Wednesday 30 June 2010

Pink Peppercorn Strawberry Ice Cream

You're going to have to wait for the elderflower recipes, however yummy they are. This ice cream is very, very good.  I had to share. 

Before making this recipe, I had never appreciated pepper. It's just something you grind on top, just 'seasoning'.  This made me think again about pepper as a flavour in itself, not just as a flavour enhancer. 

I couldn't find pink peppercorns on their own here, so I had to buy a mixture of black, white, green and pink and then pick them out. I don't think they were the best quality but they still made magic. 

I had heard of strawberry and pepper combinations before, but not really taken any notice. Then I saw this recipe and thought I would give it a go. I'm so glad I did.  It's very difficult to describe. There's a big hit of intense strawberry at first taste, then the creaminess takes over, all with something unusual you can't put your finger on, then suddenly in the last phase as it melts off your tongue, you get the pepper. 

The original recipe was for no-churn and involved whipped egg whites. I decided to take out the egg whites and add more cream. I left it overnight in the fridge to develop the flavours and really chill it, then sieved the bigger bits of strawberry out before churning it. I then folded them back in, after slightly squishing them.  I also swapped stem ginger syrup for fresh ginger - if you would rather use that, it's about 1.5 tbsp you need to add. 

We got a little too overexcited and so ate our scoops before it had truly hardened up in the freezer, hence the slightly melty photos (I apologise in general for the photos too, they're not quite right today). On mine I crushed a few more peppercorns over the top. Divine. 

Update: I'm currently updating this recipe - it'll be back soon.

Monday 28 June 2010

An explanation and a little preview...

I didn't think it would take this long for me to post again - I kept on planning to make something, but couldn't leave work. I've been feeling guilty about it, but it's been fairly impossible. First I was doing my exam and then we had to pack up the kitchen and all our rooms and clean them before we left. I got home late on Saturday night and I've been exhausted ever since. There was an attempt at a recipe I've been making since I was about seven yesterday, but the combination of my exhaustion and my mum's new kitchen (I've never cooked on induction hobs before) made for a fairly awful result.

It's also so nice to be at home and be cooked for by my mum. She's been serving up amazing egg and swiss bacon salads, steak with peppercorn sauce, gorgeous fresh fruit.

I have also been sort of distracted. By the puppy you can see at the top. We have a new addition to our family - his name is Arthur (after my great-grandfather and King Arthur of medieval legend) and he's a thirteen week old golden retriever. He's got this beautiful dark coat and is quite possibly the most adorable animal ever. Our two older dogs are slowly coming around to the newcomer. I reckon that secretly they love him, but are keeping up their gruff, elderly exterior.

I'll blame my lack of baking on him. Nobody can be annoyed at Arthur. He's just too cute.

As far as food goes, I've got lots of things I can't wait to make and post about in the next few weeks. For instance, there's the piles and piles of gorgeous fruit just waiting to be made into something. If we don't eat it all first, that is. Then there's the elderflowers we picked this afternoon to make into cordial...

Thursday 17 June 2010

Cheesecake Swirl Brownies

On sunny days, I am very easily distracted from my work. At the moment with my important essays going on, I have to keep going despite the sunshine. 

To console myself, I made brownies. Not just normal brownies - but cheesecake brownies. 

Today, when I found my mind wandering to the long rectangles of sunlight warming the carpet in front of me, I decided to put the sunshine to good use. So I warmed my brownie on the sun-soaked windowsill, then curled up on the sofa again with my book. 

This is not baking for the fainthearted. There's lots of chocolate and butter, then plenty of sugar and eggs, then more chocolate in the form of cocoa powder with flour, then chunks of chocolate, then lots of cream cheese mixed with more sugar and eggs and... it's quite a marathon. 

 I think it's important to use dark chocolate for these, at least 70%, otherwise they would be too sweet. 

Cheesecake Swirl Brownies
(Very lightly adapted from David Lebovitz, here)

For the brownie batter:
85g butter
115g dark chocolate
130g caster sugar
2 large eggs
70g plain flour
1 tbsp cocoa powder
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla essence
85g dark chocolate, chopped

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Line a tin (I used 11" x 7", you could also use a 9" square pan) with foil, creating a lip over the sides. Grease lightly. Melt the butter and chocolate over a low heat in a saucepan. Stir until smooth, then take off the heat and beat in the sugar and then the eggs. Beat in the flour, cocoa and salt, followed by the vanilla and chopped chocolate. Spoon into the tin and spread out evenly. 

For the cheesecake swirl:
200g cream cheese, at r.t.
1 large egg yolk
50g caster sugar
few drops vanilla essence

Beat together all the ingredients until smooth. Divide loosely into eight and spoon these on top of the brownie batter in the pan. Use a blunt knife to swirl in. Put into the oven for about 30-5 minutes, until just set in the middle of the pan. Leave to cool, then cut into small squares and enjoy. 

