Monday, 30 May 2016

Lemon Mousse Cake

This delicate & airy genoise birthday cake was brought to life with the lashings of lemon curd held within the light mousse.  Being made with aquafaba, the delicious lemon mousse is free of raw eggs making it safe for many groups in our communities. 

Lemon Mousse Cake, made with a genoise sponge and a lemon mousse containing aquafaba making it safe for for those vulnerable to raw eggs

Earlier this month saw David, our dear friend and neighbour, celebrate his 81st birthday.  Being a firm believer that birthday celebrations are never complete without a cake I donned my pinny and got into the kitchen to bake.

Knowing that David has a fondness for lemon flavours and light cakes in particular I searched through my extensive collection of baking books and came across a recipe for a version of a lemon chiffon cake, in 'Cakes & Cake Decorating'.  The image for the cake showed it presented simply with no fuss.  It really did look delicious with a thick layer of lemon mousse sandwiched within a straightforward swiss roll type of sponge.  However, as I read the method it became clear that the recipe was far from suitable for our elderly neighbour due to the raw eggs within the mousse layer.  The mousse also contained gelatin which, living in a vegetarian household, is a product which I clearly don't use.  The cake obviously needed modifying to suit the specific needs of David and of course ourselves.


Friday, 27 May 2016

No-Knead Rosemary & Garlic Focaccia

This no-knead focaccia, flavoured with rosemary and garlic, is easy to make and great for tearing and sharing with family and friends. It's perfect for dipping into olive oil and balsamic vinegar, served with soup or even grilled to make a wonderful bruschetta topped with a medley of flavoursome tomatoes.

No-Knead Rosemary and Garlic Focaccia

Since watching Paul Hollywood learn how to make the wonder of no-knead bread when he was in New York for his series City Bakes I have certainly got back into my bread making groove.  Our delicious, fresh, well aerated and easy to make no-knead bread with white and wholemeal flour has regularly been on our table, or rather in the bread crock, for the past few weeks!

Wanting to try a less conventionally shaped loaf and having received a stunning *Le Crouset rectangular dish, courtesy of Steamer Trading Cookshop, Mr E and I couldn't resist trying to make a no-knead focaccia.  Usually breads are baked in some sort of metal container, be that a loaf tin or tray, but this stoneware dish worked really well having evenly conducted the heat throughout.  The rectangular shape is perfect to house the focaccia and its stunning appearance and almost ombre cool mint colour is perfect when brought to a table surrounded by family and friends.

Our Le Creuset dish, in cool mint, courtesy of Steamer Trading Cookshop, arrived well packed almost russian doll like.

Steamer Trading Cookshop is an established chain of 36 well equipped and helpful stores spread across the UK with a cluster on the south coast and spreading as far north as Glasgow.  Along with stocking a wide range of kitchenalia, the stores also offer a knife sharpening service as well as hiring out a range of different cake tins for those special bakes.  They also have a fantastic online shop.  Their easy to navigate site is packed to the rafters with tips and information found within their 'buying guides' section on topics such as lining a tart tin with pastry, judging if preserves are set, to frothing milk for a delicious cappuccino!  And as for their product list - it's phenomenal.  Along with the expected pots and pans there are more specific items such as grapefruit knives, chinois (conical sieves) and zabagolione pans; it's certainly likely that you'll find your next coveted kitchen item with Steamer Trading Cookshop!

How to make No-Knead Rosemary and Garlic Focaccia

Focaccia is a bread which Mr E & I have enjoyed in the past with it's delicious flavour arising from the olive oil and other elements.  It's a bread which is great for tearing and sharing with family and friends served with soup or as a dip with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  It is undoubtedly tastiest when eaten warm but any cold left overs can be reinvigorated by splitting it before grilling and serving as a bruschetta with a medley of chopped tomatoes, for instance. 

This no-knead focaccia, classically flavoured with garlic and rosemary, was a big success. Not only did I struggle to keep my hands off the bread whilst I took my photographs, Mr E has already requested we make it again!  The fresh rosemary was amazing in the bread bringing a wonderful balanced flavour alongside the mild garlic and wonderful olive oil.  Three garlic cloves had been allowed to infuse in a quantity of olive oil for about 24 hours before I started making the dough, though if you prefer, shop bought flavoured oils can easily be found in most supermarkets.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Homemade Lemon Curd

Homemade lemon curd is easy to make and results in a wonderful, fresh and zingy curd which is not only delicious on toast but also lifts a host of different bakes. It also makes for a wonderful gift too.

