Category Archives: Teatime

Un tiramisu che ti tirasu

A few years ago, when we fancied making a tiramisu (it means pick me up, or pull me up), I looked at loads of recipes. I was quite shocked (I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to Italian cooking) at the variations. I mean, Nigella, whom I love, had one, in How To Eat, using no coffee or chocolate and meringues instead of sponge fingers. It caused me to  to slam the pages of the book shut in mock horror.

It is the coffee, and the chocolate that is supposed to act as a ‘tiramisu’. Anything else, to my mind, ti spinge giu (pushes you down).

I have hundreds of cookery books, and a world of recipes at my fingers tips, as do you, on the internet. But nothing was really saying Italian tiramisu to me. Then I thought of looking in my Italian cooking bible: The Silver Spoon.

In these days of celebrity cookbooks, stuffed full of photographs, the recipes in this book are easy to overlook: simple, very few pictures and the list of ingredients for each recipe is short. But don’t overlook them because not only is this a fantastic cookery book, the recipes are accomplished – some of them go back fifty years. As you may expect, some of the recipes are as good as they’re ever going to get.

And the tiramisu recipe is no exception. It is one of the few with a photo which I admit helped…I made it and it is the only way we make tiramisu now. It’s simple, anyone can do it (my bambine frequently do) and once made sits in the fridge for a good few days, yielding to your spoon just when you need a…pick me up.

It has no alcohol – so if you feel the need for some after dinner, serve that separately – which means children can easily eat this. Although beware of eating it too late as there’s quite a caffeine punch.

My friend Tamsin doesn’t like coffee, so she doesn’t include it in her tiramisu. Of course I have told her it’s not really a tiramisu, but more of a creamy pudding. Don’t even think of using cocoa powder (other than, maybe, on the very top but I don’t) instead of grated chocolate. The chocolate shavings make this stand out and allow for some bite in what is a wallowy pudding which offers little resistance: you could easily eat aged 98, when all your teeth have fallen out.

And use icing sugar, not caster, which can result in a runny mess.

Here it is:

2 egg whites, 4 egg yolks (freeze the 2 extra egg whites)

150 icing sugar

400g mascarpone

200g sponge fingers

175ml espresso coffee

200g plain chocolate, grated (grating chocolate is one of my least favourite jobs but I do it for this)

What to do:

I make this in a rectangular Pyrex, which also has a handy lid so I can save it for a few days. Mine is about 17cm x 25cm and it makes two layers. But of course you can make it in a different shape so you get more layers, or even make it circular or in individual portions, just break the sponge fingers up to fill the spaces.

It would, I think, easily serve eight people depending on the size of portion.

First you whisk the egg whites until stiff, set them aside for a moment whilst, in a separate bowl you beat the egg yolks with the icing sugar, then you fold/whisk the mascarpone into the egg yolks and sugar and finally, into this you gently fold in the egg whites. This is your creamy bit.

Lay the sponge fingers onto the base of your dish and brush or pour the coffee on top. Because I know mine makes two layers, I pour half the coffee on now. Then spoon on a layer of the cream and sprinkle with the grated chocolate. Repeat this, ending with a layer of mascarpone/sprinkling of chocolate. I usually end up with more chocolate than I need for this, for some reason, so if so just keep it in a jam jar for next time.

It is better the next day, but can be eaten within a few hours of making it and chilling it to allow the ingredients to meet each other, and mingle.

 

 

 

 

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White chocolate and amaretti cake

I don’t often have cake failures. I’ve been baking since I was seven. But when I do, they hit me hard.

The first time I made this – a Donna Hay recipe – it went wrong. It looked fine, coming out of the oven, but when you cut into it there was a hole running the whole width of the cake, so that each slice had a hole right through it. The sort of thing which, if you’d tried to achieve, would have been impossible.

It tasted delicious, but it was a failure. I whizzed the whole sorry thing up in a food processor and froze the crumbs. They will be delicious on some ice cream, as a topping, or put in milk shake mix ins.

I had a rare afternoon nap and then it came to me: I had forgotten to put the milk in. I had made it in a bad mood, and got distracted. The original method is also a ‘bung it all into the food mixer’, which is where I also went wrong as I lost track of the ingredients.

This is a simple cake – simple to look at, simple to make, but the ingredients add up. It has nearly £5 of white chocolate in it. Of course, you could put any old white chocolate in it, something cheap, but I think good quality white chocolate makes a difference. I use Green and Black’s white cooking chocolate. Then there’s the amaretti. The rest is regular baking fayre: butter, eggs, flour. Oh and milk.

