Fig Tarts

I recently found these beautiful plump figs at the local food market. It's called the Oranjezicht City Farm and it is in Granger Bay. The market is centered on fresh produce from your local farmer that is grown organically and ethically. I make a concerted effort to buy only organic and free range products for my household.

Organic food is something that in recent years has become quite prominent in my life. I feel there has been an awakening within me to know what I’m putting into my body and where it comes from. The food industry is a multi-billion-dollar corporation and the facts are that health and wellness are sacrificed in mass production. I have to ask, how often do you check where your eggs come from and how your beef found its way onto your plate? These are questions we need to ask ourselves. For instance, there are no long-term studies on how the hormones in our milk affect us and our children. Now don't get me wrong, I am not preaching veganism. I'm not even preaching vegetarianism. I am simply saying that arming yourself and your family with knowledge about what we eat will create a healthier life for you and the animals out there.

Now let's get back to my figs and how they transformed into one of the tastiest tarts I have ever baked.


serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 15 whole figs, washed
  • 30 grams castor sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves picked
  • Zest of one orange
  • ¼ cup raw almond

For the short crust pastry

  • 125 grams butter
  • 100 grams icing sugar
  • A pinch of salt
  • 255 grams of plain flour
  • 1 vanilla pod, scored lengthways and seeds removed
  • Zest of ½ a lemon
  • 2 large yolks, preferably organic
  • 2 tablespoons cold milk or water

For the frangipane

  • 275 grams almond flour
  • 55 grams plain flour
  • 255 grams unsalted butter
  • 255 grams castor sugar
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 vanilla pod, scored lengthways and seeds removed (you can also use vanilla paste if you have, just add a teaspoon)
  • 1 tablespoon grappa

Instructions:

You have two options when making this. Option one: you can make it in a 28cm-greased tin or options two: in individual tartlets. I chose to make individual ones.

Preheat the oven at 180 degrees Celsius.

To make your pastry, cream together the butter, icing sugar and salt and rub in the flour, vanilla seeds or paste, lemon zest and eggs yolks – you can do this all by hand or you can do it in a food processor.  When the mixture looks like coarse bread crumbs you can add the milk or water. Pat and gently work the mixture together until you have a ball of dough, then flour it lightly. Do not over work the pastry or it will become chewy instead of flaky. Wrap in cling film and let it rest in the fridge for at least an hour. Remove it from the fridge, roll it out and line your tart tins or tin. Place in the freezer for an hour.

Remove from freezer and bake the pastry for 12 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove from the oven and turn it down to 170 degrees Celsius.

To make the frangipane, beat together your sugar and butter until light and creamy. Add your almond flour, lightly beaten eggs, vanilla and grappa. Beat until the mixture is smooth.  Place the mixture in the fridge for at least a half hour or until mixture is firm. 

Remove the stems from the figs. Score them at the top in a cross shape. Using your thumbs push up from the base opening the figs slightly.

Spoon the chilled frangipane mixture into the pastry cases or into the large tart tin, then lightly push the figs into the frangipane with the scored side up. Heat the sugar with the water and drizzle the syrup over the figs. Roughly chop the almonds and sprinkle over the top with the thyme leaves and orange zest.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 40 minutes if you are doing the single big tart and 30 – 35 minutes for the individuals, or until the frangipane mixture has become firm and golden on the outside but still soft in the middle.

Allow cooling for about 30 – 40 minutes.

Serve with a dollop of mascarpone and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

-Melissa

Source: www.thetrufflejournal.com/fig-tarts

caramelised onion, olive and rosemary focaccia

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Everybody loves a carb. You can say what you like but anything to do with fresh bread is more often than not, salivated over. Not to say I am not for a healthy option on my day-to-day eating, as difficult as it can be but this focaccia takes carb loving to another dimension. Get your running shoes ready because when this focaccia comes out of the oven you will feel as if you are carbo-loading for a race. You won't just have one bite. It will turn your kitchen into a delicious smelling bakery that will leave you waiting anxiously peeping into the oven to see when it is done. Luckily the bake time isn't too bad and once it is out, you will have the ultimate focaccia, to not only eat as is but to transform into any delicious sandwich after.  


serves: 8-10

ingredients:

  • 5ml sugar
  • 125ml tepid water
  • 10g dry yeast
  • 150ml boiling water
  • 10ml sugar
  • 15ml salt
  • 60ml olive oil
  • 150ml cold water
  • 750g cake flour
  • caramelised onions

Topping:

  • rosemary sprigs
  • pitted kalamata olives
  • 3 large red onions, sliced
  • large knob of butter
  • 2 cups balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 3 sprigs rosemary

Instructions for caramelised onions:

Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan and sauté onions until translucent. 

Add the vinegar, sugar and rosemary sprigs and cook on medium heat until vinegar has been reduced and onions are soft

Spice additions:

Thyme, mustard seeds, chilli flakes

Red wine can be substituted for the balsamic vinegar for a different flavour.

Instructions for bread:

Preheat oven to 230C.

Mix together 5ml sugar and tepid water. If your water is too hot it will kill your yeast. Stir in yeast and set aside to let it activate.

Combine 150ml-boiling water with 10ml sugar, salt and oil in a jug.

Add 150ml cold water and combine with yeast mixture.

Sift the flour into a large bowl, make a well in the center and tip in the yeast mixture. Mix to a soft dough adding extra liquid or flour as needed.

Tip dough onto a flour surface and cover with an upturned bowl and allow to relax for 5mins.

Knead thoroughly until smooth, elastic and no longer sticky at least 10mins. if you are using an electric mixer with a dough hook, put it on a medium speed for 10 minutes. 

Turn into an oiled bowl cover with a tea towel and set in a warm place to double its bulk. If you don't have a sunny window let it stand next to a warm oven. 

