Wonderful Welsh cakes

Welsh  Cakes I don’t know what the weather has been like in your neck of the woods but after a glorious week of sunshine, it rained most of the weekend. Ideal weather for some baking (and eating)!  I keep a box in which I throw recipes I come across that are interesting and that I might want to try.  The other day I was rummaging through it and I found a handwritten recipe for Welsh cakes which was handed down to me by one of my former work colleagues.  She is Welsh and whenever she used to go to Wales for a visit her mother would make a batch of these babies for the office and that is how I discovered them.  Surprisingly I had never tried to make them so this weekend I got the flour, sugar and butter out and I gave it a go, much to the delight of my husband.

The best way to describe Welsh cakes is to say that they are the size of a cookie, but thicker and consistency wise they are in between a pancake and a scone.  Traditionally they contain spice (cinnamon or mixed spice) and raisins.  It is a very simple dough to make but what takes some time is baking them: they are cooked on a griddle (or in a pan if you don’t have a griddle).  They are not overly sweet; it is the powdered sugar at the end that gives them a sweet touch.

The recipe below makes 30 to 40 of them (depending on their size) and they keep a couple of days in an airtight container.

Ingredients

  • 500 grams of self raising flour
  • 80 grams of granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon (you can also use mixed spice)
  • 300 grams of butter
  • 1/4 of a teaspoon of salt
  • 150 grams of raisins
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons of milk (any kind – full fat, semi skimmed or skimmed)
  • 2 tablespoons of normal flour

Instructions

Welsh Cakes

  • Mix the self raising flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon together.
  • Cut 250 grams of butter into 1-2 cm squares.
  • Add the butter to the dry ingredients and use your hands to rub the flour and butter together until you get small crumbs. This is the same technique that is used to make crumble topping, but here you need to ensure that the crumbs are quite small.
  • Add the raisins and mix.
  • Crack open the egg in a small bowl and beat it slightly till the yolk and white is combined and then incorporate the egg into the dough.  At this point you will already notice that the dough will come together but it will need some additional moisture.
  • Of the two tablespoons of milk add one and work the dough some more, if the dough is still a bit too dry or not all the flour is incorporated, add the second tablespoon of milk.  At this point you’ll obtain a cookie like dough, which is slightly dry and will crack easily: don’t worry this is the way it should be.  Once the dough has come together, it is not necessary to knead it any further.
  • To make the roll out process easier, cut the dough in three equal parts.
  • Put some of the normal flour on a clean kitchen surface and put some on your rolling pin.  Roll out the dough until it is about 1 cm thick.
  • Take a cookie cutter and cut out shapes.  Repeat this until you have used all the dough.
  • Put a pan on medium heat and let a little bit of butter melt in the pan (like maybe 15 grams of butter).  Don’t use too much butter, the goal is merely to grease the pan and add some flavor to the cakes.
  • Once the butter is melted you put in a batch of Welsh cakes and fry/cook/bake them for 3 minutes each side.  You will see that after 3 minutes they will have a nice brown crust and then you flip them over.  Don’t be tempted to cook them longer as they will burn and turn out dry.  Ideally they should still be a bit moist in the center.  If you want to do a test run, you start out with one cake and see how it goes.
  • Let them cool down and then sprinkle with powdered sugar.

I hope you enjoy these cakes as much as we did.

Let’s eat!

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Crunchy apple tartelettes

Processed with MoldivI don’t think there is an original recipe for apple tart.  Everyone’s recipe is slightly different and has often been handed down to them by their mother or grandmother.  Depending on the choice of apple, the pastry and the flavorings (cinnamon, vanilla extract, lemon zest, hazelnut cream) the end result will vary.

I love to use puff pastry because of its crunch and when it comes to the apples I choose the sweetest variety on hand.  Making the pastry yourself is an option, but it is such a pain that I always use the store-bought version which works perfectly.  I love making small, almost cookie size, apple tartelettes as it accentuates the crunch of the pasty against its sweet filing.

