Rhubarb and Custard Slice – Competition to win ‘Afternoon Tea at Bramble Cafe’ cookbook by Mat Follas

Spring is in the air, well at least for the moment it is. Sunny skies make all the difference and you can notably see everyone feeling that extra bit cheery. Polo-neck jumpers can be cast aside and thick winter coats can be put away, for a while at least. With longer days and flowers beginning to make an appearance, the thought of doing some spring baking is rather attractive.

‘Images from Afternoon Tea at Bramble Cafe by Mat Follas. Photographs by Steve Painter. Published by Ryland Peters & Small.’

Enter Mat Follas – masterchef UK winner way back in 2009 – new book ‘Afternoon Tea at Bramble Cafe’. I can almost smell the delicate scents from the sweetpeas on the front cover and that cheesecake screams ‘summer’ to me. Mat, his wife Amanda and their business partner Kate, opened Bramble Cafe & Deli in Poundbury in Dorset in 2016 and this book is a collection of all the lovely recipes that they showcase in the cafe.

‘Images from Afternoon Tea at Bramble Cafe by Mat Follas. Photographs by Steve Painter. Published by Ryland Peters & Small.’

Sweet and savoury are both included ranging from the classics, such as the ‘Victoria Sandwich Cake’, to fancy dainties and patisseries, such as the ‘Salted Caramel Tartlets’. He includes some wonderful sounding jams, jellies and marmalades – strawberry and elderflower jam, as well as some alcoholic and non-alcoholic tipples.

‘Images from Afternoon Tea at Bramble Cafe by Mat Follas. Photographs by Steve Painter. Published by Ryland Peters & Small.’

I decided to make the ‘Rhubarb and Custard Slice’, which is a take on a classic custard slice or mille-feuille. It also reminded me of my ultimate favourite cake ‘Pasteis de Nata’ also known as ‘Portguese custard tart’. It was super easy to prepare and makes a great dessert or tea-time fancy. The only slight alternation I’ll make next time is that I will oven bake the puff pastry for a little longer and lightly brush whisked egg allowing it to bronze more. Other than that it tasted great and the custard was very similar tasting to the Portuguese custard tart. Rhubarb is so pretty, and tastes fabulous that the combination of the custard and rhubarb brought back many childhood memories for me.

If you would like to win a copy of this book head on over to my instagram page and look for this photo above which will provide all the details. It’s very straightforward so have a go at winning a copy.  UK residents only I’m afraid. For those asking, the beautiful plates above I have collected over the last few years from Anthropologie, which always stock such gorgeous things.

Rhubarb & Custard Slice

recipe from ‘Afternoon Tea at Bramble Cafe’ by Mat Follas

150g puff pastry (bought)

1 egg, whisked

300g fresh rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 2cm length pieces

vegetable oil, to coat,

50g Demerara sugar

200ml milk

100ml double/heavy cream

2 eggs

2 egg yolks

50g plain/all-purpose flour

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

100g caster sugar

non-stick 30x20cm/12×8 inch brownie pan, light oil and lined with baking parchment

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade (35o Fahrenheit) Gas 4.
  2. Roll out the pastry to 3mm thickness and trim to fit the base of the brownie pan.
  3. Using a fork prick holes over the base to stop the pastry rising too much. Use the whisked egg to brush the pastry to help it get a beautiful bronzed colour.
  4. Bake in a preheated oven for 12 minutes or until it is golden brown. If it has puffed up it will shrink when you allow it to cool out of the oven.
  5. Meanwhile trim and cut the rhubarb into evenly-sized pieces, about 2cm/2/4 inch in length. Toss them with a little vegetable oil and then the Demerara sugar. Spread them out on a lined baking sheet and bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes, until they are just softened and cooked through.
  6. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the milk and cream on a low heat, stirring gently until simmering, then immediately take off the heat.
  7. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, flour, vanilla and caster sugar to form a paste.
  8. Pour the hot milk and cream mixture into the mixing bowl, whisking constantly to combine into a think custard.
  9. Now return the custard to the saucepan and on a low heat whisk the custard over the heat until it has thickened and holding soft peaks. It is really important to have it on a low heat so it does not burn!
  10. Pour the thick custard over the pastry base and smooth it to make level.
  11. Place the rhubarb pieces on top of the custard – they should be half submerged.
  12. Refrigerate for at least and hour before cutting into 10 with a bread knife.
I was very kindly sent a copy of this beautiful cookbook. All views and opinions are my own.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave


Homemade Donuts

It’s been a whirlwind of half term activities these past couple of weeks and it has only been today that all of mine have returned to school. So apologies that my blog posting has been rather tardy. I thought it would be fun however to show you one of the activities we all got involved in over half term. A rainy day a while back we all made bagels – see here  so this time I thought donuts would be equally satisfying to make.

There is something about making your own that makes them so much more satisfying that store bought. The icing could certainly have been prettier – I think we probably iced when they were still a little warm – but I think the homemade/rustic look gives them an appealing edge don’t you think?

This recipe made us around 16 or so, but it kind of depends on how large your cutter is. They are irresistible light and fluffy to eat and the perfect teatime extravagance .

donuts

300ml whole milk

7g instant quick rise yeast

2 eggs

115g unsalted butter, melted and cooled

50g granulated sugar

pinch of salt

540g bread flour

sunflower oil (for frying)

glaze

icing sugar

milk

salt

sprinkles of your choosing

  1. Warm the milk in a pan and then place in a bowl along with the yeast and give a stir. Leave to rest for 15 minutes, by which time foam should have formed on the top.
  2. Either by hand or using a hand whisk beat together the eggs, butter, yeast/milk mixture, sugar and salt.
  3. Add the flour little by little until it has all been absorbed into the mixture. Cover and leave to rest in a warm room for an hour so that the dough has doubled in size.
  4. Sprinkle flour over a clean surface and turn out the risen dough. Gently roll it out to around 1/2 inch thickness and using a round cutter (3 inch diameter works well), cut out the circles and using a smaller cutter make the central hole. Place each donut onto a square of baking parchment. Once they have all been cut out cover again for a further 40 minutes to allow them to rise.
  5. Heat the oil in a deep pan and when it is hot – test by dropping in a little dough crumb and if it fizzles and rises to the top it is ready – then place 3 or 4 in a pan at once. Leave for around 45 seconds and then turn and leave for a further 30 seconds or until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a cooling rack with paper towels. Repeat until they have all been prepared.

When the donuts have cooled you need to make the glazes.

  1. In a large bowl add icing sugar, a little milk and a pinch of salt. Add the milk gradually so that you get the right consistency. If you want a specific colour icing sugar add the colouring at this stage.
  2. On a side plate get your sprinkles ready.
  3. Gently dip one side of the donut in the icing glaze followed by the sprinkles and return to the cooling rack. Repeat.
  4. Eat immediately – although they do still taste good the following day, they taste the best on the day of preparation.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave


Double Ginger Cake

img_3641

I am not a big baker. I leave that to the precision experts like my father. My kind of cooking tends to gravitate to more savoury, spiced and packed with flavour. That said I do like an uncomplicated sweet recipe or in this case a double ginger cake. I don’t have a kitchen aid or anything fancy, instead when I bake a cake I like to do everything in a bowl, ideally by hand or a hand whisk if necessary. I was browsing through Nigel Slater’s ‘The Kitchen Diaries’ the other day – great book if you haven’t got a copy, otherwise one for the christmas list – and his double ginger cake stood out for three reasons. One it was ginger – I love ginger, two – it looked quick and easy to make and three – it did not require any specialist equipment.

img_3636

My father’s belated birthday family lunch was the ideal excuse to try out Nigel’s recipe. After a long lingering lunch, cooked by my mother – parsnip soup for starters (above), followed by roast pork with fennel, finished off with blackberry and apple crumble, we donned winter coats and wellies and headed for the woods for a walk at dusk.

