Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Homemade marshmallows~

Marshmallows are something I've been wanting to make for a long while now, but have been putting off. Even though I know the process and the technique, there's something a bit daunting about attempting to make such a well-loved, commercial foodstuff.

But when a craft day with a couple of awesome ladies came up on my calendar, I finally decided to do tackle these fluffy delights. With the help of the ever-faithful KitchenAid, called Nigella (shut up),and a good-quality sugar thermometer, these were a joy to make, and a joy to eat.

I used a recipe from the River Cottage Family Cookbook, which a friend had recommended, and even though I made a few adjustments, they came out great. Sweet enough without being sickly, with a nice hint of vanilla, and the texture is the sort of plush squishiness that makes me giggle while eating them!

Homemade vanilla marshmallows   -   makes 42

1 tbsp icing sugar
1 tbsp rice flour
Vegetable oil for oiling tin and knife
25g gelatine powder
125ml hot water
1 tsp vanilla bean paste OR 2 tsp vanilla extract
2-3 drops (optional) red food colouring
2 egg whites
500g caster sugar
250ml water
Must-have equipment:
Free-standing mixer
Sugar thermometer
Butter knife
20cm square cake tin

1. Sift the icing sugar and rice flour together in a bowl. Grease tin all over lightly with a few drops of oil and dust liberally with flour and sugar mixture on all sides. Set aside

2. Mix the 125ml of hot water with gelatine, red food colouring and vanilla with a wooden spoon until the gelatine has all dissolved. Set aside

3. Stand the food mixer on the bench near the stove (if possible). Put the egg whites into the bowl of the mixer

4. Put caster sugar and 250ml water into a medium sized pot. Stir with a wooden spoon over a low heat until sugar has completely dissolved, then stop! 

5. Rinse the sugar thermometer in hot water, then stand it in the pan. Increase heat to high and allow to boil. Meanwhile, switch on the mixer and whisk the egg whites until they're completly stiff, then switch to low. Don't worry about them too much, the air will collapse, but can be beaten up again!

6. The sugar need to boil until it reaches 122C (called 'hard ball' stage), so watch it carefully. Once it reaches this temperature, remove from the heat immediately. Take out the sugar thermometer

7. Pour the dissolved gelatine into the pan of syrup and stir with a wooden spoon until all combined

8. Switch the food mixer back onto high, get the egg whites firm again, then switch to low. Pour the syrup into the eggwhites, avoiding the beaters themselves. The mixture will turn creamy. Once all the syrup is poured, increase the speed and keep beating the mixture until it reaches 'ribbon stage', about the texture of semi-whipped cream

9. Pour the marshmallow into the prepared tin. Cover with a plate or another dish, and allow to set in a cool place (not the fridge). Give it about 2 hours, until slightly tacky to the touch, but firm.

10. Dust a chopping board with the rest of the flour/sugar mixture. Coat butter knife in a little oil, and run it along the edges. Carefully ease the mashmallow out of the tin onto the board using your hands, and the butter knife. It should peel out in one wobbly piece.
Using a sharp knife, rubbed with a little oil, slice the marshmallow into 7 strips, then each strip into 6 3cm x 3cm pieces. Dust the marshmallows all over with icing sugar, then eat!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Rainy days.. Wholemeal date and bran muffins.

After a hot, blustery day yesterday, today was a pleasant change to wake up to. With a gorgeous rain scent on the air and nothing particularly planned to do today, I set about relaxing, drinking tea and sending out job applications.

And.. maybe watching some 'Kitchen Nightmares'. It's a guilty pleasure.

I felt like something sweet, but healthy, so I turned to my favourite muffin recipe and baked these for the family to enjoy. The weather is still switching from rainy and windy, to sunny and full of Spring, but these have hit the spot as usual.

This is my favourite muffin recipe. Wholemeal or white flour, brown sugar or caster, frozen berries or dried fruit, this recipe is reliable every time I use it. It is simply wet ingredients into dry, and the batter can be whipped up in under 10 minutes~

Wholemeal date and bran muffins  -  makes 10 medium sized muffins

220g wholemeal self raising flour
120g brown sugar (I didn't have any castor sugar, either will work)
100ml vegetable oil
150ml milk
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
150 added flavourings (in this case, 100g chopped dried dates and 50g bran cereal)

  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Line a muffin tin with 10 patty pans
  2. Put flour, sugar and dates into a bowl and mix together
  3. In another bowl, mix oil, egg, milk and vanilla together until well combined
  4. Pour wet ingredients into dry and mixed together gently. A lumpy batter makes a light muffin, so use a folding motion and don't beat too roughly
  5. Lastly add the bran and fold through gently
  6. Fill the patty pans 3/4 full, or with a heaped tablespoon
  7. Into the oven for 15 - 20 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean from the centre. 
  8. Enjoy warm with a cup of tea, best on a rainy day~

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Baking to de-stress, orange & polenta cookies.

