Caramel Popcorn

Caramel Popcorn
Wotchers!

Today, my lovelies, after exhaustive testing, resulting in several sacks of delicious popcorn, I have for you the ultimate guide to making your own caramel popcorn.

Back in my day, of course, we called it toffee popcorn, bought it in a shop/cinema and it was made by ButterkistButterkist(rah-rah-rah!).

Well Butterkist are still going strong, and you can still buy their popcorn, but it is more delicious, customisable and cheaper to make it yourself.

This post is, in fact, the first in a two-part popcorn posting, where I plan on covering the basic method and the range of different-yet-equally-delicious tastes you can achieve just with sugar, butter and syrup, to be followed by Part II in which we look at how to customise your popcorn batches even further, with an eye on the upcoming C-word gifting season.

This popcorn is fantastically crunchy, yet dry to the touch, without a hint of stickiness. It is amazing when freshly made, and lasts up to three weeks if kept in an airtight container. It is an easy treat to make at home, yet different enough to give as gifts, especially if you can tailor the flavours to the giftee’s preferences.

So let’s talk ingredients!

Popcorn

Very straightforward to make, just put a little oil into a lidded pan, add in your popping corn kernels, cover and shake gently over medium heat until the sounds of popping stops.

Oil isn’t compulsory. You can absolutely make popcorn by applying heat alone, either in a pan or in the microwave (in a plain paper bag, twisted over at the top) HOWEVER, the oil helps any flavourings, such as salt, stick. Without oil, the salt (or other flavourings) just freefall through the popcorn and gather in the bottom of the bowl. If you want to reduce the fact content of your caramel popcorn, omitting the oil when popping your corn might be an option you choose.

How much to pop?
The recipe I am giving below is quite generous, and could easily be halved, but for the difficulties that would present in accurately measuring the temperature when boiling the sugar mixture. So rather than making life more complicated that way, it is much easier to adjust the quantity of corn you pop, to give a lighter or more dense covering: popping more corn will make for a lighter covering, popping less will lead to a more comprehensive, thicker coating.

The recipe below strikes a balance by calling for 100g of kernels to be popped. Vary this by choosing a quantity between the extremes given below:

  • Reduce to 75g for complete coverage.
  • Increase to up to 200g for progressively lighter coverage, although anything above 150g gets tricky to coat evenly.

Caramel

After trialling numerous combinations, I have settled on the following recipe as the ultimate caramel recipe, not particularly because it is the best (although it is!), but because of how easily it is adapted and customised. For a start, the caramel is a butterscotch, made by mixing sugar and butter and heating it to the ‘hard crack’ temperature of 150°C. Due to the trickiness of working with boiling sugar, adding some of the sugar in liquid form helps keep it from graining and crystallisation.

Butter: Use it. Unless you’re vegan, in which case, coconut oil can be substituted, with the resulting flavour being thusly affected.

Sugar: Here is where the fun begins, because of all the different types and combinations that can be used. The ones I have tried with this recipe include

  • white granulated
  • white caster
  • Demerara
  • Light brown soft/light muscovado
  • Dark brown soft/dark muscovado

The white sugars are fine for a perfectly acceptable, if slightly one-note caramel, but it is in the rich, dark notes of the brown sugars that your caramel can find real depth of flavour. In the picture at the top of this post, the popcorn on the left was made using demerara sugar, the one on the right a 50:50 mixture of dark and light muscovado sugar.

Other options you may like to try, but which I have not (yet!):

  • Coconut sugar
  • jaggery
  • maple sugar
Treacle Popcorn

Treacle popcorn showing light coverage using the base recipe over 150g popcorn kernels

Syrup

Here again is the opportunity to add flavour to your caramel. The syrups I have tried include:

  • golden syrup
  • Dutch schenkstroop
  • treacle
  • maple syrup

If you want the flavours of the sugars to shine, you could go with bland glucose syrup, which would add sweetness and help prevent crystallisation, and no additional flavours. Golden syrup has a rich but mild flavour, very complementary to the brown sugars. The Dutch schenkstroop adds deeper caramel notes, without the bitterness of treacle, and treacle is the ultimate dark, rich-tasting syrup.

