4 November 2017

Vegan Meringues

IMG_5427

Since Bip and I made Gingersnap nuts with chilli and came across the ingredient aquafaba, I've been wanting to try and make vegan meringues. At one point I saved some of the kidney bean liquid when I was making Chilli Con Carne and just tried whisking it into stiff peaks. It took ages, as I had quite a lot of it and it was reddish in colour, but eventually I got there, which was very promising. It was also reasonably late in the evening, so I binned it and went to bed.

But when Lundulph asked me to make him some hummus, I dug out the cans with no salt and saved the liquid and also found a recipe to follow and got to work.

I adjusted the recipe amounts to what fit with what I got out of one of the tins.

Ingredients

140 ml liquid from canned chick peas, unsalted
¼ tsp cream of tartar
170 g caster sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract<

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 100 °C and line a couple of sheets with baking paper.
  2. Place the liquid in a large glass or metal bowl and whisk. Add the cream of tartar and with an electric whisk, whip until it reaches soft peak stage.
  3. Slowly add the caster sugar, while still whisking until reaching the stiff peak stage, finally adding the vanilla extract.
  4. Place the meringue in a piping bag and pipe meringues onto the baking paper.
  5. Depending on the size, bake for 90 min - 2 h until they come away from the baking parchment easily.
  6. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack and allow to cool down completely.

I also used this opportunity to try out a technique for creating really colourful meringues by painting stripes on the inside of the piping bag before placing the meringue into it. I didn't have brushes, so I used the flat handles of my desert spoons and my collection of gel food colours. The result was really good and I was surprised that it worked so well.

The meringues took 2 h to bake fully, double that of egg white based meringues. They were also harder than regular ones and tasted a bit different, though this could have been my food colours, I did use a lot in the piping bag. The vegan meringues did hold quite well and tasted better on the second day, while still being a bit harder than what I'd expect from a regular meringue, so would be good for more structural pieces.

I stored the meringues in an airtight box and they didn't get soggy at all for the whole week they lasted.

8 October 2017

Green Fig Jam

After many years of looking rather miserable, our little fig shrub finally produced a reasonable number of figs this year and I was looking forward to trying my hand at fig jam. I counted 33 tiny figs.

IMG_5425

Of course the Summers aren't sufficiently long and hot for the fruit to ripen, so I searched for what one could do with unripened figs and found a Bulgarian recipe that seemed compelling. The original article is here and is in Bulgarian and very random in the amounts of the recipe, so no wonder it didn't work out at all. I don't want to throw it away though and I've no idea how to use it up either, so it'll remain in the fridge for now.

IMG_5421

I can't remember what goes for picking ripe figs, but when it comes to green/unripe ones, they need to be cut and they release a lot of white substance, which is said to be quite an irritant to the skin and difficult to wash off. So I used gloves to harvest them. That milky substance was sticky.

IMG_5422

Because the jam recipe was so poor, I'm not going to even attempt to write it up with corrections, but I want to mention the bit that I really liked about this recipe - the addition of whole almonds, pushed into each fig, "à la grecque" or Greek style. This is a really nice idea for when making jam with whole fruit and when I find a good recipe for that, I'll give it a try again.

IMG_5424

25 August 2017

Knäckebröd Pizza

Lundulph has become seriously addicted to Swedish crispbread and he's quite right, it is very tasty. And like many Swedes who live abroad, we as well as all our guests from Sweden bring packets and packets of crispbread. And on one of the packet, there was a recipe idea of using a round of crispbread as a pizza base. We almost missed it, because it was in such a small font, we thought it might be the ingredients and nutritional listing.

IMG_5404

One thing to note is that many of the Swedish crispbreads have one side on which the bread was baked and which is reasonably flat. Then there is the other side, which has deep holes in it - this is the Sunday side. Monday to Saturday, you butter the flat side, but on Sunday you butter the Sunday side, so you get more butter. Not sure how true this is, but I like it either way.

Ingredients

1 round of crispbread
100 g fiery chilli pesto
1 handful of sweetcorn
1 handful of canned mushrooms
½ roast pepper cut into small thin strips
thinly sliced pepperoni
black olives

IMG_5398 IMG_5399
IMG_5400 IMG_5401

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200 °C and place a large piece of baking paper on an oven rack and place the crispbread round on it with the Sunday side up.
  2. Spread the pesto over the round going all the way to the edges.
  3. Sprinkle the sweetcorn, mushrooms and roast peppers, then cover everything with the pepperoni. Finish with a few olives.
  4. Bake in the oven until the pepperoni slices shrink, but before they start looking dry, then remove, cut and eat.

