Fancy making real bread?

There’s a community project afoot near us, that is tantalisingly close to get funded… The Hornbeam Bakers Collective are a couple of hundred pounds away from their £3000 total. They’re building an oven in new premises near Blackhorse Road in east London and will be running a number of bread-making classes:

Hornbeam Bakers Collective

Basic loaf, Shaping breads, Speciality Breads, Sourdough Breads, Special Diets Baking (vegan/dairy free, wheat free, gluten Free, sugar free), Ancient and Alternative Grains, Pizza, Pastry, Cakes, Fermentation

There are lots of rewards for different levels of funding, or you could just sign up in advance for some of their classes – sounds like pretty good value at £30 a session.  The £3000 will pay for the oven and its installation, to allow then to get off the ground teaching more classes and baking more bread to sell.

Have you been to any of their classes? Would love to hear a first-hand account!

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My mother’s filthy cheesecake

I never really appreciated this recipe as a child. What I now recognise as a wonderful firm, velvet texture was chalky and bland to me then (and part of a general dislike of anything ‘creamy’). The genius of the recipe is that it uses good old jelly in place of faffing about with gelatin – hence the ‘filthy’ epithet.

The recipe I wrote down on my last trip home was specifically for an orange version of this, complete with tinned mandarins on top. Yes, I am a child of the 70s. After fiddling around with it, it’s become lime instead.

Ingredients

  • 225g digestive biscuits
  • 170g melted butter
  • 1 packet lime jelly
  • juice and zest of 2 limes and 1 orange (to make up 150ml of liquid)
  • 225g philadelphia cheese
  • 55g caster sugar
  • small carton vanilla yoghurt
  • 300ml cream (a standard 284ml carton would be fine)
  • Dark chocolate for grating

Method

  1. Batter the digestives into submission inside a sturdy Ziploc bag, using a rolling pin. Empty into a bowl and pour over the melted butter, mix evenly. Press this into the bottom of a springform tin and put into the fridge to chill.
  2. Heat up the lemon and orange juice in a small saucepan, then add the block of jelly and melt over gentle heat.
  3. Using a food processor, whizz together the cheese, sugar, yoghurt and melted jelly.
  4. Whip the cream lightly and fold it into the mixture. Pour it into the prepped tin.
  5. Allow to set in the fridge. Before serving, remove it from the fridge for 30 minutes. Run a knife around the inside edge to loosen it before removing the springform collar. Grate dark chocolate over the top.

If you’d like a sharper taste, use only lime juice for the 1/4 pint of liquid needed to make up the jelly.

Also I notice in many cheese cake recipes a suggestion to use softened, rather than melted butter, and to pulverise it together with the crumbed biscuits in a food processor. I’ll be trying that next time. I’ve made a thicker base, you could easily reduce the amounts by a third which might be better balanced. But when it comes to cheesecake, it’s hardly about balance, right?

Homemade Christmas Gifts [Honeycomb]

I made this huge batch of nougat the other day. It tasted great. It also had its own personality. It was a bit of a free spirit – actually it was kind of sleazy. It wanted to throw itself all over the kitchen, over me, and just coudn’t take no for an answer.  The Blob of the candy world, it just wanted to keep oozing, and oozing… I will give it another go soon but in need of a quick-fix gift in the meantime, I opted for honeycomb instead. It’s safe and sure – well apart from when you throw in the bicarb and it threatens to flow over the side of the saucepan like molten lava…

Honeycomb

There are tons of recipes out there and I went with more or less the basic one that everyone seems to use.

