recipe blog


Receiving our new Kenwood products

We’ve just moved premises and I desperately needed some new equipment for the kitchen. Kenwood has been kind enough to send us some vital pieces.

I don’t know what it is about new kitchen equipment/gadgets/anything that has to do with cooking but I get very excited by it all. If you leave me in a kitchen shop alone with a credit card, it can be very dangerous.
When asked about what I would buy if I won the lottery, I always think “A massive kitchen with all the utensils and all the equipment I’d like”. That’s how bad it is.

food processor

Anyway, I knew I’d get the stuff on Thursday so all week I built up my excitement and on THE day, at 10am, someone knocked at the door… I ran to open the door and it was…. Jehovah’s witnesses. I’m not joking.

The Kenwood stuff arrived a couple of hours later and I got to open the boxes. It felt like Christmas, even though I knew exactly what was in the boxes, I was still very excited.

So we got 3 pieces of the Kmix range. A stand mixer, a hand mixer and a food processor. I’m very familiar with the stand mixer already as I have been using one for the last couple of years (I had to give it back) but I didn’t know anything about the two other products.

hand mixer

What I really like about them is that they are very steady and you get a sense of quality, you can really tell it’s going to last you forever. And they are not just high quality, they look the business too.
They’re designed to stay on your worktop so they’re very “storage efficient” as well. For example, the hand mixer comes with a stand and the food processor comes with suction cups underneath to secure it to the worktop and a bowl to put on the top of it especially designed to fit all the bits and pieces that come with it. It’s really clever.

I had a closer look at the rest of the Kmix range and you can buy all sorts of attachments seperately, especially for the stand mixer. For example there is a pasta machine that can be stuck at the end of the machine…

All their products have been designed so well, they’re incredibly practical and look the part.

Very sadly, I won’t be able to show off the food processor or the hand mixer on my worktop because I have to store them away otherwise I don’t have enough space to cook… I need a bigger kitchen.

attachments

More information about all products can be found at the Kenwood World Website.

Mylène

Which kind of vanilla to use in your recipe

Vanilla is one of those things I take very seriously.
I think I’m a little bit obsessed about it but that’s ok. I used to think about it as a very bland and a bit too safe flavour, something you give to a fussy eater but since a couple of years, I’ve been experimenting a lot and realised that it’s maybe a simple flavour that everybody knows but it can be a very complex one too.

Over the last few months, I’ve been experimenting with it more and more with different recipes and combinations with other flavours. I’m going to tell you what are the big differences between all the commercial forms of vanilla and what I think is the best for your usual recipes.

Vanilla extract

extract

It’s probably the most used form of vanilla in the UK and US. It’s mainly made from alcohol (so you can’t buy it if you’re under the legal age, I know, vanilla extract binge drinking…). I find that even the really good quality ones still tastes fake. I almost never use it but I think the best way to cook with it is to bake it in cookies, combined with other flavours like chocolate and brown sugar.

Vanilla paste

paste

This is the strongest form I’ve used so far. It’s highly concentrated and still has vanilla bean inside. The taste is quite similar to the vanilla extract but tastes a little bit more real. It’s great in cakes. I would use it with care as it can overpower other flavours.

Vanilla powder

powder

This is the form I use the most in my everyday cooking. It’s strong but not as much as the vanilla paste. It’s basically vanilla pods that have been grinded so it’s a mix of seeds and bits of vanilla pod. I put it almost everywhere.
It’s very good value as well, one little pot will last you ages.

Vanilla sugar

sugar

I make my own vanilla sugar with leftover pods that are already scraped, you only need to put them in a container with ordinary sugar. The vanilla will infuse the sugar and the leftover seeds you couldn’t srape properly are going to give loads of flavour too. It’s great sprinkled on pancakes or with my pain perdu recipe. You can use it to bake as well, it just doesn’t have the strength to stand out amongst other flavours.

