Diary · UK

A much belated update (and pancakes)

It’s already been a month since I finished the patisserie course. I know I passed the last practical exam, but still haven’t heard about my final marks taking into account the written assignments. I guess it’s just a matter of waiting, like everything else in the UK.

My favorite exam: raspberry bavarois!

In the meantime, I’ve kept busy with my ABA home programs, which make up my full-time job. The fact that it’s so enjoyable to work with the kids makes it that much harder to dip into patisserie when the time comes to actually try it out. Change is so scary, I totally see how it can be a cause of problem behaviour. 

After months of bringing back loads of sugary treats and buttery goods, my baking time is now devoted to more practical things, like muffins or pancakes. I’ve worked out how to do a single serving of a German pancake (the first couple of times I’d just eat the whole thing…), I’m still working on my muffins, trying to find the balance between treat and healthy (my last batch was bad; protein powder made them very dry and expired baking powder didn’t help matters).

However, I’ve struck gold with pancakes. A couple of weeks ago it suddenly struck me how nice it’d be to mix yogurt into pancake mix. A Google search confirmed this with lots of different recipes for yogurt pancakes. Using the first link as a base, I now have a second foolproof pancake recipe under my belt.

Fluffy tower of pancakes

Today, for instance, I had a hankering for chocolate banana pancakes. Yogurt pancakes are so much fluffier than the original recipe I follow, so it’s a good candidate if you’re putting toppings in the pancakes. I’ve always halved the recipe on Taste of Home, which yields 6 pancakes, which I then separate into portions and freeze.

This is what I’ve used:

  • 1 cup plain flour (-2 tbsp), about 96g
  • 30g chocolate protein powder (I just used the scoop that comes with it)
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) plain yogurt (I used a mix of skyr and Alpro vanilla soy yogurt, 4oz of each one)
  • 1/4 cup water (this I kept the same because I assumed the mix would become quite stiff, I even had to add a little bit extra)

Making pancakes is pretty straightforward: mix dry ingredients and wet ingredients in separate bowls, then add wet to dry, mix and cook. Easy peasy.

I was going to top them with bananas, as I’ve had success with raspberries and blueberries. Alas, bananas have a mind of their own. Maybe if I had mixed them directly into the mix they would have cooperated. Since I just placed them on the top of each pancake, they stuck to the pan after I flipped the first pancake. The second one’s bananas came straight off the pancake, so the rest of the batch was banana-less. Oh well, I guess I’ll just have keep the banana as a garnish and let the pancakes do the talking.

IMG_20171002_170915340.jpg
Breakfast sorted
Honduras · Switzerland · Taiwan · the Netherlands · UK

A taste of five pancakes

Before moving to London, I never knew about Pancake Day. Despite growing up in a Catholic household, there never was any change in our diets before, during or after Lent. We’d go to church, maybe eat more seafood during Easter, but never try to consume all the rich foods before Lent. Also, culturally pancakes are foreign to us. We eat both American-style pancakes and crepes but pancakes themselves are not part of a typical Honduran diet.

I love pancakes: blueberry pancakes, chocolate chip pancakes, thick pancakes, thin pannekoeken or crepes, you name it. So it was only natural for me to tackle pancakes on such a special day. I’ve been making pancakes with my mum’s recipe for years, though adapted to yield one portion of pancakes. To challenge myself, I tried to make different pancakes for each country I’ve lived in. It was fun to brainstorm though I spent 2 hours making said pancakes.

For reference, this is my mum’s recipe (which she got from my grandmother and who knows where she got it from…basically it’s the Motz family pancake recipe):

1 cup flour

1 cup milk

1 egg

1 tsp baking powder

1 tbsp butter (which I’ve always omitted, never changed the end results)

1 tbsp sugar (again, optional, especially if adding sweet toppings)

All the ingredients are mixed into a batter. Scoop batter onto pan with the teeniest amount of butter (which has been wiped around the pan with a paper towel), unless you’re doing Dutch style pancakes (pannekoeken) which do need a healthy nob of butter to cook in. A tip to keep them fluffy: don’t press down on the pancakes with a spatula while cooking.

 

Now, here are my five-country variations:

Honduras (family recipe, served just with maple syrup)

These are my mum’s pancakes, which I’ve eaten my whole life. We would usually have them with honey or, my personal favorite, Hershey’s chocolate syrup. However, I ran out of honey and I don’t have Hershey’s syrup either, so maple syrup it is. I actually like the taste of it more than honey’s.

 
Taiwan (pineapple pancakes)

So I tried the pineapple cakes before and I thought I could adapt the recipe into pancakes. I made the pineapple jam and mixed it in with the batter, to which I also added a spoonful of milk powder to evoke more of the pastry flavor. They were tricky to shape into circles, but they tasted nice (very sweet, though).

 
the Netherlands (pannekoeken with brown sugar or hagelslag)

One of the things I miss about the Netherlands and Belgium was their style of pancakes, thin as crepes but laden with goodness. I always had pannekoeken with either cassonade (brown icing sugar) or hagelslag (chocolate sprinkles); savoury pannekoeken I’ve only had here in London at My Old Dutch Pancake House (really tasty, but enormous things!). So that’s how I had my small portion of pannekoeken (I thinned out the batter with milk to get the crepe-like pancake): with brown sugar and lemon, and hagelslag.

