Friday, June 27, 2008

Forgotten Something?

Birthday celebrations

Forgetting a birthday- be
it your partner's, your mother's or your best friend's, it's a cardinal sin. And whenever it happens, the guilty is always the worthy recipient of scorn and derision, and usually, what's coming to the accused is always warranted. Birthdays are important things, and should be celebrated accordingly- with festivity, and whenever possible with lots of food and alcohol. But what happens when you forget your own birthday?

Well, it's not exactly my own birthday that I have forgotten; now that would almost be equivalent to suffering retrograde amnesia, but it's actually the blog's birthday that I have neglected to remember. It's true, Milk and Cookies turned 2 years old, a good 8 weeks ago, and the momentous occasion almost passed by without so much as a mere mention or acknowledging it with a
hip-hip-hooray and a little rendition of "for he's a jolly good fellow". Shame on me! Perhaps I was too distracted by my up-coming travel plans.


Born on the 2nd of May 2006, how could I forget
that (slightly embarrassing) pioneer post that kicked off the whole odyssey into baking and eating? And the only way to exonerate one's self from the embarrassment and shame of forgetting their own blog's birthday is to make a cake celebratory enough to compensate for the indiscretion. Yes, for any baker, cake is the answer to most of life's quandaries.

I had always wanted to bake one of the celebration cakes featured in Dorie Greenspan's book Baking From My Home to Yours. But I've always had this aversion towards seemingly complicated cakes, especially layer cakes that looked so labour intensive. They look all great and majestic in the pictures; tiers and tiers of scrumptious layers towering towards cake heaven but ten mixing bowls and several whisks later you find yourself knee-deep in batter you no longer have the will to bake.

I'm more one of those 10 items or less chicks, nothing complicated, no fuss, no mess. I usually don't go for recipes with so many steps that include beating, melting, sifting, whisking, folding, sprinkling and a lot of waiting around for things to bake then cool and settle before you go on to the next step. Call me the impatient baker but I'm all for simple desserts; that's probably why you see so many small cakes on this blog. They're quick to bake, and the quicker they come out of the oven, the quicker I can get to eating them.

Cocoa-Buttermilk Birthday Cake

In saying this, my curiosity was getting the better of me and I was imagining what it would actually be like to be the architect of one of these tower of Babel constructions. It's mortifying to say but I think this has to be my first proper attempt at a layer cake. Be it a cake of only two layers, but a layer cake nonetheless.
And all this time I had the audacity to call myself a baker, tsk tsk. There goes my reputation.

Also, I figured that going through the whole process of making this layer cake would be the only penance that could justify my wrongdoing. After all the blog has treated me so well over the past two years, it was the least I could do for such an oversight. So off I went, on my day off work to make a cake worthy of forgiveness.

There's not much I can say about this cake that you wouldn't already gather from looking at it. It looks delicious and it tasted just like it looked. The cake is all Dorie, except for the cream filling. I just thought that there needed to be something to soften the richness of the chocolate cake and the cream does this really well. There's also much to be said about my frosting skills (or lack of it) with the blank patches at the bottom edges of the cake, but hey, for my first reluctant hand at this I think the blog and I can finally move forward and put this whole thing behind us.

Do I make you hungry, baby?

This cake is dedicated to the blog and to another great year of blogging. And with the blog going into a new chapter in the next coming months it's only fitting to set-off the move to London with this cake, I guess making layer cakes aren't all that bad (as she takes another forkful to her mouth).

And a big thank you to all the well wishers who voiced their delight and excitement about my up-coming move to the United Kingdom, I cannot wait.

Cocoa-Buttermilk Birthday Cake

Serves 12
Adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours


2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
225g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
110g bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled (optional)

150g bittersweet chocolate, chopped coarsely
¼ cup (packed) brown sugar
2 tbsp malted milk powder
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup boiling water
180g unsalted butter, at room temperature
pinch of salt
½ tsp vanilla extract
1½ cup confectioner’s sugar

200ml pure cream
2 tbsp confectioner’s sugar

Preheat oven to 180ºC.
Butter 2 x 22cm round springform cake tins, dust the insides with flour and line the bottoms with parchment paper.

Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Using a stand mixer with paddle attachment or hand mixer in a large bowl; beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy.
Add the sugar and beat for 2 minutes.
Add eggs one at a time, then yolks, beating 1 minute after each addition.
Beat in vanilla extract.
Reduce mixer speed and add the dry ingredients alternatively with buttermilk, staring and ending with dry ingredients. Mix only until each new batch is blended into batter.
Add the melted chocolate and fold in with rubber spatula (optional).
Divide batter between two cake tins.
Bake for 26-30 minutes or until cakes feel springy to the touch and start to pull away from the sides of the tins.
Transfer cakes to racks and cool for 5 minutes.
Run a knife around the sides of the cakes and unmould. Peel off parchment paper and invert and cool to room temperature.

