16 December 2008
This year we used the old cutters for the house, rather than attempting the complicated contraption we did last year. Lou and her sister were very good and rolled the dough nicely and evenly.
I tried to explain the difference between sucrose and glucose while we were waiting for it to caramelise in order to glue the bits together, but I don't think I managed to do that very well.
They also decorated it by themselves and did a good job of that too, though I think quite a lot of the icing was eaten right out of the tube, rather than used on the gingerbread house. It's not quite complete yet, Lundulph's Mum will finish it off and the girls will dust with icing sugar. I'm waiting for photos.
I made a backgammon board. Lou's sister got quite into it when I taught them earlier this year and I thought it would be a fun thing to make. Certainly it won't collapse, even if it gets damp.
This took most of the day, but I think we all enjoyed ourselves. There was about a third of the dough left and we froze it for later.
I put them in my big pressure cooker, along with
1 large onion cut in chunks
4 cloves of garlic, sliced
5 sprigs of lemon thyme
10 juniper berries
1 dl olive oil
salt & pepper
3 l water
I brought everything to the boil (not under pressure) and left it to simmer for a couple of hours while we had our Christmas dinner. Then I let it cool down overnight, strained and froze in half litre measues.
I've never made stock before, so it'll be interesting to see. I do use stock fairly regularly.
13 December 2008
Note the fairly small print - may contain shot. I found one while chopping them up and Lundulph found several during our dinner, possibly ate a few too. I bought 4 birds that were quite a bit smaller than I expected, comparing to the ones hanging around in our garden.
The recipe I decided to go for, after a fairly short research session was this one. Breast of wood pigeon with sweet potato rösti, buttered Savoy cabbage and red wine sauce. Quite a mouthful. It seemed fairly simple to do though and I didn't want to end up tired after a whole day's cooking.
I increased the amounts to what I thought would be 4 portions:
1 large sweet potato
4 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1 small Savoy cabbage
3 l water
40 g butter
10 sage leaves
4 pigeon breasts
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves of garlic
5 dl red wine
3 bay leaves
5 sprigs lemon thyme
10 juniper berries
salt and pepper
- If whole pigeons are used, wash and cut off the legs, wings and back and save for later. Pat the breasts dry with kitchen tissue.
- Peel and grate the sweet potato. Then place in a couple of layers of cheese cloth and squeeze out as much excess liquid. Do about a handful at a time, it's easier and gets more liquid out. Then mix with the olive oil, salt and pepper.
- Trim the outer leaves of the Savoy cabbage and wash. Cut in four and remove the stalks and shred it. Bring the water and salt to boil and put the shredded cabbage in and boil for 6-8 minutes, then drain.
- Place the sweet potato into an oven and hob proof pan and place on the hob on medium heat and fry for 6-8 minutes. Stir occasionally and add more olive oil, if it seems too dry. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6 (200 degrees C). Move the pan to the middle of the oven and continue to bake for another 15 minutes.
- Heat up the oil and brown the pigeon breasts, then put in a pan and continue baking in the oven.
- Add a bit more oil into the pan where the pigeons were browned, press in the garlic and fry for a couple of minutes, then add the remainder of the sauce ingredients and simmer to reduce to half the volume, then strain.
- Just before serving, heat up the butter. Then add the sage and fry for about a minute until they start to wilt, then add the cabbage and stir well.
Now, I've had Rösti in Germany many years ago. It was made of regular potatoes, but I couldn't work out how it all stuck together - just grated potatoes. Same with the sweet potatoes, I couldn't get them to stick together and form a cake, so I gave up and stirred around, it had actually started to burn by the time I did this. Still it wasn't ruined, but turned out quite nice.
The pigeons were interesting to chop up - the original recipe called for breast thinly sliced and should I try this recipe again, I'll definitely try to fillet off the breasts. I ended up over-doing them and they tasted mostly like liver with a bit more texture than actual liver. I should have baked them at lower temperature as well and I probably kept them too long for browning as well.
The cabbage was nice, could have done with a bit more salt. The red wine sauce was very nice indeed. I think pigeon needs another chance, and less baking at lower temperature might give better results.
But I now have a new obsession - work out how to make proper rösti.
For dessert I made mille-feuille, also known as Napoleonbakelse in Sweden. Sadly I forgot to prepare the puff pastry and bought ready rolled one.
I used one packet of puff pastry - 375 g and made the créme mousseline.
Place the rolled out puff pastry on a baking sheet (line with parchment if necessary), prick with a fork, then place in the fridge for 30 minutes or so.
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 7, 220 degrees C, place a second baking sheet on top of the puff pastry and bake in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes. Then remove the top sheet, turn down the heat to gas mark 3, 170 degrees and bake for further 5 minutes. The second baking sheet prevents the puff pastry from rising high. Once done, take out and leave to cool.
The cream I made turned out very runny, I should probably have put it in the fridge to make it stiffer.
Trim the edges of the puff pastry if necessary, then cut up in strips, about 5 x 10 cm size. Select the flattest nicest looking ones for the top layer.
Dust a plate with cocoa powder, place one puff pasty peace on top, spread some cream (or pipe), place a second puff pastry piece, then another layer of cream and finish with the nice piece of puff pastry.
Dust with icing sugar. Each layer of cream should be at least 1 cm thick.
Because the cream was so runny, everything squirted out and was mis-shapen. Generally in cafés, only one layer is proper créme mousseline, and the second layer is just whipped cream. This is always an annoyance with my Mum, it should be créme mousseline.
Also, if the pastry keeps its shape once you start eating it, there's something dodgy with it - probably gelatine or something similar. The créme should just be squeezed out between the layers and go all messy on the plate. Which is why I generally don't buy these pastries in cafés, I can't eat them in a dignified way.
8 December 2008
And so, I set out to get all ingredients - including the brown wrapping paper!
