13 September 2016

Lundulph's Birthday Cake 2016

We were away for Lundulph's birthday this year, so his cake couldn't be anything fancy at all. I've been wanting to make lemon drizzle cake for some time now and after fining Mary Berry's recipe here, I thought it was simple enough to do while coping with a massively outdated and insufficiently furnished kitchen in the holiday flat where we stayed.

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There were no scales available, so I went to my trusty website for cookery conversions and converted as much as I could into volume. There were no spoon/decilitre measures either, so I sort of guessed at those as well using the mad selection of odd cutlery available. We even had to buy a baking tin, luckily these come cheap. So below are the amounts I believe I used.

Also to add, Mary's recipe called for one and a half large eggs. I find this to be an unreasonable thing to state. Although this was briefly mentioned by Ghalid Assyb at the patisserie master class I attended a few years ago, if a recipe calls for half an egg, use just the yolk. I disagree, not good enough. But the eggs we had were medium size, so I guessed that 2 medium eggs would correspond to one and a half large ones, so problem solved.

Ingredients

2 medium eggs
12 tbsp self-raising flour
7 tbsp caster sugar
6 ¼ tbsp salted butter at room temperature + butter for greasing
¾ tsp baking powder
finely grated zest from one small lemon
4 ½ tbsp caster sugar
juice from one small lemon

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 °C and grease a 1-pound loaf tin and line with baking paper.
  2. Beat together eggs, flour, caster sugar, butter, baking powder and lemon zest until smooth and fluffy.
  3. Pour into the tin and bake in the middle of the oven for about 35 minutes, until golden brown on top and shrinking away from the sides.
  4. While the cake is still baking, make the lemon drizzle by mixing the second lot of caster sugar with the lemon juice.
  5. when the cake is done, remove from the oven and use a fork to make holes over the top surface.
  6. Give the drizzle a stir, as the sugar will sink to the bottom, then spoon as evenly as possible over the cake and leave to soak in.
  7. Once the liquid has soaked in, lift the cake out with the baking paper and once completely cooled, remove the paper as well and serve.

In addition to not having ways to reliably measure the ingredients, there was also another thing missing - an electric whisk or mixer. Luckily Lundulph very kindly volunteered and whisked the whole caboodle by hand and did a massively fine job of it too! The cake turned out really fluffy and light, wonderful texture. Annoyingly the lemon drizzle didn't quite work. Perhaps I poured it too soon after removing the cake from the oven, I don't know, but it was very sour and I don't think the syrup was enough, it didn't feel like it anyway. In fact, I think an orange drizzle cake would work a lot better. Lundulph and his Mum both reckon there should have been additional icing on top - the slightly see-through thin stuff. We didn't have icing sugar, so skipped this and it wasn't mentioned in Mary Berry's recipe. Perhaps it would have made a difference, I'll have to do more research. But would be great if I can achieve this level of fluffiness in the future too, it was so nice.

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I'm not sure what that slightly darker spot in the middle is, it didn't taste differently to the rest of the cake and I'm pretty sure the cake was thoroughly baked through. Still, I must have hit the measurements relatively well, because I did end up with a cake.

9 September 2016

Caramella Cooks is 10!

Gosh, is it really that long ago? How time flies in some respects. I've been recording my recipes and bits of my life for a decade.

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And the Great British Bake Off has kicked off with another series and there are lots of new ideas to inspire, but 10th anniversary requires a cake I think. However I've been making so many sweet things lately, I think it's time for something savoury - so I decided on a Smörgåstårta, i. e. a Swedish sandwich cake. But with a bit of a twist, after I caught up on the Green Kitchen Stories blog, where I found their recipe for the wonderfully colourful vegetable flat-breads. They use them as a snack, but I thought they'd look really pretty inside the smörgåstårta, with white filling for contrast. I was thinking of perhaps halving the recipes, but as it's a flat-bread, that would work out quite thin, so I'd need two layers of each colour to get the right proportions in the cake. Thus the full amounts it'd have to be. This meant a lot of eggs, since the breads are flour-less. Therefore, I skipped the eggs in the decorations.

