Spare donuts? Try this!

What do you do with spare donuts? Who even has spare donuts? Just me then?There’s no way I’m going to start throwing donuts away; it goes against everything that I stand for. My mind began looking for ways to use the donuts in a new recipe.

Before I knew it, I was making custard and preparing the donuts for their next incarnation as a delightful take on bread and butter pudding. This is such an easy recipe and yet the result is delicious. The next time you’ve got too many donuts, you’ll know exactly what to do!

Donut pudding

6 donuts (I used 3 jam and 3 custard)

300ml double cream

100ml milk

3 eggs

100g  soft light brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla paste/ vanilla essence 

Quarter the donuts and place in an oven proof dish that’s deep enough to fill with custard almost to the top of each piece. In a bowl, whisk the eggs and then add the remaining ingredients.  Whisk thoroughly and have fun pouring the mixture over the donuts.  Cover the dish with foil and place in the middle of an oven at 180 degrees for about 40 minutes. 

The custard will be wobbly, but set and the donuts will be hot and very soft.  They’ll simply yield to your spoon.  Yum!

 

 

 

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Clash of the Classics.

We shouldn’t take food too seriously.  Even if we love it and feel passionate about where it came from, how it was made and where the ingredients were sourced.  We should still take time to enjoy it and have some fun.  If you don’t believe me, take a look at the photograph above.

Having made a delicious, new cake, I could have finished it off with a light dusting of icing sugar and posted the photograph knowing that readers would be greeted by the sight of an elegant creation.  It would be the kind of image gracing only the most refined food blogs.  You know the type; minimalistic, tasteful and effortlessly sophisticated.

Instead, I went for squirty cream and sugar balls.  It sounds like a comedy double act, but in fact, it was just what I needed to lighten up a very tasty combination of custard, cream and fruity jam between vanilla sponge.

Soon, British people all over the world will be celebrating the Queen’s Diamond  Jubilee and this will cause an outbreak of Union Jacks, the like of which has not been seen since the end of the Second World War.  For some, it may prove too much.  For me, it’s an excuse for making cakes, as if I needed one.

I thought I’d post my offering for a jubilee celebration cake before the craziness began in earnest.    It’s my very own recipe inspired by two British favourites: the Victoria sponge cake and custard cream biscuits.  Both are close to the hearts of Brits and both are delicious.  I made a vanilla sponge and cut circles to construct miniature adaptations of the classic Victoria sponge.  I used Morrelo cherry jam and a custard cream made with not only custard, but custard cream biscuits too!  The results were fun and I’m not ashamed to say that the cakes didn’t see the afternoon.

If you decide to forego the squirty cream and sugar balls, you’ll still have a delicious set of cakes that have all the best elements of a classic cake and the morish custard cream biscuits.  Food should be fun.  Seriously.

Jubilee custard cream cakes

(For the sponge)

125g self raising flour

125g softened butter

125g caster sugar

1 tspoon vanilla paste

2 eggs

(For the cream)

2 tbslpoons double cream

2 tblspoons custard

6 custard cream biscuits

1 tspoon vanilla paste

You will also need 3 tblspoons Morrelo cherry jam

Squirty cream and sugar balls (optional)

First, make the sponge.  Cream the butter and sugar together with an electric whisk and then beat in the eggs.  Stir in the vanilla paste and then fold in the flour to finish.  The batter should be able to drop off a wooden spoon.  Add some milk if you think it is too stiff.

Pour the batter into a baking tray (with high sides) lined with greaseproof paper and bake for about twenty-five minutes at 180C.  Let the sponge cool on a wire rack before using a cookie cutter to cut six discs.  These will form the top and bottom of three cakes.

Whisk the double cream until it begins to stiffen and then add the custard and the vanilla paste.  Continue to whisk until the custard is combined and the consistency is thick.  Stir in the custard cream biscuits.

Top one of the sponge discs with a spoonful of cherry jam and then carefully drop a spoonful of custard cream on top.  Place a second sponge disc onto the cream and press down gently.  At this point, you can choose to dust the cake with icing sugar for a classic finish, or get the squirty cream and have a giggle.  Repeat with the other sponge discs and if you have any custard cream leftover, get a spoon and tuck in!

