How to Make Perfect Pastry

Lets talk pastry. 

Deliciously crisp and buttery and encasing hidden wonders, pastry is one of my all time favourites. Living in York pretty much means I have unlimited access to an inordinate amount of very good pork pies and whilst they aren't exactly healthy, once in a while I have to give in. The pork/jelly ratio is a subject close to my heart, but that's a discussion for another time.

Pastry is often viewed as one of the trickier things to master in the 

kitchen

, however with a bit of know how and practise, it can become a very rewarding part of your baking 

repertoire

After doing some personal research into the best pastry recipes on the Internet, I decided it was only right and decent to share my results with you guys! 

Food 52 - 

A Shortcut to Perfect Puff Pastry

BBC -

Flaky Pastry

Gourmet Dough -

Hot Water Crust Pastry

 (great step by step photos!)

Delia Online -

Shortcrust Pastry

BBC Good Food -

Choux Pastry

 (great how to video)

Happy Baking!

Bethan

Gluten Free Avocado Brownie Bites Recipe

Cooking with vegetables seems to be a big thing at the moment, with recipes ranging from carrot truffles to beetroot chocolate cake.

I'm a big fan of anything homemade which introduces more veg to my diet, especially as I'm trying to really cut down on processed food.

I'm a big fan of having a bit of an afternoon treat with my 

coffee

, so I wanted to create some little brownie bites which I could feel slightly less guilty about.

Avocados are a great substitute for butter and oil in recipes, as they full of monounsaturated fat. I also substituted ground almonds for flour, as they add extra protein to the bites!

Ingredients -Makes 16 small bites

2 small or 1 large ripe Avocados

2 tbsp Sweet Freedom Choc Shot 

25g Ground Almonds

1 large Free Range Egg

1 tbsp Cocoa Powder - Use raw cacao powder if you have it!

1 Sweet Freedom Original/Dark

Method

1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius and grease or line a 16 cupcake pan (I used coconut oil)

2. Mash the flesh of your avocados with a fork until they are almost a guacamole -esque texture.

3. Add the Choc Shot and Sweet Freedom Original/Dark, mix, then add in the egg.

4. Add in the ground almonds and cocoa powder slowly until everything is evenly mixed

5. Place 2 tsp of the mixture in each section of the muffin pan then bake for 15 minutes.

The muffin bites will keep for up to 3 days in a sealed container!

Does anyone else have any good recipes for baking with veg? I would love to try some more out so please tweet them to me 

@audacityoffood

or link in the comments!

Sunday Summation with a Hedgerow Crumble

I hope everyone is having a lovely start to their Sunday! I am going to spend mine basking in the glorious British summer weather. It has been beautiful, if not a little too hot. Yesterday probably was not the day to go for a 20km walk across the Yorkshire countryside, I'm feeling a little sore today!

The allotment needs A LOT of work after all this sunshine, so today's task is going to be preparing the ground for my medieval herb garden. We also have some onions plants that need to go in, albeit a lot later than we would have liked.

Blackberries at the jungle style allotment!

The blackberries are also starting to ripen, I managed to pick a good load last week and I'm hoping to get some more this evening. I think it's fair to expect a jam recipe in the near future! However if anyone has any recipes or ideas for using up hedgerow fruit, I would greatly appreciate them.

Another obvious way of using up the bumper crop is to make a fruit crumble. In my case I had an array of hedgerow fruit to use up, so I decided to make a hedgerow crumble!  Now in order to control sugar levels and make my crumbles slightly healthier, I cook the filling and topping separately

To make the filling I melted 1tsp butter in a large non stick pan, to this I added peeled and diced apple, washed blackberries, blackcurrants and gooseberries and gently heated until all the fruit was soft. I then added sugar to taste (I like things pretty tart, so it's probably better not to give you a quantity for this, just keep on adding and tasting.)

Whilst the fruit was softening, I made the crumble topping by combining 2 cups of oats with 1 tbsp golden syrup and 2 tbsp melted butter. I combined this mixture thoroughly and spread it out on a baking tray to cook at 180C for 15-20 minutes, until golden.

Once the fruit is cooked through and very soft, I placed it in the bottom of a large dish and sprinkled my oat topping on top. Easy!

I couldn't even wait to photograph, I had to have some!

Pecan Pumpkin Pie

Some people might put their noses up at my choice to use shop bought pastry to make this oh so festive pumpkin pie.  My response is that life is simply too short sometimes to make pastry and the shop bought stuff isn't half bad. However, I did decide to jazz things up a little and add crushed pecans to the pastry to give it a bit of crunch. That's right ladies and gentleman, not only do I use pre made pastry, I also put PECANS IN THE PIE, NOT ON TOP. It's an unholy alliance. My only regret is that I didn't use any maple syrup, as I feel it would have added the perfect finishing sweetness to the whole thing. If you want to learn from my mistake, add about a tablespoon to the pumpkin puree mixture.

