Archives for posts with tag: Christmas

I had been thinking about making Swedish St Lucia buns since I watched Paul and Mary’s Christmas Masterclass in December. I then discussed the brightly coloured balls of goodness with Bronya (of brioche fame) over Christmas, and decided to make some myself. Coincidentally Will and I were off to Stockholm in mid Jan, and so it seemed like a good idea all round.

I am not a big fan of bread making, however I figured that the more I do it the less I will be scared of yeast failure, and less confused by the way that it seems to have a life of it’s own.

I followed the recipe of Mr Paul Hollywood himself, which you will find here, and actually it all worked out OK. I loved the brightly coloured saffron and the way it infused in to the milk.

Milk and saffron  Infused saffron

Whilst the recipe is straight forward, what takes the time is the double proving of the dough. I put my dough under the kitchen radiator in a bowl covered in cling film, since Paul suggested a warm, dry place to undertake the activity.

dough    Shaped dough

I watched with satisfaction as, true to form, the dough did double in size over a few hours. I then shaped the dough in to the suggested S, bull and cross shapes, and completed the look with raisins in appropriate crevices of dough. Just after 25 minutes in the oven, these golden yellow little beauties appeared.

image9   image10

 

A last minute egg wash pre-cooking gave a lovely shiny glaze and I would definitely recommend doing so. The saffron flavour was sweet but subtle, and they were nice buttered with breakfast or as a midday desk-based snack.

We had a great time in snowy Stockholm, not just for the lovely scenery but for the delicious cakes. Our favourite was definitely the Princess cake, regally coated in green marzipan and filled with light vanilla sponge, custard AND cream!

 

 

 

 

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We also really enjoyed what seemed to be the cake version of a Viennese whirl, and a delicious cardamon – vanilla cream filled doughnut / muffin! Yum!

 

 

 

 

 

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Our next adventure will most likely be our wedding, which has been keeping me reasonably busy! I would like to write some blog posts on healthy eating for brides, since it is quite a challenge for me, so watch this space.

 

 

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Since we are still in the Christmas spirit time of year, I reckon it’s not too late to write a little about some of the festive feats that I attempted in the build up to Christmas day. I can also introduce you to George, the latest addition to our family and the finest tortoise in all of Tooting, South London!

George

More cards

Taking inspiration from a couple of my favourite chefs I made some “edible Christmas cards” for friends and family. I love to give and receive home-made gifts and these are all straight forward to make. Positive feedback all round, and the biscuits and chocs looked pretty when packaged up in some Orla Kiely gift boxes.

Edible Christmas card Boxes

I needed recipes for biscuits that wouldn’t go stale within a day or two. Requiring a recipe for guaranteed success, I used Delia Smith’s shortbread recipe (http://www.deliaonline.com/how-to-cook/baking/all-about-shortbread.html) which I then spiced up with orange zest, dried cranberries and drizzled with white chocolate. See the heart and teapot shaped biscuits below.

Platter

Frances Quinn’s amazing Christmas creation for the Telegraph, which featured owls, pinecones, stars, and was simply beautiful. I used her gingerbread leaf recipe to create a much simpler, Christmas tree-shaped biscuit. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/10526360/Bake-Off-Frances-Quinns-12-Days-of-Christmas-recipes.html

Christmas tree

The little round cups are Millionaire’s Shortbread (https://lydiatoson.com/2013/12/08/millionaires-shortbread-for-mum/), making them in little cases makes them easier to pack up and prevents crumbly bottoms.

Packing up

The Carnation website also has a fail-proof coconut ice recipe (http://www.carnation.co.uk/Recipes/70/Coconut-Ice). I like to use the coarsely grated desiccated coconut (who knew it came in three grain sizes!?) from the Sri Lankan mini market around the corner from our flat. You have to leave the coconut ice to set for at least a few hours after assembly, so this is one to make in advance. I made mini bounty bars by double dipping the coconut ice pieces in good quality dark chocolate, melted over a bain-marie.

