Homemade Marshmallows

“At the end of the war, all the guns were collected and melted down”. This was what a friend and historian once told me. The romantic in me likes to think they used the metal for good, cast into medics to help the future generations.

Perhaps that’s why people think medics are so strong, forged from tanks and flak 88s, Rheinmetal running through our veins – we are indestructible. The great battleships used to make consultants; although when I think about it 617 Sqn might have proven this wrong.

So what do medics do when they take a hit, well there is always wine I suppose. The problem with this is that it’s not exactly healthy. Fear not though, for I have found a solution – Marshmallows (with hot chocolate and a friendly shoulder).

Marshmallows are basically just diabetes in solid form; made from egg white, sugar and gelatine, they form an integral role in breaking the silence when you need to talk, or comforting you when you are low. I mean when hasn’t an open fire to toast a marshmallow cheered someone up?

Marshmallows

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Ingredients

  • 3 large egg whites
  • 13 sheets gelatine
  • 25oz caster sugar
  • 2tbsp liquid glucose
  • 1tsp vanilla paste
  • 4oz icing sugar
  • 4tbsp cornflour

Start by going out for all the gelatine and sugar the nearest town will supply. You will need it, otherwise your marshmallows won’t set or will taste strange.

In a bowl, combine the gelatine sheets with 200ml warm water and set aside to soften.

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Whilst this softens, add the sugar, liquid glucose and water to a pan and heat. You need to bring this up to 130C but this will take some time (10-15mins).

In the mean time, separate out 3 egg whites and whisk in a mixer till soft peaks form. At this point you can stop whisking till the sugar has reached the nuclear heat of ‘soft crack’.

When the sugar mix has heated up to 130C, take off the heat and add in the gelatine and water. This is a very violent reaction so be careful. Mix to fully disolved.

Restart the mixer till the egg whites make firm peaks. At this point add in the sugar as a constant stream. Keep the mixer whisking for 10mins during which time the mixture will thicken considerably. At the last moment add in the vanilla.

Now for the fun bit, line 2 deep trays with clingfilm and brush with oil. Cover this with the icing sugar mixed together with 4tbs of cornflour.

Pour the marshmallow mixture into the tins. At this point you can swirl in some colours or flavours.

Now the waiting game – around 2hrs to be precise. This allows the marshmallows to form their unique outer shell.

After a period of time, turn the marshmallow out onto a surface heavily dusted with the icing sugar/cornflour mix. Cut into squares and slightly toss in the sugar.

Let’s eat

So, I mean the possibilities with these are endless: S’mores, coated in chocolate, topping a hot chocolate or simply toasted on an open fire.

So, for when you have run out of shop bought marshmallows but need a hot chocolate – there is a back up.

 

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Dairy Free Pecan Danish

Who doesn’t love a morning pastry?!

For some reason the idea of fresh black coffee, pastries and orange juice in the sun has a certain romance in my mind. I suppose it reminds me of scenes from black and white films, the ones where you get to walk into the sunset. But what happens if you can’t have dairy. Don’t you get to walk off into the sunset………….

Well, with the rise of veganism there is hope for all the people that can’t have dairy for whatever reason. Now that you can get a block of vegan butter, the book turns of Danish pastry are possible. Replace the milk with soya and you are on your way.

That’s the theory at least and with a dairy free F2 currently on surgery with me the pressure is on. This F2 isn’t your normal F2 though, if its not from F&M you probs won’t stand a chance. In fact, she’s probably a missing member of Made in Chelsea (I can say this because I bribed her with Danish Pastries luckily)……….

 

So without delay, I give you dairy free Maple Pecan Danish Pastries

 

Danish Pastry

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Ingredients

  • 8oz Vegan Butter
  • 1lb Plain Flour
  • 1/2oz Salt
  • 4oz Caster Sugar
  • 5g Fresh yeast
  • 250ml Soya milk
  • 4tbsp Maple syrup
  • 4oz Pecan nuts
  • 4oz Dark brown sugar
  • Vanilla
  • 1oz Vegan spread

As you can tell I’ve got slightly better at the artistic shot of all the ingredients. In addition to the soya milk for the baking I also got some single soya cream for pouring over/having with coffee- on a side note it’s really good.

Start by making a simple dough; combine the flour, salt, caster sugar and yeast in the kitchen aid using a dough hook.

