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Monthly Archives: September 2015

Pavlova Stack with Burnt Salted Caramel

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This is a great dessert which is relatively easy to make. If you can make meringue, toffee and crème pâtissière,  you can create this rustic spectacular! I call it a pavlova stack, as the meringue layers are like mini pavlovas.

The base of the dessert is 3 layers of pavlova/meringue. They are stacked on top of each other with a filling of crème légère and burnt salted caramel sauce.  You can top the pavlova stack with almond praline shards. You could be very precise in making the cake – piping the meringue and piping the crème légère. Or go rustic and free form and just spoon everything on, smoothing out a few rough edges here and there.

Here are the recipes for the component parts: pavlovas, crème légère, burnt salted caramel sauce and almond praline.

Pavlovas

Ingredients

6 egg whites

300g caster sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar

Method

Preheat oven to 120 degrees C, 100 Gas 1⁄2. Don’t cook these pavlovas on fan-forced setting.

Place a sheet of baking paper on 2 baking trays. Draw a circle on one sheet, 20cm/8 inches in diameter. Turn the baking paper over so that you can see the pencil marking on the other side. Draw 2 smaller circles on the other sheet of baking paper, 15cm/6 inches and 13cm/5 inches in diameter. Turn the paper over so you can see the circle markings. You should be able to fit the 2 smaller circles on one baking sheet.

Do not grease the baking paper!

Beat egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff. Gradually beat in sugar, a teaspoon at a time, until very stiff. Stir in vanilla and vinegar.

Spoon the mixture onto the 3 paper circles. You can “anchor” the baking paper down by putting a small dob of meringue under each corner of the paper.

Place baking trays in the oven. Bake for 1.5 to 1.75 hours, depending on your oven.  The pavlovas should be quite dry, but still white – if they are brown they have been cooked too long.

Turn oven off, leave in oven a for further hour or you could leave until quite cold.

Crème Légère – Crème légère is crème pâtissière combined with whipped cream. The result is a light, custardy cream great for filling puff pastry items like eclairs or for filling cake layers.

Crème Pâtissière

Ingredients

500g full fat  milk

6 free-range egg yolks

45g cornflour

120g caster sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract/paste

60g salted butter

Method

Put the milk into a saucepan over a medium heat till just simmering. While the milk is heating, place egg yolks, cornflour, sugar and vanilla in a bowl, and whisk till combined and you have a smooth paste.  Add half of the just simmered milk into the egg mixture and whisk this just to combine. Essentially, you are tempering the eggs, so that they don’t scramble by adding all the hot milk at once. Then add all this mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the milk. Bring the mixture back to a simmer, whisking, or stirring with wooden spoon, until the the mixture has thickened considerably. Remove from the heat, stir in the butter and leave to cool.

To make the creme légère to sandwich the pavlovas together, combine half the crème pat with 300mls whipped cream. The cream must be whipped past soft peaks stage until it is quite stiff – but be careful it doesn’t turn to butter! The idea is that the cream is stiff enough to incorporate the custard.

Burnt Salted Caramel Sauce

Ingredients:

200g white sugar

90g salted butter, in small pieces

120ml cream

1 tsp salt

Method

Heat the sugar in a heavy bottomed  saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, until the sugar turns into a tea coloured liquid as you continue to stir. At this stage the toffee/caramel flavour is achieved. If you take the liquid to a slightly darker brown colour, you will achieve that “burnt’ flavour – but beware it is really easy to actually burn the caramel!

Now add the butter  very carefully – the caramel will bubble up. Stir the caramel until the butter is completely melted.

Pour in the cream while continuing to stir. The mixture will  bubble when cream is added. Allow the mixture to boil for about a minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the  salt.

Allow to cool before using. The caramel will thicken on cooling and thicken even more in the fridge. To ensure the caramel sauce is pour-able for the pavlovas, VERY carefully microwave to warm up on low heat. Or you could sit the container in a bowl of hot water to warm up.

Almond Praline

Heat 1/2 cup of caster sugar in a heavy bottomed saucepan over a medium heat. Be careful not to stir the sugar – tilt the saucepan to help melt the sugar. Cook for several minutes until the sugar turns a deep caramel tea colour and take off the heat. It’s a fine line between toffee that’s cooked and toffee that’s burnt! *

Pour onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Quickly scatter over a handful of almond flakes.

Leave to cool and harden. When completely cold, break up the praline into jagged shards.

