Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Le Far Breton (aka PUDDIIING!)

The story of this cake begins like this: my grandmother is paying us an indefinite visit *waving flags*, and she eats whatever elderly people eat (not very appealing stuff), therefore asked my mom to prepare her favourite dish: rice and prunes! Err.. come again? I assure you, the name alone isn't the (only) distasteful part. I immediately sprung into action, in a desperate attempt to free the innocent prunes from such a weary fate. In any event.. I only managed to get a hold of half the dried fruit (no worries though, I even ended up with leftovers, which I will turn into (part of my) breakfast tomorrow by pouring some sweetened yogurt on top).
As for the rest of the pile, it made a much appreciated entrance as a guest star for my french cuisine inspired cake.

Unfortunately, this being only the beginning of my journey to becoming a better chef, I am by no means in possession of a renowned cookbook (except of course for the occasional recipes i whip up by sneak peeking into a friend's Jamie Oliver collection (she just needs to get a hold of Jamie and the Naked Pikachu and she'll have them all..). As of this, I get most of my recipes off the interwebs. Sure, along the way I have encountered innumerable fail-proof, amazing recipes. However, this isn't the most reliable source for cooking inspiration. This occurrence is slowly turning into a fact, as proof for it is precisely what happened today: looking for a decent far breton recipe, i could not find two alike. I finally decided upon one (but I will not give out the source as it is sure to confuse my imaginary readers - I'll promote you to "imaginary friends" soon, no worries) which, although seemed a bit strange, had a very interesting introduction on Brittany. I tend to fall for stories. As prior mentioned, the process was.. odd to say the least, as one was supposed to mix the flour with eggs sugar and what not, leaving milk last. I could hardly even stir it, so i had to go for adding the milk before other dry ingredients. Regardless, it turned out great. Aye this intro is already a tad bit too long and i don't want to be a bore so brace yourselves cause here comes the pudding avalanche: (kinda looks like one, doesn't it?)

You will need:

1 3/4 cups flour (+ some extra for flouring the pan)
4 eggs (no need to separate them)
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups milk
300 g prunes
a little butter for.. buttering the pan

Go for a medium-sized bowl and sift your flour into it. Just like for the bread recipe, make a tiny well in the centre and add the eggs (I added them two by two). When you feel it's getting too tiring to continue stirring or cannot incorporate any more of the flour, start pouring in the milk, little by little, whisking vigorously. You can now proceed to adding your vanilla extract and sugar, and I recommend using a hand mixer to perform this task to make sure your incorporate the sugar properly. It will look extremely liquid, and this startled me at first. Upon further pondering, I figured this is pretty much the right consistency for a pudding before baking. During my research for the perfect far breton recipe, I encountered several ones which insisted on leaving the batter "rest" for half an hour before baking it. I was unsure of this, it reminded me too much of making crepes, so I feared ending up with a giant prune pancake. Not even the fluffy type, but the taco type. So should i have allowed it to rest or not? This dilemma solved itself. The recipe asked for juicy, seedless prunes. I had the rly rly seedy.. dessicated type. It took approximately half an hour to revive my dried plums, as I had to blanch them several times and take care of the kernels. When I was finally done, I buttered and floured a round pan, appropriate in size, and poured in the batter. It had magically thickened, giving so much more support to my fruit, as they have not sinked to the bottom of my pan. All you have to do is place your prunes in the desired places, one by one, giving the cake a marbled looking top.
Place your concoction in the preheated oven for 30-45 minutes or until it turns golden blown and sets completely (by checking periodically, you will notice the wobbly mid-section. This is a sign it needs to stay in for 10 more minutes or so). When done, don't immediately take it out of the oven. Let it rest for a few more minutes, otherwise the sudden temperature change will rend it uberdeflated.

Extra pics: one serving and a chomp.

I have to say.. it looks pretty authentic. Not sure about the taste as I've never had this type of cake before (but tastes gud!). I know this is an auto-appreciation, but for a first timer things went swimmingly. The last time I received this one word compliment was when I baked a cottage pudding and served some to my former foreign English teacher. It so happens that his mother made that cake for his birthday every year. In other words, I aced it. Can't beat that.


P.S.: Cottage pudding recipe coming soon. So is the caramel cake and other promised ones.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Best Olive Bread in Town

I've been trying to create a connection between successive posts just in case potential readers plan on having a food theme party or what not. No, actually, just kidding.. the reason why I'm engaging in this is mainly because I know..from the bottom of my heart that there's someone out there who wants to make things from scratch. (aand it really comes in handy for figuring out recipe order..nhe). So just in case you want to be responsible for having provided all the ingredients necessary for the previous recipe, i suggest you go tomato picking and starting up the oven to make some bread! (I am serious about this last one. Related, planting some herbs like rosemary or basil in tiny pots and growing them in the kitchen is both a cute and practical idea.)

