Sunday, 24 August 2014

Fluffy American Pancakes with Caramelised Peaches

I am swept up in Leaving cert results this week for the first time in years. The stress, the nerves, the excitement, the feeling that everything hangs in a delicate balance, the anticipation of an unknown future. 

Inevitably I started to think about my life since that envelope got ripped open. What would I say to my 17 year old me? What would she say to the present me, 7 years down the line? Anyone who says they have no regrets is in denial or lying.

But regret, as inevitable as is it is equally pointless. Instead of thinking about what I would say to my 17 year old me, I should be thinking about what the 30 year old me would say to me now. It is easier to regret than to take a good hard look at your now. 

But all this introspection requires sustenance in the form of sweet sweet breakfast food! Inspired by the realisation that the summer is slowly coming to an end, these light fluffy pancakes are the perfect summer weekend breakfast. There is still time left to capitalise on those bits of summer that are fastly becoming glimpses in the rear review mirror; a burst of sunshine, the tickle of grass on your bare feet and eating the final pieces of summer fruit.  

I haven't done much with these peaches, a knob of butter and a sprinkling of brown sugar before being shoved under the grill is all they need. 

Serves 2

For the pancakes 

135g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons of caster sugar
1 egg
150ml milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
30g butter, melted and cooled

For the peaches

3 peaches, halved and cored
1 tablespoon of light brown sugar
knob of butter for each peach half

1. Preheat the grill to medium heat.
2. In a bowl mix all the dry ingredients for the pancakes together. In a small jug beat the eggs, milk and vanilla together, lightly.
3. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the egg/milk mix. Beat well with the whisk ensure that there are no pockets of flour. Finally mix in the melted butter until thoroughly combined. Let to stand for 5-10 minutes.
4. Put the peach halves in an oven proof dish. Place a small knob of butter on each half and sprinkle with the brown sugar. Place under the grill for 10-15 minutes until charred and soft, checking every five minutes to ensure the edges don't burn. If they do, turn the grill down.
5. Heat a non stick pan to medium heat. Pour a ladle of pancake batter on to the pan. The mixture will be very thick and so is easier to handle than traditional crepes.
6. When the bottom starts to solidify and the top begins to set and form bubbles, flip the pancake to cool on the other side until brown. The mixture should make 6-8 pancakes. Keep warm in the bottom of the oven while waiting for the peaches to cook.
7. Remove the peaches from the grill and allow to cool before serving on top of a stack of pancakes. Add a squeeze of honey to serve.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Black and white éclairs

Eclairs are the Coco Chanel of the dessert world; simple, timeless and elegant. I, for one, am incapable of stifling a gasp of admiration when presented with these glossy delicious choux pastries, a sweet-tooth's favourite since the turn of the nineteenth century. 

I have kept the flavours simple here, the eclairs are filled with chantilly cream and topped with chocolate ganache. And to add a little pizzaz I have used a decorating technique deceptively easy and eye-catchingly effective called 'feathering'. Try it out!

For the choux recipe click here.

For the chantilly cream
200ml cream
1 tablespoon icing sugar, sifted

For the topping
100ml heavy cream
50g dark/milk chocolate
pinch of salt
25g white chocolate

1. Heat the oven to 220oC.
2. Make the choux according to instructions on the link above. Pipe 12 x 3 inch lengths, well spread apart onto two baking sheets using a 1 1/2inch nozzle. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 15 minutes. Change position of the baking trays, reduce the temperature to 190oC and bake for a further 20-25 minutes.
3. Once golden brown and puffed up, take the eclairs out of the oven and cut each in half lengthways. If they are too hot, stab them to let the steam escape and then cut them lengthways later.
4. Beat the cream until soft peaks form. Sift the icing sugar over and fold in. Keep in the fridge until needed.
5. To make the dark chocolate ganache, break the chocolate up into a bowl with the salt. Heat the cream in a small saucepan until almost boiling then pour over the chocolate. Stir with a spatula in circular motions until all the chocolate is melted and the mixture is thick. Put in the fridge to cool until required.
6. To assemble, spoon or pipe the cream into the bottom half of the eclairs and replace the top.  Melt the white chocolate in the microwave or a small saucepan. Fill into a piping bag with a narrow nozzle.
7. Using a wide knife spread the ganche over the éclairs. While the ganache is still wet, pipe lines of white chocolate horizontally across the éclair parallel and at even intervals.
8. Drag a cocktail stick lightly up the long length of the éclair from bottom to top, creating the white chocolate pinnacles. Next drag the cocktail stick top to bottom creating pinnacles in the other direction. Repeat until you finish the design across the éclair.  For photos and guidance see here.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Daim Bar Ice Cream Bombe

I don't believe that some people can't bake. I do believe that it is easy to have a bad experience and get put off. But a failed bake can be for a hundred different reasons, some of which are not your fault (bad oven, unreliable recipe) and a few other reasons that you can easily fix. 

Anyywayy, even if you feel like you can't bake (a sentiment which I do not condone), unless you have some repetitive strain injury in your wrist you can definitely mix. 

Which is the only qualification you need for this next recipe. Three bowls, egg yolk mix in one, egg whites in another, cream in the third. Beat each individually then mix it all up and throw in some dime bars. 

Make the caramel and chocolate sauce if you feel adventurous or buy them in the ice cream sauce isle of your nearest supermarket. 

I made this in a 2L bundt tin but you could easily use a loaf tin or large bowl, just make sure you cover it well in clingfilm. 

Begin the recipe the day before you intend to serve.

From Sharon Hearne Smith's 'No Bake Baking'

10 daim bars 
4 eggs
50g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract 
250g mascarpone
400ml cream 

For the chocolate sauce 
100g milk chocolate 
1 tablespoon butter
4 tablespoons of cream 

Caramel sauce 
125g caster sugar 
75ml single cream 
1 1/2 tablespoons butter 
pinch of salt 

1. Cover the bundt tin in clingfilm, leaving a couple of inches of clingfilm around the edges. 
2. Separate the eggs. 
3. In one bowl mix the egg yolks, sugar, mascarpone and vanilla extract until smooth. 
4. In another bowl beat the cream until soft peaks form. 
5. In a third bowl beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form with an electric beater. 
6. Fold the cream into the egg yolk mixture. Then gently fold in the egg whites. 
7. Pour one third of the mixture into the bundt tin. Bash all of the daim bars except one with a rolling pin until they are in large shards. Scatter the daim bar into the bundt tin then cover with the rest of the mixture. 
8. Cover over with the rest of the clingfilm and then place in the freezer for 8 hours or overnight. 

For the chocolate sauce 
1. Heat the butter and chocolate in a small bowl over simmering water. When the chocolate is almost melted stir in the cream until smooth. 

For the caramel sauce 
1. Heat the sugar in a saucepan over a low heat. Do not stir. 
2. Heat the cream in a separate pan over a very low heat. 
3. The sugar will begin to caramelize around the edges. When all the sugar has turned golden brown, use a silicon spatula to gently break up any pieces of unmelted sugar.
4. Cook until dark brown keeping a very keen eye on it. 
5. Over a low heat carefully pour in the cream and stir gently after each addition. The mixture may bubble up and spit so be careful. Use up all the cream. Add the butter and stir over a low heat until smooth. Leave to cool for 10 minutes. 

To serve 
1. Take the ice cream out of the freezer for 20 minutes before serving. 
2. Place the bundt tin upside down on a plate and allow the ice cream to drop down. 
3. Drizzle over the sauces and decorate with the reserved daim bars. 
4. Serve with any leftover sauce so everyone can help themselves!