Sunday, October 28, 2012

Daring Bakers Challenge, October 2012: Layering Up: Mille- Feuille/Napolean


Our October 2012 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Suz of Serenely Full. Suz challenged us to not only tackle buttery and flaky puff pastry, but then take it step further and create a sinfully delicious Mille Feuille dessert with it!

Suz helped us out with in-depth step by step instructions, a list of alternate recipes and videos showcasing different ways in which to make the dessert.

Napolean or mille-feuille is a French dessert conveying a literal translation of" a thousand leaves", a name which is spot on when looking at the dish, component-wise. Think about this- you multiply puff pastry by 3, each of those embodying innumerable flaked layers themselves, with a double layer of cream custard also plussed in, thus ranking scores of pastry "leaves" tucked away in the very structure. A dessert on par to the rarefied few of royal gems, grandiose and gorgeous to boot.

Puff pastry alone seemed colossal to me, a task requiring the Gargantuan, skill that is. My dillydallyings with everyday bake experiments did not sell for me. Puff pastry was definitely not up my side of the alley, sidewalk, doorway or kitchen.

Though therein was my greatest challenge, summoning myself to just do it. So yes, after thinking about it for  2 weeks,days I pretty much believed I was ready to tackle it head on, taking charge of not only the making of the indubitable pastry, and it's accompanying comrades, but also in their final merrymaking assembly.

I went about making the pastry cream first, leaving time for it's essential cooling and coming together. So while it set to thicken, I got to work on my dough prep.

And that's where I was taken to task. Labor indeed, commanding most of the day, and a good part of night, even employing the other set of hands in the house, after his day job, to help with the recurring grades of tucking, rolling, folding and chilling in turns to make seriously good French pastry. A count of six turns and we were total and done, my dough and I, deeply relieved and ready for rest, him in the fridge, myself curled over my oversized couch.

The best part here I must make mention of. Nope, not the insane, buttery aroma wafting through every corner of the house, redolent of a very good bakery. Not even the beaut- gorgeous golden color of  baked goods once retrieved from the oven. It had to be, by far and well, definitely the A-class texture of pastry, flaky and crisp, something a pre-packaged product could not even touch. This is of that class, that can be eaten alone, sans any accompaniment, flavor, sweetener, all by itself. It is just that good. A goodness that only an overabundance of fat could produce. Where  you see that butter is king. With the beurrage packet enveloped within and released throughout the timely turning, it renders perfect dough pockets that lift once moisture exits those beautiful flecks of yellow.

And when sheets of pastry are all said and done, they further on with a cushioning of the smooth silk of pastry cream, adding on more layers, finally tufted with a royal icing glaze, laced with chocolate . You have reached, absolute peak of utter perfection. Layered amalgam of pure pastry bliss.

Simple task it is not, but it's impressiveness transcends it to over beyond and above status, redeeming it from it's labor intensive construction.

A word of caution must be stressed on the handling of these puff pastry planes, though, once baked,  a very delicate hand is required, since it lacks the sturdy, board- like consistency of its' packaged, frozen counterpart. Which is definitely a nod in favor; super crisp, soft, flaky magnificence that can never be copied by any top brand grocer variety.

After hearing in, don't you want to give this one a try, people? Well worth the effort, I tell you, during it's making and your consumption, and definitely most worthy of the innumerable 3 mile spins you will be making on the treadmill belt, next day.

