Monday, 19 January 2015

Salted Caramel Pretzel Chocolate Doughnuts

Listening to: Serial- A journalist becomes obsessed (in her own words) with the murder of a teenage girl in Baltimore in 1999. Her ex boyfriend has been convicted of her murder but has maintained his innocence since his imprisonment at 17. Thorough research and excellent journalism results in an utterly intriguing podcast series detailing her investigation. I have never really gotten into podcasts, but Serial demonstrates how effective they can be when done properly. While baking, on the way to work, cleaning the house, chilling out with a cup of coffee. I'm hooked on Serial!

Raving about: The Walworth Farce at the Olympia theatre - I don't go to the theatre enough. So compelling, so intense, dark and bitter and sweet and funny. Brilliantly executed with thrilling performances from the Gleeson family. What are we if not our stories? I think all the weekend shows are sold out but if you are around Dublin and free on a week day definitely go. If you don't believe me listen to what Aaron Paul had to say when he saw it this week.
Reading: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves - Don't read too many reviews of this, all you need to know is that this a story about family, laced with humour, deft observations and interesting nougats of psychology. Short listed for the Man Booker prize, this is one of my favourite books in a long time. 

Eating: Baked Doughnuts! I am a foodie fad follower and when baked doughnuts started cropping up on my favourite blogs I knew I had to get a baked doughnut pan. They don't cost very much but you will need to go to a specialist kitchen shop. The possibilities are endless, but where better to start then chocolate and salted caramel frosting! The crushed pretzels add a salted crunch. In truth, they aren't much different than cupcakes but they are so much more fun! 

Makes 10 

Adapted from Joy the Baker
1 cup plain flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp finely ground coffee powder (or melt instant granules in a tiny splash of water)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
25g milk chocolate, melted
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 egg, slightly beaten
50g butter

For the frosting
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup cream
25g butter
1 tsp coarse salt
1 cup pretzels, crushed
1 cup icing sugar, sieved
3 tablespoons cream

1. Sieve the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, coffee and cinnamon into a big bowl. Add the salt.
2. Heat the butter over a low heat until melted. Continue to heat until the butter begins to crackle and brown. Take off and allow to heat.
3. Spray the doughnut pan with cooking spray or brush with melted butter. Put in the fridge to cool completely.
4. Add the butter, egg and melted chocolate and mix well until completely combined.
5. Heat the oven to 180oC. Only fill the doughnut pan 3/4 full and bake for 12-15 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.
6. Make the frosting. Heat half of the sugar over a low-medium heat watching cautiously. When the sugar has melted sprinkle over the rest in an even layer and allow to melt. Heat for 4-6 minutes until the sugar is copper coloured. Don't allow to get too dark.
7. Add the 1/2 cup cream into the caramel. The mixture might become lumpy, but keep whisking over a low heat until it becomes smooth again.
8. Add the butter and salt and whisk until melted and glossy. Pour into a bowl and allow to cool completely. If there are any lumps, sieve them out.
9. Beat the icing sugar, cream and 3 tablespoons of the salted caramel with an electric whisk until smooth.
10. Crush the pretzels. Spread the doughnuts with the frosting and sprinkle over the pretzels.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Almond and Ginger Bostock

I tried to brainstorm 10 reasons why January is great. That idea quickly got scaled down to 5 reasons why January is not so bad. After three journeys of brainstorming in and out to work I ended up with the following. Think positive! 

A. Normal TV programming is back. Like the little TV junkie I am I need my regular fix. And those sly networks know exactly what they are up to leaving us with tantalising cliffhangers before Christmas. I need my Mindy Project 21 minutes of happy time.
B. Using your Christmas vouchers/gifts. I got a whole slew of great cookbooks this Christmas and January finances mean that I  can get stuck into making and creating great new recipes. 
I also got a baked doughnut pan so my kitchen is being prepped to become doughnutopia. Incessant and obsessive recipe idea googling has already begun. 
Super excited about the three lovely vouchers I have to use over the coming weeks, dinner, afternoon tea and a one day photography course which means I have so much to look forward to! 

