29.9.13

Saffron Mezzelune With Lemon Ricotta Filling




I don't whip out the pasta maker too often, but when I do it is to make filled pasta. No store bought ravioli, mezzelune or tortellini can compare with what you can make yourself. Today I made a saffron mezzelune filled with a lemon ricotta, to try and squeeze out a little bit of summer before it is time for more autumnal fare.

Ingredients
Makes enough for 5 people

Pasta
  • 250 grams of flour ( I used semola rimacinata but all purpose works as well)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons of olive oil
  • pinch of saffron
  • pinch of salt
Filling
  • 250 grams of ricotta
  • grated peel of at least 1 lemon
  • handful of parmigiana
  • squeeze of lemon juice

Sauce

  • knob of butter
  • squeeze of lemon juice
  • some more lemon peel


Dough


Pour a little bit of hot water over the saffron and let that infuse for a minute. Meanwhile make a volcano like structure with flour. Then add the eggs, saffron water, olive oil and salt to the indentation. Slowly bring the ingredients together and knead until you have a smooth dough. Put away in a bowl covered with clingfilm and let it rest for 30 minutes. 


Filling

While the dough rests you can prepare the filling. Stir in a generous hand of grated parmigiana into the ricotta. Add the zest and a small squeeze of juice from 1 lemon. Keep tasting until you are happy with the flavour. Add pepper and a bit of salt if you need it. 



Pasta Machine


I like to feed the dough through the machine in small portions. Start at 7 (the widest on my machine). I found the dough breaking the first couple of times but just keep folding and feeding it and it quickly becomes silky and strong. Then take it through all the paces down to the thinnest. Keep under a slightly damp towel to prevent it from drying out. 

Shaping



Cut out circles from the dough, I used a glass. Use a damp finger to moisten the edges. Then add a teaspoon of filling in the middle, fold in halve and press together trying not to trap any air. I used a ravioli wheel to scallop the edges. 


Cook

The mezzelune only take moments to cook in boiling salted water. They will rise to the surface once they are ready, though I give them a minute more. 

The filling is moist so you don't need a lot of sauce. Simply melt some butter add lemon peel and juice and salt and pepper. Spoon this on the finished mezzelune and add some more grated parmigiana. I served it with some grilled courgette and basil leafs.





27.9.13

Sichuan Peppermints





Sichuan pepper, Szechwan pepper or Szechuan pepper, however you spell it, is a spice often used in Asian and specifically Chinese cooking. It is an essential component of five spice powder and is a well known pairing with incredible amounts of scorching hot chillis. The combination of Sichuan pepper and chilli is almost symbiotic, the Sichuan pepper numbs your mouth allowing for even more chilli heat.

But the Sichuan pepper is not related to either black pepper or chilli peppers. The 'peppercorns' are the seed husks of the Prickly Ash, a relative of the citrus tree. You can taste this relation by taking a husk and placing it on your tongue. It has an intensely floral and citrus taste followed by that famous numbing sensation. The numbing sensation reminded me a bit of the cooling sensation from a strong mint, which is why I decided to make some peppermints flavoured with a touch of Sichuan pepper.

I wanted a mint you could suck on without it disintegrating immediately and nibble on without breaking your teeth. I ended up adapting a recipe by famous Dutch restaurant De Librije, which appeared in an edition of the Culinaire Saisonnier.


Ingredients
  • 580 grams of sugar
  • 16.5 grams of glucose syrup (I made my own by boiling dextrose with water until it made a thick syrup)
  • 200 ml water
  • 200 grams of confectioner sugar
  • 6 drops of peppermint oil
  • 1 teaspoon of finely ground Sichuan pepper


Sichuan pepper
Start by dry roasting some Sichuan pepper, making sure you remove any twigs and seeds. It only takes a minute or two but it releases all those fantastic aromas. Now pulverize the pepper in a pestle or food processor. Don't worry if you can't get it extremely fine, just sieve it to get some of the finely ground powder.


Sugar
Put the sugar (not the confectioners), glucose syrup and water in a pan with a thick bottom. Now boil it until it reaches 123 degrees celcius (a sugar thermometer is very handy). You are at the low end of hardball stage. So if you drop a bit of the syrup in cold water and take it out it will form a ball without flattening but you can still easily squish it with your fingers.

Now take it off the heat and add the confectioners sugar. it will form an opaque paste. Now it is flavouring time, start with a couple of drops of peppermint and taste (take a bit out and cool it for a second). The Librije recipe added 2 drops for this amount but my peppermint oil really needed at least 6 drops to get the flavour right. Now add the Sichuan pepper, I used about a teaspoon to get the flavour effect without it being overwhelming.


