Saturday, 30 April 2011

Mixed Berry Meringue & Custard

When I was younger one of my favourite desserts was my mum's apple meringue with custard.

To make it we would walk through our orchard to the best cooking apple tree and pick up a few of the giant green apples. On the way back to the house we would stop at the chicken houses and pick up fresh eggs for the meringue and custard. Then the apples would be peeled and lightly stewed with some lemon peel before being topped with the meringue and placed in the Aga. The custard was made with the leftover yolks.  We don't live at that house any more but the memories stay with me.

This is my new version, though the apple stays close to my heart. You can change up the filling however you like - though it's important that it's on the tart side as the meringue is sweet (hence cooking apples, sharp berries). I like the frozen berry mixes you can get in the supermarket - they're so quick and great in winter when you want a change.

We usually make it in one big dish but I decided to try a smaller one. Turns out that it's pretty pointless as the whole point is that you have lots of custard and there's no space for it in a ramekin. So I transferred it to a big teacup and ate it that way. 

My mum always used to make custard with milk, vanilla, cornflour, a small amount of sugar and a few egg yolks. The version below is much richer and only thickened with yolks. I like both but this recipe is great for a special pudding. 

(adapted from Annie Bell's Gorgeous Desserts)

300ml whole milk
1 tsp vanilla paste
5 egg yolks
50g caster sugar
75ml double cream

Pour the milk into a pan and bring to the boil. Meanwhile whisk the vanilla, yolks and sugar together. Pour the milk into the yolks, whisking constantly. Return to the pan and put back over the heat. Stir constantly until the custard thickens and coats the back of the spoon. Take off the heat and sieve into a bowl. Whisk in the cream. Place a layer of cling film over the surface and leave to chill until needed. You can heat gently if you prefer warm custard. 

Mixed Berry Meringue
(an adapted family recipe)

For the filling:
1 apple (I usually use cox or braeburn)
200g frozen mixed berries (or fresh in season)
25g dark brown sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice

Peel then chop the apple up into small chunks. Place with the berries, sugar and juice in a saucepan and warm through until the sugar is dissolved. Pour into a baking dish. This can be done several hours before you want to serve. 

For the topping:
2 egg whites
105g caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 160C. Whip the egg whites until they hold medium peaks then add the sugar slowly. Whisk until glossy and stiff. Dollop around the edge of the baking dish and then fill the middle. Make sure the meringue touches the edges. Spike up all over. Place into the oven for 35-40 minutes or until golden and crisp (I slightly undercooked the bigger one above so don't go on that picture). Leave to settle for 10 minutes then serve either warm or cold. 

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Chocolate Easter Egg Macarons

This month's Mactweets theme is Decadently Chocolate. Our macs had to have chocolate and "something, anything which will accentuate, complement the chocolate flavor and make for one spectacular mac!"

These are chocolate macarons with a...

As I was walking around the little local supermarket trying to think of my super-exciting flavour, I came upon the chocolate/sweets aisle. This seemed like a suitable hunting ground for Easter. Then I spotted my POP - popping candy! 

So these macs are egg shaped chocolate Italian macarons filled with a dark chocolate ganache and strawberry popping candy and finally piped dark chocolate on top. 

Because I matured them most of the pop was unfortunately gone. You had to stop chewing and concentrate to detect the sensation. Still, they tasted lovely. 

I tried a few other ways of using the candy too: I sprinkled some popping candy on the shells before baking but it melted and lost its fizzle. I also tried sticking some to the dark chocolate on top which worked fizzle-wise but looked a bit weird. I wondered about trying to somehow insert some into the shell after baking - or perhaps just pipe a circle of ganache and sit the candy in the middle.  Another time. 

Happy Easter! Hope you all have a lovely weekend. 

Once again I adapted this Italian method recipe, scaled to 80g egg whites. I subbed 1 tbsp cocoa powder for 1 tbsp icing sugar. I then filled them with a simple 100ml/100g dark chocolate ganache and some of the popping candy. The feet are a bit small and I had a few problems with overcooking on one side of a sheet but otherwise pretty good. 

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Hot Cross Buns v.2

I am a girl on a mission: I really, really want to create the perfect hot cross bun recipe.

