Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Bounty Bars - Homemade

I just love a Bounty, from time to time.  As an exercise in indulgence I thought I would try to make my own. 

Although not really baking, since nothing goes in the oven, I have included them in my blog as they fit nicely as a sweet snack, with lots of lovely coconut and chocolate.

With just three ingredients this is very simple, if a little sticky and needs just a little patience to complete. My bars are about 45 grams each, but that makes them slightly larger than the ones you can buy in the shop.  So reducing the amount of mixture to, maybe, 40 or 35 gram would make them more like the real size, and would make more.
Homemade Bounty Bars

Ingredients:

  • 200g chocolate( I used milk, but dark would be fine too)
  • 200g dessicated coconut
  • 397g tin of condensed milk

Method:

  1. Place the coconut into a mixing bowl
  2. Add the condensed milk and mix to fully combine both.
  3. Cut 12 or thirteen 4x4 inch squares of plastic wrap
  4. On a piece of the plastic wrap place about 45 grams of the mixture and form into a shape resembling a Bounty.  Close the plastic wrap all around.
  5. Repeat the process until all the mixture has been used.
  6. Place the result in the fridge to chill.
  7. Heat and melt the chocolate, in a bain marie(double boiler)
  8. Allow the chocolate to cool for about 20 minutes
  9. Take each of the coconut mixture pieces and coat with the chocolate and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  10. Allow the chocolate to harden to complete your Bounty Bars.


Monday, 27 April 2015

Cheese Straws

Cheese Straws are a lovely savoury nibble, and I was in need of that after rather overloading on sweet things in the past few days.  So I set about checking some recipes.  I decided on this one, from BBC Food as it was a simple pastry, rather than the time consuming puff pastry. Of course I could have bought ready made puff pastry, but that is not something I really want to do. This recipe also had two cheeses, Cheddar and Parmesan where most of the others had only one cheese, of varying varieties.

The recipe is easy to follow, or so it seemed.  In fact it was, but I, like a fool, made the pastry and, when I went to put it in the fridge, realised the cheeses we still sitting in there waiting to be used.  So I had to add the cheese later than the recipe dictated. It didn't make any difference, that I could notice, since they turned out very well and they taste simply wonderful. Also the BBC Food recipe didn't actually say to grate the Cheddar, but I guess it has to be done, or it can't be added into the mixture.  As someone who simply hates melted cheese of any type and detests parmesan on hot food, I was surprised by just how much I loved these, once they had cooled. The inclusion of mustard powder and cayenne pepper certainly adds a very nice aftertaste.

I did cook mine for a full 18 minutes as I didn't think they looked done before then. That could have been as I cooked them at 170c Fan, rather than 190c without the fan.  I prefer using the fan, since it gives a more even spread of heat throughout the oven.  But it does mean that sometimes I have to slightly adjust the cooking time.


 Cheese Straws
Ingredients:
  • 375g/13oz plain flour
  • pinch salt
  • 225g/8oz butter, diced
  • 150g/5½oz mature cheddar cheese, grated
  • 50g/1¾oz freshly grated parmesan cheese (or a similar vegetarian hard cheese)
  • pinch English mustard powder
  • small pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 free-range eggs, yolks only
Method:
  1. Sift the flour and a pinch of salt into a bowl. 
  2. Using your fingertips, rub in the butter until all the lumps are gone and the texture is like fine breadcrumbs. 
  3. Stir in the cheese, mustard powder, cayenne, and egg yolks. 
  4. Add 4-5 tablespoons of cold water and mix to a firm dough. 
  5. Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  6. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment.
  7. Roll out the dough to a square, roughly the thickness of about 1/8th inch.
  8. Cut the square in half, then cut each half into 1cm/½in strips. 
  9. Transfer carefully onto the lined baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes, until crisp, then leave to cool on the tray.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Quadruple Chocolate Loaf Cake -Again

When I first made a Chocolate Loaf Cake it was very well received, and eaten in no time at all.  It has been mentioned more than once since then, so I decided to make it again today.

I put the recipe, as used originally, below, which I found on Nigella's site, but this time I cheated on the flaked chocolate.  Instead of trying to find a block of chocolate and flaking it I bought some Cadbury Flakes and whacked them with a rolling pin, after chilling them.  Then I sprinkled the results on top of the loaf.

Although this looks fairly rustic that is how it is supposed to look, Nigella explains that the cake will split down the middle whilst cooking and mine did just that.  So all was well.
Quadruple Chocolate Loaf Cake

Ingredients  for the cake
  • 200 grams plain flour
  • ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 50 grams cocoa powder
  • 275 grams caster sugar
  • 175 grams soft unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 80 ml sour cream
  • 125 ml boiling water
  • 175 grams dark chocolate chips (unless you prefer milk)
for the syrup
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 125 ml water
  • 100 grams caster sugar
  • 25 grams dark chocolate (from a thick bar)
Method
  1. Take whatever you need out of the fridge so that all ingredients can come to room temperature.
  2. Preheat the oven to gas mark 3/170°C/325ºF, putting in a baking sheet as you do so, and line a 900g / 2lb loaf tin (mine measures 21 x 11cm and 7.5cm deep / 9½ x 4½ inches and 3 inches deep and the cooking times are based on that) with greased foil - making sure there are no tears - and leave an overhang all round. Or use a silicon tin.
  3. Put the flour, bicarb, cocoa, sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla and sour cream into the processor and blitz till a smooth, satiny brown batter. Scrape down with a rubber spatula and process again while pouring the boiling water down the funnel. Switch it off then remove the lid and the well-scraped double-bladed knife and, still using your rubber spatula, stir in the chocolate chips or morsels.
  4. Scrape and pour this beautiful batter into the prepared loaf tin and slide into the oven, cooking for about 1 hour. When it's ready, the loaf will be risen and split down the middle and a cake-tester, or a fine skewer, will pretty well come out clean. But this is a damp cake so don't be alarmed at a bit of stickiness in evidence; rather, greet it.
  5. Not long before the cake is due out of the oven - say when it's had about 45-50 minutes - put the syrup ingredients of cocoa, water and sugar into a small saucepan and boil for 5 minutes. You may find it needs a little longer: what you want is a reduced liquid, that's to say a syrup, though I often take it a little further, so that the sugar caramelizes and the syrup has a really dark, smokey chocolate intensity.
  6. Take the cake out of the oven and sit it on a cooling rack and, still in its tin, pierce here and there with a cake tester. Then pour the syrup as evenly as possible, which is not very, over the surface of the cake. It will run to the sides of the tin, but some will have been absorbed in the middle.
  7. Let the cake become completely cold and then slip out of its tin, removing the foil as you do so. Sit on an oblong or other plate. Now take your bar of chocolate, wrapped in foil if you haven't got much of its wrapper left, and cut with a heavy sharp knife, so that it splinters and flakes and falls in slices of varying thickness and thinness.
  8. I've specified a weight, but really go by eye: when you think you've got enough to scatter over the top of the loafcake, stop slicing. Sprinkle these chocolate splinters over the top of the sticky surface of the cake.

