The Day of Exciting News and Pie!

Remember that I mentioned a couple of days ago that I had something exciting to tell you? Well it’s time to tell you! After years of pining for one, I have finally got a Kitchenaid mixer! I’ve wanted one for as long as I can remember and my friends and family all gave me money towards buying one for my birthday and Christmas so I’ve finally been able to get it. I ordered it for store collection but this was a rather stupid decision because I then proceeded to hug it all the way home…on foot…in the pouring rain. Yes, enjoy that image but it was not fun. It was all worth it though because it is now proudly being displayed in my kitchen. Of course, given my obsession with the colour, I chose an orange or ‘tangerine’ one I should say. I am so happy with it and it’s actually so easy to use. I got straight to work and made some meringues.

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  I’ve not made meringues before but have always been eager to try and having a Kitchenaid seemed the perfect opportunity to try. I used a simple recipe, whisking 3 egg whites and then mixing in 150g of golden caster sugar. I just spooned the mixture in balls onto a baking tray and baked them for an hour but I think next time, I may pipe the mixture onto the tray to make the mixture slightly closer together because there was a lot of room for air holes. It was amazing how well the Kitchenaid worked and how quickly it whisked the egg whites but then again, if you’re going to spend that much on a food mixer, I suppose it should be that good!

The Kitchenaid comes with three attachments; the whisk, the beater and the dough hook. It comes with ten speed settings but what I found was really useful was that it also has a slow start function so that it gradually builds up to the designated speed and therefore, avoids splashes and any flour showers. I’ll let you know more about the machine as I use it more but so far, I’m very happy with the purchase.

  I made a simple chocolate ganache and sandwiched the meringues together. The meringues were a little large for this so next time, I think I’d pipe smaller versions. They were still delicious; crispy on the outside and chewy in the middle and the combination with the smooth ganache was a nice touch.

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  Not satisfied with just making meringues, I decided to make a pie for dinner, a steak and ale pie to be exact. I used this recipe to make the filling but halved all of the ingredients and omitted the chilli powder. I then made a shortcrust pastry (using the beater attachment on the Kitchenaid) using 125g butter, 225g plain flour and two and a half tablespoons of water. I prefer pies that have both a base and a top as opposed to bottomless pies to just a puff pastry top so that’s why I chose to use shortcrust. The steak and ale mixture stewed in the oven for an hour and a half, which made the beef very tender and the combination of the ale and oxo cubes made for a rich and luxurious gravy. I even topped the pie with some grated cheddar cheese in the last few minutes of its baking to add a further dimension of flavour. The end result was incredibly rich and neither of us could quite finish our share but it also took a lot of will power to put down our plates because of how delicious it was. It was so nice that I’ll be making this again next week! I think I’ll add some slices of cheese onto the filling next time though. You should definitely give this a go if you like pies but if you do, put some semolina on the base of the pie to stop the filling leaking through and getting a soggy bottom as Mary Berry would say. I very almost ran out of pastry for the lid as well so I’d make a little more pastry too. I used Hobgoblin beer by the Wychwood brewery, which was also a nice, rich addition the complimented the steak well.Image

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Tuesdays with Dorie – Pizza with Onion Confit

This is the first Tuesdays with Dorie of the new year and what a way to start! There were two elements to this dish, the pizza dough and the onion confit. When I read that this was this week’s recipe, I couldn’t wait to try it. My boyfriend and I both love caramelised onions or anything close to them and we will eat anything with goats’ cheese so this was clearly the topping of choice to go for. What made me most excited about trying this recipe though was that I love pizza but I am allergic to tomatoes. They won’t kill me or anything, I’m just intolerant, but it means I have to be careful and I was buzzing with anticipation that there might be a tasty alternative. I haven’t made pizza dough in years and the last time I did, it was a scone based dough and just didn’t taste like pizza so I was a bit dubious about trying this but I’m glad I did. There was a lot of waiting for the dough to rise (I don’t think my kitchen was warm enough because the first rise took around 2 1/2 hours rather than the suggested 1 1/2) but it was essentially very easy to make. I also appreciated how easy it was to shape; most pizza doughs that I’ve tried before spring back very quickly and you can’t get a decent shape. I ended up having to make mine rectangular to fit into the baking tray.

