Tag Archives: Dessert

Charming Cherries

Cherry Clafoutis

Clafoutis

We are back from the lovely land of Australia. We had a fabulous time, and lots of great foodie experiences, leaving me with quite a few posts to catch up on, which will appear here in the next few days.

I have always wanted to have a go at making a clafoutis, and what better opportunity than when you can find large, plump and a deep, deep red cherries? Again, this is a summer dish at it’s best, and the riper you can get the cherries the better.

Clafoutis can also be made with any ripe fresh fruits, although apparently the proper name for those without cherries should be flaugnarde.

Whatever your fruit, and whatever you call it, this is a great way to use up a glut of fruit, as long as they are really ripe.

Traditionally, the clafoutis is served lukewarm, which makes sense when it is the height of summer, as you don’t want a hot pudding for a warm, sticky evening. However, if you want to use winter fruits, like apples or pears, I see no reason that you can’t serve this warm, possibly with a nice custard.

I made this for a friend who is lactose intolerant, so I used soy milk, but you can use whatever you like here.

I hope that you have a go at this dish, it really is so easy, but looks very impressive. Your friends and loved ones will appreciate you for it.

Recipe: Cherry Clafoutis

Ingredients

50 g plain flour

2 eggs

150 ml milk

Pinch of salt

Seeds of half a vanilla pod

Cherries – enough to cover an ovenproof dish or cake tin in a single layer

Method

Heat the oven to 220 °C.

Mix all of the ingredients, except the cherries, into a thinnish batter. Some recipes also call for a little sugar (in the region of a couple of tablespoons). You can add this too, if you want, but I thought that the cherries I was using were quite sweet enough for the whole dish, so I didn’t use any. Leave the batter aside to rest while you prepare the cherries.

The original Limousin dish left the stones in the cherries, which, it is said, impart an almond flavour. I didn’t try this way, because it is a little unseemly to be spitting out cherry pips when you are in company. Instead, I halved and stoned the cherries, then laid them out, flat side down in a baking dish, until the bottom was covered in one layer of cherries.

My friend only had a spring-form cake tin, which I lined with baking parchment as a precaution against spills, which was entirely unnecessary, as it turned out, so just use a cake tin, or any largish baking dish you have to hand.

Tip the batter in and around the cherries. At this stage, it should not cover the cherries over completely, but will almost do so. Don’t worry, they will rise to the top again as the dish cooks.

Put in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the batter looks cooked across the pudding. You want it light and airy, though, not crispy, although slightly crispy edges are almost inevitable.

Dust with a little icing sugar while still warm, and leave to cool before serving. The Big Guy and I had a little natural yoghurt with ours, but my friend eschewed the yoghurt, and ate it au naturel. It is very good either way.

1 Comment

Filed under Feast

Making Meringues

I am sure that you may have noticed by now that I use a lot of egg yolks – in stuff like custards, mayonnaises, pasta, pastry and sauces. This leaves me with a lot of egg whites to use up.  Since I hate waste, I try always to use them, which invariably means making macaroons, and meringues. I need to expand this repertoire, so expect to see consommés and more stir fries appearing here soon. If you have other suggestions for using up egg whites (although not the egg-white omelette, please, some things are a step too far, even for me!) feel free to leave them in the comments.

I had originally intended to make advocaat, in keeping with the Anglo-Dutch theme for my party, but I ran out of time. However, this time, the advocaat was actually the by-product of the intention to make meringues, instead of the usual situation where I have a load of egg whites left over from something else. No one missed the advocaat, anyway!

Since I make them so much, I thought that I would share my technique here. I haven’t given a recipe, as it will depend on how many egg whites you have and to some extent how old they are.

Start by heating the oven to 110°C. Then measure out  45 g sugar for each egg white. I like to use raw cane sugar, but you can also use caster, granulated or icing sugar. I have also seen sugar solution, but that seems to be for Italian or Swiss style meringues, and I tend to stick with French. It is possible to use soft brown sugar, but be aware that this makes it very hard to get a crisp, dry meringue. I think this technique may be best left alone or, if you insist, only use it to top lemon meringue pie.

Put the egg whites in a very clean bowl. There must be no fat or detergent in it. If you are unsure, wipe it with the cut side of a lemon (or other citrus), which will act as a degreaser. If the bowl has any fat, it may affect the ability of the eggs to maintain the air that you are about to whip into them. The same goes if there are any traces of egg yolk, so be careful when separating the egg, too. Note that the fresher the egg, the less likely that the egg yolk is to break when you separate it.

