Mixed Summer Berry Pie

This is a lovely recipe for people who like a dessert to be sweet, sugary pastry with a fresh, slightly tart, filling, basically a dessert that I love. All over the English countryside there are cafes filled with sweet scones with jam and nearly always having a fruit pie on the menu.
I thought I’d give one a shot even though pastry, like a few others, scares me very much. I have guitar playing hands so being gentle with pastry unnerves me slightly.

What’s great about this pie is that you can use frozen fruit. I usually have a couple of bags of mixed berries in my freezer so it’s very good for using these up.

Ok first things first is to make the Pate Sucree. Pate Sucree is a sweet shortcrust pastry, unlike the Pate Sablee which is more for savoury tarts like Quiche and meat pies. There is also Pate Brisee which you could use perfectly well for this recipe, it’s less sweet than the Pate Sucree but where this one is quite crumbly, the Pate Brisee is more flaky in texture.

Pate Sucree (Sweet Shortcrust Pastry)

Ingredients

90g Unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes

65g Caster Sugar

3 Egg Yolks

200g Plain Flour, plus extra for surface dusting

I really like to do pastry the Michel Roux way, it is quite simple and does have a good result, especially if you have a granite work surface.

Method

1. Put the flour into a heap on your work surface and make a large well in the centre. Pour your sugar and butter into the centre. Rub the butter into the sugar only with your finger tips. Speed is key with this pastry so do it as quick as you can without rubbing it so much that the butter starts to melt.

2. Gradually, bit by bit, work in the flour from the outsides until all is incorporated and resembles grainy breadcrumbs.

3. Make another well in the centre of the mixture and add the egg yolks. Again with your fingertips work in the mixture from the outsides in a sweeping motion. It should not take too long to come together and when you are done there should hardly be any mixture left on the work surface. If you think the mixture is too dry to work with then you can add a little water, ice water is best for this as it doesn’t react with the gluten in the flour which can make the pastry chewy.

4. Kneed a couple of times with the palm of your hand until the pastry is smooth. Wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before using.

For the fruit pie

Ingredients

1 Pate Sucree Pie Crust

700g Frozen mixed summer berries (blackberries, redcurrants, raspberries etc) – thawed in a sieve so the juice drains

150g Caster Sugar

40g Plain Flour

Grated zest of 1 lemon

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 190C. Separate the pie dough 1/3 for the lattice topping and 2/3 for the pie shell. Lightly butter the bottom and sides of a 9inch tart tin. Roll 2/3 of the dough to fit more than the tin, so some hangs of the sides, about 2 or 3 mm thickness. Set the other ball of dough aside wrapped in cling film.

2. Cover the base of the tin with baking paper and fill with baking beans or rice. Bake in the oven until it looks pale and half baked. Once done, remove from the oven and set aside.

3. Meanwhile in a bowl mix the thawed berries with the flour, caster sugar and lemon rind and set aside to macerate for 10 minutes.

4. Roll out the 1/3 of dough you have left into a 9inch circle. Cut into even strips and set aside.

5. Finally fill you pie crust with the berry mixture spreading evenly, and arrange the pastry strips on top in a lattice effect. Just crossing them over in a intertwining fashion should accomplish this.

6. Sprinkle the top with caster sugar and bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until the top is a golden crisp brown.

**Only issue I had as you can see by the picture is my lattice strips were a little thin. This is because it did not work the first couple of times I rolled it out so had to roll it a couple of times. Over working the dough makes it tougher and more stringy which mine was a little.

Hey presto! A nice looking sweet and juicy fruit pie. Serve with icecream or clotted cream for a really posh dessert.

Cherry Clafoutis

I have wanted to make one of these ever since I saw one being baked on a wildlife programme on the BBC. Lord knows why I was watching a wildlife programme, but maybe it was fate so I would fall upon this lovely clafoutis.

This is more of a dessert than other things I have baked. But it is very juicy if you get some nice deep coloured ripe cherries. You can do it with other fruits such as plums, apricots or peaches, but cherries are a favourite of mine and do make a lovely contrast to the sweetness of the dish.

