Archive for the ‘Dessert’ Category

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Nestled in the heart of Main Street, in-between old bottle green shutters and adjacent to the old butcher’s shop ‘El Ginger’, sits Pancake Factory; sited in the old Al-Andalus restaurant on College Lane.

A small but friendly place with approximately 8-10 tables inside and a further 5 outside. Pancake Factory is a pleasant place where you can hook up with friends for breakfast, have lunch with loved ones or meet clients for a meal.  The location is ideal as it is bang in the centre of town but remarkably quiet as it just misses out on the hustle and bustle of Main Street.

The decor currently feels like a mish-mash of different styles and I for one would perhaps like to see some more consistency in the approach.  There is a turquoise blue wall at the rear of the restaurant very reminiscent of 50’s American diners.  Perhaps developing this idea could be very fitting in the neighbourhood which has a hipster vibe going for it, complete with tattoo parlour.

Pancake Factory staff worked continuously and moved from table to table; taking orders, bringing food out and clearing place settings with a cheery disposition if somewhat nervous at times – they’ve only been open since 4th August 2016 but I am sure they will become much more confident as their experience grows.

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The menu opens as if the shutters to the windows on College Lane itself, however, there is no need to open the shutters should you be searching for pancake perfection.  The left shutter describing 8 crêpes from the traditional lemon and sugar crêpe “London Lemon” to the more decadent Hungarian special  served with walnuts, caramel and chocolate sauce “Budapest Gundel.”  The right shutter describes 8 American style pancakes such as: “Cote D’Azur” with blueberries and maple syrup and, “Tijuana Thrill” with strawberries and chocolate sauce.

FullSizeRender (4)The American Style pancakes arrive as a very decent stack of five fluffy pancakes soused in delicious syrups and sauces and a scoop of ice-cream should you wish.  As recommended by our waitress, I tried the Montreal Madness with apple, cinnamon and maple syrup; this can very easily become my new favourite flavour combo.

The menu itself has a good selection of various breakfast items such as DIY sandwiches, omelettes, granola and English Breakfast staples, however, American pancakes need crispy, streaky bacon on them and I was surprised to see that this was not one of the extras you could add to your pancake stack.  The Cote D’Azur with blueberries and maple syrup was crying out for this.  I do believe they are trying to rectify this issue.  The lunch dishes sound appealing – I hear the Hungarian Goulash is delicious – there is a good choice of starters, mains, salads, pasta dishes and savoury pancakes on the menu.

Pancake Factory opens from 9am to 5pm and is great for breakfast or lunch.  Alternatively, if you’re booked in for lunch somewhere else, Pancake Factory is an ideal place to stop for a quick dessert before you get back to work!

Good luck focusing on your spreadsheets and presentations after dining on pancake glory.

Gastrorob

as published on www.yourgibraltartv.com

 

Salted Caramel Panna Cotta

Typing those four words has made my mouth water!

Classic panna cotta is normally served with a strawberry coulis to off-set the silky-white texture of the creamy panna cotta.  At the very least, slices of strawberry or other fruit will be used to finish the dish – even if just as mere decoration.  And this is delicious.  But in can be predictable and somewhat boring.

The actual panna cotta is just vanilla-infused cream so therefore can work with other flavours.  The first time I strayed from the panna-cotta-norm I created a slightly inedible disaster which I have no desire to recreate! However, this salted caramel panna cotta could easily become one of my favourite desserts.

Salted Caramel Panna Cotta

Ingredients:

For the Panna Cotta
1 small pot* double cream
3 gelatine sheets
1 Vanilla pod / 1 tspn vanilla paste
1 tbspn caster sugar
For the Salted Caramel Sauce
250g caster sugar
142ml double cream
50g butter
Salt

*pots used to be sold in 284ml (1/2 pint) pots but are now sold in 300ml pots – don’t worry about the difference.

Method:
1st:
Heat the double cream with either a vanilla pod sliced along its length or with a tspn, or thereabouts, of vanilla paste and the caster sugar.  Heat through until the sugar has dissolved.  Set aside and allow to cool slightly.

2nd: Bloom the gelatine sheets in cold water until soft.  Squeeze out the excess water and add to the warm cream.  Stir until completely dissolved.

