Crème brûlée

A timeless classic that works so fluently at dinner parties. I’ve been making these for many years, but this is the first time that my little boy Felix has got involved. At his special request, we made Crème brûlée together and adapted the recipe that has been scribbled in my notebook since 2009.

Ingredients:

(makes about 8)

  • 500ml double cream
  • 1 vanilla pod (or 1tsp good vanilla paste)
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 100g caster sugar

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 140°C (non-fan).
  2. Pour the cream into a pan, add the split, scraped and chopped vanilla, and then gently bring to the boil and simmer to infuse.
  3. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until pale and creamy.
  4. Slowly whisk in the hot vanilla infused cream.
  5. Sieve the mixture into ramekins, removing the pieces of vanilla pod, if using.
  6. Place the ramekins into a tray and fill halfway with hot water (Bain marie).
  7. Carefully slide the tray into the oven and cook for 30 minutes.
  8. Allow the brûlée to cool to room temperature. They can now be stored in the fridge until your ready to serve.
  9. Sprinkle a little demerara sugar on top and caramelise with a blow torch or under a hot grill to form a thin, crisp shell.

Alternative flavourings such as pistachio are delicious, and I’ve also tried adding fresh raspberries before baking.

creme brulee or more accurately Crème brûlée

Canelés Bordelais

Summary:

‘Cah-nuh-lay’: Crispy and deeply caramelised on the outside, custardy and gorgeously soft in the middle, canelés are a French pastry from Bordeaux. They’re made from a simple vanilla and rum flavoured batter which is rested overnight and baked in beeswax-lined moulds at two temperatures.

Detail:

The perfect recipe for those looking to put their skills to test in the kitchen. These gorgeous little cakes from Bordeaux formed the basis of my latest culinary adventure.

They’re rarely seen in the UK, and having never actually sampled one before embarking on this personal challenge, I found it particularly fascinating and rather exciting. Given how insanely addictive they are, you’d expect them to be a staple treat, but alas I’ve learnt that they are less than straightforward, and can be a little temperamental. They take a relatively long time to make, don’t keep for long, and require a couple of specialist items in order to transform a simple batter into a glorious delicacy.

NOTE: The quantities in the recipe below will make just 6 canelé – this is intentional, as they need to be eaten on the day of making, you can scale up the recipe as required, and the individual moulds will literally cost you a small fortune. You can however prepare the desired volume of batter and bake them in batches.

Equipment:

For this recipe, you’ll need a couple of extra things which may not feature in the average kitchen:

  • Canelé moulds
  • Beeswax (100% natural)

Ingredients:

(makes 6)
  • 250ml milk
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • splash of vanilla extract or paste
  • 125g golden caster sugar
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 50g plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp dark rum

Method:

  1. Start by placing the milk, butter and vanilla in a pan over a low heat until combined, before setting aside to cool slightly and infuse.
  2. Whisk the eggs and sugar together until pale and creamy. (I use a stand mixer with a balloon whisk).
  3. Sift in the flour with a tiny pinch of salt.
  4. Slowly whisk in the cooled milk mixture, followed by the rum.
  5. Seal the batter in an airtight container and refrigerate for 24-48 hours to let it rest and relax.
  6. To prepare the moulds, melt 40g beeswax and 60g butter together in a microwave (or pan).
  7. Carefully fill the first canelé mould to the top with the liquid beeswax and butter mix, and then quickly pour it out into the next mould, before placing it upside down on a drying rack. Continue until all of your moulds are lined with a thin layer of wax.
  8. Place a tray into the oven and preheat it to 230°C (non-fan).
  9. Remove the batter from the fridge and give it a quick mix or shake to recombine.
  10. Fill the moulds, leaving a 10mm gap at the top. You can weigh them to ensure consistency – My filled moulds weigh 110g.
  11. Bake at 230°C for 10 minutes.
  12. Without opening the oven door, turn it down to 160°C (non-fan) and cook for a further 60 minutes.
  13. Place the canelés on a rack to cool down for at least 15 minutes before turning out.

Canelés Bordelais

Notes:

You may find that you need to adjust the temperatures and timing slightly to suit your oven – they are perhaps one of the most temperamental things I’ve made to date. You’re looking for a clearly defined and deeply caramelised shell.

