Yule Log

To those of you who celebrate, have a very merry Christmas and to those of you who are not Christian, happy holidays! Whether you celebrate or not, one thing that you have probably taken advantage of is the myriad of festive foods which are available at this time of year. Whilst things like Christmas cake and Christmas pudding tend to divide people into the group that likes them and the group which thinks they were created by the devil in the eighth circle of hell, one thing that I feel almost everyone likes is the Yule Log.

The original Yule Logs were not cake. They were, in fact, a carefully selected piece of wood which was burnt around Christmas time. This started around 800 years ago in Europe. It was a huge lump of wood meant to last the entirety of the twelve days of Christmas; the stump left at the end would be used to kindle the log the following year. The stump would be kept in the house and was believed to ward off bad luck and illness.

The modern cake version of the log is a swiss roll masquerading as a tree stump by scratching the icing and often using leaves and berries as decoration. Whilst originally a plain Genoese sponge with a chocolate filling, nowadays you tend to find the reverse; a chocolate sponge with whipped cream inside. This is then slathered in chocolate ganache, buttercream or truffle mixture which is textured to look like bark. It is not uncommon to take a large slice and rest it on top of the log to resemble a branch.

I really like swiss rolls as they are incredibly simple to make. They can be created in 90 minutes and are certain to impress anyone you serve them too. As it uses a whisked sponge, the cake is very light and bakes in a short space of time. Whilst people always make a big deal about how to prevent the roll cracking, the answer is simple: don’t let it dry out! Avoid overcooking the sponge and make sure to place the damp towel over it while it cools. That’s all you need to do!

Although it is traditionally a Christmas dish, this cake is still perfect at any occasion during the year and owing to the speed at which it can be made and assembled, is a very good one to have in your baking inventory.

 

Yule Log

4 eggs

100g caster sugar

60g self raising flour

50g cocoa

 

For the filling:

300ml double cream

¼ cup caster sugar

¼ cup water

2 tbsp Bacardi or other white rum

 

For the ganache:

300ml double cream

300g dark chocolate

50g butter

20g dark brown sugar

1tsp vanilla extract

 

 

Line a swiss roll tin with baking parchment and preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (2000C).

Place the eggs and sugar in a large bowl and whisk until its thick and creamy (about eight minutes).

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5 vs 8 minutes – the extra few minutes makes all the difference in the thickness of the mix

Sift the cocoa and flour into the beaten egg and sugar and fold together taking care not to lose too much air.

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Before, during and after folding 

Pour into the tin and spread out evenly.

Bake for 8-10 minutes.

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Before and after baking

 

While the cake is in the oven, make the syrup.

Heat the sugar and water until the sugar is completely dissolved and place into the fridge to cool.

Lay out a piece of baking parchment larger than the swiss roll tin.

Remove the cake from the oven and flip out onto the parchment and remove the paper covering the base.

Place a damp tea towel over the cake to make sure it doesn’t dry out!

 

While the cake is cooling, make the ganache.

Heat the cream, vanilla and sugar until the cream is just about to boil.

Pour the cream over the chocolate and butter and leave for three minutes.

Whisk the ganache until everything comes together.

Set aside to cool.

 

Whip the cream to soft peaks – you do not need to add sugar as there is enough in the syrup and cake already.

Add the Bacardi to the syrup.

Remove the tea towel from the top of the cake .

Use a pastry brush to brush a layer of syrup onto the cake – this will help keep it moist and roll properly. You don’t need to saturate it, just give a nice coverage.

Spread the cream onto the cake going up to both long edges and one of the short edges – make sure to leave an inch along one of the short edges to start

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Use the baking parchment to start to roll the cake up. Lift from the short edge (with no cream) and fold the edge over, try not to crack the roll (but its fine if it does start to crack).

Continue to roll up the cake – try to get a nice tight roll.

End with the outside edge on the base so it doesn’t unroll!

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Once the ganache has started to set but isn’t hard – it should hold its shape when a spoon is dragged through it – cover the cake including the ends. The easiest way to do this is by placing lots of small blobs over the cake and then spreading them  out.

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Before and after adding texture to the ganache

Use a fork to make circles on the ends and run it up and down the length of the cake to make it look like a tree.

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This makes a perfect end to a Christmas dinner for those who don’t like Christmas pudding (or have both).

It is an ideal dessert if something goes wrong with your planned pudding as you can make the whole cake from start to finish in 2 hours.

