Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Hazelnut Biscotti.

These were a last minute addition to one of my hampers. We always have masses of hazelnuts at home as there is a large tree in the garden so this seemed like a good excuse to utilise some of them.

250g plain flour
175g caster sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 medium eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
zest of 1/2 orange
100g whole hazelnuts
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 190C/fan 170C/374F/gas mark 5. 

Put the flour into a large bowl, then add sugar and baking powder, and a pinch of salt. Make a well in the center and stir in beaten eggs, vanilla extract, orange zest and hazelnuts.
Make a long thin shape with the mixture on a non stick baking tray.

Bake for about 20-25 minutes until pale golden and set.

Transfer the log to a chopping board and slice into 1cm thick slices, use a serrated bread knife.

Put sliced biscotti back onto the baking sheet and return to oven for 10 minutes until golden and dry. Leave them on a wire rack to cool and harden.

The recipe I based these on came from the Yummy-coffee-and-food blog.

Mince Pies.

When I was little I used to love making mice pies as they were one of the few things we actually made at christmas. My mother never bothered with a Christmas cake or pudding. However as an enterprising eleven year old I thought I would try and sell my mince pies one christmas. From an economic point of view this went very well unfortunately over 100 dozen later I never wanted to see another mince pie. I still make a few batches every year now but try to keep to to a minimum. In our house we have always made mini mince pies and I have two fantastic trays from the Pampered Chef. Each tray takes two dozen and a batch of my pastry should make four dozen or two trays worth. I would advise anyone to invest in this particular tray especially over the lakeland plastics one. The lakeland one is not non stick and the sides are so steep that it is often a nightmare to get the pies out without destroying them in the process. The pampered chef trays are still non stick despited being nearly ten years old and work every time. 

Normally I would agree with the adage that you roll out sweet pastry in icing sugar rather than flour. But with mini mince pies while the sugar caramelising looks beautifully crispy and golden  you cannot get them out of the tin in one piece.

I always use the same recipe for sweet pastry I'm not sure where it originally came from but it is now engraved on my brain I have made it so many times. I can't understand how people to seem to have such problems with pastry. To make this shortcrust pastry all you do is put everything in the magimix and turn in on.

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry

8oz Plain Flour
5oz Butter
2oz Icing Sugar
1 Egg Yolk
Zest of an Orange
2Tbsp Orange Juice
Pinch of salt

Put all the dry ingredients in the magimix and pulse until you have a bread crumb texture. If you don't have a blender rub the butter into the dry ingredients. Then add the egg yolk and enough orange juice to bring the pastry together into a dough. I would advise allowing it to chill in fridge for half an hour or so before rolling out as it will make it easier to work with.

If you are using this pastry for a summer tart you can use water and vanilla or lemon zest and juice.

I usually make my own mincemeat and then top this with pastry stars but this year I have been finishing up all sorts of odds and ends of mincemeat so thought I would try and add something new to my mince pies. I have read about topping mince pies with frangipani so thought I would give this a go.

Frangipani Topping

200g unsalted butter
200g caster sugar
200g ground almonds
50g flour
2 large eggs
2 tbsp brandy
Flaked almonds to decorate and icing sugar to dust

Beat butter until very soft, in food mixer with paddle attachment, gradually add sugar and ground almonds. Mix in flour, then eggs and lastly the brandy.

Fill casing with mincemeat then pipe the frangipani or smooth it on with a spoon. Sprinkle with flaked almonds. The ratio of frangipani to mince meat is totally up to you. I used the same amount of mince meat I usually use and then piped a thin layer of frangipani on top. This meant that the almond taste was not very strong but created a thin crisp layer on the top which sealed in the moisture.

Bake for about 25mins till golden brown and dust with icing sugar. The ones without the frangipani cook much quicker than the ones with it.

The recipe I followed was from Molly's Kitchen. I halved this quantity.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies.

The great food blogger cookie swap.
I have blogged about entering this event before, as I have been trying to perfect my attempts at cookie making in the lead up to the swap, they have never been my strong point. I was very pleased with the results in the end, I made double chocolate chip cookies from a Nigella recipe which worked perfectly. My biggest problem was defending them so that there would still be three dozen left to post. I wrapped them up like so in greaseproof and rafia.


125g dark chocolate
150g flour
30g cocoa
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
125g soft butter
75g light brown sugar
50g white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
350g chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 170°C.  Melt the 125g dark chocolate. Put the flour, cocoa, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a bowl. Cream the butter and sugars in another bowl. Add the melted chocolate and mix together.
Beat in the vanilla extract and egg, and then mix in the dry ingredients. Finally stir in the chocolate morsels or chips.

