Sunday, 26 December 2010

Wake Up and Smell the Stollen

The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book.........and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.

For some reason, I particularly remember eating stollen in our tiny Oxford kitchen. Maybe it was the first time I had tried it and the memory of a fruited bread with a swirl of marzipan in it is impossible to erase. I was surprised at how easy it was to make - even more surprised at how much Stollen the recipe made. I got one large wreath, one small wreath, one log and six stollen buns.
Maybe this has something to do with leaving it in the fridge for three days. I'm not complaining. This has provided many breakfasts and several afternoon tea treats with friends.
I really hope everyone had a lovely Christmas day and long may your festivities continue!

Stollen Wreath

Makes two large wreaves. Serves 15 people
60ml lukewarm water
14g active dry yeast
240ml milk
140g unsalted butter
770g plain flour
115g caster sugar
¾tsp salt
1tsp cinnamon
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
Grated zest of 2 oranges
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon extract or orange extract
135g mixed peel 170g dried cranberries
juice 2 oranges
100g flaked almonds
Melted unsalted butter for coating the wreath
Icing sugar for dusting wreath

In a small bowl, soak the raisins in the orange juice and set aside to get plump overnight.
Pour 60 ml warm water into a small bowl, sprinkle with yeast and let stand 5 minutes. Stir to dissolve yeast completely.
In a small saucepan, combine milk and butter over medium - low heat until butter is melted. Let stand until lukewarm, about 5 minutes.
Lightly beat eggs in a small bowl and add lemon and vanilla extracts.
In a large mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer with paddle attachment), stir together the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, orange and lemon zests.
Then stir in the yeast/water mixture, eggs and the lukewarm milk/butter mixture. This should take about 2 minutes. It should be a soft, but not sticky ball. When the dough comes together, cover the bowl with either plastic or a tea cloth and let rest for 10 minutes.
Drain the cranberries of the orange juice.
Add in the mixed peel, soaked fruit and almonds and mix with your hands or on low speed to incorporate.
Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mixing with the dough hook) to distribute the fruit evenly, adding additional flour if needed. The dough should be soft and satiny, tacky but not sticky.
Knead for approximately 8 minutes (6 minutes by machine). The full six minutes of kneading is needed to distribute the dried fruit and other ingredients and to make the dough have a reasonable bread-dough consistency. You can tell when the dough is kneaded enough – a few raisins will start to fall off the dough onto the counter because at the beginning of the kneading process the dough is very sticky and the raisins will be held into the dough but when the dough is done it is tacky which isn't enough to bind the outside raisins onto the dough ball.
Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling around to coat it with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
Put it in the fridge overnight. The dough becomes very firm in the fridge (since the butter goes firm) but it does rise slowly… the raw dough can be kept in the refrigerator up to a week and then baked on the day you want.

Shaping the Dough and Baking the Wreath
Let the dough rest for 2 hours after taking out of the fridge in order to warm slightly.
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 with the oven rack on the middle shelf.
Punch dough down, roll into a rectangle about 16 x 24 inches (40 x 61 cms) and ¼ inch (6 mm) thick.
Starting with a long side, roll up tightly, forming a long, thin cylinder.
Transfer the cylinder roll to the sheet pan. Join the ends together, trying to overlap the layers to make the seam stronger and pinch with your fingers to make it stick, forming a large circle. You can form it around a bowl to keep the shape.
Using kitchen scissors, make cuts along outside of circle, in 2-inch (5 cm) intervals, cutting 2/3 of the way through the dough.

Twist each segment outward, forming a wreath shape. Mist the dough with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap.
Proof for approximately 2 hours at room temperature, or until about 1½ times its original size.
Bake the stollen for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan 180 degrees for even baking and continue to bake for 20 to 30 minutes. The bread will bake to a dark mahogany color, should register 190°F/88°C in the center of the loaf, and should sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.
Transfer to a cooling rack and brush the top with melted butter while still hot.
Immediately tap a layer of powdered sugar over the top through a sieve or sifter.
Wait for 1 minute, then tap another layer over the first.
The bread should be coated generously with the powdered sugar.
Let cool at least an hour before serving. Coat the stollen in butter and icing sugar three times, since this many coatings helps keeps the stollen fresh - especially if you intend on sending it in the mail as Christmas presents!
When completely cool, store in a plastic bag. Or leave it out uncovered overnight to dry out slightly, German style.
The stollen tastes even better in a couple of days and it toasts superbly…. so delicious with butter and a cup of tea….mmmmm

