COOK WITH US: A recipe and heaps of inspiration

I love watching Masterchef Australia. It’s intense, it’s entertaining and the best part is that you get to learn so much from it. For me it’s a lot more than just a cooking competition show. Honestly, when its airing I am completely hooked to it and this is where i get most of my inspiration from. It enhances and takes my love of food to the next level. I can go on and on, all praises for this mouthwatering fascinating show, but lets get to the point quickly. I recently found George and Gary’s cookbook “Cook With Us” in a local bookstore and instantly grabbed it of course. (FYI, this is their second cookbook together) I simple adore these guys, so you can well imagine my excitement. The three hosts, George, Gary and Matt seem like the most wonderful people on-screen, who know exactly what they are doing. And ain’t George just hilarious?! So, being an avid MasterChef Australia fan, while i was reading the introduction of their cookbook, I could actually hear their voices in my head (and no, trust me not creepy at all) just simply heart warming. It’s like having a good conversation with them. And that surely is a treat. I’ve been indulging into their cookbook obsessively over the past week, and I thought i should share this love for food and flavors with all the other cooking enthusiasts out there. There’s tons of good cooking advice in here, which is just what any novice cook needs. What i love and appreciate most is that the recipes are true to them – If you have been following the show all seasons you get to know these people well, so even by just reading the recipe I can tell whose it is. That i believe is the most amazing thing about cooking and food; It reflects your personality and who you are. cb8   cb1 cb4 Oh and the photos in this cookbook are equally enticing with a simplistic theme. No clutter, no extra props, just simple, delicious looking food. Definitely makes you go WOW! There are a few recipes in here that I’m particularly excited to try. But today I’m going to share the very first recipe i’ve tried from their book. It’s simple yet delicious and doesn’t require laborious hours in the kitchen. It’s Gary’s Tahini & Yoghurt Dressing. It can be served with fish, chicken or as a salad dressing (or just about anything you may like). mc2 TAHINI AND YOGHURT DRESSING [Makes about 250ml] INGREDIENTS: – 200g Greek yoghurt – 1/4 cup tahini – finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon – 1 clove garlic, crushed and finely chopped – salt, to taste – 1 tblsp extra virgin olive oil DIRECTIONS: 1. Drain yoghurt in a fine mesh sieve lined with muslin cloth. leaveto drain over a bowl for about 4 hours in the fridge. (I used regular yoghurt that we get here and drained it in a muslin until it stopped dripping – about 30-45 mins). Set the liquid (whey) aside in case you want to thin the dressing later. 2. place this thick yoghurt in a bowl, mix in the tahini, lemon zest and juice, garlic, salt and olive oil. mix all together until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning if required. 3. It’s ready to serve. You can store leftover dressing in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week. I served this with grilled chicken skewers…more like a dip than a dressing. mc1 Cooking Tip: Recipes aren’t set in stone, they’re only guidelines. – George Calombaris

Gimme a break!

Some days are so out of control, you just feel like you are drowning and this is it, the worst in you is here to stay and survival seems doubtful. That’s when I’m absolutely convinced that i need therapy. But you know what, besides baking I think retail therapy would do just fine. Although I’m convinced that I pretty much qualify as a bakeaholic, but I’m not really a shopaholic. But once in a while bingeing is totally fine with me. That’s what momma’s do to stay healthy and sane – trust me, it works.

Here’s my top 5 purchases from the year 2014:

1. These little mini tart pans were love at first sight. They are my favorite pans to use when I’m taste testing pie crusts and cakes.

mini tart pans

2. These 6 double sided cookie cutters are the most versatile & helpful in the kitchen. I use these cutters for cookies, fondant, mini cakes and donuts.

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3. This Oven Thermometer is my MOST used tool in the kitchen. I’m a little obsessed with precision, so just cant do without this.

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4. Lately I had been experimenting with different bread dough and when i saw this baguette pan, I just had to buy it. Just looking at it makes me want to bake bread and of course also looks more professional.

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5. Last but not the least this Wilton Rolling Pin is definitely my top 5. Besides rolling fondant, i use it for pie crusts, puff pastry and cookies all the time. Psst..I’m not much of a fondant person, but if that’s what the kids want, then that’s what the kids get. Sucha good momma, right!

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What’s your most favorite and useful tool in the kitchen? would love to know :)

The madness of motherhood…and cake!

In the past 5 years since being a momma, I’ve faced many types of “ME” – there are faces of me that i didn’t even know existed. I think a lot of mothers would nod their heads in agreement with me saying that my kids bring out the best and worst in me. I guess that comes with the package. Can’t believe that over JUST 5 years, we have added smiles, tears, laughter and loads of memories ( and millions more to come) to my treasure. Well i will take that as my reward for all the sleepless nights and stressful days. Now, why not celebrate his 5th birthday and me surviving these 5 years of mommy-hood – a fun, scary, sweet and unpredictable roller coaster ride. Birthdays are of course just the right reason to celebrate and bake some cake.

