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Posts Tagged ‘cinnamon

Bad marketing

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In a stroke of Mad Men-esque genius, someone, somewhere, sometime ago, came up with the idea that a biscuit containing oats and a few whole grains could be called a granola bar, and marketed as a healthy alternative to biscuits, a healthy snack to eat on the go or even replace your breakfast with. Inspired. Despite having the same saturated fat, pure sugar and sodium levels as your average jammy dodger, in today’s health-conscious world granola bars, with their grainy texture and angelic connotations have become the go-to snack in a rush, the thing to keep in your handbag for when you’re hungry and in a rush.

These biscuits are my version of granola bars. Only I’ll cut out all the marketing and give it to your straight. They’re biscuits. They are made with butter and sugar, and yes there are oats and apple chunks in there but alas that still doesn’t make them health foods (though I reckon they contribute at least half to your 5-a-day). That said, made yourself I suspect these would work out a lot cheaper than a box of fancy health-benefit-claiming bars too. They’re really quick to make and last long enough you can have one in your lunchbox every day this week.

Apple, cinnamon and oat biscuits
Adapted slightly from Joy the Baker

As has almost become second nature now when making recipes from U.S. sources I have reduced the sugar somewhat. I have a sweet tooth, but I like my biscuits to taste of something other than sugar. These are still sweet, just not sickly.

1/2 stick butter, room temperature
1/3 cup golden granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup gf flour blend
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 cup gf oats
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 medium apple
1 teaspoon lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 180 C.

2. Cream the butter and the sugar together until pale and creamy. Stir in the vanilla extract and beaten egg.

3. Stir the gf flour blend, xanthan gum, oats, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon together. Fold these into the butter and sugar mix.

4. Peel, core and dice the apple. Toss with the lemon juice to prevent it from browning (even in the oven) and stir this into the batter. Chill batter in the fridge for 15 minutes.

5. Using a tablespoon drop scoops of the batter onto a parchment-lined baking sheet about an inch or two apart, as they will spread a bit. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes, or until going lightly brown at the edges.

Makes 10-12.

Written by guffblog

10th January 2011 at 19:25

Posted in Biscuits

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Perfect parfait

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If you read that in French it reads perfect perfect. Actually, since the first word is English it probably reads more like “garble perfect”. Ok, perhaps I should stick to my language instead of trying pun in other peoples’…

Over the summer I had the opportunity to spend five hours in a kitchen with a real-life chef, who owned her own restaurant for eight years. It was a fairly cool, if slightly scary experience (she frowned when I tasted the sauce by dipping my finger in it. Apparently in top restaurants they have these hygiene rules that mean you have to use a spoon. Urgh.) During this time, besides learning how to make a huge selection of dishes, mayonnaise and Hollandaise from scratch (one is basically a cooked version of the other), a really good tomato sauce (use butter. Lots and lots of it) I also learned how to make a parfait.

I’ve never really been into making frozen desserts at home, partly because I don’t have an ice cream maker, which I thought was a fairly crucial tool for such delights, and partly because I don’t have the space in my freezer. Not to mention that desserts consisting of double cream and egg yolks are not a sensible thing to have lying around in large quantities. However, it turns out parfaits are really easy to make, you don’t need any special equipment (except maybe an electric whisk and, as discussed, I’m not such a fan of them anyway) and you can freeze them in individual moulds so you only eat one. At a time.

The basic recipe for parfait is very simple, egg yolks whisked with sugar and a little alcohol (this helps to make the parfait softer once it’s frozen), with whipped cream and some fruit or other flavouring of your choice. The higher the water content of the fruit, the more alcohol you need to soften the parfait, or you could add some melted white chocolate, to increase the fat content and stop it setting so firm. The flavour combinations you could go for are basically limitless. Having bought a bag of beautiful cranberries, only to discover they are far too sour to eat out of hand (um, is this common knowledge?) So i turned these into a lovely cranberry sauce/jelly-type affair, some of which I used to flavour the parfait, and some of which was served with the parfait. I decided to use some cointreau as well, to give it a nice cranberry orange flavour, and since it was for a dinner party I smartened the whole thing up with some cinnamon tuiles (as far as I can tell, they’re just really, really thin biscuits). All the components can be made in advance so it’s ideal for parties when you have more than enough other things to be worrying about.

Cranberry-orange parfait with cranberry jelly and cinnamon tuile

This was a pretty flawless dessert, if I do say so myself. The one thing I would change next time is to sieve the cranberry jelly before it sets. Although as a rule I despise passing things through sieves since it is tedious, time-consuming and essentially pointless as chances are what you’re discarding is edible, it would make a big difference here. Though I’m sure most of the goodness in cranberries is in their skin, the skins roll up and add a slightly spiky texture to the jelly otherwise. Obviously if you’re not a perfectionist, don’t bother. It tastes just fine with the skins in.

Cranberry jelly

300g fresh or frozen cranberries
120g white sugar
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

3 egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon cointreau
250ml double or whipping cream
2-3 tablespoons cranberry sauce

1. To make the jelly put the cranberries, sugar, water and lemon juice in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook on a high heat, without a lid, for about 15 minutes, or until the cranberries are soft and bursting out of their skins. The harder you boil the mixture, the firmer it will set. Using an immersion blender puree the mixture. Quickly push the sauce through a sieve to remove the cranberry skins and then set aside to cool.

