Thursday, May 28, 2015

Four month streak? Lamingtons

Those of you who have followed our blog for some time know that we don't always have the best luck with daring baker's challenges. Sometimes things take forever and then just aren't worth the effort. Sometimes they taste good, but look atrocious. Sometimes we end up with lasagna gum or gingerbread jails.

We, however, are on a hot streak. Those Siopoa buns were amazing. I still can't stop thinking about the tarte tatin. And that focaccia is going to be a kitchen staple, I can feel it. We were ripe for a failure, especially given that this recipe called for cornstarch instead of flour (uh, what?).

But the lamingtons were surprisingly delicious, and not all that terrible looking!

Erica kindly whipped up the inner cake part overnight (so she braved the cornstarch part).

While we had a bit of trouble cutting some of the middle pieces, the edges were just perfect.

Cake is always improved with 3.5 cups of powdered sugar, mixed with cocoa and butter. :-)

Finally, we coated these little logs in coconut, which we sent through the food processor to get the right texture.

Even though the recipe said to set for 2 hours, we tried right away. They were pretty good.

But, apparently that instruction was in there for a reason, as they turned from good to awesome as they set -- the chocolate sauce absorbed and hardened a bit, making a nice toothy shell around the soft, sweet cake. Delicious!

Think we can go 5/5?

Classic Lamingtons

Sponge Cake
Servings: 24

5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (240 ml) (225 gm) (8 oz) castor (superfine) sugar
Pinch salt
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups (300 ml) (200 gm) (7 oz) cornflour (cornstarch)
1 ½ teaspoons (8 gm) baking powder
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) butter, melted (optional)
2¾ cups (660 ml) (250 gm) (9 oz) unsweetened desiccated coconut, to assemble

Preheat oven to moderate 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.
Prepare a 4 ½ cm (1¾ inch) deep, 23cm x 33cm (9”x 13”) baking pan by lining with non-stick paper.
In a stand mixer bowl place eggs, sugar and salt. Using the whisk attachment, beat on high for 15 minutes.
While the eggs and sugar are beating sift the cornflour and baking powder at least 3 times.
After 15 minutes add vanilla and beat on high for another 5 minutes. The mixture should have at least tripled in size, be light in colour and very foamy.
Sift flour mixture over the egg mixture. I like to use a whisk but you can also use a large metal spoon to lightly fold the flour in. Some people like to use a wooden spoon but I find it too heavy. Heavy handling now will result in a flat tough sponge. If you are using butter, thoroughly fold it in now but lightly.
Spread mixture into your prepared pan and smooth out evenly. Some cooks at this stage drop the pan onto the bench top to even out the air bubbles! I have never had that much courage!
Bake in preheated moderate oven for 22-25 minutes. The sponge will rise quite a lot but then settle back down. Don’t be tempted to open the oven to peak. I also warn the family to walk gently past the oven! When baked the sponge will have shrunk very slightly from the sides and should feel springy when pressed gently.
Turn the sponge out immediately onto a wire rack to cool and reverse sponge so as not to mark the top. Allow to cool. It is best to keep the cake for a day before making the Lamingtons as the cake will be easier to handle.

Chocolate icing
3 ¼ cups (780 ml) (400 gm) (14 oz) icing (powdered) sugar
1/3 cup (80 ml) (40 gm) (1-1/3 oz) cocoa powder
1 tablespoon (15 gm) (15 gm) (½ oz) butter, melted
½ to ¾ cup (120 ml to 180 ml) milk

Sift the icing sugar and cocoa into a heatproof bowl. Stir in the butter and ½ cup milk. Set the bowl over a pan of hot water. Stir until icing is smooth adding more milk to thin the icing if needed. I find I need more than ½ cup but not quite ¾ cup of milk.

