Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Fresh from the Oven - Focaccia with Rosemary and Sea Salt

For July's challenge for “Fresh From the Oven”, everyone has been asked to find their own recipe for focaccia and change up the toppings and/or herbs to their own preferences. I have opted to make Linda Collister’s Focaccia with rosemary and sea salt from her “Baking Bible”.

This recipe is more time consuming than most recipes (with 3 risings) but the focaccia has a lovely flavour and a light open texture. The trick here is not to overload with olive oil. As the ingredients are very basic, it is important to use good quality ingredients. I have used Maldon sea salt and Joseph - 2008 cold pressed extra virgin olive oil from Simon Johnson - Melbourne.

Focaccia With Rosemary And Sea Salt
15g fresh yeast, crumbled (or 7g easy bend yeast)
280ml water (room temperature)
6-7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil.
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary, plus extra sprigs for top
500g unbleached white bread flour, plus extra for dusting

For top garnish:
Sprigs of rosemary
2 teaspoons course sea salt.

You will need a 25 x 35 cm baking tin. Preheat the oven (and an oven stone if using) to 220C (425F). In a small bowl, add the yeast to half of the water and cream to a smooth liquid (if using the easy-blend yeast, add the sachet with the chopped rosemary and put all the liquid in to the bowl at once and proceed with the recipe). Add 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and the remaining water. Add the salt, chopped rosemary and half the flour, Beat into the liquid with your hand. When mixed, work in enough of the remaining four to make a soft but not sticky dough (I used all the flour and it was just perfect).

Place the dough on to a lightly floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes (or up to 5 minutes at low speed in a mixer fitted with a dough hook) until very smooth and silky, Place the dough in to a lightly oiled bowl and turn the dough over so the entire surface is coated with the olive oil. Cover with a damp tea towel (I use a large shower cap over the bowl which doesn’t touch the surface) and let it rise at room temperature until doubled in size – about 2 hours.

Uncover and knock back the dough. On a slightly floured work surface, shape the dough in to a rectangle. Press into the base of the baking tin, letting the dough relax a few minutes to get it into the corners and patting it out to get an even layer. Cover with a damp tea towel let it rise once again until it has doubled in height (45 - 60 minutes).

Flour your fingers or the end of the handle of a wooden spoon and press into the risen dough to make 1 cm deep indents. Cover with a damp tea towel (yet again) and let the dough rise until doubled in height - about 1 hour.

Uncover the dough an place fresh sprigs of rosemary in the indents and fill them with olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and bake in the preheated oven for 20 - 25 minutes until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack and let it cool.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookie

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network. Thanks Nicole for a great challenge.

For the challenge, you could either do both recipes or just choose one. I have chosen to do only the Mallows.

Mallows (Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies)
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website

Prep Time: 10 min
Inactive Prep Time: 5 min
Cook Time: 10 min
Serves: about 2 dozen cookies

• 3 cups (375grams/13.23oz) all purpose flour
• 1/2 cup (112.5grams/3.97oz) white sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
• 3/8 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter
• 3 eggs, whisked together
• Homemade marshmallows, recipe follows
• Chocolate glaze, recipe follows

1. In a mixer with the paddle attachment, blend the dry ingredients.
2. On low speed, add the butter and mix until sandy.
3. Add the eggs and mix until combine.
4. Form the dough into a disk, wrap with clingfilm or parchment and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.
5. When ready to bake, grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper or a silicon mat.
6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
7. Roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness, on a lightly floured surface. Use a 1 to 1 1/2 inches cookie cutter to cut out small rounds of dough.

8. Transfer to the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Let cool to room temperature.

9. Pipe a “kiss” of marshmallow onto each cookie. Let set at room temperature for 2 hours.

10. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or silicon mat.
11. One at a time, gently drop the marshmallow-topped cookies into the hot chocolate glaze.
12. Lift out with a fork and let excess chocolate drip back into the bowl.
13. Place on the prepared pan and let set at room temperature until the coating is firm, about 1 to 2 hours.