Vanilla pod

vanilla

I kept the best for last. It is definetly the best form of vanilla to use. If you want a clean vanilla flavour, this is the one to use.
I don’t even combine it with another flavour, I love to put it in custard, ice cream, rice pudding… Something that will really show off the flavour.
I know it’s a luxury as it’s quite pricey but it’s 100% worth it. And don’t forget to make vanilla sugar with your leftovers.

Mylène

Pâte sablée

In France, you can find quite a big range of pre-made pastries in supermarkets.
Most of them are already rolled out in a circle for you and it becomes harder and harder to find a block of pastry to roll in the shape you want.

You can find 3 different sorts of pastry: the “pâte feuilletée” which is puff pastry, the “pâte brisée” which is the equivalent of shortcrust but a bit different (I find it a bit more crispy and buttery) and then you have the “pâte sablée” which translates to “sanded pastry”, that pastry is used for sweet tarts and pies only. It’s very crumbly and buttery and a bit harder to work with as it contains less flour and more sugar than the two others.

I really like the pâte sablée because it gives a really crisp and sweet result, it tastes and looks much more like “French patisseries” than the other pastries.

I have made it myself since a while now. I normally use it for individual little tarts and I’ve used it a couple of times for big ones. The only down side is that it’s harder to work with.
When you actually make the pastry, it looks like cookie dough; it’s very sticky.
You’ll also need to chill it before you use it and the rolling requires a lot of flour on your worktop.

Tip:

If you’re planning to make a large tart, I highly recommend using a loose bottom tin: when you roll out your pastry, take the loose bottom part of the tin and slide it underneath your rolled pastry.
Fold the edges of the pastry inside the edges of the loose bottom and return it to the tin, then you only have to unfold the edges to make the sides. This way your pastry won’t break away too much.

For 500g of pastry or pâte sablée (1 large tart), you’ll need:

– 140g of butter
– 100g of sugar
– 1 egg
– 200g of flour
– 50g of ground almonds
– vanilla powder or extract

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Add the egg and vanilla and mix well.

Add the flour and ground almonds and mix until well combined but do not overwork it otherwise you’ll end up with tough pastry.

Put it in cling film and leave it in the fridge for 1h before using it.

You need to refrigerate it after it’s been rolled out in your tin.

The colder it is before you put it in the oven, the better it is.

If you’re planning on blind baking it, don’t forget to stab it with a fork in the tin and to use baking beans.

This pastry freezes really well. I usually make a lot of it and freeze it in little portions.

For a recipe on our blog using this type of pastry click the image below…

banoffee pie

Mylène

How to make a good sorbet

The last couple of weeks have been so hot that I’ve been craving for sorbet.
I own an ice cream machine but use it rarely because I don’t usually have time to make ice cream or sorbet.

We’re going on holiday in a couple of days so I had to empty the fridge and our perishable food. I happened to have quite a lot of strawberries and cherries. I also had a bottle of limoncello I’ve been waiting to try in recipes since a while. All the omens were there: I had to do a sorbet.

I’ve made sorbets in the past but never really got it right. It was always rock hard or it would melt away after 2 minutes in a cup. So I had a look on-line for advice and found out how easy it is to master a sorbet.

You’ll need a few ingredients (for the measures, I used US cups):

– 3 measures of juice of your choice or fruit puree, relatively thin.

If you’re planning on making a lemon or lime sorbet, use 2 measures of juice and one of water otherwise your sorbet will be too sharp.

– (Sugar Syrup) 1 measure of sugar, boiled until the sugar has disolved, with 1 measure of water

– 2 to 3 tablespoons of a fruity alcohol

First make the sugar syrup and leave it to cool completely.

Pour your fruit juice in a tall and shallow container.
Add an egg to it (a whole egg, still in its shell). This may sound weird but as you add your sugar syrup to the fruit juice, the egg will float to the surface.

Add the syrup little bit by little bit, you may not need the whole quantity.

When the egg floats, it means that the amount of syrup is enough to make your sorbet the right texture.

Add the alcohol, it will help the sorbet not to become rock hard as the alcohol won’t freeze.