I do hope you enjoy my take on the whole pumpkin pie moment we seem to be having in the culinary world. Remember, you can always go crazy and use a butternut squash, or even sweet potato!

Ingredients:

  • 350g Shortcrust Pastry,  not pre rolled as you want to be able to quickly knead the shattered pecans in
  • 40g Pecan Nuts, smashed into smithereens
  • 750g Culinary Pumpkin peeled, deseeded and cut into chunks (keep the seeds to roast later, they make a great snack!) 
  • 2 tbsp Plain Flour, plus extra for rolling out the dough and dusting the pie tin 
  • 140g Caster Sugar 
  • ½ tsp Salt 
  • ½ tsp fresh Nutmeg, grated 
  • 1 tsp Ground Cinnamon 
  • 2 Free Range Eggs, beaten 
  • 2tbsp of Ginger Beer (I used Crabbie's Spiced Orange Ginger Beer to add some depth of flavour)
  • 1 tbsp Icing Sugar to dust

1. Place the pumpkin in a large saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Cover with a lid and simmer for 15 minutes or until tender. Drain pumpkin; let cool. 

2. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4.

3. Smash up your pecans in a pestle and mortar, you want  a mixture of larger and smaller chunks, then knead this into the pastry block

4. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface and use it to line a 22cm loose-bottomed tart tin. Chill for 15 minutes. 

5. Line the pastry with baking parchment and add baking beans. Blind bake for 15 minutes.

6. Remove the beans and paper, and cook for a further 10 minutes until the base is pale and golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.

7. Increase oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7.

8. Push the cooled pumpkin through a sieve into a large bowl to make a puree, discard any stringy bits. Add the ginger beer to this puree mixture. 

My secret weapon!

9. In a separate bowl, combine the sugar, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and sieved flour

10. Mix in the beaten eggs, then add to the pumpkin puree and stir to combine evenly.

11. Pour into the tart shell and cook for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 180C and continue to bake for 35-40 mins until the filling has just set.

12. Leave to cool and then remove the pie from the tin. Dust with icing sugar and serve plain or with cream. 

Enjoy!

Review of a day out at Compton Verney

Yesterday I had the pleasure of going along with my parents on a visit to Compton Verney, a Georgian mansion in Warwickshire. Most importantly the trip gave me the opportunity to indulge in my fantasy of being Elizabeth Bennet. Admittedly it was sadly lacking in attractive men wading out of lakes with wet shirts.  However, these things cease to matter when there is the first bit of sunshine you have seen in a long long time.

'They were all of them warm in her admiration; and at that moment she felt that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something!'

In the last twenty years the house has undergone conversion into an art gallery, which 'houses six permanent collections, focusing on areas currently under-represented in British museums and galleries.' 

The current main exhibition is titled 'Bellini, Botticelli, Titian… 500 years of Italian Art' and is running from 23 March 2013 to 23 June 2013.

Alongside and excellent gift shop, there is also a Cafe and Coffee Bar , which we have visited many times. Before tackling some serious art, we decided to have lunch in the Cafe, which currently has an Italian themed menu to compliment the main exhibition. 

To start, we decided to have something to share, and went for 'mixed olives, pepper dews with Olive oil and balsamic vinegarserved with a selection of breads,' £.3.75. I also had a large cappuccino, £2.50.

The olives were delicious, though the amount of bread was not enough really to share between three. Though admittedly I imagine this is supposed to be a starter for one.

My attempt at some sort of artistic shot...

 For my main, my mother and I decided on Padella Nasello, 'pan-fried hake with leeks, onions and new potatoes served with a lemon and chive nut butter,' £9.80.

Having never had hake before, I was pleasantly surprised! It was extremely light and moist, though slightly lacking in flavour. I suspect some sort of pesto dressing on the fish might help to bring this dish alive. The vegetables were lovely and packed in a bit more flavour. Everything was extremely fresh.

My father opted for Chicken cacciatora with pappardelle pasta, ‘chicken cooked with tomatoes, olives, oregano, thyme and garlic,’£9.50, which he highly recommended.

Pudding, as usual, was definately the highlight of the lunch. My father and I both chose 'Warm panettone bread and butter pudding with orange custard,' £5.50.

The pudding that particular day was actually being served with hot cross buns instead of panettone, not that I minded! I'm always a sucker for seasonally themed food... The 'bread' part of things was actually suprisingly light but still filling, this complimented the equally light and refreshing orange custard. All in all, a lovely flavoursome twist on the usual bread and butter arrangement. I will be making a version myself in the near future.

 My mother decided to go with something a bit more adventureous, 'Passionfruit crostata tart with orange syrup' £4.50.  This was extremely fruity, though the portion size was slightly on the small side I felt.

Overall, I highly recommend Compton Verney as a general day out with culture and good food, the Cafe is definitely worth I visit alone. We have been visitng for many years and my parents now have an annual membership which can be purchased from £26 for the Collections, grounds & exhibition(s.)