About chagrinnamontoast

I am an actress, a writer, a wife, and a mother. I'm also over thirty which, in Hollywood, means I'm almost a hundred and dead. Want to know about my life? Observe what's going on in my kitchen.

Galette Des Rois

Tomorrow is the sixth of January which means it’s Epiphany which means you should be eating Kings’ Cake or galette des rois as it is called en français. The significance of this day is that it commemorates the magi who journeyed to see the infant Jesus. Upon their arrival these three kings, Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar, presented their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh which they had carried from afar. To express their gratitude, Mary and Joseph offered the wise men slices of a puff pastry dessert filled with frangipane and also a hidden trinket. The first wise man to find the charm got to wear a paper crown. Not really, but that’s what galette des rois is and it’s delicious. Traditionally, it is a puff pastry cake filled with almond cream but of course there are always variations on a theme. Raymond Blanc adds poached pears to his. Some people add chocolate. Others, apricot jam. I am partial to rum and orange zest. But I’ve been thinking. . . I bet it’d be really good with cherries. I guess I’ll have to make another to see. Until then, here is my recipe as it stands.

NB: You can use store bought puff pastry if you like (just make sure it’s all butter!) or you can make your own. I have a cheat’s way inspired by Nigella then made even lazier by me. But it works! So who cares? A little helpful heresy never hurt anyone.

Ingredients for the puff pastry:

250 g of strong white flour + a little extra for rolling

250 g of cold unsalted butter cut into small cubes (I chill mine in the freezer for 15 minutes)

a pinch of salt

6 tablespoons of ice water (or vodka that’s been kept in the freezer)

a squeeze of lemon juice

 

Method: Put the flour, salt, and butter in a food processor. Pulse only a couple of times. Pour in the water and lemon juice. Pulse again until just combined. Dump the dough onto a counter and bring it together with your hands. You should still be able to see small chunks of butter. The dough should look marbled with it. Form the dough into a disk. Wrap it tightly with plastic wrap and allow it to chill in the refrigerator for at least half an hour.

At this point, remove it from the fridge. Lightly dust a work surface with flour. Roll the dough into a long rectangle. Now roll it up like a chocolate log or a jelly roll. Cover it with plastic once more and put it back in the fridge for another half hour.

Then repeat this again. Believe me. If you do it correctly, you will get layers. You’ll see the lamination.

 

Ingredients for the frangipane:

80 g unsalted room temperature butter

80 g ground almonds

80 g icing sugar (this is powdered sugar in America)

1 whole egg + 1 egg yolk

1 tsp rum

1/2 tsp almond extract

the zest or 1 orange or 2 clementines

 

Method: You can whisk this by hand or use a mixer to combine the ingredients. The consistency you need is that of a thick paste. Cover it and put it in the fridge until it is needed.

 

Ingredients for the glaze:

1 egg + 1 yolk + 1 tsp of heavy cream. Mix thoroughly with a fork in a small bowl.

 

To construct the galette:

Take your puff pastry out of the refrigerator. Cut in in half. Roll out a large circle. Take a dinner plate and turn it upside on the pastry. Cut around it with a knife. Set this aside. Roll out a second circle and repeat. Set these two pastry rounds back in the refrigerator to chill for another hour.

Then take a large piece of baking paper. Place one of the pastry rounds on it. Spread your frangipane in the middle of it. Leave about a half inch to 3/4 of an inch of space at the edges. If you want to place a small metal or ceramic charm in the galette, now is the time to do so.

 

Paint a bit of your egg glaze around the edge.

Place the second pastry round on top of the galette. Press a finger around the circumference of the pastry to seal it.

Lightly paint the top of the galette with some more egg glaze. There is no need to use it all. This will just make it soggy.

Now, take the dull side of a knife and use it to pull the indentations you just made into scallop shapes. Lightly score the top of the pastry with a design of your choice. There are many. Google one. Personally, I’m keen on flowers but you can also make stars or chevrons. Once this is finished, place it back in the refrigerator for another hour. I know this is a lot of refrigerator time, but trust me. You do not want the butter to melt in your pastry dough. Those layers of cold butter create desired flakiness.

Preheat the oven to Gas4/180°C/350°F and put a pizza stone or the lid of a large Dutch oven on the middle shelf.

Once the oven is ready, remove the stone. Carefully place the baking paper with the galette on it onto the stone. Put this in the oven and bake it for approximately 45 minutes or until golden.

Don’t worry if you discover that your galette leaked butter. Mine often do. If this is the case, don’t fret. Turn off the oven. Then carefully transfer the galette to a wire rack and place it back in the oven for another 5 minutes or so. It will crisp.

Allow your galette to cool on a rack for at least 10 minutes before serving.  Serve with tea or strong coffee (or cognac) and enjoy.

