I've been delinquent, I know. I've skipped a week in posting. I hope the handful of people that actually read this (are there a handful?) don't mind. With the holidays, things just got so busy, I couldn't get this written.
So, I'll take a trip down memory lane and talk about this chocolate cake, which I actually made 3 whole weeks ago, and which my co-workers devoured fairly quickly when I brought it in.
The sachertorte is an interesting cake, and not at all what i thought it would end up like when I was baking it. Usually, when you separate egg whites and yolks and do the ol' "stiff peak, fold 'em in" technique, you end up with a light spongue. This cake, however, became a dense, somewhat fudgey cake. Mary Berry said in her recipe that the cake gets better in the second or first day, but perhaps I did something wrong, because when I ate the leftovers, they were a bit dry and needed a heaping of whipped cream or a glass of milk. I think it might be the almond flour weighing the cake down, and possibly too long in the oven (bakers' mistake).
As you know, I sometimes find cleaning a stand mixer bowl and its attachments to be just too much work, and pulling out the stand mixer a feat of strength and maneuvering that is sometimes beyond me in my tiny kitchen. And so, I've learned to love doing things by hand sometimes -- including egg whites. One pro-tip on doing this and keeping your stamina up is to roll up a towel and wrap it under your bowl to stabilize it. Then you can switch off hands and not have to waste the energy holding the bowl and whisking at the same time. Look at me, all about energy efficiency.
Doing things by hand also lets you see all the different stages of whatever you're doing. With egg whites, you can see (and even feel) the difference between raw whites, froth, soft peaks, and stiff peaks. My favorite test, which always, always makes me nervous, is turning the bowl upside down -- if the whites stay in, they're at stiff peaks. If they fall out... you start from square one. The five second rule doesn't apply to egg whites.
I like to think of recipes like this as yin and yang, and when you bring them together, the whole is greater than the parts. If you were to eat a bit of either the left or right batter, neither would taste good. But once you fold the whites into the chocolate, some sort of magic happens that makes it all palatabe. Sure, you should bake the cake, but were you to be the type to enjoy batter... that is the stage where you would do it.
Looking back at these pictures, you can definitely see where I over-baked the cake. When I pulled it out of the oven, it had shrunk back from the sides just a bit too much, and was cracking on the top from dryness. I would have done and made another one, if there weren't two component left that would save the cake.
Enter apricot jam. What now? Yes, apricot jam. Think it's weird? It is. But the funny thing is... it works. Actually, after tasting a slice, I felt like there wasn't enough apricot jam. I had no idea apricot and chocolate would pair well, but it went along so well, and with a cake that ended up being somewhat dry, the jam was a perfect complement.
Not to mention a healthy layer of chocolate ganache. Everything is better with chocolate ganache. And it really couldn't be easier: hot cream gets poured onto chocolate chips, let it sit 5 minutes, and stir to consisteny. A little goes a long way with ganache, I think. I've seen people frost layer cakes in ganache, and to me that's a bit of overkill. Chocolate is a delicate flavor, and a lot of people go overboard with it when it comes to ganache. If you want to beat someone over the head with chocolate flavor, sure this is one way to do it, but they'll hate you later. The better way is to mix your chocolate sources: some cocoa, some ganache, some whole. That way, you still have that intense chocolate, but it's cut by more interesting textures. Here, it's a thin layer of ganache with a dense chocolate cake.
Part of the fun of the chocolate ganache in this recipe is you pour it over the cake. This gives the cake a very even layer of ganache, which is beautiful, and also leaves a ton of ganache that dripped off as excess. Another "baker's treat" that I enjoyed with a spoon while cleaning up.