3rd: Coat the inside of your dariole moulds/brûlée pots with oil and pour the panna cotta cream into them.  Chill for a few hours or until set.

In the meantime make the caramel sauce and set this aside to cool before using.

4th: In a heavy bottom frying pan, add the sugar and 4 tablespoons of water.  Allow the sugar to dissolve over a gentle heat.  Once dissolved, turn up the heat and allow the syrup to bubble until it turns caramel in colour.

5th: Take off the heat and stir in the butter and cream.  Optional extra: add salt flakes to the mixture.  Stir the mixture making sure the butter has melted properly and everything is incorporated.  Decant the mixture into a pouring jug / bottle.

To serve the panna cotta:

Run a knife along the inside of the dariole mould and sit in a bowl of hot water for a few seconds to loosen the panna cotta from the mould.  Place a plate ontop of the mould and upturn.  The panna cotta should come easily out of the mould.  If not, place it back into the bowl of hot water.

Pour the caramel sauce over and top with grated chocolate.  Absolutely amazing!

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Everyone loves chocolate chip cookies.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies

What is there not to like?  Butter, sugar, chocolate chips… yum!  But everyone likes their chocolate chip cookie to be different.  Some of us prefer a crisp cookie; others prefer a squidgy, fudgy, almost butterscotch, straight out of the oven chocolate chip cookie.  And then there are those who prefer their chocolate chip cookie to be somewhere in-between: fudgy and chewy in the centre but crisp around the edge.

Then there is the matter of whether it’s chocolate chips, chocolate pieces, or chocolate chunks.

Some of us don’t even get as far as needing to put the cookie dough in the oven!

Snack or Dessert?

Chocolate chip cookies are a go-to favourite dessert, Nigella taking it to another level with chocolate chip cookie dough pots that you bake in the oven!  Cookies make a great sweet snack or after school treat but no matter what your favourite chocolate chip recipe is, why is it that chocolate chip cookies are so appealing?

The imagery surrounding the Chocolate Chip Cookie is always about a caring and loving home.  In films we always see little Johnny’s bedtime routine involves a cookie and glass of milk; or should little Johnny be sick in bed, Mom would nurse him back to health with the miracle cure that was the Chocolate Chip Cookie!  Sesame Street encouraged us to believe that the chocolate chip cookie, courtesy of the Cookie Monster, “Me want cookie.  Nom, nom, nom!” was fun and enjoyable (and generally how I feel when faced with a tray of freshly baked cookies!)

The quintessential American panacea spreading joy and happiness throughout the world!

Please believe me, cynic I am not.  I love a good cookie.  I prefer mine to be fudgy and chewy in the centre with the occasional molten chocolate nugget poking through its cracked carapace but let’s be honest; when faced with a cookie, any cookie, they are all going to be devoured as soon as they come out of the oven.

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Here is my ultimate chocolate chip cookie recipe:

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Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients:

315g Plain Flour
½ tspn Baking Soda
225g Butter
113g Granulated Sugar
170g Soft Brown Sugar
1 tspn Salt
2 tspn Vanilla Extract
2 Large Eggs
350g Choc Chips

Method:

1st: Preheat the oven to 175˚C.

2nd: In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.

3rd: Combine the butter and sugar together in a bowl and cream until light and fluffy.

4th: Add the eggs (1 at a time and combine) and the vanilla extract.

5th: Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined.

6th: Stir in the chocolate chips.

7th: Drop heaped tablespoon-sized balls of dough about 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 8-10mins or until golden brown around the edges.  Allow to cool.

To create either a soft and chewy or thin and crispy bespoke Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie, you’ll need to tinker with the ratios of sugar and butter to get the texture you want.   For a thin and crispy cookie you need to increase the amount of butter and granulated sugar, reducing the amount of brown sugar.  For a cakey cookie you need to reduce the overall sugar and butter quantity.  Another important factor is the use of either baking powder or baking soda– powder puffs; soda spreads – and I want my cookies to spread in the oven.