Petit Fours

Petit Fours are a small, bite-size confection that can be eaten in one bite, or sometimes two.  You can make any variety of flavours and textures.  I opted to try a recipe that I found on Joyofbaking, where Stephanie Jaworski has a very nice video to go with the recipe.  She always does such a good job, ensuring that ingredients are in metric as well as US measurements.  

I am not very good at piping, or even coating things with chocolate, so this was a bit of a challenge.  Nevertheless I thought it was worth trying.   If you can get past my hopeless piping I think you might agree that these are well worth the effort involved in making them.

With three layers of almond sponge and two different flavours of jam, as well as a white chocolate ganache over the top they taste very good indeed.
Petit Fours

Ingredients:

Almond Cake:
  • 2/3 pound (300 grams) almond paste
  • 2/3 cup (135 grams) granulated white sugar
  • 2/3 cup (150 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature (cut into pieces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup (about 4 large eggs) (190 grams without shell), at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup (85 grams) all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) salt
Filling:
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) apricot preservies, heated and strained
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) seedless raspberry preserves, heated
White Chocolate Glaze:
  • 8 ounces (230 grams) white chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 6 tablespoons (80 grams) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 tablespoon (13 grams) vegetable shortening
Royal Icing: (optional)
  • 1 large egg white (30 grams), at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups (180 grams) confectioners sugar (powdered or icing sugar), sifted
 Method:
AlmondCake:
  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Butter a 17 1/2 x 12 1/2 x 1 inch (44 x 32 x 2.5 cm) baking pan and line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. 
  2. Place the almond paste in your electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, (or use a hand mixer) and beat until smooth.
  3.  Add the sugar and beat until thoroughly combined. Gradually add the butter and continue to beat until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes). 
  4. Beat in the vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides of your bowl as needed. 
  5. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until well combined. 
  6. Finally, beat in the flour and salt.
  7. Evenly spreadthe batter into your pan and bakefor about 15-18minutesor until lightly browned, springy to the touch, and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. 
  8. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about 5-10 minutes. 
  9. Run a knife or spatula along the sides of the pan and then gently slide the cake, along with the parchment paper, onto a wire rack to finish cooling.
  10. Next, trim the edges of the cake with a sharp knife and divide the cake into three equal pieces. 
  11. Take one layer and flip it onto a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment or wax paper.
  12.  Peel off the parchment paper and spread the apricot preserves evenly over the top of the cake. 
  13. Take a second layer of cake and turn it upside down on top of the apricot preserves. 
  14. Peel off the parchment paper and spread the raspberry preserves evenly on the top of the cake. 
  15. Then take the last layer of cake and turn it upside down on top of the raspberry preserves. 
  16. Cover the whole cake with plastic wrap and then place a heavy plate or baking pan on top of the cake. This is done to compact the cake layers. Place in the refrigerator to chill until firm (2-3 hours or even overnight).
  17. Once the cake is firm, remove from refrigerator, and using a 1 1/2 inch (4 cm) round cookie cutter, cut into shapes (you can also cut the cake into squares, rectangles, or diamonds). 
  18. Place the mini cakes on a baking sheet, cover, and place in the refrigerator while you make the White Chocolate Glaze.
White Chocolate Glaze:
  1. Put the white chocolate, butter, and shortening in a stainless steel bowl. 
  2. Place over a saucepan of barely simmering water and heat until smooth. (Watch carefully as white chocolate can easily over heat.) 
  3. Remove from heat.
  4. Place your small cakes on a wire rack that has been placed over a baking sheet. 
  5. Using a small ladle pour the chocolate glaze over the cakes, making sure that the glaze completely covers each cake.
  6. If your glaze gets too thick, place it back over the heat to thin it out. Any glaze that drips onto the baking sheet can be strained and then it may have to be reheated.
  7. Place the frosted cakes into the refrigerator for about 15 minutes so the glaze can harden and become firm.
Royal Icing:
  1. Place the egg whites and lemon juice in a large bowl and whisk until frothy. Add the sifted powdered sugar and mix until smooth. If needed, add a few drops of water until you get the correct piping consistency. At this point you can add food coloring to the royal icing. 
  2. Place the royal icing in a pastry bag fitted wth a small plain tip and decorate the tops of the cakes.
  3. Store the Petit Fours in a covered container in the refrigerator for about 7-10 days. They can also be frozen for about a month. (If freezing, do not decorate with the royal icing.) To defrost, place in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes

These cupcakes are from Nigella Lawson's website, they apparently also appear in her book "How To Be A Domestic Goddess".  The description certainly whetted my appetite, and I was keen to try them.  However I was delayed, courtesy of Amazon Logistics failing to deliver my chocolate, as I explained in my previous post. Finally they got their act together and the chocolate arrived this afternoon, so I set to and made them.

