Flan Patissier

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Capture 29/08/2017

Flan patissier is the French equivalent of the custard tart. The delicious dessert is filled with simple, vanilla infused cream. It is the tart that you see in patisseries all over France. It is often made in a long slab that can be sliced as a treat at any time of the day.

I have provided a really in-depth method for making the pastry as this is so important to creating the final flan. The crumbly, buttery base is perfect with the thick, creamy custard filling.

Ingredients:

For the sweet pastry:

  • 350g plain flour
  • 125g butter
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs, plus one yolk
  • pinch of salt
  • A little butter or baking spray, for greasing the tin
  • A little flour, for rolling

For the filling:

  • 200ml full-fat milk
  • 200ml double cream
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 1 medium egg, plus 1 medium yolk
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 40g cornflour
  • 20g butter, melted

Essential kit You will need a 20cm loose-bottomed tart tin.

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Method:

  1. First, make the sweet pastry. You will need half the quantity given here. To make the pastry: Measure out all your ingredients before you start, and break your 2 eggs into a small bowl– there is no need to beat them. Separate the remaining egg. Put the flour and salt into a mixing bowl.
  2. Now for the cold butter. What I do is take it straight from the fridge and put it between two pieces of greaseproof paper or butter wrappers (I always keep butter wrappers to use for this, as well as for greasing tins and rings), then bash it firmly with a rolling pin.
  3. The idea is to soften it while still keeping it cold. I end up with a thin, cold slab about a centimetre thick that bends like plasticine. Put the whole slab into the bowl of flour – there is no need to chop it up.
  4. Cover the butter well with flour and tear it into large pieces.
  5. Now it’s time to flake the flour and butter together – this is where you want a really light touch. With both hands, scoop up the flour-covered butter and flick your thumbs over the surface, pushing away from you, as if you are dealing a pack of cards.
  6. You need just a soft, skimming motion – no pressing or squeezing – and the butter will quickly start to break into smaller pieces. Keep plunging your hands into the bowl, and continue with the light flicking action, making sure all the pieces of butter remain coated with flour so they don’t become sticky.
  7. The important thing now is to stop mixing when the shards of butter are the size of your little fingernail. There is an idea that you have to keep rubbing in the butter until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs, but you don’t need to take it that far. When people come to my classes, I find they can’t resist putting their hands back into the bowl to rub it just a little bit more, but if you want a light pastry, it is really important not to overwork it. If the mixture starts to get sticky now, imagine how much worse it will be when you start to add the liquid at the next stage. Add the sugar at this point, mixing it in evenly.
  8. Tip the eggs, and the extra yolk, into the flour mixture and mix everything together.
  9. You can mix with a spoon, but I prefer to use one of the little plastic scrapers that I use for bread-making. Because it is bendy, it’s very easy to scrape around the sides of the bowl and pull the mixture into the centre until it forms a very rough dough that shouldn’t be at all sticky.
  10. While it is still in the bowl, press down on the dough with both thumbs, then turn the dough clockwise a few degrees and press down and turn again. Repeat this a few times.
  11. With the help of your spoon or scraper, turn the pastry onto a work surface.
  12. Work the dough as you did when it was in the bowl: holding the dough with both hands, press down gently with your thumbs, then turn the dough clockwise a few degrees, press down with your thumbs again and turn. Repeat this about four or five times in all.
  13. Now fold the pastry over itself and press down with your fingertips. Provided the dough isn’t sticky, you shouldn’t need to flour the surface, but if you do, make sure you give it only a really light dusting, not handfuls, as this extra flour will all go into your pastry and make it heavier.
  14. When you flour your work surface, you need to do this as if you are skimming a stone over water, just paying out a light spray of flour. (Funny as it seems, people in my classes actually practise this, like a new sport.) You need just enough to create a filmy barrier so that you can glide the pastry around the work surface without it sticking.
  15. Repeat the folding and pressing down with your fingertips a couple of times until the dough is like plasticine, and looks homogeneous.
  16. Your pastry is now ready to roll out and bake. Store in the fridge until ready to use.
  17. Preheat the oven to 190°C/gas 5.
  18. Lightly grease a 20cm loose-bottomed tart tin with butter or baking spray
  19. Lightly dust your work surface with flour, then roll out the pastry into a circle 5mm thick and large enough to fit into the tin, leaving an overhang of about 2.5cm.
  20. Roll the pastry around your rolling pin so that you can lift it up without stretching it, then drape it over the tin and let it fall inside.
  21. Ease the pastry carefully into the base and sides of the tin without stretching it, and leave it overhanging the edges. Tap the tin lightly against your work surface to settle it in. Prick the base of the pastry all over with a fork to stop it from trying to rise up when in the oven (even though it will be held down by baking beans, it can sometimes lift a little).
  22. You can use a large sheet of baking paper for lining your tart case, however I prefer to use clingfilm (the kind that is safe for use in the oven or microwave) as it is softer than paper and won’t leave indents in the pastry. Place three sheets of clingfilm (or one sheet of baking paper) over the top of the pastry case, then tip in your baking beans and spread them out so they completely cover the base. Don’t trim the pastry yet. Put the case into the fridge for at least one hour (or the freezer for 15 minutes) to relax it.
  23. Pre-heat the oven to 190C / gas 5.
  24. Remove the pastry case from the fridge and put in the pre-heated oven for about 20 minutes until the base has dried out and is very lightly coloured, like parchment.
  25. Remove from the oven and lift out the clingfilm (or baking paper) and beans. Don’t worry if the overhanging edges are quite brown, as you will be trimming these away after you have finished baking your tart.
  26. Brush the inside of the pastry case with the beaten egg and put it back into the oven for another ten minutes. The inside of the pastry, and particularly the base, will now be quite golden brown and shiny from the egg glaze, which will act as a barrier so that the pastry will stay crisp when you put in the filling.
  27. Let the pastry case cool down then you can trim away the overhanging edges.
  28. Turn down the oven to 180°C/gas 4.
  29. To make the filling, put the milk, cream and vanilla pod (split and seeds scraped in) in a pan, bring to a simmer (be careful not to let the mixture boil), then take off the heat and leave to infuse for at least an hour. Remove the vanilla pod.
  30. In a bowl, mix the egg, yolk and sugar until pale and creamy, and then whisk in the cornflour. Stir in the melted butter.
  31. Put the pan containing the milk and cream mixture back on the heat and bring slowly to the boil, whisking all the time, then turn down to a simmer for 1 minute, still whisking all the time. Take off the heat and pour onto the egg and sugar mixture, stirring well.
  32. Pour the mixture into the tart case and bake for around 45 minutes, until the filling is firm to the touch and a deep, dark golden on top — like the top of a crème brûlée. Take out of the oven, slide off the tin, and cool completely on a wire rack before serving.

