April 17, 2014

Sugar-shocking "Cake & Bake Show" in Manchester


Even if it means sacrificing my only day-off, waking up before dawn, getting on the bus still half-asleep while simultaneously trying to chase away any kind of signs of those weariness-determined questions 'why and do I really have to go there?', I would still not let myself to miss a food event. Any kind of it - a festival, a tasting, a fair or a show - that brings together those who treats this simple act of eating not only as a bare mean of survival, but as a quality of life. As pleasure and the purpose rather than something that can be taken for granted. I think, it might be called a foodie disease, when everywhere one goes and everything one does is being conceptualize by food. Places, people, atmosphere, even the relationship. And that is me. Incurable. Irreversible. For life. Cause I look for food before I look for anything else. I want to see it. I want to smell it. I want to know it. Read about it. Learn about it. I want to taste it and eat it. Eat it and appreciate it. All at once. All the time. Day in, day out. And most of all, the sweet side of it.

So when I heard that Cake & Bake Show was going to happen in Manchester, I knew I was going.

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

And so, I went. Drooled over that enormously superb amount of sweets that was covering the place - from the finest handmade chocolates, incredibly rich and gooey brownies, heavenly silky cheesecakes and the most sinfully sticky  toffee puddings, to a whole range of giant meringues, elegant and stylish cupcakes, sophisticated pastries, the cuties mini sponge cakes I have ever seen, sumptuous French classic -  macarons,  the lightest and fluffiest hand-crafted marshmallows, the creamiest fudge pieces, a few lavish occasional cakes and a collection of gorgeous ice creams, sorbets and crushes that, as they say, appeal even to the most discerning palates. Next to all that, there was also an exquisite collection of various locally made jams, chutneys, curds, spreads and butters, high quality oils and vinegars, a whole range of English, French, Italian breads bursting with absolutely amazing flavors and textures,  velvety cheeses only British know how to perfect, traditional savory pies, puds, and sausage rolls as well as a great selection of finest teas and freshly roasted coffees.

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

My personal favorite and by no means the best discovery was Joe & Seph's Gourmet Popcorns. An absolutely gorgeous thing! Perfectly crunchy, well coated with caramel, and fully packed with all kinds of natural flavors and flavor combinations that sometimes might  seem a little bit wild and offbeat, but without a doubt, extraordinary unique and delicious. Peanut butter, double salted caramel, maple syrup & roasted pecan,  caramel macchiato & whisky, goats cheese & black pepper, cheddar & smoked paprika, and Thai-style curry would be my first pick, but beyond these, there is a plenty of other choices. What about the combo of strawberries & cream, smooth caramel & Belgian chocolate, honey & hazelnut, gin & tonic, toffee apple & cinnamon, or olive oil, mozzarella & tomato? If only the movie theaters were selling these...

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

However, I have to admit, no matter how badly I enjoyed being surrounded by cakes and cupcakes, there was a moment when I desperately needed to turn away from all those sugar lures otherwise my blood pressure would have jumped into the very sky highs. So, when I was not watching John Whaite making his famous Stromboli buns from his latest book (which is, by the way, just as amazing as the first one)  or enjoying fabulous Paul A. Young demonstrating his hot cross bun brownie pies and giving away a few extremely valuable tips about chocolate, I feasted my eyes on an absolute army of vintage crockery and various home décor attributes: from beautiful and classy knives, personalized cutting boards, artisan bread making tools, a whole range of excellent professional baking equipment, a selection of different natural food flavorings and various cake decorating utensils to luxurious tea pots, elegantly curved porcelain cups, chic and graceful tea sets, delicately hand-painted mugs, unusual fabrics and tea towels, unique aprons,  and all kinds of other stylish vintage accessories that every kitchen enthusiast would pleasurably introduce into her kitchen.

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

I must confess, by the time I was leaving, the only thing I desperately craved for was a super salty and super juicy tomato which could just wash away every single trace of that incredible amount of sugar I consumed during the day. However, it doesn't change the fact that the show was really amazing leaving me with only good memories, a great amount of inspiration and loads of new ideas to be processed in the future. So, if you're around London on 3-4 October, you might really want to consider popping in the Earls Court, cause that's where the next stop for Cake & Bake Show is going to be. I promise, you will not regret it!

