Sunday, 7 February 2016

Mint chocolate biscuits




Long-time readers of my site will remember the anti-mint sentiments included in my TenCommandments.  My feelings to mint can be summed up quite simply – I hate it with a passion, particularly when a sprig finds its way onto my dessert plate for no good reason.  NB.  There is never a good reason. 




There are two exceptions I will happily cite: mint sweets, and mint with chocolate.  It has NO place in anything else – particularly savoury foods.  Bleugh….lamb and mint - whoever thought that was a good idea?  Mad people and mint farmers, that’s who.




Mint tea???  No!  I have tried it on various occasions and never got past two sips before wishing I just had some normal PG Tips in my cup.  The word ‘tea’ brings so much excitement into my life but there’s always such sadness and disappointment when it’s paired with ‘mint’.




This recipe appealed to me because I have a fondness for Matchmakers.  Often minty chocolate features in Christmas recipes and I liked that this is very much an all year round bake.  I also liked that the recipe doesn’t use up the whole box of Matchmakers….so the cook gets some perks!




These biscuits are crisp, thin and buttery; they hold their shape well during baking giving them a smart, uniform appearance.  They are lovely on their own, but would also be nice served with ice cream for dessert.



Ingredients

For the biscuits:
225g unsalted butter, at room temperature
140g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
280g plain flour
100g mint chocolate sticks, finely chopped – I used Matchmakers


Method

Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Beat in the egg yolk and vanilla.

Stir in the flour and chopped matchmakers and bring together to form a dough.

Cut the dough in half, flatten each into a fat disc and wrap in clingfilm.

Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 190C/fan oven 170C/375F/gas mark 5.

Line two large baking sheets with baking paper or non stick foil – you may have to use the trays twice i.e. bake in batches.

Take the first disc of dough and roll out between two sheets of clingfilm – aim for about the thickness of a £1 coin (3mm approx).

Using a cutter no bigger than 6cm, cut out the dough.  You need to get 15 biscuits from each half of dough.

Place onto the prepared sheets leaving space around as they will spread when baking.

Bake for approximately 10-15 minutes until golden.

Leave to cool on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

Repeat the process with the second half of the dough.


Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.

Eat.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Yorkshire curd tart





Whenever Mr CC and I are in York there are two things I have to eat:  Firstly, a Fat Rascal from Bettys, and secondly, a Yorkshire Curd tart from Bennett’s – a lovely little cafĂ© right next to York Minster.  Admittedly, the curd tart has a slight lemon tang but I’m warming towards lemon – I’m not saying we’re ever going to best friends but the animosity and hurt is over.




I’ve long wanted to make a curd tart but it’s nigh on impossible to find curd cheese unless you are blessed with a great deli, a fancy supermarket or farm shop.  Some recipes say you can substitute ricotta but – whisper it for fear of causing offence – I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t like ricotta.  Neither the texture nor the blandness do anything for me in baked goods (it’s ok in savoury recipes).




This recipe, adapted from the BBC GoodFood website, starts with instructions how to make curd cheese and it’s a lot simpler than you might think.  Start with a very high fat, rich milk:




The formation of the curds in the milk is like witchcraft; I felt like I was at a cauldron making magic happen:





The most fascinating thing is that the curds suck the fat out of the milk so, as they form, the remaining liquid turns more and more watery.  Really one of the most oddly enjoyable things I’ve done for a long time!  I had no use for the whey, but apparently you can keep it and use it wherever you would use buttermilk….thinking about it, it probably is buttermilk?




The only real thing to be aware of is that you need to start it the day before to allow draining time.  A lot of draining time….I started it off in a tea towel lined colander sitting in the sink….




… and then, after several hours, stood the colander (still tea towel lined) in a bowl….




….before refrigerating it overnight.  The next morning I had this:




This tart is perfect for anyone who doesn’t like overly sweet bakes; it has a sharp zing to it from a combination of the lemon and curd cheese.  One slice will not be enough!





Ingredients

For the curds:
1.8 litres full fat Jersey milk – this has 5g fat per 100ml (compared to semi skimmed which has 1.8g per 100ml)
Juice of 1 ½ lemons
(NB. This made 445g curd cheese – so if you have curd cheese to hand and don’t want to make it, use this weight)

For the pastry:
210g plain flour
130g unsalted butter – cold
2 teaspoons caster sugar
1-2 tablespoons cold water

For the filling:
75g unsalted butter – at room temperature
75g caster sugar
2 eggs
100g currants
Grated nutmeg – allspice is more traditional, if you prefer


Method

Start making the curds the day before you want to serve the tart: place the milk in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.

Add the lemon juice and turn the heat to low.
Gently stir while the curds form; if you are too firm you will break the curds.  The curds form very quickly – mine were smaller than I expected (but I had nothing to compare it to, so that probably doesn’t mean much).

Once the mixture looks watery with creamy lumps remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Drain the curds overnight in the fridge.  I lined a colander with a clean tea towel and suspended this across a bowl. I started the draining process in the sink because there was a lot of liquid and I didn’t need it for anything.

On the day of making the tart start with the pastry: place the flour, butter and sugar in a food processor and blitz until you have breadcrumb sized pieces.

