Baguettes

Baguettes

Wotchers!

Behold the best baguettes I have ever made! Aren’t they pretty!?

Having enjoyed the luxury of freshly-baked bread whilst on holiday, I decided to see if I could capture all that crunchy goodness myself. I’ve had a few attempts over the years, but nothing has been particularly successful, the main fault usually being the consistency of the dough: it’s either to tight and bakes heavy, or it’s too lithe and bakes flat.

So I turned to the internet and found a genuine Frenchman who not only explained the legal requirements of the composition, i.e. since 1993 the “baguette de tradition française” must be made from wheat flour, water, yeast or levain or both, and common salt. It may contain up to 2% broad bean flour, up to 0.5% soya flour, and up to 0.3% wheat malt flour, but he also had a video demonstrating his method, which is what produced the fab loaves at the top of this post.

Caveat: The method is simple and straightforward if you have a mixer with a dough hook and an oven that will get really hot. If you don’t have both, then this is not the post for you.

Don’t be tempted to tweak the recipe – I have been there and done that already, so I’ve saved you time. Don’t get lazy with the measuring of the ingredients, or try and rush the rising time. Just follow the instructions as they are written and all will be well.

You will also need a large container to store your dough in the fridge for the required time, with enough room for it to expand – I have a 5 litre plastic box with a lid that just squeezes onto a shelf.

If you’d like to watch the video, you can find it here.

Aside from translating from French, I have not changed this recipe at all.

Baguette Crumb

Baguettes

The method for this dough does not require much effort, only time. Be sure to allow each stage its full allotment of resting time. One batch of this dough is just enough for five standard baguettes, although I have been making just four, and adding the remaining dough to the next batch of baguette dough, as a levain.

Stage 1 – autolyse

1kg strong white flour
650ml water

  • Put the flour and water into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and mix on slow for 4 minutes.
  • Cover the bowl with a clean cloth and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes.

Stage 2 – mixing the dough
20g salt
8g fresh yeast, or 1 sachet fast-action yeast
70ml water

  • Add the salt and yeast and mix for 8 minutes on slow.
  • Add the water and mix for 3 minutes on fast. The dough will now weigh almost 1.8kg, so unless your machine is heavy-duty, you might want to hold it steady for this part. At the end of the mixing the dough will be soft, elastic and very shiny.
  • Cover the bowl with a clean cloth and allow to rest for 1 hour.
  • Deflate the dough – I use a few turns of the dough hook.
  • Cover the bowl with a clean cloth and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
  • Transfer the dough to a box, cover and store in the fridge for a minimum of 6 and up to 48 hrs.

Stage 3 – dividing the dough

I recommend watching the video above to see how to handle the dough – it’s a controlled ‘tip’ and gentle initial shaping of the dough.

  • After a minimum of 6 hours, tip out the cold dough and divide into standard baguette pieces of 350g. You can just bake a single baguette at a time and store the rest of the dough until needed. You could divide the whole batch, and then keep the loosely shaped pieces of dough in your covered box until required. Sprinkle the dough being stored with flour to help prevent  crust from forming.
  • Gently draw the dough pieces into a soft cylinder and allow to relax for 15-30 minutes.

Stage 4 – shaping the dough

  • Even though the loaves above look OK, my shaping skills still needs refining. Nevertheless, they improved greatly after watching these two videos which can show you far better than I could explain: Video 1, Video 2.
  • Sprinkle a baking sheet with semolina and lay your shaped baguette(s) on it.
  • Sprinkle the top of the baguettes with flour to help prevent them from drying out, cover with a clean cloth and allow to rise for at least 1 hour. Now that the warm weather has disappeared, and depending on the temperature of your kitchen, you might want to allow it a little longer to rise.
  • Put a baking tray in the bottom of your oven and pre-heat it to 300°C, 280°C Fan. No, that it’s a typo. You need a roaring hot oven to bake these. If you don’t think your oven can get that hot then just crank it up as high as it will go.
  • Have ready a jug of warm-hot water.
  • When your baguette is risen, just before putting it into the oven, slash the top four times to allow the dough to expand neatly as it bakes.
  • Put the dough into the oven, pour the water into the hot baking tray underneath, and bake for 20 minutes. NB Even though my oven DOES go up to 280°C Fan, the bottom of the baguettes sound ‘heavy’ when tapped after 20 minutes, so even at this temperature I still need an extra five minutes (for a total of 25) to get that nice, hollow, well-baked sound.
  • Cool on a wire rack.

 


Jesuits

Jesuit Pastries

Wotchers!

The recipe this week, as with most of my late-summer posts, is inspired by holidays in France. In addition to the usual holiday activities, this year we also enjoyed WiFi where we were staying, and I was able to binge-watch many episodes of the French version of Britain’s Best Bakery.

In true Bake Off style, each bakery is graded across three rounds: initial visit and tastings, specialist round, and group challenge – where the 3 (later dropped to just 2) bakeries in the region make a recipe set by the judges.

The most recent series has emphasized bread for the second round, so the bakeries must present their best-seller or their most favourite of their bread range, but in earlier seasons, there was no such stipulation, and bakeries could put forward whichever of their products they liked.

