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.

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/


My Christmas Cakey Bakey

My Christmas Cakey Bakey Showstopper

Wotchers!

Happy 2017!

I’ve had several requests for the recipe for my showstopper from the Christmas Bake Off episode shown on Christmas Day.

Whilst I could just copy/paste from the document I submitted to the production company, it would make this post enormous and you’d be scrolling for days. In addition, it would take a full four hours of constant making/baking and multitasking in order to replicate the cake in its entirety. I suggest cherry-picking your favourite and having something a lot less stressful in a pleasingly short amount of time.

Instead, I’ll reveal the full extent of my CREATIVITY and CUNNING by pointing out – that the majority of the showstopper can be assembled from recipes already on the blog. Much in the same way as <insert trademarked brand of interlocking toy bricks here>, I took bits from here and there and used them to create the various components of the finished recipe.

The reasons were numerous:

  • requirements of the brief (numerous)
  • limited planning time (3 weeks)
  • strictness of guidelines (extreme)
  • decoration exclusions (numerous)
  • time limit (4 hours)

But mostly to demonstrate that it is possible to rearrange favourite recipes that you already know how to make into something new and exciting and delicious. So I made a whole bunch of things and then put them together into one cake.

Below is the running order of things I had to make and where I got the original idea.

My Christmas Cakey-Bakey Make Order

  • Chocolate Joconde – used a double quantity of this recipe, but with 80g cocoa and no flour, making it both really chocolate-y and gluten-free
  • Spice Joconde – a double quantity of the same joconde recipe, but with 225g dark muscovado sugar instead of the icing sugar and just 70g plain flour plus 2tsp each of ginger, allspice, mixed spice.
  • Spekulaas crumb – made using this recipe not formed into biscuits. Bake the crumb for 8-10 minutes until crisp.
  • Lemon curd & Seville Orange curd – 2 batches using the Honey Curd recipe, the lemon batch made with lemon-blossom honey, orange batch made with orange-blossom honey and the zest and juice of 2 Seville oranges.
  • Vanilla Cream x 2 & Spekulaas cream – using the cream filling from this recipe, scaling up each batch by multiplying the recipe by 1.5 (so 300ml of creams, etc) and swapping the extract for 2 vanilla beans. For the spekulaas cream I omitted the vanilla/sugar and added 300g of spekulaas biscuit crumbs.
  • Fill cakes, cover with cling film & chill until required. So few words describing such a major part of the process! OK, here we go:
    • For the chocolate cake
      • Cut three evenly-sized pieces from the two joconde sponges.
      • Place one piece on a board and spread with a thin layer of vanilla cream. This will both keep the sponge moist and prevent the curd from soaking into the cake.
      • Spread a second piece of sponge with a thin layer of vanilla cream.
      • Put the rest of the vanilla cream into a piping bag fitted with a plain 1 or 2cm tip and pipe dots of cream around the outside edge of the cake both to give a neat appearance and to prevent the curd from leaking out.
      • Pour half the Seville orange honey curd onto the middle of the cake and spread evenly.
      • To prevent the next layer from ‘sagging’ in the middle, pipe a line of vanilla cream from left to right and from top to bottom, dividing the layer into quarters.
      • Add the next layer of sponge using the piece of cake spread with vanilla cream. Repeat the piping around the edge and spread the remaining curd.
      • Lay the remaining piece of cake on top and press gently.
      • Cover with cling film and chill in the fridge (although I used the freezer due to the time limit) until required.
    • For the spice cake
      • As above, using the spice joconde cake, vanilla cream and lemon honey curd.
    • For the spekulaas cake
      • I’ve had a lot of enquiries asking for the recipe for the spekulaas cake. But here’s the thing. I didn’t make a spekulaas cake. I used 2 layers of chocolate joconde and 2 layers of spice cake, sandwiched with spekulaas crumb cream and crunchy Lotus Biscoff spread. The flavours go well together individually (chocolate/spekulaas/Biscoff, spice cake/spekulaas/Biscoff) as well as all together (chocolate/spice cake/spekulaas/Biscoff). So you could use any of these combinations to make your own version.
      • Spread one piece of cake with the spekulaas cream and as with the other tiers, pipe dots of the cream around the edges.
      • Zap some of the Biscoff spread briefly in the microwave, until it softens enough to pour, and use as per the fruit curd in the other tiers. Use as little or as much as you like.
      • Repeat the layering as required.

