Thursday 29 January 2009

Daring Bakers January Challenge: Tuile Biscuits

This month's challenge is brought to us by Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux.

I was very happy to see this months Daring Bakers challenge was tuiles – dainty and delicate wafer thin biscuits, often served as an accompaniment to desserts. They are quite an unusual biscuit as they are very thin, crisp and fragile, but when immediately out of the oven they are still soft and pliable, meaning they can be bent or shaped into pretty designs. The ‘dough’ (its really a paste) can also be piped or spread through a stencil onto baking trays as they keep their shape perfectly in the oven, meaning small designs and detail are possible.

I have make large curved shaped tuile biscuits in the past, so I was excited about trying a stenciled shape and a piped design with the paste this time. I decided to go with the suggested stencil design, of a butterfly, as the thinness of the biscuit makes for very dainty looking butterfly wings. I used a little thinned cocoa powder for the dots which I added before they went into the oven – which I think finishes them off nicely. It’s best to bake no more than 3 or 4 biscuits at any one time as they start to crisp up the minute you remove them from the oven and if you want to bend each one you have to do this while they are still hot or else they will brake.

After making a few butterflies I put the remaining paste into a piping bag and piped out small squiggles. Why? Well it just so happens that this challenge came at the perfect time. My mum celebrated a very special birthday this month and my sister and I were cooking her and her friends a special meal. I was in charge of dessert and I decided to make a trio of miniature desserts for each person – they had a choice of either a lemon or chocolate based dessert trio and the tuiles made perfect elegant accompaniments. The butterflies were balanced on the side of a lemon tart and the squiggles were the stream on a chocolate mousse I served in espresso cups to look like a coffee. So this challenge couldn’t have come at a better time and they were a hit with the guests!

Below is the recipe for the tuiles and I will be posting the dessert recipes shortly. Don’t forget to click here to see other Daring Bakers tuiles. Thanks Karen and Zorra for a great challenge choice.

Vanilla Tuiles
Recipe from The Chocolate Book by Angelique Schmeinck
65g softened butter
60g sifted icing sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 egg whites
65g plain flour
1tbsp cocoa powder or food colouring for decoration

Preheat the oven to 180C. Using a hand whisk or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle (low speed) cream butter, sugar and vanilla to a paste. Keep stirring while you gradually add the egg whites. Continue to add the flour in small batches and stir to achieve a homogeneous and smooth batter/paste. Be careful to not overmix.Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up. (This batter will keep in the fridge for up to a week, take it out 30 minutes before you plan to use it).
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease with butter and chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. This will help spread the batter more easily if using a stencil/cardboard template such as the butterfly. Press the stencil on the baking sheet and use an off sided spatula to spread batter. Only put 2-4 shapes on each baking tray as they crisp up extremely quickly and you need time to shape them while still hot. Leave some room in between your shapes. Mix a small part of the batter with the cocoa or food dye and a few drops of warm water until evenly colored. Use this colored batter in a paper piping bag and proceed to pipe decorations on the wings and body of the butterfly.
Bake butterflies for about 5-6 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown. Immediately transfer from baking sheet and proceed to shape/bend the cookies in the desired shape. These cookies have to be shaped when still hot so be quick.

If you don’t want to do stencil shapes, you can transfer the batter into a piping bag fitted with a small plain tip. Pipe the desired shapes and bake. Shape immediately after baking using for instance a rolling pin, a broom handle, folded paper etc.
Makes 40 small designs or 20 larger ones

Thursday 22 January 2009

Country Vegetable & Pearl Barley Soup

I had a rustic spelt and vegetable soup when out for lunch recently and loved it so much that I knew I had to try and recreate it. It contained the grain spelt, which I had never eaten in grain form before, only ground as flour in bread, but it had a lovely nutty flavour. I searched the supermarket shelves eagerly, looking for the elusive grain but to no avail. The closet match I could see was pearl barley which looked remarkably similar, and I decided that would have to do. I wanted to keep the rustic appearance of the soup and so diced all the veg to a similar size and then cooked it in vegetable stock with some thyme and chili for extra flavour.

