Soft amaretti biscuits (imagine chewy marzipan meringues)

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A different take on soft amaretti biscuits which are traditionally round

There’s a lot to enjoy about this Italian amaretti biscuit recipe. It is uncomplicated and quick to make and requires only four ingredients (ground almonds, amaretto, egg whites and castor sugar). Then there is the taste and texture of the soft, warm biscuit: rich in almonds and amaretto, there’s a distinct marzipan taste in the chewy soft centre beneath the crispy meringue-like outside. Perfect for teas.

PREPARATION

You’ll need a lightly greased baking tray that’s lined with greaseproof paper and a perfectly clean dry bowl. You’ll also need a scale, measuring spoons, a whisk, a spoon and a sieve (for dusting icing sugar before serving).

Preheat your oven to 180 degree celsius.

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For freshness: grind the almonds in a coffee grinder

AMARETTI BISCUIT INGREDIENTS

4 medium egg whites (with no sign of yellow yolk)
350 grams castor sugar
350 grams ground almonds (you can grind almonds up in a coffee grinder)
30ml of amaretto liqueur (this bittersweet almond flavored Italian liqueur goes by different brand names. Ask for Disaronno or something similar if your liquor store says they don’t have amaretto)

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Quick ingredients check list

Whisk the eggs in the clean bowl until they are firm with stiff peaks. Gently stir in and combine the almonds and sugar. Once mixed, add the amaretto and gently fold it in so that you end up with a smooth paste.

Place small dollops of the amaretto biscuit mixture onto baking paper. Use a teaspoon or a spoon and space them out so that the biscuits are at least 3cm apart (give them enough space to expand in the oven).

Bake for about 15 minutes in the centre of the oven or until they are golden brown.

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Chewy underside

ALTERNATIVE (what I did to get the rectangular biscuits in the pics)

This alternative version is essentially a successful ‘flop’. I added a little too much amaretto to spice up the biscuits but the mixture was too runny.

The quickest solution was to pour the ‘batter’ into a prepared tart tin. My friends who tasted the cool biscuits later wanted the ‘flop’ version of the recipe so here it goes:

Halve the ingredients but add an extra glug of amaretto so that the mixture takes on the form of a batter. Sprinkle flaked almonds on top. Bake as one batch (as opposed to individual biscuits). I used a medium sized tart tin. Once the mixture is baked and golden brown you can remove from the tin and slice. Pop the slices back into the oven upside down to crisp the underside slightly.

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Alternative: bake in a tart tin, slice and rebake to crisp the underside

SERVE

Dust the amaretti biscuits with some icing sugar if you wish and serve them soft and warm. If you leave them to cool they’ll have a little more crunch (let them cool on a wire rack until firm).

Store them in an airtight container if you’d like to keep them for a few days.

Jean’s Apple Tart Cake

 INGREDIENTS
 

3 Tablespoons butter

3 Eggs

¼ Teaspoon salt

¼ Cup milk

1 Cup flour

1 Teaspoon baking powder

1 Cup sugar

1 Tin pie apples

1 Small tin of condensed milk (can add ½ cup of milk)

METHOD

Beat butter and sugar well

Add eggs and beat well

Add milk and dry ingredients alternately

Pour half of the dough into a buttered baking dish and pack the apples in layers

Pour the other half of the dough over the apple pieces

Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes or until ready (test with skewer)

Heat the condensed milk with half a cup of milk and pour over the tart while it is hot (alternatively, use condensed milk only)

ALTERNATIVELY

If you’d like to bake a simple cake, double the recipe and allow approximately 1 hr and 10 minutes of baking time.  Pour the condensed milk syrup over the top and then lightly whip Nestle dessert cream and pour it over the topping once it has set.

And if you’re up to it… let the kids decorate it (as Oliva did below – J is for Jean, her much-loved grandmother)

Lemon Meringue Pie (using condensed milk & a biscuit base)

 

Eating lemon meringue pie is an intense experience.

