21 September 2017

Parkin - A Classic Northern England Cake

Parkin - A Classic Northern England Cake / www.delightulrepast.com

Parkin is, I think, generally considered a Yorkshire thing; but some say it's a Lancashire thing. So let's just call it a Northern (England, that is) thing. It makes me think of my grandfather, who was from right on the border of Lancashire and Yorkshire.

(For another Northern treat, from Yorkshire, try my Fat Rascals. And don't forget Yorkshire Pudding,  though it's not a dessert.)

There are similar cakes from much earlier, but Parkin has been around at least since the 18th century; so I like to think of it as a Georgian thing. It's sort of a gingerbread with the addition of oats. There are all sorts of formulations, but I like to use an equal weight of butter, flour and oats. 

It's definitely a make-ahead thing because it improves with age. You should wait a few days, and some say a few weeks, to eat it. I've never tried to keep it for a few weeks; have you? But I like to give it at least a few days for the spices to mellow and the cake to get stickier.

This has a lot of sugar (three forms of it), less than some recipes, but still a lot. But it's cut into 16 squares so comes in under my self-imposed daily sugar allowance. I'll be experimenting with cutting back more on the sugar and will keep you posted.

I'm also going to be experimenting with "mellowing" times. I've cut this into 4 squares, so I can wrap it up in portions to be tested at 1 day, 3 days, 1 week and 2 weeks. If you don't already have a wonderful family Parkin recipe, I hope you'll give mine a try and let me know what you think.

Parkin - A Classic Northern England Cake / www.delightfulrepast.com
Can be eaten right away but is said to improve when wrapped and stored for anywhere from 3 days to 3 weeks. I cut this one into 4 squares in order to test different storage times. Stay tuned for the results!

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(Makes one 8-inch/20cm cake)

1 1/4 sticks (5 ounces/142 grams) unsalted butter
1/2 packed cup (3.5 ounces/99 grams) dark brown sugar
1/3 cup (114 grams) honey or golden syrup
1/4 cup (71 grams) unsulphured molasses or black treacle
1 1/3 cups (5 ounces/142 grams) old-fashioned rolled oats (I use Bob's Red Mill organic extra thick)
1 dip-and-sweep cup (5 ounces/142 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces/118 ml) milk

1 Grease 8x8x2-inch/20x20cm baking dish or tin with butter or spray it with cooking spray; line the bottom* with parchment paper, and grease or spray it as well. Preheat oven to 275F/135C/Gas1.

* I tear off a 7.5-inch piece of baking parchment that is 13 inches wide so that it covers two of the sides with a bit of an overhang to make it easy to just lift out of the pan after running a knife along the two "bare" sides. 

Parkin - A Classic Northern England Cake / www.delightfulrepast.com

2 In 3-quart saucepan, melt together the butter, sugar, honey or golden syrup, and molasses or black treacle. Remove from heat as soon as melted together--do not boil--and cool slightly.

3 In 1.5-quart bowl, whisk together oats, flour, baking powder, salt and spices.

4 Add dry mixture to saucepan, along with beaten eggs and milk, and stir until well combined. Pour into prepared tin and bake for about 1 1/4 hours, or until cake is firm in the center and pulling away from the sides of the pan.

Parkin - A Classic Northern England Cake / www.delightfulrepast.com

5 Cool in pan on wire rack for about 15 minutes before turning out onto wire rack, removing parchment and turning cake topside up to finish cooling on wire rack. Or, if you've lined the bottom with an overhang, just run a knife along the two unlined edges and lift the parkin out of the pan. Wrap the thoroughly cooled cake in baking parchment and then in foil and store for at least 3 days or up to 1 week* before cutting into 16 squares.

* Some people let their parkin age for about 3 weeks before cutting it, but I've never tried it.

Parkin - A Classic Northern England Cake / www.delightfulrepast.com

14 September 2017

Fresh Fig Galette

Fresh Fig Galette - Rustic Tart with Figs and Frangipane - In an Easy Shortcrust Pastry / www.delightfulrepast.com

A fresh fig tart was what I came up with when I decided I couldn't waste fresh figs on the fig rolls ("newtons") I've been craving but that can be made any time of year with dried figs. When a friend brought me a basket of organic figs the other day, I knew the little beauties would have to go into something where they would show a bit.

I like any kind of tarts, rustic or refined, but decided to go with rustic because of the earthy quality of figs. They have a certain nuttiness as well, and so I thought they would go well with a small batch of my frangipane and a sprinkling of sliced almonds. I quartered them so that both their pink insides and blackish outsides would show.

