Sunday, 23 October 2011

An autumn project

I've just been asked to join an allotment plot near my home. Basically, allotment is a plot of land which can be rented to grow vegetables and fruits. Allotment had grown so popular in UK that waiting list to get one may be subjected to at least 2 years on the waiting list. Due to the fact that my garden at home is dedicated to beautiful plants, there leave not much space for growing edible vegetables and fruits. The yearly rental are almost neglible, imagine £5 for 100m2 plot. Of course the plot is not in it tip top condition as previous tenants left it in dire state laden with perennial weeds and crouch grass. So over the sunny weekend, making use of the best of autumn weather I went digging in my plot. As I am not a keen user of chemical weed killer, I will only use eco friendly method - dig in and eradicate the weeds. Yes hardwork indeed but I believe it will be lovely come next  summer - enjoying fresh produce from allotment and try to be self sustaining if possible. I met a few allotmenteers there and they seem to be very helpful and giving encouragement for a newbie like me. 
Clearing half of my plot

Two weeks ago, a friend of mine gave me a bag of fresh sweet chestnut. Instead of just roasting and boiling and eating them, I thought I could give a try on Mont Blanc desserts. Well-I believe after you have seen the picture of my Mont Blanc, many will advise me to go for classes to improve on my cream piping skill. My excuse will be, I don't have the right tools but at least I make an effort to do everything from scratch...... :-)

Mont Blanc-I need more praticing on piping the chestnut puree

Mont Blanc
Ingredients (make 7 pieces)

Genoese Sponge Cake

Genoese Sponge Cake
  • 3 eggs
  • 75 g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 65 g plain flour
  • 1 tbsp corn flour
  • 40 g butter, melted and cooled
  1. Set the oven to 180C. Grease and base a cake tin (8 inch square tin). 
  2. Place the eggs, essence vanilla and sugar in a heatproof bowl and set over large saucepan of hot water. Whisk until very thick and pale, and firm enough to leave a ribbon trail. This will take 6-7mins using electric mixer at medium speed. Remove from the heat and continue whisking until cool.
  3. Sift the flour and corn flour together. Gradually fold half into the whisked mixture using large metal spoon.
  4. Gradually fold in the melted butter alternately with the remaining flour mixture, using as light touch as possible or the cake will sink and the cake will be heavy.
  5. Pour into tin and bake for about 25-30mins. The cake should be well risen, firm to the touch and just beginning to shrink away from the sides of the tin.
  6. Leave to cool in the tin for about 3 minutes, then turn out on a wire rack to cool completely.
  7. Cut the cake into round shape
  8. Use a ring cutter to cut the cake into round shape. 

Tips: Genoese sponge is a very light sponge that keeps well, providing a good base for decorated special occasion cake. Add the butter very gradually in a slow thin trickle to avoid making the cake heavy.

Homemade chestnut puree

Chestnut Puree
  • 350 gm peeled chestnut
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • enough water to cover the chestnut
  1. In a small pot, place the chestnut, sugar and enough water to cover them.
  2. Cook over medium heat for around 20mins until soft.
  3. Drain and keep the sugary water.
  4. Put the chestnut into a food processor and pour in half of the sugary water and blend until it resembles puree. 
  5. You can pass through the puree through a seive if you desire a really smooth consistency but I must warn you, it's not an easy task. I would rather divide into small portion and mash any remaining bits. 
  6. Set aside for assembling.

Chestnut Cream
Chestnut cream
  • 3/4 cup of double cream
  • 1 tbsp of icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp chestnut puree from above
  • 1 tbsp rum/brandy
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  1. Put the mixing bowl in fridge to cool it first for 30minutes. This helps during the whisking stage.
  2. Bring out the mixing bowl, pour in the cream and icing sugar and whisk.
  3. Whisk until there is ribbon consistency, add in brandy/rum, chestnut puree and vanilla essence.
  4. Continue to whisk for 2 minutes on medium speed until firm. Do not over whisk as the cream will curdle.
  5. Then assemble the cake. Pipe the chestnut cream onto the cake. Repeat until done. Then pipe the puree over the cream using spaghetti tip piping(I need to find this tip). 

