Monday, December 27, 2010

eat; panettone (and bonus recipe!)

I had such a great response from my Chrissy blog special that I decided to try and make a Panettone for Christmas day. Katya was coming from Chicago so I thought it would be the perfect time to create one for my first time EVER! It is a chore (lots and lots of  waiting, kneading and beating!) but the rewards are totally worth it!

We had sooo much fun hanging in the kitchen catching up on what was news in our lives and enjoying the smells that were coming from the oven. I had prepared an orange and green vegetable lasagna (recipe coming soon!!!!) the day before so I was free to prepare the panettone on the day of Christmas while the lasagna was in the oven. I initially put WAY too many packets of yeast to foam up and had to throw two thirds of it away. Changing grams into ounces is still confusing me and after a google search, I found out compressed yeast is different in weight to dried yeast!!!! I have changed the recipe below to cater for dry as it is easier to get a hold of.

Another thing I discovered was to take off the handles from a 23cm pot so I could bake the Panettone in it. It made the perfect mould and allowed the Panettone to rise high. If using a pot, make sure the handles are either metal or that you can unscrew the plastic handles! You could purchase a panettone paper mould or a non stick panettone pan if you are serious about it.

I also made Amaretti biscuits as the Panettone recipe had called for three extra egg yolks and I didn't want to throw the whites away. I hear you can freeze the egg whites for another time but I have never had luck with doing this. You have to make sure you write on the outside of your container how many egg whites are in there, otherwise you will forget!!!!! So today, being my last post for the year, you will get a double bonus and get two recipes in one!!!!! 

This recipe is from Womans Weekly Italian cookbook. I have tried and tested their biscuits over and over again and I have found the simplicity very successful. Give this a go for New Years Day! It will make the house smell amazing and it also makes great french toast! YUM!

What you need:
1 1/2 cups sultanas
1/2 mixed peel*
1/2 cup of Masala (or rum)
30g (1 1/4 oz) dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup lukewarm water
3 eggs
3 egg yolks, extra
6 TB sugar, extra
5 cups plain flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
the rind of 1 small lemons, grated
100g butter
1 Tb oil
1 cup lukewarm milk
1 egg, extra for glazing

*(candied orange and lemon. If you can't get this, double the lemon rind and add the rind of an orange)

Take the butter out of the fridge a few hours before preparation so it will be at room temperature when you start cooking. Combine sultanas, chopped mixed peel and Masala and let soak for 45 mnutes, turning every 15minutes.

Combine yeast, sugar and lukewarm water in a small bowl and mix well. Let stand in a warm place for 5 minutes or until the mixture becomes frothy.

Beat the eggs, extra egg yolks and extra sugar until combined.

Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl, add lemon rind (and orange if using), butter and oil. Stir in egg mixture, lukewarm milk, then the yeast mixture and the undrained fruit mixture.

Take a wooden spoon and beat the dough quickly and vigorously for about 5 minutes. This beating is very important so do not be a slacker!

When you start beating, the dough is almost like a cake batter. You have reached the desired texture when the dough is elastic, leaving the sides of the dough.

Cover the bowl with cling wrap and let stand in a warm place without drafts for 45 minutes or until the dough has doubled in bulk. 

Prepare a pot as mentioned above (23cmD 16cmH) by using grease proof paper. Place  the pot onto a sheet and trace around it's bottom to create a circle. Cut it out and place it on the inside. Cut some more paper to wrap around the inside of the pot, making sure it goes a few centimeters higher than the pot itself.

Once the dough has doubled in size, turn dough onto a well-floured surface and knead lightly. Cut dough in half and knead each half on the well-floured surface for 3-5 minutes or until the dough loses its stickiness. Place the two halves on top of each other in  the prepared pot and let stand in a warm place for 20-30 minutes or until the dough has doubled in bulk.

Once the Panettone has risen, brush the top with the extra egg that is lightly beaten.

