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Pimped-Up Cheese Straws

Pimped-Up Cheese and Bacon Straws - perfect served warm with a frosty drink

Pimped-Up Cheese Straws

I love a cheese straw. These are dead easy – you could make them with just pastry, cheese and an egg – but with a few simple additions (obviously leave out the ham if you want them vegetarian) they’re extra tasty.

Not the most exact recipe – measurements are all going to depend how big your pastry is rolled out and how finely you grate your cheese. My top tip is to grate the cheese finely as you use less and actually get more flavour.

 

Pimped-up Cheese Straws

 

Ingredients:

 

  • 1 pack ready rolled puff pastry, chilled
  • Flour for dusting
  • 2-3 tsp of mustard – your favourite type
  • About 8 tbsp grated cheese – I used a mix of parmesan and strong cheddar
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 pack (about 6 slices) Parma ham or similar
  • 1 egg

Pre heat the oven to 220C and get a couple of baking sheets ready. Flour a clean, dry surface and spread out the chilled pastry. Roll it out a little thinner – you should have a fairly large rectangle. With the longest side of the rectangle closest to you, smear the mustard in a thin layer over half the sheet of pastry, like a page of a book. Sprinkle about two thirds of the cheese over the mustard, followed by most of the rosemary – keep about a teaspoon back. Lay the Parma ham over the cheese, covering as much of the area as possible, then sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top of the ham.

 

Fold the uncovered half of the pastry over the top, like you’re closing a book. Press the outer edges together to seal it a bit, then use the rolling pin to flatten it all out a bit more and squidge it all together. You should still have a rectangle shape, so with the longest side towards you again, use a very sharp knife to cut from top to bottom in strips about an inch wide. Give each strip a couple of twists and place on your baking sheets, leaving some room between each one as they’ll puff up when cooked. Beat up the egg and brush each twist, then sprinkle with the remaining chopped rosemary (and any cheese crumbs left over). Bake for 10-15 minutes – they’re done when golden and delicious smelling (check the underside also looks cooked). These are at their best still warm.

Apple Pie with Orange Pastry

Apple Pie with Orange Pastry

Packed with fruity flavour, inside and out – Apple Pie with Orange Pastry

As I write this, there are 100 days until Christmas. That’s still a way off, but the weather has certainly become more autumnal and so has my baking. Following a visit to Middle Farm last week, where I stocked up on cheese, pear cider and apples, I decided to make an apple pie to take to family lunch at the weekend. I had some oranges that were looking a little sad so I used them to add more flavour to the pastry and I added some spices to my apples. The result was a tasty pie that put everyone in mind of Christmas flavours – this could be a great alternative for anyone who doesn’t like Christmas pudding.

This recipe will make one large pie, enough to feed 8-10 people. If your pie dish isn’t that big you won’t need so many apples. You can always freeze any left-over pastry to use another time (maybe to make some mince pies).

Apple Pie with Orange Pastry or Christmas Apple Pie

For the pastry:

  • 460g plain flour
  • 220g cold butter, cubed
  • 100g icing sugar, sifted
  • finely grated zest of 2 large or 3 average oranges
  • 4 tbsp orange juice
  • 4 egg yolks

In a large bowl, rub together the flour and butter with your finger tips until you have a breadcrumb texture. Try to do this as quickly and lightly as possible; or if you have a food processor you can pulse the ingredients until you achieve the same result. Into the bowl add the sugar and orange zest, then use a blunt ended knife (butter or dinner knife) to mix everything together by making cutting motions across the bowl and turning the bowl as you go. Lightly beat together the yolks and orange juice and add most, but not all, to the dry ingredients – you may not need all the liquid to bring the dough together, but add more if necessary. Continue to mix the liquid in with the same cutting motions of the blunt knife. If you need to, in the final stages bring the dough together and make sure it’s evenly mixed with a light knead with your hands. Form the dough into a ball and flatten a little into a thick disc (it will make it easier to roll out later), then wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for at least half an hour.

