Gastrobabble

A quest for gastro-liberation, an excuse to buy more cookbooks…


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Tiramsu to me to you

The tenuous Chuckle Brothers reference for this post is apt seeing as it relates to this week’s calamitous episode of The Great British Bake Off. (As an aside, does anyone else think that it’s entirely unfair to task bakers with the challenge of making ice-cream? After all, bakers are people who deal with heating things on a regular basis, rather than the other way round…)

ANYWAY. Before disaster left Iain thunderstruck (not to mention the bin that was struck with a Unbaked Alaska), the technical challenge this week was a tiramisu cake. As I am currently attempting a weekly bake-a-long with GBBO, I had to come up with a more transportable version to bring to work. And thus, the tiramisu tart was borne.

Tartamisu

Tartamisu
I know that the tiramisu is contentious for those who don’t like trifle (what is tiramisu but a sexy trifle?) So compromise with this: a sweet and buttery shortcrust pastry shell, filled with a rich and fudgy Frangelico chocolate ganache and topped with an airy coffee mascarpone.

Ingredients

For the pastry
200g plain flour
100g chilled cubed butter
1 tbsp icing sugar
1 medium egg, beaten

For the chocolate ganache
300ml double cream
325g dark chocolate, broken up into small pieces
2 shots Frangelico (any booze will do here, sub in brandy or Amaretto for a similar flavour)
A pinch of table salt

For the coffee mascarpone
400g mascarpone cheese
4 tbsps icing sugar
1 cooled espresso (brewed from grounds or from instant)

Pastry
If you are fortunate enough to own a mixer, give the butter, sugar and flour a quick blitz to combine to a rubble of the consistency of damp sand. (Don’t overdo it as it will just warm up the butter and the key to pastry is to keep it cool). Pour in half of the beaten egg and combine; keep gradually adding more of the beaten egg until the mixture just comes together (there is no need to use the whole egg mixture, pastry is a strange and inconsistent mistress. Sometimes you’ll use all of the egg, sometimes you won’t. It’s not the catchiest of bon mots but there you go).
If you are making the pastry by hand, rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips (again being careful to work quickly so as not to melt the butter). Then add half the beaten egg and combine; continue adding the beaten egg until it comes together as one ball.
Roll the pastry into a ball and flatten into a fat disc before wrapping in clingfilm and chilling in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Once chilled, roll out your pastry between two sheets of clingfilm or baking parchment (being careful to keep it roughly in a circular shape) and transfer to a 23cm tart tin, making sure to gently press the pastry into the corners of the tin. Return your lined tin back to the fridge and chill for another 30 minutes.
In the meantime, pre-heat your oven to gas mark 4/180c. Once thoroughly chilled, lightly prick the base of the tart with a fork before lining with clingfilm, foil or baking parchment and topping with baking beans (or uncooked rice, beans or lentils). Bake for 15-20 minutes before removing the baking beans and their lining. Bake for another further 5 minutes until the base is dry and golden. Leave to cool completely in the tin before trimming the excess (retain the trimmed pastry for decorating later) and filling.

Ganache
The key to not shitting up a ganache is to basically not boil your cream (a mistake I’ve made too many times to mention). SO. Gently heat your double cream in a saucepan, it should be very warm (like a hot water bottle with a cover on) when you dip a finger in. When it gets to this stage, switch off the heat and add in your chocolate and salt and gently whisk until it has all melted. Once it has all combined, add in your alcohol of choice and whisk again. If the consistency seems too runny (it should feel like setting custard or curd), then add in more chocolate. Leave to cool slightly before filling your pastry shell.

Coffee mascarpone
Beat the mascarpone and icing sugar together (if this is proving a little tough then loosen it a little with a splash of the cooled espresso). Once fully combined, gradually add in the coffee to taste. Be careful not to add too much as it will loosen the mascarpone and make it too runny (if this happens then add in some beaten double cream to give it more hold and shape).

Assembly
Keeping the pastry shell in the tin, pour your ganache in first (it should fill the tart halfway) and then chill for 20 minutes. Once cooled and slightly more solidified, top with the coffee mascarpone and decorate with crumbled up pastry, chocolate shavings and a dusting of cocoa.


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Grill. Ooze. Crunch.

I blame Bertha. I firmly lay the blame at her door.

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This was entirely down to her. She was the reason that I didn’t go out running and instead inhaled this with some red wine and my own company. Sunshine brings the crunch and crisp of a rather different nature than the colder months. Cucumbers in gin; warm crisps in the park; the crunch of ice cubes in a sweating glass. This is the crunch that we are familiar with when we attempt to convince ourselves that we enjoy visibly sweating at every turn.

The crisp of the encroaching months is a very different beast indeed. It is the sound of a fork breaking into the shiny golden top of a pie; the crunch of new autumn apples; and the crackle of chicken burnished golden in the oven.

Let’s add another to that pantheon. I saw Chef a few weeks ago and have been obsessed with American-style grilled sandwiches ever since. Bread that is brushed with butter and crisps up when fried. Crisp without and tender within, cheese, caramelised onion and spinach oozing out. Ideal for a solitary meal, those nights where you have only yourself to please.

Grilled cheese

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The spinach here is purely because I tend to have spinach in the fridge. Sautéing leeks along with the onions would also be most agreeable. As would a mixture of dried and fresh mushrooms.

Two slices of white bread
50g mature cheddar
50g emmenthal (other nutty hard cheeses also good here)
Dried thyme
Two small onions
A garlic clove
Two handfuls of spinach
Butter

Start by gently frying the sliced onions with a generous slug of olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme. Cook on a gentle heat for 20-30 minutes until soft, golden and sweet. Fold in the spinach to wilt and then decant into a bowl to mix with the grated cheese. Butter the bread and assemble your sandwich with the buttered sides on the outside. Place back into the pan on a medium to high heat and fry until golden outside and until the cheese melts. Serve with a napkin ready as this is not a knife and fork scenario.