Foodiva's Kitchen: November 2011

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Matcha Stollen with Rose Marzipan Filling

If I can't be beautiful, I want to be invisible.
~ Chuck Palahniuk

I had spent 3 Christmases in Germany while I worked there years ago, and every time the festive season rolled around, the shops, markets and bakeries were filled to the brim with beautiful baked goodies bearing the scents of cinnamon, almond, apples and all the heartwarming things of the earth. Stollens would be amongst the good things in abundance and I never missed the opportunity to purchase and savor them - lots of them! The ones I especially enjoy are the marzipan-filled stollens, so moist and heart-stoppingly's no wonder I was then double the size I am today!

You may have noticed that I have done zilch-all on this blog lately. It's not that I've stopped cooking or baking completely, for if you're on Instagram, you may have spotted some of my baked goods being captured and uploaded for posterity there. It just seems to me like everything I do right now is bordering on the (how shall I phrase this?)...UGLY. Yes, that's right. Not nearly postable, in fact downright yuckky. Or maybe that's just how I'm feeling inside.

Anyway, a quick peek at the blogosphere shows me that many people around the world are in a celebratory mood, and therefore coming up with joyous kinds of food. The festive season has dawned, Ms. Foodiva, so why don't you get with the program already? 

So yes, today I decide to crawl out of my own blue funk and attempt a blasphemous take on the Christmas Stollen. One with a green dough laden with premium matcha and filled with a homemade marzipan roll that's just on the shady side of pink due to the rose syrup I used to flavor it. Apart from the usual dried raisins and cherries, I also kneaded in some homemade candied ginger and candied lemon and orange peels, but didn't bother with the nuts and spices. As someone who's eaten plenty of stollens in her life, take it from me, you won't find this exotic one anywhere on the planet (yet) outside of my very own kitchen!

I won't tire you needlessly with the history of stollens and what the swaddled loaf signifies, but if you're interested you can have a quick read here. What I am going to regale you with, however, is the tale of what actually happened to me while I was baking this. After I was done making the marzipan and candied ginger/peels (which I dried under the hot sun and not overnight as should have been done), I set about to make the dough and film the process while I was at it.

You can imagine that the set up took a fair amount of time and by the second hour into the first rising, it was very nearly 5pm and the precious sun was sinking fast in tandem with my heart. Then I suddenly remembered  I had to be at another place at 5pm, an important appointment that had totally slipped my mind, so I had to abandon the dough and tend to real life first.

2 hours later (4 hours total first rising), I returned to find my dough hadn't exploded and as a favor to me, had risen very, very slowly. Phew... all was well.

Normally after the process of baking, the fresh loaves are buttered two times before they get a coat of sugar. I buttered mine before and after baking, just to be on the safe side of decadence. What usually happens to the stollen after the sugar coating is that it is sealed to allow the fruits and spices (if you're using any) to develop their flavors. The sealing is also the reason a stollen can be stored and stay fresh for a long time.

The texture of this stollen is somewhere in between a bread and a cake and is an excellent alternative to a traditional Christmas cake. Although my rolling wasn't quite up to my usual standards, causing the marzipan cylinder to happily sit on one side, it didn't affect the taste of the loaf one bit. Yes, it's not my most beautiful stollen, but then so's festive and rocks to the high heavens with original flavors. It certainly does not want to be invisible!

Matcha Stollen with Rose Marzipan Filling
(adapted from One Perfect Bite)
Makes: 1 loaf

2¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons matcha powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 scant tablespoon dry instant yeast
1/2 cup milk
6 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup raisins
2 tablespoons candied orange peel, finely chopped (see recipe below)
1 tablespoon candied lemon peel, finely chopped
1 teaspoon candied ginger strips, finely chopped
1/2 cup quartered, glaced cherries (mixed red and green)
250g rose-flavored marzipan/almond paste (see recipe below)
2 tablespoons butter, melted for brushing
icing or confectioners' sugar, for dusting

