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Salted Caramel Chocolate Truffles

Salted Caramel Chocolate Truffles

Salted Caramel Chocolate Truffles

I wondered about sharing these photos, I really did. I had to rush them before dashing to the airport, and I risked it, and got up at 6am to make them, because I really wanted to share this recipe with you. It is perfect for Christmas. Stress free and it takes a little care but otherwise, just fine, anyone can make these. Of course life and work intervened, and I was too busy in Germany and too tired at the end of every day to do any decent writing. So, here it is now.

Salted Caramel

Salted Caramel

But then the photos, I can’t help but think they look like I dug up some mushrooms and then coated them in fine soil. I can’t worry about this though, isn’t it much better that you get the recipe? And maybe a little reassuring to see that, yeah, you can make truffles, and they might look a little rough, but hey! They are still delicious. There aren’t enough hours in the day and there is plenty of other bothersome things, I shouldn’t worry myself so much about photos of truffles.

Or should I?

Anyway, lets drive on. You must make these. All you need is a little salted caramel from my recent recipe, some cream, some good dark chocolate, and some cocoa, and then we are all set.
[Read more]

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Salted Caramel (Perfect as a Sauce, on Toast, or Just Eating With a Spoon)

Homemade Salted Caramel

Homemade Salted Caramel (it is actually very smooth, but I was rushing this shot to get to the airport, and poured it hot into the glass, don’t do that!}

Christmas is on its way, there is no longer any denying it. I am woefully under prepared, as is my form. I just paid through the nose for my flight home this year for a start, which eats into every other Christmas budget. I guess all of the other ex pats must be very organised this year. After that, there is not a child in the house washed, as we would say at home. (Calm down dear, I haven’t had any children since my last missive, it merely means there is nothing organised and we can’t even see where organised might be, over the horizon).

However, I have some recipes to share that will help you be a bit more organised for Xmas, and that will make me feel a lot better. A good place to start is a lovely salted caramel, and it is something that every cook should have in their armoury besides. It is so easy, as long as you watch over it, as it will burn as soon as you stop to look at it. I burned my first batch this morning, and I have made it many times. Watch it carefully, and it will behave, I promise.

My salted caramel is very simple, and very quick. It is thick, but pourable, and a perfect Christmas condiment. It is a great gift too, if you make it late enough. It will keep in the fridge for a week or so too.

How to eat it? It is a perfect sauce for most desserts. It is superb on toast for a luxurious Christmas breakfast. Or you know, like nutella, you may just want to eat it with a spoon.[Read more]

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Grilled Peaches with Cardamom Cream, Bourbon Caramel and Brioche Hazelnut Crumb

image

I started out making a peach pie. Shortcrust pastry, homemade with butter, some bourbon, lots of lovely ripe peaches. No, that is not entirely true, I started out working on BBQ recipes, and I was diverted by peaches towards a pie. Then I thought of the BBQ and the peach, and how they should combine.

Those peaches looked so good, so juicy, so ripe. My mind started to wander, no, sprint, to grilled peaches with bourbon caramel. YES, I had to do that. But something was needed in between that succulent peach and rich caramel. Cardamom cream? I love spice and a little cardamom is gorgeous with a peach, and also good with bourbon. I had just bought brioche buns at the bakers, so I was now starting to cement the recipe with the idea of brioche bread crumbs and coarse chopped hazelnuts crisped in butter, just on top. That bourbon could join some sugar in a caramel. And there we have a gorgeous succulent juicy grown up dessert.

I abandoned the pie. Briefly.

Caramel is very easy. You just need to take care and ensure that you don’t burn it or yourself. Disclosure: I burned my first one because I was distracted and I have made many many caramels over the years. It happens, but caramel is so easy, so don’t let it put you off. All you do is bring the sugar gently to caramel, when it is amber, add some cream, and then bourbon and boom – you are done. The cardamom cream is a simple whipped cream with toasted crushed cardamom seeds in it. The crumb speaks for itself.

Ready? This is a perfect summer dessert, even snack? It is mainly fruit anyway, right?!

Enjoy. [Read more]

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Recipe: Thai Coconut Sticky Rice with Mango

Thai Coconut Sticky Rice with Mango

Thai Coconut Sticky Rice with Mango

This dessert was one of the best things that I ate in Thailand. Not the most complex by any means, or in any way challenging. For comfort, straight forward deliciousness and a dish that makes you feel brighter about life as you leave an empty plate behind, look no further.

