Sunday, 27 September 2009

September Daring Bakers: Vol-Au-Vents

Vol-Au-Vents (14)b

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

Puff pastry is in the ‘laminated dough” family, along with Danish dough and croissant dough. A laminated dough consists of a large block of butter (called the “beurrage”) that is enclosed in dough (called the “détrempe”). This dough/butter packet is called a “paton,” and is rolled and folded repeatedly (a process known as “turning”) to create the crisp, flaky, parallel layers you see when baked. Unlike Danish or croissant however, puff pastry dough contains no yeast in the détrempe, and relies solely aeration to achieve its high rise. The turning process creates hundreds of layers of butter and dough, with air trapped between each one. In the hot oven, water in the dough and the melting butter creates steam, which expands in the trapped air pockets, forcing the pastry to rise.

Vol-Au-Vents (4)

To be honest, I wasn't sure how I felt about this challenge. I was pleased that I was being pushed to make puff pastry and as a result would extend my skills but I wrestled with a filling. I wanted to do something sweet but couldn't get away from savoury ideas and finally settled on two fillings. One was a chicken,vegetable and cream cheese filling so that the vol-au-vents I made would become a complete meal for us and hopefully please JT. The second was caramelised red onion and creme fraiché to create a more elegant side dish or canapé.

I haven't included a detailed recipe or instructions for the puff pastry the reason being that I figure no-one is coming here looking for that level of expertise. I have given details of the fillings because perhaps you'll buy a block of puff pastry and make the vol-au-vent cases or even buy the pre-prepared cases to fill. If anyone wants details on making puff pastry I'll gladly email you the recipe.

I enjoyed the challenge of it but I'm not sure I'd do it again. The all-butter puff pastry you buy in the shops is a great substitute and, since the recipe requires a whole block of butter, it's not much more expensive.

Vol-Au-Vents (2)


Will fill SIX 3" Vol-Au-Vents


2 Chicken Breasts, chopped
2 Handfuls of Frozen Veg
3 tblsp Plain Flour
200ml Hot Chicken Stock
125g Cream Cheese
Small handful of fresh thyme


1. Fry the chicken in a little olive oil in a large frying pan until cooked.

2. Add the frozen veg to the pan and cook for a few minutes more.

3. Add the flour and toss everything to coat.

4. Reduce the heat to low and pour in the hot chicken stock. Continue to cook for a few mins stirring until the liquid thickens (add more hot water if necessary).

5. Add the cream cheese and stir to incorporate. Add the thyme and season to taste.

6. To plate up, spoon some mixture into each vol-au-vent.

Vol-au-Vents 2 (8)b


Will fill FOUR 3" Vol-Au-Vents

1 Red Onion
200g tub cremé fraiché (whole tub not required)
1 tbslp balsamic vinegar
1tsp soft brown sugar
1 tblsp butter


1. Halve and then slice the onion finely.

2. Sauté the onion in the butter in a frying pan with the lid on over a low heat until soft (about 5 mins).

3. Add the balsamic vinegar and brown sugar and stir. Continue to sauté with the lid on for a few mins more.

4. To plate up, put a tblsp of cremé fraiché into each vol-au-vent then top with the red onions.

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Monday, 21 September 2009

Bacon & Cheese Muffins

Cheese Bacon & Onion Muffins (20)b

These were yet another attempt to create little handy morsels for JT. And what winners there were (with everyone). They would be absolutely delicious with soup. And they're great for lunchboxes because a few seconds in the microwave softens and reheats them without much damage. I like them warm with butter. JT likes them with red sauce (which goes without saying for those who are familiar with JT's eating habits).

I made a full tray of 12 and stuck what was leftover in the freezer, then just reheated then from frozen in the microwave on medium setting. Enjoy!

Bacon & Cheese Muffin Quad

Cheese and Bacon Muffins


1 packet of bacon (6-8 rashers)
1 sm or 1/2 large white onion, chopped finely
250g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
125ml vegetable oil
150ml yoghurt
1 egg
80g cheddar


1. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6/200oC and line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases.

2. Fry the bacon until starting to crisp. Remove from the pan, finely chop and set aside.

3. Fry the onion in the bacon grease over a low heat until softened. Set aside with the bacon.

4. In a large bowl mix together the flour, baking powder and salt.

5. In a jug mix together the yoghurt, egg, and vegetable oil.

6. Add the bacon, onion and cheese to the dry mixture and give it a good stir. Then pour in the contents of the jug and stir until just mixed - do not overmix!

7. Divide the mixture evenly between the paper cases and bake for 25-30mins. You can test with a toothpick if you like. Don't let them brown too much on the top - you don't want them to be crunchy, although if they are they're still lovely.

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Monday, 14 September 2009

Smashed Potaotes

Smashed Potatoes (6) edited

Elegant name isn't it? But that's literally what these are and the 'smashing' makes all the difference. It give the potatoes a crispy edge when finished. I've been trying to squeeze these in before all the baby potatoes disappear from the shelves. These are just perfect for now when the baby potatoes on the shelves aren't the quality of the first summer crop.

