29 December 2015

Pepparkaka macarons

This one has been on the back of my mind since Doctor Cutie was such a sweetie and gave me a book on how to make macarons a few years ago and this year, I managed to get around to that, since we spent a record 10 days in Stockholm over Christmas. Mostly eating and sleeping, with a couple of breaks for bird watching, since it was the hottest Winter/December on record ever. Many thanks to my Sister Bip for navigating us to a great nature reserve she found a few months ago nearby.

In Sweden they sell ready made gingersnap spice mixture and I found this recipe that seemed good, so I followed it as far as the macarons went.

Ingredients

110 g finely ground almonds (almond flour)
170 g icing sugar
2 tsp gingersnap spice mixture
90 g egg whites (from 3 medium eggs)
2 tbsp granulated sugar

Method

  1. Weigh up a bit more of the ground almonds than required, then sift twice and weigh the end result - that should be 110 g.
  2. Place the almond flour in a large bowl and sift in the icing sugar and the gingersnap spice mixture. Stir through to incorporate well.
  3. In a separate bowl (ceramic, glass or metal), whisk the egg whites to soft peaks, then gradually add the granulated sugar and keep whisking until they go glossy and stiff.
  4. Carefully fold in the dry mixture into the egg whites in three parts, make sure everything is well mixed. If it feels a bit stiff, continue to fold a few more times, it should loosen up.
  5. Prepare a couple of baking sheets with baking paper, then transfer the meringue mixture into a piping bag with a large round nozzle and pipe blobs onto the prepared sheets. The blobs should be about 2.5 cm diameter, flow out a bit and be fairly flat. They won't swell much during baking, so can be done fairly close to each other.
  6. Once a tray has been filled, lift 10 - 15 cm off the work top and drop onto it. Repeat a few times, this will make the macarons settle and any tops that had formed from piping should disappear. This can be a bit noisy, alternatively hold the baking sheet with one hand and tap underneath with the other.
  7. Leave the trays to rest for at least 30 minutes, more if the air is humid. A skin needs to form on the surface of the macarons to ensure they remain flat during the baking.
  8. Pre-heat the oven to 125 °C and bake for 12 - 15 minutes, watching so they don't start getting colour. If they do, turn down the temperature a bit.
  9. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely. They should come off the baking paper easily, if not, bake for a bit longer.
  10. Once completely cooled, place in an airtight container and keep sealed until needed.

Filling
100 g unsalted butter at room temperature
100 g icing sugar
100 g marshmallow fluff
1 tsp vanilla extract
food colouring of choice (optional)

Method

  1. Stir the butter vigorously with a spoon to make it fluffy, then add the sugar and mix in well.
  2. Add the marshmallow fluff, vanilla extract and colouring and incorporate to get a homogenous mixture.
  3. Transfer to a piping bag, snip off the tip for a small hole (~5 mm) and pipe onto half of the macarons, placing the other half on top of them to form a sandwich.
  4. The above amounts make a lot more filling than the macarons. The filling can be kept in the fridge for a few days or frozen even for longer. It also works nicely on other biscuits or cupcakes. It keeps its shape fairly well and won't go solid over time.

The frosting recipe comes from this site and is for a much larger amount, but the key point is that each of the butter, sugar and marshmallow fluff are to be used in equal amounts per weight, so should be fairly easy to scale up or down as required. I used the basic vanilla flavouring and I didn't use any colouring, but I think I should have perhaps tried with yellow to make them more visually appealing, as the macarons were quite pale too. And don't get put off by the photo on the original website - I almost was and I know I'm pretty crap at taking attractive food photos myself, but this frosting is really good. My Sister Bip even tried it on pancakes and said it was absolutely yummy.

Sadly I went the lazy route (as I tend to for this delicacy) and skipped the sifting of the ground almonds, so my macarons were quite knobbly and seemed a bit crunchier than the fancy shop-bought ones. My Mum's oven is already madly uneven in baking, so most of the macarons ended up quite slopey, even though I turned the trays around half-way through baking.

I now also know that the ready gingersnap mixture is very heavy on the ginger, so this was quite dominating, too much for my liking, but this didn't prevent me from gobbling down a couple of macarons after each meal during the holidays. Lundulph also thought that there was a bit too much ginger, but said that they were quite a nice Christmas treat. I've also taken home the remainder of the gingersnap mixture and will try it out in next year's gingersnap batch, to see if it tastes differently in the cookies.

It also seems I forgot to take photos of my knobbly macarons. Oh well...

