Monday, 29 June 2015

White Chocolate Mint Mousse

Another crazy June weekend?  For me that means Stour Festival, a welter of puddings and fabulous early music!   This weekend, I took over as Queen of Puddings, and must have used two gallons of cream in producing many old favourites (at the sidebar there's a new label "Stour Festival Puddings" to give you a flavour!) and some experimental ones.    The challenge at Stour is to feed an unknown number of incredibly hungry singers, musicians and helpers, from a tent with no facilities apart from a plug and some hot water, in all weathers.   Bring it on!!!   I managed to produce the expected groaning board, and included this new chocolate and peppermint mousse.  This is the un-decorated version - there wasn't time to photograph it before it got eaten....

The mousse part of this is taken from Delicious Magazine's White Chocolate Mousse, but I added a dark chocolate base to give it stability and make it easier to cut up.  Serves 8-10.  If you used gluten free digestive biscuits, it would be a lovely gluten free treat.

White Chocolate and Mint Mousse
White Chocolate Mint Mousse

8oz/225g crushed digestive or Hobnob biscuits
4oz/100g plain dark chocolate

1lb/500g white chocolate (good quality!)
1 pint/600ml double cream
2 egg whites
1 tsp peppermint essence (at least – I like a good minty flavour)

Mint leaves to decorate
Dark chocolate to decorate

Use a 9” spring clip tin, and line the base with non-stick parchment.    Melt the dark chocolate, either in the microwave, or in a bowl over a pan of simmering water – don’t let the water touch the chocolate.   Mix in the crushed biscuits and spread it evenly in the tin.  Put the base into the fridge while you assemble the mousse. 

Now melt the white chocolate the same way (it is best to stop heating when it still has visible chunks of chocolate, and allow the residual heat to melt the remaining chocolate).  Allow this to cool a bit – this is important, because otherwise it goes stiff when you add the cream.

Whip the double cream and egg whites, with the peppermint, until it is starting to thicken, but still soft (taste and add more peppermint at this point if you like an intense burst of flavour).   Fold an initial spoonful of cream into the chocolate to break it up a bit, then fold in the rest of the cream, stirring gently until it is smooth.   Pour over the biscuit base and chill for at least two hours. 

Decorate with mint leaves and grated dark chocolate and serve not quite straight from the fridge, but slightly warmer so that the peppermint flavour sings through (like a good soprano soloist!).  

Friday, 26 June 2015

Mars Bar Crispies

If there were a sinfulness scale for food, this would be right at the top!  A melange of Mars Bars, Rice Krispies, butter and chocolate..... I haven't the faintest idea whose recipe this was, but it was given to me by a friend who had eaten it and survived the calorific explosion!  It was subsequently tested on the Army Reserves - my favourite testers, as their enthusiasm for anything other than rations is wonderful.  Like all things chocolate, this doesn't photograph well, but tastes amazing....  Sadly, Kellogg's have just discontinued gluten free rice krispies, but you might be able to find other makes.

Mars Bar Crispies 
Mars Bar Crispies

4 Mars Bars (don’t be mean and use little ones!)
4oz/110g butter
3 ½ oz/85g Rice Krispies (or equivalent)
7oz/200g dark chocolate
2oz/50g butter
1oz/25g white chocolate

Grease a 9” square tin and line the base with parchment.  In a large pan, slowly melt together the Mars Bars and the butter, then pour in the Rice Krispies.  Tip it into the tin and press down to make an even layer.   Chill in the fridge.

Melt together the dark chocolate and the butter, and pour it over the first layer.  Melt the white chocolate and drizzle it over the top.  Chill again.  Cut into squares or triangles.  

Eat.  Eat another one…

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Black Forest Gateau

Black Forest Gateau - who remembers the 70's aspirational pudding?  Popular at about the same time as home freezing, and mass catering.... it has a terrible reputation, and most of it is undeserved.   Faced with making a quick gluten free treat at this year's Stour Festival (by special request of Catherine, one of the most fabulous sopranos I know) I thought I'd try something different.   This one uses my really fast and easy chocolate cake, and the resultant sandwich of cream, cherries poached in cassis and melting  chocolate ganache is making my mouth water!   I chose to make the cherry jam, but you could always just open a jar.  

I think this is the first time I've ever blogged a pudding that hasn't actually been eaten, so I can tell you nothing about how it tastes (maybe that's a good thing!),  As you can see, I was having problems with the cherry jam, but it all adds to the appeal...

Quick Black Forest Gateau
  Quick Black Forest Gateau

8oz/250g cherries  
Jam sugar to taste (or standard sugar)
Good slug of cassis or kirsch
(or 1 pot good quality cherry jam)

3 large eggs
1 cup caster sugar
1 cup self raising flour (or a flour blend)
pinch of salt
2 tbsp cocoa
½ cup milk with a teaspoon of butter melted into it

Filling and Topping:
500ml/approx. 1pt double cream
4oz/110g dark cooking chocolate
4oz/110g cherries (at least) for decoration
more cassis/kirsch

Start by making the cherry “jam”.  Stone the cherries and bring them to the simmer with the sugar and a small quantity of water (just enough to cover the base of the pan).  Add the alcohol and leave it just above simmering to reduce the cherry juice (don’t boil them to bits!).  Cherries have very little pectin, so I ended up scooping out the cherries and boiling the juice with some commercial pectin to make it gel.  You could use arrowroot or cornflour, about 1 tsp.  Allow it to cool and pray it will set.  (If you use a jar of jam, get it out of the jar, warm it up with some cassis and allow it to cool again before using).

