Pressed Biscuits

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

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This is the biscuit press!

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

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

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

 

Pressed Biscuits (Spritz biscuits)

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Makes three to five sheets of biscuits depending on the size

 

335g butter

225g sugar

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

1 egg

¼ tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

 

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

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

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Beat in the egg, vanilla and salt.

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

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Set up your biscuit press according to its instructions.

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

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

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Bake the biscuits for ten minutes.

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

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

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

 

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

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

H

Gochujang Chicken

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Gochujang Chicken

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

Time: 30 minutes +15 minutes to marinade

 

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

4 tbsp gochujang

2 tbsp red miso

3 tbsp honey

2 tbsp sesame oil

3 cloves of garlic – finely grated

5 tbsp water

2 tbsp vegetable oil for frying

 

 

Stir fry ingredients:

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

Cabbage

Carrot

Spring onions

1cm piece of ginger

2 garlic cloves

1 tbsp vegetable oil.

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

 

 

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

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

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

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Leave for fifteen minutes.

 

 

While the chicken is marinating, prepare the noodles.

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

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

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

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Dice the ginger and garlic.

 

To cook:

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Cook for five minutes, tossing regularly.

 

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

 

To serve:

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

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

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

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Serve with a side of the spicy gochujang based sauce.

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

 

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

H

Italian Meringue Macarons

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

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

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French Meringue Macarons – not my most successful!!

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

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

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

Good luck.

 

 

 

Italian Meringue Macarons

Work time: 1 hour

Rest time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

 

 

260g ground almonds

260g icing sugar

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

¼ tsp cream of tartar

200g caster sugar

1/3 cup water

Optional: 2 tbsp instant coffee or 2 tbsp cocoa

 

Filling:

300ml double cream

300g dark chocolate

25g brown sugar

25g butter

 

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

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

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

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

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

Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve the sugar.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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Fold the rest of the meringue through the almond mixture.

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

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Line five or six baking trays.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

To make the filling:

Chop the chocolate and put it into a large bowl.

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

Pour the hot cream over the chocolate.

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

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

 

To assemble:

Pair up the shells by size.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Bulgar Wheat and Quinoa Salad with Feta and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

What is a salad? It sounds like a simple question but have a think. Does potato salad (cooled boiled potatoes in a mayonnaise/yoghurt based dressing with the occasional onion) have any relation to the recipe below other than the fact that neither are served hot? If you look on the internet for the definition of a salad, you will find many different answers. Personally, I like the description of pieces of food, ready to eat, that are small enough not to need any more cutting, with a dressing of some description. This happily encompasses most salads that I have come across in the past and also describes both this salad and the aforementioned potato one too.

Using bulgar as the base of a salad is something I would never have thought of doing until a couple of years ago when I helped with preparation for a party and was asked to make the recipe which this is based on – Mary Berry’s Herbed Quinoa and Bulgar Wheat Salad with Lemon and Pomegranate. That recipe is delicious and I would recommend trying it. The recipe below is close but not the same as I ate this quite a lot at university and ingredients like chives and pomegranate syrup (or molasses) were not easily available without driving out of the city. This led to a couple of ingredients being removed from the recipe, a few proportions being tweaked (because I love sun dried tomatoes and feta) and more dressing being included because I love this dressing. I also started substituting some of the olive oil in the dressing with the sun-dried tomato oil because I didn’t want to waste it and sun-dried tomatoes are not exactly student friendly when it comes to budgeting.

I feel as though I believed all salads were leaf based with lettuce, spinach, cabbage etc. forming the main constituent of the dish. I had ignored things like pasta and potato salad because I cannot stand mayonnaise and both of them tend to be coated with the stuff. It seems odd that I never thought much about this because I have known what Israeli salad is for a long time and I just classed the word “salad” as part of the name and not a description of the dish itself. Of course carbs like cous-cous or bulgar or barley (I’ve seen that one before) can be used as the base of salads. They turn the salad from a side dish into the main course as the carbohydrates help fill you up. They also tend to have lots of herbs and flavour which makes them wonderful to eat.

The recipe with today’s post does not contain either cucumber or raw tomato which is one of the reasons I like it so much. It proves you can have a delicious salad without either of them which is important as I feel that most people view both cucumber and tomato as staple ingredients in a salad. They do not have to be!

Let me know what you think if you try this one for yourself.