10 October 2015

Vegan paté

A couple of weeks back, my Mum sent me a new recipe that she and my Sister Bip had tried out, from Bip's ever growing collection of vegan recipes - a vegan paté which looks and tastes like the real thing. I put the idea forward to Lundulph and he seemed interested as he's always after a new healthy thing to eat and he's not too big a fan of regular paté. This recipe yields quite a lot, but it can be frozen in smaller portions for later use.

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Ingredients

2 tbsp vegetable oil
200 g finely chopped onion
5 - 6 cloves of garlic
100 g fresh chopped button or chestnut mushrooms
400 g canned chick peas
120 g chopped walnuts, can be roasted, but not necessary
1 tbsp soy sauce
1.5 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp fresh chopped rosemary
2 tbsp fresh chopped sage
1 tsp ground black pepper
salt to taste

Method

  1. Heat up the vegetable oil and fry off the onions and garlic until soft.
  2. Add the chopped mushrooms and fry to soften them as well.
  3. Remove from the heat and transfer to a deep bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.
  4. Transfer to an air-tight container and chill in the fridge until needed.

The resulting paté has the texture of traditional fine liver paté and tastes similarly. The main flavours are the rosemary and sage and some experimentation may be required - I used too much rosemary and it dominated everything, so I have a lot of it now, frozen in chunks to use with something else. But it was very interesting that the flavour and texture matched a traditional pate so well.

5 October 2015

Breakfast variation

I've been quite happy with my new breakfast, but I've been wanting to have a seasonal variation on this. Even with an unusually warm Autumn and availability of strawberries, I want something to see me through the Winter and decided to give this one a try.

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As it turned out, this didn't work well at all, for me at least, there was very little flavour to it, though that could be down to the butternut squash, I don't know.

Ingredients

1 large butternut squash
350 ml water
2 roiboos chai teabags
3 tbsp coconut oil
4 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp honey

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 °C.
  2. Cut the butternut squash in two and scoop out the seeds. Then bake in the oven, cut side up for about 45 minutes until it has gone soft.
  3. Scrape out some 400 g of the baked squash and place in a large saucepan together with the water and the contents of the teabags and the coconut oil, then bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and set a side for a few minutes to cool a bit.
  4. Stir in the chia seeds and honey, making sure that there are no lumps.
  5. Leave for an hour at least to allow the chia seeds to swell a bit.
  6. Warm up before serving.

The amounts above were enough for 5 breakfasts for me and I might need to experiment a bit to get the flavour right - I think there was too much coconut oil and not enough sweetness. Unfortunately I don't know how to determine how sweet a butternut squash would be, so some adjustments for each batch would be required.

I also didn't see much point in the roiboos chai - I think some cinnamon should do the trick and I think maple syrup works really well with butternut squash, so I'd swap that out for some of the coconut oil.

The really good thing is that one batch was enough for the whole week and I only needed a quick whizz in the microwave to warm it up, no other effort required, meaning possibly a few extra minutes' sleep.

I served with flaked almonds and blueberries, which was OK, but still not enough to make this a meal to look forward to.

4 October 2015

Raspberry and Chia Pudding

As Autumn has been rolling in at a steady pace and the days have been getting shorter and shorter, both Lundulph and I have been hankering for "afters" in the evenings and so, I did some searching to find tasty, yet healthy options and from the trusty BBC web site, I found this. Which combined nicely with getting some of the last big British raspberries for the season.< br>
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I'd tried to pick out the punnets with the largest raspberries, as I also wanted to try out an idea I had a few years ago - raspberries filled with chocolate ganache. The ganache was equal parts of 55% dark chocolate and double cream. The cream was heated up to boiling point. The chocolate was broken up in small pieces and the hot cream was poured over it, then stirring until all the chocolate has melted, then left to cool down. After this, I picked out the largest raspberries for filling. I transferred the ganache into a piping bag and filled up the raspberries, then into the fridge to let them set completely.

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These can be made a couple of days in advance and stored in an airtight container with a piece of kitchen tissue inside it to take up the moisture. They are also nice to eat on their own. But are good as decorations too.

Ingredients

400 g crème fraîche
6 tbsp chia seeds
2 tbsp vanilla extract
4 tsp honey
300 g raspberries

Decoration sweetened whipped cream
ganache-filled raspberries
a handful of almond flakes

Method

  1. Blend together the crème fraîche, chia seeds, vanilla extract, honey and raspberries and spoon into serving bowls/glasses.
  2. Chill overnight, or at least 4 h before serving.
  3. Just before serving, pipe some sweetened whipped cream, add the ganache-filled raspberries on top and sprinkle almond flakes over.