 
Switzerland (pancake fondue)

For this one, I cheated a bit. The pancake itself isn’t anything Swiss; I just cut up my mum’s pancakes into bite-size pieces. But I did make a chocolate sauce for dipping as you would with dessert fondue. Definitely more of a snack than a meal!

 
UK (digestive pancakes)

I know ‘digestive pancakes’ sounds hilarious but when you find out that Britain’s favorite biscuit is the digestive biscuit (essentially, a cookie with oats and brown sugar) then it all makes sense. I attempted to recreate the biscuits in pancake form. I ground a couple of tablespoons of oats and added them to the batter, along with a tablespoon of brown sugar (instead of the original tablespoon of sugar). These came out alright, though I would probably add more oatmeal in future batches or just mix ground digestive biscuits into the batter. I spread some of the chocolate sauce on top, just as digestive biscuits sometimes have a layer of chocolate.

Unsurprisingly, I had a lot of pancakes. At least I’ve got breakfast sorted for the rest of the week!

UK

Whisk insanity workout

This week we covered sponges in the course: we made a Victoria sandwich and two Swiss rolls. Little did I know it would involve more physical effort than pushing an elephant and more determination than doing a triathlon.  

It started off innocently enough, creaming soft butter and sugar by hand (literally, the Chef used his hand as a paddle to cream the ingredients together…what technique!), then incorporating eggs bit by bit. The Victoria sponge would be ready for the oven as soon as the flour had been folded into the mixture. This was just the warm-up.

Then came the first whisk insanity challenge: a plain genoise sponge. This time we used a different method, the egg foam method. The only rising agent in this sponge is the eggs, beaten with the sugat over a bain marie until achieving a thick, creamy consistency, much like a sabayon. I thought my arm would break, the urgency of keeping the whisk moving stronger than my wish to stop. I alternated hands, making my clumsy left hand take on some of the workload,  moving at a slower pace, but moving nonetheless. 

It all paid off though when the sponge came out of the oven. So golden, so…spongy. It was love at first sight. Even more so after I rolled it up while hot to hold its shape and no cracks were to be seen. 

Soon after we did the same process, this time for a chocolate genoise. Much more cumbersome…the cocoa powder was heavier and thus much easier to knock out precious air out of the mix. The loss of volume made the mix seem sparse and it wasn’t a surprise when I couldn’t fill out the mold. I didn’t try, because spreading it too thin could leave you with a biscuit rather than a sponge. 

I wasn’t hopeful at all, so it was a nice surprise to see that my overworked mix still rose a bit and looked like cake. Rolling it up was alright, too, no cracks again. When I tried the bits I trimmed off, I thought it felt denser than the plain one, which was to be expected. 

Another part of the whisk workout included making buttercream, creaming butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy. Thank god the chocolate buttercream for the chocolate Swiss roll was prepared by the Chef beforehand. I don’t think my arm muscles would have spoken to me again if I had put them through that. 

All in all, quite a vigorous class. It’ll probably be quite some time before I attempt to make another genoise. 

UK

Double double, pasty toil and trouble

14895437_10157695677020596_841494266_o

Shortcrust pastry was one of those things I learned to make without knowing what it was. I remember making chicken empanadas with my sister or making apple pie with my mom when I was around 12. So I thought, pasties…easy-peasy, right?

Wrong, oh, so wrong. It started smoothly enough. I decided to make leek and potato pasties as well as pumpkin pasties, since it’s Halloween (and no one does Halloween like Harry Potter). I gathered my ingredients (including a mad dash to the local farmer’s market for a pumpkin), cooked my filling, and did my pastry. It should have been smooth sailing from there. So what went wrong? I’m guessing I didn’t add enough water while mixing the dough; I was bit paranoid of overdoing it.That or I didn’t let the pastry rest enough time in the fridge. I did two batches of pastry, one for each kind of filling, following the basic recipe:

250g of flour (I used plain)

125g of chilled butter

pinch of salt

Enough iced water to bring the mixture together (no more than 100ml, according to Gordon Ramsay)

Mix the salt with the flour.

img_0206_lzn

Rub butter into the flour using fingertips until it gets to a coarse breadcrumb texture.

img_0208_lzn

Then, add the water a little bit at a time. Mix until it just comes together. Chill until ready to use.

img_0211_lzn

Which is what I did but, for some reason, the first batch kept cracking while I tried to roll it out and once I cut a circle out it wasn’t what I remembered it ought to be. So I added a teeny bit more water and worked it into the dough. It seemed to help a bit, but I was still having issues rolling it out. So, in despair, I just packed it into a baking tray, stretched it out and baked it for a few minutes to make an open-top pie. The end result? Well, despite my fears of overworking the pastry, it was alright. A bit dry, but not tough.

img_0214_lzn

I also added water to the second batch of pastry and it was left to rest in the fridge. Meanwhile, I prepared the pumpkin for the filling. This is my first time handling a pumpkin and it was tedious, to say the least. Scooping out all the seeds and the membranes took a good ten minutes. Cooking it in the oven took another 45 minutes. I scooped out all the flesh and pureed it in the food processor. I then followed the recipe on Geeky Chef’s website.

The end result were these ultimately pale-looking-but-not-bad-tasting pasties. An egg wash would have made all the difference. That said, I do need to work on my pastry more than I thought.
14881196_10157691432645596_245276059_o

 


This post is part of the monthly blogging event Our Growing Edge. The aim is to connect our-growing-edge-badge
bloggers and inspire them to try new food-related things. This month’s host is Annika from We Must Be Dreamers with the theme: Halloween.