(All recipes/methods/assembly, adapted from the Daring Bakers' Challenge page)
Puff Pastry~
Ingredients:
  • 14 tbs unsalted butter 
  • 1¾ c all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  •  ¼ c cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • ½ c plus 2 tbsp  cold water
  • 3½ tbs all purpose flour
  • additional flour for rolling/turning
Directions:
  • Cut the larger quantity of butter into cubes and set aside to come to room temperature.
  • Put the larger quantity of flour into a bowl with the salt and the cold, cubed butter.
  • Lightly rub the butter and flour between your fingertips until it forms a mealy breadcrumb texture.
  • Add the cold water and bring together with a fork or spoon until the mixture starts to cohere and come away from the sides of the bowl.
  • As the dough begins to come together, you can use your hands to start kneading and incorporating all the remaining loose bits. If the dough’s a little dry, you can add a bit more water.
  • Knead for three minutes on a floured surface until the dough is smooth.
  • Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  • While the dough is chilling, take your room temperature butter and mix with the smaller amount of plain flour until it forms a paste (called a beurrage) .
  • Place the butter paste between two sheets of clingfilm, and either with a rolling pin or your hands shape it into a 4 ½" square. You can use a ruler, pastry cutter or your fingers to neaten the edges.
  • Refrigerate for about 10-15 minutes so the butter firms up slightly. You want it to be solid but still malleable.
  • Roll it out on a floured surface into a 6" square. Place the square of butter in the center, with each corner touching the centre of the square’s sides ( imagine a big butter diamond in the middle of a dough square).
  • Fold each corner of dough over the butter so they meet the centre (you might have to stretch them a little) and it resembles an envelope, and seal up the edges with your fingers. You’ll be left with a little square parcel.
  • Turn the dough parcel over and tap the length of it with your rolling pan to flatten it slightly.
  • a) Keeping the work surface well floured, roll the dough carefully into a rectangle ¼" thickness.
  • b) With the longest side facing you, fold one third (on the right) inwards, so it’s covering the middle section, and ensure that it is lined up 
  • c) Then, fold the remaining flap of dough (on the left) inwards, so you’re left with a narrow three-layered strip.
  • Repeat steps marked a, b, c.
  • Wrap up in cling wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.
  • Repeat steps a, b, c, twice through, turning over and folding two times as mentioned in those steps.
  • Wrap again in cling wrap and chill again for at least 30 minutes.
  • Repeat steps a, b, c two final times (a total of 6 times).
  • Wrap up in clingfilm and refrigerate until needed. The dough keeps a couple of days in the fridge.

Pastry Cream / Crème Pâtissière~
 (full batch; makes enough for 8-10 mille-feuille)
Ingredients:
  • 2 c whole milk
  • ¼ c cornstarch
  • 1 c less 1 tbsp sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks (if you’re making the royal icing, reserve two egg whites)
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, cubed
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
Directions:
  • Mix the cornflour/cornstarch with ½ cup of milk and stir until dissolved.
  • Heat the remaining milk in a saucepan with the sugar, dissolving the sugar and bringing the milk to the boil. Remove from heat.
  • Beat the whole eggs into the cornflour/milk mixture. Then beat in the egg yolks. Pour in 1/3 of the hot milk, stirring constantly to prevent the eggs from cooking.
  • Bring the remaining milk back to the boil, and add the egg mixture, whisking as your pour. Keep whisking (don’t stop or it’ll solidify) on a medium heat until the mixture starts to thicken.
  • *Remove the saucepan from the heat and thoroughly whisk the pastry cream. At this stage the pastry cream can look slightly lumpy, but a good whisking soon makes it smoother.
  • Beat in the butter and vanilla until fully incorporated.
  • If you haven’t already, pour the pastry cream into a stainless steel or ceramic bowl, and then place clingfilm over the surface to stop a skin forming.
  • Refrigerate overnight to give the pastry cream time to further thicken.
Notes: If you’re worried about the pastry cream continuing to cook off the heat, you can transfer it to a stainless steel/ceramic bowl
Baking the Puff Pastry~
  • Preheat oven to moderately hot 200°C /400°F.
  • Lightly dust your work space with flour and remove your dough from the fridge.
  • Roll into a large rectangle, the thickness of cardboard, (thickness of about 12”x 18").
  • Roll on the work surface, and finish it off on a large piece of parchment paper. That way it’s easier to move the sheets of pastry around.
  • Cut into three equal pieces and place on a baking tray. If you don’t have space for all three, you can bake them separately.
  • Prick the pastry sheets all over with a fork.
  • Place another sheet of parchment paper over the top and then top that with a heavy baking tray -to prevent the layers from puffing up too much.
  • Bake sheets for about 25 minutes in a moderately hot oven 200 °C /400°F, removing the top layer of greaseproof paper/tray 10 minutes before the end for the tops to brown. Keep an eye on them and lower the temperature if you think they’re browning too much.
  • Remove the baked sheets from the oven and leave on a wire rack to cool completely.

Icing~ (To be towards the end of assembly, since it will harden quickly.)