To Assemble the Stack:

Place the largest pavlova on serving plate. It’s best to place with the bottom on the plate, and nice side up – I forgot with this layer and turned the pavlova layer the wrong way up. Smother with about half the crème légère. Drizzle or spoon over, according to taste, a couple of tablespoonfuls of the burnt salted caramel sauce.

Place the middle sized pavlova on top as the next layer. Spoon about quarter of the crème légère over this layer, and drizzle or spoon a tablespoon – or more – of the caramel sauce.  Put the remaining pavlova on top.

At this stage you can refrigerate for a couple of hours until ready serve. There is no reason for not serving the pavlova stack as is – see photo below. It looks pretty good!

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However, to make it utterly delicious and decadent, when you are ready to serve, pile on the remaining crème légère, drizzle with more caramel sauce and decorate with the almond praline shards.

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 *Tip for cleaning the praline saucepan: fill the pan with water and heat on the stove top till just boiling. Turn off heat and leave for a few minutes – the hardened toffee should hopefully dissolve making the pan easy to clean.

 

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Peanut Butter Blondies

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This recipe is James Morton’s from a Rachel Allen recipe. James uses dark chocolate rather than white, as he thinks it a better flavour  with the peanut butter. I agree, as I discovered, when making Rachel’s original recipe – see my post Peanut Butter and White Chocolate Blondies.  I decided to use a mixture of dark and milk chocolate buttons.

Jame calls his recipe brownies, but I’m going with Rachel and calling mine blondies.  They are after all, pale, as they contain no cocoa or melted chocolate.

Oh, and although I LOVE the peanut butter in the recipe, I added macadamias to the mixture not peanuts!!!

For James’ brownies, see his beautiful book How Baking Works and What to do if it Doesn’t:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/How-Baking-Works-what-doesnt/dp/009195990X/ref=pd_bxgy_14_img_2?ie=UTF8&refRID=1D45NCBQD1RHZVHP2PCA

So here is my tweak on James’ and Rachel’s original recipes.

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Ingredients
100g softened unsalted butter
150g crunchy peanut butter
150g caster sugar
1 free range egg beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract or paste
100g self-raising flour
50g salted macadamias or peanuts  – or any nut really. I think the salt adds a great “salty “!! flavour
100g dark and/or milk chocolate buttons

Method

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C/150 degrees C fan-forced/Gas Mark 3.  Place a square of baking paper into a 20cm (8 inch) square tin.
In a food processor or a large bowl, beat the butter, peanut butter and sugar together until paste-like. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined. James says not to worry about too much beating so long as the ingredients are combined.
Add the flour, nuts and chocolate, stirring gently to combine. Dollop the mixture into the  cake tin and spread out to the edges (the mixture will be quite stiff and hard to spread).
Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown on top and a skewer inserted comes out clean.

 

 

Apple and Pecan Muffins

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This is my go-to muffin recipe posted in quite a few versions on this blog. My basic muffin recipe comes from The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen. Lots of healthy vegetarian recipes in this book and also in other books in the Moosewood series.

I add whatever takes my fancy to the basic recipe. In this case a finely chopped apple and a handful of chopped pecans. A half teaspoon of ground cinnamon and also of ginger, a slosh of vanilla extract, and finished off by a sprinkling of demerara sugar, make for a delicious muffin. And because the sugar content is reasonable, and oil is used not butter, the muffins are relatively healthy!

Ingredients – Base Mixture

1 and 3/4 cups plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bi-carbonate soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup oil
1 beaten egg
3/4 cup milk
2 tbs honey

Add-Ins

1 apple chopped into small chunks (I used a granny smith – any apple would do)
A handful of chopped pecans
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbs demerara sugar for sprinkling

Method

Preheat oven to 170 degrees C. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with muffin papers. I used a Texas muffin tin and got 6 big muffins from the mix.

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Mix the dry ingredients, including cinnamon and ginger, with a spoon in a bowl until well combined.  Add the apples and pecans and gently combine into the dry mixture.  In another bowl mix the oil, beaten egg, milk, honey and vanilla extract.

Add the wet ingredients to the bowl with the dry ingredients. Combine until barely mixed  – don’t worry about lumps!

Spoon each mixture into the muffin papers.  Sprinkle the tops with a little demerara sugar for extra crunch. Bake for 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre of a muffin comes out clean.

Remove from the oven – eat  warm or cold.