Bake in a moderately hot oven (220-230c 425-450f) for 15 minutes then turn down the heat to a moderate oven (190-200c 375-400f) for a further 30 minutes. Check it after 20 minutes and if you find the colour is great on top, cover the Panettone with aluminum foil with the shiny side up. Use a skewer when time is up to check if the inside is cooked.

Turn out immediately onto a wire rack to cool. Once cool, you can dust with icing sugar if you wish.

My first Panettone!!!!! OMG!!!! I was soooo impressed when I turned it out that I wanted to kiss it!!!!! I will never buy one again! My house smelt soooo amazing all day. We ended  our Christmas day by eating roasted chestnuts and Panettone and washing it down with Champagne....What a great day! Thanks Katya for coming from freezing Chicago to spend Chrissy with me in California!!!!!

Buon Apettito!!!

So here is what to do with the left over egg whites. You can keep the egg whites in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two days before having to use them.

Amaretti biscuits have an amazing chewy texture on the inside and a crunchy outside. They are soooo morish!!!! Whenever I bake these infront of guests, I cannot keep up with the dissappearing act that goes on! Eveyone loves these and they are sooooo easy to make!!!! They store well in the pantry for a week or so, thats if you can resist them!!!! 

What you need;
190g ground almonds (place whole raw almonds into a blender if you can't get almond meal)
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 lge egg whites
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 or 2 drops almond essence
blanched almonds for decorating (to remove skins, place in a bowl and pour boiling water on them. Wait till the water is cool and then peel)

Place all the ingredients except for the blanched almonds which we will use for decoration later, in a small bowl of an electric mixture.  With a spoon, mix all the ingredients together. 

Beat the mixture on a medium speed of your electric mixer for three minutes and then let stand for 5 minutes.

Spoon the mixture into a piping bag. If you don't have one (my share house aint got one!) do as I have done in this photo and simply clip the corner of a zip lock bag with scissors to create a hole. Cut about 1 cm in, across the corner.

Pipe the mixture onto a grease proof sheet of paper into about 4 cm in diameter rounds. Place a half blanched almond on each one and pop into moderate oven (190-200c 375-400f) for about 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Leave on the trays for a few minutes before using a metal spatula to move them onto a wire cooling rack.

Buon Apettito!!!!

pink; art is a guaranty of sanity

Today, I wanted to pay homage to an artist who died this year and with her work, say goodbye to her and the year 2010. Theoretically, Louise Bourgeois is no longer our contemporary because she is no longer with us, but her spirit is still alive and well. She had created many works using the colour pink in her lifetime and is an artist I will not be able to ignore within the pink section of this blog, well, not for another year at least!.

There are two reasons why I have chosen this work in particular for my pink category this week. The first, as mentioned above, is to pay homage to an artist who died at the tender age of 98 and the second, because this work hit home base with me, particularly when I think of this past year. This year, I have been tested with ill health, which caused me to stop practicing as I healed myself physically, while around the same time, dealing with a swaying mind that had caused me grief and a bitter attitude towards the artworld that I am involved in. I have since printed myself a copy of this work and it now sits up on my wall, framed, where I can see it everyday. It reminds me of why I create, why I need to create, why I have no choice but to create and brings me back to a place where everything is ok.

Art Is A Guaranty Of Sanity was created in 2000 and is pencil on pink paper.  Bourgeois elegantly presents us with a work wrapped up in pink, a colour that has been known to suppress agressive antagonistic and anxiety ridden behavior. When we look at this work and read the words, we instantly feel calmed and relaxed, as if we needed to hear these words and for it to be presented in such a way. The writing suggests the remains of tension and anxiety, but the background soothes us, giving us hope that our world will be ok.  It feels really, really good to look at this piece; to experience this piece. We can easily imagine how we would feel sitting down and scrawling these words for ourselves.

