Dacquoise Sandwich Cakes

Dacquoise Sponge Sandwich

Wotchers!

The recipe I have for you this week is more a set of guidelines that can be adapted to whatever takes your fancy or whatever you have to hand in the cupboards.

These individual cakes were inspired by a picture I saw of a Swiss cake, the Zuger Kirchetorte, which looked delightfully neat and elegant, as one might expect of the Swiss. I tried several recipes, but became increasingly frustrated by my own ham-fistedness in reproducing the elegance: the sponge was too thick, or the meringue too thin, or too soft or too fragile. In addition, it had a LOT of alcohol in it, which is nice for a special occasion but a bit much during daylight hours.

So I abandoned that idea for something smaller, which owes its composition to the Zuger Kirchetorte, but is also much more adaptable: you can dress it up or down, depending on whatever is to hand, even improvise with ready-made components if time or patience is short.

Essentially, these individually-sized cakes are sandwiches, with a dacquoise (hazelnut meringue) as the ‘bread’ and sponge cake as the ‘filling’, all stuck together and decorated with the sandwich ‘glue’ of your choice. The look substantial, but are very light to eat.

The possibilities for variation are endless:

  • Meringue: I’ve used a hazelnut dacquoise but you could swap those out for pistachios, almonds, walnuts, cashews, macadamia nuts. You could even use plain meringue, or meringue shells from the supermarket. Alongside this, you can choose to flavour the meringues by adding in freeze-dried fruit powder to complement your other ingredients.
  • Sponge: literally any sponge will do, plain vanilla, rich madeira, moist almond, fatless, genoise, joconde, flavoured however you like.
  • Syrup: to make your sponge luscious and tender, you can soak it in a syrup of some kind. If you don’t want to have too many flavours, then a simple sugar syrup of half sugar, half water is fine.  Or you can add flavouring to the syrup such as coffee, tea infusions, fruit juices, spirits such as Kirch, Maraschino, Disaronno, mead, madeira, rum, brandy, etc.
  • Filling: I’ve used a dark chocolate ganache, to be honest, because I had some in the fridge left over from something else, but milk, white and caramelised are all good choices too, as are all flavours of buttercream. For simplicity, you can also use chocolate hazelnut spread, peanut butter (smooth or crunchy), spekuloos spread, even thick, smooth jams or fruit spreads.
  • Garnish: for the outsides of the cake, something that will stick on easily and match your other flavour choices. I chose nibbed and toasted hazelnuts, because I used them in the dacquoise, but you could use flaked or slivered nuts, feuilletine, crumbled biscuits, freeze-dried fruit, chocolate sprinkles, meringue crumbs, chocolate shards.

I used baking rings made from small tinned food tins (5cm diameter tins from mushy peas, in case you’re wondering) opened at both ends, but these quantities will also make one large, 24cm cake if you prefer.

Dacquoise Sandwich Cakes

Makes 8 individual sandwiches or 1 large 24cm cake.

For the Sponge

You can choose your own favourite sponge recipe if preferred. This fatless sponge recipe also happens to be gluten-free.

2 large eggs
60 g of caster sugar
a pinch of salt
1 tbsp hot water
50 g Green & Black’s cocoa
30 g of cornflour

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
  • Grease and line your tin(s) with baking parchment. Butter the parchment.
  • Sift the cocoa and cornflour together.
  • Whisk the eggs, sugar, water and salt together over a saucepan of hot water for 3-4 minutes, until light and frothy.
  • Remove from the heat and whisk until billowy and increased in volume (about 5 minutes).
  • Gradually fold in half the cocoa and cornflour, then add the remainder and fold in.
  • Transfer to your tin(s), filling each about half-way.
  • Bake for 10-15 minutes (20-25 minutes for a large cake) until firm and springy and slightly shrunk from the sides.
  • Cool on a wire rack.

For the Dacquoise

You can grind the hazelnuts finer, but I like the texture the slightly larger pieces give.

2 large eggwhites (80ml)
2 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp icing sugar
1 tbs cornflour
60 g chopped, toasted hazelnuts

  • Turn the oven to 120°C, 100°C Fan.
  • Draw 16 circles using your baking rings as a guide onto a sheet of parchment, 2 for each sandwich.
  • Turn the paper over and lay onto a baking sheet.
  • Whisk the egg-whites to soft peaks, then sprinkle in the caster sugar and whisk until the meringue is firm and glossy.
  • Sift the icing sugar and cornflour together and fold into the meringue.
  • Sprinkle in the nuts and briefly mix.
  • Spoon the dacquoise onto the prepared baking parchment and spread into the marked circles. Make sure it at least reaches the edges of the circles. It doesn’t have to be too accurate, as they can be trimmed after baking. Smooth over.
  • Bake for 1 hour.
  • Switch off the oven and allow the meringues to cool in the oven for 15 minutes, then prop the oven door open and allow to cool completely.
  • When cold, remove from the parchment and store in a ziplock bag until required.

