Thursday 27 May 2010

Daring Bakers May 2010: Coconut & Chocolate Piece Montée or Croquembouche

The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.

When I first saw this months challenge I was excited and a little daunted by the prospect of making a piece montée or croquembouche. A croquembouche is a tall tower of choux buns, stuck together with chocolate or caramel and often served at weddings or other elaborate occasions. In order to complete the challenge we had to make 3 required elements of the dish: the pate a choux, the crème patissiere, and the glaze used to mount/decorate it.

Even though we had to make the three required elements, how we presented the finished recipe was up to us. This made me much happier as it meant I could make smaller individual piece montée without having to create one huge desert. I adore pastry cream or crème patissiere, it’s so much nicer and more flavoursome than standard cream. For my crème patissiere I decided to replace the milk with coconut milk in order to add an extra flavour dimension to the dish. I also selected to make the chocolate glaze rather than the caramel to accompany the dessert as I thought the chocolate would complement the coconut better.

I have made choux buns many times before, but this recipe proved to be a winner. It produced perfectly shaped little hollow buns, that were nicely golden brown and just the right combination of crisp and softness. It’s going to be my ‘go-to’ choux pastry recipe from now on. All the buns turned out perfectly formed.

The coconut crème patissiere also worked well and was incredibly thick and creamy. The coconut flavour really shone through and made it seem even more indulgent. When paired with the dark bitter chocolate glaze it was just heavenly. I’m not usually a fan of profiteroles but the silky smooth coconut crème encased in the light, crisp choux and topped with the rich bitter glaze was a taste sensation. I think I’ve been converted!

I presented by dessert in individual cocktail glasses which made them elegant enough for a special family dinner party dessert. I urge you to try them, particularly with the coconut crème patissiere, they were out of this world. Thanks Cat for such a divine dessert challenge! Click to see my fellow Daring Bakers desserts.

Coconut & Chocolate Piece Montée Croquembouche
Coconut Crème Patissiere
225ml whole milk (I used coconut milk)
2 tbsp cornflour
50g caster sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
30g unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

Dissolve the cornflour in 55ml of milk. Combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a saucepan; bring to boil and then remove from heat.
Beat the whole egg and egg yolks into the cornflour mixture. Pour 1/3 of boiling milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly.
Return the remaining milk to the heat. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking.
Continue whisking (this is important – you do not want the eggs to solidify/cook) until the cream thickens and comes to a gentle boil, about 3-4minutes. Remove from heat and beat in the butter and vanilla.
Pour the thickened cream into a small clean bowl. Press clingfilm firmly against the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Allow to cool slightly before refrigerating until required.
Can be made the day before.

Pate a Choux
175 ml water
85g unsalted butter
¼ tsp salt
1 tbsp caster sugar
120g plain flour
4 large eggs
For Egg Wash: 1 egg and pinch of salt

Pre-heat oven to 220C degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicon paper.
Combine the water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. Once boiling, remove from the heat and pour in the flour. Immedietly beat vigeriously to encorporate the flour and prvent lumps from forming until it forms a thick dough.
Return the dough to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.
Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon for 1 minute to cool slightly.
Add 1 egg and beat in well. The dough will break up into lumps and look shiny, but this is normal. Keep beating and it will come back together.
Then add in the next egg and repeat the process until you have incorporated all the eggs.
Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip. Pipe the choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets. Hold the bag in place and pipe out a small round blob. Choux should be about 1 inch high about 1 inch wide.
Using a clean finger dipped in hot water, gently press down on any tips that have formed on the top of choux when piping. You want them to retain their ball shape, but be smoothly curved on top.
Brush tops with egg wash (1 egg lightly beaten with pinch of salt).
Bake at 220C for 10 minutes, until well-puffed and turning lightly golden.
Lower the temperature to 180C and continue baking until browned and dry, about 15-20 minutes more. Transfer to a cooling wire to cool.
Store in a airtight box until required. Makes about 25-30 buns.

Filling the choux
When you are ready to assemble your piece montée, fill a pastry bag fitted with a small plain nozzel with the crème patissiere. Pierce the bottom of each choux with the tip of the nozzel and fill with the crème.
Have these all ready before you make the sauce/glaze.