Next, whip the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. This is when the egg whites look drier, the whisk or a spoon will create peaks when you remove it from the mixture, and if you are brave, you can upend the bowl and the egg white will not slide out. I would advise using an electric whisk if you don’t want it to take you hours.

Egg Whites at the Stiff Peak stage

The stiff peak - sadly lacking in many ski resorts this year

Then, a tablespoon at a time, add the sugar and whisk in thoroughly before you add the next spoonful. The egg white will stiffen further, as you add the sugar. At this stage, you are beating to incorporate the sugar, not to add any further air, so it won’t increase in volume.

Egg Whites plus half the required sugar

About half way through - stiffer and peakier, but not more voluminous

Keep adding the sugar, and whipping, a tablespoon at a time. Eventually, the mixture will become really stiff, to the point of being really hard to work,  and will look shiny. This is when you stop adding sugar. Because I use cane sugar, I find I need less than the stated 45 g per egg white. If you are using caster or icing sugar, you may find that you need to use all of it. This is also fine.

Finished Meringue mix

The final product - glossy, thick and much harder to beat

Don’t add more sugar than needed to get to this stiff consistency (or than the 45 g, whichever happens to come first), otherwise your meringues will leach sugar. This does not really affect the taste, but it does give them a rather unattractive look. A bit like a tree that is leaching sap.

Now your meringue is ready to be shaped. You need to line a baking sheet with some greaseproof paper. You can stick it down with oil or by dabbing a bit of the meringue in each corner and the centre of the paper and using this as glue to stick it to the baking sheet. Once the baking sheet is ready, you need to choose what shape and size you are going to have your meringue. You may wish to have it as a pavlova, in which case you need to shape one large disc, with slightly elevated sides, to hold the fruit in. I normally go for individual ones, because these are better for parties or for sharing. Most commonly, I will get two spoons and shape individual quenelles, which can then be stuck together with cream and fruit in a sandwich. However, I wanted to fill these with Chestnut Jam, so I decided that mini versions of the pavlova-style would be better suited to the task.

Some people would use a piping bag for that, but I lack the finesse, and the piping bags, so I made do with shaping them with two spoons. You can try either, I think both are just as good. I made them vaguely circular, like a nest.

Meringue nests

Not sure what I did here, but you get the meringue nest picture

Then it is ready to go in the oven. Bake the meringues for up to 1 ½ hours (but check after 1). If you have made one large pavlova style meringue, you will need longer – check after 1 ½, and leave in the oven up to 2 hours.

A Meringue nest

Meringue nest - a better view

The idea is not really that the meringue cooks, more that it dries out. You need to check that it is no longer soggy to the touch, and that it generates a hollow sound when tapped very gently on the base.It will have darkened a little, even if you use icing sugar. Mine are generally more golden than off-white, because the unrefined sugar I use is a light brown.

When you get the hollow sound, it is done. If it is at all possible, turn off the oven, but leave the meringue in there to continue to dry overnight. This will give the best result, but it will be OK if you leave it to cool outside the confines of the oven.

Once it is done, fill it with fruit, cream, fruit and cream, jam, or serve it with ice cream, mash it up with fruit and cream to make Eton Mess – whatever you like, really.

2 Comments

Filed under Feast

Mareike’s Mayan Egg-Free Mousse

Some people should not eat raw eggs. I am sure if you are one of those people, then you know who you are, but for the record,those people are usually young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and those with certain allergies and medical conditions.

Bet it doesn’t stop you craving a nice chocolate mousse from time to time though does it?

My friend falls into one of the above categories. She had mentioned that she would love some chocolate mousse, but didn’t want to risk the eggs. We discussed using cream instead. As it was her birthday recently, I decided that I would make her some, and also write up the recipe for her, along with some variations she could try.

This is what I wrote for her. It will serve about 5 people.

Recipe: Egg-Free Chocolate Mousse

Ingredients

160 g Green & Black’s Mayan Gold chocolate

400 ml whipping cream

Grated zest of 1 orange

Candied orange peel to garnish

Method

In a saucepan, heat about 100 ml of the cream to just under boiling point. When bubbles appear at the sides of the pan, the cream is warm enough. Try not to boil the cream.

Chop the chocolate into small pieces (or you could use chocolate chips). Pour the warmed cream over the chocolate, and stir until it melts and there are no lumps in it.

Whip the rest of the cream to stiff peaks. fold in the melted chocolate and stir through the orange zest. At this point, you can divide into individual glasses, or just add to one serving bowl. Chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours (or more if you need to make this in advance).

Before serving, garnish with the candied peel, or a couple of fresh twists of orange zest.

