Summary

Give me cake or give me death cookies.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Pastéis de Nata- Recipe

Just made my pavlova and wondering what to do with those leftover egg yolks? Here's an idea.


Pastéis de nata are also known as Portuguese custard tarts. Like their far Eastern cousins, Hong Kong egg tarts, they have a very flaky pastry. The main difference is the custard: HK tarts have a more crème caramel/flan-like custard with a milder, almost buttery flavour, while the Portuguese ones have a denser, pastry cream-like custard with a sweeter flavour. Pastéis de nata are also identifiable by their slightly burned-looking tops.

I adore both kinds. Gun-to-head, I'd have to choose the HK variety over the other simply because they're what I grew up with (Chinese family and all that). Cultural background aside, both have their own charms and are as delicious as each other.

Why did I decided to make the Portuguese ones over the HK kind? Well, the texture of HK tarts comes from the fact that the whole egg is used- the egg whites are what give the slightly gelled texture. Since I had some egg yolks left over from making a summery pavlova for Mothercare's blog (which uses the same meringue base as my red berry pavlova), I decided to make a 'parallel recipe' using only the leftovers. So, if you're making this recipe before you've seen my pavlova recipe, now you know how to use up those six egg whites. ;)

Ingredients:

-1 x tube/ box of ready rolled puff pastry (not to be confused with 'ready to roll'- you can use this, but it's a tiny bit more effort to roll it out)
-150ml milk (full fat is best)
-200g caster sugar
-2 level tbsp cornflour
-6 x egg yolks

Method:

1) If your puff pastry is chilled, take it out at least 30mins before you take it out of the packaging to soften it up.

2) Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C* and lightly grease a 12-hole cupcake/ muffin pan.

3) Unroll your puff pastry and divide it into 12 equal sections.



4) Roll each into a ball and re-roll them out into large discs with a rolling pin, using each to line the inside of the muffin tin. Make sure they're large enough to overlap the tops of the holes a bit.



5) To make up the custard, mix the cornflour with a few tablespoons of the milk. Then mix in the yolks, followed by the milk and sugar. Don't whisk too hard- you want the custard to be dense and smooth, not bubbly.

6) Divide the mixture between the pastry cups with a tablespoon (I found that each took about three tablespoons of custard). This is quite a generous amount of custard- it's going to balloon a bit in the oven, but don't panic.



7) Bake for about 25mins, or until the pastry is puffy and brown and the tops are puffy and browning.

8) Take out of the oven to cool for 5mins, then another 10mins on a wire rack (the custard is like molten lava straight from the oven- believe me, I learned the hard way!) then enjoy, preferably with a cup or tea or coffee.


*Afterword

When I made these I baked them at 180 degrees C (which is a common oven temperature for baking). As you can see, my tarts are a bit on a pale side. They were still gorgeously delicious and flaky (and in fact a bit like the softer flaky pastry you'd find in HK tarts)- but to get the very crisp flake of a Portuguese tart, the oven needs to be hotter: hence my instruction up there to bake at 200 degrees C. In fact you could even try 220 degrees C and get the traditional burned-top look, but I'd stick with 200 to be on the safe side.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Why Afternoon Tea is Awesome

Greetings, fellow cake ogglers and tea guzzlers!

I know my readers are more used to seeing this kind of post from my other blog, but since Whittard's Afternoon Tea Blogger Carnival event is all about afternoon tea, I think that this entry will feel right at home here on 'Tashcakes!'

As my readers well know, I love pretty food, I love colourful food and I love sweet food. Afternoon tea combines all of these things, often in a tiered display of deliciousness, and to put the icing on the cake (pun unashamedly intended), these lovelies are served with the traditional, almost stereotypical British lifeblood that is tea.

You're probably thinking: "Hang on a minute Tash- afternoon tea isn't just all about sweets and cake. You get those snazzy little sandwiches too, right?" You are indeed correct- but let's be honest, do we go to afternoon tea for the cucumber and smoked salmon sandwiches, or do we go for the exquisite little selection of airy sponge cakes, jeweled berry tarts and fluffy, buttery scones with clotted cream and jam?


