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THE CULT OF THE AIR FRYER

Where do you stand on air fryers? I recently wrote about this gadget in my monthly column for Waitrose Weekend, commenting that many cooks seem to worship it with an almost religious zeal.

I recently found myself developing some baking recipes for the air fryer, and was pleasantly impressed. For the smaller household, or larger households which prefer to regulate the supply of cakes and cookies, I’d go so far as to say it’s brilliant.

I do, however, have a couple of pieces of advice. First is to invest in some small-scale bakeware – for example, 4-cup muffin tins, 1lb loaf tins and 18cm cake tins. Secondly, seek out recipes devised specifically for the air fryer. While almost any recipe can be successfully adapted, it takes the hit-and-miss out of it if someone’s tried it out and adjusted temperatures and timings. (If you haven’t got that option, a good starting point is to halve the conventional timing and bake at 160-180C.)

Here, to get the ball rolling, are a pair of recipes which I think show the air fryer to best advantage, saving time, trouble and clear-up.


CULT OF THE AIR FRYER

CRANBERRY AND PISTACHIO SCONES

Makes 10-12 triangular scones

Prepare 10 minutes – about 15 minutes to bake

These are light and super crumbly. Bake the scones directly in the basket, without lining with foil or baking paper. Unless you have a huge air fryer you’ll need to bake in batches; alternatively, chill or freeze the uncooked dough for another time.

(If baking from frozen, put into the air fryer at 125C for 10 minutes, then a further 7-9 minutes at 170C, till golden.)

 

INGREDIENTS

200g plain flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

40g sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

100g butter, chilled and cut into small dice

100g rolled oats

60g dried cranberries

35g shelled pistachios, chopped

100ml milk, plus a little extra for glazing

1 medium egg

 

METHOD

1. Put the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a processor and whizz to mix. Add the butter and mix until it resembles coarse sand – about ten seconds - then add the oats and whizz briefly.

2. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the dried fruit and nuts. Mix the milk and egg then stir ¾ into the flour mixture, adding more of the liquid until it combines into a soft but not wet dough.

3. Flour a board, turn out the dough and pat into a 20cm circle; cut into 10-12 wedges. Brush tops with milk and sprinkle with sugar. Can be refrigerated or frozen at this point.

4. Spray or brush the base of your air fryer basket with oil, add three or four scones, spacing them apart, and bake at 170C for 10-15 minutes, till golden brown. Cool for ten minutes before serving with butter or clotted cream.


CULT OF THE AIR FRYER

BASQUE CHEESECAKE

Makes one small (18cm) cheesecake, serves 4-8

20 minutes to prepare, 30 minutes to bake

 

This is one of the glories of Spanish cuisine: a rich, custardy cheesecake without a crumb base, but a shiny, mahogany-brown top.

It is traditionally baked and served in a baking paper shell. To make this, take a deep 18 cm cake tin. Scrunch a 30cm square of parchment paper into a tight ball, flatten it back out and arrange it in the tin, pressing into the edges carefully. This will give the cheesecake its characteristic irregular look; it should be sliced and served direct from the crumpled parchment.

(If you only have a shallow 18cm tin, make a cuff out of doubled parchment paper and staple it securely. Place the crumpled parchment inside the cuff.)

The cream cheese will be lumpy unless used at room temperature; if you forget to get it out in advance, you can speed up the process by floating the unopened tub in hand-hot water.

You can vary the flavouring by adding grated lemon, orange or lime zest, and/or ½ teaspoon almond extract as well as the vanilla. If you can get hold of the sublime Italian flavouring known as Fiori di Sicilia (used to flavour panettone), use a couple of drops (only) of that.

 

INGREDIENTS

340g cream cheese, at room temperature

150g caster sugar

¼ tsp salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg plus one yolk

85ml double cream

 

METHOD

1. Put all ingredients in a food processor. Whizz, wipe down the sides of the bowl with a spatula and whizz again till perfectly smooth. Pour carefully into lined tin.

2. Put in the air fryer and bake at 195C for 25-30 minutes.  After fifteen minutes, check that the top is browning nicely; if it is getting too dark (air fryers vary), shield with a piece of foil. It is cooked when it is set round the edges but still wobbly in the centre; if you have a digital cooking thermometer, the centre should read about 68C.

3. Let it cool on a rack completely – about two hours - to firm up, then remove to a plate (still wrapped in its paper) and serve in slices. It is best eaten at room temperature but can be refrigerated.

 

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