Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Lemon Tart

I've not been having much luck with lemon recipes recently; after the Spelt, Lemon and Maple Drizzle Cake, which failed twice, I had another technical failure with a Lemon Tart.

I chose this particular Lemon Tart recipe, from Good Food, to see if reducing the fat levels still made an acceptably tasty dessert - this recipe claims to be half the fat of a classic tart.

I liked the reduced fat pastry, which was unexpected, and really loved both the flavour and texture of the filling, which was light and silky smooth and just about sharp enough for my tastes. However, my tart cracked like crazy paving as it cooled. I don't think it was overcooked, as it was still wobbly in the centre, but I did leave it in the oven, with the door slightly open, to cool, so that might have been the problem, although slow cooling is usually advised to avoid cracks. The cracks didn't really spoil the tart from the point of view of eating it, but I usually only make desserts like this on special occasions, and wouldn't want to serve this to guests.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Chestnut Ginger Biscuits

How often do I complain that there isn't enough ginger in a recipe? It's probably more than 50% of the time, with recipes where ginger is supposed to be the main flavor. No such problem with this biscuit recipe from Dan Lepard, which used six teaspoons of ground ginger - the flavour was so fierce there was an afterburn (in a very good way!).

I had no problems with following the recipe; the only change I made was to use all treacle instead of part golden syrup. This was suggested as an alternative, to increase the liquorice-ness of the treacle flavour. I chilled the soft dough for about 3 hours before forming it into balls - which I did using scales to ensure uniformity. If my memory is correct, I got 25 biscuits out of the dough, and after baking they stayed soft like cookies rather than being crisp like gingernuts. I'd been expecting them to be crisp, so this was a surprise, but not really a disappointment.

There wasn't much to complain about with these delicious biscuits, although my husband suggested they would be better without being rolled in sugar. Once again, I felt that the chestnut flour was overwhelmed by the other flavours in the recipe; treacle, ginger and ground cloves all have unique and striking flavours. After my past experiences it wasn't a surprise that I couldn't distinguish the flavour of the chestnut flour, but I had just a little left to use up so thought the recipe worth trying. (I'm really talking myself into not buying chestnut flour again, unless someone can recommend a recipe where it can be tasted!)

PS - the second attempt at the Spelt, Lemon and Maple Drizzle Cake wasn't any better than the first. I managed to find white spelt flour and added half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda to the batter, but the cake still sank, this time even before the cooking time was up. Two attempts is enough - there are plenty of other cake recipes out there!

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Spelt, Lemon and Maple Drizzle Cake

This is a recipe from January's Waitrose Food magazine, and can be found online here. There were so many things wrong with this cake that I almost didn't bother doing a post about it! However, it's flavour was wonderful, which almost made up for all the things which went wrong. I say 'almost' because, if  I can't work out what went wrong, I won't be making it again, as it was quite an expensive cake to make.

So, what went wrong?
  • the cake took 10 minutes longer to cook than the longest time that the recipe suggested
  • it didn't rise much
  • although it eventually tested as properly cooked, the cake sank in the middle as it cooled; however the area immediately beneath the dip didn't really look under-baked, just a little moist from the drizzle used
  • the texture was stodgy, rather than just moist, perhaps because the cake hadn't risen properly
  • despite seeming stodgy, the cake was also quite fragile - slices crumbled easily when handled
I have to confess that I made one change to the recipe - I didn't have white spelt flour so used a 50:50 mix of wholemeal spelt and plain wheat flour. 

The cake ingredients were:
190g unsalted butter
190g white spelt flour
2 large eggs
2tsp baking powder
3 lemons - zest of all 3 and juice of 1
180ml maple syrup

After beating the butter until it is soft and creamy, all the other ingredients are beaten in until well blended. The batter is then transferred to a large (900g/2lb) loaf tin and the cake is baked for 35-40 minutes at 180C/Gas 4. (Or 50 minutes, in my case!)

When the cake is cooked, and while it is still hot, it is pricked with a skewer and drizzled with 70g of caster sugar mixed with the juice and zest of 1 lemon. The cake is then cooled completely in the tin. The magazine recipe also makes candied lemon slices to decorate the top, but I didn't get to that stage.

So, why did things go wrong? I'm not sure under-baking was a factor, as the central part of the cake, under the dip, didn't look or taste as if it wasn't cooked. I think what might have happened is that the acidity of the lemon and the maple syrup affected the efficiency of the baking powder, possibly causing the carbon dioxide to be released too quickly. This could perhaps be overcome by adding a little more alkali, in the form of baking soda, to balance the acidity. This theory seems to be borne out by the fact that three recipes I found online, all using a large amount of maple syrup, added half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda along with the baking powder.

I'm going to give this cake one more attempt, trying to get hold of white spelt flour and adding bicarbonate of soda, as the combination of lemon and maple syrup gave such a great flavour. If that doesn't solve the problems I'll have to give up - a cake using 180ml maple syrup is too expensive to keep experimenting with!

Friday, 13 January 2017

Chocolate-orange Brownies

At this time of year we are bombarded with recipes for using up Christmas leftovers. In my opinion, there's no such thing as leftover chocolate - after all, it's not like fresh food that must be used quickly. However, in the aftermath of Christmas, and with stores wanting to sell off excess seasonal stock to make room for Easter eggs, there's often an opportunity to pick up something you wouldn't usually buy, at a really good price. I got two 125g bags of Terry's Chocolate Orange Minis with Toffee Crunch for less than £1, and bought them with the intention of using them in a batch of brownies (after a taste test, of course!).