I have adapted this so it’s all done by hand. I felt I got a better result. If you want to, you can bung everything save the amaretti crumbs into a food mixer and mix away until smooth, then rejoin the recipe at the putting into the tin stage.

Because this recipe contains amaretti – almonds – it is not suitable for anyone with nut/almond allergies.

This is what you need:

185g very soft unsalted butter

220g caster sugar

3 eggs

a teaspoon of vanilla extract

250g melted white chocolate, slightly cooled

300g self raising flour

310ml of milk

160g crushed amaretti biscuits

A few amaretti, crushed, for decoration after cooking.

This is what you do:

Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and flour a 3l bundt/ring tin.

Cream together the butter and sugar, add the three eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla extract. Now gently mix in the melted chocolate. Then add the flour and, little by little, the milk.

Pour half the mixture into the prepared tin, sprinkle the amaretti crumbs (I pulse them in a food processor) over the cake mixture. I use a skewer to gentle feather them through the mixture, but you don’t have to. Now top up with the rest of the cake mixture.

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Bake for about 45 minutes. Check with a skewer to make sure it’s cooked. Make sure it comes out clean.

Leave to cool for ten minutes, then turn out and sprinkle a few crushed amaretti over the top if you’d like.

This cake fills the kitchen with amazing Viennese coffee house smells as it cooks. It’s even better the next day. The white chocolate gives the sponge an amazing lightness and a taste you can’t quite put your finger on. And the amaretti crumb layer is just amazing and marzipan-ish in taste (so absolutely no good if you hate marzipan).

 

A healthier waffle recipe

When I bought my waffle maker, I diligently followed the recipes that came with it and they were very good. But I wanted something un peu healthier. There are thousands of waffle recipes on the internet and in books. I personally like to add my sugar, if I add any at all, afterwards in the form of fruit or maple syrup. I found one on an American site which looked good and had a tweak around and now this is pretty much the waffles I make.

This recipe makes about 18 but they freeze well (freeze them flat on a tray then bag up together) and cook splendidly from not quite frozen, but ten minutes out of the freezer. If you toast them straight from the freezer by the time the toaster has defrosted them the waffles have got quite dry. Far better to take a waffle out of the freezer when you first get up, let it defrost at room temperature for ten minutes (who wants to eat when they very first get up anyway?) and then pop it into the toaster for a minute or two.

I eat mine with live yoghurt and berries and maple syrup and, incredibly, this breakfast keeps me going til lunchtime.

I’m sure you could up the wholemeal flour even more if you wanted to.

120g plain wholemeal flour

225g plain white flour

50g porridge oats

110g rice flour

2 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda

2 teaspoons of baking powder

2 teaspoons of fine sea salt

1 litre of full fat milk (or use a combination of milk and yoghurt for an even lighter waffle)

4 eggs, separated

115g melted butter (or coconut oil)

 

Combine all the dry ingredients – the flours, oats, bicarb, baking powder and salt – in a bowl. In a separate bowl combine the milk, egg yolks and melted butter or coconut oil.

In a third bowl, whisk the egg whites until they are stiff. Make a well in the dry ingredients, pour in the butter/milk/egg yolk mixture. Mix everything together until nice blended. Now dollops the egg whites on top and gently fold in.

In my waffle maker I cook these for about 2m45s on the buttermilk setting, but you’ll have to experiment with yours.

 

Chocolate ganache that makes a rather splendid base for hot chocolate or chocolate custard

Sorry about the overly long title.

I’ve written before that I have a thing about really good hot chocolate. I prefer a potent pokey hot chocolate rather than a long, watered down poor-man’s version of one. This base is absolutely brilliant, it takes not very long to make, you store it in the fridge, it lasts for a week (unless you use cream that’s right by its sell by date) and you can turn it, in minutes, into superb hot chocolate or add it to shop bought custard (buy good quality one) to make chocolate custard that’s just really IMPRESSIVE.

The proportions below are a rough guide. Stick loosely to them, because I’ve perfected this over years. But of course it doesn’t matter if you have only 90g of one chocolate or 60g of another, or a bit more or less cream. The effects of varying the proportions are, indeed, something you can play around with. This is what works for us.

100g 70% cocoa chocolate

75g 37% cocoa milk chocolate (I use Green and Black’s milk cooking chocolate)

225g of single cream

In a bain marie or a bowl over pan of boiling water, melt the two types of chocolate with the cream. Be careful not to let it get too hot or scorch. Then just put it in a suitable container and put it in the fridge until you need it.

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To make hot chocolate you just measure out some milk into the cup you are using – for a normal size cup of mug you use 3/4 of the cup of milk and a big dessert-spoon dollop of chocolate ganache, all into a pan, warm through until melted/warm. Drink and sigh.

