Monday, January 01, 2007

Christmas Baking - Part 2

Almond Bread Loaf

In the time that I had between finishing work for the year and christmas, I manage to do a bit more baking. My colleague Julie has been trying to get me to try this Almond Bread recipe of hers for months now. Ever since we had a conversation of almond bread vs biscotti.

I have to admit that it's a pretty simple and fool proof recipe. Although, if you're me, you'd probably stuff it up by not reading the 'entire' recipe properly! Somehow, I manage to overlook the most important aspect of this recipe which was that 'a non-fan forced oven' should be used for this recipe. Would you believe I even drew stars and marked a big square over the temperature note to highlight the point and still missed it?! Sigh..

Another reason I took so long before attempting this recipe was because my old oven at the rental place did not come with an option to turn off the fan force functionality.

Anyway, I have no way of knowing whether I manage to get the right texture for this almond bread since I forgot to turn off the fan force feature. But suffice to say that it was nice and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside and wasn't too sweet. Which I think almond bread is meant to taste like.. at least from what I remembered of the ones I purchased anyway. I also recalled that they were a bit crispier, so I sliced up the bread, halved them in size and baked it in the oven at about 100 deg C for about 8mins on each side, so they ended up being a bit crispy and browned.

almond bread

Jules's Almond Bread

6 egg whites
1 pinch of cream of tartar
230g caster sugar
200g plain flour, sifted
230g unblanched almonds

Preheat oven (non fan forced) at 170 deg C. Beat eggs and cream of tartar until soft peaks. Slowly add in sugar and beat until firm peaks and mixture becomes glossy. Fold in sifted flour and almonds. (Do not over beat) Pour into a greased and floured tin and bake for 40mins.

Remove bread from tin, let it cool, wrap it up in foil and store away in a cool, dry place for about 1 week or 2 (I'm not sure why, I think it's to do with drying it so that it's easier to slice) before slicing it up and rebaking the slices in the oven for 10 mins at 100 deg C.

Ed: Today (2.1.07) I showed Jules and she told me that I had potential. My bread was well formed and it looked like the way it's suppose to be. Although she neglected to mention that I was suppose to wrap it up in foil and store for about 1 week before slicing it up and putting it back in the oven for 10mins to crispen it up a bit. So I kinda got the right idea.


After reading Ellie's peanut brittle post, I was dying for some brittle! I searched high and low at all the supermarkets and speciality stores at the nearby shopping centre but couldn't for the life of me find a place that sold light corn syrup. Arghh.. it was so frustrating! Reading Ellie's post had reminded me of the pistachio brittle from The Last Course and not being able to find the key ingredient drove me absolutely nuts. Fortunately Ellie was kind enough to tell me the name of the store she found that sold light corn syrup. Though by the time I got around to purchasing it, my crazy craving had almost disappeared. (Funny what work does to you!)

I have to say making brittle of any sorts is hard work! I don't know how you did it Ellie, but you sure did it well. I made two batches of these brittle and sweated heaps over the step where I had to spread it onto the baking tray. It took massive amounts of effort to spread the mixture evenly and half way through the process the sugar started to harden and struggle against my every efforts to spread it through the baking sheet. It became so stubborn, lumpy and uneven that I almost gave up on it. Breaking them to pieces when they were done though was a piece of cake (and mess with brittle flying everywhere!)... lol. Nevertheless, these babies are delicious. Caramelly, sugary and sweet pistachios..mmm I have enough to last me through another two cravings attack :D

Pistachio brittle

Pistachio-nut Brittle
*From Claudia Fleming's The Last Course. p142
*Please note: The Last Course ingredients are written in imperial measurements form, so my conversions may not be entirely accurate

1 + 1/2 cup shelled pistachio nuts
1 + 1/3 cup of sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 + 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 tsp + 1/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to approx 177 deg C (350 F). Spread nuts out in one layer on a baking sheet and bake them for about 10mins until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool

Butter a baking sheet or line it with a non stick liner. Grease a spatula and set aside.

