Saturday, 31 December 2011

Chocolate and Orange Meringue Roulade

I was extremely lucky to receive a copy of Mary Berry's 100 Cakes and Bakes this Christmas, and can't wait to join in the Weekly Bake Off! While perusing, I came across a recipe which has already been covered by the Weekly Bakers, and with some leftover egg whites and double cream in mind, I decided to whip up something based on the Raspberry Meringue Roulade (pg 175, and see the Weekly Bakers' fantastic looking versions here).

For my version I halved the mix, added some cocoa to make a chocolate meringue, and used homemade marmalade mixed with cream for the filling.

Considering this was thrown together in 5 minutes and the only things I measured accurately were the caster sugar and the baking tray (to ensure I was using an appropriate size to get the thickness right), I'm amazed by just how well it worked...

Here is the meringue just after it came out of the oven - it puffed up nicely :

And here is the freshly rolled roulade :

According to Mr Soup, it looks rather like a sand worm from Dune :

This is being served as dessert this evening with our traditional (3rd year running!) New Year antisocial celebration where we stay in, drink bubbly, eat snacks and watch trashy action movies! Happy New Year to you all - I hope you're doing something equally enjoyable (to you) to see in 2012! We'll be back in the new year with all sorts of excitement - pasta machine (responsible for the leftover egg whites), tagine dish, jam thermometer and various cookbooks were discovered under the tree this year, so there will definitely be more than soup on the menu!

Monday, 12 December 2011

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap (and Blog Hijack) - Chocolate and Ginger Biscotti

Well, here it is - the recipe inspired by the event which prompted a blog-takeover! I spotted this event when it was mentioned by one of the many food blogs that I read (my apologies that I can't actually remember which one). I immediately checked out the main page, and was rather disappointed when I saw that it was open for US residents only - but then read a little further and found that enough UK people had signed up for me to participate - the only problem was that I didn't officially have my own blog - though I had already contributed the technical (cooking!) side of a number of recipes for Mr Soup.

A quick chat with Mr Soup, and with a promise that I would write more than just the cookie recipe (and that he could partake of the cookies arriving in our postbox!), and we were A for Away.

The excitement started when I received my matches - 3 new blogs to read, and suddenly the realisation that 36 cookies needed to be baked - luckily all the same recipe.

My matches were Bob at Foodie Bob's Blog (@FoodieBob), Sarah at Zenzeroni (@zenzeroni) and Julie at Angler's Rest (@JulieGoucher).

In the interim I'd seen a competition by Nelly over at Nelly's Cupcakes using Hotel Chocolat chocolate coated almonds (competition now closed) to make biscotti and I was intrigued both by how easy the recipe seemed, and the endless possible ingredients!

A few experiments later, and I decided on chocolate biscotti, with crystallised ginger and chocolate chips (chocolate and ginger is one of my favourite combinations - only slightly behind chocolate and coffee, chocolate and nuts ... see a pattern emerging?), and for a final touch, white chocolate drizzles. So here is the recipe :

Triple Chocolate and Ginger Biscotti

200g flour
75g cocoa
150g caster sugar
1.5 tsp baking powder
sparse 1/2 tsp salt
3 large eggs (if you don't have large eggs, it's worth using 4 - beat them together and use slightly less than the full four - one of my trial runs didn't rise enough when I used too little egg)
1 1/2 tsp ginger syrup (I used stem ginger preserved in syrup and used the syrup - if you use crystallised ginger instead, just use some vanilla extract instead)
85g chopped preserved ginger
50g chocolate chips

Sieve and mix the dry ingredients, ginger and chocolate chips together. Beat the eggs with the ginger syrup/vanilla essence and mix into the dry ingredients. The mix should be slightly stiff and not wet.

Form the batter into 2 logs on a greased, lined backing tray, and bake at 180ºC for 25 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a cooling rack :

Once the logs have cooled enough to handle, cut them into slices a bit less than 1 cm wide, and lay these out on a lined baking tray.

Pop them back into the oven for another 10-15 minutes (you'll need to judge this - too short and the biscuits will be a bit chewy, too long and they'll be a bit too hard - depends on how thick you've cut them too).
Again, let them cool on a rack, and once they are cooled , melt some white chocolate in a double boiler (I use a mixing bowl that fits into a pot with the bottom suspended about halfway down the pot). Then use a spoon to generously drizzle the white chocolate over the biscuits. Let it set, melt the chocolate again if necessary, flip the biscuits over, and drizzle the other side.