Decorations

My decoration requests were vetoed so many times, I ended up opting for a variation of something I’d seen on-line. I used strips of lace of different patterns – one was even of Christmas puddings! – and laid them over the top of the cakes, then dusted liberally with icing sugar. Due to the long interval between the end of the challenge and the judging, the icing sugar was starting to dissolve, as you can see on the photo. If you leave this until just before serving, your decoration will be crisp and clear and will wow your guests.

I’ll keep the details of the other decorations (chocolate Christmas trees & chocolate choux Christmas puddings) for another time, because there’s more than enough here to keep you out of mischief for the moment.

Have fun! 😀


Roasted Cauliflower Quiche

roasted cauliflower quiche

Wotchers!

The recipe this week is actually one I made on Week 2 of The Great British Bake Off, and is in response to a request from a blog reader. I thought the recipe was already online somewhere, but it seems not.

With a 2-hour time limit, the brief was for ” a large quiche with a savoury flavoured pastry” and, as a Signature Bake, the other criteria were for it to be:

  • something that showcases your personality, creative flair and baking ability
  • a favourite tried and tested home recipe
  • well presented and original

Consequently, I made a point of making my version of this seemingly simple combination of cauliflower, eggs, cheese and pastry a little treasure trove of unexpected details and flavours, not all of which were picked up on by the judges, but for posterity’s sake, I’m going to list them here:

  • Suet pastry flavoured with caraway and cheese. Yes, suet can be used for regular pastry as well as the boiled/steamed variety. Made with commercially prepared suet, it is much quicker and easier to prepare than other types of pastry: everything is mixed in a bowl and stirred together with cold water until a paste is formed – rather like making a stiff scone mixture. Fresh breadcrumbs and baking powder add lightness and the caraway seeds pair well with the cheese. The result is very light and crisp. Obviously the suet makes it non-vegetarian, but vegetable suet is available, if preferred.
  • Cauliflower: roasted in the oven to give touches of deep, rich caramel to the naturally sweet and delicate flavour.
  • Onions: slowly caramelised in oil to intensify both the flavour and sweetness.
  • Mustard: brushed over the blind-baked pastry to bring a little zing amongst the richness of the cheese and eggs.
  • Cheese: A mixture of grated Gruyère and Parmesan – Gruyère for meltiness (What? That is SO a word!) and nuttiness, Parmesan for a big wallop of cheesey flavour.
  • Crème fraîche: Selecting the low-fat version is both less rich than the traditional double cream, and the slight tang also helps cut through the richness of the cheese to give the cooked quiche a much fresher-tasting bite.

Soggy Bottom Rescue

Sometimes, despite all your best precautions (see below), the pastry does not stand up well to the deluge of wet filling. Coupled with the cooler oven used to just ‘set’ the quiche, whilst the edges of your tart might be crisp and golden, the underside might turn out to be soft and doughy. There IS a remedy, and one which I should have employed in the Bake Off, but I recall that at the time, the remaining cooking time being a bit tight, so I didn’t and paid the price in the form of Mary Berry’s ‘disappointed’ face.

If you find yourself in such a situation, don’t despair, do the following:

  • Allow your quiche to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.
  • Lift the rack up and check the underside.
  • If it’s not cooked to your satisfaction, slide the quiche onto a piece of baking parchment.
  • Put a large, heavy frying pan over a medium low heat.
  • Lift the quiche using the baking parchment and put the whole thing, parchment included, into the frying pan.
  • Allow the heat to bake the bottom of the quiche until crisp and golden. You will need to lift the tart out in order to check – don’t try lifting the edge whilst in the pan as you run the risk of the pastry breaking. If not done, simply place it back into the pan for a few more minutes.
  • The pastry will not stick to the pan, because of the parchment. The low heat will also keep it from scorching.
  • When crisped, simply transfer the quiche back to the cooling rack using the parchment, and then slide the parchment from underneath and allow to cool as normal.

Voilà quiche!

