Monday, 29 July 2013

English Scones - traditional tea time!


Cream tea is a great British institution!   One of the best ever was in Louisiana, with dear friends Bob and Sally.  We were there during one of the passing hurricanes, and Sally and I decided (for reasons I cannot now remember) to do English afternoon tea.   I made the scones, and we had them with jam and cream and champagne.... while the wind roared outside - what a fabulous combination!

These are adorned with fresh strawberry jam, butter and lots of delicious whipped cream.   You can make scones using gluten-free flour, but remember to add a bit more liquid.


Traditional Oven Scones

8oz/225g self raising flour (sponge flour gives the lightest result)
1 level tsp baking powder
½ level tsp salt
50g/2oz butter or margarine at room temperature
1 egg
5 tbsp milk (up to 8tbsp if you are using gluten-free flour)

Preheat the oven to 230 deg C and put a baking tray to heat. 

In a large bowl, rub the butter into the flour until they look like breadcrumbs.  The best way to do this is to use only your fingertips, as lightly as possible, lifting the mixture as you rub it in to keep it airy.   Make a well in the centre, crack in the egg and break it up with a fork before adding the milk.  

Mix the dough together in the bowl until it forms a single lump, then turn it onto a floured board.  Knead lightly (this is a scone, not bread!).

Pat the dough or roll it out to about ½ inch thick, then cut out your scones (they don’t stick to the cutter if you dip the cutter in flour first).   

Bake for about 8-10 minutes until well risen and golden.  Cool on a baking rack.  Split just before using so that the inside is still soft.  

Scones are best eaten warm, with butter, home made jam and lashings of cream! 

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Sorbet for a Royal Baby - White Currant and Rose Petal

What could be nicer than the delicate flavours of white currants and rose petals?   A delicious, frothy white sorbet, perfect to celebrate a Royal birth.  This is my first white currant harvest, so they were few and very precious.  The sorbet has a very light texture and a delicate currant flavour, with a concentrated essence boosting the white roses, and was an instant success! You could make it with redcurrants and red petals.


White Currant and Rose Petal Sorbet

8oz/225g white currants, stems removed (keep a few whole for decoration)
1 tbsp water
½ pint/300ml sugar syrup (made by boiling 8oz/225g sugar with half pint of water for 5 mins)
4 large white roses
juice of 1 lemon
3-5 drops rose essence
1 egg white

Make the sugar syrup and cool it (you can put it in the freezer!).   Wash the white currants, and put them into a pan with 1 tbsp water.  Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 5 minutes until they are soft.   Sieve the currants to remove the seeds, making a purée.   Cool the purée.  

Take the roses and twist the petals all at once off the stamens.  Then cut out the hard nib section at the bottom of each petal (and remove any little blossom beetles that may have taken up residence!).   In a blender, liquidise the petals with the lemon juice, pushing the petals back down into the blades so that they are cut very small indeed. 

Mix together the syrup, currant purée and petals.  Add a few drops of rose essence to boost the taste.   Whisk the egg white until it forms soft peaks and fold it into the mixture. 

Chill in an ice cream maker.  It will make a frothy, light sorbet.   Alternatively, freeze in a shallow container in the freezer, breaking it up with a fork every hour or so to stop large crystals from forming. 

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Quick Milkshake

There are times when it is so hot that nothing short of a milkshake will cool you down. This has got to be the quickest and simplest milkshake on earth, and is so easy I'm embarrassed to be putting it on the website... however, needs must when it is so delicious!  You can make it with bought ice cream, and the quantity below gives enough for two.


Quick Milkshake

1 cup cold milk
1 big scoop vanilla ice cream
1 ripe banana and/or a large handful of strawberries

Put all the ingredients together in a blender and blend until well-mixed and frothy.  Pour into two glasses, decorate with ice cream float and strawberries.  Drink immediately.   

