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Archive for June 2011

I had ground almonds, no sign of a recipe that was light and still involved the ground nut. Not wanting to give in to jarred preservatives, I decidedly set out to make a homemade Nutella, substituting hazelnuts for almonds, at a third of the store-bought equivalent. Chocolate bath and a flat-belly nut? Angels with chef hats are a-singing! Now, pave the shimmering path to the gates of breakfast spread heaven by preparing the following:

Ingredients

1/3 cup (5 tbsp & 1 tsp) ground almonds (Mine was ready ground)

1/2 cup dry, non-fat milk powder

2/3 cup of white, granulated sugar (you can choose to substitute 1/3 with brown to achieve a subtle sweetness)

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tbsp + 1tsp potato starch

3/4 cup whole milk

1 tbsp rice oil

1/4 almond extract (use vanilla and avoid substituting with almond essence if you detest the smell of almonds, or worse, in its artificial essence form)

Directions

  1. In a heavy bottom saucepan, combine ground almonds, milk powder, sugar, cocoa powder and starch. Whisk to combine. Add in milk and oil and whisk till a smooth consistency is achieved.
  2. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture thickens and just starts to bubble. Remove from heat and add extract (if need be).
  3. To get a smooth spread, run it through a strainer.
  4. Transfer spread to a glass jar (approximately 9oz in capacity) with an airtight lid. Cool to room temperature with jar open. Send it to the chiller if you are not consuming it immediately.

Notes

  • The so-called smooth consistency can contain minuscule cocoa powder bubbles. No sweat, because it will be smoothed when you’re cooking it.
  • I opted for a heavy-bottomed saucepan because I fear that the mix will burn if I didn’t stir evenly or consistently.
  • Extracts triumph essences because they are not artificially scented. For vanilla extracts, the alcohol would evaporate upon heat, leaving a subtle enhancing vanilla flavour to the recipe. I added almond essence to mine and it pong-ed the entire spread with its cloying fake scent.
  • Ground almonds are fine enough, at least the ones I picked up at the store. No need for further straining unless you ground the almonds yourself and wish to remove nutty chunks. Chunky spreads can get under one’s skin, especially when it gets wedged in gaps of your teeth. Dinner date mayhem alert!
  • Recycle jam jars… You’ll never know when you need them! One of those inexpensive alternatives. (Winks)

So far, my spread is barely a week old, so I can’t tell how long before it dries out in the fridge. After all, airtight lid or not, shelf life of non-preservative laden food triumphs. So far, I’ve stored some in a shot glass and wrapped it in plastic. After 3 days, the spread thickened but still spreadable. Anyhow, all that sugar and low temperature are stable enough preservatives. Anyway, food is best consumed when fresh so… Keeping smearing ’em on those carbs or apply directly onto your tongue. They won’t hurt… Only that it may turn you against the original!

I think I’m turning.

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I know this looks like a car crash, but this my friend is the sunshine after the rain. Say it with me now: Cinnamon. Rolls. Pure. Bliss.

This recipe excite me on three levels: 1) yeast and dough, the best pairing since yeast was existent; 2) cinnamon, the spice of life (i.e. sniff it when you’re having a bad hair day, it’s an instant perk-me-up!) and 3) a billowy meringue filling. Okay, it’s mostly the billowy meringue filling. It  just triggered something about clouds and unicorns  and most importantly, meringue in its pre-baked form is always a joy to spread, soothe and level. There was definitely something creative and unexpected about this experiment…

Also, any sweet treats with fillings, custard, paste, sprinkles or thereof always piques my interest. I enjoy savouring the intense flavour of its key ingredient, say custard in a custard-filled bun; sweet treats with a bite.

Without further ado, here’s the comforting recipe as adapted from Home Cooking Adventure:

For Rolls

3 cups flour (I used whole wheat (atta) flour)

7 tablespoons rice oil

7 tablespoons whole milk

3 egg yolks

100 ml whole milk

2 teaspoons of dry active yeast

For Filling

3 egg whites

10 tablespoons white, granulated sugar

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder

Directions

  1. Add yeast to 100ml of milk and stir to dissolve. Mix oil, remaining milk and flour in bowl. Use a wooden spatula or your hand to mix. Add yolks and yeast mixture and blend well. Knead well (I used my hands throughout) and turn out onto a clingfilm. Wrap and refrigerate for a full hour to let the yeast develop.
  2. About 50 minutes later, whisk egg whites until foamy and gradually add sugar. This stiffens the egg whites. Continue to add vinegar and vanilla extract, whisking at all times. Finally, add cinnamon powder. Separate this mixture into 3 portions.
  3. Preheat oven to 180C.
  4. Cut chilled dough into 3 portions, rolling each piece out on a lightly floured surface and forming a rectangle of about 30cm x 20cm.
  5. Smear egg white mixture on rolled out dough, leaving a 2cm allowance on all sides. Roll lengthwise to a swiss roll effect, careful not to apply too much pressure as filling would spew out. Continue to slice roll into 2cm thick slices.
  6. Arrange on a lined baking tray, evenly spaced out with spiral pattern face up and rain more cinnamon powder on the slices. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until nicely browned.