CHERRY CLAFOUTIS

Ingredients

For the cherries

450g Ripe Cherries, stones removed

3 tbsp Caster Sugar

For the batter

20g Unsalted Butter

2 Eggs

3 tbsp Caster Sugar

1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract

1 heaped tbsp Plain Flour

50g/1 3/4 fl oz Whole Milk

75g/ 2 1/4 fl oz Whipping Cream

Pinch of salt

Method

1. Gently mix together the cherries and sugar and leave to macerate in a bowl for 2 hours. This allows the sugar to bring out the juice and flavour of the cherries for a richer taste.

2 Preheat the oven to 180C – Grease a baking dish with butter and sprinkle with sugar. Shake the sugar around the dish so it is evenly coated, shaking out the excess.

3. Now we have to make a buerre noisette. Heat the butter in a pan, don’t stir with a spoon but if you feel the need you can tilt the pan as it’s warming. Wait until it has gone a hazlenut colour and smells nutty. Don’t allow the butter to burn as it will become very bitter. Remove from the heat and set aside in a warm place.

4. In a bowl whisk together the eggs sugar and vanilla extract until pale and creamy.

5 Sieve the flour in and whisk until smooth, then slowly incorporate the milk, cream, salt and buerre noisette.

6. Then add your cherries along with all of the juice that will have come out of them while they were macerating. Mix gently but thoroughly.

7. Pour into your prepared dish and bake in the oven for 35 minutes, or until the top is slightly domed and a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. Depending on the depth of the dish you have used, it may need longer in the oven, but check if after 35 minutes and you should be able to determine from there how much longer it will need.

Enjoy! Oh and I suggest single cream or creme fraiche to serve with it – lovely!

CHERRY CLAFOUTIS

Blueberry and Elderflower Upside Down Cake

Would you believe I actually saw this recipe in a magazine while I was at the hairdressers. The constant sitting around waiting for my hair to dye came useful this time, I’m sure people out there that dye their hair would understand.

The Elderflower in the recipe intrigued me, I wondered what addition in flavour it would give to the blueberries. So off I went down to the supermarket in search of Elderflower cordial to give the recipe a shot.

Blueberry and Elderflower Upside Down Cake

Serves 8-10

Ingredients

400g Fresh or Frozen Blueberries, destalked

50ml Elderflower Cordial

4 Medium Eggs

250g Caster Sugar

1tsp Vanilla Extract

125g Plain Flour, sieved

125g Ground Almonds

2 tsp Baking Powder

1/4 tsp Fine Salt

125g Unsalted Butter, melted

125g Greek Yogurt

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 170C and lightly oil a 9in round cake tin (springform if you have one). Wrap the outside of the tin with a tight layer of tinfoil to prevent blueberry juice seeping out. Spread the blueberries evenly over the base of the tin, drizzle with Elderflower cordial and leave to macerate.

2. Whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla in a bowl for 5-6 minutes until pale and fluffy. The small froth that forms on the top of the mixture should stay for a few seconds when the whisk is removed.

3. Sieve the flour, almonds, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Then gradually mix this along with the melted butter and yogurt into the egg mixture in stages, alternating between them until you have a smooth, thick batter.

4. Pour the batter over the blueberries and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 35 minutes or until the top looks golden and feels springy to touch.

Remove from the oven and leave for 15 minutes to cool before releasing the springform sides. Placing a plate on top, carefully flip the cake over so the blueberries are facing upwards.

Cake is delicious served with Creme Fraiche, Vanilla Icecream or just as an afternoon dessert.

My tidbits

**Only problems I had with this was leaking blueberries. It’s really important that when you do the tight tin foil around the outside of the tin, that there are not tiny tears in the foil. Blueberry juice has a wonderful way of getting through the tiniest holes.

**Also for a cake this size I found it was more like 50 minutes for the cake to be fully cooked, but I would suggest you leave it for the 35 minutes and then check the middle with a skewer and judge the consistency.

**Do not worry if the cake comes out looking like it’s all blueberries and there is no cake underneath, the batter comes up through the fruit so when you pop in your fork you’ll see the sponge peeping out.