One of the bakeries in the Aquitaine Nord region put forward these pastries which really caught my eye as being both simple yet flavoursome. The contrast between the crisp pastry and the soft, moist filling, together with the obvious enjoyment of the two judges, struck me as so delicious and so unusual, I decided to try them myself. Helpfully, the programs also show the bakeries making these recipes, although omitting for the most part any details such as weights, oven timings and even the full list of ingredients. Nevertheless, I managed to piece together this recipe and here we are.

Jesuits get their name from their triangular form, resembling the headgear worn by Jesuit priests in the 17th century. There doesn’t seem to be any further link to the priesthood at all, so we can move swiftly on to their structure. A orange-flavoured almond sponge, or frangipane, is baked between two sheets of puff pastry. Once cooked and cooled, the pastry is cut into triangles and coated with Italian meringue, and briefly returned to the oven to bake until lightly tinted brown.

Apart from being delicious, these are incredibly simple to make. Like the bakery in the program, I initially made a large ‘tray bake’ and then cut it into triangles, but you could also make individual-sized portions. The frangipane is easily customised to any flavouring you like, and the meringue coating is not compulsory – you can just spread a layer on top if you prefer (it’d be a lot less sticky to do, too). Several versions ‘out there’ have only a simple water glaze if meringue isn’t a favourite. You could even omit it altogether: the simple, crisp, unadorned, butter pastry is a great contrast to the soft, moist, orangey, almond filling. If you think that this version sounds more your thing, I recommend making individual pastries – any shape, although I find (Mille-feuille/custard slice sized) rectangles both easy and most appealing.

Jesuits Plain

The classic topping is almonds, flaked or chopped, but for the large bake, I was out of both and so opted for nibbed sugar, which added both sparkle and crunch. The plain pastries can be adorned with a brush of syrup and some flaked almonds for the last 10 minutes of baking and then finished off with a dusting of icing sugar, or indeed nothing at all.

Variation: Ground hazelnuts, if you can find them, make a fantastic pairing with candied orange.

Obviously, you could hand-make your puff pastry, using only the very best ingredients and taking two days to do so, but for speed, practicality, and the unknown quality of a new recipe, a roll of ready-made is the sensible choice. Splash out on an all-butter version. Go wild.

Jesuits

2 sheets puff pastry
100g unsalted butter, softened
100g caster sugar
2 large eggs
100g ground almonds
50g candied orange peel, chopped fine
grated zest of 2 oranges
2-3tbs orange liqueur (optional)

To finish – all are optional
Italian Meringue
sugar syrup – I used the syrup from the candied orange peel.
flaked or chopped almonds for sprinkling
icing sugar to dust

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Dock the pastry sheets with a pastry docker or use the tines of a fork to poke holes all over.
  • Whisk the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat again until the mixture is pale and light.
  • Add the eggs, one by one, ensuring the first is thoroughly incorporated before adding the second.
  • When the eggs are incorporated, fold in the almonds, orange peel and zest, and liqueur if using.
  • Transfer the mixture to a piping bag fitted with 1 plain, 2cm tip.
  • Lay one of the pastry sheets onto a baking sheet on a piece of parchment.
  • Pipe the mixture evenly onto the pastry in a rectangle, leaving a border of at least 3cm around the edges.
  • Brush the edges with water and lay the second sheet of pastry over the filling. Press the edges firmly, trying to trap as little air as possible.
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the pastry is crisp and golden. NB For individual pastries, you need bake for only 30 minutes, brushing with syrup and sprinkling  them with flaked almonds for the last 10 minutes.
  • Cool on a wire rack.
  • When just warm, cut off the excess pastry from around the edges and then divide the filled pastry into triangles. The size is entirely up to you. You can either enjoy them as is, or add the meringue and almond coating.
  • Make an Italian meringue. My recipe is here.
  • Lay a fresh piece of parchment onto a baking sheet.
  • Coat the sides and the top of each pastry with a layer of meringue, no more than 1cm thick.
  • Lay the coated pastry onto the parchment.
  • When all pastries are coated, sprinkle them with the chopped/flaked almonds and bake for 10 minutes until the meringue is lightly browned.
  • Enjoy warm, or allow to cool.
  • If covered with meringue, these are best on the day they are baked. Unadorned pastries can be enjoyed for 2-3 days. Crisp them up by warming gently in a low oven.

Khachapuri

Wotchers!

Bread and cheese is a classic pairing. With these two ingredients, you know you’re in for something tasty, and khachapuri, the cheese-stuffed Georgian breads, are a fine example of the very best dough-based snacking/carbohydrate comas that these ingredients can offer.

That said, there’s also a great deal more to khachapuri than just bread and cheese, and after years of gathering both recipes and information, I’d like to present a modest collection of just ten of the wonderful variety of dishes available under the khachapuri umbrella.

Khachapuri Dough

Whilst the regional differences of this dish can be quite startling, for the most part a great number of them can begin with one batch of dough. Whilst I have tried several over the years, this one is my favourite for the delicious softness and pillowy-lightness of the end result. To a certain extent, it is rather vague, as the flour quantity might well vary, depending on the moisture content of the other ingredients. For best results, allow the dough to mature in the fridge for 2-3 days, but you can also use it after only one night if you’re impatient

1 litre plain, fat-free yogurt
50g butter
40g fresh yeast
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
1tbs sugar
1tsp salt

Strong white flour to mix

  • Put the first six ingredients into a large bowl and mix to combine.
  • Gradually sprinkle in the flour until the whole comes together into a soft dough.
  • Knead thoroughly, until the dough is smooth.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic film and a clean cloth and allow to rise for 1 hour.
  • Tip out the risen dough and knock back.
  • Transfer to a suitable container, cover and chill in the fridge for up to 3 days, or until required.

