Back to Basics with Shortcrust Pastry

Shortcrust pastry may be one of the first and basic cookery lessons we learn, but even though there are few ingredients in it, it can easily go wrong and you can end up with a frustrating pile of pastry in the bin! The key to good pastry is the balance – not too wet so it shrinks and becomes hard & tough then on the other hand not to have it too dry so it ends up falling apart. Once you have cracked it – you will make it again and again. The most common errors that go wrong are;
– Not using the right flour, which should be plain flour. Self-raising will make it tougher and harder.
– Not using cold butter or other fats. Cold butter, cold water & cold hands!
– Over handling/mixing/kneading the pastry which can stretch the gluten in the flour and make it tough and hard. It’s not bread dough!
– Adding too much water which ends in a sticky wet mess and then more flour is added to compensate. Too much water will make it shrink while cooking.
Pastry works best at cooler temperatures with the minimum amount of handling – especially if you have warm hands. For my shortcrust pastry I use just 3 ingredients and I use this for both sweet and savoury dishes. I use slightly more than half fat to flour so for 200g flour I use 125g butter. Here are some of my tips to make delicious homemade shortcrust pastry every time;

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• Use plain flour.
• Fat – I use salted butter, but you could use a mix of butter and lard. Whatever you use, use it straight out of the fridge, at its coldest.
• Use cold water to bring it all together.
• Don’t handle the fat too much with your hands as it will start to melt and you want to keep it cold and firm. Cut it into small chunks.
• If you have a food processor, use it to whizz up the flour and butter until the butter is broken up into the flour – about 10 to 15 seconds. If you don’t have a food processor, use your fingertips to lightly break the fat into the flour – don’t overdo it though!
• Continue using the food processor and pour in a little cold water at a time so the pastry starts coming together. Don’t add too much water – you want just enough for it to start coming away from the sides and start forming into one piece, but still be a bit crumbly. If you haven’t got a food processor use your hands or if you have warm hands use a knife to mix it to prevent the fat melting.
• Tip the mixture onto a work surface and gently use your hands to finish off bringing it all together. Don’t overwork it or be too rough with it! It should just come together into a smooth dough without being too dry and crumbly or too wet and sticky.
• Wrap the pastry in cling film and pop it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before using.
• Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface and flour the rolling pin – adding too much flour at this stage will incorporate more flour into the pastry which can make it go dry and tough.
• Only roll out the pastry once or twice – anymore than that will make it tough and cause it to shrink as it has been stretched too much.
That’s it! You could add a tablespoon of icing sugar to the flour mix to make it sweet pastry or grate in an orange or lemon zest for a twist. Add a few herbs as a twist for savoury pastry.

Emoji pile of poop cake!

I was asked if I could make and emoji poop cake for a 12 year old birthday who was into this particular emoji. Only too pleased to oblige, then got to thinking of the best way to do it to make it look “real”! This is a 3 tier chocolate cake with an off cut on top, covered in chocolate buttercream and chocolate fondant icing.

Emoji Pile of Poo Cake

Emoji Pile of Poo Cake

Chicken & chorizo with cannellini beans

Chicken & Chorizo with Cannelli Beans

Chicken & Chorizo with Cannelli Beans

This is a great dish to share for 2 or can be for 4, depending on how big the appetites are! It can easily be adapted to suit all tastes – more chilli can be added for extra heat or can be taken out altogether if you don’t like it too spicy, then you just get the kick from the chorizo. If you don’t like chorizo, you could slice up your favourite flavour of sausages and add that instead.