Note that the beeswax and butter mix is enough to line a lot of moulds, but it can be stored in a fridge until needed again. If you’re using a modern silicone canelé moulds, you may not need to line them at all, however the final result will be different and less amazing.

Tartiflette

Food of the mountains. This classic dish from the Savoyard is a staple skiing lunch. Heavy, unctuous, comforting and warming to the core.

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 500g potatoes, peeled
  • 150g lardons / ham  
  • 2 banana shallots, sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, sliced
  • ½ tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 250g Reblochon cheese, sliced 
  • 75ml white wine
  • 100ml double cream

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 200°C. 
  2. Parboil the potatoes in salted boiling water until just tender (7-10 mins) and drain. 
  3. Fry the lardons, shallots and garlic until golden.
  4. Add the white wine and deglaze the pan.
  5. Slice the potatoes (~5mm) and layer into a gratin dish with the onion, garlic and lardon mix. 
  6. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Pour over the double cream. 
  8. Scatter with thyme leaves.
  9. Layer the Reblochon slices over the top.
  10. Bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese is golden-brown and bubbling.
  11. Serve with lambs lettuce and crusty baguette.
Reblochon cheese from France.
tartiflette gratin

Scalded Rye Sourdough

A dark, dense, moreish loaf that will sit so stoically supporting your avocado and eggs or cream cheese, dill and luscious cured salmon.

Ingredients

  • 375g leaven (recently fed sourdough starter)
  • 375g boiling water
  • 500g organic dark rye flour
  • 12g fine salt
  • 30g black treacle

Method

This recipe starts with your sourdough starter, which you can make using this recipe HERE if you don’t already have one. The night before your bake, refresh your starter and feed it with equal quantities of flour and water to make up your 375g leaven.

I make this bread using a stand mixer (trusty Kitchenaid) with a dough hook, as it’s particularly sticky and difficult to handle.

  1. Pour the hot water over the rye flour, mix together, cover with a shower cap or damp tea towel, and leave to autolyse for 4 hours.
  2. Add the leaven, treacle and salt.
  3. Mix/knead for 10 minutes.
  4. Cover and leave to proof for 4 hours.
  5. Heavily flour a material-lined banneton basket.
  6. Tip your dough out, squash it all together and pop it into the banneton with the help of a dough-scraper.
  7. Cover the basket and leave it to proof for another 4 hours.
  8. Preheat your oven and baking stone or dutch oven if using, to 250°C.
  9. Bake at 180°C for 1 hour.
  10. Remove your bread and leave it to cool on a wire rack.

This bread will improve in flavour if given a couple of days to mature.

Homemade Russian scalded rye sourdough bread

Guyanese Black Cake

All of a sudden we’re in November and it’s time to start letting ourselves dream about Christmas, even though the global pandemic has everyone rather worried about just how the festive season is going to pan out. At least this is one thing you can control and look forward to enjoying.

The Black Cake is a traditional Christmas treat in Guyana. To ensure this Caribbean fruit cake is rich, moist and delicious, it needs plenty of time to develop and mature. The best time to start making yours is in the first week of November.

Ingredients

  • 700g mixed fruit
  • 50g mixed peel
  • 100g Brazil nuts 
  • 300ml dark rum (plus extra for feeding/drinking)
  • 225g Demerara sugar
  • 225g unsalted butter
  • 6 eggs
  • 6 tbsp black treacle
  • 225g plain flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp mixed spice (blend of cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg) 

Method

1. Preheat your oven to 150°C.

2. Briefly blitz the mixed fruit, peel and nuts in a food processor.

3. Transfer the mix to a bowl and pour over 150ml of rum, cover and leave overnight to soak.

4. Line a 20cm square cake tin.

5. Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy and pale, and then add in the eggs one at a time. 

6. Stir in the treacle and the soaked fruit mix. 

7. Sift in the flour, spice and baking powder, folding through until you have an even consistency.  

8. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 2 hours. 

9. Before the cake cools completely, poke holes into the top with a skewer and pour over 150ml of rum. 

10. Once cool, store the cake in an airtight container. 

11. Feed your cake occasionally (weekly) by pouring over more rum.

12. Before Christmas, finish the cake in the traditional way by adding a thick layer of marzipan, dried tropical fruits and nuts, and an apricot glaze. Alternatively, you can brush the cake with an apricot glaze and then layer with marzipan and royal icing as shown below.

Guyanese black cake - a rich, dense fruit cake as a Christmas cake