Plum clafoutis

Plum clafoutis

Michel Roux’s book “Desserts” has a chapter called Crêpes, batters and beignets. I’ve decided to make this the next step in my learning and make all kinds of delicious dishes including donuts, fried fruit parcels and soufflé crêpes.

First up though was clafoutis, one of my favourite fruit desserts.

Traditionally made with cherries, clafoutis is like a batter-based flan which is poured over seasonal stone fruit that has been macerated in sugar.

The result is a mix between a set custard and a batter.

I’ve tried several recipes over the years and they are vastly different, especially the amount of flour to use in the batter. Michel Roux uses 160g whereas Raymond Blanc only uses one tablespoon.

The rest of the batter ingredients are fairly standard – eggs, sugar and butter. Some use a mix of cream and milk, others just milk on its own.

Some create beurre noisette and some include vanilla pods for extra flavour.

I used a simpler version of Raymond Blanc’s and featured plums as my fruit since they were on sale in the supermarket and cherries are currently exorbitantly expensive.

Plum clafoutis

For the plums
450g plums, stoned and cut lengthwise into 8ths
3 tbsp caster sugar

For preparing the dish

10g Unsalted butter, melted
30g Caster sugar

For the batter
2 medium eggs
45g caster sugar
20g unsalted butter, melted
1 tbsp plain flour
50ml whole milk
75ml whipping cream
1 pinch sea salt

To prepare the plums
Gently mix the plums and sugar in a bowl. Cover and leave to macerate for 2 hours. Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas 4.

To prepare the dish
Brush the inside with the melted butter. Add the sugar and tilt the dish to coat the sides and base evenly; shake out the excess.

To make the clafoutis
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and caster sugar together until creamy. Add the flour to the egg and sugar mixture and whisk until smooth, then slowly incorporate the milk, cream, salt and butter. Stir in the plums with their juice and then pour into the prepared baking dish.

To cook the clafoutis
Bake for 30–35 minutes until the clafoutis is lightly risen and a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave to stand for about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with caster sugar if using and serve just warm.

Advertisements

Madeleines

Madeleines
Madeleines

Madeleines are my last “quick bread” and are from the Lorraine region in North-Eastern France.

They are small, springy cakes with a distinctive shell shape, so require yet another baking pan for the collection.

The recipe itself is simple enough – the blending method incorporating flour and baking powder in one bowl and eggs, honey, sugar in another all bound together by a whole lot of butter.

It’s a take on a genoise sponge, but the addition of the melted butter creates a light but buttery cake.

However, the preparation stage is a unique and calls for you to cool the batter in the fridge from anywhere between 30 minutes to overnight before baking.

Every recipe I looked at suggested this, but I couldn’t find a reason for this step. I’m assuming that it has something to do with the butter in the mix setting again.

I tried to speed the process up with one batch and only cooled it in the fridge for 20 minutes – with disastrous results. It browned too quickly, and even after the first two minutes of baking I could see the butter melting and the edges turning brown.

Madeleines

200g caster sugar
30g brown sugar
3 tbsp honey
4 large eggs
250g plain flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
250g butter, melted

Sift the flour and baking powder into a small bowl and set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugars, honey and eggs. Add the flour and mix together until well combined.

Pour in the butter and fold to incorporate.

Spoon into madeleine moulds and then refrigerate for 1 hour.

Bake for 2 minutes at 245C, then a further 9 minutes at 175C.

Turn out and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Traditional British scones

Scones with homemade strawberry jam and cream
Scones with homemade strawberry jam and cream

I have been making scones for years, and feel like I’ve tried every trick in the book to achieve the soft, fluffy scones you see in tea shops but to no avail.

Some recipes call for buttermilk to ensure a fluffy texture, some use lemonade in the theory that the bubbles help the rise.

A lot of recipes for American style “biscuits” use shortening as well as butter to create a flakier dough.

All of these differences in ingredients, and your scones can still turn out like hockey pucks if you’re not careful.

From my experiences, there are a few tips that seem to work:

  • Don’t overwork the dough – this is a no-brainer and very few people with argue with you here. It comes back to avoiding too much gluten developing in the dough which will stop it rising.
  • Don’t roll the dough out too thin – you’d be surprised how little scones actually rise, so start out around 2cm high and just ensure they bake through.
  • Push the dough out with your hands rather than a rolling pin – again part of the theory in not bashing the dough around too much.
  • Don’t add too much flour when shaping the dough – the dough should be slightly sticky, so only lightly flour the surface and your hands/rolling pin to avoid changing the flour to fat ratio.

