Monday, 18 April 2016

Melting Moments just melt in the mouth

There can be no better bake which epitomises that ‘melt in the mouth’ sensation than the fabulous Melting Moments. This is a real family favourite. Jenny sent me a traditional recipe from her Mum, Betty with the following message : 

You recently came to our Social History group in Chesterfield to give a talk on your grandmother's recipes which I enjoyed very much. It also inspired me to look at an old exercise book of my Mum's and bake a few of her favourite recipes again. I do remember Mum making ‘Melting Moments’ and "helping" her. They were delicious, a sort of a cross between a biscuit and a bun; she used to put a cherry on the top of each one too.”
Melting Moments
 2½oz/65g lard
1½oz/35g margarine
3oz/75g caster sugar
Porridge Oats
5oz/150g self raising flour
1 small egg
1 tsp vanilla essence

Cream the fats and sugar and beat in the egg, Work in the flour and the vanilla essence. Roll into balls with wet hands and coat with rolled oats. Place on a greased tray and press out slightly. Bake in a moderate oven 15-20 minutes. Cool slightly on a tray before removing and decorate.

Meryl says : Betty used lard and margarine but I used butter instead. I preheated the oven to 180C/200F/Mark 4 which equals Grandma's term for 'moderate'. The decoration has to be a cherry on top just as Betty did.
Many thanks to Jenny (and, of course, Betty) for this glorious memory box recipe. These biscuits make a scrumptious snack. I remember having them as a treat in a sandwich box - light as a feather. They’re perfect to bake with children too. Keep up the tradition and enjoy!

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Spring forward with Daffodil Cake

Daffodil Cake
 How I love the month of March when Spring arrives in all its golden yellow glory. This light delicate recipe for Daffodil Cake is the perfect harbinger of Spring with swirls of yellow and white in every slice. Decorate with Spring flowers for a perfect seasonal cake for Mothering Sunday or as an Easter Cake.

Oil and flour (to line/cover the inside of the tin)
4 large eggs (separated)                
1 tsp vanilla extract                        
1 tsp cream of tartar                       
110g/4 oz caster sugar                   
1 orange (zest and juice)
50g/2 oz plain flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
Lemon Curd for filling 
Icing sugar to decorate

Preheat the oven to 190C/ Gas 5 /375F. 
Lightly oil a 20cm/8 inch cake ring tin (you can use a round or square cake tin and line with baking paper) and dust with flour. Separate the eggs into 2 large bowls.
Beat the egg whites, vanilla extract and cream of tartar in one bowl until stiff. Gradually add in 50g/2oz of the caster sugar and continue beating until soft peaks form. 
In the other bowl, beat the egg yolks with orange zest, juice, and remaining sugar until thick and light. Sift the flour and baking powder together and add to the egg yolk mixture. Spoon the egg yolk mixture and egg white mixture alternately into the cake tin. Stir the mixture with a fork to give a marbled effectBake for about 30 minutes (allow 5-10 minutes more if using a round cake tin). Remove the cake from the oven. Invert the cake tin over a cooling rack and let it cool for 30 minutes. 
Remove the cake from the tin carefully and allow to cool. Once cool, cut the cake in half and spread  Lemon curd in the centre. Place the other half on top and dust with icing sugar.
A slice of this and you’ll have a spring in your step! 

Monday, 15 February 2016

Ooh er…Rhubarb Betty

 Rhubarb Betty
This old American recipe is very easy to make and makes a change from traditional Rhubarb Crumble.  This is a very easy recipe to serve up and you can take advantage of the superb young Rhubarb during Rhubarb Festival in Yorkshire during February. Rhubarb is very tasty and nutritious but you can make this recipe with any seasonal fruit such as apples, blackberries, gooseberries, plums and apricots.

