Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Earl Grey Ice Cream

I love gifting homemade goodies and I also love receiving food gifts, be it homemade or store-bought... (also I don't mind getting cash or gift cards, fyi).  Sometime ago, my best friend, Natasha got me a box of delicious breakfast Earl Grey tea and I've been wanting to do something special with them... and this Earl Grey ice cream is especially delicious.  It's very easy to make and you don't even need an ice-cream maker. I don't have one (hey, another gift idea...). Normally, I like my tea black with no sugar; but this is an exception. The ice cream is rich, creamy and not too sweet, with just the right strength of that distinctive Earl Grey flavour.  Go ahead, make it and enjoy!

Earl Grey Ice Cream

250 ml full-fat milk
500 ml double cream
150 gr caster sugar
6 Earl Grey tea bags
1 tsp vanilla paste, or the seeds from 1 vanilla pod
5 egg yolks

In a saucepan, warm the milk, cream and sugar.  Give it a stir occasionally.  Once the milk is steaming, take it off the heat and place the tea bags and vanilla paste into the saucepan and let them steep for 20 minutes or more.  I might have left mine a bit longer.  Give it a stir every now and then. Remove the tea bags, and return the saucepan to medium-heat.

In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks until light and frothy.  Slowly pour the tea and vanilla infused milk and cream onto the yolks, whisking as you go. Return then milk/egg mixture into the saucepan and continue cooking over low heat.  Stir constantly with a wooden spoon and make sure to scrape the bottom and corners of the pan, until the mixture is steaming and thickens to a custard.  When the mixture coats the back of your wooden spoon, it's done.

Using a fine sieve, strain into a container and refrigerate until completely cooled.  If you have an ice-cream maker, go ahead and use it according to the manufacturer's instruction.  I haven't got one, so if you're like me, what you need to do is put the ice cream base into a covered container.  Stick it in the fridge and give it a good whip every hour for three hours, either with a hand-mixer or by hand with a whisk.  This will prevent the ice-crystals from forming and in the end you'll get a nice, smooth and silky ice-cream.  After the three hours, just keep in the freezer for another few hours and you know what to do next...

This Earl Grey ice cream is also my entry for this month's BSFIC.  The theme this month is ice creams that are inspired by hot drinks... So, get your creative cap on and join the fun!

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Apple Pie-Crumble-Cake

On my last day at Gili island during my travel, I had lunch at a cafe.  And just before leaving to catch my boat back to Bali, I saw an apple cake on display.  I didn't have time to go back in the queue and I was annoyed that I didn't get to try it.  I am a sucker for apple cake.  So, when I got back I decided to bake myself an apple cake.

But to be honest, it's not just apple cakes that I love... anything with apples really, pie, crumbles, tarte tatin, strudel, ice-cream, etc...   So, in the making I decided to combine some of my favourite apple treats.  It is very much a cake, but it has enough apples in it to call it a pie too.  If you want, you can bake this cake in a pie dish rather than a baking tin.  

This is a tender, moist cake with a sweet scent of vanilla and a hint of cinnamon with loads of sweet apples and have I mentioned the whisky steeped raisins?! Yes, there are those too.

Crowning the cake is a simple crumble topping with an addition of flaked almonds for texture and also Demerara sugar for crunch and aesthetic purposes. So, there you have it... It's an apple pie-crumble-cake!  

The apples I use are Granny Smith apples. Not only because they're my favourite... I adore their crisp texture and sharpness; but also they hold their shape really well.  They'll be soft after baking but won't fall apart or become mushy.

This is the kind of cake you can serve anytime of day, for brunch, in the afternoon with a cup of coffee/tea, even as a dessert with a scoop or two of ice-cream or custard.... but I'm really looking forward to have another serving of this cake for tomorrow's breakfast... cold, straight from the fridge. Yum. I'm a grown man and if I want cake for breakfast, so be it.

Apple Pie-Crumble-Cake

For the cake and apple filling
2 Granny Smith apples
Half a lemon, juiced
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp Demerara or brown sugar
50 gr raisins
1 tbsp rum or whisky
125 gr soft butter
125 gr caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste
2 eggs
125 gr plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt

For the crumble topping
50 gr plain flour
1/2 tssp baking powder
35 gr cold butter, diced
30 gr flaked almonds
3 tbsp Demerara sugar
Double cream or lightly whipped cream, to serve

Preheat the oven to 180 C and butter the base of a 22 cm round cake tin or a pie dish.

Put the raisins in a small bowl and pour the rum or whisky, and let them steep for few minutes.  Peel and cut the apples into small chunks and place them in a bowl.  Coat them with the lemon juice, ground cinnamon and brown sugar.  Set aside.

Now, make the cake batter.  In a bowl, sift the flour and baking powder and a pinch of salt. Set aside.  In another bowl, cream the soft butter, caster sugar and vanilla paste until light and pale.  You can use a hand-mixer or simply with a wooden spoon and a little elbow grease.  Beat in one egg, followed by half of the dry ingredients. Mixing well.  Then add in another egg and the rest of the flour. Pour the batter into the cake tin.  Add the apples and raisins and bake for 20 minutes.

In the meantime, make the crumble topping.  Put the flour and baking powder in a bowl and rub in the cold, diced butter between thumb and fingers until it resembles rough oatmeal.  Stir in the flaked almonds and sugar and mix using a fork.

