Monday, April 27, 2009

Lilac scented daffodils, magnolias and rhubarb!

Doesn't this daff look like a pinwheel? I thought I had discovered a new form of daffodil but after doing some research online I found out this is an old-fashioned daffodowndilly (the olde englishe name) and I am disappointed to find that I shan't be having a daffodil named after me after all! What is truly wonderful about this particular daff is that it smells very much like a's really lovely!!
Another pic of the daff with one of it's 'ordinary' friends!
...and look at this....a Magnolia blossom...too beautiful to believe...and this smells fabulous too!!
...and the rhubarb is beginning, I LOVE rhubarb and am already planning what I shall make for the blog with this tart and delightful vegetable!! Rhubarb lemonade, rhubarb sorbet, rhubarb and custard, rhubarb crumble...rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb. Yum, yum, yum!!!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Pink meringues, rain and kittens

Look at these beautiful little puffs of perfect pale pinkness, what could they be for??? Actually they are the beginning of a new illustration project I am setting myself which shall be revealed when I am finished probably in about 10 days time. Yesterday began rainy and gloomy but then the weather brightened and I thought I would go ahead and make my little pink meringues.....but I was wrong, the weather went down the tubes and up the spout and I ended up with crinkly, uneven and sticky meringues that won't work for their intended it is indeed true, not that I didn't believe it, that you can't make meringues in rainy weather
Here are the crinkly baked meringues, craggy finish and all. I will have to wait until the projected tropical weather weekend we are now looking forward to to make the meringues again.
Harry is considering whether he should check out the meringues or not.....
...curiosity got the better of him!!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Let's bakes a Simnel Cake for Easter!

Lucie came over to help me bake my first Easter Simnel Cake but was so competent and enthusiastic she ended up doing all the work whilst I gave out the orders and drank gallons of tea...cruel me!!
Here is Lucie's perfect cake glazed with apricot preserves ready for the eleven 'apostles' waiting in the background to be set in place.
...and here is the final result...a marzipan layer on the top of the cake and eleven balls of marzipan with toasted almonds affixed to their the background is the list of baking classes and circled in red are the ones Lucie and I are looking forward to at the Good Table
A close up of the beautiful Simnel case you are wondering why the marzipan isn't the usual luminous yellow, it is because it is homemade with the whole almond and not skinned almonds as used commercially...thought I'd hang on to a few extra vitamins and minerals wherever I could!

This is a traditional Easter Cake eaten in Britain. I'm not sure how often these days but certainly it was very popular in the past. Apparently this cake was originally associated with British 'Mothering Sunday', which is the fourth Sunday in Lent and is also known as 'Refreshment Sunday' (a day when the fasting of Lent could be relaxed somewhat). In Medieval times it was the Sunday on which one returned to the 'Mother' Church or Cathedral to worship. By the mid-seventeeth century it was more closely linked with the family and every child living away from home, including servants and apprentices, would return bearing gifts and food. Many girls would bake a Simnel cake for this special day of family feasting. Why it has become more associated now with Easter is unclear but what is clear is that the eleven, sometimes twelve, balls on the top of the cake are representative of the apostles...eleven being the number if you don't think Judas deserves a place.
Here is the recipe for a 6" round cake, for an 8" please double the recipe: Taken from 'The Festive Food of England' by Henrietta Green
Almond Paste/Marzipan:
12oz confectioner's sugar/icing sugar
12oz ground almonds (with skins or without)
3 large egg yolks (not recommended in areas where salmonella is a problem or for anyone in ill health...if this is the case I would purchase the marzipan)
1 teaspoons of lemon juice
1 teaspoon of orange flower water (this may be hard to find but it is worth the effort)
1 teaspoon almond extract
3 1/2 ozs unbleached flour
1 oz rice flour
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon mixed spices (I used, yes you guessed it!, nutmeg with cardomon and allspice together)
pinch of baking powder
4 oz butter
4 oz soft brown sugar
2 eggs seperated and whites whisked to stiff peaks
1/2 oz ground almonds
1 tablespoon dark rum (you can leave this out if you want)
zest of one lemon, preferably organic
4oz currants
4 oz sultanas (white plump raisins)
2 oz candied orange and or lemon peel
2 tablespoons apricot jam
The night before I baked this cake I soaked the dried fruit in tea...I like doing this to plump the fruit and give it a sophisticated flavour but it is not necessary to do this step.
1. Sift confectioner's/icing sugar into a bowl, add the almonds and mix around.
2. Lightly beat egg yolks, orange flower water, lemon juice and almond extract.
3. Add liquid to dry ingredients and knead to a smooth paste.
I had to work a little with this to get it non-crumbly...adding a bit more liquid and kneading quite a lot, but I did eventually get there! Maybe my ground almonds with the skins is drier than without?
1. Preheat oven to 325F. Prepare your cake pan, butter it first, then cut a disc of parchment to fit into the bottom of the pan, butter the parchment and then flour the pan.
2. Sift flours into a bowl with baking powder, spices and salt.
3. Cream butter and sugar together 'til light and fluffy.
4. Beat eggs into butter and sugar one at a time and cream well.
5. Add almonds, rum and lemon zest and mix well.
6. Fold about one third of the dry ingredients into the butter mix.
7. Gently fold in the egg whites, alternating with the rest of the flour and the dried fruit.
8. Make eleven or twelve small balls with the marzipan, then cut remainder of it into two pieces. Roll out each piece to fit the diameter of your cake pan.
9. Spoon half the cake batter into the prepared pan, lay one of the discs of marzipan onto this and gently pat down, then spoon in the rest of the cake batter and smooth flat.
10. Bake your beauteous little cake in the oven...for my 6" I baked it for one hour and then put a buttered parchment disc on the top to prevent it browning too much and baked it for about another 25 minutes (The recipe says for the larger size to bake for 2 hours before you put on the parchment)
11. Take your cake out and let it cool on a rack.
12. Warm some apricot jam in a pan and glaze the top of the cake.
13. Lay the other disc of marzipan on top of the cake and pat down, add your 'apostles' with more of the apricot jam et voila!!!!
I CAN'T WAIT TO HAVE A PIECE: Lucie and I have decided to be as pure as the driven snow and eat the cake tomorrow on the day it was intended for....
Thank you LEA for the birthday funds to procure the ingredients for this lovely cake...James and I will have a piece for you on Easter Sunday!!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Hot Cross a penny, two a penny....

