Mushroom Lasagna

I'm not a supersticious person, or at least not to a point it prevents from stepping outside. Sure I try to avoid walking under ladders or opening an umbrella inside, I even have clothes or coins I believe are lucky, but that's about it.
But so far this year, I bruised (or maybe even cracked) a bone and I have been knocked out by a quite bad virus. And this is only january... Than it hitted me, we are in 2013! Like 2013...

Good thing that a friend of mine got me a "luck calendar", with good luck advices and quotes. Let's see how it gets me thru the year. Plus to focus on the positiv side, I also have a new favorit toy in my kitchen: the kenwood triblade and it's full accesories pack, I particularly like the little blender that comes with it: handy and easy to clean.

So to get back to something reliable in this crazy hazy days, I picked one of my favorit cookbook up: Bryn's Kitchen. Flicking thru it, the Mushroom Lasagna sounded like something I wanted to try. The results on picture is fairly unimpressiv, it lacks of height. I think making it smaller with one more layer is a good option. Nevertheless this is flavor packed, if you like mushroom obviously, I think it could take a few onions and parsley, but I stuck to the original recipe for this first try.

Mushroom Lasagna (from "Bryn's Kitchen")

Serves 2

for the pasta
10ml Olive Oil
1 Egg
150gr Flour
A pinch of Salt

for the filling
25gr of Butter
500gr of Mushroom (Button or cream)
1 Tablespoon of Thym
Salt, Pepper
100ml of Cream
2gr of Agar-Agar

Make the pasta, using a blender (or by hand, but it will take more time) blitz the ingredients together, until it has a crumbly consistency, than tip it on you worksurface and start bringing it together. Add a bit of water until you have a smooth dough. Wrap it in clingfilm, place it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Roll out your pasta dough , preferably using a machine. I used the kitchenaid attachement, and rolled it out to size 6 (2 stops from the finest one). Lay the pasta sheet on a clean towel. I've cut the pasta sheet to roughly the size of my dish. Now cook them in boiling salted water for 1 minute and place them immediatly in a bowl with cold water. Once cooled, take them out and leave them on the clean towel, or kitchen towel, to dry.

Preheat the oven to 160°C.

Peel and slice the mushroom. In a large saucepan, on a medium heat, melt the butter and add the mushroom with the thyme, keep stiring every now and then for about 10 minutes, until the water is evaporated. Add salt and pepper.

Take half of the mushroom out, then pour the cream on the remaining mushroom in the saucepan, cook for a couple of minutes. This is the mixture you need to pour into your blender, adding the agar-agar. Mix until you have a smooth purée.

Now combine the mushroom purée with the slices of mushroom you saved, and set aside to start making the lasagna.
Grease the baking dish you are going to use, make a first layer of pasta, and spread half the mushroom filling on top. Place a second layer of pasta, and the second half of the mushroom. Finish with a last layer of pasta, that you wil sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan.

Place in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, cut into portions and serve with a green salad.


Daring Baker - January 2013:Gevulde Speculaas

Francijn of Koken in de Brouwerij was our January 2013 Daring Bakers’ Hostess and she challenged us to make the traditional Dutch pastry, Gevulde Speculaas from scratch! That includes making our own spice mix, almond paste and dough! Delicious!

This month's challenge was a whole new world for me, it does not ressemble the traditional "cakes" we bake around here, nor does it to cookies, it's more something in between. I love speculoos and almond paste, so that couldn't really go wrong anyway.

It was fun to play with spices, making your mix allows you to choose what you prefer. I substituted mace for nutmeg (because I couldn't get a hold on it), and used star anise and coriander in my mix. I felt a bit like some kind of apothecary mixing my spices, if I had have a cauldron, I may would have felt like Willow (yes, this is a Buffy reference, I'm a nerd, deal with it ;) )

Gevulde Speculaas

Recipe Speculaas Spices
cinnamon 40 to 60 % of the total amount
ground cloves 1 or 2 parts
mace ½ or 1 part
ginger ½ or 1 part
white pepper ½ or 1 part
cardamom ½ or 1 part
coriander ½ or 1 part
anise ½ or 1 part
nutmeg 1 or 2 parts

A convenient way to mix the spices is as follows:
Take at least 1 or 2 teaspoons of ground cloves, ½ or 1 teaspoon of mace and ½ or 1 teaspoon of ginger.
Add to taste ½ or 1 teaspoon of white pepper, ½ or 1 teaspoon of cardamom, ½ or 1 teaspoon of coriander, ½ or 1 teaspoon of anise, and 1 or 2 teaspoons of nutmeg.
Measure or weigh the amount of spices you have now, and add an equal amount of cinnamon.

Recipe Almond Paste
Ingredients:125 gm raw almonds
125 grams granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon lemon zest

If the raw almonds still have their brown skins, remove them as follows. Bring water to a boil, add the almonds, cook them for one minute, drain immediately and let cool for a few minutes. Rub them between your fingers to remove the skins.
Grind the almonds for one or two minutes in a food processor, until you see nothing but very small pieces. (Or skip this step if you use ground almonds.)
Add the sugar, and grind for another one or two minutes. It must be very fine after this step.
Add the egg and let the food processor combine it - if it is powerful enough. Otherwise you will have to combine it with your fingers.
Store the almond paste in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Although the flavor gets better as days pass by, it is not wise to store the paste for too long, as it contains a raw egg. For the same reason you should not eat the paste unbaked.

Recipe Speculaas Dough
Ingredients:250 gm all purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
150 grams brown sugar, firmly packed
a pinch salt
15 gm speculaas spices
175 gm unsalted butter

Put flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and spices in a bowl.
Cut the butter in dices and add.
Knead until smooth.
Feel free to add a little milk if the dough is too dry.
Wrap in clingfoil and put in the refrigerator for two hours.
You can choose to make the dough a few days in advance, just like the almond paste, that will benefit the flavor. Freezing is no problem.