 

Cheese filling

As previously mentioned, a great number of regional khachapuri can be formed from the one dough. A number also feature a mixture of local soft Imeruli and Sulguni cheeses. If you have no access to these cheeses, you can make your own mixture from those you do have to hand. A popular pairing that provides both the tang and melting qualities of the original is equal proportions of crumbled feta and grated/diced mozzarella. My own preference is for equal quantities of feta and Taleggio or Reblochon. The quantities required are, of course, dependant on the size and quantity of khachapuri you are making, but a generous 100-200g of cheese per 100g of dough is a very workable guideline.

Imeretian/Imeruli

From the central Georgian region of Imereti, the Imeruli khachapuri is a circular loaf with a cheese filling, and is the most common form of khachapuri.

For 1 Imeruli khachapuri:

100g risen and chilled khachapuri dough
100-200g grated cheese mixture
a little beaten egg (optional)
20g cube butter for glazing

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Put the dough onto a flour-covered surface and using your fingers, press out into a 20cm diameter circle.
  • Pile the cheese mixture into the middle of the dough. You can use a little beaten egg to bind it together if liked.
  • Fold the edges towards the middle and gather them together, pinching them closed. Try not to trap any air inside as it will cause bubbles during the cooking.
  • When the dough is sealed around the filling, turn the dough over so that the seal is underneath.
  • Using the hands, gently press the dough out to a circle of about 20cm, taking care not to rip or tear the dough.
  • Transfer to a lined baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes until the dough is cooked and speckled with brown.
  • Stick a fork into the cube of butter and use it to rub the butter all over the surface of the cooked bread to glaze.
  • Cut into wedges and serve.

Mingrelian/Megruli:

As above but with an additional 50g of cheese sprinkled on top before baking.

Adjarian/Acharuli/Adjaruli:

In the south-west corner of Georgia, Adjaria lies on the coast of the Black Sea and has close geographical and cultural ties with Turkey. The Adjarian khachapuri is boat-shaped, and filled with cheese. Towards the end of cooking, an egg is cracked onto the bubbling cheese and the loaf returned to the oven until the egg white is cooked and the yolk warmed but runny. A  pat of butter is added just before serving.

For 1 Adjaruli khachapuri:

100g risen and chilled khachapuri dough
100-200g grated cheese mixture
1 large egg
20g cube of butter
additional butter for glazing

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Put the dough onto a flour-covered surface and roll out to a rectangle 30cm x 15cm.
  • To form the sides of the boat, starting at one end, roll the dough towards the middle. Repeat for the other side, so that the dough then resembles a scroll.
  • For each end, cross one end over the other and pinch the edges together firmly.
  • When both ends have been pinched together, hold the dough at each end and push towards each other gently: this will force the rolls apart and thus form the boat shape.
  • Add the cheese into the boat and transfer to a lined baking sheet.
  • Bake for 15 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and stir the cheese filling. If liked, you can use the tines of a fork to scoop out any underdone dough from underneath the thick sides before cracking the egg onto the hot filling.
  • Return the khachapuri to the oven until the egg is cooked to your liking.
  • Glaze the edges of the pie with butter, add the cube of butter and serve.
  • You can tear off pieces of the edge to dip into the middle.

 

Ossetian/Osuri:

Ossetia straddles the border between Georgia and Russia, with Northern Ossetia under Russian control, and South Ossetia lying within Georgia’s borders. The Osuri khachapuri is circular, with a filling of potato and cheese.

For 1 Osuri khachapuri:

100g risen and chilled khachapuri dough
100g mashed potatoes
25g butter
125g grated cheese mixture
salt and pepper to taste
20g cube of butter for glazing

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Mash the potatoes while hot and stir in the butter. Mix in the cheese and set aside.
  • Put the dough onto a flour-covered surface and using your fingers, press out into a 20cm diameter circle.
  • Pile the cheese and potato mixture into the middle of the dough.
  • Fold the edges towards the middle and gather them together, pinching them closed. Try not to trap any air inside as it will cause bubbles during the cooking.
  • When the dough is sealed around the filling, turn the dough over so that the seal is underneath.
  • Using the hands, gently press the dough out to a circle of about 20cm, taking care not to rip or tear the dough.
  • Transfer to a lined baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes until the dough is cooked and speckled with brown.
  • Stick a fork into the cube of butter and use it to rub the butter all over the surface of the cooked bread to glaze.
  • Cut into wedges and serve.

 

Kartopiliani:

These pies contain no cheese, being filled instead with a savoury mixture of mashed potato, fresh dill and onion.

For 1 kartopiliani khachapuri:

100g risen and chilled khachapuri dough
150g mashed potatoes
1tbs butter
chopped fresh dill to taste (optional)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2tbs cooking oil
salt and pepper to taste
20g cube of butter for glazing

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Mash the potatoes while hot and stir in the butter. Mix in the dill, if using, and set aside.
  • Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onions until browned. Add onions to the potato mixture and stir to combine.
  • Put the dough onto a flour-covered surface and using your fingers, press out into a 20cm diameter circle.
  • Pile the potato mixture into the middle of the dough.
  • Fold the edges of the dough towards the middle and gather them together, pinching them closed. Try not to trap any air inside as it will cause bubbles during the cooking.
  • When the dough is sealed around the filling, turn the dough over so that the seal is underneath.
  • Using the hands, gently press the dough out to a circle of about 20cm, taking care not to rip or tear the dough.
  • Transfer to a lined baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes until the dough is cooked and speckled with brown.
  • Stick a fork into the cube of butter and use it to rub the butter all over the surface of the cooked bread to glaze.
  • Cut into wedges and serve.