The recipe says that this should make 12 but I have always found that it makes more like 18. Place the dough onto backing trays about 6cm apart. Cook for about 20minutes. A skewer should come out semi clean. Leave to cool slightly before moving to a wire rack in order to firm up.

These were the cookies which I received during the cookie swap: 

These were minted triple chocolate cookies. They were absolutely delicious but not what you were expecting at all when you bit into them. They were made with fresh mint rather than peppermint, which is a flavour I shall have to experiment with more. They were beautifully presented and survived the postage perfectly. They were sent by flex your food.

My last two batches of cookies arrived in the post today. Both survived their experiences of the royal mail delivery system and I must remember for next year that a pringles tube makes a very sturdy cookie container. The first batch did not contain any information as to what I should call them but I would describe them as a chocolate covered sugar biscuit. The chocolate that they were dipped in contained some kind of spices which left a wonderful flavour at the back of your mouth without being overpowering. I think it may have been chilli chocolate.They were kindly sent by Mrs Iles.

The final batch came from who was very worried that cookies were not her area of expertise she needn't have worried. They were yummy. They were white chocolate, macadamia and sour cherry. They were not straight flour but split with oats which made them feel healthier! They were kindly sent by Baking Making Etc.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Candied Orange Peel.

I have tried to make this before and failed. However, they are one of my Father's favourite things so I can't really make him a hamper and not include them. Last time I made them I used the recipe out of the Ballymaloe cookbook which was a complete kerfuffle it took days of soaking peel and sticky sugar syrup all over the kitchen. So this time I did a bit of reading around on other blogs to see what other people do. They turned out really well this time and I have now used his recipe repeatedly.


1 cup Water
3 cups Sugar
4  Oranges
Sugar or chocolate to decorate


Quater the oranges length ways and take out all the fruit. Some people say to take out all of the pith I left it on. Next Blanch the skins by bringing them to the boil in a pan of water.Drain them and repeat three times. This is meant to take out some of the bitterness. Now that the skins were soft I used a teaspoon to scrape out any remaining fruit and some of the pith from any of the particularly thick ones. Cut them up into strips about one cm thick. Put the water and the sugar together over a low heat until the sugar has melted. Once it has melted bring it to the boil and add the peel. Reduce to a simmer. For about ten minutes then leave them in the syrup at least over night but preferably for a couple of days. Then you take them out of the sugar syrup and leave to dry out on a cooling rack. While some of them were still sticky I rolled them in granulated sugar the rest I continued to let dry before dipping in chocolate. The ones coated in chocolate kept fresh much better than the ones in sugar.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Scottish Tablet

I started this blog merely as I record of what I have cooked and so that I would be able to access my recipes anywhere in the world. I have always hated writing so thought that his was going to be a bit of a chore but the more I blog the more I enjoy it. There is this whole community of cooks out there just waiting to share their knowledge and experience. I have blogged before about how it is a shame that the WI is so out dated in its format. I suppose blogs are the new WI and it is events such as lets make Christmas which take us from the virtual to the physical. 

Tablet is a scottish fudge but it is much harder and melts in your mouth rather then needing to be chewed. It is another item heading towards my christmas hampers, I am trying to wrap everything inside them to the same theme green raffia, brown greaseproof and pink parcel paper.

Life in our flat has been made marginally more dramatic this week by one of the flatmates deciding he and a friend were going to put her head and his had through one of our glass doors. Lets just stay this was not one of their wisest moves. Consequently he now needs surgery to put the tendons in his hand back together, not the best timing when his exams start on monday.Although on a selfish note I am rather enjoying not being the cripple for once. I broke my arm very badly and everyone spent the summer laughing at me for being incapable (Someone had to do my bra up for me for two months). Now he is the one who can't put the tooth paste on his brush and has to have his food cut up.


1 pint/500ml water
8oz/225g butter, chopped into pieces
4 lbs/1.8kg caster sugar (golden gives it more colour)
400g tin of condensed milk


In a heavy based 4-pint sauce pan heat the water to a low simmer then add the butter. Stir until melted. Add the sugar and stir until all the sugar has dissolved. Raise the heat to high and bring the sugar to a hard boil for 5 minutes (the mixture should boil really fiercely which helps to reduce the liquid and colour the mixture) stirring all the time to prevent the sugar from sticking and burning. If you have a thermometer take the temperature to 120°C.

