Tag Archives: Puff pastry

Mint & ginger mini palmiers

Something terribly exciting happened on Wednesday – the Bookshelf Saga which has been ongoing since I moved into my flat at the beginning of March came to its conclusion.  To cut a long rant story short, my landlord didn’t consider a bookshelf to be a fairly standard piece of furniture and decided that it would “overcrowd the flat” (which is total nonsense by the way – somebody is clearly just being stingy).  However, since I really do need a bookshelf, I had to buy one myself, and it (finally) arrived on Wednesday.  Definitely the highlight of my week (I need to get out more) and now all my books, folders and DVDs are neatly arranged on shelves instead of being unceremoniously piled up in a corner.  And guess what?  The bookshelf doesn’t overcrowd the flat.  Not even remotely.  In fact, it has uncrowded the flat by freeing up all that space that the piles of books, etc. were taking up.  Just as well I don’t have my landlord’s email address or I would seriously consider emailing him a photo saying “I told you so.”  Not that I’m petty like that or anything.  Obviously.

My new bookshelf means that all my cookbooks are now neatly lined up – much more practical for choosing my Random Recipe entry than trying to count books scattered about in various piles.  This month’s theme is “first and last” which means randomly picking a cookbook and then making either the first or last recipe (or both, if you’re feeling keen). The random number button on my trusty calculator directed me to book number 5, which turned out to be Cusine Express, a French book full of quickly-prepared recipes.  I wasn’t too enthralled by anything on the first page of recipes, so I flipped to the very last page, where there were eight recipes to choose from (spoilt by choice, I know).  I opted for the mint and ginger mini palmiers, partly because I was intrigued by the combination of mint and ginger together, and partly because I’ve been a big fan of palmiers since I was a little girl, but never actually tried making them myself.

These aren’t quite like the slightly sticky palmiers you get in French pâtisseries, so I was a tiny little bit disappointed initially, but once you get past that, they are rather tasty in their own right, and I can’t wait to have a couple for my afternoon snack later.  The mint and ginger go together remarkably well – the freshness of the mint counterbalances the slight hotness of the ginger.  They’re missing that slightly caramelised covering that I loved when I was little (and still love) – next time I might try sprinkling some brown sugar over the top before baking, or lightly brushing a sugar syrup over the top as they come out of the oven.  I’ll definitely be trying these again – they’re so straightforward and hardly take any effort.  Except grating the ginger, which does take effort if you do it by hand, but it’s worth it.

Mint & ginger mini palmiers

Makes about 30
Adapted from Cuisine Express

You can, of course, make your own puff pastry, but I don’t really have the time for that, so I nearly always use shop-bought puff pastry, and I find that it works just as well, though make sure that when buying it, you choose puff pastry that has been made with all butter.  These make a wonderful afternoon snack, accompanied by a cup of tea.  These are best eaten on the day that they are made, but will keep overnight in an air-tight box (although they may lose a little bit of their crunchiness).

Ingredients

6 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint leaves (about 18-20 g)
4 tbsp finely grated ginger (about a 5-6 cm piece)
5 tbsp organic rapeseed oil
Icing sugar
350g all-butter puff pastry

Directions

1.  Mix the mint leaves, ginger and oil in a small bowl to make a paste.

2.  Roll the puff pastry out on a surface sprinkled with icing sugar into a rectangle of about 30 x 40 cm.

3.  Spread the mint and ginger paste over the surface of the pastry.  Fold or roll the pastry along a long edge to the middle, and do the same from the other side so that the two rolled/folded bits meet in the middle.  Press the whole “log” of pastry into a roll, wrap in cling film and chill in the freezer for 25 mins.

4.  Line two baking trays with baking paper.  Pre-heat the oven to 210°C.

5.  Remove the puff pastry log from the freezer and cut into 10-12mm thick slices (don’t worry if there are little gaps between the pastry rolls – they pastry will expand in the oven).  Place on the baking trays and bake for 15 mins until golden.  Transfer the palmiers to cooling racks and dust with icing sugar.  Allow to cool fully.

Enjoy!