Shape

The original recipe is for peppermint shards, which you get by simply spreading the paste on a stone surface (in my case a diligently cleaned segment of the floor) dusted with some more confectioners sugar. Now shards are not my preferred peppermint shape so I also tried out a couple of different shapes. One is a traditional round shape made by spreading the paste over a fondant shape mould. 



I still had some left after the shard and mould methods, so I just broke off some of the hot paste (asphalt hands are an asset here) and shaped them into roundish very handmade but mouth friendly rocks.



After about 10 minutes drying time you can pop out the round peppermints from the mould and you can lift the big slab of the ground. This slap breaks easily into the shards you want.


The mints I made ended up with a sophisticated peppermint flavour with just the right amount of floral and citrus notes. The numbing and cooling effect is subtle but noticeable especially after you finished the mint. Especially if you suck on the mint for an extended time you will notice the roof of your mouth feeling a bit numb. They would probably also make very good soothing mints if you have a  sore throat .
They will store for weeks (and quite frankly probably months) if you keep them dry. Though I don't think they will make it that long. You will probably also end up with some smaller peppermint grit, don't throw this away as it is an excellent addition to some chocolate ice cream. 


24.9.13

Dutch Style French Toast




We Dutch call our French toast 'Wentelteefjes' which loosely translates as 'flipping little bitches' (in the nicest possible way, think baby female puppies). They are flipped three times, once in the eggs and milk, once in the pan and finally in the cinnamon sugar. This recipe makes 4 slices but can be multiplied easily.

Ingredients

  • 4 slices of day old white bread ( no wonderbread!)
  • 2 eggs
  • splash of milk (a little less than halve the volume of the eggs)
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamonon
  • generous knob of butter

Eggs & Milk

Mix the eggs with the milk and a pinch of salt. Cut of the crusts from your bread and dip the slices in the mixture. Let each slice soak up as much as they can.



Into the Pan

Melt the butter on a medium high heat until it is bubbling. Add the slices and flip them once the bottom is golden brown. While the slices are frying mix the sugar and cinnamon together on a plate.




Sugar Time

Transfer the wentelteefjes directly from the pan into the layer of cinnamon sugar and turn them once more. Cut into triangles and serve.








20.9.13

Kataifi Shrimp With Harissa Dip




Spicy fried shrimp wrapped in crunchy kataifi dough, with a mayo/yoghurt harissa dip. Ideal as a snack or a starter. Kataifi dough can be found in Middle Eastern supermarkets and though it is a bit difficult to work with it adds really great texture to this dish.


Ingredients


Dip
  • 2 tblsp Mayo
  • 1 tblsp Greek yogurt
  • squeeze of lemon
  • 1 heaped tsp harissa

Prep
Peel the shrimp (remove the head if they still have them) but leave the tail. Devein shrimp by cutting alongside the vein and removing it with the tip of your knife.


Marinade

Marinade them for 30 minutes in a mixture of olive oil, juice and peel of a lemon and a generous spoon of harissa. Season with salt and pepper.

Dip

Mix the mayo, yogurt and harissa together. Add a squeeze of lemon juice. You adjust the spiciness by adjusting the amount of harissa.

Kataifi



Now for the difficult part. Kataifi dough breaks very easily so you can not wrap it too tight. But if you wrap it too loosely it breaks away from the shrimp the minute it hits the fryer. If you but on too much you can't even see the shrimp anymore. But as long as there is some kataifi on your shrimp you will get that satisfying crunch. 


Fry

Fry the shrimp in a medium hot oil until the kataifi turns golden brown. This will take only a minute or so. Serve with the dip and sprinkle with flat leaf parsley if you are feeling fancy.







Monthly Report


I've enjoyed reading Pinchofyum 's income reports, and that of other food blogs so I thought I would do something similar while not solely focusing on the income per se. Just a little post highlighting what did or didn't work, which sites got me traffic and which didn't. Lets start with the food photography/sharing sites. These have gotten me by far the most traffic to my blog.




As you can see in this slightly messy pie chart, Foodgawker is for me the absolute winner. A good percentage of my pictures get approved there. It took me a couple of tries to figure out they don't like it if you crop your photos too close. Now, I like a bit of a close up but I try to  get some other pictures that I can submit to Foodgawker. They are also very quick in reviewing your picture so if something is wrong you can consider making a new one.