 

 

 

Bulgar Wheat and Quinoa Salad with Feta and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Work time: 10 – 15 minutes

Cooking and cooling time: 2 hours

 

300g bulgar wheat and quinoa (most stores now sell these mixed but if you can’t find that, just mix the two together with a 1:1 ratio)

150g drained sun-dried tomatoes (keep the oil they come in as this will be used later)

150g feta

Seeds of half a pomegranate

2 tbsp chopped parsley

2 tbsp chopped mint

2 tbsp chopped basil

3 tbsp lemon juice

3 tbsp honey

1 ½ tbsp olive oil

1 ½ tbsp sun dried tomato oil

 

Cook the quinoa and bulgar wheat mix according to the packet instructions. Tip into a large bowl and leave to cool.

Roughly chop the tomatoes and add them to the cooled carbs.

Crumble the feta into the bowl and gently stir everything together.

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Sprinkle over the herbs and the pomegranate seed and stir again.

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In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, honey and both oils before pouring this all over the salad.

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Season with a little salt and pepper. Mix again and serve.

This can be stored for a few days in the fridge but make sure that the herbs don’t go off as they will be the limiting factor.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe. I don’t have any other similar recipes to this uploaded yet but I hope to pup some more up in the future. If you are interested in other dishes that work well as a cold lunch, check out my recipe ginger tofu – it’s packed with flavour, is easy to make and if you follow a plant based diet, you will be happy to know that it is completely vegan.

 

Have a good one and I will be back next week with some sort of meringue-based treat.

H

Honey Cake Swiss Roll

It’s that time of the year again! Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) began yesterday night and today is the first full day. Honey cake is a traditional food to eat during this festival so here I am with another honey cake themed recipe. Last year I posted my recipe for traditional honey cakes but these often need to be baked a couple of weeks in advance, be wrapped up and allowed to rest so the flavours can mature. Contrary to the weeks needed for standard honey cakes, this swiss roll needs only the time it takes to cook, cool, fill and roll before you can be happily munching away on its deliciousness.

Honey cake is eaten to symbolise the wish for a sweet new year. It is classically flavoured with oranges and warming spices such as cinnamon and ginger but really any cake where the predominant flavour and sweetener is honey can be classed as a honey cake. My mum has been using the same recipe to make these for as long as I can remember and as a child, I absolutely loved helping out. This was probably because the raising agent (bicarbonate of soda) is stirred into orange juice and anyone who has done a small amount of chemistry knows what happens next. The bicarbonate reacts with the citric acid in the orange juice and goes super fizzy very quickly which was great fun for a child to be able to do – it’s still really cool to be honest.

There are other classic foods eaten on Rosh Hashanah too. Challah, an enriched, plaited dough made every week for the Sabbath undergoes a change of shape from the long plait to a rising spiral. This is an eastern-European Jewish tradition which several explanations: the roundness represents the continuity of creation; the roundness is because the year is round and goes on and on; the challah looks like a crown for crowning God as king on Rosh Hashanah; the rising spiral symbolises the hope that prayers will ascend to heaven. In the non-eastern-European communities, challah is sometimes shaped into animals like swans or lions often using biblical inspiration but sometimes, it is just done to mark Rosh Hashanah as different to other festivals and the sabbath.

Probably the most recognisable tradition from Rosh Hashanah is the dipping of apple in honey. The question of course is why do we use apples? Like the many reasons for round challah, there are different theories for the choice of apples. The fruit is sweet (back to the sweet new year thing again) but that isn’t enough because there are plenty of other sweet fruit out there: mango, papaya, dates and peaches to name just a few. The choice of apples was again an eastern-European one albeit one which has been picked up by many denominations of Jews from many different backgrounds. According to some sources, it represents the Garden of Eden which was supposed to have the scent of an apple orchard. Apples are mentioned in Solomon’s Song of Songs and are meant to be representative of people’s love for God. If you go back about a millennium or so, you find no mention of apples –  dates and figs were used as sweet fruits for dipping so sometime since the 7th century, someone dictated that apples should be the fruit of choice and since then, it has become one of the most symbolic representations of the Jewish new year.

I feel that I have to mention that I view this as one of my most successful recipes. The flavours work amazingly well together, there are a mixture of textures and the tang from the crème fraiche cuts through the sweetness of the honey beautifully. The bites almost have layers, different flavours appear and then die down to be replaced by others and everything is matched up in the most amazing way. I hope you like it as much as it do!

 

 

 

Honey cake swiss roll

Work time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Cool time: 45 minutes

 

Ingredients:

4 eggs

75g caster sugar

75g soft brown sugar

Zest of half an orange

Pinch of salt

150g plain flour

1 tsp mixed spice

½ tsp ground ginger

½ tsp ground cinnamon

25g butter

2 tbsp runny honey

1 tbsp water

A few tablespoons of icing sugar

 

 

For the filling:

300ml double cream

300ml crème fraiche

3 tbsp honey

100g walnuts

 

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (200°C) and line the base of a large swiss roll pan with baking parchment.

