Croissants

Croissants tend to be quite hit and miss when you buy them. In most cases, they are never as good as you remember – too dry, not flaky enough, lacking in ‘yum’ etc. The best way to avoid disappointment is to make them yourself… and it isn’t even that difficult! The main ingredient in making croissants (or any kind of viennoiserie for that matter) is time. The time spent physically making the dough is only about an hour and the rest is just waiting around letting the yeast and the fridge do their thing.

Viennoiserie could be described as the love child of puff pastry, bread and cake. A combination of everything good about baking, it’s a yeasted dough enriched with sugar, fat and egg and is often laminated. Because of this, you end up with the flavour from the yeast, fats and sugar; the flake of a laminated pastry; a rise from the yeast and the laminations in the dough; and a certain softness from the fats and egg which is not present in puff pastry. All in all, fresh viennoiserie is incredible.

The croissant is believed by many to have started life not in France, but in Austria (Vienna to be specific…). Although there is no hard evidence to confirm this, all circumstantial evidence points to the kipferl being the ancestor from which the croissant evolved. These were crescent shaped confections (kipferl meaning “crescent”, hmmmm I wonder what croissant translates as…) which were eaten around Europe. Kipferl are a yeast leavened crescent shaped roll eaten in Austria (there are many varieties around Europe and the Middle East including kifli, kifla, giffel, rogal and rugelach). There are, however, another origin stories for the croissant. One of the more interesting ones is the evolution from the Egyptian dish feteer meshaltet, a layered pastry consisting of thin layers of dough separated by ghee. Specifically, feteer halali was a similarly layered, flaky pastry but was in the shape of a crescent and was around well before the croissant.

However it was originally produced, fresh croissants are a thing of beauty and are very much worth the effort it takes to make them. With a bit of planning, they won’t even be that disruptive to bake. Fillings can be included but I feel that it is worth trying the plain ones before getting clever as if things go wrong, it is always helpful to know which step the problems occurred in. I hope you discover how easy and delicious these can be for yourself – and it doesn’t hurt that they will make your house smell wonderful.

 

Croissants

Work time: 60-90 minutes

Rest time: 15-20 hours

 

For the Viennoiserie dough:

500g plain flour

75g sugar

1 ½ tsp salt

100g cold butter

10g instant yeast

1 large egg (about 60ml)

2 tbsp milk

140 ml water

Optional: food colouring

Optional: 1 egg for egg wash

 

For the butter block: 250g butter

 

 

Cut the butter into cubes and rub into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

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Make a well in the centre of the flour and butter mix.

Around the edge of the well, tip the salt, sugar and yeast – try to avoid the yeast and salt touching.

Pour the water, milk and egg into the centre of the well.

Mix with a spoon until the dough starts to come together and then knead for about ten minutes until a smooth, shiny dough is formed – it will not be as smooth as bread dough as there is less gluten but it should still be homogenous and slightly bouncy.

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Place the dough back into its bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge overnight (at least twelve – eighteen hours).

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To make the butter block:

Take a piece of greaseproof paper and fold over the edges so a 6”x6” (15cmx15cm) square is formed. DO NOT CUT THE PAPER.

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Unfold the paper, place the butter inside the square and refold the paper around it.

Use a rolling pin to pound out the butter until you get an even layer. By folding the paper, you ensure that the butter will end up in the shape you want it to as it will not spread past the folds!

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Place the butter back into the fridge for half an hour.

 

Optional:

Take 100g of the dough and add a few drops of concentrated food dye. Knead this in, rewrap the coloured dough and place it back into the fridge for later.

 

Roll out the (remaining, uncoloured) dough until it is a little wider than the butter block and just over twice as long.

Remove the butter from the fridge and lay it at one end of the dough.

Fold the dough over the butter and seal it around the edges to create a package. If you have lots of overhand of dough, feel free to trim it but remember to leave the butter parcel sealed.

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Roll out the dough until it is about 6/7mm thick (about ¼ inch).

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Fold the ends to the centre and then fold down the central line to create four layers. This is a book fold.

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Wrap the dough and let rest in the fridge for at least an hour.

Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out lengthwise until it is the same thickness as before.

This time fold the top third of the dough down and the bottom third up. This is a letter fold.

Refrigerate for another hour.

 

If you are using the coloured dough:

Roll out the coloured dough until it is the same size as the laminated dough.

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Brush any excess flour off it and gently moisten the dough with a little water.

Lay the laminated pastry on top and lightly press down to seal.

Flip the pastry so the colour is on top and ensure there are no air bubbles.

 

Roll the pastry until it about just over 5mm thick. You want a long oblong of dough with a short side of about 30cm (one foot).

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Trim about a cm off the edges to reveal the coloured pastry on top of the laminated dough.

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Cut width wise across the pastry to get 6 smaller rectangles.

Cut each of these down the diagonal.

 

Line two baking sheets with baking parchment.

Take a triangle of dough and lay it coloured side down on the work surface.

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Gently stretch it so it is more of an isosceles triangle shape.

Make a 1cm slit in the short side.

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Gently tug the edges apart and begin to roll up the dough from the short side to the long.

