Sunday, 28 April 2013

Fudge Cupcakes (naked for a reason)

When someone kindly gives me fudge, I'm afraid it goes straight into a drawer. The truth is I find it all a bit sweet and I'm not fond of the texture. The fudge I was given a few weeks ago has been staring back at me every time I opened the drawer and this morning having nothing to offer people who drop in, I decided to turn the fudge into something more acceptable.

For this recipe you will need, (12 muffin sized  7cm, or 24 small cupcake 6c)
240g of light muscovado sugar
260g of self raising flour
250g of unsalted butter
4 medium eggs
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
100g of fudge

Begin by cutting the fudge up into small dice, I find adding a 1/2 teaspoon of flour ensure the dice remain seperate. In a food processor, cream together the butter and the sugar. Add the eggs one at a time along with the vanilla extract. Finally add the flour and baking powder and pulse only until thoroughly mixed, Add the diced fudge and pulse 3 or 4 times to evenly distribute. Divide the mix between 12 cupcake moulds lined with paper cases, bake at 180C for 20 to 25 minutes.

For some reason the cupcake has become very popular in this country, it looks very much like the innocent enough fairy cake has been pimped and now has three times the calories. Of course these things do look spectacular but the topping adds more than double the calories for almost no extra nutritional benefit. It's virtually sugar and fat. These small cakes may look a bit naked but the sweetness level I find far more acceptable.

Hagbech Onion Tart

An essential aspect of this onion tart, with it's thin crisp pastry base and a rich creamy filling, is the cooking of the onions. Whereas in my cheese and caramelised  onion bread click here for the recipe the onions need to be taken right to the limit of browning, the onions for this recipe need long slow cooking, rendering them translucent and barely beige, sorry that does sound a bit like a new season's shade from some fashion house, when all it means is only the slightest of colour.

In order to achieve this, cook the onions on a low heat with a scant teaspoon of salt, half a teaspoon of white pepper, three bay leaves and quarter of a nutmeg grated in 10g of unsalted butter for a good 30 minutes.
The recipe for the pastry makes twice as much pastry as is required for this tart but it's so much easier to make in this quantity and since it freezes really well, it's what I chose.

For this recipe you will need,
For the pastry,
250g of plain flour
130g of unsalted butter
1 small egg
1 teaspoon of caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
40ml of water

For the filling,
600g of sliced onions (peeled weight)
4 eggs and an extra yolk
200g of double cream
200g of milk
10g of unsalted butter
1/2 nutmeg grated
2 teaspoons of salt
1/2 teaspoon of white pepper
3 bay leaves

Begin by cooking the onions as described above. Slice them about 1 centimeter thick and cook on a low heat in a heavy based pan with a lid. Keep an eye on them and stir every 5 minutes or so to avoid any of the onions catching on the bottom of the pan. Set aside to cool

Meanwhile make the pastry by placing the butter, salt, sugar and egg in a food processor and process until you have a sticky paste. Add the flour and pulse a few times until you have even sized crumbs, finally trickle in the water while pulsing the processor until you have a ball of finished pastry. Wrap in cling film and set aside to rest for an hour. Since this recipe requires only half of this pastry, you can freeze the other portion at this point or keep it in the fridge for up to a week.
Roll out the half portion of the pastry to fit a 25cm fluted, loose bottomed tart tin, place the lined tin in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes. Heat the oven up to 180C and after lining the pastry with parchment paper and baking beans, bake the tart shell for 20 minutes. Remove the parchment and beans carefully and return the tin to the oven for a further 10 minutes with the heat turned down to 160.
Make the filling by whisking together the eggs, cream, milk, the remaining teaspoon of salt and finally fold in the cooked onions.
When the tart shell is cooked, pour in the filling and return the tart to the oven to cook for 30 to 40 minutes at 160C. The tart should still have a slight wobble in the middle and take on a golden brown colour at the edges.

I find placing most of the filling in the tart shell before returning the tart to the oven then pouring in the remainder using a jug once the tart is on the oven shelf helps avoid spillage.
I place the bay leaves on top of the tart, more as a decoration than anything else but somehow they still impart a little flavour.

White Sourdough with a Rye Ferment

I have been struggling after such a long winter to adjust to the slightly higher temperature in the house now that Spring seems to be making an attempt to arrive. The struggle is all to do with timing; I have for months been leaving my main dough to autolyze overnight but the last batch of bread was sadly mistimed resulting in a dough where the yeast was spent long before it was time to bake. The result was of course perfectly edible and strangely light, resembling if anything focaccia rather than my usual daily bread.
After thinking about this I decided I needed to add the main dough ingredients to my ferment when the ferment was still in the first stage of growth and was quite a way off its peak. This seemed to work, the dough this morning had risen but not overly so and after adding the salt and stretching a couple of times the dough began to show real signs of resistance, tightening up each time I stretched it, exactly what I was looking for.
I used a much higher ratio of rye to white flour when putting together the ferment than I normally do, along with reducing the amount of time the ferment had before adding the main dough ingredients, I believe this all helped deal with the higher temperature.