2. In a large bowl whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cointreau until very pale in colour and foamy. In a medium bowl, with a clean whisk, whisk the cream until stiff peaks form. Gently fold in 2-3 tablespoons of the cranberry jelly, depending on how strong a flavour you want. You can also swirl this in instead, to achieve a marbling effect.

3. A couple of spoons at a time fold the cranberry/cream mixture into the egg yolks. When done, divide the mixture between 4 ramekins. Cover with clingfilm and freeze for at least 2 hours, or until required.

Makes 4 0.2l ramekins, and plenty of leftover cranberry jelly.

To serve, remove the parfaits from the freezer. Run a knife (nothing too sharp) around the edges of the ramekin and up-end each parfait on a small serving plate. Spoon some of the spare cranberry jelly on, or to the side of the parfait and garnish with a cinnamon tuile.

Cinnamon tuiles

Adapted from AP – and this is a lesson in why you should use recipes from a reputable source, since they clearly tested this recipe exactly zero times. Eight egg whites and two cups of flour produces 36 teaspoon-sized pieces of dough, WTF? However, adapted to make something completely different, and generally ignoring most of the quantities this recipe produced some great tuiles. So that’s ok.

2 egg whites
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup gf flour blend
Pinch salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons (27g) melted butter
1 tablespoon double cream

1. Preheat oven to 190 C.

2. In a large bowl whisk the egg whites with the sugar until soft peaks form. Fold in the gf flour, salt and cinnamon very gently. Add the cream and cooled melted butter and stir just until mixed.

3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Drop 2 tablespoons of the mixture onto the sheet and spread into a very thin layer using an offset spatula. Add another tablespoon of mixture if necessary, but the tuiles should be fine enough you can almost see through them. When the mixture has been evenly smoothed out pop in the preheated oven for 5 minutes, until the edges are just beginning to turn brown, and the centre is almost set.

4. Remove the pan from the oven and working quickly, using a cookie cutter cut out circles from the tuile. Don’t worry about lifting them off the baking sheet just yet, just make sure you have cut all the way through the tuile (it’ll be quite sticky) and through to the paper. Then leave the sheet to cool on a wire rack. Once cool you should be able to lift the tuiles off the sheet with a knife. If the circles have extra bits of tuile still clinging to them these should snap off readily.

5. If you’re not using the tuiles straight away pack them away very carefully between layers of greaseproof paper. Be careful as they will be very fragile. The irregular bits of tuile left over can be eaten straight up, or used to decorate desserts.

Makes at least 6 or 7 baking sheets of tuile, and each baking sheet gave me 10 complete circles (though some snapped). If you have enough tuiles then pour the remaining mixture onto a lined baking sheet so it’s half an inch thick and bake for 10 minutes, until set in the middle. Cut this into little finger biscuits and serve with tea, coffee, or ice cream.

Written by guffblog

9th December 2010 at 19:29

Cinnamon love

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A couple of weeks ago I went out to an Italian restaurant. For most people this would be a fairly ordinary statement, but it’s generally not the favoured cuisine for coeliacs, it has to be said. However, a friend was in town and we needed a quick bite, and this place offered canteen-style food at reasonable prices. Canteen food √† l’Italian consists mainly of amazing looking pizzas cut into large slices. Maybe 20 different types, round, square, thick crust, thin crust, meaty, veggie, all smelling divine. All off the menu for me. Fortunately for my stomach and my sanity there was also a large selection of salads to choose from. I plumped for a pumpkin salad, expecting it to be bland but fairly filling. To my surprise though, it wowed me. To the extent that I almost forgot, momentarily, about the amazing pizzas surrounding me. The pumpkin was coated in cinnamon and the taste combination was truly awesome. But the salad wasn’t sweet. Far from it, it was drizzled generously in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, with peppery rocket to balance the sweetness of the pumpkin, and creamy ricotta chunks to add protein. The result was so delicious I vowed to make it myself at home.

Such an opportunity presented itself last week in the form of a Halloween party and eight large pumpkins; cue plenty of pumpkin-heavy meals. But unlike some pumpkin recipes that seem to be generally heavy, or too spicy or sweet, this is a perfectly balanced salad. It was all cold in the restaurant but I decided to add a little warmth by throwing the pumpkin in with the other ingredients fresh from the oven. As a result the cheese started to melt ever so slightly and the greens wilted, but it somehow seemed more filling warm than cold. In terms of ease of throwing together this scores a 1 on whatever scale you’re using, and a big batch can be turned into a cold lunch the day after. What’s not to love?

Pumpkin and feta salad
I ditched the vinegar here as the feta is sour enough on its own. If you use ricotta or another soft cheese instead, maybe mozzarella, then add some balsamic vinegar to the dressing to pep it up a little.

400g raw pumpkin, peeled and chopped into 1-2″ cubes
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
200g feta, cubed
100g spinach, or other leafy green

1. Preheat the oven to 200 C.

2. On a baking tray toss the pumpkin with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the cinnamon. Bake in the oven for half an hour or until the pumpkin is soft and slightly crispy round the edges.

3. Toast the almonds for a couple of minutes in a frying pan over a medium heat until starting to brown. Tip into a large bowl with the feta and green leaves. Season with salt and pepper and toss well.

4. Remove the pumpkin from the oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes. Add to the bowl with another tablespoon of olive oil and toss again and serve.

Serves 2. If you want to serve the salad cold leave the pumpkin to cool entirely before mixing with the cold ingredients.

Written by guffblog

7th November 2010 at 18:22

Posted in Salad

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