This week, we’ve watched the first in Rick Stein’s new series, Rick Stein’s Road To Mexico. His first port of call was California where he met up with Alice Waters, owner of Chez Panisse. While there, one of her chefs was filmed making a rhubarb galette – it looked amazing. It’s no longer rhubarb season, so I’ve made a pear galette instead.
I much prefer rustic, unfussy food like this to haute cusine with all its foams, purées and the like. A galette is just the kind of rustic dessert I crave on a cold autumn evening. A circle of sweet pastry covered with in-season fruit and roughly folded in on itself, free-form.
Instead of a pear galette (or rhubarb), you could make one with stone fruits such as peaches, plums, nectarines or apricots. How about apple & pecan, fig, blueberry or cherry?
A savoury galette with autumn & winter vegetables is also a great idea; carrots, beetroot, caramelised onion… with cheeses and/or herbs – the variations are endless!
It’s such an easy, versatile dish to prepare and cook – pastry with whatever meat, veg or fruit that you have to hand.
- 320g/11oz plain flour
- 2tbsp caster sugar
- ¼tsp salt
- 115ml/4fl oz cold butter, cubed
- 4tbsp cold water
- 2 dessert pears
- 3tbsp Demerara sugar
- 2tbsp fine semolina
- 25g/1oz flaked almonds
- 2tbsp melted butter
- In a large bowl, mix together the flour, caster sugar and salt
- Using a food processor (on pulse) or hand pastry blender, cut in the cold butter until the butter is evenly distributed but still in large, visible pieces
- Add the cold water all at once
- Pulse until it begins to come together
- Empty the pastry on to 2 lengths of cling film layered one over the other at right angles
- Form the dough into a ball by lifting & bringing together the 4 ends of the cling film
- Flatten the dough into a disk inside the cling film and chill in the fridge for at ½ to 1 hour
- Once chilled, preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas mark 6
- Core & evenly slice the pears and put them into a medium-sized mixing bowl
- Sprinkle over 2tbsp of the Demerara sugar and toss to cover the pear slices evenly
- Tear off 2 sheets of parchment paper of at least 35½2 (14"2)
- Roll the dough out between the two sheets into a 30cm (12") circle
- Slide the dough on to a baking tray
- Remove the top sheet of parchment paper and sprinkle the semolina evenly over the top of the dough
- Lay the slices of pear on to the top of the dough in a circle - leaving a 2cm/¾" gap from the edge. Make the slices slightly overlap and ensure you cover the entire surface
- Sprinkle over the remaining tablespoon of the Demerara sugar and the flaked almonds
- Fold the edge of the pastry over, making sure you overlap it on to itself as you go around
- Brush the melted butter over the crust edge
- Bake in the centre of the oven for 30-35 minutes until the top is golden brown
- Slide the parchment with the galette on to a wire rack to cool for 10-15 minutes before consuming
- Serve warm with cream or ice cream
A biscuit recipe twice in as many weeks. We’re on a roll! This week, I’ve made a batch of delicious fig rolls… nothing like those dry horrors you tend to get in the shops. The pastry is buttery, crumbly and melt in the mouth; the filling is sweet, figgy and boozy – just lovely!
Jacobs is the brand that most people in the UK associate with fig rolls. Americans have Fig Newtons and the French, Figolu.
There’s a fair amount of debate online on the subject of, “Fig rolls: slice before or after baking?”. I decided to conduct my own experiment to find out.
I’ve decided that I prefer them to be sliced before. The pastry is neater and the fig filling softly oozes using this method.
Disagree with my opinion? Have a look at my photographic proof below! The two on the left were sliced prior to cooking and the pair on the right, after.
If you’ve given industrially manufactured fig rolls a try, not liked them and have turned your back on them – try making your own. Believe me, you’ll wonder what took you so long to embrace them!
