Saturday, January 11, 2014

Basic houmous

Contrary to popular perceptions, houmous does not feature all that strongly Turkish cuisine, and you would have a much easier time finding houmous at a British supermarket than anywhere is Istanbul (although I am sure that Turkey's still growing middle class will eventually embrace it much like their British counterparts). This has been kind of a difficult adjustment for me since I moved to Istanbul, as I had previously basically been living on houmous during my student life. It was something cheap and that I didn't have to cook, but which was also not dripping in grease, so therefore the "healthy option". Tesco had several varieties (like roast pepper, Moroccan etc) so I felt I was getting a balanced diet. On top of that, the university newspaper where I worked for about a year had a deal with Hummus Bros at one point so we were getting free houmous in return for advertising. So really if I had to sum up my university experience in one word, that word would be "houmous". 
Yet somewhat surprisingly, I'd never attempted to make it before today. And I am surprised and delighted to discover that it is actually very easy to make, so hopefully this is only the first of many homemade houmouses!

425g canned chickpeas, plus a few more to serve
Juice of 1 large lemon
1/4 cup tahini
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus a couple more to serve
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
6 tbsp cold water
Ground paprika to serve
Flatbread to serve

1. Combine the tahini and lemon juice in a food processor, and process for about 2 minutes, stopping to scrape the sides.
2. Add the olive oil, salt, cumin and the minced garlic cloves, keep processing until fully mixed. 
3. Drain and wash the chickpeas, add to the food processor a cup at a time, processing in between. Add the water and keep processing until smooth.
4. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle the ground paprika and add some chickpeas to serve.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Tiramisu yule log

Finally this year I decided to put a stop the the gingerbread houses and villages of previous years, and make something that would take less than half a day (only 3 hours to make this yummy cake). It's a spin on the traditional chocolate yule log because I love tiramisu, and because I love this sponge cake roulade (it gets bonus points for being easily rollable as well as tasty). It was gobbled up fairly quickly, mainly by me, and I used the leftover filling to make some additional tiramisu, so very successful endeavour on the whole.

For the sponge cake: 
4 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1/3 cup sifted plain flour
3 tablespoons  cornstarch (corn flour)
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated white sugar (divided)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice 

1. Preheat oven to 230 degrees C and place oven rack in the center of the oven. Butter, or spray with a nonstick vegetable spray, a 45x30 cm baking pan, line it with parchment paper, and then butter and flour the paper (or spray with a nonstick vegetable/flour spray).
2. While the eggs are still cold separate two of the eggs, placing the yolks in one bowl and the whites in another bowl. To the yolks, add the additional yolk, and the two remaining eggs. Cover bowls with plastic wrap and allow the eggs to come to room temperature (about 30 minutes). Meanwhile, in a small bowl whisk the flour with the cornstarch. 
3. Place the egg yolks and whole eggs, along with 1/2 cup (100 grams) of the sugar, in your electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high speed for five minutes, or until thick, pale yellow, and fluffy. (When you slowly raise the beaters the batter will fall back into the bowl in slow ribbons.) Then beat in the vanilla extract. Sift half the flour mixture over the beaten egg mixture and fold in gently with a rubber spatula, just until the flour is incorporated. Sift the remaining flour mixture into the batter and fold in.
4. In a clean bowl, with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the lemon juice and continue beating until soft peaks form. Sprinkle in the remaining one tablespoon sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Gently fold a little of the whites into the batter to lighten it, and then add the rest of the whites. Pour the batter into prepared pan, spreading evenly (cannot stress have important this is) with an offset spatula or spoon. Bake for about 6-8 minutes or until golden brown and when lightly pressed, springs back. Immediately upon removing the cake from the oven sprinkle with icing sugar and then invert the cake onto a clean dish towel. Remove the parchment paper, sprinkle with icing sugar, and roll up the sponge, with the towel. Place on a wire rack to cool.

For the filling:
2 cups milk
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
6 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
60 grams unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
250 grams cream cheese (I use mascarpone)

1. In a medium sized saucepan heat 1 3/4 cups milk and 1/2 cup sugar just until boiling. Meanwhile, in a heatproof bowl, whisk together the remaining 1/4 cup milk, 1/4 cup sugar, flour, and egg yolks. When the milk comes to a boil, gradually whisk it into the egg yolk mixture. 
2. Transfer this mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it comes to a boil. When it boils, continue to whisk the mixture constantly for another minute or so or until it thickens. 
3. Remove from heat and strain into a large bowl. (to remove any lumps). Whisk in the vanilla extract, and butter. Immediately cover the surface of the custard with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming (press the plastic wrap against the custard). Refrigerate until cold, approximately two hours.
4. Once the custard has cooled sufficiently, remove from the refrigerator. In a separate bowl, with a wooden spoon, beat the mascarpone cheese until it is soft and smooth. Gently fold, or whisk, the mascarpone into the cold custard until smooth.

