Lemon Meringue Pie

There is no need to cry over lemon meringue pie… that is assuming none of the myriad of things which could go wrong do.

There are a lot of techniques involved in a lemon meringue pie; however none of them are actually too difficult – and almost anyone who has baked before will have tried most of them. The trick is to time the final stages – the filling and the meringue topping – so that the meringue is put onto a steaming hot filling (more on this later).

The main problem that I had making this pie was not me bursting into tears but rather the meringue weeping profusely until it was sitting in a puddle of its own juices. Weeping can happen for a number of reasons and is a classic issue that can arise when making meringue. The first cause of weeping – a universal one – is that the sugar is not properly dissolved into the egg whites. This can be prevented by adding the sugar slowly to the egg whites and giving it a bit of time (twenty seconds or so) between each addition to dissolve. You can test if the meringue is ready after all of the sugar has been added by rubbing a little bit of meringue mix between two fingers and checking that it does not feel gritty. If the mix is smooth, the meringue is ready.

When putting the meringue on to the pie, you want to put it on a hot filling. I have seen recipes where people will make the meringue before the pie filling (because once made, it is very stable)! By adding the meringue on top of hot filling and sealing the meringue around the edge, the steam coming up from the filling will travel through the meringue and cook it from beneath. The heat of the oven will crisp up the outside; the result is a nicely cooked pie without the meringue floating on a lake of lemony syrup – ready to slide off any slice you try to remove from the pie. If the filling is cold when you add the meringue and bake in the oven, the filling is reheated slightly and begins to steam – however the top of the meringue has already crisped up and seals the steam inside. This steam then condenses on the meringue/lemon filling boundary and then slowly begins to dissolve the meringue from beneath.

Finally, meringue pie is best eaten on the day it is make. Ideally you want to make the pie, bake the pie, let it cool out of the fridge and then serve. Chilling the pie in the fridge will also cause the condensation of any steam resulting the sugary lemon soup. The addition of the cornflour should help prevent watery pie but again, this is probably one of those things you need to bake a few times (oh the hardship…) to really get to know your oven and get your head around the recipe.

 

Lemon Meringue Pie

Serves 12

Time: 3-4 hours

 

Pasty:

250g flour

125g unsalted butter

2 tbsp caster sugar

Zest of 1 lemon

Pinch salt

60ml ice cold water (take this from the fridge or even a glass of water with ice in if you have some available)

 

Filling:

Zest 5 lemons

300ml lemon juice

400ml water

65g cornflour

6 egg yolks

250g sugar

 

Meringue:

6 egg whites

12 oz caster sugar

2 tbsp corn flour

Pinch salt

 

To make the pastry:

Food processor method:

Combine all ingredients other than the water in the bowl of the processor and blend until the mixture resembles sand.

Pour in the water while the processor is on and continue to blend for about five seconds until the mixture starts to clump a little.

Pour out onto a bean surface and press the pastry into a ball. Make sure it is smoothly combined.

Wrap and chill for an hour

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To blind bake the pastry:

Roll the pastry out to 3mm thickness and line a tart tin with it.

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Prick the base all over with a fork.

Freeze for 10 minutes

 

Preheat your oven to 180°C.

Place a layer of foil or baking parchment over the pastry and weigh it down with baking beads or dried beans/rice (I recommend investing in baking beads as any food stuff you use will not be edible after being baked)

Bake for 20 minutes.

Remove the baking beads and bake for another 5-10 minutes until the pastry is golden all over.

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Leave in the tin to cool.

 

To make the filling:

Whisk together the yolks, sugar and zest. Set aside.

In a saucepan, combine the lemon juice and 300ml of the water.

Whisk the final 100ml water together with the cornflour to create a slurry and then whisk this into the lemon water.

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Heat the lemon cornflour mix, whisking constantly, until it thickens dramatically. It will go sort of paste like. Continue to whisk and heat until it starts to boil to ensure the cornflour is fully cooked.

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Slowly stream the thickened mixture into the egg yolk mix while whisking until it is all combined.

Return the lemon filling to saucepan and heat gently whilst stirring until it thickens even more – make sure to keep stirring to avoid scrambling the eggs as this is where you cook them. If the mixture starts to bubble, remove from the heat immediately as it is most certainly cooked!

Pour into the tart case until it comes about 3mm from the top. This lip is important as the meringue will sit inside the pastry which should contain any weeping which could occur.

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Heat your oven to gas mark 3 (170°C).

 

In a stand mixer, beat the egg whites until they reach stiff peaks. You could do this with an electric beater or even by hand but this will take significantly longer (and doing it by hand is far too much effort for me.

Add the salt and slowly incorporate the sugar a spoon at a time whisking after each addition. If you do this too fast, you will deflate the meringue!

Whisk through the cornflour.