 

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. Let me know in the comments if you try it at home or drop me a tag on Instagram @thatcookingthing. If you like this and want to keep with the Christmas spirit, check out my gingerbread house recipe. It tastes amazing and looks incredible. It’s a showstopper at any occasion! Alternatively, for a slightly more savoury meal, why not try your hand at making miniature beef wellingtons – a delicious dinner and surprisingly easy to make.

Have a good one and I’ll be back next week with a healthy soup – ideal for a quick lunch and that new year health kick to make up for the Christmas guilt.

H

 

Beef Wellington

Despite popular belief, the Beef Wellington has no known association with the Duke of that name other than sharing a common name. In fact, the first appearance of the name was in the Los Angeles Times just over one hundred years ago when there was a recipe for “Fillet of beef, a la Wellington” however this wasn’t anything like the beef wellington we know and love today. The modern form seems to have only existed for around forty years, however it is very similar to other dishes such as Salmon en Croûte so it could have been around for longer.

Traditionally made with fillet steak, pate de foie gras, mushroom duxelle and puff pastry, the Beef Wellington is rich and filling. It is often wrapped in a crepe before the pastry is added as this prevents the juices turning the pastry soggy! I have found that making a good mushroom duxelle prevents this, so you don’t need to worry about making a fiddly crepe for my recipe below. If you sear the meat properly and make sure all the liquid is absorbed or evaporated off when you make the mushroom mix, there will be a good seal to prevent any juices from leaking out! Although I don’t do it myself, it is not uncommon for people to wrap the duxelle covered wellington in parma ham instead of a crepe.

No single part of Beef Wellington takes more than 10 minutes at most (excluding the cooking) however after each step, the ingredients must be cooled. This is an absolute must as if the beef or the mushroom is warm, the butter in the pastry will melt resulting in the pastry sliding straight off the meat in the oven!

In my recipe, I do not use foie gras or the crepe as I don’t have time to make them and I am trying to do all of this on a student budget. Personally I don’t feel like the flavour of the dish was inhibited by this however if you want to add them, the foie gras is spread over the meat before the duxelle, and then the crepe is wrapped around everything before the pastry is added!

 

Beef Wellington

Serves 2 or 4 (makes 2 large portions or 4 smaller half wellingtons)

Prep time: 20 minutes     Rest time: 1 hour           Cook time: 30 minutes

Price per portions – £3.10 if you make two or £1.55 if you make four

 

2 fillet steaks (about 340g meat)

One large packet of puff pastry (I use prerolled for this)

250g chestnut mushrooms

4 spring onions or one shallot

Butter (or oil) for frying

Salt and Pepper

1 egg – beaten

 

Optional:
Sprig of thyme (small)

60ml sherry, madeira or white wine

One small clove of garlic

 

 

First prepare the mushroom duxelle.

Finely chop the mushrooms and spring onions (or shallot).

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Melt the butter in a pan and once it starts bubbling, add the mushrooms and shallots.

Fry for a minute stirring constantly to make sure it doesn’t burn.

Add in 60ml water (or the wine) along with the salt and pepper (and the thyme and garlic if you are using it – normally I would never condone the use of only one clove or garlic however this is such a small recipe for duxelle that any more garlic would overpower everything!)

Keep stirring the mixture until all the liquid has been absorbed or evaporated – this should take about 5-10 minutes.

Once the liquid has evaporated, you should be left with a paste which holds its shape when stirred. Remove this from the heat and let cool.

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While the duxelle is cooling, heat up a frying pan with some olive oil or butter.

Add the beef and fry for 1-2 minutes on one side to sear the meat. Then sear the edges but not the other side. You want the pan to be very hot so you can caramelise the outside of the beef but not cook the inside.

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Once the beef is seared, remove it from the pan and let it cool for 10 minutes. Cut in half width wise and place the unseared sides together to get smaller but taller pieces of meat.

Once the beef and duxelle have cooled, it’s time to assemble the wellingtons!

Cut your pastry in half as you will be making two wellingtons. If you are using prerolled pastry, place it on a surface and roll it out a little bit more to add another inch or two so it will definitely cover the meat. Cut this piece in half again for the top and bottom pieces of pastry.

Spread a small amount of duxelle onto the lower piece leaving room around the edges and place one of the pieces of meat on top of it.

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Add more duxelle around the sides and on the top of the meat sealing it in to prevent the juices escaping and the pasty going soggy.

