Monthly Archives: May 2011

Resolution #1: Success!

I have some exciting news: FoodGawker have finally accepted one of my photos!!  I submitted one of the chocolate and hazelnut mousse ones, and it was published yesterday.  This makes me incredibly happy and it’s quite possibly the highlight of my week!  I think a celebratory batch of brownies are definitely on the cards for tomorrow.  Perhaps followed by a long swim to counteract the brownies, ha ha…

If you follow my blog, you’ll know that one of the resolutions or challenges that I set myself for 2011 was to have a photo accepted by each of the main “food porn” sites (FoodGawker, TasteSpotting, Photograzing, DessertStalking and DishFolio, which I discovered last month and they’ve already accepted some of my photos).  DessertStalking and Photograzing have accepted quite a lot of my photos, and TasteSpotting finally accepted a photo back in March (though they’ve rejected every single one since then, ha ha), so FoodGawker was the last site to elude me.  But I’ve finally cracked it, so now I’ve successfully completed the challenge.  Hurrah!

So go on, let’s have a look at the “winning” photo:

Interestingly, TasteSpotting rejected the very same photo for “lighting/colour.”  But, aside from the fact that I personally think it’s a rather good photo (not biased at all, obviously) I’m not too annoyed about that – I’m fully aware how subjective the whole process is.  I suppose the challenge now is to get the same photo accepted by all the sites.  But there’s no rush.  I’m currently happy with having had at least one photo accepted on each site, and trying to improve my photos so that more get approved.

Right, time to dig out that brownie recipe I’ve been wanting to try…  Wherever you are in the world, enjoy the rest of your day!

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White chocolate strawberry-surprise muffins

I love strawberries – well, strawberries that taste of something.  Strawberries that taste of strawberry to be precise (who’d have thought?).  I love strawberries and cream or strawberries just sprinkled with some sugar.  Simple perhaps, but yummy (assuming the strawberries have flavour).  However, I’ll be honest and admit that if I’m at home and faced with flavourful strawberries, they rarely make the acquaintance of a bowl and cream or sugar.  I can eat an entire punnet (or two) of good strawberries straight out of a colander sitting in the sink.  I know, I know.  Eating over the sink.  Shocking.

I feel the spring weather has been all over the place this year – ridiculously sunny in February and for a good part of April (basically whenever I had deadlines…  Standard.) and then horrific November-esque rainy, windy weather the rest of the time.  Apparently the strawberry plants really liked the crazy weather and the season seems to have started quite early this year.  I would usually only really expect to find flavourful strawberries (grown outdoors – none of these tasteless greenhouse-grown strawberries, thank you very much) from the very end of May, but we’ve had proper strawberries for a couple of weeks now.  Exciting stuff!

When I came across this recipe for white chocolate strawberry-surprise muffins in the June issue of delicious., I decided I just had to try it out.  Having already eaten my first few punnets of the year at the just-washed-and-still-sitting-in-the-colander stage, I was even able to resist eating the strawberries destined for the muffins.  Which was apparently more of an achievement than I’d anticipated since I had been planning on keeping the left-over strawberries aside to take photos of, but, uhm, I ended up eating them whilst impatiently waiting for the muffins to bake.  Woops.

In other news, I happened across a brand new blog challenge this morning whilst faffing around before writing this post: Ren at Fabulicious Food has started a link-up/challenge entitled Simple and in Season.  The premise is super simple – basically cook something that showcases seasonal ingredients.  The recipe can be invented, or it can come from a magazine (as this one does) or a book.  I think this is a rather genius idea, and since I try to use seasonal and locally-grown foods where possible anyway, I don’t think adding this extra challenge to the four other monthly challenges I’m involved in will really be an issue.  Even though strawberries aren’t usually in season until the end of May, this year they are early, so I’m submitting this recipe to the challenge for this month (the closing date is today, so I’m only just in time).

White chocolate strawberry-surprise muffins

Makes 18 muffins
Recipe from delicious. June 2011

The original recipe was for 12 muffins, but I had lots of batter left over and was able to make 18 muffins out of it, and the cups were very full.  Aside from that small detail, I didn’t have to change the recipe at all and the muffins turned out absolutely scrumptious!  Like most muffins, they don’t store very well, but they’re so good that they’ll be gone in no time!

Ingredients

18 strawberries (preferably all of a similar size)
150g butter
250g white chocolate
375g self-raising flour
1 ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
150g golden caster sugar
Pinch of salt
3 large eggs
200g natural yoghurt
2 tbsp milk
1-2 tbsp granulated sugar, to sprinkle

Directions

1.  Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/fan oven 180°C.  Line two muffin tins with 18 paper liners or set out 18 silicone moulds on a baking tray.  Hull the strawberries and set aside.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan.

2.  Roughly chop the white chocolate and add to a large bowl with the flour, bicarbonate of soda, golden caster sugar and salt.

3.  In a medium bowl, beat together the eggs, yoghurt, milk and melted butter.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix with a metal spoon until just combined (don’t over-mix!  Lumpy is fine).

4.  Half-fill each muffin liner/mould with batter (there should be left-over batter) then push a strawberry into the middle (make sure you don’t push it down all the way to the bottom though) of each muffin and cover with the rest of the batter so that the strawberry is hidden.

5.  Sprinkle the tops with the granulated sugar and bake for 20-25 mins until golden.  Cool in the tin or moulds for 5 mins before removing and allowing to cool completely on a wire rack.

Enjoy!

