Friday, 29 December 2017

Chocolate Sponge & Pink Custard - School Dinners

Somebody who watches, and comments, on my Youtube videos recently mentioned that she remembered a chocolate sponge, with pink custard, that she had as part of her school dinners.  That took me back more than 50 years to when I was a school and had the same thing.  Having done some research I see that many people recall this particular dessert.  Others enjoyed a coconut sponge with jam and pink custard.  So that might be another recipe I will try out sometime.  But for today I am sticking with Chocolate Sponge and Pink Custard.  My viewer remembers it as Buffalo pudding or sponge but I didn't encounter that in my searches. 

For my sponge I opted for a tried and tested method of weighing the eggs, still in the shells, and using that weight to inform the remaining ingredients.  In the recipe below I will put the weights I used, but they can be adjusted by the size of the eggs.

As for the pink custard, well that was always a bit of a cheat at school since it wasn't custard at all but pink blancmange served warm, before it could set.  Blancmange is not so common these days in the UK, but you can still buy packs of four flavours in most supermarkets.  I used one sachet from such a pack, raspberry flavoured.  Of course the pink custard is not mandatory, normal custard, or chocolate sauce or, indeed, any fruit sauce would be just fine too.

My chocolate sponge turned out very well, nice and light with a lovely flavour,for a more intense chocolate flavour more cocoa powder could be added, but I didn't need that.  Served with the pink custard it was very good indeed.
Chocolate Sponge & Pink Custard 

Chocolate Sponge & Pink Custard - Video

For the sponge:
  • 3 large egss, weighed with shells on(205 grams) - (XL in USA)
  • same weight, 205g self raising flour(a good 1 1/2 cups)
  • same weight, 205g caster sugar(1 cup will be fine)
  • same weight, 205g softened butter(3/4 cup + 2 1/2 tbsp)
  • 25g cocoa powder(3 tbsp) (more for a stronger chocolate flavour)
  • 30ml milk(2 tbsp)
For the pink custard:
  • 1 sachet of raspberry or strawberry blancmange powder
  • 568ml(1 pint) milk
  • 45g(3tbsp) caster sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F
  2. Grease and line an 8" square cake tin(larger could be used, but will give a thinner cake so baking time should be adjusted).
  3. In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, with a tablespoon of flour each time, and beat until combined.
  5. Sift the flour and cocoa powder into the bowl and fold in until combined(or do it very with a mixer on very low speed).
  6. Add the milk whilst mixing in the flour.
  7. When all has been mixed together place the batter into the cake tin and spread out until it covers the entire tin and is fairly level.
  8. Bang the tin a couple of times, on the counter, to remove any large air bubbles.
  9. Place in the oven and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a skewer poked into the centre comes out clean.
  10. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  11. Place the blancmange powder into a bowl with the caster sugar and three of tablespoons of milk and mix to a paste.
  12. Heat the remaining milk until warm and pour  a little over the blancmange paste.
  13. Mix thoroughly until all is combined.
  14. Pour the remaining warm milk into the mixture and stir until combined.
  15. Pour mixture back into the saucpan and heat until just boiling, stirring all the time.
  16. Allow to simmer gently for one minute.
  17. Remove from the heat and pour into a jug for serving.
  18. While still warm any excess can be poured into a small bowl and placed in the fridge to set as blancmange.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Fig & Date Bundles - For Christmas

I was looking around for an alternative to mince pies for Christmas.  I love mince pies but I know that not everybody enjoys them.  In my searches I came across a recipe on Better Homes and Gardens for what they call Italian Fig Bundles.  They looked wonderful in the photograph and the recipe read quite well.  So I decided that I would make them, but call them Fig & Date Bundles as both those ingredients figure in large measure.

Basically a dough is rolled and cut into shapes.  Half the shapes have a lovely fig and date filling(with raisins, pine nuts and orange) placed on top and then a second shape, with an 'X' cut into it, placed on top and pressed down around the side.  The 'X' will open up to show off the filling. 

This does seem a great alternative to mince pies, or just as a lovely addition to Christmas treats.

Although the recipe details the ingredients for the filling I am sure they can be varied to include, for instance, dried apricots, chopped hazelnuts to make whatever flavour you enjoy.

I must say I loved the result of my bake they looked good and tasted even better.  They had the lovely crisp pastry and the rich, fruity filling.  These are perfect for the holiday season.
Fig & Date Bundles

