Toasted Sourdough Ice Cream – Goes Well With Coffee – 9th Edition

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When I started the Goes Well With Coffee series I knew there had to be at least one ice cream recipe. For affogato. One of my favourite desserts. Nothing more than a delicious scoop of your favourite ice cream (ideally something neutral like vanilla but pistachio or roast almond work well too), drowned (affogato) in a shot of bitter espresso. The espresso cools down almost immediately as the ice cream starts melting. And while not exactly a pretty dessert, I love the contrast between the unsweetened and bitter still warm espresso and the cold, sweet and creamy ice cream.

If you follow me on instagram, you will have noticed that my feed is looking decidedly brown-ish these last few weeks with photo after photo of baked sourdough loaves, dough sitting in proving baskets and bags of flour from my favourite organic mill here in Belgium. I bought the third Tartine book for myself when I still lived in Rome. But the impending move to Brussels and getting settled here meant it took me almost a year to really start using it. And using it I most certainly am right now – following the mantra practice makes perfect, I am currently baking as many loaves as I can (which, given my work and travel schedule is about 4 times a month), taking notes of the process, watching endless videos on youtube on how to handle the high hydration dough Tartine is so famous for and slowly starting to tweak the process to my own liking. And while that perfect oven spring, the big holes and a soft and custardy crumb at times still elude me, I haven’t bought any bread since starting this endeavour so there is that.

Baking bread this frequently when I often find myself eating breakfast, lunch and dinner at my desk at work means I invariably have surplus bread. I have taken loaves to parties, travelled with them to Italy to share with Alessandro and his family, given them to friends and colleagues and my freezer is full to bursting with carefully wrapped loaves. And yet I invariably find myself with bread going stale every once in a while. While sourdough toasts up beautifully and makes delicious breadcrumbs, ever since the toasted breadcrumb dacquoise I made years ago, I was keen to try using sourdough bread in more sweet applications.

Using bread in ice cream is nothing new – there is after all the classic English recipe of brown bread ice cream. This is not dissimilar although even nicer in flavour if you ask me. Stale sourdough gets torn into small crumbs that are tossed in melted butter, sugar and sea salt and caramelised in the oven. These are then folded into a custard-based ice cream that gets a little bit of extra tang from creme fraiche (to mimic the slight acidity of the sourdough). And while delicious on its own, this ice cream is even better topped with a shot of your favourite espresso.

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Toasted Sourdough Ice Cream

Note: I am just going to say it: you should make a double, scrap that, a triple batch of the caramelised sourdough crumbs. They are as addictive as kettle corn (if not more so) and you will find yourself grabbing a handful every time you step into the kitchen. So do yourself a flavour and make plenty – set aside 2-3 generous handfuls to stir into the ice cream once it is almost done churning and keep the rest for snacking. As for the ice cream, I tried infusing milk and cream with toasted sourdough (too much hassle and not a strong enough flavour to make it worth it), a cream cheese based recipe (the texture was all off), a mascarpone based recipe (funny mouthfeel) but in the end settled on a classic vanilla-flavoured custard. The one change I made was to lighten the custard with creme fraiche – this adds a nice little tang which mimics the slight acidity of the sourdough bread.

Ingredients

For the caramelised sourdough crumbs
200g stale sourdough bread, torn into small pieces (you are looking for pieces no bigger than a corn kernel – leave the crusts on as that is where a lot of the flavour is)
100g sugar
50g butter, melted
Generous pinch of sea salt

For the ice cream 
500ml full fat milk
1 used vanilla bean (I keep used vanilla beans to make vanilla sugar – we are not after a full on vanilla flavour here so just use a used one that has been split open, it will still have enough flavour to give the custard a lovely hint of vanilla)
5 egg yolks
100g sugar
250ml creme fraiche
1 batch of caramelised sourdough crumbs (see recipe above)

Directions

Start by preparing the caramelised sourdough crumbs. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius and line a sheet pan with parchment paper. In a bowl mix together the sourdough crumbs with the melted butter, sugar and salt. Spread on the sheet pan and bake for 20 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes until the bread is nicely coloured and fragrant. Set aside to cool.