After 20 minutes, take the cake out from the oven and sprinkle over the crumble topping covering all the surface.  Return it to the oven and bake for a further 20-25 minutes.

Leave to stand for 10-15 minutes before serving and serve with chilled double cream, or lightly whipped cream or ice cream... you get the idea and know what to do next.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Chocolate Ginger Brownies

I love chocolate, but I love it even more when it is paired with another ingredient.  Chocolate itself is no stranger to this custom of food-pairings. It has been paired with countless flavours, all with unique and surprising results.  My favourite combination is often fruit based, such as orange, lime, passion fruit and cherry.

Today I opted for something a bit different by adding chopped up crystallised stem ginger to my brownie mix.  The result is utterly delicious. I love the sweet heat that comes from the ginger which works so beautifully with the chocolate, and a hint of brandy (now, we're talking) which I believe needs no further explanation.   

Great news if you are gluten intolerant, this brownie is gluten-free! Not that I am allergic to gluten, but I especially love gluten-free cakes that are made using ground almonds.  The ground almonds keeps the cake moist even after a day or two with squidgy crumb.  

Making the brownies takes very little effort, so I hope you'll give this a go... But, one last thing, I always add a little bit of instant espresso when baking with chocolate.  Not to worry if you don't like coffee, the little amount I use won't make the brownies taste like coffee, but it will actually enhance the chocolate flavour. 

Have a great day!

Chocolate Ginger Brownies

100 gr soft butter
200 gr dark chocolate (I use 70% cocoa)
1 tsp instant espresso
5 eggs
100 gr caster sugar
50 gr brown sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla bean paste, or the seeds from 1 vanilla pod
A splash or two of brandy
200 gr ground almond
60 gr crystallized ginger, cut into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 180 C.  Grease a brownie tin with butter, and line with baking parchment with the paper overlapping the sides a little.  This will make it easier to remove the brownies later.   

Place the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water.  After a few minutes the chocolate and butter will start to melt.  Give it a stir occasionally.  Remove the bowl from the pan.  The residual heat from the pan will finish off the melting process.  Add the instant espresso, give it a stir and set aside

Using a free standing or a hand mixer, whip the eggs, vanilla, sugar and salt together.  Slowly add the chocolate and butter mixture.  Pour it around the side of the egg mix so as not to knock out the air that has been whisked in.  Also add the brandy.

With a large spatula, fold in the ground almonds and little pieces of crystallized ginger.  Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 20-25 minutes.  Be careful not to over-bake.

Let the brownies cool for 10-15 minutes before slicing, dust with icing sugar if you want to and you know what to do next.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Roast Chicken with Kaffir Lime Leaves

Hello friends! I'm baaack!
I had a great time travelling with my friend Cian... over the past couple of weeks, we went to Jakarta, Bandung, Singapore, Bali and ended up at the island of Gili Trawangan, near Lombok.  Cian is still on holiday and hopefully still enjoying his time in Indonesia.  And I, being boring, had to cut the holiday short due to work.  I won't bore you with the details, but I'm not complaining... This work will pay for my next trip.

Anyway, I haven't been feeling well for the past few days.  Nothing serious, but please let me moan.  During the last part of our holiday at the Gili island, we stayed at a hostel... and you know what, we're (at least I am) too old for hostels. There are times when I was a teenager or in my early twenties when it's absolutely fine to travel, backpacker style... sharing rooms (and germs) with strangers, bunk beds, communal shower, etc... And I must have caught something.  Cian, if you are reading this, no more hostel please. 

I'll share more interesting stories from our travel in the next few posts.  Right now, I want to share with you guys this delicious roast chicken with kaffir lime leaves.  Kaffir lime leaves is my latest obsession. I absolutely love it. It has a very refreshing citrus scent and most importantly, tastes delicious too.  You might need to go to a specialty store to get it, and do check out the freezer section because the leaves freeze well too. I always buy it in bulk and store them in a ziploc bag in the freezer.

And as per usual, I only use the thighs and drumsticks here... and you know why, but I'll tell you again, because they have more flavour, more tender compare to breast meat and they are also cheaper.  But do use any parts of the chicken that you like.  Chicken wings will be delicious too.

This is a very easy and tasty chicken traybake.  And even though I feel giving measurements for the marinade aren't necessary because it's entirely up to your liking; but to the eight chicken portions, I add a clove of garlic that's been finely grated, 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, 2 tablespoons of honey, same of regular olive oil, the zest and juice of 1 lime, a tablespoon of finely chopped kaffir lime leaves and salt and pepper to taste.

The chickens only need to marinate for 2 to 4 hours in the fridge.  Certainly not overnight I think because the acid from the lime juice will start cooking the chicken.  And because they only need a short time, it's not a bad idea to make few slashes on the chicken using a sharp knife to ensure the flavour really gets into the meat, as pictured below.

Take the chickens out from the fridge for half an hour or so before baking them in a preheated 190 C oven for 35 to 40 minutes. I would also suggest that you line your baking tin with foil, because the honey in the marinade might burn and who needs the extra scrubbing when doing the dishes?! You're welcome.  

Serve the chickens with rice or potatoes, but even better, towards the end of the roasting time, make this holy guacamole spaghetti! You will not be disappointed.