Thursday, July 16, 2015

Apple Cinnamon Tea Loaves

Salutations once more fellow food lovers! We have been busy with kitchen renovations as of late so haven't had a chance to try any recipes let alone any new foods. But, as you can see, we FINALLY have access to our kitchen and cookbook collection once more! So how did we celebrate this glorious moment? By trying out a new tea time treat. 

Apple Cinnamon Tea Loaves
90g (3 ounces) butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (110g) caster (superfine) sugar
1 egg
1 1/3 cups (200g) self-raising flour
1/2 cup (125ml) milk
1 medium red apple (150g), quartered, cored, sliced thinly
15g (1/2 ounce) butter, melted
1 tablespoon white (granulated) sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Spiced honey cream
2/3 cup (160ml) double (thick) cream
2 teaspoons honey
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 180°C/ 350°F. Grease 8-hole (3/4 cup/ 180ml) petite loaf pan.
2. Beat softened butter, extract and caster sugar in small bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg,  beat until combined. Stir in sifted flour and milk, in two batches. 
3. Divide mixture into pan holes; top with apple, brush with melted butter, sprinkle with half the combined white sugar and cinnamon. 
4. Bake loaves about 20 minutes. Sprinkle  hot loaves with remaining sugar and cinnamon mixture. Stand loaves 5 minutes before turning top-side up onto wire rack to cool. 
5. Meanwhile, make spiced honey cream.
6. Serve warm cakes with spiced honey cream.

~ The Artist ~ 

Since we don't have a set of mini pans which was suggested to use, I actually ended up using a muffin tin and evenly distributed the dough to be cooked. The only small change to the original recipe I had to do was add a little bit of additional time to the cooking process but that was about it. The end result of this little treat was a light and slight buttery flavor with a fluffy cake texture reminiscent of an light bundt cake. The unanimous suggestion that has come up with this particular recipe, however, is to replace the milk with an equal amount of unsweetened applesauce so that the cake had some apple flavor aside from the apple slices that were on top as garnish. Besides that small change for a future try, this is the perfect accompaniment to a light or slightly fruity tea such as either a green tea or fragrant herbal. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Victorian Lavender Cookies

With Spring finally here, we have chosen to look at Victorian recipies to welcome the blooming flowers. What could be better then adding some of these delicate blossoms into a fregrant treat to be enjoyed with a cup of tea and friendly company? Let's get this season kicked off with cookies!

Victorian Lavender Cookies 
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon culinary lavender, crushed
1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt 

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes.
  3. Add eggs, lavender, flour, baking powder and salt to creamed butter and mix until combined.
  4. Drop by teaspoon onto ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes.

~ The Gamer ~
The appearance of these cookies could lead one to initially think that they'd be more on the savory side, but the first bite will quickly get rid of any thoughts along those lines. It actually ends up being slightly sweet, with small buttery tones in the background. There's also a very small hint of what I would best describe as herbal spice, most likely from the lavender. The cookies turned out nice and soft on the inside, with just a slight amount of crunch on the bottom where it browned the most. I would say that in terms of moistness, it's somewhere in the middle, leaning just a little bit towards the dry side. This is definitely a baked good that I would recommend to others, and what's more, it's my own opinion that it doesn't need anything additional added to it. The only thing that might make it even better is a nice hot cup of green tea, something light that would compliment the flavor of the cookie without overpowering it.

~ The Artist ~
I thought that it would be a good plan to start this chapter of our food adventure off with something simple so chose a fairly basic recipe. I did leave the cookies in the oven for a couple of minutes longer in the oven then the stated 10 minutes just to be sure the little treats were cooked all of the way through. Pulling them out of the oven and let them cool for a moment, I was delighted to see how fluffing and light they came out to be. Not overly sweet and having a light flavor of lavender, I found myself wishing I had some home made fruit jams or even other light treats to go along with them. An absolute treat for a nice Spring day in the garden. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Fruit Bonnag

Today we venture into the land of the Isle of Man which is off of the coast of England. With so many traditional foods similar to those of England, it took some time in order to discover something that would be unique for the area. Searching and taking time to pick through the various things on the internet, we discovered some interesting baked good recipes. Deciding on one was only the first part of the adventure in this European adventure. Are you prepared for this humorous journey in food? 

