Monday, 22 August 2016

Fond memories of buns

Just to set the record straight what we call ‘buns’ in Yorkshire are sometimes known as small cakes elsewhere across the country. Margaret wrote to me about her fond memories of buns as a child in Kiveton Park near Sheffield when I visited her Local History group to talk about the History of Afternoon tea :

“Before, during and after the war, tea parties would be held on a large lawn behind the houses on Wales Road (now a car park). Kids were excluded but we played on the edges and our mums would usually save a precious bun for their offspring. If we were caught playing on it during the week, we were chased off by Mr Betteridge!”

Maybe Margaret and her chums would be eating a Ginger bun or a Ground Rice bun. Here are some recipes for baking tasty buns from Grandma Abson’s collection :
Buns or small cakes


Which is your favourite?

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Fruit, Nuts & Seeds for a Summer treat

Summer’s here and the time is just right to get out those BBQs in the garden or take a picnic to a favourite beauty spot. Bake this easy recipe in a foil container to put out on the garden table or simply wrap and pop in your picnic basket. Whatever the occasion, these bars are packed full of flavour with dried fruits, nuts and seeds and make a healthy treat with no additional sugar. You’ll find they don’t last long!

Fruit, Nut & Seed Bars
7oz/200g butter
6oz/175g honey
12oz/340g porridge oats
6oz/175g dried fruits
4oz/110g chopped mixed nuts
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1 tsp linseeds
2 tbsps lemon juice
Melt the butter and honey gently in a pan over a low heat.
Mix the porridge oats with the dried fruit nuts and seeds, keeping a few seeds back to decorate the top. Add the melted butter and honey to the oats, fruit, nuts and seeds mixture and stir in well.

Spoon the mixture into a tin or foil case (approx 23cm x 23cm). Scatter the reserved nuts and seeds on the top. Bake in a preheated oven 180C (160C Fan)/Mark 5/350F for about 25 minutes.  Allow to cool before cutting into bars with a sharp knife.

Meryl says : This is a really versatile recipe which you can vary to your own taste and what’s in your store cupboard. I used apricots, raisins and sultanas for the dried fruits but you could use other dried fruits such as cranberries, dates or gogi berries. Almonds, brazils, hazelnuts, pistachios, walnuts were my choice but macademias nuts or pecans work just as well. Pumpkin seeds (also known as pepitas) and linseeds fitted the bill but chia and sesame seeds are equally good.  Finally, cacao nibs would also give the bars an intense chocolate flavour. 

Enjoy Fruit, Nut and Seed Bars!

Monday, 11 July 2016

I should Coco...

Coconut Tartlet
For several centuries since they was discovered by Spanish and Portuguese explorers, coconuts have been associated with the exotic. But in the tropics and sub tropics, they are known for their versatility with many uses ranging from cosmetics to food and even claims as a cure for all sorts of ailments.

Grandma had a number of baking recipes with ‘desiccated’ or shredded coconut. The humble Coconut Tartlets are one of my favourites. Here’s Grandma's easy to bake recipe for about 12 tartlets.

Coconut Tartlets
strawberry or raspberry jam
2oz/50g butter
2oz/50g sugar
1 egg (beaten)
2oz/50g desiccated coconut
1 tbsp self raising flour

Pre heat the oven to 180 C (Fan 160 C )/ Mark 4 / 350F. Roll out pastry thinly (2mm) and cut into 12 rounds  with a cutter. Place the rounds in the bun tin. Put half a teaspoon of jam in the bottom of each tartlet. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the beaten egg and coconut. Place 1tsp of the sponge mixture on top of the jam. Bake for about 20 minutes until the sponge is golden brown. Leave to cool for about 5 minutes before removing from the tin.

Meryl says : Grandma had a recipe for a larger version - Coconut Tart – on page 89 of her book. 
For more of Grandma’s recipes with coconut, check out Coconut Haystacks and Coconut Fingers on the Recipes page. You should definitely Coco....

Monday, 13 June 2016

Juicy Plums and a dash of ginger

Plum and Ginger Cake
I love to see Plums appearing on the fruit and vegetable stalls at the market since it gives me a chance to make this delicious cake. As always a dash of ginger gives it an extra kick!

 Plum and Ginger Cake
6 plums
2 eggs
4oz/110g caster sugar
5oz/150g yoghurt
2fl oz/50ml vegetable oil
5oz/150g self raising flour
1tsp baking powder
1 tsp ginger
1 tbsp demerara sugar

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Mark 6. Grease and line a 21cms/8 inch cake tin. Slice the plums thinly. Beat the eggs yolks with the sugar until pale. Mix the yoghurt and oil into the egg and sugar mixture and then add the plums. Mix the flour, baking powder and ginger together and stir into the mixture. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they are firm peaks. Fold into the rest of the mixture. Pour into the cake tin. Sprinkle demerara sugar on the top and bake for around 45 minutes. 

Meryl says : Plum and Ginger Cake is at its best when served slightly warm as a pudding but you can let it cool and serve as a cake. It will keep for a couple of days or so – if you can resist it! What do you think?

Friday, 13 May 2016

Let’s party with Lily’s Praline Cake

Praline Cake
 I did a talk about Grandma’s baking for a fabulous group called ‘The Breakaways’. The name of their group was intriguing since, much as they loved their husbands and partners, they just enjoyed a couple of hours 'break' away from home to chat and relax with their friends. The members had all sorts of hobbies and baking was high on the list. Lily sent me her recipe for one of their favourite cakes – a real party piece and perfect for a birthday treat – Praline Cake –  and it's very easy to bake. She had been making it since Cadbury Flakes cost 14p so you can tell it’s an old favourite!
Praline Cake
4oz/110g caster sugar
4/oz/110g butter or margarine
2 oz/50g self raising flour
2 oz/50g ground almonds
2 oz/50g coconut
2 eggs
1 Cadbury’s Flake
Cream the sugar and butter/margarine. Add the dry ingredients gradually with the beaten egg. Crumble in the Chocolate Flake. Put into a square tin and bake in the oven 150C/Mark 2 for 45 minutes

Meryl says : I  topped my Praline Cake with butter cream  and chopped nuts to make a perfect party cake but you could decorate with chocolate pieces too. Thanks to Lily, Diana and The Breakways for sharing this glorious recipe! 

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.


Ingredients
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! 
Enjoy!

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!