Thursday 5 November 2015

DIY flan

When we saw silicone flan case moulds in our favourite low-cost store, we bought one. Fruit flans, we thought. Macerated fruit from our home-made liqueurs, still tasty, we thought.

Now to bake a flan case. Surely the packaging will tell me how....

Now to make a flan case!

The front of the packaging describes the mould, in French, Dutch and German:
  • in supple heat-resistant silicone.
  • non-stick, without using fat.
  • Equally adapted to freezing. [what for?]
  • no taste or smell.
  • dishwasher and microwave safe.
  • withstands temperatures between -40°C and 250°C.
  • Dimensions: about 32.5 x 3.2 cm.
On the back, under the heading "Instructions for use and care":
  • note that the product gets hot during cooking. Therefore use oven gloves or barbecue gloves to protect yourself.
  • do not cut on the product. That could damage the product.
  • do not use the "crisp" function of your microwave. That could damage the product.
  • The product is appropriate for use with food and does not alter the smell or taste properties of the contents.
  • Before the first use, wash all parts of the product in hot water with a mild detergent and dry them thoroughly.
  • Warning: familiarise yourself with the correct functioning of your oven/microwave.
  • Warning: check in the user guide of your oven how to use the power available to the oven as appropriate for the dish.
  • The product is exclusively adapted for use with ovens and microwave ovens. Do not use the product on electric hotplates, grills or over open flames.
  • Allow the food to cool completely after cooking.
  • Wash the product in hot water after each use and dry the product thoroughly.
  • The product can be washed in a dishwasher.
  • The packaging is made from ecological materials which can be disposed of in your local recycling centre.
  • Consult your mairie for disposal of the product.
In other words, it tells you everything about how not to use it, and everything about it, but not how to cook something in it. A recipe or two would have been helpful.

First - a recipe for the case. 

I have several sponge cake recipes, any of which would serve, but do I need to scale it up - how much of everything do I want?

So I scanned the Internet and found a link via MyTaste to 's blog which describes itself as an Online worldwide cook shop selling Silicone Bakeware. They too had found themselves with a mould but no recipe. The post suggested your favourite Victoria Sponge Sandwich recipe as a basis, scaled according to the size of the mould. They favoured 75gm each of sugar, butter and flour to one egg, scaled up to 4 egg volume.  I used my old Stork recipe at 2 oz each to one egg.

The dimensions on the packaging proved not to be those of the resulting flan but of the mould itself. The exterior of the mould is 32.5 cm across the base from one edge to the other, including a couple of centimetres of revetment. The mould actually gives you a flan case 1.5cm deep and 28cm across the interior (where the filling goes), and 30cm across the underside. The height, of course, depends on how much mixture you use and how much it rises. After a lot of head scratching I decided to go for a 3-egg mixture. This is what I use to make a sponge sandwich using two 28cm sandwich pans. The result was just right for me.

The flan case unmoulded
I also followed the MyTaste suggestion of lining the circular base of the mould with a disc of baking parchment. I don't think this is strictly necessary, but it gave a nice finish.

170g / 6oz self raising flour, sieved (if using plain flour, add 1 teaspoon baking powder and ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda)
170g / 6oz butter or soft margarine (I used St. Hubert doux)
170g / 6oz caster sugar
3 medium to large eggs (about 60gm)

Heat the oven to 175°C.

Cream the butter/margarine and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one by one, adding half a tablespoon of flour with the second and third egg.

Fold in the flour to give a smooth batter.

Spread the batter over the mould, so that there is a slight dip in the middle and the edges are slightly raised.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the sponge is nicely browned and the top of the sponge springs back when you press it gently with a finger.

As removed from the oven

Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Release the cake from the mould and fill with the ingredients of your choice.

And now for a filling!
Here are a couple of examples for fillings. The first was adapted from an Australian baking blog, Raspberri Cupcakes Vanilla Bean Sponge Cake with Salted Caramel Apples.