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When it is fully rolled, lay the croissant on the baking sheet with the tip of the original triangle underneath the croissant to make sure that it doesn’t unroll.

Repeat with the rest of the pastry laying no more than 6 croissants on each sheet. Allow them to space to rise!

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Optional: Egg wash the croissants now.

 

Place the sheets into a draft free zone and let rise for two to three hours. I like to use a turned off oven to leave them in because it prevents the croissants drying out. Make sure to remove them from the oven before the next step!

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Look how beautiful the laminations in this croissant are!

 

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (200°C).

Optional: Egg wash the croissants again. This will make them super shiny.

Bake the croissants for 6 minutes.

Reduce the heat to gas mark 4 (180°C) and bake for another 6 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.

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These are best served still warm from the oven but can be kept in an airtight container for up to two days before they start to go bad. I would recommend reheating them either in the microwave or for five to ten minutes on your oven’s warm setting if the croissants are any older than that.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you are a fan of laminated pasty, you should check out my recipe for puff pastry and all of the amazing things you can do with it from Beef Wellington to Pastéis de Natas

Have a good one. I will be back next week with a recipe for a slightly faster recipe you can make for a delicious dinner.

H

Black Pepper Tofu

We have all experienced it. You place the food in your mouth; you like the taste and it isn’t too spicy; you swallow it and take another bite; the heat begins to build… and build … suddenly you are regretting your choices. A deep regret that a glass of water will do nothing to placate. Your mouth is on fire.

The flavour profiles of chilli peppers is one of their most interesting traits.  Some chillies are like an explosion of fire that is rapidly extinguished and then you are fine, some warm slowly to an uncomfortably hot level before reducing to a more manageable experience and then there are the slow burners. These hit you in the back half of your mouth. They start with nothing and rapidly grow in spiciness – the ghost pepper (bhut jolokia) takes almost 30 seconds to start heating your mouth to a level which can lead to excessive sweating, shortness of breath, flushing, crying etc. and this level of heat can hang around for over half an hour!

Capsaicin is the “active ingredient” in chillies – it’s what makes them hot. The capsaicin binds to the receptors in your mucous membranes – this is why it affects the nose as well as the mouth – and stimulates the same response as burning. Exposure to concentrated capsaicin causes irritation to the skin – inflammation and itchiness – which is why capsaicin is used in some forms of pepper spray. The hydrophilic nature of capsaicin means that water will do nothing to alleviate the affects. The best way to get it off your skin is by rubbing with some sort of oil and then washing with large quantities of soap as the soap will emulsify the water and capsaicin allowing it to be rinsed off.

The most interesting hot sauces on the market employ many types of chilli. This gives their flavour a level of complexity that is not present if only a single variety is used, as the heat can come in waves. There is the added benefit that chillies have different flavours apart from their spiciness; some chillies are sweet, some are nutty and some are fruity. Mixing your chilli types in a dish is a great way to personalise it to your palate. The primary flavours in the recipe below are chilli…and black pepper – it is spicy. Pepper – as I have said before – produces a very different heat to that achieved from adding chillies to a dish. The active ingredient, piperine, is far less aggressively hot than capsaicin but gives a far more warming flavour. Of course too much warmth still feels like burning but with a well balanced dish, this shouldn’t be an issue.

The recipe below was originally taken from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty. I have refined it a little to suit my personal taste but it is relatively true to the original. I hope you enjoy.

 

 

 

 

Back Pepper Tofu

Time: 30 minutes

Serves: 3

 

 

400g tofu

50g cornflour

½ tsp salt

75g butter

6 medium shallots

3 tbsp finely chopped ginger

6 medium garlic cloves – crushed

4 finely chopped red chillies (you can choose mild chillies to super spicy ones depending on the heat level you wish to achieve)

3 tbsp dark soy sauce

2 tbsp light soy sauce

2 tbsp kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)

1 ½ tbsp brown sugar

2 tbsp black peppercorns

½ tsp pink peppercorns (these can be replaced by black ones if you prefer)

8 spring onions, finely sliced

 

Press the tofu. This involves cutting it into slices and wrapping them in a cloth before placing weight on top to squeeze out the excess liquid. It will help give the tofu a firmer texture.

Combine the salt and cornflour in a large bowl.

Cut the tofu into cubes and toss these in the cornflour/salt mixture to coat.

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Fill a large frying pan with half a centimetre of oil and fry the tofu on all sides until it is crispy.DSC05659

Set the tofu aside and drain the oil out of the pan – I like to filter it into a jar and keep it for deep frying at a later date.

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Finely slice the shallots into half-moons.

Melt the butter in the frying pan and add the shallots, garlic, ginger and chillies.

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Lightly fry for about ten to fifteen minutes until the garlic is cooked and the shallots are soft.

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Grind up the peppercorns. You can either do this using a normal pepper grinder or using a pestle and mortar (I prefer the latter).DSC05671

Stir the peppercorns and sugar into the soy sauces in a bowl and then add this to the shallots.

Allow to bubble away for two minutes to combine all of the flavours.

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Tip the tofu back in and stir to cover the tofu in sauce.

Continue to cook until the tofu has been sufficiently reheated.