Roasted Cauliflower Quiche

Pastry
100g suet
200g self-raising flour
50g fresh white breadcrumbs
2 tsp caraway seeds
50g Parmesan

iced water to mix

beaten egg for glazing

Filling
1 large cauliflower, cut into florets
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
4 large onions
1-2 tablespoons mustard – Dijon, wholegrain, whatever you like best
3 large eggs
200ml low fat crème fraiche
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
Whole nutmeg for grating
100g grated Gruyère cheese
75g grated Parmesan cheese

  • Heat 1½ tablespoons olive oil in heavy large skillet over low heat.
  • Chop onions and add to pan; sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Cook until onion is caramelised and a deep golden brown, stirring occasionally (about 40 minutes).
  • Put a baking sheet on the bottom shelf of the oven; preheat to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Toss cauliflower with 1 tablespoon olive oil in large bowl. Spread on large rimmed baking sheet, spacing apart. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Roast 15 minutes; Turn florets over. Continue roasting until tender, about 15 minutes longer. Set aside
  • Line a large quiche or tart tin with baking parchment.
  • Mix together all the pastry ingredients.
  • Stir in enough water to make a firm but not sticky dough. Roll out and line the quiche tin.
  • Line the inside with parchment and fill with beans or rice.
  • Bake for 10 minutes, then remove the parchment and filling and bake for a further 5 minutes.
  • Brush the inside of the pastry with beaten egg and bake for a final 3-4 minutes. The egg glaze will form a  barrier between the filling and the pastry and help keep the pastry from becoming sodden.
  • Reduce the oven temperature to 160°C, 140°C Fan. Put a baking sheet into the oven to get hot.
  • Brush the inside of the pastry with the mustard. If you’re a fan, you could even use English mustard, but it is very fiery indeed, especially if you’re not expecting it. Equally ‘surprising’ would be horseradish or wasabi – but do warn people before letting them take a bite!
  • Sprinkle over a layer of caramelised onions.
  • Arrange the roasted cauliflower florets evenly.
  • Whisk together the rest of the ingredients and pour into the pastry case. Jiggle the tin a little to make sure the liquid gets into all the nooks and crannies. You can also – carefully – drop the tin onto the worktop from a height of 5-6cm to get rid of any air pockets.
  • Put the tin onto the heated baking sheet and bake until tart is golden and almost set (still jiggly) in the middle, about 25-30 minutes.
  • Transfer to rack; cool.

Picnic Pie

PicnicPie
Wotchers!

So here we are at last – Final Week on this year’s Great British Bake Off.

And the challenges this week are to be a Savoury Picnic Pie, Sweet Pretzels and a three-tier Wedding Cake.

All of which put me in a right quandary over what to bake for this week’s Bake Off themed post. My Filo Picnic Pie was already savoury, as are my Cheese and Potato Pies with the lovely cornflour crust, but to be honest, neither the pretzels nor the wedding cake were ever really in contention (mostly due to the lack of sweet-loving people in this house), so here we go with a third option for a savoury picnic pie.

Of course, I’m not going to let you off that easy, so I’m first going make you sit through my Anatomy Of A Picnic Pie (Hints and Tips) so that you can all spread your wings and have fun creating your own versions. Because, to be honest, after a busy weekend, I opened my fridge door and chose the ingredients from what was inside. I knew vaguely the sort of pie that was required, and with a bit of this and a bit of that, it all came together. So here are some things to think about when making up your own versions.

  • Pastry: A lot of recipes ‘out there’ *waves hand vaguely in the direction of the interwebs* call for puff pastry, and it certainly is very speedy to grab a couple of ready-rolled sheets from the supermarket chillers and be done with it, but there are a couple of things that need mentioning.
    • Whilst there’s not much that can beat a beautiful, puff pastry topped pie, straight from the oven, all golden and crispy flakiness,  a picnic pie is meant to be eaten cold, and cold puff pastry, due to the high fat content, is very ordinary when cold. It is also not very sturdy, so doesn’t fare well as a large pie, being lugged around the countryside in box or basket. And so you should turn aside from the tempting richness of puff – and for that matter flaky – pastry and go with shortcrust.
    • That being said, shortcrust doesn’t have to be the boring choice. My current favourite shortcrust recipe is the cornflour pastry I adapted from a Victorian bakers’ book for the Cheese and Potato Pies. An all-butter shortcrust lacks the sturdiness that 50% lard/50% butter can afford, however, the addition of some cornflour into the mix gives it a fantastic crispness and dryness as well as a beautifully silky-smooth feel when rolling out. It also makes it suitable for vegetarians, although, with this pie, a little bit of lard in the pastry would be the very least of a vegetarian’s worries, as will be made clear later.
    • Speaking of rolling out, you should roll out your pastry for the sides/base a little thicker than normal – 5-7mm – to make sure the pie holds its shape when baked. The lid, especially if you’re going for the ‘double design’ lid as shown in the top photo, can be a little thinner.
    • I also chose to keep the rosemary flavouring, although other herbs such as sage/marjoram/oregano/winter savory could work just as well – whatever your preference.