Fig & Date Bundels - Video

For the dough:
  • 480g(3 3/4 cups) plain flour
  • 150g(3/4 cup) caster sugar
  • 170g(3/4 cup) softened unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 60ml(1/4 cup milk)
  • 1 medium egg(large in USA)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
For the filling:
  • 35g(1/4 cup) raisins
  • 42g (1.3 cup) pine nuts
  • 110g(2/3 cup) pitted dates, chopped
  • 130g(2./3 cup) dried figs, chopped(I used soft-dried)
  • zest of an orange
  • 45ml orange juice
  • 1/2tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg with 1 tbsp of water for brushing over the top.
  1. In a large bowl whisk the butter(I used my hand mixer) until nice and fluffy, about 30 seconds depending on how soft it is.
  2. Add the sugar and whisk until all combined.
  3. Add the salt, egg, milk and vanilla extract and beat until all is combined.
  4. Mix the baking powder into the flour and pour all into the wet mixture.
  5. Mix together until it forms clumps and all the flour is mixed in.
  6. Use your hands to pull the dough together into one large ball.
  7. Divide into four and wrap each part in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  8. In a food processor(I used the processing attachment of my immersion blender, half mixture each time), place the figs, dates, pine nuts, raisins, orange zest, orange juice and cinnamon. 
  9. Process until all has been combined into a paste.
  10. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F
  11. Line a couple of baking trays with parchment paper or silicone mats.
  12. Roll out a portion of the dough to a thickness of an 1/8th inch/3mm and then cut out an equal number of squares or circles using a serrated pastry wheel or a cookie cutter.  The circles should be 2 1/2 inches/just over 6 cm and squares should be 2 inches/5 cm.  
  13. Place half onto a baking tray and brush the edges with egg wash.
  14. Place a scant teaspoon of the fig mixture into the centre of each piece on the tray.
  15. With a very sharp knife cut an 'X' into each of the remaining pieces.
  16. Carefully place each piece with an 'X' over the heap of fig mixture and press down the edges onto the pastry base.  
  17. Brush all over with an egg wash and sprinkle with some coarse sugar.
  18. Bake in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes until the bundles are a nice golden brown.  
  19. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Friday, 22 December 2017

Cornflake Tart

I recently had a request, on my Youtube channel,  for a cornflake tart recipe.  The lady who requested it wants to make in for her husband who has fond memories his school dinners where it was served.  Having read up a little bit about cornflake tart it seems that is was fairly common on the menu at schools years ago.  Some recipes add some coconut to the tart but I am going with a basic recipe, most seem to be fairly standard, with pastry, cornflakes butter and golden syrup.  It also has a layer of strawberry jam on the base of the pastry case to give another flavour to enjoy. I followed a recipe from Bakingmad

This is another fairly straighforward recipe and doesn't take much effort, but it does require some waiting time, to let the pastry chill.  Then the pastry is blind-baked before being line with jam and topped with the cornflake mixture and baked for a few more minutes.  Then, once it has cooled a little it will set firmer and, I guess, will be ideal served with lashings of custard. 

I have to say my tart turned out very well indeed and tasted great, with the sweet mixture coating the crunchy cornflakes, with a fruity strawberry jam and a very short pastry.  Just perfect with some custard. 
Cornflake Tart

Cornflake Tart - Video

For the pastry:
  • 80g unsalted butter, cold
  • 180g plain flour
  • 30ml cold water.
For the topping:
  • 100g cornflakes
  • 65g unsalted butter
  • 135g golden syrup
  • 30g dark brown sugar
  • 100g strawberry jam
  • pinch of salt
  1. Place the flour and 80g butter into a large bowl and rub between your fingers until the texture resembles breadcrumbs(this can be done in a food processor).
  2. Gradually add the cold water and mix together until till the mixture starts to form clumps. 
  3. Use your hands to pull the mixture into a dough that comes cleanly away from the sides of the bowl.
  4. Form the dough into a disc shape and place in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for an hour.
  5. Once chilled take the dough from the fridge and place on a lightly floured work surface and roll out to a circle about 28cm/11 inches in diameter.
  6. Place the dough into a 23cm/9inch fluted tart tin, pressing the sides into the flutes.  Leave any excess in place for the time being.
  7. Place the dough back into the fridge for 30 minutes.
  8. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F
  9. Prick all over the surface of the dough with a fork.
  10. Line the dough with parchment paper and cover with baking beans(or rice, beans etc).
  11. Blind bake for 15 minutes, then remove the baking beans and parchment paper and bake for a further 5 - 10 minutes until the bottom is fully baked.
  12. Remove from the oven and place to one side.
  13. Place the 65g butter, sugar, golden syrup and salt in a saucepan and heat until all is melted, stirring until the sugar is fully dissolved.
  14. Remove from the heat and gently stir in the cornflakes.
  15. Spread the stawberry jam evenly over the base of the tart case.
  16. Cover with the cornflake mixture and gently spread around to make it as even as possible.
  17. Bake in the oven for 5 minutes.
  18. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes. 
  19. Remove from the tin and place on a wire rack to cool further.  As it cools the filling will firm up. 
  20. Serve very slightly warm, or cold, with custard if desired. You need to leave it long enough for the syrup to set everything together.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Spiced Cupcakes For Christmas

Having made my speculaas last week I was so enamoured of the flavour of the spices that I wanted to make something else with them too.  I decided to make some cupcakes and was all set to go when I discovered a recipe on Bakingmad for ginger and cinnamon cupcakes.  Although I wanted to use the speculaas spices I just loved that recipe.  So I decided to use that, but to substiture my spices.  

The cupcakes are topped with a buttercream that has a caramel sauce mixed in and drizzled over the top.  I think that is what I found so appetising about this particular recipe.

As ever with cupcakes they are easy to make and then it is simply a little extra work to make the buttercream and the sauce as well.  