Notes:

  • Don’t fret over warming up the milk to activate the yeast. It’ll work its yeasty ways in the most mysterious ways, so simply add it to the cold milk and mix well.
  • I mixed the dough with my hands throughout as it assured me that the dough is well incorporated. You may, however, go clean and use a wooden spatula or stand mixer (WARNING: Make sure stand mixer can withstand dough kneading else motor will burn!)
  • I kneaded my dough till it came away from the bowl, which was my definition of kneading it well.
  • Keep the dough wholly covered in clingfilm to prevent it from drying out in the fridge but take caution in not making a snug package out of it. Dough will rise whilst in fridge, so packing it to the T would cause the plastic wrap to burst at its seams! Package it loosely yet securely.
  • Whip egg white mix till it stiffens till you’ve able to hold the bowl, turned upside down, above your head.
  • Roughly roll the dough out to the dimensions as indicated. The larger the rectangle, the thinner the dough will become. Note that dough thinning will risk tearing during the rolling process.
  • Honestly, filling was way too much for the dough even when I roughly apportioned it equally. Filling will spew out no matter what, so smear any excess onto roll (which explains the rustic, spotty look my rolls are sporting).
  • The next time I’m attempting this recipe, I’m adding more cinnamon to the filling and generously sprinkling it onto my rolls before baking. Adjust amount to preference. Personally, I’m VERY passionate about cinnamon.
  • I lined my baking tray with parchment paper. It’s a god-given gift for all bakers everywhere. Nothing sticks to parchment, so no more frustrating post-bake tray scrapping of stubborn bits.
  • Watch the rolls especially after 10 to 12 minutes. Baking time depends on size of oven and batch. Good rule of thumb: Watch your baked goods like a hawk the moment it enters the cavernous box of metal. I carelessly burnt my last batch of 4. No excuses for me…

Cinnamon roll recipes do not deviate too far from this one, but what was different is the meringue filling. The sweetness of the filling melts on your tongue in the most unabashed way. If you enjoyed meringue anything, you’ll love this recipe. Out of the 15 rolls I’ve made, I fervently wolfed down 10.  Eaten warm or cooled, they have a pleasant crispy and crumbly texture (if you slightly overbaked them like I did). Also, if you adore cinnamon, you’ve already lost half of the battle. Now…

Give. Up. To. Temptation.

I ought to hit the showers for the night. Instead, here I am, composing another blog post.

Speaking of schedules, The Gates (another one of those pseudo-supernatural vampire series I swore never to catch unless it could match True Blood‘s standards. Then again, True Blood kind of lost me so I’m back to watching any drama on free-to-air Channel 5. Furthermore, HBO Asia costs $12.84, GST included on Starhub TV, subjected to local broadcasting censorship. I’ll pass.) by the end of this sentence would start in 2 minutes. Basically, the series is based on a gated community which harbours plenty of secrets. Throw in a conflicted policeman, confused vampires, wild rule-bound werewolves and bewitching potion laden teas and you’ve got yourself another drama that questions the viability of co-existence between the living, living dead and hyper-living (werewolves). So if you are looking for a less raunchy spin on supernatural, tune into The Gates.

Teeny sidetrack: I’ll settle for True Blood’s season four. Talk about a very pale and lost Eric trudging about Bon Temps in the middle of the night… I see an adaptation of my favourite installment in the book series: Club Dead!

If you’re into mild gore, watch Fear Itself. I’m surprised Channel 5 allows for a scene whereby an arm was lopped off by a very angry werewolf. Maybe that’s why it airs every Saturday night at 11; though I’m sure young kids are night owls as well.

When it comes to horror series, Fact or Fiction triumphs. The concept of guessing whether or not the stories are real or fictional is truly chilling. I vaguely remember a story about a grandma who was a red-eyed demon despite repeatedly telling her grandson that the red-eyed monster he sees every night is merely a nightmare. I ended up having sleepless nights.

Right now, no supernatural dramas pique my interest like how Supernatural and Vampire Diaries do. Oh come on, bromance… ‘Nuff said.

Oh, Vampire Diaries also has a winning soundtrack. I now own 125 songs from the first season. If you’re into modern Indie and Alternative rock, it’s aligned to your groove. Time is a runaway. Nights for now!