In the baking, the crispbread soaks up some of the liquid and fat from the toppings and goes a bit chewy yet doesn't disintegrate and one round is just about right for two people. Very easy and tasty.

Lundulph says it's not as nice as real pizza, but was nice enough.

Also, in the photo of the ready pizza, it looks like the edges have been blackened - this is the pesto that went black, I baked it for a touch too long. I did better in the second one I did, but didn't take a photo of it.

16 August 2017

Cinnamon Pear Cake

During one of my rummagings through my recipe collection, I came across this recipe, which I carefully set aside for when pears would be in season and I could harvest some of the lovely pears of Lundulph's parents' tree.

IMG_5395

Ingredients

Batter
1½ tsp baking powder
3½ dl plain flour
150 g unsalted butter at room temperature
2 dl caster sugar
3 large eggs
½ dl plain yoghurt

Filling
1 dl dark muscovado sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp freshly ground cardamom
2 firm but sweet pears

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 175 °C. Butter and flour a large gugelhupf cake tin (25 cm diameter).
  2. Stir together the baking powder and flour in a bowl.
  3. In another, larger bowl, cream together butter and sugar, then whisk until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time and whisk in to incorporate fully before adding the next.
  5. Sift the flour mixture into the batter and add the yoghurt and stir through to mix thoroughly.
  6. Spoon carefully into the gugelhupf tin, making sure it's evenly distributed and level.
    IMG_5391
  7. In a small bowl, stir together the muscovado sugar, cinnamon and cardamom.
  8. Wash and peel the pears, trim the stalk and cut into four wedges. Remove the seed core. If the pieces are too long, trim the thin parts to make them roughly the same length as the depth of the batter.
  9. Roll each pear piece into the muscovado mixture and push into the cake batter, space the 8 wedges evenly. The pears can stick out a cm or two above the surface.
    IMG_5392
  10. Sprinkle any leftover muscovado mixture on top of the cake.
    IMG_5393
  11. Bake the cake in the oven for 45 minutes, check with a skewer if it's ready before removing, but careful not to pierce a pear.
    IMG_5394
  12. Remove from the oven and let cool down a bit in the tin before turning out onto a cooling rack, but still leaving the tin over it.
  13. The cake can be lightly dusted with icing sugar when serving.

This is a really tasty cake, I ended up making it twice in quick succession. There are two tricky bits to it - choosing suitable pears, that are sweet, but reasonably firm and not too juicy and pushing the pears in so that they'll end up in the middle of each slice of cake. I didn't succeed on either of these. The first cake had pears that weren't quite ripe enough, so there was a crunch to them and not much flavour. The second cake used riper pears, but this resulted in them going quite mushy in the bake, so I need to do more research on pears suitable for baking. And I also failed on the second point:

IMG_5397

Lundulph wanted to have a stronger pear flavour too, but all in all, very tasty.

5 August 2017

Vietnamese Salad Rolls

We recently went to Australia and while at Brisbane Airport early in the morning of our return, Lundulph and I went our separate ways to hunt for breakfast. The food court we were in, didn't seem to cater much for breakfast. While Lundulph ended up queueing at three different food outlets just to put together something in the vicinity of a sandwich and a tea, I marched straight to the corner where the Vietnamese street food outlet was located and bought a lovely looking roll thingy with tofu and greens and opted for a spicy Hoisin sauce to go with it.

IMG_5389 IMG_5390

This turned out to be a revelation and a flood of ideas in my head for various fillings. So nice and fresh and filling and no guilty feelings of gobbling an unhealthy item!

Therefore, I set off for my two nearest supermarkets and their "special ingredients" sections, only to find disappointment - there was no rice paper to be found. Luckily there are a couple of Asian food markets in my nearest town, so as the heat wave kicked off in the South East of England, I armed myself with a Frappucino and went in search of rice paper. I struck gold in the second of the two shops and bought two packets, just to be on the safe side.

I'd also bought several fresh herbs that I like - basil, tarragon, dill, mint and chives. And a packet of stir-fry veg because it's a good mix of things and cut at the right size; some ready cooked and peeled king prawns for Lundulph and halloumi for myself. I'd also been to my local Pick-Your-Own and brought home a back of broad beans. So I searched on google about how to fold the rolls and got to work, following one of the many the instructions available.