makes one 9" cake (serves 12)
140 grams (5 ounces) DARK CHOCOLATE (I use Ghirardelli 60% chocolate chips)
140 grams (5 ounces) UNSALTED BUTTER, softened
115 grams (4 ounces) GRANULATED SUGAR
1/2 teaspoon VANILLA EXTRACT
5 large EGGS, separated
85 grams (3 ounces) ALMOND FLOUR
55 grams (2 ounces) ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR
6 tablespoons APRICOT JAM
140 grams (5 ounces) DARK CHOCOLATE CHIPS
200 milliliters (7 ounces) (2/3 cup + 1 teaspoon) HEAVY CREAM
25 grams (1 ounce) MILK CHOCOLATE
1. Preheat oven to 350F, grease and line with greased parchment a 9" round cake pan
2. Melt DARK CHOCOLATE either over a double boiler, or in the microwave on 15 second intervals, stirring in between, and let cool
3. Beat BUTTER until soft, then add GRANULATED SUGAR and beat until light and fluffy
4. Add melted, cooled chocolate and VANILLA EXTRACT into butter mixture and beat until incorporated
5. Add EGG YOLKS to chocolate mixture and beat until incorporated
6. Fold in ALMOND FLOUR and FLOUR to chocolate mixture
7. In a separate bowl, whip EGG WHITES until stiff peaks form
8. Fold beaten egg whites into chocolate mixture in three stages--the first you can be aggresive and beat in, but the other two stages fold in to keep aeration
9. Pour batter into pan and bake 45-50 minutes, until top springs back when lightly pressend on
10. Cool in pan for a few minutes, then turn out upsidedown onto a wire rack (so the bottom is now the top) to cool completely
1. Push the APRICOT JAM through a sieve to get a smooth jelly, discard chunky remnants
2. Heat jam in the microwave for about 30 seconds to thin it out, and use a pastry brush to brush all 6 tablespoons on the top and around the side of the cake, then let the jam set
3. Heat HEAVY CREAM on the stove or in the microwave until steaming but not boiling, and pour over the CHOCOLATE CHIPS, then cover with a plate and leave for 3 minutes
4. Whisk the cream and chocolate, gently at first, then more aggresively as the chocolate melts, until a smooth consistency is reached (this is ganache) -- don't whisk too much or the ganache will become too aerated, then let cool until room temperature
5. Pour the chocolate ganache over the cake, making sure the entire top and sides are covered -- you can use a knife or spatula to "push" any chocolate to cover the entire cake
6. Melt the MILK CHOCOLATE in the microwave, put in a piping bag or parchment cone and let cool to room temperature, so it's not too runny
7. With the melted millk chocolate, pipe the word "Sacher" on top of the cake, then let cool to set
My husband and I have different ideas on the right way to consume a cake.
Patisserie week? Patisserie week??!! Paul Hollywood, this is a thinly veiled "Bread Week redux," masquerading as patisserie week. Didn't I already wrestle with yeast this season, in the form of focaccia? Do you really need me to put elbow grease in to knead yet another extremely sticky dough?
Sigh... I signed myself up for this. When Paul Hollywood says "jump," I say, "how much yeast?" Kneading aside, this recipe is very simple. It's my favorite kind in that it's one bowl, no electrics. The recipe keeps dish cleanup at a minimum (which is good, because surface cleanup is at a maximum).
As I've alluded to, one thing the recipe did not mention was how insanely sticky this dough is. Paul talked about it ad nauseum in the focaccia recipe, but here, nary a peep. I thought I had done something wrong--maybe my conversions from milliliters to cups was off. Maybe I didn't add enough flour. Maybe I got extra large or jumbo eggs?
So, I never got anything close to a smooth dough that didn't stick on every surface (including my hands), even after adding probably way more flour than I should have. Because I'd run into this in the past, I knew that resting the dough for a bit can make it more smooth land less sticky, so I threw it in a bucket and thought to leave it for 15 minutes. I forgot about it and by the time I got back, it had finished its first rise and had doubled in size. It seemed to be soft and smelled delicious, so I soldiered on to see what would happen.
I divided out the dough (despite this picture, I did not use a scale for most of the dividing because too much work, and made sure to flour my hands to keep the dough from sticking to literally everything (it was still quite sticky).
Before rising, they were each about 5" in length, and like fat bread sausages. The smell of the yeast was amazing, and the softness of the dough was addicting. Despite my earlier consternation of the texture, optimism took over and I left for a second rise.
And in the oven they go! Let the magic happen! They actually bake for not a lot of time at all. Halfway through, I rotated the pans, as the bottom pan was browning far slower than the top, so always make sure to keep an eye on things when you have multiple pans.