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I forgot to buy spring onions for this but you don’t need to make the same mistake!

Stir through the finely sliced spring onion and serve.

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UPDATE: the spring onion gives a proper burst of colour to the dish

 

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you are a fan of tofu, you should definitely check out my recipe for ginger tofu or even my teriyaki recipe.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a recipe for a flaky pastry which will easily outshine the ones you can get from the supermarket.

H

Chocolate Ring Biscuits

Whenever someone brings in a Fox’s biscuit selection (other biscuit selections are available), the first ones to go are the chocolatey ring biscuits. The other biscuits are nice but there is something about shortbread with an obscenely thick layer of chocolate that just can’t be beaten for most people. The recipe below is my take on these biscuits. The chocolate layer isn’t quite as thick but you are welcome to double up to a kilo of chocolate and double dip the biscuits if you want them to be ultra-chocolatey.

As the chocolate is being used to coat the outside of the biscuit, and thus will be handled when the biscuit is eaten, it is important to make sure that it is well tempered. Tempering is a process where you control the crystal structure which forms when the cocoa butter in chocolate cools. This is why compound chocolate doesn’t need tempering… there is no cocoa butter in it, they use other fats instead! But real chocolate, with cocoa butter, has a far nicer taste and mouth feel, so to get the best results we must temper the chocolate. This involves melting the chocolate, cooling to a specific temperature and then warming it slightly before it is used.

Cocoa butter has six crystal stages which are arranged by the temperature at which they form: I, II, III, IV, V and VI. This ability to exist in multiple different crystalline structures, as exhibited by cocoa butter, is known as polymorphism and this polymorphic property is what can make or break your chocolate work. When you buy chocolate it has already been tempered and it is packed solid with type V crystals – the tempering not only gives the chocolate a satisfying snap when you break it but also is what keeps it solid at room temperature. Crystal types IV and lower melt well below 27°C, well below body temperature meaning that your chocolate will be soft at room temperature or immediately melt all over the hands of anyone who tries to touch in. In contrast, type V crystals melt just below body temperature (33°C) meaning that your fingertips will not melt it when you pick up the chocolate as they are slightly cooler than your internal temperature but when you put the chocolate in your mouth, it will begin to melt.

The issue is that when you melt chocolate so it can be used for covering the biscuits, you destroy the temper, that is to say that the heating melts the type V crystals which the manufacturer formed in the chocolate. Because of this, you must make sure to heat the chocolate well above the type VI melting point (36-37°C) so that there are no “bad” crystals and you can start the process of forming the chocolate from an unadulterated mixture. While the type VI crystals are solid at room temperature, their melting point is too close to body temperature so they don’t melt in the mouth as nicely as type V. The addition of unmelted chocolate cools the mixture as the unmelted chocolate not only must be warmed to the same temperature as its surroundings but will take in latent heat so that it can also melt. This rapid cooling, whilst also agitating the mixture by stirring, prevents the formation of type VI crystals. The reason we continue to slowly cool the chocolate down to around 28°C is to make sure that it is close to the type V crystal formation temperature. It is then warmed just a little bit to melt any type IV crystals that could have formed, slackening the mixture in the process, and making the chocolate perfect for dipping.

You will notice when you temper chocolate that as you approach the correct temperature, the chocolate becomes a lot more viscous. This is a good indicator that you are almost ready to dip. It will also mean that you get a thicker layer of chocolate on your biscuit and that is always a good thing.

Chocolate Ring Biscuits

Prep time: 1 hour

Cook time: 18 mins

Dipping time: over an hour

Makes around 35-40 biscuits

Ingredients

11 oz. (310g) plain flour

1/4 tsp salt

7oz. (200g) butter

4 oz. (110g) sugar

2 egg yolks

1 tsp vanilla extract

To cover:

500g dark or milk chocolate (you will need to temper this if it is real chocolate).

50g white chocolate for decorations.

To make the biscuits:

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

Place the butter and flour into a food processor and blend until the mixture resembles sand (this is like rubbing the butter into the flour – which also works – but is more effective as you don’t introduce heat from your hands).

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Add the sugar and salt and blend again until fully combined.

Pour in the vanilla extract and add the egg yolks. Blend again until everything appears homogenous.

The mixture should feel slightly sticky.

Pour the contents of the blender onto a surface. Use you hands to squeeze all of the bits together and continue to compress until the dough comes together but try to avoid kneading the dough too much so you don’t get too much gluten forming – a little is fine as you need the gluten to hold the biscuits together when you dip them.

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Lightly flour the dough and roll out to ¼ inch (about 1/2cm) thickness.

Use a two-inch cutter to cut as many rounds out of the dough as you can.

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You can bake the biscuits as they are at the moment (circles) but you will get fewer than 40.

To make the rings, use a cutter just smaller than half an inch (about a centimetre) to cut a circle in the centre of each of the larger circles. I found that the cap from a bottle of whisky was best for this as I didn’t have a proper sized cutter.

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Place the rings on a tray lined with baking parchment – leave about an inch between each biscuit.

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Place the rings on a tray lined with baking parchment – leave about an inch between each biscuit.
Let the biscuits rest in the fridge for ten minutes to firm up.

