Tag Archives: foodstyling

Chocolate celebration cake

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My middle brother, Alex, is getting married in August to his lovely fiancée, Jayne, and I cannot wait!  Over recent months there has been much talk of dresses, flowers and of course cakes…  Jayne and Alex have decided to hold a “bake off” at their wedding and have sent the following message out to their guests:

 Wedding Bake Off

We like cake. 

We really like cake, a lot. 

In fact we like cake so much, one wedding cake just won’t be enough… We’re dreaming of a whole table of different wedding cakes, with afternoon tea to follow the ceremony.

We know we have a lot of friends and family members who are amazingly talented bakers.  Can you help us to make our cake dreams come true?

Join our great wedding bake off, and battle it out to be crowned the best wedding cake baker! 

There will be a very democratic judging process on the day…and the favourite wedding cake will be the one that we save and cut in the traditional wedding way.  There are no rules for what to bake or how it is presented, the more creative the better! 

 Not being the type of person to shy away from a challenge I have donned my apron and started testing out a couple of ideas I have had for a  wedding cake to see if: (a) it tastes good; and (b) looks presentable.

At the moment I am in two minds about the flavour.  Our family loves a good chocolate cake and the one that I am going to share with you today certainly ticks that box.  However, as the wedding is in August and will hopefully be on a beautifully hot and sunny day, I am of the view that a lovely light lemon cake would go down much better.  The other option is of course to do multiple cakes… but this might be a step to far as I suspect in the days building up to the wedding things are likely to get a little bit busy.

So, about this cake, as I mentioned it is a chocolate cake.  I suppose you are wondering why I think it is worthy for a wedding cake?  Well… it is not just a chocolate cake, it is three layered super light chocolate cake, filled with a rich chocolate mousse and covered in a white chocolate and sour cream icing, decorated with raspberries…

If you like chocolate, I would recommend trying this cake as it is rather decadent!

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Macaroons

Today is a sad day as I am leaving France and heading back to the UK to seek gainful employment once again.  I have had a cracking 15 months or so and here are a few of the things I have learnt along the way…

How to…

1.  … put turkeys to bed – swear at them profusely whilst waving your arms frantically.

2.  … catch a bee swarm – apply the following expression ‘if at first you don’t succeed try, try, again’.

3.  … birth a goat – keep calm and be prepared to get messy.

4.  … cover yourself in paint – paint the ceiling with a roller.

5.  … hang a picture– choose a picture that is big enough to hide all the errors behind particularly on plasterboard.

6.  … pronounce the final ‘t’ in chiot when asking how the puppy is – don’t (as I have learnt the somewhat embarrassing way it is silent).

7.  … construct and de-construct multiple items from Ikea – build the item instinctively and find you have bits left over when you’ve finished, then read the instruction booklet and then repeat the process correctly.

8.  … cut your finger – look away when you are peeling a quince.

9.  … make a chocolate cake that even the dog rejects – try a new recipe without flour and add several courgettes.

10.  … say ‘goodbye’ to a puppy – with difficulty.

As a way of saying thank you to a few people that I have met whilst I have been here I made some macaroons as a little ‘cadeau’.  As I have learnt over the last couple of months macaroons are not something that should be made if you are in a rush – if you don’t whisk the egg whites enough and mix rather than fold the almonds and sugar in, you run the risk of a runny mixture that does not work.

However, done right, macaroons are a real delight, they should have a crisp shell with a gooey middle.  The recipe below is just for plain macaroons, you can fill them as you wish with ganache or butter cream and jam to make them individual.

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Macaroons (makes 50-60)

Ingredients:P1020258

  • 3 egg whites
  • 4oz ground almonds
  • 6oz icing sugar
  • 2½oz caster sugar
  • a few drops of food colouring (optional)

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160C fan.
  2. Whisk the egg whites to the ‘soft peak stage’.
  3. Continue to whisk the egg whites adding the caster sugar slowly (if you going to use food colouring add it at this point).  Continue whisking until you have a smooth ‘glossy’ mixture.
  4. Place the almonds and icing sugar into a food processor and blitz until you have a finer crumb.
  5. Sieve the almond and sugar mixture into the whisked egg whites (don’t worry if some of the almonds don’t pass through the sieve, put it in a small bowl to be used in a crumble, cake etc.).
  6. Gently fold the almonds into the egg whites.
  7. Once the mixture is fully incorporated, put it in a piping bag with a large circular nozzle.
  8. Pipe the mixture in 1” circles onto baking sheets that have been lined with baking paper.
  9. Once all of the mixture has been used, tap the trays firmly once to release any air bubbles then leave to form a skin for 20-30 minutes.
  10. Bake for 12-14 minutes, then remove and allow to cool completely on wire racks. 

