Thursday, 26 April 2012

Naughty Orange and Grapefruit Curd.

Making curd, lemon or otherwise, feels to me like the naughtiest thing in the culinary world. Not because of the thoroughly indecent amount of sugar and butter present in such a small space, though I do admit that is something that those more calorie-squeamish amongst us may find distressing (my advice- feel the fear, eat it anyway and run a few extra miles).

Nono, it’s that fact that throughout my childhood, and therefore a significant portion of my life, it was an out of bounds food stuff. Not for any kiddie-diet-health-concern, but simply the fact that our dear Mutus, our most favourite female, cannot STAND the stuff.

Going near enough to it to make lemon curd sandwiches for our lunch boxes was simply out of the question; a state of affairs I had somehow managed to decipher that I lamented. I must have rebelliously come in to contact with some curd at some point, which afforded me the knowledge that this hatred is pretty much the only gene I haven’t inherited from the lady in question, and I was therefore aware of the injustice of a curd-free childhood.

So now, as an adult (on the outside anyways), making and eating curd, in this case the orange and grapefruit variety, makes me feel like I should do it in secret, heheheing as I tiptoe around the kitchen. Ridiculous really considering that I live 500 miles away from home, making tiptoes absolutely pointless and the fact that I wasn’t allowed to drink gin when I was little either and Mutus and I now find endless joy in sharing that activity. So don’t be scared, of the naughty-ness of the process. With Love and Cake.

Orange and Grapefruit Curd.
Adapted from River Cottage Handbook No.2 by Pam 'the jam' Corbin.

A few notes:
  • If you're unfamiliar with the eating of pretty much treat it as jam. On toast it is diviiiiiine, or you could fill a cake with it, or use it as a sort of sauce on a slice of something for dessert. Allllso, I shall send a recipe your way soon in which it is used to make the MOST simple dessert.
  • You don't neeeeeeed a sugar thermometer to make this, I've done it several times without, but I do prefer to, just because relying on science instead of my judgement does make sense sometimes.
  • To make this last as long as poss, around 4 weeks, it's best to store in sterilised jars. Here's how....pop clean glass jars in a cold oven, turn the heat to 170°c. When the oven reaches that temperature, leave the jars 'cooking' for 10 minutes. Then turn the oven off and leave the jars inside it until you need them.
  • To make this standard lemon curd, simple replace all the zest and juice with the yellow variety.
Makes around 750ml

You will need

finely grated zest 2 oranges
200ml a mixture of orange and grapefruit, proportions is not really important
125g butter, cubed
450g granulated sugar
200ml beaten egg (it'll be 4-5 eggs)

  • Pop the zest, juice, butter and sugar in a bowl sat over a pan of simmering water (like you would melt chocolate).
  • As soon as the butter has melted and the liquid is hot and shiny and measuring between 55-60°c on a sugar thermometer, pour in the eggs through a sieve and whisk.
  • Stir gently over the simmering pan until it has become thick and creamy, and has reached 82-84°c. It will probably take 10-15 minutes so be patient.
  • When it's done, pour it straight into your sterilised jars, and it's ready for your toast.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012


Hello, yes oh hiii. Today my dear I have for you...Macaroooooooons. Not Macarons. Nono not those delicate little French treats that have been oh so ‘trendy yah’ for a while now and come in pink and yellow and green and purple and rainbow stripes (probably) and are so achingly pretty that they make you wish you lived in Paris and just wandered round all day in the sun with a box of twelve, that you probably paid 50 Euros for, hooked under your arm. Please don’t read snobbery or rolley eyeyness into this teeny little’s only that I haven’t quite mastered these yet. You can be sure that when I do I shall be waxing lyrical about their wonderfulness, and lamenting that I am 2 years late to the macaron party.

I digress. Yes macarooooooons; as in the veryvery English version that the Famous Five ate platefuls of, with much ginger beer of course. I think I’m right in saying, and either way this will prove my status as the MOST uncool person that there ever was, that it’s in Five on Finniston Farm that they outrage a café owner by eating her entire stash in one sitting. Fatties.

I digress. Again. Instead of light-as-air little meringue-ey bites, these are bendy and chewy and have a strong hint of pistachio, no raspberry, no rainbows. Just a really good biscuit.

I guess the differences between these two types of confectionary are quite a good representation of the stereotypical differences between the English and the French...our version is not stylish but sturdy, not fancy but pretty, not complex but predictable, and really likes to sit next to a cup of tea or a cold glass of ginger beer. A bit like you really. HA jokes. With Love and Cake. 

From The Hamlyn All Colour Book of Tea Time Treats.

