Friday, 15 July 2016

Amaretti - Cookies/Biscuits

Amaretti are a wonderful Italian cookie or biscuit.  Almond in flavour with a crunch on the outside and a soft, chewy, centre.

I looked at several recipes and they came in various guises, but all were fairly straightforward to make.  I opted for a recipe on the BBC Food website, though with a couple of amendments.  The main one was to the length of cooking time, and the heat of the oven.  Since I prefer to cook with the fan on I reduced the temperature, but I wasn't confident that the biscuits were cooked enough, so I extended the cooking time.

For the recipe below I have adjusted the cooking time to match what I baked mine for.  It will make about 20 biscuits( I made 21).

The result was very pleasing indeed.  The wonderful flavour of almond, with a nice crunch on the outside and then the chewy centre.  These biscuits are very moreish, so be prepared to make a second batch as I am sure you will quickly eat a single batch.

I am off on holiday to Canada shortly, so this will be my last post for just over 3 weeks.  While in Canada I will be doing some baking with some of the family there and will film it to edit and post once I get home.  So I will be back with more then.


                                                 Amaretti - Video
  • 340g ground almonds
  • 340g caster sugar
  • 4 medium egg whites(in USA this would be large)
  • 30ml of amaretto licqeur(you could use 5-10ml of almond extract instead)
  • Preserving, or pearl, sugar for sprinkling(optional)
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170C/150C Fan/325 F
  2. Line a couple of baking trays with parchment paper.
  3. Whisk the egg whites until they are quite stiff.
  4. Gently pour in the sugar and ground almonds and gently mix in until combined.
  5. Add the amaretto and, again, gently mix in.
  6. Take a heaped teaspoon, or a decent dessertspoon of mixture and roll into a ball and place on the baking sheet, leaving a couple of centimetres between each ball.
  7. Sprinkle the preserving sugar over the top if you wish.
  8. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the biscuits are slightly browned and they have started to crack.
  9. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire cooling rack and allow to cook before serving.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Individual Minced Steak Pies

I found a recipe of a lovely minced beef or steak pie that I wanted to try.  The recipe was by Paul Hollywood on the BBC Food site.  His version was called a football pie, with the top having a football pattern.  I just wanted to make the pies.  I also didn't have the 4 inch foil pie tins that he suggested, so I used my larger, 6x4.5 inch oval tins.  That means that the recipe made 3 rather than 4 pies.

The pastry is a shortcrust and very easy to make and the filling is just a few ingredients and also easy to assemble.  So the most difficult part is the rolling out of the pastry.

Altogether I am pleased with the result, a lovely, crumbly and buttery, pastry and a very tasty steak and onion filling.

These pies are ideal as a lunch, or with vegetables for dinner.
Individual Minced Steak Pies
                           Individual Minced Steak Pie - Video
For the pastry:
  • 250g plain flour
  • 125g chilled butter, in cubes
  • 2 medium egg yolks (large in USA)
  • 1tbsp chilled water (have a little more ready too, in case you need it to pull the pastry together)
  • pinch of salt
  • 100 frozen peas
For the filling:
  • 1 small onion finely chopped
  • 500g lean steak mince(lean beef mince would be ok too)
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 200 ml beef stock
  • a few dashes of worcestershire sauce
  • salt and pepper
  1. Put the flour, salt and butter in a bowl and rub together using your fingertips, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs and there are no lumps of butter left. 
  2. Add the egg yolks and a tablespoon cold water. Gently bring the pastry together, adding more water if necessary.
  3. Tip the pastry onto a lightly floured work-surface and gently knead until it has formed into a shiny ball. 
  4. Wrap in cling-film and chill for at least 45 minutes.
  5. For the filling, heat the oil in a large frying pan, and fry the onion until it begins to soften. 
  6. Add the mince and fry until completely browned, moving it all the time. 
  7. Add the tomato purée and cook for a few minutes. 
  8. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute, pour in the stock and a few shakes of Worcestershire sauce.
  9. Turn the heat down to a simmer, season and leave to cook for about 20 minutes or until the sauce has reduced and thickened. 
  10. Turn off the heat and leave to cool.
  11. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/Gas 6.
  12. Remove the pastry from the fridge and unwrap it. Divide the pastry into 6 pieces, if using tins the same size as mine.  If using 4inch pie tins divide into 8.
  13. To line each of the pie dishes, roll out one of the pieces of pastry to a thickness of 2mm, and line the foil pastry case by gently pressing the pastry right to the base. There needs to be about 1cm pastry overhanging the edges. Repeat to line the other tins.
  14. Now roll out the other pieces of pastry, slightly thicker this time, to make the pie lids.
  15. Mix the peas into the cooled filling and divide between the pie dishes. 
  16. Brush a little egg wash around the overhanging pastry and place the lids on top. 
  17. Trim the edges of the pastry. 
  18. Crimp the edges of the pastry by pinching the edge with your forefinger and thumb, and then using the forefinger of your other hand, push up from below, creating a neat wave. Repeat all the way around the edge.
  19. Brush a little more egg wash on top and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the pies are crisp and golden-brown.
  20. Remove from the oven and wait ten minutes before removing the pastry cases. Serve warm.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Coconut & Pineapple Cake

Having made an orange and almond cake I had the idea for a similar one, but with coconut and pineapple instead.  This would be a moist cake with that lovely coconut flavour with a good helping of crushed and pureed pineapple added in.

