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Category Archives: Dessert

Pain aux Raisins – Little Danish Pastries

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2E29FFDB-655D-4CF0-B296-966430AF893FThere are two types of baking that I seek to perfect each year.

At Easter, I make hot cross buns, trying different recipes and tweaking these to find the best one. I’m generally in favour of Jamie Oliver’s recipes and one or other of these is my current go-to at Easter.

I am very fond of croissants, taste testing these in Sydney and Melbourne in search of “croissant nirvana”.

Making croissants is also a yearly baking exercise. And for these delightful pastries I turn to the baking guru Paul Hollywood and to the Scottish baking doctor James Morton. After much experimenting, I now use the same enriched dough to also produce Danish pastries.

So last week was croissant and Danish pastry making time! Specifically, my Danishes were pain aux raisin.

Here is the recipe for the pain aux raisins. The croissants were nice, in fact delicious, but the look was not so good as I had overproved them, which is why they don’t appear here.

The exact ingredients are the result of much tweaking, and I think my version works well. The method is mostly Paul with a bit of James thrown in.

Ingredients 

Enriched dough
450g strong flour
40g caster sugar
10g salt
10g instant yeast
10g unsalted butter, chilled
300mls full fat milk
250g unsalted high quality butter, chilled

Crème pâtissière
500mls milk
1 vanilla pod, split down the middle and seeds scraped out
100g caster sugar
4 free-range eggs, yolks only
40g cornflour

Filling
200g raisins
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 free-range egg

2 tbls apricot jam for glazing

Lemon icing
150g icing sugar
Juice of 1 lemon

Method
Dough

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix the flour, sugar, salt and test until combined, rubbing the salt and yeast in at opposite sides of the bowl. Roughly rub in the 10g butter until crumb-like, then add the milk and form into a dough.

Mix the dough on a slow speed for 2 minutes, then on a medium speed for 6 minutes, until it has become smooth and doesn’t break when stretched. Place in a large plastic zip lock bag and refrigerate for at least an hour  but preferably overnight.

Once the dough has rested, take the additional butter and place it between 2 sheets of greaseproof paper or cling film. Using a rolling pin, bash the butter until it flattens into a square, roughly 30cm x 20 cm. Return the butter to the fridge and remove the dough.

Roll out the dough on floured surface until it is a rectangle, about 50cm x 20cm. Lay the butter on the dough so that it covers the bottom two-thirds of it. Make sure that it is positioned neatly and comes almost to the edges.

Fold the exposed dough at the top down one-third of the butter. Now gently cut off the exposed bit of butter, without going through the dough, and put it on the top of the dough you have just folded down. Fold the bottom half of the dough up. You will now have a sandwich of two layers of butter and three of dough. Pinch the edges lightly to seal in the butter. Put the dough back in the plastic bag and chill for an hour to harden butter.

Gently roll the dough out into a new rectangle about three to four times as long as it is wide. Gently take both ends and fold them over towards each other, so that they meet in the middle (your rectangle should now be half as long as it was). Then, fold the new shape in half again, closing it like a book. Place in the ziplock bag,  and refrigerate for at least half an hour.

Carefully, repeat the instructions in the last paragraph twice more, so that the dough has been folded and rested three times altogether.

The dough now needs to be left in the fridge for 8 hours, or overnight, to rest and rise slightly. It is then ready to use.

Crème pâtissière
Pour the milk into a saucepan and add the split vanilla pod and its seeds. Bring the milk mixture to the boil, then remove from the heat.

Whisk the sugar, egg yolks and cornflour together in a large bowl.

Pour out a little of the hot milk onto the egg mixture, whisking continuously. Whisk in the rest of the hot milk until well-combined, then return to the saucepan.

Cook the mixture over a gentle heat, stirring continuously, until the mixture becomes thick. It will just come to the boil.

Remove from the heat and pass the mixture through a sieve into a clean bowl. Leave to cool, cover with clingfilm and then chill before using.

To make the pain aux raisins

Line several baking trays with baking paper – you will need at least 3 to bake all the pastries.

