French lessons.

Jan 30, 2010

image courtesy of photoblog

Hi everyone, I'm looking for a french teacher who'll offer beginners lessons in the PJ area. Any ideas? Leave a comment please!


Jan 27, 2010

The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and

Oh boy... If it weren't for daring bakers I'm not sure I'd be posting at all! Atleast, I'm on time this time round right? :D


I've officially gotten a friend's brother to completely fall in love with these bars. They really are quite addictive, I couldn't
stop at one myself. The challenge came at just the right time too, it gave me an opportunity to bring something a little different to my upcoming MAAN reunion. The guine- I mean, my friends seemed to really like them. Not something I'd make often, but it's a good recipe to have on hand for times you have to bring something to a pot luck party.

This months challenge consisted of 2 mandatory parts:
1) Make Graham crackers using the recipe provided.
2) Using the graham crackers, make the Nanaimo bar.

The challenge was hosted by Lauren of who has Celiac Disease. This means that she has a gluten intolerance. Her body can't digest gluten, meaning she can't eat anything with wheat in it.
Which basically rules out most pastas, breads, and commercially made KitKat.
Can you imagine not being able to eat KITKAT?
Life's tough for her, but that's what her blog's about.
It's about her finding a way to live with Celiac, and still keep eating great tasting food.
Following that vein, she thought she'd try to teach us DB people how to work it Gluten free. It was an option for us to make our graham crackers without gluten.
As much as I would've like to give that a crack, the flours ALONE would have eaten up my baking budget (which is a wee bit tighter than it used to be,now that SPM is over :-/ ) so I opted out for the gluten infested version.

Not that that made the cracker dough any easier to work with.
Bloody sticky difficult little bastard. I had dough under my nails, on my wrist, on my freakin' EYELID ok?
NOT pleasant.
In the end I just rolled it out between sheets of plastic and stuck it in the freezer overnight. That way it hardened up, and I could just plonk it on the baking sheet and be done with it. So elated was I at this seemingly stroke of genius, I forgot to take pictures of the baked crakers.
Nevermind, they weren't exactly the prettiest of things. But they tasted DAMN good. I had plenty of leftovers with the full recipe, so some I made into a cheesecake crust.
The rest I ate.
Smothered in chocolate ganache.
While watching Gordon Ramsey swear.
oh baby yeeeesss.

So, having made my crackers, it was time to move onto making the actual bars.
And of course, these provided their own fair share of drama.

The base is made by melting cocoa, butter and sugar over a double boiler, after which stirring in an egg to thicken it up.
Well, it was late, and I was tired so I thought to myself
"Double Boiler? At this time of night? pshaw... I don't need that. I'll just use the regular stove top."
Where were my God given brains when I made this decision?
Probably still thinking about Gordon Ramsey swearing.

Alright, so everything was going fine, until I added the egg.
Holy Mother of Cupcakes.
I've never seen anything clump so fast.

Imagine if you will, semi-solid brown objects, floating in a watery brown liquid.
My heart nearly stopped at the sight of this diarrhea reminiscent deluge, and for a full minute,
I whisked like a woman possessed.
Thank the powers that be, that just as my arm was about to give out it all came together in a beautifully smooth paste.
Which just goes to show really.
When life gives you crap, work hard and eventually it'll look good. :-)

So I thought that my troubles were over, and blissfully went about with the rest of the recipe.

Then came the middle layer. I put in one cup of sugar instead of 2 and added a teaspoon of vanilla to the original recipe, since people were saying in the forums that the middle layer was too sweet.
First time I made it, it looked curdled. I mean, REALLY curdled.But it was really late, so I just spread it on the base, crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. I took it out of the fridge the next day to check, and it looked EVEN WORSE.
So with a sigh, I proceded to scrape off the layer and start again. Same recipe, just using my electric mixer this time round. With caffeine buzzing through my system, I began to beat the buttercream again.
with a vengence.
and it still curdelled.
I swore.
And with the fury of a girl under pressure I increased the mixer speed.
And it was fine.
I'd insert another bowel dysfunction metaphor here, but I'm running out of ideas.

Infact, i think I can safely say that this could become one of my favourite buttercream recipe. It comes out soo smooth and buttery, a bit grainy, but we can't help that.
Stupid icing sugar.
At any rate, the rest of the recipe went off without a glitch

and it was a hit at the reunion.

Another DB challenge completed.

Pleased as PIE.

Jan 13, 2010

A boy doesn't have to go to war to be a hero; he can say he doesn't like pie when he sees there isn't enough to go around.
Edgar Watson Howe

There's something special about pulling a pie out of the oven.