I ate it many times in Thailand. I couldn’t resist it. However, I usually had to order it holding my nose with a lemon sucking face while trying not not barf, for it was almost always served from stalls that sold its vicious smelly neighbour durian.

DURIAN. Does anything smell more foul? Yes, rotten meat, cadavers and sewers but durian smells of all three. It is like a demon that has digested them and is burping it for your displeasure.

Walking down the streets of Bangkok admiring beautiful colours, delicious smelling street food, watching passing monks gilded in orange robes, I would suddenly feel squeamish and sure enough shortly after I would see a durian stand. Spiky green fruit, bloated and proud. If they were a cartoon character they would have an ill fitting suit with buttons popping from their shirts.

Now, I know you will say – BUT THE TASTE! And yes, I hear the taste is amazing, but I have a fierce sense of smell and even the mango sitting nearby has a lingering taste of durian. So I could not do it. Next time, I will force myself. With a clothes peg on my nose and a doggy bag.

I have gone off track. Back to sublime mango. Cheerful, bright and sweet. Coconut sticky rice is sold as a dessert in Thailand but for me, it makes a sublime breakfast. This really is best if you can soak the sticky rice overnight but don’t worry if not, it is still worth making it. Get a rich ripe mango dripping with syrupy sticky sweetness. Alphonso mangoes are in season, and are in the shops in Tooting now, that is what I am using.

Enjoy!

Note on the recipe: all ingredients are available in Thai shops, Chinatown in London (specifically New Loon Moon which also sells fresh young coconuts and every Thai ingredient I have ever needed for Thai cooking incl recent recipes). I also spied Thai sticky rice and palm sugar in my local Waitrose. It is best to make this when you are going to eat it as the rice is best just after it is cooked. It can soak up the coconut milk and get soggy over time too.

RECIPE: Thai Coconut Sticky Rice with Mango
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One Heartbreaking Failure (maybe 6) and a Cracking Caramel Recipe (Candied Bacon Salted Caramel to be precise)

Golden chocolate eggs filled with candied bacon salted caramel

Golden chocolate eggs filled with candied bacon salted caramel

What exactly is that? A slightly odd looking chocolate egg in the foreground with just a touch of bling (to cover its issues), some really odd looking hens eggs covered in chocolate behind, and a jar of goo?

That, dear readers, is one day of my life, the next morning very early, and a ridiculous eggy photoshoot before I journeyed to Heathrow to get my morning flight yesterday am. My annoyance is conveyed perfectly through the crap photo, I think.

I know. I need to get a grip sometimes.

Worth it though, these are like a pimped and slightly filthy version of Paul A Youngs amazing salted caramel filled chocolate egg, which I had for Easter last year. I have been playing around with bacon A LOT. You know this. This was one of the recipes that I had fun with, then hated, then abandoned, and then gave in. Being a perfectionist leads to a path littered with imperfection as you strive to reach your final goal. It is painful and tortuous, but when you hit it, it is worth it every time.

This wasn’t that.

Let me tell you what I did though. I painfully pierced both ends of eight hens eggs. Then made the hole larger in the broader end before piercing the yolk with a skewer and blowing the content out into a bowl. Then I cleaned and sterilised the eggs by boiling in water and vinegar before drying them for ten further minutes in the oven.

So far so good.

Next I tempered some chocolate the cheats way by melting 800g of dark chocolate, then adding another 250g of unmelted chocolate, and letting it mingle in until the temperature got down to 31 / 32 deg C. Then I filled the eggs with it. After 10 minutes I teased some of the chocolate out and left them cool. What I was left with was a couple of perfect chocolate egg shaped shells, and six mucky deformed ones. I also rammed some egg shell right under my fingernail. Yikes, even I cringe when I remember. It still stings.

But the candied bacon salted caramel that I filled them with? The first time I didn’t quite bring it to temperature. I was lazily using a light brown sugar and misjudged the point where it became caramel, so that the results where a chalky grainy sauce when it cooled down. My second attempt was much more successful, I used white sugar and my thermapen and when the caramel hit over 160 deg C I knew I was home safe. Butter and cream rounded it out, and I used this to fill my perfect egg.

So, have a lovely Easter, and here is my candied bacon salted caramel recipe for you, should you fancy porking it up a bit.

Enjoy!

