Posts Tagged ‘baking’

I walked up to my front door to find that there was a bright red present tied with white and blue ribbon waiting at its feet.  It felt as if I had just received my first valentine card…the excitement, the joy, the intrigue.  Ripping through the wrapping, I found myself faced with a metal madeleine tray with 12 scallop-shell shaped moulds staring up at me.  Now if like me, you’re a food obsessive, you’d know what to do with it – otherwise you’d be taking it down the beach to decorate your sandcastles with.

the excitement, the joy, the intrigue

But I still hadn’t figured out who left it there!

The card that accompanied the tray made everything clearer; it was a gift from my friend, Pie.  On the card were suggestions as to which madeleine recipe to follow and who to youtube should I need direction, so that I too could enjoy the delights of a fresh, warm madeleine with a cup of coffee as a weekend breakfast.

I must place this in a context for you; my friend Pie, bakes delicious madeleines (or so she tells me as she’s never managed to invite me round for Sunday breakfast!)

So what is a madeleine?


A madeleine is a French patisserie favourite.  A small, buttery sponge cake to enjoy with a cup of tea or coffee.  Classically they will either be lemon or almond flavoured, however, they now come in a variety of different flavours; dunked in chocolate or filled with jam/fruit/curd.  But what sets a Madeleine apart from a standard sliced tea-time sponge cake, is the scallop-shell impressed pan they are baked in.

Having taken Pie’s recommendations and done some research myself – Michel Roux Jnr’s recipe is a good one to start with:

Madeleines

Ingredients:
2 eggs

100g caster sugar

100g plain flour + extra for dusting

1 lemon

¾ tsp baking powder

100g melted butter

Method:

1st: Preheat the oven to 200˚C.  Brush the Madeleine tray with melted butter, shake in a little flour to coat the shells and tap out the excess.

2nd: Prepare your dry ingredients in a bowl and the lemon zest.  Pour the lemon juice into the melted butter and set aside.

3rd: Whisk together the eggs and the sugar in a bowl until frothy.

4th: Pour in the melted butter and lemon mixture and lightly whisk in the flour.  Leave to stand for 20mins before carefully pouring the batter into your prepared madeleine tray.

5th: Bake for 8-10mins until risen in the middle and fully cooked through.  The madeleine should be golden brown around the edges.  Transfer the madeleines to a wire rack and leave for a few minutes to cool slightly.

Madeleines are best eaten within the hour – barely warm and sprinkled with icing sugar.

I recommend you set your timer for 8mins and then watch the madeleines like a hawk as they’ll go from pale and white to dark brown within the 2mins left!
Renowned food writers, such as David Lebovitz, who is known to “pop a few for breakfast” drizzles honey into the mix and gives his batter a generous wait time.  Rachel Khoo, from Little Paris Kitchen, drizzles in some honey and prods a raspberry into the centre of the batter mixture before baking, then piping lemon curd into the centre of the baked madeleine.  Julia Child’s recipe calls for salt, vanilla extract, 2 drops of lemon juice and 2 drops of bergamot extract as well as boiling the butter first to turn it brown – why would any home cook want to have to go through all that?!

I followed Michel Roux Jnr’s recipe adding more lemon juice than expressed.  Next time I’d like the madeleine to have a stronger lemon taste therefore adding more juice or perhaps adding some lemon curd to the batter mixture.  I prepared the batter before I went out the night before and placed in the fridge.

Make sure not to fill the moulds too much as they will spill over and engulf the madeleine next to it if you’re not too careful.


I suppose, like the old Chinese proverb: give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.  Teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.  Pie has provided me with the tools and wisdom, so that I too can eat madeleines as often as I want.

Cue accordion music

 

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:

IMG_1287

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.

choccake1

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.

choccake2

ultimate chocolate cake

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