Chocolate Welsh Cakes

Giving up biscuits for Lent has meant I’m baking things to replace the banned biscuits, not exactly the healthy intentions I had in mind. Given I’m half Welsh, and proud before you ask, I often celebrate St. David’s day in a foodie vein; surely the best way to celebrate any special day in the calender. Be it Welsh Cheesecakes, Bara Brith , anything with leeks or Welsh Cakes I’ll try to bake at least one around the 1st March. Traditionally Welsh Cakes are made with raisins or sultanas but as I discovered at Fabulous Welshcakes in Cardiff Bay you can put different fillings in welsh cakes. I had a look around the baking cupboard, of which I swear I could open my own baking suppliers with, and found chocolate chips begging to be used.

Technically you could argue that these are not Welsh Cakes as they are baked in the oven and not on a griddle; I wanted to play around with recipes suitable for schools. I suppose they could be described as a richer version of scones, but with a lighter texture. By all means this recipe could be cooked the traditional way on a griddle giving the cakes the distinctive browned flat top and bottom. Both methods of cooking taste more or less the same they just look different. Perfect with a cuppa and in my eyes a perfect substitute for the banished biscuits.

Welsh Cakes
Makes 15

225g self raising flour
110g butter
50g caster sugar
75g chocolate chips
1 egg

1) Rub butter into flour until it has the consistency of breadcrumbs. Stir in sugar and chocolate chips. Break in egg and mix until you have a dough.

2) Roll out onto a floured surface until around 1cm thick and cut into 5cm rounds. Place on a lined baking tray. Bake at 180°c for 10-15 until cakes are golden.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.butcherbakerblog.com/2010/02/24/chocolate-welsh-cakes/

A Michelin Treat – Northcote

Once a year Hubs & I treat ourselves and go away for a foodie short break. Most of our holidays consist of sleeping under canvas, scrambling to the top of  mountains and eating porridge cooked on a Trangia so once in a while we like to indulge in some understated luxury. Previous escapades have included Blue Reef Cottages on the Isle of Harris, Hotel du Vin in York and last year a double trip to River Cottage.

This year it was my turn to decide on the short break adventure and after some internet research I settled on Nigel Haworth’s Northcote near Blackburn. It ticked my wish list: restaurant with rooms, luxury but still affordable and a foodie experience. The fact it has a Michelin Star was an added bonus.

We arrived on a wet, grey Monday afternoon to be greeted by a warming log fire. After checking-in we were shown our room. Given we were staying in the cheapest room in the hotel, you wouldn’t know. I was very impressed. Huge comfortable bed with plush furnishings, decent toiletries and not just complementary tea & coffee, but also a fridge full of bottled water and Belviour drinks. I’m easily impressed!

That evening we made our way downstairs to sample the tasting menu. I didn’t take any photos of the food as I didn’t feel at all comfortable smuggling my not-so-subtle SLR into the dining room that was full of loved-up couples; however I did spot on the next table to ours someone sneakily taking photos on a compact. I did wonder if she was a fellow food blogger. It started with champagne and canapes in the lounge while we decided which menu to go for. The canapes included: Maple Cured Salmon with Cream Cheese & Chives; Onion & Langoustine Bhajis and Parsnip Crisps with an Onion Mousse for dipping. Next, Hubs went for the traditional tasting menu and me, not feeling as brave, went for the vegetarian menu. Hubs also went for the accompanying wine and I matched with a few courses because I’m a lightweight and I wanted to remember the whole meal! Only the first and the last course were the same for both of us, but I did get a taster of quite a few of Hubs’ courses and the Mutton dish was absolutely stunning and perfectly paired with the Gewurztraminer.