Golden chocolate eggs filled with candied bacon salted caramel

Golden chocolate eggs filled with candied bacon salted caramel

Recipe: Candied Bacon Salted Caramel

Ingredients

8 slices of streaky bacon
8 heaped tbsp light brown sugar
500g white sugar
200ml water
225ml cream
175g butter
1 heaped tsp sea salt

a thermometer for perfect results

Method

Start by candying your bacon. Preheat your oven to 200 deg C and put one heaped tbsp of sugar on each bacon slice rubbing it in on each side with your fingers. Lay out flat and cook for 10 minutes, turn and lay flat and cook for 10 more minutes. Take each slice out and lay on a buttered plate or greaseproof paper and allow to cool. Chop finely when cold. It is important that you remove it from the oven tray, or it will stick there.

Get cracking on your caramel. Add the white sugar and the water to a pan. Bring to the boil and watch for when the sugar begins to turn golden. You want it when it becomes amber, just before it goes too far. The easiest most painless way is to watch the temperature with a precise thermometer like a thermapen. Once it gets over 160 deg C, you are done.

Whisk in the butter quickly and when assimilated add the cream, the chopped bacon and one heaped teaspoon of sea salt. The bacon will be salty already but depending on how salty it is, you may want to add more (or less).

Store in a sterilised jar in the fridge. I love it on toast or in my Easter egg.

Enjoy!

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Recipe: Vanilla Marshmallows [how to make them and a recipe breakdown]

Homemade Vanilla Marshmallow

Go to work on an egg. I think today I went to work on six.

Six eggs for breakfast?! Well, not quite, but this week I have been coming up with new variations on the marshmallow, and I find them quite addictive. 3 egg whites produce a large volume of the stuff, and it is so utterly delicious, I could swim in it. Like all things made at home it is simply much better.

It is joyful to make too, and when you understand the recipe, so easy. When I was making it and thinking about all of the building blocks in my head, I realised that – HEY! – marshmallow is all about four things. Four steps and four factors – the structure (provided by sugar), the wobble (provided by gelatine), the fluffiness (provided by the egg white) and the flavour (in this case vanilla).

I wanted to explain this properly so that you could all confidently bound into your kitchens and make this at home. Cooking is only about understanding a recipe and executing it. That’s it. I think this is where my scientific background really leaps out, I have always wanted to know how things work. Once broken down, a recipe is not intimidating, it is just a crib sheet, and in this case, an introduction to the wonderful world of marshmallow.

I bid you come in. The only trouble is – and consider yourself warned – it is impossible to stop eating it.

Coming soon: my raspberry and rose marshmallow made with pure luscious fruit. I thought I would start with a simple one first to explain it.

Notes on the recipe: you will need a sugar thermometer. They’re not very expensive and are very useful to have. This is a lot easier with a mixer or electric whisk.

Homemade Vanilla Marshmallow

Recipe: Vanilla Marshmallow

Ingredients

Wobble
30g gelatine powder (2 sachets)
150ml water

Structure
4 tbsp golden syrup
200g sugar
100ml water

Fluffiness
3 large egg whites

Flavour
1 tbsp vanilla extract

150g icing sugar and 150g cornflour, combined and sieved

1 tray greased with a light layer of oil then dusted with a light layer of the icing sugar and cornflour


Method

Get your wobble on by sprinkling the gelatine in the water and leave to the side.

Bring the sugar, the golden syrup and the water to the hard ball stage – 121 – 130 deg C and while you are waiting for the sugar, whisk your egg whites as you would for meringue, until you get soft peaks and can hold the bowl over your head.

Slowly add the sugar mixture to the eggs, while whisking slowly (this is much easier with a mixer like a Kitchenaid).

When the sugar is added, briefly add the gelatine to the warm pot that the sugar was in, the residual heat will melt the gelatine. Add the gelatine to the egg white mixture with the vanilla slowly while whisking, as you did with the sugar. When added stop mixing and you’re done! You have marshmallow.

Pour your marshmallow mix into the tray and leave for a few hours or over night. Then, with an oiled knife, cut into little squares and then dust them with the icing sugar / cornflour mixture.

Store in an airtight box with the excess icing sugar / cornflour.

Try not to eat it all at once!

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A Little Fun with the Microwave: Gooseberry and Elderflower Turkish Delight

Gooseberries for Gooseberry and Elderflower Turkish Delight

It has been a peculiar summer for me. Some extreme highs where wonderful things have happened, and some lows where things that I have wanted have felt just out of my reach. I needed to take a little time out from everything and rest my head for a while, while I figured things out. What I do next, what I can do and what I want to do.

I, of course, love what I do and at times this is a problem. I jump from idea to idea and project to project, taking on too much and wanting to do everything all of the time, exhausting myself in the process. So, it was time to focus and make decisions.