Alternatives you might want to experiment with:

  • glucose
  • agave nectar
  • rice syrup
  • date syrup
  • molasses
  • pomegranate molasses

WARNING: I have not tried these other syrups, but if my experiences with maple syrup are anything to go by, some of them might well act differently to regular sugar syrups. I went through countless (ooh, that’s a lie, because I counted every one and it was seven. SEVEN FAILED BATCHES PEOPLE! *cries for the lost maple syrup*) batches before I got it right. See notes on using maple syrup below.

Salt

Even though salted caramel is very much ‘a thing’, even the most buttery butterscotch benefits from adding a little salt, which gives relief from an unremitting sweetness onslaught.

Caramel Popcorn

There are three stages to caramel popcorn: making the popcorn, coating the popcorn and baking the popcorn. This last ensures the caramel sets to a crisp, crackling coating.

The popcorn

100g popcorn kernels
2-3tbs vegetable oil

  • Pour the oil into a large, lidded saucepan and set it on medium high heat.
  • When the oil is shimmering, add the popcorn kernels and cover with a lid.
  • Shake gently back and forth to keep the kernels moving about, and remove from the heat when the sounds of popping ceases.
  • Tip the popped corn into a large bowl and set aside.

The coating

100g unsalted butter
200g/1 cup sugar – all one type or a mixture
125ml/½ cup golden syrup/schenkstroop/treacle – see below for maple syrup
½ tsp salt

½tsp bicarbonate of soda

1tsp vanilla extract, or other flavouring (optional)

  • Preheat the oven to 110°C, 90°C Fan.
  • Line a large baking sheet with parchment or preferably a silpat mat.
  • Have your bicarbonate of soda and flavourings measured out and have a large spatula and a large balloon whisk close to hand.
  • Put the first four ingredients in a large pan. I use my preserving pan.
  • Heat on medium heat, stirring, until the butter and sugars have melted together.
  • Stop stirring and allow the mixture to reach Hard Crack on a sugar thermometer, roughly 150°C.
  • The next stage needs to be done quickly.
  • Remove from the heat and add the flavourings and the bicarbonate of soda.
  • Stir briskly with the balloon whisk until the mixture begins to froth, then tip in the popped corn.
  • Using the spatula, turn the popcorn in the hot caramel until evenly coated, by scooping the caramel from underneath and turning it over the top of the corn. The fizzing bicarbonate of soda will make this easier, but the effect won’t last forever, so work briskly, but be careful as boiling sugar is LAVA!
  • Tip the coated popcorn onto the baking sheet and spread out in an even layer. Don’t worry if the popcorn is looking a bit patchy, the baking stage will help even this out.

The Baking

  • Bake the sheet of popcorn for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. The caramel will remain quite liquid for the first 20 minutes, so keep stirring to even out the coverage.
  • Remove from the oven and, while still warm, break up any large pieces.
  • Allow to cool on the baking sheet, then pack into an airtight container when cold – a large ziplock bag is ideal. Be sure to exclude as much air as possible before sealing.

Maple Syrup Caramel Popcorn

Maple Syrup Caramel Popcorn

Whilst the ingredients for Maple Syrup Caramel Popcorn are the same as the recipe above (using 125ml/½ a cup of pure maple syrup as the liquid sugar), the method isn’t suitable. The temperature of 150°C is much too high for the delicately flavoured syrup, and results in a grained and crystallised caramel. Using half maple syrup and half golden syrup was kinda OK< but really quite a thick, heavy coating. My daughter still loved the ‘failed’ batches (just as well, considering how many there were), but I was determined to get a glossy and crisp caramel and as the picture above shows, success! (Eventually).

This method is actually easier than the above, with all it’s faffing around with thermometers and the like. It’s also much quicker. Initially, proceed as for the above recipe:

