Sunday, January 27, 2013

Seville Orange Marmalade

I've been slightly obsessed with making marmalade this year, keeping an eye out for Seville's in the shops and hoarding empty honey jars. I nearly missed the season, none of the shops I usually frequent had any Seville's for ages and then, when I was in a farm shop on Thursday doing field work, I saw them. Of course, because I was working, I decided against making a rash purchase and then immediately regretted it. I phoned up my local grocer and they said they were sold out for the season. I decided to go around anyway, on Friday afternoon, just to check and I did find blood oranges but, sadly, no Seville's. But then I went into Tesco, (yes, yes, I know) to buy washing up liquid, and low and behold, the last of the season's Seville oranges.

I've always wanted to be one of those people who makes marmalades and jams and chutneys and things but the truth is I hardly ever eat jams and marmalades so it has always seemed a little silly to keep jars of things I have only a few times a year. But, for you, dear readers, I have decided to venture into the world of marmalade. Call it a new years resolution if you will. Jams and marmalades are not part of my skills set so I figured I could learn to make them and tell you all about the process.

I consequently read a lot about marmalade making this week. I even watched this rather amusing and helpful video about the process. It turns out none of my recipe books contain marmalade recipes, although there is a recipe for blackberry and nectarine jam which I am totally going to try when the season arrives. I was rather surprised at this absence and thus turned to various online sources to try and discover more about making marmalade. Delia and The Guardian proved to be the most helpful and I eventually followed the method set out by Felicity Cloake in her 'How to Make' series. There seems to be debate about whether you should juice the oranges (and lemon) first or boil them whole and then slice them. I decided to go with the juicing first method but I shall at some point (in a few years, when this marmalade is all used up), try out the other method. I made it over two days, starting on Saturday afternoon, but you can totally (and I think it is probably faster) make it in one day. Just make sure you have things to keep you occupied whilst you wait for things to cook. (I went through my magazine stash, tearing out recipes and photographs I liked, whilst watching Covert Affairs. It's a very therapeutic way to spend an afternoon.)

My original intention was to buy only 500g of oranges so that I could make a little marmalade and then, if it went horribly wrong, I wouldn't have wasted loads of oranges but, in Tesco, they were selling boxes of oranges and lemons for marmalade making (and had no loose Seville's) so I bought the box. This amounted to 1.4kg of oranges. The recipes I found called for 1kg of oranges but I couldn't see the point of having 5 Seville oranges hanging about so I ended up juicing and slicing all of them. (So much for only making 500g.) I decided, after tasting the simmering mixture, to add in an extra cup of sugar. Not exactly what you would call scientific but I figured the extra 400g probably required slightly more sugar than not. The whole process was fairly easy - the biggest job is slicing the skins. I have always been a no peel/thin cut marmalade girl but, after orange number five, I sort of gave up on uniform thin cut slices and just went with it. So mine is more thick (read rough) cut. If you have patience, feel free to make thin cut marmalade. After that it is simply a matter of boiling the peel and pips and pith, tied nicely in a muslin bag, until the peel is soft and translucent. This did bring back a lot of memories of the torture of making candied peel for dessert garnishes, which has to be sliced super finely and then boiled three times before being cooked in syrup - but marmalade is much more forgiving, mainly because no one is checking the thinness of the peel slices. Then you add in the sugar, squeeze out the juice from the muslin and, after dissolving the sugar, boil the mixture until it reaches setting about. (Conveniently marked 'jam' on my sugar thermometer - about 104C.) I used a thermometer but also tested the marmalade on plates I put in the freezer, you know, to cover my bases. I ended up with marmalade that is quite thick set, gloopy and good, which starts off sweet but has a sour kick near the end (which forces you to take another bite, and then another). I'm planning on giving most of the jars away - I made three 500g jars and six miscellaneous jars (ranging from 250g to 400g) and had some left over to pour into the Nutella jar in the photographs (yes, I am the girl who saves Nutella jars and uses them for excess marmalade). I think you should end up with about seven 500g jars (according to Delia anyway).