Gurian/Guruli khachapuri:

Guria is a province in the west of Georgia, on the shores of the Black Sea. To the south is Adjaria, and Imereti lies to the north. The Gurian khachapuri also rejoices in the name of Christmas Pie and, unusually, is crescent-shaped. Baked as part of the celebrations during the midwinter feast, they are filled with cheese and hard-boiled eggs, the shape supposedly resembling the crescent moon or a hunter’s billhook.

For 1 Gurian khachapuri:

100g risen and chilled khachapuri dough
100-200g grated cheese mixture
a little beaten egg (optional)
1 hard-boiled egg
20g cube butter for glazing

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Put the dough onto a flour-covered surface and using your fingers, press out into a 20cm diameter circle.
  • Pile the cheese mixture onto one half of the dough. You can use a little beaten egg to bind it together if liked.
  • Cut the boiled egg in half lengthways and lay, cut side down, on top of the cheese.
  • Fold the edge of the dough over the filling and pinch the edges together. Mould the filled dough into a more crescent shape if liked. Try not to trap any air inside as it will cause bubbles during the cooking.
  • Transfer to a lined baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes until the dough is cooked and speckled with brown.
  • Stick a fork into the cube of butter and use it to rub the butter all over the surface of the cooked bread to glaze.
  • Serve warm.

 

Ossetian

These circular breads are popular in South Ossetia. If you can’t get any beetroot leaves, you can substitute with Swiss Chard, kale, or spinach.

100g risen and chilled khachapuri dough
The leaves from 4-5 beetroot
100g cheese mixture
salt and pepper to taste
20g cube of butter for glazing

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Bring a pan of water to the boil and drop in the beetroot leaves.
  • Allow the leaves to simmer for 3 minutes, then drain.
  • Repeat the blanching, then drop the drained leaves into a bowl of cold water to refresh.
  • When cooled, dry the leaves on kitchen paper and cut away the fibrous stalks. Chop the leaves finely before mixing them with the cheese.
  • Season to taste.
  • Put the dough onto a flour-covered surface and using your fingers, press out into a 20cm diameter circle.
  • Pile the cheese mixture into the middle of the dough.
  • Fold the edges of the dough towards the middle and gather them together, pinching them closed. Try not to trap any air inside as it will cause bubbles during the cooking.
  • When the dough is sealed around the filling, turn the dough over so that the seal is underneath.
  • Using the hands, gently press the dough out to a circle of about 20cm, taking care not to rip or tear the dough.
  • Transfer to a lined baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes until the dough is cooked and speckled with brown.
  • Stick a fork into the cube of butter and use it to rub the butter all over the surface of the cooked bread to glaze.
  • Cut in

Lobiani Khachapuri:

Lobio is Georgian for kidney bean and lobiani is a seasoned, savoury paste makes a very popular khachapuri filling. Obviously, home-cooked beans will taste the best, but if you’re only making one khachapuri, then you can use ready-cooked, tinned beans. The recipe for cooking your own lobio is given below, and includes bacon, but this version is vegetarian.

For 1 Lobiani khachapuri:

100g risen and chilled khachapuri dough
1 x 400g tin of kidney beans
1tbs butter
chopped fresh savory to taste (optional)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2tbs cooking oil
salt and pepper to taste
20g cube of butter for glazing

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Tip the beans into a pan and slowly bring them to a simmer to warm them though.
  • Drain the beans and mash thoroughly with the butter and savoury.
  • Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onions until browned. Add onions to the bean mixture and stir to combine. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  • Put the dough onto a flour-covered surface and using your fingers, press out into a 20cm diameter circle.
  • Pile the bean mixture into the middle of the dough.
  • Fold the edges of the dough towards the middle and gather them together, pinching them closed. Try not to trap any air inside as it will cause bubbles during the cooking.
  • When the dough is sealed around the filling, turn the dough over so that the seal is underneath.
  • Using the hands, gently press the dough out to a circle of about 20cm, taking care not to rip or tear the dough.
  • Transfer to a lined baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes until the dough is cooked and speckled with brown.
  • Stick a fork into the cube of butter and use it to rub the butter all over the surface of the cooked bread to glaze.
  • Cut into wedges and serve.

 

Rachuli khachapuri:

Similar to Lobiani, but with the addition of meat in both the cooking of the beans, and the filling itself. The method is the same as above, so the recipe here is for cooking and flavouring the beans yourself. This makes a generous quantity, but the mixture can be frozen if it is not being used all at once.