The more rum and the more coatings of butter and sugar you use the longer it will store.
The following is for the recipe as written and uses the 45 mls of rum and two coatings of butter and icing sugar
Stollen freezes beautifully about 4 months.
The baked stollen stores well for 2 weeks covered in foil and plastic wrap on the counter at room temperature.
One month in the refrigerator well covered with foil and plastic wrap.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Brown Paper Packages Tied up with String

The only real way to pay back generosity is to be just as generous in return. 
Nonno and Nonna are always and have always given more than it seems possible to repay, and although they want for little, it is always nice to feel as if you've done something for them.

For those of you reading who are familiar with Hereford, do you remember Firenze? 

Of course you do.

More specifically, do you remember Firenze at Christmas time? 

When D so carefully decorated the restaurant and pizzeria and B adorned the shelf above the bar with colourful boxes of pannetone and pandoro; and hid a fee sneaky trays of ricciarelle biscotti for his afternoon snack. If you happened to be passing by and he had finished making the evenings pizza dough, he would always invite you in for a chat, cappuccino and one of these sweet morsels at the bar.

Since Firenze shut, B a always asks us to get him some Traditional festive Italian treats, but this year we couldn't buy any ricciarelle. So once again, I leap at the chance to try making something new. Even better that these are great for using up egg whites! This would be a great recipe to do with children. Maybe next year, M will making them for B with me!

Ricciarelle (makes 26walnut sized biscotti)

2 large egg whites
Pinch salt
225g caster sugar
1/2tsp vanilla extract
2tsp almond extract (or amaretto liquour if you feel so inclined)
300g ground almonds
Icing sugar to dust
Line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper or silicon mats.
Whisk the egg whites with the salt in a clean grease-free bowl until they reach stiff peaks.
At this point, gradually add the sugar and whisk until stiff and glossy.
Quickly whisk in the vanilla and almond extracts along with the ground almonds until a paste has formed. You may want to use you hands to bring the dough together at the end.
Take walnut sized pieces of the dough and shape into diamond shapes, using your thumb to flatten them a little bit. They should be no more than half an inch thick.
Place them onto the baking trays with a few centimetres between each to allow for any spreading.
Leave on the kitchen counter overnight to dry out.
The next morning, rush downstairs and preheat the oven to gas mark 1. Cook the ricciarelle for 30 minu.tes until just golden.
When cooked, transfer to a cooling rack and dust with icing sugar to finish

Monday, 13 December 2010

A Day with the Opera

I admit that this recipe has not only an exhaustive ingredients list, but a rather exhausting method too.
I'll also admit that by the time I had finished waiting for various layers to cool down and assembling the Opera, that well over half of my day had disappeared.
It was worth it though; L, R, M and E's faces said it all!
Only one, a much smaller L wasn't impressed with my day's work - but he is only 3, and he settled for an oatcake instead - so I suppose I won't take it to heart!

L and I are both suddenly terribly excited for Christmas. It seems M is bringing out the children in both of us.
Our advent candle is burned each day and this week, we put the Christmas tree and decorations up at the restaurant and have Christmas songs playing while we work. Don't worry though - I don't mean Slade or Mariah Carey. I mean classics like Bing Crosby and Ella Fitzgerald.

At some point in the next week or so after L's birthday, I will mull some Hereford cider for us and we will dig out Elf to watch one evening after work, curled up together on the sofa. We will quote the film for weeks afterwards, and probably even watch its inevitable screening on TV over the festive period.
I bet we are not the only big kids who think that this film is worth its weight in Christmas cheer!

Mango and Passionfruit Opera

For the joconde sponge

6 large egg whites
2 tbsp granulated sugar

225g ground almonds
250g icing sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
70g plain flour
45g unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Preheat the oven to gas mark 7. Line 3 35cm x 23cm shallow oven tins with greaseproof paper (or only one if like me, that's all you have!)
Whisk the egg whites in a kitchenaid or other processor until they form soft peaks. Gradually add the granulated sugar and beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy.
Scrape the meringue into another bowl and set aside.
Wash the used bowl ready for the next task.
Beat the ground almonds, icing sugar and remaining eggs until they have increased in volume and are lighter in colour.
Add the flour and continue to beat on low speed until mixed.

