Curry Bloom Buns

Curry Bloom Buns

Wotchers!

I used to live and work in Singapore, and one of the iconic snack foods there is the Curry Puff!

It’s basically a pastry turnover with a spicy curry filling – sometimes there’s meat added and/or other vegetables, but my favourite was the potato curry puff. More usually, the filling is diced potato, but the cafeteria at the school I was working at sold potato curry puffs with a smooth, mashed potato filling. I know – carb. coma material, amiright? The combination of crisp pastry and smooth, spiced mashed potato was very comforting, and over the years I’ve tried to reproduce their flavour but without much success.

Until now.

Having said that, the recipe this week isn’t for a traditional curry puff at all. Traditionally, curry puffs are deep fried, occasionally with spiral pastry (similar to that used for sfogliatelle), but the thought of deep fried anything tends to fill me with the horrors these days. Another option would be to bake them, using regular pastry, but even that has a relatively high fat content, so what I decided to do was use bread dough in place of pastry.

Stuffed, filled bread buns are the ideal mobile meal or picnic item – the filling is self-contained,so there’s nothing to fall out or dry up or get soggy, and to my mind they are even more tasty because the dough wrapper seals in all the flavours during cooking. My recipe for Bierocks, for example, has such simple ingredients, but tastes amazing!

Over the years my attempts to reproduce the filling have stumbled over the spicy flavouring. I’ve tried numerous combinations of spices and each one has had some major flaw. Thinking I’d had a Eureka moment, I even tried mixing in sweet potato with the mashed potato but no *shudders* Oh dear me, that was such a ‘no’.

But now I’ve got a filling I’m happy with because I opted to buy curry paste. *waits until the shrieks of horror die down* Yes, I opened a jar and I’m not ashamed to admit it! It turns out that what my taste buds had been yearning for wasn’t an authentic, hand-crafted spice mix – it was just *waves hands about vaguely* ‘curry’. Sidebar: I also buy basic, value curry sauce – sometimes called ‘chip shop curry sauce’ and pour it over cooked chicken – with the family, it’s just as popular a meal as the home-made-from-scratch butter chicken (and made in a fraction of the time!) Go on, indulge in a jar today – it’ll set you back 20p.

Having said that, the range of curry pastes available in the supermarkets means that you can ring the changes as often as you like. Because the curry paste is concentrated, you don’t need to use much at all, and there’s also no risk of making the filling too soggy. I’ve flavoured the filling quite strongly, because there’s just a small quantity in each bun. If you want to use more filling and make turnovers/pasties, consider using less of the curry paste.

You can make these buns plain – just as a round bun with filling inside, but you can also pretty them up into the flower shapes shown above. Too often we spend a lot of time faffing with decorations for sweet things, and savoury items tend to be the poor relation, so I decided to redress the balance somewhat. An added bonus of the flower shapes is that they can be eaten delicately, by breaking off a petal at a time to nibble on! – Oooh! Get me, Mrs Etty-Kwette!

Curry Bloom Buns

The following quantities make 8 buns.

Dough
300g strong white bread flour
1 sachet easy-blend yeast
1tsp salt
30ml oil
100ml water
100ml milk
1 large eggwhite

Filling
300g cooked potato – riced/mashed
2tbs curry paste of choice – I used Patak’s Rogan Josh

Glaze
1 large egg yolk
1tbs water

Decoration
black sesame seeds or kalonji/nigella seeds
white sesame seeds

  • Put all the dry ingredients for the dough, plus the oil and egg-white, into a bowl.
  • Heat the water and add to the milk. This should make a warm mixture of blood heat temperature. Test by dipping a finger into the mixture to make sure it’s not too hot.
  • Gradually add the milk and water mixture to the other ingredients until they come together in a ball. You might not need all of the liquids.
  • Knead the dough for 10 minutes until smooth.
  • Brush the dough with oil and place in an oiled bowl.
  • Cover with cling-film and set aside to rise until doubled in size.
  • Over a medium heat, cook the curry paste in a dry pan for 2-3 minutes, to bring out the flavours of the spices.
  • Remove pan from heat and add the mashed potato. Stir thoroughly to combine, until the colour is even throughout.
  • Once the dough is risen, tip out from the bowl and gently press to deflate.
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
  • Line 2 baking sheets with baking parchment.
  • Divide the dough into eight pieces.
  • Divide the filling into eight pieces.
  • For each bun
    • Pat the dough into a circle about 10cm in diameter.
    • Put a ball of potato filling in the middle of the dough.
    • Damp the edges of the dough with water.
    • Gather the edges of the dough around the filling and pinch to seal.
    • Turn the dough parcel over and press to flatten until it measures 10cm in diameter.
    • Using a sharp knife, add cuts to the flattened dough as shown in the diagram below.
    • Bun cuts
    • Twist each piece to the left 90° so that the filling is visible and gently flatten to make the petal shape.
    • Transfer the bun to the prepared baking sheet.
    • Allow the buns to rise for 15 minutes (after the last one is shaped).
  • Whisk the egg-yolk and water together and brush over the shaped buns.
  • Scatter the black sesame seeds in the centre of each bun, and sprinkle the pale seeds over the ‘petals’.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes until cooked and golden.
  • Wrap in tea-towels and set on a wire to cool, to keep the crust soft.