It is well worth the effort since mine turned out wonderfully well.  The flavour of the spices is simply wonderful and the cupcakes so light and soft mixed with the sweet and flavoursome buttercream.  Of course, you can use any combination of spices you wish, as long as you don't put too much in.  1 1/2 teaspoons seems to be an ideal amount, giving a nice hit of spices but not too over-powering.

I made more spice mixture than I needed for the recipe, so that I would have some left over to use at a later date. So here I detail my particular mixture, but you can whatever you like.
Spiced Christmas Cupcakes

Spiced Cupcakes For Christmas - Video

Spice Mix:
  • 3 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground mace
  • 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
  • 150g self rasing flour
  • 150g softened unsalted butter
  • 150g light brown muscovado sugar
  • 3 medium eggs(large in the USA)
  • 15ml milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp of spice mix(or 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp ginger and a pinch nutmeg)
Frosting and Sauce:
  • 200g softened, unsalted butter
  • 50g light brown muscovado sugar
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp milk
  • 1/4 tsp of spice mix
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F
  2. Line a muffin tin with paper cases
  3. In a large bowl whisk the butter and sugar together until nice and creamy
  4. Add the eggs, one at at time with a little flour, and whisk until fully combined.
  5. Add the milk and mix until combined.
  6. Put the spice mix into the remaining flour and mix together.
  7. Add the flour and spices into the wet mixture and gently mix until just combined.
  8. Spoon the mixture, in equal amounts, into the paper cases.
  9. Bake in the oven until risen and golden, about 15 to 20 minuntes, and a skewer poked in the centre comes out clean.
  10. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
  11. In a small saucepan place 50g of the butter and the 50g muscovado sugar together with 2 tablespoons of mik. 
  12. Heat until it starts to boil and the sugar is fully dissolved. The sauce should thicken slightly.
  13. As the sauce cools place the remaining butter in a bowl whisk the butter to ensure it is nice and soft.
  14. Add the icing sugar and mix into the butter, carefully to avoid big clouds being released.
  15. When they are mixed together, even without being creamy, add the cooled sauce retaining 2.5 tablespoons for drizzling.
  16. Mix the sauce into the butter and sugar mixture until it is all smooth and creamy, adding milk only if required.
  17. If the consistency seems a little too soft for frosting add some more icing sugar until you achieve the consistency you wish.
  18. Place the frosting into a piping bag and pipe on the top of all the muffins(or just spoon it over if you wish).
  19. Drizzle a little of the remaining sauce on the top of the frosting.
  20. Allow to sit for a while for the frosting to firm up.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Cherry Madeira Cake

I decided to make a cake with Morello glace cherries in.  I have done a similar cake before a few years back.  But for this one I decided upon a Madeira cake, though flavoured with some almond extract rather than the more traditional lemon.  Almond flavour goes so well with cherries that I was sure it would be good.

The recipe is quite simple, so the cake is easy to make.  Just mix the ingredients and put them in a loaf tin, then bake for an hour.

For me, Madeira cake is ideal with afternoon tea, so this cherry version will be a welcome change to the normal cake.

Mine turned out very well indeed, and the taste is so very good.  The almond flavour in the cake comes through and then the occasional bite of cherry too.  This cake is very moreish and is a welcome change to all the rich food we shall all be eating over the holiday period.
Cherry Madeira Cake

Cherry Madeira Cake - Video

  • 240g softened unsalted butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 210g self raising flour
  • 90g plain flour
  • 20ml milk
  • 5ml almond extract
  • 3 large eggs(XL in USA)
  • 150g glace cherries, washed, dried and halved.
  • Extra flour to toss the cherries in.
  1. Preheat the oven to 170C/150C Fan/325F.
  2. Grease and line a 2lb/900g loaf tin.
  3. In a large bowl place the butter and sugar and cream together until nice and fluffy(I used a hand mixer).
  4. Add the eggs to the butter mixture, one at a time with a little flour to prevent curdling, and mix until combined.
  5. Add the milk and almond extract and mix to combine.
  6. Add the flours and mix until just combined, don't over mix.
  7. Toss the cherries in a little flour to coat them.
  8. Add the cherries to the batter and gently stir in.
  9. Place the batter into the prepared loaf tin and level off.
  10. Sprinkle with a little caster sugar if you wish.
  11. Bake in the oven for 1 hour, until the cake has risen(it should split on the top, that is normal) and a skewer poked in the middle comes out clean.
  12. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for ten minutes, then remove from the loaf tin and take off the paper.  
  13. Cool on a wire rack before slicing.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Spiced Cookies - Speculaas

Getting ready for Christmas and the holiday season I thought I would try out another cookie, from the low countries, Belgium and The Netherlands(and elsewhere too I suspect).  Speculaas are a crunchy cookie that are usually made with the dough being pressed into moulds to create a shape.  They are eaten on St Nicholas Eve and Day, which is around December 5th and 6th.  They are spiced cookies with four main spices cinnamon, nutmeg(or mace) ginger and cloves.  But other spices are very common, added to that standard set.  It is possible to buy a speculaas spice mix but for mine I mixed my own combination, using suggestions from various recipes that I read. I also read that cinnamon is usually about 50% of the total amount of spice, so I made sure that was the case with mine.

