Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Seville orange mousse & Almond thins

Every year I welcome the arrival of the knobbly thick skinned Seville oranges into the greengrocers. Some years I get around to making marmalade and some years frankly life feels just a bit too busy. But I still gain a small pleasure from just seeing them, for me they are a true mark of the time of year, a clear signal that January will soon be February as we inch slowly forward towards spring.
I have often thought it a shame that Seville’s were reserved almost exclusively for marmalade. Very bitter and inedible raw they do need to be cooked and sweetened considerably to make them palatable. This mousse was a true experiment, I knew I wanted to harness their unique taste, as I felt it could offer something different and more complex than a standard orange. In the end I added the freshly grated zest of two clementines to the mousse, they added a floral citrus note that the Seville's lacked. The result was a creamy, sharp and interesting flavoured pud that was a success even with the kids. 
The almond thins are a real doddle to make as you bake them flat in a large tray then cut them up after cooking. No faffing around with rolling and cutters. What could be easier? 
for the mousse:
2 Seville oranges, each cut into six wedges
150g caster sugar
2 eggs
300ml double cream
3 leaves gelatine 
for the almond thins:
250g butter, softened 
200g golden caster sugar
1 egg
1tsp vanilla extract
250g plain flour
200g flaked almonds
Start the mousse by adding the orange wedges to a pan along with 500ml cold water. Bring to the boil and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes, prodding with a wooden spoon from time to time to release the juice from the flesh and the oils from the skin. Strain into a measuring jug, it should yield approximately 150 ml of orange juice, top up with a little cold water if it is slightly under. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes.
Lay the sheets of gelatine to a shallow bowl of cold water and leave to soak for 5 minutes. Remove the sheets, squeezing out the excess water before stirring through the orange juice, mixing until they dissolve. 
Break the eggs into a large mixing bowl and stir through the sugar. Set the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, taking care the bowl does not come into contact with the water. Using an electric whisk beat together the egg and sugar until it thickens and turns a pale yellow.  Turn off the whisk and lift it a little out of the bowl - if you trail it slightly above the mixture it should leave a thin ribbon in its wake. You can use a balloon whisk rather than an electric one but it will take a fair bit of whisking to get to this ‘ribbon stage’. Pour in the double cream, orange juice and clementine zest continue to whisk for a few moments until it is well combined. Transfer to a large serving bowl, or individual glasses if you fancy, and leave to set in the fridge. This will take 2-3 hours in a large bowl, or an hour or so in small glasses.
To make the biscuits, preheat the oven to 170°C. Beat the softened butter together with the sugar in a food mixer until pale and fluffy. Add the egg, flour, vanilla extract and beat again until a smooth paste is formed. 
Line 2 baking sheets with non-stick baking parchment and scoop half the mixture onto the centre of each sheet. Use a spatula and spread the mix outwards in a thin layer until it completely covers the sheet. Sprinkle over the almonds evenly. Bake for about 15 minutes until they are a pale golden brown. Remove from the oven and using a sharp knife cut into squares. Leave to cool in the tin. Stored in an airtight tin, layered with greaseproof paper, they will keep for several days.

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