A year ago I tried my first ever hot cross bun recipe. I was so keen I made them on the 3rd of March. It was pretty exciting as a novice yeast baker, though I have to admit that next to the fluffy supermarket buns, mine were like rocks. Then later in the year I was challenged by the Daring Bakers to make Stollen. It was a revelation - I could make light fruited breads at home. And so I resolved to create fantastic hot cross buns when the time rolled around.

I want to create a great hot cross bun because I love them. Partly because they are the perfect excuse to get really crazy with the salted butter. My mum and I really love butter (could you possibly have already guessed this by my blog/career choice...?). I found a lovely motto on The Transplanted Baker the other day - "Good food should be made with butter and love". 

(Disclaimer: I do not eat butter in every meal I eat. I promise. That would be unhealthy. I generally eat really quite healthily at breakfast, lunch and dinner. It's just elevensies, afternoon tea and pudding that usually involve butter... but I'm generally v good at portion control)

So anyway, I really must insist that you try lots of salted butter on your next hot cross bun. It's so much better than unsalted for this and butter is almost as necessary here as it is on a crumpet. 

I've made this recipe lots of times recently, trying to get it just right. It's still not there but I'm on my way. 

The best idea I've had so far is to candy your own orange peel to include in the dough and then use the delicious syrup to brush over the buns instead of golden syrup. When you toast them it bubbles up and gets all sticky and brilliant and the taste adds so much to the overall finish. The buns you see above are the first batch I tried this with and are an example of a 12 bun batch (the others are a 16 bun in a smaller tin). I couldn't resist. 

Because of the inconvenience that is revising for finals, I decided to bring back some of my last batch of candied peel and the syrup from Switzerland in some ziplock plastic bags. They survived the journey but my syrup had crystallized a bit. In trying to liquify it I half caramelised it so the main batch you see have a slightly funny topping. The caramel is pretty great though. Snappy on top. Might have to try it again if I don't have the syrup. 

Also, these freeze really well. Just pop any you don't eat the first day or two in a plastic bag in the freezer. Defrost for an hour or two then toast and butter. Hot cross buns on demand. Perfect for revision. 

I should imagine I'll be back next year with volume three. How exciting. 

** If you want to try my hot cross buns, please make version 4 - thank you! **

Hot Cross Buns v.2
(adapted from Delia Smith's Complete Cookery Course)

150ml lukewarm water
1 tsp golden caster sugar
10g fresh yeast
450g strong white bread flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
4 whole cloves, ground
50g golden caster sugar
75g currants
20g sultanas
40ml warm milk
1 egg, beaten
50g butter, melted
1 tbsp plain flour (not strong)
1 tbsp water 
4-5 tbsp reserved candied peel syrup (or golden syrup)
Lots of salted butter to eat them with

Pour the water into a small bowl, stir in the tsp sugar and then crumble the yeast in. Cover with cling film and leave in a warm place for 10 minutes until frothy.  Meanwhile sift the flour, salt and spices into the bowl of your stand mixer (or a mixing bowl if making by hand). Stir in the sugar, currants, sultanas and orange peel. Pour in the frothy yeast mix, warm milk, melted butter and beaten egg. Attach the paddle attachment and mix until you have a combined dough. Swap the paddle for the dough hook and knead for 6 minutes.  (If making by hand make a well in dry to pour the wet into, then slowly pull in to create dough then turn out onto floured surface and hand knead). Place the dough into a lightly oiled big bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for about 1hr 15 mins or until doubled. 

Turn the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Punch down. Cut the dough into 12 pieces for big buns or 16 for small with a sharp knife. Line a tin with baking parchment and then arrange the buns on the sheet. Cover again with cling film and leave to rise for 45 minutes until puffy. Preheat the oven to 220C (425F). Combine the flour with the water to create a thick paste (adding a little more water if needed) then scoop it into a piping bag or a plastic bag with the corner cut off. Unwrap the buns and pipe the paste over each bun in the cross pattern. Bake for 15 minutes until golden brown and hollow when tapped. Brush the syrup over the buns then remove to a cooling rack. 

Serve either hot from the oven with plenty of salted butter or split, toasted and topped with lots more salted butter. 

(Makes 12-16)

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Mint Chocolate Ruffle Cake

Readers who have been around for a while may remember that last summer I posted about cooking with my little friend Isabella. She's a big fan of this blog - you'll find lots of her sweet comments around, especially on older posts.  Over Christmas Isabella's mum asked me if I would be able to make her 10th birthday cake.