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Damson de vie jelly and yogurt panna cotta

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I have just strained off my damson de vie that I made earlier in the year at the same time as my sloe de vie and it tastes delicious.  My favourite way to drink it is with a little lemonade or tonic water.  I decided to try and transform this drink into a pudding and came up with this idea.  The pudding incorporates winter flavours in a deliciously light and fruity pudding.

It is a really beautiful looking pudding because of its two layers.  The jelly compliments the sweetness of the panna cotta and the berries add another texture.  I used flat lemonade to make the jelly because I didn’t want any bubbles running through it.  The processes to make this pudding are very straightforward, however you do need to be patient and wait for the jelly to set before adding the panna cotta which means it is not something you can make in an afternoon.  That being said it really is worth the effort as it tastes superb and is a real show stopper when you bring it out.

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Damson de vie jelly and yogurt panna cotta

Ingredients: (Serves 6-8)

For the jelly:

  • 50-75ml damson de vie (or damson gin)
  • lemonade (preferably flat)
  • 75-100g sugar
  • 2 gelatine leaves (that have been soaked in water for 10 minutes)
  • 2 handfuls of cranberries
  • 2 handfuls of blackberries

For the panna cotta:

  • 200ml cream
  • 250ml natural yogurt
  • 100g sugar
  • 3-4 drops vanilla essence
  • 2 gelatine leaves (that have been soaked in water for 10 minutes)

Steps:

Step 1 – make the jelly

  1. Line a loaf tin with cling film.
  2. Evenly distribute the fruit over the bottom of the tin.
  3. Make the jelly by placing the damson de vie in a measuring jug, add the lemonade until it measures ¾ of a pint, taste and add more damson de vie if needed.
  4. Place the liquid in a saucepan with the sugar.  Heat until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  5. Add the gelatine to the saucepan and allow to dissolve into the liquid, stirring occasionally.
  6. Once the gelatine has dissolved pour the jelly into the loaf tin.
  7. Place in the fridge and chill for 2-3 hours until the jelly has set.

Step 2 – make the panna cotta

  • Once the jelly has set make the panna cotta.
  • Place the cream and sugar in a pan and heat until the sugar has completely dissolved.
  • Add the gelatine to the pan, and cook until the gelatine is dissolved.
  • Place the yogurt and vanilla essence in a bowl and stir together.
  • Sieve the cream and sugar mixture into the yogurt (this is to ensure your panna cotta is completely smooth).
  • Stir the mixture together and then carefully pour it over the jelly.
  • Allow to set overnight.
  • Choose the plate you wish to serve the pudding on, place it on top of the loaf tin and then turn it upside down, the pudding should come out easily and remove the cling film.
  • Serve in slices.

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Rabbit and Pork Terrine

Last week I went into a local store (Quercy Frais) to buy some pork to make a terrine.  On asking the advice of the butcher, I was informed that if I wanted meat for a pâté I should wait until Thursday when they held their weekly pâté promotion for seasoned pâté meat at 3€ / kg.  Thinking this was a great deal we decided to go for it.  So, on Wednesday we placed an order for the number of kilos we were after (15kg) and went back in to collect it on Thursday.  What we got is a combination of pork meat, pork liver and pig fat that had been seasoned and coarsely ground.

Please note when I set out to make my terrine I was looking to buy 1kg at most.  However, after much discussion at home we decided to make up a variety of different pâtés in various quantities.  I think in total we have around forty 400g pots which are now stashed away in the larder ready to be opened when they are needed.  Despite our forward thinking and marking each of the pots with a marker pen before they were placed into a huge vat, the pen markings came off the pots during the cooking process – so now it is a case of a lucky dip when selecting our pâtés…

Over the course of the next week or so I will blog all of the pâté recipes.  First up is a Rabbit and Pork Terrine,  I made it by first poaching the rabbit simply because I find it easier to get the meat off the bone after cooking.  I then added a selection of spices, fruit and vegetables that complimented both of the meats very well.  By wrapping the terrine in streaky bacon it held its shape making it far easier to cut into slices.

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Rabbit and Pork Terrine

Ingredients:

Poaching the rabbit:

  • 1 large rabbit
  • 2 onions (cut into quarters)
  • 2-3 carrots (cut into chunks)
  • 2-3 garlic cloves (keep in their skins)
  • 1 tbsp juniper berries
  • 1 – 2 litres chicken stock (enough to cover the rabbit)
  • seasoning

For the terrine:

  • 800g poached rabbit meat (removed from the bone)
  • 800g pork meat for pâté (alternatively use a combination of pork belly, pork shoulder and pig liver and season well)
  • 2 onions (diced)
  • 1 tbsp juniper berries (crushed)
  • ¼ tsp allspice (crushed)
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 garlic cloves (from the poaching pot squeezed out of their skins)
  • 400g apricots (roughly chopped)
  • 2 eggs
  • 15-18 thinly sliced rashers of streaky bacon
  • 3 bay leaves (for decoration)
  • 1 tsp peppercorns (for decoration)
  • butter (for greasing)

Steps:

Step 1 – Prepare your rabbit:

1.  Preheat oven to 160C fan.

2.  Place the rabbit, onions, carrots, garlic, juniper berries and seasoning in a casserole dish (with a lid) pour over the stock until the meat is covered.