C. Longer daylight hours. I hate the short daylight hours so more sunlight as we inch closer to summer is a big bonus for me. In the winter I can't get up at lunchtime on a Saturday, laze around for 2 hours and still go for a nice long walk. I cannot be expected to be motivated until at least 2pm at the weekend. 
D. Award's Season. Who cares who won! It's all about the dresses dresses dresses. Did you see Julianna Moore's dress in the Golden Globes? Uh-mazing.  I want to be buried in that thing. 
E. Less nasty alcohol/food related ickiness. Bank balances and all round do gooders guilting us with their diets and alcohol bans means that most of us have been trying to be good. I for one do not miss the side effects of repeated over indulgence. 
So Bostock is bold. It won't be on any Weight Watchers menus any time soon, but boy is it worth it. Thickly sliced day old brioche is brushed with syrup, covered in sweet almond mixture, sprinkled with flaked almonds and baked until golden. Think of it as proper French toast. You can make your own brioche, but of course you can buy brioche and make this a super quick sweet treat. 
Makes 4 slices
70g ground almonds 
70g icing sugar 
70g butter, softened 
1 egg yolk
2 balls of stem ginger from a jar, finely chopped

25g caster sugar 
25ml water 
one thick slice of fresh ginger 

4 slices slightly stale brioche
25g flaked almonds

1. Beat the icing sugar and butter for 4-5 minutes with an electric beater until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and ground almonds and beat very briefly until the mixture is well combined.
2. Add in the ginger and fold carefully.
3. Put the caster sugar, water and ginger in a small saucepan and boil rapidly for 2 minutes until thickened.
4. Brush the brioche slices liberally with the syrup.
5. Spread thickly with the frangipane and sprinkle with the flaked almonds. Bake at 180oC for 20-25 minutes until golden around the edges.

Friday, 9 January 2015


I made this brioche while dancing around to the new Ben Howard album.... This Jools Holland performance is especially mesmerising. It makes me want to finally learn to play the guitar properly so I can do that cool from-the-top left hand action  (watch the video and you will get it). Great for moody shouty alone time singing.

One of the lyrics of another song Time is Dancing reads 'I am finally colouring inside the lines that I live between'. Check out the album for other such lyrical gems.

Brioche is a weekend baking exercise. With a food processor it is extremely straightforward, but does require a long 8-10 hour rise. Patience reaps rewards though, amazing toasted with butter and jam and also can be used to make bostock, brioche soaked in syrup and covered with frangipane- recipe to follow soon.

From Edd Kimber- Patisserie Made Simple

180g strong white flour
180g plain white flour
20g caster sugar
7g fast action yeast
1 tsp salt
3 eggs, lightly beaten
85ml milk, lukewarm
150g unsalted butter, chilled and diced

1. Mix flours and salt together in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a dough hook.
2. Put milk and yeast together in a jug and mix until the yeast dissolves.
3. Pour the milk and eggs into the flours and mix on a medium speed until the dough comes together. Knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic.
4. Add a piece of butter at a time and beat at a medium speed until well incorporated.
5. Continue to use up all of the butter and beat at a medium speed for 10-15 minutes until the dough comes away from the side of the bowl. The dough will start very sticky, but kneading should bring it together.
6. Put in a clean bowl and cover loosely with clingfilm. Leave for 8-10 hours in the fridge to rise.
7. Take out the dough, punch the air out and tip into a lined 2lb loaf tin.
8. Leave to rise for another 2 hours in a warm place until doubled in size. When risen brush with a little beaten egg yolk for shine.
9. Preheat the oven to 180oC and bake for 20-25 minutes until the loaf is hallow when tapped at the bottom and well browned on top.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Passion Fruit and Chocolate Macarons

Hello! I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas. Reality is slowly starting to worm its way back into our lives, but there is always macarons and brioche and other sweet treats to help us escape our January blues.