In addition to foodie bits, I crafted together some non-edible Christmas cards for those I wanted to correspond with via Royal Mail. I happened to lose my list of “cards to be sent”, resulting in some friends and family receiving no cards whilst others received two. Oops! I will send out New Year’s cards once I have worked out who received what!

Tree cards  cards Tree card

Each little envelope on this card contained a message on a tiny piece of paper, or some glitter and Christmas sparkle.

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Running out of time to make a card for everyone, I found these Tooting salutations at the Broadway market.

Tooting cards

I made a gingerbread house to take round to my lovely friend Lucy’s house over the festive season, which was good fun although some structural improvisation was required to get the roof to fit.

Gingerbread house

I also missed the opportunity to photograph George the tortoise with any edible treats, however I did lend my Christmas present to my friends at www.moorechampagne.com as they launched their online media campaign the week before Christmas. Check them out for unique and distinctive grand cru grower champagnes, perfect for celebrations and enjoyment at any time of year.

Moore Champagne

I think that’s probably all for now, although my next blog may well feature some Moore Champagne in the form of celebratory New Year cakes, and possibly George too.

Due to the “storm” that was about to hit London (even Barry the Thames Barrier has gone down) on Thursday, my train to the gym was severely delayed, therefore I abandoned exercise and was able to come home from work at a decent time.

My Mum and Dad were coming late last Sunday night, determined that we would fit in a Lebanese at a newly opened local establishment down the road upon arrival. The purpose of their visit was some minor DIY, and I needed to give them energy whilst tiling my kitchen windowsill the following morning.

So I recreated one of Mum’s favourite biscuits, if that is indeed the culinary category in which this treat falls. Millionaire’s shortbread. What better tea time (or any time) treat?

Sparkly shortbread

Crunchy shortbread biscuit, a large amount of soft, sweet, caramel, and a definitive dense chocolate topping, The chocolate and biscuit are working together to hold in that caramel, and the ratio of biscuit to caramel in this recipe is far more generous than most shop bought equivalents (and of course contains no nasty preservatives).

As has been a feature of several recent(ish) posts, I have borrowed someone else’s recipe (in this case Carnation’s, of condensed milk fame) and adapted it a little.

http://www.carnation.co.uk/recipes/60/Millionaires-Shortbread

This is a rather simple recipe, and you don’t even need a sugar thermometer to get the caramel right (see reference to disastrous macarons in previous post I am still holding out for one for Christmas).

I have made this recipe several times, and feel that I am close to perfecting it. I find the base works best when you blitz the shortbread in the food processor, finer crumbs = sturdier biscuit base. This is the cheat’s shortbread base, you can also make your own from scratch which is straight forwards but more time-consuming.

Stirring up shortbread

Next, you make the caramel. Gently stir together the butter and sugar until fully melted, and then drizzle in the condensed milk, stirring continuously as you don’t want it to burn. I don’t know why but I find a wooden spoon helps this process. And you can smack away any fingers trying to get an early dip of the sweet nectar!

Keep stirring even though you don’t want to, for fear of burning. I also have a fear of the caramel not setting, so I do stir it until notably thicker. Then pour on to the cooled shortbread and leave to chill out for a while.

Caramel

Leave the caramel to cool in the fridge and melt two bars of chocolate (200g in total) over a bain-marie, which is easier to control the temperature than melting in a saucepan directly. Dark, milk and white chocolate toppings are all delicious, or even a combination of them together.

To get a celebration-like finish to the shortbread, I then melted white chocolate and flicked it across the top, then scattered tiny edible gold stars over the tray.

Mini shortbreads

I am experimenting with finger-sized treats that I can parcel up as presents, and so made some tiny shortbreads in silicone petit-four cases.

Petit fours

My biggest tip for making shortbread is to score the chocolate topping before it has entirely set, otherwise it is a nightmare to cut in to straight lines.

Scoring the chocolate topping

There are loads of sweet (terrible pun – sorry!) recipes on this site. I want to try the fudge recipe next time, but not until I have my sugar thermometer…

I have been experimenting with a few things in the last few weeks, but work had caught up with me and I haven’t made a chance to sit down and write about my efforts. I have also been busy mourning the end of the only TV show I religiously watch, the Great British Bake Off. Content with the finalists and the winner, I have been inspired to try a few different recipes, so I guess there is a happy ending after all.