You will need:
2 medium sized potatoes
2 skinless chicken breasts or legs
2 chorizo sausages or the equivalent of chorizo, sliced
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 small red pepper, de seeded and thinly sliced
1 chilli, finely chopped (depending on how you like your heat, add more or less)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 x 400g cannellini beans, drained
150ml chicken stock
150ml passata
Veg oil for frying (if needed)
Salt & pepper
Coriander for garnish (optional)
 

Method: This will serve 2 to 4 people. Peel the potatoes, cut into large pieces (so they can be sliced later) and boil in salted water until they are just cooked. Drain and leave to cool. Pre heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Heat a dry (no oil) oven proof large frying pan over a medium heat and add the chorizo slices. Brown on each side and remove from the pan onto a plate. Using the same oil from the chorizo, fry the chicken breasts or legs for 3 or 4 minutes until nicely browned and turn over and brown the other side. Place them on a plate and set aside (they don’t need to be fully cooked through at this stage). In the same pan over a medium to low heat fry the onions and pepper for a few minutes until softened. Add the chilli and garlic along with a pinch of salt & pepper and then stir the passata and stock into the onion mix. Put the chicken and chorizo back into the same pan, and stir so it’s all mixed in. Cover the pan with tin foil or an ovenproof lid if you have it and place in the oven for 15 minutes. Thinly slice the cooked potatoes. Take the pan from the oven, remove the lid or foil and stir in the cannellini beans. Add more stock/water or passata if it looks too dry. Arrange the potato slices on top and put the pan back into the oven, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes until the potatoes have crisped up and the chicken is cooked through. Sprinkle over some coriander and enjoy with some lovely fresh bread to mop up the juices!

Smokey Spatchcock Chicken

Smokey Spatchcock Chicken

Smokey Spatchcock Chicken

You will need;

1 x free range chicken – approx. 1.8kg in weight

100g natural yoghurt

1 tsp hot paprika

1 tsp sweet paprika

Pinch of salt and pepper

Method;  To make the marinade mix the yoghurt, paprika, salt & pepper in a bowl and stir until all combined. To spatchcock the chicken; on a meat board, turn the chicken over so the backbone is facing up. Using a sharp knife or a sharp pair of scissors, cut length ways along either side of the back bone from one end to the other and remove the bone in one piece. Discard the bone or add it to a stock pot. Turn the chicken over opening it out slightly and gently press down over the breast of the chicken to flatten it; you may hear the bones crack which is fine. Place the chicken in a large ovenproof dish and with a sharp knife pierce the chicken in a few places. Spread the yoghurt mix all over the chicken, and then rub it in with your hands making sure to rub some under the skin too so it gets in the pierced areas. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for at least an hour. Pre heat the oven to 170c or gas mark 4. Remove the cling film from the chicken and pour a cup of water into the dish but not directly over the chicken, cover the whole dish with tin foil and bake in the oven for an hour. After an hour, remove the tin foil and cook the chicken for a further 20 or 30 minutes until the chicken is cooked all the way through and the juices run clear. Remove the chicken from the dish and place it on a clean plate or dish, cover with tin foil and leave to rest for at least 20 or 30 minutes before serving. This dish works well when the chicken has cooled slightly, placed in the middle of the dinner table and let everyone help themselves. Serve with a selection of side dishes and salad.

Valentine Recipe – Beetroot & Lemon Brownie

Beetroot & lemon brownies

Beetroot & lemon brownies

This is a favourite and brownies always sell well on the market stalls and coffee shops. This has the addition of beetroot, but you could always just leave that part out – it will work just as well. The lemon and the lemon curd give it an extra sharpness as the chocolate can be quite rich. Although it is a Valentines treat!

Beetroot & Lemon Valentine Brownie

  • 175g good quality dark chocolate
  • 150g butter
  • 175g dark brown soft sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 150g raw beetroot, peeled & grated
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 100g self-raising flour
  • 6 Tsp lemon curd – optional

