Roasted Plum Pavlova with Tarragon

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The book for this month’s Borough Market Cookbook Club is in fact the Borough Market Cookbook. Hot off the press, it was only published earlier this month. It is divided according to season, so as soon as it arrived, I dived straight into autumn.

After considering Autumn panzanella, Watercress, russet apple and cobnut salad, Beetroot dahl, I turned to the page with Roast plum pavlova with tarragon and the deliberation was over. It was the tarragon that did it; I love desserts with herbs and was curious to see how the tarragon and plum worked together. After I had roasted the plums with the tarragon, I tasted some of the syrup, it was divine. 

The plums and tarragon on their own would be wonderful with Greek yoghurt or with porridge so I was really glad I had roasted extra.

After I had assembled the two smaller pavlovas, I was thrilled with how they looked. This is a real show stopper and would wow anyone. Hope the Cookbook Club crowd like it!

I’m now writing this a few days later and am happy to report they loved it.

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Serves 6-8

Ingredients

For the roast plums

6 sprigs tarragon

150 ml water

1kg plums, halved and de-stoned

40g golden caster sugar

For the meringue

5 large egg whites (about 175g)

350g caster sugar (twice the weight of the egg whites)

70g toasted flaked almonds

To finish

600 ml double cream

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Leaves picked from 2 sprigs of tarragon

15g toasted flaked almonds

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Directions

  • Preheat oven to 200ﹾC fan/220ﹾC/gas mark 7.
  • Place the tarragon sprigs in a roasting dish with 150 ml water. Lay the plums over these, cut size up, ideally in one layer. Sprinkle the sugar onto the plums, macerate for 15 minutes, then bake for 20-30 minutes until soft but still holding their shape. Leave to cool for 15 minutes, then transfer the plums, juices and tarragon into a smaller container and refrigerate until needed.
  • Weigh the egg whites. Weigh double the amount of sugar. Set the oven to 130ﹾC fan/150ﹾC/gas mark 2 and line a baking sheet with baking parchment.
  • Add the egg whites to a stand mixer and whisk at a medium speed until they form stiff peaks. Increase the speed and slowly add the sugar in a steady stream. Continue whisking for 9 minutes until the mixture is glossy and has no hint of sugar crystals.
  • Scatter with half the almonds. Use a large metal spoon to carefully but confidently ripple through the nuts in two or three swoops. Spoon the mixture onto the lined baking sheet creating a circle of 26-28 cm in diameter, with high, wavy sides and an indent for the cream and fruit in the middle. Place in the centre of the oven, reduce the oven temperature to 110ﹾC fan/ 130ﹾC/gas mark ½ and bake for 2 hours, then turn the oven off and leave for 1 hour more. Remove the meringue from the oven and sprinkle the remaining almonds on top.
  • Whip the cream and vanilla extract in a bowl until they reach a loose stage, then spoon on top of the meringue. Arrange the plums and juices over the cream, then scatter with tarragon leaves and the flaked almonds.

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Bergamot Madeleines

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I’m still experimenting with bergamot. I have a very special cake coming up and I want to nail this flavour. I’m finding it tricky to get the Earl Grey flavour to come through without being overpowering. When I made the batter, I thought the flavour was quite strong, but when the madeleines baked, the flavour wasn’t as pronounced as I would have liked it to be.  I’ll add more zest next time. Having said that, I think my aunties for whom I made these tasty morsels will be happy with the flavour profile; not everyone is a bergamot fan.

I made the madeleines with my new mini madeleine tins which I bought in Corbridge, a beautiful village in Northumberland with a great cook shop. I hadn’t used this type of tray before, so I was guessing how long to leave the madeleines in the oven. The first batch was in for 10 minutes and were golden brown, but to be honest they were a bit dry. The second batch came out slightly paler as I brought them out after 8 minutes. They were perfect. I think it depends on your oven as to how long to keep them in for. The normal sized madeleines are usually baked for 9-10 minutes.  

