Monday, 23 April 2018

A Slice of Paradise

A slice of Paradise 
Treasured family recipes are always the best and the recipe for Paradise Slices from Jenny in Chesterfield is no exception. She writes to say that my talk at her Social History group about Grandma Abson inspired her to look out an old exercise book of her mum’s and bake a few recipes. She says that she used to bake Paradise Slices with her 3 children when they were little as they were so easy.
Paradise Slices 
4oz/110g chocolate
4oz/110g coconut
2oz/50g raisins
2oz/50g sugar
1oz/25g chopped dates
1 egg
Pre heat the oven to 180C/350F/Mark 4. Grease and line a 7inch/18cms square tin. Melt the chocolate and pour into the tin. Mix all the other ingredients together and spread over the chocolate. Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Meryl says: This recipe is a great one to bake with children as Jenny suggests. Who will be licking the bowl out for the last of the chocolate?

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Nothing sour about Vinegar Cake

There is nothing sour in the Vinegar Cake recipe which Pat’s friend Sheila wrote out for me. It’s actually a WW2 recipe where a dash of vinegar replaces the egg. 
I made her original recipe using double quantities to make a cake to take to my talk about WW2 rationing and how it affected baking. Sheila was a school girl at the time but remembers the recipe from her School Cookery in 1942. Dried fruit went on the rationing list in January 1942 so making a small cake like this would be quite precious. The vinegar replaces eggs which were also rationed and in short supply unless you kept hens!
Vinegar Cake
8oz/225g flour
4oz/110g butter (or margarine)
3oz/75g mixed fruit
3oz sugar
2 tsps bicarbonate of soda
4 tsps vinegar (I used white wine vinegar)
½ pint/275ml milk
Pre heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Rub the butter into the flour. Add the fruit, sugar and bicarbonate of soda. Mix well. Add the vinegar and enough milk to make a stiff dropping consistency. Place in a greased/lined cake tin. (I used a 2lbs/1kg loaf tin but you could use a 7inch/20cms round or square cake tin). Bake in a moderate oven for 30 minutes.

Meryl says : It’s a very simple cake which works well and useful as a light fruit cake if you need an egg free diet. Don’t let the Vinegar in the name of the cake put you off!

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Easter Biscuits make happy bunnies

Easter Biscuits
I always love these simple Easter Biscuits. Grandma usually made a traditional version, rather like Georgian Shrewsbury Biscuits. Sometimes she would make a plain iced version. She would never use artificial colouring but natural flavourings such as lemon or orange juice.
Easter Biscuits
8 oz /225g butter
4 oz/110g caster sugar
12 oz / 340g plain flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
1 lemon zest grated
2 eggs (beaten)
2oz /50g currants

Pre heat the oven to 375F, Mark 5, 190C.  Cream the butter and sugar. Mix the cinnamon, mixed spice and lemon zest into the flour. Then mix the flour and egg alternately to the creamed mixture. Divide the dough into 2.
For traditional biscuits
Add the currants to half the mixture and knead lightly.  Roll out the dough ¼ inch/5mm thick and cut into Easter shapes (e.g. bunnies, chicks and eggs) place on trays lined with baking paper. Bake in the oven to a golden colour for about 12-15 minutes.  
For iced biscuits
Omit the currants. Roll out and bake in the same way as the traditional biscuits. To make the icing mix 6oz/175g icing sugar with 1-2 tsp lemon juice, adding it gradually until you have a smooth mixture. Either pipe or simply spread the icing on the biscuits once they are cool.
 Wrap them up as an Easter gift. 
How long will they last in the tin?  

What's going to make you a happy bunny? 

Monday, 12 March 2018

Hot Cross Buns one a penny, two a penny ...

Every year in the weeks before Easter, Grandma would make Hot Cross Buns. She would leave the dough to rise on the hearth of the kitchen range. I use a sunny windowsill, airing cupboard or a warm place near a radiator. I’ve updated Grandma’s traditional recipe using fast action yeast – which makes it very easy! 
Hot Cross Buns
What you need...
250ml/½ pint milk
50g/2 oz butter cut into pieces
7g sachet fast action yeast 
450g/1 lb strong plain flour
1 tsp mixed spice
35g/1½ oz sugar
1 egg lightly beaten
50g/2 oz currants
50g/2oz mixed peel
Vegetable oil
Shortcrust Pastry for decoration    
How to bake...
Heat the milk until nearly boiling, add the butter and leave to cool to hand temperature. Stir the yeast into the cooled milk mixture.  Mix the flour, mixed spice and sugar. Make a well in the centre and add the yeast mixture and egg. Mix to a soft dough.  You can do this in a food mixer with a dough hook. Place in an oiled bowl and cover with oiled cling film. Leave to prove in a warm place until doubled in size. Add the currants and mixed peel. Knead on a floured board or worktop for 10 minutes or so until smooth. 
Cover with oiled cling film. Leave to prove again in a warm place until doubled in size. Turn out and knead for 2-3 minutes. Cut the dough into 10-12 pieces and shape into buns. Place on a greased baking tray, cover with oiled cling film and put in a warm place until doubled in size.  Make a small amount of shortcrust pastry, roll out and cut into thin strips. Brush with milk and place across each bun to make a cross. Bake in a hot oven (425F, Mark 7, 210C) for 15 minutes. Brush with a glaze made from milk and sugar and allow to cool. 
Bake and eat them on Good Friday before the chocolate egg rush on Easter Sunday and sing the old nursery rhyme. 'Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns! One a penny, two a penny, Hot cross buns!' Will you try them?

Monday, 19 February 2018

Tea’s up with Raisin Gingerbread Loaf

Thanks to Joanne for this tasty Raisin Gingerbread Loaf recipe. Amazingly, she wrote it out for me from memory when I did a talk for her group in Chesterfield. Just like many old family recipes, you can measure the ingredients in a cup but I’ve given some suggested quantities in metric and imperial measures.
Raisin Gingerbread Loaf
110g/4oz butter
2 tbsps golden syrup
340g/12oz  self raising flour
50g/2oz sugar
175g/6oz raisins
1 tsp mixed spice
2 tsps ground ginger
1 cup of cold tea
2 medium eggs (beaten)
Preheat the oven to 180C/Mark 4/350F. Melt the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a pan. Mix the dry ingredients flour, raisins and spices together.  Pour in the melted mixture and then add the beaten eggs, coffee and tea. Place in a 1kg/2lbs loaf tin and bake for approximately 1¼ to 1½ hours.

Meryl says : A slice of  Raisin and Gingerbread Loaf spread with lashings of butter is becoming popular again. The raisins add moisture so it will keep for up to a week in an airtight container. Add cystallised ginger pieces to the top before baking for an extra spicy topping. What do you think?

Monday, 12 February 2018

Chocolate Cake for my Valentine

We all love Chocolate Cake for Valentine’s Day so bake a special one for your Valentine. I made this one to raise funds for a local charity event – and it proved to be a fantastic draw. Fill with butter cream or fresh cream and decorate with melted chocolate or butter cream as you wish.  It’s one of Grandma's easy recipes. Piece of cake!
What you need
6 oz/175g sugar
6 oz/175g butter
6 oz/175g self-raising flour
2 tbsps cocoa
3 eggs
2 tbsps black treacle (warmed)
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ cup milk
How to bake
Cream the butter and sugar together. Mix the cocoa and flour together. Beat the eggs. Add alternately to the mixture with the flour and mix gently. Add the warmed treacle and vanilla. Add enough milk to give a soft consistency. Bake in a moderate oven for approximately 45 minutes. (350F, Mark 4, 180 C).
 P.S. Don’t forget the card!

Monday, 22 January 2018

Search for a lost recipe is over

Coffee and Walnut Sandwich
Norma wrote to me last week to say how delighted she was to find the recipe for Chantilly Cake which was a favourite in her family but which she had lost in a house move. She said the ‘cake turned out just like old times - delicious!’ She now was on the hunt for a Coffee and Walnut cake, also lost, so I’m posting this recipe from Grandma’s baking book.

Meryl’s tip : If you use coffee granules, make sure you grind them first to a powder, for example, in a pestle and mortar.
 Coffee and Walnut Sandwich
4oz /110g sugar
6oz/175g self raising flour
4oz/110g butter
3 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1 dessertspoonful coffee extract or powder 

 Preheat the oven to 350F, Mark 4, 180C.  Cream the butter and sugar, add the coffee essence or powder. Mix well. Add the flour and eggs alternately. Lastly, add the baking powder. Divide into 2 x 8 inch (20 cms) sandwich tins and bake in a moderate oven for approximately 30 minutes. 

Cream 3oz/75g butter and 5oz/150g icing sugar. Add a little milk, beat well and then mix in 1 teaspoonful of coffee extract/powder. Spread half of one cake and place the other cake on top. Or reduce the amount of the mixture by half and decorate with glace icing flavoured with coffee extract or powder. Decorate the top with the remaining butter icing and the walnuts.

Meryl says : This is a delectable coffee cake which is easy to bake. I’ve not found out why we put walnuts on coffee cake but they do give it an elegant touch. One of my favourite reviews of Grandma’s recipe book came from Ana Cecilia, a fashion blogger who rates Grandma’s book as 'her personal cooking bible’. She’s posted a mean Coffee Cake picture too from my favourite city, Paris.
Do you know why we decorate Coffee Cake with walnuts? 

Monday, 15 January 2018

Banana Loaf makes the grade

Banana Loaf
I’m quite a fan of bananas and was delighted when Kay from Gawber sent me a recipe for a Banana Loaf from her friend, Joan. Kay had tried out the recipe a couple of times and reduced the sugar as first cake she made was too sweet for her taste.  The friends had a lot of chat about baking times and said it could be ready between 35 minutes and an hour. Joan had found that the size and ripeness of bananas affected the sweetness and batter consistency. When I baked the cake, I left it in the oven for an hour. This seemed to work out well.
Banana Loaf
125g butter
150g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg - beaten
2 bananas - ripe
190g self raising flour
60ml milk
1 tablespoon demerara sugar for the topping
Pre heat the oven to 170C/Gas 3/325F. Grease or line a 1kg/2lb loaf tin. Melt the butter with the sugar and vanilla extract in a pan over a medium heat. Remove and cool slightly. Mash the bananas and mix with the melted mixture. Add the egg and mix well. Stir in the flour and milk. Pour into the cake tin and sprinkle the demerara sugar on top. Bake for 1 hour until a cake skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool. 
Meryl says : The trick with baking with bananas in cake is not to mash them up too much, so using ripe ones is a good thing - otherwise the cake may become too heavy. Hope you enjoy Joan’s recipe.
And if you are a banana fan, try this teabread recipe for 
Banana Nut Bread from Grandma’s Recipes page. 

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Start the day with Cranberry & Orange Muffins

December brings fresh cranberries to the market and a chance to make one of my favourite muffin recipes for Cranberry and Orange Muffins. Spice them up with a sprinkling of cinnamon and nutmeg to make them Christmassy. Breakfast, lunch or supper, you can’t go wrong with these healthy beauties. 
Cranberry & Orange muffins
250g/8oz plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
2 tbsps caster sugar
1 egg
 75 ml milk
75 ml vegetable oil
Juice and zest of 1 orange
125g/5oz cranberries (chopped)
3 tbsps demerera sugar 

Pre heat the oven to 200 C/Mark 6. Place 12 muffin cases in a baking tin. Mix together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar. In another bowl, mix the egg, milk, oil, orange zest and juice, then add this to the dry ingredients and fold in the cranberries. Spoon the mixture into the muffin cases and sprinkle a little Demerara sugar on the top. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove the muffins from the tin and cool on a wire rack.

Meryl’s tips :  Don’t overmix otherwise the muffins will be heavy. You can use dried cranberries if fresh ones are not available. 

These muffins make a perfect start to Christmas morning. Happy Christmas!
Try Cranberry and Pistachio Loaf for a lighter alternative to 
traditional Christmas Cake.  
And check the Recipes page for a host of Grandma's favourite Christmas bakes!