The work is simple. There are no bells and whistles. It has the naivety of a child and blows a punch of truth in such a obvious manner, just like children can sometimes do. Bourgeois' work does that with honesty and elegance. She emotionally punches you in the face making you feel raw and exposed, yet with a gentle hand on the lower part of your back, pushes you along your way. There is no escape from her world (or our own for that matter). Her work is really powerful. She lays it out and forces you to deal with it, but totally understands you at the same time, surrounding you with a metaphorical big bear hug.

Creativity, in all its guises, is what we all need in life as human beings. We need to feel free to fall into our imaginary worlds, to create them, escape to them, for them to be a part of us. It is the natural order. Without a form of expression, we become no use to anyone, let alone to ourselves.  Her simple words stir our most intrinsic fears, feelings and desires about our own lives. With this work, we feel human, we feel safe, we feel normal.

I thank Louise for her practice, her bravado and her perseverance to create when no one was looking and keep creating when everyone was. She had stood the test of time, exploring themes from her childhood and using her art as therapy, to externalize what she felt and what she had bottled up inside. Her art was her sanity and she reminds us that it is ours too.
 R.I.P Lousie Bourgeois (25/12/1911 – 31/5/2010)
and the year Two Thousand and Ten

love; 10 things i loved about 2010

1. Disneyland. Oh I know those of you out there that simply HATE Disneyland, but let me tell you, I WAS IN HEAVEN!!!!! It was my first time there, ever and it truly is a magical place. Everything is pruned and sparkling clean and lots of colours and things moving all the time! LOVE!!!!

2. Going sailing for the first time in my life! How magical it is to glide along the water without sound.?!?!?! I felt like a bird feeling the wind against me and enjoying the stillness of the water. LOVE!

3. Watching the sunset over the water. I had only seen this once before when I went to Perth to visit my cousin. Here in L.A they are even more beautiful and special as they are leaving me here in L.A to go and wake my friends and family in Australia. LOVE!!!!

4. Being able to eat at many raw restaurants here in California and the endless vegan product options in supermarkets here! Gotta love that! Apparently there is only one in raw place in Melbourne and the reviews aren't that great. Here, they're everywhere!!!!! LOVE!!!!
5. Discovering the joy of reading! I have read more books in the past year than I have in my lifetime!!!! I have really enjoyed what a book can offer; knowledge, amazing conversation, and me time! LOVE!

6. Going to a pumpkin patch! I couldn't believe that they actually exist! How great to see people out for the day choosing a pumpkin to carve! And what an experience carving one is! Cleaning out the seeds and goo is a bit wrong to touch but once that bit is over, it truly is an exciting thing to do! I must admit, mine turned out to be very impressive indeed!!!!

7. Halloween in the States!!!!! How amazing to see it in its origins! EVERYONE gets into it doing up their houses with orange lights, jack-o-lanterns and fake spider webs with skeletons. I loved the dressing up!!!!! Might be my favourite American celebration! It also coincides with the Mexican Day of the Dead celebrations so it is doubly colourful and a real bonding session happens with everyone here. LOVE!!!!

8. Catching the train from Los Angeles to New York. Wow what an effort! I had been planning it for months and even though a one way ticket was more than a return air fare, it really was worth the experience. Even Americans  are impressed with it! I must admit though, it did nearly kill me! 
9.Having two summers in 2010! I left Australia at the end of summer and came to L.A at the beginning of thats what I call a wonderful year! It is my ideal scenario and one that I am aiming for, two houses, one in the Northern Hemisphere and one in the Southern, moving between the two to never experience winter again! I'm going for it! Hoping L.A will be my spot...

10. Outdoor ice skating on Christmas Eve in downtown L.A!!!!! Soooo great! It wasn't as cold as I thought it might be, but we are in L.A afterall!!!! What a lovely feeling to be skating while surrounded by trees lit up with coloured fairy lights, tall buildings and a clear starry night. Why doesn't Melbourne do this in July?!?!?! LOVE!!!!