Sunday, 11 December 2011

Introducing Mon Petit Four...

This Christmas I'm inviting friends and family to share in a sneak preview of my new venture: Mon Petit Four!

For as long as I can remember I've loved petit fours in every possible shape, size and flavour - from delicious and unusual chocolates and confectionery delivered as a surprise treat at the end of a meal, to the beautiful miniatures of classic French patisseries I used to gaze through the glass at in shop windows as a little girl in France.

 So what better gift to your loved ones this Christmas than a perfect little box of petit fours?

I've put together a special Christmas selection of 23 flavours for the festive season, all listed below, so if you're lucky enough to receive a box, you can find out exactly what you've been given!

Image opposite:

Lemon & Pistachio Marshmallows
Spiced Quince Pate de Fruit
Toffee Apple Crumble Bonbons
Almond, Lavender & Apricot Nougat
Bitter Almond Amaretti
Sour Cherry Chocolate Florentines
Dark Chocolate Blackcurrant Macarons
Honey Vanilla Caramels
Salted Caramel Bonbons
Chocolate Caramels
Cappuccino Caramel Bonbons
Blackberry and Pear Pate de Fruit
Toasted Coconut Marshmallows

Other flavours also available...

White Chocolate Fudge
Honeycomb and Almond Torrone
Mulled WIne Gums
Egg Nog Bonbons
Hazelnut & Chocolate Meringue Slice
Chocolate & Cinnamon Marshmallows
Rose & Pomegranate Turkish Delight
Milk Chocolate Clementine Macarons
Coffee & Pecan Fudge

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Wedding Cakes

July 2011:
Fondant Fancies with crystallised rose petals, traditional fruitcake for the top tier.

May 2011:
Traditional fruitcake, chocolate cake and carrot cake for a Scottish wedding in Crieff. The bride wanted a cake that reflected the different textures and folds in the fabric of her wedding dress so I created sugar folds and pleats to mirror the design. The back and sides of the cake had piped icing and sugar crystals to match the embroidery on her dress.

A 3-tiered vanilla victoria sponge with dark red and fuschia sugar roses to match the bride's bouquet. I made this for one of my fellow chef friends in September 2010.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Video recipe - pear tarte tatin

Its been a long time coming... but now I'm back and ready to write again!
Over the past few months I've turned my life upside down, moved jobs, moved towns, and am now loving life in a new restaurant just outside Cambridge - The Hole in the Wall at Little Wilbraham

I'm heading up pastry, taking care of all desserts, breads, pastries, petit fours...if its got sugar in it you can guarantee I'm involved in there somewhere! I'm going to be updating this blog with some of the most popular dishes I've been serving at the restaurant. They will all be 100% tried, tested and reviewed before they make it here, so I hope you will enjoy them too.

In the meantime if you have any requests for recipes please let me know and I will put them up too!

Before I get to them tho, here is one of the video recipes I did at the Cook School with Angela - the recipe is on the blog, and now you can watch me do it!


Friday, 1 April 2011

The lightest, fluffiest and easiest marshmallows...

The day I first made marshmallows, I thought I was going to explode with excitement...
Who ever thought that a mere mortal could (and successfully!) create such a delicious and exotic sweet! They were the kind of things that growing up I'd imagine came from massive window-less factory-type buildings containing machines and ingredients that no-one had ever or would ever hear by very secretive sugar-dusted individuals. And maybe looked like oopma-loompas...Am I taking this too far? Maybe. Anyway.

So you can see what a revelation it was when I finally did, and not just that, but I made them easily! And quickly!
And the best thing is that you can make them any flavour you like, these days you can buy just about every flavour imaginable on the internet, colour them, shape them, be as creative as you like.

So we have a basic recipe:

340g sugar
120g water
105g glucose
22.5g leaf gelatine (I hate it when recipes say 1 or 2 leaves, as they come in different sizes these days, and how are you to know which size to use??)