At first I thought I might have to make an ice cream cake that could be kept in the freezer as I wasn't sure I'd still be in Verbier. Thankfully things rearranged and I could make her a fresh cake. 

When I was thinking about a design for the cake the first thing that came to my mind was a ruffle cake. I previously made one for a launch party in Oxford (unfortunately I didn't get good photos, so there's no post) but piped much thinner ruffles than normal. I sent Isabella and her parents a photo of one of Melody's ruffle cakes and asked if she liked the idea and for any flavour preferences. 

Isabella came back with a vote for ruffles and a very clear idea of flavours: light green, mint flavoured icing and a dark chocolate cake. 

To create this I decided to use the light and easy chocolate cake I used for my Chocolate Simnel Cake combined with a lightly sweetened gooey ganache. I chose a swiss meringue buttercream for the icing because it's delicious and light and works well piped like this. Finally, I added a surprise between each layer of After Eight mints to add texture and a stronger mint flavour. 

I had a nightmare trying to source mint flavouring of any type in Verbier - none of the supermarkets sell it. I then thought of creme de menthe but couldn't buy that either. In the end I asked in one of the bars and got two shots worth in a takeaway coffee cup. I quickly boiled it to evaporate some of the alcohol. 

To decorate the cake I made some cake bunting out of two wooden skewers, some plain white paper, pale green thread, glue, scissors and a pen. So much fun. 

I had two small crises. First the cake appeared to be falling apart when I layered it up. A cling film corset and a stint in the freezer soon sorted it out (see below). Then I started re-whipping my icing, which had been in the fridge overnight and then warmed up to room temp. It curdled and looked disgusting. I knew it did this during the making process but hadn't thought it would at this point. Thankfully the swiss meringue buttercream mantra of Just Keep Whipping worked as always. 

My ruffles were a bit wobbly - next time I might lightly mark straight lines into the crumb coat. I also didn't have long to take photos and didn't realise until after that the bottom background sort of clashes with the green (hence black and white at the top - colour below).  

Though things ended up a little rushed at the end (I had to leave to catch my flight back to the UK just a few hours afterwards) I was pleased with the result. Isabella seemed pleased when she saw it and they reported that it was delicious and very rich. 


On another note, photobucket had a long downtime in the past two days - apologies for the state of chaos this site was in. Thankfully everything seems to be back to normal now. 

Mint Chocolate Ruffle Cake
(buttercream adapted from Whisk Kid's tutorial, cake adapted from Nigella Lawson's Feast, icing technique from My Sweet & Saucy's video)

For the cake:
200g plain flour
200g caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp instant espresso powder
40g good quality cocoa powder
180g butter (at room temp)
2 large egg
2 tsp hot water
150ml sour cream

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Grease and line two tins - I used 6" but Nigella uses 8" - either is fine. Place all the ingredients into a food processor and run until combined. Scrape down the sides and pulse again. Divide the mixture between the two tins and spread evenly.  Bake for 25-35 minutes - a skewer should come out of the middle cleanly. Leave to cool for a few minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool. 

For the ganache:
100g 70% dark chocolate
100ml double cream
2 tsp brown sugar

Chop the chocolate and place in a medium bowl. Mix the sugar and cream in a small saucepan and heat until it reaches a strong simmer. Pour the cream over the chocolate. Leave for 2 minutes then start to stir until glossy and smooth. Put aside to cool. 

For the mint swiss meringue buttercream:
150g egg whites (about 5)
225 granulated sugar
250g butter (must be at room temperature)
4 tsp creme de menthe (or to taste)
2 drops liquid green food colouring

If you're nervous about making this, look at Whisk Kid's tutorial first. When you're ready and have all your ingredients set out, combine the whites and sugar in a medium heatproof bowl and place it over a pan of simmering water. Whisk until the temperature hits 160F and the mixture is smooth (check by rubbing a little between your fingers). Transfer to a stand mixer (or just use a hand whisk with the same bowl) and start whipping on medium-high. Whip for about 8 minutes - it should be really thick and glossy and gorgeous. Check that it is room temperature - if not leave it for another minute or two slowly whisking. Turn the speed back up to medium/high and add a piece of butter (should be about tbsp sized pieces). Whisk until totally incorporated, then add another. Repeat until all the butter is used. At this point if it looks soupy and thin, pop it in the fridge. If not, keep whipping until it is thick and luxurious again - this can take quite a while. When ready, whip in the creme de menthe teaspoon by teaspoon, checking after each addition for taste. Finally add the food colouring (if desired). 