Enjoy!

French Madeleines

As it is the jubilee weekend I’ve had a chance to do some work at home – which obviously meant I should throw in some baking at the same time.

I feel quite a burst of honour this weekend and would like to salute our lovely Queen. She’s been an absolute trooper and has been everywhere this weekend which is quite a feat for an 86 year old in some really cold and wet weather. For what you did at such a young age, and for what you continue to do – To you Queen Elizabeth II.

I recently bought two new baking tins, a round Bundt tin and a Madeleine pan, so I thought I should try one of them out.

I have never made Madeleines before but they are a favourite of my parents. They are moorish little shell-like cakes, with quite a pedigree background to them. Marcel Proust who was a french novelist and critic wrote ‘In Search of Lost Time’ back in the 1920’s and recalled Madeleines in a very nostalgic way…

“I raised to my lips a spoonful of the cake . . . a shudder ran through my whole body and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place.”

This is just a snippet to quite a lengthy passage that gave Madeleines an almost ‘celebrity’ appeal.

So back to today and they are classed as little french royalties used throughout places like Betty’s Tea Rooms and Fortnum and Mason.

Apparently the key to the beauty of these little cakes is the lightness of them. It requires a buerres noisette which is french for ‘brown butter’ or in the literal sense ‘hazelnut butter’ as it has a lovely nutty aroma. Traditionally these are flavoured with lemon zest as the recipe below, but you can flavour them with other things as well – I’m going to try Orange and Cinnamon next time.

Below is the recipe I used and there is only a couple of things I would have done differently which are written at the bottom (**) if you are interested.

To get the desired affect you will need a proper Madeleine pan which you will be able to find at any good cooking/kitchen store. I purchased mine at Lakeland which is heaven for bakers and cooks alike.

Traditional French Madeleines

Ingredients

  1. 60g (2 oz) lightly salted butter
  2. 1 medium egg
  3. 50 g (1.5 oz) caster sugar
  4. 30g (1 oz) plain flour
  5. 20g (1/2 oz) ground almonds
  6. 1 lemon, zested

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180c, Gas mark 5.

2. To make the ‘buerres noisette’, warm a thick based pan over a moderate heat and add the butter. Cook the butter slowly until it has melted, turned a golden colour and gives off a nutty scent. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

3. In a metal or porcelain bowl, whisk the caster sugar and egg until the mixture is light and fluffy.

4. Sieve the ground almonds and plain flour into the bowl and gently fold in with the lemon zest. When fully incorporated add the buerre noisette and gently stir it through the mixture.

5. Leave to rest for about an hour if you have time. This will allow the gluten in the mixture to rest which ensures the cakes will stay light.

6. Spoon the batter into the Madeleine pan filling them 3/4 full.

7. Bake in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown and springy to touch.

8. Leave the Madeleines in the mould for a while until cool enough to take out and place on a wire rack.

**When you whisk the egg and sugar together it says that when it is done you should be able to do a brief figure of eight in the top of the mixture. You can but do not be perturbed if you can’t because the mixture is so loose it moves fast. When it looks a peach colour and has a light bubble on top then it should be light enough for the rest of the ingredients.

**When it says to fill the moulds to 3/4 full I found that the cakes came out a little small and there was still a level where the cakes could have risen. The cakes don’t rise around the edges, because the batter is quite airy and sticky as opposed to runny. So my advice would be to make sure the mixture reaches the top of the moulds but has a little dip in the middle as this is where the rising will happen.

**I lightly rolled the shell side of mine in caster sugar which gives it a lovely finish, but you can do anything with them really as they are really quick little things to make and very versatile. Maybe some cinnamon or vanilla sugar instead, or even put a little lemon juice in the vanilla sugar which would compliment the lemon in the cake beautifully.

French Madeleines ready!

Greetings

I’ve written a few blogs about music but have never given thought to giving any locality to it. I work and have worked in Leicester for five years and now know how much music runs through its veins. So I thought I’d start up another blog to shine some more light on what’s already, a city throbbing with new beats.