31 May 2013

Millionnaire Shortbread, Caramel Slice and all that jazz

Bill Nighy belongs to these actors that I find so typically British, probably because many of his roles are so full of British humour; hilarious yet  often so inappropriate.

Everything about him, his pop star character in Love Actually and the radio boss in The Boat That Rocked, his facial expressions and his lines make us want to laugh and hide at the same time.

British baking is like British humour: sometimes it goes too far, and that's partly what makes me love it.

Some cakes are like some jokes you would laugh at while thinking "Rhoo that's so naughty".

When I arrived in London 4 years ago, I discovered the likes of banoffee pie, peanut butter cookies and millionnaire shortbreads: all these cakes make your eyes sparkle while thinking "Rhooo, that's going a step too far, that's really naughty, nobody would add whipped cream on a banana and toffee pie."

Yes. Great Britain would do it. Thank you Great Britain! I love you Great Britain!

caramel slice recipe

Millionnaire shortbread,
aka caramel slice,
aka the Naughtiest Slice in the History of Baking

May it be called a millionnaire shortbread or a caramel slice, this slice is made with the same 3 layers of delights : a crunchy and crumbly shortbread, topped with a layer of smooth and sticky toffee (which I made slightly salted), topped with chocolate.
A legend says that Millionnaire Shortbread come from Scotland, and even though I haven't found proof of if, I wouldn't be surprised if this very nauhty treat had been invented by the same people who invented the deep fried mars bar!


For the shortbread:
175g plain flour
55g golden caster sugar
115g butter

For the filling: 
175g slightly salted butter
a pinch of salt
115g golden caster sugar
3 tbsp golden syrup
400ml can of condensed milk

For the topping: 
170g good quality cooking chocolate (the traditional recipe calls for milk chocolate but I used dark chocolate)

Make the millionnaire shortbreads / caramel slices:

1.Pre-heat the oven to 180'C. Cover the bottom of a square cake tin with baking parchment and grease it lightly. (see below other possible shapes and sizes of tins) 

2.To make the shortbread, mix the flour and caster sugar in a bowl. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Knead the mixture together until it forms a dough, then press into the base of the prepared tin.
Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 20 minutes or until firm to the touch and very lightly browned. Cool in the tin.

3.To make the caramel, place the butter, sugar,  pinch of salt and condensed milk into a pan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil, stirring all the time, then reduce the heat and simmer very gently, stirring continuously, for about 5 minutes or until the mixture has thickened. Pour over the shortbread and leave to cool.

4.For the topping, melt the chocolate slowly in a bowl in the microvawe. Pour over the cold caramel and leave to set. Cut into squares or bars.

NB: I made my shortbreads in different moulds to try different sizes and shapes: 
- cooking rings to make big slices to be share (pictures above)
- smaller ones in silicone muffin cases: works so well and so easy to unmould!
- and I also tried with a 12 hole muffin tin, covering the bottom of each hole with a round of baking parchment: it worked really well too!

24 May 2013

A week in the Highlands

Here are a few souvenir photos from my holidays in Scotland (more specifically in The Highlands)

Here is a little crash course in The Highlands for the beginners:

1/ The Highlands are relatively small. However there are not many roads that cross The Highlands, plus a lot of the roads are really narrow and windey too, so it can take a long time to drive what looks like a short distance. If you're visiting Scotland just for a week, I'd advice you to stick to a small area, take your time, and plan to come back again to visit more!

2/ Mountains are not really high in Scotland (compared to Alpine standards) but they need to be treated with respect like high mountains. You can find snow in May, and when the sun shines, you burn easily! Never go hiking without being well equiped (waterproof and warm chothing, sun cream, etc)

3/ You might struggle to find shops and villages in some areas. If you need to provide for your own food, plan your shopping in advance!

4/ Some clichés about Scotland are true: you can experience 4 seasons in a day, you often have to stop your car to let sheep cross the road, the wind in The Highlands is often so strong it could rip out cows' horns and in summer time, the midges will drive you crazy (you won't see any in most place until the beginning of June though)

5/ Some other clichés are wrong: it doesn't rain all the time, the food is good and sadley there is probably no Nessie in Loch Ness. 