Snow Cake

Snow Cake

Wotchers!

An unusual and simple cake for you this week, with the bonus of being gluten-free!

Following on from the gluten-free Brazilian Cheese Breads of last week, it might look as if I’m following a theme here, but I assure you it’s juts a coincidence – a DELICIOUS coincidence!

Last week, I got a request from my publisher to write a short paragraph for publication on their foodie website, on my favourite baking book. As you can imagine, with my book collection, this took quite some time to narrow down. As I was perusing the shortlisted books, I came across this recipe – not in any specific allergy-related book or even chapter of a book. No, it was just included with a bunch of other recipes in a book aimed at the commercial baker, dating from the early 20th century. I have scaled the recipe down from the originally huge quantities, but otherwise, it is unchanged.

This cake is made using potato flour. At first, I thought it got its name from it colour, because, as you can see from the photo, it is indeed a very pale cake. However, after tasting the cake, I’m now of the opinion that its name comes from its texture. It has the same quality of settled snow, in that there is a thin ‘crust’ on the top and soft, friable, almost powder-like substance underneath. The cake dissolves in the mouth – but in a different way to, say, Melting Moments. It’s incredibly light and tender and is best enjoyed simply, where it can really shine.

That said, the cream that I have teamed with it is pretty awesome itself. It is a variation of the filling I used for the mille-feuilles in the final of The Great British Bake Off. The mixture of sweetened cream cheese and whipped double cream is given a firmer set by the addition of gelatine, which helps to hold in the moisture and makes for a very luscious, rich, creamy and mousse-like texture. Just to continue the frozen theme, it’s like the very best soft-serve ice-cream, without the cold.

I’ve brightened the filling with some of the Apricot Jam I made a couple of weeks ago, but any other sharp jam would also work well.

I bought the potato flour at Holland & Barrett.

Snow Cake

112g unsalted butter – softened
112g caster sugar
2 large eggs
zest of 1 lemon
2 level tsp baking powder
225g potato flour

  • Preheat the oven to 170°C, 150°C Fan.
  • Grease and line the base of a 20cm diameter, tall cake tin – not a sandwich tin. The high sides will help shield the cake from the direct heat of the oven and keep it from becoming over-coloured.
  • Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy – 5-10 minutes.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, beating well each time.
  • Add the remaining ingredients and beat thoroughly – a good 5-10 minutes. Ordinarily, you’d run the risk of over-beating a cake mixture, which would develop the gluten in the flour, leading to a tough cake. Since the potato flour has no gluten, there’s no need to worry about this. You want to try and get as much air into the mixture as possible to make for a light texture in the cooked cake.
  • Turn the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the surface.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, then turn the tin 180 degrees and bake for a further 10-15 minutes, for a total of 30-35 minutes. When you turn the cake after 20 minutes, slip a sheet of baking parchment over the top of the tin to keep the colour from getting too dark.
  • When cooked, remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes, then remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.

Luscious Cream Filling

50ml double cream
50g caster sugar
2 leaves gelatine

1tsp vanilla extract
150g cream cheese,  room temperature
250ml double cream

  • Soak the leaves of gelatine in cold water for 15 minutes.
  • Warm the double cream and caster sugar until the sugar is dissolved.
  • Shake off the excess water from the gelatine and add to the pan.
  • Stir until the gelatine has melted, then remove from the heat and set aside.
  • Once the mixture has cooled a little, pour it into a bowl and add the remaining ingredients.
  • Whip the mixture until the cream has thickened and it is soft and pillowy.

To Assemble

Even though this is a light sponge cake, the weight of the top half will be too heavy initially, to avoid squidging (technical term) the cream out of the sides of the cake. Therefore, I strongly recommend using the following method to assemble your cake.

200g apricot jam – warmed and pureed

  • Using cocktail sticks, mark the midpoint of the cooled cake around the edge and cut it horizontally.
  • Spread the cut side of each cake half with apricot jam.
  • Put the bottom half of the cake back into the tin in which it was baked.
  • Slip a band of parchment or food-grade acetate around the inside of the tin, between the cake and the inside of the tin.
  • Smooth or pipe the cream filling over the bottom of the cake, making sure it reaches the edges of the cake.
  • Place the other half on top and press gently.
  • Cover with cling-film and chill for 2-3 hours, until the gelatine in the cream has set.
  • Remove from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature.
  • Remove the cake from the tin and gently peel the parchment/acetate from around the filling.
  • Smooth with a knife if necessary.
  • Dust with icing sugar to serve.

