Thursday, 26 June 2008

A goose walked over my Parmesan

I was thinking, chicken with parmesan - that's what we'll have for supper - where can I find a nice recipe - Oh Look - a Barefoot Contessa testing blog - Oh Look - Parmesan Chicken - OOOOH SPOOKY. And that is when the goose trampled down my spine. I had chicken and parmesan and I made some dried crumbs and went out into the vegetable garden and found chard and spinach leaves for the salad. I even had lemons for the vinaigrette.

I do love a nice crumbed chicken breast. I often beat them out to cook quickly with a herb butter or salsa verde - I have been teaching this at school with a garlic and parlsey butter and crushed new potatoes but I think this would be great recipe to teach them how to coat something. Personally I think that the recipe could use a little more parmesan, but my husband, S, thought that there was enough. I browned the chicken in the pan and then finished it in the oven - it came out beautifully juice and was a big hit with S and little son. Big son had gone out - no surprise there. I have saved his chicken breast to have with some bacon in a club sandwich tomorrow. My first Barefoot Contessa book, BC at home, has nice pictures of stuffed ciabattas which we have been trying out this week. The goat cheese with roasted peppers, red onions and pesto one was really nice. Anyway, here is the Parmesan Chicken post - try it and see for yourself.

Barefoot Contessa Parmesan Chicken

6 small chicken breast fillets
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt (I used Maldon Sea Salt)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 extra-large eggs
1 tablespoon water
1 1/4 cups seasoned dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving
Unsalted butter
Good olive oil
Salad greens for 6, washed and spun dry
1 recipe Lemon Vinaigrette, recipe follows

Pound the chicken breasts until they are 1/4-inch thick. You can use either a meat mallet or a rolling pin.

Combine the flour, salt, and pepper on a dinner plate. On a second plate, beat the eggs with 1 tablespoon of water. On a third plate, combine the bread crumbs and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan. Coat the chicken breasts on both sides with the flour mixture, then dip both sides into the egg mixture and dredge both sides in the bread-crumb mixture, pressing lightly.

Heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saute pan and cook 2 or 3 chicken breasts on medium-low heat for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until cooked through. This is where I browned the breasts briefly in the pan and then finished them in the oven for about 8 minutes. I only used olive oil and that fairly sparingly as S is dieting. Add more butter and oil and cook the rest of the chicken breasts. Toss the salad greens with lemon vinaigrette. Place a mound of salad on each hot chicken breast. Serve with extra grated Parmesan. We had new potatoes with this and also some marinated tomato and onion salad

Lemon Vinaigrette:

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/2 cup good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Yield: 6 servings

Monday, 23 June 2008

Mixed Berry Cobbler

I am going to be late this week as I am saving the Cobbler for Saturday when we are having a party. Eldest son is off to New Zealand for 9 weeks to ski - lucky him - and I will do the cobbler for one of the desserts. It is already made and in the freezer waiting for its top and baking.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Busy Busy Busy

Work is increasingly hectic at the moment as the end of the school year is only weeks (2 1/2) away. It is only since I began to teach that I have remembered the excitement of looking forward to the holidays. All my classes have their practical exam this week - lets guess how many will have no ingredients!

I had intended to make the peppermint ring for a party last Saturday as S and I are dieting and making it for home would have been too much of a temptation. However, the party was canned as the weather forecast was bad (in the event the weather was lovely - ironic) so I opted to make some mini peppermint rings for the boys and freeze the rest of the choux for another time.

I have not used milk in a choux pastry before but it all came out ok. The buns were nicely risen and I dried them out in a slow oven until they were crisp. I used vanilla instead of peppermint in the cream as small boy is not fond of mint. I made a simple chocolate sauce of 1oz butter, 2oz unsweetened chocolate and 1 Tbs of golden syrup which was suitably glossy and bittersweet. The reaction

Small Boy - I would like those chocolate things again tonight
me - they're all gone
SB - What!!? That is so unfair, typical (teenage rant)
Me - does that mean you liked them...................sweetie .....speak to me

Monday, 2 June 2008

Vive la Brownie

French Chocolate Brownies with Dorie

TWD this week was a winner from the start because both boys like brownies. I find the recipe interesting - I would have thought that rum soaked raisins and cinnamon would have given us Jamaican Brownies rather than French, but vive la difference! The recipe was easy to follow and baked more quickly than the 50 - 60 minutes stated. I think they had about 35 minutes in all. I left them on the cooling rack and went to the shops to get some vegetables for tonight's Thai Duck Salad. On my return large son told me that aparently we had been burgled - a slice was already missing. I turned the brownies out and cut them up. The texture was quite different to any other brownie recipe I have tried before. It was very light and cake like, where as all the other ones I have made have been dense and fudgy. I have to say I like the texture as it is less rich, but I think the boys will feel it is not what they were expecting. I think I would like to try the Jazzed Up Ginger Brownies next as I am searching for the perfect brownie recipe for the village summer fete cookery competitions.