So as well as the four standard spices I used coriander, cardamom, mace and white pepper, as well as a little salt.

The aroma from mixing the spices was phenomenal and made me wonder whether I had actually made too strong a combination.  But when they were baked the flavour was fantastic, very subtle, maybe I could have used just a little more ginger, but other than that the cookies were really great.  

I made a large amount of dough and have frozen half of it so that I can make the cookies again specifically for Christmas.  This bake today was more to check that the cookies would turn out fine with my recipe and that the flavour would be fine. 
Spiced Cookies - Speculaas

Spiced Cookies - Speculaas - Video
Ingredients:(for a double batch as I froze half of it):
Although I include all the spices I used if you want to use just the standard ones that is fine, just use the larger amounts I include below:

For the cookies:
  • 380g plain flour
  • 100g ground almonds (mine were finely ground)
  • 225g softened unsalted butter
  • 300g light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 4-6 tbsp milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger (1 tsp if only using standard spices)
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (1 tsp if only using standard spices)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves )1 tsp if only using standard spices)
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander, if desired
  • 1/2tsp ground cardamom, if desired
  • 1/4 tsp ground mace, if desired
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper, if desired
For icing:
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 2 to 3 tsp water, with a little lemon juice if you like.
  1. Mix all the spices and the salt together in a small bowl.
  2. Place the vanilla extract butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat until they are creamy and all combined.
  3. Add the spices, baking powder and almonds to the flour and mix to combine 
  4. Add the flour mixture to the butter and stir until you have a stiff dough, adding just enough of the milk to make that happen.  Use a hand to help the mixture come together until you have a dough.
  5. Shape the dough into a thick sausage and, if you wish to freeze some, cut in two and wrap half in plastic wrap and place in the freezer.
  6. Cut the remaining dough in two and form each part into discs, then wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for two hours.
  7. Lightly flour the work surface and roll out one disc of dough to a thickness of about 5mm, between 1/8 and 1/4 inch.
  8. Cut out shapes using cookie cutters of choice and place on a baking tray line with parchment paper.
  9. Repeat the process with the second disc.
  10. Chill in the fridge again while you preheat the oven to 165C/145C Fan/330F.
  11. Place the cookies in the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until they have changed colour and are just beginning to darken at the edges. The longer you bake them the more crunchy they will be.
  12. Remove from the and cool on a wire rack.
  13. Mix two teaspoons of water into the icing sugar and mix to a stiff paste.
  14. Add more water until the mixture is a thick piping consistency.
  15. Then drizzle or pipe the icing, in zig-zags over the cookies and allow to set.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Almond Stuffed Cookies - Gevulde Koeken

I have been reading a lot lately, and viewing videos, of Dutch baking.  The Dutch love almonds, they use them in so many of their baking recipes and I really liked the look of Gevulde Koeken, which means 'stuffed cake', or cookie.  These are very popular and the same ingredients are used to make Kano or Rondo which are canoe shaped or round cakes filled with almond paste and covered in a very light pastry.  I am able to buy the Kano, as Almond Fingers in my local supermarket and simply love them.  So I decided I had to try to make something along those lines.  Finding it impossible to buy the moulds for Kano I opted for this simpler version 'stuffed cakes.

Basically it is a lovely pastry filled with almond paste.  Almond paste is similar to marzipan, but has a different ratio of almonds to sugar.  Marzipan is much sweeter.  It could be used but making my own almond paste seemed the best idea.

Since I also intend to make Gevulde Speculaas, which is a traditional Dutch cake for St Nicholas day or eve, heavily spiced, I made double the amount of almond paste.  But in the recipe below I simply give the amounts needed for these Almond Stuffed Cookies.

The recipe is simple, make the pastry, make the paste, assemble and top with almonds as necessary and then brush with egg.  What could be easier.  

The resultant cookies, or cakes, however you wish to call them are simply delicious, with a lovely crisp cookie exterior and the soft paste inside, with a hint of lemon.

I should say that I used cake and pastry flour, which is a very soft and finely ground flour, similar to Zeeland flour from Holland,  but plain flour(all purpose) flour would be very good too.
Almond Stuffed Cookies