 

 

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Meringues

I’ve only recently started making my own meringues. It came about after a weekend at the Serpentine Lido. The swans were out and my five year old commented on how much more graceful they were than the ducks at our local pond. This, I told her, was why there weren’t any ballets about them.

And thus began a conversation about Anna Pavlova, the Russian prima ballerina who danced the role of The Dying Swan more than 4,000 times and had a dessert created in her honour. That was it for Helena. She insisted we had to make a pavlova for Sunday lunch.

Since then, we’ve been on a meringue making kick. Below is our recipe. It’s very easy and yields lovely marshmallowy meringues as light and fluffy as Anna Pavlova’s tutu.

 

Ingredients:

egg whites

caster sugar

cream of tartar

*Weigh you egg whites. Double this weight and that’s how much caster sugar to use. For each egg white, add 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar.

 

Method:

Preheat the oven to Gas 2/150°C/300°F.

Line a metal baking tray with wax paper.

Add the cream of tartar to the egg whites then beat them with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Add the sugar a dessertspoonful at a time and continue beating until well incorporated and there is no sugary grit at the bottom of the mixture. When the mixture is smooth and glossy, it’s ready to be baked. Do be careful not to over beat the mixture or the meringues won’t rise properly.

Pipe or spoon the meringues on to the wax paper. If you’re making a pavlova, spread the mixture into a large circle.

Put them in the oven and immediately turn the heat down to Gas 1/140°C/275°F. Allow them to bake for an hour and a half. Rotate your tray halfway in between. After this time, turn the oven off but leave the meringues in there to cool.

Enjoy them on their own, with ice cream, or berries and whipped cream.

 

 

Almond Cherry Crumble Tart

 

Though the French cherry season begins in May, British cherry season doesn’t really hit until July. Something for which I am most grateful. Because who doesn’t love an extended window of gluttonous opportunity?

The Brogdale Cherry Fair near Faversham, Kent is on the 16th of July and should you be in the area, I highly recommend it. I went a couple years ago and all I can say is that I left with the best stomachache ever. All those heritage cherries were so delicious. I couldn’t stop myself. Had I been a monarch of yore, a surfeit of cherries is definitely what would have done me in. But what a way to go!

Below is my recipe for an almond cherry crumble tart. I hope you like it. It never lasts more than a day in my house.

 

Ingredients:

150 g plain flour

10 g ground almonds

1 tbsp icing sugar

1 tbsp caster sugar

120 g unsalted butter, room temperature

1 tbsp + 1/2 tsp cider vinegar

1 tbsp flaked almonds

 

400 g pitted cherries

 

50 g marzipan/almond paste

30 g caster sugar

1/4 tsp almond essence

2 tbsp flour

1/4 tsp salt

 

Method:

Preheat the oven to Gas6/200°C/400°F.

For the pastry, pulse the first six ingredients together until just combined. Press all but 1/4 c of this mixture into a greased tin. Mix whatever remains with the flaked almonds.

tart base

Now, blitz the last 5 ingredients in a food processor. Then stir the cherries into the mix. Pour them into the tart base.

Sprinkle the reserved almond topping over the cherries.

Bake for about 40 minutes or until the pastry is golden and the fruit is bubbling.

Allow to cool before serving.

 

Peanut Butter Brownies

I used to think I didn’t like brownies. I was wrong. I just didn’t like lots of the brownies I’d tasted. They were too sweet or too chocolatey or so gooey that they always left me feeling a bit sick.

Over the years, I’ve come to realise my ideal brownie. She’s on the cakey side and not too sweet. If I’m honest, she’s a bit salty (rather like myself). That’s why the recipe I’m about to share with you is one of my favourites.

The peanut butter balances the chocolate beautifully and lends a savouriness that make this brownie particularly moreish. It really is a winning combination rather like peanut butter and jelly. At least à mon avis.  

Part of what I didn’t understand for years about brownies is that they serve a specific purpose. They are neither cake nor cookies. In a sense, they’re perfect for the person who wants a smackerel of something sweet but can’t be bothered to bake and frost a cake. They’re for the impatient and greedy who still want nice things to eat.

I hope you enjoy them.

prebake

Ingredients:

115 g unsalted butter

100 g light brown sugar

100 g caster or granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1/2 tsp vanilla

65 g flour

35 g cocoa powder

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

4 tbsp + 2 tsp natural peanut butter (I use crunchy, but use smooth if you like)

 

Method:

Preheat the oven to Gas4/350F/180C.

Melt 115 g unsalted butter.

Mix it with 1/2 c light brown sugar and 1/2 c caster sugar.

Add the 2 eggs and the vanilla.

Sift in the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.

