Monday, 29 October 2007

Daring (cheating, last-minute) Baker

It’s amazing how time flies, especially when you spend one weekend at a friends’ cottage in the countryside (doing nothing all weekend but eating, sleeping, and walking the dog) and another weekend hosting friends who take over your kitchen to cook you a lovely, amazing and delicious Japanese meal. Such a hard life, I know.

After waving goodbye to our Japanese friends on Sunday morning (S duly made crepes for breakfast, the third weekend in a row), I realised I had only the rest of the day left to finish this month’s Daring Bakers challenge, hosted by Mary of Alpine Berry: bostini cream pie, which consists of vanilla custard, orange chiffon cake, and melted chocolate.

Having already missed last month’s challenge, I didn’t want to miss this month’s again, even though work has been insanely busy, my weekends filled with, you know, other things, and, last but not least, the fact I simply don’t like chocolate and orange combined. But time was running out, so prepare for a bit of cheating along the way.

The chiffon cake was an absolute doddle to make and came together in no time at all - I think it took the whole of 10 minutes to throw all the ingredients together. I halved the quantities, used leftover egg whites I had frozen a while ago, and used orange juice from a carton. Oh, and I left out the zest because I don’t exactly like zest of anything either. That’s my first bit of cheating, but it will get worse. Consider yourself warned. I used my new mini-brioche moulds and a muffin tin, and the resulting cakes were nicely fluffy, airy and moist. They did shrink and change shape after cooling tough, which I also experienced when I made the infamous strawberry mirror cake for the DB July challenge. I don’t think I’ll ever be a fan of chiffon cake, but I can see how it might work in a ‘supporting role’, to bring together other components of a dessert. Chiffon cake by itself always seems to lack something to me, I find it just too sweet and bland. Having said that, the orange juice added a subtle bit of tang to it, which made it taste slightly more interesting.

Warning: major cheating coming up. I didn’t have that much time left to finish and photograph the dessert – now that the clocks have gone back an hour, it starts getting dark ridiculously early in the afternoon, which means less time to make decent photographs. I could have got up early this morning to make some pics of course, but I know myself too well to know that wasn’t going to happen. So I may, ahem, have made custard from a packet. Powder from the packet, milk, vanilla sugar, and some vanilla bean paste added to it, a bit of stirring et voilĂ , the quick ‘n easy cheat’s way to custard. But at least I’m being honest about it - my parents brought me up well that way, teaching me not to lie.

The chocolate and butter I melted together in a soup bowl in the microwave, which took another entire minute, and I dipped my little chiffon cakes in it to give them a chocolate coating.

After a few quick piccies I found a willing guinea pig in S - who had been hovering around the kitchen, his spoon at the ready, ever since he saw the custard. He loved it (but he loves everything that comes drenched in custard) until I mentioned that there was orange in the cake, and then he didn’t like it as much any more. I knew I wouldn’t like it, but I didn’t dislike it as much as I thought I would. The orange was rather subtle; the combination of soft fluffy cake with custard and chocolate makes for a very comforting dessert; the cake by itself tasted ok; I’ll have to fight S for the rest of the custard; and it was incredibly easy to make and present, which makes it perfect to show off at dinner parties. It’s just not very ‘me’, this dessert. But if you like chocolate and orange combined, by all means, give it a go.

You can check out all the other Daring Bakers’ efforts here.

Monday, 15 October 2007

weekend breakfast crepes

I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’m not a morning person. Never have been and never will be. Mind you, I’m not moody or grumpy in the morning, it’s just that in between my stumbling out of bed and actually being awake, a fair amount of time can pass. I don’t mind people talking to me, so long as they don’t expect coherent replies. Or replies at all, for that matter. As my mum knows all too well.

S, on the other hand, opens his eyes and is wide awake, ready to start the day. Which makes me a very lucky woman, because when I get up at weekends, breakfast is always ready. I even get to choose what I’d like for breakfast: bacon & eggs, French toast, or crepes. And yesterday I was the lucky recipient of the latter.

When I was growing up, crepes were a rare occurrence and a real treat. Mum would bake them once in a blue moon – for my birthday, or when my girlfriends came over for play dates. Which is why, even though I can eat crepes every weekend now if I like (if I ask nicely), it still feels like Easter, Sinterklaas, birthdays and Christmas all rolled into one!

The crepes from my childhood were made with a ready-made mix. But making them from scratch isn’t all that much more work. And of course they taste a million times better. S likes his with sugar, I like mine with syrup (a kind of molasses, treacle-like thing that I stock up on every time I’m in Belgium). Either way, they are utterly delicious and a wonderfully indulgent weekend breakfast. Did I mention how lucky I am?

S's crepe recipe
200g self-raising flour
30g caster sugar (half of which vanilla sugar)
500ml milk
2-4 eggs (to taste)

Mix everything together and pass batter through sieve to make sure there are no lumps. Butter or oil pan (make sure pan is hot) and add one ladle-full of batter. Swirl batter around into crepe shape. When baked on one side, flip and bake other side. Repeat and then eat.

Sunday, 7 October 2007


Pressies! A whole bunch of cook books and other goodies.

I woke up one morning and suddenly realised it’s October already. There was also this nagging thought in the back of my head - something to do with chocolate. And vanilla. And then it dawned on me. My little blog! So woefully neglected this past month! Oops.

Well, I guess that’s what happens when one spends weekends in Belgium visiting family (and stocking up on chocolate), frantically doing DIY preparing one’s house for a visit of said family, attending talks by certain food bloggers, and organising a big birthday party for oneself (my thirtieth, but shhh, don’t tell anyone).

Which didn’t leave much time at all for kitchen experiments. Or for the Daring Bakers September challenge, which completely passed me by. Check out all the other DBs cinnamon and sticky bun rolls here.

On the plus side, I now have beautifully oiled ‘dark Jacobean oak’ stained floors, which - I have already discovered - provide a perfect backdrop for food pics; the family (who all came over from Belgium especially for the birthday party) were suitably impressed with our house renovations and it was wonderful having them all here to celebrate with me; and, throwing yourself a birthday party of course means getting lots of presents, some of which will make appearances on vanille & chocolat in the not too distant future...