Picnic Pie Slice

  • Filling: A good picnic pie needs to hold its shape in the slice, and not fall apart once cut. The filling should be dense enough to hold its shape both during cooking and after the pie has cooled down.
    • Fresh, raw ingredients, whilst delicious, WILL lose bulk during baking, as the moisture in them is released. In addition, too much moisture in the pie can lead to the dreaded soggy bottom and ruin the structural integrity of the pie. Fresh vegetables need to be steamed or parboiled. Spring onions you can getaway with raw, but shallots, onions and red onions should be softened in a oil in a pan first. Tinned chopped tomatoes should be thoroughly drained.
    • Meat also needs pre-cooking. This recipe contains sausage-meat, which I removed from the casings and then cooked in a pan. The same would apply to bacon or gammon.
    • Fresh chopped parsley can do wonders to lift the taste of a pie filling.
    • Whatever you choose for your filling, make sure it is chopped small enough. It will help the pie hold its shape if the knife doesn’t have to negotiate large pieces of meat or vegetables when slicing. The exception to this is potatoes, which cut easily when cooked, and so don’t need to be cut quite as small.
  • Glue: Whatever filling you choose, to help keep it firm when cold, you need some kind of ‘glue’ to hold it together. The usual choice is either egg or cheese. A well-flavoured white béchamel sauce or velouté (like white sauce but made with half stock, half milk) can also work, although it’s tricky judging the correct consistency for when the pie cools.
  • Seasoning. VITAL. You (almost) cannot season too highly. A well-seasoned, hot pie filling tastes very different when cold. Be heavy-handed with the pepper and spices, a little less so with salt, especially if your pie includes bacon. Top Tip: If you’ve got some scraps of pastry left over from lining your tin, bake a quick turnover using some of the filling, just to check the seasoning. If you can wait until it cools, so much the better, but if you have to try it hot, make sure the seasoning is bold and a little ‘in your face’, because it will lose intensity when cold.

And there you have it. As I said before, the contents of this pie came from what I had available in the fridge, and I’m going to be honest with you, some of it was Déjà Food. Most of the cheese was because it needed using up, as did the parsley and the spring onions. The cauliflower was from Saturday’s supper and still al-dente. Broccoli would have been my first choice, for the colour, but the cauliflower disappeared amongst the other ingredients really well and also lightened the texture of the, otherwise almost solid, slab of proteins. Pie was delicious!

Picnic Pie

Pastry
225g plain flour
60g cornflour or rice flour
140g butter
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
ice cold water

  • Put the flours, rosemary and butter into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • With the machine running, gradually add the cold water a tablespoon at a time until the mixture comes together in a ball.
  • Tip the mixture onto a floured surface, knead smooth then wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes.
  • Remove the pastry from the fridge and cut off two thirds. Put the remaining third back into the fridge.
  • Roll this piece out to a thickness of 5-7mm and use it to line a greased 20cm pie tin, loose-bottomed for preference, making sure there is enough pastry overlapping the sides of the tin to allow for joining the lid.
  • Chill while you mix the filling.

Filling
400g sausage-meat [1]
15 slices chorizo – cut into small pieces
180g grated mozzarella
100g grated vintage cheddar
50g grated Grana Padano cheese
250g cottage cheese – drained well
250g cooked cauliflower
1 x 400g carton chopped tomatoes – drained well [2]
5 spring onions – chopped fine
large handful of parsley – chopped fine
1-2tsp smoked sweet paprika [3]
1 rounded tsp coarse ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
2-3 large eggs
1 cold, cooked potato – peeled (optional)

Beaten egg for glazing.

