Friday 21 July 2017

Recipes: Brenda Costigan with delicious desserts such as creme brulee and apple strudel

Forget counting calories for once and send your guests to bed purring with contentment, says Brenda Costigan, with delicious desserts such as creme brulee and apple strudel

CREME BRULEE
CREME BRULEE

Brenda Costigan

Having friends in for a meal? Finish on a high note with a wonderful dessert, or two or three! Remember, this is not a time to worry about calories. The occasional treat is never the problem.





Having said that, it is always a good idea to include either a fresh-fruit salad or a simple poached-fruit dish, such as poached plums in port, to show consideration for those friends who can't or don't wish to indulge.

Serve me some variation of a meringue for dessert and I'm yours! Chocolate is another ingredient high on most people's list of favourites. Often it is the tried and trusted recipes that are the most welcome. I can still remember the first time I ate a creme brulee, the delicious contrast of cool smooth custard with the crispy topping is unforgettable. A touch of Austrian elegance can be achieved with a filo-wrapped apple strudel, while a delightful gateau Diane, combines meringue and chocolate. Have your guests go home purring with contentment.

CREME BRULEE

(Pictured)

Little pots of creamy baked custard, topped with crunchy 'burnt' sugar. A classic baked creme brulee is smooth and creamy with no air bubbles. A secret teaspoon of cornflour, mixed in with the egg yolks, can help. Serves 4.

You will need:

5 large egg yolks

1 tablespoon caster sugar

650ml (1pt) cream

1 vanilla pod or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Caster sugar for the top

Put the egg yolks into a bowl with the caster sugar and mix. Put the cream and the vanilla pod or extract, whichever you are using, into a saucepan over a very gentle heat until bubbles begin to appear all around the edge. Take off the heat, take out the pod and scrape the seeds into the cream. Keep the pod for another use. Add the hot cream to the egg yolks in the bowl, whisking gently to avoid making too many bubbles. Return the mixture to the saucepan and heat gently until the mixture coats the back of the wooden spoon like a thin cream. Do not allow to boil.

Remove from heat and pour into lightly greased ramekin dishes. Leave in the fridge overnight. Hopefully a skin will have formed on top. If not, stand dish in a roasting tin of cold water (to keep the custards cold) and place the lot under a hot grill to make a thin skin. Shortly before serving, sprinkle a thin layer of caster sugar over the top of each and return ramekins under the hot grill to 'burn' the sugar -- don't overdo it, or it becomes bitter.

Ideally, serve while the sugar is hot and yet the custard is still cold underneath,

GATEAU DIANE

This is a special-occasion dessert that combines two popular items -- meringue and chocolate. Serves 6.

You will need:

4 large egg whites

225g (8oz) caster sugar

75g (3oz) flaked or finely chopped almonds (optional)

299ml (10fl oz) fresh cream

200g (7oz) dark chocolate, chopped

2 tablespoons Baileys (optional)

Chocolate caraque, to decorate (see below)

Mark out three circles, 20cm (8in) in diameter, on three pieces of baking parchment and place these on appropriately sized baking tins. If making for 10-12 servings and using double the ingredients, mark larger 25.5cm (10in) circles. You can always adapt the shape to fit your serving plates. Preheat the oven to 120 C, 250 F, approximately Gas ?.

Whisk the egg whites until frothy. Add the caster sugar a little at a time, beating with each addition. When all the sugar has been added and the mixture sufficiently stiff that the bowl can be turned upside down, it is ready.

Divide the mixture between the three shapes and spread out to fit. Smooth the surface and scatter with the almonds, if you are using them. Bake until crisp and dried-out -- usually about two hours -- but still a pale colour. Cool on a wire tray. These can be made in advance and kept in an airtight container for a week or so.

Prepare the chocolate cream early on the day of serving to give it time to cool. It can be cooled in the fridge, but take care not to let it stiffen too much.

Put the fresh cream into a saucepan and bring just barely to the boil. Take off the heat and add the chopped dark chocolate, stirring until it melts. If necessary, return to the heat for a little extra warmth. When all of the chocolate is melted, stir well and allow to cool until the mixture thickens enough to whip. Whip it lightly, adding the Baileys by degrees, if you are using it.

Place the first layer of meringue on the serving plate and spread the chocolate cream over the top. Add the other two layers of meringue, spreading chocolate cream between them and then over the top. If there is enough chocolate cream to spare, it can also be spread on the sides.

Decorate the top with the chocolate caraque (see below). If preferred, use a crumbled Flake bar.

Chocolate Caraque

The whole bar is required to give you the flexibility to scrape off the chocolate curls/caraque from the flat underside, though there will be plenty of bar left to use in another recipe. The chocolate bar should be at room temperature.

You will need:

200g (7oz) bar dark chocolate

Place the bar of chocolate flat-side up (squares facing down), with the narrow end facing you. Use a sharp knife and hold it at 45 degrees and scrape the surface of the chocolate towards you. A thin layer of chocolate will curl up in little pieces along the way. Repeat until you have enough. A little bit of practice may be required.