A few notes:
  • Traditionally these are baked onto rice paper, which is edible. If you can find this, BRILL, tell me where you got it. If like me, you can't, or like me, can't be bothered to really look particularly hard, no probs, just make sure you grease your baking tray well and remove them from it as gently and as soon out of the oven as poss, using something flat and thin like a palate knife. This is all because they don't form a crust on their bottom which means they're sticky little blighters.
  • To get the most even shape and size of biscuits, it's best to use a piping bag, but do not panic if this isn't an option for you, a teaspoon will do just fine. You can see from my pics that a piping bag does not guarantee cheffy perfection anyway. 
Makes 10-12
You will need

a large baking sheet, well greased with butter or oil

100g ground almonds
100g caster sugar
2 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon almond essence
10-12 whole almonds

  • First job, preheat the oven to 180°c.
  • Mix the almonds and sugar together in a medium bowl.
  • Then, in a larger bowl, whisk the egg whites until nice and stiff and you can do the holding-it-upside-down-over-your-head-thing.
  • Gently fold the almond mixture and essence into the egg whites with a metal spoon.
  • Add the mixture to your piping bag if using and pipe or spoon about 10 rounds onto your baking sheet.
  • Press a whole almond onto the top of each disc and get them into the oven.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, until just golden and slightly firm.
  • Remove from the baking tray (see note) to a wire rack to cool. Ooooor eat, asap, on Finniston Farm.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Love For Orange and Rosemary Biscuits.

Oh biscuits, I do love you so. In all of your forms; plump and chewy, thin and crumbly, chocolatey, buttery, oaty...whatever, I love you all. But I'm afraid it is an unrequited affair.

I'm not a snacker in general. Therefore the appearance of a biccy in my day has got to be a special one. And myohmy did this orange and rosemary concoction deliver. Crumbly shortbread with a sweet, creamy icing, and the fantastically unexpected combination of orange and rosemary.....mmmm dreamy.

But the biscuit doesn't love me back. It leads me on with it's delicious delicacy, leaves me wanting more and more and more without remotely satisfying any hunger (or nutritional requirement, but the less said about that the better).

Like a classic fool I will continue to love these wonderful little mouthfuls, lust after their soft melty-in-the-mouthyness and embrace their calories into my day. Make them and you will not be able to resist their charm either. Sorry. With Love and Cake.

Orange and Rosemary Biscuits.

A few notes:
  • If you're not liking the whole rosemary thing here, first, think again, it's wonderful, second, simply leave it out and the orangeyness will be even more lovely and sunshiney.
  • The icing is not mandatory of course, but does contribute greatly to fancyness and to texture.
  • I use my food processor here, which means the biscuits are a cinch to make, but if that's not an option for you, just rub the butter in with your fingers and bring the dough together with your hands.
Makes 15-20
You will need

a 7-ish-cm round cutter (or use a glass or mug)
a large baking sheet, lined

For the biscuits
175g plain flour
100g soft butter
50g caster sugar
zest of 1 orange
1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 egg yolk

For the icing
100g icing sugar
1 tbsp fresh orange juice
1/2 tsp orange food colouring (optional)
fresh rosemary leaves

  • Get your oven on first, so it preheats to 180°c.
  • Now pop the flour and butter in your processor and whizz (or rub in by hand) to the texture of breadcrumbs.
  • Whizz or stir in the sugar, zest and rosemary so everything is evenly combined.
  • Add the egg yolk and bring the mix together in your processor or by hand to a smooth dough.
  • On a clean, floured surface roll the dough out to about the thickness of a pound coin.
  • Cut out discs with your cutter and transfer them to your baking sheet.
  • Collect up and roll out the excess dough and cut out more discs; continuing until all the dough is used up.
  • Bake in the oven for 12 minutes when they should be just golden.
  • Leave the biscuits to firm up a bit on the baking tray for 5 minutes or so, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • When the biscuits are cold it's time to ice.
  • Whisk the icing sugar with the orange juice and colouring so you have a smooth, faaaairly thick paste.
  • Then spoon and smooth it over the top of your biscuits and top with a rosemary leaf if you're feeling fancypants.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Orange Drizzle Orange Cake with Candied Oranges.

Hiiiiii Little Sis...back to Cornwall with you then is it? Hope you weren’t too sad to leave the homeland. I really was this time; tears and everything. Sap. The only thing to do is to immerse myself in kitchen comfort and the warmth of the oven. Sappysappysapsap.

But my recent kitchen based endeavours have not purely been for the purpose of soul soothing. Oh no. They have also been contributing to the saviour of the world in the form of waste management. Every little helps and all that. 