They came out enormous. I think all the extra flour I added contributed to having so mu,ch dough. But I ain't complaining about having more delicious sweet bread goodness. Things were looking good--they sounded hollow when tapped on the bottom, they were a nice golden brown, and when I broke one open (gotta taste test), the bread was tender and just slightly sweet.
Icing them was pretty easy--I used the "dip and drip" or a "dip and swipe" method, where you put the icing in a bowl wide enough to hold the length of the bun, then dipped the tops in, and either let the excess icing drip off, or swipe it off with a finger. I added more water to my icing, because I thought it was too thick to properly dip, but I wish I hadn't. The icing became too liquidy, and dripped down the side, which wasn't quite what I think Paul Hollywood would like to see.
Split it like a hot dog bun, fill with whipped cream and a nice line of sieved jam, and you've got yourself a nice, light, bready dessert. A patisserie, if you will. The taste was actually delicious, if you're a bread fan--and to be honest, who isn't? The bread was nice and tender, if a little dry to be eaten on its own. But that's why you have the whipped cream, to moisten things up a bit, and the jam gives it that extra full sweetness that makes it more than just bread and cream. It's like the best version of strawberries and cream. For when a strawberry shortcake it too fussy.
Paul Hollywood's Iced Fingers
makes 12 "fingers"
500 grams FLOUR
2 packets RAPID RISE YEAST
50 grams GRANULATED SUGAR
3 tablespoons UNSALTED BUTTER, softened
2 large EGGS
2 teaspoons SALT
10 tablespoons MILK
9 1/2 tablespoons WATER
300 grams POWDERED SUGAR
3 tablespoons WATER
400 grams STRAWBERRY JAM
3/4 cup HEAVY WHIPPING CREAM
1. Put the FLOUR, YEAST, SUGAR, BUTTER, EGGS, SALT, and MILK in a bowl and mix until a dough is formed--make sure you add the yeast and the salt on separate sides of the bowl, as direct contact will kill the yeast
2. Gradually add the WATER and continue mixing with your hands--the dough will be very, very sticky
3. Work the dough as much as you can in the bowl, and then work it on a well-floured work surface. Do the best you can to knead, but if you end up just spreading and stretching the dough around, that's cool too
4. After about 10 minutes of kneading, put the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with oiled plastic wrap, and let rise for 1 hours
5. Divide the dough into 12 pieces and roll the pieces into balls, then into finger of about 5 inches in length
6. Place each finger on parchment-lined baking sheets and leave to rise until doubled in size, about 40 minutes to an hour--note that you can either leave plenty of room for each finger to rise, as I did, or you can place them fairly close next to one another to have a "pull apart" feel to them. Paul says to give them plenty of room, but I noticed on the show there were plenty of contestant who pulled them apart
7. Toward the end of this rise, prehead the oven to 425F, then bake fingers for 10 minutes, rotating baking sheets halfway through if you used more than one
while the fingers are baking and cooling:
8. Mix together the POWDERED SUGAR and WATER in a bowl to make a thick paste
9. Warm the STRAWBERRY JAM on the stove or in the microwave until just hot and lightly steaming, then sieve through a strainer to make a smooth jam, store in a piping bag
10. Whisk the HEAVY WHIPPING CREAM until stiff peaks form (optionally add a tablespoon of powdered sugar and a splash of vanilla for extra taste), store in a piping bag
11. When buns are cooled, slice in half like a hot dog bun, without slicing all the way through (leave one end attached)
12. Dip the tops of the buns in the icing and leave to set until hardened
13. When icing has hardened, pipe your whipped cream between the two halves, and then decoratively pipe the strawberry jam to ensure every bite has a bit of jam
I'm usually intimidated by things that require work post-baking. Things like layer cakes with fondant, or, in this case, anything rolled. I know I can bake something that will taste good, but to make it look good is an entirely different feat with and entirely different skill set needed.
