Thursday, June 30, 2011

Mini Brioche

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I love shopping. And like most women, while I do enjoy shopping for shoes, bags and clothes, it really isn't an that important to me. Well, okay, that's not entirely true. I admit have way too many shoes. Actually, let me rephrase that - I HAD way too many pairs of shoes. Just last week, I gave away more than 30 pairs. I figured I wear only about 5 pairs regularly, and I felt good about clearing out all that storage space. But as I said, shopping for clothes and accessories is not really an obsession for me. It's not hard for me to walk past a store that's having a huge shoe sale. But it is REALLY hard for me to walk past a book sale! Oh SO hard!

And not too long ago, I gave in to the temptation and walked into a book sale. It was a huge room full of second-hand books at throwaway prices! I was like a kid in a candy store. Actually, MY kid would be happier in a fruit store, but that's not really relevant, is it? So, getting back to the sale. I thoroughly enjoyed browsing through the hundreds of books (though they were a little dusty) and I found some real gems. One of the books I was most excited about was a lovely Julia Child cookbook that I got for a steal! You wouldn't believe me if I told you how cheap it was!

What was really funny, was that while I was reading through the recipe, I could hear Julia Child's voice reading it out in my head. Creepy, no? I think I have watched way too much of her show! LOL!

This is the first recipe that I made from this book, and it turned out awesome! Don't be fooled by the name of this recipe. It may be a 'basic' brioche recipe, but it is truly delicious! I have posted it with some minor modifications I made. I made only half the recipe, and I got 6 regular mini brioche buns, and 1 medium sized loaf topped with white poppy seeds. I am sure with this recipe, you can do a lot of things. Stuffed buns, rolls, knots, twists, herbed loaves - whatever you can imagine! I hope you try this recipe.

Basic Brioche 
(adapted from a Julia Child recipe)
1 tbsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup whole milk
3 1/2 level cups all purpose flour
1 3/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
4 large eggs

1. Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water in a small bowl, and set aside until frothy and creamy.
2. In a saucepan, melt the butter along with the milk. Set this aside.
3. In a large bowl or the bowl of your mixer, combine 2 1/2 cups of flour, the salt, the sugar and the eggs. Beat for about a minute until combined.
4. Pour in the warm butter and milk mixture, and continue beating for another 3 minutes.
5. Touch the sides of the bowl to make sure the mixture is not too hot before adding the yeast. The mixture should be barely warm.
6. Mix for another 2-3 minutes until well combined.
7. Add the remaining flour, a little at a time, and continue mixing. If your dough is still too sticky, add more flour, a little at a time. I didn't need to add any more flour. It was just perfect.
8. Keep the mixer running until the dough is smooth, elastic and springy. I kneaded the dough for about 20 minutes with in my mixer.
9. Form the dough into a smooth bowl, and transfer to a clean, greased bowl. Cover with greased clingwrap and a tea towel.
10. Set in a warm place until tripled in volume. This took about 2 1/2 hours for me. If you find your dough is rising too fast, and this can happen when it's too hot, place the bowl in the refrigerator for a few minutes every now and then during the rising time.
11. After 2 1/2 hours, knock down the dough and knead briefly.
12. Shape as desired, and set aside to rise again. I made 6 mini brioches in my silicone muffin tray, and 1 loaf of bread topped with white poppy seeds. Let the dough rise for about 45 minutes.
13. Brush the top with a basic egg wash (1 egg + 1 tbsp water), and bake at 400 until the crust is golden brown and the base sounds hollow when knocked. (The mini brioches I made took about 20 minutes, and the loaf took about 30.)

We ate this for dinner within a couple of hours of baking it. I really thought I would have some bread over for the next morning so I could make some cinnamon French toast, but it was all gone in a jiffy. I had family over, and I guess it is a good sign when something disappears so quick! It was buttery, rich, flavorful and even my husband who isn't a big fan of bread (can you believe that?!), asked for more! The crust was crisp, and the inside was soft and feathery.

I made a hearty Beef and vegetable stew, and it was really good with the freshly baked Brioche. I wish I had taken pictures of the stew, because it turned out great! I really ought to be more disciplined with taking photographs. I made some really yummy Crunchy Top Lime Muffins earlier this week, to take on our Mini-Vacation, but again - no pictures! I will get down to making both these dishes again soon, and I will post the recipes.

For now, I hope you enjoy Julia's Brioche.
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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Giveaway winners! (and our Mini-Vacation)

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I'm back from my mini-vacation at the beach! It was just two days and one night away, and it was relaxing at all, but I totally enjoyed the change of scenery. And what beautiful scenery it was! 

