Thursday, July 30, 2015

Caramel Creme Horns

I remember the first time I had to make puff pastry at chef school. Actually, I'm surprised I remember it - what with our brains blocking out horrific events and all. 
No other pastry has a more appropriate name than puff;  you spend what feels like hours just hanging around waiting (for the butter to chill in the fridge), and then there's lots of huffing and puffing as you frantically roll and fold that pastry before that same butter melts. Then the waiting. Then the puffing. And repeat. I mean, it's just a nightmare, and probably the only time butter is annoying. Ever. But, you only have to make puff pastry once to come to the same conclusion I did:

Life is too short to make your own puff pastry. 

Let's add a star thingy to that statement and include phyllo pastry in there too, shall we? Don't even bother trying to make your own paper-thin phyllo pastry. It will end in tears. And tears. Gosh, English is weird. 

But I digress, back to puff pastry. The pastry that won the butter lottery. 
I've had this old box of cream horn moulds for ages which I was given by my Great Aunt and have been desperately wanting to bake a batch. Except, are they still a thing?

Whatever happened to cream horns? They seem terribly out of date these days, but why? Whoever is doing the PR for them, is doing a shoddy job. Doughnuts - still trendy. Pavlova - still trendy. Tarts - still trendy. How can puff pastry and whipped cream be OLD-FASHIONED?! Well, I'm resurrecting them. With a boozy caramel cream that will knock your socks off. I reckon a tiramisu filling (the one I used in my eclairs here) would be mind-blowing too. And before you tell me you need cream horn moulds, you don't - simply cover ice cream cones in foil. The only thing difficult about making these, is figuring out how to eat them gracefully. 

Caramel Cream Horns
Makes 10-12

1 x 400g packet ready-made puff pastry (I used Today's)
Milk, for brushing
White sugar, for sprinkling
1/2 cup (125ml) cream
2 tsp (10ml) almond liqueuer (optional)
1 tsp (5ml) caster sugar
1/2 tin (200g) caramel or dulce de leche (do I need to tell you what to do with the other half)
Icing sugar, for dusting 

Preheat your oven to 200C and grease or line a large baking sheet. 
Spray your cream horn moulds with cooking spray (if you don't have, simply wrap ice cream cones in foil and spray the outside). 

Start by unrolling the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface. No need to roll it out with a rolling pin, it's just the right thickness for the cream horns. Less work - yay! Cut 1cm strips lengthwise from the puff pastry then starting at the tip of the horn, wrap the pastry around, making sure it overlaps slightly. Brush a little milk on the end to make sure it sticks then place it on the prepared baking sheet. Brush with more milk and sprinkle with sugar. Repeat until all the puff pastry is finished. 

Bake the horns for 20-25 minutes or until they're a lovely golden brown. Remove from the baking tray (or the sugar will make them stick) and allow to cool on a cooling rack. 

Make the filling by whipping the cream with the liqueuer and sugar until thick then place in a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle. 
Whisk the caramel in a bowl until smooth. 

Fill the horns with a little (or a lot of) caramel then pipe the whipped cream on top - do this just before serving so they stay nice and crunchy. Don't forget the dusting of icing sugar! 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Egg-free Chocolate Chestnut Macarons

Egg-free, vegan macarons? Is this even possible? This must be some kind of dessert voodoo! Although baking is magic, this takes it to a whole other level. When I recently saw an article about chickpea meringue it stopped me in my tracks. That gross gloopy stinky water from a tin of chickpeas that I pour down the drain couldn't possibly make a meringue that's billowy, pristine and light as a feather - surely?

But, just when I think I know all there is to know about baking BAM, chickpea water surprises me. This is a revelation (well, to me anyway - it has been around for ages but there was an internet conspiracy hiding it from me) and I am now obsessed with finding  gajillions of ways to incorporate this sweet sorcery. 

Until now, one of the most difficult things about vegan baking has been getting sponge cakes that are float-off-your-fork light; Angel food cake, for example, is impossible to make without eggs (not counting egg substitutes). But now... that's all possible! "It's a whooole neeewww wooooorld!" Is it a bit odd that I'm getting THIS excited about chickpea water? Yes. Do I care? No. 

You should know me well enough by now to know that I'll use any excuse to make macarons, so when I whipped up that first batch of pea meringue, my first thought was - I wonder if this would make amazing macarons. YES! The answer is a thousand times yes. It makes brilliant macarons. In fact, I think chick-water is far more reliable. It doesn't have different water contents and freshness like eggs but that's all a bit sciencey and I'm starting to drift off to sleep... Anyway, all you need to know is you HAVE to try this to believe it. 

If your'e still going to therapy for your macaron-a-phobia (totally a real thing), then at least make egg-free meringues, people. Whip 180g chickpea water to soft peaks then beat in 1 cup (250ml) castor sugar and a drop of vanilla. Dry out in a 120C oven. 
FYI 1 egg = 3 tbsp chickpea water 

Egg white's are out. Chickpea water is IN!
Now I just need to figure out what the heck to do with 5 tins-worth of chickpeas... Hummus, anyone?