In the meantime, I have found myself craving the food that I cooked and loved in my childhood. Seeking a little balance and reconnecting to the person that I was before and, of course, that I still am. This has coincided with an enormous spring clean where I have rediscovered so many things that I had forgotten about. All in the process of attempting to let the whole lot go. It has been a curious time.

I have unusually wanted lots of sweet things like lemon meringue pie, swiss roll and chocolate éclairs, staples of my childhood cooking repertoire. Savoury things like shepherd’s pie (which I have been playing around with lots) and quiche. One thing I really wanted to make was Turkish delight, and to make it in the microwave too.

Odd? Well, not as odd as you would think. When I was a wee ‘un, my mother was gifted with an enormous microwave, which seemed like the most amazing thing in the world to me. She used to buy me Microwave Know How weekly, a crazy little magazine which I would devour, and make the most improbable and sickly sweet microwave meringues and Turkish delight too.

The memories of this always made me giggle, and then a couple of years ago, I spied the most fantastic piece from food writer extraordinaire Harold McGee, extolling the virtues of microwave Turkish delight in The New York Times. It has always been at the back of my mind that I should make it, and with my flatmate about to move out and possibly the microwave too, I thought that I should rediscover my childhood joy and do it.

Gooseberry & Elderflower Turkish Delight

It was fun to do it again, and with great results, although it is a bit fiddly. I adapted the recipe, instead of making Harold’s saffron version, I made mine with gooseberry and elderflower, making a compote first.

I grew up eating lots of gooseberries straight off the bush in my aunt’s garden and also in an abandoned fruit orchard up the road. Their sourness suits my palate well and they are great as a sweet and savoury ingredient. For me they are always summer, wandering around aimless as a child with a full endless day, plucking them randomly from sour to super sweet and ready to burst on the bush. They bring back many fond memories.

They are perfect for this Turkish delight as they cut deliciously through the intense sweetness. If you haven’t had them – and from twitter it seems like a lot of you haven’t – seek them out.

Note on the recipe: as it is a US recipe, it was in cups. I have translated to metric for you and included the original cup measurements too.

Making Gooseberry & Elderflower Turkish Delight

Recipe adapted from Harold McGee at The New York Times.

Recipe: Gooseberry & Elderflower Turkish Delight

Ingredients

3/4 cups + 1/2 cup / 115g + 75g cornflour, plus more for dusting
600ml water
3 cups / 600g sugar
1/4 cup / 60ml golden syrup
juice of half a lemon
Cooking oil, for greasing pan
1/2 cup / 50g icing sugar
200g green gooseberries, topped and tailed
2 tbsp elderflower cordial (mine was homemade but you can buy it too)

Method

First, make your compote by topping, tailing and halving the gooseberries, then stewing with a couple of tablespoons of water until they burst. Add the elderflower and taste – you may want to add more depending on how strong your cordial is. Pass the mixture through a sieve so that you only leave the skins and seeds behind, leaving a lovely puree in the bowl.

Pour the water into a glass bowl. Slowly whisk in the 115g cornflour until smooth. Transfer to the microwave and cook on high power for 2 minutes. Carefully remove and stir with a heat-resistant spatula. Return to the microwave and heat for 1 minute at a time, stirring between until the mixture thickens, bubbles and becomes translucent, about 5 to 6 minutes. Then heat on half power for 3 minutes.

Mix in the sugar and golden syrup. Heat on high power for 5 minutes. Stir and repeat, then stir and repeat again. After the last time, stir in the lemon juice and the elderflower and gooseberry compote.

Continue to heat on high power for 3-minute periods, stirring in between, until a little syrup scraped onto the edge of a cold plate quickly sets to a tacky solid, from 12 to 21 minutes.

Grease an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with cooking oil and scrape
and spread the mixture into it. Allow to rest, uncovered, until it is firm enough to handle, several hours or overnight.

Dust the top with cornflour. Invert onto a small cutting board, using a spatula if needed, and dust the other side with cornflour. Transfer the board to the freezer for 30 minutes.

Cut into 3/4-inch squares with scissors or a knife.
Combine the remaining 75g cornflour and the icing sugar, and toss the squares in it. Store the Turkish delight in this mixture in a wide, shallow container.

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Valrhona Chocolate Masterclass & Recipe for Chocolate & Sea Salted Caramel Tart

Heels to cooking class - a little silly!

There is lots of heavy snow outside my window again. One trip cancelled in a week is annoying, but a second would be horrendous. I am off to Amsterdam in the morning – I hope – please pray readers that London transport will be a little less wimpy.

