Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Fig, Walnut and Rye Pave

Corrrrr I love making bread so much! This time I've had a go at a fig and walnut pave made with rye flour and it is blooming delicious. The sweetness of the figs bounces beautifully off of the deep, almost malty flavour of the rye and the walnuts bring a welcome change of texture to the soft dough. As delicious as this loaf is I know that rye flour does not necessarily float everyone's boat, so if it's just not your thing you can go ahead and use white, wholemeal, or even spelt flour in its place. Just have a tinker and see what happens. That's what I do!

Prep tine: 25 Mins (Plus around 160 Mins proving time)
Baking time: 40-45 Mins
300ml Tepid Water
12g Fresh Yeast
150g Dark Rye Flour
300g Very Strong White Bread Flour
1.5tsp Salt
175g Soft Figs (Don't use fresh)
100g Walnuts

To the kitchen once more! Pour the tepid water into a large mixing bowl and add the fresh yeast. Mix with a flat bladed knife until the yeast has started to blend in, then add the rye and white flour, along with the salt. Roughly chop the figs and walnuts, throw into the dough mixture, then still using the flat bladed knife start to bring together to a very loose dough. Tip out onto a clean dry surface, bring together with your hands, then commence kneading. You can do this by pulling the dough apart, folding back on itself, turning by a quarter and repeating. Knead for around 10 minutes, avoiding using any more flour on the surface unless absolutely necessary, then when the dough is smooth and elastic dust lightly all over with flour and place in a clean, dry bowl. Cover with cling film and leave in a warm place for around 100 minutes, until doubled in sized.

When the dough has risen turn out onto a clean surface that has been lightly greased with a little oil. Gently shape the dough to a large oval shape, then transfer to a greased, flat baking tray. Cover and leave to rise again for around 40 minutes. I cover with a large upturned tupperware tub, but you can use a lightly greased sheet of clingfilm if you'd prefer. Just don't cover it too tightly!

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Uncover the dough and place straight into the oven for around 40-45 minutes, until deep brown on top and hollow sounding when tapped on the bottom. When you are happy the loaf is baked remove from the oven and transfer to a chopping board. This loaf is terrific served hot with salty butter or cold with cured meats and chutney. Whatever you fancy is ok with me!

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Peach Meringue Pie

This recipe provides a great opportunity to hone a variety of skills and techniques, including making both short pastry and soft meringues. I've decided to stray from the path well trodden and used softened peaches instead of the traditional lemon filling, not only to mix things up a bit, but to bring a touch of dynamism in terms of texture. Of course if you want to try out another fruity filling then you are more than welcome, for as I always say, it is your kitchen and you are in charge!

Prep time: Err there's quite a few processes going on here, so let's say around 45 Mins!
Baking time: All in, around 35-45 Mins
For the Pastry
150g Plain Flour
150g Cold Unsalted Butter (Cut into small cubes)
2tbsp Caster Sugar

For the Fruit
4 Ripe Peaches (Peeled and Stoned)
1tbsp Caster Sugar
The zest of 2 Unwaxed Lemons (Or 1 big one!)

For the Meringue
4 Large Egg Whites
200g Caster Sugar
2tsp Cornflour

Let's start with the pastry. Rub the flour into the butter and sugar until a loose dough begins to form, then tip out onto a clean, dry surface. If the mixture is dry you can add a few drips of water, but do so with great restraint and even greater care! On the surface bring the dough together with your hands until smooth, then wrap in clingfilm and leave in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line the base of a 20cm, deep pie tin with baking paper (this is optional, but I find it makes things a little easier when it's time to remove the pie from the tin). Take the dough from the fridge and roll out to a large flat disk. Carefully lay the disk into your tin, pressing it into the edges and leaving a short overhang of around 1cm. Trim off any excess pastry and use it to fill any cracks, then line with baking paper and fill with baking beans. Blind bake in the centre of the oven for around 20 minutes, then remove the beans and paper and return to the oven for 5-7 minutes, until the pastry is a light golden brown. You'll want the pastry base to be almost entirely baked before proceeding.