Fruit Bonnag
225g plain flour
a pinch of mixed spice 
a pinch of nutmeg
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
110g butter
110g light soft brown sugar
225g sultanas (golden raisins)
225g currants
225g raisins
225g mixed peel
1/2 tbsp black treacle 
2-3 tbsp buttermilk, to mix 

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C/140°C fan/gas 3. Sift the flour, a pinch of salt, mixed spice, nutmeg, and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl, rub in the butter until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs, Stir in the sugar, fruit and peel. Add the treacle and mix to a fairly stiff dropping consistency with buttermilk or milk. 
  2. Turn mixture into a well-greased 1 lb loaf tin and bake for 2 1/2 hours in the center of oven - a skewer should come out clean after inserting into the cake. 

~ The Artist ~ 
Well this was perhaps the most amusing quest into European recipes that I've ever had.  Bonnag is a type of all purpose bread but it doesn't follow the standard format that I'm used to. That wasn't the issue I was having when looking through the ingredients and temperature when I was converting things. I had to replace the golden raisins and currents with dried cranberries due to the local grocery store was out of both at the time for some reason and also had to replace black treacle with molasses.The temperature ended up being 320°F which wouldn't have been bad save for the 2 1/2 hour time frame. I discovered that it only took 1 hour 25 minutes to cook completely through. Even with the minor changes, it came out rather well. With a nice crust but warm moist interior, the raisins and cranberries worked well with the molasses. It reminded me of a merging of a holiday molasses bread mixed with a fruit bread. Delicious with a little bit of butter and pairs nicely with a cup of black tea. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Scottish Apple Scones

Huzzah! As you know, for the month of March we will be taking a look at the traditional foods of Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Isle of Man, and England. Why? Why not! As we continue on with our tour of foods from our Atlantic neighbors, we take a stop at Scotland. While hunting and researching, we discovered an entire variety of traditional recipes which made narrowing down what we should try that much more difficult. So many things to try and not enough time or kitchen space. 

Apple Scones
One medium cooking apple 
8 oz (250g or two cups) self raising flour (all-purpose flour with baking powder) 
½ teaspoon salt 
Level teaspoon baking powder 
2 oz (60g or ½ stick) butter 
2 oz (60g or ¼ cup) castor (fine granulated) sugar 
Up to ¼ pint (150ml or half cup) milk
Ingredients for glaze: 
A little milk 
1oz demerara (light brown) sugar

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C (400°F or Gas Mark 6). 
  2. Peel and core the apple and then finely chop. Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder. Then rub in the butter followed by the sugar and chopped apple and mix. Add milk until you have a soft but not sticky dough. 
  3. Roll out on a floured surface to about ¼" thick and 8" round and mark into 8 wedges. Place on a greased baking sheet, brush the top with milk and sprinkle with the demerara (light brown) sugar. Bake in the pre-heated oven at 200°C (400°F or Gas Mark 6) for 20-25 minutes. Serve warm with butter.

~ The Artist ~
Originally I was a bit puzzled by the measurements that were given for the flour. Not because the recipe was obviously European but the fact that it seemed so indecisive. Going on a hunch, I went with the 2 cups of self raising flour. During the baking process, I did not expect for the round of scones to spread as much as as they did. The size went from 8" round to about 12" round. However even with this, the crust became a golden brown once it was done baking. The inside was soft and slightly crumbly. With a light and faintly sweet flavor, it was a perfect pairing with a cup of tea. The only moment of disappointment that I had was that I was hoping for more of an apple flavor but I would need to experiment a little in the future when creating the dough.  

