Friday, 27 June 2014

Tarte aux Fruits

The ultimate, classic, French Tart.... a delicious fruit tart consisting of crisp, buttery pastry, a Crème Anglaise filling and a top of fresh fruit, with a glossy glaze.... yum..  This is a showstopper of a tart, worthy of the Great British Bake-Off, where they are always banging on about "Crème Pat" - which is a slightly more heavily set custard - I prefer Crème Anglaise.  I first learned to make this in France, while on holiday with my grandparents, in those days where local markets sold heaps of fragrant strawberries and supermarkets were a voyage of discovery for those without modern phrase books!

The beauty of this pudding is that you can make the pastry base some time in advance, and then add the cold crème Anglaise and fruit later. Top tip - keep a small piece of the raw pastry.  If, when it cooks, the tart develops a crack or a hole, just plug the hole with some of the raw pastry while the tart is still hot from the oven.  The residual heat will cook the pastry, and the hole will disappear.

Tarte Aux Fruits

Tarte aux Fruits

Pâte Sucrée  (French Flan Pastry)
6oz/150g plain flour
1 pinch of salt
3oz/75g caster sugar
3oz/75g butter, cut into small pieces
3 egg yolks
¼ tsp vanilla essence

Put all the ingredients into a food processor and mix it gently (pulses work best) until it is in crumbs.  Take it out, use your hands to make the ball of pastry and let it rest for an hour.  This is so that the pastry isn't over-worked and tough. 

It needs to rest for an hour in the fridge (wrapped in plastic) before using, and again for another 20 minutes after being rolled out. 

Line an 8” loose bottom flan tin with th pastry.  Prick the base of the tart with a fork so that air bubbles do not get trapped underneath and spoil the shape.  Bake blind before use (10-15 minutes in the oven on 180 deg C with foil/parchment and baking beans/old rice and lentils to keep the base flat.  Remove the parchment and do another 5 minutes afterwards so that the pastry is pale golden and not damp - nobody likes soggy pastry!).   

Crème Anglaise:
1 egg yolk
½ oz/13g caster sugar
¼ pint/5fl oz double cream
1 tsp cornflour
2 drops vanilla

Mix the yolks, sugar, cornflour and vanilla, using a small whisk.   In a milk pan (preferably non-stick), warm the cream to blood heat.  Pour this mixture onto the yolk mix, whisking gently until it is all incorporated.  Pour the entire mixture back into the pan and heat it.  Stir the custard lovingly until it thickens and coats the back of the spoon.   Allow to cool.

Fruit and Glaze:
1lb/450g large strawberries/perfect raspberries  
1 small jar redcurrant jelly or sieved strawberry/raspberry jam
1 tsp arrowroot or cornflour (arrowroot is best)

To assemble the tarte:

Pour the thick crème into the tart base.   Arrange the fruit.    Melt the jelly in a pan, add the arrowroot (slaked (mixed) with a little water in an eggcup).   Bring the jelly up to nearly boiling, stirring with a whisk so that you kill off the lumps.  Sometimes the cornflour/arrowroot is cloudy at first, and will then clear.   Strain through a mini sieve and pour over the fruit, covering as much as you can without drowning it.   Chill until set.   

If you decide to make the tart with apricots or nectarines, it is best to poach the fruit and skin it first.  I would also recommend you used an apricot glaze (which you can buy in a supermarket) as the colour is nicer with the fruit. 

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Melting Moments

Perhaps the best thing about food blogging is that it allows me to taste every biscuit in the box!   I've looked at this recipe for years (thanks, Good Housekeeping), as it is on the same page as one of my favourites, but never tried it.   My eye was then caught by the rather unusual coating - cornflakes.   Having the kind of children who will open a box of cornflakes and then leave it (you too?) there is a bit of a surplus issue going on here, so any recipe involving cornflakes is worth trying (or the chickens benefit).   Here I feel I must point out that soggy cornflakes make equally good Melting Moments!  Not entirely sure why they are called that, when they are neither melting nor momentary, but that's biscuits for you... You could make them both gluten and dairy free.

Melting Moments

Melting Moments

4oz/110g butter or spread
3oz/75g sugar
1 egg yolk
Vanilla essence
5oz/150g self raising flour (or blend)
2 handfuls crushed cornflakes in a plastic bag

Preheat the oven to 190 deg C, and grease (or parchment) 2 baking sheets.

Cream the butter and sugar togerher and beat in the egg yolk.  Flavour with a vew drops of vanilla, stir in the flour and divide the dough into 24 similar size pieces, rolling each one into a ball.   Throw the balls into the cornflakes bag one by one so they are completely covered.    Bake for about 10-15 minutes until golden brown.        

Cool on the baking sheet for a few moments, then transfer to a wire rack.    The crispy coating hardens as the biscuits cool.  

Don't use too large a baking tray as it stops the heat from circulating in the oven, so the biscuits brown faster on the underneath.  

Friday, 20 June 2014

Summer Fruit Sponge

It's Stour Music Festival time again!  This may mean nothing to you, but to me it means two glorious weekends of making puddings for appreciative singers and musicians, serving them in a tent in the Kentish countryside.  Downside - it can be cold and wet, and there are no catering facilities apart from work surfaces and a fridge.  Upside - I can experiment with puddings, have the fun of seeing people's faces as they see the groaning table of food, and the concerts are amazing.

