Thursday, 29 January 2015

January treats

Chocolate Yule Log

This is a light sponge filled with chocolate ganache. It is Edd Kimber's recipe published in the Christmas Food special of the Radio Times in December. Mary Berry uses similar ingredients to make her Celebration Chocolate Mousse cake. It is very light and delicious as a dessert, but can only be eaten in small portions as it is very rich!

Bread Pudding
This is Bread Pudding which is eaten as a cake, rather than Bread and Butter pudding which is lighter and eaten as a dessert.

I made it from a left-over Hovis wholemeal loaf. The loaf was soaked in a bowl of water for half an hour, then the water squeezed out. I used a sieve to push down on the mushy bread until the water stopped dripping out. Then added sugar, vegetarian suet, spice, mixed dried fruit, juice and zest from a lemon and orange, 2 beaten eggs, and lots of mixed spice. It should end up with the consistency of a fruit cake, if not add some milk. Put in a greased roasting tin and cook in the oven 180C, 350F, Gas Mark 4 for an hour and a half. Allow to cool and cut into squares. Best eaten soon after baking, otherwise store in the fridge and then sap it in the microwave before eating. It freezes well and tastes delicious. Great for those needing high fibre diets.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

First cook-up in the new house

To introduce ourselves to the neighbours we invited them round for pre-Christmas drinks and nibbles. It was a chance to try out the new kitchen which is my ideal baker's kitchen. I planned a lot of finger food, but time limited me to the following:
 Nibbles for Neighbours

 Prawn Cocktail crostini

From a BBC Good Food magazine recipe, but I left out the avocado and cut the slices of ciabatta in half to make small finger bites. Cocktail sauce is just mayonnaise and tomato ketchup with a sprinkling of cayanne pepper on top. Lettuce leaf and tiger prawns completed the crostini.
 Smoked salmon blinis

This is a recipe I have done many times. I downloaded it many years ago. It should be smoked salmon on soured cream on party blinis, with a sprinkling of lemon zest on top. However my nearest Tesco supermarket did not stock blinis. I bought square wholemeal pitta breads. Toasted them and cut them in four. They made a good canape base.
Cheese on toast with ham hock                        These were a failure. I adapted a recipe I saw somewhere, but the experiment didn't work. The base was toasted rye bread. The cheese mixture had mustard and milk in it and after spreading on the bread was sprinkled with ready-pulled ham hock before toasting. They tasted very salty and the rye bread was hard.

 Baby meringues.

Mary Berry's striped baby meringues. I made hollows in the top of some and when cooked placed a raspberry in the hollow. My mistake was using thawed frozen raspberries. With hindsight it might have worked better with fresh raspberries. The plain meringues were great. Three egg whites produced dozens and they keep for weeks in an airtight container.

Portuguese custard tarts

I love these. They are best eaten fresh, but freeze well. They are just shop-bought puff pastry rolled out and then rolled up into a sausage-shape. The pastry is then sliced (like refridgerator biscuits) into rounds and these are placed into a mini-muffin tin. The custard uses whole milk and egg yolks so it is very rich, but these are just one mouthful each. The recipe comes from: Petits Fours published by Murdoch

Christmas buns

Recipe from BBC Good Food magazinne. These are made from yeast dough rolled out to the size of a swiss roll and spread with dried cranberries, dried apricots and cinnamon. I soaked the dried apricots in orange juice before hand. The dough is normally rolled up tight and sliced to produce buns the size of Chelsea buns, but I wanted them finger size so I halved the oblong of dough lengthwise before rolling up into small rounds. After cooking they were glazed with apricot jam and when cold drizzled with icing sugar. Very sweet, but moist and delicious.

Not shown here are my signature mini sausage rolls. I use shop-bought puff pastry, a pack of sausage meat intended for turkey-stuffing, and my home-made red onion marmalade. After rolling out the pastry I cut it into 6cm strips. I then spread the strips with the marmalade and then a thin roll of sausage meat before sealing the edges of the pastry around the sausage meat. I then cut the rolled up strip into 1 cm sections and bake. They produce bite-sized sausage rolls with a sweet oniony flavour. Lovely!

Friday, 21 February 2014

Orange and Pineapple Cake

Whilst looking for a different type of recipe to test the skills of my Kitchenaid mixer I came across a recipe for an Orange and Pineapple Cake in a Good Houskeeping Complete book of Cakes and pastries. The recipe called for glace pineapple cubes, which must have been available when the book was printed in 1981, but I could not find them. Instead I used fresh pineapple in the cake and dried pineapple on the top. It was very tasty. I shall make this again.

Monday, 10 February 2014

More experiments with the ice-cream maker

I made a mango sorbet using the Kitchen Aid ice-creamer maker attachment. I used real fruit and liquidised it and then sieved it. The Kitchen Aid manual recipe only uses the juice to make a sorbet, but I notice that other ice-cream recipes use the fruit pulp. I decided to use the pulp as well as the juice. It was delicious. It only took ten minutes of mixing to produce a 'slushy' which I then froze into a sorbet. The result was a very flavourable dessert. What we didn't eat I froze for another day. Sadly the the next time it was served the flavour was not so strong. Lesson 6: Do not keep fruit sorbet too long as it loses its flavour.
It occured to me that if I froze the sorbet in a silicone baking mould I could make the sorbet into shapes. I used a canele mould to produce these. I will try other moulds next time.