In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, sugars and salt until incredibly thick and foamy and has almost tripled in volume. This will take about five to ten minutes depending on whether you use a stand mixer or a hand-held electric one. You need an electric whisk to do this – it’s just not worth the effort to do this by hand. When you think the mixture is at the right stage, give it an extra 30 seconds.

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While the eggs are whipping up melt the butter and honey together with the water in a small saucepan and set aside.

Once the eggs are ready sieve the flour and spices over the top and fold in.

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When there are no longer big patches of flour in the mix pour the butter/honey/water, which should still be slack and slightly warm, around the inside edge of the bowl and fold this into the cake batter.

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Pour the batter into the lined baking tray and bake for ten minutes until the top is golden brown and the cake is well risen. It will probably not pull away from the sides of the pan (unless you greased them too) so that is not a good indication of whether it is cooked or not. If you are unsure you can use the skewer test and see if a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

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Once the cake is cooked, remove it from the oven. Sieve over the icing sugar and make sure there is a thin layer over the top of the entire cake.

Lay a piece of baking parchment (which is larger than the cake) on a flat surface or table and flip the still-hot cake out onto this. Peel the baking parchment off (what was) the base of the cake.

Soak a tea towel in cold water, wring it out and lay this over the cake and leave to cool. This will stop the cake drying out when it cools and reduce the chances of cracking.

 

Make the filling while the cake is cooling.

Remove about ten walnut halves which look nice and set them aside.

Roughly chop the remaining walnuts and tip them into a large frying pan.

Toast the walnuts over a medium heat until they just start to turn golden. Remove from the heat immediately and leave to cool.

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Whip the double cream until it is just about to reach stiff peaks.

Whip the crème fraiche for about 30 seconds to thicken it just a little.

Fold the crème fraiche and the honey into the whipped cream.

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Once the cake is cool, spread about two thirds of the filling over the entire cake and sprinkle most of the toasted walnuts over this in an even layer.

Use your hands to push the walnuts into the filling. This will allow the filling to stick the cake together. If you don’t do this there is a chance the walnuts could form a barrier and prevent the cake sticking in it’s roll shape. It would uncurl which would not be ideal.

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Using the baking parchment the cake is resting on, lift one end of the cake up and over to start the roll.

Continue to roll up the cake using the parchment to ensure the roll is nice and tight. If it starts cracking, just ease up on the tightness of the roll at that point and it should be ok.

Once the cake is fully rolled, wrap it tightly in the baking parchment and place it in the fridge, seam side down, to rest and set for about ten minutes.

 

Once the cake has rested a bit, remove it from the fridge and unwrap it.

Place the cake onto your serving platter and trim the ends to make a neat looking spiral.

Spread the remaining filling in a thick line across the top of the cake and stick the reserved walnuts to it. If there are any toasted pieces left, sprinkle these over too.

Drizzle a little bit of honey over the walnuts and cream.

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This can be served immediately or kept in the fridge for a few days completely covered.

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The cake works wonderfully with a fresh honey cake martini.

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you fancy trying your hand at some non-cakey Jewish treats, why not make yourself some rugelach? They are absolutely delicious.

 

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a delicious lunch which can be taken to work!.

H

Sourdough Pizza

I finally bought a pizza stone a couple of months ago after restraining myself for years. I had never cooked with one but they are supposed to make your pizza better and I had been having issues with a soggy and undercooked pizza crust for quite some time. The result? Crispy crust, quick cooking time, all round better pizza in my opinion.

Question: what is a pizza stone? Answer: it is a relatively simple way of recreating the conditions found inside a pizza oven without having to go out and build yourself a new, extraordinarily expensive piece of kit. The moment the dough hits the stone, it is exposed to a huge amount of heat which makes the yeast go crazy giving a super puffy, air-filled crust. The pizza stone retains its heat well so the addition of a (comparatively) cold pizza on top of it does little to lower its overall temperature. This causes the base of the pizza to cook fully and quickly, giving a solid, crisp base that will not be soggy. Any sections of dough which may be a little wet quickly dry, as the pizza stone is porous and thus pulls moisture out of the base of the crust again leading to a crispier base… I think there may be a pattern here. Basically, this can all be summed up as: the pizza stone ensures the crust is cooked quickly and properly and – most importantly – fully before the toppings begin to burn.