For me, an unsweetened shortcrust pastry balances out the sweetness of the figs and frangipane. But you may also use this lightly sweet shortcrust pastry. Yes, a bit of softly whipped cream would not go amiss, but I just wanted to focus on the figs.

If you're more of a cake person than a pie person, you might want to try my Fig Upside-Down Cake. Or are you both, like me?!

Fresh Fig Galette - Rustic Tart with Figs and Frangipane - In an Easy Shortcrust Pastry / www.delightfulrepast.com
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Fresh Fig Galette - Rustic Tart

(Makes one 9-inch tart/6 to 8 servings)

The Pastry - Shortcrust

1 1/3 dip-and-sweep cup (6.67 ounces/189 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (4 ounces/113 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large egg yolk plus white reserved for filling
1 tablespoon cream, milk or water

The Filling - Frangipane and Figs

4 tablespoons (2 ounces/57 grams) unsalted butter
1/4 cup (1.75 ounces/50 grams) sugar
1/2 firmly packed cup (2 ounces/57 grams) super-fine almond flour (ground almonds)
1 egg plus the reserved egg white
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
Pinch of salt
About 11 ounces figs
A bit of cream or milk
2 tablespoons sliced almonds

1 Add flour and salt to work bowl of food processor; turn on for about 3 or 4 seconds to combine. Add chunks of butter; pulse to a crumb texture. Add egg yolk and cream; pulse until the dough starts clumping together. This is to be a crisp, more cookie-like crust, rather than a flaky pastry; so there's not quite the concern about over-processing. Flatten slightly into a 4- to 6-inch round disc, wrap and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes.

2 Preheat oven to 400F/205C/Gas6. In 1-quart saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Take off heat, and stir in the sugar, then the ground almonds, egg, almond extract and salt until well combined. Set it in the refrigerator for a few minutes while proceeding with the recipe.

3 Wash, dry and trim the stems off the figs. Cut them into quarters lengthwise.

4 Roll out the pastry to a 13-inch circle on a lightly floured 13-inch square of parchment paper. No need to trim the edges; this is supposed to be rustic. Lay it on a baking sheet; it will hang over the edges. Spread the frangipane over a 9-inch circle in the center and scatter the figs over it. Fold the edges in, sort of pleating as you go. Brush the pastry with a bit of cream or milk and sprinkle on the sliced almonds, pressing them in a bit to make them stick.

5 Bake for about 35 minutes. Leave on baking sheet to cool for 25 minutes before moving to serving plate. 

07 September 2017

Thin and Crispy Coconut Cookies - Gluten-Free (or Not)

Thin and Crispy Coconut Cookies - Gluten-Free (or Not) / www.delightfulrepast.com

I'm going to need your help on this one! Thin and crispy coconut cookies are no problem if you don't mind a cloyingly sweet cookie. Where the problem comes in is reducing the sugar to the bare minimum. So let me tell you the whole story, then I will welcome any suggestions you might have.

When I'm in the mood for a coconut macaroon or other chewy coconut cookie, I make these Swedish Coconut Cookies. But what I had in mind this week was a super thin and crispy coconut cookie. The first version I came up with resulted in the third sheet of cookies being close to what I was aiming for, though a bit dry.

So I added the step of moistening the coconut with a bit of water before proceeding with the recipe the second time. Organic unsweetened finely shredded coconut is quite dry; in fact, I think it's dehydrated. Supermarket coconut has added sugar and water as well as propylene glycol and sodium metabisulfite, and that just ain't happenin' in my kitchen!

I also increased the butter for the second batch. And now I'm thinking I might increase the sugar next time if it will help the cookies spread. (Sugar - Toxin or Treat? tells you about me and sugar.) If you've ever looked at any of those "Cookie Troubleshooting" articles, you know that most people are complaining about their cookies spreading too much.

Thin and Crispy Coconut Cookies - Gluten-Free (or Not) / www.delightfulrepast.com

The problem with these is that they won't spread. At all. If you roll the dough into a ball or use a cookie scoop, it just bakes in that shape. If you mash it down slightly, it bakes in that shape. So if I wanted these thin and crispy, I had to roll the dough into balls and then press the dough ball into a very thin round about 2.5 inches or so in diameter.

