Sunday, June 29, 2014

Eccles Cakes perfected - my they're good!

 Ahhhh - a picture of my perfected Eccles Cakes which went through a variety of stages before ending up like this crumbly luscious raisin studded delight you see glowing happily above. My first attempt was on a way too hot and humid day where I added just a tad too much water to the dough, for indeed one needs so much less water in one's pastry on such a day, and I didn't keep my pastry cool so it was a very soft texture thus instead of attaining said Eccles Cakes, and no they are not actually what one would think of as a cake but more of a self contained mince pie - but I digress - I ended up with Eccles Biscuits/Cookies:
...which tasted great but were not what I had in mind. SO I thought I have all these amazing strawberries....

 ...with many more to come from our neighbour - I should make strawberry biscuits/cookies like my failed Eccles Cakes - and so I made them on a less humid and hot day and guess what - I ended up with Strawberry Eccles Cakes - ha ha!!!
James loves "water icing" drizzle so I doused them with said delight and they were very, very good. The recipe for them is the same as that below for the actual Eccles Cakes but instead of the raisiny mix you macerate strawberries in sugar until soft and having given up a lot of their juices strain them - use the resultant juice for a nice refreshing drink, perhaps watered down some, and also use the juice to rub on the 'cakes' thus before baking before the necessary sprinkling of sugar!

SO - to the recipe - I have not made pastry with spelt flour until very recently and now I am a convert - it crumblified and toothified the pastry to a divine extent and I am not sure I will ever make all white flour pastry again:

3ozs white flour and 3 ozs spelt flour mixed together - 3/4 cup each

1oz/ 1/8 cup sugar

4 oz/ 1 stick very cold salted butter

1/8 to 1/4 cup - a few liquid ounces of very cold water

1. Put flours in a mixing bowl and grate very cold butter on top - if you keep dipping the chunks of cold butter into the flour to coat it will be easier to grate
2. Rub butter into flours until it looks like breadcrumbs (you can do this in a cuisinart but I like to do everything by hand)
3. Add some of the water and start squushing the pastry and keep adding bit by bit of water until it can be formed into a non-sticky ball - less water is better so squush hard until it comes together: 

5. Put into the fridge to rest for at least one hour - or as long as you like. 

Now to the yummy filling:
First make some hot tea to soak the raisin and currants in - you'll need about 8 fl ozs/one cup - good and strong and soak them for about 2 hours
1 1/2 ozs/about 1/4 cup each of currants and raisins
soaked in hot tea for 2 hours and drained

if you can't get GS do 3 ounces total of sugar but GS makes the cakes sing!!

1oz/ 1/8 cup sugar 

1 1/2 ozs/ 3 tablespoons salted butter 

1/2 teaspoon each of nutmeg and cardamom
NB Many recipes add lemon zest or candied lemon peel but I preferred mine without - of course you may add it to yours!

1. Put all these ingredients in a pan and melt til bubbly and stir frequently until juices/butter has thickened. 

2. Allow to cool. 

3. Strain the above and save the sauce.
4. Roll out the dough nice and thin and cut into 4 inch rounds - I got 9 out of mine after rerolling the scraps a couple of times.

5. Dollop about a good teaspoon of currant goodness in the middle, it doesn't sound like much but it works and if you do more you can't close the cakes, and dot saved sauce around the edges to help stick the cakes together.
6. Fold the dough over the filling thus - all the way round and then squush and squish as necessary to make sure there are no holes on the bottom for the juices to leak out, this pictures a less juicy example but you may experience the juices running out - don't worry everything will be fine, you just get sticky hands!! - beauty is not an important aspect of the cakes at this point - or any really!!
7. When it's all battened down the bottom of the cake should look like this:
8. Turn it over and flatten a little and very gently between your palms then place on a parchment sheet on your baking tray.
The slits on these Eccles Cakes are too long - make sure yours are shorter!
9. Now cut two SHORT slits in the top of each Eccles Cake - I realized too late my cuts were mostly too long and they made the cakes open up too much so maybe only about 1 inch long.
10. Spread some of the leftover sauce on the tops and then sprinkle with sugar before bobbing into the oven for about 20 minutes until golden brown and lovely:
These slits on the top of these 3 were perfect!