For this bread you will need,

For the ferment,
1 tablespoon of starter from the fridge
150g of rye flour
50g of strong white flour
200g of water

For the main dough
All of the ferment
1,200g of strong white flour
700g of water
21g of salt

Begin by mixing the ferment ingredients and placing them in  bowl, cover with cling film and leave to activate for 8 hours. Add the main dough ingredients apart from the salt and mix thoroughly; leave to rise overnight in a cool place. In the morning add the salt and mix in thoroughly. Transfer the dough to a large bowl or plastic container and leave to rise for 3 to 4 hours, stretching and folding the dough every hour. You should find the gluten in the dough develops strength over this period as the dough grows with trapped gas. Be careful to knock out as little of the trapped gas as possible when doing the stretching and folding process. Divide the dough into 3 and shape into whatever loaf shapes you prefer. Leave for anther 2 hours or so before baking in a hot oven 220C for 30 minutes. The length of time you leave the dough to rise for the final time will depend on how well you have been able to stretch the dough without degassing it. After careful shaping you should find the dough retains a good deal of the lightness you have been achieving during the rising time and so there will not be the need for doubling in size.

 I am impressed just how much a routine can be thrown by a change in temperature. This loaf was much more like the bread I eat every day. I think however it will take a couple of weeks of being more vigilant to get it right. It only goes to show, baking bread with wild yeast though hugely rewarding cannot be done to a strict formula, there is always a need to be watching out for what the dough requires you to do next.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Rhubarb Crumble Cake

I was making rhubarb crumble the other day, the first of the year now that my rhubarb is doing so well. As often happens I made more crumble than I needed so I put 100g of it in a container in the fridge having stirred in a heaped teaspoon of ground cinnamon. I planned then to make some sort of streusel topped cake. This is the cake.

Nigeria makes it 97, welcome.

For this recipe you will need,
230g of unsalted butetr at room temperature
230g of light muscovado sugar
230g of self raising flour
4 small eggs (my Barnevelder chicken lays the perfect size)
1 teaspoon of good vanilla essence
1 pinch of salt
100g of rhubarb, finely sliced
1 tablespoon of caster sugar
100g of crumble mixture made from:
50g of plain flour
40g of unsalted butter
10g of caster sugar 
1 heaped teaspoon of ground cinnamon

Begin by slicing up the rhubarb and dredging it in the tablespoon of caster sugar, set aside while you make the cake batter. Prepare a loose bottomed cake tin measuring 21cm by 7cm by lining it with baking parchment. Heat the oven to 180C. Cream the butter and the sugar and add the eggs one at a time, beating between each addition. Add the vanilla and fold in the sifted flour and finally add the sugared rhubarb. Place the mix in the cake tin and sprinkle on the crumble topping. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes, switch the oven off and leave the cake in the oven for a further 20 minutes. You should find the cake will rise up and capture some of the topping, I'm sure there are recipes out there that help you avoid this but personally I like the marbled effect you get when this happens.

This cake as you will imagine works perfectly well with the use of apple (diced) instead of rhubarb, If you use apple you can omit the sugar dredging stage.

Romesco Soup

I was lying in the garden with the sun on my face thinking about what to make for lunch and thinking how fond I am of rosmesco sauce. I have almonds and peppers so along with some staples I decided a soup inspired by romesco sauce was possible, here is the result. Veronica turned up just in time to enjoy it with me.
For this soup you will need,
1 red pepper, chopped
1 yellow pepper, chopped
2 sticks of celery chopped
1 leek, chopped
2 shallots or 1 small onion, yes chopped
6 cloves of garlic. . . . . .sliced!
100g of flaked almonds
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons of dry sherry
1 tablespoon of tomato puree
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon of coarsely ground black pepper
2 litres of vegetable stock
as few strands of saffron.

Begin by cooking the garlic and almonds in olive oil over a low heat until they begin to turn a pale brown. Be careful at this stage not to burn them, using flaked almonds allows you to see the garlic and almonds turn from their creamy colour first to a soft beige and then a slightly deeper colour. As soon as you have a pale brown, add the remaining vegetables and continue to sweat the vegetables on a low heat, stirring from time to time for a few minutes until they have become translucent, no more than 5 minutes. Add the tomato puree and cook for a further minute before adding the sherry, saffron and spices, then finally the stock. Bring it all up to a simmer and cook for around 15 minutes. Blend in batches being careful not to overfill the blender jug, for a good two minutes each batch, strain and serve after adjusting the seasoning, reheating if necessary. This soup does produce a residue in the sieve but my chickens loved it so no loss.

