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Lemon Chaser August 7, 2010

Filed under: Beautiful baking,Moreish puddings — titchandboofer @ 7:04 am
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About once a fortnight the beloved, the small person and I get together with our lovely-midwife-friends (the LMFs) and their children for lazy Friday. Lazy, because instead of cooking excellent, nourishing food for our families and engaging them in meaningful conversation around the dinner  table, we park all the kids in front of a dvd, order up a large amount of Thai takeaway and curl up on the couch to eat and gossip. This was as good an excuse as any to bargain for a brief reprieve from the baking embargo. And what better way to chase away gingery, peanutty, chilli-laced curries, garlicky roti and sticky steamed rice, than with tangy lemon pudding and silky vanilla ice-cream?

Back Yard Pudding

If you like baking even just a little, there is a good chance that you will always have the ingredients for this pudding on hand. In this house, if you can beg an egg from a hen and find a lemon on a tree in the back yard this pudding can definitely be made – hence its name. We have a handful of citrus trees, but by far the most productive is the Meyer lemon. Old and gnarled, heavy with smooth-skinned, golden and juicy lemons for most of the year, protected from the threat of bugs and disease by the hens, this tree makes it a pretty sure bet that we never have to go without dessert.

65 grams of butter, plus a bit extra to butter up your baking dish

185 grams of caster sugar

the zest and juice of 2 lemons (chop your zest up finely if you don’t have one of the superfine zesters)

3 eggs, separated

30 grams of self-raising flour

160 mls of milk

ice-cream or cream or creme fraiche to serve

Preheat your oven to 170 degrees celsius (our oven is a mini blast furnace and I had to turn it down to 150 for the second half of the cooking time, so just keep your eye on it)

Butter up a baking dish: approximately 1 litre capacity. It can be round, oval, a bit smaller, a bit bigger. If it’s smaller and deeper you may just have to cook it a little longer.

In a medium bowl, beat your butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the zest, then add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add half the sifted flour and half the milk and fold in gently. Repeat with the remaining flour and milk.

Gently stir in the lemon juice. The mixture may look separated/split at this stage – this is normal.

In a clean bowl, whisk your egg whites into firm peaks.

Fold the egg whites into the pudding mixture, one third at a time. Don’t overmix at this point. It’s okay if the mixture looks a little uneven.

Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.

Place the baking dish into a roasting pan.

Pour boiling water into the roasting pan until the water level is 1/3 of the baking dish.

Bake for 30-45 minutes depending on your oven. This may seem like a wide range, but the easiest thing is to check the pudding after 20 minutes and adjust your oven temperature if necessary. When it’s done it will be slightly springy to touch and look golden. As it cools, it will sink a little bit. When you serve it, you will find it is pudding-y on top and gooey underneath.

This is a seriously good pudding. It’s good hot or cold. It’s good at any time of day. It’s good dolloped into a bowl with ice-cream and it’s equally good spooned straight from dish to mouth while you hover in the doorway of the open fridge. On a cold winter’s night, with the LMFs and hot tea and happy children, it’s perfect.


Sneaking around can be so sweet August 1, 2010

Filed under: Ice creams etc,Moreish puddings — titchandboofer @ 12:55 am
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There is a lot to recommend a long weekend away. Surprising as it may be to some, even a long weekend away with my partner’s parents is no exception. Unlike my family of compulsive ‘doers’, my partner’s parents (we shall call them Coach and The Nanna) are well practised in the art of taking it easy. Not once has anyone been heard to say ‘come on, let’s get outside and stop wasting a perfectly good day!’ – why is it that some people feel it’s impossible to spend time wastefully so long as you’re exposed to the elements? So as well as having two extra people to entertain the small person, many hours can be devoted to lolling on the couch, reading the weekend papers, drinking tea, watching trashy movies and football, drinking tea, criticising the poor editing of the weekend papers, drinking tea and cooking. By cooking I don’t just mean planning and putting together the obligatory breakfast, lunch and dinner, I mean indulgent, artful, pleasurable cooking. And that is how, yesterday, we came to make three desserts.

Sweet Saturday Part 1: Maple & Lavender Semi-Freddo

Following the steps up to the front door of this house is a vast bed of lavender. In warmer weather the perfume fills the air and sometimes The Nanna pulls the line-dry bedsheets over the flowers on her way into the house, so falling asleep on a summer night you could almost believe you were lying on the front lawn in a sunbeam.

Standing on the front steps in the sharp chill of yesterday morning, wrapped up warm in a dressing gown, picking lavender flowers to use in this recipe almost made up for the cheat’s eggs.

60 grams of lavender flowers

100 mls of water

115 grams of granulated white sugar

3 egg whites

350 mls of cream

100 grams of maple syrup, plus extra for drizzling

Line a loaf tin with several layers of gladwrap, leaving the edges to hang over the side so that you can lift the set semi-freddo out easily later.