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Fête des Mères: Chocolate & hazelnut mousse in chocolate cups

I’ve never understood why practically every country has a different date for Mother’s Day, yet Father’s Day is the same pretty much world-wide.  It makes no sense.  And it’s a particular pain if, like me, you happen to celebrate Mother’s Day of a country different to the one in which you live.  In my case, since my wonderful mum is French, we always celebrate French Mother’s Day which happens to be today, but I live in the UK where Mother’s Day was way back in April.  By the end of May there are obviously no Mother’s Day cards or gifts anywhere, which means that I have to be super-organised (not one of my greatest skills) and buy a card and gift two months in advance.  The challenge is then remembering where I’ve put them two months later.  Not always as easy as it sounds, but thankfully this year I managed.

I actually shouldn’t really be complaining too much, because I still have to celebrate British Mother’s Day for my Scottish grandmother.  Living in the UK, this is much easier than trying to keep track of both French and British Mother’s Days whilst living in Norway, which, you’ve guessed it, has a completely different Mother’s Day.  Oh and on top of that, none of the available Mother’s Day cards are in English.  Nightmare.  Though easily solved by a blank card with flowers on the cover…!

As part of her Fête des Mères, not only did my mum get a card in a language that we actually speak fluently, but I asked her up to St Andrews for lunch.  I love cooking for my mum – she loves pretty much everything, appreciates good food, and there’s the added bonus of knowing that even if I screw up whatever I’m attempting, she’ll still love me.  In my usual bizarre logic, when I was planning the menu, I started with dessert.  My problem was that I had too many options, too many dishes I wanted to try out.  My mum loves chocolate, so I settled on a recipe for chocolate and hazelnut mousse in chocolate cups that I happened across a few months ago and that I’ve been wanting to try out ever since.  (Yes, I did the one thing you should never do when inviting people: serve a dish you’ve not previously tested.  I do this far too often.  One day it will go horribly wrong, but thankfully that was not the case today.)  My mum loves mousse, and I know she never really makes it for herself, so it was a pretty obvious choice.

The mousse was a fabulous idea – my mum absolutely loved it!  She loved it so much that I sent her home with a small jar of extra mousse.  Oh and all my textbooks and folders from the last four years of university.  I’m a great daughter like that (don’t worry, she knew about the books beforehand – the surprises that I spring on people tend to be more of the culinary variety).  But back to the mousse.  Ya, it was yummy.  I think that’s pretty much all there is to say.  Except that it took far longer than I was expecting, mostly because contrary to the original instructions, the mousse did have to spend a little stint in the fridge.  But that’s totally fine because I have loads of time on my hands at the moment.

All that remains for me to say before sharing the recipe is: Bonne Fête des Mères, Maman – je t’aime!

Chocolate & hazelnut mousse in chocolate cups

Makes about 16 mini mousses
Recipe from Dulce Delight

The chocolate cups can be prepared the evening before and stored in the fridge until ready to be used.  However, if you really don’t have time to make them, you can also just pipe the mousse into mini paper liners (but it’s less fun!).  The original recipe includes a video demonstration, so do head over if you’d like to see the progression of the recipe visually.  I used silicone mini muffin moulds, because I had them, but the original recipe uses paper liners and that seems to have worked perfectly fine as well!

Ingredients

For the cups:
170g dark chocolate (around 70%)

For the mousse:
130g dark chocolate (around 70%)
2 large egg yolks
2 tbsp icing sugar
240g double cream
20g ground toasted hazelnuts
3-4 tbsp hazelnut liqueur (I used Frangelico)
Chopped hazelnuts or flaked white chocolate, to decorate (optional)

Directions

For the cups:
1.  Melt the chocolate in a small heat-proof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.  Stir with a spoon towards the end to make sure the chocolate has melted smoothly.

2.  Set out 16 mini muffin/petit four paper liners or silicon moulds on a baking tray or plate (something that is freezer-proof).  Spoon about 1 tsp of melted chocolate into one liner and paint the chocolate up the inner sides of the liner using a paint brush (a clean one, obviously).  Make the coating as even as possible.  Repeat for each liner/mould, and then place the tray or plate in the freezer for at least 30 mins.

3.  Once the first chocolate coat has set, re-melt the remaining chocolate if necessary, and re-coat the inner sides of each liner, looking out for any translucent areas that indicate that the chocolate coating is too thin.  Return to the freezer for a further 30 mins at least.

4.  Once the second coat has set, remove one cup from the freezer and carefully remove the silicone mould or paper mould by peeling away from the top edge.  Set the chocolate cup on a large plate.  Repeat for each chocolate cup (only remove them from the freezer one-by-one so that they remain as cool and hard as possible – you don’t want them to start softening or melting!), and once all have been removed, store the chocolate cups in the fridge until required.

For the mousse:
5.  Melt the chocolate in a small heat-proof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.

6.  In a large heat-proof bowl, briefly whisk the egg yolks, icing sugar and 1 ½ tbsp water.  Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk constantly by hand for 6 mins as the mixture cooks and thickens.  After 6 mins, remove the bowl from the heat and whisk for a further 3 mins using an electric whisk.

7.  Fold the melted chocolate into the egg yolk mixture and stir until thickened.  Add the ground hazelnuts and hazelnut liqueur and mix with a spatula until thickened.

8.  In a clean bowl, whisk the double cream to stiff peaks.  Gently fold one third of the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture.  Once fully incorporated, carefully fold in half the remaining whipped cream, and again, once fully incorporated, gently fold in the remaining whipped cream.  If the mousse is not suitably set, place in the fridge for about 1 hour.

