Sunday, 12 October 2014

A day in the kitchen.

England finally seems to have realised that it's no longer July, and has given up a seemingly indefinite summer to a week of heavy rain and thunderstorms! Autumn is my favourite time of year, so unlike those bemoaning the lack of sunshine, I'm quite glad of the chance to wrap up and cook some of my favourite foods.

With my housemate away for the weekend, and it only being a couple of weeks until payday, I couldn't afford to do anything particularly exciting this weekend, so instead I spent all day in the kitchen! I'm an avid fan of the Great British Bake Off, so will take any excuse to try some of their recipes, and I also planned to batch-cook for the week ahead.

First of all, I wanted to try out Richard's toffee apple doughnuts from Advanced Dough week on Bake Off. I actually wanted to make his rhubarb and custard ones, as they looked amazing, but the recipe isn't online yet, so I thought I'd give these a go.

The full recipe is online here, but first you begin by making the dough

              Baking         Baking

I've made dough quite regularly before for bread, but this is 'advanced dough' and so my first batch was an utter disaster. I'm not 100% sure what I did wrong - I have a feeling that I retarded the yeast at the very beginning of the process - but the dough was basically liquid and didn't prove at all. Fortunately, batch two was a little more successful.

Richard's recipe did call for an electric mixer and a dough hook. I barely have a whisk, so this may be why my dough wasn't as good as I hoped, even on the second batch. I kneaded it by hand for 15 minutes instead, which worked, although it wasn't quite right.

The next step is to make the apple filling for the inside of the doughnuts.

               Apple Filling         Apple Filling

It's a mixture of apple, sugar. butter and cinnamon - quite nice on its own, as it tastes like grown-up baby food haha! Doesn't look too inviting once it's been blended, but fortunately it's not on display.


Then, once that's done, it's time to make the caramel. This was the part I was the most worried about - I was pretty sure I was going to ruin the pan! The recipe is quite vague here, and just says 'melt the sugar.' As I'm not a baker, I didn't know if this meant literally putting sugar in the pan over the heat, or adding water to it first. Fortunately, Google provides all the answers, and you are of course supposed to add water. Once the sugar is golden brown, time to whisk in the butter and the cream.

I forgot at this point, that I don't actually like salted caramel, so I followed the recipe and added the salt. If I were to make it again, I'd leave it out as I can't stand the stuff and means I now can't eat half the doughnuts haha! I'm sure it's very nice if you like it though.

                 Caramel       Salted Caramel


At this point, my dough had proved enough to create the actual doughnuts. As I say, my dough wasn't quite right I don't think (although I don't know what was wrong with it. Can anyone help me out for next time?) but I just about managed to create blobs from my dough, with the addition of a little extra flour. They weren't quite spheres, as the recipe dictated, but they were around the right shape...

I then had to leave the balls to prove for another hour. They were supposed to double in size, but I saw no real difference, so I clearly did something wrong! Bread is incredibly easy to bake and prove; doughnuts are not, and I don't really know why. More research needed, clearly.

The next job was to deep fry the doughnuts. As I don't have a deep fat fryer, I did them in a pan, which scared me a little, I'm not going to lie! I had the oil at too high a temperature at first (I must invest in a cooking thermometer...) so this happened after 1 minute of cooking...

                                      Burnt Doughnut

I soon got the hang of it though, and soon all my irregular shaped blobs had cooked. I still didn't actually know if they tasted like doughnuts, as they didn't really look like them at this point!

                Doughnuts      Toffee Apple Doughnuts

Fortunately, they tasted ok, and with the addition of some cinnamon and sugar, and the salted caramel, they actually look vaguely like they're supposed to! (I'm not going to put a picture of Richard's here for comparison, mainly because I can't actually find one, but also because it's embarrassing haha!) Bring on the rhubarb and custards!

Whilst my doughnuts were proving at various points, I also batch-cooked a couple of meals for the next week. Fortunately, I've made these before, so they were much more successful!

First up is one of my all-time favourites - spicy chickpeas! Pretty much what it says on the tin - onions, garlic, potatoes, chickpeas, tomato puree, spinach and spices. It's a quick and easy recipe, freezes well, and is very filling! Here's how you make it:

Cooking  Spices

Fry 2 onions and 2 garlic cloves (my favourite smell in the world!), then once soft, add turmeric, ground coriander, cumin seeds and chilli powder. Add veg stock and 300g potatoes (boiled) with the tomato puree, then simmer until the sauce has turned thick. Wilt in some spinach, and voila!

                          Spicy chickpeas

I also had some halloumi to use up, so made a very quick and easy halloumi and quinoa salad, recipe available here. It also gave me chance to laugh at my favourite cheesy(!) joke (sorry).

What did the cheese say to itself in the mirror?
Hallou - mi! ;)

                                     Halloumi and Quinoa Salad

So there you have it. My day in the kitchen with some successful, and not so successful results! I did come to a few conclusions after today though:

1. I need some bigger pans (I had to use two for the spicy chickpeas), some better kitchen equipment (blender, dough hook...) and a dishwasher, as I washed up 4 separate times today!

2. I'm getting old if I'm considering asking for said kitchen equipment for Christmas.

3. Despite my working class roots, I am most definitely middle class, as these recipes wouldn't look out of place in a Waitrose!

Next week? Veggie Chilli and Parkin! Happy Autumn :)

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