Rhubarb Betty
6-8 sticks of rhubarb
 2 oz /50g soft brown sugar
4oz /110g  fresh white breadcrumbs
2oz /50g butter
2 0z/50g demerara sugar
2 tbps dessicated coconut (optional)
Grated zest of 1 lemon or orange
1-2 tsps ground ginger to taste
1 tsp cinnamon
Prepare the Rhubarb : Wash the rhubarb and cut into chunks. Place on a baking tray. Sprinkle the sugar on top. Bake in the oven (325F/Mark 3/160C/140C Fan) for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, retaining a few pieces for decoration.
To make the crumble : Turn the oven to 350F, Mark 4, 180C , 160C Fan.  Melt the butter and mix with the breadcrumbs. Stir in the demerara sugar, coconut, zest, ginger and cinnamon. Put half the rhubarb in a greased 2.5 pint/1 litre dish. Cover with half the crumble mixture. Add the remaining rhubarb and then the other half of the crumble mixture. Finally top with the few pieces of rhubarb. Bake for 35-40 minutes until golden. Serve with custard, ice cream, crème fraiche or yoghurt. 
So who was Betty then?

Monday, 25 January 2016

No eggs, low fat, reduced sugar.... stay single for Bachelor Cake?

Here’s a cake for my friend Charlotte. She loves baking and cake but can’t now eat eggs. However, help is at hand with this old recipe which I found amongst Grandma’s collection. In fact, Bachelor Cake is an egg free, low fat and reduced sugar cake, so it hits a few buttons into today’s healthy eating world. This cake also works well with gluten free flour by adding extra liquid to the mixture.

Bachelor Cake
12oz/340g plain flour
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
3 ozs/75g butter
12 oz/340g dried fruit
2 oz/50g sugar
2 tbsps marmalade
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 cups of milk (approx ½ pt/10 fl oz/275ml)
Almonds for topping

Preheat the oven to  160-170C/Gas 3/325F. Grease and line  2 loaf tins or a 9inch x 9inch (23cms x 23cms) square tin with baking paper. Sieve the flour and spices into a bowl. Rub in the fat until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the dried fruit, sugar and marmalade and mix well. Stir the bicarbonate of soda into a cup of milk and add to the centre of the mixture. Add the 2nd cup of milk to make a dropping consistency. Beat thoroughly and transfer to the tin, decorate the top with almonds and bake in the oven for 40 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 150C/Gas 2/300F for another 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before turning out.

Meryl’s tips : The taste of this cake is excellent and improves over time.  It keeps very well in a tin for up to a week , if you can resist it before the week is over!

Bachelor Cake was originally intended for a young girl to bake to impress her young man (and keep him fit and slim!). But you don’t need to be a Bachelor boy to enjoy it!

Monday, 4 January 2016

Ring the changes with Gingerbread Cake

Gingerbread Cake
It’s a tradition in Yorkshire to eat Parkin  - a sort of Ginger cake with oatmeal on Bonfire Night in November - but we’re great fans of ginger at any time of year. Here’s an old recipe from Grandma’s collection with plenty of ginger to spice things up for the new year. Ring the changes with this easy recipe. 

Gingerbread Cake
4 oz/110g butter
4 oz/110g black treacle
4 oz/110g golden syrup
¼/150ml pint milk
2 eggs
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
4 oz/110g plain flour
4 oz/110g wholewheat flour
2 oz/50g soft light brown sugar
2 tsps mixed spice
3oz/75g ground ginger
2oz/50g chopped crystallized ginger

Preheat the oven to 300F, Mark 2, 160C. Grease and line an 8 inch/21cm square cake tin. Place the butter in a saucepan with the black treacle and golden syrup and heat gently until the butter has melted. Then take the pan from the heat and stir in the milk. Beat the eggs and add these to the mixture too. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, then stir the syrup liquid into the flour mixture. When it is smoothly blended, pour the mixture into the prepared tin and scatter the crystallised ginger pieces on top. Bake in the centre of the oven for 1 ¼ -1 ½ hours or until the gingerbread begins to shrink away slightly from the sides of the tin and the centre is springy. Cool in the tin for about 10 minutes, cut into squares and store in a tin.

Meryl says : This is a moist cake and keeps beautifully. You can always add 2oz/50g sultanas to the mixture for an extra change. 