Cookies that keep on giving

If like me you just fancy a couple of cookies with a cup of tea, note: the dough freezes very well.  I made up the recipe as above and only baked 6 cookies.  I turned the remaining dough out onto a floured surface and rolled it into a sausage shape.  I covered this in greaseproof paper and wrapped in plastic wrap and chucked it in the freezer.

Now every time I want some freshly baked cookies I just slice into the frozen choc chip sausage and bake.  Cook for the same time.

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chocolate cake

Baking soothes the soul

Unsettled, squalid weather makes for a perfect cake baking day.  And yesterday was such a day.  Whether you opt for a sandwich cake filled with something sweet and creamy or whether it’s a cake popped out of a spring form tin, baking a cake – for yourself and/or loved ones – is a pleasurable act.

They say that baking soothes the soul.  How can it not?

“The reassuring ritual of quietly weighing out butter, sugar, flour, cracking eggs, whisking, beating and folding”

The smell of a cake wafting through the house providing instant comfort and security from the world outside.  The sense of achievement that you managed to combine the ingredients and create an elemental change in them should never be underestimated.

Basic quantities are 225g of self-raising flour, sugar, butter and 4 eggs.  Baked for 20/25mins.  But feel free to create variations – e.g. for a chocolate sponge swap 2 table spoons of the flour for 2 of cocoa powder.

What filling/topping you go for is a matter of how far you allow your imagination to take you.  Sandwich style cakes can be filled with fruits and or cream as well as topped with a dusting of icing sugar, chocolate ganache, or a calorific butter frosting.  Whether it’s a childhood psychedelic marble cake or a traditional Victoria sponge cake, there is a nostalgic nursery-teatime quality to the custom of cutting cake.  And any iced-cake is ultimately a birthday cake waiting to be called into service.

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ultimate chocolate cake

Rain splattering the windows for hours on end, the sea battering our coasts, wind howling through trees and thunder having its regular grumble at lightning. The home providing refuge and comfort from the elements.  As the weather turns we begin to want food that is more substantial such as roast dinners and oven cooked meals. And whilst we’re at it – pudding also follows suit.

As Autumn takes its hold on us we begin to want traditional British nursery desserts such as fruit crumbles – smothered in lashings of hot custard, that Enid Blyton would definitely have had mother baking at home!

My favourite crumble to make is a spiced plum crumble, however, any fruit variations are delicious.

I recently made an orchard crumble with: apples, pears, plums and a scattering of frozen blueberries.  The apples were a couple of Bramleys and some wrinkled looking Braeburns that were sat at the bottom of the fridge, the conference pears were nearly on the turn and the plums were hard as rock!

A crumble is a great way to use fruit that you bought thinking would ripen and is still rock hard weeks later or a glut of fruit that you bought on offer and you need to use up…fast!

When it comes to crumble, I always think of people as being in two camps: those that prefer more crumble topping, and those that prefer more fruit filling.  Even within this, there are then those who prefer their crumble slightly more scorched and crunchy, and those who prefer a blonde crumble, slightly soggy as it’s bathed in the tart fruit juices.

Regardless of which camp you’re in, I would recommend making your crumble mixture and keeping it in the freezer until you need it.  I pulse the butter and flour in a food processor and then mix in demerara sugar and flaked almonds.  I used to enjoy ‘fluttering’  the flour and butter (mixing these by rubbing them together between the fleshy parts of your fingers and thumb) but to be honest I don’t particularly feel that this makes for a better crumble and can be unnecessarily timely.  I’d rather spend the time pimping up the fruit.

Plum Crumble

For the crumble :
100g of butter
200g plain flour
100g Demerara sugar
flaked almonds
cinnamon
For the fruit filling:
12 plums
50g butter
1 tsp vanilla paste
1 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
4 tbsp golden syrup
4 tbsp caster sugar
rasping of fresh nutmeg
a splosh of water

Method:
1st:
Make the crumble mixture either by hand or the food processor and place in the freezer until needed.
2nd: Preheat the oven to 200ºC.
3rd: Cut the plums in half and remove the stone.  Sauté for a few minutes in a hot frying pan in the butter.
4th: Once the plums have begun to release their juices add the sugar and golden syrup.
5th: After a few minutes, add the vanilla, star anise, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Add a splosh of water if you feel everything is too syrupy (I sometimes add red wine, port or plum liqueur).
6th: Once the plums have broken down into the syrup, place into an oven dish.
7th: Pour the crumble mix over.  Optional extras are mixing in flaked almonds/oats or adding powdered cinnamon.
8th: Bake in the oven for 20-25min or until golden brown.

