Sunday, December 20, 2009

Lovely Little Linzers ......

There is a lovely little German café near my house that makes THE BEST linzer biscuits, and in recent months I’ve become addicted to them. They are light, thin shortbreads that are stuck together with sweet strawberry jam and topped with delicious slightly tangy glaze icing. They are the perfect accompaniment for strong espresso coffee or the perfect end of an evening meal if you are looking for a change from After Eights.

Last Sunday I went into a baking frenzy and ended up experimenting with a few cookie/biscuit recipes in an effort to try and create my own Linzer Biscuits and the recipe below is what my efforts resulted in. I have to admit that they aren’t as good as the café, but they are pretty close and hopefully after a bit more practice I’ll get them even closer….

125g butter
¾ cup sugar
Vanilla extract – I always put in a good splash!
1 cup plan flour
1 cup ground Almonds
1 tsp baking powder

Strawberry Jam and Glaze Icing

Using an electric handheld whisk, cream butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy then beat in egg. Mix sifted flour and baking powder into the butter mixture followed by the ground almonds.

Work the mixture into a firm ball and then roll out on a lightly floured surface. Using a cookie cutter, cut into shapes (I used hearts!). Place on baking tray that has been lined with greaseproof paper, and bake at 190C for about 15 minutes or until slightly golden.

When the biscuits are cooked, make sure you let them cool completely before sandwiching 2 together with jam and glazing with icing! Warning …… these biscuits are wonderfully delicious and very hard to resist! Be prepared to feel compelled to nibble on them until they are all gone!!!!!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Leon’s Ice Cream

Continuing my infatuation with the Leon cookbook, I decided to make their Plum Ice Cream (pg 264) for a casual dinner we had one Sunday night. Ice cream is one of my favourite things and even though I love the thought of making ice cream, I’ve always shied away from it as I don’t have an ice cream maker …. And I don’t need another appliance!! As soon as I discovered that for this recipe you don’t need an ice cream maker, I was hooked!

The other main appeal of this recipe is that you don’t need excessive amounts of sugar and/or fat (and I think the sugar content can even be reduced dramatically and still keep its appeal).

The Ice Cream is made in three stages:

First Step – Plum Puree
Chop up about 450 grams of plums (with skins but without stones) and cook with 175gs of sugar and some lemon juice until the sugar dissolves and the plum flesh becomes nice and mushy. Whiz in a food processor until the mixture is the consistency of a rough puree, and then cool completely (I made mine the night before).

Second Step – Egg whites
Whisk 2 egg whites until they form soft peaks. In a seperate saucepan dissolve 200 grams of Demerara sugar in 6 tablespoons of water. Once dissolved turn the heat up so that the sugar mixture starts to boil rapidly and after three minutes, immediately pour the sugar mixture into the egg whites in a thin stream. All the while you are whisking the eggs until the mixture looks like uncooked meringue.

Third Step – Cream
Whisk 300mls of cream until it is thick but not stiff – then you fold in the egg whites, followed by the plum puree. Once thoroughly combined, freeze for at least 5 hours.

A nice little visual tip is to save some of the puree, and once the mixture is ready to put in the freezer, drizzle over the top of the ice cream and then use a bamboo skewer to swirl into a pretty pattern (see below).

Another little quirk about this recipe is that it calls for plums that are not too ripe. This works well for two reasons – 1) In London it’s virtually impossible to get really ripe plums and 2) The bitterness of the plums create a subtle sharpness that balances the sugary sweetness resulting in a refreshing indulgence rather than an overbearing ice confection!

This dessert was one that did not require an accompaniment. Served in a martini glass on its own, it was a perfectly classic way to end a comfortably casual evening!!

(Photography credits have to go to Kerry for providing the camera and Joff for taking the perfect shots!!)