Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Blueberry muffins


What to do with a punnet of blueberries that otherwise might not get eaten? Make old school blueberry muffins in time for breakfast.

These are so quick to make that this morning, having been woken up early by a very loud dawn chorus (ie a loud crow sitting on the window ledge) I knocked these up in just five minutes, put them in the oven while I had a shower and got dressed, and then they were ready for breakfast. Cue two very happy teenagers - a rare thing that early in the morning.

Notes

I read somewhere, sometime ago that if you cover the muffins with a clean , damp (wet slightly then wring out) teatowel while they are cooling the tops stay soft. Unfortunately I never remembered that this morning but it clearly didn't matter.

Makes about 10 - 12, depending on how generously you portion them out

Equipment
  • Large bowl
  • Large wooden or metal spoon
  • Fork
  • Bun tin and muffin cases
Ingredients
  • Unsalted butter, softened - 110g
  • Golden caster sugar or golden granulated sugar - 130g
  • Milk - 150ml (preferably full fat)
  • Eggs, medium - 2
  • Plain flour - 300g
  • Baking powder - 1 teaspoon
  • Bicarbonate of soda - 1 teaspoon
  • Lemon juice - 1 teaspoon
  • Blueberries - 150g
Method
  1. Put the oven on to 160C fan / 170C conventional
  2. Prepare a bun tin with muffin cases
  3. Cream the butter and sugar
  4. Mix in all the other ingredients lightly (don't over work the mix), except the blueberries
  5. Squash a few of the blueberries with a fork (about a third) and then fold them in toomuffinMix
  6. Spoon out the mix into each case - a large dessert spoon in each
  7. Place the whole bun tray in the oven, on the middle shelf
  8. Bake for 25 - 30 mins until they are lightly golden
muffins2

Monday, 8 June 2015

Chocolate frangipane, shortbread and nut swirls

Chocolate frangipane, shortbread and nut swirls

These biscuits are based on a method for biscotti eureka, but I have radically altered the recipe - it bears little resemblance to the original now other than the construction method and that it requires a shortbread-type biscuit and a frangipane-type filling.

The original recipe for biscotti eureka, which I have baked a few times. These are delicious but a very adult taste as the biscuit layer has no sugar in and the orange frangipane is quite a bitter orange. I love the shape of these biscuits, that they are rolled in chopped almonds and the dual texture of crisp biscuit and softer frangipane. However they were weren't sweet enough for my children to enjoy and as they loved the look of them but didn't love the taste I thought I'd take the original idea and adapt it for them.

The original recipe comes from the utterly marvellous 'Southern Italian Desserts' by Rosetta Costantino (I only think this was printed in the US, but you can find copies online). This book is a wondrous mix of Italian baking recipes coupled with the author's experience of the region and anecdotes on each recipe. Costantino's delight at discovering each recipe and her descriptions of southern Italy and its foodie history drip off the page. The food photography that accompanies her words is glorious too. This is one of my most treasured and well-read recipe books - if you are an avid food book reader like me, I'd urge you to get hold of a copy; I doubt you'd be disappointed. Make the original biscotti eureka too - they are lovely and actually I can image that the orange-flavoured original and these chocolate frangipane versions would accompany each other quite nicely - choc 'n' orange is a rather delicious food pairing.

However, back to me wanting to recreate these biscuits but with a flavour that would appeal to my children  - and anyone else with more of a traditional sweet tooth. I decided to alter the biscuit recipe drastically and now, rather than a plain unsugared dough I have substituted a shortbread recipe of my own. The marmalade and orange peel that went into the original filling is also gone. I have substituted a chocolate frangipane for the original filling, so now this is completely different from the original too. What is the same is the method - a biscuit and frangipane are made separately,  rolled together and chilled. An egg white wash is used to moisten the rolled dough and the whole thing is smothered in chopped nuts (I've used hazelnuts rather than the original chopped almonds, as I felt there were enough almonds in the frangipane mix).

So, this is most definitely a homage to Ms Constantino's version of the biscotti eureka she discovered in Sicily, but it most definitely is quite different in taste and ingredients.