This particular bread recipe works well on its own too. I have the tendency to pig out half a bread loaf even before it touches the ground after I take it out of the oven. Yes, it's that gud. My not-so-very-fond-of-me-grandma even dared affirm that I am eligible for marriage after having a bite of this now famous bread. (word)

You know how people freak out and never make bread at home? And when they taste your home-made bread they go "you have one of those..bread-making machines, don't you?". Um, no.. I like getting dirrrty :D (you know...flour all over). Either way, bring out the sexy in your housewife persona and wear an apron. If the "baking process" occurs mid-summer, feel free to wear only that. The point is.. making bread isn't difficult at all, it's but a relaxing pastime. One way looking at it is comparing it to writing your personal statement (sorry for bringing it up again).. time consuming. But, in the end, we just have to admit it was time spent constructively, aka for the future, delishusness and our tummies' well-being. Here comes the hailed recipe, preceded by yet anudder fascinating piece of advice: arm yourself with patience.. and olives.

You will need:

1 1/4 cups warm water
2 teaspoons yeast (I used the fresh type)
2 teaspoons caster sugar
3 spoons olive oil (+ some extra for coating pans and such)
3 cups flour (+ some extra for flowering your work surface)
2 teaspoons kosher (Bailey had an engine..) salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
handful of olives

Preferably, start by heating up your.. kitchen. Remember how you woke up on Christmas Eve only to find your mother/grandma walking about, using everything from the then empty pantry? Most certainly, this fuss was created for the sake of the oh-so-festive pound cake. This is pretty much what to expect when starting up the bread-making. Not only you'll end up with something to eat, but also with a cute and cuddly kitchen. This image was all I had in mind this morning while making my way home through the blizzard. The first thing I told my mom was to get out of the kitchen as I was determined to have some foccacia for supper.

After everything is nice and cosy, grab a small bowl and a wooden spoon. Break the yeast into pieces, add the sugar, and start mixing until it turns liquid. Add your three tablespoons of olive oil and incorporate everything thoroughly. Pour in the water, give it a whirl or two and set the mixture aside in a warm spot for about five minutes. This is just a guideline, as you have to wait until the composition becomes frothy and bubbly. As I've heard, this is quite an unusual way to prepare the yeast, but as far as I'm concerned I'm not going to change anything as long as the outcome totally owns other bread recipes.

Carrying on, get hold of a medium (maybe even largeish) bowl. Sift your flour in this container and add half of the salt. Make some sort of a well in the centre and pour in the yeast mixture. You'll want to start mixing with a wooden spoon, but once you feel it's getting harder to stir, it's time to roll up your sleeves and take business into your own hands. Flour your work space (eg. kitchen table or counter), and start kneading the dough on the prepared surface. Do so for about ten minutes, continuing to add small amounts of flour if the mixture is still sticky. When kneading, be firm, but don't squeeze the mixture. The correct way of doing this is by lifting sides of the dough with your fingers and pressing them to the centre with the back of your wrist. Use your left hand to help shape the dough into a ball. Coat a bowl with oil and place your resulted ball in. Cover with a cloth and store in a warm place for about 45 minutes, or until it has doubled in size. After the 45 minutes have elapsed, preheat your oven (if you haven't done so yet). Knead the dough for two more minutes on the freshly floured surface, and don't worry, this wont harm the puffiness of your bread.. especially since you have to let it prove for 20 more minutes, this time after placing it in the baking pan you'll prepare for it by brushing it with olive oil. So cover it up and let it sit in the same warm spot. The 20 minutes having passed, press dimples into your bread, brush it with a little olive oil, season with a little bit of salt and oregano and press in the olives. You can have them whole or sliced, just make sure you've taken out all the seeds. If you also want to have olives inside your bread, follow this next step before placing the dough in the oiled baking pan: roll it out like a pizza dough, sprinkle on the olives and roll it back, like you would a pergament. After having all this done, place the pan on the middle rack of the oven for about 30 minutes, or until golden-brown.

As you may have noticed, i do not specify gas marks or the temperature needed for baking "the goods". That's because my oven is part of this rly rly old stove that keeps putting itself off when I least expect it. So.. tiny inconvenient there. But if my ancient oven can do it, your kickass one should be able to pull this recipe off too. Now get back and munch on your olive bread, either simple, turned into a feta sammich or bruschetti. :)


P.S.: This amount of batter only makes for one loaf but but.. i doubled the composition for my famished family. Sorry if the pics befuddled anybody.

P.P.S.: Free samples Monday at school for the nonbelievers!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Quick and Delishus Snack: Bruschetti

While writing yesterday's entry, it occurred to me the homey flavours of the muffins would work great with tomatoes. I kept thinking about them all day long.. tomato soups and salads, dried tomatoes, pickled tomatoes, grilled tomatoes.. yadda yadda yadda. Being only at the beginning of this blog's journey, I settled for the intense, garlic-y.. italian-y aroma of one of the simplest of dishes. Don't be fooled by its simplicity, though. The sturdy aromas of olive oil and baked tomatoes.. perfumed with just a dash of oregano release an intricate pattern of taste proportion, fighting for the attention of your papillae.

