Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Blackberry and Vanilla Cupcakes

If you read last weeks post you'll know I went blackberry picking. I used them almost all up in that sorbet and had the rest with yoghurt and muesli for breakfast. I went out picking again and thought I'd make some blackberry cupcakes - I think I'm having a blackberry craze! I've used my usual cupcake batter recipe but I've filled them with blackberry jam and topped them with blackberries. It seems like a lot of work but you don't have to make the jam, although it is nice homemade, and the cupcake batter is really easy. Make sure you use firm, dry blackberries for the top or they'll leech their juice into the frosting.

Makes 9 cupcakes
For the batter:
3.5 oz or 100g butter, softened and cut up into cubes
3/4 cup or 150g caster sugar
3 tbsp milk
1 1/4 cups or 150g self-raising flour
2 eggs

For the jam:
10.6 oz or 300g blackberries
1 cup or 200g granulated sugar

For the Italian meringue buttercream:
2 egg whites
2 tbsp or 20g caster sugar
1/2 cup or 100g caster sugar
1/8 cup & 2 tsp or 40 ml water
7 oz or 200g butter, softened and cut into cubes
1 tsp vanilla extract or 1/2 vanilla pod

1. Preheat the oven to 180 C or 355 F and line a bun tin with 9 paper cases. Place all of the cupcake batter ingredients into a bowl and beat until smooth. Use an ice cream scoop to evenly spread the batter between cupcakes. Bake for 20-25 minutes and leave to cool.

2. Wash the blackberries then place them in a blender. Put the pulp in a fruit juicer/coulis maker or press through a fine sieve to remove any seeds. Measure 250 ml or 1 cup of fruit puree and pour into a saucepan reserving 2 tbsp for the buttercream and add the sugar. Boil until when the jam is dropped onto a spoon that has been placed in the freezer and a finger is pushed through the jam it wrinkles. Leave to cool.

3. Whisk the eggs until stiff then slowly add the caster sugar until thick and glossy. Heat the sugar and water in a saucepan until they reach 238 F or 115 C or the soft ball stage. Slowly pour the hot sugar syrup into the egg whites in a thin stream whisking constantly until incorporated. Now whisk the egg whites until room temperature and add the reserved blackberry puree and vanilla. Slowly beat in the butter until incorporated.

4. Take the cool cupcakes and make a hole in the center with the end of a piping nozzle. Pipe the jam into the cupcakes. Pipe the buttercream, either in swirls or little stars and top with 3 blackberries.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Blackberry Sorbet

Alas, Summer is nearing it's end. The last shriveled raspberries are hanging on the bush, the days are getting shorter and the days progressively colder. On the bright side the season for apples, pears and blackberries is starting. I was having a walk near where we live and in the hedgerow saw a bush stuffed to the brim with blackberries so I ran back grabbed a bowl and picked as many as I could. In the end I had a lot. So I thought I'd turn 'em into a nice sorbet. If you do by any chance have any Autumn raspberries or loganberries sling them in as well. Just make sure if you collect them from a road side you thoroughly wash them.


2.2 lb or 1 kg of blackberries
1 1/3 cups or 300 ml water
1 1/2 cups or 300g granulated sugar
lemon juice to taste

1. Wash the blackberries thoroughly then whizz them up in a blender. Now either place them in a juicer/ fruit coulis maker or press them through a fine sieve to remove the pips. Put the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat until the sugar has dissolved.

2. Slowly pour the syrup and the coulis into a different bowl testing for the right consistency when half the mixture is used. (You can test for the write consistency by placing a clean egg into the mixture. If just under a quarter of it is showing it's fine. If more is showing add more syrup if less add more coulis.) Now add the lemon juice to taste and churn in an ice cream maker.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Simple Brioche

Who doesn't like brioche? When it's warm and buttery and crusty and sweet. Mmmm! Unfortunately the brioche you get in the supermarkets far inferior to the stuff you can bake at home. It's not even that hard. You just need a bit of kneading, a bit of waiting and then boom - you've got your loaf. If I could I would make it every day I would. I'm making mine and planning to keep it stale for a Summer pudding but I don't think I'll be able to! When you're making the dough keep in mind it's meant to be a soft dough so if it starts off a bit runny just keep on kneading and it should come together. I use an electric mixer with the dough hook attached to knead but simply because I'm lazy and I can't be bothered to do it by hand. I got the brioche recipe from la Tartine Gourmande.

