Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Quick cheese biscuits



Some of the best things are made with the fewest ingredients.   This is an infinitely adaptable recipe as the proportions are easy to scale up and down.   This makes about 30-40 or so biscuits (if you slice them thin), but as the dough can be put into the fridge, you can leave it there (or freeze it) while you eat the first 20…    They have been tested several times on friends, with the accolade of the empty plate.   I made these with Cheddar and Parmesan, but you could use any hard cheese that is lingering in the fridge.  

Quick Cheese Bicuits
Cheese Biscuits


4oz/100g plain flour (or a gluten free blend)
4oz/100g butter cut into chunks
2oz/50g Cheddar, fine grated
20z/50g Parmesan, fine grated
1 egg white (not absolutely necessary)
Black pepper/paprika/cayenne/mustard powder – any of these, not all!

Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl, or in a food processor, until you get a soft dough (at this stage, you could add ½ tsp mustard or paprika).   Roll the dough into a sausage and chill it until it is hard.  When the dough is chilled, heat the oven to 170 deg C, 150 deg fan, and put parchment on one or two baking sheets.   Cut the dough into 5mm rounds, and put them into the parchment.   Brush with egg white (or milk) and grind on some pepper/dust with cayenne. 

Bake for approx. 10-15 minutes until the biscuits are golden and crisp.   They keep well in a tin for a day or so, but are definitely best warm and fresh!   If you choose not to bake all the dough at once, wrap the dough up and keep in the fridge for no longer than a week, or freeze it.

Please note that the gluten free biscuits were much more fragile. 


Sunday, 1 March 2020

Easy Salt Caramel Cheesecake


I'm a great one for easy cheesecakes, and have recently been perfecting the "all in one" method - ie, putting everything into a Magimix-style food processor and pressing the button.    It works!   So, needing a quick and different cheesecake in a hurry, I thought I'd use my favourite things - chocolate, caramel and cream.    As always, cheesecake can be gluten free, simply by using gluten free biscuits.  The no-gelatine recipe also makes it suitable for vegetarians. 

Easy Salted Caramel Cheesecake
Easy Salted Caramel Cheesecake

8oz/225g digestive biscuits, crushed to crumbs
4oz/110g butter
4oz/110g dark chocolate (optional)

8oz/225g cream cheese or soft cheese (full fat)
8oz/225g Mascarpone cheese (or just cream cheese)
3oz/75g icing sugar
10floz/280ml double cream
2 tbsp of caramel from a tin

1400g tin of caramel/Dulce de Leche  (or a jar of salt caramel)
Sea salt flakes (though not massive ones)


Line a 9” spring clip tin with parchment.   Melt the butter in a bowl, add the biscuit crumbs, mix well and spread them over the base of the tin.  Chill in the fridge until set.    Melt the chocolate and spread it over the chilled biscuits.  Allow to set. 

In a Magimix, beat together the cream cheese, Mascarpone, icing sugar, cream and caramel.  Beat until the cream thickens up.  Scoop this mixture into the tin and level it.   Allow to chill for at least an hour.  

To finish, tip on the rest of the caramel and smooth it over.   Sprinkle salt on the top - the aim is to offset the sweetness of the caramel, not make people think of the Dead Sea.    Add flowers!     






Tuesday, 14 January 2020

World's Best Cake - "Verdens Beste/Kvaefjordkake"


This is, quite without doubt, the most amazing cake in the world, and it's name doesn't lie!  Known as the World's Best Cake, or Verdens Beste, it comes from Kvaefjord in Troms, a northern county of Norway.    Last year, I had the privilege of skiing on part of the route the World War II SOE "Operation Gunnerside" saboteurs took to get to the heavy water plant at Vermork.   My team leader had lived in Norway as a teenager, and the family she got to know then kindly invited the entire team to supper.   The crown of a fabulous evening was this cake.  A confection of cake, meringue, almonds and cream... .heaven in a single (massive) slice...   Of course, I had to have the recipe!    So, Toril and family, many, many thanks - I hope I've done your recipe justice. 

World's Best Cake - "Verdens Beste/Kvaefjordkake"
World's Best Cake - "Verdens Beste/Kvaefjordkake"

5oz/150g butter
5oz/150 g caster sugar
5 egg yolks mixed with
4 tbsp milk
5oz/150 g flour (I used self raising flour)
1 tsp vanilla essence or vanilla sugar
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda  

Meringue:
5 egg whites
6oz/180g caster sugar
4oz/100g flaked almonds

Filling:
1 pint/600ml double cream
2 tsp vanilla sugar (I used 1tsp vanilla essence)

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C and put parchment in a Swiss Roll tin/baking tray.  The meringue will come quite high, so be generous with the parchment.