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Ingredients

90g unsalted butter

2 tsp honey

2 large eggs

75g caster sugar

1and ½ tsp bergamot zest. (Use 2 tsp if you prefer a stronger flavour)

90g plain flour plus extra for dusting

1 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp salt

3 tbsp icing sugar

1-2 tsp bergamot juice

Directions

  1. You can follow David Leibovitz’s suggestion and grease then flour the tins and put them in the freezer for an hour. This is supposed to create the characteristic bump on the back of the shell. However, the cakes will taste just as good if you don’t freeze the tins.
  2. Place the butter and honey in a small saucepan over a low heat until the butter has melted. Remove from the heat and set aside to come to room temperature.
  3. Place the eggs, sugar, and bergamot zest in a food processor and mix until smooth and combined. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl, then add to the egg mixture. Pulse a few times, just to mix in, and add the cooled butter and honey mixture. Process once more to combine, then pour the batter into a small bowl. Cover with cling film and allow to rest in the fridge for about an hour.
  4. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C Fan/Gas Mark 6. If you are using metal madeleine trays, brush the moulds with melted butter and sprinkle liberally with flour. Silicone trays should not need any greasing or flouring, but you can lightly brush with a little melted butter if you like. Tap to ensure that all the moulds are dusted and then shake off the excess flour. If you have put the trays in the freezer, you can take them out now.
  5. Spoon a heaped teaspoon of batter into each mould: it should rise two-thirds of the way up the sides of the moulds. If you only have one madeleine tray, place the remaining batter in the fridge until you have baked the first batch. You will need to wash and dry the mould completely before greasing and flouring again and repeating with the second batch.
  6. Bake for 8 minutes, until the madeleines are beginning to brown around the edges and they spring back once tapped lightly in the middle. Remove the tray(s) from the oven and set aside for a minute before releasing the cakes. The best way to do this with a metal tray, is to go around the edges of each madeleine with a small knife or spatula (to make sure they are not stuck) and then tap the edge of the tray on the bench until they fall out. With a silicone tray they should just fall out of their moulds. Transfer the cakes to a wire rack to cool.
  7. Add a little of the bergamot juice to the icing sugar and mix. If you add too much juice, the icing sugar will just sink into the madeleines rather than forming a white coat. Also, as you add the juice, check you like the flavour. You should be able to taste the bergamot, but it should not be bitter. When you are happy with the consistency, dip the narrow end of the madeleine into it and leave to dry.

 

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Blackberry and Star Anise Friands

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I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to bake these blackberry and star anise friands since before the book ‘Sweet’ was published. It was one of the most interesting flavour combinations promised in the pre-sale marketing.  I was already a friand aficionado and have posted about plum and almond friands as well as rhubarb friands in the past, but I have to say the blackberry and star anise combo is a whole different story. At first you taste the blackberry, then the orange with the almond background and then at the end the star anise comes to the fore. It is truly delightful. I followed the recipe exactly but I didn’t use quite as much icing sugar as I only did zig zags on the top, rather than cover them completely. I would definitely make these again and sooner rather than later.

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Ingredients

180g     unsalted butter, plus an extra 10g, melted, for brushing

60g      plain flour, plus extra for dusting

200g    icing sugar

120g   ground almonds

1 1/4 tsp     ground star anise, (about 3 stars blitzed in a spice grinder then sieved).

1/8 tsp salt

150g egg whites (from 4 large eggs) 

finely grated zest of one small orange (1 tsp)

18 whole blackberries (120g) cut in half lengthways

Icing (optional) 

60g blackberries (about 8), plus an extra 24 small blackberries, to garnish 

3/4 tbsp water

1 tsp lemon juice

165g icing sugar

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C Fan/Gas Mark 7. Brush the 12 holes of a regular muffin tin with the melted butter and sprinkle all over with flour. Tap the tray gently to ensure an even coating of the flour, then turn upside down to remove the excess. Place in the fridge to chill while you make the batter.

