Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Sensible Matryoshka Bookmark

I have tried to be a little more sensible about some of the swaps I've been taking part in lately.  It is immensely fun to send and of course receive mail from all over the globe.  Just the stamps alone make it interesting.  The only 'fly in the ointment' on the fabulousness of swapping.....is the postage.  And Canada Post has some of the steepest rates:(  However....if you keep it to flat swaps that can fit through the 2 cm measuring slot....it is not considered package mail and the rates are slightly more agreeable.  So I always hope to be able to flat mail swaps in the interest of saving money.  I'm sure you can guess how frustrating it is to find that just because something is too thick for the 2 cm slot the postage goes from $2 to $6 or more.  In the interest of more flat swapping.........I decided to join a swap for handmade bookmarks.  That's pretty flat right??  Now my little flat and sensible Matryoshka is off to Kuala Lumpur......I hope she has a nice flight:)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Meringue Filled Tea Masala Coffee Cake

I should warn you......this one is delicious!  At first.....I halved the recipe with the expectation of sharing the one ring I made with the neighbours.  After our small family tasting, I am embarrassed to say.......I doubt that there will be enough left over to share.  Read on at your own risk..................... 
The March 2011 Daring Baker’s Challenge was hosted by Ria of Ria’s Collection and Jamie of Life’s a Feast. Ria and Jamie challenged The Daring Bakers to bake a yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake.  I was quite interested in this challenge as I do like yeast breads and am always happy for the opportunity to try a new recipe.  The meringue filling made this one pretty intriguing and I have this packet of Masala Tea Spice sitting in my cupboard that I thought might make a nice addition to the recipe.  The only substitution I made was to use Tea Masala Spice in place of the cinnamon called for in the filling recipe and to add 1 tsp of Tea Masala spice to he warmed milk as well.  This addition to the milk did make the dough take on a more brown colour from the start.  Thanks to Ria and Jamie for hosting a delicious challenge that I will surely make again and again......it was delicious!  I highly recommend it for tea with a special guest.......as it is easy, impressive, and really delicious:) ......and the flavouring possibilities are nearly endless.  I hope you try it and discover a new flavour possibility!
Makes 2 round coffee cakes, each approximately 10 inches in diameter
The recipe can easily be halved to make one round coffee cake
For the yeast coffee cake dough:
4 cups (600 g / 1.5 lbs.) flour
¼ cup (55 g / 2 oz.) sugar
¾ teaspoon (5 g / ¼ oz.) salt
1 package (2 ¼ teaspoons / 7 g / less than an ounce) active dried yeast
¾ cup (180 ml / 6 fl. oz.) whole milk
¼ cup (60 ml / 2 fl. oz. water (doesn’t matter what temperature)
½ cup (135 g / 4.75 oz.) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 large eggs at room temperature
10 strands saffron for Ria’s version (Saffron might be hard to find and it’s expensive, so you can substitute with ½ - 1 teaspoon of ground cardamom or ground nutmeg. Or simply leave it plain like Jamie’s version)
For the meringue:
3 large egg whites at room temperature
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ cup (110 g / 4 oz.) sugar
For the filling:
Jamie’s version:
1 cup (110 g / 4 oz.) chopped pecans or walnuts
2 Tablespoons (30 g / 1 oz.) granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (170 g / 6 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips or coarsely chopped chocolate

Egg wash: 1 beaten egg
Cocoa powder (optional) and confectioner’s sugar (powdered/icing sugar) for dusting cakes

Prepare the dough:
In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 ½ cups (230 g) of the flour, the sugar, salt and yeast.
In a saucepan, combine the milk, water and butter and heat over medium heat until warm and the butter is just melted. Ria’s version: add the 10 saffron threads to the warmed liquid and allow to steep off of the heat for 10 minutes. This will give the mixture a distinct aroma and flavor and a yellowish-orange hue.
With an electric mixer on low speed, gradually add the warm liquid to the flour/yeast mixture, beating until well blended. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes. Add the eggs and 1 cup (150 g) flour and beat for 2 more minutes.
Using a wooden spoon, stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a dough that holds together. Turn out onto a floured surface (use any of the 1 ½ cups of flour remaining) and knead the dough for 8 to 10 minutes until the dough is soft, smooth, sexy and elastic, keeping the work surface floured and adding extra flour as needed.

