27 October 2015

Harry Potter & the Kitchen of Secrets

So we all know about my obsession with dinosaurs, which is most specifically linked to having seen Jurassic Park a gazillion times. But I might have failed to mention I am as obsessed if not slightly more crazy about Harry Potter (the books not Daniel Radcliffe) than I am about dinosaurs. It's not something I've purposely kept from you guys, it just never cropped up. That is until Sophie and I confided in each other. Ever since I missed out on going to Kate from The Little Library Cafe's Harry Potter themed Supper Club, I've been dreaming about throwing my own inspired dinner party, a Death Day Party if you will, after all it is Halloween. Finally I just threw it out there that Sophie and I should collaborate and do some Harry Potter baking together.

To say Sophie was keen would be an understatement. Gryffindor scarf adorned, Harry Potter food themed pinterest board at the ready and bag with enough baking ingredients for Hogwarts Halloween Feast in tow, Sophie arrived at my flat. In fact, I knew she'd arrived before she rang the doorbell as I saw her outside peering into my neighbours car. To clarify Sophie's not a car burglar, she was just jealous of the stuffed Ponyo hanging from their car mirror, although I wouldn't put it past her to steal Ponyo. After several cups of tea, the very short flat tour (which includes the cupboard/bathroom under the stairs), and a good hour spent nattering about everything and anything. We got down to baking or at least deciding what to bake.

Now if you're a fellow HP fan, you'll know we had to make Harry's favourite dessert; Treacle Tart to those in the know. Pumpkin pasties were a must too, you can't go too wrong with alliterative food. And finally Butterbeer Pumpkin Cupcakes, because whoever said the cupcake trend is dead is an idiot and just to make them HP worthy we added some butterbeer icing.

You might be thinking those foods are not the most exciting foods in Harry Potter, where's the blood lollipops and cockroach clusters? I'm going to play it straight with you, I love Halloween but gross looking food ain't for me. Anything that remotely looks like blood or severed fingers (I have a real issue with damaged hands) or an insect is a no go. One year Dan's parents bought us some fried insects for Christmas, it was the only gift I've ever thrown at someone as Dan dangled a cricket in front of my face. Call me old fashioned but I like my Halloween food to be fun, 100% edible and have no body parts.

All of the HP themed dishes we made were great, but Sophie and I both had different favourites. I was in love with the creamy oozey cheesiness of the Pumpkin Pasties, while Sophie favoured the Butterbeer Pumpkin Cupcakes for their moist fragrant cake and mound of caramel-ly icing and toppings. This makes the Treacle Tart sound unappreciated, but then that lemon ginger goddess was Dan's love. So I'm just going to say make them all, then share with friends, you can even keep back your faves if you're a Slytherin fan.

My family has always made a big deal out of Halloween, something that isn't as common in the UK as it is elsewhere in the world (I'm looking at you USA). Maybe it's because a lot of people are anti Halloween in the UK because it's huge commercialisation or because some people think it's a Satanic festival (not true guys it's Christian!). Similar to Mexico's Day of the Dead, Halloween's origins are as a Christian festival where you celebrate the lives of your dead loved ones, Saints and Martyrs with a huge feast, while calling out all the bad demons and telling them it's time for them to push off. It just shows how different people's ideas of religion are even if you are of the same faith, as I have some Christian friends who are staunch Halloween Haters whereas my family has always been pro Halloween...and HP for that matter.    

Anyway comment on religion aside, we have always celebrated Halloween. In the Falklands we used to dress up (as a sea witch/ice witch/normal witch) and get together as a community. When we moved to the UK we were the kids with the legendary Halloween parties helped by the fact that at one point we lived in a flat in a castle with suits of armour and plenty of creepy places to hide, plus we had doughnut bobbing. Of course as we got older there was the occasional drunken Halloween party. However, for me Halloween always starts the same way, going home to my mum, making toffee/chocolate apples and drawing faces on 'pumpkin' tangerines, and giving them out to trick or treaters. While drinking a glass or two of wine together of course, eating lots of cheese and maybe some pumpkin based goods.

This year, my friend Alex, is also coming to witness our Halloween traditions and eat some fondue (when your family is Swiss fondue is practically a tradition). I'm currently trying to convince her that a Halloween swim in the sea is also an annual occurrence but we'll see how long that lie holds for. One thing we'll definitely crack out is some HP treats to watch the kid himself, so if you're not a Halloween fan, consider celebrating HP instead by baking up a spread house-elves would be proud of.

Treacle Tart(s)
(serves 4 either as small tartlets or one tart)

115g plain flour
55g unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
1 egg
60g breadcrumbs
300g golden syrup
Pinch of ground ginger
Zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon

Step 1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. To make the pastry dough, rub together the butter and flour until it looks like breadcrumbs. Then beat in the egg and knead on a floured surface until the dough is smooth (you might need to add a bit more flour if so go for it).

