Wednesday, 8 October 2014

No bobbing about for Toffee Apple Cake

Toffee Apple Cake
With the days drawing in, I've been thinking about Autumn recipes. There’s an abundance of apples this year and I love all things caramel. So what about a Toffee Apple Cake? I created this easy recipe based on several of Grandma’s jottings and came up with a fabulous winner. It's a great recipe for Halloween or Bonfire Night and a scrumptious cake for Apple Day on 21 October!

Toffee Apple Cake
175g/6 oz caster sugar
2 tbs water
2 large or 3 small apples (peeled, cored and thinly sliced)
1 orange (zest and juice)
2 tsps cinnamon
225g/8oz butter
300g/11 oz soft brown sugar
3 eggs (beaten)
175g/6oz self raising flour (sifted)
½ tsp baking powder
Line a 20cms/8 inch cake tin with a cake liner or greaseproof paper. Preheat the oven to 180C (160C Fan)/350F/Mark 4. Place the caster sugar and water in a pan over a high heat and cook until the sugar has melted and is turning light brown – do not stir. Pour the mixture into the cake tin to cover the base. Arrange the apple slices on top of this and sprinkle with the cinnamon and half of the orange zest. Cream 175g/6oz butter, 175g/6oz soft brown sugar in a bowl and add the eggs gradually. Then stir in the flour and baking powder, orange juice of half the orange and remaining orange zest. Spread this mixture over the apples and bake for around 45 -50 minutes. Turn the cake out onto a cooling rack and allow to cool.  Melt the reaming butter and soft brown sugar in a pan, and whisk in the remaining orange juice.  Pour the mixture over the top of the apples and allow to cool.
Meryl's tip : I served it with crème fraiche but you could try it with cream, ice cream or with custard. 

There are lots more recipes with Apples in Grandma Abson's Traditional Baking book. Here on this Blog too. there are Baked Apples made with Grandma’s mouth-watering pastry. 

I hope you like my Toffee Apple Cake. Let me know what you think? 

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Grandma’s healthy baking options

Mens sana in corpore sano with a piece of cake

 I did a talk the other week for a Patients’ Participation group at a Doctors' Medical Practice. There’s no way that I would claim to be a healthy eating specialist but Grandma did leave us some sound advice about eating healthily. Since using less sugar is the advice today, it’s worth remembering that Grandma often enhanced the flavour of her baking with natural spices and would use much less sugar than many modern recipes. Here’s a recipe where you could leave the sugar out altogether as the dried fruit and spices create a tasty cake.

Wholemeal Farmhouse Loaf
4 oz/110g self raising flour
4 oz/110g wholemeal flour
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
2 oz/50g soft brown sugar (optional)
4 oz/110g butter
2 eggs
5 tbsps milk
12 oz/340g mixed dried fruit (sultanas, raisins, currants, mixed peel)

Sift the flours into a bowl with the spices.  Add the sugar (optional). Rub in the fat until the mixture has a crumbly consistency. You can do this in a food mixer. Beat the eggs and milk together, add to the bowl and mix well. Then add the dried fruit, using a little more milk if necessary to give a fairly soft consistency. Put into a well greased 1lb/450g loaf tin. Bake in a preheated moderate oven at 180C (Fan Oven 160C), Mark 4, 350F for approximately 1 to 1¼ hours.

Meryl’s tip : This is a very easy recipe which can be served on its own or as a teabread with butter. It makes a great snack and keeps well.

Back at the  Patients’ group, I talked about how Grandma had baked in times of shortage. I showed the group food charts which were produced in times of rationing in the 1st World War and the poster campaigns to Dig for Victory in the 2nd World War when foods were often hard to come byGrandma had always used gluts of fruit and vegetables in season to make succulent jams and chutneys as well as fruit pies (no added sugar!) and puddings. 

