Sunday 1 February 2009

Trio of Miniature Fruity Desserts for a Special Birthday Celebration

My mum celebrated a very special birthday in January and rather than have a huge party with everyone she knows, she decided it would be nicer to have a series of celebratory dinners or outings with her different circles of friends and family. One of her wishes was to have a dinner party with 8 of her (and my dads) oldest friends. Rather than let her slave over her own birthday dinner, my sister and I volunteered to cook the meal for her in exchange for freedom over the menu and keeping it a secret until they were sitting round the table. She was more than happy to that suggestion and so the fun and whispered discussions began. First we planned the main course, and wanting to make sure we made something that suited everyone we sent round an email to the guests asking if there were any foods they didn’t like. It’s a good thing we did as here is an example of the feedback we got “carrots, lamb, salmon, shellfish, mushrooms, green veg, beetroot, anchovies, smelly cheese and cabbage.” Oh well, that was the lamb, prawn and beetroot stew out the window then ;)

We decided to do two main courses in the end, to ensure there would be something for everyone. We chose Oriental Chicken by Delia Smith that was marinated in a sticky fragrantly spiced sauce and a Pork, Bean and Chorizo Stew that was in the winter BBC Good Food magazine. It caught my eye as it was a recipe for 10 people which was just what we were after. We decided to make a huge batch of rice and serve it with chanterelle carrots, tender stem broccoli, French beans and ciabatta for dipping so people could pick and choose and those wanting to avoid carrots etc could do so. My sisters boyfriend R also agreed to come dressed up and be the butler for the evening which meant that with 10 guests, the three of us and my brother who was hiding in the side lines we were really having to cook enough food for 14 people and as we didn’t know who would want which dish, we cooked enough for 10 servings of each, so really we could have fed 20!! We had to do a last minute dash to my grandparents to borrow some of their saucepans as we didn’t have enough large ones to cook all the veg in.

We decided against a starter and instead did a variety of canapés for people to nibble on while sipping Kir Royal (Chamapigne and Crème de Cassis mixed) on arrival. We did blinis with crème fraiche and smoked salmon or green olive and coriander tapenade for the salmon haters. As well as some homemade Parma ham puff pastry twists, mini Thai poppadoms with a chili, cream cheese and coriander dip and spiced nuts.

I’m the baker of the family and so the dessert was left up to me, although my sister did of course give her opinions. We decided that elegant miniature desserts were the way to go. I wanted to give a choice and so came up with the idea of doing two different dessert trios – with either a chocolate or a fruity trio option, but with similar components on each. I only realised later this meant I had to make six different desserts – I can’t resist a challenge! Then cheese, grapes, crackers and chutney to finish with coffee and chocolates.

We were having the party on a Saturday and my sister was working away from home all week which meant it was up to me to shop for and buy all the food, some of the drinks and serving dishes etc. You should have seen the three page shopping list I took with me to Tesco’s – 20 chicken thighs, 2kg carrots, 3kg pork etc. I was having to swing my whole body along with the trolley to try and get it to turn corners by the end, good thing a small child didn’t run into my path or else they might have been crushed. I have never done a shop like it but it was rather thrilling! It then didn’t all fit in the boot of my car – it’s only small. Once home I then realised I had to try and not only find fridge space for all the food, but I had to try and hide most of it too as we were keeping the menu a secret. I ended up hiding some things too well and it was a game of hunt the crackers for the cheese during the evening (they were behind some books on the bookshelf – obvious place for them really!)

I wanted to serve the desserts on flat plates and I knew I wanted the desserts to all be individual and miniature and spent a while browsing through all the shops in town looking for suitable plates and serving dishes. Every time I thought I had found something I liked they never had 10 of them. I was thinking of serving some mini crème brulees in tiny glass bowls but when I found some plain white egg cups I knew I had to use those – they were just perfect. Do you know what we used as plates in the end for the desserts? Bathroom floor tiles! My parents redecorated their bathroom a couple of years ago and we still had two packs of spare tiles tucked away in the garage. They were a little on the large side, but nicely flat, quite neutral and when washed and polished they did the job perfectly.

So without further ado here are the recipes for the fruity dessert trio which comprised of a mini lemon tart served with a butterfly tuile courtesy of this months Daring Bakers challenge, an almond and blueberry frangipane square which was topped with a small blob of ice cream and an egg cup crème brulee! It’s a shame he photos are a bit poor, it was dark by the time we got round to serving dessert. See back soon for the chocolate trio.

Mini Lemon Tart
Recipe adapted from Delia Smiths Winter Collection
2 lemons
2 eggs
60g caster sugar
70ml double cream
10 – 12 mini sweet shortcrust pastry cases (see below)

Preheat the oven to 180C.
Grate the zest from the lemons and set to one side.
Beat the eggs and sugar together until combined but you don’t want them to thicken, so don’t overbeat.
Add the juice from the lemons and the lemon zest.
Finally gently beat in the double cream.
Divide between the 10-12 mini pastry cases and bake for 12-15 minutes until set.
Leave to cool before serving. I served mine with a butterfly tuile biscuit from the January Daring Bakers challenge.

