28 August 2020

Hob Nobs Attempt 1

The other day, Lundulph had an unexpected hankering for biscuits around 10 pm. I generally don't keep a regular supply of biscuits because we'll just keep eating them, but I promised Lundulph I'd make some the next day. He said he wanted hob nobs. I searched on the internet and picked this one among the top results that seemed to be quite easy to do.

Ingredients

Makes 25 - 30

150 g unsalted butter
1 tbsp maple syrup
150 g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
150 g granulated sugar
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
120 g rolled oats

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (not fan) and line a large baking sheet with baking paper.
  2. Gently melt the butter and maple syrup on low heat.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, sugar and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl. Stir in the rolled oats.
  4. Pour over the butter mixture and mix together into a dough, it will just about hold together.
  5. Divide up into pieces of about 20 - 30 g each and shape into balls as best you can. it'll be quite crumbly, so aim for a round shape, leave about 7 cm between as they will spread during baking.
  6. Bake for 10 - 12 minutes until golden brown.
  7. Remove from the oven, leave to cool a couple of minutes on the baking sheet, before carefully transferring to a cooling rack. They will be quite soft while warm.
  8. Store in an air-tight jar.

These turned out to be fairly similar to the Swedish havreflarn or oat snaps, though these were a bit thicker. Lundulph picked up on this and stated these were not hob nobs at all, however, I've seen him wandering around the house with the biscuit tin under his arm, so clearly they were still good. But this means, I need to find a different recipe.

16 August 2020

Pear Jam with Rosemary

Last week we visited Lundulph's parents to celebrate their birthdays with a picnic in their garden. Before we could do this, Lundulph tried to pick as many of the apples and pears as he could from the two trees, which dominate the seating area and are quite lethal at this time of the year, dropping large fruit randomly. Now I still have some apples from last year in the freezer, but no pears, so this year, I collected a bag of the largest pears and took home with the plans of making some sort of preserve.

I'd seen a recipe somewhere in my paper-based collection, while searching for other things and was very intrigued by it. Pears aren't that common as jams. The recipe also involved star anise, which I have, but use extremely rarely, so another reason to try this. As often happens I wasn't able to find this recipe again, so I searched on the internet and there are a couple that came up and seemed fairly good, but I also found this one that had rosemary in it and seemed even better, so I decided to do this instead.

Ingredients

1.5 kg pears, after peeling and coring
1 tbsp lemon zest (2 small lemons)
2 dl water
1 sprig rosemary
3 dl granulated sugar
2 dl soft dark brown sugar
3 sachets pectin (16 g)
1 tsp citric acid

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 120°C and place several clean jam jars and their lids in there to heat up and steralise.
  2. Dice the pears fairly finely, about 1 cm, and place in a deep casserole dish.
  3. Add the lemon zest and water, stir through to combine and bring to the boil.
  4. When the pears boil, cover the saucepan, reduce the heat and let simmer for 20 minutes.
  5. Measure up the sugars and add the pectin, then stir well to mix.
  6. Once the 20 minutes are up, add the sugar mixture and the rosemary sprigs and stir carefully, cover and let simmer for a further 10 minutes.
  7. Remove from the heat, take out the rosemary sprigs and stir in the citric acid, then carefully mash with a potato masher or blend with a blender.
  8. Taking out one jar at a time, fill it with jam and secure the lid tightly.
  9. Allow the jam to cool down to room temperature, then store in the fridge for up to 6 months.

I now have about 1.75 litres of lovely stuff and from licking the spoon, I can tell you it was very tasty. The recipe recommends this with a cheese board, but I'm pretty sure it'll work lovely on toast. The only thing is that due to the dark brown sugar, the jam is sort of brown and the original recipe uses just granulated sugar, but I didn't have enough so had to improvise. I will need to try the other recipe with star anise as well, if I can get more pears from Lundulph's parents.

