Monday 31 December 2012

Bourbon Brownies by Dan Lepard

I love making a mess in the kitchen. I like balancing bowls on other bowls and spoons on precarious edges. As I chuck another bowl in the sink I know that I'm getting that much closer to the end result. 
If you prefer baking with one or two bowls then brownies is for you.
I used to bake brownies every day in my cafe. If there weren't brownies and savoury muffins on the counter there would be unhappy regulars. The other cakes were just a bonus but people would brave stormy weather for a brownie, and its because it took me a fair while to realise what the majority wanted. Turns out, most are brownie purists. Whilst my favourite have white choc chips in them and others like nuts, most people just want plain chocolate, squidgy, thick, but not cakey. A thin crust that crackles once cut, that can be eaten with ice cream when warm out the oven or with tea once cooled. 
After a chat with Dan Lepard on twitter a couple of days ago, I asked him if I should bake one recipe from his book 'Short and Sweet' what should it be? It was as if he'd had a quick rummage in my cupboards and seen I had everything to bake his suggested Bourbon Brownies.
It was the first thing I did when I woke up. They are special. The pecans go so well with the Bourbon and a glass of cold milk. The best thing about these brownies is you don't reach for one for your breakfast, the alcohol is quite pronounced, it's an elevenses treat at the earliest!

200g dark chocolate
125g butter
2 eggs
125g light soft brown sugar
100g caster sugar
75ml bourbon
2 tsp vanilla extract
175g plain flour
1 tbsp cocoa
125g pecan nuts, roughly chopped
Heat the oven to 170C (fan assisted)/325F/gas mark 3. Line a 20cm square cake tin with foil.
In a saucepan, melt the chocolate with the butter, then set aside somewhere warm on the stove-top. Beat the eggs with the sugars until the sugar has almost dissolved and the mixture turned creamy and a light beige colour. Next, beat in the chocolate and butter until evenly combined, then beat in the bourbon and vanilla. Sift the flour and cocoa twice, then beat this into the chocolate mixture. Finally, beat in the chopped pecans.
Scrape the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake for 25 minutes (mine took 20), or until a toothpick poked through the sugary crust comes out barely clean - the hot chocolate will carry on cooking for at least five minutes after you've taken it out of the oven.

Wednesday 26 December 2012

Russian Honey Layer Cake

Some couples have a song and some friends have a cake. If my friend Moo and I were to have 'a cake', it would be Russian Honey Cake from a bakery here in London. As someone who makes a lot of cake I've often wondered how the layers are made so thin. Are they baked that thin or are they sliced thinly after? Turns out that the mix is more of a dough than a cake mix and so you roll out the layers and bake like a biscuit. It has the texture of cake because after a day or two with layers of soured cream in between them, they soften and absorb all the flavour and moisture of their filling. Clever cake. 
I followed this recipe and added lemon zest, a little juice, vanilla bean and a tiny pinch of salt to the cream mix.
I'm going to be honest from the outset, this cake received mixed reviews, some people loved it straight away and others including myself weren't 100% sure. It did however improve over a few days and I want to play about with chocolate layers soon to mix it up a bit.
 Separating the dough and rolling out thinly to bake.
 I used a bowl to cut out circles and cooled on a rack.
This is one of those naughty cakes (because of my own take on the technique) that allows you to keep the offcuts to munch through the afternoon ; )
Once cooled, spread with the sour cream mix and gently press down on the top.
 Smooth the cream over the top layer and all down the sides.
The recipe calls for biscuit crumbs but I used feuilletine but either will do! You could even blitz the offcuts in a food processor and use those if you haven't eaten them already. You can order feuilletine from a fab website a friend has set up selling everything a foodie could wish for!
Serve with berries, the cake is sweet and rich in honey and needs a little sharpness in contrast.

