Saturday, January 27, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Eton Mess

If the boyfriend has one fault it is that he doesn't like ice cream, or anything really cold.  I know right...shocking!! It's not all bad because it does mean that if we are out having dessert and it comes with a scoop of ice cream then I get to eat his and mine but no ice cream? What's that about? To be fair, I haven't had any for a while now and I don't particularly miss it.

Not all hope is lost though. He might not like ice cream but he does LOVE cream! The more cream the better! Around here he is known as the cream whipperer because he does like to whip it real good. And he also likes it when I make new recipes for him to try.

Not long ago we were talking about something and I mentioned a dessert called Eton Mess. He didn't know what that was but when I said that if was fruit (generally berries of some description), cream and pieces of meringue and his eyes lit up.

Now, I have made Eton Mess before but I used shop bought meringue and I am not alone there. When I was looking for the recipe even such accomplished chefs as Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver have recipes where they just tell you to buy pre-made meringue.It was actually easier to find a recipe with shop bought meringue than it was to find one where you had to make it yourself.

I had decided, however, that I wanted to try to make it myself, which I have never done before so I kept searching and I eventually found this one on Meringue is one of those things that I have wanted to try to make but I always had this idea that it was too hard, but it turned out it really wasn't, or at least not now that I have my stand mixer.

I may need to practice reading recipes though. After I had made the meringue mixture and smoothed it evenly over a tray, I realised that what the recipe was trying to say was that I was supposed to make little meringues by shaping them between two spoons, rather than just spreading over a tray using two spoons. Whoops!

For the mess itself, we only had strawberries and no liqueur so mine was all strawberry, but I did still make the puree but just with a little water to make it the right texture and it was all strawberry, all the way through.

We are now making variations on this on a regular basis, even if it is just the two of us, using shop bought meringue of course.

Eton Mess

1 punnet ripe strawberries
1 punnet raspberries
2 tbsp berry liqueur or Cointreau
2 tbsp icing sugar, plus more to serve
300ml thickened cream
100ml natural yoghurt
6 meringues

Meringue (makes 16)

4 egg whites (about 130g) at room temperature
pinch salt
180g castor sugar

For Meringue

1. Heat the oven to 120C. Use an electric hand-held mixer to beat the egg whites and salt until they form soft peaks. Add the sugar, a spoonful at a time, beating until just combined.  Once the sugar has been added, continue beating for two minutes until the mixture is thick and glossy. Using two teaspoons, spoon the mixture on to two trays lined with baking paper. Place in the oven and reduce the heat immediately to 100C, and bake for one hour and 15 minutes or until crisp underneath. Turn off the oven and leave to cool in the oven for three hours. Store in an airtight container for up to three weeks.

For Eton mess

1. Hull the strawberries and cut in half or quarters if large. Toss with one tablespoon of liqueur and one tablespoon of icing sugar and set aside for 30 minutes.
2. Whiz half the raspberries to a puree with one tablespoon of icing sugar and remaining liqueur.
3. Whip the cream lightly until just firm, fold in the yoghurt, and chill.
4. To serve, roughly crush the meringue, and layer it in dessert glasses or jars with the cream, strawberries and remaining raspberries. Drizzle with the berry puree, dust with icing sugar and serve.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

2017 - My (non) reading year....again

It's no secret that I am really struggling to read at the moment and have been for the last couple of years. That doesn't mean to say that am not reading at all, just that the days of sitting down to start a book and finishing it a few hours later and then starting the next one are long gone.

And really, I don't have much to complain about because my 2017 was amazing. As in A-maz-ing. If, when I woke up on New Year's Day last year, you had of told me about everything that would happen I wouldn't have believed it. I met an amazing man, we've laughed and loved, cooked together, travelled (including to one of my bucket list destinations), my son has moved to America to play basketball, and more. Apart from work, which is .... average....but everything else! Fantastic.