Ingredients

  • 200g caster sugar
  • 120g Golden Syrup
  • 3 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • As many edible decorations as you can stomach (sorry)

Method 

  1. Mix the sugar and golden syrup in a saucepan. I found it turned into a fudge-like mass. Once it’s on the heat, don’t stir again but swirl it around if necessary.
  2. When you put the pan on the heat, quickly prepare your baking sheet. Line it with parchment and dust liberally with edible decorations, such as edible Christmas trees, gold stars, and pearlescent glitter. Tasteful is not exactly what you’re going for here.
  3. Let the mixture melt then come to a bubbling boil, it will darken considerably.
  4. Don an oven glove if necessary, take the pan off the heat and then dump in the bicarb and whisk briskly. It will mushroom dramatically.
  5. Pour onto the baking sheet and again, go wild with the glittery stuff. Leave it to set then smash it into pieces. Bag up and give it to people with an attached disclaimer about their fillings.

 

 


Scrapiana’s Carrot Cake

Lovely Eirlys (aka Scrapiana) generously shared her Carrot Cake recipe with me, and said she didn’t mind if I gave it to you too. This is one of those great cut-and-come-again cakes that keeps well, can be made in advance, and can be tweaked to fit what you’ve got in the fridge.  I also like the fact that it has less oil that some recipes I’ve seen, but it’s still spongy, spicy and lovely. The cake in the photograph is a doubling of the recipe below – heartily recommended.

Ingredients

  • Carrots 6oz/150g
  • 2 eggs
  • 4oz/100g brown sugar
  • 3 fl oz/75ml sunflower oil
  • 4 oz/100g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 oz/50g desiccated coconut or ground almonds
  • 2 oz/50g dried fruit as preferred
  • Icing: 125g/4oz butter
  • 225g/8 oz cream cheese (full fat)
  • 250g/1 lb icing sugar
  • Zest of 1 lime, and half the juice

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 190C/350F/Mark 5. Grease & line the base of a 7″ square cake tin, or a small (1 lb) loaf tin.
  2. Finely grate carrots.
  3. Whisk eggs and sugar together till thick and creamy. Add oil gradually, whisking well after each addition. Then add remaining ingredients & mix to combine evenly.
  4. Spoon resulting sloppy mixture into prepared tin. Level surface and bake for 20-25 minutes (though the loaf version will take longer: various wayward ovens through the years have taken an hour) till firm to the touch and golden brown. Cool and spread with icing (optional) or just scoff warm from the tin (my preference).To make the icing: cream the butter and cheese together, then add the sugar, lime juice and zest. Spread over the top, then perhaps decorate with some chopped nuts.

Get baking for Movember

If you’re not able to “donate your face” to Movember this year but you know someone who is and you want to help them with some fundraising, there are lots of brilliant moustache related goodies out there.

I spotted these in Oliver Bonas the other other day – Munchstache Cookie cutters from Fred & Friends. The cutter has an indented pattern on the top so you can flip it over and stamp some beautiful texture on to your Wolford, Baron, or Bristle Brush shaped mo amongst others.

They look super fun, my only reservation might be whether the cut dough comes out easily from the cutter but the stamper means less decorating work to make them look fab.

You could also try  the Fuzzy Inc ones which are available via the Movember website – looks like they ship from the US.

Wilton make these rather fab Mustache Molds (note the US spelling if you’re looking for them online!) which could be used with chocolate as well as their candy melts.  Not so widely available here with paying a hefty shipping charge, but could be used again and again.

[Edit – it seems that the Munchstaches might be sold out online at Oliver Bonas. Try in the stores or also available here.]

In the UK, all the ‘Mo Bros’ who participate in Movember help to stimulate conversation about men’s health and raise awareness of the most prevalent male cancers, testicular and prostate. 

Homemade Halloween Part II – Tiny Teeny Halloweeny Pies

I’ve been meaning to contribute to Sarah’s “Forever Nigella” monthly round-up for ages. I’m a Nigella devotee. Somehow I even seem to have a copy of “Summer Bites” and that book did too, to be honest. More notes space than recipes in there.

This month’s challenge is “Halloween Horrors” with the instructions to take a Nigella recipes and ‘halloween it up’, basically.  So let me introduce to you… the Tiny Teeny Halloweeny Pies.