Today passion fruit and chocolate ganache is encased in cheetah like shells. I used these as part of my Christmas gift bags, which also included sea salt caramels and grapefruit marshmallows.

Use milk rather than dark chocolate here, as the dark chocolate would be too bitter with the passion fruit and as always with macarons, fill and allow to 'mature' for 24 hours. This will allow the ganache to soften the shells providing a delicious mallowy centre.  

Follow the recipe for the shells here, using a lighter yellow food colouring. Sprinkle the shells lightly with cocoa powder ten minutes before putting into the oven.

For the passion fruit chocolate ganache

8-9 passion fruits
275g milk chocolate (40% chocolate solids)
50g butter, at room temperature and diced

1. Scoop the flesh out of the passion fruits, seeds and all.
2. Blend with a hand held blender for 30 seconds until the seeds are broken down, if not completely.
3. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a small saucepan, removing all the seeds.
4. Heat over a gentle heat until the passion fruit purée is almost boiling.
5. Put the chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of boiling water until it is just starting to melt.
6. Pour over the passion fruit purée and stir clockwise until the ganache is smooth and creamy. If the ganache curdles, add a dash of cold milk and continue to stir.
7. Add the butter one cube at a time and stir until well incorporated and the ganache is glossy.
8. Pour into a clean bowl, cover with clingfilm and allow to cool and thick enough to pipe.
9. Pipe the ganache onto the macarons and sandwich together.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Ile Flottantes

This day last year I was in Paris. After a hearty bean stew full of sausage, bacon and ribs in a bistro beside our hotel that coincidentally happened to be on the Guardian's list of best cheap eats in Paris, we ordered Il Flotantes (translates to Floating Islands) for desert. Served in a shallow enamel dish, it was a curious looking thing. Squares of mallowy meringue drenched in caramel floated on a sweet custard. Simple, homely, stunning.

I can't believe it has taken this long for me to make it at home. It's perfect after a heavy meal and great for those with a simple palette.

From Ed Kimber's  Patisserie Made Simple

For the Custard
400ml full fat milk
100ml single cream
5 egg yolks
80g caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla bean paste or 1 vanilla bean

For the Meringue 
3 egg whites
100g caster sugar
1L semi skimmed milk

For the Caramel 
100g caster sugar

1. For the custard. Heat the cream and milk in a pan with the vanilla bean split lengthways or the vanilla bean paste until almost boiling.
2. Beat the egg yolks and sugar with a whisk in a bowl. Add the hot milk in a continuous stream whisking constantly.
3. Pour back into the saucepan whisking constantly over a gentle heat until the custard thickens to the consistency of single cream- not as thick as traditional custard.
4. Pour into a clean bowl and leave to cool completely in the fridge.
5. For the meringue beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Add the sugar a tablespoon at a time until the meringue is glossy.
6. Put the semi skimmed milk in a large wide saucepan and heat to barely simmering. Using two tablespoons dipped in cold water, shape the meringues into ovals- called quenelles.
7. Slide into the warm milk and cook in batches for around 10 minutes with the lid on, turning them half way through.
8. Take the meringues out with a slotted spoon and leave to drain on kitchen paper.
9. When you are ready to serve, make the caramel. Put half of the sugar in a large saucepan and heat over a low heat until melted. Add the rest of the sugar sprinkling evenly oven the melted sugar. Heat the caramel until medium brown.
10. To serve, ladle the custard into a shallow bowl. Top with two meringue "islands" and drizzle over the caramel sauce.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Cherry and White Chocolate Tiramasu

Let's get Christmassy. It is 6 December and the tree is going up, cheap baubles and all. Let's embrace that warm fuzzy in our stomachs and hit the shops like we are Pretty Woman and Richard Gere just gave us his credit card. There are a few cookbooks on the cards this Christmas and plenty of baking plans. Just part of the fun and excitement.   

