Croissants

IMG_2009.JPGA few years ago I thought I would try making croissants sometime. Then I was dissuaded by being told it was very time consuming and difficult.

Unknown.jpegThen my friend Alison gave me The Tivoli Road Baker and it’s got a whole section on viennoiserie and I read the instructions and I thought… well, how hard can it be? I just need two days of relatively cool weather.

Friends, that was yesterday and today. I have now made croissants.

IMG_2006.JPGI started by buying Danish butter – Lurpak – because it’s 82% fat, although I don’t know if it’s cultured as the recipe recommends. Then I just followed the recipe for the dough, which turned out to be a lot easier than I thought. Then it was into the fridge overnight.

IMG_2008.JPGToday, I did the laminating, which again is a whole lot easier than I expected. I think the process has a bad name because it really does take a long time – but that’s the resting time, not the active time. The rolling out of each stage was easy and only took a few minutes. And in fact even the process of turning the dough into the croissants – cutting into triangles and stretching and rolling up – was really easy.

IMG_2010.JPGOf course, things did not go entirely right. Because it was a cool day, I decided to follow the instructions for proofing in the oven. I put a pan in, with boiling water, and then put the teeny croissants in to rise. After an hour, I thought the oven wasn’t warm enough, so I put more hot water in. Then 20 min later I took the croissants out because it was time to turn on the oven… and butter had melted out. Yeh. So that made me feel pretty awful. Then, hilariously, because I was annoyed about that, I completely forgot to eggwash the croissants before they went in. Thus they did not quite crisp up as well as they should.

Nonetheless! I made croissants. And they aren’t terrible. They are even flaky!

IMG_2007.JPGI also found a recipe to use the leftover bits of croissant pastry. Actually I think it was meant to be just the laminated dough but I used the bits I cut off as I went as well, so it didn’t puff up as much as they could have. I was going to make just the sweet version but then a friend pointed out that savoury could work too. So I made half with pistachio and raspberries, and half with a teeny bit of tomato paste and finely chopped mushroom. They’re ok… they didn’t work as intended because not all of the dough was fully laminated. Also, not making it from frozen probably impacted too.

So there we are. Croissants. Tick that off the bucket list.

Chocolate mousse… with Earl Grey

I was tagged on Twitter in a discussion about a chocolate mousse recipe that included Earl Grey tea, because unsurprisingly this is something I’m getting known for. The recipe itself is here, at Food52. Also unsurprising is the fact that I didn’t quite follow the instructions to the letter. First, I had no orange, so I decided to use French Earl Grey, on the basis that I have a lot and that it has a slightly more complex flavour, so the zest wouldn’t be missed. I also made half of the recipe, because it was just me home for the weekend. Perhaps more crucially – and I’m fully accepting blame here – where it calls for a blender, I used my food processor. Now, I don’t have a proper blender. It’s not something I’ve ever missed. I have a stick blender but I don’t think it would do the job required here any better than the food processor.

Using the food processor did mean a bit of splatter when blitzing the chocolate and the Earl Grey water. It wasn’t quite so bad when I added the egg white.

A number of the commenters on the site say they got ‘chocolate soup’. Mine wasn’t quite that bad but it certainly didn’t quite set as mousse-y as one might hope. I don’t know whether that’s the processor vs blender issue, or just the recipe not being great. It was tasty enough – I mean, I ate it; in fact I kinda ate both serves for one dessert… and I got the flavour of the French Earl Grey coming through, too; it wasn’t just chocolate. But I’m not in a hurry to use up chocolate for this recipe in future.

Honey tasting

I got honey as a present and I decided to do a horizontal taste testing; and I decided to do it as a series of posts on FB, because why not. This is the collation of those posts…

Are there honey fiends? I guess there must be. I’m not one of them – I mean I like honey but I don’t go out of my way to get really good honey, mostly because I don’t know what really good honey is. But I’m about to experiment and I thought I’d share that here. I’m not very good at comparing tastes over multiple days… so the fact that I got a box of honeys from Beechworth c/my work Kris Kringle this year (totally above and beyond) is a magnificent opportunity to do a horizontal tasting! And then somehow I have three ‘ordinary’ honeys at home (what even?) and I was given a large jar of honey by another friend because she didn’t like it… so: ten honeys. Let’s see what this is like.

