Saturday, 2 April 2011

Alchemy!

I can tell that whenever I'm at home, this is going to rapidly turn into a food blog. I love charting the process of a recipe from a lump of dough to a glistening, colourful torte, or from a pile of muddy-looking chocolate gloop to a decadent chocolate cake. Cooking is alchemy! It's transformative, and maybe that's why it's so deeply satisfying - because not only is it the creative aspect (and everyone loves to feel like the Designer, rather than part of the great Design themselves) but it's the simple, childlike joy in watching something turn into an entirely different substance in front of your eyes.

I did some gift-cooking this week as well. It's always more stressful if you're making something for the only purpose in mind of giving it to someone else, rather than just making something and then deciding on a whim to give it away to someone.
First things first: espresso chocolate chip shortbread for a friend's twentieth. Sounds like a mouthful, but it was actually a piss-easy recipe.



I used dark chocolate chips and also cut up pieces of milk chocolate into chunks. Rather than using instant espresso powder, I just made a very strong coffee in a cafetière and put a little bit more in than the recipe states, as I wanted the shortbread to come out a bit more coffee-y.


This recipe had the ingenious idea of putting the mixture into a food-storage bag, which gives it the perfectly straight edges. Effortless. Will definitely use that trick again.




Ah! I love straight lines, geometry, order - using a ruler to perfectly divide the shortbread slab was immensely satisfying.


And the end result!


Note:
- These things spread in the oven. I tried to fit too many on one tray, so they all sort of stuck together and I had to carefully divide them again with a knife. Next time, I'll only try to fit on about 8 on one tray.
- I forgot to prick the shortbread, and to rotate it around in the oven. They came out fine.
- It says try to get the creases out of the mixture when it's in the bag, and I think that's nigh-on impossible, but it doesn't show in the end result.
- I only refrigerated the dough for about an hour, not up to two days.
- They'll toughen up once they cool, so if they're still slightly soft when you take them out, you can leave them for a bit and they probably are cooked.
- I think these would be nice with hazelnuts in as well.



One recipe down, three more to go! (I have been busy!)

Next one was an attempt at a Red Velvet Cake, again for another friend's twentieth. I would have liked to spend more time on this, and so will definitely do it again in order to perfect it. It was a spontaneous baking decision, which meant that I didn't have all of the ingredients ready and prepared. It turned into a Mauve Velvet cake, as we ran out of red food colouring and I added a suspicious looking bottle entitled 'Cochineal', which just turned out to be violet colouring. We also didn't have enough cream cheese to make a big cream cheese frosting, so I improvised with a little cream cheese, a whole bar of melted white chocolate, melted butter, a few swilled-out drops of red food colouring and a little bit of our friend Cochineal, and icing sugar. We also didn't have three different cake tins so I couldn't do a layered cake and didn't have enough time to cook it all serially. BUT the end result was this blindingly colourful concoction:



Ok, so presentation skills are a little off. The icing wasn't stiff enough (because it needed more cream cheese), so it all melted down the sides to form a sticky pink puddle of joy at the bottom. But I topped it with white chocolate chips and that little lilac-coloured flower which I can't remember the name of right now but will ask my mum tomorrow. [UPDATE: It's called a grape hyacinth]. And you know what? It may look like a mess, but it tasted damn good.

Next.

This salad for lunch today - simple, healthy and yummy. I definitely recommend. Self-explanatory recipe, really, so there's not much more I can say about it apart from YUM. Oh wait, actually there is. I would advise getting Chantenay carrots especially as they do have a sweeter taste than your bog-standard English garden carrots, and presentation-wise, they are just so very cute.


Then this evening I cooked vegetarian fajitas for me and my mum (chilli flakes, Quorn pieces, red pepper, leftover cannellini beans from lunch, red onion and chopped tomatoes, inside a tortilla with sides of grated cheese and sour cream) while listening to Gipsy Kings and drinking red wine (Côtes-du-Rhône, Georges Duboeuf, 2007). Then we planned our trip to Paris while I whipped up this limoncello tart for dessert:


I love making pastry. I love just getting stuck in and getting dough everywhere and having hands covered in it.

I made a slightly patchy tart base - I'm not particularly good at rolling a perfect circle - but it doesn't matter, because you just smooth in new pieces to patch up the gaps in the flan tin.


The recipe says to put on a low heat for 25 minutes. I put it in on a higher heat (we have an Aga, so it's not really accurate, but it was in an oven which can be anything from gas mark 3 to 6) for ten minutes first, which firmed it up, and then put it in a gas mark 2 oven for about half an hour to help it to cook through.





For the raspberry coulis, we had run out of limoncello by that point, so I made it with vodka instead. I amped up the amounts, putting in at least 3 tablespoons of vodka, and two tablespoons of icing sugar. The vodka gave a lovely kick that complemented the tartness of the lemon.

1 comment:

  1. My mouth is actually watering.

    ReplyDelete