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Danish pastry

Ta da! Finally… A day late in posting – June’s Daring Baker challenge to make a Danish Braid. And what a delicious challenge it was :-)

My tiny recipe tweaks included:

- nearly an extra cup of flour to get the dough to a kneadable consistency

- using a pear and raisin filling instead of apple

Pear-cinnamon-raisin filling in the danish pastry
It worked beautifully - I was happy with my results as a first-timer on this sort of pastry. I particularly liked the the feel of the dough under my hands, gradually getting softer and more velvety-gorgeous as it absorbed the butter with each ‘turn and roll’. A very therapeutic activity for a Sunday afternoon.

Tastewise, it was a big hit as well (to take these photos, I had to fend off Mr B. before he chomped the lot). Not at all yeasty, which was something I was slightly worried about at the beginning of this challenge. The only thing that I wish I’d done differently was keep a better eye on the oven, as the braid came out a lot darker that I would have liked - and that’s hardly the recipe’s fault! A year after getting our oven and I still forget that it gets super-hot…

This month’s challenge definitely pushed me outside my shortcrust comfort zone and I’d like to try more variations on this recipe – if I can get myself organised, that is! In fact, at the excellent suggestion of Rachel, I’ve stashed the other half of the dough in the freezer for croissants next weekend. And Lorrie made cinnamon rolls with her leftovers… Oooh – it’s all very tempting!

Thanks to Kelly of Sass & Veracity and Ben of What’s Cooking? for a memorable challenge! For the full recipe, plus handy ‘as you go’ photos, here’s Kelly’s excellent post. Now, check out the rest of the DB gang on the blogroll. It never ceases to amaze me how we can all make the one recipe with such different and wonderful results :-)

danish pastry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Very nearly there… Just a two-hour rise in the airing cupboard and then into the oven.

… and I have a yummy pear-cinnamon-raisin filling cooling on the side.

So there will be a post about this month’s Daring Baker challenge some time in the next 24 hours!

Planning – not my strong point. But I am enjoying this recipe challenge a lot and have my fingers crossed for a good result.

In the meantime, check out all the other delicious offerings at the DB blogroll.

chocolate raisin cake with chocolate ganache

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three words: Giant. Chocolate. Raisin.

Oh boy.

How about two more? Chocolate. Ganache. (OK, I know I’ve already said ‘chocolate’ but I’m highly excited and prone to repeating things.)

Oh boy, oh boy.

That description – minus the ‘oh boys’ - is how Julie Le Clerc grabbed my attention. Chocolate raisins were one of my favourite sweets when I was a young ‘un and I’m a sucker for a good line of copy. (Julie’s exact words being, ‘Believe it or not, these little cakes actually taste exactly like a giant chocolate raisin!’. Come on – that’s someone throwing down the gauntlet if ever I heard it.)

The result is tooth-achingly sweet, more like a giant squishy brownie or a chocolate fondant that’s been allowed to cool down and slathered with more chocolately wonderful-ness. Stuffed with raisins.

Just don’t do what I did and get so excited by the prospect of all your raisin-chocolate dreams coming true that you forget to line the muffin pan and then find that you can only prise two of the little buggers out in one piece.

How many times have I said ‘chocolate’ and ‘raisin’ in this post? That’ll be all the sugar then…

Little chocolate raisin cakes from Simple Café Food by Julie Le Clerc  

Makes 6

For the cakes:

125g unsalted butter
200g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
1 cup caster sugar
½ cup raisins, chopped
4 large eggs, beaten
1½ tablespoons plain flour
½ cup chocolate raisins (optional but fun)

For the ganache:

½ cup dark chocolate, chopped
½ cup cream

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Line 6 extra large muffin tins with circles of non-stick baking paper and grease well.

2. In a saucepan, gently melt the butter and chocolate, add the sugar and stir to dissolve, then add the raisins. Take off the heat, allow to cool a little and then carefully add the beaten eggs and finally the flour.

3. Pour into the prepared tins and bake for 20 minutes. The cakes should still be slightly soft in the middle.

4. Cool slightly before carefully removing from the tins. Serve topped with chocolate ganache…

5. Gently melt the chocolate and cream in a double boiler. Stir to form a thick sauce. Allow to cool and thicken then spoon mounds onto each little cake.
  

strawberry tart

My kitchen smelled like strawberry jam after making this tart. Who wouldn’t like that? That’s almost as good as eating it – being surrounded by the perfume of warm, jammy summer fruit as it slowly cooks to oozy deliciousness in the oven.

The only thing that went a leetle bit wonky was the fact that the cut-up fruit leaked a lot of juice while cooking in the oven, meaning that the pieces starting swimming out of the lovely concentric circles I’d spend ages carefully putting them into.

Strawberry tart - uncooked

Still tasted great though…

Strawberry galette from Martha Stewart Living Magazine (no. 174)

Serves 6 to 8 people

You’ll need:

For the dough:

2½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the surface
1 1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
8 oz (1 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup plus two tablespoons ice water

For the galette:

1 pound strawberries, hulled
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into smaller pieces

1. Pulse the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture forms coarse crumbs. Add ice water and pulse until just combined (the dough will still be crumbly). Shape dough into a disk, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for at least one hour (or overnight).