However, I love Hostess Ho Hos, so this gigantic version couldn't have been more up my alley. I do realize it's a Swiss roll, or a "roulade" to Mary Berry, but having grown up in 1990s America, Hostess has historically been way more up my alley than that bougie dessert stuff.
Three bowls, three utensils. This cake could not be easier. And it's very forgiving, too. I even over-whipped my egg whites and forgot my cocoa powder, and it still turned out delicious. It's amazing what a lump of whipped cream will do to turn around a dish, huh?
Recipes that separate eggs and beat them individually, then fold the whites into the yolks are some kind of magic to me. It's all the same ingredients as a traditional cake, just as rich, but ends up so much lighter and airy. Plus, watching the whites and the yolks transform through simple whipping is nothing short of magical. The whites become these stiff peaks of cloud-like consistency, and the yolks (with sugar) get thick and luxurious, leaving a ribbon trail when dripped off a spatula. People are not exagerrating when they call things like this "food porn."
Like I said, the recipe is fairly simple. Get your eggs where they need to be, and mix everything together. Sure, fold it in and be I guess gentle, but you really don't need to worry about it that much. People are usually too ginger in their handling of the folding process. It's just food, you can get in there. Don't be timid.
And then you get to the magic moment where the batter is all ready for the pan and the oven. The whites are all incorporated, and it's light and drips off the spatula.
It was at this point that I started to lick the bowl and spatula (why do you think I bake?) and realized something didn't taste right. The chocolately flavor was... lacking. Why? Because, as so happens, I had forgotten to add the 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder. You wouldn't think a measly 2 tablespoons of anything would make any difference in a whole cake, but it made a world of difference. Another reason baking is amazing: the smallest detail can make the biggest change in a finished product.
The last-minute addition of cocoa powder ended up giving my finished product a kind of cool marbled look. I mixed the cocoa in while the batter was already in the pan, so it was a weird kind of mixing process where I was trying not to shift the parchment paper underneath. It was a deserate Macgyver kind of mixing, because I didn't want to have to do any more dishes. The bottom ends up being the outside anyway though, so the taste is really what matters.
And I was worried about the taste. Sponge cakes to me can sometimes be a bit light on flavor (like they are light in texture). But as I was tasting the crispy edges, I tasted a kind of brownie brittle-like taste to them, so I knew the chocolate flavor would be pronounced enough. And the heaps of whipped cream rounded out the flavor and the texture (because these kinds of cakes can be rather dry).
Then came the rolling, which was a lot easier than I thought it would be. Especially after I watched Mary Berry construct it herself. It was a breath of fresh air when she said, (I paraphrase) "It's okay if it cracks. It's supposed to crack." That said, mine did not crack (much), but hearing her say it's supposed to made this rolling task far less daunting.
And even if it did horribly crack, it's nothing a healthy sprinkling of powdered sugar couldn't fix. A word of warning that cutting this cake into slices is not as beautiful as your average layer cake. Because the texture is so delicate, the spirals will collapse a bit, but if you make sure you have just a thin layer of whipped cream (I used a bit too much), and you roll it tightly, you'll get the right look.
The flavor, as I've mentioned, was delicious. The extra cocoa powder dimensionalizes the chocolate and gives it such a deep flavor. I think this was enhanced because I used Dutch processed chocolate, which I always think amps up the flavor in goods that don't call for baking soda (with baking soda, you use non-Dutch processed; with baking powder, you can use either -- I can go into that in a special post if y'all are interested). The whipped cream, which I actually lightly sweetened with powdered sugar and vanilla, kept the cake from being too dry and gave it the heft it needed to be a fulfilling dessert. And, like I said, it couldn't be easier or come together quicker. Definitely a grade A recipe. Thank you, Mary Berry!