I made my usual recipe but scaled it up to a larger tin, so that there were enough brownies for everyone to take some home with them after a New Year's Eve family meal. Adding milk chocolate pieces made the brownies a lot sweeter than those I usually make but I love the orange flavour that Terry's use in Chocolate Oranges, so I thought they were delicious! The toffee crunch which was quite noticeable when eating the chocolate pieces didn't really stand up to being baked - perhaps it melted - but as I was only intent on getting the orange flavour, it didn't really matter.

Ingredients
200g butter
200g plain chocolate (at least 60% cocoa solids)
450g light muscovado sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs
250g plain flour
4 tablespoons cocoa
200g milk chocolate-orange pieces, roughly chopped

Method
Pre-heat oven to 180C and line a 12 x 8" baking tin (30 x 20cm ) with parchment.
Melt the butter and sugar together in a large bowl, over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, and if necessary allow to cool to lukewarm.
Add the sugar and stir to dissolve, then add the vanilla extract.
Beat in the eggs one at a time.
Sift in the flour and cocoa and fold in, then fold in the chocolate pieces.
Transfer the batter to the baking tin, spread evenly and bake for 30 - 40 minutes, depending on how squidgy you like your brownies to be. (I usually bake until a test probe comes out with a few damp crumbs sticking to it, but I think I over-baked this batch a little!)
Cool in the tin before cutting into however many pieces you prefer - I usually cut this size tin of brownies into 24 squares.

Note added 26th January: As I haven't done any other chocolate baking this month, I'm adding these to January's We Should Cocoa link-up over at Tin and Thyme. Choclette now accepts any recipe containing chocolate in her monthly round-up, rather than setting a theme.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Mincemeat and Cranberry Shortbread Squares

Another outing for the traybake recipe that I consider one of the best I've tried. It's from Sue Lawrence's book 'On Baking'. I regard the dough for this recipe as perfect because it is light and crisp, keeps well and is easily made. The same dough is used for the base and the topping too which is an extra bonus. I haven't tried it with a fresh fruit filling yet, but it's worked really well with the variations of dried fruit fillings that I've tried.

This time I made the filling with a mix of two different mincemeats (it's too long an explanation as to why I had two jars open), and the remains of a small jar of cranberry sauce which had been opened for the Christmas turkey. Because one of the mincemeats was quite sloppy, and I wasn't sure how the cranberry sauce would react to heat, I added half a teaspoon of ground rice to thicken any excess liquid.

Ingredients
Filling:
270g mincemeat
80g cranberry sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground rice

Shortbread dough:
170g SR flour
170g semolina
170g butter
85g caster sugar

Method
Preheat the oven to 190C and line a 8"(20cm) square shallow baking tin with baking parchment, bringing the parchment up the sides of the tin too.
Mix the filling ingredients together.
In a small pan, melt the butter and sugar together, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Pour the warmed mixture onto the flour and semolina, in a large bowl, and mix in thoroughly with a fork.
Once all the ingredients are well blended, put 2/3 of the crumbly dough into the baking tin. Spread evenly and press down firmly.
Spread  the filling over the base, leaving a small margin around the edges. Crumble the rest of the dough over the top - you don't need to get full coverage, a few gaps are attractive - and press down lightly.
Bake for 25 - 30 minutes until the top is becoming golden brown around the edges.
Mark into squares or fingers while still warm, but cool completely before removing from tin - the squares are very fragile while warm.

Obviously, the flavour of these squares will depend to some extent on the mincemeat used (whether it had alcohol, nuts, lots of spice, unusual ingredients etc). I found that the taste of the cranberry sauce dominated my mincemeat, which made the squares quite tart and fruity.

This recipe is a really quick way of getting something very similar to mincepies, with a lot less work! Leave out the cranberry sauce if you don't have any and increase the mincemeat, or try adding marmalade instead.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Chocolate Tart

This is an early Jamie Oliver recipe, from The Naked Chef, which I think was published in 1999. It's fairly heavy on sugar, but doesn't taste too sweet because of the large amount of cocoa in the chocolate filling. Adding golden syrup helps the filling bake to a rich fudgy texture, similar to a very rich brownie.

You need a pre-baked shortcrust pastry tart shell, a maximum of 25cm(10") in diameter. I make my own sweet shortcrust pastry and use a 23cm (9") fluted shallow tart tin, but a bought pastry case is OK too.

Filling Ingredients
140g unsalted butter
150g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
8 tablespoons cocoa
pinch salt
4 large eggs
200g caster sugar
3 tablespoons golden syrup
3 heaped tablespoons sour cream/creme fraiche

Preheat oven to 150C or 130C fan
Melt the butter, chocolate, cocoa and salt together in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir to mix thoroughly. Remove from heat.
In a separate large bowl, mix the eggs and sugar until thick and creamy, then stir in the golden syrup and cream.
Stir the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture until well blended, then carefully pour the batter into the pastry case, filling the case as full as possible.

(If you've used a case which is less than 25cm in diameter you will have some chocolate mixture left over, but this can be poured into two or three shallow ramekins and baked alongside the tart.)

Bake for 35 - 45 minutes until the mixture feels firm in the centre. My 23cm tart cooked in 35 minutes, but the recipe suggests a bit longer for the bigger size.
Cool for at least 45 minutes before serving. I serve at room temperature, dusted with icing sugar. There's no need to refrigerate any leftovers.