Notes


  • Makes about 30
  • Eat them on their own with a coffee or glass of milk or a great accompaniment to ice cream

Equipment


  • Bowls
  • Rolling pin
  • Baking sheets, lined - you'll need at least two (depending on size)
  • Extra baking parchment or a silicon mat
  • Wooden spoon
  • Sharp knife
  • Cling film
  • Pastry brush

Ingredients  - biscuit dough 


  • Plain flour - 175g
  • Unsalted butter, softened - 100g
  • Ground almonds - 25g
  • Caster sugar - 30g
  • A little milk to bind 

Ingredients - chocolate frangipane


  • Golden caster sugar - 100g
  • Unsalted butter - 80g
    Plain flour - 50g
  • Ground almonds - 100g
  • Baking powder - 1/2 teaspoon
  • Egg, whole, medium - 1
  • Vanilla extract - 1/2 teaspoon
  • Chocolate, chips or finely grated - 100g

Extra ingredients


  • Egg white - for egg wash
  • Chopped hazelnuts - about 50g


Method - biscuit


  1. Rub the butter into the flour and almonds thoroughly
  2. Mix in the rest of the ingredients and use a little milk to make it bind together
  3. Pat it into a rough rectangle shape, cover in cling film and chill in a fridge or quickly in a freezer
  4. Make the frangipane by creaming the butter and sugar and then mixing in all the other ingredients except for the chocolate
  5. Tip the chocolate in and mix gently
  6. Put to one side until the biscuit dough is chilled (you don't want it frozen, just not soft anymore)
  7. When the biscuit dough is chilled enough, put it on some baking parchment or a silicon mat and roll out until it is a rectangle of about 34 cm x 16 cm or thereabouts (just over a foot in length in 'old money' x about 8"). Manipulate the dough with your hands to get it to as good a rectangle as you can - you could even trim bits off with a knife and reattach them where you need it. Anyway, it doesn't have to be perfect, just the best you can do
  8. Spread the frangipane all over apart from  a 1cm strip down each long side of the dough
  9. Using the parchment or baking sheet it's sitting on, roll up the biscuits from one of the long edges, so it resembles a Swiss roll shape.
  10. Roll the biscuit over until the 'seam' sits underneath and then chill the whole thing in the freezer or fridge - it needs to be firm in order to cut the biscuit rounds out
  11. Just before you take the biscuit dough out of the fridge or freezer put your oven on to 170C fan / 185C conventional 
  12. Once cooled again, brush the egg white all over the biscuit roll (avoiding the ends) and then roll in the chopped hazelnuts. Again, it doesn't have to be perfect so don't worry about coating it completely in the nuts
  13. Have the baking sheets ready
  14. Take the roll and slice rounds off from one end (the two ends will be a bit wonky but that doesn't matter) - they need to be about 8mm thick - I think that's about half an inch
  15. Roll each biscuit round in the fallen off chopped nuts and place on a baking sheet
  16. You may want to shape the biscuit with your hands, as they are liable to have squashed a little during cutting. Leave a 2cm / 1 inch gap between biscuits to allow for spread
  17. Once you've cut as many biscuits as possible from the roll pop both baking sheets in the oven for 20 mins - they should be a nice golden brown
  18. Once cooled they can be store in an airtight container

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Bourbon cream sandwich biscuits

Bourbon biscuits

I have a bit of a thing with cooking in that I love 'reverse engineering' recipes. That is, I love guessing the recipe and taking time to get it to as an exact replica as I can. It's not just with baking but with all cooking, for instance trying to work out what's gone into the paste to make a Thai curry I've enjoyed or the Grassmere gingerbread recipe that also features on my blog.