The recipe is simple enough, and should make 12.  However I think they are slightly too large, after cooking,as they overflowed the cups rather more than expected, and I would recommend making 14 from this recipe.

I also don't buy self-raising flour these days.  Rather I use plain flour and add 2 teaspoons of baking powder per 150 grams to create self-raising.  That was another tip I found on Nigella's site.

I am afraid that when it came to applying the topping I only had 11 cupcakes to work with.  That is because they gave off such a lovely aroma that I ate one before they had fully cooled.  It tasted wonderful and I had to stop myself from eating another.

I am sure I will be making these again very soon.

Ingredients:
for the cupcakes:
  • 125 grams soft unsalted butter
  • 100 grams dark chocolate (broken into pieces)
  • 300 grams morello cherry jam
  • 150 grams caster sugar
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 2 large eggs (beaten)
  • 150 grams self-raising flour
for the icing:
  • 100 grams dark chocolate
  • 100 ml double cream
  • 12 natural-coloured glace cherries
Method:
  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/gas mark 4/350ºF.
  2. Put the butter in a heavy-bottomed pan on the heat to melt. When nearly completely melted, stir in the chocolate. Leave for a moment to begin softening, then take the pan off the heat and stir with a wooden spoon until the butter and chocolate are smooth and melted. Now add the cherry jam, sugar, salt and eggs. Stir with a wooden spoon and when all is pretty well amalgamated stir in the flour.
  3. Scrape and pour into the muffin papers in their tin and bake for 25 minutes. Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes before turning out.
  4. When the cupcakes are cool, break the chocolate for the icing into little pieces and add them to the cream in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, remove from the heat and then whisk - by hand or electrically - till thick and smooth. Ice the cupcakes, smoothing the tops with the back of a spoon, and stand a cherry in the centre of each.

Happy Bread, or Holiday Bread

I saw a photo of this bread on Google+ from FoodIva, and in her post she mentioned that she found it at Eva Toteva's blog, that recipe was in Russian.  Happily for me Iva had spent the time to translate the recipe.  Eva had called it Holiday Bread and Iva called it Happy Bread.  I don't have a new name for it, so I will use both.

It is a simple enough bread and looks quite fancy when baked, though I am sure mine doesn't look as good as theirs.  But it will taste good, I am sure.  I am not currently eating bread, so it will have to be passed over to family to eat. It seems the ideal bread for tearing and sharing, with soup or something similar.

I hadn't planned to bake this today, holding it back for another time, but Amazon failed me yesterday.  I was supposed to get a delivery of lots of chocolate ready for baking.  It is much cheaper to buy chocolate in bulk than to buy it in those little packets in the supermarket.  But Amazon, using their own carrier, cant find my address.  I had the same problem with them 8 months ago and nothing has changed.  If they use another carrier, such as Royal Mail or DPD there is not a problem.  It only happens when they use their own carrier Amazon Logistics.  Most unsatisfactory.  Needless to say full vent to my feelings was given, both by phone and by email.  That elicited all the usual palliatives that mean absolutely nothing, the same ones I received 8 months ago.   Hopefully the chocolate will arrive today and I can get back to my planned bake, Chocolate and Cherry Cupcakes.

Ok, my rant is over and I will get on with the recipe.


Happy Bread/Holiday Bread
Ingredients:
  • 2 teaspoons dry instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar or honey
  • 100ml warm milk
  • 500g all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading and flouring
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 150 ml warm milk (extra)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon vinegar or lemon juice
  • 100 g butter, melted and cooled
Method:
1. Dissolve yeast and sugar in 100 ml warm milk, cover and leave in a warm place to rise 10 minutes.
2. In another bowl, sift the flour and salt together. Make a well in the middle and add beaten eggs into it, the remaining warm milk, olive oil, vinegar and yeast mixture. Knead the dough with your hands or in your mixer until it separates from the sides of the bowl. Remove dough, place on lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes until it becomes a soft, pliable dough. Place in a greased bowl, cover with a towel and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in volume - about an hour.
3. Punch risen dough and transfer on a floured surface, divide dough into 2 equal parts. Divide each of these again into 4, so you have 8 pieces of dough altogether.
4. Roll each piece of dough out into a roughly rectangular shape with a thickness of 3-5 mm. Brush cooled, melted butter over each piece. Set aside remaining butter for later.
5. Place one piece of rectangular dough over another one and start to roll into a cylinder. Do the same with the rest of the dough; you will end up with 4 cylindrical rolls altogether.
6. Cut each roll into three pieces in this way - slice at both ends of the roll about 1.5 inch long each, and put these two pieces aside. Then cut the middle part of the roll into 4 triangles.
7. Preheat oven to 180C. Grease or line a large baking tray. In the middle of the tray, arrange the cut ends of the rolls around each other to form a circle, placing the cut sides down. Arrange the cut triangles to completely surround the middle circle. Cover with towel and leave the dough to rise in a warm place for about 30-40 minutes.
8. Beat the yolk with the milk with a fork to form a glaze and brush top of the bread with the glaze. (You can sprinkle with sesame seeds or other dry toppings at this point.) Bake bread for 20-30 minutes, reducing the temperature to 160C after 10 minutes in the oven.
9. Brush bread with melted butter as soon as it comes out of the oven, cover with a towel and leave to cool for 10-15 minutes before eating.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Mille Feuille - with Chocolate filling

After the success of my puff pastry for the Pithiviers I decided to make some more, and this time to use it to make Mille Feuille, known in the USA as Napoleon Pastry.  Traditionally the layers of crispy puff pastry are filled with creme patissier.  However since some of the 'tasters' are not so keen on that, so I decided to make a chocolate creme pat, and then a chocolate ganache, so I would have different filling for each layer.

