Bake-off Wednesdays: Pastry/Advanced Dough

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Forgive me for I am cheating a bit this week – I’ve tried to incorporate two episodes into one bake, because I didn’t really have time to bake twice straight after coming back from Spain (and I need to regain some control over how much i’m eating!)

So this week to continue the Spanish theme I made Churros 🙂

Churros are made of a choux pastry dough, which is then piped through a star-shaped nozzle into boiling oil, and fried until puffed up and golden. They are often eaten for breakfast dipped in hot chocolate or with a coffee. They evaded me for a while in Spain recently however, they seemed to prefer pastries with their chocolate for breakfast in Girona – so that’s why i’m not sick of them yet…

I’d never made choux pastry before, so I consider this advanced for me! Although I found it pretty easy, so maybe it’s not that difficult, just something different?

Anyway, I found a few recipes on the internet, including some for baked churros, which I thought worth trying as they would be healthier than their fried cousins.

I originally decided to just make baked, but then thought better of it and decided it would be useful to make both versions and compare…

I adapted a recipe for baked churros by The Little Loaf and used it as the dough for both types of churros, I also used a chocolate sauce recipe by BBC Good Food and adapted that slightly too.

The verdict wasn’t that surprising to me – the fried tasted better (doesn’t it always?!). They puffed up more in the oil than the baked did, which gave them a chewy texture and a crunchy exterior, the baked version was lovely and crisp, but fairly hollow inside.

Here’s a comparison photo for you:

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 My mum, who is on a diet, did appreciate the baked version however, as it meant she could still enjoy dessert and not feel too guilty, so they’re worth making for that reason at least.

I was pretty impressed with how authentic the fried ones tasted, and how easy they were to make! The chocolate sauce was really silky and glossy too…

Recipe for both versions below:

Serves 6-8

Churros

80g plain white flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

pinch salt

100g golden caster sugar, divided

2 tsp cinnamon

50g unsalted butter, cubed

150ml cold water

2 large beaten eggs

750ml sunflower/vegetable oil – if frying

Chocolate Sauce

200g bar 70% chocolate, broken into chunks

100ml double cream

100ml whole milk

3 tbsp golden syrup

½ tsp vanilla extract (optional)

If you’re not a fan of dark chocolate you can use half dark, half milk…

*If making Baked Churros, preheat oven to 200C and line a few trays with baking paper*

Sift the flour and salt over a piece of baking paper and leave near the hob (this makes it easier to combine ingredients for the dough). Mix 90g of the caster sugar with the cinnamon in a large bowl or tray and set aside.

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In a medium saucepan, heat the butter and water together until the butter is melted. Bring to the boil then turn the heat down low and tip in the sifted flour/salt and remaining 10g caster sugar. Beat with a wooden spoon over the heat until a smooth ball of dough forms that leaves the sides of the saucepan – it will look a bit like mashed potato! Remove from the heat and leave for a couple of minutes, then beat in the eggs, a small amount at a time, until the mixture is smooth. Put to one side for a few minutes.

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While the dough is resting, make your sauce. Put all the sauce ingredients into a pan on a low heat, stirring until you have a smooth shiny sauce. Keep warm.

For Fried Churros:

Fill a deep saucepan one-third full of oil. Heat until a cube of bread browns in 45 seconds – 1 min (approx 170C if you have a thermometer). Cover a large plate with kitchen paper.

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Fit your piping bag with a star-shaped nozzle (approx 1.5-2cm wide). Fill with your dough and pipe strips of it straight into the pan, cutting them off with a pair of scissors – you might need someone to help with that bit. I managed to get about 6 or 7 in the pan each time, without them sticking to each other.  Fry until golden brown and crispy, then remove with a slotted spoon and drain on the kitchen paper.

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As soon as the churros are ready, roll in the cinnamon sugar mixture and serve with the thick hot chocolate sauce – get dunking!

