Archive for the ‘desserts’ Category

I have never been one for bread and butter pudding.  There, I said it.blog-panetonne-bread-butter-pudding-2-780x400

Soaking scrag ends of several loaves of bread into milk or water to form a wet, sloppy, bread crumb and then squeezing out the excess liquid to form a type of masa before mixing in raisins, cinnamon, lemon zest and sprinkling Demerara sugar over before baking in a moderate oven, has never really been my thing.

I mean, I totally get the whole minimising food waste and environmental impact.  In essence, bread pudding is a reincarnation of French toast (pain perdu) which I really like but soggy bread and I are not the best of friends.

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However, having said that, in New Orleans I tried a tropical, boozy pineapple and coconut bread pudding soused with piña colada mix. And I hate to admit it but I was converted with one mouthful!

The idea that anything could be used to form the base: croissants, two-day old bread, pastries, fruit cake etc and you could add any liquid component you wanted as long as the egg custard mix would set your pudding meant that you were in total control of the texture and consistency as well as the flavour direction of the final product.  

Suddenly bread pudding became exciting.  

My sister-in-law was gifted a tower of treats with a panettone loaf cake in its bottom tier but as we soon found out, not many people are keen on panettone – is it bread or cake? It’s too dry to be cake but not doughy enough to be bread.  What do you have it with?  How do you slice it?  How do you serve it?  Are those raisins and bits of candied peel?  Not surprisingly, some people don’t seem to be too keen on those either!  Pandoro (raisin and candied peel removed) isn’t met with better response. 

But following Gino D’Acampo’s advice, instead of wasting it and throwing it out, we used the panettone very successfully to make a panettone bread pudding.

To make Gino D’Acampo’s Panettone Bread and Butter Pudding you will need:

Ingredients:

1 panettone cake

2 large eggs

4 egg yolks

2 tbsps caster sugar

1 tbsp honey

3 tbsps marsala

400ml whole milk

100ml double cream

Splash of vanilla extract  

Demerara sugar

Icing sugar

Ricotta and honey to serve

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Method:

1st: Mix the eggs, yolks and caster sugar together.

2nd: Add the honey, vanilla, marsala, milk and double cream. Whisk but not too vigorously.  Set aside.

3rd: Slice the panettone cake into inch thick slices and arrange in an oven proof dish with the sides sticking up.

4th: Ladle the eggy mixture over the panettone slices until the bread has soaked up most of the liquid.  Allow the mixture to soak into the panettone before placing in the oven.   NB You may not need all the mixture.

5th: Sprinkle Demerera sugar all over the top.

6th: Bake in an oven at 160ºC for 25mins until top is browned and crunchy.  Dust with icing sugar. Serve with ricotta and honey.

Might need to run to the supermarket and buy a panettone before the end of the season just to make this again!

Happy New Year everybody.

Gastrorob

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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There’s always room for dessert!

You sit down at your local trattoria to stay out of the lunchtime sun knowing exactly what you’re going to have for dessert – panna cotta.  More grown up than ice-cream but just as cooling and light.  You plan your antipasti and primo piatto with this in mind, making sure to just leave enough room for dolce.  But sadly, on many occasion, when you order panna cotta the waiter gives the same answer, “Non abbiamo più a sinistra.”  On their recommendation another dolce is ordered.  And even though delicious, it wasn’t what you originally wanted.

So having been denied the chance to have this dessert in its country of origin, once back from holiday, I set out looking for ways to create this at home.

Of course, set desserts made from milk and cream are common to many cultures, and often separated by very minor differences:

blancmange rabbit…exactly!!

Blancmange in its specifically British incarnation is typically made with milk and thickened with corn flour or more commonly a packet of strawberry jelly is dissolved in water and milk is stirred in to make it pink, and served in a rabbit mould and topped with spray-can cream!

While panna cotta, as the name suggests (cooked cream) is generally made from cream and set with gelatine.  Much more elegant and sophisticated than blancmange, served in flea market tea-cups, dariole moulds or espresso cups and served with fresh fruit, spices or nuts.  It is the perfect dinner party dessert as it can be made well in advance and always impresses.

There are several recipes to be found with varying ingredients: some use only double cream, others cream and milk, others buttermilk, some use single cream and milk.

