impressing cheesecake. A huge thank you to this months Daring Bakers hostesses, Elle of Feeding My Enthusiasms and Deborah of Taste and Tell, for challenging me to do this! I'm afraid I'm hooked.

Life is terribly busy at the moment, and this in addition to the fact that I feel quite lonely and not really up to baking with D. gone made me think that I wouldn't do this months challenge. But Friday afternoon on my way home I dropped by the grocery store (mainly because I needed to shop something for dinner) and in the end I bought cream cheese and cream (the two ingredients I didn't already have) and made a batch after dinner. I made a tiny batch, dividing the original recipe into five, and then, feeling a bit sorry for myself all alone on a Friday night I ate part of it as soon as it cooled down a bit. (Yum, that's when I realised I've only had bad cheesecake, and felt much better.) Yesterday, I dipped it in chocolate and som chopped pistagios. So, I don't have time for a long post, but this is my afternoon snack yesterday. And yes, I will have to make this again! The recipe, by the way can be found on Deborah's blog, linked above. I know many people had problems with their cheesecake no setting, but I had none at all. On the other hand, I baked my fifth of what was supposed to be one cake for the 45 minutes prescribed... So I can understand that people who went for the whole batch had trouble. Anyway, thank you again to our hostesses, and sorry about my short not very interesting post this month. Too many deadlines... I'll be back in a week with a report from France!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Trying To Find My Mind Again

So, D. left for France little more than a week ago. And here I am, trying to find out how to live on my own again. It's a bit lonely, but I'm getting by. I can't wait until I get to go down south too, to have a look. In the meantime, I try to keep up my interest in cooking. I still need to eat, and I still prefer to eat good. So I try to come up with things that makes me keep cooking interesting stuff. First of all, I'm trying to clean out all weird leftovers in the pantry and fridge. We did clean out the freezer this winter, the last really cold weekend, when we could safely leave everything out on the balcony while defrosting. Now I'll try to get rid of all things that just got forgotten there. I found three kinds of noodles for example. About one million kinds of sauces and stuff. Four kinds of rice (we regularly eat two of them though). So my new rule is that I can only buy stuff that can be used in a dish with something that needs finishing.

My second thought was to try to take photos of my dinners and put here. Not really writing down all the recipes, but putting the picture here, like a dinner dairy. I took a picture tonight, and I'll try to get it up tomorrow. Let's see if I can make a few posts like that.

Anyway, I haven't posted for a long time, so I thought I should. I'll try to be back with something more interesting soon. :)

Monday, March 31, 2008

Perfect Party Cake with the Daring Bakers

I'm late posting today. Should have posted yesterday. But for some reason, I'm so tired I'm wondering what's wrong with me these days. And D. is leaving in a week. So I'm not much of a poster. But I made the cake, and it really is a great cake. Thank you Morven for the great recipe! The recipe was really easy to follow and must be totally foolproof since I managed to follow it that day. You see, when I saw that this months challenge was a cake I thought GREAT! This will be my birthday cake! And so I decided to make it for my birthday, which was on the 16th of March. That being a Sunday, D.'s parents decided to come visiting on the Saturday (they get to do some driving to get here). On Friday night we went out for dinner with some friends, and ended up at a friends appartment having a few drinks and talking for some part of the night. And on Saturday morning I was going to make cake, which I was hoping to finish before guests arriving at lunchtime. I started out maybe at around 10, and by noon the cake was baked (in spite of my not having two equal sized spring forms so I actually halved the recipe and made it twice) the buttercream was made and some raspberry mixed with sugar and pureed was taken out of the freezer. This must mean that the recipe is almost perfect, since the only thing I can do in such situations is to follow the recipe to the letter (which has lead to disasters before..). And well, my cake wasn't that pretty (it was put together with three people waiting eagerly for it), but my, it did taste great. And the day after, on my birthday, when my mother was visiting it even led her to enjoy something containing buttercream for probably the first time in her life. I followed the recipe also when it came to flavoring, with coconut on the sides of the cake, lemon in the buttercream and raspberry for the second kind of filling. I didn't have any seedless raspberry preserves though (haven't ever seen it), but used some raspberry coulis D. made at some earlier point to go with a chocolate mousse, and from which he had frozen leftovers. The one thing that I did change though was that though I made buttercream for the layers I did put whipped cream on top. That way it looks a lot more like a traditional birthday cake to me, and less frightening to buttercream sceptics like me (and a few others I wanted to serve it too).
I did have some problems with the layers crumbling (and, as you can see, I didn't do a very good job at doing even sizes), but I liked the taste of everything a lot. Lemon really made buttercream a whole lot better.
It feels a bit extravagant to be using 8 egg whites, but that means that this cake will be a perfect way to use up the leftover whites I usually acumulate. This recipe is a keeper!

