Once more, with passion.

PassionfruitCustard

(Passionfruit custard with candied ginger boterkoek)

A few days ago, I was given a bag of passionfruit, freshly picked from a friend’s backyard. Edible gifts like these are my favourite thing to receive. I often ‘pay it forward’ by baking with these gifts which are then given away to other people.

These passionfruit were especially good – large, heavy fruit with shiny skins and a really sweet, sharp aroma that lifted into the air when you cut into one. I’m not a fan of eating passionfruit ‘neat’ – something about it’s acidity does not agree with me unfortunately. Combined with dairy products or baked in cakes and cookies however, it becomes a pleasant, perfumed flavour that I would happily enjoy any day.

I love pairing passionfruit with white chocolate ganache, vanilla ice-cream, pineapple bavarois, coconut pannacotta or even served simply as a passionfruit curd tart (caramelise each individual slice with some icing sugar and a blowtorch, for that extra special touch). Passionfruit also goes well with floral flavours like violet and lavender, citrus fruits such as yuzu, mandarin, lemon and lime, and spices like star anise and tonka bean. Serve with nasturtium petals or borage, if you can source any.

Passionfruit-Sake-Lavender2

(Passionfruit custard with sake and lavender)

With the passionfruit I was given, I decided to make a custard. Something about the silky, soothing nature of custards really appeals to me at the moment. If my life were an ad, there would be bluebirds chirping in the background and butterflies fluttering at the edges of my vision as I savour each spoonful.

Passionfruit-Sake-Lavender3

Granted, this custard is more of a set cream, but it has the texture and lazy flow of a custard, and eats like one, so I’m sticking with the name. This custard is insanely good with ginger boterkoek, or for something a little more fancy, it can also be dressed up with tapioca pearls, sake bubbles and twice-baked lavender shortbread.

Nasturtium

(For those moments where you need a little peace and quiet..)

Passionfruit Custard :

415g pouring cream (35% fat)
50g European-style yogurt
185g skim milk
120g passionfruit juice (strained pulp from approximately 6 large passionfruit)
70g caster sugar
2 1/2 leaves gold-strength gelatine, soaked in iced water until soft and pliable

Warm the cream, yogurt, milk, passionfruit juice and sugar in a pan, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Squeeze the water out of the gelatine, and add it to the cream mixture. Whisk this gently until dissolved, then strain the mixture into a bowl. Allow to cool before pouring it into your desired containers. Allow the custards to chill overnight in the refrigerator before using.

Candied Ginger Boterkoek :
(Boterkoek is a Dutch buttery shortcake. You can alter the flavourings to suit your preferences. This recipe is from Warm Bread and Honey Cake by Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra)

150g caster sugar
250g plain flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
zest of 1/4 lemon
200g butter, softened
1 egg yolk
a little beaten egg, for glazing
100g stem (preserved) ginger, drained and chopped
75g fine dessicated coconut

Optional:
55g blanched whole almonds
55g skinned hazelnuts

Mix the caster sugar, flour, salt and lemon zest together in a large bowl. Add the softened butter and egg yolk and knead until everything is well mixed in. Knead in the ginger and coconut. Shape the dough into a ball and put it in a sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator overnight.

Next day, remove the dough from the refrigerator and leave to come to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 180’C. Grease a 24 cm/9 inch round tin and dust with flour.

Knead the dough very briefly, then shape it into a large disc and put it in the tin. Use your hand to flatten it as evenly as possible to fit the tin. Brush with beaten egg. If you are using almonds or hazelnuts, press them into the surface. Otherwise, score a plaid pattern onto the surface with a fork.

Bake in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes. Boterkoek should never be hard of crisp, so this should be baked only until just done. It will be soft when it comes out of the oven. Leave to cool until lukewarm in the tin, then carefully turn it out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container in a cool place so that the butter doesn’t go rancid. It will keep for at least 1 week but is at its best after 24 hours.