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Butternut Pumpkin and Sweet Potato Tikka Masala + Easy Flatbreads

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I love a mildly spiced curry and I’m keen on replacing meat with vegetable options, particularly when the sauce in a dish carries all the flavour. Jamie Oliver’s Chicken Tikka Masala from his lovely book Comfort Food is a great recipe, and easy to make –  see my post for his Chicken Tikka Masala.

So I have made a version of the dish using butternut pumpkin and sweet potato instead of chicken. For the curry paste, I used a Jamie recipe from his website on Easy Homemade Curry Pastes.  My variation was that I added turmeric to the paste rather than to the curry.

I then used the concept of the original chicken recipe, with veggies instead. The recipe that follows is my take on those Jamie originals.  My quantities for the actual curry are enough for 4. I used half the curry paste and I have frozen the rest for later.

I also made the easiest flatbreads ever, another Jamie recipe of course!

Tikka Masala Paste

Ingredients

2 cloves garlic

1 thumb-sized piece fresh root ginger

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tbs smoked paprika

2 tsp garam masala

2  tsp turmeric

½ tsp sea salt

2 tbs peanut oil (groundnut oil)

2 tbs tomato puree

2 fresh red chillies

1 small bunch fresh coriander

1 tbs desiccated coconut

2 tbs ground almonds

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp coriander seeds

Method

First peel the garlic and ginger. Put a frying pan on a medium to high heat and add the spices for toasting to the dry pan. Lightly toast them for a few minutes until golden brown and smelling delicious, then remove the pan from the heat.

Add the toasted spices to a pestle and mortar and grind until fine, or put them into a food processor and whiz to a powder.  Whiz the toasted spices in a food processor with the rest of the ingredients until you have a smooth paste.

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The Curry

1 tbs peanut oil (groundnut oil)

2 onions

2 cloves of garlic

½ butternut pumpkin (squash)

1 large sweet potato

1 x 400 g tin of tomatoes

1 chicken stock cube

1x 400 g tin of light coconut milk

Method

Heat  the oil in heavy bottomed casserole. Peel the onions and garlic and put into the casserole on a medium to high heat and cook for 5 minutes, or until the onions are golden, stirring regularly. Add half the quantity of the curry paste and fry for 2 minutes. Add the butternut pumpkin and sweet potato chopped into rough chunks and cook for 5 minutes until the vegetables are starting to soften. Pour in the tomatoes, crumble in the stock cube and add 150ml of boiling water. Simmer for 5 minutes, then stir in the coconut milk. Simmer for a final 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are soft but still intact.

Serve with whatever you usually have with your curry – I made easy flatbreads and had some yoghurt on the side.

Flatbreads

Ingredients

175g self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting

Pinch of  salt

½ teaspoon baking powder

175g natural yoghurt

Method

Add the flatbread ingredients to a mixing bowl and mix together with a spoon, then use clean hands to pat and bring everything together. Dust a clean work surface with flour, then tip out the dough. Knead for a minute or so to bring it all together – don’t need to knead it for long – just enough time to bring everything together.

Dust a clean work surface and rolling pin with flour, then divide the dough into 6 equal-sized pieces, roughly the size of a golf ball. With your hands, pat and flatten the dough, then use a rolling pin to roll each piece into 12cm rounds, roughly 2mm to 3mm thick.Use a knife to cut 6 lines into the centre of each round, leaving about 3cm at each end. Place a griddle pan on a high heat, then once hot, cook each one for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, or until bar-marked and puffed up, turning with tongs.

I cooked the flatbreads directly on the bars of the barbecue  – it worked fine, but you don’t want the heat too high as the flatbreads can scorch.

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Pecan Maple Sticky Buns

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Here is another venture into the world of sticky buns, cinnamon scrolls and brown sugar sweet treats. I love my bread making, and I am pretty keen on making enriched dough at the moment.

This recipe is my take on Sticky Buns from the Great British Bakeoff and the inimitable James Morton’s Cinnamon Buns.

It’s an enriched dough filled with brown sugar, butter and cinnamon, and topped with MORE brown sugar, butter, maple syrup and pecans!

James Morton cooks his buns in a casserole dish or pot such as a Le Creuset, as the heavy sided baking dish creates softer buns. He’s right – it’s the way to go for beautiful soft unctuous buns, so I recommend you try this baking method. Whatever you bake your buns in, make sure that the dish or pan has a rim, as the topping might flow over during cooking.