Brazilian Cheese Bread

Brazilian Cheese Bread

Wotchers!

Back in the summer, my daughter’s class at school chose a mini project on Brazil, and I was asked if I could bring in some food for them to taste.

Of all the dishes I prepared, Brigadeiros were naturally the overwhelming favourite. However, these little cheese breads were also a great hit, with many pupils coming back for seconds and thirds.

In essence, they are a Brazilian version of Gougères, but differ in that they are made with gluten-free tapioca flour. If you’re at all apprehensive about tackling Gougères or even choux paste in general, then these little cheese breads – or pão de queijo to give them their proper name – are an ideal place to start.

They don’t require as much cooking as Gougères, and since there is no gluten to develop, the mixture is much more straight forward. The crisp outsides contrast deliciously well with the soft, stretchy insides (the stretch being provided by the cheese).

I’ve baked mine a little longer than is traditional, because I do love some crunch, but you can take them out earlier if you prefer them pale and interesting. I’ve also baked them in mini-muffin tins to give them a nice shape – gluten free bakes generally need a little help to ‘get it together’.

These are delicious straight from the oven, but will also keep a few days in an airtight container. Warm in a gentle (150°C, 130°C Fan) oven for 10 minutes.

I bought my tapioca flour here

Brazilian Cheese Bread

Makes approx. 24 mini-muffin-sized breads.

125ml whole milk
60ml vegetable oil
½ teaspoon salt
140g tapioca flour
1 large egg
extra egg-whites (maybe)
125g strong cheddar or fresh Parmesan – grated

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Heat the milk, oil and salt in a pan until just below boiling.
  • Remove from the heat and add the tapioca flour.
  • Stir vigorously until no dry flour is visible.
  • Tip the paste into a bowl and beat with a mixer (stand or hand) until cooled enough that no steam is visible rising from the bowl.
  • Add the egg and beat thoroughly until fully combined.
  • If the mixture seems a little tight, add a little extra egg white. It’s better for the dough to be a little too soft than too firm.
  • Add the cheese and mix thoroughly.
  • Grease a mini muffin tin.
  • Use an ice-cream scoop to portion out the dough into the prepared mini-muffin tin. Don’t fill the cups more than 2/3 full.
  • Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the heat down to 180°C, 160°C Fan for a further 15-20 minutes.
  • Cool on a wire rack.

Walnut Whip Pastries

Walnut Whip Pastries
Wotchers!

The idea for these pastries came from watching a film clip on the original Walnut Whip chocolates being hand-piped and filled. I recalled that I hadn’t really done much with the Quick Chocolate Puff Pastry, other than show you the method, and since I’d recently acquired some cream horn tubes, I was all set!

ConesAlas, the best laid plans of tumpty-tumpty-tumpty-tum and all that – MY cream horn tubes weren’t the beautifully sleek examples pictured above, I’d gone for the non-stick style, seen below.

My cones

Which meant I had to devise a way to get my tubes to stand upright in order to form the tapering cones of the walnut whip shape. I won’t bore you with ALL of the trials and tribulations, and the various failed attempts, but I did eventually achieve success combining two differently-shaped ice-cream cones and balancing the metal shapes on top. I’ve seen a few suggestions out there that call for just covering wafer cones with foil, but that doesn’t work (caveat: doesn’t work well enough for me to recommend). To cook properly, all the way through, the pastry needs the high temperature that the metal will get to in a hot oven. Foil never gets hot enough to cook the inside of the pastry thoroughly. I tried.

This is another Lego™ recipe, in that it’s made up of bits and pieces from other recipes, mixed with some new things. I’ve already mentioned the Chocolate Puff Pastry from a few weeks ago. I’ve also used the Bavarian Cream from the Sicilian Seven Veils Cake, and swapped the chocolate flavouring for coffee. The NEW bits in this creation are the candied walnuts and the Crunch Shortbread biscuit used for the base.

I’m going to be straight with you – the pastries have a pretty high FQ (Faff Quotient™) – I only got a dozen usable pastry ‘shells’ from a whole batch of the chocolate pastry (mainly due to my own clumsiness, I’ll admit) – so if it all sounds too much like hard work, just have a bash at the biscuits: they’re seriously good all by themselves!

To make the complete pastries involves making several separate elements, and then assembling them at the end. The whole process can be spread over a few days if necessary. I suggest shaping/baking the pastry as the last task, so that it retains its crispness.

Walnut Whip Pastries

The four elements that need to be made first are:

  • Chocolate Pastry
  • Candied walnuts
  • Bavarian Cream
  • Crunch Shortbread

I know I said to bake the pastry last, but you should MAKE it first, so that it can thoroughly chill in the fridge, and thus be a bit easier to roll out/work with.