After de-podding the broad beans, I fried them with a little butter and salt. I cut the halloumi into slices and fried in the same pan as the broad beans, then cut into strips and had everything else ready. Using my large pie dish, I half-filled it with room-temperature water. Using a large chopping board as base, I dampened the surface about the size of one of the rice paper rounds. I then dipped one of the rounds into the pie dish and "massaged" it a bit to get it pliable - this took only a few seconds. Then quickly onto the damp circle on the chopping board, line up a selection of the broad beans, stir-fry veg and herbs, then fold. For Lundulph, I lined up 3 prawns on per roll, and for me a couple of halloumi sticks for me. Then a couple of chives before completing the final fold of each roll.

It's good to work reasonably fast in putting the rolls together, or the rice paper wrappers will tear I found, so no photos of the folding process. I also found that the rolls would happily stick together, so I tried to keep them in one row only and not touching too much. I covered them with cling film and kept in the fridge until lunch. Lundulph and I ate 4 rolls each and Lundulph was surprised at how filling they were. At which point I realised that they were also very low carb, since I'd not used any rice or noodles inside. This of course made it difficult to dip and we ended up using tea spoons to drizzle sauce instead.

For dipping, I'd bought a ginger-chilli sauce and a Hoisin sauce and we also tried a satay sauce as well. Lundulph liked the ginger-chilli sauce best, while the Hoisin worked best for my spring rolls with the salty halloumi. We tried the satay sauce, but weren't too impressed with it in this instance.

Some further googling has revealed a lot of other ideas for rice paper wrappers that I'd love to try.

30 July 2017

Georgian Inspired Coconut Macaroons

During my Sister Bip's visit this year, we went to the beautiful estate of Petworth. We've visited before, but only the park. This time we planned ahead and went early, so were also able to go into the house as well. Most interesting for me were the kitchens, which were set up the way they were in the Georgian era and there were a number of ladies dressed up and demonstrating various activities that would have been done then. Very exciting, because they were baking different biscuits and were also giving out recipes, so I quickly grabbed one.

IMG_5388

From the four recipes, the one I had all the ingredients for was the coconut macaroons, so that's the one I made to take into work the following day. So it was quite good that although the recipe stated it would make 24, I got 36 of these.

Ingredients

4 large egg whites
115 g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
&188; tsp salt
170 g desiccated coconut
100 g dark chocolate for decoration

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 °C and line a couple of baking sheets with baking paper.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites, sugar, vanilla extract and salt to stiff peaks stage of a meringue.
  3. Carefully fold in the coconut to distribute it evenly within the meringue.
  4. Using two tablespoons, make quenelles of about 3 cm length and place onto the baking sheets, allowing some 5 cm space between them.
  5. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes until they go golden on top and look dry on the surface.
  6. Remove from the oven, let cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet, the carefully transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
  7. When all macaroons have cooled completely, melt the dark chocolate. It's not necessary to temper the choclate.
  8. Place in a small piping bag, cut a tiny hole then pipe over all the macaroons and let set.
  9. Store the macaroons in an airtight container, layered between pieces of baking paper.

These turned out very similar to the Swedish coconut tops I've made before, but a variant without yolks. However, these were very sticky. Tasty none the less and although the chocolate wasn't in the recipe leaflet, it did make them even nicer.

I actually piped the mixture, but this didn't work very well, as the meringue reverted back to liquid and separated somewhat, so the macaroons became runnier towards the end. I've added a note about this at the bottom on the leaflet with an exclamation mark. I've also written to use a silicone mat rather than baking paper. I do have one, but I don't think I've ever used it, I'll need to see if I can find it.

IMG_5384

Lundulph and I shared one of these, the rest I packed up and took to work on my first day of my new job. They were popular despite their stickiness and Lundulph was a bit sad that there weren't any left over for him.

21 July 2017

Rhubarb Harvest

After much procrastination about what to do with this year's rhubarb harvest, I finally got some motivation for it when I was asked to bake a cake for a barbecue we'd been invited to in late July. After searching for some ideas on decorations on the internet, I decided to go for this one. Unfortunately I didn't opt to follow the actual recipe, just for the look at the top of the cake.
IMG_5379

For the filling, I wanted to do something with jelly. Now I'm really not confident about using gelatine, I usually get it wrong and this time my Sister Bip insisted that I make it vegetarian friendly, so we bought agar flakes to try out.