Nothing can make you feel more deliciously competent and Domestic Goddess-y (or God-y) than pulling a well done pie out of the oven. And the beauty of this is that they're actually quite easy to make.There's not enough work involved for you to scream "AH, F*** IT!", but there's enough so you feel like you've accomplished something worthwhile.
I made this double crust apple pie a few days ago for my mum. Quite frankly, I don't really like apple pie, but my mum ADORES it. It reminds her of when she was studying nursing in England. She eats it the same way she used to all those years ago; a big wodge smothered in Birds custard. Before this, I've made little apple crumble pie-lets, but keeping in the spirit of 2010 I thought it was about time I attempted a double crust pie.

Not to say I was ever scared of making one.
Just...a little wary.

Ok, ok.... I used to be scared stiff.

I mean, you pour a WET fruit filling over a UNBAKED dough and you cover the whole lot with some more UNBAKED dough. Doesn't that just scream soggy and undercooked for you? Not to mention my demon oven (which I love to bits, no doubt) has a nasty habit of burning things.

Now, this is NOT me.I can already hear you thinking "a craftsman shouldn't blame his tools for shoddy work"
But this is NOT my fault.
I've timed things to the very second.
I've shifted the oven racks around to make sure the pan isn't too close to the baking coil.
I've CONSIDERABLY lower the temperature in any recipe I attempt.
My *darling* oven still burns things.
It's because of this 'tendency' that I often can't honestly give timing and temperature values in my recipes. My oven forces me to perform jazz-like improvisations on oven temperatures and timings every time I bake something, be it cake or bread. Often, I've only been able to get away with things because it only burns the top (so I can easily slice off the top and hide it under something.)
But this is different.
A pie needs to be just done top AND bottom.
But what was I to do? It was one of my New Year resolutions to make a double crusted pie, so either way I would at least have to make an attempt. I used Better homes and Gardens Oil pastry and winged the filling on my own. I must say, everything was going fine up till the baking part. I immediately got nervous as to my oven's little arsonistic habit. Not to mention, I'd run out of aluminum foil to cover the top with for the first 10 minutes of baking. So, as usual, I improvised.
~I baked it for 10 minutes with the heat only on the bottom at 220'C.
~Turned the heat down to 170'C and baked for 30 minutes with the heat on top and bottom.
~Bake for another 10 minutes at 170'C with heat only on bottom.

Sure it was a 'little fiddly', but the pie turned out FANTASTIC. Don't be scared away by the oven timing. I'll list the baking time and temperature according to the original recipe because I'm sure that your oven isn't as menopousal as mine. And really, it's a very satisfiying experience. And boys love girls who make them pie. ;-) (same concept applies the other way round of course)

Double-Crust Apple Pie (makes one 9 inch pie)

Oil Pastry
~2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
~ 1/4 tsp salt
~1/2 cup cooking oil
~1/3 cup cold milk.

~ 1/2 cup loosely packed brown sugar.
~ Juice of 1/2 an orange
~ 1 1/2 tsp allspice
~ pinch of salt
~ 1 tbsp flour
~ 4 cups worth of thinly sliced apples*
~ 1 cup raisins.

~9 inch pie plate

*I used 2 granny smiths and 2 gala apples. Not traditional, but you work with whatcha got.

The pastry is REALLY EASY.
All you have to do is measure out the flour and salt into a large bowl. Then, get your measuring cup, and measure out the oil FIRST. That way, you can measure out the milk in the same cup. Don't mix the liquids together, just pour it all into the bowl with the flour and salt. Mix with your hands, but don't overwork the mixture. When everything is combined, divide the dough into 2 balls, one slightly smaller that the other (that'll be the top of the pie) and put into the fridge to relax while you get on with the filling.

In a smaller bowl, mix everything except the fruit together until well combined. Toss the fruits into the mixture until completely smothered in the spiced liquid. I used jumbo raisins, so i had to chop them up a little, but the regular sized ones will be ok whole.

Preheat your oven to 220'C

Take the bigger ball of dough from the fridge and roll out into a circle slightly larger than the pie plate. The dough is quite soft, so your going to want to roll it out between two sheets of baking paper or plastic. take off the top sheet of paper or plastic and loosely drape the dough over the rolling pin. Unroll the pastry over your pie plate (the side with the other sheet of paper/plastic should be facing up). Remove the paper/plastic and ease the pastry into the pie plate. Cut away the excess. DON'T PRICK THE BOTTOM.

Pour the filling into the pie shell and smooth it out. Repeat the rolling out process with the secound ball of dough and drape that on top of the filling.Cut off the excess and seal the pastry around the edge of the pie, crimping as desired. Cut 8 slits in the top pastry to allow steam to escape.

Cover the edge of the pie with aluminium foil and bake for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, turn temperature down to 175'C and remove foil. Bake for another 30-35 minutes.
Cool on wire rack for an hour, then cut and serve. Mum likes hers with custard, and I like it with fresh cream.