2. To brown the butter, place in a small saucepan and cook over a medium heat until melted. Continue to cook until the butter is foaming, gently swirling the pan from time to time, to allow the solids to brown more evenly. You will see dark brown sediments begin to form on the sides and bottom of the pan. Continue to allow the butter to bubble away until it turns a rich golden brown and smells of toasted nuts and caramel. Remove the pan from the heat and let it stand for 5 minutes, to allow the burnt solids to collect at the bottom of the pan. Strain through a fine-mesh (or muslin-lined) sieve, discarding the solids. Allow the browned butter to cool slightly before using. It should still be warm when folding into the mix later: if it is too hot, it will ‘cook’ the egg whites; if it is too cool, it will be difficult to incorporate into the mix.

3. While the butter is cooling, sift the flour, icing sugar, ground almonds, star anise and salt into a bowl. Place the egg whites in a small bowl and use a whisk or fork to froth them up for a few seconds – you do not need to whisk them completely. Pour the egg whites into the sifted dry ingredients and stir until they are incorporated. Add the orange zest and browned butter and mix until the batter is smooth.

4. Remove the muffin tin from the fridge and fill the moulds just over two-thirds of the way up the sides. Place three halved blackberries on top, cut side down, and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 210°C/190°C Fan/Gas Mark 6 – starting with a high oven temperature and then bringing it down is the way to achieve the lovely brown crust you want – turn the tray around in the oven for even cooking, and continue to cook for another 8 minutes, until the edges of the friands are golden brown and the centres have a slight peak and spring back when gently prodded. Set aside to cool before removing them from their moulds: you might need to use a small knife to help you release the sides.

5. If you are icing the cakes, place 60g of blackberries in a small bowl with the water and lemon juice. Use a fork to mash them together, then pass the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve to extract as much fruit juice as possible: you should get about 60ml. Sift the icing sugar into a medium bowl, pour in the blackberry juice and combine to make a light purple runny icing: it should just be thick enough to form a thin glaze on the tops of the cakes. Spoon the icing over the cakes, spreading it to the edges so that it runs down the sides. Do this on a rack, if you can, as icing them on a plate or sheet of paper means that the icing will pool at the bottom. Alternatively, put the icing into a piping bag and zig zag it over the top. Place 1 or 2 small blackberries on each friand, set aside for 20 or 30 minutes to set, then serve.

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Saffron, orange and honey madeleines

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Last minute lunch invitation and obviously I can’t turn up empty handed; I was lucky enough to have all the ingredients in my cupboard to make these deliciously beautiful shell-like cakes. These tiny treats are easy to make, but you need to be aware that the cake batter needs to be chilled for at least an hour and it is also recommended that the tin is greased, floured and then chilled. All this chilling is in order to achieve the hump that gives the madeleine its authenticity.  The recipe of course is from Sweet; what a brilliant buy that was, I’ve made so many of the recipes. Anyway, I packaged the madeleines into a box and tied a ribbon round it and presented it to a delighted hostess. Naturally, I ate one first; one has to taste test these things. The verdict: sweet, delicate perfection.

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Ingredients

90g unsalted butter, plus an extra 20g, melted, for brushing

2 tsp honey, plus an extra 3 tbsp, for glazing

¼ tsp  saffron threads

2 large eggs

75g caster sugar

scraped seeds of ¼ vanilla pod

 finely grated zest of 1 small orange (1 tsp)