Valrhona chocolate and honey marshmallows

As I look out the window I am thinking wistfully back to chocolate marshmallows, sea salted caramel and chocolate tarts, early grey chocolate truffles, perfect hot chocolate and a mouse shaped Easter egg crafted from iconic Valrhona chocolate. I still have some chocolate leftover from a recent Valrhona masterclass, and I must rush to my room and make something with it. It will help to defeat this bitter weather.

Making earl grey chocolate truffles

Valrhona have started running their covetted cooking classes in London, and I was one of the privileged few allowed to attend a preview. Valrhona is highly respected in the world of chocolate and graces the menus of the finest restaurants. Their courses for chefs have been running for years in France, and they have recently developed a one day course for consumers. This is the one I attended recently in London.

Valrhona chef taking us through the recipes

The course was led by Andrew Gravett of Valrhona and ran for a full day. We started at 10am and were introduced to the different types of Valrhona chocolate before moving to a very welcome perfect Valrhona hot chocolate.

Valrhona chocolate & sea salted caramel tarts

Andrew had a wealth of information and tips to share. We learned lots, had lots of fun, and at the end of it left with a copy of the book, and the chocolate treats that we had made plus some chocolate to work with at home.

My weird little creation! With a bow and a moustache

The class costs £230, and includes a welcome breakfast, lunch and tea as well as a goodie bag of all of your treats and the wonderful Valrhona cookbook with DVD with instructions on techniques and recipes – Cooking with Chocolate. The  next class is in March and is already fully booked but it will be running again on Thursday 14th June. Full details are on the Cookery School website.

I will leave you with the recipe for the sensational Valrhona Chocolate & Salt Caramel Tarts.

SWEET PASTRY

180 g butter
3 g salt
135 g icing sugar
45 g ground almonds
75 g eggs
90 g t’45 flour
265 g t’45 flour

Mix the cold soft butter, salt, icing sugar, almonds, eggs and the 90g of flour. Do not beat the mix.
When the dough is smooth add very quickly the 265g of flour, refrigerate for a few hours before rolling.
Mould the tarts and leave again to rest 30mins in the fridge.
Cook at 150/160C until the pastry is golden.

SALT CARAMEL LAYER

60 g 40% milk chocolate
100 g whipping cream
70 g caster sugar
30 g butter
2 g maldon salt

Part melt the chocolate.
Warm the cream and cover.
Place 1/3 of the sugar in a heavy based pan and slowly melt until it forms a light caramel, add the next 1/3 and do the same. Finally add the remaining sugar and cook all to a light caramel.
Slowly add the butter and the cream so as not to form a block of hard caramel and boil.
Pour the liquid onto the chocolate and emulsify.
Smooth with the hand blender and pour a thin layer into the tart cases.
Leave to set.

CHOCOLATE GANACHE

350 g Guanaja 70%
250 g whipping cream
15 g honey
50 g butter

Part melt the chocolate.
Boil the cream and honey and pour slowly onto the chocolate, emulsify and smooth.
Add the butter and blend.
Pour into the pastry cases and leave to set.

I attended the class as a guest. Many thanks to MsMarmiteLover for the photographs – I took mine on my phone, which was subsequently stolen :(

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Evening Standard Column: Rhubarb and Blood Orange Meringue Pie

Rhubarb & Blood Orange Meringue Pie

From the Evening Standard, January 5th 2012

I love meringue pie, it’s utterly comforting, nostalgic and just beautiful to eat. It’s especially nice in January, after an endless parade of green and brown food, when gorgeous Yorkshire forced rhubarb and bright bloody oranges arrive. If you can’t get blood oranges, feel free to substitute normal ones.

Many meringue pie recipes call for cornflour to thicken the curd but I prefer not to use it here. Some time in the fridge will allow it all to set. The results are a little sloppier than the traditional version perhaps, but the flavour is terrific.

Rhubarb and blood orange curd

Makes 2 small jars

*200g rhubarb, trimmed and chopped
*50g unsalted butter, plus a few knobs
*50g caster sugar finely grated zest of 1 blood orange and juice of 2
*2 whole eggs, plus 2 egg yolks

Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/gas mark 2. Roast the rhubarb for 15 minutes until tender. Drain in a sieve. Meanwhile, melt the butter and sugar in a double boiler. Add the zest, juice, eggs and yolks and cook gently while stirring. When the mixture coats the back of a spoon, take it from the heat. Stir through the rhubarb. Store in a covered bowl or jars.