Spoon/pipe the meringue into a tall dome on top of the hot pie (don’t feel like you need to use it all). Make sure to seal the meringue around the edges of the pie by ensuring that it is touching the pastry case all the way round.

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If you have just spooned the meringue on, use the back of a spoon to shape the meringue into little peaks.

Bake in the centre of the oven for 15 minutes, turning halfway, until the outside is golden all over.

You can also use a mini blowtorch after baking to bring out any detail which isn’t too visible.

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Leave to cool to room temperature and eat within 24 hours. The longer you leave it, the higher chance of weepy meringue!

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you fancy perfecting your meringue technique before you try something a bit more complicated like this, I have recipes for both swiss and French meringue on this site. I also have a selection of simpler tarts too!

 

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a recipe for a delicious beef and rice dish.

H

Mushroom Ravioli

For something so simple, ravioli really do take a lot of effort to make. Homemade ones are delicious; you can tailor them to your own tastes or the tastes of those you are cooking for – however I really would recommend saving them for a special occasion. Homemade ravioli would be perfect for the starter of a dinner party where you want to really make a good impression – they would not be perfect for a week night meal.

The filling for my mushroom ravioli is wonderfully versatile as not only can it be used in the ravoli but it can be thinned down with a little water and have some cream cheese melted in to make a wonderful, mushroomy sauce for normal pasta.

The worst thing that can happen to ravioli is that they split when cooking. The amount of effort wasted if your ravioli pops while being boiled is nigh on tear inducing however there is a way around this: aggressive sealing. When you seal a raviolo, you have two choices (technically three if you just try to press the top and bottom sheets of pasta together but this is a complete waste of time and effort – it will not work): water or egg. The “glue” of your choice is brushed around the filling before the top layer of pasta is laid over and the ravioli are formed. You can also make ravioli by folding small pieces of pasta around filling to make parcels (tortellini) and while the technique that I will describe in this recipe is different, the same premise applies when you are sealing them.

From my experience, egg seals the ravioli far better than water does (although there are people who swear by the water approach). Water causes the formation of gluten when it is combined with flour. The proteins in the flour – glutenin and gliadin – combine when the water is added and kneading dough (like in bread) increases the quantity of gluten. I would assume that this is because, as you knead the dough, you force more of the proteins together forming more and more gluten. When you use water to seal pasta, you have to press incredibly hard around the outside of the ravioli to make sure a seal is formed. In effect, you are pressing until the top layer pasta has physically melded with the bottom layer by causing gluten formation between the layers creating a single piece of pasta with a pocket in the middle full of filling. If you do not seal the edges properly, you are also at risk of the water boiling and pushing the pieces of pasta apart during cooking causing the cooking water to rush into the ravioli (and the filling to rush out)

With an egg seal, you are still pressing the top and bottom together to meld into one but the pasta is far more forgiving as the egg cooks the moment it enters the hot water and glues the top and bottom pieces of pasta together which will cover up and small unsealed sections of dough. You will not be able to taste the egg used to seal the ravioli (trust me, I do not like the taste of egg and I would absolutely know if it was present)

 

Mushroom Ravioli

Time:

Work time: 2 hours

Cooling time: 1 hour

Makes: 24 ravioli

Serves: 3 (main course size portions)

 

Ingredients:

1 batch fresh egg pasta – you will need to make this!

 

For the filling:

600g mushroom

1 medium onion

4 cloves garlic

1 mushroom stock cube

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp cornflour

Salt and pepper

4 tbsp cream cheese (optional)

 

For assembly:

Flour for dusting

Water/egg white for glue

 

Optional:

Sage, garlic and butter for dressing the pasta with

 

 

Make your pasta and leave the dough, wrapped, in the fridge until it is needed.

 

To make the filling:

Puree 150g mushrooms and three cloves of with 80ml water.

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Pour into a pan and cook, stirring regularly, until the puree become thick. The mushrooms will release a lot of liquid and the mixture will become rather runny before the water boils off leaving a thick, mushroomy paste.

Crumble the mushroom stock cube into the pan and stir it through.

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Set this to one side.

 

In a food processor, pulse the onion and remaining garlic clove until you are left with small pieces – you do not want to puree it, just dice it very finely.

Tip this into a large pan along with the olive oil and sauté until the onion starts to soften.

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While the onion is frying, tip the remaining mushrooms into the food processor and pulse until they are finely diced, around the same size as the onion pieces. It is important to keep the small pieces for texture later on!

Once the onion is soft, add the mushrooms and 60ml water.

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Cover the pan and leave to cook for five minutes, until the mushrooms start releasing their own liquid. Continue to cook uncovered for another five minutes and then drain off the remaining liquid and set it to one side.

Stir the mushroom paste through the cooked onions and mushroom mix.