For the chocolate coffee ganache topping:
½ cup (125 ml) heavy cream
2 teaspoons golden syrup (corn syrup) or honey
120g bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 tablespoon (15g) butter, cut into small pieces
4 tablespoons instant coffee

1. Heat the cream in a small saucepan with the golden syrup/honey and the coffee. 
2. When the cream just begins to boil at the edges, remove from heat and add the chopped chocolate. Let sit one minute, then stir until smooth. Stir in the pieces of butter. Let cool completely before using (I recommend you refrigerate).

To assemble:
2 cups very strong coffee
2/3 cups sugar
Icing sugar to decorate

Mix the sugar into the coffee until dissolved. Brush the coffee onto the inside of the spongecake using a pastry brush. Spread the filling and roll. Top with the ganache and refrigerate overnight. Sprinkle with icing sugar just before serving.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Butter cookies with mastic and almonds

A couple of months ago I took a short trip to the island of Bozcaada (or Tenedos in Greek). I say short trip, thanks to traffic it took about 10 hours to get there and another 10 hours to get back so it felt like a very long trip. The island was scenic and beautiful, but as always the most memorable element in my mind is the food I ate. And this included, among some delicious sea bass, these mastic butter cookies. They were sold at this tiny little bakery and they were so popular that there was a large queue of people buying them in multiples of 10 when we arrived in the morning. I decided to buy 10 as well to take back to my family, but they were so warm and tasty that I devoured half of them in about 5 mins. I am not ashamed to say that there were only a couple left by the time I got back home (maybe I am a little ashamed). 

Anyway, I've been meaning to make them ever since I got back. I finally got around to buying the mastic and got some free time on my hands, so I decided to get down to it. My advice is to eat while they're warm!

Ingredients (makes about 35 cookies):
2/3 cup almonds (or other nuts)
1 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
1/4 cup icing sugar (plus additional to powder the cookies)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons of mastic (also sold as gum arabic or acacia gum)

Heat the oven to 200 degrees C. Place the almonds on a baking tray and bake for about 10 minutes or until dark and crunchy. Grind in food processor until the almonds are coarsely chopped. Separately grind the mastic to powder.

Beat the icing sugar and butter until fluffy. Add the vanilla extract. Separately mix together the flour, salt and mastic. Add the dry ingredients to the sugar butter mixture. Stir in the chopped almonds and mix until fully combined. Cover and refrigerate the dough for about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C. Cover the baking tray with greaseproof paper. Roll the dough into small pieces (2cm wide) and place a few centimetres apart on the tray. Bake for about 15 minutes until the bottoms of the cookies are brown. When the cookies have cooled slightly, about 5-10 mins later, powder the tops with icing sugar and serve when still warm (preferably).

Monday, August 5, 2013

Chocolate and coffee cupcakes

These deceptively pink chocolate-coffee cupcakes (pink velvet?) are my favourite cupcakes. Moist chocolate cake + coffee buttercream topping = delicious and perfect for any occasion. I recently got the idea to start adding messages to them after hours of trawling through pictures of cupcakes on Pinterest revealed just how much human effort has been spent on trying to make cupcakes look nice. I decided it would provide a good (and easier) alternative to birthday cake, and it did as illustrated below.

For the coffee buttercream:
230 grams icing sugar
115 grams unsalted butter, softened
2 tsps instant coffee
Food colouring, optional

Using a mixer, cream the butter and beat in the sugar until soft and fluffy. Dissolve the coffee in 2 tablespoons of hot water and mix into the buttercream until well blended. Mix in the food colouring if using any. If the buttercream is too soft you can add additional icing sugar until the desired consistency is reached.

For the cupcakes:
50 grams cocoa powder
1 cup strongly brewed hot coffee
175 grams flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
115 grams unsalted butter, softened
200 grams granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Stir together the coffee and the cocoa powder in a bowl, making sure that the cocoa powder fully dissolves. Let cool to room temperature. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy using a mixer. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until smooth. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat only until incorporated. Then add the cooled cocoa-coffee mixture and stir until smooth.
Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C. Fill the batter into paper muffin cups and bake for 16-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Leave to cool.
Once they have cooled you can pipe the buttercream on top. I used the Wilton 2D tip.

source: joy of baking

Sunday, July 7, 2013

No-bake chocolate banana almond cake pops

One of the earliest desserts I learnt to make was the chocolate salami. Although this is apparently a Portugese dessert by origin, it is an incredibly popular dessert in Turkey (we call it "mosaic cake" due to the tiled appearance of the biscuits on each slice). This may be partly due to the ease of making the dessert, which essentially requires no baking and little preparation time. Hence me having learnt it at an early age.