The next things you need are:

e.g. freeze-dried fruit, dessicated coconut, crushed nuts, spices, cocoa, edible glitter (awesome) flavour drops (which you can buy from places like and

Powdered colourings or pastes work best as then you're not messing around with the liquid content of the marshmallows, which keeps everything much simpler! Natural colourings are of course the best, and if you get some good quality freeze-dried fruit such as raspberry or strawberry then this will colour your marshmallows beautifully without adding artifical colourings (like the pink raspberry marshmallows here:)

Something to coat them in:
Marshmallows are, by nature, quite sticky, so you do need some dry powder to roll them into keep them finger-friendly.
I suggest a mixture of cornflour, roughly 1 tsp cornflour to 2 tsp icing sugar, combined with a good 2-3tsp of crushed freeze-dried fruit, nuts or dessicated coconut etc as this will add more flavour and colour.

Easy-peasy method:
Word of advice: this method is possible using just an electric hand mixer, however made immeasurably easier with a kitchen stand mixture...I have done it both ways. All I will say about the hand mixer option is that a tea towel comes in handy to place over your hand and the bowl to stop any mixture flying out...

Step 1
Soak your gelatine in cold water (an additional amount to the water stated in the recipe).

Step 2
Place the sugar and the measured water in a small saucepan, and place over a medium heat and allow the sugar to dissolve. As is often advisable both with sugar syrups and in friendship circles, resist the urge to stir. Once the sugar has dissolved, turn the heat up and bring to a boil. Allow the syrup to reach 108*C

Step 3
While the syrup is boiling away, place the glucose syrup in the bowl of the kitchen stand mixer.
Once the gelatine has softened to a very squidgy and soft texture (you shouldn't be able to feel any firm area at all, think over-cooked pasta, not 'al dente') take it out of the water and squeeze it to remove any excess water.
Place the gelatine in with the glucose, and start the mixer mixing on a low speed. If you're using flavour drops or food colourings, add them now.

Step 4
When the sugar syrup reaches 108*C, turn the speed up slightly to about half-speed. Stand by!
Cook the syrup to PRECISELY 110*C, then remove from the heat, and pour the sugar syrup in a slow, steady stream into the glucose/gelatine mixture. It should take roughly 30 seconds to pour the syrup in completely, so take your time!

Once all the syrup has been poured in, the mixture should resemble slightly watery, frothy glucose, still fairly transparent. Now turn the speed up to full, and place a tea towel over the mixer to retain some heat in the mix.

Now walk away and leave it for 5-10, possibly even 15 minutes. During this time, the mixture will cool, and simultaneously whisk up the gelatine, sugar and glucose to look a bit like a meringue mixture. Once a stiff peak meringue-texture has been achieved, you need to keep the mixer going until the mixture cools enough to be firm enough to hold the peaks.
If it is still quite hot when you stop whisking, the mixture won't be stiff enough to hold any kind of shape you want it to take.
Think stiff-peak meringue, or piping consistency.
Now you can fold in the freeze-dried fruit, nuts or coconut.
Note: If you're in a warm kitchen, it is possible that after 15 minutes of continuous whisking your mixer won't actually be able to cool the mixture to below 25*C or so as its engine will get hot, but don't worry. You're looking for just about room temperature for the mixture.

Now comes the fun part!

Shaping the marshmallows:

Whatever you put the mixture into, it needs to be lined with non-stick or waxed baking parchment.
Option1 : scrape the mixture into a baking paper lined roasting tin to set, about 2.5cm deep (i like quite chunky marshmallows, and then place a second layer of baking parchment on top to seal the mixture
Option 2: put the marshmallow mix into a piping bag and pipe lines onto baking paper to make long marshmallows. Sprinkle the piped lines with your dried 'dusting powder' while still wet so that they stick properly.
Option 3: my personal favourite, pipe the mixture on top of cakes or cupcakes for a delicious marshmallow topping...(sprinkle as for the piped lines while still 'wet')

Leave the marshmallow to set for around 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Once it has set, you can cut the marshmallows into cubes or smaller pieces.
To remove the marshmallow from the baking paper you will need a heat gun or hairdryer.
Wave the heat source gently over the baking paper (this will effectively melt the marshmallow just at the surface just enough to release the paper) and peel the paper back gently. Dust the exposed marshmallow with the 'dusting powder'.
Turn the sheet of marshmallow over and repeat for the underside, dusting all the exposed surface where you have cut the marshmallow.