Friday, 19 July 2013

Pink Grapefruit Jelly

When it is very hot, puddings that don't take long to make are my favourite! This is a very refreshing jelly, another Stour Puddings stalwart, quite tart, being grapefruit, but with a clean taste and a lovely rose colour. The grapefruit is (relatively) evenly distributed throughout the jelly,but it doesn't matter because it's a cloudy jelly anyway.  I'm not a great jelly fan, but this is one of the few that has slipped under the wire...


Grapefruit Jelly

1 18oz/530g (approx)  tin of grapefruit segments, pink or yellow
1 litre of grapefruit juice, the same colour as the grapefruit, chilled
1.5 sachets gelatine (6 leaves)
sugar to taste (don't add too much!)

Drain the grapefruit juice into a large jug, then add the the gelatine, heating the juice and gelatine slightly in the microwave to dissolve it.    Add the sugar, and stir until the sugar has dissolved too.   Pour in the remainder of the grapefruit juice and stir until the gelatine and sugar is evenly distributed.  When the mixture has cooled down and is about to set, pour a small quantity into a pretty glass bowl, then spoon over some of the pieces of grapefruit.  Repeat. 

If the mixture isn’t really at setting point, the fruit will rise like goldfish at feeding time.   The decision is yours – either go for a two layer jelly, or exercise the virtue of patience and wait until each section sets! 

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Little Gooseberry Tarts

I love summer!  Gooseberries are an unappreciated, easy summer fruit, and their delicious sourness is a far more grown-up taste than rather bland strawberries. Traditionally cooked with elderflower (when the two coincide), I also use elderflower cordial instead of plain sugar to give an extra flavour to the gooseberries.   These little tartlets are a fabulous way of using gooseberries in a light, not over-sweet pudding - very refreshing in this heat.



Little Gooseberry Tarts

Shortcrust pastry:
6oz/150g plain flour
3oz/75g butter
1 egg (for richness, you can leave this out)
1 pinch salt
cold water to mix

Make the pastry either by hand or in a food processor.  Line the tartlet tins, approx 4-6 depending on size, prick the bases, and refrigerate for 20 minutes to rest the pastry.  If you haven't got time, the result will still taste good. 

Filling:
1lb/454 g (approx) Gooseberries, topped and tailed
elderflower cordial
sugar

Top:
elderflowers, both for cooking and decoration

Arrange the gooseberries neatly in the tartlet cases, then pour about 1 dessertspoon of elderflower cordial on each, and add sugar, sprinkling it over the top.   Add an elderflower to each, with the stalk facing upwards. 

Cook at 180 deg until the pastry is browning and the gooseberries coloured.  Remove the cooked elderflower as it will be a brown crisp.  Replace with a fresh elderflower and serve hot or cold, with custard or ice cream.  

Friday, 12 July 2013

Coffee Mousse

Jo, the Puddings Queen at Stour, has an inexhaustible fund of delicious recipes, and this is one of them.  It's a smooth coffee mousse with a crunchy praline top.  You will be surprised to know that it is made with evaporated milk, but it is soooo good!  I've made this several times, with varying success, but even if it separates slightly so you get a less moussy layer at the bottom, it still tastes divine.   I don't think there are enough coffee puddings out there, so let's go viral with this one!



Coffee Mousse

1 standard size tin evaporated milk, thoroughly chilled
8floz/230ml very strong black coffee (instant or real)
2oz/50g caster sugar (or less, to taste)
1 sachet powdered gelatine/4 leaves of sheet gelatine
½ pint lightly whipped double cream

For decoration: 
praline
1oz/25g flaked almonds
2oz/50g caster sugar
2.5floz/75ml water
extra whipped cream

Serves about 8-10.   Chill the evaporated milk in the fridge, and/or put it into the freezer for 15 minutes before whisking.  It should be really cold.  

Make the coffee, dissolve the gelatine in the coffee and be sure it has all melted before adding the caster sugar.  Leave this mixture to cool until the gelatine is nearly setting (this is important!).

