Happy Easter 2012
Traditional Simnel Cake for Easter
See Special Occasion Rich Fruit Cake for cake recipe and information on making a Simnel Cake.
Posted in British Traditional Style, Cakes-Pastries, Family-Personal Recipes, Holy Week/Easter, Make in advance, Tea Time-Coffee Time, tagged baking, cake, cooking, Easter, food on 8th April 2012| 1 Comment »
Dundee Style Christmas Cake 2011
Some years ago, instead of our usual marzipan and iced cake, I experimented by making a Dundee Style one with the traditional topping of cherries and nuts. This year, having already made two marzipanned cakes with one iced as well (the Easter Simnel Cake and our Silver Wedding Anniversary Cake) I decided to make another Dundee Cake. The basic cake was made using the Special Occasion Rich Fruit Cake recipe which I use for all family celebration cakes. Before it was baked I selected enough nuts and fruits to put in concentric rings on top, which are added before the cake was baked. Last time I used just blanched almonds and glace cherries but this time I topped it with circles of walnuts, pecan nuts and blanched almonds interspersed with red and green glace cherries. When we were in Spain on holiday this year I discovered green cherries in little bottles and was very pleased as I have been searching for them for some years. They are not quite the same as the red cherries we have in the UK, as the syrup is much lighter, but the flavour was the same. The ribbon came from Primark and was a bargain at £1 a roll – a perfect match for the colours I had already used for the cake topping.
My Dad is a Crunchie fan – he just loves honeycomb – actually you could probably call him a ‘Crunchie nut’ so this is ideal for him! When I came across this just before last Christmas I just knew I had to make a batch so I could give him some for Christmas (saving some for our family, of course!) I also made White Christmas Slices and was able to give him and mum mixed box of goodies. I like the idea of giving handmade presents, sadly its something I rarely have time to do. This year my mind has been on other things with little time to make those festive extra treats we love: pickles, chutneys, Stollen, Lebkuchen…
I first saw this on the television series accompanying the new (in Christmas 2010) book, Nigella Kitchen by Nigella Lawson. Such a simple idea and I was able to take down the recipe from the TV. A shortcut possibility, or for anyone outside the UK who cannot get Crunchie Bars (though they seem to be widely available), would be to use honeycomb, also known as cinder toffee. I understand this is fairly simple to make and there are various methods online. Here is just one version: Lets make a crunchie bar (giving first a recipe for honeycomb and then turning it into home made ‘crunchie’ bites) from fellow London based blogger London Eats. If you use honeycomb rather than Crunchies, then you would need to add more chocolate to account for the missing chocolate covering on the bars. I found that the finished article was much easier to cut straight from the fridge: once it had started to warm up the portions were not quite so neat and started to crumble. My one concern was that the finished article could have looked a little prettier. I used bars of Sainsbury’s Basics range chocolate, which I understand comes from a very reputable source yet is very resonably priced and was careful not to overheat it. I am not very experienced with chocolate and I would have liked a smoother finish, however I don’t think this was the fault of the chocolate. The taste was great. As an alternative to using lined shallow square or rectangular tins Nigella suggests using disposable foil tins. I always make sure I rescue these when they come with commercially bought meals, usually desserts or cakes, rather than immediately recycling them. By the way, don’t worry about using salted peanuts, just shake off any excess salt before use.
Sweet & Salty Crunchie Nut Bars
200g milk chocolate (I used Sainsbury’s Basics range)
100g dark/plain chocolate (I used Sainsbury’s Basics range)
100g unsalted butter (I used slightly less than the 125g in the original recipe)
1 x 15ml tbsp golden syrup
250g salted peanuts (I used Sainsbury’s Basics range)
2 x 80g Crunchie bars
1. Line a tin about 26cm square or a rectangular tin of similar dimensions with tin foil, smoothing out as much as possible. Alternatively use disposable foil tins (see note above).
2. Tip the peanuts into a large hole sieve or colander and shake over the sink to remove excess salt. Tip them into a medium sized mixing bowl. Crumble and add the Crunchie bars. Stir to combine.
3. Gently melt the butter and golden syrup together in a heavy based pan. As it melts break up and add the chocolate bars. Stir until dissolved, but do not allow to boil.
4. When the mixture in the pan has just melted pour it over the nuts and broken Crunchies and stir together.
5. Pour into the lined tin or foil tray. Spread out to the corners and try to flatten it as possible. A spatula will help with this.
6. Cover and place in the refrigerator for several hours. Remove and slice, working quickly before the mixture starts to warm up, which I found made it more difficult to cut accurately. I could be cut it into chunks, wedges or even random shapes.
7. Store in the fridge until you are ready to give away. Placed in small decorative boxes and wrapped with cellophane this makes good Christmas gift. It could also be served as a ‘naughty nibble’ with a cup of coffee!
