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Posts from the ‘Cakes & Biscuits’ Category

The Greengage Summer

We live in an area of Switzerland, in the south-west, which is known for being one of sunniest cantons in the country. Although July was rather on the wet side, August is looking a lot more clement already, the sun is blazing outside and the mountains look beautiful in the bright light. This kind of climate is a paradise for growing soft fruit. We are right in the middle of apricot season and when you drive down into the valley, there are stalls selling apricots and any related products every two kilometres along the road. There is something incredibly nice about knowing that your fruit’s provenance is a stone’s throw away.

Other than apricots, there are greengages, called Reine Claude in French. Small, gorgeous, green and amazingly juicy. They are in season for such a short time, it would be a crime not to grab a punnet and enjoy them.

We had some left over and I couldn’t quite muster the strength to eat all fifteen of them in one go before they went off… imagine the stomach ache! So instead I came up with this recipe, a tart, with a shortcrust base, some indulgent mascarpone, lemon marmalade and of course, the succulent greengages.

Greengage, Mascarpone & Lemon Marmalade Tart

Ingredients

For the shortcrust pastry
125g plain flour
Pinch of salt
55g butter, cut into cubes,
2-3 tbsp of water

For the filling
Approx. 15 greengages, cut in half, stones removed
250g tub of mascarpone
2 tbsp of icing sugar
Lemon marmalade

Put flour and salt in large bowl and then add the butter. Using your fingers, rub the flour and butter together until you have a consistency similar to coarse breadcrumbs. Try and do this swiftly or else it will go greasy, I usually run my hands under the cold tap and then pat dry before starting so the butter doesn’t melt too fast.

Add a tbsp of water, the consistency will change immediately once you mix it in, add another tbsp and repeat. Add a third if needed. Now wrap dough in clingfilm and leave to rest in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Whilst the dough is resting, grease a 24cm tart tin.

After you’ve prepared the greengages, mix 2 tbsp of icing sugar into the mascarpone.

At this point, your dough will be ready, remove from clingfilm and roll out with a rolling pin onto a surface lightly covered with flour. Carefully place it in the tart tin and shape to fit. Chill in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Turn the oven on to 190 degrees.

When the 15 minutes are up, blind bake the case. Prick the pastry with a fork and then cover with greaseproof paper that fits the base. Place dried beans (I use chickpeas), dry rice, dry lentils or pie weights over the surface of the covering. Put in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let it cool for about 5 minutes. Then add the mascarpone, spreading it evenly. Place the greengages, cut side down, and then put a little marmalade on each of the halves of fruit.

Bake for 30 minutes on a shelf near the bottom of the oven. Once done, don’t take the tart out immediately as the filling will still be runny. I turn the oven off, open the door and pull the shelf out slightly. After a few minutes, you should be able to place it on the kitchen counter without any spills!

Let the tart cool & set completely before serving. Enjoy!

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Royally Speaking

One Royal Wedding party attended + Forty cupcakes delivered = Mission accomplished.

I was asked to provide cupcakes for a party John and I were invited to by a friend of his in Verbier. There was no real brief, apart from some ‘British’ frosting. After some pondering and some YouTube icing tutorials, an English rose, a crown and strawberries & cream made the final cut. One recipe is fairly traditional with butter, eggs and flour, the other calls for rice flour, grated courgette, ground almonds and strawberry jam. They went down a treat. Also, notice the handmade flags on each! A labour of love, I tell thee.

Vanilla cupcakes with Buttercream Icing (Rose & Crown)
Adapted from bbc.co.uk Food recipe

Ingredients
110g butter softened at room temperature
110g caster sugar
2 free range eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
110g self-raising flour
1-2 tbsp milk

For the buttercream icing
140g butter, softened
280g icing sugar
1-2 tbsp milk
a few drops food colouring (yellow and red)

Method
Preheat the oven to 180C and line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases.

Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl until pale. Beat in the eggs a little at a time and stir in the vanilla extract.

Fold in the flour using a large metal spoon, adding a little milk until the mixture is of a dropping consistency. Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until they are half full.

Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until golden-brown on top and a skewer inserted into one of the cakes comes out clean. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.

For the buttercream icing, beat the butter in a large bowl until soft. Add half the icing sugar and beat until smooth.

Then add the remaining icing sugar with one tablespoon of the milk, adding more milk if necessary, until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
Add the food colouring and mix until well combined.

Spoon the icing into a piping bag with a star nozzle and pipe the icing following this tutorial (third method for the rose and fourth for the crown).