For Baked Churros:

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Fit your piping bag with a star-shaped nozzle (approx 1.5-2cm wide). Fill with your dough and pipe lines onto the prepared baking paper-covered trays. Bake each tray for 12 – 15 minutes or until crisp and golden – you might have to do this in batches.

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As soon as the churros are ready, roll in the cinnamon sugar mixture and serve with the thick hot chocolate sauce – get dunking!

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*You may well eat all of these in one sitting – I wouldn’t blame you, but if there are some left over, or you need to make them in advance, you can re-heat them in the oven on a medium heat for 5 minutes – this will make them nice and crispy again too! The chocolate sauce can be re-heated on the hob or in the microwave, but remember to check every few seconds in the microwave so you don’t burn it.*

Buenas Noches!

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Hola Girona

Hola! Sorry for the recent lack of posts, I was conducting important food research in Spain. The short answer to my findings is: Yum. The longer answer will be found below…

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I took the OH to Girona, a medieval city in North-eastern Spain for a special birthday. The main reason for this was that it is the location of the second best restaurant in the world – El Celler de Can Roca, which i’d managed to get us a reservation at (only 11 months in advance, no biggie!!). The upside to the location of the restaurant is that Girona is a lovely little city, perfect for wandering round and finding lots to see, eat and drink – all of which we did.

I will be doing a dedicated post on the crazy restaurant experience soon, but for now – here are some other things we ate and drank over the course of four days:

Saturday

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Cub was a bar/cafe just down the road from our apartment – so we went straight there for lunch when we arrived, and tried some of their tapas – interesting flavour combinations but all tasty! From top: Dates wrapped in bacon, Patatas ali oli (potatoes with garlic mayo basically), Chorizo tostas with melted cheese & green peppers, Cured duck with poached pear & hazelnuts, and Black pudding & Pistachio croquettes. The dates particularly were heaven!

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Next door to cub was a gelateria that also sold Orxata (Horchata). I first had this in Valencia years ago and love it – it’s a drink made of tiger nuts, water and sugar, and served ice cold. Delicious…

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That evening we went to a Pintxos bar called Txalaka (pronounced Chalaka).

Pintxos is similar to Tapas, but is mainly served on bread, with a skewer/toothpick. This bar was like a buffet, you grab a big plate, fill it up with goodies, eat it and keep the sticks to show how much you need to pay. I was like a kid in a sweet shop! We also had a basque sparkling white wine called txakoli (the wine is so cheap out there!). You can go up as many times as you like, just don’t forget you’ve got to pay at the end…

On my plate (clockwise from top left): manchego cheese & quince, olives stuffed with cream cheese, figs & cured ham, prawn wrapped in crispy potato strips, cream cheese, pistachio, cured duck & balsamic on bread, marinated broad beans & cured duck, and a cheese croquette. There was also a selection of sweet pintxos, but i only had room for one – little orange jellies.

It was all tasty, i’m only disappointed i didn’t have room for more, as they kept bringing out new dishes every ten minutes or so!

Sunday

Sunday we went to Barcelona to meet up with an old friend who lives there. There are some amazing bars/restaurants in Barcelona but we just stopped at a little cafe and had snacks, so I didn’t take any food photos apart from this one…

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Dulche de Leche Ice cream from a shop in Barceloneta (by the sea) – it was fabulous but i’m sure about half of it dripped down my hand as it was so hot! And I can’t remember the name of the place – terrible blogger sorry…

Monday

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Monday we did some more exploring around the old town, and found quite a few places serving crepes, probably because it’s so close to the border with France. We chose to eat at Creperie Bretonne because it had a really good value menu del dia (menu of the day – like a set menu), €8.50 for two courses and a drink, and also because they had a big bus in the restaurant – amazing!

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There was a choice of soup, salad or quiche to start, then a choice of three galettes. We both chose the ham and cheese quiche to start, which was rich and delicious, and i had some cidre (french cider) which came in a tea cup! We then both had the same galette too – chicken, onion, cheese and chives, which was deceptively filling but very flavourful. Unfortunately I didn’t leave enough room for one of their salted butter caramel crepes, which pains me to this day, as it sounded amazing. Never mind… I did have room for a cortado though – similar to an italian macchiato – an espresso with a little bit of warm milk.