For the Ganache

300g plain dark chocolate
150ml double cream

  • Chop the chocolate into small pieces.
  • Pour the cream into a small pan and bring to a boil.
  • Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and set aside for 5 minutes.
  • Stir gently with a whisk until the chocolate is fully melted and the ganache smooth and glossy.

For the syrup

50g caster sugar
50ml water
flavouring to suit

  • Put the sugar and water into a small pan and stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved.
  • Add any flavouring to taste.

To Assemble

  • Select the eight meringues with the smoothest bases and set aside. These will be used for the top of the sandwiches, for a neat finish.
  • Put the remaining meringues on a tray and spoon over a layer of ganache.
  • Trim the cakes level and set onto the ganache.
  • Soak with the sugar syrup. It’s almost impossible to use too little. You can see from the photograph the syrup I used only soaked a little way into the sponge, so more is better.
  • Add a second layer of ganache.
  • Add the remaining meringues, turning them upside down, so that the smooth bases are uppermost.
  • Sprinkle your decor into a tray.
  • Spread the remaining ganache in a smooth layer around the sides of the sandwiches then roll in your chosen decoration. Set aside. If you’ve made one large cake, then hold your cake on one hand and lift up handfuls of your decoration and press into the sides.
  • When all the sandwiches are coated, transfer to a dish and cover with clingfilm. This will keep the meringues from absorbing too much moisture.
  • Chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours to firm up.
  • When ready to serve, dust the tops liberally with icing sugar and use a hot skewer to caramelise the sugar in an abstract design.

Tomato Soup and a Toasted Sandwich

Tomato soup & Toasted Sandwich

Wotchers!

Simplicity is the order of the day with today’s post – the ultimate comfort food of tomato soup and a toasted sandwich. But just because it is simple, doesn’t mean there should be any compromise on flavour, and these recipes have maximum flavour with minimum fuss. Not as minimum as opening a tin, I grant you, but for just five active minutes of your time, this soup can be supped in just under an hour and is so simple, after the first time you won’t need to refer to the recipe ever again.

But do keep coming back to the blog, because I’d miss you otherwise!

Tomato Soup

This soup is extremely low in fat, gluten-free and vegetarian/vegan.

Tomato Soup and Oatcakes

Tomato Soup and Oatcakes – on a less gloomy day than the top photo!

Makes approx. 1.5 litres

2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes – Aldi ‘Sweet Harvest’ are best for colour/flavour/value
2tbs vegetable oil
1 onion
3tbs concentrated tomato paste
1 litre vegetable stock or water + bouillon
1 large potato to make 300g once peeled/cubed
salt & pepper to taste.

  • Pour the chopped tomatoes onto a shallow ovenproof fish and spread out into a thin layer.
  • Place in the oven and turn the heat to 220°C, 200°C Fan.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, stirring thoroughly after 15 minutes, or until no excess liquid is visible.
  • While the tomatoes are baking, peel and chop the onion.
  • Add the oil to a saucepan, then add the onion and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally. The object is to concentrate the flavour through evaporation, without allowing the onion to caramelise.
  • When the tomatoes are done, scrape them into the saucepan with the onion, and add the tomato paste, stock and cubed potato.
  • Cover and simmer on medium heat for 10-15 minutes or until the potato is cooked.
  • Use a stick blender to puree the soup.
  • Rub through a fine-meshed sieve for extra smoothness.
  • Return to the pan and warm through.
  • Taste & add salt and pepper as liked.

Variations

  • Add garlic: peel up to 6 cloves of garlic and toss them in the oil. Lift out and stir into the tomatoes to roast in the oven.
  • Spice it up: red pepper flakes, cayenne, paprika or herbs such as rosemary or basil.
  • Crunch time: Make some sippets by dicing bread into 1cm cubes and either frying them in a pan with oil or bake in the oven until crisped and brown.
  • Meatify me! : Make some little meatballs from beef or lamb mince, fry them in a pan, drain on kitchen roll and add to each bowl before serving.
  • Creamy: Add a little double cream or creme fraiche if liked, but in all honesty, it doesn’t need it.
  • Fast Forward: If you need this even more quickly, this can be ready in as little as half the time. Once the tomatoes are in the oven, put everything else in the saucepan and simmer while the tomatoes bake. When the tomatoes are ready, stir everything together and blitz smooth.