Light and delicious with a fragrant spice kick, a good soup to play around with, adding fresh chilli would be good. I served this with some ground elder pesto focaccia.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Ground Elder Pesto Twists

A dear friend was coming over for lunch, I had planned on having soup for lunch but fearing my batch of regular sourdough would not be ready in time I decided to make a small batch of pesto twists using some of the dough and some of the pesto I made with Ground Elder the other day click here for the recipe. On reflection, although the result was tasty enough, I think I will make them with commercial yeast another time. The crust was typical of a good sourdough and had a good chewable texture and these twists would benefit from having a thinner crust.

Malawi makes it 96, welcome!
If you wish to use a commercial yeast recipe click here other wise click here for my sourdough recipe.

Take a portion of dough weighing approximately 400g, roll it out to form a rectangle measuring 30cm by 20cm on a well floured board. Spread 2 tablespoons of the pesto of your choice onto one half of the dough before folding over the other half to form a sandwich. Carefully divide the rectangle into 6 smaller ones. Cut each rectangle to form a central slit being careful not to cut right through each end. Fold the dough in on itself twice to form two twisted lengths attached by their ends see the post on gruyere cheese twists made with croissant dough but using the same technique click here for the recipe.
Leave the twists to rise on a tray lined with baking parchment for an hour before baking in a hot oven 200C for 12 to 15 minutes.

These twists are basically a technique for producing delicious little individual breads to have with soup, they can be made using any pesto or tapenade, or as in the gruyere twists they can be made with little more than cheese. They are a little delicate to handle but by no means fragile, just be careful to lay them out in the desired shape on the tray prior to the final rise before baking.

Cheese and Caramelised Onion Bread with a Poolish

Deep frying onions may sound like an odd thing to do but I know of no better method of producing crisp brown slices of onion, perfect for pureeing as part of a curry paste or in this case for flavouring along with some good cheddar, a couple of loaves of bread.
Readers of my blog will know that when it comes to bread baking I rarely go for breads with a multitude of ingredients, preferring on the whole to produce rather plain bread which will serve me well for 3 or 4 or even five days, as an accompaniment for food. My sourdough is a good example, a simple mostly white bread which is a treat on the day it is baked, and as the days go by, lovely toasted or turned into croutons.
Occasionally though a flavour combination does inspire me to bake a different kind of loaf, cheddar and caramelised onions is one such combination. This loaf is good toasted and as long as you are sensible about the filling it works well when making sandwiches.

To make this bread you will need:
For the poolish,
250g of strong white flour
3g of fast action yeast
300g of water

For the main dough
All of the poolish
300g of strong white flour
3g of fast action yeast
10g of salt
2 large onions (around 450g) sliced
250g of good strong cheddar cheese, grated.
Oil for deep frying

Make the poolish by putting together the ingredients and leave in a large bowl covered overnight. In the morning the surface of the poolish should look bubbly and the mix should be well aerated.
 Prepare the fried onions by peeling and slicing. Heat oil up in either a deep fat fryer or as I do a large Indian karhai or wok. It's important when deep frying to have enough room for everything to expand, some ingredients when deep fried, especially vegetables, produce a great number of bubbles. When a single slice of onion rises to the surface when placed in the hot oil, place all the onions into the oil to fry. I find this process will take at least 15 minutes but keep an eye on them. Initially they will remain pale and they will bubble gently on the surface. The onions near the edge will brown a little earlier than the rest so gently coax these back into the centre. The onions will finally show signs of browning and it's important to be attentive and keep the mass of browning onions moving about. Be brave and keep them cooking until you have achieved an even deep brown colour, the bubbles will reduce greatly by this time. Remove from the hot oil and drain on kitchen paper.

Not quite done

Just right

Make the dough by adding the remaining flour, yeast and salt and mix until well combined, adding a little more water if the dough looks a little dry or stiff. Knead on a medium speed for 2 or 3 minutes if using a mixer or 5 to 10 minutes by hand before kneading in the cheese until well combined and finally the onions. Leave the dough to prove at room temperature for a couple of hours, covered with a damp cloth. Divide the dough in two and shape into whatever shape loaves you fancy. Leave to rise for another hour before baking in a hot, 200C oven for 30 to 35 minutes. I hold back a little of the grated cheese to sprinkle on top of the loaves prior to baking.