Seville Orange Marmalade
Adapted from The Guardian 'How to Make' series
1.4kg Seville oranges
1 lemon
500g golden caster sugar
500g golden granulated sugar
1kg granulated white sugar
250ml white caster sugar

Place a large pot on the stove (I found a maslin pan in Lakeland which I fell in love with and had to buy - it turns out I don't possess a pot large enough for jam/marmalade making, not having anything practical like a stock pot) and place a sieve over it.
Squeeze the lemon and oranges into the pan, using the sieve to catch the pips and any pith.

Place a muslin piece over a bowl and place all the pips and pith onto the muslin. Discard the lemon.

Slice the orange skins to the required thickness, removing any remaining pips and pith and placing them on the muslin.
Add the peel to the pot. Tie up the muslin and place in the pan (it floats, so no real need to tie it to the handle as suggested by Delia).

 Add in 2.5L water and simmer for two hours - until the peel is translucent and soft.

This is the point where I placed everything on hold until the morning, but feel free to continue.
Remove the muslin bag and put to one side to cool. Remove the pan from the heat.
When the bag is cold, give it a good squeeze over the peel mixture - thick, syrupy juice should come out. (Be careful not to split the muslin - which is of course what I did so I had to be super careful not to lose any pips into the mixture.) Stir this in and then add your sugar. At this point you should wash your jars in soapy water, rinse them and place them in a cool oven (100C - 120C) to sterilize (basically until they are hot and dry, at which point you can remove them and put them to one side).
Bring everything back up to a simmer, stirring until the sugar dissolves.

Once the sugar has dissolved, turn up the heat and boil rapidly until you reach 'jam' set - about 104C. You can test this by placing some saucers in the freezer. Place a teaspoon of marmalade onto the saucer and then put in the fridge for a minute. Drag your finger through the marmalade, it should crinkle and you finger should leave a path through it. If it doesn't - if the marmalade comes back together quickly, keep boiling. Apparently this can take as little as five minutes but it took me more like 20 - I think because the mixture was coming back up to temperature after being cooled overnight. You can continue to test every five minutes or so until you get the right consistency.

Allow the mixture to sit for 15 minutes (apparently this prevents the peel from sinking to the bottom of the jar) before pouring into your jars. Seal the jars. Eat lots on toast.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Butterscotch Pecan Cake with Brown Butter Frosting

This weekend has been spent pottering around the flat, doing academic chores of various kinds - updating my electronic bibliography, reading, some field note writing - hardly the stuff of exciting blog posts. I've also been making this cake.

It is adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe that I found online.

Martha is often a person I turn to when I want a dramatic cake. Let's face it, the Americans do good cake, and this one is no exception. I made this for a friend's birthday. Her birthday was actually earlier this week but for various reasons (field work, the death of a beloved cat, the Princess departing for London) I only found time to bake this weekend. You need a few days for this cake as there are multiple stages to attend to - the cake making, frosting and sauce making, frosting refrigerating, cake refrigerating etc. You can make it in a day I suspect, if you're not using the light to photograph every step (as I did) and you have tasks you can complete in amongst all the waiting.The cake itself is good (I had to cut off the nice dome top so I could soak the top layer in butterscotch sauce so I snacked on the unneeded pieces for breakfast). It is dense with caramel tones. Once it's been assembled it is sweet, but in a good way. The main event is the frosting and butterscotch sauce. The middle layer of the cake basically tastes of butterscotch because it is so heavily soaked in the stuff. This is a cake for your caramel-obsessed friend. I think the brown butter frosting gets slightly lost against the butterscotch but maybe I didn't brown the butter for long enough? I got a bit worried I was going to end up with blacked butter at one point so maybe I removed it early, I'm not sure. I think it's a crowd pleaser anyway. (And I've saved the excess frosting for use on cupcakes at some point.)