  • Preheat the oven to 110°C, 90°C Fan. Or not. See below.
  • Line a large baking sheet with parchment or preferably a silpat mat.
  • Have your bicarbonate of soda measured out and have a large spatula and a large balloon whisk close to hand.
  • Put the butter, sugar (I recommend light muscovado), maple syrup and salt in a large pan. I use my preserving pan.
  • Heat on medium heat, stirring, until the butter and sugars have melted together.
  • Then:
  • Stop stirring and when the mixture begins to boil, allow it to boil for just three minutes.
  • Now:
  • Proceed as above, i.e.
  • Remove from the heat and add the bicarbonate of soda.
  • Stir briskly with the balloon whisk until the mixture begins to froth, then tip in the popped corn.
  • Using the spatula, turn the popcorn in the hot caramel until evenly coated, by scooping the caramel from underneath and turning it over the top of the corn. The fizzing bicarbonate of soda will make this easier, but the effect won’t last forever, so work briskly, but be careful as boiling sugar is LAVA!
  • Tip the coated popcorn onto the baking sheet and spread out in an even layer.
  • Bake the sheet of popcorn for no longer than 20 minutes, stirring after 10 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and, while still warm, break up any large pieces.
  • Allow to cool on the baking sheet, then pack into an airtight container when cold – a large ziplock bag is ideal. Be sure to exclude as much air as possible before sealing.
  • Enjoy.

Tune in next time for Part II, where we get all fancy-schmantzy with our popcorn flavours!


Pickle Pasties

Pickle Pasties
Wotchers!

I’m a big fan of minimalist recipes – three or four ingredients that work perfectly together and need no embellishment. So hot on the heels of the recent three-ingredient recipes, I have another recipe which will surprise and delight in equal measure.

As some of you may recall, my search for the delicious knows no bounds, and I frequently find myself on blogs and message boards in far flung places. Recently, it was Russia, where I found multiple variations on a theme of Tasty Stuff Wrapped In Bread Dough™. Amongst them was a version of the recipe I have for you today, with a filling of onion, potato and pickled gherkins.

No, wait!

Come back!

It’s delicious, I promise!!

The potato provides body, the onion savouriness and the pickles both crunch and zing. Using yeast dough instead of pastry keeps it low in fat, although you absolutely can use rich, buttery, puff pastry to add a level of luxury.

I’ve opted for wholemeal flour, but white is also fine, as are any other favourite yeast doughs.

Perfect for packed lunches and picnics, substantial without being heavy, they are also both vegetarian and vegan (depending on your bread recipe). They are also a proportional recipe – another of my favourites – so you can make as much or as little as you like. Perfect for small test batches.

I do hope you’ll give them a try – you might be pleasantly surprised.

Pickle Pasties

risen bread dough
2 parts cooked baked potato (warm)
1 part pickled gherkins (crisp and whole)
1 part chopped onion

  • Remove the cooked potato from the skins and mash. You can use a ricer, but don’t go too fine and sieve it, as the filling needs the bulk of the potato to avoid collapsing during baking.
  • Weigh the potato, and then portion out half its weight in pickled gherkins and onion. Slice the gherkins in half lengthways and each piece lengthways in half again. Cut into 1cm pieces. Chop the onion into similarly-size pieces as the gherkins.
  • Heat a little oil in a pan and add the chopped onions. Sprinkle with a little salt (the pickles are also salty) and black pepper. Cook just until the onions have softened, without letting them take on any colour. Set aside to cool, then mix with the potatoes and pickles. Taste the mixture and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
  • Roll out the dough and fill as you would pastry for regular pasties. Be sure to seal the edges tightly and fold/crimp if liked. Trim off any excess dough and transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Poke two vent holes in the top of the pasties with the tip of a sharp knife.
  • When the last pasty is ready, set aside to rise for ten minutes and heat the oven to 200°C/180°C Fan. The short rise time will help the baked pasties hold the filling snugly: in the heat of the oven, the outsides of the dough will bake first and harden, leaving the only direction for the dough to expand as inwards, around the filling. A traditional-length rise would mean ending up with gaps between the dough and the filling.
  • For a rich, golden colour to your finished pasties, brush the dough ith beaten egg. For a vegan finish, dust with flour, which will help keep the dough from becoming too crusty.
  • Bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on the size of the pasties (small/large), until well browned on top and starting to brown underneath.
  • Wrap in a clean cloth (if a soft crust is preferred – I do) and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Viking Bread

Viking Bread
Wotchers!

I’ve taken a bit of a liberty with the name of this recipe, because it’s based on nothing more authentic than the loaf of bread I tried in France this summer. Over there, it is a staple of the Banette brand of bakeries and I found it very delicious as well as belying it’s rustic appearance by being very light in texture.