Now the cake.  Preheat the oven to 180 deg C, and line the base of two 8” sandwich tins with non-stick baking parchment. 

Whisk the eggs and sugar until thick and creamy (longer the better).   Fold in the sifted flour, cocoa and salt, then add the hot milk and butter.    Pour the mixture into the tins and shake it slightly to level it.  Bake for about 12-15 minutes until it is well risen, brown and rises back when pressed with a gentle finger.    Turn out of the tins onto a rack and leave to cool.

Melt the chocolate with 75ml/2floz pint double cream, and then stir in more cream until the mixture is glossy.   Cool in the fridge so that it doesn’t pour off the cake. 

To assemble, put the base cake onto the serving dish and give it a good sprinkling of cassis/kirsch.  Whip ½ pint/225ml of the double cream and add that next, followed by the cooled cherry jam.  Put the next cake on, and then pour on the chocolate top, spreading it so that it just meets the sides (and hopefully trickles down artistically).   Chill for 10-15 minutes before adding the final cherries for decoration. 

Saturday, 13 June 2015

David's Abbey Crunch Biscuits

When not cooking, singing or doing the Reserves, I am a chimney surveyor, spending a large part of my week visiting people to look at their chimneys and fireplaces.   I then advise and cost work to fit woodburning stoves.  It is the most wonderful job, as I see a range of houses, from the amazing to "just-above-dysentery" and customers likewise!   Sometimes I meet a fellow baker, which was my especial joy one morning, when I was introduced to David, and his amazing biscuits.  Note to prospective customers - biscuits are ALWAYS welcome.... David produced a tin of these fabulous biscuits, and I have to say that my visit lasted far longer than usual!

David has adapted this recipe from "National Trust Teatime Recipes" - I think the original one didn't have coconut -  and I have adapted it slightly from his recipe too (I thought he could be more generous with the golden syrup).  If you used a blend, this could be a gluten free recipe.  They taste like fresh versions of the old Abbey Crunch biscuits I used to love as a child!

Abbey Crunch Biscuits
.David’s Abbey Biscuits/Syrupy Oatmeal Crunchies

4oz/110g butter
4oz/110g caster sugar
1 dsp Golden Syrup
4oz/110g self raising flour
4oz/110g rolled oats
½ tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
3tbsp cream
Half a cup of desiccated coconut

Preheat the oven to 170 deg C.   Line two baking trays with greased foil or baking parchment.    In a large saucepan soften the butter and add the caster sugar and golden syrup and stir thoroughly.   Add the self-raising flour and oats and mix well.  Then add the bicarbonate of soda followed by the cream and about half a cup of desiccated coconut. The result should be thick and gooey, sticky but able to drop off the spoon.

David says the next part is critical – you drop tablespoonfuls of the mixture onto the greased foil/parchment, then pat it down flatly and evenly to make a solid, compacted plain surface (about ¼ “/5mm thick).   Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes until the biscuits are golden brown, with slightly darker edges.  Cool in the tin, and then cut up after about 20 minutes.   Allow them to finish cooling before you eat them (David, really????).  

Friday, 5 June 2015

Peanut Brittle

You know that feeling when you read about something delicious and think "I can make that"???   Idly chatting about sweets and old cookbooks, my friend Constance and I saw a recipe for Peanut Brittle, which reminded Constance of her childhood.   My next thought was.... yes, you've guessed it!  So, I bought the peanuts and had a go.  It is ridiculously easy!  The only piece of kit you might need would be a sugar thermometer, although you could probably get away without it if you are accustomed to making caramel.  Tested on the Army with a sign saying: "Peanut Brittle, Contains Nuts", this was a real hit - a slab the size of a large chopping board disappeared in about three hours!  Thanks, Constance, for the suggestion...

Peanut Brittle

Peanut Brittle

8oz/225g salted or plain peanuts (if using plain, add a good pinch of salt)
4floz/120ml golden syrup
7oz/200g granulated sugar (not brown)
½ oz/15g butter
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda

Have ready the butter, essence and bicarbonate of soda.  Lay a sheet of non-stick baking parchment on a large baking tray. 

Put the sugar, syrup and peanuts into a large, heavy saucepan, and stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved (if you cheat and put it on a high heat straight away you can burn the peanuts – be warned!).  Then raise the heat and boil, stirring, until it is approximately 138 deg C/280deg F – and a mid brown colour (not yet smelling caramelised).    You will probably need to stir it more by this stage, as the peanuts will try to burn themselves. 

Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and vanilla, then the bicarbonate of soda.  The mix will bubble and foam like a Year 10 chemistry experiment.  Pour the brittle into the baking tray and spread it out.  I then put another sheet of parchment on the top so I could pat it down and get an even layer of brittle. 

Leave the whole thing until cold and set.  Break it up into lots of pieces.  If there is any to store (and there won’t be), put it in parchment in an airtight tin.