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January 29, 2013

A Twist on Cranachan: Raspberry, Oatmeal and Whiskey Roulade


Demolished Cranachan

Cranachan - pronounced 'cran-ah-hkun' (the 'ch' being the soft, guttural, scottish 'ch' sound, as in loch'). The scrummy, scottish dessert made with raspberries, whiskey, honey blended with cream and sprinkled with oats. I'd like to appease the purists in cyberspace by letting them know that I had planned to serve it up in the traditional way at my Haggis, Neeps and Tatties in 3 ways Dinner Party.

Until Friday. At 10pm, I had this hankering to make it into a roulade because I'd never made a roulade before. You see, I don't have a swiss roll tin and previously, that has been the one barrier that has stopped me from baking a roulade. However, as I was in an inventive mood, I improvised with a suitably sized baking tray and it all worked out. Hurrah :)

Well, there was more improvising in store. I know that you can make the roulade base purely with egg whites and sugar; there were too many online recipes demanding that I add in some sort of flour or flour substitute. So, that's when I came up with the idea of using toasted oatmeal. And as I couldn't find a recipe for an oatmeal meringue online, I made it up. So, as the hand beater is whisking the egg whites, balancing somewhat precariously on the bowl, I measure out the oats, scatter them across a baking tray and carefully toast them in the oven until a wonderful nutty smell wafts around the kitchen. As you can imagine, I had more moments of K-mix envy as I stood attached to my electric mixer, passing it from one hand to the other as I waited for stiff peaks to form. I can only imagine the freedom of leaving the egg whites to whisk in the stand mixer, while I line the tin, toast and ground the oatflakes... Admittedly, not that it stopped me but that procedure wouldn't have held the same amount of trepidation.

Naturally, I wanted to omit the cream to create a healthier, lighter dessert and I replaced it with full-fat greek yoghurt. If you'd like to do this, then wait until it's almost time to serve the dessert before you start spreading the greek yoghurt onto the base. It's much runnier and wetter than whipped cream so will seep through the base, softening the structure.

(Incidentally Friday was Burns Night. Perhaps the scottish bard inspired me to take artistic license with this dessert.)

whisky cake to go with the roulade

My guests really enjoyed the cranachan roulade on Saturday night. The raspberry, honey and whiskey combination is sweet but not overpowering. Those who like oats particularly enjoyed the nutty, oaty flavour of the base. So I'd make this again with a few tweaks (see below).

My own invention of Cranachan Roulade, serves 6-8 people

Ingredients for the meringue base

  • 4 egg whites
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 50g toasted oatmeal or finely ground oatflakes

Ingredients for the filling

  • 500g greek yoghurt or 250g lightly whipped double cream
  • 2 tbsp whiskey
  • 3 tsp runny honey, preferably of the heather honey variety. I didn't have any so I used a Thai honey instead and it was good.
  • 350g raspberries

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Line a 23x33cm swiss roll tin (or a similar sized baking tray with raised sides) with tin foil or baking paper, folding the sides up so that you create a raised 4cm border and squeeze the corners together. Lightly spray or brush with vegetable oil.

2. If you are using a stand mixer, then you can do step 2 after you begin the whisking of the egg whites described in step 3. Measure out the oat flakes and spread them on a baking tray and pop it in the oven for 4-5 minutes. Then take them out, turn them over and pop back into the oven for a few more minutes. The oats should be a very light brown colour and smell deliciously nutty. Leave to cool for a few minutes and then grind them up in a food processer until they are the texture of ground almonds, at the very least. I think that I created oat flour, I ground the flakes so fine.

3. Whisk the egg whites until they have a firm peak. Then add the caster sugar in 4 stages if you are using an electric beater, or all in one go if you're using a stand mixer, continuing to whisk for 5 minutes until stiff peaks form. I used an electric beater and made the mistake of adding all the sugar in one go. The resulting base was fine but it took at least 15 minutes before anything vaguely resembling stiff peaks formed.

making meringue

4. Now add the ground oatmeal to the meringue mixture. Fold it in using a metal spoon until it is just mixed in, making the utmost effort not to knock out the volume in the meringue mixture.