 

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Tarte au Maroilles

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Capturei 28/08/2017

I have just arrived home from a holiday in the Picardy region of Northern France. I have to confess I have lost my enthusiasm for blogging recently due to my poor student bank account taking a battering and my house-”mates” whose kitchen cleanliness leaves little to be desired.  After a trip to this beautiful part of France however, I have returned with a new passion for cooking and all things cheese!

In case you’re not familiar with Maroilles, it’s a soft cow’s milk cheese with an orange rind that’s made in Northern France. Those simple facts sound harmless enough but there’s a little more to it than that. The aroma of Maroilles can be scary. If you don’t eat it quickly, it could start to set off fire alarms and endanger low-flying aircraft. On the other hand, it tastes great.

One of the most common dishes using Mariolles is the Tarte au Maroilles. You can find different versions of this tarte around Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Picardy but the most traditional form has a yeasted dough base rather than a layer of pastry. You can of course use a shortcrust or even puff pastry if you want a result similar to a quiche. Indeed, I personally prefer a crisper base that puff pastry achieves but I have provided the recipe for the authentic yeasted base here.

If you can’t get hold of any Maroilles, then you could substitute another cheese that isn’t too soft and ripe but does have a powerful flavour: Chaumes, Reblochon or Pont-l’Évêque come to mind.

