Wednesday 28 March 2012

Keep Baking alive and start the conversation

Getting the low down on home baking
One of the marvels of  spreading the word about Grandma Abson’s Traditional Baking is that it takes me to all over the country. I’m doing book signings at Waterstones, talks, baking parties and events such as afternoon teas and it’s often to raise funds for various charity causes. With Grandma Abson's blog, I had never imagined that people all over the world would read about her baking. I hope you are enjoying the anecdotes and recipes. I've picked out 5 common themes :

1. Baking cakes breaks down barriers. I’ve learnt that the smells and delights of home baking appeal to all generations : exited anticipation of baking with kids, student grub, thirty somethings who missed out on baking cakes at home, nostalgia among oldies for recipes long forgotten; baking is therapeutic and the taste of homemade cakes or biscuits always bring a smile.  
Cupcakes? No ....Butterfly buns
2. There are always fashions in baking. Grandma was an avid collector of recipes over her long life so ones from early days in service in the 1900s are quite different from those in the 1970s. Economic circumstances will have dictated which ingredients were available. I’m pretty sure Grandma would have been making cupcakes if she were around today! 
3. We all have our own favourite celebrity chefs but people tell me that it’s the Grandma’s recipes work because they are easy to bake, have few ingredients and taste wonderful. 
Marmalade Spice Cake made with Gluten Free Flour
4. Then there’s the ‘health’ bit.  Grandma generally used much less sugar in her baking, so many of her recipes have tastes from spices such as ginger or cinnamon and use natural sugars such as honey or dried fruits. When ingredients were scarce, recipes were created without eggs or dairy products. These are a forerunner of ‘free from’ style recipes for those with allergies. 
5. Many of you tell me you have recipes out there, written on scraps of papers, laying forgotten in cupboards and drawers, just like the ones in Grandma’s collection. So let's start sharing them, so we don’t lose this amazing legacy

 Last week, I met a presenter at a workshop about using Social Media in the community. What a fantastic way to get people helping each other by sharing expertise. I want to keep baking alive for many more generations to come by sharing our best baking tips and recipes on Grandma’s Blog – so join Grandma on Facebook and Twitter and let’s start the conversation!

Thursday 15 March 2012

Kathleen’s top bake for St Patrick’s Day

 Kathleen’s Apple and Nut Tea Loaf
It's St Patrick’s Day on 17 March and I've had the luck of the Irish with this family favourite Irish recipe. Maria, my saxaphone friend, had contacted her sister, Patricia, the cook in the family and she sent this delicious recipe for Apple and Nut Tea Loaf.  Demerara sugar sprinkled on the top before baking, gives it a lovely crunchy topping.
                   Kathleen’s Apple and Nut Tea  Loaf                     
225g/8oz self raising flour
110g/4 oz butter
1 cooking apple
50g/2oz sultanas
50g/2oz chopped nuts
110g/4 oz caster sugar
1 teaspoon mixed spice
2 eggs
1 tbsp demerara sugar (for the topping)
Pre heat the oven to 170 degrees Centigrade/ Mark 3, 325F. Rub the butter into the flour until it ressembles breadcrumbs. Peel and chop the apple into small pieces. Add the apple, sultanas, nuts, sugar and spice to mixture. Add 2 eggs, well beaten, and stir well. Pour into a 1 kg/2lb greased loaf tin and sprinkle with the demerara sugar. Bake for about 1 hour.
Grandma Abson's tips : Use a teaspoonful of cinnamon as well as the mixed spice for this recipe. If you use an eating apple rather than a cooking apple, you can easily reduce the amount of sugar and so ‘be sweet without the sugar.

Patricia sent me this lovely message : 
“My name is Patricia and I am Maria's sister. She has been raving about you and Grandma’s baking. She mentioned you were looking for a special Irish baking recipe for St Patrick's Day. The things I can remember being made are Apple tart or Apple crumble.  People were poor and money was very scarce so I think they concentrated on main courses for dinners, savoury foods and breads. Growing up in the 1970s and 80s through the troubles was very challenging for our Mum. She was a fine cook although she wasn't confident. She always made an effort to celebrate certain occasions.  For St Patrick's Day, she set a green jelly. Later she prepared an orange or a yellow jelly and when it was cooled and starting to set she poured it on top of the green jelly. Angel delight was whipped up and that was our Irish special dessert. Mammy loved a Knickerbocker glory when on a trip to the sea side. I'm starting to think of a green yellow and orange Knickerbocker glory style dessert with green grapes, kiwis, mango, pineapple and mandarin orange. Our children would have fun making and eating that!  Anyway – here’s a recipe I did find from our Mammy’s collection. Kathleen was actually a friend of hers”
Thanks to Patricia and Maria for this wonderful story and recipe. If you have a recipe to share, please send it on to me to share.

