Monday, August 29, 2011

These recipes are triple tested

At the weekend I was using a recipe I found on a blog to cook Karelian Pasties, a popular treat from Finland. It had multiple elements to be cooked, and two out of the three had problems with the actual recipe. Instead of having fun cooking something delicious I found myself correcting problems with the recipe at every turn.

I would like to assure you that the recipes I post on this blog have been cooked over and over again in my home kitchen. Some of the recipes have been made for my family and friends for over 20 years. If you find a problem with any of my recipes, please let me know. My aim is to ensure every Kitchen Alchemy recipe you cook is not only fun to make, but delicious to eat.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Lingon Berry Bread

I was at Ikea on the weekend, scouring the shelves of their food section to look for ideas for Scandanavian food. I was surprised to find a pre-mix pack for Lingon Berry Bread, and it was so cheap, I thought I’d buy it and give it a go.

The mix itself was quite dark and very heavy on rye. It was quite bitter to the taste and I expected the bread would come out quite bitter as a result. Having worked in a bakery as a teenager, I know how much hard work is required to produce a really good loaf of bread. I’ve taken to using my Kitchenaid with the dough hook attachment to do a lot of the work dough requires to develop the glutens and made it taste great. After ten minutes of working the dough I sat it next to the heater and let it rise for half an hour.

I could hardly wait to get to the next stage, which is where you punch down the dough to knock out the air it's acquired is it rises. Then I divided the dough into two and formed the pieces into loaves by kneading it in a rolling action. This ensured the exterior remained nice and smooth and visually attractive. I scored the top of each loaf then put each one into a greased tin to let it prove by the heater a second time.

Surprisingly the dough didn’t double in size as I expected. The score marks had expanded, but I really thought the loaves would fill the tins, which they did not. The bread went into the oven at 200 degrees celcius for 40 minutes, while I whipped down to the store to buy a gorgeous piece of rib eye fillet. When I came back the whole house was filled with the smell of fresh bread. Yum! I knocked on the tops of the loaves and the sound was hollow, so I knew the bread was cooked! My husband and I could hardly wait to cut the bread and try it – and to our surprise, it wasn’t bitter at all!

If you fancy trying bread making and you’re able to pick up this mix from Ikea, I highly recommend it. But if I were to make this again, I think I’d work the dough into dinner sized rolls – perfect for the bread component of a formal dinner party. We ate the Lingon Berry Bread warm, smeared with butter, along with a beautiful lunch of rare roast beef, turned vegetables and garlic custard, followed by chocolate souffle with orange ginger biscuit crumbs, whipped cream and Vulcan's orange sauce.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Chocolate Caramel Slice

As part of my review of seventies recipes, I've checked a great Aussie favourite - chocolate caramel slice - a bit of a revamp. Chocolate Caramel Slice entered the scene in the seventies when The Australian Women's Weekly first published its recipe cards. But since then some things have changed. The size of the tin condensed milk comes in, for one. And slice tins seem to have changed too. These days the brownie tin is easier to find than a traditional old slice tin. Although in the original CCS recipe, they do call for the slice to be assembled in a lamington tin!

I've made some revisions of Chocolate Caramel Slice, and I have to say I'm pretty happy with the result. One important note: the quality of your slice hinges on your choice of chocolate for the top. If you choose a cheap chocolate, you'll get a very ordinary result. Try and choose cooking couveture that has at 70% cocoa content - your slice will be so much better for it.

1 cup self raising flour
1 cup desicated coconut
1 cup brown sugar
125g butter, melted
790g condensed milk (2 x 395 g tins)
60g butter
4 tblsp golden syrup
250g dark cooking chocolate
60g copha (vegetable shortening)

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celcius. Line a non-stick brownie tin with a piece of baking paper, ensuring the paper comes up about two inches above the longest sides of the tin. Don't worry about the other two sides.
2. Combine the self raising flour, coconut, brown sugar and melted butter in the bowl of your Kitchenaid. Using the paddle beater, stir the ingredients on first gear until they are fully combined and starting to form a crumb mixture.
3. Pour the crumb mix into the brownie tin and spread it evenly to all four corners. Using the back of a spoon, press the biscuit base down to compact it. Make sure the corners have as much mix as in the middle. Then using a small rolling pin or perhaps a small drinking glass, roll the biscuit base so that the surface is perfectly flat. This will help create a visually pleasing layer effect once the rest of the ingredients have been added on the top.
4. Bake biscuit base in the oven for 10 minutes.
5. Combine the condensed milk, golden syrup and butter in a medium saucepan. Stir over a medium heat until the butter has melted. Bring to the boil and try to allow the caramel to continue to boil for at least one minute. The longer you can do this, the better the caramel will taste. But be careful - this caramel is quick to burn and stick like glue to the bottom of your saucepan!
6. Pour the hot caramel over the biscuit base and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes baking. Caramel will continue to boil, thicken and set. Once cooked, set the base aside and allow to cool completely.

Troubleshooting: there's a lot that can go wrong at this step. If the caramel burns on the stove you have to throw it out and start again. Constantly stirring it can help. The idea here is to kick start the boiling process that's going to continue in the oven. If you under do this step, the slice will need to cook in the oven longer. If you under cook it in the oven, the flavour will be bland and the caramel won't be set. Your slice should look like the below picture. If it doesnt, keep cooking 3mins at a time. 

7. Combine the chocolate and copha (vegetable shortening) in a glass bowl and heat in the microwave oven on high for two and a half minutes. Remember - chocolate holds its form when microwaved; the only way to check it's melted is to get it out and stir it. Mix the chocolate and copha until thoroughly combined. Extra 10 second bursts in the microwave can help complete this job, but be careful not to burn your chocolate.
8. Pour the chocolate mix over the caramel layer of the slice. Carefully tilt the tin from side to side to ensure the caramel is completely covered with chocolate. Place the slice in the fridge and allow to chill for at least three hours.
9. Remove the slice from the fridge. Run a hot knife along the two sides that don't have baking paper to loosen the slice, then using the baking paper flaps as handles, lift the whole slice from the tin and place it on a chopping board. Run a calving knife under hot water, dry it off then score the top of the chocolate through to the caramel layer. This will ensure the chocolate doesn't crack when you cut the slice. This slice can be cut into 16 or 18 pieces. I've even served it up as 32 cocktail sized pieces to make it go further.
10. Keep chocolate caramel slice refridgerated. Keeps for a week if you don't eat it all before then!

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

More ways to end hunger

I have been watching the news unfold about the humanitarian crisis in Somalia and have been horrified at how desperate the situation is, not only in Africa, but in other places in the world too. While I am at home in my kitchen, dreaming up culinary creations, there are people in the world who have never seen the inside of a supermarket. Yet i can go to one any time I like, buy any food I like, and eat as much of it as I like.

This seems incredibly wrong to me. I am so grateful for the privilege of being born in Australia, where food is abundant and where I will never experience the anguish of famine. But I am also aware that because I'm privileged, it's my responsibility to make a difference to those who are not.

So I've registered for the 40 Hour Famine - a World Vision initiative that has been going on since I was a little girl. On August 19 I will stop eating food for 40 hours in an effort to raise money for people starving across the world. This year the 40 Hour Famine is supporting East Timor - apparently they are starving there too.

If, like me, you feel grateful for the wonderful food you eat, you might like to sponsor my 40 Hour Famine, by going to my sponsor page here:

Petrina's 40 Hour Famine