1. Mix salt with flour in a microwavable bowl. Place in microwave oven and heat on HIGH power for 1 minute. Whisk. Add matcha powder and yeast and whisk again to mix. Set aside.
2. Combine milk, butter and sugar in a microwavable bowl. Cook on HIGH power for 1 minute, or until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved. When mixture is tepid add egg and whisk to combine.
3. Pour milk mixture into flour and mix well until the dough leaves the sides of bowl and forms a ball. Add candied fruits and nuts working into dough with hands.
4. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes, or until fruits and nuts are evenly distributed.
5. Place dough into an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place until doubled in size, about 2 to 3 hours.
6. Turn onto a lighly floured board. Flatten and roll into a 14 x 8-inch rectangle, about 1cm thick.
7. Form almond paste into a log about 13-inches long. Place in the middle of dough, then roll dough around it. Pinch the and two ends of the cylinder and turn edges under. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place dough on parchment paper, cover with damp towel and let rise until double, about 1 hour. Brush loaf with melted butter, and set aside the remainder of the butter.
8. Preheat oven to 180C/375F. Bake in the center of oven for about 35 minutes, or until an even golden brown. Move loaf to cooling rack. Brush top with melted butter. Let cool for 30 minutes. Dust liberally with confectioners' sugar. Can be frozen up to a month and also keeps at room temperature for a few days if wrapped with plastic wrap.

Candied Ginger, Orange and Lemon Peels
(Adapted from Wild Yeast)

1 medium lemon
1 medium orange
2-inches fresh ginger
water for blanching
2 cups caster sugar
1 cup water

1. Score the orange and lemon peel in quarters. Peel off, leaving the orange and lemon whole.
2. Peel and slice the ginger into thin strips, set aside.
3. In a saucepan, cover the peels with cold water. Bring to a boil, drain, and rinse the peels in cold water.
4. Slice each peel into 4 strips. Blanch the peel strips twice more, changing the water each time.
5. In a saucepan, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
6. Add the ginger and peels, then reduce the heat and simmer until the peels are starting to become translucent, about 45 minutes.
7. Drain the ginger and peels, reserving the syrup in a jar for future use.
8. Place the peels in a single layer on a wire rack and allow to dry overnight.
9. Store in an airtight container, or in the freezer. Store the syrup in the refrigerator.

Rose-Flavored Marzipan

250g of peeled almonds
1/2 cup icing/confectioners sugar
1-2 tablespoons rose syrup (Monin)
1 small egg white

1. In a food processor, pulse the almonds until you obtain a very fine almond flour.
2. Add the sugar a quarter cup at a time and pulse until very well combined.
3. Finally add the egg white and one tablespoon rose syrup. Pulse until the mixture starts to resemble marzipan. Pinch a bit of the dough and press in between your fingers, it should feel soft and pliable. Add more almond flour and rose syrup if necessary.
4. Roll the dough in a plastic film and refrigerate it for at least one hour. After that take it out and place on a clean surface dusted lightly with confectioners sugar. Roll out the dough and fold it two or three times.Roll into a 13-inch long cylinder and return it to refrigerator. The dough is ready to be used when it is no longer sticky.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Nutella Ding Dong Cake

A Ding Dong Cake - now doesn't that name just fire up the imagination? When I was assigned the blog Sweet Flours for this month's Secret Recipe Club, I found out that the blog author Allison and I have one thing in common - a big sweet tooth. Her blog features plenty of baked goodies which makes it a dream site for me. She actually baked this cake for her great grandmother's 91st birthday, and another time once before for her 89th birthday. I took my cue from great grandma, that lady sounds like she has quite a discerning taste in her choice of birthday cakes :).

At first I hadn't a clue why the cake was named so, but after a bit of googling discovered that Ding Dong cakes are those little chocolate-covered cakes with with a white creamy filling sold by Hostess Brand. The ones I so obviously had never eaten while growing up. While Allison had made a regular cake-sized version of Ding Dongs, I decided to make the original puck-sized ones because sometimes eating minicakes makes things a bit easier on the conscience. And a lot easier for me to fit into my skinny Levi's too, not that they're not already made of stretch denim, but still...