This year I'm experimenting with a gluten and dairy free fruit sponge - so not like the old fashioned fruit and jelly flan, don't even go there!   A light, gluten-free sponge base is topped with jam, fresh fruit and a fruit coulis.  So simple, but still something a bit more exciting than fruit salad for the dairy-wary.  The quantity below will make two sponge cakes, so you can use one half like this, and the other half in a trifle.

Summer Fruit Sponge

Summer Fruit Sponge

3 eggs
4oz/110g caster sugar
4oz/110g gluten free or plain flour
1tbsp hot water

To assemble:
jam – about half a jar, warmed in the microwave
fresh fruit - I used cherries (stoned), strawberries and raspberries
fruit coulis (or you could use warmed, sieved, red/blackcurrant jelly)
icing sugar

Pre-heat oven to 220 deg C, and line two 8" sandwich tins with parchment. 

Whisk the eggs and sugar, hard, for at least 5 minutes (preferably in a Kenwood/Kitchen Aid mixer to save your arms!).   The mixture should be really light but stiff enough to keep the impression of the whisk for a few seconds when it has been removed.  

Sift half the flour over the mixture and fold it in, then add the remaining flour and the tablespoon of hot water.    Pour the mixture into the prepared tins and bake for 7-9 minutes until it is well risen and golden brown.   Cool and peel off the paper. 

To make the coulis, simmer some fruit - preferably colour-matched! - with some sugar to taste and a small quantity of water until the fruit is soft.  Purée in a blender and sieve to remove any pips.  

To assemble, heat the jam and put it onto the base (if you don't like pips, you could sieve it, but I can't be bothered!), then top with the fruit.  Pour the cooled coulis over it, then dust with icing sugar before serving.  

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Vanilla and Jam Sponge

Why does vanilla have such a reputation for being boring?  It can be one of the most delicious flavourings, scenting custard, ice cream and cakes with its delicate aroma and flavour.  Sadly, it has been over-used, and now seems to be synonymous with plainness and boredom.   Hoping to avoid this, I decided to make a vanilla sponge cake, as an alternative to the Victoria, with icing to match.  The jam gives it that delicious fresh doughnut taste - can you resist a fresh doughnut?   My favourites are the little beignets from New Orleans, fried as you watch, then dredged in sugar, which we grew to love when staying with our lovely Louisiana friends.  This works well with gluten and dairy-free substitutes.

Vanilla and Jam Sponge

Vanilla and Jam Sponge Cake

4 large fresh eggs
8oz/225g  sieved self raising flour (or gluten free blend)
8oz/225g  caster sugar
8oz/225g buttery spread (works better than butter!)
1 heaped tsp baking powder
1tsp vanilla essence

Filling and topping:
8oz/225g sieved icing sugar
4oz/110g softened butter (or spread)
1tsp vanilla essence
approx half a jar of raspberry or strawberry jam (preferably home made!)

Preheat oven to 180 deg C, and line two 8” loose bottom sandwich tins with parchment (or spray with a “cake release” agent), and grease the sides.

In a food processor or Kenwood, blend the cake ingredients together and then beat until pale and fluffy.   Divide between the tins and cook for 15-25 minutes (depending on the heat of your oven) until risen and golden brown.  To test, they should have come away from the edges slightly, and if you put a (heated) knife or skewer into the middle, it will come out clean.

Tip the cakes out of the tins onto a wire rack and leave to cool.  When cool, spread the jam thickly over one of the cakes, then blend together the icing sugar, butter and essence and carefully spread half of that over the jam (or vice versa, which might be easier!).    Sandwich the cakes together and ice the top with the remaining icing.  

Friday, 13 June 2014

Elderflower Trifle

Elderflower, herald of summer, ingredient of a million refreshing cordials!  Elderflower has a very gentle taste, more of a scent, and is usually paired with gooseberries in puddings.   This time it is the star in its own right, in a fabulous elderflower trifle.   Thanks to Gilly for this recipe, which I made to accompany my first solo singing recital.  The wonderful audience were lured with promises of Pimms and Puddings to follow the recital, and we had a great evening.  The trifle disappeared so quickly, I didn't even have a chance to try it!   The original recipe has crystallised elderflowers on the top, but they were a disaster, so I went for fresh instead.

As always, trifle is an assembly job, so the base can be Amaretti biscuits or a light sponge cake.  There is no custard layer, and NO JELLY.  I made a gluten-free sponge, so the whole pudding was then gluten free (and much appreciated as such!).  The quantity below is enough for 8 people.  It is pretty alcoholic.