Makes 12

Strawberries and Cream Cupcakes
Slightly adapted from Red Velvet and Chocolate Heartache by Harry Eastwood

Ingredients
2 free range eggs
160g caster sugar
200g finely grated courgette (peeled, topped and tailed)
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g rice flour
100g ground almonds
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt

For the filling, some good quality strawberry jam

For the icing
50g butter, softened
150g icing sugar
50g mascarpone

12 fresh strawberries

Method
Preheat the oven to 180C and line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases.

Whisk eggs and sugar in a mixing bowl until pale and fluffy.

Whisk in the grated courgette (I pat this with kitchen towel before adding to remove some of the moisture as it can make the cupcake mixture too runny) and vanilla extract. Then add in the rice flour, ground almonds, baking powder and salt. Combine well.

Using a dessert spoon, ladle a couple of spoonfuls into each paper case. Add a teaspoon of jam, then cover with another spoonful of mixture to seal the jam. If your mixture is too runny, you might find that the jam drops to the bottom. Don’t worry, the cupcake is still delicious!

Place in the oven for 20 mins until risen and starting to go golden on top. Remove from oven and leave to cool for about 15 mins before transferring to the fridge to chill (it’s easier to ice cupcakes if they are cool).

For the icing, beat the butter with 50g of icing by hand until it turns into a paste. It’s usually best to use a wooden spoon, I used a fork though. Be patient, it takes a bit of time. Then add in 50g mascarpone and 50g icing sugar, using the same method until blended. Finally add the remaining 50g icing sugar and blend in well. Refrigerate until cupcakes are chilled.

Spoon the icing into a piping bag with a star nozzle and pipe the icing following the tutorial in the video linked above (first method for a twirl). Once iced, add a strawberry to each cupcake.

Makes 12.

Sweetness & Light

Food is my favourite way to show my love and appreciation of my family and friends. It is all about pleasure; it has always been that way for me and I hope it brings a little bit of happiness to those I cook for.

I also think that making something for someone, if you are able to, is so much more thoughtful than buying it in a shop, ready-made. I’ve made cakes, cupcakes, chocolates and pain d’épices for friends as gifts, and it’s always been well received.

It was my sister-in-law’s birthday at the weekend and I really wanted to make her something bite-size and tasty. Who could resist a combination of dates, pistachios, almonds and honey?

Dates Stuffed with Pistachios & Almonds
Inspired by Food & Travel Magazine

Ingredients
25 dates
100g shelled pistachios
1 tbsp good quality honey
1 tsp good quality rosewater
50g ground almonds

Method

Stone the dates by making a slit lengthways to remove the stone.

Save 25 whole pistachios for decoration. Put the rest in a food processor along with the honey and rosewater. Process until well combined but still with little chunks of pistachios in the mixture so it retains a bit of crunch.

Put the mixture in a bowl and combine with the ground almonds. Carefully stuff the paste in the pre-prepared dates and top with a whole pistachio for decoration.

Place in petits fours cases. Make someone happy.

Tea in the library

… said with an overly posh English accent. My mother used to utter these words when she described my brother’s English accent back in our childhood and teens. We’re not quite sure where it came from. She thought he was only a step away from drinking said tea with his little finger in the air, in true English gentry style. Needless to say, things have moved on since then, I think coffee might be his drink of choice now. As for the accent, it’s still there sometimes, lingering.

Which brings me nicely onto scones. Not your typical English scones but some made with wholemeal flour. And triangular in shape. I know this is blasphemy in some circles. Never mind. I hope you won’t hold it against me.

I read quite a few American food blogs and the book which kept coming up time and again was Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce. I’d made the Rosemary Olive Oil Cake which Heidi Swanson adapted for her 101 Cookbooks blog. It was superb. When I brought the cake into the office, I was nearly nominated employee of the week. Of course I am overstating it somewhat but I must convey how good it was. I was sold. So I got the book. Best thing I did. Divided into different sections for rye, spelt, barley, wholegrain etc, it’s got some great and sometimes unusual recipes.

I plumped for the Barley Strawberry Scones only to realise that I couldn’t find barley flour for love, nor money. Large supermarkets didn’t have it. Health food stores didn’t stock it. So I made it with wholemeal flour instead. The recipe also calls for buttermilk. Same story as the barley. I ended up making my own substitute with some full fat milk and lemon juice. It worked perfectly. These scones are best eaten warm. With a cup of tea in the library.