makes 1 swiss roll
175 grams (6 ounces) DARK CHOCOLATE, finely chopped
6 large EGGS, separated
175 grams (6 ounces) GRANULATED SUGAR
2 tablespoons COCOA POWDER
1 1/2 cups HEAVY WHIPPING CREAM
POWDERED SUGAR, to dust
1. Preheat the oven to 450F and grease and line with parchment a 13x9 inch pan
2. In one bowl, melt the DARK CHOCOLATE in a double boiler
3. In another bowl, whisk the EGG WHITES until stiff, but not dry
4. Put the EGG YOLKS in a bowl with the CASTER SUGAR and whisk until thick and creamy, and the mixture leaves a thick ribbon-like trail when beaters are lifted
5. Pour the cooled melted chocolate into the yolk mixutre and fold until combined
6. Gently stir 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to loosen the mix, then fold in the remaining egg whites in two batches
7. Sift the COCOA POWDER over the top of the mixture and fold it in completely
8. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out into an even layer
9. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until risen and the top is firm and slightly crisp
10. Remove cake from the oven and leave it in the tin to cool -- it will fall and crack a little
11. Whip HEAVY WHIPPING CREAM until it holds its shape
12. Lay down a piece of parchment in the size of the cake and dust it with POWDERED SUGAR
13. Turn the cake out onto the paper so its lining is on the top, then peel the paper off of the cake
14. Spread the cake with whipped gream, leaving a border of about 3/4" all the way around
15. Make a cut scoring along the short edge facing you, about half the depth of the cake
16. Roll the cut edge closest to you over away from you to tightly start the roll, then use the paper to help continue the tight rolling, pulling the paper away from the cake as you roll -- the roulade will crack, as it should
17. Finish the cake with the join underneath, dusted with powdered sugar
Time for another savory treat. I was ready to finish baking these pork pies and write a post about how bland and awful they were. How they sat on our countertop for three days and how I had to throw them out because they got soggy and mold-prone. But I can't write that entry. Instead, I have to write an entry about how delicious they were, how my husband and I ate the entire batch over the course of the day, how cute quail eggs are, and how the leftover filling made for an amazing faux-Filipino dish for dinner.
Life is hard.
First, let me tell you about my journey to get these ingredients. As background, I had made my last entry's recipe, Brandy Snaps, about two weeks ago. I like to have my recipes actually baked in advance, so I can take my time writing the entry and reflecting on the experience. I had to go to New York for business last week, so I thought I would make these pork pies before I left, and spend my time away writing this entry, and keep my schedule of baking and posting.
But do you know how hard it is to find quail eggs at mainstream boring American grocery stores? It's hard. Lucky and Safeway yielded nothing but chickens. Trader Joe's had nothing. I was going to try Whole Foods, but I like having a positive bank balance, so I tried Mollie Stones, which would also eat up my paycheck, but at least it would be going toward a local business. They also had no quail eggs. That's when I went out one nightto a drag show with my husband and our friend Diana, who is a fan of this blog. I told her my next entry would be delayed because I couldn't find quail eggs and she told me all I had to do was go to an Asian grocery store, where they carry them in droves.
Richmond New May Wah did not disappoint, and last Saturday I took a stroll up there and bought nearly two dozen quail eggs. I only needed 6 for the recipe, but they were just so cute.
While at the Asian grocery store, I grabbed the rest of my ingredients, namely, the meat. Because at $2.99/pound, I would be a fool not to buy my meat there. Even if they only sold the lump bacon in a size about 4x what I needed. You can never have too much bacon.
And speaking of fat, you need lard and butter for this recipe. When I read that, I started to have hope for what I thought was going to be a bland British dish. Butter is great. I love butter. I would never trade it for margarine. But like I wrote in my Cornish Pasties entry, there's just something about a recipe that dictates for lard which gets my juices flowing. Low fat is no way of life.
Let's talk for a second about this crust though, this lard-and-butter-made magic dough. The British pork pie calls for what is called a "hot water crust," meaning it's made with, surprise, hot water. This is directly in contrast to most pie crusts, which deliberately tell you to keep your ingredients as cold as possible, and to use ice water to bring everything together. This may not seem like a big detail, but what it does is it melts the fat in the dough completely, which keeps the crust from having "pockets" of fat that evaporate in the oven, pockets which help you achieve the flakiness we know and love in pie crusts.
