Saturday, 15 February 2014

The famous Beurre & Sel Jammers

Beurre & Sel Jammers... neatly stacked, waiting to be eaten

This is another Dorie Greenspan recipe. I know it looks like I've been baking her recipes over these past few weeks, but I haven't. This is actually from a few weeks ago. Before Chinese New Year in fact.

I'd had this recipe bookmarked on Epicurious for a very long time. I've had the inclination to eat them ever since I saw them posted elsewhere, but couldn't be bothered to make them until now. This is what some people describe in reverse as the flesh is willing but the spirit is weak.

Still, I did half the recipe as I couldn't quite bring myself to make a big batch, nor did I want to slave over them. I wanted quick and easy with gorgeous results (don't we all?).

Also, in my excitement to finally make them, I didn't read through the whole recipe and so completely missed out on the dough chilling time, which incidentally made them even more quick and easy!

They turned-out to be quite the delight to those I shared them with. I was even asked for the recipe. Imagine that!

Adapted from Epicurious

45g Plain Flour
30g Caster Sugar
Pinch of Sea Salt
45g Salted Butter, cold and cut into small pieces
1/4 teaspoon Vanilla Essence

Some jam (I used Marks & Spencer's Turkish Black Cherry & Vanilla)

Cookie Dough
113g Salted Butter, room temperature
50g Caster Sugar
10g Icing Sugar, sifted
Pinch of Sea Salt
1 large Egg Yolk, room temperature
1 teaspoon Vanilla Essence
120g Plain Flour

2 medium-sized 12-cup cupcake tins

Streusel (do ahead)
In a bowl, rub Butter, Flour, Sugar, Vanilla and Salt together until it resembles breadcrumbs. Place in a tupperware and chill. 
Cookie Dough
Preheat oven at 120 Celsius. Lay out the 2 medium-sized 12-cup cupcake tins. In a large bowl, cream Butter and Sugar till pale and creamy. Add in Salt, Egg Yolk and Vanilla. Beat for a few seconds. Gently fold in Flour by hand until just combined. Dough will be soft and sticky.

Wet your hands and pinch off walnut-sized balls of dough. Pat dough gently into one of the holes of the 12-cup cupcake tin, covering the bottom. Do this until all the dough is used-up. Keep wetting your hands in between if you need to or the dough will stick to your fingers and you will not be able to pat it down properly.
Assembly & Baking
Place a teaspoon of Jam in the centre of each pat of dough. Then sprinkle the Streusel carefully around the jam. Do the same for the rest of the dough until all the Streusel is used-up.

Place the cupcake tin in the oven and increase the heat to 150 Celsius. Bake until the cookies are golden brown and jam is bubbling. Bake one cupcake tin at a time.

Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool completely in the tins.

Run a tea knife around the edges of the cookie carefully and it should release easily. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 days.  

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Swedish Visiting Cake

This is a Dorie Greenspan recipe. I've tried a couple of her recipes before and they have so far never failed to please. Never made it to my blog maybe but delicious nonetheless. You just have to take my word for it. I own her little book on Paris Sweets and love it to bits. 

Almost Original Swedish Visiting Cake

If you're looking for a quick cake to make for whatever reason i.e. a sweet craving, hungry children, a dessert solution, a hostess gift, etc. this is the recipe to have on hand. 

Moist, soft and oh-so-lovely

Despite my fondness for the weighing scale, this is the only cake recipe I don't bother weighing. It is meant to be quick and easy. 

All you need is a set of measuring cups and spoons, a large bowl, a whisk and your ingredients. As this is such a versatile recipe you can mix and match ingredients, swap flavourings and basically turn it into your own specialty cake.

I've made the original, an almost original, an orange and a lemon version. I've used all plain flour, swapped out the flour for ground almonds, used half-and-half of flour and ground almonds and even used just the ground almonds. I've also fidgeted with the egg measurements and oven temperatures. It still turns out lovely every time.

Lemon Almond Swedish Visiting Cake

Luscious, scrumptious, lemony goodness

Dorie's original recipe is on her blog Dorie Greenspan. Here is one of my versions. 

Adapted from Dorie Greenspan

1 cup Caster Sugar
Grated zest of 2 Lemons
1 large Egg and 1 Egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon Sea Salt
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Bean Paste
1/4 cup Plain Flour
3/4 cup Ground Almonds
113g Salted Butter, melted and cooled
A handful of Sliced Almonds

Preheat oven at 130 Celsius. Grease and line a 24-cm round baking tin. Set aside.

