Monday, 28 January 2013

Retro Pudding Zabaglione



I was leafing through my Italian Cooking Encyclopedia, a rather large tome, which I've had now for a number of years.  It sits on the shelf away from my other cookery books, nestled between Atlases and the like, and I may look at it only two or three time a year. 

Often I am tempted by deserts which are easy and quick, and easy to make in small quantities.  I remember having Zabaglione in the seventies in Bristol, maybe it was at the original Berni Inn, or at Le Boeuf sur Le Toit in Clifton, I remember the name as it was French, and my friends there used to love me saying the name in my unusual for then perfect French accent, was that the little bistro where Keith Floyd use to come amongst the diners and sit and chat about with us about the meals, offering extra glasses of wine? 

At this time when I was still very young, and working at my first job,  and wondering where I could get really good meals apart from the dinner party scene, I was living in Bristol, and there were quite a few good eateries there and all within walking distance, well we were used to walking, and they seem to merge together in my memory.  Sometimes it was Clifton where there were several good restaurants which beckoned, or maybe the town centre where the pubs and Old Vic may have been the Saturday night destination.

To go with the Zabaglione, I made some biscuits to dunk into the soft foamy bowl.  They were lovely just as they are with a cup of coffee, they kept fresh and crisp for the three days they lasted for.  They are softish in the centre, and light too.

Cornmeal Biscuits

50g sultanas soaked overnight in 1 tablespoon Sweet Marsala
60g fine yellow cornmeal;
90g plain flour
3g baking powder
100g butter
110g golden caster sugar
1 egg

Sift the cornmeal, flour and baking powder together.

Cream the butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg, a teaspoon full at a time, then fold in the soaked sultanas with any liquid left.  Add the dry ingredients and stir well.

Drop teaspoons onto a tray lined with baking parchment, leaving plenty of space for spreading. It makes about 24 biscuits.

Bake in an oven Gas 4/180C for 8 -10 minutes, till golden brown at the edges.  Cool on a rack.  Store in an airtight jar or tin.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

New Hobby - First Steps in Calligraphy

Last year after visiting some artists in Kenilworth, I decided to enrol in calligraphy classes...it something I have been thinking of for years....and finally I have got round to it!

I've just attended my third class in Kenilworth, and have learnt how to inset a nib, and hold the pen at the right angle. 



I found a little text to copy out at home.  Uncial is the script we are trying to master.  Had a bit of fun this time using two pencils to form large letters. 


This one is just 6 cm square, and the next one just a little doodle which I shall make into a book mark for Mr S. With a little painting within borders two little finished projects.

Just the right buttons


With this little cardigan nearly finished, I went off to Beading Crafty in Kenilworth today to pick up my buttons.  I went to see Helen Clues who is a local artist and runs workshops on making beads and buttons, last Thursday.  With time a bit short, and knowing this cardigan was needed, I  asked Helen to make me some buttons with green and yellow with the idea of spring time and daffodils. 


Helen had made a selection in various shapes and sizes for me.  When I saw the buttons earlier in the day, I knew I had to return to choose them with samples of various balls of wool that I have in my stash.  I came away with buttons for my next two projects in green.




The buttons are now sewn on, and I have just to write a card, and get the package off to the Post Office.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Pecan Nuts and toffee and maple syrup

These are a few of my favourite things.....when I am at the market the only bakery item I am tempted to buy is the baker's pecan nut plait....Now that I think of it, that may be my next baking challenge.

This Friday was two buns Friday.  In addition to the brioche I made some little cakes.  I can see now why MB cooled her pan of toffee in a bowl of cold water in her masterclass on Tart Tartin. My toffee cooked further as it was poured over the side of the heated pan.  The first nut was bathed in pale golden toffee, which got darker and darker for each further pecan nut.


This made a nice Friday Tea Time Treat for when Mr S got in after battling it home through the snow.  Have frozen six decorated, and will check to see what is lost on thawing and then report back.

More white stuff for the WI Christmas Supper

We still had some snow from earlier in the week on the ground, and the threat of more to come.  This year our numbers have dwindled and our previous caterers were not interested in catering for our Christmas Dinner meeting.  Kaye and Margaret suggested that we cater for ourselves, and I volunteered to made a desert.

At first I had thought of a roulade, as a couple of members are gluten intolerant, and one or two could not eat nuts....but then I considered that a pavlova could be more easily portioned, and made a little bigger than my largest swiss roll tin would have allowed for....for then I have just thought I could have made a temporary tin with foil, card etc to sit on my largest baking sheet...  As it was I drew a circle large enough to fit in my largest carrying container, which just fitted on my largest sheet.