I’ve been trying out more recipes for cakes and biscuits with reduced sugar content. As the group all agreed, we should still enjoy a homemade treat now and again – it’s the portion size which matters. Here are more ideas and recipes to reduce sugar in baking:

And, as the Latin poet Juvenal confirmed ‘mens sana in corpore sano’ – sharing a cup of tea and a piece of homemade cake is a therapy in itself! What’s your take on this?

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

My favourite Apricot Jam

Out of all the jams I’ve ever made, my favourite one is Apricot Jam and of course it has to be homemade. It’s such a useful jam as a glaze or seal between layers of cakes. Now we can get apricots on the local market at the height of summer, I can’t resist buying enough to make a few pots. Here’s Grandma’s recipe. It’s an easy one and sets well. I made this batch in under an hour.  

Apricot Jam
Grandma’s rule was approximately 1 lb (450g) (caster or jam) sugar and 1 tbsp lemon juice and ¼ pint water for each 1lb (450g) of fruit.

 Wash the fruit, remove the stones and cut into quarters. Crack open about 3-4 of the stones to remove the kernels. Blanch these in a small pan of boiling water for about 2 minutes. Place the fruit, blanched kernels, lemon juice and water in a jam pan or a large heavy saucepan. Simmer for approximately 20 minutes, or until the apricots are softening. Remove the kernels with a slotted spoon, once they have risen to the surface. Add the sugar and continue to heat gently, stirring until it has dissolved. Add a knob of butter and boil for about 15 minutes. Test for setting. Leave to cool for around 30 minutes then pot into sterilised jars and cover.

I’m always inspired by the vast array of jams at the wonderful Hotel Diderot in Chinon which you get chance to taste at breakfast time each morning.  Laurent and his family have a long tradition of jam making for over 40 years and have published a book dedicated to their wonderful recipes called Jam in the Cupboard.  Have you got a family favourite jam recipe to share?

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Summertime with Apricot and Almond Flan

Apricot and Almond Flan
I’m always on the lookout for recipes which make the most of summer fruits in abundance on our local market. Here’s a recipe which Jeannette gave me after a presentation of Grandma’s baking I did at her Local History group. The ground almond filling reminds me of Grandma’s Bakewell Pudding on page 85 of Grandma Abson's Traditional Baking book. It’s a delightful summer dessert.

Apricot and Almond Flan
Pastry case
½ lb/ 225g shortcrust pastry  
4 oz(110g) butter
8 oz (225g) plain flour
1 egg
A little water (or a little milk and water)
Rub the butter into the flour and salt. When the mixture is like breadcrumbs, make a well and add the egg. Add the water to make a dough. Let it stand for ½ hour in a cool place before rolling out. 
Filling
3oz /75g butter
2 oz/50g sugar
2 eggs (well beaten)
½ oz/10g self raising flour
3oz/75g ground almonds
1lb/450g fresh apricots
Apricot glaze
2 - 3 tbs Apricot Jam
1 tbsp hot water
Make up the pastry and leave to ‘relax’ in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Then roll out the pastry and line a 9 inch/23 cm flan dish. Then make the filling. Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy and add the beaten eggs. Fold in the flour and ground almonds. Turn the mixture into the pastry case.  Cut the apricots in half and remove the stones. Arrange the apricots on top of the almond filling and bake in a preheated moderate oven 190C (Fan 170C), Mark 5, 375C for about 25 minutes until the top is well brown. Remove from the oven. Heat the Apricot Jam in the hot water until thick and just boiling.  Then brush over the top of the flan. This is a dish which can be served hot or cold and can be served the next day.

Meryl’s tip : You can use dried apricots but soak in a bowl of water for 15 minutes.

Apricots are my top summer fruit. What are your favourites? 

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Cameras rolling …….

