Tag Archives: cream

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.

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Strawberry ice cream

Ice cream is very important to me.  Its icy, creamy tentacles spread wide and deep through my family history. My father was an ice cream maker for a while, from when he turned seventy (seventy!) until about seven years ago. But we sold, and made, ice cream long before that.

For years now, I’ve made my own ice cream. And if you’re interested in some recipes I have one for the best chocolate ice cream in the world; mint choc chip ice cream; a rich vanilla ice cream; a lighter vanilla ice cream that uses whole (not just yolks) egg and soon I’ll put one up for possibly my favourite: almond praline. You can read about ice cream makers here and I now also make my own cones (see that cone in the picture? I made that). I know! Madness, but there you go.

The recipe for strawberry ice cream below, makes enough for about four people, possibly two helpings each. It’s hard to say as these days I double the recipe (super easy to do and you should double it too if you’re making it for a gathering as OBVIOUSLY you don’t have to eat it all at once) and that makes LOADS. And as here in England the weather has just exploded and the grass looks greener and all the flowers are bursting into vibrant life and the trees are popping their buds, it seems only right to celebrate with some gelato.

2 large egg yolks, freeze the whites for madeleines

75g granulated sugar

80ml milk, I always use semi skimmed, but don’t go lower than that, so full fat or semi skimmed

250g fresh strawberries, hulled. If you need to wash them first dry them carefully as water is the enemy of ice cream (you’ll get a ‘colder’ ice cream with water crystals if you’re not careful)

120ml double cream

As I’ve said before. You need milk and cream to make ice cream so don’t be tempted to leave one out.

Beat the egg yolks together with the sugar until pale-ish. Add the milk and place the lot in  a saucepan and stir well over a low to medium heat until it thickens. Do not allow to boil but be patient as this bit can take 5-10 mins and you will need the heat to be more than a candle’s worth to get it going. You’re not going for thick like a custard, but it needs to thicken. It will thicken even more as it cools. But don’t boil it as it may split.

Now put the strawberries and the custard mixture into a blender and blitz until really smooth and there are no bits left. Whisk the cream in a separate bowl until thick, slowly fold the cream into the custard mixture or vice versa, whatever works for you. Chill until cold. The colder it is the less work the ice cream maker will have to do. When cold put into ice cream maker.

That’s it. It’s ready to eat when it’s out of the ice cream maker but obviously it will be very soft, so if you like it to be harder then put it in a container, in the freezer, until such time as you intend to eat it.

A tale of two trifles

We don’t, really, have trifles in Italy. The nearest we come is cassata but although that can, technically, mean a layering of sponge, fruit, liqueur etc, it usually means an ice cream layered dessert. That said, the second trifle here is called Italian trifle, in our house, by my partner. I’m not sure why but it is.

So, here, I present two trifles, although neither are the classic trifle in that neither house any jelly at all. They both also contain booze so not really child-suitable (I should point out that it’s unlawful to give alcohol to a child under the age of five, unless under the direction of a doctor). Although I do have some friends whose children – over the age of five, ahem – absolutely devoured the Italian trifle off their mother’s plate and she had to wrestle the spoon back off them.

The first is a Nigel Slater recipe that he called the Ten Minute Trifle. I’m afraid I don’t have a photograph of it at present. It is glorious. I have since renamed it the Pregnancy Test Trifle since I credit it with being able to detect if you’re pregnant, even before you know you are.

Let me explain. In late 2002 we decided to try for a baby. Three days after ‘trying’ for a baby for the very first time, I made this trifle, as it was New Year’s Eve. I had made it many, many times before. I tasted it. And spat it out. “I’ve put far too much alcohol in here,” I said to my partner, with upper lip ruffled up in distaste. “I must have put double the amount of sherry into it.”

He tasted it. Declared it fine. But to me, it was inedible. It was another three weeks before I did a pregnancy test which declared that I was, indeed, pregnant. Another friend had this trifle and declared it inedible – too strong – and she then discovered she was pregnant.

Despite this. If you’re not pregnant this trifle is lovely. Not too strong at all. If it does taste too strong…well.

Nigel Slater’s Ten Minute Trifle

Note: this trifle contains raw egg and alcohol.

10-20 sponge fingers. You can play quite loose with the quantities as I use enough to fill the bottom of the bowl

255ml chilled marsala or sweet sherry

2 ripe bananas, sliced

1 tin of raspberries. I use the ones in juice

2 eggs, separated

50g caster sugar

225g mascarpone

vanilla extract

flaked almonds

Put the sponge fingers, broken up in half, thirds, whatever and put into a bowl. (Note this is fairly sloppy when you ‘cut’ into it so if such things matter to you you may want to make this in individual bowls/glasses, these glasses are particularly good for this.) Pour over the marsala, raspberries (with as much or as little of the tinned-juice as you need to soak the sponge fingers, discard the rest of the juice). Now put the bananas on top.

Cream the egg yolks with the sugar, add the mascarpone and beat until light and creamy. Add a dash of vanilla extract, about a teaspoon.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff and then fold them gently into the egg yolk/mascarpone mixture. Now tip it all over the fruit/sponge fingers and cover with toasted flaked almonds.