So I've been tackling the fun task of applying for jobs. This has been stressing me out, as indeed it tends to stress anybody out, so a bit of baking was in order to calm my nerves and my sweet tooth.

.. The only problem being that I seem to have a sudden shortage of ingredients. No cinnamon, no self raising flour (not a big deal, but still annoying), none of my favourite margerine.. I was stumped for a little while. Not to mention my brain was still screaming "WORKWORKWORKJOBSARGH" at me.

After checking a few cook books, I settled on a recipe from a book called 'High Tea: Recipes with a sense of occasion', which is full of awesome slice cakes, fancy little petit fours, brownies, cookies, etc.
I wanted something sweet, but not sickening, with more of a cake-ish texture than a snappy-biscuit.

These turned out exactly as I hoped, nice and light, lots of citrus and the polenta adds a nice texture sensation.

Orange and lemon polenta cookies  -  makes 18


125g unsalted butter or margerine, softened
80g caster sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs, lightly beaten  (I used duck eggs, as I had them and they are fabulous for baking <3)
165g plain flour
80g fine polenta
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Line two baking trays with baking paper
  2. In a large bowl, cream the butter, sugar, zest and vanilla until light and smooth
  3. Gradually add the eggs, beating thoroughly. If the mixture splits, add a tablespoon of flour and beat to combine
  4. Add the flour and polenta bit by bit, until all combined and it forms a sticky dough
  5. Transfer the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle, and proceed to pipe into 10cm long cresent shapes., leaving a 2cm gap between each
  6. Put into the oven for 15 minutes, until golden and coloured on the base
  7. Allow to cool on the tray for a minute or so, then transfer to a wire rack.
  8. Enjoy with a cup of strong coffee or tea.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Once more, with feeling.. [Ramble incoming]

I've believed for a long time now, that what you eat is how you feel, in that your diet can really impact your moods and general wellbeing.

May sound a little bit obvious to some, but to me, it never rang true, until I changed the way I ate in Year 12, after a nasty bit of foodpoisoning. I went from having two hotdogs with cheese (and way too much mustard) and around a litre of vanilla Coke a day, to baked muffins, fruit and -actual- meals.
And amazingly, I noticed a change in my moods. I changed a lot that year, for other reasons as well, but the health kick certainly made a difference.

When I did try to have some processed rubbish again out of sheer laziness, in the form of a nasty school hot dog, I felt wretched afterwards, and was in a completely foul and bleak mood for the rest of the day.
So after that, I cut down and focused, mostly, on whole foods. Well and good.

But even though I eat fairly well now, when I'm lazy, I take shortcuts. Lately, I've been forgetting to eat whole meals, due to outside factors as well. Which has been making me feel, frankly, crap.

Which makes me have no energy and become lazy. Which makes me take shortcuts and not eat properly.

Which makes me feel crap.

Yeah, the pattern is obvious. For a few hours today, I just wanted to go home and mope. Not go anywhere tomorrow. Nope. Just sleep. And maybe cry a little. Pathetic.

After having a seemingly insignificant lunch of a sundried tomato, cheese and chive wholemeal muffin, I near-instantly felt better. Even later after a proper bangers and mash dinner (mmm, chilli sauce), followed by a nice glass of red wine, I look at my mood earlier today and begin to think that my moodswings have been absolutely stupid.

The more stupid thing? I know this all along. Yet we all let ourselves fall into bad habits, only to dig ourselves out, wag our fingers, then slowly slip back.

Maybe I just need to smack myself with a newspaper and get over it. Maybe I need to not be so emotionally linked to food?  Maybe I just need to get into a new health kick and boot myself up the arse.. Or maybe a bit of everything.

Right now? I'm finishing a glass of wine, and somewhat enjoying the fact that eating well makes me happy. Not matter how silly it may seem.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

This is getting out of hand.

Two more, these both filled with wheat so they stand on their own.

I better get some more baking done soon, or these dudes will take over!