Thursday, 27 January 2011

A Most Daunting Task

The January 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Astheroshe of the blog accro. She chose to challenge everyone to make a Biscuit Joconde Imprime to wrap around an Entremets dessert.
After a lot of umming and ahhing, I finally decided that I would do this months challenge.
On paper, or screen I suppose, this was the most daunting of all the challenges I've been involved in.
A sponge with a pattern inside? How? What could I do? I settled for a simple pink diagonal line in the end. Not out of laziness (I know that other DBs have done some very intricate patterns.), but more so as to not detract from the eventual beauty of the completed dessert.

There was a lot of room for creativity with this task, both with flavours and design, so I decided on something I've been hankering after for weeks now - Isaphan - Pierre Herme's legendary combination of raspberry, rosewater and lychee.
I filled my joconde imprime with a raspberry-rosewater mousse topped with a lychee mousse.
I had been debating glazing the top too, when the decision was made for me by M.
'Mmmmmmmm.' she exclaimed as ''miss-perpetually-interested-in-the-contents-of-the-fridge'' stuck a finger into the Lychee layer. Although my attempts to re-smooth the layer were successful, the surface lost its shine and I was forced to attempt a Framboise gelee.

It worked.
It improved it.
Thank you M; I will let you help me with the baking more often in future!

Isaphan Biscuit Joconde Imprime

Joconde Sponge
85g ground almonds
75g confectioners' (icing) sugar
 25g self raising flour
3 large eggs
3 large egg whites
10g white caster sugar
30g unsalted butter, melted

In a clean mixing bowl whip the egg whites and white granulated sugar to firm, glossy peeks. Reserve in a separate clean bowl to use later.
Sift almond flour, confectioner’s sugar, cake flour. (This can be done into your dirty egg white bowl)
On medium speed, add the eggs a little at a time. Mix well after each addition. Mix until smooth and light. (If using a stand mixer use blade attachment. If hand held a whisk attachment is fine, or by hand. )
Fold in one third reserved whipped egg whites to almond mixture to lighten the batter. Fold in remaining whipped egg whites. Do not over mix.
Fold in melted butter.
Reserve batter to be used later.

Patterned Joconde-Décor Paste

50g unsalted butter, softened
50g icing sugar
50g egg whites
55g self raising flour
Christmas red food colouring gel
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy (use stand mixer with blade, hand held mixer, or by hand)
Gradually add egg whites. Beat continuously.
Fold in sifted flour.
Tint batter with coloring to desired color.

Preparing the Joconde - How to make the pattern:
Spread a thin even layer of décor paste approximately 1/4 inch (5 millimeter) thick onto silicone baking mat with a spatula, or flat knife. Place mat on an upside down baking sheet. The upside down sheet makes spreading easier with no lip from the pan.
Pattern the décor paste – Here is where you can be creative. Make horizontal /vertical lines (you can use a knife, spatula, cake/pastry comb). Squiggles with your fingers, zig zags, wood grains. Be creative whatever you have at home to make a design can be used.
OR use a piping bag. Pipe letters, or polka dots, or a piped design. If you do not have a piping bag. Fill a ziplock bag and snip off corner for a homemade version of one.
Slide the baking sheet with paste into the freezer. Freeze hard. Approx 15 minutes.
Remove from freezer. Quickly pour the Joconde batter over the design. Spread evenly to completely cover the pattern of the Décor paste.
Bake at gas mark 7 until the joconde bounces back when slightly pressed, approx. 10 minutes. You can bake it as is on the upside down pan. Yes, it is a very quick bake, so watch carefully.

Cool. Do not leave too long, or you will have difficulty removing it from mat.

Flip cooled cake on to a powdered sugared parchment paper. Remove silpat. Cake should be right side up, and pattern showing! (The powdered sugar helps the cake from sticking when cutting.)

Preparing the MOULD for entremets:
Start with a large piece of parchment paper laid on a very flat baking sheet. Then a large piece of cling wrap over the parchment paper. Place a spring form pan ring, with the base removed, over the cling wrap and pull the cling wrap tightly up on the outside of the mold. Line the inside of the ring with a curled piece of parchment paper overlapping top edge by ½ inch. CUT the parchment paper to the TOP OF THE MOLD. It will be easier to smooth the top of the cake.

Preparing the Joconde for Molding:
This is a very good demo of the joconde and filling the entremets:

Trim the cake of any dark crispy edges. Decide how thick you want your “Joconde wrapper”. Traditionally, it is ½ the height of your mold. This is done so more layers of the plated dessert can be shown. However, you can make it the full height.

Once your height is measured, then you can cut the cake into equal strips, of height and length. (Use a very sharp paring knife and ruler.)
Make sure your strips are cut cleanly and ends are cut perfectly straight. Press the cake strips inside of the mold, decorative side facing out. Once wrapped inside the mold, overlap your ends slightly. You want your Joconde to fit very tightly pressed up to the sides of the mold. Then gently push and press the ends to meet together to make a seamless cake. The cake is very flexible so you can push it into place. You can use more than one piece to “wrap “your mold, if one cut piece is not long enough.

The mould is done, and ready to fill.