Once the sugar is boiling, slowly add the condensed milk. Stir well then lower the heat and simmer for 20 mins. The mixture will bubble and also start to slightly darken.

After twenty minutes remove the pan from the stove and beat the mixture (I used an electric whisk) vigorously for 5 mins.

Pour into the greased pan and when the tablet is cool but still soft, cut into 1" squares. Once completely cold wrap in greaseproof paper and store in an airtight tin. The recipe said to use a 7'' square tin which I followed but would not advise this makes thick tablet which can only be cut into very large pieces I would use a tin double this size. More like a baking tray or a swiss role tin. This aside I was very pleased with the outcome of this recipe. Beware it does make and awful lot this recipe.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Glendoe Fruit Cake.

In my University summers I work as a lodge cook in scotland where they often request fruit cake to take up onto the hill. This means that unlike most people I don't make fruit once a year but regularly so I have had plenty of opportunity to adapt and amalgamate recipes to create my own. Fruit cake recipes are very personal and easily tailored to your own taste. I don't especially like cherries so I don't put many in and replace the rest with crystallised ginger. The name for this recipe comes from one of the estates I work for which particularly likes fruit cake.

Christmas cake often has a bad reputation not only because fruit cake is very out of fashion at the moment but also because rumour says that we must make it months in advance and it still often ends up being very dry after all that time and effort. Whilst I will not dispute the fact that you can get more flavour into a cake if you have let it mature and continued to feed it with alcohol for a few weeks before icing but that does not mean that it is a compulsory stage of the process. 

This fruit cake recipe can be made and served on the same day. It fits into a nine inch round tin or an eight inch square tin. This year I made multiple fruit cakes as I put them into my christmas hampers. The square tin is good for hampers as you can cut it up to share between multiple hampers. Mary Berry suggests baking individual fruit cakes in old baked bean tins which is something I will definitely be trying in the future.

I like to decorate my cakes with fondant icing as a base than then pipe royal icing decorations over the top.

This year was the first time that I tied news paper around the cake tin whilst it baked. Having always thought that it was a waste of time I will admit that it did make sure that the cake much more evenly throughout. If you have time I would suggest it but it is not necessary but I would suggest it you don't wrap the tin then you will need to keep a closer eye to the top of the cake as it cooks.


770g Sultanas
310g Raisins
180g Currants
150g Cherries
250g Prunes
130g Mixed Peel
100g Stem Ginger
3TBSP Marmalade
1TBSP Cocoa
1TSP Mixed Spices
1TSP Cinnamon
1/2 TSP Nutmeg
1/2 TSP Ground Clove
Zest of two clementine
Zest of a lemon
1TBSP Golden Syrup
1TBSP Treacle
9fl oz Brandy

250g Butter
230g Soft Brown Sugar
4 Eggs
250G Flour
60g Self Raising Flour

Method: If you have time then put all the fruits, spices and brandy into a bowl together cover and leave over night. If you don't have time don't bother. Preheat the oven to 150c or in a two door aga use the bottom oven. Cream the butter and sugar together. Then add the eggs one at a time. Next mix in the flours and the fruit. Put the mixture into a lined tin. Bake for 3.25-3.5hrs or until a skewer comes out clean.

If you are not serving it immediately then every few days or so make small holes into the cake with a cocktail stick and spoon over more brandy to taste. 

Chilli Jam

This year I have been inspired by Vanesse Kimbell who is trying to get people to make Christmas. My mother has always been a bit of a grinch at Christmas complaining about the commercialisation of it. She threatens to cancel Christmas every year and work in a soup kitchen. I am beginning to agree with her, the celebration of the Christmas season should start no earlier than Christmas eve and end on January 6th. I hate that shops now sell Christmas decorations from August. (I am aware that I am becoming preemtively middle aged in supporting this sentiment).  I have always thought Christmas hampers were a bit naff, full of things that you would never normally choose to buy and are not quite sure what to do with. But in the spirit of making christmas I though I would make two one for a family friend and another for my father. I am only going to put things in them that I know they like and will actually use.

Makes about 3 jars.

400g cherry tomatoes
9 red peppers
9 red chillies
6 garlic cloves
a thumb-sized chunk of root ginger
700g sugar
200ml cider vinegar

Finely chop the tomatoes, peppers, chillies, garlic and ginger. Put the sugar and vinegar into a pan over a low heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add the tomatoes, peppers, chillies, garlic and ginger and simmer until the liquid has reduced and the mixture has a thick, sticky consistency. Bring to the boil, and cook on high for 1 minute, being careful not to let the jam boil over. Pour the jam into hot, sterilised jars; where it will keep for up to a year, or 1 month in the fridge once you've opened it.

