Sunday, September 9, 2012

Chocolate Glaze

     As promised, here is a recipe for an easy chocolate glaze that you can use on cakes and brownies. It can hardly be called a recipe since it requires only two ingredients. But here you go anyway:

Chocolate Glaze

40g dark chocolate
1 TBSP butter/margarine
flavourings* (optional)
makes enough to cover a small 6-inch cake

1. Chop the chocolate into small pieces and place in a microwave-safe bowl.
2. Microwave on medium power for 30 seconds.
3. Add the butter to the chocolate and microwave for another 30 seconds.
4. Stir the chocolate-butter mixture to check the consistency.
5. Continue microwaving in 15 second bursts until the mixture is a creamy consistency.
6. Add flavourings* of choice and stir well.
7. Using a spatula, spread onto cake/brownie.
8. Put the cake/brownie in the fridge to set for at least 2 hours.

* ½ teaspoon of any extract (vanilla, peppermint, almond...) 
1 tsp grated orange rind
1 tsp liquer

My go-to Chocolate Cake

    I can't believe I've not posted the recipe for this chocolate cake. I have made it 3 times in the past 2 months and it has always turned out perfectly. It even evokes "Mmmmms" and "Ahhhhhs" from my normally quiet husband. He reserves some space in his tummy for this cake whenever I bake it. That is how good it is.
Pictured with chocolate glaze

     I have just finished assembling a birthday cake for someone. It's a chocolate cake with vanilla custard filling and with chocolate ganache on the top. For the cake, I used this recipe which I can now follow without having to look at any instructions. I took the opportunity to take shots of the process, but please do pardon the fact that the shots are not the greatest.
      Without further ado, I present my favourite chocolate cake recipe to you. If you want a cake that is moist, chocolatey, but not too sweet, this is for you. This recipe baked quite a lot of cake, but it is easily halved. I have halved the recipe on two occasions to bake a smaller cake for just my husband and I.

Go-to Chocolate Cake
makes 2 8-inch cakes or one thick 9-inch cake

225g plain flour
350g caster sugar
80g cocoa powder
1½ tsp baking powder 
1½ tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
2 eggs
250ml milk
125ml vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
250ml boiling water

1. Preheat oven to 175°C. Grease and line 2 round 8-inch cake pans.
2. Place all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and whisk gently to combine.

3. Using an electric mixer or whisk, mix in the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla extract till well combined.
4. Add the boiling water to the batter, a little at a time, and mix well after each addition.

5. The batter will be very runny at this point, but don't worry.

6. Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans.

7. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, then remove the partially baked cakes from the oven.
8. Cover the cake pans loosely with aluminum foil (to prevent the top from burning) and return to the oven for another 15 to 20 minutes.
9. After 15 minutes, insert a skewer in the middle of the cakes to check if they are fully baked. The skewer should come out with a few crumbs on it. If the skewer comes out with batter on it, return the cakes to the oven then check the cakes with the skewer every 5 minutes.
10. When fully baked, remove the cakes from the oven and leave to cool in the pans for 10 minutes.
11. Invert the cakes onto a cooling rack and leave till completely cooled.

You can now proceed to make whatever cake filling you like and use the filling to sandwich the two cakes together. If you baked a big, thick cake, slice it through the middle with a big serrated knife to split the cake into two layers. 
Or have the cake on its own without any filling. I like it better without any filling, but with a chocolate coated topping (Chocolate Glaze recipe).

Friday, September 7, 2012

Potato Pie Crust

     Potatoes were once shunned by dieters trying to reduce their carbohydrate intake. However, not all carbohydrates are created equally and potatoes are an excellent choice with many nutrients and a high-satiety value. Don't believe me? Check this link out.
          Did you know that you can use mashed potatoes to make a healthy pie crust? I came across a recipe for a potato crust when I was looking for something healthy to use as a base for a quiche. 'Quiche' in my home is usually more like a baked omelette- no crust, no cream, and with cottage cheese to increase the protein content. But I had some leftover cream in my fridge from when I made a birthday cake for a friend. So I thought I'd make a 'proper' quiche with a crust for once. I wanted to lighten up the quiche by having a healthier crust instead of shortcrust pastry. So I tried a mashed potato crust and it turned out well!
       I have since used this potato crust for savoury pies topped with puff pastry (less sinful when potatoes are used as a base, instead of more puff pastry) and have always gotten good results. Try it out sometime if you need a healthy pie crust. A bonus is that it is so much easier to whip up than to make a shortcrust pastry!
Healthy pie crust, anyone?

Potato Pie Crust
makes enough for one pie crust

250g potatoes, skinned and cut into chunks
1 tsp margarine
Cooking/baking spray

1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease one big pie dish or two small pie dishes.
2. Boil the potatoes in cold water till fork-tender.
3. Drain the boiled potatoes and mash well.
4. Add the margarine and stir through.
5. Spoon 1/3 of the mashed potato into the pie dish. Using wet fingers, press the potato to form a thin layer on the bottom of the pie dish.

6. To form the crust up the sides of the pie dish, press the mashed potato upwards from the bottom edge of the pie dish with wet fingers.

7. Spray lightly with cooking spray and bake in the preheated oven until the edges of the crust are lightly browned. 
8. Let the crust cool before adding pie pilling, then bake pie following the normal baking instructions.

