Posts Tagged ‘sugar’

Crema Catalana

This was dessert at the Catalan feast… Very similar to Creme Brulee, it contains all the usual goodness of a dessert. Eggs, milk and a load of sugar. The use of a kind of branding iron to encrust the sugar is traditional but new to me. It’s as common place in a Catalan kitchen as having an electric kettle in England or a refrigerator specifically used for Mountain Dew in the United States, sorry. Again, thanks to Sergio for all of the effort and showing me how to caramelise the sugar Catalan style.


  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup cream
  • a few drops of vanilla extract
  • 1 cinnamon stick – optional
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1  cup  sugar
  • 3 tbsp corn starch


Bring the milk, cream, vanilla and cinnamon to the boil over low heat. Next, take the mixture off the heat and let it cool down, then strain the milk and cream mixture to get rid of any lumps (removing the cinnamon stick in the process.)Mix the egg yolks and ½ cup of the sugar until you start to get  thick creamy texture. Now it’s time to dissolve the cornstarch in 4 tbsp of the warm milk mixture that you just made,  stir it back into the remaining mixture, this will thicken it even further and act as a stabiliser. Mix the milk in with the eggs and sugar and put it all in a pyrex bowl (or similar)  over a pan of simmering water. Stir continuously until the cream thickens even further, making sure that it doesn’t boil. When this has thickened up nice, let the cream cool  for a minute and and pour it into the bowls or ramekins. Put these in the fridge until they’re cold, or for as long as you want, (even overnight) when you are ready to serve, sprinkle a generous amount of the remaining sugar over each bowl or ramekin.

Heat the iron over the stove, and press it against the sugar until it is starts to burn and caramelise. It’ll form a lovely crust. Careful not to leave it on the sugar for too long otherwise it’ll go black (another way is to use a blow torch.) Serve immediately and enjoy.


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Yemas, a sweet made from egg yolks and sugar,  are from Avila, a town to the north west of Madrid on the way to Salamanca. We brought a box of their delicacy back home to sample and unfortunately the verdict is a big thumbs down. The bad texture and an unpleasant taste combine to create something ummmm,  well, not good. That is however only our opinion as the people of Avila are clearly proud of “Yemas” and they seemed to have no problem in selling them, maybe to ignorant tourists but anyway, people were buying them. On the plus side, they come in a nice box!

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“Semana Santa” or “Holy week” has just passed. Here in Spain, attendance at Catholic churches is falling dramatically, with Spain’s youth apparently becoming more and more disillusioned with Catholicism. Well, that’s the theory, but you wouldn’t believe this was the case during Semana Santa. Spain doesn’t hold back; they take this very seriously… I’m talking processions that last up to 12 hours, pointy hats, thousands upon thousands of marchers, brass bands, drums, not to mention the countless effigies of Christ and the Virgin Mary and the tens of thousands of people that line the streets to watch…

Food wise, the star has to be Torrijas. Served almost exclusively in the Easter period, it is a kind of French toast/Eggy bread, with copious amounts of sugar. It can vary on the quality, like any dish I guess, but the picture above was of  a really good one that we ate on a terraza in Caceres in Extremedura, the poorest region of mainland Spain. This really was the authentic Torrijas experience, as if I had tilted the camera up, I would have been photographing the pointy hatted marchers (nazarenos) bearing the weight of Christ on their shoulders. Recipe to follow shortly… promise.

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Apparently one of the “Tatin” sisters dropped her apple tart on the floor, decided to serve it anyway and wrote it into culinary history. We didn’t drop this version on the floor, but honestly if we had,  would probably eaten it anyway. It is a delicious dessert. One you should definitely try. We even used pre bought pastry to save time and worked out really well. Good luck and let us know if it was a success.


  • 5 apples (of your choice) peeled, cored and sliced into quarters
  • just under a cup of sugar
  • 100g butter
  • pre-made pastry
  • a little milk


Pre-heat the oven to 190C. Then in a pan that you can put in the oven. i.e one that doesn’t have a plastic handle.

Sprinkle the sugar evenly on the bottom of the pan and then add the butter as illustrated. Put over a medium heat and the butter and the sugar will start to melt and caramelise. This should take about 4-5 minutes. Jiggle the pan around a bit to make sure that it the sugar and butter cook evenly. Now you are ready to add the apples.