Top with the other half of the pastry using a small amount of beaten egg around the outside to seal the pastry together – try not to have any air bubbles.

Using a fork, press down around the edge of the wellington to make sure the pastry has sealed together.

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Repeat this with the remaining meat, pastry and duxelle and place the wellingtons in the fridge for at least half an hour – they can be left like this for several hours if you prepare in advance.

 

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (2000C)

Remove the wellingtons from the fridge and lightly brush them with the remaining beaten egg.

Bake for half an hour turning at around 20 minutes for medium rare beef.

Let the wellingtons sit for 5-10 minutes before serving so the meat isn’t tough (cover them with some silver foil to prevent them getting too cold!)

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A little seepage around the edge doesn’t matter as long as you remove any liquid before leaving the wellington to rest!
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Serve with roasted vegetables and gravy for a hearty meal.

I hope you enjoyed this recipe, let me know what you think in the comments below! If you fancy making something a little Christmassy for next week, check out my Gingerbread House recipe or for another yummy dinner, try my sticky salmon, it’s not to be missed!

Join me next week on Christmas Day for an incredibly festive Yule Log – it’s quick and easy and can be made up in no more than two hours so is perfect for a last minute dessert!

 

Gingerbread House

Last week I promised I would return with a Christmassy treat. I hope that with this recipe I will have delivered!

Gingerbread has been eaten for centuries and has wormed its way into the traditions of many countries. In England we have gingerbread men and houses, in Germany, they eat Lebkuchen and in Sweden gingerbread has been used to help with indigestion since the 1400s.

Gingerbread is thought to have originated just before 1000CE however it wasn’t recorded in trade until some time in the 17th century as production had been controlled by the Gingerbread Guild for the previous 200 years. The biscuits would be served in monasteries and sold in apothecaries and were popular owing to the belief that the ginger had health giving properties. Since then, it has been proven that ginger is good at soothing the stomach and reducing nausea as well as having anti-inflammatory properties.

The first documented case of gingerbread men was from Tudor England when Elizabeth I would present her guests with a likeness of themselves made out of gingerbread. About 250 years later, gingerbread houses started appearing in Germany after the publication of Hansel and Gretel by the Brothers Grimm. These were made out of something closer to a ginger biscuit or gingernut than the traditional Lebkuchen as it was too soft to hold the weight – though the decorated gingerbreads are still called Lebkuchen to this day. The gingerbread houses are sometimes made with pepper instead of ginger to create Pfefferkuchenhaus.

Gingerbread houses can take any form from a traditional cottage to a castle. They are normally stuck together with royal icing or caramel though in some cases you can use chocolate. However this is risky as chocolate is very temperature limited and will soften and melt if it gets too hot. Royal icing is very similar to a meringue as it is primarily made from egg whites and sugar however instead of being baked in the oven, it dries in the open air to form a hard surface that can then be decorated upon. Combined with the hard biscuit forming the walls and ceiling, gingerbread houses can be very, very sturdy constructions.

My recipe for a gingerbread house gives enough dough so that the offcuts can be kneaded together and rolled out into other shapes. I had a go at making myself some gingerbread Christmas trees and also iced the cut-outs from the windows so none of it would go to waste. If you are using royal icing, I recommend decorating the sides of the house before you stick it together and let them dry for an hour so you can touch them without smudging the decoration. This is simply because if you decorate them when flat, you don’t have to fight against gravity!

Decorating the house can be a great thing to do with friends and family and the outcome is delicious! You can even use chocolate and sweeties on the outside for added effect. The house makes a stunning centre piece to a table and is a complete showstopper.

 

 

Gingerbread House

Prep time: 30 minutes              Cook time: 25 minutes

Decoration time: Anything from 20 minutes upwards

 

Gingerbread:

900g flour

3 tbsp ground ginger – this is quite a fiery recipe, for a slightly less intense hit, use 2 tbsp

1 tbsp bicarbonate of soda

300g dark brown sugar (muscovado)

325g Unsalted butter

¾ cup golden syrup

 

Royal Icing

3 egg whites

450g icing sugar (sifted)

1 tsp lemon juice

¼ tsp glycerine

 

Make your templates. The ones I used for this were: 8×5 inches for the sides, 8×4 inches for the roof and the front and back were a 5×6 rectangle with a triangle on top 5 inches long and 2 inches tall. You can either make your own or cut out the ones from my template below.

Gingerbread house template

Preheat your oven to gas mark 6 (2000C).