You see I have recently come into some oranges. HA, that makes it sound like we have some Orange Baron as a long lost relative who died and left me his orangey fortune. No, not quite. What really happened was far less glam I’m afraid. The fancypants shop I work in had llloadds of oranges as a springtime display, and changing seasons (it’s summer now apparently) mean changing fruit, so I rescued them. Well, as many as I could carry home on the train. It could have been a bit precarious had I dropped one of my fruit filled bags. Imagine how frightened the fruit-phobic Scots would have been seeing a load of these neon beauties rolling around their feet....I jest I jest.

Anyway. First stop Orange Drizzle Cake. Well, not strictly first stop- you can see that I started slowly with just a lean to orangeyness with my Chocolate Orange French Toast, but here, we are at full-on orange territory. And do you know what? My pile is still pretty immense and withering fast, so expect a torrent of sweet citrus treats to be heading your way soon. Any requests or ideas greatly appreciated. With Love and Cake.

Orange Drizzle Cake with Candied Oranges.

A few notes:
  • Of course this is inspired by the classic English tea time treat, the great lemon drizzle, and if you haven't come into an orange mountain, or simple prefer yellow things, feel free to switch it back by replacing the orange parts with lemon parts.
  • Do NOT be put off by the candied oranges. They are soso simple to make and turn a homemade cake into a cake that's dressed up to the nines and ready to paint the town orange. Though if leaving them off  means you do make the cake rather than just look at the pictures, then please do. 
  • Omitting the candied orange part will, however, leave you sans syrup to drizzle, so instead, just gently heat 100g caster sugar with the juice of 2 or 3 oranges in a small pan until the sugar has dissolved and the liquid has thickened slightly.
  • If you don't have any polenta and don't want to invest, just use the same amount of ground almonds or flour.
Makes 1 loaf cake
You will need

1 medium sized loaf tin, greased and lined.

For the candied oranges
1 cup (just use an average sized coffee mug to measure) granulated sugar
3 cups water
2 oranges, sliced to the thickness you'd have in a drink

For the cake
115g butter, at room temperature
250g caster sugar
2 eggs
140g flour
50g polenta
1 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
125ml milk
zest of 2 oranges

  • First lets get on with the candying. All you need to do is dissolve the sugar in the water in a large saucepan over a low heat.
  • Then add the orange slices and boil for around half an hour or until the liquid has reduced by around a quarter and is thick and syrupy...That's it.
  • Now for the cake: preheat the oven to 180°c.
  • Beat the butter and sugar together until well incorporated; I use an electric hand whisk but a wooden spoon would do just fine.
  • Then beat in the eggs, one at a time, until the mixture is light and fluffy looking.
  • Next, fold in the flour, baking powder and salt.
  • Finally beat in the milk and orange zest and pour the mixture into your loaf tin.
  • Get him in the oven where he needs around 50 minutes-1 hour, by which point he should be firm to the touch and golden sunshine brown.
  • While the cake is still warm and in his tin, prick all over with a skewer, a piece of uncooked spaghetti or a little but sharp knife.
  • Pour the syrup left from the candied oranges (or the one that you made, see notes) all over the cake and watch it seep in.
  • When the cake is cool enough to handle, remove from the tin and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.
  • Now it's dress-up time. Just layer a nice line of the delicious candied orange slices all along the top of the loaf, stand back and admire.
  • It's lovely served with creme fraiche and any leftover candied oranges if you wanted it eeeeeeven fancier or as a pud. Otherwise just slice and sit it next to a nice cup of tea.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Chocolate Orange French Toast: A breakfast breakthrough.

Morning Sunshine.....I've said it before and I'm sure I will again (I tend to do that, just ask the boyf, he gets inFURiated and all rolley eyed at my apparent inextensive and finite supply of stories), but French Toast is not reeeaally my thing.

It makes no sense I know, I love bread, I love eggs, I loveloveLOVE breakfast, but French Toast (read: fancy eggy bread) just never seems to hit the same joy receptive spot that my beloved pancakes do.

Yet in my constant bid to extent my morning repertoire I try and try again to make a version that doesn't leave me lamenting over a passed up pancake opportunity. But llllllllooooooooook. Joy of joys. I did it. This French Toast is IT. It's the ONE. No room for pancakes in this kitchen this morning, too much bready eggy goodness to fit in.

But that's the thing really, it's not bready or eggy, and therefore not eggy bready, which is, confusingly, what I usually don't enjoy about French Toast. I guess though, really, how could anything that's stuffed with chocolate, fried in butter and dipped in sugar not convince you of it's place in your day. I'm not saying it's a health food...but it's Saturday tomorrow and I'm pretty sure you deserve a go on...With Love and Cake.

