Chocolate ‘Mini Egg’ Cookies

minieggs-1I have been thinking about making these Chocolate Mini Egg Cookies for a while.

Basically, they are a double chocolate chip cookie but with sugar coated, chocolate mini eggs, as a substitute for regular chocolate chips. What is not to like?…minieggcookies-2

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Acharuli Khachapuri (Georgian Cheese Bread)

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So is anyone else, apart from me, enthralled by the Winter Olympics in Sochi at the moment?

Whether you are a sports fan or not, I believe these Olympic games offer so much for the spectator. Whether you are an ice hockey fan, a keen skier, a daredevil, a speed junky, or are fascinated by the entrancing figure skating, there is something for everyone here. All the competitors show such unreserved, complete dedication and some go that extra mile. Take the Indian (Independent) Skeleton Competitor, who practises on the hillside roads of India, having never practised on the ice track. Or the 43 year old Peruvian cross country skier who only took up skiing in 2005 and completed the race with a broken rib…just amazing! You can see I am hooked…

Another thing has struck me is how young the competitors are – the 15 year old Russian figure skater, or the 17 year old Japanese half pipe snowboarder – gosh, how old do I feel?

So, what is the relevance to this bake I hear you mutter? Well, it is two fold actually.

Last summer, my brother, who until recently was living in Moscow, challenged me to bake these Khachapuri breads on my blog. He enjoyed his time living in Russia and fully sampled and appreciated the regional cuisine. These breads are something he missed on his return and thought it would be fun for me to try. To be honest, I kept putting this bake off until the wintertime, when we tend to crave more rich, starchy foods. With the eyes of the world on Russia and the Olympics, now is the time to make this traditional  cheese filled bread from Georgia (a neighbouring country to Russia).

So a little about this bread. Khachapuri is a traditional dish of bread filled with cheese, milk and eggs. It can be shaped in various ways and I have made the Acharuli Khachapuri, whereby the dough is formed into an open boat shape and the hot cheese mixture is topped with a raw egg and is then lightly baked further.khachapuri

Whether you are used to making bread dough or not, this recipe is straightforward. No fancy pans are required just a regular baking tray. In terms of ingredients, this dough does not contain salt, which is unusual in bread making. I had assumed that the saltiness would come from the cheese, which indeed it did. Typically a Georgian cheese called Sulguni – a pickled cheese with a consistency of a Dutch cheese – is used. I used feta and Gouda cheese as a substitute and it worked beautifully. I adapted the recipe slightly by increasing the fluid content a little (I like wet doughs!) and by adding a 1/2 teaspoon to give the bread a golden hue.

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khachapuri2This bread is actually a meal in itself. Typically, the egg on top should be just cooked and you are meant to mix it through the cheese, add butter and eat fresh from the oven with a knife and fork. We actually sliced it when it was a little cooler and ate it with cold meats. It would be lovely with a fresh coleslaw or red cabbage. The Khachapuri is a very flavoursome and satisfying bake.

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So I urge you to go to give this a try. Grab the remote, tune in to the Olympics, pick your winter sport, and sample a little regional cuisine in your own home!

For other information and culinary ideas from Georgia, see www.georgiaabout.com

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Acharuli Khachapuri

Makes 2 filled loaves

Ingredients

    For the Khachapuri dough
  • 500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 120ml water, tepid
  • 5g fast action yeast
  • 120ml milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 25ml vegetable oil
  • For the filling
  • 200g Gouda cheese, grated
  • 200g feta cheese, crumbled
  • 40g butter, softened
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk, for brushing