  • Remove the sausage meat from the skins and cook in a pan over medium heat, using a spatula to break up the meat.
  • Set aside on paper towels to allow the excess fat to drain off.
  • When cool, add to a mixing bowl.
  • Cut the chorizo into small pieces and add to the bowl.
  • Add the cheeses.
  • Cut the cauliflower into small florets and add to the bowl, together with the spring onions, tomatoes, parsley and seasoning.
  • Add the eggs, one at a time, to moisten the mixture. You want it moist enough to hold together, but not so much as to make it sloppy.
  • Remove the chilled pastry-lined tin from the fridge.
  • Grate the cold potato into the bottom of the pie in an even layer. This will help absorb any excess moisture and help prevent your pastry becoming soggy. A cold, baked potato is ideal (discard the skin).
  • Add the filling. I decided to really mound it up in the middle, for a domed effect, but you could also just had a firmly-packed, flat pie.
  • Roll out the remaining pastry to make a lid. You can make this pastry a little thinner than the sides if you’re going to make the lattice design shown above.
  • Moisten the pastry overlapping the sides of the tin with a little water.
  • Lay the pastry lid on top and press the two together to make a firm seal. Try not to trap any air under the pastry, as it will make a gap between the filling and the lid.
  • Trim the excess pastry from the edge of the tin using the back of a knife – using the cutting edge might damage the lining of your tin.
  • Using fingers and thumb, crimp the edges upwards.
  • Brush the top with beaten egg.
  • Optional fancy lattice finish.
    • Roll out the excess pastry and wash with beaten egg. It makes it a little trickier to cut the lattice, but so much easier than trying to paint the lattice when its on the pie and not get the sides of the pastry covered in glaze.
    • Cut a lattice using a lattice roller if you have it, or by hand if you don’t.
    • Lift and separate the pastry and drape it over the top of the pie.
    • Cut off the excess lattice at the edge with scissors. Make sure to press the ends firmly onto the lid.
    • Re-roll the remaining pastry and cut a strip to go around the edge of the pie, covering the ends of the lattice.
    • Brush this strip with beaten egg.
  • Cut a vent hole in the top to allow any steam to escape.
  • Return the  pie to the fridge to chill while the oven heats up. This will allow the pastry to firm up and hold its shape better in the oven.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Put the pie on a baking sheet (in case of oozing) and bake for 40-45 minutes, turning the pie around 180° after 25 minutes, to even the colour.
  • Remove and let stand in the tin for 15 minutes, then remove from the tin if possible and cool fully on a wire rack. If, at this stage, the base of your pie is not cooked enough (lift the wire rack up and take a peek) for your liking, return the wire rack to the oven and bake for a further 5-10 minutes, or until suitably crisp. If you can direct the heat of your oven to come from the bottom, so much the better.
  • When cold, wrap in foil and chill thoroughly in the fridge.

[1] I use Sainsbury’s ultimate 97% pork sausages. Fantastic flavour and precious little worryingly-anonymous filler.
[2] If you’re concerned about adding too much moisture, use a couple of spoons of sundried tomato paste, or even pesto,  instead.
[3] This was to boost the flavour of the chorizo, but it would also work if you were using smoked bacon. Feel free to add more heat if you like things spicy.


Rough Puff Stuff

Flaky Pastry vs Rough Puff

Flaky Pastry (top) vs Rough Puff Pastry (bottom)

Wotchers!

Week 9 on The Great British Bake Off – where has the time gone?? – is Semi-Final week, and the Signature Bake is for three savoury canapes. Now, I could think of about a dozen canapes off the top of my head that have absolutely zero baking element, but that wouldn’t bear much relation to the Bake Off, so my guess is that it will involve pastry – especially since there was a, let’s face it, very similar sweet puff pastry challenge just the other week.

We’ve had shortcrust, filo, choux and puff – so the only one(s) left is/are flaky pastry and rough puff pastry, and I’m in two minds which way I’d go. The most impressive might be to make canapes using three different pastries. Then again, showing the diversity and range of what can be achieved using just the one kind of pastry might win brownie points too. If I were to go down the first route, I’d do some kind of mini quiche using my current favourite shortcrust pastry, alongside some gougeres and then something with either rough puff or flaky pastry on account of, as I believe I may have mentioned before, life being too short for puff pastry outside of competition, etc. However, I decided to go down the second route, and show a few of the possibilities using just one type of pastry.

