Thursday, 17 November 2011

Portuguese custard tarts & the willing volunteer

Its my own fault.  Really it is.  If you go and blog about having willing volunteers to test your wares, its only to be expected that in time they are going to start requesting more goodies.  Especially if you have been spreading the baking love around a number of other guinea pigs.  I take this as a great compliment, as hopefully it means my baking is yummy. So what to bake I ask myself?  I have held this little treat up my sleeve for a while now as I know a certain couple of people (Jane & Henry!!) will be thrilled if it works out, but I would hate to get it wrong. 

And so I present the Portuguese Custard Tart.  To look at, they resemble a rather shameful Yorkshire pudding with a bit of splodge in the middle, but if made right they can be quite exquisite.

Having Googled for a suitable recipe I came across the "Something for the Weekend" version by Simon Rimmer.  It looked realistic enough, so off I went.
You have to roll the pastry up like a swiss roll and then divide it into 12 pieces.  These are then rolled into little discs and you can still just about make out the rings.  They look like the rings of a tree when sawn through.  I presume the extra rolling up and rolling out add to the delicate texture of pastry.

Theres certainly nothing uniform about these little ones!  Custard made and cooled it gets divided into the 12 pastry cases and popped in the oven for about 20 minutes.  I realised I had knocked the temp up from 180 to 230c by mistake after they had gone in so quickly reduced the temperature and kept an extra eye on them til they were ready.  I've never baked custard before, so its all a learning curve.
A little point to make, I always bake on a static oven setting, rather than a fan-oven setting, as I think for baking this works better in most cases and helps prevent burnt tops.
Out the oven and cool in the tins.

Like I say nothing to look at.  I have to confess I was really worried about my two testers trying these, as they both love the proper thing, so you cannot imagine how chuffed I was when they both said they really liked them.  After critical analysis, we have come to the following conclusions:-
- Trim off the excess pastry around the top of the muffin tips.  This allows for more a more balanced custard/pastry mouthful.
- Be a bit more liberal with icing sugar whilst dusting to sweeten the pastry slightly.
- Not thicken the custard too much prior to baking, allowing a lighter custard when cooked.
- Roll the pastry a little thinner
- Last but not least, bake another batch!

So on that note I am off to the kitchen to perfect a little more and bake another batch for OH to take to work tomorrow.  Apparently there was nearly a ruckus due to lack of quantity.  And that makes me very happy  :-)

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Oh my loaf, its Gluten-free!

Firstly, I must just say how much I like Mary Berry, the doyenne of home baking and cooking.  Having just read an article about her, not only does she not fuss about all her buns being the same size or a little bit of cracking in her pastry, she starts her day.......every day...... with toast and marmite.  All hail Mary Berry!

So, back to the point...... this weekends challenge - Gluten-free baking! Spurred on by conversations with a Ravelry friend in Sweden I thought I would venture into the world of non wheat / non gluten baking.  I have no reason to do this (other than eating to much shop bought bread makes me swell up like a hot air-balloon....too much info, yup!), but me likes a new challenge.  Not one to do things by half measures, I tried bread and cake!  But why do I always do it when I am time poor!

Friday saw me attempt a gluten-free bread recipe that I doctored from the Gluten Free Goddess blogspot.*  Going via Waitrose on the way home, I was on the lookout for gluten free bread flour.  I had normal plain gluten-free flour in the cupboard.  But my rather stupid Friday evening brain forgot to comprehend that gluten-free really means no gluten.  And strong bread flour, rather than plain baking flour has lots of gluten.  So basically making gluten-free bread is rather like baking a cake. 

The mixture has a consistency of a thick cake batter, not the lovely doughy texture you get from a bread dough, it requires no kneading and only a short rise of about 45 minutes.  It proved to be quite an expensive experiment as the flour I purchased was twice the price of the perfectly usable one I had in the cupboard already.  Oh well.  All I can say is it tastes nice with marmite.....if a little cake like in texture.

 It won't be my go-to bread recipe, but at least it didn't turn out like a burnt brick.

Yesterday my Mum came over for dinner and about 30 minutes before she was due to arrive I remembered I had done no preparation.  I blame Miss Marple!  She is very distracting.  As well as trying a new pork recipe, I also had a go at River Cottage's Gluten-free Lime & Coconut Cake.  Its a rather heavenly drizzle cake. 