1. Chocolate Pastry – click HERE for the recipe and method.

2. Candied Walnuts.

150g caster sugar
cocktail sticks
walnut halves

  • Sprinkle the sugar into a non-tick pan and place on a low heat to melt. Do not stir, as this will cause the sugar to crystallise.
  • If the sugar is melting unevenly, swirl the contents around to mix.
  • While the sugar is melting, pick out the best-looking walnut halves and skewer each half with a cocktail stick, ready for dipping.
  • When all the sugar has melted, and is a deep caramel colour, it’s time to dip the walnuts.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and lay a sheet of parchment paper alongside.
  • Dip each walnut into the caramel and allow the excess to drain off.
  • Place the walnut on the parchment and gently twist the cocktail stick free. The caramel should still be liquid enough to flow over the hole left by the cocktail stick.
  • Allow to cool, then wrap in parchment and keep in an airtight box. The dipped nuts will become sticky if left exposed to the air.

3. Coffee Bavarian Cream
Bavarian cream is basically a custard with added gelatine, with flavourings and cream folded through. If you want to break down the process because of lack of time, it can be made in two parts. The first part is the custard base, the second adding the flavourings and gelatine when ready to use. If you do this, then warm the custard slightly before trying to stir in the soaked gelatine.

125ml milk
1 large egg yolk
18g cornflour
45g sugar
2tsp Espresso coffee powder
2 leaves (4g) gelatine

300ml double cream

  • Soak the gelatine in cold water to cover for 10 minutes.
  • Heat the sugar and the milk until almost boiling.
  • Whisk the cornflour, vanilla and egg yolks together, then gradually whisk in the sweetened milk.
  • Return the mixture to the heat and continue heating and stirring until thickened.
  • Remove custard from the heat.
  • Drain the gelatine and stir into the warm custard until fully dissolved.
  • Cover with clingfilm to prevent a skin forming.
  • Whip the cream to firm peaks, then fold through the cooled coffee custard.
  • Cover with cling film and chill until required.

4. Crunch Shortbread

This is a crumbly, buttery shortbread, but with added feuilletine and ground almonds for two different yet complimentary crunch textures. If you don’t have any feuilletine, use a few crushed crepes dentelles or cornflakes.

135g butter – softened
45g icing sugar
1g salt
135g flour
10g cocoa
25g ground almonds
25g feuilletine

  • Mix the softened butter, sugar, salt, flour, cocoa and ground almonds in a bowl until well combined.
  • Lightly stir in the feuilletine. Try to keep the pieces a reasonable size, so that they can still be discerned in the cooked biscuit.
  • Turn out the mixture onto parchment and lay some clingfilm over the top.
  • Roll the mixture out to between 5-8mm thick and place in the freezer to harden for between 15 and 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
  • Cut the chilled paste into 4cm-ish rounds (I used the rim of a small glass) and arrange on a parchment lined baking sheet.
  • Bake for 11-12 minutes and cool on a wire rack.

5. Chocolate pastry shells

I suggest working with just half of a batch of pastry at a time, since the strips of pastry will be quite long and potentially tricky to handle.

  • Roll the pastry out thinly (5mm), keeping the shape as straight and rectangular as possible. Try and achieve a length of 40-45cm, so that you can make each shell using just a single strip of pastry.
  • Cut the pastry into 1cm wide strips. I find a pizza wheel works best for this, as it doesn’t ‘drag’ the pastry as a knife would. Also, your pastry might be getting a little soft by this stage, with all the rolling. If you think it’s too soft, pop it back into the fridge or freezer to firm up.
  • Grease your cream horn tins.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 220°C, 200°C Fan.
  • Dampen the strip of pastry you’re about to use, with a pastry brush dipped in water. This will help the pastry stick to itself on each ‘turn.’
  • The Fiddly Bit: Starting at the bottom of your cream horn tins, wrap the strip around to form a level base for your shell, then continue around the tin, overlapping the pastry slightly at each turn. You want to pull the strip a little, to ‘stretch’ it, then wrap it quickly around the cone. As it contracts, it will pull close to the tin and make for a better shape. Don’t pull so much that the pastry breaks! (Tricky to begin with.)
  • Finish your pastry shell about half-way up your cone: you want the top to be about as wide as a walnut, once cooked.
  • Stand your cones in the cups of a cupcake tin, for a little extra stability.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes until the pastry is fully cooked.
  • Leave to cool on the cones.
  • Once cool, ease the shells gently from the cones and set aside.

