22 avr. 2014

Chocolate gingerbread

This recipe is for a 'pain d'épice' [spice bread]  type of gingerbread - a French classic. Each country has its own version of gingerbread, but I love the French one best.

I wanted to do something a bit different for a special tea, as I'd invited the French conversation group I belong to. I decided to push the boat out, so instead of making just a normal cake looking gingerbread, I made it into a sort of millefeuille version.

The basic recipe came from my French friend's mother, and unlike our English gingerbread, it uses several spices. It's not difficult to make, but making it into a millefeuille was a bit of a faff!

You need:
100g of dark chocolate
100g of honey
*200ml cold double cream
130g flour [my friend's Mum used rye flour but I didn't]
11/2tspns baking powder
2 tspns vanilla sugar
20g icing sugar

for the spices:
1 tspn of cinnamon, 1/2 tspn ground ginger, 1 tpsn freshly grated nutmeg and 1 star anise [crushed in a mortar or a grinder]

100g bar of chocolate to make chocolate curls - or buy some
4 tbspns of cocoa powder

a little flour and 1 tbspn of oil to grease the cake tin

Preheat oven 180C/gas4

Grease and flour a 15cm springform tin - the original recipe asked for a small 'moule à manqué, so I judged that this would be about the right size, and it worked out fine.

Melt the chocolate, honey and 10ml of water in a bowl over a saucepan. Add the spices and mix together.
Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl then add to the chocolate mixture a little at a time. if the mixture seems too thick, add a little water.
Spoon into the tin and bake for 35-40 mins.
Cool on a wire rack.

It's best to make the pain d'épice the day before you need it, as it's easier then to cut it into disks. This is what I did, and it wasn't too difficult to cut the layers.

Whip the cream till thickish then add the icing and vanilla sugars at the end and mix in gently.

Cut the cake into disks using a bread knife. Make a layer with a disk of pain d'épice then some cream, another biscuit layer and finish with a layer of cream.
Decorate the top with the chocolate curls and sprinkle the cocoa over [I used an old tea strainer].

Everyone enjoyed this, and loved the subtle spice flavours mixed with the chocolate and then the cream layer. It really is a cake of contrasts.

*Sorry, I originally said 20ml of cream - it was 20cl of cream in the French recipe and I just typed 20ml, but it's 200ml of course.

19 avr. 2014

Blackcurrant Clafoutis

 Am having a clear out of last year's fruit from the freezer, and found a bag of blackcurrants lurking in the depths. I have to say that they're not my favourite fruit - not sweet enough for me, but OH loves them. What to do with them? Didn't want another crumble or tart, so had a look in one of my cookbooks and found a recipe for an apple clafoutis - I was sure that blackcurrants would work just as well.
What is a clafoutis? A batter pudding/flan with fruit, usually cherries.
I 've seen many recipes for the batter, including one using yeast; I read through this one, then did it the wrong way round - beating the melted butter and sugar together instead of the sugar and eggs, but it didn't seem to have made any difference. I was a bit worried that the blackcurrants would be too tart, but in the sweet batter they were fine.

Preheat oven 220C/gas7 and grease a gratin dish with a little butter.

Put 500g of fresh or frozen blackcurrants [or cherries, thinly sliced apples, plums, blueberries] into the dish.
Beat 2 eggs with 100g of caster sugar and a tspn of vanilla extract. Stir in 150g of plain flour, 400ml of milk and 100g of melted butter till well mixed. Pour this batter over the fruit and bake for about 30 mins [if you're using frozen fruit, add another 5-10 mins].

I used the gratin dish I bought from a pottery in Alsace. The clafoutis had a good texture hot, but I preferred it cold.

I know it doesn't look very appetising in this photo, but there's a great contrast between the tart fruit and the sweet batter. It's more solid now it's cold.

10 avr. 2014

Moka Cake

Part of my husband's Christmas present to me was a 2 day Cookery course, which included making and decorating cakes.
I went to the first day last Saturday and brought home this Moka cake. We made tuiles and langues de chats too, but they were eaten before I had a chance to take a photo! I asked, and got, permission from the tutor to put this recipe on my blog, so it's legal, but I've written it in my own words anyway.
It's quite a complicated cake, and it pushed me out of my comfort zone, but it's worthwhile making for an occasion. As it was Mothering Sunday last w/e, it was the perfect special cake for tea.
It's a Genoese sponge cake which is cut in half and sprinkled with some coffee syrup. Then you make some crème au beurre [it's much posher than a buttercream, hence the French term!] and use this to fill the sponge, to cover the cake and to pipe around the top of the finished cake. It's a luxurious 'treat yourself' kind of cake.