Pressed Red Beetroot, Yellow Beets, Smoked Shallots, Goat’s Curd, Treacle Dressing
Sancerra Rose, Pascal Jolivet, Loire, France 2007

***

Warm Loin of Herdwick Mutton, Jerusalem Artichoke Puree, Honey & Mint Dressing
Gewurztraminer, Les Folastries, Josmeyer, Alsace, France 2007
Butternut squash, Roast Shallots, Fritter

***

Turbot, Cavier, Butternut Squash
Montagne 1er Cru, Château de la Saule, Burgundy, 2007
Tomato Consommé, Mrs Kirkhams Cheese on Toast

***

Shellfish Broth, Orkney Scallops, Langoustine
Cheese Omelette Soufflé, Tomato, Shorrocks Bomber Fondue
Sauvignon Blanc, Single Vineyard, Marlborough, 2007

***

Roe Buck, Potato Wrapped Black Pudding, Pied Bleu Mushrooms, Pickled Damsons
Grenache, Prodical, Clare Valley, Kilikanoon, 2006
Roast Artichoke, Artichoke Puree, Mint & Shallot Dressing

***

Cockerham Goat 3 Ways, Blood Orange & Juniper Sauce
Pinot Noir, Amayna, San Antonio, Chile, 2007
Barley Risotto, Roast Shallots, Curly Kale, Onion Foam

***

Dark Valrhona Chocolate Cylinder, Smoked Nuts, Salted Sheep’s Milk Ice Cream
Moscatel, Lopez Hermanos, Malaga

At the end of the meal were then served a selection of petit fours that included mini Eccles cakes, chocolate dipped honey comb and a delicious dark rum truffle. Apart from the amazing mutton dish I sampled from Hubs’ plate my favourite course was the beetroot course at the beginning and the chocolate pudding at the end. The salted ice cream went superbly with the smoky chocolate. Hubs also said how the mutton course was his favourite, not only for the food, but also for the wine. Although I’m not veggie, I often eat veggie when eating out as to be frank I like vegetables. Given there is few vegetables in season during the months of February, Northcote did a sterling job of producing a delicious and different menu for vegetarians. By the end of the epic meal we had been in the dining room for over 5 hours.

The next day, following our foodie-get-away traditions, we had Afternoon Tea. Don’t ask us why, but at least once a year we make sure we have Afternoon Tea somewhere. A quintessentially British pastime. Who could turn down plates of posh finger sandwiches and cakes all washed down with the finest cups of tea. Afternoon Tea at Northcote certainly didn’t disappoint. Well filled sandwiches and perfectly cooked cakes, the scones with home-made jam and a generous portion of clotted cream were particularly good.

We had a great few days away and I would certainly recommend Northcote for a foodie getaway along with their sister pub The Three Fishes for fantastic food. The staff were fantastic. They were knowledgeable & professional without being snooty. It was the little touches that made the difference. The Molton Brown goodies that were left in the room in the evening, staff who became a familiar face and the member of staff who de-iced our car each morning.

Given the weather wasn’t too great we will admit to spending the rest of the time chilling in our lovely room, reading and watching the Winter Olympics. Sometimes I think we all need to switch off from the world and have some luxurious time to ourselves doing what we want to do.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.butcherbakerblog.com/2010/02/19/a-michelin-treat-2/

A Michelin Treat

Once a year Hubs & I treat ourselves and go away for a foodie short break. Most of our holidays consist of sleeping under canvas, scrambling to the top of  mountains and eating porridge cooked on a Trangia so once in a while we like to indulge in some understated luxury. Previous escapades have included Blue Reef Cottages on the Isle of Harris, Hotel du Vin in York and last year a double trip to River Cottage.

This year it was my turn to decide on the short break adventure and after some internet research I settled on Nigel Haworth’s Northcote near Blackburn. It ticked my wish list: restaurant with rooms, luxury but still affordable and a foodie experience. The fact it has a Michelin Star was an added bonus.

We arrived on a wet, grey Monday afternoon to be greeted by a warming log fire. After checking-in we were shown our room. Given we were staying in the cheapest room in the hotel, you wouldn’t know. I was very impressed. Huge comfortable bed with plush furnishings, decent toiletries and not just complementary tea & coffee, but also a fridge full of bottled water and Belviour drinks. I’m easily impressed!