Ingredients:
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 ¾ cups confectioner's sugar
For the Topping on The Icing~
  • ½ cup dark chocolate
Directions:
  • Whisk 2 egg whites with 2 teaspoons lemon juice until lightly frothy.
  • Whisk in 2 c of the confectioner's sugar on a low setting until smooth and combined. The mixture should be thick enough to leave trails on the surface and holding it's shape briefly when poured back into bowl. If it’s too thin, add in a more sugar, bit by bit until thick enough.
Mille-Feuille/ Napoleon/ Custard Slice~

Ingredients:
  • 1 batch puff pastry ( above)
  • 1 batch crème pâtissière/pastry cream ( above)
  • 1 batch icing (above)
Assembly~
  • Once the pastry has cooled, you’re ready to assemble your mille-feuille. Get ready a sturdy surface, clean chopping board, your pastry and the chilled crème pâtissière from the fridge.
  •  Lay one pastry sheet on the board and spread half the crème patisserie evenly over the top
I had my helpers lend their hand-too much fun to be had alone for this one.
  • Take the second sheet and place it on top, pressing down lightly with your hands to ensure that it sticks to the filling.
  • Spread the remaining cream and place the last sheet of pastry on top, pressing down again. Oozing around the sides is normal and can be neatened up after assembly.
  • Pop in the fridge while you prepare the icing / chocolate.
  • Melt the chocolate in a double boiler, stirring periodically. Once melted, transfer to a piping bag (or plastic bag with end snipped), resting nozzle side down in a glass or other tall container.
  • The icing should be prepared at this time.
  • Immediately pour over the top of the top layer of pastry and spread evenly to the edges. 
  • Still working quickly, pipe or draw a row of thin perpendicular chocolate lines, width- wise along the top of the icing.
  • STILL working quickly, take a sharp knife to make perpendicular cuts through chocolate lines down (from top to bottom) through the rows of chocolate. Draw the knife across the surface top in one direction, then make the next cut across the pastry in the opposite direction. And so on, moving along the rows of chocolate until the top is covered in a pretty swirly pattern.
My warm kitchen temperature added a  lot to the lack of icing set, drippy and messing up my beautiful chocolate drawing in the process.
  • Once you’ve decorated your mille-feuille with a clean knife mark out where you’re going to cut your slices, depending on how big you want them to be and leaving space to trim the edges. I got ten out of mine – two rows of five.
  • Chill for a couple of hours to give the icing time to set.
  • With a sharp knife, trim the edges and cut your slices.
Notes:
The puff pastry dough will keep in the fridge for up to two days. Any leftovers can be well wrapped up & frozen for a year. Thaw for 30 minutes on the counter or overnight in the fridge.
The completed mille-feuille can be made a day or two in advance; it will last 2 or 3 days in an airtight container in the fridge, losing a little crispness.

Thank you Suz for this extraordinary challenge, in aiding us to conquer, not only the formidable puff pastry, but also in guiding us through the layering elements and final assembly line of an amazingly impressive mille feuille.

So after countless step- by- stepping, a day's worth of pastry preparation, copius amounts of butter- laden- dessert- inhaling that brought about a weighing scale phobia, would I  dare draw on a repeat performance?

Oui, oui, mes amis. Until next time.



Sorry  DB'ers again for the late entry. I was in free fall once I got started. A should I or shouldn't I conundrum. Happy I am indeed that I completed, even if tardy by a day or two.
******
You are the apple of His eye ~
"The Lord your God is with you,
    he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you, 
he will quiet you with his love,
    he will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

An omelette dressed up as a muffin~ the Omeluffin.


I know and I admit to it. I hung in the undesirable phase of lag and slack, a bit after that last post. Where you probably knocked at the door, but was left to turn back for lack of a new showing. I am sorry. I missed you too.


For those who swung by those past few 8 days (and even for those who didn't) I'll try and elucidate. The picture right above explains my reason of absence for a few short days and is partly to blame for the resulting hanging thereafter.You see, subsequent to my 60th, a respite I thought was due, a mini family excursion where I, for sure would be be lifted and recharged to the better, hop back right into this seat, and, yes reach my optimal state of bright idea'd frenzy.

Did not happen. In it's stead I was brought into a lackluster, retired tizzy. A lackadaisical-ness that had me, listless and less than enthusiastic (alliteration at it's best). To restart seemed Herculean. Almost to the Point of No Recipe Conjuring Return.

Almost.

Where I knew that all it took was just the visit to my abundant overflow of cookery reads and collectibles - read books, magazines and torn out pages piled throughout my home, on bookshelves,  baskets, populating desks, tables, bed and even tucked away in the bathroom. Inspiration lived everywhere, seeking my attention.


Yet, it took my better half to pluck the bounty for me. Where a deep wedged food fondness prodded him on a recipe wafting journey. The search that rewarded him and me duly with an overwhelmingly awesome fried egg.