Makes 1 loaf
1 2/3 cups or 250g all-purpose flour
1tbsp of dried fast acting yeast
1/3 cup or 80 ml warm milk
2 tbsp fine sugar
2 3/4 oz or 80g softened butter, cut into small cubes
2 eggs
a little more milk and sugar for a glaze

1. Mix the flour and yeast together then make a well in the center, slowly pour the milk into the well and mix together. Add the sugar then knead in the softened butter a bit at a time until all incorporated. Add the eggs one at a time until the dough is smooth.

2. Knead for ten minutes then cover with clingfilm and put in a warm place, like an airing cupboard, for 2 hours or until the dough has doubled in size. Now knead the dough again for ten minutes and place in a well buttered 10 inch or 26 cm rectangular loaf tin and leave for another hour somewhere warm. Preheat the oven to 205 C or 400 F. Brush the loaf with the milk and sugar then place in the oven for ten minutes. After ten minutes turn the heat down to 350 F or 175 C and bake for 20 minutes. Test to see if it's cooked by inserting a knife and if it comes out clean it's done. 

Friday, 12 August 2011

Pistachio and fig macaroons

Macaroons or macarons (French) are really fashionable these days. This is meant to be quite a rustic recipe but even so they're not as scary as they're made out to be. I haven't used an Italian meringue in my recipe (hot sugar beaten in to stiff egg whites), just a normal meringue as I've tried both methods and there doesn't seem to be any difference and trust me it's a lot easier. In this recipe I've used pistachio instead of almonds so unless you can find ground pistachios you'll have to grind your own which though is a bit of a faff it's worth it for these little gems. It's not actually a very seasonal recipe so can be mad any time of year and of course you could make almond lemon macaroons just as easily by using ground almonds instead of pistachios and lemon curd instead of fig butter cream.

Makes 40 macaroons

For the macaroon:
3/4 & 1/3 cups or 125g ground pistachios
1 & 1/4 cups or 125g icing sugar
3 egg whites
1/4 of a cup & 2 tbsp or 75g of caster sugar

For the butter cream:
3 tbsp or 45g butter
1 cup or 100g icing sugar
3 chopped dried figs

1. Line and grease 2 baking sheets and preheat the oven to 160°C or 320°F. Whisk the egg whites until stiff then slowly whisk in the caster sugar spoon by spoon. Fold in the icing/confectioners sugar and pistachios then keep on folding until when you drop it from a spoon it falls like a ribbon. Pipe the macaroon into small circles then leave to dry for 20 minutes. Bake for 15 minutes and leave to cool.

2. While they cool make the fig butter cream. Beat together the butter and icing/confectioners sugar then mix in the chopped figs and ripple in the fig syrup. Sandwich the macaroons together with butter cream.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Homemade Peel

I love orange or lemon peel but many others don't. They see it as the waxy, tasteless sticky gunk you get in those plastic pots from the supermarket. If this is you I must convert you to the joys of homemade peel. When homemade it's vibrant and citrusy and, even quite healthy being fat less and all. (That is if you don't smother them in chocolate!) I always make mine at Christmas but it's just as nice at any time of the year. 

It's a really easy recipe just use the ratio 1:1:1, 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar for every 1 cup of peel. Just make sure when your peeling the fruit you don't get any where near the pith as it's bitter and makes your mouth go all dry which is not what we want.You can use lemons, oranges and grapefruits are good too because of their thick skin just don't try limes as the zest is to thin to make any thing with.

Makes 1 cup
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of water
1 cup of peel
Granulated sugar for coating
1/2 cup or 75g of chocolate (optional)

1. Take off the peel with a knife then cut it up into thin matchsticks. Put the peel into a saucepan with the sugar and water and put on a very low heat, don't even simmer, for a couple of hours when the peel is very soft and tender and can be easily inserted with a knife.

