Monday 31 December 2012

Ring out the bells

As the bells ring in the New Year, I’ve lots of memories to cherish. Talking about Grandma’s recipes has brought me more forgotten recipes for me to share; demonstrating Grandma’s simple baking skills is inspiring a whole new generation at events for various charities including Teenage Cancer trust to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee with Grandma’s Doncaster Butterscotch recipes
The Gamesmaker experience at the London Olympics 2012 was one of my most memorable moments including the Olympic Orange Cake for our final evening’s shift. How fitting that the start of the London 2012 Olympics began with the now Sir Bradley Wiggins ringing the bell. It reminded me of the popular nursery rhyme we used to play in the school playground. This starts off with ‘Oranges and Lemons say the bells of St Clement’s....’  The citrus fruits were unloaded in the quaysides close to the city of London and the churches nearby.
Scrumptious St Clement’s Pie
Grandma had a recipe for St Clement’s Pie, perfect for a New year dessert. She made it just like her Lemon Meringue Pie but used both oranges and lemons in the filling. She would line a pastry base with baking paper and dried beans or peas, bake it blind and then pour in the filling. When this cooled a little, she would whisk up the egg whites for a sumptuous meringue.
Bake it Blind
What will next year bring? I’m finding new ways to share Grandma’s baking all the time. The ebook version of  Grandma Abson's Traditional Baking is now ready with more recipes so I hope that you’ll be downloading it right away. I’m  excited about filming some of Grandma’s signature baking with students from the University of Huddersfield and sharing more experiences of traditional baking across the country.   
It only remains for me to wish you all a very Happy and baketastic New Year! 

Wednesday 12 December 2012

A very Dutch Celebration Christmas Wreath

Prettige Kertdagen
My Dutch friend, Cobi, who has lived in Yorkshire for over 30 years, is busy making her delicious Celebration Christmas Wreath to her Grandma’s (Oma’s) special recipe.  
It’s similar to the Celebration Stick she makes at Easter.
The Christmas season is in full swing in Holland as on 5th December St Nicholas (Sinterklass) arrives in Amsterdam with Black Peter (Zwarte Piet) in a boat from Spain, bringing presents and sweets for the children. The adults wrap their presents up for family and friends, rather like Secret Santa presents. They write a poem (Cobi says it can be humorous but not unkind) to highlight the receiver’s personality. Sometimes there’s a treasure hunt around the house with messages to lead you to your gift. Christmas Day is usually a quieter time with a church service and family m
Celebration Dutch Christmas Wreath
125g   ground almonds
125g sugar 
1 egg (Meryl’s Tip : Since this recipe is cooked in the oven, I’m happy to use a raw egg in the filling. Otherwise use Grandma Abson’s Almond Paste recipe and bind the mixture with water and lemon juice)
Finely grated rind of a lemon
Juice of a lemon (If a stronger flavour is preferred, then use more lemon rind).
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl until it forms a paste. Cover and leave to stand for an hour.
Puff pastry
To decorate
Apricot jam
Glazed cherries (mixed colours)  and strips of orange peel

Roll out the pastry thinly, about ½ cm thick, into an oblong shape of about 35-40 cm long and 12-15 cm wide.  Roll the almond mixture (marzipan) into a long sausage shape and place it on the pastry. Wrap the pastry around the mixture and shape it into a circle. Slightly wet the sides and ends and push one end into the other to stick it together.  Place the wreath on a baking tray. Brush with beaten egg. To finish off the decoration, cut out some holly shapes, stars or bells and lay them on the top of the wreath. Place in a hot oven, about 220C, 425F, Mark 7 for about 30-40 minutes.  Allow to cool. 

When completely cold, warm 4-5 tbsps of apricot jam in a pan until it’s runny.  Spread the jam over the baked wreath.  For a final decoration, you can use glazed cherries and orange peel strips as you wish.
 We love anything with Almond Paste
What’s your favourite recipe for this time of year? 

Wednesday 28 November 2012

Best of Grandma’s (& Dan’s) Christmas Baking

Christmas delights from Grandma’s recipes
Christmas baking is underway with the Plum Pudding steamed and the Christmas Cake baked to perfection. Grandma's the recipe has been featured on Deliciously Yorkshire and in MODE magazine. Everyone says Grandmas always knew best!
Homemade Mincemeat and Shortbread Biscuits make delightful gifts. You’ll find more of Grandma's Christmas baking ideas on the Recipes page.
Dan’s Orange & Pistachio Stollen Bars
I’m always on the lookout for something new to try, just like Grandma did over her long life of baking. We fell under the spell of Dan Lepard’s divine Orange and Pistachio Stollen Bars some Christmases ago. Thanks to Dan for your messages on social media; it’s fantastic to be able to pick up more tips to make home baking come alive.
Ingredients for Almond Paste 
Amongst the ingredients, Dan lists Marzipan. I use Grandma’s Almond Paste, left over after decorating our Christmas Cake. 