I have already had to make a second batch as my flatmates have been hamper raiding!

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Banana Muffins.

Three black bananas in the fruit bowl need I say more. This was a new recipe for me as my bananas loaf recipe makes very heavy muffins. These were extremely light and very delicious.


200g (7 oz) plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large bananas, mashed
150g (5 oz) caster sugar
1 egg
75g (2 1/2 oz) butter, soft


Preheat the oven to 180C or roasting oven with a cold shelf. This makes 12. Combine mashed bananas, sugar, egg and melted butter in a large bowl. Sift together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Fold in flour mixture, and mix until smooth. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden.

Black Bottom Cupcakes.

I thought that I would give these ago having tried one at my favourite haunt Cuckoos Bakery. I found the recipe which I followed on Mandy Mortimer's blog. Mine do not look like hers! I think the issue I came across is the cream cheese, here in Britain it must be softer than the American stuff. My cheese cake part pooled out as  a single runny layer over the top of the chocolate mixture rather than sitting as a lump in the centre of the chocolate batter. But they tasted delicious anyway even if they were slightly scruffy. I did find it difficult to tell when they were cooked as you had to stick a skewer through the cheese cake topping.

Cheesecake Filling:

225g Cream Cheese
1/3 cup Granulated Sugar
1 Egg
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
60g Dark Chocolate Chips (optional)

Chocolate Sponge:

1 1/2 cups Plain Flour
1 cup Granulated Sugar
1/3 cup Cocoa
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Salt
1 cup Water
1/3 cup Sunflower/Canola/Vegetable Oil
1 Tbsp White Vinegar
1 tsp Vanilla Extract


Preheat oven to 180°C or roasting oven with a cold shelf. This makes 12. Beat cream cheese until smooth. Add sugar, egg & vanilla then beat until combined. Mix in chocolate chips if you're adding them.

Sift together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into it. Stir to combine and mix until smooth.

Divide chocolate batter evenly between cupcake liners. Drop a spoonful of the cheesecake batter on to the chocolate batter in the middle. Bake for 20-25 mins. 

Friday, 25 November 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookies.

This weekend is the Durham Black Tie Reeling Ball which like the ball in Edinburgh last weekend I was meant to be going to. However having broken my arm very badly in the summer I am still banned from all types of sport. So last night I put my essay off for a while longer and made a batch of these to send down to Durham. The recipe made about two dozen unfortunately only one dozen survived to this morning. I don't have much hope that the rest will make it to their destination intact. Nina and Lally this is what they looked like and if they don't turn up you know who to blame! I would also appreciate it if someone could bring my one boot which Nina accidentally packed in her suitcase back with them.

1 1/2 cups Flour.
1/2 tsp Baking powder
3/4 tsp Salt
150g Butter
1/2 cup Light brown sugar
1/2 cup Granulated sugar
1 Large egg
2tsp Vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups Chocolate chips
1 cup of nuts (optional) 


Oven to 190C or second set of runners in roasting oven you maybe ok without a cold shelf but I would just watch them.
Cream the butter and sugars together, then beat in the egg and vanilla. Stir in the dry ingredients followed by the chocolate and nuts. Roll the dough into balls about 1-1 1/2 inches across and bake for 10-12 minutes. Don't put them too close as these do spread.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Peanut Butter Cookies.

This post is dedicated to Alice who is as Mabs would say a babe as she edits my essays. I made these to reward myself this afternoon after handing in 3000 words on newsprint in the 1640s fascinating or not as the case maybe. I am atrocious at making cookies as mine always spread to far and are never chewy so I thought I would start my quest for reliable cookies recipes with these. I must say that mine did not look as perfect as The Cultural dish's ones but they recipe worked perfectly and they tasted delicious.


2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon salt
100g butter, unsalted
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup sugar-1 cup crunchy peanut butter
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup salted, dry roasted peanuts.

Preheat oven to 180C or the second runners with a cold shelf in the roasting oven of the aga. Mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. Beat in the peanut butter until fully incorporated. Mix in the eggs one at a time and then add the vanilla. Slowly mix in the dry ingredients a little at a time until fully combined. Once the batter is well combined, stir in the peanuts.