I made half the amount of the online recipe as I did not want a massive layer cake. I baked it in a 20cm cake tin, as one cake, as opposed to the layers recommended - I actually think this makes soaking easier as you simply cut the cake into three layers and then soak all the exposed layers. I adjusted the measurements from imperial ounces to metric grams, and changed the sugars used in the cake. I also used golden syrup instead of corn syrup and double cream instead of heavy cream. The result was a perfect, small, layer cake which gave us all a sugar rush at brunch. Winning I think.

Butterscotch Pecan Cake with Brown Butter Frosting
Adapted from
For the Cake:
450ml plain flour
1/2 + 1/8 tsp baking powder
3/8 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 1/4 tsp salt
150g butter, unsalted, soft
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup golden caster sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 + 1/8 cups rum
1/2 + 1/8 cups buttermilk

 For the Frosting:
175g butter, unsalted (60g for melting; 115g for adding in later)
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup double cream
1/4 tsp salt
300g cream cheese
1/4 cup icing sugar

For the Butterscotch Sauce:
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
45g butter, unsalted
1/4 cup golden syrup
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup double cream

1 cup pecans, chopped

To make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 170C and line a 20cm tin with baking paper. Place the flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt in a bowl and set aside.
Place the butter and sugars in a bowl and beat until creamy.

Add in the eggs, beating between each, followed by the rum and vanilla.

Fold in the flour in three stages, alternating with the buttermilk. The batter is quite stiff, make sure everything gets incorporated. Place the batter into the baking tin, smoothing the top down with a spatula.

Bake for about 40 minutes, until the cake is cooked through and bounces back when you touch the top.
Allow to cool in the tin for ten minutes before cooling completely on a wire rack. If you're only icing it tomorrow, wrap the cake in plastic wrap when it is cold.

You can start the frosting whilst the cake is cooking.
For the frosting:
In a saucepan place 60g of the butter and heat it until it turns dark golden brown and starts to smell nutty. This takes about 10 minutes. Add in the sugar, cream and salt and bring everything to the boil and cook for three minutes. Remove from the heat, transfer to a bowl and cool.

Using an electric beater, or standing mixer, if you have one, beat the brown butter mixture for a minute. Then start adding in the rest of the butter, cut into cubes and at room temperature, until everything is incorporated and no pieces of butter remain.
In another bowl whisk the cream cheese and icing sugar. Add the brown butter mixture to the cream cheese and beat until all incorporated. Refrigerate, covered in clingfilm, for at least an hour.

For the butterscotch sauce:
Heat the sugar, butter, golden syrup and salt until the sugar dissolves. Bring the mixture to the boil and boil for a couple of minutes. Add in the cream (the mixture will foam up) and boil for another two minutes. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.

To assemble:
Cut the cake into three layers. Spread each exposed layer with butterscotch sauce - the top of the bottom layer, both sides of the middle layer, and both sides of the top layer. (I did this by spreading butterscotch sauce onto the side going onto the cake first and then, once it was on the cake, spreading the exposed layer with sauce.)

Spread frosting on the bottom layer before layering the next piece of cake. Once all three layers are assembled, spread frosting on the top and sides, creating a crumb layer.

Refrigerate the cake until the crumb frosting layer is firm, about an hour or so. Then apply the final layer of icing and decorate the sides with finely but roughly chopped pecans.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Pear, Chocolate and Pecan Crumbles

I bought some pears the other day and they were so unripe I could have done some damage throwing them about. But I didn't. I put them in the fruit bowl to ripen and figured I'd take them to school for breakfast over the week. In typical ripening fruit fashion, they all became ripe at once and so I had to think of something creative to do with them, because, let's face it, I was never going to eat all eight pears in the next two days or so. Instead I decided to make some pear crumbles, mixing in some very dark chocolate and a few pecans. I haven't made a lot of dessert on this site yet and I feel that I should (dessert and ice-cream are the two projects for this year I think). Cake is often easier to make and sadly I don't throw many (any) dinner parties any more so dessert often feels random. But, because the Princess is visiting I thought actually, it being Sunday and all, dessert would be a good idea. And an excuse to use up some of the pears.

