Thursday, 23 August 2012

Perfect Shortbread

I haven't made shortbread in years, but it is one of the few things I remember making more than once when I was small. The memory of eating pure sugar and butter mix sticks in my head more than the actual shortbread, however, and my fondness for it comes more from tartan wrapped packages of shortbread in hotel rooms rather than homemade. Nonetheless, I read this article on how to make the perfect shortbread, and I was curious. It is an excellent recipe, definitely a biscuit that stands up by itself, as opposed to being the foil to cream and fruit.

I did not have any trouble finding rice flour in the supermarket, but if your local doesn't stock it, I would suggest trying a health food shop, or an Asian supermarket.
My notes are in italics.

115g butter, at room temperature
55g caster sugar (I like to use golden for flavour)
Good pinch of salt
130g plain flour
40g ground rice
Demerara sugar, to finish

1. Pre-heat the oven to 150C. Put the butter into a large mixing bowl, and beat with a wooden spoon until soft. Beat in the sugar and salt.
2. Sift over the flour and ground rice and mix to a smooth dough; if it doesn't come together, add a little more butter. I found I needed more butter here, and used my hands to finally bring in together.
3. Line a 15cm cake or tart tin with baking parchment, and pat, or lightly roll, the dough into a shape slightly smaller than the tin. Alternatively pat out to 1cm thickness and cut into biscuits and put on a lined baking tray. Put in the fridge to chill for 15 minutes until firm.
4. Bake for around an hour (about half that for biscuits) until cooked through, but not browned. Take out of the oven and cut into fingers, slices or squares. I made mine into biscuits, and at 150C in my (very weak) oven they took over an hour to cook.
5. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes, then sprinkle with demerara sugar and transfer to a wire rack.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Mini Jam Doughnuts

The last few weeks have been somewhat eventful, and while I have been keeping up with cooking, I have again neglected writing about it. I needed something to shake me out of this non-blogging phase, so I made proper jam doughnuts, something I have always wanted to try.
The deep frying makes the recipe sound complicated, but they are not really that hard. If you keep them small you don't have to worry about overcooking the outside and still having a raw-dough middle. If you don't want to faff about with putting the jam inside you could even just make plain doughnuts. I actually enjoy the process of making mini packages, finding the almost mindless work of filling and shaping relaxing. But maybe that's just me.
I uses Nigella's recipe, as is often my way. I did change it slightly, switching raspberry jam for strawberry (far superior, in my opinion), and adding a little nutmeg and cinnamon to the sugar.
One note- the amount of jam sounds tiny, like me, I am sure you will be tempted to add more. Any extra will make it impossible to close the dough around the jam and you'll end up frustrated (and sticky).

125ml milk
15g unsalted butter
250g bread flour
1/2 packet (1 1/2 teaspoons) easy blend or instant yeast
1/4 teaspoon salt

225g caster sugar
pinch ground nutmeg
1 egg
2 tablespoons raspberry jam
vegetable oil for deep-frying

Warm the milk and butter together in a saucepan, taking it off the heat when the butter is melting. Put the flour, yeast, salt and 25g of the sugar in a bowl. Beat the egg into the warmed milk and butter and pour this into your bowl of dry ingredients, mixing it with a wooden spoon.

Either using your hands, or a dough-hook of a freestanding mixer, knead the dough until it is smooth and silky.Pat the dough into a round ball and put into a buttered bowl, covered in clingfilm and leave to rise somewhere warm, it should double in size and this could take 1-2 hours.

When it gets to that stage, punch the dough down and kneed again to make the dough smooth. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a 2cm thickness and cut out circles with a 4cm round cutter. You can re-roll the dough to make more circles. Make the dough circles into flatter rounds in your hands and then put an 1/8 teaspoon jam in the centre and fold in half and carefully roll it back into a a round ball shape. Sit the doughnuts on a baking sheet as you make the rest. Alternatively, you can do what I did and divide the dough into 16 pieces (halved 4 times), and using your palms, shape into a circle about 5cm. Add the jam, and gather up the edges to seal. Keep pinching the dough to make a smoothish sphere.

Heat the oil in a deep fat fryer or saucepan.If you're using a pan, the depth of oil should be about 3-4cm. Cook them in batches of 4-5 at a time, on a low heat. Each batch should take around 3 minutes, turn them over halfway.

While the first lot are cooking, mix the sugar and nutmeg on a plate. As soon as they are cooked, roll them in the spiced sugar and transfer to a plate or mouth.