Variations

You can use different flavoured chocolate. I just used Mayan Gold here because I like it. Don’t use chocolate bars with nuts or other large lumps – these are better added later. I also know people who melt Mars Bars or Milky Ways (using the microwave and a splash of milk) instead of chocolate.

If you use the really high cocoa chocolate, your mousse may be bitter. You can balance this a little with some sugar (caster or icing) added into the cream for whipping.

You can spice the cream instead of using flavoured chocolate. Add the spices to the cream that you are going to heat up. Bring the cream to almost boiling point, set aside and allow to steep for 20 minutes, then bring it back up to boiling point again. Don’t forget to remove any whole spices before you pour the cream on the chocolate. Use whatever spices you like. Cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom all go well, but play around a little.

You can use coffee (or some teas might also work, depending on the type of chocolate) instead of the warmed cream to melt the chocolate.

You can add alcohol or flavoured syrups (like you can get to flavour coffee). Add these to the whipping cream and not the chocolate, though. Otherwise you risk setting the chocolate, so you won’t be able to mix it into the cream.

Fold through orange zest, nuts, candied peel, or fruit at the end, before you chill it, if you like.

This chocolate mousse is very good with chestnut jam. I am sorry that it didn’t last long enough for some photos!

5 Comments

Filed under Feast

Happy Birthday, Big Guy!

Raspberry and Chocolate Chesecake

Alternative birthday cake

Yesterday was the Big Guy’s birthday. In his native Sweden, it is customary for the rest of the family to get up early, and prepare a pancake cake. Some members of his family also insist on having spaghetti with tomato ketchup for breakfast as well.

Since I am not going to sin against the Flying Spaghetti Monster and neither of us are morning people, these are not a traditions that I intend to uphold. Although you should probably try the pancake cake I linked to on Ted’s blog, they really are very good.

However, he does get to choose whatever he wants for his dinner, and then we usually go for drinks with friends.

This year he asked for a lasagne and a cheesecake.

I am not about to blog a recipe for lasagne. I know from experience that everyone thinks that they make the best one, and this way trouble lies. There are a million different ways to cook it, and most of them were based on lasagnes they had in childhood.

However, the BG did get a baked cheesecake, which is something that I do infrequently, I prefer the ease of the non-baked version, but I have recently stumbled on a formula that seems to work quite well, and is quite easy too.

This version requires little faffing, no fiddly water bath techniques, and looks as though you have gone to a lot of effort.

Recipe: Baked Raspberry and Chocolate Cheesecake

Ingredients

200 g digestive biscuits

80 – 100 g melted butter – I find that the digestives in the Netherlands are a bit more absorbent than the ones in the UK, and so require more butter to glue them together

250 g mascarpone cheese

200 g cream cheese – or make it easy on yourself a tub of each

2 eggs

120 g icing sugar

3 tbsp plain flour

1 tsp vanilla extract – please don’t use vanilla essence, it is horrible

Zest of a lemon (use unwaxed)

200 g raspberries, plus more to decorate

100 g chocolate. I used a really good milk chocolate, because I can’t stand white. You use whichever sort you like.

Method

Firstly, crush up the digestives. This is quickest done in a food processor, but you can also crush them in a bowl with a rolling pin, or wine bottle; or you can stick them in a plastic bag and crush them with the aforementioned wine bottle, or even with your hands. If you choose the latter method, you can do it in front of your favourite soap on the telly. Last Night of the Proms would also be suitable, I guess,  but that is only on once a year.

Once your biscuits are in a fine crumb, then you need to add the melted butter and mix well. The biscuits and butter should form a solid-looking base in the bottom of a spring-form cake tin, when pressed with the back of a spoon. If they don’t then add more butter and mix in again. Keep trying the tin, until you have the desired base. Remember that the butter will harden, so don’t make it rock solid at this stage – the crumbs just need to look as though they are sticking together nicely.

Bung the tin in the freezer to harden off the base while you make the cheesy bit.

In a bowl mix together the cheeses, the sugar and the lemon zest until thoroughly combined. Add the eggs, vanilla extract and the flour, and mix these in well. The mix should be fairly sloppy at this stage. If it isn’t add an egg yolk.

Gently crush the raspberries with the back of a spoon. The idea is that you want to get fewer large raspberry lumps, but not that you have crushed them so much they become a coulis.

Break up the chocolate into manageable sized lumps. I kept my chunks quite big – maybe half the size of the chunks that the chocolate bar comes divided into, but this will depend on the size of the chunks the manufacturer makes. You don’t want them too small or the chocolate will melt when you bake it. Too big, and you risk people getting stabbed in the roof of the mouth by a too-chunky chocolate corner.

