I have often been asked “who taught you to cook?”. The simplest explanation would be “my mother” but that’s not entirely true. The Granny loves to cook, cooks a lot (some might say way too much, but they are just ungrateful whinypantses) and is pretty damn good at it. She is not, however, an instructional type of teacher. Starting from when I was little, if I was bouncing around, begging to make cake (oh, it started early, this compulsion) she’d just gesture at the kitchen and tell me to have at it. Then she might pop in a few times to check nothing had exploded or caught fire. I will never forget one particular devastation when I was about seven. I was making a chocolate cake (natch) but hadn’t learnt the difference between beat/mix/cream/fold/stir etc. Figuring they were interchangeable and must be the product of some creative editing (well, you wouldn’t want to bore people) and indulging my growing love affair with the Kenwood Chef mixer, I just beat the crap out of everything. This, as you may have already predicted, did not end well. All ingredients in, vigorous beating complete, I peered into the bowl to see….not very much at all, a dismal amount of runny batter so thin it would barely coat a spoon. The Granny, in her wisdom, advised me to cook it and see what happened. A burnt chocolate pancake, that’s what happened. Lesson 1 – Folding – Complete. And so the years went by. The ‘learn as you go’ school of teaching was all fine when it came to cooking from recipes. Now, though, The Granny is still two decades ahead in her own baking evolution and just makes stuff up. Really good stuff. Stuff that would be nice to repeat. Trying to get specific instructions out of her is still impossible. We have had many variations of the following conversation:
Me – Thish ish vreally ymmmm (with mouth full)
Her – Oh, it’s easy, I just whipped it up before breakfast while I was knitting a fire-engine (or something)
Me – What’s in it?
Her – Um, butter and eggs and things
Me – How do you make it?
Her – Oh, you just, um, did you want a cup of tea? (The Family equivalent of ‘quick! look over there!’)
I once suggested she could do a recipe for this blog and we were suddenly diverted into a conversation about the Christmas holidays. So, it’s likely her baking secrets will remain just that. Anyhow, The Granny’s passion for baking is almost equalled by her enthusiasm for eating baked goods. Unlike me, she has no qualms about having the equivalent of cake for breakfast every day and, for as long as I can remember, her breakfast plate has held some kind of sweet pastry delight. While I’m not prepared to commit to the seven hundred weekly hours of exercise required to balance this out, I do join in when we holiday together. I have two favourite breakfast baked treats – the coffee scroll (oh, how I love you) and the almond croissant (and you). Yesterday, in what seems to be becoming a weekly event, the beloved staged a takeover of the kitchen and made ordinary, boring croissants into almond croissants. Then she told me she’s not really that into baking. Then she turned the croissants into pudding, involving two types of custard and a chocolate sauce. Then, being lazy friday, we got together with the LMFs and ate it all.
The first bit:
4 croissants, preferably a day old (you could make them yourself, but that is a whole other level of baking enthusiasm)
150 grams of unsalted butter at room temperature
75 grams of icing sugar, sifted
1/3 of a cup of plain flour
2 cups of almond meal
1 teaspoon of almond essence
1/3 of a cup of flaked almonds
Preheat your oven to 170 degrees celsius (150 fan forced)
Put the butter, sugar, flour, almond meal and almond essence in your food processor. Whizz well to combine.
Split the croissants in half horizontally.
Place the bases on a baking tray.
Spread with 3/4 of the almond paste.
Replace the croissant tops and spread with the remaining paste.
Scatter with the flaked almonds.
Bake for ten-fifteen minutes, until golden and lovely.
Dust with a bit of extra icing sugar.
The next bit:
Your 4 almond croissants
110 grams of caster sugar
300 mls of full fat milk
300 mls of pure cream (not thickened)
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
2 tablespoons of Amaretto (or whatever you like best)
Grease a baking dish. The beloved used a square glass one, about 1.5 litre capacity.
Tear up the croissants and fill the dish.
Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a large bowl until just combined
Put the milk, cream, vanilla pod and seeds into a medium saucepan. Heating over low heat, bring it to just below boiling (sort of simmering around the sides).
Gradually pour the warm milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly.
Add the Amaretto and whisk to combine.
Pour this mixture over the torn croissants in the baking dish. Set aside for at least an hour to soak in.
The next bit:
4 egg yolks
250 mls of full fat milk
250 mls of pure cream (not thickened)
55 grams of caster sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Put a medium sized bowl ready over a bigger bowl with some ice in the bottom.
Lightly beat the egg yolks in another medium sized bowl.
Put the milk, cream, sugar and vanilla in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
Bring to just below boiling point.
Pour the milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Return the complete mixture to the pan and stir constantly over a low heat until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Pour immediately into the bowl over ice, cover with clingfilm and let cool until needed. (It’s to serve over the finished pudding)
The next bit:
200 mls of pure cream
50 mls of full fat milk
200 grams of good dark chocolate (the beloved used Whittaker’s 72%), chopped
25 grams of cocoa powder
Put the cream and milk in a small saucepan over medium heat.
Bring to just below boiling point.
Remove from the heat, add the chocolate and stir until smooth (here the beloved had a mini-tantrum when the sauce split – we fixed it by stirring in a bit of extra cream)
Whisk in the cocoa, then set aside.
The last bits:
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius (160 fan forced)
Bake the pudding for 45-55 minutes, until just set and golden. Cover with foil if it browns too quickly.
Remove the pudding from the oven, let it sit for a little while (at least 10 minutes).
Turn out of the dish, slice and serve drizzled with the custard and the chocolate sauce. Add some extra almonds and raspberries if you want to, but it’s hardly essential, there’s quite enough going on.
Eat it up.