Monthly Archives: May 2014

Pastry Basics: Blind Baking

What a glorious week right? I’ll save you the sob story of how I have been confined to my desk for most of it. I know for a fact that future Lexi will be exceedingly grateful for this small sacrifice (indoors in the face of British sunshine!) in the greater quest to finish a thesis draft by the end of June. The next chapter in my thesis is about food and nutrition education so I’ve spent the week re-reading field notes on classes on healthy eating, getting excited all over again about children learning how to make bread in class, and discovering the really, truly, fantastic food art that was made by some children I worked with (I honestly want to have some of it on my walls).

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But I did find time to make something for you lot too. A lime and buttermilk tart, to be precise. I’m not sure about you but the chances of having both limes and buttermilk at the ready in my kitchen is slim, so when I was perusing through Margot Henderson’s book, You’re All Invited, I decided it was obviously the universe telling me to make this particular tart. The book isn’t that new – it came out in 2012 – but it’s new to me. And this tart is a winning combination of sharp buttermilk with smooth vanilla and tangy lime all entangled in custard-meets-sponge form (almost like a lemon pudding that is part sponge, part custard/sauce). It feels a little like proper summer eating when consumed ever-so-slightly cold.

I thought when I was making it that it might be useful to talk about blind baking. I haven’t done much on pastry advice on this blog, mostly because I don’t consider myself an expert but I had a conversation with one of my uncle’s a few weeks back about soggy tart shells and that prompted this thought process. I almost always blind bake tart shells before using them. It helps prevent soggy bottoms and ensures you have a crisp finish on your pastry case all the way through. Any recipe that has an egg-based filling and is therefore cooked at a lower temperature, should first have the shell baked blind as the oven won’t be able to cook the pastry and set the filling at the lower temperature and the end result is partially cooked pastry. Yuck.

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Blind baking is simple. You line the tart shell with pastry, rolled out as thin as you dare. You should need to take a deep breath as you roll it up and then re-roll it into the base of the tart tin.

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I then almost always refrigerate this, even if only for 20 minutes, to give everything a chance to relax again. The oven is pre-heated to 180C. Place the tart case on a flat baking tray – this makes it easier to move it to the oven, especially once the filling has gone in. Line this with baking paper and then fill it right to the brim with rice or baking beans. (I always use rice and have a tin specifically set aside for rice for baking.) You need to fill it to the top otherwise the tart may be tempted to shrink around the sides, something that will make you want to cry.

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Bake the tart shell for 20 minutes.

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Take it out of the oven and carefully remove the rice/beans and baking paper. Return it to the oven for another five minutes to dry out again.

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The result should be a slightly golden tart shell that is dry all the way through. Any cracks can be brushed with egg white to seal them and then your filling can be poured carefully in and returned to a cooler oven (usually 160C).

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And there you have it. Blind baking. It may take a few tries to get it perfect but after that, you should be able to do it in your sleep. For this particular filling, you will have to consult Margot’s book. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have more thesis writing to get back too…

Chocolate Granola

It’s Food Revolution Day today! So I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon and post a recipe. Unfortunately I’m not doing anything educational with children today (apart from more thesis work, which is related to children and food education!) but I figured an easy recipe that can be made quickly and is superbly delicious sort of fits the bill. If you want to find out more about the day, head over to the Food Revolution Day website – there’s loads of information and ideas.

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But now we need to talk chocolate granola.

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I’m a fairly boring breakfast eater on a day to day basis. I go through stages of eating the same thing, day in, day out. Sometimes it’s cooked oats. Sometimes it’s an apple with yoghurt. Sometimes it’s a quick version of bircher muesli (basically oats soaked in milk with additions depending on my mood). If I’ve made sourdough then it’s toast. On fast days it’s normally vegetables with an egg or more cooked oats. So I decided over the recent holiday that it was time to mix things up. Summer is coming! Cooked oats is too much faff when it’s warm. And often I need to dash into the office early and need something quick to eat before I go. This granola is the answer.

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The only thing is that you need to come to terms with eating chocolate for breakfast. Hard right? Molly from Orangette is a great granola eater, she posted recently that she has five granola recipes on the blog. That post led me to an older post where she writes about chocolate granola. It struck me as being brilliant and so I experimented with her original recipe – I had to take out the coconut flakes (coconut, yuck!) so I made mine with seeds instead, as that is my preferred granola combination. The result is a brilliant toasted oat/seed/almond combination with dark chocolate (and raw cacao nib) richness. It is sort of dangerous to have in your kitchen as it’s a very tempting snack and the original batch didn’t last much longer than a week. It also makes the perfect lazy day dinner, with some yoghurt. (I am also a breakfast-for-dinner eater.)

