Breakfast à la française

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This was yesterday’s breakfast because I had to use up some pears I had. In my defence, may I say I didn’t have lunch afterwards, or rather that I ate one of these in lieu of lunch.

This is just what I like: simple, few ingredients, quick and tasty… and rustic, to top it up.

 

Bon appétit!

Rustic pear galette

Ingredients (I did half of these quantities)

2 y ½ cups plain flour

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp caster sugar

1 cup cold butter, diced

¼ to ½ cup really cold water

For the filling

1 pear per galette

Caster sugar (as needed)

Squeeze of lemon juice

Ground almonds (as needed)

Extra butter, as needed

Pinch of cinnamon

For the pastry:

Mix the flour, salt and sugar in a bowl, add the cold butter and, using a cornet, work it till it resembles fine breadbrumbs (you can use a food processor for this if you have one).

Add the cold water and, still using the cornet, bring it together to form a dough. Wrap it in clingfilm and leave it to rest for at least 30 minutes in the fridge.

For the filling:

Wash the fruit, quarter it (don’t bother peeling it) and slice it (I like the slices to be rather on the thick side). Put the slices in a bowl, add the lemon juice, the sugar and the cinnamon and mix well using your hands.

When the dough’s ready, roll it out on a floured worktop. Try to roll it out in a roundish shape (it doesn’t matter if the circle is not too perfect, it will add to the rustic feeling). Fold it and transfer it to a greased oven tray. Unfold it and sprinkle it generously with ground almonds (this will absorb the juice from the fruit and will help keep the crust from becoming soggy). Place the fruit on top. If you’re feeling artistic, do it in a nice fashion , like I did. Sprinkle with more caster sugar and add a knob or two of butter.

Bake in a preheated oven at 200C for about 10 minutes until the crust is golden.

You can brush the dough with egg yolk before baking it (I didn’t) and you can also brush the top of the fruit with syrup as soon as it comes out of the oven. What with the photos I was taking and my hunger, I totally forgot but it will make them shinier.

It is best eaten warm and if you pair it up with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream you’d be in heaven…

Sweet bread for an indulgent weekend brunch

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This is something I have been wanting to post for a while.

The recipe belongs to Blanca Cotta, a sweet lady from whom I learnt my first chops in the kitchen… via a children’s magazine and who gave me that love for cooking and, most importantly, she taught me that cooking can be a blast, it can be fun and it can truly become a passion and a way of life as it happened to me.

Anyway, Blanca now has her own blog and I have had the immense satisfaction of being able to tell her all of this.

I have made many recipes of hers over the years and her books are the ones that I keep coming back to, the empanadas and the dulce de leche everyone knows in London are made from her recipes (why tweak what is really a perfect recipe?).

The recipe I am posting about now is that of a sweet bread, I have had the recipes for many, many years and one day I just said: “Today’s the day to make it”. It is a sweet bread, not unlike panettone or Stollen only that it doesn’t have any fruits or nuts to enrich it. Instead, it has a wonderful, crunchy, Streusel topping which makes it perfect for brunch or breakfast when you really want to indulge.

Streuselkuchen by Blanca Cotta

Dissolve 50g fresh yeast (remember to halve this quantity if using dry yeast) in ½ cup of warm milk (I use the ones with 250 cc capacity), add 3 tbsp sugar, pinch of salt and leave to rest, covered for 5 minutes. Then add 2 beaten eggs, zest of 1 lemon and 2 ½ cups flour, alternating with 6 tbsp of melted butter. Once the ingredients have been mixed, topple over the worktop (scattered with flour) and knead quite energetically  for at least 15 minutes. Then place the dough in a bowl (previously greased with melted butter), cover it and leave in a warm place to double in size. Then roll out the dough in a suitable tray (you can see in the photo I used a regular oven tray, the only one I had), leaving it 1 cm thick. Leave it again to prove, covered while you make the topping.

For the topping: mix 100g cold butter diced small, 1 cup sugar and ½ cup of flour. Avoid using your hands (I use a scraper for this).

Once the dough has risen again, brush it generously with more melted butter and add the topping.

Bake it in a moderate oven (180°C or so) until it has puffed up, become golden and your whole house smells divine!

You can see that, despite what I said above, I tweaked this recipe a little bit. The first time I made it, I did it with the regular Streusel topping I’ve just described but having both read Nigella’s version in Nigella Bites and realising I had some flaked almonds and frozen berries in the freezer, I just couldn’t resist… Enjoy! If you try it, you  will thank me….

