Published by HarperCollins, with a cover price of £25, this hardback edition of How to be a Better Cook is very similar in style to her last one A Lighter Way to Bake. The recipes are for simple every day food and are not too excessive when it comes to the use of fats and other such "naughty" ingredients. Chocolate tart I hear you cry? Well yes, there is a chapter on desserts, cakes and treats, what cookbook is really complete without one? But even the tart is made with more milk than cream. Similarly her recipes for panna cotta, ice-cream and Bircher muesli use yogurt to replace some or all of the cream associated with these dishes.
As a fan of incorporating vegetables into sweet bakes, thus trying to make them a little more nutritious, I was pleased to see a recipe for pumpkin, brown sugar and pecan cake with cream cheese icing and very nice it looked too. Lorraine also incorporates wholemeal flour in some stem ginger and apricot biscotti, an addition which I obviously heartily approve of.
With Halloween and Bonfire Night just a few days away, it's useful to find that Lorraine has these covered. Ghostly black-eyed meringues, lighter chocolate muffin spiders, s'mores pops and toffee apple slice pops are great fun to make, with or without the children.
The pages are shiny which makes them a little difficult to read in certain light. I also found the photographs to be rather hard and a bit stark. There are plenty of them in the book and many of them are of Lorraine. As a former model, this is perhaps not surprising, but much as I like Lorraine, I prefer my recipe books to show pictures of the food rather than the author. However, I liked the stylish use of colour running through the book, a picture of something on a green plate for example would be matched by green text on the opposite page. A recipe for chargrilled green bean, sugar snap and courgette salad with poppy seed dressing printed in pink, had pink forks shown in the accompanying photo. You can see what I mean from the recipe excerpt below.
Lorraine gives tips and tricks throughout the book, but also includes a few pages at the end detailing her store cupboard essentials, kitchen equipment essentials, how to look after knives and how best to store food.
St Helen's Farm that I was keen to try out in the pastry and some goat's milk in need of using up. I also wanted to give the tart a bit of a salted caramel edge. To do this, I used a pinch of salt and 100g of Cacao Barry caramel milk chocolate and 165g of 72% dark chocolate, which included one of the Seed and Bean bars I reviewed a while back. I also made the pastry with half wholemeal flour and half white.
Apart from faffing around with pastry, which is never my most fun activity in the kitchen, this tart was a breeze to make. If you are in a rush, Lorraine allows for a nice easy get out clause for this stage - buy the pastry. But that's not my way. The only problem I experienced, other than trying not to eat it before it set, was getting the tart into the oven without spilling the filling. Needless to say, I didn't achieve this. Lorraine suggests pouring the filling into the tart case once it's actually on the oven shelf. My oven and kitchen preclude this, so I didn't quite get the nice clean edges I'd have liked. I also found, I had more pastry and filling than I needed, so I made three 10cm tartlets as well.
The Tarts were sublime. They had a crisp, buttery, flaky pastry which melted in the mouth - not a soggy bottom in sight. The filling was rich and creamy and had the hint of salted caramel I was looking for. It also had a subtle goaty tang which did a good job of reinforcing the robust flavour of the chocolate and added another welcome dimension.
I'm sending the tarts over to Lucy at SuperGolden Bakes for her weekly event #CookBlogShare.
In case you would like to try Lorraine's recipe out rather than my slightly adapted version, I am taking the unusual step of including an exact copy here for you with kind permission of HarperCollins.
