Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Big Cake Show, Exeter

This weekend, Friday 28th to Sunday 30th March, the South West is enjoying the first Big Cake Show which is taking place at Westpoint Exeter. I was there on the first day, and so were a lot of other people, it was packed!

The show was opened by the charming Mary Berry who also did two main theatre demonstrations of a rather delicious looking whole lemon cake. My sort of cake, friendly and inviting, nothing too prim! recipe
Mary Berry was clearly the star attraction and a lot of people were keen to see her and have books signed.

She was so charming to all of the young bakers who received awards at the end of the day, it was a delight to watch. There were some quite inspiring West Country themed competition cakes to view and here are some of the ones that I particularly liked:

[edited to add the complete official set of competition cake photos is now up on the show website here]

There were a number of cake decorating specialist stalls at the exhibition and of course these were the focus of the show so they were busy, very busy, well actually too busy. At 'peak purchase' about mid morning everybody was feeling the stress and some of the fresh food stalls were even selling out.

Nothing Left at Frandie Macaron!
None the less for the strong of spirit there was a lot of inspiration to be found with many of the stalls doing their best to offer demonstrations, and to sell you much wanted goods as efficiently as possible.

Here are some photos I snatched amongst the crowds to take home as reminders of some of the cute and covetable  decorations on display:

Love this one, chocolate being a particular passion of mine. These gorgeous sugar flowers are available for sale and look stunning on simple celebration cakes. The supplier is based in South Molton, North Devon, Meadowsweet flowers and this is a picture from their website:
meadowsweet flowers mixture

Another North Devon chocolate related supplier that was at the show, but for which I did not get a photo is Caprine Capers who produce chocolates with goats cream produced by their own goat herd. Perfect for anyone intolerant to cows milk.

There were a number of well known chefs and TV bakers taking part and these were due to change each day. The full list is available on the show website: Show Stars

I attended the show with the lovely Choclette of The Chocolate Log blog and we watched Chris Tanner on the main stage demonstrating a fruit roulade. We had both been given front seat access so had good views of the stage, but the main theatre demonstrations were very popular and not everybody could get a seat, or a good view for all the sessions they wanted, which was a shame.

This was the organisers' first Exeter cake show and there has been plenty of feedback already on the BigCakeShow facebook page, with a lot of food for thought for improvement. My local newspaper announced this morning that the show is going ahead again next year. I do hope the organisers take on board some of the feedback, as there clearly are a lot of bakers in the South West that are very interested in baking. It would be so good to see this show getting bigger and better.

Many thanks to the organisers for offering me, as one of the South Wests bloggers, complimentary access to the whole show.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Ginger Wine Zabaglione with Mango

I bought a bottle of Green Ginger Wine for Christmas and it has been languishing on the shelf half full/half empty for several weeks now and in need of some attention. I had been thinking of trying to use it in a trifle when I remembered about another custard type dessert that goes well with fruit, that lovely Italian dish zabaglione.

Well I am delighted to say that substituting the Marsala with the Ginger Wine worked very well and produced a delicious zingy custard. The recipe I followed was from Michel Roux Jr and can be found on the BBC food website and the only change  I made to the custard was to use Ginger Wine instead of Marsala and a little less sugar. The basic formula scaled down to 1 egg is:

  • 1 free-range egg yolk
  • half an egg shell's worth of Ginger Wine
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar(or less if like me you prefer less sweet desserts)
I think 1 egg yolk per person should produce enough but in the original recipe 5 yolks are used to serve four people. Have everything ready for serving before you start so you can complete the dish while it is still warm. 

For the mango fruit layer I cooked the peeled and cubed mango (which was under-ripe) in some of the ginger wine, cooking it until tender and adding more wine as needed to keep it just moist.

Once the mango was cooked I started to make the ginger zabaglione, and for this I use a small bain-marie pot that sits on  top of a pan of just simmering water.

I added the egg yolk to the pan and then used the largest half shell to measure in the ginger wine. If you like less alcohol maybe use the smaller half shell for measuring. I then added about a large tsp of sugar rather than the tablespoon in the basic recipe.

The mixture is then whisked steadily and constantly until it thickens and becomes light and foamy. Do not walk away and leave on the heat or you will have a scrambled sauce.

Serve up quickly while the custard is still warm. It is nicer still if the fruit is still just warm from cooking.

Spoon in the cooked fruit, pour on the ginger zabalione and finish with a sponge finger or another favourite dessert biscuit.

I am submitting this post to the Bangers and Mash Spice Trail Challenge which this month is all about Ginger!

spice trail badge square

Saturday, March 15, 2014

We Should Cocoa Challenge #43 White Chocolate and Coconut Panna Cotta

With Coconut Tuiles and Blackcurrant Coulis!

This month's  We Should Cocoa challenge is being hosted by Laura of  id much rather bake than blog  and she has chosen Coconut as the guest ingredient to pair, any which way you choose, with chocolate.

For me this was an exercise in trying to use up some ingredients from the fridge. I had a half used can of coconut milk, some cream and some blackcurrant coulis all left over from previous meals.