To make the ice cream, heat the milk together with the vanilla bean until steaming point in a large sauce pan. While the milk is heating up whisk the egg yolks with the sugar in a separate bowl. Slowly pour about a third of the steaming milk into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. This will temper the egg yolks and stop them from curdling.

Turn the heat down to low-medium and pour the egg yolk milk mixture back into the sauce pan with the rest of the milk. Discard the vanilla bean. Stirring constantly, cook the custard until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Strain the custard into a bowl and set aside to cool. Stir in the creme fraiche and churn according to the instructions of your ice cream maker. Alternatively,  pour into a container with a lid and place in the freezer for 6 hours, whisking thoroughly every 30 minutes to 1 hour to prevent large ice crystals from forming. Once the ice cream is nearly done (it should be very thick but you should still be able to stir it), fold in the toasted sourdough crumbs.

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Apricot Cornmeal and Buttermilk Clafoutis

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Come summer, each and every trip to the farmers’ market results in me lugging home an almost ridiculous amount of fresh fruit – pints of strawberries, watermelons so big and heavy I can barely carry them by myself, apricots so ripe they only just about survive the 15 minute walk home from the market in one piece.

And every single trip starts with the best intentions. The strawberries will be turned into jam, maybe so I can finally make use of that jar of overpriced Tonka beans I picked up at a Delicatessen near my office. Those raspberries? They would be lovely if turned into raspberry and rose scones. And the apricots will most definitely be turned into a pie. Yet while I keep a ridiculously long list of recipe ideas and flavour combinations to try on my phone, when it comes to summer’s bounty, few of these ideas ever get tested.

Turning on the oven or switching on the stove when temperatures are finally comfortably in the mid-20s is just not very enticing. Also, most of summer’s bounty really tastes best fresh. The less these fruits are tinkered with the better. Raspberries, squashed ever so lightly with the tins of a fork, folded into softly whipped, sweetened, cream and stuffed between the two halves of profitelores the way my grandma makes them, strawberries macerated for as long as dinner takes with just a little bit of sugar, served with crème fraiche and some freshly ground pepper and a shortbread finger or two, juicy figs squashed between two slices of freshly baked pizza Bianca with some prosciutto.

But apricots? They are my one exception. As much as I love them, apricots can do with, in fact need, a little tinkering. And heat. The mealiest and flattest tasting apricot will become deliciously juicy, sweet but with a slight tartness, if exposed to some heat, whether poached in a spiced syrup, folded into scone dough or studding a clafoutis. So much so that I don’t even mind turning on the oven for them.

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Apricot Cornmeal and Buttermilk Clafoutis

Notes: Clafoutis is the kind of thing of dessert that is super simple to pull off and that you can enjoy any time of the day. If I am having it for breakfast, I tend to enjoy it as is, maybe with a little dusting of icing sugar if I used very tart fruit. While apricot clafoutis may be my favourite type of clafoutis, clafoutis works equally well with other stone fruits (cherries are more traditional in fact). If you want to replace the apricots with very juicy fruits like cherries or blueberries, increase the eggs to 6 to ensure the clafoutis will still set.

Ingredients

4 eggs
50g honey
Pinch of salt
300ml buttermilk
50g polenta
500g apricots, halved with the stone removed

Directions

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius and grease a pie dish generously with butter.

In a large mixing bowl whisk the eggs and honey until the frothy. Pour in the buttermilk and whisk to combine. Lastly, fold in the polenta and the pinch of salt.

Pour the batter into the pie dish and carefully sit the halved apricots, cut side up, in the batter. Place in the oven and bake for 35 minutes or until the clafoutis is puffed up and the centre is just set.

The clafoutis will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days.