Stir in 4 tbsp of crunchy peanut butter.

Pour the batter into a greased lined square pan.

Drop the remaining 2 tsp of peanut butter randomly on top of the batter.

Use a butter knife to swirl the peanut butter through the batter. It will have a nice marbled look.

Sprinkle with a bit of extra salt if you desire, then bake for approximately 25 minutes.

Allow the brownies to cool in the pan before lifting them out, cutting, and serving.

Twin Peaks Dark Chocolate Cherry Pie

 

The cult classic Twin Peaks is returning to television this week. Which means coffee “black as midnight on a moonless night” and cherry pie will also be making a comeback.

Since few things are darker than Special Agent Dale Cooper’s investigation of Laura Palmer’s death, I decided my cherry pie had to reflect that. So I painted the base of my shell with melted 85% dark chocolate before filling it with the darkest sweetest cherries I could find.

Below is the recipe. I hope you like it.

 

Ingredients for the pie shell and top crust:

170 g cold unsalted butter

400 g cold flour

1 tsp cold Crisco (or another vegetable shortening like Trex)

1/4 c ice water

1 tbsp cider vinegar

1 egg yolk (save the white for later)

1 tsp caster sugar

a pinch of sea salt

10 g dark chocolate

 

Method: Cut the fat into the dry ingredients (excluding the chocolate). You can do it with a fork or pastry cutter or blitz them in a food processor until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Then add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until just combined. Shape the dough into two disks. Cover them with plastic wrap and chill them in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Place a rack in the lower middle position of the oven and preheat it to 425°F/220°C/Gas7.

Roll out one round and place it in a 9″ pie dish. Line the dough with baking paper and fill with weights.

Bake for 15 minutes.

Remove the parchment and weights.

Poke some shallow holes in the crust with a fork then return it to the oven. Bake it for another 5 minutes or until the crust looks dry.

Turn off the oven and remove the pie shell. Allow it to cool completely.

While it’s cooling, melt the dark chocolate in a double boiler. Once the chocolate has melted, use a kitchen brush to paint it on the bottom of the pie shell. Allow the chocolate to cool.

Now it’s time to make the pie filling.

 

Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C/Gas 6.

 

Ingredients for the filling:

750 g pitted cherries (I mix sour cherries with sweet cherries)

1/4 c corn starch

1/2 cup to 2/3 cup caster sugar (add enough to suit your taste)

the juice of 1 lemon

a pinch of salt

a drop of vanilla extract

 

Method: Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well. If your cherries are very juicy, you can cook down the liquid sans cherries until it thickens up a bit. Pour the filling into the chocolate lined pie shell. Roll out your top crust and place it over the filling.

 

Brush the top of the pie with a bit of egg white. Sprinkle it with Demerara sugar if you have any to hand.

Bake the pie for 25 minutes on the middle rack.

Then reduce the heat to 350°F/180°C/Gas 4 and bake for another 25 to 30 minutes or until the fruit is bubbling and the crust is brown.

Allow the pie to cool before serving. This will give the filling time to set. If you cut into it while it’s still hot, the filling will run allover the place.

 

Pea and Mushroom Risotto

I love garden peas and presently it’s their moment. I love the way they squeak between my fingers after I’ve washed them. Each time I split open a waxy shiny pod, I feel like I’m discovering treasure. Theirs is also, in my opinion, the most soothing shade of pale green.

While I love to eat them in a salad, I really enjoy them in a rich mushroomy risotto. Spring peas have such a sweet, clean, bright taste, they lift the flavour of what can be an otherwise heavy earthy dish. It’s the perfect counterbalance that brings sunshine to the forest floor.

Below is my recipe. Feel free to swap the rice for farro which is actually what I intended to use, but didn’t have enough of for last night’s supper. The nuttiness is delicious, but either way it’s a tasty dish. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do listening to The Three Tenors. 

Ingredients:

150 g garden peas, shelled

150 g chestnut mushrooms, sliced

50 g dried porcini mushrooms

750 ml chicken stock

250 ml boiling water

1 medium onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 c Carnaroli rice or farro

1/2 c dry Oloroso sherry (or a light dry white wine if you don’t want such a rich taste)

a bunch of thyme, chopped

flat leaf parsley, chopped

2 tbsp grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano

olive oil

unsalted butter

 

Method: 

Soak the dried porcini mushrooms in the boiling water. I place mine in a large mug and cover them with a plate. Leave them for at least 30 minutes to fully rehydrate.

Blanche the peas in salted water for 3 minutes. Rinse them under cold water to stop their cooking and to keep their color. Drain them and set them aside.

Heat some olive oil and butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Saute the sliced chestnut mushrooms. When they are almost done, add a tablespoon of chopped thyme. Set them aside.