Tastespotting is the other big player, but I have a lot less luck here. I only have one or two photos approved. They also take a lot longer getting them reviewed (I had a quie of 5 posts at one time) and this means I am less likely to resubmit another photo.

Tasteology and Liqurious are a good third and I just really like these sites. Liqurious is especially good if you  make a drink because it stays on the front page much longer than the food sites.


                                                                   Pinterest






Now I know this is potentially my biggest source of traffic, but it has been slow going this first month. I must say I do really enjoy using the site, it is extremely handy to collect whatever you find on the web there. And it is extremely exciting when someone pins something from your website but the traffic is not much yet.


Google searches

In a market as oversaturated as that of foodblogging it will be hard to get many visitors from google. But to my surpise there have been a few. Pickled beets, sweet potato garlic tart and basil chilli vodka are all searchwords that have been used to get to my site.


Alltop / Technorati


Featured in Alltop

I also submitted my site to Alltop and got approved. Traffic from there is extremely minimal (2 hits) but maybe that will improve with time. I also put it up at Technorati if only to see whether my 'authority' will rise the coming months.



  Hall of Fame



This has been my most successfull post to date. Which is good because it was also the most time intensive to make. It did well on Foodgawker and Liqurious and it got a good amount of Stumbleupon traffic. These two tweets also made me very happy even if they didn't drive a lot of traffic. 







This post also did very well, it almost overtook the gin and tonic jelly. This is one of the only posts accepted to Tastespotting which helped traffic a lot. I guess both the popularity of breadmaking and the experiment/contest format where attractive. On Pinterest however this performed quite poorly.




Rounding out the top three is the poached egg. I was really surprised by the success of this one to be honest. It seems simple techniques are good for clicks. This is the post where I actually went back and made another poached egg to photograph for Foodgawker and it paid off handsomely. 



Income report

With my Adsense income this month I could theoretically buy a dozen of eggs, a bread and some mayo, so it's a start.

18.9.13

Black Rice with Coconut Milk and Palm Sugar Syrup




Black glutinous rice with coconut milk and a palm sugar syrup. This is the breakfast preferred by my tiny cousins, which makes sense because they spend a considerable time in Indonesia.. As a breakfast option it is a perfect replacement for oatmeal but you could eat this any time of day.         

Ingredients
  • Black rice 
  • Coconut milk
  • Palm sugar
  • Water

Boil
Black rice is a proper wholegrain so it takes quite a bit of time to get tender. I use at least 3 parts water to one part rice. Do rinse the rice before cooking. If you plan to eat is at breakfast it is easiest to cook the rice the night before. Taste the rice after it has absorbed all the water, it might need some more time (and water). It is virtually impossible to overcook.


Reduce
Dissolve the palm sugar in some water and bring to a boil. Reduce it until it.has a syrup like consistency.


Serve

Pour cold coconut milk on the hot black rice and drizzle with syrup. I think my uncle reduces the coconut milk but straight from the carton/tin works just fine.





















































17.9.13

No Knead Bread VS Kneaded Bread





I've made no knead bread a good amount of times and I'm in love with the crispy crust and hole filled interior. But it did get me thinking, was it the 'no knead' or the baking it in a glowing hot dutch oven? So I set up a little experiment baking 4 little loaves; two kneaded, two not, two in the creuset pan and two regularly in the oven. I've always made my no knead bread with this recipe from serious eats, but I always find I don't quite have the patience to let it rest in the fridge for a couple of days.


Ingredients
  • 500 grams of flour
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of salt (one of those real measurement teaspoons, they are always larger than the teaspoon I use for my actual tea)
  • tiny pinch of sugar
  • 350 ml water
  • 15 grams of fresh yeast (5 grams instant)


I made the normal kneaded dough with the same quantities but with a little bit of extra yeast 21 grams (7 instant). If you think the dough is too wet, don't worry, dusting your kneading area with flour if the dough is sticky will mean it quickly balances out. 


Yeast

Activate the yeast by mixing it up with a little bit of warm water and feed it with a pinch of sugar. In ten minutes or so it becomes a lively bubbly goo.



Mix

Add the salt to the flour and mix. This is crucial because if you living yeast gets a full face of salt it might die. Now mix everything together. It is quite a sticky so if you are going to knead it you can hold back a little water. You still want the dough to be tacky though.




Rest/Knead

For no knead bread you just cover the bowl with clingfilm and put it in a cozy place. Do make sure the bowl is large enough because it will bubble up quite high. Leave the yeast to do all the work for you for at least 10 hours. 