Ingredients

For the compote:

  • 2 apples
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of water

For the tartelettes (makes about 10 tartelettes):

  • 2 sheets of store-bought puff pastry (about 230 grams per sheet, ready rolled out)
  • 4 sweet apples (I use Jona Gold apples)
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar per tartelette
  • 1 tablespoon of apricot jam
  • 1 teaspoon of water
  • 1 egg

Instructions

Compote

  • Peel, core and finely dice the two apples.
  • Take a large saucepan and add the apples, sugar, water and cinnamon.
  • Stir to combine all ingredients.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil and then turn it down to medium heat, let simmer for approximately 15 minutes, during this time the apples will soften and the liquid will thicken to a syrup like consistency.
  • Let the mixture cool down.
  • Blend the mixture till smooth.

Tartelettes

  • Peel the apples. Cut them in half and take out the core.  Then slice the apples (medium thickness) into half moon shapes.  If you notice that they are too big in comparison to the circles you’ve cut (see further) you can half them.  Take into account that as the apples will bake in the oven the slices will shrink slightly.
  • Take a sheet of puff pastry. Leave the second sheet in the fridge; it is easier to work with the pastry when it is cold.  Only take it out when you are going to make the tartelettes.
  • From each sheet of pastry, cut out 5 circles of 12 cm. I have a cookie cutter of this shape, if you don’t, you can use a small plate and cut around the plate.  The size might be a bit different, so you might not end up with 10 tartelettes.
  • On each circle of pastry spread out 1 tablespoon of compote, leave about a cm between the compote and the edge.
  • On top of this arrange the apple slices in a circle.
  • Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of sugar on the apples.
  • Roll up the edge of the pastry to ‘close up’ the apple tart to ensure it holds the filling. If you feel like it you can pinch the pastry all around so you get a nice shape.
  • Put the egg in a bowl and whisk it. With a small brush put some egg wash all around the edges of the folded puff pastry, this will ensure the pastry turns a nice golden color when it bakes.  For decorative purposes you can sprinkle some sugar on the egg wash (and even some toasted almond flakes for extra crunch).
  • Put them in a preheated oven of 150°C for about 45 minutes. It is important to bake the tartelettes slow so the apples cook all the way through.
  • Once the tartelettes are ready, take them out of the oven and let them cool down.
  • Mix the apricot jam and the water and brush a thin layer of this paste all over the tartelette (over the filling and the edges).  This will give it a nice shine.

If you prefer making the pie-size version of this apple tart, which takes less time and is as delicious, you just need one sheet of puff pastry and fill it with the compote and apples as per the instructions above.

Let’s eat!

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Sunshine in a ramekin …

crème brûlée I have not met anyone yet that does not like crème brûlée (and I probably don’t really want to).  The only struggle I have when making this dessert is the blowtorch part just before serving.  Not because it is difficult, but because I am the owner of a rubbish blowtorch which always results in a lot of swearing and a couple of burnt fingers.

There are lots of variations on this dessert, people seem to love to put all kinds of stuff in the cream (fruit, chocolate, I have even seen versions with chilly and ginger) however I like the classic version the best.

A lot of recipes require baking these babies in the oven in some kind of bath consisting out of a roasting tin filled with water.  Given my inert clumsiness I don’t follow this rule – it’s too complicated and I’ll either short-circuit my apartment building when the tin tips over in my oven or get loads of water in the crème brûlée.  I just put the ramekins in the oven at a very low temperature for about 1h30 and they turn out perfect every time.