Toasted Sandwiches

Regular listeners will recall that over the winter I was without my oven, which included the grill I used for making toast. Yes, my kitchen is so small, I can’t afford to sacrifice the counter space for a toaster. So I used this method to make toast in a large non-stick pan, which makes delicious and perfect toast if you are prepared to wait the 10 minutes it takes to brown.

More usually, I use this method for toasted sandwiches because kitchen….small….no counter space…..etc, etc. but also because the toasted sandwiches it make are so much nicer than the ones I see made elsewhere AND it gives me a chance to have a bit of a rant, so here goes.

  • Butter on the outside of the bread.
    So greasy, and so messy too. I mean come on, people, we’re living in the 21st century with all its wonderful technological advances and more kitchen gadgetry than you could shake a stick at, which includes non-stick pans! There’s simply no need to go slathering on great schmears of butter on every available bread surface. Lay a slice of bread in a dry non-stick pan over heat, and it will brown, no fat needed.
  • Squished bread
    Whether by panini press or, if you’re old like me/in the UK/ both, by those electric sandwich makers, I’m just not a fan of bread being compressed and then welded together by melted cheese the temperature of LAVA. If you need industrial equipment to force your sandwich down to a manageable height for your mouth, you’re doing it wrong.
  • Squished fillings
    I like to savour every one of the additions to my melty cheese sandwich filling, which is tricky to do when it is squirting out the sides from being squished by some gadget.

The good news is, you don’t have to suffer any of the above with my patent-pending, counter-space-saving, practically-foolproof method of toasty sammich creation! The outsides of the sandwich are crisp, browned and free from grease and the insides are warm and melty. And so without further ado, on with the method!

The Non-Gadget Toasty Sammich Method

  • Put a clean, dry non-stick pan on medium-low heat to warm up.
  • Take 2 slices of your bread.  Now it can be artisinal sourdough, or pre-sliced from a bag, no judgement here. This method will work beautifully with all types of bread.
  • Lay one slice on something that will help you transfer the sandwich to the pan – a palette knife if your balance skills are good, a cake lifter if they’re not.
  • Add a layer of butter onto the bread (optional). You can use other things such as mayonnaise or chutney if you prefer.
  • Whatever cheese you’re using, add half in a layer over the bread. Either cut it in thin slices or dice it in 5mm cubes. The smaller/thinner the cheese pieces, the more easily they will melt.
  • Add any additional flavourings. Purists maintain there is only ever cheese in a toasty cheese sammich (see top photo) but I am of the opinion that cheese is merely compulsory, not exclusive. There are some suggestions below for fillings that pair well with tomato soup. Season with salt and pepper to your taste.
  • Finish with the rest of your cheese. When this double layer of cheese melts, it will gently cradle the rest of your sandwich ingredients and hold them together so that your sandwich doesn’t fall apart, even when cut.
  • Add the final piece of bread, buttered or not, as you like, and press down gently.
  • Transfer the sandwich to the pan.
  • To help melt the cheese effectively, cover your sandwich with a lid, preferably one that doesn’t press down upon the sandwich itself. If you non-stick pan has a lid, then use that. Personally, I use a lid from a small saucepan that sits snugly over the whole sandwich but is deep enough not to compress it. Ensuring the cheese is mostly melted before you turn the sandwich will help keep your filling where it is supposed to be – inside the sandwich. A lid will trap the heat underneath, effectively making a little oven and help to melt the cheese faster.
  • When the underside of your sandwich is browned, (depending on the heat of your pan, around 5 minutes), slide under your utensil of choice and gently turn it over. If the cheese is melted, then you can leave off the lid, which will also keep the toasted top of the sandwich from becoming soggy through trapped moisture.
  • Toast for a further 5 minutes until the underside is browned, then lift out of the pan.
  • Cut your sandwich with either a pizza wheel, or with a sharp, serrated knife: don’t saw at it, make a sharp, forward-and-downward motion with the knife. You can see from the picture below, how beautifully crisp, dry and unsquished the toast is, and how the filling is melted but still held between the bread.
Toasted cheese sandwiches