Now I learned ‘The Big Four’ (basic pastries – puff, rough puff, flaky, shortcrust) when I was at school. Yes, I am so old I had proper cookery lessons – and still remember the recipes for all: shortcrust = half fat to flour, rough puff & flaky = 3/4 fat to flour, puff = equal fat and flour. Browsing the web I was surprised to see neither of the rough puff or flaky methods that I know ‘out there’, so I abandoned my Bake Off theme (kinda, but not really) and decided to make this post a basic How-To for both flaky pastry and rough puff. Yes, I KNOW that the title of this post just mentions rough puff, but it went so well with ‘stuff’. And no-one loves a rhyming title more than me! But to have included both would have gone very badly – I would have gone with something along the lines of Achy-Breaky Flaky, and from there it’s a short, rapid slide into lip-licking and twerking, and we don’t want that. Nobody wants to see that. If you’re not reading this in late 2013, you might wonder what I’m going on about. Be content with your puzzlement and move on. It’s for the best, believe me.

SO!

Here’s the lowdown on both rough puff and flaky pastry – quicker than a luxurious all-butter puff pastry, more special than regular shortcrust. As I mentioned above, the proportion of fat to flour is the same for both, but the methods differ. You might prefer one over the other, but as you can see from the photo above, the results do actually differ in a couple of aspects. The flaky pastry has a more even spacing of the layers, and has, for want of a better word, a more controlled rise. The rough puff above seems to have a bigger rise, and also bigger spaces between the layers. However, as will be seen in photos below, when cut into various shapes,they are very similar. One thing I did notice was that flaky pastry  lost it’s structure integrity when cut. That sounds a bit poncy, so I’ll put it another way. When I cut the sheet of flaky pastry into slices, it fell apart. The rough puff held together under the same conditions, and so would be the better choice as a base for an open ‘sandwich’ or for savoury mille feuilles etc. (see photos below).

The quantities below made for a range of items, but is probably a bit small to make a batch of one particular thing. Increase the quantities as you see fit.

As I have mentioned before, unless you’re catering for vegetarians, the best pastry is made with a mixture of half butter and half lard – butter for flavour, lard for crispness.

Rough Puff Pastry

Make sure the butter and lard are very cold to start.

60g butter
60g lard
160g plain flour
ice cold water

  • Cut the butter and lard into 1.5cm cubes
  • Put the flour into a bowl and add the fats.
  • Stir with a knife to coat the fats with flour.
  • Still stirring, add the water gradually until the mixture comes together. It is supposed to be lumpy. It will even out during the rolling.
  • Tip the dough out onto a floured surface.
  • Scatter more flour over the top and roll out into a long, thin rectangle – ideally three times as long as it is wide, but don’t fret too much. The fats will be visible as large blobs
  • Fold the bottom third upwards and the top third down, and then turn the whole 90° to the left.
  • Repeat the rolling and folding, then wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.
  • Roll, fold and turn two more times (for a total of four) and you’re done. The lard and the butter will have all but disappeared into the dough, for a smooth and even colour
  • If you have time, chill for another 30 minutes before use.

Flaky Pastry

Make sure the fats are at room temperature.

60g butter
60g lard
160g plain flour
ice cold water

  • Knead the fats together until thoroughly mixed, then shape into a square.
  • Cut the square into quarters.
  • Put the flour and one of the quarters of fat into a food processor and blitz until well mixed.
  • Add the iced water gradually, until the mixture comes together into a ball.
  • Tip the dough out onto a floured surface.
  • Scatter more flour over the top and roll out into a long, thin rectangle – ideally three times as long as it is wide, but don’t fret too much.
  • Take one of the quarters of fat and either dab little pieces or, if it is soft enough, spread it over the top two thirds of the pastry.
  • Fold the bottom third upwards and the top third down, and then turn the whole 90° to the left.
  • Wrap in cling film and chill for at least 30 minutes, but preferably for an hour, due to the softness of the fats.
  • Roll, dab, fold and turn two more times (for a total of three) and you’re done. I like to do one final roll/fold, without any additional fat, just for luck.
  • Chill thoroughly for 1-2 hours, preferably overnight.

Cooking Tips

  • Both pastries need a HOT oven to cook – 220°C, 200°C Fan – and unless you’re baking large items, probably no more than 10 minutes.
  • Turn the baking tray around 180° after 5 minutes to help ensure even colouring.
  • Brush with beaten egg for a shiny, glossy finish. Do NOT let the egg wash run down the sides or over any cut edges, as it will act like a glue to the layers of pastry and they won’t rise evenly.
  • Pricking the bottom of a tart/vol au vent will help keep it from rising up too much.

