Sunday, 16 October 2016

Chocolate Babka

World Bread Day 2016 (October 16)It's that time of the year again where baking and blogging for breads is compulsory for the World Bread Day. I don't mind it at all. In fact, I look forward to it come October knowing that I will add something in my list of breads that I've tried. As always every year this is hosted by the very generous Zorra of Kochtopf.

I have decided to bake something with chocolate to hit two birds with one stone. For it is also Chocolate Week here in UK. This recipe I adapted from a special insert in the current September issue of Waitrose's magazine. It is very good except that the filling was quite runny. So the instructions said to cut it in half lengthwise and then twist them together, I knew that it will be a messy affair if I did that. Hence, I just twisted them intact. I expected that it won't be too good looking when finally baked but I was rewarded with a nice swirl inside that was revealed when cut. And the taste of the bread itself was excellent. This is a definite keeper of a recipe. I just have to tweak that filling so it won't ooze out too much.

Chocolate Babka

Chocolate Babka

7 g  sachet easy bake yeast
250 g  strong white bread flour
3 Tbsp  dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp  fine salt
1/4 cup  whole milk
1 large egg - beaten
75 g  unsalted butter - softened

1/4 cup  whole milk
75 g  milk chocolate - finely chopped
50 g  dark chocolate - finely chopped
1 Tbsp  cocoa
3 Tbsp  caster sugar
1/2 tsp  vanilla extract
1/2 tsp  ground cinnamon

3 Tbsp  dark brown sugar
3 Tbsp  water

*For the dough:
**Manual method:
  1. Gently warm the milk in a pan until it is just lukewarm, remove from heat. Stir in the yeast and set aside for about 5-10 minutes. By then, then yeast should be foaming (it is activated). If not, discard it and start again from the beginning with fresh milk and yeast.
  2. Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the milk-yeast mixture, egg, and butter.
  3. Knead mixture in an electric mixer with a dough hook attachment for 6-8 minutes or mix and knead by hand for 10 minutes until smooth.
  4. Cover with cling film, put in a warm place and leave to double in size (about 2 hours).

**Bread machine method:
  1. Put all ingredients according to the manufacturer's instructions (usually with the yeast first) and put on the dough program. This will include its first rising.

*For the filling:
  1. While dough is doing its first rise, heat the milk until steaming. Remove from heat and then add the chopped chocolates.
  2. Stir until chocolates has completely melted.
  3. Add in all the other ingredients. Stir to mix completely. Set aside to cool completely.

  1. Punch down dough and lay out on a floured surface. Roll out to a rectangular size about 12 x 18 inches (30 x 45 cm).
  2. Spread the chocolate filling all over the dough. Roll up tightly like a log starting from the short end. Pinch the edges to seal it.
  3. Trim the ends of the roll. Cut in half lengthwise with a floured knife.
  4. Tightly twist the two strips over each other with the filling facing outwards.
  5. Transfer to the prepared tin. Cover with cling film or tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place to double size (about 1 hour).

**For the glaze:
  1. While the dough is doing its second rise, place the sugar and water in a saucepan and boil for about 2 minutes until syrupy. Set aside.

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/350°F. Bake for 25-30 minutes until cooked through.
  2. Brush half the syrup over the babka and leave for 15 minutes.
  3. Brush again with the rest of the syrup then cool completely on a wire rack.

Chocolate Babka

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Red Wine Braised Short Ribs of Beef

Braised Short Ribs
A surprisingly delicious beef stew was unearthed from the Bon Appetit website. I bought a kilo of meaty beef ribs (short ribs) in the Birmingham market a few weeks ago and was looking for a recipe to make a tasty dish out of it. And I was not the least disappointed. The things that made it standout are the bones, which gave extra flavour, the garlic (surprising I know) and the excellent red wine I got in our pantry.

This is great with rice, mash potatoes, or just boiled new potatoes with steamed veggies on the side. I only cooked half of the recipe so I adjusted it accordingly.

