30 May 2009

Second Birthday Celebrations

Well, it's that time of the year again, when I officially go older overnight. Lundulph had made up plans for the day in question, sothe family celebrations took place a bit later.

This was the perfect opportunity to repeat the Stoichkov cake with an alternative filling and see if it would collapse again or not.

Well, it worked quite a treat!

I squashed the chocolate roll slices quite a bit and used the edge offcuts to fill in most of the gaps between. This resulted in running out of Swiss roll and not having any left for the bottom of the cake. So 4 Swiss rolls next time.


This time for the cream filling, I soaked 8 pieces of gelatine. The packet had 12 and was to set 1.7 l liquid. I soaked the gelatine in cool water. I used 500 ml ready fresh custard from Sainsbury's, which I heated up, while the gelatine was soaking. Then I squeezed out the water and dropped the gelatine in the custard. Note, that the custard never started steaming, so on low heat, just to heat it through. I also added 3 tbsp caster sugar, which dissolved nicely as well.

As expected, it went runny when the gelatine melted and I set it to the side. I then whipped 300 ml double cream together with 2 tbsp icing sugar. To stiff peaks, no less.

At this point the custard had cooled down sufficiently and I stirred in the cream with a spoon very gently until it was well mixed through. The cream was still fairly runny, but it was a good thing I started filling the cake, because towards the end, it had started to set. I managed to get in one layer of really large blueberries, then one layer of bananas and finally another layer of blueberries. Each with cream on either side and there wasn't much left in the pot to lick.

Then on with clingfilm and in the fridge to set overnight. When I poked it in the morning, it seemed pretty solid.

I was intending to use the remaining four pieces of gelatine for the glazing, but was too scared to take the cake out early and risk it collapsing. Now that I know that it'll hold, I'll do the glaze next time.


In fact it was ever so nice, although some cream seeped through a couple of holes I thought were too small. So even more squeezing of the Swiss roll next time as well.

Once we'd cut the cake up, it was sufficiently stiff to stay in shape, and most people had seconds, so overall a success!

27 May 2009

Oeufs en Cocotte

Once again Angi of Rice and Wheat has been my inspiration when she made oeufs en cocotte. I've seen this before, but never really given it much thought and it sounded very easy to make.

Besides, a couple of weeks ago, I boiled a couple of eggs for breakfast, but sadly overdid them and we couldn't dip in the runny yolk. This method seemed a bit more easy to control.


So I buttered the ramekins, cracked an egg in each, poured a little bit of milk, sprinkled salt, pepper, paprika, sage and thyme and put in a few small pieces of reindeer salami that I bought during a recent visit to IKEA. And into the oven for 10 minutes. Well, at that point, there was a lot of still transparent egg white, so I left them in for another 10 minutes. Now they seemed to be ready and Lundulph and I sat down with our buttered bread sliced into strips - soldiers he calls them.

And still the eggs were way too runny. Another 8 minutes and the whites were at a good stage, but the yolks had gone a bit hard.

So I thought I'd look up what Delia had to say about it. She'd decorated with asparagus tips, so that's a thing to try. But mainly she recommends a bain marie in the oven for these, this will give a quicker heat transfer, but hopefully also ensure that the yolk remains runny.

Overall, it was very tasty and a definite repeat.

Belated Easter presents

After my escapades in Art You Can Eat last year, I decided to try my hand at these cuties. The concept of modelling chocolate was very novel as well, I have no confidence in working with chocolate, what with failing miserably with both the chocolate eclairs and the baumkuchen.

So this Easter I thought I'd do them for Lou and Falbala. In fact, Falbala specifically asked about it, just to be on the safe side, in case I'd forgotten.


As with New Year, Easter celebrations with the family were not to be and I haven't seen either of them since well before Easter. Which worked out rather well, I'd no time to make the bunnies then.

Now, Kinder eggs are easy to get hold of. But for the modelling chocolate, the recipe called for cocoa butter. I'm aware of it's magical powers, but finding some turned out tricky and the best I could find on the topic of substitutes was groundnut oil, though the article was talking about molecules etc, not how it behaves in cooking.

But a stroke of luck, waiting a few weeks and searching slightly differently cropped up this online chocolatier supplier - Squires Kitchen. So I quickly ordered 100 g of the precious material. It was pricey for sure.

Then I read the recipe - there was no need for the cocoa butter at all! Well, perhaps there is, depending on the type of chocolate, I remember from the patisserie class, though that was mostly on the percentage of cocoa. Never mind.

I did a search for modelling chocolate and most recipes were about chocolate and corn syrup, again something that I've not been able to find in the UK. But the recipe for the bunnies listed glucose and sugar and I also found another one, which had slightly different proportions and only used glucose. I opted for the bunny one, but I halved the amounts. The recipe didn't specify the type of sugar, so I went for caster sugar.

Melted the chocolate in a bain marie, then heated up water, glucose and sugar until the sugar had dissolved, then poured it into the chocolate and stirred. The mixture didn't go as solid as some of the instructions implied, but it did go a bit harder and developed the look and feel of soft toffee. I left it to cool, then put in the fridge. That was yesterday.