As with the Pithiviers, if you want to try these you can always use ready made puff pastry, from a shop.  It will work very well and will save you a lot of time.

Although my mille feuille are not the neatest ever to see the light of day, they are just fine, after all it is the taste and texture that is just as important as the look.


Chocolate Mille Feuille
Ingredients:
Puff Pastry:
  • 500g plain flour
  • 200g butter at room temperature
  • 225ml water
  • 10g salt
  • 200g butter, straight from the fridge.
Pastry Creme:

  • 250 ml milk
  • 10 ml vanilla extract
  • 50g granulated sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 20g cornflour
  • 100g dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces

Chocolate Ganache:

  • 200 ml double cream
  • 200 g dark chocolate

For assembling:

  • Raspberry jam to spread on bottom layers, about 2 tablespoons
  • 75g icing sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp water
  • 20g melted chocolate

Method:
  1. Sift the flour and salt onto a work surface.
  2. Make a well in the middle and add the water and softened butter.
  3. Mix the wet ingredients together, pulling in the flour gradually.
  4. Use a pastry scraper to cut in the flour until a rough dough is formed. and all the flour is incorporated.
  5. Make the dough into a ball and cut a deep cross into it.
  6. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill overnight.
  7. Remove the dough from the fridge and let it warm up for a few minutes, to make it easier to roll.
  8. Place the 100g of cold butter between two pieces of parchment paper and bash it with a rolling pin until is it similar in consistency to the pastry
  9. Lightly dust the work surface with flour and roll out the dough into a cross shape(this is why you cut the cross in the dough earlier)
  10. Make sure that the centre of the dough is thicker than the cross sections.
  11. Mold the butter to the same size and shape as the centre of the dough and place it on top
  12. Fold over each of the arms to the cross onto the butter, and each other.
  13. press down at the edges to make sure the butter is sealed in.
  14. Now to do the first 'turn'
  15. Turn the dough so that the folded edges are pointing away from you, and a sealed edge is facing you.
  16. Roll the dough out until it is about 6 inches wide and 20 inches long.
  17. Fold one third of the 20 inches over onto the rest of the dough, then fold the remaining third up onto it.
  18. Turn the dough one quarter turn and roll out again to 6 inches by 20 inches, folding it over then, as before.
  19. That has completed two turns.
  20. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 20 minutes.
  21. Remove from the fridge and do two more turns as described above.
  22. Preheat the oven to 190c/170 Fan
  23. Wrap and refrigerate again for 20 minutes.
  24. Then remove and do the final two turns.
  25. Wrap again and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.
  26. Cut the pastry in half and return one half to the fridge
  27. Roll out the other half to a thickness of about 3 mm.
  28. Place on a baking tray and prick all over with a fork, to stop the pastry from rising.
  29. spray a little water over the top of the pastry and sprinkle some sugar on it.
  30. Place a second baking tray on top of the pastry and bake for 20 minutes
  31. Remove the top baking tray and allow the pastry to cook for a few minutes more, until it is a nice golden colour.
  32. Remove from the oven and immediately cut into 3 strips of equal widths.
  33. Cut eat strip into pieces as large as you want your mille feuille to be.
  34. Remember that you will need three pieces of equal size to assemble one pastry.
  35. Repeat the process with the second half of the pastry that is still in the fridge.
  36. Pour the milk into a saucepan and add the vanilla extract and bring to the boil
  37. Add one third of the sugar to the milk and stir to dissolve.
  38. Place the egg yolks in a bowl, with the remaining sugar, and whisk them together until they are combined and the eggs have gone lighter in colour.
  39. Add the cornflour to the egg and stir until combined.
  40. Pour one third of the boiling milk into the eggs and stir very well.
  41. Pour the egg and milk mixture into the rest of the milk in the saucepan.
  42. Whisking all the while bring the mixture to a boil.
  43. Continue boiling for a minute, at least, to cook the cornflour.
  44. Continue whisking until the mixture has gone very thick.
  45. Pour into a bowl that contains the 100 g ofchocolate pieces and mix until the chocolate has melted and combined with the creme pat mixture. 
  46. Set aside to cool, covered with plastic film.
  47. Pour the double cream into a saucepan and heat until it is just boiling and pour into a bowl that has the 200g of chocolate pieces.
  48. Stir until the chocolate has melted and combined with the cream.
  49. Set aside to cool.
  50. When everything is cool you can start to assemble your pastries.
  51. Smear some raspberry jam over one piece of pastry and then pipe some chocolate ganache on top of it.
  52. Place a second layer of pastry on top of the ganache, and pipe some chocolate creme patissier onto it.
  53. Place a third piece of pastry on top of the cream pat.
  54. Repeat this process to assemble the remaining pastries.
  55. Mix the icing sugar and water to a thick but slightly runny consistency.
  56. Spoon some on each of the pastries and smooth out with a spatula
  57. Pipe a thin line or two of melted chocolate on top of the icing and drag a toothpick back an forth to creat a chocolate pattern in the icing.
  58. Set aside to allow the icing to firm up.

Friday, 17 April 2015

French Apple Tart

French Apple Tart is a lovely dessert, with the soft apple slices on top of an apple sauce, with the crumbly and buttery pastry.  I found several good recipes, but opted for one on a favourite site Joyofbaking.com   That site has a host of very nice recipes, and videos too.  

I am never too confident about making pastry, as I tend to overwork it, and it then shrinks during baking, but with this recipe that didn't happen at all.  So I was very pleased with that aspect of the recipe.

The remaining steps are easy to do.  I did make my own apple sauce, but it is possible to buy it and use that.  

The resultant tart looks very good and tastes great too.  