Anyway, here is the recipe - bon chance!

French Chocolate Brownies

- makes 16 brownies -
Adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours.


1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1/3 cup raisins, dark or golden
1 1/2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons; 6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into 12 pieces
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar

Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 300°F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil, butter the foil, place the pan on a baking sheet, and set aside.

Whisk together the flour, salt and cinnamon, if you're using it.

Put the raisins in a small saucepan with the water, bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until the water almost evaporates. Add the rum, let it warm for about 30 seconds, turn off the heat, stand back and ignite the rum. Allow the flames to die down, and set the raisins aside until needed.

Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Slowly and gently melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and add the butter, stirring so that it melts. It's important that the chocolate and butter not get very hot. However, if the butter is not melting, you can put the bowl back over the still-hot water for a minute. If you've got a couple of little bits of unmelted butter, leave them—it's better to have a few bits than to overheat the whole. Set the chocolate aside for the moment.

Working with a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until they are thick and pale, about 2 minutes. Lower the mixer speed and pour in the chocolate-butter, mixing only until it is incorporated—you'll have a thick, creamy batter. Add the dry ingredients and mix at low speed for about 30 seconds—the dry ingredients won't be completely incorporated and that's fine. Finish folding in the dry ingredients by hand with a rubber spatula, then fold in the raisins along with any liquid remaining in the pan.

Scrape the batter into the pan and bake 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top is dry and crackled and a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and allow the brownies to cool to warm or room temperature.

Carefully lift the brownies out of the pan, using the foil edges as handles, and transfer to a cutting board. With a long-bladed knife, cut the brownies into 16 squares, each roughly 2 inches on a side, taking care not to cut through the foil.

Serving: The brownies are good just warm or at room temperature; they're even fine cold. I like these with a little something on top or alongside—good go-alongs are whipped crème fraiche or whipped cream, ice cream or chocolate sauce or even all three!

Storing: Wrapped well, these can be kept at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.

Friday, 30 May 2008

Back from the Brink

I have found a savoury group to join - thank the Lord - I was about to invest in a circus tent for formal wear. Check out Barefoot Bloggers - I shall be starting tonight with Parmesan Chicken!

Delicious and Dark

I have found the Cupcake Hero group this month and the theme for May was cocoa. I have always lik ed the dry, intense flavour of cocoa and the way it can turn an innocent chocolate cake into something far more adult and demanding. I decided to make a chocolate ganache cupcake which is more of a dessert than a tea time dainty. I also used cocoa nibs, an even more intense ingredient which gives a lovely crunch without sweetness in a chocolate cake. I offer the following recipe for fellow lovers of the dark but not the over sweet.

Makes 10 cupcakes

80g unsalted butter
30g ricotta cheese
110g caster sugar
2 large eggs
1 tbs cocoa nibs
30g good cocoa powder
80g flour
1 large tsp of baking powder
pinch of salt

Cream the butter, ricotta and sugar and then add the room temperature eggs bit by bit. Fold in the seived flour, baking powder, salt, and cocoa and the cocoa nibs. Bake in cases for 15 minutes or until well risen and cooked through. Cool on a rack

For the ganache melt 1/3rd cup double (heavy) cream with about 150g dark chocolate. Remove from the heat when the chocolate begins to melt and the cream is hot. Cool and then whip about 1 cup of double (heavy) cream until it holds it shape. Fold in the melted chocolate and cream mixture when cool (or you will melt the cream). Put into the fridge.

When the cakes are cool slice off the tops and scoop out a hollow from the middle using a tea spoon or melon baller. Fill with the ganache and a raspberry or cherry if you like (or a strawberry, blueberry etc etc or a liqueur soaked piece of macaroon - stop me, I am wandering). Put the top on.

Whip a little more cream and marble through the rest of the ganache. Pipe onto the tops of the cakes in generous swirls. Sprinkle with more cocoa, or non pareils, or whatever.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Grand Opera

This will be my first Daring Bakers challenge and what an interesting one it turned out to be. At catering college in London many years ago we used to make gateaux like these but like so many things I used to do, they have been swept away by motherhood and wifehood and dogownerhood and ........... the list goes on and on. Suffice to say that while I made all the bits last night when making dinner I got up early this morning to assemble the cake before the revision brothers had to be dug out of bed and beaten to their desks. (I currently have one end of year exams and one A levels - the final exam in English schools - taking place beginning next week). I also found that the buttercream was grainy when it had cooled and so had to beat it. I used a Raspberry and White Chocolate theme for my cake as coffee was banned - booh! - and in an Essex wide shortage of Framboise had to use Kirsch.

