Thursday, January 29, 2009

Daring Bakers challenge - tuiles

After an absence of two months from the Daring Bakers, due to the demands of a newborn baby, I was looking forward to trying the January challenge of tuiles.

This month's challenge is brought to us by Karen of Baking Soda and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf.
They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux.

Traditionally, tuiles are thin, crisp almond cookies that are moulded over a rolling pin while still warm. And, as noted by Karen and Zorra, the challenge was more about technique than baking a recipe. Sadly, I have to report that this was the first Daring Bakers challenge that I failed. My tuiles would not mould. The first batch turned out too thick and were like underbaked cakes. I made the second batch thinner, so they were easier to mould but were too small to hold their shape properly. So, in desperation, I made huge circles for the last batch. These were large enough to mould into a basket shape but they did not have the crispness I expected and so would not hold their shape.

The recipe was straightforward: creaming butter, icing sugar and vanilla sugar (or vanilla extract), adding two eggwhites and some flour and mixing to a nice, smooth batter. This batter was cooled in the fridge for 30 minutes and then spread onto baking trays in shapes: Karen and Zorra suggested using a stencil to make butterflies or some other shape, or simply moulding the warm tuiles over upended glasses, a rolling pin, broom handle or anything else handy that came to mind. My plan was to mould mine over a rolling pin so that I could make small baskets. I had a delicately spiced chocolate mousse recipe all ready to make so that I could pipe this into the baskets. However, the plan did not quite go to plan. Not only did the tuiles not mould properly, but Adam discovered the box full of my misshapen tuiles and ate them all before I could even get photos! I had planned to still make the mousse and just decorate it with shards of tuiles but alas! I have nothing to show for my efforts this month!

Despite the tuiles not moulding properly, the actual biscuit itself was delicious, with a smooth texture and sweet aftertaste. I found that the texture was like an underbaked pikelet, whereas I expected it to be crisp, like a biscotti. I thought perhaps I had made the tuiles too thick, but I only used a teaspoon of batter for each one and couldn't have spread them much thinner than I did. I should try this recipe again to see if I can get them to work properly. I'll be interested to read posts by other Daring Bakers to see if anyone else encountered the same problem. Thanks to Karen and Zorra for choosing this month's recipe. I liked the thought of tuiles and I think the fault is my technique rather than the recipe.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

After the BBQ

The great Australian BBQ on Australia Day has become a suburban cliche but for good reason. Warm summery weather lends itself perfectly to BBQs, when it's too hot to cook in the kitchen and a variety of cool salads pair perfectly with charred sausages and hamburgers. I love going for an evening stroll in summer and catching a smell of meat cooking on a BBQ.

We hosted my mothers' group for an Australia Day BBQ. With warm weather (only low-30s, not the 40+ temperatures that are predicted later this week), good company, some cool sparkling wine, plenty of healthy salads, a mountain of sausages and hamburgers, and the quintessential pavlova, white chocolate cupcakes and a chocolate nut cake to finish off, a great day was had by all.

The only problem the next day was what to do with all the leftover cooked sausages?
Although hot summer weather does not lend itself to a thick wintry stew, this is what I came up with to use up the sausages. Loosely inspired by a recipe in Delicious magazine, I combined the sausages with a tomato stew jazzed up with a Moroccan blend of spices. This is also a stew you could make from scratch, with the quality of the sausages used determining the final result, but it also is a great way to use up BBQ leftovers.

Sausage stew

At least 4-6 cooked sausages, chopped into pieces (but you can use more if you have more left over from your BBQ)
1 onion, finely diced
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 carrots, diced
2 potatoes, diced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 to 2 cups chicken stock
400g chopped tomatoes
400g tinned chickpeas

Saute the onion and garlic in oil for a few minutes. Stir in the carrots, potatoes, spices, stock and tomatoes and cook until the vegetables are tender (about 15 minutes). Add the sausages and chickpeas and cook for another five or so minutes. Serve with crusty bread.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A special chocolate treat

My parents have just returned from a month's holiday in wintry England. It was certainly a shock to their system to return from 3 degrees in Manchester to Melbourne's summer temperatures of almost 40 degrees. To me, one of the most interesting parts of travel is sampling different food and drink overseas, particularly local delicacies, so I was eager to hear about their experiences. Mum and dad also spent a week in Belgium, so their gifts included some boxes and blocks of gorgeous Belgian chocolate. Mum brought home some special chocolate blocks to try in cooking and she also brought home another special treat: a bag of cacao nibs.

Cacao nibs are an unusual cooking item that I only recently discovered through reading Clotildé's wonderful Chocolate and Zucchini blog. Mum had discussed the use of cacao nibs with the chocolate shop proprietor, who recommended that she use them in chocolate cake to add some extra crunch.

Long ago, I bookmarked a chocolate biscuit recipe from Clotilde that used cacao nibs. Having not yet discovered a stockist for cacao nibs, the recipe had languished among my "recipes that I must try as soon as I purchase unusual ingredient" pile. So when Mum produced the bag of cacao nibs, I whipped out the recipe and proceeded to bake a batch of these velvety, dense chocolate biscuits. The triple hit of chocolate - from melted chocolate, cocoa powder and the cacao nibs - make these a true chocoholics delight. Although these biscuits would still be a winner even if the nibs were omitted, the aromatic crunch from the nibs elevate these biscuits above your everyday chocolatey snack and I highly recommend seeking out cacao nibs, if possible, to make these biscuits.


120g good quality bittersweet chocolate
110g unsalted butter
3 eggs, lightly beaten
100g brown sugar
120g all-purpose flour
90g unsweetened cocoa powder*
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel (substitute 1/4 teaspoon regular salt)
4 tablespoons cacao nibs

Melt together 90g of the chocolate and all of the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Transfer into a large mixing-bowl and let cool for ten minutes. In the meantime, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder and set aside. Finely chop the reserved chocolate, and set aside.

Whisk the eggs into the cooled melted chocolate. Add in the sugar and mix again. Sift in the flour mixture, and stir with a wooden spoon until well combined. The batter will be thick. Fold in the chopped chocolate, cacao nibs and fleur de sel.

Preheat the oven to 180° C (350° F) and line a baking tray with non-stick paper.

For bite-sized morsels, scoop out rounded teaspoons of batter, shape them into balls with the tips of your fingers, and line them up on the baking tray. Use about one dessertspoonful of batter if you prefer larger biscuits. Make sure you leave space between the biscuits for spreading. Put the baking tray in the refrigerator for 10 minutes (if the sheet and batter are cold, the biscuits are less likely to spread), then bake for eight to ten minutes, until the tops feel just dry to the touch. Don't overbake, or they won't be as moist inside.

* Clotilde added an update to her original recipe stating that some bakers found this amount to be too much, resulting in cookies more bitter than they like. You can use less cocoa (about 60g) if you prefer. Make up for the difference in flour.

This recipe appeared on the Chocolate and Zucchini website on 13 February 2006.