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)


Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)

Cake & Bake Show (Manchester)
 

February 18, 2014

For love and out of love: Chocolate Profiteroles

Chocolate Profiteroles with Orange Creme Patisserie & Chocolate Sauce

I spent a morning in the museum, wondering through the history of Liverpool, it's cultural background and the biggest shining moments of the past. It was a good day. Well spent day. One of those days that you notice not only by the sequel number on a calendar, but also by the impact it made for your self-being. To be honest, I'm not a museum-type of person. I need to be in a (very) right mood to go and truly enjoy it, otherwise I will be just one of those people who blindly scans through the paintings or exhibits (however valuable they are) while intensively thinking about where I should go for lunch later on. However, once I'm in a right rhythm to dance according to the music of the past, I try to make the most of it. After all, Lois Lowry is right by saying that: "we have the museum to remind us of how we came, and why: to start fresh, and begin a new place from what we had learned and carried from the old.” The more you know - the more you appreciate things. The more you appreciate - the more you acknowledge and notice. The more you notice - the more you are aware of life, and in turn - the more you live, the more you breathe in, and the bigger your breath is. 

So, I breathed. Historical facts. Epoch-changing moments. Odd truths (did you know that the main character in forming the Scouse (aka Liverpudlian) accent, I have to admit, I still sometimes find difficult to follow, was the potato). Fundamental achievement as well as memorable quotes, one of which, as a matter of fact, clung on me for the rest of the day. It was words that April Ashley, Liverpool-born Vogue model and world transsexual icon, said about love. I tried to find the original quote online, but after spending almost two hours scanning the internet all the way through, I simply gave up and put my trust on the memory. So, aside the precision, the core meaning of her words was that, when a person is in his mid-twenties, the most important thing for him is to love. Not to be loved, but to love, cause that is the time of selfishness, and only by loving one can satisfy this egocentric demand. Being loved, on the other hand, does not give anything.

Chocolate Profiteroles with Orange Creme Patisserie & Chocolate Sauce

It got me thinking that the same goes not only for mutual love between people, but for the love in general. For that enchaining feeling of passion. Desire. Rage. Fury. For that unconditional determination that keeps you hungry. That makes you wild. Fierce and flaming. For that immense devotion. Fire inside. Drive to break walls. Climb mountains. Reach the sky.

Once you have all this, world is a much easier, much pleasant, much satisfying place to live.

That being said, let's talk about profiteroles which for me are the core remarks of that kind of love I have in my life. Love for food. Pastries, desserts and baked goods in particular. For the creativity that hides behind them. Artistry. Imagination. Detail. Precision. For all of those things you put inside before there is final product on a plate to please your eyes and, in my case, somebody else's taste buds.

This time, it's chocolate profiteroles with orange crème patisserie and chocolate sauce.


Chocolate Profiteroles with Orange Creme Patisserie & Chocolate Sauce

Chocolate Profiteroles with Orange Crème Patisserie and Chocolate Sauce

for the choux pastry:
90 g (3.17 oz) strong flour
20 g (0.7 oz) natural cocoa powder
175 ml (3/4 cup) water
75 g (2.65 oz) butter
2 g (0.07 oz or 1/2 tsp) sugar
2 g (0.07 oz or 1/2 tsp) salt
2-3 eggs, beaten

for the crème patisserie:
250 ml (1 cup) milk
finely grated zest from 1 large orange
1 egg
50 g (1.76 oz) sugar
25 g (0.88 oz) soft flour
5 g (0.18 oz) cornflour

for the chocolate sauce:
10 g (0.35 oz) cornflour
250 ml (1 cup) milk
10 g (0.35 oz) natural cocoa powder
65 g (2.3 oz) castor sugar
5 g (0.18 oz) butter

To make the profiteroles, in a large bowl, sieve together the flour and cocoa powder. Set aside. 
In a heavy saucepan, combine the liquid, butter, sugar, and salt. Bring the mixture the a full boil. Remove from the heat and add the flour all at once. Stir quickly with a wooden spoon until all the flour is well incorporated. Return to a moderate heat and stir vigorously until the dough forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. You can speed up the cooling process by mixing the dough either by had or with a mixer on a low speed.
Once the dough is still warm, but not too hot to touch, slowly add the eggs. Add no more than a quarter of the beaten eggs at once, then mix well until they are completely absorbed before adding more. The paste should be of dropping consistency, so you might need to stop adding more before all the eggs are used or you might as well need an extra quarter of the egg.
Preheat the oven to 220 C (425 F) temperature. 
On a lightly buttered baking sheet, pipe 2 cm (3/4 inch) bulbs of choux pastry. Bake in 220 C (425 F) oven for the first 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 190 C (375 F) and bake for another 10-15 minutes until golden and hollow when tapped. remove from the oven and, using a skewer or a toothpick, make a small hole in the bottom of each ball, then place them back in the oven for 2-3 more minutes to dry out. Transfer on a wire rack and let cool slowly in a warm place.
To make the crème patisserie, pour the milk into a heavy saucepan, add the orange zest and warm it up a little bit, but do not boil. Take out from the heat and leave for 10-15 minutes to infuse. 
In a meantime, a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until almost white. Sift in the flour and and cornflour.
When the milk is well infused with orange flavor, bring it boil and then temper the egg mixture by slowly beating in the hot milk in a thin stream. Return the mixture to the heat and once again bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
When the mixture comes to a boil and thickens, remove from heat, pour into a clean bowl, dust lightly with sugar and cover with wax paper to prevent a crust from forming. Leave to cool.
To make the chocolate sauce, dilute the cornflour and cocoa powder with 50 ml of the warm milk.
Bring the remaining milk to a boil. Pour a little bit of the boiling milk on to the cocoa mixture, then return everything to the saucepan.
Boil, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens.
Take of the heat and mix in the sugar and butter. Leave to cool.
To assemble the profiteroles, when puffs are completely cool, slice in half horizontally each of them. Transfer the crème patisserie into a piping bag and pipe the cream into each profiterole, though, do not do this more than 2 hours before serving cause they will get soggy. Once all your profiteroles are filled with cream, place them on a plate or a serving tray and pour the chocolate sauce over.