My cake has turned out 8" square as my flat baking pans are smaller than stipulated. I used cochineal to tint the butter cream pink and used Bonne Maman raspberry jam as well in between the layers. I have topped it off with a white chocolate ganache and a pink white chocolate glaze and a tiny bit of milk chocolate to decorate as well as raspberries.

These classic cakes remind me of Chinese cooking - all preparation and then a bit of frenzied activity (or assembly in this case) at the end. The only problem now is what to do with it now its finished - I usually take my goodies to the staff room at school, but we are on holiday so I may have to hand it out to the ladies and gentlemen at the pensioners lunch which is today. What will next month bring I wonder.

The Elements of an Opéra Cake:

Joconde: The base of an Opéra Cake is a thin sponge cake that is made using nut meal, traditionally almond meal (finely ground blanched almonds).

Syrup: The joconde is flavoured with a sugar syrup that can be flavoured to suit your tastes.

Buttercream: The first two layers of the joconde are covered in a rich buttercream. This particular buttercream is made with a syrup, eggs and butter.

Ganache/Mousse (optional): In some recipes, the final layer of the joconde is covered in a ganache or mousse. While not hard to make, this makes the recipe quite involved. We are giving Daring Bakers the option of either using the buttercream to cover the final layer or, if they’re feeling up to it, to go ahead and make the ganache/mousse.

Glaze: The final step to an Opéra Cake is the glaze that gives the cake a very finished and elegant appearance.

For the joconde

(Note: The joconde can be made up to 1 day in advance and kept wrapped at room temperate)

What you’ll need:

•2 12½ x 15½-inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans (Note: If you do not have jelly-roll pans this size, do not fear! You can use different-sized jelly-roll pans like 10 x 15-inches.)
•a few tablespoons of melted butter (in addition to what’s called for in the ingredients’ list) and a brush (to grease the pans)
•parchment paper
•a whisk and a paddle attachment for a stand mixer or for a handheld mixer
•two mixing bowls (you can make do with one but it’s preferable to have two)


6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tbsp. (30 grams) granulated sugar
2 cups (225 grams) ground blanched almonds (Note: If you do not want to use almond meal, you can use another nut meal like hazelnut. You can buy almond meal in bulk food stores or health food stores, or you can make it at home by grinding almonds in the food processor with a tablespoon or two of the flour that you would use in the cake. The reason you need the flour is to prevent the almonds from turning oily or pasty in the processor. You will need about 2 cups of blanched almonds to create enough almond meal for this cake.)
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
½ cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. (1½ ounces; 45 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1.Divide the oven into thirds by positioning a rack in the upper third of the oven and the lower third of the oven.

2.Preheat the oven to 425◦F. (220◦C).

3.Line two 12½ x 15½- inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans with parchment paper and brush with melted butter.

4.In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or using a handheld mixer), beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar and beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy. If you do not have another mixer bowl, gently scrape the meringue into another bowl and set aside.

5.If you only have one bowl, wash it after removing the egg whites or if you have a second bowl, use that one. Attach the paddle attachment to the stand mixer (or using a handheld mixer again) and beat the almonds, icing sugar and eggs on medium speed until light and voluminous, about 3 minutes.

6.Add the flour and beat on low speed until the flour is just combined (be very careful not to overmix here!!!).

7.Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the meringue into the almond mixture and then fold in the melted butter. Divide the batter between the pans and spread it evenly to cover the entire surface of each pan.

8.Bake the cake layers until they are lightly browned and just springy to the touch. This could take anywhere from 5 to 9 minutes depending on your oven. Place one jelly-roll pan in the middle of the oven and the second jelly-roll pan in the bottom third of the oven.

9.Put the pans on a heatproof counter and run a sharp knife along the edges of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Cover each with a sheet of parchment or wax paper, turn the pans over, and unmold.

10.Carefully peel away the parchment, then turn the parchment over and use it to cover the cakes. Let the cakes cool to room temperature.

For the syrup

(Note: The syrup can be made up to 1 week in advance and kept covered in the refrigerator.)

What you’ll need:

•a small saucepan


½ cup (125 grams) water
⅓ cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
1 to 2 tbsp. of the flavouring of your choice (i.e., vanilla extract, almond extract, cognac, limoncello, coconut cream, honey etc.)

1.Stir all the syrup ingredients together in the saucepan and bring to a boil.