Friday 9 March 2012

Give Mum a treat for Mother’s Day

Ana Cecilia’s Coffee Cake from Grandma’s recipe
Grandma’s fame has already reached Paris – here’s the picture of Grandma’s coffee cake made in Paris by Ana Cecilia who is a fashion blogger. She’s written all about Grandma’s recipes. It’s great fun to read and a real tribute to Grandma's many talents! 
I love March as it’s Mother’s Day and also my birthday so double treats! Last weekend, I got an early taste of indulgence with a weekend trip to Paris. Paris has many brilliant memories for me as I used to go there every Friday from my work at a school in St Quentin. I had no lessons to teach on Fridays so was free to travel to Paris, about an hour away by train. I loved to explore the different areas of the city.

The trip began at St Pancras International in London with a glass of bubbly in the Champagne Bar and a surprise ticket in Eurostar's  standard premier. Quel luxe! We stayed in the Opera area, central to all points to visit.
Tres cool at the Pyramide        
La Tour Eiffel  
On Saturday, we breakfasted in style at a nearby café with a freshly made ham and cheese omelette, petit pains au chocolat washed down with fresh orange juice and café au lait. Since it was all about relaxing, we took the Batobus on the river to see the sights, stopping off wherever we fancied to ramble near the Place de the Concorde, Ile de la cite and the Louvre and of course linger over Croque-messieurs and chocolats chauds  at Le Cafe Marly (the weather wasn’t too warm!). It was Paris Fashion week so we saw fashion models and photographers - ‘tres cool’! 

On Sunday we set out for Montmartre to sample the latest Parisian craze for ‘le Brunch’ and managed to get there before the queue snaked around the building. Just time to see Le Sacre Coeur before winding our way to the newly restored café at the Opera, before back to La Gare du Nord. 

If you want an idea for Mother’s Day at home, here’s a traditional Mothering Sunday Simnel Cake. Or have a look at Grandma's Recipes page and choose a favourite one to bake. Go on, give mum a treat, she deserves  it!

Thursday 1 March 2012

Daffodils are out to celebrate all things Welsh!

Daffodils on 1 March
Hurray it’s March and the daffodils are out! I always love the beginning of March with the lighter days and the warmer weather. 1st March is the national day of the Welsh patron saint, St David and a chance to wear either a daffodil (or leek) as a symbol of all things Welsh. The traditional meal on St David's Day is ‘cawl’, a soup made from leeks, potatoes and Welsh lamb or beef.
Perhaps the most famous Welsh baking recipes is Bara Brith or 'Os gwelwch yn dda' which translates as ‘speckled bread’. My Uncle Albert, who lived for twenty years in North Wales always made several loaves of Bara Brith whenever we went to stay. It’s a sort of sticky ‘teabread’ made with dried fruit and soaked in black tea overnight. Once it’s baked, allow to cool, slice and spread with (Welsh) butter. 
Here's how to bake it :
450g/1lb dried fruit (mixed sultanas, currants, raisins, mixed peel)
75g/3oz soft brown sugar
300ml/½ pint black tea
1 egg, beaten
450g/1lb self-raising flour
1 tsp mixed spice

Soak the dried fruit and sugar in the tea and leave overnight. Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Mark 3. Line a 900g/2lb or 2 smaller 450g/1lb loaf tins with baking or greaseproof paper. Add the beaten egg, flour and mixed spice into the fruit mixture and mix well. Put the mixture into the loaf tin(s) and bake for 1½ hours or until a skewer inserted into the cake(s) comes out clean.
Uncle Albert’s Bara Brith
Celebrate the national cake of Wales with a slice of Bara Brith and enjoy the daffodils. Here's how to say it in Mwynhewch eich bwyd!