9.  Remove the chocolate cups from the fridge.  Fill a piping bag with the mousse and pipe into the chocolate cups with a flourish to make them look pretty.  To decorate, sprinkle with some chopped hazelnuts or flaked white chocolate (optional).  Store in the fridge until ready to serve.

Enjoy!

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A May adventure at the St Andrews Farmers’ Market

As May slowly draws to a close (uhm, hello, how is it nearly June already?!), it’s probably about time that I post about this month’s Farmers’ Market, before the next one on Saturday 4th of June.  Not sure how I’ve managed to be so disorganised with my blogging this month, considering I’m done with my academics.  Perhaps that’s the problem – I suddenly don’t have a load of deadlines and time constraints, and consequently my time management has gone completely out the window (though I wasn’t exactly the Queen of Time Management to start with).  So anyway, this has nothing to do with Farmers’ Market.  Woops.  Clearly my ability to ramble has remained unchanged.

What I really enjoyed about the Farmers’ Market this month was that I had no Dissertation hanging over my head.  It had been handed in two days before, and although we still had to prepare presentations for the following Tuesday, I think we were all experiencing a sense of liberation.  This meant that we could go on a leisurely wander around all the stalls without feeling guilty.  Twice.  Oh the joys of freedom.  We spent quite a while hanging around the Pittenweem Chocolate Co. stall, tasting their hot chocolate (I definitely recommend the Caliente hot chilli chocolate by the way).  We always stop at this stall (they sell chocolate – how could we not?), and every time they tell us about their café in Pittenweem, the Cocoa Tree Café.  And every time we’ve had to say that although we’d love to go, we’ve got dissertations to write so we don’t really have the time for a day trip down to Pittenweem.  But not this time!  And we did actually hop on the bus for a little day trip down to Pittenweem about ten days ago, which was great fun.  I’ll blog about that at some later point (if I get my spiralling disorganisation vaguely under control).

Aside from selling wonderful hot chocolate, they also sell several varieties of flavoured chocolate, which are all rather scrumptious.  I really like their lemon-flavoured chocolate, and we happened to be planning a lemon-themed picnic at some point, so I acquired a bag of lemon-chocolate callets.  The next step was to decide what I was going to bake with them.  I’ve had a lot of love for the combination of lemon and basil lately (so fresh!), so I decided to attempt lemon and basil macarons and take them along to the lemon-themed picnic.  Remarkably, they worked rather wonderfully (if I do say so myself), though they were less lemon-y than I expected.  Consequently, I’ve added some lemon juice and zest into the recipe just to increase the lemon flavour a little.  Oh and I think I can say they were enjoyed by all who tasted them – hurrah!

Lemon & basil macarons

Makes about 60 small macarons (so about 120 shells of 1.5/2 cm diameter)
Macaron shell recipe based on
Mad About Macarons!
Ganache recipe adapted from Pure Gourmandise

If you don’t have any lemon-flavoured chocolate, then you could probably use about 1-2 tbsp lemon essence instead of some of the alcohol (though this may not work – apologies if it doesn’t!) and just normal white chocolate.  The alcohol serves to heighten the flavour of the lemon and thin the ganache, but if you would like your macarons more lemon-y, then add more lemon juice and less alcohol.  If you don’t have any mirabelle (a type of yellow plum) eau de vie, try using lemon vodka instead.  Make sure you leave these at least 24h before eating them, in order to allow the ganache to soak into the shells a bit.  They can be stored in an airtight box in the fridge – just remember to bring them out at least 30mins before eating them, so that you can appreciate the flavour fully!

Ingredients

For the macaron shells:
100g aged egg whites (age them for 4-5 days in a sealed jar in the fridge)
66g caster sugar
120g ground almonds
180g icing sugar
Yellow food colouring paste (optional)

For the filling:
40g single cream
150g lemon-flavoured chocolate
4cl (40g) mirabelle eau de vie (or lemon vodka)
1 lemon
6-7 sprigs of fresh basil

Directions

To make the macaron shells:
1. Line three or four flat baking sheets with baking paper and set aside.  Prepare a piping bag with a plain nozzle.

2.  Blend the icing sugar and ground almonds together (don’t skip this step!)  Sift them through a medium sieve into a large bowl.  Sift them again if necessary.

3.  Make the French meringue by whisking the egg whites at room temperature (take them out of the fridge 2h beforehand) to glossy firm peaks, gradually adding the caster sugar.  Add some yellow food colouring paste just before the end and mix well (this is totally optional, but it just adds a bit of colour to the macarons, and it’s also kind of fun).

4.  Incorporate the French meringue into the dry ingredients using a large spatula and mix well.  Now work on the mixture by pressing down well with the spatula, going backwards and forwards, to press out the oxygen from the egg whites (this is the macaronnage stage), until you have a smooth mixture.  Don’t do this for longer than 5 minutes.  The result should be a soft and brilliant mixture that forms a “ribbon” on the spatula.

5.  Transfer the mixture to the previously prepared piping bag and pipe out the desired size of rounds (mine were about 1.5-2cm in diameter).  Press the nozzle right down on the paper and finish off with a flourish to obtain a nice round.  Leave a good space between them so they can spread out.

6.  Leave to set for about 30mins (this helps to produce the feet).  Preheat the oven to fan-oven 160°C.  When you can feel that a skin has formed over the top, they are ready to go into the oven.

7.  Bake one tray at a time in the centre of the oven for about 8-10mins (to see if they are done, touch the top – if there is a “wobble,” leave them in 2-3mins longer).  Leave them to cool on the baking trays, and when they are completely cool, carefully remove them and pair them up by size.