Place the dough in a lightly greased (I use vegetable oil) bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let rise until double in bulk, 45 – 60 minutes. The rising time will depend on the type of yeast you use.
Prepare your filling:In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and sugar for the filling if using. You can add the chopped nuts to this if you like, but I find it easier to sprinkle on both the nuts and the chocolate separately.
Once the dough has doubled, make the meringue:
In a clean mixing bowl – ideally a plastic or metal bowl so the egg whites adhere to the side (they slip on glass) and you don’t end up with liquid remaining in the bottom – beat the egg whites with the salt, first on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to high and continue beating until foamy and opaque. Add the vanilla then start adding the ½ cup sugar, a tablespoon at a time as you beat, until very stiff, glossy peaks form.
Assemble the Coffee Cakes:
Line 2 baking/cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Punch down the dough and divide in half. On a lightly floured surface, working one piece of the dough at a time (keep the other half of the dough wrapped in plastic), roll out the dough into a 20 x 10-inch (about 51 x 25 ½ cm) rectangle. Spread half of the meringue evenly over the rectangle up to about 1/2-inch (3/4 cm) from the edges. Sprinkle half of your filling of choice evenly over the meringue (ex: half of the cinnamon-sugar followed by half the chopped nuts and half of the chocolate chips/chopped chocolate).
Now, roll up the dough jellyroll style, from the long side. Pinch the seam closed to seal. Very carefully transfer the filled log to one of the lined cookie sheets, seam side down. Bring the ends of the log around and seal the ends together, forming a ring, tucking one end into the other and pinching to seal.
Using kitchen scissors or a sharp knife (although scissors are easier), make cuts along the outside edge at 1-inch (2 ½ cm) intervals. Make them as shallow or as deep as desired but don’t be afraid to cut deep into the ring.
Repeat with the remaining dough, meringue and fillings.
Cover the 2 coffee cakes with plastic wrap and allow them to rise again for 45 to 60 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
Brush the tops of the coffee cakes with the egg wash. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes until risen and golden brown. The dough should sound hollow when tapped.
Remove from the oven and slide the parchment paper off the cookie sheets onto the table. Very gently loosen the coffee cakes from the paper with a large spatula and carefully slide the cakes off onto cooling racks. Allow to cool.
Just before serving, dust the tops of the coffee cakes with confectioner’s sugar as well as cocoa powder if using chocolate in the filling. These are best eaten fresh, the same day or the next day.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Smore Pancakes

Ike came back from his cub scout winter camp out, talking endlessly about the smores pancakes they had for breakfast.  After promising for the last week to make them.....tonight he got lucky.  While we were having left overs........Ike got his smores pancakes.  There is not much to them really.  Just make pancakes and sandwich between two of them..... mini marshmallows, milk chocolate chips, and crushed graham wafers.  I found them to be quite sweet.....but Ike declared that they were just right!
It is best to assemble them quickly and to use pancakes hot from the griddle.  After setting 2 minutes......the chocolate chips were melted and the marshmallows were gooey.  Enjoy with a large glass of milk:)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Weekend Project- A Quick Pincushion

I'm back from a week long business trip in the US.  Phoenix was unseasonably warm and much quieter than I had expected for such a large population.  It was a good time, the highlight of which was definitely the day spent at the Bondurant Racing School.  It is always fun to drive in ways that would get you a ticket if you were to drive that way on public streets!  But now, it's the weekend and it's good to be home sorting laundry, unpacking and trying to catch up on what needs to be done next.  Somehow, in my absence, an entire tin of baked goods has escaped the notice of the boys......so I still have treats just in case someone pops by:).......of course the more likely out come is that I will eat them.....one by one.  
The chocolate slice and ginger slice are both good New Zealand recipes that have now become favourites here........let's just hope I can keep my hands off of them.......but I can't promise anything:)
After making breakfast for the boys, I started on my little list of things to do.  The first on the list was to get out a few swaps that have been sitting and waiting for a few last minute additions.  The pincushion above, I'm happy to say is finally completed and ready to go out the door.  For such a quick and easy project (less than an hour to complete)......I am too embarrassed to tell you how long I let it sit half completed.  Well now that monkey is off my back, and it is soon to be mailed. If you'd like to make one.....it really is an easy and quick project......go here for instructions.  ( I like to put a layer of steel wool in mine to help keep the pins sharp....but this is not necessary)  Or if you'd like to buy one already made......have a look here.  She also makes very nice crochet hook rolls which I highly recommend:)  Hope you have a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mecia's Jello Cheesecake

A very nice lady I know brought this deliciously light unbaked  cheese cake to a pot luck supper many years ago.  I could have easily eatten the whole thing.  It is light and easy to make.......and is perfect for a light dessert.  Although you may use any flavour of Jello to make this recipe......Meicia always recommended a red flavour as her preference......and I would have to agree with her.  If you are looking for a nice light ending to a meal, this might be just the thing.

