Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Ginger Puffs with Eggnog Custard


As promised here are my festive puffs, sneaking in just in time for Christmas in July. I love these, sponge and cream with an eggnog custard and gingerbread spices. They are polarising in our house, and since we're still in lockdown, the testing sample sits at 2-2; although one of the negatives doesn't really like cake, just one very specific chocolate cake, so let's call it 2-1.

The recipe is pretty flexible, if you don't like cloves, sub for 1/4 tsp of ground nutmeg, or just leave it out all together; similarly the brandy can be swapped for your spirit of choice. I was so close to using Cointreau, orange pairs beautifully with ginger, but went with brandy for my inner eggnog purist. The whipped cream here is stabilised with gelatin, you could absolutely omit this step and simply use softly whipped cream, the puffs will be a little more delicate, and definitely messier to eat! 

If you don't have patty pan tins, these can be baked on baking paper lined trays, just carefully drop dessert spoons of the mixture on the trays, allow 5 cm between each little mound.  Bake as instructed below, leaving the puffs to cool on the trays before you remove them. Sponges baked on trays will have the flatter, more traditional powder puff shape. Let me know if you make them, hope you love them too!

ginger powder puffs
(makes 28 mini sponges, for 14 puffs)

45g plain flour
50g cornflour
5g cocoa powder (approximately 2 teaspoons)
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch ground cloves
pinch salt
1/3 tsp bicarb soda
2 eggs, separated
1/3 tsp cream of tartar
120g caster sugar 

filling

eggnog custard, recipe below
250ml stabilised thickened cream, recipe below

• heat oven to 190ºC fan
• grease and flour two 12 hole patty pan trays, and 4 cavities of a 3rd tray, set aside
• mix together the flour, cornflour, cocoa powder, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, salt and bicarb soda; sift twice then set aside
• whisk egg whites until foamy, add the cream of tartar, whisk to soft peaks; add the sugar a tablespoon at a time, whisk until the sugar has dissolved before adding the next spoon full, once all the sugar has been added, keep whisking until you have a thick, glossy meringue
• add the egg yolks one at a time, whisking until they are just combined
• sift the flour mix over the whipped eggs and sugar, gently fold through taking care not to over mix
• ease a dessert spoon full of batter into each cavity of the patty pan trays
• bake for 12 minutes, remove from the oven and immediately invert the patty pan trays, give the corner a tap on the bench to release the sponges, then place on a rack, domed side up, to cool
• pair like sized sponges, pipe the eggnog custard on the flat side of one sponge, top with a heaped teaspoon of the stabilised whipped cream, then sandwich with the remaining sponge 
• store puffs in an airtight container in the fridge for at least 3 hours, bring to room temperature to eat.
• puffs will keep in the fridge for 3 days, becoming increasingly softer, and messier to eat!

eggnog custard

170ml milk
2 egg yolks
40g caster sugar
15g cornflour
1 tsp vanilla paste
15g butter
30 ml brandy, or your choice of spirit, an orange liqueur would work well very with the spices
1tsp grated fresh nutmeg

• in a small pan, over medium heat, bring the milk to just below boiling point, you'll see little lines form on the surface
• meanwhile whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, cornflour and vanilla; set the bowl on a damp cloth to stop it dancing around, gradually add the hot milk, whisking enthusiastically
• tip the custard back into the pan, and with the heat on low, whisk continuously.  The custard will thicken quickly, once it starts to bubble, whisk for a further minute then take off the heat.  Add the butter, whisking until smooth, then add the brandy, again whisking to combine
• push the custard through a sieve into a small bowl, press plastic wrap onto the surface of the custard, place in the fridge to cool
• when you are ready to fill the puffs, remove the custard from the fridge and give it a good whisk to smooth it out, add 1/4 of the stabilised cream, fold through using the whisk until combined, grate the fresh nutmeg over the top and stir through
• fit a piping bag with a 5mm open star tip, or similar, and fill with the eggnog custard

stabilised cream

3g gelatin (approximately 1tsp)
20ml water 
250ml thickened cream

• place the water in a heatproof jug or small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water, and set aside for 5 minutes to bloom
• fill a small pan with water to a depth of 5cm, bring to a simmer. Stand the jug in the simmering water until the gelatin mixture melts and becomes liquid, remove the jug and set aside
• whip the cream to soft peaks, check the gelatin, is should be liquid but not hot, if it is hot check again in a couple of minutes, you don't want it to set. As you whisk, pour the gelatin mixture into the cream, keep whisking to a medium peak, use straight away as it will start to set immediately












Friday, 26 March 2021

Powder Puffs

I'm not sure where my obsession with powder puffs came from, but it's in full swing.  I thought maybe the memory of a recipe from the trusty Cook's Companionlong since read, but no, my copy is likely older than most reading this post, it doesn't have the extra chapters...  They're a traditional bake, the domain of grandmothers, something you might find in a country town, should you be so lucky. 

