Unrecipe: Rhubarb and Strawberries

Rhubarb&Strawberries

I had rhubarb in my fridge, and I had strawberries a little past their prime in my fridge; so I made rhubarb and strawberries!

The unrecipe is to chop rhubarb (about 5 stalks, in my case) into bits and put at the bottom of a saucepan and give it a sprinkling with a couple of tablespoons caster sugar (Normal sugar would probably work just as well; but I perceive the colour of rhubarb being nicer when I use caster sugar). Add just a little bit of water – a couple millimeters deep, so that the rhubarb has a chance to let go of it’s juice before burning becomes a problem.

In unrecipe land, I put quartered strawberries on top; and everything worked out fine.

In hindsight land, give the rhubarb a head start (over medium heat) before adding quartered strawberries.

In either case, cook the fruit over a medium heat until it’s pretty and pink; and the rhubarb has softened up.

Yum yum yum.

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Ginger Poached Pears with Vanilla Custard and Walnut Praline

Pears w/ custard and praline

This was dessert last night. It is pears, halved and poached in a simple-syrup with ginger; sitting on vanilla custard with walnut praline in the cored holes of the pears. I served it in wide Martini glasses (they’re oh so pretty, but so easy to spill your drink out of); and it tasted even better than it looks.

For The Pears
I halved and cored four pears (handy hint: use a melon baller to do the coring); and put them in a wide saute pan with one cup of sugar and about four cups of water (enough to cover most of the pears), along with a finger of peeled ginger sliced up. The pears were then cooked over a low heat for an hour, being flipped over every twenty minutes or so.

For the Custard
I have a favourite custard recipe (: It’s nice and reliable, so I haven’t investigated others. I use the custard part of this recipe for Mille Feuille; but instead of orange blossom water, I added vanilla essence (I use the Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon pure vanilla essence. It’s..magical..when the bottle is opened).

For the Praline
I covered the bottom of a small saucepan with sugar, and added just enough water to dissolve the sugar. Before you start cooking the praline, it’s important to have somewhere to put it when you’re finished (: Usually, I’d use a silicon baking sheet; but alas, my one has seen better days. Instead, I used a sheet of baking paper inside a roasting pan. This is the caramel cooling zone.
I heated the sugar+water over medium heat until it turned amber; then added a handful of walnut pieces. Next, jiggle the syrup around so all of the walnut pieces are covered. Then, pour the caramel on to your caramel-cooling-zone.
Give the praline 10-15 minutes to cool down and solidify. Once it has hardened; break it into smaller pieces, then use a pestle (pounding stick from a mortar and pestle) to reduce it down to little pieces.

To Assemble
Place the custard in the bottom of glasses. Put the pear halves on top of that. Fill the cored holes with praline.

Woo!

Pastry Cushions

Cushions.. Made from pastry! Genius.

This evening, we had pies for dinner. Round pies. Cutting round pie-lids from square pastry involves pastry offcuts. Delicious pastry offcuts.

This is the edges, cut into squares, placed into a woven lattice arrangement, brushed with butter, sprinkled with sugar; and baked in a 200C oven for about 15 minutes.

It’s a little bit on the bland side, though; but well suited to eating with ice-cream.

Crepes, with caramel sauce and whipped cream

Delicious. Although a bit like eating dessert for breakfast.

Crepes: sift 2 cups flour and 1 teaspoon baking powder together

Whisk 1 egg, 2 1/2 cups of milk, about 2 tablespoons of sugar, 1 teaspoon of vanilla and a pinch of salt together.

Make a well in the flour, and pour the liquid in and whisk everything until smooth.

Take a non-stick pan, and melt about 75 grams of butter. Whisk the melted butter into the batter.

Wipe the excess butter from the pan, and swirl in about 1/3 cup of the batter. Cook until the batter sets, then flip over.

Caramel Sauce: take a small saucepan, and add enough sugar to cover the bottom of the pan in a complete layer. Add enough water to cover the sugar. Add a little drizzle of corn syrup.