 To Assemble

150g dark, 70% chocolate

  • Melt the chocolate in a bowl over hot water until completely liquid and smooth.
  • Spoon the Bavarian Coffee Cream into a piping bag fitted with a 1cm plain nozzle.
  • Lay a sheet of parchment onto a tray that will fit into your fridge (to chill the assembled pastries).
  • Lay a piece of clingfilm on the bench in front of you.
  • Have the pastry shells, the biscuits and the candied walnuts to hand.
  • Stage 1 assembly. For each pastry:
    • Take a biscuit and brush the top with melted chocolate (to prevent sogginess from the cream filling).
    • Take a pastry shell and set it upside down onto the clingfilm in front of you.
    • Pipe the coffee cream into the pastry shell until completely full.
    • Use a knife to smooth the cream across the bottom of the pastry shell.
    • Spread melted chocolate over the bottom of the pastry shell and the coffee cream, and, turning the pastry shell over, set it onto the chocolate covered biscuit, where the chocolate should ‘glue’ them together.
    • Paint melted chocolate over the top of the pastry shell, and set a candied walnut on top.
    • Chill in the fridge.
  • Now you could stop here if you like – all the ‘pieces’ are assembled. However, I decided to neaten the pastries up by dipping the bases in the melted chocolate. The biscuit is then completely covered, and the ‘seal’ between the pastry and the biscuit itself has been recinforced with another layer of chocolate.
  • If your chocolate has cooled too much, set it over the pan of hot water until it is melted again.
  • When all the pastries have chilled for at least 20 minutes in the fridge, remove them and dip them in the melted chocolate.
  • Use a pastry brush to even out the chocolate coating.
  • Set onto parchment and chill in the fridge until required.

Apricot Jam

Apricot Jam and buttered scones.
Wotchers!

Glorious, jewel-like apricot jam is the recipe this week, having spotted some fabulous Bergeron apricots in a local supermarket (Morrisons) for just 99p a punnet – NINETY-NINE PEE I SAY! Total bargain! Get down there today and make this your Bank Holiday weekend project!

I’m a big fan of the sharp-sweet tang of apricots, and with a respectable amount of pectin, there’s no need to Faff About™ adding any extra. The small quantity lemon juice helps anyway, both in the set and in sharpening the flavour of the apricots.

This method is slightly longer than your regular jam-making session might be, but it is seriously low on effort. Start-to-finish, it’s about 24 hours, but of that, there’s maybe only 1 hour of actually doing anything – bonus!

The result is so vibrant, so delicious, you’ll wish you’d made more – however many jars you make. I bought 6 x 350g punnets – and made six jars. One jar of finished jam for every 350g of raw fruit is also a handy way to work out how many jars your going to need. As a precaution, I always have one jar extra, all cleaned, heated and ready to go, in case of an overabundance. I’ve scaled the quantities down to use just 1 kg of fresh, pitted fruits (so 3 punnets from the shop), so it’s a little easier to scale up/down.

This method involves first macerating (or soaking) the fruit in sugar for several hours (or even overnight). The sugar draws out the juice from the fruit, and in turn a little of the sugar is absorbed. This absorption of sugar will help to firm up the fruit and keep it from disintegrating during the necessary boiling later on.

That being said, this is not a solid jam that has to be crowbar’d out of the jar (a particular dislike of mine). It’s definitely leaning more towards the conserve, although having sliced the fruit to manageable bite-sizes, I think that disqualifies it from the traditional definition of conserve (i.e. whole fruit in syrup).

ANYHOO….

Here’s how it goes:

Apricot Jam

3 x 350g punnets of Bergeron (for preference, but not compulsory) apricots, to give 1kg of prepared fruit
800g granulated sugar
Juice of 2-3 lemons

Day 1

  • Rinse the apricots and cut into halves, top to bottom, and remove the stone.
  • Layer the apricot halves, sugar and the juice of 2 of the lemons in a large bowl ensuring the cut surfaces of the apricots are covered with sugar.
  • Cover the bowl with cling film and set aside for 8-10 hours, or overnight.
  • Mop brow and declare loudly to any interested parties “This jam-making is EXHAUSTING! I must have a REST and watch a FILM”.
  • Put feet up.

8 hours later, or next morning if you started at night

  • Gently slide the apricot mixture (which will probably be quite runny by now) into a preserving pan and warm gently, until all the sugar is melted.
  • Try and avoid stirring, as the fruit will still be very fragile and might begin to break apart with too much spoon action.
  • When all the sugar is melted, bring the mixture to a boil.
  • As soon as it boils, remove the pan from the heat and gently pour the fruit mixture back into the bowl.
  • Re-cover with cling film and set aside overnight.
  • Mop brow and put feet up as above.

12-14 hours later

Here’s where things might get a little too Faffy™ for your liking, feel free to skip the next part if you prefer a slightly more rustic jam.