The recipe for this cake originally came from Smitten Kitchen, but the adapted recipe can be found here on Sweet Flours. The process of making the minicakes was slightly fiddly, but nothing that I hadn't already done in my kitchen many times. The coffee-chocolate cake batter was straightforward enough, however the marshmallow filling needed a fair amount of whisking in a bowl placed over a pan of simmering water, a bit like making swiss meringue buttercream frosting but without the butter. 

In an original Ding Dong (I just love saying that!), the entire chocolate cake is coated with a thin layer of chocolate glaze but Allison had coated her birthday cake with chocolate ganache, all glistening on the top and sides. I was a bit short for time on this occasion so my topping was simply warmed up Nutella (30 seconds in the microwave) that I spread with a knife and let drizzle a bit down the sides. Did I just say simply Nutella? Of course, that wasn't the case at all because you and I know that Nutella is King and in actual fact stole the show!
This will be my last participation in the Secret Recipe Club. It has been really fun discovering many new blogs and cooking from my assigned ones, however I feel it's time to get back to doing my "own thing". Creating recipes that come from my own heart and imagination and make me truly fulfilled, you know. I'm on a quest to get my old ding dong back! :-)

Friday, November 11, 2011

French Fridays With Dorie - Spiced Squash, Fennel and Apple-Pear Soup

Soup is cuisine's kindest course. It breathes reassurance; it steams consolation; after a weary day it promotes sociability, as the five o'clock cup of tea or the cocktail hour.
~ Louis P. De Gouy, ‘The Soup Book’

I've been really atrocious at catching up on everyone else's blogs this past fortnight or so and therefore am surprised (and majorly touched) that people still do come over and leave comments on mine. To all those kind souls who have visited this site and taken the time to let me know you were here, a very big thank you. And apologies that I have been a rude hostess and not acknowledged your visits until now. When I'm mentally "back in the zone", I'll make an effort to come around to yours and give you a big, massive hug :-). 

Until then, you can take some comfort in this soup I made specially for French Fridays with Dorie - Spiced Squash, Fennel and Apple-Pear Soup. It contained everything listed in the title, plus more...and it this case, 'plus more' meant slight improvisations on the original ingredients. For the squash, Dorie recommended we use the Long Island Cheese Squash but I wasn't quite sure whether we could get that variety over here. So I went down to my mom's farm to pick a Kabocha squash to use in this recipe instead.    

Another ingredient I didn't have was fresh fennel, but I had tons of fennel seeds in my spice cupboard so I simply assumed they were interchangeable? Anyway, for the spices part of the recipe, I ground the fennel and cumin seeds together in a grinder and sieved the resulting powder to eliminate any chunky bits. The ginger, nutmeg and black pepper were freshly grated/ground in order to extract their strongest aroma. 

At the time of making this, I didn't have any regular green pears but what I did have was a sole Asian (or Chinese) pear in the fridge that knew it was somehow destined to be part of this soup. A red apple was also tossed in there to keep the pear company, as was a carrot because I had this theory that: 1. it (ie. the carrot) would add a lovely orange hue to the yellowish squash soup and 2. it would make up for the lack of mass due to using fennel seeds instead of the bulb. Of course, the whole theory bombed, as you may already have gathered.

Hearty goodness in 6 easy steps

By the way, ever notice how  I like to list my points down in numerical form just to make things clear (in my head more than anything else)? It's an annoying, slap-worthy habit but I can't always stop myself from running off all these lists in my head...and yes, they invariably come out while I'm typing up my posts ;).

Garnish - the spring onion strips curled up when immersed in iced water

After blending, I found the soup to be the exact texture and consistency I wanted it to be. Not too thick nor too thin, which was absolutely lucky on my part, I suppose. The murky beige color was slightly off-putting though, probably the result of mixing the greens with orange-yellow squash, and not forgetting purple from the big onion!. Nevertheless, when the first spoonful entered my mouth... I found the euphony of flavors to be very pleasant and so comforting that my lips involuntarily turned upright into a big grin :-).

