Saturday, 28 May 2011

Exchange and bake

Chocolate Cake
I’ve been having saxophone lessons from my music teacher friend Maria for about 6 years now. It’s always fun and my repertoire is much extended now to include latin, soul and jazz. My best pieces are Dos Gardenias para ti, Blueberry Hill, Summer time and Unchained MelodyMaria is a very sympathetic teacher and always writes words of encouragement and praise in my lesson book, even when I give her a million excuses why I haven’t practised my scales and arpeggios. She writes ‘lovely playing’, ‘smooth musical performance’, ‘very expressive’.  The highlight of my year is when I get to play with her school band at the Christmas concert at Doncaster Minster.

And I've been passing on some of Grandma’s tips in exchange for lessons when Maria said she hadn’t much baking experience. We’ve had one to one cookery lessons and made a whole range of tasty dishes including Vegetable Soup, Shortcrust Pastry and Grandma's Chocolate Cake. 

Chocolate Cake
6 oz/175g margarine or butter
6 oz/175g sugar
6 oz/175g self-raising flour
2 tbsps cocoa
A pinch of salt
3 eggs
2 tbsps black treacle (warmed)
½ tsp vanilla essence
½ cup milk

“Cream the margarine (or butter) and sugar. Mix the cocoa and flour together with a pinch of salt. Beat the eggs. Add alternately to the mixture with the flour. Add the treacle and vanilla to taste. Add a little milk to give a soft consistency. Bake in a moderate oven for ¾ hour.”  (350F, Mark 4, 180 C)

I’ve devised a memo for Maria to jot things down to remember as she goes along. Maria says ‘I didn’t think baking would be so easy and so much fun. Meryl is a great teacher and has given me so much confidence in the kitchen.’ I am delighted she has got into baking. Now back to the saxophone practice – where were we with those scales?
Here is a picture of Maria and dance partner Steve and the rest of the participants strutting their stuff at the fabulous Not so Strictly Come Dancing event last weekend at Sheffield City Hall to support the work of the Safe at last charity with young runaways in the Yorkshire region.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Countdown to Grandma’s book launch

Grandma Abson’s original baking folder

I’m soon to launch Grandma Abson’s Traditional Baking. I’m telling the story of my Grandma’s life and baking tips and recipes. I’ve agreed the final details and we’ve pressed the print button to roll off lots of copies. This project has required lots of baking to get it off the ground. 

The York Publishing Services folk love cakes with chocolate. It must be the Rowntrees legacy in the city. Last week, I baked Grandma’s recipe for Chocolate Cake and added sour cherries to the chocolate butter cream filling. Cathi said ‘The cake was delicious! The cherries are perfect – it takes a little of the sweetness out and makes it lovely and moist’.
 
Chocolate Cake with cranberries

While the printing is being done, I’ve been busy arranging the launch in early June. Dearne Valley College   has very kindly agreed to host it.  I am so delighted about this as it’s very near to where Grandma worked in service and a couple of miles from where she lived in Bolton on Dearne. Catering and Hospitality students from the College are baking recipes from Grandma’s book.  It will be fantastic to see some of the people who remember Grandma. So in answer to the question ‘Have you got a copy of your Grandma’s recipes?’ I’ll be able to proudly say ‘Yes!




Friday, 13 May 2011

A bit of a do ......

A celebration cake for a christening


Grandma’s Celebration Fruit Cake recipe is getting well used this year. My niece Sara and her partner Graeme had their lovely baby, Niamh, christened recently. At the church, our proud family and friends gathered to support the new addition to the family circle. The minister triumphantly poured water into the font from a great height, all adding to the drama. Our group all watched intently as Niamh was the first of the three babies to be christened. She cried out lustily when the minister poured water over her forehead and we all drooled affectionately and then clapped heartily when her turn was over. Ah!!!!!!  Niamh quickly recovered her composure and after the photos we all went off to a buffet lunch at a nearby pub.
  
The focus of everyone’s attention (as well as the beautiful baby) was the cake. Sara had requested a traditional fruit cake and her mum used Grandma Abson’s traditional Celebration Fruit cake recipe - but double the quantities - to make a large square cake. Another friend did an amazing job with the icing and decoration.  