Again, thank you Morven, and thank you all other Daring Bakers that make every monthly challenge such a good experience!


Courtesy of Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours (page 250).
Posting date Sunday 30 March.

(sorry I'm still a bit of a blogger "dummy" so don't know how to highlight in red). For those of you who don't read all the comments or don't have Dorie's book, there were a couple of omissions which some diligent Daring Bakers picked up. If these contributed to a "floppity flops" - my sincere apologies. Please note the changes in bold below - one is the reference to a 1/4 cup of lemon juice and the second is in relation to whisking together the egg whites and milk in the 2nd line of making the cake. I've also expanded on the Update on Playing Around.

Introduction from Morven
I wanted to pick something that had potential for putting your personal stamp on. Although this is essentially a white cake I know there are some lemon haters among us so feel free to use your imagination. If you inner chef tells you that you need to make a chocolate layer cake then by all means do so. See Dorie’s words on playing around below for some flavour combination ideas.

Update on playing around. Yes you can do what ever you want with this cake as long as you promise to use the basic cake recipe and the basic buttercream recipe (if you are doing the buttercream that is) . The filling/frosting flavours are completely up to you. If you don't feel like using Dorie's buttercream recipe (flavoured as you wish) she says whipped cream will do for the filling and finishing and I say... go for it. If you want to use fondant or something else - it's your cake. Bake a square one, a heart shaped one or any other shape you like but please make it a layer cake.

I can't wait to see what combinations people come up with. You can leave out the lemon, put different flavours of preserves in the middle, leave off the coconut - have some fun with it.

Words from Dorie
Stick a bright-coloured Post-it to this page, so you’ll always know where to turn for a just-right cake for any celebration. The original recipe was given to me by my great dear friend Nick Malgieri, of baking fame, and since getting it, I’ve found endless opportunities to make it – you will too. The cake is snow white, with an elegant tight crumb and an easygoing nature: it always bakes up perfectly; it is delicate on the tongue but sturdy in the kitchen – no fussing when it comes to slicing the layers in half or cutting tall, beautiful wedges for serving; and, it tastes just as you’d want a party cake to taste – special. The base recipe is for a cake flavoured with lemon, layered with a little raspberry jam and filled and frosted with a classic (and so simple) pure white lemony hot-meringue buttercream but, because the elements are so fundamental, they lend themselves to variation (see Playing Around), making the cake not just perfect, but also versatile.

For the Cake

2 1/4 cups cake flour (updated 25 March)
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk (I prefer buttermilk with the lemon)
4 large egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure lemon extract

For the Buttercream
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For Finishing
2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable
About 1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut

Getting Ready
Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To Make the Cake
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.
Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant.
Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light.
Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed.
Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated.
Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients.
Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated.
Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean
Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners.
Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up (the cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to two months).

To Make the Buttercream
Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or another large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a plan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes.
The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream.
Remove the bowl from the heat.
Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes.
Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth.
Once all the butter is in, beat in the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes.
During this time the buttercream may curdle or separate – just keep beating and it will come together again.
On medium speed, gradually beat in the lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla.
You should have a shiny smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly.

To Assemble the Cake
Using a sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, slice each layer horizontally in half.
Put one layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper.
Spread it with one third of the preserves.
Cover the jam evenly with about one quarter of the buttercream.
Top with another layer, spread with preserves and buttercream and then do the same with a third layer (you’ll have used all the jam and have buttercream leftover).
Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and use the remaining buttercream to frost the sides and top.
Press the coconut into the frosting, patting it gently all over the sides and top.

The cake is ready to serve as soon as it is assembled, but I think it’s best to let it sit and set for a couple of hours in a cool room – not the refrigerator. Whether you wait or slice and enjoy it immediately, the cake should be served at room temperature; it loses all its subtlety when it’s cold. Depending on your audience you can serve the cake with just about anything from milk to sweet or bubbly wine.

The cake is best the day it is made, but you can refrigerate it, well covered, for up to two days. Bring it to room temperature before serving. If you want to freeze the cake, slide it into the freezer to set, then wrap it really well – it will keep for up to 2 months in the freezer; defrost it, still wrapped overnight in the refrigerator.