Crumble is something it is easier to make more of, rather than less, so I made enough for 5 ramekins. This was quite by accident I might add, because I was aiming for 4, but my skills at guesswork leave something to be desired. It's not a train smash though, the crumble will keep in the freezer for a while. The good news is I actually measured out the ingredients before mixing everything together and so now have an actual crumble recipe to share with you all. I regard this as a rather exciting development. It means I was paying attention whilst cooking, instead of just going through the motions. I'm sure that makes me a better person somehow. Being centred in the moment and all that.

We ate the crumbles as late afternoon tea, rather than dessert and they were really good. The sweetness of the pear and maple syrup contrasted with the sharp, bitter chocolate. The occasional crunch of pecan just set the whole thing off perfectly. We had them with plain yoghurt which also eased the sugar factor. These are easy to make and quick to put together, if you're in a hurry. I suspect they make good breakfasts too.

Pear, Chocolate and Pecan Crumbles  
Makes four crumbles
For the Pears:
4 pears
2 Tbsp maple syrup
water to cover
50g dark chocolate

For the Crumble:
2/3 cup oats
1/3 cup plain flour
1/3 cup golden caster sugar
50g butter
heaped 1/3 cup pecans

To make the pears: peel the pears and then chop them into chunks. Place in a saucepan and cover with water. Add in the maple syrup. Simmer on a low heat until the pears are tender but not mushy. Scoop the pears out of the syrup and reduce the syrup until thickened - by about two thirds.
Chop the chocolate into chunks.

Divide the pears between four ramekins and add chocolate into each dish. (The chocolate will melt a little.)

For the crumble: preheat the oven to 180C.
Place the oats, flour and sugar into a bowl and rub the butter into the dry ingredients until crumbly and starting to form larger pieces of dough. Toss the pecans through the mixture and any smaller chocolate pieces that didn't go in with the pears.

Cover the ramekins generously with crumble and bake for 30 minutes, until the crumble is brown and the pears are bubbling.

Remove from the oven and cool slightly before serving with yoghurt and a drizzle of syrup. (I dished the crumbles out of their ramekins and into larger bowls, to make the process of eating easier.)

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Gingerbread Loaf

The Princess is visiting so naturally I had to make a spice cake of sorts this weekend. I made this last night so I'm afraid there are no pictures of the method as it was already dark when I was whisking and folding and pouring. I experimented with the recipe in Bouchon Bakery which I have been dying to use ever since it arrived last year. I appear to be slightly useless at reading recipes before going to the shops so upon my return I discovered I was supposed to have both canola oil and lemon zest for the recipe so I had to do a little adapting. I left out the lemon zest - let's be honest, I didn't really have a choice there - and I used butter instead of oil. As a result I mixed up the method too, melting the butter and black treacle together before adding in the eggs. I had to use black treacle because I couldn't find molasses. Personally, I like the result. This is a dark, dense, sticky gingerbread. I like to eat it with a little butter but the Princess is holding out for cream cheese icing. (I'll let you know how that goes.)

Other things to note: the recipe says it makes two loaves. It is possible my loaf tin is very large but mine made 1 and 1/2 loaves. I also baked the loaves one after the other because I only have one loaf tin. Obviously if you have two loaf tins you can divide the mixture in half and then bake them simultaneously. My loaves consequently baked within 40 minutes and not the hour recommended. I was dubious about the addition of boiling water but I went ahead with it, although I added less than the recipe calls for. It changes the nature of the batter, making it much thinner and less sugary. So, even if it seems weird, do add the water.

