Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Spreading the Load

Yesterday made another 30 profiteroles, this time better than the previous (although they were OK), they did seem better baked on a flat baking tray with no rim. Perhaps better if I'd cooked them in two batches as on the one (large) tray the middle ones were quite as golden as the outer, although once I'd removed the crispy ones and put the 'middles' back for a few minutes then couldn't tell one from t'other.
Incidentally, it doesn't matter if the choux mixture is cooked as soon as made or allowed to cool. It can even be piped and frozen to bake later, although I prefer to freeze the pastry once cooked.

Love the sound of your doll's house food minimiser deb, myself used to enjoy making miniature foods using different colours of a craft 'clay' that is a bit like Plasticine, but once the item is made it can be hardened off in a domestic oven. Also have made the doll's food using 'baker's clay (made with plain flour, salt, and water), this can also be baked in the oven and then coloured with paints.

Re your query m.deb. When making profiteroles the mixture can be spooned out (with a teaspoon - you don't need more than that) and then pushed from the spoon onto the baking sheet into a 'blob', or - as I am doing this time - with a piping bag.
The piping bags that I'm using came from Lakeland. They are fairly large and disposable, the outer size being slightly rough to stop hands slipping. Have found it is best not to fill them too full, otherwise harder to handle. I fold the top of the plastic bag halfway down and then put it into a long drinking glass (or hold with my left hand under the fold, then fill with a spoon held in my right hand, then snip off the tip to squeeze out as much as needed.
The useful thing about disposable bags is that they can be binned when finished with (they are very cheap to buy).
Much depends on the finished size of the profiteroles, but if large would serve three, make them smaller then serve five (larger foods (by this I don't mean peas) should always be served in odd numbers - do the same with flowers when flower arranging, as the arrangement is always more pleasing to the eye).

Thanks Chrissie for the tip that horse muck loses its smell once rotted. It is always best to leave it for a year before putting it on the garden for, as you say, too fresh and the acid damages the soil/plants.

Watched Superscrimpers last night. Noticed it was the fourth of five episodes, and although saw the first, had to miss the second, it seemed then not to be mentioned in the TV schedules, so somehow missed the third. Does anyone know when this was shown?
Doubt that I would have learned anything that I didn't know already (other than car repairs that I don't now need to know about, but am sure was useful). Is it me or what, but do people really need to be shown how to freeze 'ice-cubes' of wine to later add to a meal they are making?

When the bit in Superscrimpers about the couple spending so much money on regular 'treats out' (mainly dinners, weekends at hotels etc arranged by the man to please his OH), came up and the yearly total was shown, I laughed and looked across at B and said "does that make you feel guilty?". Gosh, that hit a nerve, he glared back at me and was very shirty with his reply, so I quickly added "I can't see many men wanting to spend all that on their partner" (he firmly agreed with that), and thought it best to begin talking about something else. Mind you I was rather envious. It would be good to hve a considerate husband.
To be fair, B does take me out for a meal a few times a year, it's only me feeling the need to have another moan about my man. Think this has become more a habit the older I get, for am definitely ending up a grumpy old woman. finding fault in loads of things. B has always been a grumpy old man, even in his twenties. So I should be grateful that now he is not quite as bad as formerly. Still room for improvement though.

Today I have another batch of profiteroles to make (now needing two drawers in the chest freezer to hold all of them), and as long as they end up OK (shape/size) then over 80 will have been made which is the plan (one profiterole for each year of B's age), need extra just to make sure I have as many perfect looking ones as possible. The rest can stay in the freezer and eaten later.
Tomorrow (Wednesday) Norma the Hair will be coming, that is the day to make three large Sicilian Cassatas (these need to be chilled under pressure for at least a day before turning out and eating), On Thursday will need to make 20 portions of Tiramasu, also chill these overnight, so that mean clearing two shelves in the fridge to hold both desserts.

With the possibility of guests coming (maybe even staying over) also want to give the house a good scrub up and tidy, so am taking the rest of the week off from writing my blog so that I can make an early start. Hope to be back with you on Sunday, once everything has got back to normal.
By 'spreading the load' in this way am hoping to avoid any stress that seems to happen now I am getting ancient (used to cope with anything when younger, now the smallest things can give ma a panic attack), so with any luck, all that will need to be done on Friday is just make the caramel and assemble the Croquembouche.
Must remember to take photographs of the desserts (during making and end results).

Today want to finish with a couple of gluten-free recipes that I discovered last weekend. One day must buy some gluten-free flour and find out if there is much difference using that instead of the normal flour. Did once ask readers if gluten-free flour will work much the same way with most recipes that use 'ordinary' flour, but so far no one has come up with an answer. It would help me when giving future recipes to know.