This was a wonderful experience, not least because of the yummy biscuits I received. The sense of connection with six other people, knowing the care that went into choosing a recipe, baking, packing and sending the biscuits off was really special - I honestly can't decide if I enjoyed receiving or sending them more. Luckily I don't have to choose because I think it was the combination - receiving my biscuits in the post made sending the one's I'd made out that much more meaningful and fun!

My first batch of biscuits - Lebkuchen from Michelle at 'A Mum who loves to bake' were waiting for me when I got home from a particularly stressful and busy day at work. Mr Soup was away for work, but when I opened the parcel and saw the beautiful biscuits that had been made for me and sent with such care it turned my day around! They were lovely, beautifully decorated and I particularly enjoyed the slight touch of lemon which set of the spiciness beautifully - I can understand why she had to make a second batch for her children!

The second batch arrived on a Saturday, and were just perfect for an afternoon cup of tea after a big shop. I love peanut butter biscuits - and these from Amy at the Weekly Bake Off were fantastic - I don't know why I've never thought of adding chocolate chips to peanut butter biscuits, but I will be from now on!

My final batch of biscuits arrived when I was at work, and I got an email from Mr Soup telling me that there was a Christmas-y parcel waiting for me - I couldn't wait to get home and see what was inside. These were perhaps the most well packaged parcel I've ever received! It was a bit like playing pass-the-parcel with layers and layers of bubble wrap - but the 'present' a the end was definitely worth it - 2 lovely parcels of 'Nutella cookies' - hazelnut biscuits dipped in chocolate and chopped nuts from Helen at Bakery Cottage. Mr Soup took one parcel off to work where they were very happily received. (The bubble wrap has already been used for wrapping Christmas presents!). Helen was also responsible for our first Christmas card of the year - a lovely start to the festive season.

We have been promised (!) that the Cookie Swap will happen again next year - I will definitely be participating again, and looking forward to connecting with another 6 wonderful people. If you're keen to join us, you can sign up here, and maybe you'll be getting some biscuits from me next year! A big thank you to the organisers, Julie and Lindsay - it was a blast, and if you need help organising the UK side of things next year, I'm happy to help!

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Christmas Pudding

Here is my super-easy Christmas pudding recipe. For some reason people assume that Christmas pudding is difficult to make and takes ages - the prep time on this is only about 10 minutes (with 6 hours cooking time) - once you've seen how easy it is I doubt you'll go back to store-bought!

This is an old family recipe - as long as I can remember this was presented at Christmas time, with flaming brandy (it's the only way!) and cold brandy butter to accompany. When I was much younger, there was always a silver coin in my slice - I suspect, with hindsight, that the silver coin was slipped in after dishing, but as a child it all added to the magic of Christmas!

(If you do decide to put coins into your pudding, pop them in a pot of boiling water and boil them for about 10 minutes first - also use largish coins - 50p pieces would be best - and warn everyone that they are in there! I would probably use a knife to make insertions into the cooked pudding and insert them after cooking to get an even distribution.)

I made this pudding as my contribution to my first Christmas meal with Mr Soup's family - I don't know who was most nervous about it (me, him or his mother!), and we're fairly sure there was a store-bought backup - but it was a resounding success, and even had people coming back for seconds (after the spread on offer that was quite a feat!) There will be a repeat performance this year by popular request.

I normally make this a month or two in advance, and do a lot of feeding with the remaining brandy, but it's quite possible to serve immediately after steaming it.

The recipe is from a Victorian Cookery and Housekeeping book, and the resulting pudding is considerably lighter than we are used to nowadays - don't be worried - it still tastes amazing. There is also no added sugar - all the sweetness is from the fruit. This recipe is scaled down from the original - which made 3 large puddings, and used every mixing bowl I had!) These quantities are just right for one large pudding.

Ingredients :
150g raisins (make sure you get deseeded!)
150g currants
35g sultanas
120g mixed peel
(This year I bought a fruit mix with raisins, sultanas, mixed peel, cherries etc and used 450g of that instead of measuring out the individual ingredients)
150g suet
115g bread crumbs
half tsp ground nutmeg (I've also used mixed spice in the past)
100g plain flour
165ml milk
3 large eggs
85ml brandy

Mix together the dried fruit, suet, bread crumbs, flour and spice. In a separate bowl beat the eggs, milk and brandy together. Pour the wet ingredients into the fruit mix, mix well and put the mix into your pudding bowl. Tie a cloth, or greaseproof paper over the top, and boil/simmer with the lid on for about 6 hours - I do this overnight on the low setting of my slow cooker. The pudding can be turned out and served immediately, or stored, with a bit of brandy poured over it every week or two till Christmas! If you store the pudding, all that's needed on the day is to boil it again (to heat it through) for half an hour to an hour.