For the Genoese cake:
225g caster sugar
225g flour
15g butter
A 20cm springform cake tin and a sugar thermometer

Coffee syrup:
100g granulated sugar
75ml water
2 tbspns strong black coffee or coffee extract

Crème au beurre:
150g granulated sugar
75ml water
2 egg whites
225g unsalted butter
10g vanilla sugar
coffee essence
50g grilled flaked almonds

Preheat oven 160C/gas3
Use the 15g of butter to grease the cake tin.

For the cake:
Break the eggs into a bowl, add the sugar and set over a simmering saucepan. Beat with a wire whisk till doubled in size and warm when you touch it. Take the bowl off and beat till cold.
Beat in the sieved flour then pour into the tin.
Bake for 18-20 mins and don't open the oven door [a couple of people on the course had to have a look and their cakes were flat!].
Cool on a wire rack.
For the coffee syrup:
Boil the sugar and water together over medium heat for 5 mins. Let it cool a bit and then add the coffee.
For the crème au beurre:
Cook the sugar and water till it registers 220 on the sugar thermometer [or you can drop a bit of the syrup into some cold water and you should be able to make a soft ball when you roll it between your fingers].
Beat the egg whites to a stiff peak, then slowly add the boiling syrup beating all the time. Keep beating until the mixture is cold.

Soften the butter till creamy, then add the vanilla sugar and fold in the egg whites. Add a few drops of coffee essence to give it a bit of colour.
Cut the cake across and sprinkle the cut surfaces with the syrup.
Put cake onto a plate and spread the bottom half with some of the cream and put the other half on top.
Using a spatula dipped from time to time in water, spread some cream over the top and side of the cake, keeping as bit back to decorate the top.
Coarsely chop up the grilled almonds and press them over the top and side of the cake.
Put the rest of the cream into a piping bag with a fluted nozzle and pipe around the top edge of the cake.
Chill the cake in the fridge for a few hours before using.

Like I said earlier, this cake really took me out of my comfort zone. I hadn't made this kind of butter cream before - I really had to concentrate hard pouring the boiling syrup into the egg whites. I feel very proud of my effort - it's good to learn new techniques. The second day of the course is next month, and we'll be using yeast and making some biscuits.
And the cake? Lovely flavour from the coffee [I bought some extract from Lakeland], a light sponge cake, delicious cream filling, and added texture from the almonds. A little piece of heaven!

2 avr. 2014

Pecan Brownies

Needed to make something for a Bake Stall, so decided something with chocolate, as they're always popular. My friend had been raving about these brownies, so I persuaded her to part with the recipe! Have to admit that I'm not a great brownie fan. I think it's because I've eaten a lot of overcooked ones which were disappointing. There's a fine line between their being squidgy and overcooked - as I know too well! I made a recipe not long ago that was so awful even the birds wouldn't eat it! What a waste of chocolate!

180g 70% dark chocolate
175g butter
150g light brown sugar
3 eggs and 1 yolk
85g plain flour and 1 level tspn of baking powder
100g pecans - keep 25g for the topping

Preheat oven 180C/gas4/fan165C

Grease a 18x32cm tin

Break the pecans into pieces.
In a bowl beat the eggs and yolk lightly with a fork.
Melt the chocolate and butter together in a bowl over simmering water. Take off heat when melted.
Add the sugar and mix together.
Add the eggs a bit at a time, mixing well.
Add the flour and baking powder, and the broken 75g of pecans.
Spoon into the tin and sprinkle the rest of the pecans over the top.
Bake for 18-20 mins. Leave in tin for 5 mins then turn out onto a wire rack.
When the brownies are cold, cut them into squares.

A nice deep squidgy brownie, much appreciated in the Bake Sale. They're fairly quick to make and I like the addition of the pecans as an extra texture. Could use walnuts or hazelnuts. I don't think this recipe is better than my usual one, but it's a change.

27 mars 2014

Blueberry Yoghurt Bundt Cake

Have had a silicone bundt mould for ages, but haven't used it. It's a friend's birthday today so I decided to make her a bundt birthday cake.
Her favourite fruits are blueberries, and they were on offer in my local supermarket - perfect. I decided to add some lemon flavour with the blueberries. I also had a pot of  natural yoghurt to use up, so added some to the mixture to make the cake nice and moist. I finished it off with some lemon glace icing drizzled over the top.
I love Ina Garten's lemon yoghurt cake link is here  which Smitten Kitten made into a lovely lemon and blueberry one -  link is here .
The cake mixture is really a sandwich mix, or pound cake or quatre quarts - most countries seem to have their own version.
I bought one of the Cake Release sprays so the cake would come out of the mould [my dil had problems getting her cakes out of bundt tins, so advised me to buy some].
So, it's a simple cake made to look more interesting by using a fancy mould!