I thought so.

It's not just the tantalising treats that make an afternoon tea, though: it's the whole zen-like way of 'being' that comes with it. We all live busy, worry-filled lives, rushing from one thing to the next, barely able to stop to let our brains stop buzzing and just breathe. It's probably why we so jealously value the precious couple of minutes when we can get a hold of a cuppa. So, if we Brits live for tea breaks, then afternoon tea must be the ultimate tea break.


The whole idea of afternoon tea is so well-loved that it's been part of British culture for well over a hundred years, and still going strong. Perhaps even stronger, thanks to recent-ish events like the Diamond Jubilee and the Great British Bake Off. Perhaps it's the pretty sweet treats, or the elegant teaware and dishes, or even the cute little Alice in Wonderland-like morsels that make the atmosphere feel so civilised. Whatever it is, it's quite a different feeling to lunching in a café or restaurant.

Civilised is the right word for it, I think. Sophistication without the smugness (well alright, maybe just a tiny bit), to me afternoon tea means sitting down in a calm and pleasantly decorated room, chatting with a friend or two and letting someone else bring you tea and treats, which have been lovingly prepared in a way we often don't bother doing for ourselves. In a world that never stops, in a society that has no room for quiet reflection, I think that the simplicity of being in good company, sitting down with a good cup of tea and admiring-then-devouring a selection of beautiful bites will never grow old.

Which is why whenever a friend suggests we meet over afternoon tea, I'm all over it like jam and cream on a scone.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Gluten Free Chocolate Cake- Recipe

For this fortnight's Mothercare Blog post, I made a gluten free chocolate birthday cake. Follow the link or read on for the full recipe.

Ingredients for Cake:
- 170g unsalted butter, softened
- 170g caster sugar
- 3 eggs
- 110g gluten free (or regular) self-raising flour
- 60g cocoa powder
- Pinch of salt
- 5tbsp milk
- 1tsp vanilla

Ingredients for Buttercream:
- 175g unsalted butter, softened
- 650g icing sugar
- 125g cocoa powder
- 150ml milk

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C/ Gas Mark 4 and line the bottom two 8” round sandwich cake pans with baking parchment (grease and flour the sides, too).

2. In a large bowl cream the butter and caster sugar together, beating until light, fluffy and pale.

3. Beat in the eggs one by one until well-incorporated (doing it one by one stops the mixture from curdling).

4. Sift in the flour, salt and cocoa together, beating in a few tablespoons at a time rather than the whole lot in one go: this helps to stop the flour and cocoa powder going everywhere (especially when you’re using an electric whisk!) Beat in the milk and vanilla until the mixture is smooth.

5. Divide the cake batter evenly between your two cake pans, smoothing down the tops with the back of a spoon for level cakes. Lightly drop each pan full of batter onto your worktop a few times to bash out any large air bubbles, and then bake in the oven for about 25 minutes (or until the cake is springy when you poke it and a skewer poked right into the centre comes out clean). - See more at: http://mothercareblog.com/parenting/gluten-free-chocolate-cake/#sthash.Tx7a8phc.dpuf
Ingredients for Cake:
- 170g unsalted butter, softened
- 170g caster sugar
- 3 eggs
- 110g gluten free (or regular) self-raising flour
- 60g cocoa powder
- Pinch of salt
- 5tbsp milk
- 1tsp vanilla

Ingredients for Buttercream:
- 175g unsalted butter, softened
- 650g icing sugar
- 125g cocoa powder
- 150ml milk

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C/ Gas Mark 4 and line the bottom two 8” round sandwich cake pans with baking parchment (grease and flour the sides, too).

2. In a large bowl cream the butter and caster sugar together, beating until light, fluffy and pale.

3. Beat in the eggs one by one until well-incorporated (doing it one by one stops the mixture from curdling).

4. Sift in the flour, salt and cocoa together, beating in a few tablespoons at a time rather than the whole lot in one go: this helps to stop the flour and cocoa powder going everywhere (especially when you’re using an electric whisk!) Beat in the milk and vanilla until the mixture is smooth.