Chocolate Profiteroles with Orange Creme Patisserie & Chocolate Sauce

January 23, 2014

Lemon, Dark Chocolate and Black Pepper Synthesis

When it comes to inspiration, very often it can be found in the most unusual places. The smell of roasted garlic and fresh herbs I saw the other day slowly dancing outside someone else's house. A few random ingredients that caught my eye in a grocery store and then unexpectedly ended up in my shopping basket (like a bar of dark chocolate, a package of smoked sea salt, and a bunch of fresh rosemary, for example). A spice that's been used only once and now anxiously waiting to be treated with the same respect again. Yes, I'm referring to you, Mr. Star Anise! Or a recipe in a daily newspaper I usually, still very sleepily, skim through while sitting on a morning train.

Sometimes, it can be a dish, savored in a cafe or a restaurant, so good that it simply begs to be recreated at home. Sometimes, it's a dish I imagined to be much better than it actually was, in turn challenging me to make it reach that perfection. And sometimes, it's just a flavor combination I came across in the most unexpected place. The flavor synthesis - truly amazing, but a bit intriguing and bewildering at the same time, compelling me stick to it in my further kitchen affair. 

And that's exactly how I ended up transforming the flavors I had found in a Cachet chocolate bar into these sandwich cookies, building them up from pungent lemon, delicately sweet dark chocolate and cheeky black pepper tones.

I think, they were worth the risk.

Lemon, Dark Chocolate & Black Pepper Sandwich Cookies

Lemon, Dark Chocolate and Black Pepper Sandwich Cookies

200 g (7 oz) butter
160 g (5.6 oz) light brown sugar
300 g (10.6 oz) all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp finely grated lemon zest
60 ml (1/4 cup) freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 egg white
1/2 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper + a little bit more for sprinkling
1/4 cup (30 ml) double cream
50 g (1.8 oz) dark chocolate

Preheat the oven to 150 C (350 F) temperature.
In a large bowl, beat together the butter and the sugar until creamy. Add the lemon juice, lemon zest, freshly ground black pepper and flour. Quickly knead the dough until it comes together and let it rest for 5 minutes.
Once the dough is rested, tap it out onto the lightly floured surface and roll until 1/2 cm (1/4-inch) thick. Using a cookie cutter, cut into circles and place on the baking tray lined with parchment paper.
Beat the egg white until foamy. Brush half of the cookies with the egg wash and sprinkle some black pepper on top. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.
To make the chocolate filling, in a double boiler, melt chocolate together with the cream. When the cookies are fully chilled, spread chocolate ganache on the bottom side of those that have not been brush with the egg white. Top with the ones with the egg whites.

Lemon, Dark Chocolate & Black Pepper Sandwich Cookies

January 03, 2014

Lemon Meringue Tart - indulgent start of the new year

Never allow waiting to become a habit. We are what we repeatedly do. Live your dreams and take risks. Life is happening now!


Lemon Meringue Tar

When new year has already trespassed our doorstep, let's grab the last chance to stop for a second, take a deep breath and cast the final glance at 2013: what did this year bring us? how did it challenge us? what did it give us and how much did it take away from us? did it make us stronger or did it crippled us? did it point towards the right direction or rather laid another obstacle in our endeavors to fulfill the dreams we carry along the way?

It's never easy to look back, cause every now and then this even the tiniest glimpse at the past stimulates the avalanche of numerous worries and doubts. It makes me question the decisions I made, the path I decided to take, the fight I chose to fight, which in turn leads to the endless wonders where I would be know if at that precise moment at the time I had made another call? Would I be better off? But at the same time, without thoroughly rethinking and contemplating what have happened during the year that's already gone, there could be no appreciation for the moment right here. Right now. For the moment which actually is nothing more but a reflection of everything that has occurred before - yesterday, a day before yesterday,  a few days ago, last week, last month, last year.