Carefully fold the meringue into the almond mixture and then fold in the melted butter.
Divide the batter between the pans and spread it evenly to cover the entire surface of each pan. (If like me, you only have one tin, put a third of the mixture in at a time, relining the cake tin for each cake.)
Put the sponge in the oven and cook for about 7 minutes until it springs back at a touch and is just beginning to colour.
Once cooked, cool in the pan for three minutes before carefully unmoulding from the tin and cooling on a cooling rack to room temperature.

For the syrup
125g water
65g granulated sugar
1tbsp orange juice

Place all three items into a small pan and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat slighty and simmer until the liquid has thickened to a syrup

For the mango buttercream layer
100g egg whites
100ml water
200g sugar
300g unsalted butter
75g pureed and sieved mango
Combine the sugar, water in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves. Watch this stage the whole time, swirling the pan if necessary, but do not stir! Cook until the syrup reaches 240◦F on a thermometer.
Remove the syrup from the heat.
While the syrup is heating, begin whisking the egg whites at high speed in a mixer until stiff peaks form.
When the sugar syrup reaches 240◦F reduce the mixer speed to low speed and begin slowly pouring the syrup down the side of the bowl being very careful not to splatter the syrup.
Increase the speed to medium high and whisk for around 5 minutes until the mixture is cool to the touch.
Cut the butter into small pieces and add a few pieces at a time, combining well with each addition.
When all the butter has been mixed in, turn the whisk up to high and beat until the buttercream is shiny.

For the passionfruit mousse layer 
200g white chocolate
230g and 3 tbsp double cream
Sieved pulp of 4 ripe passionfruit

Melt the white chocolate and the 3 tbsp. of heavy cream in a small saucepan.
Add the passionfruit and stir to combine before setting aside to cool.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream until soft peaks form. Gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate to form a mousse.

To assemble the Opera
Place one square of cake on a baking sheet or serving plate and moisten it gently with the orange syrup. Spread one third of the buttercream on top, smooth slightly with a warm palette knife and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to harden.

Spread a third of the mousse on top of this and gently press the second joconde layer on top.
Moisten with a little more of the syrup and then spread another third of the buttercream layer , smoothing slighty once again, before returning to the fridge; this time for an hour.
Finally, spread another layer of the mousse on top, followed by the last joconde layer, moistened once more.
Spread the last buttercream on top, smooth slightly and follow with the end of the mousse. Smooth this top layer with a warm palette knife and refridgerate for several hours to allow the cake time to firm up. It will be much easier to serve this way.
If you wish, make up an arrowroot glaze (follow the instructions on the back of the packet) and spread over the top of the cake to finish it off.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Hereford in the Snow

Last Friday evening, we suddenly realised that we had run out of amaretti biscuits at Ponte Vecchio. Our Italian supplier was due to deliver a few days later; so although we were not worried about the situation, we did wonder what we were going to give people with their coffee. We like to give a couple with all types of coffee and you can imagine that during this cold weather, L has been spending a considerable proportion of a working evening frothing the milk and making sure the crema on the coffee is second to none.

Of course, the answer was easy - to make some amaretti of our own and serve them instead. Not only were these delightfully simple, but they used up a few of the egg whites that I stash in the freezer when I've made a custard based ice cream.

I also couldn't resist sharing a few more pictures of the snow with you. We have had some spectacular snow over the last two days. 
 Forgive me for the food analogy, but yesterday, a few hours of light snow really seemed as though it could have been icing sugar being dusted over a cake.
 Today we enjoyed rime, essentially frozen fog, and this looked like glitter falling down from the sky. I've never known anything like it. 
These two snowy episodes have also produced some of the most satisfying snow I have ever known. It is so easy to be disappointed by snow a few hours after you have watched it fall - either by turning to an ugly slush that is easily washed away, or by freezing so hard that you don't leave the house for fear of ending up with a rather bruised bottom!
This snow is different, it's better. It is crisp and even. No danger of falling, no threat of a painful snowball coming straight at your face. 