Cream the butter and sugar until it is light and airy, then mix in the egg yolks and the milk.  Add flour, bicarbonate of soda and vanilla essence or sugar.   Spread the dough evenly onto the tray.

Using a mixer, whisk the whites almost firm and then add the sugar in a
thin stream while whisking until the meringue is firm and shiny and will keep its shape.  Dollop the meringue all over the cake mixture, lifting it with the spatula (ie, so it isn’t smooth on top).   Sprinkle the flaked almonds all over the top. 

Bake the cake in the middle of the oven for 15-20 minutes and allow to cool.

Cut the cake in half (I found it easier to keep the cake on the parchment, cutting right through, so you can tip it upside down).   Put one half on your serving dish  with the meringue facing down. Whisk the cream and the vanilla sugar softly together and spread it over the cake.  Top with the other half of the cake, meringue side up.   

The cake is now ready to be served, or you could refrigerate it for later.  Toril says she sometimes makes the cake a day in advance, adding the filling on the day.




Sunday, 8 December 2019

Apple Jelly


Have you ever made anything so delicious with just two ingredients?   For my holiday let (Sappington Granary, listed on Airbnb as "Charming Romantic Hideaway just outside Canterbury", just in case you were wondering), I do a range of home made breakfasts, which always includes my own home-pressed apple juice.   Having some wonderful friends who grow apples commercially, I am allowed to wander among the orchard after the pickers have been through to collect all the apples my car boot can hold.   A lot of pressing and hard work later and... ta dah!!!!   Beautiful apple juice.  You must try it, although be prepared for a lot of work resulting in not a lot of juice.

This year, in the quest for a Stour Festival pudding I hadn't tried, I thought I'd use my beautiful juice to make a jelly.   Result?   A very, very delicately apple flavoured jelly, which was enthusiastically hoovered up by the singers, musicians and helpers (particularly the latter - singers prefer heartier food).    You must try it, if you try nothing else.   Commercial apple juice will work just as well.

Apple Jelly

Apple Jelly
6 gelatine leaves (enough to lightly set 1.5 pints liquid)
1.5 pints/775ml strong apple juice

Heat 4 fl oz/100ml of apple juice until it is steaming.   Soak the gelatine sheets in cold water until they are flexible, then squeeze off the water before dropping the soggy leaves into the hot apple juice and stirring to dissolve the leaves entirely.   

Pour this mixture into a jug and add the rest of the juice.  Stir well to combine it all – you don’t want a layered effect with a thicker jelly at the bottom.   Pour the jelly into a pretty bowl and leave it to set in the fridge for at least four hours.  Decorate just before serving with flowers. 

This has quite a delicate flavour, so if you wanted to add sharpness, you could try adding the strained juice of half a lemon.  


Cinnamon shortbread stars


Isn't cinnamon the most wonderfully versatile spice?   It appears in so many guises, but mostly at Christmas, when its subtle warmth and evocative smell brings cheer to the dark and dismal days of rain-washed England in December.  And we've certainly been rain-washed this year! 

My local church has a Christmas Tree Festival, and there are always baked goodies for sale on the Open Day.   These little cinnamon stars were one of my contributions, and where I had the ultimate accolade from young Joseph (perfectly name for a Christmas visitor) who liked them so much, he not only wanted to take the rest home, but also have the recipe.    So, Joseph, here you are, with very best wishes for a happy Christmas. 

Cinnamon Shortbread Stars

Cinnamon Shortbread Stars

5oz/150g plain flour (works very well with just rice flour)
3 level tbsps rice flour – if no rice flour, just use more plain flour
2oz/50g caster sugar
4oz/100g butter at just above room temperature
½ tsp of mixed spice and cinnamon

1tsp cinnamon
1tsp icing sugar mixed together 
gold powder

Preheat oven to 170deg C/325 deg F.    Grease a large baking sheet.   Mix together the flours, spices and the sugar.    Add the butter and work it into the dry ingredients.   It will form a dryish dough, which you knead a little before rolling (this stretches the gluten and makes the biscuit stick together better).  

Roll out the dough between two pieces of greaseproof parchment, about .5cm thick.   Cut stars, about 2-3”, 50-75mm, and transfer using a fish slice to the baking sheet.  When you gather up the leftovers and roll them out again, try not to over-knead it, as the final result isn’t as good (what Mary Berry would described as “overworked” – you know the feeling!)

Bake until firm and golden – the butter in the mixture will brown while your back is turned, so check it frequently after 10 minutes or so.      When they are done, dredge them with the cinnamon/sugar mixture, using a small sieve, then add a little gold powder for festive sparkle.  