Rhubarb and blood orange meringue pie

Makes a 25cm tart

For the sweet shortcrust pastry:
*75g unsalted butter, diced
*150g plain flour, sifted, plus more to dust
*25g icing sugar, sifted
*1 egg yolk, lightly beaten with the same amount of water

For the filling:
*1 x quantity rhubarb and blood orange curd (see above)

For the meringue:
*3 egg whites
*50g icing sugar, sifted
*25g cornflour

To make the pastry, add the butter to the flour and icing sugar and rub it in with your fingertips until it looks like crumbs. Add the egg to bring together, mould into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and chill for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Roll the pastry out and line a 25cm pie dish. Line with baking parchment, fill with baking beans, and blind bake for 20-25 minutes. Increase the temperature to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6. Pour the curd into the shell.

Whisk the egg whites until they start to form stiff peaks, add half the sugar, whisk again, then sift in the cornflour and gently fold in the remaining sugar.

Spoon the meringue on top of the curd, trying to create lots of little peaks that will brown and ensuring it touches the pastry edge.

Bake for five minutes or so, until the meringue starts to brown. Allow the tart to cool and the curd to set for a couple of hours in the fridge. Serve cold. Try not to eat it all in one sitting, as I have done!

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A Recipe for You: Fritole (Gorgeous Apple Yeast Doughnuts) from Istria in Croatia

Hello readers! This week I am in Croatia – Istria in the North of Croatia to be precise. I am here for a week, eating too much, looking for truffles, sampling the (delicious) local wine, and cooking with some of the locals. I am quite lucky as I have some friends with an apartment here who have put me in touch with some local people who are very passionate about their food culture.

I had been to Dalmatia, further South (I am sure you will have heard of Dubrovnik) so had some expectations which were not realistic. Istria is more like Italy (not surprising as it used to be part of it) and so there is lots of homemade pasta and risotto. There is also a huge Hungarian influence, so you see lots of goulash too.

One of the first things that I ate here, and still my favourite, is little sweet apple doughnuts called fritole (pronounced frit-oh-lay). They are served cold, although I would quite like to try them warm too. Most recipes are handed down through families, and not actually written anywhere. I did manage to track down a chef – Anna from a terrific family restaurant run by a hunting family, the Morgans, high on a hill surrounded by Vineyards in Brtonigla – who was willing to describe her recipe for me patiently, and here it is.

I think this is a perfect little snack, and would be lovely with a mulled wine or spiced cider. Perfect for winter, or to rustle up quickly when people nip by for a visit.

Enjoy!

Recipe on iVillage: Fritoles from Istria, Croatia 

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Easter Recipe: Tom Herbert’s Hot Cross Buns

Cornwall, February 2011

This blog sometimes throws some nice things my way, and recently one of them was the offer to review a weekend baking course in Cornwall (at the Bedruthan Steps in Bedruthan to be precise). I am a keen home baker but there is always more to learn, so when I discovered that the course would be led by fifth generation baker Tom Herbert of Hobbs House Bakery, I jumped at it.

Tom Herberts Bread Course at Bedruthan Steps, Cornwall

Bedruthan is a sleepy village in Cornwall, not too far from Watergate Bay – home to Fifteen and the Beach Hut – and itself home to sister hotels The Scarlet, a gorgeous ecofriendly hotel and Bedruthan Steps, its more family friendly sibling. They are running many crafty courses over the coming months including also beekeeping, sewing and knitting. (Aside: I am actually an expert knitter & seamstress – genuinely! – my babysitter growing up was a professional aran knitter and taught me everything she knows. We learned to knit and sew in school too.)

Tom Herberts Bread Course at Bedruthan Steps, Cornwall

The baking course package included full board and two nights at the hotel (normally £300 although the other courses are cheaper). The hotel is charmingly perched on a cliff overlooking the sea. I must confess I hardly left the hotel all weekend, immersed as I was in bready goodness, we even had a midnight baking session on the Saturday night.

Tom Herberts Bread Course at Bedruthan Steps, Cornwall

The food was surprisingly very good (surprisingly as often hotel restaurants pitched at families are often not focussed on the food), and as is the way in Cornwall in my experience, embracing of all things Cornish, declaring the provenance of all ingredients, from the local apple juice to the brisket.

Cornwall, February 2011

Back to the bread. Tom was a great teacher and it was a lot of fun. The class was mixed, non bakers that wanted to learn, young ambitous bakers that wanted to learn from a master and retired hobbyists. Everyone got on very well and lots of laughs were had while bread was baked.