Just take a look at this........
Rime gathered on the lime trees
Not quite Narnia
Bird tracks on the ice sheets
Who would want to swim in that?

And before we all forget the original point of this post:

Amaretti biscuits

340g ground almonds
340g caster sugar
4 egg whites
1 tbsp amaretto liquor (we use Disaronno at the restaurant)

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3.
In a large bowl beat the egg whites until stiff.
Quickly whisk in the sugar, amaretto and ground almonds, being careful not to beat the air out of the mixture. You should have a smooth paste.
Place some greaseproof paper on a baking sheet lightly brushed with butter or use a silicone mat to line the tray.
Spoon the mixture into a piping bag with just the coupler (no nozzle) attached, or use a teaspoon, to place small heaps of the mixture approximately 2cm/¾in apart.
Bake in the oven for approximately 15 minutes until golden brown.
Remove from the baking tray a few minutes after the biscuits come out of the oven and finish cooling on a cooling rack.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Baking for Winter

Am I the only English blogger not to have documented the snow yet?
Probably, but there's a reason for that. Here in Hereford, although we've had a few inches, we've not had enough to shut down our roads, prevent our deliveries getting through or even force us to shut the restaurant for the evening. Im not even aware that any hereford schools have closed. As I write this, it rains and the ice turns to slush, slush turns to water and drains away from view.
Lucky huh?

We haven't been deterred from taking M for snowy walks either. It has been a pleasure to all don our wellies, coats, hats and gloves and venture out into the white. M wears a harness so we can keep her close and we can pull her up quickly if we feel her begin to slip. Of course, last year it snowed too but this year it was her first real experience and we watched as she tentatively went down the front doorsteps and left her first impressions in the snow. It seemed she enjoyed herself quite a bit. The next day, when the majority of the snow had melted, we took her out again and she splish-splash-sploshed in every last one of the puddles we came to. 
And actually, so did L. 
Oh okay, yes I joined in too.

The colder weather puts me in a mood to use lots of spices in my baking. Last week I made sure that these simple biscuits were still just warm for us when we got home from one of our winter walks around the block.

Orange and Cinnamon Spiced Biscuits

115g buter
95g icing sugar and more for dusting
Zest of 2 oranges
2tbsp orange juice
2tsp vanilla extract
150g plain flour
40 grams cornstarch
20g ground almonds
2tsp ground cinnamon
pinch salt

Cream the butter, icing sugar sugar and lemon zest together until creamy and fluffy.
Add the lemon juice and mix.
Add the rest of the ingredients and cream to a dough.
Transfer the dough to a sheet ofbaking paper and shape into a log about 2 inches in diameter.
Use the parchment to tighten the log and form a nice cylinder.
Refrigerate the dough overnight or for at least 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to gas mark 4 and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
Cut the log into 1/4 inch thick disks.
Cook for 10 - 15 minutes until just golden.
Let them cool on the baking sheet.
When they have cooled a bit but they are still warm, cover them in icing sugar.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Of Gregg Wallace and His Puddings

As you know, a family celebration in our house has to have two desserts; one sinful and the other heavenly - no dairy or sugar can grace the second plate and sometimes it is a bit of a challenge to think of ways to sweeten a pudding. Thankfully, the vegan issue is easily taken care of (it helps that eggs are still allowed) and I've enjoyed trying to cook with various oils and soya/rice/oat milk products.
Incidentally,if anyone knows of a really good vegan (and maybe even sugar free) plain sponge cake, I'd love to see the recipe.

This was my contribution to the latest W family gathering to go alongside the Crostata. A cherry cobbler with a coconut scone; a tasty and healthy pudding that we ate whilst pretending to be Greg Wallace, shovelling our food in to our mouths at silly angles. I got some photos of people imitating him - but they are less than flattering, clearly, Greg is the only person who can get away with it.
Someone should make a montage of him just eating for youtube.

How much did you laugh by the way, when in the last professionals series, Gregg enjoyed a pudding so much that he said 'Oh mate, I would literally dip my head in that'? Cue a thousand images of his head with whipped cream, rainbow sprinkles and a cherry on the top!

