The Apple Pie Project: English

This months Apple Pie Project goes to my home country, England. Although the apple pie is seen as an American symbol, in England it is an historic dish which has been eaten for centuries. The British apple pie also has many differences to it’s American counterpart. Instead of a super sweet filing, the English pie is more tart and sour with a hint of sweetness, using good old large cooking apples, such as the Bramley. This apple is a vibrant green, the size of a fist (or larger), sour and juicy. Once the Bramley apple has been cooked its keeps a more stable form, rather than turning mushy, being hailed the apple ‘King of Covent Garden’.

I have decided to use a very famous British cookery writers recipe to illustrate the quintessential  English apple pie. Mrs Beeton produced a very famous Victorian book on how to run the perfect household, and within it holds a wonderful collection of recipes, with useful hints and tips. Her apple pie recipe is simple, straight to the point and flawless, which for me represents traditional English cookery at its best. I also recommend every cook to own the book. (^-^)

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French Macaroons : Part 2 Sweet Success

Sorry it has taken me awhile to get back to my personal challenge of the French macaroon. I bought all my ingredients and left them at work in the staff room, only to realise I had one weeks holiday and had to wait to go back and get the ingredients. However, as I waited I have been looking at many different macaroon recipes in the hopes that I would be able to perfect the previous disaster when making these French biscuits, and I have eventually got something to be proud of rather than a sticky runny mess (^-^)

I followed the same recipe as the French video I found last time (see it here), but with a few changes to make sure nothing went wrong this time.

This time I used a thick gel food colouring, which does not turn to liquid, keeping the mixture at the right consistancy. This colouring was more expensive than the usual kind but you can see better results. The second thing i also did to improve the recipe was to use an Italian meringue method instead of the quick simple way. This helped keep a thicker texture. I am really happy with my result and Its made me confident in tackling macaroons in the future. These ones have chocolate frosting. Yum (^-^)

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Chelsea Buns

After going to see the inspiring Chris Ofili exhibition at the Tate Britian I popped over to my favourite cafe Sacred, just off Carnaby Street to have a Chai Latte and to meet up with a good friend. The intensely sweet and spicy chai inspired me to make a tray of Chelsea Buns, sticky and gooey, perfect food for this wet and snowy weather. Very similar to it’s American counterpart, the cinnamon roll, the Chelsea Bun lies its origins in the 18th century London Borough of the same name.

What You Need: 15g of yeast, 15 tablespoons of sugar, 1 tablespoon of salt, 2x 400g plain flour, 2 eggs, 5 tablespoons of oil, 3 tablespoon of mixed spice, 1 banana, 50g sultanas, 50g dried morello cherries.

Firstly in a mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast and 7 tablespoons of sugar in warm water. Then add the salt and half of the flour, mix until well combined. After with a wooden spoon beat in the eggs and oil. Slowly add the remaining flour, until completely combined turning into a dough. On a floured surface knead until you have a smooth pliable dough. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl and roll the dough around to coat in the oil. Cover with a damp cloth and prove in a warm place until it has expanded in size, around 35/40 minutes. Now prepare the filling, with the rest of the sugar, mix together with mixed spice (cinnamon, dried coriander seed, allspice, cloves and nutmeg). I have chosen to make three kinds, one with sultanas, the second with dried morello cherries and the third with banana.

Once the dough has proved, divide into twelve rolls/balls. With each individual ball roll into a oblong shape and sprinkle the sugar/spice mixture over. Add the dried fruit or banana and then roll up into a pinwheel and place into a greased  baking tin. Make sure each one is around 1 inch apart from each other and leave to prove again for a further 35 minutes. Once the size has increased again (They will have joined) place into the oven and bake for 30 minutes. When done prepare a syrup of 3 tablespoon golden syrup and 50ml of water in a pan, pour the hot syrup over the buns in the tray and leave to cool. Pile onto a plate and eat, preferably with tea.  (^-^)

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February Cook of The Month: Seasonal Pavlova

Looking at the market stall inspired me to to buy some lovely ruby red and emerald green rhubarb. I always remember as a child having rhubarb in crumbles, pies and with custard. The sour and sweet taste and the soft texture is enough to make my mouth water. I saw a recipe on television where Gizzi Erskine used rhubarb on top of a Pavlova.Sadly I could not find her recipe online, so I recreated my own version with a few twists, as an ode to February Cook of The Month. Erskine is a product of Nigella Lawson, a glamourous, cocktail dress wearing cook from England. Her food is quick, bright and unapologetic, as she kneads bread in stilettos. Mentioned in the latest issue of Vogue, she is tipped to be a rising star in the cookery world.