Whisk the evaporated milk in a Kenwood or Kitchen-Aid, until it has become thick and mousse-like and increased in volume by about three times. 
Now add the coffee mixture, still whisking hard.   It should start to stiffen up (but if it doesn’t, don’t panic quite yet).   Stop whisking and fold in the softly whipped cream, before pouring the mousse into a pretty bowl of about 2 pint capacity.  Chill to set.

Make the praline:  Spread the flaked almonds onto a non-stick baking sheet.  Then boil the sugar and water together until they form a caramel.  Pour the hot caramel over the almonds and leave it to set.  When it is crisp and hard, chop up into very small pieces. 

To decorate, use whipped cream and add the praline at the last minute, so that it doesn’t melt.  


Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Chocolate Sponge Cake - with real appeal

Yesterday I gave a talk on baking for competition, which was fun because I've never baked for competition, but it didn't stop me from talking about it!  At the very last minute, I made two cakes to show the difference between a near-fatless sponge (the Never-Fail Chocolate Cake) and a traditional sponge.  Here is one of the last remaining pieces of the traditional sponge, after the gannets had demolished the rest of it!  Like all my sponge cakes, this is made using the all-in-one method, which is eminently suited to today's whipped and softened fats.   This is the only recipe where I use butter alternatives, but prefer ones with a high butter content.  If you want to make this dairy-free, simply use a soya or sunflower-based margarine.   Use Smarties on the top only in irony or desperation....


Chocolate Sponge Cake


3 large fresh eggs
6oz/150g  sieved self raising flour
6oz/150g  caster sugar
6oz/150g  butter or spread at room temperature
1 tsp baking powder
2 tablespoons sieved cocoa, slaked in 1 tablespoon hot water

Butter Icing:
6oz/150g  sieved icing sugar (absolutely necessary or you get lumps)
3oz/75g butter or spread at room temperature  
2 tablespoons sieved cocoa, slaked in 1 tablespoon hot water, or as much chocolate as you care to use, melted
plus chocolate for decoration

Preheat oven to 180 deg C, and line two 8” loose bottom sandwich tins with parchment (or spray with a “cake release” agent), and grease the sides.

In a food processor or Kenwood, blend the cake ingredients together and then beat until pale and fluffy.   Divide between the tins and cook for 15-25 minutes (depending on the heat of your oven) until risen and golden brown.  To test, the cake should have come away from the edges slightly, and if you put a (heated) knife or skewer into the middle, it will come out clean.

Tip out of the tins onto a wire rack and leave to cool.  When cool, make the icing and filling.  Blend the butter, icing sugar and cocoa in a food processor.   Sandwich the middle section together using half of the icing.  Then, use a flat bladed knife to add the icing top (it helps to have a mug of boiling water handy to wash the knife).  Decorate with grated chocolate or more imaginative decoration before the icing has dried.  

Friday, 5 July 2013

Fresh Mango Iced Yoghurt

A deliciously cooling frozen yoghurt ice cream, so simple to make, it's almost embarrassing!   I'm always looking out for lower fat alternatives to creamy puddings, and the present of a box of lovely ripe mangos inspired this pudding.  Serve with little biscuits and enjoy the hot weather while it lasts.



Fresh Mango Iced Yoghurt

1 pint/500ml tub of thick Greek yoghurt
2 ripe mangoes, the flesh cut into small pieces, almost puréed 
3oz/75g sugar (to taste)
Juice of half a lemon

Mix all the ingredients together and put into an ice cream maker.  Churn until thick.    The amount of sugar will depend on the sweetness of the mangoes - but make sure that the mixture tastes sweet before you freeze it – freezing makes the sugar lose its intensity.  

Home made iced yoghurts don't tend to keep their softness after the initial freezing, so you have to eat them up quickly! 