Mix the flour, ginger and bicarbonate of soda in a large bowl – make sure the bowl is big enough to hold the other ingredients too as they will be added later.

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Put the butter, syrup and sugar into a heavy based saucepan and melt it together.

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Once the butter mixture has all come together (the sugar doesn’t need to have completely dissolved), pour it into a well in the centre of the flour mix and stir until it starts coming together.

Once the dough has mostly come together in the bowl, use your hands to knead it into a ball and mix in the last bits of flour round the outside.

Divide the mix into thirds and roll out to about 6/7mm thick.

Cut out two shapes of each template but do not remove the outside gingerbread. This means that the edges of the biscuit will burn but this is then removed leaving the gingerbread for the house perfectly cooked! You can remove any dough which is more than a centimetre from the edge of the house.

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Make sure to leave a centimetre or so around the edge of the house to prevent it from burning.

Cut out windows and doors as you see fit – again, leave them in, just cut the shape into the house.

Bake each one for 11-12 minutes until golden (its fine if the edges start to catch as these will be removed)! I would offset the baking of each tray by six minutes. As explained in the next  step.

Once the gingerbread is removed from the oven, it will be very soft. Remove the baking sheet from the tray it is on and lie it on a table. The gingerbread will have spread a little in the oven and filled in all the cuts however they will still be visible.

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The gingerbread has spread however the lines for the windows and edges are still visible.

Working quickly before the gingerbread hardens, cut along the lines with a sharp knife and separate the different pieces. Recut out the windows and door and remove these pieces.

Once it has hardened a little more on the sheet, transfer the gingerbread to a cooling tray to completely harden and cool down – this will take about an hour to make sure it is ready to be used in the house.

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Remember to hold back the pieces that made the doors as you want to put them back on the house once it is decorated.

 

For the icing, place all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk with electric beaters for around 8 minutes until the icing is thick and glossy and holds its shape when the beaters are removed – it can sag a little bit but shouldn’t return to a flat layer, you should still be able to see detail.

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The bowl on the right has been beaten for an extra minute which makes all the difference.

Use your pieces of gingerbread to make sure your house will fit together properly and work out which pieces overlap with each other.

Once you know where everything is going, pip a thick line of royal icing down the edges of one of the walls. Use this to stick it together with the two pieces it touches. Hold them in place for 30 seconds of so and if you can, place something up against the wall to keep it in place. Wipe off the excess icing on the outside

Pipe lines of icing down the remaining wall and stick it to the rest of the house. Wipe of the excess and add another line on the inside the strengthen the connections

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Let the house sit for five minutes to give the icing a chance to dry a little before you add the roof.

Use a thick line of icing around the top of the house and add one of the roof pieces.

Pipe along the last exposed edge before you add the final piece of gingerbread (its ok if they overlap a little, we can cover this with icing)!

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Don’t worry if it looks a little scruffy, a good layer of icing will cover a multitude of sins!

Pipe designs on the sides and the roof and let set for at least an hour if not more before serving. I left mine overnight as it lets the icing harden and the gingerbread soften just a little.

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You can even use an electric light to illuminate it from the inside to make the house glow.

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I hope you enjoyed this recipe! If you fancy some more Christmassy flavours, check out my Chocolate and Orange Bread and Butter Pudding or for a lovely main course, have a go at making some Sticky Salmon!

Have a great week and I will be back next Monday with a simple take on a beef wellington!

H

Sticky Salmon with Pan Roasted Garlic Broccoli

 

I happily admit that salmon is by far my favourite fish. I find that it has the nicest flavour and texture and to top it all off, it is exceedingly healthy! The one downside is that salmon can be quite expensive when you are living on a student budget especially as unlike chicken or beef, it can be very difficult to make a single fillet last for multiple meals. Luckily, I have found that frozen salmon works just as well in this recipe and if I decide to treat myself, I will splash out on the fresh stuff!

This recipe actually comes from one of my best friends who I lived with for the past two years. To see the original version – check out her post on Super Sticky Salmon over at Yan and the Yums! She first made this for me two years ago and to be honest, I have raved about it ever since. I have changed the recipe a little to my tastes however the basic ingredients remain the same because this is just so good!