A week later we tried the jam with some freshly baked bread. As it turns out, the pear flavour is almost entirely lost and the rosemary dominated. Also the jam hadn't set, but was more like a very sweet purée, so I've adjusted the amounts above to reduce the rosemary and increase the pectin. Lundulph thought it was OK, but if I'd used apples instead of pears, he wouldn't have known the difference. He wasn't particularly impressed with the rosemary and reckons I should skip it next time. I disagree, but it does need to be less.

Given the consistency it's turned out to be, I'll try to turn some of it into ice cream with the aqua faba foam, it might be nice.

6 July 2020

Chewy Biscuits

A few days ago, my Dad sent me a scan of a recipe for Swedish soft, thin bread. This came from the weekly magazine my Mum's been reading for several decades and it struck me, because I recognised the picture. What is going on here? I searched through old cuttings of recipes from the same publication and indeed I found that I already had this recipe, published about 11 years ago. Everything was the same, just some minor changes to the layout. Outrageous!

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The good thing about all this is that I riffled through a good part of my recipe collection and spotted a few interesting recipes, which I set aside to action as soon as possible. Here is the first one, as it seemed fairly easy to do.

Ingredients

100 g unsalted butter at room temperature
1 dl granulated sugar
2 tbsp light syrup / golden syrup / runny honey
2½ dl plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla sugar
100 g milk or dark chocolate with or without nuts

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 175 °C (not fan) and line a large baking sheet with baking paper.
  2. Whisk together the butter, sugar and syrup smooth and fluffy.
  3. Sift in the flour, baking powder and vanilla sugar and fold together to a homogeneous dough, but don't over-work it.
  4. Divide into three equal parts and shape each one into a long sausage, about 2 cm in diameter, and place onto the baking sheet, then gently press down to flatten.
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  5. Carefully grate the chocolate and sprinkle generously over the dough.
  6. Bake for about 13 minutes until it starts going golden brown.
  7. Remove from the oven, then cut each length with a knife into diagonal biscuits, then carefully transfer onto a cooling rack.
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These were very nice indeed. Since Ocado have their Scandinavian food section, I have a regular supply of the light syrup, which is so popular in Swedish baking. I actually baked these a bit too long and they went harder than I wanted them once they cooled down. However, Lundulph and I gobbled them up far too quickly.

20 June 2020

Summery Swiss Roll

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Since the lockdown, my good friend Dr Cutie and I have started having Zoom-fika ever now and then and have been asking ourselves why we've not thought of doing this before now, it's really good to chat about this and that and discuss our latest bakes and ideas. Last time we spoke, I mentioned we always get massive jars with jam from my Mum and it takes us forever to get through, so she suggested using them on Swiss rolls. She says that's a staple for when you get unexpected guests, as it takes very short time to complete. So I decided to make a Swiss roll, it's been ages since the last one.

Following the double batch of strawberry custard I made, I decided to use it as filling instead of jam. When I asked Lundulph if he'd fancy this, his eyes sparkled and his smile went from one ear lobe to the other. And since I've not used my Cordon Bleu book for a while, I decided to use its sponge recipe. This also reminded me why I so rarely use this book, it focuses on cooking techniques, but is relatively vague with the recipes.