Taste your mixture.
It should be slightly too sweet. Once frozen, you’ll taste it less as it’s so cold. Don’t worry if you can taste the booze, I thought I put too much in mine but couldn’t taste any of it once frozen.

sorbet with mint

Mylène

Homemade maltesers

A few months ago, I was looking on the internet for homemade maltersers, I couldn’t find any decent recipes, they all had weird ingredients in and really looked horrid.
It sounds pretty impossible to achieve homemade maltesers as the crunchy middle bit is made industrially and doesn’t seem possible for home cooking, so I was wondering how I could make them.
I nearly dropped the idea when suddenly, out of nowhere, in about 2 seconds, I knew exactly what to do. I think it’s the first time it happened to me, I decided to call it a “food revelation”… Seriously.

My idea was to make tiny little meringues flavoured with malt extract and to cover them with milk chocolate. I know that it sounds really really simple but I haven’t seen it anywhere so I guess it’s too simple for people to think about it.

The finished product is really similar to maltesers, apart from the shape, I just couldn’t get a perfectly round meringue, but I tried my best.

For A LOT of maltesers (but trust me, they go very fast), you’ll need:

– 70g of egg whites (about 2)
– 70g of granulated or caster sugar
– 70g of icing sugar
– 1 tbsp of malt extract
– 200g of good milk chocolate

Whisk the egg whites and as they start to go fluffy, gradually add the granulated sugar.

Keep whisking until firm and glossy. Then add the malt extract, still whisking.

Seive the icing sugar and fold it gently in your meringue. I would usually add a tiny bit of vinegar to make it nice and gooey in the middle but for this recipe, I want a very crispy meringue all the way.

Line a baking tray with baking parchment and pipe tiny little meringues. Make them really small, as once coated with chocolate, they’ll be much bigger.

Put in a oven at 100C. Take them out 1 hour after and let them cool down.

Slowly melt your chocolate and pour it in a tall container like a thin mug or a long glass. This will help you dip the meringues easily.

Take a toothpick and stab the flat bit of you meringue, be delicate with it or it will break. Dip it in the chocolate and let it dry on a tray.
You may need more chocolate, depending on its texture.

I recommend coating them the same day as you bake them as they can get soft after a few hours. The chocolate will make the meringue airtight and stop it from getting soft.

Et voila, enjoy!

Mylène

Malt loaf

I had my first malt loaf about 3 years ago. We don’t have them in France so it was a new thing to try.

I really like it but I’m not a malt loaf addict like I know some people are.
I knew it was time for me to have a go at it, how hard could it be? Well… finding malt extract was quite a long process, I couldn’t find any in supermarkets so headed to my local whole-food shop.
If I understand right, malt extract used to be a sort of horrid supplement that kids use to be obligated to eat (Winnie the Pooh reference there!).

I couldn’t help myself from opening the jar in the car on the way home just to see what the fuss was about. To me, it smells and taste like maltesers, it’s quite nice just to eat it on it’s own.

Don’t expect a malt loaf you might make to be exactly like the commercial ones because they’re not. Mine wasn’t as stodgy and sticky.
After making a malt loaf, you should keep it airtight in a plastic bag for a couple of days to make it go a bit more sticky.

malt

For 2 loaves you’ll need:

– 150ml of hot tea
– 2 eggs
– 85g of brown sugar
– 150g of malt extract
– 25g of black treacle
– 250g of plain flour
– 1tsp of baking powder
– half a tsp of bicarbonate of soda
– 300g of raisins

Preheat your oven at 150C.

Line 2 loaf tins with baking paper.

Pour the malt extract, treacle, sugar and raisins in the hot tea and stir well!

Add the eggs, flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda to the mixture.

Pour the batter in the prepared tins and bake for 50 minutes.

That’s it.

The usual way to eat it is in slices with butter. Toasted it is also very good.

Mylène

Bread therapy

The last couple of weeks have been very busy and very stressful for me. I don’t find many things relaxing because I always have something going on in my head that makes me not relax.
Baths are great but you have to find time for that.

