Gin and Tonic Friands

When I purchased the black cherry flavoured icing sugar from The Vanilla Valley recently, I couldn’t resist adding some gin and tonic flavoured icing sugar to my order.  The obvious recipe of choice for me was friands as icing sugar is one of the main ingredients.

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These are alcohol free, so would be good to take to work for a bake sale, but I did try adding real gin to the glaze with great results.

In reality, these friands are lemon friands and would be just as good with ordinary icing sugar. The tart lemon curd in the middle cuts through the sweetness and I couldn’t resist topping with a little candied lemon slice for a bit of kitsch.

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I think it’s important to use a decent quality lemon curd here too, some of the very cheap versions taste like washing up liquid.  I chose Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference which wasn’t the most expensive one, but I did avoid the cheapest.  Of course home made is always best if you can get hold of some.

G&T Friands

Ingredients:
250ml egg whites – I use Two Chicks pasteurised egg whites
250g Sugar and Crumbs Gin and Tonic flavoured icing sugar
130g ground almonds
100g plain/all-purpose flour
Zest of one small lemon
165g butter – melted and cooled, plus extra for greasing the tin
1/2 jar of good quality lemon curd

To decorate:
1 cup of gin and tonic flavoured icing sugar, sieved
Water (or gin!)
Candied lemon slices

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Method:
Pre heat the oven to 180°C/350°F and brush the friand pan with melted butter

Whisk the egg whites until broken down and frothy.

Fold in the almonds, flour and zest until just incorporated and stir in the cooled, melted butter.

Divide the mixture equally between the cups in the tin.

I used a piping bag to squeeze a little lemon curd into each cake, but you could easily do this with two teaspoons.  You only need a small amount – around a teaspoon.

Bake the friands for around 25-30 minutes.  They will rise up a little and become golden. Leave to cool in the tin for 10-15 minutes in order to firm up a little, before leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.

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To decorate, mix the icing sugar with a small amount of water (or gin if using) to make a fairly thick, but still runny, glaze. Drizzle over the little cakes and stud each one with a candied lemon slice.

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Definitely an unusual alternative to afternoon tea, but a welcome one.

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Fresh Tomato Galette with Goats Cheese

This galette has lots of fresh tomatoes, goats cheese, balsamic caramelised onions and thyme – all baked together in a buttery crust, flavoured with Grana Padano cheese.

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It makes the most of the summer tomato harvest that is so good right now and would be even better if you use home-grown, or heirloom tomatoes.  I picked my tomatoes up from my favourite farm shop and they were locally grown – so much better than forced tomatoes that have been flown half way around the world that taste of nothing!

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Galettes have to be one of the easiest tarts to bake as they are supposed to look rustic!  This crust has the addition of the cheese to give it an extra savoury note that really sets the whole thing off.

I start with a base of slowly cooked onions, caramelised with balsamic vinegar then crumbled goats cheese, thyme leaves and topped with the sliced tomatoes and a little gruyere.  You can never have too much cheese – right?

Tomato galette4

Make the most of these late summer days and enjoy at a picnic in the park, or in the garden with salad and cold white wine.

…or alternatively; inside, with the doors shut – well away from wasps!

Crust Ingredients:
240g plain/all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Grana Padano cheese
170g very cold butter, cut into cubes
1tsp salt
Iced water
1 egg beaten with a splash of milk to make a wash
Black onion seeds and seseme seeds for sprinkling

Filling:
1 punnet of fresh tomatoes
Goats cheese – approx 220g, crumbled
Gruyere cheese – around a handful, grated
3 medium sized brown onions
Pinch of brown sugar
Balsamic vinegar
Small bunch of fresh thyme, leaves picked
1tbs olive oil
Small knob of butter
Salt and black pepper

Method:
For the crust, I use the food processor, fitted with the steel blade.  Place the flour, salt, cheese and butter and pulse until just incorporated.  Add the iced water a little at a time, pulsing until the dough just comes together.  Take it out, form into a flattened disc, wrap in cling film and chill for at least 30 minutes.

For the filling, slice each onion in half and cut thinly.  Heat the oil and butter and cook the onions with a good pinch of salt.  Cook until they start to become translucent.  Add a pinch of sugar and they need to be left on a low heat, stirring occasionally, until they are a lovely walnut colour, but not burnt.