Playing Around
Since lemon is such a friendly flavour, feel free to make changes in the preserves: other red preserves – cherry or strawberry – look especially nice, but you can even use plum or blueberry jam.

Fresh Berry Cake
If you will be serving the cake the day it is made, cover each layer of buttercream with fresh berries – use whole raspberries, sliced or halved strawberries or whole blackberries, and match the preserves to the fruit. You can replace the coconut on top of the cake with a crown of berries, or use both coconut and berries. You can also replace the buttercream between the layers with fairly firmly whipped sweetened cream and then either frost the cake with buttercream (the contrast between the lighter whipped cream and the firmer buttercream is nice) or finish it with more whipped cream. If you use whipped cream, you’ll have to store the cake the in the refrigerator – let it sit for about 20 minutes at room temperature before serving.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Sweet Little Buggers

Yay... It seems as if I'm getting the hang of this. At least a little. And I'm incredibly proud of my creations. I mean, those few actually have a slight resemblance with the pictures of macarons you'd normally see. I'm learning a few tricks, and it seems that I get it a little better each time. The chocolate ones were made a couple of days ago, and they were certainly better than the first attempt, but this new attempt at lemon macarons is even better. The idea is to get somewhat more creative on the flavouring part too, but I needed to know whether I could make them at all to start thinking about that.

Short post tonight, I'm really far to tired. So I'll just share the pictures (and give a lemon macaron to anyone who drops by before I finish them all)
Good night...

Friday, February 29, 2008

Daring Bakers February Challenge - French Bread

So, time to post about another Daring Bakers challenge. This month's challenge was hosted by Mary of The Sour Dough and Sara of I Like To Cook, and the recipe they chose was a recipe for French Bread from a book by Julia Child. Julia Child seems to be one of the most famous food personalities in the US, though the only reason I ever heard of her is that I once bought one of her books on a book sale. It seems as if two of her books were translated to Swedish, one of them the one the challenge recipe is from. Sadly enough, the translation seems to contain some mistakes (one that I'm sure is a mistake is that 70° Fahrenheit certainly doesn't translate to 18° Celsius? but rather about 21° I'd say). The book in question (not the one I bought a long time ago) is out of print, but I found it at the public library. (The title is "Det goda franska köket, del 2".)

The recipe can be found here, thanks to our hostesses (it's really long so I'm happy with linking and not putting it into my post). To Mary and Sara: Thank you for a great challenge!

Now to my bread making. I made this bread a couple of weeks ago. The recipe was really time consuming, and since I wanted to keep true to the recipe I didn't fiddle with the timing. I was really annoyed, and quite sleepy in the end. But I consider it a challenge in itself to keep to a recipe different to the ones I'm used to. At times, you can really learn new things that way...

So, as a personal challenge, I decided to knead by hand (stand mixers were allowed). I hardly ever knead by hand anymore, since it's just very convenient to let a machine do it. The mixing and kneading all went very well. The dough was somewhat sticky, and I guess I did add some extra flour by trying to keep the dough from sticking to the counter by dusting the counter with flour. But the hand-kneading went much better than I was afraid it would. I may have been helped by the fact that air is quite dry here (temperatures below freezing for extended periods of time tend to do that). The recipe makes not very much bread, so the whole dough wasn't that big. And the kitchen was nice and warm, actually so warm that some time into the first rise I decided to move the dough into the living room. D was making chili in the kitchen, and the thermometer started to be steadily above 71°F (I changed the thermometer to Fahrenheit rather than run into troubles with conversions... I have ways to measure almost everything in american units by now, cups, a scale that can do lb and ounces and thermometer... Still don't understand "stick of butter" though.) The living room was cooler, about 68°F so the dough took a little more than 3 hours to rise for the first time. Pictures show it after first (right) and second (left) rise, second time it rose slightly less than first. For shaping, I decided to experiment a little. The bâtard and the triangle shaped one turned out fine, but the supposedly daisy-like thing was to wide for my peel, and sunk to much... I used my usual setup with a baking stone in the oven and water sprayed onto the heated stone right before the bread goes in. I also determined the times with a thermometer, those different shapes required slightly different timing.
The taste was fine too, pretty mild and quite like the "French bread" you can buy (franskbröd). This is not my favourite type of bread, I'm from the north and I prefer the deeper, more subtle tastes achieved by preferments, coarser grinds or sourdoughs (or a combination). But the bread was nice and fluffy, and not at all hard to make except for the investment in time. If I ever make it again I would probably do one or both rises in the refrigerator, overnight and during a working day. But I would certainly recommend anyone who wants a rather cooperative dough that gives a fluffy and good result. And I'm very happy with my hand kneading experiment, which reminded me both of that it's perfectly possible to do it, and that I really enjoy the kneading experience. Thank you again to Sara and Mary who gave us this challenge!