Pre-heat the oven to 170C/fan 160C/gas mark 4. Grease a 22cm/8 inch square cake tin, line with baking parchment making sure it hangs over the edge of the tin to make it easier to remove later.  Lightly grease the parchment.   In a heatproof bowl, break up the chocolate and add the butter. Melt gently over a pan of simmering water (making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water) stirring occasionally until the chocolate & butter are melted, then set aside. Alternatively you can place the bowl in the microwave on a high setting until melted. Place the sugar and eggs in a separate bowl or standalone mixing bowl and whisk until light and fluffy – this will take around 5 minutes with a mixer on a high speed. Add the chocolate mix and whisk for 30 seconds then add the beetroot & lemon zest and whisk for a further 30 seconds. Gently fold in the flour until it is just combined and pour the mixture into the prepared tin. An optional extra to make it more lemony, is to dot ½ teaspoons of lemon curd over the top of the mixture. Place in the oven and bake for 20 – 25 minutes. It may crack slightly but that’s fine and the brownie should be just set. Place on a cooling rack to cool down completely. Once cool, gently pull out the brownie from the tin using opposite sides of the greaseproof paper. Cut into heart shapes or squares and enjoy with ice cream, cream or just as they are!

 

New Year – New Cake Flavours

Cake in January after all that Festive food? Not for everybody, but there will always be people who want to eat cake! These are a few of the new cake flavours I have baked for Tasty Bite in Thrapston.

Cream liqueur with white chocolate buttercream centre & topping. A seasonal blood orange cake with blood orange buttercream centre with blood orange juice icing on top. The juice makes a lovely pink colour icing.

Cream liqueur cake

Cream Liqueur Cake

Blood Orange Cake

Blood Orange Cake

Banoffee, a banana cake with caramel & banana buttercream centre and caramel topping. Finally for now…a bergamot lemon cake with homemade bergamot lemon curd and buttercream centre.

Banoffee cake

Banoffee cake

Bergamot lemon cake

Bergamot lemon cake

Christmas Chocolate Log Cake

A delicious traditional Christmas recipe that looks impressive and is not that difficult to make. The hardest part is rolling it up while the sponge is still hot. Time to taste test before Christmas!

Christmas Chocolate Log Cake

Christmas Chocolate Log Cake

For the cake;

4 medium eggs
100g caster sugar
Few drops of vanilla extract
60g self-raising flour
40g good quality cocoa powder
For the cream middle;

200ml double cream
50ml ready-made vanilla custard
Glug of brandy (optional)
For the chocolate ganache;
270g good quality dark chocolate
50g butter
250ml double cream
Glug of brandy (optional)

Pre heat the oven to 190C/gas mark 5. Line a 33×23 swill roll tin with baking parchment. Cut an extra length of baking parchment of the same size and sprinkle with some caster sugar (this is used when the cake comes out of the oven). Whisk the eggs and sugar in a bowl until pale and forms soft peaks. Add the vanilla extract, sift the flour and cocoa powder over the mixture. Gently fold it all together – being careful not to knock the air out. Tip into the prepared tin and gently smooth it out until even. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes, it should be springy to the touch when cooked. When it’s still hot, quickly turn it out onto the sugared baking parchment and peel off the parchment from the bottom. Along one of the long edges, score a line with a knife about a centimetre in. From that mark roll it up – with the paper too. Leave to cool. While it’s cooling, whip the cream until stiff and spreadable then stir in the custard and the brandy if using. Gently un-roll the cooled cake and discard the paper. Spread the cream mixture in the middle of the cake – leaving about a centimetre around the edges, for the cream to spread when you roll it. Tightly roll it back up. You can leave it whole or cut a third off and arrange it against the other piece to form a log shape. For the ganache, break the chocolate into a heat proof bowl. Over a low heat, gently heat the cream and butter in a pan until just below boiling. Pour the cream over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate has melted, stir in the brandy if using. Put it in the fridge to cool until it is thick enough to spread on the cake but not set. Spread or pipe the ganache all over the cake. Make the marks like a log with a fork and leave to set before enjoying!

Christmas Traybakes Online Orders

Do you fancy a change from mince pies this Christmas?

If you’re attending or organising a party, family gathering, office party, a meeting or if you just fancy a treat why not try a traybake! We have some exciting new recipes for Christmas which are now available to order and I will also have some at the next Thrapston Farmers Market on 7th November. They are all freshly baked to order and we offer free delivery within a 20 mile radius of Thrapston, Northamptonshire.