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, or the bowl of a freestanding mixer, add the flour and sugar and combine.
  2. In a separate small bowl, add the tepid water to the yeast. Stir and leave for about 5 minutes in order for the mixture to become a little frothy. Add the water/yeast mixture, milk, beaten egg and oil to the flour mixture and combine by hand, or with a dough hook, until the dough comes together. Form the dough into a ball and cover with a tea towel. Allow to prove for a couple of hours, or until the dough has at least doubled in size.
  3. Lightly flour a work surface and tip the proved dough onto it. Knead for about 5 minutes and then divide the dough into two. Line two baking trays with baking parchment and sprinkle them with a little flour. Shape the divided dough into two flat 'boat'/oval shapes and place on the prepared baking trays. Leave for a further 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 240 degrees C, or Gas Mark 8 and prepare the filling. In a bowl, crumble the feta cheese, grate the Gouda, add the butter and two eggs. Mix together with a fork until well combined.
  5. Divide the filling equally between the two dough portions. Spread the filling over the dough, leaving about a 5cm perimeter, clear of filling. Wrap the two long sides into the middle, leaving the filling open and visible. Wrap the ends tightly to secure. The bread should look 'boat-like'. Repeat with the second dough and filling.
  6. Reduce the oven to 220 degrees C, Gas Mark 7. Bake both loaves for 12 minutes. Remove from the oven. Brush the loaves with the egg yolk. Break an egg onto the top of each of the loaves and return to the oven for 3 minutes. Remove from the oven.
  7. Serve hot or warm with additional butter, if desired.
http://thecontentedbaker.com/acharuli-khachapuri-georgian-cheese-bread/

Source: Adapted quantities from ‘Georgia About’, www.georgiaabout.com

Passion Fruit Souffles

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I had wanted my first attempt of soufflés to be visually stunning and faultless. These Passion Fruit Soufflés don’t quite reach my expectations but they are a lovely, light, flavoursome dessert nonetheless. (As an aside, they are incredibly difficult to photograph – they start to deflate as soon as they come out the oven!)

I have only ever enjoyed soufflés when dining out and ordinarily pick them as I know they are tricky to recreate at home. No more! Now I have tried them I have the insight not to shy away from making them in my own kitchen.

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If you follow my blog, you will know that I am a lover of fresh fruit and more often than not try to incorporate them into my bakes. I have wanted to use passion fruit for a while and I think it’s tartness compliments the lovely, light soufflé. As well as including passion fruit juice in the soufflé mixture, I have placed fresh passion fruit at the bottom of the ramekin as the combination of the light, warm, sweet soufflé compliments the tart ‘crunch’ of the passion fruit seeds.

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passionfruitsouffle1So having made these delightful soufflés, here are my thoughts. They are an impressive grown-up dessert, perfect for dinner parties. (That said, my kids got to enjoy these experimental ones as a mid week ‘pudding’). I would advise doing all the preparation ahead to time up to the point of whisking the egg whites, combining with the cooled ‘custard’ and subsequent baking. Even in the best restaurants you always need to wait for a soufflé. Worth every moment in my eyes.

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Where did I go wrong in not achieving my picture perfect soufflé? I was very happy with the flavour, the consistency and accuracy of the bake time however, I wanted to achieve a perfectly symmetrical ‘rise’ of the soufflé i.e. for it not to get stuck on the ramekin. In preparing the ramekin for the bake, you must brush it with melted butter and coat with sugar. Once filled, you must wipe the top of the ramekin carefully so the soufflé does not get stuck and restricted in the rise – I think mine must have got ‘stuck’ on some of the sugar coating. I have learnt something any way!

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Would I make these again? Yes. Definitely worth the effort. Also, the potential for variation is huge…

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Passion Fruit Souffles

Makes 4 souffles (8cm diameter ramekins)

Ingredients

  • melted butter, for brushing ramekins
  • 6 fresh passion fruit
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 4 egg whites
  • 6 tbsp. golden caster sugar, plus extra for dusting ramekins
  • 3 teaspoons cornflour
  • 1 tbsp. plain flour
  • 90ml double cream
  • 110ml whole milk
  • icing sugar for dusting