Almond Stuffed Cookies - Video

For the pastry:
  • 300g cake & pastry flour(or plain/all purpose flour)
  • 200g softened unsalted butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 6g baking powder
  • 1/2 a medium egg, whisked(25g) (large in USA)
For the almond paste:
  • 150g ground almonds(as finely ground as you can)
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 2 medium eggs, whisked(large in USA)
  • a little water, if needed
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • a drop of almond extract, optional
For the top:
  • Remainder of the pastry egg, for brushing
  • Blanched, peeled, almonds for decoration
  1. Place the butter and sugar into a large bowl and cream together until light and fluffy(I used a hand mixer).
  2. Add the 1/2 egg and beat to combined.
  3. Add the flour, with baking powder mixed into it, in two additions and gently work into the wet mixture until all is combined into a soft paste.
  4. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 1 hour.
  5. Place the ground almonds and sugar into a bowl(if the ground almonds are not very fine process them with the sugar in a food processor to make the grains smaller).
  6. Mix together and add the lemon zest and mix in.
  7. Add the eggs and a drop of almond extract if using it, a little at a time, mixing until you have a soft paste it needs to be of the consistency that could be piped from a bag but still hold its' shape.  You may not need all the egg, or you may need a little water to achieve the consistency.
  8. The paste can be made the day before and chilled in the fridge(don't eat the paste raw as it has uncooked egg at this stage).
  9. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F
  10. Roll the pastry out to 1/8 inch/3 cm thickness and cut out 10cm round circles, re-rolling as necessary.  I got 14 rounds, so 7 cookies.
  11. Place a mound of almond paste in the middle of half of the pastry circles.
  12. Brush around the edges with egg.
  13. Place the other half of the pastry circles on the tops and gently press down to seal the edge, leaving a mound in the middle which encases the almond paste.
  14. Brush the tops with egg and decorate with 1, 3 or 5 blanched almonds as required.
  15. Brush again with egg and bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the tops are lovely dark golden brown.
  16. Remove from the oven and transfer to wire rack to cool.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Sultana Scones

Scones are one of my favorites, especially with sultanas or raisins in them. So I decided to make some.  The texture of the English style of scone is different to the North American one, it is less cake-line, and should be light and fluffy and slightly crumbly as well.  Best eaten fresh they can be heated in the oven to refresh them if not eaten on the day of baking. 

I made a mistake with my cookie cutter, using 8cm rather than 7cm so my scones were larger than I intended, but they still turned out very well indeed.

Once cold I opened one up and spread it with butter to eat with a cup of tea.  Of course, clotted cream and jam is a very traditional way of serving scones, so that would be very good too.  

Mine tasted very good indeed and, eaten fresh, were very soft just as they should be.  After the first day the texture will become drier and harder, but that is easily remedied with a liitle heating in the oven as I mentioned earlier.

The recipe is very easy, if a little time consuming, the important thing is not to work the dough too much.  Having cut out the first tranche the remaining dough can be pulled together and more can be cut out. But after a second cutting the excess dough will still be ok to use, but the resultant scones are likely to be more cakey in texture.
Sultana Scones

Sultana Scones - video

  • 450g plain flour
  • 20g baking powder
  • 80g unsalted butter
  • 80g caster sugar
  • 70g sultanas(or other dried fruit)
  • 250ml milk
  • 2 medium eggs (large in USA)
  • 1 egg, salted lightly for brushing over the top.
  • Extra flour for the rolling out.
  1. Preheat the oven to 220C/200C Fan/430F
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. In a large bowl place the flour and baking powder and mix to fully combine.
  4. Add the butter and rub it into the flour using your finger tips. (A pastry cutter/blender can be used too), until you have a breadcrumb-like texture.
  5. Add the sugar and mix to combine.
  6. Add the sultanas and mix in.
  7. Add the eggs and most of the milk, holding back a couple of tablespoons.
  8. Using a knife stir the mixture to combine everything, you don't want to overwork the dough.
  9. Add a little more milk if required to get the dough combined and to a sticky texture.#
  10. Tip out onto a well floured work surface and turn to coat in flour.
  11. Form the dough into a rough oblong and then fold it in half, turn 90 degrees and fold again, and do the same two more times.
  12. Roll out the dough to a thickness of 2cm, about 1 inch, and cut out round shapes using a 7cm cookie cutter(just under 3 inches). Don't twist the cookie cutter, press straight down.
  13. Place the circles of dough on to the baking tray.
  14. Re-roll the dough, not working a lot, and cut out more.
  15. Re-roll again if you wish, but the resultant scones will be more cake-like.
  16. Whisk the egg and salt and brush over the tops of the scones.
  17. Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
  18. Remove from the oven and place the beautifully browned scones on a wire rack to cool down before serving.

Friday, 24 November 2017

Rum Balls

As we approach the holiday season I wanted to make some easy but tasty treats.  One of my ideas was rum balls and I checked on the internet and saw that Joyofbaking had a very simple recipe that looked good.  So I decided to make mine using that recipe as the basis.  

There is no baking required, it is simply a case of mixing various ingredients together and then forming into balls, coating with any variety of coverings available.

For mine I used some sweetened coconut flour to coat some balls, and then icing sugar, cocoa powder and ground hazelnuts for others.  I also opted for some melted chocolate for about half of the balls to give an even more decadent treat.