I followed the amounts on the Wild Yeast Blog as much as I could, but I think I need new scales - the ones I have are getting more and more random. They started off by flicking between all sorts of numbers if the microwave happened to be on at the same time. Actually microwaves do leak loads of nasty waves. But now the scales have started flicking also when the radio is on, or the dish washer/washing machine which are both at the far side of the room. So who knows how accurate I managed to measure things up. The only thing I changed was that I used fresh yeast, now that I know it's readily available from the supermarket, it's just too tempting to use. For the starter dough, I used 12 g and for the final dough 6 g.
As the dough was spinning around in the kneading machine with me beaming over it as long strings formed in the dough, I kept thinking this is gonna be great. Actually most of the dough seemed to be stuck to the walls of the mixer bowl.
While the dough, divided into three balls was resting, I made the baskets. After 30 minutes, the balls had swollen quite a lot and seemed a lot bigger than the ones on Susan's post. I should have made a fourth basket and divided the dough in four. I put the skewers in, at which point Lundulph came in to see what I was up to and gave them a suspicious look.
So, I put the dough into the baskets, then into the oven with a flat Pyrex dish at the bottom of the oven and I kept pouring steaming hot water every now and then into it. And here's where I went wrong. Despite Susan saying explicitly to what stage the dough should be allowed to rise, I went for the 3 h wait and so they went well over the top, by the time I got round to glazing and baking.
Anyway, I preheated the oven on gas mark 4 and reduced to 3, which is 170 degrees C, slightly lower than the recommended 350 degrees F. 20 minutes later all three looked like they'd barely noticed it getting warm in the oven. I gave them another 30 minutes, still no difference. I moved the rack to the middle and raised to gas mark 5 and I baked them for another 20 odd minutes.
I had also not worked out the hanging contraption, so very quickly I put two chairs back to back and placed our mop and a curtain pole over them and fixed them in with some blutack. Susan is right, the panettones are barely out of the oven and they start sinking in. Besides because of the over-proofing, they didn't really rise much beyond the proofing height.
This took most of the day and I left them to cool overnight.
Yes, they went messy once I brushed the glaze on. That was a tasty glaze, I had quite a lot left over.
Then the result - perfect panettone texture - very light. Sadly also extremely dry and crumbly, that's the over-baking, along with the burnt crust - it had caramelised.
But this is definitely a keeper recipe, I just need to work out the oven bit.
23 November 2008
3 tbsp grape seed oil
1 large onion
6 dl cabbage stock
6 dl water
1 tsp vegeta spice mixture
5 medium sized potatoes
2 large carrots
1 yellow pepper
10 okra fingers
2 tbsp dried savory
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
- Heat the oil in a deep non-stick saucepan.
- Peel and dice the onion and fry in the oil until translucent.
- Add the cabbage stock, water and vegeta and bring to the boil on medium-low heat.
- Wash and if needed peel the potatoes, then cut into strips and add to the soup.
- Wash and peel the carrots and cut in strips and add to the soup.
- Wash the pepper and remove the seeds, wash the okra and remove the stalks.
- Cut the pepper into strips and the okra into small chunks and add to the soup
- Let simmer for another 5 minutes
Lundulph had a couple of pork sausages left over from a grilling spree and I put them in as well, to heat them through. This turned out rather tasty. Very quick as well, I used my alligator chopper for the onion, potatoes and carrots, brilliant if you want everything in julienne strips. I think some tomato might have been nice as well, but I couldn't be bothered.
16 November 2008
Finally, one thing to tick off the things to try out list. I first realised this is something that can be made at home when I read the entry in Wild Yeast. And now that I've been baking so much lately, I felt I was on a roll and started investigating how to go about this. Sadly time doesn't permit to follow Susan's recipe with Italian starter. But while scouring the web for panettone moulds, I came across this fabulous site.
Needless to say, there is no such thing as a panettone mould in the UK. I only found one and it was star shaped and more of a novelty size muffin, than a panettone. Oh, yes, of course, there's the industrial quantity of 12000 (twelve thousand!) disposable ones on a pallet. I would probably need to open up a bakery to be allowed to buy them though.
So, when I found the above fab recipe, not only did it have photos and very good instructions, it also recommended using coffee tins lined with baking parchment. Brilliant! I have only one coffee tin, left over from some 10 years ago, when I got it along with my espresso cooker. As Winnie-the-Pooh would say, it's particularly useful when empty.
The recipe called for three of those tins, but I didn't manage to find two more, so in the end I decided to use my variable size cake tin. So they are a bit on the squarish side. I divided the dough in 4 and in hindsight, that star shaped mould would probably have worked.
An electric whisk and a dough mixer of some sort is essential.
Anyway, let's get to the point. I made a few changes to the recipe as well to make it possible to make it, so to speak.
2.4 dl raisins
1.6 dl dark rum
1 dl lukewarm water
1 dl semi-skimmed milk
0.6 dl fresh yeast or 0.3 dl dry
3 large eggs
1.5 dl caster sugar
1.75 tsp salt
10 dl super strong flour
2.4 dl chopped nuts (I used coarsely ground almonds)
1.2 dl candied orange and lemon peel
100 g unsalted butter at room temperature
- On the night before, measure up the raisins and pour the rum over them and leave to stand until needed. There should be very little liquid left after about 20 odd hours.
- Place the water and milk in a small saucepan and warm up to about 37-40 degrees, then crumble up the yeast and stir in to dissolve and set aside.
Whisk together eggs, sugar and salt until light and creamy.
- Add the yeast liquid and keep whisking until well incorporated.
- Transfer to the dough mixer and start adding flour. It should come together fairly well. Let the mixer knead until the dough has become shiny and gluten develops. A tip from Susan at Wild Yeast is to pinch about a tablespoon sized piece of dough and start stretching it. If it can form a continuous thin membrane with no breaks, then it's done.