Preheat oven 180C/gas4              
 Spray a 23cm bundt mould with Cake Release [or grease it with melted butter using a pastry brush]

Beat 225g of butter and 225g of caster sugar with an electric hand beater or in a stand mixer till nice and light and fluffy. Gradually add  4 eggs, one at a time, then fold in 225g sr flour, finely grated rind of 2 lemons and about a tbspn or so of juice, 2 tbspn of natural yoghurt and 250g of blueberries.
I found that using a spatula was a good way to get the mixture into the mould.
Bake for 45-50 mins till cake springs back when you touch it. Leave it to cool in the mould for 5 mins then turn out [hopefully all in one piece!] onto a wire rack.
For the icing, just sieve 100g of icing sugar in a bowl and add some lemon juice till you have the thickness you want. Drizzle this over the cake and leave icing to set.

23 mars 2014

Cinnamon, Cranberry and Apple Turnovers

I recently bought myself a Patisserie book, by Murielle Vallette. Among other things, I wanted to have a try at making my own puff pastry. This is an excellent book, as it has photos showing you all the steps. This time I didn't fancy making any of the suggestions in the book with my puff pastry, so made these easy turnovers. I adapted the ingredients from an idea I saw on Pinterest, which were turnovers using pear and walnuts. I had a search through my cupboard and found some cranberries lurking in the back. When I'd cooked the apples they were rather too mushy to put in the pastry, so I thickened them with some cornflour. I used Braeburn apples as they were in the fruit bowl, but you could use any apples. I decided to ice them with some simple glace icing.

2 apples peeled, cored and chopped into small dice
sheet of butter puff pastry
50g brown sugar
¼ tspn cinnamon
30g dried cranberries
250ml water

30ml cold water
½ tbspn cornflour

Cinnamon Icing:
65g icing sugar
sprinkle of cinnamon
water to mix

Preheat oven 180C/gas 4.  Line a baking tray with parchment paper or a silicone sheet.
Cut the apples into small dice and put, with the dried cranberries, brown sugar, cinnamon and the 250ml of water into a pan and cook over medium heat for about  8-10 minutes till the apples become soft.
You need to thicken this mixture, so mix 30ml of cold water with 1/2 tbspn of cornflour and mix well. No lumps!
Take the apples off the heat and stir in the cornflour mixture till the apple mixture has thickened.  Cool.

On a floured board roll the puff pastry into a 15 x 12" or 38 x 30 cms [approx] rectangle (1/2 cm thick). Cut into 4 x 4" or 10cm  squares. Put a heaped tbspn of filling in the centre of the pastry square.  Fold the pastry into a triangle and press your fingertips firmly into the edges to seal the pastry together (if the pastry will not stick together you can use an egg wash brushed along the edges to help).  Put on a baking tray spaced out evenly.
Bake for 25-30 minutes till golden.  Let them cool and drizzle with some cinnamon icing if you fancy.

To make the cinnamon icing, sift the icing sugar into a bowl.  Add the cinnamon and add a very small amount of water, adding more if you want thinner icing. Drizzle over the turnovers.

You can see by my photo that I didn't seal the edges very well, but they were delicious anyway! Liked the combination of apples and cranberries and the cinnamon gives them that gentle hint of spice. Think it was a good way to use my pastry, and maybe next time I'll try the turnovers with a different filling - like the idea of the pear and walnut, but maybe rhubarb and ginger .... ? Will make puff pastry again, but will try one of the ideas in the book, like chocolate millefeuille.

17 mars 2014

Walnut Caramel Tart

I’ve made a lot of cakes lately, large and small, and decided I wanted to make a tart. I bought a large bag of walnut halves last week, so decided they were just what I needed. My lovely friend who runs a cake shop gave me a few more of her recipes when we met up recently, and this tart is one of hers.
You can use shop bought short crust pastry or make your own – enough for a 25cm tart tin, so it’s quite a good sized tart. I made 12oz /350g of pastry – that is 350g of flour and 175g of fat, and I used a mixture of sunflower margarine and Trex, but you could use all butter for a very short pastry. This was just the right amount for the tin.
The tart’s made in 2 stages, the baked part with the eggs, sugar, butter and finely chopped walnuts and the topping with the walnut halves topped with caramel. So if you like walnuts, this is the tart for you!

Preheat oven 180C/gas4      You need a 25cm tart tin [with sides at least 2.5 cms]

You beat 2 eggs and 100g of caster sugar together till pale and fluffy using an electric beater or a stand mixer. Add 100g of finely chopped walnuts and 60g of melted butter and gently mix together.
Roll out your pastry to fit the tin and spoon the mixture in.
Bake for about 30 mins till golden
For the caramel – melt 150g of caster sugar in a pan till brown then pour in 100ml of very hot crème fraiche and mix. Boil this till it’s not grainy then add 20g of warm melted butter and stir together.

Decorate your tart with 100g of walnut halves and pour over the caramel and leave to set.

Quite a sweet tart with a really nutty flavour. The caramel topping finishes it off.