Smashed Potatoes (1)

This is more a method than an exact recipe as how much you make depends on how many you're feeding. I first came across this idea in a food magazine years ago. It was an article written by Jill Dupleix and I logged it in my mind but never got round to trying it out. Then another food blogger posted about this very method at the start of the summer. I gave it a go and we've been having these practically every Sunday since with our roast dinner. I tend to boil and prep them mid-morning and then pop them in the oven for 20mins when I come home from church (i.e. you could make them in advance up to roasting point if you're having guests then just finish off when they arrive).

Smashed Potatoes (3)

Make more of these than you think you'll need - I guarantee you they'll be eaten.

Smashed Potatoes


Baby Potatoes (do not peel)
Fresh Rosemary, chopped (you could replace this with thyme)
Oil (olive, vegetable or sometimes I use garlic oil for the flavour)


1. Par-boil the baby potoates until just tender - you don't want them mushy and they will be getting a while in the oven later. Drain.

2. Drizzle oil over a baking tray and spread with your hands. Place the potatoes on a single layer on the tray.

3. Using a potato masher, press on each potato to flatten. You don't want them flat as a pancake but you do want them to burst open and their flesh to start spreading.

4. Sprinkle salt and chopped rosemary over the potatoes and drizzle them with oil.

5. Roast in a hot oven (about 210oC though if your oven is at something close to that for the meat don't change it, just roast the potatoes for slightly longer/less) for about 20mins. I say 'about ' - when you see the edges starting to brown and crisp they're ready.

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Saturday, 12 September 2009


And the winner is........Comment #2: JoL !!!!!

Congratulations JoL. I hope your future other-half enjoys the benefits of this. I'll contact you by email for your address and post the book out to you at the start of the week.

To the rest of you - keep an eye out. I had fun with this and hope to do it again soon.
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Monday, 7 September 2009


This is to encourage all you lurkers and skulkers out there to make a comment - you know who you are!!!

Just for fun I'm giving away a brand new copy of James Martin's 'James Every Day'. I really like this book and was so tempted to keep it but I really don't need another cookbook. I have made a mental note of some of the recipes however. There's some real nice stuff in there. How about 'Roast Celeriac with Vanilla and Garlic' or 'Caramelised Beetroot' or 'Chorizo, Butter Bean and Truffle Oil Soup' ?It's a whole collection of meat, chicken, fish, salads and desserts.
I'm leaving it open until Saturday afternoon to give those who check in here weekly a chance to enter. All you have to do is leave a comment on my blog telling me what's your favourtie recipe I've posted so far (you don't have to have made it).

All entries before 5pm (GMT) on Saturday evening. The winner will be randomly selected (using a random number generator) and I'll announce the winner on the blog on Saturday night.

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Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Banana Tea Bread

Banana Bread 39b

I had my eye on the banana bread recipe in 'How To Be a Domestic Goddess' for a while before I got round to baking it. The original recipe required rum or bourbon, which I don't keep, so I went on the Nigella forum asking for suggestions for a replacement. One forumer in the Middle East replied that until she got her alcohol licence she just soaked the sultanas in tea. "Of course!" I thought. I have a tea loaf recipe that I've made time and time again which requires you do the same and the tea gives it a lovely flavour. Using tea instead of rum/bourbon makes this a very affordable recipe and I confess to actively checking out the reduced section of the supermarket for reduced overipe bananas purely to make this.

And the all-important factor is that my two men love this. I like it toasted with butter as breakfast, JT gets it just plain at any time of the day and Daddy likes a slice buttered in his lunchbox. It would make a great dessert too, slightly re-heated with a scoop of ice-cream.

Banana Bread (3)b



100g sultanas
A cup of strong hot black tea
175g Plain Flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
125g unsalted butter, melted
150g sugar*
2 large eggs
4 small, very ripe bananas (about 300g weighed without skin), mashed
60g chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
23 x 13 x 7cm loaf tin, buttered and floured or with a paper insert

Serving Size : Makes 8–10 slices


1. Put the sultanas into a smallish bowl and pour over the hot tea. All the sultanas should be covered. If there's not enough tea just add some more boiling water. Set aside while you go ahead with the rest.

2. Preheat the oven to 170ºC/gas mark 3.

3. Put the flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt in a medium-sized bowl and, using your hands or a wooden spoon, combine well.

4. In a large bowl, mix the melted butter and sugar and beat until blended. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then the mashed bananas. Then, with your wooden spoon, stir in the walnuts and vanilla extract. Drain the sultanas and stir them in too. Add the flour mixture, a third at a time, stirring well after each bit.

5. Scrape into the loaf tin and bake in the middle of the oven for 1–11/4 hours. When it’s ready, an inserted toothpick or fine skewer should come out cleanish. Leave in the tin on a rack to cool, and eat thickly or thinly sliced, as you prefer.

*I have made this with caster, granulated and brown sugar and there is little difference. I found that using granulated provided a slightly cumblier texture.

Banana Bread (16)

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