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Monday evening we ate at a restaurant called Occi, which lonely planet and our airbnb host had recommended. The menu was a bit fusion-y, mixing Spanish with French, Italian, and some Asian ideas. I had the cheese plate to start – the waiter recommended having half of the portion size which was a good idea as there was still plenty to eat! I liked all the cheeses, a mixture of goat and sheep’s cheese mainly, but felt it could have done with more than the two apricots as accompaniments – some quince or other fruit maybe?

For mains we both went for duck options, the OH had Duck cannelloni with port and apples, which was more like a duck pancake as it was made with pastry. I went for the duck breast with blue cheese ravioli and a coffee sauce – mainly because it sounded odd. The flavours actually all went fine together, but it was all quite stodgy and could’ve done with some vegetables or salad to lift it a bit.

We didn’t have room for dessert but they brought us out some sugared almonds which was a nice touch. There was also a pre-starter of pumpkin soup with crunchy lardons which was probably the nicest thing I ate there! The food generally felt like it was missing something for me, but our waiter was great, and very good at choosing wine for each of us!

Tuesday

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Breakfast! A trip to Xocolateria L’antiga, an old-fashioned cafe, was in order for some crazy thick hot chocolate and a pastry. I was desperate for churros but nowhere seemed to have them, so we settled for an ‘Ensaimada’ each – a majorcan cake that tasted a lot like Pannetone. This, dipped into the chocolate was almost enough to make me forget about churros.

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I said ‘almost’! When we finally found some an hour or so later I couldn’t resist. We didn’t have them with chocolate, just dusted in sugar and hot and delicious.

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Lunch ( I know, we still stopped for lunch after all that): Le Bistrot. We’d walked past this restaurant every day on our way into the old town, and liked how all the tables were set up on the steps – it looked pretty romantic in the evenings. We had their menu of the day – €13 for two courses and a drink. We both chose their house speciality for main – Pork cheeks, which came with chickpeas, carrots and onions. We then had pineapple for dessert, which was literally two massive chunks of fresh pineapple on a plate. The food here was pretty rustic, but the pork cheeks were blinking’ gorgeous and falling off the bone. The service wasn’t amazing but the cheeks made up for it!

That evening we went to El Celler de Can Roca, but I will leave you in suspense about that for now because i have more than enough photo’s to do a dedicated post on that one restaurant!

I’d thoroughly recommend Girona for a mini-break – it was really nice having a few days just to wander around the medieval part of the city, popping into churches and gardens, and restaurants and bars. There are enough places to eat and drink that you could probably eat somewhere different every day for a couple of months!

Some of the things we recommend seeing:

The Cathedral

The Arab Baths

The Archeology Museum (for it’s amazing setting in an old monastery)

Walking the old city walls

More info on Girona can be found on the lonely planet website or the Girona tourist office website.

Let me know if you’ve been!

Bake-Off Wednesdays: European Cakes

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I’m back in my comfort zone with this weeks challenge – no scary pastry or bread, just a nice easy cake…

NB: Last week’s tart did go down well at the dinner party in case anyone was wondering!

I originally thought of making an Italian Polenta cake as I like the grainy texture, but when I was given 3 bags of apples at the weekend I knew they had to be incorporated! So German Apple cake it was.

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This cake is light and moist, with a tasty crumble topping, of which there is also a layer inside the cake. I liked the fact that toasted flaked almonds are used in the crumble – they add another nice texture and flavour. The original recipe uses sour cream, but I had a pot of crème fraiche that needed using, so subbed that in instead. If you’d rather use sour cream, just swap it back.

This has had good reviews from my work colleagues, husband, and a fairly prolific apple cake maker – so it’s safe to say it’s a good one! It will probably be made again, when I run out of other things to use the rest of the apples in…

Can be served warm or cold, and with crème fraiche or sour cream on the side too, if you fancy it.