Monday 14 June 2010

Peach and Almond Tart with Crème Fraiche Ice Cream

Last night I went to dinner where we all brought different courses and enjoyed them together.  I was in charge of dessert (what a surprise). 

The July issue of Good Food has this tart on the cover at the bottom - the recipe looked too good to miss so it had to be the one I made for the dinner.

A few days ago I saw these gorgeous peaches at the local store when I was popping in for some milk and couldn't resist buying a few. They were still a bit unripe but by the time it came to making this tart yesterday, they were perfect.

I adore stone fruit, especially peaches, nectarines and apricots. I think one of the most perfectly, heavenly foods upon this planet is a perfectly ripe white nectarine. 

Peaches have never survived long enough in my house to be baked with, even when we used to buy them by the tray. I'm glad I tried this though - I'll definitely bake with them again. 

I didn't really like the pastry when I was making it - it seemed so crumbly and odd and then cracked and looked unattractive when baked. Yet when it was filled with the almond filling and the peaches, the crumbly biscuity pastry worked well. 

The almond filling is intriguing - it seems a lot like a cake batter without any raising agent. I bought flaked almonds and ground them myself as I think they have more flavour and scent if freshly ground, and I wanted to be able to give a variety with slightly bigger bits of almond as well as finely milled.

The recipe suggests that you serve the tart with creme fraiche. I couldn't resist making my creme fraiche side into an ice cream (see my Birthday post about my new ice cream maker...). I had a quick look for recipes but couldn't find anything that suited me, so I adapted the basic custard recipe. I made half the  milk based custard and then whisked in the creme fraiche when it was cool. 

The tart is as good as it looks in the magazine - the peaches are incredible and the almond filling and pastry complement them beautifully. The almost grainy texture of the filling contrasts with the soft sweet peach.  The ice cream fills the picture out. It needs to be served very soft - almost melting or like a solid milkshake. It's subtle and very lovely as an accompaniment - it doesn't interfere, just enhances. 

Peach and Almond Tart
(From Good Food Magazine - July)

For the pastry:
175g plain flour
85g unsalted butter
1 tbsp caster sugar
2 egg yolks

Rub the flour and cold butter together, then stir in the sugar. Stir the two egg yolks together with 2 teaspoons of cold water, then add half of it to the bowl and use a knife to mix it in, followed by the other half.  Try to bring together and add an extra tsp or two of cold water if needed.  It's pretty crumbly. Put in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 180C for fan/200C normal. Roll out on a lightly floured surface and fit into a 23 cm tart case - you can patch it up if needed.  Line with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans and bake blind for 10 minutes. Remove the paper and beans and prick with a fork. Return to the oven for about 10-15 minutes until golden and biscuity. 

For the filling:
100g caster sugar
140g butter
2 eggs
140g ground almonds
50g plain flour
3 peaches
2 tbsp apricot/peach jam

While the pastry bakes, you can make the filling and slice the peaches. To make the filling, cream the butter and sugar together, then add the eggs one by one. Fold in the flour and ground almonds. Spoon into the warm pastry case and spread out. Arrange the peach slices on top. Put into the oven for 30-40 minutes until browned.  When slightly cooled, mix the jam with a tsp of boiling water. Sieve, then brush over the top of the tart. Serve either warm or at room temperature.

(Serves about 8-10).

Crème Fraiche Ice Cream

250 ml milk
40g sugar
2 egg yolks
200g creme fraiche
few drops of lime juice

Heat the milk till boiling. Beat the yolks and sugar together then add some of the milk, still beating. Return to the pan and stir until it coats the back of a spoon. Allow to cool, then beat in the creme fraiche and lime juice. Use according to the instructions with you ice cream maker. Serve very soft. Makes about a pint.

Saturday 12 June 2010

Chocolate Ice Cream and a very lovely 21st

On Thursday I turned 21.  It felt like a milestone - not a turning point, but something significant passed on the road. It made me realise how incredibly lucky I am. 

I know I will never forget this birthday: the smell of peonies and eucalyptus, the food I ate, the bunch of roses in an unexpected vessel that made my heart flutter, my mum's emotional face or the friends who made it incredibly special.

In the evening I had a party. Eleven of my closest friends came with me to my absolute favourite place to eat in Oxford, The Anchor, for a wonderful three course meal.  It's actually a pub, but better than most of the 'proper' restaurants about. They have a little conservatory off the side which you can rent out with wood-topped tables with cast iron swirly legs and wicker chairs. I got to decorate it with masses of peonies dotted with eucalyptus in glass jars and a golden syrup tin -  with  the candles and all the glasses and the silverware in old tankards the table looked gorgeous. I made a seating plan and name cards. We had two disposable cameras - one with colour film and one with black and white - now all filled with memories.