First, the supermarket honeys.
1. Capilano “Natural floral honey: Manuka”. Tastes… like honey? Maybe a little bit savoury? I guess this works as a base line.
2. Allowrie “Mixed blossom”. Definitely a bit sweeter and smoother, too (the Capilano has crystallised a little, although that doesn’t impact on the taste). This is nice but definitely not ‘challenging’; I guess it’s a good inoffensive one.
3. Beechworth Honey from the supermarket – no info about blossoms or what have you. Not quite as sweet as the Allowrie, I guess a bit more… tasty? As in, not just straight bland sweetness.
Hey, describing honey is hard, who knew?

For what it’s worth, I’m using little wooden spoons for the tasting – I did a bit of reading that suggested wood was best. And I remember the first Gastropod episode where they talked about the way different materials for utensils make a difference.
4. Golden Nectar Organic Real Leatherwood Honey: c/ a friend because they didn’t like it. Well THAT bodes well… Wow. That is definitely more character-ful than the others. I like it! It’s got… punch, or something. More on the savoury side of sweet (yes I know that’s silly). Not floral. I’m going to assume Leatherwood honey is a fairly distinct taste. It would presumably lend a noticeable taste to a marinade, I guess depending on what else you were using.

And now: the fancy ones. The Beechworth Honey jars are presented in a very nice little box. Each jar is labelled with (I presume) the blossoms the bees mostly fed on to make the honey, and a statement like “Bee… Fruity.”
1. Orange blossom: “Bee… Fruity.” The jar gives this 2/5 stars in terms of mild –> strong. Yes, by comparison with the Leatherwood it’s definitely mild. Sweet although not overwhelmingly so (my mother would tell you my sweetness gauge isn’t to be trusted though). Fruity? … I guess so? Not sure how you judge that. Nicer than the Allowrie.
2. Red Gum: also “Bee… Fruity”, hence why I’m doing it next. It’s got three stars on the mild –> strong scale. The fruitiness is more noticeable here and I’m glad I did it next to the orange blossom because yes, it’s definitely a step up in terms of strength of taste. It’s not as sweet, it’s more interesting to taste, and I like it more than the orange blossom.
Things learned so far: I think I prefer stronger honeys. Good to know.

I may have done these in slightly the wrong order; turns out there are two that are right at the mild end of the spectrum, and two at the 4/5 end. So, mild first:
3. Ironbark: “Bee… Delicate.” Gets 1/5 stars on the mild –> strong system… and yes, definitely more mild than the Red Gum, and completely different from the Leatherwood. A bit closer to the Allowrie in terms of pure sweetness, but more… interesting, I think. Can’t describe why: it’s more than *just* sweet?
4. Creamy Honey: “Bee… Creamy” (obvs). This has a special place in my heart already because creamed honey always makes me think of my Grandma. And this is super, super creamy: the honey doesn’t move in the jar, it has a lovely white layer on top, and I’m already excited about just eating it from the jar (in very small amounts of course). It’s a 2-star honey, and yes it’s quite mild, but it’s also not overwhelming in its sweetness, especially compared to the Ironbark. Super tasty and I adore the texture.

Last honeys: the strong ones.
5. Macadamia: “Bee… Warm.” I mean. Macadamia. What’s not to be excited about? 4/5 on the strength-o-meter so I’m assuming I’ll like it. Aaand… it’s nice, but not that exceptional. Tested it against the supermarket Beechworth Honey and it’s definitely more interesting than that – which is why doing a horizontal tasting is the only way I can figure this stuff out. I’m a bit surprised that it’s a four on the strength rating, I wouldn’t have thought it was that much stronger than Red Gum.
6. Stringy Bark: “Bee… Bold.” Well that’s an ambitious claim for the honey, isn’t it? I would give it to Leatherwood for sure. This is also a four on the strength meter. And oh yes, that’s a delight. Not as strong as the Leatherwood – it would have to be a five, or maybe a six, out of five – but definitely punching the standard supermarket honeys in the face.

Well, now to figure out how to use these I guess. Aside from just stealing spoonfuls when I need something sweet.

Acts of Kitchen: Christmas!

AoK_logo_v2In which I do another Christmas episode, asking a variety of people what they like (or dislike) about Christmas food. I hope you enjoy the variety of reactions!

The first time I did this.

(Karlee on making gingerbread houses.)

Simple: the food

UnknownYesterday I talked about the book itself; today, the food. This book was sent to me by the publisher at no cost.