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Lightly does it with this Christmas bake

I’m often asked about alternatives to the traditional Christmas baking of rich fruit cakes, mince pies and plum pudding so I’ve adapted Grandma’s popular Orange (sponge) Cake recipe from her book to make a jewel of a cake which has a lighter texture. I’ve used cranberries and pistachios as these are my favourite seasonal fruit and nuts and they make a great combination with oranges. I’m sure you’ll agree that the natural colours of Christmas shine through.
 Cranberry Orange & Pistachio Loaf
175g/6oz butter
150g/5oz caster sugar
3 eggs
175g/6oz self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
125g/4 ½oz  fresh cranberries
50g/2oz pistachio nuts (chopped)
1 orange zest & juice 
25g/1oz demerara sugar

Pre heat the oven to 180 (160C fan), Gas 4.
Cream the butter, caster sugar and orange zest until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Fold in the flour and baking powder. Fold about ¾ of the cranberries and pistachio nuts and then add the orange juice. Place the mixture in a well greased or lined 1kg/2lb loaf tin. Scatter the remaining cranberries and pistachios on the top and then sprinkle the Demerara sugar over the fruit and nuts. Bake in the oven for around 35-40 minutes.

Meryl says : This is a very simple recipe which you can enjoy in the run up to Christmas. It freezes well too so you can make it ahead. You can also make it with dried cranberries if fresh ones aren’t available. I can guarantee there won’t be a piece left!

There are lots more ideas on Grandma's favourite Christmas recipes page. Take a look! Whatever you are doing and wherever you are at Christmas, I wish you a very Happy Christmas Baking season! 

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Savourez Tante Liliane’s Petits Fours biscuits

 Just like Grandma, I love coming across a traditional family recipe. Elisabeth, who together with her husband, Jean-Michel, runs la Tour de Giry, a comfortable Chambre d’Hote in Burgundy, not far from the Parc Regional du Morvan gave me a copy of a fabulously easy recipe for Petits Fours biscuits. She is a superb cook and loves to use local food in season which they often grow in their large garden. They also keep ducks and hens so have a constant supply of fresh eggs.
The Petits Fours biscuit recipe comes from family member, Tante Liliane who lives in the Auvergne region. Liliane is 82 years old and still bakes the biscuits today.  As you see, the recipe was handwritten in French, so I’ve translated it into English.

Petits Fours
 2 eggs
150g/5 oz caster sugar
125g/4½ oz melted butter
2 dsps cream ( I used crème fraiche)
1 sachet of baking powder
450g/1 lb plain flour

Beat the eggs with the sugar and add the cream, the melted butter and then the flour with the baking powder. Chill for 20 minutes. Roll out to 0.5cm thick and put into small rounds (Elisabeth suggested a small wineglass) and put onto baking trays. Bake for 10 minutes at 200C, Mark 6.

Meryl says : These biscuits are perfect at any time of year. The mixture freezes well uncooked so you can bake a smaller quantity.  It’s very versatile recipe too. I’ve baked them adding the zest and juice of a lemon, or 1 tsp cinnamon or 1 tsp cocoa to the mixture for a different set of flavours. There's plenty of scope for baking imagination! 

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Grandma Abson’s traditional Christmas Cake

Grandma Abson's Christmas Cake
Grandmas always know best about baking and this is a simple recipe from Grandma Abson’s Traditional Baking book which I bake every year. I can guarantee there’s never a piece left by Twelfth Night!

To make Grandma's Christmas Cake you will need: 
8oz /225g brown sugar
8oz /225g butter
1 tbsp black treacle (slightly warmed for 5 minutes in the oven)
1 tbsp golden syrup (slightly warmed for 5 minutes in the oven)
5 eggs (beaten)
9oz /250g self raising flour (sifted)
3-4oz / 75-100g glace cherries (washed and dried and cut into quarters)
4oz /100g mixed peel
10oz / 275g each of sultanas, raisins, currants
1 tsp each of cinnamon and mixed spice
2oz /50g chopped nuts +1oz / 25g ground almonds or 3oz / 75g ground almonds
1/6 pint / 100ml stout 

