Sunday, 29 January 2012

Banana Oat Muffins

I’m never very inspired to eat breakfast. No matter how much I hear that it is good for you, that it is bad for your health to skip it, that it gets your metabolism going…something in me would really just prefer that extra ten minutes sleep. My morning routine is often pretty rushed and breakfast is the thing I always skip – making an exception at the weekends for toast. Its not just a time issue, I’m rarely hungry at that time of day and standard breakfast options – cereal, bread, yoghurt – fail to motivate me. This recipe, however, might be just the thing to make me change my ways.DSC_0953My sweet tooth means that I can pretty much cope with something sweet any time of day. These banana muffins make me feel like I’m eating cake for breakfast, but in reality I’m safe in the knowledge that the muffins contain fruit, oats, wholemeal flour and no butter. All the more reason to have another one then…DSC_0944These were super simple to make. It’s a classic muffin recipe in that you mix all the dry ingredients in one bowl, all the wet in another and then you introduce the two bowls  to each other and mix everything together! Gathering all the ingredients from around your kitchen probably takes as long as making the muffin mixture itself. One tip: I forgot to mash the bananas before adding them to the wet mixture (smooth one, excuse the pun) so I used a hand stick blender to whizz  them and all the wet ingredients together and it worked really well. The full batch of twelve muffins costs just pennies to make as well, so there’s no excuse not to give them a go.DSC_0950The results were a really moist muffin with a crisp topping, full of banana flavour, some extra sweetness from an icing sugar covering – quite moreish! The recipe was from English Mum’s blog here – enjoy :)

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Roasted Pineapple, Coconut Meringue and Cointreau Cream

January is always a tricky month. It’s that after Christmas feeling, the broken new year resolutions, the rain and the freezing cold, the return to work and school. Citrus bakes seem to dominate the blogosphere at the beginning of the year as people use fresh flavours and bright colours to forget about the grey outside. The vitamins and zing of fruit desserts also fit into the spirit of January detox that some crazy people undertake. Today I stuck with the fruit theme, but used tropical pineapple to transport me away from the London grey to a Caribbean island beach far away._DSC0866This dish really did transport me far far away. The meringue was delicious with a marshamallowy centre and packed full of coconut flavour. The pineapple was sticky and caramelised, strongly spiced with cinnamon and mixed spice. The spices also added some warmth to the dish, which works really well for this time of year. The Cointreau cream added more tropical flavour and toned down the bite of the spice in the pineapple. The black sesame seeds added unexpected nutty crunch and contrasted with the colours of the rest of the dish. Perfect!_DSC0861The dish was also really easy to make, so I think it would make a really pretty summer dinner party dessert. I made the meringue and the pineapple the day before, then whipped the cream and assembled the meringue right before eating. I halved the recipe so it was just a two-egg white meringue (it worked perfectly) that made four meringues, but I kept the full quantities of pineapple and cream. I loved the roasted pineapple and that alone with its sweet caramel spiced sauce would be a gorgeous breakfast treat once the meringues are finished. If you’re feeling a January low, or even if not, I would truly recommend this sunny sweet dessert – find the recipe here. Trust me, it will make you smile. Enjoy :) _DSC0862

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Galette des Rois

When I was 11, I had to take an exam to get into the secondary school all my friends and I wanted to go to. There was one section about religion, including the question ‘What is the Christian holiday on January 6th?’ that neither my best friend or I knew. After the exam we were so upset as our parents told us straight away it was Epiphany and we thought we’d never be able to get into this school. Luckily we both did, but never again will either of us forget Epiphany! I’m especially pleased I found out about it as it gives me an opportunity to bake traditional Epiphany desserts, like this Galette des Rois._DSC0878A Galette des Rois is made up of an almond frangipane filling encased in puff pastry. I saw a lot of variations on the original – some included sliced pears in the middle, some used chocolate puff pastry, some frangipanes had added flavours such as rose extract. I chose to stick to the original, despite how tasty the variations sounded, because it was the first time I’d ever made one. It’s traditional to hide a little trinket or bean in the filling which I duly did and found in my lunchbox slice the next day!_DSC0877Unfortunately I forgot to take photos of a slice of the galette, but the swirls on top look so pretty it hopefully doesn’t matter too much. I used a Raymond Blanc recipe, and it worked quite well although some of the almond filling exploded out one side of the galette. I’m not sure whether this was due to the texture of the filling (was it too liquid?) or just that I didn’t close the puff pastry edges enough, but the exploded filling still baked up nicely on the tray and just meant there was quite a thin layer in the centre. I also added extra ground almonds and almond extract to boost the flavour and firm it up a bit. Overall, it was a really lovely and relatively simple dish. It’s best straight out the oven as that is when the puff pastry is crispest and I think it would make a delicious and simple dinner party dessert any time of the year. Enjoy!

Sunday, 8 January 2012

William Curley Chocolate Tarts

I wanted to welcome in the new year on the blog in style, and what better way to do that than with a decadent chocolate feast? We’re talking chocolate sponge cake, chocolate orange ganache and quality chocolate glasage. All topped off with, wait for it, silver glitter. Who said January had to be the month of diets and detox? If this is how the rest of 2012 is going to be then I’m definitely looking forward to it!DSCF8910One of my favourite Christmas presents this year was undoubtedly chocolatier William Curley’s debut book, Couture Chocolate. William Curley has two chocolate shops in London, one of which I’ve been to, and all his work looks so perfect. One of my foodie new year resolutions this year was to stretch myself in my baking and I know this book will help me do that. It has so many new ideas and techniques for me, with the majority of recipes having multiple components and steps. They’re the kind of recipe that require at least one whole spare day to complete – especially if you’re me! – but it’s a challenge I’m looking forward to with several more recipes bookmarked. The only issue will be spreading out these chocolate adventures so my whole family does not balloon in weight!DSCF8912I had a difficult time choosing my first recipe. One problem with this book is that the recipes make large amounts – 80 truffles, a cake serving 16 – so I had to choose something more suitable for my family of 3-4. I was baking these for New Year, so there would be a few extra mouths to feed on this occasion, but also more likes and dislikes to be aware of. No coconut, no caramel, no toffee, no nuts – my options were drastically reducing. I was also wary of choosing one of the extremely complicated recipes as I wanted to start gently. In the end I went for the chocolate tarts – multi component but each one manageable. DSCF8922You can just about see the layers here – pastry, ganache, sponge disk, more ganache, glasage (like a thinner ganache, containing liquid glucose). 

I used a different pastry recipe (there were ground almonds in the books recipe and I had a nut allergy to cater for) and that was actually where I had all my problems. The tarts took me most of the day and tons of washing up, but was finished just as my friends arrived. The results? Largely worth it. They aren’t anywhere near as beautiful as William’s, and my glasage sadly lacks shine but it was very satisfying to be finally finished. The tarts were rich, indulgent and a nice sparkly New Year treat. But…I’m not sure they were wildly better than this or this, especially considering the amount of work, and I’m not sure what the glasage added. It’s not the recipes fault, just my bad choosing and it certainly hasn’t put me off making more from this book, but it is something to bear in mind. The recipe is very long and complicated so I’d feel bad reproducing it here, but I’d definitely recommend the book or you could easily form your own with pastry, sponge and ganache recipes. Happy New Year!