Tom Herberts Bread Course at Bedruthan Steps, Cornwall

We baked a lot of bread: sourdough, soda bread, foccacia, white bread, bread rolls, hot cross buns and chollah. I have made most of these breads many times, but it was still helpful to get some tips from Tom and very enjoyable to get stuck in and make them. Utterly relaxing and great stress relief. Plus you do get some of Toms 55 year old sourdough startser which I fear I have altered into some kind of gremlin of the original.

Cornwall, February 2011

Fittingly for this time of year, Tom has kindly allowed me to republish his Hot Cross Buns recipe here. These are very good, so much so that some I saw in the shop today looked like emaciated depressed versions and I felt very sad for them. Traditionally these are a Good Friday bun, but hey, they’re great all over Easter, so knock yourself out and enjoy them.

Hot Cross Buns Recipe

Dough
680g strong white flour
big pinch of sea salt
30g fresh yeast (or 15g of dried)
70g organic golden caster sugar
80g soft butter
15g mixed spice
270ml of warm water
1 organic egg

Crossing Mix
100g strong white flour,
a pinch of salt,
a pinch of sugar, a knob
of butter and 100ml water
Method

The fruit
80g sultanas
80g currants
the chopped zest of
1 lemon and 1 orange

Bun wash
1 eggcup of boiling water
2tsp of sugar
1 pinch of mixed spice

1. Grease and line a high sided baking tray with grease-proof paper
2. Weigh all the dough ingredients into a big mixing bowl
3. Stir together with a firm hand and wooden spoon
4. Once the dough has come together turn onto a flat surface and knead for 15 minutes, until your dough is smooth and vital
5. Gently work in the fruit and zest
6. Nestle your well worked dough back into the big mixing bowl, cover and repose in a warm place until it has doubled in size, or for 30 minutes, whichever is first
7. After this, cut the dough in half, then divide and divide again until you have 16 equalish pieces
8. In the palm of your hand, firmly round the pieces so they stand pert on your baking tray, a finger’s width between them
9. Again, cover the tin and leave in a toasty place until your buns have doubled in size: 30, 40, 50 minutes.
10. Heat your oven to 210∘C
11. Whisk together the piping mix ingredients in a jug, ensuring there are no lumps, and pour into a piping bag
12. Cross the buns by piping a lattice of the piping mix across the length and width of the tin
13. Bake the buns. The very moment they have golden tops and bottoms whip them out and brush with the bun wash

Serving suggestions: Eat while still warm from the oven, smothered in butter and, if you please, jam.

More information on Bedruthan Breaks available on their website

Tom Herbert’s Blog

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A Recipe for Yellowman (aka Honeycomb, Cinder Toffee)

Yellowman

YELLOWMAN! How great is that? Yellowman? I love it. The quirky Irish decriptor for Honeycomb, or what the ‘merican folks call cinder toffee. Such fun to make, a joy to eat (for all except your fillings who will retreat to the back of your mouth for safety), and a really ace little Xmas present for those you love from your kitchen.

But, wait! It’s not all fun and games. Making yellowman has it’s downsides. The first is the intense temperature, you need to heat the sugar & golden syrup to 150C to reach hard-crack stage, and you may burn yourself. Of course most of you won’t, but I did, and I have a nice cascade of blisters on my arm. The other, less described danger, is that you may find yourself wandering around your kitchen waving a jam thermometer with melted sugar spindles dripping off it, singing YELLOWMAN to the Elton John’s Rocket Man at the top of your voice.

It was all worth it. Even the burn.

It’s such fun to make. Once the sugar and golden syrup are ready, adding the bicarbonate of soda causes it to foam to about four times the original size like a rush of golden lava. And then it relaxes and you can pour it into your waiting tin and admire the bubbles, and the golden sheen, and wait until you can crack it, and devour it yourself. Plus, it’s ridiculously cheap to make, so take that recession, we can still have Christmas despite your grizzly presence.

What can you do with yellowman? Eat it, give it to friends, cover it in chocolate for delicious odd shaped infinitely better homemade crunchies, put it in some chocolate mousse, have it with chocolate cake. Endless chewy possibilities await.

I have a jam thermometer as I am that kind of kitchen geek, but don’t worry if you don’t. To test whether the concotion is at hard crack stage, wait until it is bubbling and turning a caramel brown, then put a spoonful on a plate and if it solidifies and cracks when you tap it, well you’re done.