But I followed the recipe to the letter!

How many times have you followed a recipe as closely as you could and finished up with nothing but an inedible mess?  I’ll admit, that even following my own recipes jotted down after countless successful outcomes, I’ve still been left wondering what went wrong on occasion.  It’s frustrating and disheartening.  It’s also one of the reasons that I don’t buy recipe books.

I love cooking and I love reading, so it should follow that recipe books line my shelves and gather in ever-growing gangs around my house.  Instead, I’ve a handful of books on my kitchen shelf and I rarely open them.  The internet has all but killed any need for recipe books.  Blogs, recipe sites and food forums share an abundance of recipes for every imaginable type of food.  Why clutter the kitchen with glossy hard backs from television chefs when a quick look on my computer or phone gives me access to countless food sites?

I’ve only ever bought one recipe book, a classic by Jane Norman to help me get to grips with basic cooking methods when I first began to take an interest in cooking.  I still refer to it from time to time and I suspect that I’ll own it forever.  The other books that line my kitchen shelf have been gifts from well-meaning friends and relatives.  Truth be told, I tend to have a glance through cookery books once and rarely pick them up again unless I’m looking for something specific.

Last week, I happened to look through a Gino D’Acampo book (another gift) and spotted a fun-looking recipe for a creamy rice pudding.  It was simple enough for a dolt like me, so I carefully arranged the ingredients on my worktop and followed the recipe sentence by perfidious sentence with confidence.  Sadly, our passionate, Italian chef seems to have little or no knowledge of the properties of arborio rice and the methods required to cook it successfully and two hours later, I was still adding milk to stubborn grains of crunchy rice.  I was fuming.  So rarely do I put my trust in the pages of slickly designed cook books, and the moment I do, betrayal occurs in the most irritating way: a recipe that doesn’t work.

Sensing the potential for adaption, I threw away the offending pot of disappointment and started afresh.  I cooked the rice as it should be, cranked up the sugar content and added two of my favourite flavours to produce a rice pudding with all the gloopy comfort that you’d need when the mood took you.

I’ve realised over the last couple of years that following a recipe closely is not a guarantee of success.  Instead, a grasp of some basic cooking techniques for whatever ingredients you’re using combined with your own instinct is a far better guide in the kitchen.  I guess that sounds like sage advice from a wisened cook.  In fact, it’s my disclaimer.

Vanilla & cinnamon rice pudding

40g Arborio rice

30g caster sugar

milk

water

half tspoon ground cinnamon

quarter tspoon vanilla paste

I cooked the rice in a milk pan by just covering it with water and simmering until the rice absorbed the water and became tender.  This took about ten minutes.  During this time, I added more water to the rice as it was absorbed and tested the rice when I thought it was cooked.

The next step was to stir in the sugar and add enough milk to cover the rice.  I stirred the milk through until the sugar had dissolved and then added a little more milk every couple of minutes over a gentle heat.  What you’re looking for is a gloopy, soft consistency where the soft rice is lost in a thick and sweet liquid.  If the mixture becomes too dry, add more milk.  If it is too watery, continue to stir it until the milk has reduced.  When I was happy with the rice, I stirred in the vanilla paste and took it off the heat to cool.  The rice becomes a little firmer upon cooling which is fine.

My recipe makes one portion, but you could easily increase the quantities.  As long as the rice is cooked through before you add the milk and sugar, the results will be satisfying.

All’s fair in love and cheesecake.

Which wonders of the food world make you salivate at the mere thought of them?  For me, it’s a good pizza, a slice of bougatsa, Japanese curry, Cajun shrimp, souvlaki or egg and chips- probably all served on separate plates, but not necessarily.

For my favourite little food guinea pig (N), it’s likely that white chocolate cheesecake will make the list.  Alongside blondies, white chocolate cheesecake is one of my few creations that provokes such an excited reaction from her.  I always have white chocolate and cream cheese on hand in case there’s trouble at the ranch.

