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Archive for January, 2015

Crème Brûlée

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In my previous recipe post of chocolate mousse there was no cream used.  Yet in this post its all about the cream.  Totally unintentional.  I have recently been doing nearly all of my shopping on line and I am rather cavalier when clicking items into my basket.  On this occasion I thought I had ordered two vanilla yogurts.  What I got was two cartons of luxury Jersey cream.  I double checked my order – the error was all mine.  I hate waste. so my problem was what to do with the extra cream that entailed as little work as possible?  I had two choices;  butter or crème brûlée.  I know that crème brûlée is an indulgence which the cholesterol propaganda police have slightly ruined for me in recent years, but neither could I bring myself to pour the cream down the drain.  Even though my brain was screaming ‘make butter’ I wasn’t listening. My heart said loudly ‘crème brûlée’.

Crème brûlée is a classic pudding, consisting of an egg custard with a burnt caramelised topping.  Custard comes in many forms but crème brûlée has to be the king of custards.  It has a smooth, rich, creamy vanilla taste which is then complimented by a sweet brittle toffee like flavour that comes from the caramelised sugar topping.

It’s true pedigree is unknown but I do like the story of an undergraduate at Trinity College, Cambridge who had suggested the recipe of burnt cream to the cook who promptly refused to make it, saying it wasn’t for Trinity.  Fast forward a few years and that same said student went on to graduate and become a fellow of Trinity whereupon the cook was obliged to make it and the rest is history!

There are two methods of making crème brûlée.  The first is to beat the egg yolks with the sugar and put them over a bain-marie on top of the hob, adding the hot cream and stirring until thickened.  The second method is to heat the cream to boiling point, add to the sugar and egg yolks and then pour into ramekins which are placed in a bain-marie in the oven.  The big difference with the oven version is that you don’t need to stand over it and stir and, more importantly, by going the oven route you are lessening the chances of the eggs splitting or curdling.

Crème brûlée is easy to make and can be made the day before.  The only thing that needs to be done just before serving is to caramelise the sugar – if you do this too far in advance the brittle topping will start to soften.  This is caused by the humidity in the air.   Caramelising can be done with a blow torch or under a hot grill.  I prefer the grill method mainly because I am a coward when it comes to handling a blow torch.  I allow the grill to get very hot as it helps to caramelise the sugar quicker and stops the custard underneath from warming up too much.

Getting the thickness of caramelised sugar on the top just right can be difficult.  Put too much sugar on and it will burn and not caramelise properly.  The way around this is to put two thin layers on.  As soon as the first layer has melted sprinkle a second layer of sugar and replace under the grill.

When it comes to which sugar to sprinkle on top I have found that demerara sugar is the best.  Caster sugar tends to go a little grainy.

This recipe is very straight forward and the formula is;  to each 100 ml of double cream add one large egg yolk with 5 grams of caster sugar.  The amount of sugar used is up to you.  I think 5 gms per 100 ml of double cream is about right, but you might prefer to use a little less.  The only thing that changes is the length of time in the oven which depends on the size of your ramekins.

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Once all the hot cream has been added you should have a custard thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Crème Brûlée

makes 4 large ramekins or 8 small

Ingredients

600ml double cream

6 large egg yolks

vanilla pod or 1 tbs vanilla extract

30 gm caster sugar

1 tsp approx demerara sugar per ramekin

Method

Heat oven to Gas 2/150C

In a bowl mix together the caster sugar and egg yolks.

Put double cream and vanilla into a pan until it reaches boiling point.  Remove from heat and if using vanilla pod remove the pod.

Pour the double cream slowly into the egg and sugar mixture stirring all the time until all the cream has been mixed in.

Pour into ramekins and place these into a baking tray.  Fill the baking tray or oven proof dish with hot water until it reaches just over half way up the ramekins.

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600ml cream mixture split into 4 ramekins

 

Place in the oven.

8 small ramekins take about 25mins and 4 large ramekins take around 45 minutes.  Open the oven and check – the custard needs to have set around the outside yet still have some wobble in the centre.

When done, remove and allow to cool.  Remove from the bain-marie and place in the fridge for at least 4 hours.