There’s the zing of the lemon that dangles rather dangerously on the edge of your tongue as you take your first bite. Then there’s the creamy sweet condensed milk that rushes in on the heels of the sharp sourness, which then, rather dramatically, gives way to the buttery crunch of the biscuit base (with a hint of saltiness) before your taste buds are finally allowed to settle into the softness of the soothing meringue topping.

Lemon meringue pie isn’t complete without a cup of tea…

Or a tea party (thank~you Anairam and also for your blog post on my lemon meringue pie http://fraiing.blogspot.com/2011/01/tea-and-greatest-lemon-meringue-pie.html !) …

Here is a somewhat classic South African recipe using one packet of biscuits and one tin of condensed milk. It’s easy to bake and my favourite part is creating different meringue shapes (otherwise simply spoon it on loosely to form a ‘puffy-cloud’ topping).

PRE HEAT OVEN to 180 degrees celsius

BASE:

GREASE a tart tin with butter

CRUSH 1 packet Tennis biscuits (or other coconut, syrup and butter biscuits) into fine pieces (my Mom used to put the packet inside a dish cloth and then bang the contents with a rolling pin)

MELT 125 grams butter

COMBINE biscuits and butter and PRESS into the pie dish (allow it to set in the fridge)

FILLING

MIX 385 g/ 1 tin of Nestle condensed milk with 3 egg yolks and 125 ml of lemon juice (put the egg whites aside for the meringue topping)

TOPPING

WHISK 3 to 4 egg whites until stiff and then gradually add 125 ml castor sugar and 15 ml cornflour (to stabilise the meringue). Whisk until the peaks are stiff and the egg whites are shiny

PIPE (or spoon on) the meringue onto the filling

BAKE

Bake at 180 degrees for ten – 15 minutes or until the meringue is lightly browned

Allow to cool before serving (eat the same day or the following day)

Variations – place 1/2 can of pie apples or 3 sliced bananas on the biscuit base before pouring in the filling. Alternatively, mix the pulp of 3 fresh granadilla into the condensed milk filling. For an extra zing, add the rind of one lemon to the condensed milk filling.

Chocolate brownies with chocolate mousse topping

A friend from chef school recently asked me for this *seriously* good chocolate brownie recipe. It took awhile but after a huge spring-cleaning session, I uncovered it in an old diary. Glad I found it but I think I’m happier about the clean out. I’m feeling 1000 tons lighter after throwing away boxes of things/photos/letters/files/memories I’ve been carrying around for years. Lighter (perhaps) than the mousse topping on this blurry brownie shot!

Brownie ingredients:

  • 250 grams butter
  • 1/2 a cup of cocoa
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 drop of vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of walnut pieces

Brownie method:

  • Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees
  • Melt the butter in a pot
  • Add the sugar (allow it to dissolve a bit)
  • Sift together the flour, cocoa and baking powder and add to the pot
  • Whisk the eggs and add to the pot
  • Add the walnuts
  • Mix together with a wooden spoon
  • Butter a tray and pour in the batter (use a palette knife to even out the batter)
  • Bake for 15 – 20 minutes in the middle of the oven (it’s ready when it springs back if you press it)
  • Allow to cool

Mousse ingredients:

  • 125 grams of Lindt dark chocolate
  • 125 grams egg
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon gelatine (or leave this out)

Mousse method:

  • Whip the cream
  • Beat the eggs over a double boiler until frothy/bubbly (but not cooked)
  • Add the chocolate and mix
  • Melt the gelatine (if using) over a double boiler and mix into the chocolate mousse
  • Fold into the whipped cream
  • Layer over the brownies
  • Dust with cocoa powder
  • Cut with a sharp knife (dip into hot water after each slice to ensure a clean cut)

Great(ed) Apple Pie

'Homebaking' by the harbour with 'simplest apple pie'...

