Thursday, 28 June 2012

Gâteau aux noisettes et caramel

Ok, ok, I totally just made this name up. It was certainly not given this name in the cookbook, but rather a ridiculous name, 'Entremet Contemporain', that utterly fails to convey what kind of a cake this is. I could more simply have called it a hazelnut and caramel cake, but when one has a french inspired luncheon, one MUST give things french names. On Sunday I had a little, belated Birthday luncheon with a couple of friends and I made this cake, among other things, for my guests. In an ideal world, I would have taken photos of the twice baked Gruyère soufflé that I made for entrée, as well as the Fillet de Boeuf en Croûte we had pour le Plat Principal. Sadly, I was too busy running back and forth between the kitchen and the dining room to remember to take any photos of these at all.

So it is that you will have to be satisfied with the photos that I did take: those of the Gâteau aux noisettes et caramel. The cake is surrounded by a ring of sponge and its interior consists of a layer of caramel syrup soaked sponge, then caramel mousse, another layer of soaked sponge, hazelnut cream and finally a caramel glaze.

I'm not going to lie to you and pretend that it was all smooth sailing- no siree! The recipe in question comes from the Cordon Bleu book of desserts. The recipe is a bit of a shambles really. It seems that Cordon Bleu didn't correctly augment quantities for the home baker, leaving some components of the cake in quantities vast enough to produce 3 or 4 cakes, while other components were converted accurately and produced only enough mixture for one. 

Luckily, I'd seen enough recipes in my time to know that the specified quantities were wrong and altered the size of the batches accordingly. This entailed halving the cake mix, halving the caramel sauce, making the full batch of mousse, a half batch of cream and a full batch of glaze- CRAZY! 

Not only that, but there was a major error in the ingredients list for the mousse. The recipe specified 40g Gelatine, which seemed an insane amount, but I didn't question it for long enough to check the packet for directions. What I ended up with was a horrible, caramel glue that I could hardly remove from the saucepan, let alone fold into cream. A second batch turned out just right with about 2/3 sachet (roughly 1 1/2 tsps of gelatine). Boy did they get that quantity wrong!

Anyway, I shouldn't complain too much. Despite all these issues, the cake turned out rather well and cut beautifully. The highlight for me was definitely the hazelnut cream, which was, coincidentally, the simplest of all the components to make. It is seriously just cream whipped with a bit of icing sugar and some blitzed up roasted hazelnuts folded gently through. 

If you are brave enough to tackle this beautiful gateau after my horror story, just let me know and I will happily post the amended recipe on the blog. 

Bon appetit!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Marvelous Marshmallows

Hands up all those who have eaten home made marshmallows? Who has ever contemplating making them? It would seem to many to be a ludicrous idea, but they are in fact relatively easy ......... provided you have a stand mixer. If you don't, well, maybe it might be a little tricky. If you do, you are in for a real treat. My gosh they are good! Like unbelievably, positively, absolutely fantastic!!! They really do put your store bought marshmallows to shame.

A few weeks ago I was watching Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall make his own Marshmallows on the River Cottage: Autumn. I was struck immediately by how quick they were to whip up and, even more amazingly, how rapidly they set. I really thought marshmallow would have to set over night, or for the equivalent amount of time. Of course, Hugh, being the good, all natural, back to basics kind of a guy that he is, used Beetroot to colour the marshmallows pink. I didn't have any beetroot on hand, nor did I have the slightest inclination to use a vegetable to colour my food. As far as I'm concerned, a drop of food colouring won't hurt at all. 

The recipe is available here from the BBC site. I urge you all to give them a go. If like me, you are short of beetroot, just put in a few drops of pink colouring into the 125 mls of boiling water before adding the gelatine. You won't believe how far your two egg whites willgo- you will end up with a huge batch of the lightest, most delicious Marshmallows you've ever tasted: perfect with hot chocolate or toasted over a fire. Enjoy!