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Poisson d’avril: Crab slippers

It is, of course, April Fools’ Day today, a day of jokes and pranks, etc.  I feel I should post something funny or jokey, but well, let’s just say that being witty isn’t exactly my forte.  So I’m not even going to try and come up with something that inevitably won’t be all that funny – I’ll leave the amusement of the day up to the BBC (though I doubt they’ll ever top their 1957 Panorama report about the Swiss spaghetti harvest).  Instead, I’m going to be taking the French route.

In France, the 1st of April is know as “poisson d’avril” or “April fish,” and small children run around trying to stick or hook paper fish to people’s backs without them noticing (people they know, I should add).  It makes total sense as a child.  Thinking about it now though, not so much.  Anyhow, let’s skip over that.  When I was younger, we were never in France for the 1st of April, so I never got to partake in the whole tradition.  Despite not living in France or the UK as I grew up, we still followed quite a few traditions, such as Burns Night, the 14th of July (French National Day), or Galettes des rois for the Epiphany.  This isn’t one of them – try sticking a paper fish to a non-French person’s back and explaining yourself when they turn around and ask you what on Earth you’re doing?  Actually, don’t.  They’ll think you’re really weird, and you won’t even be able to trot out the I’m-6-years-old-therefore-I’m-still-allowed-to-do-slightly-strange-things excuse.  Unless you are actually 6 years old, in which case, go right ahead and let me know how you get on (though I’m not sure why you’d be reading this in the first place…).

So rather than attempting (and failing) to be funny, I thought I’d do something fish-related (because it’s poisson d’avril – April fish.  See what I did there?).  I realised the other day that I haven’t had crab in forever, and thus I decided to do something with crab.  So actually when I said fish-related, I really meant seafood-related – I’d be a pretty horrific Zoology student if I wasn’t aware that crabs are crustaceans, NOT fish.

I’d been thinking about chaussons aux pommes (“apple slippers” which are essentially stewed apples baked in a puff pastry casing) earlier this week and suddenly realised I could do a savoury version using crab!  “Crab slippers” (cue the rather entertaining mental image of a crab wearing slippers) struck me as a suitably odd-ball name for a recipe to be shared on April Fools’ Day.  I eventually realised that my awesome-sounding crab slippers were actually just crab pasties.  Sad times – pasties just don’t sound quite as fun as slippers!  Never mind though, the main point is that they had to taste good!  I obviously needed something to go with the crab – lime and chilli appealed to me, with a touch of cream.  It’s not a particularly ground-breaking combination, but I’ve never really used it before, so I decided to go for it.  I made these crab slippers pasties for dinner on Wednesday, and had the leftovers cold for lunch yesterday, and thankfully they turned out rather yummy both ways!  The only serious issue that I ran into was when I tried to make little pastry crabs to top the pasties.  It was too fiddly to make them anatomically correct, and they ended up with six appendages instead of ten.  It was pretty traumatic so I only made one.  (That’s not an April Fools’ joke by the way – that sort of thing actually upsets me…)

Crab, chilli & lime pasties

Makes 10 small pasties
Recipe from my imagination

One pasty per person would be enough for a starter, but you’ll need two per person (or even three if you have super-hungry guests) for a main course.  They are equally tasty hot or cold, so perfect to take on a picnic.  Ready-made puff pastry works perfectly for this recipe (that’s what I used), but make sure to use good-quality pastry made with real butter. If you have any leftover pastry, you can use it to decorate the tops of the pasties.

Ingredients

2 onions
650g puff pastry
2 dressed crabs (about 250g of cooked meat)
2 red chilli peppers
2-3 tbsp crème fraîche
1 unwaxed lime
1 tbsp of milk
1 egg yolk

Directions

1.  Butter 2 or 3 baking sheets (depending on how big they are) and pre-heat the oven to 180°C.

2.  Dice the onions and allow them to soften in a bit of butter over a low heat, until just golden.  Allow them to cool whilst preparing the rest of the pasties.

3.  Roll out the pastry into a rectangular shape with a thickness of about 4mm.  Cut out 10 squares of about 10×10 cm and lay them out side-by-side.

4.  De-seed the red peppers, chop them as finely as you can and add them to a large bowl with the crab.  Add the zest and juice of the lime and stir the crab mixture well.  Add the onions (it doesn’t matter if they’re not fully cooled, but don’t add them if they’re still really hot), some black pepper and the crème fraîche and mix well.

