Choux pastry buns

choux-pastry-with-chocolate-cream

We woke up one grey morning and in an effort to brighten the day, decided to try our hands at making choux pastry. It’s a task that seemed really intimidating at first (think Eclairs) but is actually pretty straightforward to make. The ingredients are really simple and most likely things you would already have in your pantry if you bake often. The inside of choux pastry should be airy and moist, not wet and eggy. The great thing about these little puffs is that you can take one out of the oven (close to the time they are done , not before!) and check that they are just right inside. If not, you can keep them in the oven a little longer so they rise and dry out inside. Then leave them to cool a bit and fill with the cream of your choice- we did a simple chocolate whipped cream this time (whipping cream whipped up with a handwhisk and then stirred together with melted chocolate)

This recipe is taken from James Martin’s Sweet. Here are some of his tips for making choux pastry;

  1. Make sure butter , sugar and salt are brought to a boil slowly. The butter should not melt before the water evaporates. I basically just kept the heat very low over a small flame and stirred gently to help the butter dissolve.
  2. Dice the butter small- again to help it melt quicker
  3. Add half a cup of cold water to a preheated tray in the oven before cooking , this will make the texture crispy.
  4. 20 minutes into cooking , open the oven door to let the steam out.

The flavorbender has some great troubleshooting tips too.

Makes 18 medium choux pastry

Prep time : 20 mins      Bake time :

Ingredients

For the choux :

250ml water

100g cold butter diced small

1 tablespoon caster sugar

Pinch salt

150g strong flour

4 eggs

 

Method

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius

Line a baking sheet with silicone paper or use a silicone mat

Place water , butter , sugar and salt in a pan and slowly bring to a boil over low heat. Once the mixture starts to boil, continue to let it boil for one minute.

Then add all the flour in at one go. Keep beating the mixture until it starts to thicken.Depending on the amount of heat, this could happen relatively quickly. The mixture should thicken , be smooth and come away fro the sides of the pan cleanly. This should take a few minutes. Remove the mixture from the pan and place it on the silicone sheet or mat to cool for 5 minutes.

You can use a kitchen mixture for the next step, but we did it by hand- beat in the eggs one at a time, making sure mixture is smooth after each addition. Then continue beating until smooth and shiny,resembling  a thick , smooth custard. If you pick some of the mixture up between your fingers, it should take 3-4 seconds to drip.

Fill a piping bag fitted with a large nozzle (plain or otherwise) with the mixture and pipe out small buns about 2 cm apart. You can smooth out bumps using a wet fingertip (the mixture should not stick to your finger).

Bake for 20-25 minutes until the buns are golden grown. Allow them to cool on a wire rack when done.

When cooled a bit, use a small knife to make a cut at the base of each bun.Insert a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle and filled with filling of your choice. Just pipe the filling into the bun , easy as that!

x Anu & Suba

 

 

 

Wholewheat Muesli & Coconut Muffins

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Wholewheat Muesli & Coconut Muffins

Our recent smoothie bowl craze has led us to think of ways to make our other breakfast favourites healthier too. These guilt-free muffins are made with wholewheat flour, applesause instead of eggs, olive oil instead of butter and honey instead of sugar. If it wasn’t for the yoghurt, we could have called these Vegan too!

Makes 15 regular muffins

Prep time : 15 mins  Bake time : 25 mins

Ingredients

1/2 cup olive oil

2 cups wholewheat flour

200g applesauce (we used babyfood jars)

1/2 cup greek yoghurt

1 cup milk

1 cup muesli

1/2 cup dessicated coconut

2 tsp baking powder

4 tbsp honey

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degree celsius

Butter and flour muffin trays or cups

In a bowl, whisk oil, applesauce, milk , honey and yoghurt until well combined

In another bowl, mix the  flour & baking powder

With a spatula, mix the wet ingredients slowly into the dry and gently stir until just combined. Don’t overmix, it’s ok if you still see a few small lumps of flour. 

Next stir in the muesli & dessicated coconut. 

Spoon the batter into the cups, filling them almost to the top. Bake until toothpick inserted into centre comes out clean about 20 minutes.