Cut the rested dough in half. Roll one half out on a lightly floured surface to a large rectangle, about 7mm thick. Turn it 90°, if necessary, so a long edge is facing you. Smear half the crème pâtissière over the dough, leaving a clear 5cm margin along the near edge. Sprinkle half the raisins and cinnamon over the crème. Roll the dough towards you into a sausage, keeping it as tight as possible – give a gentle tug each time you roll to tighten the dough and give it a little tension. When you reach the end, roll the sausage back and forth a few times to seal the join. Repeat with the second piece of dough and remaining ingredients.

Cut the rolls into 3cm slices. Lay cut side up and apart on the baking trays and put each inside a clean plastic bag. Leave to rise at cool room temperature (18 – 24°C) until at least doubled in size, about 2 hours.

Heat oven to 200°C. Brush the risen pastries with beaten egg and bake for 15 – 20 minutes until golden brown. Meanwhile, warm the apricot jam with a little water in a saucepan or gently microwave, then sieve.

Once baked, take the pastries out of the oven and brush with the apricot jam. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

For the icing, mix the icing sugar with as much of the lemon juice as you need to make a paste which is just runny enough to drizzle.

When the pastries are cool, drizzle the lemon icing over them.

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Quince Tart: Free-form Style

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74EC71E1-AE14-4F34-95CC-8B26D4CC3439It’s winter in the Southern Hemisphere, and in Sydney we’re experiencing a really crisp winter, which I love, as I’m a fan of the cold weather.

Quinces are in season and I make a few quince recipes at this time of year. One of my favourites is baked quince with crumble, slices of slowly baked quince with a crumble topping and thick cream.

Quinces go well with pastry, so I recently made a rustic quince tart, a simple sweet short crust pastry base, baked free-form, topped with cookedquince.

The pastry recipe is from a recipe for Red Apple Rustic Tart,  and the baked quince is adapted from a recipe for Quince Shortcake.

Ingredients

For the quinces:

2 quinces
100g caster sugar
Juice of 1 lemon

For the pastry:

1 3/4 cups plain flour
170 grams butter
1 tablespoon sugar plus extra for sprinkling
A good pinch of salt
2 tablespoons ice cold water

Method

Baked quinces:

Preheat oven to 150 degrees C.  Peel the quinces, halve lengthways and remove cores. Cut in slices and put the slices in a small baking dish. Scatter over sugar and squeeze over the lemon juice.

Cover tightly with a doubled sheet of foil. Bake the quinces for 2-3 hours, basting a few times through the process, until the quinces are soft and a ruby red colour. Remove from the dish to cool.

Pastry:

Pulse flour, butter, sugar and salt in food processor, until the consistency of coarse breadcrumbs. Add enough iced water to bring the pastry together – be careful not to over mix.

Wrap the pastry in cling film and refrigerate for 20 -30 minutes.

To make the tart:

Turn the oven up to 170 degrees C.  Butter a baking dish. Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out between 2 sheets of cling film. Remove from the cling film and drape over the baking dish, shaping rough sides inside the dish. This is a free-form tart so there is no need to make it look “pretty” or too even.

Place the baked quince slices on top of the pastry higgledy piggledy, the more rustic the better. Sprinkle the additional sugar liberally over the edges of the pastry.

Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden brown.

Serve warm with whipped cream or thick Greek yoghurt.9AD45771-6D98-40E5-8FB1-B3C89C8BEA88

 

 

Ottolenghi Strawberry and Vanilla Mini-Cakes

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65A6C6F5-BF69-48B7-819F-A414FCDB6DC0I love little cakes, and I’m always keen to find recipes for something other than cupcakes.

Yotam Ottolenghi in his lovely book Sweet, written with another great cook Helen Goh, has a number of recipes for all kinds of little cakes. Many of the cakes are made with ground almonds, making them moist and delicious.

These Strawberry and Vanilla Mini-Cakes are very fragrant with fresh strawberries and vanilla. The cakes are quite dense and would be great on their own. The strawberry icing however, adds piquancy, but be careful as it’s quite runny!

Here’s the recipe from Sweet. Ottolenghi suggests making the cakes in a pop-over or giant muffin tin, giving you 12, or if you make them in regular muffin tins you will end up with 18.