Chocolate Glaze
200g dark chocolate, about 60% coco solids
150ml milk

Break the chocolate into small pieces and place in a small saucepan long with the milk. Heat gently, stirring occasionally until the chocolate has melted and combined with the milk. Keep heating until the sauce thickens into a thick glossy sauce. Remove from the heat and use immediately.

Assembly of the Piece Montée
Once you are ready to assemble your piece montée, dip the top of each choux in your glaze (careful it may be still hot!), and start assembling on your cake board/plate/sheet. You can make mini individual ones or one large one. If making a large one, then you want to form the buns into a circle no bigger than 8inch/20cm in diameter. Continue dipping and adding choux to build up a tower of buns, which gets smaller with each layer. Use the glaze to hold them together as you build up.
When you have finished the design of your piece montée, drizzle with remaining glaze over the top and add additional ribbons, sugar decorations, nuts of flowers as you wish to decorate.
Makes 1 large or 6 individual Piece Montee’s

Wednesday 26 May 2010

7 Things for 2 Awards

A while back the lovely Johanna of Green Gourmet Giraffe presented me with two blog awards.
The Kreativ blogger award and the Beautiful Blogger award. Thanks Johanna! I have had the pleasure of receiving the Kreativ blogger award in the past, so I’m going to pass on the Beautiful Blogger award.
This requires me to list 7 random facts about myself before passing the award onto 7 other boggers.

Without further ado, here are the 7 facts about me (apologies in advance for my rantings, if anyone is offended by my views it was unintentional)

1) Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day. Porridge, muesli, yoghurt, fruit, bagels, waffles, pancakes, muffins, toast, specialty breads and jams, granola, scrambled eggs, scones, toasted sandwiches etc etc. I love them all. It’s amazing what a wide variety of different food, tastes and texture you can have for one meal. They can be hot or cold, healthy or ridiculously indulgent. Even simple things like pouring hot milk on your cereal transforms it into a completely different breakfast experience. I normally eat quite a healthy breakfast, but the odd indulgent treat at weekends is great. I can’t understand people who miss breakfast or who eat exactly the same thing every day – yes have porridge every morning if you want but as least alter the toppings, add some fruit and cinnamon to it for a change – please!

2) Many people know that apples are one of my favourite fruits but recently I have switched my daily fruit of choice to be pears – they’ve got to be quite crisp though and eaten raw, whereas apples are good in any form.

3) I love going for long walks in the countryside but hate cycling. Walking is so relaxing and peaceful. You get to see and appreciate all the wonders of nature and can go by yourself or with a companion. Whereas cycling, to me, feel unnatural, you can’t really talk to other people while you are doing it and in the summer you get splattered with lots of little midges.

4) I’d rather be a little too hot than too cold in temperature.

5) My clothing seems to be going through a floral stage. The last three items of clothing I bought have all been covered with big prints of flowers. Not sure how this started as always used to avoid clothes like this.

6) I quite enjoy housework – ironing, hovering, washing up etc but find dusting a chore – not sure why.

7) I don’t like foods that taste too much of burnt caramel, I find it too intense and sweet. A little caramel is good, as a sauce or drizzle, but when its one of the main flavours I find it too overpowering. Hence I don’t like crème brulee or tarte tatin.

Hopefully you found those interesting and don’t think me completely crackers now. The 7 bloggers I wish to pass the award onto are:
Monica of Lick The Bowl Good – I ‘met’ Monica through The Cake Slice group and she is truly a master of creating delicious treats and cakes and has introduced me to some indulgent American bakes and pies

Rebecca of Ezra Pound Cake – she has a fantastic variety of delicious fresh recipes but its her fabulous looking cookies and bundt cakes that always have me racing to the oven

Patricia of Technicolor Kitchen – a fellow cake, cookie and dessert lover. She is truly talented and are photos are stunning

Samantha of The Caked Crusader – a woman after my own heart, a true cake lover. She bakes wonderfully deep and satisfying cakes and organises the London Cupcake Challenges – which I fully intend going to myself one day soon!