Heat your oven to 160 degrees celsius. Spread the lavender flowers on a baking tray and bake for about five minutes, drying it out slightly and increasing their aroma.

In a small saucepan, gently  heat the sugar, water and flowers, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and let it boil for two minutes without stirring. Add the maple syrup and cook for another five minutes. Remove from the heat and strain over a bowl to remove the lavender. Press down on the flowers to get the most syrup out. When you’ve squeezed out all the syrup keep two or three of the flowers, the rest can be thrown out or composted.

In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until firm peaks form. Continue beating, pouring the syrup into the bowl in a thin stream. Beat until the mixture is thick, fluffy and cold.

In a separate bowl, beat the cream until it holds its shape. Add the cream into the egg-white and syrup mixture, folding until it is well combined. Pour into the prepared loaf tin, cover and freeze for at least five hours until set firm.

Put your reserved flowers into a small jar and cover with the extra maple syrup. This will infuse while the semi-freddo sets, giving you a beautifully scented syrup to drizzle over the finished product.

To serve, lift out of the tin onto a serving plate, leave to soften for a few minutes then slice with a warm knife. Drizzle with your infused syrup and sprinkle with fresh lavender if you wish.

Simply beautiful. Not too sweet, not too floral, not too creamy, just light and delightful and moreish. Thank you Tanner Brothers, from whose book – ice cream – this recipe comes. When I am next in Plymouth, UK, I will be beating a hasty path to the door of Tanners.


Sticky Notes July 26, 2010

Filed under: Moreish puddings — titchandboofer @ 3:19 am
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I never adored Fantales as a kid, but I have strong memories of them nonetheless. Most summer holidays through high school, my horse-riding friend (HRF) and I would go on holiday with our shared extra-grandparents (EGs) and our horses, to the EG’s daughter’s place in Gippsland. Each time we would stock up on snacks for the car trip as if our lives depended on it. In my memory the car trip was very long, hours and hours and hours, necessitating all manner of snacks, horsey magazines and games. We had Minties, Kool Mints, M&Ms, Sherbet Bombs and my HRF always had Fantales. For those not in the know, Fantales are really a lengthy game in a tiny, chocolatey-caramelly cube – you eat the lolly; there are celebrity trivia questions and answers on the wrapper; and when you’ve grilled each other over the trivia you can compete to see who can rip their wrapper painstakingly into the longest ribbon. It’s hazy now, but presumably when we were done eating our body weight in sugar and discussing Danny DeVito’s career, we filled in the time jimmying molten sugar out of our braces. Incidentally, this time did nothing to improve my ability to retain celebrity information – I still cannot readily distinguish between Ed Harris, Bruce Willis and the short guy in the terrible movie about water.

So, Fantales. Though I will never love them as much as my HRF did, they are still excellent and this dessert is both a grown-up version and a legitimate part of a meal. It has also blog-hopped around a bit – I found it at A Cozy Kitchen, where it had come from Trish Deseine via The Wednesday Chef. This recipe came into my life after a meal out at The Commoner, where Alex had a droolworthy dessert of brown ale pudding with salted caramel sauce. Googling did not reveal a recipe for brown ale pudding (please, if you have one – tell me about it) but it did lead me to…

Salted Caramel Chocolate Mousse

1/2 a cup of granulated sugar

3/4 of a cup of thickened cream, warmed to room temperature

2 1/2 tablespoons of room temperature unsalted butter

1/2 a teaspoon of sea salt

210 grams of dark chocolate

3 eggs, separated

Put the sugar into a medium saucepan with two tablespoons of water.

Heat this over medium-high heat, swirling but not stirring, until brown – this is the step where you can really set the flavour to your own preference. The first time I made this I held back tentatively, not really letting the sugar caramelise. the result was sweet and salty mousse, morish but with no edge. The last time, I heeded the words of Nicole Kaplan and let the caramel go and go. The final mousse was very different – the bitterness of caramel on the edge, side by side with sweet, smoky dark chocolate and the tang of salt.

When your sugar is just how you want it, take it off the heat and add your butter and salt, stirring to deglaze the pan. Pour in the cream, whisking to combine.

Add your chocolate and leave it for a few minutes to melt into the caramel.

Once the chocolate has melted, whisk it through the caramel and add a little of this mixture to your egg yolks, just to raise their temperature.

Then, add the yolks to the pan and whisk thoroughly.

Whisk the egg whites until firm peaks form, then fold gently into the caramel-chocolate mixture.

Pour into ramekins – I used six, but you could use eight to lessen the chances of sinking into a diabetic coma with each serve.

Sprinkle with a little extra sea salt.

Refrigerate for a few hours until set then serve with or without a bit of whipped cream.

Egg-wise, for my last version of this I used three of Lola’s – small and creamy coloured, each one about two-thirds the weight of one of Agnes’s. This was not by design, but they were all that were on hand at the time. Happily I didn’t notice any difference in the end result, despite the smaller volume of egg white.