Friday, 12 January 2007

Chocolate oranges

I have been meaning to make these all Christmas, but exams got the better of me. I had been planning on a selection of chocolate oranges, chocolate gingers, apricots stuffed with marzipan and caramelised hazelnuts. So when I found seville oranges I decided better late than never. The skins were firm and beautifully coloured, and the scent brings back christmas. Sevilles are usually used for marmalade, and I was tempted by that route but I'm not a big marmalade fan, and we still have a fairly large stock of jars from last year. Chocolate oranges seemed what was required to stave of that dull january feeling, even if they aren't so good from a New Year's Resolution point of view. The thick skins of the sevilles make them much easier to peel, although personally I like to remove some of the pith with a sharp knife to take away the bitter taste it sometimes has.
The tangy orange together with the richness of the dark chocolate is perfect after dinner with coffee.


Seville oranges
400 ml water
400g sugar
200g good quality chocolate

Score the oranges into quarters and remove the peel. If the pith is very thick remove some of it with a sharp knife, leaving just a little white, and the orange skin intact. Cut the quarters of peel into slices about 1/3 of a cm thick. You can make them neat by chopping of the tops if you wish, but I prefer them a little rough the edges. Then add to a pan of boiling water and boil for three minutes, then drain, in order to remove the bitterness of the pith. This step should be repeated three times. It may seem enough to put you off a recipe, but if you keep the kettle on the boil, and keep refilling, its the work of moments.

Then bring the measured water to the boil, with the sugar, and add the blanched orange skins. Leave to simmer for 30-40 minutes, and then lift out and drain on a wire rack overnight.

The next day melt the chocolate over a bain marie ( a bowl suspended over a pan of water) and then dip the peel in and place on a sheet of foil or silicone to cool. You can double dip them the next day with an alternate kind of chocolate if you wish: try half dipping them in dark chocolate one day, and milk or white chocolate the next.

Thursday, 11 January 2007

Chocolate Gingersnaps

Ginger biscuits are one of the few baked things A likes. So now I'm in my post examing baking phase I decided to start with a variation on an old theme. These have crunch, but then smooth chocolate ganache inside. They make a very grown up ginger biscuit indeed.

1 (american) cup of flour
1 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp golden syrup
3tsp ground ginger

Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, ground ginger. Rub butter in with you fingers until you have a fine crumb. Mix in the golden syrup to form a paste.

Roll out the paste as thinly as possible, and cut into cookies.

Bake until light golden at 170oc.


100ml double cream
100g chocolate (I used a 70% but any good quality chocolate, whether milk or white, would also be good)

Bring cream to the boil and pour over the finely chopped chocolate. Beat lightly with a whisk.
When cool spread one side of the cooled biscuits with ganache and sandwhich together. Dust with icing sugar or cocoa powder.

Thursday, 4 January 2007

Foie gras realised

The foie gras arrived as promised, and was pretty special indeed. A bottle of champagne washed it down nicely, and although the watercress was eaten as more of an afterthought than an accompaniment, it was a wonderful meal. Happily, there was more foie gras than either of us could eat comfortably, which always has a delightful feeling of excess about it. More and more I think part of the joy is the tactility of it: there is something wonderfully hedonistic about the slight film of foie gras one gets on ones upper lip when eating it on toast, and then there is the impossibility of eating it without getting it on fingers, and the stray breadcrumbs. Sure, knives and forks give you elegance, but nothing about this food is refined, except, of course, the price!

Monday, 1 January 2007

Dreams of Foie Gras

A has made up for abandoning me on New Year's Eve and going to France without me by bringing back a veritable treasure trove of goodies. His parents have a house in the Charante, which is, as luck would have it, right in the heart of duck country. There is a great little market on sundays from where one can purchase the best rillettes de canard I have ever had. There's something deeply carnivorous about this rillettes which goes beyond the normal appeal of fat on hot toast. The duck is gamey and not too shredded, so there is bite as well.

Anyway, digressions aside he is bringing back a speciality from the same little stall. Foie gras du canard wrapped in smoked duck breast. I'm curious to see if the taste of the foie gras will be able to compete with the smoked breast. At the moment I'm having beautiful little daydreams about panfried apple slices and good country bread, or maybe even little raisin studded brioche.

This may all be slightly premature as said delicacy is still stuck in France, and has had to endure a 7 hour drive to the ferry, carefully cushioned by frozen bottles of water, and it won't get on the ferry until tommorrow morning, when, if all goes to plan, both it and my boy will be back.

Lemon Bundt Cakes

There's something so pure and serene about little lemon cakes, soaked in lemon syrup. They give me an excuse to bring out my little bundt pans, and get the kitchen sticky with drifts of icing sugar.
This recipe is based around a weight of an egg cake, with a few additons.

2 eggs
caster sugar to the same weight as 2 eggs
butter to the same weight as 2 eggs
self-raising flour to the same weight as 2 eggs
4 lemons
2 tbsp creme fraiche
extra sugar to taste

Heat the oven to 180oc

Cream the butter and sugar together. Zest the lemons finely and add to the butter and sugar. Mix in both eggs, and then the creme fraiche. Lastly fold in the flour.

Grease the cake tins with butter and fill to half full.

Bake until the tops are golden and a squewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Juice the lemons and heat the juice with sugar to taste in a small pan until boiling. Prick the tops of the cakes with a fork and pour on the syrup. Leave to cool and then remove from tins and dust with icing sugar.

Chestnut Bouche de Noel

I just celebrated Christmas with my family in the rainy dales of Yorkshire. Luckily my uncle saved us from a christmas without chocolate, and sacrificed the bars he'd brought from Boston to make this cake.

8 eggs seperated
240gdark chocolate (70% or more)
200g sugar
2 tbsp good quality cocoa (not drinking chocolate!)

1 tin of creme de marrons (chestnut puree), preferably unsweetened
1 1/2 pints of double cream

Heat the oven to 160oc. Line a roulade tin (or other square or rectangular shallow bottomed tin) with paper and grease.

Melt the dark chocolate in a bain marie (double boiler). Meanwhile whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until doubled in volume and pale and fluffy. Let the chocolate cool, but not so much that it sets. Whisk the egg whites until they stand in peaks and you could, if you tried, hold the bowl of them upside-down over your head. Now fold the chocolate into the yolks and sugar, and then into the whites. Fold in the cocoa powder.

Spread evenly in the roulade tin and bake until the top is just risen at the middle and has formed a crust, the inside will still be gooey. Cover and leave to cool in the tin.

Whip cream until it just holds peaks, and fold in the creme de marrons, if unsweetened sweeten to taste.

Spread over the top of the cooled roulade, and using the paper underneath as a guide, roll the roulade into a log shape.

Dust with cocoa.