You know I never mind doing fiddly stuff in the kitchen, but this was a bit much even for me on most days. I use the bottom of a metal measuring cup to press down lots of cookies, but it didn't work on these. I tried everything on the bottom of that cup -- water, flour, baking spray. No go. The only thing that worked was my plain fingers. Pretty fiddly work.

Anyway ... I'm willing to increase the sugar to 3/4 cup if it will help them spread without my manual assistance. I figure that would come out to about 2/3 teaspoon of sugar per cookie. A cup of sugar would still be under a teaspoon per cookie, but they would be far too sweet for my taste.

Any suggestions? Higher temperature? Lower temperature? Loosen up about the sugar for once in my life?!

Thin and Crispy Coconut Cookies - Gluten-Free (or Not) / www.delightfulrepast.com

Thin and Crispy Coconut Cookies

(Makes 4 1/2 dozen cookies)

1 cup (2.75 ounces/78 grams) organic unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces/59 ml) water
1/2 cup (2.5 ounces/71 grams) coconut flour
1/2 cup (2.5 ounces/71 grams) gluten-free blend (or use unbleached all-purpose flour and omit the xanthan gum)
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 sticks (5 ounces/142 grams) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup (3.5 ounces/99 grams) sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 In 2-cup glass measure, stir together coconut and water; cover and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

2 Preheat oven to 350F/180C/Gas4. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

3 In 1.5-quart bowl, whisk together flours, xanthan gum, salt and baking soda.

4 In 2.5-quart bowl, cream butter and sugar together until sugar is dissolved. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture; combine well. Stir in moistened coconut.

5 Drop by level 2-teaspoon* scoops onto parchment paper. Roll each scoop into a ball and flatten it with your fingertips to about a 2.5-inch diameter. Bake until edges are browning, about 12 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

* This set of stainless steel measuring spoons is one of the few that include a 2-teaspoon spoon, something I've wanted for a long time, and the round shape makes it easy to push out a scoop of cookie dough with a finger.

31 August 2017

Bacon and Egg Pie - Crustless, So Naturally Gluten-Free (Dairy-Free, Too)

Bacon and Egg Pie - Crustless, So Naturally Gluten-Free (can be made dairy-free) / www.delightfulrepast.com

Breakfast bakes made with good bread are something I really enjoy, but I had a gluten-free guest coming and had to come up with one that didn't contain bread.

And she's gone dairy-free as well, so I made it with rice milk rather than my usual organic 2% milk. Like other dairy-free people I know, she tolerates butter well, so I went ahead and followed my inclination to brush the layer of potatoes with a little butter (but resisted my inclination to throw in some cheese!).

I'm inclined to throw some cheese into just about everything! This could be jazzed up any number of ways; but we were going to be having a spicy main dish, vegetables and big salad for lunch, so I made this stone plain and offered salsa and shredded cheese on the side.

Since this was breakfast, we had fruit and gluten-free scones along with the pie, as well as copious amounts of English breakfast tea. For lunch or dinner, I'd have salad on the side and a glass of wine, such as Castello di Amorosa Gioia, a perfect summer sipper.

Bacon and Egg Pie - Crustless, So Naturally Gluten-Free (can be made dairy-free) / www.delightfulrepast.com
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Bacon and Egg Pie

(Makes one 9-inch pie)

2 to 3 (about 14 ounces/397 grams total) Yukon Gold potatoes, microwaved/baked and cooled, then peeled or not
8 ounces (227 grams) bacon, sliced crosswise 1/4 to 1/2 inch, cooked crisp
2 tablespoons (1 ounce/28 grams) unsalted butter, melted, or bacon grease
7 large eggs
1/2 cup milk or dairy-free milk
1/8 and 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon marjoram
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Options: cheese; diced green chiles; sautéed onions, red bell peppers and/or mushrooms; leftover cooked vegetables. But not too much or you'll need a deep-dish pie plate, which I don't have.

1 Preheat oven to 350F/180C/Gas4. Spray a 9-inch pie plate with cooking spray. Cut the potatoes in quarters lengthwise; slice about 1/4 inch thick. Line bottom of pie plate with the potatoes, squeezing in little bits to make a solid potato layer. Brush the potatoes with melted butter* and sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt. Top with the bacon and any optional ingredients.

* If using leftover bacon grease instead of butter, you might want to skip the salt on the potato layer.

2 In 2-quart bowl (I use a 2-quart glass measure because the spout makes pouring easier), whisk together eggs, milk, 1/4 teaspoon salt and seasonings. Put the pie plate with potatoes and bacon on a rimmed baking sheet and put it in the oven. Pour the egg mixture over potatoes and bacon.