Raspberry-Rosewater Mousse
200g raspberry puree
200ml double cream
2 1/2 gelatine sheets
50g granulated sugar
2tbsp rosewater


Soak gelatin sheets in cold water until they are soft.
Put the fruit puree, granulated sugar and rosewater into the pan. Cook until it boils and set aside.
Add the gelatin sheets into the pan, mix well and transfer to another bowl. Leave to cool for 10 minutes.
Whip the cream until soft peaks form.
Gently fold in the fruit puree mixture until well combined.
Pour into the mould so it comes halfway up and put it in the fridge at least for 3 hours to set.
Lychee Mousse
150g fresh lychees, peeled and stoned
200ml fresh cream
50g granulated sugar
2 1/2 gelatine sheets

Soak gelatin sheets in cold water until they are soft.
Put the fruit puree and granulated sugar into the pan. Cook until it boils and set aside.
Add the gelatin sheets into the pan, mix well and transfer to another bowl. Leave to cool for 10 minutes.
Whip the cream until soft peaks form.
Gently fold in the fruit puree mixture until well combined.
Pour into the mould so it comes halfway up and put it in the fridge at least for 3 hours to set.

Framboise Gelee
1tbsp framboise liqueur
1tbsp water
1tbsp caster sugar
1tbsp glucose syrup
1/2 sheet leaf gelatine

Place the sheet of gelatine in a bowl of cold water for five minutes to soften.
Place all of the above ingredients into a small saucepan and heat gently to dissolve the sugar. Add a little red food colouring if you're bot happy with the colour of the gelee.
Remove from the heat and stir in the gelatine leaf to dissolve it.
Leave to cool for ten minutes without settling and finally pour onto the top of the mousse. Return the dessert to the fridge for two hours until the gelee has set.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

New Series : Italian Classics

I'm sure it's been done before, but there's no harm in my posting a mini series about the Italian classics. It is after all my forte, my work and after all these years still the most fascinating cuisine for me.
Time and time again, you can find me in the restaurant kitchen at the end of the night with my Italian food dictionary out. I scribble away as ideas leap out of the pages and images of Italy are evoked by the sensory descriptions of what each region does with their ingredients. I long for the different foods to be in season and in front of me at that very moment so that I might recreate some of my visions.
This week I've been thinking about what to grow in the restaurant courtyard garden and in a few months time, maybe I'll have some of these lovely ingredients to play around with at last.

It seems fitting that the for the first installment, I present a Saltimbocca recipe. It is the only recipe in Italy that is made the same up and down the country. In 1962, deep in the heart of Venice, it became the only main course recipe in Italian cuisine whose recipe has been officially approved and laid down. So no changes okay!

Saltimbocca alla Romana is traditionally made with veal escalopes. For want of a good rose veal supplier in Hereford, we use chicken and it works very well indeed. So if like us, you decide to make your Saltimbocca with a different meat, I'll understand and won't rush to report you to the Italian food police!

Saltimbocca (serves 1)

1 thick slice of Parma ham, cut in half
1 free range chicken breast
4 fresh sage leaves
1tbsp vegetable oil
50g butter
100ml white wine
lightly seasoned flour for dusting the meat

On a clean board use a large knife to cut the chicken breast in half horizontally.
Place the fresh sage leaves on top of the two halves, followed by the Parma ham.
Use a cocktail stick to fasten the ham to the chicken.
Dust in the seasoned flour.
Heat the oil in a frying pan and cook both sides of the chicken over a medium heat until golden and the Parma ham has begun to crisp.
Pour the wine over, being careful of a stray flame leaping up if you're cooking on gas, and simmer the chicken for a few minutes each side to cook through.
 Check that the chicken has cooked before turning the heat up to high and letting the sauce reduce and thicken.
Serve immediately with your choice of vegetables and potatoes or even polenta to help mop up the rich, flavoursome sauce.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Happy New Year!

How late am I at saying that? I really hope you all enjoyed a very happy Christmas and New Year.
We certainly did. A family filled Christmas and a whole six days off in the new year. I feel very rested and ready to get stuck back into juggling family life, work and of course this little blog.
I've not stopped cooking of course; there are still hungry mouths in the house, but things have toned down after the excesses of the season.
Simple soups, fresh bread, crisp winter salads and lots of bean based recipes have graced our table lately. And pasta of course. Not a week goes by where we don't have pasta at least once.

Amongst the wonderful gifts I received over the holidays was a recipe book by the people at 'Seeds of Italy'. My habit of turning down pages long over, I have been furiously ripping up scraps of paper and putting them inbetween the pages of recipes I'd like to try. Of course, this prompted M to rip up some paper of her own and leave it all over the floor for us to pick up.
This is not the first time we have found her immitating a paper shredder - indeed, we have lost three pages to some of her favourite and most worn books; and while we wait for her to lose interest in her new hobby, those books and our most prized works, sit as high out of reach as possible, only coming down during naptime or to be used in the kitchen, like this recipe below:

Torta di Spinach

500g puff pastry
3 or 4 handfuls fresh spinach, washed
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion
3 cloves garlic
25g parmesan
3 large eggs
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4 and grease a loose-bottomed flan tin with a little oil.
In a small pan, gently wilt the spinch with a little water.
When cooked, strain and push as much of the water out of the spinach before setting aside.
In a frying pan, heat the oil over a medium heat. Roughly chop the onion and cook for 4 minutes until they begin to become see through. Crush the garlic over the pan and fry for another minute. Turn off the heat and stir in the spinach, parmesan and season to taste.
Push the spinach mixture into the pastry case and gently pull the sides up around to seal the filling in.
Beat the eggs in a medium sized bowl with a little salt and pepper and pour them over the spinach.
Use a pastry brush to drag some of the beaten egg over the pastry to glaze.
Bake for 40minutes until the egg is cooked and golden and the pastry flaking.
Serve hot or cold with a crisp green salad and a lemony dressing.

Roll out the puff pastry on a floured surface to 4mm thick.
Carefully transfer to the flan tin using the rolling pin and push in.
Trim the pastry so 3cm are over hanging the edge of the tin.