That evening we made our way downstairs to sample the tasting menu. I didn’t take any photos of the food as I didn’t feel at all comfortable smuggling my not-so-subtle SLR into the dining room that was full of loved-up couples; however I did spot on the next table to ours someone sneakily taking photos on a compact. I did wonder if she was a fellow food blogger. It started with champagne and canapes in the lounge while we decided which menu to go for. The canapes included: Maple Cured Salmon with Cream Cheese & Chives; Onion & Langoustine Bhajis and Parsnip Crisps with an Onion Mousse for dipping. Next, Hubs went for the traditional tasting menu and me, not feeling as brave, went for the vegetarian menu. Hubs also went for the accompanying wine and I matched with a few courses because I’m a lightweight and I wanted to remember the whole meal! Only the first and the last course were the same for both of us, but I did get a taster of quite a few of Hubs’ courses and the Mutton dish was absolutely stunning and perfectly paired with the Gewurztraminer.

Pressed Red Beetroot, Yellow Beets, Smoked Shallots, Goat’s Curd, Treacle Dressing
Sancerra Rose, Pascal Jolivet, Loire, France 2007

***

Warm Loin of Herdwick Mutton, Jerusalem Artichoke Puree, Honey & Mint Dressing
Gewurztraminer, Les Folastries, Josmeyer, Alsace, France 2007
Butternut squash, Roast Shallots, Fritter

***

Turbot, Cavier, Butternut Squash
Montagne 1er Cru, Château de la Saule, Burgundy, 2007
Tomato Consommé, Mrs Kirkhams Cheese on Toast

***

Shellfish Broth, Orkney Scallops, Langoustine
Cheese Omelette Soufflé, Tomato, Shorrocks Bomber Fondue
Sauvignon Blanc, Single Vineyard, Marlborough, 2007

***

Roe Buck, Potato Wrapped Black Pudding, Pied Bleu Mushrooms, Pickled Damsons
Grenache, Prodical, Clare Valley, Kilikanoon, 2006
Roast Artichoke, Artichoke Puree, Mint & Shallot Dressing

***

Cockerham Goat 3 Ways, Blood Orange & Juniper Sauce
Pinot Noir, Amayna, San Antonio, Chile, 2007
Barley Risotto, Roast Shallots, Curly Kale, Onion Foam

***

Dark Valrhona Chocolate Cylinder, Smoked Nuts, Salted Sheep’s Milk Ice Cream
Moscatel, Lopez Hermanos, Malaga

At the end of the meal were then served a selection of petit fours that included mini Eccles cakes, chocolate dipped honey comb and a delicious dark rum truffle. Apart from the amazing mutton dish I sampled from Hubs’ plate my favourite course was the beetroot course at the beginning and the chocolate pudding at the end. The salted ice cream went superbly with the smoky chocolate. Hubs also said how the mutton course was his favourite, not only for the food, but also for the wine. Although I’m not veggie, I often eat veggie when eating out as to be frank I like vegetables. Given there is few vegetables in season during the months of February, Northcote did a sterling job of producing a delicious and different menu for vegetarians. By the end of the epic meal we had been in the dining room for over 5 hours.

The next day, following our foodie-get-away traditions, we had Afternoon Tea. Don’t ask us why, but at least once a year we make sure we have Afternoon Tea somewhere. A quintessentially British pastime. Who could turn down plates of posh finger sandwiches and cakes all washed down with the finest cups of tea. Afternoon Tea at Northcote certainly didn’t disappoint. Well filled sandwiches and perfectly cooked cakes, the scones with home-made jam and a generous portion of clotted cream were particularly good.

We had a great few days away and I would certainly recommend Northcote for a foodie getaway along with their sister pub The Three Fishes for fantastic food. The staff were fantastic. They were knowledgeable & professional without being snooty. It was the little touches that made the difference. The Molton Brown goodies that were left in the room in the evening, staff who became a familiar face and the member of staff who de-iced our car each morning.

Given the weather wasn’t too great we will admit to spending the rest of the time chilling in our lovely room, reading and watching the Winter Olympics. Sometimes I think we all need to switch off from the world and have some luxurious time to ourselves doing what we want to do.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.butcherbakerblog.com/2010/02/19/a-michelin-treat/

Baked Vegetable Spring Rolls

This time of year is good for food-related festivals but typically this year Shrove Tuesday, Valentines & Chinese New Year all fall in half term. After teaching the kids how to make pancakes last year, this year I decided to teach food from a different celebration and country. We’ve been doing quite a bit about Chinese New Year in work and have been dishing out the Fortune Cookies. I was particuarly pleased with my 2 fortunes:

The next week is full of fun and adventure

You’ll travel far with business and pleasure

Other people’s are far more cryptic.

