Sunday, 14 September 2014
I feel like I'm living in the midst of a storm at the moment, with excitement, nerves and stress blustering around. I move house and leave Oxford in a few days, and I start my four years soon after. The majority of my kitchen and all of my books are in boxes. I keep reaching for my stress-reducing activities - plums in the fruit bowl, crumble! Oh wait... - without success. It's odd and disjointing.
Thankfully, I stashed some logs of cookie dough in the freezer and kept a baking tray out. I have some Peanut Butter Biscuits (I rolled the dough into a log instead of individual balls), some Chocolate Cardamon Cookies and these chocolate chip pecan cookies. They're crispy and chewy, nutty and sweet and generally comforting.
Wish me luck - I'll be back when I've unpacked my kitchen in Cambridge...
Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies
(adapted from David Lebovitz's Ready for Dessert)
200g dark chocolate (I use 70%)
115g unsalted butter
150g light brown sugar
75g white caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
175g plain flour
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1 large egg
Toast the pecans in a dry pan then leave to cool down. Chop the chocolate into small chunks (bigger than normal chips but not huge). Beat the butter, both sugars and vanilla extract together until uniformly smooth (if you're not using a mixer, room temperature butter is easier to combine). Sieve in the flour, bicarbonate and salt then add the egg. Beat together on low until the mixture comes together. Roughly chop the pecans then add them along with the chocolate and mix until combined. Scrape out onto a big square of parchment lined foil, baking parchment or clingfilm (or two sheets if you'd prefer two smaller logs of dough) and arrange into a log. Roll it up and twizzle the ends. Place into the freezer.
After at least an hour or up to a month later, preheat the oven to 170C/340F. Unwrap the end of the log (and if you've used clingfilm, take it all off and place the remaining log into a plastic bag) and cut off however many 1 cm slices you want to bake. Place on a parchment lined tray and bake for 11-13 minutes until the cookies are browning around the edges. Leave to cool on the tray for a few minutes then transfer to a wire rack. Best eaten while they're still warm from the oven.
(Makes about 24 cookies)
Two other biscuit doughs that I've frozen before:
Milk Chocolate and Hazelnut (in a log)
Triple Chocolate Pecan (in spoonfuls on a tray, then transferred to a bag when frozen)
...and one dough I haven't:
Roasted Hazelnut Butter
Friday, 29 August 2014
You know how sometimes you meet someone and it feels like you've known them forever? When you sidestep the slightly awkward beginning of a friendship and immediately feel easy and relaxed?
It was like that when I met Erin.
At the time of that first visit to California, Erin had just got her book deal and was about to begin writing. I was at the beginning of my will-I-won't-I book saga and so we talked a lot about the whole process. It feels crazy that I can now, over two years later, hold her book in my hands. It's called Yummy Supper after her lovely blog and it came out a few days ago.
Last spring Erin let me test a few of the recipes. I tried the poached eggs with greens and hash browns (p.27), spring omelets (p.22) and the brown butter almond tea cakes (p.205), which were all delicious.
I was also sent this recipe. When it first popped into my inbox, I was a bit apprehensive. I've nurtured a lifelong love for crêpes and they're one of my favourite things to make and eat. But millet? I'd never bought it or eaten it before and I had to go to a health food shop to find it. I'm also rather wedded to wheat flour and don't like several of the alternative flours (rice flour being my particular enemy). Then, when I actually made the batter, it smelled different. Unidentifiable.
Yet once I'd eaten one, I immediately asked if I could write about the recipe once the book was out. There's something really lovely - sort of nutty, but hard to describe - about the flavour and the slightly nubby texture is wonderful. The combination of maple syrup and crème fraîche makes them sing and is my favourite topping by far. They may not be my classic crêpes, but they're definitely worth trying.
They are slightly harder to handle as they tear easily. Having said that, if you're relatively happy making normal crêpes/pancakes it shouldn't take long to figure out how to cope. Making them in a small pan makes it easier.
I'm interested to see what other types of crêpe you could make using this method (blasting the millet in a processor with some of the milk before adding the other ingredients). Oat? Nut?
Golden Millet Crêpes
(adapted from Yummy Supper by Erin Scott)
100g golden millet grain
180ml whole milk
15g unsalted butter + a bit extra to fry
1 large egg
2 tsp maple syrup
pinch of salt
more maple syrup and crème fraîche to serve
Tip the millet into a sieve then wash under the tap. Scrape into a food processor and add half the milk. Blast for a minute (I time this as it's always longer than I think). Scrape the sides down then give it another 30 seconds or so - you should have a thin gritty mush. Place the butter into a small pan and melt (you can keep going and make brown butter if you fancy). Add the rest of the milk along with the butter, egg, maple syrup and salt. Blend for 2 minutes until smooth. Scrape into a jug and chill for at least 30 minutes and up to two days.