Today I took it out and it was pretty solid. Leaving it on the side while we had dinner didn't change that much, but as suggested, kneading softened it up quite nicely, to the point of melting it again, so hot tip is to only do this in a cold kitchen and on a cold surface if available and only use finger tips.

I weighed up pieces of 10 g for each foot, ear and tail. Once I'd shaped each foot and the tail, I put them together in a triangle on top of a wafer, then pushed the Kinder egg in place. With a tooth pick, I carefully shaped the toes, then put the bunnies in the fridge for a bit, while shaping the ears.


Then the ears went in the fridge as well and I put some water in a shallow pan and put a small ramekin in it with a few squares of white chocolate. While it melted, I made a small cone from baking paper and spooned in the melted chocolate. Then quickly drew eyes and teeth - the stuff is well runny when it's melted and even the cold Kinder egg didn't make it go solid. I was so worried that things would just go runny, but luckily they didn't. Into the fridge again, while preparing the same arrangement for dark chocolate, with which I drew the pupils of the eyes.


I made a couple of attempts at gluing the ears with the dark chocolate, but it just was too runny and didn't work at all. I had to wipe it off, then soften the bottom edge of each ear and push gently into the egg.

Hi, hi, blind and bald.

Finally I made four small balls from the modelling chocolate and put over the teeth as well. The bunnies are now in the fridge until Saturday, when I'll give them to Lou and Falbala. I hope they like them. Which is why I won't publish this post until then. I think next time, I'll make smaller and thinner ears and pre-paint the bunny faces.

Update March 2013:
It seems the website where I found the original recipe for modelling chocolate is no more, so here it is for milk chocolate
200 g milk chocolate
2.5 tbsp corn syrup

Break up the chocolate into pieces if necessary and melt either over a bain marie or in the microwave until completely melted.
Take care not to burn the chocolate if melting in the microwave - do it in 10 s steps on maximum power, stirring between each run.
When all the chocolate is melted, add the corn syrup and quickly stir together. It will seize up and look a bit grainy almost immediately. Keep going until the syrup is completely mixed in.
Place in a plastic food/freezer bag, squeeze out as much of the air as possible and tie it tightly, then let rest in the fridge for at least 2 h.
When ready to use it, take out from the fridge, and carefully work it until it becomes pliable and feels like plasticine. If very solid, cut up into smaller pieces first. Also take care to work it using only your fingers, so it doesn't melt and separate.

6 May 2009

Going Bananas

Last Monday was the Early Spring Bank Holiday. This is to cover for the 1st May celebrations in other countries. Lundulph and I had a lot of DIY on the agenda, but decided to also have our first barbecue of the year.

I bought suitable vegetables - courgettes, bell peppers, aubergines and green chillies. And for Lundulph bamboo skewers with tiger prawns and a packet of scallops - he's been asking for these for ages. For myself, I don't eat seafood voluntarily, so I took out a packet of Frankfurters from the freezer - part of my emergency food collection. As I was wandering around the shop, I got the idea of putting bananas on the barbie as well, so I bought 4 - two to be done in their skin and two to be done in tin foil.

The peppers, aubergines and chillies were of course to be roasted to make kyopoolu and pickled roasted chillies.

I also bought a big packet of very nice looking button mushrooms and wild rocket, both of which I managed to forget in the fridge.

We originally planned to do the barbie on the Sunday, but due to various planning issues, this didn't happen. But Monday came and seemed decent enough despite being a bit overcast. Lundulph dug out our old rusty barbecue from under the jungle that now thrives where we plan to have our patio. Cleaned it up nicely and fired it up, while I prepared the food. I skewered the scallops on as well and cut the courgettes in fairly thin long slices.


The advantage with our tiny barbecue is that it's perfect for the two of us and Lundulph has now mastered the art of building it up properly and getting it to light up as it should.

Our Mr Blackbird came very close to inspect what we were up to, but he didn't like the piece of scallop that Lundulph gave him.

Needless to say, we had a very nice barbecue and also got the kyopoolu ingredients done and got to use Lundulph's barbecue wok for the chillies. It was a bit chilly and the wind started picking up, but we quite enjoyed ourselves, even opening up a bottle of bubbly.


As the final thing, I put on the four bananas - two in their skin and two peeled and wrapped in individual packets of foil. The skin bananas went black and I turned them to get the blackness on all sides. Didn't touch the foiled ones though. Once the skins were black through and through, I decided they were ready and Lundulph and I had one each. They were hot and gooey inside and I thought that it would be nice with a bit of sugar of some sort, they weren't that sweet. We ended up pouring maple syrup on them and that just worked perfectly.


We then moved on to the bananas in the foil. Because I hadn't turned the, they'd caramelised on the bottom and not in a bad way at all, on the contrary - it was just enough to give a bit extra sweetness and flavour and a bit of crispiness. These definitely won on account of taste and worked very nicely with the maple syrup as well. In fact Lundulph came up with a number of suggestions to try out next time - coat the banana with sugar or honey before wrapping in the foil, to give even more caramelisation. Or cutting along the length and putting bits of chocolate inside.

Looks-wise, the bananas in their skins were better. I'm sure this idea is not in any way unique, but I've never thought of barbecuing bananas before and I've never come across this concept before.


All in all, it made the perfect barbecue dessert. Next time must also try with ice cream...