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Tahini and Date Caramel Shortbread

_MG_9781 If anyone were to ask me about my favourite snack in 2015, I would have to say anything involving medjool dates. Work has been busy these past few months with plenty of late nights eating take-away sushi in the office. Yet however late I get home from the office I always want little bit of time for myself before going to bed. If time allows, my favourite way to wind down after a busy day at work is to curl up on the sofa, even if only for 30 minutes, a cup of tea in one hand and a new cookbook to browse in my lap. And because I have a raging sweet tooth, I will often also eat a medjool date with a square or two of dark chocolate and a pinch of sea salt. I would never claim that medjool dates taste exactly like caramel (they don’t, they just taste like dates). But the combination of dark chocolate, dates and sea salt is terrific in its own right (and, at least in my eyes, not unlike the good old Rolo chocolates). So after I kept on buying box after box of the sweetest and plumpest medjool dates at my local organic supermarket (I adore them so much I even took a box home to my parents in Germany), I started thinking about using dates, dark chocolate and sea salt in a dessert. A date ‘caramel’ twist on Millionaire’s Shortbread soon popped into my head. It sounded delicious but I also wanted to make sure the end result would not feel like a lesser version of the original. Eventually I settled on this tahini and date caramel version with plenty of tahini and sesame seeds and I am glad I did. The cardamom shortbread layer is wonderfully fragrant, the medjool date and tahini ‘caramel’ layer is as tooth-achingly sweet and gooey as the original and the tahini adds richness while also cutting through some of the sweetness of the medjool dates. And the toasted sesame seeds? Not only do they make these bars look pretty, they also provide a bit of bite – a nice contrast against the crumble shortbread, the soft date ‘caramel’ and the fudgey ganache. Summer is dragging its heels a bit in Brussels this year, yet we are being told that temperatures will reach the thirties next week and I cannot wait. Alessandro and I haven’t quite finalised our summer holiday plans yet. And until we do I am looking forward to slow mornings sipping iced coffee on my balcony, sunny morning runs around the lakes here in Brussels and impromptu picnics in one of Brussels’ many parks. And as much as I adore this season for all the sweet-as-candy strawberries, lip-staining cherries and apricots so ripe and soft they barley survive the walk home from the farmers market and that are all shouting to be turned into pies, galettes and ice cream, nothing beats a decadent chocolate-based treat and these Tahini and Date Caramel Shortbread Bars fit that bill perfectly.   _MG_9780  Tahini and Date Caramel Shortbread Bars Note: These were inspired by my love for the combination of medjool dates, dark chocolate and sea salt. And then this conversation happened with Sarah and Milli. You probably have to be a medjool date lover to enjoy these. If medjool dates are not your thing,  I would suggest replacing the date ‘caramel’ layer with an equal amount of dulce de leche into which you can stir the tahini and sea salt.  Ingredients For the Cardamom Shortbread 125g butter, at room temperature 50g sugar 125g spelt flour or all purpose flour 50g rice flour (alternatively you can use corn flour or tapioca starch) Seeds of 2 cardamom pods, finely ground A pinch of salt Tahini Ganache 150g dark chocolate (70 per cent), finely chopped 75g tahini Pinch of salt For the Date ‘Caramel’ 200g pitted medjool dates 50g tahini Salt to taste To garnish: 50g toasted white sesame seeds, sea salt Directions Start with the shortbread. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees and line a round tart pan with parchment paper. In a large mixing bowl cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (the softer the butter is, the quicker this will be – in any event this should take no more than ca. 5 minutes). In a separate bowl whisk together the spelt flour, the rice flour, the ground cardamom and the salt. Add to your mixing bowl. Using a wooden spoon or a plastic spatula work the flour into the beaten butter. At first the mixture will seem impossibly dry and as though the dough will never absorb all the flour, but just persevere, sooner or later almost all of the butter will have been absorbed into the dough. To mix the last remaining bits of flour into the dough, I like using a silicone spatula in a cutting motion. Once all the flour has been absorbed, press the dough into the tart pan until it covers the base of the tart pan and has an even thickness of around 1/2cm. Prick the dough with a fork all over, cover with cling film and place in the fridge to firm up for ca. 15 minutes. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until just starting to colour. Set aside to cool (and firm up). While the shortbread is baking, prepare the ganache. Melt the dark chocolate in a double boiler. In a separate bowl mix the tahini with the sea salt, then stir in the melted chocolate until combined. Set aside. Place the pitted dates into a bowl and pour enough boiling water into the bowl to just cover the dates. Set aside to soak for 10 minutes (this will help soften the dates). Drain and discard the water and add the dates to the bowl of a food processor, followed by the tahini and the sea salt. Pulse until the mixture is completely smooth (this should take no more than ca. 1 minute). Set aside. Once the shortbread base has come to room temperature, spread the date ‘caramel’ in an even layer all over its base. Next, pour the tahini ganache over the date ‘caramel’. Set aside to allow the ganache to firm up a little bit then scatter the toasted sesame seeds and the sea salt over the chocolate ganache (if you do this while the ganache is still very liquid, the sesame seeds and the sea salt will simply sink and disappear into the ganache). Set aside until completely firm before cutting the shortbread into square bars. _MG_9763