The original recipe also recommends using liquid stevia to increase the sweetness, but I didn't use that and so the pudding was a bit on the bland side, but had a very nice texture. Possibly using mascarpone instead of crème fraîche might make it a little sweeter and perhaps more honey. I'm not a fan of sweeteners, so I'd rather not use any, if I can avoid it, tempting though it might be on occasion.

I also think chopped almonds might be nice in the pudding to add some crunch as well. The ganache-filled raspberries are very easy to make and very tasty, so I was really pleased with them. I've not been able to find them in the internet, though I don't think it's an original idea of mine. I think they can be also taken a step further and dipped in chocolate to make pralines, I'll give that a try once I've mastered the art of chocolate tempering.

26 September 2015

Cottage Pie

Goodness, I'm well behind my blogging, work has been so busy and stressful and I'm also doing a course in the evenings, there's not bee much inspiration at all in the past few weeks and the few new things I've tried were not a hit mostly. But today Lundulph has gone to a football match and I'm doing house chores, so might as well try to catch up.

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At the end of October, Lundulph expressed a hankering for pie and so we looked through the Hairy Bikers' Perfect Pie book and decided on a Cottage Pie. This is a pie that only has mashed potatoes as a topping, no dough involved at all. I had some minute steak and some braising chunks to use up, so was all in all a good match for all requirements.

On our trip to Dorset earlier this year, we had black garlic aioli at one of the restaurants. This was very tasty and rather curious, so when I saw that they were selling it in my local supermarket, I bought one to try out. How it's made is mentioned in Wikipedia. And I've subsequently seen it used in Swedish cuisine as well. So I swapped the garlic cloves for some of the black garlic in this pie recipe. Needless to say I also dropped the celery.

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Ingredients

1 tbsp grapeseed oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
500 g beef in small chunks
187 ml (small bottle) red wine
2 tbsp plain flour
200 ml beef stock
a splash of chanterelle concentrate (optional)
200 ml water
2 tbsp tomato purée
1 tsp dried dill
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried sage
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried mint
1 bay leaf
a splash of Worcestershire sauce
4 black garlic cloves
salt and pepper to taste

Potato topping

Delia Smith's perfect mashed potatoes

Method

  1. Heat up the oil in a frying pan and gently fry the onion and carrots for a few minutes until the onions go translucent and the carrots soften. Stir regularly so they don't burn.
  2. Add the beef and fry until browned all over, then add the wine and let simmer until the liquid has reduced by half.
  3. In the meantime, make the beef stock and stir in the chanterelle concentrate, water, tomato purée, the dried herbs and Worcestershire sauce. Mash in the black garlic and stir through.
  4. When the wine has reduced in the pan, sprinkle the flour and stir in well and let simmer for a further couple of minutes, before adding the stock mixture.
  5. Bring to a gentle simmer, cover and leave to cook for some time, depending on the type of beef used.
  6. While the pie filling is cooking, prepare the mashed potatoes.
  7. Pre-heat the oven to 180 °C and transfer the beef into a pie dish.
  8. Spoon or pipe the mashed potato over the beef, starting from the edge and working inwards.
  9. For extra crunch on the topping, rough up the surface of the potatoes with a fork, then bake for about 25 minutes until the potatoes have gone golden brown and the filling is bubbling.
  10. Ready to serve

The amount of filling was a tad too much for my pie dish and I should have made adjustments to the mash, to make it more solid. As it was, it was very runny and at the top of an overfilled pie dish, the result was that things dripped to the bottom of the oven. So a very hot tip is to place a larger baking tray under the pie dish, to save yourself the trouble of oven cleaning. The original recipe calls for cheese in the mash, but we don't do that in our household.

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I also didn't allow for the fact that braising steak comes from an older animal and thus requires significantly longer to cook, so I ended up with rather chewy pieces in the pie. Lundulph was very good about it, but frankly this was a very stupid mistake to make.

