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Relapse: Panettone December 21, 2011

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Relapse, Sweet things.
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Relapse: An occasional series where I discuss several ways of preparing an ingredient.

This isn’t so much a full relapse, as it is some recipe testing / investigation I did to find the perfect panettone recipe. Panettone, for those who are unaware, is an Italian sweet bread/cake, often served at christmas or new year’s. Around here, is certainly ubiquitous in Italian delis and supermarkets leading up to christmas. With H’s family being Italian, I decided I should try and make some panettone from scratch, and (if successful), give it away on christmas day. I’ve never had homemade panettone so was not sure what to expect.

To be honest, I think the reason I’ve never had homemade panettone is because it’s really time-consuming to make, and you need to start so long in advance! I started with this recipe, which I scaled down to make one (large) panettone, rather than multiple small ones.

I started by adding flour, yeast, milk and eggs, mixing them together before leaving them to rise. After this, I added additional egg yolks, sugar and vanilla essence. I mixed these all together before adding butter and mixing it further.

I left it to rise again before adding in mixed dried fruit and some grated orange and lemon peel.

I left it to rise again (about 3 hours had gone past by this time) before putting it into a bundt tin. I know this is not a traditional panettone shape but it seemed the best option out of the tins I had.

Leaving the dough to rise for another 30 minutes, I was finally able to bake the dough. It took about 45 minutes until it was done.

Once it was cooled, we sampled the finished panettone.

The panettone was quite nice, but almost too cake-like. I wasn’t sure if this was the way it was meant to be (having only had store-bought before) or if the recipe was out. I decided to try another recipe to compare.

The next time, I tried this recipe, which I did not bother to scale down. I started with yeast, a little bit of flour and water, and let the yeast bloom. I added more flour, eggs, sugar and the rest of the yeast and water. After this was mixed, I added softened butter, mixed it in well, and then left the whole thing to rise.

After this first rise, I added more egg yolks, sugar, honey, more butter and the rest of the flour, and again mixed until it was all combined. And again, I let it rise until doubled in size.

Rather than adding dried fruits to this one, I thought it would nice to try the homemade nutella I’d previously made. I turned the dough out onto the counter, kneaded it a few times, then added the nutella.

Already this was a big improvement over the last dough; it was not as goopy and I could knead it without a problem. Overall, it seemed drier and closer to bread dough than cake batter. I was able to incorporate a large amount of nutella, before I put it in the tin and left it to rise for the last time.

This one rose more dramatically than the last one and I had to trim it once it came out of the oven. I let it cool, then we cut a slice to sample.

This was must more like the panettone I was used to. It pulled apart nicely, and was lighter than the previous one. It was the perfect balance of cake and bread. This will definitely the recipe I’ll use to hand out panettone gifts.

This panettone was far nice than the store-bought one, and in that sense I’m very glad I made it. It is not a difficult recipe, but does require forward planning and a lot of time to let the dough rise, rise and rise again. As long as you have the time and remember when it’s time to do the next step, this is well worth the effort.

Fig Souffle November 20, 2011

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Fruit, Sweet things, Wolfe recipe.
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I don’t know what your supermarket is like, but mine likes to be sharing and caring. This translates into telling us how much money we’re saving (sometimes even a whole dollar!), and providing specific areas for communities present in the surrounding suburbs. We have long had a Kosher section, and recently I noticed that a South African section had been added. South African delights for sale included biltong, a malt porridge-type of thing, and tins of fig jam. Of course we had to sample many of the offerings, including the fig jam.

The fig jam was very good – it had some small chunks of figs and the seeds were scattered throughout. While it was all very well and good to eat the jam on toast, I thought it would be nice to make something from it. Luckily Nero Wolfe had the answer, and I set about making a fig souffle.

The Nero Wolfe Cookbook called for pureed figs, to which I was meant to add sugar. I decided that the jam was probably sweet enough, but I still warmed the jam up and stirred in some grand marnier before l let it cool.

This souffle was different to other souffles I’d made: only egg whites were to be used. I guess this means it was more of a fig meringue than a souffle? Anyway, I whipped the egg whites until they were at soft peak stage, then folded in the (now cool) fig jam.

While the recipe said to put the whole mixture into a large souffle dish and bake, I chickened out. I didn’t really have a dish I could use, and I was concerned about the souffle turning into a wobbly mess in a large dish. Instead, I used four smaller ramekins, and reduced the baking time accordingly.

When they were done, I served them immediately with some pieces of kiwi fruit (I think I was thinking along pavlova lines).

While I’d been concerned about the lack of egg yolks, these souffles were just as fluffy as previous ones I’ve made. I was also worried that the chunks of figs in the jam were just going to fall to the bottom of the souffle – there were some on the bottom, but there were also some dispersed among the souffle which pleased me greatly. The souffle itself was light, with the taste of fig coming through well. Next time I would add more grand marnier (or similar), as I got hints from this from time to time but did not feel it had much of an overall presence.