I’ve been making bread since quite a while now and there aren’t many things that relaxes me more than making bread. There is something about it that is different from making cakes or biscuits. I’ve been thinking about it more lately and I think I have at least a few answers.

When you make bread by hand, you knead the dough, you use your physical strengh to do it. All that stressfull energy goes into that and if you’re really in a bad mood, you can do it quite violently, it’s good for the dough anyway.

Bread isn’t like any other baking product that you make-bake-tadaa!, it has to grow, rise for a bit before you get to the next stage, I find it soothing because you don’t rush it. It’s like your little pet dough for the next 3 hours of your day.

When it’s baking, you can really smell the rustic goodness. Bread is a very ancient thing that everybody loves, it was the base of human nutrition for so long that it’s kind of included in us all.

There aren’t many things better than taking your loaf out of the oven when it’s ready. I can’t help myself from saying stupid stuff and doing little silly noises like “Oooohhhhh look at this beauty!!!”. At that precise moment, I’ll tap the loaf, in a “good boy” kind of way.

Last thing is that it makes you feel so much better about yourself once you’ve done it. You’re the king of the jungle, you just made bread!

I’m sorry if this post sounds totally bonkers but trust me, instead of a pamper evening, try the bread evening once instead.

Mylène

Lemon cookies

A few weeks ago, I made some lime biscuits to use up some leftover egg yolks. I had high hopes for them but was very disappointed in the result.
I think it’s only a matter of personal taste as Matthew really loved them. They were crumbly and quite shortbread-like.

I think lime and sweet biscuit/pastry don’t really work for me.

I read about a lemon cookie recipe but wasn’t too sure about it. Although, it won the award for the best cookie in the US so really, I had to try.

The cookies looked really underdone in the pictures so I experimented. I tried to bake one batch for the same length of time as on the recipe and with another batch I baked them for a few minutes longer, until golden, just to see the difference.

My advice is to take them out before they get golden otherwise they are just boring crispy lemon biscuits and don’t have that chewy moist texture.

I’ll definitly make them again, it was a really nice change from chocolate-chip biscuits, a bit fresh and definitely fresher and less sickly.

Next time though, I’ll add more lemon zest to make it stronger.

For 25 chewy lemon biscuits you’ll need:

– 115g of butter
– 200g of sugar
– 1 egg
– 1 tsp of lemon zest
– 1 tbsp of lemon juice
– a pinch of salt
– 1/4 tsp of baking powder
– a pinch of baking soda
– 190g of plain flour
– 75 g of icing sugar

Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy.

Add the egg, lemon juice, zest and salt.
Stir in the flour, baking powder and baking soda.

Make walnut sized balls, toss them in icing sugar, place them on a baking tray.

Cook at 180°C for about 10 minutes.

Leave to cool down and enjoy!

Mylène

Italian meringue macarons

For the first time, I’m going to share a macaron recipe.

It’s been about 2 years since I’ve been able to create good macarons but it hasn’t always been that way.
I rarely use this recipe as I prefer french meringue macarons.

To explain quickly, french meringue macarons are made with egg white whisked with a small amount of sugar to obtain a light but stiff base to then incorporate some icing sugar and ground almonds.
The italian meringue macarons are made by mixing half of the egg white (non whisked) with icing sugar and ground almonds and whisking the other half of the egg whites with hot sugar syrup to make a very stiff, heavy meringue which is then mixed with the almond paste.

Both recipes contain roughly the same amount of ingredients, only the actual method is different.

They also look and taste slightly different: The italian one looks matt and very rounded, with a small “foot” and is fragile and cakey.
The french one looks shiny, with a large foot. They have a slight crunch on the outside and should be chewy inside.

If you’re not a macaron crazy like I am, you may not tell the difference between the two but to me, this is important business.

Here is the recipe and some tips to creating the italian version to perfection.