Step 2. Roll out the dough to 5mm thick on a lightly floured surface and place into the tart tin(s), working it into the creases using a buffer of pastry (very GBBO) then leave the pastry to chill for 30 minutes (if possible, if you're too hungry go to the next part of the step). Don't worry about any excess pastry over the top of the tart it's better to let it all hang over then fit the tin,  plus we'll cut that off later. To avoid spillages in your oven, place the tins onto a flat tray. Then bake the pastry in the oven blind (fill the tarts with baking paper and rice or ceramic baking balls) for 10 minutes.

Step 3. While the tart(s) are blind baking, make the filling. Mix the real breadcrumbs (none of those fake dough ones), golden syrup, ginger and zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon together.

Step 4. When the tart cases have been blind baked, take them out of the oven. Carefully removing the baking balls or rice, and baking paper, then cut any overhanging pastry off the top of the tarts. Pour in the golden syrup mixture into each tart till it's a couple of mm's from the top, then bake them in the oven for 20 minutes.

Step 5. Take the tarts out of the oven and leave them to cool for a good hour, remove the tin, picture yourself in the Great Hall and eat with pleasure.

Pumpkin Pasties
(makes 16-18, or one ginormous one - don't let me stop your ambition)

500g puff pastry
390g pumpkin, grated (or chopped as fine as you can!)
18 pumpkin seeds
200g gruyere cheese, grated
1 small bunch of sage, chopped
1 bunch of parsley, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely grated
50ml double cream
1 egg
Salt and pepper to taste

Step 1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. In a large bowl, mix together the pumpkin, 150g gruyere, garlic, parsley, sage and the cream, then season to taste (go light on the salt at first there's a lot of cheese in this).

Step 2. Roll our the pastry to 5mm thick on a lightly floured surface, using a round pastry cutter (~6cm in diameter) cut out 32-34 circles, this will make 16-18 pasties. Pull the circles into pumpkin shapes (make them a bit wider) and set half of the pastry circles on a lined baking tray a good 2-3cm apart.

Step 3. Put about a tablespoon of the pumpkin mix in the middle of each pasty and brush the edges with a bit of beaten egg. Make three crescent moon scores or a bum score aka (|) in the top half of the pasty and place it on top of the filled base pressing down to seal.

Step 4. Pumpkin pasties assembled, paint the top with some more beaten egg and sprinkle on a bit of the reserved gruyere and press down a pumpkin seed into the top of the pumpkin pasty as a stalk. Then bake them in the oven for 15-20 minutes till they're all golden and the cheese has good and melted.

Step 5. Once cooked, remove the pasties from the oven and eat them warm from the oven. Alternatively wrap them up, hop on the train, eat a pumpkin pasty and start cursing felllow passengers in your carriage with bat bogey hexes.

Butterbeer & Pumpkin Cupcakes
(makes 18-20)

For the pumpkin cupcakes
225g pumpkin flesh, grated 
(or chopped as fine as you can!)
200g unsalted butter
210g caster sugar
250g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
40ml buttermilk
2 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla paste
1 heaped tbsp stem ginger in syrup

For the butterbeer icing

140g salted butter
280g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 tsp caramel flavouring

Few drops of orange food colouring


Smashed pretzels
Butterscotch fudge pieces
Gold stars
Edible gold glitter
Chocolate coated popping candy

Step 1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. In a very large bowl, whisk together the grated pumpkin, stem ginger, buttermilk, eggs, vanilla paste, butter and sugar (make sure you use softened butter!).

Step 2. Then add the sifted flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of sode, salt and spices and stir this in using a wooden spoon.

Step 3. Place one tablespoon of the mixture into each cupcake case. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes till golden and a skewer comes out clean. Allow them to cool while you make the icing.

Step 4. Whisk together the butter and sifted icing sugar, slowly at first to avoid clouds of icing sugar till it's all combined. Then add the vanilla paste, caramel flavouring and orange food colouring till it looks slightly golden in colour.

Step 5. Once the cakes have cooled, pipe the icing onto the cupcakes using a piping bag. We used a star nozzle but let loose in fact you can just dunk the cupcakes in the icing sugar if you really want. Toppings are crucial to this recipe, we went for some salty smashed pretzels, butterscotch fudge, anything that glittered and popping candy, but use your imagination. Chuck on some bertie bots flavoured beans or a cockroach cluster or two, or play it safe with some chocolate sprinkles. You will choose (obscure Harry Potter quote).

Step 6. Cupcakes compiled, stuff one or 6 into your mouth after one another. Then move on to a pasty or three, and finish it all up with some treacle tart and clotted cream. Harry would be proud.

Do you have any Halloween traditions? I'm a big fan of ours. It was so nice to do some joint baking with Sophie and discover our shared loves of Harry Potter and Studio Ghibli, we're practically soul sisters. Make sure you check our her blog if you're not following her already. Making friends with other bloggers is the most unexpected but amazing thing about blogging, I've made so many great friends through blogging. Friends I can about the highs and lows of blogging with, but also just gossip about general life and even go see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child together with. Say what, dropping at the last possible moment that a play self-titled as the 8th Harry Potter book is coming out in London and tickets go on sale tomorrow!!!!!!!! Is that enough exclamation masks. Hell NO!

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