 

To this, add the soya milk and eggs – knead for 5mins till you have a silky smooth dough which is very pliable (slightly wet). Form into a ball and leave to proof for an hour -perfect time to write the first part of this blog.

After an hour, the dough should have almost doubled in size and the gluten inside relaxed. Turn it out onto a floured work surface and let the fun begin. It’s time for book turns:

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Step1 – Roll the dough out into a large rectangle (about 40x20cm)

Step 2 – Place half the Vegan butter at the centre in slices in a little raft.

Step 3 – Fold the bottom third of the dough up to cover the ‘butter’

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Step 4 – Place the second half of the butter in slices over the top of the fold (to form another raft)

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Step 5- Fold up the bottom third as shown in progress above

Step 6 – Seal the edges using a rolling pin – cover in clingfilm and place in the fridge to chill for an hour (it stops the vegan butter going soft)

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And there you have it – book turns using Vegan butter – at this point I feel obliged to say you can make the recipe with real butter and milk and it will probably be a million times tastier……….

After the hour is up, retrieve the pastry (now it has vegan butter and folds it’s a pastry not a dough) and roll out onto a floured work surface. The idea is to get somewhere close to the original size.

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Once rolled out, fold the bottom third up and the top third down like before. Seal again and return to the fridge for 30mins – (cold hands and a cold rolling pin help a lot to stop the Vegan butter from melting and ruining the laminations)

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Repeat these further book turns another 3 times which should give you plenty of delicious laminations and ultimately a very flaky pastry.

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Once on your last “turn” you can think about making the filling. For this you will need more vegan butter, vanilla paste or extract, dark brown sugar, pecans and maple syrup.

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Start by slightly toasting the pecans for 5 mins in an oven set to 180C. Once brown, keep around a dozen back and blend the rest to form a sort of chunky pecan dust.

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In a bowl, combine the vegan butter, sugar, vanilla and the pecans. Then fold in the maple syrup to form a deliciously diabetic purée.

Now the pastry should have fully rested, remove from the fridge and divide into two to make working with it easier. Roll it out to form a large rectangle about 5mm thick. Divide this into 6 smaller rectangle which will form the pastries.

In the centre of each pastry place a line of the pecan purée and then cut a fan each side. Wet each side with a little water. It is then simply a case of overlapping the pastry to form the distinctive shape of the pastry.

Remember to pinch the pastry together otherwise it will break open. I learnt the hard way with my first batch – tasty rejects for the theatre team to eat.

With the pastries made – allow one last proof for around an hour in a coolish room before glazing with a beaten egg.

Bake at 180C fan for 20mins

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Once cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool. Then top with a little icing and some of the pecans kept from before (I’ve cheated on the icing because of timing and I had this left over from a cake bake)

 

Let’s eat.

Well there you have it – a Dairy free maple pecan danish. For the life of me I can’t understand why you could elect to eat it, but if you can have dairy for allergies then this is a pretty good alternative. It’s wonderfully flaky and very tasty – enjoy with coffee whilst slightly warm.

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Right – have to work out what’s next now…………. I’m feeling nostalgic so homemade nachos to celebrate a family trip to Vancouver I think!!

Salted Caramel Macaroons

Not only are Macaroons the basis of most Bake Off showstoppers, they are a fantastic way to bond with people. In fact if I can’t have a meaningful conversation with someone over a coffee and a macaroon, I rarely keep in touch.

Believe it or not, I’m very fussy with food. I would say till the age of 18 I had a phobia of Fruit and Veg. It’s one of the reasons I got into baking, to allow me to explore foods on my own terms. A problem arises when I go to dinner parties though. As I don’t eat the food, I get lots of concerned looks, but usually the macaroons come out and the tension dies down.

One such occasion happened a few months ago. I was at a consultants house discussing research when his cousin Jenna noticed I wasn’t eating. After the meal instead of asking if I was ok, she simply placed an espresso and a macaroon next to me. What followed I can’t fully recall, some conversation about paradox of medicine and science fiction perhaps. All I recall was the macaroon, salted caramel with a hint of chocolate for dressing.

Here is my version of that macaroon – To my knowledge Dr Coleman bought them so I can’t steal his recipe for a direct comparison.

Macaroons

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Ingredients

  • 7oz Icing sugar
  • 4oz ground almonds
  • 3 egg separated – Whites (with no yolk)
  • 2oz Caster Sugar
  • Pinch of salt

Start by taking a pretty picture of the ingredients (including the caramel ingredients) with a set of vintage scales. These were my Grans – except they’ve been repainted.

