Thursday 18 December 2014

Winning ways with Mincemeat Cake

This is a great recipe for a lighter fruit cake at Christmas which I’ve based on one of Grandma’s Family Fruit cake recipes. You can make it in a 8 inch/20 cms round tin.  I’ve given the quantities below to make a loaf cake in 1kg/2lb loaf tin too. 
 Grandma’s recipe for homemade Mincemeat
Mincemeat Cake
For 8 inch/20 cms round tin
4 oz/110g butter 
4oz/110g soft brown sugar
2 eggs (beaten)
10oz/275g mincemeat (you can add 2 oz/50g more dried fruits  e.g. cranberries or apricots)
8oz/225g self raising flour (or a mixture of self raising and whole wheat flour to give a denser texture)
4-5 tbsps milk
To decorate : blanched almonds, brazil nuts or walnuts as you prefer
Apricot jam to glaze  

For 1 x 2lb/1kg loaf tin use
6 oz/150g butter 
6oz/150g soft brown sugar
3 eggs (beaten)
12oz/340g mincemeat (you can add 3 oz/75g more dried fruits e.g. cranberries or apricots)
10oz/275g self raising flour (or a mixture of self raising and whole wheat flour)
5-6 tbsps milk
To decorate : blanched almonds, brazil nuts or walnuts as you prefer
Apricot jam to glaze  

Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/Mark 3. Grease and line the cake tin with baking paper. Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs gradually and then stir in the mincemeat and flour. Add enough milk to give a moist mixture. Decorate the top with nuts. Bake in the oven for about 1 to 1 ½ hours. Allow to cool slightly for 15 minutes then brush the top with the apricot glaze.
This cake keeps well for 7 to 10 days in an airtight tin. It’s always a winner! 

Thursday 27 November 2014

Christmas homemade gifts to impress

Meryl at Floral Media
Getting ready for the festive period by making homemade Christmas treats is great fun. This was the morning’s agenda at Floral Media recently when I showed how Grandma’s traditional recipes made impressive gifts for family and friends for not much money and not too much time and effort. And during the morning there was chance to taste the recipes. One of the participants said it was like ‘tasting heaven’! 
We started off with Cranberry& Apple Chutney 
Mincemeat in jars with attractive covers and ribbons
A Christmas cake tin contains Boxing Day Cake, a lighter cake with dates and honey and an alternative to Christmas Cake.
Pretty gift bags with Coconut Macaroons, MincePies, and Oat and Ginger biscuits. 
Shortbread stores well in a pretty tin.
Fill gift boxes with Peppermint Creams
Dip Almond Balls made from left over Almond Paste in melted chocolate 
Many thanks to Paula and Steven for such a warm welcome to this wonderful venue in Caunton, Newark UK. And an extra thank you to Steven for his fantastic support as sous chef!  

Don’t forget to tell me about home made edible Christmas gifts you've made. Happy Christmas baking!

Thursday 13 November 2014

Orange and Cinnamon take the biscuit

 Orange and Cinnamon Biscuits
Grandma always made the most of spices to enhance the flavour and reduce the sugar. Cinnamon is one of those very useful spices as it adds flavour to both sweet and savoury dishes and it’s even said to have a beneficial effect on your health by reducing blood pressure.
Here's a family recipe from Gill. These biscuits are very easy to bake and tick all the boxes for aroma and taste with orange and cinnamon. 
Orange and Cinnamon Biscuits
2 tsps cinnamon
8oz/225g self raising flour
4oz/110g butter
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp golden syrup
1oz/25g soft brown sugar
1 egg beaten
Zest and juice of 1 orange

Sift the flour into a bowl and mix in the cinnamon. Melt the butter, honey, golden syrup in a pan with the sugar. Allow to cool slightly and then add this to the flour. Add the beaten egg and then the orange zest and juice. Mix well to combine. Place small teaspoonfuls of the mixture on baking trays about 5 cms/2 inches apart. Bake in a preheated oven  180C/Mark 4/350F for 10-12 minutes until brown at the edges. The mixture makes around 30 biscuits.
Meryl’s tip : These biscuits are very tempting but if you leave them to cool the flavour of the orange and cinnamon intensifies even more. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday 8 October 2014