My recipe doesn’t include butter as it really doesn’t need it. I also like it dairy free as that way everyone can enjoy it, including lactose intolerants like myself! I also add vinegar as this reacts with the bicarb to create lots of bubbles and you don’t taste it at all. Some recipes add water, I do too as it means the temperature increase is a little gentler and there is a smaller risk of burning it.

This recipe will fill a large tray, use whatever you have, just make sure it’s deep. Also use a deep pot, otherwise you will have honeycomb all over your stove pot!

Enjoy!

A Recipe for Yellowman (aka Honeycomb, Cinder Toffee)

Ingredients

300g White Sugar (caster or granulated)
200g Golden Syrup
100ml Water
1 tbsp Cider or White Wine Vinegar
2 heaped tsp Bicarbonate of Soda

Method:

Prepare your tin/dish by lining with lightly oiled baking parchment.

Heat the sugar, golden syrup, water and vinegar until it starts to turn amber and reaches 150C/the hard crack stage (explanation above).

Add the bicarb and stir thoroughly, then pour into your lined tin. Leave to cool to room temperature.

If you want it to be cut into ordered shapes, cut with an oiled knife when it’s nearly it room temperature. I like it to look a little rough and tumble so cut it when it’s cool.

Store in an air tight container or gift to friends in small transparent bags or jars. It is delicious covered in chocolate or with chocolate mousse.

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Coconut & apricot snowballs

coconut & apricot snowballs

It’s silly season! Lots of socialising, lots of fun, (over)eating and drinking. I have been trying and failing to save myself for my impending two week break – my office xmas party got the better of me last week, then I had the pleasure of an old friend visiting, which naturally involved lots of eating, partying and late night chattering.

I have withdrawn again in an attempt to gather some energy and tie up some loose ends before I make my journey back to Ireland, but, before I did I called to a friends for her annual xmas drinks last weekend. She had (as always) the most amazing spread. One of the many things that I couldn’t stop eating were these little coconut & apricot snowballs – they were just beautiful. I enquired after the recipe and was shocked at how simple they are, they are so delicious, I thought that there must be some complicated technique behind this, but no, it’s one she has been making since childhood: quick, simple & dare I say it – approaching healthy? They’re also very pretty and festive, like little fruity snowballs, hence I christened them coconut & apricot snowballs.

Thanks to Rachel for the recipe! I’ve brought them into the office today and everyone is most appreciative :)

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Peyton & Byrne, Bake-a-boo & Cupcakes

Peyton & Byrne Cupcakes

Peyton & Byrne is a treasure trove of cupcakes and other sweet & savoury delights nestled between Heals & Habitat on Tottenham Court Rd, London. Owned by Oliver Peyton, a Mayo born London based restaurateur, it opened in September 2006 along with Meals in Heals next door. This is not Peyton’s first venture, far from it, he started with nightclubs which he proclaimed a means to an end, dallied with the import/export of Japanese beer & absolut vodka and then moved into restaurants with the opening of the critically acclaimed Atlantic Bar & Grill in Picadilly. Since then he has opened Mash, Isola, the Admirality restaurant at Somerset House, Inn the Park at St James Park, The Wallace Restaurant, Peyton & Byrne, Meals, The National Dining Rooms & finally The National Café.

Peyton has always championed the use of quality ingredients and British cooking and this is obvious in his establishments. He is well known as one of the judges on the Great British Menu, a BBC show where top UK & Irish chefs compete to cook part of the banquet for the Queens 80th birthday in the first series and to the British Ambassador to France at the British Embassy in Paris for the second series.

At Peyton & Byrne, the intent is to reproduce old favourites the way our mothers used to make them, specifically Peytons mother whose maiden name was Byrne – hence, Peyton & Byrne. Her recipes are, in fact, the inspirations for the produce at the bakery. Award winning chef Roger Pizey aims to put a modern twist on old classics and I think he does this quite well. These include savoury staples like tarts, pies, scotch eggs & fresh sandwiches (done well – lancashire cheese & picallili anyone?) and sweet treats like bakewell tart, victoria sponge, chocolate cake and amazing cupcakes, my personal favourite is the frou frou cupcake (raspberry & coconut), but there are 5 flavours in total to try and you should!

Peyton & Byrne Cupcakes

It’s done so well, it’s difficult to fault them. The design of the shop itself is lovely, fronted by a large window with gold lettering displaying their wares with the cakes on charming cake stands, it’s all so pretty and inviting. The packaging is also fantastic, pretty pastel cake boxes with bold lettering. It shouldn’t matter, but it does.

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