Marie of The English Kitchen – has a wide range of tasty, fresh, healthy and indulgent recipes. Great mix of sweet and savoury dishes, ideal when I’m stuck for inspiration

Hilary of Let Her Bake Cake – a fellow baking enthusiast. Some divine recipes and beautiful photography

Chele of Chocolate Teapot – she is always ready with a kind comment and has a whole host of delicious recipes using fresh seasonal ingredients

Sunday 23 May 2010

Heart & Rugby Ball Sugar Cookies

I was having a sort out of my kitchen stuff and came across two brand new cookie cutters still in their little cellophane bags. Ah, yes… I had great plans for those cutters originally. Seeing them again I instantly wanted to bake something with them and realised its been months since I have baked a batch of crisp sugar cookies and enjoyed a bit of creative decorating, so I decided to do just that.

The two cutters consisted of a rugby ball and a large heart. Perfect, one for the guys and one for the girls. I used my go-to cut out cookie recipe which produces an easy to work with dough that bakes into crisp cookies which are ideal for decorating.

I coloured some fondant various shades of pink for the hearts and an assortment of colours for the rugby balls. I also cut out some mini hearts with the scrapes of leftover dough – no point wasting it. I actually think the mini hearts are the cutest.

Once the cookies were cool, I simply made some royal icing to stick the fondant to the cookies and then used some more to pipe on some detail. It’s amazing what a difference a few dots can make to the appearance of the cookies. I was quite chuffed with how they turned out and it was a really enjoyable way to spend an afternoon. Just me in the kitchen, singing along to the radio and decorating cookies.

I’m sure I can’t be the only one with cookie cutters stashed away, just waiting to be used. Why not dig them out and get baking and decorating. You don’t have to use fondant and royal icing, they could be dipped in chocolate or sandwiched together with jam or ice cream instead. They would make great gifts when presented in little cellophane bags or even as name tags for all those birthday presents you have to buy or personalised place names for your table. If nothing else it will justify the purchase of those currently unused cookie cutters you bought 6 months back!

Cut Out Cookies
185g butter
225g caster sugar
1½ tsp vanilla extract
350g plain flour
1 egg
1 egg yolk

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
Make sure the butter is soft and cream it together with the sugar until smooth and fluffy. Add the vanilla and eggs and beat again.
Sift over the flour and then work the mixture into a dough using a wooden spoon and finally your hands to form a slightly sticky ball of dough.
Wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or until required.
Lightly flour a work surface and roll out the dough until around 3-4mm thick.
Cut out a variety of shapes and place on the baking tray, leaving a 1-2cm gap between each one.
Bake for 8-10 minutes until just turning lightly golden brown.
Allow to cool on the tray for a few minutes before transferring to a wire wrack to cool before decorating as you wish – chocolate dipped, topped with fondant, sprinkles, sandwiched together etc.
Store the cookies in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
I got 40 cookies of various shapes and sizes.

Thursday 20 May 2010

The Cake Slice May 2010: Lemon Poppy Seed Cake with Almond Frosting

This month, The Cake Slice group decided we wanted a tall and exciting cake to welcome the start of the warmer weather and voted to bake a cake from last years cake book: Sky High Triple Layer Cakes. The cake in question was a delicious sounding three layers of lemon poppy seed cake, soaked in lemon syrup and frosted with almond infused cream cheese icing. As a lemon and almond lover, I knew before I even heated the oven that this cake was going to be a winner.

The cake was very quick to put together and produced a wonderfully light and creamy batter thanks to it being made solely with egg whites and lots of buttermilk. The poppy seeds looked very pretty scattered throughout the cake layers and added a little texture without being obviously crunchy or full of ‘bits’ as they are so teeny tiny.

The lemon syrup kept the layers lovely and moist and added a real lemon zing. Don’t be tempted to leave this stage out as it’s the syrup that adds most of the lemon flavour, the cake itself is quite subtlety lemony. The lemon syrup really brings it alive.

Almond cream cheese frosting. Mmmmmm it really was as good as it sounds. This was the best bit of the cake for me, normally I’m not a big frosting fan but this smooth and creamy frosting packed a real punch of almond flavour and worked so well with the zingy lemon and slight tanginess of the cream cheese. Just divine. I even kept the leftover frosting and ate it on bread – it really was that good!