Ingredients

  • 50 cl of cream
  • 75 grams of powdered sugar
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 100 gr of sugar

Instructions

  • Cut the vanilla pod in half and scrape out the vanilla seeds.
  • Pour half of the cream into a saucepan, add the vanilla seeds and the pod and heat up gently.  I use a heavy bottomed sauce pan to avoid the cream from heating up too quickly and burning.  Whatever you use, keep an eye on it and stir often!
  • Whisk together the powdered sugar and egg yolks until the mixture goes from yellow to a soft yellow, almost white-ish color.
  • Incorporate the cold cream into the sugar-egg mixture.
  • In the meantime the cream in the sauce pan should be hot, take it off the heat and let it cool down for 2 to 3 minutes.  The reason for the cool down is that if you would pour the hot cream directly into egg mixture this might result into curdling (= scrambled eggs).
  • Whilst whisking vigorously, pour the hot cream into the cold sugar, egg and cream mixture.
  • Now put the mixture in the fridge in order for it to cool down (about 2 hours).
  • Pour the liquid into ramekins, depending on the size this will make 4 to 6 portions.
  • Put them in a pre-heated oven of 100°C for 1h15 to 1h30 minutes.  They are done when the cream has set.
  • Transfer the ramekins to the fridge so they can cool down.
  • Just before serving sprinkle some sugar on top of the cream and with a blowtorch caramelize the sugar.  If you do not have a blowtorch you can use your oven grill.

I hope you enjoy it!

Let’s eat!

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Lemon blueberry loaf/cake

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I am not a huge cake fan – any kind of dessert involving cake or sponge does not really get me very excited.  I especially don’t like tier cakes, they look beautiful (well at least the ones other people make, mine tend to look like a toddler’s craft project) but the combo of cake and then very rich icing is too much of a good thing for me.

After having said all that, I did come across a recipe that looked interesting.  I was browsing through Julia’s blog (great blog by the way … have a look for yourself: juliasalbum.com) and saw she made a lemon and blueberry loaf.  My husband being a lemon-o-holic at home, I was sure he was going to like it.  You can find Julia’s recipe here.

I used frozen berries which worked perfectly – I defrosted them quickly in the microwave (just defrost them, don’t leave them too long in the microwave or they will turn to mush) and added them to the batter.  The other thing I changed was I doubled the lemon glaze quantity because I did two rounds of drizzling to make sure there was a nice thick layer of glaze on top of it – I like sugar, what can I say?

The cake/loaf has the consistency of a muffin, which for a cake hater like me is great.  I was really delicious.

Ingredients

Loaf/cake

  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Lemon glaze:
  • 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup powdered sugar

Instructions

Loaf/cake

  • Preheat oven to 175 degrees C.
  • Butter an 8×4 inch loaf pan, line the bottom and two sides of the pan with the parchment paper.
  • In a mixing bowl, beat together butter, 1 cup sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract.
  • In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt; stir into egg mixture alternately with milk.
  • In the same bowl where you combined flour, add blueberries and toss them in 2 tablespoons of flour. This will help prevent blueberries from sinking.
  • Fold in lemon zest, and blueberries into the batter. Do it carefully and fast. Pour batter into prepared pan.
  • Bake in preheated oven for about 50-60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool bread in pan for 40 minutes on a wire rack. Release the bread from the pan.

Lemon glaze

  • Combine freshly squeezed lemon juice and powdered sugar in a small bowl and beat, using electrical mixer, until smooth glaze forms .
  • Drizzle the top of the bread (after it’s been completely cooled) with the glaze. Some of the glaze will go down the sides of the bread.

Let’s eat!

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Lebanese spice patatoes (batata harra)

batata harra (2)Having a Lebanese husband I need to indulge him now and then with a home cooked Lebanese meal.  Something that is always part of these meals (and always a hit) is batata harra, which are spicy Lebanese fried potatoes.  It is a simple dish but very delicious – you can make it ahead and reheat it, great for leftovers.  Reheating anything fried probably does not sound like something you would associate with the term delicious, but here it works.  The coriander gives it a wonderful, almost lemony, taste which I love.

