• Dutch ovens and pizza ovens

    It has been quite a busy time since last I wrote.  I have been using my reduced hours at work to practice and hopefully develop my cooking skills.  Over the last couple of weeks, I have made:
  • Chocolate chip brownie cookies

    So here is the recipe for chocolate chip brownie cookies from Two Peas and their Pod.  You don’t need a happy mistake brownie to make these.  Use your favourite brownie recipe or if you don’t have time to cook brownies from scratch use shop bought ones.  Happy baking.

    Ingredients:

    • 360g plain flour
    • 1½ tsp baking powder
    • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
    • 1 tsp sea salt
    • 240g unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 100g granulated sugar
    • 270g brown sugar
    • 2 large eggs
    • 2 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1½ cups brownie chunks (use white measuring cup)
    • 1½ cups chocolate chips (use white measuring cup)

    Method:

    •  Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Line 4 large baking with baking paper and set aside
    • In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
    • Using an electric mixer, cream butter and sugars together for about 3 minutes. Add in the eggs and vanilla and mix until combined. With the mixer on low, slowly add in the dry ingredients.  Stir in the brownie chunks and chocolate chips.
    • Put cookie dough mixture in the fridge for 30 minutes to ‘set’ slightly.
    • Weigh out 40-45g of cookie dough mixture and form into balls. Place eight to nine cookies on each of the prepared baking sheets, about 5cm apart.  They can spread quite a lot.
    • Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are slightly golden brown.
    • When baked, remove from oven and let cookies cool on the baking sheet for 2-3 minutes.
    • Transfer to a wire cooling rack and cool completely.
    • The cookies will keep in an airtight container for 3-4 days.

    Source: Two Peas and their Pod

  • Happy mistakes

    When I was at Ashburton Cookery School, our Chef Tutor used to talk about happy mistakes i.e. a mistake which ended up resulting in something unexpected or better than the original product.  I am not sure if what I am going to tell you about first is exactly a happy mistake, but it is certainly a recovery of sorts from what would have been a very expensive disaster. 
    Last Saturday, I was happily baking one of our staple bakes, chocolate brownie.  All was going well until I took the chocolate brownies out of the oven.  I have no idea how I did it, but when I went to put the two large, gastro trays of brownies in the cooling racks, I managed to scrape the surface off the lower brownie with the base of the gastro tray of the top brownie.  The result was a bit of a molten mess with no surface skin.  A brownie of sorts, but certainly not a brownie which could be served to a Lynwood & Co customer.
    After my initial panic and thoughts of having to buy the whole brownie (large enough to serve 24 people), I plucked up the courage to tell the Head Chef about my mistake (I have to say that I did delay telling him for a while, mainly out of embarrassment).  We had a brief discussion about what we could do with the brownie, rather than just throwing it in the bin, which wasn’t really an option given that one brownie contains 15 eggs, 500 grams dark chocolate, 250 grams milk chocolate, 750 grams caster sugar, 750 grams ground almonds and 750 grams butter.  I left my shift with the task of coming up with a recipe/s to use up the brownie.  After scouring the internet for a while, I came across a recipe for chocolate chip brownie cookies from Two Peas and their Pod.  Armed with the recipe, which I will share with you shortly, I went into work on Sunday morning mainly to complete some Black Forest panna cotta lamingtons,  which I had started on Saturday but also to make some cookies from my disasterous brownie.
    Slightly nervous about trying the cookie recipe (as I didn’t need another mistake), I made the recipe as instructed.  The upside was that I produced 35 delicious chocolate chip brownie cookies, which were liked by the Head Chef and Manager and hopefully the customers at Lynwood & Co. 
    The downside was that the cookies only used a small amount of the damaged brownie.  With most of the brownie still unused, I set about salvaging some, freezing some and moulding some into brownie balls.  I managed to salvage 4 pieces of brownie, which were good enough to serve Lynwood & Co customers.  I froze a large section of the damaged brownie to use in further batches of chocolate chip brownie cookies. I froze the brownie balls and then coated them in melted chocolate to make chocolate truffles at home, as chocolate truffles are not quite a Lynwood & Co thing. 
    Although I have not managed to use up all of the damaged brownie as yet, I am well on my way.  I am sure with a bit of defrosting and further cookie baking there will be no further evidence of my disaster.  What better way of getting rid of the evidence than eating it.
    My other challenge last week, which I already alluded to, was making the Black Forest panna cotta lamingtons.  These were made at the request of my Australian owner using a Flour and Stone recipe.  As I mentioned, I started the bake on Saturday by making the chocolate sponge, cherry compote and vanilla panna cotta.  Initially concerned that I knocked too much of the air out of my sponge, my sponge either rose too much or the half gastro tray which I used was too small (although if I read the recipe correctly, the gastro tray was slightly larger than I needed) .  With the cake being quite thick, when I went to sandwich two layers of cake together with cherry compote, the resultant  cake was too thick and didn’t create a neat lamington.  Although the Head Chef suggested that the panna cotta had set just right (the right amount of gelatine), the way that I lined the tray meant that a lot of the panna cotta seeped under the baking paper and did not affix to the bottom of the sponge as required.  Although there was a thin layer of panna cotta on the top of the cake, the panna cotta layer was missing on the bottom of the cake.  As if this wasn’t enough, the recipe required me to use three types of coconut for the final coating.  Although I only had dessicated and shaved coconut, using the shaved coconut as well as the dessicated coconut resulted in a rather untidy finish.  All in all, I was not happy with the end result but at least going through the process of baking them means I know how to improve things next time – use a larger square tin, lined with a single piece of baking paper and use just dessicated coconut. 
    In conclusion, it has been a week of mistakes, some happier than others.
  • One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns

    Despite my good intentions of writing my blog while off work, I haven’t got around to it until now.   It has been just over three weeks since I last wrote my blog and quite a lot has happened in the meantime.  I am still largely off work.  Although I had every intention to return to work in the the same capacity as I left it, after a week of being off work, I decided that it wasn’t fair on Lynwood & Co to say that I would return in the same capacity as I left as I am not a reliable employee at the moment. because of my health issues.  I requested whether I could return in a part-time capacity, focusing on the cakes and doing customer orders and cover work.  Although, I think the intention is for me to possibly do this sort of role in the future, the business is in a transition period at the moment, with the new cafe in Burford opening up in eight weeks, so am playing a waiting game at the moment.

    I have been back to work, albeit on a very part-time basis.  I first went back last Thursday evening to make hot cross buns for the Easter weekend.  I ended up making 56 hot cross buns and some sable biscuits, shaped as eggs with an apricot jam ‘yolk’.  The biscuits were supposed to be a joke for the Head Chef, following on from my heart shaped biscuits for Valentine’s Day, but he misunderstood my intentions and the biscuits were sold in the shop, without him trying them.  By all accounts, they sold very quickly.  I also tried to make a Cadbury’s creme egg cake – a chocolate cake with creme eggs in the middle, but it didn’t work as depicted in the photo of the recipe.  Rather than having a lovely core of eggs in the centre of my cake, the centre of my cake was a gooey mess and when I went to move the cake (which I think I did prematurely) the cake fell apart, despite the fact that the chocolate cake mix around the gooey mix was well baked.  You live and learn.  Actually, I did learn something after the event – if you freeze the creme eggs for a couple of hours before baking them in the cake, they are more likely to remain intact.

    I then went back into work on Saturday to do the weekend baking, as well as make 36 hot cross buns for the investor for a party they were having on Sunday.  All was going to plan with the bake until I put them in the oven to cook.  I noticed quite early on in the bake that a few of the hot cross buns were splitting against the cross.  As this had never happened to me before, I was quite surprised and concerned as to remake the hot cross buns would take another three and a half hours.  Not happy with about half of the hot cross buns, when they came out of the oven, I decided to start again.  This was three o’clock in the afternoon.  At 6.30pm on Saturday evening (having been off the clock since 3 o’clock), I finally left Lynwood & Co with 36 decent hot cross buns made.  The only thing which I think could have resulted in the split hot cross buns was that I forgot to cover the hot cross buns in the second prove, which resulted in the surface of the hot cross buns drying out and splitting in the bake.

    Jo, who had come to rescue me from my woes ran home with me – 6.2 miles to Coln St Aldwyns.  We consoled ourselves with a glass or two of red wine.

    On a plus side, the rest of my baking went fine on Saturday and the Head Chef even said that my white chocolate and macadamia cookies were the best ones I had made to date.  These were the first ones I had baked since the ones I made on the night I went off sick as despite my intention of baking cookies during my time off, I heard via the grapevine that the Manager wasn’t too happy for me to go in on my own to bake, albeit that later I was advised that any concern she may have had got lost in translation.