Salmon are a very interesting fish. Normally born in fresh water, they go to the ocean to live their lives and then return to fresh water, typically the same place they were born, to reproduce. They are native to rivers leading into the North Atlantic and Pacific Ocean. The name is thought to have derived from the Latin word salire meaning ‘to leap’ describing the way in which salmon swim up stream when returning to mate. The fish will literally leap their way up waterfalls to reach the areas in which they reproduce! After they reproduce, the salmon’s body releases large amounts of catabolic steroids which will cause the salmon to rapidly age before dying.

Luckily, this recipe is super quick and easy to make and doesn’t involve swimming upstream or anything that strenuous. You can do it from start to finish in half an hour and as you bake the salmon in the foil, it reduces the washing up because you only have to clear up after the sauce bowl, rice and broccoli pans – some of this can even be done along the way! The salmon is flakey and soft, the rice fluffy and the broccoli spicy and fresh. It is a perfect dinner in for one and is brilliant to whip out when entertaining friends as the salmon can be prepared in advance and once they have tasted it, they will keep coming back for more!

 

Sticky Salmon with Pan Roasted Garlic Broccoli

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Price per portion: from around £1.75 depending on whether you use fresh or frozen salmon and what type of rice you go for!

 

Ingredients

1 salmon fillet

1 tsp peanut butter (heaped)

1 tsp tahini (heaped) – alternatively, just use another teaspoon of peanut butter

1 ½ tbsp. hoi sin sauce

¼ tsp soy sauce

60g rice

80g broccoli

1 large garlic clove roughly chopped

1 tsp chilli flakes – hot chilli sauce can also be used but doesn’t give such a crisp result (if using sauce, mix one teaspoon with a tablespoon of water)

Oil

 

Optional

½ tsp sriracha

½ tsp sesame oil

Chopped peanuts to garnish

One spring onion finely sliced

 

 

To make the sauce, put the peanut butter, tahini, hoi sin, soy sauce, sriracha and sesame oil into a bowl and mix together.

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Place the salmon onto a sheet of foil and add half the sauce on top.

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Fold the foil around the salmon to make a tent and crimp the edges – this doesn’t need to be tight around the fish, it is just there to make sure the sauce doesn’t burn. To do this, bring the sides of the foil up and pinch together along the top edge. Then just scrunch up the open edges!

Place in the oven for 20 minutes (25 if cooking from frozen)

Start cooking your rice so it will be finished just after the salmon comes out of the oven.

When the fish has 10 minutes left, pour a little oil into a pan on a medium heat and add the garlic.

The moment the garlic starts to brown, remove it (but leave as much oil as you can) and place the garlic to one side

Add the broccoli to the pan and cook for five minutes making sure not to let it burn – if you are using the spring onion, add that too keeping a little back to garnish the dish.

The broccoli should have gone bright green by this point so add the garlic back in along with the chilli and continue to pan roast until the rice and the fish are cooked.

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Top the fish with some more of the sauce once it is plated and sprinkle with the chopped peanuts and the remaining spring onion to garnish.

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Let me know if you try this at home or drop me a tag on Instagram if you are proud enough to post it – I love seeing what you guys make! Check out my recipe from last week for a chocolate and orange bread and butter pudding! It’s super delicious and a wonderful way to finish a meal however if you are looking for a slightly more savoury option, my mushroom risotto is a great way to fill yourself up to prevent snacking (though if no one sees you, then it didn’t happen)!

See you next week with a recipe for a christmassy baking treat!

H

Chocolate and Orange Bread and Butter Pudding

Wasting food is something which I try to avoid doing as much as possible and as a result, lots of the food I eat is made up of odds and ends lying around. Bread and butter pudding is a perfect example of this – it’s a very good way of using up the remains of a loaf of bread that’s starting to go stale. It’s also very easy to personalise as you can swap flavours in and out incredibly easily.

Traditionally, bread and butter pudding was made without the orange and chocolate I use in this recipe. Instead, the bread was buttered before being put in the tin and was then sprinkled with large quantities of raisins (which were often soaked in booze). The custard was also flavoured with nutmeg and vanilla along with other spices. Bread and butter pudding is the modern version of a dish known as whitepot which dates back from the 1500s. This was made with bone marrow instead of butter and sometimes the bread would be substituted out for rice which is what gave rise to rice pudding. This diverged from bread and butter pudding back in the early 1600s when recipe books started listing whitepot and rice pudding as different desserts. The first written recipe for bread and butter pudding didn’t appear until almost 100 years later!

