13 July 2018

PEAR & PISTACHIO CHOCOLATE MUFFINS

Pears are one of my favourite fruits. Fragrant, sweet, and crisp, they are very delicious dipped in chocolate, which is what inspired this recipe. The pears are pureed and then incorporated into the batter itself, making the muffins moist and tender. The unsweetened cocoa powder gives them that bitter chocolate note, and the pistachios add just a tad of crunch, making for an interesting texture.
They are completely egg and dairy free, which makes them suitable for vegans and vegetarians, too. You need to be careful when baking, and test them with a toothpick, to make sure they are done but not overbaked. Serve them warm, with a breakfast or tea topping of your choice. In addition, if you happen to have any of them left over, they toast fantastically, I have to admit.


Ingredients
250 grams fresh pears, peeled and cored
120 ml cold water
100 grams coconut sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
180 grams plain flour
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons semolina
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
50 grams chopped pistachios

Preparation
Place the peeled, cored, and diced pears into a food processor, along with the cold water and pulse at first, then let the machine blend for about a minute, until everything is completely blended and made into a puree. Pour the puree into a large bowl, add the sugar and vegetable oil and whisk it briefly. Let the sugar melt into the fruit puree while you sift the dry ingredients.
Sift the flour with the cocoa powder, baking powder, and semolina, then add it to the puree, along with the pistachios, and whisk until blended. Do not overmix the batter. Transfer it to six standard muffin cups (lined with paper liners) and bake them in a preheated oven, at 200˚C (400˚F), for about 10-12 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the muffin comes out clean. Serve them warm with jam. Yields 6 standard muffins.

06 July 2018

CHOCOLATE JAFFA CAKE TIFFIN

Tiffin or a fridge cake, is a type of confection made up of crushed biscuits, often chocolate syrup, and lots of dried fruit, and it comes from Troon, Scotland. It is really one of the most popular and loved desserts, and it does not require baking, so it is perfect for summer or hot weather in general. As you know, I love Jaffa cakes, so this rich chocolate tiffin is full of orange zest, orange liqueur, as well as chopped up Jaffa cakes.
You can glaze the chilled tiffin with more chocolate (or even melted Terry's chocolate orange), or you can serve it just as it is, it will be equally delicious. When cooking the chocolate syrup, make sure you stir constantly, so it does not burn. The butter can be at room temperature or straight from the refrigerator, it makes no difference. And finally, you can increase the amount of Grand Marnier, or replace it with fresh orange juice, if serving the tiffin to the little ones.


Ingredients
150 grams Jaffa cakes
120 grams vanilla biscuits
100 grams granulated sugar
30 grams unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
120 ml lukewarm water
75 grams unsalted butter, cubed
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier


Preparation
Crush the biscuits into pieces, and place them into a large bowl. Chop each Jaffa cake into quarters, then add that to the bowl as well. To prepare the chocolate orange syrup, take a large saucepan, and sift in the cocoa powder. Add the granulated sugar and the water, and stir really well until there are no more lumps. Take a rubber spatula and clean the sides of the saucepan, so there are no bits of cocoa and sugar, then place it over medium high heat. Let it come to a boil, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. It should reduce and thicken up. Remove it from the heat, and add in the butter and the orange zest. Stir until the butter completely melts, then set it aside for a few minutes so it starts cooling down.
When the syrup has cooled slightly, so it doesn’t start melting the chocolate on the Jaffa cakes and absorbing into the biscuits, add in the liqueur, stir well, then pour it all over the biscuits and the Jaffa cakes, and immediately mix very well with a spatula or a large spoon. Place the mixture in a small springform pan (15 cm) lined with baking parchment, for easier removal. Press the mixture well into the pan, so there are no pockets later on. Cover the top of the tiffin with cling film, and place it into the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight. When ready to serve, decorate it with some additional melted chocolate, whipped cream, fresh oranges, etc. Yields 12 servings.

29 June 2018

LEMON BREAKFAST PASTRIES

Sweet breakfast pastries are one of my favourites. And, as lemon and sugar are a fantastic combination, why not combine those two things into a perfect breakfast treat. The dough almost resembles puff pastry, with rolled buttery layers and crunchy crust. The vanilla from the yogurt just gives them a hint of warmth, and the lemons brighten and freshen them up.
It's important to use fresh, organic lemons, because you use the zest of it. Organic lemons are unwaxed, so you can use the zest, and they are much more flavourful and aromatic than chemically grown ones. And although they do have a strong flavour, they tend to be sweeter. If you can't find unwaxed lemons, you can use waxed, but scrub the skin very well before zesting.


Ingredients
450 grams plain flour
100 grams fine cornmeal
1 ½ teaspoons dried yeast
2 medium eggs
50 grams granulated sugar
120 grams vanilla yogurt
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
120 ml hot milk
1 small organic lemon
100 grams unsalted butter, softened
2 egg yolks, for brushing