Heat the oven 325F, Mark 3, 170C. Line an 8 inch/21cms cake tin (round or square) with baking paper or use a cake liner. Cream the butter and sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. You can do this in a food mixer.  Mix in the warmed treacle and golden syrup. Add the beaten eggs gradually and half of the flour and spices (cinnamon and mixed spice). Stir in the nuts/almonds and cherries, the rest of the flour, dried fruit, mixed peel and stout. Put the mixture into the cake tin and smooth over the top, making a slight indent in the middle. This stops the cake from rising too much in the middle and cracking. Bake for 3 to 3 ½ hours. Start with the oven fairly warm for 30 minutes and gradually reduce the oven temperature to finish in a slow oven at 250F, Mark ½, 130C.  

Grandma’s Tips :    
  • Wrap several layers of brown paper or newspaper around the cake tin and tie it with string before putting the cake into the oven to prevent it burning.
  • Use a thin cake tester to check if the cake is thoroughly baked. If it’s baked, there’ll be no trace of the mixture on the tester. If there are still traces of the mixture, then the cake needs further cooking time.
  • Once cooled, prick the cake all over the top and pour a tablespoonful of brandy over it. You can do this two or three times up to Christmas before decorating it. 
The Final Touches
1. To make Almond Paste 
8oz/ 225g ground almonds
4oz/ 110g caster sugar
4oz/110g icing sugar
A few tablespoons of lemon juice or water
2-3 tbsps Apricot Jam

Mix the almonds and sugars together. Add sufficient lemon juice and/or water to make a stiff paste. Chill for 15 to 20 minutes. Spread a thin layer of Apricot Jam over the cake. Roll out the Almond Paste to 3/8 inch /1 cm thick and place on the top (and sides if you wish).
2. Choose your decoration
You can use Ready to Roll Icing to spread over the cake or make your own.
For Royal Icing you will need
1 lb /450g icing sugar
2 whites of eggs
A little lemon juice
A tsp glycerine (optional)

Sieve the icing sugar and add the whites of the eggs and a little lemon juice. Beat until the mixture stands in stiff peaks. You can add glycerine to stop the icing drying out. Spread over the cake. Use a fork to make peaks in the icing to create a snow scene or for a smooth finish use a palette knife.
3. For a topping with Glazed Fruits
Fold dried fruit (e.g. raisins, sultanas, apricots, cranberries, cherries) and mixed nuts in a redcurrant jelly and apricot jam glaze and spread over the almond paste to make a jewel of a topping. 
And here’s the best thank you! 
Happy Christmas everyone! 

Monday, 26 October 2015

Joke’s Spicy Tomato Soup

I love bringing back memories of wonderful holidays and this year was no exception. We stayed at a wonderful place called Les Sarilles just 10 minutes from Cluny and with amazing views over the rolling countryside of Southern Burgundy in France.

Our Dutch hosts, Jan and Yoke Boekhoven, are a very interesting couple who have travelled all over the world and collected some wonderful recipes to serve their guests. Joke kindly sent me her recipe for Asian Tomato Soup. She suggests making the soup one day ahead.
 For 4 servings:
1 kilo fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped
0.5 ltr water
2 parts of chicken stock
30g fresh ginger
30g sugar
2 onions
2 cloves of garlic
1 or two small tins of tomato puree
3 tbsps of ginger sirop (We used 3 pieces of preserved stem ginger and 2 tbsps of the syrup)
Cumin, paprika powder, cardamom, pepper and anise to your taste.  (We crushed cumin seed, cardamom pods, black peppercorns and half a piece of star anise in a pestle and mortar)

Peel the tomatoes by slightly heating them in water, but don’t boil them. Bring the water to the boil and simmer the tomatoes, onions and the chicken stock for 20 minutes. Add the garlic and fresh ginger in the last five minutes. Then add the tomato puree. Use a blender/liquidiser to mix all ingredients to a smooth soup. Add the sugar and spices to your taste. The following day, push the soup through a sieve and, if necessary, add extra spices, sugar and ginger sirop.