For about 50 macarons, you’ll need:

– 200g of icing sugar
– 200g of ground almonds
– 2 x 80g of egg whites (4 large egg whites)
– 200g of sugar
– 80ml of water
– food colouring

First, you’ll need to grind the icing sugar and ground almonds together until you get a very thin powder, this will ensure your shells are smooth.
You can do it in a food processor but the almonds will certainly not be fine enough. I use a coffee grinder and it’s perfect. Sieve the powder that you get from doing this.

Heat the sugar and water together and let it reach 110°C.
For this step, it’s highly recommended to use a candy thermometer. If you don’t have one, count 4 minutes from boiling and you should get it right.
Just before your sugar reaches 110°C, start whisking half of your egg whites. Don’t whisk the egg whites until they’re firm otherwise the hot syrup will break them.
Add the sugar syrup, still whisking. Keep going until the meringue is cool.
I recommend using a kitchen robot because it will take a while to cool down.

Meanwhile, add the other half of the egg whites to your powders (almonds & icing sugar) and mix until you get a thick paste. You can colour the mix right now with the colour of your choice.

Always go darker than the shade you want as the meringure will lighten it up a lot.
I recommend using powder colours as they are much stronger than paste or liquid colours. The alternative is to add your colour to the meringue instead.

Fold a bit of the meringue into the almond paste to loosen it up a bit and then fold in the rest of the meringue.

This stage is the trickiest one: when to stop folding. You may have to fold the mixture for a while before getting the perfect consistency. You don’t want an under-mixed batter as it will form peaks and look rough and you don’t want an over-mixed batter as it will be impossible to pipe and never hold it’s shape as a circle.

The batter needs to be runny but not liquid.
If you take a spoonful of mixture, pour it on you worktop, leave it for 1 minutes, you’ll see how it behaves.

Line baking trays with baking paper, fill a piping bag with the mixture and pipe your macarons, this requires practise!

Hit the bottom of the tray to bash the extra air out of the mixture and leave in your dryest room.
If you leave them in your kitchen, they’ll never dry because of the damp air.
This stage may take from 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the weather and the temperature.

When you can very gently touch your macarons without the batter sticking to your finger, they’re ready to go in the oven. 140°C for about 20 minutes.

If you have a gas oven, it will be harder to get perfect macarons as the temperature is usually harder to control than an electric oven.

Take them out after 20 minutes and leave to cool completely before filling them with buttercream, jam, lemon curd, chocolate ganache….

Hope you enjoy the recipe

Mylène

Sesame bars

The other day, I was looking for a recipe using golden syrup. I really love it, it’s one of the proper British thing I enjoy a lot.

Anyway, I was browsing through some recipes and I found a sesame bar recipe.
When I was at school, everybody used to have a snack at the 10 o’clock break, I was one the only one that didn’t have anything to eat…
Luckily, my best friend always used to give me a bit of hers. Her parents were very healthy food orientation-wise so she would always have sesame bars.

I’m sure you know what they are; they’re very small thin bars with 4 or 5 of them in a tiny packet. They’re great for kids because they are just sweet enough for them to enjoy but still good for nutrition.
With high hopes to recreate this vivid childhood taste, I started the recipe…

It’s very simple and quick. When I put all the ingredients together in my tin, I didn’t think it would be good at all, it just looked like a big mess to me.
Well I was wrong (once more)! Once it cools down, it gets really hard, just like the proper stuff.

It was very nice and did meet my expectations. Even if I was happy with it, I’ll try again with honey instead of golden syrup, just to see the difference.

For about 20 bars, you’ll need:

– 200g of sesame seeds
– 125g of oatmeal
– 3tbsp of golden syrup
– 50g of brown sugar
– 4tbsp of vegetable oil

Gently heat the golden syrup in a pan.

Combine the sesame, oatmeal and brown sugar. Add the oil and warm syrup.

Stir until well combined, pour it in a 20 x 30cm tin, previously lined with baking paper.

Bake for 25min at 180C until golden.

Cut while warm as it will get hard when cooled.

sesame bars

Mylène