Place the Sugar into a large bowl. Grate the lemon zest onto the sugar. Rub the Sugar and Zest together with your fingers until the aroma of lemons fills the air. Whisk in the Egg and Egg Yolk one at a time until well incorporated.

Add in the Salt and Vanilla. Mix well. Gently fold in the Flour and Ground Almonds with a spatula. Finally, fold in the melted Butter. Scrape the batter into the prepared tin and smooth the top. Sprinkle on the Almond Slices and place in the oven.

Bake at 150 Celsius for about 25 to 30 minutes until the cake is golden and crisp on top; or if a skewer poked through the centre comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a pretty serving plate. 

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Looking through the magical viewfinder

Last August, just before I set out to Europe, my old faithful point-and-shoot Canon died on me. I knew I didn't want to travel so far only to miss the Indian summer the region was experiencing at the time, so I went camera shopping. 

Armed with a budget and intent to purchase a high-end point-and-shoot camera, I instead ended-up bringing home a Nikon 5100 with me. 

Despite the fact that I loved the Nikon was a step-up from the Sony I was eyeing, I regretted the purchase as soon as I got home. All I could think about then was how in the world I was going to carry this heavy piece of equipment halfway across the world with me and in what sort of bag I was going to do it in. I almost returned it, but didn't only because I was short on time. 

I started looking for a camera bag that didn't look like a camera bag (yes, you read that right) almost as soon as I got used to the idea that this camera was for keeps. There was no way I was going to carry the camera in a Nikon-branded bag which practically screamed 'Look, there's a camera in here. Yoohoo... come get me!'

I found three websites which had what I wanted - TechGarage, Epiphanie and Kelly Moore. If you're like me - a woman travelling alone - and don't want to draw attention to the fact that your carrying a camera, then these bag options are the perfect solution. No one will know about your camera until you whip it out to snap some photos. 

After reading almost every photography blog I could find online in the short time I had (and my eyes hurt), I purchased a Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX Prime lens to complement the Nikon 18-55 f/3.5-5.6G AF-S DX VR Zoom kit lens I had. 

In the end, it was the Prime lens I carried and used throughout the journey. While it isn't the most versatile lens to use where the light and photo opportunities are great, it more than served its purpose for this very amateurish amateur. 

Some would argue that my Nikon is not quite the Top-of-the-Pops of cameras, but I'm immensely happy with it. Here are some of the first shots I took in the garden with the kit lens after bringing it home.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Shortbread Buttons

I have been waiting a long time to make these, and now I have. You can use any cut-out biscuit recipe or this simple shortbread recipe which is similar to the 1-2-3 Butter Cookies with a slight twist. What I would love to do next with this is to tint the dough in pastel shades to get a box full of colourful buttons!


100g Icing Sugar, sifted
200g Salted Butter, cold and cubed small
300g Plain Flour
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Essence

Extra Icing Sugar
A little Vanilla Powder

Medium round biscuit cutter
Small round biscuit cutter
3 - 4 plastic straws

Preheat the oven at 130 Celsius. Line a baking tray or two with baking paper. Set aside.

Place Butter and Sugar in a large bowl. With an electric mixer, cream Butter and Sugar for 1 minute. You don't want to warm the Butter up too much.

Fold in the Flour gently by hand until just incorporated. You may need to use your hands to bring it together into a ball that leaves the sides of the bowl. Divide the dough in the bowl into two equal parts.

Sprinkle a little Flour on a flat work surface and lightly flour a rolling pin. Roll one half of the dough out gently until about 1/4 inch thick. Cut-out medium-sized rounds and place them on the baking tray. Do this until all the dough is used up.

With a smaller round biscuit cutter, make indents inside the cut-out rounds (like that of a button). Then take a straw and cut-out four little holes in the middle of the biscuits. You will have to cut-off the part of the straw which has dough pressed into it after every biscuit or it will get stuck and you will not be able to make more clean little holes. Do this until you have made every round look like buttons.

Bake at 150 Celsius for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the edges are very slightly golden. Remove from the oven and let the biscuits cool on the tray.

While the biscuits are cooling, mix sifted Icing Sugar and a little Vanilla Powder in a bowl. Once the biscuits are cool, dip and dust them in the Icing Sugar mixture. Place in an airtight container and eat at leisure.