Gently heat the mixture until it caramelizes (it’ll take a little while – there’ll be a phase of dissolving, then it will bubble, then it’ll turn light yellow, then darker.); then whisk in 1/2c of cream.

Continue heating the sauce until it thickens.

Caramel Cream

Sometimes, mistakes happen. Sometimes, mistakes are salvageable!

I had whipped cream (about 150ml, thereof); and made some caramel (enough sugar to just cover the bottom of a small pan, covered in water; heated gently until a medium-dark caramel formed).

The theory, was I’d whip the liquid caramel into the cream; and something delicious would result! I was hoping for thin strands of caramel.

Turns out, the caramel liquified the cream; and the cream refused to be whipped back up.

Fear not!

Luckilly, cream comes in 300ml bottles; and I had the rest of the bottle. So, I whipped the remaining cream, then introduced the liquified-caramel-failure slowly; and I ended up with a mousse like dessert treat. Hoorah!

It ended up being quite bittersweet; tasting a little bit coffee-like.

Cherry Clafouti

Cherry Clafouti, I know you’re in there! Come out, with your hands up!

I saw a picture of a cherry clafouti when I was poking about on eGullet in the past week or so. It was handsome. So when I saw there were cherries at the supermarket this evening, I decided that I was going to make cherry clafouti!

There’s always a catch to any good story.

It turns out that I don’t have an appropriate dish for making clafouti. My first choice of dish, a springform pan, was a predictable mistake. Faced with a leaky springform pan full (but emptying) of batter, I had to find a second choice, and fast!

It turns out that I don’t have that much in the way of “things for baking food in”. However, among the things I do have for baking food in, were muffin tins. And by some bizarre fluke of the universe, a muffin tray was precisely the right amount of space for the reduced quantity of batter that I made! But I’m getting a little ahead of myself here.

At the supermarket, when I decided that cherry clafouti would be mine (oh yes, it would be mine); I wasn’t too sure what was actually involved – I knew there was some kind of doughy mixture with cherries poking out. I figured that to make the doughy mixture, I’d find the ingredients in my pantry. This was almost correct; but I wasn’t missing anything that I couldn’t substitute. I’m digressing again, aren’t I. Lets jump forward in time to when I started looking at recipes.

When it comes down to it, clafouti is batter over fruit (cherries, in this case). It shouldn’t be that hard to make. That doesn’t stop some people from having convoluted recipes with eggs and yolks, or ground almonds or all sorts of other little complications. I ended up going with the simplest batter recipe that I came across, with an important variation: There’s only one of me, and while I regard dessert as being the most important meal of the day, I can only eat so much dessert. Instead of making the dessert as in the recipe, I ended up making roughly a third of the recipe (One egg worth, non-divisible things that they are. (That’s not strictly true – it’s just a pain to split an egg)). On with the procedure!

Start off with roughly two heaped tablespoons of flour, with just a pinch of salt. Then, make a well in the middle, and add the egg. Whisk the egg into the flour until it’s a smooth paste. Next, take about one cup of milk; and whisk it into the paste. Once the milk has been incorporated, add a splash of kirsch (or in my kitchen, I decided the best substitute for kirsch was probably going to be cognac), and about a tablespoon of caster sugar (the fine stuff; but not too fine!).

Take a muffin tray with cups that hold about one cup. Place two to three cherries in the bottom of six cups (I’d read that leaving the stones in was better for dessert, but less good for guests; so left the stones in. Next time, I think I might pit them, though – having the cherry juice run through the batter seems like a good thing); then pour in enough of the batter to reach about 2/3 the way up the cherries.

Cook the baby clafouti for about 35 minutes in a 190C oven – until the tops have puffed and turned brown.

[Once the clafouti are cooked, doom awaits you! they’re a pain to extract from the muffin pan without making a mess. I have a feeling that lining each of the cups with aluminium foil (with handy tabs for lifting out of the muffin tray) will make this easier. Something to consider next time, anyway. You did read to the end of the recipe before beginning, right?]