Add two tablespoons of cornflour to the slightly cooled, drained mushroom liquid and mix until a slurry is made.

Return the cornflour slurry to the pan and stir it through the filling mixture whilst continuing to cook. As the cornflour cooks, this will thicken up a little. It will also thicken significantly as it cools.

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If you want to add cream cheese, do it now and let it melt into the filling.

Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside until completely cool.

 

 

To assemble the ravioli, split the pasta into quarters. Rewrap two of them and set to one side.

Roll each of the remaining quarters, in turn, through the pasta machine on its thickest setting. Fold it in half and repeat. Continue to repeat until the pasta becomes smooth. This will take four or five rolls.

Change the pasta machine onto the second thickest setting and roll the pasta through it again.

Continue decreasing the thickness and rerolling until the pasta reaches your desired thickness. On my pasta machine (which a hand cranked model by Imperial which is probably about ten years old) the thinnest setting is a number six (with one being the thickest) and this is the perfect thickness for ravioli.

Generously dust one sheet of pasta with flour (I would use the smaller one) and lay it out on a surface. Dollop blobs of mushroom filling onto it. I used about two teaspoons of filling per raviolo and managed to fit nine along the length of the pasta.

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Brush around each blob of filling with either water or egg white. I find that egg white works far better but water is absolutely fine if an egg white is not available.

Gently lay the second piece of pasta over the first. You may have to lightly stretch it by hand to make it fit over the filling – this will be fine if you are gentle as pasta dough can be very forgiving if you treat it well.

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Starting from one end, press around each piece of filling to remove air bubbles and then seal the raviolo. I tend to try and push all of the air in one direction along the length of the pasta sheet and then out at the end. If the entire packet is sealed, you may need to poke a tiny hole to let the air out as it will ruin your ravioli!

Use a biscuit cutter to cut around the ravioli and then remove the excess pasta. Move the ravioli to a floured board and set to one side. Ball up the offcuts of pasta and save for later.

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Repeat the ravioli formation with the remaining half of your dough from before.

Use the offcuts from the first two batches of ravioli to make a third.

The ravioli can be cooked immediately, frozen or left to dry for a bit before cooking.

 

Cook the ravioli for three minutes in salted water at a rolling boil. If the water loses its boil when you add the ravioli, don’t start timing until it starts bubbling again.

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These can be served as they are or you could melt some butter and lightly fry some sage leaves and garlic in it.

Remove the garlic the moment it starts to brown, drain the ravioli and toss them in the flavoured butter before serving.

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These are delicious but they do take quite a bit of effort. If you fancy a slightly easier but just as tasty meal with mushroom and pasta, check out my decadent mushroom pasta bake or even my chicken and mushroom pasta bake which was one of the first recipes on this site! This recipe is also super simple to make dairy free – just don’t use cream cheese and remember to not toss the ravioli in butter at the end!

Have a good one and I will be back next week with this year’s Thanksgiving pie.

H

 

Pressed Biscuits

Biscuits have always been – and are still – my nemesis in the kitchen. I have always struggled to get them fully cooked and crispy but not burnt or soft and chewy like giant cookies but neither raw nor overcooked. These pressed biscuits are small enough that you can basically guarantee that you will not end up with a raw centre (unless you underbake them which I have been known to do when I’m desperately trying not to brown the biscuits too much).

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This is the biscuit press!

The biscuit press that I use was my grandma’s and it still works brilliantly. They are absolutely worth investing in because they are not that expensive and, although you may not use them every week, when you need them these presses are invaluable – you can churn out hundreds of identical biscuits with very little effort. Most presses have a single or double setting on them. This basically dictates the size of the finished biscuits but it is worth having a play with yours to get used to it as if the dough is too soft, the double setting on the press can end up with blurry, smudged looking biscuits. It’s a classic example of just getting to know your equipment for the best results.

My biscuit recipe is a classic sugar cookie dough. This is probably the simplest form of biscuit you can make as there are no added flavours or ingredients that could affect the final outcome, it is just flour, butter, sugar, egg and vanilla… (also salt). Lots of recipes use different proportions of these ingredients to get the same style of biscuit so don’t be worried if your personal recipe is slightly different – the changes are usually very minor. Some recipes also use a raising agent however I feel that, if you beat your butter and sugar enough, there is plenty of air whipped into the mixture allowing the biscuits to rise a little and spread in the oven – ensuring that all the different sections are connected – but not so much that all definition from the biscuit press shape is lost. There is also a mindset that you should use icing sugar for this style of biscuit. It would make sense as Viennese whirls use icing sugar for their sweetness but the dough for this recipe has to be considerably tougher than that used for the whirls if only because it has to snap when you lift up the press, it cannot stretch into trails, you want the strands of biscuit to break cleanly leaving a beautiful, pressed result.