Chocolate Orange French Toast.
I invented this one myself...what a bloomin' geeenius I am.

A few notes:

  • Of course you could leave out the chocolate middle and just do all the rest with a thicker slab of bread, then you'd have Morning Marmalade French Toast. YeeeY to illiteration.
  • If you don't want so much of a sugar hit that is provided by the final dredging, just leave that step out.
Serves 1 piggyporker
You will need

2 thin slices of white bread- stale is good here
1 tbsp-ish Nutella
zest and juice 1 orange
1 egg
1 tbsp milk
1 tsp icing sugar
1-2 tbsps caster sugar
1 tbsp butter + 1 drop of vegetable or sunflower oil

  • So first job is to make a Nutella sandwich.
  • Then make a bath for it by mixing together the orange zest, egg and milk in a shallow bowl or plate.
  • Dunk your sandwich in the eggy bath and leave to soak for a few minutes each side.
  • While that's happening mix the orange juice and icing sugar in a little saucepan and heat so the icing sugar dissolves and the juice becomes a little bit syrupy.
  • When the syrup is ready, pop it in a shallow dish like the one the eggy mix is in, and put the caster sugar in a separate bowly plate.
  • Now melt the butter in a frying pan with the oil until it's foaming and pop your eggy sandwich in the pan too.
  • Fry each side until golden brown, it wont take long.
  • From the pan, dunk the golden buttery sandwich in the syrup so both sides get covered and the do the same in the sugary bowl so everything gets a good dredge.
  • Eat, lie back, and don't do anything for a whiiiile...ooor run around in circles like a little dog that's eaten a packet of sugar lumps. Either's a good way to start the day.

Friday, 6 April 2012

I Will Eat These Hot Cross Buns.

I love a good hot cross bun, but really can't remember the last time I actually ate one. It's one of those sad state of affairs where some lovely seasonal treats start popping up all over the place but I resistresistresist, because it's still early in the 'season', whichever one it may be, and one can't eat cake/treats/buns aaaalll the time.

(Sorry but it's true, one can't possibly eat cake for all three meals eeeveryday....just some....well most).

But then, before you know it, the season is over and the treats have disappeared without a trace, and I've missed my chance to indulge. The same things happens with mince pies, which I LOVE but only really ever have 1 or 2 a year.

But not this time. No. This batch of little lovelies will be split and toasted and buttered and devoured throughout and after Easter. My freezer is stocked and I WILL indulge. I might just whip up some mince pies while I'm at it. With Love and Cake.

Hot Cross Buns
From River Cottage Handbook No.3 by Daniel Stevens

A few notes:
  • If you're not feeling Eastery or want to leave Jesus out of your kitchen, simple leave off the crosses and you have some lovely, non-season specific buns...not that I think eating Hot Cross Buns in July should ever be considered a crime.
  • To make the crosses nice and neat I made a teeny piping cone out of grease-proof paper (make a cone and snip the end off) and piped them on. But if you can't be bothered with that faff, and to be honest I've always found that homemade hot cross buns rarely achieve a cross that stands out like the shop bought variety so neatness matters little, just gently spoon the flour mix over in lines.
  • If you're making these for a particular occasion, save glazing the buns until just before they're served, as it looses it's sheen after a while, or mine did anyhoo.
  • For a few extra tips on dealing with yeasty thing, have a peep at my white bread recipe. The same rules and laws apply to these buns, and most yeasty recipes really.
Makes 8
You will need

a large baking sheet, lined

For the buns
250g strong white bread flour
250g plain flour
125ml warm water
125ml warm milk
2 tsp dried yeast
1 tsp fine salt
50g caster sugar
1 egg
50g butter, at room temperature
100g dried fruit- raisins, sultanas or currants or a mix of all 3
zest of 1/2 orange
1 tsp mixed spice