Cherry Cobbler with a Coconut Scone

For the cherry filling
480g bag frozen cherries
150ml water
1tsp cinnamon
zest and juice one orange
2tbsp Xylitol (or sugar if you must!)
For the scone
250g white spelt flour, plus more for rolling out
60g coconut oil
50g dessicated coconut
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
2tsp baking powder
pinch salt
handful flaked almonds to decorate

Place all of the ingredients for the carry filling into a heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to the boil.
Turn the heat down and stirring occasionally, simmer for a further 15 minutes until the sauce is just a little syrupy.
Pour into an oven dish and set aside while you make the scone.
Preheat the oven to gas mark 5.
Sift the flour, bicarb, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Add to this the dessicated coconut and stir briefly to combine.
If the coconut oil is solid, heat to a liquid before rubbing it into the flour and eventually bringing it all together to make a dough.
On a well floured surface, roll out the scone to 11/2 inches thick and cut out circles (or any other shape you like).
Cover your cherry filling with overlapping scone circles to cover the cherries. Leave some gaps so that the cherry mixture can bubble up through a little.
Scatter over a handful of flaked almonds and place in the centre of the oven for 25 - 30 minutes until the scone has become golden and is cooked through.
Serve warm.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Crostata for the Daring Bakers

I seem to have been quite lucky so far with the daring bakers challenges. Most have been things that I have either made before, or ones that I have eaten and been interested to make for myself.
This month's crostata was no exception.

You know, of course, that Italian food my passion and my forte, so a crostata was a dessert well within my comfort zone. Although I'd never made 'pasta frolla' before, I have eaten it prepared several ways in Italy, so I felt as if I knew what to expect.
I was not disappointed with the recipe and had fun deciding what to fill my crostata with. As it happened, E came home last weekend and we enjoyed a fantastic family meal. M and D made a delicious chestnut and butternut squash soup/stew and I provided a bruleed raspberry - creme fraiche crostata and a cherry cobbler (recipe to follow).
We gourged ourselves on decadent desserts and tales of Paris in Autumn. We left jealous of her adventure and promising to visit when we could.

The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.

Bruleed Raspberry and Creme Fraiche CrostataPasta Frolla
100g caster sugar
235g unbleached all-purpose flour
a pinch of salt
115g cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
grated zest of half a lemon
1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten in a small bowl
200ml creme fraiche
100g caster sugar
4 large egg yolks
1 large egg
2tsp vanilla extract
400g raspberries

Whisk together sugar, flour and salt in a bowl.
Rub or cut the butter into the flour until the mixture has the consistency of coarse crumbs. You can do this in the bowl or on your work surface, using your fingertips or an implement of choice.
Make a well in the center of the mounded flour and butter mixture and pour the beaten eggs into it (reserve about a teaspoon of the egg mixture for glazing purposes later on – place in the refrigerator, covered, until ready to use).
Add the lemon zest to your flour/butter/egg mixture.
Use a fork to incorporate the liquid into the solid ingredients, and then use your fingertips.
Knead lightly just until the dough comes together into a ball.
Shape the dough into a flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Place the dough in the refrigerator and chill for at least two hours. You can refrigerate the dough overnight.
Preheat the oven to gas mark 5. Place a baking sheet in the centre of the oven.
Grease a 25cm loose bottomed flan tin with butter.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pasta frolla to 5mm thick.
Using the rolling pin to help you lift it, transfer the pasta frolla into the flan tin, pressing gently into the edges. Don't worry about trimming the edges, just let them fall over the sides.
Carefully remove the now hot baking sheet from the oven and place the flan tin onto it.
Line with greaseproof paper and pour baking beans over this.
Bake blind in the oven for 15 - 20 minutes until the pastry is just cooked and golden.
When the pastry is cooked, remove everything from the oven and very carefully, remove the baking beans back to their container and set them aside to cool down.
Turn the oven down to gas Mark 4.
In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the creme fraiche, sugar, eggs and vanilla until well combined.
Scatter the raspberries over the cooked pastry base.
Slowly pour the creme fraiche mixture over the raspberries.
Return the crostata to the oven for another 30-40 mins until the creme fraiche custard is golden and set.
Cool on a cooling rack.
To give a brûlée effect, scatter a few tablespoons of sugar onto the top of the crostata once it is cool. Use a blowtorch to caramelise the sugar until it is golden and bubbling.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Ponte vecchio chocolate mousse

This post is also a little overdue I know.
As promised, here is the recipe for the Octobers special dessert. It is heavy in components, but delicious as it melts in your mouth. I like the cold granita against the smooth mousse and then the crunch of a spiced biscuit.
Actually, give me any dessert with a biscuity element and I'll order it.

