Monday, November 24, 2014

Homemade Christmas presents: Vanilla Extract

Two years ago a good friend of mine gave me the best present; it was useful and thoughtful; beautiful and perfect for me. The best part of this present was that it is consumable but can be remade to last forever. Perfect for every baker! So what did she give me?

So this summer, after 18 good months of use, my huge bottle of vanilla extract finally ran out. Aw such a shame, but hold on... this present is renewable. So I decided to show you how to refresh your own vanilla extract, or make it for your own baking buddy.

Here's what you will need:

A bottle to present your gift.
4 Vanilla Pods
Time: 3-6 months

This is remarkably simple to do and I hear you saying that we do not have 3-6 months until Christmas but if you wanted to give this as a gift this Christmas you could prepare it now and suggest not to use for a few months. Honestly the extract has flavour from about a month in but the colour and flavour develops best in the 6 month period.

Anyway here we go:

Roll your vanilla pods and then slice them in half

Scrap out the seeds and add to the bottle, then add your sliced pods.

Now simply fill up with the vodka and shake. Then store and shake periodically and after just 3 months - voila -

Final note:
Ok I'll be honest - this post is a bit phoned in and after missing a week, last week, one might have hoped for something a little more exciting. The truth is that college has gotten crazy hectic and my energy for blogging has suffered. So you have my official apologies for the lack luster blogging but feel assured that soon Christmas baking will get underway and posts will return to normal. In the mean time I really recommend trying this, it's so handy having this much vanilla essence.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Courgette (zuchini) and Cheddar Quiche

 This week I'm making something a bit different as it's not sweet for once. This quiche came to me on a Sunday when I needed to make something special for Sunday lunch but also needed to use up a couple of different things in the fridge, namely eggs and courgettes (zuchinis). So I threw together this quiche and it immediately became a favourite with the bf. So this week I decided to share the recipe with you, and I would definitely recommend trying it.

Courgette and Cheddar Quiche

Short crust pastry (just ensure that you leave the sugar out, you can add cheese here if desired)
11-12 Eggs
1 onion
4 courgettes (zuchini)
1 tsp salt
1 clove garlic crushed
1/4 cup cheddar + extra for sprinkling
pepper to your preference

I should start this recipe with a warning, it requires some prep-work and planning, it's manageable without the prep but it just won't be the same. It is necessary to shred the courgette and take some of the water out before starting the cooking process. I would recommend doing this approx 5 hours ahead but even an hour ahead would help. So here's how I do it. Grate the courgettes with a large holed grater. Measure out one teaspoon of salt before you do and sprinkle a little a little between each courgette that you grate. Then mix together very well. The salt will start to draw out water from the courgettes. Drain the water using a sieve.

Place the drained courgettes into a colander that has been lined with clean kitchen paper.

Push the remaining kitchen paper over the top of the courgettes and placing the colander over a plate leave it in the fridge for at least an hour up to over-night.You will also need to prepare and chill your short crust pastry, or if you are using pre-made then you will need to let it come up in temperature so that you can work with it.

Roll out your dough and place into a greased pie case. Line this with grease-proof paper and fill with ceramic beads, or just dry rice, focusing the most weights on the edges and against the walls to prevent shrinkage. I also leave extra pastry over the edge to allow for a little shrinkage.

While the dough is cooking heat some olive oil in a frying pan, sautee the diced onion and add your well drained courgettes.

Cook these together and add some crushed garlic for flavour. Cook for approx 2-3 minutes stirring regularly so that none of the courgette pieces brown. In the mean-time beat together 11-12 large eggs, I leave out 4 yolks but you can choose to include if you wish. Push the courgettes and onions to the side and add your beaten eggs to the pan.

Toss the eggs and courgettes and add 1/4 cup of grated low fat mature cheddar. Only cook the eggs until they start to come together and then remove from the heat to stop the cooking process. Then pour into the pastry case.

Sprinkle with a bit more cheddar and return to the oven for just 15-20 minutes, checking on it after 10 minutes.

Beautiful hand modelling from my bf here!

Then enjoy your quiche with some delicious salad.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The almost perfect oatmeal raisin cookies

I have been searching for years for the perfect oatmeal raisin cookie recipe. This search has been more of an endless adventure, the never-ending story of my baking life to date! I have made many many different and delicious oatmeal raisin cookies but none of them tasted like the bakery style that I became addicted to in the states. I dream about those cookies. I'm sure I have detailed the lengths I would go to eat more of these cookies and then hide the fact that I ate all the cookies.....heehee! They were the type of food that I love and hate and love to hate. In previous posts I had detailed my hopelessness and acceptance that these cookies could only be achieved without the use of additives and fake flavours. This did not stop me from constantly oogling other people's oatmeal raisin recipes for inspiration. So when I saw a little tip from Divascancook about using pureed raisin in the cookie dough and it hit me like a ten-foot truck - that-'s the taste. So I set about adjusting the recipe and came up with these, which are almost perfect. So try them for yourself and see if they are the perfect ones for you!

Almost perfect oatmeal raisin cookies (with tip from divascancook)

225g softened butter
330g dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
25 grams of sultanas (for puree)
2 tbsp boiling water
260g Plain flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
90g quick cook oats
90g large steel cut oats
150g sultanas or raisins

Beat together the butter and sugar

Add the eggs and vanilla with a small amount of the flour mixture to prevent breaking

Beat together the flours, baking powder, soda, spices and salt

Pour the boiling water over the sultanas for puree, let sit for a minute and then puree.

Add in the flour mixture and the pureed sultanas to the butter mixture and beat to combine

Add the oats and raisins.

Chill in the fridge for at least an hour, then scoop out even spoons of mixture onto a lined baking sheet, press to flatten and then bake for approx 10 minutes on 180'. Keep a very close eye on them though and remove from the oven as soon as the center starts to look remotely cooked.

Flatten with a spatula and then let them cool on the baking sheet. Then enjoy.

So.........that went well......but I'm back with a bang!

At the start of the year I said that I would try to post more regularly and......yeah....that didn't happen =/ Finishing this doctorat...