With half a book turned over and pages bent to reveal the One, JZ urgently begged declared that this would be it, the recipe that would mobilize my getting from kitchen to camera and onto computer in a few hours' time. Seeing to where this was heading, had me smirk, "seriously?"and him go on and over, his mouth conveying what was going on in his head, touting how wonderful (?) it would be to fry up  almost a whole carton of eggs. Well, thought I, having not much of a where to go on this one , why not?

My eyes walked through Ingredient List, twice. Yes, it was gem and yes, it won me over. Thus, my inspiration came from some serious, flowing into madness egg love and two freshly turned pages of Madhur Jaffrey's "Indian Cooking". I had arrived.

Chef sophisticate, she is. Mrs. Jaffrey is one of the Greats in the Eastern cooking genre that made the Indian kitchen glamorous and Chana Masala famous. So, if Madhur thinks spice studded "Vegetable Omelette" is rank, I was up to breaking a few eggs.

Eight to be exact. Though my eggs had a very different ending. And that pretty much is the beauty of recipes that belong to the versatile class. This is one of those skeletal blueprints which you can interchange, to your liking, similar style ingredients, yielding still beyond caliber results.  Not only did I add in a slew of additional vegetables, but this was going nowhere without hitting it up some flavorful ginger/garlic notes. And instead of using frying pan tactics in doling good egg, my decided upgrade took the dressed up medley into some nonstick muffinware.

This is where egg beating reaches it's finest. Yellow silk frothiness, owing to the complementing tang of yogurt, tastefully repositioned to marry healthful meal making elements. A harmoniously blended  and baked outcome.

An omelette, a muffin. Omeluffin. Sounds fab, right?

Herewith, goes the outrageous checklist of omeluffin serve options to consider, thus finding you, as it had me, in a frenzied visit to Local Supermarket's dairy aisle.

Wholesome breakfast ✓
After school snack/ finger food ✓
Snap quick lunch/ paired- up- with- a- side dinner ✓
Casual appetizer ✓

Plentiful reason to believe omelette/muffin consumption/serving options can take you to about anytime of day, or night, even both.

( Inspired by Madhur Jaffrey's vegetable omelette recipe, published in "Indian Cooking")
Ingredients:
  • 1 medium sized zucchini, grated
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp oil 
  • ½ medium onion, chopped small
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 serrano pepper (deseed if preferred), sliced into thin rings
  • 1 medium potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 tsp cayenne (Indian red chili powder)
  • ½ tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp black pepper, coarsely ground
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 c fresh chopped spinach( if frozen, thaw and drain of liquid)
  • 8 eggs
  • ½ c plain nonfat yogurt
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • Salt for flavor, if needed
For my kids, eating eggs is the equivalent of penance. But eggs costumed up in the role of a muffin had them in overawe, doubled over in joy, and reaching out for more than one.
Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 350° F.
  • Place grated zucchini in a bowl and sprinkle with salt (aids in draining moisture). Set aside for 15 minutes, squeeze excess water from pieces and separate with fingers so they don't bunch up.
  • In a skillet, over medium flame, heat 2 tbsp oil. Saute onions until wilted.
  • Add garlic, ginger and pepper, heat through for an additional minute.
  • Add potatoes and zucchini, stir until both become tender, about 5 minutes.
  • Add in cayenne, coriander, black pepper and tomato pieces. Stir until spices cook through and pieces are soft.
  • Add spinach, stir till wilted.
  • Allow to cool.
  • Meanwhile, whisk together eggs, yogurt, and baking powder. Mix in the cooled vegetable mixture to the egg mixture. Taste for salt, add accordingly. Combine all ingredients well.
  • With remaining oil, brush 12 wells of a muffin tray. Divide mixture and spoon into wells.
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until eggs are set.
Sidenote~ With 12 wells to a standard muffin pan, you will need to have the extra pan to seat an additional three, making a total of 15 omeluffins. Or with the reserve, you could fry up an actual omelet, medium sized .
Owing to its rich ingredient base, this could as well pose as a mini frittata, the fancier side of the egg omelette
******
A calling to all the single ladies (even the married ones), inspiration comes your way ~
( Proverbs 31 Ministries via pinterest.com  ) 

~Thank you, sweet Savior.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

60 Posts and Macarons To Celebrate!

About 10 posts ago, on my 50th, JZ asked me if there would be anything special. "Oh no!"After  BMFK's number 50 had just been typed and published? "Was I supposed to?",  I asked, lost as to how  to make things right. And with the landmark passing, I figured another 10 to go, and I could usher in a day 60, rather than the forgotten number 50 and mark it with a special somethin' somethin'.

