Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Necessary Reading - Tea with Bea

I was lucky enough this weekend to receive a few more cookbooks, one of which was Tea with Bea from Bea's of Bloomsbury. Had a read through and tried a few recipes out, so thought I'd give it a quick review.

Well to cut a long story short, I loved it. The recipes are wonderful, a really great balance of afternoon tea staples, interesting spins on the classics as well as indulgent treats for something special. All of the recipes are clearly described and full of helpful tips, techniques and variations. The illustrations are beautiful, some I've the best I've come across and really do the indulgent and stylish nature of the book justice.

For me though the best thing about the book is that you can really sense the passion the writer has for baking and pastry. They are obviously a highly skilled and experienced pastry chef, but it's their love and enthusiasm that leaves the biggest impression. I can already see my copy is going to be heavily used and I can't recommend it highly enough.

(P.S. Extra props required for mentioning King Arthur Flour!)

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Things I want...

Off to Winchester Antiques Fair on Monday. Will be dead chuffed if I find anything remotely as cool as these...

Thursday, 25 August 2011

C is for...

WARNING: This American cookie recipe is hardcore. If you make them, expect within seconds to be left with just a spinning plate and a few crumbs. I found the recipe in the brilliant book Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller. I've anglicised it somewhat, but still think the end result is very, very delicious.

Prep time: 10 Mins (Not including chilling time)
Baking time: 15-20 Mins
300g Plain Flour
3/4tsp Baking Powder
225g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
220g Light Muscovado Sugar
150g Caster Sugar
2 Large Eggs (Beaten)
2tsp Vanilla Extract
150g White Chocolate Chips
150g Dark Chocolate Chips

Now, I've used chocolate chips and vanilla for flavour but you can substitute in whatever you like. Cinnamon and raisin are also really nice!
In a large mixing bowl add both the sugars to the butter and cream together. Then mix in both the eggs, followed by the vanilla and chocolate chips. It may seem strange to add them at this stage but it's easier to fold them in now than after the flour. Sift in the flour and baking powder and mix until a loose dough forms. This is a good arm workout by the way! Lay out a long sheet of cling film, blob the dough into the middle, then wrap it up and stick it in the fridge for at least a couple of hours.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a tray with baking paper (You shouldn't need to grease it). Remove the cookie dough from the fridge, then roll into balls and place on the paper. I would usually go for golf ball sized with a gap of about 5cm around each ball. However, you can change the size if you want bigger or smaller, it's up to you. Just don't forget to amend the gap you leave between them! You should be able to get a fair amount of cookies out of the dough, so you may need to bake them in batches. 
Place into the centre oven for about 12 - 15 minutes, or until the cookies just start to turn golden. That way you'll be left with a nice soft chewy cookie. Obviously if you want them more biscuity then leave them in a bit longer! When happy with them remove them from the oven and leave them on the tray for at least half an hour. You should then be able to lift them easily off of the paper and let them finish cooling on a wire rack (Or just wolf them down warm!).

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Monday, 22 August 2011

Summery Ricciarelli

Inspired by the beautiful morning I thought I'd have a go at some biscuits I read about in the Observer this weekend. Ricciarelli are traditional Tuscan biscuits, soft, chewy and great with a cup of coffee! The Observer recipe called for bitter almonds which I couldn't find so instead I used a Mark Hix recipe pinched from The Independent.

Prep Time: 15 Mins
Baking Time: 20-30 Mins
300g whole almonds
225g caster sugar
The zest of half a lemon
2 large egg whites
A few drops of vanilla extract
A few drops of almond extract
Icing sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3. Spread the almonds out on a tray and roast them for about 15 minutes or so, turning them every so often, until they are golden but not too brown (Keep checking so they don't burn!). Leave to cool, then put them in a small food processor with half of the caster sugar and the lemon zest and blend as finely as you can get them.

In a clean bowl whisk the egg whites until they are stiff, then add the remaining sugar and continue beating until stiff again. Fold in the ground almond mixture with the vanilla extract and almond extract. Dampen your hands with a little water then take about half a dessertspoon of the mixture and roll into balls. Flatten them out lightly until they are about 1-1cm thick. Place the biscuits on the baking tray lined with baking parchment about 3cm apart and bake for about 20-30 minutes, or until lightly golden. Allow to cool on the tray, then remove and dust with icing sugar. Yum.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Brown Derby Flourless Chocolate Cakes

Feeling pretty jovial today after my football team won 6-2 yesterday, so thought I'd share a recipe I recently tried out.

I was given a Disney cookbook as a gift and despite my reservations was pretty impressed with some of the recipes, such as Bourbon Pecan Pie, Chocolate Gingerbread Souffle and in particular the "Brown Derby" flourless chocolate cakes. The recipe states these would fill a 12 hole muffin tin but I'd say after trying it out 18 was more realistic, as they expand pretty dramatically in the oven!