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Irish Tea Cake

March is finally here and we would like have decided that we will be taking a look at our friends across the Atlantic and try foods from Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and England this month. So how are we going to kick this off? By taking a look at a recipe for an Irish Tea Cake. 

Irish Tea Cake
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar (for dusting) 

  1. Pre-heat oven to 175° C (350° F). Grease and flour a 9 inch round pan. 
  2. In medium bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time then stir in vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; stir into the batter alternately with the milk. If the batter is too stiff, a tablespoon or two of milk may be added. 
  3. Spread the batter evenly into prepared pan. 
  4. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack, then turn out onto a serving plate. Dust with confectioner's sugar. 

~ The Gamer ~
     Today Dawn ended up deciding to make an Irish tea cake, something that my occasionally short attention span apparently failed to note until she asked me if I would like a slice of it. I'm happy to say that it came out quite well. Although rather plain looking, the inside was soft and warm, while the outer crust had just enough crunch to give it a bit of variety. The taste actually reminded me a bit of the Greek Almond Crescents we had written about previously, sweet but not overly so. Some people might even be reminded of cornbread upon tasting it, albeit without the corn flavor that comes with it. Definitely something to have with a nice hot cup of tea (or coffee if that's your preference). Personally, I would probably go with a nice herbal or black tea to offset the powdered sugar that was used as a topping.

~ The Artist ~
     Originally I was asking some of my regular readers from Facebook for traditional Irish dishes in celebration of the upcoming St. Patrick's Day so I could steer away from the Americanized, stereotypical 'Irish' food which is typically seen as sweets loaded in green food coloring or just alcoholic beverages out of the wahzoo. Luckily some friends were able to give some suggestions but I was struck by the thought that why not have the month of March just be focusing on Wales, Scotland, Ireland and England. I've had this particular recipe for some time in and can't remember where I actually found it but thought that this would be the perfect opportunity to try it out. The process itself was quite simple and only needed to put a little bit of extra time in order to make sure that the center was cooked completely through. Every time I opened the oven door, the kitchen was filled with the sweet aroma of the cake. Once we were able to sample the treat once it was cooled enough, I was delighted over how soft it was on the inside and how the crust had just the right amount of firmness. A suggestion for a possible alternative in the future was replacing the vanilla extract with almond extract. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Banana Bailey's Crumble

As the month of February winds down and the weather hasn't quite figured out what it wants to do, the need to make something different stuck and struck hard. What could possibly
strike the fancy of a food seeker? Roaming the resident kitchen library, the decision was made to look through Bootleg Bakery: wickedly boozy treats inspired by the roaring twenties by Kiki Bee. Flipping through the illustrated pages of various treats, one seemed to be an interesting combination of flavors to try out. What could possibly go wrong?

Banana Bailey's Crumble 
3 ripe bananas
100 ml (6 1/2 tablespoons) Bailey's Irish Cream
2 tablespoons clear honey
100 g (3 1/2 oz) milk chocolate, roughly chopped 

For the crumble topping:
150 g (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) all-purpose flour
100 g (6 1/2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
golden caster/natural cane sugar, for sprinkling

6 small ramekin dishes

  1. Preheat the oven to 190° C (375° F) Gas 5
  2. In a bowl, mash the bananas with the back of a spoon, then add the Bailey's and honey. Give the mixture a couple of good stirs, then divide between the ramekins (the mixture should come about two thirds of the way up the dish). Set aside while you make the crumble topping. 
  3. Put the flour and butter in a large mixing bowl and rub between your fingers until you have a crumbley texture. Cool hands and a cool head are required, so don't overwork the mixture. 
  4. Sprinkle the crumble topping over the Bailey's banana mixture, dividing it equally between the ramekins. Finally, sprinkle a little sugar on top of each crumble. Set the ramekins on a baking sheet and pop in the middle of the preheated oven to bake for about 12-15 minutes until the crumble is lightly golden. Serve immediately with a side order of vanilla ice-cream. 