To make the filling:
8.  Whilst the macarons are setting and cooking, make the ganache filling.  Heat the cream, and as soon as it starts boiling, add the lemon-flavoured chocolate, the eau de vie (or vodka), the zest and juice from the lemon and mix with a wooden spoon until smooth (don’t let it boil or you will boil off the alcohol and we wouldn’t want that now, would we?).  Allow the mixture to thicken in the fridge (or freezer if necessary).

9.  Strip the sprigs of basil and finely chop or shred the leaves.

10.  Once the ganache has cooled, use a teaspoon to deposit a good dollop of  ganache onto one shell of each pair.  Sprinkle with basil before placing the partner shell on top, and use a slight twisting motion to squash the shell down onto the filling.

11.  Leave in the fridge for at least 24h before serving (I know, it’s difficult!  But so worth it!!)

Enjoy!

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Mac Attack #19: Cucumber sandwich macarons

The Mac Attack challenge for this month is “Ballpark snacks” and I have to admit, this theme had me rather stumped for a while.  I feel part of the problem is probably that “ballparks” are not especially on my radar – I’m not terribly sporty for a start, but any sports that involve a modicum of skill are really not my strong point.  Having said that, I do love watching rugby and tennis, and I can watch golf to a certain extent (usually whilst doing other things).  It’s not exactly rugby season at the moment, so that leaves golf and tennis.  I don’t really associate any particular food with golf, and the same goes for tennis.  Well, of course there is the oh-so-British combination of strawberries and cream that is so strongly associated with Wimbledon, which is still more than three weeks away so I didn’t really feel that was quite appropriate, but I have no particular food associations with Roland-Garros which is in full swing (groan) at the moment.  So as I said, stumped (insert awful cricket joke here).

Then the other day we were in Luvian’s (for a change) and I saw the most intriguing bottle.  Initially attracted by the refreshing, translucent, Caribbean sea green colour, my initial plan not to augment the already-overflowing Alcohol Cabinet (I’m moving out in about a month, so I need to finish bottles off, not add more) by buying any more liqueurs rapidly got thrown out the window when I saw what it was.  My thought process went something along the lines of: cucumber liqueur?  Hello.  I wonder what that tastes like?  Oh my gosh, I could make cucumber sandwich macarons for the Mac Attack challenge!  Like at the cricket.  Genius!  Hmmm… but I don’t really understand cricket fully and I never watch it.  Oh but I totally understand cucumber sandwiches.  And I really wonder what this tastes like.  And it’s so pretty.  Never mind, one extra bottle won’t make much difference.  So I walked out with a bottle of cucumber liqueur and some other liqueur as well.  Woops.  But there was the added bonus of an idea for macarons.

When I got home I realised had no idea how I was going to make cucumber sandwich macarons.  Never mind, the first step was clearly to taste the cucumber liqueur.  It’s the most bizarre thing.  I associate cucumbers with being cool and refreshing, and tasting neutral to salty.  This cucumber liqueur tastes most distinctly of cucumber, but it’s sweet and with that slight alcoholic warmth.  I quite like it, but I still can’t get my head around the unexpectedness of it.  So how was I going to make these macarons?  I didn’t think a ganache would work particularly well, so I decided I’d have to make some sort of jelly.  I happened across a cucumber jelly recipe, so I adapted that by adding a bit of the liqueur to it.  I’m not sure it really did anything.  Never mind.

So how did they turn out?  Well, I feel they’re quite like the liqueur in that they’re a bit unexpected.  The shells are sweet, so although the jelly is more savoury than sweet, they’re a bit like sweet sandwiches, which makes them rather different.  Unfortunately, the jelly was clearly wasn’t completely solidly set and it soaked a little bit into the shells and made them slightly soggy.  I think they were better just after they’d been made, when the shells were quite crunchy.  But they were still good – I think the best description would be “interesting.”  Make of that what you will!

Cucumber sandwich macarons

Makes about 50 small triangular macarons
Filling recipe adapted from The Times Online
Macaron shell recipe based on Mad About Macarons!

Unlike most other macarons, these are much better eaten sooner rather than later, and are also better straight out of the fridge (so they’re cooler and more refreshing).  The jelly should be made first as it can take a while to set, and it can even be made the day before.  The macarons obviously don’t have to be triangular (it is quite a faff) but it makes them more reminiscent of actual cucumber sandwiches.

Ingredients

For the cucumber jelly:
2 cucumbers
4 sheets of gelatine
3-4 tbsp cucumber liqueur
Pinch of salt

For the macaron shells:
100g aged egg whites (age them for 4-5 days in a sealed jar in the fridge)
66g caster sugar
120g ground almonds
180g icing sugar

Directions

To make the jelly filling:
1.  Line a couple of brownie or tart tins with cling film or tin foil (this will make it easier to lift the jelly out later).

2.  Wash the cucumbers and dry thoroughly.  Roughly chop them up and liquidise them in a food processor (the closer to liquidised, the better).

3.  Submerge the leaves of gelatine in a small bowl of cold water for about 5 minutes.  Add the liquidised cucumber and softened gelatine leaves to a large saucepan and bring to the boil briefly, mixing well to dissolved the gelatine.  Remove from the heat, add the cucumber liqueur and salt and mix well.  Pour a thin layer (no more than about 0.75cm thick) of the jelly mixture into the prepared tins, and refrigerate for a few hours until set.

To make the macaron shells:
4. Line three or four flat baking sheets with baking paper.  Make a small triangular template out of card (with edges of about 2cm) and trace spaced-out triangles out onto the baking sheets.  Set aside.  Prepare a piping bag with a plain nozzle.

