Monday, 15 October 2018

Breton Cake

I'm a keen follower of Stephen Harris's column in the Saturday Telegraph, not least because his award-winning restaurant is only a few miles away from where I live.    He has a lovely no-nonsense approach to food, but it is clear he absolutely loves what he does.

Breton Cake is a very butter-rich cake, and Stephen has chosen to offset the richness with a sharp gooseberry purée as well as some luxurious cream on the top.  I experimented with it for this year's Stour Festival, as you can't have too much cream at Stour!   It went down well, as it only has a small amount of obvious cream, and is more cakey than most of the offerings on the table.   I'm sure that it would be absolutely delicious with apples instead of gooseberries.    This picture doesn't show it to advantage - the cream has the look of desperate urgency about it which is quite true!  It also shows that my oven runs hot and the cake was a little bit browner than I'd like.

Breton Cake with Gooseberries and Elderflowers

Breton Cake with Gooseberries and Elderflowers

7oz190g butter at room temperature
3oz/75g egg yolks (from approx. 4 large eggs)
6oz/160g caster sugar
9oz/250g plain flour
8g/1 tsp baking powder
4 large fresh eggs
Pinch of salt

Gooseberry Purée Filling:
14oz/400g gooseberries, topped and tailed
3.5oz/80g caster sugar
1-2tbsp water

1 pint/500ml double cream
2oz/50g icing sugar
Elderflowers to decorate (I forgot!)

Take an 8”/ 22cm tart ring (or a sandwich tin without the base).  Line a baking ray with parchment and put the ring on top.   Cream the butter by beating it until it is pale.  In a Kenwood/Kitchen Aid mixer, whisk the eggs and sugar together until pale and fluffy, and then add the butter and mix everything together.  Then slowly (!) add the dry ingredients until you have a sticky dough.  Tip the dough into the tart tin and press it down with your fingers.  Wet a round-blade knife and smooth the surface.  Put the tray and ring into the fridge for an hour or two to rest.

Now heat oven to 180 deg C.   Bake the tart for approx. 30 minutes until it is golden brown (check after 20), then leave to cool.

Cook the gooseberries with the sugar and water until mushy.  Leave to cool.   Whip the cream with the sugar until it is thick enough to pipe. 

To decorate, spread the puree over the cake, then pipe the cream in a single spiral (I wish!), starting at the centre.  Top with elderflowers and dust with icing sugar.

Monday, 1 October 2018

Quince Cheese

I know this is not a pudding, but quince cheese is so delicious, it deserves to be one!    A cheese is a traditional preserve made in time of plenty, as a lot of ingredients go into relatively small pots after a lot of cooking.  However, they keep well, and in fact shouldn't be eaten before 3-4 months have passed.   They develop their flavour and colour over time.   This is a recipe from an old copy of Good Housekeeping, and its recipes are definitely maturing well! 

Quince cheese is similar to Membrillo, and is absolutely delicious with cheese, especially Manchego and (for me) Cornish Yarg.     I have given a quantity in the recipe below, but if you can only find a handful of quinces, make it anyway.

The photo below shows the raw quinces with this year's cheese - it's pale and anaemic compared to last year's richer, more terracotta coloured preserve.

Quince Cheese
Quince Cheese

3 ¼ lb/1.5kg quinces, washed but not peeled
Water to cover
1lb/450g sugar to 1lb/450g pulp

Chop the quinces into four to six pieces (using a sharp knife and some effort as they are very tough).   Put everything into a preserving pan and add water so that it just covers them.  Simmer for at least half an hour until the fruit is very soft and you can stick a knife into them easily.    

Use a plastic sieve if you have one (it stops the fruit from discolouring) and push the cooked fruit and a bit of the water through the sieve – I find it helps to pick out the tough cores and stems at this point.   Discard the remaining water and wash out the pan.   Weigh the pulp and add the sugar.  Over a medium heat stir it until the sugar has dissolved, then raise the heat and boil it gently until the bubbling mass is very thick and if you scrape a wooden spoon across the pan, it will leave a clean line (though not for long!).   As it gets closer to this stage, the fruit will try to stick and burn on the bottom of the pan, so give it your full attention and keep it moving. 

I prefer to use little glass or pottery pots/jars, so you can in principle turn the cheese out at some point.   Wipe the insides of the jars with olive oil.   Pour in the cheese, and cover each jar with a waxed disc (if you don’t have any large enough, baking parchment will do).   Then cover with a standard jam pot cover or, if the pot is too large, cling film.   

I can’t tell you how much this makes – probably about 6-8 little pots at least, but you will have a stash of beautiful amber coloured quince cheeses at the end!