The Weekend of Puff

So it was my housemate’s birthday on the weekend and because I’d been making a lot of sweet things lately, and other people were going to bring cake, I really didn’t feel like making any myself. So instead I decided to make some quick and easy savoury nibbles.

Let me interrupt myself here with apologies for the poor quality of these photographs. I made these items in the evening and light was quickly fading from the tiny little kitchen in my student house. But rest assured these snackadoodles were all eaten up and enjoyed a plenty.

First I made Rosemary and Sundried Tomato Palmiers. Which were very tasty, but the general consensus was that I could do with being a bit more generous with the amount of rosemary. I got the basic recipe for these from Lorraine Pascale’s BBC show but only used about 200g of sundried tomatoes, which to be honest was enough for my taste.

Buying prerolled puff pastry helps to make this an even quicker party snack

The tomatoes aren't actually burnt, but the kitchen light isn't really great for photography

This time my rolling technique was much better than when I made my Citrus Syrup Palmiers.

The next thing I made were Mini Puff Pastry Salami Pizzas.

First, get hold of some more puff pastry. I used 100g and that made around 18 mini pizzas. You need to roll the pastry as thinly as possible and then cut out circles with a cookie cutter. I then brushed these with a little bit of eggwash.

They don't have to be perfectly circular

Make a cheats tomato sauce using ketchup and basil mixed together. I know, I know, but I was feeling very, very lazy. Anyway, spread a little dollop onto each circle and then top with as much shredded salami as you like and then some grated cheddar cheese.

Try to spread out the cheese as much as possible without it spilling over the sides

And the finished product……

The circles will puff up significantly but will deflate as they cool

The brilliant thing about these little puff pizzas is that you can just treat them like normal pizza with an infinite number of topping variations. Plus, puff pastry is quite filling so makes for a good party snack when you want to make sure people don’t get too boozy too quickly 😀

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Oreo Brownies

There’s a new BBC cookery show called ‘Baking Made Easy’ hosted by Lorraine Pascale and she has a lot of interesting recipes I want to try out. The first I’ve attempted is her brownies with Oreo chunks, which are really, really gorgeous.

This is a recipe that I will have to share with my brother at some point because he is even more of an Oreo addict than I am; he also makes brilliant Oreo milkshakes! Can you imagine Oreo milkshakes with an Oreo brownie to go with it? Sounds like ridiculously unhealthy snack heaven!

Brownies with squidge and crunch

You can find the recipe for Lorraine Pascale’s Cookies and Cream Fudge Brownies on the BBC Food Website. I think her instructions are probably better that any I could reproduce and there’s also currently a video from the show that talks you through the recipe. I hadn’t really heard much about Lorraine Pascale before watching this show but I get the feeling that she is going to be my go to celebrity chef from now on. Unlike other food shows, I find that almost everything she has presented so far is something that I want to try out for myself. So hopefully I’ll keep you updated with more recreations!

I did make a few small changes from her recipe. Firstly, I used just 3 eggs instead of 3 eggs and 2 yolks. The only reason for this was that I was running low on eggs. Secondly, I used slightly fewer Oreos because I wanted to save some to eat later. And the brownies were still delicious so apparently no harm done 😀

Complete grating of the chocolate also isn’t necessary, as you can see…

Grated and small chunks

I baked at 180°for 30 minutes. And they came out of the oven looking like this…

Look at that amazing glossy sheen!

Your instinct is probably to assume that the middle isn’t cooked, and keep it in the oven for longer – but remember, these are brownies and the gooeyness is what makes them so mouth meltingly addictive. You want a little, but not too much wibble in the centre when you take it out.

Some tips for ending up with well presented brownies:

  • Leave the pan alone for about 10 minutes before you lift up the paper overhangs and place the brownie layer on a wire rack so that the mixture has time to settle before you start moving it around.
  • You then want to stay as far away from the smell as possible and allow the brownie layer to cool completely before you start to cut it up to avoid too much crumbling and stickiness.
  • Another small note is that you should try to bury the Oreo chucks in the uncooked mixture strategically so that you can cut the brownies easily into even squares. My brownie pieces ended up being different sizes as they were difficult to cut without crumbling apart due to my haphazard Oreo crumble.

Even with my lazy shortcuts in following the original recipe, I have to admit that these tasted so good that I hoarded more for myself than giving them out for other people to try. Maybe I’ll whip up another batch in a few weeks and try to share more…

Maybe.


Citrus Syrup (and Pistachio) Palmiers

Remember the leftover syrup from my last post? Well, I was a bit lazy in getting round to using it but now that I have, we have Citrus Syrup Palmiers.

mnnn flaky and sweet

I’d gotten it into my head that this should be how the syrup should be used, even though I knew that the logistics of putting a liquid onto the puff pastry and then rolling it would be a nightmare. Sadly, stubbornness took over and luckily the end result wasn’t too bad.

I used ready rolled store bought puff pastry, which I don’t really consider a cheat as I would have had to roll it out myself into the same shape anyway.

I used about two handfuls of pistachios, which I shelled and then rolled in my hands to remove the outer salty skin. I then put these into a sandwich bag and proceeded to bash with a rolling pin to produce a pistachio crumble. The key word here is crumble, not fine dust, so I had to reign back the zeal and enthusiasm that I’m prone to when I start hitting things.

This was then spread over the puff pastry and toped with the citrus syrup and extra clementine zest.

I then very carefully rolled up the pastry and sliced it into segments around 1cm thick.