Bake for 18 minutes – or until the biscuits start turning golden around the edge.

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When the biscuits are cooked, transfer them to a wire rack to cool and leave until completely cold.

If you are using compound chocolate, ignore the tempering instructions. Just skip to the dipping stage.

Tempering the chocolate

Chop up two thirds of the chocolate and place it into a large bowl.

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Roughly chop the remaining chocolate and place in a smaller bowl and off to one side for later.

Fill the base of a saucepan with water and place the big bowl of chocolate over the top.

Heat the water until it is just simmering – don’t let it properly boil – whilst occasionally stirring the chocolate in the bowl until it melts. Don’t stir to vigorously (it’s just unnecessary).

Continue to heat the chocolate until it has reached 55°C for dark chocolate or 45°C for milk chocolate. If you do not have a thermometer, dip your finger in and the chocolate should be uncomfortably warm. If you do have a thermometer, you can still dip your finger for an excuse to eat some of the melted chocolate – I would. PSA: remember to wash your finger between dips

Remove the bowl of melted chocolate from the heat.

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Tip the contents of the smaller bowl (the unmelted chocolate) into the melted chocolate and gently stir. This will bring the temperature of the chocolate down whilst also introducing the desired V crystals into the mixture. These V crystals from the unmelted chocolate will help seed the formation of more of them in the melted chocolate as it cools.

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Continue to stir the chocolate until it reaches about 29°C for dark chocolate or 27°C for milk chocolate. This will feel cool to the touch. If you dip a spoon in the chocolate and place it in the fridge, the chocolate should harden very quickly to a semi-shiny state on the back of the spoon.

Place the chocolate back over the heat until it reaches 31°C for dark or 29°C for milk. If you don’t have a thermometer, heat it gently for about 45 seconds to a minute. This will slacken the chocolate a little making it easier to work with.

Remove the chocolate from the heat again.

The Dipping

Set up a dipping station with the biscuits on one side of the bowl of chocolate and a lined baking sheet on the other.

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Use a fork to place a biscuit into the chocolate and make sure it is just covered.

Lift the biscuit out and gently tap the fork on the side of the bowl a few times to let the chocolate drip off.

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Place the biscuit on baking parchment and repeat with the rest.

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For the white chocolate decoration, melt the white chocolate in the microwave in fifteen second bursts stirring between each heating.

Pour the chocolate into a piping bag, make a tiny hole in the end and pipe lines of chocolate across the entire batch of biscuits. This will ensure that the biscuits have the same design but each one is unique.

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I hope you enjoy the recipe. If you fancy trying some classic shortbread or alternatively, going the other way and making yourself some millionaire’s shortbread, you should definitely check out my recipes for them.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a super duper spicy recipe.

H

Korean Rice Bowls

Rice bowls have become increasingly popular over the past few years. Whether that is because of their instragramable appearance, their healthiness (content dependent of course) or even just because they are an easy meal which can be eaten hot or cold I do not know, but whatever the reason they are a fab dish to have in your culinary repertoire. As rice bowls only consist of a variety of toppings laid out over rice, they really aren’t that different from a standard rice dish but what sets them apart is how they look. The brightness and variety of toppings contrast with the neutral base colour of the rice, resulting in a dish which is beautiful and (if done properly) delicious to eat. I am not quite sure where the western notion of rice bowls came from but I would assume that it evolved from the Japanese dish donburi, where meat or fish are cooked with vegetables and then served over a bowl of rice, but this is entirely conjecture on my behalf.

The toppings on your rice bowl are a completely personal thing. Common toppings involve cooked meats (which are often roasted, glazed or fried in sauce), cooked or raw fish, tofu, cooked and raw vegetables, salad and often some sort of pickle to cut through the richness of the rest of the toppings. Beans can be used to help bulk out the dish so you end up with neither too much rice nor too much of the main topping – too much of anything can get boring and you want to enjoy your meal. I have also seen many rice bowl recipes which are topped with a fried egg where the yolk can be cut into and the runny insides mixed into the rest of the dish – almost like a ricey carbonara.

The topping which I am giving the recipe for this week is fried minced beef with onion, garlic, soy and lots of chili. If you can get your hands on Gochujang – a fermented, spicy Korean chili paste – I would fully recommend using it for the chili in this dish as this is what will give you the best flavour and is possibly the only thing that makes this “Korean Beef” as opposed to “Asian Style Beef”. Failing that, any hot chili sauce will work and if you want an extra hit of spice, adding fresh chili is a good way to go about that.

One of the best things about this dish is that you can eat it cold and it still tastes great. The one thing to remember is that when it is cooling, the sauce will separate, the fats and oils into one layer and the water based ingredients into another. A lot of this fat will have come out of the beef when cooking so do not be alarmed by the quantity and what it looks like when it has set – this can appear rather unappealing – but make sure to give everything a good stir when the meat has cooled as this will bring the sauce back together and ensure that the fat is evenly distributed throughout the dish. Try to avoid pouring off the fat as it contains a lot of the beefy flavour and it would be a shame to waste it.