img_3642

Upon returning the feasting continued with my ginger cake (and a coffee cake that the birthday boy had made himself – just in case no one else had made him a cake) and tea. It got the thumbs up all round. The sponge was moist and deliciously gingery and as there was no sight of icing, it was not too saccharine sweet.

img_3644

Double Ginger Cake

Adapted from Nigel Slater’s Double Ginger Cake from ‘The Kitchen Diaries’ 

Serves 10+

250g self-raising flour

1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 tsp ground ginger powder

halt a tsp cinnamon powder

pinch of salt

200g golden syrup

2 tbsp syrup from the stem ginger jar

125g unsalted butter

3 lumps (about 53g) stem ginger in syrup, finely diced

2 tbsp sultanas (optional)

125g dark muscovado sugar

2 eggs

240ml milk

I used a 25cmx25cm tin (Nigel used one slightly smaller). I also think it would work well in a loaf tin.

  1. Line the tin with baking parchment and place to one side.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
  3. Sift the flour, ginger powder, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large bowl and place to one side.
  4. In a pan heat the golden and ginger syrup along with the butter, keeping it on a low heat.
  5. Add the finely diced ginger, sultanas (if using) and sugar to the pan. Stir allowing the sugar to dissolve completely for a couple of minutes before gently pouring it into the bowl with the flour and stirring all together so that the flour has been absorbed into the hot syrupy butter.
  6. In a small bowl break the eggs and using a fork gently beat them. Add to the milk before adding that into the bowl with the mixture.
  7. Pour into the lined baking tin and place in the oven for 35 minutes. You want to be able to able to insert a skewer and for it to come out clean.

Leave in the tin to cool completely, unless you are wanting to eat immediately that is. You can wrap it in foil and eat over the next few days – Nigel mentions allowing it to mature for a day or two will enhance the flavour further. Thankfully there are leftovers so I will be having a square every day for the next few days.

img_3643

 

 


Rainbow Layer Cake

IMG_6263

I really hadn’t planned on making a blog post out of a rainbow layer cake, hence the rather limited, and not particularly styled photos, but the outcome was somewhat unexpected in that it looked and tasted rather good and definitely had the appropriate wow factor (from a child’s perspective!). I have never really been a big cake maker, or eater of cake for that matter, largely due to the fact that I don’t have a sweet tooth and by and large I tend to cook what I like eating – mainly savoury dishes that have herbs and spices in them of course!

However, when it comes to children’s celebrations a cake is very much required and so I tend to step up (well actually perhaps that is a little lie as I sometimes pass the buck to my mother, father, or cousin who are far better cake makers than me!) and usually opt for a Victoria sponge, chocolate or banana and walnut cake or maybe even some little cupcakes.

This time however, I thought I would give myself a bit of a challenge and try making a rainbow layer cake. Hey even if the cake were to taste bad, the looks alone would make up for it – well that’s kind of what I was thinking anyway.

Thankfully the cake ticked all the boxes and was surprisingly fun to make. It really felt like creating a cake from an artists colour palate.  I was also intrigued by the fact the recipe required soya milk. I don’t know why but I have never really had the need to drink soya milk, what with being a huge cows milk drinker (I need it when eating very spicy food). The taste of soya milk, however, completely surprised me as it was deliciously sweet and a genuinely lovely drink in its own right. I spotted soya milk with hazelnuts in the shops so will definitely be picking up a carton of that very soon.

So when you have a big celebration to prepare for try making this cake to wow the crowds, it won’t let you down.

IMG_6255

This cake had been slightly ‘child’ handled by the time this photo was taken, however, I assure you it looked a lot more pristine to begin with.

So here is what you need to do.