Not being experienced caramel makers, I followed the original recipe to the letter and when it said "whisk" I used a whisk. Mistake - the whisk became coated with polymerised sugar as hard - literally - as rock. Next time, and there definitely will be a next time, I'll use a fork.

one sponge flan case
110g/4oz/½ cup sugar
40g (about 3 tbsp) butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces, plus an extra knob for cooking the apples
60ml/2 fl oz/¼ cup thick (heavy) cream, at room temperature
1 tsp flaky sea salted, adjusted to taste
3 baking apples (I used homegrown Reinette Blanche but Granny Smith would do nicely), peeled, cored and chopped into chunks

Spread the sugar in an even layer on the bottom of a small, heavy-based saucepan. Place the pan on medium heat, whisking as the sugar as it begins to melt. It will start to clump, but this is fine. Continue to whisk until the sugar is all melted and as soon as it starts to colour, stop whisking, take the pan off the heat and let it cook just on the heat in the bottom of the pan, swirling the pan occasionally. If you have a sugar thermometer, place it in the sugar at this point. Cook the caramel until it is a deep amber colour and reaches 180°C (350° F) - absolutely no higher or it will burn. If necessary, give the pan a little boost of heat (no more than 20 seconds at a time) to reach the caramel temperature.

Quickly and carefully add all the butter at once, whisking as it bubbles up, melts and combines. Keeping the pan off the heat, add the cream and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Add sea salt to taste (careful not to burn yourself!). Set the pan aside to cool and thicken.

Place the chopped apples in a medium to large frying pan with a bit of melted butter and cook, tossing regularly, until apples are golden and tender. Do not over-cook - stop if the juices start to run.

Stir the apples into the salted caramel sauce and allow to cool until it is thick enough not to soak straight into the cake but is still pourable. Pile the apples into the flan case and pour on the rest of the caramel sauce.

Salted Caramel Apple Flan, with its silicon mould
Serve with crême fraîche or greek yoghurt.

and eat!

Another filling recipe!
My second filling recipe is also Australian: Sponge flan with Cheesecake Cream and strawberries from BestRecipes. This can be adapted for all sorts of soft fruit - clementines would be good, with a light marmalade for the coating. I used macerated blackcurrants, the byproduct of our homemade Cassis liqueur, substituting blackcurrant jam for strawberry.

one sweet sponge flan case
5 tbsp orange juice to coat
125 g / 4 oz soft cream cheese
1 tbsp orange rind finely grated
2 tsp orange juice for the filling
2 tbsp icing sugar
250 mls / 10 fl oz. thick cream
250 g / 8 oz fresh strawberries thinly sliced
6 tbsp strawberry jam, warmed and sieved

Place the flan case on a serving plate and brush all over the interior with the orange juice to soak in.

Beat cream cheese, orange rind, extra juice and icing sugar in a small bowl with an electric mixer until smooth.

Beat the cream in a separate bowl until soft peaks form; fold into the cream cheese mixture.
Fill the flan case with the cream mixture.

Arrange sliced strawberries over the cream and brush strawberries with the jam.

Friday 16 October 2015

Naked upon a pumpkin

The morning of October 13th brought with it a sharp frost that cut down our pumpkin, courgette and cucumber plants into a mushy confusion of twisted stems and disintegrating leaves, with here and there a fruit showing through. Since then the temperature has stayed at wintery levels, although without an actual frost. Time to gather in the squashes.

The squash bed ("the Maggot"), 28th September 2015
In past years we have blogged about our favourite pumpkins, e.g. see here. Needless to say we grew them again.