Now, ‘confit’ is something that has many meanings and I always thought it was something that essentially had two meanings, one for meat and one for other things. However, after trying this recipe, I’ve discovered that it essentially means a food that has been put into some kind of substance to add flavour and/or preserve the food. Essentially, this was caramelised onions that took a hot bath in red wine, red wine vinegar, sugar, butter and thyme. Sounds simple? Well the process of cooking it was but the flavour wasn’t… I used red onions and the sweetness from these combined with the sharp tang of the vinegar and a swirl of red wine. Delicious! All of this ended with a slight hint of thyme and I will definitely be using this confit recipe again – I’m addicted!

After shaping the dough, I topped the pizza with a considerable amount of the onion confit and followed this with a generous helping of goats’ cheese, sliced black olives and a sprinkling of parmesan. The aroma was incredibly enticing but I managed to stave off eating it before it was ready. It was incredibly filling but we both loved it. The flavour of the dough really balanced well with the onion confit and it wasn’t dry, which I was afraid it would be. We will definitely be trying this one again.

A really simple recipe, great taste and my house still smelled of pizza dough this morning, which is just a huge plus! Thanks to Tuesdays with Dorie for this great find! If you’d like to read about the others’ attempts at this recipe, head to http://tuesdayswithdorie.wordpress.com/ or http://theboycanbake.wordpress.com/

Thanks to the boy can bake for hosting this week! I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Happy New Year! Lots of bakes to catch you up on!

Hello all and happy new year to you! I hope you all had a wonderful time over the holidays, I must apologise for my brief hiatus but I’ve been very busy with family things and of course, baking. Therefore, I have multiple bakes to catch you up on. Christmas Eve in my household means freshly baked mince pies with home made brandy butter. Fresh from the oven, the brandy butter melts into the mincemeat and the pies are more pastry than they are filling – perfection!

This was a great way to really kick start Christmas but even before this, I had multiple bakes to catch you up on; gluten-free Earl Grey muffins, almond and chocolate biscotti and almond and cherry florentines!

First – the Earl Grey muffins. I couldn’t resist this recipe from Twinings; a friend of mine and I both independently saw the recipe, wanted to try it and ended up baking it together. The recipe isn’t gluten free but as my friend is allergic to gluten, we replaced both types of flour with one gluten free flour and added a teaspoon of xanthum gum at the same time. The xanthum gum helps to bind all of the ingredients together and improves the crumb structure – it’s not needed with regular flour but helps when baking gluten free. The result turned out more like an English muffin texture rather than an American muffin and was something I’d not experienced before but it was delicious! The combination of the Earl Grey and the orange really complimented each other and as the muffin was slightly more like a sweet bread, it was perfect for breakfast with a cup of tea. I will definitely be trying these again but next time, I think I’ll replace the orange zest with lemon as Earl Grey tea is typically served with lemon. I might also try adding a violet flavoured icing to the top to add another level. The recipe can be found here.

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This Christmas, I also decided to bake something for my parents and give it to them in a decorative Christmas box. I chose to make almond and chocolate chip biscotti for my dad and cherry and almond florentines for my mum. The biscotti turned out really well, recipe found here, they were incredibly simple to make and my dad loved them so much that they were practically all gone by the next day! The florentines weren’t quite as successful, I used this recipe as I haven’t made them before but they seemed to take a long time to cook the middle of them and in doing so, the outsides became slightly burnt, not badly so but if I were to make them again, I’d ensure that they were smaller and flatter so that they cooked through quickly.

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If you’d like to know the recipes for the mince pies or brandy butter, then let me know but please have a go at any of these recipes, they were all fun to make and of course, to eat! Now that the holidays are over, I shall finally be getting back to my oven and that means plenty of recipes for you! I’ve been re-watching episodes of the Great British Bake Off as well so I have many things I’d like to try in this new year. I also have something very exciting happening but more to come on that soon (if I told you now, that’d spoil the fun wouldn’t it!)