Marzipan & Almond Paste - what's the difference ?
Marzipan and Almond paste are very similar as they both have the same ingredients but in different proportions. There’s much debate but Marzipan has more sugar which makes it easier to use for modelling and decoration whereas Almond Paste has a higher amount of ground almonds which gives it a stronger almond taste.  It’s your choice! I use lemon juice instead of egg white and maybe a dash of sherry or brandy to mix the paste.
Let me know how you’re getting on with Christmas baking and if you’ve got a favourite family Christmas recipe to share.

Tuesday 20 November 2012

Thanks for the Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Pie with an apricot twist
Thanksgiving is celebrated on the 4th Thursday in November and has its roots in cultural and religious traditions. It’s a public holiday in Canada too but on the 2nd Monday in October. The most popular Thanksgiving dessert is Pumpkin Pie and Grandma had a recipe for this with dried apricots amongst her collection of old magazine cuttings.
Pumpkin Pie 
2-2 ½ lbs/1kg pumpkin
3 level tbsps golden syrup (warmed)
3 tbsps caster sugar
1 oz/25g butter
2 tbsps milk
2 eggs (well beaten)
1 tsps of cinnamon, mixed spice & ground ginger
1 tbsp lemon juice
12-15 dried apricots (soaked in boiling water for 10 minutes)
Peel, remove the pith and seeds and cut the pumpkin into small pieces. Steam for around 20 minutes. Make the Shortcrust pastry and line an 8½ inch/22 cms ovenproof dish with the pastry. 
Bake it blind
Place greaseproof or baking paper on the pastry with a layer of dried beans or peas on top. Bake for 10 minutes in a hot oven 2ooC, Mark 6, 400F.  Mash the pumpkin in a basin, add the other ingredients and mix well. Take the dish out of the oven and remove the paper and dried beans/peas. Pour in the filling, decorate with the strained apricots and return to the oven to bake for about 35 minutes. Serve hot or cold.

Pumpkins are much more popular in here too to make soups and other savoury vegetarian recipes but this is a pleasant way to serve a sweet dish for Happy Thanksgiving Day!  

Wednesday 7 November 2012

Go on be a Devil

Devil's Food Cake

Since launching Grandma Abson's Traditional Baking, I've been doing lots of talks and events about the story of Grandma’s life and her baking. I love doing this as I meet people of all ages and share their baking stories and collect even more family recipes. Ayleen gave me her recipe for an amazing Chocolate Cake with the extra twist of ground almonds. Ayleen says it keeps the cake moist for longer.  It’s devilishly yummy.

6 oz/175g butter
6 oz/175g caster sugar
3 eggs
6 oz/175g self raising flour
2 level tsps Baking Powder
1 oz/25g ground almonds
3 tbsps cocoa powder
4 tbsps hot water

Line 2 x 8 inch (20 cms) sandwich tins with baking paper. (Ayleen’s tip is to sprinkle a bit of flour on the bottom of the tin so it’s easy to knock the cake out when it’s cooked.) Use a creaming method to mix the sugar and butter. When the mixture is light and fluffy, add the eggs (beaten) and then the flour mixed with the baking powder, cocoa powder and ground almonds. Finally, add the hot water. Bake for about 45 minutes at 170C, Mark 3, 325F. Allow to cool before removing from the tins.
Use a butter cream for the filling to sandwich the cakes together made with 2oz/50g butter and 4oz/100g icing sugar with a few drops of vanilla extract and 1-2 tbsps water or milk.
Make a frosting with a 7oz/200g block of dark chocolate, 4oz/110g butter, 8oz/225g icing sugar and 4fl oz/125ml of water. Mix well and coat the top of the cake.  
A devilish Chocolate Cake is just right for this time of year when we want something decadent on the dark nights. Try a piece! 

Thursday 18 October 2012

Reviving Seed Cake

I’ve revived Grandma Abson’s Seed Cake recipe for the 'Friends of Clifton Park Museum' to enjoy for their talk this month.  This cake seems to have been out of fashion for some time and some people really dislike the taste so it’s a great pleasure to see everyone enjoying it and no objections to the taste of Caraway Seed.