Add the water gradually and only what is needed to form a dough.

Tip the dough out onto a sheet of clingfilm and handle just enough to bring together.

Flatten into a disc and wrap in clingfilm.

Refrigerate for 20 minutes, although the dough will happily sit in the fridge for a couple of days.

Preheat the oven to 180C/fan oven 160C/350F/gas mark 4.

Roll out the pastry and use to line a 23cm loose bottomed tart tin.  Leave the excess pastry overhanging the tin.

To make the filling beat together the butter and sugar until soft and well combined.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

Stir in the curds, making sure you break up any large lumps.

Stir in the currants.

Spoon into the pastry case (note – no need to blind bake the pastry) and level the surface.

Grate some nutmeg over the top, or sprinkle over some ground allspice.

Bake for approximately 40 minutes or until the tart feels set and the pastry is golden.

Leave to cool in the tin.

Serve in generous slices.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Eat.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Sultana sandwich cake





I wasn’t actually planning on baking this weekend – the old baking mojo is waning a bit of late – but then I really really wanted some cake and I discovered that greed is just about the only thing that can overpower my laziness!




This cake plays around with a classic Victoria sponge recipe; I added sultanas (love them!) and also decided to try out the little pot of custard extract I bought from Lakeland a while back but have never used.  My thinking was to try and create a dessert, like a spotted dick and custard, but in cake form.




I made a very light buttercream and used the custard extract in that too.  It achieved the aim of a pudding in cake form and was the perfect comforting cake to have with a cup of tea on a grey Sunday afternoon.




The custard extract was different to plain vanilla extract but wasn’t quite as powerful as I’d have liked.  I used it according to the instructions on the bottle – next time I might bam it up a notch.



Ingredients

For the sponge:
265g unsalted butter, at room temperature
265g golden caster sugar
4 eggs
12 drops custard extract – or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract if you prefer
265g self raising flour
150g sultanas
Dash of milk, if required

For the buttercream:
100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
200g icing sugar
6 drops custard extract – or a dash of vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk


Method

Preheat the oven to 180C/fan oven 160C/350F/gas mark 4.

Line two 20cm round loose bottomed sandwich tins with baking paper.

Start by making the sponge: beat together the butter and sugar until light and well combined – it won’t turn pale and whippy because of the ratios.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

Beat in the custard extract.

Fold in the flour and sultanas.

Add a little milk if the sponge is too stiff - you want a consistency that will drop from the spoon with only a little encouragement.

Spoon into the prepared tins and level the surface.

Bake for approximately 45 minutes (but start checking after 30 minutes) or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Leave to cook in the tins for 15 minutes, before de-tinning and leaving to cool completely.

Now make the buttercream: beat the butter on its own until it is light and whippy.

Beat in the icing sugar and custard extract until you have a light, non-gritty buttercream.

Place one of the sponges on the serving plate.

Spread the buttercream over the top.

Place the other sponge on top and gently press down to ‘fix’ the cake.

Serve in generous slices with a mug of tea.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Eat.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Fruit yoghurt sponge



Sorry I’ve been absent for a while – it was a triple whammy of New Year low, new job and new home computer.  It’s a fairly regular pattern I think: after all the richness of Christmas excesses my palate always starts craving something simple and wholesome around this time of year.  And what could be better than a simple sponge cake?




This cake is enriched by using yoghurt; I’ve experimented by using a flavoured yoghurt and matching it with some fresh fruit.  I went for blueberry because that was all my local supermarket had other than strawberry, and I am not made about strawberries baked into things.




I was hoping for the cake to take on the purple tinge of the yoghurt but, as you can plainly see, it didn’t.  What I didn’t expect – and what turns out to be the true joy of this cake – is that the sponge tastes of blueberry….




…let me clarify: the sponge itself tastes of blueberry.  Normally in such a cake, the sponge tastes of sponge and you get the burst of blueberry in your mouth when you bite into a blueberry.  However, with this cake, the flavoured yoghurt has infused the sponge resulting in the most wonderfully fruity tasting cake.  I loved it.





Ingredients


175g unsalted butter, at room temperature
275g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
175g Greek style yoghurt – I used blueberry flavour
275g self raising flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
130g fresh blueberries
2 tablespoons light brown sugar to sprinkle on top of the cake


Method

Preheat oven to 180C/ fan oven 160C/ 350F/ gas mark 4.

Line a 20cm round springform tin with baking paper.

Beat together the butter and sugar until light and whippy.  Don’t skimp on this stage.

Beat in the vanilla and the eggs, one at a time.

Stir in half of the yoghurt, followed by half of the flour.

Take a spoonful of the remaining flour and toss the blueberries in it to stop them sticking or sinking in the batter.

Stir in the second half of the yoghurt, the flour and all of the bicarbonate of soda.

Fold in the blueberries.

Spoon into the prepared tin and level the surface.

Sprinkle the light brown sugar over the top of the cake.

Bake for approximately 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the sponge comes out cleanly.   Don’t panic if your cake takes longer – mine took about 1 hour 15 minutes.

Leave to cool in the tin for about 15 minutes before de-tinning and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Eat.