Roll out the dough and place on an oiled baking sheet.  Press firmly over the surface of the bed forming indentations. Allow bread to double in size once more.

Brush the surface heavily with olive oil, spread caramelised onions evenly over, as well as olives and rosemary. Season with sea salt flakes.

Put in the oven and immediately reduce temperature to 200C.

Bake for 15 minutes or until golden once cooled slice into soldiers. Serve with balsamic and olive oil for dunking!

-Melissa

 

 

Source: www.thetrufflejournal.com/caramelised-onion-olive-and-rosemary-focaccia

easter ring

There is something special about growing up in a family that honours tradition. I can say that because I am lucky enough to have a mother, that no matter what takes time out of her busy life for the little moments that I will cherish forever. Be it baking on Easter or decorating our Christmas tree. 

I grew up at her knee learning how to bake and be the woman that I am today. She is my best friend and my rock. I am sure that there will be many posts up on my blog where I speak of her. She is a taste connoisseur in my eyes and a master of flavours. She is possibly the birthplace of The Truffle Journal and all things food in my life, unless I go further back to my grandmother.

But back to tradition. Its something I value and something I hope to share. That magical moment in the kitchen baking Easter rings or setting up osterzweig (a German tradition) is something that will stay with me forever. I hope that by trying this Easter ring and sharing it around a table with loved ones will inspire you to do it every year and to bake it with your children, nieces or grandchildren. It has all the essentials to qualify as a glorified hot cross bun meets cinnamon bun, that is a game changer for Easter!


Serves: 8

Ingredients

Dough:

•   500g flour, sifted

•   5ml salt

•   55g sugar

•   10ml ground mixed spice

•   10ml ground nutmeg

•   5ml ground cinnamon

•   10g instant dry yeast

•   60g butter

•   150ml milk

•   1 egg, beaten

•   125ml lukewarm water

•   150g cake fruit mix

Filling:

•   80g butter

•   60g castor sugar

•   30ml cinnamon

•   180g cake fruit mix

•   1 egg

•   12.5ml milk

Icing:

  •   85g icing sugar, sifted
  •   15ml water or brandy depending on what you like
  •   5ml vanilla essence


Instructions:

Dough:

In a mixing bowl combine the first six ingredients. Once combined sprinkle dry yeast over.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter in the milk. Once melted set aside to cool.

Add the dry ingredients together including the fruit with the egg, milk and butter mixture and enough lukewarm water until it forms a soft pliable dough. You can do this part in a mixer if you wish using a dough hook. Knead for 10 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic. It shouldn't be too sticky. If it is, add a little flour until the dough is balanced. 

Lightly flour your counter and place the dough on the surface, covering it with a greased glass mixing bowl.

Allow to rest in a warm environment for 20 minutes. (I leave my oven on to warm my kitchen or put the dough in the sun.)

Once dough has rested you will roll out into a roughly 35cm by 25cm rectangle. Don’t forget to flour your surface when rolling so that it doesn't stick to the counter.

Filling:

In a bowl, cream butter and sugar together. Once this has creamed spread it all over the rectangle like you are buttering toast!

Sprinkle the cinnamon over the butter and then top the rectangle with the fruit mix.

Next you're going to roll up your rectangle like a Swiss roll. Starting at the long side tightly roll up the whole rectangle.

Place it on a lightly greased baking tray, shaping it into a ring. Score the ring into 5cm slices. Keeping slices joined near the inner circle. 

Cover with greased cling wrap and leave in a warm place for a further 10 minutes or until your ring has doubled in size.

In a small jug mix your egg and milk. Brush over the ring after it has risen.

Bake at 200°c, 20-25 minutes. Your ring should be golden brown. If you tap on it and its sounds hollow, it's ready!

Allow to cool

Icing sugar:

Mix your icing sugar with the water and vanilla, make sure you do not have any lumps.

Drizzle it over your ring-when it comes to this part I always say, don't be shy!

You can decorate your ring with cherries if you wish!

-Melissa

 

Source: www.thetrufflejournal.com

irish soda bread

For as long as I can remember I have loved cooking shows. I remember sitting in front of the television mesmerized as a child and loving how each little bowl in front of the chef had the right amount in it for the recipe. It always looked so organized and perfect. I used to scribble down the notes, run to the kitchen put all the right amounts into a bowl, making sure everything was perfect and then pretending I had a cooking show. Then cooking or baking away. Never mind that every single bowl in the house was dirty after a simple chocolate cake.

Over the years its been a constant to sit down and enjoy a great cooking show. Picking up tips and tricks as well as great recipes. Trying them out and then adapting them to become my own.

This recipe is one of those. I was watching the Barefoot Contessa and simply loved the sound of this bread as it requires no kneading and is very little fuss, yet it is delicious and very more some bread. So true to my childhood I jotted it down and rushed into the kitchen. The only thing that has changed is that I use less bowls now!


serves: 6

ingredients: 

  • 4 cups of flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 55g butter
  • 1 3/4 buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp orange zest
  • 1 cup dried raisins

Instructions:

Preheat your oven at 190°c

Grease a flat baking tray and leave aside ready for dough.

Sieve the dry ingredients into your mixing bowl.

Add the butter and mix when electronic mixer using the whisk attachment. Once the better is the size of peas, stop mixing.

Add your orange zest and wet ingredients and mix using your dough hook. Don’t over mix the dough.

Once everything is mixed add the cup of raisins and beat again. Don’t ever beat. Stop when the raisins are evenly mixed into the dough.

The dough will be a very wet dough.

Empty the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pull in together, the flip it over so that you are left with a neat round ball.

Take a sharp knife and make a cross on top of the dough.

Place the dough on the baking tray.

Bake for 45-55 minutes or until you tap the top of the bread and it sounds hallow.