Wholemeal Strawberry Scones
Adapted from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce

Ingredients

For the scones
½ cup of butter (equivalent to 115 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, plus more for greasing the baking sheet
1 cup plus 2 tbsp wholemeal flour
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup regular or low-fat buttermilk (if you can’t find it, mix 1 cup full fat milk with 1 tbsp lemon juice)
1 large egg

For assembly
1/2 cup strawberry jam
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Method
Preheat the oven to 175 C. Use a little butter to grease a rimmed baking sheet.

Sift the flours, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a mixing bowl, pouring into the bowl any grains that may remain in the sifter. Add the butter, then use your hands to break the butter into pieces the size of grains of rice. The quicker you work, the more solid the butter will remain, which is important.
Whisk together the buttermilk and egg in a small bowl, then pour it into the flour mixture and stir until barely combined.

Liberally flour a work surface. Transfer the dough to the surface and dust the top of it and your hands with additional flour, folding the dough a few times so it is not sticky.

Divide the dough in half. Flour your hands and pat each piece into a disk 7 inches across and about 3/4-inch thick. Use a pastry scraper to loosen the disks from the work surface.

Spread one disk of dough with the strawberry jam. Place the remaining disk on top, pressing down gently so the dough settles into the jam. Brush the top of the second disk with the melted butter, and then sprinkle it with the sugar.

Use a sharp knife to cut the double-decker disk into 8 equal wedges. Carefully transfer them to the baking sheet, spaced a few inches apart. Bake on the middle rack for 22 to 26 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through. The scones are ready when their tops are golden brown and some of the jam has bubbled over onto the baking sheet.

Use a metal spatula to transfer the scones to a wire rack to cool slightly (and to stop them from sticking to the sheet as they cool).

Serve warm with clotted cream.

Ceci n’est qu’un au revoir

Life throws many things at you but none more life-changing and complex than the loss of your own mother. Maman left us on 14th March. She was tough, yet caring and tender. She was loyal, loving, beautiful and stylish. She was shy, yet outspoken when she thought there was injustice. A perfectionist, she achieved much, yet never really believed she did. She is missed. So much. Loved. More than words could ever express. 

The journey continues and every day I discover a little more of the legacy she has left behind. She is like sand. She is everywhere. In my personality, in my love of food, in my determination when I run, in the decisions I take, in the things I appreciate, in the books I read, in the songs I hear, in my thoughts always. This is only goodbye. She lives on through my brother and I, and in the memories of all the people whose lives she touched.

This is the last recipe we made together as a family. The result was deliciously delicate and good-looking. Style and substance.

 

Pistachio Macaroons

Slightly adapted from In the Mood for Entertaining by Jo Pratt

 

Ingredients

100g shelled unsalted pistachios

175g icing sugar

2 free-range egg whites

4 tablespoons good-quality raspberry jam

2 tablespoons organic clotted cream

You will also need a piping bag with a 1cm nozzle and a couple of baking trays lined with non-stick parchment paper and lightly brushed with oil.

 

Method

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 3/170ºC/fan 150ºC.

Place all but about 15g of the pistachios in a food processor, sift in half of the icing sugar and blitz to fine crumbs. The rest of the pistachios can be chopped fairly finely and kept to one side.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Sieve in the remaining icing sugar and continue to whisk until the meringue becomes glossy. A minute should be fine.

Using a large metal spoon, fold the ground pistachios into the meringue with a few drops of green food colouring, if you are using it.

Spoon into the piping bag and pipe twenty-four round blobs (about 4cm in diameter) on to a lined baking tray, leaving a small space between each. Add a little sprinkling of pistachios on top of half of the meringues. Now leave to stand for about 10 minutes to allow a ‘skin’ to form on top and prevent them from spreading too much in the oven.

Place in the oven and cook for 10-12 minutes (watch them carefully as all ovens differ), or until they are firm but not coloured. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

When cold, sandwich the macaroons in pairs with a little raspberry jam on one side and clotted cream on the other, making sure each pair has a pistachio-sprinkled top. Serve in little cake cases or on a plate. They will keep for a day or two once made.

Sweet Delights

I went baking mad this weekend… My kitchen was like a scene from a culinary war zone: Bowls, scales, flour, chocolate, sugar, food processor, milk and eggs were strewn all over the counter just waiting for me to create something heavenly.

Honeyed Apricots

GreenI’ve always enjoyed unusual combination and when I came across Molly Wizenberg’s Pistachio & Apricot cake from her book ‘A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table’, I knew it was something I had to try. The preparation was good fun: as I reduced the pistachios to sand-like crumbs in my food processor, I couldn’t help but be in awe of their beautiful green colour. Not only was it going to be delicious, but it was also going to be good-looking. The batter was thick and once I gingerly added the honeyed apricots, it was ready for my oven. The result was visually mouth-watering: the top of the cake was perfectly browned and you could see the apricots just peaking through.