90g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

1 tsp baking powder

⅛ tsp salt

20g shelled pistachio kernels, finely blitzed

       Directions

  1. Place the butter, honey and saffron threads in a small saucepan over a low heat until the butter has melted. Remove from the heat and set aside to come to room temperature.
  2. Place the eggs, sugar, vanilla seeds and orange zest in a food processor and mix until smooth and combined. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl, then add to the egg mixture. Pulse a few times, just to mix in, and add the cooled butter, honey and saffron mixture. Process once more, to combine, then pour the batter into a small bowl. Cover with cling film and allow to rest in the fridge for about an hour.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C Fan/Gas Mark 6. If you are using metal madeleine trays, brush the moulds with melted butter and sprinkle liberally with flour. Silicone trays should not need any greasing or flouring, but you can lightly brush with a little melted butter, if you like. Tap to ensure that all the moulds are dusted and then shake off the excess flour.
  4. Spoon a heaped teaspoon of batter into each mould: it should rise two-thirds of the way up the sides of the moulds. If you only have one madeleine tray, place the remaining batter in the fridge until you have baked the first batch. You will need to wash and dry the mould completely before greasing and flouring again and repeating with the second batch.
  5. Bake for 9–10 minutes, until the madeleines are beginning to brown around the edges and they spring back once tapped lightly in the middle. Remove the tray(s) from the oven and set aside for a minute before releasing the cakes. The best way to do this, with a metal tray, is to go around the edges of each madeleine with a small knife or spatula (to make sure they are not stuck) and then tap the edge of the tray on the bench until they fall out. With a silicone tray they should just fall out of their moulds. Transfer the cakes to a wire rack to cool.
  6. Pile the blitzed pistachios on to a plate in a straight line and set aside. Melt the 3 tablespoons of honey in a small saucepan (a microwave is also good here) until very runny, then brush lightly over the shell-patterned side of one madeleine. With the shell side facing down towards the nuts, roll the narrower end of the madeleine along the pile of pistachios so that you have a straight 1cm strip of pistachios at the base of the madeleine. Repeat with the remaining madeleines, and place on a serving platter, nut side up.

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Bergamot Macarons

 

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I know many people think that macarons are a fad, but not me. I still think they are the perfect morsel of a deliciously decadent treat. So for my birthday this year I wanted to brush up on my macaron making skills and develop a macaron using bergamot. Bergamot is the citrus fruit that is used to flavour Earl Grey tea but you don’t often see them in the supermarkets.  When I came across some in Waitrose at the beginning of the year, I bought 6 not knowing what I would do with them. Well, I didn’t do anything with them. I found out the season was really short and that the flavour can be very overpowering. I decided to zest and juice them. I froze the juice in ice cube trays and wrapped the zest in baking paper then placed them in a container and put it in the freezer until I had a game plan.

So here is my game plan. I used the lemon birthday macaron recipe I posted in 2016 and replaced the lemon in Pierre Herme’s recipe with the bergamot. I also ended up adding extra bergamot zest to the bergamot cream so there was enough Earl Grey flavour to make me happy, but they were still quite lemony, pleasing the Earl Grey phobes.

Bergamo Macarons 2

Ingredients

300g ground almonds

300g icing sugar

110g ‘liquified’ egg whites (separate the egg whites 3 days before using)

1/2g golden yellow food colouring

10g lemon yellow food colouring

300g caster sugar

75g mineral water

110g ‘liquified’ egg whites

For the bergamot cream

225g whole fresh eggs

240g caster sugar

160g fresh bergamot juice (1-2 bergamots)

350g ‘La Viette’ butter at room temperature

100g ground almonds

bergamot zest (to taste)

