To celebrate Easter (which lasts for eight days starting Easter Sunday), we have decided to bring you a delectable hybrid which we all calling the Krofrit.  The Cronut, as trademarked by Dominique Ansel, is now a pastry in its own right, and a popular one at that.  When the bakery was closed down recently due to a mouse problem, it made it into the news all over the world.  We have decided to call our hybrid a Krofrit, simply because when Mishka first heard the word Cronut she thought it had something to do with being nuts about Croatia.  We have taken the Croatian words for croissant and doughnut, kroasan and fritule to make the word krofrit.  There is no historical justification for this that we know of.  While the Croats may be responsible for the quintessentially French cravate, most of the evidence suggests that the quintessentially French croissant has more of an Austrian origin.  You can read all about the history of the croissant in Jim Chevallier's book, August Zang and the French Croissant.

Krofrits are very simple to make if you know how to make croissants.  Instead of cutting out triangles and rolling them, you cut out rounds and fry them.  If you've never made croissants, this recipe (which has lots of nice photos to help you along) will make enough dough for a dozen krofrits and the next morning's breakfast croissants.  (To make croissants for the next day, bake for 18 minutes, cool, set aside in an airtight container, and bake again the next morning for another 15-18 minutes.)
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There are two things to keep in mind when cutting out your krofrits.  First, size.  We used an eight centimetre diameter cutter.  If you want a larger krofrit, you may want to consider putting a hole in the centre to ensure it cooks all the way through.  Secondly, do not be tempted to use a crinkled edge to make the krofrit prettier.  We tried this.  It doesn't work.  It impedes the dough from rising.  The dough needs to rise (as pictured above) for two hours or so.  Otherwise, your krofrit will look rather flat.  It'll still be tasty, but it's not the best result.

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When you fry your krofrits use an oil that won't smoke, such as a vegetable oil.  It'll need to be at least an inch deep.  Use a bit of leftover pastry to check it's the right temperature - if it doesn't bubble around the pastry it's not hot enough.  It shouldn't brown immediately either - if it does, lower the temperature.

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When cooked, the krofrit should be a golden brown.  The top will look like a doughnut, the sides will have layers like a croissant. Drain on kitchen towel, then dust with cinnamon sugar.

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Krofrits are perfectly delicious unfilled but when filled they are arguably divine.

Part of the fun of krofrits is creating a personal filling, but to get you started here is Mishka's current favourite, a quick pregnancy-friendly chocolate mousse with morello cherries.  (You should have enough left over for dessert the next evening.)

Mousse filling:

Whip 600ml of cream, add a 395g can of condensed milk, French cocoa according to taste (approximately 1/2 cup), and beat until combined.  Mix in a jar of strained and pitted morello cherries (pre-soaked in brandy if you like).

When cool, cut your krofits in half and sandwich the mousse with them.

The krofrit can be topped with whipped cream or fondant, but one easy option is to merely combine icing mixture and water to make an icing that is doesn't run at room temperature.  Warm it up in the microwave to flavour or colour it - we used a tablespoon of the cherry juice to kill two birds with one stone - and dribble it over your krofrit.  

Bon appetit, or - as the Croatians say - dobar tek!
 
 
It is commonly said that the first recorded reference to a fritter is by Samuel Pepys  in 1665.  He does mention eating fritters on Shrove Tuesday, but this is certainly not the first mention of fritters.  Indeed, this famous diary entry of Pepys is predated by a fifteenth century manuscript which details a recipe for apple "fryturs" (and features other recipes for "Gentyll manly Cokere", "copyd of the Sergent to the kyng").  Coincidentally, the manuscript is housed in the Pepys Library of Magdalene College, at the University of Cambridge and is known as MS Pepys 1047.
You can read a transcription and translation at Gode Cookery.

We have adapted this recipe for the modern cook and hope you will enjoy these fritters as much as Samuel Pepys did.  The batter is what makes them exceptional, and we suggest you try making other types of fritter with it.  If you have any batter left over, simply fry it up like a pancake and sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon sugar.  Cook's spoils!