Instructions

  1. Prepare the ramekins by brushing with melted butter, dusting with golden caster sugar (tipping the excess out) and chilling in the fridge.
  2. In a sieve, held over a bowl, cut two passion fruit. Scoop out the fruit and push the pulp and juice through the sieve, separating and discarding the seeds. Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, add the golden caster sugar to the egg yolks and mix.
  4. In another bowl, combine the cornflour, plain flour and double cream to form a paste.
  5. Pour the milk into a saucepan and heat until it nearly comes to the boil. Pour a small amount of warm milk into the flour paste mixture and whisk. Add the remaining milk and whisk further, ensuring there are no lumps.
  6. Pour the entire milk mixture back into the pan, over the heat and continually mix (I do this with a whisk) until the mixture thickens. Add the passion fruit juice/pulp and mix.
  7. Return to the heat and add the egg yolk and sugar mixture, again continually whisking to ensure there are no lumps, that the mixture becomes smooth and custard-like. Once it begins to bubble, remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  8. All of the above can be prepared ahead of time. When you are ready to serve, follow the method below
  9. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C, or Gas Mark 4. Remove the ramekins from the fridge. Cut the four remaining passion fruit and one by one, scoop out the pulp and seeds, carefully place in the bottom of a prepared ramekin - one fruit per ramekin.
  10. Whisk the egg whites until light and fluffy and peaks form. Spoon a heaped amount of egg into the cooled custard mixture and whisk. Gently fold the remaining egg whites into the custard until combined. Spoon equal quantities of the soufflé mixture into each ramekin, levelling it with a knife. With your finger tip, go around the edge of the top of the ramekin so separating the mixture from the ramekin. This ensures that there is nothing stopping it from rising.
  11. Bake on a baking tray for approximately 15 minutes until it is well risen and slightly golden on top. Serve immediately and dust with icing sugar.
http://thecontentedbaker.com/passion-fruit-souffles/

Source: Slighted adapted from BBC FOOD Recipes by Mary Berry

 

Asparagus Quiche

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Until a few months ago, I would shy away from recipes with pastry. Making pastry was one challenge too far for me. In my mind, the potential for things to go wrong were too numerous; unsuccessfully rolling the dough, over handling, lifting the pastry into the pan cleanly, ensuring it is not too thick, or too thin, under baking, over baking…you get the idea.

Equally, I am not overly comfortable buying a ready-made pastry case or ready-to-roll pastry. It seems like too easy an option. So I decided, for me to expand my baking repertoire I really had to get to grips with a pastry making technique.

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So for this bake, I have used Paul Hollywood’s Shortcrust Pastry recipe. I have adapted the technique slightly for preparing the pastry case for one that works for me, in my kitchen and gives a successful result (see my method below).

So for this quiche, I wanted to make something savoury and seasonal. I couldn’t let the asparagus season go by without including this fabulous fresh green. I have also included a local cheese in this quiche . We went to our local agriculture show at the weekend and I bought a couple of cheeses from Surrey’s only cheese maker, Norbury Park Farm. I used Dirty Vicar in this dish which is described as ‘like a camembert on the outside and a crumbly Caerphilly on the inside’. It worked really well with the asparagus but you could use a camembert, brie or any hard cheese that you have in the fridge.

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If you try this quiche I think you will be satisfied on two counts; firstly for producing an ascetically pleasing dish and secondly, for enjoying a very flavoursome, seasonal lunch.

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Here are my tips for preparing the pastry case:-

1. Tip the dough straight from bowl straight onto a piece of plastic food wrap/cling film. Mould into a ball and flatten slightly with your hands. Wrap the dough in the plastic and chill for a minimum of 3 hours. Alternatively, you could place in a plastic bag and freeze it at this point.

2. Once the pastry has been chilled, remove from the fridge. Lightly dust the work surface with flour. Unwrap the dough onto the floured work surface and open up the wrap fully. Tear off a second piece of wrap and place on top of the dough.

3. With the rolling pin, gently roll the plastic wrap with the pastry underneath. ie. the rolling pin does not directly touch the dough. The least the pastry is handled, the better.  If the dough cracks at the sides whilst rolling, just tap the crack back with the end of the rolling pin.

4. Roll the dough to the required thickness. Don’t worry if the pastry rolls beyond the two layers of food wrap, the lightly floured work surface will prevent it from sticking.