Serves 6-8

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Ingredients:

For the base:

  • ½ tsp easy bake fast action dried yeast
  • 300 g strong white flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp caster sugar
  • 15 g softened butter
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 100 ml milk
  • 20 ml water

For the topping:

  • 300 g Maroilles
  • 200 ml crème fraîche
  • 1 egg
  • Plenty of pepper and a little salt
  • Freshly grated nutmeg to taste, optional

Method:

  1. Add all of the base ingredients to the large mixing bowl and combine then on a lightly floured work surface, knead the mix for 10-15 minutes. You should have a light, slightly sticky dough. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover and leave to prove in a warm place for 1 hour.
  2. Butter a 25 cm or 26 cm diameter pie dish. (The tarte topping tends to bubble up more than you might expect and so a deeper dish is useful.) Knock the dough back and roll it out until it covers the base of the pie dish. Some recipes suggest that you should fully line the dish by spreading the dough up the sides, but I was told in Picardy that it should remain flat.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Slice the Maroilles quite thinly and cover the dough base with the cheese. You don’t have to remove the rind of the cheese, but unless the cheese is very fresh then it can be quite strong. I personally love the flavour and leave it on. Beat the egg and stir it into the crème fraîche. Season this mixture with the pepper and salt. Pour the mixture onto the tarte and spread it out to cover the whole of the surface (you don’t need to be too fussy or precise about this). Grate nutmeg over if using. Bake in the oven for 30 – 35 minutes or until the top is golden and puffed up.
  4. Serve warm with a fresh green salad and a cold beer.

Bacon Roly Polies

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bacon (2) 22/04/2017

Yes, you read that correctly – wheels of cheesy bacon! Simple to make, yet deliciously moreish to eat, these bacon rolls make a great savoury snack, picnic staple, or side for soups and stews. A tasty filling of bacon, cheddar and cream cheese is rolled in an easy pastry, and then these little rolls only take 15 minutes to bake.

Ingredients:

Bacon filling:

  • 8 bacon rashers
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 100g of soft cheese
  • 100g of cheddar, grated
  • 1/2 bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed

Pastry:

  • 250g of plain flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 75g of unsalted butter, diced and cold
  • 225ml of milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 20g of butter, melted

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Place the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Crumb the butter into the flour using your thumbs and forefingers. Mix in the milk until just combined.
  3. Place onto a floured work surface and roll into a 1cm thick rectangle, trimming the edges of the dough if desired.
  4. Brush the dough with some of the melted butter then layer the bacon on top to cover the pastry, making sure to leave a 2cm edge free on one of the long sides of the dough,
  5. Mix the onion, cheeses, parsley and garlic together and spread over the bacon.
  6. Brush the gap at the edge of the dough with water then roll into a spiral, sealing the edge brushed with water to the body of the roll.
  7. Wrap the roll in cling film and refrigerate for 20 minutes
  8. Slice the roll into 1.5cm slices and place, spiral side up, onto the baking tray. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden. Serve warm.

Classic Mince Pies

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min 30/12/2016

Now I couldn’t let Christmas pass without posting mice pies!

There are countless recipes for mince pies; countless recipes for pastry; countless recipes for mincemeat; countless recipes for toppings. I have posted a few variations myself.

As with most of my recipes, you can of course alter, add, swap whatever you like but this is a no frills, classic, old school recipe with the bare essentials that focuses on technique rather than fancy ingredients to give you the perfect festive treat with no faff.

Ingredients:

  • 12oz plain flour
  • 3oz butter – for richness
  • 3oz vegetable shortening (I used Trex) – for crispness
  • A pinch of salt
  • A squeeze of lemon juice
  • Ice cold water
  • A jar of homemade or good quality mincemeat
  • Milk for brushing

Method:

  1. Measure the flour into a large mixing bowl with the salt.
  2. Add the butter and shortening to the flour. Cut it into the flour using a metal knife then work into fine crumbs with your fingertips. The trick is to handle it as little as possible.
  3. Squeeze a little lemon juice in and add just enough water to incorporate the mix into a ball of pastry dough. Again, try to handle the pastry as little as possible.
  4. Wrap the ball in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 180C fan/200C.
  6. Once chilled, roll the pastry out on a floured surface to the thickness of a pound coin. Cut out as many circles as you can using a 76mm cutter. This amount of pastry should make approx. 18 mince pies with lids.
  7. Place the circles in mince pie tins and fill each with a teaspoon of mincemeat. If the mincemeat is a little dry or crystalised, loosen it up with a splash of brandy or rum.
  8. Reroll the offcuts and cut out lids. I like using a star cutter for this. Each time you roll the pastry out, it will become tougher so try and get as many shapes cut as you can without having to roll again.
  9. Brush the edges of the mince pies with a bit of milk then place the lids on and brush those with milk too. Bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.

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10. Remove to a wire rack to cool. Once cool, sprinkle with icing sugar. Fantastic with brandy cream/butter.