I was curious to see how the pearl barley would turn out, as I admit to never having tasted it before, I’m not sure why. I think its just one of those grains that’s seen as being a bit old fashioned and dare I say it ‘poor’ and as a result it often get bypassed on the shelves in favour of the more fashionable grains such as Arborio rice. However, I tell you all, if you too have been skimming over this humble grain, you’ve been missing out. It had the same nutty flavour as spelt and had a wonderful texture, plump grains with slightly fluffy edges. There was a little bounce to each pearl that sort of popped when you bit into it (sounds odd but you’ll understand what I mean if you try it). Along with all the different veg and the flavoursome stock it really made for a warming and enjoyable lunch. Pearl barley you’re my find of the month – I’ll be using you again soon!

Country Vegetable & Pearl Barley Soup
2 onions
1 courgette
2 medium potatoes
1 leek
3 carrots
½ tin Sweetcorn
100g pearl barley
1 green chili
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 litre vegetable stock
1 tsp dried thyme

Peel and chop the onions, carrots and potatoes into a 2cm dice. Dice the courgette and wash and slice the leek into rounds.
Cut the chili in half, remove the seeds and finely chop.
Heat the vegetable oil in a large pan and then fry the onion until soft.
Add the rest of the diced veg (expect the Sweetcorn), thyme, chili and vegetable stock.
Stir in the pearl barley, bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover with the lid and allow to cook for 45 minutes to 1hour until the veg is tender and the pearl barley plump.
Stir through the Sweetcorn for the final 15 minutes before serving in warmed bowls with crusty bread for dipping.
Serves 6 – 8

Sunday 18 January 2009

Afternoon Tea of Cocoa Chocolate Brownie and Lemon Drizzle Squares

As one of my Christmas presents I got a beautiful tiered cake stand from my aunt. I have always thought they make little cakes and pastries look so elegant when displayed this way. I couldn’t wait to use it and so immediately organised an afternoon tea party with some friends and made some dainty little cakes which I could use on the stand.

I decided to go for a chocolate and a fruity option in order to please all tastes and so made some cocoa chocolate brownies and a lemon drizzle cake which I cut into small bite sized squares. The lemon sponge looked a little plain on its own and so I simply piped a little star of buttercream on top of each one and placed a tiny purple sugar ball in the center which transformed them into pretty little flowers. We had a great afternoon gossiping, catching up on each others news and munching mini cakes. Being mini they have the added bonus that you don’t feel guilty about sampling one or two… ok three of each.

Lemon Drizzle Cake
This sponge is very quick and simple to make and the zingy lemon syrup transforms it from an ordinary sponge into something special.
115g self raising flour
115g butter
115g caster sugar
2 eggs
½ tsp baking powder
Zest of 1 lemon

Juice of 1 lemon
25g caster sugar
1 tbsp water

50g butter
100g icing sugar
Few drops food colouring
Colourful icing balls to decorate

Preheat the oven to 175C. Grease an 8inch/20cm square cake tin and line the base with greaseproof paper.
Simply weigh out all the sponge ingredients into a bowl and beat together with an electric mixer until well combined, creamy and slightly paler in colour.
Spread the cake mix out evenly into the cake tin and bake in the oven for 25 minutes until risen, golden and springy to the touch. Leave the cake in the tin.
Immediately make the syrup. Place all the ingredients into a small saucepan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Then bring to the boil and allow to bubble for 2 minutes until slightly syrupy.
Prick holes all over the top of the still warm cake and drizzle over the lemon syrup.
Leave for an hour to allow all the syrup to absorb before removing from the tin.
To make the icing, beat the butter until smooth, then sift over the icing sugar a tablespoon at a time, and beat until well combined.
Beat in a few drops of food colouring. Put the icing into a piping bag set with a star nozzle.
Cut the cake into 1inch/2.5cm squares and pipe a single blob of icing onto the top of each cake square. Top with a single coloured icing ball to make the icing blobs look like little flowers.
Makes 16 squares.