The origins of Seed Cake go back well before Grandma’s baking to the 16th century and it is said it was baked to celebrate the end of the sowing of spring wheat as well as harvest time in the autumn. Whatever the season, it fits the bill perfectly. Try it with a glass of Madeira or sherry or Yorkshire Tea!
Seed Cake
2 eggs
4 oz /100g butter
4 oz /100g sugar
A little milk
6 oz /150g Self Raising flour or 
6 oz/150g plain flour with 1 tsp baking powder
2 tsps caraway seed
50g ground almonds
Beat the butter and sugar to a cream. Stir in the caraway seeds. Beat the eggs and fold into the creamed mixture. Sift the flour (with the baking powder if used) and stir in the mixture with the ground almonds. Add the milk. Mix all together. Place in a loaf tin or a small round cake tin lined with greaseproof paper. Bake in a warm oven for about 1 hour. (325F, Mark 3, 170 C) 

Grandma’s tip : You can use any ‘seed’ such as crushed anise, cardamom or coriander but the most popular is caraway. Sprinkle the top with demerera sugar before baking to give a crisp topping. 
All fired up on the Range at Clifton Park Museum
The Museum boasts a wonderful restored black leaded range and the Friends bake on it from time to time to show how food was cooked in times past. Have you got an old recipe to bring back into fashion? Send it to Let's revive those family recipes!  

Wednesday 26 September 2012

Going Nuts in France

 Going nuts on the market in Sarlat
The squirrels around our garden would have had an amazing time if they’d been on holiday in the Lozere and Perigord areas of France.  I’ve never seen so many nuts or ‘noix’ on display in the markets. 
Nuts galore on the market
Nutty treats included the scrumptious Gateaux aux noix. It's not like an sponge cake as the texture is dense but it's certainly delicious! Here’s a recipe which a French friend gave me – tres facile!
Gateau aux Noix
100g caster sugar
100g butter (softened)
150g( chopped) walnuts
40g flour
1 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
Fold the chopped walnuts in half the sugar. Mix the butter and the rest of the sugar together. Add the chopped walnuts and sugar mixture and then the eggs, one at a time. Fold in the flour and salt. Grease a cake tin or dish (approx 20cms) and pour the mixture into it. Bake in a hot oven (Mark 7, 210-220C) for around 30 minutes. Allow to cool. 

200g icing sugar
2 tbsps coffee granules 
Water to mix
Whole walnuts
Make the icing by sieving the icing sugar and coffee powder (grind the granules in a pestle and mortar) and adding a couple of tbsps of water. Mix until smooth and not too runny. Coat the top of the cake and finally decorate with whole walnuts. 

Grandma’s tips :
Use a food processor to chop up the walnuts.
Grind the coffee granules to a powder in a pestle and mortar.
You can add a splash of Armagnac to the cake mixture before baking.  
Laurent and Pat served some tasty aperitifs including Le Birlou, a fabulous aperitif made from apples and chestnuts in their wonderful renovated farmhouse at  La Borie d'Aubrac in the SW corner of France. It’s on the pilgrimage route to  Santiago de Compostella but you didn’t have to be one of the pilgrims to enjoy  the laughter and conviviality around the large dining table every evening with different nationalities coming together to enjoy our hosts’ fabulous hospitality. I showed them Grandma’s blog. Expect to hear of international puddings and cakes added to the RecipesBon app├ętit! 
Have you got a favourite international cake recipe?

Tuesday 11 September 2012

Make the most of the hedgerows

We’re right in the middle of bumper crops of fruit and vegetables from the garden and plentiful summer fruits going cheap in the market. Here’s a chance to get out Grandma’s recipes for some homemade preserves. 
Grandma’s expertise wasn’t just limited to baking cakes and puddings; her Recipe Index was packed with ideas for jams, chutneys and various cordials and syrups.  Her approach to food was influenced over the years by cost, rationing, access to food from her garden and eagerly spotting useful recipes.
Elderflowers are turning to luscious fruits and I’ve been picking them to make Grandma’s Elderberry Syrup. It’s so simple to make and a old fashioned remedy for coughs and colds as well as a lovely warm drink at any time. Here's the recipe.
Elderberry Syrup

Stew the berries in a large pan very slowly over a low heat for the juice. When ready, strain through a sieve or cloth. For each pint of juice, add 1 lb sugar. Simmer very slowly until the sugar has dissolved. Let the syrup cool and then bottle.
We’ve been out blackberrying too so we’ll be enjoying Blackberry and Apple pie made with Grandma’s prizewinning mouthwatering shortcrust pastry!
Have you got any good recipes to make the most of these gluts of fruit and vegetables? 