Elderflower Trifle 

Elderflower Trifle

Plain sponge cake or 16 Amaretti biscuits (here I used my quick Swiss Roll recipe from the blog, made in two 8" tins, using half)    
4tbsp elderflower cordial
4tbsp sweet sherry
2tbsp water

zest and juice of 2 lemons
flowers from two elderflower heads
8floz/230ml white wine
6oz/150g caster sugar
1 pint double cream

to decorate:
Small sprays of elderflower

Mix together the lemon zest, juice and elderflowers, then leave to steep for at least one hour.  Break up and put the cake/biscuits into the bowl.  Mix the cordial, sherry and water together and pour over the cake - yes, there's a lot of it!   Strain the steeped syllabub liquids into a large bowl.  Stir in the sugar and then pour in the cream.  Whisk together for a minute or two, until the cream thickens (which it does eventually).  Pour into the bowl, and decorate with the fresh flowers. 

The Swiss Roll recipe is here:!

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Rocky Road

Why is this called Rocky Road?  Wish I knew!  I'm not going to add a label saying "contains rocks", as it clearly doesn't, as marshmallows are the total opposite.  Whatever, it is delicious, and definitely one of those terribly moreish little chocolate bites that your hand is irresistibly drawn to.  This batch went to a TA evening and disappeared quicker than I could have believed possible.  I have made this using gluten free digestive biscuits, with a spread instead of butter, and also a Kosher version using the correctly branded ingredients (nuts instead of marshmallows, plus new implements etc).  So it's a very useful cake! The only downside is that it really doesn't photograph well!

Rocky Road

Chocolate Rocky Road

5oz/125g chocolate
5oz/125g butter/spread
6oz/160g digestive biscuits, crushed to large crumbs
1 tbsp golden syrup
2oz/50g raisins
2oz/50g glacé cherries
2oz/50g mini marshmallows

Use a square tin approx 8”, and line the base with parchment.  Melt the chocolate, syrup and butter in the microwave, stirring occasionally.   Add the raisins, cherries and half the marshmallows and tip it all into the tin.  Level it up, decorate with the remaining marshmallows and chill for approximately an hour.  Cut into bars/squares. 

Be warned:  This does not last long! 

Friday, 6 June 2014

Easy Ginger Ice Cream

Most people love ice cream, and home made is always the nicest by far, especially as it is fresh and contains lovely ingredients and no strange additives.  This ginger ice cream is especially easy as it doesn’t need an ice cream maker, so is guaranteed 100% faff-free!  Lovely chunks of spicy ginger nestle in a delicious, rich, gingery-creamy-meringuey ice cream.... how lovely is that?   On the other hand, it uses whipping cream, so has less fat than double cream recipes.  It does contain raw eggs, so make sure you get them from somebody you trust.  It's also the best way to use up that old jar of stem ginger lurking in the cupboard. 

Warning:  The only problem with this particular recipe is that it is a man-magnet, and I have to label it with off-putting names like “Pheasant Stock” to avoid premature discovery… 

Easy Ginger Ice Cream
Easy Ginger Ice Cream

4 eggs, separated
4oz/110g caster sugar
1 tsp ground ginger
4oz/110g chopped stem ginger
½ Pint/280ml whipping cream

Whisk egg whites with an electric whisk until stiff, then whisk in the sugar a teaspoonful at a time.  As the sugar is added, the whites should become stiffer.  Beat the egg yolks and the gingers in a small bowl until well blended.    Fold the yolk mixture into the whites mixture until it is not streaky.  Whip the cream until it makes soft peaks and fold into the whole mixture.

Put into a 2l ice cream container (or similar).  Cover, label “Pheasant Stock” to avoid premature discovery, freeze until solid.

Thaw at room temperature for five minutes, then serve in enormous helpings with ginger shortbreads, brandy snaps etc.  Chocolate sauce is good with it too! 

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Lemon Drizzle Cake

Confession time - I've never been a fan of Drizzle Cake.  For a start, why name something after rather boring English weather?   Second, it always seemed to me to be a pretty poor excuse for a cake - a solid, dense chunk of sponge inadequately leavened by an invisible crust of icing.  Why bother?   So, when my dear friend Donna asked me to make three for her, I did so with a heavy heart.  The results were far better than I expected, as the cakes turned out light and moist (still not a great word) with a lovely crunchy lemon topping.   Total climbdown - I'll be making more soon!   Not tried gluten or dairy free, but I'm fairly sure you could substitute either ingredients to suit you.

This is a terrible photo as it was taken on the train (be grateful, it took ages to even be in focus!) on my way to a TA evening.

Lemon Drizzle Cake

Lemon Drizzle Cake

3 large fresh eggs
6oz/150g sieved self-raising flour
6oz/150g caster sugar
6oz/150g butter or spread at room temperature
¾ tsp baking powder
Grated zest of 1 lemon

Crunchy Topping:
2oz/50g granulated sugar
Juice of half a lemon

Preheat oven to 180 deg C, and line a 2lb loaf tin with parchment.

In a food processor or Kenwood, blend the cake ingredients together and then beat until pale and fluffy.   Shove into the oven and cook for 25-35 minutes (depending on the heat of your oven) until risen and golden brown.  To test, the cake should have come away from the edges slightly, and if you put a (heated) knife or skewer into the middle, it will come out clean.

Mix together the sugar and lemon juice and, as soon as the cake has come out of the oven, stab it with a cocktail stick to make some deep holes and pour the mixture all over it slowly.    Leave in the tin until cool.