Lemon Meringue Tar

To be honest, my 2013 was a year of challenges. It was a year of struggle. Panic. Moments of despair. 12 months painfully etched with falsehood and letdowns. 52 weeks of constantly hammering questions and doubts. 365 days of trying to find the answers and unwrap the truth. To try to believe again.

But at the same time it was a year of growing up. Of finally catching my fate. A year of forgiving, moving on, stepping forward,  making a change, accepting the presence and experiencing it just as it is. It was a time of true, when the only thing I was obliged to do was to come clean and honest, first and foremost, with myself. It was a year of big decisions and life changing moments. A year of trowing away the fear and choosing to be courageous and brave instead.

Just as well, it was a year of friendship - the old one which I now treasure even more than ever, and the new one that, I would like to think, will  manage to overcome the distance keeping us apart for a moment.

All, in all, 2013 is going to be a year I'll remember. The year I took off, spread my wings and flew. At least for a moment. The year that gave me hope with which I am eager to welcome another day. A day of 2014.


Lemon Meringue Tar

Lemon meringue tart has two sides: if one of them is marked with luscious sophistication and perfectly balanced texture of crispy base, indulgently creamy filling and very light meringue on top, the other one, meanwhile, shouts about the the warning bulk of sugar that hides in a single, at first sight, very innocent slice. 30 grams or 2 full tablespoons - that's how much one gets after dealing with the casual serving. However, I am more inclined to let this number slip away from my sight at the moment, simply because there 's no point in complicating the life that has already been complicated enough. Am I right?

But for the very same reason, this very same tart is the perfect one to start the New Year with, since rumour has it, the way you step into the new year reflects exactly how it's going to be. So let it be super sweet and indulgent!

Lemon Meringue Tar

 Lemon Meringue Tart

Makes one 15 cm (6-inch) size tart


for the sweet pastry:
100 g (3.5 oz) soft flour
A pinch of salt
70 g (2.5 oz) cold butter
25 g (0.9 oz) sugar
Half an egg (the remaining half will work as an egg-wash)

for the filling:
140 ml water
120 g (4.2 oz) sugar
1 large lemon
20 g (0.7 oz) cornflour
30 g (1.1 oz) butter
2 egg yolks

for the meringue:
2 egg whites
60 g (2.1 oz) castor sugar

To make the sweet pastry, in a large bowl, sift together the flour and the salt.
Cut the butter into small cubes and, using your fingertips, lightly rub it into the flour until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs. Make a well in the center.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg and the sugar until the latter is dissolved.  Pour into the well into the flour. Using your hand, lightly mix to form a soft and smooth paste.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead gently just until it is smooth and well mixed.
Divide the pastry into two, shape each part into a ball, lightly flatten them with your fingers and wrap in cling film. Chill for at least 30 minutes.
When the pastry is rested and chilled, preheat the oven to 180 C (350 F).
Lightly flour the working surface and roll the first  pastry disks into 3 mm (1/8 inch) thick circle. To make sure the pastry is large enough to fill the tart tin, take your tin, flip it over, and place on the rolled out pastry. Depending on the depth of your tin, the pastry should be about (1-2 inches) larger than the tin.
When the pastry is rolled out to the desired size, lift the pastry on the rolling pin and place it over your tin. Gently press into the corners and sides. Trim the edges and prick the base all over with a fork.
Line your pastry case with baking parchment paper or, preferably, a decent cling film, fill it with baking or plain dried beans and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the beans and the parchment (cling film), brush the pastry base with egg-wash and return to the oven for a further 5-7 minutes until the pastry base is dry and the edges are just golden.
To make the lemon filling, put the water, sugar, freshly squeezed lemon juice and lemon zest in a pan and start bringing to boil.
In the meantime, dilute the cornflour with a little warm (but not boiling!) water. Mix into the lemon-y water and heat gently, stirring often, until the mixture thickens. Take off the boil and whisk in the egg yolks. Stir in the butter.
Pass the filling into the baked pastry case, let it cool, then place in the fridge to set.
To make the meringue, in a clean and dry bowl, whisk the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Slowly beat in the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. When all the sugar is incorporated, carry on beating for 3-4 minutes, until the meringue is nice and glossy. Place it in a piping bag and pipe on top of the cooled lemon filling. 
To finish the top, either use a blow torch or put the whole lemon meringue pie under a very hot grill until the meringue has become nicely golden brown.

Lemon Meringue Tar

December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!



Merry Christmas, Ladies and Gentlemen!

Wish you all the happiness one can possess inside: long hours of laughter, warmth that's hiding inside a beautiful friendship, comfort on rough days, the armful of fortune and luck, confidence to clear all your doubts, faith to hold on to, and finally, the maximum courage to be adventurous and to dream big.
Let the joy haunt you, let the tears run away from you, let the sorrow be washed in a stormy rain, and let the sunshine paint your days in the most beautiful colors!

Be happy, be merry, love and be loved!