This bread has a very special texture, akin to a brioche, it's important to make sure you bake it long enough to ensure the crumb is fully set, the extra fat content from the cheese means baking time needs to be lengthened a little.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Ground Elder Pesto

Today was the perfect day for picking the ground elder. Everything in the garden here in Norfolk seems to be nearly a month behind and it's only now that the tender young shoots of ground elder are plentiful enough to make pesto. Introduced by the Romans along with rabbits, the strigil and Gina Lollobrigida; ground elder is usually regarded as a curse by most gardeners, but I have to ask myself, if the Romans brought it here as a food stuff there has to be something in it worth eating.

The best parts of the plant to pick are the really young vivid green shoots, still shiny before they have fully stretched out leaves.

For this pesto you will need,

50g of young ground elder shoots
100g of pine nuts
80g of grated parmesan cheese
2 cloves of garlic
75ml of good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon of salt

Begin by placing all the ingredients apart from the olive oil into a food processor and process until you have a dark green thick paste. dribble in olive oil until you are happy with the consistency.

Qatar brings the number up to 95! welcome.

This pesto keeps well in a jar in the fridge for a couple of weeks. I like to use it as a spread when making sandwiches, it's also really good to use with home made gnocchi.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Light Fruit cake studded with Marzipan

Easter has come and gone but the memory of the Simnel cake lingers on, I created this cake so that a cake studded with dried fruit, orange peel and marzipan can be enjoyed throughout the year. In many ways it is an easier cake to bake, I always find the disc of marzipan in a traditional Simnel cake makes judging the baking time a bit tricky.
I make my own candied orange peel click here for the recipe. Recently I have taken to putting the peel straight from the saucepan along with some of the syrup, into a kilner jar, I top it up with Amaretto DiSaronno liquer, I now find it an essential ingredient in so much of my baking.

For this recipe you will need,
250g of light muscovado sugar
250g of unsalted butter
4 eggs
150g of plain flour
100g of Self Raising flour
100g of ground almonds
500g of dried fruit, see note
100g of candied orange peel, chopped
150g of marzipan Click here for the recipe
The zest of 1 orange
1 teaspoon of mixed spice
1 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon of salt 
3 tablespoons of Amaretto liquer to soak the fruit or the same amount of cold tea.

Note about the dried fruit: The selection is up to you but I like to use a combination of, golden cherries, lexia raisins and golden sultanas. Dried sour cherries are also good.
The night before making this cake soak the dried fruit in the liquer or tea if using. If you are in a hurry, place the dried fruit in a bowl with the liquer or tea and give it 1 minute in a microwave oven to get the process going.
Begin by creaming together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time with a spoonful of the ground almonds with each egg. Mix thoroughly before adding the sifted flours, the spices and salt. Finally fold in the soaked fruit, orange zest and the marzipan cut up into chunks the size of glacé cherries. Transfer the mix to either 3 loaf tins measuring 16cm by 10cm or 1 large loaf tin 23cm by 13cm and 1 tin 16cm by 10cm. Smooth the tops and bake in a low oven 140C for 1hour 30 minutes for the smaller tins and 1 hour 45 minutes for the larger tin. A wooden skewer pushed into the centre of the cake should come out cleanly when the cake is fully baked. When the cakes are fully cool, remove from the tins and store in a sealed container. These cakes store well for up to two weeks and if you can avoid eating them for a few days the flavour enhances over time.

Baba Ghanoush

Considering how much I enjoy baba ganoush and how often I make it, it does surprise me I haven't posted my recipe for this simple but delicious dish until now.
If ever I plan a barbeque, I invariably buy aubergine so that I can grill them on the dying charcoal embers. Cooking them in this way imparts a smoky flavour that no matter how hard I try I just can't get from grilling them in my kitchen.
Whether you cook your aubergines on a spent barbeque or under a grill, this recipe is still worth making, it has even converted dyed in the wool aubergine dissenters.

For this recipe you will need,
3 medium or 2 gigantic aubergines
1 or 2 cloves of garlic finely minced (I use a microplane)
1 tablespoon of tahini,
The juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon of finely chopped coriander leaf
1 to 2 teaspoons of ground cumin
more olive oil than you would ever think possible
salt, pepper and I like to add a teaspoon of smoked paprika just for the smoke.

Begin by cooking your aubergine. Pierce the skin a few times with a knife and either place the aubergines on a barbeque grill when the enbers are beginning to give up the ghost or place under a moderate grill for 5 to 10 minutes each side. You need the aubergine to have a slightly charred outside and a totally soft inside. Keep an eye on them and you'll be fine. Allow the aubergines to cool. Toast the cumin seeds in a dry pan for a minute or two until they just begin to darken but no more,  Grind them up in a pestle and mortar until you have a fine nut brown powder, now that's the colour Julia should paint her new dining room. Cut the aubergine lengthways and with a spoon, scoop out the cooked flesh. place in a large bowl and add the cumin, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, smoked paprika, seasoning and coriander leaf, using a fork mix the ingredients up well until you have a soft mousse like consistency. If the aubergines have been cooked enough there should be no lumps. Finally add olive oil, at least a quarter of a cup of good olive oil and trust me, twice as much if you feel brave enough. This dip, for after all that is how it's eaten, is not only an aubergine based dish but also an olive oil based one. leave at room temperature, having adjusted the seasoning to suit, for 3 to 5 hours before serving with flat bread, delicious!