Ingredients
400ml light ale
1 tsp dried yeast
250g spelt rye flour (or substitute)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 ground cloves
pinch salt
pinch mace
pinch nutmeg
100g unsalted butter
5 egg yolks
1.5 kg sweet eating apples

castor sugar and cinnamon for dusting
beef dripping (or lard) for frying

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Warm the ale to blood temperature and add the yeast.  Mix the salt and spices into the flour, then rub in the butter.  It will resemble wet sand but smell delicious.

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Beat in the egg yolks, then the ale, to make a batter.  Resist the tantalising aroma (which should momentarily transport you into the fifteenth century if you close your eyes), and let it stand an hour or so.


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Peel and core the apples, then slice them into rings (no more than 1cm thick) and coat them in the batter.  Fry the apple rings over moderate heat on both sides until golden brown.  Toss in cinnamon sugar and serve.

 
 
For those of us 'down under', the traditional Christmas pudding is often too heavy for a hot summer's day.  The summer pudding has become a firm favourite, but in our opinion it lacks a little Christmas spirit.  So, if you're still in a dither about a dessert for any of the twelve days of Christmas, we recommend our Tasmanian version.

Ingredients:

fruit loaf
2 apples
handful of cherries (halved and pitted)
1kg mixed berries
1 tsp mixed spice
150g raw castor sugar
3 tsp plum jam

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You'll need to cut seven or so slices from your fruit loaf if you've baked your own.  (We used Mishka's hot cross bun recipe as the basis... which leaves a third of a loaf for the cook's morning tea.)

Peel, core, and dice your apples.  Place them in a saucepan with the sugar, jam, spice, and a couple tablespoons of water.  Bring to a boil for a few minutes, then add the cherries, followed by the mixed berries.  Take it off the heat as soon as it begins to simmer.
Line a pudding bowl with cling wrap.

Drain the fruit so that you have the juice in a separate deep plate.  Dip the slices of bread in the juice very briefly and line the pudding bowl, filling the gaps as necessary.  Pour in the drained fruit, then top with more bread.  Cover with cling wrap and place a plate on top.  Refrigerate until ready, at which time invert onto a serving plate.  Serve with cream whipped with brandy and icing sugar.

Merry Christmas from
the Historian and the Chef!

 

Regency Moon Cakes

12/12/2013

 
An intriguing message on our Facebook page earlier this year provided the impetus for this recipe.

The communication read:


Dear The Historian and the Chef,
Do you think there would be a Regency moon cake floating around somewhere?
Best wishes,
Moon cake lover


Although fairly cryptic, we assumed the reference was to something resembling the traditional Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival moon cakes.  These are cakes so popular that the festival is commonly known as the Mooncake Festival.  Was it possible that, along with their passion for Chinese tea, the Georgians also adopted moon cakes?  Alas, despite Mishka's best efforts, we have been unable to discover any reference to moon cakes in the British Regency period, let alone a contemporary recipe.  So we have devised an anachronistic one of our own.

To give our recipe a period feel, we decided that Mr Darcy and Miss Bennet and their contemporaries would have eaten moon cakes in the style of petit fours or sweetmeats. Consequently, ours are much smaller than the traditional oriental moon cake.  We have also substituted butter for oil and a marzipan filling instead of lotus seed paste.   For a quintessentially English Regency taste, we added gin and rose petals.

Ingredients

Pastry:
200g + plain flour
120g golden syrup
70g unsalted butter

Filling:
100g ground almonds
70g rose petal jam
1 tbl gin or brandy (optional)
1 egg
food colouring (optional)

Glaze:
1 egg

2 tsp golden syrup
4 tsp hot water
icing sugar to dust (optional)

Makes 24 small moon cakes

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Begin by pre-heating your oven to 180 degrees Celcius.