Leave it for a couple of hours before eating.

Italian trifle

This is very rich, very delicious and more-ish. I really like trifles (I know some people hate them) because you can make them in advance, as long as you have the fridge space. They are a great, often not madly expensive way of serving dessert to lots of people and if anything, they improve with 24hrs in the fridge. I’ve said before that I am master of organisation, but once people arrive through my front door and I’ve had a drink it’s every man for himself. I am a dreadful hostess. So a dessert, pre-made, that I can present with relish and show that I did, once, care about my guests, is useful.

100g sponge fingers. Absolutely use shop bought don’t even think about making them yourself

100g lemon curd

3 tablespoons of limongello or lemon vodka

500ml of double cream

125g caster sugar

100ml lemon juice. From our normal sized lemons this equals to the juice from one and a half lemons

Topping

250ml whipping cream

Zest of half an orange

Crystallized violets (optional but lovely here)

Shelled, chopped nuts. I use pistachio or toasted hazelnuts. But you can leave this bit out completely.

I make this in a 1litre pudding basin.

Break the sponge fingers in half and spread with the curd. Put them in individual glasses if you like, but this is an impressive dessert to serve in a big dish. And unlike the Pregnancy Test Trifle above, it holds its shape when cut.

Now sprinke the alcohol over the top.

In a medium sized sauce pan pour the 500ml of double cream and add the sugar. Bring to the boil over a medium heat then turn down and simmer for 2/3 minutes. Now remove from the heat and stir through the lemon juice. Pour this over the sponge fingers. In the bowl I use, this takes me almost to the top and I always have a moment of panic but as long as you have a centimetre or so of space, you’ll be fine for putting the cream on later. Push the sponge fingers down into the mixture as best you can.

Leave it out, to cool. When cool put it in the fridge. You can easily do this bit the day before, as I do. Be warned, this is already delicious and often I have a go at this pudding before the day. That’s okay though because you will have a carapace of whipped cream to hide your shame.

Either just before you serve this or when the mixture above has set you whip up the whipped cream. Spoon it over the trifle and scatter with the violet petals/nuts/zest. Either serve or put back in the fridge for enjoyment later.

Eclairs

The best compliment I got was from a nine year old girl (not mine) who said “these are like real eclairs”

Here is a confession. I really am not that into eclairs. I know people who go cuckoo for them. Not me. I’m not overly a fan of choux (unless in a Paris Brest), nor whipped cream. Basically, eclairs aren’t piggy enough for me.

The first time I made choux pastry I was very young, about eleven and it was in HE. No-one told me it was difficult so I didn’t sweat over the choux pastry and I made the most amazing profiteroles. (Equally, no-one told me puff pastry was difficult and I used to make a great puff pastry.)

As I got older, and everyone went on about how hard choux pastry is, well that, coupled with my slight meh-ness towards them…meant I didn’t really try.

My children love eclairs so I decided to give them a go. They were easy. So easy I was expecting the sky to fall in.

I’d love to hear how you customise them.

The recipe for choux is pretty standard:

125ml water
50g butter
75g plain flour
3 medium eggs (at room temperature, this is important)
pinch of salt (I think this is key, choux is pretty tasteless, but the salt adds something).

The filling

I just used double cream, about 300ml, whipped up with a spoon of vanilla essence and a tablespoon of icing sugar. Or try delicious white chocolate cream, which is what I use as a default filling these days.

The topping

I used 150g 70% cocoa chocolate and a teaspoon of vegetable oil, melted in a bowl, over a pan of boiling water. Then manually just dipped the eclair tops in and set them down on a cooling rack. Hardly any drips..

Obviously with both filling and topping you can change it. Next time I’m going to try something a bit more adventurous.

You also need a piping bag and plain nozzle of about 1cm diameter. A baking tray and some baking parchment.

Oven to 180C.

Put the water and butter in a sauce pan and cook over a high heat. Stir until butter is melted and bring to the boil. When this happens, lower the heat and add in the flour. Beat with a wooden spoon until smooth and the mixture leaves the sides of the pan. For me this happened almost immediately.

Remove from the heat. Now. Some recipes say to let the mixture cool and then add the eggs. I can only tell you how I did it which was to add the eggs straight away to the mixture, once in the electric mixer bowl.

So. Put the butter/water dough in an electric mixer with the whisk attachment and add the eggs one at a time.

This is the important bit. After you’ve added the first egg, the mixture must be absolutely smooth before you add the next egg. At first the mixture seems to curdle, more so if your butter/water dough is hot and the eggs are very cold. It will look like scrambled eggs. You will want to cry.

Don’t. And don’t panic. Keep mixing. It will eventually blend together and go smooth. Honestly mine took a good five-ten minutes during which I started to panic and think “why the hell did I not LISTEN to everyone who told me choux pastry was so hard.” Keep the faith. Keep mixing. It will smooth out. Then, add the next egg and mix until smooth and then the next one. I added the salt with the third egg. No idea why just did.

The mixture is ready when you lift the whisk and it leaves ribbon marks – indentations in other words.