 

Korean Chilli Beef

Time: 20 minutes

Serves: 4

 

400g beef mince

1 medium onion

4 spring onions

2 tbsp vegetable oil

 

Sauce ingredients:

60ml (1/4 cup) soy sauce

50g (1/4cup) brown sugar

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 tbsp hot chilli sauce (gochujang/sriracha)

1 hot red chilli – finely chopped

Pepper to taste

 

Mix the sauce ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

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Finely chop the onion and spring onion and set aside the green section of the spring onion for later.

Heat a large frying pan with the oil and add the onions.

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Sautee until the onion turns translucent.

Add the beef, breaking it up in the pan with a wooden spoon.

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Fry for a few minutes, stirring every now and then, until most of the beef has turned from red to brown and the fat has started being released.

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Add the sauce. The pan will be hot so the sauce should bubble on contact.

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Stir to coat everything with the sauce.

Continue to cook for another 3 minutes to make sure the garlic and chilli are both cooked through.

If the sauce is still quite runny, you can add a little cornflour mixed with water to thicken it up (breadcrumbs and matzah meal also work).

Once the sauce has thickened, stir through the chopped green section of the spring onions and remove the beef from the heat.

 

The beef can be served both hot and cold on top or rice, just remember to give it a thorough stirring if you let it cool as the sauce will separate and you will want to mix the fats/oils back into the sauce.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe! If you are a fan of Asian style foods, check out my recipes for ginger tofu and sticky salmon. If the salmon piques your interest, you should definitely check out Yanmin over at Yan and the Yums, she taught it to me several years ago and is a stunningly good chef with some fab recipes.

 

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a recipe for a delicious chocolatey treat.

Tiramisu Swiss Roll

As I have said several times in the past, there is a bizarre mystique that surrounds many baked goods causing people to believe that they are too difficult to make at home. The swiss roll is one item which has been given this reputation by nefarious rumours but is far simpler than you may imagine. They are surprisingly sturdy and once rolled, can be wrapped up in clingfilm or parchment paper and moved easily from one place to another without having to worry about them losing their shape.

The Great British Bake Off has helped bring swiss rolls back into fashion like so many other baked goods. The classic questions which arise when making a swiss roll are: how to prevent it from cracking? How to get a tight roll? I will address these one at a time but the answers are intrinsically linked as what both boil down to is how the cake batter is mixed.

When it comes to preventing a swiss roll from cracking, each backer has their own method which they swear by. I have tried a couple of different methods and will give you my opinion on them, but please remember that everyone has their own way and I can only judge the techniques from the results that I have had. There first of three main methods that I have encountered regarding the prevention of cracking is the pre-roll. This involves rolling up the cake while it is still hot and very soft. You let the cake cool in the rolled position before unrolling it, applying the filling and then rerolling the cake. This is meant to cause the cake to ‘remember’ the rolled-up shape so when the filling has been added, it is easier to roll up again. I do not like this method and, truthfully, I have had the most disasters while using it. Why would you handle a fragile cake more than you need to? You are rolling/unrolling this cake three times more than if you wait for it to cool before filling and rolling. The second method involves cooling the cake flat, still in its tin, under a damp tea towel. The tea towel prevents too much of the steam from escaping but also stops it condensing and being reabsorbed into the cake leading to a soggy mess, as would happen if the cake were covered with a hard object. This method seems to work, but you may have to remoisten the tea towel if it dries out from the heat as you want to keep the cake in a humid environment.  The final method involves adding a little water to the recipe or simple syrup to the finished cake. The additional moisture in the cake gives it more flexibility allowing for a tighter roll as the cake can bend more without breaking.

If you want to get a tight roll, the easiest way to learn is by practice. Trying to avoid too much filling at the end of the cake where you start rolling is imperative, as if there is too much cream it will prevent the cake from folding over into a super tight swirl and you will end up with a cake more reminiscent of an arctic roll. The other thing to do is to make sure that you don’t underfold the mixture when you are adding the flour, if there is too much air left the cake will overinflate in the oven and will be too thick to roll properly – of course you must be careful not to overmix the batter and knock all the air out but, like I said before, practice is key.

Once you have mastered the swiss roll, you will see that it is a great last-minute cake as you can make the entire thing from start to finish in under an hour (assuming you aren’t trying anything ultra creative). The one given in the recipe is slightly more technically challenging because of the addition of the chocolate stripes but if you don’t feel like attempting them, you could always chop up some chocolate and sprinkle it over the filling before rolling to keep the chocolate flavour but avoid the faff of a second batter.

 

 

 

Tiramisu Swiss Roll

Time: around 2 hours

 

For the chocolate stripes:

50g butter

50g icing sugar

30g flour

20g cocoa

2 egg whites

 

For the coffee cake:

3 eggs

125g caster sugar

120g plain flour

2 tbsp instant coffee powder

1 tbsp tepid water

Pinch of salt

 

For the syrup:

100ml water

100g granulated sugar

½ tsp instant coffee

2 tbsp kahlua/tia maria/rum (optional)

 

For the Filling:

250g mascarpone

100ml double cream

50g icing sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

 

 

 

Make the stripes:

Cream the butter and icing sugar in a bowl.

Mix in the egg whites until completely incorporated.

Mix through the flour and cocoa.