This year's top statistics:
  • 10 Crown Prince pumpkins at a total weight of 31.442 kg. Additionally there are two immature ones weighing just over 1kg each, which may not come to anything
  • 12 Butternut squashes totalling 7.135 kg. The two small ones are earmarked for a squash fan for her own personal consumption!
  • 2 Sweet Dumpling a.k.a. Patidou at 1.137kg plus one we have already eaten 
  • 2 Sweet Dumpling / Butternut hybrids and a strange yellow thing (Yellow Crookneck cross Butternut?) that germinated on the compost heap.
Mainly out of curiosity, we grew a couple of pumpkins for edible seed this year. The pumpkin seeds that are on sale as healthy snacks aren't milled or in any way treated to remove a hard seed coat. The varieties of pumpkin that give pumpkin seeds just don't have a seed coat to speak of. They are called "Naked Seed Pumpkins". The only readily available variety is called "Godiva" (snigger). But wait! Surely there is an excellent source of seeds. Your local supermarket sells the stuff by the ton, 250gm at a time! In April I took a couple from a Bio Coop packet, making sure they were undamaged. The small print identified the variety as Styriaca, and they came from the Ukraine. They germinated readily, and grew into compact plants. Each bore one fruit.

Styriaca pumpkin, 28th September
By 12th October one fruit was ripe, almost entirely orange and ready to pick.

Ready for dissection
And here is the result.

Fresh pumpkin seeds

From the weight and the price of a 250gm pack, we calculated the value at 83 centimes. They are much juicier than shop-bought seeds, though. They will be put through the food drier for half an hour or so.

Our allotmenting colleague Steve Shillitoe, from whom we learned of this ploy, reckons that the fruit is edible too, so we'll give it a try.

Tuesday 6 October 2015

The tortoise and the hare

I sowed a row of "Guernsey" parsnips in the potager on 30th April this year. After a prolonged sulk they germinated. On 4th September I had six little parsnip seedlings in a row. That was four months while they decided whether to die or to live after all.

A little row of parsnips - 6th September 2015

Parsnip seedlings, 17th September 2015
By contrast, on 7th August, Alvaro (workawayer) and I sowed two rows of Avola peas. The first of these came into flower on 4th September, and there are now fat pods forming with plenty of flowers to come. Avola went from dry seed to a healthy set of plants with flowers on in four weeks precisely. We picked enough peas for a meal on 30th September and the plants are going strong at two months old.

Avola peas, 6th September 2015
Avola peas, 26th September 2015
My original seeds came from the Kew collection and the current lot  from Plants of Distinction. Both, like many other UK seeds merchants, send seeds to France with no problems. But Avola will now be Alvaro peas to us.

Interesting that the slowest and the fastest germination should both turn up on the same day.

Also coming up: self-seeded parsley and coriander. Parsley is reputed to go to the devil and back before it germinates, but if you sow fresh seed in August, it comes up ready for action immediately

On the other hand, we have discovered the existence of N-space, where the nuts come from. No matter how thoroughly we check the filbert bushes, there is still another nut to be found. Somebody in N-space is moving nuts into space-time continuum version 1.0, hanging them up on the branches and giggling.

This filbert was not here a few minutes ago.
The occupants of N-space have not gifted our walnut tree with much by the way  of fruit this year. Tim and Betsy cleared the bank under the tree and we concluded that it was not worth the effort to fit the tree with a nappy* as we did last year. The discovery of a second - wild - walnut on the riverbank just below the weir put the tin hat on it. The second tree is invisible among the ash trees and produces smaller nuts than the old tree, which was a selected variety rather than a chance seedling. They are neck and neck in weight of nuts, at a couple of kilos apiece - that will be plenty!

Tim and Betsy under the walnut tree heading straight for the millstream
*walnut nappy - catches the nuts that would otherwise fall into the millstream.

Friday 14 August 2015

Disgusted, absolutely disgusted!!

I went on our monthly bottle run...
to the bottle bin by the Salle des Fêtes in Grand Pressigny this afternoon.
On my arrival I was greeted by this mess....

The signage here is in English

Some Anglais had left ALL their holiday rubbish between the bin for glass...
and the bin for paper.
How do I know that these lazy people are from the UK...
look at these...

The pink at the back is the House of Fraser bag mentioned below....

I got rid of what I could...

Over fifty bottles for a start...
a lot of them bought on the ferry over...
other stuff brought with them from the UK...
especially the spirit bottles with UK Duty Paid stickers...
the Asda "Bag for Life" in the second picture was one of two...
but the biggest bag of bottles was a House of Fraser one...
with a receipt at the bottom...
from the Skipton branch!!
Skipton is in Yorkshire....
and they own property here...
or know someone who does...
they had thrown some stuff there in yellow SMITCOM recycling sacks!

But it wasn't just the bottles...
there was a broken mirror...
a lot of soggy cardboard boxes...
another plastic shopping bag...
full of ends of bread...
two sacks of general household rubbish...
if I had the time, I'd open those two and see if I could find a name!!
But I haven't got any 'Elf and Safety' kit to protect me...

We had enough of that laziness....
that outright carelessness....
and that anti-social behaviour in Leeds...
it is what we moved away from...
so, fellow Brits...
take your rubbish with you next time...
better still...
stay away from Grand Pressigny!!

I am really ashamed to come from the same part of the UK!!
What you see above is the side of Not-so-great Britain...
that Le Tour was probably shielded from!!

Posted by Disgusted of GP

Tuesday 11 August 2015

Quetsche plum and walnut butter cake temporary post


    some Butter to grease the pan and some Flour to dust over it
    8 large Quetsch Plums (about 1 pound or 550 grams), cut in half and pitted
    1 cup/220g of granulated White Sugar, plus 4 Tablespoons of Sugar divided into two equal parts (2 Tablespoons and 2 Tablespoons)
    1/4 / 60ml cup of Brandy or Cognac
    8 Tablespoons / 115 g of Butter, at room temperature
    1 teaspoon of Lemon Zest, finely grated
    1 teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
    1 cup / 170g of Flour
    1/2 teaspoon of Baking Powder
    1/2 teaspoon of Salt
    2 large Eggs, at room temperature
    1 ounce of Walnuts (25 grams), toasted, ground and cooled (or about 1/4 cup of ground, toasted walnuts, cooled)
    some Powdered Sugar to sprinkle over the baked cake
    a bowl of lightly whipped and sweetened Heavy Cream is nice to serve alongside the cake


    a Processor or Blender for grinding the walnuts
    a 9-inch Springform Pan, lined with Parchment Paper
    2 Mixing Bowls
    a Sifter
    a Mixer, hand or standing
    a small Strainer for sprinkling powdered sugar over the baked cake

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Grease a 9-inch springform pan with butter, dust it with flour, and line the bottom with parchment paper.

2.  Place the halved and pitted plums in a bowl.  Pour the brandy over them and sprinkle them with 2 Tablespoons of the sugar divided into two parts

3.  Cream the butter with 1 cup of sugar, the grated lemon zest, and the vanilla extract until the mixture is light and fluffy.  Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together and beat them into the butter.

4.  Beat the eggs until they start to foam.  Add them and the walnuts to the flour and butter:
5.  Pour the batter into the pan.  Arrange the plums on top in rings, cut side down.  Sprinkle with any remaining brandy/sugar syrup and the remaining 2 Tablespoons of sugar.  (The syrup may leak from the pan onto the oven floor.  A piece of foil placed on the rack below the one holding the cake will catch the drips).

6.  Bake the cake for 1 hour, or until it is golden and a toothpick comes out clean.  Let the cake cool for 10 minutes… …before removing the ring of the springform pan and transferring the cake to a plate.  (It isn’t essential to remove the cake from the bottom of the pan and peel off the parchment.  The cake is best when served warm and before it cools it’s difficult to remove the paper.)  Put a little powdered sugar in a small strainer and sieve the sugar over the top of the cake……before removing the ring of the springform pan and transferring the cake to a plate.

Recipe from US Diplomatic corps