Smoked Brunswik Ham, Apple & Vintage Cheddar on Overnight Bread (L), Allinson Wholemeal Sliced Bread with Cheese & Brine Pickles (R)

Sandwich Suggestions

  • Overnight Bread, vintage cheddar. If you’re in the UK, I can recommend (black pack) Collier’s Welsh cheddar, Wyke Farms Vintage cheddar (in a green pack) or a newly-discovered favourite Welsh slate-cavern aged cheddar from South Caernarfon Creameries, available at Sainsbury’s deli counters.
  • Overnight Bread, diced Brunswick Ham, thinly-sliced Jaz/Braeburn apple, vintage cheddar.
  • Sliced wholemeal bread, mix of finely diced mature cheddar  & Gouda, thinly-sliced pickled cucumbers/gherkins. NB For best results, be sure they are brined and not in vinegar.
  • Bacon or Bacon Jam, mature cheddar, de-seeded, diced tomato (not pictured).
  • Cheese and chutney (not pictured).

Blackcurrant and Basil Tart

Blackcurrant & Basil Tart

Wotchers!

In food, there’s nothing new under the sun. It’s really difficult to be original. Whatever blinding flash of inspiration you think you’ve had, I promise you that it has been done before; usually better, sometimes worse. If it hasn’t been done before, then that’s usually a good indication that it’s not such a great idea (i.e. it was done before and discarded because it wasn’t fab at all). If it was fab, we’d have heard about it in the last 5000 years. This goes for top-level chefs as well as for the humblest baker.

That being said, there’s nothing wrong with tweaking a recipe and putting your own spin on it. Tweak it enough and then you can claim it as your own (and acknowledge the inspirational recipe, but it’s surprising how many people seem to forget this bit).

Example: Ian Dowding and the invention of Banoffi Pie. Except, of course, he didn’t invent it, he readily admits that it evolved by adding bananas to a recipe for Blum’s Coffee Toffee Pie brought back from the US by Russell the chef, with whom Dowding worked in a restaurant in Berkshire. Read all about it here.

And so to this week’s recipe. I recently watched an episode of a food show from the US and one of the items shown was a Goat’s Cheese and Blueberry Pie with fresh basil. I liked the unusual combination and re-watched the clip several times in order to jot down what looked like the quantities/ingredients. It took a couple of tries to get the sweetness and texture right, and my overall verdict was: No. The goats cheese was odd. The tart lacked zing. The fresh blueberries were OK, but had no pop of flavour, and so I set my notes aside.

Until I had a brain wave a couple of weeks ago with: blackcurrants! I resurrected my notes and swapped in blackcurrants for blueberries and it was amazing (she said modestly). The fresh basil is very reminiscent of the aroma of blackcurrant leaves and the amazingly tart pop of flavour from the berries was just what had been missing from the original. After guarded compliments from friends after the first attempt, I swapped the goats cheese for cream cheese and found I didn’t miss the lack of tang at all. – it was creamy, but not so dense as to push it into cheesecake territory (although it’s close!). Disliking unnecessary waste, the surplus egg-white from the filling ended  up in the topping, along with butter instead of margarine, which all made for a crunchy variation to the original. Finally, there was a need to balance out the basil: the boldness of the blackcurrant flavour meant a larger quantity was needed in order for it not to be lost in the background whilst avoiding being too heavy handed and tipping it over into a borderline savoury tart. Luckily, the perfect amount was almost exactly the quantity of leaves you get in a 28g pack of fresh basil in the supermarkets.

Interesting Fact: I read recently that blackcurrant is, for the most part, an unknown flavour in the US, due to a ban in the early 20th century when it was thought to harbour a disease harmful to the logging industry. All  can say is: you’re missing out, my friends across the water, and it’s high time you invested in blackcurrant bushes in order to enjoy all the wonderful things you can do with them. Exhibit A: this pie! If you’re lucky, you will be abe to find frozen berries in your supermarkets and farm shops until your bushes bear fruit themselves.

So yes, I did not conjure this fabulous tart up out of thin air, I evolved it from something else. That doesn’t mean it’s not fabulous and you should all rush out and get some blackcurrants immediately.  If nothing else, for the vitamin C, doncherknow.

“But  where!? It’s March!” I hear you wail. If you’re not lucky enough to have some in your own freezer from the bounty of last summer, then (in the UK) some supermarkets have them in the frozen fruit section. You can also find them in farm shops that have large chest freezers, alongside other berries and fruits in a kind of scoop-your-own setup.