Twice-baked lavender shortbread :
(based on a recipe from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich)

170g unsalted butter, melted and still warm
5 tablespoons caster sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
190g plain flour
1 1/4 teaspoons dried lavender buds

Line a 7 x 10 inch pan with baking paper.

In a bowl, combine the melted butter, sugar, vanilla, lavender and salt. Add the flour and mix until just incorporated. Spread the dough evenly in the pan. Let it rest overnight on the kitchen counter (don’t refrigerate).

Preheat the oven to 150’C. Bake the shortbread for 45 mins, then remove the pan from the oven. While the shortbread is still warm, use a pizza cutter or sharp knife to cut the shortbread into the desired shapes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then lift the cut pieces onto a baking lined tray, positioning them slightly apart so that they bake evenly. Return the shortbread pieces to the oven for an additional 15 minutes, then remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on a rack.

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French Toast Macaron (Happy Birthday Caitlin!)

Macaron-FrenchToast

(French Toast Macaron : Smokey bacon custard, with maple-glazed bacon, maple jelly and air)

I’m a couple of days late in celebrating Caitlin’s birthday, but I think she might manage to forgive me this one time, because she has already been waiting several months for me to make her a macaron dedicated to her blog, Engineer Baker.

In case I haven’t mentioned before, Engineer Baker is one of my favourite blogs. Caitlin writes with such down to earth humour and such enthusiasm for her love of baking that I feel as though I can relate to her on so many levels. Not just because I studied one year of engineering at University, I bake, run, and like her, am more than competent in the field of procrastination (case in point, the fact that this macaron has taken so long to come to fruition).

A blog-inspired macaron stemmed from an idea I had awhile back which I never really pursued in it’s entirety. However, I couldn’t say no when Caitlin requested one. The only problem was, figuring out what kind of macaron would suit her blog.

Macaron-FrenchToast2

If there’s one thing you might notice about Caitlin’s blog is that she bakes a lot of bread. So I thought a bread flavoured macaron would be the way to go. Running with the theme of ‘french toast’, I substituted some of the almond meal for dry breadcrumbs, which didn’t seem to affect the macaron too much. The end result was a little heavier so the feet weren’t as apparent, but there was still an overall lightness to it, with a bready texture within. I paired the macaron with some typical french toast accompaniments – flavours of bacon, eggy custard and maple syrup, as well as some caramelised toast crumbs and a little chocolate.

This macaron is gutsy and very rich, and as a macaron for the Engineer Baker, it may not be structurally sound, but it’s certifiably delicious!

Happy belated Birthday, Caitlin! 🙂

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Pineapple and chamomile


(Pineapple and chamomile custard tart, lemon verbena cream)

I’ve been putting off writing this post because I had promised to write about the answer to the second question my Optometrist asked me :

2) What is your all-time favourite thing to cook

Truth is, I didn’t have an answer for him then, and I don’t really have an answer for it now. He simply couldn’t believe that I didn’t have a favourite dish. Pretend, he said, that it’s a perfect Saturday afternoon and you’re about to watch the football (he is a Wolves fan, who incidentally have been promoted to the Premier League). The big question is, what is your favourite thing to cook under these circumstances?

Truth also is, that I would bake. But doesn’t baking sound terribly limp-wristed under the circumstances? I would bake, because in reality, it would be Sunday afternoon before we got the football here, and usually on Sunday afternoons we have coffee and a bit of cake or a handful of freshly baked cookies. We would sit there picking crumbs off our shirts, while cheering or shouting at the tv.

We’d then spend the rest of the day lazing around, making plans to go cycling but never following through with it. I would slink back into the kitchen again, to bake something. By sundown, no cycling would have been undertaken whatsoever, and dinner would either be bubbling in a pot on the stove, or already laid out on the table. Our dinners rarely feature the same thing twice. I like trying out new recipes or making things up according to what I happen to have at hand. Which explains why I don’t have a ‘signature’ dish, as they call it.