For the simple syrup:
50ml water
45g caster sugar

Combine in a small saucepan and heat until the sugar is dissolved. Leave to cool. 

To assemble:
1 box After Eight mints (optional)
1 piping bag fitted with a Wilton 104 tip (or similar)

Slice each of the cakes into two, creating the four layers. Line your serving plate with strips of parchment then place one of the cakes in the centre. Brush with some of the syrup. Spoon over 1/3 of the ganache. Top with the mints if desired. Add the next cake layer and repeat. Wrap with cling film and place in the freezer while you make the buttercream. 

Use the buttercream to cover the cake with a slightly thicker than usual crumb coat. I also thickly covered the top as I wasn't ruffling the top. Fill the piping bag with the buttercream and secure it with an elastic. With the piping bag upright next to the cake with the thin side of the tip pointing out, start piping the ruffles up towards the top (see Melody's video if confused). When finished, pipe a final set of ruffles around the top. Finally, add any candles etc. 

(Serves 10-12)

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Raymond Blanc's Lemon Cake

A few weeks before I came back to Switzerland, I watched the Cakes and Pastries episode of Raymond Blanc's Kitchen Secrets BBC series. I adore his programmes - his sheer enthusiasm and love for food is wonderful to watch. Though many of the recipes from the show called to me (I used his chocolate crème pâtisserie recipe to fill my last croquembouche), I really wanted to make this lemon cake. I bookmarked the recipe and waited till I got back here.

The day I decided to make the cake I sat down and properly looked at the recipe for the first time. Something seemed wrong - I thought that the method had been more complicated on TV, that perhaps some of the ingredients were whipped to give volume. The recipe didn't state this and I couldn't re-watch it as iPlayer only works in the UK.

So I asked one of my mum's lovely friends to watch the section on the cake and report back (payment in cake to follow). He confirmed that the method was indeed that simple but in doing so, mentioned that on TV Raymond added lemon juice to the mixture. That wasn't in the recipe and the juice of 3 lemons is a lot of extra liquid. I googled the recipe and found a few other blogs that mentioned the discrepancy but nobody had an answer.

And so - in true 2011 style - I tweeted Raymond himself, asking if juice should be added or not. To my utter surprise, he replied:

@ You can choose: adding lemon juice makes it more lemony but perhaps a little more dense. It's delicious either way! Best RB

At this point I got pretty excited that RAYMOND BLANC had sent ME a message. I turned hyper and babbled about nothing else for several hours. Twitter has proved itself to me. The next day I went about making the cake, using the juice of one lemon. It was delicious. Even though my glaze doesn't look as perfect as Raymond's.


Also, I was recently honoured to be included in the pastry section of the Culinary Arts College roundup of Voilà! The Top 40 French Cooking Blogs. Have a look - some wonderful blogs are included.

Lemon Cake
(adapted from Raymond Blanc's Kitchen Secrets, see here)

For the cake:
240g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
5 eggs
300g caster sugar
140ml double cream
zest of 3 lemons
juice of 1 lemon (optional)
1 1/2 tbsp dark rum
pinch salt
80g butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 180C.  Grease and line a 26x9x8cm loaf tin. Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl. In another bowl whisk the eggs, sugar, cream, zest, juice, rum, salt and melted butter together. Whisk the sifted flour into the wet mixture. Pour into the prepared tin. Bake for 50-60 minutes until golden brown, cracked and a toothpick comes out cleanly. Take out of the tin and leave to cool for 10 minutes. Don't turn the oven off yet. 

To glaze:
3 tbsp apricot jam
juice of 1 lemon
150g icing sugar

While the cake is cooling for 10 minutes, warm the jam and then sieve it. Brush the entire cake with the jam and then leave to set for 5 minutes. Heat the juice and icing sugar until they become a clear syrup. Brush the cake with the syrup and leave to set for 2 minutes. Place onto a baking tray and put back into the oven. Turn the heat off and leave to dry for 5 minutes. Take out and leave to cool before eating. 

(Makes about 12-14 slices)

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Coconut Cream Cake

Yesterday was my mum's birthday. For the past three years she's had a massive party. The massive parties meant that I made massive cakes (see number one - a giant chocolate raspberry job, number two - four tiers of double chocolate, number three - ginger and blueberry). It's fun looking over them and seeing how much my baking has changed and grown.