I had been asked by some people if I could teach them to make Spring Rolls. Traditionally they are fried and there is a fryer in the kitchen I use but 1) we’re walking towards Healthy School status 2) I’m not that brave! I wanted the spring rolls to be easy to make, healthy and didn’t want to have to pre-cook the filling. I don’t claim these to be authentic, but is a great kid friendly recipe. Spring roll wrappers are nigh on impossible to find around here so used filo.

One thing I learnt today that filo pastry doesn’t always come in squares, it just so happens that every pack I have ever bought before today was squares. If your filo pastry comes in a long oblong cut in half to get to sets of squares. If not brushed with egg the rolls can look a tad anaemic. Also don’t use more than 2 sheets of filo per roll or it can end up being filo pastry overload. Also if you use sweet chilli sauce as your sauce filling, but be careful; due to the sugar content it caramalises fast. Just keep an eye on it.

If you’re looking for a delicious chinese takeout-style recipe for Chinese New Year I can highly recommend Tastefully Done’s Sweet & Sour Chicken. We often double the sauce and cook with a handful of sliced red & green pepper. Happy Chinese New Year.

Baked Vegetable Spring Rolls
(makes 6 large spring rolls)

1 pack of filo pastry
½ pack of raw stir fry vegetables
6 tbsp chinese-style sauce (eg Hoi Sin, Sweet Chilli, Soy etc…)
1 egg, beaten
Sesame seeds for decoration (optional)

1) Unwrap the pastry and lay out on the table. If the filo is a long oblong cut in half to make 2 squares. Take two layers of filo, pile on top of each other, then turn so one point is facing you.

2) Place some of the veg and inch or so above the bottom point. Cover with 1 tbsp of sauce. Begin to roll. The next bit is difficult for me to describe so here is the crib sheet I made for my classes – click here

3) Once they have been rolled, place on a tray lined with baking parchment, brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake at 190°c for 5 min, turn over, brush again with egg and bake for a further 5-10 minutes. The rolls are ready when they are golden in colour. Allow to cool slightly before eating as they can been bloomin’ hot inside. Best served with a dipping sauce.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.butcherbakerblog.com/2010/02/09/baked-vegetable-spring-rolls/

Hidden Gems

Ever so often I stumble across a product or place that I love. Those little places that are sometimes hidden away and always a pleasure to visit. I’ve been a visitor to the Ferrers Centre for years but this weekend was the first time I’ve managed to visit there in a while. A stone’s throw over the border in Leicestershire The Ferrers Gallery always suckers me in. The constantly changing exhibitions means there is always refreshing new artists to discover. On this visit to the top floor of the gallery was some work by Darren Dearen. There was a particular piece by him that had lots of butterflies literally fluttering out of the canvas. If I had a few 100 pounds to spare I would certainly buy some of his work.

The newest shop at the Ferrers Centre is Breadfirst, one of the first artisan bakeries in the area. I had been recommened it by a few people on Twitter and it certainly didn’t disappoint. The atmosphere when we walked in was lovely; keen to help, but not pushy in the slightest. They were more than happy for us to browse before we bought anything. All the bread is baked on premises and visitors to the shop can see the ovens and the baker at work through a glass window. I love the fact they will make and bake fresh scones for you while you wait. We were also given the opportunity to sample some of their delights. All were so good we ended up buying them. The fougasse had the perfect texture with the caraway seeds & juicy sultanas bringing a delicious taste to the bread. We then tried some stunning cheeses. A white Stilton with ginger & apricots and a new favourite for me – Gorwydd Caerphilly. The Gorwydd Caerphilly is a mature unpasturised cheese was unlike any cheese I had tasted before. It has a soft texture in the middle leading to a harder more mature texture on the outside. For me the taste was similar to a Somerset Brie. To finish our shopping spree we purchased 2 individual pies to have with dinner, both of which were full to the brim with chunky meat and succulent vegetables all encased in the perfect pastry. Breadfirst is becoming popular with local foodies in the know and I will certainly soon be returning especially since I know Vintage & Cake will soon be selling her cakes there.