Rainbow Layer Cake

Adapted from Kitchen Tested

 (Melinda has some great step-by-step photos so check out her blog to get more of an idea)

325g plain flour

4 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

225g margarine (I always use Stork for cake baking)

475g caster sugar

365 ml soya milk

5 egg whites

2 tsp vanilla extract

purple, blue, green, yellow, orange and red gel food colour (I use Dr Oetker’s food colours)

approx 550g  cream cheese style icing (if you are not making your own and want to save time Betty Crocker’s tastes good – 2 pots should be enough, but it depends on how much icing you like in and on your cake)

vegetable spray/oil

1. Preheat your oven(s) to 180 degrees. If you have just one you will need to cook the sponges in batches but this will not take long as they are quick to cook!

2. Line six 9 inch (round) baking tins with baking parchment. Spray or rub in a little oil into each tin so that the sponge will easily come away from the parchment after cooking.

3. Ideally mix the margarine and sugar together in an electric mixer if you have one, or by hand, to form a cream.

4. Gradually add the egg whites to the cream along with the vanilla extract.

5. In a separate bowl mix the sieved flour, baking powder and salt and then slowly add the flour mixture and the soya milk to the margarine cream, alternating as you do so. (eg: flour, milk, flour, milk etc). The mixture will seem fairly runny at this stage but do not worry as it will firm up nicely when cooking.

6. Pour the mixture equally into six individual bowls and then add one food colour per bowl. I tend to use the whole gel packet per bowl so as to get a bright, vivid colour. Mix in thoroughly and pour into the six baking tins.

7. Place in the oven for 15 minutes and then leave to cool on a wire rack before gently turning out and removing the baking parchment.

8. The purple sponge needs to be at the bottom. Gently smooth the cream cheese style icing on its surface before adding the blue sponge and repeat by adding the cream cheese style icing. Then add the green, yellow, orange and red, repeating the same process as you do so. It does not have to be particularly neat as you will be covering up with the outer rim icing! Once all the sponges are in place continue to evenly spread the icing over the sides of the sponges so that no sponge is showing. You could make this outer icing any colour you fancy, but I thought white worked well and showed off the rainbow effect within perfectly.

Sprinkle with edible glitter or hundreds and thousands and serve to your guests.


Pastry Heaven

P8093022

Every so often an invitation turns up that you simply cannot refuse.  I was very fortunate to receive one of these golden tickets recently. It involved what promised to be, and indeed was, a truly memorable occasion, on a balmy September afternoon at the stunning location that is the  French Ambassador’s residence in London.

The event was a ‘Charity Champagne Afternoon Tea’, with all the money raised from the tickets and raffle going to support the  Ashinaga Scholarship in Japan, a wonderful cause that supports children who lost their parents in the earthquake and tsunami with their studies.

The tea was no ordinary tea however. It was more ‘Alice in Wonderland’ in its manifestation than an English afternoon cream tea. The reason being was that it was meticulously prepared by London’s finest pastry chefs and chocolatiers. The roster included Lauduree, The Lanesborough, The Wolseley, The Langham, Claridges, The Arts Club, Inamo, Le Manoir aux Quat’saisons, Melt, Roux Fine Dining, Valrhona and Rococo Chocolates. In short, it was foodie heaven and an enormous privilege.

The sun shone and guests spilled out onto the lawns of the embassy. It had a wonderful Great-Gatsby-esqe feel , indeed I would not have been surprised had Jay Gatsby sauntered across the lawn with a macaroon in hand.

I had to share with you some of the pastries that had been prepared for the occasion.

IMG_1272

These stunning creations were prepared by Nick Patterson, Head Pastry Chef at Claridges. I loved the way they were presented, with the little pink lights reflecting through a glass platform.

IMG_1611

The ‘Japanese flag’ inspired pastries were eagerly devoured.

IMG_1611

Laurent Couchaux, principle chocolatier from Rococo Chocolates created these wonderful chocolates. You can see which ones I was eating.

P8093022

These chocolate mousses went down a treat.

IMG_1272

These chocolate dainties were going like hot cakes!

IMG_1313

Special thanks go to the organisers: Fabien Ecuvillon, Consultant Chef and Founder of Pastry Network, Miho Nozawa, Dana Arce and Sachiko Bush. A truly memorable event.