I decorated the cakes with freeze dried strawberry powder instead of freeze dried whole berries.

Ingredients 

1 cup plus 1 1/2 tbsp/ 250 g unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/4 cups/250 g granulated sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

scraped seeds of 1/2 vanilla pod

4 large free-range eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup/120 g self-rising flour, plus extra for dusting

1/4 tsp salt

1 1/3 cups/140 g almond meal

7 oz/200 g fresh strawberries, hulled and cut into 1/3 inch/1-cm dice

Strawberry Icing

2 oz/55 g fresh strawberries, hulled and roughly chopped

2 1/2 cups/300 g confectioners’ sugar

1 tbsp light corn syrup

scraped seeds of  1/4 vanilla pod

6 whole strawberries (or 9 if using a regular muffin pan) cut in half lengthwise, or 2 tbsp freeze-dried chopped strawberries, to garnish

Method

Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C. Grease and flour the molds of your chosen pans.

Place the butter, sugar, vanilla extract and vanilla seeds in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment in place. Beat on medium speed until light, then add the eggs, a little at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times as you go. (Adding the eggs gradually should prevent the mix from splitting, but don’t worry too much if it does, it might look a bit curdled, but this will not affect the final result.)

Continue to beat until fully combined. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl, then stir in the almond meat. Turn the speed of the mixer to medium-low, then add the dry ingredients in three batches and finally fold in the diced strawberries.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared molds – it should come about three-quarters of the way up the sides (about two-thirds in a regular muffin pan). Bake for about 22 minutes (about 20 minutes in a regular muffin pan), rotating the pan halfway  through, until a skewer inserted into the middle of one of the cakes comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 15-20 minutes before easing the cakes out of the molds. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the strawberry icing, place all the icing ingredients in a food processor and process together until smooth.

Drizzle the tops of the upside-down cakes with the icing, allowing it to drip down the sides. If desired, garnish with half a strawberry on each cake, cut side facing up, or a sprinkle of dried strawberries.

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Mandarin Hazelnut Cake

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Everyone loves the famous Orange Almond Cake, Claudia Roden’s recipe from her book A New Book of Middle Eastern Food. 

It’s gluten and dairy free, and that is why in Australia it’s the staple of many cafes and restaurants,  although I would hazard a guess that not many people would know of its origin! I started cooking this recipe many years ago and I still have the original Book of Middle Eastern Food, albeit well thumbed and food stained..

In this recipe I have changed the two main ingredients. I substituted mandarins for oranges and hazelnuts for almonds. I still follow the basic recipe, cooking the mandarins whole and blitzing them in the food processor. I also halved the ingredients to make a smaller cake – it’s still a decent size.

The result was a fragrant mandarin scented cake, that was very nutty – I encouraged the nuttiness by roasting the ground hazelnuts first.

For a version of the original, see here for this SBS recipe.

Ingredients

3 small mandarins, washed

150g ground hazelnuts

125 g caster sugar, plus extra for dusting

3 free-range eggs

1 tsp baking powder

Whole hazelnuts for decorating

Candied mandarin segments and peel for decorating*

Dark chocolate for drizzling

Method

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C fan-forced. Grease  and line the base of a 18cm springform cake tin with baking paper. You don’t need to line the sides – just grease well.

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Wash the mandarins and cook in the boiling water for about 1/2 hour, or until soft.

While the mandarins are cooking, spread the ground  hazelnuts on a baking tray lined with baking paper, and roast in the oven for about 10 minutes until the hazelnuts are lightly toasted and smelling nutty!

Remove the mandarins and allow to cool to room temperature, then put the whole mandarins in a food processor and blitz to a rough purée.

Put the caster sugar and eggs into the food processor and pulse.

Add the ground hazelnuts and baking powder, and pulse quickly to mix.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 1-1¼ hours, until  a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Allow to cool before carefully removing the sides from the springform tin. If you can remove the cake from the base, that’s great – but if it’s too moist, don’t worry!

Decorate, if you like, with whole hazelnuts and candied mandarin pieces and peel. Serve with cream, sour cream or creme fraiche.