For the seasoned bean filling:

500g dried kidney beans
250g smoked gammon or bacon
4 bay leaves
2 cloves of garlic
50g unsalted butter

  • Soak the beans overnight.
  • Drain, add the beans, meat, bay leaves and garlic to a pan and add enough cold water to cover.
  • Bring the pan to a boil for 15 minutes. This is important in order to destroy the toxin present in the dried beans.
  • Cover and simmer until the beans are thoroughly cooked through. This will vary according to the age of the beans: about an hour for relatively fresh beans, longer for older.
  • When the beans are tender, drain and discard the cooking water, garlic and bay leaves.
  • Set the meat aside and mash the hot beans with the butter.
  • Chop the meat into fine dice and stir into the bean paste.
  • Season and proceed as above.

Penovani khachapuri:

The Penovani khachapuri is the easiest, simplest and speediest of all the regional variations. Together with the cheese mix of your choice, all that is required is some puff pastry and a little egg.

1 square of puff pastry
100-200g cheese mixture
beaten egg to bind and for glazing

  • Preheat the oven to 220°C, 200°C Fan.
  • Lay the square of puff pastry on a floured surface.
  • Pile the cheese mixture into the middle. You can use a little beaten egg to bind if liked.
  • Fold the corners of the pastry towards the middle and pinch the edges together to seal, envelope-style.
  • Brush with beaten egg to glaze, then bake for 20-25 minutes, depending on the size, until the pastry is puffed and golden and the filling melted.
  • Serve at once.

Rainbow Cake

Wotchers!

Regular listeners might remember, back in October (2016), my oven died a week before my daughter’s birthday, which ended up resulting in a six-month wait for an entirely new kitchen. I promised to make her a birthday cake when the new kitchen was  installed, and the request was put in for a rainbow cake. A few glitches here and there, meant that I only got around to it a couple of weeks ago.

This is not that cake. That cake I didn’t photograph. That cake was just for her, and consumed at all times of the day and night, including breakfast, until she waved the white flag in defeat. The idea for this cake came out of that cake.

It also gives me an opportunity to have a bit of a rant over a pet peeve of mine, namely food colouring. Yes, in a post about rainbow cake, I’m going to complain about food colouring.

Regular viewers might remember previous rants including making-stuff-look-like-stuff-it-isn’t, featuring the infamous Come Dine With Me chocolate shoe incident. A few weeks ago, I revealed my dislike of over-the-top recipes. Rainbow cakes are now part of the Things-Which-Induce-Much-Gnashing-And-Grinding-Of-Teeth.

ANYHOO…

The usual way to make a rainbow cake involves seven layers of luridly-coloured sponge cake, interspersed with dollops of unnaturally-white buttercream. Then the whole is smothered with more highly-coloured sweets or fondant or buttercream, etc, etc. Sometimes the brightly-coloured sponge is mixed together in blobs, but in general the format is pretty standard, and it all involves So. Much. Food. Colouring.

But none of this is a patch on the über villain when it comes to coloured cakes, the Red Velvet Cake.

What originally started out as a reddish hue from a reaction between the cocoa and the vinegar/buttermilk has, in the 21st century, turned into a virulent-red chocolate cake dyed with food colouring. Bottles of the stuff. Modern, concentrated gel colours mean that not as much, by volume, is required, but still. It’s a chocolate cake, people. And it’s red. Bright red. Think about that. Enough colouring to turn a chocolate cake red.

And with both red velvet and rainbow cakes, the cake itself doesn’t strike me as being particularly nice, quite apart from the American penchant for making them up using *Matilda Response*[1] box mixes.

 

Moving on…

I wanted to see if it was possible to make a rainbow cake using the bare minimum of food colouring, that actually tasted nice, and so here we are.

The answer lies in the classic Joconde Imprime, which you may well remember from the Great British Bake Off Season 2 and my  Chocolate & Orange Mousse Cake and the miniature Strawberry & Rhubarb cheesecakes from my Finale showstopper: A coloured, pound-cake paste is used to draw a design onto baking parchment, then frozen. A light, almond sponge mixture is then poured over and smoothed out, before baking in a hot oven for 5-7 minutes. When the cake is turned out, the pattern is visible on the underside of the sheets, which can then be used to make entremet-style desserts. ‘Course, back then, an orange squiggle or a red stripe was considered pretty cutting edge. Nowadays it looks tame.

Usually, the Joconde paste is piped into the desired pattern, but once cooked it can make for a rather clunky contrast with the sponge (pound cake mix vs light, airy Joconde). One solution would be to use a teeny, tiny piping tip but then it takes sooooooo looooooong to fill the parchment with a design.

I mixed a small batch of the joconde paste and divided it into seven, colouring each portion with food-gel colouring and white powder colour. I painted rainbow stripes on one parchment sheet, and two designs for the top of the cake on the other sheet. You could pipe the paste, but the thickness of the colour paste when painted on was extremely thin, leaving most of the vanilla sponge uncoloured and delicious as can be seen below. All the colour, with none of the bulk.

Cake Profile with rainbow colours

The inside of the cake can be whatever you like. This one is filled with two layers of strawberries in a cream-cheese cream, with the offcuts from the sponge being fitted together, jigsaw-style, to make a middle layer. Alternatively, you could make it a mousse or cheesecake or Eton Mess  or buttercream – the possibilities are endless – although something that will ‘set’ will help the stability of the cake once it is removed from the mould.

You can make the rainbow pattern any design you like, however the stripes are very easy to match up, which helps to hide the join – see below. This 19cm diameter cake needed a strip of sponge almost 70cm long to form the sides – impossible to bake in a single strip.