For flavoured biscuits, you can replace the vanilla with any sort of other extract or you could replace a couple of tablespoons of flour with cocoa, matcha, or some instant coffee powder for a colourful flavoured biscuit. You can even combine complementary flavours of dough in the press to get a beautiful, marbled result.

 

Pressed Biscuits (Spritz biscuits)

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Makes three to five sheets of biscuits depending on the size

 

335g butter

225g sugar

450g flour (for chocolate biscuits, replace 40g flour with cocoa)

1 egg

¼ tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

 

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4 (180°C)

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

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Beat in the egg, vanilla and salt.

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Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined – if you overwork the mixture, the biscuits will be tough.

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Set up your biscuit press according to its instructions.

Select the piped shaped you want at the end and fill the press with one quarter of the dough.

Press the dough through onto a baking sheet to cover it in mini biscuits. It may take a bit of practice with your machine to work out which setting gives the best results. I have found on mine that for some shapes, a single click is enough but for others, you really need the double.

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Bake the biscuits for ten minutes.

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These are chocolate, not a burnt version of the last picture!

Allow to cool for a minute to harden up and then transfer the biscuits to a wire rack to cool completely.

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These biscuits will stay fresh for a few days if you keep them in an airtight box so don’t feel the need to eat them immediately…. or do eat them, no judgement here. I would not blame you!

 

If you are a fan of biscuits and fancy trying something a little bit more intricate than these, why not have a go at making my checkerboard biscuits? They look really cool and are a fantastic mix of vanilla and chocolate flavours.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a vegetarian treat.

H

Gochujang Chicken

About a year ago, I went out for lunch with my mum to the Bang Bang Oriental Food Hall in north London. I cannot remember what I had to eat (possibly dumplings, a Thai curry or pad Thai?) but my mum has a bowl of bibimbap. This came with a side of chilli sauce for dipping which was unlike any other chilli sauce I had before – and it was delicious!

Fast forward a few months and I come across gochujang in the newly refurbished world food section of my local supermarket. This was it! I had finally found this unnamed chilli sauce that was simply divine. So what is it that makes gochujang so amazing? Most chilli sauces contain heat from the chilli and then some sort of sweetness and some sort of acid – normally vinegar. This combination floods your taste buds and sets them off all around your mouth. Gochujang still has the heat and the sweetness but, instead of the vinegar, you have the natural acid from the chilli. Coupled with this there is also a powerful hit of salt and umami coming from the fermentation which several elements of the sauce undergo during production. This means that gochujang is hitting all of the flavour sensors in your mouth, the salt is making you salivate, the chilli is making you sweat (if you get a spicy one) and overall your palate is having a great time.

Pepper paste has been eaten in Korea for well over five hundred years– maybe even a millennium if you believe some sources. After the introduction of chillies (which come from America) in the 1600s the pepper paste began to change. There are mentions of gochujang from the 18th century and very little has changed in the production of traditional gochujang since then. The primary ingredients are glutenous white rice, fermented soy beans and chilli powder. Other things are sometimes used such as barley, sweeteners like sugar and honey and there are even recipes which include sweet potato on the ingredient list!

For me, gochujang can be used as a primary flavour of a dish, not just as something to add some heat. Don’t get me wrong, I love sriracha and sweet chilli sauce but I would not use them as a main ingredient. They don’t have the depth of flavour that fermentation brings and as such, in this situation, must be relegated to the use of condiment, not the showcased ingredient.

The sauce for this recipe is amazing! It is spicy, salty and has enough sweetness to balance everything out. It can be used for stir fries, marinating meat or tofu or even just as a side dish for dipping – it is so versatile! The noodles which go with the gochujang chicken are lightly flavoured (so they aren’t boring) but are not there to outshine the main star of the dish. I have also taken the leftovers for lunch the next day (although I would recommend cleaning your teeth afterwards if you have to be around other people).

 

 

 

Gochujang Chicken

Serves: 3-4 (depending on the quantity of noodles)

Time: 30 minutes +15 minutes to marinade

 

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (you can do this yourself but I would not be able to explain well – the internet and videos would be better)

4 tbsp gochujang

2 tbsp red miso

3 tbsp honey

2 tbsp sesame oil

3 cloves of garlic – finely grated

5 tbsp water

2 tbsp vegetable oil for frying

 

 

Stir fry ingredients:

Noodles (I use the fresh ones that go straight into the frying pan but the ones you need to boil work too – just remember to add in the time it takes to precook the noodles)

Cabbage

Carrot

Spring onions

1cm piece of ginger

2 garlic cloves

1 tbsp vegetable oil.

Sauce of your choice – I used a mix of soy, sesame oil, honey and chilli oil

 

 

Take your deskinned, deboned chicken thighs and bash them with a rolling pin to flatten them out a bit – you don’t want to pulverise them or reduce them to a mush, just flatten them out so all parts are the same thickness. Place them into a bowl.