And now, as if you haven't already...its time to try!

The ones I made are passionfruit and coconut, and the pink ones are raspberry. Try adding a tiny touch of citric acid to your dusting powder for 'sherbet' marshmallows...or how about cinnamon and cocoa powder with a hint of red chilli powder for the ultimate mexican spiced hot chocolate marshmallows...

If you want to make the simplest forms and just cut them into 2.5cm cubes, this quantity makes a rectangle roughly 2.5cm x 21cm x 48cm.

Friday, 18 February 2011

My holy trinity: food, photograpy and tart tatin!

For a while now I've been wanting to learn more about photography, and be able to take some decent shots of my food, cakes, friends etc, so today I bit the bullet and bought my first dSLR from those very obliging people at Amazon! Its a canon 550d, and all being well will be with me by 1pm tomorrow! My god that site is good.

I'll be updating the blog with my pictures as I learn the ropes, including any useful tips I pick up along the way! In the meantime, here is one I will aspire to take myself one day:

This is my latest recipe - tamarind, star anise and pear tart tatin, my take on a delicious classic, just with a few extra taste sensations added for good measure...This shot was taken yesterday as part of our new video recipes for the cook school blog (Angela Malik Cook School, where I am pastry chef). I'll be posting links to the videos as they go live in the next few weeks!

So onto the dish:
I started off by marinat?d?ing the peeled and cored pears in some water with lemon juice and a tiny blob of tamarind concentrate, and meanwhile prepared the caramel: 100g sugar, 1 star anise, 1 vanilla pod (seeds removed) in a hot frying pan melted to a beautiful caramel colour, with a generous pinch of sea salt, lemon zest and 1/4 tsp tamarind concentrated added for extra oomph. Stop the caramel with an equal quantity of butter (100g) and stir gently until bubbly.
Add the pears and a tiny spash of the marinade, and then cook on a low heat, turning occasionally until you have beautiful golden caramel pears that look glossy and caramel coated.

Take the pan off the heat, and meanwhile prepare your tins - I used little 4" springform cake tins for indivudal tarts, so removed some of the pears and placed them round side down into the tin. A good 2-3 spoonfuls of caramel sauce on top please too.
Then I rolled out some circles of puff pastry and tucked them on top of the pears, cut a small steam hole and then baked at 200 degrees C for 15 minutes, until the pastry is risen and golden.

Turn out immediately, and serve with a dollop of marscapone with vanilla seeds stirred through.

I challenge you to share this dish..
Let me know how you get on!

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Popcorn continued: a tribute to a life-long friend

Less than 2 hours after posting my popcorn recipe I got a message from an old friend from Berlin who I haven't seen for 20 years, with a note to say that she had just made my popcorn recipe, and sent me some photos to see!

Here they are (much better than mine!)

Thank you Isa - you made my day :) xxx

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

The best thing since The King's Speech

I LOVE going to the cinema. Partly for the fact that you get to lose yourself in somebody's elses imagination for a good two hours, but, slightly more shamefully, I have a horrendous addiction to popcorn.

When I was going up, it was one of my magical 3 dishes I could, and often would, cook without the need for adult supervision (the other two were hot chocolate fudge sauce and pancakes, not that I have a sweet tooth or anything). And I have to say, all that practise has put me in good stead. Even these days working with other chefs there are those that can, and those that can't. Cook popcorn that it.

So, I thought I might share some of my hints and tips for achieving perfect, unsinged (is that even a word?) popcorn, made from scratch, with only the help of a good deep saucepan, lid and a little oil.
Because nothing really compares to it, particularly when finished with my sea salted caramel coating....