Ingredients

4 large eggs
1.5 dl icing sugar
1.25 dl plain flour
2 dl strawberry custard

Method

  1. Butter and line two shallow rectangular baking trays with baking paper. Each should measure 23 x 33 cm and be about 1.5 cm deep. It is easier to get the sponge out if the paper comes up around the edges.
  2. Place the eggs and icing sugar in a large glass bowl and place this bowl over a saucepan with simmering water. The glass bowl bottom should not touch the water.
  3. Whisk until the mixture goes thick and you can drizzle the figure "8" when you lift the whisk.
  4. Remove from the heat and keep whisking until the mixture cools down.
  5. Sift in the flour and carefully fold in.
  6. Divide the mixture between the two baking trays and carefully level each with a dough scraper.
  7. Bake for 4 - 5 minutes until golden brown. Then, take out of the oven, cover with a second piece of baking paper and a cooling rack, then flip out of the baking tray.
  8. Allow to cool, then prize off the baking paper from the tray. While keeping the sponge on the second baking paper, place it on a towel.
  9. Spread the strawberry custard evenly across the sponge, except 2 cm along one of the longer edges - this will be the outer edge of the roll.
  10. Now use the towel to carefully roll up as tightly as possible while making sure you don't get the baking paper included inside the roll. Place so that the outer edge ends up under the roll.
  11. Wrap with the baking paper and refrigerate to get it to keep its shape, then it's ready to decorate further or serve as it is. You may want to trim the edges, there will likely be custard oozing out from the rolling.

The recipe in the book actually stated that the above amount should be for one baking tray, but it was definitely twice more than it should have been. Unfortunately I'd only prepared one baking tray, so one it had to be and I ended up baking it for some 15 minutes due to its thickness. It also was very difficult to roll. Didn't correspond to the photos in the book at all. But it was very tasty and I think with half the thickness in the sponge, it would have been better. Perhaps heat up the custard and add some gelatin to it and prevent it from oozing out too much. Of course this isn't Dr Cutie's quick recipe, it takes a bit more work, but it's well worth the effort to make and serve guests.

Plus, Lundulph was happy and so was I, because it was very tasty and although it seemed to be massive, we got through it quite quickly. Another bonus with 2 Swiss rolls for a larger dinner party.

18 June 2020

Another No-churn Ice Cream Recipe

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A few weeks into our lockdown, I started making ice cream as a treat to Lundulph and myself and also to cool ourselves a little in the sweltering heat. But after 7 batches back-to-back, I've been wondering if there is another way of achieving a tasty ice cream with less fat and sugar, but which still freezes relatively soft. My Mum and my Sister experimented with oat whipping cream and reduced amount of condensed milk, which they reckon worked pretty well, though it did need some 15 minutes to "relax" a bit before it was scoopable. I've not come across oat whipping cream in the UK, so it's not something I've tried, but having made two batches of meringue recently, my thoughts spun onto the fabulous properties of aquafaba.

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I had some in the freezer (purposefully put there to test the statement that it will not lose its capabilities) and since Veggie-wannabe-Lundulph is working his way through various types of canned beans and chickpeas, there's always lots of this liquid in the house at the moment. Thus a search on the internet resulted in this recipe, which I used as inspiration for ice cream batch number 8.

Ingredients

Makes about 2 litres
3 dl strawberry custard
red gel food colouring
3 dl unsalted aquafaba
½ tsp cream of tartar
1 tbsp vanilla essence
120 g icing sugar

Method

  1. Measure up all the ingredients. Place the custard in a large bowl.
  2. Place the aquafaba in a stand mixer and sprinkle the cream of tarter over it, then start whisking on the highest speed for about 4 minutes.
  3. Add the vanilla essence, while the mixer continues to beat.
  4. In the meantime, using a whisk, stir through the custard to loosen it and add some red food colouring as it'll get very pale.
  5. After 2 more minutes of mixing the aquafaba, start adding the icing sugar, a spoon at a time, while the stand mixer continues to work for another 3 minutes until stiff peaks have formed.
  6. Start transferring the foam into the bowl with the custard in 4 - 5 parts, and fold each well before adding the next one, being careful not to know out too much of the air out of the mixture.
  7. Transfer to a plastic container and place in the freezer overnight.

Well, I think we have a winner. This was definitely soft scoop, I had no trouble dishing out our lunch dessert today. It wasn't too sweet, but also not too bland, the strawberry flavour came out very nicely and I thought it tasted a little like a sorbet, but fluffier.