 Cameras set up in The Great Kitchen
‘Hello, I'm Meryl and I'm going to show you how to make…’ This is how I started a new way of promoting Grandma’s baking legacy by filming some of Grandma’s classic recipes. To be honest, I was scared stiff about being in front of three cameras despite the fact that I'm fully at ease demonstrating Grandma’s recipes and talking about her life and baking. So just like Grandma would, I rolled up my sleeves and got stuck in. Now, I can’t wait to see the finished edits!

The film crew comprised five final year undergraduate Media students from the University of Huddersfield. They are a great bunch of people to work with; they even did the washing up between shoots and of course tasted the finished products! The production will count towards their final project. We were filming in The Great Kitchen in The Mansion House in Doncaster. This is an amazing venue with an old cast iron range not unlike the one Grandma worked with when she was 'in service'. 

I chose four classic recipes from Grandma's repertoire to show different baking techniques ; her mouth watering Shortcrust Pastry for a delicious Apple Pie,  yummy Marmalade Spice Cake, scrumptious Scones and a traditional Victoria Sandwich
This cake was named after Queen Victoria who died in 1901. Grandma was 14 years old by then and had already been 'in service' for 2 years. Later on, Grandma won prizes for her light and fluffy version of this classic sponge cake, which she finished with homemade raspberry jam and butter cream. Here's the very easy recipe: 

Victoria's Sandwich
3 eggs and their weight in each of caster sugar, self raising flour and margarine or butter.
Milk to mix. 
Raspberry Jam (Meryl's Tip : If you buy jam, get the better quality, sometimes called ‘Conserve’)
Icing Sugar

“Cream the butter and sugar. Beat the eggs and add to the creamed mixture. Fold in the flour. Add the milk and mix in gently. Put into 2 x 7” greased tins. Bake for 20 minutes in a quick oven.  (375F, Mark 5, 190 C). Then make the Butter Cream as follows :

Butter Cream
2 oz butter
4 oz icing sugar
Few drops vanilla essence
1-2 tbsps tepid water or milk
Cream the butter and icing sugar. Add the vanilla essence and water or milk.

When cold, spread the butter cream and raspberry jam on the top of one cake and place the other on top. Sprinkle icing sugar on the top cake. Then it will be ready for the table.” 
Where’s the mic go? 
We've just a couple of sequences still to film then, it’ll be final edits and credits. Thanks to everyone who helped me set this up. Let me know if there are other recipes you’d like to see me bake – I think I've quite got the taste for this filming lark!

Monday, 30 June 2014

On Yer Bike avec Grandma’s Yorkshire Lemon Cake

It's on Yer Bike for a summer of cycling festivities here in Yorkshire with Le Grand Départ Tour de France 2014. The greatest cycle race in the world begins its first stage in Yorkshire on 5 July and, with an audience of 3.5 billion across 188 countries and an expected 3 million visitors to our region, we’ll be showing off our Yorkshire grit.  

Here’s Grandma Abson’s Lemon Sandwich Cake - just the thing for a summer’s day and what could be better than homemade Lemon Curd in the filling!

Lemon Sandwich Cake

3 eggs and their weight in each of butter, caster sugar, self raising flour (This is usually around 6 oz or 175g of each ingredient)
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp baking powder
Milk to mix (usually around 2 tbsps)

Preheat the oven to 180°C, Mark 4, 350F. Line the base of a 2 x 20 cms/8 inch cake tins with non-stick baking or greaseproof paper. Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. You can use a food mixer or processor to do this. Beat the eggs and add a little at a time, adding a tablespoonful of flour if the mixture shows signs of curdling. Sieve the remaining flour and fold into the mixture with the lemon zest and enough milk to make a dropping consistency. This means the mixture is soft enough to fall from a spoon in a couple of seconds. Put the mixture into the 2 cake tins and bake for about 25 minutes until the cakes start to shrink from the sides and a cake skewer inserted into the centre comes away clean. Place the tins onto a wire cooling rack for 10 minutes. Then turn the cakes out onto the wire cooling rack and leave until cool. Then make the Butter Cream.