Preparation
Take the eggs and the yogurt out of the fridge for at least 30 minutes before making the pastries, so they can come to room temperature. Sift the plain flour and cornmeal together into a large bowl, add the yeast and whisk well. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs with the granulated sugar. In another bowl, whisk together the vanilla yogurt and the oil. Heat the milk until very warm, pour it over the milk and oil and whisk well.
Zest the whole small lemon, and set it aside. Make a well in the centre of the flour, pour in the milk and yogurt mixture, followed by the eggs and sugar and the lemon zest. Mix well with a wooden spoon, until the dough comes together. Transfer it to a floured surface and knead with your hands until the dough becomes smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. If the dough sticks too much to the surface or your hands, add a bit more of flour. Place it in an oiled bowl, in a warm spot, until doubled in size, about an hour and a half.
Once the dough has risen, take it out of the bowl and gently knead it for a couple of minutes. Divide it into ten equal parts and shape each part into a smooth dough ball. Take a rolling pin and roll each ball on a lightly floured surface until very thin, almost transparent. The thinner you roll it, the flakier the final pastry. Just be careful not to tear the dough. Take two teaspoons of the softened butter and gently and evenly spread it all over the rolled out dough. If you wish, you can dust it with some icing sugar, if you like really sweet breakfast pastries.
Roll it up tightly, and then roll it further using your hands, into a very long rope shape. Shape the dough into a pinwheel, tucking the ends underneath, so the pastry doesn't unroll during the baking. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Place them on a large baking sheet lined with baking paper and let them rest and rise for about 30 minutes. Just before baking, brush them with the beaten egg yolks, and bake in a preheated oven, at 200˚C (400˚F), for about 15-18 minutes. Serve them warm, with a dipping sauce of your choice and a glass of cold milk. Yields 10 large pastries.

22 June 2018

RASPBERRY SEMIFREDDO

Summer officially started, and that deserves celebration, with raspberries, ice-cream, and cakes. Semifreddo is a lovely semi-frozen dessert, but the main ingredients in a traditional semifreddo are usually eggs, sugar and cream, so it has the texture of frozen mousse. As I cannot have eggs, I've opted for a Mascarpone semifreddo.
Since it has to be frozen in order to serve it, use full fat Mascarpone and heavy cream, as well as gelatine. The gelatine helps prevent the cake crystalizing in the freezer, so do not omit it from the recipe. Make sure you remove it from the freezer for at least 10-15 minutes before serving, because it needs to thaw just a bit, because after all, it is a semifreddo, and it should be served as such.


Ingredients
600 grams raspberries, divided
200 grams granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
200 grams Mascarpone, softened
250 ml heavy whipping cream
3 teaspoons unflavoured gelatine (140 bloom)
10 savoiardi biscuits
50 ml Chambord liqueur


Preparation
Take a heavy-bottomed saucepan and place it over medium-high heat, then add in 500 grams of raspberries and the sugar, and cook, while stirring often, until the mixture. You want the raspberries to release as much juice and pulp as possible, so keep breaking them down with a wooden spoon as you cook. When it is ready and cooked down to almost half of the original volume, remove it from the head, add the vanilla, and let it cool down to at least room temperature. At this point you can strain the cooked raspberries to remove the pips, but you do not have to.
Once it has cooled down enough, it should almost resemble a raspberry jam. Place the gelatine in a small bowl and add 50 ml of cold water, then mix it well, and let the gelatine bloom. Add the softened Mascarpone to the raspberries, and gently fold it through. Melt the gelatine over low heat, stirring until melted, but be careful not to let it come to a boil. Take a bit of the raspberry mixture, and mix it in the gelatine, then pour everything back into the raspberries, and whisk everything through.
In a separate bowl, whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form, then gently fold the cream through the raspberries. Finally, add in the reserved 100 grams of raspberries, and fold them through. Set the mixture aside for a moment. Mix the Chambord with 50 ml of cold water in a shallow bowl, then dunk in each piece of savoiardi, so they aren’t dry, and arrange them on a serving platter; and then place and close a small cake ring around them (15 cm).
Place a tall strip of acetate on the inside of the cake ring. Carefully spoon the raspberry mix over the savoiardi, then gently shake the platter, and tap it on the table so it settles without bubbles. Place the platter into the freezer for 4 hours, then you can take the semifreddo out and decorate it with some additional fresh raspberries, freshly whipped cream, raspberry buttons, etc. Serve the semifreddo after at least 8 hours of freezing. Yields 8 large servings.
Author’s note: To slice the semifreddo, pour hot water into a tall jug, place in a thin blade knife, dry if off, and carefully slide it through.

15 June 2018

NO-KNEAD RUSTIC FOCACCIA BREAD

No-knead breads are so simple and easy to make, yet they are so delicious once they are baked. There isn’t much work involved – just one bowl, a wooden spoon, and a few ingredients. And the finished result is a lovely, golden, chewy, open crumb bread, that is just perfect for any type of sandwich. This is a rather small quantity of ingredients, so do not hesitate to double (or even triple!) the quantities if you need to feed a crowd.


Ingredients
400 grams plain flour
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon dry yeast
350 ml warm water
50 ml extra virgin olive oil

Preparation
Sift the flour into a large bowl, add the yeast, and mix very well. Next, add the salt and mix again. Pour in the water and stir with a wooden spoon until a very soft and sticky dough forms. Cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise, in a warm spot, for 18 hours. When the dough is ready, pour it onto a large baking sheet lined with baking paper. It will be too soft to shape by hand, so use a spatula to form it into a rectangle, and poke holes with your finger all over the surface of the dough.
It really doesn't need to be perfectly shaped, because it will rise unevenly as it bakes, which is perfectly fine. Brush it with the olive oil generously, then bake in a preheated oven, at 220°C (425°F), for about 30 minutes. Check the focaccia relatively frequently after 20 minutes, to prevent the burning of the edges, because they are the thinnest part of the bread. When the bread is baked, remove it from the oven and let it cool down to room temperature, then serve.
Baker's note: The quantities are for a relatively small focaccia bread loaf. If you wish, double the quantities, and bake the loaf longer, for about 40 minutes, checking often.