There's an interesting bit of history about this dough. The crust dough we make today--with ice water--is designed to be flaky and tender. In contrast, hot water crusts are made to be free-standing indestructible edible luggages for the filling. Back in the day, these kinds of pastries (including the Cornish pasty) were made for mine workers to bring along as lunch, and Ziploc hadn't yet been invented, so they had to be a bit more organic about their vessels of choice for carrying the meat (and potatoes) that would sustain them through this greuling work.
The dough, surprisingly, was actually not made to taste very good. Many times, the crust was actually thrown away because of its inedibility, once the inside had been consumed. The good news for the baker is you don't need to be as gentle with it as you have to be with ice water pie crust.
I'm happy to report, however, that this is not the case with this recipe. Paul Hollywood has done well in keeping the essence of the hot water crust alive, while making it absolutely delicious, if a bit tougher and less flaky than your average pie crust. I think it has something to do with lard and butter and only melting the lard in the hot water, whilst rubbing the butter into the flour.
The filling itself is also delicious. It's a mixture of pork loin (for meat) and bacon (for fat), as well as onions (though make sure you get a small onion -- mine were a bit too onion-y), and parsley. It's simple, per British standard, and could be a bit bland, so make sure you add enough salt and pepper. Also, I would add in some garlic.
And I actually did add some garlic to the leftover. Be forewarned: this will produce about 1 full cup of leftover filling--at least. We cut up some extra pork loin and bacon, added some garlic, and fried the mixture until it was super crispy (some might say burnt), served alongside some rice. For the Filipinos or Filipino food lovers out there: it's like sisig, but more meat and less cartilage. Or so my husband says.
It's a bit of a mess getting everything together, and forget about prettily crimping it (those niceties are for Mary Berry)--I ended up just slopping things together and pressing to seal with my fingers.
Despite what it may look like before, it's gorgeous after. They would be cute as an appetizer, or a couple as a full meal. Good to have around the house to snack on.
One word of warning: the egg wash will make the top look done, but the crust underneath won't be crispy unless you overcook it by a few minutes. I did not and I was running along the line of "soggy bottom," though thankfully did not cross into soggy bottom territory. I wish I had cooked it a bit longer to make the crust crispier.
The pastry as a whole was delicious. I like my food spicy, so of course I added some sriracha after these pictures were taken, but it was delicious even without the sriracha. I didn't think the quail egg would really add anything that special, but it really took these to a different level that makes me prefer them over other such savory bakes like the Cornish pasty.
And we did finish all 7 in one afternoon, so there's that.
Mini Pork Pies
makes 6-7, with extra filling
240 grams (8 1/2 ounces) FLOUR
50 grams (1 3/4 ounces) BUTTER
3 1/2 ounces (1/2 cup) WATER
1 teaspoon SALT
60 grams (2 1/4 ounces) LARD
1 ONION, very finely chopped
350 grams (12 ounces) PORK LOIN, finely chopped
100 grams (3 1/2 ounces) BACON, finely chopped
small bunch of PARSLEY
SALT and PEPPER
6 QUAILS' EGGS
1 large EGG
jelly ingredients (optional -- I did not use):
1 CHICKEN STOCK CUBE
5 ounces (1/2 cup) BOILING WATER
2 leaves GELATIN
1. Preheat the oven to 400F and grease a muffin tin, or 6 small ramekins
2. Rub the BUTTER into the FLOUR until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs
3. Bring the WATER and SALT to a boil, then add the LARD and stir until all is melted
4. Pour the melted lard over the flour mixture and form a dough, then work it into a smooth ball
5. Roll the pastry out to 1/8" and cut out six 5" circles to line the muffin tin, then re-roll and cut out six 4" circles for the lids, and poke a hole in the center of each lid
6. Cook the quails' eggs in a pan of boiling water for two minutes, then cool and peel
7. Put the ONION, PORK, BACON, and PARSLEY into a bowl, season with SALT and PEPPER, and mix until well combined
8. Spoon a little of the mixture into each lined pie case, place the cooked and peeled quail's egg in the center, and spoon over more of the filling
9. Brush the edge of each pie case with a little beaten EGG, place the lids on top, and crimp to seal completely
10. Bake in the oven for 40-55 minutes (check to see how brown your pies get), then set aside pies to cool
11. To make the jelly (optional: I stuffed my shells so full that I had no room for jelly), dissolve the CHICKEN STOCK CUBE in the BOILING WATER and soak the GELATIN in a little cold water, then squeeze out the excess water and whisk in the stock; alternately [insert instructions for powdered gelatin here]
12. Pour the gelatin mixture into the hole in the top of each pie until filled
13. Serve warm, or allow pies to set in the fridge overnight
I'm not sure what my favorite part of baking is, but I know near the top is measuring out my ingredients. I'm sure eating the baked goods it up there, too, but there's something very zen about measuring out my ingredients. I love seeing the flour, the sugar, the butter, all lined up in their bowls, ready to be mixed or creamed or melted. There's something very calming about having what you need on-hand, and not have to fumble with measuring cups and scales while you're cooking. You can concentrate on the task at hand, and just take everything one step at a time, because you have each step ready ahead of time. Sure, it's methodical, and probably a bit too much for some people, but I find that you still get creative and alter the recipe as you see fit in the heat of the moment, but having all your stuff ready ahead of time gives you a few minutes to think about the recipe, or the weather, or just clear your mind and be in the moment.