- The Artist - 
     Though I had an enjoyable time making this recipe, there are some issues with the book itself that I would like to address before anyone decides to purchase a copy of their own. First off, as you may have already noticed with this particular food feature, there is a bit of a discrepancy  between ingredients and directions. The list of items has chocolate in it but the directions makes no mention of the ingredient, yet it is obvious in the dish in the photograph. This is not the first of a random set of editing oversights and missed corrections in the book. From mis-labeled oven temperatures to missing ingredients or directions, make sure you have your pencils ready to write in corrections. This particular recipe I didn't use any chocolate in it and it actually took a bit longer then expected for the crumble topping to brown. Flavor wise, on the other hand, was quite tasty and reminded me of perhaps a pudding version of banana bread. So warm and creamy! Even though I could smell the sweetness of the Bailey's, I really couldn't taste it since the flavors mixed so surprisingly well with the banana. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Spinach Mushroom Quiche

Having decided to look at various quiche recipes, the Artist of the questing duo decides to make this a special project out of this choice. What could she possibly do with a recipe submitted to a website like Well just wait and see! 

Spinach Mushroom Quiche
1 prepared 9 inch single pie crust
4 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley 
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 (10 ounce) bag fresh spinach
1 (8 ounce)  package sliced fresh mushrooms
1/2 yellow onion, sliced
1/2 (4 ounce) container crumbled feta cheese
1/2 (8 ounce) package shredded Swiss cheese, divided

  1. Preheat oven to 400° F (200°C) 
  2. Fit pie crust into a 9-inch pie dish
  3. whisk eggs, milk, parsley, garlic, salt, black pepper, and nutmeg in a bowl 
  4. Gently combine spinach, mushrooms, onion, and feta cheese in a separate bowl. Spread spinach-mushroom mixture in the prepared pie dish; top with half the Swiss cheese
  5. Pour egg mixture evenly over the filling, swirling egg mixture in bowl to spread seasonings through the eggs; top the quiche with remaining Swiss cheese. Place quiche on a baking sheet. 
  6. Bake in preheated oven until the quiche is lightly puffed and browned, 45 to 50 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center of the filling should come out clean. Cool for 30 minutes before serving 

~ The Artist ~ 
     Alright folks who may be choosing to make something for themselves or for a loved one this Valentine's Day, I would like share a little bit of advice when cooking. I have found over the years of cooking that it's similar to speaking. There will be times where you know what to say, in this case using a recipe as a script to follow, which comes out the way you expect. Then there are times when that looking at your 'script' that it doesn't seem right. That the predicted ending does not articulate correctly what you instinctively feel. These are the times that you will find yourself using the recipe as a simple guide and then changing things here and there to make the end result come out the way you see fit. Will the appearance of the end result be exactly like it is displayed on that little recipe? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. But the presentation shouldn't be the first thing that you should be concerned with. Does it taste good? How is the texture against your tongue? These are the parts of your 'conversation' that are just as important as the pretty little display on your plate. Of course I will probably get a great many professional chefs disagreeing with me on this but oh well. 

     Originally I was debating if I should even share the recipe for this due to the fact that I had change so many things along the way but my other half suggested that it would be best if I did but also mentioned the changes I had done. I had to agree with his logic on this so please bear with me on this one. 

Changes made to recipe: 
-Switched out 'store bought pie crust' with making homemade savory tart crust 
-Omitted parsley 
-Cheeses used include feta, mozzarella, and raw milk gouda 
-Cooked the onions, garlic and half of the mushroom first before putting together the spinach-mushroom mixture

     The end result of the changes that I made to the recipe was that the cheeses worked together in harmony with a balance of creamy, salty and mild sharpness. With the onions having been cooked before hand, the subtle onion flavor enhanced the flavors of the other seasonings and wasn't overpowering as it would have been if left in a raw state when put with the spinach-mushroom mixture. I ended up pairing the quiche with some small turkey sausages and a light salad to round everything off.