Feel free to adapt the recipe below as it pleases you. Play around with the sugar/honey/maple syrup combinations. Add or subtract seeds and nuts. It took me less than an hour from setting out the ingredients to eating breakfast, so there’s no excuse not to make your own! Happy Food Revolution Day!

Chocolate Granola
Adapted from Orangette
3 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup whole almonds, roughly chopped
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1 tbsp poppyseeds
2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp sunflower oil
3 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp set honey
1/2 cup dark chocolate (70%), roughly chopped
handful of raw cacao nibs

Preheat the oven to 170C and line a baking tray with either baking paper or some foil that you’ve lightly oiled. (I rhyme!)
In a bowl combine the oats, almonds, seeds and sugar – give everything a good stir.

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In a pan, heat the sunflower oil, maple syrup and honey until the honey is loose and the whole mixture is very fluid.

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Pour the liquid onto the oat mixture and stir until everything is well coated.
Distribute onto the baking tray and bake in the oven for 20 minutes, giving everything a good stir after 10. Keep an eye on the granola, you want it nicely toasted but not too dark.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

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Once cool, stir in the chocolate and cacao nibs. Eat! (With milk…) And store in an airtight container.

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Butternut, Bacon and Blue Cheese Quiche

So it seems that even when I remember to photograph the stages of a particular dish, upload these photos, and have a tested recipe, I am still struggling to blog. There is a simple explanation for all this of course – I am thesis writing. Actual thesis writing. For a while, in March and April, I thought I would never write anything ever again. I was immersed in the work of Michel Foucault – the man wrote a ridiculous amount and I’ve had a crash course in the last few months. I began to talk about Foucault like a boyfriend I had to return home to all the time, he came to exist as an invisible entity in my life. It was (is) very weird. (I’ve also resolved that the way to fix this problem is of course, to get a cat and name it Foucault. Because at least then Foucault will be an actual living being, rather than a dead French philosopher I have re-created. It also has to be a cat. I don’t think Foucault works as a name for a dog – it needs to be a being that feels superior.)

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So that is pretty much what I have been doing for the last few months – reading Foucault, talking about him, cursing him, and now, finally, writing about him – or at least, his ideas and concepts. It’s been spectacularly stressful. (Someday soon I will write the thesis analogy post I’ve had in my head. But for that I think we need cake and today I have only quiche.)

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I made this quiche a few weeks ago. (When does quiche become pie? This is something I’ve wondered recently but don’t yet have the answer to and is of course completely irrelevant to this train of thought so let’s move along swiftly.) We’ve been on holiday here and I was cat-sitting for friends. They have an excellent kitchen and I took full advantage whilst I was there. Obviously you can do whatever you want for the filling – I like the combination of butternut (and other yellow/orange vegetables), blue cheese and bacon, but a myriad of things will work. The pastry is what I’m most excited about really. It’s crispy and crunchy. It’s got more presence than plain pastry. It’s also super easy and comes together in minutes.

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Wholemeal Poppyseed Pastry
100g wholemeal spelt flour
150g plain flour
125g unsalted butter, cold
pinch of salt
a few tablespoons ice cold water
1 tbsp poppyseeds

In a bowl combine the two flours and salt. Rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add in the poppyseeds. Add in the water, a little at a time, until the pastry comes together to form a ball. Flatten this into a disc and refrigerate for at least an hour.

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In the meantime, prep the quiche filling and make the egg mixture.

Egg Mixture
3 eggs
125ml double cream
125ml milk
salt and pepper
Whisk the eggs into the double cream and milk. Add in the salt and pepper. Set aside until needed.

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Roll out the dough until 1/2cm thick. You want it thin but not so thin you can’t roll it up. Line a pie or tart dish – I let the edges overhang in case of shrinking. Refrigerate again for half an hour.

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Preheat the oven to 180C. Blind bake the tart shell. I find it takes 20 minutes with rice/beans in and then another 5 minutes with the rice removed to just completely dry it out. Reduce the oven temperature to 165C. Fill the tart shell with filling of your choice followed by the egg mixture.

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Bake until risen and set – about 30 to 40 minutes. Allow to cool before serving. Eat in large quantities, with salad.

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