Bread and butter pudding should not be confused with bread pudding although the two do have many similarities. They are both ways of using up stale bread and also both contain cream, eggs and dried fruit. Bread pudding starts to differ as instead of layering up the bread and pouring custard over it, small lumps of bread are mashed into the custard mix before adding brown sugar, lots of spices,dried fruit and peel. This gives rise to a much more homogeneous dessert which is denser than bread and butter pudding would be.

One of the best things about this dessert is its versatility. I have made it on several occasions for people who are lactose free and you can simply replace the cream and milk with dairy free alternatives (of course you also have to check that the chocolate spread doesn’t contain milk either)! If you don’t like chocolate and orange, you can just replace them with other flavours for example, swap the marmalade for strawberry jam and sprinkle fresh strawberries between the layers instead of chocolate. If you feel like splashing out, this can also be made with brioche or croissants instead of plain bread for a super rich, buttery dessert.

 

 

Chocolate and Orange Bread and Butter Pudding

Prep time: 20 mins – Rest time: 10 mins – Cooking time – 45 mins

 

 

1 large loaf thinly sliced white bread – crusts removed

Marmalade

Dark chocolate spread

150g dark chocolate chips (or finely chopped dark chocolate)

5 eggs

1 pint full fat milk

150ml double cream

150g sugar + more for sprinkling

Optional – orange zest

 

 

Preheat the oven to gas mark 5 (1900C).

Butter a large baking dish.

Cut the bread along the diagonal to get large triangles.

Spread a generous portion of marmalade onto some of the triangles – however many it takes to cover the bottom of the dish.

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Sprinkle over a couple of tablespoons of chocolate.

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If you have any large gaps with no bread, just chuck a little bit into the them – it doesn’t have to look neat as everything is covered!

Add another layer of bread, this time with the chocolate spread.

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Sprinkle over some more of the chocolate.

Repeat the above steps until the tin is full remembering to place the top layer in spread side down – do not overfill it as the pudding will over flow in the oven. Try to avoid squishing the bread down too much as the air pockets around will all be filled with the custard.

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Place the top layer, spread side down to give a nice even finish.

 

Put the eggs, milk, cream, sugar and orange zest into a jug and whisk them together.

Pour this over the bread slowly making sure none of the bread on the top is left dry! Try to leave a little room at the top of the tin as the pudding will puff up when baking.

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I mixed some marmalade into the custard for an extra burst of orange.

Sprinkle over a small amount of sugar which will caramelise on the top.

Leave to sit for 10 minutes so the custard can soak into the bread – you can add more if it is all absorbed!

Bake for 40-45 minutes until the top is golden brown and the pudding is puffed up – check it at halfway through and if the pudding is browning too fast, cover the top with some silver foil and return it to the oven.

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This can be eaten warm of cold and heats up wonderfully in the microwave. Serve with cream, ice cream or chocolate sauce.

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Let me know if you try this at home as I love to see what you guys cook! Drop me a tag on Instagram @thatcookingthing. If you are looking for a warming savoury dish to precede this in a meal, look no further than my delicious mushroom risotto or if you fancy having a go at baking some other sweet treats, why not try your hand at my millionaire’s shortbread? Its bound to impress your friends!

Have a good one and see you next week with a recipe for a lovely salmon dinner!

H

Mushroom Risotto

From curry, to sushi, to risotto, rice is used around the world. It is one of the most versatile carbohydrates and this has led to its use in a myriad of dishes. The various varieties of rice display drastically different characteristics when cooked so there is a type of rice for almost any of your culinary desires!

Risottos are usually made with a medium grain rice where the grains are only just over double as long as they are wide. When cooked properly on a hob or steamed, medium grain rice comes out very soft and fluffy and the cooked grains stick together so can be moulded. If the rice is not washed beforehand, the starch in it comes out during cooking and makes the water cloudy (or in the case of risotto, makes the final meal ultra creamy). I find that Arborio is the easiest variety of risotto rice to get hold of however, any medium or medium/short grain rice will normally work for making a risotto. Medium grain rice can also be used when making sushi as the grains clump making the sushi stick together.

Short grain rice is normally used in rice pudding and paella. The grains are so short that they are almost as long as they are wide (whereas long grain rice is almost five times as long as it is wide). The starchiness of short grain rice is what gives dishes their creaminess. Long grain rice is far less starchy than its shorter grained counterparts and the grains do not clump when cooking. As a result, it can be boiled easily and then just drained and served.