Sure enough, here with post 60 I've come with resolute payback for your loyal reading. Indeed, these pieces just could not, would not have happened without you, my sweets. Where the price you paid for a recipe was wafting through, most patiently, my long, oft times drawn out web drafts. I truly appreciate and applaud you, friends.

With 60 posts, and 41,000 hits, pictures being pinned by those lovely pinteresters, it is more than surreal, if that even exists and I am ever so grateful.  I thank all of you, readers, followers, stoppers by for taking notice and hearing in on my web jottings. The support and friendships forged here have been so humbling and at the same stretch, most exhilarating. You see, for me, any day past Update Number 10  has been miraculous and cause for celebration in all respects.

With that being said, the 60th post is where the toast shall lie. And for that, I have brought you these beyond dazzling French macarons. Refuting the bad rap which deems them the most difficult thing in the world, we shall rightly see they can be the easiest, up next to whipping an egg. These fanciful egg white preciouses are pure delight, provided you are willing to follow some hard and fast macaron making rules. For example, you have rule one, which suggests the auditoning egg whites be  a few days old and not so fresh. On beating, those drippy whites should attain high powered gloss and reach no- fall stiffness at the same time.  Of course, there is the ordinance that calls for a folding of all ingredients to not more than a 50 stroke maximum ( sadly, something discovered by myself only after the turn out of this batch). Another biggie is the ritual of the raw macaron rest, where the fixed up meringues sit to form a skin before meeting serious heat.

These dual egg whites, doing their fluffy, doubled- up- in- volume- dance, blend with the ground almonds into a batter, sweetened with sugar, thus finalizing an end product that is crisp, chewy cookie confection. Sandwich together two of these beauties with a complementing cream and you've taken the step from further- beyond- awesomeness into the wide world of scandalous.

So, thank you again, friends. I bestow upon you this foolproof recipe for cooking up some utterly brilliant French macarons.

(If it's your first macaron attempt it would be worth your while to check these out: the video where I adapted this same recipe and Tartlette blog, the be all/ end all of macaron making.)

Macaron~
Ingredients:
  • *¾ c finely ground almonds
  • 1 c confectioner's sugar
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 4 tbsp granulated sugar
Directions:
  • Pulse  ground almonds and confectioner's sugar in a food processor until well combined. Sift the mixture well.
  • Using an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, whisk egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Slowly increase speed and add in sugar, a tablespoon at a time. Continue whisking until firm glossy peaks form, about 4-5 minutes, being careful not to beat to overstiffness.
  • Add almond mixture over whites and gently fold all ingredients until smooth and well combined, about 40-50 folds.
  • At this point, if needed divide batter in different bowls and add your food coloring(s).
  • Spoon into piping bag(s) with round tip or fill a large plastic sandwich bag with mixture and snip off ¼ inch from the tip.
  • While keeping the top of the bag tight, squeeze out ½ inch rounds on to parchment lined baking tray(s).
  • Let these rest for 20 minutes after being piped, so that a "skin" is formed and it is slightly firm to the touch.
  • Preheat oven to 325° F in the meantime.
  • When ready to bake, bake one sheet at a time and reduce oven temperature to 300° F when placing the trays in the oven.
  • Bake for 16 minutes, rotating halfway through. Wen done, they should be crisp and firm, no browning at all.
  • Let macaroons cool on the baking sheets for 3-4 minutes. Then transfer to wire rack.
  • Make sure before each batch is set to bake you increase oven temp to 325°F, and once preheated, reduce to 300° F when it actually goes in.

  • Allow to cool before sandwiching.
  • Pipe or spoon filling of choice onto one macaroon and pair up with a similar sized one to top.
Those fringed bottoms are called feet, something that comes about from the 20 or so minute sitting on the counter prior to baking.
Notes:
I ground raw almonds in my food processor until fine consistency. This flour was then pushed through a sieve to weed out the rough slightly larger sediments.

Sidenote~
They say macarons need to rest in the fridge a few hours upto a couple of days to be at their best, flavor wise and consistency wise. This said in all hopes you have a stronger willpower than I do to make it happen.