Flourless Walnut Butter Cookies

_MG_9676 You know how sometimes everything magically falls into place? Well, sometimes, it also doesn’t. We were hoping Alessandro would be able to transfer to a position in Brussels or nearby once he finished his course in Turin this past month (so we could finally put an end to flying halfway across Europe to see each other). We had high hopes while we were waiting to hear back on his transfer request even if we knew that the likelihood of him having his request accepted were not exceptionally high. Alas, in the end he was transferred to a new position in Rome. And while Rome is a magical city, and arguably a great place to be for an Italian army officer, it is not really a place for commercial lawyers that aren’t Italian like myself. So we have been having a lot of long conversations over the last few weeks as we try to figure out our next steps. Trying to work out where we would want to settle in the future, Alessandro’s options for moving to Brussels in the future with his job (and how soon that may be), my options for moving back to Rome with my job etc. And some of these conversations have been hard. When both of you care about your work and your careers yet to pursue those careers you are best placed living in different countries, how do you come to a solution? Should both of you compromise your careers for your relationship? If not, who should compromise? And while all these questions are going through my head, questions to which we don’t yet have an answer, I am baking. And cooking. And baking some more. And yet, I haven’t picked up my camera much lately or been able to find the words to write until now. I had had a long week at work and a painful ear infection had kept me up 4 nights in a row. I was exhausted and irritable. But then Alessandro came to visit for the weekend and after a day of glorious sunshine and a daytrip to Ghent where we finally sought out De Superette for brunch, took a tour on Ghent’s canals, shared a box of chocolates from my favourite chocolatier in Ghent, Yuzu, and tried the beer at Gruut, somehow things started to look up again. And while for now we only have questions, we are both confident that we will find a solution that will make us happy in the long term. _MG_9667 Enough about me. Let’s talk about cookies. More specifically these Flourless Walnut Butter Cookies. I don’t really do cookbook reviews in this little space. And this isn’t one either. But it would not feel right to talk about these Flourless Walnut Butter Cookies without talking about the book that inspired them. The foundation of these cookies is the Vanilla Espresso Walnut Butter from Tara O’Brady’s debut cookbook. Tara’s book is truly stunning. The pictures are glorious. And then there is Tara’s beautiful writing – she is witty yet authoritative and a few pages into her book you will trust her to try recipes that you don’t think should work. A fresh curry sauce involving a granny smith apple and heaps of fresh coriander? I hesitated. And yet, I loved it so much I think juice bars should be adding an apple coriander juice with a bit of heat from fresh chilies to their menu. Tara’s book has found a place in my home because the recipes mimic so clearly how I like to cook and eat. Her recipes also make the most of my pantry which refuses to be shoehorned into a particular culinary tradition and where mirin and pomegranate molasses wrangle for counter space next to the bottles of olive oil, rose water, argan oil and oyster sauce. Tara’s walnut butter is incredibly delicious thanks to the addition of ground espresso and vanilla. I am generally more of a plain nut butter person but will have to make an exception for Tara’s walnut butter in the future as it is just that good. And all that deliciousness translates into these cookies – thanks to the bitter espresso I like to think of them as the grown-up version of flourless peanut butter cookies. And while the cacao nibs I added are purely optional, I like a bit of crunch for texture when eating softer cookies like these. _MG_9681 Flourless Walnut Butter Cookies Note: This recipe is no different from your typically flourless peanut butter cookie, except that it uses walnut butter instead of peanut butter. They are perfectly chewy and not overwhelmingly sweet, thanks largely to the slight bitterness of the walnuts, the ground espresso and the cacao nibs. While these are soft cookies, I think a short stay in the freezer would firm them up enough to smoosh a scoop of your favourite ice cream between two of these cookies, thereby making a fabulous ice cream sandwich. Makes 12 medium-sized cookies Ingredients 225g Tara’s Vanilla Espresso Walnut Butter* 75g caster sugar 75g brown sugar 1 tsp baking soda Generous pinch of salt 1 egg 25g cacao nibs *I used the recipe that is in Tara’s new book. If you do not have Tara’s book I suggest you use 190g plain smooth walnut butter, increase both the caster and the brown sugar to 90g each and stir ½tsp ground espresso and the seeds of two vanilla beans into the cookie dough. Directions Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line two sheet pans with parchment paper. In a mixing bowl whisk the walnut butter together with the caster sugar, brown sugar, baking soda and salt until combined. Beat in the egg until well blended with the rest of the ingredients. Fold in the cacao nibs. Using oiled hands, shape the dough into 12 walnut sized balls and place them on the cookie sheets, leaving ample space between them (as the cookies will spread in the oven). The dough will be very soft – if you are having difficulties shaping the dough into balls, just place the dough in the freezer for ca. 10 minutes to firm up. Bake the cookies for ca. 15 minutes until puffed up and just starting to colour. Cool on the sheet until firm enough to move to a cookie rack (ca. 10 minutes)– while cooling, the cookies will buckle and flatten. Repeat with the remaining dough. _MG_9652