We had a wonderful menu, printed with 'Emma's 21st Birthday' at the top. We dined on mussels in white wine sauce, scallops with pancetta, pea and mint risotto, hand sliced smoked salmon, thick rump steaks with hand cut chips and peppercorn sauce, steak and kidney pudding, smoked haddock fishcakes and more. For pudding there was Eton Mess, Treacle Tart with their special ginger custard or Sticky Toffee Pudding (it's no surprise I've made all three). My treacle tart came with a candle, 'Happy Birthday' written in golden syrup around the rim and a champagne-fuelled sing-along. 

My wonderful friends know me well and presented me with a truly amazing set of gifts. Unsurprisingly there was a bit of a food theme going on, from jelly moulds to kangaroo steaks. There's one recipe book on chocolate that I'm in awe of - the photos and recipes look incredible. There was a theme behind a set of presents, which got more exciting as they increased in size, culminating in an ice cream maker. I was so, so excited. 

I put the bowl of my new ice cream maker in the freezer that night, so that I could have a go the next day. I decided to stick with simple, crowd-pleasing chocolate. I'm very glad I did - it is so good. Creamy, smooth and tastes exactly like the whole bar of gorgeous 70% chocolate that went into it. 

I apologise in advance for the profusion of ice cream that will probably be appearing here in the near future.

Edit 23/07/13 - I've removed the recipe from this post as I've tried it again and wasn't happy with it. I now use David Lebovitz's chocolate ice cream recipe from The Perfect Scoop.

Tuesday 8 June 2010

Poppy Seed Butterfly Cakes

When I was little, one of my favourite things to bake and eat were orange and lemon butterfly cakes, with curd in the middle. Butterfly cakes are such a British thing - and definitely pre-date the cupcake craze. I particularly like them because they're very homemade and rustic. Also, you don't have to use mountains of frosting and can use curd or, as in this case, pastry cream instead. 

I thought it would be a nice idea to do a bit of an adult update on these. I still kept a citrus note in both the cake and pastry cream with a touch of lemon zest. I decided that poppy seeds would look quite visually striking when the cake is opened out for the butterfly.

I've never really worked with poppy seeds before but they're gorgeous and lend such a lovely subtle crunch to the cake. 

A lot of my inspiration for these comes from a wonderful post over at Cooking for Seven. It's a wonderful documentation in photos and words of a cooking lesson her Grandma gave her and her sisters on how to make Poppy Seed Torte.  The photos are incredibly touching and made me miss my late Grandma, who I used to cook with when I was little. 

Her Grandma didn't want to share her recipe (fair enough) but I really wanted to make something along those lines. The most striking element to me was the custard filling. I couldn't quite work out how to replicate it exactly, so I decided to make a simple pastry cream and see how that worked. Unfortunately I wasn't really concentrating and took it off the heat before it had totally cooled, so it was a bit drippy. 

Despite the drippiness, they tasted great. I've reduced the sugar in the pastry cream recipe below to even less than I used for mine, as it was still a bit too sweet. The pastry cream gave moisture to the cakes and played off the crunchiness perfectly. The lemon note didn't really come through, but I didn't want it to be too obvious anyway.  

Apologies for the lighting in these photos - it got a bit dark before I managed to take photos. 

Poppy Seed Butterfly Cakes

Edit: I've removed the recipe as I'm not happy with it and don't want you to try it and be disappointed.

Sunday 6 June 2010

Malteser Layer Cake

I've been wanting to make a Malteser cake for ages. I'm not entirely sure why it has been on my mind - but I'm glad it was as this cake is a little bit awesome.

Malt is one of those flavours I was never entirely sure I liked, but I've finally been convinced. The cake batter tasted fantastic, and I even had Horlicks in a cup of hot milk to help me sleep the other night.

While contemplating this cake, I thought about making Nigella's recipe for Chocolate Malteser Cake from her book 'Feast'. I decided against it because I wanted to have a pale cake to match the inside of the Maltesers and to showcase the malted flavour without the chocolate getting in the way. I didn't want the malted flavour to be very strong, but I wanted it to be just noticeable and not fade into just another chocolate cake.

I decided that the best recipe to adapt would be our family favourite Chocolate Birthday Cake, as it uses hot chocolate powder and I thought the Horlicks would work best in a similar recipe. The milk and boiling water added at the end seems to sort of activate the flavour in both of them.

Although Maltesers are really about milk chocolate, I decided to make a dark chocolate ganache to ice the cake as I didn't want it to be too sweet. I also made it in my lovely little 5" tin, so I could get height without making a massive cake. I found that the crispy centres of the Maltesers will go soft and sort of disappear overnight as the moisture gets to them, so try and eat it the day you make it if you want the texture contrast.