2.Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

For the buttercream

(Note: The buttercream can be made up to 1 month in advance and packed in an airtight container. If made way in advance, you can freeze the buttercream. Alternatively you can refrigerate it for up to 4 days after making it. To use the buttercream simply bring it to room temperature and then beat it briefly to restore its consistency.)

What you’ll need:

•a small saucepan
•a candy or instant-read thermometer
•a stand mixer or handheld mixer
•a bowl and a whisk attachment
•rubber spatula


1 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
¼ cup (60 grams) water
seeds of one vanilla bean (split a vanilla bean down the middle and scrape out the seeds) or 1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract (Note: If you are flavouring your buttercream and do not want to use the vanilla, you do not have to. Vanilla will often enhance other flavours but if you want an intense, one-flavoured buttercream, then by all means leave it out!)
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1¾ sticks (7 ounces; 200 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
flavouring of your choice (a tablespoon of an extract, a few tablespoons of melted white chocolate, citrus zest, etc.)

1.Combine the sugar, water and vanilla bean seeds or extract in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves.

2.Continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 225◦F (107◦C) [*Note: Original recipe indicates a temperature of 255◦F (124◦C), however, when testing the recipe I found that this was too high so we heated to 225◦F and it worked fine] on a candy or instant-read thermometer. Once it reaches that temperature, remove the syrup from the heat.

3.While the syrup is heating, begin whisking the egg and egg yolk at high speed in the bowl of your mixer using the whisk attachment. Whisk them until they are pale and foamy.

4.When the sugar syrup reaches the correct temperature and you remove it from the heat, reduce the mixer speed to low speed and begin slowly (very slowly) pouring the syrup down the side of the bowl being very careful not to splatter the syrup into the path of the whisk attachment. Some of the syrup will spin onto the sides of the bowl but don’t worry about this and don’t try to stir it into the mixture as it will harden!

5.Raise the speed to medium-high and continue beating until the eggs are thick and satiny and the mixture is cool to the touch (about 5 minutes or so).

6.While the egg mixture is beating, place the softened butter in a bowl and mash it with a spatula until you have a soft creamy mass.

7.With the mixer on medium speed, begin adding in two-tablespoon chunks. When all the butter has been incorporated, raise the mixer speed to high and beat until the buttercream is thick and shiny.

8.At this point add in your flavouring and beat for an additional minute or so.

9.Refrigerate the buttercream, stirring it often, until it’s set enough (firm enough) to spread when topped with a layer of cake (about 20 minutes).

For the white chocolate ganache/mousse

(Note: The mousse can be made ahead and refrigerated until you’re ready to use it.)

What you’ll need:

•a small saucepan
•a mixer or handheld mixer


7 ounces white chocolate
1 cup plus 3 tbsp. heavy cream (35% cream)
1 tbsp. liquer of your choice (Bailey’s, Amaretto, etc.)

1.Melt the white chocolate and the 3 tbsp. of heavy cream in a small saucepan.
2.Stir to ensure that it’s smooth and that the chocolate is melted. Add the tablespoon of liqueur to the chocolate and stir. Set aside to cool completely.
3.In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream until soft peaks form.
4.Gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate to form a mousse.
5.If it’s too thin, refrigerate it for a bit until it’s spreadable.
6.If you’re not going to use it right away, refrigerate until you’re ready to use.

For the glaze
(Note: It’s best to make the glaze right when you’re ready to finish the cake.)

What you’ll need:

•a small saucepan or double boiler


14 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ cup heavy cream (35% cream)

1.Melt the white chocolate with the heavy cream. Whisk the mixture gently until smooth.
2.Let cool for 10 minutes and then pour over the chilled cake. Using a long metal cake spatula, smooth out into an even layer.
3.Place the cake into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set.

Assembling the Opéra Cake

(Note: The finished cake should be served slightly chilled. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 day).

Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.

Working with one sheet of cake at a time, cut and trim each sheet so that you have two pieces (from each cake so you’ll have four pieces in total): one 10-inch (25-cm) square and one 10 x 5-inch (25 x 12½-cm) rectangle.

Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.

Spread about three-quarters of the buttercream over this layer.

Top with the two rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square. Moisten these pieces with the flavoured syrup.

Spread the remaining buttercream on the cake and then top with the third square of joconde. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).

Prepare the ganache/mousse (if you haven’t already) and then spread it on the top of the last layer of the joconde. Refrigerate for at least two to three hours to give the ganache/mousse the opportunity to firm up.

Make the glaze and after it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.

Serve the cake slightly chilled. This recipe will yield approximately 12 servings for a dessert but it is very rich and will go further