A powder puff is essentially sponge, coaxed from a spoon onto a tray and baked to cookie sized discs of fluffy perfection. Sandwiched with cream, and various jams or curds, they are left in the fridge for a few hours "to make friends" as the lovely Nat from Beatrix Bakes would say. Those hours in the fridge take the puffs from delightful, if slightly dry, sponge sandwiches, to the softest, beautifully moist, light little cakes, with deliciously squidgy middles, an unassuming cake cabinet hero!


Putting my vintage tin collection to work, I bake my puffs in patty pan trays.  Willow and Kande tins produce a gorgeous delicate crust, new nonstick pans give a slighter crisper, but perfectly acceptable exterior.  The little domed sponges are thicker than the regular puffs so need longer in the fridge to achieve their melded magic, they'll hold their shape too, still good eating after a couple of days.

Puffs follow a simple formula, sponge + cream + something tasty, I've tried many combinations, and am yet to pick a favourite. Vanilla sponge, with cream and passionfruit curd; chocolate sponge with cream, nutella and blackberries; vanilla with black sesame seeds, coconut whipped cream and yuzu curd; chocolate with mascarpone whipped cream, nutella and raspberries; and most recently, vanilla with cream, strawberry jam and raspberries. My family could probably use a break. They'll be back though, I have something special in mind for Christmas in July...


The recipe below is based on one from Stephanie Alexander's The Cook's Companion, the 2014 revision. It makes 28 sponge halves, for 14 puffs; I use 2 patty pan trays and bake the remaining 4 on a small baking tray. This allows the trays to be baked in one go, besides, who has the patience to wait for one of the patty pan trays to cool, wash it, dry it, re-grease..?

vanilla powder puffs

50g plain flour
50g cornflour
pinch salt
1/3 tsp bicarb soda
2 eggs, separated
1/3 tsp cream of tartar
120g caster sugar 
1/2 tsp vanilla paste

filling

200ml thickened cream, whipped to soft peaks with 1/4 tsp vanilla paste
100g passion fruit curd

• heat oven to 190ºC fan
• grease and flour two 12 hole patty pan trays, set aside
• mix together the flour, cornflour, salt and bicarb soda; sift twice then set aside
• whisk egg whites until foamy, add the cream of tartar, whisk to soft peaks; add the sugar a tablespoon at a time, whisk until the sugar has dissolved before adding the next spoon full, once all the sugar has been added, keep whisking until you have a thick, glossy meringue
• add the egg yolks one at a time, whisking until they are just combined, adding the vanilla with the last yolk
• sift the flour mix over the whipped eggs and sugar, gently fold through taking care not to over mix
• ease a dessert spoon full of batter into each cavity of the patty pan trays, spoon remaining mix directly onto the lined baking tray
• bake for 12 minutes, remove from the oven and immediately invert the patty pan trays, give the corner a tap on the bench to release the sponges, then place on a rack, domed side up, to cool
• leave the extra sponges on the baking tray to cool completely, then carefully remove
• pair like sized sponges, spread a heaped teaspoon of whipped cream on the flat side of one sponge, add a teaspoon of passion fruit curd, then sandwich with the remaining sponge 
• store puffs in an airtight container in the fridge for at least 3 hours, bring to room temperature to eat.
• puffs will keep in the fridge for 3 days, becoming increasingly softer, and messier to eat!

for chocolate puffs;  substitute 15g of the cornflour for 15g of unsweetened cocoa powder and proceed as above.




 

Monday, 16 March 2020

coffee and walnut chiffon cake


It's been such a long time since I posted, I've almost forgotten how, but I'm back with a much requested recipe, my coffee chiffon cake. It's no secret I love a chiffon, it's such an adaptable recipe, you can swap fruit juice for coffee, milk or just plain water and create wonderful flavour combinations. They're as enjoyable naked from the pan as they are blanketed in frosting with a drizzle of something something and a scattering of whatever. If it's your first time, start with the simple cake, enjoy its amazing texture, its subtle coffee flavour, and marvel at how quickly it disappears. If you have time on your hands, and aren't daunted by the extra dishes, go for the frosting with florals, or the coffee caramel and smoky, salty roasted nuts, I doubt you'll be disappointed.