2. Preheat the oven to 180C/ 350F/ gas Mark 4. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to a 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out a 10-inch round and transfer to a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

3. Cut the strawberries lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Reserve end pieces for another use.* Toss slices with 1/4 cup of sugar and the cornstarch and immediately arrange them in concentric circles on the dough. Start 1 inch from the edge, overlapping slices slightly. Fold the edge of the dough over the fruit. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

4. Whisk together the egg yolk and water. Brush the dough with the egg wash and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar. Dot berries with the butter. Bake until the crust is golden brown – 40 to 45 minutes.

5. Transfer to a serving plate and serve warm with cream or icecream.

Cook’s notes

* Leftover strawberries ends – I snarfed some immediately and added the rest to a smoothie.

I had a lot of leftover pastry, so I’ve frozen it for another time, but you could make some mini-galettes with the strawberry ends and other summer fruits.

The dough was a little thick for me, but I guess it’s supposed to be quite a robust tart.   

Martha suggested pairing this up with a basil cream but I’ve got strong memories of a truly sick-making basil icecream I tried in a restaurant a while ago, so that was a total non-starter.

I keep wanting to write a larger piece about Martha but my brain is noodled at the moment.

Lemony lentil salad

After all the sweet shenanigans of my last post, I need something savoury to to bring my tastebuds back into balance (and maybe my waistline too ;-) ).

Although, considering that there are two lemons, a tablespoon of capers and a healthy dose of chopped onion in this earthy salad, you might think I’ve gone too far in the other direction… However, it mellows down a bit after a night in the fridge and the flavours mingle to produce something that’s not quite as mouth-puckeringly tart but still definitely satisfies all my savoury leanings.

Happily, it’s also turned out to be an easy-and-versatile little number – which guarantees both a place in my heart and my regular repetoire. So far we’ve served it warm with baked trout for dinner and I’ve taken the leftovers in to work for lunch as part of a salad, layered up with veggies and some salty feta to top it off. Now that’s savoury and no mistake.

When the weather gets colder (not yet! not yet!) I’m thinking it would go well with roasted veggies, or act nicely as a sharp foil against the creaminess of a cheesy potato bake. In fact, you could dollop it on the side of just about anything you care to think of. Maybe just scoop it out straight of the bowl with a hunk of crusty bread to mop up the dressing…

This recipe is my entry for the June edition of No Croutons Required, hosted by Lisa’s Vegetarian Kitchen. The latest challenge was to produce a soup or salad based on legumes/pulses – always handy to have as part of a healthier lifestyle, so I can’t wait to see what everyone else comes up with :-)   

Lemony lentil salad from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman.

Serves 4

You’ll need:

1 cup lentils, sorted and rinsed (preferably something like Puy or Beluga lentils, ones that will hold their shape well)
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 lemons
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon capers
1/4 cup minced fresh chives, shallot or red onion
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Put the lentils in a medium pot and cover with water by 1 inch. Add the bay leaf and the garlic, and bring to a boil. Cover and lower the heat so that the lentils bubble gently. Cook until just tender but not burst – 20 to 30 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure there is always enough water at the bottom of the pan to keep the lentils from burning.

2. Squeeze the juice from one of the lemons into a large bowl. Peel the other lemon and chop the segments roughly into smaller pieces, taking care to remove the seeds. Add the segments to the bowl along with the olive oil, capers and minced onion. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, and stir.

3. Drain whatever water remains from the lentils and stir into the dressing while hot. Let the salad rest, stirring occasionally to distribute the dressing, until it cools down a bit. Taste and adjust the seasoning and serve warm or refridgerate for up to several days.

Interesting alternative: Bittman suggests using two tangerines instead of the lemons. Will be trying that version out as soon as the current batch is used up. Which will be very soon at this rate :-)

Lemony lentil salad

Lake Garda

So we’re back home again - happy, rested and, of course, extremely well fed after two weeks in Italy! (One week in Rome and one near to Lake Garda.)

But I didn’t forget my promise to Mooch that I’d take a few photos along the way…

gelati

Icecream from Rome :-) Knock-out melon and chocolate-orange flavours from Crema & Cioccolato in the Jewish Quarter, modelled by the always-patient Mr B.

Patient, that is, right up to the point he started getting icecream all over his jeans.

More icecream – from the San Crispino Gelaterie, near the Trevi Fountain. Top to bottom: banana, lemon, caramel and hazlenut flavours…

more icecream - from San Crispino

Er, even more icecream – from La Dolce Vita in Malcesine, Lake Garda:
 
Icecream from Malcesine

Just for the Caked Crusader, a midnight feast of pastries from Trastevere:

Pastries from Trastevere

And some mini doughnuts filled with apricot jam, from Riva:

apricot doughnuts from Riva

Last, but very definitely not least, foccacia topped with onions, from the same bakery in Riva. My favourite food from the trip and something I’m going to have to play around with in my kitchen very, very soon…

foccacia topped with onions

Now, off to find out what the rest of the blogosphere has been up to whilst I’ve been away. Something about a referendum?

‘Jenny’, says my niece, Mooch, her brow wrinkled with deep, deep concern. This is clearly going to be a conversation of the greatest importance. You know how it is when you’re seven years old. 

‘Yes?’

‘There is one thing you really must remember to take with you on holiday.’

I silently run through the list in my head but can’t think of anything special I’ve missed.

‘Er, what’s that then?’

‘Your camera. So you can take lots of pictures of icecream.’

Oh. Well then. Mooch’s wish is my command.

Back in two weeks’ time with as many pictures of icecream as I can cram in :-)

Hello

I'm short of stature (a family trait) but big of appetite (also a family trait). If you're reading this then you're probably big of appetite too. Or a member of my family (hello Mum).
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