The blue plastic overhangs helped with the rolling process

Placing them on the baking sheet proved a challenge due to the massive amounts of syrup overflow leading to a very sticky kitchen. And I’m afraid I didn’t take very many pictures for this post due to my battle with this syrup.

Thankfully, the end result was a lovely flaky biscuit with a crystallised syrup crunch, though only a slight aftertaste of pistachios. Pistachios are apparently not the nut of choice for palmiers, but never mind; live , eat and learn and all that.  I wouldn’t really call this attempt a massive success, but at least now I’ve tried out Palmiers and can now hopefully come up with some much better ideas.

I love the way you can see flecks of zest in each palmier


Citrus Syrup Almond Cakes

My boyfriend’s family, wonderful people that they are, sent me a lovely package for Christmas full of gorgeous cake goodies.

Awesome parcel of fun

Needless to say, when I saw this bundle of presents I was grinning so wide I’m surprised my lips didn’t do a joker split.

The first recipe I decided to try from the lovely book above was for Citrus Syrup and Almond Cupcakes. The perfect decoration was also available in this parcel of cakegasm.

Happy, happy yellow

The hardest part of this recipe was the waiting two hours for the Clementines to boil and soften before I could make the puree. I can’t stand waiting for baking, so I started to weigh out everything and then tried to start watching ‘The Mentalist’ to take my mind off the lovely citrus scent filling the house. Even then I didn’t manage the whole two hours as the original recipe suggested. 1 hour 15 minutes was around the limit of my patience. But I think this was far too long as the clementines had lost their acidity sure, but they’d also lost a lot of flavour. I think next time around 45 minutes would be better.

I was boiling too vigourously at first

While waiting for the clementines to ‘cook’ you can also start preparing the rind for the syrup. I don’t have the pleasure of owning a zester yet so I used a peeler and then sliced the rind as thinly as possible, which to be perfectly honest, wasn’t all that thinly. But I’m all in favour of cakes that taste brilliant but don’t look too perfect. Why would you ever want to eat a perfect looking cake? If I ever did create such a cake I’d probably have to put it some sort of vacuum time capsule in order to preserve it, and then the whole point of its inherent cakeyness would be lost. Don’t you think?

Anyway remember to scrape off as much of the pith as possible without shredding your rind into a gloopy mess. I just used my fingernails but I suppose you could slowly work away at it with a knife if you liked. No? Like the fingers on approach better? Excellent!

The rest of the recipe was simple.

Puree the boiled fruit and let cool.

Whisk up the eggs and sugar into a lovely fluffy mix, then add the almond powder and puree and whisk until combined.

Try to make sure any large clumps of almond are broken up and mixed into a smooth batter. Large clumps will result in lumpy cake and that doesn’t sound, look or taste very nice.

Because there aren’t any raising agents used in this recipe, apart from the eggs, make sure to fill the cake cases quite fully. I completely forgot to take a picture at this stage, but I left around half a centimetre of space at the top of the cases.

I baked at 165° for 30 minutes, at this point the cakes were cooked but not quite golden enough so a further 5 minutes was needed to achieve a lovely perfectly sunkissed look.

Don't they look gorgeous?

Making the syrup was perfectly simple, I’d only advise making around half the amount of the original recipe if you want just enough for the cupcakes themselves and one or two cheeky taste-testing spoonfuls.

That's a lot of syrup

And now, the simplified recipe:

For the cake

  • 3 clementines
  • 6 eggs
  • 225g ground almonds
  • 225g caster sugar
  1. Cover the clementines with water and simmer for however long you can stand to wait. If the house has caught fire – you’ve waited too long. Don’t forget to top up the water to fully cover the fruit when needed.
  2. Make a puree from the softened clementine flesh, I used a smoothie maker.
  3. Let this puree cool and preheat the oven to 165°.
  4. Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a bowl until light  and fluffy.
  5. Add the almond and cooled puree and whisk gently to incorporate.
  6. Pour into your happy, happy citrus themed cupcake cases.
  7. Bake at 165° for 30-35 minutes until  a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean and the tops are nice and golden.

For the syrup (I recommend halving this)

  • 250ml water
  • 350g caster sugar
  • zest of 1 clementine (really you can add as much as you like)
  • 2tbps lemon juice
  1. Add the water and sugar together and dissolve over a medium heat.
  2. Add the lemon juice and zest, and simmer to reduce the syrup until it begins to thicken slightly and you can see a thin layer covering the back of a spoon.
  3. Allow to cool and then slowly slather the cupcakes with this gooey syrup.
  4. Proceed to the scoffing of delicious cake.

The natural light was quickly disappearing by the time I took this photo

Now the only question left is… what do I do with all this leftover syrup?

The syrup will return...


Welcome to The Kitchen Belle

So this is me.

Do you like my star accessories? 🙂

And these are some of the things I’ve made.

 

I occasionally batch bake and invite my friends over for free food

I struggled a lot in deciding whether or not to commit to this blog. I spent an inordinate amount of time umming and aaahing about having to dedicate time to document the things I make instead of just getting down to the very important task of eating, and how I would have to keep a constant stack of batteries close by as well as learn how to take fabulous photographs like other blogs.

Honestly, it seemed a lot easier to just keep watching back to back episodes of The Mentalist.

But then I realised the main factor holding me back was lazziness. And so, the lazy, indignant person that I am, I now have the motivation to give this blog a go. I hope that you, fellow foodie lovers, have patience while I attempt to become a worthy addition to the world wide blogosphere and share the endless list of dishes I’ve yet to make.

With this brief introduction, I welcome you to The Kitchen Belle – where the food blogging adventure begins.