Enough about the taste bud ravishment, pick up a serrated knife and start dicing those veggies!

You will need:

4 bread slices
1/2 cup olive oil
1 heaping teaspoon oregano
4 medium garlic cloves
1 ripe tomato

For starters, I beg of you, do not resort to using graham or any seedy type of bread. I'll give you three serious reasons as to why not do that. First. In my opinion, only the simple, all purpose flour based bread complements the olive oil, giving it a chance to shine. Second. This is pretty personal, as I don't really like the taste of "fancy" breads. And three. Everybody keeps dieting, excluding any type of possible fattening agents. So basically, what people do is race every bit of "delishus" out of their meals, replacing cheese for tofu and what not. To conclude, please, take a few minutes to indulge in this luffly, aromatic side dish. This being said, we can finally carry on with the recipe. What you have to do first is find a way to douse the bread with olive oil. You can either pour some in a bowl and dip both sides of each bread slice in it, or find a way to spray the oil on. I make bruschetti pretty often, so i would love to find a mess-reducing alternative. Perhaps filling a thoroughly cleansed spray recipient with oil will do the trick? I'll try this soon and let you know.When you're done, place the bread slices on a baking tray and sprinkle a small amount of oregano on each of them. Preheat your oven and start dicing the tomatoes. If you don't have a garlic crusher, simply press down the cloves with the broad side of a knife before mincing it. This will help to better release the flavour (is it just me, or did i just sound like Jamie Oliver?hehe, I'd wish).

At the end of this process, evenly spread the garlic and tomato bits on top of your bread, and shove it in the oven. After about 5 minutes, your kitchen will start being enveloped in a very rustic, tummy-rumbling scent. Keep the bruschetti in the oven anywhere from ten to twenty minutes, depending how crunchy you want them to be. I don't see any need for extra seasoning, but if you find it necessary, don't hold back on doing so. Enjoy :)

P.S.: Did you ever notice how taking food pictures on a regular basis improves your photographic skills? To give you an idea, try browsing through an already well established blogger's photo stream, for example, the one of Souvlaki for the Soul (you can find his blog here).
Don't get me wrong, although his photos had something special from the beginning, i couldn't help but notice obvious changes in composition.
Let us hope for the best and expect the same thing will happen in my case. It's just as they say.. practice makes perfect, be it in photography or cooking.


Muffins for Brunch

Writing a personal statement is a very tiring, time-consuming activity. Especially after having experienced an academic failure. So.. I'm having a very hard time trying to bring out my positive traits in order to impress the Assessors.

Although the frustration-filled introduction above might not suggest it, shasacaifrumosh is looking out to a cooking-oriented future. On second thought, the blog name itself suggests..well, everything but a savoury dish. However, the name is to be explained on another occasion.

Sticking to its original purpose, my first post will continue on a more relaxed tone. It's been almost a fortnight since the creation of this blog, and up until a few minutes ago i could not decide upon the first recipe to be featured. At first, I was seriously considering my greatest culinary success so far, a chocolate & banana cake with caramel topping (some say it looks like a muddy pokemon, but nobody hesitated on acclaiming its god-like taste!), or the delishus olive bread i whipped up last week. These recipes will surely make an appearance as soon as possible, but for now, i will stick to a brunch dish. Being an original concoction, i figured the little cornmeal darlings should be called "Sunny Morning Muffins", being as bright as french marigolds.

After successfully reaching over to my recipe box and squinting though my photo folders, I present you ...

The Sunny Morning Muffins

You will need:

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
a dash of salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup shortening, melted (i am a fierce butter fan)
1 cup boiling milk
2 eggs
a few slices of ham and cheese, cut into squares or diced

This is a very simple recipe. Start by preheating the oven .If you know your way around the kitchen, the batter should be ready in no time (nothing personal, teach :"> ). The first step is combining all the dry ingredients in a mediumish mixing bowl, namely the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt. Using a wooden spoon is probably the best option, but i hold no grudges against spatulas or regular, iron spoons. Continue by adding the milk in increments, the eggs, one by one (they don't need to be separated, just make sure they are fresh, aka they shouldn't smell funny or have a runny yolk), followed by the shortening. You will see that the batter is too thick for a mixer, so combine everything thoroughly by hand, with one of the afore mentioned utensils. It is now time to add your "topling" (a combination of topping and filling.. can't find a better way to name this, being simply incorporated in the mixture). It occurs to me now some veggies could also complement the taste in a lovely way. Consider adding diced bell peppers or even tomatoes... the combinations are endless and completely up to what tickles your fancy.
After you're done mixing, grease and flour a muffin tin, and pour about 2 heaping tablespoons of batter in each cup. Place on the middle rack of the oven for about 20 minutes, or until they turn golden. You can also test if they're ready to be pulled out by inserting a wooden skewer or a toothpick in the middle of a random muffin. They are done if the skewer comes out clean(not sticky or crumbly). Makes about 12 muffins.

Your newest fud-defending recruit,

P.S.: Better quality photos to come, maybe even sets to cover step by step cooking instructions!