Heat the butter and golden syrup briefly - the butter doesn't have to melt, it just needs to be on the verge of doing so - and place them in a large bowl, preferably of your stand mixer.  Sift in the 200g of flour and mix using the paddle attachment.  Once combined, add a little more flour so that it is the right consistency for baking and knead briefly into a roll.  Set aside in the fridge.

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Next, prepare your filling by mixing all the ingredients in a bowl.  If you are concerned about raw egg, heat it in a saucepan.  Add two or three drops of food colouring - we recommend red - if you prefer.

The rose petal jam can be substituted with any delicate fragrant jam, such as rose hip or quince jelly, but if you have access to roses it is easy to make. Simply boil up a couple of handfuls of petals with at least a cup of sugar and a minimal amount of water and add a squeeze of lemon juice after the petals become translucent. You can remove the petals with a slatted spoon (and eat them like lollies) or leave them in if you don't mind a chewy jam.

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Roll out the dough on a floured bench and cut out rounds 7-8 cm in diameter.

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Place a teaspoon of the filling on each round.  We used a mini muffin tin to assist in the process, but this isn't necessary.

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Squeeze the edges of dough together, pushing gently into the tin, before turning out onto a baking tray lined with baking paper.  Glaze with beaten egg.

Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.  While the moon cakes are baking, mix the golden syrup with hot water.  As soon as you take the cakes out of the oven, brush them with the syrup.
The moon cakes can be served as is or dusted with icing sugar.  If you are feeling particularly creative, they could be topped with marzipan or sugar decorations.  The red berries and green leaves of holly would transform them into a unique Christmas nibble.

If you want to retain the Regency feel, we recommend accompanying them with a Chinese tea, such as Oolong or a Green Tea.  (Remember, Indian tea did not reach England until the 1830s!)  If you happen to have a period cake basket to serve them in, all the better!
 
 
In Melbourne, cake aficionados can go to the Brunetti or Monarch cake shops to satisfy their passion. There they are confronted with 'torte heaven' and a visual and taste experience to remember. However, you don't have to be in Melbourne to delight in the joys of a torte. You can create this magnificent Malakoff Torte and we will even reveal how it can be achieved without using an oven!

The Malakoff Torte was created during the Crimean War to celebrate the French Maréchal Pélissier's victory storming the tower of Malakoff which brought the Siege of Sevastapol to an end.  Pélissier was rewarded with the title of first (and last) Duc de Malakoff and a magnificent torte was whipped up for the occasion, without the use of an oven.

For our endeavour it's easiest to use an oven, but we will mention how it can be done without one so as to recreate an authentic Malakoff Torte. The beauty of this cake is that it is has all the attractions of a torte but is achievable for novice or very busy cooks.  At the end, we'll also demonstrate how the skills you've learnt making the Malakoff Torte can be easily used to make other tortes, as well as how you can decorate them in spectacular fashion.

Malakoff Torte

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The Base

1/4 cup flour
40g corn flour
1/8 cup cocoa
2 large or 3 small eggs
60g sugar
1 tsp vanilla sugar
small pinch of salt
35g hot melted butter


Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celcius.  If necessary, grease a 24cm spring form cake pan with butter and sprinkle with flour.  (This shouldn't be necessary with a non-stick pan, but it never hurts.)

Mix the two flours with the cocoa and sift.
  Cream the eggs, sugars, and salt until fluffy.  Fold in flour mixture.  Gently mix in hot butter.

Pour into pan, spreading the mix to the sides evenly.  Bake for around 30 minutes.
  (If you want to be super authentic or your oven breaks down - yes, this does happen! - bake it in a fry pan over very low heat with a lid.)  As soon as it is cooked, sprinkle the top with flour or sugar and invert onto baking paper on a cooling rack.  When cool, cut off the edge up to a centimetre wide.  (This is not necessary if you don't intend to cover/decorate the sides.)