- Now add the nuts and the candied peel. Drain the raisins (but don't squeeze them out) and add as well and let the mixer knead them in well.
- Cut up the butter in to 4-5 chunks and add one at a time. Here the dough will get very greasy on the surface and it'll seem that nothing is happening, but be patient, the machine will do it's job and incorporate it. The dough will start forming strings too, this is lovely gluten that will make it rise.
- When all has been incorporated, cover the bowl with a towel and let it rise until double in size. This would be about an hour or so. Make sure the kitchen isn't too hot, or the butter will start melting and may ooze out.
- Prepare the baking tin by lining bottom and sides with baking parchment. No need for greasing up anything.
- Turn the dough out onto a work surface, no need for additional flour. Divide into 4 parts and roll each out with a rolling pin to a rectangle about 20 by 30 cm and 1 cm thick.
- From the short side, roll up like a cigar, then bend it into a horse shoe shape and place in the baking tin with the two ends down. Then let proof to double size again. Towards the end of the proofing, pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6 (200 degrees C) and place a pan or a bowl at the bottom shelf and pour some hot water in it. This is particularly important in electrical ovens.
- Turn down the oven to gas mark 5 (190 degrees C), place a sheet of aluminium foil over the panettones and bake in the middle of the oven. Because there is so much sugar in this dough, it burns easily and the foil will prevent it going black before it has baked through. Check after 20 minutes, if the panettones seem a bit uneven, turn the baking pan around and lower the heat to gas mark 4 (180 degrees C) and leave for another 15-20 minutes.
- Take out of the oven and remove from the baking tin as soon as possible, or condensation will form and make the panettones soggy.
The panettones rose well above the edge of the tin, so the trick to getting a high cake like that is to roll it like a cigar and bend into a horse shoe. We had some for breakfast this morning. It was a bit denser than the panettones you get in the shops and could have done with more sugar. I think I cheated a bit on the whisking at the beginning and the fresh yeast I used had been frozen, I'll try again with really fresh one next time. And perhaps the ground almonds might have had something to do with this, they should have been chopped. But I'm proud of my first attempt, it worked quite nicely indeed.
Something I also noticed is that the sides that were facing the middle of the tin didn't bake as dark as the outer ones. Next time I need to think out a more individual way of covering them with the aluminium foil to allow heat to go through inside the tin as well.
10 November 2008
And so, a few weeks ago, I prepared to try this out and made the pie crust from my Cordon Bleu book. This is the first time I've managed to roll the pie crust, in the past using different recipes, I've always had to form it in pieces with my fingers and sort of press it into the pie dish, so this was quite a treat for my ego.
Since it was to be for a dessert, I made the pâte sucrée, which is the same as pâte brisée with added sugar.
3 dl plain flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp caster sugar
1.2 dl unsalted butter
2 tsp water
some egg yolk or egg white
1 large can of pears in syrup
1 large can of peaches in syrup
2.5 dl pomegranate jelly
- Sift the flour into a bowl, then blend in the salt and sugar.
- Dice the butter, then rub it into the flour until it's even in colour and looks like small crumbles.
- Lightly beat the egg, then add to the crumbles and stir in well, followed by the water a tea spoon at a time. It will now come together to a dough.
- Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4 or 180 degrees C.
- Work it a bit onto a work surface and shape into a dough, but don't overdo it because it will become tough.
- Roll the dough out to be about 5 cm bigger than the pie dish, then roll up onto the rolling pin and transfer to the pie dish. It's very important to roll the dough and not stretch it, because stretched parts tend to shrink during baking.
- Prick it all over with a fork, then brush with either egg yolk or egg white and bake until it just begins to get a bit of colour on the edges. Cover the bottom of the pastry with baking parchment and add baking marbles if you have these. I baked mine for 25 minutes, but it might be shorter.
- Once it's done, it can be allowed to cool and then covered tightly with clingfilm and stored in a cool place for quite some time. Or continue to complete the tart.
- Drain the fruit from the syrup and save it for something else. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6 or 200 degrees C.
- Cut the fruit into smaller pieces if necessary and arrange in the pie shell in a nice symmetrical pattern.
- Put the jelly into a saucepan and melt it on low heat, then pour it over the fruit.
- Bake for about 20 minutes to heat through the fruit.
- Serve hot with hot custard or ice-cream.
Also I don't have baking beans, but I found out that ordinary beans do the trick too. The beans will heat up and help distribute the heat of the oven better than the air and will speed up the blind baking, as this is called. But they will also provide some weight to help keep the pastry flat and not rise and bubble up here and there.
I still have to work out what to do with all the spare syrup. I think it would be good for moistening cakes. There aren't any birthdays coming up though, so I might end up throwing it away, but I hope it won't come to that.
9 November 2008
- Remove the outer couple of leaves of the cabbages, quarter and remove the stalk. Then shred or dice the cabbage. I recommend using an appliance for this.
- Place the cabbage in a large bowl and add the salt. Then rub thoroughly. The cabbage will start releasing juices, go slightly translucent and go soft. At this point you'll also notice if you have any wounds on your hands, as the salt will sting.
- Grate the carrots and stir in with the cabbage along with the lemon juice.
- Place all in the pressure cooker along with the water.
- In a small saucepan, heat up the oil on medium. When bubbles begin to appear, add the paprika and stir vigorously for about 30 seconds, then pour it onto the cabbage and stir in.
- Close the pressure cooker and let it come to the boil and leave to cook under pressure for 30 minutes (1 h if not very tender). Let the pressure out and open the lid. At this point the cabbage will have the same colour as the carrots because of the paprika. Liquidise or crush the tomatoes and stir in along with the savory.