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Looking at my original blog post on smörgåstårta, as it was for a large party, the amounts are quite large scale and also seemed very unhealthy with the cream and all. I've also found out that my Mum has gone and made some changes to the mixture recipe she gave me all those years ago, so I've had to put together a new one, without the cream in the hopes that it'll be slightly less unhealthy. I bought another tub of the very sour tasting yoghurt and I strained it - it should be thick enough to work as a cake covering. I guessed the breads would be somewhat on the sweet side, what with carrots and beetroot as ingredients, so I thought the sourness of the yoghurt would off-set things a bit.

Ingredients

Green bread

570 g broccoli florets
140 g ground almonds
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
4 large eggs
salt and pepper to taste

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Orange bread

730 g cauliflower florets and carrots
140 g ground almonds
4 large eggs
salt and pepper to taste

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Red bread

705 g cauliflower florets and beetroot
140 g ground almonds
4 large eggs
salt and pepper to taste

Sadly, after baking, some of the beetroot colour had disappeared, so I'll need to use more beetroot and less cauliflower next time:

IMG_5129 Creamy filling and covering

749g incl middle bowl strained Greek-style yoghurt
300 ml créme fraîche
180 g mayonnaise
1 tsp dried dill
1 tsp garlic granules
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
salt and pepper

IMG_5132 Decorations

sliced gravlax/cold-smoked salmon
1 lemon with good skin
cucumber
colourful small sweet peppers
stripey beetroot
ready to eat king prawns
chives
dill
cherry tomatoes
radishes
avocado
curly lettuce

Method

  1. There is a very good video for making the breads on the page. I followed the instructions, but also weighted the ingredients. Unfortunately I forgot to weigh the carrots/cauliflower and the beetroot/cauliflower proportions respectively.But basically it was to process each vegetable as finely as possible, mix with the eggs, ground almonds and season. It should be possible to shape and not ooze any liquid.
  2. The broccoli bread was the "driest" mixture, then the carrot mixture turned out wetter and the beetroot was so wet, that I had to drain it until it was about the same consistency as the carrot mixture.
  3. Bake in a pre-heated oven t 200 °C.
  4. Baking times: 30 min for the green broccoli bread, 40 min for the yellow carrot bread and 45 min for the red beetroot bread.
  5. Once each bread has been baked, it needs to cool down to room temperature. Place a clean piece of baking paper over the flat bread and flip over from the baking sheet onto a wire rack. Remove the paper the breads were baked on as soon as possible, taking care not to tear the breads. Make sure the breads have cooled down completely.
  6. For a round cake, I set up my extendable cake ring to the size I wanted and cut out 2 circles from each of the breads. Left-over off-cuts, can be cut into smaller pieces and frozen for later. The cake rounds went into an air-tight container and in the fridge until the day of construction.

I actually had a further problem when making the beetroot bread. The cauliflower for the beetroot bread had started rotting and I had to cut off most of it and throw away, not sure if it was like this when I bought it, I forgot to check sadly. So there wasn't enough and I ended up adding the very pale core of the broccoli stems I had left, as well as the core of the cauliflower stems, after peeling them. This might have caused the whole thing to go more orange-yellow, rather than red and it paled a bit in during the bake as well, so I think more beetroot next time to get a stronger colour. Also, I'll need to squeeze a lot of the liquid out before mixing with some cauliflower.

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One thing that was wrong in the recipe was the amount of ground almonds - I measured 1 cup of it, and it weighted 140 g, not 100 g. This is significant for the overall texture, which although visibly nowhere near like bread, certainly felt like it when eating. Shaping the breads and having them no more than 1 cm thick is also key to this deception. Preferably the breads should be even thinner, but for my cake, this was OK.

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I made the breads 3 days before I needed the cake. Now usually, when using regular bread, it is important to construct the cake on the day before, to allow the bread to soak up some of the moisture from the fillings. But these vegetable flatbreads are quite moist to begin with, so I decided to construct the cake just a few hours before it needed to be served. I had the two green circles at the bottom, then the two yellow circles and finally the two red circles on top. The cream in the middle was about half the thickness of the flatbreads.

There was more than enough left from the white cream, to cover the outside of the cake.

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Then on with the decorating. This time, I went a bit silly and took photos after almost every item had been placed on the cake:

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It was very tasty, very much like I'd imagined it, but also, thanks to the eggs in the breads, extremely filling, so small pieces is a must here and the cake should be dished out by a person who's aware of this. Otherwise, I suspect people might be tempted to cut nice large pieces and not be able to eat them.