Once baked, remove from oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. 

x Anu & Suba

 

 

The Perfect Picnic : Picnic Setting Ideas

There’s just a month left before the leaves leave their many shades of green behind and start to take on that distinctive carrot soup colour. It’s also looking like it’s going to be the hottest month of the year, at least here in London. So all is not lost if you haven’t yet thrown your glorious summer picnic or BBQ! Check out our earlier ‘perfect picnic’ posts for some ideas on grub and look no further for some tips on how you can add some extra ‘scene-setting love’ to your outdoor party!
Picnic Setting
Photo courtesy of celebrations.com

1. Picnic mat alternatives 

Don’t fret if you don’t have a ‘proper’ mat. Blankets, quilts, tablecloths and even fabric can be more interesting. Nothing says picnic like checkered fabric. If you’re doing your shopping online, instead of searching for ‘tablecloths’ search for fabric instead. It’s cheaper and since it’s a picnic it won’t matter too much of the ends are little frayed and not stitched up. If you’re getting fabric and have some dosh to spare, get two or three colours or complementary prints and line them up side by side.
2. Leather or fabric bound books 
If like us you never throw any books away or you know a cheap little second hand bookshop, then short stacks of 2 or 3 fabric or leather bound books add some vintage elegance and double up as a place to stand a plate or a tumbler of juice when you’re sitting on the grass. Even 6 books will do the trick – remember they can be heavy so don’t cart too many along with you if you’re setting up a distance from your own home.
picnic setting 3
Photo courtesy of blovelyevents.com – they have great party ideas too!
3. Individually packed picnics in DIY brown bags 
Instead of laying all the treats out on the mat, why not pack everyone’s picnic individually? Grab a pack of brown bags, you can decorate each one in a variety of ways. We like to get some paper doilies, apply glue on the back and stick them on or around the bag. You can also stick on dried flowers, use pretty ink stamps or just write your guests names on them and tie them up with pretty ribbon. Then pop in a sandwich, a little tupperware of potato salad, a cupcake or jammy scone wrapped in greaseproof paper and even a cute mini  bottle of prosecco or juice.
4. Cushions
Picnic Setting 2
Photos courtesy of Sadi Moruakgomo (left) & Emma Markezic (right)
If your picnic is in your garden or you have access to wheels (4 would be preferable to 2! Though some amazing folk can balance a lot of stuff on a bike!) grab cushions off your couch and armchair and use them to add a bit of homey-ness to your set up. Paired with cosy blankets or striking fabric, they make the whole idea of sitting on the ground extremely inviting!
picnic setting 4
Photos courtesy of bellacoco.co.uk (left) and prettylittlepartyshop.co.uk (right)
5. Bunting, paper lanterns, fans and Pom poms 
If you can find a spot under a tree with low hanging branches, you’re sorted! String up some bunting, paper fans, lanterns or Pom poms. You can even tie long pieces of ribbon on branches to create a lovely curtain effect or go for a more wispy look by tying long lengths of white or pale coloured ribbon at wider intervals around a few different branches.
6. Fruits and flowers 
picnic settng 5.JPG
Photos courtesy of Lafiaba.sk (left) and theknot.comt (right)
Never to be underestimated for the instant value they bring to any setting. Save up old jam jars, tie ribbon or brown parcel string around the rim and fill them with meadow flowers or seashells if you’re having a beach picnic. Salad Bowls, each piled with peeling oranges, tangerines, apples and peaches make for striking pops of summery colour and double up as easy to eat picnic dessert!
Happy Picnic-ing!
*Do click on the links for the photos we’ve posted. They’re from some really talented folk who have some excellent ideas for making life a little prettier!
x Anu & Suba

Individual Victoria Sponges

vic sponge

Another dessert in honour of our Singaporean national colours – red and white. We packed some of these up for friends, also missing home here in London, as a wee National Day treat. The great thing about individual portions is that you can eat the cake yourself before anyone else does without having to cut out a slice, which you just can’t do if you’re taking the cake to someone’s house for a party or giving it away as a gift.

Makes 12

Prep: 20 minutes + 15 minutes after baking   Cook time: 20-25 mins

Ingredients

200 g softened butter

200 g sugar

3 eggs

250g self raising flour (or plain flour with a tsp of baking powder)

1 tsp vanilla extract

strawberry or raspberry jam

100ml double cream, cold

icing sugar

Method

Turn the oven on to 150 deg c. Line a cupcake or muffin tin or grease with some butter and set aside.

Beat the butter with some sugar until it turns pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, making sure they mix in well. Now, add the vanilla extract and mix well. Sieve the flour to introduce more air into it and then fold it into the batter. Fold gently and avoid any hard mixing at this stage. 

Fill each muffin cup to 3/4 full and place in the oven. After 12 minutes, or when you see the cakes starting to turn a more golden colour, turn the tray 180 degrees so the cakes brown evenly. Leave it in for another 12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of a cake comes out clean. 

While the cakes are baking, pour the cold cream into a mixer and beat till it forms peaks. Careful not to over-beat or it will start to look lumpy and separate. Fold in 2 tbsps of sifted icing sugar.