I’ve tried a good enough variety from the book now to say that they are mostly simple recipes, in the sense of being straightforward. They’re not all fast (which isn’t something she claims for them, either, but what some might assume), but there are few complicated steps. I like variety that Henry is including in the recipes – taking advantage, as she says in the intro, of the new ingredients available relatively easily in Western shops or online.

Some of the things I’ve tried:

Huevos rotos: basically braised eggs with fried potato and seasoning. I am so in love with this idea.

Cumin-coriander roast carrots with pomegranates and avocado: like it says on the tin, also walnuts. Very very good.

Cool greens with hot Asian dressing: the Asian there should be “Asian” (lime, fish sauce, ginger, chilli, garlic – generic Asian), but this was very tasty: any green veg you like (avo, peas of various description, cucumber, leaves…) with the dressing. Very good with the roast lamb (see below).

Salad of chorizo, avocado, and peppers with sherry dressing: turns out I had no sherry but red wine vinegar was ok. Also, fried bread (basically croutons)! Excellent in a salad!

Lamb and bulgur pilaf with figs and preserved lemon: leftover roast lamb has rarely been this good. Chickpeas, walnuts, spice… also bulgur makes a great pilaf, will make again.

Orzo with lemon and parsley: I couldn’t find orzo but it was still fine. Very, very simple.

Turkish pasta with feta, yoghurt and dill: the only dish I haven’t loved. Caramelised onion, buttermilk and Greek yoghurt, topped with dill and feta. I think I just didn’t love the yoghurt with the onion. It was very easy though.

Bacon and egg risotto: yes, that’s right. So good.

Slow-cooked lamb with pomegranates and honey: this is the lamb I paired with the Asian salad. It was very tasty and, of course, easy, since you just whack it in the oven when it’s marinated a bit. I like the pomegranate molasses with the garlic. Served with Greek yoghurt it’s superb.

IMG_1851St Clements and rosemary posset with blackberries: yes, apparently posset is what you call it when babies return some milk. Pretty sure this came first though. It’s boiled and then steeped cream (with peel and rosemary) and then mixed with citrus juice and left to set. I served it with blueberries. It was very nice and straightforward, although I do wonder if there are more interesting things to do with cream.

There are still a LOT of recipes I want to make and haven’t had a chance to. I’m very much looking forward to using this book to death.

Acts of Kitchen: Renate and German food

AoK_logo_v2In which I reminisce about food I had in Germany and Austria, and Renate talks about the food she makes in her German home.

I think this is the soup that Renate mentions: Griessnockerl (Austrian recipe, but hopefully similar to the German version)

Frikadellen (German meat patties)

Kaiserschmarrn (torn pancakes)

Germknodel (steamed dumplings)

Chocolate

IMG_1839I like chocolate. I also like receiving parcels, and I like trying new things. Therefore, a chocolate subscription box seems like an excellent idea, and there’s an Australian one I have just signed up for: Bean Bar You. Each month it’s four bars from different manufacturers around the world – with one from Australia each time. Since I didn’t know there were that many Australian chocolate makers, I am intrigued! It is on the slightly pricey side, thanks to postage and all, but these are chocolates made usually by small businesses, using (so far; I’ve only had one box) less than industrial processes – so it’s artisanal, right, and you pay for that. And for the moment I’m really enjoying it.

For each of the chocolates, you get one of these: img_1836.jpg

… which is intriguing and almost confronting for me, because I’m not very good at IMG_1835thinking about smell (“it smells like dark chocolate”) and the difference between texture and creaminess isn’t always easy for me to enunciate, or even notice. But I really enjoyed thinking about those different aspects, actually, and it certainly forced me to stop and think about what I was eating. The first time I had some of each, anyway. I wasn’t always concentrating that hard, don’t worry.

img_1838.jpgAnd it has been worth it, even for just one box. I didn’t love every single one, although there were certainly none that I rejected! I opted for dark chocolate only and it was intriguing to see how different even dark chocolate can be. Of course there were differences in just how dark each was, which contributed, as well as the source of the beans etc. My favourite was the Origin, which is convenient because they’re the Australian brand. I can see myself buying some of their chocolate in future, given the range of dark chocolate they appear to have.

img_1837.jpgBean Bar You asks you to rate and review the chocolate you receive in order to keep refining what they send you, and I’m interested to see how this ends up working. I also got to opt out of chocolate with coffee in it, which made me happy.