3.  Cover and place in the oven and cook for 2 hours.

4.  Once cooked remove from the oven and allow to cool.

5.  Strip the meat from the bones of the rabbit and cut up roughly.  (Keep the stock to make a soup later in the week).

 

Step 2 – Prepare your terrine

1.  Combine the rabbit meat, spices, onions, garlic, apricots and eggs in a bowl.

2.  Add the pork meat and mix well.

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3.  Prepare your terrine dish by greasing with butter and then lining the sides with the streaky bacon.

4.  Pack the rabbit and pork meat into the terrine dish pressing down firmly.

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5.  Wrap in the bacon, place the bay leaves and peppercorns on top with a final knob of butter.  Cover with the lid.

6.  Place in a roasting tin that has been half filled with boiling water.

7.  Place in an oven at 160C fan for 1 ½ hours.

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8.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before placing in the fridge for at least 24 hours.

9.  To serve, remove the terrine from the dish by warming in a little hot water for a few minutes, run a knife around the edges and then tip out onto a plate.

10.  Serve with, some French bread and gherkins and/or chutney and/or red onion and port marmalade.

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Chelsea buns with a marmalade glaze

My Chelsea bun recipe requires you to make an enriched dough (meaning that it has milk, sugar, butter and/or oil in the recipe).  The process is identical to making a standard dough, however the dough is wetter.  I have a plastic dough scraper/cutter that I use to help me stop the dough from sticking to the work-surface – it is a handy little tool but not absolutely necessary.

Do not be put off by the number of steps there are in this recipe, making Chelsea buns is very straightforward and is very worthwhile.  The buns are light and fluffy and have a lovely sharp zing from the marmalade.  By soaking the sultanas in boiling water they become much juicier and they stay plump even after cooking.


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Chelsea buns with a marmalade glaze

Ingredients:

For the dough:DSC_0629

  • 250g wholemeal flour (Type 80)
  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 50g butter (melted)
  • 200ml milk (warmed)
  • 25g fresh yeast
  • 50g sugar
  • 1tsp salt
  • 2 eggs

For the filling:DSC_0631

  • 25g butter (melted)
  • 75g sultanas (put in boiling water to plump up, then drain)
  • 25g mixed peel
  • 2-3tbsp brown sugar

For the glaze:

  • 1 heaped tbsp marmalade
  • 1 heaped tbsp caster sugarDSC_0632
  • 1tbsp water

For the icing:

  • 2-3 heaped tbsp icing sugar
  • 1-2 tsp water

Steps:

  1. Place the flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl and mix together.
  2. Place the yeast in a bowl, add the milk, butter and eggs and mix together well.
  3. Add the wet mix into the dry mix and combine using your fingers.  The dough will be fairly wet.
  4. Place the dough on a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes.
  5. Place the dough into a bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rise for about 2 – 2½ hours (until it has doubled in size).
  6. Knock the air out of the dough, place on a floured surface and flatten into a square shape.
  7. Brush the dough with the melted butter, scatter over the sugar, mixed peel and sultanas.
  8. Roll the dough up into a long cylinder shape then, cut into 12 equal-sized pieces.
  9. Place the pieces in a greased and floured tin, then leave to rise until they have doubled in size.
  10. Once they have risen, bake in an oven at 180C fan for 15-16 minutes, turning the oven down to 160C fan after 8-9 minutes.
  11. Remove from the oven and place the buns on a cooling rack.
  12. Make the marmalade glaze by heating the marmalade, sugar and water together in a saucepan
    and heat until the sugar has dissolved and you have a syrupy liquid.
  13. Brush the glaze over the buns, making sure the tops are well covered.
  14. Finally make the icing by mixing the icing sugar together with a little water until you have a smooth but slightly runny icing.
  15. Drizzle/brush the icing over the tops of the buns.

 
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When one pudding just isn’t enough – make three…

I have a weakness for a good pudding and always struggle to work out which one to choose when eating at a restaurant.  But I find deciding what kind of pudding to make even harder especially when some people like chocolate based puddings and others enjoy a fruity pudding.

