Tarte Tatin pan – product review

Someone once asked me “If you had to die tomorrow (charming!), what would your last supper be?” To this day I still can’t decide on a main course but I knew what my pudding would be straight away: apple crumble and custard! I have a cracking recipe for toffee apple crumble that I will share with you at some point but I have to wait until I have people for dinner because it is strictly as special occasion pudding!

Now if I couldn’t have apple crumble then I would be gutted but they might be able to sweet talk me the promise of tarte tatin. If apple crumble is 10/10 then tarte tatin has definitely got to be a 9.5. The only reason I don’t make very often is the lack of a decent, affordable  tarte tatin pan. I have tried to make it by making the caramel separately then transferring it to an oven proof dish but it never seems to work as well. I’m sure it is something to do with the extremely high temperatures that melted sugar reaches.

Following a recent debate with my best friend about just that, I was on a mission to find a suitable pan. Basically it is a cast iron frying pan that can be put in the oven but finding an affordable one was proving to be a bit difficult. Having trawled around the cookware shops and various internet site I was becoming increasingly disheartened. On the off-chance I thought I would check out what eBay had to offer and was delighted to find just what I was looking for:

Victor Pre-seasoned cast iron tarte tatin pan by International Cookware Ltd.

Cost: £12.99 plus P&P

Diameter: 8 inch.

It was delivered to the house within a few days of ordering it and came with lovely clear instructions on how to use and care for the pan. Brilliant!

I have to say this is a very heavy pan! 1.4 kg in fact but it has a good solid feel to it.

Having washed the pan in hot water as directed and drying it completely I decided to give it a go using an adapted version of an Apricot Tatin from The Hairy Bikers’ Big book of Baking.

Ingredients:

3 eating apples

75g caster sugar

40g butter

300g ready-made puff pastry

Method

  • Place the sugar directly into the pan and place on a medium heat. DO NOT STIR!

  • Swirl the melted sugar around the pan and allow to caramelise.
  •  

 

  • Remove from the heat and stir the butter into the sugar using a wooden spoon. Be careful this is very hot! Continue to stir the mixture until it is smooth and toffee-like. Leave for 20 min to cool a little.

 

  • It is necessary to use an oven glove to hold the pan handle because of heat transfer.
  • Meanwhile peel, core and quarter the apples. Toss in a pinch of cinnamon if you like.
  • Arrange the apples in the pan.
  • Roll out the pastry and cut a disc large enough to cover the pan.
  • Tack the pastry around the apples and prick the top.

 

  • Place in a 200 degree C oven for 25 min or until well risen and golden brown

 

  • Allow to cool for a couple of minutes then carefully turn out onto a heatproof plate.

Aftercare for the pan:

Whilst still warm wash with hot water, NO SOAP! Dry thoroughly.

What do I think of the Victor Pre-seasoned cast iron tarte tatin pan?

I think this pan is pretty cool! It is easy to use and easy to care for. £12.99 for a pan is not too expensive and to be honest I can see me using this pan for more than just the odd tarte tatin. Thumbs up from me!

Making a sugar teddy bear

Equipment

Sugar paste

Cocktail stick

Spaghetti

Edible glue

  1. Colour your sugarpaste as you wish. 
  2. Take an A sized ball and shape into either a slightly flattened ball (for a short fat “Forever Friends” type bear) or a long cone (for a “You and Me” type bear) 
  3. Insert a long piece of spaghetti through the ball. 
  4. Take a B sized ball and slightly flatten it. Secure it to the body using the spaghetti spike and a little edible glue. 
  5. Take a B sized ball and roll into a long sausage. Fold it in half and cut along the fold. 
  6. Shape the uncut end into a foot. Secure both legs to the body with glue. 
  7. Repeat this with a C sized ball for the arms. You may need to use spaghetti to anchor the arms to the body. 
  8.  A flattened F sized ball is used to make the snout 
  9. A dented F shape ball can be cut in half and used for ears. 

10.    Shape a small ball (I or J) of black sugarpaste into a triangle and glue to the snout.

 

Adding details really bring these bears to life. Try one or more of the following:

  • Foot pads and toes
  • Thumbs
  • Eyebrows
  • Clothes
  • Stitch lines

*The Size guide: You can buy plastic size guides but there really is no need. All you need to do is draw yourself a series of circles, labelled A-K, that decrease in size from A which has a 4cm diameter to K which has a 0.25cm diameter. If you are not sure what I mean just send me a message and I will email you my guide. (I haven’t worked out how to insert objects into WordPress yet otherwise I would have included a guide in this blog!)