These balls are very easy to make and delicious to eat.  They can be served at any time and will be enjoyed by most adults.  The recipe can also be varied, with different flavours of alcohol or even using fruit juices if you want something that doesn't have alcohol in.  I have already to do a cherry and kirsch variant in the next few days, so that will appear on this blog very soon too.
Rum Balls
Rum Balls - Video
for the rum balls:
  • 150g finely ground hazelnuts(or any nut that you like, walnuts, pecans etc)
  • 125g finely ground biscuits, such as digestive, graham crackers, shortbread
  • 60g icing sugar
  • 15g cocoa powder
  • 60ml dark rum
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup(or corn syrup)
For the coating, any mixture you like will be fine. Depending on how many balls you wish to coat with each flavour you will need differing amounts, but small amounts only are necessary. I used:
  • sweetened coconut flour(dessicated coconut would be good too).  
  • cocoa powder
  • icing sugar
  • finely ground hazelnuts
  • melted dark chocolate(with some white chocolate or milk chocolate piped over later)
  1. In a large bowl place the hazelnuts, biscuits crumbs, icing sugar and cocoa powder.
  2. Mix until they are all evenly combined.
  3. Add the golden syrup and dark rum and stir until the mixture comes together into a clump.
  4. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for an hour.
  5. Remove the mixture from the fridge and form into 40 one inch balls.
  6. Roll each ball in one of the coating mixtures and set aside.  If using melted chocolate chill the balls in the fridge for about 15 minutes before dipping in the chocolate, draining the excess and placing on parchment paper for the chocolate to set hard.
  7. If desired pipe a little melted white chocolate or milk chocolate over the chocolate balls, in a zig-zag pattern and allow to set.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Crispy Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

Today I made some wonderfully crispy biscuits and sandwiched them together with a chocolate ganache.  I got the idea when I saw some pictures of a French biscut Prince Chocolate.  They are a two thin biscuits/cookies that are sandwiched with chocolate, with a pattern imprinted on them..  The biscuit has to be hard and crispy giving a crunch when eating, and then the rich chocolate flavour in the middle.  For mine I decided to make some patterned and a few plain too, just to see if there was a difference in how they baked, as much as anything else. 

The recipe is simple, but patience is needed to get as many biscuits out of the dough, since having cut out as many as you can it is necessary to chill the remaining dough before cutting out more.

Then it is just a case of baking and waiting for them to cool as you make a simple ganache with dark chocolate and a little double cream and then filling the biscuts and allowing the ganache to firm up before serving.

Mine turned out very well indeed, they have a wonderful crunch to the biscuit and the firm ganache that softens in the mouth releasing the intense chocolate flavour.
Chocolate Sandwich Cookies/Biscuits

Chocolate Sandwich Cookies/Biscuits Video

For the biscuits/cookies:
  • 300g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 80g icing sugar
  • 80g unsalted butter, in cubes
  • 50ml cold water.
For the ganache:
  • 15g dark chocolate chopped into small pieces.
  • 60ml double cream.
  1. In a large bowl place the flour and baking powder and sift in the icing sugar.  
  2. Mix together with a whisk to combine.
  3. Place the butter and water into a pan and heat until the butter has melted.
  4. Allow it to cool for a few minutes then pour the butter mixture into the flour and stir to combine and form a dough.  Keep mixing, using a hand if necessary, until all the flour mixture has combined and the sides of the bowl are clean.
  5. Form the dough into a disc(I actually halved it and made two discs) and wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for two hours.
  6. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F
  7. Lightly dust the work surface with flour, or icing sugar and roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/8 inch(3 mm).
  8. Using a 2 1/4inch(6 cm) cookie cutter, with the scalloped edge facing down, cut out  the cookies and place them on a baking sheet that is lined with parchment paper.
  9. If you wish to use the off cuts of dough make sure you chill it thoroughly first.
  10. Make some patterns on them if you wish, little dots with a skewer, for instance.
  11. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, the tops will start to colour and the edges may slightly brown.
  12. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely, on a wire rack.
  13. For the ganache either heat the cream to boiling point and pour over the chopped chocolate and stir until all has melted and combined, or melt the chocolate in a bain marie, or microwave and pour in the cream, stirring until all is combined.
  14. Turn half the cookies upside down and spoon, or pipe, a good amount of ganache on. 
  15. Take the remaining cookies and place on top of the ganache, gently pressing down to push the ganache to the edges.
  16. Allow the ganache to firm up before eating.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Quick and Easy Mince Pies

Mince Pies are a tradition at Christmas and I usually make them with my own pastry and homemade mincemeat.  But I decided that, for those who want to make them, but without the hassle of doing everything from scratch, I would make some using just two indgredients, shop bought shortcrust pastry and shop bought mincement.

I am aware that it is much easier to find ready-rolled shortcrust pastry in the UK than in other places, so I should say that using shop bought puff pastry is fine too, but will give a different texture to the mince pies.  You could also buy a shortcrust pastry mix, which again is readily available in the UK, where you simply add water to the mix to make the pastry. If you cannot find ready rolled pastry you can also buy blocks of pastry, both refrigerated and frozen which will work just as well but you will have to roll it out.  I will also put links below to my blog posts for making your own pastry and also your own mincement, for anyone who wishes to do that.  I will readily admit that making everything from scratch does give a better mince pie, but not everybody has the time, or the inclination.  Hence this post.

I use a bun or patty tin to shape the mince pies, but a muffin tin would be ok too, just don't line up the to top of each cup or the mince pies will be too large.