I was also thrilled at how thick and creamy the frosting was, I’ve often attempted to make creamy cheese frosting in the past and had it collapse into a liquidly mess, but not this time – it was just perfect.

My only criticism of the cake is that because it was an egg white cake the layers were a very pale white colour and the poppy seeds gave it a bit of a grey appearance, but I’m nitpicking. I decorated the cake with a ring of toasted flaked almonds around the top edge. Simple yet effective.

Overall I loved the combination of lemon and poppy seed, but it is the almond cream cheese frosting that made this cake for me. Click here to see my fellow Cake Slice bakers and their cakes.

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake with Almond Frosting
(Recipe from Sky High Irresistible Layer Cakes by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne)
Lemon Poppy Seed Cake
360g plain flour
300g caster sugar (I only used 200g)
4½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
3 tbsp poppy seeds
200g unsalted butter
1 large lemon, zest only
275ml buttermilk
5 egg whites
Poppy seeds or flaked almonds to decorate

Lemon Syrup
100g caster sugar
75ml water
1 lemon, juice only

Almond Frosting (I only used two-thirds of this)
225g cream cheese
200g unsalted butter
600g icing sugar
1 tbsp almond extract

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake
Heat the oven to 180C. Grease three 8 inch cake pans and line the bases with parchment paper. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, poppy seeds and salt in a mixing bowl. Mix gently to combine.
Add the butter, lemon zest and 200ml of buttermilk to the flour. Beat on low until completely mixed. Raise the speed to medium and beat for 1-2 minutes until lighter in colour.
In a medium bowl, combine the egg whites with the remaining 75ml buttermilk, whisk to blend thoroughly. Add the egg white mixture to the batter in 2-3 additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl and beating only enough to incorporate the mix. Divide the batter between the three pans.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the cakes are golden brown, spring back when touched lightly in the centre, and a cake tester comes out clean. Leave to cool in the pans for 10 minutes before turning out. While the cake layers are cooling, make the lemon syrup.

Lemon Syrup
In a small pan combine the sugar, water and lemon juice. Bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Generously brush the cakes with the lemon syrup while they are still warm. Then allow the cakes to cool completely before frosting.

Almond Cream Cheese Frosting
In a large mixing bowl beat the cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually add the icing sugar, about a quarter at a time, beating well between each addition. Add the almond extract and then continue to beat well for 3-4 minutes until light and fluffy.
To complete the cake, place one layer, top side down, on a cake plate and spread about a fifth of the frosting over the cake to cover evenly. Repeat with the second layer and place the third layer on top. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. Garnish with your choice of flaked almonds or poppy seeds.
Makes 1 x 8inch triple layer cake. Serves 12-16

Monday 17 May 2010

Light Rye Sourdough Bread

Sorry I have been absent for a while but my last 10 days have been very hectic. Each night I told myself ‘I will write a post tomorrow’ and yet by the time I went to bed again I still hadn’t managed it. Yesterday I actually had a free day and got to relax and decided that some therapeutic, slow rising, bread baking was in order.

One of my favourite breads is sourdough and another is rye. I just love their depth of flavour, thick chewy crusts and wholesomeness. Being able to make my own sourdough, using a starter made from scratch is something I have longed to do for a long time. I did attempt to make a sourdough a few months back but I neglected it and it failed, however for the last three weeks I have been nursing a new batch of sourdough and yesterday seemed like the perfect time to give it its first test run.

The first week of a sourdough starter does require a bit of work, you have to remember to feed it every day, but after this it only need tending to once a week which is much easier to manage. I found having a specific day to feed the starter helped me remember it.

During its resting times in between its weekly feeds it tends to separate a little as the natural yeasts and flours work their magic. It develops a dark sort of skin on top and some murky liquid underneath which is on top of the gummy flour mixture. The first time I saw this I was rather alarmed, but just give it a bit of a stir and feed it with the flour and water mix and it is perfectly alright. The little bubbles that appear on the surface let you know it’s alive and happy.

My sourdough is what’s known as 100% hydration starter. This means it contains an equal quantity of water and flour. I find this the easiest one to work with when attempting to turn it into bread.