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 25 Mins
225g Butter (Cut into small pieces), plus a little extra for greasing
175g Dark Chocolate (Broken into small pieces)
35g Cocoa Powder
2tbsp Freshly Brewed Espresso (Or strong coffee)
2tbsp Hot Water
2tbsp Dark Rum
6 Large Eggs
225g Caster Sugar

For Ganache
175g Dark Chocolate (Broken into small pieces)
240ml Double Cream

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3 and grease your muffin tins. You first need to melt the chocolate and butter together in a bowl. Now you can do this over a bain-marie, but I have no problem doing it in the microwave. It usually takes me about two and a half minutes on medium, but I would definitely recommend erring on the side of caution, maybe starting with a minute and putting it back in for another 20 seconds until you are happy. Once the butter is melted it will melt the chocolate, so when it's like that you can just leave it to do its thing. Combine the cocoa powder, espresso, water and rum in a separate bowl. Stir until smooth then set aside to cool slightly. 

Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a large mixing bowl. Add the cocoa/espresso mixture, followed by the melted chocolate mixture. Continue whisking until smooth and creamy. Pour the batter into the muffin tins then bake for about 22-25 mins, until the cakes have puffed up and the surfaces have set. When you think they are done, remove from the oven and let cool in the tins. Once they are cool enough transfer them to the fridge for at least 2 hours, which will make them easier to remove.

To prepare the ganache put the double cream into a saucepan and on a medium heat bring up until it is nearly boiling. Remove from the heart and pour onto the broken chocolate, then whisk until smooth. Set aside to cool and thicken enough so you can coat the cakes. Remove the cakes from the tins and cover with the rich ganache, then they can go back into the fridge until you are ready to serve. Job done.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Chai Tea Loaf

OK, I've been experimenting a fair amount with sugar alternatives and have become quite a fan of Sweet Freedom natural sweetener (http://www.sweetfreedom.co.uk/). It is a syrup, sweeter than sugar and I have found it has a lower burning temperature, so you can't just replace like for like with 'regular' sugar. However, it is a good alternative if you want to be a bit healthier.

Using a recipe I've found online I've come up with my spin on the traditional tea loaf. I find using dates not only help with the natural sweetness, but also add a toffee like flavour as well as rich textured element. Anyway, hope you enjoy

Prep time: 10 Mins (Not including soaking time)
Baking time: 75 Mins
300ml Strong Chai Tea
18 Medjool Dates (Or two of the packs you get in the supermarket)
100ml Sweet Freedom Natural Sweetener (Or 200G Brown Sugar)
250g Self Raising Flour
1 Large Egg (Beaten)
1 Tsp Mixed Spice (Although you can add more if you want it proper spicy!)
A little butter (For greasing)

Right, I use 2 Chai Tea bags for this. Put the two tea bags in a large jug and cover with 300ml of boiling water. Whilst they are infusing take the stones out of the dates and roughly chop. After the tea has infused for 5 mins add the dates, mixed spice and sweetener/sugar, then let the whole lot cool until tepid. You'll be left with a wonderful gooey sticky mixture that smells amazing.

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3 and grease a 22cm loaf tin (I also line the base with baking paper, but it's up to you). Pour the chai tea mix into a large bowl. Don't forget to remove the tea bags, giving them a gentle squeeze to ensure all the heady liquid is extracted and discard them. Add the beaten egg, then the flour and mix it all together until combined. Pour the mix into tin and bake in the centre of the oven for about 75 Mins, or until a metal skewer comes out clean.
When you're happy with it, take it out the oven and leave in the tin for about 15 minutes. It should come out of the tin relatively easily, but if worried you can run a palette knife down the sides before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

You can enjoy this sliced as it is or toasted, with jam, butter, lemon curd, peanut butter, whatever you like!

Things I want...

Roll on September!

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Apples Apples Apples

Although I am a fan of apple cake I do have an issue. Often, I find the apple flavour gets lost amongst the (Admittedly delicious) mix of spices, brown sugar, maybe vanilla. So recently I've been trying out different recipes where the apple really is the star of the show. I've adapted this from a recipe I was kindly sent by Alain Roux and after a bit of tinkering think it could be a winner. You end up with an appletacular moist caramel soaked sponge.

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 60 Mins
6 Eating Apples (I used braeburn, but use whatever you like)
100g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
100g Light Muscovado Sugar
100 Self Raising Flour
2 Large Eggs (Beaten)
1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
1 Tsp Ground Cinnamon

For the caramel glaze
50g Unsalted Butter (Melted)
70g Light Muscovado Sugar
1 Large Egg

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and grease/line base of a 23cm springform tin.
In a large bowl mix the butter with the sugar, then add the eggs and beat until smooth. Add the vanilla and cinammon followed by the flour and mix until the ingredients are combined and you're left with a smooth batter.
Peel and core all of the apples then thinly slice. They don't have to be any particular shape, but shouldn't be more than a couple of mm thick. Add all the sliced apples to the batter and mix until all the apples are coated. Spoon the lot into the tin and stick it in the centre of the oven.
Now, onto the caramel glaze. Add the sugar to the melted butter, then the beaten egg and mix with a fork until it resembles a smooth caramel (I used one of those mini whisk things, whose name escapes me, but a fork works just as well). After the cake has been in the oven for 30 minutes pour the glaze all over the top (Ensuring it covers it completely), then return to the oven for a further 30 minutes. 
Take it out the oven, let it cool for half an hour or so, then remove it from the tin and let it cool completely on a wire rack. Alternatively you could serve it straight away as it is great served warm with some cream.

UPDATE: Cake apparently delicious, like a cross between an apply apple cake and a bread pudding (Review courtesy of my Mother).