My Top 5 of the holidays: 
- The 1st class sleeper train from London to Inverness. You leave London on Friday night at 21.00, have a really good night's sleep in a super comfy bed and are woken up by a breakfast in bed at 7.30 in The Highlands. It's a real experience, and not that expensive!
- Edinburgh: magnificient! Accomodation: Airbnb.com. We rented a small flat in the city centre for the price of a basic hotel: it was great! (we didn't have time to go to Glasgow, but I've heard it's great. I'll definitely want to go next time!)
- The mountains around Glencoe, and the small village of Ardgour (more a bunch of houses by the water really)
- The white sandy beaches and turquoise water of Sanna 
- Scottish people: from the lady in the train to hikers and B&B owners: everybody is welcoming and adorable. 

Chocolat my travelling bear's Top 2: 
- Baby sheep and cows, so cute with their long hair
- The full Scottish breakfast in the B&Bs (kipper, black pudding, haggis, sausage, eggs, potato pancakes, toasts, muesli, etc)

Glen Affric

To follow Chocolat's adventures, visit his facebook photo albums here!

21 May 2013

Rhubarb, almond and ginger crumble

A couple is like a sponge cake, isn't it?

First, it requires all the main ingredients: eggs, flour, butter, sugar, etc
One would struggle to make a good sponge cake with lots of butter and no sugar.

Then, the ingredients supply needs to be shared between the two people. If one brings the butter, eggs, flour and the other only brings chocolate chips...the fact that the latter provides with the fun bits can't make up for the fact that the first supply most of what's needed to make the sponge work. 
So, if one brings the sugar, the other brings the butter, etc

Finally, to make a good sponge, one needs to cream the butter and sugar until they're light and fluffly before adding any of the other ingredients. It's hard work and requires patience, but it's worth the effort because this is what makes a sponge light and moist (rather than hard and dry). Although it can be a real pain if done alone, it feels easy and gets done in no time at all if done as a team, doesn't it?

I tell you : life is a giant bakery!

rhubarb ginger crumble recipe

Rhubarb, ginger and almond crumble

It's the rhubarbe season, yeah!
Rhubarb and ginger are a match made in heaven, that I discovered recently. And the almonds bring an irresistible crunch to this light crumble. It taste like sunshine and spring!

900 g rhubarb
100 g golden caster sugar
1 tsp syrup from a stem ginger jar
1 rounded teaspoon stem ginger, finely chopped

For the crumble:
110 g whole almonds, skin on
75 g chilled butter, cut into small dice
175 g self-raising flour, sifted
2 level teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 level teaspoon ground ginger
110 g demerara sugar 

Make the crumble:
 Preheat the oven at 200deg C.

1/ Wash the rhubarb, trim off the leaves and cut the stalks roughly into 2.5 cm chunks.

2/ Toss them in a bowl with the sugar, the chopped stem ginger and the ginger syrup, then place them in the baking dish and keep on one side.

3/ In a food processor place the butter, sifted flour, cinnamon, ground ginger and sugar and give it a whiz till it resembles crumbs. Add the almonds and process again, not too fast, until they are fairly finely chopped and there are still a few chunky bits.

If you don't have a processor, in a large bowl, rub the butter into the sifted flour until it resembles crumbs, then stir in the almonds, which should be fairly finely chopped by hand, cinnamon, ginger and sugar.

4/ Press the rhubarb with your hands all over the base of the dish to spread it evenly.

5/ Sprinkle the crumble mixture all over the rhubarb, with your hands press it down quite firmly all over (the more tightly it is packed together the crisper it will be).

6/ Bake the crumble on the centre shelf of the oven for 35-40 minutes or until the topping is golden brown and crisp.

7/ Leave it to rest for 10-15 minutes before serving, then serve it warm with greek yoghurt, custard, or ice cream.