BUTTER CREAM
2 oz/50g butter
4 oz/110g icing sugar + icing sugar for dusting
4 tbsps lemon curd
2 tbsps (approx 1 fl oz/25ml) milk
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

Cream the butter and icing sugar. Add the lemon curd and milk and mix well. Spread the butter cream on the top of one cake and place the other on top.  Dust with icing sugar on the top cake and then sprinkle the lemon zest.

My own links to France go back to when I was aged 14 on the Yorkshire-Lille Exchange.  It was a mammoth feat of organisation, well before the days of social media and Eurostar, when hundreds of Yorkshire school children welcomed French pen friends into their homes for 3 weeks every July. These intrepid Yorkshire youngsters then made the long journey by train with their pen pals to Lille where the French families were waiting to take them all over the Nord and Pas de Calais. It was my first introduction to la cuisine française and the first time that I’d ever ridden a bike and so my love of France began.

It was fantastic being a Tourmaker on Stage 2 Sector 20! It was a long day but these special mini Tour de France cakes kept us going! 
Bon appétit! Et vive le vélo! 

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Not just Scones, we've got Fat Rascals in Yorkshire

Fabulous Fat Rascals
We like to think we know a thing or two about food in God’s own country Yorkshire and of course, top of the list is our own Yorkshire Pudding. But we don’t stop there. Where else could you find not just Scones but Fat Rascals, which have been around here in Yorkshire since Elizabethan times?  Fat Rascals are like Scones  but usually dome shaped with lots of variations with the dried fruit. I suggest you put in the dried fruit sultanas, raisins, currants, cranberries, apricots – whatever you like best!
Here’s my Grandma Abson’s recipe :

FAT RASCALS
8 oz/225g (or 8 heaped tbsps) self raising flour
4 oz/110g butter
2 oz/50g caster sugar
4 oz/110g of a combination of raisins, sultanas, currants and glace cherries
1 oz/25g flaked almonds
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
Zest of 1 lemon or orange
7 tbsps milk or milk/water
2 eggs
1 oz/25g demerara sugar

Sieve the flour and salt and rub in the butter. Add the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon or orange zest and dried fruit/glace cherries. Beat the eggs and milk and add to the mixture to make a soft dough. Roll out to ½ - ¾ inch thick and cut into rounds with a pastry cutter. This makes around 10 to 12. Place on baking tray and sprinkle a little demerara sugar on the top of each one. Bake in a hot oven for 15 minutes (425F, Mark 7, 220C).

Once you’ve baked Fat Rascals I'm sure you'll agree they deserve to be on the podium for a top prize! Tell me what you think of this recipe. 

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Mrs W’s Easy Chocolate Cake


Inspired by Grandma’s baking, Mrs W. writes to me after I delivered a Grandma Abson baking talk at her Ladies' Club sending her favourite family Easy Chocolate Cake recipe.
 Dear Meryl
I’ve made this recipe dozens of times without a failure. V. good for people who eat dairy free cake without eggs. Hope you enjoy it. All the best. EW
P.S. Really enjoyed the talk.

Easy Chocolate Cake
10oz/275g self raising flour
½ level tsp salt
3 level tbsps cocoa
6oz/175g sugar
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ pint/300ml milk
¼ pt/150ml corn or vegetable oil
3 level tbsps golden syrup
½ tsp vanilla extract
Chocolate for filling and decoration

Preheat the oven to 180C/Mark 4/350F. Sift the flour, salt, cocoa and sugar into a mixing bowl. Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in a little milk. Add to the flour mixture with the rest of the milk, golden syrup, oil and vanilla extract. Mix well. Pour into 2 lined 8inch/20cms cake tins. Bake for approximately 40 minutes. When cool sandwich together with Chocolate Icing and decorate with melted chocolate or dust with icing sugar.

Meryls’ tip : You can  Butter  Cream for the filling or Grandma’s Chocolate Icing in Grandma Abson's Traditional Baking book page 110.