Bake Off Suggestions

This post is already way too long to go into much detail, but the pictures below show how each of the pastries performs with a variety of canape shapes. Each was glazed with beaten egg (except the rough puff spoons, I forgot, mea culpa), then baked for a total of 10 minutes in a 200°C Fan oven, turning the baking sheet around halfway through the cooking time. I’ve left them mostly unfilled, to display to better effect, how well each type of pastry performs with each of the various shapes.

  • Canapes are meant to be eaten in one bite, possibly two, just as long as it can be done without mess.
  • Aim for big flavours, since there’s only room for a small amount of filling.
  • Try and include some ‘fresh’ element – grapes, celery, cucumber – to contrast with the rich, crispy pastry.
  • Pesto packs a serious punch, even in small amounts.
  • Pipe fillings into vol au vent cases for an even finish.
  • Avoid overly wet fillings for pies and turnovers.
Rough Puff Pastry Canapes

Rough Puff Pastry Canapes

Key to the Canapes (same for both pictures)

  1. Vol au Vent cases Cut two shapes the same size, then cut the centre out of one and stack it on top of the intact piece to make the walls of the vol au vent. Don’t just stick with traditional round/oval shapes, experiment with other shapes and sizes. You can liven up even a plain shape by using a star or flower shaped cutter for the hole in the middle. Brush the bottom pastry with water to make sure the top adheres, but don’t press down too firmly – you still want the sides to rise up. Don’t forget to prick the bottom and glaze the top surface with egg wash.
  2. Open-face sandwich – here topped with cream cheese, chorizo and some parsley.
  3. Savoury Mille Feuille – Here with, for example only, cream cheese and smoked salmon. For this and the previous canape, you can ensure an even, flat surface to your pastry and control the rise by laying a weight of some sort – a loose-bottom from a cake or tart tin is ideal – on top as it goes into the oven. You might be surprised at how much lift the pastry can still achieve even when weighed down in this manner.
  4. Mini turnover/empanada/piroshki. I’ve used a folding, plastic form to get the lovely, even shape.
  5. Pastry spoons -eliminate the need for both cutlery and washing up with these free-standing pastry spoons. Cut a template using a mini cutter for the spoon and a free-drawn spoon handle. Press the bowl of the spoon into a mini-muffin case and drape the handle over the side of the tin and into the next door hole. Press a finger into the bowl of pastry and against the sides to reduce it to tissue paper thinness, otherwise the whole thing will puff up and lose any shape.
  6. Miniature tarts – these really are bite size – similar to the ‘spoons’ but without the handle, baked in a mini muffin tin. The filling should really pack a punch, flavour-wise, as they are so tiny.
  7. Mini pies onna stick! Take care pressing the pastry around the filling – try not to squash the edges together.
Flaky Pastry Canapes

Flaky Pastry Canapes

Assorted Close-Ups

In each photo the FLaky pastry is on the Left

Square Vol Au Vents

Square Vol Au Vents

Star Vol Au Vents

Star Vol Au Vents

Flower Vol Au Vents

Flower Vol Au Vents

Open Face Sandwich

Open Face Sandwich

Savoury Mille Feuille

Savoury Mille Feuille

Mini Pies onna Stick

Mini Pies onna Stick


Puff Pastry Things

Puff Pastries

Wotchers!

Fab post title, no? Well, we’re at Week 7 of The Great British Bake Off and the only clues from the Radio Times for the showstopper were “three different types of perfectly puffed pastries”. So this might not bear much resemblance to what the contestants are being asked to produce, but I’m going to take the opportunity to return to an economical approach that I’ve mentioned before, namely That’ll Do Cooking.

During the weekend shop, I splurged on some butter puff pastry (on account of life being too short etc. etc) and then got back and chewed my pencil mightily pondering what to make. A slew of recipes went through my mind, including the number one favourite Curry Puff, the ubiquitous Singaporean snack, which evokes fond memories of my time there.

However, I decided to save Curry Puffs for another time since a) they have an unusual pastry which I wanted to show you, and b) my disappointment about the lack of British baking in this (and last) season’s Bake Off meant that I decided to keep whatever recipe I did to these shores.