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Roasted Pepper and Garlic Soup

This soup has a delicious flavour and a light velvety texture. The addition of fennel seeds adds to the slight liquorice flavour of the pasilla chillies. Despite the entire head of garlic, as is often the case when it is roasted, adds a sweet rather than pungent garlic flavour. I keep my fridge stocked up with a head of celery and usually some leeks, when you have these two and a few more store cupboard ingredients a good healthy and economical soup is always at hand.

The list is now 94 with Iran

For this soup you will need,
3 sticks of celery
1 fat leek
2 peppers, I had one green and one red but the choice is yours
1 head of garlic 
2 red onions
3 bay leaves
2 teaspoons of pasilla chilli flakes
1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
1 teaspoon of mild sweet paprika
1 tablespoon of tomato puree
50g of unsalted butter
Olive oil
1 goodly amount of parsley, (by that I mean half a cup)
2 litres of vegetable stock made up with Marigold Bouillon Powder
Black pepper

Begin by preparing the peppers, garlic and onion, by quartering the onions, de-seeding and cutting the peppers into large chunks and cutting the garlic head in half across it's equator toss them in olive oil and the fennel seeds and roast them in a pan in a moderate oven 180C for 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile chop up the celery and leeks and sweat them off with the bay leaves in a little olive oil in a large saucepan, until translucent around 5 minutes on a low heat. Add the chillies, paprika and tomato puree and continue to cook for a further minute or two. Tip the entire contents of the roasted vegetable pan into to the saucepan and add the stock, black pepper and parsley. simmer gently for around half an hour. Fish out the bay leaves and blend the soup in 2 batches with 50g of unsalted butter. Blending hot soup as I have said before needs to be done with care. Always ensure the lid is on securely, if in doubt keep your hand on top of the lid and as an added measure place a tea towel between your hand and the lid. Not filling the blender jug more than half full is always a good idea and if in doubt simply allow the soup to cool a little before starting. Strain the soup through a fine sieve, this adds more than you think to the final result, a fine velvety texture

This soup is thickened only by the vegetables themselves and since there is no starch in them it is not as hefty as perhaps my tomato soup click here for the recipe, as such it can also be served chilled just make sure the butter is really well blended in the first place so that it is fully emulsified.
I can think of no more effective way of producing a delicious food offering to share between 4 to 6 people with such modest ingredients.

Coquilles St Jacques

This is one of the nicest ways I know of serving up scallops, sadly it has been forgotten rather over the last few years with scallops more often being served on pea purees, partnered up with chorizo. The good thing about this dish is the preparation can be done earlier in the day and popped into a hot oven for ten minutes while people are downing the second martini. Recipe for a good martini: Vodka (Chase) or Gin (Plymouth) and the smallest addition of Noilly Prat you feel you can get away with. Stir in a large glass with 3 washed ice cubes for a minute, no more and strain into chilled martini glasses. Garnish with a small piece of lemon rind if using vodka and for me a rinsed cocktail onion if using gin. The right size martini glass is now and endangered species, I have two and countless modern ones which are just about twice the size they should be.

For this recipe (which serves 4) you will need,
12 fat scallops without roe
500g of creamy mashed potato
100g of gruyere cheese grated finely
50ml of Noilly Prat
25ml of Pastis
200ml of double creme
1 tablespoon of chopped parsley
1 tablespoon of breadcrumbs see notes
1 teaspoon of butter
salt and white pepper.

Begin by slicing each scallop into 3 discs, place in a pan with the butter and on a low heat cook slowly for no more than a minute. During this time, the scallops will hardly lose their translucence but they should shed most of their liquid. Remove the scallops carefully leaving behind all the precious liquid and set aside for later. Add the Noilly Prat and pastis to the pan and bring up to a boil. Cook for a minute to drive off the alcohol and add the cream, half the cheese and the parsley, season to taste. Switch off the heat and stir. When the mix has cooled, add the discs of scallop and share out between three small gratin dishes or deep scallop shells. Top with the remaining cheese mixed with the breadcrumbs. Pipe around the mashed potato and set aside until ten minutes before they are needed. Cook by placing in a hot oven 200C for between 8and 10 minutes, the creamy mix should be beginning to bubble and the piped potato should be taking on a toasted brown colour on the edges.