 

*To candy the mandarin segments and peel, make a sugar syrup by dissolving 3 tablespoons of sugar in 3 tablespoons of water, and bring to the boil. Put mandarin segments and finely sliced peel in the syrup and cook for about 5 minutes, then remove and drain on baking paper.

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Orange Pistachio Cake

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0E31CC2B-1514-4526-BB02-13F098CBAA18Recently I was at lunch at a friend’s – the energetic Mrs B! She made a beautiful lunch, the piece de resistance of which was a gorgeous orange and pistachio cake, based on a recipe from Philippa Grogran’s and Richard Cornish’s wonderful book Phillippa’s Home Baking. The link to the book is here.

The original recipe is for Lemon Pistachio Cake, but Mrs B made it with oranges. She also served the cake surrounded with orange slices.

Here’s my interpretation of Mrs B’s version of Phillippa’s cake! The photos are of the wonderful cake that Mrs B served.

Ingredients 
40g unsalted pistachios
300g cultured butter – softened (cultured butter is readily available now in supermarkets)
240g caster sugar
4  free-range eggs
A pinch of salt
Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla pod
Finely grated zest of 1 large orange
130g ground pistachios 
90g ground almonds
40g arrowroot flour or cornflour

Syrup topping
Finely grated zest & juice of 1 large orange
50g caster sugar

Orange slices, to serve.

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan-forced. Line the base of a 20cm round cake tin with baking paper.

Spread out the pistachios on a baking tray and toast in the oven for 8 minutes.  Remove and rub in a clean tea towel to remove the skins, then roughly chop.  Set aside until you make the syrup.  Reduce the oven temperature to 160°C/145°C fan-forced.

Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition.  Add the salt, vanilla seeds and orange zest and mix well, then gently fold through the ground nuts and flour, a third at a time.

Pour the batter into the tin and bake on the centre shelf of the oven for 1 hour 10 minutes – 1 hour 25 minutes or until golden and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and rest in the tin for 5 minutes before placing a plate over the tin and upturning the cake onto the plate.  Gently peel off the lining paper from the bottom of the cake.  Place another plate on the bottom of the cake and upturn the cake again so it is right-side up.

To make the syrup topping, place the orange juice and sugar in a small saucepan and stir until the sugar has dissolved.  Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 4 minutes or until slightly thickened and syrupy, but fresh and tangy in flavour.  Stir in the chopped pistachios and orange zest, then spoon evenly over the cake while it is still warm.

Peel 3 oranges carefully, making sure you remove all the pith. Slice thinly, and surround the cake, spooning any remaining syrup over the orange slices.

This cake will keep in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

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Fig and Raspberry Frangipane Tart

It’s fig season in Sydney, late summer, and the figs are plentiful and cheap.  I love the look of  green figs, with their lustrous skins and bright pink centres.

I have a confession to make. I think figs look really pretty, but I’m not always convinced that they taste as delicious as they look. I think recipes can be a little bit hit and miss.

The figs in this recipe do work very well. The recipe is tweaked from an Ottolenghi recipe for little fig tartlets. I love the idea of the frangipane in the tartlets, with beautiful baked figs, so I decided I would make one large tart, filled with frangipane, with slices of figs placed on top. I added raspberries as they are superb at the moment. I think the large tart idea worked well, it looked nice and tasted delicious!

Ottolenghi’s original recipe for Fig and Pistachio Frangipane Tartlets is in his beautiful book Sweet, and the link to the recipe is here.

Here is my Fig and Raspberry Frangipane Tart recipe:

Ingredients

For the sweet shortcrust pastry (you will probably only need 3/4 of the pastry)
300g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
90g icing sugar
¼ tsp salt
200g unsalted butter, fridge-cold, cut into cubes
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 large free range egg yolk
20ml water

For the frangipane

125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g caster sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 large free range eggs, lightly beaten
35g ground almonds
35g plain flour
⅛ tsp salt
1 tbsp brandy
4 large ripe figs, quartered (choose the best quarters – you will need about 12)
12-15 raspberries

Method

To make the pastry, put the flour, icing sugar and salt into the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and lemon zest, then pulse a few times, until the mixture is the consistency of fresh breadcrumbs. Whisk the egg yolk and water, then add to the mix. Process once more, just until the dough comes together, then tip on to a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough into a ball, wrap loosely in cling wrap and press gently into a flattish disc. The dough will be very soft, so keep it in the fridge for at least an hour.

Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees C. Brush a tart tin with melted butter and dust with flour. I used a rectangular tart tin but you could use a circular tin (use a medium diameter rather than a big one).

If the dough has been in the fridge for more than a few hours, let it rest at room temperature for up to 30 minutes before rolling. Put the dough between 2 pieces of  cling wrap or baking paper and place onto a large board. Tap all over with a rolling pin to soften slightly, then roll out to a 2-3mm thick rectangle to fit your tin (or circle to fit a circular tin). Gently ease the pastry into the tin, pressing it down to fill the tin, making sure the pastry comes up the sides. Refrigerate the tin for at least an hour.

Place a piece of baking paper over the pastry and fill with a layer of rice or baking beans, and blind-bake for 25-30 minutes, until the pastry is light golden brown around the edges. Remove the paper and rice or beans, then leave the pastry to cool in the tin.

For the frangipane, put the butter, sugar and lemon zest into a food processor. Blitz on a medium speed until well blended and light but not too fluffy, then gradually add the beaten eggs. Don’t worry if the mix curdles a bit at this stage, it will come together again later. Add the ground almonds, flour and salt. Pulse until combined, then add the brandy.

Turn up the oven to 180 degrees C. Using a tablespoon, fill the baked tart shell with the frangipane. Place a quarter-fig cut side up in rows in the tart, and press down gently, so they  slightly embedded in the mixture. Place the raspberries in between the rows. (Arrange the figs and raspberries in whatever way you like for a round tart).

Bake for about 20 minutes, until the frangipane starts to brown at the edges but the middle is still slightly soft. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then ease the tart out of the tin and place on a wire rack to cool. Serve at room temperature with a spoonful of thick cream or Greek yoghurt.

Raspberry Meringue Twists

 

Meringues are a lovely gift to make for friends and are so simple to create. I’m fond of all kinds of egg white and sugar concoctions – meringues, pavlova, vacherin and dacquoise. I sometimes make Italian and Swiss meringue, but unless there’s a real need for a more stable structure, French meringue is the easiest option.

I  have always used a recipe from the Australian culinary legend Margaret Fulton, but this time I thought I would try a recipe from another culinary legend from another hemisphere, Mary Berry.

It’s always interesting to try a slightly different approach to our usual recipes, and this recipe I found very successful! The link to Mary’ s original recipe is here.

I wanted my meringues colourful and pretty to look at, so I used rose pink food colouring to create swirls of colour.  I scattered some freeze dried raspberry powder over the meringue before baking. With hindsight (which is a wonderful thing), cooking the raspberry powder made it too dark. I think next time I would scatter the powder over the cooked meringues to maintain the vivid raspberry colour.

I’ve called the meringues raspberry twists because of the raspberry pink twists of colour.

Ingredients

3 egg whites

175g  caster sugar

A few drops of pink food colouring

A teaspoon or two of freeze dried raspberry powder

Method

Preheat the oven to 120 degrees C  fan-forced. Line a large baking sheet or two smaller ones with baking paper.

Put the egg whites into the bowl of an electric mixer. I always use my KitchenAid for meringues.

Whisk on high speed until white and fluffy, like a cloud. Still whisking on maximum speed, gradually add the sugar, a teaspoon at a time, until incorporated and the meringue is stiff and shiny and stands upright on the whisk.

Take a piping bag and attach a large plain nozzle or star tipped nozzle, and using a paint brush or pastry brush,  paint stripes of pink food colour inside the bag.

Using the piping bag, pipe the meringue mixture into different sized meringues – some quite large, others smaller, onto the baking sheet. It’s up to you what size you want!

Scatter some freeze dried raspberry powder randomly and artfully over the meringues before baking.

Place in the preheated oven and bake for one hour.  Turn off the oven, and leave the meringues in the oven for at least a further 1/2 hour or until dry – longer is better.

Once cool, remove from the baking paper and put on a wire rack until completely cold.

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