Cocoa Brownie Squares
(Recipe adapted from Weekend Food by Tamasin Day-Lewis)
These brownies are more of the cakey style brownie than the gooey fudgy kind, but it still has that slightly dense chewy texture and fine sugar crust. They are perfect for when you’re short of time or ingredients as they rely on cocoa powder for their dark chocolate flavour, meaning you don’t have to worry about melting any chocolate.
170g caster sugar
3 eggs
170g butter
50g cocoa powder
65g plain flour
80g chocolate chips or chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease an 8inch/20cm cake tin and line the base with greaseproof paper.
Beat the sugar and eggs together until the eggs have thickened and turned pale in colour.
Melt the butter and pour it over the sugar and egg mixture.
Sieve the cocoa and flour over the top and fold it in using a spatula.
Add chopped nuts or chocolate chips if you wish.
Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for about 22 minutes until risen and a shiny surface has formed on top. It should still feel slightly soft in the centre.
Leave to cool for 10 minutes before running a thin knife around the edge of tin to ensure the brownie doesn’t stick and turn out onto a wire rack.
Leave to cool completely before cutting into 1inch/20cm squares.
Makes 16 squares.

Monday 12 January 2009

Festive Fruit and Orange Choc Chip Mini Panettones

Sorry for my absence over the last few days, what with winter flu and colds, family gatherings, uni work and general holiday hectic-ness I haven’t found the time to sit down and blog. However I have been keeping my camera at my side and so now have a little backlog of recipes to post about, so if you see a few festive recipes here in the next couple of weeks don’t be confused – I know its nearly the middle of January, but its still cold and icy outside and I’m trying to catch up.

Over the Christmas and New Year I baked a range of goodies for friends and family, both as gifts and as sweet treats to have on hand should any visitors call in. One of the festive treats I love over Christmas is panettone. A real Italian panettone is a baking masterpiece, light and buttery, and studded with fruits, nuts or chocolate and I’ve yet to meet someone who doesn’t like one variety or another.

This year I decided to try and make my own miniature panettones to give away as gifts as I had been given some pretty card muffin cases which reminded me of the small panettone cases I have seen in bakeries. I couldn’t decide on what flavour to do and so I made a plain dough with just a hint of orange zest and then divided it in half and made one batch dark chocolate chip and the other a mix of colourful festive fruits.

The dough is quite straightforward, although you need to plan in advance for making these as you have to make a biga, a sort of starter, which has to ferment overnight before you can begin work on the main dough. So it’s a slightly lengthy but fun process. The dough itself was a little sticky but smooth and supple and very easy to work with. I was so pleased when they came out of the oven with their golden tops and soft buttery interiors. I wrapped most of them in cellophane and attached little labels and gave them away as gifts, but I made sure to keep some back for myself. I found the texture to be slightly heavier and denser than a true Italian panettone (and how do they get it that wonderful golden colour inside?) but it was soft and buttery with a lovely flavour so I was by no means disappointed.

Festive Fruit and Orange Choc Chip Mini Panettones
(Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour Company)
180g plain flour
115ml water
¼ tsp instant yeast

3 eggs
115g butter cut into chunks
300g plain flour
60g caster sugar
5 tsp instant yeast
1½ tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
Zest of 1 orange

125g dried fruit (figs, raisins, apricots & cherries)
125g dark chocolate chips
40g butter for brushing

Method – for the biga
Sieve the flour into a bowl, mix with the yeast and pour over the water. Mix together with your hands until a dough is formed. Knead for a few minutes until soft and springy.
Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave to rise in a fairly cool place for 12 hours or overnight until light and bubbly.
To make the dough, simply place all the dough ingredients and the bubbly biga into a food mixer and mix with the dough hook until it forms a soft yet sticky dough. You can do this by hand, but it takes a lot longer.
Divide the dough into two equal portions place in greased bowls to prove for an hour until slightly risen.
Turn out onto a work surface and knead the chocolate chips into one half and the fruit (roughly chopped) into the other half.
Tear off chunks of the dough and roll into balls. Each ball should weigh around 100-120g in weight.
Place the balls into sturdy card muffin cases. (I got 6 balls of each variety from the mix). Place the muffin cases on a large tray and leave to rise in a warm place for a further 2hours until well risen.
Preheat the oven to 180C. Bake the panettones for 15 minutes until golden brown, then quickly cover with a sheet of foil and bake for a further 5 minutes.
Remove from the oven and transfer the panettones in their cases to a wire rack.
Brush a little melted butter over the top of each panettone and leave to cool before either serving or wrapping in clingfilm and storing in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.