Step 1: Identify your saucepan. make sure its deep and has a tight fitting lid.
Step 2: Identify your popcorn kernels, perhaps pour out a small 1/4 cupful so that we're not tempted to overfill the pan at the crucial moment.
Step 3: Identify your oil. This is important - you must only use a good light oil with a high smoke point such as cold-pressed rapeseed (its very good for you), sunflower or vegetable oil. If it has a low smoke point you will soon discover this when it starts to smoke.

Right. Ready? Excellent.
Place your pan on the heat, you can add the lid too, as it helps to heat it up quicker. You need the pan to be really quite hot. It should very faintly just start to smoke, and be hot enough that you can hold your hand over the top of the pan for about 3 seconds.
Now add your oil. You want enough to coat the bottom of the pan and slightly immerse the kernals. This ensures the kernels are all at the same temperature.
The oil should swirl slightly around and look vaguely interesting.
Now add your kernels, and shake the pan slightly to get an even distribution. LID ON QUICKLY!

Within about 20-30 seconds you should hear popping, then violent popping. This is dead exciting if your lid isn't transparent, as you can only imagine the chaos going on underneath.

Very soon the popping will slow down, and then almost stop. As soon as it is slow enough that you can hear individual pops, give the pan a slight shake and then REMOVE THE PAN FROM THE HEAT.
There is always enough residual heat to finish off a few kernels, but even if there are a few left, better that than charred popcorn. Always disappointing.

At this stage you can select your topping. The Man of the House likes salted, naturally I like sweet. No worries there. My mum uses Angela Malik's Thai pesto (chilli, salt, sugar, coriander, ginger and garlic) and sometimes for parties I make spiced popcorn with Angela Malik garam masala, salt and sugar, or my Thai-style with chilli, salt and sugar.
All delicious, but now I have to introduce you to my favourite :
Sea salted caramel topping.

For about a 1/4 cup of kernels, I use this much:
2 large tbsp butter
3 level tbsp caster sugar
2 pinches sea salt or 1 pinch sea salt and 1 pinch Halen Mon vanilla sea salt (for VERY special occasions)

Melt together the butter sugar and 1 pinch sea salt until the sugar dissolves and starts to bubble. Now this is where you can make it your own: decide how golden you want your caramel to become, bearing in mind that it will always continue to cook slightly more if you let it sit at all before pouring onto the popcorn.
When it has reached the desired colour, pour over the popped corn, which hopefully is still in the pan you cooked it in (always looking for ways to minimise washing up).
Give it a really good stir around for a few minutes until all the kernels are lightly coated. Trust me, it'll get there.
Then sprinkle on your 2nd pinch of sea salt or fancy vanilla salt and pour out onto a tray. It just needs to sit for a few minutes to crisp up.

I've got to run now, serious popcorn craving after all that!

PS If you happen to not be able to finish it, it keeps really well, but I'm warning you, its addictive!

Monday, 31 January 2011

Here goes...

So, the best way to get something done is to begin.
And as with many things in life, this is something I have been planning to do for a very long time.

However, ever the optimist, this lengthy procrastination has helped me in at least one way: I have a collection of stories to tell, recipes to share, and a long long list of how it should not be done...

Aside from cooking, eating and baking, my number one fascination is chemistry. Even in those days back at school, I have a hideously cringeworthy memory of trying to earn brownie points with my chemistry teacher by telling her that I planned to become a nuclear chemist because 'I am interested in how things get blown up'.
Needless to say this did nothing for me but gain a terrible predicted A-level grade (the worst possible punishment for a girl at my school) and a firm belief that in order to impress, you must think things through clearly before you say them. Save the melodrama for the homely bosom of the female friendship group.

To satisfy this fascination, I like to hypothesize for answers in the Highly Scientific world of baking.
I hope you can enjoy this with me, and perhaps provide some long sought after answers yourselves?