- 125g/4½oz plain flour
- 75g/2⅔oz plain wholemeal flour
- 25g/¾oz ground almonds
- ½tsp baking powder
- 2tsp caster sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 140g/5oz cold butter, diced
- 1 egg yolk
- 2tbsp milk
- 200g/7oz dried figs, stems removed, roughly chopped
- Juice of ½ a lemon
- 2tbsp dark rum
- 2tbsp water
- 2tbsp muscovado sugar
- ½tsp mixed spice
- 1 egg, beaten
- In a food processor or large mixing bowl, combine the flours, ground almonds, baking powder, caster sugar and salt in a large bowl or food processor
- Pulse/rub in the butter to make crumbs
- Mix in the egg yolk and just enough milk to bring it together into a coherent dough
- shape into a rough rectangle, wrap and chill for about ½ an hour
- In a small saucepan, bring the figs 2 tbsp water, 2tbsp dark rum, lemon juice, sugar and spice to a simmer. Cook gently for a few minutes until softened
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
- Lightly flour a work surface and roll the pastry out to around 20cmx30cm and ½cm thick. Cut in half lengthwise to make 2 long strips
- Put a line of filling down one side of each, leaving a slight gap between it and the edge
- Brush the edge with water and fold the pastry over the top of the filling pressing down gently to seal
- Cut into 4cm lengths and arrange on the baking sheet
- Brush the tops with beaten egg before baking for 20-25 minutes until golden brown
- Allow to cool on a wire rack before eating
It’s been a while since biscuits were featured in our Thursday Cakes & Bakes post, so we started listing the shop-bought biscuits we purchase regularly for potential ideas. Hobnobs sprang to mind – both plain and chocolate coated varieties. Lots of other people must like them too as Hobnobs always make the top ten list for Britain’s favourite biscuit. So today we have a home-made version of this classic brew accompaniment.
It’s a very straightforward recipe and method… and a short cooking time. You could rustle up a batch in the time it takes to get to the shop!
The resulting biscuits are golden brown and very delicious indeed. We left half plain and covered half in chocolate to cater for both preferences. Just one last decision – tea or coffee.
- 140g/5oz butter
- 140g/5oz sugar
- 1tbs milk
- 1tsp golden syrup
- 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 140g/5oz self-raising flour
- 110g/4oz porridge oats
- Preheat the oven to 150ºC/300ºF/Gas mark 2
- Line a large baking tray with parchment paper and set aside
- In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until pale & fluffy
- Beat in the milk, golden syrup and bicarbonate of soda
- Stir in the flour and oats, combining well
- Divide and shape into 25-30 equal-sized balls (about a desertspoon-ful of dough for each) rolling between the palms of your hands
- Place 5cm/2" apart on the prepared baking sheet - they spread out a lot during cooking!
- Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown
- Transfer to a wire rack to cool
- Store in an airtight container
I’ve made & posted a version of red velvet cake on the blog before. Today, I’ve used an alternative recipe to produce a natural red velvet layer cake.
I’ve done a lot of research into getting that bright red colour naturally. Beetroot powder instead of red food colouring and un-dutched cocoa powder instead of the usual alkalised type found more usually in the shops.
You see, this cake is all about chemistry. It’s the pH magic that’s created when the acid of the non-alkaline cocoa powder, the buttermilk and the vinegar are introduced to the bicarbonate of soda. As an aside, our local supermarket was out of buttermilk so I had to make my own. It’s really simple and a good tip to remember. Add a tablespoonful of white vinegar or lemon juice to a cup (235ml/8⅓fl oz) of milk, allow to stand for 5 minutes – there’s your home-made buttermilk!
The cake wasn’t the radioactive shade of red that you get when using food colouring. I think I’d add a little bit more beetroot powder next time to get a slightly redder shade however – my natural red velvet recipe is work in progress! Some people comment on an ‘earthy’ taste to their cake when using beetroot, but I can’t say I noticed any. A delicious taste was detected that’s for sure!
- 200g/7oz unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing
- 420g/15oz plain flour
- 75g/2¾oz cocoa powder
- 50g/1¾oz beetroot powder
- 375g/13oz golden caster sugar
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 1½tsp vanilla extract
- 335ml/11¾ fl oz buttermilk
- 1½tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1½tsp white distilled vinegar
- 75g/2¾oz unsalted butter, slightly softened
- 450g/1lb icing sugar
- 190g/6¾oz full-fat cream cheese, chilled
- 1tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas mark 4
- Grease 4 x 20cm sandwich tins and line with baking parchment
- Combine the flour, cocoa and beetroot powder in a large bowl and set aside
- In another large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together
- Slowly whisk in the beaten eggs, then the vanilla extract
- Start adding the flour mixture to the butter mixture in batches, whisking well but slowly after each addition
- Add the buttermilk and stir until smooth
- Working quickly, combine the bicarbonate of soda and vinegar in a small bowl, then fold it into the cake mixture
- Once incorporated, divide the batter between the prepared cake tins
- Bake for 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean
- Remove and cool slightly in the tin before turning out on to a wire rack to cool completely
- Trim the cakes so they're level
- Rub the butter into the icing sugar to resemble fine breadcrumbs
- Add the chilled cream cheese and beat until smooth
- Stir in the vanilla extract
- Fit a large piping bag with a plain nozzle and fill with the frosting
- Place the first cake on a cake stand or plate and pipe large pearls of frosting on the top, starting at the outside and working your way inwards
- Top with the next layer of cake and repeat until all the layers are lined up and the top is fully decorated with frosting
We’ve just about made our way through last week’s mammoth sourdough coffee chocolate cake. This week, Justin has requested another afternoon tea cake – so I’ve obliged with this Swedish almond cake… one of his favourite flavours!