     The reason I say to use wet fingers is that it prevents a lot of the mashed potato from sticking to your fingers. The starch from the potatoes is rather sticky and I find that working with wet fingers helps a lot. You might end up with some leftover mashed potato. I had some leftover and gave it to my dog, who enjoyed it!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Ham, leek & mushroom filo pie

     Dinner this evening was a homemade pie. I had some filo pastry in the freezer so I decided to use that instead of potatoes to top the pie. The sauce was made with my usual shortcut white sauce. Look for my 'No-fail, Low-fat White Sauce' recipe
     Filo pastry is a good alternative to shortcrust or puff pastry, if you are concerned with the fat content in your food. It is also versatile in the sense that it can be used for sweet or savoury dishes such as apple strudel, baked chocolate parcels, spring rolls and so on. So if you like filo pastry, be assured that you can store it in the freezer, as long as the sheets of pastry are separated so that you can remove what you need from the freezer. To use frozen filo, simply thaw the frozen pastry in your refrigerator for a few hours.
      I'm not a big fan of filo because it can be so brittle and, hence, tedious to work with. It's good on a pie when you don't need it to look pretty. But for things like samosas, torn filo pastry can be a pain to work with.

My pie bubbled over while baking

Ham, Leek & Mushroom filo pie
makes one 9-inch pie OR 2 smaller individual pies

1 tsp vegetable oil
400g cooked chopped ham
1 cup sliced mushrooms (or more)
250g leeks, sliced thinly
2/3 cup grated carrot, optional
(just to add more nutrition)
1/2 tsp dried thyme
salt & pepper

4 or 5 sheets filo pastry
1 TBSP butter/margarine, melted

1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Prepare white sauce.
2.  Heat the oil in a non-stick pan.
3. When oil is hot, add the leeks and mushrooms and sauté till the mushrooms are browned.
4. Add the carrot and ham to the pan and sauté for another 2 minutes.
5. Stir the white sauce and thyme into the pan of sautéed ham & vegetables. 
6. Bring the pan to a simmer then turn off the heat. 
7. Check seasonings, add salt and pepper if necessary. I usually use a lot of pepper.
8. Pour the pie filling into your pie dish/dishes. 

9. Get your melted butter ready and lay one layer of filo pastry on the pie filling. You can tear or scrunch the pastry up to make it fit the pie dish.
10. Using a pastry brush, brush butter on the pastry.
11. Repeat the pastry and butter layers until all your pastry is used up.
12. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.
13. Leave to sit for 10 minutes (just so that the pie isn't too hot) then serve!


I made 2 individual pies because I like having a WHOLE pie

     Lately, I've been making individual pies instead of one bigger pie.  I use a small oven-safe dish (about 20cm diameter) for myself and a slightly bigger Pyrex dish for my husband. I like having my own pie to eat at my own pace. Enjoy your pie!!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

No-fail low-fat white sauce

      White sauce....also known as béchamel sauce. It is a versatile sauce that every cook should know because it can be used in a multitude of recipes. It can be used for lasagnes, pastas, pies and for mac & cheese. Normally, you make roux using butter and flour to act as a thickener for the scalded milk. The roux should be equal proportions of plain flour and butter by weight. Normally you would melt the butter in a pan without letting it brown then mix in the flour till you get a paste. Then you would whisk milk into the flour paste.
      I used to be alright at making a white sauce, until I moved to the Netherlands. For some bizarre reason, I could never get a traditional white sauce right again. It always turned out lumpy, runny or just plain gross. Maybe it's the flour here. Maybe I never used the right amount of butter. Maybe it was just me. I got tired of trying. Then I discovered a different way to make a white sauce which, although thinner on flavour, is a lot quicker and never fails me.
      This method uses no butter at all and cornflour. It is lower in fat than a traditional béchamel sauce recipe (and maybe even gluten free)! No butter needed!
       This sauce can be used for lasagnes, mac & cheese, as a base for a lovely mushroom sauce, as a savoury pie filling etc....

Easy white sauce
makes a little less than 2 cups of sauce

2 cups semi-skimmed milk
1 bay leaf
1/8 stock cube
1 heaped TBSP cornflour
salt & pepper

1. Put the milk into a saucepan. 
2. Take out 2 tablespoons of the milk and put in a small bowl/ramekin.
3. Add the bay leaf to the milk in the saucepan and heat over a low flame.
4. Mix the cornflour into the remaining milk in the small bowl and mix to form a thin paste.
5. When the milk in the saucepan is hot, add the stock cube and stir to dissolve. 
6. Just when the milk starts to boil, remove the bay leaf and pour in the cornflour mixture.
7. Stir gently. Soon the sauce should start to bubble up and thicken. Reduce the heat and simmer the sauce for 1 minute. 
*If the sauce is too thin for your liking, dissolve another 1/2 TBSP cornflour in 1/2 TBSP of room-temperature water and stir into the sauce. Let the sauce simmer for 1 minute.
9. Add salt/pepper and that's it! Done!

Cheese sauce

1 quantity white sauce
1/2 to 1 cup grated cheese
a little mustard powder (optional)

1. Simply stir the grated cheese and mustard powder into the sauce while it is simmering for the last 1 minute.
*Use more or less cheese, if that's what you like.