Melt the chocolate with half the brown sugar in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from heat.
Whisk the malt powder and cocoa together in a small bowl, pour over 3 tsp boiling water and whisk until smooth.
Gradually whisk in hot malt-cocoa mixture with melted chocolate- it should be dark smooth and glossy. Set aside.
Beat butter until soft and fluffy and add the remaining sugar and beat for another 2-3 minutes, until well blended.
Beat in salt and vanilla.
Scrape in chocolate mixture and mix until smooth.
Gradually add the confectioner’s sugar and beat for a couple of minutes, then add the remaining tablespoon of boiling water and beat until well blended.
It should be thick enough to use immediately. If it doesn’t hold its shape then beat it a just a bit more.

Whisk cream into stiff peaks, it should be able to hold its shape properly.
Sift in confectioners sugar and fold into cream.

Place one layer top side up on a cardboard round or a cake plate protected by strips of parchment paper.
Spread the top of this layer with cream filling.
Cover with second layer.
Frost the sides and top of the cake either smoothing buttercream for a sleek look of using a spatula, knife of spoon to swirl for more exuberant look.
Refrigerate the cake for at least 1 hour to set the frosting then bring it to room temperature before serving.

Friday, June 13, 2008

We Interrupt this Blog with a News Flash...

Bangers & Mash

You might not have noticed but posts have been particularly sparse on the blog lately, and it partly has something to do with the little announcement that I am making on the blog today. The news flash, might be exciting for some, or not so much for others but either which way there are no doubt still many food possibilities that lie ahead on the blogging front. So don't worry, I'm not going to turn into a knitting blog or anything. Not that I dislike knitting blogs but it's just that I don't know how to knit, not even a sock puppet, or a scarf, so I say stick to what you know.

Well, eating is what I know, and food, especially those of the sugary persuasion will still be the focus of the blog, and really nothing will change except for my location. So let's see if you can guess where Milk and Cookies is headed to this August for two years? The clue is in this dish.

Bangers & Mash

Guessed it yet? I'm pretty sure this clue is a dead give away. So indeed, it's true, to the possible dismay of many Londoners, I am going to the land of the eternal pub crawl or at least I hope it is, and will be checking out what the city has to offer in terms of food.

Hey, maybe I'll run into Jamie Oliver at the Borough Markets and ask him why my banana and honey bread more resembled baseballs rather than bread rolls. But I'd much rather run into Rick Stein any day, I love how he's such and advocate for British food and produce no matter how much of a bad rap it gets. Too bad he won't have Chalky with him though, that dog was the shiz.

But there you have it, I'm on my way to the northern hemisphere, I'm doubtful about how it compares to its southern counterpart, but I guess it's home for a couple of years.

So I'm sure you don't need a recipe to make bangers and mash, but here's one for the onion gravy that I pinched from Jane and Jeremy Strode of Bistrode.

Onion Gravy
makes about one-half cup

Bangers & Mash

100g unsalted butter
1 tsp brown sugar
2 medium onions, sliced thinly
1 tsp red wine vinegar
200ml beef stock
sea salt
fresh cracked black pepper

Melt butter in a heavy-based saucepan over low heat.
Add sugar and onions.
Cook slowly until caramelised, about 30 minutes.
Add vinegar and cook for another five minutes.
Add stock and season with salt and pepper and simmer for 15 minutes until sauce has thickened.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

O Blogger Where Art Thou?

White chocolate-espresso parfait sandwiches

Call it a hiatus or call it indolence, call it whatever you want but all I know is that it has been far too long. 5 weeks in fact. It escapes me how I managed to fall off the blogosphere for so long, but I did. And although I'd love to say that I have been trekking on camel-back through the sub-Saharan desert, or navigating icy waters with Greenpeace thwarting harpoon attacks on orcas, there's no such story to tell.

I have been able to do a few photo shoots for publications that will be out later this year (more on that closer to the release date), and taking on a few other things bigger than my plate will allow, but other than that I haven't been doing much at all, well nothing noteworthy or blog-worthy that is. There are a few developments that I will be announcing in a couple of weeks but aside from the ordinary shenanigans that occur in daily life, it's been business as usual, minus the fact that I have managed to circumvent any chronicling of my eating and baking activities on the blog.

I have to say that I haven't been in the groove lately, my mojo for baking hasn't dried up but it seems to have gone astray, or at least into a narcoleptic state. I guess the past few weeks the blog has been going through it's own existential crisis, asking the why am I here, and what am I doing with myself questions. Especially, in light of the world's current state, it's becoming harder and harder to find the real relevance of food blogging. With over half of the world unable to meet peoples' basic nutritional needs, is it really pertinent to be writing about food in such banal and trifling tones?