I picked up an information leaflet about it which helpfully included, amongst a lot of airy-fairyness about taste journeys and Nordic inspiration, a list of ingredients:

  • wheat flour
  • wheat gluten
  • sunflower seeds
  • barley flour
  • rye products
  • toasted malted barley flour
  • rye and wheat malt
  • yeast
  • salt
  • Decorations:
    • barley flakes
    • sunflower seeds
    • decorticated sesame seeds
    • red millet seeds
    • brown flax seeds

Fantastic, you’d think – specific guidelines for creating a unique blend of flours, grains and seeds. Well, in theory, yes – but practically… not so much. For a while I toyed with the idea of sourcing toasted malted barley flour, rye and wheat malt, and then experimenting with numerous batches to achieve the perfect combination. But when I read the ingredients list on a pack of Granary bread flour, it was a no-brainer.

Decisions, decisions

Me choosing between the task of creating a sword-wielding, nuanced and balanced mix of flours and grains vs grabbing a packet of granary bread flour.

Then there was the mix of seeds. Again, I could have spend time researching and experimenting, and to a certain extent I did. Recently, whilst watching Italian chefs make pizza dough, one of them mentioned adding Cuor di Cereali (Heart of Cereal), a seed mixture available in Italy, which sounded perfect. I sourced it online, however, it is available only in Italy, and whilst it could be ordered internationally, the shipping was going to be a killer. So when I saw the range of seeds available in the supermarket, I was like…

grabbing stuff

Me in the supermarket, carefully making a selection of seeds.

I did, however, take the suggestion from the Mulino Caputo website of adding between 10-20% to your dough mix, so it wasn’t a total bust.

Seed Mix
This is absolutely customisable to what you have available. I make no apology for simply tipping into a large ziplock bag one packet of each of the seeds available at my local supermarket.

My mix comprised the following:

  • 100g golden linseed
  • 100g brown linseed
  • 100g sunflower seeds
  • 100g pumpkin seeds
  • 150g chia seeds
  • 100g sesame seeds
  • 100g poppy seeds

This obviously makes more than is required for the recipe, but I’m confident you’ll be using it all up in no time with batches of these tasty loaves.

Viking Bread

400ml tepid water
1 tsp salt
500g granary bread flour
20g fresh yeast, crumbled or 1 sachet fast-action yeast
100g seed mix

additional seed mix for coating

  • Put all of the ingredients into your bowl (hand or stand mixer) in the above order, and bring together into a soft dough.
  • Knead for 10 minutes – on Low, if you’re using a mixer, followed by 2 minutes on High.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic and leave to rise for 1 hour.
  • When risen, tip out onto a floured surface and pat gently to deflate.
  • Shape into a rectangle, and cut horizontally in two,to give two baton shapes.
  • Roll and tuck the edges underneath – you should be aiming for a short, fat baguette shape.
  • Take an edged baking sheet and sprinkle over a layer of the seed mix. If you slide the sheet back and forth a couple of times,the seeds will arrange themselves in a neat, thin layer.
  • Using a pastry brush dipped in water, dampen the whole of the upper surface of the loaves.
  • Apply the seed coating: one by one, picking up the loaves and roll them over the layer of seeds in the tray. The seeds will stick to the damp top surface of the dough and fall away from the dry underside. Set the seeded loaves on their uncoated bases on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Cover lightly and leave to rise for 30 minutes.
  • Heat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Bake the loaves for 30-35 minutes until risen and browned, and the base sounds hollow when tapped.
  • Cool on a wire rack.

 


Raspberry Upside-down Cake

Raspberry Upside-Down Cake
Wotchers!

Who doesn’t love an upside-down cake?

Well, truth be told, me, actually – until I met this one!

Whenever I think of an upside down cake, its always been pineapple, and due to the huge number of vintage recipe books I read, it always appears in my mind as being made with pineapple from a tin, and gaudy, startlingly red glacé cherries in the holes in the middles of the slices. Now whether it is the sweet tinned pinapple (not a fan), the glacé cherries (really not a fan), the sweet-on-sweet-on-sweet or the whole 1950s vibe, it just doesn’t look appealing to me.

Sidebar: surprisingly, a quick internet image search reveals that the pineapple ring/cherry thing appears to still be going strong in the 21st century. Who’da thunk.