Mix the raspberries and the chocolate into the cheese mixture, then pour the lot onto the biscuit base. Bake it in the oven at 180°C for about 40 minutes. You want the cheesecake to be set, but to have a slight wobble in the centre. Don’t bake too much or it will crack, although this is just an aesthetic consideration, because it will still taste just as good.

Leave it in the tin to cool, then decorate with some more raspberries. Great served with lemon cream. Or just a cup of tea.

Leave a comment

Filed under Feast

Handmade Ice Cream

Hi, my name is Mel, and I am a gadget-ophobe.

Well, I guess that is not strictly true, I just don’t see the point of most of them. I suppose this comes partly from the make-do-and-mend attitude I have retained since my uni days, when all I had was a block of knives, a mixing bowl, a wooden spoon and a balloon whisk. Anything else I had to improvise with a wine bottle (useful as a blender and a rolling pin!), or whatever else was to hand.

Obviously, I have got many more of the basics now, which allows me to do much more, but I still have not been suckered by many of the more ‘faddish’ gadgets, such as a breadmaker, or ice cream machine. I enjoy making bread, and take great pleasure from trying to get a tight round, or a nice airy foccacia.

I have never really attempted ice cream before now though, because I was under the impression it was difficult. It was also not easy to find a recipe that did not involve the instructions to “place all of the ingredients into an ice-cream machine”.

Stages of hand made ice cream

Stage 1: an hour in the freezer, before whisking

Anyway, a bit of hunting around, and a lucky episode of Masterchef Australia left me a bit more encouraged try to make my own, especially since they recommend a custard base, and I do like a good custard. Because I wanted something to serve with rhubarb, I chose to flavour this one with ginger.

Here is how I did it:

Ingredients

5 Egg Yolks

100 g Sugar

400 ml Double cream

400 ml Milk

50 g Stem Ginger

1 Tbsp Syrup from the ginger jar

Making Custard

Finely chop the ginger, and add that to the milk and the cream in a pan. heat to just below boiling point.Set aside to steep for 20 minutes. Pass the liquid through a sieve to remove the pieces of ginger, but set them aside though, because you will use some later. Bring the liquid back up to boiling point.

In general, for flavoured custards, you add the flavouring to the milk – you also do this with the vanilla pod if you are making custard to go with your apple pie. So, if you want to make mint ice cream, and the essence to the milk, add cocoa or melted chocolate for chocolate ice cream and so on.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks and the sugar together until they thicken quite a bit. Now for the tricky bit (or so they tell you). Very slowly at first, add the warm milk to the egg mixture. I do this by adding a little, and making sure it is whisked in before I add more. Once you have combined a fair amount, you can add the rest of the liquid much faster.

Once the egg and cream  is combined, returned to the heat and heat gently. Do not allow it to boil, or it will curdle. The custard will thicken, and when it leaves a line on the back of your wooden spoon then it is thick enough. Remove from the heat.

Stages of Ice Cream Making

Stage 2: Not much further than stage 1

The Ice Cream Bit

The custard needs to cool completely before you try to freeze it (not least for energy efficiency of the freezer!). You can either set it aside to cool, or a better way is to put it in a bowl, which is sitting in some ice in another bowl (or the sink) and stir it to dissipate the heat faster.

Once the custard is cold, then you need to put it in the freezer. Most sources I read said that you should put it in a bowl for this stage. Unfortunately, I didn’t read that until after I had frozen it, so I put it in an ice cream tub (recycled, of course). As long as the custard does not fill more than 3/4 of the vessel, it will be fine.

In order to make ice cream, er, creamy, you need to try to keep the ice crystals from getting too big. To do this, put it in the freezer for an hour, then take it out and whisk it. Repeat this process until you have a smooth, thick ice cream.For this recipe, I found it took four times to create the smoothness required.

Because I like ginger, I stirred in some of the chopped ginger from the custard making at the last stage of the whisk and freeze cycle. You could also add anything that you like at this stage – nuts, mint chips, chocolate chips, fruit.

Stages of Ice Cram Making

Stage 4: Thick, and after adding the ginger

The ice cream should last a few weeks in the freezer (in theory!), just don’t forget to take it out of the freezer about 10-15 minutes before you want to serve it.

I served mine with the aforementioned poached rhubarb, and some meringue. Well, I needed to use up those egg whites somehow!

Poached rhubarb, stem ginger ice cream & meringue

The finished product

Leave a comment

Filed under Feast