Rice is becoming more and more popular as large numbers of people are trying to avoid gluten. This has led to the more unusual types of rice becoming increasingly available. These include wild rices and Chinese black rice. Most ‘wild’ rice is actually cultivated but it is still possible to find speciality shops that will sell genuine wild rice. Brown rice is very popular at the moment as it undergoes less processing than white rice. It has a nuttier flavour and a slightly different texture however there are concerns about it as the rice bran (which gives the rice its colour) contains arsenic leading to some countries having regulations controlling the types of brown rice sold!

Risotto is a rather labour-intensive dish. It requires constant stirring (though I have found that it can be left for 30 seconds or so) to prevent it catching on the bottom of the pan and parts being overcooked while others are raw. It has a wonderful creamy texture which can be achieved without using any dairy at all so is perfect for those with lactose intolerance.

It is however delicious and is bound to wow anyone you cook it for – even yourself. The versatility of risotto is astounding. You can flavour it with almost anything. I usually use mushrooms and sometimes chicken though I have also made it with smoked salmon which surprisingly, works incredibly well!

 

Mushroom Risotto

Serves 3 Prep time 15 minutes  Cooking time – 30 minutes

Cost per portion: around £1.10

 

Ingredients

500g Mushrooms

200g Risotto rice

500ml stock (ideally mushroom but vegetable or chicken both work)

1 medium onion/half a large onion

50g grated fresh parmesan (or cheddar if you prefer the taste)

3 tbsp oil

 

Optional

Parsley

2 tbsp double cream

Truffle oil

 

Chop the mushrooms to your desired size – I tend to quarter them unless they are particularly big or small.

Add them to a large pan with half of the oil and a third of a cup of water (80ml) which will help stop them burning. Place over a medium heat for around 15 minutes.

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Chop up the garlic and add the mushrooms after about 5 minutes.

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The mushrooms have shrunk and are releasing all the liquid held inside of them

While the mushrooms are cooking finely dice the onion and add it to another pan with the remaining oil.

Cook the onions until they are translucent – at this point they will start to get a bit sticky and come together while you stir them.

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Drain the liquid off the mushrooms and keep it! I tend to get about a cup out of 500g mushrooms. Place the mushrooms off to one side

Add the rice to the pan with the onion and stir through.

Add the mushroom liquid and cook on a medium heat until it has all been absorbed by the rice. Make sure you keep stirring.

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The grains are still very small and uncooked. All the liquid that has been added so far will be absorbed!

Add half the stock and keep cooking the risotto.

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Once the risotto is thick enough to hold its shape and there is no running liquid, add the next potion of stock

Once that has been absorbed slowly add the rest of the stock stirring after each addition.

If the rice still isn’t soft, just keep adding more water a bit a time and waiting for it to be absorbed until the rice is cooked.

Add the grated cheese and stir through.

For a super creamy risotto, you can add a small amount of double cream and stir it through at this point.

Add the mushrooms and return to the heat continuing to stir until the mushrooms are fully heated again.

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Garnish with cream, parsley, some of the mushrooms and sometimes even a little olive oil

Let me know if you try this at home, I love seeing things you guys cook. Give me a tag on Instagram @thatcookingthing. If you fancy treating yourself, why not try having a three course meal of risotto, beef lasagne and millionaire’s shortbread for dessert!

Have a good one and I’ll see you next week with a recipe for my orange and chocolate bread and butter pudding. It’s super creamy and perfect for a long winter night in!

H

Millionaire’s Shortbread

Success in the kitchen. One of the things that you learn very quickly when you have a blog or Instagram is the importance of aesthetics. There are many things I bake which are never mentioned outside my house as they look terrible, didn’t look right or even just tasted plain disgusting. You don’t get anywhere without a decent amount of trial and error.

Of course, over time you learn different food combinations and what works or what doesn’t, but this often comes from making a dish that you regret ever thinking of the moment the first bite touches your lips. While this becomes less common, I do still occasionally make food, get halfway through it and decide it just isn’t palatable. Things like this are never mentioned again and kept secret for fear of people realising that like them, you are just another mere mortal in the kitchen. One thing that they do find out about is when food goes wrong. I have been reduced to tears over something I have made several times.

Once was because I managed to get boiling sugar on my hand which is not a pleasant experience and should be avoided at all costs. Another was because a cake I made stuck in its tin. The cake had multiple layers which needed to set which would have been fine if they hadn’t then stuck to the tin and flowed into the lip at the base rendering the cake almost impossible to remove. In the end, two of my friends managed to help me get the cake out using four knives and fish slice. I learnt a valuable lesson that day. Anything can be covered by a good layer of icing. The battle armour on the cake made it almost impossible to know of the horror that was the outside of the cake where all the layers has mixed into a mess – the cake still tasted fine in the end.