How to make homemade Lemon Curd

Fresh, homemade lemon curd is such a treat.  Not only is it perfect spread onto a slice of toast in the morning, it also lends itself to being the perfect addition to many bakes.  That delicious, luscious lemon freshness can really lift a bake from being good to amazing.  Although I've used lemon curd in a few bakes, such as these raspberry & lemon meringue sandwiches and a batch of chocolate eclairs with lemon and chantilly cream, I've not as yet shared the recipe for this easy to make preserve....until now! 

How to make homemade Lemon Curd

Not only is lemon curd great to use in your own baking and delicious spread on toast, it also makes a great gift for food lovers.  Imagine receiving a jar of lovingly made lemon curd finished with a gingham cloth and ribbon as part of a birthday treat.  You could even consider jarring some as an end of year gift for your child's teacher!   Foodies are sure to appreciate it. 


Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Ava's Mint Choc-Chip Daisy Cupcakes

These mint choc-chip cupcakes not only look pretty but taste amazing too.  Inspired by Ava, our young friend, these cupcakes were decorated with pretty pink flowers and a green 'grass' buttercream.

Daisy Themed Mint Choc-Chip Cupcakes

Recently we were introduced to two new family friends, Victoria & Ava (big wave to Victoria & Ava!)  Mum & I had planned for us all to enjoy a lovely family picnic at a well equipped local park.  Mother nature, however, had other ideas; the temperature dropped dramatically and the day before they arrived from the warmer climes of Essex a reasonable amount of snow fell here in Yorkshire.  The snow soon disappeared, but the chilly weather, as you may recall, lingered a few days longer putting an end to our picnic idea.   All was not a washout though.  Following our indoor picnic we took a leisurely stroll to the local park and wandered around the butterfly house, watched Ava whilst she tried out the climbing frame and swings before pitting our muscles against those of Mr E & my brother on the exercise equipment!

Walking home our young friend Ava spotted some beautiful daisies.  Many were tinged with a deep pink to their petals, and being like many young girls who love all things pink, floral and glittery she made a beeline for those prettier ones.  With a fist full of daisies we made our way home to assemble a daisy chain!  It's been (cough) years since I last picked daisies and built a chain; I'm not sure who enjoyed the activity the most, Ava or I!

Pretty Daisies
Images courtesy of Pixaby

So, having been inspired by our young friend, I donned my pinny and rustled up some daisy themed cupcakes.  OK, the sugar flowers are actually blossom and not having the skills (yet) to pipe a daisy you will have to imagine them to be daisies!  Having decided to flavour the cakes, I rapidly came to the conclusion that mint would be an effective flavour for the green grass.  And what better accompaniment for mint than chocolate!  Both cocoa and chocolate chips were incorporated into my preferred sponge mixture, the Victoria sponge.  These mint choc-chip cupcakes were then topped with a green buttercream, which had been lightly flavoured with mint.  My attempt at using icing to represent grass using a number 133 nozzle certainly requires more practice, the cakes resembled an overgrown, neglected garden and nothing like the manicured lawns fitting of stately homes that I was aiming for!  So having scraped off the offending icing, I started again with a small star nozzle (number 32) and decorated the mint choc-chip daisy cupcakes more classically with a cluster of small swirls before finishing the bake with a few sugar flowers.   

Monday, 16 May 2016

Croque Madame Muffins with Asparagus

Asparagus works beautifully in these vegetarian croque madame muffins alongside the faux ham, egg & cheese.  Their portable shape makes them a perfect snack for picnics, packed lunchs as well as a light meal. 

Croque Madame Muffins with Asparagus

Way back in November I made our first croque-madame muffin, a quirky take on the classic French croque-madame of which our muffins bore no visual resemblance!  The classic croque-madame consists of ham and cheese which is laid onto a slice of toasted bread, this is topped with bechamel sauce and once lightly grilled a fried egg sit on top as the crowning glory.