    I should also say that they did manage to sell most of the dud hot cross buns at the cafe on Sunday, toasted with butter and jam.  I also heard via the grapevine that the hot cross buns went down fine at the party.  They obviously were well enough received as I was asked to go back into work yesterday and then hopefully again on Saturday.  I am still wanting more hours as still going spare at home.

    In addition to Easter bakes, which I should perhaps mention also included baking a couple of Donna Hay’s hot cross bun loaves, I have also tried a couple of traybakes.  The first was a gluten free coconut Bakewell slice with cherry jam, from The Complete Gluten Free Baker.  The second was something I concocted on my own from a photo which the Lynwood & Co’s owner’s wife sent me, ginger, lemon and almond slice.  The latter still needs a bit of tweaking to get the bake right and the balance of ginger and lemon correct, but otherwise it was a delicious bake.  It deliciousness was helped by the fact that I finally got a decent recipe for lemon curd, thanks to the Head Chef at Lynwood & Co.

    Although exercise was certainly out of the window in the earlier stages of my time off work, I have been managing to do more lately, including a few runs.  I also completed my first OCR since July 2017 – a 5km Tough Mudder in London.  It was good to be doing events again, albeit that it was not overly challenging.  I managed to do the 12 swinging rings, which I wasn’t sure that I would manage.  I was a little nervous on the walls, particularly because they were more slippery than I expected (I was wearing regular trainers rather than OCR shoes, as recommended by Tough Mudder) because of the recent rain.

  • Ginger crunch lemon slices

    The other day, I was sent a photo of a ginger, almond and lemon slice which my owner’s wife had seen at a cafe in the departure lounge of an Australian airport.  I asked her if she had the recipe or the name of the cafe so that I could try to make the slice.  She answered no to both. So, over the last couple of days, I have been trying to looked at various recipes to see whether I can come up with a similar slice.  No recipe that I could find was the perfect combination of ginger, almond and lemon, so I decided to combine a couple of recipes (Scrummy Lane’s recipe for lemon Bakewell slices adapted from a BBC Good Food recipe and Lynwood & Co’s lemon curd recipe).  My first attempt required some tweaking, but here is a recipe, which I feel provides a wonderful combination of ginger, almond lemon flavours.

    Ingredients: 

    Ginger crunch base:

    • 250g packet of McVities Ginger Nut biscuits
    • 1 tsp ground ginger
    • 85g unsalted butter

    Lemon curd:

    • 3 eggs
    • Zest and juice of 3 lemons
    • 205g caster sugar
    • 100g butter Frangipane

    Almond filling:

    • 100g unsalted butter at room temperature
    • 115g caster sugar
    • Zest 2 lemons (keep juice to make lemon syrup)
    • 2 large eggs
    • 45g ground almonds
    • 225g plain flour

    Toppings:

    • Enough lemon curd to generously cover the ginger nut base,
    • 5 tbsp flaked almonds
    • Juice 2 lemons and 100g icing sugar for lemon syrup

    Method:

    Ginger crunch base:

    • Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
    • Blend Ginger Nut biscuits in food processor.  When finely blended, add the tsp ground ginger and unsalted butter and blend together.
    • Press into the base of a line d 20 x 20cm baking tin to create an even layer.
    • Bake the biscuit base for 10 minutes and then allow to cool.

    Lemon curd:

    • Heat lemon, sugar and butter over a bain-marie.
    • Whisk the eggs and then add to the mixture.
    • Cook until it thickens (coats the back of a wooden spoon).  Allow to cool.

    Almond filling:

    • Beat together the butter, sugar and lemon zest in the bowl of an electric mixer until creamy.
    • Gradually add the eggs and the ground almonds.
    • Stir in any remaining ground almonds and flour.

    Lemon syrup: 

    • Squeeze juice from two lemons into a small pan.
    • Add icing sugar and heat over a medium heat until the icing sugar is melted and the mixture becomes syrupy.

    Finishing:

    • Spread the lemon curd over the ginger nut base.  Try not to go too close to the edges to stop the lemon curd sticking to the baking paper.
    • Top with the almond filling and smooth over with a spatula.  Scatter the almond filling with flaked almonds .
    • Bake for 20 minute at 180C until the top is lightly golden.
    • When baked, prick the top of the cake all over with a cake tester or wooden toothpick and spoon syrup over the top of the cake, ensuring an even distribution of syrup.  Allow the cake to cool.  When cool, cut into 8-10 slices.