Perhaps there are wives or husbands across the world right now, preparing a favourite meal for their spouse: a tasty cushion to soften the blow of some bad news, an apology for dessert.  Perhaps there are families gathered around their go-to dish for particular events.  Does anyone else have an “In case of emergency eat this” dish?

I’m happy to report that I’ve not needed to break the glass on the emergency white chocolate for a long time.  In fact, it’s been over a year since the cake has made an appearance (and even then, it was to brighten up a rainy weekend).  Time then to share with you that most precious of recipes: the recipe that puts smiles on me and my dearest no matter what.  Her smile for the cheesecake, mine for her smile.  “For goodness sake!  He’s supposed to be writing about  food!  What’s is he playing at?”  Relax, here’s the oh-so easy recipe.  Enjoy.

White chocolate cheesecake

300g cream cheese

200g white chocolate

175g digestive biscuits

100g caster sugar

120g butter (melted)

60ml double cream

1 tspoon cinnamon

1 tspoon vanilla extract

Begin by crushing the biscuits and stirring in the melted butter and cinnamon.  Press the biscuits into the base of an eight inch round cake tin and place in the fridge for at least thirty minutes.

Next, use an electric whisk to combine all of the sugar, vanilla, cream cheese and cream in a bowl.  Melt the white chocolate gently over a pan of hot water and blend into the cream cheese mixture.

Tip the mixture onto the biscuit base and spread evenly using a plastic spatula.  Place the cake in the fridge for an hour or more to make it firm and easier to cut.  You can now decorate it in any way you wish, but I’ll be honest, I never get as far as that stage.

Where’s the treacle?

Is the following recipe any good?  Well, put it this way; it’s so good, that my wife went back for a secret slice and accidentally destroyed my beautiful, sugary creation.  It slid off the plate as N was putting it back (with an unnoticable slither missing) and was sadly reduced to a crumpled wreck.  It wasn’t intentional, but the fact remains: this is a treacle tart you’ll go back to again and (if it’s still in tact) again.

As a child, treacle tart held no appeal for me.  It was always served hot (a no-no for Dimitri) and didn’t look particularly exciting.  Nothing looks as exciting as chocolate cake.  Even the name of this super-sweet pudding seemed strange to me.  What on Earth is treacle and why would anyone eat it? 

As an adult, I’ve spent time discovering the food that I rejected at earlier intervals in my youth.  The dishes eaten by my parents and grandparents, the food that was popular before the advent of television chefs and giant supermarkets.  My mum is the Queen of Puddings and describes her favourites with delight and a wonderfully descriptive style.  Listening to her describe a good treacle tart is enough to inspire anyone to make this classic pudding.  The ingredients are simple, widely available and for me, surprising.  For a start, where’s the treacle?

Perfect treacle tart

350g golden syrup

250g shortcrust pastry

125g wholemeal breadcrumbs

125g double cream

1 tspoon vanilla extract

Roll out the pastry and use it to line a 20cm cake tin.  Trim the edges and prick the base with a fork repeatedly.  Put the tin into the fridge for half an hour and set aside the pastry trimmings.

Meanwhile, put the breadcrumbs into a medium bowl and pour in the syrup.  Add the cream and the vanilla extract and mix well.

Use the pastry trimmings to make some shapes that you can place on top of the tart before baking.

After thirty minutes, take the cake tin out of the fridge, pour the mixture into it and place your pastry shapes on top.  Bake on the middle shelf of the oven at 190 degrees Celsius for about thirty-five minutes.  The tart will be golden and just set when ready.

If you value your tongue, let the tart cool for some time before attempting to taste it.  When baking, the tart itself is hotter than the surface of the sun.  I like to serve it with ice-cream, but some double cream would be good too.

If you decide to get a sneaky slice when nobody is looking, be careful not to let the tart slide off the plate.  I forgave my lovely wife, but I got the impression that she felt the loss of the tart more deeply than the pang of guilt.  I don’t blame her!