 

I found this beautiful book the other day: Home Baking.  It’s written by a husband and wife team, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid who are known for their award winning book Hot Sour Salty Sweet.  Sub-titled ‘the artful mix of flour and tradition around the world’, it’s a treat for the eye and the imagination as it shares recipes and photographs collected by the couple on their travels.  They’ve also included some of their favourite home-based recipes. 

The book is divided into pastry (tarts, pies & pastries), bread (festive, family, artisan), smaller breads (rolls, bagels, sweet buns, skillet breads, pancakes, flatbreads, crackers), cakes & cookies (everyday, fancy, cookies).  Jeffrey and Naomi celebrate the tradition of home baking and the idea of enjoying it, taking your time about it, doing things your own way at your own pace without chasing any ideas of perfection – ‘going relaxedly into the kitchen to make bread or a batch of cookies, knowing that you can and that it’s an easy, rewarding thing to do…’  

Baking is seen as an art not a science and there is plenty of opportunity to play and experiment.  I gave their first recipe a bash this morning ‘the simplest apple pie’ – for my sister and her family: 

For the pastry, mix 2 cups all purpose flour with ½ cup sugar while separately mixing 12 tablespoons of soft, cubed unsalted butter with 3 tablespoons of sour cream and 2 large egg yolks.  Combine the butter mix into the flour – mix together with a wooden spoon. Add 1 teaspoon of lemon zest, should you wish.  Work out the lumps with your fingers until the mixture resembles ‘a coarse cornmeal texture’.  Add 1-3 tablespoons of cold water until the dough combines into a solid mass.  Wrap in plastic and place in the fridge to rest. 

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees F (I put my oven on 180 degrees C). 

For the filling, coarsely grate 8 medium/large apples (8 cups) and add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and sugar to taste (not too sweet).   Mix well. 

Roll out half the pastry (about ¼ of an inch thick) and line a greased baking tray (about 8 inch square).  Pile the grated apple on top (I squeezed out the excess juices) and crumb (or grate) the remaining pastry on top so that the apples are well covered.  (I used a smaller rectangular quiche tin and had pastry left over which I’ve stored in the fridge for the time being). 

Bake until the pastry is golden brown (about an hour).  Serve with cream or ice-cream at room temperature or hot out of the oven (leave for a little while to allow the juices to settle). 

The pie smelled scrumptious and I set off to deliver it to my sister as soon as it had cooled down a little… only to discover that nobody was home.  I left the pie in their kitchen on a beautiful wooden board as a surprise but have yet to hear how it tasted… I hope it’s great!

The journey of a tart (or basil, cherry tomato, potato & corn quiche)

Our Quiche starts off as a layer of short pastry (Prepare a batch of short pastry – see https://whippingitup.wordpress.com/2010/02/19/how-to-make-short-pastry-for-quiches-etc/) covered by 4 chopped onions and a handful of basil...
It is then further layered with 3 medium sized cooked & sliced potatoes, crumbled feta and a generous few handfuls of grated cheddar...
And finished off with fresh corn (from 2-3 cobs) and cherry tomatoes before it is filled with savoury custard (double the recipe at https://whippingitup.wordpress.com/2010/02/20/creme-royal-for-quiches/) and baked at 180 degrees until cooked & golden brown...
The Quiche rests in the garden until it is cool enough...
To be summonsed into the house...
By the Chief Taster...
Who finds the cherry tomatoes highly commendable...
And gathers further tasters...
The Quiche is approved of and sent to the table...
But then quite suddenly disappears and is never seen again...

Vegetarian Cherry Tomato Quiche (or Tart)

  

Quiches are so convenient for brunches or lunches.  You can prepare them ahead of time and most people seem to enjoy them.  Here is the recipe for a cherry tomato quiche I baked a few weeks ago, since I’ve been ordered to whip one up for our family get-together tomorrow (‘You HAVE to make that tomato quiche again!’ said my sister Gablicious).  It’s in the oven as I write (oh, the smells coming from the kitchen at this late hour!). 