I came across the loaf cake on the food blog, BakingBar. It’s a family recipe, passed down by David’s grandma.
I only made a couple of little tweaks to the original recipe; I omitted the ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon, added a sprinkling of flaked almonds and divided the batter into two, smaller loaf tins.
As they baked, the smell of almond wafted through the house – I could barely wait for them to be taken out of the oven before I was ready to slice and devour!
Do sit tight and be patient though, allowing the loaf to cool for half an hour or so really does make all the difference. Brew yourself a lovely cup of tea, cut a couple of slices, take a set, put your feet up and tuck in!
- 280g/10oz caster sugar
- 1 egg
- 160ml/5⅔ fl oz milk
- 1½tsp almond extract
- 150g/5¼oz plain flour
- 115g/4oz butter, melted
- ½tsp baking powder
- 30g/1oz flaked almonds
- Preheat the oven to 175ºC/ºF/Gas mark
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar and egg
- Beat in the milk a little at a time
- Beat in the almond extract
- In a separate, medium-sized mixing bowl sieve together the flour and baking powder
- Add the dry mixture to the wet and combine
- Fold the melted butter into the batter
- Pour the batter equally into two greased & lined 500g/18oz loaf tins
- Sprinkle the flaked almonds over the top of both
- Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes away clean
- Remove from the oven and allow the loaves to cool on their tins for 20 minutes
- Dredge with icing sugar, cut into slices and serve
As regular readers will know, I’m an ex-chef and remain a keen baker. Over the years, I’ve discovered which kitchen tools and appliances are vital and which ones lie neglected, collecting dust at the back of a cupboard.
With the help of Wayfair’s huge range of kitchenwares, I thought I’d share with you what I consider to be my baking essentials.
- Dihl 5.5L stand mixer – The workhorse of the kitchen, it’s a must for those jobs that require buckets of elbow grease; whipping up egg whites, mixing sponge batter and kneading bread dough.
- Premier Plus/Superior 9-piece knife block set – Every cutting job has its own particular knife. A long serrated one for slicing loaves of bread, a paring knife for peeling And a block or wall-mounted magnetic strip is essential for keeping them safe & sharp. Knives in drawers is not advised!
- 6-piece kitchen tool with holder set – We have a pot of bamboo spoons and spatulas beside the stove… crucial!
- Hans dough scraper – Not only does this scraper get your bread dough out of your mixer bowl with ease and no sticky fingers, it gets every last drop of batter into your cake tin.
- Original silicone brush – I find a silicone brush much better than a traditional one with bristles which tend to shed and end up sticking to the top of your pastry.
- Boxwood rolling pin (50.8cm) – When it comes to rolling pins, the longer the better. Too short, and your pastry ends up with lines and grooves all over it – causing you to over-roll and possibly overwork it. No one likes overworked pastry!
Tins, pans & racks
- 12-hole muffin pan – I’m not a big cupcake maker, but I’m very partial to muffins… chocolate, blueberry, apple & cinnamon… mmmm… This one’s non-stick, so you won’t need paper muffin cases. And don’t forget you need something to cook those Yorkshire puddings!
- Non-stick springform cake tin set – Every serious baker should have both round and square cake tins. Springform tins are the best, they’re so much easier to get delicate and sticky cakes out of – I don’t bake cheesecakes in anything else!
- 32.5cm non-stick rectangle baking sheet – I love home-made biscuits and cookies with my afternoon cup of tea. This is the best thing for cooking them on – ditto meringues, macarons and nut brittle. Like the rolling pin, the bigger the better. The more cookies you can get on your baking sheet, the quicker you can get the entire batched cooked off. Just make sure the one you buy isn’t too wide to fit into your oven!