And this by no means is intended to condemn anyone who loves to eat and eat well, hey, I'm in that group of people too. And although I haven't had the urge to bake and write about food for a few weeks, it's safe to say that my appetite for eating remains insatiable. I guess speaking sincerely, this is what has been going on the blog for a few weeks now, just a quiet reflection on the reason why I blog. And it's naive to think that any one thing is going to solve world hunger, and this post is nothing about that.

Like many of you reading, I love eating, I love food, I love taking photos of my food and I love blogging about it, and I don't think we should stop this discourse on account of those who cannot engage in it. No one should feel remorse for the pursuit of their passions, but I guess my point is that after a little self-reflection, I don't consider this passion mere trite, but I have come to realise that this space we have to write and share about food is a privilege.

So I'm sorry to get all metaphysical on you.

It happens sometimes, when I have too much time on my hands. But if you came here for a recipe, then a recipe you shall get. This is definitely one for those who have some time on their hands as it takes a whopping 3 days to complete.

White chocolate-espresso parfait sandwiches

I've been cooking a heap of recipes from the Australian Gourmet Traveller website lately. I'm obsessed with poring through their archives, gazing with green-eyed envy at the spectacular food photography and styling, wishing I could only emulate their splendidness. I came across this recipe for parfait, and was enamoured by the photograph. I didn't even know what exactly a parfait was, except for what I had learned about it from Donkey on Shrek- which was that parfaits had layers and you'd be a fool not to love one.

So armed with that knowledge I decided it was high time I find out why this dessert was so perfect.
If the French couldn't find a better way to describe the dish than to just call it perfect, then I don't know what else could be better. Now 3 days is a long time to find out why a dessert is exceptionally good. I was tempted to just go find a patisserie and get one just so I didn't have to wait so long. And I guess if you are really the impatient kind and cannot bear 3 days of torture, then you can probably just wait overnight. Nonetheless, this isn't your quickie dessert.

White chocolate-espresso parfait sandwiches

"You know what else everybody likes? Parfaits. Have you ever met a person, you say, "Let's get some parfait," they say, "Hell no, I don't like no parfait"? Parfaits are delicious."

But, if your patience can endure the stretch long enough to wait for this dessert to come into perfection then you won't be sorry. The reward is a the velvety rich texture of white chocolate espresso cream sandwiched between a crunchy hazelnut meringue, dripping in a topping of espresso caramel sauce. If that's not how you describe perfection then I stand corrected, but I'm pretty sure this is as close to perfection as you can get.

The recipe can be a little fiddly, and with all the steps of having to leave mixtures in the refrigerator and freezer overnight, it can test your patience. But the pay-off far exceeds the trouble you have to go. My parfait isn't as pretty as the one on the Gourmet Traveller website, but I bet it tastes just as good. And I must warn, this dessert only lasts as long as your appetite will allow, and in our case, we polished off the whole thing in less time it took to write this post.

White chocolate-espresso parfait sandwiches

Serves 8-12
Adapted from Australian Gourmet Traveller

NOTE: You will need to begin this recipe 2 days ahead.

White chocolate-espresso parfait sandwiches

600ml pouring cream
25ml espresso coffee
3 pieces of lemon peel
330g white chocolate, coarsely chopped

4 egg whites
110g (½ cup) caster sugar
110g (2/3 cup) icing sugar, sieved
50g ground hazelnuts
20g Dutch-process cocoa, sieved

150g caster sugar
75g maple syrup
1 tbsp espresso coffee
40g butter, coarsely chopped

Combine cream, coffee and peel in a saucepan, bring just to the boil over medium-high heat, strain over chocolate in a bowl and whisk until smooth.
Cool, whisking occasionally so chocolate doesn’t separate from cream, to room temperature, then refrigerate overnight.
The next day, whisk chocolate mixture until soft peaks form.

Preheat oven to 100ºC.
Using an electric mixer, whisk eggwhites and a pinch of salt until soft peaks form.
With motor running, gradually add caster sugar; whisk until glossy.
Using a metal spoon, fold in icing sugar, hazelnut and cocoa.
Trace 2 rectangles using a 20cm x 30cm cake pan as a template onto baking paper-lined oven trays. Spread meringue evenly onto rectangles; bake for 40 minutes or until crisp. Cool on trays.

For caramel, combine sugar, maple syrup and ¼ cup water in a small saucepan and stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves.
Increase heat to medium-high and cook for 3-5minutes or until syrup thickens.
Remove from heat, add espresso, swirl to combine.
Add butter, swirl to incorporate, then cool.

Place a meringue rectangle, trimming edges to fit, into a 20cm x 30cm baking paper-lined cake pan.
Drizzle with half the espresso caramel, top with white chocolate mixture and drizzle with remaining espresso caramel.
Top with remaining meringue and freeze overnight.
Remove, cut into squares using a wet sharp knife and serve immediately.