Sunday, 28 April 2013

Caramelised Onion Tart with Cherry Tomatoes and Balsamic

Another of my favourites, easily adjusted to suit. It's a robust tart which serves 4 to 6 depending on appetites, and is very good at room temperature, too.

A sheet of ready-made short pastry can be used, rolled out a little more thinly maybe, or it can be made by rubbing in 90g softened butter and 130g plain flour then drawing into a dough with a little water. The tart in this picture had a base of ready-made puff pastry, rolled out very thinly.

Total time needed is about 35 minutes to prepare, then 35 minutes to bake. I use a flan dish diameter 21cm, lined with a circle of parchment. The oven should be at 160C, middle shelf, but need not be switched on until you get to state 3 of the method.

Caramelised Onion Tart with Cherry tomatoes and Balsamic

220g approx of short pastry (otherwise puff pastry)
2 tbsp oil (preferably rapeseed or olive)
knob of butter
600g onions (6-7 medium) peeled and coarsely chopped - looks a lot but they reduce on 
2 level tbsp soft dark brown sugar
2 tbsp dark balsamic vinegar
2 medium eggs
120m cream - single or double
3 tbsp chopped fresh herbs - thyme, basil or rosemary
30g grated Cheddar cheese
6 cherry tomatoes, halved

1  Roll out the pastry very thinly to a circle 4cm larger in diameter than the flan dish, then
          place carefully and centrally in the lined dish so the base and sides are covered. 
          Run a knife around the rim of the dish to trim the pastry.
2  Melt the butter with the oil in a large pan, and fry the onions gently for 15 mins, stirring
3  Add the sugar and vinegar and cook for a further 8-10 mins until thickened. Use kitchen
          paper to mop up any remaining liquid.
4  Meanwhile, beat the eggs lightly, then use a pastry brush to put a very thin wash of egg 
          on the pastry to help seal it.
5  Place the flan dish in the oven just for 4 minutes. Add the cream, herbs and cheese to 
          the eggs and mix well.
6  Remove the dish from the oven and pile in the onions, spreading evenly. Pour the egg
          mixture over the onions, again spreading the components evenly. Place the tomato
          halves evenly around the edge, then bake for around 30 mins or until the top is
          browned. Remove from the oven, then leave for 5 mins before serving.

Accompaniments could include baby potatoes, tenderstem broccoli, buttered carrots, or whole green beans. A dry white wine goes really well, or a dry cider, otherwise perhaps apple juice.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Guilty Baking Secret

When I first made the Crunchy Pawprint Biscuits (see two posts previously), I unintentionally allowed the butter to melt in the microwave rather than just soften. Carried on with the recipe and all was well.

Same mistake when making the second, larger batch of Cranberry and Currant Scones (previous post). In this and similar recipes, method says to rub the butter into the flour until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. I find 'rubbing in' unrewarding, and since the butter had already melted ... The flour/butter mixture was slightly damp so I added a little more flour and carried on with the method. The baked scones were excellent, so I think my rubbing-in days might be over.

I can only hope that no professional chefs read this.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

More Baking: Cranberry & Currant Scones

Yes, there are plenty of scone recipes around. Some I've tried didn't rise properly, others were dry, but this is my final version which has been, er, well received! They keep well in the freezer too.

Quantities and types of dried fruit can, of course, be altered, for example using sultanas instead of currants or all cranberries, but the recipe here has gone into my Special Folder for those that are definite keepers. The relative amounts of flour and milk work for the types I buy (organic plain flour and semi-skimmed organic milk), but if others are used they may need adjusting to make the dough doughy, not too sticky and not too dry.

The recipe makes about ten scones. A baking tray is used, preferably lined with parchment, and the oven should be at 175C, middle shelf. My preferred cutter is labelled 58mm diameter, but of course a little smaller or larger should work. (For larger ones, I've tried double the recipe and a 68mm cutter and this made 16 really excellent scones.)

Cranberry & Currant Scones

230g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
75g very soft or just melted butter
30g caster sugar
40g dried cranberries, snipped in half if large
50g currants
1 egg, lightly beaten
80ml milk

1  Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl.
2  Rub in the butter with fingertips until the mixture has the look of breadcrumbs.
3  Stir in the sugar and dried fruit.
4  Add the egg and milk and gently work into a dough with hands or dough hooks just until
          it forms a single piece.
5  Place the dough on a floured board, pat down gently to about 25mm deep, then smooth
          over. Cut out the rounds, then pull together the left over dough and repeat.
6  Put the rounds onto the baking tray, brush lightly with a little milk, and bake for 12-14 
          minutes until risen and golden but without allowing the currants to char.

Traditionally these are served with butter, clotted (or whipped double) cream and strawberry jam. A nice change, though, is marmalade or another red jam, and I don't feel cream is necessary. Talking of changes, instead of the dried fruit I plan next to try finely grated lemon zest and a teaspoon of lemon essence, or chopped dried apricots and pistachios. Or blueberries. 

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

A Bit of Baking - Crunchy Pawprint Biscuits

For a change, a quick piece about my favourite biscuit recipe. These remind me of the prints left on soft surfaces by cats, hence the name. The recipe is based on, and adapted from, one from Biscuits by Miranda Gore Browne, although the name is my own.
The quantities given make about 20-22 biscuits. Preparation takes 15-20 minutes, and baking 12-15. It's easy to manage, and needs no 'rubbing in' of butter with flour. The oven will need to be at 175C, and two baking trays should be ready, lined with parchment.

Pawprint Crunchy Biscuits

160g butter, warmed until just melting
160g caster sugar
Half teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg, beaten lightly
150g plain flour plus a separate teaspoonful
35g desiccated coconut
75g jam (strawberry is good) or marmalade
Not the best pic, but there were only
these two left by the time I took it!
1  Put the butter, sugar and vanilla extract into a medium bowl and beat well until mixed
          to a very even consistency.
2  While still beating the mixture, add in the egg. Stir in the 150g of flour and coconut and
          mix to a soft, sticky dough. If it's very wet, mix in another level tablespoon of flour.
3  Place balls of the dough (about the size of a walnut in its shell) well apart on the baking
4  Dipping your thumb into the extra flour each time (to avoid sticking), make a deep dent 
          in each ball, then fill the dents with the jam or marmalade.
5  Bake for 12-15 minutes until the biscuits are golden - keep an eye on them because
          they will quickly overcook around the edges. 
6  Once cold, keep any left over in a tin - they last well like that.