Yesterday was the last night all the family would be together so choosing the right kind of pudding was imperative!  Given that it is summer, warm puddings are very much off the cards at the moment, so last night I settled on a selection of cold fresh puddings.  First up we had a light lemon drizzle cake with raspberry sauce – the intention behind this was to cleanse the palate.  This was swiftly followed by my salted caramel meringues with blackcurrant compote and crème fraiche (I have been playing around with how I make meringues and got fairly lucky with these they have a lovely caramel taste that are not too sweet because of the salt in the recipe –  they seem to go down fairly well, demonstrated by the fact that there were none left last night).  And last, but by no means least decadent French chocolate truffles (this recipe uses a lot of chocolate but it is absolutely worth it!).

Lemon drizzle cake is fairly popular in our house, subsequently I made a fairly large batch up so that people could take it with them as they drove home today as a bit of a treat.  Taking this into account you could quite easily halve the quantities for the cake batter and easily have enough to feed 9-10 people.

The other thing to note is that whilst chocolate truffles are very simple to make you need to put them in the fridge for at least 6-8hrs to harden off so make sure that you have the time available so they can chill enough to handle them.

Lemon drizzle cake with raspberry sauce

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 300g soft margarine
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 325g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • Zest of 2 lemons
Lemon Syrup:

  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 150g caster sugar

 

Icing:

  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 200g icing sugar

 

Raspberry sauce:

  • 200g raspberries
  • 2-3 tbsp sugar

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170C fan.
  2. Put all the ingredients for the cake in a bowl and mix together for 3-5 minutes using an electric whisk.
  3. Pour the batter into a lined tin (20cm x 30cm).
  4. Put in oven for 30-40 minutes – to test if the cake is cooked insert a skewer and see if it comes out clean.
  5. Remove from the oven and using a skewer prick holes right through the sponge.
  6. Make the syrup by putting the juice of the lemon and sugar in a pan and heating until all the sugar has been dissolved.
  7. Whilst the cake is warm pour over the syrup, leaving the cake to cool in the tin.
  8. Once the cake is completely cool, remove from the tin and make up the icing by mixing together the zest and icing sugar in a bowl adding a little of the lemon juice at a time until you have a smooth icing that pours nicely onto the cake.
  9. Finally make up the raspberry sauce by placing the raspberries and sugar in a pan and heating gently for roughly 5 minutes, adding more sugar if needed.
  10. Serve thin slices of the cake together with the raspberry sauce.

 

My salted caramel meringues with blackcurrant compote and crème fraiche

Ingredients:

Meringues

  • 4 egg whites
  • 7oz caster sugar
  • 1oz granulated brown sugar
  • 1tsp salt

Serve with

  • Crème Fraiche
Blackcurrant compote

  • 400g blackcurrants
  • 1tbsp water
  • 3-4 tbsp sugar

 

 

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 100C fan.
  2. In a large bowl whisk your egg whites until soft peak stage.
  3. Add in the salt and both the caster and brown sugar and whisk together thoroughly.
  4. Put mix into a piping bag and pipe out small meringues onto baking trays covered with baking paper.   The mix makes roughly 20-25 small meringues.
  5. Place in the oven and cook for 2 hours.
  6. Once cooked remove from oven and place on a cooling rack to cool completely.
  7. Whilst the meringues are cooling make the blackcurrant compote by placing the blackcurrants in a pan with the water and cook on a low heat for roughly 15-20 minutes or until the skin is soft.
  8. Strain the blackcurrants through a sieve into a bowl adding the sugar according to your taste.
  9. Finally serve – I like to do this in a make your own meringue sandwich set up with the compote in a small teapot for added fun…

French Chocolate Truffles

Ingredients:

Truffles

  • 300g plain chocolate (chopped)
  • 200ml cream
  • 1oz salted butter
  • 2 tbsp brandy

 

Topping suggestions

  • White chocolate (150g)
  • Dark chocolate (150g)
  • Chopped nuts (handful)
  • Biscuit crumbs (handful)

Steps:

  1. In a pan bring the cream up to the boil and then remove from the heat and add the chocolate stirring until it is completely melted.
  2. Once the chocolate has melted add the butter and the butter and stir until smooth.
  3. Pass the chocolate mixture through a sieve into a bowl, cover with cling film and place in the fridge for 6-8hrs.
  4. After the mix has chilled using either a melon baller or 2 teaspoons make your truffles.  (The mix makes 25-30).
  5. Then coat with the topping of your choice. (I did a mix of dark chocolate, white chocolate and nut truffles.)  If you intend to cover with chocolate, place your truffles in the deep freeze for an hour before you cover then, then melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Once melted leave to cool a little before dipping your truffle into the chocolate.


(Apologies that this is not a very good photo the truffles started to be eaten as soon as they arrived on the table!)