Oh, to be a child again!
All of us woke up at 5:30 in the morning to walk down to the beach and wet our feet in the sand. I wasn't really sure I would be able to rouse a sleeping 20 month old at that early hour, but all I had to do was lean over and whisper in her ear, "Baby, Mommy's going to the beach now. Do you want to come?" She sat up within 30 seconds, rubbed the sleep out of her eyes, and said, "Mommy. Beach. Water. Shoes. Come on. Let's go." And so, she got her shoes on and we played on the hammocks while Dadda freshened up. She walked all the way to the beach. A really looong walk, and when we got there, the look on her face was worth every minute of lost sleep! Mommy and Aimee splashed about in the waves, and when she had had enough, she said, "Mommy. Sleep. Mimi (milk). Let's go." I carried her back to our cottage, got her into some dry clothes and gave her a bottle, which she chugged down. Within minutes, she was back in the Land of Nod.
Have you seen a smile THIS pretty at 5:30AM?
The long walk to the beach
There at last!
Sandy toes...
Aimee had some wonderful (and new) experiences on this trip. She picked a mango from a mango tree, enjoyed running over manicured lawns, dug in the sand and played 'catch' with some other little girls. And the sights! She saw crocodiles, snakes and turtles, oh my! And while we were at the crocodile park, we also saw some beautiful, bright blue kingfishers and some gorgeous, colorful butterflies. She saw mallards, and little love birds, too. 
Aimee, my husband and I loved our little getaway, and we have decided that we are going to do this more often. Hooray! And speaking of 'Hooray', hooray for the winners of my first giveaway!

I had a fun time drawing the names, because I couldn't get the numbering to work on my Disqus system. I ended up having to do the whole thing manually. I had to copy the comments, format them, delete ineligible comments (unless Jill would like to win a copy of her own book! LOL), and then number them on an Excel spreadsheet. Then, I used to draw the winners, and they are -

Manu, from Manu's menu, who said, "Ahhh and I already like both The Harried Cook and Mad About Macarons on Facebook! ;-))))"
Elisabeth, from Food and Thrift Finds, who said, "I popped over from Lizzy's blog. Your mousse pie looks beautiful, and light as doubt absolutely divine! Such a nice giveaway...will be checking her site out, and follow. I'm also following your blog...happy to say! Please visit my blog, and follow, if you'd like! 

CONGRATS, Manu & Elisabeth, and please email me at foofoofoodie(at)gmail(dot)com with your address, and I will pass that information on to Waverley books, so they can send you each a copy of Jill Colonna's best seller, Mad about Macarons
I finally got to do some baking today, and I am looking forward to sharing that with you soon. Tomorrow, perhaps? 
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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Coca Cola Chicken

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I am SO behind on visiting my favorite blogs that I am sure you all think something's happened to me. I assure you I am still around. But I've been so busy that sometimes I feel like my head is spinning! I just started visiting blogs over the weekend and I still haven't covered all of them! My Google Reader is overflowing, and I can't believe how many yummy recipes I have missed out on seeing!

Well, visiting the remaining blogs is going to have to wait two more days, because we are heading to the beach for a couple of days. We leave Monday morning and we're back Tuesday evening. Not a long trip, and we do have a work thing there on Monday evening, but at least it's by the beach! I am so looking forward to it! I can't believe how much luggage we have for just ONE night away from home, but I guess that's inevitable with a toddler to pack for! And I still think there's something I've forgotten to pack... Sigh!

Before I leave, I want to share this recipe that I made last week. It is one I've made before, but this was the first time I managed to get some (not-so-great) pictures! This tastes really yummy, and reminds me so much of the kind of food we used to eat when we lived in Singapore!

For this recipe, I use Coca Cola, and I honestly don't  know if Pepsi would work the same. But I really don't think the 'diet' variants would work at all.

Coca Cola Chicken
1/2 kg chicken pieces (around 1 pound)
300ml Coca Cola
2 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp lemon juice
4 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp julienned ginger
1 tbsp chopped garlic
1-4 dried red chillies (I used 4)
1 tbsp sesame oil

1. In a large bowl, marinate the chicken pieces with the coca cola, ketchup, lemon juice and soy sauce for at least an hour.
2. In a large saucepan/wok, heat the vegetable oil, and stir fry the ginger and garlic until the garlic just softens.
3. Remove the chicken from the marinade, and stir fry the pieces of chicken along with the ginger and garlic until lightly browned.
4. Pour in the marinade, add the red chillies and cover the wok. Cook until the chicken is tender.
5. Cook on a high flame until the juices reduce to form a thick, sticky sauce. If you want more sauce, don't let it reduce, but just thicken it by adding one tablespoon of cornflour mixed with some water.
5. Taste the sauce, and add more soy sauce if more salt is needed. I even added a wee bit of brown sugar because I thought it needed to be a little sweeter(!!!).
6. Stir in the sesame oil, and serve with steamed rice and vegetables.