Directions

  • To ‘liquify’ the egg whites leave them to age for 3 days before using.
  • The day before, make the bergamot cream.
  • Rinse, dry and zest the bergamots.
  • Rub the zest and the sugar together.
  • In a bowl, mix together the bergamot juice, the bergamot zest and sugar mixture and the eggs. Tip this into a bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Beat until the mixture reaches 83/84°C. Allow to cool to 60°C then add the butter cut into pieces. Whisk until the cream is smooth then use a hand blender to blend for 10 minutes.
  • Pour the cream into a gratin dish. Press cling film over the surface of the cream. Set aside in the fridge until the next day.
  • Next day, sift together the icing sugar and ground almonds. Stir the food colouring into the first portion of the liquified egg whites. Pour the coloured egg whites over the mixture of icing sugar and ground almonds but do not stir.
  • Bring the water and sugar to boil at 118°C. When the syrup reaches 115°C, simultaneously start whisking the second portion of liquified egg whites to soft peaks.
  • When the sugar reaches 118°C, pour it over the egg whites. Whisk and allow the meringue to cool down to 50°C, then fold into the almond-sugar mixture.
  • Spoon the batter into a piping bag with a plain nozzle.
  • Pipe rounds of batter about 3.5cm in diameter, spacing them 2cm apart on baking trays lined with baking parchment.
  • Rap the trays on the work surface covered with a cloth to remove any air bubbles. Leave to stand for at least 30 minutes until a skin has formed on the surface.
  • Preheat oven to 180°C then put the trays in the oven. Bake for 12 minutes.
  • When out of the oven, slide the shells onto the work surface.
  • Stir together the bergamot cream and the ground almonds. Spoon the cream into a piping bag with a plain nozzle. Pipe a generous mound of cream on to half the shells and top with the remaining shells.
  • Store the macarons in the fridge for 24 hours and bring them back out for 2 hours before serving.

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Rose and dark chocolate shortbread and kewar water, milk chocolate and pistachio shortbread

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The first thing to say about these biscuits is that I had special help in the making and decorating of them. C and I wanted to make his mum something for Mother’s Day. She is quite partial to shortbread, but to make it extra special, we decided to flavour half with rose and decorate it with dark chocolate and the other half with kewar water and decorate it with milk chocolate. Kewar water is typically used to flavour Indian sweets and this is the smell that hits you when you walk into an Indian sweet shop. It’s very fragrant and sweet, not unlike rose water. I adapted the recipe from the John Waites recipe in the March edition of the Waitrose magazine. They turned out brilliantly.
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Ingredients

200g unsalted butter, at room temperature

100g caster sugar

1 lemon, zested

½-1 tsp rose water (rose water can vary in intensity, so add just a little at a time)

1 tsp kewar water

1 tsp vanilla extract

300g plain flour

2 tbsp Waitrose Cooks’ Ingredients dried rose petals, plus extra to decorate

100g dark chocolate

100g milk chocolate

Chopped pistachio nuts for decoration

 

 

Method

  1. Put the half butter, sugar, lemon zest, the rose water and vanilla in a large bowl and, using an electric mixer, beat together for about 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. Scrape the bowl down and add half the flour, a pinch of salt and the rose petals, mixing together briefly until it comes together as a dough. Tip the dough onto the work surface and bring together into a ball. Flatten with your hands, then roll out to a 25cm square; place on a baking tray and chill until firm – about 30 minutes.
  2. Do the same with the other half of the ingredients but this time use the kewar water.
  3. Preheat the oven to 170˚C, gas mark 3; line 2 baking trays with parchment. Halve the dough, then cut into 2.5cm-thick fingers or shape into hearts using a cookie cutter and pierce all over with a fork.
  4. Put the biscuits on the prepared baking trays and bake for 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
  5. Put the dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl and microwave in 30 second bursts until about ¾ of the chocolate has melted. Mix vigorously with a spatula until fully melted (this is a quick method of tempering the chocolate). Dip the rose shortbread halfway into the chocolate, allow the excess to drip off, then lay on a clean sheet of parchment to set, decorating with a few extra rose petals. Melt the milk chocolate in the same way and dip half the kewar water shortbread into it. Sprinkle with pistachio nuts. Once the chocolate has set, you can store the shortbread in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

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Pineapple and Star Anise Chiffon Cake