- Pre-heat the oven at gas mark 7 (220 degrees C). Mill black pepper over the steaks and brown them in a non-stick pan for no more than a couple of minutes on each side.
- Transfer to a deep oven pan and cover with the cabbage. Transfer some of the liquid from the cabbage as well, this will ensure that the steaks don't reach too high temperature and go dry. Bake for about 45 minutes, until the cabbage starts getting a bit of colour here and there around the edges.
2 large onions, to be diced fairly finely and fried off until transluscent along with the savory and black pepper. Then only 3 tbsp of paprika are added and stirred through quickly. Around a decilitre of water are added after that along with the carrots and fried off to pick up some of the flavourings.
What my Mum then does, is to shred and rub the cabbage in four parts, because it's easier, and she layers the rubbed cabbage and quarters onion/carrot mixture. Then bring to the boil with water and cook under pressure for some 30 minutes. She also uses around 3 tbsp salt, but when I've made the cabbage with the amounts listed above, it's not been too salty. You may need to try things out.
If you have access to a Turkish shop or similar, where they sell whole soured cabbage, you can swap out the lemon juice and tomatoes for a couple of handfuls for shredded sour cabbage. It may also work with German style sauerkraut, but it is often spiced differently, so might not work very well. In Turkey and also Bulgaria, cabbages are soured whole and take a bit longer, so have a different taste. In this case, use the centre of the whole soured cabbage and layer along with the fresh cabbage and onion/carrot mixture.
My Mum also tends to buy fresh dill and parsley in large bunches and freezes. She also makes sure to save the stalks and chops them finely and uses in stews and soups. These would also be good here, to add at the end. I rarely bother with saving the stalks, but they do have quite a lot of flavour, so well worth saving probably.
2 November 2008
Not losing any time yesterday after the bread failure, stopping only to push the dense, yeasty loaf in the bin, I made a second mixture, this time:
7 dl strong white flour
1 tsp dry yeast
2 tsp salt
4 dl water
This resulted in something half way between a dough and a batter.
I also ended up leaving it for 23 hours, at which point it looked more like a batter and it was bubbling like a geyser.
When I saw this, I briefly entertained the idea of binning it and starting once more, but thought I'd pour it out first on the work surface, even more generously covered with flour. You never know, it might be rescued. It glopped out of the bowl and was extremely sticky but most definitely a dough. I dusted more flour on top and carefully shaped it into a square. With my new trusty plastic dough scraper I sort of managed to fold it in three and then 15 minutes later I made the second folding. It just kept flowing out. I made a third folding, because it was nowhere near a cube shape.
When it was time for it to go into the oven, it had spread out back to the original size again and I involuntarily ended up folding it again as I poured it into the casserole dish from the towel, there's no way I could have managed to scoop it up to transfer it.
Baking went well, this is what it looked like when I took it out an hour later.
It crackled as I took it out from the casserole dish.
In the mean time, I'd made Bulgarian bean soup. I grilled some Frankfurters and cut up the bread. Just the sound of cutting through the crust made us drool. The crumb was looking very lovely too, lots of big holes and all that.
This is definitely a repeat.
1 November 2008
I think these definitely qualify as comfort food. This was my first attempt, so some fine tuning is in order, but overall, I think they worked out quite well.
2 dl pudding rice
4 dl water
8 dl milk
1 tsp salt
6 dl rye flour
1.5 tsp salt
2.5 dl water
1 dl milk
1 tbsp butter
3 hard boiled eggs
150 g soft butter
- Mix rice, water, milk and salt in a saucepan and bring to the boil, then cover and let simmer for around 50 minutes. After that leave to cool. To speed things up, fill the sink with cold water and place the saucepan in there and stir.
- Pre-heat the oven at gas mark 7 or 225 degrees C.
- Mix the flour and salt, then add the water and stir into a dough. It will be sticky when it first comes together, but this goes away after a couple of minutes of kneading.
- Shape the dough into a roll and cut into 15-16 pieces. Sprinkle some rye flour on the work surface and roll out each piece into a round of about 15 cm diameter. Lay one on top of the other with a bit of flour in between.
- Put a spoon of the rice filling in the middle of a round, then fold two opposite sides of the dough over it. After that fold the rest and press in lightly, leaving the middle of the filling exposed.
- Sprinkle flour on the baking sheets and bake high in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until some colour appears on the pasties.
- In the mean time, melt the butter and mix with the milk.
- Take out the pasties and brush with the milk-butter mixture, then place a pasty over another and place between tea towels to cool.
- Peel and chop the hard boiled eggs finely, then mix well with the soft butter.
- Serve the pasties warm with a bit of the egg butter on top.
The original recipe called for 2 tsp salt for the dough, but it ended up a bit salty. Also I should have rolled out all the dough rounds, then layed them out and evenly distributed the rice filling. Today, I did a few at a time and ran out of filling for the last ones.
These are the original Karelian pasties, there are versions with potatoes and I suspect any scrumbled mixture would do the trick. They are also surprisingly filling, the pasties were slightly smaller than my hand and I could only eat one, Lundulph just about managed two. We've saved some for breakfast tomorrow, the rest I've put in the fridge.
31 October 2008
I spotted these intriguing raspberries at the supermarket today. They were marketed as Ghost Raspberries, but they didn't glow in the dark. They tasted quite nice, though could have done with some more sun to make them juicier and sweeter.
At the patisserie class I found out about a recipe for kneadless bread. The theory is that time develops gluten as well as kneading.
Now some time ago, I spotted a new type of flour at Waitrose - oak smoked stone ground strong flour. Needless to say, I couldn't resist this and so thought I'd try out the fab new kneadless recipe with this fab new flour.
Unfortunately this was a bad choice, but there were glints of hope, so I'll try this again, with regular white strong flour or more water.