Cheese & Onion Pasties

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screenshot_2016-09-23-21-24-02-11 26/09/2016

Pasties! As the weather begins to turn, nothing hits the spot more than a comforting pasty with crisp, golden pastry with an oozing cheesy filling. Mmmmm

Different fats produce different characteristics in baked or fried foods and hard fat will produce a crisper texture than any other. I have tried using beef dripping with this pastry and lard. Both have given extremely crisp results with their own savoury character.

The use of some strong flour in the pastry also makes the dough a little more resilient to make shaping easier without sacrificing tenderness.

The mix of different mustards is purely my preference so if you have any favourites then feel free to experiment.

Either way, the mix of fresh spring onions with hearty potato, autumnal swede and melting strong cheddar is an absolute winner encased in a crisp, buttery house of loveliness.

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Makes 6

Ingredients:

For the rough puff dripping crust:

  • 300g plain flour, plus extra for rolling
  • 100g strong white flour
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • 50g unsalted butter, softened
  • 150g beef dripping or lard, at room temperature
  • 150ml lukewarm water

For the filling:

  • 150g Extra mature cheddar (I used Barber’s Cruncher)
  • 100g peeled and diced swede
  • 100g peeled and diced potato
  • 3-4 large spring onions, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon plain flour
  • 1 heaped teaspoon each of wholegrain mustard, Dijon mustard and English mustard powder
  • A few sprigs of thyme – optional
  • 1 egg, beaten, for egg wash

Method:

  1. For the rough puff dripping crust:
  2. Place the flours and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut the butter into little pieces and rub into the flour then cut the dripping or lard into 1cm pieces and toss it through. Do not rub it in. Stir the water in without kneading until the dough just combines then leave for 10 minutes.
  3. Generously flour the work surface to stop the dough sticking then roll out the dough to 50cm x 20cm. Fold the dough in by thirds then roll out again towards the unfolded ends and fold in by thirds once more. Cover the dough or place in a bag and let it rest somewhere cool (but not as cold as the fridge) for 30 minutes.
  4. Repeat the rolling, folding and resting twice more. The pastry is then ready to be used. You can also freeze it at this point in a sealed ziplock bag then just allow to thaw completely before using.

For the filling:

  1. Place the grated cheese and spring onions in a bowl with the swede and potato, add the salt, pepper, flour and thyme, if using, and toss this together and chill.
  2. Roll the pastry out to about ½cm thick and cut out circles using a side plate as a guide.
  3. Mix the mustards and mustard powder together in a small bowl. Lightly coat the centre of each pastry circle with the mustard and brush the edges with water. Place a generous spoonful of filling on one half of the pastry leaving a clean ½cm border.
  4. Fold the pastry over the filling and press the edges together gently to seal. Crimp as you like. Repeat with the remaining pasties then place on a greaseproof lined baking tray.
  5. Chill the pasties in the fridge while you heat the oven to 200C then brush them with egg wash and bake them for 45 minutes until the pastry is rich and golden and the filling is piping hot.

Bacon, feta & leek filo pie

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IMG_20160216_000625[1] 19/02/2016

This Balkan classic makes an impressive centrepiece for any table – a golden spiral of crisp filo pastry, holding a rich filling of vegetables, feta and bacon. This pie recipe includes a guide on how to make filo pastry from scratch, but if short on time you can also use ready-made, rather than homemade filo pastry. One thing I would say is USE REAL BUTTER! It provides a rich crisp pastry with a beautiful taste.

All pie is good in my book, but this pie is extra special. Not only is it the shape of a Cumberland sausage, but it also boasts numerous layers of homemade filo pastry. Yes, that’s right, HOMEMADE filo pastry.

You would be forgiven for thinking life’s too short for such painstaking tasks, but bear with me. I’ll admit, it would probably be fair to say you have too much time on your hands if you can afford to make homemade filo a weekly staple, but it’s sometimes nice to spend longer than 20 minutes knocking up something quickly in the kitchen. It can be therapeutic to take your time. In fact, it’s the perfect activity to take on while indulging in guilty pleasures like watching telly or singing along to your favourite LP in the daytime. And the flavour really is worth the effort. Homemade filo is never going to be quite as thin as shop bought, but the difference in texture from a more rustic roll feels right for this roly-poly pie.

