Donal Skehan

Baking with The Wild Flour Bakery…

Like most of the best things in life, I came across Kate Packwood’s baking creations by word of mouth. Images of Kate’s beautifully displayed market stall popped up in my twitter feed and I knew we had to meet. Her unique combinations and use of interesting spices really set her cakes apart, like her passion fruit cake with olive oil drizzle and passion fruit curd, dark chocolate and sea salt caramel brownies, and banana, cardamom and pistachio loaves. Is your mouth watering yet? I haven’t managed to visit her stall in the Honest2Goodness market in Glasnevin, Dublin, but last week I had the opportunity to try her cakes. Kate kindly agreed to a cake filled photoshoot where we shot three rather special cakes and bakes, Pear, Vanilla and Smoke Cakes, Raspberry, Pistachio and Rose Cake and Earl Grey Profiteroles with Dark Chocolate & Tonka Glaze and Honeyed Figs. I also got the opportunity to ask Kate about her background and why she started baking…

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Earl Grey Profiteroles with Dark Chocolate & Tonka Glaze and Honeyed Figs

These are a classic choux pastry dessert that are rescued from 80s campness by the addition of an elegant Earl Grey tea crème pâtissière and a decadent bitter dark chocolate glaze infused with tonka beans. Served with honey glazed fresh figs these make for a glorious dessert.
Recipe by Kate Packwood.

Makes approx. 17 profileroles
For the Earl Grey tea crème pâtissière:
500ml milk (single estate if possible)
3 Earl Grey tea bags or 3 heaped teaspoons of loose leaves
30g unsalted Irish butter
6 organic egg yolks (at room temperature)
100g caster sugar
40g cornflour
40ml organic cream

For the profiteroles:
100g plain flour
75g unsalted Irish butter
175ml water
Pinch of salt
3 large organic eggs

For the dark chocolate & tonka glaze:
200g dark chocolate (min.70%)
100ml double cream
40g unsalted butter
tonka bean

To decorate:
8 figs (miniature figs work best, but any small figs will do)
2 tbsp Irish honey, ideally Burren wildflower honey
Dried cornflowers (Steenbergs)

For the crème pâtissière, heat the milk and butter in a medium pan until they reach boiling point, remove from the heat and add the Earl Grey tea; leave to infuse for 30 minutes. Use a tea strainer to strain the infused milk, discard the leaves or bags, put the milk back into the cleaned pan and bring back up to the boil.

Meanwhile, put the yolks, sugar and cornflour into a heatproof bowl and whisk for a minute or two until light and moussy. Slowly pour the hot milk onto the egg mixture while continuing to whisk until it is fully incorporated and there are no lumps.

Tip the mixture back into the pan and stir constantly on a medium heat until it thickens. It will continue to thicken as it cools, so when you feel the mixture change and give resistance remove from the heat and pour into a large shallow bowl. Put a piece of cling film directly on the top of the crème, to stop it forming a skin. Leave it to cool before putting it in the fridge.

For the profiteroles, sieve the flour and set aside. Preheat the oven to 200°C and line two baking trays with parchment paper.

Put the butter, water and salt into a medium pan, melt together slowly and then raise the heat and bring to the boil. Immediately remove from the heat and add the flour, beating furiously with a wooden spoon until it forms a smooth and heavy dough.

Put the pan back on a low heat for 30 seconds to a minute beating to cook out the flour.

Put the dough into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle and leave to cool slightly. Beat the eggs together in a jug and add a bit at a time to the warm dough, beating thoroughly after each addition until fully incorporated before adding the next. Make sure the dough doesn’t become too wet; you may not need all the eggs. The mixture should be of the consistency that can be piped and hold its shape.

Put the dough into a piping bag fitted with a large round piping nozzle. Pipe 3cm diameter balls spaced 5cm apart onto the parchment lined baking tray. Use a clean finger dipped in the remaining beaten egg to smooth them and then put them into the preheated oven.

Bake for 15 minutes at 200°C, then turn the oven down to 180°C and rapidly open and close the oven door to let out the steam. Bake for a further 15-20 minutes at the reduced temperature until golden and risen. Remove from the oven and using a sharp knife make a hole in each profiterole to let out the steam from the centre. Put back in the oven for a further 5 minutes, then remove and cool on a wire rack.

For the dark chocolate glaze, heat the dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Meanwhile, finely grind the tonka bean (these are very potent so you will only need about half a bean) and add to the melting chocolate. When it is fully melted, slowly pour in the cream and keep stirring until they incorporate, then add the butter in small lumps, stirring until it is a shiny, dark glaze that is viscous not runny.