OH MY GOODNESS - these are so good - I poured any leftover sauce in the slits when the cakes were still hot to make them even more juicy.

Allow to cool before you enjoy them with your feet up, a nice cuppa in hand and a good read of the latest British Country Living in your near future!!
I do hope you make these and if you do please post pics and comments on my Facebook page HERE - thanks!

Next up on the blog is a whole bunch o' new designs at my Spoonflower and Society6 online shops so please stay tuned!!

Happy Baking from Patricia
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Monday, June 9, 2014

Rhubarb and Custard Tart with Cream Cheese topping - yes please!!

Growing up in England Rhubarb and Custard used to be a regular pudding in spring - and I just loved my stewed rhubarb and custard so imagine my delight when my friend and brilliant food blogger Christina at Christina's Cucina posted a recipe for Rhubarb and Custard Bars from Taste of Home on her Facebook page - I knew I had to make it. I ended up making the recipe three times as I halved the size of the Taste of Home RECIPE and made it in a 9" tart pan - it was good, very creamy and delicious but I wanted more custard - so I made it in the same size pan but a deeper one - and that was really good too but I still needed more custard so then I went for a 7.5" x 2" deep pan, and decided to use my Easy Peasy crust instead of the very simple crust in the original recipe which indeed was very simple, and very very good, but I found it hard to squush into the tart pan - it kept sticking to my hands and coming back off the pan so I did this crust instead - it's lovely and again a no roll out crust - you squush this one into the pan too.


Pre heat oven to 325F
Enough for one tart case 9” shallow or my 7.5 x 2" deep pie pan.

1 1/2 cups/6ozs of unbleached white flour 

1/2 cup/2ozs confectioners/icing sugar 

1 stick + 1 tablespoon/ 4 1/2ozs butter VERY COLD 

1 large egg yolk

1. Sift dry ingredients together into a medium sized bowl. 

2. Grate the butter into the dry ingreds., and rub in until like breadcrumbs.
 3. Add egg yolk and blend and squush carefully until the dough sticks together. This may take a little time but despair not it will come together - just don't let it warm up - pie crusts pastry should always be kept as cold as possible to make it flaky and divine. 

4. Tear dough into big chunks… strategically in pie pan and start squushing to a create a smooth even covering of the entire pan…the beauty of this crust is that it does NOT shrink at all…it stays put…good crust!!...and it tastes like a really good shortbread…yum!!

5. Bob into the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

6. Remove from the fridge and prick the pastry all over with a fork - this is to prevent bubbles forming when you bake. Next I lined the pastry with parchment paper and weighed it down with black eyed peas - you can use beans or pie weights but don't go down the road of popcorn as I did once - you can guess at those results.
6. Bake for about 15 minutes, remove from the oven, genteely lift the paper and weight from the shell and bob pastry back into the oven for about another 15 minutes - don't worry when you take the weights out if the pastry looks soggy and sad - it will improve by the next time you take it out of the oven :))

Keep your eyes peeled - you want the crust to be evenly baked but not browned. Keep your oven on at 325F.

Now assemble your pie ingredients:
4.5oz/2 1/2 cups thinly sliced rhubarb
6oz/ scant 3/4 cup of sugar
6 fl oz/ 3/4 cup heavy/double cream
3 medium sized eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla essence/extract
4 tablespoons white flour
1. Whisk flour and sugar together
2. Add eggs and whisk then add the cream and vanilla and whisk until smooth.
3. Spread the rhubarb evenly on the bottom of the pie crust:
4. Gently pour the custard over - you can fill the crust right the way up, this filling does not expand much:
5. Bob into your pre heated 325F oven and bake for about 45mins - I over baked mine becaue I wanted it to be completely cooked and it made the crust a little too brown and the filling a little too hard - so if it wobbles a bit in the middle that's OK if you don't mind it being a bit harder to cut and maybe even a bit runny - it tastes really good that way!
The top of the tart wasn't too attractive but no worries as we're going to cover it with lovely creamy cream cheese sweetness. So allow the tart to cool completely before adding this deliciousness to the top of your pie:

3oz cream cheese
1 1/2 ozs / scant 1/4 cup of sugar

2 fl oz/ 1/4 cup heavy/double cream whipped to stiff

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence/extract
1. Beat the cream cheese until smooth
2. Add sugar and liquids and beat until smooth.
3. Fold in the whipped cream until smooth:
4. Then happily dollop atop your cooled tart:

This third tart did cut beautifully but it was just a tad too well baked - tasted great though!!
This pic below of the second tart I made which was shallower - I didn't bake it too long and as you can see it was still a bit soft at the middle - despite looking a bit soggy it did taste really good so I do suggest baking the tart less rather than more:

A close up of the lovely easy peasy tart crust - good and sturdy, reliable and very tasty like good shortbread.
This might be really good made with strawberries instead of rhubarb or with strawbs. and rhubarb, peaches, gooseberries, apricots or raspberries - I want to try them all!
The poppies, lupines and iris have just started blooming in my neck of the Maine woods - they are such a beautiful sight to behold each late spring:
Lupine leaves in the dewy air

So Happy Baking everyone - if you make this tart please feel free to post pics of such on my FACEBOOK PAGE!

If you are interested in the background fabrics in these pictures you can find them as print on demand fabric, wallpaper, wrapping paper and wall decals in my online
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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Free worldwide shipping for the biggest little Pink Cupcake in the land...and more...

The biggest little Pink Cupcake in the land - on a shower curtain from my Society6 online shop which I pinned to the front of the house to give it some scale as our bathroom proved too small for such a venture. I did however forget that trees cast such wonderful and intense shadows, but I like the way the shadow looks - wouldn't it be cool if the shadow were painted on a house permanently!
  Here's how the curtain looks in my shop:
I am really pleased not only with the giant size of the cupcake, considering how small I originally painted it in watercolour,

but also the quality of the nice draping fabric and the printing is exceptional - well done Society6!
This item, plus most of the others in my shop, are available for free worldwide shipping until this Sunday June 8th - the only items that aren't covered by this offer are the new rugs, pillows with inserts, framed prints and stretched canvases.

Click this specific LINK to activate the offer.

A little rendition of how the shower curtain and new rugs, which come in three sizes - 2' x 3', 3' x 5' and 4' x 6', look together.

All the different items below are part of the free shipping offer:
Thank you - happy free shipping and shopping!

Next up is a recipe for Rhubarb and Custard Pie - yum I say!!
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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Twice Baked Banana Cake for World Baking Day 2014

I hope you get to bake for someone you love or admire this fine Sunday! The act of baking a cake from scratch to me shows how much you care for someone and my someone this World Baking day is Jane Goodall, even though this is just a token gesture I bake for Jane in the spirit of great admiration, honour and respect for a genteel, kind and elegant woman who has spent her life studying, caring for and fighting for the rights and humane treatment of great apes. I was honoured to recently learn that we share the same birthday, April 3rd - me, Jane and Doris Day!
Here is the mission of her world renowned institute:

"Founded by renowned primatologist Jane Goodall, the Jane Goodall Institute is a global nonprofit that empowers people to make a difference for all living things. Our work builds on Dr. Goodall’s scientific work and her humanitarian vision. Specifically, we seek to:
Improve global understanding and treatment of great apes through research, public education and advocacy
Contribute to the preservation of great apes and their habitats by combining conservation with education and promotion of sustainable livelihoods in local communities
Create a worldwide network of young people who have learned to care deeply for their human community, for all animals and for the environment, and who will take responsible action to care for them"

To add a bit of wit to the day, as indeed the powers that be at WORLD BAKING DAY have chosen to do over on their website, I chose to make a Twice Baked Banana Cake for Jane for as we all know monkeys, chimpanzees and other apes are fond of their bananas. The cake has a banana layer beneath a layer of frangipane - almond cream. It is a quiet cake but substantial, it's not too sweet and it's great with a good hot cup of tea and as Jane is English I thought perhaps that might be her beverage of choice! 