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5. Check the size of the pastry against your baking tin, ensuring you have enough to fill the edges of the tin, plus a little overhang.

asparagusquiche-1-96. Now to lift the pastry into the tin. I roll the pastry over my rolling pin, leaving the base coat food wrap on the surface. Be careful that the pastry does slip on the rolling pin. Carefully place the pastry into the tin and manipulate as need be.

asparagusquiche-1-107. Gently push the pastry into all the corners and edges. You will be doing this with the top layer of food wrap in place. This way, you are still not directly touching the pastry. When you are happy everything is in place, remove the food wrap.

asparagusquiche-1-118. Prick the base of the pastry with a fork and cover the base with some baking parchment. Be sure to really scrunch up the paper before you put it on the pastry. The more pliable the parchment, the less crease marks you will get on the pastry. Fill with baking/ceramic beans, ready for baking.

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Asparagus Quiche

Serving Size: Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 250g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • Pinch of salt
  • 125g unsalted butter, chilled
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 50ml of water
  • 1 beaten egg, for egg wash
  • For the filling
  • 275g fresh asparagus (typically a regular size bunch)
  • 25g unsalted butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 200ml double cream
  • Freshly ground salt and pepper for seasoning
  • 100g cheese or your choice

Instructions

  1. Put the flour and salt into the bowl of a free standing mixer and combine. Add the butter and mix with a paddle attachment until the ingredients have a sandy/breadcrumb-like consistency.
  2. Add the egg yolks and mix. Then follow with the water. Mix until the dough comes together.
  3. Tip the dough onto a square of food wrap/cling film, on a work surface. Mould into a ball and flatten. Wrap in the plastic and put in the fridge to chill for at least 3 hours.
  4. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.
  5. Remove from the fridge and unwrap onto a lightly floured work surface, opening the wrap completely. Add a second layer of wrap on top of the dough.
  6. With a rolling pin, roll the wrapped dough gently until the desired size and thickness. Do not worry if the dough creeps out of the sides of the food wrap. The floured surface will prevent it from sticking.
  7. Carefully roll the dough over the rolling pin, leaving the bottom layer of wrap on the work surface. Carefully place the dough into the tin (9 inch diameter, 9 x 9 inch square) and manipulate into position. With the top layer of wrap still on the pastry, mould the pastry into the edges and corners of the tin, allow for a little overhang.
  8. With a fork, prick the base of the pastry case. Scrunch some baking parchment very tightly to make it as pliable as possible and overlay it on the pastry. Fill with baking/ceramic beads.
  9. Blind bake for approximately 10 minutes. Remove the beans and the parchment and brush the base of the pastry case with a beaten egg.
  10. Return to the oven and bake for another 8 minutes, until the base of the pastry case is dry.
  11. Remove from the oven and trim the edges of the pastry case with a sharp knife before it becomes too cool.
  12. Adjust oven setting to 180 degrees C whilst you prepare the filling.
  13. For the filling
  14. Prepare the asparagus by washing and cutting off an inch or so, off the bottom to get rid of the 'woody' pieces. Cut the tops of the asparagus and then slice the asparagus stalks at diagonal angles.
  15. Heat the butter in a pan and add the asparagus. Stir over the heat for a few minutes until the asparagus becomes slightly softened and the colour has become more vibrant. Season to taste and then take off the heat.
  16. Pour the asparagus into the prepared pastry case, evenly distributing the stems and tips.
  17. Beat together the eggs and double cream and season with salt and pepper. Pour the mixture carefully over the asparagus into the pastry case, taking care to get an even mixture throughout.
  18. Add your cheese of choice, either sliced or grated.
  19. Place the quiche in the oven at 180 degrees C and cook for approximately 35 minutes. Check frequently as all ovens vary. The quiche should be cooked once the middle feels firm when touched with a finger.
  20. Remove from the oven and allow to cool a little in the pan before taking out (it is fiddly to remove when the pan is so hot).
  21. Serve warm.
http://thecontentedbaker.com/asparagus-quiche/

Source: Paul Hollywood’s Shortcrust Pastry in ‘How to Bake’. Method adapted.