May 23, 2008
Posted by maritasays under Baking
This year, for my birthday (which was some months ago), Alexander spoiled me with the enormous Martha Stewart Baking Handbook. Not only that I’m also getting sent on a baking course at Vanilla Industries! That unfortunately has to wait until late June, as they are currently remodeling the bakery. So in the meantime, I am have been experimenting with Martha’s recipes.
I’ve never actually used any of her recipes as far as I know, and I have to admit I was quite intimidated by the big book, loaded with recipes and lovely pictures. Everything looking perfect. All the time reading recipes, I heard her very formal voice in my head. Eep!
My first attempt, sugar cookies, was a bit fat flop, although Alexander managed to save a lot of the cookie dough and managed to make some cookies. After that I attempted banana bread, which turned out much better and has since been adjusted into vegan banana cupcakes!
But my greatest success so far, and inspiration to continue experimenting, adjusting and learning from the great lady were icebox butter cookies.
Preparing the dough was real easy, and fun. Plus the cookies came out nicely and I still have a log and a half of dough stored in the freezer!
So to make these yummy butter cookies you need:
1 cup unsalted butter (at room temperature)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2.5 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sanding sugar or granulated sugar, for rolling
3/4 cup dark chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped
To make the cookies:
Beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium, until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Now add the flour, chocolate, nuts, and salt and mix till combined.
Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and half it. Roll each piece into a log that’s about 1.5 inches in diameter. Wrap in parchment paper, ensuring the ends are covered and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or more. To help the logs retain their shape, place them in empty paper towel tubes.
When you are ready to start baking, remove the dough from the fridge and preheat the oven to 175C, line a baking tray with parchment paper. Allow the dough to get soft enough to cut, not too soft though.
Cut as much of the dough as you want to bake off. The rest can be kept in the fridge for up to three weeks and used as needed. Roll the logs in sanding sugar to coat and slice into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Place 1 inch apart on the parchment paper.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown, rotating halfway. Let the cookies cool and serve.
May 13, 2008
Although this was my third trip to Cambodia, I have never been to the coast before. So when we started planning our trip we were very certain that we wanted to see some of the country’s coast this time round. We were researching Sihanoukville, when we discovered that somewhat to the east of this famous beach city lies Kep.
Kep, allegedly, used to be the place to be from the thirties to the late sixties. The glamorous and wealthy of yesteryear all owned attractive modernist villas and enjoyed weekends of luxury in this see-and-be-seen coastal town. But then came the Khmer Rouge with their penchant for destruction and years of civil war and Kep was abandoned. It’s inhabitants fled or were killed and their villas used as target practice by distruction-crazed soldiers.
Recently, however, Kep has been having some sort of a revival. Its close proximity to Phnom Penh, loads of giant crab found in the bay and a need for less crowded coastal property seems to have caused a teeny tourism boom. A couple of very attractive guest houses have sprung up in the hills behind the town. Some new and some in renovated former villas.
We decided to stay spend our two nights on the coast at Veranda Natural Resort, a beautiful sprawling resort set in the hills behind the town’s crab market with views of the ocean and some Vietnamese islands in the distance. Our bungalow had two ‘rooms’. One was in the bungalow and the other was part of our veranda. There was also a hammock and we enjoyed lovely ocean views and were visited by a giant gecko on our second night.
The grounds at Veranda was something amazing. The province of Kampot where Kep is, is known for its rich soil and fresh produce and it was very obvious from all the fruits growing in abundance in our garden.
Bananas, mangoes, papayas, pineapples, chillies and guavas seemed to be growing wild.
There were numerous coconut trees as well as loads of jackfruit trees. Their enormous fruits dangling precariously from the branches.
And of course Kampot’s most famed export was also to be found in our garden.
Kampot pepper. Most definitely the best fresh pepper I have ever tasted. Spicy, but not overwhelming, and a floral hint that leaves you wanting more. We made sure that we ordered at least one dish with fresh Kampot pepper whenever we dined.
Whereas Kampot province is famous for pepper, Kep is nowadays famous for crab. Hence the statue in the first image. The crab is caught pretty much right in front of your eyes at the crab market. From the side the market looks like homes dropping into the deep ocean, but the water is actually quite shallow. While sitting inside any of the numerous restaurants in the market you can watch the ladies of the markets wading out into the ocean and dragging back the crab cages.
On weekends, day trippers from the capital flock to the market to dine on mountains of crab and buy some fresh crab to take with back to the city.
We came for lunch both days we were in Kep. The food was incredible. Both times we ordered the crab curry with fresh pepper. It was a divine dish. I literally sat with one crab leg for about 10 minutes, savoring the sauce, the meat and the pepper. I think I could happily eat this everyday. It was incredible. We also enjoyed some fresh squid and fish but nothing came close to the crab.
Sadly we had to leave for Phnom Penh again after only two nights for visa business. But I know that I will have to go back to Kep to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere, the abundance of fruit, and of course, the crab and the pepper again.
May 13, 2008
I’m back from a pretty relaxed trip to Cambodia. Despite some long bus journeys and time spent at embassies and border control, we still had lots of time to enjoy fabulous Khmer food and good cocktails.
In a kind of big move both of us have resigned just before we left for this trip and we are now kind of unemployed/freelancing. It was not exactly an impulse decision, but also not something we mulled over for weeks. It felt like the right thing to do though and I am looking forward to having more time to spend on sewing, cooking, baking and writing. So expect to see some more regular entries here. Starting with some on our trip to be published very soon.
Before I get to that though. Can anybody spot something different in the picture below?