Ultimately though, all a panna cotta really is, is a creamy dessert set with gelatine.

As David Lebovitz says, “Panna cotta is incredibly easy to make, and if it takes you more than five minutes to put it together, you’re doing something wrong.”

Below is my version/amalgamation of different recipes:

Panna Cotta serves 2*IMG_35381

1st: In a saucepan pour a small tub (1/2 pint) of double cream and place on a gentle heat.  Some tubs are 254ml whereas others are 300ml – don’t worry about this.

2nd: Add a tablespoon of sugar and stir to dissolve.

3rd: Add a splosh of vanilla extract or cut a vanilla pod in half lengthways, scrape the seeds out and add both the seeds and pod into the warm cream to infuse.

4th: Put 2 gelatine leaves in cold water until soft.  When soft, squelch any excess water out and stir into the warm cream.

5th: Pour into lightly oiled moulds, and leave to cool.  Once cool place in the fridge for 4 hours or overnight.

To serve: Place the moulds into hot water for 8 secs until the panna cotta comes away from the mould and turn out onto a plate (or serve in the espresso cup/tea cup).  Serve with fruit of choice.

*Doubles easily, but only use 3 gelatine sheets not 4 as you want it to be luscious and not hard like a cheese!!

As you are setting the cream with gelatine and not an egg-custard you can pretty much go crazy with whatever flavours you want to go for – apparently the Nutella panna cotta with Frangelico cream is to die for!  I’ll definitley be giving that one a go next.

Simple and decadent.

Buon appetito!

Biscotti, more correctly known as biscotti di Prato, also known as cantuccini (little corners), are twice-baked biscuits originating in the Italian city of Prato. The biscuits are oblong-shaped almond biscuits that are baked twice to give them their dry texture and quintessential snap.

Due to their dry nature, they have an increased shelf life and were thus very useful for wars and long journeys.

Biscotti can be eaten as you would an ordinary biscuit but due to their dry quality the biscotti

come into their own as you resuscitate them back to life when dunked! Now where you dunk them is up to you – personally a sweet wine (vin santo) or an ice cold limoncello is best but if eating these for breakfast: coffee, not tea, is advisable.

Traditionally the mixture is composed exclusively of eggs, sugar, flour and almonds, however, modern variations of biscotti are easily found. Any variety of nuts are used as well as dried fruits and spices such as anise and cardamom. This mixture is then baked twice – first as a loaf and then each loaf is cut into oblong shapes along the diagonal which are then placed back into the oven to dry further. As a final flourish, some biscotti are also glazed with chocolate!

Having more time on my hands for baking than I would normally have and having a penchant for biscotti, I decided to spend my summer exploring various recipes.

So where to start? Using social media, I tweeted foodies asking if anyone had any sure fire recipes for biscotti.  Nonni’s Biscotti replied back with a link to several of Martha Stewart’s biscotti recipes. Online, I also found a Jamie Oliver recipe for an almond and orange biscotti, and a pistachio and cranberry biscotti at http://www.joyofbaking.com. In “Desserts” by James Martin was a recipe for biscotti and limoncello (also found online).

Click on the links below to be directed to the recipe pages.

Pistachio and Cranberry Biscotti

Biscotti and Limoncello

Almond and Orange Biscotti 

Making biscotti is surprisingly easy and not much can go wrong (famous last words)!  With the three recipes above I changed ingredients and cooking times/temps.  The balance of sugar, flour and eggs were maintained but the actual flavours I adapted to suit the ingredients I had at home and or wanted.

With the joyofbaking’s pistachio and cranberry biscotti I didn’t have enough dried cranberries left so I added currants to make up the required weight.

With James Martin’s biscotti and limoncello, I don’t particularly like dates and I couldn’t get hold of dried strawberries so I added extra dried apricots and pistachios.

In Jamie Oliver’s recipe I didn’t have star anise so left this flavour out.

All three recipes have been tested with everyone picking different ones as their favourite.  Some prefer them drier and crunchier than others.  But what is for certain is that the test group want me to bake all of them again!

Considering the plethora of biscotti recipes out there I shall continue on my exploration.  My only rule is not to use butter or oil, as traditional biscotti recipes were not made with this.

Let me know if you’ve got any flavour combinations you’d like tested.

L’explorazione continua

Buon Appetito