Mecia's Jello Cheesecake
Social Tea Biscuits (enough to line the pan)
1 cup whipping cream
1 pkg vanilla sugar (Dr Oetker)
8 oz pkg of cream cheese at room temperature
2 small pkgs jello (reds are prefered, but feel free to try another)

Completely line an 8X8 inch pan with a single layer of tea biscuits, breaking biscuits to fill any gaps. (These are like Marie biscuits or arrow root biscuits) Look for the kind that are in a rectangular shape for ease of fitting into the pan.  Sprinkle or brush the top of the biscuits with a bit of milk (maybe a tablespoon).  Whip together cream and vanilla sugar to hold peaks, and stir into the softened cream cheese.  If you cannot find vanilla sugar substitute 2 tsp sugar and 1 tsp vanilla.  Set aside.
In 3/4 cup boiling water, add 1 pkg of jello and stir to dissolve.  Let sit until luke warm, then whip with the cream cheese mixture and pour over the biscuits.  Put in fridge to set making sure cream layer is even and touching all sides of the pan.
About 1 hour later dissolve the 2nd package of jello into 1 1/2 cups boiling water and set aside unitl luke warm.  At this time you may layer sliced fruit on top of the cream cheese layer in a decorative pattern if desired. It is best if the fruit layer is 1/4 inch thick or less and you may not want to use pineapple as it can stop the jello from setting up.  Pour luke warm jello over filling and leave in the refrigerator until ready to serve.  If you have put a layer of fruit, be careful when pouring the jello so as not to move the fruit.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Emergency Syrup

A few years ago, I found myself at a loss for syrup.  I was with friends at a somewhat remote location with a large breakfast planned including waffles and even pancakes planned.......but with no syrup in sight.  At the time, we didn't have a whole lot of choice so we improvised with what we had and came up with a simple syrup flavoured with what we had on hand......namely vanilla and cinnamon.  Last weekend, after looking through an old Purity cookbook from my mother inlaw, I was reminded of this experiment when I read a recipe for mock maple syrup.  I thought I'd give it a try.......you never know when you might need to make a batch.  You just might find it handy some day too!  I've adjusted the recipe to used yellow or golden sugar and to not brown the sugar too much since I found the recipe as written a bit too strongly flavoured for my liking.
Table Syrup
1 cup golden sugar
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup white sugar
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or maple extract
1 cinnamon stick

Boil golden sugar, cinnamon stick and water for 10 minutes.  Melt white sugar over direct heat, stirring constantly until it is melted and just beginning to turn golden. Add sugar and water mixture carefully to the melted sugar and stir until all is dissolved.  Remove from heat, and add butter and flavouring.  If syrup is too thick, thin with boiling water to desired thickness.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Ginger Crunch......Easy and Delicious

So.......it's been snowing here.....a lot!  It may even be the highest amount of snowfall for this area since we've lived here????  If not, it's got to be pretty close.  I've been pretty easy going about it.....after all, I do not mind shoveling snow..........Now, I think I need to concede that the snow banks have surpassed my abilities to throw it high enough.  Spring is coming....just around the corner......but the snowbanks are so high, it's difficult to see around that corner.......I guess I can wait a little longer.  But in the mean time......I will occupy myself with some of my favourite winter activities.........knitting.......and baking:)
With another PAC meeting coming up tomorrow night......I thought I'd get the jump on some baking to bring.  I pulled out several cook books and decided on Ginger Crunch from the Edmonds Cookery Book.  The name sounded familiar in the 'you should try this one day' department.   I think my friend Alison must have mentioned it.  I love ginger, and the recipe appeared to be quite simple.  The base is cookie like and the icing......well..... fudge like.....both seasoned with ginger.  I'd have to say I'll definitely make it again.  It was easy and I enjoyed both the ginger and the chewy texture.  I'll have to wait until it cools to taste it again to see if the texture changes.........but the 'few' pieces I did have, practically straight from the oven, were pretty yummy!
 I highly recommend it.  Update: the next morning it definitely had some crunch!  Still yummy!
Ginger Crunch
125g butter, softened (a little more than 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground ginger

75 g butter (a little more than 1/4 cup)
3/4 cup icing sugar
2 tbsp golden syrup (I used corn syrup)
3 tsp ground ginger

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Sift flour, baking powder and ginger together.  Mix into creamed mixture.  Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board.  Knead well. (I found the dough a little too dry to knead.....so I added a few tbsp soft butter and worked it in by hand still in the bowl until it was moist enough to hold together easily with squeezed. Press dough into a greased 20X30 cm pan.  I lined the pan with tin foil and sprayed the foil with baking spray to make it easier to remove the bars for slicing.  Bake at 190C (375F) for 20-25 minutes or until light brown.  Pour hot ginger icing over the base while hot and cut into squares before it gets cold.
Ginger Icing
In a small saucepan combine butter, icing sugar, syrup and ginger.  Heat until butter is melted, stirring constantly.