Place a small 6" or 7" skillet or frying pan over a medium-high heat. When it is properly hot (hold your hand a few inches above the centre - you should be able to feel the heat), turn the heat down to medium. Add a little piece of butter to the pan and move it around as it sizzles so that it coats the bottom of the pan. Stir the batter throughly then pour a splash into the pan, tipping it so it coats the bottom (Erin suggests 2 tbsp batter - I've been doing it by eye). Once the edges start to brown, loosen the sides and flip carefully. Cook for another minute or so then slide out onto a plate and serve immediately.
Stir the batter and add a little nugget of butter to the pan before making each crêpe. Any remaining batter keeps for two days (overall, including your original rest).
(Makes about 12 small crêpes)
Three other posts involving maple syrup:
Maple Nutmeg Mini Madeleines
Ginger Bourbon Pecan Pie
Wednesday, 6 August 2014
On the night of the Guild awards, mum and I booked an early table at Honey & Co. A particularly fantastic dessert - a just-set milk pudding topped with syrupy poached peaches and rose - and the meal in general affirmed that I definitely needed to buy a copy of their book, which came out two weeks later.
The day I received it, I went straight into the kitchen to try out the honey parfait. If you don't have lolly moulds the book suggests making cones out of greaseproof paper and propping them up in the freezer. I made some out of my favourite foil lined parchment (it's stiffer, which I thought would be useful), using the technique for making paper piping bags but securing them with a staple. I didn't have any lolly sticks either so I used some cotton thread to secure a few chopped up pieces of wooden skewer together. Though I enjoyed the honey flavour, the texture and technique were the things that really captured me.
To play with the technique, I decided to try substituting the honey. I toyed between caramel and maple syrup before, predictably, picking caramel. The only problem with caramel is that once you've got to the caramel stage of a sugar syrup, it's not at the right stage to pour onto the egg yolks (I was 99% sure it wouldn't work but decided to check anyway - it was a mess). I found that adding a little cold water to the caramel when it reaches the right stage brings it back down to roughly 100-110C. The resulting syrup then works beautifully. I want to see if the same technique works for Italian meringue, too - does caramel meringue sound good?
I've been shaping the parfait into a little loaf, which I then serve in tiny slices. It's very rich. I've also added some caramel pieces to boost the flavour and to provide a bit of textural contrast. The caramel pieces liquify a little at the edges and soften - though they still crunch - in the freezer. I have salted the caramel, but only lightly - you could increase it a touch for a more pronounced flavour.
Parfait has a different texture to ice cream or gelato or any other creamy frozen dessert I've tried. It's like very cold, smooth mousse, as it doesn't become particularly hard when it freezes and has quite a bit of air incorporated - it's almost foamy (in a good way). Definitely worth trying, anyway, whether you choose honey or caramel, loaf or lolly.
(inspired by Honey & Co's Honey Parfait)
For the caramel pieces:
25g white sugar (caster or granulated)
pinch of fine sea salt
For the parfait:
2 large egg yolks
25ml cold water
pinch of fine sea salt
50g white sugar (caster or granulated)
140ml double cream
Start with the caramel pieces. Tear off a bit of baking parchment and place on a worktop near the stove. Spread the sugar (25g) evenly over the bottom of a small pan. Place over a medium-high heat and watch carefully - after a few minutes, the sugar will start to liquify at the edges. Don't stir it - you can flick some of the crystals onto a liquid bit, but don't fiddle too much. Once it's nearly all melted and starts to caramelise, swirl it all together. Keep heating until you have a clear liquid with a deep golden-bronze colour, then swirl in the salt and quickly pour onto the parchment. Leave to cool. When it has solidified, chop into tiny pieces with a knife (and watch out, it tends to splinter and fly off the board - it can be quite sharp at this point).
Line a baby loaf tin or small box (roughly 6" x 3") or another shape (perhaps a small bowl for a bombe shape?) with a big piece of clingfilm. Place the egg yolks into the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attached. Combine the water and salt and put them near the stove. Don't bother to wash the caramel pan - just sprinkle in the sugar for the parfait (50g). Make the caramel as before, but when it is ready, turn the heat off and immediately pour in the salty water. It will react quite wildly, steaming and bubbling, but after the first few moments, start stirring and keep going until the mixture is smooth. It should still be bubbling away (if not, or if the pieces aren't dissolving, turn the heat back on for a moment). Turn the mixer with the egg yolks in up to medium high, then carefully pour the hot caramel down the side of the bowl into the whisking yolks (see this video). Turn the mixer up to full speed and leave to whip.
While it whips, start whipping the double cream until it thickens and starts holding shape in very soft peaks - it's important to not overwhip it (see this photo for the way both the cream and caramel mixture look when ready). The caramel mixture should be pale yellow and very thick and when you lift the whisk out the trail should stay on the surface for at least the count of five.
Scrape the caramel mixture into the cream bowl and fold in with a big spoon (see this video for technique, though these mixtures are the same consistency). When the mixture is uniform, add the caramel pieces and fold them though. Scrape into the lined mould, level off, pull the clingfilm over the top and put in the freezer. It's best left overnight but will have hopefully firmed up enough after 5-6 hours.
(Makes about 6-8 very small slices)
Three more recipes that involve whipped cream:
2010: Eton Mess
2011: Coconut Cream Cake
2013: Caramelised White Chocolate Éclairs