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Just before serving heat up the grill so it is hot and sprinkle sugar on the tops distributing evenly. Place under grill and as soon as the sugar has dissolved remove.  DO NOT STICK YOUR FINGER IN to test if the sugar has caramelised and hard.  Hot melted sugar causes pain! It took a while for me to learn this little lesson.  Leave for a few minutes for the sugar to cool and harden. Then test. If a thicker caramel is wanted repeat the process.

Serve

 

 

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ChocMousse (1)I am not ashamed to say I love my desserts but at the same time I am quite picky.  So when I watched this chocolate mousse being made in my honour, I didn’t have high hopes for it. especially when I saw the ingredients – how wrong I was.  If velvet could be described as a food then it would be this chocolate mousse.  Not only is it smooth tasting but it has a deep intense chocolate taste that dissolves in the mouth.  It is without a shadow of a doubt a grown up dessert.

Since commandeering this recipe for myself I have now made it over and over again.  As with all much-loved recipes I have made a change, which was to remove the orange zest which I feel distracts from the main ingredient – the chocolate. I know that there are so many flavours such as chilli and others that would compliment the chocolate but this recipes calls for top quality chocolate, so why ruin what is a luxury and delicious ingredient by masking it with another?  There are other reasons I love this recipe and why I continually make it and that is its simplicity and the four ingredients that are always in stock in my larder.  Eggs, butter, sugar and chocolate.

It has a decadence about it and it’s not a dessert that you want to rush. It’s quick to make and a little goes a long way.   Not even I, who doesn’t have an off switch when it comes to eating chocolate, can manage two helpings.

So thank you Sophia (whose recipe it is) this recipe is now set firmly in my repertoire of tried, tested and much loved desserts.

Chocolate Mousse

Ingredients

makes 6 small pots

100g dark chocolate at least 70% cocoa such as Green & Blacks or Montezumas
65g unsalted butter
3 eggs
90g caster sugar
Chocolate covered coffee beans for decoration.
(and an orange for zest IF you want it)
  1. Break the chocolate up and with the butter put into a Bain Marie or into the Microwave.  Heat until melted.  Stir to combine.
  2. Separate the eggs and beat the egg yolks with the caster sugar until very pale.  Add the melted chocolate (and orange zest if required).
  3. Whisk the egg whisk until the white peak stage and then fold into the chocolate mixture.
  4. Pour into little pots or glasses and chill in a fridge for at least three hours.
Serve on their own or with a little clotted cream.

 

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cranberrysauceCranberry sauce is not just for Christmas and not just an accompaniment to turkey.  It is wonderful with duck, goose or chicken not to mention soft cheeses like Brie.  My favourite way of eating it is spread generously in a sandwich.  Preferably with chicken or brie  Depending on how you like your cranberry sauce;  sweet or super sweet, it gives the perfect contrast to either.

Cranberries are naturally tart little red/orange fruits that bounce. Beneath their thin red/orange skin is a white firm juicy flesh that contain four roomy seed chambers, it’s the air trapped in these chambers that give them the bounce factor.   Add a little sugar and a little water to a couple of handfuls of cranberries and they are transformed into a tangy zingy fruity thick sauce .

I have always associated cranberry sauce with the USA but in fact they were also grown over here in the UK around the 17th Century but were known as Fenberries, because they were grown in the Fen marsh lands of East Anglia.  Today there is only one British grower and that is Mockbeggar Farm, near Rochester, in Kent.  Unlike in the USA where the Cranberry fields are flooded at harvest time Mockbeggar Farm crops have been so small that they had to picked by hand.

I used to buy cranberry jelly until I found I could make it not only really quickly and simply but also exactly how I liked it.  The sugar quantity I have given below is a good balance – you can either increase or decrease it depending on your taste. I wouldn’t go any lower as it needs to have some sweetness.

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Cranberry Sauce

Makes around two 8 oz jam jars.

Ingredients

300g fresh or frozen cranberries

200g sugar

300ml water

Put water and sugar into a pan and heat gently until sugar has dissolved.  Bring up to the boil and add the cranberries.  As they start to pop and split lower the heat to a gentle simmer for about 10 minutes. Stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat.

The sauce thickens as it cools.

Set aside to cool slightly before pouring into sterilised jars.  Store in the fridge – should keep for a month maybe even longer.

 

Sterlising Jars

To sterilise the jars wash them in hot soapy water and rinse. Place on a baking tray and put into a warm oven Gas mark 3/325F/160C and leave for 10/15 minutes. Carefully take out and use.