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Elderflower Cordial

Elderflower cordial is a delicious traditional drink making a well-deserved comeback.   This is my own take on it - crimson cordial, from the sambucus nigra elder, which I now cultivate specially for the unusual pink flowers which make such beautiful cordial.  The season is short, but there is still time to go out and pick your own elderflowers, which grow wild in abundant profusion in the country (try to avoid those near busy roads!).   Choose flowers that are still "frothy", ie, blooming well, with pollen on the little petals if possible.   Standard elder will give a pretty pale yellow cordial.   The cordial contains citric acid, which acts as a preservative. It can sometimes ferment slightly, which gives an extra kick to it!   Delicious chilled, with sparkling water.  The quantity below makes about 4 500cl/1pint bottles.

Elderflower Cordial
Elderflower Cordial

28 flower heads (cut while frothy)
2.5 pints boiling water
4lbs 6oz/2kg sugar (1.5 kgs ok)
juice of 1 lemon
1.5 - 2oz citric acid (tartaric if you are desperate)

Using a fork or a sharp pair of scissors, remove the flowers from each flower head (if you use the stalks the cordial will be bitter).  Put the flowers in a large bowl and add the lemon juice, sugar and  acid.  Pour the boiling water over and stir until the sugar has dissolved.

Cover and steep for five days, in a cool place, stirring occasionally.  Strain and bottle.  The bottles have to be sterilised by boiling the bottles and tops for 10 minutes (or heat them in a slow oven).   Heat the syrup and pour into the bottles.  Close the lid about three quarters of the way.

(In practice, I have found if you keep the bottles in a cool place, they do not go cloudy – I have also used plastic bottles and frozen them).  Once open, keep the bottle in the fridge. 

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Coffee and Walnut Sponge Cake

There are many versions of the classic coffee and walnut cake, not all of which are delicious!   This is a very reliable version, simple to make, and the ingredients can be substituted to suit all dietary requirements, though it still contains calories...  It is such a good-tempered cake, you can make it without nuts, without dairy and without gluten, and it still tastes great!  It also works as a traybake, in a single layer, baked in a 1.5" deep oblong tin, 1.5 times the recipe, and it cut up into about 24 pieces.

Coffee and Walnut sponge cake
Coffee and Walnut Sponge Cake

3 large fresh eggs
6oz/150g  sieved self raising flour or self raising gluten free blend
6oz/150g  caster sugar
6oz/150g  butter or spread at room temperature
1 tsp baking powder
1 tablespoon coffee essence (Camp or similar), or 1 tbsp of coffee granules slaked in a little warm water so they are liquid

Butter Icing:
6oz/150g  sieved icing sugar  
3oz/75g butter or spread at room temperature  
1 tablespoon coffee essence
2oz walnuts, chopped, plus handful of half walnuts to decorate

Preheat oven to 180 deg C, and line two 8” loose bottom sandwich tins with parchment (or spray with a “cake release” agent), and grease the sides.  If you are making a traybake, line the tin with foil and grease it.  

In a food processor or Kenwood, blend the cake ingredients together and then beat until pale and fluffy.   Divide between the tins and cook for 15-25 minutes (depending on the heat of your oven) until risen and golden brown.  To test, the cake should have come away from the edges slightly, and if you put a (heated) knife or skewer into the middle, it will come out clean.

Tip out of the tins onto a wire rack and leave to cool.  When cool, make the icing and filling.  Blend the butter, icing sugar and coffee essence in a food processor, adding a little more essence if needed to give a softer consistency – too hard and the cake top will peel off as you spread the icing over it.   Put aside half of the icing, and add the chopped nuts to the other half.  Sandwich the middle section together first using the nutty half of the icing.  Then, use a flat bladed knife to add the icing top (it helps to have a mug of boiling water handy to wash the knife).  Decorate with the half walnuts before the icing has dried.  

If you are doing a traybake, use 1.5 times the quantity throughout, and chop all the nuts and use them for the top.  



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