Friday, 21 January 2011

Reine de Saba

For January's We Should Cocoa challenge Chele of Chocolate Teapot has taken account of all that Christmas feasting and has allowed us to use up any leftovers together, of course, with We Should Cocoachocolate. This was a bit of a problem for me because I don't really do Christmas (especially not this last Christmas) and so I don’t have any leftovers.

Undaunted, I had a go at clearing out the scary place known as The Mysterious Store Cupboard and I found the ground almonds that I bought for the Tarta Santiago that I didn't quite get round to making. I then found the ground almonds that I bought for the Winter-warming Gingerbread that I still haven't bothered to make. Finally I found the ground almonds that I bought for the Galette des Rois that I didn't make because I got distracted. So ground almonds have got to be my choice of surplus stock.

For last month's challenge I made a French classic - Gâteau Breton – so this month, for a complete change, I thought I'd make another French classic gâteau – Reine de Saba (the Queen of Sheba cake). It's a well-known recipe – I’m fairly sure there’s a version of it in one of Elizabeth David's books – but it has a lot of variations. For what it's worth, this is the way I make it and, happily, it’s made a small dent in the ground almond mountain.

Reine de Saba
130 g  dark chocolate (around 70% cocoa solids) , broken up
30 ml Grand Marnier (or other orange liqueur)
100 g unsalted butter, cut into smallish cubes and allowed to soften, plus a bit more for the tin
3 eggs, separated
110 g caster sugar, divided into 80 g and 30 g portions, plus a bit more for the tin
25 g potato flour
10 g cocoa powder
75 g ground almonds

Prepare a round 20 cm cake tin thoroughly, since this cake is fond of sticking to things. I line the base, rub the tin with butter and sprinkle with a little caster sugar.

Melt the chocolate with the Grand Marnier – normally I would do this in the microwave, but for this cake, it's easier to use a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. Once the chocolate has melted, keep the bowl on the heat and add the butter a little at a time, stirring as you do so. Once all the butter has been incorporated, take the bowl off the heat and allow it to cool a little.

Whisk the egg yolks with 80 g of the caster sugar until they're very pale. Whisk in the potato flour and cocoa powder. Stir in the ground almonds and then the chocolate and butter mixture.
Whisk the egg whites to the soft peak stage, then whisk in the remaining 30 g of caster sugar a bit at a time until the whites are stiff.

Add about a quarter of the egg whites to the chocolate and almond mixture and stir it in. Finally fold in the rest of the egg whites carefully, keeping the mixture as light as possible.

Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and level it out. Bake in a 170ºC oven for around 30 minutes, but check after 25 minutes. The cake should have formed a light crust but should still be a little soft and gooey in the middle.

Cool the cake in the tin before attempting to turn it out – the Reine de Saba is a fragile thing. Hopefully, the cake won't sink too much, but a little cracking and crumbling can be hard to avoid. If you feel like it, lightly dust the top of the cake with icing sugar or cocoa powder or decorate with toasted almonds or almond flakes. This is definitely a dessert-style of cake, so if you happen to have a little crème fraîche and maybe a few raspberries then they would be most welcome.

Reine de Saba 3

Monday, 10 January 2011

Sloe Chocolate Truffles

In my post last year about sloe gin I admitted that after I strain and bottle the gin, I then throw away the sloes. Until now  the recipes that I've come across for recycling sloes haven’t really worked for me.

But shortly after writing that post, as I roved out on a fine autumn morning to view the fields and take the air, I met a lady gathering rose hips (sorry, for some reason this posting is turning into a traditional English folk song). We got talking about sloe gin and she told me off (this happens quite a lot). She told me that I shouldn't waste gin-soaked sloes and that I should try eating them with chocolate. Well, I've been thinking about that for a while and eventually I tried making these truffles. It turns out that she was right to tell me off, of course.

Sloe Truffles 1
To keep truffles smoother and lighter, I've tended to think that you have to make some kind of custard. I was in a bit of a hurry this time and so I used a decent shop-bought custard instead. The good news is that it works just fine.

This will make around 16 – 20 truffles depending on how big you want them to be.

16 or so sloes from a matured sloe gin
125 ml double cream
60 ml custard plus a little extra on standby, just in case
60 g dark chocolate  (around 70% cocoa solids would be good)
30 g milk chocolate  (100% cocoa butter would be nice)
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp sloe gin
cocoa powder for coating

Remove the stones from the sloes using a small, pointed knife. This isn't easy but I think it’s far better than munching on the stones.

Melt the two chocolates using the microwave or the analogue method of a bowl over hot water. Whip the cream until stiff. Cool the chocolate a little and then stir in the caster sugar, sloe gin and the custard. If the chocolate mix still seems very stiff then add a little more custard. Fold the cream into the chocolate mix.

Divide the mixture into small chunks, mould each chunk around a sloe and roll into a ball. Roll the balls in a little cocoa powder and place in the fridge to firm up for a few hours. Serve to adults - or eat them all yourself, if you're an adult.

Sloe Truffles 4

Saturday, 1 January 2011

New Year Veg Soup

So that's 2010 over and I notice that lots of bloggers are presenting their selection of the best of 2010. I've seen cookbooks, gadgets and recipes covered but I'm surprised that I've not seen anyone dealing with the vital business of The Best Songs To Listen To While Cooking. Well, after considerable thought, here's my 2010 selection. (Actually some of these might have been released in 2009, but who cares?)

Best for stirring and beating:  The Imagined Village - Sweet Jane
Best for cake baking and other happy tasks:  Stornoway - Zorbing
Best for calm actions such as folding:  Richard Hawley - Remorse Code
Best for cheering me up when things don't taste right and for reminding me just what's important:  Chris Wood - My Darling's Downsized

Plus honourable mentions for ‘Bombay Bicycle Club - Rinse Me Down’ and ‘Gérald De Palmas – Dans Une Larme’ for when I can’t decide what to cook.

Happy New Year and let's hope 2011 is a good one. I have a feeling that I might have some trouble finding enough time to keep this blog updated in 2011, but I promise to try.

Anyway, enough of this self-regarding nonsense and back to the recipes.  Here's a fragrant little soup to start the new year that's good for using up the veg left over from the festive season. This will make 4 – 5 portions.

New Year Veg Soup
1 onion, finely chopped
400 g carrots, peeled and chopped
200 g parsnips, peeled and chopped
2 cm fresh ginger, grated
2 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground coriander
2 tsp sumac
1.25 litres vegetable stock
1 cooking apple, peeled, cored and chopped
small handful of basmati rice
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
a little lemon juice, but only if needed

Soften the onion in a little oil – cold pressed rapeseed oil works really well if you have some. Stir in the carrots and parsnips followed by the ginger, cumin, coriander and sumac. Pour over 1 litre of the stock and bring to a simmer. Add the apple and rice, cover the pan and simmer gently until the veg and rice is nice and soft.

Take the pan off the heat, then stir in the maple syrup and pomegranate molasses. Liquidise the lot and add some of the reserved stock if the soup is too thick. Adjust the seasoning and the sweet and sour balance by adding more maple syrup or a little lemon juice, if necessary.