I’ve opted for a pastry crust, but you could just as easily use a cheesecake-like, biscuit-and-butter crumb instead. Fresh basil is a must – don’t even think of trying to fudge it with dried.

It goes without saying – but I shall say it anyway – that, obviously, you can sub back in all the stuff I took out and try it for yourselves and make it YOUR own. 😀

Blackcurrant and Basil Tart

1 x 20cm shortcrust pastry case, blind baked (or biscuit base of your choice)

Filling
300g cream cheese, room temperature
1 large egg
1 large yolk
60g caster sugar
2tbs cornflour
15g fresh basil leaves, shred finely (from a 28g bunch/pack)
300g blackcurrants – frozen is fine

Topping
50g caster sugar
1 large egg white
50g flaked almonds
50g melted butter – cooled

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
  • Whisk the cheese until smooth, then add the egg, yolk, sugar and cornflour and mix thoroughly.
  • Stir through the shredded basil and the blackcurrants. The blackcurrants can be used frozen, just make sure they’re not all stuck together in a big lump.
  • Pour the filling into the prepared tart case.
  • Whisk the sugar and egg-white together, until frothy, then stir through the almonds. Add the cooled butter and mix thoroughly.
  • Pour the topping evenly over the filling.
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes until almost set, and the topping is golden brown. Allow to cool, then chill thoroughly before serving.

In case you missed it:

This week on DejaFood.uk: A super quick, fruity Soda Cake from 1835


Drowned Fruit Tart

Drowned Fruit Tart

Wotchers!

Back in January 2015, I introduce you all to Drowned Doughnuts, a wonderfully light and flavoursome dough that had the unusual method of being proved in water (hence the ‘drowned’). At the time I mentioned that I would be returning to the dough at some point, for use in another recipe, and so here we are.

Yes,  I know it’s been two years, but I’m rather bad (or should I say, very good) at getting distracted.

ANYHOO…

Drowned fruit tart is deliciously adaptable to whatever fruit you have to hand – the usual filling is stewed apples, but I happened to have some beautifully coral-coloured, stewed Warden pears in the freezer, so went with those. The quantity can be dictated either by what you have to hand or by the shape of your tin for, as can be seen in the picture, any excess dough can be made into the aforementioned doughnuts. With a small addendum to the original recipe.

Anecdote Deviation: I like to think that I know a bit about a few bits of baking, here and there, and can usually deduce how something has been put together, and frequently the general method. There’s a pub nearby that we like to eat at, and their bread game is ON POINT! The pizzas are hand thrown and baked to order, and each table is brought a basket of freshly-baked rolls as an appetiser. Nice! My daughter is obsessed with these rolls, and secretly so was I, although I played it cool.

These rolls are the softest, most pillowy balls of fresh-baked dough I have ever eaten. And, frustratingly, I couldn’t work out how this was achieved. My understanding of the best way of achieving soft rolls has been tweaked over the years as I have picked up snippets of information here and there, and until recently consisted of: mix dough with half milk, half water, brush baked rolls with milk when they come out of the oven and allow to cool in a clean cloth, thereby trapping the steam and softening the crust. Even crisp mixed-with-water-only rolls will soften after such treatment. What was nagging at me was the fact that the pub rolls were obviously baked to order and brought to the table hot from the oven and yet they were so soft, so tender – I couldn’t work out how it was done.

Each visit would be followed by experimentation of one or two batches only to get the thumbs down from my daughter, so on a recent visit I decided to be BRAZEN and when the server approached the table with the (now legendary) basket of hot rolls and the question “Can I get you anything to start?” I looked him straight in the eye and said “The recipe for these rolls, please!” I know. Shameless – but I was desperate!

Bless his heart, he was back 10 minutes later with a hand-written recipe from the chef. Eagerly I scanned the recipe for the magic touch. Did he add cream? Maybe the rolls contained lard, or margarine. Oooh! Oooh! Could it be milk powder!? No. The one thing that differed from a perfectly ordinary bread dough recipe, the magical touch that set these rolls apart from all other efforts was – the rolls were brushed with melted butter before baking.

I must confess to being more than a little skeptical – I was familiar with the technique of brushing hot loaves with butter AFTER baking, sure (popular in Russia, Ukraine, etc) – it makes loaves beautifully glossy and burnished – but before? Nevertheless I was prepared to give it a go and brushed over melted-but-cooled butter on the batch I whipped up the very next day. And they were perfect. I couldn’t get over how perfect they were, how pillowy, billowy soft. My daughter was overjoyed.