Anyhoo…

I’ve adapted this recipe from one I found in a booklet of Breton recipes I snapped up at one of the French brocantes we wandered through this summer. Made with fresh raspberries, the sharp flavour of the soft, gently baked fruit is a great contrast with the sweet, lemon sponge. ( See also Fruit Sponge). Add cream – single, double, clotted or fraiche – if you like, but I really enjoy this as is.

Confession: OK, so in essence I really only changed the shape of the tin, the cooking time and added some filled fresh raspberries on the top for presentation. The original recipe recommended a 24cm circular tin and a shorter cooking time, but after the notorious Pacman photo of July, I’ve been a bit twitchy about using circular tins.

Sidebar 2: This is not a pretty, pretty cake. Behold, Exhibit A.

It is, however, delicious, simple to make and a perfect treat to enjoy those autumn-ripening raspberries that are a little too squishy to turn into jam.

Raspberry Upside-Down Cake

750g raspberries – divided
4tbs caster sugar

3 large eggs – separated
125g caster sugar
zest and juice of 1 lemon
125g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
100g unsalted butter

4tbs seedless raspberry jam
icing sugar

  • Grease and line the base and sides of your chosen tin with parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper. I used a long, narrow IKEA loaf tin but you could opt for the original 24cm round tin.
  • Pick out about 200g of the best raspberries for decoration. Set aside.
  • Add 450-500g fresh raspberries to the tin. Sprinkle with the 4tbs caster sugar.
  • Cut the butter into 2cm cubes and put into hand-temperature water to soften.
  • Heat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Whisk the egg-whites to stiff peaks.
  • Whisk the yolks and the remaining caster sugar together until pale and fluffy – about 5 minutes.
  • Add the lemon zest and juice and mix in.
  • Sift the flour and baking powder together and add to the egg mixture gradually, ensuring the flour is fully mixed in.
  • Using a balloon whisk – or the whisk attachment of your stand mixer – stir in one third of the egg-whites to the egg mixture to lighten the mix, then gently fold in the remainder.
  • Drain the water from the butter and fold the softened butter into the mixturewith the whisk.
  • Pour the mixture over the raspberries and spread smooth.
  • Bake until the sponge is risen and cooked. This takes 40-45 minutes in a loaf tin. If you chose a 24cm round tin, the recipe suggests 25 minutes, but use your own checks to confirm the cake is cooked through.
  • When cooked, remove from the oven and set on a cooling rack. Allow the cake to cool in the tin before turning out onto your serving dish/plate and removing the baking parchment.

To decorate

  • Spoon the jam into a piping bag and snip of the end to give a 3-4mm opening.
  • Pipe a little jam into the hollow cores of the remaining raspberries.
  • Arrange the filled raspberries over the top of the cake and dust with icing suger to serve.

Seaweed Bread

Seaweed Rolls
Wotchers!

Yes, we’re back from holidays in La belle France and I’m plunging straight in with some DRAMATIC CONFESSIONS!

(Not really).

Confession Time: I don’t eat fish.

Actually, that’s not strictly true. Every six months or so I’ll indulge in a can of tuna and for the first few bites I think “Hey, this is really good, I should eat this more often!”, but by the end I’m already thinking “Yeah… nope.” I make a delightful smoked makerel pate and delicious salmon fishcakes… I just don’t like eating them. Seafood is a complete no.

But I love the seaside, and the beach and the salty foam of the waves and the blustery winds because it’s the epitome of holiday.

In the French region where we go on holiday (Charente-Maritime), there is a small bakery in a nearby town which was runner-up in a nationwide competition (La Meilleur Patisserie de France). My daughter maintains theirs are the best croissants she’s ever had. They have a couple of house specialities – their strawberry tart is exceptional – and they also make a Baguette des Algues with flakes of seaweed.

I tried to buy one this summer, but with fantastic planning, managed to drive over there on the one morning they were shut (third time we’ve done this in recent years). Undaunted, I decided to MacGyver my own recipe.

Further Confession Time: You probably won’t have all the ingredients in your cupboards to make this.

However, they are easily obtainable, and I’m making this post on a weekday so that you have time to order/buy them in preparation for some weekend baking.