Whilst the pastry is cooking you can prepare the peaches. Cut each peach into 8 and place in a large, flat based saucepan. Add the caster sugar and zest, give it a gentle toss together, then arrange the fruit evenly over the base of the saucepan. You might find this easier to do in batches! Place on a low/medium heat, cover, then leave for around 6-7 minutes. Flip each slice over, then cover again for another 5-6 minutes until just yielding to the touch. If you want the fruit softer just leave them a little longer in the pan. When you're happy with the fruit remove from the heat and leave to one side until your pastry is done.

For the meringue add the egg whites to a bowl and whisk (You'll definitely want to use an electric whisker for this!) until peaks just start to hold their shape. Add the caster sugar, gradually and still whisking until stiff and glossy, then whisk in the cornflour to combine.

When your pastry base is cooked, remove from the oven, turning the heat up to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Trim the excess pastry to the edge of the pie tin, then arrange the cooked fruit over the base. Top generously with the meringue and return to the oven for 15-20 minutes, until starting to brown on top.

When you are happy the pie is done remove from the oven and leave to cool in the pie tin. Once cool carefully remove and serve. Booooooooooom all finished!

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Hazelnut Macaranguers

These macaranguers are so called as they sit somewhere between a toasty macaroon and a chewy meringue. Lovely and light, but with a touch more body than a macaron their super sweetness marries really, really, REALLY beautifully with a hot cup of leaf tea or coffee. They are also sooooooo easy to make, in fact they barely need a recipe. I will of course though provide just a small amount of guidance as always!

Ooh ooh before I start I've just had a rather cheeky thought. How about melting some dark chocolate and dunking half a macaranguer in before serving? He he he...

Prep time: 15 Mins
Baking time: 15-20 Mins
1 Large Egg White
100g Caster Sugar
100g Toasted and Ground Hazelnuts
1tsp Vanilla Extract

Are you ready? Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a large flat baking tray with baking paper. In a large clean bowl whisk the egg white until stiff. Add a third of the sugar and whisk until glossy, then repeat for the rest of the sugar. Gently fold through the hazelnuts along with the vanilla extract until evenly combined and that's the mixture all finished. So easy!

Take a little ball of the sticky mixture and place on the baking paper. Repeat for the rest of the mixture, evenly spaced apart as they will spread a little during baking. Bake in the centre of the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the macaranguers are a light golden and just starting to crack on top. When you are happy they are baked remove from the oven and carefully slide the paper from the tray onto a wire rack. Leave until cool then peel each macaranguer from the paper. You are finished.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015


I know I know, this is technically festive fare but I just fancied having a crack at this Italian treat over the weekend. Even in the summer months, it's a delicious little accompaniment to tea or coffee, all soft and chewy, with biscuity toasted nuts and the merest hint of spice. Don't be put off if you're not a fan of soft figs as they melt into the mixture during baking, but try and avoid using fresh ones if you can. So, now it's your turn!

Prep time: 25 Mins
Baking time: 30 Mins
300g Mixed Nuts (I used Hazelnuts, Macadamias and Pecans)
175g Mixed Peel
50g Glacé Cherries (Halved)
75g Plain Flour
200g Soft Figs
75g Runny Honey
165g Caster Sugar
1.5tsp Mixed Spice
A splash of Booze (Sherry, Manzanilla, Pedro Ximinez etc)
Icing Sugar (To dust)

Let us begin. In a dry saucepan lightly toast the nuts, before setting to one side for 10 minutes to cool slightly. Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas 2 and line a 21cm square tin with baking paper (you could use rice paper but it can be tricky to find). In a large bowl mix the warm nuts together with the peel, cherries and flour. Smush up the figs, either in a food processor or with a large knife then add to a saucepan along with the honey, sugar, spice and booze. Bring up to the boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer and leave for around 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour the fig mixture over the dry ingredients, mix to combine then pour into your prepared tin. Press firmly to the edges with a wooden spoon (you want to compact the mixture as much as you can), then bake in the centre of the oven for around 30 minutes. Remove and leave to cool in the tin.

When the mixture is cool place in the fridge for around 30 minutes. I do this as it makes it easier to slice in a warm kitchen. Remove from the fridge, peeling off the paper then dust liberally with icing sugar. Slice thinly with a sharp knife and you're all finished. Huzzah!