30.3.14

Apple Pie



Every country that grows apples has some variety of apple pie. The French make a mean tarte tatin, the English love a good apple crumble, German speaking countries indulge in lovely strudel. So when ER suggested I bake an apple pie for my spotlight on the humble apple I decided to make a traditional Dutch apple pie. The crust is not quite short crust pastry and a simple trick keeps the bottom nice and firm. It is important to use the right apple for the pie. It needs a little tartness and it should stay firm. Jonagold, Cox Orange, Elstar and Goudrenet are the traditional options. It is easiest to bake the pie in a tin with a removable ring so you can easily remove the pie when it is done.

22.3.14

Homemade Ginger Ale





After my sudden appreciation for bitter orange, I've had yet another taste shift. I never cared particularly for the taste of ginger. I didn't mind it doing its thing in the background in a stirfry but stem ginger or ginger sweets never did anything for me. That was until my recent visit to London. My uncle had no other soft drink option than Waitrose own brand ginger ale. And on a particularly pleasant spring day some thirst quenching was in order. And you know what? It was delicious , first with a dash of fresh OJ and later all by itself.

14.3.14

Wild Garlic and Chives Spread




Chives have been one of my favourite things to grow on the allotment. I threw down a packet of seed the first year and now I have a good square meter of the stuff.  And besides normal chives I've expanded my collection to include garlic chives, society garlic and wild garlic. Society garlic gets its hilarious name from the Dutch settlers in South Africa, who considered it a good replacement for garlic before society events because it does not cause garlic breath. All these plants are looking good now and it is a great option for eating something fresh out of the garden this time a year. The garlicky goodness of the wild garlic, society garlic and garlic chives combined with the subtle onion flavour of chives mix really well with cream cheese for a delectable spread.


6.3.14

Search Term Questions



As a blogger it is always interesting to see what search terms lead people to your blog. These terms are usually very logical and sometimes bizarre, but my favourites to see are when people actually put a question into the Google bar and end up on my site. Most of the times these questions will be answered in the post, but sometimes they are not. So I thought it would be fun to answer some of these questions which led people to my site.


How does no knead bread work?


No knead bread works by letting the yeast do the kneading for you. A wetter dough means the yeast can move more easily, kneading the bread for you. The extra liquid also means the bread will have big holes in it, caused by the steam. Check out this brilliant article by Serious Eats for an in depth investigation.


What is toast in dutch?

Alas we don't have a single word for toast. A slice of bread in Dutch is a 'boterham' and a piece of toast is a 'geroosterde boterham' or toasted slice of bread. Though to be fair we sometimes use toast as well. Just don't use the diminutive 'toastje' because that would get you a cracker, possibly topped with some cheese or other topping. 





How long to boil a dozen eggs for deviled eggs?


You want the yolk to be completely firm for deviled eggs. So put your eggs in a pan with cold water and put on the heat. Once the water is boiling the eggs will need about 9 minutes for deviled egg perfection.




Chocolatey or chocolaty?


See this bothered me as well. Oxford dictionary gives 'chocolatey' but notes 'chocolaty' is also acceptable. Mirriam Webster switches it by preferring 'chocolaty'. I've looked at the word for so long now it stopped making sense. I've heard people say their editors prefer chocolaty so I'll go with that for now. It does look a bit weird.





How do you spell szechuan?



Sichuan.

How to test yeast for freshness.


Put your yeast into some warm milk or water with a little bit of sugar. If the yeast is active it will go frothy and bubbly within 15 minutes. 




How to serve poached pears?


If you are serving them as dessert, serve them warm and with their own syrup. Some cream, or even ice cream would be nice with it too. The Dutch poached pears I made can be served this way but if you leave out the extra sugar you can also serve them traditionally as a side dish with a hearty winter stew.



So this concludes my first Search Term Questions feature. Let me know if you like it because there are more questions where that came from.


5.3.14

Dulce de Leche Test



I've always made Dulce de Leche by throwing a tin of sweetened evaporated milk in a pan of simmering water and waiting 3 hours. Granted it takes a good while but it is fairly hands off, just top up the water now and then. Which is why I was intrigued by Claire Thompson's recipe in the Guardian which didn't use evaporated milk but a normal full litre of milk, some sugar and a pinch of bicarb. The comments were filled with people who thought doing it from scratch surely was too much of a hassle. So I decided to put it to the test and cook some dulce de leche from scratch alongside my usual in the tin method. Would there be a noticeable difference in taste, texture, colour? I was about to find out.



First off I put my tin of sweetened evaporated milk in a pan on a medium heat. And this is where it would stay for the next three hours. If the tin starts dancing around in the pan just gently push it over on its side. And don't forget to top up the water now and then to lessen the chance of the tin exploding in your face.


I combined 1 litre of full fat milk with 300 grams of sugar and a quarter teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda and put it on a high heat. It took a surprisingly long time before it came to a violent rising foam boil and Claire wasn't kidding when she said to use a pan with high sides. After 5 minutes I removed it from the high heat and put in on a gentle heat and the epic stirring began.


Milk has the charming ability to burn and stick to the bottom of the pan when you take your eye of it for a single mistimed second so it is crucial to stay with the pan and stir. The first hour of this is particularly boring because really not much is happening yet. I just pulled up a chair and did some multitasking, Ipad in one hand and stirring implement in the other.



After that first mind numbing hour things start to happen. The milk, while still thin, is starting to take on a bit of colour, and a mild sugary smell starts to waft through the kitchen. In another half hour the milk will have visibly thickened and I decided to turn up the heat a bit.


After a full two hours it looked like the dulce the leche had reached prime consistency. It had a nice golden colour and formed ribbons. And while I scooped it into a sterilized jar I let the tin boil for another hour.







After a short cooling off period the tin was ready to be openend and the tasting could begin. First thing you'll notice is a slight difference in colour. The tinned dulce de leche is slightly darker in comparison.



The biggest diffrence however is the texture. The tinned DdL has that blobby, puddingy texture that can trick you into spoon after spoon of the sweet stuff. The DdL from scratch has a more caramel like texture, pulling ribbons when you scoop it up. My guess is that the moisture content of the former is much higher. Because it is in a sealed tin the dulce the leche is allowed to carmelize (or more specifically Maillard reactionize) without losing any more moisture. Allowing for that unique texture and the deeper colour. Doing it from scratch in the pan however means that you consistently evaporate more water and it is difficult getting a much darker colour before going into toffee territory.

When it comes to taste, the difference between the two is not very pronounced. Though thanks to the difference in texture the tinned dulce de leche kicks in a little sooner than the one from scratch.

Which brings us to the question; ''Is it worth making Dulce de Leche from scratch?''  Short anwser, no, not really. Though it takes less 'absolute' time compared to the tin method, the constant stirring is a big pain in the arse and you don't get a spectacular improvement in taste back for your troubles. The only reason why I would do it again is that you can make a fantastic pourable dulce de leche sauce by cooking it for a shorter amount of time.