  • Removing the skins
    • Strain the fruit from the syrup. I prefer to lift it gently with a skimmer, to avoid squishing it too much, but you can pour it through a sieve if you like.
    • By this time, after their overnight soaking, the skins should be wrinkled and easy to separate from the flesh of the apricots. I usually start by picking up an apricot half by the skin in my left hand and then using a small, sharp knife to ease the flesh away. Sometimes the cut edge of the apricot next to the skin has hardened and needs a little encouragement to come free. If your apricots have a slightly thicker skin, this may not be as easy as described. In this case, give up.. Persevering will only mash the apricots to mush.
    • Discard skins.
  • Using some sharp scissors, cut the now skin-free apricots into strips about 0.5-1cm wide. Again, feel free to skip this if so inclined. It just makes the jam easier to spread. Set fruit aside for now.
  • Once the fruit is prepared, it’s time to boil the syrup to setting point.
  • But before you start heating it, taste. I like a particularly sharp jam, so I tend to add the juice of another lemon at this stage if necessary. Taste the syrup and make your own decision.
  • Also, put 2 saucers in the freezer. These will be used later to test whether your jam has reached setting point.
  • Pour all the syrup into the preserving pan and bring to a simmering boil. Keep an eye on it, as too high a heat may cause it to boil over.
  • Skim the froth from the top of the simmering syrup – removing this will help give your finished jam that jewel-like clarity. Don’t throw the foam away, it’s still delicious, just bubbly. Enjoy on toast with some salty feta or goats cheese – NOM!
  • Setting point is reached at 105°C, when the excess water has evaporated – there will be a distinct lack of steam coming from the pan, but use a thermometer to double-check.
  • Add the apricots, sliding them gently into the syrup. It will immediately go off the boil, and as there will be quite a lot of syrup clinging to the apricots themselves, it will take several minutes to come back to setting point.
  • Use this time to wash your jam jars, rinse and arrange onto a baking sheet, together with their lids.
  • Put the jars into a cold oven, and turn the heat to 100°C, 80°C Fan.
  • When the jam has reached setting point for the second time, draw the pan to one side away from the heat and test the jam by putting a teaspoon onto one of the cold saucers from the freezer. Return the plate to the freezer for a minute or two then remove and slowly push a finger through the cooled jam. If the surface wrinkles, then the jam is done. If not, return to the heat for a few more minutes and test again.
  • Once the jam is set to your satisfaction, turn off the heat and leave it to cool a little. You want it to be cool enough to begin to form a thin skin on the surface. This means that it is starting to set, and you should put it in jars. Depending on how big a batch you’re making, this could be as long as 20 minutes. Have a cuppa while waiting!
  • Stir the jam gently, to distribute the fruit throughout the syrup. Now that the jam has cooled a little, the fruit will stay suspended evenly. Stirring when the jam is too hot will do nothing, and pouring too-hot jam into jars will just make all the fruit float to the top.
  • Remove the hot and now dry jars from the oven and, using a jam funnel, pour your jam into the jars. You might want to use oven gloves to hold the jar steady. Fill the jars as close as possible to the top – to within 5mm at least (bacteria love air gaps, so you want to keep them as small as possible).
  • Screw the lids on tightly and then wipe off any spillage from the outside of the jars. Leave to cool completely before labelling.

Pea, Goat Cheese & Mint Glamwich

Pea, Goat Cheese & Mint Glamwich

Wotchers!

Just because lunch is a sandwich doesn’t mean it has to be ordinary.

For this recipe, I’ve taken the Swedish smörgåstårta and shrunk it to an individual serving size.

Three layers of dense, nutty rye bread are sandwiched together with two complimentary fillings – pea hummus and a fresh mixture of creamy goats cheese and petit pois. Wrapped in a ribbon of cucumber and topped with pea shoots, mint and a scattering of more peas, lunchtime just got deliciously elegant.

Ingredient choices

  • Rye bread – for deliciously dark colour contrast and firmness to hold up the layers.
  • Petit Pois – lovely bright colour and their sweetness contrasts well with both the earthiness of the tahini in the hummus and the sharpness of the goats cheese. Fresh peas in pods are always going to be rather mealy in comparison, unless you grow them yourself and can pod/cook them within an hour of picking.
  • Goat’s cheese – The dazzling white is a great contrast against the dark of the rye bread and the bright green of the peas. The soft variety available in a pot allows for easy spreading and mixing. Alternatively, use cream cheese or mascarpone or ricotta.

Get Ahead

Whether a single serving for a weekday lunchbox or buffet-level numbers for a weekend event, you can make short work of this sandwich by partially assembling the day/evening before.
Proceed up to the point where the sides and top are coated with the cheese and then stop. Wrap the sandwiches in cling film and refrigerate overnight. Pick out your pea/mint/salad shoots and store, with the remaining peas, in the fridge in a plastic box lined with a dampened sheet of kitchen roll. Finish off the sandwiches just before serving.

Pea, Goat Cheese & Mint Glamwich

Makes 2 sandwiches – 1 serving.

For the pea hummus
3 sprigs mint
100g frozen petit pois
1tbs tahini
1tbs natural yogurt
juice of up to 1/2 a lemon
black pepper and salt to taste

  • Put the mint sprigs into a pan and fill with cold water. Bring the water to a boil.
  • Tip the frozen peas in and bring back to the boil.
  • Drain and rinse in several changes of cold water (to preserve the bright colour). Remove mint and discard.
  • Tip onto a paper towel to blot up the excess moisture.
  • Weigh out 50g of peas and set the rest aside.
  • Put the 50g of peas, tahini, yogurt and a squeeze of lemon juice into a spice grinder or small food processor and blitz to a paste. Taste and season as required. Use more lemon juice or yogurt if the paste is too thick or too cloying. NB To make this hummus vegan, use olive oil instead of yogurt, and add a little extra lemon juice.