5. Spoon out the meringue mixture onto the prepared tin and evenly smooth it out using a palette knife. Now pop it into the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, until it is firm to touch and ever so slightly brown on top. In the meantime, prepare an additional sheet of foil or baking paper that is just larger than the size of the tin and sprinkle it with icing sugar or caster sugar. I didn't do this and in hindsight I think that it's a good way to further ensure that the base doesn't stick to the foil.

6. Take the roulade base out of the oven and allow to cool for about 3 minutes. Here comes the slightly scary part, akin to when you flip pancakes, so do it with confidence. Quickly invert the baking tin onto the prepared sheet of foil, so that the lining is on top. Leave for a few minutes, then gently remove the foil on the base. Don't worry if a few bits come off. No one will see it anyway. Leave to cool completely.

*You could make it up this point the day before and leave the base out on the side, like I did.

oatmeal rouladeSpread the cream on the roulade

6. For the filling, empty the yoghurt into a medium sized mixing bowl. Mix in the whiskey and honey. Spread the mixture evenly on top of the base but leave 2cms round the edges cream free. Sprinkle a thin layer of raspberries on top, reserving a few raspberries to decorate the roulade.

7. Now to roll. This proved trickier than I anticipated. Not helped by the fact that I chose to roll with the longer edge and my hands are too small to do it. When you've finished rolling, leave the foil around the roulade so that it is easier to gently transfer the roulade onto the serving dish. Or, if you are using cream, then you can store the roulade in the fridge for a couple of hours with the foil tightly wrapped around it before serving.

Enjoy and cheers!

Here are my top tips on rolling:

1. Sprinkle the foil with icing sugar or caster sugar before inverting the base onto it. This helps prevent the roulade base from sticking to the foil.

2. Make a cut along the edge of the roll, about 2 cms in, that you're going to begin rolling with so that you are only cutting halfway into the base. This will help you create a roll, as opposed to a circle. Just so that you know, unlike moi, most people use the shortest edge.

3. Use the foil to create tight roll by firmly pulling the foil horizontally away from you with one hand and at the same time gently pressing down on the foil with the other. Do it slowly to start off.

4. Here's an online video tutorial.

Variations on the theme: I'd like to experiment with a few tweaks to this recipe. Next time, either make a raspberry sauce by crushing raspberries and adding sugar to it or make a raspberry compote. Spread the raspberry sauce on the base. Substitute mascapone in place of the greek yoghurt or cream so that there's a firmer mixture before adding the raspberries, rolling it up, sprinkling with icing sugar et voila!

Cranachan Roulade

June 30, 2011

Fiona Cairn's Shortbread

FionaCairnsShortbread

Have I told you before that I grew up in Scotland? Now that you know, then you'll understand why baking the most delicious shortbread is on my list of baking to-dos. That taste and sensation of buttery biscuit crumbling in your mouth is, when you get it right, eye-poppingly delicious! Yet, it only made its appearance on my list very recently. As the name suggests, there's a lot fat that goes into it (shortening, in its most generic sense, is any fat that is solid at room temperature) and that kinda put me off. However, I think that began to change when, firstly I tasted THE best shortbread ever two years ago and didn't want to eat any other lesser tasting brand. Then I finally happened across a pretty convincing shortbread recipe in Fiona Cairn's book.

The best shortbread, the one that changed things, is Duncan's shortbread. (Incidentally they're made in Deeside, Aberdeenshire, which is near the area where I grew up.) They are pretty much the perfect shortbread for me: crumbly and indulgent. However, they are pretty hard to track down in the supermarkets south of the border. So, when you're next in Scotland, I'd recommend visiting any Morrisson's supermarket and buying a packet so that you can delight in them too.

While I'm rating shop-bought shortbread, I'd recommend Dean's shortbread too. They're more widely available and were my favourite before I had a taste of Duncan's. And how about Walkers shortbread? Everyone has tasted Walkers shortbread right? They're everywhere with their tartan branding. I grew up eating them and asked my mum to bring to the US so that I could nibble on them whenever I wanted a taste of home. A classic but I find that they are too dense and aren't crumbly enough.