5. Divide the cake batter evenly between your two cake pans, smoothing down the tops with the back of a spoon for level cakes. Lightly drop each pan full of batter onto your worktop a few times to bash out any large air bubbles, and then bake in the oven for about 25 minutes (or until the cake is springy when you poke it and a skewer poked right into the centre comes out clean). - See more at: http://mothercareblog.com/parenting/gluten-free-chocolate-cake/#sthash.Tx7a8phc.dpuf
Ingredients for Cake:
- 170g unsalted butter, softened
- 170g caster sugar
- 3 eggs
- 110g gluten free (or regular) self-raising flour
- 60g cocoa powder
- Pinch of salt
- 5tbsp milk
- 1tsp vanilla

Ingredients for Buttercream:
- 175g unsalted butter, softened
- 650g icing sugar
- 125g cocoa powder
- 150ml milk

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C/ Gas Mark 4 and line the bottom two 8” round sandwich cake pans with baking parchment (grease and flour the sides, too).

2. In a large bowl cream the butter and caster sugar together, beating until light, fluffy and pale.

3. Beat in the eggs one by one until well-incorporated (doing it one by one stops the mixture from curdling).

4. Sift in the flour, salt and cocoa together, beating in a few tablespoons at a time rather than the whole lot in one go: this helps to stop the flour and cocoa powder going everywhere (especially when you’re using an electric whisk!) Beat in the milk and vanilla until the mixture is smooth.

5. Divide the cake batter evenly between your two cake pans, smoothing down the tops with the back of a spoon for level cakes. Lightly drop each pan full of batter onto your worktop a few times to bash out any large air bubbles, and then bake in the oven for about 25 minutes (or until the cake is springy when you poke it and a skewer poked right into the centre comes out clean). - See more at: http://mothercareblog.com/parenting/gluten-free-chocolate-cake/#sthash.Tx7a8phc.dpuf
Ingredients for Cake:
- 170g unsalted butter, softened
- 170g caster sugar
- 3 eggs
- 110g gluten free (or regular) self-raising flour
- 60g cocoa powder
- Pinch of salt
- 5tbsp milk
- 1tsp vanilla

Ingredients for Buttercream:
- 175g unsalted butter, softened
- 650g icing sugar
- 125g cocoa powder
- 150ml milk

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C/ Gas Mark 4 and line the bottom two 8” round sandwich cake pans with baking parchment (grease and flour the sides, too).

2. In a large bowl cream the butter and caster sugar together, beating until light, fluffy and pale.

3. Beat in the eggs one by one until well-incorporated (doing it one by one stops the mixture from curdling).

4. Sift in the flour, salt and cocoa together, beating in a few tablespoons at a time rather than the whole lot in one go: this helps to stop the flour and cocoa powder going everywhere (especially when you’re using an electric whisk!) Beat in the milk and vanilla until the mixture is smooth.

5. Divide the cake batter evenly between your two cake pans, smoothing down the tops with the back of a spoon for level cakes. Lightly drop each pan full of batter onto your worktop a few times to bash out any large air bubbles, and then bake in the oven for about 25 minutes (or until the cake is springy when you poke it and a skewer poked right into the centre comes out clean). - See more at: http://mothercareblog.com/parenting/gluten-free-chocolate-cake/#sthash.Tx7a8phc.dpuf
Ingredients for Cake:
- 170g unsalted butter, softened
- 170g caster sugar
- 3 eggs
- 110g gluten free (or regular) self-raising flour
- 60g cocoa powder
- Pinch of salt
- 5tbsp milk
- 1tsp vanilla

Ingredients for Buttercream:
- 175g unsalted butter, softened
- 650g icing sugar
- 125g cocoa powder
- 150ml milk - See more at: http://mothercareblog.com/parenting/gluten-free-chocolate-cake/#sthash.Tx7a8phc.dpuf


Thursday, 16 May 2013

Birthday Cupcake Assortment

Remember XBox cake? I got another request from the family for the daughter's birthday to make 12 brightly- coloured cupcakes and 12 of my own design. Here's what I created:





And here's how my dad's colleague beautifully presented the cupcakes:


I love the way the candles are arranged on the top cupcake!