French Apple Tart
Ingredients:
For the pastry:
  • 1 1/2 cups (195 grams) all purposeflour
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated whitesugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
For an Apricot Glaze:
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) (150 grams) apricot preserves
  • 1 tablespoon Water or Grand Marnier, Cognac, Calvados, or Rum
For the Apple Tart:
  • 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) (300 grams) lightly sweetened applesauce (homemade or store bought)
  • 1 1/2 pounds (675 grams) firm textured apples (I used Braeburn, which are my favourites)
  • 1 tablespoon (13 grams)butter
  • 2-4 tablespoons (25-50 grams) granulated whitesugar(depending on sweetness of your apples)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
Method:
  1. Sweet Pastry Crust: Place the butter in your electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, and beat until softened. (You can use a hand mixer or just mix with a wooden spoon.) 
  2. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. 
  3. Gradually add the egg, beating just until incorporated. (Don't over mix or the butter will separate and lighten in color.)
  4. Add flour and salt and mix just until it forms a ball. (Don't overwork or pastry will be hard when baked.) Flatten dough into disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate about one hour or until firm.
  5. Have ready an 8 - 9 inch (20 - 23 cm) tart pan with removable bottom. On a lightly floured surface, roll the pastry into an 12 - 13 inch (30 - 33 cm) circle. To prevent the pastry from sticking to the counter and to ensure uniform thickness, keep lifting up and turning the pastry a quarter turn as you roll (always roll from the center of the pastry outwards to get uniform thickness). 
  6. When the pastry is the desired size, lightly roll the pastry around your rolling pin, dusting off any excess flour as you roll. Unroll over the top of your tart pan. Never pull your pastry or you will get shrinkage (shrinkage is caused by too much pulling of the pastry when placing it in the pan).
  7. Gently press the pastry onto the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Roll your rolling pin over top of pan to get rid of excess pastry.
  8. Prick bottom of pastry with the tines of a fork (this will prevent the pastry from puffing up as it bakes). Cover and refrigerate for about 20 minutes to chill the butter and to rest the gluten.
  9. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Line the chilled unbaked pastry shell with parchment paper or foil. Fill tart pan with pie weights, rice, or beans, making sure the weights are to the top of the pan and evenly distributed over the entire surface. Bake crust for about 20 minutes or until crust is golden brown around the edges. Remove from oven and remove the parchment paper and weights.Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and place the crust back into the oven for about 3-5 minutes or until the crust is dry to the touch.
  10. Apricot Glaze:In a small saucepan heat the apricot preserves just until boiling. Remove from heat and strain to get get rid of lumps. Add the Grand Marnier or water. With a pastry brush, brush the glaze over the bottom and sides of the pastry shell. (This seals the crust and prevents it from getting soggy.)
  11. For Apple Tart: Spoon the applesauce into the cooled pre-baked tart shell. 
  12. Peel, core, and cut the apples into 1/4 inch (1/2 cm) slices. 
  13. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat and stir in the 2 - 4 tablespoons (25 - 50 grams) sugar (depending on tartness of apples) and ground cinnamon. 
  14. Add the apples and saute until they just begin to soften (approximately 3-5 minutes). Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
  15. Arrange the apple slices in concentric circles over the applesauce, and brush with about 1 tablespoon (12 grams) melted butter. Place the tart pan on a larger baking sheet and bake the tart for 25 -30 minutesor until the apples are soft but not mushy. 
  16. If desired,dust the top of the tart with powdered sugar, cover the edges of tart with foil, and place under a preheated broiler, about 4 inches (10 cm) from the heat, until the edges of the apples are golden brown and crisp.Watch carefully. Once the tart has cooled lightly glaze the apple slices with warm apricot glaze.
  17. Serve the tart warm or at room temperature with softly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Icing

I do love gingerbread and cake,or anything ginger at all really.  So when I chanced upon this recipe from BBC Food I thought I would give it a try.  Now on the website it suggests that these are an nice alternative for Christmas baking.  I say pish and tosh to that,  they are a nice alternative at any time.

There is a down side to making these though, if you love ginger as much as I do.  That is that while you are waiting for the caramelised sugar and cream mixture to cool, for making the icing, you are quite likely to have a cup of tea and start to eat the un-iced cakes.  I certainly did and could have gone on eating more, but for an amazing feat of will power.  Oh my! They taste wonderful even without icing, certainly they could stand alone just as a cake.  But, ever the trooper, I held back from scoffing more and waited for the caramel to cool, so that I could top the cakes.

Not being an expert in icing I won't comment on the success, or otherwise of that feature.  But the cupcakes are a triumph, in my humble opinion.

I recommend this to anyone who wants a simple but very successful recipe to try.

On the BBC Food website, with this recipe is a link to a video with tips on how to ice a cupcake, for anyone who is interested, though I think it is a simple enough thing, and you can really do it any way you wish.
Gingerbread Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Icing

Ingredients:
For the cakes:
  • 140g/5oz unsalted butter
  • 200g/7oz golden caster sugar
  • 60g/2¼oz black treacle
  • 60g/2¼oz golden syrup
  • 2 free-range eggs, plus 2 free-range egg yolks
  • 300g/10½oz plain flour
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 240ml/8½fl oz milk, warmed
For the salted caramel buttercream icing:
  • 125g/4½oz white caster sugar
  • 80ml/2½fl oz double cream
  • ½ tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 160g/5¾oz salted butter, softened
  • 200g/7oz icing sugar
Method:
  1. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. Line two 12-hole muffin tray with 15 paper cases.
  2. Beat the butter and sugar together in a bowl until light and creamy. Beat in the treacle, syrup, eggs and egg yolks until well combined.
  3. Sift together the flour, ginger, nutmeg, baking powder and salt. Add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, then beat in half of the warm milk. Add the remaining flour mixture and the remaining milk and beat until well combined.
  4. Spoon the mixture into the muffin cases and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until well risen and lightly firm to the touch. Remove the cakes from the tin and set aside to cool on a cooling rack.
  5. For the salted caramel buttercream, heat the caster sugar and four tablespoons of water in a saucepan over a gentle heat until the sugar has dissolved, then increase the heat and cook the caramel for 2-3 minutes, or until golden and slightly thickened. Remove the pan from the heat immediately and stir in the cream. (CAUTION: the caramel may splutter a little when you add the cream.) Stir in the salt and vanilla and set aside to cool completely.
  6. Cream the butter and icing sugar together for at least 4- 5 minutes, then beat in the caramel. When combined pipe or spread the icing over the cup cakes and sprinkle with a little extra sea salt.
  7. Decorate the cupcakes with the buttercream.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Pithiviers

Yesterday I decided to make Pithiviers,  This involves a two day process as the dough needs to rest in the fridge overnight, before rolling and turning.