Assembling and baking the Gevulde Speculaas
Ingredients:speculaas dough
almond paste
whole almonds without skins for decoration
1 large egg

Directions:1. Grease the pan.
2. Preheat the oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas 4
3. Divide the dough into two portions.
4. Roll out both portions on a lightly floured surface, until they are exactly as big as the baking pan.
5. Put one of the layers in the pan and press it lightly to fill the bottom.
6. Lightly beat the egg with a teaspoon cold water.
7. Smear 1/3 of the egg over the dough in the pan.
8. Roll out the almond paste between two sheets of clingfoil, until it is exactly as big as the pan, and put it on the dough in the pan. (If you chose to make the paste soft, you can smear the paste instead of rolling it.)
9. Press the paste lightly down to fit in the pan, and smear the next 1/3 of the egg over it.
10. Now put the second layer of dough on top of the paste, press it lightly, and make as smooth as possible.
11. Smear the last 1/3 of the egg over the dough.
12. Decorate the pastry with the almonds.
13. Bake for 40 minutes in the preheated oven.
14. Let cool completely in the pan, then cut it in portions as you like.
15. If you wrap the stuffed speculaas in clingfoil, after it has cooled completely, you can store it a few days at room temperature. Freezing is possible, but fresh speculaas tastes better.


Tropical Fruits Charlotte

New year it is! Let me first wish you all a great one, let's hope it will be fun and better than the last one. As we've survived the apocalypse, it seems about right to take some new year resolutions. Mine are not original, as they included loosing weight and practising sport.
So far in this year (I know we're only 13 days in, but still) I'm sticking to both, as I've taken out of the closet my torture device: the Wii Balance board! Yes, even in sports, I remain a geek. It yelled at me for not using it in over a year *shame*. Netherless, it's something I'd advice to anyone who wants to move a little, it won't turn you into an athlete, but at least it's fun.

So even if you should expect some "lighter" recipes in the next posts, this first one won't belong to that category, as it was one of the desserts I made for christmas: a charlotte. I do see it more like a summer dessert, specially the easier version, with just whipped cream and strawberries.
This one was a bit more sophisticated with a bavarian mousse instead. I decided to go with tropical fruits, I know they are coming from far away, but it was a christmas treat.

Though I admit I also bought lady fingers in stores in the past, they are really easy to make. And instead of having to place each lady finger, you can pipe them close enough to already form the circle that will go around your charlotte, so much easier!
An other positiv point for me, in the crazy christmas time, this should be made one day ahead of time, so the only work on the D-day, is taking it out of the fridge and decorating!

Tropical Fruits Charlotte (based on a recipe from Mercotte)

makes an 18cm diameter charlotte

for the lady finger:
50gr of Flour
50gr of Cornstarch
5 Eggs
100gr of Sugar
Some dusting sugar

for the bavarian mousse:
1/4L Whole Milk
3 Egg Yolks
50gr of Sugar
1 Vanilla Pod
3 Sheets of Gelatin
200gr of Whole Cream

for the syrup/ to finish:
2 Passion Fruits
50gr of Sugar
100ml of Water
1 Mango
10 Litchies

Start with the lady finger: Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Sift the flour and cornstarch. Star beating the egg whites slowly and add the sugar progressivly when it starts to foam a little. When they reach a soft peak, slow down the speed and add the egg yolks and keep mixing a few seconds.
Now using a soft spatula, add the flour and cornstarch smoothly until well combined.

To pipe the lady finger evenly, you can draw two lines on the parchement paper. Pipe them less than a centimeter from each other, so when they cook they will expand and form a band of lady finger.
You also need to pipe two circles, one of 18cm, the other one a bit smaller. Once again, it's easier if you draw the circles on the paper before you pipe them.

Dust the lady finger with confectionner sugar before placing them in the oven for 10 minutes. I did four batches, 2 for the lady fingers and 2 for the circles. Leave them to cool before using them, they keep well in an airtight jar.

For the mousse, put the gelatine sheets in cold water. Cut the vanilla pod open and scratch the vanilla seeds out to mix them with the egg yolks, add the sugar and beat until it gets to be paler. Now add the milk and whisk until it's smooth.
Pour the liquid into a pan, on a medium heat cook and whisk until it reaches 82 to 84°C (I used my sugar thermometer). Take it off the heat and whisk in the gelatine sheets that you have drained of the excess of water.

While you wait for the cream to drop to 25°C, you can prepare the syrup. Cut the passion fruits open, and pass the flesh thru a sieve to have the juice but not the seeds. In a small sauce pan, cook on a low heat the water, the passion fruit and the sugar until it starts to buble. Set aside to cool.

If the vanilla cream has reached the temperature, pour the whole cream in your stand mixer (or use a hand mixer) to whisk the cream to a soft whipped cream. Now combine both creams and leave it in the fridge to set for a couple of hours.

To make the charlotte, peel the mango and dice it. Using a iron pastry circle, start with the biggest circle of lady finger as the bottom of your charlotte, and circle it with the strip of lady fingers you've make, try to make it tight so the cream doesn't leak out.
Moist the bottom layer with the syrup you've made. Spread about 1/3 of the cream on that layer and sprinkle the dice of mangos all over it, before adding an 1/3 of the cream.
Now add the second circle of lady finger and moisten it again with the syrup, and pour the last third of the cream on top.

Set in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 hours, and decorate before serving the way you see fit, I choose litchi and some sugar christmasy decoration.