Leave them cooking low and slow for around 30 minutes.  When they are looking ready, stir in a splash of balsamic vinegar (balsamic glaze would also be ok here) let it cook in for a couple of minutes and turn off the heat.  Set aside to cool.

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Pre-heat the oven to 190°C/375°F

Slice all the tomatoes and place onto some kitchen paper to absorb extra juices.

When the onions are cold, its time to roll out the chilled dough.  I prefer to sprinkle a little flour onto my baking sheet liner and roll out directly onto it.  This helps transport the galette into the oven.

Roll out the dough into a rough circle, about half a centimeter.  Spread out the caramelised onions, leaving around a 5cm/2 inch border around the edge.

Tomato galette

Top with the crumbled goats cheese, a grind of black pepper and a little of the thyme leaves.

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Place the sliced tomatoes over the top, season with salt and pepper and grate over a little gruyere cheese and more thyme leaves.

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Bring the pastry up over the filling, leaving the centre exposed, folding and pleating as you go.

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Brush with the beaten egg wash and sprinkle a few onion and seseme seeds over the outside of the crust.  Transfer to a baking sheet and bake for around 45 minutes, but keep an eye it, it should be golden brown and the filling just starting to catch on the edges.

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Leave to cool for a few minutes if serving it warm with salad for a delicious lunch.  I think its just as good cold and would be a great addition for a picnic or lunchbox.

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Black Cherry Puff Pies

We are still making the most of the stone fruit season here and these big black cherries were so juicy and sweet they were almost too good to put in a pie, well almost!

Cherry Hand Pies

Pitting cherries is always a messy business even with a cherry stoner, but there is something quite satisying when you fire the stones out of the cherries once you get going. Anyone else eat the little circles of cherry that come out attached to the stones, no, me neither!

I must admit that I did cheat and used not only puff pastry from the supermarket, but the ready rolled stuff too. The all-butter puff pastry you can get is really very good and so much easier than making it yourself.

The pies themselves are really simple, with not too many ingredients.  The buttery, flaky layers and super sweet juicy cherries make for a perfect summer baked treat and would be a welcome addition to any picnic.

Now the heatwave has released its grip on us (for now anyway) the oven can come back on!

Ingredients:
2 packs of ready rolled puff pastry, or you can buy the blocks and roll yourself, or of course home made would be best!  Keep refrigerated until ready to use
1 large punnet of black cherries – I bought a 500g pack
1 small lemon
1/4 cup sugar – use a little more if the cherries are very tart
1tbs corn flour/starch
1tsp vanilla extract
1tsp almond extract (optional)
1 egg and a little milk to make a wash
Demerara/Turbinado sugar for sprinkling

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Method:
Place the pitted and halved cherries into a pan with the sugar, juice from the lemon, corn flour and the extracts. Stir everything together to combine.

At this point, you could mix the lemon juice and corn flour separately and then add, but I’ve never had any lumps just adding everything in together.

Heat the cherry mixture gently and stir everything together, taking care not to break up the fruit. The mixture will thicken slightly as it cooks.

Cook on a low heat for around 5 minutes, until the cherries soften a little and the juices are thickened.

Leave the pie filling to cool and then place in the refrigerater until cold. You can’t add hot pie filling to a cold crust as bad things will happen to the pastry.

Place the chilled, rolled out pastry on a lightly floured board and cut out circles – I got enough for 8 bases from one sheet and the 8 lids on the next sheet.  Whatever size cutter you go for, just make sure you have an even number, otherwise one of them might have to become a tart!

Place the pie bases onto a lined baking sheet and add a spoonful of the cherry pie filling into the centre of each circle, taking care to leave an edge.

Brush the edges with the egg wash and place the pastry lid onto each pie.

Crimp the edges together with a fork, making sure you have a good seal. I keep a little pile of flour ready when I do this, so I can keep dipping the fork in to stop it sticking to the pastry as it will be warming up a little by now.

You need to refrigerate the pies for 30 minuites to allow everything to relax.  You can also freeze them at this point too.

Cherry Hand Pie

When you are ready to bake, heat the oven to 220°C/425°F

Brush the pies with the egg wash and make a few slits in each pie to let the steam out.  Finally, sprinkle over a little of the sugar.

Bake for around 20 minutes. The pies will puff up and go a lovely golden brown colour when they are ready.

Leave them to cool a little before allowing anyone to sample them as the filling will be very hot!

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They are just the best when still warm and crisp, but good cold too.