I make my breadcrumbs by placing bread that is at least a couple of days old in a food processor with half a clove of garlic and a little of the parsley and processing for a minute or two, these keep perfectly well in a sealed container in the fridge for 3 or 4 days.

Tarte au Chocolat

This recipe actually makes a little too much filling for the tart case if you use a tart tin the same size as mine, however, the filling can be poured into small ramekins to make delicious pot de chocolat, so I'm happy!

For this recipe you will need:
for the sweet pastry
200g of plain flour
100g of unsalted butter, chilled
1 egg yolk
40g of icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
just enough chilled water to bring together.

For the filling
600ml of double cream
150ml of milk
300g of good quality chocolate, such as Valrhona, minimum 70% coca solids
1 tablespoon of golden syrup
3 whole eggs plus an extra egg yolk
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt

begin by making the pastry, rub the butter into the flour and sugar until the mix resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk mixed with a tablespoon of chilled water, bring the mass together to form a dough, if the mix looks a little dry, add a little more water but avoid adding too much, the result will be a tougher pastry. Leave the pastry for an hour to rest. My house despite it being April is still on  the chilly side so I don't rest the fridge but after I have rolled out the pastry and lined the tin (25cm diameter loose bottomed flan tin) I do pop it all in the fridge to chill.

Bring the cream and milk to a simmer in a saucepan, meanwhile break up the chocolate and place it in a large bowl with the syrup, salt and vanilla. Pour the hot cream onto the chocolate and whisk until the chocolate is completely melted. Whisk in the eggs and extra yolk and set aside.
Bake the pastry shell blind (line with a crumpled up piece of baking parchment and fill with either ceramic baking beans or some rice or beans that you keep for blind baking) in a hot oven 200C for 10 minutes. I heat up a baking tray in the oven and place the tart tin on this, it helps to ensure heat distribution to the base of the pastry shell and makes manoeuvering the tart tin when it is filled, easier. Remove the baking parchment and baking beans and return the pastry shell to the oven having turned down the temperature to 140 for a further 10 to 15 minutes until the shell appears nicely cooked, a little golden brown and most importantly, dry all over the surface. Even though the tart will be returned to the oven, the extra time is not going to cook the pastry any further so do ensure the pastry is fully baked when you remove it. Carefully fill the baked shell with the chocolate mix; I usually pour the mix using a jug, up to about 3/4 the height of the shell and complete the filling when the tart has been returned to the oven. You will have enough filling left over if you use a 25cm tin to fill 3or 4  ramekins to make additional pot de chocolat. Fill the ramekins and bake in a tin with hot water poured up to half way up the sides of the ramekins to avoid over cooking. Bake for around 20 minutes or until the tart retains a slight wobble in the middle. The tart will firm up on cooling. Serve cold with a spoonful of creme fraiche.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Baguette with Poolish

I think one of the frustrations for the home baker like me is the fact that our ovens are usually too small to be able to bake those glorious long sticks of bread the French call baguettes, the short version always seems a bit apologetic. There is always a case for making as long and thin a loaf of bread as you can and in my case it's 38cm
I use commercial yeast for this bread, mostly because I prefer not to have the tougher crust my wild yeast produces. I do occasionally play around with a combination of both wild yeast and fast action. In order to maximise the flavour of dough using commercial yeast, I find I need to extend the whole fermentation process so I use a poolish, a mix made up of just under half the flour, half the yeast and all of the water, given a good 12 hours to ferment at room temperature before adding to the remaining flour, yeast and salt to make the dough.

To make these baguettes you will need:

For the poolish,
250g of strong white flour
3g of fast action yeast
300g of water

For the main dough
All of the poolish
300g of strong white flour
3g of fast action yeast
10g of salt

Begin by making up the poolish, mix the flour, water and yeast together well and place the mix in a large bowl, cover and leave overnight. In the morning add the remaining ingredients and knead for 5 to 10 minutes. Leave in a lightly oiled bowl, covered to double in size.
In this country we talk about knocking back the dough after the first period of proving, personally I never do this. I stretch the dough to de-gas a little but the idea of bashing out all the bubbles of carbon dioxide seems a bit odd. Divide the dough into three, flatten out carefully to form an oblong and roll up the dough into a sausage shape, closing a seam along the top. Place to one side while you shape up the remaining two portions. Beginning at the centre of the sausage shape, gently roll and squeeze out the shape to lengthen. I tend to do this in two goes with a short rest period in between. Having three to do makes this easy enough. The minute or two that the dough rests between each rolling will allow it to relax a little and make the process easier. When you are happy with the length of each loaf, place on a well floured cloth pleated up between each to form a bit of support. Leave to rise for an hour, heat the oven to 220C. Place 2 baking trays in the oven to heat up; place each baguette on a tray and slash 3 or 4 slashes along the length of each. If the baguettes have been shaped with a tight enough skin you should find the you don't need to do diagonal slashing as the oven bloom will cause them to become diagonal during baking.