Roll the dough into ping pong ball sized rounds about an 1 inch to 1.5 inches across. Press each cookie dough ball down with a fork to create a crisscross design. If the fork sticks to the dough you can dip it in cold water before pressing it down onto the dough, this works really well. I did not get a very defined criss cross pattern as it was broken up by the peanuts next time I would chop the nuts to the same size as the pieces in the peanut butter.

Bake until the cookies puff up and the edges are slightly browned (9-11) minutes, and make sure to rotate the pan halfway through. Be aware that the cookies will not look fully baked when done, so do not overcook them.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Easy Sticky Buns.

I have been meaning to make these for a while after seen Ina make them on the barefoot contessa and as we have a whole host of people coming to stay for the weekend this seemed like a good opportunity. I found the actual recipe on Gimme some oven but it is the one from the show. I love the barefoot contessa but alway baulk at cooking her recipes as although I know that they will be delicious they usually start with a whole packed of butter. I also made some double chocolate chip cookies but they did not last long enough for me to get a photo so I will have to make them again later.


1/3 cup light brown sugar.
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped in very large pieces.
1 pack puff pastry, either pre rolled or rolled to about 1/4inch thickness.
100g Butter.

2/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
3 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 cup raisins (optional)
12 cup muffin tin.

Preheat the oven to 200C or the second shelf of the aga roasting oven. Make sure butter is soft then mix it with the third of sugar until it is a paste. Split the mixture between the bottoms of the 12 muffin pans. Distribute the nuts between the pans on top of the sugar and butter.
Roll out the pastry. Sprinkle the rest of the sugar over the pastry with the cinnamon. At this point you can add any combination of more nuts or raisons that you fancy. Roll the pastry back up with the sugar etc inside. Next slice the roll up into 12. Place each swirl with the swirl facing up into one of the pans on top of the nuts and butter.
Bake in the oven for about 30mins. Once out of the oven leave to cool for about 5mins then up turn the whole pan. You should probably do this onto baking paper or tin foil. Some of the nuts will fall off at this point just put them back onto the top and once the sugar has cooled they will stick.

I am retrospectively entering this recipe into Tea Time Treats which is being hosted this month at Lavender and Lovage and What Kate Baked.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Lola's Copper Biscuits.

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2011

I stumbled across this cookie swap on an american blog I'm afraid that I cannot remember which one but it is being organised Love and Olive Oil and thought that it was a fabulous idea so I entered straight away. There are two problems with this though: firstly being that I'm just a little bit of a perfectionist when it come to serving my food so I going to have to make so many batches to get three dozen I am happy with and secondly I am useless at making cookies. The always spread far to much and never end up being chewy. Oh well I suppose practice makes perfect. I thought I would start with a recipe I was given by a friend of my mothers. It was a recipe of her mothers and is apparently fail safe. Copper biscuits are essentially some where between a ginger bread and ginger snap. They have the flavour of a ginger snap but the chewy texture of a ginger bread man. If you are a biscuit dunker like me then these are the biscuits for you.
2 1/2 cups Self raising flour
1 cup Sugar
3tbsp Hot water
1tbsp Golden syrup
3oz Margarine
1 1/2 tsp Ground ginger
1 tsp Bicarbonate of soda

Pre heat the oven to 180C or in the aga the grid shelf in the bottom of the roasting oven with a cold self. Rub the margarine into the sugar and flour until you have the consistency of bread crumbs. Next add in the bicarb, ginger, golden syrup and the water. Bring together the mixture into a dough, roll the dough into walnut sized balls and put onto a baking tray. Bake for about ten minutes until golden brown.
For my christmas hampers I added chopped stem ginger to the basic recipe and then dunked them into dark chocolate.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Apple Tarte Tatin.

I made this for pudding last night as one of my flatmates little brothers is staying and she wanted to have some friends for supper so he could meet them. We don't have a metal handled frying pan in our flat which you need for this recipe as you have to pt the pan in the oven. So I improvised with a shallow Le Creuset pan, which worked well. The quantities are based on a 9inch pan I ended up using significantly more!


Enough eating apples to fill you chosen pan once they have been peeled and cored. For a nine inch pan this will be about 6 medium sized apple.
4oz unsalted butter.
3/4 cup granulated sugar. I split this half and half with soft brown sugar as I had run out of granulated.

One packet of either puff or shortcrust pastry. If you are making it yourself this is about 8oz of flours worth of pastry. I used puff but I am reliably informed that shortcrust works just as well.