Fool-proof fairy cakes

I’m not sure whether it is the prospect of the Diamond  Jubilee, Euro 2012 (apparently it is some kind of soccer tournament) and of course, the London Olympics but here in the UK people are becoming very patriotic and decidedly nostalgic. 1970s retro is the new black!

For those of us of a certain age the 70’s represent our childhood. We are talking space hoppers, chopper bikes and CHiPs on TV. 1977 was, of course, the Silver Jubilee and we like many other people had a street party. Yes, the wall papering tables were erected and bedecked with red, white and blue crepe paper and anything that stood still long enough was tied up with bunting! We are talking cheese and pineapple on sticks, sausage rolls and dried up egg butties that no-one ever eats. One “posh” neighbour even provided vol-u-vents! The pudding table was laden with sherry trifle, black forest gateaux (hey, it was the 70s!), pink wafer biscuits and of course, fairy cakes.

Well, so I’m told anyway! Jubilee day I had German measles so was in quarantine! Whilst everyone else was outside enjoying themselves I was in bed poorly sick.

The afore mentioned fairy cakes are experiencing a bit of a revival at the moment. Cupcakes have been very popular for number of years now but many people, myself included, find them a bit overbearing. I would certainly struggle to eat a whole one! Fairy cakes, however, are absolutely perfect,  couple of bites and they are gone.

 This recipe is meant to be fool-proof so with fools in mind lets set out a few ground rules:

  • allows preheat your oven. If you put your cakes into a cold oven they will not cook evenly.
  • invest in a set of scales, ideally ones that measure in imperial and metric. Baking is a science, you need to weigh your ingredients accurately
  • always use a fairy cake tray to stand your cake cases in. If you don’t the weight of the cake mixture will cause the case to open out and your cakes will be big and flat.
  • weigh out all your ingredients before you start. There is nothing worse than discovering half way through making your cake that you don’t have enough flour or cocoa or baking powder!

Ingredients

4 oz butter or margarine

4 oz  caster sugar

5 oz self-raising flour

1 level teaspoon baking powder

2 eggs beaten

1 tsp vanilla extract

a splash of milk

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 160◦ C fan / 180 ◦ C. Place the cake cases into the cake tray.
  2. Beat together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. I use a Kenwood mixer but you can just as easily do it by hand, just make sure the butter is really soft.
  3. Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract
  4. Gently stir in the flour and baking powder until evenly mixed. You may need to add a splash of milk. The mixture should drop easily from a spoon.
  5. Spoon the mixture into the cake case until the cases are half full. I use a small ice cream scoop for this.
  6. Bake in the oven for 10-15 mins. It takes 12 minutes exactly in my fan oven. The cakes should be golden brown and well risen.
  7. Remove the cakes from the tray and place on a cooling rack.
  8. Once cooled the cakes are ready to decorate.

Decorating suggestions:

  • pipe a swirl of buttercream on the top of each cake
  • make them into butterfly cakes by cutting the crown of the cake off. Add a small blob of buttercream. Cut the removed crown in half and sink into the buttercream on an angle.
  • ice the cake with glace icing (icing sugar and water mixed into a stiff paste). Add half a cherry or sprinkles.

This recipe can easily be adapted too.  Try the following:

  • substitute 1oz of flour for 1 oz of cocoa
  • add a little grated lemon peel or orange peel to the mixture
  • add 1-2oz sultanas or raisins to the mixture
  • add 1-2oz quartered glace cherries to the mixture
  • add 1-2oz chocolate chips to the mixture

This recipe is perfect for that rainy Sunday afternoon when the kids need to be entertained and you need a nice tea time treat. They would be the perfect addition to any Diamond Jubilee street party feast too.

Enjoy!!

Love

Ali xx

 

Whippet madness and a bit of Rocky Road!

I have had a lovely day to today! It is Bank Holiday Monday over here in the UK which usually means that it will be chucking it down all day and that traffic will be murder! Not generally a good day to step over your doorstep but today I have been pleasantly surprised. The weather hasn’t been too bad and when I did venture out, the traffic was moving and didn’t appear to have the usually amount of crazies in it.

The reason for my bravery was that I needed to take my whippets to have their photos taken professionally. As all whippet owners will tell you, getting a decent picture of your pooch is nigh on impossible. I have plenty of photographs of tails. I have some lovely close-ups of noses too. I even have a sky shot due to being knocked flat on my back by an over enthusiastic greeting! Most of my “good” pictures were taken when they were crashed out following a walk.

Having bumped into Susan Buckley in my local pet store, I knew that this was the woman to help me get that “all facing the same way: in focus: 3 dogs in a row” shot. Well in truth, we didn’t quiet manage it!  Hector was an absolute star, bless him, and posed perfectly on cue! Ash, my blonde bombshell insisted on being in every shot even when he wasn’t meant to be and Felix, my little blue boy, became a testosterone fuelled demon whose only interest was finding a way to open the back door so that he could go and “introduce” himself to Sue’s female dogs outside.