For the crosses
50g plain flour
100ml water

For the glaze
1 tbsp light colour jam or jelly, with out major lumps

  • In a nice large bowl, mix together all the bun ingredients with your hands.
  • Turn out onto a well floured surface, the dough should be quite sticky, and knead for around 5 minutes until it is smooth and shiny.
  • Pop the dough back in it's bowl, cover with clingfilm or a plastic bag, and leave somewhere snug and cosy for around 1 hour.
  • When the dough has risen and basically doubled in size, tip it out of the bowl onto a floured surface and knock it about a bit to release all the built up gas.
  • Divide the dough into 8 pieces, shape into rounds and pop them on your prepared baking sheet, with a good few centimetres room between them.
  • Leave the buns alone for another 1/2 hour or so to do more rising and when the time's nearly up preheat the oven to 200°c and prepare the mix for the do this simply by mixing the flour and water to a paste.
  • Pipe or spoon crosses over the risen buns (see notes above) and then get them in the preheated oven.
  • Bake for around 20 minutes, until darkened and plump.
  • Transfer the buns to a wire rack to cool while you prepare the glaze.
  • Heat the jam with a splash of water so it melts and goes syrupy.
  • Brush the glaze over the buns so they look shiny and jewel like.
  • Now eat warm with butter, heaven, and after a few days give them a toast. Breakfast heaven any time of year.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Unexpected Simnel Cake.

I've been meaning to make this cake for the previous, mmmmmmmm, at least 4 Easters. Mostly as an excuse to eat marzipan in great blobs- WhAT? It's Easter-time for feeeeasts. But also so I could feel like 'that person', the person who knows that *Easter/any particular holiday* is around the corner and gets organised enough to cook something special and suited to such occasion, having it all ready and waiting for that elusive occasion, talked about so much over Christmas, when someone "unexpectedly calls round".

Now I don't know about you, well I do actually and I know you're not quite as metal as me in this, area at least, but I try to keep 'unexpected' to a minimum, and someone happening to pop in for tea and cake is a rare occurrence (gin maybe). But anyways, that's by the by, because I like the notion of it and the feeling that one could handle  unexpected should it be required and maybe even enjoy it.

And look, I seem to have got there, I am 'that' person: evidenced by approaching Easter and my stash of Simnel Cake. By the way, Simnel Cake, in case you're unaware, is rather traditional Easter fare. The 11 marzipan balls on top represent each of the disciples minus that nasty Judas one. 

So here you are, a recipe for you to be 'that person' and enough time to get there should you fancy. But if not, head on over to my house, I shall be poised over the kettle. With Love and Cake.

Simnel Cake
Adapted from a Mary Berry recipe

A few notes:
  • This is the sort of cake that keeps really nicely, just getting more moist and fruity after a few days left mingling in its tin.
  • Feel free to change up the fruit if you like/dislike some things more than others, or maybe feel like getting a little exotic and adding other things like stem ginger. Just keep the overall quantity the same.
  • If you don't fancy dealing with the 2 tears, it would still be a Simnel Cake if you halved the recipe and cooked it in one tip, just using marzipan on top. Lots of recipes do call for this method, but I wanted to max out on the marzipan.
Makes a tall 18cm cake
You will need

2 18cm cake tins, greased and bottoms lined

100g glacé cherries, quartered
225g butter, softened
225g soft brown sugar
4 eggs
225g self raising flour
100g currants
50g candied peel
zest of 2 unwaxed lemons
2 tsps mixed spice
450g marzipan
1-2 tbsp jam (apricot is traditional but I don't worry too much)
1 egg, lightly beaten

  • As always first job is to preheat the oven, to 150°c.
  • Wash the cherries in cool water to remove all the sticky syrup, drain and dry thoroughly with kitchen towel. Set them aside for a minute.
  • In one large bowl, pop your butter, sugar, eggs, flour, fruit, zest and spice and beat with a wooden spoon until everything is nicely combined.
  • Divide the cake mixture between both of your prepared tins and bake for 1-1 1/4 hours, until bronze and firm. If you're worried the cakes are browning too much too early, just wrap the top in some foil.
  • When they're done leave them to cool in their tins for around 10 minutes or until just cool enough to handle.
  • Meanwhile, roll out the marzipan into 2 18cm circles and make 11 balls out of the rest.
  • When the cakes are cool enough, turn them out of their tins.
  • Turn one of the cakes upside down onto your serving dish so the flatter side is uppermost.
  • Heat the jam gently so it gets nice and syrupy and brush over the top of the upside down cake.
  • Press one of your marzipan circles over the jammy cake, smooth it over and brush the top of that with more jam.
  • Now top this with the final cake's kind of up to you which way up this one goes, just go with which ever side you think will look neatest as the top.
  • Brush jam over the top of this cake and top with the second circle of marzipan.
  • Brush the marzipan all over with the egg and then attach the 11 marzipan ball evenly around the outside.
  • Brush the balls with a little egg too and then turn your grill on so it gets nice and hot.
  • Pop your cake under the grill until the balls and the centre gets a little singed. DO NOT wander off, it wil NOT take long and you will CRY if your cakes gets ruined (sorry for strictness, but it is important that you don't die in a house fire/your cake doesn't burn).
  • Noooooow you're ready, sit back and wait for the doorbell.