It was a popular pudding. In fact, the whole of last months specials menu was incredibly popular; we surprised a lot of people with a creamed leek and smoked haddock pasta - something that could become a permanent fixture next time we play wound with the menu.
However, it was the coarse cut pate of belly pork, smoked bacon, thyme and calvados that had people talking. I don't think we've ever sold so many portions - over 70 - and neither have we ever decided to repeat a special so quickly - it is putting in another appearance next month on the Christmas menu.

I have a lot of fun coming up with specials each month. At least 10 experiments and ideas get discarded everytime. Sometimes I can modify my experiments and use them the following month, but just as often, I miss my chance to use a seasonal ingredient and have to file away the idea for the next year.

You can imagine, I've got quite a full notebook!

For the biscuits follow this recipe here, being sure to add 2tsp of ground mixed spice with the flour. Cut the biscuits into circles large enough to make a lid for the mousse serving glass. Cut another hole into this lid to make a slot for a spoon to slide into. Cook as described.

For the pear granita
2 ripe pears
90ml water
30g sugar

Quarter, peel and core the pears. Dice into 1cm pieces and put in a pan with the water and sugar. Cook for just under ten minutes until the pears are soft.
Cool completely.
Puree the pears and any cooking liquid until smooth.
Pour into a dish and place in the freezer for two hours. After this time, stir a fork through it to break up the frozen pieces. Repeat the process every hour until you have a dish of fine coloured crystals.

For the cranberry granita
100g cranberries
100ml water
75g sugar
30ml juice from an orange

Place the cranberries, water, sugar and orange juice in a pan over a medium heat and bring to the boil.
Remove from the heat and leave, covered, for 30 minutes.
Blend the mixture until smooth.
Sieve to remove all the skin.
Freeze as with the pear granita; stirring regularly with a fork.

For the mousse
100ml milk
250g mixture of plain and milk chocolate
300ml double cream
3 large egg whites

Scorch the milk over a medium heat in a saucepan.
Meanwhile, break the chocolate into small pieces and melt in a bowl balanced over a pan of gently simmering water. It is best if the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Overheating the chocolate will cause it to go lumpy, so as soon as it starts to melt, turn off the heat but leave the bowl in place.
Whip the cream so that it forms soft mounds rather than peaks. In other words it should not be too stiff. Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks.
When the chocolate is completely melted, remove from the heat and pour the warm milk on to it through a sieve. Stir the chocolate and milk together till velvety.
Scoop the mixture on to the stiffly beaten egg whites and fold gently together with a large metal spoon.
Now fold into the softly whipped cream. Scrape into a serving bowl glasses and refrigerate for three or four hours till set.

To Assemble
Pile a little of each granita onto the top of each mousse.
Top the dessert with a biscuit lid and stick a spoon through before serving.

Monday, 15 November 2010

A Simple Lunch that took a Long Time to Prepare

Yet another recipe that I've had lurking for a few weeks but not rushed to put up. I don't know why. This was delicious, and well worth the huge effort that I had to put into making it.

I'd only once prepared globe artichokes before this occasion, and I'm sure I remember it being easier than it was. But don't let me put you off having a go for yourself. The results are delicious and unlike anything you'll have made for yourself before. I promise it's worth the effort.
I found a really good tutorial for preparing them here. Be sure to watch the video of the Campo di Fiore (a beautiful Roman market famous for its artichokes) seller - I wish I could do that!