For kneaded bread you well...knead. It always takes me much longer than the 4/8 minutes some bakers prescribe, I kneaded for at least 15 minutes. During the kneading you can feel if the dough needs either more water or more flour. If it feels too dry just wet you hands and continue kneading, is it too sticky dust with a bit of flour. You want your dough to become silky smooth and springy. A light tough of the finger should leave an indent that springs back up readily (insert baby's bottom joke here). Now proof the dough in a warm spot (bowl once again covered with clingfilm) for 30/45 minutes, or until it has doubled in size.



Second Proof

Pour the no knead dough onto a lightly floured surface. It will be quite sticky, don't be afraid to add a little flour to make it easier to handle. Now fold it over a couple of times. I find no matter what I do the dough stays very slack and basically impossible to shape. What I do is I take a small bowl and line it with parchment paper and just drop the dough in as you can see in the photo on top. Now let it rise again under clingfilm or a damp towel for about an hour. 


The risen kneaded dough will have doubled in size and now you get the absolute pleasure of knocking the air right out of it. Smack it down and shape, leave it to proof a second time for an hour (again hopefully doubling it in size)


Cut 

Score the loaves in whichever way you prefer. This is much easier with the kneaded dough.



Creuset pan

Put your dutch oven (I'm dutch and I never heard of the term but ok) into the oven and heat it to 250 c. Once it is hot gently place your dough into it while doing you best not to burn yourself (once again I failed). Don't whack it down, be gentle, I always keep the dough on the parchment paper. Put on the lid and leave it alone for 15 minutes. Now remove the lid and turn your oven down a bit (200). These small loaves only took another 20-30 minutes (after the initial 15). You can check with a thermometer. If the inside is 95 or higher your loaf is done. Do tap the bottom, if it sounds hollow you are good. Now leave it to cool on a rack for at least 5 minutes



Normal oven 

The normal oven way seems to be done at a lower temperature, 180 or so. I do add a generous splash of water on the bottom of the oven to create steam. If it is golden brown in 30 minutes do the thermometer test again. 



Results

No Knead / Creuset



It isn't necessarily the prettiest of breads. It is quite flat but the crust is shiny and blistery. 


The inside is really nice, big cavernous holes. Both its flat shape and the holes make it more suitable as a dipping bread and not great for sandwiches. The crust is brilliant, crunchy and snappy without being a tooth breaker. The taste is nice though I get the point made in the serious eats article. There is a certain acidic yeasty flavour to it but I don't mind it to be honest. Once again the crust is really good, both the taste and the texture.


Knead / Creuset


Hands down the best looking loaf of the four. It has great colour and shape (even if I dented it a tiny bit). I had expected it to rise a tiny bit more but it still looks good. It feels like you could kill a man though, the crust feels extremely solid.


The crumb texture is completely different from the no knead bread. This is much more like a traditional store bought loaf with a close structured crumb. It is however a great crumb, springy and neither doughy nor dry. This would be perfect as a sandwich bread. The taste is less yeasty and quite neutral. The crust turns out to be quite good too. I feared it would be way to hard but it is nice and crunchy, though a smidge chewier compared to the no knead.


No knead / Oven


The crust is shiny and has blisters which I didn't expect. I thought those were the effect of the high heat but this doesn't seem to be the case. The loaf didn't rise as much as the creuset version. 


Still some nice holes but nowhere near as much as the Creuset version. The crust is not quite as crunchy either. All in all it is a very toned down version of the traditional no knead bread but it actually turned out better than I expected. 

Knead / Oven


This is the traditional way I guess but this loaf just looks sad. It doesn't seem to have risen at all and the colour is rather pale. 


The structure looks nice in the photo but compared with the other kneaded loaf this has a much more doughy crumb. All in all this had the least pleasant texture of all four loaves. The crust also ended up unpleasantly chewy. Might as well let this one dry out and use the breadcrumbs.



Conclusion



Both the breads baked in the Creuset pan ended up very nice to eat. Even though the ingredients are just about the same they made for very different breads. I think the winner is the no knead bread for the simple reason that the crust is very very nice (and can be even nicer with some sesame or sunflower seeds).

Even though it is rather dangerous (seriously ouch) and heavy it seems to be very much worth it to bake bread, any bread, in the Creuset pan. 

If anyone has any tips on how to get the no knead bread in a more pleasing shape do leave them in the comment section.