27 March 2009

Daring Bakers March Challenge : Part 1 - White Sauce of Yum

Welcome to this months Daring Baker challenge. Unfortunately I've had to split it into 5 (yes, 5) posts, so that I wouldn't end up with one huge post :) This was a long, hard process, so beware if you intend to undertake it, and take not of the 4th post where I'll let you know what I thought of the overall result. And now, the formalities :

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

The Challenge :

- make the pasta recipe as follows (we’ve included alternative instructions for those with dietary requirements). Hand-making your own pasta is the main challenge for this month. While you should make your own pasta to complete the challenge, please don't feel that you need to buy a pasta machine. Lynne's recipe gives instructions for hand-rolling the pasta with a rolling pin and we'd like you to do the same

- a white (b├ęchamel) sauce must be used. We’ve included a recipe but you’re welcome to use your own favourite recipe if you have one.

- we’ve also included Lynne’s recipe for the meat ragu sauce that is part of the finished lasagne. However, this sauce is optional and you are welcome to make up your own sauce (particularly if you don’t eat meat), or use your own favourite meat ragu sauce recipe. If you choose to use your own recipe, please include it with your post.

How I found it :

I failed at making the spinach pasta as given, but I did make a plain pasta. It was hard going and took a few hours, about 3 on the failed pastas, and another 3 on making, kneading, resting, rolling and drying the successful pasta.

I used the white sauce recipe given, it took about an hour or so, I think I cooked it a little too long, because when I used it it had gotten quite thick, however, it still tasted quite nice.

I used a variation on the ragu recipe given, to suit my own taste buds and cupboard. It took me overall about 2 to 3 hours, including all the chopping I had to do. It didn't wow me, I'll be honest, and for the amount of work that went into it, I was expecting more.

Putting it all together went off without a hitch, and it baked well. But all in all, it was a lot of effort for not a great result.

Part 1 : Bechamel


6 tbsp butter
6 tbsp plain flour
1 litre whole fat milk
salt and pepper to taste

Method :

01. Place the butter in a saucepan over a low heat until melted.

02. Sift in flour and whisk until smooth.

03. Add in 1/2 cup milk and whisk until smooth again.

04. Continue until all milk is used.

05. Heat over medium heat until slowly simmering, and continue to simmer until the mix thickens.

06. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, tasting and adding salt and pepper until ready.

This bechamel will keep in the fridge for 3 days :)

Daring Bakers March Challenge : Part 2 - Pasta-rama

I never knew how difficult it was to make pasta, until this challenge forced me to give it a go. I actually attempted three pastas, the other two were a total disaster, and so here is the one I used in the final recipe.

Part 2 : Pasta

Ingredients :

450g (1lb) 00 flour
4 medium sized eggs
pinch salt

Method :

01. Put the flour in a large bowl, and make a well in it.

02. Crack the eggs into the middle of the well.

03. Add the salt.

04. Slowly work the flour into the eggs until the dough comes together.

05. Knead the dough for 10 mins, until smooth, silky and very elastic (when you poke it, it comes back up).

06. Wrap the dough in cling film.

07. Rest the dough at room temperature for 45 mins to 3 hours.

08. Cut off a small piece of dough, flatten a little.

09. Roll the dough through a pasta machine, starting with the highest roll and moving down to the lowest.

10. Hang the dough to dry out over an appropriate surface (I used my clothes horse).

When the dough is dry, it can be stored in an airtight container until you're ready to use it.

Daring Bakers March Challenge : Part 3 - A Ragu to not write home about

Welcome to part 3 of 5 :) For this part of the challenge I took on some of the extra ingredients from the challenge recipe, although as you'll see in the verdict, I think I'll stick to my usual ragu next time...

Ingredients :

300g minced pork
300g minced lamb
300g minced beef
100g smoked pancetta, chopped finely
100g parma ham, chopped finely
200g mushrooms, chopped finely
1 red onion, chopped finely
1 white onion, chopped finely
1 carrot, chopped finely
3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1cm ginger, chopped finely
2cm green chilli, chopped finely
2cm red chilli, chopped finely
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 litre beef stock

Method :

01. Mix together all the vegetables with the pancetta.

02. Fry vegetable mix in a large pan on a high heat, until cooked through.

03. Remove vegetable from pan, and add in remaining meats.

04. Cook until meats are browned.

05. Add in vegetables and continue to cook over medium heat, until all water has evaporated.

06. Add in stock 1/2 a cup at a time, ensuring each 1/2 cup has evaporated before adding the next.

07. Add the last 1/2 cup, cover with lid and simmer for 1 hour.

08. Add in tomatoes, stir and cook uncovered for another 45 mins.

The ragu can be made up to 3 days in advance.