The Syrup

Whether you use layers of cake or off-the-shelf biscuits, it's best if they are softened with an alcoholic beverage such as brandy, rum, or sherry, ideally using a sugar syrup.  When an alcohol-free cake is required, use brandy or rum essence instead or omit completely.

Bring 50ml of water to the boil with 50g of sugar until dissolved.  Chill, then stir in 50ml of brandy or rum
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The Biscuit Layer

We simply bought a packet of Savoiardi (ladyfinger) biscuits from the supermarket.  If you can't find them or feel particularly motivated you can make your own, but you shouldn't feel any guilt whatsoever if you don't.  Our guess is that the creators or the Malakoff Torte probably used old biscuits from a tin.

The Cream Filling

15g powdered gelatin soaked in 85ml milk
75 ml strong coffee
150 ml milk
pinch of salt
3 eggs
60g castor sugar

300ml cream (whipped)

Prepare the gelatin and coffee.  Separate eggs.  Add the sugar to the yolks and whisk until creamy.  Gently warm the milk and coffee so that it is warm but not hot. Add to the egg mixture and whisk over heat until almost too hot to touch (c. 65-70 degrees), being careful not to scramble the eggs.  (If you do, put the mixture through a sieve.  It's not the end of the world.)  Add the gelatin mixture and whisk.  Cool.  The mixture should be no warmer than lukewarm.  If you haven't whipped your cream, this is a good time to do so.  Then whip the egg whites.  At the last moment before assembling your cake, add the coffee mixture to the whipped cream and mix, then gently whisk in the egg whites.  If unavoidably interrupted, put the mixture in the fridge so it doesn't run everywhere.



Assembling the Torte


Take your spring form pan and remove the base.  Place it on a board or flat dish.  Ensure that you have all your 'components' ready as it is important to assemble the torte fairly quickly.

First, place the
base inside the ring and brush with the sugar syrup.  Pour in a layer of coffee cream and spread evenly to the edges.  Then add a layer of Savoiardi biscuits, brushing each one on the flat side before laying them down flat side up.  Repeat with coffee cream and remaining biscuits.  Finally, cover the torte with the remaining cream.  Refrigerate (or even freeze).  If you freeze the torte, allow a couple of hours for it to thaw before serving.


Finishing Touches

Cover the entire torte with 300ml of whipped cream.  Dust with cocoa and sprinkle dark chocolate buds on top.  Alternatively, dip Savoiardi biscuits two-thirds in dark chocolate and arrange in spoke-like fashion, or fashion your own decorations using dark chocolate.

Keep refrigerated.  Best served 12 - 24 hours after making.



Creating Your Own Torte

The Base and Layers

Use the basic base recipe from the Malakoff Torte to create the base and cake layers for your torte.  Depending on how tall a cake you want, you'll need to double or triple the ingredients. 

Experiment with different flavours.  For example, substitute the cocoa with the same amount of flour plus an essence such as almond or rum, or add the zest of half a lemon or orange.

Likewise, with the cream layers, substitute the coffee and make a lemon, strawberry, or chocolate cream instead.


Chocolate Crunch

Another option is to create an extra layer of chocolate crunch in the middle.  It's as simple as adding melted chocolate to either rice bubbles or crushed corn flakes, rolling it between baking paper, letting it set, and cutting out a disc slightly smaller than your cake ring.  Measure the amount of crunchy cereal by placing it in a layer inside your cake ring, using more or less according to your preference.  We added approximately 100g of melted chocolate.

Top and Sides

Whipped cream is far from the only option when it comes to the top layer of your torte.  Cakes look fabulous glazed with jam, especially if they're fruit flavoured.  Chocolate or coffee tortes can be finished off with a thin layer of melted chocolate or a chocolate ganache (which is softer).  Both can also be used on the sides.

Orange slices and other fruit are an easy way of adding pizzazz to your torte, but almost anything edible can be used to line the sides.  This is far from necessary, but it's a great way of adding a personal touch, especially if the cake's for someone special and you use something you know they particularly love.  The cake we made below had the additional chocolate crunch as well as the orange slices and chocolate ganache topping.