5.  Blend the icing sugar and ground almonds together (don’t skip this step!)  Sift them through a medium sieve into a large bowl.  Sift them again if necessary.

6.  Make the French meringue by whisking the egg whites at room temperature (take them out of the fridge 2h beforehand) to glossy firm peaks, gradually adding the caster sugar.

7.  Incorporate the French meringue into the dry ingredients using a large spatula and mix well.  Now work on the mixture by pressing down well with the spatula, going backwards and forwards, to press out the oxygen from the egg whites (this is the macaronnage stage), until you have a smooth mixture.  Don’t do this for longer than 5 minutes.  The result should be a soft and brilliant mixture that forms a “ribbon” on the spatula.

8.  Transfer the mixture to the previously prepared piping bag and pipe out triangles using the drawn-out templates to guide you.

9.  Leave to set for about 30mins (this helps to produce the feet).  Preheat the oven to fan-oven 160°C.  When you can feel that a skin has formed over the top, they are ready to go into the oven.

10.  Bake one tray at a time in the centre of the oven for about 8-10mins (to see if they are done, touch the top – if there is a “wobble,” leave them in 2-3mins longer).  Leave them to cool on the baking trays, and when they are completely cool, carefully remove them and pair them.

11.  Cut out triangles of cucumber jelly and place one triangle between each pair of macaron shells.  Store in the fridge in an airtight box, but not for too long so that the shells don’t go soggy.

Enjoy!

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Breakfast Club #11: Goat’s cheese & rosemary muffins

This month’s Breakfast Club challenge is hosted by Johanna at Green Gourmet Giraffe, and the theme is “Savoury vegetarian.”  Sounds straightforward enough, but it was actually a real challenge for me, because I’m not really a savoury breakfast person – sweet breakfasts all the way, thanks very much.  Still, that’s the whole point of a challenge, so time to bite the bullet and come up with something savoury (I wasn’t too worried about the vegetarian thing – I’m not a fan of meat in the morning anyway, so that was unlikely to be an issue).

So, a savoury breakfast.  Gosh.  I’m a total cheese fiend I quite like cheese, and will happily eat it at pretty much any time of day, and I absolutely love muffins, so I decided to go down the cheesy muffin route.  I had some goat’s cheese in the fridge that conveniently needed using up, and some rosemary in the freezer that also needed using up, and they happen to make a lovely combination, so I decided to give goat’s cheese and rosemary muffins a go for breakfast this morning.

The problem with making muffins for breakfast is that they take forever to make.  Well, ok, not forever, but I’m a pretty impatient person, especially in the morning.  But oh they are so worth it.  Yummy.  They’re tasty both warm or cold, and whilst lovely for breakfast, they would also work wonderfully as picnic food, or an afternoon snack (I might be munching on one as I write this).  I have to admit though, I’m still firmly in the sweet breakfast camp.

Goat’s cheese & rosemary muffins

Makes 16 muffins
Adapted from Mad About Muffins

These are lovely warm, but are also super tasty when cool, which makes them great for picnic food.  The original recipe calls for thyme rather than rosemary, and I’ve made both versions, and they’re both yummy, so really just use whatever you’ve got to hand (assuming it will go with goat’s cheese).  Using a goat’s cheese log with a soft rind means that you don’t have to remove the rind and it will melt into the muffins.  Also, using a cheese that hasn’t matured too much means that it will be easier to cut and separate.  If you’re making these for vegetarians, do make sure you choose a goat’s cheese suitable for vegetarians.

Ingredients

200g goat’s cheese
100g butter
300g all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
15g caster sugar
Pinch salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
5g fresh rosemary (about 5-6 sprigs) + extra for topping
2 eggs
185ml milk

Directions

1.  Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C.  Grease and flour 16 muffin tins sections, or line with paper liners or set out silicone moulds.  Roughly chop the goat’s cheese into 1cm dice.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan.

2.  Sift the flour, baking powder, caster sugar, salt and pepper into a large bowl.  Tip any bits of black pepper that haven’t gone through the sieve.  Strip the leaves from the rosemary and roughly chop them, before adding to the dry ingredients, stirring well.

3.  In another bowl, beat the eggs and milk together with a fork.

4.  Pour the egg and milk mixture and the melted butter to the dry ingredients, and fold together with a metal spoon until just combined.  Then add the diced goat’s cheese, and fold in gently (try not to over-mix).  Spoon the batter into the muffin tin sections/liners/moulds.  Top each muffin with a small sprig of rosemary to decorate (optional).

5.  Bake for 22-25 mins until golden and well risen and the tops spring back when gently pressed (watch for hot cheese).  Transfer to a wire rack to cool before eating (though they are also tasty warm).

Enjoy!

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We Should Cocoa #9: Chocolate & rum-raisin roulade

This month’s We Should Cocoa challenge is a technique rather than a special ingredient.  The challenge is being hosted by Chele at Chocolate Teapot, and she has specified that we should make a “roulade/Swiss roll.”  I’ve never made a roulade before, chocolate or otherwise, which meant I had no idea what I was doing, but I was quite excited to try it out.