7 dl strong white flour
1 tsp dry yeast or 2 tsp fresh yeast
2 tsp salt
3.5 dl water at room temperature
flour and course bran or polenta for sprinkling
- Mix the flour and yeast in a large bowl; if using fresh yeast, rub it in well into the flour. Then add the salt and water.
- Combine into a wet dough. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave for about 18 hours in room temperature.
- Flour your work surface and turn out the dough, it should spread out on its own accord. Push it aside into a square of about 25 cm, then fold into thirds into a strip and leave to rest for 15 minutes.
- Fold into thirds along the long side to form a cube. Sprinkle flour and bran/polenta on a linen towel and place the dough cube carefully on top. Sprinkle more flour and bran/polenta over it and cover it up with the towel and leave to rise for 2 hours.
- After 1 hour of rising, place a casserole dish with its lid in the oven and preheat on the highest temperature - gas mark 9 or 240 degrees C.
- When the rising time is up, place the cube in the casserole dish and bake with the lid on for 30 minutes. Then remove the lid and bake for further 20-23 minutes.
I should have reacted when my dough came together rather nicely last night. In fact I was quite tempted to continue kneading. I should have added more water then and there. And so, there was some gluten development, but not too much. A wetter dough would have made it better. It just struck me that the fresh yeast I used had been frozen, that might have affected it slightly.
Turning it out onto the work surface, it didn't spread out voluntarily, I had to push it out and 2 hours rising time didn't seem to make any difference. Even in baking, it didn't rise much. I also should have brushed off some of the flour and polenta that I covered it with.
I've left it to cool now and will try it out tomorrow. Overall, I'm looking forward to making this work.
28 October 2008
So I lined a baking tray with aluminium foil, then mixed the toffee with puffed rice and walnuts and shaped it into a bar in the baking tray. The toffee had started to go hard, so I re-heated it slightly to make it easier to stir in the puffed rice and walnuts. Then I left it to cool down.
I cut it into bite size pieces, it was very tasty. Lundulph keeps nipping into the box.
Lou is my oldest niece and we celebrated her birthday yesterday. She's into diving with ambitions for the London 2012 Olympics and so I thought a swimming pool cake would be in order.
First I made the outer cream, which is the mousseline cream from my patisserie class, this time in it's original state - vanilla flavoured.
250 ml semi-skimmed milk
0.5 vanilla pod
110 caster sugar
15 g cornflour
10 g plain flour
125 unsalted butter at room temperature
- Put the milk in a large saucepan together with half the sugar. Cut the vanilla pod lengthwise, then scrape off all the seeds and put in the milk. Finally add the pods themselves as well. Stir in and bring to the boil.
- In a bowl, whisk the eggs, yolk, half the sugar, cornflour and flour to a pale fluffy mixture.
- When the milk has come to the boil, take off the heat, then add a few tablespoons of it to the egg mixture slowly, while whisking in order to temper the eggs.
- Take out the two vanilla husks, then pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan and put back on the hob on low heat.
- Keep stirring until the custard thickens and bubbles start to form.
- Take off the heat and stir in a third of the butter, then cover the surface with cling film and leave to the side to cool.
- Once cold, stir the remainder of the butter light and fluffy, then stir it into the custard cream and it's ready to use. Or cover again with cling film and keep in the fridge.
For the cake base, I made an old favourite - sponge with ground nuts. I made the double amount for this particular cake and I used almonds, which I had left over from all the macarons.
50 g unsalted butter or margarine
2 large eggs
2 dl granulated sugar
3 dl plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 dl ground nuts
1 dl single cream
- Preheat the oven at gas mark 3 (175 degrees C) if making one cake, or at gas mark 6 (200 degrees C) if making cup cakes.
- Gently melt the butter or margarine and let it cool down.
- In the mean time whisk the eggs and sugar white and fluffy.
- In a separate bowl, sift together flour and baking powder, then slowly add to the egg/sugar mixture, followed by the almonds and the cream.
- Finally pour in the fat carefully while still whisking. Grease and flour a cake tin or line with baking parchment. Dessicated coconut is also good instead of flour.
- Pour into a cake tin, about 1.5 litre volume or into cup cakes and bake for about 35 - 40 minutes.
Because I made the double amount, I had to bake it for an hour and 15 minutes.
While waiting for the sponge to cool down, I made the jelly for the water effect. I followed the instruction on the packet of leaf gelatine, which said the full packet of 15 leaves to 1.25 litres of liquid. I guessed that I needed about half that, so I used 7.5 leaves. As liquid, I'd bought some elderflower squash concentrate from IKEA. Normally it would require dilution of 6 parts water to 1 part of concentrate.
Before I made the jelly, I made the mould for the ripples on the surface. I'd decided to try and make the mould out of aluminium foil, because there wasn't time for anything more advanced. After a bit of experimentation, I bluetacked three bowls one inside the other.
On top of this, I placed the aluminium foil and formed it so that the bowls would form ridges on it.
The main thing is to pour the jelly into the reverse side of the mould. Before pouring, the edges of the foil must be bent up or the jelly will run out on the sides. Also aluminium foil is very soft, so extreme care is required or the mould will be ruined.
I also made a mini rectangle to test things out.
This I put aside to set. After a few hours it was still fairly runny, so I put it in the fridge, at which point the thought struck me that using aluminium might affect the jelling, but decided to hope for the best. The fridge strategy worked out well.
7.5 leaves of gelatine
250 ml elderflower concentrate
300 ml water
1 tsp blue food colouring
- Soak the gelatine leaves in some cold water for a few minutes
- Mix elderflower concentrate, water and blue food colouring in a jug.
- Squeeze out the excess liquid from the gelatine leaves and place in a bowl and melt on low heat, this doesn't take very long.
- Once melted, pour into the jug with the blue mixture and stir in well. Then pour into the mould.