I used the recipe from Le Cordon Bleu cook book again, though I actually also checked another recipe for making the puff pastry, which had some very good pictures on each step.

The book I bought has some failings, notably in missing ingredients.  In this recipe it mentions adding 'the rum', but the ingredients didn't list rum.  Nevertheless I decided to add some, but how much was a hit and miss affair.  Rather than add too much I decided to be a little conservative and added just 10 ml.

I will also own up to buying some ready to roll puff pastry, just in case.  But happily I didn't need it, so it is in the freezer to be used at another time.

The result certainly looks the part, nice and golden on top and the pastry has risen as required.  Quite how it tastes will not be known until tomorrow, when it will be shared with family.

Don't be put off by the number of steps in the process, the first 26 or so are about making the puff pastry, and you could always use shop bought pastry instead.
Pithiviers
Ingredients:
Puff Pastry:

  • 250g plain flour
  • 100g butter at room temperature
  • 100ml water
  • 4g salt
  • 100g butter, straight from the fridge.

Almond Cream Filling:

  • 60g butter at room temperature
  • 60g icing sugar
  • 60g gound almonds
  • 1 egg
  • 1 vanilla bean

For finishing:

  • 1 egg for egg wash
  • 60 sugar
  • 60 ml water

Method:

  1. Sift the flour and salt onto a work surface.
  2. Make a well in the middle and add the water and softened butter.
  3. Mix the wet ingredients together, pulling in the flour gradually.
  4. Use a pastry scraper to cut in the flour until a rough dough is formed. and all the flour is incorporated.
  5. Make the dough into a ball and cut a deep cross into it.
  6. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill overnight.
  7. Remove the dough from the fridge and let it warm up for a few minutes, to make it easier to roll.
  8. Place the 100g of cold butter between two pieces of parchment paper and bash it with a rolling pin until is it similar in consistency to the pastry
  9. Lightly dust the work surface with flour and roll out the dough into a cross shape(this is why you cut the cross in the dough earlier)
  10. Make sure that the centre of the dough is thicker than the cross sections.
  11. Mold the butter to the same size and shape as the centre of the dough and place it on top
  12. Fold over each of the arms to the cross onto the butter, and each other.
  13. press down at the edges to make sure the butter is sealed in.
  14. Now to do the first 'turn'
  15. Turn the dough so that the folded edges are pointing away from you, and a sealed edge is facing you.
  16. Roll the dough out until it is about 6 inches wide and 20 inches long.
  17. Fold one third of the 20 inches over onto the rest of the dough, then fold the remaining third up onto it.
  18. Turn the dough one quarter turn and roll out again to 6 inches by 20 inches, folding it over then, as before.
  19. That has completed two turns.
  20. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 20 minutes.
  21. Remove from the fridge and do two more turns as described above.
  22. Wrap and refrigerate again for 20 minutes.
  23. Then remove and do the final two turns.
  24. Wrap again and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.
  25. Remove from the fridge and cut the dough in half, returning one half to the fridge.
  26. Roll out the other half into a square, about 3-4 mm thick.
  27. Transfer it to a baking sheet, very lightly greased, and place in the fridge to rest.
  28. Cream the 60g butter together with the sugar until light and fluffy.
  29. Beat in the egg until well cobined.
  30. Split the vanilla bean and extract the seeds adding them to the mixture.
  31. Add the rum and combine that as well.
  32. Add the ground almonds and combine them well.
  33. Cover the bowl and place in the fridge until needed.
  34. Beat the egg to make the egg wash.
  35. Preheat the oven to 220c.
  36. Removed the rolled out dough from the fridge and make a 5 inch circle impression on the dough.
  37. Brush the dough with egg wash
  38. Pipe the almond mixtured into the centre of the dough, in a sprial starting at the inside edge of the impressed circle and working inwards.  Add a little extra right in the centre to make it slightly thicker.
  39. Take the second half of the dough from the fridge and roll it out to the same thickness, 3-4 mm, as the first half.
  40. Make sure that the dough surrounding the almond mixture, on the first half, is coated in egg wash.
  41. Carefully place the second half of rolled out dough over the first half, covering the almond mixture.
  42. carefully press down, to remove any air.
  43. Press the dough around the circle of almond mixture, making a neat circle.
  44. Press the dough onto the egg washed surround, so that the whole thing is sealed.
  45. Press that down firmly.
  46. Then cut the whole thing into a circle, and scallop the edges.
  47. Cover the whole of the top with egg wash, making sure it doesn't run over the side of the dough.
  48. Make a small hole in the centre of the top layer of dough.
  49. Then, from that whole, with a sharp, pointed knife, create a spiral pattern on the dough arcing outwards at first and then back inwards toward the edge.
  50. Place in the oven to bake, for 25 to 30 minutes.
  51. As it bakes you can make a syrup from the sugar and water, by placing them in a saucepan and bringing to the boil and stirring until the sugar is dissolved.
  52. Once the pithiviers is cooked remove from the oven and brush all over with the syrup.
  53. Place back in the oven for about another 5 minutes to go a nice, shiny, golden brown.
  54. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

English Muffins

English Muffins, ideal for breakfast, or for Eggs Benedict, are known in the UK, or certainly always were as muffins.  That name has been hijacked somewhat by the rather delicious sweet muffins these days. 