(Now, D is making chocolate mousse... and wants me to help whipping up the meringue. So I'd better stop writing if I want dessert. :) )

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Baked stuff

Time to look back here and put something new up. I think I maybe should try to make some kind of posting schedule in order to post more regularly. I actually started this post right before dinner, but I ended up setting the table instead, and here I am with half a glass of wine left waiting for D to make a raspberry sauce for the dessert. (No, I didn't find any fresh raspberries, but our freezer is somehow magically refilled with berries every once in a while. People who pick berries and just give them away are wonderful.) So, what have I been up to lately?

Well, yesterday I had another go at making macarons. Still no perfect results, but it's getting better. You could even spot something almost like feet, at least on some of them. If you're looking closely. And they certainly taste good.

This morning I also made a kind of weird scone, but it was oh so tasty. Especially with the left over lemon curd from the macaron making...

(Oh, sorry, I had to leave for a little while. Dessert was ready.)
So, anyway, today's breakfast was banana scones with lemon curd. I know, it doesn't sound like the healthiest breakfast, but common, it's Sunday. And it seems I'm only keeping D. here for a little more than another month, so I better spoil him. He's leaving for a post-doc beginning in April. Great news! (But I'll miss him.) On the other hand, I get to go visit. In France. Not far from Paris. Hmm.. I can certainly live with that. :)

So, to make not-so-healthy, but good for spoiling someone, scones I did something like this:

Mix 2.5 dl flour, a little oat bran (maybe 1/4 dl, just to add some crunch), a pinch of salt and 1/2-1 teaspoon baking powder together. Add 75 g of butter cut into little pieces. Cut into this until butter pieces are very small (as if making a pie crust or similar). Alternatively, put into food processor and pule until butter is in small pieces. Add 1/4 dl sugar, 1 egg and 1/2 dl milk. Mix together. Finally, add one banana cut into pieces, and knead into the mixture. If using food processor, take everything out and add the bananas by hand (beware of the knifes while getting it out of the bowl!) Bake in 175°C oven for about 15 minutes. Serve with lemon curd (or something else a little sweet, a little sour).

Monday, February 4, 2008

Swedish Mardi Gras Sweets - Semlor

So we are a day early, but we had the smell around all since we made the sweet bread for this yesterday. We just couldn't resist any longer...

Those are traditional Swedish Mardi Gras treats. It's really quite simple. A bun made from sweet bread dough (any recipe could be used, preferably a one that produces a light result.. many traditional recipes contain a leavener with ammonium bicarbonate in addition to yeast to achieve this). Some almond paste. A little cream and confectioner's sugar.

To put them together, cut a bun into two. Remove most of the interior of the bottom part with a spoon. Crumble this and mix with about an equal amount of almond paste. Add some cream or whole milk to get a mixture that holds together somewhat. Put back into the hollow bun. Spoon or pipe some cream, but the hat back on and sift on some confectioner's sugar.

Traditionalists eat it like D. did, in a bowl of hot milk. I prefer eating them as they are. Any way, this is how Tuesdays between now and Easter should be celebrated.

One more comment to add the day after (I just made a couple more for tonight which is, after all, the right day). The bread should of course contain cardamom. This is just the way sweet bread is to me, so I even forgot to mention it. The only time I ever make sweet bread without cardamom is when I make it with saffron, then I might choose not to have cardamom. (And that one time I tried to make cinnamon rolls in Prague, where I just couldn't find cardamom. The rolls didn't turn out as they should - no good idea.)