These muffins, inspired by the wonderful Rachel Khoo, were far more interesting and fun having been baked in a muffin pan.  Sliced bread is laid within a muffin pan hollow, before adding a vegetarian ham substitute, egg, bechamel sauce and topping it all with a grating of mature cheese before popping into the oven for a few short minutes.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Yorkshire Curd Tart

This traditional Yorkshire tart is made with easy to make curds.  It also includes currants, lemon and finely grated nutmeg.  It was traditionally baked here in Yorkshire around Whitsuntide, though it would be a delicious dessert any time of year.

Yorkshire curd Tart, made with homemade curds, nutmeg and currants

Grab your coat and purse, we're off to buy a new frock for Whitsuntide.

Wikipedia tells us that Whitsuntide is the week which follows Whitsun, the 7th Sunday following Easter Sunday, and this year it falls on the 15th May, and is a Christian festival. 

Food, in all of its delicious forms, often plays a part in religious holidays.  Just think of Easter and Christmas and all of the delicious goodies which are shared at that time.  Whitsuntide is no-different, though perhaps it was celebrated on a smaller scale.  Flavours of Yorkshire recipe book tells us that Yorkshire Curd Tarts were often made at this time of year in and around Yorkshire.  It's a delicious bake which sadly is infrequently seen in bakeries these days.  Like most tarts, they can be made individual or family sized.  The tart tin is lined with a sweet pastry (technically called pate sucree by patisserie chefs) which is filled with a mixture of curds, lemon, sugar, eggs, butter, spice and dried fruit.

Yorkshire curd tart made with Mixed Spice and cottage cheese!
Many old recipes morph and change over the decades and end up being made as families prefer them.  I learnt this when I made our Pikeltes a little while ago, not one recipe on the internet was the same; some included yeast in their mixture, others not and so on.  The same is true for the Yorkshire Curd Tart.  I made my first Yorkshire Curd Tart last year largely following the recipe in Flavours of....Yorkshire Recipes, compiled by Julia Skinner which includes many fascinating historic photographs of the area by Francis Frith. (Having done a little search on google, I'm sure there will be a Flavours of recipe book compliled by Julia Skinner for your county.)  The preamble of that recipe suggests that allspice is the distinguishing characteristic flavour of Yorkshire Curd Tart, but suggests that mixed spice may be more suited to modern tastes.   It also listed raisins or sultanas as the dried fruit.  The Foodie Bugle, however, writes of different spice and dried fruit which was traditionally included in the humble Yorkshire Curd tart.  Although she mentioned that finding an authentic recipe was difficult she makes reference to a home cook, Mrs Tasker, who lived in Brayton, near Selby, way back in 1741.  The recipe which Evie, the author of The Foodie Bugle, ultimately shared was made with nutmeg and currants, so really quite different to the one which Julia Skinner compiled.   Deciding to mark Whitsuntide again this year, I chose to try the nutmeg and currant version.  It's worth noting that Betty's Tea Room, here in Yorkshire, also uses the very same spice and dried fruit.


Sunday, 8 May 2016

Out & About - Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea at Holdsworth House was such a treat, being set in a beautiful historic building which retains a wealth of period features.  We certainly couldn't fault the service and the selection of vegetarian finger sandwiches and baked goodies were inviting, delicious and generous.  It was certainly well worth the visit.    

The Afternoon Tea Selection

Our wedding anniversary rolled by earlier last week and to celebrate Mr E had arranged, some weeks previous, a mystery treat.  With a twinkle in his eyes he teased me most days prompting me to guess what that surprise would be.  A trip to the Yorkshire coast.  A journey on a steam train.  A little family party.  A holiday.   No.  No.  No and no were the answers.   Wondering what I should wear for the occasion (well, us girls do like to dress appropriately) Mr E eventually shared his well kept secret and told me that we were going to be enjoying afternoon tea at Holdsworth House, a historic local hotel.  I was elated and having browsed their website I couldn't wait for the afternoon to arrive.  He clearly knows me better than I know myself,  it's such a perfect gift to me given my clear fondness of cakes and pastries.

Holdsworth House is a Jacobean property having been built in 1633.   It's a stunning period house which has retained many of its period features of mullioned windows, wood panelling and open fires.  Their gardens really inspire too.   The hotel is situated near a busy town, Halifax in West Yorkshire, and yet is secluded enough to feel as though you're away from the hustle and bustle of modern life.  In fact, if you're a fan of the drama Last Tango in Halifax you will have no-doubt seen Holdsworth House as some of the scenes were filmed there!