Peel, core, and quarter of the apples. Melt the butter in the pan and add the sugar stir until the two are combined but don't worry about waiting for the sugar to melt. Arrange the apples, however you wish but remember you serve it flipped out so what you will see is the surface touching the bottom of the pan. Don’t worry about the gaps peel more apples if you need to. Place the pan over medium-high heat until the liquid begins to bubble. After 15-20 minutes the juice from the apples will reduce and the caramel will become a deep golden colour. Don't worry if the caramel still looks very thin at this point it will thicken as it cools. Role your pastry out until it is slightly larger than the pan. Place it on top of the fruit and tuck the edges into the pan with a knife. Bake 25 to 30 minutes until the pastry is a golden colour at 180C of for the aga the bottom rung of the top oven but watch it as you may need to put a cold shelf in. Let the tart rest for 5 minutes before flipping it out, this lets the caramel thicken slightly so when you do flip it it doesn't run off the plate but sticks to your tart.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Butterscotch and White Chocolate Blondies.

This year instead of baking as a form of productive procrastination I am only letting myself bake when I have finished my work. I finished my dissertation proposal this afternoon so thought I would spend the evening baking a new recipe. I have read on a number of blogs about people making blondies which seem to be a white chocolate brownies. So I thought I would give them a go this recipe came of the blog jolts &jollies. This turned out to be a great recipe and one I will definitely make them again, my flatmate has already eaten six.

2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
150g unsalted butter
3 eggs

Preheat oven to 180C or in a two door aga the grid shelf in the bottom of the roasting oven with a cold self. Line a 9x13 inch pan roughly the small aga roasting pan. Combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder and salt in large mixing bowl. To brown the butter heat it in a small pan stirring constantly until it goes a light brown colour. Then pull it off the heat and leave it cool in the pan where it will continue to get darker until it looks a bit darker than golden syrup. whisk together the eggs and browned butter. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ones. Fold in the chocolate chips and spread in the pan. Bake for 30minutes until a knife comes out clean. They should still be gooey in the middle.

Chocolate Mousse Layer Cake.

It was my flatmates 21st this week and I wanted to make something slightly more interesting than sponge but did not have a huge amount of time on my hands. We also have one friend who is allergic to wheat and another nuts. So I decided to start with a chocolate roulade sponge in between which I would layer up different chocolate mousses. chocolate roulade of swiss role sponges are a great one to remember as they have no flour or fat in them.


175g/6oz plain chocolate.
175g/6oz caster sugar.
6 eggs, separated.
2 level tbsp cocoa, sieved.
33cm x 23cm (13in x 9in) Swiss roll tin I never use a tin instead I fold one out of baking parchment.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Melt the chocolate slowly in a bowl over a pan of hot water. Allow to cool slightly. Place the sugar and egg yolks in a bowl and whisk with an electric whisk on a high speed until light and creamy. Add the cooled chocolate and stir until evenly blended. Whisk the egg whites in a large mixing bowl until stiff but not dry. Stir a large spoonful of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture, mix gently and then fold in the remaining egg whites, then the cocoa. Mixing in the spoonful of white may seem like a waste of air but it makes it easier to fold the rest together as the mixtures will now be a more similar constancy. Pour into the prepared tin and gently level the surface. Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes until firm to the touch.
Chocolate mousse:

1oz dark chocolate
1 egg separated.

For the amount of sponge I had made I used 2oz and 2eggs. If I were to make this recipe again I would probably 1.5 times the sponge mixture and use three eggs. Not because there was not enough it easily fed 8-10, but because I was cutting it up to layer it. When you cut something down to size there is always an amount of wastage meaning the amount of sponge was quite tight. Melt the chocolate and allow to cool slightly. Then mix the egg yolks into the chocolate. In a separate clean bowl whisk the egg whites to a stiff peak. Fold the whites into the chocolate remembering to slacken off the chocolate as you did with the roulade. Normally you would now put the mixture into whatever you are going to serve it in and them into the fridge. If I were making this recipe for a pudding on its own the general rule is one egg and one ounce of chocolate per person.

White chocolate mousse:

90g white chocolate.
45ml milk.
1 egg white.
110ml double cream.

Melt the chocolate , stir in milk and set aside. This stops the chocolate ceasing. Whip the egg whites until stiff, then fold into the chocolate mixture until well combined.Whisk the cream until it forms soft peaks and gently fold into the chocolate mixture. This was a Nigella recipe which I had not used before it worked well for this as it was going with other dark chocolate components but it was far too sweet to be eaten on its own.

I assembled it by cutting the sponge into two squares and layering in up sponge, chocolate mouse, sponge and white chocolate mousse on the top. I had to cut squares as I had not made enough sponge but this would have been much easier to do if I had had enough to assemble it in the ring of a cake tin. I would have got a much neater finish as the mixture would have had straight sides. I also finished of the top with fresh raspberries. I will definitely make this again as a smart birthday cake or even just as a pudding. It is quite rich so is probably best served as a pudding rather than as a tea time cake. You could easily use orange chocolate for the mousse and brush grande marnier into the sponge if you wanted to make it a bit different.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Crab apple jelly.

There is nothing better than making something out of nothing while still avoiding the black banana syndrome. For those of you who have never heard of the phrase black banana it is the idea that when you find something about to go off you are so keen not to let the money you have spent on it go to waste that you buy a host of other ingredients to cook something you really don't need. I spent this last weekend making jellies out of ingredients I collected from around the farm.

Jellies all work from the same basic ratio. When using acidic fruit that has its own pectin in it you use 750g granulated sugar to 1 litre of juice. you can use any combination which you fancy. I made four different batches crab apple, crab apple and rowan berry, crab apple and blackberry and spiced damson.

Start by cooking the fruit in a large pan with water just covering the fruit. If you are using soft fruit such as damsons or apples it will have broken down enough to pass through the muslin on its own if you are using harder fruit such as haws or rose hips you will need to mash them with a potato masher. Next allow the fruit to pass through a jelly bag or a muslin suspended above an upturned stool. Traditional recipes will tell you not to squeeze the fruit as it will make the jelly cloudy. I always ignore this as it is such a waste of juice but I do put the juice back through another muslin to strain out any sediment which you have pushed through.

At this point you can put the juice in the fridge for a couple of days if you do not have time to deal with it now. 2litres of juice will make about 5 lb jars of jelly. Put the juice and sugar in a large pan over a low heat until the sugar has melted. Once the sugar has melted turn the heat right up so it reaches a rolling boil and spoon off any scum. Every recipe I have read says that once it has been brought to a boil it should only take about five minutes to reach  a setting point I have always found that it takes much longer than this. If you have a jam thermometer setting point should be 106c. If you don't have a thermometer boil it until it wrinkles when a small amount is put on a cold plate. 

Once this has been done put it immediately into clean jam jars covering the top with wax discs before putting the lids on. Try to put the lid on when the jam is still hot as as the jar cools the contraction will create a better seal. If you wish to flavour the jelly there are two ways I have made apple and rosemary jelly cooking the fruit before straining it with rosemary and then placing a fresh sprig inn every jar which looked very pretty through the clear jelly. Or you can add the flavour when boiling it up with sugar, this is what I did with the spiced damson jelly. I added star anise, a cinnamon stick and some whole cloves which I then removed before jarring.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Cake Pops.

The village fete was this weekend and as such I wash expected to produce a cake for the baking stall. Usually this would be a good excuse to try out some new recipes. However currently our kitchen is a building site and all I have to cook with is a camping stove, a microwave and the George Forman. I therefore decided to try my hand at cake pops which seem to be the 'in' thing to be making.

On this occasion I used a bought chocolate cake and Betty Crocker chocolate fudge cake icing. But in future I think it would be worth using home made icing but I don't think it would worth making your own cake. I also used normal white chocolate rather than candy melts which most recipes advised. Candy melts come in lots of colours and set very quickly to make life much easier. Chocolate worked fine but you did have to be careful with its consistency, to thick and the decorations did not stick to it and too thin and the chocolate simply ran off rather than setting.

Lolly pop sticks.
Cake any flavour you chose.
Butter cream icing of a relevant flavour to the cake you are using.
Chocolate or candy melts.
Decorations I used coloured sugar, hundreds and thousands and mini marshmallows.

Break the cake down to crumbs and stir in enough icing so it forms a dry paste like consistency roll the mixture into balls approx the size of a two pound coin. Remember that they get bigger once you have decorated them. Make a small hole in them with one of the sticks and leave in the fridge. Melt the chocolate dip the end of each stick into the chocolate them place a stick into each of the holes. Return them to the fridge this sticks the pops to the stick to allow for easier icing. Once the chocolate has set dip the pops into the chocolate to coat while the chocolate is still setting decorate them. I then placed them in an old bit of Styrofoam to keep the upright.

As it was my first attempt I kept mine very simple but there are loads of examples of the internet of people being much more creative with their shapes and decorations. I finished mine off by wrapping them individually in cellophane and tying them off with a small bow.

Strawberry Jam.

Only my Father eats strawberry jam in our house so I have never bothered to make it before preferring raspberry instead. This year he convinced me to make a small amount for him. I think many people are scared of making jam believing that it is difficult and time consuming. This is so not the case you don't have to spend hours once a year making huge quantities instead spend half and hour making a couple of jars. I would like to know more about jam making though, what is the difference between normal caster and jam sugar. I have never used jam sugar but some recipes insist on it. The only piece of equipment I would advise buying if you are going to make jam is a jam thermometer as this does making it easier to know when you have reached the setting point.

I used equal amounts of caster sugar and strawberries. Approximately the juice of one lemon per 600g of fruit. If you prefer jam with large lumps of strawberries still in it the place all the ingredients in a bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave in a cool place over night. Before you start place a saucer in the freezer. Put the mixture in a large pan heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Once the sugar has dissolved bring it to the boil for about for minutes or until it has reached 104c. Spoon a small amount onto the saucer after a couple of minutes if the surface wrinkles when you put you finger in it it is ready. If not return to a boil and give it another couple of minutes. Skim off the scum and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before putting into sterilised jars. If you put it straight into jars all the fruit rises to the top.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Lemon and Raspberry Tarts.

The other day I bought a set of individual tart tins I really like individual puddings they instantly look so much smarter than something you have tried to cut up nicely. The problem with them is though that you do have to slightly alter recipes to fit the new dimensions both for quantities and cooking time. I had been meaning to try out Heston Blumenthal's lemon tart recipe as you don't have to bake the lemon mixture only the pastry cases. I have a habit of when blind baking, always either ending up with slightly uncooked pastry on the bottom or a burned rim. This therefore seemed an ideal solution and a good excuse to try out my new tins. I took them along as pudding for a picnic which they were perfect for. The quantity of pastry lined 10tins but the mixture only filled 8.

For the pastry I used my standard short crust pastry recipe which I use for everything.

8oz Flour
5oz Butter
Zest of a lemon
2oz Icing sugar
An egg yolk
The juice of a lemon

Put all the dry ingredients into a blender until you have a bread crumb texture. Then add the yolk and enough juice to bring the mixture together. Chill before working with. With small tins like these I don't bother rolling the pastry out I cut slices of a sausage shaped roll and push them together in the tin.

3 Unwaxed Lemons
170g unsalted butter
220g caster sugar
5 Eggs
1 Egg yolk

Blind bake the pastry first. Put the butter and sugar into a pan with the juice, zest and eggs and place the pan over a medium heat. Stir continuously for 10-15 minutes (do not allow to simmer) until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat to medium-high and stir until it begins to simmer; simmer for 5 seconds literally, then remove from the heat. Pass the mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl.You do actually do need to do this because the minute that you stop stirring the egg will start to scramble but the little lumps sieve out easily. Cover with clingfilm to avoid a skin forming, and place the bowl in the fridge to cool for 30 minutes.

When cold, pour the lemon filling into the centre of the tart allowing the lemon curd to flow evenly to the edges. Place in the fridge for at least 1 hour or until set. I also stuck raspberries onto the top as it was easier for a picnic rather than serving along side and having to use cutlery. In the end I would use the raspberries on the top again as the looked great.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Women's Institute.

I would love to be a member of the women's institute as I enjoy learning from others about traditional crafts but there is a stigma surrounding the WI. Members are perceived as old women with too much time on their hands who fill said time learning crafts that have no real value. Being a member is seen as backwards and almost anti-feminist supporting old fashioned ideas of male chauvinism. This is such a shame as there is so much to be learned from others life experiences. My mother makes beautiful silk lampshades and curtains it would give her great pleasure to teach others these skills. I would love to learn from others experiences and even mistakes. For example anyone know a jam expert, I tried making strawberry jam (I will post the recipe) it tastes delicious but has not set very hard and I would love to know why. I also always struggle making jams on our Aga as I cannot get it hot enough to reach a rolling boil have I got the Aga turned down to low or should I be using the oven rather than the top. Anyhow back to the point I have various friends who would want to join a WI but we don't want to be the only ones there who are not retired. We want to learn old fashion skills without having to pay to go on expensive courses. Blogs seem to be the new WI everyone shares ideas and advice over then internet rather than in person. This is certainly a convenient method but can it really beat the companionship of face to face contact. The WI maybe out of date but the principles behind it are still relevant to society today I just wish that somehow they could make it feel less antiquated.