No, the kitchen has not shrunk. Mini refers to a few new baking acquisitions: pans for mini muffins and mini madeleines. The mini loaf pans are still on the wish list, but might feature in my next IMK post. I’ve been having a lot of fun coming up with all sorts of miniature hors d’oeuvres and sweets. Why is it that mini food seems so retro? I’m thinking of those miniature spotted dick and tiny mini treacle tarts, not to mention the mini-gherkins – 70s party food staples – from the Bridget Jones films.
First up were my (very) retro mini sweet corn and roasted red pepper quiches in toasted bread cups. I guess this is my nod to all those recipes that the blogging cookbook club, The Cookbook Guru is making from Margaret Fulton’s classic 1969 Australian cookbook. Although not a Fulton recipe, these mini quiches could have easily come from that era of cooking. The bread cups were made from store-bought sliced white bread. The bread needs to be fresh and able to be flattened with a rolling pin. Puts me in mind of bread pellets we used to make as children – the center of the soft bread scrunched up into tight little balls. Well, this is one of the few uses I have found for this rather pappy white bread (other than bread pellets, that is).
And, mini bread fritters, based on Ottolenghi’s A’ja recipe in his book, Jerulsalem, made with the leftover bread pieces and crusts from shaping the bread cups. Not so retro, but more traditional and the size scaled down. First batch was a bit dense, perhaps in part because of the type of bread used. But the taste was good, especially when served with garlicy tahini sauce. Next time I may add shredded spinach or chard, or grated courgette and perhaps separate the eggs and whip the egg whites first before folding in. Might lighten the stodge of what is essentially spicy-herby fried bread.
The mini muffin tins came with a wooden tamping tool, perfect for shaping little cups into the tiny holes. This proved essential for those bread cups shown above as well as squares of layered phyllo to make mini phyllo baskets. They can be baked until golden and filled with a variety of cold fillings.
Or, the mini phyllo baskets can be part baked then filled with a mixture that requires further cooking, like these little open-shaped spanokopita – dill-spiked spinach pies/tarts.
A wee bit more fiddly was phyllo’s shredded relation – mini kataifi baskets. The shredded phyllo is mixed with cooled melted butter (or margarine) and tamped into shape. Baked until golden, they are perfect little cups for both sweet and savoury fillings. Or, like the phyllo baskets, they can be part baked to seal the pastry and then a filling added before finishing the baking process. The ones below are baked with a ricotta, courgette and leek filling.
Those shreds reminded me of a recipe I saw somewhere in one of my cookbooks for cooked vermecelli type noodles to form mini baskets, but I didn’t have the nerve to try. I had visions of the limp noodles flopping all over the place and defying being formed into neat cups. So, I switched gears to mini frico cups. Frico are Northern Italian cheese crisps – simply shredded and melted hard cheese (like Parmesan). The crisps, not long out of the oven, can be moulded into cup shapes while warm and pliable, although I think these could have used a little more time in the oven to get a bit more crisp and golden. Once cool and firm, they can be filled with non-liquid things like chopped olives, sautéed mushrooms, roasted red peppers, leftover (non-soupy) risotto….the list goes on.
While casting my eye around the edible things in the garden, I wondered if lining the mini muffin holes with grapevine leaves would work to bake little frittatas or rissoto fritters. But…that experiment will need to wait until the vine matures and begins to produce more leaves. It seems the list of mini things you can make are as limited as your imagination.
Last, but not least, using the mini muffin pans for what they were originally intended – mini banana muffins. That was just because I had rather mushy bananas kicking around. Great breakfast bites.
Next came the madeleine saga – making both sweet and savoury mini madeleines from my new book by Barbara Feldman Morse, Madeleines: Elegant French Tea Cakes to Bake and to Share. The book is excellent for flavour ideas, but the resulting madeleines were not quite perfect. First mistake was entirely my own fault. I made the classic error of overfilling the moulds for these savoury cheesy-herby mini madeleines. The really puffed up, making them more little muffins than true madeleines. Nor, for some reason, did the little shell-like ridges show on the finished product. The family agreed they looked more like cheesy-herby scarabs than shells. Very tasty cheesy-herby scarabs.
The second type of savoury mini madeleine I attempted were incredibly delicious – a smoked salmon, chive and cream cheese concoction. However…they still were not perfect and a bit pale. Although, this time I think I got the amount of batter put into each mould right and you can just discern a few shallow ridges.
Switching to sweet madeleines, I tried a dense chocolate version dipped in white chocolate. The texture was more like brownies – so yum, but not really a true spongy madeleine. So, it was back to the drawing board for me with a bit more research on the making of the perfect madeleine.
Nearly there, after more trial-and-error and a lot of research, with another cheesy-herby madeleine made with yoghurt instead of butter. Result: mini-shell-shaped popovers/Yorkshire puddings. Very, very tasty, but not really a madeleine sponge!
Another attempt was warranted and I have to finally admit to success. Stay tuned for the next post for madeleine perfection.