For moisturising, I made the sugar stock syrup from my patisserie course:
300 g granulated sugar
350 g water
2 tbsp dark rum
- Bring the sugar and water to the boil and leave to simmer for about 5 minutes.
- Allow to cool down to room temperature (or plunge in cold water to speed things up), then stir in the rum.
- Store in the fridge
I sliced the cake to make two layers, then brushed on some of the stock syrup. I thought I was being quite liberal with it, but the cake ended up fairly dry, so obviously I got the wrong impression.
The very last thing I made was the filling, and I made the toffee from my birthday cake from last year. Again I made the double dose and discovered that adding butter at the end is a big mistake. Like with my eclairs, the butter and the toffee separated. Actually they never came together and I spent some time draining the thing. Line a collander with lots of kitchen towels and leave in the sink, stirring it occasionally. It was a bit of a struggle to spread it and I had quite a lot left over.
Once I'd sandwiched the cake, I spread a thin layer of the mousseline cream on top in order to make the blue jelly come out more clearly. This was easy enough. But the jelly, although nicely set by now, had large surface and was very thin and trying to prise off the small rectangle, I realised it would not come off from the aluminium foil. At this point Lundulph came in to the kitchen to check on what I was doing and that added to the stress levels a bit. A deep breath and I flipped the whole thing on top of the cake, almost in the centre too. This didn't change the fact that the jelly wasn't going to come off without a fight. And now the idea struck me to warm up the foil a bit, thus melting the jelly ever so slightly and forcing it to let go. Hand warmth didn't do it, neither did all my spoons pre-warmed in hot water, so I turned up the edges of the foil and poured the hot water. This had an immediate result and I quickly ran out of hands to cope with getting the foil off as quickly as possible before everything melted, while preventing any water dripping into the cake.
I noticed that a few air pockets formed between the cake and the jelly, so I let the air out with a skewer, the jelly was still runny enough to completely hide the holes.
I took a short break, then covered the sides of the cake with mousseline cream, saving some to cover up the edge of the jelly.
Our local kitchen shop has a very good section for sugar craft, where I spotted small ballerina figurines and I got one and stuck in upside-down in the middle of the ripples. I also made a diving tower from marzipan. It wasn't very pretty, but I hope you can get the idea.
In hindsight, I shoul have used maybe 10 gelatine leaves for that amount of liquid, to make it stiffer and easier to work with.
24 October 2008
8 large mushrooms
1 jointed rabbit
25 g salted butter
1 tbsp grape seed oil
15 small shallots
2 cloves of garlic
250 g unsmoked streaky bacon
2 tbsp plain flour
0.5 l dry cider
0.5 l mushroom stock
500 g potatoes
100 g mange tout
100 g baby sweetcorn
sprigs of fresh thyme
12 juniper berries
salt and pepper
- Peel the mushrooms, but don't remove the stems. Grill on medium until well done.
- Wash and cut the potatoes in chunks and steam for 10 minutes.
- Wash the jointed rabbit and make sure there are no hairs left on it.
- Peel the shallots and garlic and chop finely. Dice the bacon.
- Heat up the butter and oil and brown off the rabbit joints. Then set aside.
- In the same pan, fry the onions, garlic and bacon until the onion is soft and the bacon has browned.
- Sprinkle the flour and stir vigorously for a minute or two, then pour in the cider slowly, it'll go foamy and fizzy at first. Then add the stock and stir in well.
- Put the rabbit joints back in and bring to the boil for a few minutes.
- In the mean time, transfer the mange tout, baby sweetcorn and potatoes to the guyvetch.
- Slice the mushrooms and add as well. Transfer carefully the rabbit and the stew liquid.
- Add the thyme. Crush the juniper berries and add as well. Season well with salt and pepper.
- Set the oven on slow cook setting or similar low temperature and leave overnight.
I had some doubts about this, but it turned out to be a similar experience to when we first had guinea fowl. The rabbit was so tender, the meat just came off the bone. Lundulph actually thought it was too bony, and said we should try and get a filleted rabbit next time. I'm not sure this is possible, but this stew was fab.
19 October 2008
I took the opportunity to consult my Mum on rabbits and received about 20 different recipes, so will go through them and see which one reads tastiest.
So chicken cushion. I forgot to ask at what temperature to cook it and for how long, I guessed at gas mark 6 (200 degrees) and left it in for about 45 minutes, while I got everything else ready. This is what it looked like as a whole:
The only thing I did was to spray the tin foil with grape seed oil and also spray some on top. I also gave it a couple of sprays while it was roasting too.
To accompany the chicken, I steamed some broccoli, we haven't had that for a while and made a creamy warm potato salad.
300 ml créme fraîche
1 bunch of chives
1 tbsp dried dill
salt and pepper
1 kg waxy salad potatoes
- Stir the créme fraîche smooth.
- Cut the chives finely and add, along with dill, salt and pepper. Stir in well and leave to stand in the fridge for a few hours. It should taste a bit too salty and will become right once mixed with the potatoes.
- Wash and dice the potatoes, then steam them until just done. Be careful not to over-cook so they go mushy.
- Let cool slightly, then pour in the créme fraîche mixture and stir in carefully and serve straight away.
This turned out to be quite delicious.
15 October 2008
To the right, yesterday's failed underbaked one and to the left a rescued one with additional 10 minutes at gas mark 2.
I had 8 egg yolks in the fridge because of the macaron insanity and made a nice omelet with them for dinner. Instead of adding milk, I used up some créme fraîche I had left from the other day. With salt, pepper and dill, it turned out very nice indeed and tasted a bit like an omelet with feta cheese in it. Lundulph liked it too, so I guess it wasn't too cheesy for him.
But back to the macarons, all is not lost if they are undercooked - just bake a bit longer but after pre-heating the oven properly first.