Put into the piping bag. I find it useful to a) use a clip to secure the top of the icing bag – just above the nozzle – so that the mixture can’t ooze out. By clip I mean like those Klip-it things you use to keep food in a plastic bag fresh. b) put the bag in a tall glass and fold the top of the bag over so you can spoon the mixture in. Obviously when you are ready to pipe, you take the Klip-it off.

This mixture pipes really beautifully, so pipe eclair shapes (or profiterole shapes) onto the tray, leave a good gap as they do grow.

Put in the oven. I cooked mine for 30 mins and they were perfect, dry and crispy. My patisserie expert said that’s how high quality eclairs should be – kinda dry and not soggy like shop bought ones. You can’t really overcook eclairs (well, actually you can but you know…). I cooked some profiteroles another time and gave them 35 minutes and they were fine.

Don’t be tempted to open the oven at all if possible and certainly not before about 25 minutes.

They should be puffed and golden. Mine were almost empty inside. There was no need to dry them out inside as some recipes suggest, by placing them back in an oven.

I just cut them lengthways when they were completely cool and did the topping first (put the topped eclairs in the fridge for five mins to make the topping set if you’re in a hurry), then I added the cream with another piping bag (I was piping bag mad by this stage).

They all got eaten that day. And when I served them the second time round, because I had some salted caramel left, I added a dollop of that in too. I am salted caramel crazy though.

The reason I’m writing about these is that they were so easy and the return to effort ratio so madly unbalanced in favour of the return part, that I did wonder why I had left it so long.

Update on 6th March 2013. I thought it might be useful to have some troubleshooting here.

There are a couple of key important bits in making eclairs. The bit in the saucepan, with the flour and the butter/water…make sure you really dry this mixture out. By that I mean, even when it starts to come off the sides, keep going for a minute longer. The more you dry it out now, the more eggs you will be able to add (more on this later). The more eggs you can add, the more the eclairs will rise.

What do you mean, the more eggs I can add? Don’t you say three eggs?

Yes, yes I do. But here’s the other thing. I make this all the time with three eggs but mine are medium (in fact I’ve altered the recipe above to say this). Eggs differ in size, although it’s usually the amount of white in an egg that differs between the different sizes. So if you were to crack open a medium and extra large egg, the real difference is in the white, not the yoke.

Anyway, when you’re at the adding the eggs stage, if you’re new to this, I’d whisk up the third egg before adding it and then add it a bit at a time. What you want is a mixture that’s thick. Don’t be afraid to give it a really good whisking, don’t stop just the moment you think it’s done. You want the mixture to be able to stand in stiff peaks. If it’s not thick enough at this stage, it won’t get any thicker at the piping them out stage. So when you stop whisking you need to be absolutely sure it’s thick enough, otherwise,  you pipe it the eclairs will spread.

If you add too much egg, then the mixture might get too sloppy which is why I recommend adding it in stages if you’re new to this.

Should I cool down the butter/water/flour mixture before putting it in the mixer?

Almost every recipe tells you to do this, to cool it down otherwise it will cook the eggs.

I don’t. I know, madness, but I’ve tried it both ways and for whatever reason I’ve found that if I add this to the mixer and add the eggs straight after the sauce pan stage, my eclairs rise more. Yes you do need to beat the first egg in for much longer and it will go through a scrambled egg phase. Try it whichever way you want and see how you go. I’m fairly brave with patisserie making so I like to fly by the seat of my pants. You may want to go more slowly. Both are fine approaches.

If you’d like more ideas about what to fill them with, other than cream: chocolate ganache filling recipe here; white chocolate cream filling here (this is YUM). And not long after I originally wrote this I stopped cutting the eclairs in half and instead using a piping nozzle to fill them.

Rice pudding with salted caramel syrup

Donna Hay’s chilled rice pudding with caramel. ©donna hay

Rice pudding isn’t something I grew up liking. My mother made it, although hers was more of a rice pudding cake – you could cut big slices of it. It was perfectly nice but not for me.

Then one day I discovered this rice pudding, which was all creamy and vanillay and slow cooked and I was hooked. (The recipe for the actual rice pudding is in the article, the article however refers to oat pudding and I do realise that…)

I am a big fan of Donna Hay. I get her magazine whenever I can find it, and even though she often talks about winter recipes when it’s summer here in the UK (she’s Australian), it’s beautiful and her recipes are amazing. And unlike Martha Stewart Living, the recipes are converted to metric: it’s not all a cup of this or a stick of that.

Anyway. Here is her recipe for Chilled Rice Pudding with Caramel. A few notes.

It’s a helluva lot of milk and cream. I think you could probably get away with not adding the extra lot of cream and milk you add when you take it off the heat. See how you feel. Or add less. I added the full amount and it makes for a very wet and loose pudding.

Delicious, but you can’t really cut into it with a spoon and leave an indentation, as seen in her picture above.

Two: I didn’t use dulce de leche. I use my own secret recipe for salted caramel and I just poured it on ever so slightly warm, I didn’t loosen it with more cream like the recipe suggests, as by that stage, I was starting to fear for my heart.

Even though it’s a chilled pudding, it’s immensely comforting. Here is a picture of my version: