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How to: Winter spiced plum jam

I’ve been intending to get into jam for ages. Like, five years. In fact, I bought some pectin about that long ago in preparation for my jammy exploits. Until I saw the prohibitive price of fruit. Last year, a friend and I went on a great spread-making workshop that reignited the passion that had lain dormant for long ago. And then on Tuesday night I spotted some bargain fruit at the supermarket. The time (and plum harvest) was ripe. And here are the fruits of my labour (pun totally intended.)Four jars

I’ll be giving most of this away. Much as I enjoy jam, it would take me at least a year to get through this, plus the plastic container of jam I put in the fridge as I hadn’t sterilised enough jars. This jam is sweet but still with an edge of tartness and a strong, warming hit of spice. I tasted it a few times throughout to monitor this (and because that’s just what I do, okay?)

Ingredients:

This makes about four 340g jars, plus one 200g jar.

  • About 1.2kg of plums
  • About 1kg of sugar
  • 1 sachet pectin
  • 1 or 2 lemons
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5-7 cloves (I used 10, which I think was a bit of overkill)
  • 3 allspice (pimento) berries (I used 5)

Feel free to experiment with spices. I reckon some grated root ginger (or, indeed, powder) would be lovely in this. Star anise also adds an Asian hum. Make sure you count how many cloves etc you put in so you can pick them all out at the end. No one likes crunchy bits in their jam.

Equipment

  • A large, clean pot. The fruit should only fill it halfway so that you don’t risk it boiling over
  • A wooden spoon
  • A grater
  • Five jars, with lids. I just recycle jars, ensuring I wash them thoroughly.
  • A saucer.
  • Funnel (optional. I will get a proper one for the next time I make jam.)

Method

  1. Thoroughly wash and dry your jars in hot, soapy water. Set the jars aside and put the lids in a clean bowl.
  2. Put a clean saucer in the fridge. You’ll need this for the ‘wrinkle test’ later.
  3. Cut up your fruit and remove the stones. You can be very messy about this, it doesn’t matter. Eat or chuck any very bruised bits. I recommend doing this in front of the telly as it’ll take a while.Cut plums
  4. Put over a medium to low heat and cook the fruit until soft. Grate in the lemon zest, squeeze in the juice and bung in the spices.The spices
  5. Once the fruit has softened, add the sugar. Stir and turn up the heat.
  6. Cook until the sugar has dissolved. Taste at this point (be careful, it’s hot!) and add more sugar if necessary. I started with 600g, then upped to a kilo.Bubbling
  7. Put the oven on, to 140degrees and pop your clean jars (not lids) in.
  8. Leave to boil quite strongly. After about 20 mins, begin testing to see if the jam has reached its setting point. Put a teaspoon of the jam onto your cold saucer, leave for a few seconds, and push your finger through it. If the surface wrinkles, it’s ready. If your finger slides though it cleanly, leave it for a few more minutes, then test again. I tried to take a picture of the test, but my camera is too rubbish. Apparently setting point is 104-105degrees on a sugar thermometer, if you’re lucky enough to own one.
  9. Pour boiling water over your jar lids to sterilise these.
  10. Once your jam is at setting point, remove from the heat. Leave to stand for about half an hour and pick out the spices.
  11. Remove any froth from the surface of the jam and discard. Stir.
  12. Get your jars out of the oven and carefully dry the lids with kitchen paper or a spotless tea towel.
  13. Carefully pour the jam into your jars. Leave a 1cm gap at the top and immediately screw on the lid. I sieved one jar because I’m going to give it to my granny, who is on a low fibre diet. The sieving yields a smoother and clearer jam, but I prefer it with the bits of skin in there. Also, the sieving is quite a lot of hassle and mess if you don’t have a decent funnel.
  14. You’re done! If your jars were sterilised properly, unopened jam should keep in the cupboard for a few months, and a couple of weeks once opened.

If you’re a sad sack like me, you’ll also want to waste some time designing labels for your jars. It’s wise to label them with the date so they don’t get confused with any other mysterious jars cluttering up your cupboards.Labels

But I think they add a little something to the handmade charm.Labelled jars

How to: Utterly nutterly rolled sugar cookies

I was a busy baking bee last weekend. During a stressful period in 2012, I got a bit obsessed with the idea of rolled and iced sugar cookies even though I’d never tried to make them. My obsession was such that I spent a rather obscene amount on all the equipment- squeeze bottles, piping bag couplers, nozzles, cookie slats… the works. And I made cookies exactly once that year. These, to be preciseImage

Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to make royal icing if you aren’t lucky enough to possess a stand mixer. I made this with an hand blender and while it looks okay, the icing really only stays shiny and brightly coloured for a day. After this, the cookies still look nice, but they lose their sheen and the colours mellow. I wouldn’t allow this to put me off using royal icing, I’ll just keep dreaming of the day that I become the proud owner of a stand mixer.

Anyway, enough yacking from me. This technique is adapted from Cookie Craft, which is an excellent book for anyone who wants to get into iced sugar cookies.

Makes approx. 40 small cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup nuts. I used pecans, but walnuts and almonds are reported to be lovely too.
  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • If you use unsalted butter, 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2tsps vanilla

For the royal icing:

  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon powdered egg white (OR 4tsps meringue powder)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (or other) extract
  • A little warm water
  • Food colouring. Paste colour is best, but liquid works fine too. Just add slightly less water.

Special equipment

You can get by without any of this guff, but it’ll make life an awful lot easier if you plan to make cookies more than once.

  • Cookie slats- 1/4 inch thickness. I bought mine on-line, they can also be used to roll marzipan to a uniform thickness.
  • Baking parchment
  • Rolling pin.
  • Piping bag, preferably disposable with No. 2 piping tip and a piping bag coupler.
  • Squeeze bottles (optional)

Method

  1. Put the nuts on a baking tray and bake in an oven at 180C until fragrant and light brown, about 10 mins. Watch them- they burn very quickly. Allow to cool.                                                    IMAG0708
  2. Mix together flour and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
  3. In a food processor, pulse the cooled nuts with 2-3 tablespoons of the flour and salt mixture until the nuts are finely ground. The texture should be similar to wet sand with no large pieces that could disrupt the smooth surface of your rolled cookie.Pulsed nuts
  4. Add the ground nuts to the flour and mix together well.
  5. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.Creamed butter and sugar
  6. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until well blended.
  7. Gradually add the flour and nut mixture until the two are thoroughly mixed.
  8. Divide into two or three portions and form each into a rough disc. I froze half of my mixture at this stage (well, maybe a third as I ate so much of the raw dough. It’s delicious).
  9. Place a piece of baking parchment the same size as your cookie sheet onto your surface. This means that you can cut the cookies out and then transfer the whole sheet onto a baking tray and bake. Place your cookie slats either side, rolling pin width apart.
  10. Put your cookie dough on the parchment.                 Lump of dough about to be rolled
  11. Put another sheet of parchment, the same size, on top of the dough. Gently flatten the dough with your palm so that it is evenly distributed across the paper. Roll with your rolling pin on top of both cookie slats until perfectly flat. You’ll feel when this happens because the pin will glide across the dough with very little effort. If the top sheet of paper wrinkles, lift and smooth it.Rolled dough under parchment
  12. Slide the dough and paper onto a cookie sheet and chill until firm, around half an hour. If necessary, repeat the rolling process with any remaining dough.
  13. Once the dough is firm and stiff, return it to your worktop. Peel back the top sheet of parchment and cut out your shapes. Make sure you leave around 1cm between each shape as they will rise slightly in the oven.Star cutters on dough
  14. Remove any excess dough with a small offset spatula.Cut out unbaked letters
  15. When you’ve got as many cookies as you can out of the dough, squidge up and re-roll using the same method. The beauty of rolling using this method rather than flouring your surface is that the dough never becomes dry and unworkable.
  16. Bake on the middle rack of an oven at 180C (160C fan) for 10-16 minutes, until the cookies are just turning golden at the edges. It’s better to bake one sheet of cookies at a time.
  17. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.                Baked letter cookies
  18. Now it’s time to make the icing. And yes, this is hassle. To ice sugar cookies, you need the icing at two consistencies- pipe and flood. The first is stiffer so that it holds all the lovely shiny flood icing in. Now, I just make up the piping icing, colour it and pop it into the bag and then add water to make it flood consistency. It’s entirely possible that this is part of the reason why my royal icing doesn’t stay nice for very long. But I’m going to keep doing it this way until someone tells me otherwise.
  19. Combine the sugar, powder, extract and 3 tablespoons of warm water in a small bowl. The bowl should be small, or your hand mixer won’t be able to mix it very effectively. If you have a stand mixer, use that.Flood icing uncoloured
  20. Beat for 10 minutes. It should be glossy, with a consistency similar to toothpaste. You can test this by pushing a small amount of the icing into a No.2 pastry tip with your little finger and practice some loopsSwirls showing piping consistency
  21. This rather blurry picture is supposed to show that the loops should stay distinct and not run together once your icing reaches piping consistency.
  22. Transfer about a quarter of the icing to a small bowl and immediately cover with clingfilm. Royal icing should always be kept either covered or in an airtight container.
  23. Return to the bulk of the icing.
  24. Add about a tablespoon more of warm water. Mix until blended, with the consistency of double cream.
  25. Pour into your squeeze bottles and colour. Get those tops on straight away! If you don’t have squeeze bottles, use small airtight containers.Pouring flood icing into squeeze bottle
  26. Return to your piping icing. Colour it and then transfer to a piping bag, ideally fitted with a No.2 tip and coupler. Use a twist tie to secure the top, and then put another one about 2 inches further up the bag for safety. I used black paste colouring and had to add loads- over a teaspoon- to get even close to black.Black piping icing
  27. Here are all my colours ready to go. I think that 3 colours with black piping looks very effective.All colours of icing ready
  28. Begin icing! For the piping, hold the bag at a 45 degree angle to the cookie and apply firm pressure. Hold the tip a few millimetres above the cookie. I tend to hold it slightly higher for straight lines, then closer to the cookie for intricate bits.Piping outline onto A
  29. It’s quickest if you work in an assembly line method- do all the piping first, then all the icing. A fun idea for a party might be to pipe all your cookies beforehand, then let your guests squeeze in the flood icing themselves. Royal icing is fine if left to stand in the airtight squeeze bottles for a few hours.All outlines completed
  30. Now for the flood. Get all Noah on those suckers.Piping pink flood into star
  31. Leave to dry (if you can wait) before eating. These transport really easily with parchment between each layer of cookies. I added a little extra bling to a few of mine while the flood icing was still wet.Iced coloured cookies

How to: Outrageously Oaty Honey Bread

This bread is bloomin’ lovely, packed with lovely oats and with a gorgeous honey flavour. So far, it’s stayed really nice for three days, with a moist and smooth texture. I’ve been having it just with butter for lunch and it’s making me very happy indeed.

This recipe makes 2 9×5″ loaves.

Sliced loaf

Ingredients

  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1.5 cups oats (think I’ll increase to 2 cups next time I make this)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2tbsp butter
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1(7g) sachet of dry active yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 4-6 cups strong flour (I used white but will experiment with wholemeal next time)
  • 1 cup mixed seeds (optional)

Method

  1. Mix the water, oats, honey, butter and salt and leave to soak for an hour.
  2. Put the yeast in the warm water and let stand for 10 minutesOat mix and yeast
  3. Pour the yeast mixture into the oat mixture. Add 2 cups of flour and mix well. Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition.                                                         Mixture
  4. Once the dough comes together and isn’t too sticky, turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 20 minutes, until smooth and elastic. If the dough is still too sticky after about 6-7 cups of flour, just knead for the full amount of time while the dough is still in the bowl and it’ll still come out fine. Use a dough hook or bread machine if you’re lucky enough to have one.
  5. Near the end of the kneading process, add the seeds if desired.
  6. Put into a lightly oiled bowl. Turn so the dough is coated with oil and cover with a damp cloth. Leave in a warm place to prove for about 1.5 hours…                                                                               Before first prove
  7. …until doubled in size.                                                   After first prove
  8. If you haven’t already, add your seeds (I forgot) and work the dough lightly so they are fairly evenly distributed. Shape into loaves (or whatever shape you like), ensuring that your tins are buttered. I froze half of my dough at this stage, putting it in an oiled freezer bag inside a plastic container. I’ll update you soon on whether this works!Before second prove
  9. Cover and leave to prove again, until doubled in size. Around an hour. Preheat oven to 180C (fan 160)After second prove
  10. Bake for 25-35mins, until the top has browned and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. If desired, brush the top with a little warm honey and add a sprinkling of oats. I didn’t bother.Baked loaf

UPDATE: The dough freezes very well. Leave it in the fridge overnight to defrost, then shape into a loaf and leave for the second prove. Leave it for about double the time you normally would, i.e. about two hours and then bake as above. I remembered the seeds this time and they add to the texture really nicely. I’ve been eating this for lunch with just butter. It stays lovely for about three days, then is better toasted after that.Loaf with seeds

 

How to: Pecan Cinnamon Rolls

Have you ever had a Cinnabon? If not, you haven’t lived. It’s the perfect combination of fluffy bread, cinnamon sugar and gooey, nutty sauce. A heart-attack on a plate and totally worth it. My version is no healthier, but at least you know what’s in them. These would make an incredibly decadent breakfast with a tall glass of milk and MUST be eaten warm.

Served

Yum. This recipe serves 6-10 people, and you can leave the unbaked rolls in the fridge overnight so that they can be popped in the oven in the morning.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Half a sachet (3.5g) active dry yeast
  • 2 and 1/4 cups plain flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt

For the filling

  • 4-6 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar (brown is better)
  • 1-2tbsp cinnamon

For the ooey gooey pecan sauce

  • 3 tbsp golden syrup
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup pecans, roughly chopped

Method

  1. Scald (i.e. heat to just below boiling point) milk, butter and sugar in a saucepan.Butter and milk warming
  2. Leave to cool until lukewarm/blood temperature. Sprinkle over your yeast and leave to stand for a minute.Yeast
  3. Add 2 cups of flour and stir until just combined. Cover with a damp tea-towel or clingfilm and leave somewhere warm for an hour to prove…                                                                               Dough before proofing
  4. …until roughly doubled in size.
  5. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Butter a 23cm round (or square) baking tin.
  6. In a saucepan, heat the butter, sugar and golden syrup until the sugar has dissolved. Topping cooking
  7. Pour into the prepared tin and sprinkle over the chopped pecans.Topping with pecans on top
  8. Back to the dough.                                                          Proofed with flour on top
  9. Add the remaining flour, salt, baking powder and soda. You’ll probably need to knead it in by hand as the dough becomes pretty firm.Proofed and with additional flour
  10. At this stage, you can leave to prove again in the fridge, punching down before rolling. Or you can just flour your surface and roll straight away. Into a large rectangle, about 40-50cm long.  Rolled out and pouring butter
  11. Pour or spread over your melted or softened butter. Sprinkle on the sugar, then sprinkle liberally with the cinnamon.Rolled out and sprinkled
  12. Roll tightly from the long edge. Tuck the start of the roll as tight as possible and ensure that the roll stays tight all the way across.Half-rolled
  13. Seal the edge.                                                                   Log
  14. Cut into rounds about an inch long. The best way is to use a length of cotton or dental floss. Lay the end of the roll on top of the thread and then pull the two ends towards each other. It will cut perfect rounds like this.Log cross-section
  15. Lay your discs on top of the pecan goodness. Pack them in tightly. At this stage, you can cover with clingfilm and refrigerate overnight. Otherwise, bake now. Either way, let them stand while your oven preheats to 180C (160C fan).Ready to bake
  16. Bake until the buns are golden, for about 30-40 mins.Baked
  17. Flip immediately (but very carefully, that sauce is hot!) onto a plate and serve warm.

How to: Cute Calcifer Studs

I made these little studs as part of a festive craft swap with two schoolfriends. The other item was my Up cross stitch. The brief was that the items were to be tiny and based on a list of our top ten films that we sent each other. In case you’re not familiar with Howl’s Moving Castle, here’s a picture of Calcifer.                                                                       Calcifer

Here’s a pic to show the size of these things. They’re tiny! Single slice

You will need:

  • Red, orange, yellow, white and black Fimo, or other brand of polymer clay. I used translucent Fimo for the main colours as I think this gives a better finish, but opaque would look nice too.
  • Fimo varnish (optional)
  • Craft knife
  • Plain stud backs
  • Strong glue

How:

  1. Preheat oven to about 100C, or follow instructions on packet.
  2. Roll a thin tube of yellow Fimo, about 2mm in diameter and a couple of centimetres long.
  3. Make a flat square of orange Fimo, as long as your yellow tube and about a millimetre thick. Loosen from your work surface and roll around your yellow tube, cutting off any excess and rolling until smooth.
  4. Make a slightly larger square of red Fimo, about 1.5mm thick. Roll around your orange tube.Finished Calcifer tube
  5. Cut cross-sections with a very sharp craft knife. Shape them so that they are a bit more tear shaped.Two slices
  6. If you want, cut little indents in the sides so they look less perfectly round.
  7. Clean your fingers on a little waste white Fimo and then roll very tiny spheres of white Fimo. They really should be minuscule, about 0.5mm across. Squash into place.                               Just white eyes
  8. For the pupils and mouths, roll a tube of black Fimo as thin as you possibly can.Black tube
  9. Cut off tiny bits for Calcifer’s pupils. Carefully position in the centre of his eye and squash into place.One white eyes, one finished eyes
  10. For the mouths, either use lines from the black tube. Making round mouths also looks cute but forming the black rings is incredibly fiddly! If you want to make these into dangly earrings, make little holes at the top at this stage.One complete, one no mouth
  11. Bake for about 30 mins. Leave to cool completely. I often leave mine in the switched-off oven.
  12. If desired, varnish.                                                          Varnished
  13. Glue carefully to your posts and you’re done!

How to: Teeny tiny Up! cross-stitch

Now I can’t take much credit for designing this as I found some very similar images online as inspiration. But I think it has a bit of everything- balloons, a house and it’s absolutely minuscule. Also, it’ll only take you a couple of hours to put together, so this cross-stitch would make a great present.

Image

You will need:

  • about 15x15cm square of 22 count aida.
  • embroidery thread- black, yellow and then at least 7 other colours. In a pinch, you could use cotton.
  • a fine needle
  • optional: embroidery hoop. If you’re new to stitching this will help you to keep your tension correct, so I would recommend it but it’s by no means essential.

Note: With aida, the higher the count, the smaller the squares as the number corresponds to the number of holes per inch. You could make this bigger by just using different aida and the doubling up the strands of embroidery thread you use.

Work with a single strand of thread if you are using 22-count aida.

  1. Feel free to use my pic as a reference image. OR you could use this handy dandy ‘chart’ I madeChart
  2. I started with the balloons, though now I’m not entirely sure why! I started out by trying to slavishly copy another design but actually that’s quite tricky when it’s a photo rather than a nice pattern.
  3. Anyway, use one colour at a time and pick out a few stitches that aren’t too close to one another. Don’t be too precious about this as I think it will look good however it turns out. I would recommend saving a couple of pale, neutral-ish colours, such as yellow and pink, until last and using them to fill in any gaps.The thread will become very thick, but don’t worry about this.Next, I worked on the house. I used the bottom right corner of the balloon mass as a reference point for the uppermost point of the house. Leave the balloon strings until last, and I would say this is a good way to start as you don’t need to go back on yourself or carry long bits of thread across the back of your design. If you do carry thread in this way, the black might show through the aida.Started outline
  4. You can see that I did the windows before starting the outline. I think I did this so that the yellow thread wouldn’t be visible on top of the black. Go ahead and do the yellow first if you’re good at counting stitches, but it is a bit of a headache. I carried the thread down from the balloon mass and between the windows. Otherwise, it would be virtually impossible to work the ends of the thread under the stitches at the back to secure them.                                                       Windows and most balloons
  5. You can see here that I worked the windows when the yellow thread was live.Either way, finish the out line of the house and the highlighted windows. The balloon strings are single long stitches connecting the balloon mass and the house.Secure the ends of the black thread and you’re done!If your design looks a bit messy with fingerprints etc, you can block it by gently washing it in lukewarm water with a tiny bit of delicate fabric soap or baby shampoo. Don’t wring the fabric or you might distort the stitches. Just squeeze the water out as best you can and leave on a clean towel in a warm place to dry. You can then iron the piece so it looks perfect. I didn’t do this stage as the fabric looked fine and I knew I would be framing it, which helps to stretch everything out nicely anyway.You’re done! This cross-stitch looks great in a tiny frame like this.                                                         Framed

How to: Salted caramel and chocolate tartlets

Salted caramel and chocolate tart is basically my favourite dessert. Like, ever. And I bloody love desserts. I’m totes a connoisseur. Anyway, this is my first attempt at this delicious treat. I decided to go for tartlets as I’m trying to avoid death by butter. These are pretty amazing, but I’m still searching for my perfect recipe. This will make one 20cm tart or ten 8cm tartlets.Image

Ingredients

For the sweet hazelnut pastry

  • 50g blanched hazelnuts
  • 200g plain flour
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 140g cold butter, diced
  • 1tbsp icing sugar

For the salted caramel

  • 75g caster sugar
  • 25g butter
  • 100ml double cream
  • large pinch sea salt flakes
  • 50g toasted blanched hazelnuts

For the chocolate filling

  • 100g 70% cocoa chocolate
  • 75g butter
  • 2 large eggs, plus one yolk
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 1tbsp cocoa powder

Method

  1. For the pastry, whizz the hazels up in a food processor (or with hand blender) until finely ground.
  2. Add the flour, icing sugar and butter and pulse until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. If you don’t have a processor, rub in by hand.Pastry breadcrumbs
  3. Add your egg yolk and 1-2tbsps cold water and mix until the dough comes together. Pastry ball
  4. Flatten into a disc, wrap in clingfilm and leave to chill in the fridge for half an hour.
  5. Butter your tin or tins.
  6. Heat oven to 180C (fan 160C/gas 4). Flour your work surface and roll the chilled pastry out. Roll it thin, this helps it to be lovely and crispy. Pastry rolled
  7. Line your tin or tins, pressing any cracks in the pastry together. Trim the edges and prick the bases to help prevent the pastry from rising. You can also pop them in the freezer for a few minutes to help further.Pastry case before baking
  8. Line with (crumpled) baking parchment and fill with baking beans. Blind bake for 15-20mins, until the edges of the pastry are pale golden. Remove the baking beans and parchment and bake for a further 5-10 minutes until the bottom of the pastry is dry and beginning to colour.Three baked cases
  9. While the cases are baking (or afterwards if you don’t want to take a risk with multitasking), make your caramel. Put the sugar in a small pan over a medium heat with 2 tablespoons of water. Use this amount even if you halve the recipe. Don’t stir very much.Sugar water in pan
  10. Once the sugar has dissolved, crank up the heat until the sugar becomes an amber coloured caramel. Don’t worry if the sugar re-hardens into white lumps before this happens- leave it on the heat and the caramel will form. Again, avoid stirring and DO NOT be tempted to touch the mixture, it will be unholily hot.                  Caramel sugar only
  11. Reduce the heat and add the butter, cream and golden syrup, and stir until the sauce is smooth and thickened. Remove from the heat and add the salt. You can drop a little caramel onto a cold spoon so that you can taste for your desired level of saltiness. I added 2 large pinches.Caramel finished
  12. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then spread onto the pastry. Scatter with chopped hazelnuts.Three with nuts
  13. Now for the chocolate filling. Melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water or in the microwave, checking after 30 seconds. Stir until smooth, then remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
  14. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg, egg yolk and sugar for about 6 minutes until thick and pale.Pale and fluffy eggs
  15. Fold in the chocolate and cocoa powder, then pour into your pastry case.Three with chocolate
  16. I popped a couple of these babies into the freezer at this stage as I’d made too many. I’ll let you know if they turn out to be a disaster.
  17. Bake for 15-25 minutes until the chocolate mixture has risen and set, forming a crust.Three baked
  18. Allow to cool before serving. With some double cream. Yum.

How to: Lemon Ricotta Cake

At this festive time, a little lemon can help cut through all the rich food of the season. I added ricotta to ensure that it wasn’t too virtuous. It is the season, after all. This cake is dense, with a texture quite similar to ricotta. It keeps well.Slice

Ingredients:

  • 175g softened butter
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 3 lemons (ideally unwaxed)
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 250g ricotta
  • 125g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Method:

  1. Heat the oven to 180C (fan 160C)
  2. Butter and flour a 20cm spring-form cake tin.
  3. Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.       Creamed butter and sugar
  4. Beat in the lemon zest, yolks and ricotta. Add the juice of 2-3 lemons, to taste.
  5. Fold in the flour and baking powder.
  6. Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks, then fold into the ricotta mixture.Batter
  7. Spoon into the tin. Bake for 20-50 minutes until risen, firm and golden. Cool for an hour in the tin.Baked

 

How to use up leftovers: Buttermilk pancakes

Quite a few cake recipes these days call for buttermilk, a foodstuff that I have never used in anything else. A quick internet search and I decided to give these buttermilk pancakes a go. They’re very nice, I would recommend them for a quick and not-too-unhealthy weekend breakfast. I quartered the recipe as I only had 1/4cup of buttermilk left over.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten (I used 1tbsp egg white that I also had left over)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tsp melted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped fruit (optional)

Method:

  1. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda.
  2. Make a well in the centre and add the egg, buttermilk, butter and vanilla. Whisk until smooth.
  3. Add the fruit.                                                                    Batter
  4. Fry large dessertspoonfuls, ideally on a skillet but a large frying pan will do. Don’t use a small frying pan! I fried them in a little butter for additional deliciousness, but low-fat spray would do.Cooking
  5. Flip once the edges start to look brown and quite a few bubbles have formed, about 1.5mins. Cook on the other side for about a minute.
  6. Serve with a little maple syrup.                                    You got served
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