Egg-free Chocolate Chestnut Macarons
Makes 20

180g water from a can of chickpeas
125g ground almonds 
65g icing sugar
100g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

100ml cream (for a vegan version, use diary-free cream)
150g good-quality dark chocolate, finely chopped
100g sweetened chestnut puree (available here)

Place the drained chickpea water in a saucepan and simmer gently until the liquid is reduced to 60g. This will make a nice strong meringue. Allow to cool. 
Pulse the ground almonds and icing sugar in a food processor until fine and then sift well - discard any leftover large pieces of almonds. 
Place in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on high speed for about 15 minutes or until light, airy and soft peaks form. It will look exactly like meringue. Gradually add the castor sugar until a stiff glossy meringue forms, then whisk in the vanilla. 

Sift in the almond and icing sugar mixture in 3 batches, using gentle folding movements to incorporate it into the meringue. Keep folding until the mixture reaches a lava consistency - it should hold it's shape but ooze off the spatula when you lift it up. 
Place the mixture into a piping bag and pipe small rounds onto a silicone baking tray.
Lift the tray up to chest height and then drop it onto the counter a few times to spread the macarons. Now allow to dry at room temperature for about 2 hours or until they form a skin - you should be able to touch them without your finger sticking. 

While they rest, place an oven rack in the lower 3rd of your oven and preheat to 150C. Bake the cookies for 16-20 minutes. (I always make a small tray with one or two on so I can do a test batch first). Allow to cool. 

For the ganache, bring the cream to the boil and pour it over the chopped chocolate. Allow to stand for 5 minutes then stir until melted. Allow to set until spreadable. Place the ganache in a piping bag. 

To assemble, pipe a circle of ganache onto one macaron shell then fill the middle with the sweetened chestnut filling before topping with another shell. Continue with all the shells. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for a few hours then bring back to room temperature before serving. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Swedish Waffle Rosettes

These little rosette waffles are incredibly crunchy with enough nooks to collect pools of golden syrup and plenty crannies to hold piles of snowy icing sugar - so when you bite into one, it quickly crumbles into submission. I love desserts that fall into my mouth without me having to do much!

There is only one memory I have of these rosettes and it's a sweet one; of Friday afternoon's spent whisking them up with my best friend, Tammy (still in our school uniforms) just before a weekend sleepover. We would devour them still-hot with sticky syrup running down our forearms and icing sugar on our noses. My excitement was partly due to that after-school-Friyay-feeling but mostly due to the waffles which I was only able to make at Tammy's house because her mom had one of the old fancy irons. Of course, that just made them infinitely more delicious. Because they were special. 

And they were just a sweet memory until I stumbled on the vintage waffle iron at an antique shop. Of course, after that, I saw them everywhere - you can now even buy them (cheapish) online. It's a rosette revolution, people. And you're invited!

The pretty waffle iron is the most intricate part of this recipe; the batter is literally a pancake mix ratio.  So simple. Whisk. Deep-fry. Eat. Repeat. 
What's that? You don't have a pretty waffle iron? Well then, put the batter into a squeezy bottle and pipe your OWN pretty designs into the oil. No excuses here, move along.

I didn't get the chance to try these with anything else (I ate them all) but I imagine (nay, fantasize) that vanilla ice cream would be the bomb. So would a salted caramel sauce. Or or or! - Kate x

Swedish Waffle Rosettes
Makes 30

1 cup (250ml) cake flour
pinch of salt
2 tsp (10ml) castor sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup (250ml) milk
1 tsp (5ml) vanilla extract

Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
Golden Syrup, for serving
Icing sugar, for dusting

Combine the flour, salt and sugar together in a medium-sized bowl. 
Whisk the eggs, milk and vanilla together separately then slowly whisk into the dry ingredients. 
Heat the oil in a deep-fryer or pot until 180 degrees Celcius. 
Using a Swedish waffle iron, dip the iron into the hot oil first, then into the batter. Remove the iron from the batter then dip in a second time before placing into the hot oil. Allow the waffle to cook in the oil until it starts turning golden, then push it off the iron using a skewer or chopstick. Fry until golden brown, then drain on paper towel. Repeat with the remaining batter. 
Serve warm with dustings of icing sugar and pools of golden syrup. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Baked Chocolate Mousse Cake with Spiced Clementines

This is gooey, chocolatey, messy, shove-your-entire-face-in-it good. 
Who wants to fiddle around with gelatine when you can just bake this and get a dessert that can only be described as the love child of a chocolate fondant and a mousse?! It's light but still deathly decadent. 

A slice of this would be heaven with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or double cream (wait who am I kidding, we're all thinking the same thing - there is no way in friggin hell ONE slice is a serving.) Anyway, whatever size your serving is, be sure not to skip over the boozy clementines - they add a pop of brightness not only in colour, but also in flavour, so you can make your way out of the dark richness of it all. 

But if you honestly need another reason to make this? It's a source of Vitamin C*.

*sort of. 