These cake pops are essentially a different presentation form of the chocolate salami. If you so wish, you could follow the recipe below, shape it into a giant salami, roll it into plastic wrap, freeze, and serve as slices. The cake pops just make it seem like more of a fun dessert, that's all (obviously the decoration also helps in that department). An advantage of this dessert is that customisation is very easy - I've added bananas and almonds but those could easy be complemented/replaced by raisons/raspberries/walnuts etc.

300g biscuits (the Turkish version uses petit beurre biscuits but you could just as easily use cookies/graham crackers/digestives or anything else you like)  
1 cup milk
3 tbsp cocoa powder
5 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp butter
1 cup almonds
2 large bananas
Shredded coconuts, cocoa powder, dark chocolate and food colouring to decorate

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C and roast the almonds on greaseproof paper for about 10 minutes or until golden brown and crunchy. Roughly chop the almonds to pieces.
2. Slice the bananas into small pieces. Break the biscuits into small pieces without reducing them to crumbs. 
3. Melt the butter. Transfer the melted butter to a large bowl, add the biscuits, milk, cocoa powder, sugar, butter, almonds and bananas. Mix them together well.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Cinnamon date rolls

I don't know if it's just me, but whenever I go travelling I become overcome by the desire to buy everything that I might vaguely want, in the misguided fear that I might never get to opportunity to do so again. I learnt early on that this results in a lot of clutter back home, not to mention the amount of money wasted due to the difficulty of getting to grips with foreign currency. These days I try to limit myself, except in the case of food of course. So it should not come as a surprise that in a recent trip to Iran I bought, among other things, 5 boxes of dates (I justified them as gifts, although I ended up gifting the majority to myself), and had so much trouble closing my suitcase that I was worried I would have to wear all my clothes to reduce luggage.

I also bought other sweets, dried fruits and saffron, which I have brought back from so many countries I might start a global saffron collection. I was told everything was much cheaper, although it's difficult to gauge the value currency when you are haggling so who knows whether it was really worth it.

All I know is that I have to consume all of these things somehow. So the first thing I did was make cinnamon date rolls. They were delicious, especially when warm. You can also serve them with icing, but they are sweet enough to just eat as is.

For the dough:
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, softened
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 (7 grams) package instant yeast
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water
1 egg

For the filling:
1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, softened
20-25 dates, sliced into chunks

1. Heat the milk in a small saucepan until it boils. Remove from heat and stir in the butter. Let cool to room temperature.
2. In a large bowl, combine 2 1/4 cup flour, yeast, sugar and salt; mix well. Add water, egg and the milk mixture; beat well. Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. When the dough has just pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, about 5 minutes.
3. Cover the dough with a damp cloth and let rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, cinnamon, dates and softened butter.
4. Roll out dough until it is 1cm thick. Spread dough with butter/sugar/cinnamon/date mixture. Roll up dough and pinch seam to seal. Cut into 1 inch thick rolls and place on baking tray couple of inches apart to allow for additional space for them to rise. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 190 degrees C.
5. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until browned. Serve warm!

original recipe:

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Buttermilk pancakes

I realise Shrove Tuesday was over 2 months ago, but I have a busy schedule so I had to delay to pancake making somewhat. But I've made these on a Tuesday so I think it still counts. I usually make crepes but these are traditional American style pancakes, complete with maple syrup. What makes them especially delicious is that they are buttermilk pancakes, although in fact I couldn't find buttermilk and just substituted with yoghurt, so you can do the same if you don't have buttermilk handy.

Ingredients (makes 9-12 pancakes):
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (or yoghurt)
2 tbsp butter, melted
1/2 cup of chocolate chips (optional)

Extra melted butter to grease the pan

Mix together all the dry ingredients in one bowl, and all the wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Then mix them all together until just combined, do not overmix (it's normal for the batter to have small lumps). Grease the pan with a small amount of melted butter, and heat it. When the pan is sufficiently hot, add a tablespoon of the batter and spread it so it is not too thick (the inside will not cook if it is). You should cook for about 1 minute on each side, or until both sides are browned.