So for the purposes of this post I shall talk about English Muffins, even though it sticks, slightly, in my craw to so do.  

I love English Muffins, there is nothing nicer than tearing one open, toasting it and then heaping lashings of butter on it.  Not particularly healthy I know, but still irresistible.

The recipe I used was from Chefsteps.com and is quite complicated. It also uses lactic acid powder, which is not too easy to obtain.  I bought mine online. A simpler recipe can be found at The Bread Kitchen, from a lovely lady called Titli Nihaan.  She also does a very nice video.  Just as an aside I often watch Titli's videos, she does a variety of different ones and is well worth a look.

Now to the English Muffins that I cooked, they worked out quite well, though I got 8 rather than the 7 that the recipe said I would.  This is probably because a couple of mine were not as thick as I would usually expect. 

English Muffins
Ingredients:

  • 18g Instant yeast
  • 7 g Sugar
  • 100g Milk
  • 325g Bread flour
  • 5g Lactic acid
  • 4.5g Salt
  • 1.5g Baking powder
  • 155g Water

Method:
  1. Warm milk to 100 °F / 38 °C.
  2. Dry blend yeast and sugar. Add milk to dry ingredients, and whisk to mix.
  3. Let stand for 10 minutes to allow the yeast to hydrate.
  4. Combine flour, lactic acid, salt, and baking powder in a sifter. Sift into the bowl of a stand mixer.
  5. Place bowl of dry ingredients in stand mixer with paddle attachment.
  6. On low speed, add the yeast mixture, and mix until incorporated.
  7. Add water, and mix until incorporated.
  8. Remove paddle attachment, and insert dough hook.
  9. Mix on medium speed for 30 minutes.
  10. Transfer dough to a floured surface, and form into a ball.
  11. If dough is too tacky to handle easily, dust with flour.
  12. Line a tray with one linen sheet, and lightly dust with flour.
  13. Place dough on linen and roll dough to 10 mm thick.
  14. Cover, allowing enough room for the dough to double in size.
  15. Let stand in a warm environment, 90 °F / 32 °C, until double in size, about 90 minutes. Times will vary, as temperatures affect fermentation activity.
  16. Lightly dust the second linen sheet with flour, and lay on top of the dough.
  17. Cover with a second tray. Without placing pressure on the dough, flip the dough over.
  18. Remove the linen that is now on top.
  19. Lightly coat a ring mold with cooking spray, and punch out the dough.
  20. Fill a spray bottle with water.
  21. Warm a dry skillet over low heat. Place a muffin in the pan. Turn up the heat to medium.
  22. Lightly mist the muffin with water. This helps prevent a skin from developing, allowing for more rise in the muffins while cooking.
  23. Cook until a golden crust has formed, about 5 minutes. The muffin will stick to the pan at first, but it will release once the crust has formed.
  24. Once golden brown, flip muffin. Cook to an internal temperature of 194 °F / 90 °C.
  25. Immediately transfer to covered container.
  26. Repeat to cook remaining muffins, returning the heat to low for each muffin.
  27. Around the side of each muffin, poke a row of holes by inserting a fork a half inch.
  28. Pull the two halves apart, and serve.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Financiers

Financiers are French Petit Fours which I thought I would try from the latest book I bought, Patisserie and Baking Foundations from Le Cordon Bleu.  The recipe is actually quite simple, though it does have something I have never tried before, trimoline, also known as invert sugar.  I had to find out what that is and how to make it, and I found a site Chefeddy.com which gives very simple to follow instructions on how to make it.  So I now have a nice batch of it in my fridge to use with other recipes.  Having read lots of other recipes for financiers which dont use trimoline, and also read up on it a little I think you can substitute glucose or corn syrup, which will give the same sort of soft texture.  Whether the flavour will be quite the same I don't know.  But these little delights are more about the almonds(or hazelnuts) and the beurre noisette than anything else.

I had never made beurre noisette either, and I must say the aroma that comes off the butter as it boils and browns is just wonderful.

The recipe I followed from the book also says to refrigerate the batter overnight, and one video I watched also said the same.  However many other recipes don't seem to do that at all.  I am guessing that leaving it overnight allows the flavour to intensify and it will also let the melted butter in the batter solidify somewhat.

Many recipes also seem to add fruit or nuts to the top of the batter after it has been piped into the moulds.  Some seem to cook the batter for a few minutes and then pop the fruit on, so that it doesn't sink.

For me though I decided just on the nice, straightforward financiers.  My book recipe said to use hazelnuts, powdered or ground, but since I didn't have them and since I read on wiki that almonds are the usual nut used, I decided on almonds. 

Yet another first with this recipe is my use of silicone moulds, as I couldn't find any specific financier molds made of metal.  For me that is a shame since that is what I would have preferred.  Having said that the moulds worked quite well, so I suppose I shouldn't complain too much.

The financiers turned out quite well, though I left them slightly longer than the 10 minutes prescribed, to let them brown and cook right through.

They do taste good and are slightly crispy on the outside and moist and soft in the middle. 
When stored in an airtight container the outsides will moisten very nicely.  These financiers have become very firm favourites, as have my chocolate version.

Financiers
Ingredients:
  • 120g plain flour
  • 270g ground almonds
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 305ml egg whites
  • 100g trimoline(invert sugar)
  • 340g butter
Method:
  1. Sift the flour, almonds and icing sugar.  If using ground almonds and it is not fine enough to sieve mix it into the sifted sugar and flour.
  2. Add the egg whites and trimoline to the dry ingredients and mix until a smooth dough is formed.
  3. In a small saucepan melt the butter and cook until it starts to colour.  Once the butter solids have turned a dark golden colour take of the heat.
  4. Add to the dough and stir it in immediately.
  5. Place the dough in a large bowl, cover with plastic film and place in the refrigerator overnight.
  6. Preheat the oven to 220c.  Lightly grease the moulds and place them on a baking sheet.
  7. Transfer the batter to a piping bag fitted with a medium round tip.
  8. Pipe into the moulds, filling them about two thirds full and bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes.
  9. Remove from the moulds and place on a wire rack to cool.


Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Sablées Hollandais

Now this biscuit recipe is from Le Cordon Blue book Patisserie and Baking Foundations - Classic Recipes.  I bought the book a few days ago and decided that this would be my first bake from it.

Other recipes seem to be called Sablés Hollandais, but I have stuck with the name as printed in my book.

The recipe takes a lot of egg yolks, so I have had to freeze the whites, to use later in another recipe.  The book gives some very easy to follow instructions, which I have replicated below, omitting the French names for things, where possible, and only giving instructions for the patterns I made.

It is a little fiddly to make these biscuits, having to chill the dough twice and layer it together to make the shapes.  I made two shapes, spirals and layers.  Of course it is possible to invent any number of different patterns, such as checkerboard.  With the excess pastry, I simply worked it together and chilled it, to create a marbling effect for a few extra biscuits.

My efforts turned out very nicely and they taste lovely, so well worth the time it took to make them.


Sablées hollandais
Ingredients:
Vanilla Dough:
  • 400g plain flour
  • 4g baking powder
  • 5 ml vanilla extract
  • 200 g Icing sugar(powdered sugar)
  • 15 ml water
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 200g softened butter
Chocolate Dough:
  • 400g plain flour
  • 4g baking powder
  • 5 ml vanilla extract
  • 200 g Icing sugar(powdered sugar)
  • 15 ml water
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 200g softened butter
  • 20g cocoa powder
Finishing:
  • 1  egg for eggwash
Method:
  1. First make a vanilla dough:
  2. Sift the flour and baking powder together.
  3. Place on a work surface and make a large well.
  4. Int the centre of teh well, add the icing sugar and push it to the sides to reform the well.
  5. Add the water, egg yolks and vanilla to the centre of the well and mix them together, while gradually incorporating the sugar.
  6. Add the butter and work until combined.
  7. Using a pastry scraper gradually incorporate the flour, from the sides of the well, by turning and cutting it into the rest of the ingredients.
  8. Once the dough forms and just holds together, gather it into a ball and smear it away from yourself with the heel of your palm. Continue this action until the dough is smooth.  Then warp it in plastic and chill.
  9. For the chocolate dough follow the previous instructions, except and you should mix the sifted cocoa powder in directly after the butter is added to the well.

Assembly:

  1. For a layered biscuit roll the chocolate and vanilla dough into strips and then stack in alternating colours, using egg wash between the layers.
  2. Wrap the stacked layers in cling film and chill.
  3. For spirals, roll out layers of the chocolate and vanilla dough.  Brush a layer of egg wash on the vanilla dough and then lay the chocolate layer on top.
  4. Trim the edges of the dough and then roll it up, tighly.
  5. Wrap in cling film and chill.
  6. While the dough is chilling pre-heat the oven to 170c
  7. Remove the dough from the fridge and cut into slices no thicker that 5mm.
  8. Arrange on a clean baking sheet.
  9. Bake until the edges just begin to colour.
  10. Place on a wire rack to cool.




Monday, 6 April 2015

Crumpets

Crumpets are an English tradition.  I nice doughy bread, with holes caused by bicarbonate of soda.  The crumpets are not baked in an oven, but cooked on a flat griddle, or frying pan on top of the stove.

I used a Paul Hollywood recipe, from BBC Food.  In it he says to mix the milk in with the flour and yeast until it is a smooth batter.  I think this is very important, to get the batter smooth.  It is likely to be this that allows the holes to form satisfactorily.

Getting the temperature of the griddle right is key as well.  If too hot the base will burn before the holes have come to the top.  A 'medium' heat is a fairly unscientific instruction, so I had to do it by trial and error.  The first ones were slightly too dark on the underside, but reducing the heat slightly seemed to have the right effect.

I think more bubbles would have been better, but for a first attempt the results are quite good, the texture is exactly as it should be, even if the number of holes is not as great as expected. Holes are important as that is what allows the butter, when spread on them, really get into the crumpets.

I have already eaten three, and could easily be tempted to more, with another cup of tea.

But rather than that I am going to go shopping for some semolina, so I can try to make some English Muffins next.

Crumpets
Ingredients:
  • 175g/6oz strong white flour
  • 175g/6oz plain flour
  • 2 x 7g sachets instant yeast
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 350ml/12fl oz warm milk
  • 150-200ml/5-7fl oz warm water
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • sunflower oil for cooking
Method:
  1. Weigh the flours in to a bowl. Add the yeast and stir through the flour.
  2. Dissolve the sugar in the warm milk and pour onto the flour. Using a wooden spoon beat until you have a smooth batter. This will take 3-4 minutes and is hard work, but is essential to produce the holes in the crumpets.
  3. Cover and leave for at least 20 minutes and up to an hour. The batter will rise and then begin to fall. You will see marks on the side of the bowl where the batter was before it dropped.
  4. Mix the bicarbonate of soda and salt with the warm water and beat it into the batter. Add about ¾ of the water and keep adding it until you get a double cream consistency. Cover and rest for 20 minutes.
  5. Heat a flat griddle or heavy based pan. Lightly grease the inside of four metal crumpet rings. Lightly grease the griddle. Sit the rings on the griddle over a medium heat.
  6. Drop two dessert spoons of mixture into each ring. After 4-5 minutes bubbles should appear and the surface should be set. Carefully turn the crumpets in their rings and cook for a further three minutes.
  7. Serve immediately or leave to cool and then toast before eating with plenty of butter.