Original recipe found here

German Apple  Cake

175g/6oz unsalted butter
175g/6oz caster sugar
675g/1½ lb Bramley apples, peeled, cored and sliced
3 large eggs, beaten
200g/7oz plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
150g crème fraiche – loosened with a little milk

Topping:
50g/2oz unsalted butter
50g/2oz soft brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
75g/3oz plain flour
50g/2oz toasted flaked almonds

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1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C/ 350°F/Gas Mark 4. Line a 20cm (22cm in my case) spring form tin with baking parchment. Melt 25g of the butter and sugar together in a large frying pan. Add the Bramley apple slices and sauté for 3-4 minutes or until the apples are tender. Leave to cool.

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2. Make the crumble topping by melting the butter and stirring in the remaining ingredients.

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3. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy then gradually add the eggs beating well between additions. Sift over the flour and baking powder then gently fold into the mixture with the creme fraiche.

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4. Spoon two thirds of the cake mixture over the base of the tin, scatter over a third of the crumble mixture and top with the remaining cake mixture.

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Finally, scatter over the Bramley apples and remaining crumble mixture. Bake in the oven for approximately 75 minutes. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes before transferring to a plate/rack.

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Enjoy!

P.S. Next weeks Bake-Off post won’t be on time as i’ll be coming back from a min-holiday in Spain. I will endeavour to make it/post it soon after though…

Vegging Out

You might remember a couple of weeks ago I ate too much. This was a good week, but probably not very good for me. It involved a LOT of meat.

To try and counteract that a bit, the OH and I ate (almost) vegetarian food for (almost) a week last week… (It was five days, and there was a tiny bit of belly pork involved).

Anyway, we found some tasty recipes to cook, and i really didn’t miss meat much, so i thought i’d share them with you.

Sunday

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Normally on a weekend we will indulge in an english breakfast or a variation on one at some point. It’s normally grilled, and the eggs are often poached, so not the worst meal you could have – but having just watched a programme about how bad processed meat is for you, we didn’t feel much like indulging in sausages and bacon anyway! Instead we had sweetcorn and spring onion fritters, grilled halloumi, grilled cherry tomatoes, and lambs lettuce. It looks colourful and vibrant and it tasted yum. Fritters were adapted from Lavender and Lovage.

Monday

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Nigel Slater’s Sweet Onions with Lentil Stew

This is the recipe with the teeny bit of meat, but it’s really just to add depth of flavour. This isn’t the healthiest of recipes, as the onions are slowly cooked in butter, but considering the rest of the ingredients are lentils, carrot and some spices, it’s so delicious! We had it with creme fraiche and a seeded roll, it’s a really good autumnal tasty stew, and you could easily forgo the meat if veggie.

Tuesday

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Smoky Sweet Potato & Bean Cakes with Citrus Salad

These vegetables cakes are a BBC Good Food recipe and are four of your five a day! They have a bit of a kick with coriander, spring onions and chipotle paste, and are surprisingly filling. You could always treat them as a burger and have it in a bun if you wanted too…

Wednesday

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Lemon & Aubergine Tagine with Almond Cous Cous

Another BBC Good Food recipe, aubergine is a great meaty vegetable, and this Tagine is only 361cals, but filling. The Harissa makes it pretty spicy so we had some natural yoghurt with it too, and the almonds in the cous cous are a nice extra.

Thursday

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Spicy Buckwheat Noodles with Tamarind Sauce

This is a recipe by Hemsley Hemsley, two sisters who create healthy recipes without gluten, or refined sugar. We substituted the buckwheat noodles for whole wheat ones, as they were easier to find, and we used honey instead of maple syrup because I didn’t want to spend five pounds on maple syrup that we probably wouldn’t use up in time.  This had broccoli, mushrooms, green beans, spring onions and cashews in, and a really flavourful sauce, using tart tamarind (which I love). A dish we will be making again…

If anyone’s got any other tasty vegetarian dishes I should try let me know!