Monday 24 December 2012

Nigella's Panetonne Pudding, Christmas soda bread and Chestnut & Bacon canapes

HO HO HO! MEEERRRRRY CHRISTMAS!! I'm sitting on the sofa full as a pie and we're only on the Eve of Christmas. My cousins just threw a lovely get together and I have never seen so much food, which included my favourite and most calorific canape recipe of all time.
My Uncle Chris disappeared for a little while and in that time, Santa came to visit. The kids loved it and he only gave the game away when he said 'Come sit on Grandads knee!'
Aunty Sue's Bacon Wrapped Chestnuts in secret sauce.
I kind of wish this sauce had remained a secret because when you find out what's in it you kind of hate yourself for having so many!
Wrap vac-packed chestnuts in bacon (secured with a tooth pick) and crisp up in the oven on 200C for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix together
1 cup of mayo
1 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of sweet chilli sauce
Pour the sauce over the chesnuts and let it work it's magic with the bacon, it needs to sizzle and thicken, it will be all glossy and sticky with those yummy caramalised bits on the side of the dish.
This one's a definite crowd pleaser :)

Nigella's Panetonne Pudding
I wanted to take an alternative pud but didn't have much time so took inspiration from Nigella, the Queen of tasty shortcuts. I only made two layers for today but have made a taller version for Christmas day. It is like a Christmas version of tiramisu and it's more of an assembly job than cooking. Just slicing panetonne, soaking in alcohol and layering with a mascarpone and cream mixture. 
Nigella used Tuaca but it's not easy to come by and we all have bottles of sweet sherry, marsala or other dessert wine lurking in the back of the cupboards so I would say slosh anything tasty in. Here is her recipe, I added grated orange zest and instead of pom seeds, I used black cherries soaked in Kirsch. If you like eating your dessert at the same time as making it, this one is for you.
I've catered a couple of Christmas Dinners this week for clients, but tomorrow we've divvied up all jobs so it should be relaxed for everyone. I only have to make Turkey, gravy and pud. Pud is done and in the fridge and I made Jamie Oliver's get ahead gravy (firm favourite) 
Our friend Sam makes really delicious stuffing, this is the best bit of the meal in my opinion. 
A couple of weeks ago, I catered a wedding for a lovely couple at my parents place in Spain. After dinner and instead of dessert we made a mince pie tower. Blurry pic but thought it was kind of cute what with looking similar to a Christmas tree. 
If you haven't planned a pud and now the shops are shut don't panic. I always have eggs and sugar in the house so a pavlova is the easiest thing to whip up. Got cocoa? Add it for a chocolatey gooey pav and whip cream on top. The best thing is you can load it with anything you fancy, tinned fruit, fresh fruit, nuts, chocolates, chopped up brownies.. (yes, I really did that)
Another great throwwhateveryoulikein recipe is this one for soda bread. The little loaf shared it on her blog and I keep adding different things to it. The original recipe is amazing toasted with lashings on honey on it and honestly, start to finish takes 30 minutes. I omitted the feta last time and added soaked cranberries, caramalised onions, walnuts, chesnuts and rosemary for a festive loaf. It's a little heavier with all that in it but still delicious.
That's all from me tonight, have a wonderful Christmas and after the big day has been and gone I'll share a load of stuff with you that I have been meaning to share for ages but the lead up to Christmas has been a little manic to say the least ;)

Saturday 15 December 2012

More than just a Sausage Roll, Versions 1 and 2

Glazed, flaky, juicy, salty, sweet, doesn't get better than a homemade sausage roll. Now that the days are getting shorter and there is a nip in the air, the smell of a fresh-out-the-oven sausage roll is immensely comforting.
I've been experimenting with different flavour combinations and these two have been deemed the most popular at recent events I have catered.
One is a traditional with a twist: Sage and chestnut roll with smoked chilli jelly. The other is possibly the first Persian roll out there (as most Iranians don't eat pork) with pistachios, barberries and sumac, a Persian influence.
Sage, chestnut and smoked chilli jelly Sausage Roll
You don't need to make your own puff pastry, I certainly don't. I use a ready rolled sheet.  

1 puff pastry sheet or block, rolled out
300g good quality sausage meat/sausages 
10 small sage leaves
1 red onion, sliced and caramalised 
2 rashers of smoked bacon, fry until crispy and chop
2 tbsp smoked chilli jelly (I used Belazu)
Handful of precooked vac-pac chestnuts
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2tsp mixed spice
1/2 black pepper 
1 egg, beaten

Slather the pastry in chilli jelly.
Squeeze the sausage meat out of their cases and mix in a bowl with all the ingredients bar the egg and only half of the sage, chopped finely.
Place it in a sausage shape, at the bottom, long edge of the pastry.
Roll tightly and pinch the ends like a cracker. 
Brush with egg wash and pop in freezer for 20 mins
(That was a secret tip. If you do this and then egg wash AGAIN you will get that lovely shiny golden finish)
I like to fry a little sage in butter, just for a minute and then pop it on top of the roll evenly spaced where you would slice into 7. I have made mine VERY tall and thin to look a little different and elegant. Obviously you can make them smaller and get more out of one roll.
 Pop on a baking tray on something non stick like silicone or parchment paper and bake at 190C for 20 minutes. I actually take them out after 7 minutes and brush one more time with the egg wash. 
 Once golden, transfer to a wire rack to cool.
 Persian Sausage Rolls
I had fun making these, I have a real crush on Persian food at the moment which inspired these rolls. I bought some barberries (zereshk), sumac and pistachios (order online from Souschef) and got to work.

If you can find a tart redcurrant jelly to encase the meat or make your own, it does give that extra tangy hit. Most shop bought jellies are a little too sweet, so this step isn't imperative. Do make sure you use the barberries though (presoak in water for 10 mins if need be) as these little jewels are like sour flavour bombs and go so well with sweet meat.
Follow instructions for previous recipe but add instead, a small handful of chopped pistachios and barberries, and half a tsp of sumac, pepper, cinnamon and cumin. I put the red onion here too and I popped a few rose petals in.
Instead of the sage, add pistachios as a garnish at the time you do your final egg wash. Deeee-licious.
I do hope you make these.

Wednesday 5 December 2012

Miso Petit Fours

I really love miso. There are so many varieties, lending themselves to so many different dishes. My friend Reiko bought me back white shiromiso (sweet and mild) from Kyoto and I had an urge to bake with it. I thought it would make sense, what with salted caramel being such a hit and I also love miso with butter, on potatoes with soy or just miso and butter on sweet carrots. I needed a buttery, light cake.
Canelés date back to the 18th Century and you'll find them all over Paris in every Boulangerie. They are baked in copper moulds with a crisp crust but a chewy, softer middle. I think they are so pretty but they're not my favourite. I do however, love the shape and bought a silicone mould. I have a cupboard devoted to silicone.. it's one of those addictions that slowly creep up on you. They go hand in hand with non stick spray, this stuff is genius and make all your cakes pop out easy. 
My cakes shrunk a little in the moulds which was perfect as it meant I could pour over a vanilla bean and miso syrup. This is why I love experimenting. Once cooled slightly, I popped them out and spooned a little more syrup into that inviting dip at the top. These were so lovely, I will definitely be making them in the future for canape events or for petit four at dinner parties.
I appreciate not everyone will have this mould but you could make them in anything, mini muffin moulds, madeleines or even mini cupcake cases. 

35g shiromiso
2 eggs
100g SR flour
100g unsalted butter
100g caster sugar
3 tbsp cream

1/3 cup of water
1/3 cup of caster sugar
vanilla beans scraped from a pod
1 tsp shiromiso
1 tbsp whisky (optional)

Beat all indredients together, spoon into greased moulds and bake for 12 minutes or until domed and golden at 180C
Make the syrup by simmering together all ingredients for a few minutes and spoon onto warm cakes.