Celebration Fruit Cake (8 inch /21 cms)
8oz/225g brown sugar
8oz/225g butter
1 tbsp black treacle (warmed)
1 tbsp golden syrup (warmed)
5 eggs (beaten)
9oz/250g self raising flour
3-4oz /100g glace cherries
4oz/110g mixed peel
10oz/275g each of sultanas, raisins, currants
1tsp each of cinnamon and mixed spice
2oz/50g nut mix +1oz/25g ground almonds or 3oz/75g ground almonds
1/6 pint/100ml stout 

Cream the butter and sugar and add the treacle and golden syrup. Add the eggs and half of the flour and spices. Beat the mixture. Stir in the almonds and cherries and then the rest of the flour and dried fruit. Add the stout. Bake for 3 – 3 ½ hours. Start warm for 30 minutes and then gradually reduce and finish in slow oven. (325F, Mark 3, 170C to 250F. Mark ½ 130C)

Proud mum and dad with Niamh 

We all love ‘a bit of a do’ in Yorkshire!


Friday, 6 May 2011

Designing Grandma Abson's Traditional Baking book

Mark (and me) fine-tuning Grandma's book

I've written before about the book of Grandma Abson's Traditional recipes which I am launching this summer. This is not the first time that Grandma's recipes have been in the bookshops. Thirty years ago, I published a booklet of her popular recipes which sold like hotcakes across the North of England. I’m hoping to tell Grandma's story again with a fuller selection of her favourite recipes with the release of the new book and an ebook too and really keep that baking legacy alive. 

I’ve been working on the book cover and page layout with a local design company First Class Design Ltd. The Creative Director, Mark and his colleagues have come up with some fantastic ideas to visually convey Grandma's story.

We've spent the past few weeks working on the cover, the text and photos inside, and now they've sent it across to York Publishing Services who are now doing proofs. Needless to say, I have made lots of cakes and biscuits for them to try to really get a feel of what the book is all about.

I'll be pressing the print button in the next few weeks, so watch this space for updates.

Monday, 2 May 2011

A right Royal Wedding Cake

Kate and William’s amazing wedding cake  

I have to admit that I am not a fervent monarchist but, I suspect like many folk, I did spend the day watching the wedding coverage. Of course, I had a sneaking fascination to see what the bride was wearing. I was also keen to see the cake and pick up a few tips from Leicestershire baker, Fiona Cairns. Kate and William’s cake was a traditional multi tiered one with the edible flowers representing the 4 nations. It was an amazing creation.

The history of wedding cakes goes back to early medieval times and later Tudor cakes which were largely bread and dried fruit.  More recent tradition came from Queen Victoria who had the first 3 tiered wedding cake weighing over 300 lbs, described as a ‘triumph of architecture.’  Wartime wedding cakes in the 1940s relied on family and friends saving ration coupons to donate for the ingredients. Couples sometimes had a cardboard cutout cake with a tiny cake hidden beneath.


Our family always marks big events in family life by making a cake. Grandma Abson’s niece, Ivy, made the wedding cake for Grandma’s eldest great granddaughter, Rachel when she married Greg in 2004 and decorated it with some superb iced flowers.
 
Rachel and Greg’s stunning wedding cake
I’m keeping up Grandma Abson’s tradition by making the wedding cake for my daughter in October. Once they make the final decision about the design, I’ll be working to a timetable starting with making the fruit cake tier using the recipe for Bride's Cake from Grandma's recipe book. Here it is :  

Celebration Bride's Fruit Cake 
8oz/225g brown sugar
8oz/225g butter
1 tbsp black treacle (warmed)
1 tbsp golden syrup (warmed)
5 eggs (beaten)
9oz/250g self raising flour
4oz/110g glace cherries
4oz/110g mixed peel
10oz/275g each of sultanas, raisins, currants
1tsp each of cinnamon and mixed spice
2oz/50g nut mix +1oz/25g ground almonds or 3oz/75g ground almonds
1/6 pint/100ml stout 

Cream the butter and sugar and add the treacle and golden syrup. Add the eggs and half of the flour and spices. Beat the mixture. Stir in the almonds and cherries and then the rest of the flour and dried fruit. Add the stout. Bake for 3 – 3 ½ hours. Start warm for 30 minutes and then gradually reduce and finish in slow oven. (325F, Mark 3, 170C to 250F. Mark ½ 130C)

You need to make fruit cake in advance so it can mature. Then every week or so prick the top and pour a few teaspoonsful of brandy to help the process. Two weeks before it's needed, cover the cake with homemade almond paste. Here is Grandma’s recipe :


Almond Paste
8oz/225g ground almonds
12oz/340g caster sugar
 4 tablespoonfuls of lemon juice 
2 tablespoonsful of water instead of the egg 

Mix all the ingredients and bind the paste together. You can also subsititue a 1 tablespoon of sherry instead of 1 of the water. You can also substitute half of the caster sugar with icing sugar.


With Grandma's recipe, I know my daughter's wedding cake will taste as good as the royal cake. Congratulations and good luck to the happy royal couple!