Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Merry Christmas 2012

I know I haven't blogged for the past few months but I shall rectify that in the new year.  In the meantime, wherever you are I wish you a very happy and peaceful Christmas.  Enjoy being with your loved ones and never take them for granted.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Strawberries and Meringue - the Perfect Teatime Treat

At the V & A for lunch in April I spied these large meringues and couldn't resist buying one.  But oh, the disappointment, they were very hard, no soft chewy centre, no softly crumbling outer crust and the jam and clotted cream that accompanied them was completely inadequate.

Ever since my disappointment I wanted to make my own - I finally made some yesterday.  They were glorious, they had the soft and chewy almost marshmallow like centre, softly crumbling outer crust and just the right amount of sweetness.  We had them this evening with strawberries.  In fact, I could eat another right now.

The meringues were simplicity itself -

3 egg whites
180g golden caster sugar
pinch of salt
half teaspoon of white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon of cornflour

Oven preheated to 140C

Egg whites, salt and vinegar into a bowl - whisk (I used a hand held electric whisk - but you can use whatever you like, I don't have the patience for manually whisking and it seemed too small an amount to bother getting out the stand mixer).  Once the egg whites were stiff I added the teaspoon of cornflour and gradually added the sugar a little at a time.  Once all mixed in it was time to dollop great big spoonfuls of eggy mixture onto a baking tray (which I had previously lined with baking parchment).  These were baked in the oven for an hour and a half, at which time I turned off the heat and left them in the cooling oven overnight.

I think they look fabulous this big - don't think I will ever make small meringues again.

This evening we had them with strawberries and cream.  I cut up a 400g box of strawberries, some of which I cut smaller, placed in a small frying pan with a dessertspoonful of caster sugar.  I heated these and mashed them with a fork and let them bubble for about five minutes.

Then began the assembly - one meringue, a large spoonful of fresh strawberries, two spoonfuls of the cooked strawberries poured over the meringue, a little sprinkling of icing sugar and finally a little cream.

So, I thought I would enter these into the Teatime Treats Challenge organised by Lavender and Lovage and What Kate Baked - this month's host.

The theme for this month's Teatime Treats Challenge is Summer Fruits.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Passionfruit Shortcakes - Afternoon Tea with Fleur and Forever Nigella

Half term brings more time for baking and a general winding down, albeit only for a week!   The beginning of the month also means that lots of blog challenges have just begun, I am determined that this month I will enter as many as I bake for, by that I mean, each time I bake or cook a recipe with the intention of entering it into a challenge - I will blog it in good time, I can't tell you the number of times I have left it too late or forgotten!

So, this is the first time I have blogged for Forever Nigella, a challenge usually hosted by Maison Cupcake, but which is hosted by Homemade by Fleur this month.

What would appear to be an easy challenge soon becomes a challenge of a different kind - which of the many afternoon tea options to choose.  I finally settled on Forever Summer simply because I was making something else from that book for dinner one evening last week and stumbled across these shortcakes, which I have to say are just as yummy on their own as with passionfruit and cream.

Here then is how they are made:


325g Plain Flour
half a teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
5 tablespoons caster sugar
125g unsalted butter, frozen
1 large egg, beaten
125ml single cream
1 egg white, lightly beaten

For the filling:

250ml double cream
3 large passionfruit (or 6 small)

The oven will need to be preheated to 200C/gas mark 6.

This is a pretty straightforward recipe actually - simply sift all the dry ingredients into a bowl (although only 3 tablespoons of the caster sugar - reserving two tablespoons to sprinkle over the shortcakes before they go into the oven), grate the frozen butter into these dry ingredients, once grated (using the largest/coarsest holes of the grater) you simply rub the butter into the flour as you would for scones or pastry. Once done, I whisked the egg into the cream and beat them together then added this mixture gradually to the flour/butter combination - I used all of this cream/egg mixture (but you may find it unnecessary) and mixed it all together with a fork.

Once done I put the large scone-like lump of dough onto my marble slab which I had dusted with flour and rolled it out to a thickness of approximately 2 cms - then I used a round cutter 6.5cms to cut out rounds.  I had to re-form and roll out several times but did manage to get about ten rounds (give or take a round or two as I didn't count but looking back I know I got considerably more than six).

The shortcakes were placed on a lined baking tray, the tops brushed with the beaten egg white and then sprinkled with caster sugar (the reserved two tablespoons).  These were then placed in the oven for just about 15 minutes and were absolutely delicious just about cooled enough to taste!

For some reason the cream wouldn't hold firm - so we had it runny which was just as yummy!

Homemade by Fleur

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Strawberry Tart

When I was shopping last Friday I picked up some beautiful English strawberries - the first English strawberries I have bought this year, the difference in flavour and juiciness is marked.  I also picked up the latest Country Living magazine - I try very hard to wean myself off of magazines, but some weeks it's just impossible. I'm so pleased I bought both of these items on Friday because inside the magazine was a glorious recipe for Strawberry Tart.