The guests for this celebration were Lundulph's parents, so we had quite a bit of cake left over. There are two ways to handle left-over sandwich cake - if it's likely to be eaten in the coming couple of days, store in the fridge. If not, remove all decorations, then freeze the cake for later. It can be defrosted and the cream covering will likely require some touch-up and a new lot of decorations.

Lundulph's comment was that the bread was too heavy for the cake, i. e. the wrong type of bread for the job. The shop-bought, sliced bread, which is light and fluffy is the way forward as a conveyance of the other ingredients. I quite liked it, but perhaps rather than making a regular sized cake, some miniature cakes for individual starters perhaps. Certainly I liked the look of the slices when cutting them.

4 September 2016

Low-fat Chicken Korma

This is from my book Fat Free Indian Cookery, which I've not looked in for a very long time. I made this recipe several times when I first got the book as I quite like korma, it's usually what I'll order in a restaurant and it's a good recipe too. I was surprised to find that it's not in the blog already.

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Unfortunately I wasn't able to get to the supermarket this week-end, so ended up improvising a lot, which sort of ruined the recipe a bit, though it was still edible, if not wow-y, like I remember it. It also requires some preparations - this is part of the book's first chapter on "basic recipes" - i. e. ingredients that can be prepared in a larger batch and kept in the fridge or even frozen for when required. When I got the book and made the Arunachal Fish Curry, I was so in love with the book, I went ahead and made a lot of these basic recipes and had some in the freezer, at the recommended amounts ready to whip up an Indian dish at a moment's notice. I've not kept up my stock of these very well, so I had no browned onion purée, and just about enough minced fresh ginger in the freezer.

Ingredients

Browned onion mince

4 large onions - 550 g after peeling and washing
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp water

The korma

60 g raw cashew nuts
a pinch of saffron threads
150 ml boiling water
500 g chicken breasts
150 g ricotta cheese or strained Greek yoghurt
12 green cardamom pods
2 x 5 cm pieces of cinnamon
8 whole cloves
2 tbsp minced ginger
4 cloves of garlic
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp hot chilli powder or a couple of fresh hot chillies
1 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp ground roasted coriander
2 handfuls of frozen garden vegetables
300 ml chicken stock
all of the browned onion purée
2 tbsp single cream
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp sweet paprika
a handful of beansprouts

Method

  1. Peel and wash the onions, then slice thinly.
  2. Place in a large saucepan, sprinkle the sugar and salt and cook over low heat, stirring every now and then until the onions begin to sizzle.
  3. Pour over the water, cover the saucepan and leave to simmer for about 15 minutes.
  4. Increase the heat to medium, remove the lid and cook for a further 12 - 15 minutes stirring constantly, until the liquid released from the onions has evaporated and it starts to brown.
  5. Remove from the heat and leave to cool somewhat, then place in a food processor and whizz to get a "mince" or even a purée. I got 260 g out of it.
  6. When the purée is ready, place the cashew nuts and the saffron in a bowl and pour over the boling water. Leave to stand for 20 minutes.
  7. Trim the chicken breasts and cut into bite-sized chunks. Place in a large non-stick deep pan and add the ricotta, cardamoms, cinnamon, cloves and ginger. Press in the garlic.
  8. Mix through well, then cover and cook on medium for 5 - 6 minutes.
  9. Stir, reduce the heat somewhat and continue to cook for a further 6 - 7 minutes.
  10. Remove the lid, increase the heat to high and cook, stirring frequently, for 7 - 8 minutes until the chicken pieces begin to brown and the liquid evaporates to form a thick paste.
  11. Stir in the salt, turmeric, chilli powder/fresh chillies, black pepper and coriander and continue to cook for a couple of more minutes, then stir in the frozen vegetables, the chicken stock and the onion purée, cover again, turn down the heat and let simmer for 10 minutes.
  12. In the meantime blitz the cashews and saffron in the water as smoothly as possible, then once the 10 minutes are up, pour into the pan and sprinkle over the garam masala.
  13. Finally stir in a handful of bean sprouts just before serving and a little sweet paprika.

As carbs for the chicken korma, I cooked some orzo - pasta shaped like rice. As I was nearing completion, Lundulph's brother Roger called, wondering if he and Falbala could pop in for a while. Falbala is learning to drive at the moment, so they were in the neighbourhood. This was such a lovely surprise, we all sat down to a late lunch.