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In addition, it seems that indeed aquafaba works fine for whipping even after freezing. I had some doubts as to it's lack of flavour. The "fresh" part was a little cloudy and the thawed part was very cloudy, but once there was air inside, the foam was white and looked silky and smooth. The inspirational recipe states that the aquafaba should be whipped for 9 minutes, which is why I've given the minutes in the instructions. It didn't mention the speed of whipping and the speed would depend on the size of the engine of the machine, but run on max should be a good bet. The idea is to reach "stiff peaks" stage when everything has been incorporated. Looking back when I first tried using aquafaba, I have a vague memory that it did take quite a bit longer to reach the desired stage, compared to egg whites, so a stand mixer is strongly recommended. I have a mixer attachment for my Kitchen Assistent and the bowl is very sadly plastic, so I've not used it for making meringue with egg whites, however, aquafaba worked absolutely fine.

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Of course, the aquafaba can't have any flavourings in it, so beware cans of beans in salted water or such. I believe any canned beans would work, but keep in mind that some beans will also release some colour into the liquid, so might not be suitable all times. I generally buy unsalted cans and have now instructed Lundulph not to throw the liquid away, but to start thinking of flavourings. The custard seems to be a decent base to use for a variety of fruit I should imagine. I also suspect we'll get through this ice cream a lot faster than the other one, there's just so much air in it.

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Lundulph thought it was very light and fluffy and agrees that there was a bit of a sorbet taste to it, but agrees it's a winner.

Update 12th June 2020:
Since the original batch, I've made 3 more, all of which I swapped out the strawberry custard with something else and omitted the vanilla essence.

Batch 1: 3 dl of puréed mango and strawberries. This was even more like a sorbet.

Batch 2: A ganache from 200 g Valrhona passion flavoured white chocolate and 90 g condensed milk. Melt the chocolate gently. Scald the condensed milk and stir the two together, this goes quite thick. I also only had 2 dl of aquafaba, so ended up with a smaller amount. This resulted in quite a tangy ice cream.

Batch 3:A ganache made with 438 g single cream, 62 g granulated sugar and 200 g 70% bittersweet chocolate. Scald the cream together with the sugar, chop the chocolate if needed, then pour the hot liquid over the chocolate and let stand for a couple of minutes until the chocolate melts. Stir together until it becomes smooth, cover the surface with clingfilm and let cool down to room temperature. This makes about 5 dl, so only use 3 in the ice cream recipe. I also added 1 tsp of ground cinnamon to the part I used for the ice cream. Lundulph didn't like this one much. My intention was to get a creamier feel to the ice cream, but it felt kind of coarse and I suspect was closer to a granita in texture. Still, I quite liked it and I'll try to incorporate chilli in the next batch. I've also run out of chocolate pencils, so I'll need to make some more of those too.

Batch 4:334 g ripe raspberries, 256 g granulated sugar, 1 red Thai chilli. Wash the raspberries well, then place in a large bowl and add the sugar. Wash and slice the chilli lengthwise, but keeping the stalk intact and add to the bowl. Stir through, then refrigerate for 24 h until the sugar has melted. Stir through every now and then. Remove the chilli and taste the mixture to decide if you want to remove the chilli or keep it in. If keeping it in, cut off the stalk, then blend the whole lot and push through a sieve to remove the pips. In the meantime whip 4 dl of aquafaba with 160 g icing sugar, then fold together and freeze. This amounts to almost 4 litres of ice cream.

Batch 5:200 g white caramel chocolate calets and 200 g single cream. Heat the cream to about 65°C, then add the chocolate and leave for a couple of minutes to let it melt, then stir until it all comes together into a fairly runny ganache, leave to cool to room temperature. Mixed with the whipped up aquafaba, this gives the usual 2 litres of ice cream.

15 June 2020

Strawberry Custard

Over the past few weeks, my Mum has very dilligently read the recipes in her weekly magazine, selected ones she believes are good and has got my Dad to scan and e-mail to me. The magazine usually has a theme or ingredient each week, so in the strawberry recipe leaflet, there were several good ones. One was for "a simple strawberry ice cream", which frankly is the basic recipe I've been using over the past month and a half, with some strawberry jam added and frozen in a bundt cake tin to make it prettier.