 The taste was unusual and a little peppery and the apricots added tartness where I was looking for sweetness. I’d really recommend getting some very good (and ripe) apricots. If they are a little too tart like mine were, I would double the amount of honey you use to sweeten them up.

 Pistachio & Apricot Cake

John & I enthusiastically tucked into two slices each before going for a walk. I think it might have slowed us down. This cake is very filling!

 Another Orangette special I attempted this weekend was Coconut Macaroons with Chocolate Ganache. OH MY GOODNESS, heaven in a biscuit: moist in the centre but still chewy with the dark chocolate balancing out the sweetness of the coconut. You will win yourself friends and massive favours if you hand these out.

 Coconut Macaroons

Coconut Macaroons with Chocolate Ganache
From ‘A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table’ by Molly Wizenberg

 Makes 18 macaroons.

3 cups (lightly packed) sweetened shredded coconut
150g caster sugar
180ml egg whites (about 5 large eggs)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
115g dark chocolate, finely chopped
120ml cup double cream

Place the coconut, sugar and egg whites in a large, heavy saucepan, and stir to combine. Cook over medium/low heat, stirring regularly, about 10-12 minutes, until the mixture is pasty but not dry. Stop cooking when it no longer looks creamy but is still sticky. Remove from heat. Mix in vanilla extract. Spread out the coconut mixture on a baking sheet or a large plate. Refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 150 degrees Celsius. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Using your hands pack the coconut mixture into domes, and place them on the baking sheet. You should have enough to make 18. Bake the macaroons until golden, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool.

MacaroonsPlace the macaroons on the wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet or some foil. Place the chopped chocolate in a bowl. Heat the double cream in a small saucepan until it is very hot and steamy but not boiling, remove from the heat, and pour it over the chocolate. Wait a couple of minutes, then stir until smooth. Pick up each macaroon in turn and dip it in the chocolate so they are covered on top. Refrigerate the macaroons until the ganache sets. This takes at least 2 hours. Transfer the macaroons to an airtight container, and refrigerate.

Fallen off the wagon of life…

Blueberry Muffin

It’s been an eventful (good & bad) few months, hence my long absence.

Despite this, I have been busy baking. It’s such a relaxing pursuit that I find myself drawn to the kitchen when I am feeling a little restless. It never fails to cheer me up.

It was John’s 40th birthday recently and I was desperate to get a good recipe for a chocolate cake after my last attempt (involving about 6 chocolate bars of 100g each) failed. It was dry and could have passed as a weapon, it was so heavy and hard. Nick Nairn came to the rescue with his Soft Chocolate Cake: the result was moist, light and downright delicious. Best of all, no flour was used!

Other baking enterprises have involved Banana Bread and Blueberry Muffins (pictured).

This has done no favours to our waistlines but it was worth it. Now back to the gym…

Nutty Endeavours

Sticky Toffee Pudding? Did I mention I was flaky and a food whore?

There I was on Saturday morning, flicking through my Rick Stein cookbook, looking for inspiration… when suddenly, on page 160, it was love at first sight. Walnut Tart… come here my lover!

The nuttiness of the walnuts and the sweetness of the raspberry jam are a perfect combination. It is not for the faint-hearted calorie wise (check out the butter…)

Method

Ingredients

  • ready made shortcrust pastry
  • 3 tablespoons raspberry jam
  • 225g of walnuts
  • 50g plain flour
  • 225g softened unsalted butter
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 3 medium eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Icing sugar for dusting
  • Crème fraîche to serve

————————————————————————————–

1. Roll out pastry in a 4cm deep and 25cm loose-bottomed flan tin. Spread the bottom of case with the jam and chill for 30 mins.

2. Preaheat oven at 180 C. Put walnuts in food processor and whizz until chopped. Add flour, whizz again.

3. Cream butter and sugar together. Gradually beat in the eggs, add vanilla extract and then fold in walnut mixture. Spread into pastry case right to the top and bake in the oven for 50-55 mins. I cooked it for the full 55 mins but your oven might be different to mine so start checking at 45 minutes. It should feel springy to the touch. Remove from oven. Leave to cool.

4. Once cool, remove from tin, dust with icing sugar, serve with crème fraîche. Impressive yet easy…

It was polished off by John and I in less than 24 hours… Had some after dinner on Saturday, some for breakfast, some for afternoon tea, some after dinner… Piggies.

Walnut Tart