Saturday, November 17, 2018

Weekend Cooking: What's your cooking passion?

I have mentioned once before that, in addition to doing the Bake It Boxes, I have also joined a baking club on Facebook called The Queen Baking Club (where Queen is the name of a company that makes all sorts of flavouring, food colouring etc).

They set a fortnightly challenge for the members in the club and so far I have made the following .....

Banana Caramel Upside Down Cake

Coconut Rough Magic Cake

Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake

Creamy Ginger Nut Cheesecake

Strawberries & Cream Sheet Cake

Oozing Eyeball Marshmallow Slice

And I have just made Baklava Slice and I am planning to make Easy Vanilla Bean Fudge tomorrow to take for work on Monday

This week they asked a question though about what kind of baking people wanted to have set as challenges in the club (slices, desserts, cupcakes, cake, foodie gifts, healthy baking etc) and it's prompted me to ask a similar question to all my fellow Weekend Cooking bloggers

If you could cook just for pleasure, where you had access to all the ingredients that you needed, time was no object, what would you cook? What's your cooking passion?

If you asked me a couple of years ago, I wouldn't have said baking but these days baking is definitely my thing. I have so many recipes I want to find and make. For example, a couple of months ago, the sous chef bought me some half dome silicone moulds. My intention over the next few weeks is to try and locate a recipe to make in that, even if it means having several steps like maybe doing chocolate domes filled with lemon mousse and a sponge base. I don't know exactly what but something. I also still want to try making choux pastry, and so much more!

Just the other day I mentioned on Twitter that my Instagram account is now all about the cakes and that provides extra inspiration too!

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.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Weekend Cooking: The Lost Pearl by Emily Madden (Lemon Crunch Cake)

Recently I finished reading The Lost Pearl by Emily Madden. Actually, let me start again. Recently I finished listening to the audiobook of The Lost Pearl by Emily Madden. It is one of my favourite kinds of books - dual storylines in the past and the present linked together.

The story starts with Kit who has been called to the bedside of her ailing grandmother, Katherine. In their final conversation, Katherine surprises Kit by revealing a life long secret. It shocks Kit to think that she didn't know such a big thing about her grandmother as they had always been incredibly close. That is just the beginning as Kit begins to uncover secret after secret. Katherine had never really talked about her early life, and it turns out there were big reasons why. Kit isn't even sure how it was that Katherine ended up living in Australia despite being born in the US

Katherine's story starts in Hawaii, in the weeks prior to the bombing of the fleet in the harbor that was the final impetus to draw the US into WWII. Kitty McGarrie, as she was known then, was the 16 years old daughter of a Rear Admiral and lived a very comfortable life of parties, going to the movies with her friends, and spending time at the beach. The only dampener in her life is really her mother, who is determined that Kitty must be the perfect daughter at all times.

On her 16th birthday her family throws a glamorous party for her, and it is there that Kitty meets Charlie, a sailor who her parents will never approve of as he comes from a lower social class. They fall in love and are determined that they will be together, but fate has a way of having other ideas.

As Kit tries to trace her grandmother's history, she finds herself attending the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor bombing in her stead. She meets people who knew Kitty and can help fill in some of the gaps. She also meets Adam, a man who is self assured to the point of arrogance, but who agrees to show her around Hawaii, in particular taking Kit to places which help her see glimpses into how Kitty's life would have been in the lead up to that fateful day when everything changed.

Adam also had a tendency to challenge Kit about her own past and how it is affecting her life now.

The narration was quite good on this one. I do some times find it difficult to transition from one audiobook to the next as I am used to listening to one voice and the new voice can be jarring. At first, the narrator's voice sounded a bit light (particularly seeing as the previous book I listened to was Lethal White, the latest Robert Cormoran book) but overall it was a good performance, and I found myself thinking about the book when I was doing other things. When I started my next audiobook after this one I once again had the transition issue, so I guess that means that I was invested in this performance.

Recently I have had a couple of conversations on Facebook where people had asked whether we are at saturation point for stories set in WWII. I will admit that I have been at saturation point for the Tudors for many, many years. The difference for me is that the Tudors were all about one family, with three or four main characters, covering a period of 50 - 60 years but there is so much scope for a WWII story. It covers a shorter period but the story can be set in numerous countries in Europe, in the Pacific or even the stories of people left at home. There are literally millions of people whose story can be told and more often that not, the stories I love are not necessarily about the mechanics of war but rather about the stories of people living with extreme adversity and still managing to survive and find happiness.

There is still plenty of scope for the big events though. As I mentioned above the main historical part of this book is set around the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Whilst I am sure that there are plenty of books set in that time and place, this is the first time I recall reading it, especially hearing it from the perspective of the sailors who were on the ships as they were bombed.