Once chilled, cut off about a third of the pastry to use as the pastry lid; wrap it back up in clingfilm and refrigerate until needed. With the remaining two thirds, roll out on a lightly floured surface until big enough to comfortably line your pie dish with a little overhang. Your pastry should be about the thickness of a pound coin. If you find it breaks or you get gaps, just patch it up with any pieces of pastry that overhang the edge of your pie dish. Cover and chill in the fridge again for at least half an hour.

For the apple filling:

  • About a kilo of apples, peeled, cored and cut into slices (I used a mix of Bramleys and some eating apples from my cousin’s garden, but use whatever kind you like)
  • 60g sugar (I used a mix of dark brown and caster sugar, but any will do)
  • 40g cornflour
  • half tsp cinnamon
  • half tsp mixed spice
  • 10g ground almonds
  • 1 egg and a little caster sugar to glaze the pie

Before you begin prepping your apples, heat your oven to 190C and put a baking tray in the oven. You’ll put your pie dish on the hot tray so the base of the pie heats quickly.

Put the slices of apple in a big bowl and sprinkle over the sugar, cornflour and spices. Mix with your hands until all the apple slices are coated.

Take the pastry lined pie dish out of the fridge. Sprinkle the ground almonds all over the base of the pie – this will help to soak up any juice and prevent the dreaded ‘soggy bottom’! Rather than just tipping your apples in to the pie, try and place the slices in neatly; you’ll end up with a more densely packed pie. The apple layer should come to just below the rim of the dish at the edges, but can be higher in the centre in order to give a nice domed pie. You may find you have sugary, spicy liquid left in the bowl but just discard rather than adding it to the pie – you have all the flavour you need in there already.

Roll out your remaining piece of pastry on a floured surface until it’s big enough to cover the pie (again, it should be about the thickness of a pound coin); it can be helpful to use the rolling pin to pick the pastry up to transfer to the pie. Use a fork or your fingers to seal/crimp the edges of the pastry together. Trim any excess pastry – you can make decorations out of any little pieces, maybe some apple or leaf shapes. Beat the egg and brush the top of the pie, then sprinkle over a little caster sugar. Bake in the oven for 40-50 minutes. Check after about 25 minutes and if your pastry is nicely golden brown, cover it with a little tin foil to prevent the edges browning too much.

This would be delicious hot, cold or warm, served with cream, custard or ice cream.

Apple Pie with Orange Pastry or Christmas Apple Pie

A great seasonal dessert that would be a great alternative to Christmas pudding

With the egg whites left over from this recipe, freeze them in a sealed freezer bag (write on the bag so you know what it is) and use them another time to make a meringue based dessert. Click here for some ideas.

Boozy Pineapple Turnovers

Boozy Pineapple Turnovers

Boozy Pineapple Turnovers

I got a bit of a bargain from the greengrocer yesterday – three ripe pineapples for a pound! I gave one to a friend, I’ve kept one for eating raw and decided I’d do some baking with the other. I’ve had an urge to make rough puff pastry for a little while so I came up with the idea of making pineapple turnovers. To take a short cut with this recipe you could either use ready made puff pastry or tinned pineapple, drained and cooked with the other ingredients for long enough to infuse the flavours.

Boozy Pineapple Turnovers

For the rough puff pastry:

  • 225g plain flour
  • pinch sea salt
  • 190g cold butter, cut into cubes
  • 125ml cold water
  • 2 tsp lemon juice

Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and use a spoon or fork to toss it around in the flour so it gets coated. Mix the water and lemon juice together and pour it in with the flour and butter mixture. Use a butter or dinner knife (something that isn’t sharp) to cut across the flour and butter; keep cutting and turning the bowl and eventually it will all come together.

Once the dough has formed into a big lump, tip it onto a well floured surface and form it into a rough brick shape (be as quick as possible to avoid the heat of your hands melting the butter). Roll the dough into a rectangle, about 30x20cm. Fold a third of the dough into the middle, then the other third over that. Turn 90 degrees and then roll out again to the same dimensions and repeat the folding process. Keep rolling, folding and turning until you’ve done this about 6-8 times. You should be left with a fairly soft dough that you can still see flecks of butter in. Wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for several hours (preferably overnight).