The mixture should be a spreadable paste. If it is very thick, add water ½ tsp at a time until the paste is a little thinner.

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Cut a piece of baking parchment the same size as the base of your swiss roll tin.

To decorate the outside of the cake you have a few options: you can pipe swirls etc across the sheet of parchment, you can cover the whole thing and use an icing scraper to scrape away sections to give perfect stripes or you can use Sellotape to cover areas of the paper to give you completely straight edges on your stripes when you have spread the chocolate mix over the gaps and then removed it.

Once you have decorated the paper, place it on a flat tray in the freezer for fifteen minutes to half an hour.

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While the design is hardening up in the freezer, butter the edge of your swiss roll tin, this will help you remove the cake later as they can stick rather spectacularly.

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (200°C).

Sift the flour and coffee powder into a bowl and set aside.

Place the sugar and eggs into the bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment fitted.

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Whisk until the mixture has turned light, foamy and thick – around seven minutes. It will not reach the same stability as pure egg whites, the mixture will still flow but will be absolutely full of air.

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Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in half of the flour mixture along with salt.

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When the first batch is mostly incorporated, add the remaining flour and fold it in.

Pour the water around the edge of the mixture in the bowl – if you pour it into the middle, it can deflate the mixture.

Fold the water through. This additional liquid will help give an even textured cake and prevent it from cracking when you roll the cake up.

Remove the parchment paper from the freezer and place it into the bottom of the swiss roll tin.

Pour the batter on top and gently spread it out. Be careful not to be too aggressive when spreading as you don’t want to disrupt the pattern on the base of the tin.

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Bake for 10-12 minutes until the cake is just golden on top and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

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While the cake is baking, make the syrup.

Combine the water and sugar in a pan.

Bring to the boil and stir to dissolve the sugar.

Add the coffee and stir again.

Pour the syrup into jug and set aside to cool.

After it has cooled for ten minutes or so, add the alcohol of your choice.

The syrup should be no more than slightly warm to the touch when you use it.

 

Remove the cake from the oven.

Lay out a sheet of baking parchment, which is bigger than the cake, on a flat surface.

Dust the top of the cake with icing sugar, loosen the edges from the side of the tin.

Flip the cake out onto the baking parchment so the base with the design is now on top.

Gently peel off the parchment which is on the designed side of the cake.

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Cover the cake with a damp (but not wet) tea towel and leave to cool.

 

To prepare the filling, beat the mascarpone, vanilla and icing sugar until the mascarpone has softened.

Add the cream and mix again. The mixture will go very runny and then as the cream is beaten, it will thicken up again. Stop when the filling reaches a thick but spreadable consistency as you don’t want it to rip the cake apart when you add it.

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To assemble the cake:

Gently flip the cake onto a new piece of baking parchment so the patterned side is down.

Lightly brush the top of the cake with syrup. This will help prevent cracking.

Spread the filling across the top of the cake leaving a centimetre strip filling free along both short ends of the cake.

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Starting at one of the short sides, use the parchment to help fold the end of the cake up and over before rolling the cake up down its length. Make sure the seam is underneath the cake as the weight on top will prevent the cake unrolling.

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Trim the edges to neaten them up and transfer the cake onto a serving platter.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you are a fan of swiss roll style cakes, why not try your hand at a chocolate log (they aren’t just for yule) or if you would like a slightly simpler tiramisu, check out my recipe here.

Have a good one and I will see you next week with a spicy beef dish which is great for dinner and as a cold lunch the next day too.

H

Mushroom Carbonara

I feel that for my own health and safety, in what is quite possibly a vain attempt not to be taken out by the carbonara mafia, I should start this post by saying that THIS IS NOT A TRADITIONAL CARBONARA. I will explain how to make the classic version of this dish but, for those of you who have not come across it before, this is very much a vegetarian alternative. Also, I would like to make it clear now that I do eat meat and this post is in no way passing judgement on anyone for their food choices: meat, fish, vegetarian, vegan or otherwise.

The main aim of this recipe is to show that you do not need to use a meat substitute to make a delicious vegetarian version of a classically meaty dish. A lot of the time vegetarian food can come off as a poor imitation of meat-based foods but if you just do away with the pretence and accept that dish is going to be different from the meaty version then a lot of problems can be solved. By all means take inspiration from a meat-based dish as a lot of cuisines have iconic meat and fish dishes woven into their culture and it would be a shame to completely ignore these if you choose to go vegetarian (or vegan). However instead of trying to find something like chicken flavoured Quorn steaks or beef style soya mince to replace the meat, why not use something that can be proud of what it is instead of pretending to be something that it isn’t?

The most common complaints that I have heard from meat eaters about vegetarian food is that it lacks flavour or body – body as in substance, not as in the dead body of an animal. Items of food such as tofu are particularly good at getting around this problem by having texture (if it is pressed and cooked well) and can also absorb lots of flavour from whatever they sauce they are in. For this recipe, the mushroom is the star. The mushrooms are seared until all of the liquid has come out and they start to brown. This browning occurs as a result of the Maillard reaction when sugars and amino acids in the mushrooms react with each other. The result is a wonderful depth of flavour which makes the dish far tastier. Mushrooms have a very distinct texture (one which not everyone likes) but it is a texture none the less. By searing them, the mushrooms do not end up boiling in their own juices which would lead to them going soggy so they give a lot of body to the dish.

