Trying new things: Sweet and Savoury Fondants

Recently I have decided that it’s time to expand my cooking repertoire, try some new dishes and learn some new techniques. After flicking through my cookery books and magazines I decided to start with fondants.

Initially I just planned to have a go at the sweet chocolaty versions, but then I thought, what the heck, if I’m trying new things I might as well make a day of it and have a go at the savoury potato type as well and so an extremely calorific meal plan was born.

I started with the savoury fondant, which is essentially a piece of nicely shaped piece of potato poached in butter (and a little stock). I suppose you could really use any shape of potato provided it would cook evenly, but on the TV the chefs always seem to cut perfect cylinders from a large potato and so I thought I’d try that. After a little bit of searching in various supermarkets I eventually managed to locate two sufficiently large firm potatoes to cut my cylinders from .

Cutting out the cylinde

Cutting out the cylinders

This proved to be a lot harder than it looks on the TV. I don’t know if I’m just weak, or if they have sharper cutters than me, but it took an awful lot of huffing and puffing to get through the potato.   Once I did finally manage to cut them out I just lopped of the top and bottom to give it flat ends and then trimmed the edges slightly to make them pretty.

Starting cooking

Starting cooking

For my two 100g pieces I melted 100g of butter in a saucepan and then added my potatoes. Once they had fried on one side for 5 minutes I flipped them over, added the stock, some thyme and some garlic then turned down the heat and popped the lid on the pan. 25 minutes later a lot of my butter/stock mix was gone (I’m not sure if it evaporated or was absorbed by the potato?) and my fondants were cooked.

Finished cooking

Finished cooking

I served these with some roast chicken, peas and gravy. While there were soft, buttery and rich, I have to admit I was a little disappointed. The flavour was very similar to the inside of a good roast potato, but without lovely the crispy outer shell. I can see how these look much more elegant on a plate than a roast potato, but I think at home, where no one is judging my presentation, I would prefer a plain old crunchy roasty!

Potato Fondants

Potato Fondants

I then plunged on with the chocolate fondants. Having watched umpteen series of Masterchef over the years I’ve seen a lot of failed fondants and so I was feeling a little nervous about these. Would they stand up once out of the moulds? Would they have a lovely gooey centre? In the end these turned out to be quite straight forward to make and the answer to both questions was yes!

Chocolate Fondants

Chocolate Fondant

After reading several recipes I was a bit confused as to whether I should chill my fondants or not prior to cooking. In the end, since my recipe made two, I decided to try both methods. While they both worked, the chilled fondant rose a bit less which made it easier to stand up on the plate, so I think this works the best if you have the time.

ready to turn out

Ready to turn out

Unlike the potato fondants, the chocolate ones were not disappointing at all. Instead they were divine – rich and gooey and lovely. As I say, I was surprised how easy it was to make these and I’m definitely going to be whipping up some more in the coming weeks!

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Orangettes

For the last few years I have make either (rather large quantities) of sugar cookies or Florentines to give to take to work and generally distribute over the Christmas period.  While these are always great fun to do, I fancied trying something new this year.

The something that I eventually decided on was orangettes.  These are strips of candied orange peel coated in dark chocolate.  Despite the fact that they are very widely sold in the shops over hear at this time of year I struggled to find recipes for making them at home.  This may be to do with the fact that they are really straight forward (if a little time consuming) to make and only need three ingredients– maybe everyone just “knows”!

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

Anyway, eventually I was able to locate some information and set upon creating these little treats.

The first challenge was figuring out how to actually “peel” the orange since I needed to end up with nice long strips.  I could not figure out a way of getting nice rectangular pieces that did not involve wasting a lot of peel.  In the end I decided to forgo right angles and choose to cut the orange from top to bottom repeatedly and then removed each of these pieces carefully.

removing the peel

Removing the peel

Next came the boiling stage where you repeatedly boil and cook the peel to “remove the bitterness”.  The instructions I had found varied in how many times this needed to be done.  I decided to err on caution and go with the biggest number, just in case.  This meant I had to boil and cool the peel for times!

boiling the peel in the sugar water

Boiling the peel in the sugar water

After this it was time to boil the peel once again, but this time in sugar syrup!  Once the peel had taken on a lot of the sugar and water I could finally move onto drying them on some baking parchment and that was it for one day since they need a long time to dry out a bit.

drying the peel

Drying the peel

The next day it was onto the chocolate coating stage.  I expected this to be a little messy what with the molten chocolate as well, but I had failed to take into account just how sticky my candied peel would be.  This made them rather difficult to handle as they seemed to stick to everything except the cocktail stick I was using to dip them in the chocolate.  Eventually I had managed to coat each piece of peel (and myself and a large section of my kitchen) in chocolate.  They could then go into the fridge to cool down and set.

Orangettes

Drying the chocolate

With the chocolate set I could finally bag up the orangettes ready to give out.  These may have taken a while to make but I was really pleased with the result.  They taste and look great (according to me!) and I hope everyone enjoys them.

All packed up

All packed up