Hot Cross Buns are very traditional in Britain for Good Friday. They are a humble, subtle little bun...not very exciting, not very unusual but they are consumed in great quantities around this time of year. The cross commemorates the cruxificion of Jesus. Hot Cross Buns actually baked on Good Friday...unlike mine which were baked yesterday in preparation for today's posting....are believed to never go mouldy and may be hung from kitchen ceilings to ward off evil.....but then they are not so tasty!
taken from "The Festive Food of England" by Henrietta Green
1/2 oz dried yeast
1/4 cup soft light brown sugar
3/4 whole milk warmed to 80F
4 cups unbleached flour
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons mixed spice (I did 1 teaspoon of my beloved nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon allspice)
1/4 cup of butter (as usual I use salted)
2 eggs beaten
1/2 cup of currants
scraps of pastry if you have them (I didn't)
1.Sprinkle the yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar onto 2/3 cup of warmed milk, whisk together and wait about 15 minutes until nice and frothy.
2. Sift the flour, spices into a large bowl and add remaining sugar and pinch of salt.
3. Add the creamed yeast, the remaining milk and whisked eggs and mix together.
4. Knead into a soft dough, scatter the currants over the dough and knead again 'til evenly distributed. Cover and leave for 1 hour in a warm place 'til almost doubled.
5. Have ready two lightly buttered muffin tins.
6. Knock down the dough and knead for a couple minutes more.
7. Make a small ball of dough big enough to fill each space about 2/3rds full...repeat to fill all the muffin spaces.
8. Leave to rise again in a warm place for another 15 minutes,
9. Brush the buns with a glaze..either whisked egg white or in my case a sugary concoction of hazlenut simple syrup..yum, yum.
10. If you have spare pastry cut it into thin strips and lay over the buns in a cross, if you don't just slash the top of the buns deeply in a cross.
11. Bake in a 425F oven for about 15-20 minutes until nicely browned.
You can eat these buns hot or cold, with or without butter, with or without jam...but definitely with a steaming cup of tea!!! I kept them overnight in a cookie/biscuit tin and when I opened the tin this morning the smell was delicious.
"Hot cross buns, Hot cross buns,
One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns.
If you don't like them give them to your sons,
If your sons don't like them give them to your daughters,
But if you have none of these little elves,
Then you must eat them all yourselves"
Now, here's two questions , no three, about this little ditty:
1. How come the sons get first dibs?
2. Does this even rhyme?
3. This is not good advertising for Hot Cross Buns as it implies nobody will like who made it up?...a baker who couldn't sell them?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Bid on my items at the Maine Public Broadcasting Online Auction!

My pink cupcake on a tote bag, framed tile, mug and a pack of 10 greetings cards, plus.........
...........a BBQ apron

You can bid for the whole kit and kaboodle at the online auction for MPBN

Saturday, April 4, 2009

An excellent CAKE demonstration at the Good Table with Erin French

Erin begins making her buttercream with six sticks of can anything go wrong with such a great start, all good things foodie begin with mounds of butter!!
A bucket o'buttercream...divine!!
Erin begins layering and icing the cakes she had made nice and cool so the buttercream doesn't melt......
The decorative icing begins...
The finished almond cake with chocolate ganache and vanilla buttercream frosting...adorned with exquisite red roses...unsprayed of course!
The demolished and thoroughly delicious cake at sessions end!
Erin did a beautiful job of not only making a gorgeous cake but delivering a very clear, concise and informative demonstration of how to make this cake yourself at home. There are more free events coming up at the Good Table here in Belfast so do check their calendar to see if there's one to entice you!!
Thanks Erin!!