Anyway, onto the bread. As the only yeast used in the bread is the one naturally occurring in the sourdough starter, the bread will need long slow rising compared to if additional yeast was added. This is not a problem if you have a day a home to give it the odd knead and it’s actually very therapeutic and enjoyable to see it grow and develop before your eyes.

The resulting bread is completely worth the effort! It was amazing! The best loaf of bread I have ever made. A great flavoured thick crust, a soft light crumb and divine aroma. It was good enough to rival that of any bakery bought bread. I also proved it in a well floured bread basket which helped give it an authentic slashed pattern on top. I was so proud of it.

If I’m being critical, it wasn’t quite as sour as I would have liked, but as my starter is still very young, I am sure it will get more sour as the starter matures. I’m definitely going to be baking plenty more things with it in the future so I’m sure I will find out. You don’t have to limit the use of the starter to just loaves of bread either; it can also be used for pizzas, waffles or cinnamon buns etc.

Light Rye Sourdough Starter – 100% hydration
Day 1 – 100ml water, 50g white bread flour, 50g rye flour
Day 2 – 100ml water, 75g white bread flour, 25g rye flour
Day 3 – 100ml water, 75g white bread flour, 25g rye flour
Day 4 – 100ml water, 75g white bread flour, 25g rye flour

Every week – 50ml water, 50g white bread flour OR rye flour

Day 1: Mix the water and flour together in a large bowl and leave it a warm place for 24 hours.
Day 2: There should be a few bubbles visible. Mix in more of the water and flours. Return to a warm place for a further 24 hours.
Day 3: There should be some bubbles and the starter may look a little separated, this is fine, just mix in water and flour as before and leave for another 24 hours.
Day 4: Repeat as for day 3 and leave for a final 24 hours.
Day 5: By this time your starter should be well on its way. It can now be covered with clingfilm and kept in the fridge. Leave for at least another week before attempting to bake with it.

Every week, even if not using, you need to remove the starter from the fridge and feed it with 50ml of water and 50g of white or rye flour. I like to use white and rye flours each alternative week. This keeps the starter alive and keeps a good light rye flavour.

After a week the starter will probably have developed a slight skin on the surface with a murky pool of liquid underneath and then a gooey mixture at the bottom. Don’t be alarmed, this is perfectly normal. Just give it a stir and feed it and it will be quite happy.

When used for baking, add 100ml water and 100g flour to the starter to help it maintain its bulk. When stored like this and fed regularly starters can literally be kept and used for decades. The longer they are kept, the more the flavour they develop and the moister and more sour your resulting bread.

Light Rye Sourdough Bread
400g white bread flour
100g rye flour
300ml lukewarm water
180g sourdough starter – 100% hydration
10g salt

In a large bowl combine the flours, water and starter together (don’t add the salt!) Mix for 2-3 minutes until combined, it will be quite sticky. Cover with clingfilm and leave to rest for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, add the salt and knead in well. Continue to knead for 3-4 minutes until the dough becomes smooth and a little less sticky. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with clingfilm again. Leave to prove in a warm place for 1 hour.
Knock back the dough and fold it from the corners into the centre, turn it over and repeat the folding process twice more. Then recover and leave for a further hour before repeating the process.
Generously dust a bread basket or shallow bowl. Shape the dough into a round ball and place into the floured basket. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to prove in a warm place for 1½ to 2 hours until risen.
Preheat the oven to 245C and place a sturdy baking tray in the oven to heat up. Fill a shallow tray with water and place in the bottom of the oven to create a damp steamy atmosphere in the oven.
Once the bread has risen, quickly remove the baking tray from the oven and invert the bread out of the basket and onto the tray. Do not attempt to move it once on the tray.
Place the dough into the oven and reduce the temperature to 230C. Bake for 15 minutes and then remove the shallow tray of water from the oven and bake for a further 10 minutes. Then prop the door open slightly using a wooden spoon and bake for a further 5-10 minutes until the bread is a deep golden colour with a crisp crust. (The steaming helps develop a thick chewy crust, the dry heat helps it brown and the bit of air towards the end makes it lovely and crispy).
Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool completely before slicing.
Makes one large loaf. Keep well for 4-5 days.