Once the cakes are ready, put them on a rack to cool completely. Using a sharp knife, slice the cakes in half horizontally so you can make a sandwich. On one cut half, cut side up, plop a dollop of cream in the middle and spread very lightly (not all the way to the edge as that will happen automatically when you press the top part of the cake down on top of the cream). On the other half of the cake, cut side up, dollop some jam and again, spread very lightly. Now carefully bring both halves together so that the cream and jam are sandwiched in the middle. Make sure the cake is completely cooled so the jam and cream don’t melt in the middle and start dripping out. 

We placed a star-shaped cutter (Singapore’s flag has 5 stars on it) on top of the cake before dusting over icing sugar with a sieve but you can just sieve directly over the cake or use any shaped cutter you like!

We packed them up in some nice red and white tissue and tied it all up with some brown string, but only after we stuffed our own faces with a couple of these delicious little poppers!

x Anu & Suba

 

The Perfect Picnic :Indian Spiced Potato Salad

Indian Spiced potato SaladPotato salad is a picnic staple. This one is spicy and creamy and naturally, has potato in it, and who doesn’t crave a potato (carb) induced food coma every now and then, especially when you’re lying in the sun? it’s really simple to make and is an authentic South Indian recipe (minus the guanciale) in case you were wondering.But since we are in Italy, why not throw a handful of salty , crunchy guanciale into the mix and hope it gels- well, it does. We love it on its own, but you can also have it with some naan or other indian bread , just in case one carb overload isn’t enough for you!

Serves 6

Prep time : 15 mins  Cook time : 40 mins (30 inactive)

Ingredients

1 kg potatoes (any type thats good for boiling)

150 grams plain yoghurt

3 tbsp oil (sunflower or olive)

1 green onion diced small

3  green chillis, chopped small

2 sprigs coriander , chopped

3 stalks curry leaves

50g guanciale (pork cheek) chopped , you can also use pancetta

Pinch of tumeric powder

1 tsp salt

Salt to taste

Method

Peel and quarter the potatoes, then rise under cold water to remove any starchiness

Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and simmer until soft but still holding it’s shape, about 30 minutes depending on the type and size of your potatoes.

While waiting for the potatoes, heat oil in a pan add the mustard seeds, guanciale, and curry leaves & tumeric powder. Fry until fragrant and guanciale is crispy – about 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside.

Drain the potatoes & let them cool a little. Add the yoghurt , onions , green chili and coriander to the potatoes & combine well.

Pour the spice mixture including the oil over the potatoes & yoghurt.

Add salt to taste and stir through to combine well.

Chill well.

x Anu & Suba

The Perfect Picnic: Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes

chocolate cupcakeThe most important lesson we’ve learned about picnic cakes is that they need to be relatively mess and melt proof, and easy to pack. Cupcakes with a fuss-free icing are our definite picnic default. In fact, ganache in particular sets quickly, so most of the icing will still be on the cake when you get to your destination!

Prep Time: 20-25 mins Cook time: 30-40 minutes

Makes about 12 cupcakes

Ingredients

The Cake:

1 cup/ 225g softened butter (unsalted)

1 cup/225g caster sugar

1 1/2 cups/180g self-raising flour

1/2 cup/65g good cocoa powder

3 medium eggs

2 tbsps milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

Ganache:

70 g 90% cocoa chocolate (if you can only find 75% that’s fine too)

70g 40% cocoa chocolate

1/3 cup/ 100ml double cream

Method

Set the oven to 150 deg c . Grease your bakeware. We don’t use wrappers for this cupcake beause we dunk the top of the cupcake into the ganache and it looks messy if there’s a wrapper (all the ganache gets stuck onto it). We use silicone bakeware and even then prefer to grease it, but very lightly. Then we place the bakeware on a baking tray, ready to fill when the batter is ready.

Sift the flour and the cocoa powder together and set aside.

Beat the butter and sugar together until it’s pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well to incorporate. If you notice some separation when you put in the third egg, don’t worry, just beat until it’s as incorporated as possible. Sometimes, if you happen to use slightly larger eggs this can happen. Add the vanilla extract. Once mixed in, add the flour and cocoa mix. Add half first and fold in and then add the other half and fold. Add the milk and gently mix in. Don’t beat it in as you want to be introducing air into the cake now.You want to be able to draw a number 8 through your batter with the back of your wooden spoon, and for the 8 to gradually fade. If it disappears immediately, it’s too watery, if it holds it’s shape and doesn’t start fading, it needs a little more milk.