This year mum had decided to just have a few people over for tea and have a quiet day (including both of our first-ever facials and manicures - hilarious). I'd been meaning to make this recipe for ages. I've got a bit of a thing for coconut at the moment. The cake recipe is the one I adapted for my Chocolate Swiss Roll with Peanut Butter Mousse - it's unusual but produces incredibly light and delicious results.

About a week ago we went on a lovely little walk in this bit of woodland in the valley. Mum found these beautiful twigs with little cones on them. I thought that they would round out my 'snowy scene' coconut cake perfectly so I carefully transported them home (Arthur wanted to eat them). To keep things hygienic I cleaned the twigs and then tightly wrapped the ends that would come in contact with the cake in clingfilm.  Mum also had two candles placed slightly to the side to blow out. 

I decided to make the cake in a 6" tin to get some height. It shrank a bit when it came out of the oven but still tasted great and the whipped cream filled in the gaps anyway. It's not a particularly neat cake but that's part of the snow-drift charm. I wanted to toast the coconut for flavour but didn't want to ruin the pure white look. Another time I might try and source some coconut shavings - the grated stuff here is pretty fine and so a bit gritty. 

Overall this is a great recipe - it's very light but still packs in flavour. I'll definitely make it again. 

Coconut Cream Cake
(Adapted from David Lebovitz's Ready for Dessert)

For the coconut filling:
155ml +30ml whole milk
50g sugar
1/4 vanilla bean, split
1 tbsp cornflour
3 medium egg yolks
35g shredded coconut

Combine the 155ml milk with the sugar and vanilla bean in a medium saucepan. Warm over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved and the milk is hot. Meanwhile whisk the cornflour into the 30ml milk in a small bowl. When the milk is ready, scrape the cornflour mix into the pan and whisk together. Heat until the mixture thickens, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom. When thick, start whisking the egg yolks together in a medium bowl and pour the thickened mixture in, keeping whisking. Transfer back to the pan and heat until the mixture starts to boil and is very thick. Pour into a medium bowl and stir in the shredded coconut. Leave to cool and then chill in the fridge for several hours (I did this overnight). 

For the rum syrup:
80ml water
50g caster sugar
1 1/2 tbsp dark rum

Place the water and sigar in a small saucepan and heat gently until the sugar is dissolved. Stir in the rum and leave to cool. I boiled the rum first for a moment to remove most of the alcohol for mum. 

For the sponge:
80g plain flour
30g cornflour
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
3 eggs, separated
35ml cold water
120g caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Grease and line a 6" tin, making sure the parchment reaches up to about 6". Sift the flour, cornflour, baking powder and salt together three times. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whip attached, whisk the egg yolks and water together on high speed for 1 minute. Turn down and add the caster sugar, then whip on high until the mixture is pale and thick and leaves a trail when the whisk is lifted - about 5 mins. Put to one side. In another clean, dry bowl (I transferred the first mix to another bowl then washed my mixer bowl as I only have one) whisk the eggs whites until stiff peaks.

Place the yolk mix bowl on a damp cloth to stop it moving. With your non-dominant hand, slowly start sifting the flour mixture into the bowl while your dominant hand folds in with a whisk. When the flour is totally incorporated, add 1/3 of the whites and fold in with a rubber spatula to lighten the mix. Finally add the rest of the whites and fold in until uniform. Pour into the lined tin and smooth the top gently. Place into the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes until the middle springs back when touched. Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes then remove to a wire rack.

For the whipped cream:
155ml double cream
1 tsp sugar

Whip the cream until soft peaks then sprinkle in the sugar. Whisk in the sugar but be careful to not overwhisk - it should be soft and pillowy. 

To assemble:
handful grated or shaved coconut

Slice the sponge into three layers and place one piece on the serving plate. Sprinke 1/3 of the rum syrup over the sponge.  Spread half of the filling over the sponge. Repeat with the next layer. Add the final sponge and sprinkle the remaining 1/3 syrup over the top. Leave to chill in the fridge for 4 hours. When ready to serve, whip the cream and spread it over the cake. Sprinkle the coconut over the top. I then had to sort of throw coconut at the sides - if I'd tried to press it I would have had a handful of cream. When covered add any candles/decorations and serve. Best eaten on the day. 

(Serves 8-10)