Recipe adapted from Delia Smith rhubarb crumble

recette crumble rhubarbe amandes

recipe easy crumble rhubarb

15 May 2013

Fruits and nuts wholemeal bread

Just back from my holidays in Scotland, I can highly recommend that you go there if you haven't been yet!
Scottish people are simply adorable, the landscapes in the Highlands are amazing (the Highlands are a fantastic playground for hikers and walkers), weather is not that bad (I did even get sunburnt one day!), and food is great!
Yes, it is!

Here are my new favourite Scottish foods: 
- Haggis (as the saying goes: as long as you don't know what it is, you'll like it!)
- Smoked haddock and kippers, often eaten for breakfast in Scotland : a little hard core early in the morning when you're used to your marmalade toasts, but simply delicious.
- All kind of good fish and steaks actually, including the traditional Cullen Skink Soup (potato-fish), yum!
 - Potato Scones: somewhere between a pancake, a gnocchi, a scone. Spread with Nutella, it's to die for.

OK, I admit, it's not very much "fruits and vegs" oriented...and I did have a Veggie Episode at the supermarket, where I bought £30 worth of vegetables, but well, holidays are not for dieting, are they?

Anyway, don't take my word for it, go to Scotland!
I'll post some pictures very soon. In the meantime, here is a new recipe!

easy bread recipe

Fruit and nuts bread


250g strong white bread flour
250g wholemeal bred flour
14g dried instand yeast
350ml water
1 tsp salt
1 small glass of dried abricots, cut in peaces
1 small glass of croasely chopped walnuts and hazelnuts, roasted in the oven for 10 min 
Make the bread: 

1/ In a large bowl, sift the flour, yeast and salt together. Make a well in the middle and add the water. 

2/ Mix the ingredients until they come together into a ball. 

3/ Transfer the ball onto a work surface and knead the dough for 10min (no less!) until it's elastic.

4/ Transfer onto a baking tray lightly floured and put a large bowl upside down on top of it. Leave to rise in a warm place until double in size (it can take from 30min to 1 hour, depending on how warm the place is) 

5/ Tranfer to the work surface, roughly spread with your hand, sprinkle the nuts and fruits and form a ball again. Knead the dough for further 3 to 4 minutes until the fruits and nuts are well spread out in the dough. 
Make a nice ball and place back on the lightly floured baking tray. Leave to rise again under the big bowl turned upside down for 20/30 min. In the meantime, preheat the oven at 220degC. 

6/ Score the bread with a very sharp knife and sprinkle lightly with flour. Bake for approx 30 / 40min until the crust is golden.  

easy bread recipe

1 May 2013

Straight from my childhood: Toasted corn flour cake

When I was a child, my grandma used to bake for us kids all the time.
Her cakes were so good that we kept asking "How do you do it Grandma?" with our high pitched kids voices.
She would systematically answer back that she added some magic ingredient called "Perlin-Pinpin Powder" to her cakes.
Inevitably, every single family reunion would see the kids gathering in the kitchen around a cake tasting session, trying to figure out what The Perlin-Pinpin Powder was. We would even send one of us as a spy to watch her bake to try and get a glimpse of her secret weapon.

Of course, everytime she would do her magic, and we never managed to catch her in action.

The Perlinpinpin Powder legend kept us hanging on until the youngest of us got old enough to understand that the only magical ingredient that my grandma Gysèle used was her gift for making incredible food with simple ingredients.

Toasted corn flour cake

This is a local speciality that has travelled from Franche Comté to the Lyon area in France. This cake is made from toasted corn flour, called "gaudes" in French, that gives a very distinctive nutty and roasted flavour to this delicious cake. 
This was one of my grandma's signature cake. 

1 glass (approx 250ml) of toasted corn flour
1 glass of flour
90g unsalted butter
1 glass of milk
1 glass of caster sugar
2g of baking powder

Make the cake: 
1/ Preheat the oven at 160deg C
2/ Cream the butter and sugar (mix with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy and whitened)
3/ Add all the other ingredients, mix well
4/ Pour the mix in a silicone cake mould and bake for 35-45 min. Leave to cool for 5min before removing from the mould.

I keep wonderful memories of the times spent at my grandparents, baking with Grandma and building toy pedalcars with Grandpa.
Happy 88th Birthday Grandpa!