Sunday, 16 September 2012

Home made is always better!

As previously mentioned Mr Vander-Cave has been away for a couple of days at a trade show where he gets a 'lunch box' provided each day, the inverted commas are there because the boxes are huge and covered in advertising for the show. Inside the boxes are all sorts of cakes and treats that generally don't set foot inside my back of beyond barn as I prefer to make all our cakes because they taste nicer. Having said that I do have one exception, M&S Eccles cakes. Oh my how I love these butter laden cakes with the gooey filling oozing out from the flaky sugar coated pastry (salivating already!). Any way back to the trade show lunch boxes. Mr V-C often brings back leftover singular packaged cakes for Master Vander-Cave as a treat. This time he came in brandishing an Eccles cake saying "I know how much you like these!" The next morning I sat down with my mid morning latte and the aforementioned cake. Disappointed doesn't even begin to cover my feelings. This puff pastry catastrophe tasted like cardboard and the fruity centre was extremely lacking in fruit. In fact I think this cake could have been contravening the trades description act it was so far removed from my usual Eccles cake. Since the onset of my CFS the M&S Eccles cake has become a rare treat because I so rarely get to shop there and I was so desperate that I found a recipe and set about making my own.

At this point I must say this is one of those recipes for those days when you have nothing else to do. All the rolling, folding and chilling of the flaky pastry is very time consuming and took up a lot of my day. I didn't quite stick to the recipe because I only had a quarter of the currants needed so topped up the fruit with raisins and I also didn't have any dark brown sugar so used light brown sugar. I don't think either substitution has lessened the scrumptiousness of the finished cakes (If I do say so myself!)

The layers needed to create a flaky pastry by rolling and folding
Eccles Cakes
400g strong white flour
1 tsp salt
25g caster sugar
225g cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 medium egg, separated
100ml cold water
75ml cold milk
For the filling:
500g currants
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons (or the best-quality lemon extract)
50g dark soft brown sugar
100g unsalted butter
Demerara sugar

Put the flour, salt and sugar in a bowl and add the butter. 

Whisk the egg yolk with the water and milk, and mix with the flour to a firm dough.

Wrap, chill for 30-60 minutes, then, with a little flour, roll into a 2cm-thick rectangle. Fold in by thirds, then re-roll to the same size and fold again. Wrap and chill for 30-60 minutes. Repeat the double roll, fold and chill twice more.(As it was warm on the day I made mine I chilled the pastry for 60mins each time).

Put the currants in a bowl, pour on 500ml boiling water and leave for five minutes. Drain thoroughly, then mix with the lemon, sugar, butter and chill for 15minutes.

Roll the pastry to 2cm thick, cut in two and keep one piece chilled while you roll the other into a 0.25cm-thick rectangle and cut into six squares.

Place a 50-60g ball of currants in the centre of each one, dampen the edges and bring together to seal. 
Flip it over, round the shape with your fingers, roll out slightly to flatten and place seam down on a baking tray lined with nonstick paper. Repeat with the other pastry and filling.

Brush with beaten egg white, sprinkle with sugar, slash the tops and bake at 200C (180C fan-assisted)/390F/gas mark 6 for about 30 minutes until golden .


Monday, 10 September 2012

An anniversary treat


For the first time in 17 years I am spending my wedding anniversary 'sans' husband! Mr Vander-Cave is away on business so I am home alone and in need of a sweet treat. After watching The Great British Bake Off last week and salivating over Mary Berry's treacle tart I decided to dust down my own treacle tart recipe for my post dinner dessert. As I need to get back on the diet train asap I went for small individual treacle tarts making just two, one for me and one for Master Vander-Cave (who shares my love of these sweet treats).
To counteract the sweetness of the syruppy filling we ate our tarts with some of the few strawberries our bushes have given us this year and a generous helping of double cream

This recipe uses an old fashioned pie plate measuring 18cm for 2 individual sized tarts. I used 1/3 of the ingredients. I blind baked the tartlet shells for the same amount of time but cut the final cooking time to 25 minutes.

Treacle Tart
180g plain flour
45g butter
45g Trex
2 tsp cold water

for the filling:

225g fresh white bread
600g (8 heaped tbsp) golden syrup
juice of half a lemon

Put the flour and the cubed butter into a food processor and whizz till you have what looks like fine breadcrumbs (do it by hand if you prefer, rubbing the butter into the flour with your fingers and thumbs).

Pour in the water and mix again for a few seconds until the dough comes together.

Tip the dough out on to a lightly floured board, squeezing the dough to make a large ball. Roll it out to fit the tart tin, pressing it into the edges.

 Prick the pastry lightly all over with a fork then leave to rest in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Set the oven at 200C/gas mark 6.Take the tart case from the fridge, cover with foil and baking beans to stop the pastry from puffing up, and bake for 10 minutes.

Remove the paper and beans and return the pastry case to the oven for 5 minutes until the pastry feels dry. Remove and set aside.

Lower the oven heat to 180C/gas mark 4. Whiz the bread in the food processor till you have fine, soft, white crumbs.

 Mix them with the golden syrup, stirring until the crumbs are fully coated in syrup, then stir in the lemon juice.

Pour the crumbs into the warm pastry case, cover with lattice pastry strips if you are so inclined and brush the pastry lattice with milk.  Otherwise forget the lattice and just put the tart in the oven unadorned for 25-35 minutes. Leave the tart to cool for 10 minutes or so before cutting. Serve with cream.