Note: if you don’t want to make your own marshmallows, you can cut a large marshmallow in half and place on the cookie base. Heat in a preheated 350-degree oven to slump the marshmallow slightly, it will expand and brown a little. Let cool, then proceed with the chocolate dipping.

Homemade marshmallows:
• 1/4 cup water
• 1/4 cup light corn syrup
• 3/4 cup (168.76 grams/5.95oz) sugar
• 1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
• 2 tablespoons cold water
• 2 egg whites , room temperature
• 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. In a saucepan, combine the water, corn syrup, and sugar, bring to a boil until “soft-ball” stage, or 235 degrees on a candy thermometer.
2. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and let dissolve.
3. Remove the syrup from the heat, add the gelatin, and mix.
4. Whip the whites until soft peaks form and pour the syrup into the whites.
5. Add the vanilla and continue whipping until stiff.
6. Transfer to a pastry bag.

Chocolate glaze:
• 12 ounces semisweet chocolate
• 2 ounces cocoa butter or vegetable oil ( I used sweet almond oil as I couldn’t get cocoa butter)

1. Melt the 2 ingredients together in the top of a double boiler or a bowl set over barely simmering water.

For more on this great challenge, visit The Daring Kitchen and The Daring Blogroll.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Molecular Cuisine - Skate, traditional flavors powdered

The July challenge comes from Sketchy's Kitchen who has a minor obsession with molecular cuisine. The Challenge: Skate, traditional flavors powdered (slightly altered). Sketchy picked a dish from Grant Achatz, found in the Alinea cookbook - page 23 - a recipe that could be completed without having to order a bunch of specialized chemicals or powders. As Sketchy says “Just a little work and you can make this, the techniques are not very hard and only require a few tools”. At first I was daunted by this challenge, but I’m glad I had a go at it. I've learnt so much. Thanks Sketchy for a great challenge!!!!!!

In a nutshell, molecular cuisine (the science of deliciousness) is the end product of “Molecular and Physical Gastronomy”, a term coined in the 1980s by Herve This, a French scientist, and a Hungarian physicist Nicholas Kurti. It is the application of the study of scientific principles and practices in cooking and food preparation.

What has come from this is the interest of chefs and foodies applying the techniques of the food scientists to fine dining - using drying, liquefying, gassing, freezing (using things like liquid nitrogen and infa-red laser to name just a few) to transform ingredients into different forms and textures while still maintaining the flavours of the foods. After searching on the internet, what I did seemed was more like playing with my food. Have a quick look at the ‘Big Guns’ in Molecular Cuisine . It is utterly fascinating.

Here is the recipe as given by Sketchy

Skate, Traditional Flavors Powdered

4 skate wings (cod or flounder - I couldn't get skate at the market, so I used flounder)

* Beurre monte

* 300g fresh green beans (slice each beans into very thin rounds - 2 mm)

sea salt/kosher salt

1 banana

454g butter - 4 sticks

300g lemons

5g citric acid/vitamin c tablet

150g cilantro

150g parsley

100g dried banana chips

300g spray dried cream powder (or powdered milk)

100g cup minced red onion

200g capers (brined, not oil)

Beurre Monte

454g butter (4 sticks, 1 pound) cubed and frozen

60g water.

In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil, then remove from heat and whisk in the butter 1 cube at a time to form an emulsion. It is important that the butter is very cold and added only a little bit at a time. Keep it heated, but under 98C degrees to keep it as and emulsion - this is your poaching liquid.

The poaching liquid is pretty much butter, but if you like, it could be replaced with other poaching methods such as water or wine with bay leaf, garlic clove, pepper, etc.