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Can't Stop Munching - Roasted Chickpeas

This is again something I'm sure many people have done a million times or so. But I just did it for the first time ever, so I'm going to write about it. I really shouldn't be sitting here eating... I had a nice and filling dinner not so long ago, and I'm quite full. But while D. was washing the dishes and I was messing around with some bread that I'm making (my project with making enough dough for several loaves but leaving it in the fridge for baking one at a time is turning out great) I realised that we did have a small amount of chickpeas in the fridge that really needed to be eaten. So I decided to try something I had been thinking about for some time. It's quite easy. Turn on oven, rather hot (I used about 200°C). Heat some oil in a pan on the stove, mince a little garlic and pour into the heated pan together with leftover chickpeas and some dried chili. I used some of the chili that I tried to grow on the balcony this summer. (That didn't work, it's far to cold for chili to be out of doors up here, unless you have a nice southern wall or something. It got to grow in our bedroom window instead.) When everything is nicely coated with oil and garlic and chili (or use any kind of spice that goes well with chickpeas I think?) is well spread out, put into the oven for some 15 minutes. I've been eating they cooled down enough to not burn (to much).

Oh... I just emptied the camera to get the chickpea photo and found a few other ones that I took because I considered posting about it but forgot to write anything. Now I decided I'll just share the pictures here. Both are dinners from last week, two of those that turned out good. Onion tart with endive and Rochefort sallad, and a fish which I don't know the English name of (Röding anyone?) with a lemon pilaff, grated carrot and green beans. Yum. Now I almost got hungry again. Maybe some more chickpeas...
Argh.. Blogger's spell checking does not seem to work today. You'll have to do with a non-spell checked post. Hope it's not too bad

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Lemon Meringue Pie - The Daring Baker's January Challenge

This was my second DB challenge, and this months challenge was Lemon Meringue Pie. Lemon Meringue Pie is not a standard dessert around here, but my Mom made it a few times in my childhood (she is half American, which means that she makes some food that might not otherwise not have been known to me). I always loved it, so many thanks to this month's hostess, Jen at The Canadian Baker for making it a challenge. Since there is only two of us here, and the recipe seemed to be a rather large one, I choose to make only two fifths of the original recipe. (The recipe used five eggs, so making something that would require a whole number of eggs seemed convenient.) This turned out to be quite a lot for two people anyway!
So, here is what they looked like. Since my only pie form used to be a non-stick thing that some time during December decided to deliver pies with a non-stick coating I decided to go for the free-form tartletts. I was really nervous about how the filling would manage this, never having made a lemon curd before, but everything worked out perfect. Actually, D. thought that I had piled the curd up a bit too high, I think he would have preferred more meringue and less lemon. I must admit that I cheated a bit to get the nice browning marks by using a kitchen torch. Since we ate them almost immediately there was no problem at all with weeping meringue or something like that. The red stuff on top is dried cranberries which I thought looked pretty on top of the meringue. I never had cranberries before, but found them in the supermarket a few days before making the pie and decided to buy them without a plan of what to use them for. Don't they look pretty on top of the white meringue? I hope this isn't cheating, I just put them on top as a decoration.

Would I make this again? I still love lemon meringue pie, but since I had a success with this I actually went on and made some more lemon curd with another recipe I wanted to try. Most of the result is now in the freezer, so next time I will probably be lazy and just use that. I'm still to unsure about translating measurements to know how different the crust was to the one I usually make, but it worked fine, cooked beautifully golden and tasted great. And the meringue was fluffy and tasty, so yes, I actually already made it again for another pie.

Again, thanks for a yummy challenge Jen! Now, I'm looking forward to the February challenge.

Just can't believe it's been almost two weeks

I don't know what happened. I really didn't intend this to happen. I wanted to create a blog that I would use, all the time, since it is about something that I enjoy doing daily. But those last two weeks things just were to much I guess. Work has been kind of very very busy. And last weekend we had a wonderful break from everything, and went south to see my family. We didn't see them at all during the Christmas season, not at all actually since last summer, so it was really about time. My parents had even had time to move house since I was there. Anyway, my not writing does not mean that I haven't been cooking of course. I'll just have to get better at reporting it :)

So, right now I made real homemade vegetable stock for the first time in my life today. Can't say anything about the results yet, since I haven't cooked anything with it (but I'm planning to use it for some polenta with shiitake and fava beans tonight). Right now I can just say that maybe the taste of soy sauce is a bit to much (I followed a recipe, but maybe I shouldn't have?). But we'll see what happens when it's put to use.
Second thing is that I'm working out a method to keep us with fresh bread throughout the weeks. Usually I do this by making a lot and putting what's not going to be used for a day or so into the freezer, and even though it works fine, it's not the same as really fresh bread.
(If anyone is wondering, this part of the world isn't for bread snobs like me, that is, people who don't like the bread at the supermarket, if you don't bake your own. Unless you were living right in the middle of town here there is no way to get fresh bread daily without going quite far to obtain it. And besides, I like baking, and I certainly like the taste of my own bread. )

My latest idea was to try out leaving some of the dough for one of our favourite bread in the fridge a bit longer than it usually stays there. See, usually it goes into the fridge overnight for a long and slow proofing. This time, I made a full batch, but I only put one bread into the oven. The other two (or the dough for two more planned got to stay in a plastic box in the fridge. Today I took out enough dough to make another loaf and put it into the oven. Haven't tried it yet, but it looks as good as the loaf made at the time prescribed by the recipe. If this thing seems to work I might write down the plan.