Trust me to happen across a recipe involving kirsch-soaked cherries.  I was obviously going to have to try it out, but was suddenly faced with a major dilemma – whilst I do have a precious jar of Griottines (brought back specially from where I’m from in France), I realised I’d rather keep them just for eating on their own, or with whipped cream (which also happens to be an excellent back-up dessert if one’s dinner party dessert doesn’t quite go to plan…).  I was suddenly torn – to use the Griottines or not?  Next to my jar of Griottines, I have a jar of raisins soaking in rum on permanent stand-by.  Dilemma solved: time for a bit of recipe adaptation…

Having found a solution to the Griottines dilemma, time to attempt a chocolate and rum-raisin roulade.  What I quite liked about this particular roulade recipe (and several others that I came across, too) was that there are two stages which don’t take too long, with a good break between, which means that you can go off and do something between the two stages.  Case in point: I had originally planned on trying this recipe out yesterday, and was going to wander off on a little trip to the driving range followed up by lunch (I might live in St Andrews, and 10 mins walk from the driving range at that, but I can’t actually play golf to save my life.  Details, details.) whilst waiting for the chocolate sponge to cool.  However, my general lack of organisation got in the way of the cake-making bit of the plan, so that happened today instead, interspersed by a trip to the gym and the marine labs.  I feel like this recipe was remarkably unstressful to follow, and easily fitted around the rest of my day.  Having said that, although the recipe itself was easy to follow, I did a dreadful job of actually rolling the sponge, and it ended up breaking in three places, resulting in possibly the world’s least presentable roulade.  Woops!  Oh well, at least it tasted good…

Chocolate & rum-raisin roulade

Serves 8
Adapted from Waitrose

If you don’t happen to have any rum-soaked raisins, weigh out about 150g of raisins, cover them in spiced rum and leave them to soak for overnight, or longer if you are organised enough.  I found the trickiest part of the recipe to be the stage that involved rolling the sponge up, possibly because my sponge was quite dry.  Imbibing the sponge with rum would possibly make it more pliable and easier to work with.

Ingredients

150g dark chocolate (at least 70%)
4 eggs
100g caster sugar
50g self-raising flour
150g rum-soaked raisins (reserve about 1tbsp of rum)
300ml whipping cream

Directions

1.  Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.  Butter and line a 32.5 x 23 cm swiss roll tin with baking parchment.

2.  Melt 100g of the chocolate in a small heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water.

3.  In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until pale and creamy.  Stir in the melted chocolate and sifted flour.

4.  In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites into stiff peaks.  Carefully fold the whites into the chocolate mixture using a metal spoon.  Once well combined, pour into the swiss roll tin, and shake to level the mixture.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, until slightly risen and just firm to the touch.

5.  Place a tea towel on the countertop, and place a sheet of baking parchment over the top.  Turn the baked sponge out onto the baking parchment, remove the baking parchment from the bottom of the sponge and carefully roll it up from the short end (be careful – this is the stage where mine decided to break into several pieces), wrapping it in the tea towel so that it stays in place.  Allow to cool fully.

6.  Drain the rum-soaked raising through a sieve, reserving about 1 tbsp of rum.  Whisk the cream with the reserved rum until starting to thicken.  Gently fold in the raisins.  Carefully unroll the cooled roulade, and spread the whipped cream across it, before re-rolling the roulade (don’t worry if it cracks).  Transfer to a serving plate.

7.  Melt the remaining 50g of chocolate, drizzle it across the roulade, dust with some icing sugar and serve immediately.

Enjoy!

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Random Recipe #4: Chartreuse soufflé

This month’s Random Recipe challenge is “Just desserts” – the recipe has to come from a book dedicated to desserts or baking, etc.  Or the sweet section of a normal cookery book.  I have several dedicated “sweet” cookery books, so I picked them out, and randomly picked one, which happened to be Le Larousse des desserts.  A lot of the recipes in it intimidate me because I just don’t think I’m a good enough cook to manage most of them successfully, so I was quite pleased with my random choice – whatever I ended up picking I would just have to try.  So out came the calculator and its random number generator, which directed me to… page  305.  Which happens to be in the soufflé section.  Great.  A bit like macarons, soufflés are notorious for being pernickety, and I would never normally attempt one (nobody ever wants to attempt a dinner party dessert with a higher failure than success rate).  But a challenge is a challenge, and I wasn’t about to back down.  Plus, the fact that I had to try it provided a good excuse in case it went wrong…

The wonderful thing about Kat and Craig is that I know that if I attempted a soufflé for them and it turned out a complete failure (highly likely), they wouldn’t judge me on it, we could drink more wine and everything would be fine.  Definitely reassuring, and clearly they were going to be the only witnesses to the attempt.  There were two options on page 305: chocolate soufflé and Chartreuse soufflé.  I actually burst out laughing when I saw the second option – Craig has been saying for most of the academic year that we have to make Kat try Chartreuse.  The choice was therefore an obvious one, and I attempted it last night, helped by Kat and Craig (thanks guys!).

I could have actually used the title “How to stack all the odds against you when attempting a soufflé” for this post for the following reasons:
1.  I’ve never made soufflé and I feel first attempts of any kind of recipe are always more liable to go wrong.
2.  The recipe requires a soufflé dish of 16-18cm.  There are no soufflé dishes of that size anywhere in St Andrews.  I didn’t have enough time to order one online.  So I had to use individual ramekins, which meant adjusting the cooking times, but no indication was given in the recipe, so we were going to have to sit and just watch the soufflés and guess when they were ready.
3.  One of the ingredients (fécule) can be translated five different ways.  I chose to go with cornflour, because that’s what I had in my cupboard, but when I spoke to my mum the evening before the attempt, she reckoned it meant potato flour.  Not a confidence booster.
4.  My oven doesn’t heat evenly.  Not even close.
5.  By the time we got round to actually making the soufflé, we were all exhausted and had already consumed Pimm’s, G&Ts, wine, more wine and shots of Chartreuse.  A recipe for making mistakes, right there.
6.  Speaking of making mistakes, I accidentally used icing sugar instead of caster sugar.