19 September 2015

Blackberry and White Chocolate Mousse Cake

It is the season for blackberries and it's also Lundulph's birthday once again. And so, it had to be a blackberry cake this year, from a recipe I received from my Mum. It looked really pretty in the photo, so without delay I got going. IMG_4851

Ingredients
Base
400 g marzipan at 38% almond content
2 large eggs
4 tbsp cocoa powder
zest from 1 lemon

Blackberry mousse
5 dl blackberries
1.5 sachet vegegel
3 large pasteurised yolks
1.5 dl granulated sugar
3 dl whipping cream

White Chocolate mousse
150 g white chocolate
2.5 dl whipping cream
2 yolks

Decorations
Extra large blackberries
Grated white chocolate

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 °C fan, then prepare a Springform cake tin of about 20 cm diameter by greasing and lining with baking paper. The edge of the paper should be a couple of cm above the edge of the Springform.
  2. Grate the marzipan into a large bowl. Break and lightly whisk the eggs in a side bowl, then add to the marzipan, a little at a time until the mixture is smooth.
  3. Stir in the cocoa and lemon zest, then spread into the cake tin and level it with a spatula, it should be around 2 cm thick.
  4. Bake the cake base for 12 - 15 minutes until it starts coming away from the edges and looks dry on top. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
  5. Place the blackberries in a fine sieve over a bowl. Then using a spoon mash and press out as much juice as possible, about 2.5 dl.
  6. Whisk the pasteurised yolks with the sugar until light and fluffy. Whip the cream separately to stiff peaks.
  7. Stir in the vegegel into half of the blackberry juice, then pour into the remaining juice.
  8. Working quickly, pour the juice mixture into the egg mixture and fold in.
  9. Finally fold in the whipped cream into the egg mixture and pour over the cooled down cake base.
  10. Cover with cling film and chill until it sets.
  11. Chop the chocolate into small pieces and place in a heatproof bowl.
  12. Place 1 dl of the cream in a small pot along with the yolks and heat up until it bubbles, while stirring constantly.
  13. Remove from the heat when it begins to thicken and pour over the chopped chocolate.
  14. Stir until all the chocolate has melted and been incorporated into the mixture, which should have cooled down.
  15. Whip the remaining cream to stiff peaks, then fold into the chocolate mixture.
  16. Pour over the blackberry mousse, level and chill for at least 1 h until it has firmed up a little.
  17. Just before serving, carefully remove from the Springform cake tin and remove the lining paper.
  18. Arrange the extra large blackberries on top and sprinkle the grated white chocolate.

As happens with many recipes, this one was clearly not tested by the magazine that published it, nor was it reviewed by someone with baking experience, because I had to double the mixture for the cake base or I would not have been able to cover the base of the cake form. So the amounts above are about right.

The blackberry mousse was really nice, but again, the proportions were wrong once more, so I had to adjust on the fly and got lucky. The white chocolate mousse on the other hand seemed OK, however it tasted more of whipped cream than chocolate, so I'd say 200 g or even 250 g of white chocolate might be better. However the overall cake tasted nice as it is.

And as the family came to celebrate, this cake was much appreciated and very little remained from it at the end. Because of the grated chocolate, it's not a cake for candles. Lundulph wanted candles, otherwise it wouldn't be a birthday cake, so he had a couple on the side. And he was well happy about the marzipan base. It was nicely crunchy.

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15 September 2015

Chocolate Cookies With Toffee

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Back in July, my Sister Bip and I had a long talk about food and as she's doing a lot of cooking these days, she forwarded me a couple of recipes that seemed interesting. However, things were getting a bit busy around the house, so I sort of forgot about them until a couple of weeks ago, when I felt my colleagues needed a little reward for being so helpful to me and I dug one of the recipes out, this (in Swedish) one to be precise.

Ingredients

Makes about 50
200 g soft unsalted butter
2 dl granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
½ dl golden syrup
½ dl cocoa powder
4 dl plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp baking powder
1 pinch of salt
about ½ tsp of caramel/dolce de leche

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 175 °C and line a couple of baking tins with baking paper and cut up a couple of more pieces to fit.
  2. Whisk together the butter, sugar, vanilla and syrup into a smooth mixture.
  3. Mix together all the dry ingredients in a separate bowl first, then stir into the butter mixture.
  4. As it gets thick, you'll need to knead it to make sure everything is well incorporated.
  5. Now take out walnut sized pieces, roll into balls and place on the baking tins and spare baking paper, making sure they are not too close together.
  6. Make a small well in each ball with your thumb and place a small blob of caramel into each.
  7. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, until the cookies have spread out, but watch so the caramel doesn't start burning.
  8. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  9. Store in an air-tight container.

Now I made my own caramel from condensed milk in the past, but nowadays it's sold ready made in the shops, so might as well use that. I recommend stirring the caramel through until it's soft, if it has set, don't be tempted to use it if it's set, it won't run out over the cookie during the bake.

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Also, the original recipe says to divide up the dough into 24 pieces, but these were way too big, I ended up with huge cookies and as I didn't stir through the caramel, it stayed in a lump in the middle. But they were rather tasty, even if a couple burnt a bit. Very easy to do on the whole, I think, and not too sweet.

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