Cheese and pea mixture.
50g soft, spreadable goats cheese
40g cooked petit pois
salt and pepper to taste

  • Stir the peas and cheese together.
  • Season to taste.

Decoration
2 slices rye bread – packs in the supermarket tend to be uniform i size and handily pre-sliced.
1 cucumber (not all of this will be used)
more spreadable goats cheese (or cream cheese/mascarpone/ricotta)
pea shoots, mint sprigs, the remaining 10g cooked petit pois

To assemble

  • Cut each slice of rye bread into thirds.
  • For each slice, spread one third with a thick (1.5cm) layer of the pea and goats cheese.
  • Lay a second piece of rye bread on top and spread thickly with the pea hummus. Any leftover hummus can be eaten with carrot/celery sticks for a more substantial lunch.
  • Add the final layer of rye bread. Repeat for the second sandwich.
  • Spread the sides and top of the sandwiches with a thin layer of goats cheese. This will help the salad shoots and cucumber adhere and also keep the sandwich from drying out.
  • Arrange the pea shoots and mint sprigs over the top of the sandwich, pressing them lightly into the layer of goat’s cheese.
  • Using a Y-shaped peeler or mandolin, cut a thin ribbon of cucumber for each sandwich. Press the cucumber between a sheet of kitchen roll to absorb the excess moisture.
  • Wrap the sandwiches in the cucumber ribbon, neatening the sides. Depending on the size of the ribbon, you may require more than one to fully wrap the sandwich.
  • Sprinkle the remaining 10g of petit pois over the top of the sandwiches and enjoy!

Lane Cake

Lane Cake

Wotchers!

This is my End-Of-Term post for 2014, before taking a short break over the summer to do Stuff™, and so I have chosen a cake that has been on my ToDo list for many a moon.

This is Ms Emma Rylander Lane’s Prize Cake, with which she was declared champion at the Georgia State Fair, Columbus in 1898. It is also the cake immortalised in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird. When the novel’s narrator, Scout Finch, described the celebrations for the arrival of her aunt Alexandra, she declared:

Miss Maudie Atkinson baked a Lane cake so loaded with shinny[1] it made me tight.

Miss Maudie later decides that a Lane Cake is in order when a neighbour is hurt on the night Miss Maudie’s house catches fire.

“Mr. Avery will be in bed for a week – he’s right stove up. He’s too old to do things like that and I told him so. Soon as I can get my hands clean and when Stephanie Crawford’s not looking, I’ll make him a Lane cake. That Stephanie’s been after my recipe for thirty years, and if she thinks I’ll give it to her just because I’m staying with her she’s got another think coming.”

Over the years, the Lane Cake has suffered several adulterations and been added to and embellished like a baking Pass The Message game, and what is now purported to be a Lane Cake is frequently a far cry from the prize-winning original.

The original cake is deceptively simple: a sponge cake made with egg-whites and a dazzlingly white meringue frosting. The star, however, is the filling: a rich, sweetened egg-curd studded with raisins and shimmering with alcohol, in this case brandy although whiskey is another option.

I love the fact that, not only was the Lane Cake a special occasion cake, it was also a nineteenth century humble-brag. Refined Southern ladies would not be so coarse as to boast about their baking skills *pauses to sink gracefully onto a nearby chaise-longue and flutters fan coyly* but it would be patently obvious to anyone with any baking ability just how impressive a Lane Cake was in terms of demonstrating the baker’s skill. Not only were there few gadgets for whisking eggs and creaming butter/sugar to ensure an airy sponge, the ovens were unpredictable in terms of both strength and duration of heat. Making the filling without curdling the yolks or the frosting without burning the sugar was impressive indeed. I wouldn’t be surprised if the cook treated herself to a decent glug of shinny herself – with all that stress she’d have earned it!

I really like the contrast between the simplicity of the cake and frosting and the gutsy richness of the filling. I think the original recipe needs nothing adding to it – it’s delicious just as it is – although additions over the years have included coconut, cherries, pecans etc. Gilding the lily, in my opinion. To my mind it’s akin to someone ‘improving’ Chanel’s Little Black Dress until it resembles Carmen Miranda, complete with fruit hat.

Nevertheless, there’s a couple of things that will need your consideration/decision-making when making this cake.