In a large, heavy saucepan, combine sugar, water, corn syrup and butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring at first to dissolve the sugar and then leave until mixture is light caramel colour. This should take about 12mins or if you have a candy thermometer, when the temperature reaches 160 deg C. Remove saucepan from heat and whisk in baking soda, salt and nuts.

Work very quickly and spread the mixture with the buttered spatula onto the baking sheet. Be extra careful as the mixture will be very hot. Let brittle cool completely and break it into pieces.

A candy thermometer would really help but is not essential.

Ellie has a good tip for the 'spreading' step on her blog. She recommends heating up a silicon baking mat in the oven and spreading the mixture over it. I didn't have a baking tray that was big enough to fit my silicon mat, nor was I willing to cut up my silicon mat for this purpose. But it's something I would probably try next time when I find a smaller silicon baking mat.


Chocolate cherry pistachio biscotti

Last but not least, is another of my Claudia Fleming favourites, Chocolate Biscotti with Pistachios and Sour Cherries. I had intended to make a small batch of these as Christmas nibbles, but was only left with half when I was done because Alv's Mum's friends ate about 1/4 of it whilst they were here playing mahjong and his Mum took another 1/2 home for her friend in Singapore.

Humph.. well I always knew they were popular but I didn't think that I would have to ration them over christmas!

Chocolate Biscotti w/ Pistachios and Sour Cherries
*From Claudia Fleming's The Last Course. p. 227
*Please note: The Last Course ingredients are written in imperial measurements form, so my conversions may not be entirely accurate

1 cup dried sour cherries
2 cup shelled pistachio nuts
1 + 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 + 3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
3 large eggs
4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 + 1/4 tbsp coffee extract
1 + 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
220g (7 1/2 oz) extra-bittersweet chocolate, cut into chunks

Cover cherries in a saucepan with water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Once the water is simmering, turn off the heat and let it cool. Drain the cherries and set aside.

Preheat oven to 165 deg C (325 deg F*) and toast the pistachio nuts in the oven until fragrant and lightly golden around the edges (may take about 5 - 7mins). Remove from oven and cool.

In an electric mixer (with a paddle attachment) mix flour, sugars, cocoa, salt and baking soda on low speed. Add eggs one at a time and mix well before adding the next egg. Then add butter and the extracts and mix well to combine. Finally stir in the pistachios, chocolate and cherries and let the dough rest for 5mins.

Wet hands and divide dough into two logs (or more) each approximately 5cm (2inches) in diameter. Place each log on a lined baking tray and bake for 30mins until firm. Remove from oven and let it cool.

Reduce oven temperature to 95 deg C (200 deg F). Using a serrated knife, slice each log into 1/4 inch thick slices. Arrange biscotti on lined baking tray and dry them in the oven until firm and crisp. This may take 1 hr to 1 1/2 hrs. Remove from oven and transfer onto wire rack to cool.

Makes about 5 dozen.

My biscotti ended up being fairly large, so I sliced them in halves so that they would fit into my containers.

These biscotti tastes absolutely deliciously chocolately. I love the combination of chocolate biscuit, chunks of chocolate, tart sour cherries and bits of pistachios littered thorough the biscotti. Make no mistake, this biscotti is rich and absolutely moreish. I just love how the tartness of the sour cherries would occasionally cut through the rich chocolate taste whilst the pistachios just gives it a nutty texture and flavour.

Chocolate cherry pistachio biscotti


Ellie said...

That's a lot of xmas baking! I'm particularly loving those chocolate biscotti, num! Glad to hear the brittle worked, even though the spreading was a pain! I heat my silicon mat, but even after that I've got a silicon spatula and silicon gloves and getting a lot of exercise trying to get it flat! I hope your parcel recipients appreciated all this yumminess!

ilingc said...

Yah.. lotsa baking. Now I have to eat all that's left. :D

I should find out whether anyone got sick from the parcels LOL.