Edible gifts: Christmas chocolate cupcakes

So, once again it’s Christmastime. And, once again, the tradition of the edible gifts has begun. There is nothing about Christmas I love the more than giving gifts of food. In fact, the tradition of giving gifts around this time is very ancient and has its roots on Pagan festivals where the farmers gathered to celebrate the ending of the Winter (with the Winter solstice being the shortest day of the year, the days began, once more, to get longer) and they would swap the food they had preserved to use during the winter months.

Then, there is the cookie swap tradition which also has its roots on ancient Pagan festivals. In Scandinavia, the people who were too poor to offer animal sacrifices to the gods, would offer them animal-shaped biscuits instead.

This year, one of the stars of my edible gifts hamper were these delicious chocolate cupcakes by, who else? Nigella…

Nigella’s Christmas chocolate cupcakes

Ingredients

  1. 125g soft unsalted butter
  2. 125g caster sugar
  3. 2 large free-range eggs
  4. 100g plain flour
  5. 25g cocoa
  6. ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  7. 2 tsp baking powderfood
  8. 2 tsp vanilla extract
  9. 2-3 tbsp full-fat milk

For the decoration

  1. ½ x 500g packet of instant royal icing
  2. Christmassy sprinkles
  3. Red and green ready-made roll-out fondant icing or sugarpaste (optional)
  4. Seasonal sugar decorations (optional)

 

Have all the ingredients at room temperature.

With an electric mixer, mix the eggs and the sugar to ribbon stage. Add the dry ingredients, sifted, and then the melted butter.

Bake at 180ºC for around 10 or 15 minutes.

You can freeze them, without the decoration as soon as you’ve made them.

For the icing:

Mix some icing sugar into some boiling water and add some lemon juice.

It has to be pretty thick for it to run smoothly yet stay on the cupcakes.

Doña Petrona by me: chocolate cake



There was a big hoopla recently following Narda’s departure from El Gourmet to Utilísima. There she is cooking recipes from Doña Petrona´s book Julie-Julia style. Every Argentinian household worth its salt has a copy, mine is no exception. It was my referent when I was too little to think about buying cookery books but not too little to discover the joys of baking.


My battered copy is still at home (in Argentina) but I still use it a lot whenever I’m there.

This cake is a bit unusual in that the liquid element is boiling water: not milk, not anything else but good old boiling water. It does remind me a bit of the English chocolate pudding in this respect. The pudding though, has a much softer consistency than this. It’s a veritable cake. And delicious.


This is my adapted version of the cake.

 Doña Petrona´s chocolate cake

Ingredients:

320g plain flour

4 tsp. baking powder

200g sugar

100g cocoa

1 tsp. vanilla essence

120g butter

2 eggs

250cc boiling water

Sift the flour, baking powder and cocoa in a bowl. Add the sugar and the butter, cubed. Crumble the butter into the rest of the ingredients until you get a sandy texture.

In a separate jug, lightly beat the eggs with the vanilla essence. Add this to the dry ingredients and combine using a wooden spoon. Add the hot water and pour the mixture into a buttered and floured cake-tin. Bake at a moderate temperature until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

You can cut it in half and fill it with dulce de leche but, as you can see, I didn´t bother and it was delicious all the same!

The One with Phoebe’s cookies

A good recipe is one that can stand the test of time. I find the same to be true for TV sitcoms. Friends is such a show. It is one you can watch over and over and laugh out loud as if you’ve never heard the jokes before.

These poor cookies don’t get baked very often because it wouldn’t be fair to, you know… the other cookies.

Phoebe: Ok, um, (clears throat) we haven’t known each other for that long a time, and, um, there are three things that you should know about me. One, my friends are the most important thing in my life, two, I never lie, and three, I make the best oatmeal raisin cookies in the world. (Phoebe opens a tin and offers Rachel a cookie)

Rachel: (taking cookie) Ok, thanks Pheebs (takes bite of cookie, overwhelmed) Oh my God, why have I never tasted these before?!

Phoebe: Oh, I don’t make them a lot because I don’t think it’s fair to the other cookies.

Rachel: All right, well, you’re right, these are the best oatmeal cookies I’ve ever had.

Phoebe: Which proves that I never lie.

Rachel: I guess you don’t.