Use your favourite coffee, black and cooled, sub plain flour for cake flour if need be, and if you can get your hands on it, applewood smoked salt is a delight.





Coffee Chiffon Cake

6 large eggs, separated
1 extra egg white
225g plain cake flour
250g caster sugar
50g extra caster sugar
1tbsp baking powder
1/2tsp salt 
120ml canola oil, or similar
180ml cooled, black coffee
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
1/2 tsp cream of tartar

• preheat your oven to 170ºC
• combine the cake flour, baking powder and salt, sift into a large bowl (use a stand mixer, if you have one, with the paddle attachment) add the 250g caster sugar, mix to combine
• make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, add the coffee, egg yolks, oil and vanilla bean seeds, mix until smooth
• in another large bowl whisk the egg whites until foamy, add the cream of tartar, mixing until you have soft peaks, then gradually add the additional 50g caster sugar, whisk until the sugar has dissolved and you have firm peaks
• fold the egg whites into the batter a third at a time, taking care to reach the bottom of the bowl
• pour the batter into an ungreased, unlined angel food cake tin and bake for 55-60 minutes, the cake is cooked when it springs back if lightly pressed
• remove the cake from the oven and immediately invert to cool, if your tin doesn't have "feet" rest the centre tube of the inverted cake on an upturned cup, and leave to cool
• when completely cold, run a sharp knife around the inside and the centre section of the cake tin, remove the cake, still on the base of the tin, then run the knife between the bottom of the cake and the tin; invert the cake onto your serving plate
• slice giant slabs of cake with a serrated knife and enjoy!

the cake will keep in an airtight container for 3 days at room temperature or up to a week in the fridge, tends to only last a couple of days in my house :)

for something a little more indulgent, frost the cake with vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream, drizzle with coffee caramel, and strew with walnuts lightly roasted with smoked salt...






Swiss meringue buttercream

3 large egg whites
180g granulated sugar
230g butter, at room temperature, cubed
pinch salt
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped

• combine the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer, place over a pan of simmering water and whisk constantly until the temperature reaches 72ºC 
• return the bowl to the stand mixer and whisk on medium high until the mixtures cools, has doubled in size and forms stiff peaks (if you don't have a stand mixer, a hand held electric mixer will be fine, I wouldn't attempt by hand)
• change to the paddle attachment and add the butter a piece at a time, mixing to incorporate each piece, the mixture may look alarmingly curdled but keep mixing and it will magically come back together
• once all the butter is incorporated add the salt and vanilla bean seeds, mixing on slow until combined




Coffee caramel

200g caster sugar
80g butter
120 ml thickened cream 
1 shot of coffee, or 2 tsp instant coffee

• add coffee to the cream and mix to combine, if you are using instant, first mix the coffee with 1 tbsp boiling water
• tip the sugar into a small/medium heavy based pan and heat on a medium to high setting, stirring every now and then, until the sugar starts to melt
• continue to cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until the sugar has melted, turned a lovely caramel colour and has started to smoke; things can be a bit tricky here, you want to cook the caramel enough to develop that deep toasted flavour that offsets the sweetness, but it's a very fine line, leave it too long and it will burn and become inedibly bitter...
• as soon as you are happy with the caramel, whisk in the butter, take care, it will bubble and spit 
• remove from the heat and whisk in the coffee cream, if your caramel has formed clumps, return to the heat and stir until smooth
• pour into a clean jar and leave to cool
• once cool, cover with the lid and store in the fridge, it will keep for 2 weeks


Roasted walnuts with smoked salt

150g walnut halves (pieces are fine)
1/2 tsp smoked sea salt falkes

• preheat oven to 170ºC
• spread the walnuts over a baking tray, sprinkle with salt, roast for 10 minutes
• leave to cool on the tray, store in an airtight container until ready to use




Thursday, 6 June 2019

Scones


Scones are on high rotation at our house, they're almost too easy to make. Everyone loves them, we have the usual debate about jam first versus cream, jam obviously, my husband disagrees, and the youngest kids are just weirdos, one cuts them vertically, and both opt for jam only!

I've adapted Delia Smith's plain scone recipe, it's fabulous, mostly just changing the shape. Scone dough should be mixed and handled as little as possible, the more the dough is kneaded and rolled, the tougher and heavier the baked scone will be. Round scones are so pretty, and definitely the most photogenic, but cutting the scones into triangles allows you to mix the dough until it just holds together, and removes the need to re-roll off cuts, giving you 8 equally light fluffy scones. The sharp edges crisp up beautifully, contrasting wonderfully with the soft interior.



This recipe makes 8, it can be easily doubled, but only make as many as you'll eat that day; they're best eaten just barely warm from the oven, and are so easy to make you can always mix up another batch tomorrow..



Scones

300g self raising flour
55g spreadable butter (I use Lurpak)
30g caster sugar
pinch salt
145ml milk
extra flour for dusting

• position a shelf towards the top of your oven, and preheat to 220ºC fan (240ºC conventional), line a baking tray with baking paper
• tip the flour into a large bowl, gently rub the butter into the flour, then stir through the sugar and salt
• make a well in the flour mixture, and using a blunt knife, mix in the milk; knead gently until the dough just comes together
• tip the dough onto your lined tray, use your hands to form a disc 3cm tall; dust with the extra flour and cut the disc into 8 equally sized triangles, carefully separate the triangles moving them apart slightly
• pop the scones in the oven, immediately turn it down to 200ºC fan (220ºC conventional), and bake for 15 minutes
• cool the scones on a rack, serve ever so slightly warm from the oven with jam and cream; any leftovers can be stored in an airtight container for a day or so, but honestly, we knock over 8 in a heartbeat :)


I don't have a photo of a scone with jam and cream, I totally forgot, but here's a close up, it's a bit dodgy, but you can see the dough is beautifully puffed and light.















Tuesday, 18 December 2018

blackcurrant and star anise chiffon cake, with blackberry and lemon


Blackcurrant and aniseed; a flavour combination I've loved since I was a kid, dyeing my teeth black with inappropriately named lollies, and later as a teen, drinking questionable mixers with other unfortunate results! These days I generally use aniseed flavours in savoury dishes, star anise and Thai basil are two favourites, but it's Christmas and I'm feeling nostalgic, so blackcurrant and aniseed it is.

Chiffon cakes are so versatile, experimenting with the liquid component and adding spices achieves all sorts of interesting flavours. I reduced the sugar, and added blackcurrant cordial and ground star anise to find the taste I was looking for; a fruity, lightly spiced sponge, amplified with a tangy blackcurrant compote. It's not a flavour combination for everyone, if aniseed is really not your thing, just omit the star anise and add the finely grated zest of a lemon to the dry ingredients, the blackcurrant and lemon work beautifully together. Created for Barker's Pantry.

This cake ain't for everybody, only the quirky people... 🎶

blackcurrant and star anise chiffon cake
preparation time 30 minutes, serves 16

6 eggs, separated
1 extra egg white
225g plain cake flour (if you can't find cake flour substitute with regular plain flour)
220g caster sugar
50g extra caster sugar
1tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground star anise
100ml  Barker's New Zealand blackcurrant cordial
80ml water
120ml canola oil, or similar
1/2 tsp cream of tartar (not essential, but will stabilise the egg whites)

140g lemon curd, store bought is totally fine!
mascarpone filling, recipe below
blackcurrant compote, recipe below 
1 punnet blackberries

 preheat your oven to 170ºC

• combine the cake flour, baking powder, ground star anise and salt, sift into a the bowl of a stand mixer, if you have one, and with the paddle attachment mix through the 220g caster sugar 
• make a well in the centre of your flour mixture, add the blackcurrant cordial, water, egg yolks, and oil, mix until smooth
• in another, really large bowl whisk the 7 egg whites until foamy, add the cream of tartar then mix until you have soft peaks, gradually add the additional 50g caster sugar, whisking until you have firm peaks and the sugar has dissolved
• fold the egg whites into the batter in three stages
• divide the batter equally between 3 ungreasedunlined 20cm springform cake tins and bake for 30 minutes
• remove the cakes from the oven, and leaving them in the tins, immediately invert onto racks to cool; expect the cakes to sink slightly in the centre as they cool, they'll form prefect shallow bowls to load with the filling :)
• when completely cool, to release the cakes, run a sharp knife around the inside of the cake tin, remove the outer ring leaving the cake sitting on the base of the tin. This next stage is a little tricky, slide a strong thread, I use dental floss, between the base of the cake and the tin, slide all the way through, pressing the thread against the base as you go, invert the cakes onto a flat surface and you're ready to assemble
• keep the neatest, most even cake for the top layer, place another layer, flat side down on your serving plate/cake stand. Gently spread with half the lemon curd, top with half the mascarpone cream, dot with dessert spoons of blackcurrant compote, swirl together, finally scatter with half the blackberries. Repeat with the next layer, finishing with the final cake layer, flat side facing up
• you could simply dust the cake with icing sugar, or decorate as you like; I love using fresh fruit and flowers, but went a little festive with this one, it is almost Christmas
• slice giant slabs of cake with a serrated knife and enjoy
• the cake will keep covered in the fridge for 4 days




mascarpone filling
preparation time 5 minutes

500g mascarpone
300ml cream

• tip the mascarpone into a mixing bowl, using the paddle attachment beat for 10 seconds or so, until smooth, add the cream, mix until smooth, thick and creamy
• store in the fridge until ready to use

blackcurrant compote
preparation time 10 minutes

350g blackcurrants, fresh or frozen

60ml Barker's New Zealand blackcurrant cordial
75g caster sugar

• tip all the ingredients into a small pan, bring to a simmer, stirring until the sugar has dissolved