Butter Cream Filling
3 oz (75g) butter
3 oz (75g) caster sugar
3 oz (75g) Icing sugar
Milk to mix

Cream the butter and icing sugar. Add the milk.


I hope you enjoy a slice of Mrs W’s Easy Chocolate Cake. For more Chocolate Cake recipes, check out the Recipes page here on Grandma Abson’s Blog. Which is your favourite? And don't forget to keep sending me your family recipes - we're building a baking legacy here!

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Make time for Dorset Apple Cake

 Dorset Apple Cake
One of the great things about doing presentations and talks about Grandma Abson’s Traditional Baking legacy is meeting people and picking up more traditional family recipes to share. After a recent Grandma Abson chat and taste session, Barbara, who comes from Bournemouth passed on her Great Aunt Madge’s recipe for Dorset Apple Cake. The recipe has been in the family for generations.

Dorset Apple Cake
12oz/340g self raising flour
6oz/175g butter
4oz/110g soft brown sugar
 3 cooking apples (preferably Bramley)
3 eggs
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp mixed peel or zest of a lemon or orange
Milk to mix
1 tbsp caster or demerara sugar for topping

Rub the butter into the flour. Peel, core and chop the add the apples into chunky pieces and add these and the soft brown sugar to the mixture. Add the beaten egg, spices and mixed peel. Put into a 9 inch/23 cms cake tin and sprinkle the sugar on top. Bake in a moderate oven 180C/350F/Mark 4 for approximately 1hour.

Meryl’s Tip : you could double the quantities and bake this as a tray bake then cut into squares. For a fruity decoration, thinly slice another apple and layer the slices on the top of the cake.
Barbara told me that many Dorset Teashops used to serve this recipe warm with butter or clotted cream as part of an afternoon tea time treat. That’s sounds delicious!

There are more of Grandma’s recipes with apples in the Recipes page of this Blog and even more in Grandma Abson's Traditional Baking book. What’s your favourite recipe with Apples?

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Lemon Curd is the tops!

A recipe for Lemon Curd proved to be a winning formula to get Team Lemon Segments into the top 12 entries at the recent Enterprise Fair at Doncaster College and University Centre, organised with the support of Young Enterprise. Team members were students following an Independent Living Life Skills course. Their tutor explained that their experience in the competition has hugely lifted their confidence, self awareness and business skills. 
The students made Lemon Curd under hygienically controlled conditions to Food Safety standards, worked out costings and profit margins and organised a Trade stand to display their products. It looked fantastic! 

Here’s their amazing recipe :
Lemon Curd
4 eggs well beaten
4 lemons juice and zest
450g/1lb sugar
110g/4oz butter
Heat all ingredients together in a bowl over hot water until thick (coats back of spoon). Allow to cool. Pour into sterilised jars.  Cover and label. Store in the fridge for up to 6 months. Makes 2 x 1lb/450g jars.

With no colourings, additives or e-numbers in sight, the recipe proved to be a simple formula with a winning taste. I’m delighted they’ve agreed to share their recipe here with you. Congratulations to Team Lemon Segments! Grandma Abson would have been very proud of them!  Make a jar or two and see for yourself ! 


Monday, 31 March 2014

Cumberland has its snaps

We always think of the famous tasty sausages linked to Cumberland so when Veronica gave me this old family recipe for Cumberland Snaps I had a quite a surprise. When I baked this recipe, I found the ancient county of Cumberland in the northwest of England had produced another winning formula!