The recipe for Bourbons was one of the first I ever worked out as a 'reverse-engineering' exercise and rightly or wrongly I'm quite proud of how it's turned out. I genuinely believe it is a near-as-dammit recipe to the shop-bought ones (although still keeping that extra-special homemade taste) and is totally from guess-work and trial and error to get it perfect. It has three types of sugar in: each brings a specific taste and does a specific job within the recipe. Icing sugar melts in with the butter and provides the bulk of the sweetness, soft brown sugar (or demerera) provides that more nutty flavour and because it's crystals are larger takes longer to break down and combine in the cooking process from the heat, and finally the golden syrup is needed to help bind and without it the biscuits don't taste like traditional Bourbons - you can definitely tell if it's missing. Likewise with the ground ginger. Also, reciped that have cocoa only in the cream are definitely inferior! Go with the melted chocolate :)

If you do make it, please leave a message whether you think it stands up to the shop bought versions.

Notes


I do have a wavy biscuit cutter, which you can use if you have one, but I think the best results come if you have one of those wavy vegetable cutters (see pic below). You can make them straight if you do not have either.

There are several important things to making these biscuits 'just so'. The main one is that they have to be uniform in size - take care to cut the same width and length of biscuit (I cut out a strip of card to measure against). Otherwise you'll have quite the jigsaw trying to match up two biscuits that are the same each time you press two together with the cream.

This makes about 54 biscuits that are around 5cm x 2cm long, which means 27 sandwich biscuits. If you want less, I'd suggest freezing half the dough as it's difficult to make anything with half an egg.

Another important point is that the holes aren't just there to make them look Bourbon-y, they also stop the biscuits from rising too much (as the dough contains egg it will rise a little).

Finally, one last thing: do liberally use flour where you are cutting and rolling out - and the white flour won't affect the final biscuit (ie you won't get a white dusted biscuit rather than a chocolatey one).

Equipment


  • Baking trays, lined with parchment or a silicon mat
  • Bowl
  • Wavy vegetable cutter or way-edge biscuit cutter
  • Palette knife
  • Small fork
wavy veggie cutter


Ingredients - for the biscuits


  • Unsalted butter, softened - 130g
  • Icing sugar - 60g
  • Soft brown sugar or demerera - 65g
  • Egg, medium - 1
  • Plain flour - 200g
  • Cocoa powder, sifted (as can be lumpy) - 45g
  • Golden syrup - 1 tablespoon,
  • Ground ginger - 1 teaspoon
  • Salt, fine table - large pinch

Ingredients - for the sandwich cream


  • Unsalted butter, very soft (but not melted) - 70g
  • Milk chocolate, melted - 30g
  • Icing sugar - 130g

Method


  1. Mix all of the ingredients together for the biscuit dough - ensure they are thoroughly mixed
  2. Chill in the fridge until completely cool - about 20 mins
  3. Heat your oven to 160C fan or about 170C conventional (quite low for biscuits)
  4. Roll out the dough on a floured surface (I use a floured silicon mat) and make sure you dust the top of the dough or your rolling pin too
  5. I'd suggest rolling out the dough in several portions, if you are using a wavy cutter, as it's difficult to cut across a wide piece of dough. If you are usig a proper biscuit cutter you can do it all in one go
  6. Roll out very thinly (the egg in the mixture will cause it to rise when cooking) - about 2mm
  7. Cut out the Bourbon shapes, transferring them as you go to the prepared baking sheet

  8. Prick each of the biscuits with the fork to create the tell-tale Bourbon pattern, or do a pattern of your own!
  9. Bake in the centre of the oven for 10 mins - they are done when tiny cracks start to appear (as they are chocolate biscuits you cannot judge if they are cooked by colouration)
  10. While they are cooking, prepare the filling
  11. Melt the chocolate and swirl in the butter and icing carefully so you don't get clouds of icing sugar dust
  12. Once combined, you need to beat the cream very vigorously or use a hand mixer (I don't think a stand mixer is necessary here nor is the amount enough to put in the bottom of a mixer - they don't handle small amounts particularly well)
  13. Once the biscuits are done leave them until they are quite cold before assembling
  14. To assemble, pick up one biscuit and find a matching partner
  15. Spread a small amount of the cream (don't be too generous as it'll be too much) on the reverse of one biscuit and sandwich the other on top (so that the two sides with holes in are both on the outside)
  16. Leave for about 30 minutes for the cream to harden then keep in an airtight biscuit tin

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Cherry Lamingtons

Lamingtons


Umm, these little Australian cakes are delicious, but wow are they messy to make. If you've got little children I can imagine they'd have tons of fun with these - no wonder Lamington drives and bake offs are very popular in Australia and New Zealand.