• simmer over a medium heat until the blackcurrants have softened and the juices are thick and syrupy
• leave to cool, store in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to use



Monday, 10 December 2018

walnut dacquoise with chocolate and cherries



Two weeks, it's Christmas in two weeks! I'm at odds with Christmas. Growing up in the UK, I find Christmas in short days and long nights, overcast skies or pale winter sun, gloves and scarves, roasted chestnuts, the Wizard of Oz, walnuts and satsumas rattling around in the bottom of a Santa sack. Not in a vast blue sky towering over bleached sandy beaches, that high contrast Aussie summer light; stifling nights, sundresses, salt crusted hair and cricket. But it's all those things, and more, for my kids, and Christmas is essentially about family. So let's say I'm happily at odds with Christmas.

This desserts pairs the festive walnuts of my youth, with the beautiful cherries of an Australian summer, and it's equally delicious whatever the hemisphere. A wonderful dessert for Christmas day, beautifully nutty, with a crisp meringue shell and soft chewy centre, layered with chocolate, cherries and cream. Make the components in advance, then put it together about an hour before you serve, give those flavours and layers a little time to meld, slice with a serrated knife and enjoy! 

walnut dacquoise
preparation time 30 minutes, serves 12*

190g walnuts
110g almond meal (ground almonds)
40g icing sugar
9 egg whites
525g caster sugar
1 tsp white vinegar

500ml thickened cream, whipped
Chocolate ganache
Cherry compote
Icing sugar, for decoration
Cherries, for decoration
Candied walnuts, optional for decoration

• pre-heat oven to 170ºC
• grease and line 3, 20 cm cake tins
• spread walnuts evenly over a baking tray, toast in the oven for 10 minutes, leave to cool completely
• tip walnuts and icing sugar into a food processor, and pulse until the walnuts are finely ground, the same consistency as the ground almonds, set aside
• whisk egg whites until stiff, continue whisking adding caster sugar 2 tbsp at a time until glossy and stiff, and the sugar has dissolved
• carefully fold through ground walnuts, almonds, and vinegar
• divide the mixture equally between the 3 tins, bake for 35 minutes
• cool in the tins
• when completely cool, remove the dacquoise discs from the tins, keep the prettiest disc for the top layer
  place a dacquoise layer on your serving plate, gently spread with half the ganache, top with half the cherry compote, finishing with half of the whipped cream; your dacquoise may crack and sink slightly, this is part of the charm, the dip perfectly housing the delicious filling
• repeat with your second dacquoise layer, finishing with the pretty top
• dust icing sugar, and decorate with fresh cherries and caramelised walnuts

chocolate ganache
preparation time 10 minutes

200g dark chocolate
300ml thickened cream

• finely chop chocolate, tip into heat proof bowl
• heat cream to simmering point, pour over chocolate, leave for 5 mins then stir until smooth
• cool completely


cherry compote
preparation time 25 minutes

500g pitted cherries, fresh or frozen
60ml cherry brandy
60ml orange juice (can use all juice if don’t want alcohol, although its’s cooked off)
50g granulated sugar

• tip all ingredients into a pan, bring to boil, stirring until sugar has dissolved
• simmer for 10 mins or so, until cherries soften
• strain cherries over a bowl, return juices to pan, simmer until thick and syrupy
• pour over cherries, cool, store in airtight container

candied walnuts
preparation time 15 minutes

200g granulated sugar
125g walnut halves

• line a baking try with non- stick baking paper, or lightly greased foil
• tip the sugar into a heavy based frying pan/skillet
• cook the sugar over a medium heat until it is melted and golden, do not stir the sugar, but gently swirl the pan to ensure the sugar melts evenly
• add the walnuts to the pan, stir until they are coated with caramel, then tip them onto the lined baking tray, separate the walnut halves, don’t worry if a few stick together, you can try to break them apart when they have cooled
• when they have cooled completely store in an airtight container


* the recipe can be easily adapted to a 2 layer dessert, 8 generous slices, by reducing the quantities by 2/3