Our aunt Rani is a fabulous baker and her tip is that you want to be able to draw a number 8 through your batter with the back of your wooden spoon, and for the 8 to gradually fade. If it disappears immediately, it’s too watery, add a bit more sifted flour (tablespoon by tablespoon to get the right consistency) if it holds it’s shape and doesn’t start fading, it needs a little more milk.

Fill the cupcake tin or cases until about 3/4 full. And then pop it in the oven for about 15 minutes and then rotate the tin or cases and bake another 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Rotating helps the tops of the cupcakes brown evenly.

Once done, set the tin or tray it on a wire rack to cool completely. Once they are cooled then make the ganache. Making it earlier will cause it to ‘set’ too much. Break up and melt the chocolate (both kinds) together in a bowl set over simmering water. Once melted, add the double cream and gently mix until well incorporated. (If the ganache sets halfway, just put the bowl over some boiling water so it loosens up again. Don’t pour any water in!)

Carefully pick up a cooled cupcake and dip the top of into the ganache. Make sure the whole top of the cake gets dunked in or you’ll get a patchy finish. As you lift it, twist clockwise, gently. This will prevent the ganache from dripping too much down the sides. We don’t mind the drip though, gives it a more home-made look! Repeat with all the cupcakes.

We used cake crumbs and chunks of chocolate to decorate but you can use anything really – chopped nuts, coloured sprinkles, chocolate buttons…then pack it carefully in a cake tin , box or tupperware for your picnic!

x Anu &Suba

 

 

 

 

The Perfect Picnic : Fig, Lemon and Ricotta Focaccia

Fig Lemon Focaccia 2Lemon Fig Focaccia

Focaccia is surprisingly easy to make and these will make a lovely addition to your picnic basket. We’ve had tons of disasters with dough and still do, but we find the best way to work with it’s sticky character is just to keep it simple & not overthink it.During the fermentation (rest) period , it helps to place the dough near a warm oven so it rises well. We got this and some other great tips on bread making from a book called Artisan breads by Eric Kastel, which is sort of our encyclopaedia on all things bread.

We decided to do away with the regular tomato and rosemary topped focaccia and try something a little different. This flavour is all summer- light and sweet and lemony .Cut these into bite sized squares.

Prep time : 30 mins   Rest time : 2.5 hrs   Cook time : 40 mins

Makes 1 large or 2 small loafs

Ingredients

The Dough:

550g Bread Flour 

7g Dry Yeast

12g salt

16 g sugar

250 ml water

115 ml milk

45ml olive oil

The Salamoia:

65ml water

65ml olive oil

25g salt flakes

The Toppings:

1 lemon, outer yellow skin peeled and very thinly sliced crosswise 

3 figs sliced lengthwise

2-3 Tbsps of fresh ricotta

I spring of mint leaves, chopped

Method

Mix the ingredients for the salamoia in a small bowl and whisk together until well emulsified.This is going to go on top of the focaccia as a last step.

In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients, then add the olive oil, water & milk – all a little at a time, stirring with a fork as you add. Stir until you get a rough dough. Knead the dough in the bowl, it will be wet & sticky at first , but keep going & it will come together.

When you are able to collect all the dough into a ball, transfer it to your kneading surface (we use a silicone baking mat) and knead well for about 10 mins until you get a  smooth ball of dough. We push the dough down with the heel of palm, fold it over and repeat. There are great kneading techniques here or you could just give the dough a good bashing & throw down like Subas’ mom-in law does!

Transfer the dough to a well-oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Let it rest in a warm place for 2 hours.

While waiting, prepare your baking sheet by oiling it generously with olive oil , you can really use any size or shape pan you like and shape your dough to fit it.

When the rest time is over, knead the dough again for 5 mins on your kneading surface and then pull the ball of dough on both ends to get an oblong shape and place it on your baking tray. Spread it out with your fingers on the top , bottom & sides to get a longer oblong shape.

You could spread it out to a rectangle shape or  really any shape you choose depending on your baking sheet. You could also split the dough into two make two loafs. Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be perfect, it will expand  a little again in the next step.

Leave it to rest for 30 mins.While waiting , prep the toppings and preheat your oven to 180c

When the rest time is up, reshape your dough fixing any areas that are messy. Using your fingers , poke holes all over the dough(this is the fun part!).

Arrange the lemon & fig slices on the focaccia and press them into the dough. Dot with the ricotta.

Pour the prepared salamoia evenly over the dough.Bake for 30-40 mins until crusts are golden. Top with the fresh mint. 

If you like this, try our Berries , Lavender & Pimms Jam or Amaretti & Tahini Cookies to go in your picnic basket.

x Anu & Suba