This quantity of ingredients made about 24 or so biscuits.  Joseph suggests putting a hole in each one before baking, so you could hang them on the Christmas tree.  

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Coffee and Walnut Tart


Another year, another Stour Festival, another fortnight of fabulous puddings!    It's such fun to be given a free hand to make whatever you want, in quantity, for enthusiastic eaters.    This year I thought I'd try several new items, and this delicious walnut and coffee tart is one of them.   From a recipe I tore out of a magazine (doesn't everybody?), the original was for 6 tartlets, but I ignored that, and made a large one instead.   To do that, I ended up doing 1.5 quantity the icing as I wanted a thicker layer.   Your choice.

Coffee and Walnut Tart
Walnut and Coffee Tarts

Pastry:
4 ½ oz/125g cold butter, cubed
8 ½ oz/250g plain flour
2oz/60g icing sugar
Just under 1floz/25ml water mixed with 1 egg yolk

Tart Filling:
5 floz/150g double cream
8 ½ oz/250g caster sugar 
5oz/50g salted butter
7oz/200g walnut halves, 6 left whole, the rest chopped

Coffee top (original quantity for 6 small tarts):
5oz/150g white cooking chocolate
2 ½ fl oz/75g double cream
1 tbsp instant coffee granules

Crème fraiche to serve.

Make the pastry.  The recipe suggested doing this by hand – rub the butter into the flour, mix the egg, icing sugar and cold water, pour into the flour and stir in with a knife until the mixture gets lumpy.  Press this into a ball, wrap up and refrigerate for 2 hours.  Cut into 6 (if making individual tarts) roll out each piece into a circle and put into individual tins, pressing into the edges.  Trim with a knife and let the cases rest in the fridge for 1hr.  Making a single tart, I rolled the pastry out into a 9” loose bottomed flan tin and pricked the base lightly before the second refrigeration.    Preheat the oven to 180deg C.   Blind bake the tartlets/tart for 10 minutes, remove the paper and baking beans and cook again for another 8-10 minutes.  Allow to cool.  Remove the tart/tartlets from the tins.

To make the filling, put 1/3 of the sugar into a heavy based saucepan over medium heat.  When it starts caramelising, sprinkle in more sugar.  Add the rest of the sugar slowly, swirling the pan gto encourage it to melt, until the caramel is amber in colour.  Now add the cream, then the butter, and stir.  Speed is essential at this stage, and the caramel is very hot.  Add the chopped walnuts, mix it all together, then put the mixture into the tins.   You should leave a space below the rim of the tart as the coffee icing goes on top of this.   Level the nut mixture and leave it to cool while you make the coffee icing.


Put the chocolate into a heatproof bowl.  Heat the cream and coffee in a saucepan until simmering, and pour this over the chocolate.  Leave it to melt, then stir it together.  Fill each tart case with the coffee icing, putting a whole walnut in the centre/decorate the entire tart.   Put this into the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up, then serve at room temperature, with whipped cream or crème fraiche. 

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Chocolate and Lime Crunch Pie


A new take on my famous Lime and Basil Crunch Pie, on the basis that everything tastes better with chocolate!  I wasn't wrong.  What really works with this recipe is that the chocolate base stays firmer than the usual base, which is especially valuable in the summer, when this kind of recipe can look a little sad if it has been released from the fridge a little earlier than it should.  Gluten free digestive biscuits worked very well, including GF Hobnobs. 

Chocolate and Lime Crunch Pie

Chocolate and Lime Crunch Pie


8oz/230g Hobnobs, crushed (use gluten free biscuits if wished)
3oz/75 g butter and
2oz/50g dark chocolate, melted in the microwave
Juice and zest of 4 limes
1 can condensed milk (full fat)
½ pint/300ml double cream

1 oz dark chocolate
1 lime for decoration

Grease a 9” springclip tin and put baking parchment in the base.   Mix the crushed biscuits with the melted butter/chocolate and spread into the tin, levelling out.  Put in the fridge to allow to harden.

Whisk the condensed milk, cream, lime zest and juice together for about 2-5 minutes or so until it has thickened.   This is best done with a Kenwood/Kitchen Aid mixer, or at least a deep bowl so you don’t redecorate the kitchen!

Pour the mixture onto the biscuit base, level the top and chill for at least half an hour so that it sets.    Heat the last 1oz of chocolate until liquid, then scribble it generously over the pie.  Grate some of the last zest, and cut the last lime into thin pieces and arrange both over the top.

When you remove this from the tin, remember that it has paper underneath…






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