I do try different brands but Duncan's is the benchmark. If they don't come close, then I don't thing that they're worth eating: shortbread is pretty calorific. So, I admit. I've become a bit of a shortbread snob. Now that I check out the ingredients list on the back of the packet to hunt down the perfect recipe, perhaps, we should modify that to 'shortbread-snob-on-the-hunt-for-the-perfect-homemade-shortbread-recipe'. I've already tried searching for the Duncan's recipe but it is a closely guarded family secret. It says so on their website. What I do find really interesting about Duncan's is that they don't use butter!! No, siree, on the backs of their packets, they list blended pure vegetable fat as their fat ingredient. Well, maybe they're onto something since shortening is associated more with vegetable or animal fat, rather than butter.

But this blog post is about when I baked Fiona Cairn's shortbread recipe and I have to say,

It trumps all the shop bought varieties.

My sister paid me the biggest compliment when she said that my shortbread was better than Duncan's. (I asked her and her husband to do a taste test.)

This is such a fantastic recipe. I haven't modified anything because it is, well, perfect just as it is. The only thing that I did was to halve the recipe because it looked like it was going to make an awfully big batch of shortbread, and I didn't have enough freezer space...

Top Tip: use your favourite-tasting, best-est quality butter because the taste varies on the quality of the butter. Oh, and bake on baking paper, so that the baked shortbreads are easier to take off the baking tray.

Fiona Cairn's Shortbread, from Fiona's cookbook, Bake and Decorate, as baked by moi.

Ingredients

  • 250g salted butter, softened and cubed.
  • 100g golden caster sugar, plus some more for sprinkling post-baking
  • 250g of plain flour
  • 125g of cornflour or rice flour*

*Fiona included this gem of a detail that you could use either rice flour or cornflour, which gave it a crumbly texture, and her scottish grandmotherused rice flour. But do you know, cornflour is used in Duncan's secret recipe, so no guesses for which one I opted for.

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 170°C/340°F/ gas mark 3. Line a metal baking sheet with baking paper. I'm a BIG fan of pampered chef stoneware and normally use stoneware in baking. However, my friend, who has had some experience with baking shortbread, assures me that they taste better when baked on metal, rather than stone.

2. Cream together the butter and the sugar together first. You'll get there fastest is if you use an electric whisk or mixer.

3. Then sift in the flour and cornflour and mix into the butter and sugar. I'd add the flours in three batches to stop the flour flying out of the bowl. Combine well until you get a sticky mixture.

4. Flour your hands so that the mixture doesn't stick to your hands for this next step. In the mixing bowl, gently knead the dough for about 5 minutes, until it is smooth. (Fiona says 'do not over-work' - that doesn't mean much for a non-experienced dough kneader such as I? So this was my guess).

shortbread_dough

5. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and pop it into the fridge for at least 30 minutes. This will make the dough easier to roll out.

6. I floured a glass cutting board, but you can use any floured board, to roll out the dough evenly with a rolling pin. You want to aim for about 5-7mm thickness.

rolling out shortbreadcutting shortbreadcutting shortbread

I quite like my method of rolling this kind of dough out with a piece of baking paper or clingfilm between the rolling pin and the dough. I find it's cleaner this way and somehow, the dough mixture rolls out smoother and doesn't stick to the rolling pin.

7. Cut out, roll out, repeat until you've used up all the mixture. I deliberately bought some really cute small-mini cutters to make this shortbread. Funnily, I just felt that I couldn't make them until I had bought these cutters!

8. So, perhaps there are too many to bake in one go? No problemo - freeze them. Fiona recommends that you freeze them unbaked, so that you have a ready batch of these to bake whenever you want or need them. They just need to be defrosted for an hour before baking. Then, she includes this tip:

lay the biscuits between sheets of baking parchment in a freezer container.

which is absolute genius! So, you arrange the shortbread on a piece of baking paper and place it gently to fit the container, then you add the next layer of baking paper with the shortbread etc. This means that when you come to take them out to defrost, they are 1. easy to get out and 2. ready for you to put them on the baking tray for you to bake. Just remember to let them defrost for an hour...

storing raw shortbreadshortbread hearts

9. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Sprinkle with sugar, then let them cool for 10 minutes.

Tada! Careful you don't demolish them all in one sitting.

You already know what my sister thinks of this recipe. I've also baked these as a birthday present for my friend Helen and for the Welcome Team at church, as a treat for visitors. They loved them. Blimey, if the rest of Fiona's recipes are as good as this one, then we are in for a treat.


fiona cairns shortbread

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