Which is why, when making the leftover dough in this recipe into balls (as opposed to cutting them out originally), I brushed them with melted butter before baking. They turned out fantastically soft (*points at photo* See! SEE how lovely they look!) and, tossed in caster sugar, hot from the oven, about as close to a guilt-free doughnut as you can get.

All of which leads me ramblingly to this point: you’re never too old a dog to learn a new trick.

ANYHOO….

The tart. The extra little touch for this tart, aside from using sweet, vanilla-scented dough in place of pastry, is the treatment after it emerges from the oven. You spoon – or in my case pipe (fewer stray splodges) – sweetened sour cream/creme fraiche between the dough strands, directly onto the fruit filling and allow it to cool. The cream slowly thickens to a cheesecake-like texture which goes fantastically well with the sharp, fruit filling and the sweet dough. I also brushed the edges of the tart with melted butter, to keep them soft. I used clarified butter, for a more even colour (milk solids might bake as darker spots).

And finally, you don’t HAVE to let the dough rise in water, it will still rise just fine in a bowl.

Drowned Fruit Tart

1 batch of Drowned Doughnuts dough, after the first rise
500g-1kg stewed fruit – cooled
300ml sour cream/low fat creme fraiche
50g-100g sugar to taste
clarified butter, melted and cooled
caster sugar (for the doughnuts)

  • Grease and line a baking tin with parchment paper. Make sure it is deep enough to contain a decent layer of fruit filling. I used 500g of pears for the tart in the photo – on reflection, 1kg would have been even better.
  • Roll out the risen dough to a thickness of 1-1.5cm. It will obviously rise during proving and baking, so you don’t want to start too thick and then end up with something less-than dainty emerging from the oven.
  • Line the tin with the dough and allow any excess dough to drape over the sides.
  • Spread in your fruit filling evenly.
  • Trim the excess dough and re-roll the trimmings to make lattice strips. I opted for thin strips, twisted into ‘barley-sugar’ shapes.
  • Lay the strips diagonally across the tart to form a diamond lattice. Dampen the edges of the dough and fold them down and over the ends of the lattice strips to keep them in place. Crimp the edges of the tart neatly.
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
  • Brush the edges of the tart and the lattice strips with melted, cooled butter. Allow to prove while the oven heats up.
  • Bake until risen and golden. Depending on the size of your tart, this will be between 25-40 minutes.
  • While the tart is baking, divide any remaining dough into 30g pieces and roll into balls. Set onto a lined baking sheet to prove.
  • Mix sugar into the cream/creme fraiche to taste. I usually under-sweeten with just 50-60g of sugar. Spoon into a piping bag if liked.
  • When the tart is baked, remove from the oven and fill the lattice spaces with the sweetened cream. Set aside to cool for 3-4 hours. Serve at room temperature.
  • For the doughnuts: When risen, brush with cooled, melted butter and bake for around 15 minutes. Whilst hot, toss in caster sugar and set onto a wire rack to cool – or consume immediately, your call.

Batbout

Batbout
Wotchers!

This week I’ve got for you a wonderfully soft and pillowy – literally! – flatbread from Morocco called Batbout (also mkhamer or toghrift or matlou’). Unlike the Middle Eastern, oven-baked pita, batbout is baked on a griddle or in a heavy-bottomed pan on the top of the stove.

It is made from a mixture of strong wheat flour and semolina which makes the outsides wonderfully chewy and the inside soft and fluffy. And, stored in an airtight container, they stay soft for days, with a pocket that opens up beautifully even when cold.

If, like me, you’ve ever wrestled to open the pocket of a pita, where no amount of toasting and cajoling will work, you’ll find these little puff breads a real delight. Not only do they puff up gloriously during the cooking, they frequently stay puffed, even when cold. The two on the left of the picture were baked 2 days before I took the photo.

Cooking them is a real pleasure, just to see the way they inflate. It’s a “real moment of creation” thing, as the dough appears to be doing not very much at all in the pan, then all of a sudden it is as if they take a deep breath and fill up before your eyes. Here is a video showing this magic.

The secret is in the cooking, and after a few trials I am pretty sure I’ve managed to work out how to achieve maximum puff every time.