To assemble the Lamingtons:
Cut the sponge cake into 24 rectangular pieces – 6 across and 4 down. To be particular you can trim the crusts.
Keep the icing over the hot water to keep it melted. Place desiccated coconut in a shallow bowl.
Dip each piece into the chocolate icing
Allow excess to drip off then toss gently into the coconut.
Stand cakes on a wire rack to set, about 2 hours.

For the May challenge Marcellina from Marcellina in Cucina dared us to make Lamingtons. An Australian delicacy that is as tasty as it is elegant.

April Genius and Fail

I listen to an excellent mama podcast that asks listeners to report their genius and fail moments for the week, in an effort to celebrate/sympathize with the daily life of being a parent. April's challenge was certainly a genius and fail moment for me.

Genius moments? I made homemade focaccia! With a two-month old! Friends came over for dinner! The focaccia was amazing! I even took some pictures!

Fail moment?

Totally forgot to blog about it.

And dear, sweet Erica didn't want to bring up my failures, so we didn't have a post last month.

So, apologies! But this focaccia (technically, it's fugazza, the Argentinian version) deserves a post, because it's so good and so easy. Here's the recipe, so you can now make it in your own kitchens. Do it now. 


Servings: 16 slices
Preparation time: 90 minutes (including proofing)
Baking time: 20 minutes

2¾ cups (660 ml) (12-1/3 oz) (350gm) bread flour
150ml (10 tablespoons) olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (6 gm) kosher or sea salt
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (6 gm) instant dry or active dry yeast
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) sugar
1 cup (250 ml) warm water
1 large white onion
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (6 gm) dried oregano
grated Parmesan (optional)
thinly sliced mozzarella (optional)

If using active dry yeast: Pour the warm water (100-105° F/38-40°C) into a small bowl. Stir in the sugar and yeast. Set aside for 5-10 minutes, until frothy. If using instant dry yeast: Add the yeast and the sugar with the flour.

Whisk together the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, add 5 tablespoons (75 ml) of olive oil and mix together briefly using a spoon or the dough hook.
Add the yeast and water mixture and begin to knead. The mixture should come together as a soft, stretchy dough, pulling away from the sides of the bowl. Add a bit more flour if mixture is too wet, or a bit more water if mixture seems dry or too firm. Knead for 5-10 minutes, until dough is smooth, soft and elastic.

Transfer the dough to a large, clean, oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let dough rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

While the dough is rising, peel, halve and slice the onion lengthwise into very thin strips. Submerge the sliced onion in a bowl of cold, salted water and soak for 30 minutes. Drain onions well and dry with paper towels.

Preheat oven to hot 450°F/230°C/gas mark 8 with a rack in the middle.

Once it has risen, punch down the dough and shape into a smooth ball. Pour 3 tablespoons (45 ml) of olive oil into a large cast iron skillet or medium sized pizza pan with at least 1”/2.5cm sides. Place the ball of dough in the middle of the pan and press out gently with your fingers. Let dough relax for about 10 minutes.

Continue to press dough out into the pan, letting it relax for a few minutes each time as necessary, until dough covers the bottom of the pan. It should take 3 – 5 repetitions, depending on the size of the pan.
Sprinkle the onions over the top of the dough. Drizzle a tablespoon (15 ml) or two (30 ml) of olive oil over the onions, and sprinkle with the dried oregano, rubbing it between your fingertips while doing so to bring out the flavour.
Place the fugazza in the centre of the preheated hot oven and bake for about 20 minutes, until the edges start to turn golden brown. If desired, remove fugazza from oven after 15 minutes and top with thin slices of mozzarella and sprinkle with grated Parmesan then return to oven and bake until the fugazza is golden brown and crispy around the edges. Brown the onions under the oven grill or broiler for the last 2 - 3 minutes of cooking, if desired. 
Remove from the oven, allow to cool enough to handle and cut into wedges or squares to serve.

For the month of April Rachael of pizzarossa and Sawsan of Chef in Disguise took us on a trip to Italy. They challenged us to try our hands at making focaccia from scratch.