Archive | January 2015

Pecan slices – nutty deliciousness from the Deep south

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When I started making these for the market in Dorset, I really didn’t they would go down well. Pecans are not particularly popular here or even that easy to find.  I really got it wrong – they went down like the proverbial hot things. The joy of syrupy custard poured over chopped pecans, nestled in sweet pastry really is universal.

Here is the recipe that I found to be best after a fair amount of trial and error.  The errors were when the liquid filling just ran over the edge of the pastry and glued itself like concrete to the tin. Others where when I failed to move the tin round and so the mixture rose very unevenly – fortunately those errors were entirely eatable. The trick is to make the base with ‘sides’ that hold the pecan/syrup custard for the first fifteen minutes of cooking, rather than letting it sink into the pastry. Some recipes were too thin on the filling, others too syrupy. I think this one is just about right. Be aware that pecans rise during the baking and the filling rises amazingly but sinks back down as the bake cools down.

I chop the pecans as this makes it easier to cut into slices – I don’t aim for pecan halves arranged with military precision on the top. If you were making this for a dinner party ( do people still have those?) or to have on a table for a party- then you could try that in a circular dish. If I ever get the motivation I will post a picture on the blog!

 

 

Recipe

you will need a 23 sq cm/ 9″ baking tin ( or equivalent) . Even if it is non-stick line it with non-stick baking paper.

Ingredients

Pastry

175g/6oz plain flour (extra for dusting)

125g/4½oz cold unsalted butter

25g/1oz caster sugar

1 egg yolk

approx 1 tbsp. cold water

Filling

1¾ cups/10oz./285 gm pecans coarsely chopped

2 large eggs slightly beaten

1 cup/8 fl oz light syrup ( golden syrup or maple are fine)

¼ cup /2 oz. /48 gm. soft brown sugar (if you don’t have any in the cupboard then other sugars work pretty well)

1 tbsp molasses ( this is more essential – it adds depth of flavour and colour)

2 tbsp/1 oz./28 gm. melted butter

2 tbsp flour ( plain/all purpose)

¼ tbsp salt

1 tbsp vanilla essence

( slug of Bourbon – entirely optional but very authentic. I’ve never used it as that too is hard to find!)

Method

Pastry

  • Sift the flour into a bowl and rub it into the butter with fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. ( you can do this with a mixer if you prefer)
  • Stir in the sugar, then mix the egg yolk with the water and stir into the crumb-like mix and stir it to make a fine dough.
  • Wrap in cling-film and put in the fridge to chill for 20 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 200ºC/350ºF/Gas Mark 6
  • Roll out the pastry on a floured counter until it is big enough to line the tin with a side elevation of ¾” approx. Patch any holes that form while you are trying to lift the pastry into the tine. This pastry is very forgiving !
  • Prick the base all over with a fork. Use the fork  vertically to make a pattern all round the sides – this helps to grip the liquid filling.
  • Bake as it is for 10 minutes in the hot oven. Remove and leave to cool while you prepare the filling.
  • Lower the oven to 375ºF/190ºC/Gas Mark 5.

 

Filling

  • Spread the pecans across the bottom of the cooled pastry case.
  • Mix the remaining ingredients ( no need for a mixer here – just beat well in a large bowl using a wooden spoon/spatula) Beat together really hard and you will find the mixture becomes quite light and malleable. Addind beaten egg to syrup does make it much easier to handle – some scientific reason for sure!
  •  Have the oven door open before you go any further – this is a very liquid mixture at this point.
  • Gently pour the filling into the pastry container – do not overfill as it will seep down the sides. Gently place the whole thing into the oven and close the door.
  • Bake at a constant temperature for approx. 30 mins. or until the filling has set firm. Check once or twice and move the tin round if you need to. This is to ensure an even rise.
  • When the pie is cooling, it will sink down and the pecans will be on the surface.

Makes 16 finger sized slices – they shouldn’t last very long as they are so addictive. Eat with ice-cream or whipped cream and if you didn’t add any bourbon you could do it at the eating stage!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ginger meets chocolate – Florentine specials.

P1030458P1030456Ginger and cranberry Floretines

I was looking for a way to combine my love of making Florentines with my equally strong need to use ginger in almost everything!  I decided that although my instincts tell me ‘dark chocolate is best’ – in this case I decided to plump for the milky variety and certainly my friends and family seemed to agree.

So here is what I produced for Christmas this year – though any time is the right time. I think they would make a welcome gift for friends as the next ‘chocolate’ time arrives in early April! The crispy caramel base mixed with the slightly tangy taste of ginger and the fresh vibrancy of cranberries – all based on the best milk chocolate and almonds just to hold it all together! Anyway – aren’t cranberries supposed to be actually good for you? Or maybe this was a marketing ploy?

MILK CHOCOLATE FLORENTINES WITH GINGER AND CRANBERRIES ( 25-30 Florentines depending on size)

Ingredients

50g/2 oz/4tbsp. dried cranberries

100g/40z/½ cup sultanas

50g/2 0z/4 tbsp. chopped crystallized ginger

200g/80z/1cup flaked almonds

50g/2.5 oz./½ cup plain flour

120g/4 oz/1 stick butter

160g/5 oz /¾ cup caster sugar

200g/8 oz good quality milk chocolate.

50ml/1.6 fl oz single cream/creme fraiche/soured cream

5 cm round cookie cutter(optional)

3 baking trays covered in non-stick parchment.

Method

1. Preheat oven to 170ºC/325F/Gas mark 3

2.Place the chopped cranberries, sultanas and flaked almonds in a bowl along with the chopped ginger. Remember at all times that these quantities are my preference- they are not set in stone. If you like more ginger or fewer cranberrries or if you even want to add candied peel ( ugh! my pet hate!) – then go for it!

3. In a saucepan over a low heat – melt the butter and the sugar. Remove from the heat and then stir in the cream. Make sure it is well blended and then add to the dry ingredients. Stir with a spatula until they are evenly blended.

4. Place tablespoonfuls of the mixture on one of the baking sheets. I normally find 5 spoonfuls is about the right number to allow for spreading. Press them down as you put them on the tray to encourage the spead!

5. Bake for approx 15-20 mins. If you have an oven that bakes more quickly in one position, you may need to turn them round. Use the cookie cutter to keep them in a circular shape if they seem to be spreading to one side.

6. When they look a glorious dark golden colour – you can lift the tray out of the oven and allow them to cool. Transfer to a wire rack once they are really cool. Repeat this procedure until they are all baked. if you choose to make smaller Florentines then remember they will need a few minutes less in the oven.

7. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over barely simmering water ( do not let the base of the bowl touch the water). You could also melt using the microwave at medium heat for approx 90 seconds – take out and stir mid-way.  Remove chocolate from the heat and stir until it has reached spreading consistency.

8. Brush the underside of each Florentine with the melted chocolate and leave to set on a wire rack. If necessary, pop them into the fridge to aid the setting process.

They probably keep for around 10 days in an airtight box.

Just enjoy the making/baking and consuming!