Batbout

200g strong white flour
200g semolina
½ tsp salt
20g fresh yeast or 1 sachet fast-action yeast
warm water to mix

  • Mix the flours and the salt in a bowl.
  • Crumble in the yeast, or if you prefer, mix it with a little water and add to the flours.
  • Add enough water to mae a soft dough (around 300ml), although the actual quantity will depend on how the semolina absorbs the liquid.
  • Knead for 10 minutes until smooth, then cover and set aside for 1 hour to rise.
  • Tip out the dough and pat gently to deflate.
  • Divide the dough into portions according to the side of flatbread you want – around 75-100g for sandwich size is good, larger for tearing and sharing.
  • Roll each piece of dough into a smooth ball. You can use semolina to roll them out, but I prefer them without.
  • Use a rolling pin to roll them into a flat circle of around 10cm diameter, then set them onto a floured cloth. Cover lightly and allow to rise for 30 minutes.
  • Heat a heavy-bottomed pan on medium-high heat.
  • Cook your batbout one at a time until you’re confident with the timings.
  • Place one of the discs of dough into the pan for about a minute, then turn carefully. You want to dry out the surface of the dough, but not colour it. You should start to see bubbles forming on the surface of the uncooked side to show when it is ready.
  • Cook the other side for a similar amount of time, so that the dough is dried but not coloured.
  • Flip the bread back onto the first side, and cook until it starts to colour, then turn it over.
  • This is where the magic happens. As the underside cooks, there is no ‘stretch’ left in the lightly cooked outsides of the bread, so the only way it can expand is by inflating. Usually this will start at one side and then move across to the other side, inflating as it cooks. I just love this part. Here is another video.
  • If it doesn’t puff up, continue to cook each side lightly to dry out the surfaces a little more.
  • Once the bread is puffed and lightly browned on both sides, set it on a wire rack to cool.

In case you missed it:

This week on DejaFood.uk: The earliest recipe for Sally Lun buns!


Namelaka

Namelaka cream

Wotchers!

I’d like to introduce you to a rather fabulous multi-purpose ingredient, developed and created in the L’Ecole du Grand Chocolate Valrhona test kitchens: Namelaka. It was actually developed several years ago, but seems not to have caused much of a ripple since then, with the exception of in Italy, where it appears to be very popular.

It’s name (pronounced namma-lakka) comes from the Japanese for creamy/smooth and it is a fabulous cross between a ganache and a crème pâtissière. It has the smoothness of a pastry cream, but the richness of a ganache and can boast a whole host of uses.

Milk chocolate praline namelaka

As you can see from the photo, it holds its shape beautifully when piped, which makes it perfect for tart and pastry fillings and decoration. It is especially fine in filling choux pastry items such as eclairs, profiteroles, cream puffs and croquembouche. You can use it to decorate the tops of cakes or to sandwich them together, both large and small, and it can also be served as a dessert itself, in small, ladylike portions, with some granola or crushed biscuits adding texture.

One of the great aspects of namelaka is the possibility of adding additional flavours to complement the finished cream by infusing the milk before use. What you use is limited ony by your imagination: the zest of any of the numerous citrus fruits, instant coffee granules, freeze-fried fruit powders, teas, freshly ground spices, tonka bean, praline… the list goes on. The only downside of namelaka cream is the need to make it a full day before required, as it needs time to chill thoroughly before use.

White Chocolate Namelaka

For serving in its most light and delicate form, I recommend just a single leaf of gelatine and using whipping cream. An almost mousse-like consistency can be achieved by using 2 leaves of gelatine and double cream, and then whisking it briefly after chilling overnight.

White Chocolate Namelaka Cream

170g white chocolate
1 sheet of leaf gelatine/2 sheets
100ml whole milk
5ml liquid glucose
200ml whipping cream/double cream

  • Melt the white chocolate in the microwave or in a bowl over simmering water.
  • Put the sheet of gelatine in cold water to bloom.
  • Heat the milk and glucose in a pan until almost boiling.
  • Add the bloomed gelatine to the milk and stir to dissolve.
  • Pour 1/3 of the hot milk mixture onto the melted chocolate and stir to incorporate.
  • Add the remaining milk and repeat.
  • Add the whipping cream and mix thoroughly.
  • Briefly use an immersion blender to ensure mixture is thoroughly amalgamated.
  • Cover with cling film and chill for 24 hours before using.
  • If using 2 sheets of gelatine and double cream, whisk briefly after chilling before use. Or not. As you like.

For milk chocolate praline: add 75g praline paste when melting the milk chocolate

For flavouring with citrus: Use the zest of 1 fruit in the milk and allow to infuse for 15 minutes once heated. Strain out the zest and reheat before mixing.