Tiny Teeny Halloweeny Pies

These are a variation on the Star-Topped Mince Pies from Nigella Christmas.  I added a healthy helping of chopped stem ginger in syrup to make these a bit more tangy than your average apple pie and put a little powdered ginger into the pastry.

This just about makes 24 Tiny Pies with their scary faces. It also meant I could use the set of miniature Aspic Cutters I bought about ten years ago in Dean & Deluca. On a cost per use basis – well they were still kind of expensive, but still!

special Equipment

  • 2 x 12-cup mini pie baking tins
  • 1 x 4 or 5 cm round biscuit cutter
  • Aspic cutters or a sharp knife and lots of patience
  • rolling pin (this is v handy)

Ingredients

  • 160g plain flour
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • 40g of Trex (vegetable shortening)
  • 40ml of orange juice (without bits!)
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 cooking apples, to yield about 3oog once peeled and cored
  • 2 tbsp of soft brown sugar
  • 35g of stem ginger, finely chopped 

Method 

  1. Sieve the flour and powdered ginger into a shallow bowl. Add the shortening in small lumps and the diced cold butter, toss gently and put it into the freezer for 20 minutes. At the same time, add the salt to the orange juice and chill that in the fridge.  Prep the fruit for later.
  2. Blitz the flour mixture in the food processor until the breadcrumb stage. Add as much of the orange juice as you need to make it almost come together (you might have surplus juice which is fine; if you run out use iced water to finish up).
  3. On your work surface, work the mixture into a soft dough. Divide into two batches, roughly one third and two thirds of the mix, and wrap in clingfilm to chill for another 20 minutes while you preheat the oven to 220c or Gas Mark 7.


  4. While the dough is chilling, make your filling. Put the apple, ginger and sugar in a pan with 1tbsp of water and cook down slowly (chop up the apples smaller that I did!) Leave to cool a little while you make the faces and prep the dough cases.
  5. Use the larger piece of dough for the cases. When rolling out the dough, go as thin as possible – 2mm was what I aimed for. You can patch it up, this dough is pretty forgiving. If you re-roll the scraps enough you will have plenty of dough for 24 mini pies.
  6. Cut out the cases with the round cutter and lay into the tin holes.
  7. For the ‘faces’ I had an egg shaped cutter but using a round one, then pulling the face out of shape would be fine. The egg shape worked better sideways too. Use aspic cutters or a knife for the features. Then the leftover triangles you remove can double up as pumpkin stalks.
  8. Put a half tsp of filling in each one – they bubble over quite a bit.
  9. Put in the oven and check after 8 minutes.  Mine were almost done then – and two more minutes meant they were on the rather well-done side, dammit.
  10. Decorate with suitable jelly sweets – like the Natural Confectionary Company’s worms, as above.

In hindsight putting some green colouring into the filling would have worked too…if you’re making them for kids you might want to tone down the ginger or add either a dusting of icing sugar or some icing on top.

Looking forward to seeing the rest of the Horrors in the round up! For a slightly healthier treat – well, it does involve more fruit but probably also more sugar – what about Caramel Apples?

PS I notice that Lakeland have something similar to aspic cutters in their Christmas range – Tree Trinket Cutters with mini inserts to stamp out shapes in the interior of the cookie. Melt some boiled sweets in there and you’ve got stained glass cookies!

Homemade Halloween: Marshmallow Ghosts

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a newly-married woman in possession of a good kitchen must be in want of a KitchenAid.

Actually the newly married has nothing to do with it but we finally moved to a house where appliances don’t have to prove their worth by multi-tasking to earn valuable counter space (therefore hello enormo coffee grinder…) and my mother in law brilliantly ordered this for us.