I wanted to find something I could make for the March 'We Should Cocoa Challenge' other than cake as I have baked rather a lot recently. I was Googling white chocolate and coconut and came across a few different panna cotta recipes which seemed to fit the ingredients I had rather well.

I have never made panna cotta before and generally find it too rich but this version with a mixture of cream and coconut milk promised to be lighter. I think you could make it even lighter by using whipping cream instead of double cream but that was all I had.

The quantities given will make enough for 4 portions which are not huge but are far from mean.

For the Panna Cotta
200ml double cream
1 level tsp granulated gelatine, use a measuring spoon for this**
100g good quality white chocolate
100ml coconut milk
caster sugar as required to adjust sweetness
  • Put the gelatine into a small bowl and add two tablespoons of water and leave until the water is absorbed.
  • Heat the coconut milk and cream to just below boiling point.
  • Take off the heat and add the white chocolate stirring until it has all melted.
  • While the cream mixture is still hot add a little to the gelatine, stir this and then add all the gelatine mix back into the cream mixture and stir well.
  • Taste for sweetness and add any caster sugar to taste. The white chocolate will add quite a lot of sweetness and there will be more in the fruit puree so be cautious.
  • Pour through a fine sieve into a jug. The sieve will catch any lumps of gelatine or undissolved added sugar.
  • Set out your glasses or serving bowls and pour the mixture carefully into each to get four even portions. Try not to drip any of the mixture onto the sides of the glass.
  • Transfer the filled glasses to the fridge to set.
Fruit Coulis/Puree
The coulis was some I had in the freezer after a glut of blackcurrants last summer. Any flavoursome fruit puree would do, raspberry, cherry, mango. Lightly cook the fruit, puree and sieve if needed to removed pips or fruit fibres and sweeten to taste. Make sure the puree is completely cold before using.

Coconut Tuiles
I followed the recipe from the BBC Good Food website: Coconut Tuiles

Tuiles do not store very well so I reduced the recipe by half to use one egg white only. You do need to make sure that you spread the tuile batter thinly or the cookies will not be delicate and crisp. To make nice even shapes a stencil of some sort can be very helpful. I have used a small kilner jar seal/ring before but a steady hand and careful eye work well too. Watch the baking time very carefully as they change from too pale to too toasty in a blink of an eye.

To serve
Once the panna cotta mixture has set carefully pour a layer of fruit puree on top of the set cream.
The tuiles are best kept in an airtight container until the last minute as they quickly lose crispness. Allow more than one biscuit per person as they are quite delicious and make a nice contrast to the soft cream.

** Gelatine is not the easiest ingredient to work with and you may prefer to use gelatine leaves rather than powder/granulated gelatine. Professional recipes will even state the grade of leaf gelatine required but these are rarely found in supermarkets. I follow a lot of pastry chefs on Twitter and recently saw a post from @mlaiskonis (Michael Laiskonis) where a table to convert one type of gelatine to another was given and this is what he posted:

 Direct link to the post: Sheet/Powder Gelatine conversion
For more information about the We Should Cocoa challenges and to see all of the write ups visit Choclette's blog

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Mango, Maple Pancakes

Just a quick pancake post inspired by one of those never going to ripen supermarket mangoes.

Have you ever felt that buying mangoes in the supermarket is like playing a one arm bandit machine. The eager anticipation that the £1 you spend will at least return itself with a portion of edible mango but experience tells you otherwise. None the less you are drawn on by the once in a blue moon experience where the £1 mango is so good you could have plucked it straight from a tree in Brazil.  Well I have a dud sitting in my fruit bowl that after ten days in a warm kitchen is still no where near ripe.

So in the absence of a desire to make chutney this mango needs a bit of a saute to soften it up and as today is pancake day I have the perfect excuse to get out the frying pans. This inevitably means having to spend at least twenty minutes re-seasoning my cast iron crepe pan that has not been out of the cupboard since last year but it was lovingly brought back from Paris many years ago and I cannot part with it now.

My pancake batter recipe is rather like myself, vague and a tad unreliable, but it basically goes 1 egg, 1 tbs of plain flour and enough milk to get a thin cream consistency, plus a pinch of salt. Whisk like crazy in a jug so that you do not get any lumps, adding the milk gradually. Try not to add too much milk because adding additional flour to a too thin batter is most likely to get very lumpy and you do not want to be frying with a hot pan in a bad mood.

So batter ready, mango hacked into chunks, pans on, serving plates and forks at standby .

I sauteed the mango chunks in a good tablespoon of maple butter which gives them just enough sweetness and the butter will help to caramelise the fruit around the edges as it softens. Try to be brave and cook the mango as you make the pancakes because you want them both ready together if you can.

Ideally make the pancakes thin and lacy, easier said than done. Flip over as soon as you see all the bubbles popping to the top of the surface and cook until just done. Keep turning your mango while you are doing the pancakes, you are aiming for light golden egdes to the pieces of mango.

As soon as you have enough pancakes ready and the mango is soft and golden quickly serve up and eat without interruption, it won't take long, everything can wait. Add cream , maple syrup, or whatever you like!