Smokey Banana Bread – Goes Well With Coffee – 8th Edition

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I wasn’t supposed to be in Brussels this weekend. I had booked flights to Rome to see Alessandro who just moved back there after taking his final exams in Turin. Alas, thanks to the fire in Rome’s airport, that weekend in 32 degrees Celsius temperatures was not meant to be. Instead I spent all of Saturday at work (thankfully this doesn’t happen too often and being in Brussels definitely made it easier having to work) and what was left of my weekend was mainly spent on the sofa, drinking my first batch of this year’s cold brew coffee and eating one too many slices of this Smokey Banana Bread.

The inspiration for this recipe goes back several years. Back to before I moved to Brussels, back to before I had even moved to Rome, when my sister Helena was still living in Brussels and I was living in London. Helena came to see me often – to spend time together, to try out new restaurants, to shop, to visit exhibitions. My task for our weekends was always to try and find somewhere exciting to eat. Not an easy task at first when I was still on a student budget, but no less the fun. One of our first ventures took us South of the river, just beyond Waterloo Station, to a Malaysian restaurant called Champor Champor.

Never having been to Malaysia I could not vouch for the quality of the food or its authenticity. But suffice it to say that it came heartily recommended by a Malaysian friend of a friend and our meal was as delicious as we had hoped. I still remember the delicious baby octopus stew we ate (and how we struggled to lift these little slippery creatures to our mouths with chopsticks). But what I remember most vividly, both for how unusual and delicious it was, was the bread basket we shared.

Truth be told, ‘bread basket’ is a bit of a misnomer as there was no actual bread involved. Instead, we shared several thick slices of a wonderfully light and spongey banana bread, lightly toasted, and numerous large pieces of what I think must have been tofu skins – thin sheets that shattered easily, leaving delicious crumbs all over our laps, and that were as sweet as salty, smokey and a bit spicy. The combination of the sweet banana bread with the sweet-smokey-spicey tofu skins was out of this world delicious and its memory has stayed with me ever since.

Coffee, especially darker roasts, is sometimes described as ‘smokey’ in flavour (or even tarry). And with banana bread being such a coffee shop staple and having had this smokey banana flavour combination on my mind for so long already, making a Smokey Banana Bread for my Goes Well With Coffee series was a no-brainer. I tinkered with the ratios of numerous recipes until I settled on a formula resulting in a banana bread with a wonderfully open and springy crumb similar to the one we had at Champor Champor. And then I added a small amount of finely ground Lapsang Souchong tea for a hint of smokeyness. While home-smoking does not seem not inherently difficult, I have yet to try it, and rather than spending lots of money buying ingredients like smoked flour, smoked flour, smoked salt etc., Lapsang Souchong is an easy and affordable way to add a smokey note when cooking or baking.