I was very pleased with this - the malted taste was subtle but there, the dark ganache complemented the sweet light cake and the crispy Maltesers. Each bite had a lovely balance to it.

NOTE: This cake recipe won the Maltesers Recipe Competition!

Malteser Layer Cake

For the cakes:
130g room temperature butter
130g golden caster sugar
2 eggs
130g self raising flour
70g Horlicks
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp milk
3 tbsp boiling water

Note: As I wanted a tall cake, I used a 5" tin. I only had one so I made a half batch of the above, baked it, and then repeated the process. If you want to use normal 7-8" sandwich tins, just make the above and split between the two tins as usual (it'll make a shorter cake than the one in the pictures but will taste the same).

Preheat the oven to 180C. Butter and line the bottom of the tin(s). Cream the softened butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add an egg, beat in, then add the other and beat again. Sieve the flour, Horlicks and baking powder into the bowl and then fold in until nearly combined. Add the milk and fold again, then finally add the boiling water. Quickly spoon into the tin(s) and put in the oven. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until deep gold and a skewer comes out clean.

For the ganache:
150g dark chocolate
150 ml double cream

Break the chocolate up into small pieces and put into a bowl. Heat the cream until it starts to steam then pour over the chocolate. Leave for a few minutes and then stir in until you have a smooth, glossy ganache.

To assemble:
2 packets of maltesers

Split the cakes carefully into two. Sandwich them with some of the ganache, then cover with a crumb coat (a thin layer of icing to trap the crumbs and make it easier to ice). Put it the fridge to set slightly. While it is cooling, chop the maltesers - I found using a sharp knife in a quick decisive motion worked best. Remove the cake from the fridge and use the remaining ganache to cover the cake. Starting from the top, arrange the maltesers in the desired pattern, then go down the sides, being careful when placing the pale-side-out halves. Put in the fridge for ten minutes or so, then serve. Best eaten on the day, due to the malteser insides getting damp and disintegrating!

Three more chocolate recipes:
Salted Caramel Brownies
Two Ingredient Chocolate Mousse
Super Chocolate Cinnamon Rolls

Friday 4 June 2010

Blueberry Loaf with Lemon and Mint Syrup

A few days ago, my mum's lovely friend M. invited me around for dinner. She cooked us a truly yummy meal and then offered to pick me a punch of herbs from her garden to take home. She came back with a gorgeous bouquet of mint, chives, parsley and coriander. They're such a beautiful deep green.

To thank her for her generosity both that night and in the past few years while I've been here, I decided to make her a cake. I had bought a box of fresh blueberries to use in my Swiss Roll, but hadn't used them, so they formed my key ingredient. I also had a lemon left over from the lemon curd, so I had a look at foodgawker and came up with this recipe. I decided a loaf would be easiest to wrap and transport.

To include some of her wonderful herbs I steeped mint in a simple lemon syrup. I'm so glad I tried this out on a whim - it tasted fantastic. I would have happily sat down and consumed the whole bowl.

As my loaf tin is slightly smaller than the recommended 9" by 5" and I wanted the top to look attractive and not spill everywhere, I made four extra small cakes out of the mixture. Turns out there would have been space, but this meant I got to try some...

I was really pleased with this loaf recipe - it's a beautifully light sponge and very moist and tender. I'll definitely be using it again. The syrup finished it off with a lovely and slightly unusual note - a simple lemon juice and sugar crust would also be yummy if you don't have the mint.

Blueberry Loaf with Lemon and Mint Syrup
(loaf recipe from Italian Dish, here)

For the loaf:
113g butter
225g caster sugar
250g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
2 eggs
120 ml milk
zest of a lemon
1 packet fresh blueberries (about 250g)

Preheat the oven to 175C/350F. Line a loaf tin with paper or grease well and flour. Cream the room temp butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy (five minutes or so). Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in another bowl. Add an egg and beat in on low, then add the other egg. You may need to add a tsp of the flour mixture in between. Alternately add a few tablespoons of flour and a splash of milk until fully combined. Stir in the blueberries and zest then spoon into the loaf tin.  Bake for about 1 hr, testing with a skewer or similar. Leave to cool for five minutes before applying syrup (see below).

For the syrup:
juice of 1 big lemon
50g caster sugar
3-4 fresh mint leaves

Mix all the ingredients together in a small pan or a microwaveable jug - I just blasted mine for a few minutes, stirring regularly till the sugar had dissolved. You could also do this in a small saucepan. Leave to cool and steep while the loaf cooks. When it has cooled for five minutes, start brushing the syrup over the top with a pastry brush. Use a small knife or a skewer to make some incisions on the top at regular intervals and fill with syrup. Keep brushing over and letting it sink in until it is all absorbed. Leave to cool fully then slice.