To make chocolate custard get shop bought custard – I use this one from Waitrose which is 500g and I add the whole quantity of the custard ganache the recipe above makes. This makes a good old amount of chocolate custard, but of course you can vary it to make as much as you want, or you may prefer the custard less chocolately. Experiment. It goes super well with my chocolate sponge.

Later note: a dollop of this ganache, mixed up with cold milk, also makes a divine chocolate milk drink.

Tiramisu cheesecake

Tiramisu, for those that don’t yet know, mean’s ‘pull me up’. The English equivalent is ‘pick me up’.

Although I don’t know anyone in Italy who uses tiramisu as anything other than a delicious, indulgent dessert. Zabaglione was used, maybe still is, if you felt a bit under the weather and needed a pick me up. Presumably the warnings about not using raw egg (traditionally an ingredient in zabaglione) hadn’t reached the members of my family who used this as a salve for sick children who were too poorly to go to school.

My dad (from Parma, NE Italy) would sometimes feign illness – something he never does as an adult – as a child in order to stay off school and have zabaglione made for him by his mamma.

Anyway, this is a tiramisu cheesecake. If you don’t like coffee or cheesecake then there is nothing for you in this cheesecake. I think the base is absolutely inspired, but, again, if you don’t like amaretti biscuits (and in truth I don’t, on their own, but somehow they work here) you may not like the slightly bitter hit. But this is a really excellent cheesecake, classy, different, complex. Just don’t be left alone with it. Oh and, once chilled, it’s really the most excellent if you take it out of the fridge for half an hour before eating.

If you plan to make this for an ‘occasion’ – say a special lunch or a dinner – then I really recommend you make it the night before and leave it sitting chilling in the fridge until you serve it. One less job to do, plus with the chilling of the base and the chilling of the cake etc, it does take quite a long time from start to finish. So don’t get caught out.

This was originally from Delicious magazine.

For the base:

275g amaretti biscuits, crushed

75g unsalted butter, melted

For the cheesecake:

700g mascarpone at room temperature. I use a mixture of 500g mascarpone, cream cheese, ricotta, depending on what I have in the fridge. But I wouldn’t go lower than 500g mascarpone

150g caster sugar

3 large eggs, separated

45ml dark rum

30g plain flour

half a teaspoon of vanilla extract

175g plain chocolate, chopped (of course I didn’t chop mine and just broke up the pieces, because I am lazy like that)

1 tablespoon of finely ground espresso coffee powder – I just use something I have in a dusty jar from the supermarket, even though I have a full on, fuck-off coffee machine which freshly grinds my coffee for me. Next time it will maybe be even more awesome if I used freshly ground espresso powder

3 tablepoons of coffee liqueur. I use Kahlua which is lovely, incidentally, in an after dinner espresso, to make it espresso corretto.

Icing sugar for dusting. I was so greedy and impatient, I forgot this bit

Put the biscuit crumbs in a food processor and pulverise. In a bowl, introduce melted butter to the biscuit crumbs and let them do their thing. Press the crumbs into a 23cm spring form tin (I parchment line the base) and as far up the sides as you can get them (I didn’t do them up the sides and it was fine). Chill for 30 mins or even overnight.

When you are ready to make the cheesecake, preheat the oven to 200C; melt the chocolate in a bowl, atop some simmering water and then leave to cool. Put the mascarpone/cheeses into a bowl and beat until nice and smooth, then beat in the sugar, then the egg yolks.

Now divide this mixture into two bowls.

Into one of these bowls stir in the 30g plain flour, the 45ml of dark rum and the half a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Set aside for a moment.

Remember the melted chocolate? Into it, stir the espresso powder and coffee liqueur. Now stir the chocolatey/coffee/coffee liqueur into the second bowl of cheese mixture.

Put the egg whites into a bowl and whisk until soft peak stage, and now fold half the egg whites into each of the bowls – so half into the flour/rum/vanilla cheesey mix and half into the chocolate/coffee/liqueur mix.

Now dollop alternate spoonfuls of the mixture into the cake tin, give a swirl to gently mix and bake for 45mins to 1 hour. I lowered the temperature of my oven for the last 15 minutes or so only because my oven is fierce. Just keep an eye on it after 45 mins. It should be golden brown but still soft in the centre. Not liquid soft but softly soft, like a bit jelly on a plate.

Turn off the oven and leave the door ajar and leave the cheesecake until completely cold. When cold, chill in the fridge for several hours then it’s ready to be taken out and eaten, either fridge-cold or leave it to warm up a bit at room temperature.

Dust with icing sugar and revel in the calorie count. It’s high.