Because making profiteroles are taken up much of my time this week, it was good to find a recipe to make choux pastry that does use gluten-free flour. The proportions of all ingredients are not the same as the recipe I am using at the moment, so perhaps one recipe cannot be adapted to another when gluten-free flour is used.
Although the choux pastry in the following recipe is piped into circles, no reason why it shouldn't be piped (or spooned) in 'blobs' to make profiteroles. Also, because the weights need to be fairly accurate, if using metrics you will see they are slightly different (higher) than ones I might normally give, so follow these.
Gluten-free Choux Pastry: makes 12 rings
2 oz (65g) gluten-free plain flour, sifted twice
1 3/4 oz (50g) butter
5 fl oz (150ml) cold water
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 oz (50g) flaked almonds (opt)
Heat the butter and water in a saucepan until the butter is melted, then bring to the boil and tip in the flour in one go, then remove from the heat. Beat with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a smooth ball and leaves the sides of the pan. Put into a bowl and leave to cool for five minutes. Meanwhile lightly beat the eggs with the vanilla extract.
Using a balloon whisk or electric mixer on low speed, beat the eggs into the 'dough mixture' a little at a time until it turns to a smooth sticky paste that holds its shape when the whisk is lifted.
Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle and pipe 12 rings of this choux pastry onto a greased and parchment-lined baking sheet. Wet your (clean of course) finger and smooth down any peaks on the top of the circles so that it is smooth.
Sprinkle with flaked almonds (if using) and bake at 200C, 350F, gas 4 for 15 minutes, then pierce each ring at the side with a sharp knife to allow steam to escape. Continue baking for a further 5 or so minutes until the rings are crisp. Place on a cake airer to cool then cut in half and fill with whipped cream that has been sweetened with a little icing sugar.
Serve immediately, or cover and keep chilled until needed. Could also be frozen.

Have a sudden urge to start making macaroons, and if I have spare time might also make some this week. They look so pretty and as they use only the white of an egg, having leftover yolks can be useful. We don't always need to use the white of an egg when cooking, so any recipe that uses either white OR yolk is always written down and saved for future use when I have one or t'other to use up.
So as today's recipes are based on gluten-free edibles, then hope this you will also enjoy. Not sure what 'powdered fondant icing sugar is'. Is this different to ordinary icing sugar? Hope a reader can let us know.
Walnut and Spice Macaroons: makes 12
2 1/2 oz (60g) ground almonds
2 1/2 oz (60g) walnut pieces
1 oz (25g) dark soft brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
5 oz (150g) powdered fondant icing sugar
3 egg whites (approx 3 1/2 oz or 90g)
3 oz (75g) caster sugar
few drops orange food colouring (opt)
4 oz (100g) walnut pieces
2 oz (50g) butter
7 oz (200g) icing sugar
2 tblsp double cream
Put the ground almonds, walnuts, brown sugar, cinnamon and fondant icing sugar into a food processor and blitz together until a very fine powder. Sift into a bowl, returning any larger pieces to the processor to re-blitz down. Sift onto the others and repeat if necessary.
Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks, adding the caster sugar a little at a time. Continue whisking until the meringue is smooth and glossy, then fold in the walnut mixture using a spatula. Do this in batches, about a third at a time, testing towards the end. If the mixture folds to a smooth surface when a little is dropped onto a plate - it is then ready. If still holding a peak then fold it a few more times. DON'T FOLD IT TOO MUCH OR IT WILL END UP RUNNY AND THE MACAROONS WILL NOT KEEP THEIR SHAPE.
Spoon the mixture into a piping bag, and pipe the mixture in 2" (6cm) rounds onto a lined baking sheet. Leave room between each as they will spread slightly. Leave on the baking sheets for about an hour to 'set' (to allow the surface to form a skin).
Bake for 15 - 20 minutes at 170C, 325F, gas 3 until firm. Leave on the baking sheets to cool.
Make the filling by blitzing the walnuts down to 'finely chopped' (not a powder this time), then add the butter and pulse until blended. Remove and place in a bowl and add the icing sugar and cream then whisk together until light. Spoon into a piping bag and pipe a swirl onto the base of one macaroon then top with a second. Repeat until all the macaroons are made.
Either serve immediately, or if you wish to eat later they can be stored in an airtight container for up to three days.

Yes, I know it is still not yet 9.00am, but do have lots to do and must get on, especially as B will be out part of the day and we are expecting some deliveries (don't want to be caught halfway thorough baking profiteroles to spend time answering the door/phone, you wouldn't believe how often this happens when I'm in the middle of doing something that needs all my attention).

Almost certainly will check my emails each day and note the comments, so if there is an urgent query will find time to give a speedy reply. Otherwise (as mentioned above) will now be taking a few days off and concentrate on B's 'birthday bash'. Tonight we will be eating out (small family gathering) as the first part of this week's 'celebrations', so at least no supper to cook, but almost certainly B will wish me to make him a pancake sometime this Pancake Day. He hates missing any traditional 'eats'. Bless.

Expect me back on Sunday and in the meantime carry on saving/cooking and enjoying life as much as possible. Can't wait until this week is over and we can all get back to 'meeting up' again.
Hopefully see you then.