Ingredients:

  • 1kg of potatoes (you can use any kind of potato – I like using new baby potatoes)
  • oil for frying the potatoes (any flavorless oil, for example sunflower or peanut oil)
  • 1 medium hot chili pepper
  • 4 spring onions
  • a large bunch of fresh coriander (about 40 grams, stalks and all)
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of salt

Instructions:

  • Wash the potatoes.
  • Cut the potatoes in bite size chunks, no need to remove the skin.
  • Fry the potatoes but do not fry them till they are crispy, they work best in this dish when they are still a bit soft.  Once fried, put them to the side.
  • Cut the chili pepper very finely, if you like it hot leave in the seeds, if you don’t take them out.
  • Cut the coriander very finely, stalks and all.
  • Slice the spring onions finely.
  • Fry the chili, coriander and spring onions in a generous amount of olive oil (2 to 3 tablespoons).  Add the salt.  Once the chili and spring onion are soft, the coriander should be ready as well and a lovely smell should come from your pan.  I prefer doing this in a wok, I am a messy cook and once the potatoes get added using a wok prevents everything from flipping out of the pan and making a mess in the kitchen.
  • Add the fried potatoes and mix them in with the fried chili/coriander/spring onion mix.

If you like lemon, just before serving you can put a generous squirt of lemon on it.

Let’s eat!

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Bloglovin site & app

bloglovin

I am struggling to keep up with all of the blogs that I like to read and I’ve looked around to find sites or tools that will gather posts from different blogs and so far the best one I found is bloglovin.  There is the site (bloglovin.com) or you can download the app in the itunes store, either way you get a nice overview of all new posts of your favorite blogs.  I really enjoy using it and reading on it.

You should give it a try!

Carlos

Let’s talk about buns …

In a desperate attempt at avoiding supermarket burger buns that taste like cotton balls, I started looking for a good recipe to make them myself.  The ‘All Recipes’ website has a great recipe for burger buns that I slightly adjusted based on the comments that had been left with the recipe and my own attempts.  They are simple to make, just take into account however that there is a good two hours of rising needed to make the dough light – firm buns are only delicious when they are attached to a man.

Burger buns

The ingredients are as follows:

– 235 ml milk

– 120 ml water

– 55 g butter

– 560 g all-purpose flour

– 10 g instant yeast

– 25 g white sugar

– 9 g salt

– 2 eggs (1 for dough, one for egg wash)

– sesame seeds

Start with heating the milk, water and butter together (don’t boil them, just heat them through), this can be done in a sauce pan on the stove or in the microwave.

Mix yeast, sugar, salt and half of the flour with the milk/water/butter mixture and one egg.

Beat the mixture until smooth.

Put in the remaining flour, one cup at a time, beating in between each addition.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead the dough until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes).

Heat the oven to 40 degrees C and put the dough into an oil greased bowl covered with a damp towel and let rise for an hour.  The dough should about double in size.

After an hour, turn down the oven, take the dough out of the oven and out of the bowl.  Divide the dough into 12 pieces and put them on a tray and back in the oven for another hour of rising.  Try not to handle the dough too much, leave it as is, otherwise the buns will turn out too dense.  The oven is turned of to avoid the dough from drying out.  Also don’t put a towel or cling film on them because it will stick to the buns and ruin them.

After an hour take them out of the oven, brush the top with the egg wash and sprinkle some sesame seeds on top of the buns.

Preheat the oven at 200 degrees C and then bake for 10 to 15 minutes until golden brown.

Enjoy!

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Chocolate strawberries

I don’t like fruit … unless it is covered in sugar or cream.

A couple of weeks ago I saw these strawberries on Pinterest with a chocolate base and some kind of cream filling which immediately sent my fat genes into crazy mode.  I attempted to recreate them, using white chocolate mousse for the filling.  They are so good and look very pretty!  The additional bonus is that you have the impression you’re only being semi-naughty because there is actually fruit involved and this will count for one of your five a day.