Friday 7 May 2010

Rhubarb & Rosewater Breakfast Sundae

I made this for breakfast this morning and just had to share it with you. It was a spur of the moment thing, well sort of. I had made the roasted rhubarb the night before and left it in a bowl in the fridge. I find roasted rhubarb much better than stewing it as it retains its shape and texture. I love all the different colours too. Pearly pinks, pastel greens and dark ruby reds. I didn’t have any real intentions for it apart from using on top of porridge, spooned over some leftover cake or with a bit of ice cream for dessert.

When I woke up this morning, it was still very early but I got up anyway and opened my curtains and was greeted by a stunning morning sunrise. The sky was mottled pink and yellow and the sun was just peeping over the trees and glowing a deep golden orange. I couldn’t help but smile.

In the kitchen I remembered the roasted rhubarb I had made the night before and opened the fridge in search of breakfast inspiration. Porridge just wasn’t going to cut it on such a bright and sunny morning. My eyes settled on some fromage frais and I decided that rhubarb, fromage frais on some cereal sounded nice, but as I gathered together the ingredients my mind got to work and I detoured away from the bowl cupboard and towards the glasses – the idea for a breakfast sundae was forming and in my head it looked delicious.

I started off with a generous spoonful of the rhubarb. I adore its pretty pink colour, just stunning. I had roasted it in the oven with just a scattering of sugar and then stirred through some rosewater to give it a lovely summery floral note. Rosewater may sound an odd ingredient to add, but to me the rhubarbs shiny pink juices and its sweet tangy flavour just seemed the perfect combination to the rosewaters musky fragrance. It certainly smelt heavenly, the colour and aroma of summer.

Next I added a layer of fromage frais and a generous scattering of muesli before repeating the steps until I had my layered rhubarb and rosewater scented breakfast sundae!

As the rhubarb was already prepared putting it all together was the work of moments. It was one of the tastiest breakfasts I’ve had in ages. I like my rhubarb quite tangy so I hadn’t added too much sugar during cooking meaning it was soft and tangy, the rose sweeping in with a subtle floral perfume before the cool milky fromage frais soothed the taste buds ready for the next spoonful. The muesli added a lovely texture, some mouthfuls crispy, others complemented with a chewy raisin or a toasted hazelnut. A most delicious and tranquil way to start the day.

Rhubarb & Rosewater Breakfast Sundae
4 tbsp roasted rhubarb & rosewater (see below)
4 tbsp fromage frais or Greek yoghurt
3 tbsp muesli

For the Rhubarb
8 sticks of rhubarb
6 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp rosewater

Method – Roasted Rhubarb
Heat the oven to 170C.
Discard the leaves from the rhubarb before chopping it into 2cm long chunks. Place into a deep baking tray and scatter over the sugar. Mix gently to allow the sugar to coat the rhubarb.
Bake for 15 minutes until soft, tender and some sweet sticky juices have been released. Gently stir through the rosewater and allow to cool in the pan before using. Store in a bowl in the fridge until required.
Will keep for 3-4 days in the fridge.
Note: this will yield more rhubarb than you need for the sundae, but leftovers are great on cereal, porridge, desserts, cake, with custard or ice cream etc.

Breakfast Sundae
Have ready 4 tablespoons of your rose scented rhubarb and some of the juices into a small bowl.
Place a third of the rhubarb into the base of a tall glass and drizzle with a little of the juices. Cover with a third of the fromage frais or yoghurt and half the amount (a generous scattering) of your favourite muesli or granola. Top with another third of rhubarb, more yoghurt and the remaining half of the muesli.
Finish with the final spoonful of yoghurt and the last few chunks of rhubarb and its pink juices.
Eat with a tall spoon and enjoy a fresh, fragrant and tasty start to your day.

Saturday 1 May 2010


Recently I did something I have never done before but always longed to – I made doughnuts! Normally I am not a doughnut person. I don’t particularly enjoy the taste of cold greasy dough, crystallised sugar and meagre fillings you often get from shop bought doughnuts, however, freshly made still-hot-from-the-pan doughnuts – now those are entirely different. A warm freshly baked doughnut is divine!