 

Sticky cinnamon buns

Buns is a word you simply can’t say enough. If it’s not already, it should be a control word, used by psychologist in experiments, to put people in a good mood. It is a fabulously English word and, even though I try, there isn’t really any alternative in Italian. We have the rather more catch-all phrase meaning, simply, ‘pastries’.

Although we don’t really celebrate Mother’s Day (I really don’t need a day to tell me to appreciate my mum), if you were so minded, these would probably go down a treat if you made them today (as I write, tomorrow is Mothering Sunday), put them in the fridge to prove overnight, then cooked them in the morning.

They take almost no kneading. I got the initial inspiration from Edd Kimber who won the Great British Bake Off five years ago, but I’ve cut the sugar down (with no ill effect) and changed the kneading process so there isn’t really any, Dan Lepard style. I also don’t use currants or any dried fruit because my children don’t like them. I’d never thought of using cream cheese in an icing before but it’s wonderful and entirely Kimber’s idea, not mine. I am not a fan of sugar/water icing and the addition of a protein-rich food really takes the teeth-janglyness out of the icing. It doesn’t make them any less delicious, only more so.

These are life-affirmingly good about half an hour out of the oven, I’ve just eaten one and am in a seriously good mood. I’ve done a lot of gluten/dairy free baking recently and was just about to put up a recipe for a green smoothie, so thank goodness for these. My inner Nigellas and Gwyneths are still fighting but, for today, Nigella wins.

This made 20 for me.

For the buns, you will need:

250ml whole milk (I don’t suppose the world would fall in if you used semi skimmed)

50g unsalted butter

500g strong white bread flour

30g caster sugar

1 teaspoon of salt

7g fast action yeast

1 large egg, beaten – the egg should be at room temperature

vegetable oil for greasing

For the filling, you will need

100g light brown sugar, smash any lumps out

3 tablespoons of cinnamon – yes tablespoons. It seems a lot, but these are cinnamon buns

60g butter, melted

For the topping, you will need

50g soft cream cheese

50g icing sugar

This is what you do

Warm the milk and the butter up in a small pan until the butter has melted then let it cool until it is just luke warm. (If you haven’t taken your egg out of the fridge yet, do it now and set it aside to warm to room temperature.)

The milk/butter is ready when you put a clean finger into it and you can’t really feel hotness or coldness. If it’s too hot or cold it won’t activate the yeast efficiently. If you want to speed up the cooling process, take it out of the pan and put it into a wider-lipped vessel like a bowl.

In the meantime, in a large bowl, mix together the: flour, sugar, salt and yeast.

When the milk and butter mixture is lukewarm, make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients (the flour etc) and pour the milky buttery liquid in, followed by the beaten egg. Mix this all up as best you can using a fork. You’ll have a lumpy dough that will look most unpromising.

Leave it for ten minutes.

Turn out onto an oiled surface and knead gently for a few seconds, cover with a bowl and leave for another ten minutes. Knead again for a few seconds. You should now have a smooth, soft-ish dough (it won’t be super soft and may seem a tad dry). If not, if there’s still obvious ‘bits’ to it, give it another 5-10 minutes rest and another quick ten second knead.

Now, put  it into an oiled bowl and cover with cling film and leave it until it’s doubled. This may take much longer than you think. In my kitchen (which is kept at a Spartan 18C and a humidity level of under 50) this took nearly three hours. In a hotter kitchen it can take as little as an hour. I know this bit is scary – knowing when the dough is ready always used to scare me – but what I do is I put it in a large bowl, so that the dough fills up about half the bowl. This is because, as the dough rises, you can never remember what height it was, can you? So it’s difficult to judge when it’s doubled. But if you choose a bowl where the dough comes up about half way to begin with, and then cover with cling film, you know it’s done when the dough starts to push up the cling film.

At this point tip onto a lightly oiled surface and roll out the mixture until it’s about 40cm x 50cm. It should roll out really quite easily. You may need to oil the rolling pin – I did. You will get rounded edges, no right angles. That’s okay.

Now the mixture: mix together the sugar and cinnamon and set aside for a momentino. Now, with a pastry brush, brush the melted butter all over the slab of dough, right to the edges. This is quite meditative. Think of all the people who have done you wrong whilst you do this and think that they won’t be getting any of your cinnamon buns, the bastards.

Now, on top of the dough, sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon, making sure to go to the edges as best you can. You will spill some onto your work surface, try to pick these up and put them back on or, at the end, gather the up with a clean hand-sweep and sprinkle them on top of the made up rolls.