I use the rule that it is either wax discs or screw lid not both. The waxed disc will prevent the twist top from creating a proper seal.

 

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Copyright (2)

I am sure I am not alone in saying that I take a lot of care and trouble over the photographs used to illustrate the food I write about.  As they say:  you eat with your eyes. I have spent many hours trying to get my photographs ‘just right’ and many tears of frustration because of light, subject matter waiting to be eaten or just that the buttons on the camera are beyond me. Who ever said blogging was easy!

When I first started I would submit pictures to tastespotting or foodgawker – always hopeful of acceptance. On most occasions, and after an agonising wait, my submissions would mostly be rejected with a few cursory words to justify why the required standard had eluded me. So be it – I persevered, but with only modest success, finally to give up totally.

The posts I write the more confident I become in my blog and can live without the approval of these “food porn” sites, nice though it would be. I have taken comfort in certain of my pictures consistently ranking highly when I do a Google search, or a Google image search, as validation that they have a recognised quality and popularity – and that this will, I hope, increase visitors to my site and broaden my readership.

So I was in for a real shock when I realised recently that the pictures of my Christmas cake that appeared high up on Google image searches do not in fact link back to my site!

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This is one of the photographs used by two UK companies who had claimed to have baked it.

 

They linked back to two “reputable” businesses in the UK in order to promote their products and services. Both seemed to claim to have actually baked the cake in question. Shame on them.  This threw up other photographs which I could see were not theirs either.

Some information on copyright:

Firstly the photographer owns copyright in an original photograph. It is created automatically when the photo is taken – there is no need to add © or any date or other information to your picture or website (and even if you do these will be “stripped” by the copyright thief). I also find photographs with a copyright name stamped across them rather a turn off, so I don’t do it.

Secondly, putting a picture on my blog does not waive my copyright. It does not mean that anyone else is allowed to take it and use it themselves – if they do so, then they are committing a civil wrong and possibly also a crime.

Thirdly, if my photograph appears on a Google image search (or on Pinterest etc. etc.) it does not mean that it is available for someone else to use or that I have waived my rights.

Fourthly, if your “web designer” says that it is an “open source” or “public domain” image (which was one of the excuses) then you had better check it yourself – as you are the one responsible and liable.

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I baked these Koloocheh. The rug and even the dog are mine and therefore is this photograph my copyright? Answer: No, because I didn’t take it.

 

How to find out if your image is appearing elsewhere?

Searching Google to see if your image has been used is easy. Go to the Google home page and on the top right is a tool bar which includes after gmail the word images. Click on ‘images’ and a new Google search window pops up. In the search box to the far right is a little black camera icon. Click on this. A new window will pop up with two choices ‘Paste URL image’ or ‘upload image’ I tend to click on upload image. I click on browse and double click my chosen image from my computer. Google then does all the hard work and will show all links to places where that image can be found.

Some sites don’t always have email addresses or ways to contact them this is where you can use WHOIS to find the person behind the website.

Email that person. If there is a DMCA link on the website then use that to report the infringement. The prime objective is to get the pictures taken down

Enforcing your rights is not always easy to achieve. Dealing with foreign infringers is problematic as the legal system in their countries will be difficult to access and may be costly to pursue. I am in the UK so dealing with infringers in the UK is easiest. Unfortunately English law is not well advanced in giving realistic damages (unlike the US or Ireland where, apparently, statutory damages can be claimed).

Background reading

A company in the US had to pay $3,000 for using a blurry mobile phone picture without permission.  Apparently the claim was bought by a ‘leech’ lawyer – my thought was, what’s his name and email address?!

You might think that’s the US but here in the UK things are beginning to change.  Claims can be brought on the Small Claims track in court with relatively little cost or formality. You don’t need a solicitor and you can issue a claim yourself.

An example of this is of a photographer who was awarded £10,000 for the use of 19 pictures – and in that same case the Judge made it very clear that ‘ignorance of the copyright ownership is no defence‘.

The photographer wrote a very informative article “How I made £27k from two evenings tracking down copyright infringements”.

Even buying images from a storage locker sale doesn’t mean they are yours either.  Read the story of the copyright issues with Vivian Maier’s photographs.  I had admired her photographs a few years ago and thought that the person who had bought them from a storage locker had a real treasure.  I think he is now the owner of one big legal headache which doesn’t look like it is going to go away anytime soon.