I also learned another very valuable lesson - make them and eat them straight away. The chocolate macarons I made last night have now gone extremely soggy and required some scraping off with a spoon. But the macarons themselves can be kept for a few days in an airtight container and the mousseline cream in the fridge and just put them together just before serving. So I'll keep my pink macarons in a box and the pink cream in the fridge for now.
On another happy note, my temporary aversion to chocolate from last Thursday is now over, I had a go at some of the first failed batch of macarons, they were tasty despite all.
14 October 2008
Having tried them out, I'm beginning to understand what the guy means.
Last night I rushed to the supermarket after work to get more eggs and ground almonds and made a single batch of chocolate macarons. Still the mixture felt a bit thick and even after about a minute of banging the tray on the table, they wouldn't really settle down.
I decided to try increasing the baking temperature to 180 degrees (gas mark 4). I also piped badly and ended up with one tray of large ones - about 5 cm diameter and one tray of tiny ones - about 2 cm diameter.
I baked the large ones for 20 minutes and the small ones for 15. They went a bit light in colour. I baked them one tray at a time in the middle of the main oven, then left them to cool down on their trays completely before prising them off. This time they'd baked nicely and came off the baking paper. They'd also risen quite a bit and cracked.
I must remember to use large eggs next time, so the mixture is a bit runnier. The little ones looked more like amaretto biscuits than macarons and in fact they are closely related according to Larousse Gastronomique. So there.
I also skipped the first resting period.
Tonight I combined them with the chocolate mousseline cream and here is the result:
Crispy on the outside, chewy in the middle and creamy with the cream. Lundulph approved, he's good like that.
Tonight I made a second batch with rose water and red food colouring, they're cooling now and I'll assemble them tomorrow. I increased the cornflour to 30 g and still the mixture was very runny, so will try making a Swiss meringue to make it firmer. As these set very nicely indeed because of that, I lowered the temperature to gas mark 3, 170 degrees. I wonder if the cornflour made them rise, but they did and cracked of course too. And went yellowish, not nice at all, they were supposed to be pink! Should probably have skipped the cornflour altogether. And drop the temperature to gas mark 2 (150 degrees). They baked for 15 minutes as well, fingers crossed that's enough. Here rescue instructions.
12 October 2008
Indeed, the class had 4 classic pieces of patisserie planned - chocolate financiers, opera gateau, mille-feuille and chocolate macarons. Sounds ambitious?
We were divided into 4 groups and each made one of these and were to discuss the recipes during the lunch. I was in the macaron group and tried to look at what all the others did as well, but was a bit disappointed that there was only time for one recipe. Never mind. Still, couldn't quite see what the fuss was about, the macarons were very straight forward.
We tried out all the resulting puddings and I was so heavily overdosed on chocolate, I've no trouble looking at the Nutella jar and resisting it. Hard to believe indeed.
Still, I picked up lots of useful tips, and I'm planning to try out all four recipes before Christmas. This week-end I wanted to do the macarons, because they ran out in the tasting session and there weren't any to take home.
Well, there is certainly a reason to fuss - I failed miserably. I had to cook them for almost twice the time an still they were undercooked. I wonder if it could be because I have a gas oven which has a moist heat, whereas at the school we baked in an electric oven which has dry heat. I asked Ghalid about this and he said it shouldn't be any difference. But I'll have to experiment. Some recipes I came across ask for higher oven temperature, might try that as well.
I made two lots - one with cocoa, one with rose water. The cream is enough for both.
110 g icing sugar
50 g ground almonds
12 g cocoa powder or cornflour
2 medium egg whites at room temperature
40 g caster sugar
1 tbsp rose water (if using cornflour instead of cocoa)
2-3 drops of red food colouring (if using rose water)
2 medium eggs
1 medium egg yolk
110 g caster sugar
250 ml milk
15 g cornflour
10 plain flour
125 unsalted butter at room temperature
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp rose water
2-3 drops of red food colouring
- Make the cream first by whisking eggs, egg yolk, cornflour, flour and half of the sugar until the mixture is fluffy and pale.
- Bring the milk and the rest of the sugar to the boil in a pan large enough to take the egg mixture as well. As the milk is heating up, pour a few tablespoons into the egg mixture while still whisking to temper it.
- Pour the tempered egg mixture into the milk and keep stirring energetically until the custard heats up. Let it cook for a few minutes, stirring all the time, so that it doesn't burn.
- Remove from the heat and add one third of the butter an whisk in well. Then cover with cling film straight onto the surface to prevent a skin forming and leave to cool.
- When the custard has cooled completely, divide in two. Add 1 tbsp cocoa powder to one half and stir well. Add 1 tbsp rose water and the food colouring to the second half, stirring them in well.
- Divide the remaining soft butter in two and stir in into each half. Cover with cling film again and store in the fridge.
- Sift separately the icing sugar and the almonds and the cocoa powder, then mix together well.
- Beat the egg whites to soft peak stage, then add the caster sugar slowly while beating until the meringue is smooth, but not too dry.
- Add the almond mixture and fold it in carefully. Leave to stand for 30 minutes in room temperature. Skip this rest if you're in a hurry.
- Pipe small blobs, about the size of a macadam nut onto a tray lined with baking parchment. When the tray is full, lift it about 5 cm from the work top and drop it. Repeat a couple of times. this makes the macarons take shape and flatten. Leave to stand for at least 30 minutes. Do not skip the resting this time, it is very important for the macarons. The mixture should give at least 40 macarons.
- Preheat the oven at 140 degrees (gas mark 1). Bake the macarons for precisely 15 minutes, then take out and leave to cool completely.
- In the mean time, take out the mousseline cream from the fridge and stir it to soften it up.
- Prise off from the baking parchment and turn half of the macarons upside-down. Pipe some cream on each of the upside-down macarons, then press the others on top, to form a sort of hamburger.
