Thursday, October 26, 2006

Petits Fours

Jeanne over at Cook Sister is hosting Sugar High Friday this month: petits fours. Now this is a challenege to my cookery skills because as you may have noticed that I don't really do little and pretty things, though I do try. But the picture of four little gorgeous cakes on her website made me think I could at least have a try. So last Friday I did a little research in Waterstone's to make sure I was thinking of the right things (the Larousse was one of the only books to have any petits fours in it) and on Saturday morning I rifled through a selection of my cook books to find suitable recipes to make tiny edible delights. I came up with lemon creams, chocolate tarts (from Gary Rhodes' Sweet Dreams) and meringues (just a standard recipe). I duely bought all the ingredients I didn't have and set to in the kitchen on Sunday morning. By the time I sat down at 1 o'clock I was exhausted but seemed to have created what I thought of as petits fours - the lemon creams may be slightly larger than anticipated because they spread in the oven but nevertheless a good effort. However, the slightly more slap dash approach I normally employ will be back in service soon, much less stressful if you don't care how big your biccies are going to be.

Lemon creams
I can't remember where the recipe for these came from but I have it scawled down in a note book along with vienese whirls and vegie burgers

110g unsalted butter
60g caster sugar
grated rind of 1 lemon
140g self raising flour
30g ground almonds

for the filling
40g unsalted butter
85g icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Cream together the butter and sugar and then fold in the lemon rind and almonds. Mix in the flour to make a stiff dough. Roll out to 3mm and then cut out 5cm diameter circles. Chill for 5-10 min and then bake for 7-10min. Cool. For the filling blend together the sugar and butter and then use to sandwich together the biscuits.

Chocolate tarts

For the pastry
225g plain flour
pinch of salt
150g butter
75g cater sugar
1 whole egg plus 1 egg yolk

In a food processor put all the ingredients except the eggs and whizz until you have fine breadcrumbs. Then add the eggs and whizz briefly to combine. Work everything together and put into the fridge for about an hour. Then roll out to 3mm and cut rounds out to fit a small bun tin to make mini tart cases. Then bake at 200°C for 15min. Cool.

For the filling
200g plain chocolate
100ml milk
150ml double cream
2 whole medium eggs

Melt the gently chocolate in a bowl over simmering water. Lightly beat the eggs in a bowl. Heat the milk and cream until boiling. Then pour the milk/cream mixture into the eggs whilst beating. Then add all this into the melted chocolate. It'll go very thick. Then spoon a little of this mixture into each tart case and bake them at 100°C for 20min. Cool.

This recipe size makes lots and lots and lots, I ended up making many little ones and one big one when I felt I'd had enough of making little ones. The big one needed 45min to set the chocolate mixture and about 25min for the pastry.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

My EBBP parcel has arrived

The weather has turned cold and gloomy over the past week but I have something very special - a parcel from Meeta at whats for lunch honey filled with tempting autumny smells wrapped up in beautiful little packets. Inside I found all the wonderful tasty treats I associate with the German Christmas market that comes here in December - chocolate and hazelnut spiced honey breads, little marzipany chocolatey domino dice, chocolate butter cookies, ferraro chocolate kisses and stollen, which is a favourite of mine! Fabulous and now I shall have to slink off for a cup of tea and a wonderful mouthful!

Monday, October 16, 2006

World Bread Day

Bacon and prune bread

In enthausiasm for World bread day I have created this rather tasty bread - with salty smoked bacon and squishy prunes. To make it simply take a wholemeal bread recipe and add the extras and if you're lazy like me and have a bread machine you could use this recipe below:

200g strong wholemeal flour
200ml water
150g strong white flour
1tsp salt
1tsp sugar
14g fact acting dried yeast

5rashers smoked back bacon
100g ready to eat prunes

To make the dough put all the ingredients except the bacon and prunes in your pan and set to the dough setting. Meanwhile cook the bacon in a hot oven (190°C) until crispy, cool and then cut into small pieces. Chop the prunes. Once the dough is ready kneed in the bacon bits and prunes and then shape and leave to rise in a warm place. Once doubled in size bake in the oven (190°C) for 35min or until it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

1066 Re-enacted

On Saturday we all went down to Battle, near Hastings to see the re-enactment of the Battle of Hastings (I wonder did the word Battle come first or the place?......) 2000 or more people dressed in clothing of the era, carrying weapons to match, fought for 2 hours on the battle field outside Battle Abbey. It looked like incredibly hard work, carrying all the chainmail and wielding pikes and broadswords and being rained on by arrows.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Hot footing it around Athens

With the summer school over John came all the way to Athens for the weekend! I met him at the airport on Friday night and after finding a decent hotel we went in search of dinner - fabulous chicken in a 'secret' creamy sauce. On Saturday we wandered around the whole of Athens it seemed, taking in the Temple of Zeus, the Roman forum and the Agora, squeezing in a lengthy lunch out of the baking sun! We found a little restaurant in a side street for tea and were very lucky it wasn't busy because the heavens opened and all the clientelle could sqeeze inside from the al fresco seating. Then saving the most popular for last we trekked up the Acropolis to see the Pantheon with hordes of folk. But it was worth it at the top to see the ancient ruins and particularly to sit in the Theatre of Dionysus.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Greek cyclamen

The organisers let us have the afternoon off on Tuesday and they took us around the island on a boat and deposited us on Anagiri beach for a few hours. I wandered round the headland to the cave there and came across many beautiful cyclamen poking up through the scorched earth. (There must have been a vicious fire last year.) They really were very beautiful. And then yesterday Helen and I skived off the afternoon tutorials and took bikes around the island - wonderful, if a little sweaty!!! The summer school is nearly over with just the final dinner to go.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Summer School

This is the sunrise that greeted me this morning from our hotel on the Greek island Spetses. I'm here for a summer school for work and what a spectacular setting. We arrived on Friday in Athens and then caught the boat out here yesterday. With registration not until later in the afternoon I had planned to cycle round the island with Khujesta and Rajit but in the heat we got down to the lighthouse before getting too hot and just had to have a paddle in the sea to cool off. This morning our work starts in earnest and won't let up til 8 tonight - phew!
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