For the boozy pineapple filling

  • 1 medium/large pineapple
  • 4 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp orange liqueur
  • 2 tbsp vodka
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp caster sugar to finish

Heat the oven to 160C. Use a sharp knife to remove the skin from the pineapple, cut into quarters lengthways and remove the hard core. Chop into small chunks (about the same size as you’d get in a tin of pineapple) and put in an ovenproof bowl or dish. Add the remaining ingredients and give it a stir. Bake, uncovered, for an hour, stirring from time to time to ensure everything is coated and no bits of pineapple are drying out. Remove the cooked pineapple from the liquid and leave to cool completely.

When you’re ready to cook your turnovers, heat your oven to 200C and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Take the pastry out of the fridge and on a floured surface roll out to about 1/2 cm thick. Cut into squares and put a heaped spoon of the pineapple in the middle of each square. Fold one corner to the opposite and press the sides down so they stick. Brush the top with a little milk or egg wash, sprinkle a pinch of sugar over each turnover and snip a couple of slits in the top to allow steam to escape. Place on the prepared baking tray and bake for 20-25 minutes. They’re done when they’re golden and puffed up.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool a little if you’re serving warm; or cool on a wire rack if you’re planning to have them cold.

Any left over pineapple is delicious served with plain yogurt or vanilla ice cream, as is the liquid the fruit was cooked in. If you wanted to omit the booze, use a splash of orange juice as your cooking liquor.

Baileys Profiteroles

Baileys Profiteroles

Profiteroles filled with Baileys cream and smothered in boozy chocolate sauce made with Baileys

Another weekend, another excuse to do some baking and eat with friends. One of the friends I was eating with this weekend is an absolute fiend for profiteroles, so that’s what I made. These are all the more decadent with a boozy splash of Baileys added to the cream and chocolate sauce. You can easily leave the alcohol out if feeding kids, although if that’s the case I would suggest you add a teaspoon of vanilla extract to the whipped cream.

Profiteroles with Baileys Cream and Baileys Chocolate Sauce

For the profiteroles:

  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 150ml water
  • 150g plain flour
  • pinch salt
  • 4 eggs

Heat the oven to 200c and line a couple of baking sheets with greaseproof paper. In a saucepan, melt the butter with the water and bring to the boil. Turn off the heat and add the flour and water and mix vigorously with a wooden spoon until you get a thick paste that sticks together and comes away from the sides of the pan (be sure you’ve not got any little lumps of flour that haven’t mixed in). Transfer to a large bowl and leave to cool for a few minutes.

Whisk your eggs together in a jug or bowl.  Add a little of the egg to the flour and butter mix and beat with the wooden spoon until blended, repeating until all the egg has been mixed in.

Now, if you’re reasonably confident of your piping skills you can put the mix in a piping bag and pipe blobs on to your prepared baking sheets. If not, then use a couple of teaspoons to do the job. What you’re aiming for is blobs about the size of a walnut, spaced well apart as they’ll expand quite a lot (I got 12 on each tray). Dip your (clean) finger tip in some water and smooth the top of each blob – you’ll get a better shape and crisper top.

Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes until golden brown and firm. Take them out of the oven, turn them over and pierce a hole in each ball with a skewer or small, sharp knife. Put them back in the oven for 5 more minutes – this helps to let the steam out and ensure they don’t go soggy later. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.

For the Baileys cream:

  • 300ml double cream
  • 2 tbsp Baileys
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar

Put everything in a bowl and whisk until the cream holds to the whisk; you want quite a firm texture but be careful not to whisk to the point of it turning to butter.

Again, your confidence in your piping skills depends on how you want to fill the profiteroles. You can make a small hole in each and pipe the cream in, or cut each one in half and spoon the cream in. Either way will taste just as delicious!

Keep the filled profiteroles in the fridge until about 20 minutes before you’re ready to serve (get them out when you’re serving dinner and they’ll be perfect by the time it’s dessert).

For the chocolate sauce:

  • 150ml double cream
  • 100g milk chocolate
  • 50g dark chocolate
  • 50ml milk
  • 1 tbsp Baileys
  • pinch salt

Put the cream and chocolate in a saucepan and heat gently so the chocolate melts. Add the remaining ingredients and keep stirring until well mixed. Allow to cool a little before serving warm to be poured over the profiteroles.