In a separate bowl mix together the gochujang, honey, miso, sesame oil, garlic and water until a smooth sauce is formed.

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Pour a quarter of the sauce over the chicken and toss the chicken until it is all covered.

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Leave for fifteen minutes.

 

 

While the chicken is marinating, prepare the noodles.

I have not given quantities of the stir fry ingredients because everyone likes different things – this is what I put into my stir-fry but I don’t measure quantities, I just put in roughly enough to feed everyone!

Thinly slice the cabbage and spring onions and set to one side.

Grate the carrot on a thick grater – you still want to be able to see the pieces of carrot in the final product.

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Dice the ginger and garlic.

 

To cook:

Preheat a cast-iron skillet and pour in a little bit of oil.

While it is heating, scrape as much of the marinade off the chicken as possible and set it aside.

Lightly rinse the remainder of the sauce off the surface of the chicken. This is not strictly necessary but I would strongly encourage it because the marinade has sugar (honey) in it which will burn on the cast iron during cooking. The sauce will be added back in later!

Lay the thighs into the cast iron and cook for eight to ten minutes (depending on thickness), turning halfway through.

 

Once the chicken is cooking, heat the vegetable oil and ginger for the noodles in a large, non-stick frying pan.

When the ginger becomes aromatic, add the garlic and other vegetables.

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Fry for about two minutes on high heat before adding the noodles.

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Whisk together the sauce ingredients and add them to the noodles.

Stir and toss over high heat until the puddle of sauce at the bottom of the pan has mostly gone and everything is coated in it. The sauce will reduce as it boils so will become super thick and sticky helping it to adhere to the vegetables.

Cook for five minutes, tossing regularly.

 

Just before serving, tip the sauce you scraped off the chicken into the cast iron and toss the chicken in it until it is coated. The sauce will bubble and thicken quickly so you do not want to spend too long on this stage.

 

To serve:

Make a pile of noodles in the middle of a plate.

Slice up the chicken and distribute between everyone who is eating, placing it on top of the noodles.

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If you want to garnish, sprinkle over some white or black sesame seed, some thinly sliced spring onion greens and a drizzle of the remaining sauce.

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Serve with a side of the spicy gochujang based sauce.

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This dish is so delicious and I am absolutely certain it would work with most other meats or even pan fried crispy tofu. If you like spicy foods then you should absolutely try my black pepper tofu – and if you don’t like tofu, just use the sauce from it in this recipe instead and do it with chicken, or just veg!

 

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a delicious biscuit recipe.

H

Chocolate and Raspberry Caramel Bone Cake

After last year’s nauseating brain cake (check out how to make it here), and the spider cake that followed it (not for the arachnophobic among you), I thought I would tone down the horror of this year’s Halloween cake – not least because I still have to travel in public with it. So, of course, I made a cake with lots of broken bones oozing red goo stuck around it. It does not provoke the same level of visceral disgust as its predecessors but I definitely would not view it as plain – there is still an element of gore which is impossible to ignore.

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I have always classed myself as pretty squeamish. I cannot stand watching people get hurt, surgery, pimple popping etc. – it makes me feel faintly sick and go remarkably white (so I am told). I can just about deal with seeing things after the event – blood, autopsied bodies on tv – but watching it actually happen… that’s a no from me. For this reason, I feel that I have nailed a gore cake when it starts to elicit feelings of revulsion from me, its creator.

Squeamishness isn’t actually associated with seeing open wounds and that kind of thing but is actually a description of the feeling which they induce. As a result, the feelings of unease, nausea and even induction of vomiting can be caused by a great many things from watching someone get cut open on tv to seeing certain insects. There is, however, a phobia present in around 3% of the population which has the same symptoms as the squeamish response but is specifically caused by seeing blood, injections/needles and injury. I don’t think I have this because I can deal with blood and I have never fainted at the idea of needles (although I couldn’t go as far as saying that I am totally ok with having a piece of metal stuck into me, it’s not my idea of a good time).

I’ve always viewed my uneasiness around bones as one of those things that is completely natural because we shouldn’t actually be looking at bones, right? They should be safe and sound, wrapped in layers of muscle and connective tissue, all covered in skin; so seeing a large piece of bone – or large quantity of blood – means that something has gone very wrong. There is no reason to have your bones on display other than showing your teeth to someone.

This cake didn’t start cause me discomfort until I began to add the blood to the bones. The wet, fresh look really adds to the revulsion caused but that is a good thing! Normally I like my cakes to look so neat that people don’t want to cut them but when it’s Halloween, I like to go for the “this cake is so horrifying that no one can get near enough to cut it” approach.

Good luck making your cake gory as hell and have a fab Halloween (if you do that kind of thing – if you don’t, I hope you get left in peace all evening).