I would also recommend, whether using shortcrust or puff, that the pastry is made with butter as this is a major part of the flavour. The supermarkets usually stock 'butter' pastry and pastry made with margarine or vegetable oil.  Butter is the one to go for.  Also, if possible buy one that says 'sweet' pastry since that means there is a little sugar in it too, though that is not critical.

Link to mince pies using home-made pastry:  click here

Link to home-made mincemeat:  click here

Quick & Easy Mince Pies

Quick & Easy Mince Pies - Video

  • 2 x 320g ready rolled sweet shortcrust pastry(made using butter)
  • 500g mincemeat (buy the best quality you can)
  • I egg, beaten to use as an egg wash.
  1. Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/425F/Gas mark 7
  2. Grease a 12 hole bun/patty tin.
  3. Lay the sheets of pastry out, on the paper they are wrapped in, on the counter.
  4. Cut out 12 rounds, using a cookie cutter that is about 3 1/8 inches(just under 8cm).
  5. Cut a further 12 rounds using a cookie cutter that is about 2 1/2inches(just under 7 cm).
  6. Carefully line each hole in the bun tin with the larger discs of pastry,
  7. Carefully spoon about 1 dessert of mincemeat onto the pastry.
  8. Use a finger to wipe some water onto the exposed edge of that pastry(or onto the smaller discs, but on the inside edge of it).
  9. Place the smaller discs of pastry onto the filled pastry and press round the edge to seal(use a fork to make a pattern and aid sealing if you wish.
  10. Brush the tops of the pies with egg wash and then make two small slits in the top to allow steam to escape.
  11. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
  12. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes, then remove from the bun tin and dust with some icing sugar.
Notes:  Work quickly, before the dough becomes too warm.  
             Re-roll the excess pastry to make more, but chill the pastry in the                     fridge again before rolling otherwise it will shrink back after being                     rolled.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Treacle Tart - Again

I had a request on Youtube to do a video of making Treacle Tart.  So, although I already have a blog entry for this wonderful British dessert I decided to make it and post again, this time with a video as well.

Treacle Tart is a British favourite, and is ideal with some nice, creamy custard.  It will go just as well with cream or ice-cream, so whichever takes one's fancy it just fine. When I was at school it was served with custard.

Although called treacle tart the main ingredient is actually golden syrup.  Those who cant find golden syrup can easily make it themselves, or they can substitute corn syrup instead.  The major difference between the two is that golden syrup is made with slices of lemon used to infuse during making.  The lemons are then discarded.  So for this recipe, which already uses the zest of a lemon corn syrup will work just fine.

The base is a shortcrust pastry, and the scraps can be used to put a lattice type top to the tart, if required.

You can use shop bought pastry, though I prefer to make my own.  I love the smell of pastry cooking and the added sweet aroma of the golden syrup really makes me want to taste it as soon as possible. There is also a nice hint of lemon, from the zest, as it cooks.

I messed up in making the video, as I forgot to press the record button when I was making the filling  So, having baked one tart, I set about making a second one, so that I could film making the filling since that is the most important part of the tart.

I was very happy with both tarts, they taste exactly as they should, the sweet soft treacle filling matched by a lovely shortcrust pastry.  

Treacle Tart with whipped cream

Treacle Tart - Video

For the pastry:
  • 275g plain flour
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 140g cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 3-4 tbsp water
For the filling:
  • 350g golden syrup
  • 150g fresh white or brown breadcrumbs(or a mixture of both is fine)
  • 50g unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tbsp double cream
  • 1 large egg
  • Pinch of salt
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

  1. Make the pastry by mixing the flour and caster sugar together, preferably in a food processor. 
  2. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. 
  3. Add  just enough water to bring the pastry together. 
  4. Remove from the processor and gently squeeze into a ball. 
  5. Wrap in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  6. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/400F/gas mark 6. 
  7. Place a heavy baking tray in the oven.
  8. Grease a 23cm round flan tin or cake tin.
  9. Remove the pastry from the fridge, cutting one third of it and place that back in the fridge, wrapped in cling film.
  10. Roll out the remaining two thirds of the pastry to 4mm thick. Line the flan tin with the rolled out pastry. Add the offcuts to add to the other one third of the pastry for the lattice.
  11. Prick the base with a fork.  Cover with clingfilm again and place back in the fridge for about 30 minutes, as you make the filling.
  12. Warm the golden syrup slightly to make it easier to mix with the other ingredients.
  13. Melt the butter and stir into the golden syrup.
  14. Beat the cream and egg together and add in the lemon zest and salt.
  15. Mix the golden syrup and cream mixtures together and stir in the breadcrumbs.
  16. Roll out the remaining pastry and cut into about 16 strips. You can make a nice lattice, threading the strips over and under each other, but I don't bother, as I will explain.
  17. Remove the flan tin from the fridge and pour the mixture into it.
  18. Slightly wet the edge of the pastry around the flan tin.
  19. Take 8 strips of rolled out pastry and lay them all in the same direction across the flan, leaving a nice gap between each.
  20. Lay the other 8 strips across the flan, making a criss-cross effect.
  21. Press the edges down against the dampened edge of the pastry case.
  22. Trim off any excess.
  23. Place the tart in the oven and bake for 25 minutes.
  24. Reduce the heat to 180c/160C Fan/350F/Gas mark 4 and bake for a further 20 minutes, or slightly longer if the pastry isn't nice and golden.
  25. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool completely in the tin.  Then you  can turn it out and serve it, with custard, cream or ice cream.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

No Knead Rustic Bread

Home made bread is always a treat, even if it sometimes takes a lot of work.  The aroma of baking bread is hard to beat.  But it is great to be able to make some bread with very little effort, even if it does take a while.