For a number of years I have been using freeze-fried fruit powders to give both colour and flavour to cakes and bakes. Increasingly, there are an expanding range of vegetable powders such as beetroot, spinach, tomato, mushroom and now kelp. I ordered them from here.

I added some kelp powder and a few shredded nori sheets to a basic white bread dough. If you’re unsure whether you’ll like this flavouring, you could try just with nori sheets, which are available in most supermarkets. I would suggest adding a few extra sheets to ensure the flavour is there.

I cut the risen dough into finger rolls. That’s right – cut – no shaping or pummeling after the first rise.

The results are perfect for enjoying with bisques or chowders or any fish dish, slicing and using to serve appetisers of anything fish-related, but are also delicious just with salty butter – making a real taste of the shore. Even my fish-hating tastebuds love this.

Of course, if you grilled it, it would make delicious Coast Toast. 😀

Sorry, I’ll show myself out.

Seaweed Bread

500g strong white bread flour
50g powdered kelp
5 nori sheets – cut into 5mm squares
1tsp salt
1 sachet fast-action yeast
400-ish ml warm water/milk + water/whey to mix

  • Put all of the dry ingredients into the bowl of a mixer.
  • Add most of the water, and mix slowly, adding more as you see fit. You might need a little extra liquid as the kelp and nori might absorb more.
  • Knead the dough on slow or by hand for 10 minutes.
  • Knead on fast for two minutes.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled in size,  about an hour.
  • Tip out the risen dough and gently pat into a rectangle.
  • Divide the dough into finger rolls, or shape as you please.
  • Transfer to a lined baking sheet and sprinkle with flour.
  • Cover lightly with cling film and allow to prove for another 30 minutes.
  • Heat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Bake rolls for 20 minutes, or loaves for 35-45 minutes.
  • Cool on a wire rack. If you want the crusts to be soft, cover the hot bread with a clean towel and leave to cool.

Hokkaido Double Cheesecake

Hokkaido Double Cheesecake
Wotchers!

This recipe is a perfect summer dessert and, for a cheesecake, is very maker-friendly.

Most delightfully, this cheesecake is light. Light, light, light. Each mouthful is a cloud of deliciousness on your tongue, a delicate waft of creamy flavours that dissolves in a puff of….

[crickets]

[tumbleweed]

[crickets]

OK, so I’ve sat here trying to think of something to end that, frankly embarrassing, stream of pretentiousness and come up blank – mostly due to me just having taken a bite of said cheesecake in order to try and capture the experience and kinda just got lost in appreciation.

ANYHOO…

Sidetracking on to the composition….

This is a three-layer cheesecake consisting of a fatless sponge base, a baked cream-cheese layer and a mascarpone mousse layer all covered with a dusting of sponge cake crumbs.

Baked cheesecakes can be a source of worry, through fear of overbaking and thereby causing cracks to appear once they cool down. With this recipe, that kind of stress is eliminated, because the baked layer is covered with the mascarpone mousse layer. And if, while your mousse is chilling, the clingfilm sticks to the top, causing wrinkles to be created as the gelatine sets, it’s not a drama, because the whole thing is covered with the crumbs, giving it an appearance that just reinforces the lightness and fluffiness of the cake as a whole.

Fans of this blog will already be familiar with one type of Japanese cheesecake, but this recipe is on a whole other level. I was initially sceptical of the lack of flavourings, but it is absolutely the right decision. The flavour of the sponge and the cheeses are delicate but distinct and as I’ve already mentioned, light, light, light. After tasting, there’s none of the ‘Excuse me while I fall into a dairy coma’ or ‘Help! Help! My arteries are filling with cheesecake’ feelings associated with too much indulging of regular baked cheesecakes.

You’ve probably realised by now that this is not my recipe. It is, in fact, the signature bake of the LeTAO bakery chain from the city of Otaru, on the island of Hokkaido, Japan where it sells for 1728 Yen (£12.85). In an unusually generous move, the bakery has shared both its recipe and method online, which is where I stumbled across it. (Linky for the curious).

The English subtitles are a bit bonkers.  They start off OK-ish – “The first thing to make is the sponge fabric that forms the basis of google fromage”, move swiftly on to “If baked skin becomes full-coloured, [musics], Sponge cloth no” and before you know it, we’re at “Simmer outside the last emperor.”