Made like a regular cake, baked like a regular cake.  Just gluten-free.  Ignoring the sugar and butter, I felt very virtuous eating it and urge you to give it a go.  As you can see Mum seems to like it :)

I like the idea of having of having a few "free-from" recipes to hand, just in case I need them.  Good thing a copy of The Gluten-free Baker just happened to drop into my Amazon shopping order.  I am looking forward to salivating through that one.

On the crafty front I have finally finished these lovely Embossed leaves socks that have been on the back-burner for a while.   A few more pressies are on the knitting needles, but if I put them on here you might see what you're getting.

That Christmas is a good incentive to get things finished.

* I used 3 cups of Bobs Red Mill G/F baking flour rather than a variety of flours, dried active yeast which is re-activated in the warm water rather than my usual fast action yeast and 1 egg (why would I use egg substitute?).  Otherwise as per the "not using a bread machine" recipe, baking at 180c in a oiled loaf tin.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Cookie update!

Ok, so I am terrible when I don't get recipes just right on the first attempt.  I want to try them again straight away.  There wasn't anything "wrong" with the last batch of cookies, they just weren't "right".  So I have tried them again at a higher temperature. I would have tried this yesterday if I wasn't out all day (more on that later.....), so instead rushed home after work to try another batch.  This time I baked exactly the same recipe at 170c in a fan-oven for 10-12 mins, taking them out halfway through and slamming them on the side to get the air out (Gas mark 5 or 190c in a regular oven I would guess) and they came out totally different!  This time they didn't "splat" as much and were a more raised cookie.  Still quite scrummy though.  I am sure next time I try them, they will differ again.  Still my taste testers have given this batch the thumbs up again, so I guess I should be satisfied!

Sunday was a fun day of teaching little Christmas bell decorations at a Taster Day for my local wool shop Thistle, in Cowplain, Hampshire.  Thistle is a lovely family run business, (without them I would not have such a sock knitting addition) with a sister shop in Portsmouth and they have been running Taster days for a few years now.  You get to try 3 different projects during the day and its great for inspiration.  As I only had to teach 2 sessions this time, I got to have a go myself at making a cute little bag.  Perfect as a gift-bag for Christmas cookies me thinks.

Anyhow, it has inspired me to get my Grandma's lovely Singer sewing machine out of its box and get sewing.  She's a beauty isn't she!

A good excuse to use up some of my fabric stash.........or buy some more :)

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Peanut butter and choc chip cookies

So yesterday my Mum dropped off some rather scrummy homemade peanut butter and choc chip cookies, which came from the blog of  Jo Wheatley.  The lovely Jo won this years Great British Bake-off and was my favourite from the start.  In our household I live with a rather large cat and a OH who doesn't have much of a sweet tooth.  However, these disappeared quicker than Usain Bolt running the 100m sprint.  (No it wasn't the cat!!)  Not wanting to be out-baked, I had to give them a try.  Plus I had been out for a lovely run with my running buddy and her daughter KT today and we just happened to get talking food, (OK, I know, I do most of the gas-bagging) and discovered KT is rather partial to peanut butter!  I'm always on the look-out for guinea-pigs, so a little cookie parcel may arrive on her doorstop tomorrow. Its a basic recipe, but the flavours are great (even if you're not a peanut butter fan like me).  The recipe is based on cooking in an Aga and the suggested fan oven temperature is 110c.  Blimey that's low I thought.  It actually should say 190c, so mine took a while longer, but will definitely be making them again at the correct temperature. 

Ooopps, theres 1 missing!  Well I did have to try one.  Tasty and chewy and a good excuse to try out "Bake-O-Glide" for the first time.  No more wasted bits of cookie sticking to the baking sheet for me no more.  Or throwing away baking parchment.  Reduce, re-use, re-cycle.

On the crafting front, I am helping out at my local yarn store tomorrow, by teaching the making of these cute little Christmas Bell Decorations.  I confess I did cheat on the first one and use the sewing machine, so thought I better test it hand sewn as well.  Quick and fun to make, I think I am going to have to try and make-up a Christmas Tree version.

And some things were never going to be anything other than little.  Some of this years allottment offerings were nothing more than 1/2 pint sized.  I don't think I can bare to use the butternut squash, its so ickle :)

The wine glass is purely for sizing........honest......

Happy baking/crafting/gardening!