Add them in a spiral, cramming them as tight as you can. Now cook over a low heat for about 15 minutes. Cut your pastry into a circle a bit bigger than your pan. Take the pan off the heat and place the pastry on top of the apples, tucking in the excess pastry as shown below.

Prick holes  in the pastry, brush it with some milk and put the pan in the oven for about 20 – 25 minutes or until the pastry is a golden brown.

When it is removed from the oven it should a bit like this.

Now it is time to flip the tarte. Be really careful as the juices from the apples and the caramel will be really hot. So, place a large plate over your pan and press down as hard as you can to create a seal. Then (wearing long sleeves) flip the plate and place on the work surface. You should have the perfect tarte. Hope so anyway!

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Made this for our friend Michelle, it’s her birthday tomorrow… The cake is a classic Victoria sponge, the toppings however come courtesy of the happy world of Haribo and copious amounts of food colouring.


for the Victoria sponge

  • 225g butter at room temperature
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 225g self raising flour

for the icing

  • 140g butter, softened
  • 280g  icing sugar
  • food colouring
  • 1-2 tbsp milk


for the sponge

Heat the oven to 180C. Soften the butter, mix the butter and the sugar together, gradually beat the eggs into the mixture and add the the vanilla extract. Fold the flour into the mixture. Now divide the mixture into two, and place in two greased baking trays. Cook for 20 – 25 minutes in the oven or until a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

For the icing

Blend the ingredients together (adding a little milk) until it’s smooth. Add a load of food colouring to the mixture.

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Carrot Cake

This a carrot cake. It is delicious.



  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 pound carrots (8 to 10 medium carrots), peeled and shredded on a box grater or in a food processor (about 2 3/4 cups)
  • 2 cups pecans (1 cup finely chopped for batter, 1 cup coarsely chopped for decorating sides of cake) *Raw, non-salted and fried pecans are difficult to find in Madrid so I did not use them in my cake, although I do prefer my carrot cake to contain nuts.*

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 400 grams cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and brought to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup to 1 cup confectioner’s sugar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. You will make enough batter to make a two or three layer cake. I chose to make my two layers. Butter your cake pans and lightly dust with flour, tapping out excess.

In one bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg. In another bowl, beat butter and sugars together (with a fork or with an electric hand mixer) until its light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat 3 minutes. Add vanilla, water, and carrots. Beat until well combined, about 2 minutes. Slowly add flour mixture, then finely chopped pecans.

Scrape batter into prepared pans, dividing evenly into halves or thirds. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into centers comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let cool in pans on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around edges of cakes to loosen, and turn out cakes onto rack. Turn right side up, and let cool completely.

To make the frosting, use a fork or a hand mixer to beat the cream cheese and vanilla with a mixer until creamy. Gradually add butter and beat until incorporated. Slowly add confectioner’s sugar and beat until fluffy and smooth. I tasted the frosting every so often to determine the sweetness. I prefer my cream cheese frosting to be more tangy than sweet.

Using a sharp knife, trim rounded top of 2 cakes. Place one trimmed cake, cut side up, on a serving platter. Spread 1 cup frosting over cake. Top with second trimmed cake, cut side down. Spread 1 cup frosting over cake. Top with remaining cake. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides. Gently press coarsely chopped pecans onto sides of cake. Refrigerate 1 hour (or up to 1 day, covered) before serving.

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My answer to Levi Roots (reggae reggae sauce.) This is loosely based on a recipe by Marcus Wareing. It’s sweet, spicy and very tasty.


  • 500g tomato frito
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 1 large clove of garlic crushed with salt
  • 200ml white wine vinegar
  • 150g brown sugar
  • 1.5 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 bay leaf
  • tabasco sauce, 10 drops (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp of mustard (I used Honeycup’s “Uniquely Sharp” Mustard… Thanks Jess and Tim!)
  • 250ml water


Put all of the ingredients in a pan and bring to a simmer for about 30-40 minutes until the liquid has reduced to about half. Remove the bay leaves and blend. Then push the sauce through a fine sieve and leave to go cold. Put it in a sterilized jar and refrigerate.

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