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The chicken korma didn't turn out as nice as I seem to remember, I'm not sure why, possibly I added the frozen vegetables a bit late and they didn't get enough time to cook through properly, they were way too crunchy for my liking. I'll have to repeat the basic recipe which doesn't have any of the vegetables or sprouts, and see if I can work out the problems.

The orzo, was quite nice, though. I'd spotted it in the Turkish shop I frequent when we visit my Parents-in-Law and it seemed such a curious thing, I bought a packet, but hadn't tried it out for ages. Shame on me, it was really nice and it works well as a salad ingredient too.

Given that it is a bit time consuming to do the browned onion purée, I recommend making a larger batch and freezing in portions.

29 August 2016

Roasted Cauliflower Salad

In general when I'm at work, I'll go for the salad bar if there is one available, it seems to be the only thing that stops me from falling asleep in the afternoon. That and soup, but in the last few years, I've not had any luck with restaurant soups, so generally opt for safety and avoid them. Where I work at the moment, the salad bar has ups and downs. On a good day (and this happens about every other week or so), one of the salads offered is roast cauliflower with peppers of different colours, salted gherkins, olives and sun dried tomatoes. This is absolutely yummy, and the other salad eaters agree, since this salad is usually one of the first to run out. I'd been racking my brain on how they do it, simple though as it is, now that I've sussed it.

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And I did suss it thanks to realising the other day that it's been ages since I read the lovely Green Kitchen Stories blog, so I decided to catch up and spotted a salad with roasted cauliflower. I feel a bit embarrassed not having thought about it on my own. Thus step one - roast the cauliflower. It appears this year is a bad one for these wonderful vegetables, they are very small, so I ended up buying two.

Roast cauliflower

  1. Before preparing the cauliflower, pre-heat the grill to 220 °C.
  2. Remove all the greenery, cut up into florets and washed them.
  3. Then lay them out on a shallow baking tray with a lip and brush generously with olive oil and sprinkle some salt or Vegeta.
  4. It may help to also get your hands dirty and move the cauliflower around to get the pieces really well coated with the oil.
  5. Place under the grill for 20 - 25 minutes and stir a couple of times during roasting. They just need to start softening somewhat and go brown and crunchy here and there, but not mushy.
  6. Set aside to chill and store in the fridge. Mix in with your green salad.

This turned out to be quite a bit hit with Lundulph as well, even though he wasn't sure when he had a sniff of the cauliflower in the container where I'd put it. I'm not entirely sure what he was talking about, I didn't find the smell unpleasant, but cauliflower is a member of the cabbage family, I'm guessing there was some hint of fart.

I had intended to also do the tahini dressed chick peas, but I had plans already for my second tub of yoghurt and decided to leave them for another time.

What was left of the cauliflowers a couple of days later, I reheated with a covering of kashkaval - a Bulgarian yellow cheese, which was also extremely tastry.

21 August 2016

Snezhanka or Dry Tarator

When I went to Sweden just after Easter, my friend Nana invited us over for dinner - her Mum was visiting and so it was a good thing to meet up. As usual they'd prepared a fabulous spread, among everything else, a large bowl of what is called Snezhanka or dry tarator. And Nana's Mum makes the best one I've ever had and I've not been able to work out how, but today I decided to give it a go. It's not something my Mum has in her repertoire oddly enough, I'm guessing it's not something that my parents like.

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A note on the name - Snezhanka is the Bulgarian name for Snow White fairy tale. Dry tarator is perhaps a more suitable name, given that the ingredients are almost the same.

Ingredients

900 g full fat yoghurt, resulting in 540 g strained yoghurt
280 g pickled gherkins
0.5 dl chopped fresh dill
1 dl mayonnaise
salt to taste

Method

  1. Place two layers of cheese cloth in a sieve and place it over a large bowl. Spoon the yoghurt into the cheese cloth and leave for 5 - 6 h to strain as much as posible of the whey. Stir the yoghurt a few times while it's straining.
  2. Chop the gherkins as finely as possible and place them in a bowl along with the strained youghurt, the dill, mayonnaise and salt.
  3. Stir through to combine well and chill until needed.

