Due to our other-continently adventures, it has been some time since Team Pretty Bake's last Sunday baking session, and my word does it feel good to be back. That kind of feline stretching, scratch between the ears and curl up in front of an open fire sensation of good.
For once there wasn't much of a plan (and sometimes it's simply better that way), just a desire to satisfy a few burgeoning obsessions and to get back to the real basics of what cooking's all about. There is something immensely satisfying in producing something almost from scratch, and we discovered this by way of our first cooking (well, non-cooking) exploit whereby we produced our own butter.
While the weather and personal aversions prohibited the donning of classical milkmaid gingham, and advances in technology made for an absence of hand churning, it was immensely satisfying to be able to produce our very own baking staple. We started with some exceptional crème fraîche cultured cream, whipped until the cream seized, collected the sudden flood of buttermilk, and washed our gorgeously yellow butter in chilled water. I get that the lipid content and hydrophobicity of butter means this step is entirely logical, but I still love that you actually wash butter; it's just fabulous. So geeky wonderment aside, ultimately what you end up with is the most beautiful, soft, yellow and delicious butter I have ever seen. All who have tried it exclaim rather profoundly that it "tastes like butter", but I guess there's always room to work on our descriptors.
Team Pretty Bake butter
Following on the buttery theme, our next kitchen treat was a browned butter and blackberry tart. People frequently make associations between food and love - bandying around the phrase "the way to a man/woman's heart is through his/her stomach" with gay abandon - and I do believe some truth lies smothered in this vomitous romantic drivel (and, if I may, poppycock), as the heavenly aroma of browned butter would have to be one of the greatest small pleasures in life. And the tart itself was also a delight, with its browned butter and fruity goodness atop a crunchy biscuity base.
Browned butter and blackberry tart
Now if you managed to wade through the epic posts regaling our European adventures, you will be well aware that both Miss Rose and I returned with some overdeveloped food obsessions in need of replication and a thorough working over. To satisfy somewhat Miss Rose's salted butter caramel fetish, we prepared a chocolate and salted caramel tart which had been tempting us for some time. With desire in her eyes, Miss Rose confronted her fear of molten sugary pain and took her caramel to the edge. The luxuriously smooth, deep amber (salty) caramel which resulted was then poured into a sweet pastry crust and topped with a luscious dark chocolate ganache. Another of our "so bad for you it's good" creations, while we would make some textural modifications in future, this tart was still exceptionally good.
Chocolate and salted caramel tart
To round out our baking Sunday and address my personal Ottolenghi fixation, we roasted a chicken and served it with a stunning bake of kipfler potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, lemon, olives, tomato, parsley and thyme.
Roast chicken served with Jerusalem artichokes, potato, lemon, tomato and thyme
My passion for this style of cooking knows no bounds, and the delightful Yotam and Sami did not fail in satisfying my desires. A delicious combination with an ease of preparation, heavenly aesthetic and lending itself to shared feasting, this really is my thing, and such a fabulous way to serve wonderful fresh produce.
It was so nice to get back in the kitchen and share good food with good friends, even if it involved being likened to a nana and a science nerd rodent despot in the one sitting. A genuine pleasure indeed, and as Miss Rose snuck to a quiet corner with a jar of salted caramel and a spoon, and I set about waffling on in semi-creative prose, we both turned our minds to what next…
Are you thinking what I'm thinking, Miss Rose?