Bake-Off Wednesdays: Tarts

*Warning* This post contains spoilers (if you’re a guest or host of the dinner party I’m going to tomorrow!)*

If I’ve learned anything from last weeks Bake-Off, it’s probably never to attempt a Baked Alaska in the height of summer… or at all! Poor Iain, the stress got to him – and having thrown pastry in the bin last night in frustration, I’m pretty sure I would have done the same in the Bake-Off tent. There was a lot of controversy over how long his baked Alaska was out of the freezer, why Diana had done it, why he hadn’t been told etc – but I’m sure the editors had a hand in making it seem so dramatic – and only those in the tent really know what happened. Fingers crossed this week will be less stressful – Although mine hasn’t been…

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This weeks challenge is Tarts and Pies. I’d decided to make a tart as we’re going to a dinner party, and I thought it would be a good dish to take over for dessert. I thought this would be a nice, easy, week as I’ve made them in the past – but something happened to me last night and I just couldn’t get the pastry right. The first batch ended up over-worked and got chucked in the bin, the second batch either didn’t have enough water in it, had too much butter in it, or was too cold – and just crumbled when I tried to roll it out. I think I’ll stick to cakes in the future 😉

In the end the OH had more patience than me and managed to coax the second batch of dough into behaving by adding a bit more water. It was never going to the best dough ever though as I realised later I’d forgotten to add the caster sugar to it second time round too! It ended up ok in the end though… I tried a little bit this morning just to check, and the flavours of the tart are really nice together, and sweet enough that you don’t notice the unsweetened pastry.

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I’ve got a hankering for cherries at the moment, and found a recipe on Red online by Gregg ‘It’s like a hug in a bowl’ Wallace (Masterchef presenter) which combines the cherries with white chocolate and a hint of cinnamon – a done deal in my eyes! I hope the other guests agree 😉

White Chocolate and Cherry Tart

Serves:  6-8
Preparation Time:15 minutes – plus chilling time
Cooking Time:1 hour

You will need
175g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
½ tsp ground cinnamon
125g unsalted butter, chilled and diced
25g caster sugar
2–3 tsp iced water

For the filling
2 eggs
40g caster sugar
150g white chocolate, finely chopped
300ml double cream
450g fresh black or red dessert cherries or
2 x 425g cans pitted black or red cherries
Ground cinnamon, for dusting
Extra cherries to decorate (optional)

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NB: I bought two tins of pitted cherries to use as they were cheaper, but they didn’t taste strongly enough of cherry for me, so also bought some fresh ones and did ‘half and half’. There were also some fresh cherries left over for decoration!

Method

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1. To make the pastry, sift the flour and cinnamon into a bowl. Add the butter and rub in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar and add enough of the water to mix to a firm dough.

(I used my stand mixer but also rubbed some of the butter in)


2. Turn the dough out on to a lightly-floured surface and knead briefly. Wrap in foil and chill for 30 minutes.

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3. Roll the dough out on a lightly-floured surface and use to line a 23 x 2.5 cm deep loose-bottomed flan tin. Trim off the excess pastry around the rim. Prick the tart case with a fork all over, to stop it rising. Line the tart case with foil, fill with baking beans and bake in a preheated oven, 200°C /400°F/gas mark 6, for 10 minutes. Remove the foil and beans and bake for a further 5 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.


4. Meanwhile, to make the filling, beat the eggs and sugar together in a bowl. Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream in a small, heavy-based saucepan, then pour over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate has melted. Pour over the egg mixture, stirring constantly.

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5. Pit the cherries, if using fresh, or thoroughly drain the canned cherries. Arrange in the flan case. Pour the chocolate mixture over the cherries.

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6. Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes until the chocolate cream is set. Dust with cinnamon and serve warm, decorated with extra cherries if you like.

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Recipe by Gregg Wallace, found on Red Online

As you can see it, it turned out pretty ‘rustic’, but it tastes good… Fingers crossed it goes down well tomorrow evening!

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