The mayonnaise is a bit of an after-thought. I did try to find recipes on the internet, but none seemed to be quite right - some had fresh cucumbers, some used a 50-50 mixture of fresh cucumbers and pickled gherkins. Many added lemon juice or vinegar, which perhaps would be needed only if the yoghurt is on the sweet side. The one I got hold of this time was very close to what you get in Bulgaria, so quite sharp.

The tarator also calls for garlic - I skipped this as Lundulph seems to be struggling with it lately. And what I ended up with was something very sour, thus I squirted in a lot of mayonnaise, which mellowed the whole thing somewhat and after discussing with my Mum and asking her to chase up Nana's Mum's recipe, she did comment that mayonnaise might be the key ingredient here.

I discovered that it was rather tasty with Swedish smörgåsrån - thin wheat wafers that are normally served on a cheese tray. Lundulph thought it worked fairly OK with hot smoked salmon.

The interesting part of the recipe was the straining of the yoghurt. I've never done this before, they sell strained Greek youghurt in my local supermarket, but there had been a massive run on yoghurt and there was only the fat-free stuff left. There's no way I'll buy that. It's amazing how much whey there is.

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As it turned out, I've run out of cheese cloth - I only had small pieces left and they were all pink from last year's egg paining. So straining the yoghurt was a bit of a challenge, but it worked.

Anyway, overall this experiment was not a success, but we've almost finished the dry tarator. Hopefully I'll get hold of Nana's Mum's recipe and have better success with that.

Update 2016-09-07: My Mum kindly spoke with Nana's Mum about the fabulous dry tarator she makes and indeed, a less "mature" yogurt should be used, i. e. one that's freshly made and thus not as sour in flavour as the one I used. Next is to use fresh cucumbers, not pickle ones. But they must be de-seeded or the straining of the yoghurt will have been in vain. Finally, a lot of walnuts, very finely chopped will help balance the flavours. So I'll need to experiment further still.

14 August 2016

Sfogliatelle

Despite my disappointment at the Petit Antoine, I was still riding high on inspiration from the Bakeoff: Creme de la Creme, and went for another technically difficult challenge, one that's tricky to pronounce even.

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But, I decided to cheat and use filo pastry, rather than make it from scratch. I wasn't able to find any information if this was a reasonable substitute or not. I'll need to try out the real dough as well to be able to comment, but in all, there was still a lot of work to do, even without making the dough from scratch, again for something that's not very impressive, tasty though as it was.

The base recipe I used can be found here. I only used the butter/lard mixture and the filling parts.

Ingredients
Makes 8

90 g unsalted butter at room temperature
90 g lard at room temperature
220 g ready made filo pastry
125 ml full milk
0.6 dl granulated sugar
0.4 dl coarse semolina
0.2 dl plain flour
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 dl ricotta cheese
1 ml cinnamon
zest from 1 small lemon
icing sugar for dusting
vanilla ice cream

Method

  1. Whisk together the butter and lard to a fluffy homogeneous mixture.
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  2. Depending on the shape of the filo pastry, cut if necessary to get rectangles with the short side being about 20 cm. Stack the rectangles and cover with cling film.
  3. Starting with one sheet, spread some of the grease mixture over it, overlap with a second sheet about 2 - 3 cm along the longer side and grease it up as well.
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  4. Roll up from the short side,trying to roll as tightly as possible without breaking the filo sheets, massaging any air bubbles gently from the middle and towards the edges.
  5. When you have about 5 cm left on the second sheet, overlap with a third sheet, grease up and roll up.
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  7. Grease up the outside of the roll, again trying to push any air bubbles out to the edges. Then wrap in double layers of cling film and chill in the fridge at least overnight. Save the left-over grease.
  8. On the next day, place the milk and sugar in a large saucepan and bring to the boil and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  9. Turn the heat down to low, then slowly add the semolina and flour, stirring quickly and constantly to avoid lumps and continue until the mixture is thick like porridge, about 2 minutes.
  10. Pour out the porridge onto the prepared baking tray and spread out as evenly as possible, to speed up cooling.
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  11. Once the porridge has cooled down, transfer it to a mixing bowl, it'll break up into pieces, that's OK.
  12. Add the egg, vanilla, ricotta and cinnamon and whisk to combine well.
  13. At the end, stir in the lemon zest and transfer the mixture into a piping bag. At this point it can be stored in the fridge until required (~ 3 days or so), but bring to room temperature before using.
  14. When ready to assemble and bake the sfogliatelle, line two baking trays with baking paper. Use trays with a lip preferably. Pre-heat the oven to 200 °C (non-fan)
  15. Take out the filo roll from the fridge. Trim the edges to get them even, then cut the roll into 2 cm thick rounds. If you trimmed the edges thinly, they can be combined into one round as well.
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  16. Take each round and holding it with the fingers of both hands, gently use your thumbs to push the inner layers so that a cone forms.
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  17. Pipe ricotta-porridge into the cone to the point where the cone edges can be brought together, but without pinching together.
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  18. Place on a baking tray and brush some more of the grease mixture on top.
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    Make sure they have enough space to expand and bake for about 25 minutes until deep golden brown.
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  19. Remove from the oven and allow to cool somewhat. Serve warm, dusted with icing sugar and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
  20. Store in an air-tight container, however the pastries will go soft due to the filling.

