Friday, 28 August 2015

Stem Ginger Cookies

These little cookies were an experiment to see if ginger worked as well as chocolate in cookies...  the fact that they all disappeared during a long opera rehearsal is proof of that!   I used stem ginger instead of crystallised, as I find the crystallised ginger can be a bit hard.  (You can also keep the syrup, as it is delicious in a fruit salad)  The photo below was a quick shot taken in the two minutes between drizzling the chocolate and feeding the cast, so apologies for the poor presentation!

Next time, I think I would add a teaspoon of ginger, plus perhaps a little milk or some of the ginger syrup to make them a bit flatter, but the end result was scoffed very enthusiastically, even the Merry Widow herself partaking of a little light refreshment between scenes...    

Stem Ginger Cookies
Chunky Stem Ginger Cookies

2oz/50g soft brown sugar
4oz/125g  butter
1 egg, beaten
5oz/150g self-raising flour
6oz/175g stem ginger, drained, chopped into chunks (most of a jar)
1oz/25g dark chocolate for drizzling

Preheat oven to 180 deg C, and line two baking trays with non-stick baking parchment. 

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then beat in the egg and sift the flour over the mixture, before folding it in using a metal spoon.   Mix in the ginger.

Put the mixture in teaspoonfuls onto the baking sheet, flattening them slightly, and allowing space for them to spread.     Bake for about 10-15 minutes until golden brown. 

Cool on a wire rack.     Melt the chocolate and drizzle it over the cookies.  You should allow this to set before eating them, but it’s not compulsory! 

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Rose and Honey Sponge Cake

This cake was inspired by an article on using honey in place of some of the sugar in cakes.  The honey gives a beautifully moist texture to the cake, without compromising its lightness - nothing's worse than a solid sponge cake!  It smelt divine when it came out of the oven - just like a rose garden in summer.  You could make it with a flour substitute.

I'm currently rehearsing the opera "The Merry Widow", with fabulous tunes and ridiculous dialogue in a range of improbable accents - think "Allo Allo" crossed with "Downton Abbey" and you are there...  So I wanted a frothy light cake to take to rehearsal, as singers are always starving, and the dancing girls will eat anything!   The remaining piece went home with the Ambassador's wife.

Rose and Honey Sponge Cake 
Rose and Honey Sponge Cake

4 large fresh eggs
8oz/225g sieved self raising flour (or a blend)
7oz/200g caster sugar
1floz/30g runny honey
8oz/225g buttery spread
1 heaped tsp baking powder
1tsp rose essence

Filling and topping:
10floz/230ml double cream
4oz/110g sieved icing sugar (approx.)
½ to 1tsp rose essence
Small quantity of water
Small fresh rose – for decoration

Preheat oven to 120 deg C.  Twist the petals off the rose and put them onto a plain baking tray into the oven for about 20 minutes or until dry and crisp. 

Line two 8” loose base 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.   Turn up the oven to 180 deg C.  Divide the mixture between the tins and cook for 15-25 minutes (depending on the heat of your oven) until risen and golden brown.  To test, they 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 the cakes out of the tins onto a wire rack and leave to cool.  When cool, whip the cream and sandwich the cakes together.  Mix up the icing sugar with the rose essence and water until it is stiff enough not to run off the cake, but liquid enough to be smoothed over without pulling off crumbs as you spread it.   While the icing is still wet, scatter the rose petals artistically over the top. 

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Peach and Redcurrant Compote

Sometimes the best puddings come about by accident!  This is definitely one of them, and has the added merit of being a great way to use the deliciously ripe redcurrants that I'm desperately trying to keep away from the chickens.   The original  recipe was by the marvellous Claire MacDonald, but was given its current (ha ha) update by Jane and me, when we needed a pretty pudding at short notice!  The addition of a good slug of Schnapps was inspirational...

The picture below is of double quantity to the recipe I've given, and it was, if I say so myself, pretty damn good.   We served it with lashings of cream and a chocolate and rum cream on the side... You could probably do the redcurrants a day ahead, giving them longer to steep in the Schnapps.

Peach and Redcurrant Compote

Peach and Redcurrant Compote

4 fresh peaches or nectarines  
5oz/125g or a punnet of redcurrants
2oz/50g caster sugar
2 tbsp peach Schnapps (or equivalent)

Pick the currants off their stalks and place in a bowl.  Tip the caster sugar over them and then pour in the Schnapps (or other colourless alcohol).  Stir it around a bit, being careful not to burst the currants.  Leave to steep, stirring occasionally – you could do this the day before.

Boil a small pan of water and dip the peaches, one by one.  Leave in the liquid no more than 30 seconds, and then peel them – the skin will be easy to remove.  Once you have peeled them, slice them into segments and remove the stones.   Place the slices onto a flattish serving dish, cover with cling film and leave to cool.

Assemble up to half an hour before serving by tipping the currants over the peaches and then stirring it about a bit so you have a good mixture of colours.   Decorate with mint leaves.  Cover it again with cling film if you have to leave it for any length of time.   This serves up to 6 people.