I hate meditation, but I love baking.
People often ask me what I do with all the baked goods that have been coming out of this project (and all the baked goods in-between--you don't think this is the only thing I get up to in the kitchen, do you?). I usually have a couple of whatever I create, but for the most part I give them away. I bring them to work, or I drive up to my family and leave them with my brother to eat. However, sometimes a recipe comes along and I get selfish and I eat the whole thing. Last week's bread was one of those occasions (okay, I shared some with my brother-in-law and his wife, who were visiting), and this week's brandy snaps was another one of those occasions (we did have help from our friend Diana).
In my defense, they get less crispy after a day, so really it was just a race against the clock. I totally did not eat them out of pure desire. Totally not my fault. Right....
This recipe, once you have everything together, is actually pretty easy. It's a bit of a time investment, since you can only cook 4 cookies at a time, but the recipe couldn't be simpler. I say "once you have everything together" because this recipe is super British and calls for 1) demerara sugar, and 2) golden syrup. Both of which are not easily found in the United States.
First, demerara sugar. Demerara sugar is a raw-ish sugar that is, they say, less refined than regular white sugar, so it retains more of the natural molasses cane sugar is found with. It also is larger in granule size, so has a bit of a crunch to it -- not that it matters in this recipe, in which you melt everything down. A good, more easily found substitute would be turbinado sugar, marketed as "Sugar in the Raw," which is similar, but not quite exact. Technically, the grains in turbinado sugar are finer than demerara and they are less "sticky," meaning they have less molasses in them, but they're roughly equivalent.
I used brown sugar, which is a perfectly fine, and much more easily accessible substitute. We're not using the sugar for its texture, so the grain size didn't matter, and I like my baked goods more on the well-cooked/burnt side, so the greater molasses content of brown sugar didn't bother me. Plus, it was raining -- I didn't want to find my way to a specialty store in the rain.
Second, golden syrup. Golden syrup is just a barely caramelized sugar syrup, which gives baked goods a nice nutty and hint-of-lemon flavor. You could definitely substitute corn syrup or molasses for golden syrup in many recipes, and the chemistry of these cookies won't change, but the flavor will. Corn syrup will make them more bland, and molasses will make them slightly bitter. I would opt for molasses if you're in a pinch. I, overachiever that I am, realized I had everything to make golden syrup at home though, so I found a DIY recipe and made my own -- it was well worth the time spent.
After you have everything together though, these are fun cookies to make, if just slightly painful, depending on how calloused your fingers are. I'll explain. Brandy snaps are a shaped and filled cookie, meaning you have to shape them into something (anything!) that can act as a receptacle for, in this case, whipped cream (though I could totally see them shaped into a bowl and hold some vanilla or pistachio ice cream).