To be honest I have made better baguettes than this, many times. The flavour is good but the texture is disappointing, perfectly edible but not what I know I can produce. Since you get what I actually cook on this blog however, I think it's right to publish this rather than wait for a more successful batch, after all we all have days when things don't go according to plan and I think I was in a rush to get these baked. Patience is a virtue!

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Old Hagbech Whisky Sour

I'm the first to admit this drink has veered off the path from a true whisky sour which is made with rye whisky, lemon juice and a sugar syrup. Occasionally a little egg white is used so that when the cocktail is shaken over ice and poured into a glass it has a nice foam on the top.
My version of the drink uses bourbon, lime juice and the syrup I keep having candied orange peel as well as a small offering of amaretto liquer. The sourness of the drink marries very well with these cheese croutons featured in an earlier post click here for the recipe

Welcome Moldova, bringing the list up to 93

for this cocktail you will need'
2 measures of bourbon
1/2 measure of sugar syrup,
1 measure of lime juice
A dash of Amaretto Disaronno

Stir all the ingredients with 4 large ice cubes for a minute or two before straining into a glass. The amaretto liquer adds a round note to this drink and I believe adds to both the complexity and the balance without altering the basic concept of whisky and sour citrus

Monday, 8 April 2013

Smoked Haddock Soufflé

Whereas most of my life these days is fueled by vegetarian food occasionally I do make something that includes fish, almost always when someone is dining with me. This soufflé can very easily be made omitting the smoked haddock and increasing the amount of cheese, or a mushroom version by sauteing 400g of sliced mushrooms (wild would be good) in a little olive oil until they take on a decent amount of colour, or an onion version by sweating down 2 large onions sliced, in a little butter until they too have caramelised a little.

For this soufflé you will need,
400g undyed smoked haddock
50g of unsalted butter
50g of plain flour
450ml of millk
140g of gruyere cheese grated
3 egg yolks
7 egg whites
1 teaspoon of vegetable bouillon powder
1/2 teaspoon of white pepper
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
2 bay leaves

Begin by buttering 6 small or 4 larger (11cm by 6cm) soufflé ramekins. Butter them liberally and set to one side.
Poach the fish in the milk.. Place the fish, milk and bay leaves in a pan and bring the milk up to a simmer, switch off the heat and leave for 5 minutes, covered with a lid. Strain the fish, being careful to reserve the liquid. Remove the skin from the fish and carefully flake the fish into large flakes.
Place the butter in a saucepan on a low heat, when the butter has melted add the flour and stir, cook for a minute or two before adding the milk from poaching the fish. Bring the mix up to a simmer, whisking as it heats up in order to avoid lumps. Should you find you have a lump or two, vigorous whisking as the sauce thickens should deal with them. The sauce is quite thick so stir gently while you simmer the sauce for a further 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, allow to cool for a minute or two before whisking in the egg yolks and most of the cheese, I reserve about 20g to sprinkle on the top just prior to cooking.
Switch the oven on to 200C.
Whisk the egg whites with the lemon juice until you have soft peaks. Gently fold in a third of the egg whites, then add the remaining whisked eggs whites and fold in very gently to avoid losing any more of the air that you have whisked in, than necessary. Fold in the fish and transfer the mix to the buttered ramekins, Fill almost to the top, sprinkle on the remaining cheese and bake in a hot oven for 18 to 20 minutes. They should be only just cooked in the centre so keep an eye on them, since ovens do vary a little. Serve immediately. I find placing the souffés in the oven just as people are called to the table for a small starter works well. The soufflés will in fact be perfectly fine for 5 minutes or so before placing in the oven.

This recipe makes enough for 6 as a starter or 4 as a main course and of course can be cooked in a larger soufflé dish, the cooking time will need to be extended just a little, around 5 minutes.
I usually heat up a baking tray in the oven while I am doing the preparation and place the soufflés on this in order to have immediate heat transfer to the base.
Smoked haddock is itself salty so taste the poaching liquor in order to determine how much seasoning you need.
Souffle's can be allowed to cool completely, they will lose a great deal of height but they can be sliced and placed in an ovenproof dish with a little thin bechamel sauce poured over and reheated in a hot oven for 25 minutes before serving. This is a different dish obviously but it is an excellent way of using up any cooked soufflés that you have left over.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Simple flat bread with cracked black pepper

One of the challenges when baking flat breads is keeping the things flat during the baking process. Recipes advise pricking them all over in order to avoid big bubbles of trapped air forming. I have an ancient docker which does this job beautifully. I do have a modern plastic effort too but this makes larger holes and fewer of them. For me it's the old one I choose every time.