Ingredients

Dough

250g plain white flour

250g strong white flour

8g table salt

7g instant yeast

100g sourdough starter (optional)

50g caster sugar

280g milk, warmed until tepid

1 free-range egg, at room temperature

50g unsalted butter

Filling

50g unsalted butter

75g brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

Topping

100g butter (salt reduced or salted is fine for that “salted caramel” flavour)

2 tbs maple syrup

100g pecan pieces (walnuts work just as well)

Method

Place the flour, salt, yeast,  sourdough starter if using, sugar, tepid milk, egg and cinnamon into a large bowl and mix them together by hand or you can use an electric mixer with a dough hook. Knead by hand or in the mixer about for 10 minutes.

Melt the butter and add to your dough. Mix it in by hand or use a machine until completely combined. Cover the bowl (I use a disposable shower cap but cling film is fine) and leave the dough to rest for 60-90 minutes at room temperature, or overnight in the fridge, until it has grown to roughly double its original size.

Turn your dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll it out into a big, long rectangle. The rectangle should be about 20cm wide and up to a metre long. Melt the butter and brush over dough. Sprinkle the dough all over with brown sugar and then cinnamon.

Roll up the dough along its long edge into as tight a cylinder you can get, but be careful as the dough is quite fragile. Slice this cylinder into 6-9 roughly equal pieces using a knife.

For the topping, process the butter, brown sugar and maple syrup until thoroughly mixed in food processor. Grease a large lidded casserole dish and spread the mixture evenly over the base of the dish. Scatter the chopped nuts over the base of the dish and gently press in.

Arrange the buns cut end down in the casserole dish. Place the lid on the casserole and leave to rise for another hour at room temperature, then check to see that buns have risen.

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30 minutes before baking, preheat your oven to 180 degrees C fan forced. Put the lid back on the casserole and place in the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes with the lid on and 10 minutes with the lid off.

Remove from the oven and run a knife around the inside of the dish to loosen the buns.

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Leave for 3-4 minutes for the bubbling to subside – no longer as the caramel will set.

Carefully invert the dish onto a plate with a rim, again to stop the topping spilling over. Lift off the baking dish. The buns will be sitting up beautifully covered in the lovely caramel topping!

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Cherry Jam Crostata and Blood Orange Cake

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A lovely morning tea was held to celebrate the birthday of Quirky Sister No 2 recently. Quirky Nieces 1 and 3 made two beautiful bakes – an Italian crostata and a whole blood orange cake – for the festivities.

Quirky Niece 1, Isabella, on a recent trip to Italy, came back with a great crostata recipe, and in Italian , too. I  have included the original hand written recipe.

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Quirky Niece 3, Helena, used one of my favourite citrus fruits, blood oranges, in a cake with the whole fruit, from a Nigella recipe which references the famous Claudia Roden orange and almond cake.

Cherry Jam Crostata

The Italian source didn’t provide a lot of information – no method, so I have included what I think would work.

Ingredients

300g plain flour
½ sachet of baking powder (1 sachet = 11g)
150g sugar
100g butter
1 whole egg
2 egg yolks

Quantity of any good jam for the filling (my niece used black cherry)

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.  Line a tart mold with baking paper or you could simply grease a baking tray if you want a true rustic crostata.

Place the flour, baking powder and sugar in a food processor and pulse till the mixture just comes together.

Make a well  in the centre  and add the butter and egg and egg yolks and mix in gently until combined but not overworked.

Roll out the dough roughly  – remember this is not a precise tart – and line the tart mold. Or gently shape the dough into a round with a pastry rim on the baking tray.

Fill the tart with the jam, adding a  pastry decoration as my niece did, and bake for 30-40 minutes until the pastry is golden and the jam bubbling.

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Blood Orange Cake

Ingredients

3 blood oranges
6 large free-range eggs
225g sugar
250g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder

Candied orange topping

Juice of a blood orange
4 tbs honey
1 blood orange thinly sliced

Method

Put the blood oranges in a saucepan with some cold water, bring to the boil and cook for 2 hours or until the blood oranges are soft. Drain and, when cool, cut each orange in half and remove the pips. Put the oranges – skins, pith and fruit – and blitz in a food processor.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C. Butter and line a 21cm springform tin.

Add the other ingredients to the food processor and mix.

Pour the cake mixture into the prepared tin and bake for an hour until a skewer comes out clean –  cover with aluminum foil after about 40 minutes to stop the top of the cake burning. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a rack, but in the tin.

To make the candied orange topping, put the orange juice and honey in a small saucepan and bring to the boil, then reduce heat to medium. Add the orange slices and cook for 5 minutes each side until the orange slices caramelise.

Top the cake with the candied orange slices and syrup.

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