Posts Tagged ‘dessert’

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

 

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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:

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

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.

Pear

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“Ui que freski!” can be heard as people pop out of their warm houses into the cool work morning air.

Midday temperatures climbing and sunny (though not unbearably hot) sunsets disappearing in the blink of an eye and evenings creeping in sooner.  Sorry folks but autumn is setting up camp for the next few months.

Fruit and veg has grown full to bursting soaking up every last bit of summer sunshine getting itself ready for the harvest.  Thankfully making its abundance present in our kitchens.

pearsA quintessential autumnal fruit is the pear.  Once I see pears-a-plenty I know autumn is here.  And I don’t mean long haul, greenhouse grown perfect pears; dry and hard to the bite.  I mean pears of varying shapes and sizes, soft to the touch, buttery and bursting with juice.

Outshined by apples every year, however, I find the pear just as versatile in the kitchen – it can be baked into cakes, used to top cheesecakes, used in salads, pureed, transformed into a chutney/relish, poached, used in main dishes as well as desserts.  A great accompaniment to cheese, especially if it’s blue and let’s be honest, perry (pear cider) really is that much better than apple cider.

So in a bid to extol the virtues of the underdog, I’ve created a few simple pear recipes to get your autumn pear imagination flowing.

  • Pear, gorgonzola, prosciutto and walnut galette
  • Pear, ginger and cinnamon tart

You can make both of these recipes simultaneously as they require similar ingredients and cooking times but their eatability is just as desireable!

Serves 2 as a 2 course dinner but quantities can be easily doubled.

Ingredients: 1 block of puff pastry and 2 pears (whether serving 4 or 2 as a two-course dinner)

Pear, gorgonzola, prosciutto and walnut galettePear and Blue Cheese Tart

  • Blue cheese (or other blue cheese)
  • Prosciutto (or other cured ham)
  • Rocket leaves
  • Walnuts
  • Honey and olive oil dressing
  • Seasoning

Method:

1st: Roll the block of puff pastry out onto a well floured board.

2nd: Cut the pastry into quarters and score the pastry with the tip of a knife creating a 1cm border around the outer edge (do not cut all the way through).
If creating both the sweet and savory version, leave 2 quarters to one side.

3rd: Crumble the gorgonzola into a bowl and beat with a palette knife until soft.  Spread a layer of this over inside of the border of each of your quarters.

4th: Slice half a pear per quarter and place ontop of the gorgonzola.  Brush the border with either milk or an egg-wash.

5th: Place into a preheated oven at 200°C for 15-20mins or until golden brown.

6th: Add slices of prosciutto, rocket leaves and walnut halves over before dressing and seasoning to taste.

Pear, Ginger and Cinnamon galettePear, ginger and cinnamon tart

  • Cinnamon
  • Light brown sugar
  • Stem ginger in syurp
  • Flake almonds
  • Cream / Ice cream to serve

Complete stages 1 & 2 as above.

1st: Brush the inside of the quarters with egg-wash and sprinkle cinnamon, sugar and a piece of stem ginger per quarter (chopped finely).

2nd: Slice the pears finely and arrange half a pear per quarter.

3rd: Sprinkle with a bit more sugar and cinnamon.

4th: Egg wash the border and place into a preheated oven at 200°C for 15-20mins or until golden brown.

5th: Serve with flaked almonds and either cream (with some of the ginger syrup mixed in) or ice cream.

Optional Extra – sprinkle the tart with ground ginger for added depth and warmth.

Click on the following links to view previous recipes posted on http://www.gastrorob.com

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Try any of the following or create some of your own; why not post your recipes here?

Pearfect!

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!