Phoebe’s fabulous oatmeal raisin cookies adapted  from “Cooking with Friends”

Makes 24

       

12 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened

¾ cup finely packed brown sugar

1 large egg

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 ¼ cup flour

¾ tsp. baking powder

¾ tsp. baking soda

¼ tsp. salt

1 ½ cup raisins

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cream the butter and sugars with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 1’. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract until smooth.

Stir together the oat, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Stir the dry ingredients into the batter until just combined. Stir in the raisins.

Drop dough by heaping tbsp. onto 2 large baking sheets (no need to grease them) leaving 2 inches between each ball dough. Bake until the cookies are golden brown, 12-15’. Cool the cookies on sheets for several minutes then transfer to a rack to cool further.

Note: you can also freeze the dough in rolls and bake them from frozen as needed. Another idea is to add chocolate chip cookies to the dough.

Quintessentially… British

You’d be forgiven to think this is a typo. Despite the saying that goes “as quintessentially American as apple pie” this humble dessert is actually… well, British.

The first documented recipe goes back as early as 1381 and I personally believe the Pilgrims took it with them to the New World some 300 odd years later and it was so good that the Americans adopted it as their own.

Dutch people also have adopted it as their own although there are some subtle differences: Dutch apple pie (or appeltaart) can also include raisins.

You might be surprised to realize that the original pastry dough is not sweet like a pate sucrée (sweetcrust pastry) but it is a brisée (shortcrust pastry) so it can double both for savoury and sweet fillings.

It does seem to work though. I personally prefer it wafer thin to leave room for the cinnamon-apple mixture to come out in all its glory. Plus it’s dead cheap to make so there’s no excuse not to try it!

Enjoy!


Apple pie


For the pastry:

Plain flour, 200g

Cold butter, cubed, 100g

Pinch of salt

Very cold water, as needed (about 4 or 5 tbsp.)

For the filling:

Apples, peeled, deseeded and cut into paper-thin slices, ½ kg

Sugar, 120g

Zest of ½ a lemon

Pinch of cinnamon

Melted butter, 30g

1.      Preheat the oven to 180°C.

2.      Sift the flour and salt on the worktop or into a big bowl.

3.      Add the cubed butter.

4.      With very cold hands (dip them in cold water if you must), rub the butter and flour until you get a grainy consistency. The butter should not melt with the flour. If you notice it’s melting, place the bowl in the freezer while you make the filling.

5.      Mix the sugar, lemon zest and cinnamon and pour this over the apple slices. Mix thoroughly to make sure everything is evenly coated. It does not matter if the apple slices break, they will melt to a soft purée anyway. Set aside.

6.      Take the bowl from the fridge and add enough cold water to form a dough. You can do this with a fork to avoid touching the dough too much.

7.      Form the dough (it should be soft and even, without lumps) and divide it into thirds.

8.      Use 2/3 of the dough to line a pastry case (buttered and floured). I really like to roll mine out very thinly. The dough is, after all, just holding the filling together, you don’t really want to be eating more crust than filling, or do you?

9.      Place a layer of the apple mixture and dot with some melted butter. Carry on repeating this apple mixture-melted butter layers until you have used it all up.

10.  Roll out the remaining 1/3 of dough. Cover the pie, seal the edges together and cut off any excess pastry.

11.  Make four (or more) concentric lines on the pie surface (this is to let the steam out and keep the dough from rising too much).

12.  Bake in a moderate oven until the dough is golden and crunchy.

13.  Serve warm with some chantilly or, even better, vanilla ice-cream.

Sweet tooth

Sometimes you feel like nibbling on something sweet in the afternoon for no reason at all. And those times, sadly for your hips, the chocolate chip cookie fills the gap like no other thing does.

I’ve made several versions of chocolate chip cookies and this, in my opinion, is the one that yields the best results.

Luckily for me, this batch was for sale…


Ingredients:

  • 250 g butter
  • 100 g icing sugar
  • 20 cc vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 300 g chocolate chips
  • 350 g plain flour
  • 20 g baking powder

With an electric whisker, beat the butter and icing sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time and flavour with vanilla extract.

Add the plain flour sifted with the baking powder.

Stop beating and add the chocolate chips and fold in with a rubber spatula.

With the help of a spoon, place little portions of the dough on a baking tray.

Bake in a preheated oven (moderate to high) between 15 and 20 minutes.

You can substitute the chocolate chips for chopped nuts, raisins or whatever you like.