Friday, 17 September 2010

Rachel Allen's Chocolate and Vanilla Semifreddo

As you may know if you've happened to skim over the 'About Me' part of this blog, I've worked as a pastry chef, and I have to say that the thing I miss most and really struggle to make outside of the confines of a professional kitchen is ice cream. In the restaurant, I had a massive industrial type ice cream churner, and made freshly churned ice creams and sorbets every day, which were beyond delicious. We had chocolate, vanilla, tonka bean, pistachio, coconut, raspberry, pear, passion fruit, coffee...the list is endless, and each one was smooth and soft, set but yielding, and utterly irresistable.

After I left, I really missed freshly made ice cream so I bought a do-it-yourself-at-home gadget for churning ice cream. It's a fairly teeny little device that holds a litre of ice cream, and churns while in the freezer, working off a battery. Sounds great huh? Well, take my advice - don't bother wasting your money on one. Seriously. It made patchy uneven ice cream, some parts frozen, some still liquid, with ice crystals all the way through it. Not delicious.

So what's a girl with an ice cream craving to do? Good old Rachel Allen to the rescue again, I found a recipe for semifreddo in her book Home Cooking, a resident life saver in my kitchen, and it was a real success.

3 eggs, separated
150g caster sugar
500ml double cream
200g dark chcolate, finely chopped

Line a loaf tin with 2 layers of cling film, with plenty extra over the sides so that you can fold it over to cover the semifredo when freezing.
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl until pale and fluffy.
In a separate bowl, whisk the cream until you have soft peaks.
In yet another bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form firm peaks.
Gently fold the cream into the yolks and sugar, then fold the egg whites into the mixture, being careful not to knock out the air you've whisked in.
Sprinkle a third of the chopped chocolate into the bottom of the loaf tin, then pour on half of the semifreddo mix. Then sprinkle a second third of the chocolate on top of this, then the remaining semifreddo mix, anf finally the last of the chocolate.
Fold the cling film over the top so that it's all covered, then freeze for at least 6 hours.

To go along with this, Rachel suggests a hot chocolate sauce, a pretty fine suggestion if you ask me!

Hot Chocolate Sauce
75g dark chocolate, chopped
100ml double cream

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over simmering water, then whisk in the cream to give a smooth sauce.

The trick is here to have the cream and chocolate as close in temperature as possible before combining them, so let the chocolate cool, a bit after melting, and don't have the cream fridge cold.

This is a really delicious alternative to ice cream, and it softens so beautifully when it's been out of the freezer a few minutes. It doesn't melt exactly, but becomes the semifreddo it's meant to be - half frozen. It has a firm texture, but the smooth creaminess really comes through and is utterly beautiful...and dangerously moreish! Perfect for a dessert after a fairly heavy meal as portions are flexible and the whipping keeps it fairly light, and is a great standby to have in the freezer if you have people over at short notice and need a delicious pudding!!

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Orange Madeira Loaf Cake

It's been a hectic few weeks and I've abandoned the blogosphere since the New Baby Cake which kind of took it out of me to be honest! Anyway, I finally found time to get back in the kitchen and made something considerably less complicated yet utterly delicious. It's a Rachel Allen recipe from her Home Cooking book which I love, I've mentioned it in previous blog posts and really rely on it as a go-to whenever I'm lacking in inspiration; in fact, it is probably second only to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Everyday book in terms of how often it gets used at Colehill Kitchen.

This time it was a lovely warming orange loaf cake, perfect now that the weather is cooling off, but not in the realms of dense wintery fruit or chocolate cakes. It's a nice change from the traditional lemon drizzle cake, but no less delicious.

Orange Cake
175g butter, softened
175g caster sugar
3 eggs
Zest of 2 oranges
225g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
4 tsp freshly squeezed orange juice

Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. I used part golden caster sugar and part normal caster sugar, but it's entirely up to you!
Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each one, then add the orange zest.
Sift the flour and baking powder then fold in with the juice, stopping as soon as all the flour is combined.
Transfer into a greased and lined loaf tin, then smoth out the top.
Bake in the oven at 170 degrees for 50-55 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.
Allow to cool on a wire rack.

The icing in particular went down a storm, which was simply 75g icing sugar and 2-3 tbsp of freshly squeezed orange juice. Combine the juice with the icing sugar gradually until it is soft but not runny, then spoon over the cake.

Slice and enjoy with a cuppa for the perfect afternoon tea!