I've made these twice before (a traditional recipe and a white chocolate 'snowball' version) and swore I'd never attempt them again as basically I got plastered in icing and dessicated coconut each time. Well, this month for the Daring Baker's challenge, Marcellina from the 'Marcellina in Cucina' blog chose them for us all to try.

So, here's my third ever batch of Lamingtons. I think maybe that now this won't be my last as I have definitely improved at making them in a less messy way. I've also found that using a thicker ganache rather than a traditional chocolate glaze seems to coat the cakes better and gives the coconut something thicker to cling on to.

It's a typical Lamington recipe except I've substituted some of the flour for dried coconut milk powder and added some finely diced glace cherries to the mix. The addition of the dried coconut milk enhances the dessicated coconut, and then I crowned each with a cherry as a finishing touch.

These are reputedly named after Lord Lamington, Governor of Queensland from 1896 to 1901. It's disputed whether they were a happy accident (cake dropped in chocolate, then covered in coconut to stop messy fingers) or whether Lord Lamington's chef invented them or one of any number of rather bizarre other suggestions. There are many recipes for the sponge used and some are split and filled with either jam or cream but all are coated in a chocolate glaze or ganache and rolled in coconut.

Notes


It's gonna get messy - give yourself some space and don't worry about tidying up as you go along as it's been almost impossible.

Equipment


  • Bowls - including a large one for the coconut (I actually used a large plastic tub as it was flatter)
  • Cranked or plain palette knife (a smaller one is better)
  • Square baking tin -20 cm x 20 cm
  • Soft spatula
  • Balloon whisk, electric hand mixer or stand mixer
  • Saucepan
  • Cling film
  • Wire rack and a baking tray for it to sit on - line the baking tray with foil as this is to catch drips
  • Fork and spoon


Ingredients - sponge


  • Eggs, medium - 4
  • Caster sugar - 200g
  • Plain flour - 170g
  • Dried coconut milk powder - 30g (find this in the world food aisle in your supermarket)
  • Unsalted butter, softened - 110g
  • Baking powder - 1 1/2 teaspoons
  • Lemon juice - 1/2 teaspoon
  • Glace cherries, very finely diced - 40g

Ingredients - chocolate ganache


  • Milk chocolate - 300g
  • Double cream - 125ml

Additional ingredients


  • Dessicated coconut - 200g 
  • Cherries for decoration

Method - sponge


  1. Line or grease and flour your baking tin and put the over on to 170C fan / 185C conventional
  2. Cream the eggs and sugar together in a bowl or with a stand mixer
  3. Put all the dry ingredients together in a bowl (flour, dried coconut milk and baking powder)
  4. Crack one egg into the mix and add 25% of the the fried ingredients and mix until combined
  5. Repeat with the other eggs one at a time and the dried ingredients until all eggs and all dried ingredients are combined. Remove the whisk/take the bowl off the stand mixer
  6. Add the lemon juice and the finely diced glace cherries and mix gently with a spatula - don't whisk
  7. Pour into the prepared tin
  8. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 30 mins until it's golden on top and a skewer comes out cleanly
  9. Leave to cool in the tin and when cool it's useful (although not totally essential) to pop it in the freezer (wrapped in cling film) for about 20 mins until slightly firmed

Method - choc ganache


  1. Break up the chocolate into a large heatproof bowl (it needs to be large as you will be holding the cakes over this later so you need the space)
  2. Pour the cream into a small saucepan and bring to just under boiling - when it first bubbles
  3. Pour the cream over the chocolate and mix until all the chocolate is melted thoroughly
  4. Leave to cool completely

