Today is the reveal date for my first entry into the Daring Bakers Challenge. Sarah from All Our Fingers In The Pie has challenged us to make crisp crackers or flatbreads. Now I don’t think I have ever contemplated making my own crackers but this is what I love about taking part in these challenges – it forces you to try something new.
The original recipe that I found uses whole wheat flour but I have read so much about Spelt flour over the last few months that I decided to try and make Spelt crackers. I chose seeded spelt flour made by Sharpham Park with the added benefit that it is grown in Britain. I couldn’t believe how quick and easy it was to make these little biscuits until that is, it came time to rolling out the mixture. It is really difficult to get them thin enough to resemble a store bought cracker so I did some more research on the internet and came across a tip from Smitten Kitchen. Although she hadn’t tried it, she suggested using a pasta machine to roll the dough out. I hauled mine out from the back of my cupboard, checked that there was no playdough still stuck to it and gave it a whirl. At first I tried to put all the dough through at once but it was just too messy. After a few failed attempts I tried putting through just enough dough to make one cracker at a time and bingo – perfect thickness every time.
My first batch of these disappeared before I even had time to photograph them so I would say they are going to be a firm favourite in our household.
My only word of caution is watch them like a hawk when baking. They go from nicely crisp to overdone very, very quickly.
This month’s Classic French challenge over on Blue Kitchen Bakes is chocolate ganache. I always find ganache incredibly rich so this time I decided to add a bit of raspberry sauce to the bottom of each tart to counteract the richness. I thickened my normal raspberry sauce with a touch of cornflour to stop it running out once we cut into the tarts and it worked well. There is nothing difficult about making the ganache and it is really quick to prepare. The only time consuming process to these delicious chocolate and raspberry tarts is making your own pastry but if you are short of time then a good quality store bought pastry would speed the process up giving you an elegant and decadent dessert in just over half an hour.
Make up one batch of sweet shortcrust pastry and prepare 6 small individual tart cases.
Bake blind for 15 minutes. Remove paper and baking beans and return to oven for a further 5 - 10 minutes to dry out.
To prepare the raspberry coulis:
Puree the raspberries (leaving some whole for decoration), icing sugar and lemon juice using a stick blender.
Pour through a sieve to remove all seeds.
If you prefer the raspberry sauce to be slightly thicker you can mix 1 tsp of cornflour with some of the puree. Heat remaining puree in a saucepan and then stir in the cornflour mixture and stir until thickened.
Set to one side.
To prepare the chocolate ganache:
Heat the cream in a saucepan until just boiling.
Add the chopped chocolate and stir with a spatula until fully melted and smooth.
Remove from heat and leave for 5 minutes to cool slightly.
To assemble the tarts:
Spoon some raspberry coulis into the bottom of each pastry shell.
Fill the shells with chocolate ganache ensuring a nice smooth finish on top.
If you are making a tart which requires a pastry shell to hold the filling then this is the pastry you will need. Shortcrust pastry is one of the easier pastries to work with because of the low fat content. It is more common to bake the pastry shell first and then add the filling to ensure a nice crisp bottom but the filling can be added to the raw shell and then baked. The quantity below is more than enough to make a standard tart using a tin size up to 26cm. If you have any pastry left over it can be wrapped tightly in cling film and frozen for later use. There are a couple of tips which help to make the process easier:
Measure all ingredients accurately.
Work with cold ingredients and cold hands.
Rest your pastry in the fridge for a minimum of 1 hour to help with the rolling out process and to prevent shrinkage when baking.
If baking the empty shell then always bake blind. Use a piece of baking paper slightly bigger than the size of the tin. Crumple it up and then flatten it out again. Place it in the pastry case and add enough ceramic baking beans to cover the bottom of the pastry case. You want enough weight from the baking beans to prevent the dough from puffing up during cooking. If you can keep the pastry in contact with the hot tin whilst baking this will ensure even baking and a nice crisp shell.
Cut the chilled butter into small blocks (about 1cm in diameter).