RIDICULOUSLY RICH CHOCOLATE TART
This chocolate tart is so dark and rich, it is just not for kids! There is a little bit of gaffing here what with making the pastry and all that, but to cut a perfectly acceptable corner, just buy ready-made sweet shortcrust pastry instead to half the making time.
|Photography © Maja Smend|
125g butter, softened and diced,
plus extra for greasing
100g caster sugar
Pinch of salt (but only if your butter
250g plain flour, plus extra for
1 egg, at room temperature
100ml single or double cream
250ml whole milk
175g dark chocolate (minimum
70% cocoa solids)
75g milk chocolate
Finely grated zest of 1 large orange
20cm straight-edged tart tin
Grease a 20cm straight-edged tart tin well with a little butter and set aside on a baking sheet. I prefer to make this pastry using a food processor. Put the butter, sugar and salt in the processor and blitz for about 10 seconds. Then add the flour and pulse a few times until everything is nicely mixed up. Tip in the egg and pulse a few times again, scraping the sides of the food processor if need be. Lay a large piece of cling film on the work surface, tip the pastry mix on to it, squidge the pastry together in a ball and then wrap it up in the cling film. Place it in the fridge and leave it to rest for a good hour or hour and a half. To make this the traditional way by hand, tip the flour onto a clean work surface, then make a well in the centre of the flour about 30cm wide. Put the butter and the sugar and salt in the centre of the well (they should not touch the flour at this time). Use your hand to mix the butter, sugar and salt together; it is kind of messy, but great to make it the way it should be made! Then bring in the flour. I use a pastry scraper to flick the flour over the butter and the sugar, and then I kind of chop it together until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Make another well in the centre of the pastry mix and crack the egg into it. Then, using your fingertips, mix it all together; again messy, but I find it kind of fun. Once the mixture is all mixed up and together, wrap the pastry ball in cling film and pop it in the fridge for an hour or hour and a half to rest. The pastry needs to rest to relax the protein strands, which could cause it to be too stretchy when you roll it. This will also help make the pastry more tender. Once the pastry is rested, roll it out on a lightly floured surface to about a 25cm circle, roughly 5mm in thickness. I then put a rolling pin across the centre of the dough and flip half of the pastry over the rolling pin. Pick it up on the rolling pin and lay the pastry over the tart tin before removing the rolling pin. Gently press the pastry down into the tin, making sure that the pastry goes right into the ‘corners’, and then pop it in the fridge for an hour to rest again (rolling it out works the proteins in the pastry again, so it needs to have another rest in the fridge).
Once the pastry has been in the fridge for 40 minutes, turn the oven on to preheat to 200°C, (fan 180°C), 400°F, Gas Mark 6 with the middle shelf at the ready. After the pastry case has had an hour in the fridge and the oven is ready, line it with a circle of baking parchment slightly larger than the size of the tart case and tip in ceramic baking beans (or you can use dried beans for this, which are cheaper and work really well). Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until crisp, golden and almost cooked through. Meanwhile, to prepare the filling, put the cream and milk in a medium pan and bring it almost to the boil, then immediately remove it from the heat. Snap in the dark and milk chocolates and leave it aside to melt. Once the chocolate has softened and melted, mix it all together and add the eggs and the orange zest. Mix together again and then
set this aside. Remove the pastry case from the oven and leave the oven open to cool down a bit, turning the temperature down to 180°C, (fan 160°C), 350°F, Gas Mark 4. Carefully lift the bean-filled baking parchment from the pastry case.
Once the oven has reached temperature (which will be indicated by the thermostat light coming back on), close the door. Pour the chocolate mix into the pastry case. I like to pour the last bit of filling into the case once it is safely resting on the oven shelf, that way it avoids any spillover. Then very carefully place the pastry case back into the oven for 20–25 minutes.
Once baked, remove from the oven and leave to cool for a bit. Then carefully push the tart out of the tin, remove the base, place on a plate or cake stand and serve.
Recipe taken from How to be a Better Cook by Lorraine Pascale (HarperCollins, £25).
HarperCollins have also kindly agreed to give one of my readers a copy of How to be a Better Cook. To be in with a chance of winning, please fill in the Gleam widget below. You will need to leave a comment on this post, answering the question, which then gives you additional chances to enter if you so wish. Gleam will pick a winner at random from the entries received. If you are commenting anonymously, please give me some way of identifying you as I will be verifying the validity of entries. Any automated entries will be disqualified. This giveaway is only open to those with a UK postal address. Winners will need to respond within 7 days of being contacted. Failure to do this may result in another winner being picked.
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How to be a Better Cook