My recipe:

Ingredients:  5 eggs whites, salt, 500g caster sugar, 1tsp white vinegar, 2tsp corn flour, 500g rhubarb, 1tsp orange blossom, 400ml double cream, 50g icing sugar, 25ml cointreau.

Preheat the oven to 150C.

Firstly make the meringue base. Simply whisk the egg whites and a pinch of salt until white and thick and gradually whisk in 300g of sugar. Do this until you can form peaks, or even hold the bowl over your head. Now fold in the vinegar and corn flour until combined well. Place in the shape you want and put in the preheated oven and bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes.  Leave to cool.

For the rhubarb, chop into think length way slices and mix with the rest of the sugar and the orange blossom. Lay on a tray and bake in the oven on 200C for 20 minutes. Once donn drain the syrup from the rhubarb and leave to cool.

When the meringue and rhubarb is cool it is time for the Chantilly cream. Take the double cream and whisk with the icing sugar and alcohol (you can use orange blossom if you wish). Once thick, pile on top of your meringue base followed by the rhubarb. Serve or chill for later. (^-^)

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Attempting the French Macaroon

This weekend I was all set to tackle the notorious French Macaroon. I had the ingredients ready, many blog readers asked me to give them ago. The problem I had with recipe was consistency. Firstly I tried one recipe over at the Daily Telegraph, everything was going well until the final stage of mixing the meringue and the almond mixture. So I tried a different recipe and the same thing happened. Instead I ended up with a runny gloop. Having battled with a cold this weekend I really did not even want to bother trying it for a third time. However thankfully, after calming down, I found a insightful video demonstration in French of how to make the perfect macaroon. My problem of texture is now solved, and the answer is powder food colouring, not liquid of gel.  So next weekend I will hopefully be sharing with you a perfected macaroon.

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Rosemary & Sun-dried Tomato Loaf

Today before work i decided to do a little bread baking. Not sure where this sudden energy came from, but maybe I was paying for later whilst I was cycling to work. I also have a new obsession for rosemary and this bread smells so lovely!

What You Need:

250g White Bread Flour, 7g Dried Yeast, 7 sun dried tomatoes chopped, 50g parmesan cheese, 7 sprigs of rosemary, 200ml of warm water.

Preheat the oven to 230C.

Mix the flour, yeast and water in a bowl with a spoon to form a ball. Leave for 5 minutes to rest. Then take the dough to a floured surface and kneed for around 10-15 minutes until smooth. With the ball of dough roll out into a long rectangle shape. Sprinkle all the ingredients evenly over the dough, as if you are putting the toppings on a pizza. Then roll the dough up into a large sausage shape. Cut the sausage into six and arrange in a greased loaf tin, with the inside swirl facing up. Cover and leave in a warm place to prove for 40 minutes. Pop into the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Once done cool and then eat! (^-^)

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Pecan Pie

Since watching Gone with The Wind  and reading Cold Mountain for the first time last year the American South has become an intriguing obsession, especially when it comes to food. I have never been to the south but the romantic descriptions of sweet tea, salt pork, red eye gravy and fried chicken skins makes my mouth water. So today i decided to bake something I have never tried or made before, Pecan Pie. First of all finding dark corn syrup in rainy Cambridge was my first mission, which i failed and had to settle for golden syrup, corn syrup can only be bought in the UK online or in specialist stores. I used a mixture of different recipes I have picked up and tried to create my own… which turned out not so bad. (^-^)

What You Need:

Pastry: 1 egg, 175g butter, 250g plain flour, 20g caster sugar, 1 tbsp water

Filling: 100g pecans, 50g butter, 3 large eggs, grind of salt, 250ml golden syrup, 25ml apricot brandy, 200g caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 180c.

In a mixing bowl sieve the flour and rub in the butter to create bread crumbs, then stir in the sugar. Add the egg and water and combine with a round edged knife in cutting motions. Once into a ball, kneed lightly on a floured surface and refrigerate for 10mins. Then roll out the pastry to fit the case and refrigerate for a further 20mins.

For the filling, add the syrup, sugar and salt to a pan and melt down and boil. Set aside. Whisk three eggs in a heatproof bowl and pour in the slightly cooled mixture. Over a tray of boiling water place the bowl of mixture into the bath and stir vigourously making sure it is combined well, then adding the butter and brandy. Place the chopped pecans into the refrigerated pastry case and pour over the warm mixture. Place in the oven and bake for 45 mins or until dark brown. Then serve.

Yum.

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