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Smokey Banana Bread 

Notes: Lapsang Souchong has a bold, even divisive flavour. While I don’t drink it as a tea very often, used sparingly, it is wonderful if you want to add a smokey flavour to marinades, ganaches or cakes. For this Smokey Banana Bread I have used less tea leaves than what is typically used to brew a single cup of lapsang souchong. It is enough to lend the banana bread a smokey and almost slightly savoury note, but without being overpowering. 

Ingredients

300g very ripe bananas (ca. 3-4 depending on size)
3 eggs
125g melted butter
Juice of 1/2 lemon
300g spelt flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
180g caster sugar
4g lapsang souchong (ca. 1 tbsp of tea leaves), finely ground

Directions

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and grease a loaf tin.

Add the peeled banana to a large bowl. Using an immersion blender, puree the banana until smooth. Whisk in the eggs one by one, followed by the melted butter and the lemon juice.

In a separate bowl, stir together the spelt flour, baking soda, pinch of salt, sugar and lapsang souchong. Add to the wet ingredients and whisk until you have a smooth batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin and smooth the top.

Bake for 60-65 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean (if the cake is starting to colour too much around the 40-45 minute mark, cover it with some parchment paper). Leave to cool in the tin for 5-10 minutes before carefully removing the banana bread from the tin and placing it on a cooling rack to cool completely.

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Rhubarb Tartlets with Sake Poached Rhubarb, Miso Pastry Cream and Buckwheat Meringue

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I did not have any particular reason to make these tartlets other than the fact that this past weekend was a bank holiday weekend and after a few busy weeks at work and weekends away I suddenly found myself not only with 1kg of rhubarb that needed taking care of but also with ample time on my hands. Time clearly best spent making pate sucree, poaching rhubarb, stirring pastry cream and whipping meringue (the laundry always takes care of itself, doesn’t it?). Also, there is hardly anything better than starting your Sunday with a large cup of coffee and a pastry.

_MG_9549I don’t follow many rules when it comes to the recipes I share here. But one of my rules is that the recipes should have at least a hint of some inherent logic. So rhubarb is paired with buckwheat, as, botanically speaking, the two form part of the same family (together with sorrel and knotweed). In turn, buckwheat is paired either with flavours that are Northern French to me, like browned butter and salted caramel (as I can still vividly remember the buckwheat crepes from summer holidays in Brittany), or Japanese (thanks to my fondness for buckwheat soba and most things Japanese).

After spending most of my spare time in recent weeks reading about Japanese baking and intriguing bread recipes that rely on the likes of yeast water (made from fermenting fruit in water at room temperature), koji (the fungus responsible for creating sake) and miso as leavening agents/aids, Japanese flavours it was.

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These little buckwheat tartlets are therefore filled with a thick pastry cream flavoured with shiro miso (the lightest and sweetest kind of miso), and topped with rhubarb that has been gently poached in sake, which gives the rhubarb this faint ‘winey’ note which I adore. The finishing touch was a few shards of toasted buckwheat studded meringue, which, while optional, provide a nice bit of crunch (and rather conveniently also takes care of the two egg whites left over from making the pastry cream). You could of course leave out the sake and the miso and use all spelt or all purpose flour for the pastry and you would still end up with delicious rhubarb custard tartlets, albeit more traditional in flavour.

Rhubarb Tartlets with Sake Poached Rhubarb, Miso Pastry Cream and Buckwheat Meringue

Note: While there are several components to this recipe, none of them are difficult per se and everything can be prepped in advance (safe for the glaze should you opt to make it). The one thing I should flag is that you should watch the rhubarb like a hawk while poaching it – rhubarb is so delicate it can go from tough to falling apart in an instant. While the latter won’t have any negative impact on the flavour of the rhubarb, it does make it somewhat more difficult to top your tartlets in any kind of orderly fashion. That being said, any soft and floppy bits of rhubarb together with their poaching liquid and the tiniest drop of rose water make a rather lovely topping for labneh, porridge or rice pudding. The tartlets are best served the day they are made but will keep for 1 day.