From the amount of filo pastry, I got 8 sfogliatelle and had more than half of the ricotta porridge left over, I've frozen it and I think it would work nicely in filo pastry, but folded up like a samosa.

Lundulph thought they were way too crispy when we had them on the day of baking and said the second day was better, when the filo pastry had softened somewhat. I didn't mind either.

7 August 2016

Petit Antoine

The season for family birthdays is beginning, and since I'm still feeling inspired by the Bakeoff: Creme de la Creme, I decided to try my hand at one of the many miniature layered cakes that were made. Searching for the recipe, I was a bit sad that I couldn't find the ones used in the competition online. The explanation is that there is a book with every recipe out. Needless to say, it's on my Christmas list.

But I did find a recipe for this very pretty looking pastry. It's in French, so I ran it through Google translate, which was great fun and I heartily recommend it for a really good laugh. But by flicking between the translation and the original version, I worked out what should be done. There are a lot of parts to prepare, but several of them can be done well in advance. In particular the ganache needs to rest for 24 h at least, so some planning is called for.

Hazelnut Praline

200 g caster sugar
2 tbsp water
200 g blanched whole hazelnuts

  1. Place a sheet of baking paper (not wax) on a heat-proof surface.
  2. Starting with the hazelnut praline, place the sugar in a thick-bottomed saucepan with the water, stir through to mix only. Shake the saucepan once the sugar starts bubbling.
  3. When the sugar starts getting colour, add the hazelnuts and stir through to get them coated. You will need to be quick, so the hazelnuts don't burn.
  4. As soon as the hazelnuts start getting colour, pour them onto the baking paper and spread to help cool down quicker.
  5. Once cooled down, place in a blender and whizz until it's turned into powder.
  6. Transfer immediately to an airtight container. It makes more than is required for the pastry.
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Milk Chocolate Ganache

90 g milk chocolate
250 g double cream

  1. Chop the milk chocolate finely and place in a heat-proof bowl
  2. Scald the double cream under constant stirring to prevent it from burning. Once it starts bubbling, pour over the chocolate and stir through to get fully mixed.
  3. Cover with cling film and allow to cool down to room temperature, then chill in the fridge for 24 h.

Hazelnut Dacquoise
100 g whole blanched hazelnuts
100 g icing sugar
125 g egg whites (about 3 whites from large eggs)
30 g caster sugar
50 g chopped blanched hazelnuts

  1. At this point, you need to decide what shape the cake should have. The original recipe suggests a rectangular form of 20 x 30 cm and the amounts are adjusted for this. I didn't have this, so decided to use my 8 small (7cm) food rings and my 2 large ones (15 cm) instead. I prepared two sheets with baking paper and drew circles of the rings on the underside, spaced about 2 cm apart.
  2. Place the whole hazelnuts in a food processor together with a couple of table spoons of the icing sugar and grind as finely as possilble.
  3. Sift the hazelnut flour, returning any remaining pieces to the food processor, adding some more icing sugar and blending again. If there's any icing sugar left, sift it into the mixture and set aside.
  4. Place the whites in a clean glass or metal bowl and whisk until stiff peaks, then add the caster sugar in three parts, so the meringue goes glossy.
  5. Carefully fold in the ground hazelnut mixture, followed by the chopped blanched hazelnuts.
  6. Pre-heat the oven to 180 °C and prepare a piping bag with a wide round nozzle, transfer the meringue mixture into it and quickly pipe circles onto the prepared baking sheets.
  7. Bake each sheet for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before prising off the baking paper. If you're preparing these in advance, place all in an airtight container as soon as possible, so they don't start picking up moisture from the air. The dacquoise will be a bit sticky, so cut up the baking paper and use as spacer between each circle, to prevent them from sticking together.
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Chocolate custard