Somehow, against all expectations, the soufflés worked!  I’m not sure how this happened, and I think it might be a fluke, but still, wow.  Granted, they weren’t all that presentable, but they tasted good, and considering I was expecting a total failure, that’s definitely enough for me!  So will I be trying soufflés again?  I’m not sure.  They’re not that practical to make for dinner parties, since they have to be timed to the minute and served immediately.  Perhaps savoury soufflés would be easier to deal with in that sense.

Chartreuse soufflé

Serves 4-6
Recipe from Le Larousse des desserts

I’m giving the original recipe for a single soufflé dish, but I will also include the timings if you’re using little individual ramekins (I used 4 ramekins, but they were very close to being over-filled, so I’d suggest using 5 or 6 ramekins).  The recipe notes also suggest making this with Grand Marnier, and I’m sure most strong liqueurs would work.

Ingredients

3 eggs
25cl whole milk
20g caster sugar
6cl Chartreuse
2 sponge fingers
30g butter
15g cornflour (or potato flour)
40g all-purpose flour
1 small packet vanilla sugar (about 7g)
Extra butter and caster sugar for the dish/ramekins

Directions

1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.  Butter the soufflé dish (or ramekins) and sprinkle the inside and edges with caster sugar.  Separate the egg yolks from the whites, reserving both.

2.  Heat the milk and caster sugar in a saucepan.

3.  Using a pastry brush, imbibe the sponge fingers with Chartreuse.  Crush the sponge fingers and set the remaining Chartreuse aside.

4.  Melt the butter in a large saucepan.  As soon as it starts to bubble slightly, remove from the heat, add the cornflour and flour, and mix well before adding the vanilla sugar.  Return to the heat.

5.  Add the boiling milk to the butter and flour mix, and bring to the boil whilst stirring constantly.  Remove from the heat, and add the egg yolks, mixing well.  Pour in the remaining Chartreuse, and mix until smooth.

6.  Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks, and once the Chartreuse mix has cooled enough, add the egg whites and gently fold them in, taking care not to break them.

7.  Pour half the mixture into the soufflé dish (or split between the ramekins), sprinkle the crushed sponge fingers on top (or divide between the ramekins), and pour the rest of the mixture over the top (or, once again, split between the ramekins).

8.  Bake in the oven at 200°C for 5 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 180°C for a further 25 minutes (or for a further 15 minutes if using small ramekins – you can tell they’re when the tops of the soufflés are golden brown), making sure not to open the oven door at any point.  Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

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Mac Attack #18: Quadruple chocolate macarons

I think my last ten posts or so have mentioned my dissertation (of doom) at least once, so if you follow my blog at all, you’ve probably realised that it has been the focus of my life for a good few weeks.  So much so, in fact, that I sadly did not have time to take part in April’s Mac Attack challenge, the theme of which was “decadently chocolate.”  As soon as I read the challenge, I knew exactly what I wanted to make, but I had to make a choice between which deadline to miss: Mac Attack or my dissertation.  A tough one, but I’m afraid my dissertation had to win out in the end (I hear education is considered quite important) and I spent a lot of time in a computer lab instead of my kitchen.

But I handed the dissertation in last Thursday and, working on the assumption that I haven’t failed said dissertation, I finished my degree yesterday (!!!), and consequently, I suddenly have a lot of time on my hands.  Time to try out these macarons!

The challenge wanted something decadently chocolate, so I’ve basically added chocolate in every possible way.  Cocoa powder in the shells, white chocolate and crème de cacao in the ganache and dark chocolate and more white chocolate for decoration.  That’s four types of chocolate (I’m counting crème de cacao as a kind of chocolate).  Decadently chocolate?  I definitely think so!  Yummy?  Yes, apparently so!  (They’ve been taste-tested by Kat and Craig, as ever.)  Worth trying even though I’ve totally missed the Mac Attack deadline by about two weeks?  Absolutely!  (I got a bit lazy with the decorating bit and couldn’t be bothered with the hassle of cleaning the fine tip, so I cut the end off a freezer bag instead, but clearly didn’t do a very good job – hence the rather messy white chocolate drizzle.)

Quadruple chocolate macarons

Makes about 60 small macarons (so about 120 shells of 1.5/2 cm diameter)
Macaron shell recipe based on Mad About Macarons!
Ganache recipe adapted from Pure Gourmandise

If you’re more of a dark chocolate fan, I’m sure the ganache would also work perfectly fine using dark chocolate and dark crème de cacao instead of the white chocolate and white/clear crème de cacao.  The macarons can be stored in an airtight box in the fridge – just remember to bring them out at least 30mins before eating them, so that you can appreciate the flavour fully!

Ingredients

For the macaron shells:
100g aged egg whites (age them for 4-5 days in a sealed jar in the fridge)
66g caster sugar
120g ground almonds
180g icing sugar
8g cocoa powder (at least 70%)

For the ganache:
40g single cream
150g white chocolate
4cl (40g) white crème de cacao

To decorate:
A few squares dark chocolate (at least 70%)
A few squares white chocolate

Directions

To make the macaron shells:
1. Line three or four flat baking sheets with baking paper and set aside.  Prepare a piping bag with a plain nozzle.

2.  Blend the icing sugar, ground almonds and cocoa powder together (don’t skip this step!)  Sift them through a medium sieve into a large bowl.  Sift them again if necessary.

