Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Chocolate Biscuits: Easiest Heston ever!

Unlike the millionaire shortbread (which were great but oh so fiddly) these were genuinely easy. So easy that the first time we made them, my nine year old did it all herself (supervised). We forgot to take photos half way through that time and then they all got eaten. Oops. So this is Mark II.

Basically its these steps:

  1. cream the butter and sugar
  2. sift all the dry stuff together
  3. mix the dry stuff into the butter
  4. put on trays and bake
 Seriously, that's it. The biscuits are nicely chocolate, but with a slight saltiness and not too sweet. Oh,  and we learned from the first batch that made as directed it makes about 10 biscuits. They only lasted a couple of days in this sweet-tooth household. So this time we made a treble batch, cooked half and froze half.

Wanna see how easy it is?

Step 1: Cream the butter and sugar.


Step 2: Sift the dry ingredients

Plain flour.. bicarb & salt... cocoa..

Step 3: Mix the dry stuff into the creamed butter/sugar

 (in batches of course)

Step 4: Put on trays and bake  

The  recipe suggests ice cream scoop sized balls. This is fine, but we felt they were a big on the large size. So these were large walnut sized balls.

 (I love it when the lumps get all melty)..

And here's the extra all set up to be frozen.

Things we learned:

  • Make a double batch at least. 10 biscuits from a single batch doesn't go far.
  • Ice cream scoops makes around 8cm diameter (from memory) biscuits. Downsize unless you want big un's.
  • Dead easy, your kids can make them!
  • Creaming unrefined caster sugar (that the brownish sugar, but caster sized crystals) takes a lot longer to cream, but it will get there. Be patient.
  • I think it is necessary to have the good Dutch cocoa in this, it doesn't use much.


Guest (Family) opinions:

  •  Excellent basic biscuit, sweet enough to kill a sweet craving but not so sweet you want to eat the whole batch.
Next: I have a dinner party to hold this Friday! I had to go to the art supply store and the hardware store to prepare!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Basics: White Chicken Stock

This is the one with irony. (Am I using irony correctly there? Living with a wordsmith makes me paranoid about such things.)

Why irony? Because I made Heston Blumenthal's White Chicken Stock.. and then promptly fell sick with a cold. But no, I didn't eat it, because this chicken stock is destined (I think) to become Leek and Potato soup at my next dinner. What being sick now means is that, to be honest, I am not sure exactly how good it is, since I still can't smell properly. So that will hopefully be a nice surpise once I get to the unfreezing stage.

But enough of that, on with the food!

White Chicken Stock from Heston Blumenthal at Home

This is a much lighter chicken stock in flavour, without the kapow of the roast chicken. It's more like delicately poached chicken flavours. Which, in essence it is.

This recipe has the following stages:
  1. Blanched the chicken wings to get rid of the scummy bits
  2. Poach in the pressure cooker
  3. Add veg & cook some more
  4. Add some herbs to infuse for a bit
  5. strain and refridgerate
  6. remove the fat, freeze.
So a similar process to the roasting, but lighter on. An easy recipe, though a tad time consuming. I'm getting used to that.

Blanching the chicken

I must be getting used to Heston's recipes, I didn't even blink at the idea of using almost 2 kgs of chicken wings to make the stock this time.  I got them on sale - bonus! It does make about 2litres of stock. And with all that good stuff going in, of course it will taste good. Not a cheap undertaking though.

So Heston recommends blanching the chicken wings to "remove the impurities". And yes, it did seem to make a difference, though it seemed odd at first. Chicken goes in open pressure cooker...

Brought to the boil... and all those scummy bits scooped out.
Then immediately (without any further heating)... you throw out all the water and wash them. This felt very counter-intuitive. Wouldn't I be throwing away flavour? But, not seemed ok.

Poaching in the pressure cooker

I'm not sure "poaching" is the correct term here, but nevermind.
Back in to be brought to the boil with nice fresh water. The wings did look cleaner somehow. That goes into the pressure cooker for an hour.
In the meantime, I pull out my new toy! (Okay, my pocket money is not going towards a new PC this week).

Vegies go in too

Heston recommends a mandolin to ensure you get maximum surface area for your stock to suck the flavour out of. (Ok, that's my version of what he said. But it's the gist!)  It was certainly was quicker. 

So in with the chicken goes the big pile of veg - leeks, onions, carrots, celery, mushrooms & garlic. That cooks for another 30 mins.

Infuse.. infuse...

The herbs & spices go in to infuse for 30 mins. MMmmmm.. smelled nice.

Time to strain!

I've certainly become a convert in terms of straining your stocks and sauces. I think I always thought maybe you'd lose flavour? But certainly this has convinced me it can actually be better because your mouth is not distracted by the lumpy bits and their flavour contrasts. Plus, all the flavour is now in the liquid anyway.

Please excuse the weird faces I pulling and the untidy kitchen.

And into the fridge overnight

So this is my giant white bowl again. You can see the layer of fat on top, that you now just scape off.
Tada! White chicken stock jelly. Into freezer bags and icecube trays it went, ready for later.
I know (cost-wise) there is a lot of ingredients in here, but it really does produce a reasonable amount of stock for the effort. I really need to invest in some 1 litre sized containers for all the stock cubes for the freezer.


Well, as mentioned I can't be completely sure as yet. I've only had a little taste and again with the not yet breathing clearly. But. That said.

Very light chicken-y flavour, much more delicate than the brown chicken stock. And, unsurprisingly, worlds better than the stuff I buy in cartons. 

Will update once I've used it in something.