A few more tips:

  • You can make the sponge any flavour, but I got by far the best results (in terms of colour) from vanilla.
  • Chocolate joconde makes the colours very muted and the blue/indigo/violet were almost indistinguishable. Avoid.
  • Mixing in some white food colouring (powder) to the Joconde paste made the colours much stronger once cooked. Before baking, they are pale and more pastel in hue. Have faith!
  • Make sure the decor paste covers the parchment entirely. Early experiments piping the colours and leaving gaps between resulted in large air pockets forming and spoiling the finished pattern.
  • You can get an almost invisible join between the sides and the disc of sponge used for the top if you make sure your filling is almost to the rim and you mitre the edges of the sponges.
  • The vanilla cream decoration was piped through a piping bag striped with neat gel colouring.
  • Depending on the complexity of your design, you might want to spend time on it a day or two before you need your cake – once complete, it can stay in the freezer until needed.

Rainbow Cake Top

Rainbow Cake

Joconde décor paste
50g unsalted butter, softened
50g icing sugar
50g egg whites
60g plain flour
rainbow food colours
white food colouring powder
2tbs melted, clarified butter

  • Line two 45cm x 30cm (half sheet) baking trays with baking parchment and brush thoroughly with the melted butter. Clarified butter contains no milk solids that might scorch and spoil the colours of the design. Alternatives are cocoa butter or coconut butter.
  • Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy then gradually add the egg whites, beating continuously.
  • Fold in the sifted flour.
  • Divide into seven small bowls, 30g in each bowl.
  • Mix in the food colouring to each bowl until the desired shade is achieved. I also added about half a teaspoon of white colouring.
  • Paint your designs for the sides and top of the cake onto the two sheets of buttered parchment.
  • When finished, put into the freezer until required.

Joconde sponge
180g egg whites, at room temperature
25g granulated sugar
225g ground almonds
225g icing sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
2tsp vanilla extract
80g plain flour
85g clarified butter, melted

  • Preheat the oven to 220°C, 200°C Fan
  • Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks.
  • Add the granulated sugar and continue whisking until stiff peaks are formed.
  • Scrape the meringue mixture into a bowl and cover with cling film to prevent the meringue collapsing, or if you have two mixer bowls, just swap over a clean one.
  • Beat the almonds, icing sugar, vanilla and eggs in the bowl for 5 minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  • Turn the speed down to low and mix in the flour.
  • Gently fold in the meringue mixture using a large spatula.
  • Put the melted butter in a small bowl and mix in a cupful of the sponge batter. Pour this back into the mixing bowl and gently fold into the rest of batter.
  • Retrieve your Joconde paste designs from the freezer and lay them into your baking trays.
  • Divide the mixture evenly between the tins and smooth over. Pay special attention to the corners, where it is easy to accidentally leave the batter a little on the thin side.
  • Bake for 5-7 minutes, until the sponges are cooked and springy to the touch and have shrunk away from the edges of the pan.
  • Turn out by laying a tea towel onto a sheet of parchment, then flip the baking tray over onto the cloth. Peel off the paper to reveal the pattern, and lay it lightly on top of the sponge. Leave to cool.
  • When cooled, cut strips of sponge to line the sides of the cake tin, ensuring the pattern is facing outwards against the sides of the tin. Cut a circle of sponge to line the base and lay it patterned-side down, in the bottom of the tin. Cut a second circle to make the top of the cake and set aside.
  • Fill with the filling of your choice. Use the sponge cake offcuts to make a middle layer of cake if liked.
  • Trim the edges of the sponge ‘lid’ and the sponge sides and join together.
  • Lay a chopping board on the top of the cake to press it lightly and chill for an hour or two to firm up.
  • Remove from the tin and transfer to your serving plate.
  • Garnish as liked.

 

 

[1] No not that one. The one from the Hillaire Belloc poem: (Matilda told such Dreadful Lies) It made one Gasp and Stretch one’s Eyes!


Apple Tartlets 2017

Apple Tartlets
Wotchers!

After six years I decided to revisit the Apple Rose Tarts I created for Season 2 of The Great British Bake Off.

These are essentially the same tarts, but with a bit of a make-over for the apple decoration. Looking less like roses, but still with a floral semblance, these variations are formed from a swirl of poached apple slices on top of a set apple compote.

You can, of course, use the filling from the originals, but this simplified variation means that these tarts can be prepped in advance, and then assembled just before serving, something that was possible, but rather tricky, with the rose tarts.

Puff Pastry Tartlets

I also experimented with using puff pastry. The above shells were created by draping puff pastry over the back of a star-shaped tart tin. The shell on the left was made from pastry cut with a six-petalled cutter. The form on the right was made using a large circular piece of pastry. In order to ensure they kept their shapes, a second tin ‘sandwiched’ the pastry inside, and a wire rack place on top to hold them in place. They were baked at 220°C, 200°C Fan for 15 minutes.

