Green beans are in season and at their very best right now. They’re delicious eaten plain or with a little butter, but it’s also good to dress them up a bit. These green beans with almonds & crème fraîche are very simple to make, but add an air of luxury to a meal.
CT recently returned from a trip to York. Whilst there he popped into Bettys Tea Rooms for a cuppa and a curd tart. Fat rascals are a classic Yorkshire bake and one that I very much associate with Bettys. I’ve never actually tried one, so in order not to feel left out, I decided to have a go at making some.
As regular readers will know, I can’t resist a brownie. I have many recipes for them on the blog, but there are still so many to try. These black velvet cheesecake swirl brownies with stout caramel sauce were the happy result of two events fortuitously coinciding. It was a no brainer; I had to make them. The third event, is of course We Should Cocoa, the blogger’s monthly, “we need chocolate”.
Despite my love of chocolate, cakes, biscuits, puddings and most things sweet, I do not, as it may seem, indulge all day long or even every day. Most of the time, I try to eat healthily. One of our regular breakfast ingredients is kefir, which CT has been making for many years now. We drink it as it is, use it in smoothies, on muesli and add it to porridge. I woke up one Sunday morning thinking, why don’t I try making pancakes out of it – not a revolutionary idea I’m sure, but I’d not thought of it before.
For those not yet in the know, kefir is a fermented milk beverage, similar to yogurt but easier to make and with its own distinctive taste. The culture comes in the form of strange cauliflower like pieces and it grows. It comes from the Caucasus region and is highly regarded as a probiotic.
Roses are a universal favourite, so beautiful and diverse in form and colour and often so sweetly scented. My grandfather was a keen rose grower and had the best rose garden I’ve ever seen – perhaps I’m a little biased here, but it was a long time ago that I last saw it and the memory just gets better and better! Anyway, because I loved my grandfather, roses hold a very special place in my heart and, I have to say, in my stomach too.
Having set the rose challenge, I really wanted to try and use roses to their full extent, but wasn’t sure I’d have time to make what I had in mind. The plum and rose traybake I made as a fall back was delicious, but only had rosewater in it. I’d set my heart on some ultra rosy cupcakes using rose in four different ways: rose sugar, rose water, rosehip syrup and crystallised roses. To complete the theme, I also had some rose paper cases hiding in the cupboard.
This was a day long process and here’s how I made them with a few disasters on the way:
- First thing in the morning picked the one and only rose bloom in the garden, which had fortuitously opened at just the right time.
- Painted the petals with egg white then dipped them in a bowl of caster sugar.
- Put on a rack to dry and left in a warm airy place for as long as possible (ideally these would have been done the day before, but I just crossed fingers & hoped for the best).
- Made a big batch of rosehip syrup with 1 kilo of rose hips that we’d harvested last year and had been taking up room in the freezer ever since.
- Simmered them in 1.5 litres of water for a good half hour, mashing the fruit as it cooked.
- Strained through a muslin cloth and left to drip for about six hours – overnight would have been much better, but I wasn’t that organised.
- Simmered the juice with 500g unrefined granulated sugar for about 1/2 an hour until lightly syrupy.
- Poured into bottles and sealed.
- Made some rose sugar by blitzing, in a coffee grinder, 125g sugar with a handful of red scented roses I’d dried previously.
- Melted 125g unsalted butter with 100g 35% milk chocolate (G&B) in a large pan.
- Stirred in 125g rose sugar.
- Beat in 2 duck eggs (one being the remainder of the one used to paint the rose leaves).
- Sifted in 150g flour (half wholemeal and half white), 1 small tsp of baking powder and a pinch of bicarb.
- Stirred in 2 tbsp no fat Greek yogurt.
- Stirred in 1 tbsp of rosewater.
- Spooned into 12 muffin cases and baked at 180C for 18 minutes.
- Turned out on a rack to cool.
- Creamed 50g unsalted butter with 100g icing sugar.
- Decided it would be a good idea to use some of our homemade creme fraiche – big mistake!
- Added 1 tbsp rose hip syrup and 2 tbsp creme fraiche and tried to beat into the butter cream.
- This did not have the desired effect. I ended up making sweetened cultured butter and a load of sweet buttermilk – interesting, but not what I’d intended.
- Drained the buttermilk from the butter and started again.
- Creamed this second lot of butter with a further 100g icing sugar until light and fluffy.
- Beat in 1 tbsp of rosehip syrup.
- Spread this over the cooled cakes.
- Sprinkled with a small amount of pink sugar.
- Topped with the few petals that had sort of crystallised.
The syrup was rather disappointing in colour but although fairly sweet, it had a lovely fragrant flavour. The last time I made it I’m sure it was orange rather than brown and it I’m pretty sure it wasn’t so sweet. However, the upside to this, is that it should last well and hopefully keep all those autumnal coughs and colds at bay.
Although the rose petals had lost their scent by the time I used them, I was hoping for a nice pink sugar, but as you can see from the picture, that didn’t really happen. I’ll know for future reference that more petals are needed.
Despite the various disappointments and problems encountered along the way, these cupcakes were truly delicious – chocolatey and definitely rosy. The cakes were light and moist with both the chocolate and rose flavours nicely balanced. They had a fantastic texture with a particularly smooth mouth feel. The creme fraiche topping carried the fragrance of the rosehip syrup nicley. Perfect cupcakes for summer and they kept well too.
Here are a few other things I’ve made using rose as a flavouring.
Having made one decedent dessert a few weeks ago, I was soon ready for another. I had cherries, I had some crème fraîche that needed using up and some egg yolks left over from the Chestnut Cream Meringue Cake I’d made. Friends from The Viewing Gallery had also just given me a jar of their wild cherry jam. Black Forest sprang to mind.
I had half a jar of sour cherries that desperately needed using up. Fortuitously I was e-mailed a recipe using cherries that came from Merchant Gourmet which I then adapted as a booze free version. I was particularly pleased to have found some local and organic crème fraîche which meant that it was a completely organic cake.
This is what I did:
- Melted 125g unsalted butter in a pan with 100g muscovado sugar and 100g of 70% dark chocolate.
- Sifted 100g wholemeal spelt and 100g of white spelt flour into a bowl with 1 tsp baking powder.
- Stirred in 50g ground almonds
- Made a well in the centre and poured in the chocolate mixture.
- Mixed this in together with 3 duck eggs.
- Added 4 tbsp of sour cherries from a jar together with about 75 ml of the juice from the jar.
- Poured this into a 9 inch square silicon pan and baked in a preheated oven at 180°C for 25 mins.
- When cool, cut into 9 large squares (think 16 would have been better as these were a little too large I thought).
- Meanwhile melted 100g white chocolate with 250ml crème fraîche and left to cool.
- Whisked cold mixture until stiff enough to spread onto cake squares.
The cake rose well, had a nice moist consistency, wasn’t too sweet and had a subtle cherry undertone. The topping took a lot of whisking and then went a sort of curdled consistency, but it tasted good.