The main issue with souffles is timing them to suit the diners. As I said the last time I made souffle, they work best when you have a Fritz standing by in the kitchen, waiting to hear the word that you are ready for the souffle. Souffles definitely can’t last once they’re out of the oven – which really, is just an excuse to eat them all on the spot!

Happy Halloween! October 30, 2011

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Sweet things.
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When I went to make these cookies, I realised that although I have lots and lots of Halloween cookie cutters, I’ve not used them to actually make cookies. I’ve used them for things like making fruit gelees, pancakes, and of course, polenta. I decided I should really use the cookie cutters for what they were actually intended.

I made chocolate cookies and flavoured the icing with mint essence. While I liked the ghosts, bats and cats, I think my favourite were the spiders’ webs.

Ironically, my favourite cookies were those just using round cutters – no fancy Halloween cutters required! To make these, I outlined the spider web shape, then filled / flooded with icing. Before that flood icing could dry, I piped circles of different coloured icing and ran a toothpick through them to create the individual webs. The next day, I added the spiders on top.

And just in case you think I’m only thinking about Halloween, I also used this opportunity to make some Day of the Dead cookies too.

I used a skull and crossbone cutter, and removed the crossbone part before baking. They were a lot of fun to decorate!

Whatever your Halloween plans are, I hope they are appropriately ghoulish, horrifying, and delicious.

White chocolate and orange lava cakes for Halloween October 23, 2011

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Sweet things.
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I’m horrifically excited that it’s almost Halloween! While nothing can top the fun of making a zombie Nero Wolfe, it’s definitely time to create some creepy food for my favourite holiday of all. I had been thinking of chocolate lava cakes and had the idea to somehow make them red, so it would look like they were oozing blood.

I figured that someone had probably thought of this before, and sure enough, I found a recipe over at The Gourmand Mom. She made her cakes to celebrate a new season of Dexter, but I can’t imagine anything more appropriate for Halloween.

I started by melting white chocolate and butter until they were well combined.

I added plain flour, confectioner’s sugar, eggs, orange essence, and a couple of spoonfuls of cocoa. Then came the fun part: adding the red food colouring. I used the gel colours I use for cookies, because I wanted to ensure a good, rich colour.

I may have been overly concerned with making sure I added enough food colouring but at least it was definitely red when it was all mixed through!

Having no nice little ramekins to spoon my mixture into, I made do with the various serving bowls and things lying around my house.

I cooked them, as instructed, for 14 minutes exactly. I let them cool in their ramekins for a couple of minutes before inverting them onto a serving dish.

I think because my ramekins were larger than ‘proper’ ramekins, I ended up with slightly larger, and therefore flatter, puddings, than the original recipe. Extensive amounts of icing sugar notwithstanding (not sure why I added so much!), these were really nice – and definitely oozing red blood for Halloween.

The flavour was actually quite complex, and they were sweet, but not cloyingly so, with the orange flavour helping to balance the sweetness of the white chocolate. But best of all was the ghoulish residue of red colouring on the eaters’ mouths: this dessert can also be used as part of a vampire costume! Although I am not usually a fan of white chocolate, I very much enjoyed these little cakes, and they were a great start to my Halloween cooking.

Olive oil and rosemary cake August 28, 2011

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Fruit, Sweet things.
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While I’ve saved this under my ‘sweet things’ category, and it certainly is a cake, part of the interest this cake has is in its not-quite-sweet-not-quite-savoury quality. I saw someone tweeting about this cake (I’ve forgotten whose tweet it was, apologies!) and was curious regarding the use of both olive oil and rosemary in an apparently sweet cake. I followed this recipe for the cake, but as you’ll see, I didn’t make the fig relish but instead made a apple and pear mix to serve with it.

Rather than bothering to get out my mixer, I used a whisk to mix all the ingredients together – including the olive oil and some white wine.

I mixed in all the flour, and ended up with a nice thick batter dotted with pieces of rosemary.

I used a slightly smaller pan than the one listed in the recipe, and ended up having to cook it longer than the time specified. However, this turned out to be a bonus, as it gave me time to cook down some diced apples and pears to act as a type of sauce for the cake. I chopped apples and pears, and cooked them with some orange juice, grand marnier, and some of the celery salt I’d made – my idea was to match the sweet/savoury nature of the cake with the fruit.

The cake ended up taking almost a full hour to cook – but it was well worth it, as it came out very tall and even!

I cut a few slices of the cake and served it with some of the fruit.

I thought this cake was delicious. I loved the flavours of the olive oil and rosemary, which, while savoury, did not detract from the overall characteristics of this cake as sweet and quite light. The cake was dense without being heavy. The fruit was a nice addition, although I wished I’d left the fruit with a bit more sauce.

This is a type of cake I think Nero Wolfe would really enjoy, given his history of combining sweet and savoury flavours in different ways. It’s strange to think of a cake as refreshing, but I felt that the rosemary gave it such a nice fresh touch compared to a lot of other cakes. Next time I’d serve it with a more of a sauce-like topping, but overall I was very happy with the result.

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