Ingredients

For the buckwheat meringue 

2 egg whites
120g powdered sugar
2/3 tsp vinegar
50g toasted buckwheat groats

For the pate sucree

85g butter
35g sugar
1 egg
120g spelt flour
60g buckwheat flour
Pinch of salt

For the miso pastry cream (recipe loosely adapted from Ginette Mathiot’s The Art of French Baking)

250ml single cream
2 egg yolks
1 egg
50g sugar
25g brown rice flour (alternatively you can use corn flour or tapioca starch)
2 tsp miso

For the poached rhubarb

750g rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 5cm long pieces
500ml water
200g sugar
35ml sake

For the glaze (recipe adapted from Le Cordon Bleu London)

100ml poaching liquid from the rhubarb
2 gelatin sheets

Directions

To make the buckwheat meringue, pre-heat the oven to 100 degrees Celsius and prepare a sheet pan with parchment paper. Lightly oil the parchment paper with neutral-tasting oil like sunflower or peanut oil.

In a large mixing bowl whip the egg whites until the soft peak stage. Add the powdered sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, while whisking on high speed. Once all the sugar has been incorporated, add the vinegar. Continue to whisk for ca. 10 minutes or until the meringue is thick and glossy.

Fold in all but 1 tbsp of the toasted buckwheat groats. Spread the meringue thinly on the parchment paper, scatter the remaining buckwheat groats on top of the meringue and bake for 1-1.5h until firm and crisp. Leave to cool in the oven.

For the buckwheat pate sucree, start by creaming the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy – this will take ca. 5 minutes. Add the egg and beat to incorporate. Add the spelt flour and buckwheat flour as well as the pinch of salt and, using a spatula or large wooden spoon, stir the flour into the wet ingredients. At first the dough may seem far too dry and as though the wet ingredients will never absorb all the flour, but if you persevere, slowly but surely the flour will disappear and you will be left with a smooth and silky dough the consistency of play-doh. Wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge to firm up for at least 1h.

Next, prepare the miso pastry cream. In a medium-sized sauce pan gently heat the cream until it starts to steam. While the cream is heating up, whisk the egg yolks, the egg, the sugar, the brown rice flour and the miso in a mixing bowl. Once the cream starts to steam take it off the heat and whisk about a third of the cream into your egg mixture, to temper the eggs. Pour the tempered egg mixture back into the sauce pan and return to the heat. Continue cooking the pastry cream on low to medium heat, whisking continuously, until it is very thick. This may take between 10 and 15 minutes but I prefer to do it this way than thickening the pastry cream more quickly over higher heat as I feel like I get more control over the cooking process this way and run less risk of cooking the eggs and curdling the pastry cream. Pass the pastry cream through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl and cover the bowl with clingfilm. Set aside to cool.

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees and prepare a sheet pan with parchment paper and six 10x2cm tartlet rings and have some baking beans and parchment paper ready. Lightly flour your kitchen counter. Gently knead the pate sucree until pliable (I like doing this by first tearing the pastry into walnut-sized pieces before kneading the pieces back together) and roll out very thin, ca. 3mm. Line the tartlet rings, cutting off any excess pastry with a sharp knife (you may have to reroll the pastry to do this).

Line each tartlet case with a piece of parchment paper (the easiest way to do this is to use squares of parchment paper slightly bigger than the tartlet rings, scrunching them up into a ball and then unfolding them – this helps to get the parchment paper flush against the pastry), and fill with baking beans. Bake for 12-15 minutes until the pastry is crisp and only just starting to colour. Set aside to cool.

Next, prepare the poached rhubarb. In a medium-sized saucepan bring the water, sugar and sake to a boil. In a large saucepan, arrange the rhubarb in a single layer (to ensure even cooking) and add the poaching liquid. Cook on medium heat for 7-10 minutes until al dente (keep on checking the rhubarb from the 6 minute mark and watch the rhubarb like a hawk – it really does go from firm but cooked to soft and mushy in an instant).

Prepare the glaze. In a bowl soak the gelatin sheets in cold water until soft – this will take ca. 10 minutes. While the gelatin sheets are soaking heat the poaching liquid in a small pot until it starts to steam. Squeeze the excess water from the gelatin sheets and add to the poaching liquid. Remove the pot from the heat and stir the poaching liquid until the gelatin is melted. Leave to cool to room temperature.