I planned to make this on Sunday for dessert - and did eventually - but plans always go awry and the big tidy up I was doing in my bedroom took rather longer than I had anticipated.  At about four o'clock I realised that I needed to do something about dinner and ended up throwing my chicken fillets, onions and mushrooms with a couple of bay leaves, salt, pepper, dried oregano and some chicken stock into a big pot and leaving it in the oven for about one and a half hours - perfect.  Whilst waiting for my potatoes to boil, I realised that I still hadn't made the tart.  I had sent out for some ready made pastry earlier in the day (as you do - the husband needed a job to keep him away from the Sunday papers and the television), I just knew I would never have the time to make pastry as well as sort out my bedroom, so all I really had to do was make the filling.  A breeze.  I melted the chocolate and mascarpone in a double boiler whilst the potatoes simmered and brocoli steamed, then left it to cool.  Later I whisked some cream and mixed the two, in the meantime I put some pastry in a tin and cooked it - not very well I might add, as can be seen from the picture, the pastry was not cold enough and so shrunk away from the edge of the tin, was cooked for too long and so is rather crunchy but that aside the dessert was a success - apart from the fact that it needed to be left in the fridge to chill - overnight!!  Yes, I hadn't read the recipe through to the end.   We had slices for afternoon tea after school on Monday - I think it was better appreciated then than it would have been on Sunday night.

Anyway, here's the recipe for the tart - both pastry and filling:-

For the pastry:

225g plain flour
100g cold, unsalted butter, diced
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 large egg, beaten

For the filling:

250g mascarpone
200g white chocolate, broken into pieces
150ml double cream
400g small fresh strawberries and icing sugar for decoration

Make the pastry in the usual way and wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes. After rolling it out press into the base and sides of a deep 20cm tart tin, prick the base with a fork, chill well until ready to bake.  Heat the oven to 190c (170c for fan oven) gas mark 5.  Cover the base and sides with baking parchment and baking beans and bake for 12 - 15 minutes, remove the beans and continue baking for another 5 - 10 minutes - leave to cool either in the tin or on a wire rack.  Of course you could also use ready made pastry and cook according to the packet instructions.

Place the mascarpone and chocolate in a double boiler but do not stir until it has all melted (mixture will go lumpy if stirred before being completely melted) - stir gently and leave to cool to room temperature.

The cream then needs to be lightly whipped - I did this by hand but wish I had used an electric mixer as it seemed to take forever - then gently fold the two mixtures together - I then filled the pastry case with the mixture, smoothed over the surface and finally did as I was instructed and left it in the fridge to firm up overnight.  The next day I decorated it with the strawberries but didn't bother dusting with icing sugar - although the recipe said to do so. 

Afternoon tea was rather delicious - I've just had another little slice whilst writing this to give me encouragement, if any was needed - it still tastes just as good!

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Chouquettes - A Tea Time Treat I Could Eat Every Day

I have risen to the challenge from Lavender and Lovage and What Kate Baked in their NEW Tea Time Treats for May!  Get FLORAL in the kitchen with Floral Flavours and Flowers - this month being hosted by Lavender and Lovage.

I've recently read "Lunch in Paris" by Elizabeth Bard - a wonderful story interspersed with recipes - I can wholeheartedly recommend it as a good read.  Last week I made Chicken and Sweet Pepper Stew from this book (which I will blog about on my other blog Jennifer's Journal) but today just had to be Chouquettes.  Elizabeth says in her book that "This was my first and most beloved Parisian breakfast".  Surprisingly this was not my first introduction to Chouquettes since I have been following the BBC2 program The Little Paris Kitchen with Rachel Khoo - aah, I loved this series and shall miss it from my Monday evenings.  Rachel Khoo made Chouquettes also and it is her recipe that I used this afternoon for mine.

The recipe is taken from Rachel's book The Little Paris Kitchen which accompanies the series and is listed under "Snack Time".


125ml water
125ml milk
100g butter, cubed
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
170g strong plain flour
4 eggs
Icing sugar for dusting
100g nibbed sugar (also called pearl or hail sugar)
Chocolate chips

I didn't have any nibbed sugar so simply used icing sugar to sweeten.

To begin I preheated the oven to 180C and buttered two baking sheets which I then lined with baking parchment.

I added the water and milk to a saucepan together with the butter, sugar and salt.  Melted the butter on high heat - once melted turned heat to low and added the flour in one go.  I then proceeded to beat this until it stopped looking like a lumpy mess and turned into a ball of dough which came away from the sides of the saucepan.  Once it had reached this point I took it off the heat but still beat the dough until it was cool enough to touch.  Then I mixed in the eggs (one at a time) beat them into the dough.

Once all the eggs had been added and it had been beaten smooth again it was time to spoon onto the baking sheets using two teaspoons.  Rachel Khoo used a piping bag, but to be honest, I had run out of piping bags so had to resort to the two teaspoon method. 

I then sprinkled these little babies with icing sugar, some with chocolate drops and icing sugar and then put them into the oven for twenty minutes.  This recipe made approximately 24 chouquettes.

These are absolutely delicious straight from the oven with another sprinkling of icing sugar.  We ate them this afternoon accompanied by rose petal jam and lightly whipped cream.

With tablecloth ....

Without tablecloth .....

One of each with jam and cream .......

They will keep for several days in an airtight container.  When removed can be crisped up in a 150C oven for five minutes.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Wishing You All A Very Happy Easter .............

We normally only make a Gingerbread House at Christmas time, however, encouraged by A Trifle Rushed and her many versions of the Gingerbread House, we decided to make one for Easter.

Here is our latest version .............................

We coloured the icing lemon to stick the house together and then mixed up some more coloured green to represent the grass.  It's such an enjoyable thing to make together with my youngest daughter.  I think we'll have to find another occasion during the year to make another one!

Have a good Easter - I'm off to hide Easter Eggs in the garden and place the clues to be found - happy hunting.