Thursday, 19 January 2017

Quick Chocolate Palmiers

Palmiers - those gorgeous little light French biscuits!  Visiting French supermarkets on holidays with my grandparents was always a treat - everything looked (and smelled) so different!  Their biscuits were always far superior, I thought, and I fell in love with the little crisp palmiers.  My affair hasn't waned, but my ability to make them was never tested.    However, with the advent of ready-rolled puff pastry, palmiers can be made and eaten in an incredibly short time!  They can be sweet or savoury (perhaps not at the same time) - I made the chocolate ones below using some left over chocolate which had hardened in a bowl and got that unattractive whitish bloom.

Tested at a Tea and Cake choir rehearsal, they were in definitely tune with the singers!

Quick Chocolate Palmiers
Quick Chocolate Palmiers

1 pack ready-roll puff pastry (preferably the all-butter version)
Caster sugar
6oz dark chocolate

Take the pastry out of the fridge for about 10 minutes to allow it to warm up so it doesn’t crack when you unroll it.   Melt the chocolate (if you are using it).  Preheat the oven to 200 deg C and cover at least 1 baking tray with non-stick parchment. 

Un-roll the pastry gently on its paper and spread with melted chocolate.  Now shake caster sugar all over the chocolate.   Mark the centre of the short edge on either end (don’t cut the pastry, though!).

Put the longest side towards you and roll it up towards the centre mark, making a tight roll at the beginning.   Turn the pastry round so that the unrolled side is now towards you and roll up this side until the two rolls meet in the middle.  This creates the classic shape.   Now roll it all up tightly in the paper and chill for approx. 20 minutes (or stick it in the freezer). 

To get a cleaner cut, wipe flour on a sharp knife before cutting the roll into very thin slices, approx. .5cm/ ¼”.   Put onto the baking sheets, allowing space to spread a little.   Bake for about 12 minutes – check!!!!  The pastry should be golden and crisp.  When you take them out, dredge with more caster sugar and allow to cool.     

I gather this works well also with cinnamon and Nutella, plus there are endless savoury versions.   

Friday, 13 January 2017

Cinnamon Rolls

It's snowing, and thoughts turn to deliciously sustaining comfort food.  What could be more comfortable than cinnamon rolls?  The kitchen smells fabulous and the inner caveman (and woman) is satisfied.   This is the easiest recipe, too - ready in just under an hour and a half, so none of that delayed gratification you need to exercise for normal bread!

I tested these on my choir on a chilly evening.  As you can see, they aren't physically perfect (is anybody?) but there was the most delicious crunchy base to each, simply because I'd ignored the recipe instruction to put each one into a muffin tin...  sometimes it does pay to ignore the instructions.

Cinnamon Rolls 
Cinnamon Rolls

1/3 pint/just over 6 fl oz/180ml milk
2oz/55g butter (or spread)
14oz/400g strong plain flour (bread flour)
1 sachet dried quick yeast (7g/1tsp)
2oz/55g caster sugar
½ tsp salt
4 tbsps/60ml water at room temperature/slightly warmed
1 egg, beaten
7 ½ oz/220g muscovado sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
4oz/110g softened butter (or spread)

to glaze:  2tbsp milk and water
               3 tbsp caster sugar                                         Oven 190 deg C

In a small saucepan, warm the milk until it is just bubbling slightly, then add the butter.  Stir and allow it to cool to lukewarm (if necessary, pour it into a cold metal container).    Now take a large mixing bowl, put 8 ½ oz (250g) of the flour, adding the yeast, sugar and salt.  Mix this together, then add the water, egg and milk mixture.  Beat this well, then add the last of the flour, stirring it all together until you have a dough.  Finally, turn it out onto a floured surface and knead it for about 5 minutes to make the dough elastic.   Put your dough back into the bowl, cover with a cloth and leave it to rest for 10 minutes.  

In a small bowl, mix the sugar, cinnamon and butter so you have a gritty paste.
Turn the dough out again, and alternately roll and pull it into a rectangle at least 12” x 9” (30 x 23cm).   Cover it with the sugar/butter mixture, using a round bladed knife to get the paste evenly all over the surface (this is surprisingly time-consuming!).

From the long side, roll the dough away from you, tucking the first curl in very tightly.  Pinch the edge to seal it (or use a bit of water to moisten the dough) and sit the roll on the edge.   Now cut into a minimum of 12 pieces – I went for more so I had flatter rolls, approx. 16 or so.   Turn the oven on to 190 deg C.

To save on the washing up, I put the rolls on baking parchment, not so far apart that they were isolated, nor so close together they completely fused (about 6 to a baking tray, depending on your trays).  Cover with greased cling film and leave to rise in a warm place (over the cooker) until they have doubled in size.   In a small pan, mix the milk/water and sugar.  Heat gently together and leave this to cool.   

Bake for about 15-20 minutes until light golden brown and firm to the touch.    When you take them out, glaze the buns with the milk and water mix immediately.  For best results, do this twice, then leave them to cool…. if you can resist them for that long!   Best eaten warm.