I've also been thinking a bit. About the time I spend on cooking, and how and why I do that. I mean, most people don't. Most of the people I meet daily certainly also cook daily (maybe not all of the old professors at work, they might rely on wife's cooking, or maybe I'm just prejudiced :) ). There's not much choice, you need to eat to live, and to eat you need to cook, right? But most people wouldn't spend an hour on Friday night planning what to buy when buying groceries on Saturday, in order to have a number of nice meals to choose from when wanting to cook throughout the week. We had a quite nice Friday night in the sofa, with a glass of port wine, doing exactly that. Does this make me obsessed? We just had no other plans, and it's so much easier to get things to make sense while shopping with a list than when you're just trying to come up with some ideas while at the supermarket...
On the other hand, cooking has lately turned into one of my most time consuming hobbies. And why not? I have the time, I also have the money I spend on it (most of which I would have spent anyway, since, like I said, you need to eat to live). And at least sometimes the results is delicious enough to justify the effort... :)

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Late Resolutions

Lately, when reading other blogs, I've seen so many New Year's Resolutions. I don't usually do that. My resolutions of that kind usually turn up in September, due to the new school year. I might be grown up by now, but going to grad school and part time teaching means that I'm not out of schools yet. So the year in my mind seems to start around when fall term starts, which is around the first of September. But reading all good ideas and worthy ambitions people have, I've gotten inspired. Maybe I'll give it a try, but I'll do it my way. My resolutions are, mainly about having fun I'm afraid...

First of all, I want to try to learn to make more desserts. There's a lot of stuff that I'd love to try. And I do love sweet. Preferably, I'll do this systematically, so that I also can learn to improvise on my own. But, I really don't need to put on weight, so the other part of this resolution is to learn to make them the very best, but real small.

Secondly, I want to make breakfast more interesting. Our breakfast, at least at weekdays, always consist of one of three things: Either bread with some topping (cheese, ham, vegetables, jam etc), or müsli and fil (Swedish type of soured milk - somewhat like a thin yogurt), or oatmeal with lingonberry jam and milk. I'd like to add some new variations, though I don't know what yet. Some mornings there just isn't time for anything else than müsli... (but on the other hand, müsli is good. I have a newly roasted batch on the counter right out of the oven at the moment, and I do know I will want that for breakfast tomorrow.)

And third, occurring to me as I write is one more thing, which sort of contains both the first ones. I'd like to try to make as many meals as possible in the coming year into good meals. Meals that are tasty and created with some thought. Containing good foods that I feel comfortable about buying. Meals that, at least most of the time, are healthy. As few of I-just-have-to-eat-something meals as possible. This is a resolution both about energy and about organisation, and I don't believe that I will manage to make every meal so. But I'll go for as many as I can.

And then some comments on this. I actually made a first try for making new desserts today. I tried to make crème brulé, but a very small batch. I never tried it before because I always believed it contained a lot of egg white, which can sometimes give me allergic reactions. But then I read through a recipe not that long ago and realised that just the yolk was used. And I really liked the taste. (I also liked the fact that I got to use my new kitchen torch on it, that's fun!) But I'm not sure whether the recipe I used need some adaption, or if I just had the oven a bit to low, a little to short, but they were a bit runny. On the other hand I adjusted a recipe for four normal size servings to one that gave two small (more like two half) servings, that is, one that used one egg yolk. The amount was about as much as I wanted though, so if anyone has a good recipe this size, please tell me. :)

Finally, the photos in this post are of D. turning the pancakes he made for breakfeast this morning. That is not really part of any making new kinds of breakfast - he makes it now and then when he feels like making something extra for me. Or maybe just when he wants pancakes, I don't quite know (and I'm not going to complain).
I was playing around with my new camera which can take pictures bursting rather quickly which is a lot of fun!