Chocolate Ganache

220g dark chocolate
165 ml cream

Combine chocolate and cream in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.  Stir until smooth.  Remove from heat.  Allow to cool, stirring occasionally until ganache is thick and spreadable.

Chocolate Stencils

Chocolate stencils can be easily purchased, but you may have to ask.  They're often a 'behind the counter' item as they're mostly used by professionals.  We purchased ours at Cocobean in Launceston.

Using them is a matter of spreading melted chocolate in a thin layer and allowing it to cool (in the refrigerator if necessary) before breaking or cutting into pieces and using them to decorate your cake however you want.  Your imagination is the limit.  We broke ours into shards and stuck them in the middle of the cake creating what was later dubbed a 'Sydney Opera House effect'.  This is a great way of decorating a cake, especially if you want a modern or masculine effect or are tired of piped roses and flowers.

 
 
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The French fashion of cheese as a dessert course has existed since the nineteenth century, and many of us would not think of doing anything with Brie other than eating it raw.  Occasionally, you may come across a dish in which Brie is melted as part of the recipe, for example when baked in a brioche, but it is rare to find Brie mixed in as an ingredient in a dessert.  Either way, Chef Dirk "doesn't do Brie", so today's post is going to be heavier on history than culinary expertise.

Brie can trace its history back to Medieval times.  Like wine and beer, cheese-making was an industry dominated by Benedictine and Cistercian monks.  According to Charlemagne's biographer E(g)inhard, the Emperor was so enthusiastic about the cheese of Reuil in Brie that he pronounced it "one of the most marvellous of foods" and requisitioned two crates of it.  Given that in these times both courses had sweet and savoury dishes, it is possible that the tradition of eating cheese as well as dessert at the end of a meal hails from this time.


This recipe is taken from The Forme of Cury of 1390, compiled by the Master Cooks of King Richard II, and is a mildly sweet - it must be remembered that sugar was an expensive luxury - but rich tart.  The recipe asks for "chese ruayn" which all other historians have take to mean a soft English cheese made of "rewain" grass, but given that the recipe is actually called "Tart de Bry" I am more inclined to think that it refers to cheese from Reuil in Brie, that is "Reuil-an".  Regardless of what King Richard's cooks meant, it was supposed to be a Brie tart, so I recommend using Brie (or Camembert) unless, like Chef Dirk, you "don't do Brie".

Ingredients:

shortcrust pastry (frozen is fine, but it should not be sweetened; make it using lard if you want to be authentic)
pinch of saffron
20ml hot water (from kettle)
500g cheese (Brie)
5 egg yolks
75g (raw) caster sugar
pinch ground ginger
pinch salt
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Begin by pre-heating your oven to 190 degrees Celcius and steeping the saffron strands in hot water until it is a deep gold.  Line a flan tin with the pastry and prick the base with a fork.

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Next cut the rind off your cheese, and slice into pieces no larger than two inches. 

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Beat with an electric mixer until creamy and fairly smooth.

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In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar until thick and pale.

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Then add the cheese, followed by the  ginger, salt, and (strained) saffron water.  Pour into the pastry case and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.  Serve warm or cold but on the same day.

 
 
The 7th of October 1571 is one of those historical dates that should be common knowledge.  Alas, political correctness reigns, and few people have ever heard of the Battle of Lepanto.  So, in order to commemorate this remarkable naval victory (which should be known alongside the Battle of Trafalgar and the defeat of the Spanish Armada), we have decided to recreate an authentic dish of the period.
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Battle of Lepanto in 1571. Artist Unknown. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. Caird Fund
At first glance, this recipe is lacking in appeal.  The idea of boiling a chicken in nothing but water is perturbing for a gourmand.   Rosewater in a meat dish seems odd.  And a recipe without salt is not reassuring.  However, do not be put off.  Despite strong convictions that we would have to modernise this recipe, we have decided it is not necessary.  This dish is as delightful now as it surely was in the sixteenth century.