On the same page, there was a second recipe for what they called "strawberry curd". I've had several very positive experiences with curd in the past, so was quite keen to try this one, though it looked like pink yoghurt in the photo. Indeed, I'd say this is a custard, not a curd, but it was very tasty and combined brilliantly with home made yoghurt - one of Lundulph's favourite afternoon snacks. I made a double batch straight away last week and I've now made a second one, with the aim to try an idea for another no-churn ice cream.

Ingredients

Makes about 600 ml
500 g washed and trimmed strawberries
2 dl granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 tbsp corn flour
50 g butter

Method

  1. Blend the strawberries and if you want a smooth custard, sieve them to remove the pips.
  2. Whisk together the strawberry purée, sugar, eggs and corn flour in a saucepan.
  3. Bring to a simmer slowly, while stirring constantly and let simmer until the mixture thickens.
  4. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter, then transfer to an air-tight container, cover the surface with clingfilm and let cool to room temperature, then store in the fridge.

This should last 2 - 3 weeks in the fridge and I've frozen some to see how that works. I think it would make a good cake filler and as I mentioned above, mixed with yoghurt it is very tasty. If the frozen one is fine after thawing, I will try using it as a filler for chocolate bonbons.

The only thing is that the strawberries tend to lose their colour when cooked, so the custard will be pale pink with a tendency towards grey. This doesn't bother me for home use, but if it'll be served to guests, I'd add a little red colour to make it a bit more appealing to the eye.

Lundulph thought it was quite nice too and was speculating that it would be very nice on top of some sort of sponge cake or inside a Swiss roll. We'll try that next.

4 June 2020

Failed Meringues

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Following my lovely fruit basked cake for my birthday, I had 4 egg whites to be used up. Originally I planned to make them into marshmallow, but some research resulted in the realisation that marshmallows do not contain egg whites at all. So the next thing to do is meringues and I had a vague idea of trying to make them flavoured. I had some lovely orange flavouring and yellow food colour that should have done the trick.

As it turned out, they didn't. I made the Swiss meringue, following a recipe from Lenôtre's book and I strongly suspect the orange flavouring is what did it. It looked quite oily and probably contributed to the collapse of the egg whites. So I urgently started searching for what to do when a meringue mixture just doesn't happen and came across this, which I used as inspiration, in particular the Chewy Almond Macaroons recipe.

Ingredients

4 large egg whites
250 g granulated sugar
1 tsp orange flavouring
yellow food colour
2 dl sesame seeds
2 dl plain flour
1 tsp baking powder

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 °C (not fan).
  2. Place the egg whites and the sugar in a glass bowl and place this bowl over a saucepan with gently simmering water. The water must not touch the bottom of the glass bowl.
  3. Whip the mixture over the water bath until it reaches 50 °C.
  4. Remove from the heat and continue to beat on high speed for about 5 minutes, then lower the speed and beat for a further 5 minutes until the mixture is very stiff.
  5. Towards the end add the flavouring and the food colour and watch the mixture deflate and go runny.
  6. Fold in the sesame seeds, then sift in and fold the flour and baking powder.
  7. Line a couple of baking sheets with baking paper, then pipe small blobs onto it.
  8. Bake until the biscuits puff up and just begin to get a colour on top.
  9. Remove from the oven and carefully transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool down completely.

What I learned in addition from this exercise is that just using sesame seeds is way too intensive a flavour. This was surprising, because whenever a recipe uses sesame as a spice, I barely notice it and always thing there should be more, but in this case it was way too much, so mixing with sunflower seeds or using ground or finely chopped nuts might be better. The combination with the orange wasn't super, but not too bad either.

Lundulph quite happily ate the lot, I filled up a biscuit tin and put next to his desk and they did go over the following few days. His suggestion was that they should be covered in dark chocolate, so I might try that next time my meringues fail.