Red Wine Braised Short Ribs of Beef

1 kg  bone-in beef short ribs, cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion - chopped
1 large carrot - peeled, chopped
1 celery stalk - chopped
1 1/2 Tbsp plain flour
2 tsp double-concentrated tomato puree (tomato paste)
375 ml  [half a bottle] dry red wine (preferably Cabernet Sauvignon)
5 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
4 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs oregano
1 sprig rosemary
1 fresh or dried bay leaves
1/2 head of garlic - halved crosswise
2 cups beef stock

  1. [Optional] Preheat oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/350°F.
  2. Season short ribs with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat oil in a large oven-proof pot over medium-high. Brown short ribs on all sides in batches, about 8 minutes per batch. Transfer short ribs to a plate. Pour off all but 2 Tbsp. drippings from the pot.
  4. Saute onions, carrots, and celery in the same pot and cook over medium heat. Stir often, until onions are browned and tranlucent, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add flour and tomato paste. Stirr constantly, until well combined and deep red, about 2-3 minutes.
  6. Stir in wine, then add short ribs with all of its juices. Bring to a boil; lower heat to medium and simmer uncovered until wine is reduced by half, about 20 minutes.
  7. Add all herbs including the garlic. Stir in stock. Bring to a boil, cover, and transfer to oven. Cook until tender for about 2-2.5 hours.
    Cook on the hob in very low heat until short ribs are tender, about 1.5 hours.
  8. Transfer short ribs to a platter. Strain sauce from pot into a measuring cup. Spoon fat from surface of sauce and discard.
  9. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Serve in shallow bowls over mashed potatoes or boiled new potatoes with sauce spooned over.

Braised Short Ribs

Monday, 19 September 2016

Chocolate Banana Toffee Cake

Chocolate Banana Toffee Cake
I quickly post any recipe I find that worked marvellously first time I tried it. This particular one came from the recent Waitrose Magazine for September 2016. The combination of chocolate (milk or dark) with the banana and toffee glaze is so moreish. My only complaint is that it is hard to make the glaze settle on top since the suggested cake tin is a bundt cake pan. Next time I will bake this in a square or rectangular pan so that the delicious glaze will stay on top and nothing will go to waste.

For the Daim chocolate bars, the equivalent of these are Hershey's Skor or Heath bars or any chocolate covered hard toffee bars.

Chocolate Banana Toffee Cake

200 g  unsalted butter - softened
75 g  caster sugar (suprefine sugar)
100 g  light muscovado sugar
4 large eggs
4 very ripe medium bananas - mashed (about heaping 1-1/2 cups)
3 Tbsp sour cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
50 g  cocoa powder (plus extra for dusting)
225 g  plain flour
50 g  cornflour (cornstarch)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
75 g  chopped Daim bars or dark/milk chocolate chips (plus some chopped for topping)

200 g  light muscovado sugar
75 g  unsalted butter
100 g  double cream
25 g  dark chocolate - chopped
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

  1. Preheat oven to 190°C/fan 170°C/375°F. Butter 10-inch bundt pan and then dust with cocoa powder. Tap out the excess cocoa powder.
  2. In a bowl, mix thoroughly the plain flour, cocoa powder, cornflour, baking powder, and bicarbonate of soda.
  3. In another bowl, add sour cream to mashed banana and vanilla.
  4. Cream the softened butter and the caster and muscovado sugars in a big bowl for about 5 minutes or until light and creamy.
  5. Keep beating while adding eggs one at a time.
  6. Add the banana mixture. Beat until well combined.
  7. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, fold in the flour mixture.
  8. Fold the chopped Daim chocolate bars or chocolate chips (whichever you're using).
  9. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes or until a skewer poked in the middle comes out clean.
  10. Take out of the oven, cool for 5-10 minutes and then invert into a rack and cool completely.