You can, of course, buy ready-made filo, if you must, but I think you ought to try making it yourself at least once first. As for the filling, you can sing your own tune. It’s delicious with a simple concoction of sautéed onion, garlic and spinach with a few lumps of feta crumbled in for good measure. Minced lamb or pork with cabbage makes for a filling and robust pie and you can even add potatoes or rice for extra and economical bulk. As far as I’m concerned, you can never go wrong with bacon and leeks as a base and I love to serve it with a simple salad. It’s best to leave the pie for 15–20 minutes after it’s come out of the oven, as the flavours are best when it’s not piping hot.

Filo pastry:

  • 1kg flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • 1 tbsp of oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 400ml of water
  • 200ml of butter, melted

Pie filling:

  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 2 leeks, trimmed and chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 bacon rashers, smoked, chopped
  • 200g of feta, crumbled
  • 1 handful of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 small handful of mint, finely chopped
  • 1 dash of oil, for frying
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper

Method:

  1. To begin, sift the flour into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the vinegar, salt, oil and half of the water and mix together with a fork until it starts to come together. Add as much of the remaining water as you need to make a dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface
  2. Knead for a few minutes until you have a soft, but not sticky dough. Wrap in cling film and leave to rest for at least 20 minutes.
  3. In the meantime, make the filling. In a pan over a medium heat, sweat the onion, leeks, garlic and bacon in a little oil (or butter) until soft and slightly golden. Stir in the feta and parsley and season generously with pepper. There is already plenty of salt from the feta and bacon. Transfer to a bowl and leave to cool.
  4. Use your hands to roll the dough into a sausage and cut into 10 pieces. Take a piece of dough and cover the remaining 9 pieces with cling film to prevent them from drying out.
  5. Roll the dough as thinly as you possibly can into a large rectangular shape, then gently stretch it further using your hands. Ideally the dough should be thin enough to be able to see your hand through it.
  6. Once the dough is as thin as you can make it, brush the filo sheet with melted butter/oil and cover with cling film. Roll out the next piece in the same way, remove the cling film from the first sheet and place the second over the top.
  7. Brush liberally with more melted butter and place the sheet of cling film back on. Continue until all the dough has been rolled and brushed with melted butter, giving you 10 layers.
  8. Preheat the oven to 220°C.
  9. Place the layered filo in front of you, horizontally, and trim off the edges of the pastry to make a neat rectangle. Spoon the filling into a line a few inches in from the edge of the filo closest to you. Now for the fun bit!
  10. Roll the whole thing up tightly into a long sausage and, with the seam underneath, coil the sausage into a tight ring. Butter a round ovenproof dish, big enough for the pie to snugly fit into the dish. Use a couple of fish slices, or any other long flat implement to hand, to carefully transfer the pie to the dish.
  11. Brush the top of the pie with more melted butter and sprinkle over a little salt and pepper. Place the pie in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.
  12. Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C and continue to bake for another 20 minutes. Leave to cool for 15–20 minutes before carefully transferring the pie to a serving plate. Slice into wedges to serve.

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Lemon Marzipan Cheesecake Slices

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IMG_20151228_230803[1] 28/12/2015

Oh wow! What a surprise these were. I made these for a festive alternative to Christmas pudding for the pud haters that unfortunately walk among us but unlike many alternatives, these slices turned out to be ridiculously tasty, zingy and rich with soft marzipan layers running through the creamy lemon filling for a Christmas vibe. You could make these at any time of year and I plan to… many times a year!

Ingredients:

  • 125g (4oz) shortcrust pastry (your favourite recipe)
  • 250g (8oz) readymade golden marzipan
  • 90g (3oz) full fat cream cheese
  • 2 medium eggs, separated
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 small lemon
  • 60g (2oz) caster sugar
  • 1 level tbsp plain flour
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • Icing sugar, for dusting

Method:

  1. Set the oven to 160°C. Roll out the pastry thinly to a square and use to line a 19cm (7½in) square shallow tin base and up the sides. Divide the marzipan in half and roll out each piece to an 18cm (7in) square.
  2. Put one piece of marzipan on the pastry in the tin. Soften the cream cheese in a bowl, beat in the egg yolks, lemon rind and juice, sugar, flour and milk.
  3. Whisk egg whites until stiff then carefully fold them into cheese mixture. Spoon half mixture over marzipan base, put other piece of marzipan on top then spoon rest of cake mixture on top. Bake for 1 hour.
  4. Cool then dust with icing sugar before cutting into slices to serve.

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These keep really well in an airtight container. You can even freeze them… or just eat them!