To round off my day of touring local independent traders I popped into The Blossom Tree in Melbourne (this is the little market town that the big Aussie Melbourne is named after). I’ve had flowers from The Blossom Tree before and have always been impressed, but this was the first time I had visited Kerry’s shop. My eye’s lit up when I saw she had some fringed tulips left and I have to say I bought the last 2 bunches. Ever since she showed photos of fringed tulips being used in a wedding bouquet on her blog I’ve wanted to get my hands on some. They are almost a little sign that spring is on its way.

There are thousands of great little businesses out there waiting to be found. Take a few hours away from the hubbub of the High Street and you may be surprised as to what you might find.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.butcherbakerblog.com/2010/01/31/hidden-gems/

Something for the Weekend – French Toast

Weekends are something that can easily be taken for granted. Two full luxurious days to ourselves to do what ever we want; for me usually involving a trip into Derby to browse the shops then baking and for Hubs working on his classic Mark I Austin Healey Sprite. Of course not every weekend is so hedonistic so when we have weekends free we take full advantage of them. Weekday breakfasts are a fleeting affair, often eaten standing up in the kitchen, where the main aim of the morning is to get showered, fed and out of the house in record time so at weekends the one thing we always make time for is a decent breakfast.

We lay the table properly, switch the radio on and have some time for ourselves as a couple over something sweet be it French Toast topped with berries, croissants, pancakes or waffles. Here, bacon sarnies here are reserved for when we have guests. I tasted French Toast for first time last year and have been hooked ever since. If we’re ever out for breakfast the first thing I’ll do is scan the menu for my favourite item.

French toast can be made with a few bready items including your everyday sliced white, croissant and my personal favourite sweet, fluffy brioche. Last weekends French Toast was made with the last few slices of Fruit Beer Bread. Although it didn’t soak up the eggy custard as well as the wonderful brioche it still made a perfectly delicious breakfast. To try and introduce a healthy balance to the breakfast we always simmer down some berries. The freezer is full of various berries that we have picked from the PYO or I have bought off the reduced counter. Last week’s fruit offering was blueberries (yes, you can buy British blueberries) and they cut through the sweetness of the bread perfectly. Of course this is all served with a glass of cold orange juice and a big mug of tea.

The perfect start to a weekend.

French Toast
Enough for 2 people

100g berries
1 tbsp sugar
small amount of lemon juice
4 slices of bread/brioche
2 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla caster sugar (or use normal caster with a few drops of vanilla extract)
60ml (4 tbsp) milk

1) In a small saucepan slowly heat the berries, sugar and lemon juice until the berries break down and you have a thick, delicious coulis.

2) Melt a small amount of butter in a saucepan. In a shallow dish whisk together the eggs, milk and sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Once slice at a time dip the bread into the custard giving the bread a few seconds to soak up the eggy mix then place into the sizzling frying pan. Fry both sides of the bread until browned. Continue with the rest of the dipped bread. Serve with the coulis.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.butcherbakerblog.com/2010/01/29/something-for-the-weekend-french-toast/

Fresh from the Oven – Chocolate Buns

This month’s Fresh from the Oven challenge was hosted by Chele. Although the recipe appeared challenging at first, it was certainly enjoyable…and delicious. As there is only 2 of us a batch of 24 wasn’t exactly practical so I halved the recipe then froze half of the buns to be baked at a later date.

This is the first time I’ve made crème patisserie (I also know it as Confectioner’s Custard). It is essentially like a thick custard and is often used for filling pastries and tarts. Although I didn’t make it perfectly due to the tiny lumps it still was the right consistency and tasted perfect though at one point looked and smelt scarily like old school chocolate custard. Though this custard you won’t be pouring over steamed suet pudding.

The dough did take a bit to rise, but once it was ready to work with it was a perfect texture. Yes, I also went a bit OTT with the chocolate chips, but if you can’t go mad with chocolate in these buns when can you? They were absolutely delicious the texture between the custard, bread and chocolate chips was perfect. I would certainly make them again and I look forward to defrosting & baking the rest of the buns.