Apple Tartlets

Apple Compote
600g Bramley apples
4tbs water
200g caster sugar
juice of 1 lemon

sweet shortcrust pastry, cornflour pastry or ready-rolled puff pastry
red-skinned dessert apples as required
1 litre apple juice
250g caster sugar
red food colouring (optional)

  • Use the pastry to line and fully bake whichever tartlet shells you prefer.
  • Allow to cool on a wire rack.
  • When cooled, if not using immediately, store in an airtight container until required.
  • Peel, core and chop the Bramley apples.
  • Put them in a saucepan with the water and lemon juice. Cover and simmer over medium low heat until they become fluffy.
  • Stir briskly to remove any lumps, then add the sugar and stir until dissolved.
  • Continue to simmer until the mixture has thickened. Set aside.
  • Prepare the dessert apples. If you have a mandolin that can cut 2mm slices, core the apples and slice them with that. You will need to cut these slices in half before using them. Otherwise, cut the apples in half from top to bottom, remove the core and cut into exceedingly thin, semicircular slices, 2mm if possible.
  • Pour the apple juice into a saucepan and submerge the apple slices as you cut them , to prevent discolouration.
  • Simmer the apple slices gently for 10 minutes or until tender – You need the apples to be soft enough so that you can roll them, but not so soft as to fall apart.
  • Lift the apple slices from the syrup with a slotted spoon and allow to drain/cool in a sieve.
  • When cool enough to handle, lay out the apple slices as follows.

New Apple Roses

  • The slices should be laid exceedingly close together, so there is only about 3mm of each slice visible.
  • The overall length of the strip of apple slices needs to be at least 15cm in order to be curled round into a form that will sit inside a single, cupcake-sized pastry shell.
  • Cover the strips of apple slices until required.
  • Add the sugar to the apple juice and stir until dissolved.
  • Simmer over medium heat, until the juice has thickened into a syrup.
  • Add a little red gel food colouring to tint the syrup, if liked.
  • To assemble the tarts:
    • Warm the apple compote and spoon 1-2 tablespoons into each pastry case. Allow to cool. As it cools, it will firm up and give support to the apple decoration.
    • For each strip of apple slices:
      • Lift the strip from the board and stand it on the flat base of the slices.
      • Curl one end of the strip around in a circle until it meets the other end of the strip.
      • Check whether the form is small enough to fit into the pastry shell. If not, ease the slices round into a tighter circle.
      • Place the curled slices into the pastry shell. Keep a hold of the form with one hand until you’re sure it has all fitted inside. A cocktail stick is handy here for tucking in the ends of any sticking-out slices.
      • When everything is tucked inside, you can stop holding the form, as the pastry case will support it.
      • Use the cocktail stick, if necessary, to tweak the apple slices into place. I particularly like the subtle variations in the finished patterns, depending on the number and curl of the apple slices – see below.
      • Brush the apple slices generously with the apple syrup, and serve.

In case you missed it:

This week on DejaFood.uk: Jane Newton’s mini chicken & bacon pies!


Tropical Curd

Tropical Curd

Wotchers!

This is a summery variation on the Honey Curd recipe published on the blog a while ago, but this time made with the pulp of fresh tropical fruits, perfect for sandwiching summer sponge cakes, filling pastry tart shells, or drizzling over Pavlovas and meringues.

There are lots of Tropical Curd recipes out there, but none that I have read have this mix of fresh fruit. The passionfruit is strong and tangy, the mango adds mellowness and the banana provides both bulk and sweetness so that only a relatively small amount of honey is required. This particular mixture allows all the flavours to be tasted: first banana, then mango and vanilla, and finishing with passionfruit. The use of fruit pulp also means that there is a generous quantity of finished curd, providing more than enough after the above serving suggestions for enjoying on scones.

Due to the moisture content of the fruits varying, you may well have some fruit pulp left over once the quantities below have been measured out. You can choose to just throw it all in together anyways, or you can just eat the mango/banana pulp, and dilute any spare passionfruit juice with cold still/sparkling water in the manner of a fruit squash (1-2cm in the bottom of a glass). Without sugar, it is a delicious and refreshingly tart drink.

Top Tip:
If you have no spare jars, I recommend purchasing jars of jam/marmalade/lemon curd from the supermarkets ‘basics’ ranges, emptying them out[1] and putting the jars through the dishwasher. The heat/soapy water will help to remove the label and for as little as 35p you have a perfectly serviceable glass jar with a self-sealing ‘button’ lid.

Tropical Curd

12 passionfruit
1 mango
2 bananas
1 vanilla pod
150g runny honey
2 large eggs
2 large yolks
60g unsalted butter

  • Wash and dry 2 x 450g jars. Put them and the lids into a cold oven and turn the temperature to 120C/100C Fan and leave for 30 minutes.
  • Cut the passionfruit in half and scrape out the seeds into a sieve. Work the pulp through the sieve to remove all of the seeds. Keep working the seeds and scraping the pulp from underneath the sieve until there is just a mass of black seeds left in the sieve, with no visible pulp. There is around 15ml of pure passionfruit juice in each fruit, so this quantity will make between 150 and 180ml of juice.
  • Cover with cling film and set the juice aside.
  • Prepare the mango. Hold the mango so the thinner side is towards you, then cut the two fleshy sides from either side of the mango pit, starting at the top of the fruit.
  • Watch this video to see how to separate the mango flesh from the skin.
  • Chop the flesh roughly and place into a jug.
  • Use a stick blender to puree the flesh.
  • Sieve the mango puree to remove any small fibres.
  • Cover with cling film and set the puree aside.
  • Peel the bananas and break them into chunks.
  • Put the chunks in a jug and use a stick blender to puree the flesh.
  • Split the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds.
  • In a clean saucepan, put
    • the vanilla seeds
    • the scraped vanilla pod
    • 100g of passionfruit juice
    • 100g mango pulp
    • 150g banana pulp
    • 2 large eggs
    • 2 large yolks
    • 150g runny honey
    • 60g butter
  • Whisk over medium-low heat until the eggs have thickened the mixture. If you have a thermometer, the temperature needs only to get to 72°C.
  • Fish out the vanilla pod and then sieve the curd whilst hot to remove any pieces of pod that have become detached during the whisking.
  • Balancing the curd: This is where your own personal taste comes into play. The ripeness of the fruits you use to make the curd will also determine the finished flavour, which means that you might need to tweak the finished curd so that the flavours are balanced. Personally, I whisk in about 3 tablespoons of passionfruit juice at this stage, because the necessary heating has a dulling effect on the fresh burst of flavour that passionfruit has. If your bananas are very ripe, for eample, you might feel they are too dominant, and thus need to add in additional mango and passionfruit. It’s your decision. Remember: the flavour will change again as it cools/chills, so feel free to re-tweak the cold curd in order to get that perfect mix. Be sure to cover the curd with cling film as it cools, ensuring the film is in contact with the curd itself, to prevent a skin from forming.
  • When you’re happy with the flavour, pot in the sterilised jars and store in the fridge.