Strawberry Buttercream~
Ingredients:
  •  2 strawberries, hulled and sliced in half
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ c unsalted butter( room temperature)
  • 1 ½ c powdered sugar
  • 1-2 tbsp milk or cream
Full figured and buxom, aren't they gorgeous?
Directions:
  • Pulse strawberries with vanilla extract in a food processor until pulped and slightly chunky.
  • Add in butter and process until smooth and combined.
  • Add in powdered sugar by half cupfuls and pulse until the contents becomes fluffy and all elements are evenly distributed.
  • Pour in milk and continue to pulse, using a rubber spatula to stir at intervals to aid in blending, until it is combined well and a smooth fluffy frosting results.
The occasion draws on the need to thank a special person. Della, who has touched my heart through her encouraging comments and detailed critiques of my recipes and posts, a colleague of JZ's, whom I have never actually once met, though her supportive voice and kindful acts are more than familiar to me. In fact, many of the beautiful "props" (including the gold container in the topmost picture) used in this blog came as a result of her generosity. Thank you sweet Della, truly grateful to call you friend.

Double Chocolate Ganache~
Ingredients:
  • ½ c heavy cream
  • ¼ c good quality semisweet chocolate chips (room temperature)
  • ¼ c milk chocolate chips (room temp)
Directions:
  • Heat cream in deep heat safe bowl microwave set at 80% power for 30 second intervals until it reaches simmer stage.
  • Put in the chocolate and allow the pieces to immerse in hot cream. After a minute, stir the contents. If contents is not melted through, place in microwave at 40% power at 10 second intervals, until chocolate is smooth and mixes well with cream to a shiny thick consistency.
  • Refrigerate for 15 minutes until mixture becomes a thick, spoon able consistency.
I don't mention as much the role of my better half in my blog pixelled life, who, at this moment, is situated on the sofa right next to me, waiting for my endless typing to be done. This man who has never missed reading a post I am truly and ever so grateful for. He is the voice of courage to my many a wimpy moment. JZ possesses the interesting destiny of midnight channel surfing and eventual proof reading for the rest of my good life. His weighty voice conveys the promises God has set in each and both our lives and helps me to hit the keyboard when all I want to do is sleep. I thank the Lord for my still strong man and the resulting two minis that live with us, themselves filled with commendable patience as their meals lay subject to many a photo shoot.

It is only through God's supernatural overflow that I am able to do what I do. He has enabled me in more ways than one, pushing me on, sparking my mind to think, create and make all this possible.

In this way, know that In Him all things are made possible. He is good and forever to be praised.

So here goes, post # 60 dedicated to you, lovely readers, the family and friends who have supported me by and through, my Three Heartbeats, and above all the Giver of life, Himself, Jesus Christ.

*Update*I am linking this post to Beantown Baker's Power Of Pink challenge.

Thanks Jen for the inspiring initiative, in raising awareness and understanding for breast cancer. To learn more about the invasive nature of the disease and recent statistics, click here.
******

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:2-4

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sensational Banana Jam

I know, I had mentioned, a while back, many posts ago, the awesomely wondrous cooking skills of my mother- in- law, I have failed in showing through with just a one. Not intentional, especially in the wake of my desperately wanting this next recipe of hers, one that I'd dreamt visions of on several occasions and desired to replicate. A bit of slack on my part, possibly. Is there an answer to why I've never asked and why it's never been revealed? Not really.

Unless, maybe I cite the ground which is probably the greatest to blame for the nonexistence of MIL (mother-in-law) recipe entries on BMFK, thus far . Chief reason, no doubt, is that "local news" sourcing takes precedence over anything else.

Allow me to explain. With weekly overseas phone calls made to our native land, predominantly JZ's home, conversations are driven mainly by the "what's happening" conundrum. Being so far away, we direly need a full discourse of the " Did you hear ...?" spiel. And Amma (transl: Mom) is dutifully set on letting us in, reeling our attention to extensive family bulletins- weddings, birthdays, deaths, engagements, who's moved, who's not and so on and on and on.

Don't get me wrong, Amma's plentiful segue, is in exact proportion to our interest and probe. We know the truthfulness of our source and so we run with it. That's when recipe queries and the like tend to sit on the sideline and the phone on the weekends is used for Multiple Hour Update Central.

Not only is Amma socially, one up on everything and everyone that's happening within a 100 mile radius and beyond, she bears the hands that have mastered the art of every national, local, regional and possibly cross cultural cuisine. Yes people, she Knows Food and it is recognized throughout our busy town that awesomeness flows from her never tiresome hands.