The only glitch was – there’s not many traditional recipes that use puff pastry, that aren’t either already in my book (she plugged, shamelessly), or that involved going out on another shopping trip, so I decided to go spelunking in the cupboards/fridge and see whether I could find anything suitable to use.

What I found was half a jar of mincemeat, some cream cheese and some poached pears. So I decided “That’ll Do” and therefore these are what I’ve used in three different ways to create this week’s GBBO-Themed blog post.

They might not be as glamorous as those of the Bake Off contestants tonight, but simple? Yes. Delicious? Definitely. Economical? Absolutely.

That’ll do.

Preparation

  • Mincemeat. Didn’t need to do much to this at all. It was a little on the dry side, but I reasoned that the moisture from the pears would sort that out, and anyways, too much moisture would ruin the pastry.
  • Cream Cheese: I added 2tbs icing sugar and some grated fresh ginger to pep up the flavours. Other additions that would work well are zest/juice of a lemon, candied ginger or even crumbled blue cheese and walnuts for a fab sweet/savoury mix.
  • Poached Pears: Since they were already poached, not much to do to them, apart from drain from the syrup. To prepare some from raw, peel, halve and core, then simmer gently in a mixture of 1 cup of white wine, 1 cup of water, 1 cup of sugar until cooked but firm.

Stuffed Pear in Lattice Pastry

If you’re lucky enough to have a lattice roller, then this is a doddle. Even so, cutting the lattice ‘freehand’ isn’t difficult.

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Roll the pastry out thinly.
  • Stuff a pear half with the filling of your choice. I used the ginger cream cheese.
  • Lay the pear half onto the pastry, with the filling contained underneath.
  • Cut around the pear leaving a 2cm border of pastry.
  • Moisten the pastry border with water.
  • Cut a lattice with your roller, or by hand.
  • Ease the lattice apart – you don’t want to stretch the pastry, but have it just wide enough to be able to see the pear through the holes.
  • Drape the lattice over your pear and press the edges into the moistened pastry border.
  • Cut two leaves from the pastry offcuts and attach to the top of the pear.
  • If possible, lay the finished pears in greased, shallow Yorkshire Pudding tins, with the leaves resting on the edge. This will make them stand up nicely when baked.
  • Brush the pastry with egg-yolk whisked with a little water to glaze.
  • Bake for 15-18 minutes until the pastry is puffed and golden.

Stuffed Pear in wrapped pastry

Possibly a little trickier to handle than the lattice pastry, but requiring no special skill or equipment.

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Roll the pastry out thinly.
  • Cut 1.5cm strips of pastry. You will need 4-5 for each pear, depending on size.
  • Sandwich two halves of pear with the filling of your choice. I opted for the slightly firmer mincemeat filling here, as it worked well in holding the pear halves together.
  • Starting at the top, wrap the strips of pastry around the pear, making sure they overlap by about half.
  • Cover any gap at the top with either some pastry leaves or use some mini cutters to make shapes.
  • Place on a lined baking sheet or, if they will fit, greased cupcake/muffin tins – the sides of the tins will help keep the pears upright as they bake.
  • Brush the pastry with egg-yolk whisked with a little water to glaze.
  • Bake for 15-18 minutes until the pastry is puffed and golden.
  • Dust with icing sugar to serve.

Pear Tart

This looks very intricate, but really it’s just a re-hash of some Valentine’s Pastries I did last year. This time I’ve cut larger squares to make room for the filling, and baked them in greased, shallow Yorkshire Pudding tins so that the edges curl up.

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Roll the pastry out thinly.
  • Cut into 10-12cm squares and then cut the corners as indicated in the diagram.

Pastry Cuts

  • Transfer the prepared squares into the tins – so much easier than when they are filled.
  • Thin the pastry a little by pressing it with your thumb, just over the base of the tin – this helps the sides to puff up and over the filling.
  • Spread a layer of mincemeat on the bottom, and top with a pear half stuffed with the ginger cream cheese filling.
  • Fold the four corners inward and press onto the top of the pear.
  • Using mini cutters, cut a small shape to stick on top to cover the ends of the corners. Alternatively, make the pastry scraps into leaves.
  • Brush the pastry with egg-yolk whisked with a little water to glaze.
  • Bake for 15-18 minutes until the pastry is puffed and golden.
  • Dust with icing sugar to serve.