Orange Biscuit Brownies
Biscuit base, homemade orange curd in the centre topped with a dark chocolate brownie.
£12 for 12 slices or 14 bars
 
White Chocolate & Cranberry Biscuit Blondies
Chocolate biscuit base topped with a white chocolate & cranberry blondie and white chocolate drizzle.
£12 for 12 slices or 14 bars
 
Cranberry Brownies
Dark chocolate brownie with soft dried cranberries.
£12 for 12 slices or 14 bars
 
Fresh Cranberry Oaty Slices
A buttery oaty bake with a layer of fresh cranberry compote through the centre.
£10 for 12 slices or 14 bars
 
Mincemeat Oaty Slices
A buttery oaty bake with a layer of homemade mincemeat through the centre.
£10 for 12 slices or 14 bars
 
Mincemeat Flapjack
Gluten free oaty flapjacks with homemade mincemeat
£11 for 12 slices or 14 bars
 
Chocolate biscuit white chocolate blondie

Chocolate biscuit white chocolate blondie

Mincemeat oaty slices

Mincemeat oaty slices

Orange biscuit brownie

Orange biscuit brownie

Dark chocolate brownie

Dark chocolate brownie

Spicy Pumpkin & Pecan Pie

Spicy Pumpkin & Pecan Pie

Spicy Pumpkin & Pecan Pie

Spicy Pumpkin & Pecan Pie

You will need:

750g pumpkin, cut into chunks
350g homemade sweet pastry or 1 packet of shop bought
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground nutmeg
2 tbsp maple syrup
125g light brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
25g butter, melted
1 x 175g tin of evaporated milk
30g pecan nuts, chopped

Method:
You will need a 22cm loose bottomed flan tin. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/fan 170C/gas mark 4.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry until it is big enough to line the baking tin with some overlap, approx. the thickness of a pound coin. Line the tin with the pastry ensuring it is right up to the edges and prick the pastry all over the base with a fork. Place some grease proof paper over the pastry and add some baking beans. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes then remove the grease proof paper and beans before baking for another 5 to 10 minutes until golden. Leave to cool and then trim the edges of the pastry from the tin, so you have a neat pastry case.
Alternatively, blitz 300g biscuits in a food processor until they resemble fine breadcrumbs, and mix with 125g melted butter. Press the biscuit mix into the tin and the sides (using the bottom of a glass is good for this, pressing the bottom and up to the sides) and bake in the oven for 10 minutes then leave to cool.
Place the pumpkin chunks on a baking tray, add the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, maple syrup and mix together so the pumpkin is well covered with the mix. Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 25 – 30 minutes until the pumpkin is cooked through and tender. Place the pumpkin in a food processor or blender and blitz until smooth. Pass the puree through a sieve for extra silky smoothness. Place the puree in a bowl and leave to cool. Place the sugar in a separate larger bowl (you can add more spice at this stage for extra spiciness) and mix in the eggs, butter and evaporated milk. Add the cooled puree and stir until you have a smooth mixture. Pour the mix into the pastry case or biscuit case and sprinkle the pecan nuts over the top. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes then turn the oven down to 150C for a further 25 – 30 minutes until the pumpkin mixture is just set. Leave to cool before removing from the tin and then enjoy on its own, with cream, yoghurt or more evaporated milk!

Quick & Easy Orange Curd

You will need;
4 egg yolks
150g caster sugar
60g butter
Zest from 1 large orange
100ml fresh orange juice

This should make 1 x 1lb jar. Make sure the jar and lid is clean, dry and sterilised. Mix the sugar and egg yolks together using a hand whisk until well combined. Pour the mixture into a pan along with the rest of the ingredients. While stirring all the time, heat the curd mixture on a medium to low heat until it starts to bubble then take it off the heat. Leave it to stand for a few minutes before pouring into the jar then seal and leave to cool.This should keep for up to 3 weeks in the fridge. (If it lasts that long!!) Another recipe using this orange curd will be coming soon. Until then it can be enjoyed with ice cream, yoghurt or on toast for breakfast!

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