Chocolate Buns
makes 24

250g full fat milk (Richard likes to weigh it but its 250ml)
15g fresh yeast
500g strong bread flour
60g unsalted butter at room temp
40g caster sugar
10g salt
2 large eggs
25g good quality coca powder
200g chocolate chips, milk or plain, or a mixture
2 eggs beaten with a pinch of salt for an egg wash
Creme Patissiere (recipe follows)
15g cocoa powder

Pour the milk into a pan and warm gently until it is about body temp – it should feel neither warm nor cold when you dip your finger into it.

To mix by hand, rub the yeast into the flour using your fingertips as if making a crumble. Rub in the butter, then add the sugar and salt, then the eggs, milk and cocoa powder. With the help of a plastic scraper, lift the dough onto your work surface. Even though the dough will feel quite soft and moist (and look like thick, sticky porridge) do not add any flour to the work surface.

Begin to work the dough, slide your fingers underneath it like a pair of forks, with your thumbs on top, swing it upwards and then slap it back down, away from you, onto your work surface (it will almost be too sticky to lift at this point). Stretch the front of the dough towards you, then lift it back over itself in an arc (to trap the air), still stretching it forwards and sideways and tucking it in around the edges. Keep repeating this sequence.

As you work the dough it will start to come together and feel alive and elastic in your hands. Keep on working until it comes cleanly away from the work surface, begins to look silky and feels smooth, firm but wobbly and responsive.

Now you can flour your work surface lightly, place the dough on top and form it into a ball by folding each edge in turn into the centre of the dough and pressing down well with your thumb, rotating the ball as you go. Turn the whole ball over and stretch and tuck the edges under. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rest for 45 mins in a draught free place.

Make the creme pattissiere.

Once the 45 mins are up, use the rounded end of a scraper, transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and, with a rolling pin, gently flatten it into a rough rectangle. Spread the chocolate creme patissiere evenly over the dough and sprinkle on the chocolate chips. Starting with one of the longer edges, roll the dough up until it resembles a Swiss roll. Using a sharp knife, cut the roll into 2cm slices and place them on their sides on a baking tray. Glaze with a little egg wash and leave to prove for 1 1/4 – 1 3/4 hours until the buns have roughly doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 250C.

Glaze again and put into the preheated oven, turning the heat down to 180C. Bake for 10-15 mins. As the chocolate dough is quite dark it can be difficult to tell when the buns are properly baked, and you need to take care not to under bake them – the best way to tell when they are ready is to lift one gently with a spatula and check that it is firm underneath.

If you don’t want to bake the buns all in one go, you can freeze some. When they are cut, just before proving, put them on a small tray in the freezer and when they are hard put them into a freezer bag. To use them, take them out, leave to prove overnight and bake in the same way.

Makes 24 buns
‘Dough’ Richard Bertinet

Creme Patissiere
In a bowl whisk together 6 egg yolks, 70 g caster sugar and 50g sifted flour. Put another 70g sugar into a saucepan with 500g (500ml) full fat milk, a vanilla pod split lengthwise and seeds scrapped in and the remaining cocoa powder. Place over a low heat. Leave until the first bubble appears, then remove from the heat. Whisk 1/3 of the milk into the egg mixture, then add the remaining 2/3 of the milk and stir again. Pour back into the pan and put back on the heat. Bring to the boil and simmer for a couple of mins, stirring constantly to ensure that the cream does not burn on the bottom. Pour into a dish to cool. Sprinkle a little icing sugar or flakes of butter on top to prevent a skin forming.

Using A Mixer With A Dough Hook
Put the flour into your mixer bowl and rub in the yeast. Rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips. Switch the mixer onto the slowest speed, add the sugar, cocoa and salt, then the eggs and milk and mix for 2 mins, then turn up to the next slowest speed and mix for a further 6-7 mins until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. Remove the dough from the bowl, transfer to a lightly floured surface to mould into a ball before placing in a tea towel to prove for 45 mins. Then follow the rest of the instructions as listed above. Easy peasy – honest!

‘Dough’ Richard Bertinet

Permanent link to this article: http://www.butcherbakerblog.com/2010/01/28/chocolate-buns/

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