I can summarise my rises and falls (#GBBO puns) of recent escapades with the following statements:

– Don’t try to adapt a Mary Berry cake recipe – she is official Queen of Cakes for a reason
– Successful Pierre Herme macarons require patience, precision AND a sugar thermometer (now on the Christmas list)
– Lemon curd really IS easy to make
– Despite my first ever attempt at brioche being a success, I am still scared of baking bread

good crumb structure

Whilst my chocolate cake for my friend Vic’s birthday turned out alright, I did fail on an adapted version of Mary Berry’s  spiced orange cake. Pulverised lemon in a cake does NOT taste nice.

Chocolate cake

However I would say that I have perfected my white chocolate icing recipe. I made another chocolate birthday cake, another Mary Berry recipe and added fresh raspberries and white chocolate chips to the batter. I have already had a re-order for next year so that must be good feedback!

Another choc cake

In a somewhat less successful episode, I couldn’t even bring myself to take a photo of my failed macarons. What have previously been such beautiful treats were reduced to burned splodges after trying to rush through the 36 steps of making  macaron shells, according to the master Mr Herme. I will try again, hopefully once in possession of a sugar thermometer, and will report back on progress. Passion will prevail over precision!

Inspired by my friend Sally’s delicious macarons (which were never a failure), and in anticipation of warm, fresh brioche, I had a go at making some lemon curd. I also had a lot of egg yolks and lemons to use up after the above failures. I followed Delia’s lemon curd recipe and as usual, her words of wisdom are right on the mark. Zingy lemon curd with just the right tinge of sweetness was ready to be slathered on to brioche.

Lemon curd

Moving on to the main subject of this post, Bronya’s brioches.  Bronya is Jess’s mum (see “a bit of savoury on the side” for cooking adventures with Jess).  As teenagers, she was picking Jess and I up in the early hours of the morning after a night out and bringing us tea and toast in bed the next day. As adults, she is sharing her delicious bread recipes with us.

This recipe makes makes one large loaf, which can be shaped to make it easy to share. It has a crisp, sugary coating and soft, fluffy, buttery middle. Yum!

Brioche

I was so proud of my loaf, no soggy bottom (GBBO reference) and it tasted delicious.

nice bottom

Just a little forward planning is required as you need to assemble the dough the night before baking it.

Before proving

 

Look at how the little beaut rose after a few hours of proving…

after proving

Bronya’s recipe is below, unadulterated and with full credit to her. Delicious served warm with lemon curd or another spread of your choice.

Crispy sugary topped brioche

Ingredients

500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
7g salt
50g caster sugar
10g instant yeast
140ml warm full-fat milk  I have used skimmed, it works
5 medium eggs
250g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing

Method

1. Put the flour into the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the salt and sugar to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other. Add the milk and eggs and mix on a slow speed for 2 minutes, then on a medium speed for a further 6–8 minutes, until you have a soft, glossy, elastic dough. Add the softened butter and continue to mix for a further 4–5 minutes, scraping down the bowl periodically to ensure that the butter is thoroughly incorporated. The dough should be very soft.

2. Tip the dough into a plastic bowl, cover and chill overnight or for at least 7 hours, until it is firm and you are able to shape it.

3. Grease a 25cm round deep cake tin.

4. Take your brioche dough from the fridge and tip it onto a lightly floured surface and fold it in on itself a few times to knock out the air. Divide it into 9 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a smooth ball by placing it into a cage formed by your hand and the table and moving your hand around in a circular motion, rotating the ball rapidly. Put 8 balls of dough around the outside of the tin and the final one in the middle.

5. Cover with a clean plastic bag and leave to prove for 2–3 hours, or until the dough has risen to just above the rim of the tin.

6. Heat your oven to 190 c

7. When the brioche is proved, bake for 20–30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Bear in mind that the sugar and butter in the dough will make it take on colour before it is actually fully baked. Remove the brioche from the tin and cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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