 

 

Chocolate and Raspberry Caramel Bone Cake

Time: 4+ hours

 

For the bones:

3 egg whites

175g caster sugar

¼ tsp cream of tartar

Pinch of salt

1 tsp vanilla extract – optional

 

For the cake: (a batch of my devil’s food cake recipe)

75g cocoa

150g brown sugar

1 ½ cups (375ml) boiling water

180g unsalted butter

225g caster sugar

340g plain flour

¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda

¾ tsp baking powder

1 tbsp vanilla extract

3 eggs

 

For the raspberry caramel:

200g raspberries (fresh or frozen and defrosted)

80ml double cream

280g sugar

2 tbsp glucose syrup (or another 20g sugar)

25g butter

 

To fill:

520ml double cream

Raspberry coulis (optional)

 

 

Make the meringue bones:

Preheat your oven to gas mark ½ (85-90°C). (If your oven won’t get that low, select the lowest setting and then wedge the door slightly open with a wooden spoon.)

Whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks are achieved.

Whisk in the salt and cream of tartar.

Add the sugar a spoon at a time until it is all incorporated and has dissolved fully in the egg white. You can check this by rubbing a little meringue between your fingers to see if it feels gritty.

If you are using it, whisk in the vanilla now.

Load the meringue into a piping bag and pipe bone shapes onto a baking sheet.

Bake for one and a half to two hours and then turn the oven off and leave the meringues inside to cool.

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Once cool, box up the meringues in an airtight box and set aside.

 

Make the caramel (as this will have to be cold before it can be used).

To make the raspberry caramel, blend the raspberries with the cream – if you don’t have a blender, you can use a potato masher.

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Strain through a mesh sieve and use a spoon to push as much of the cream through the sieve as possible leaving only a little raspberry pulp behind which can be discarded – you should have just under a cup of raspberry cream.

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Place the sugar, glucose syrup and a quarter of a cup of water into a pan.

Place this on a high heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved.

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Allow the sugar to boil unstirred until it reaches a dark golden colour.

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Pour the raspberry cream into the sugar. BE CAREFUL because the water in the cream will flash boil and could splatter a little.

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Stir the cream through and add the butter.

Boil this for another three or four minutes to make sure the caramel will be thick.

Pour into a heatproof container, cover and leave to cool.

 

To make the cake:

Preheat the oven to gas mark 3.

Grease and line three eight-inch tins with butter, cocoa and baking parchment.

Place the brown sugar and cocoa into a bowl and pour the hot water over them. Stir until combined.

Cream the butter and caster sugar together in a separate bowl.

Add one egg and a spoon of flour and beat to combine.

Repeat with the other eggs to mix them in.

Add the bicarbonate of soda and baking powder along with half of the remaining flour.

Turn the mixer onto slow to avoid covering the kitchen in a cloud of flour.

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Once this flour is almost fully mixed in, add the rest of the flour and beat again to combine.

Finally, pour in the liquid chocolate from earlier and slowly mix together until you have a smooth, glossy, chocolatey batter.

Divide this batter between the tins and bake for 30-35 minutes until the cakes have risen and a skewer inserted into the centre of each cake comes out clean.

Turn the cakes out onto a wire cooling rack and leave until they are cold.

 

 

Once the cakes are cool, you can begin to assemble.

Whip the remaining cream to hard peaks (be careful not to overwhip as it will become butter).

Place a slice of cake onto your cake board and top with around a quarter of the whipped cream.

Drizzle over a couple of spoons of raspberry caramel.

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Add the next layer of cake and repeat before topping with the final layer of cake.

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Spread a thin layer of cream over the top and sides of the cake.

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Arrange the meringue bones around the outside of the cake. You can snap them in places to give a slightly jagged effect if you want.

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Drizzle some of the remaining raspberry caramel and raspberry coulis to give the bones and cake a more bloody appearance.

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Serve.

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If you are not eating this cake immediately, it must be kept in the fridge as it has a large quantity of cream and you do not want it to go bad!

 

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. I love doing themed cakes and I had seen a couple of bone based cakes on the internet so decided to give it a try myself. Let me know if you have a go and how it turns out!

 

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a nice, simple dish with a good amount of chilli.

H

Pumpkin Soup

Halloween is approaching and that means it’s time for all things pumpkiny and spooky. This week we are going for the pumpkin and next week will bring the horror. Whether you like Halloween or not, we can all agree that it does a great job at stopping Christmas from sneaking earlier and earlier every year so we should at least be celebrating that – however I have already seen Christmas decorations in shops…. It’s October…

In the UK pumpkins were not traditionally carved for Halloween. People used swedes and turnips and it was only after settlers returning from America were seen to carve pumpkins that the new tradition was created. You have to admit, pumpkins are far easier to hollow out and carve than a turnip… or a mangelwurzel. Pumpkins are now the most popular vegetable to use for carving jack-o-lanterns and can range in size from a tiny thing the size of your fist to vegetables so large that suddenly it makes perfect sense that Cinderella could travel to the ball in one. One tip for carving: don’t cut the top of the pumpkin to hollow it out, remove the bottom. The top of the pumpkin loses its structural integrity when you slice into it causing the jack-o-lantern to rot far faster and collapse in on itself whereas a pumpkin carved out from beneath will last much longer.