Drain the porcini mushrooms, but save the liquid. Put this mushroom liquor into a small saucepan with the chicken stock. Simmer on low.

Add a bit more olive oil and butter to the saucepan to saute the onion. When the onion becomes translucent, add the minced garlic and 2 tablespoons of chopped thyme.

Add the 1 1/2 cups of rice or farro to the onion. Allow it to toast for a few minutes, before pouring over the sherry. Stir to avoid sticking. When the liquid has evaporated, add a ladleful of stock. Stir and cook until the liquid disappears. Repeat this until the stock has been used up and the risotto is ready. If you need more liquid, use dry white wine.

When the risotto is finished, take it off the heat. Season to taste. Then stir in the mushrooms, peas, cheese and a tablespoon of parsley. Pour yourself a glass of your favourite wine and you’re all set for supper.

Sicilian Inspired Easter Bread

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt. . . Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand. . . Once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”

-The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams-

This is Farfel. He was given to me as an Easter present when I was seven. He became Real a long time ago and as the result of being loved so hard for decades, his face is now misshapen. His left left eye sits lower than the right.

Like the Skin Horse said, sometimes becoming Real does hurt a bit. Luckily it’s nothing a needle and thread can’t fix. Farfel’s had multiple surgeries. Mostly his tail and his neck, though I suspect he’ll soon need some stitches at the top of his legs.

When I left home for college I left my childish things behind. That is, until the first time I got sick and asked my mother to FedEx Farfel to me.

I think he is the luckiest stuffed rabbit in the world. Not only did I make him Real and love him until his stuffing went flat, but years later he has become Real to another little girl–my daughter, Helena. This has to be the life toys dream about.

So when The Unicorn Theatre brought back their production of The Velveteen Rabbit, I knew we had to get tickets. It was amazing. The actors, the choreography, the accompanying music, it was all outstanding. Ashley Byam who played the Boy was perfect and the fact that Christian Roe who played the Velveteen Rabbit wasn’t in a silly animal costume, but rather just was the rabbit, made his Realness all the more convincing.

Upon coming home, Helena and I made Sicilian inspired Easter bread. I say inspired because that’s what the flavours are, though no one’s Italian grandmother taught me how to do it. The bread is sweet with blood oranges and almond extract. And because we love rabbits so much in this house, we made them into the shape of rabbits. Below is the recipe. I hope you enjoy it.

Ingredients:

6 raw pre-dyed eggs (make sure they are coloured raw as they cook while baking)

1 1/2 cups + another 3-4 cups of all purpose flour

 1/2 cup warm milk

4 teaspoons yeast

the zest of 2 blood oranges and 1/4 cup of their juice

2 teaspoons almond extract

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup warm water

170 g softened unsalted butter

100 g caster sugar

2 large eggs

Method:

Dissolve 4 teaspoons of yeast in 1/2 cup of warm milk. Make sure it’s not too hot because that will kill the yeast.

Aerate 1 1/2 c all purpose flour with a balloon whisk.

Add 1/2 c warm water to the flour. Also add the yeast mixture. Stir with a rubber spatula until combined. Don’t worry if the mixture is really sticky. That’s exactly how it should be.

Cover the bowl with cling film and let it stand for at least 1 hour. After this point, it should be double in size and really bubbly.

In the meantime. . .

Cream together 170 g of softened unsalted butter with 100 g sugar.

Add the zest of 2 blood oranges and 1/4 cup of  juice, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, and 2 tsp sweet almond extract.

Beat in 2 eggs one at a time.

Beat this mixture into the risen yeast with an electric mixer. It should be smooth but sticky.

Sieve 3 cups of flour. Add them to the dough by hand, one cup at a time.

Once this comes together, take it out of the bowl and place it on a floured surface. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes. It should feel smooth and elastic.

Place it in a lightly buttered bowl and cover it with cling film. Allow it to stand for at least 2 hours.

Remove the cling film and punch down the dough. Divide it into 6 even pieces. Recover it and let stand another 10 minutes.

Take your first piece of dough and roll it out into a 10 inch rope. Cut it into three pieces–a 7 inch piece you will shape into a circle (this is the body), a 2 1/2 inch piece that you will shape into a head and ears, and finally a 1/2 inch piece that you will roll into a ball for a tail.

When you stick the pieces together, I find it helps to adhere them with a bit of milk or eggy milk mixture.

Once they have been shaped and placed on baking paper on a tray, place the dried off colored eggs into the centre of the rabbits.

Brush the rabbits lightly with milk and cover them again for another hour.

Preheat the oven to 350F/180C/Gas 4. Bake the rabbits for 20 to 25 minutes. When they come out of the oven, brush them with a little milk to keep them soft.

 

HAPPY EASTER!