Sunday, 16 September 2012

Cappuccino Pavlova

My love for Nigella Lawson has been well documented on this blog. Here I waxed lyrical about her book "How to be a Domestic Goddess" while baking her Rocky Road Crunch Bars from a whole other book, here I made her Sesame Peanut Noodles for lunch, here I made her Glitzy Chocolate Puddings for a Nigella themed blogging event. I've made her chocolate banana bread, Boston Cream Pie, Strawberry and Almond Crumble, Spinach and Coconut Milk Soup , I even named my first stand mixer after her!
So yeah, I'm pretty indifferent about Nigella's cooking. Yeah right!
When I heard she was taking over an issue of Stylist Magazine last year - December I think it was - I was very very excited! If you read Stylist, you're sure to remember the issue - the one with her covered in caramel?

This has been on my 'to bake list' - or one of them at least - but I finally got the time to bake it during the last bank holiday. I was impressed by how easy pavlova is to make and the instructions are so good that at the end I had the perfect meringue, crispy on the outside and chewy and marshmallow-y on the inside!

I already can't wait to try lots of variations on this recipe. Perhaps the same again but with whipped mascarpone cheese instead of cream, or omit the coffee from the meringue and top the cream with fresh berries? The possibilities are endless! But first, I have to make this again. Exactly the same. To teach my housemates as they were totally and utterly in love with it. Ah well, you know what they say, give your housemates cake and they will eat for a day or two, teach them how to bake and you can benefit from the fruits of their labour. Or something like that anyway ;)

Have a great week!


250g caster sugar
4 tsps instant espresso powder, not instant coffee
4 egg whites
Pinch of salt
2 tsps cornflour
1 tsp white wine vinegar
300ml double cream
1 tsp cocoa powder

1 - Preheat the oven to 180C / gas mark 4. Line a flat oven sheet with baking parchment and, using a 23cm cake tin, draw a circle on it.
2 - Mix the sugar with the instant espresso powder in a small bowl and set aside.
3 In a clean, grease-free metal bowl whisk the egg whites and salt until they are holding soft peaks. Keep whisking while you add the sugar-coffee mixture a tablespoon at a time.
4 - When you have a firm, ecru-coloured meringue, fold in the cornflour and vinegar using a grease-free metal spoon.
5 - Dollop the meringue mixture inside the drawn circle. Smooth and shape it with a spatula so that it looks rather like the crown of a boater (nope, I don't know what a boater is either): it must be flat on top.

6 - Put it in the oven and immediately turn down to 150C/gas mark 3 and cook for an hour. Switch off the oven and leave inside until cool.

7 - Once the base is cool, lift it carefully in its paper and place it top-side down on a flat plate and peel off the paper.
8 - Whip the double cream until thick but soft and spread delicately over the top of the meringue. With a teaspoon, push the cocoa through a fine sieve or tea strainer to decorate the top, cappuccino-style.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Review of The Luxury Biscuit Club

Soho House, Shoreditch House, Groucho Club ... they can all keep their private memberships. Baker's Pantry Luxury Biscuit Club is MY kinda club. A selection of at least 7 different packets of "luxury, oven-fresh biscuits from Britain's very finest traditional bakers and bakeries" delivered monthly?!
Errr yes please, sign me up!

Baker's Pantry source the best, most luxurious, most exclusive biscuits in the UK and have them available with mouth-watering descriptions - such as "with a subtle taste of ginger running throughout the biscuit, and lovely chewy chunks of stem ginger balanced off by a gentle hint of lemon..." -  and information about the baker ready for you to buy on their website; after an undoubtedly agonising decision process as to which packets of biscuits you absolutely have to buy this time.
Now, I am notoriously bad at making decisions, I can often be heard saying "I'm not fussed" and I am that person in restaurants who takes forever deliberating over the menu. I go one step further and ask the waiter(ess) what they would recommend only to completely ignore their advice and then spend the entire meal in the throws of food envy! The long and short of it, I'm terrible at making decisions. So if you ask me, you're asking for trouble perusing the Baker's Pantry website without some guidance, which is why The Luxury Biscuit Club is such a great idea!

Here's what they have to say about it:

"As soon as people learn about my love of delicious British biscuits I always get asked the same question, but there isn't a simple answer to the question "what are the best biscuits?".

So a couple of years ago I started recommending a selection of my favourite biscuits, because I was sure they'd love most of them, and probably find a new favourite of their own.

But as I found more and more great biscuits my list of recommendations got longer and longer - and it was getting more and more difficult to get hold of these delicious biscuits.

The solution was simple. I'd set-up a biscuit club and each month I'd order a selection of the finest biscuits from the best bakers.

Now everyone who really wants to enjoy great biscuits can try a new selection each month and choose their own favourites.

So How Does the Biscuit Club work?

It couldn't be simpler really ... All you need to do is join the club and I'll do the rest!
  • I'll choose some of the greatest biscuits in Britain
  • I'll work with the bakers to write tasting notes which will tell you exactly what to look for in each biscuit
  • And then I'll send the biscuits to you so you can tuck in!"
Now try and tell me there is any part of that which doesn't sound VERY appealing! I received the introductory selection and I can tell you I wasn't expecting the very large box which was delivered to me containing all of the goodies below and some you can't see in the picture. And it included a large air tight jar which I assume lesser biscuit addicts than myself would use for saving open packets of biscuits AND a box of Clipper tea.
I was very pleased so thank you Luxury Biscuit Club and thank you from the lucky people I work with who were the beneficiaries of the half-eaten boxes of biscuits I'd started on ;)

My favourites were:

Brambles Honey and Raisin Biscuits - While I quite like raisins, I tend to see them as a nuisance in food and would prefer to eat them on their own so I was very pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed them in these biscuits, which had the perfect texture in my opinion. I only tasted the honey as an after-taste but that didn't matter. I really really enjoyed these biscuits.

Original Cornish Fairings by Furniss - These were described as spice biscuits and I was a bit apprehensive as to what to expect. I can't even remember what I expected anymore because what I got were perfectly buttery biscuits that tasted of ginger but not overpoweringly so; it was almost an after-taste. I could also taste lemon which was a great complement to the ginger. Finally they were crunchy but not crispy which is great as I like a lot of things crispy but not my biscuits!
Chocolate Orange Mini-Bites by Franks - There was no doubt that a chocolate biscuit would make its way into my favourites as I am a total chocoholic. But this means I'm also very particular about the taste of chocolate biscuits. The chocolate-orange combo is one of my favourites and these captured everything that is so wonderful about that flavour combination. The chocolate chips and oaty texture made having just one of these mini bites an impossibility. So I had two three four oh, who's counting!
My only qualm is that I kept on wanting to refer to these as cookies because the word "biscuit" - which refers to the stuff you buy in supermarkets - just doesn't do these justice!

To find out more about The Luxury Club and join, click here.