I decided to use Mary Berry’s recipe for scones, because seriously who else is going to compete when it comes to traditional British baking?

I was interested to see that her recipe including self-raising flour plus extra baking powder.

However reading from my baking bibles, I also see that Michel Suas recommends using strong flour to ensure a high rise. I will certainly try that next time in the hope that my babies will grow ever higher.

I also managed to make my own strawberry jam this time to serve on the scones, but will save that recipe for another day.

This is one of my last quick bread recipes, with Madelines planned for next week. It’s been going back to basics again and as much as I’ve enjoyed doing it I’m feeling up for a bigger challenge so it might be time for verrines next…or scarier yet, plated desserts!

Flashback Friday – Chocolate layer celebration cake

Chocolate layer celebration cake
Chocolate layer celebration cake

I wanted to make a really special cake for a friend’s 30th birthday and also thought it was a great opportunity to share my favourite ever chocolate cake recipe.

This recipe uses sour cream so manages to stay incredible moist but still have a butter base. I always find that butter based cakes can be a bit heavy and dry while so you end up having to weigh up flavour (butter) and consistency (usually achieved better with an oil based cake).

But this one is perfect, and even better layered with fresh cream and raspberries.

So my big lesson re-visted was splitting and layering cakes. You may remember my original post from January last year which ran through the process of splitting, filling, masking and icing cakes.

Again I’ve copped out of the masking and icing stages, but I promise to take on the challenge this month.

Another thing I tried for the first time with this cake was tempering chocolate to get my little heart decorations. This isn’t something easy to do in the Queensland climate and I laughed the other week when people on Great British Bake Off were complaining that it was 25C inside the tent.

The tempering itself wasn’t too bad but it certainly tested my piping skills (I think my biggest challenge was making the icing bag out of a piece of baking paper!). To temper chocolate you simply need to heat half of your chopped chocolate to 53C in a bowl over boiling water, stirring constantly. Remove the bowl from the heat and add the remaining half of chopped chocolate and continuing stirring gently until the chocolate cools to 31C or lower and is thick enough to pipe.

Chocolate layer celebration cake
Chocolate layer celebration cake

Chocolate layer celebration cake

1 1/2 cups plain flour
3/4 cup good quality cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon bi-carb soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
1/3 cup water
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cup brown sugar
3 large eggs

Preheat oven to 175C. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans, knocking out excess flour.

Into a bowl sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, bi-carb soda, and salt.

In a separate bowl whisk together sour cream, water, and vanilla.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add flour mixture to butter mixture in batches alternately with sour cream mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture and beating until batter is blended well.

Divide batter between prepared pans and smooth tops. Bake layers in middle of oven 25 to 30 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool cake layers in pans on racks 10 minutes before turning out onto racks to cool completely.

Carefully split each cake in two, then assemble the cake by placing a layer of fresh whipped cream and a dozen fresh raspberries on each disc of cake. Top with a final layer of cream, fresh raspberries and tempered chocolate hearts.

Ham, cheese and parsley loaf

Ham, cheese and parsley loaf
Ham, cheese and parsley loaf

Moving on from my previous post about sweet muffins, I wanted to make a savoury loaf that’s basically the same principle but a different shape.

This is still considered a quick bread because it uses baking powder as the rising agent rather than yeast.

Using the blending method again, you simply need to sift together your dry ingredients into one bowl and mix together your wet ingredients in another.

Combine them, then add the flavour which can be any combination of cheese, herbs or deli ingredients like hams, salamis, roasted vegetables or olives.

I went for a classic ham, cheese and parsley mix flavoured with Dijon mustard but you could also consider fetta and olive, sundried tomato and basil, or grated zucchini and haloumi.

Note, this can be made into individual muffins if you prefer but only bake for 15 minutes.

Ham, cheese and parsley loaf

4 eggs
3 tsbp Dijon mustard
80g butter, softened
150g bread flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 handful grated cheese (I used half cheddar, half parmesan)
1 handful ham, finely diced
Salt
Pepper

In one bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

In a separate bowl, whisk the butter until it’s creamy then add the eggs and mustard.

Combine both sets of ingredients then add the cheese, ham and parsley.

Mix until combined (not too much) then pour into a greased loaf tin.

Bake at 190C for 20-25 minutes or until golden and cooked through.