For these flat breads you will need'
500g of strong white flour
300g of water
50ml of good olive oil plus more for brushing
7g of fast action yeast
10g of salt
10g of cracked black pepper, optional

Begin by making the dough, bring all the ingredients together to make a soft dough and knead for 5 minutes. Leave to rise until doubled in size. heat the oven to 200C and prepare 2 large baking sheets. Break off 80g pieces of dough, I usually bake 4 at a time 2 on each tray. The remaining dough can either be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days, frozen or simply used up baking batches of flat breads. Take an 80g piece of dough and roll out to form a long lozenge shape, roll out to a thickness of about a pound coin. Using whatever tool you have to hand, dock the lozenge of dough with as many small holes as you can manage, place on a baking sheet, brush with olive oil and bake for 12 to 15 minutes. They should be a rich golden brown when baked, and crisp up a little on cooling. Keep an eye on them as you cook them in order to avoid over-baking. It's better to cook the flat breads at a lower temperature for longer than to cook them at too high a temperature.

These flat breads are the perfect thing broken into shards to dunk into Camembert fondue. Make sure you buy a Camembert that is in a box that has staples, the few that don't and these days there are only few,  will spring open in the oven and you will have an oozy mess. Place the Camembert on an oven proof dish, pierce the top with a knife and insert thin slivers of garlic. Dribble a little olive oil on the top and finally sprinkle on a few herbs of choice, this time I used lemon thyme. bake in a hot oven, 200C for 15 minutes until the whole of the center of the cheese is molten. Serve directly with flat breads.

These flat breads can easily be made with other wheat or rye flours if wished, you can flavour them with herbs or a little grated Parmesan.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Tarte Tropezienne

Now if you ask me what Poppy has in common with Brigitte Bardot, the answer is obvious, heavy, some would say too much, use of eye liner. When it comes to what I have in commom with Brigitte, well the answer is Tarte Tropezienne. The French actress made a habit of ordering a slice every day with coffee in her favourite Parisian patisserie, at least that's what we're told but if this is true how did she remain slim while I, well no matter, lets just say she may well have missed the odd day and had instead cucumber sandwiches.
This confection is simply a large flattish brioche, split and filled with crème patissière scented with kirsch, it is however delicious and well worth making. This year I am making it as my birthday cake.

Eye liner - midnight hound by Bobbi Brown

Jersey brings my list up to 92, thank you very much!
For this recipe you will need'
Just over 1/2 quantity of brioche dough, click here for the recipe
I quantity of crème patissière, see below
pearl sugar and a little sugar syrup for decoration

To make the crème patissière you will need,
500ml of milk
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
6 egg yolks
75g of sugar
50g of unsalted butter, at room temperature
25g of plain flour
25g of cornflour
1 tablespoon of kirsch
200ml of double cream whipped to soft peaks.

Begin by making the crème patissière, this can be made up to a couple of days in advance, covered with clingfilm (touching the surface) and kept in the fridge.
Heat the milk in a saucepan to just under the boil. Place 6 egg yolks in a large bowl and whisk in the sugar until the mix becomes paler, whisk in both flours thoroughly then finally whisk in the heated milk and the vanilla. Return the mix to the saucepan and place back on a low heat. With a whisk keep whisking the mix gently as it thickens quite dramatically. I usually abandon the whisk at this point and use a spatula to keep the thickened crème moving while the flours cook out, on a low heat, about another minute. Place the soft butter in a bowl and sieve the cooked crème onto the butter, be persistent and push the mix through the sieve, I find the spatula helps. Whisk the butter into the crème and whisk in the kirsch. Finally fold in 200ml of double cream which has been whisked to almost stiff peaks. This all sounds like a lot to do and indeed it does require effort, effort rather than expertise I would say, if you take your time you will end up with a truly wonderful crème patissière that you can use in so many dishes so well worth becoming good at.

Take a 700g of brioche dough (the remaining 480g can be either frozen for another occasion or used to make 6 brioche) and roll out to form a disc which measures 24cm. Place it in a tin lined with baking parchment. I use my tarte tatin tin for this. Leave in a warm to place, covered, to more than double in size. Bake in a hot oven 200C for ten minutes, turn down the heat to 180 and bake for a further 15 minutes. Take the brioche out of the oven and switch the oven off. Paint the surface with a little sugar syrup, sprinkle with a teaspoon of pearl sugar and return to the cooling for a minute or two.
When the brioche is cooled, remove it from the tin, split it in two and sandwich together with the crème patissière.