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Cooking and baking - The Lyorn's Den

Sun Mar. 21st, 2010

02:13 am - Cooking and baking

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Chocolate-lemon muffins

For K___'s party on Feb 13th I made chocolate-lemon muffins. Which was a little cheating, because the chocolate muffin part came out of a box. I have not yet managed to get muffins as chocolaty with normal ingredients than the cake mix factory does with whatever they are using, and with K___ "heavy on the chocolate" is always a good idea. The box had some paper forms for the muffins, which I put on the muffin tin. Which turned out not to be such a good idea.

For the lemon part, I mixed about four tablespoons of cream cheese with the same amount of lemon marmalade. I also put in one teaspoon of brown sugar, which was completely unnecessary.

Put half of the dough in the forms, added a teaspoon of lemon cream to each, put the rest of the dough on top. Sticky affair, and the paper forms were too small and running over.

Bake it as it says on the box. Let it cool some. Take a small wooden spoon and carefully knock loose the lemon cream mass, which has oozed out of the chocolate dough and caramelised. Try to grab the edge of the paper forms. Realise that this won't work when you are about to pull the paper from out from under the muffin which will stay happily in the metal form. Knock some more sticky caramelised lemon cream loose. Grab two sides of the paper form. Extract the muffin carefully and with a minimum of crumbling. Eat crumbles. Let the muffin solidify for five minutes. The put the muffins in a large tin, because OMG you are already late for the party!

I didn't get to try the muffins, they were gone before I had eaten my first bowl of K___'s Irish Stew. But I suspect the recipe could use some fine-tuning.

Date-and-walnut muffins

For my birthday, I went with something that I had tried and found good before.

The trick with muffins is that as soon as the damp stuff meets the dry stuff, the clock is ticking. Every minute you do not need to get the tray into the oven makes the muffins better. So, good preparation is the key.

First, set the oven to 180°C. Put a few drops of oil into every form on the muffin tray and spread it. Put the muffin tray on the balcony if it's cold out there, or in the freezer if it isn't.

Take 100g of dates with no stones, and a 100g bag of (shelled) walnuts. Cut the dates into small pieces. Count out twelve walnut halves and set them aside. Eat a few of the rest. Chop what's left. (Recipe said 60 grams.) Mix this with the rest of the dry stuff in a large bowl: 280g flour (I have tried a darker flour, and found it not-so-good), half a tablespoon teaspoon of cinnamon, 2 teaspoons of baking powder and one teaspoon of baking soda (no idea why that combination, I just do it).

In a smaller bowl, mix the damp stuff: 80ml of oil (I used the neutral plant oil that you can use for frying or deep-frying too and that does not taste of anything), 250ml buttermilk, one egg, 100g dark honey, one tablespoon of brown sugar (the dark honey is not that sweet. When I use sweeter honey, I do not put in additional sugar) and about one tablespoon of lemon juice. (I squeezed a fresh lemon). Mix the whole thing with a fork or whisk, it takes some time to mix, especially if it is cold in the kitchen and the honey feels sluggish.

Get the tray back from the balcony. Get a cooking spoon. Remember, this needs to go quickly, and a cooking spoon does the job a lot quicker than an electric mixer. Dump the damp stuff in the dry stuff and start mixing. Once everything is equally damp, start filling the forms in the tray, put half a walnut on top of every pre-muffin, and shove the whole thing in the oven.

Bake for 25 minutes. Let it cool so that you can touch it, then get the muffins out. (The details of this are left to the ingenuity of the baker. I think I might be getting a silicone muffin tray one of these days.)

Let cool, put in tin. Will keep (in theory) for a few days.

Chocolate-coffee cake

I have a chocolate cake baking book, and while all the recipes I tried so far were delicious, none was simple. This cake is as close to simple as it gets: Basic 4/4, like a pound cake (only with half-pounds).

Take four large eggs, weigh them. That should be about 230 grams, might be more, might be less. That is how much flour, sugar (golden or brown cane sugar) and butter you need. You need half as much in ground almonds, and about 90 grams of cacao powder. As well as a teaspoon of espresso powder, finely ground (which it should be already), some hot water, and a little bit of... well, the recipe says "coffee liqueur or brandy" -- as I did have neither one nor the other, I used Scotch whisky instead.

The most difficult part was getting the butter to room temperature, because "room temperature" as far as the butter is concerned, is about 22°C, but the actual room temperature was closer to 16°. Anyway. Heat the oven to 180°C, get a 24 cm round baking pan, put baking parchment paper on the bottom, and grease the sides.

