Sunday 30 January 2011

Grandma's old Baking Book

‘Have you still got a copy of your Grandma’s recipes?’ has been a regular question whenever I’ve been back to the Bolton-upon-Dearne, where I grew up in South Yorkshire. Shortly after Grandma died 30 years ago, I collated her recipes into a booklet entitled ‘Grandma Abson’s Yorkshire Recipes’ and sold them across the North of England. In fact, they sold like hotcakes.

I’m planning on launching the book again by this summer. Grandma was very proud of her baking, whether it was winning prizes or having family and friends sampling cakes and puddings. Her recipes stand the test of time, they were simple yet scrumptious. I can’t wait to see them in print again. The process has just begun with the manuscript now sent off to FCD  to do the graphics and design. I’ll keep you all posted.

Saturday 22 January 2011

Waste not want not

Lemon Biscuits just out of the oven
None of us likes to waste things and this is particularly the case with food. Grandma Abson was always careful to make full use of everything in her pantry and nothing went to waste. So when I had a couple of lemons left over, I remembered Grandma's recipe for Lemon Biscuits. I adapted the original recipe by reducing the sugar and substituting lemon juice for the milk. 
Lemon Biscuits
½ lb/225g plain flour
5 oz/150g butter
2 oz/50g caster sugar
Grated rind of one lemon
Pinch salt
1 tbsp lemon juice 
Mix the salt and flour. Rub in the butter and add the grated rind, sugar and then the lemon juice. Turn the paste onto a floured board and knead to a dough. Roll out rather thickly and cut into rounds. Place on a greased baking tray and bake in a slow oven for 20 minutes at 325F, Mark 3 or 170C.

Tip for making biscuits: A stiff dough is the consistency for most biscuits. Just enough liquid is needed to bind all the dry ingredients together so the dough can be shaped or rolled out and cut without crumbling. It is important that the dough is well but lightly kneaded so it’s smooth and even.

Meryl says : Grated rind of an orange can be substituted  to make Orange Biscuits.
Enjoy making biscuits – my Lemon Biscuits didn’t last long! 

Sunday 16 January 2011

Baking and hygiene

Keep clean and stay safe
Last Monday, I spent the day at a Training school getting to grips with Food Safety. We had a lovely tutor and, although this is a really serious topic, we covered the topics in a really entertaining way. We did food safety law, hazards, temperatures, handling food, storage and hygiene, and then the heat was on when we took the test to achieve  the CIEH Level 2 Food Safety in Catering at the end of the day.

Grandma Abson did her cooking for the first 65 years of her life without the benefit of being able to refrigerate food but it didn’t stop her from taking food hygiene seriously and keeping utensils and preparation areas scrupulously clean when preparing food. Chilling was about finding a cool place in the larder to keep food safe. Covering cakes and buns with beaded muslin cloths kept insects away.

So, here are my top tips to you for baking at home to make sure nothing unsavoury happens:

1. Wash your hands thoroughly before preparing food.
2. Remove jewellery (rings etc.), when preparing food.
3. Always use clean cloths to wipe surfaces or utensils.
4. Keep fresh food separate from cooked food to avoid cross contamination.
5. Use different knives to chop raw meat or fish and ready-to-eat foods such as salads or cheese.
6. In a fridge, store cooked food on a higher shelf than raw food.
7. Check the length of time for storage of food and observe use-by dates.
8. Don’t leave food out for a long time.
9. Be aware of storage temperatures for fridges (1-5C) and freezers (-18C).
10. Only reheat food once. 

Safe baking to all!

Monday 3 January 2011

New Year Baking for 6 January (Le Jour des Rois)

Galette de pommes
I love celebrating New Year with a Galette de pommes. It reminds me when I lived in France and worked in a school in St Quentin. We had a staff reception to celebrate ‘Le Jour des Rois’ (the Day of the Kings) on 6 January and tasted the famous ‘Galette des Rois’

The tradition is that a ‘feve’, a dried bean or a porcelain figure, is hidden in the ‘Galette’ and whoever finds it becomes King or Queen for the day and wears a golden paper crown. The ‘Galette des Rois’ is usually made with puff pastry with a layer of almond paste or frangipane. The head teacher served us all with a glass of champagne. I had taken some of Grandma’s Christmas Cake and Monsieur le Proviseur said it was the best cake he had ever tasted.

My landlady's friend, Madame Blanchard made an apple version : 

Galette de Pommes. 
150g plain flour 
100g butter  (cut into small pieces)
1 tsp sugar 
4 tbsps water 
25g unsalted butter melted
100g caster sugar 
50g caster sugar 
1-2 tbsp Calvados 

 Mix the flour, salt and sugar in a bowl with the butter butter. Add the water and bring together. Wrap the dough in clingfilm, and let rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Remove from the fridge and let it soften while making the filling. Peel, core and slice the apples.  Roll the pastry out into a large circle to fit the dish. Place the pastry in the dish. Arrange the apples so that they overlap. Place in the fridge for 10-15 minutes. Heat the oven to 200C/Mark 6/400F. Remove the Galette from the fridge and brush the pastry edge with the melted butter. Sprinkle the apples with the caster sugar and Calvados. Place the Galette in the oven and bake for 45-60 minutes until golden. Serve hot or cold with cream or ice cream. 

Meryl’s tips : I follow the pastry recipe which is like Grandma’s shortcrust pastry but include 25g of ground almonds. I use Coxes apples but don’t add any sugar since we don’t like things too sweet. I also sieve some icing sugar and caramelise it under the grill once the Galette is out of the oven rather than the caster sugar. See for yourself, it's very tasty.
It’s been a hectic week baking for family and friends  but I read Nigel Slater's book 'Toast' and remembered the same sort of delectable apple and lemon meringue pies just like Grandma used to make.