*For the glaze:
  1. Gently heat butter, cream and sugar in a small saucepan until the sugar is dissolved.
  2. Bring to boil, lower heat and simmer for 30 seconds.
  3. Remove from heat and add dark chocolate, vanilla and pinch of salt. Stir until smooth.
  4. Cool for 10 minutes or until a bit thickened while stirring from time to time.
  5. Drizzle over the cake. Let set for a few minutes.
  6. [Optional] Scatter chopped Daim over the top.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Chocolate Cranberrry Cookies

This recipe is from one of the hundreds of torn-off magazine pages that I save in the hope of trying it out "later". That "later" is now ten years and I reckon it's high time I try it again. The first time it was quite bland so I upped the sugar this time. It turned out quite good although it's more cake-like than a chewy/crispy cookie. The self-raising flour has a lot to do with that.

I adapted this from an advertisement feature in the BBC GoodFood magazine of December 2006 - almost 10 years!

Chocolate Cranberry Cookies

Chocolate Cranberry Cookies

125 g  [1/2 cup] unsalted butter - softened
200 g  [1 cup packed] light muscovado sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp  vanilla extract
225 g  wholemeal(or plain) self-raising flour
25 g  cocoa
75 g  dried cranberries
100 g  white chocolate chips
100 g  milk chocolate chips
12 pecan halves (optional)
  1. Mix together the butter and sugar in a bowl using a wooden spoon.
  2. Add eggs one at a time making sure to mix well everytime.
  3. Add vanilla extract.
  4. Sift the flour and cocoa into the bowl and mix well.
  5. Add in the cranberries and chocolate chips and combine well.
  6. Cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for about 1 hour.
  7. Preheat oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/350°F.
  8. Shape the dough into 2-inch (about 75 g) balls - yields 12-14 pieces.
  9. [Optional] Press a pecan piece on top of each of the balls.
  10. Arrange the balls about 1-inch apart on greased baking trays. Flatten them slightly. If necessary bake in batches.
  11. Bake for 15 minutes or until firm to the touch.
  12. Leave on the tray for about 5 minutes and transfer on a rack to cool completely.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Lemon Sour Cream Pound Cake

Lemon Sour Cream Cake
How nice to use up my expiring sour cream and a glut of in-season lemons. This is the reason why I like recipes in website that's got reader reviews. You cannot go wrong with a highly rated one with hundreds of reviewers like this keeper of a recipe from my favourite Epicurious website. My daughter and I thought we were going to have a great big mound of a lemon-flavoured pound cake with most of it going to waste. Thankfully we were wrong. We love it to bits so much so that we actually finished it a couple of days later.

Lemon Sour Cream Pound Cake

3 cups cake flour (or plain flour)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1/2 tsp fine salt
1 cup unsalted butter - softened at room temperature
2 1/2 cups sugar
5 eggs - room temperature
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp grated lemon peel
1 cup sour cream

2 cups icing sugar (confectioner's) - sifted
2 Tbsp lemon juice

  1. Preheat oven to 160°C/fan 140°C/325°F. Grease 10-inch tube or bundt pan. Dust pan with flour; tap out excess flour.
  2. Sift flour, baking soda and salt into a bowl - combine well.
  3. Using an electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl at medium speed until fluffy.
  4. Gradually add sugar and beat 5 minutes.
  5. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating just until combined after each addition.
  6. Beat in lemon juice and peel.
  7. Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, fold in the flour mixture.
  8. Mix in the sour cream. Transfer batter to prepared pan.
  9. Bake cake until skewer inserted near center comes out clean, about 1 hour 30 minutes.
  10. Let cake cool in pan on rack 15 minutes. Turn out cake onto a rack.
  11. Carefully turn cake right side up on rack (if using tube pan) and cool completely. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Wrap in foil and let stand at room temperature.)

*For the glaze:
  1. Combine the icing sugar and lemon juice. If it's too thick, add water a little at a time to get a pouring consistency.
  2. Once cake is completely cool, drizzle with the lemon glaze.

Lemon Sour Cream Cake

Friday, 15 April 2016

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Date & Apple Bars
We love pasta and we love meatballs, too. We already got a tried and tested spaghetti meatballs recipe but it doesn't stop us to be always on the lookout for any decent meatballs recipe out there in the world. So it's normal that we try out this much vaunted recipe from the Epicurious website that's got a very high review rating from readers. They were right! Only a few adjustments in the recipe and it's all thumbs up from the whole family. The recipe is humongous. Probably enough to feed a horde of people for a party. So I promptly halved and reduced volume and spice proportions and it scaled down well.

