Monday, 24 November 2014

English Muffins

It's bright and sunny and cold and I have remembered that I don't completely hate winter now that the torrential rain has passed. In fact I quite like the bundling up ritual, the numb tingle in my nose and the completely valid excuse to batten down the hatches when the dark evenings set in...

This weekend I made English muffins. Perfect for breakfast, excellent at tea time, these muffins are soft and fluffy on the inside with a crunchy exterior thanks to the polenta and a hot frying pan. I recommend eating warm smeared with butter, accompanied by a hot cup of tea. 

Recipe by Paul Hollywood, makes 8

300g strong white flour 
1 tsp salt 
7g sachet of yeast 
1 egg, lightly beaten 
15g caster sugar 
15g butter softed 
170ml milk 
15g polenta, or semolina

1. Put the flour into a large bowl. Add the salt in one side and the yeast in another. Mix well. 
2. Add the butter and rub into the flour until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. 
3. Add the egg and the milk until a soft dough forms. I found that I did not need all the milk. 
4. Smear a very small amount of oil on to the worktop. 
5. Turn out the dough out onto the worktop and knead for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth. 
6. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise for an hour in a warm place until doubled in volume. 
7. Punch the dough to remove the air. Dust half the polenta and flour onto the work surface. Roll out the dough to 2.5cm thick. Using a cutter, stamp out 8 rounds. 
8. Put the rounds on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise for 30 minutes. 
9. Heat a frying pan or a griddle pan to a low heat.
10. Cook the muffins on both sides until dark brown, around 6 minutes either side but keep an eye on them. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Melting Moments

These biscuits are SHORT. 

There isn't too much jargon in baking, but 'short' comes up quite a bit. 'Short' means a high butter to flour ratio. When you read short you understand rich, buttery and crumbly, i.e. delicious melt in the mouth biscuits. 

Today we are going old school, forgetting about fancy macarons and patisserie and the like and baking what our Grannies made for teatime. To maintain the very effective swirl, I used a star nozzle and made sure the dough was very cold before it went into the oven to maintain its shape. Skip the fridge and you will end up with a baking tray full of melty disfigured biscuits. 

From the Great British Bake Off Series 2 Book

Makes about 16 sandwiched biscuits

For the biscuits
250g butter, softened
60g icing sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp vanilla
250g plain flour, sifted
60g cornflour, sifted

For the buttercream icing
200g icing sugar
75g butter, softened
1/2tsp vanilla

1. Beat the butter and icing sugar together until pale and very smooth. Add the vanilla and beat briefly.
2. Sift in the flour and cornflour and beat well until the mixture is well combined.
3. Fill a piping bag with a star nozzle with the mixture. Pop the piping bag in the fridge for 30 minutes.
4. Pipe 5cm diameter swirls onto sheets of greaseproof paper, well spaced apart. Place the baking trays into the fridge for at least an hour, The longer the better.
5. Preheat the oven to 180oC.
6. Bake for 12-15 minutes until just lightly golden.
7, For the icing, beat the butter and icing sugar in a bowl until creamy. Add a dash of milk and the vanilla and beat again. Add food colouring if desired.
8. Sandwich the biscuits together and leave to set in the fridge.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Mocha Religieuse

Choux buns just got stacked up, covered in shiny ganache, filled with chocolate coffee pastry cream and given a frilly collar. Hello Sunday! Hello Religieuse, so named because they are stacked to look like nuns. 

In every pattisiere shop window in Paris you will see Religieuse. Although traditionally dipped in ganache, in the windows of Laudurée and the like you will see them dipped in bright glacé icing. Personally, I am not a big fan of the overly sweet glacé icing, so I kept these traditional. The pastry cream is one of my favourites. It packs a delicious creamy coffee punch and the ganache too as I used milled instant coffee powder. 

If you have mastered choux, these really are a very small step for added impressiveness. Give them a go! 

For the choux (from Paula Daly)
150ml water
50g margarine
65g plain flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten

For the chocolate coffee pastry cream 
250ml milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
50g caster sugar
2 egg yolks
1 heaped tablespoon cornflour
1 tablespoon custard powder
1 tablespoon of cocoa powder
1/2 tablespoon of milled instant coffee

For the ganache 
100ml single cream
100g milk chocolate
pinch of salt
2 teaspoon milled instant coffee

For the collar
100ml single cream
Coffee beans, optional

1. For the choux, heat the water and margarine in a saucepan over a medium heat until melted. Sift the flour into a dry bowl. Increase the heat and bring the water to the boil.
2. Take the water/margarine off the heat before the water evaporates. Dump in the flour and beat well. Put back over the heat for 1/2-1 minute to cook out the flour.
3. Take off the heat and leave to cool for 5 minutes.
4. Add a little egg at a time, beating well between each addition. The mixture may curdle but keep beating until it comes together and it is shiny.
5. Mark eight one inch and eight two inch circles onto greaseproof paper. Preheat the oven to 220oC.
6. Pipe the choux onto the marked circles. If they have pointy tops, dip your finger into warm water and smooth out the tops.
7. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 190oC and bake for a further 15-20 minutes.
8. Take out of the oven, transfer to a wire rack and stab with a knife to let steam escape.
9. To make the pastry cream, heat the milk with the vanilla in a small saucepan until almost at a boil.
10. Mix the egg yolks, sugar, cornflour, cocoa powder, coffee and custard powder in a bowl until combined.
11. Pour in half of the milk while whisking vigorously.
12. Pour back into the saucepan with the rest of the milk and beat over a low heat until thick enough to pipe. This will take 4-5 minutes.
13. Make the ganache. Heat the cream and coffee in a saucepan over a low heat until almost to the boil.
14. Break up the chocolate and place in a bowl with a pinch of salt. Pour over the hot cream and mix in a tight circle, slowly widening the circle until all the chocolate is melted and the ganache is smooth and shiny. Put in the fridge until ready to use.
15. Using a piping bag with a plain nozzle, fill the choux buns.
16. Beat the cream in a small bowl until peaks form. Put into a piping bag with a star nozzle.
17. To assemble, dip the top of the big choux buns in ganache. Dip a small choux bun in the ganache and place on top of the big bun.
18. Pipe a frilly collar with cream and top with a single star and a coffee bean, if desired.