For some reason my macarons didn't bake properly and when I tried to prise them off, the bottoms stuck to the parchment. I'd baked them for about 30 minutes already, so I suspect I might need to increase the temperature at my next attempt.
The idea was to have the chocolate macarons with the chocolate mousseline cream and the rose water macarons with the rose water mousseline cream. The creams worked out really well.
The rose water one was a bit grainy, but both tasted very nice.
The rose water macaron mixture went too runny, so I'll increase the amount of corn flour next time, it was difficult to pipe and the blobs ended up flowing into each other.
The chocolate macaron mixture felt a bit thick, but that may have been due to the very small nozzle I had to use, I only had that and an eclair sized one which I thought would be too big.
So after some 30 minutes of baking:
In theory, the mousseline should keep for a few days, so I'll get more ingredients and try again.
At the school we made only the chocolate version and then with a ganache cream, but the recipe for the mousseline is quite large, so I decided to use it instead, it feels a bit lighter too.
The main point on macarons is that they need to rest after having been piped and that the tray needs to be tapped to make them as flat as possible. They are very close to meringues and if they aren't flat, the steam inside will try to come out at the top and they will crack. If they are flat, the steam will exit around the edge. The baking time is crucial, the macarons need to be baked on top bottom to give the crunchiness, while remaining sticky in the middle.
So not so easy at all! I'll post a follow-up once I've worked out things for my oven.
4 October 2008
Last Thursday I used up a birthday voucher on a master class in croissant making at The Bertinet Kitchen in Bath run by Richard Bertinet himself.
We also made brioche, which I hadn't expected, so it was a nice bonus. I hadn't realised how much effort goes in to make these wonderful things.
Here are some photos of what the class of 12 produced.
Pain aux raisins
And the leftover dough from the brioche and the cut-offs from the puff pastry were deep fried and rolled in sugar resulting in wonderful doughnuts and crispy sweet twiglets.
Needless to say that I was in a happy place all Friday, despite hurting feet and all that.
So while things are still fresh in my mind, I'm in the process of making brioche according to the recipe we used at the school.
500 g strong white flour
15 g fresh yeast
50 g caster sugar
10 g salt
225 g butter
pinch of salt
- Measure up everything and have ready to add at the right moment. Ensure the work surface is clean, as the dough is entirely worked by hand.
- Cut up the butter into 1 cm cubes and leave on the side.
- Rub the yeast into the flour until well incorporated.
- Add sugar, salt and eggs and incorporate into a very sticky dough. This doesn't take too long. Mr Bertinet recommended using a dough scraper, but I haven't managed to get hold of one yet.
- Turn out on the work surface. Do not add any flour, it's supposed to be sticky.
- Now work the dough by sticking your hands under the dough on either side, palms up like fork lifts. Bring your thumbs together on top of the dough and lift. In the air, turn your hands and the dough down and slap it back onto he work surface, then pull the part you're holding towards you and fold over the part that's stuck to the table. This brings you back to the starting position approximately.
- As you can see a lot sticks to the work surface, but that's OK, keep doing this movement and about 30 minutes later the dough will stop sticking to the table. Use a dough scraper or similar to incorporate whatever's stuck to the surface every now and then. This is quite good exercise and I recommend standing with one foot forward and one behind to get the better swing to it.
- Once the dough stops sticking to the surface, flatten it out a bit and put the butter dice on top of it. Tuck in from all sides an keep doing this until enough butter has been incorporated so that you can start the flap and fold motion again. The butter will try to ooze out, but be persistent, it'll all get in and the dough will feel easier to work with.
- Once all has been incorporated and the dough seems smooth, make a nice fold to get a smooth top side on it, flour a bowl very lightly and put the dough in. Dust a little flour on top, cover with a cloth and leave to rest for a couple of hours.
- In the mean time, scrape off any leftovers from the work surface, but do not wash, as the dough will need further work. Just make sure there are no dry bits stuck, as they'll ruin the dough in the next run.
- When it's rested, take it out on the work surface again, making sure the smooth side of the dough ends up underneath. Imagine there are corners along the edges of the dough, pick one and fold towards the middle. Working in one direction only, keep folding the corners that appear towards the middle until you've done a couple of full circles on the dough. At this point I decided to add 100 g of sultanas that I'd rolled in a little flour.
- Put back in the bowl and leave in a cool place (about 10 degrees C) overnight, to allow more flavours to develop. Or leave to rest for another couple of hours if you feel a bit rushed.
- If you kept the dough in the fridge, take it out and let it come up to room temperature before you form the brioches. This is a good time to make the egg wash by whisking lightly an egg with a pinch of salt and leaving to stand until needed.
- Make shapes of your choice with your fingers, avoid touching with the whole of your hand or the butter in the dough will start to melt. Generally avoid fiddling with the dough too much, it should still be as soft as after the first rest. I just rolled balls and snipped at the top. Not too pretty with the raisins
- Leave the ready shapes to rise until double in size, about an hour or so. If the kitchen feels a bit cool, turn on the oven on a low heat to warm it up. Pre-heat to gas mark 6 (200 degrees C) shortly before it's time to bake the brioches.
- Brush carefully with egg wash. Baking time depends on the size and shape. For the buns, it took 22 minutes and I swapped the two trays after half the time.
I also put some balls into a loaf tin, which took a bit longer. Once they're baked and out of the oven, carefully prize them out of the tin mould and leave on the side to cool. This will ensure that the crust stays nice and crunchy.
This was a definite success, despite some initial doubts, and Lundulph had to be pulled away from them, after he'd eaten two in very quick succession. The crust was wonderfully crunchy and inside they were light as a feather. Quite oily though, so I think I'll reduce the amount of butter next time. Once they have cooled, they can be frozen.