APPLE STRUDEL

This is an apple tart for special occasions. Traditionally made with time-consuming noodle pastry, this version is made with frozen filo pastry. The apple filling is flavoured deliciously with raisins, nuts and cinnamon. Some recipes spread the filling all over the filo and then roll up like a Swiss roll, which results in sections of soggy filo through the apple filling. It is much nicer to wrap the filo all around the outside of the filling so it crisps nicely in the oven. Serves 5-6.

You will need:

3 large cooking apples -- will weigh about 600g (1lb 6oz) when peeled, cored and diced

50g (2oz) raisins or sultanas

50g (2oz) walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped

50-75g (2-3oz) sugar (white or brown)

1 level tablespoon cornflour

1/4-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Finely grated zest of a small orange

Packet frozen filo pastry, thawed

40g (1 1/2oz) melted butter

1/2 tablespoon honey

Toasted flaked almonds or icing sugar, to serve

Whipped cream, to serve

Use a large Swiss roll tin 35.5cm by 23cm (14in by 9in). Turn it upside down so that the strudel can slide off after baking. Preheat the oven to 200 C, 400 F, Gas 6.

To ensure that the apples cook quickly, be sure to cut them in a small dice. Put into a bowl with the raisins or sultanas, the toasted and chopped walnuts or pecans, whichever you are using, the sugar, the cornflour, the cinnamon and the finely grated orange zest, and mix well.

Frozen filo usually comes in 49cm by 26cm (19in by 10in) sheets. You will need about 4? thawed sheets. Place two sheets of filo on a board, overlapping them down the length so that together they measure 49cm by 35.5cm (19in by 14in) wide. Brush melted butter between the layers where they overlap, then over the whole surface. Lay the remaining sheets in 2-3 more layers on top, brushing between each and over the top with melted butter.

Place the filling ingredients in a long pile along the centre of the prepared filo sheets. Leave a margin of 5cm (2in) at each end of the long filling. Also leave a wide margin of about 10cm (4in) each side. Flap up the narrow filo at each end over the filling and then fold over each of the wide margins to cover the filling. Wet the edges with water to stick together. Gently roll over the strudel so the join is underneath. Place on the prepared tin. Brush the top with melted butter.

Bake in the top half of a hot oven for 10 minutes to cook the filo. Then reduce the heat to 190 C, 375 F, Gas 5 and bake until the apples are tender -- about 25-35 minutes. To test, push a skewer through the top.

Slide the strudel gently off the tin on to a serving plate. Allow to cool a little, brush the top with honey and scatter with toasted flaked almonds or dust with icing sugar. Serve with whipped cream.

BANOFFI PIE

This tasty filling is made in a jiffy, without any boiling of tins for hours. Inspired by Jamie Oliver's recipe from his 30-Minute Meals cookbook.

For the biscuit base, you will need:

110g (4oz) melted butter

225g (8oz) crushed digestive biscuits

For the filling, you will need:

4 heaped tablespoons golden caster sugar

4 ripe bananas

110ml (4fl oz) semi-skimmed milk

300ml (about 10fl oz) cream

1 tablespoon coffee essence (eg Irel) or Baileys

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Chocolate caraque (see above)

Use a spring-clip tin, 23cm (9in) in diameter. First, open the tin, butter the base and cover it with a very generous piece of baking parchment that sticks out the sides when you reassemble the tin. The butter on the base keeps the parchment in place as you close the tin.

Preheat the oven to 190 C, 375 F, Gas 5. Mix the melted butter into the crushed digestive biscuits and put into the prepared tin. Spread out evenly, pushing the biscuits up the side about 2.5cm (1in). Press firmly in position. Bake in the oven for about 7-10 minutes then allow to cool on wire tray. Leave in the tin and put into the freezer while preparing the filling.

Put the golden caster sugar into a wide, hot pan and shake to spread it evenly -- do not stir. Meanwhile, put two of the ripe bananas, chopped, into a food processor with the semi-skimmed milk and buzz to a smoothie consistency.

Carefully tilt the pan to help dissolve the sugar. Once it is bubbling and golden, take off the heat and pour in the banana mixture, standing well back as it may splutter. Stir so it looks marbled and then pour on top of the biscuit base. Spread it around evenly and allow to cool, putting into the freezer for a few minutes.

In a large bowl, whip the cream until fairly thick without being rigid, and stir in the coffee essence or the Baileys, whichever you are using, to produce a marbled effect.

Thickly slice the remaining two bananas, toss them in lemon juice and spread them over the filling. Pour the whipped cream on top, and scatter the chocolate caraque over everything. Put the tin back into the freezer for half an hour until ready to serve.

To serve, ensure the edges are loosened from the tin with a sharp knife and then gently release the spring-clip sides and lift away. Place on a serving plate and gently slide away the base of the tin -- followed by gently pulling away the parchment.

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