Every person coming up for dessert chose my Pavlova till it was gone, each piece getting smaller and smaller, and the rest the three serving including myself were left with 'bought in options'.  Next year I'll make all the desserts.  All in all a great success.


Of course, I made a little mini version for Mr S's supper.  I have only made small meringues before, but after the success of this one, I'll find a good use for the odd egg white for a nice quick pudding.

Brioche pure and simple


The type of brioches I've made before: Belgian Brioche were not the classic ones...even so they were really good.  I made those by hand.  Now that I have a mixer with a dough hook, I thought I would make my first bread with the mixer, with a recipe that says: 'Use a mixer'.

Yesterday being Friday, my usual bun day, I made 'brioche buns', as well as some cup cakes.

It was fun to have a call from Vicki who kindly gave me her machine, in the middle of the mixing.  I still feel as if it is hers....Sounds like she is exploring some interesting food avenues, and not allowing her recently diagnosed diabetes to curtail her love of cooking.

From How to Bake, by Paul Hollywood, I chose the Brioche Recipe.  It makes a large loaf in a tin, which would be lovely for a house party, or when large numbers are sitting down to breakfast.  I used the dough to make 12 x 100g buns to fit my brioche tins.  One of these large buns is quite sufficient for breakfast, and the rest freeze very well.

I used the instant yeast as given in the recipe, but I think next time I will use fresh yeast dissolved in the sugar and warm milk.

The recipe gives 5 medium eggs, and it got me wondering just what 5 eggs should weigh....and thanks to the Internet, I arrived at the ideal for whole egg, white, and yolk.  After all if one measures the liquid and other ingredients accurately, then one ought to know the weight of the eggs.  I mostly buy my eggs in a mixed bunch, so my fifth egg had to be the very smallest.

Delamere Goat's butter states the salt content as 1%, so with 250g butter, I reduced the salt from the 7g given in the recipe to 4g, to compensate for the given 250g unsalted butter required.  It took some time to incorporate the butter, so I would make sure next time the butter is at least as soft as the dough mixture...but then yesterday was really cold, with thick snow falling.  I left the bowl of dough to rise during the day in the conservatory which was at least as cold as the fridge.  With several egg yolks in the fridge, instead of the whole egg wash, I used egg mixed with a little cream to glaze.  No glaze is given in the recipe.  The buns were baked late evening.  I baked them for 10 minutes at Gas Mark 6, then reduced the temperature to Gas Mark 4 for 15, swapping the trays in between.

This morning, we sat down to breakfast in the heated conservatory, looking over the garden covered in about 10cm of snow, with a warmed brioche each and a selection of preserves....Having made them and knowing of the amount of eggs and butter, in them, no added was butter put on the table.

Mr S asked is there anything in these?  I said no apricots, chocolate or grated oranges....just a little added vanilla, (not in the recipe), and we agreed, next time, 1 full tsp vanilla bean.  Otherwise even Marie Antoinette would have made sure she had one!

Pate Sucree revisited



Its quite some time since I last made Pate Sucree, so when I found a very good recipe in Michel Roux's book, I thought I would have another go.  I chose Bertinet's Creme patissiere, and then with a selection of fruit which I had in the freezer, and a few freshly poached pears....we had a few tarts, round, oval and a couple experiments using my lovely brioche tins.  The brioche tins shape was a problem...the best one was the one draped over the back of the tin....but I ought to have removed it while still warm and a little flexible.  It broke in two, but still nice to try.  Actually the brioche tin sized one was a little too big for my appetite.  Will practise again with the other half of the pastry which has been frozen down.  I love the little tarts as you can make up the number you need, rather than having a large tart and cut slices...always the temptation to each more than one portion!

My tip for baking the pastry, chill well or even freeze before adding the paper and baking beans, as it is easy to dig the paper into the pastry.

Tip for assembling:  fill the tart below the level of the edge of the pastry, to allow room to contain the glaze.

Tarts keep very well in a container ready for filling another day.  They are strong and can see why shops use this pastry.  The pastry keeps crisp even with the filling in for a few hours.

Conclusions...gathered and discussed whilst eating these tarts....we much prefer rich shortcrust pastry.  But then when we have had they tarts in France etc., we felt the same.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Cotswold Gold Oil, and Baked Pumkin makes a delicious loaf

With the last bit of my lovely stonegroud whole meal flour, a little strong white flour, Cotswold Gold Oil, baked pumkin, etc, I have come up with a wonderful tasting golden dough, with added pumpkin seeds.  I made two large loaves, and a tray of buns with more baked pumpkin, browned onions, herbs, and cheese...very tasty with soup for supper.  The remaining buns were divided into threes and frozen for later.