Gingerbread Loaf
Adapted from Bouchon Bakery
340g plain flour
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
a pinch of salt
220g lightly packed brown sugar
320g black treacle
170g unsalted butter
2 eggs
1 cup boiling water
Makes 2 loaves

Preheat the oven to 180C and line two loaf tins with parchment paper.
Weigh out the flour and then add in the bicarb, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, salt and half the sugar.
Place the rest of the sugar with the butter and treacle in a pan and heat until the butter melts. I watched this carefully because I didn't want the mixture to get very hot and I removed it from the heat when it was at about body temperature. Allow it to cool slightly.
Whisk the eggs in a small bowl and then whisk them into the treacle mixture. (If your treacle is too hot you will end up with scrambled/cooked eggs at this point.)
Fold the flour into the treacle mixture (I added it all at once) and mix until smooth. Lastly stir in the boiling water, adding it in quarter cup portions so the bowl doesn't get overwhelmed. The mixture will thin out but will take the whole cup of water.
Divide the mixture between loaf tins (or if you only have one, pour in half the mixture) and bake for about 40 minutes. I would check the loaf at 30 minutes - it's done when it springs back and a skewer inserted comes out clean.
Allow to cool in the tins for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack and cooling completely. Then wrap it in clingfilm and allow it to mature overnight before slicing and buttering for breakfast...

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Spice Brownies

I am supposed to be writing. Perhaps you can tell? I am supposed to be writing field notes. I went back into the field yesterday. I sort of feel that another week off would sort me out and then I'd be full of energy but sadly, the school system here disagrees and so I got up yesterday at 6am to go and find out about food in my new school. The school is awesome and I had a really good, if overwhelming first day, but when I got home I found I couldn't write anything. I made a whole lot of notes whilst I was in the field, surreptitiously writing during breaks, around the corner and in the staff room (which is strangely mostly empty) but when I got home I found that I couldn't put finger to key board. So I didn't write anything last night and now this evening I'm supposed to be writing an account and I just have a total block against it. So I made these brownies instead - at least my procrastinating results in edible food products. It doesn't help that Word has decided to go on the blink and although I've now managed a good thousand words, the document just won't open so for the moment, I can't write any more. So I'm going to tell you about these brownies and hope that the computer starts to cooperate later.

These brownies are adapted from Baked Elements, which I've mentioned here and here. I had a sudden craving for very dark chocolate brownies and these are made with chilli powder which adds a kick of spice that gets you at the back of your throat right at the end. They're dark, dense and totally addictive. I made only half the recipe as I wasn't sure about the chilli. I also changed the sugars to suit what I had in the cupboard. I ended up putting the brownies into the fridge to firm up slightly and the result is a squidgy, soft texture. They'd be rather good, I think, as a dessert at the end of a dinner party, possibly served with just vanilla ice-cream.

Spice Brownies
Adapted from Baked Elements
1/2 + 1/8 cups plain flour
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tbsp ancho chilli powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground ginger
130g dark chocolate
35g milk chocolate
115g unsalted butter
1/2+1/4 cups golden caster sugar
1/4 cup golden granulated sugar
2 1/2 eggs
Makes 16 small squares

Preheat the oven to 180C and line a square baking tin with parchment paper. I halved my usual tin using a foil barrier which worked fairly well.
Combine the flour, cocoa, chilli powder, cinnamon, ginger, and salt in a bowl and set aside.

Melt the butter and chocolates together - you can do this in a microwave (I did) or over a double boiler. Whichever you choose, make sure the mixture doesn't get too hot. To do this successfully in the microwave, buzz the mixture for 30 seconds at a time, stirring and giving it time to cool in between. Whisk the sugars into this mixture, followed by the eggs. Try not to over combine things. Stop mixing when it's all come together.

Mix the flour into the chocolate mixture. The book advises not to over-mix this either and recommends leaving some of the flour not entirely mixed in. The mixture obviously splits easily which is why you can't mix it too much.

Pour the mixture into your baking tin, smooth it out with a spatula and bake for about 30 minutes.
The brownies are done when the mixture is risen slightly and a skewer inserted brings out a few dry crumbs. Allow to cool in the tin for ten minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Now I shall return to field note writing.