Without further ado I give you:
adapted from a recipe in British Country Living magazine - my favourite magazine in the whole wide world!!!
Assemble your ingredients:
This is for a 9" cake, have all your ingredients at room temperature and set your oven to 325F, butter and flour your baking tin.
For the cake:
2oz/ 1/2 stick of butter 

3.5 oz/ 1/2 cup sugar 

2oz/ 1/3 cup toasted almonds ground - I toast in a 325F oven for about 8-10 mins until fragrant and crisp, allow to cool and then grind in a coffee grinder in small batches
(of course you can do all your almonds at the same time as you will need 4ozs more of ground almonds for the topping) 

2 fluid ounces/ scant 1/4 cup whole milk 

1 very ripe banana mashed until smooth

1/2 teaspoon baking soda/bicarb of soda 

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg freshly grated 

1 teaspoon almond essence/extract

1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence/extract 

2oz white flour and 2 ozs of spelt flour (1/2 cup each) - the spelt gives it a nice nutty flavour

1. Sift the dry ingredients together. 

2. Cream the butter and sugar together. 

3. Mix in the mashed banana, the almond essence/extract.

4. Fold in the dry ingredients in 3 goes and mix until smooth.

5. Spread evenly in the baking tin and pop into the oven for about 35 mins. until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
6. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes during which time make your frangipane topping for which you will need:

4ozs/ 2/3 cup toasted almonds ground as above 

2.5ozs/5 tablespoons butter (I always use salted for my desserts) very soft

4ozs/ heaped 1/2 cup sugar 

1 whole egg plus one egg white 

A goodly pinch of salt  

1 teaspoon almond essence/extract

A couple of tablespoons of flaked almonds for the top

(Truth be told I could have happily had twice as much of the frangipane so if you want to be decadent double this topping and hope it fits in the pan!)

1. Place all the ingredients except the flaked almonds in a bowl and beat until smooth - you could also do this in a food processor.
2. Smooth over the slightly cooled cake:
3. Sprinkle the flaked almonds over evenly - unlike mine - and bake for another 25 mins or so at 325F until set and golden brown thus:
Allow to cool completely in the pan then flip over onto a cooling tray and then back over again onto your plate - get the kettle on, make yourself tea, cut a nice neat slice and enjoy yourself this Sunday!
A cup of tea and Twice Baked Banana Cake in honour of JANE GOODALL!! Brava Jane!
Here's a beautiful video of Jane Goodall at work :) 

As a caveat let me tell you I originally made this cake in a 6" round 3" tall pan - my usual pan of choice for my cakes - I made double this recipe above, I messed up by adding way too much baking soda and not enough baking powder (according to the original recipe which I have since tweaked), I got my timing all wrong, I had tea soaked raisins in it and although it looked great as below you can see a problem beginning to unfold in the middle top of the cake...although my test skewer came out clean (but not clean enough) I came back after a few minutes of allowing the cake to cool to find it had completely collapsed in the middle leaving a cavernous hole filled with hot cake batter - it tasted good but was not quite the cake I had hoped for so rest assured not all recipes come out well first time!
I wish I had taken a picture of the collapse!
BTW if you are interested in the background fabric in these pics. above - it's from my Spoonflower shop, it's called "Homespun Quilt Patchwork" and it's available as fabric, wall paper, wall decals and wrapping paper HERE Thanks!
My friend Anne over at CARRINGTON LANE BAKERY -  who happens to be a professional baker with an ETSY SHOP
has also been baking for today - she made Chocolate Babka for her hubby James, Anne does such beautiful work and everything she makes tastes as good as it looks!

In the inimitable style of the true wit she is my good friend Elizabeth Loonan changed the title to "World Bacon Day", as she did last year too!, and created this gorgeous "Diner" Breakfast Special cupcake: white cake  with blueberry maple compote filling, dipped in coffee ganache, coffee maple cream cheese buttercream frosting, garnished with candied bacon and a maple drizzle. Cupcake Wars - watch out! 
Beautiful photos by Elizabeth's husband Antonio Rosario

Can you guess who Elizabeth baked for - sad to say it took me a while to figure it out!!

So who will you be baking for today?

Here's my recipe from last year - which was all about Baking Brave - and yes I did....with a combination of Stilton Cheese and Rhubarb -'s was definitely different!

BTW if you need a really good, simple and very instructive weights and measures conversion site try The Pastry Scoop!