Cumberland Snaps
4 oz/110g caster sugar
8 oz/225g butter
2 tbsps golden syrup
 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tbsp hot water
 8 oz/225g plain flour
1 tsp ground ginger
2 oz/ 50g rolled oats

Pre heat the oven to 160C/325F/Mark 3. Melt the sugar, butter and syrup in a pan over a low heat. Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in the hot water. Sift the flour and ginger together and mix with the rolled oats. Then pour in the mixture from the pan and the dissolved bicarbonate of soda gradually to make a dough. Roll the dough into small balls (about the size of a walnut) and place on a greased baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

They really are delicious and such an easy recipe to bake. Well done historic Cumberland! Grandma loved collecting and passing on recipes and I’m delighted to keep up this tradition. Have you a tasty local recipe to share? #keepbakingalive

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

A special taste of Afternoon Tea for Mother’s Day

I’ve been experimenting with Grandma Abson’s Victoria Sandwich recipe again to create a special treat for Mother’s Day. My friend Charlotte asked me to come up with a recipe design for a homemade ‘All in One Afternoon Tea’ Cake for her mum as a surprise for Mother’s Day. Since Charlotte’s mum likes all sorts of cakes, I came up with the idea of a 3 or 4 tiered sponge cake with each tier baked in a different flavour and finished with different butter cream fillings. You could say a cornucopia of tastes in a slice!
As a basis for the mixture I used Grandma Abson’s foolproof Victoria Sandwich  recipe with 8 inch/21 cms cake tins for each tier or layer.

Basic Sponge Cake for 2 tiers
3 large eggs and their weight (= approx 6-7oz /175g-200g) in each of
6 oz /175g butter 
6oz/175g caster sugar (*see below for Toffee or Butterscotch use soft brown sugar)
60z/175g self raising flour (sieved)

For 3 tiers use 5 eggs and weight of these in butter, sugar and flour
For 4 tiers use 6 eggs and weight of these in butter, sugar or flour
Preheat the oven to 180°C, 350°F, Mark 4. Line the cake tins with baking paper. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat the eggs and add to the creamed mixture. Fold in the flour. Now divide the mixture into 2, 3 or 4 depending on the amount of mixture and number of tiers you have chosen.

Create different mixtures as you wish all at one if you have a large enough bowl and several cake tins. I prefer to do this in batches
For a Victoria Sandwich tier add a little milk
For a Lemon Cake tier add the zest and juice of ½ lemon
For an Orange Cake tier add the zest and juice of ½ orange
For a Chocolate Cake tier add 1 tbsp cocoa powder, ¼ tsp vanilla extract, 1 tbsp black treacle and a little milk to mix.
For a Coffee Cake tier add ½ dsp coffee essence or powder (Meryl’s Tip : You must grind coffee granules to a powder first!)

*For a Toffee or Butterscotch Cake tier – use soft brown sugar instead of caster sugar.
Put the mixture into the cake tins. Bake for about 25-30 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean or the top is firm to the touch. Place on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then turn the cake out onto the rack and leave until cool.

Butter cream fillings (This will be enough for 3 tiers of cakes)
4 oz/110g butter
8 oz/225 icing sugar
A few drops vanilla extract
1-2 tbsps tepid water or milk

Cream the butter and icing sugar. Add the vanilla extract and water or milk.

Now choose your fillings :
For a Victoria Sandwich use raspberry jam and butter cream.
For a Lemon Cake add the zest and juice of ½ lemon or 2 tbsps of lemon curd to the butter cream
For an Orange Cake add the zest and juice of ½ orange to the butter cream
For a Chocolate Cake tier melt 1 oz/25g of plain chocolate into the butter cream.
For a Coffee Cake add ½ dsp coffee essence
*For a Toffee or Butterscotch Cake use soft brown sugar instead of icing sugar.


Spread the butter cream (and raspberry jam for the Victoria Sandwich) on the top of one cake and place the other on top.  Carry on with the different tiers and fillings as you have chosen. If you wish you can cover the sides and top of the cake with butter cream.
 Add a Mother’s Day decoration and your home made Afternoon Tea gift is ready to serve for your special Mum!  Don't forget a card too!

Or try a traditional Simnel Cake for Mothering Sunday as Grandma used to bake. 

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers out there!