The main loaves have a lovely golden colour punctuated by the green of the pumpkin seeds, and toasts very well and great with pate, cheese or sweet preserves.  On one day this week, I made myself a sandwich at the same time as making up Mr S's packed lunch, put it away it the fridge ready for a fast bite between a busy morning, and my first day at my Calligraphy Class...where I started on uncial script.




I've just found out that the miller at Charlecote Mill is retiring, and the new Miller: Karl Grevatt is on board.  Next week I expect my new sack of flour to arrive.  John Bedington the retiring miller will still bring my delivery on his way home.  When I was working on this recipe I was thinking about how local this loaf is...the wheat is grown and milled not far away, the oil comes from a neighbouring county, the pumpkin from my friend's allotment in Kenilworth, and the herbs from my garden.  I'm not sure where the pumpkin seeds or onions came from, but the cheese was from Berkswell less than ten miles away.

I am hoping that both Cotswold Gold and Charlecote Mill will publish my recipe when I have fine tuned it.

Playing with the white stuff

No we haven't had the predicted snow...but earlier this week, I played with egg whites, and sugar and came up with some lovely meringues...some looking pretty in pink and green with pistachios, and four with melted chocolate folded through. 

We had the chocolate meringues sandwiched with whipped cream and served with raspberries, and what quick pudding when one can 'assemble' items in the fridge or cupboard. 

Some of the meringues were put in a tin for another day, and the rest frozen ready for a pudding less day, when one is really desperate for something a little sweet to finish off the meal.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Lime and Coconut Cake by Mich Turner

I enjoyed watching the recent series: Britain's Best Bakery, with presenters Mich Turner and Peter Sidwell.  So it is not surprising that I borrowed a book from the library called Fantastic Party Cakes by Mich Turner.....

Its contents give decorations galore, with loads of techniques, with sugar and icing covering a variety of base cakes.  For usual family fare, I would not usually make up cakes with so much sugar and butter in butter cream which I feel please the eye and are a little too sweet for my palate, but if needed I think I could rise to the challenge for a birthday cake or similar, and since there are a number of birthdays coming up, I shall get my thinking cap on.


Vicki has 'lent' me her mixer, and since it is years since my Kenwood went by 'hand luggage' by air half way across the world, I had to just try one bake....I made half the quantity given in the recipe and baked it in an 8 inch square cake tin, cut it and layered it.  The mixer would have worked better with twice the quantity...a small hand held mixer would have sufficient.

Things I have learnt from this bake:  Too sweet for our taste bubs,  I can make an oblong cake with nice proportions using an 8 inch square tin, which using just 100g butter, 100g sugar etc.  I need to practise my cutting techniques.  It looks much more elegant compared to a small round sponge cake.
I now have a nice oblong plate bought locally in Kenilworth, so will try more oblong cakes.

Goat's Butter Croissants for the New Year




Its some time now since we have eaten croissants...with so much butter in them, and an intolerance to cow's milk and produce, we have steered clear of them even when abroad on holiday.  When in France and even other continental destinations, I love to wander round the patisseries trying to judge where the best were made, and trying  to decided which type I like best.  Difficult one this, sometimes they seem to be more bready and less fatty, its just a matter of local likes and the baker's style.  Much walking is needed to counterbalance the calories!

Wanting to practise this art, and being encouraged by Kong, I started a batch on New Year's Eve with the detrempe, spent New Year's Day doing the turns, and baked the croissants on 2nd January.  It did not take long, with the dough resting and cooling in the fridge overnight.

Tips which were useful:  Kong's envelope method for the butter, used by others of course, and the envelope of clingfilm so that the dough stays the right shape.  I made half the quantity, as I knew I had little room in the freezer.  It will be really worthwhile making the whole batch and finding room to freeze them for later weekends.  One each is just fine with a nice plate full of fruit to start with.

My findings:  the croissants freeze very well, and warmed up from frozen at Gas Mark 2, whilst you lay the table and make the coffee is perfect.  Home made Apricot Jam is the best flavour to have with the croissants.  I made seven croissants, with two mini ones from the end trimmings....which we tasted that evening.  I used Delamere Goat's butter which is less salty than my usual St Helen's Farm butter.  I ought to try St Helen's Farm next time, since I can get that brand locally.

At Kenilworth Market, I noticed the French Baker was probably using his croissant dough to make 'French Pastries'  just the same as Danish Pastries, so I shall try a couple out next time.

Things which I may do differently next time:  one egg wash only, as hubby prefers a paler croissant, I will do half with the double egg wash, the first is applied as the croissants start their rise, and the second just before they go into the oven.

Just after Christmas I made my first batch of Flaky Pastry for a long time....just superb.  I made a large pie with roast chicken, ham, and aspagus and invited Lita and her friend round to help us out....eating our way through Christmas goodies....