This immediately made me want to make ridiculous things, preferably involving hot sugar.  I’m trying to not eat the entire world after being on a hardcore pre-wedding diet, but [serious case of “justification” coming] I’ve had this particular recipe in mind for ages and Halloween was coming…

Marshmallow Ghosts

I worked from the recipe in Matt Lewis and Rene Poliafito‘s Baked book, after seeing them float Titanic-capsizing chunks of fresh vanilla marshmallow into the hot chocolate they serve at their Red Hook bakery last year and being unable to forget them!

Make sure to be particularly pernickety about your mise-en-place for this. Even attempting to be rigorous, I had a few things that I needed to dash and find. Line the tin generously with parchment and clingfilm as you’ll need to grasp it to lever the glorious slab out when it’s set.

Equipment

  • deep 32.5 x 23-centimeter baking pan – I used a roasting tray
  • clingfilm and parchment for lining it
  • Either spray oil or oil plus a pastry brush – which I used instead of the suggested vegetable shortening in the original recipe
  • a medium heatproof bowl for the gelatin, which fits on Saucepan B as below
  • 1st small saucepan to melt the sugars mixture – Saucepan A
  • 2nd small saucepan to act as a bain marie – Saucepan B
  • measuring cups  (two sets might be useful)
  • stand mixer with whisk attachment fitted
  • heatproof spatulas – I like these as they fit in small size measuring cups
  • sugar thermometer
  • offset spatula
  • sieve or sifter
  • sharp knife, or for ghosts –
  • shaped cookie cutters, toothpicks, black food colouring

Ingredients

  • 8 sheets of gelatin
  • 2 cups of granulated sugar
  • 2 x ½ cups of light corn syrup (which I got in Selfridges but you could use Golden Syrup)
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • icing sugar and cornflour mixed together 2:1 for dusting

Method 

  1. Generously line the tin with clingfilm, followed by parchment and either use spray oil to grease, or brush the parchment with oil using a pastry brush.
  2. Leave the gelatin in a bowl of cold water to soften (make sure the bowl you use will fit snugly on top of Saucepan B in double-boiler fashion for later).
  3. In Saucepan A, stir together ½ cup of corn syrup, ½ cup of water and all the sugar. Don’t splash it up the sides and make the pan is deep enough to accommodate your sugar thermometer’s bulb! (I had to change pans).
  4. Put the other ½ cup of corn syrup in the stand mixer.
  5. When Saucepan B’s water is boiling: get the bowl and drain and wring out the gelatin sheets, then put them back in the bowl and place it on top of Saucepan B. Stir with the spatula til completely melted (it looks quite odd and just when you think it will never melt…)
  6. Pour that gelatin into the stand mixer with the corn syrup and start whisking on low.
  7. Skip promptly back to Saucepan A and take it off the heat at “Soft Ball” stage, about 235F. Bring to the mixer, turn the speed to medium then very carefully pour the contents of Saucepan A into the mixer bowl. Then turn the speed to medium/high for five minutes until you see it majestically fluff and expand.
  8. Quickly add the vanilla and salt, then give it another minute on high.
  9. Make sure your pan is ready beside you and pour the marshmallow in and spread out. Use the spatula if you must but gently tilting the tin works too.
  10. Sprinkle the top with sugar.  Leave for at least six hours or overnight before attempting to cut it.

  11. Lift it out of the tin by grabbing the parchment. Flip it over using another board so you can also sugar the bottom. Either cut into large squares or use cookie cutters to cut specific shapes if you like. Toss them in the sugar and cornflour mix to coat them and minimize sticky fingers!
  12. If using ghost cutters, Draw on their expressions using a toothpick dipped in black food colouring. Then chop the remaining marshmallow into small mini pieces to use as a baking ingredient or scatter over icecream.  Store in an airtight tin, good for a week. Or get the hot chocolate ready…

I would say that while it’s not complex to make marshmallows, a stand mixer does make it easier and you have a lot of steps to get through at once, around the critical sugar-boiling stage. Also – hell of a lot of washing up, of sticky gloopy things. But I do think it’s worth it.