Daring Bakers March Challenge : Part 4 - Assembly of an 9 hour toil and Final Verdict

And finally, after about 9 hours of hard work, I get to the assembly of the lasagne. :)

Ingredients :

1 batch Bechamel as in post 1
1 batch Pasta as in part 2 (the original recipe called to use pre cooked pasta, however I don't usually pre boil, so I decided to go with just the dried one)
1 batch Ragu as in part 3
2 cups of grated mozzarella

Method :

01. Spread 2 tablespoons of bechamel across the bottom of the dish.

02. Add a layer of pasta.

03. Add another 2 tablespoons of bechamel.

04. Sprinkle on a handful of cheese.

05. Add 3 tablespoons of ragu.

06. Add a layer of pasta and repeat steps 3 to 6 until the dish is filled.

07. Add a final layer of bechamel, and a good sprinkling of cheese.

08. Cover in foil and bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes.

09. Remove foil and bake for another 10 minutes.

10. Slice and serve with salad / garlic bread.

Verdict :

On the whole, it's a nice lasagne. Compared to my usual cheats lasagne however, it's average. I felt like I'd put in a lot of effort for something that didn't taste a whole lot better than what I'm used to. I've heard lots of people raving about how amazing it was, but I just don't buy it. Perhaps it's amazing compared to the usual American lasagne, but not so I'm afraid for this Daring Baker. I don't think I will ever make this recipe again, or even any part of it. The ragu was no more tasteful than my usual offering, the white sauce was almost identical to the one I get in a jar, and the pasta was no better than the dried shop bought one. For a challenge that took an entire weekend to make, I was expecting something phenomenal. This had to be the single most disappointing recipe I've ever made.

However, it's not a bad lasagne. And I'm glad I took part, because I now know I don't need to ever make pasta again, or my own white sauce.

Roll on next month :)

Daring Bakers March Challenge : Part 5 - Pasta Disasta

So here are the less successful attempts at pasta making, using spinach in one (the original challenge pasta), and one with carrot/butternut squash.

It seems a little pointless to offer up the recipes, since they didn't work. However, they were made in much the same way as regular pasta, but with some flour and some egg substituted as vegetable.

It all started out so promising...

But in the end I was left with a sticky green mess, and a sticky orange mess, and no amount of flour would fix my problem, and so they got binned after 6 hours of trying too hard.

01 March 2009

Disaster Zone : February Daring Bakers Part 2 : Homemade Ice Cream

So for the second part of this month's challenge, I decided to go with a recipe for Vanilla ice cream by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, as found here : http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/database/realvanillaicecream_14294.shtml

Unfortunately, this was an unmitigated disaster for the most part. The recipe called for a light sugar syrup to be whisked slowly into beaten egg yolks... However, either I cooked the syrup too high, or too long, left it to cool too long or not long enough... and anyway, the result was this :

The sugar syrup clumped, and gathered around the whisk, leaving me with runny yolks and sticky syrup, not the mousse like substance I was aiming for.

So, for today, I give up on this ice cream, and go in search of another. Tomorrow, I will try again.

Chocoholic's Dream - February Daring Bakers Challenge Part 1 : The Cake

As usual, lets' get the formalities out of the way, and then on to the recipe :

The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef.
We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.

The Challenge :

-Use the following cake recipe

-Serve with homemade ice cream : You can choose any flavour you want and any recipe although we provided two vanilla ice cream recipes. But we are giving you a little freedom here and will allow whipped cream as a topping as well or of course non-dairy whip. Be as creative as you want with your topping. Any fruit puree or sauce would be lovely with this cake.

How I found it :

I quite enjoyed the first part of this recipe, it was straight forward and the cake itself came out tasting *exactly* like the Cadbury milk chocolate that I used. I think next time I make it, I'll add a teaspoon on instant coffee, to give a little kick up of flavour.

Ingredients :

454g milk chocolate (or any chocolate you like)
146g unsalted butter
5 eggs, seperated

Method :

01. Seperate the eggs.

02. Chop the chocolate and butter into small pieces and place in a bowl.

03. Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pot of simmering water, stirring continuously until smooth.

04. While the chocolate and butter mix is cooling, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks are formed.

05. Beat the egg yolks.

06. Pour the egg yolks in the cooled chocolate mix, and stir in.

07. Add one third of the whites and fold in.

08. Fold in the remaining eggs whites, taking care not to beat out any of the air, until the mixture is constant.

09. Pour batter into a greased and lined tin, and bake at 190 degrees Celcius for 25 minutes.

10. Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes before unmolding.

11. Cut into desired shapes, and serve with some ice cream!