White chocolate cherry Tiramasu is a great Christmas dinner party option. Easy to prepare in advance, the red and white colour contrast makes for a stunning visual. You can use jam jars to keep in style with your hipster glasses and brand new 'beat up' boots or tumblers to keep things simple. I used martini glasses for an extra 'ooh' and 'ah' factor, I never pass up an opportunity to pump up the glamour. If you feel you want to keep your martini glasses purely alcohol filled, I appreciate and respect that. 


Adapted from Neven Maguire's Home Chef

For the custard (or buy good quality custard)
3 egg yolks
1/2 tbsp cornflour
1/2 tbsp custard powder
2 tbsp caster sugar
150ml milk
50ml cream

For the cherries
150g fresh cherries pitted and halved
150ml red wine
35g caster sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1star anise
2  tablespoons amaretto or port

For the marscarpone cream
250g marscapone
75g cream
80g white chocolate
4 sponge fingers

1. Make the custard. Beat the egg yolks, caster sugar, cornflour and custard powder in a large bowl.
2. Heat the milk and cream until almost at a boil. Pour the hot milk and cream over the egg yolk mixture whisking constantly.
3. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and whisk constantly over a medium heat until the mixture gets very thick. This could take 5-6 minutes. Pour into a clean bowl and cover the custard with a circle of greaseproof paper to avoid a skin forming.
4. Chop 40g of the white chocolate very finely. Heat 2 tablespoons of the cream in a small bowl in the microwave or a small saucepan until below boiling. Add the chocolate and stir until thoroughly melted. When cool add to the cooled custard.
5. For the cherries, put the red wine, caster sugar, cinnamon stick and star anise in a small pan and bring to the boil. Turn now and simmer with 5 minutes with the lid off until the mixture reduces.
6. Add in the cherries and cook for 5 minutes until slightly tender but holding their shape.
7. Take off the heat and leave to cool.
8. Put two tablespoons of cherries in the bottom of each glass. Break one of the sponge fingers for each glass and place over the cherries sugar side down. Spoon over the red wine mixture until all used up, discarding the cinnamon stick and star anise. Put in the fridge to cool.
9. Grate the white chocolate. Beat the rest of the cream in one bowl until thick. Beat the mascarpone until soft and then fold in the cream and white chocolate.
10. Spoon the mascarpone mixture over the cherry mixture. Top with a sprinkling of cocoa powder and fresh cherries.

Monday, 24 November 2014

English Muffins

It's bright and sunny and cold and I have remembered that I don't completely hate winter now that the torrential rain has passed. In fact I quite like the bundling up ritual, the numb tingle in my nose and the completely valid excuse to batten down the hatches when the dark evenings set in...

This weekend I made English muffins. Perfect for breakfast, excellent at tea time, these muffins are soft and fluffy on the inside with a crunchy exterior thanks to the polenta and a hot frying pan. I recommend eating warm smeared with butter, accompanied by a hot cup of tea. 

Recipe by Paul Hollywood, makes 8

300g strong white flour 
1 tsp salt 
7g sachet of yeast 
1 egg, lightly beaten 
15g caster sugar 
15g butter softed 
170ml milk 
15g polenta, or semolina

1. Put the flour into a large bowl. Add the salt in one side and the yeast in another. Mix well. 
2. Add the butter and rub into the flour until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. 
3. Add the egg and the milk until a soft dough forms. I found that I did not need all the milk. 
4. Smear a very small amount of oil on to the worktop. 
5. Turn out the dough out onto the worktop and knead for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth. 
6. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise for an hour in a warm place until doubled in volume. 
7. Punch the dough to remove the air. Dust half the polenta and flour onto the work surface. Roll out the dough to 2.5cm thick. Using a cutter, stamp out 8 rounds. 
8. Put the rounds on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise for 30 minutes. 
9. Heat a frying pan or a griddle pan to a low heat.
10. Cook the muffins on both sides until dark brown, around 6 minutes either side but keep an eye on them. Leave to cool on a wire rack.