And when she does talk food, I listen and I do it with intent. Like yesterday when my memory took note to decisively ask, she unburdened an outline of her sensational banana jam. A simple sketch to which I typed and filled in blanks, finally bringing me to the state of Perpetual Glee. I attained the Gold.

First task was to procure Main Ingredient, baby bananas similar to the Indian variety used for the jam. With a visit to local Rancho Mercado, my"Nino" bananas lay in plenteous display, liberally occupying a major section of the Rancho fresh fruit aisles. I grabbed some of the abundance and took off.


Not much was needed after that, except for the stockpile of sugar you should have on hand, because yes, jam is sweet and yes, it needs sugar. You see, sugar is crucial here. Where it not only sweetens the jam, but gives it a shellac type gel-y sheen, all the while naturally preserving it's contents. Triple duty and all good. Sugar bashers, shame on you!

Peeling these little squirts took close to 25 minutes. An additional hour and more of dicing, stirring, boiling, straining, squeezing, more stirring had my clear yellow, almost uglyish liquid settling into the final stage of bejewelled beauty, a rich garnet hue working its way into my banana mash medley.

Effortless and timesaving, this is not, with quite a substantial amount of minutes spent stirring sap in front of a heated stove top. Though, thankfully, the weather here has come down to a much comfortable level, and my presence in front of the range for an almost sixty minutes did not seem like I had secured front row seats in a human broiler.

The posse of spices and the dash of rind also strive to make banana jam better than best.

Once finished, you will turn out the semi warm mixture into pre-sterlized glass containers, ready and waiting for a cascading fall of beauteous jam ribbons.

Not only is banana jam the Ultimate Bread Spread, you can multipurpose it to dress up pancakes and also serve it up as ridiculously insane ice cream topper.

Friends, you are fortunate indeed with this one in your possession. From a chef par excellence being the source behind it, consider yourself special and know that priceless treasure is now within the power of your hands.

(Recipe adapted from my mother in law, Babykutty Zachariah)

Ingredients:
  • 8-10 c sliced, ripe baby bananas
  • 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 6 c water (or enough to brim over the slices)
  • 3 c sugar
  • 1 medium cinnamon stick
  • 2-3 whole cloves
  • ½ tsp ginger powder
  • 1 tsp lemon rind
Directions:
  • In a deep set saucepan set over medium high heat, bring to a boil the bananas, lemon juice and water.
  • Lower heat to medium and let simmer for 10 minutes until bananas have become very soft and break to the touch.
  • Allow to cool a bit and then strain onto a mesh sieve or cheese cloth set over a bowl to catch the juices. Use your hands to push through and extract all the liquid from the bananas.
  • Pour the extracted liquid into the same saucepan used to boil the bananas. Add sugar and let boil on high heat.
You have arrived when the extract of those unattractive remains of banana pulp turns into a glossy plum syrup. 
  • Switching heat to medium high, let the contents simmer, while stirring occasionally.
  • After about 15 minutes, add the spices and rind.
  • Keep simmering, stirring in between, until the mixture reduces to half and comes to syrupy, one thread consistency (where a single brittle thread of jam syrup can be pulled unbroken between the fingers) about 40-50 minutes simmer time.
Notes:

Before canning you can spoon out the cinnamon stick and cloves, though I left them in, since the flavor intensifies while it sits.

When checking for a single thread consistency, make sure a bit of jam is cooled on a spoon before your touch it.

This could probably work with the regular tall variety bananas too. If you have those overripe bananas occupying space in your kitchen, slice and jam 'em. All in all, it is a righteously good way to preserve fruit.
This batch filled two 500 ml. jars.  Spread onto slices of  homemade bread made for an absolutely glorious afterschool snack for my two schoolgoers.
It is so great to have these jars sitting on my kitchen counter. The intense aromas during jam cooking took us straight through Nostalgia Lane to the familiar flavor notes of Amma's kitchen in Kottayam. Thank you more than much, Babykutty Zachariah!

******
"When she speaks, her words are wise, and kindness is the rule when she gives instructions. She carefully watches all that goes on in her household and does not have to bear the consequences of laziness. Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her: "There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!" Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised. Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise." Proverbs 31:26-31 (NLT)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Easy Chocolate Ice Cream


It’s official, Fall is here. While most parts of the country have an enviable amount of this beautiful season, we unfortunates, have to take a two hour highway drive in order to crunch a leaf, much less  break a twig. By most parts, I refer chiefly to the beauteous Midwest, my home not so long ago and for a substantial decade. There, leaves hit ground in pigmented procession of browns, yellows and rust. The autumn I knew was dotted with crop harvests, warmed mugs of mulled cider and fashionably chunky sweaters. 