In any language this is a fantastic recipe so Selamat makan!! Bon appétit! Enjoy! 

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Marmalade Flapjack is a real baking gem

Marmalade Flapjack 
Marmalade Flapjack is a real gem of a recipe.  I got it from a friend in the Lake District and of course she uses homemade marmalade in her recipe just like Grandma. It’s an easy recipe to bake with children too! 

8oz/225g butter
4 oz/110g soft brown sugar
2 tbsps golden syrup
5oz/150g marmalade
Zest of 2 oranges
12oz/350g porridge oats
6 oz /175g raisins

Preheat the oven to 180C(160C Fan), 350F/Mark 4. Melt the butter, sugar and golden syrup slowly in a pan over a gentle heat. Remove from the heat and add the orange zest and marmalade. Stir in the porridge oats and raisins. Put the mixture into a lined tin (approx 10 inch/23 cms square). Press it down so it is level. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes until golden brown and firm at the edges. Remove from the oven and cut into bars while still warm.
Meryl says : I’ve made this recipe with chopped apricots instead of raisins. I've also tried  it with 1 tbsp black treacle and 1 tbsp golden syrup which gives it a slightly richer flavour. Just the thing for a morning coffee treat. Enjoy! 

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Celebrating our rich tradition of British Baking

Richmond Maids of Honour

Our British baking tradition is rich in history and I've been reminded of this English baked tartlet which is said to date back to the time of Henry VIII. Apparently, he found Anne Boleyn and her Maids of Honour eating these little delicacies. It is rumoured that Henry liked them so much that he took the recipe and insisted that it was locked in a box at Richmond Palace in London. There's a lovely shop in Kew called The Original Maids of Honour which serves these little cakes today and is well worth a visit. Whatever the story, Richmond Maids of Honour are still a delight today. Grandma had a version of the recipe in her recipe collection which is really easy to make. 

Richmond Maids of Honour
8oz/225g Puff Pastry or Shortcrust Pastry
8oz/225g curd cheese
2 eggs
1oz /25g caster sugar
1 lemon g rated zest and juice
1 oz ground almonds
1 tbsp currants
A little apricot jam

Preheat the oven to 400F, Mark 6, 200C. Roll out the pastry thinly and with a 3 ½ inch cutter cut out little circles and place in a tartlet tins. Chill for 15 minutes. Combine the curd cheese, caster sugar, lemon rind, ground almonds and currants in a bowl. Beat the egg and egg yolk together and add this to the mixture. Mix thoroughly until everything is well blended. Smooth a small amount of the jam into each pastry case and then fill each about 2/3rds full of the cheese mixture. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 25 minutes. The mixture should puff up and turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool. When cool, you can decorate with a light dusting of icing sugar. This recipe makes approximately 24 tartlets.

Meryl’s tip : You can get curd cheese in many of the large supermarkets as well as some local cheese shops. 

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Afternoon Tea ..... at the Library!

It was time for Tea and Cakes on a summer’s afternoon at Armthorpe Community Library  when Volunteers and staff organised a celebration of the Great British Tradition of Afternoon Tea.
 What made it very special were the fantastic efforts of the Volunteers who have been running the community library for over a year now with the support of local council staff. They’d prepared a wonderful scene of tables laid with the best china, pretty tablecloths and carefully folded napkins all set for the afternoon tea festivities.
I was delighted to do my presentation on  'The History of Afternoon Tea' all about the characters in history who helped to make it popular, the key elements and the ‘rules’ involved with lots of questions to keep me on my toes.

And then fully briefed on the etiquette of this quintessential British ceremony, we started on the tea and cakes, including Grandma’s traditional baking recipes. These were amongst the favourites :  
Family Fruit Loaf
Feedback from everyone was tremendous with pleas for more events like this one and suggestions to roll out the format in other localities. A huge thank you to DMBC staff Shirley and Helen for making this glorious event possible but, most of all, to the amazingly talented team of Volunteers who are really making this Library so highly valued and playing such a vital role in the community.  

Have you been involved in an Afternoon Tea event? Tell us more about it... which part do you like best?