Ingredients:

1 chicken (or capon if you can find one)
50g currants (or prunes)
4 dates (chopped)
225g orange segments (without peel)
1/2 tsp black  peppercorns
1 tsp mace (blade or ground)
3 tbls sugar
15ml rosewater
150 ml red wine (claret or equivalent)
half a loaf of white bread, cut into cubes

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Begin by placing your chicken in a pot and covering with cold water (filtered if you have it).  Put it on the stove, bring to the boil, and allow to simmer for 45-50 minutes.  Then assemble the other ingredients in two small bowls.

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In the first, place the fruit: currants, peeled orange cut into lengthwise segments, and dates.  In the other, combine the mace, peppercorns, sugar, rosewater, and wine.  If you don't fancy biting into a peppercorn, you may want  to tie them and the mace into a muslin sack. 

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Approximately fifteen minutes before the chicken is finished boiling, preheat the oven to 220-230 degrees Celcius.  Your chicken will look in desperate need of a tan, but do not fret.  Take it out (using the wrong end of a wooden spoon as if it were a spit so that you don't tear the skin) and put it on a rack in a roasting pan.  (It should be firm and bouncy when you poke it, not at all squishy.)  Give it up to 20 minutes in the oven to give it some colour and  to make the skin more palatable.

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Meanwhile, take approximately a pint of the water in which it was boiled and put it in a pan along with the fruit.

(Make stock with the rest if you don't want to waste it.)

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Simmer for five minutes.

Then add the wine and spices and simmer for another ten minutes (without a lid).  When the chicken is browned, set it aside to rest covered in foil.  Cut the bread into cubes (crustless if you prefer) or tear roughly for a more rustic dish.  Arrange evenly on a appropriate serving dish.
When you are ready to serve, place the chicken on the bed of bread cubes and pour the sauce so that it collects on and around the bird, soaking into the bread cubes.
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This dish does not require any further seasoning, but if you feel the need for salt, we suggest you offer it Tudor-style in a salt cellar so that you and your guests can take the flakes between your fingers and crumble them onto your food.

Variations

If you'd like to experiment with this dish, here are a few of our ideas.  Leave us a comment if you do to let us know how you went!

  • Substitute lemons for the oranges and white wine for the claret.
  • Roast the chicken instead of boiling and use homemade or bought stock.
  • Boil the chicken in the wine and spices first, then make a sauce using the fruit, reducing it for 20-30 minutes and straining before serving.
  • Serve the chicken on a bed of basmati (and wild) rice.

This recipe originally appeared in Thomas Dawson's The good huswifes Jewell, part 1 in 1596.  If you'd like to try more recipes like this one, you may wish to consider purchasing the English Heritage publication Tudor Cookery.
 
 
To tide you over until our next post (which has been delayed by illness), here is some sagacious advice on hosting a dinner party, much of which is still relevant today:

'Let the number of guests never exceed twelve, so that the conversation may be general;

'Let them be chosen with different occupations but similar tastes, and with such points of contact that the odious formalities of introduction can be dispensed with;

'Let the dining-room be well-lighted, the cloth impeccably white, and the atmosphere maintained at a temperature of from sixty to seventy degrees;

'Let the men be witty without being too pretentious, and the women charming without being too coquettish;

'Let the dishes be few in number, but exquisitely choice, and the wines of the first quality, each in its class;

'Let the service of the former proceed from the most substantial to the lightest, and of the latter, from the mildest to the most perfumed;

'Let the progress of the meal be slow, for dinner is the last business of the day; and let guests conduct themselves like travellers due to reach their destination together;

'Let the coffee be piping hot, and the liqueurs chosen by a connoisseur;

'Let the drawing-room be large enough to allow a game at cards to be arranged for those who cannot do without, yet still leave space for postprandial conversations;

“Let the guests be detained by the charms of the company and sustained by the hope that the evening will not pass without some further pleasure;

'Let the tea should be not too strong, the toast artistically buttered, and the punch mixed with proper care;

'Let retirement begin not earlier than eleven o’clock, but by midnight let everyone be in bed.'