3 Bake about 25 minutes, or until eggs are set in the center. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.

24 August 2017

Financiers and Visitandines - Classic French Almond Teacakes

Financiers or Visitandines - Classic French Almond Teacakes / www.delightfulrepast.com

Financiers (fee-nahn-see-AY) are probably familiar to afternoon tea aficionados since they are frequently seen on the three-tiered stand at posh hotel teas. Visitandines (vee-zeet-ahn-DEEN) are a bit more obscure; I only learned about them recently when I was perusing the new-to-me blog As Strong As Soup.

It seems visitandines are named after the order of nuns in France who came up with the cakes in the seventeenth century. It is said egg yolks were used in their painting and the teacakes were a way to use up the leftover egg whites. Various shaped molds have been used for them, including barquettes.

Then in the nineteenth century a baker near the financial district of Paris began making the cakes in the shape of gold bars and calling them financiers in honor of his wealthy financier customers. Since I have no rectangular (gold bar-shaped) or barquette (boat-shaped) molds, I used my mince pies/jam tarts tin.

Of all the many sources of recipes and information I've read on the subject, most are in agreement that almond flour (or ground almonds) and beurre noisette, brown butter, are the signature ingredients of both of these classic French teacakes. Dorie Greenspan was the only source whose visitandines recipe did not include almonds and was baked as one cake and sliced.

As my regular readers might guess, I'm going to go with the individual teacakes that look so cute on a three-tiered stand for afternoon tea! I formulated the recipe to make just enough batter for 12 teacakes using 2 tablespoons of batter each.

You might also want to check out my Madeleines, another classic French teacake.

Financiers or Visitandines - Classic French Almond Teacakes / www.delightfulrepast.com
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Financiers or Visitandines - Classic French Almond Teacakes

(Makes about 1 1/2 cups batter*)

6 tablespoons (3 ounces/85 grams) unsalted butter
3/4 firmly packed cup (3 ounces/85 grams) unsifted powdered sugar
1/2 firmly packed cup (2 ounces/57 grams) almond flour
1/3 dip-and-sweep cup (1.67 ounces/47 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 large egg whites (about 90 grams)
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest, optional
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon almond extract, optional

* The number of teacakes it makes depends on the size. If your pan holds the #40 scoop I used (or a 1/8 cup measure), it will make precisely 12.

1 In small saucepan,* melt butter over medium heat. Continue cooking, stirring or swirling frequently, until butter gets foamy and bubbly and just starts to turn tan. It just takes a few minutes, so you cannot take your eyes off it; it goes from browned to burned in a flash! Remove from heat; set aside at room temperature. No need to strain it. It should be still warm, but not hot, when you add it to the batter at the end.

* Use a saucepan with a light colored interior, like my little All-Clad stainless steel 1-quart saucepan, so you can judge the color of the butter as it browns.

Financiers and Visitandines - Classic French Almond Teacakes - made with beurre noisette, brown butter / www.delightfulrepast.com

2 In 1.5-quart mixing bowl, vigorously whisk together powdered sugar, almond flour, flour, baking powder and salt. There is no need to sift any of the ingredients; the vigorous whisking will do the "sifting" for you.

3 In small bowl, whisk egg whites with a fork just until frothy, about 30 to 60 seconds. (Don't panic if you got a drop of yolk in your whites; you are not beating them.) Whisk the egg whites into the flour mixture, just to combine; do not over-mix. The batter will be very thick at this point. Add zest, if using, extract(s) and brown butter. Whisk lightly, just until combined. Cover and refrigerate batter for 2 to 3 hours.

Financiers or Visitandines - Classic French Almond Teacakes / www.delightfulrepast.com

4 Preheat oven to 375F/190C/Gas5. Lightly spray pan with cooking spray (or brush with melted butter and chill to firm before filling). Set pan in a rimmed baking sheet. My mince pies pan fits perfectly inside a 13x9x1-inch quarter-sheet pan. Scoop batter into pan. Bake for about 15 to 17 minutes, or until cakes are golden with nicely browned edges and spring back when touched lightly. Baking time will depend on the size of the teacakes.

5 Turn out the teacakes onto a pristine kitchen towel. You will likely need to give the pan a couple of sharp raps to loosen the stubborn ones. Place them on wire rack to cool. I love them best when they are still warm and crusty on the outside, but they are also good later when the crispy edges have softened.

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