- 27.94cm x 43.18cm cooling rack – If you’re going to be baking, you need somewhere for things to cool. If you leave a cake in the tin too long, it will get soggy or stick to the sides & bottom making it difficult to remove… and Mary Berry won’t like your soggy bottom!
- Baking and candy digital thermometer – If you make jam, jelly or fudge a thermometer is vital. You can judge by eye or consistency, but a thermometer removes the guess work.
- Zing digital kitchen scales – I’m rubbish at approximating weights and volumes. Yes, I kind of know the weight of a bag of sugar… or a pint of milk. Some people can just toss flour, sugar, eggs and butter into a bowl, stick it in the oven and presto, a melt-in-the-mouth sponge cake is magically produced. I however, need to create or follow a recipe to the gram. These particular digital scales are great for a number of reasons. Firstly, it has a function that allows you to weigh an ingredient and then zero the scale so you can add additional ingredients. Secondly, you can weigh as little as a gram and as much as 5 kilos – in gram increments. And lastly, they’re orange!
- Maison 4-piece metal measuring spoons set – A lot of the recipes I make I find on US food blogger websites. Their ingredients are invariably measured in cups and ‘sticks’ of butter. I used to spend AGES finding their metric equivalents. Now that I have measuring cups that’s a thing of the past. And, by the way, a stick of butter weighs 113 grams.
- Stainless steel 6-piece measuring spoon set – Do any of the teaspoons in your house actually hold exactly a teaspoon? How about your tablespoons? No, mine neither. A basic bit of kit for adding baking powder, bicarb, spices, cocoa, coffee, extracts, food colouring etc to your bakes.
- 2-hour kitchen timer – I NEVER put anything into the oven without switching on the kitchen timer. I have a memory like a goldfish. I get distracted by the slightest thing, and next thing I know there’s a burning smell coming from the stove-top or the oven. What I like about this one is that it counts down two hours. Lots of bread & cakes need a 1-hour+ bake.
- Alessi Twisted measuring jug – I love this measuring jug – it’s a jug with a ‘twist’! Instead of there being the usual gradation markings up the outside of the vessel, they’re on the inside… in a spiral… so you look down into the interior for a bird’s eye view of the volume. Brilliant!
- 2-piece glass mixing bowl set – I have lots of different sized mixing bowls depending on the job I’m doing. These glass mixing bowls get the thumbs up from me because they are perfect for bread making. You can keep an eye on how your prove is going without peering under the cover and, unlike most mixing bowls, they come with useful lids.
- Clip top 6-piece Kilner preserving jar set – I have clip-top Kilner jars in every size; from diddy ones that hold spices to jumbo ones that can hold a couple of packets of spaghetti. They’re so much easier to stack & store and look so much more attractive than a mish-mash of opened boxes, bags and packets.
- Coverblubber set – I go on all the time about hating waste. These coverblubbers are an ingenious invention. Not only do they cover part-used pieces of fruit & veg such as pineapple, melon, cucumber, onion and avocado; they can be stretched over bowls and jugs to store the food and drink within. Think of all the cling-film – and fruit & veg – you’d save over time!
- Cake stand – The only way to keep the cakes that you lovingly bake and ice is under a domed cake stand. We always have a home-made cake on the go; our cake stand has pride of place in the centre of the kitchen table.
- Bread storage bag – If you take the time & effort to bake bread, you don’t want to spoil your loaves & rolls by storing them in a plastic bag. This inner-coated fabric bag is designed to keep your bread fresher for longer.
- Pizza peel (35.99cm) – A pizza peel my be for sliding your home-made pizzas into a hot oven. However, I use it for getting all my breads into the oven with ease – especially the wetter dough ones such as ciabatta.
- Home made round loaf proving basket – I have a round basket (or banneton) and an oval one. I use the round one perhaps twice as much as the latter as I sometimes use it in conjunction with my Le Cloche. If you make sourdough bread, you need a proving basket.
- Marble chopping board (46cm) – The secret to rolling and kneading successful pastry and dough is having a cold work surface (and hands). A top tip is having a large expanse of marble to work upon.
- Cast iron baking stone – Ideal for cooking bread products both on the stove-top and in the oven. Crumpets, Welsh cakes, all manner of flat-breads, crepes & pancakes and pizzas.
And one last thing…
Textiles Union tea towels
Perhaps the most important of my baking essentials. I don’t know where I’d be without a pile of these! I use them for handling hot pans, covering proving bread, dusting down floury work surfaces, drying the washing up… oh, and putting out the occasional accidental fire!
What baking essentials could you not do without?