Monday, January 18, 2010

Profiterole Pancakes ….

We had a group of friends over for dinner a few weeks back and I decided to consult one of my many Donna Hay Magazines to get some dessert inspiration.

When I found an article on Profiteroles the decision was made. I used to make profiteroles quite regularly and thought they would be a good way to end a meal for nine people. I decided I would keep things simple, filling them with whipped cream and topping with a chocolate sauce made from double cream and melted dairy milk chocolate. My mouth began to water at the prospect!

Soon after starting I realised that the key ingredient in this recipe was time.


Because it all went horribly wrong and the only thing that saved me was that I had factored in enough time to come up with a contingency plan!!!

My Profiteroles ended up looking like pancakes and smelled far to ‘eggy’ to be appetising. I took a photo of my ‘work’ in front of the magazine picture of what it was supposed to look like.

As you can see, the result was definitely more pancake than profiterole. I blame two things

1 - I was using a new 3 ply steel pot that retains heat very well. In this instance it proved to be a bad thing as when making profiteroles you combine butter and water in a saucepan and when the butter has melted completely, you pour sifted flour into the saucepan and mix, combining and cooking at a reasonable speed.

In my case, the saucepan was too hot and the flour cooked almost immediately. I had to take the mixture off the heat to stop from burning, however because of the retained heat this didnt work as well as I had hoped. I then started mixing furiously in an effort to slow the cooking/burning process and my guess is that I overworked the mixture. I don’t know exactly what that meant for the final product in scientific terms – but it wasn't good!

2, The ingredient ratio was off. After the event I compared the recipe I used in the past to this new recipe and it appears to me that the egg to water/butter/flour ratio was not quite right. In this recipe there seems to be too little water/butter/flour to too many eggs. I have nothing to base this on but my gut instinct... and the fact that my profiteroles seemed to emit an overwhelming eggy note as opposed to the faintly reconisable hint of egg that good profiteroles posses!

Again, I wonder at the scientific explanation, but I cant help but think that all these eggs proved to be too heavy thus making it impossible for the mixture to achieve the height necessary to result in a bulbous pillow of delicate choux pastry as opposed to the flat, uninspired pancakes I ended up with.

Needless to say, time allowed me to clean up, dispose of the evidence and come up with the idea of serving ice cream in martini glasses with a selection of decadent liquid toppings with which to douse the ice cream - Baileys, Grand Marnier, Coffee Sambuca, chocolate sauce (mentioned above) and freshly brewed espresso.

The evening ended with lots of laughter and a few stirring karaoke ballads, and my ice cream induced high made me forget all my Profiterole pancake woes!!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Random things I love about cooking and entertaining

There are a few food/cooking/entertaining related things I love, and thought I would share them.

Frying Pans… There is nothing more enjoyable than cooking with a good quality frying pan. When I have the luxury of time, I prefer stainless steel as opposed to non-stick as I think it makes for a nicer cooking experience, making you rise to the challenge of making sure you’ve got the heat perfect so as not to end up with everything sticking to the bottom!!

Oversized white serving dishes… There is something I love about the ‘exaggerated’ effect of oversized serving dishes. Fill them up to make a meal look hearty and abundant, or leave space to make the meal look minimalist and well arranged. I love the serving dishes to be white so you can match with red table settings* in winter to make the table look decadent and indulged and blue table settings in summer to create a summery yet cool and fresh look.

* (candles, napkins, and placemats etc)

Long stem wine glasses… For those of you who know me well I am devoted to long stem glasses - Wine has to be served in Long stem glasses. Nothing lets a good wine down more than short stem glasses… that’s a fact!!

A good apron… I love the convenience of being able to wipe dirty hands on your apron when cooking. The apron I have at the moment is black, with roomy pockets and a band of red chillies across the middle. It was a gift to a friend of mine from his Mum…. He thought it looked to feminine and so I inherited it … Years later I sent him a Manly blue Butchers apron – It’s so long he tells me it looks like strapless dress on him …… I now question the femininity of the chilli apron

Scented candles… Good quality scented candles provide subtle background notes that infuse pleasant scents throughout the house. They also get rid of the nasty ‘post cooking’ smells that sometimes linger!! Some of my favourites are Aveda, Diptyque, I Coloniali and Durance.

Citrus fruit centre pieces… Dark brown wooden bowls filled with lemons and limes or a glass bowl filled with Clementine’s – preferably with leaves still attached, make a great change from flowers.

Champagne to start… It’s never too early (or late for that matter) to serve Champagne, or anything else that sparkles (Cava, Prosecco, Soda or Mineral). Champagne at the start of a evening is the perfect way to kick off a good time with friends. It whets the appetite and loosens the tongue.

Lighting… I’m a lighting girl and as such ALWAYS prefer dim, atmospheric lighting. Bright lights tend to be too confronting yet dim lighting relaxes and elicits good conversation. The warmth created by a flickering candle also creates an atmosphere that enhances good eating – and I am a devotee of twinkley lights. Both indoor and out.

Background music… (this is going to sound corny) Music is the blank canvas upon which good conversations are painted. Music allows people to feel comfortable, sets a mood and allows for conversations to flow freely. At the moment I am addicted to the Vicky Christina Barcelona soundtrack – It’s evocative and features Spanish guitar that makes you want to travel to Spain and theorise over subjects such as Gaudi, Rioja and Paella (both the dish and the pronunciation of the word!)

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Hummingbird Traitor

I feel a bit of a traitor writing this, but recently I made the Hummingbird Bakery’s Banana Loaf… and it was just fantastic! It was easy to make, and the end result was lovely… sweet but not overly, moist but not doughy and despite the richness of the ingredients, surprisingly light.

You combine 270g of light brown sugar with 2 eggs and then mix in 200g of mashed banana. You then mix in 280g of plain flour, 1 tsp each of baking powder, bi-carb soda, ground cinnamon and ground ginger, followed by 140g of melted unsalted butter.
Pour into a prepared loaf tin (23cms by 13cms) and bake at 170 degrees Celsius for about an hour. Let it cool a little and serve with a good coffee... and loads of butter!

Why does this make me a traitor?

Because I am a Primrose Bakery devotee …

Let me explain …

There has been a recent cupcake craze in London. In the past few years trendy little coffee shops specialising in decadent and ornate sweet treats have popped up here and there and they all draw a very devoted clientele. These establishments marked the beginning of London’s recent cafĂ© culture boom. Finally Londoners have the option of going out for coffee and cake mid-morning on a weekend – a nice alternative to the 10.30am pint!!

The Hummingbird bakery is one such place, and there are two branches, one in Noting Hill and the other in South Kensington. Sadly, both are too far from my house to be convenient thus I have never actually been to either.

On the other hand, the Primrose Bakery is basically in my back yard and I have been a devoted fan since its birth. Forget Big Ben and Parliament – All my visitors get a guided tour of the Primrose bakery when they stay with me! Kitted out like a 50s style milk bar with metal framed chairs and tables the Primrose Bakery is one of may favourite local spots.

So in a mark of true commitment I should have purchased their book first and cooked up one of their treats…. Indeed, I feel like I have cheated on my beloved Primrose Bakery for not trying one of their recipes first…. What makes it even worse is that the reason I purchased the Hummingbird’s cookbook is that it was only £4.00!!

Cheap and a traitor….. Can it get any worse?? ……..