Spread a couple of tablespoons of the miso pastry cream on the bottom of each tartlet. Drain the rhubarb and lay a few pieces on top of the pastry cream, cutting the rhubarb into smaller pieces if necessary. Carefully spoon ca. 1tbsp of glaze over each tart. Leave to set (if your kitchen is not too hot, this should take no longer than 1 hour). Break the meringue into irregular pieces and place a few on each tartlet.

Any leftover poaching liquid makes a wonderful lemonade mixed with some sparkling water and some freshly squeezed lemon juice. I imagine it would also be rather lovely with some gin.

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Torrone with Almonds, Hazelnuts and Pistachios

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I don’t normally pay much attention to the search terms people use to stumble upon my blog. Most are pretty self-explanatory. But a few weeks ago, I started noticing that more and more people found their way into this space looking for ‘chickpea meringue’. Colour me intrigued. At the same time, and purely by coincidence, I came across pictures of chickpea water foam on instagram. Soon enough, I also became one of those typing ‘chickpea meringue’ into google, curious to see what results would come back.

As it turns out, the water left over from cooking chickpea and other legumes like beans or lentils, usually a slimy and slightly opaque affair, something I have been pouring down the drain for years without giving it much thought, can be whipped into a foam firm enough to rival beaten egg whites. Moreover, unlike flax seed meringue (which, although a wonderful alternative to eggs for certain applications, does not like heat much), chickpea foam can be cooked in the oven to produce meringues or cakes and even macarons. And while I am still not a vegetarian or a vegan, I love the fact that there is such a simple substitution for egg whites that means many traditional recipes relying on egg whites can be reproduced for those not eating eggs (whether out of choice or for health reasons).

When it comes to substituting chickpea water or the cooking water from other legumes (increasingly referred to as ‘aquafaba‘ in recipes online), the formula is 1:1 in terms of weight when using store-bought canned legumes (just make sure you buy BPA-free cans or simply jars of legumes), i.e. 30g of chickpea water will equal one egg white. (There are also formulas online to substitute egg whites using the water left over from cooking your own legumes but I have not yet done this.)

After baking my first batch of meringues, I decided to branch out and try my hand at Torrone. Various baking, granola and nut milk experiments mean I frequently end up with odds and ends of different nuts and I figured there was no better (or more delicious) way to use these up then to fold them into torrone. And the results are wonderful, there is not even the slightest difference in flavour or texture as compared to traditional torrone!

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Torrone with Almonds, Hazelnuts and Pistachios

Adapted from Yasmin Othman’s ‘Atelier Confiserie’

Note: This makes a hard torrone that will gradually soften somewhat over time. It is studded chock full of toasted almonds, hazelnuts and pistachios. While traditional recipes often call for almonds alone, I love using a mix of different nuts (or even some dried fruit) so that each bite tastes a little different. 

This makes ca. 2 long bars of torrone, ca. 24 pieces in total.

Ingredients

300g caster sugar
30ml water
150g light honey
30g chickpea water (alternatively, you can use 1 egg white)
250g mixed nuts (I used almonds, hazelnuts and pistachios), toasted

You will also need a sugar thermometer.

Directions

1. Cover a sheet pan with parchment paper and lightly oil the parchment paper with some neutral tasting oil (e.g. sunflower or almond). Set aside.

2. In a large sauce pan heat the caster sugar, the water and the honey until all the sugar has melted. Bring to a boil and leave to cook until the temperature of the sugar reaches 149 degrees Celsius. This will take ca. 25 minutes.

3. While the sugar is boiling, whip the aquafaba until it forms soft peaks.

4. When the sugar syrup has reached temperature, switch off the stove and let the sugar syrup rest for 1 minute.

5. While continuing to beat the chickpea water on medium speed, slowly pour in the sugar syrup into the mixing bowl. Once all the sugar syrup has been incorporated into the chickpea water, keep on beating the mixture. After about 10 minutes of total mixing time, the torrone should be light in colour and should have thickened considerably. Quickly fold in the toasted nuts and spread the torrone on the prepared sheet pan. If you want a slightly more regular shape or flatter surface, cover the torrone with a second piece of lightly oiled parchment paper and use a rolling pin or your hands to shape the torrone. Leave to harden for ca. 3-4 hours before cutting. Stored in an airtight container, the torrone will keep for several weeks.

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