So I decided to help spread the word of this delightful dessert and add details where there were none, and calm down the bonkers to ‘mildly eccentric’.

I hope you like it.

Hokkaido Double Cheesecake

It’s best to prepare this the day before it is wanted, and allow the mousse to set overnight in the fridge. This will make a cake to serve six to eight people, depending on the generosity of your slices. Or just one.

Fatless Sponge
2 large eggs
70g caster sugar
60g plain flour

  • Heat the oven to 170°C, 150°C Fan.
  • Sift the flour.
  • Grease and line the sides and base of a 15cm round cake tin* with baking parchment. Grease the parchment.
  • Put the eggs and the sugar into a metal bowl over simmering water and whisk until light and fluffy and a temperature of 50°-60°C. Using an electric whisk, this will take 10-15 minutes.
  • Fold in the flour then pour the mixture into the prepared tin.
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes until risen and golden brown.
  • Allow to cool in the tin for ten minutes, then turn out onto a cloth-covered rack to cool completely.
  • Reduce the oven heat to 150°C, 130°C Fan.
  • Clean and re-line your tin with parchment.
  • Cut a horizontal slice from the cake 2cm¹ deep and lay it in the bottom of your pan

Cream cheese filling
140g cream cheese
50g caster sugar
4g plain flour
30ml double cream
1 large egg

  • Put all of the ingredients into a bowl and whisk to a smooth consistency.
  • Pour the mixture over the sponge base.
  • Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the edges are set and the middle wobbly. It will carry on cooking as it cools.
  • Set aside to cool, then chill in the fridge.

Mascarpone mousse
1 sheet gelatine²
140g double cream²
30g caster sugar
25ml water
1 large yolk
60g Mascarpone cheese

  • Put the gelatine to soak in water.
  • Whisk the double cream until firm. Set aside.
  • Put the sugar, water and yolk in a metal bowl over simmering water and whisk until fluffy and thickened slightly.
  • Add the gelatine and stir until melted.
  • Remove from the heat and whisk in the mascarpone.
  • Fold in the whipped cream.
  • Sieve the mixture if it is not smooth (I found this unnecessary) and pour over the baked cheesecake layer.
  • Cover and chill in the fridge overnight.

To Finish

the remains of the fatless sponge
A little cream

    • Trim the crust from the top/bottom/edges of the cake, leaving just the golden crumb, and break it into pieces.
    • Add the cake pieces to the bowl of a food processor and blitz until crumbs.
    • Remove the cheesecake from the tin.
    • Using a pastry brush, paint a thin layer of cream over the top and sides of the cheesecake.
    • Sprinkle the crumbs over the top of the cake and press lightly into the sides so that the whole cake is covered with this pale yellow down of cake crumbs.
    • Serve.

In case you missed it: Over on DejaFood.uk the latest post is Sultan Cream Tart.

 

* It might be my eyes playing tricks on me, but from the video it certainly looks as if the size of the tin changes, getting larger from baking to filling. Whilst you can make this in a larger tin, the layers will obviously be much thinner than the 2cm in the above photo. I like how, with the thicker sponge layer, it’s pretty much three equal layers. If you don’t have a tin this small, consider doubling the recipe to keep the layers impressive.

¹ The original recipe says 1cm, but I find that a bit thin to provide any kind of ‘support’ for the filling – it is such a light sponge, when the 1cm sponge layer draws moisture from the baked layer it becomes over-saturated and soggy.

² The original recipe called for 3g powdered gelatine and didn’t appear to distinguish what type of cream. I prefer working with sheet gelatine, so I tried this recipe with both double and whipping cream, and using one and two sheets respectively. Overall, the double cream/1 sheet had the better texture, a barely-there set that melted in the mouth. The whipping cream/2 sheet version was fine, just a little firm for my tastes.


Checkerboard Tarts

Cauliflower and Broccoli Checkerboard Tarts

Wotchers!

This recipe is all about simplicity, and enjoying the delicate flavours of two of my favourite vegetables: beautiful florets of cauliflower and broccoli nestled in crisp shortcrust pastry, delicately seasoned with a light and creamy egg custard.