For flavouring with Tonka bean: ½ a bean grated on a microplane is plenty. Infuse as above.

For spices: Use whole spices for preference (easer to fish out) and infuse as for the citrus zest.

 

In case you missed it:

This week on DejaFood.uk: Robert May’s Chicken Pie


Christmas Bake Off Biscuits

Christmas Wreath Biscuits

Wotchers!

In response to a couple of requests, I decided to publish the two biscuit recipes from the Christmas Bake Off. Obviously, no cameras were allowed on set, and regular listeners will know of my current lack-of-oven status preventing me from baking a set at home, so my husband kindly grabbed a couple of screen shots of them from the program – and, of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a picture with my name on screen and the BBC logo in the corner 😀

I won’t go into all the ‘guidelines’ for these bakes, because they were many and restrictive, and also they concerned baking a particular irritation of mine, namely ‘stuff that looks like something else, usually not food-like’. I also firmly resisted suggestions to make things ‘sparkly’ and shunned all forms of edible glitter because, to my mind, if you need to label something ‘edible’, it probably shouldn’t be.

ANYHOO…

I settled on these recipes because they tasted great, were simple to prepare and decorate in a time limit, and looked attractive in a completely edible way.

Don’t wait until Christmas to give them a try, they’re delicious!

In a Mary Berry/Paul Hollywood double-handshake kinda way *resists urge to post screenshot of THAT too*. 😉

Christmas Wreath Biscuits

Makes at least 12

I must apologise for the silly ‘½ a large egg’ ingredient – if you have no pastry to glaze to use it up, make a teeny-tiny omelette or a double batch of biscuits!

115g unsalted butter – softened
100g caster sugar
zest of 2 oranges
½ a large egg – whisked
150g plain flour
50g cornflour
200g white chocolate couverture
2g Mycryo powdered cocoa butter
candied cranberries
slivered pistachios*
dried barberries*

  • Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Add orange zest and egg, and mix thoroughly.
  • Add flours and mix to combine.
  • Tip out of the bowl, knead smooth and roll out to 8mm thick.
  • Cut out into 5cm rings.
  • Freeze for 15 minutes.
  • Place on a silpat or parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 200°C/180°C Fan for 6-8 minutes.
  • Cool on a wire rack.
  • To decorate:
    • Melt the white chocolate over hot water. Allow to cool to 33°C.
    • Stir in the Mycryo until melted. This is a fast way of tempering chocolate. For a softer ‘bite’, skip this step.
    • Pipe the white chocolate to cover, or carefully dip, the biscuits.
    • Press half a candied cranberry onto the bottom of the biscuit, then scatter over slivered pistachios and barberres.
    • Set aside to cool.
    • Thread thin ribbon through the middle to hang.

 

xmaspuddings

Pecan Praline Christmas Pudding Biscuits

Makes at least 12

70g toasted pecans – chopped
112g unsalted butter
65g light muscovado sugar
60g praline paste
½ tsp vanilla extract
1tbs dark rum
pinch of salt
125g plain flour
35g feuilletine
200g white chocolate couverture
2g Mycryo powdered cocoa butter
50g milk chocolate chips
candied angelica
dried barberries

  • Beat butter and sugar until well blended.
  • Add vanilla, praline paste and rum and mix thoroughly.
  • Combine flour and salt and add to the butter and sugar mixture until it’s just beginning to blend.
  • Add pecans and feuilletine and mix.
  • Roll out to a thickness of 5-8mm. Scatter with chocolate chips and press lightly into the dough.
  • Cut out with 5cm plain round cutter.
  • Poke a hole in each biscuit for the ribbon. A bubble tea straw is ideal.
  • Freeze for 15 minutes.
  • Place on a silpat or parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 170°C/150°C Fan for 8-10 minutes.
  • Cool on the tin for 10 minutes then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • To decorate:
    • Melt the white chocolate over hot water. Allow to cool to 33°C.
    • Stir in the Mycryo until melted. This is a fast way of tempering chocolate. For a softer ‘bite’, skip this step.
    • Drizzle over the top half of the biscuits to resemble cream. Make sure the hole doesn’t become blocked.
    • Decorate with angelica holly leaves and barberries.
    • Set aside for the chocolate to firm up.
    • When set, thread ribbon through the hole and hang.

 

* Available online from Sally at the fabulous Persepolis, 28-30 Peckham High Street, http://foratasteofpersia.co.uk/