5.  Divide the mixture between each of the 10 laid-out squares of pastry (don’t let the mixture go right to the edge, since the pasties have to be sealed).  Brush two perpendicular edges of each pastry square with a tiny bit of milk, fold the square over and seal (the milk helps the pastry stick together), using the tines of a fork to crimp the edges.  If you’re adding decorations to the top, brush the bottom side of the pastry decoration with a bit of milk before sticking to the pasty.

6.  Whisk the egg yolk with a few drops of water, and brush it over the pasties.  Use a sharp knife to cut three small slits in the top of each pasty (I doubt you want exploding pasties), and bake for about 30 mins until the pasties are golden.

Enjoy!

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Henceforth I shall be known as: Queen Mel (OK, OK, just for one day)

To celebrate the Epiphany (when the Three Kings visited baby Jesus) in France we make a galette des rois, or “Kings’ cake.”  Hidden in the cake, there is a fève (a small porcelain figurine), and whoever gets it in their slice is crowned King or Queen for the day – this is known as the “drawing of the Kings.”  The Epiphany is the 6th of January, but you can get galettes des rois throughout January.

There are countless different types of galettes des rois – most regions have their own speciality versions (as with everything in France).  The best-known type of galette is probably the one made with frangipane and puff pastry, which I made this year for the first time (I usually make one of my regional versions, which is choux pastry-based).

In an attempt to make the drawing of the Kings as random as possible, the responsibility of assigning slices to people rests with the youngest person present.  I remember agonising over which slice I thought was most likely to contain the fève so that I could pick that one and be Queen.  I was usually wrong though.  To ensure the least amount of bias possible, some families make the youngest person sit under the table (so that they can’t see the galette) and yell out people’s names as slices are cut.

This year, I got the lucky slice, so I was crowned Queen Mel for the evening (coincidentally, at the roughly the same time, my blog reached 300 views – I would currently like to think of myself as Queen Mel of Spartaaaaa!  Or not.)  In thanks for being crowned, the King/Queen is supposed to provide next year’s galette des rois.  I think I’ll make a regional version next year, so keep your eyes peeled for that…

Frangipane galette des rois

Serves 6-8
Recipe slightly adapted from La Popote des potes.

If you’re a big frangipane fan, the quantity can be doubled for an even more creamy filling.  I cheated a little and used ready-made puff pastry (I just didn’t have the time to faff around and make it myself) – for this recipe, it’s easier to get block pastry rather than ready-rolled as it has to be split.  Of course, you can make galettes all year round – just leave out the fève!

Ingredients

60g unsalted butter
60g caster sugar
60g ground almonds
1 egg
1 tsp all-purpose flour
3 tbsp white rum
500g puff pastry
Tiny bit of milk
1 egg yolk
1 tsp icing sugar
1 porcelain fève (and a crown for the King/Queen to wear)

Directions

1.  Preheat the oven to 180°C.  Line a baking tray with a sheet of baking paper.

2.  To make the frangipane, melt the butter in a small saucepan and transfer to a mixing bowl.  Add the caster sugar and whisk to get a frothy mixture.  Add the ground almonds, the egg, the flour and the rum, and mix well until smooth.

3.  Split the puff pastry into two and roll out both halves into circles of the same size (make sure that the circles aren’t too big to fit onto your baking tray).  Spread one of the circles out onto the sheet of baking paper and prick it all over with a fork.  Spread the frangipane over the disk of pastry up to 1cm from the edge.  Push the fève into the frangipane (near the edge is best.  It helps if you can remember where it is so that when you slice the galette, you don’t end up trying to cut through it – just make sure you’re not picking who gets which slice or that would be unfair!)  Cover with the second pastry disk and pinch the edges of the two disks together, using a little bit of milk if necessary.

4.  Whisk the egg yolk with a drop of water and brush over the top of the galette.  (At this point, you can use a knife tip or a fork to trace patterns over the top and make it look pretty.)

5.  Bake in the oven for 40 mins.  5 mins before the end, lightly sprinkle some icing sugar over the top (using a tea strainer makes it much easier to control and even coverage), and return to the oven.  Serve warm (the galette will deflate when you cut it).

Enjoy!

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