100 g milk chocolate
100 g dark chocolate
275 g whipping cream
60 g egg yolks (about 4 yolks from large eggs)
30 g caster sugar

  1. Chop finely both types of chocolate and place in a heat-proof bowl.
  2. Place the whipping cream in a large saucepan and scald.
  3. While the cream is heating up, whip the yolks and sugar in another heat-proof bowl, until they are pale yellow and fluffy.
  4. As soon as the cream bubbles, pour over the chopped chocolates and stir through to melt them and incorporate into the custard.
  5. Cover the surface with cling film and leave to cool down to room temperature, then refrigerate until required.

Crunchy praline base

120 g dark chocolate at 62% cocoa solids
180 g hazelnut praline
85 g cornflakes

  1. Finely chop the chocolate and carefully melt it in the microwave, a few seconds at a time and stir through between each wizz.
  2. Mix in the praline, followed by the cornflakes.
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Put everything together

  1. Spread the crunchy praline base mixture at the bottom of your chosen shapes and press down firmly. You should have about 0.5 - 0.8 cm thickness.
    IMG_5055
  2. Brush a thin layer of chocolate custard over the base.
    IMG_5056
  3. Trim the dacquoise to suitable size and gently press it down on top.
    IMG_5057
  4. Distribute the rest of the chocolate custard over each piece, it should be about 1 cm thick.
    IMG_5058
  5. Cover the pastries with cling film and freeze for 2 - 3 h at least.
  6. When ready to serve, remove the pastries from their shapes and place on plates.
    IMG_5064
  7. Put the chocolate ganache in a piping bag with a star nozzle and pipe some swirls on each pastry.
    IMG_5065
IMG_5066

Well, gorblimey, so much effort for something not that successful, even if it was fairly tasty. I can only conclude that the amounts given have been badly scaled down from a more industrial level. There must have been typos for sure, in particular for the crunchy praline base, because there is no way I would have managed to get anything near a mixture that would stick together if I'd followed the given amounts. Besides, as it was the last thing I prepared, I was low on chocolate, so didn't have a choice in reducing the amounts of the other ingredients.

The custard was far from enough for the number of dacquoise rounds and I ended up with the two larger pastries uncovered. I also ended up freezing the whole pastries overnight, which I'm not sure was the idea originally, but I wouldn't have had time to put the pastries together on the day. The custard didn't set as I'd expected it either, so just as well and because there was so much sugar everywhere, nothing really froze very solid. The coldness took the edge off the sweetness too. Hopefully the recipes in the book are better than this one. The only thing I liked was the fact that this recipe stated the percentage of cocoa mass in the chocolates. I've read that professional recipes do that, as it can make quite a difference, but I'd never encountered this before.

The individual elements are interesting though - starting with the praline - I've had this on ice cream and cakes in patisseries and always wondered how they get the hazelnuts to taste like that. Now I know - they're coated in caramel. So a good thing to have for sprinkling on all sorts of desserts.

Next the milk chocolate ganache - I didn't expect it would work with these proportions and I think chilling for 24 h helped make it stiff enough to pipe. It was a good contrast colour-wise to the dark chocolate custard. But it's key that this is done with chocolate milk, dark chocolate won't work in the same way. I really should do a bit more experimentation with ganache and write up an entry about it, one for the types of chocolate I can get hold of in my local supermarket.

The custard I didn't like at all, I think the one I made the other week, was miles ahead, I shouldn't even make this comparison.

The dacquoise was really tasty and would have been fine on its own, as small soft/chewy cakes, dipped in dark chocolate possibly, so also a keeper. Would possibly also work as a cake base, as long as it's not built too high up and using light fillings inside.

The crunchy base is something I'll leave for now, I really don't know what it was supposed to be like. Admittedly the original recipe called for something called "Feuilletine", which appears to be caramel flavoured thin brittle flakes of some sort. Not something I'd come across, but a quick search on the internet seemed to indicate that cornflakes would be a reasonable swap.

Now the two large rounds without chocolate custard are residing in the freezer, waiting to be eaten...