To assemble, put the cream in a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and whisk to soft peaks. Add the set crème patissiere and whisk until smooth. Put in a piping bag fitted with a medium round nozzle and generously pipe the crème into each profiterole. Spread a spoonful of the chocolate tonka glaze on to the top of each and then sprinkle with some dried cornflowers.

Score the figs with a deep cross and squeeze the bottom to open it up; arrange artfully around the profiteroles. Cut some figs into quarters and dot about. Warm the honey in a small pan until it becomes runny and use a pastry brush to drizzle over the figs.

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Pear, Vanilla and Smoke Cakes

The smokiness of these cakes is achieved using lapsang souchong tea, which is a fully fermented black tea smoked over pine wood fires. This smoky flavoured tea is used to infuse the cream to make the caramel and also to make the sweet smoky syrup with which you soak the sponge layer of the cake. The smokiness is balanced by the aromatic freshness of the pear, and the nutty dark chocolate pulls these contrasting flavours together. The base is rich and fudgy, the sponge is extremely moist and the topping is sticky and crunchy.
Recipe by Kate Packwood.

Makes 8 individual cakes
For the chocolate bases:

155g dark chocolate (70%) – break in to small pieces
115g unsalted Irish butter
150g caster sugar
55g light brown muscadova sugar
3 large organic eggs
1 tsp fairtrade vanilla extract
80g plain organic flour
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (Valrhona is best)
tsp salt (ideally smoked sea salt), finely ground
80g walnuts (coarsely chopped)

For the smoky syrup:
250ml boiling water
4 tsp Lapsang souchong tea (I use Solaris organic)

80g caster sugar

For the smoky caramel:
100ml organic cream
4 tsp Lapsang Souchong tea
115g caster sugar
4 tbsp cold water
115g unsalted Irish butter
For the sponge layer:
150g unsalted Irish butter
130g caster sugar
2 large organic eggs
1 vanilla pod
140g organic Greek yoghurt
220g plain flour
¾ tsp baking powder
tsp bicarbonate of soda
150g (approximately 1 large) ripe conference pear

For the topping:
180g walnuts (toasted in the oven at 170°C for 5 minutes, then cut into large chunks)

For the chocolate bases, melt the chocolate and butter in a large heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir intermittently with a spatula to melt and incorporate.
When it is fully melted, turn off the heat but leave the bowl in the pan. Add the two kinds of sugar and use a whisk to incorporate them. When fully mixed in, remove the bowl from the pan and set aside for the mixture to cool slightly.

While it is cooling, preheat the oven to 175°C and grease a brownie pan (13” x 7.5”) with melted butter and line the bottom and short ends with a long strip of parchment.
Break the eggs into a jug, add the vanilla extract and beat together. Sieve the flour, cocoa and salt together and set aside.

The chocolate mixture should now be slightly cooled, gently whisk in by hand the beaten eggs in two additions, ensuring the first is fully incorporated before adding the second addition. Next use a spatula to fold in the flour/salt/cocoa until just incorporated – do not over-mix.

Pour about half of the mixture into the prepared pan and use the spatula to spread it in a thin, even layer. Sprinkle the coarsely chopped walnuts all over the chocolate layer and then cover with the remaining mixture. Make sure it is as even as possible.

Pop into the middle shelf of the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes, turning halfway through. Cool in the pan on a wire rack and then carefully remove it from the pan when completely cooled. Use a 6.5cm diameter mousse ring to cut out 8 circles and set them aside. These will form the bases of the cakes. Cut the remaining off-cuts of chocolate base into chunks and store in an airtight jar for snacks. Stored in this way, they will hold for up to 10 days.

For the smoke-infused cream (for the caramel), in a small pan bring 100ml of organic cream just to the boil then remove from the heat. Add 4 teaspoons of the lapsang souchong tea leaves, stir and leave to infuse for 30 minutes. Use a tea strainer to strain the cream into a jug and set aside until you are making the caramel.

For the smoky syrup (for the sponges), pour 250ml of boiling water over 4 teaspoons of lapsang souchong tea leaves and let infuse for 30 minutes, then use a tea strainer or fine sieve to strain the tea into a small pan and stir in 80g caster sugar. Stir slowly over low heat until the sugar has fully dissolved and then bring to the boil and remove from the heat. Set aside.

For the sponge layer, preheat the oven to 170°C and use melted butter to grease 8 mousse rings (6.5cm diameter) and space them out on a baking tray lined with parchment.
Sieve the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda together and set aside.
In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, cream the butter and then add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy.
Split the vanilla pod and scrape out all the seeds with a teaspoon and add to a small jug. Break in the eggs and beat together with a fork, then gradually add to the butter and sugar beating constantly until incorporated.