Underneath the eye-catching exterior, it is a broccoli and cauliflower quiche, but with a slightly different approach and a few minutes devoted to presentation, it can be quite the showstopper.

The pastry base is baked completely, for maximum crispness, the creamy egg filling is poured in and the briefly blanched vegetables are then arranged in a delightful checkerboard pattern. Covering the whole with a tight seal of foil allows the vegetables to cook to al-dente perfection while the custard sets, without becoming discoloured from the heat of the oven. The vegetable stalks, nestled in the creamy filling, cook through perfectly, and the florets gently steam in the resulting moisture, retaining their bright colour.

It can be served warm or cold, as an accompaniment or a side dish. It slices beautifully and thus can be enjoyed as an an usual addition to a picnic hamper.

Cross-section of Checkerboard Tart

Best of all, although possibly not for those of you who love the rigid formality of recipes, it can be made in whatever size and shape you like. Originally, I only planned the large size, but in trimming the florets to even sizes, found myself with numerous smaller, but still perfectly-formed florets, and so made smaller tarts, and even tiny individual ones too.

Small Checkerboard Tart
Individual Checkerboard Tarts

The only limit is how prepared you are for the sometimes fiddly process of arranging the florets. My solution for minimising the Faff™ is to, in the first instance, arrange the florets in the empty pastry case, then remove them in rows and lay them neatly in order to one side, add the filling to the tart case, then lift the florets back into position in rows. Should you have a mishap, and one or more of your florets tumble into the filling, take a moment to rinse off the egg mixture otherwise the overall effect will be spoiled.

A mentioned above, the main enjoyment comes from the delicate flavours, but you could also add other ingredients to the filling, if you’d like to turn up the taste volume.

Checkerboard Tarts

The quantities are, to a large extent, dictated by the size and number of tarts you want to make. The unused vegetables can be stored in the fridge for several days and then steamed for a just five minutes before serving as accompaniments to other meals. Be sure to get the freshest, whitest cauliflower and the firmest, crispest broccoli (the florets should not move when you poke them) for maximum colour and visual impact.

1-2 fresh, white cauliflower
2-3 large florets of broccoli
shortcrust pastry – I prefer my cornflour shortcrust.
egg-white for glazing
500ml low-fat crème fraiche
2 large eggs
salt and pepper

  • Cut the vegetables into large florets and steam for five minutes over boiling water.
  • Put a clean cloth on a baking tray and lay the vegetables on top to cool. Set aside until required.
  • Prepare the baking tin. For the large tart I used a deep spring-form tin and laid the pastry only half-way up the sides. The vegetables also sat neatly inside the sides of the tin. For shallower tins, the vegetables will sit a little higher.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Roll the pastry out to a thickness of 5mm and line your baking tin. Trim the sides to a height of about 3cm. Poke holes in the bottom to let out the steam, using a fork.
  • Line the tin with parchment and baking beads/rice and bake for 10 minutes.
  • Remove the parchment/beads/rice and return to the oven for another 8-10 minutes until cooked through.
  • Whisk the egg-white until frothy, then use a pastry brush to ‘paint’ the inside of the tart with it thoroughly.
  • Return the tart case to the oven for two minutes to cook the egg-white. Set aside to cool.
  • Reduce the oven heat to 150°C, 130°C Fan.
  • Trim the vegetables to florets of even sizes of about 5cm. The exact size will be dictated by the size/shape of your tin. You want them to fit snugly together, to hold their shape.
  • Once the pastry case has cooled, arrange the florets in a pattern until it is full, to ensure you have sufficient florets prepared. You will probably need to trim the stalks to no longer than 3cm.
  • When your tart is full, carefully remove the florets and set them aside in rows, so they can easily be returned to the tart once the filling is added.
  • Whisk together the crème fraiche and eggs. Season with salt and pepper. If the tart is to be eaten cold, be generous with the seasoning, as flavours will be slightly muted when chilled.
  • Pour the filling into the pastry case to within 5mm of the top of the pastry. Arrange the blanched vegetables back into place.
  • Cover the tin tightly with foil and bake until the filling is set. For a large tin, this will be about 45 minutes, smaller tins around 35 minutes and mini tins 25 minutes.
  • Allow to cool slightly before removing from the tin(s).