What’s great about quiches is that once you know how to make a pastry base and savoury custard, you can play with different fillings, experiment.  

For a large tart:  

  • Prepare a batch of short pastry – see https://whippingitup.wordpress.com/2010/02/19/how-to-make-short-pastry-for-quiches-etc/
  • Prepare your savoury custard (add salt to taste & remember to use less if you’re going to be adding other salty ingredients like feta or smoked salmon) – double the recipe at https://whippingitup.wordpress.com/2010/02/20/creme-royal-for-quiches/
  • Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees celsius
  • Chop 3 onions, 2 cloves of garlic (or more), some chilli (enough to give it some zip, depending on your taste), 1 red pepper (if available), grate a block of cheddar cheese & break up a chunk of feta cheese
  • Grease your tart tin & roll out your pastry (this is the hardest part – sprinkle your work surface with flour as you go to prevent the pastry from sticking & be sure to work in a cool environment)
  • Line your tart tin (allow it to rest at room temperature for 20 minutes)

Remove air bubbles as you ease the pastry into the edges of the tart tin

  • Fill your tart

Sprinkle your dry ingredients onto the pastry

Pour in your savoury custard

Decorate with cherry tomatoes

  • Bake at 180 degrees celsius until the pastry is golden brown and the filling is cooked (the filling should be cooked by the time the pastry is golden but check by touching the top of the mix with your fingers or inserting a knife – bake for a little longer if there is still liquid in the mix)
  • Spray or dab the top with olive oil for shine

Serve with a crisp green salad and enjoy!

The simplest Rustic Apple Pie

I made the quickest Apple Pie the other day.  I was driven by a picture in my head of an apple pie without a lid on it but I was anxious that the apples would be dry as a result… the chief tasters, however, had me thinking that I would definitely make it again.  Their words:

‘WOW, this is DELICIOUS!’

‘Hmmmmmmm, this is the best apple pie I’ve had in ages!’

‘Ooooohhhhh, I love how light it is and that it’s not overly sweet!’

Here is my rough & tumble recipe (the ingredients are highlighted in bold):

  • Make sweet pastry – see https://whippingitup.wordpress.com/2009/08/03/how-to-make-sweet-pastry-for-tarts-etc/
  • Roll out sweet pastry into greased pie tin
  • Wash and thinly slice 5 or 6 apples or more depending on the size of your tart tin (I used 4 golden delicious apples and 1 granny smith – perhaps the secret is that I used fresh apples)
  • Poach the sliced apples in some boiling water until just soft
  • Dry and soak in freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Line the pie dish with layered apples so that it looks beautiful (!)
  • Sprinkle with blobs of butter, cinnamon and brown sugar (I would have added a touch of clove if I’d had some!)
  • Bake at 180 degrees celsius until the pastry is golden brown

When the apple pie came out of the oven, I swirled the juices over the apples (which then had time to set on the journey down the road to the chief tasters).  I arrived to find my aunt photographing flowers…

My grandmother reading a book…

The Viking in the kitchen (who merrily whipped up the cream while I made the tea)…

And Claire on the phone to her love….

It wasn’t long before everyone gathered in the studio for a good ol’ fashioned tea.

(Oh, the delights of sharing good ol’ fashioned simple apple pie ‘n cream with lovin’ folk)!

Creme Royal for quiches

Here is a very simple and effective recipe for ‘savoury custard’ that is used in quiches:

  • 300 ml cream
  • 200 ml eggs (about 4 eggs)

Whisk the eggs and cream together and add a pinch of salt and pepper.

Once you have prepared and rested your shortcrust pastry (see previous recipe), then roll it out until almost transparent.  Line your pie tin and fill with whatever savoury filling you desire.  Fill up the tart tin with Creme Royal and bake at 180 degrees celsius.

Cheese is good in quiches as it gives colour, flavour and taste.  As for a crisp salad on the side… well, that goes without question!