Sieve the flour and salt into a mixing bowl. (If making the sweet shortcrust pastry then add your sugar with the flour and salt).
Add the butter and using your fingertips rub the butter into the flour mixture until it looks like fine breadcrumbs. If the butter starts to melt then chill your mixture or run your hands under cold water before continuing.
Mix in the beaten eggs and combine with the flour mixture until it forms a stiff dough. You may need to add in some of the water at this stage if the mixture is too dry. Do not overwork the mixture.
Wrap in cling film and rest in the refrigerator for a minimum of 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 200°C (400° F).
Using a floured surface roll the pastry out and place in your desired tin, easing in gently. Try not to overstretch the pastry as this will cause the pastry shell to shrink when baking.
Neaten the edge by running a knife round the top edge to remove excess pastry.
Bake blind (see notes above) for approximately 15 minutes.
Remove baking beans and paper from pastry shell.
Return to oven for a further 10 minutes until nicely golden and crisp.
Your pastry case is now ready for filling or can be frozen at this point to be used at a later date.
This week has been chocolate mousse week in my house much to the delight of my two little tasters. I wanted to try and find a recipe that was easy, quick and above all else delicious. My first choice was to try a recipe without eggs as I am always hesitant to use raw eggs when cooking for other people. The worst result I had was a combination of mascarpone and melted chocolate. It was thick, almost solid, and just too heavy. Not an air bubble in sight. I then went to the other extreme and tried the traditional method using butter, eggs and chocolate. The result was good but it wasn’t quick and it was still a bit too heavy for me. My last attempt was Raymond Blanc’s Chocolate Mousse which only uses 4 ingredients – egg whites, chocolate, a small amount of sugar and a drop of lemon juice. It was super quick and after only 10 minutes in the fridge it was the perfect consistency. It is light, deliciously tasty and not too heavy on the calories. Perfect. You have to make sure that your chocolate is completely melted before stirring into the egg white mixture and if you follow Raymond’s instructions the chocolate should not seize when mixed with the egg whites. I used half the quantity (4 egg whites) and managed to get 3 of these espresso cups. This is not an overly sweet mousse – using only 20g of caster sugar to 4 eggs but both I and the kids loved it. Hubby didn’t get a look in but with Valentine’s Day just round the corner I’m sure I can rustle up another batch.
No time to make a pudding? – 14 minutes from start to finish is all you need …..
It was while I was reading through the list of requirements for the Credit Crunch Munch Challenge that I remembered this super quick lemon sponge pudding that I used to make many (many) years ago. It was back when microwaves were still quite fashionable and we used to cook a whole meal in about 12 minutes, unlike nowadays where we tend to use them more for reheating and defrosting food. I had just started out on my own and only had a microwave and an electric frying pan with which to do all my cooking. This lemon ‘ping’ pudding was a firm favourite both because it was so quick and it could be used so many different ways. I don’t think you’d win any prizes for the best sponge pudding if you were to enter a competition but once you add a sauce over the top and serve with custard, cream or ice cream – well who cares about perfection. I’ve even cooked some apples with sugar and lemon juice, put them in the dish with the sponge mixture on top and cooked for 4 minutes to give me a super quick Eves Pudding. Add some cocoa powder and chocolate and you have a quick chocolate pudding which is great with a bit of chocolate sauce over the top. It is also a really easy pudding for kids to make because they don’t have to use the oven and it’s ready before you’ve even had a chance to tidy up their mess.
As this pudding only takes 4 minutes to cook in the microwave I am going to enter it into the Credit Crunch Munch Challenge which is hosted by the lovely Camilla over at Fab food 4 All and Helen over at Fuss Free Flavours.
I have also used up some left over lemon curd (I had to check with Mrs Beeton to find out if this was a preserve) so I can enter the same pudding into the No Waste Food Challenge hosted by Kate over at Turquoise Lemons
As this is also a perfect pudding albeit not a very glamorous one I can enter it into the Tea Time Treats Challenge which is being hosted this month by Kate over at What Kate Baked and Karen over at Lavender and Lovage on alternate months.