Posted in *Entertaining*, British Traditional Style, Cakes-Pastries, Family-Personal Recipes, Make in advance, Tea Time-Coffee Time, tagged baking, cake, cooking, food on 16th August 2011| 4 Comments »
We celebrated a very special anniversary recently – 25 years of marriage – and as I have my paternal grandmother’s wonderful recipe for Special Occasion Rich Fruit Cake it seemed only right to make the cake myself. As usual the recipe was moist and delicious and it was lovely to feel that my Nanna, who died many years ago when I was a teenager was, though her recipe, able to ‘share’ in our special occasion.
The cake was made and decorated in the week following our anniversary as it was made to share with the close friends and family who came to a special meal and party at home. It seemed odd, however, to add this post on any day apart from the actual anniversary. Here’s to many more and the next 25 at the very least!
The recipe for the Special Occasion Rich Fruit Cake which I use at Christmas and Easter, is versatile and can be made with or without alcohol. Finish with or without traditional marzipan and icing as appropriate to the occasion for which it is to celebrate.
In this case, when deciding on decoration, I puzzled for a while as I am a total novice with a piping bag (and usually fairly short on time!) In the end I decided to keep it simple, using more of the edible glitter and silver balls bought for the Starry Night Cake I made last Christmas. I googled ‘Number 25’, chose one of the many images available, enlarged it to size and printed it, after which I carefully turned it into a stencil. It was fairly easy, after slightly wetting the inside of the numbers, to thickly sprinkle on the glitter and push small balls into the outline of the numbers at regular intervals. After carefully removing the stencil, the excess glitter was brushed away with a pastry brush. The cake was finished with a ruched band of transparent wire edged ribbon with silver printing. The finishing touch was a silver bow which I have had from ages – probably rescued from a gift (I often squirrel bits and pieces away in the hope they will come in useful one day!) On reflection, perhaps a little more colour would have been good – a touch of pastel colouring to offset the greyness of the silver – however the jewel colours on the numbers glittered very prettily in the sunlight. I was not really disappointed and most importantly the cake tasted just as good as I knew, from experience, it would – thanks again Nanna!
A note about cake glitter…
The edible glitter I used was bought from a local cake making suppliers (but is widely available). Craft glitter, which is often made from crushed glass, should never be substituted. For an unusual (non cake) idea of what to do with edible glitter look no further than here! I wonder what other culinary uses this dust fine glitter can be put to (bearing in mind that it’s far too expensive for normal craftwork).
One of the enjoyable parts of food blogging has turned out to be the contact with other likeminded people. A few months ago, out of the blue, I was emailed by ‘Macaron Queen’ (at least that is how I think of her!) Jill Colonna from Mad About Macarons. Following a comment I had left her about fruit curds, Jill was asking me if I would like to submit a curd ‘guest post’ for her series of recipes using egg yolks (macarons use just the whites). I have to admit that I don’t really know how the ‘guest post’ system operates. I hope that Jill can use this post, if it is helpful, in her search for ways to use up leftover egg yolks.
Over the past few months I have been trying out different fruit curd recipes I have found online and in various books. The initial post was for the traditional Lemon Curd – here is my latest discovery, Mango Curd. This recipe, with amendments by me, is loosely based on one from Smitten Kitchen who discovered it in Bon Appetit, June 1998. All curds are smooth but the silky texture of the mango seems to enhance the creamy smoothness. Be generous with the mango as the flavour is rather mild and can get a bit lost. I have a round gadget with a blade, a promotional item which I was sent free because I bought two mangoes in ASDA last year. I would not have paid the large sum originally asked for it, but it does divide the fruit very easily – they are not easy beasts to cut up, especially if a bit on the soft side! I usually add some lemon juice to non-citrus curds as the flavour helps cut through the richness and sweetness but the original recipe used lime which I have kept as it is so good in combination with mango. Delicious!
(Makes 1 x 1lb jar)
1 large or 2 small mangoes, peeled, pitted & chopped
Juice of 1 lime (extra lime if solids not sieved)
Pinch of salt (or leave this out and use salted butter)
4 large egg yolks (or 2 whole eggs)
30g/2ozs unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1. Remove the large stone from the mango, cut into small pieces and purée, preferably in a food processor.
2. Combine with the sugar, lime juice and salt (if using). Add egg yolks or lightly beaten whole eggs. Purée for a little longer to thoroughly combine.
3. Push through a sieve into a large metal bowl with a large spatula or wooden spoon, pressing down well to obtain as much puree as possible. Discard the solids that remain in sieve. (Alternatively omit this step for a thicker coarser curd – the yield will be higher and an extra half or whole jar required.)
4. Place the metal bowl over saucepan of simmering water (but do not allow the base of bowl to come into contact with the water). Add the butter and continue to simmer the mixture gently, stirring regularly, until it has thickened enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.
5. Wash the jars well and sterlise. I usually do this by filling the jars with boiling water and putting the lids in a bowl of boiling water. I pour away the water just before filling each jar and immediately take the lid from the bowl and screw it on.
6. Beat the curd until it is creamy. Pour into the prepared jars, cover and label. Store in the refrigerator and use within 4-6 weeks.