I have used metal trays for baking pizza and, while they do work, the best method I know still involves preheating the tray and then transferring the pizza onto it. Unlike the stone, metal is not porous, so any steam which may escape through the base of the pizza is trapped against the dough – causing it to be reabsorbed and softening the dough. Some methods of cooking use both a pizza stone and a metal sheet. The pizza goes on the preheated sheet and the stone rests on a wire rack directly above the pizza. Again, this is recreating the conditions of a pizza oven where extreme heat is being blasted at the pizza from all directions, the base of the oven, the roof, even the walls all help cook the pizza.

When it comes to hand stretching dough, I have found that the best way to learn is watching online tutorials. Written instructions are ok but it is so much easier when you can see what is going on. It may split the first time… or the second… or even once you think you know what is going on but this is fine – I just stitch it all back together and after the cheese is added, no one will be able to tell. Stretching the dough by hand, in my experience, is the best way to get a puffy crust on the pizza. When you stretch it, the dough from the centre of the pizza is slowly transferred to the outside. This can weaken the centre of the pizza though so make sure to keep an eye on it and if any bits seem dangerously thin, try and avoid stretching them any more than necessary.

Sourdough pizza (like normal sourdough bread) takes time and you need to plan ahead if you want to eat it. Luckily, the majority of the time needed is resting and proving so it is not too time consuming when you are actually making it. I prefer the taste of sourdough bases but let me know what you think if you try it. If you don’t have a sourdough starter, you can always make your own or you could get some from a friend. I am sure there will be someone in your local area with one who would be happy to donate a little to you.

 

 

Sourdough pizza:

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Rest time: 16 hours

 

To reactivate the starter:

½ cup sour dough starter

1 cup strong white flour

1 cup water

 

For the dough:

75ml water

500g flour

2 tbsp olive oil

10g salt

 

For toppings: tomato passata, mozzarella, any other toppings of your choice

 

Mix the starter with one cup of flour and one cup of water. Cover and leave overnight. You can use the starter straight from the fridge, no need to warm it up as that is what this step will do.

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After sitting overnight, the starter should be very bubbly.

 

In the morning, add the flour for the dough, 25ml water and oil to the reactivated starter. Mix until it forms a shaggy mess – it need not all stick together at this point. Cover and leave to rest for 30 minutes to an hour.

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Sprinkle over the salt and the rest of the water and knead to combine.

Knead the dough for five to ten minutes until it is smooth and elastic.

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Cover and leave to rise for six or seven hours. I would set this up before work and leave it in a cool place throughout the day.

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About an hour before making the pizzas, split the dough into four and shape each quarter into a ball. Cover and leave again for half an hour to let the gluten relax.

 

Place a pizza stone into the oven and turn your oven to the highest setting (mine is gas mark 9 at around 250°C). ALLOW THIS TO HEAT UP FOR AT LEAST HALF TO THREE-QUARTERS OF AN HOUR.

Take one of the balls of dough and flatten it using your fingertips. Stretch the dough until it is the same size as your stone. This can be done by picking it up at the edge and rotating the dough so its own weight stretches it. This ensures the dough in the middle of the pizza is nice and thin and the edges are a bit thicker so you get a good crust. You could also use a rolling pin if it is easier for you.

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Spread the tomato paste out from the centre until it is half an inch from the outside of the dough.

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Grate/thinly slice the mozzarella and sprinkle it over the pizza. Top with your favourite toppings.

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Using a single, swift motion slide a peel underneath the pizza. (A peel is just a large, flat paddle. It might be worth practicing getting the pizza onto and off of the peel before you add the toppings (as in when it is just the base)). You cannot build the pizza on the peel as it will stick if it is left there too long. If you do not have a peel (like me) you could use a cake lifter or even make the pizza on baking parchment and slide this parchment from a normal baking tray onto the pizza stone.

By gently shaking the peel, slide the pizza onto the pizza stone and bake for five to ten minutes (depending on your oven temperature). When the pizza is done, it should be able to be tilted by lifting up one side as the base will be cooked and a little crispy.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you would like to have a go at normal, non-sourdough pizza, check out my recipe. The crust is super light and fluffy and it tastes amazing. I have been known to lightly brush the outer crust (without the toppings) with garlic oil and give it a sprinkle of sea salt for extra flavour.

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

H

 

 

Chocolate Rugelach

Rugelach are one of those foods that have come on a serious journey. Originating in Poland with a standard yeasted dough, they are now eaten all around the world in Jewish communities and have evolved to include ingredients such as sour cream, cream cheese, laminated pastry and fillings such as halva and Nutella. These are quite a different beast to the original basic dough filled with dried fruit and jams.