Whoever has been present at a meal fulfilling all these conditions may claim to have witnessed his own apotheosis; and for each of them which is forgotten or ignored, the guests will suffer a proportionate decrease of pleasure.

(Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, The Physiology of Taste, Penguin Classics translation by Anne Drayton, p. 166)

 
 
The French cherish their culinary terms nearly as much as the objects of their culinary passions.  When the Académie Française - who publish the French equivalent of the Oxford Dictionary -called a clafoutis a "fruit flan", the citizens of Limousin saw red and did not desist until it was redefined as a "cake".  Furthermore, these pastry-less "cakes" can only be called clafoutis if they're made with cherries.  Otherwise, they are flaugnardes.

Interestingly, Francatelli's Plain Cookery Book for the Working Classes from 1852 has a recipe for a 'Batter and Fruit Pudding' which bears a striking resemblance to a flaugnarde.  No doubt the French would speculate that Francatelli picked up this recipe while training in France.  It is more likely that such a pudding was fairly commonplace in western Europe from medieval times and that it was popularised in the historic Duchy of Aquitaine, with the Limousin region specialising in a cherry version.  The name clafoutis makes its first documented appearance in 1864, and in its 'home' regions it is often called a milliard, suggesting a far longer history.

Of course, Limousin's capital Limoges is best known for its porcelain, so (if you happen to have any) a clafoutis will give you the perfect excuse to show it off.  You could also use this "cake" as a springboard for a discussion of Anglo-French relations (which should transform the dullest of dinner guests into experts on international affairs).  Whether you want to ponder the true origins of this so-called "cake", whether the Black Prince really did massacre thousands in Limoges, or the merits of Renoir versus Whistler, the flaugnard or clafoutis is an excellent accompaniment.

Cherry Flaugnarde
(a.k.a. Clafoutis or Milliard)

There are many practical reasons to prefer a flaugnarde to a flan.  Even though making pastry only takes ten minutes or so, ten minutes matters when you have very young children or have just come home after a long day.  A flan also has the disadvantage of being off-limits for our gluten-free or Coeliac friends.  So we've decided to share with you a super-quick gluten-free clafoutis recipe.

Ingredients:

150g castor sugar
50g custard powder (gluten free)
200ml eggs (4 large)
350ml cream
600-750g jar of pitted cherries (or equivalent)
castor sugar for coating cherries (optional)
icing sugar for dusting

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Begin by pre-heating your oven to 180-200 degrees Celcius and placing a greased oven-proof dish in the oven to warm.  Drain the cherries and (if you prefer it) toss them in sugar.  You may also wish to consider soaking the cherries in brandy for a few hours if you're making the clafoutis for a special occasion.

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Whisk the remaining ingredients in a bowl.  We recommend adding the eggs to the sugar and custard powder, then mixing in the cream.

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When the oven is ready, pour a little of the batter into the hot pan, and add the cherries.

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Then pour in the remaining batter and give the pan a little shake to distribute the cherries evenly.

Bake for 40-50 minutes.

When cooked, the clafoutis will be bouncy and firm to the touch.  It will puff up, especially around the sides, a little reminiscent of a Yorkshire pudding, then subside as it cools.

Serve warm or cold, dusted with a little icing sugar.

Fruit Flan (Fruit Tart)

A flan (or tart) differentiates itself from the flaugnard by means of its pastry case.  This recipe can easily be made in the style of a flaugnard simply by omitting the pastry.  It can, furthermore, be made gluten free by using gluten free flour or almond meal.

