Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Lime & Ginger Honeycomb

What is the best chocolate bar in the world? It's a very difficult question, but there's only one correct answer. No, it's not the classic Galaxy, despite it's delectable rectangles of smooth milk chocolate. Neither is it the quartet of KitKats (although it does have a huge advantage...there are four of them). It's not even the Double Decker, which takes a Milky Way, adds rice cereal and tops it with another layer of chocolate - genius. The answer - and this is not up for debate - is the Crunchie. Airy honeycomb covered in milk chocolate, the Crunchie is simple, yet perfect, and as a small child with a smaller sweet tooth, this Fatboy certainly found his way through a few of them. This weekend, I thought I'd play around with the honeycomb idea and try a different flavour. This was the result.
Take one lime, a large hunk of ginger and a bright green knife. Peel and grate a piece of ginger that's about the size of your thumb and set it to one side. Hold tight onto your lime for now.
Possibly my most favourite thing ever, and every dentist's dream. You'll need about 80g - anyone having trouble measuring this sticky goodness, just cover the spoon with vegetable oil first and the syrup will slide right off. You can have that one for free. Gently heat the syrup along with the grated ginger, 80g of butter and 160g of granulated or caster sugar, when the sugar has dissolved turn the heat up so that the mixture boils and leave without stirring for a few minutes until it turns a golden brown colour. At this point you can go ahead and carefully squeeze in the juice of a lime.
Add 2 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda, keeping your hands away from the red hot magma-like sugar mixture that will climb the sides of the pan. Stir for a few seconds and then pour the mixture into baking tray lined with baking parchment. Another trick - if you're lining a tray with baking parchment, crumple it up first. Much easier to reach all of those dastardly corners.
Leave the honeycomb to set in the fridge, it should take about an hour or so. Break it into smaller pieces and go nuts with it. This stuff is excellent on any dessert or ice cream, and will keep well if kept covered in the fridge. You could even cover it with chocolate and make a Crunchie.
If anyone from my dental practice rings I definitely didn't eat any of this.

Ingredients
1 lime
1 thumb of ginger
160g caster/granulated sugar
80g golden syrup
80g butter
2 teaspoons bicarb of soda

Friday, 18 January 2013

New York Style Bagels

One of my fondest memories of growing up in the States is of my regular weekend bagel runs with my dad. In the summer we'd wake up early and ride our bikes into town to pick up a dozen mixed and a couple tubs of cream cheese. We'd then speed back home to dole out the goods to my mom and sisters, basking in their admiration of these 'bringers of breakfast'. I'd never get tired of trying new combinations of bagels and cream cheese flavours (though my go-to was always chocolate chip bagel with chives and onion cream cheese...I swear it really, really worked). 
To make about eight bagels start by pouring 1 1/2 teaspoons of fast action yeast and 1 1/2 tablespoons of granulated sugar into half a cup of warm water. Leave it for a few minutes and then stir until the sugar and yeast has dissolved. This was a recipe I desperately wanted to go well for two reasons. One being that I'd tried it once before and it was an unmitigated disaster. The second was that I was hungry, and there was no other food in the flat.
Mix 3 1/2 cups of flour with 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and sift into a large mixing bowl. Create a well in the centre and pour in the yeast mix. Have another cup or so of warm water to hand and add in bit by bit as you mix it all together - go in with your hands here buddy.
Once you've added - not including the yeast mixture - about another cup of water, the mixture should come together nicely. Tip the dough onto a floured work surface and knead for ten minutes until you've got a nice smooth, elastic dough. Roll into a ball and stick in a pre-oiled bowl, rolling around to oil the dough slightly. Cover with a damp tea towel and stick in a warm place for an hour.
Coming home from town with our bag of goodies, we'd have all kinds of bagels. There was cheese flavoured, sun-dried tomato, cinnamon brown sugar...even a strange wholemeal and oats one that was usually the last of the dozen that was left standing. One of my favourites was always the everything bagel. Sesame seeds, sea salt, dried onion and garlic scattered across the top. Perfect.
Once the dough has proved for at least an hour it should have doubled in size. Punch it down and leave it for another quarter of an hour. Tear into eight evenly sized pieces, roll into balls and with a floury finger push a hole through the centre of each one. Use a chopstick or your finger and spin the bagel round to stretch the centre hole until it's about the size of a 10p piece (or a quarter for my friends across the pond). Cover with a damp tea towel for another ten minutes.
Bring a large pan of water to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. Drop the bagels in one at a time and wait until they float to the surface. Once they're floating set your timer for two minutes, then flip and do two minutes on the other side. This will give you that incredible New York style chewy bagel..the kind that you unfortunately just can't find anywhere over here in the Queen's England.
Use a slotted spoon to pull the bagels out and drop them on a baking tray. Pat them dry with some kitchen roll and then spoon over your topping. Anything can go here - a bit of brown sugar, pumpkin seeds..anything that can take a bit of heat.
Bake at 220C for 20 minutes or until they're golden brown. Slice open and serve with your favourite cream cheese. Butter, by the way, is not cool. If you put butter on your bagels we cannot be friends.
For me it's an everything bagel with smoked salmon, regular cream cheese, sliced red onions and capers. That's my ultimate food porn right there. Enjoy :)

Ingredients
3 1/2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 1/2 teaspoons fast action yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Monday, 7 January 2013

Mozzarella Sticks

I rarely keep new years resolutions. After all of these years I'm less organised than ever, and that whole jogging idea was a joke. I can't speak another language fluently (mais je parle un peu de francais) and my bass guitar has not been out in a while (I'm not letting go of that one though). But this year is different because this year I've resolved to pull my finger out and get a bit more serious about this blogging malarky. I've not been around much in recent weeks and I'm going to make up for that. You deserve it. Anyway here's one of the best yet. These sticks are for real.
Mozzarella sticks remind me of going to junior high school in America. For about two bucks you'd get a half dozen of these chunky, crispy, gooey mozzarella sticks and a pot of dipping sauce in one of those red and white chequered paper trays. Amazing. I swear I saw a kid eat three trays of them once and call it a lunch. The good old days. Take a few packets of string cheese and cut the cheese sticks in half. 
Bowl of seasoned flour, bowl of egg wash, bowl of breadcrumbs mixed with grated parmesan. 
Dip your cheese into the flour, then the egg, then the breadcrumbs, rolling them about some to evenly coat them. Then - get this - go back into the egg and then into the breadcrumbs for a second coating. This increases the crunch and gives them a crispy second layer and just mad boomting.
Stick them in the freezer to chill for half an hour so that the breadcrumbs and cheese set together.
Heat plenty of vegetable oil in a deep saucepan, making sure you've got about a good half inch or so of oil to cook with. Fry the sticks in batches, rolling them around so that they cook evenly. They will take no time at all so keep an eye on them.
Drain on a paper towel and then serve with a pot of wam marinara sauce. Make this one. Trust me.


Ingredients
8-10 cheese strings
flour
2 eggs
breadcrumbs
parmesan cheese
vegetable oil
marinara sauce, for dipping