Tinned Spaghetti and Oreo Balls, my (not so) secret vices…

When the weather is wild and windy and the rain is torrential, all you want is to be warm and dry and eating something hot and comforting. After swimming walking home from work tonight I felt a craving that had been dormant for years. My guilty secret.

Tinned Spaghetti.

I don’t know why I love it, I just do. I love regular spaghetti too, it’s just that sometimes I feel like tinned spaghetti with two slices of white bread slathered in butter. I feel my arteries clogging just typing this.

So I took this photo with the intention of showing how comforting and tasty this meal is. Im not really sure this picture conveys that. It looks more like spaghetti brains…

Now what is a comfort food dinner without comfort food dessert? Enter: Oreo Balls. Ive seen people call these Oreo Truffles, Oreo Bites but really, lets not pretend these are more elegant than they are. Ugly they may be, but AWESOME they also are. Anyone care to correct my syntax? They are also unbelievably easy to make. All you needs is some…

Cream cheese, chocolate and oreos. Really, thats all.

So you take your oreos (there were two packets in the box, you only really need to use one, and that means that you can munch on the other packet while you’re cooking. Yay!). Put them in a snaplock bag and bash them with a rolling pin.

Did I mention that this recipe is not only comforting but extremely theraputic?

Mix the oreo crumbles with the softened cream cheese (250g cream cheese to be precise)

Roll the mixture into balls and refrigerate until they are firm.

Roll them around in the melted chocolate, and wait until they are set. Or you could eat them all warm an gooey…

Now, I will admit that this meal is absolutely and unbelievably unhealthy. Elegant, it is not. Gourmet, it is not. Hit the spot? COMPLETELY. Now that my guilty secret it out in the universe, hopefully I can get you to spill yours! What do you love to eat but are embarrassed to tell anyone about?

Daring Bakers’ Croquembouche Challenge (May 2010)

The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.

What is a Croquembouche without a little ice cream on the side?

So, this month I was EXCITED! I’ve wanted to make a Croquembouche for a very long time, and this challenge gave me both a reason to make it, and an amazing recipe to follow. I tested out the recipe numerous times, partly to make sure it would be perfect when I came to assemble my Croquembouche, mostly because I really wanted to eat Profiteroles!

The creme patissiere is AMAZING. I ate it could eat it by the bowlful and I never had a problem with this part of the recipe. After I figured out that I could make meringues from the two egg whites left over I had ever more reason to love this recipe. Who can say no to custard and meringues? Not necessarily together…

Of course I used the spoon to put it into my piping bag, not scoff it alone….

I had a few teething difficulties with the Pate a Choux with my first two batches ending up flat and nasty. I followed the recipe to the T but still they wouldn’t rise. Until, I worked out that I needed to keep the pan on the heat while adding the flour. Apparantly the steam has something to do with reacting to the flour and making it rise blah blah blah. Whatever the reason, it worked like a charm. No more pancake profiteroles, puffy all the way!

Pre baking

Post baking! Look how puffy they are!

(Im not sure why the pic is so yellow, im still figuring all the photography out.)

Now all that remained was to construct my mountain. With the help of a lot of melted chocolate and a plastic drinking cup, I finally had my Croquembouche! Hooray!

I decorated it with fondant flowers to add a bit of colour

Yes, I ran out of dark chocolate so I had to finish it off with milk. Quite a tasty adaptation!

Croquembouche Recipe – From the Daring Bakers

Creme Patissiere – Ingredients (I needed two batches of the original recipe so I have doubled the ingredients, halve them if you want to make less)

2 cups (450 ml.) full cream milk
4 Tbsp. cornflour
12 Tbsp. (200 g.) sugar
2 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
4 Tbsp. (60 g.) unsalted butter
2 Tsp. Vanilla

Method

1. Dissolve cornflour in 1/2 cup of milk. Combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a saucepan; bring to boil; remove from heat.

2. Beat the whole egg, then the yolks into the cornflour mixture. Pour 1/3 of boiling milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs do not begin to cook.

3. Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking.

4. Continue whisking (this is important – you do not want the eggs to solidify/cook) until the cream thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat and beat in the butter and vanilla.

5. Pour cream into a stainless steel/ceramic bowl. Press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Chill immediately and until ready to use.

Pate a Choux – Ingredients

¾ cup (175 ml.) water
6 Tbsp. (85 g.) unsalted butter
¼ Tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup (125 g.) all-purpose flour
4 large eggs

Method

1. Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally.

2. Cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.

3. Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.

4. Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny. As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes.

5. It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs.

6. Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip, pipe choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high about 1 inch wide.

7. Using a clean finger dipped in hot water, gently press down on any tips that have formed on the top of choux when piping. You want them to retain their ball shape, but be smoothly curved on top.

At this point you can brush them with an egg wash, I didn’t bother and they were still tasty and pretty!