I love cheesecake, but I am on a low-fat diet. I recently saw a baked cheesecake recipe that used no-fat quark so I tried it. It worked well. Rather than make one large cake that might have tempt me to eat more than I should I made individual ones in a silicone small loaf mould. I baked the base separately then cooled it and added the Quark and baked that. When cool we ate the cheesecake 'bare', but it needed something else so I poured a sweetened blackcurrent coulis over it.
The fruit flavour was a bit overpowering, so the following day I added gelatine to the coulis and topped the remaining cheesecake portions with it. It made all the difference. A really nice dessert without overloading the blackcurrent flavour or the saturates.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

First batch of ice-cream

For the first go at making ice-cream I decided to make the 'pukka' vanilla ice-cream with whole milk, egg yolks and double cream.

It was great - creamy, smooth, delicious. The problem was that it was too rich and so could only be eaten in small quantities. I will now experiment with other flavours and fats. The good thing about the ice-cream maker is that it can be stored in the freezer and ice-cream or sorbets can be made within half-an-hour. This is the length of time the maker needs to stir the batter mixture into ice-cream.

Last night's dessert was a meringue cake. I used the egg-whites left over from making the ice-cream and a recipe from an earlier series of Bake Off. There was a layer of chocolate fudge cake with a meringue layer at the top and bottom. The filling was creme fraich and tinned mandarin oranges. It should have had raspberries but I didn't have any. It tasted OK, but with the cake element was a bit filling. Lesson Number 5: Find another way of using up the egg whites, or eliminate the cake layer.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

More from the mixer ...

The mixer manual has a setting for creaming potatoes so I thought I would cream the potatoes for these shepherds pies. I used red-fleshed Highland Burgundy Red potatoes that go very mushy when boiled (I bought these because they were red-labelled with a 75% reduction!). To make up the quantity I added a parsnip.
Individual Shepherds Pies
The mixer did not cream as well as I had hoped and I had to finish the creaming by hand. I then grated cheese on top of the potato for a nice finish. 
Lesson No 4: refer to Lesson number 1.

Having learned from Lesson No. 2 that the mixer is great for whisking I attempted a lemon meringue pie from scratch. I used a James Martin recipe, but only used half the quantity because my dish was smaller than his.

Lemon Meringue Pie

The result was great, and as you can see from the photo the mixer produced an enormous amount of meringue from just three egg whites. Next time I will try piping the meringue to give a better finish.
Kitchenaid Ice-cream maker attachment

There was big excitement this week. Kitchenaid's special Christmas offer was a free ice-cream maker and when it arrived on Tuesday I was eager to try it out. Disappointingly the first requirement is to place it in the freezer for a minimum of 15 hours before it can be used. I also need to buy some whole milk, cream and more eggs before I can make the recipes in the manual. In the meantime I have been surfing for ice-cream recipes and found lots that have less fattening ingredients so I will experiment with various milks and alternatives to cream and let you know how they compare. I have never used an ice-cream maker before so I am really keen to experiment.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Baking enthusiasm revived by spectacular birthday present

Having had two years of intense university study the pleasure of baking was set aside as a time-consuming luxury, but now that my lovely children bought me a food mixer for my recent big birthday my enthusiasm is revived. I am now eager to improve my cooking skills and overcome my fear of culinary failure. I have began baking again.

This is my industrial-strength food mixer:

This was the first time I had used a modern mixer. The contestants on Bake Off all seem proficient in the use of this equipment, but I had no idea where to start. I started with the manual. I learned what the different beaters were for and what speeds to use. What puzzled me was why the manual insisted that after setting the speed back to zero the mixer had to be unplugged before doing anything else. Why did they not just add an on/off switch? Once I had learned how to change the beaters, remove the bowl and tip up the motor unit I felt I could trust myself to give it a go.

I made the yorkshire puddings for this dish.The meal is a medallion of sirloin steak on roast vegetables with a red wine sauce topped with yorkshires. It should have been one big yorkshire, but I didn't have the right size tin. I added the broccoli because I felt it need a green vegetable. The yorkshires were good, but the quantity was so small in the mixer that I think I should have just used a fork.
Lesson number 1: Small quantities are best done by hand.

Next experiment - chocolate macaroons sandwiched with dark chocolate ganache. These were the best macaroons I had made to date, although still not perfect. There was not much of a foot and they were uneven sizes.
Lesson number 2: Mixer is great for whisking. Next time I will use a piping bag, and warm the ganache instead of using it straight from the fridge.

This was a Mary Berry recipe. She calls it Tarte Amandine. It is a pastry base spread with mincemeat and covered in a frangipane topping. I made the pastry in the mixer, but mindful that James Martin says that making pastry in a mixer overworks the gluten and doesn't make a good crumbly, short pastry, I finished the crumbling by hand. The best part of the mixing the frangipane in the mixer is that Mary Berry said there was no need to wash the bowl after making the pastry, thereby saving time. It looks heavy to eat - like a bakewell - but is actually very light and makes a nice dessert with a scoop of ice-cream. I made two and froze one.
Lesson number 3: Experiment with mixer versus hand-mixed pastry to see if there is a difference in texture.