Saturday, 24 December 2011

Christmas Cantuccini

Cantuccini are more commonly known in the UK as biscotti, the hard, twice-baked biscuits that need a long dip in coffee, or more traditionally Vin Santo before they can be eaten. Here I have played around with the traditional recipe given by Anna Del Conte, to include cranberries and pistachios to give the colours of Christmas, plus nutmeg and lots of orange zest. 

100ml Cointreau or orange juice
75g dried cranberries
50g pistachios
250g  plain flour 
225g caster sugar
 1/4 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs, beaten

Zest of 1 large orange

A few hours before, or overnight, soak the dried cranberries in the Cointreau or orange juice.
Preheat the oven to 200 C.
Sift the flour, sugar and baking powder into a mixing bowl. Stir in the beaten eggs, and work it into the dry ingredients, adding the zest, fruit and nuts in at the end. When everything is well mixed, pat into a ciabatta shape about 7cm across. Place on a lined baking tray and cook for 15-18 minutes.
Take the tray out of the oven and reduce the temperature to 150 C.Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then cut them diagonally into 1 cm slices. Lay them side by side, cut side up on the tray and return to the oven for the second baking - for 45 minutes or so, until well dried out. 

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Banana, Pecan and Maple Cake

I took a small gamble on this recipe, switching the Greek yogurt component in the hazelnut loaf cake with the same weight of mashed banana. Luckily it didn't do anything strange to the end result, the finished product was a definitely a success. I considered making some sort of maple frosting,  but partly out of laziness and partly because I thought icing might be a bit much, I drizzled maple syrup on top while the cake was still hot. It makes for a damp and sticky cake, perfect for teatime.

Update 11/02/16- I remade this, and was really pleased with it. I definitely don't think it needs the maple frosting, mentioned above- it's rich enough as is.
200 grams pecans
125 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
100 grams caster sugar
100 grams soft brown sugar
6 tbsp maple syrup
2 eggs, room temperature
2 medium bananas, peeled and mashed
1 tsp vanilla extract
225 grams self raising flour
pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade, line a loaf tin with greaseproof paper.
Finely grind the pecans in a food processor.
Combine the flour, salt and ground nuts in a bowl.Cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one by one, and then add in the mashed bananas, 3 tablespoons of the maple syrup and the vanilla essence. Fold in the dry ingredients, then pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin. Bake for around 45 minutes until a knife or skewer comes out cleanly. Pierce with a skewer all over, and drizzle over the remaining maple syrup.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Cranberry and Orange Stollen

This is a vulgar and delicious adaptation of Delia's stollen recipe.

150ml Cointreau, Triple Sec or brandy
300ml full fat milk
100grams caster sugar
4tsp dried yeast
700 grams strong white bread flour
220 grams softened unsalted butter
2 eggs, beaten
140 grams dried cranberries
100 grams sultanas
80 grams dried no-soak apricots, chopped
50 grams glace cherries (natural colour, preferably), halved
50 grams almonds, chopped
grated zest of 1 lemon
grated zest of 1 orange
200 grams cranberry sauce
350 grams marzipan
To glaze
100 grams sifted icing sugar
1 tbsp orange juice (from the zested orange used in the dough)

 Put the dried fruit and glacé cherries in a small saucepan with your chosen alcohol. Bring the liquid to a simmer, then remove from the heat. Now get on with the dough while you allow the fruits to become imbued with festive spirit. Warm the milk  (I do this in the microwave, in  a glass measuring jug), add 2tsp of the caster sugar, and sprinkle of the yeast on the surface of the milk. Leave the yeast to create a frothy head on top of the milk. Now sift the flour into a large mixing bowl with the salt and remaining sugar. Make a well in the centre, and pour in the yeasted milk mixture, along with the eggs and butter. Mix with a wooden spoon, along with the dried fruits, almonds and zest. Knead the dough, either with your hands, or an electric mixer with a dough hook attachment. You may need to add more flour, you want a slightly sticky dough, it is ready when it feels springy and elastic. Put the dough in a bowl, clingfilm and leave to double in size, this could take up to 2 hours.
After the first prove, punch the dough down, and divide into two. Knead one of the halves of dough on a floured surface until it feels springy. Roll out into a rectangle 20cm x 25cm. Spread with half the cranberry sauce. Take half the marzipan and roll into a sausage that is almost the length of the stollen, place in the centre, and fold the dough over it. Remove carefully to a lined baking sheet. Repeat with the other half of the stollen dough. Leave the loaves to rise again, this time about 20 minutes. Set your oven to 180 degrees, and when they have finished the second prove, bake for about 35-40 minutes.
Mix the icing sugar with the orange juice to make a thick icing, and drizzle over the stollens. I also sprinkled over extra cranberries and some pistachios.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Epaule d'Agneau Boulangère

This is Sunday lunch made easy, something for the days when the military precision of a traditional roast is too much to deal with. There's a little preparation, then you can forget about it while you get on with other things. A few hours later you are rewarded with fork-tender meat and melting potatoes, imbued with the fat and juices from the lamb. All you need alongside is something green, maybe some beans with a little butter, although recently I upped my game with purple sprouting broccoli, dressed in anchovy, garlic, parsley and olive oil.

1 shoulder of lamb
olive oil
glass white wine
1-1.5 kg waxy potatoes
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
Leaves from a few sprigs of rosemary

Preheat the oven to its highest setting. Sit the lamb in roasting tin that will be large enough to accommodate the lamb and the potatoes, sliced, later. Rub your joint with a little olive oil, and season with salt and black pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes, then remove from the oven. Now peel and slice the potatoes and onion, and peel and roughly chop the garlic. Chop the rosemary Turn the heat down to 160 degrees. Remove the pan from the oven, and put the lamb on a chopping board while you get in with arranging the vegetables. Deglaze the pan with some white wine, scraping at any browned bits in the pan. Now add the potatoes, onions, garlic and rosemary. Many recipes tell you to layer the onion and potato, but I find it easier and just as good to toss them all in together, along with some salt and pepper. Place the lamb back on top, and put the whole thing back in the oven. Leave for 3-4 hours, till the meat is tender.