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‘Pineapple’ was the flavour of choice for this birthday cake. So with this in mind I searched through my recipe collection. As pineapple is a very juicy fruit, the cakes it tends to be used in are quite heavy like a hummingbird cake or a carrot cake. My friend for whom I made this cake is very glamorous and a hummingbird cake would simply not do. Once again Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh came to the rescue with this pineapple and star anise chiffon cake from Sweet. This elegant cake with its unusual profile flavour is a light, fluffy cake made by whisking the egg whites separately and then gently folding them in to create a pillow like texture. I’ve never made a chiffon cake before so I had to buy a chiffon cake tin, yet another tin to store under the bed! I followed the recipe more or less, but I didn’t use sugar syrup for the pineapple flowers that the recipe calls for, I just sliced the pineapple, removed the core and put the rings in the oven to dry. I also added peach Bellini truffles for the centre of the flowers, I know this is a bit like gilding the lily, but my friend is a more is more kind of girl. I was really happy with how the cake turned out and think I could add this to my repertoire.

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Ingredients

1 large ripe pineapple (about 1.2kg), peeled, core removed

4 star anise

225g self-raising flour

240g caster sugar, plus an extra 50g for the egg whites

125ml sunflower oil

9 eggs, separated

Finely grated zest of 2 oranges

1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped

1 1/4 tsp cream of tartar

300g pure icing sugar, sift

Method

  • Preheat oven to 200°C.
  • To make the cake, coarsely chop 400g pineapple, reserving remaining pineapple for dried pineapple flowers. Whiz chopped pineapple in a food processor until smooth. Transfer to a medium saucepan and bring to the boil over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes or until cooked through, then remove from heat. Reserve 200g pineapple puree for the cake and set aside to cool.
  • Strain remaining 200g puree through a fine sieve placed over a bowl to yield the 60ml juice you will need to make the icing. If you don’t get enough juice, add water or orange juice to make up 60ml liquid.
  • Using a mortar and pestle, pound the star anise until finely ground. Transfer a pinch of ground star anise to a bowl, cover and set aside until needed.
  • Place flour, 240g caster sugar and 1/2 tsp fine salt in a large bowl with remaining star anise and whisk to combine. Make a well in the centre and add oil, egg yolks, zest, vanilla seeds and reserved pineapple puree. Using a fork, whisk wet ingredients together before gently drawing in the dry ingredients to make a smooth batter.
  • Place egg whites in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk for 30 seconds or until frothy, then add cream of tartar. Continue to whisk until soft peaks form, then gradually add 50g caster sugar, a spoonful at a time. Continue to whisk for 5 minutes or until mixture is stiff and glossy. Gently fold egg white mixture into pineapple batter until just combined.
  • Pour batter into the ungreased chiffon pan and bake for 50 minutes, covering with foil halfway if the top is browning too quickly, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove from oven and immediately invert the tin (don’t worry if the removable base slips down a little when the cake is turned over – the cake will remain suspended because the tin is not greased). Set aside for 1 hour or until completely cool. Turning the tin upside down allows the cake to cool with air flow underneath it. If the tin is not turned upside down, the cake will collapse.

 

  • Reduce oven to 120°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
  • To make the pineapple flowers; using a serrated knife, cut reserved remaining pineapple crossways into 2mm-thick slices and place on the baking tray.
  • Transfer to the oven and bake for 1-11/2 hours (cooking time depends on how ripe the pineapple is) or until the slices are golden and completely dry, but still have some flexibility.
  • Immediately shape hot pineapple slices either over the moulds of an egg carton or inside the holes of a muffin pan to form little cups. Set aside to cool and firm up.

 

  • When the cake is cool, turn the pan cake-side up. Using a long palette knife, loosen cake from the sides and central tube, and turn out onto a serving plate.

 

  • To make the icing, place icing sugar in a bowl. Using a wooden spoon, stir through reserved pineapple juice until well combined. Drizzle top of cake with icing, allowing some to drip down the sides. Top with pineapple flowers and sprinkle with reserved ground star anise to serve.

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