A crumble is one of those desserts that you can quickly rustle up for one, two, four or more depending on how much fruit you’ve got – plus if you’ve got frozen crumble mix ready to go, it can be a quick dessert for a midweek supper should you have people round.

The best bit about a crumble is that it is hard to get wrong; my only definite piece of advice is, don’t go tropical!  You can make it as frugal or decadent as you want – decide whether it’s going to be:
a) hot custard
b) pouring cream
c) vanilla ice-cream
d) go nutty
e) go oaty
f) all of the above!

This autumn, how many different crumbles can you make?
Let me know which is your favourite.

As a cook, I compartmentalise chocolate into two groups.  First: normal everyday milk chocolate bars full of sugar, biscuits, dried fruits or nuts that seduce us with glittery, colourful wrappers; appealing to the inner child.  They serve as a mere sugar rush, a boost of energy to keep me going through the day.  Second: dark chocolate with its sophisticated, bittersweet, melt-in-the-mouth, 70% cocoa solids, I mainly use in cooking and baking.

“brownies, fudge cakes, hot chocolate, chocolate mousse, chocolate cheesecake, chocolate pots, chocolate sponge cake, sacher torte, black forest gateau, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate fondants, chocolate truffles, chocolate torte, chocolate tarts, chocolate covered strawberries, chocolate pudding, chocolate souffle, devil’s food cupcakes, chocolate fondue, chocolate creme brulee, rocky road, chocolate-rice krispie cakes…”

Why do we like chocolate so much?  Chocolate is medically proven to stimulate the release of hormones called endorphins in our brains, generating feelings of pleasure and promoting a sense of well being.  Chocolate also appeals to the senses – primarily taste but also smell and hearing; good dark chocolate should make a ‘snapping’ sound when broken opposed to the dull ‘thud’ that milk chocolate makes.  The glossy sheen and cool feel of chocolate, melting at blood temperature, serving to seduce us further.

What can divide us is chocolate cake.  Be it a plain chocolate sponge or traditional Sacher Torte or Black Forest Gateau, no matter how much we like eating chocolate, chocolate cake does not interest everyone.  True chocoholics find chocolate cake too cakey (duh!); just not chocolatey enough.  However, everyone loves chocolate brownies with their dark, fudgy interior or chocolate fondants with their gooey oozy centres – some cooks even making chocolate truffles to put into the fondant to guarantee a river of molten chocolate as you dive into the pudding.

I claim not to have a thing for chocolate but looking back over my blogs there seem to be a lot of chocolate inspired recipes.  I’ve made chocolate pots, cheesecakes, chocolate cakes, brownies, chocolate puddini bon bons, rocky road and I even grate dark chocolate into my chilli-con-carne!  I once tweeted a celebrated food writer asking her for recipes to use up my left-over Easter eggs – she was clearly appalled by the fact that I had not scoffed the lot by Bank Holiday Monday!

“Left-over Easter eggs?!” was the only reply I got.

So here goes, another chocolate dessert recipe for the collection.  These chocolate puddings have the decadence of a
chocolate fondant but the lightness of a mousse.  They have all the makings of a serious, grown-up dessert but are so easy to knock up that you can make them mid-week with minimal fuss.  The great thing about them is that you can freeze them and cook from frozen at a later date.

chocolate pudding

Baked Chocolate Puddings
Ingredients
100g of good quality dark chocolate
100g of butter
1 tbspn liqueur (Brandy or any other liqueur that works with chocolate)
2 large eggs and 2 extra yolks
55g golden caster sugar
1 tspn vanilla extract
30g Plain Flour

Method
1st:
Break the chocolate into pieces and melt along with the butter, add your liqueur of choice (I use Cointreau as I always seem to have a bottle in my cupboard.)  Stir until smooth and glossy.