Conclusion

The Internet is here to stay. Copyright issues are unavoidable. To anyone with a website or blog or working in digital media – if you did not take the photographs yourself then you need to be alert to copyright infringement. Otherwise you are at real risk of receiving a claim for compensation. Just as copying photographs is easy, tracking down those who do so is now easy too.

The internet is not going to go away any time soon and copyright theft is going to be pretty big business for legal companies as compensation figures start to rise.

 

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Steamed puddings have been around for centuries, and can be made as a sponge mixture or with suet.  The cooking is done on top of the stove slowly and gently which makes for a lighter sponge result.  Although they were originally cooked in an animal’s intestine, things have moved on and exceptionally good results can be achieved by steaming the mixture in a pudding basin with a lid.

The basic ingredients for the golden syrup steamed sponge pudding are;  eggs, butter, sugar and flour.  Exactly the same as in a Victoria Sponge.   The only difference is the result.  The slow gentle steam cooking produces the most beautiful, light, moist, airy and delicate sponge.  The added golden syrup gives a luxurious golden crown of a deep sweet flavour.

Unlike the oven which cooks the Victorian Sponge mixture at 190C the sponge pudding is cooked at 100C, this allows all the moisture to be kept in.  I admit to waxing a little lyrical about this pudding but it deserves favour, it really does.  It doesn’t feature at the dinner table that often these days and yet it is a simple and comforting pudding.

The simplicity of this recipe is in the ingredients and the formula – I love recipes with formulae.

Weigh two eggs with shell on and whatever the weight – measure equal weights of flour, sugar and butter and that is the recipe.  The only other ingredients are the crowing glory or the golden syrup and a little milk which is added to the sponge mixture to loosen it to a dropping consistency.  The mixture is put into a buttered pudding basin with the syrup and steamed for 1 1/2 hours.  It can be served with either cream or custard.

Steamed pudding may have been around for centuries but the golden syrup pudding has only been around since 1881.  The recipe was originated by Abram Lyle to promote his ‘goldie’ sales and proved to be incredibly popular in Victorian times.

Abram Lyle was a canny Scotsman who realised that to really succeed he needed to open a sugar refinery in London.  So he sent his sons down to set up a refinery in Plaistow by the river Thames.  Refining cane sugar produced a waste of liquid sucrose but Lyle discovered that instead of throwing it away he could make it into a golden syrup which was known as  ‘goldie’. Later it was to be named Golden Syrup.  Today the factory still remains in Plaistow and produces 20 thousand tons of golden syrup a year.

What makes this syrup even more special is that not only does it have the Royal warrant but the original packaging that Abram Lyle himself designed has not changed, making it the world’s oldest brand packaging.  The only time the packaging changed was during World War 1 when metal was scarce and strong cardboard had to be used.  A product that even with the strange brand label of a dead lion with a swarm of bees has stood the test of time.

Golden Syrup Steamed Pudding

Ingredients

2 eggs

Weight of the 2 eggs in their shell of:

Butter

Caster Sugar

Self raising flour

a little milk (approx couple of tablespoons)

3-6 tbs Lyle’s Golden Syrup

Butter to grease the pudding basin.

Method

Use a little knob of butter to grease the inside of the pudding basin this will help the pudding to turn out easily once cooked.

Depending on your taste drop into the bottom of the pudding basin between 3-6 tablespoons of golden syrup.  (I use 6)

In a bowl beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the egg whole with 1 tablespoon of the flour and beat until combined.  Repeat with the second egg.  Fold in the flour until combined.  Add a little milk and stir in.  The mixture needs to be of a dropping consistency.

Drop the mixture on top of the golden syrup leveling out before placing the lid on. It should come to about half way up the basin.

In a pan place an upturned saucer or a trivet and place the pudding basin on top.  (It must not sit on the bottom of the pan)

Fill the pan with water to at least half way up the side of the pudding basin.  Bring to a gentle boil and then turn down to a simmer and place a pan lid on for 1 1/2 hours.  After this time the sponge should be cooked.  Gently remove and with a knife loosen the pudding from the side of the basin.  Place a plate on top and turn over.  The pudding should come out as one.

Serve immediately with lashings of custard or cream.

Will serve 6 but for a more generous helping it serves 4.  I tend to make it for 2 and the remains are heated up in the microwave the following day.

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