Now, combine the icing sugar and ground almonds in a bowl and mix well. Then sieve to remove any large bits of almonds, these will cause the tops of the finished macaroons to split.

In a spotless, dry bowl add the egg whites with a pinch of salt. Whisk on high-speed, as if making meringues. When they have reached firm peaks (tested by holding over your head), add the caster sugar a spoon at a time.

Fold in the almond/sugar mix to the egg whites using a large metal spoon till completely incorporated. The end result will be a light but glossy mixture which runs slowly off the spoon.

Transfer to a piping bag with approx 1cm opening and pipe the size of macaroons you want to make onto baking paper. I always thing about the size of an old penny is correct.

The next bit is important, leave them for between 15mins to 1hr to form a crust. When the outside is firm, not sticky/tacky/soft, transfer to a preheated oven at 170C and bake for 10mins.

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Remove from the oven when the tops are crisp and the bottoms dry. Leave to cool completely on the baking tray.

 

Salted Caramel Buttercream

Ingredients

  • 2oz Butter
  • 2oz  Sugar
  • 100ml Double cream
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 pinch of sea salt
  • 2oz unsalted Butter
  • 4oz Icing sugar

After weighing all the ingredients, start by heating the sugar and water till it has reduced down to produce a thick syrup with a light brown colour. Don’t stir during this period, it will act as a point of crystallisation and mean you have to start again.

Once the syrup is ready, add in the butter and cream. This bit is the part you don’t want to be stood with your face over the pan…….. it causes a lot of steam.

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After this, it’s simply a case of cooking the caramel down until a temperature of 118C is reached. At this point, it’s ready; you can add in the salt now or even a kick of vanilla, lavender or just leave it deliciously plain. Obviously I’ve added a bit of French sea salt…

Cream the unsalted butter together with the icing sugar till no lumps remain. Then add a healthy spoon of the salted caramel and a dash of double cream.

Right, all that remains is to combine 2 shells of the macaroons with a generous helping of the caramel buttercream and put the coffee on. Whilst it brews, pipe a few decorative lines of chocolate onto the top shell.

Let’s eat

So there you have it, delicious salted caramel Macaroons. Crunchy on the outside with a chewy core, the sweet filling partly offset by the bitter edge of the sea salt.

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All you need now is someone to share them with – a friendly actress usually helps.

Bonfire Toffee

I have a soft place in my heart for bonfires; I find the soft glow, the wood smoke and the occasional crackle of the fire romantic. Now, the foods of bonfire nights are rather varied, each year I vary what I make for my party. In FY1 it was pulled pork and mini Mac & Cheese, for CT1 it was hotdogs. This year I’ve been making corndogs, just because………but each year there is always one item on the menu, bonfire toffee.

Bonfire toffee is a bit of a Halloween and bonfire night tradition. It’s a hard candy made with black treacle, golden syrup and sugar. Usually served in small grease proof bags, it needs to be eaten on the day. If you can’t be bothered to make it, shame on you………… shop bought bonfire toffee tends to bitter, homemade is far better. Plus, unlike my normal blog posts, this only takes about an hour to make.

Bonfire Toffee

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Ingredients

  • 8oz Dark brown Sugar
  • 65ml Water
  • 2oz Black treacle
  • 2oz Golden Syrup 
  • Sprinkle of cream of tartar

As usual, start by collecting all the ingredients together and taking a pretty picture – add a kitten into the background if required.

Weigh out the sugar and add to a large pan, combine with the water and melt together on a gentle heat. Try to resist the urge to stir the sugar, it will cause it to precipitate out and you will have a horrible grainy mess.

Whilst the sugar melts, measure out the Golden syrup and Black treacle. This will produce a wonderfully sticky mess which then needs pouring into the sugar mix. Then, the temperature needs turning up……

Add the cream of tartar and heat. You can occasionally swirl the pan to get an even heating, the temperature that you are aiming for is 140C. This takes around 30mins to achieve.

When 140C has been reached you want to hold the toffee mix at the temperature for a few minutes. Whilst the toffee boils, quickly oil a large tin, this will allow the toffee to be  turned out easily when cold.

Pour the boiling toffee mix into the prepared tin and leave to cool completely.

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Lets eat

All that remains is to turn the toffee out of the tin. Hit the base a few times to break it up.

Then retire to the bonfire with a few pieces, a pretty girl and enjoy the fireworks.

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