When it comes to cooking with pumpkin, the biggest issue faced is that of flavour. Pumpkins are bland. Ways around this include roasting the vegetable to help intensify the flavour, making sure that the pumpkin is super ripe when you use it and packing your pumpkin dish with herbs and spices and seasoning to give it any semblance of flavour. In my recipe, I have used sage, rosemary and thyme (no parsley here because this is not Scarborough). This is a really good ’go to‘ herb mix for lots of things. Rosemary, sage and thyme are classically used as roasting herbs, you can throw them in with your potatoes to infuse them with herby goodness or something like that. I am also a fan of chopping the herbs up super fine and kneading them into bread. This gives an absolutely delicious dough which works amazingly well for savoury sandwiches or even garlic bread!

Back to the pumpkin (because I went a little bit off topic there) and I would like to mention one thing before we get to the recipe: the seeds. If you are cooking with a pumpkin (or carving one), you are going to have to hollow it out. While there is lots of orange gunge there which can be discarded, there are also lots of seeds. These are worth keeping and rinsing off because you can toast them to make a delicious snack (or even a garnish for your finished soup). I would recommend doing this with a little salt or maybe even some cumin if you fancy an extra kick of flavour.

This soup, like most of my soups, is completely vegan so you can serve it to basically anyone. I hope you like it as much as I do!

 

 

 

 

 

Pumpkin Soup

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Work time 10 minutes

Serves 5

 

1.5kg pumpkin with the top and bottom cut off and the seeds removed

2 red onions

4 cloves garlic

3 tbsp olive oil

2 sprigs rosemary and thyme

4 sage leaves

500ml vegetable stock

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Preheat the oven to gas mark six (200°C).

Chop the pumpkin into eighths and place onto a baking tray.

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Chop the onions into eighths and arrange around the pumpkin.

Add the garlic and herbs and drizzle over the oil.

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Sprinkle over about a teaspoon of salt and grind some black pepper on top.

Roast for twenty minutes.

 

Remove from the oven, scrape the softened pumpkin off the skin and tip it into a large saucepan along with the onion, garlic, herbs and stock.

Simmer for ten minutes until everything is soft.

Remove the thyme and rosemary and discard.

Blend the soup until it reaches a velvety consistency. If you prefer a thinner soup, add more stock.

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For a silkier soup, blend in another couple of tablespoons of oil or even melt in some butter.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with bread for dipping or roasted pumpkin seeds and chopped herbs. You could even treat yourself and swirl in a spoon of cream for an ultra-smooth bow of soup.

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This soup is delicious for lunch or a starter and with such a thick consistency, it holds garnishes and croutons really well (good for pictures really).

 

If you are a fan of vegetable soups, check out my recipes for butternut squash soup or even my bright purple sweet potato soup with coconut milk.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a delicious Halloween cake!

H

Italian Meringue Macarons

I feel as though I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with macarons. I love to eat them (homemade or not) but hate the effort required to make them. Seriously, have you ever sieved ground almonds for anything else? It’s a nightmare. In addition to that, I feel really guilty if I think about buying them because I know that I could make them for far less than they cost in the shops especially the good ones, I mean come on, £18.00 for eight macarons… are you having a laugh @Ladurée?

Last time I talked about macarons on thatcookingthing, I was rather vague and only gave a little detail about all of the different parts of the macaron which make it what it is. This time, I want to focus on one specific element – the meringue. There are two methods of making macarons – one using French meringue and the other using Italian. I assume that you could also use Swiss meringue but having never seen a Swiss meringue based recipe, I feel like they are either not very successful or not very nice (because Swiss meringue is super easy to make so would be brilliant for this kind of thing). French meringue is the “classic meringue” you think of. Caster sugar is beaten into whipped egg whites to create a glossy, sugary mix which is thick and voluminous. Italian meringue is slightly more tricky as a sugar thermometer is needed. Sugar syrup at 118°C is poured into whipped egg whites to make a super thick meringue which is incredibly stable.

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French Meringue Macarons – not my most successful!!