I went over to friend for lunch and contributed this little piece of delights.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Mini Summer Fruit Tarts with Creme Patisserie

How time flies, it's officially October now. At least I'm still enjoying the warm weather here, it's been a very sunny and warm (26-29C) week, so make the best of it. Very unusual really for this time of the year.

I had been busy (quoted : enjoying it ) throughout this summer, been going places, doing London to Cambridge cycle ride, a number of social occasions-BBQ, punting, etc, and highlight being able to meet up with Ann & Tim over in London.

I'm back here again to give some TLC to my desserted blog [sincere apology to my readers] . Where to start..... of course it'll be about food. I baked some mini summer fruit tarts yesterday to bring to work for a good cause - The Big Coffee Morning in support of the MacMillan Cancer Support fundraising event. I am happy that I put my baking skill for a good cause.

Mini Summer Fruit Tarts

Ingredients (makes around 15-16 tarts)

Pate Sucree (Sweet pastry)

  • 175 gm cake flour

  • 75 gm ground almond

  • 100 gm butter

  • 75 gm icing sugar

  • pinch of salt

  • 2 egg yolks

Creme Patisserie

  • 300 ml of milk

  • 3 large egg yolks

  • 50 gm sugar

  • 2 tbsp flour

  • 2 tbsp corn flour

  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

  1. For the pate sucree, in a mixing bowl sieve the flour and icing sugar, then add in ground almond and salt. Rub in the butter with flour until it resembles bread crumb.

  2. Whisk the yolk lightly and slowly add into the dry mixtures. Use a spoon to roughly mix. Form the dough using the cling film method.

  3. On a work surface, lay it with cling film ( roughly about 40cm x 30cm ) . Then pour (2) onto the cling film, then wrap the cling film around it to form a dough ball. Then put into the fridge and let it rest for 1-2hrs. Meanwhile you can prepare creme patisserie.

  4. Beat in 3 egg yolks and sugar into a heat proof dish. Whisk the yolk and sugar together, then slowly add in the flour and corn flour to form a paste, then add in the vanilla essence. Meanwhile heat the milk just until it start to foam, then slowly add in the milk to egg mixture and continue to whisk.

  5. Then cook this mixture over low heat, take care to continue whisking all the time. The liquids will start to thickens, off the heat once the consistency you desired is achieved.

  6. Let it to cool. to ensure there are no thick layers form on the surface, drop in just a bit of butter on the surface, and use a cling film to cover the surface. This creme patisserie can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days.

  7. Now back to pate sucree. Lightly oil the muffin baking tray. Take out the dough from fridge. Unseal the cling film wrap, use another cling film to cover the top of the dough. use a rolling pin and roll the dough to about 3mm thickness. If the dough is soft due to heat from surrounding, put it back to fridge to let it set for anothe half an hour, so that it'll be easier to cut and shape later on.

  8. Use a 3inch round cutter, cut the pastry and place it onto the individual muffin baking cup. Shape nicely the tart in the cup. Continue until done. Use a fork to poke holes on the bottom of the tart. It is very important to bake blind the pastry. Basically I warp small pouches of uncooked rice/bean in cling film and fill the hole in each tart. This will ensure the baked tart retain it shape during baking and baked evenly. You can put the tart into the fridge to rest for another 20minutes. Meanwhile heat the oven to 180C.

  9. Bake for around 12-15mins until golden brown. Remove from oven and let it cool. Once cool the tart cases can be removed easily from the muffin tin. To serve fill the tart with a tbsp of creme patisserie and top with fruits-strawberry, kiwis, raspberry, blueberries, mangoes, peaches...the choice is endless :-). You can glaze the fruits with light sugary syrup(this is optional)

As long as baking is done with ingredients of joy and love, any tarts will turn out lovely. :-)