In terms of reading, here is a list of the books that I did read this year:

The All You Can Dream Buffet by Barbara O'Neal (audiobook) 3.5/5
Sylvester (or the Wicked Uncle) by Georgette Heyer (audiobook) 4.5/5
Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarity 3/5
The Chocolate Tin by Fiona McIntosh 3.5/5
A Crown of Bitter Orange by Laura Florand 4/5
Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms by Anita Heiss 4.5/5
Ross Poldark by Winston Graham (audiobook) 3/5
The Little Breton Bistro by Nina George (audiobook) 4/5
The Secret Son by Jenny Ackland 3/5
A Letter from Italy by Pamela Hart 4/5
Trust Me by Laura Florand 3.5/5

I did start any number of books, even from some of my favourite authors, that I just put down at some point and didn't pick back up again.

I'm not sure that this year my reading will be any better but I hope so because I still love looking at books and talking about them and buying them and then not reading them. We'll see I guess.

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Weekend Cooking: No Knead Bread

I have long been a fan of Great British Bake Off and by extension I now watch anything that Paul Hollywood is in. 

A couple of years ago now I was watching Paul Hollywood's City Bakes, and there was an episode set in New York. There were two segments that caught my attention. The first was when he mixed chocolate brownies and cheesecake together, which I do intend to try and make at some point in the future, and the second was when he learnt how to make no knead bread.

Now, I loved the idea of making bread, but it definitely feels like something that is too hard to do. All that kneading and having to get the gluten stretched to the right point, and rising. See, just thinking about it is challenging.

Anyway, not all that long ago I happened across that episode again and this time the BF was watching so it was agreed that we would try to make it. And, oh my goodness, it was good.

Now, to be fair, this isn't the kind of bread that you decide that you want to make now and eat later today. The most important ingredient is time. On the 3 occasions we have made it so far we have started it on Saturday morning and eaten it for Sunday brunch, but it is totally worth the time investment, because it looks and tastes amazing, and there is very little physical effort involved.

There is a video that you can watch from Paul Hollywood's show here (sorry can't embed it) but there is another video

We have recently found another version which apparently only takes 2 hours so we may well give that a try soon too.

 No Knead Bread

3 cups (400 grams) all-purpose or bread flour, plus more for the work surface
1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons (8 grams) salt
1 3/8 cups (320 millilitres) water
Cornmeal or wheat bran, as needed

1. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, yeast, and salt. Add the water and mix with your hand until you have a wet, sticky dough. This should take roughly 30 seconds. You want it to be really sticky.

2. Cover the dough and bowl with a plate, towel, or plastic wrap and set aside to rest at warm room temperature for at least 12 hours and preferably about 18 hours until the dough is roughly double in size. You’ll know the dough is properly fermented and ready because its surface will be dotted with bubbles and take on a darkened appearance. This long, slow fermentation is what yields the bread’s rich flavor.

3. Flour your work surface. Turn the dough onto the surface in one blob. The dough will cling to the bowl in long, thread-like strands and it will be quite loose and sticky. This is exactly what you want. Do not add more flour. Instead use lightly floured hands to gently and quickly lift the edges of the dough in toward the centre, effectively folding the dough over onto itself. Nudge and tuck in the edges of the dough to make it round. You don’t knead the dough.

4. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran, or cornmeal. Place the dough, seam side down, on the towel and dust the surface with a little more flour, bran, or cornmeal. Cover the dough with another cotton towel and let it rise for about 2 hours. When it’s ready, the dough will be more than double in size and will hold the impression of your fingertip when you poke it lightly, making an indentation. If the dough readily springs back when you poke it, let it rise for another 15 minutes.

5. A half hour before the dough is done with its second rise, preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C). Place a heavy pot and its lid (whether cast iron or enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in the oven as it heats. We use cast iron

6. When the dough is done with its second rise, carefully remove the pot from the oven and uncover it. Also uncover the dough. Lift up the dough and quickly but gently turn it over into the pot, seam side up, being very careful not to touch the pot. Cover the pot with its lid and bake for 30 minutes.

7. Remove the lid and bake until the loaf is beautifully browned, which take 15 to 30 minutes. Carefully lift the bread out of the pot and place it on a wire rack to cool.  It should sound hollow when it is tapped on the bottom.

Try to resist eating it before it is cooled, but it will be tough as the bread smells amazing.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.


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