Sieve the flour, the cacao powder and the coffee powder -- it's worth it, it mixes much better. The recipe says sieve the almonds also, which I won't try ever again. Just mix the almonds in with the rest, add a pinch of salt, and the right amount of baking powder for the amount of flour. (I used half baking powder, half baking soda, which turned out fine.)

Crack the eggs into a second bowl (I hope you have a dishwasher -- I haven't) and mix with a fork.

In a third bowl, beat the butter until soft (electric mixer rules), put in sugar, when it's smooth, put in the eggs. Don't dump in everything at once, if you can, it mixes better in small doses. If you do not have three hands, of if the cats try to eat the eggs while you are doing it, it might not be worth it.

Put in the dry stuff, some hot water as needed (not more than a few tablespoons), and the Scotch (same). Get the whole thing into the baking pan and into the oven. Set the clock to 40 minutes. Lick the third bowl clean. (You do not have to, but it's one of the perks.)

With this cake, it's really worth to check if it's done, with a (metal!) knitting needle or something similar. Cover the cake with tinfoil if it is not done after 40 minutes but is getting dark on top. It needed 50 minutes in my oven.

Take it out and get it carefully out of the form.

Do something else for, oh, three hours or so.

Then take 150g of chocolate (I used Lindt 50% half-bitter, the thin bars break well) and break it into pieces. Put 150g of cream in a pot and set on high. Watch it like a hawk. As soon as it tries to get out of the pot, take it off the heat and put the chocolate in, as well as about a tablespoon of Scotch (or whatever). Leave it alone for five minutes or so, then mix well.

Do something else for (depending on the temperature in the kitchen) 15 to 30 minutes. When you come back, the chocolate/cream mix should still be fluid but not runny. You'll see why.

Spoon the mix on the cake. Be patient, give it time to flow where it wants to. In the end, the cake should have a thick layer of chocolate on top. Put it somewhere safe, and clean up the chocolate which will be everywhere by now.

According to the recipe the cake keeps one week in a tin. I doubt that it will keep one week anywhere. Or anywhere around me, K___ and mad_freddy, at least.

It's a nice, simple, basic cake that invites you to be creative. Cut it in half and fill it with marmalade or jam. Spike it with coffee liquor, lemon liquor, or more Scotch. Fill it with marzipan. Paint or write on the glazing. Bake it in a square pan and cut it in 25 squares instead of 12 pieces. Use half-dark half-white chocolate for the glazing. For the ambitious, fill the cake with French or German buttercream.

Now to something completely different: Indian red lentil soup

This is not a recipe anyone who knows me would expect me to cook or eat because it contains coconut. To explain, I am not allergic to coconut. I love fresh coconut. However, most coconut used in most dishes -- especially for baking or for decoration -- tastes rancid to me. Even a little is enough to make me spit and cough because it tastes just disgusting.
Coconut milk from a can might be fine, or not -- depends on brand and luck. This time, it was very good. I hope that is repeatable, because the soup is very yummy and I still have red lentils left.

What I actually made was four times the amount described here, but scaling up is IME easier than scaling down, so I'll just give the amount for (I guess) four people. To be a full meal, you need to serve bread with it.

Finely chop one onion and one clove of garlic. Wash 200g red lentils. On medium heat, melt 40g butter in a pot not smaller than 4 litres. Put in the onion, garlic, lentils, as well as a teaspoon of curcuma and two teaspoons of garam masala. This likes to burn, so stir well.

When it looks OK or you are losing against its attempts to stick to the bottom of the pot, add 600ml water. Put in enough vegetable broth cubes for that amount of water. Add one small tin (400ml) tomatoes and one tin (400ml) coconut milk. Stir well, set heat to high until it boils. Then turn the heat back to medium or medium-high, put a lid on and have it slow boil for 20 minutes or so.

Use a stick blender to make it smooth. If it refuses to become smooth, let it slow boil for ten more minutes.

Before serving, add salt and chilli powder to taste. (Be aware that the longer the chilli powder is in the soup, the hotter the soup will get. If you don't put the soup on the table soon after tasting, use less chilli powder than you think you need. You can always add more later.)

It might have been better if I used a little less water, I'll try that next time.

Notes on bao -- no recipe

I do not have the recipe flederkatz used for bao. She says she started out with this and then just tweaked it until it was right. She suggests using fresh yeast, "Spätzlemehl" and letting the filling cool before you handle it. She also made a dip from soy sauce, ketjap manis, dry sherry, brown sugar, finely chopped ginger and probably other things. flederkatz feels that bao are simple dish and not much effort to make. One of these days I have to find out what she considers "much effort". Until then, I stand in awe, and am plotting to get her to make bao again.

Good to know: When the bao are (is?) done, you can store them for two days in a cool room and re-heat them in the microwave (15 seconds on "high")

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