Wednesday, 22 January 2014

First batch of ice-cream

For the first go at making ice-cream I decided to make the 'pukka' vanilla ice-cream with whole milk, egg yolks and double cream.

It was great - creamy, smooth, delicious. The problem was that it was too rich and so could only be eaten in small quantities. I will now experiment with other flavours and fats. The good thing about the ice-cream maker is that it can be stored in the freezer and ice-cream or sorbets can be made within half-an-hour. This is the length of time the maker needs to stir the batter mixture into ice-cream.

Last night's dessert was a meringue cake. I used the egg-whites left over from making the ice-cream and a recipe from an earlier series of Bake Off. There was a layer of chocolate fudge cake with a meringue layer at the top and bottom. The filling was creme fraich and tinned mandarin oranges. It should have had raspberries but I didn't have any. It tasted OK, but with the cake element was a bit filling. Lesson Number 5: Find another way of using up the egg whites, or eliminate the cake layer.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

More from the mixer ...

The mixer manual has a setting for creaming potatoes so I thought I would cream the potatoes for these shepherds pies. I used red-fleshed Highland Burgundy Red potatoes that go very mushy when boiled (I bought these because they were red-labelled with a 75% reduction!). To make up the quantity I added a parsnip.
Individual Shepherds Pies
The mixer did not cream as well as I had hoped and I had to finish the creaming by hand. I then grated cheese on top of the potato for a nice finish. 
Lesson No 4: refer to Lesson number 1.

Having learned from Lesson No. 2 that the mixer is great for whisking I attempted a lemon meringue pie from scratch. I used a James Martin recipe, but only used half the quantity because my dish was smaller than his.

Lemon Meringue Pie

The result was great, and as you can see from the photo the mixer produced an enormous amount of meringue from just three egg whites. Next time I will try piping the meringue to give a better finish.
Kitchenaid Ice-cream maker attachment

There was big excitement this week. Kitchenaid's special Christmas offer was a free ice-cream maker and when it arrived on Tuesday I was eager to try it out. Disappointingly the first requirement is to place it in the freezer for a minimum of 15 hours before it can be used. I also need to buy some whole milk, cream and more eggs before I can make the recipes in the manual. In the meantime I have been surfing for ice-cream recipes and found lots that have less fattening ingredients so I will experiment with various milks and alternatives to cream and let you know how they compare. I have never used an ice-cream maker before so I am really keen to experiment.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Baking enthusiasm revived by spectacular birthday present

Having had two years of intense university study the pleasure of baking was set aside as a time-consuming luxury, but now that my lovely children bought me a food mixer for my recent big birthday my enthusiasm is revived. I am now eager to improve my cooking skills and overcome my fear of culinary failure. I have began baking again.

This is my industrial-strength food mixer:

This was the first time I had used a modern mixer. The contestants on Bake Off all seem proficient in the use of this equipment, but I had no idea where to start. I started with the manual. I learned what the different beaters were for and what speeds to use. What puzzled me was why the manual insisted that after setting the speed back to zero the mixer had to be unplugged before doing anything else. Why did they not just add an on/off switch? Once I had learned how to change the beaters, remove the bowl and tip up the motor unit I felt I could trust myself to give it a go.

I made the yorkshire puddings for this dish.The meal is a medallion of sirloin steak on roast vegetables with a red wine sauce topped with yorkshires. It should have been one big yorkshire, but I didn't have the right size tin. I added the broccoli because I felt it need a green vegetable. The yorkshires were good, but the quantity was so small in the mixer that I think I should have just used a fork.
Lesson number 1: Small quantities are best done by hand.

Next experiment - chocolate macaroons sandwiched with dark chocolate ganache. These were the best macaroons I had made to date, although still not perfect. There was not much of a foot and they were uneven sizes.
Lesson number 2: Mixer is great for whisking. Next time I will use a piping bag, and warm the ganache instead of using it straight from the fridge.

This was a Mary Berry recipe. She calls it Tarte Amandine. It is a pastry base spread with mincemeat and covered in a frangipane topping. I made the pastry in the mixer, but mindful that James Martin says that making pastry in a mixer overworks the gluten and doesn't make a good crumbly, short pastry, I finished the crumbling by hand. The best part of the mixing the frangipane in the mixer is that Mary Berry said there was no need to wash the bowl after making the pastry, thereby saving time. It looks heavy to eat - like a bakewell - but is actually very light and makes a nice dessert with a scoop of ice-cream. I made two and froze one.
Lesson number 3: Experiment with mixer versus hand-mixed pastry to see if there is a difference in texture.