Monday 13 August 2012

Olympic Farewell with a celebration Orange Cake

 Olympic Orange Celebration Cake
From the start of the London 2012 Olympics with Bradley Wiggins ringing the bell for the magnificent Opening Ceremony to the fabulous cacophony of music and dancing at the Closing Ceremony, we’ve witnessed everything from sheer determination, dedication and most of all fun!
My Gamesmaker workplace
And I’ve got many of my own memorable moments working as one of the 70,000 volunteer Gamesmakers in the Aquatics Centre. It was a real privilege to be part of this wonderful experience and work with a team of brilliant people to ‘make it happen’.
Made short work of the cake

As a thank you for our final shift, I created an Olympic Celebration Cake. It was based on Grandma’s wonderful Orange Cake and I decorated it with Orange butter cream filling. Made with real oranges so you can't beat the healthy kick to it. It certainly gave us a boost to complete our final shift.
We made it happen
Here’s a toast to the Olympic legacy! Let the spirit live on to inspire a new generation! Guess what we are doing .............. the swimmers needn’t worry about any competition from us in the next Olympics! 

Tuesday 31 July 2012

Olympian Baking

At the start of London Olympics 2012, we’re wishing all the best for all taking part in this fabulous event and we'll be shouting out for our own sporting heroes. We loved the nods to Yorkshire in Danny Boyle's fantastic opening ceremony!
Mouthwatering homemade Apple Pie
We’ve plenty to shout about in traditional homemade baking from across the country. From mouth-watering puddings such as Apple Pie, Bakewell Tart, Lemon Meringue Pie to delicious cakes such as Eccles Cakes, Flapjacks, Victoria Sandwich and scrumptious Scones
Scrumptious Scones 
Check out Grandma’s Recipes page for more ideas. Which recipes do you think best represents Traditional Baking?

Friday 27 July 2012

Competing for the best cake

Cornucopia of Cakes
I had to judge a cake competition in our local church hall recently. The theme was about showcasing all that’s great in baking and embracing the huge variety of recipes which make up our cultural identity. It's such a difficult task when every cake looks very appealing in its own way. There were cakes of all sizes and designs but in the end, I had to go for this amazing Chocolate Cake.
Winning with Chocolate Cake
Grandma used to win prizes for her baking and her recipes. Her Victoria Sandwich was a serial winner. Baking competitions are certainly making home baking popular again and the Great British Bake Off or #GBBO has made a huge contribution to this. 
Meanwhile I'm loving sharing Grandma's recipes and collecting more to build the Recipes section of Grandma's Blog. So #keepbakingalive and everyone's a winner! What's your bake this week?

Thursday 19 July 2012

Cherry Ripe, Cherry Ripe

Cherry ripe, ripe I cry, full and fair ones, come and buy 
It’s National Cherry Week this week and I was reminded of this song about cherries when I saw some luscious ones in the market this week. They looked perfect for making jam.
My inspiration this time came after visiting Chinon in the Loire Valley in France. We stayed at the wonderful Hotel Diderot which is famous for its vast array of jams which you taste at breakfast time. 
Laurent, who worked there for many years, has a long tradition of jam making and now set up his own company Mille et une Confitures. We swapped stories about jam making and traditional English Puddings including Sherry Trifle which apparently is one of his favourites. Laurent is very creative in jam making and has wonderful combinations of flavours. He's written a recipe book 'Jam in the Cupboard' and I'm very proud to have a copy! 
Grandma’s Jam Pan
Grandma used to take advantage of gluts of fruit to make wonderful jams and jellies with many of the summer fruits such as strawberries, raspberries, plums and blackcurrants. Here’s her Cherry Jam recipe. Cherries are low in pectin like strawberries, so you need to carry out a test with a cold saucer to make sure the jam will set before you put it into jars. 
Cherry Jam
Grandma’s rule was approximately 1 lb (450g) (caster or jam) sugar and 1 tbsp lemon juice for each 1lb (450g) of fruit.

Wash the fruit and place in jam pan or a large heavy saucepan with the lemon juice. Simmer for approximately 30 minutes, or until the cherries are softening. Remove the stones with a slotted spoon, once they have risen to the surface. Add the sugar and continue to heat gently, stirring until it has dissolved. Boil for about 20 minutes and test for setting. Remove the scum from the surface with a wooden spoon. Leave to cool then put into sterilised jars and cover.

Have you tried making any other interesting jam recipes?