In order to do this, you have to handle them while still hot. These cookies cool off quickly, and if they cool enough, the "snap" part of their name will come into play and you won't be able to form them into anything. Right when they come out of the oven, they're still very molten, so you have to wait for 1-2 minutes until you can slide a spatula under them without them breaking or melting. At that point, you have to lift them with the spatula and your fingers, grin through the pain if you're sensitive (I found it pleasurable because my kitchen was cold), and wrap them around your cylindrical implements. I suppose if you're professional you could use cannoli molds, but I'm cheap with a small kitchen, so I used some oiled handles of various tools I have in my crocks. Press the seam together and rest them seam-side-down for another 4-5 minutes until they cool completely. It's easier than it sounds, and after doing 5 batches of these things, it becomes second-nature.
After you have everything together though, these are fun cookies to make, if just slightly painful, depending on how calloused your fingers are. I'll explain. Brandy snaps are a shaped and filled cookie, meaning you have to shape them into something (anything!) that can act as a receptacle for, in this case, whipped cream (though I could totally see them shaped into a bowl and hold some vanilla or pistachio ice cream). In order to do this, you have to handle them while still hot. These cookies cool off quickly, and if they cool enough, the "snap" part of their name will come into play and you won't be able to form them into anything.
Like I said, we ate these all in one day. The snaps truly snap. It's a satisfying sound and a satisfying crunchiness between your teeth. You can really fill these with anything that can be piped and stiffened. I could see filling them with cannoli filling, or a stiffer pastry cream. But I actually think whipped cream (or even a spiced whipped cream--I think a bit of cinnamon in the filling would pair amazingly with the ginger in the cookie) is best. The softness and richness of the whipped cream turns these simple cookies into a decadent snack. You can really pop them into your mouth with reckless abandon (and should do so).
I think they're missing brandy though. False advertising.
55 grams (2 ounces) BUTTER
55 grams (2 ounces) DEMERARA SUGAR (or brown sugar)
55 grams (2 ounces) GOLDEN SYRUP (see below for DIY golden syrup)
50 grams (1 3/4 ounces) FLOUR
1/2 teaspoon GROUND GINGER
1/2 teaspoon LEMON JUICE
WHIPPED CREAM (heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar, spices of your choice -- I recommend cinnamon and/or vanilla extract)
1. Preheat oven to 350F, line two baking trays with parchment, and oil the handle of a wooden spoon or whisk
2. Heat the BUTTER, SUGAR, and GOLDEN SYRUP in a small pan over a low heat until the butter and sugar have dissolved -- about 15 minutes. Do not let the mixture boil, as it may crystallize
3. Leave the mixture to cool 2-3 minutes, then mix in the FLOUR and GINGER and pour in the LEMON JUICE, stirring to mix thoroughly
4. Drop four teaspoonfuls of the mixture onto each baking tray about 4 inches apart from one another -- if your mixture gets too solid in between batches to scoop, place the pan back on the heat for a few seconds to a minute until it comes back to its goopy texture
5. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until the mixture is spread out, looks like lace, and is a dark golden color
6. Leave the sheet to rest out of the oven for about one minutes, then work quickly as the snaps firm up -- if you can release the cookie using an offset spatula, but they're still pliable, you're in good shape
7. Quickly roll a circle of the warm mixture around the handle of the spoon or whisk, joining underneath, and pressing the seam slightly, then leave to cool completely (just a couple minutes) -- if any of the baked circles on the sheet harden too much to work with, put them back in the oven for a few seconds to soften again
8. Fill cylinders of brandy snaps with WHIPPED CRAM to serve
DIY Golden Syrup
makes ~8 ounces
50 grams GRANULATED SUGAR
3 tablespoons WATER
500 grams GRANULATED SUGAR
300 grams (3/4 cup) BOILING WATER
1 quarter LEMON
1. Dissolve first part of SUGAR into WATER over low heat, and cook until caramelized -- the darker your caramel color, the deeper your flavor, so personal preference wins out here, but I would aim for a dark golden orange color
2. When you've reached your desired caramel color, pour in the second part of SUGAR and BOILING WATER, and LEMON slice and bring to a boil, then down to a simmer, and cook for 45 minutes
3. Let mixture cool before pouring into a jar or can (preferably sanitized), and store in the fridge
A personal challenge to conquer every technical challenge, and select signature bakes, from The Great British Bake Off
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