Variation
For a lighter, less indulgent-tasting curd, omit the vanilla.

If your idea of tropical requires the appearance of coconut, feel free to slosh in a tablespoon or two of Malibu once the curd has been removed from the heat. Make further additions to taste once it has cooled.

 

 

[1] Having read the list of ingredients on a ‘basic’ jar of lemon curd, I have neither qualms nor guilt disposing of the contents down the sink.


Cheese Biscuits with Tomato Jam

Cheese Biscuits with Tomato Jam

Wotchers!

A Bake Off recipe that never was, this week. Back in 2011, I was busy writing recipes for use on The Great British Bake Off, as all recipes had to be written and submitted before even one second of filming was completed.

Week 4 was Biscuit Week and right down to the wire I couldn’t decide whether to go with sweet Melting Moments or savoury Cheese Biscuits with Tomato Jam.

I love savoury, and the cheese biscuits were actually my first choice, because apart from being deliciously moreish, they provided a slight trompe l’oeil  by looking a little like (sweet) Jammie Dodgers. I even found a special biscuit press/mould that had a little indent, perfect for holding a blob of the tomato jam. I’ve had a look around and can now only find it sold on one website, in Australia, so if you’d like one for yourself, you can find it here.

As the days ticked by, I wrestled with the recipe but just couldn’t get the biscuit texture to my liking. So at the 11th hour I made the decision to go with the Melting Moments.

Rummaging around in the cellar recently, I came across the biscuit mould and decided to look out the recipe to see if I could successfully tweak it to my satisfaction, and here is the result.

The two changes I made I picked up from reading old recipe books, which pleases me greatly because it demonstrates how something old can still have uses and application today. The first was to substitute cornflour for some of the plain flour, as first mentioned on here in the recipe for Cheese and Potato Pies. This added the crispness and crumbliness I had been missing in the original recipe. The second tweak was to use freshly grated nutmeg in the seasoning (ready-ground just doesn’t have the same flavour in this instance) that I discovered in Mrs Frazer’s (1791) recipe for Macaroni Cheese (included in my NEW book, Deja Food), and which adds a fantastically complimentary note to the cheese flavour.

Don’t feel obliged to make/use the Tomato Jam – tomato chutney is just as delicious and the biscuits can also be enjoyed without any adornment at all.

Cheese Biscuits with Tomato Jam

Makes approx 40 small biscuits.

100g unsalted butter
155g of plain flour
45g cornflour (US cornstarch)
1/3 nutmeg – grated
pinch of salt
¼ teaspoon coarse-ground black pepper
60g grated parmesan cheese
A little cream or milk to mix

300g vine ripened tomatoes
1tbs tomato paste
50g caster sugar
2-3tbs lemon juice
pepper & salt to taste

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Put the butter, flours, seasoning and cheese into a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • With the motor running, drizzle in the milk/cream until the mixture comes together in a ball.
  • Roll out to a thickness of about 1cm, cover with cling film and chill in the fridge until firm – about 1 hour.
  • Cut out into rectangles 3cm x 5cm and arrange on a parchment-covered baking sheet. They can be fairly close together, as there is little spreading during baking.
  • Bake for 15-18 minutes, turning the baking sheet around after 8 minutes, to ensure even colouring.
  • When the biscuits are cooked through and golden brown, remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  • Best served/eaten on the day baked, they can also be stored in an airtight container and warmed through when needed to crisp up.
  • To make the Tomato Jam.
    • Cut a small cross in the tip of the tomatoes and place in a bowl.
    • Pour over boiling water and soak for 2 minutes, until the skins split.
    • Transfer to a bowl of cold water and leave for 5  minutes to cool.
    • Remove skins and discard.
    • Cut the tomatoes in half around the ‘equator’, and remove the seeds.
    • Chop the tomatoes into 5mm cubes and transfer to a small saucepan.
    • Sieve the seeds and transfer to juice/jelly to the pan also.
    • Add the sugar and paste and simmer over a medium heat until the excess liquid has evaporated and the jam has thickened.
    • Allow to cool, then stir through the lemon juice.
    • When cold, season to taste.
    • Spoon onto cooled biscuits as liked.
    • Store any unused jam in a jar in the fridge.