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A decent layer of decorations covers a multitude of sins on this chestnut and chocolate cake

The first time I made millionaire’s shortbread, I messed up. I had no idea what I was doing and tried to boil a tin of condensed milk poured into a pan. Unsurprisingly, it did not set. It was a long time before I tried again and in that interim, I learnt how to make caramel properly which very much helped. My other main kitchen disaster was my first attempt at Macarons. They flowed everywhere inside the tin in the oven and set rock solid through the baking parchment onto the metal below. To this day, I have no idea what happened to them or where I went wrong but it took two days of soaking to remove them and make the tray usable again. Things go wrong and you learn. Many recipes you find have been tried and tweaked and tried and tweaked until the person making it is fully happy with the result. Even then, you will still plan as you get to know how the food cooks and will make minor changes to suite the oven or the temperature outside or even a new tin!

Success in the kitchen comes with time but following written recipes always helps to reduce how long it takes to understand what is going on. I hope that this recipe will stop anyone having the issues I had with making millionaire’s shortbread and will serve you well!

 

 

Millionaire’s Shortbread

This recipe makes about 15-20 shortbreads if you cut them relatively large or over 30 if you cut them small.

Prep time: 45 minutes – Cook time: 15 minutes

 

Shortbread:

250g plain flour

175g butter

75g caster sugar

 

Caramel (this gives a very thick layer of caramel. You can half this for a thinner layer):

300g brown sugar

300g butter

2 tins condensed milk

 

300g chocolate (I used 200g dark and 100g milk)

Optional – White chocolate to decorate

 

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4 (1800C)

Line an 11-inch x 11-inch tin with baking parchment – or a tin/tins of equivalent size. If you have a one-piece tin, make sure to line the base and the sides. If your tin has removable sides you only need to line the base.

Rub the butter into the flour – once it looks like breadcrumbs, keep rubbing it in and the mix will start to come together.

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The mix has started to come together but you have to keep going!

Once the butter and flour mix start coming together, add the sugar and stir through with a fork to make sure it is evenly distributed.

Pour the mixture into the tin and spread it out evenly. Compact it down and bake for 15-17 minutes turning the shortbread halfway through the cooking

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Try to compact it down with a square object to avoid the ridge in this photo. The ridge can catch and burn in the oven which is not what you want

Remove from the oven and let cool in the tin.

 

 

To make the caramel, melt the sugar and butter in a large heavy based pan.

Once the sugar has dissolved or the mixture has started to bubble, add the condensed milk.

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Stir together over a high heat and bring the mixture to the boil stirring constantly.

Cook for a couple of minutes until the caramel has started to thicken.

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You can see the caramel sticking to the sides of the pan and when you let a small amount drop back into the mix, it sits on top before sinking back in

Remove from the heat and pour onto the shortbread.

Leave to set in the fridge for an hour

 

Melt the chocolate and pour over the shortbread.

Lightly tap the tin on a table to smooth out the chocolate.

If you want to decorate this, use a fork to scatter lines of white chocolate on top of the dark and then use the tip of a knife or a skewer and swirl it through the chocolate to get a professional finish.

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Leave in the fridge to semi set (so the chocolate isn’t hard but also will hold its shape when cut)

Remove the shortbread from the tin. Mine has removable sides so I didn’t line them along with the base. If you do this, use a hot knife to release the caramel and chocolate from the sides of the tin.

Cut the shortbread into pieces and place into the fridge to fully set – if the chocolate is a bit hard and the caramel is oozing out when you cut it, fill a tin with boiling water and heat the knife in it before each cut. Make sure to not push down too hard and just let the knife melt through the chocolate!

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Arrange the shortbread on a plate before serving to hide the stress of making them

 

I hope you enjoy making it. Let me know how it turns out for you and give me a tag on Instagram @thatcookingthing if you have a go yourself! If you liked this, why not check out my last baking recipe which also has a decent chocolate layer – my boozy tiramisu or if you are in the mood for something a little more savoury, my beef lasagne is perfect to keep you warm as winter approaches.

Have a good one and I’ll see you next week with a recipe for some delicious risotto – including how to tweak it for different dietary requirements. It truly is versatile!

H