2nd: While the chocolate is melting, place the sugar, eggs, yolks and vanilla extract (I tend to use vanilla bean paste) in a mixing bowl and whisk for 6-10 minutes until the mixture has doubled in volume.  I recommend using either an electric hand whisk or an electronic mixer as you’ll need some serious muscle power to whisk this by hand to get to the ribbon stage.

3rd: Mix the cooled chocolate mixture into the mousse-like egg mixture.  Sift the flour over and then mix everything using a large metal spoon.  Carefully fold everything together taking care not to beat all the air out of the mixture.

4th: Divide the mixture between your pudding basins, cover with cling film and chill or freeze them until you need them.

5th: Preheat the oven to 200˚C.  Remove the clingfilm and bake in the centre of the oven for 12 mins (14 if chilled first and 15 if frozen.)  Allow them to stand for 1/2mins before turning them out and serving with cream.

Chocolate pudding

 Heaven on a plate!

I was going to be away from home for a week and I needed to make sure there was nothing left in the fridge that would turn before I got back. I didn’t want to have to face the prospect of arriving from holiday to find I had a smelly fridge that needed cleaning out.

There are times when foraging in the fridge doesn’t give you major ingredients to work with. Here you’ve got to be creative and inventive needing a little something extra (herbs and spices) to help your ingredients shine like the stars they were in your shopping basket.

I want to create delicious meals that don’t taste like second best.

My fridge-foraging session turned up: summer berries, bananas, bread, eggs, cheese, milk and pepperoni. Not much to make a meal with but with a little ingenuity these items created three fantastic dishes that will make it into my regular meal choices.

Eggy Bread with Summer BerriesEggy bread breakfast with summer berries

Use any bread that needs using up, I know a brioche style slice would be the most decadent and that using croissants would be just as great but I had my slightly stale multigrain loaf with seeds that always gets a space in my weekly shopping basket.
Beat the egg with milk and a dash of vanilla bean paste. Next add your chosen slices to the mixture and leave to one side so that the mixture absorbs the eggy-milky liquid. Add butter to a hot frying pan. Turn the bread slices over and leave to soak more of the liquid on the other side. Then drain the excess liquid and add your eggy bread to the hot butter – do not be tempted to push the bread around, leave it and only turn once the bottom is golden brown. Fry on both sides until slightly souffléd and golden, drain on kitchen paper. I served mine with the summer berries I had knocking around in the fridge but would have been equally delicious with cinnamon and honey (Gibraltarian torija-style).

Pasta lunch with garlic, chillies, pepperoni and Parmesan pepperoni pasta
Cut the pepperoni and fry in olive oil. Once the pepperoni has released its paprika spice and colour add the garlic and chillies and fry for a few minutes. Add your boiled pasta of choice and toss everything together until your pasta is slicked in paprika-oil. Add fresh basil and grate Parmesan over.

Banana bread muffins

A very easy recipe that doubles easily should you need to create a larger batch.  I usually make this as a loaf which will need a greater cooking time than muffins.  NB: this makes a very liquid batter.

Ingredients

2 cups Plain Flour1 tspn Bicarbonate of Soda

½ tspn salt

1 cup Sugar

(1 ½ cups dried fruit optional)

½ cup Vegetable Oil2 Eggs

4 Ripe Bananas (over ripe bananas are ideal!)

1/3 cup Milk

1 tspn Lemon Juice

01a07142630b17b9a6727780a6678ecd8a643dbea81st: Place all the ingredients in a mixing bowl.

2nd: Mix all the ingredients together.

3rd: Bake in a well greased loaf tin (or muffin cases) at 180°C for 60-70mins for the loaf or 40mins for the muffins.

 

None of these are difficult to make nor do they need an excessive amount of ingredients to make them a meal.  I packed my suitcase whilst the banana bread muffins were in the oven so there was a warm treat waiting for me when I finished.  AND when making a cake batter you’re always going to need flour, sugar, eggs and either butter or oil and any other additions; chocolate, fruit, a filling/cream/ butter icing, the list can go on – so as far as a tea cake goes these were quite simple to put together.

From now on, before I go on my weekly shop let alone on holiday, I’ll be checking to see what I can put together from the ingredients left in my fridge as I often throw out ingredients that just need a little imagination or reinvention to become a delicious snack, treat or meal.