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To make 10 of these babies you will need:

– 10 firm large strawberries (slightly under-ripe)

– 120 gr of good milk chocolate

– 100 gr of cheap white chocolate (cheap variety seems to work the best)

– 100 gr of double cream

– 1/2 the egg white of 1 egg

Cut off the top and the bottom of the strawberry  (just enough so the strawberry can stand).

Empty out a bit of the inside of the strawberry with a spoon or a knife.  If like me you have two left hands, you can just leave it like it is, it will still be delicious.

Melt the milk chocolate either in the microwave or by putting the chocolate in a bowl on top of a pan with boiling water (in fancy cookery this would be “au bain marie”).  Poor the melted chocolate into a small cup or bowl big enough to dip in the bottom of your strawberry (I used a teacup). Let the chocolate drip off the strawberry and then put them on parchment or baking paper to cool down.

Then sit down, you’ve deserved a little break, take a spoon and lap up whatever is left of the melted milk chocolate.

For the chocolate mousse start by adding the egg white to the cream and whip it up.  Melt the white chocolate, let it cool down a bit and then fold it into the cream.  If you would add the hot chocolate into the cream mixture it might curdle.  Put the mousse into a piping bag and put it in the fridge for a good two hours to firm up.  Finally pipe white chocolate rosettes on top of the strawberries and that’s it, they are ready to be devoured!

Then you can either eat them all immediately (like I did, bravo for me and my waist line) or you put them back in the fridge were they’ll keep at least for a day or so.

strawberry

Enjoy!

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Baked Camembert

For work I go to Paris regularly and one of the restaurants I love going to is situated in the heart of Versailles: L’Aparthé (1 bis, rue Sainte Geneviève 78000 Versailles) has got a quirky interior and tasty unpretentious food.  It’s here I discovered the delight that is baked camembert.

aparthe-3 (1)

You start by taking the cheese out of its rapper, cutting of the top crust/rind and popping it back in its wooden container.

You can put it in the oven just like this, but it is best to season it somewhat.  Camembert at room temperature is quite fragrant and has a distinctive taste, however when it gets baked part of that taste disappears, so you need to add some flavoring agents.  Simply press some finely sliced garlic (1 clove) into the soft cheese and sprinkle some herbes de Provence on it.  If you don’t have herbes de Provence sprinkle some thyme or rosemary (or both) on it.  That should do the trick.  In order to let the cheese absorb all the aroma’s add the garlic and herbs a good hour before baking the cheese, it makes a big difference.

Before putting it in the oven I like to add a teaspoon of wine or truffle oil on the hard cheese, it adds taste but most importantly it makes the cheese nice and runny once it is baked.  Just pop it in a preheated oven of 180 degrees C for 15 to 20 minutes and in the meanwhile toast some slices of bread and you’re ready to go.

camembert

One last tip: it is always best to put the wooden container in some kind of oven proof dish, if the heat would split the container, you risk ending up with a terrible mess in your oven.

Enjoy!

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Lemon Meringue Pie

I am not much of a cake maker – don’t get me wrong – I love desserts, I have a larger then average waistline to show for it, but I have discovered that any dessert involving cake or sponge is not something I can pull of.  My cake attempts often resemble a toddlers craft project and taste like old shoes covered in icing.

A couple of weeks ago I had a lemon pie from our local bakery and it was so delicious that it got me browsing for some ‘lemony’ desserts.  I ended up on the sortedfood.com website where the boys showed how to make a lemon meringue.  It might not sound possible, but I found their version a bit to rich and sweet, it involved a digestive biscuit base and an unbaked meringue topping, all loaded with sugar.  Too much of a good thing.

lemon meringue pie

I finally ended up on the Good Food website of the BBC and tried the ‘ultimate’ meringue pie recipe, the name did not disappoint.   Baked meringue that through the use of corn starch remains chewy on the inside, and lemon curd with a balanced tang as part orange juice is used to take the edge of.  Definitely worth a try!  Check out the recipe on the BBC Good Food website: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/3482/ultimate-lemon-meringue-pie.

Enjoy!

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