The cake itself was my usual sponge recipe:

Ingredients

50 g unsalted butter
3 dl plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs
2 dl caster sugar
1 dl single cream

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 175 °C and butter and four a springform cake tin of 20 cm diameter.
  2. Melt the butter on low heat and leave to cool.
  3. Sift together the flour and baking powder.
  4. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until very pale and fluffy.
  5. Slowly whisk in the flour, alternating with the cream.
  6. Finally fold in the melted butter, then pour the batter into the cake tin and bake for about 35 minutes.

As it would be a large party, I made two of these, where I sliced a couple of rhubarb stalks lengthwise and placed on top of one of the cakes and sprinkled some caster sugar before baking it.
P7201300

Once both cakes were baked, I started on the rhubarb. I chose this recipe from the BBC, it seemed nice and simple.

Ingredients

750 g rhubarb stalks
150 g caster sugar
1 dl orange juice
4 dl water
agar flakes

Method

  1. Trim, wash and dice the rhubarb stalks. Prepare a sieve with double layers of cheese cloth inside it and stand over a bowl.
  2. Place the rhubarb in a thick-bottomed saucepan together with the sugar, orange juice and water and bring to the boil.
  3. Simmer for 10 minutes, then strain the mixture, making sure it's all dripped through. You may have to help a bit with a spoon to push it through. Do not discard the remaining rhubarb.
  4. Measure up the amount of liquid from the rhubarb and work out how many tablespoons of agar flakes are required to set it.
  5. I wanted two layers of rhubarb jelly, so I divided the liquid into two and made one at a time, following the instructions on the agar flake packet and then pouring into a shallow dish of the right diameter for the cake. I lined it with cling film, to make sure I'd be able to get it out.
  6. The agar flakes set quite quickly, compared to gelatine, but still allowed enough time to do everything without rushing.

I think the rhubarb jelly set a bit too hard. The packet said to increase the amount of flakes somewhat if setting acidic fruit and I thought rhubarb would be acidic, so I followed this recommendation. What I should have done is to experiment first and make adjustments. But I skipped this because I wasn't sure I'd have enough rhubarb liquid for the two layers.

For the middle filling of the cake, I wanted to use custard, again inspired by the rhubarb tea cake. But I decided to buy ready made fresh custard, rather than make my own. This was quite runny, so I added some agar flakes to set it, but it seems I didn't add enough or they didn't dissolve well or something, because I didn't get the consistency I was aiming for. I wasn't able to find any useful guidance on the internet either.

To make sure the cake wasn't too dry, I made a light sugar syrup.

Ingredients

1¼ parts caster sugar
2 parts water

Method

  1. Place the sugar and water in a thick-bottomed pan and bring to the boil on low heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves.
  2. Simmer for 1 minute, then remove from the heat and leave to cool

I cut each of the two cakes in half and as I built up the layers, I brushed a little syrup. Sadly I was worried I'd over-do it and ended up not using enough, so it wasn't noticeable and was quite dry. Must remember to be braver. The term for this is "imbibing" and that should give some indication of the amounts required.

So, bottom sponge, then a layer of the rhubarb jelly, then a second sponge, then the custard, then a third sponge, then another rhubarb jelly, then finally the decorated top sponge.
IMG_5378

Sadly the rhubarbs got engulfed during the baking, possibly I should have made them thinner and a bit shorter so they could rise along with the cake surface. I think they got stuck together, so the sponge just rose around them.

Overall the cake didn't look too pretty and didn't taste too nice either, mostly down to the dryness and the texture of the parts. But I think the idea was sound overall.

Now for the remaining squeezed out rhubarb pulp - I had a packet of filo pastry in the freezer and I wanted to try and make what Lundulph terms Rhubarbnik (to match the Bulgarian pumpkin pie tikvenik). And I had custard to spare too.

So I cut the filo pastry into rectangular strips and piped some rhubarb pulp and some custard, then rolled up, brushed with butter and baked until golden brown.

IMG_5380 IMG_5381
IMG_5382

These turned out very nice, but again the custard was just too thin and I couldn't be bothered to try and thicken it either, so it oozed out sadly. I think that perhaps wrapping like samosas might work better here. Or I could have just added more rhubarb to the pulp and made jam again, that usually goes down well.