I have made this with boneless thigh pieces too. For that recipe, I brown the pieces slightly, remove them from the wok, add the sauce & cook it down until thick. Then I add in the chicken pieces and cook until the pieces are tender. The original is tastier because we all know how much of the flavor is in the bones!

I hope you enjoy this recipe! It is sticky, sweet, salty, spicy and fragrant. I really love it. I must admit that my husband is not a very big fan of this recipe. He finds it too sweet, but my daughter and I gladly ate up every single bit, and there were no leftovers.

We're off to the beach now! See you later this week! :)

Thanks to all those who entered the giveaway. I will draw the names when I get back and will announce the results on Wednesday! I can't wait to see which two lucky commenters won a copy of Jill Colonna's Mad about Macarons!
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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Guest Post: Mango Mascarpone Cheesecake with Cardamom Whipped Cream

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The Harried Cook is a fairly young blog. Only a few months old. I'm still learning, and have a long way to go! Every blog I visit, I learn something from that talented blogger. One of the first people who visited my blog, and left me a comment, and some really good advice about Foodbuzz, was the wonderful Chef Dennis. His blog is wonderful & he is such an awesome chef! I am so glad that today, I have the opportunity to guest post on his blog "More than a Mount Full". He does some wonderful work among students at The Mount, and is a great help to so many bloggers out there. His 'Ask Chef Dennis' column has taught me SO much, and I know that many people will agree.

When I started my blog four months ago, I had no clue what I was doing. I knew I wanted to chronicle my recipes, but that's about it. I had no idea about all the things that went into a good blog. More importantly, I had not clue about the incredible sense of community that existed among food bloggers. Every single person who has visited my blog, and left a kind word for me has given me the motivation to keep going, and I thank each of you today.

And thank you, Chef Dennis for all the support and for inviting me to guest post on your blog!

On Chef Dennis' blog today, I am sharing my recipe for a Mango Mascarpone Cheesecake with Cardamom Whipped Cream. It is a light, creamy cheesecake with some amazing flavors. You should go check it out on More than a Mount Full, and don't forget to leave Chef Dennis a comment telling him I said 'hello'! :)

This has been my busiest week in a long time. So busy that we have eaten out most of our meals. I haven't spent much time in the kitchen & I miss it! I hope I will be able to get back to it soon. I must apologize to all my blogger friends. I just have not had the time to visit your blogs and read the wonderful posts you have shared this week. My Google Reader is overflowing, and I don't know where to start. But I can't wait to visit and read your posts and yummy recipes soon!

Mango Mascarpone Cheesecake w/ Cardamom Whipped Cream

3oz ginger nut cookies
1/2 cup rolled oats
2 tbsp salted butter
4oz mascarpone (I used homemade)
4oz cream cheese
1 egg
1/3 cup sugar
½ tsp vanilla
½ tsp lemon juice
A pinch of salt
Mango Gelee
½ cup pureed mango, strained
1 tbsp powdered sugar (more if the mango is sour)
1 tsp lemon juice
1 ½ tsp powdered gelatin
2 tbsp water
Cardamom Whipped Cream
½ cup whipping cream
1 tbsp powdered sugar (or more if desired)
½ tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp fresh cardamom powder

1.  In a blender or food processor, powder the ginger nut cookies and oats until fine, and transfer
to a bowl.
2.  Pour in the melted butter and stir well to combine.
3.  Divide the mixture among the four mini pie tins,and press into the base and the sides of the
4.  Refrigerate until required.
Cheesecake Filling
1.  In a large bowl, whip the cream cheese and mascarpone until light and fluffy.
2.  Add the sugar and continue whipping for another minute.
3.  Add the egg. Beat well to incorporate.
4.  Mix in the vanilla, lemon juice, and salt. Whip until evenly blended.
5.  Spoon into the prepared pie crusts, making sure each crust is about ¾ full.
6.  Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, until the filling has puffed up slightly and the centers of the
cheesecakes wobble slightly when shaken gently.
7.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool. The cheesecakes will continue to cook and firm up
while cooling.
8.  When completely cool, top with the mango gelee and refrigerate at least 3 hours, until the gelee
has set.
Mango Gelee
1.  In a small bowl, sprinkle the powdered gelatin over the 2 tbsp of water and allow the gelatin to
soften for a few minutes.
In a medium bowl, combine the mango puree, sugar and lemon juice.
2.  Place the bowl with the gelatin in a larger bowl filled with warm water and allow the gelatin to
3.  Stir the liquid into the mango puree and stir well to combine.
4.  Spoon ¼ of this mango mixture over each cheesecake and refrigerate to set.
Cardamom Whipped Cream
1.  Whip the cream till it forms soft peaks.
2.  Add the vanilla, sugar and cardamom powder and continue to whip for a few minutes until well
combined. Do not over-whip the cream.