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Waiting for Twelfth Night Cake

Christmas celebrations in Georgian times featured Twelfth Night Cake, a rich fruit cake which was eaten on the feast of the Epiphany on 6 January. Visitors to the Georgian Christmas at Cusworth Hall Doncaster didn’t seem too keen to wait till January to taste this scrumptious cake, so they had an early taste in the Great Kitchen, along with other Georgian Christmas Baking treats. I’d adapted a recipe from John Mollard’s 1803 edition of ‘The Art of Cookery’ .
Twelfth Night Cake
225g/8oz butter
225g/8oz dark muscovado sugar
1 tablespoon black treacle
4 eggs
225g/8oz plain flour
1 teaspoon each of mixed spice, cinnamon and ground nutmeg
225g/8oz each of raisins, currants and sultanas
50g/2oz chopped mixed peel
50g/2oz glacé cherries
50g/2oz ground almonds

Preheat the oven to 160/325F/Gas 3. Line a 20 cm/8 inch round cake tin. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy and mix in the treacle. Whisk the eggs lightly and then add them gently to the creamed mixture, followed by the flour and spices. Stir in the dried fruit, mixed peel, cherries and ground almonds and mix well. Then place the mixture into the cake tin. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 1½ hours until the cake is firm and a cake skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave the cake in the tin until cool then turn out and cover with foil until ready to decorate. The cake can be decorated with marzipan and royal icing or left plain as desired.
It looks and tastes a lot like Christmas Cake but there’s an important difference. It was the custom to bake a dried bean and pea in each side of the cake and serve the cake in two halves one for ladies and the other for the gentlemen. Whoever found the bean and the pea became King and Queen for the night. 
We had some visitors from Spain who told us they had the same tradition with the bean in their splendid ‘Roscon de Reyes’.
I’ve tasted the magnificent ‘Galette des Rois’ which is an almond cake made with puff pastry which also has a (ceramic) bean baked inside. 

It was thumbs up all round for the Georgian Twelfth Night Cake. I think the Georgians had the right idea just like our Spanish and French friends to round off the Christmas celebrations with this great tradition. Once the wrapping is recycled, the decorations taken down, and the Christmas lights switched off, throw off the gloom of January with a piece of Twelfth Night Cake. Good luck -you could be a King or Queen for the day! 

Monday, 6 November 2017

Rock on, Tommy with Emma’s Rock Buns

Rock Buns or Cakes are that curious relative of scones, similar in appearance and sharing the key ingredient of dried fruit. Originally designed as a teatime treat, they proved popular because the ingredients were fairly cheap. The ‘rock’ refers to their rough surface rather than the texture.
They were loved by soldiers in World War 1  amongst other recipes from the Home Front  and promoted by the Ministry of Food in World War 2 rationing, as they could be made with reduced sugar and fewer eggs than other bakes. 

Many families had their own recipe Rock Buns or Rock Cakes and ours was no exception. It was my Grandma’s sister, Emma who provided the trusted family recipe for Rock Buns. It was her signature bake!
Emma, Jim, cousin baby Elaine and me
My great aunt Emma, seen here with her husband, Jim in their garden had a recipe for Coconut Rock Buns where 4oz/110g desiccated coconut replaced the dried fruit. I remember eating these and Rock Buns during the 1950s when we stayed with at her home in Manchester every summer holiday.
Rock Buns
12oz/340g plain flour
2 tsps baking powder
4oz/110g butter or lard
Pinch of salt
4oz/110g sugar
4oz/110g currants or raisins
2 eggs
1 teacupful of milk

Sieve the baking powder with the flour. Rub the fat into flour and salt then add the sugar and the fruit. Beat the eggs and add these to the mixture with the milk. Mix well. Put on a greased tin or on greased baking sheets and shape into small rocky heaps with two forks. Bake for 20 minutes in a fairly hot oven.  (400F, Mark 6, 200C)

Mrs Beeton's Everyday Cookery and Housekeeping 
The Best Way
Rock Buns been around since at least Victorian times. They feature in Mrs Beeton’s Everyday Cookery and Housekeeping book 1861 and The Best Way cookery book 1907, not forgetting their starring role in the station tearoom in the 1945 film 'Brief Encounter''. 
Back in World War 1, Rock on, Tommy - but is it a bun or a cake?