There are quite a few mentions in the book of different food that you would have found in Hawaii in the early 1940's including something called shave ice, but the item that caught my attention was  called Lemon Crunch Cake. I have been looking around for recipes and found one at Fork to Belly which looks pretty good. Most interestingly, the blogger has added a bit of history about the cake and the places it used to be and still is served in which was interesting reading, especially seeing as I was hearing about some of those same places in the book.

A few weeks ago I posted about my evolution as a baker, and I think that this cake represents that pretty well.  There was a time when I wouldn't have been confident enough to try making a layer cake with lots of elements, but I very nearly ended up taking bits and pieces from numerous different recipes to put together.

I was a bit concerned about making a cake using American measurements rather than the Australian ones I am used to, and there was also a couple of ingredients that were initially a bit unfamiliar to me. I was also keen to use real lemon juice rather than lemon extract.   I was therefore looking around for other lemon sponge cake recipes that I could use, and I almost got to the point where I was going to take a sponge cake recipe from one website, and the pastry cream and the toffee crunch from the original recipe. The other thing was that the recipe called for shop bought lemon curd, but I have made that before when I made a lemon mousse cake a couple of months ago, so I already knew that I was going to make my own curd. In the end though, I decided to go with the original recipe because it looked like such a light, fluffy sponge and I didn't want to make a cake that was too dense. It turns out that those unfamiliar ingredients really just have different names here.

So here is my take on the Lemon Crunch Cake. It is a super light lemon sponge, with a layer of pastry cream (which I have never made before), a layer of lemon curd, covered with lemon flavoured whipped cream and then topped with a toffee crunch. So delicious! I will make it again, although I might make half the toffee and only put it on the top

And with all that delicious leftover lemon curd we could have pancakes with lemon curd or mini lemon tarts with some leftover pastry that I have in the fridge. Or crumpets with butter and lemon curd! I'm sure we will find something.

I have a bit of the travel bug really, and I came home several times and said to the sous chef that I wanted to go to the Arizona Memorial. It was already on our list of places to go one day, but this book just reiterated it. And if I do go, I will be sure to make my way to The Alley, one of two places who still serve this cake.

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.

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Weekend Cooking: "Fried" chicken

When we aren't eating cake we are trying to eat a little healthier, but I am struggling a little bit with it. One of the reasons that I am struggling is that the sous chef has decided that we are going to eat more low carb high fat/keto rather than the traditional low fat/calorie counting philosophy of losing weight. This means we have been doing things like eating cauliflower mash and cauliflower fried rice. Where I am struggling is with things like eating bacon and eggs for breakfast on a regular basis or eating keto cheesecake as dessert. I have 30 years plus of conditioning around eating low fat yoghurt, drinking low fat milk, not frying anything, and certainly not having a kind of cheesecake for dessert.

Having said that, we are currently watching a British cooking show called Lose Weight for Good. It is hosted by a chef called Tom Kerridge. Tom was very, very overweight and lost a lot of weight by cutting out carbs and exercising but his show is all about how to eat delicious low fat, calorie counted food because that is what the UK government recommends as the best way to lose weight.  I am interested in getting hold of his previous book where he talked about the food he actually ate to lose weight.

It does make it a bit challenging to have the two different ways of eating but at the end of the day it's about trying to find tasty food to enjoy.

One of the early recipes in the series was for a Southern "fried" chicken and it looked so delicious that we had to try it, and the recipe was definitely a winner. We took it for lunch a couple of days with salad. Definitely a recipe to try again and again. If fact we had it for dinner again tonight!

We did also have an avocado dressing with the salad. I don't love avo but the sous chef is very keen on it, but it was very tasty to have with the chicken and salad.

Southern "fried" chicken (Tom Kerridge)

12 boneless chicken thighs (1kg/2lb 4oz in total), skin and visible fat removed
sunflower oil spray

For the crispy coating

75g/2½oz plain flour
1 tsp garlic salt
1 heaped tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp flaky sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

For the marinade

200ml/7fl oz low-fat buttermilk
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp flaky sea salt
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp dried thyme
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried sage
¼ tsp white pepper

For the marinade, mix the ingredients together in a large bowl, add the chicken and coat well. Refrigerate overnight, or for at least four hours.

Preheat the oven to its hottest setting and line a large baking tray with baking paper.

For the crispy coating, mix all the ingredients together in a shallow bowl. Dip the chicken into the mixture and turn to coat well on all sides. Place on the lined baking tray. Spray each thigh 4–5 times with the oil.

Cook on the top shelf for 20–30 minutes, or until crispy, browned and cooked through. To test, poke the thickest part of the thigh with a skewer, the juices should run clear.

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.