When I was younger and used to catch the bus back from school which involved catching two buses. I had to change buses in town and often had a 20 minute wait for the connecting bus to arrive. Rather than sit in the bus station I used to wander off around the town. In the winter months there used to be a mobile dinky doughnut stand run by a little Italian woman. The smell of hot frying doughnuts was so inviting on a cold day and so, couple of times a month, I used to give in and buy a little bag of dinky doughnuts. You had to wait while they were baked fresh in front of you before being generously dusted in sugar and handed over in a little paper bag. Eating those little warm fried doughnuts paid for with my pocket money used to be such an indulgent and comforting experience. The Italian woman who ran it was very talkative and I soon learnt that if you talked with her and said ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ she used to give you an extra doughnut for free! It may only have been a mobile stand in the town centre but she was the woman who showed me how a good doughnut should taste and shop bought ones have never compared.

I forgot about the lady and her dinky doughnuts for a few years until recently when I was out in London exploring and smelt the smell of frying doughnuts again and it made me hanker after some freshly baked doughnuts once more. This time I knew I had to try making them myself. These doughnuts are the results and they certainly satisfied my doughnut craving.

I made three different types. Large doughnuts filled with strawberry jam and nutella (not together), ring doughnuts dusted in plain sugar and doughnut holes coated in cinnamon spiced sugar. My favourites were the doughnut holes – the perfect little doughy bites and of course I can’t resist anything with cinnamon.

I used a new gadget for filling the large doughnuts, it’s a food syringe! It worked for the jam but the nutella was rather too thick to pipe properly – messy but fun. I loved biting into one of the big doughnuts and seeing a generous pool of jam seep out. The nice thing about making them yourself is that you can fill or flavour them any way you choose, curd, jam, cream, fruit, custard? Icing, chocolate, sugar or sprinkles on top?

It was so rewarding seeing them bob about and puff up in the hot oil. Once sugar dusted they had a paper thin golden crispy exterior and a springy doughy centre. Best enjoyed while still warm.

15g fresh yeast
100ml milk
45ml water
1 egg
300g plain flour
Approximately 500-700ml oil for frying

Dusting Sugar
Cinnamon sugar - 60g caster sugar & 1 tsp ground cinnamon mixed
100g plain icing sugar or caster sugar

Lemon curd, Strawberry jam, Nutella etc

Warm the milk and water together until warm to the touch but not hot. Crumble in the yeast and stir until dissolved. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the flour and leave to stand for 10 minutes.
Sift the flour into a large bowl. Whisk the egg with a fork to combine the yolk and white and then pour over the flour followed by the yeasty liquid mixture.
Use your fingers to bring the mixture together to form a sticky dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes until well combined, smooth and elastic.
Lightly grease a bowl, place the dough into the bowl and cover the top with clingfilm. Leave it a warm place until tripled in bulk, about 1½ hours.
Once proved, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll out until half an inch/1.5cm thick. Cut out large rounds, rings or small balls of dough in your desired doughnut shape. (If you make ring doughnuts, don’t discard the middles, they make great doughnut holes when fried).
Lay the doughnuts on lightly floured baking trays and leave to prove for 15 minutes while you heat the oil.
Heat 2inch/5cm oil in a large deep pan until it reaches around 180C. If you don’t have a thermometer, drop a little piece of bread into the oil and if it turns brown in 30-60 seconds then it’s ready. Whatever you do, DO NOT WALK AWAY and leave the oil.
Carefully drop the doughnuts into the hot oil in batches – no more than three large doughnuts at a time. They should float to the top when ready to be flipped over, do this using a large metal spoon and allow to fry for one minute more until golden brown.
Remove the doughnuts from the oil using a slotted spoon and place on kitchen paper to drain.
While the next batch are frying, toss the doughnuts in the plain or cinnamon sugar. Fill any large doughnuts with jam, curd or chocolate of your choice with the help of a food syringe or piping bag.
Eat and enjoy while fresh and preferably still warm.
Makes 10-15 doughnuts depending on size.

Tip: Have the sugars ready in zip-lock sandwich bags. This way you can add the hot doughnuts and shake them easily without getting sugar everywhere.