Monday, 13 May 2013

Vanilla Cheesecake with Blueberry Compote- Recipe

It's Shavuot tomorrow, and for some reason us Jewish people like to eat cheesecake on Shavuot. Well, not just cheesecake- lots of dairy stuff. Shavuot celebrates the Torah being given to the Jews. I have no idea what this has to do with eating dairy. All I know is it's cheesecake time, and by Jove that's good enough for me.


This recipe, which uses low fat curd cheese (although you can't tell it's low fat!) is a slight adaptation of a recipe my grandma gave to me, and it's brilliantly simple to make. It's one of only two cheesecake recipes I use regularly (the other being Nigella Lawson's London cheesecake, which I only make when I don't mind the calories and can bother doing the bain-marie method).

The curd cheese gives the cheesecake a lighter, slightly (but pleasantly) grainy texture rather than the dense velvet of a cream cheese or mascarpone cheesecake.  In my efforts to reduce the fat content further, I used light Digestive biscuits and low fat spread- so really the majority of the 'bad stuff' comes from the sugar. Still, it's heaps better than having full-fat-everything, and you don't notice the cut calories at all in terms of flavour.

Here, I've paired the cheesecake with a blueberry compote (which is just blueberries simmered with  a bit of sugar, a dash of water and a sprinkling of cornflower to thicken the juices). The sweet tartness of the compote goes so well with the smooth, textured creaminess of the cheesecake. A quick heads up: as with most baked cheesecakes, you'll need to make this the day before to give it a chance to chill in the fridge overnight.

Ingredients for Cheesecake:

-300g Digestive biscuits
-100g butter/ low fat spread

-680g curd cheese
-225g caster sugar
-4 eggs
-1tsp vanilla extract (I used vanilla bean paste)

Ingredients for Blueberry Compote:

-200g (1 punnet) blueberries
-2tbsp caster sugar
-3tbsp water
-1tsp cornflour

Method:

1) Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C/ Gas Mark 3, and grease and line the bottom of an 8" or 9" springform cake pan with baking parchment (I used 9"- an 8" would result in a higher cheesecake).

2) To make the crust, place the biscuits a few at a time into a ziplock bag and crush them into fine crumbs with a rolling pin. Or, if you have a food processor (lucky you), whizz them up in that.



3) Melt the butter in the microwave or in a small saucepan, and add to your biscuit crumbs in a bowl, mixing thoroughly until well incorporated.

4) Tightly and evenly pack your damp crumb mixture into the bottom of your cake pan, using the back of a big spoon to flatten it out. I like to put the crust into the fridge to firm up at this point, but you don't have to.



5) To make the cheesecake filling, beat the eggs in a large bowl and then add the curd cheese, sugar and vanilla. Don't whisk it too vigorously, or the mixture will become bubbly and you'll get cracks in the cheesecake later after baking- I just gently stir it with a balloon whisk.

(This is what 680g of curd cheese looks like.)

6) Pour the filling on top of your crust, and bake in the oven for 30 minutes- don't be tempted to bake it for any longer, even if it seems overly jiggly in the middle.

7) Once 30 minutes has passed, switch the oven off and leave the cheesecake to cool in the oven: this helps the cheesecake set without overcooking and also ensures the cheesecake doesn't cool too fast (which is another way cracks can form). Just leave the oven door closed and get on with something else for a couple of hours.

8) Once completely cool, pop it in the fridge to chill and completely firm up overnight.

9) To make the blueberry compote, place all the ingredients into a small saucepan and simmer for about ten minutes, stirring gently to avoid breaking up the berries too much. Cool, and you're done!

10) Serve the cheesecake as you like: either spoon the compote straight onto the top of it before cutting, or if some of the people you're serving it to prefer it plain, just spoon a little onto individual slices to the people who want the blueberry goodness.


Chag sameach! (Happy festival!)