Now pushed to the other end of the country, Fall remains not much of a season, as it is a muggy window of passing to a painless, mild- mannered winter. With still- intrepid heat flying to a good three digit temp, the season in this part, is bedecked with swimwear, outdoor sports and gallons of Gatorade. Seriously, this first year, alone, of desert living has pushed me to the onset of Uncertain Season Disorder. 

And while those friends, up there, are eating warmed fruit crumbles and sipping hot chocolate, visual retaliation comes to me in the form of cream, iced cream, that is. It most certainly is one of The Great Loves Of MY LIFE, second only to JZ (I think) and of course the kids (sometimes). Though, actual make from scratch and churn on my own, triggers serious deepset fears. You see, I am befuddled when it comes to the constructing of a good ice cream, something I'm anything but skilled at. Sans the presence of an ice cream maker in my kitchen, this fear escalates into extreme iced dessert- making- phobia.

A fierce yearning called out to me louder still. I needed to make it happen, to whip me the cold lusciousness.

So how did it all come about? That I chanced upon The Page, folded over and loosely taped to the spine of my torn recipe binder?  That the Tattered One spoke, selling me the recipe printed on his sorry, crumbly-edged self? That when tucked away for years, it had the gall to straight up face me once opened? Providence, indeed, I owe it to. And the foreknowledge this easy chocolate ice cream would just be off the chart good.

All of 5 ingredients (not counting salt pinch and spoon of water) and without the aid of the ice cream maker, it asks for a few softhearted strokes of the hand, plus substantial whips from an electric mixer. No labor intensive custard preparation and characteristic manic stir at timed intervals, these ingredients work to make sing. An unbelievably good ice cream.

The recipe called for high quality bittersweet chocolate. Though, with my few scraggles of a 12 ounce bag, semisweet Ghirardelli chips, luxe chocolate flavor was achieved. After a boosting of coffee and a swirl of condensed milk, the ambrosial medley was ultimately hit with a fluffy cream foundation. Simple and swoon.


Shall I digress further? Easy peasy recipe can be limited to just the two bowls, one to whip up the cream and the other for your melting, combining and final freeze.

Another must mention; this one can be grouped into recipes of a highly versatile series, where making the one will verge you onto fanciful visions of owning your own multi- flavor creamery.

If you're anything like me, this will never make two steps out of the freezer, once you've cut your spoon to it. The recipe claims six servings. I say a safe four, knowing three of those headed straight into my mouth, once after the melty moment photo session, and second, the plating clean up. So to secure that fair share, mental math it and raise the ingredients to double or triple. The family will thank you.

(Recipe Adapted from  Cooks Country magazine -2008 edition)

Ingredients:
  • 1 tsp instant coffee or espresso powder
  • 1 tbsp hot water
  • 4 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped fine
  • ½ c sweetened condensed milk
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt
  • 1¼ c cold whipping cream
Directions:
  • In a medium- large sized microwave safe and freezer safe bowl, combine coffee powder and hot water. Let stand until coffee dissolves.
  • Place chocolate and sweetened condensed milk into the coffee, microwave at 10 second intervals, taking out to stir. Do this until chocolate is melted, approximately 30-40 seconds, upto a minute. 
  • Add vanilla extract and salt and allow to cool.
  • With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, whip cream to soft peaks, about 2 minutes. Whisk ¼ of the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate mixture. 
  • Once incorporated, fold in the remaining cream into the chocolate mixture until it is fully blended.
  • Freeze in the container, covered and airtight, until firm, at least 6 hours or up to 2 weeks.
Note~ In the extremely rare case of storing leftovers or if you've premade a batch to keep aside for  a few days, do a layer of plastic wrap directly onto its surface before freezing.

Easy chocolate ice cream was by far the most difficult subject to shoot. Once plated and laid out, the ice cream would start melting when it was hit by the light streaming in from the window. So, with several freezer breaks in between, the shots had to be taken near lightning fast.



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Jesus keeps us, directs our paths, will always be with us in this life and onto eternity. Yes, He's got your back~

"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake"
Psalm 23:1-3