Now, with the filling all spread, roll up the dough, with the longer end towards you so you get one long cinnamon bun roll. With a sharp knife, trim the edges off, then cut slices of about and inch and a half or so. Place the buns flat down on a lightly oiled tray measuring about 23cm x 33cm (you can even got a bit bigger, but no smaller). There will be a little gap between them, see picture.

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(If you have any sugar/cinnamon stuff left on the work surface, don’t waste it but gather it up and sprinkle it on top at this point.)

You now have a choice. If you fancy eating them soonish, cover them with cling film and leave until they have doubled in size. Anything from 45 mins to a couple of hours. But. I put them in the fridge at this stage and leave them all night. (Also, see update, below.)

Whenever you cook them, you need to a) preheat the oven to 180C b) brush the cinnamon buns with melted butter before they go in the oven (this is important). If you prove them in the fridge you can cook them straight from the fridge, or leave them at room temperature just until the oven warms up. No longer.

Cook for 20-30 minutes (mine took 25).

Whilst they are cooling make the icing, just mix together the icing sugar and the cream cheese until it’s pourable but not too liquidy. It will really seem like it’s not going to work for a bit but then it all comes together. Drizzle on top of the buns (it’s okay to do this when they are about 20 mins out of the oven). Then, prize them apart with a spatula thing and eat with a good coffee whilst making whimpering noises.

(Have napkins handy, these are sticky.)

UPDATE 20 April 2015

Having now made these a few times, I offer these observations:

These buns are fabulous when freshly made, but they go stale disappointingly quickly. Unless you plan to eat them all in one go (!) then what I suggest you do – what I do – is I now cook these in two batches. You can easily keep them in the fridge for that final stage of proving (i.e. the bit just before they go into the oven) for two days. I divide mine up onto two smaller trays and cook them over two days, thus giving me fresh buns for breakfast two days in a row. Just mix up 25g cream cheese and 25g icing sugar for each batch. Which brings me to my next observation:

I think that 50g of cream cheese and 50g of icing sugar is AMPLE icing for these in total so I’ve amended the original recipe above.

Lemon poppy seed cake that can be drizzled if you want

The first time I made this, I made a mistake. I didn’t read the recipe all the way through. The recipe was just a collection of letters, made into words, that were irrelevant to me until I started actually making the cake when they became vital and important, a means to cake. And then I realised that the sugar quantity was meant to be split in two, 165g of which was meant to be added to the cake mixture and 135g was meant to be reserved for the drizzle. So I never did the drizzle part and, actually, that was the best (to me) version of this cake I’ve ever made. I’m not overly keen on sugary drizzle on a cake. I mean, it’s like the sugar fairy has pissed on a perfectly good cake.

To me a cake should be soft, yielding, maybe creamy; but purposely moist – made moist – just confuses me. I think this is in part because there is an old Italian tradition, when eating stale bread, which is to wet it. A habit that I used to find abhorrent as a child, but then, I had that luxury, having not lived through a war.

So now, I occasionally make this cake the proper way and sometimes make it my way. I give both versions below. It’s a lovely cake to have in, it lasts a good few days and you always have something for guests. But it’s not the sort of cake you want to eat loads of, it’s not a dangerous cake. And it’s the best version of this sort of thing that I’ve ever made/had. I think the addition of ground almonds gives it a certain substance, a certain meatiness. And I like that. It was from Delicious magazine a few years ago.

Ingredients

165g soft, unsalted butter

250g caster sugar – if you intend to make the drizzle then use 165g of sugar in the actual cake and reserve the rest. If you don’t want to do the drizzle then just 165g of sugar is fine

The zest of 3 lemons and the juice of 2 (you only need the juice if you intend to do the drizzle)

2 eggs

165g plain flour (I sometimes put some wholemeal in there, or some oat flour, but not much, maybe 20-30g no more)

half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda

1 teaspoon of baking powder

50g ground almonds

50ml hot water

1 and  half tablespoons of poppy seeds

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C and line a 1litre loaf tin. MIx together the 165g of butter and 165g of sugar and beat until pale and fluffy. Mix in the lemon zest. Now beat in the eggs, a bit at a time, adding a spoon of flour as you go with each egg. Add the rest of the flour/bicarb/baking powder.

Mix in the hot water, the ground almonds and poppy seeds and pour into the tin. Bake for 40-50 minutes. A tester pushed into the cake should come out clean. My oven is very hot so I check after about 38 minutes.

Now, set aside to cool and that’s it if you are not doing the drizzle. If you are, then you now mix the lemon juice with the remaining 135g of sugar and heat in a pan until dissolved. Prick the cake all over whilst it’s still warm and in its tin (but has had about 10 mins to just chill) and then gently spoon the lemony sugar mixture over the top.