Add a third of the flour mix and beat until incorporated, then add a third of the yogurt. Keep alternating the flour and yoghurt they are both fully mixed in.
Peel and dice the pear into approximately 0.75cm chunks and fold into the batter mix with a spatula before filling the mousse rings three quarters full.
Bake in the centre of the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, turning halfway through. Check they are cooked by piercing the middle of each cake with a toothpick, which should come out clean. Slide the parchment – with the cakes in their rings – onto a wire rack to cool.

When the cakes are cool enough to handle, use a long-bladed, sharp knife to slice off the top of each cake using the top of the ring as your guide. This gives a flat top for the nuts and caramel, but also open the ‘pores’ of the cake so that it will better absorb the smoky syrup. Carefully loosen each cake from its ring and from the parchment underneath, but leave them sitting in the rings. Move them, still on the parchment, into a dish with sides to catch the excess syrup when you pour it into the cakes.
Deeply pierce the cakes with a toothpick and then carefully spoon the smoky syrup over each cake. Leave to soak up the syrup while you make the caramel.

For the smoky caramel, put the 4 tbsp of water into a medium large, heavy-bottomed pan and then pour on the caster sugar. Stir together over low heat to dissolve the sugar and then turn up the heat to medium and leave – without stirring – to caramelize to a dark, nutty amber colour. Meanwhile, reheat the infused cream in a small pan and then remove from the heat as it reaches boiling point.

When the sugar has reached the correct colour, turn your extractor fan on high and using a long wooden spoon stir the cream into the caramel. It will hiss and bubble up furiously so stand back until it settles down, but continue stirring throughout so that it doesn’t form lumps. When it stops hissing, add the butter, small lump by small lump, stirring in each then adding the next, until it is all incorporated. Pour the smoky caramel into a bowl to cool slightly. It will thicken as it cools.

To assemble the cakes, lay out the chocolate bases and spread each with a little of the smoky caramel. Line up the moist sponge cake on top, using the mousse rings as a guide if needs be. Next, generously spoon and gently spread more smoky caramel on top of each cake and then add the toasted walnuts, drizzling them with more caramel and brushing them with a little remaining smoky syrup.

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Raspberry, Pistachio and Rose Cake

The sponge layers of this cake are very light as they don’t contain fat or raising agents, the rise is achieved purely by the whipping of air into the eggs. This is a very quick and simple cake to make and its merit is directly proportional to the quality of ingredients you use to make it. Ensure you use the freshest possible organic eggs, duck eggs if you can get them.
Recipe by Kate Packwood.

Serves 6-8
For the sponge:
6 large organic eggs
180g caster sugar
180g plain organic flour (sieved)

For the filling:

500ml organic cream (preferably Irish single-estate, such as Mossfield)
1 to 2tbsp good quality rose water (to taste)
4 heaped tbsp. raspberry jam
2 punnets of raspberries
75g shelled pistachios
Dried rose petals (I use Steenberg’s organic)

Preheat the oven to 170°C.
Break 6 eggs into a very clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whisk the eggs gently to break them up, then add the caster sugar and whisk on medium high speed until the ‘thick ribbon’ stage is reached. This means the mixture will be light, have increased substantially in volume and be of a moussy consistency. When you lift the whisk the mixture should fall slowly in thick ribbons.

While the eggs are whisking, grease three (22cm diameter) cake tins and line the bottom with a disk of parchment paper.

When the thick ribbon stage is reached, add the sieved flour and fold in very gently to fully incorporate without knocking the air out of the mixture. Very carefully apportion the mixture between the three cake tins and pop in the oven for 15-20 minutes, turning two thirds of the way through the cooking time. You will know when they are ready as they should be golden brown and coming away slightly from the edges of the tins.
 Remove from the oven and cool in their tins for 10 minutes before carefully turning out and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.

Whisk the cream in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Be careful not to over-whisk it, you want it to be in soft peaks and full of volume. When the correct volume has been reached, add the rose water little by little to your taste.
 Chop the pistachios so that you have a good mix of larger chunks and nut dust.

When the sponge is completely cooled, remove the parchment disks from the undersides and place the first sponge on the stand on which you plan to serve it. Spread the sponge with a thin layer of raspberry jam and then generously spoon on about a third of the rose water cream. Arrange raspberries across the cream remembering to evenly arrange them around the very outer edge, as these will show when you sandwich the layers together. Sprinkle a third of the chopped pistachios, again remembering that the ones on the very edge will show.

Place the second layer of sponge on top and repeat with the jam, cream, raspberries and pistachios, then add the final layer of sponge. Don’t add jam to this layer, but add the cream being more careful as all of this layer will show. Arrange the raspberries and pistachios artfully and then sprinkle over the dried rose petals.

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January 2013 Newsletter!