What is it they say? Never work with animals and children! Well, Sue does both and she is brilliant at it. The following image is one that she took today. She has kindly allowed me to use it here in this blog but I must stress this image is the property of Photography By Buckley* so please do not reuse it.

by Photography by Buckley

I cannot tell you how over the moon I am with the photographs Sue has produced. Ok, so we didn’t get them all together in the same shot and, yes, I am probably going to have to remortgage my house to pay for all the photos (Sue is NOT expensive; I am just spoilt for choice!) but to be honest, I simply don’t care! I love my whippets and I’m not afraid to say it!

The “cherry on the cake” of my lovely day was (brace yourself, here is the tenuous link) coming home to find that my Rocky Road had set whilst we were out. Ok, I’ll come clean, I’m only including the recipe because I felt guilty about waxing lyrical about my whippets on what is supposed to be a food blog! It is good Rocky Road though!

Ingredients:

125g butter

300g chocolate ( I use 150g milk and 150g dark chocolate because my son doesn’t like it too dark)

3 tbs golden syrup

200g broken, plain biscuits  – digestive, rich tea, amaretti

100g mini marshmallows

Method:

  1. Melt the butter, chocolate and syrup together in a heavy bottomed saucepan and stir together.
  2. Bash the biscuits into small pieces in a plastic bag. This is brilliant if you are a tad stressed!
  3. Mix the biscuit into the chocolate mixture.
  4. Stir in the mini marshmallows
  5. Tip into a lined 8 inch square cake tin and refrigerate until set.
  6. Cut into pieces and enjoy!

Rocky Road is so versatile that I often throw in cherries and raisins or I alter the biscuit I use.

Enjoy!

Love

Ali xx

* Photography By Buckley can be contacted via Facebook or ask me for contact details.

Chai Tea Sponge Cake with Vanilla Buttercream.

I think I have probably mentioned before that I am real caffeine addict. I love proper barista coffee and if I have a latte I always ask for an extra shot! Unlike my son, who at 14 still doesn’t drink tea, coffee or even fizzy drinks, I have been drinking coffee since I was probably 2 or 3 years old.

I distinctly remembering Mum making me milky coffee in the gas stove due to a power cut during the General Strikes of the 70s. Yes, I’m old enough to remember Mum wearing platform shoes and mile wide shirt collars. I was more of a Bay City Rollers fan and wore my tartan trousers with my yellow wellies and my Donnie Osmond flat cap! Well, I was only 3!

Tea drinking has been a relatively recent discovery for me and I blame my Grandad for it. My Grandad was a character and a half but unfortunately we lost him 2 years ago to cancer. Grandad was a big tea drinker and being an ex-bricklayer, he liked it strong and sweet. To help my Nan out and give her a bit of a break I used to drive home to Worcester from North Wales. I would pack the car with all the cakes and soups that Grandad had requested during the week, add my son and my dogs and off we shot.

This me and Grandad before he took ill

As Grandad didn’t sleep well, he would quite often call for me in the night. Sometimes he just wanted a bit of company, sometimes for me to rub his back, sometimes he wanted a bit more morphine but usually he just wanted a cup of tea. Invariably by the time I had made it he had either nodded back off or had forgotten that he had asked for it in the first place! So my tea drinking started then! Well, waste not,want not!

I have seen plenty of recipes for Earl Grey Tea cupcakes but I thought I would have a go at making a Chai Tea Sponge cake. It was a bit of an experiment but I am happy to say it was a complete success!

Ingredients:

Sponge:

150ml milk (semi-skimmed or whole)

5 chai tea bags

1tbs instant chai latte powder (optional)

110g butter

225g caster sugar

2 free range eggs

125g self-raising flour

120g plain flour

Buttercream:

125g butter

250g icing sugar

1tsp vanilla extract

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan). Grease and line 2 8 inch sandwich tins.
  2. Put milk into a saucepan and heat gently until the milk just comes to the boil.
  3. Add the tea bags, cover and allow to steep for at least 30 mins.
  4. Mix the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the latte powder if you want a stronger flavour.
  5. Beat in the beaten eggs
  6. Remove the tea bags (making sure to squeeze them!)
  7. Add the flours and milky tea  until the mixture is smooth.
  8. Divide the mixture between the tins and bake for 20-25 minutes.
  9. Turn out onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
  10. Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla together until it is light and fluffy then use to sandwich the cakes together.
  11. Dust with icing sugar.
  12. Slice and enjoy with, you’ve guessed it, a cup of tea!

Enjoy!

Love

Ali xx