Baked Chocolate Mousse Cake with Spiced Clementines
Serves 8-10

250g good-quality dark chocolate
125g salted butter
zest of 1 Clemengold
4 large eggs, seperated
110g white sugar
3 tbsp (60ml) cake flour, sifted

Spiced Clementines
6 Clemengold's, peeled
1 cup (250ml) sugar 
1/2 cup (125ml) water
3 tbsp (45ml) brandy (optional)
Cinnamon stick
3 cloves
1 vanilla pod, split

Grease and line a 20cm round cake tin (or standard loaf tin) and preheat the oven to 180C
Place the chocolate and butter in a large glass or metal bowl over a pot of gently simmering water and stir until melted and smooth. Stir in the Clemengold zest then set aside to cool slightly. 
In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the egg yolks and sugar until very light, pale and thick. 
Whisk the egg whites in a seperate bowl until soft peak stage. 
Fold the egg yolk mix into the melted chocolate and then gently fold in the egg whites and flour in 3 batches until completely combined. 
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes until just set but still gooey (trust the timings and resist the urge to keep baking). 
Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before serving with the spiced clementines. 
To make the clementines, slice the Clemengold's and set aside. 
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, water, brandy and spices over medium heat until dissolved. Bring to the boil then add the fruit and simmer for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

1954 Sticky Toffee Date Pudding

There's nothing fancy or frilly about a baked pudding. It's plain and simple but there is something deeply satisfying and supremely indulgent about a sticky pudding complete with pools of sticky toffee sauce and of course,  a good glug of piping hot custard. Something else which always accompanies a baked pudding, is a big spoonful of nostalgia. And this one, if it's even possible, comes with an extra dose. Because the recipe is over 60 years old. 

When my great aunt Gwen died recently, I was given a great gift; 3 large falling-apart boxes filled with her love of recipe hoarding and all sorts of vintage kitchen paraphernalia. There were pages upon pages of recipes - not in a book or file but just stacks of cuttings torn out of magazines, from the back of soup packets and old shopping lists, some even quickly jotted down on the back of a church hymn booklet. But it was amongst these droves of recipes, that I discovered a few real gems. 
And this recipe is one of them. 

Cape Times Newspaper - Wednesday, June 16, 1954
 Margaret Pollitt writes: 'One of the biggest problems of winter menu-planning is how to ring the changes with the sweet course - those sturdy summer standbys, ice cream, jellies and fruit salads, are of no use now to the mother whose children crave a big helping of pudding after the main course has been polished off.'

I cropped out the advert for corsetry services in the bottom right, although, in hindsight, that advert placement was very good!  

Amongst recipes for pancakes (Margaret advises budding cooks that 'tossing pancakes only comes with experience!'- you've been warned.), hot orange pudding, steamed sago pudding and roly poly, a date pud caught my attention. And it would be perfection when baked in my vintage pudding bowl (side note: how beautiful is this?!)

As a child I never appreciated puddings; I wanted to be a pastry chef and the simplicity of a baked pudding was completely lost on me. I only yearned to make the complicated, intricate desserts I saw in my cheffy cookbooks and magazines. My young imagination extended so much further than a quick-mix sponge drowned in thick UltraMel custard. How times have changed. Now... it's the very thing I crave when the weather turns wet and grim. Perhaps that's what makes pudding so universally soothing and rich in nostalgia. The fragrance of a baking pudding takes me back to Sunday afternoon lunches where we had to endure the delicious smell all the way through lunch. Torture. Followed by sheer bliss.

1954 Sticky Toffee Date Pudding
Serves 6-8

250g dried, pitted dates
250ml (1 cup) hot water
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
250g cake flour
250g butter
1 tsp (5ml) baking powder
2 large eggs
100g (1/2 cup) brown sugar
100g toasted pecans or walnuts, chopped

Soaking syrup:
60g butter
1 cup sugar
11/2 cups milk
2-3 tbsp sweet sherry (optional, or add 1 tsp vanilla)

Preheat the oven to 180C, fan-forced 160C. 
Grease 12 small dariole moulds or ramekins or a large 26 x 16 baking dish. 
Place the dates in a medium bowl and pour over the hot water. Sprinkle over the bicarbonate of soda and allow to stand for 30-45 minutes or until very soft. 
Place the softened dates (and the water) in a food processor with the rest of the pudding ingredients (except the nuts) and blend until smooth and combined. Stir in the nuts then pour into greased individual moulds or one large dish. 
For small puddings, bake for 10-15 minutes and large pudding, 30-35 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
In the meantime, make the syrup; place all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Keep hot. 
Pour the hot syrup over the puddings as soon as they come out the oven. 
Serve immediately with salted caramel sauce (recipe below), vanilla custard or thick cream. 

Salted Caramel Sauce
Makes 500ml

1 (395g) tin condensed milk 
250ml (1 cup) cream
3 tbsp (45ml) brown sugar (like Demerara or Muscovado)
Pinch of good-quality salt (I used local Oryx desert salt)

Place the condensed milk, cream and sugar in a small saucepan and stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil and simmer, stirring constantly until golden brown. Allow to cool, then sprinkle in the sea salt.