That’s when i go into planning mode and trust me I go into planning mode a lot. As a mother at times it feels like I’m not doing enough, I’m not the best momma…of course I have my low moments often but honestly, as mothers we do a lot for our kids every single day, we take every chance we can to cheer them up…but I’m thinking i want to do something a little more that would light up his face on his day. What more could a mother want, right?!

So onto the birthday cake. I baked him one in hopes that he will love and remember it. These days he’s into super heroes, mimicking them and being them. So, it was a mini superhero themed birthday and the fun in it for me was baking the cake and doing the decorations myself. A lot of work but oh so satisfying and totally worth all the effort. My boy was ecstatic. He loved it all…well, except actually eating the cake. Sadly these kids no nothing about good food…hmph. Imagine, my boy doesn’t eat CAKE! Shocking.

birthday collage

Voila! It was my first attempt at fondant, which turned out pretty well. My boy totally digged the superhero theme. The cake was a moist chocolate cake with a layer of chocolate butter cream enveloping it. Plus the absolutely yum vanilla cupcakes with slightly coffee flavored vanilla frosting topped with OREO crumbs. Ahh, satisfying.

Pinterest Recipe Challenge #10

HOMEMADE DIGESTIVE BISCUITS

Yes, digestive biscuits! The humble, not-so-fancy biscuits. They are one of my must have ingredients for this no-bake cheesecake i absolutely love. Also its something mom likes to have with her tea every morning. We always have digestive biscuits in our grocery list. So wanting to impress mom i wanted to make our own homemade version of these biscuits. Luckily I found this recipe for digestive biscuits on a very interesting blog called the little loaf. Here is the pin from my board in case you wanna save it.

Followed the recipe exactly and it came out just amazing. Normally i wouldn’t use a word like amazing to describe some digestive biscuits, but this homemade version really surprised me. They were easy to make and fail proof. They are light, crisp and flavorful. Everyone loved them. Really!

homemade digestive biscuis

Makes 16 biscuits

INGREDIENTS:

100g oats

100g wholemeal/wholewheat flour

1 tsp baking powder

50g soft brown sugar

a pinch of salt

100g butter, cubed & slightly softened

1 – 1 1/2 tbsp milk

a handful of chopped almonds (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Blitz the oats to a fine powder in a food processor then mix in a large bowl with the flour, baking powder, brown sugar and salt.

2. Add the butter and mix until crumbly. Add the milk and mix to form a smooth dough. Wrap in cling film and pop in fridge to firm up for about 15-20 minutes.

3. Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out to around 3mm thickness. It can get crumbly so you’ll need to be very careful when rolling*. Cut out circles of about 6cm diameter – or whatever size you prefer. Decorate with a pattern of your choice if desired. Bake in the middle of your oven for about 12-15 minutes.

4. When lightly golden but not too brown, remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container.

*rolling tip: it’s a whole lot easier to roll out the dough between 2 sheets of baking/wax paper and then transfer to baking sheet. 

My Verdict:

These are surely a winner. The subtle sweetness and buttery, nutty flavors makes them a treat to enjoy with a hot cuppa coffee.

homemade digestive biscuis

Pinterest Recipe Challenge #9

Copycat KRISPY KREME DOUGHNUTS

It seems everyone loves doughnuts. All kinds of them. Though im not totally crazy about them but i do love a good filled doughnut once in a while. When I found this pin I just couldn’t stop staring and drooling at the photos. Oh those beautiful looking doughnuts. I was sure this was really going to be a challenge making them at home. But surprie surprise, they arent all that difficult. Just a long process, but worth it. You can review the original recipe post here.

When i first made these on my sons birthday, the little guy was over the moon and i was getting “wow, you really made these at home?” from my family. Ahh, that’s a great feeling.

homemade doughnuts

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/4 cup evaporated milk, warm
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, then more as needed
  • 3 – 4 cups oil, for frying

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a bowl whisk together yeast, warm water and 1/2 tsp of the sugar. Let rest 5 – 10 minutes.
  2. Add in evaporated milk, remaining granulated sugar (3 Tbsp + 2 1/2 tsp), salt, shortening, egg, egg yolk and vanilla.
  3. Add half of the flour and mix using a whisk and blend until smooth.
  4. Now using an electric mixer with a dough hook, slowly add remaining flour and knead on low speed until smooth and elastic about  5 minutes, adding additional flour IF needed (you want dough to be slightly sticky and tacky but shouldn’t stick to a clean fingertip). Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until double in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
  5. Punch dough down and roll into an even layer onto a floured surface to slightly less than 1/2-inch thickness. Cut into doughnut shapes using a doughnut cutter or two round circle cutters. place evenly on a baking sheet or large tray. Cover and let rise again until doubled, about 30 – 40 minutes.
  6. Heat oil upto to 360 degrees in a large pot. If not using a thermometer, just make sure the oil is hot enough for frying…not too hot or doughnuts will burn and not cook properly.
  7. Carefully transfer doughnuts to oil (frying only 2-3 at a time) and fry until golden on one side, then using a fork/butter knife or even a chopstick, gently flip to opposite side and fry until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool for 15 to 20 minutes prior to glazing, if desired.
Chocolate glazed doughnuts filled with vanilla pudding.