Hi folks,

Hope you all had a lovely Christmas and New Year celebration. Ours was really special as we had both events in our little house for the first time. On New Years Day we braved the Irish Sea and took a dip to mark the start of a brand new year.  Out with the old and in with the new!

The start of any year is always exciting, plans are made and lots of possibilities lie ahead.  For me, I was thrilled to finally put the last touches to my next book which I had been working on, full time, all the way up to Christmas.  As with all my books to date, I again got the opportunity to shoot the recipe images myself, which can be quite a nerve wracking experience but I had lots of help from Sofie my partner, the wonderful Sharon Hearne Smith and a few extra special helping hands who gave up their time to help during our shoot days.

I’m thrilled with the outcome and the book has now been sent off for editing and design.  Now comes the really exciting part of seeing everything come together.  Kitchen Hero: Home Cooked will be released later this year and I’ll make sure to keep you posted all about before then.

I don’t think you can ignore the fact that January is a month where all over the blogosphere, beautiful images of cakes and sweet treats make way for juices, healthy salads and soups while people make plans to get fit and healthy for the year ahead.  Considering the proper feast we had over Christmas, I think it’s a bit of a case of, if you can’t beat ‘em, join em’!  So with that in mind I’ve put together some of my favourite healthy recipes to keep you on the straight and narrow.

In this month’s update, two rather special food blogs, a beautiful cookbook from Anna and Fanny Bergenstrom, a great book for new food writers, lots of healthy recipes and some kitchen garden planning

Have fun!

Donal x

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A Swedish cake of nightmares…

I still have big pink orb shaped nightmares about this cake.  While I worked in a restaurant on an island of the coast of Gothenburg in the middle of winter a few years ago, one of my jobs everyday was to ferry the food across stormy seas on the smallest boat you can imagine.  On the many bumpy, cold and windy journeys over to the island, my job was to hold on tightly to three boxes of prinsesstårta’s which are one of the most delicate cakes you can imagine.  With every bump of a wave, the marzipan covered cream cake would threaten to smoosh itself up the sides of the boxes.  It was a recipe for disaster but thankfully that winter every single prinsesstårta made it in one piece.

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Prinsesstårta- Swedish Princess Cake

Varients on the layers of this traditional Swedish cake are quite common and can also be referred to as Prinstårta and Opera Cake. This is my version and makes a wonderful celebration cake.

Serves 12
For the sponge layers:

4 large free range eggs
170g caster sugar
120g plain flour
butter for greasing the tin

For the Crème Patissière:
1 vanilla pod
450ml milk
120g caster sugar
6 large free range egg yolks
50g cornflour
50g unsalted butter, softened

For the filling and assembly:
125g fresh raspberries
750ml double cream, whipped to soft peaks
500g marzipan (use red or pink food colouring
if you can’t find pink marzipan)

Preheat the oven to 190°C and grease and line a 20cm springform cake tin with parchment paper.

Beat together the eggs and the sugar until pale and fluffy. Sift the flour in to the bowl and fold gently into the egg mixture, until you are left with no lumps in the bowl. Pour the mixture into the cake tin.

Bake on the middle wrack of the oven for 15-20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave the cake to cool slightly in the tin and then turn it out on to a cooling rack. When completely cool, using a bread knife, divide the cake into three even layers.

For the crème patissière, split the vanilla pod in half and scrape out the seeds. Add this to a medium saucepan with the milk and place over a medium high heat. Bring to the boil and then turn off the heat. Scoop out the vanilla pod.

While the milk is coming to the boil, place the sugar, cornflour and egg yolks in a large mixing bowl and beat with a whisk until thick and pale. Pour the hot milk into the bowl, whisking quickly and continuously until it is smooth and incorporated. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and place over a medium heat beating continuously until it has thickened.

Transfer the crème pâtissière to a cold bowl, create a flat surface with the back of a spatula and wipe the top with a little butter (this will prevent a skin forming). Cover directly with cling film and allow to cool completely.

Place one of the cake layers on a cake stand. Use one-third of the crème pâtissière to pipe three circles around the base of the bottom layer, starting from the outside, in. Place the raspberries inside the creme patisserie circles. Mix a spoonful of the cream with a little of the creme patisserie and pipe over the raspberries. Put on the next layer of cake and spread with half the remaining crème pâtissière over the top. Put the last layer of cake in place and spread the remaining crème pâtissière on top.  Spread the cream over the top and sides of the cake, creating a smooth dome shape.

In a bowl, add a drop of food colouring to the marzipan and knead it until you have an even pink colour. Dust a clean surface with icing sugar and roll out the marzipan until it’s about 1mm in thickness. Cover the cake with the marzipan, trimming the excess around the edges. (You can use the excess marzipan to make the little rose on top.)

Dust the cake with icing sugar and place a little marzipan rose on top.

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