Spaghetti and Meatballs

*For the meatballs:

750 g  minced beef
250 g  minced pork
1 1/2 cups torn day-old Italian bread (or any white bread)
1 cup whole milk
1 medium onion - chopped
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
5 garlic cloves - finely chopped
3 large eggs
60 g  [about 1 cup] parmesan cheese - grated
3 Tbsp finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh oregano (or 1/2 tsp dried)
1/2 Tbsp grated lemon zest
2 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 cup vegetable oil (for frying)

*For the tomato sauce:

6 x 400 g  cans of chopped or plum tomatoes
1 medium onion - chopped
3 garlic cloves - finely chopped
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1 kg  dried spaghetti

*To make tomato sauce:
  1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil and cook the onions in medium heat until soft - about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic and cook until softened - about a further 2 minutes.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients, bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer uncovered stirring occasionally until thickened - about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  4. Midway through cooking, you can crush the whole tomatoes with a spatula or stick blender.

*To make meatballs:
  1. Fry the onions in a wide frying pan on medium heat. Cook until softened while stirring occasionally - about 5 minutes.
  2. Add garlic and cook while stirring occasionally until fragrant and softened - about 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cool completely.
  3. Soak bread in milk for about 20 minutes or until soft. Squeeze the bread firmly to remove excess milk. Discard excess milk.
  4. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except for the vegetable oil. Mix with your hands just until combined - do not overmx.
  5. Form into balls about 28 g (1 oz) in weight or about 1 1/2-inch in diameter.
  6. Heat vegetable oil in the same pan used with the onion and fry the meatballs in batches without crowding until browned all over - about 5 minutes each batch.
  7. Add fried meatballs into the tomato sauce and simmer for about 30 minutes.
  • Cook spaghetti according to instructions in the packet.
  • Serve spaghetti with meatballs and sauce with the optional grated parmesan cheese on top.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Date & Apple Bars

Date & Apple Bars
What a nice way of using up my soon to expire dried dates and Golden Delicious apples. The recipe in the Good Food Magazine was found upon googling for any tray bakes with apples and dates as main protagonists.

A lot of the volume of the ingredients were changed though, as per comments of reviewers. And out came a very pleasant and delish tea/coffee fodder. See, that's why I like recipe websites where there are a lot of honest reviewers because you can then adjust the recipe according to real life experiences of real people in ordinary kitchens. That way trial and error (that I often do) is minimised and ingredients and efforts not wasted.
[Gosh this is sounding like a IT project writeup.]

Date & Apple Bars

185 g  [3/4 cups] butter
140 g  [about 1 medium] cooking apple - cored, peeled, and chopped
140 g  stoned dried dates - chopped
200 g  [1 cup packed] light brown sugar
175 g  [heaping 1-1/3 cups] plain flour
1 tsp  bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
100 g  porridge oats
  1. Preheat oven to 190°C/fan 170°C/375°F. Grease and line a 18 cm (7-inch) square baking pan.
  2. Put the chopped apples in a saucepan. Add 2-3 Tbsp water and cook until soft and pulpy. This may take between 5-10 minutes and you may have to add a bit more water.
  3. Add in 25 g (2 Tbsp packed) of the brown sugar and the dates. Continue cooking for a further 5 minutes or until the apple is smooth and mixed well with the dates. You should have a very thick paste at this point. Remove from heat and cool completely. You may puree the mixture in a food processor or blender.
  4. Gently melt the butter in a saucepan; cool.
  5. Combine the flour, bicarbonate of soda, and remaining sugar in a bowl.
  6. Add in the melted butter and mix well.
  7. Press half of the flour mixture in the prepared pan.
  8. Spread the apple-date mixture on top.
  9. Cover with the rest of the flour mixture and press gently.
  10. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden and firm.
  11. Cool copletely in the baking pan. Remove and cut into bars or squares.

Date & Apple Bars