2. Shake off the excess sugar syrup and roll in the granulated sugar until even coated then place on a baking sheet. You can just leave them on the baking tray to dry overnight or if your oven can heat low temperatures then put them in the oven at 50°C or 122°F until dry.

3. If you are using the chocolate melt it then dip the  peel into it and leave to set on the baking tray.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Salted Hazelnut Praline Gelato

Okay, hazelnuts are not in season yet but who doesn't like a good gelato recipe? The intensity of the praline all comes down to how you toast those hazelnuts. A little to much and they burn, not enough and you won't have unleashed they're full nuttiness. Also this recipe is exceedingly rich so a little goes a long, long way with this. You don't have to add the salt but it cuts the richness and goes lovely with the caramel. Even without it though it tastes wonderful. Oh, and you don't need an ice cream maker for this or need to spend hours manually forking it through!

Serves 6-7
2 eggs separated
1/4 cup or 50g of caster sugar
1/2 & 1/3  cups or 200 ml of heavy / double cream
1/3 & 1/4 cup or 100g brown sugar
1 & 1/3 cups or 200g of chopped hazelnuts
1/2 tsp of maldon or other sea salt (optional)

1. Roast the hazelnuts in a dry a pan until you can hear them sizzling and smell nutty and rich. Pour them out of the pan into a bowl while you make the caramel. Put the brown sugar in the same pan and heat until it's liquid and bubbling. Throw in the hazelnuts and stir them in the caramel until they're evenly coated then place on some foil to cool.

2. Once cool, place the hazelnuts in a plastic zip-lock bag an cover in a tea towel and hit with a rolling pin until broken up into smallish pieces. Put the praline into a food processor and pulse-cop until it turns into a paste. Sprinkle in the salt (if using) and pulse-chop again to incorporate.

3. Whisk the egg whites until stiff then slowly add the sugar, whisking in well after each addition. Whip the cream until at soft peaks then fold into the egg whites along with the egg yolks. Ripple in the praline and freeze overnight.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Raspberry Marshmallows

Well, I've made my cordial now what to do with it? I could put it in a jelly, a drink - of course, or, um, marshmallows! I got this recipe are from Hugh, but there are loads of recipes for it. I just added a bit of cordial at the end for flavor and also colour, it gives a pretty pale pink. It's not hard to do but just make sure you're careful with the hot sugar mixture when beating it into the egg whites.

Makes 15 marshmallows

icing/confectioners sugar
corn flour/starch
vegetable oil
8 leaves of gelatine
2 egg whites
2 & 1/2 cups or 500g of granulated sugar

1. Lightly grease the tray with the oil then dust it with the corn starch and confectioners sugar.

2. Put the sugar and 1 cup or 250 ml of water in a pan and heat to the hard ball stage or 122ºC. As the sugar heats up but the gelatine leaves in a bowl of water to soften and whisk the egg whites until stiff.

3. Once the sugar has reached 122ºC slowly pour it in a steady stream in to the egg whites whisking all the time with an electric mixer on low. Once the sugar has been incorporated beat in the gelatine leaves (discard the soaking water) and whisk until thick and can be barely poured. At this point beat in the cordial.

4. Spread it out on the tray and leave it to set somewhere cool but not the fridge. Once set cut it into squares and dust it with more corn starch and confectioners sugar.

They're good cut up into little chunks and skewered on cocktail sticks along with a couple of sharp blackberries that cut the sweetness nicely.

Rapberry Cordial

Ah! Summers here. The suns in the sky, the days are longer and raspberries are in season. This cordial is easy to make and will keep for months so you can have a little taste of Summer even when it seems far away. You need a lot of raspberries for this so unless you're growing your own go to a pick-your-own farm as it's much cheaper than buying them in the shops, (and if I don't mind quite fun too)! Just top it up club soda and maybe a splash of orange juice for a delicious Summery drink.

Makes 2 & 1/2 bottles
4.4 lb or 2 kg of raspberries
7 & 1/2 cups or 1.5 kg of sugar

1. Put the raspberries and 4 cups or 1l of water in a saucepan until the raspberries disintergrate and the water turns bright red.

2. Place all of the sugar in and boil for a minute then pour into sterilized bottles. It will keep unopened in a cool dark place for months but once opened keep it in the fridge.