At the start I said that I would explain why this is not a traditional carbonara – and I’m not just talking about the mushrooms. A true carbonara sauce does not have onion in it but more shocking is the fact that there is no garlic. For anyone who knows me or has followed this blog for some time, you may have noticed that almost every savoury recipe I have starts with garlic – in fact, I will be providing you in a few weeks with a recipe which has two whole bulbs of garlic in it.

Back to classic carbonara, the only things in the sauce are olive oil, guanciale (pork cheek), egg, pecorino cheese and pepper (and maybe some salt – that depends on you). To make this, you first cut the pork into small cubes and fry it in the olive oil until all the fat has rendered out. You then whisk together the egg, cheese, salt and pepper. The still hot, cooked pasta is added into the pan with the pork followed by the egg mixture and everything is then stirred until the egg has thickened from the latent heat in the pasta and the pan. You can then serve the dish and garnish with more cheese, pepper and sometimes fresh herbs.

The recipe below is a great way to enjoy carbonara without the meat – great for vegetarians or people who don’t eat pork. There is an alternative to the classic carbonara, created by Roman Jews where the pork is replaced with carne secca, a cured, salted beef. Alternatively, you could just have the pasta with the egg and cheese sauce and forgo any sort of meat or veg if you do not want to meddle with the tradition too much.

I hope you enjoy the recipe as much as I did when I was making it. I discovered that a little goats cheese instead of some of the parmesan works wonderfully well with the mushrooms so why not give that a go too if you like this?

 

Mushroom Carbonara

Serves 2

Time: 20 minutes

Cost per portion: around £1.25

 

150-200g pasta

200g mushrooms

3 tbsp olive oil

1 small onion

4 cloves garlic

1 whole egg

2 egg yolks

80g pecorino romano or parmesan cheese (I prefer parmesan myself)

1½ tsp salt

5-10 grinds of black pepper

1 tbsp chopped parsley (optional)

 

Place a pan of water onto the stove to heat. Add 1tsp salt.

Destalk the mushrooms before chopping them into quarters. Chop the stalks in half lengthwise

Heat a large empty pan for about a minute.

Add the oil to the pan. It should begin to shimmer immediately and coat the base of the pan.

Tip in the mushrooms and gently toss to coat with the oil.

Leave the mushrooms for around five minutes until they begin to brown. They will release liquid in this time which will boil off immediately. At this point, you should begin to cook the pasta in the water you heated earlier.

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Gently stir the mushrooms to turn them over so they begin to brown all around.

 

While the mushrooms are cooking, finely dice the onion and slice the garlic thinly.

In a bowl, whisk the eggs and yolks before grating in the cheese and whisking again.

Add ½ tsp salt and the pepper to the egg mix and whisk again.

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Once the mushrooms have browned, add the garlic and onion.

Stir while they are cooking to avoid the garlic burning. You don’t really want to brown, just cook them through.

Drain the pasta just before it is fully cooked as it will finish cooking with the mushrooms. Make sure to reserve a cup of water from the pasta before you drain it.

Add a quarter of this reserved water to the mushrooms. The water will boil immediately and deglaze the pan, lifting up all of the mushroom flavour that is stuck to it.

Tip the pasta into the pan with the mushrooms and continue to cook until all of the water is gone. Turn off the heat and leave for two minutes to cool a little.

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Whisk one third of the remaining water (60ml) into the egg mix. This will temper the eggs so they do not scramble when they hit the hot pasta.

Tip the egg mix into the pasta and stir continuously for a few minutes until the liquid has thickened into a creamy sauce as the egg cooks. Make sure to stir across the whole base of the pan to ensure the egg doesn’t cook unevenly. If the sauce gets too thick, add a little bit of the reserved pasta water.

Stir in the parsley and serve.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you are a fan of mushrooms and pasta, why not check out my mushroom pasta bake – it is one of the first things I posted on this blog; if you are vegetarian just ignore the chicken in it as the dinner works perfectly well without it. If you are looking for something a little bit more on the sweet side, why not make yourself some miniature almond cakes? They are divine.

 

Have a good one and I will be back next weeks with a deliciously flaky baked dish.

H

Fishcakes

When I was younger, and to an extent still today, I would always choose fishcakes over battered fish. My main issue with deep fried fish was that the skin was incredibly slimy – which is gross. Why would I choose to have slimy fish when I could have delicious fishcakes? The main problem with commercial fish cakes is that they are basically all potato. It’s cheap to add to the mix and when it’s combined with flavour enhancers it is very difficult to know how much actual fish there is in the cake. When you make them for yourself, you know – in this case the fishcakes are about 30% fish and 70% potato, egg, onion and bread.

The history of fishcakes dates back 4000 years. A Chinese folk tale tells of a fisherman who fed his homemade fishcakes to Emperor Shun’s wives which cheered them up and returned their waning appetites to normal. According to the story, Shun was so pleased by this that he requested the fisherman teach others how to make the fishcakes and thus the fishcake became a popular dish in China. In both China and Japan surimi (a paste made from fish or meat) was used to make fishcakes and fish balls. It was often made using the fish that couldn’t be sold either whole or as fillets and so would have gone to waste otherwise.