Chocolate glazed doughnuts filled with vanilla pudding.

My Verdict:

These were OH so good! if you are eating them warm, trust me they will literally melt in your mouth. Ok, honestly maybe a little greasier than i would like…but will try using less shortening next time or substitute it with butter. Lets see how that goes.

Pinterest Recipe Challenge #8

HOMEMADE CLASSIC WHITE BREAD

Nothing can beat the delicious aroma of bread baking in the oven. Nothing at all. Just imagine popping the fresh dough into the oven first thing in the morning and waiting for it to bake while you enjoy a hot cuppa coffee. Aah, the perfect start to a day.

Homemade just tastes so much better, duh right!

I was really thinking this would be challenging. Baking bread at home! But guess what, its the easiest homemade goody you can make…you just gotta make sure all your ingredients are right. The crucial ingredient, Yeast does all the hard work for you, minus the kneading of course (if you are doing that by hand). But you would hear this from a lot of bakers that kneading is the best part about baking bread (and the aromatic kitchen while it bakes). The whole process really helps make you a better person or momma in my case. Trust me!

So i finally see this Pinterest addiction paying off. Im hooked on bread making now, no more bread from the store for me. You gotta try it to believe it!

Here is the link to the pin. Save it, you wont regret it. It’s the famous recipe from the King Arthur Flour website.

Classic White Bread

Makes 1 large loaf

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/3 to 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water*
  • 1 heaping tablespoon honey
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons soft butter
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup dry milk powder

*Use the lesser amount in summer or humid climates; the greater amount in winter or drier climates.

DIRECTIONS:

1) Mix all of the ingredients in the order listed, and mix and knead — by hand, or using a dough hook. It won’t be particularly soft nor stiff; it should be smooth and feel bouncy and elastic under your hands.

2) Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl. Cover it, and let it rise at room temperature until it’s very puffy, 1 to 2 hours.

3) Gently deflate the dough, and shape it into a fat 9″ log. Place it in a lightly greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.

4) Cover the pan, and let the dough rise for 60 to 90 minutes, till it’s nicely crowned over the rim of the pan. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

5) Bake the bread for 20 minutes. Tent it lightly with aluminum foil, and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, till it’s golden brown. Tap the top, if it sounds hollow its done.

6) Remove the bread from the oven, and turn it out onto a rack to cool. When completely cool, wrap in plastic, and store at room temperature.

My Verdict:

This was a soft and fluffy bread, great for sandwiches or just toasted and slathered with butter. I only wish it was more crustier but oh look at the shape of that sliced bread…totally digging it :) Of course its homemade which means no preservatives. So this will stay fresh and at its best for a day or so, but you must keep it at room temperature not in the refrigerator. If you haven’t managed to devour it all in a day, you can make french toast next morning. Just the ideal thing to do. And if you still have some leftover – make breadcrumbs!

Happy Baking!

Pinterest Recipe Challenge #7

CLASSIC PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES

I prefer feeding my kids homemade baked goods. Mainly because i love the baking part. I also wanted to introduce my kids to the famous world of creamy peanut butter that everybody seems to love, but apparently they are MY kids…not into peanut butter. Well, at least now i don’t have to worry about making homemade peanut butter.

The challenge for me here was baking the ‘cookie’ right. And trust me this time there were no tears involved. You can find the pin from my Pinterest board here. The recipe is originally posted on Sally’s Baking Addiction She is the queen of cookies. Will be trying her other interesting cookie recipes too for sure.

peanut butter cookies

Makes approximately 32 cookies

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature*
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (150g) light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature preferred
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (250g) creamy peanut butter*
  • 3 cups + 2 Tablespoons (391g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

DIRECTIONS:

1. Using a hand mixer, cream the softened butter and both sugars together on medium speed until smooth. Add the egg and mix on high until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.

2. Add the vanilla and peanut butter and mix on high until combined. Set aside.

3. In a separate bowl, toss the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together. Add to the wet ingredients and mix on low until combined. Dough will be thick, yet sticky. Cover dough tightly and chill for at least 3 hours (and up to 2 days) in the refrigerator.

4. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

5. Roll balls of dough (about 1.5 tablespoons of dough per cookie). Place 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Press fork into the tops to create the criss-cross pattern. Bake for 11 minutes or until very lightly browned on the sides. The centers will look very soft and undone. Remove from the oven and let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. The cookies will continue to “set” on the baking sheet during this time.

6. Cover cookies and store at room temperature.

classic PB cookies, fresh out of my oven

My Verdict:

Ok so Im not a peanut butter fan, but honestly i would still rate these cookies 9 out of 10. They were easy to make and didn’t flop like my cookie baking usually does. That’s a big achievement in my books. So keeping this recipe as my basic cookie science, I’m sure i can play around with flavor as per my liking. And my better half loved them. So that’s a Yayy! for this recipe.