  • Exactly as written, the cake is a little on the firm side. Personally I like it because of the contrast in texture between the filling, the cake and the frosting. Additionally, it makes for a more stable cake during assembly. However, if you’d like to have a lighter texture, consider whisking the egg-whites separately to stiff peaks, then folding them gently into the cake mixture after adding the flour and the milk. Your call.
  • Also, the cake doesn’t have any flavouring as such. Creamy milk, rich butter and fresh eggs should be sufficient, however, if you prefer your cakes to have a definite flavor, then add 1tsp vanilla extract to the batter.
  • Due to the liquids added after cooking, the filling might need a little help in order to stay a ‘filling’ and not become an ‘oozing out and dripping down’. You can add more yolks, or consider making the mixture thicker and more of a custard by adding a little cornflour mixed with water and cooking it until thick. Emma Lane recommends letting the assembled cake stand for a day or two before cutting, and this would enable any extra liquid to be absorbed by the sponge layers, however you would need to wrap the cake firmly in cling film or an acetate band in order to keep the filling between the cakes long enough to firm up. Alternatively, thicken with cornflour and then drizzle the cake with a little extra alcohol to moisten just before assembling.

This is the original Lane Cake recipe but for one fact: it’s half the size. The original recipe called for the mixture to be shared between four cake pans, which I don’t have. Now I know I could have used 2 tins and then split each cake horizontally, but I also don’t have a large enough audience to consume said cake once assembled. Making it just a two-layer cake is still an impressive-but-manageable size, and can also be easily scaled up should the occasion arise.

Have fun in the sun until next time – and don’t get too loaded with shinny! ;) M-A

Lane Cake

For the sponge
210g sifted plain flour [2]
1tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
113g unsalted butter – softened
200g caster sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
4 large egg-whites
120ml whole milk

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
  • Grease two 20cm sandwich tins. Cut a circle of baking parchment for each one and line the bases. Set aside.
  • Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  • Beat the butter until light and fluffy, then add the caster sugar and beat for a further 5-10 minutes until pale and fluffy.
  • Add the egg-whites one at a time. Beat well in before adding the next.
  • Add the milk and flour mixture alternately until fully combined.
  • Divide the mixture evenly between the prepared baking tins and smooth.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the cakes are risen and golden brown and have begun to shrink away from the sides of the pans.
  • Leave the cakes to cool in the tins for 5 minutes.
  • Turn the cakes out onto a wire rack and remove the sheet of baking parchment.
  • Gently turn the cakes the right way up and leave to cool completely.

For the filling
4 large egg yolks
100g caster sugar
30g butter – softened
75g seedless raisins – chopped
3tbs brandy or whisky
½tsp vanilla extract

  • Put the yolks sugar and butter into a pan and stir together over a medium heat until quite thick.
  • Remove pan from the heat and add the chopped raisins, alcohol and vanilla.
  • Cover with cling film and set aside to cool. If the filling is too runny when cold, consider using one of the options mentioned above to rectify.

For the Italian Meringue
50g egg whites (1-2 large)
pinch of cream of tartar
few drops of lemon juice
20g caster sugar
50ml water
100g caster sugar

  • In a standing mixer with a whisk attachment, whisk egg whites until foamy.
  • Add cream of tartar and lemon juice and continue whisking on medium-high speed until soft peaks form.
  • With the whisk running, slowly add the 20g of caster sugar in a steady stream.
  • When the egg whites reach stiff peaks, stop the whisk until the syrup is ready.
  • In a heavy saucepan, gently heat the 100g of caster sugar and water, swirling the pan until the sugar is dissolved. NB Don’t stir, or the sugar will crystallise and you will have to start again.
  • Turn the heat to high and cook the syrup until the soft ball stage on a sugar thermometer (115°C). NB Youmay have to tilt the pan in order to make the syrup deep enough for the sugar thermometer.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and wait until the syrup has stopped bubbling. If you’re not confident about pouring boiling syrup from a hot pan one-handed, pour the syrup into a plastic jug.
  • Switch the whisk to medium speed and slowly pour the cooked sugar into the stiffly beaten whites. NB This is the tricky part. If you are pouring the syrup straight from the pan, be sure your oven gloves are thick enough so that your hand is fully protected. Pour the sugar syrup in a steady stream so that it hits the side of the bowl just above the point where the beaters meet the side of the bowl. This will achieve 2 things: the syrup will cool and this will help avoid cooking and/or curdling the egg-whites and the beaters won’t get covered in sticky syrup.
  • Once all the syrup has been added, continue beating the egg-whites until the outside of the bowl feels cool. This will take between 10 and 15 minutes.

To assemble the cake.

  • Spread one cake with the cooled filling.
  • Place the other cake on top.
  • Coat the whole cake with the meringue.
  • Leave for 1-2 days before cutting to allow the flavours to mix. If chilled, allow to return to room temperature before serving.

[1] Slang for alcohol.

[2] Sifting the flour adds air, which in turn add lightness to the sponge. The quantity stated in the recipe is as a result of converting from US Cups. I might have sifted too much or too little air into the flour, so it’s more of a guideline than a hard and fast quantity. Keep some sifted flour on hand to add in case the cake mixture proves too loose.


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