Serve the cheesecakes chilled (maybe garnished with a sprig of mint) and spoon some of the cardamom whipped cream alongside each cheesecake.
This cheesecake is really, really creamy because of the mascarpone. The gelee is supposed to be just set, and still creamy and not rubbery or chewy. The mango flavor really comes through. To be completely honest– cardamom is my LEAST favorite spice. And so, I don’t know why I decided to use it in this recipe. It just made sense to me when I thought about it, and I hate to admit it works really well with the mango.

I want to remind you that you still have time to enter my giveaway if you haven't. There are TWO copies of Jill Colonna's amazing book 'Mad about Macarons' to be won! More details on the giveaway post HERE.


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Friday, June 17, 2011

My First Guest Post & Giveaway!!!

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I am super-excited today! I've been waiting for Friday to roll around & it's taken FOREVER! When I saw the email inviting me to do this guest post, I could hardly believe my eyes. Not only was it my first ever guest post invitation, it was from the fabulous Jill Colonna!

If you haven't heard of Jill, then you've probably been out of touch with what's 'in' in the foodie circle. I don't think you could have missed that everywhere we look, everyone's making macarons. And Jill Colonna, my friends, is the Queen of Macarons! Her book Mad About Macarons!: Make Macarons Like the French, is a best-seller, and has been topping sales charts!

Jill also has a really lovely blog, where apart from sharing some very inspiring macaron flavor ideas, she also has a special series on cooking and baking with egg yolks. That is really useful, because as you probably already know, macarons use up only egg whites, and that means all you macaron-making geniuses are left with lots of egg yolks! To say I was thrilled to accept her guest post invitation would be an understatement! But, I was so nervous about making something good enough for the wonderful Mad about Macarons blog. Finally, I came up with this.

For the Strawberries & Cream Mousse Pie recipe, you're going to have to head over to my post on Mad about Macarons - Le Blog, and don't forget to tell Jill I said "hello"! :) I truly hope all of you, and all of the Mad about Macarons readers enjoy this post!

And now for the giveaway! Waverley Books is very kindly giving away TWO copies of Jill's book, 'Mad about Macarons'! How exciting, right?! This is an INTERNATIONAL giveaway. Anyone is welcome to enter and win a copy of this fantastic book!

Here's how you can get your hands on one of these gems. 

To enter this giveaway, this is what you need to do -

Browse through Jill's fabulous site and leave a comment on this post answering the following question: "If you won this book, which yummy flavor would you make first?" (Mandatory entry for giveaway)

For two additional entries, you could do the following:
1. Follow 'The Harried Cook' using Google Friend Connect, or subscribe to the RSS feed (1 entry/comment)
2. Like 'The Harried Cook' and 'Mad about Macarons' on Facebook (1 entry/comment)
I would also greatly appreciate it if you could tweet about this giveaway! You can find The Harried Cook on Twitter, and follow too. That's not necessary for this giveaway, though.

Please leave separate comments for each entry. If you already follow via Google Friend Connect or RSS, or like the pages on Facebook, you don't need to unsubscribe and resubscribe. Just leave a separate comment saying that you already meet that particular requirement. Maximum of three entries/comments per person. You are welcome to comment until 10PM (GMT) on the Sunday, 26th June. Winners will be announced soon after.

There are two copies up for grabs! So enter this giveaway and tell people about it! If you already own a copy of the book, it would make a fabulous gift too, don't you think?

I would like to say a big "THANK YOU!" to the wonderful people at Waverley Books for sharing these books with us for the giveaway, and of course, to Jill for inviting me to be a guest on her blog!

Don't forget to drop in to Mad about Macarons - Le Blog, read my guest post with the recipe of this Strawberries & Cream Mousse Pie, and tell Jill I said "hi!"! :)

Have a wonderful weekend, all!

And Happy Father's Day to all the fabulous fathers out there! :)

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