Sage and Onion Stuffed Globe Artichokes

2 globe artichokes, trimmed and cut in half down the middle
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
6 sage leaves, finely chopped
100g breadcrumbs
250ml vegetable stock

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4.
Put the artichokes into an oven proof dish and pour thestock over them.
Cover with foil and bake in the centre of the oven for 40 minutes.
Heat the olive oil in a medium frying pan and add the onions. Cook for 8 minutes over a medium-low heat until just translucent and add the garlic. Cook for a further 3 minutes.
Finally, add the chopped sage and cook for a further minute before removing from the heat.
Off the heat, stir in the breadcrumbs and set aside until the artichokes come out of the oven.
Stuff the artichokes with the stuffing mixture and replace the foil lid tightly on top. Cook for 15 minutes with the foil lid on, and then another 10 minutes without the foil lid.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

A Craving for Custard

You'd think that with the amount of custard I make at the restaurant for ice creams, that when I get home I would be ecstatic not to have to stand over the stove, whisking away for dear life praying that the viscous, yellow liquid doesn't curdle.
Actually, I find all that whisking to be very theraputic and I can easily loose myself in my thoughs while I wait for the mixture to thicken. Once I've tested it one the back of the spoon for thickness, an immense satisfaction comes and I put the beater down and smile.
Besides, this is generously filled with creme patissiere - a richer French custard to the traditional English custard.

This is something that I made for us to eat one hot Sunday evening several months ago now, when I was able to pick up all of the fruit at the farmer's market.

Miniature Tarte aux Fruits

For the sweet pastry
500g plain flour, plus extra for dustingSieve the flour from a height on to a clean work surface and sieve the icing sugar over the top.
100g icing sugar, sifted
250g good-quality cold butter, cut into small cubes
zest of 1 lemon
2 large eggs, beaten
a splash of cold milk
For the creme patisserie
300 ml milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
3 large egg yolks
50g granulated white sugar
20g plain flour
3 tablespoons corn flour
For the fruit and glaze
As many mixed berries, kiwi or other fruits you feel necessary
125g apricot jam
1tbsp water

Using your hands, work the cubes of butter into the flour and sugar by rubbing your thumbs against your fingers until you end up with a fine, crumbly mixture. 
Mix in your lemon zest.

Add the eggs and enough milk to the mixture till you have a ball of dough. Flour it lightly. Flour your work surface and place the dough on top. Pat it into a flat round, flour it lightly, wrap it in clingfilm and put it into the fridge to rest for at least half an hour.
Preheat the oven to gas mark 5.
Grease a 12 holed cupcake tray.
After the pastry has rested, roll it out to 4mm thickness on a lighty floured surface and cut out circles to match the size of your cupcake holes on the tray.
Gently press each pastry disk into the greased cupcake moulds and cover with a small square of baking parchment. Place a few ceramic beans in each and bake blind in the oven for 10-15 minutes until golden and cooked through.
Leave to cool in the tray before turning the pastry cases out to be filled. Store in an airtight container until needed.
In a medium-sized stainless steel bowl, mix the sugar and egg yolks together with a wooden spoon. Sift the flour and cornstarch together and then add to the egg mixture, mixing until you get a smooth paste. Set aside.
Meanwhile in a saucepan combine the milk and split vanilla bean on medium heat until boiling. Remove from heat and add slowly to egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent curdling. (If the mixture does curdle slightly, pour through a strainer.) Remove vanilla bean, scrape out seeds, and add the seeds to the egg mixture.
Place the egg mixture back into a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until boiling, whisking constantly. When it boils, whisk mixture constantly for another 30 - 60 seconds until it becomes very thick and it is hard to stir.
Pour into a clean bowl and immediately cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming. Cool.
If not using right away refrigerate until needed, up to 3 days. Beat before using to get rid of any lumps that may have formed.
Heat the apricot jam or preserves and water (if using) in a small saucepan over medium heat until liquid (melted). Remove from heat and strain the jam through a fine strainer to remove any fruit lumps. (If using, add the liqueur at this point.) Let cool until it is only slightly warm.
Spread a thin layer of apricot glaze over the bottom and sides of tart to prevent the crust from getting soggy. Let the glaze dry for about 20 minutes.
Spread the Pastry Cream into the tart, filling about 3/4 full and levelling with a palette knife.
Decorate the tart with the fruit, arranging it neatly or randomly as you desire.
After arranging the fruit, rewarm the glaze, if using, and gently brush a light coat on the fruit. Do not put it on too thick or it will look like Jell-O. Try not to get any glaze on the tart shell. The idea is to make the fruit look shiny. If not serving immediately, refrigerate. Take out about 30 minutes before serving to give the fruit and cream a chance to warm to room temperature.
This fruit tart is best eaten the same day as it is assembled.