French meringue is very delicate – this is the method I used for my last macaron recipe; however it is easy to over mix the batter when you are folding in the dry ingredients. The final result is a bit denser than the macarons made using the Italian method and is also less sweet as the ratio of sugar to almonds is smaller. The feet formed on French macarons tend to be more irregular and bulging outwards than on their Italian counterparts. As it uses a far more stable meringue, the Italian method tends to be used more often in professional bakeries as it is easier to get the same results consistently. These macarons tend to rise more vertically than the French ones and the feet formed are more regular and taller with small bubbles in them. I have found that Italian macarons always require resting to form a skin before baking whereas French ones can often get away with being piped and baked immediately.

Personally, I prefer the French method. I think the end result is more to my taste, it’s less sweet than the Italian method and it is also far simpler. As a result of the stability of Italian meringue, the folding section of the recipe takes far longer as you have to beat the air out of the mixture until it reaches the right consistency – this is not easy when the meringue is famous for not deflating. Despite what I said about them earlier, Ladurée, one of the most famous macaron patisseries, use the French method over the Italian one so I can’t hate them too much. Pierre Hermé (the other famous macaron makers) on the other hand use the Italian method – and are also slightly more expensive so it’s a double fault for them!

Have a go at the recipe below and let me know what you think. It would be fascinating to find out whether people prefer the Italian or the French method.

Good luck.

 

 

 

Italian Meringue Macarons

Work time: 1 hour

Rest time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

 

 

260g ground almonds

260g icing sugar

200ml egg whites (split into two 100ml measures)

¼ tsp cream of tartar

200g caster sugar

1/3 cup water

Optional: 2 tbsp instant coffee or 2 tbsp cocoa

 

Filling:

300ml double cream

300g dark chocolate

25g brown sugar

25g butter

 

Tip the almonds and icing sugar into the bowl of a food processor and blend for 30 seconds to help grind them to a finer powder.

Sieve the ground almond and icing sugar mix into a bowl. If there are a couple of tablespoons of ground almond bits left in the sieve, discard them.

If you wish to add the coffee or cocoa, sieve it in now.

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Tip in 100ml egg white and mix together thoroughly. Cover and set to one side.

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To make the meringue: tip the caster sugar and water into a heavy based saucepan.

Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve the sugar.

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Use a sugar thermometer and keep cooking until the sugar reaches the soft ball stage (116-118°C).

 

When the sugar has reached 110°C start to whisk the remaining 100ml egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the cream of tartar once the mix is foamy. You want the egg whites to reach soft peaks by the time the sugar is up to temperature.

Once the sugar reaches 118°C, remove it from the heat. With the beaters running on high, gently stream the sugar syrup down the side the of bowl (trying to avoid pouring it directly onto the whisk).

Leave the beaters running until the outside the bowl feels cool again and the meringue is super thick and glossy.

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Take one third of the meringue and stir it into the ground almond mixture until completely combined. This will slacken up the mixture making the next step easier.

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Fold the rest of the meringue through the almond mixture.

Continue to fold and beat the mixture until it flows in thick ribbons off the spatula. You should be able to draw a figure of eight with the mixture as it flows off the spatula. This figure of eight will slowly sink into the rest of the batter over fifteen seconds or so.

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Line five or six baking trays.

Load the mixture into a piping bag and pipe small circles about 3cm in diameter leaving a couple of centimetres between them.

Lift the tray and smack it down on the surface a couple of times. Rotate the tray by 180° and repeat. This will pop any air bubbles stuck in the mixture. I also use a small pin to pop any remaining large bubbles that I can see as these will cause your macarons to crack if you are not careful.

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Set the macarons to one side for twenty minutes to allow the top to form a slight skin.

 

While the macarons are resting, preheat the oven to gas mark 2 (150°C).

Bake the macarons for twenty minutes. Test for doneness by gently nudging the top of the macaron, if it sticks a little bit – this is good!

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Remove the macarons from the oven and leave on the tray to cool for five minutes – this will help finish cooking the base.

Gently remove the macarons from the tray and place them, shell side down, on a wire rack to cool.

 

 

To make the filling:

Chop the chocolate and put it into a large bowl.

Heat the cream, butter and sugar until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is about to boil.

Pour the hot cream over the chocolate.

Leave for two minutes for the chocolate to melt and then whisk together.

Leave to cool, stirring regularly until it reaches a thick, piping consistency.

 

To assemble:

Pair up the shells by size.

Pipe a large dollop of ganache into the centre of one of each pair and then gently press the other macaron on top. I find that lightly twisting the macaron helps prevent breakages.

Place the macarons in an airtight box in the fridge overnight.

Eat the next day – or even the day after that! They get better with age for the first few days.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe. These are delicious with a cup of coffee, tea, hot chocolate, by themselves etc. (you can eat them any time really, you don’t need an excuse).

If you want to try something a bit easier, why not try making standard meringue first and then moving on to these? I have recipes for both Swiss and French meringue knocking around the place on here.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a lovely warming soup recipe (because it is that time of the year again)!