8. Bake the choux at 425?F/220?C degrees until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes.

9. Lower the temperature to 350?F/180?C degrees and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 20 minutes more. Remove to a rack and cool. Make sure you keep an eye on them as they bake, I took mine out after about 10 mins extra because they were beginning to burn on top.

Assembly

You can use spun sugar to assemble your Croquembouche but after reading many stories of burnt fingers and toes I thought I wouldn’t risk it. Instead I used melted chocolate. Yum!
You may want to lay out your unfilled, unglazed choux in a practice design to get a feel for how to assemble the final dessert. For example, if making a conical shape, trace a circle (no bigger than 8 inches) on a piece of parchment to use as a pattern. Then take some of the larger choux and assemble them in the circle for the bottom layer. Practice seeing which pieces fit together best.

Once you are ready to assemble your piece montée, dip the top of each choux in your glaze (careful it may be still hot!), and start assembling on your cake board/plate/sheet. Continue dipping and adding choux in levels using the glaze to hold them together as you build up. (You may want to use toothpicks to hold them in place – see video #4 below).

When you have finished the design of your piece montée, you may drizzle with remaining glaze or use ribbons, sugar cookie cut-outs, almonds, flowers, etc. to decorate. Have fun and enjoy! Bon appétit!

New Job Brownies

Now I just need to put a little disclaimer in here. I use the word “brownies” very loosely here because, well they aren’t brownies (strictly speaking). Two things led me to bake this treat.

Number One: I was intrigued by this post by Bakerella about the strangely named Congo Bars. Basically, they’re what we call Blondies, Brownies with white chocolate instead of cocoa. Yummo! Particularly apt because at that moment my pantry was absolutely full of cooking chocolate of the white, dark AND milk variety. They needed to be eaten.

Number Two: I got a new job! Yay! Now, most of you will have heard me bemoaning my chronic state of unemployment over the past six months. In a bit of an up and down week last week, I had two interviews and, finally, success! Of course, new jobness must be celebrated with the consumption of sweet, chocolatey mouthfuls of amazing. Yes, amazing is now a noun.

So I tried the Bakerella Congo Bars. Im not sure if I converted the measurements wrong, or missed an ingredient or what, but something went pretty wrong with these. They were too dry and just didn’t cut it. So I searched and I searched and I found what I was pretty sure would be a good Blondie recipe. Thankyou, Hummingbird Bakery for sharing your delicious recipes with us mere mortals! I just upped the chocolate quota in this recipe and swapped the nuts for chocolate (like you didn’t see that coming!) and voila! Amazing Blondies, truly worthy for such a celebration. Enjoy!

I subscribe to the belief that the batter is just the stuff that holds all the chocolate together. Yes I do.

mmmmm studded with squares of milk and dark chocolate…

Hooray for employment! These Blondies are excited too!

No such thing as a small piece. Particularly with this triple chocolate fudgey goodness!

Blondies – Adapted from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

Ingredients

150g White chocolate

125g Unsalted butter

150g Caster Sugar

2 Eggs

1 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract

200g Plain Flour

1 pkt Milk Choc Chips (I cant remember how big the packet was, just use however much you want!)

1 pkt Dark Choc Chips (As above)

6 Squares of Milk Cooking Chocolate (These are really optional, I just liked having a big square of chocolate to bit into at the center of each blondie!)

6 Squares of Dark Cooking Chocolate (As above)

Method

1. Put the white chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Leave until melted and smooth. (These are the instructions given by Hummingbird, I melted the butter in the microwave and melted the white chocolate in the butter and it turned out alright. Much less hassle than a double boiler too)

2. Add the sugar and stir until well incorporated

3. Add the eggs and vanilla extract, stirring vigorously so that the eggs don’t cook

4. Add the flour

5. Mix in the choc chips

6.  Spread mixture into a baking tray and place the chocolate squares in the batter

7. Bake at 170 degrees celsius for 35-40 mins or until golden brown on top. DO NOT OVERCOOK!

8. Try not to pass out when you bit into all those amazing pieces of chocolate.

Chocolate Pear Pudding

So its definitely onesie weather! When its this cold you absolutely need a warm dessert to round off a meal and let your body know its time to wind down to go to bed. And who knows how to make a quick, warm, comforting dessert better than anyone? Nigella does. After a dinner of roasted veggies, I thought i’d try the Chocolate Pear Pudding from the Nigella Express cookbook. Partly because I love the chocolate/pear combination, mostly because I wanted something super quick and easy! (And also I think the little pear halves look really cute laid out on the bottom of the pan!)

Look! Pear bums!

True to the book it came from, this recipe is truly a scrumptious dessert made the express way. I was worried that the cake batter was too thick to produce a moist cake but, trust in Nigella, for only she can show you the true way to amazing desserts. (Don’t worry, I haven’t lost faith in The Saint, but Nigella really is the queen of the quickie dessert.)