Now I wondered whether I could just use the same volume of ingredients as for the orange and almond one, but some research told me that coconut flour absorbs much more moisture than ground almonds.  So I needed to add some additional liquid to compensate for that, so coconut oil seemed an ideal choice.  In case that made it rather too heavy in consistency I also added some baking powder.

The resultant cake is just so moist, almost to the point that maybe I could have reduced the amount of oil, but I am still very happy with the cake, it tastes simply declious and has a lovely soft and light texture.
Coconut & Pineapple Cake

                                  Coconut & Pineapple Cake Video Ingredients:
  • 6 medium eggs(large in USA)
  • 250g coconut flour
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 240ml coconut oil(you might wish to try it with just 180ml)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 450ml crushed pineapple(after the juice has been drained off)
  • 250g icing sugar
  • juice drained from the pineapple(you wont need much of it)
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F
  2. Grease a 23cm/9 inch springform cake tin, and line the base with parchment paper
  3. Place the pineapple into a food processor and blitz until you have a nice consistent pulp.
  4. Add the eggs, sugar, oil and coconut flour to the processor and process until the batter is a smooth consistency.
  5. Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake in the oven for 50-60 minutes, until a skewer in the middle comes out clean.  
  6. Check after 25 minutes and if the cake is browning too quickly lightly cover with tin foil.
  7. Remove the baked cake from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.
  8. Carefully remove from the cake tin onto a rack to cool more.
  9. When the cake is cooled you can making the icing.
  10. Add two tablespoons of the drained juice to the icing sugar and stir to mix, adding more juice until you have a thick icing that you can spread over the cake.
  11. Spread the icing over the cake and leave to firm up before slicing and serving.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Orange & Almond Cake

Today I made an Orange & Almond Cake, which is something new to me.  It was suggested to me by one of my sisters.  You may recall my references to a sister in Canada, Margaret also known as La La.  But it was not she who made the suggestion.  I also have a sister in Australia, whose name is Pat.  Now you may wonder why my sisters like to live so far from me, but that is a matter for a future debate.  

Pat said that she had a friend who made this wonderful Almond and Orange cake and perhaps I would like to try it.  So I did some investigations to see what it was all about.  The interesting thing to me is how few ingredients are required and the method of making.  Basically oranges, almonds, sugar and eggs(and sometimes baking powder). 

The various videos I watched all seemed to do it slightly differently, some beating yolks and whites separately.  Some beating them together to a very thick consistency.  But the method I used, from a recipe on BBC Food, by James Martin is an 'all in one' method really and very simple indeed.  he topped his with flaked almonds, but I decided upon a syrup/icing instead.

The one common thread through all the recipes I checked was that the oranges would be simmered for a long time, and then processed to a pulp, including the peel.  That pulp who be mixed in with the eggs, almonds and sugar to creat the batter.  So no butter or oil is necessary.

The resultant cake is a wonderfully moist one, with a soft, light, texture and a great flavour.  

I also made a syrup of orange and sugar and poured it over the top.  This, in my case, created a lovely icing which slightly seeped into holes I had created.  However if the syrup was hotter when poured it would be more liquid and more would seep in.  I am very happy with how mine turned out though, so an iced version is perfect for me.

I do urge you to try this, it is wonderful, so thanks to Pat for the suggestion.

One last note, for those who are interested this cake is gluten free.
Orange & Almond Cake

                                 Orange & Almond Cake - Video
For the cake:
  • 2 large oranges(about 450 grams)
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 250g ground almonds
  • 6 medium eggs
For the syrup/icing:
  • 150g caster sugar
  • the zest of one orange
  • juice of one orange
  1. Place two large oranges in a pan of cold water.
  2. Bring to the boil and simmer, with the lid on the pan, for 1 hour.
  3. Remove the oranges from the water and allow them to cool.
  4. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F
  5. Grease a 23cm/9 inch springform cake tin, and line the base with parchment paper
  6. Chop the oranges into chunks, removing any pips.
  7. Place the chunks into a food processor and blitz until you have a nice consistent pulp.
  8. Add the eggs, sugar and ground almonds to the processor and process until the batter is a smooth consistency.
  9. Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake in the oven for 50-60 minutes, until a skewer in the middle comes out clean.  
  10. Check after 25 minutes and if the cake is browning too quickly lightly cover with tin foil.
  11. Remove the baked cake from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.
  12. Carefully remove from the cake tin onto a rack to cool more.
  13. While the cake is still baking you can make the syrup by adding the sugar, zest and juice to a saucepan and bringing to the boil.
  14. Allow it to simmer until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture starts to thicken and reduce.
  15. Remove from the heat. 
  16. If you want the syrup to soak into your cake you need it to be not too thick and still quite hot.
  17. Then poke holes, with a skewer, into the top of the cake and pour the syrup over.
  18. If you want the syrup to be more of an icing, like mine, allow it to cool more and then pour over the cake, spreading to the edge.  As it cools it will form a firm icing.
  19. Cut into slices when the cake is fully cooled and serve with some cream, if you wish.