3.  Make the French meringue by whisking the egg whites at room temperature (take them out of the fridge 2h beforehand) to glossy firm peaks, gradually adding the caster sugar.

4.  Incorporate the French meringue into the dry ingredients using a large spatula and mix well.  Now work on the mixture by pressing down well with the spatula, going backwards and forwards, to press out the oxygen from the egg whites (this is the macaronnage stage), until you have a smooth mixture.  Don’t do this for longer than 5 minutes.  The result should be a soft and brilliant mixture that forms a “ribbon” on the spatula.

5.  Transfer the mixture to the previously prepared piping bag and pipe out the desired size of rounds (mine were about 1.5-2cm in diameter).  Press the nozzle right down on the paper and finish off with a flourish to obtain a nice round.  Leave a good space between them so they can spread out.

6.  Leave to set for about 30mins (this helps to produce the feet).  Preheat the oven to fan-oven 160°C.  When you can feel that a skin has formed over the top, they are ready to go into the oven.

7.  Bake one tray at a time in the centre of the oven for about 8-10mins (to see if they are done, touch the top – if there is a “wobble,” leave them in 2-3mins longer).  Leave them to cool on the baking trays, and when they are completely cool, carefully remove them and pair them up by size.

To make the ganache filling:
8.  Whilst the macarons are setting and cooking, make the ganache filling.  Heat the cream, and as soon as it starts boiling, add the white chocolate (broken into pieces) and the crème de cacao, and mix with a wooden spoon until smooth (don’t let it boil or you will boil off the alcohol and we wouldn’t want that now, would we?).  Allow the mixture to thicken in the fridge (or freezer if necessary).

9.  Once cool, use a teaspoon to deposit a good dollop of  ganache onto one shell of each pair.  Then place the partner shell on top, and use a slight twisting motion to squash the shell down onto the filling.

To decorate:
10.  Melt the dark chocolate in a small bowl over a pan of boiling water, and once fully melted, pour into a piping bag fitted with a fine tip (or a freezer bag with the tip cut off), and drizzle across all the macarons.  Melt the white chocolate in a separate small bowl, and drizzle across the macarons in the opposite direction to the dark chocolate (make sure you clean the tip thoroughly, or use a new freezer bag).

11.  Leave in the fridge for at least 24h before serving (I know, it’s difficult!  But so worth it!!)

Enjoy!

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May I present… My oven gloves!

Would you believe it, this is actually my 50th post!  Yes, 50th!!  For some reason, I feel that this is some sort of milestone and that I should post about something special.  So I thought I’d introduce you to my amazing oven gloves, the inspiration behind my blog name: Sharky Oven Gloves.  (Yes, I’m writing about my oven gloves, and no, despite the past few weeks of intense dissertating, I haven’t completely lost the plot, I promise!)

I’m sure I’ve previously mentioned my love of sharks, but in case you’re not up to speed on it, basically, I’m fascinated by them.  Ultimately, I’d like to go into academia and study sharks.  My friends have realised that anything shark-themed makes me totally happy, which makes buying presents for me fairly straightforward (aside from the minor detail of actually finding shark-themed gifts).  About three years ago, my flatmate gave me a shark-shaped oven glove for my birthday – a truly amazing present!

Through a series of totally unexpected circumstances, Kat ended up living with me last summer (2010) and Craig, who was also in St Andrews over the summer, spent quite a lot time with us.  Our summer involved baking a lot, eating a lot and drinking a lot totally responsibly.  Craig and I introduced Kat to the old James Bond films (we worked our way through the entire set).  We also discovered that a shark-shaped oven glove has a lot of potential for hilarious photos.

By the time we watched The Man with the Golden Gun, shark oven glove photos were a fairly permanent feature of our evenings (not as sad as it sounds…), and we’d decided that we wanted to name the oven glove something Bond-related.  Christopher Lee plays Scaramanga (the “bad guy” with the golden gun), and he’s just a fantastic actor and we also happen to be Lord of the Rings fans, so we decided to name the oven glove Toothamanga, or Toothy for short.

I don’t know how familiar you are with the James Bond films, but they contain a lot of dreadful innuendo, which is, of course, incredibly hilarious (did I mention that we’re all really mature, ahem). We paired a few of the photos up with various Bond quotes (hover over the photo for the quote), and just in case you weren’t sure about our (im)maturity level, here is one of my favourites:

In case you think your eyes might be deceiving you, yes, there is an actual street in St Andrews called Butts Wynd.

Here’s another, rather more mature photo-quote pairing:

Kat and Craig took Toothy on a proper tour of St Andrews one day, made him a facebook profile and put all the photos up whilst I was in the lab – I didn’t know about it until I got a friendship request from my own oven glove.  It must have taken me about 10 minutes to stop laughing (thank goodness my professor wasn’t in the lab at the time).  Here are some of my favourites (it was difficult to choose!):

Now, it’s all very well having a shark-shaped oven glove, but sometimes you need two oven gloves.  Most times, actually.  Since we spent a lot of time baking, I complained about this a lot over the summer.  So Kat, being the amazing friend that she is, gave me a second shark-shaped oven glove for my birthday (it’s in September, so at the end of the summer).  We named it Toothy-Two, or Twothy (see what we did there?)  Being working oven gloves, they have of course accumulated various stains, and that’s how we tell them apart (though Twothy also seems to be made of slightly thinner material – possibly on account of the recession?).  So there you have it – the rather long-winded story behind Sharky Oven Gloves!

Here’s a final selection of photos, all golf-related – after all, I hear that St Andrews is famous for it…!

Hmmmm…  Perhaps I have lost the plot!

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