A big question when it comes to making rugelach is whether or not to add dairy. In orthodox Judaism, milk and meat are not to be eaten in the same meal so by including butter or sour cream in your dough, you are preventing yourself from eating the rugelach as a dessert after a meaty meal. The obvious choice would be to leave it out but of course the dairy adds a large fat content to your dough which softens it dramatically. You could always add oil to replace the fat from the dairy but that still will not solve the tricky problem of laminating the pastry. One solution is that you could use some sort of margarine instead of the butter – after all, the pasty is a soft lamination, you are not required to keep the butter cold at all times like in puff pastry – but the flavour wouldn’t be the same (although with enough added sugar, I am certain that this would not be a problem).

This dough takes a relatively long time to rise. Both milk and sour cream have a non-neutral pH (they are both slightly acidic) and their pHs both lie outside the range at which yeast ferments best. The eggs and the dairy constituents contain fats which coat the flour during the mixing stage. This slows down the rate at which the yeast can break down the carbohydrates into fermentable sugar. With eggs, butter, milk and sour cream in this recipe you should not be worried if your dough rises slowly but you will have to be patient. Rugelach which are under proved – especially during the second rise – will not cook through in the oven, resulting in a doughy interior.

The sugars in the milk (as well as the sugar added to the dough) will result in the rugelach browning in the oven faster than normal bread but you have to hold your nerve about this. Make sure you know the temperature your oven is working at and, if you have a fan oven, adjust it down a little to ensure perfectly cooked, unburnt pastries.

The recipe I use for rugelach includes chocolate in the soft lamination. The cocoa butter in the chocolate helps to separate the layers and it also ensures you have a huge quantity of chocolate in the final pasty (which is never a bad thing). You are of course welcome to laminate just with butter – I can assure you this works very well as it is the technique I use when making Pastéis de Nata. You could even use a flavoured butter – cinnamon or why not give it a savoury twist and infuse your butter with herbs or garlic and stuff the rugelach with cheese? Go wild!

These things will make your house smell delicious – forget baking bread when someone is coming over for a viewing, make rugelach! Hopefully you will enjoy these as much as I did and let me know how they go if you try them at home.

 

 

 

Rugelach (the sour cream variety)

Work time: 1 hour

Proving time: 8 hours

Cook time: 30 minutes

 

Ingredients:

Dough:

650g plain white flour

1 ½ tbsp yeast

150g white sugar

1 egg and 3 egg yolks

200ml sour cream

80g very soft butter

160ml warm milk

1tsp salt

 

Filling:

200g dark chocolate

100g butter

50g sugar

 

Glaze:

1 egg + 1 tbsp water

300g sugar

200ml water

 

 

Tip the dough ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attached.

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Mix until combined and then knead on a medium to low speed for five to ten minutes – until the dough is stretchy and bounces back a little when a finger is pressed into it.

Cover the dough and leave in a warm place for about four hours (or until doubled in size). Alternatively, you could leave this overnight at room temperature (providing the room is not too hot).

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Melt the chocolate and butter together and leave to cool until the mixture begins to thicken to a spreadable paste.

Flour a surface and roll out the dough to a twenty by twenty five-inch rectangle.

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Spread a quarter of the chocolate filling over two thirds of the rectangle. Fold the uncovered third over the middle third and the final third over them both (this is a letter fold – when the dough is folded in three, like a letter).

Pat out any air bubbles and seal the edges.

Roll this log back out again into a twenty by twenty five-inch rectangle but the other way from the first time. This will ensure that the folds are perpendicular to before.

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Repeat the spreading and folding again with one third of the remaining filling.

Mix the sugar into the filling that remains.

Roll out the dough back into its rectangle and square off the edges.

Spread the remaining filling over the dough.

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Cut the dough in half lengthwise.

Cut each rectangle into triangles with bases around three inches long.

Line two baking sheets with baking parchment.

Roll each triangle up into a little croissant like shape and place it on the baking sheet with the tip underneath the body – this will prevent any unrolling during rising and baking.

Cover the rugelach and leave for one to two hours or until they are visibly risen and they wobble a little when the tray is jiggled.

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

Whisk the egg in a bowl with 1 tbsp water.

Egg wash the rugelach and bake for 25-30 minutes.

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While the rugelach are baking, pour the sugar and water into a saucepan. Bring to the boil and stir until all the sugar has dissolved. Continue to boil for another minute and then remove from the heat.

 

The moment the rugelach come out of the oven, glaze them with the sugar syrup. This might sizzle a little when it hits the rugelach or the baking tray but that is fine.

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After glazing, move the rugelach to a wire rack and leave to cool.

Pile up on a platter to serve

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These rugelach really are amazing and I would say they are 100% worth the effort it takes to make them. If you are a fan of laminated doughs, why not try making some puff pastry to bake with or maybe you could have a go at croissants!

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

H