That is why a no knead recipe is hard to beat and this Rustic No Knead bread is great. With little effort you can end up with a lovely, fresh, loaf that has a nice open texture and is crusty too.

It really is as simple as mixing the ingredients together and then leaving it overnight to prove fully.  Then it just has to be shaped and baked, preferably in a Dutch oven. It could be baked on a baking tray, but with a pan with water in the bottom of the oven to create steam for creating the crust.

From my perspective I find it very important to allow the bread to cool completely before slicing.  If you slice before it is cool you will release the steam from inside the loaf.  That steam is what makes the bread moist.

My bread turned out very well, exactly as I hoped, with an airy, open, texture and a great crust.  So I was very pleased indeed. This is ideal fresh for a sandwich, or open sandwich and then it is good for toast or garlic bread when it is more stale.
No Knead Rustic Bread

No Knead Rustic Bread - Video

  • 400g strong white bread flour
  • 285ml warm water(about 110c/43F)
  • 6 grams active dried yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  1. Place the flour into a large bowl and set to one side.
  2. Add the yeast and sugar to the warm water and stir then leave for 10 minutes for the yeast to activate.
  3. Make a well in the flour and pour in the yeast mixture.
  4. Stir to combine until all is mixed and there are no flour pockets.  You will have a shaggy dough.
  5. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand in a draught free environment overnight.
  6. The next day, after about 18 hours,place a dutch oven, with lid on, in the oven. If using a baking tray place a roasting tin in the bottom of the oven to heat up(this will hold water later).
  7. Preheat the oven to 230C/450F for at least 30 minutes.
  8. The dough will be quite loose in the bowl, Tip it out onto a heavily floured work surface.
  9. Work the dough, knocking out the air and pulling the dough up on itself, doing that from each of four sides in turn.
  10. Turn the dough over and use your hands to form it into a ball. This will create some tension in the dough and will shape it nicely for baking.
  11. Cover with a towel and leave  until the oven is at the right temperature, about 30 minutes.
  12. Carefully place the dough into the Dutch oven and score a line or two on the top with a very sharp knife if you wish. If using a baking tray place the dough on and place in the oven, then pour a cup of water into the roasting tin to create the steam necessary for a crust to form.
  13. Bake with the lid on for 30 minutes.
  14. Remove the lid and bake for a further 15 to 25 minutes, until you have the crust colour as dark as you wish.  If using a baking tray you will need to judge when the loaf is done by tapping the bottom of the loaf to make sure it sounds hollow.
  15. Remove from the oven and carefully place the loaf on a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Peach Posset Tartlets

I had some peach puree in the freezer so I decided to make some posset with it.  That is a rich, silky smooth dessert made with cream and sugar.  I then decided that instead of serving in glasses, with little biscuits, I would make tartlet cases and put the posset in those for serving.

The recipe for the posset is very simple indeed.  For the pastry it is a little more complicated, but still easy.  Of course you could always use shop bought shortcrust pastry and that would work just as well.

I am very pleased with how the tarlets turned out, with the lovely short pastry and that very creamy and silky smooth posset, with the subtle flavour of peach enhancing the cream.
Peach Posset Tartlets

Peach Posset Tartlets - Video
For the pastry
  • 300g plain flour
  • 125g cold butter cut into cubes
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 1 medium egg(large in USA)
  • 2 tbsp cold milk.
  • Egg white for an egg wash.
For the posset:
  • 600ml double cream
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 140g peach puree (or 100g lemon juice or other fruit puree)
  1. In a food processor place the flour, sugar and butter.
  2. Process until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  3. Add the egg and process until combined.
  4. Add the milk and process until the mixture begins to clump.
  5. Tip out onto the work surface and simply squeeze it together into a ball and flatten a little.
  6. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
  7. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350 F
  8. Using between half and 2/3s of the pastry roll out 6 discs large enough to line tarlet pans, with an overlap of pastry.
  9. Prick with a fork and then line with parchment paper.
  10. Add baking beans and blind bake for 15 minutes.
  11. Remove the baking beans and paper and brush egg white over the surface of each tartlet case.
  12. Carefully cut off the excess pastry and bake for a further minute to cook the egg white.
  13. Set aside to cool.
  14. In a saucepan place the double cream(heavy cream is fine) and caster sugar.
  15. Bring to the boil and allow to boil gently for 3 minutes.
  16. Remove from the heat and pour in the peach puree, then mix to fully combine.
  17. Allow the mixture to cool a little and then pour into each of the tartlet cases, using small glasses for any excess.
  18. Allow the mixture to cool and then place in the fridge to chill for 3 hours, so that the posset firms up completely.