Singapore Airlines must be missing a soup spoon right now.

My online cooking group or Doristas will be rustling up their own variations of this squash soup, so if you would like to hop over here, you can have a look at theirs.

Have a gorgeous weekend!


Monday, November 7, 2011

Crazy Cooking Challenge - Mashed Potato Spring Rolls

Sometimes we will hit the target but miss the self. At other times we will miss the target but hit the self. Our purpose, though, is to hit the target as the self and hope that the sharp sound of arrow penetrating paper will awaken us from the so-called 'dream of life' and give us real insight into the ultimate state of being.
~ Hideharu Onuma sensei, Japanese Kyudo archery

It seemed like I had simply disappeared over the past week or so, but in reality, I am still here. Just holding off on blogging while tending to my (rather neglected) life. That's the trouble with passion sometimes, you can get so thoroughly consumed by it at the expense of everything else in your life. Okay, when I write "you", who I'm really talking about is myself. I went off to tend to my garden because the weeds had started to overrun my beautiful patches and it was time to pull them out and discard them. Yes, metaphorically speaking :-).


So to start off this week, I'm back for another Crazy Cooking Challenge, this time sharing a recipe from Momofuku for 2 blog. Tina of Mom's Crazy Cooking, as host of the challenge declared this month's theme to be "Mashed Potatoes" and I, what a breeze! Well, I couldn't be more wrong because there are thousands (if not more) mashed potato recipes out there and it proved really hard to decide which one to showcase for this post. 

In the end, I settled for this Mashed Potato Spring Rolls recipe posted by Steph of Momofuku for 2. In case you haven't come across her blog, this is a woman who has cooked and eaten her way through all of David Chang's Momofuku Cookbook and this recipe was adapted out of that book. Steph has no official association with the Momofuku brand, chain or David Chang, but she'a a huge Momofuku fan and enjoys cooking their recipes at home for her and her husband (who's the 'for 2' person).

I, on the other hand, chose this recipe not because it was created by food Sifu, Chang but due to a variety of other reasons which I shall list here:
1. It contains mashed potato (right on theme).
2. It includes bread (we all know carb on carb = sinful, but oh-so-irresistible!).
3. There is frying involved (I know, it's starting to sound bad but bear with me).
4. There is 'spring roll' in the recipe title (although I just realized that mine looked more pop-tartlike than cylindrical).
5. It contains some heat and a green vegetable (which to me negate 1-3 above).

In case you're wondering, yes, it does taste as lovely as it looks....great as a snack or appetizers. Although after you've finished two, you probably won't want to eat anything else because of the thought that it'll take roughly 200 hours on the treadmill to work all this off! 

For a mashed potato overload, head over to the blogs listed in the linky below. Go on, show them some love and oh, don't forget to vote for your favorites.

Mashed Potato Spring Rolls
(recipe from Momofuku For 2)
Serves: 2

4 slices white bread
1/4 cup mashed potato
2 green beans, cooked and sliced in two
pinch shichimi togarashi
salt and pepper to taste
1 egg yolk

oil for frying
sriracha for dipping

1. Trim the crusts from the bread and using a rolling pin, roll out each bread slice to a thin 3-by-5-inch rectangle.
2. In a bowl, combine the mashed potatoes and togarashi; season with salt and pepper. 
3. Brush the edges of 4 bread rectangles with the egg yolk mixture. Shape 1 tablespoon of the potato mixture into a log along a long edge of a rectangle, leaving 1/2 inch on each end. Top with half a green bean. Tightly roll up the bread to form a cylinder; press the ends together to seal. Repeat with the remaining bread and potato mixture.
4. In a skillet, heat the oil on medium high. Add half of the rolls and fry, turning occasionally, until well-browned, about 1 1/2 minutes. Transfer to paper towels. Repeat with the remaining rolls. Serve with sriracha.

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