I don’t think I’ve ever made the same dessert twice for B either. Even if it’s just a brownie with some ice-cream, the brownie will be from a recipe I hadn’t yet tried. I dreamt up the pineapple tart dessert above while I was making small pineapple tarts. Making a larger version was my impatient attempt at trying to speed up the whole process. Yes, stuffing each individual pastry is incredibly fiddly and it really tests your endurance, but the end result is definitely worth it.

The large tart contains pineapple jam and a layer of chamomile custard which I made recently after buying a chamomile plant from the markets. This plant (with a scent reminiscent of green apples and pineapple), and a potted lemon verbena, are the latest fragrant additions to my balcony garden. I had to denude the chamomile of all its sweet white flowers in order to make the custard – a recipe based on David Everitt-Matthias’ recipe for a chamomile cream. If you’re interested in making a similar tart, use the cream recipe below, omitting the gelatine and double cream. Serve the tart warm, with a dollop of plain cream or lemon verbena flavoured cream.

(If you can’t be bothered making anything as fussy looking as that, stick to the little pineapple tarts – the recipe by Pichet Ong is provided below (he calls them turnovers). For the pineapple filling, I followed Arfi’s recipe. If you can’t get a hold of fresh pineapple, you can also used the tinned kind. There’s a good recipe for it here, though I would advise erring on the side of caution and starting with less sugar than you think you need, and adjusting the sweetness later.)

Pichet Ong’s Caramelised Pineapple Turnovers:
(from the Sweet Spot by Pichet Ong)

for the caramelised pineapple filling :
2 small pineapples, peeled, cored, and finely diced
180g crushed palm sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1/8 teaspoon salt

for the pastry dough :
300g plain flour
50g custard powder
1 tablespoon dried milk powder
180g unsalted butter, at room temperature
70g icing sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg

to glaze:
3 large egg yolks, beaten
whole cloves (optional)

To make the pineapple filling : Put all of the ingredients into a medium saucepan, set over low heat, and cook, stirring occasinally, until the sugar has dissovled and all the liquid has evaporated, about 45 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or as long as overnight.

To make the dough : Sift the flour, custard powder, and dried milk together and set aside. Put the butter, icing sugar and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until the mixture is light and creamy, about 4 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, add the flour mixture, and mix until incorporated. Add the egg and mix just until the dough comes together; it will be quite sticky. Form the mixture into a ball, press it into a 1-inch-thick disk, and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Chill until firm, at least 2 hours, or as long as overnight.

Line two baking sheets with baking paper. Unwrap the chilled dough and form it into 1-inch balls. Using your fingertips, press one ball into a thin 3-inch disk. Put 1 tablespoon of the pineapple filling in the center of the dough circle, fold over to make a half-moon, and pinch the edges together to seal. Twist off any excess dough, press and gently roll the half-moon shape into a ball. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling. Alternatively, roll the whole disk of dough out on a lightly floured surface to a 1/8-inch thickness, cut out 3-inch circles with a cookie or biscuit cutter, and fill and shape them. Put the filled balls 1 inch apart on the baking sheets, and chill until firm, about 15 minutes.

To bake, preheat the oven to 175’C. Brush the balls with the egg yolks and stick a clove, if desired, in the centre of each. Bake until golden, about 12 minutes. Cool completely on a rack before serving.

Chamomile cream :
(from Dessert by David Everitt-Matthias)

450ml milk
30g fresh chamomile flowers
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
75g caster sugar
50g cornflour
100g unsalted butter, diced
1 1/2 gelatine leaves
30ml lemon juice [I used yuzu]
125ml double cream, whipped

Put the milk and chamomile in a heavy-based saucepan and bring to the boil. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs, egg yolk, sugar and cornflour together. Gradually pour in the milk, whisking to combine, then return the mixture to the pan and cook over a medium heat for 4 – 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until thick. Remove from the heat, place to one side to cool a little, then stir in the butter bit by bit until it has melted. Soak the gelatine in cold water for 5 minutes until soft and pliable. Squeeze out all the water, add the gelatine to the chamomile mixture and stir until dissolved. Stir in the yuzu juice.

Pass the mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl. Cover the surface with cling film and leave to cool. Fold in the double cream and store in the fridge until needed.

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