Ingredients

Filling:
zest and juice of one lemon
200ml sour cream
1 large egg
100g sugar
70g flour
fruit, e.g. stewed apricots or canned peaches (drained)

Pastry:
225g unsalted butter
100g castor sugar
1 egg
350g plain flour
(For the method, see how we made the pastry for the Nougat de Tours.)

Glaze:
1/3 cup apricot jam
1 tbl water

Pre-heat oven to 180-200 degrees Celcius.

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Mix the filling ingredients in a bowl, leaving the fruit until last or keeping it separate.  If separate, pour a little of the filling into your pastry case, then arrange the fruit evenly across the flan.

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Fill the case making sure all the fruit is covered.

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Bake for 40-45 minutes until the middle no longer wobbles and is firm to the touch.



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Sprinkle with icing sugar (using a sieve) and put under the grill until it browns.  (Don't worry if there are white patches - they will disappear when glazed.)

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Allow tart to cool on a wire rack.

Heat the jam and water in a small saucepan.  Brush the tart with the jam and allow it to set before serving.

 
 
One of the most frustrating aspects of Spring is the lingering winter cold.  The air is mild, buds and blossoms are decorating lately-bare tree branches, but just when you want to get out and about yet another cold strikes.  So, today, in a semi-guest post, Mishka and her husband Joseph are featuring some Victorian beverages to help you bounce into Spring.

In 1852, Charles Elmé Francatelli published A Plain Cookery Book for the Working Classes.  This wasn't his speciality.  The London-born chef had been trained in France and worked for a succession of noblemen before becoming maître d'hôtel at the Crockford's gentlemen's club, and then Queen Victoria's chief cook.  His "object in writing this little book" was to help the poor to obtain "the greatest amount of nourishment at the least possible expense", thereby adding to their "comfort" and "comparatively slender means".  It was something like Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, Victorian-style.

Francatelli's cookery book has an entire section on medicinal drinks.  We've chosen two possets to warm your gullets.  Finally, for those not so keen on the idea of curdled milk, we'll detail how to drink warm beer in the form of an egg-hot.

Curds and Whey

This first posset is recommended as "an agent to remove a severe cough or cold".  It has a gentle pleasant taste and is quick and simple to make.
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Ingredients:

200ml milk
25ml white wine
1/2 tsp sugar (optional)

Serves 1

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Bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan, add the wine and allow the milk to boil up.  You will see the milk separate into curds and whey.  (Simmer for a short while if you want your posset to be alcohol-free.)  Strain into a glass.  The liquid is the whey, and the solids are the curds.

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Both may be consumed straight, but we like to sweeten the curds with a little sugar.

Now all you have to do is find a low chair or footstool on which to sit, and you will have all you need to sit on a tuffet eating your curds and whey!

Treacle Posset

Ingredients:

600ml milk
4 tbl treacle (molasses)

Serves 3 children or 2 adults
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Boil the milk and the treacle for ten minutes, then strain through muslin into a cup or mug.

According to Francatelli, "drink it while hot, and go to bed well covered with blankets; and your cold will be all the less and you the better for it".

Egg-Hot

Ingredients:

500-600ml beer
1 egg
1 generous tbl raw or brown sugar
nutmeg or ground ginger (we used 1/4 tsp nutmeg)

Heat the beer in a saucepan.  (Simmer if you wish to reduce/remove alcohol.)

Beat the egg, sugar, and spice for three minutes with a fork or whisk.  Add a drop of the hot beer and stir well.  Pour in the remainder of the beer while continuing to stir.  Transfer the egg-hot back and forth from the bowl into the saucepan on the heat for another two minutes to mix completely and keep hot.  Serve.

We trialled this recipe on two beers:
1) a traditional English Best Bitter from the local Morrison Brewery which is brewed from "the finest Floor Malted Marris Otter barley, Kent Goldings, Fuggles and Styrian Goldings hops and an authentic Yorkshire yeast"; and
2) a Cascade Export Stout.

Our considered opinion is that it works best with a stout and has mostly novelty value with a lighter beer.