Sweet shortcrust pastry
Recipe from Bake by Rachel Allen
200g plain flour
1tbsp icing sugar
100g cold butter
1 medium egg

Put the flour, icing sugar and butter into a food processor and pulse gently until the mix starts to resemble chunky crumbs.
Beat the egg and add half to the flour mix, blitz again, adding more egg until the crumbs begin to stick together but it is still crumbly in texture.
Pour the pastry mix onto a large square of clingfilm, gather the film together and squeeze the pastry into a dough. Flatten slightly and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Roll out the pastry until around 3mm thick (Rachel suggests between two sheets of clingfilm to avoid adding extra flour).
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Cut out circles of pastry and press into miniature tart tins. Trim off any excess. Chill for a further 30 minutes.
Lay a small square of clingfilm on top of the pastry tins and fill each cavity with baking beans or rice. Gather the clingfilm around it to use as a weight.
Bake in the oven for 12 minutes, then remove the rice weight and bake for a further 8-10 minutes until golden and crisp.
Set aside until ready to use.
Makes 20 mini tart cases or one 20cm tin.

Blueberry & Almond Frangipane
110g butter
110g caster sugar
2 eggs
50g self raising flour
60g ground almonds
½ tsp almond extract
½ tsp baking powder
100g fresh blueberries

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line an 8inch/20cm baking tin and set aside.
Beat the butter and sugar together until smooth. Beat in the eggs and almond extract.
Add the flour, ground almonds and baking powder and beat until well incorporated.
Spread the batter into the cake tin and scatter the blueberries over the top (they will sink to the bottom during baking).
Bake for 22-25 minutes until risen, golden brown and springy to the touch.
Leave to cool for 10 minutes before inverting onto a cooling rack. Leave bottom side up – as this will show off the blueberries.
Cut into squares or rectangles and serve with a small scoop of ice cream.

Mini Egg Cup Crème Brulees
Recipe adapted from Delia Smith
4 egg yolks
3tsp cornflour
1½ tbsp caster sugar
380ml double cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
120g caster sugar for the caramel

Put the cream into a small saucepan and allow to heat gently until just beginning to simmer.
Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks, sugar, vanilla and cornflour together until well combined.
When the cream is hot, slowly pour over the egg yolk mixture, whisking all the time.
Whisk to ensure it is smooth and then, pass the mix through a sieve back into the pan.
Stir constantly over a low heat until the mixture starts to thicken. DO NOT allow to boil or it will split.
When the custard coats the back of a spoon, remove from the heat and immediately divide between the egg cups or other moulds, filling nearly to the top.
Allow to cool before covering with cling film and refrigerating for at least 4 hours.
Shortly before serving, place the sugar into a small saucepan and heat gently until the sugar has melted and a golden caramel has formed. Shake the pan from time to time, but do not stir during the melting stage.
When melted, spoon or carefully pour a layer of caramel over the top of each custard. Allow to stand for 1 minute to set before serving.
Makes 12 egg cup crème brulees.
If making bigger crème brulees in ramekins, then you can scatter the sugar for the caramel over the top of the custards and caramelise under the grill or with a blowtorch if you prefer.


Snooky doodle said...

wow surely its a challenge planning a whole menu and making desserts too. all the desserts look awesome and the butterfly tuiles looks so so cute. you re awesome!

Beth (jamandcream) said...

I love the lemon tart. Sounds like you did a great job. Can't wait for the chocolate installment

Lisa said...

Whoa. I mean, seriously, whoa. I am so jealous that you were able to do all this without spontaneously combusting. Although I have mad love for the desserts, please, please, please divluge the secret to Thai poppadums because I am wanting one so badly right now, even though I'm drawing a complete blank at what it could be. (It's Super Bowl Sunday here, I've had more than a few beers by now so everything is very fuzzy). :)

Love your blog.

Johanna GGG said...

what a labour of love - hope you dropped lots of hints for your mum to make it fun for her! and was wondering if you had a large enough table! the logistics of preparing for a lot of people is quite a challenge and I loved hearing how you did it

Gigi said...

What a wonderful birthday gift for your mom! The desserts look fabulous Katie!

The Caked Crusader said...

what pretty little desserts - it's an approach I'm yet to try (too gluttonous!) but it certainly looks beautiful

Rosie said...

What a great feat Katie a whole menu and making desserts!! I adore the little mini lemon pies but everything else looks amazing too!!

Rosie x

KJ said...

Wow what a great job. Such a challenge. I love you lemon tarts!!

Eva said...

Wow, that's truly impressive! I'm usually quite stressed already when cooking for eight people and then everyone has to eat the same stuff!

Nic said...

Beautiful! Happy birthday to your mum!

Anonymous said...

Such a nice thing to do for your mum. Serving brulees in tiny egg cups is a great idea.

Maggie said...

How proud your Mum must be to have such beautifully presented desserts for her special occasion.

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