The original instructions were to use a dehydrator and coffee grinder to make the powders. I don't have either. I used the microwave method. I only have an old 500W microwave, used primarily for melting chocolate and butter etc, so it took a bit longer than time given in the challenge. I finished drying off in the oven. Unfortunately, I didn't keep a record of the exact times, but it didn't take too long (approximately 8 to 10 minutes for most things until the ingredients were dry then a slow oven for approximately 10 minutes to make sure they were dry). Once dried, all powders were ground using a mortar and pestle then passed through a fine mesh strainer. The drying wasn't a task as I took it slow and did it over a the weekend.

I used caper powder, citrus powder, Italian parsley powder, Hungarian sweet paprika (always readily available in my kitchen and it looked so pretty with the other colours) and 'brown butter' powder. I didn't use the red onion powder or cilantro powder as I don't like the taste (I also think that I may have burnt the onion a little).

For the citrus powder:

I first zested the lemons, removed the pith, then poached the zest in the simple syrup three times, dried it with paper towels then dried as above.

Simple syrup is made from 1 part water to 2 parts sugar. Bring the water to the boil, dissolve the sugar and the citric acid in the boiling water. Once the sugar is dissolved turn the flame off.

For the parsley powder - blanch the parsley in boiling saltwater for 1 second, submerge the leaves in ice water for 3 minutes. Dry on paper towels and then process as above.

For the caper powder, use capers packed in brine/vinegar. Run the capers under cold water for two minutes to remove some of the brine then dry on paper towel, then proceed as above. Check the moisture content and stir them, repeating at 30 second intervals until they are dry. Once dry, pulse and sift the powder.

For the brown butter powder, use unsweetened dried bananas if possible. I could only get dried bananas coated in honey which were a bit sweet for my liking.

If you cannot find the cream powder, you can substitute non fat dry milk powder, or even carnation instant milk powder. The substitutions will alter the flavor a little, but you will still get the general idea.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, sift the cream powder into a fine layer on a silpat or on parchment. Bake for 4 minutes, then remove for heat. If it bakes for too long, it will burn. Be very cautious with all powders in the oven. They all go from browned to burnt in a few seconds.

Grind the banana chips in the mortar and mix with the toasted cream powder. Pass this through a sieve and reserve.

Prepare the Beans: Bring 100g water, 100g beurre monte, and green bean rounds to a boil over high heat. Cook until the water has evaporated (about 3 minutes), when the pan is almost dry, remove it from heat and season with 3g salt.

Prepare the Fish: Bring 300g water and 300g beurre monte to simmer over medium heat, add the fish and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and flip the fish over and let rest in pan for two more minutes. Transfer to a warming tray lined with parchment and season with 5 grams of fine sea salt.


Take the tip of a small spoon and make a small mound of the citrus powder, the caper powder, and the parsley powder. Swirl these around in a hurricane type pattern. I found that it is easier, and you get finer lines if you lightly shake the plate to flatten out the mounds, then swirl the spoon through it to get the pattern.

Peel the remaining banana into very think slices (3mm) fan three slices on the plate, place green beans on top and place skate wing portion on top. On the tall edge, sprinkle the brown butter powder.

Although my plating is reminiscent of Australian Aboriginal Art with it's swirls and dots, it didn't start out that way and wasn't supposed to be. It just took on a life of it's own.

I spent a lot of time trying to get the swirls just right. I used the handle of a teaspoon to draw the spirals and practiced so!!!!!!!! much before I did the final plate. It took a lot of patience and that's also why my design ended up so sparse. I went through a lot of the powder. I did this all before I cooked the fish and beans so ended up having a late dinner. I was getting mighty hungry. Basically - I played with my food (something our mums never approved of) and spend too!!!!!!!! much time doing it.

I felt it was all very interesting, with an explosion of taste with every bite. But I am still definitely a fresh food gal and will stick with fresh food with only a flutter now and then into the unknown.

Have a look at the Daring Cooks Blogroll to see what the other Daring Cooks have done with this challenge.