Method - assembly


  1. Retrieve the cake from the freezer (if you've done that) and cut into 16 squares
  2. Empty the dessicated coconut into either a large plastic container, such as a tupperware or click-lock box, or a large bowl
  3. Get the wire rack and baking tray ready
  4. Get the bowl of ganache ready
  5. Have a fork and spoon to hand for the dessicated coconut 
  6. Pick up one of the cakes and hold it flat on your fingers (I've found this to be the easiest) and using the palette knife pick up and spread the ganache over the top and all four sides of the cake
  7. Set the cake onto the wire rack - this will catch any drips from the ganache
  8. Repeat for all the cakes
  9. Once covered in ganache, pick up a cake with the fork as a lifting device - the cakes will be extremely gooey now so if you try to pick them up with your fingers you'll stick to them!
  10. Drop it gently in the dessicated coconut. Use the spoon to 'pour' over the dessicated coconut and flip the cake over in the coconut to cover all five sides that have the ganache on
  11. Flip the cake upright and using the fork put it gently back on the wire rack
  12. Repeat with all the cakes
  13. Position a cherry on each of the cakes
  14. Leave them to 'settle' and harden a little before you eat them as this allows them to be picked up more easily

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Pomegranate, plum and strawberry curd

I love fruit curds - very retro and very under appreciated. Not only are they great in sandwiches, on toast and for scones and pancakes and similar things, but I often use them as either cake or tart fillings. I sometimes mix them with a little whipped cream or will use them in place of jam in a layer cake or in place of creme pat in a fruit tart.



You can pretty much make a curd with any citrus or berry fruit. This one is glorious and because the fruits used are so sweet I've not had to add so much sugar, making it a lighter curd (lemon or orange curds need a lot of sugar). The finished result tastes like an artisan strawberry ice cream - it's totally delicious.

Notes


You don't need a thermometer to make a curd, as you can just keep going until it thickens (curds are a very ancient dessert and they definitely didn't have sugar thermometers hundreds of years ago). However, if you have one, the curd will thicken at around 82-85C.

Equipment


  • A glass bowl and saucepan or double boiler/bain marie
  • Balloon whisk
  • Various bowls
  • Knives, spoons, wooden spoons
  • A fairly open sieve (ie not a fine one)
  • A blender or hand blender
  • A sugar thermometer (easier but not strictly necessary)
  • Glass jars with lids - you'll need about 3 typical-sized jam jars (around 300 - 325ml each)*

*to sterilize the jars, either pop them in a hot oven for 10 mins or stick them through a hot wash on your dishwasher. Lids can't go in the oven, so hand wash these then give them a quick rinse with some water from a just-boiled kettle. 

Ingredients

  • Victoria plums (or your favourite - damson would be good when in season) - about 6
  • Pomegranate - 1 largish
  • Strawberries (very ripe or those just about to 'go over' would be perfect) - about 150g
  • Unsalted butter - 100g
  • Sugar - 50g
  • Lemon juice - 1 teaspoon
  • Eggs, medium - 4



Method

  1. De-stone the plums, take the leaves off the strawberries and take the seeds out of the pomegranate
  2. Pop all the fruit in a blender and whizz until fine (or use a hand blender)
  3. Strain through a large-holed sieve as you want to keep the plum skin, the strawberry seeds don't matter if included and even a few pomegranate seeds are also ok
  4. Keep the fruit puree to one side
  5. Get your saucepan and glass bowl or bain marie going. Bringing a few centimetres of water to the boil in the saucepan and pop on the bowl
  6. In the meantime, lightly whisk the eggs in a small bowl and leave to hand
  7. Put the fruit puree, the butter, sugar and lemon juice in the top bowl and let it melt together
  8. Once the butter starts melting, use the balloon whisk to smooth it all out and add the eggs. Don't let the mix get too hot before you add the eggs - if you're worried take the bowl off the boiler for a minute and add the eggs while it is not being heated (if you have a thermometer you can check the temp is no more than about 55C at the time the eggs are added). Put the bowl back on the boiler if you did take it off
  9. If the eggs start to look like they're going into scrambled eggs, take the bowl off the heat and give it a good whisk before returning to the boiler
  10. Turn the heat up and keep whisking until the curd is smooth and thickened
  11. Pour into your pre-sterilised jars
  12. Keep in the fridge