Fishcakes are an excellent way of using up left over mashed potato. You might even go as far as to make a double portion of mash for your shepherd’s pie and use the excess the next day for a fishcake dinner. If you choose to use tinned fish (I would avoid tuna but tinned salmon is absolutely fine) this dish becomes ultra-fast to make. Just drain the fish, mix it into the potato with onion, seasoning and an egg and you are good to go. There is no rule saying you have to spend time coating the fishcakes in breadcrumbs – it’s mainly convention – but it is the best way to get a crunchy exterior.

The recipe below is a very basic one. Like with all food, there are hundreds of recipes giving tips and tricks for how to make the same dish but sometimes it is nice to have a good base case from which you can work upwards. As you will notice, I do not season the mashed potato. Some people will add milk and butter – if you are using left over mash from a previous meal, this is likely to be in there – and that is fine. The fishcakes will be a little bit softer but they will still work just as well. I used cod for these but any white fish will do – including smoked fish (though probably not kippers). You could even use salmon if you fancy being decadent. Additional ingredients like chives and leeks are common in fishcakes too and I have even seen Asian spiced ones which included ginger, chilli, turmeric and coriander. These really are perfect to use for experimenting with flavours.

For this recipe, I have assumed that you are starting with nothing prepared or precooked however if you are starting with premade mash or using tinned fish, the prep time will be drastically decreased. Enjoy the recipe and I hope you will discover just how simple these can be.

 

 

Fishcakes

Serves: 5

Time: 2 hours

Cost per portion: around £1.30

 

300g fish (I would use cod or haddock, perhaps even salmon if I was feeling decadent)

600g potato

1 medium onion/ 6 spring onions

2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1 egg

1 clove garlic (minced)

¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg

Salt and pepper

 

To coat:

Flour

1 egg

Panko breadcrumbs/medium matzah meal

Oil for frying

 

 

Cut the potatoes into small pieces and place in a pan of cold water on the stove. Add about a teaspoon of salt to the pan

Heat until the water starts to boil and let simmer for ten minutes until the potato is cooked – you should be able to insert a skewer into the pieces with very little resistance.

Drain the potato into a colander and leave to cool for five minutes. Do not remove the potato from the colander as more water will leave the potatoes as steam which will help prevent the fishcakes being soggy.

Mash the potatoes. If you have a Mouli or a potato ricer, this will give you the best result but a hand masher will work too.55437930_549514922123949_8495275106229026816_n

Leave the potatoes to cool. I like to do this in a large bowl and spread the mash up the sides as this increases the surface area so the mash will cool much faster.

 

While the potatoes are cooking, place the fish into a frying pan and fill with water until it just covers the fish You could also add herbs (bay leaves for example) to the water to give a bit of extra flavour.

Cover the frying pan and bring the water to a simmer. Leave for about five minutes until the fish is cooked (there should be no translucent areas).

Remove the fish from the water and leave to cool for twenty minutes or so.

Finely chop the onions and place them in a large bowl.

Add the cooled mash, nutmeg, garlic, salt, at least five grinds of pepper and the egg.

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Use your hands or a fork to gently flake the cooked fish. It should come off the skin when you do this. If you find any small bones, just remove them now.

Add the fish to the other ingredients and gently mix together. I prefer to do this by hand – it’s a little bit messy but it prevents the fish getting pulverised so there will still be small flakes in the finished product.

 

Pour around 50g plain flour into a wide bowl for coating the fishcakes.

Divide the batter into ten portions and shape them (by hand) into patties.

After shaping each one, place it in the flour and make sure it is evenly coated before placing it onto a board.

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Once all ten have been shaped and floured, place them in the fridge for 20 minutes to firm up.

 

In a bowl, crack and beat an egg with a fork until it is no longer gelatinous. In a separate, wide bowl, measure out about 100g breadcrumbs/matzah meal. You can add seasonings to this coating too but be careful, spices are likely to burn in the oil if you add them here so it is safest to stick to a little salt and pepper.

Keeping one hand wet and one hand dry, take the fishcakes one at a time and lightly coat in the egg and then the breadcrumbs.

Place them back on the board after each coating. If any little bits of fishcake fall off, keep these for testing that the oil is the right temperature.

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Add vegetable oil to a frying pan until it around 1cm deep.

Heat this until a small piece of fishcake dropped in starts to bubble.

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Fry the fishcakes a few at a time until the base is golden, flip them and repeat with the other side. Keep flipping until the fishcakes are a deep brown colour (but not burnt).

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Serve hot.

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The fishcakes can be frozen both pre and post cooking, if you want to do it before you cook them, shape and flour the fishcakes before placing them in the freezer on the board. After they have gone solid, you can place them all into a bag together but if you do that too early, they fishcakes will deform and stick together.

 

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you love fish, why not check out my salmon kedgeree or ever my pan-fried salmon with crispy skin, it is delicious.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a recipe for miniature cakes, perfect for afternoon tea.