No bobbing about for Toffee Apple Cake

Toffee Apple Cake
With the nights drawing in, I've been thinking about Autumn recipes. What about a Toffee Apple Cake? I created this easy recipe based on Grandma’s recipes. It's a great treat for Halloween or Bonfire Night and a scrumptious cake for Apple Day on 21 October.
Toffee Apple Cake
175g/6 oz caster sugar
2 tbs water
2 large or 3 small apples (peeled, cored and thinly sliced)
1 orange (zest and juice)
2 tsps cinnamon
225g/8oz butter
300g/11 oz soft brown sugar
3 eggs (beaten)
175g/6oz self raising flour (sifted)
½ tsp baking powder
Line a 20cms/8 inch cake tin with a cake liner or greaseproof paper. Preheat the oven to 180C (160C Fan)/350F/Mark 4. Place the caster sugar and water in a pan over a high heat and cook until the sugar has melted and is turning light brown – do not stir. Pour the mixture into the cake tin to cover the base. 
Arrange the apple slices on top of this and sprinkle with the cinnamon and half of the orange zest. 
Cream 175g/6oz butter, 175g/6oz soft brown sugar in a bowl and add the eggs gradually. Then stir in the flour and baking powder, orange juice of half the orange and remaining orange zest. Spread this mixture over the apples and bake for around 45 -50 minutes. 
Turn the cake out onto a cooling rack and allow to cool.  Melt the remaining butter and soft brown sugar in a pan, and whisk in the remaining orange juice.  Pour the mixture over the top of the apples and allow to cool.
Meryl's tip :  Serve with crème fraiche, cream, ice cream or custard. 
I hope you like my Toffee Apple Cake
Let me know what you think? 

Thursday 4 September 2014

Grandma’s healthy baking options

Mens sana in corpore sano
There’s no way that I would claim to be a healthy eating expert but Grandma did leave us sound advice about eating healthily.  I did a talk the other week for a Patients’ Participation group at a local GPs practice. Since using less sugar is the advice today, it’s worth remembering that Grandma often enhanced the flavour of her baking with natural spices. She would use much less sugar than many modern recipes. Here’s a recipe where you could leave the sugar out altogether as the dried fruit and spices create a tasty cake.
Wholemeal Farmhouse Loaf
4 oz/110g self raising flour
4 oz/110g wholemeal flour
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
2 oz/50g soft brown sugar (optional)
4 oz/110g butter
2 eggs
5 tbsps milk
12 oz/340g mixed dried fruit (e.g. sultanas, raisins, currants)

Sift the flours into a bowl with the spices.  Add the sugar (optional). Rub in the fat until the mixture has a crumbly consistency. You can do this in a food mixer. Beat the eggs and milk together, add to the bowl and mix well. Then add the dried fruit, using a little more milk if necessary to give a fairly soft consistency. Put into a well greased 1lb/450g loaf tin. Bake in a preheated moderate oven at 180C (Fan Oven 160C), Mark 4, 350F for approximately 1 to 1¼ hours.
Meryl’s tip : This is a very easy recipe which can be served on its own or as a teabread with butter. It makes a great snack and keeps well.
Back at the  Patients’ group, I talked about how Grandma had baked in times of shortage. I showed them food charts from times of rationing and the poster campaigns to Dig for Victory when foods were often hard to come byGrandma always used gluts of fruit and vegetables in season to make succulent jams and chutneys as well as fruit pies (no added sugar) and puddings. 

I’ve been trying out more recipes for cakes and biscuits with reduced sugar content. Here are some ideas :
And, as the Latin poet Juvenal said ‘mens sana in corpore sano’ – sharing a cup of tea and a piece of homemade cake is therapy itself. The group agreed we should enjoy a homemade treat now and again - it's the portion size which matters! What do you think?

Tuesday 12 August 2014

My favourite Apricot Jam

Out of all the jams I’ve ever made, my favourite is homemade Apricot Jam. It’s such a useful jam as a glaze or seal between layers of cakes. Now we get apricots on the local market in summer, I can’t resist buying enough to make a few pots. Here’s Grandma’s easy recipe and it sets well. I made this batch in under an hour.  
Apricot Jam
 Approximately 1 lb (450g) (caster or jam) sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice 
¼ pint water for each 1lb (450g) of fruit.

 Wash the fruit, remove the stones and cut into quarters. Crack open about 3-4 of the stones to remove the kernels. Blanch these in a small pan of boiling water for about 2 minutes. Place the fruit, blanched kernels, lemon juice and water in a jam pan or a large heavy saucepan. Simmer for approximately 20 minutes, or until the apricots are softening. Remove the kernels with a slotted spoon, once they have risen to the surface. Add the sugar and continue to heat gently, stirring until it has dissolved. Add a knob of butter and boil for about 15 minutes. Test for setting. Leave to cool for around 30 minutes then pot into sterilised jars and cover.
I’m always inspired by the vast array of jams which my friend Laurent at Mille et une confitures in Chinon makes. His family have a long tradition of jam making for over 40 years.  Have you got a family favourite jam recipe to share?

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Summertime with Apricot and Almond Flan

Apricot and Almond Flan
I’m always on the lookout for recipes to make the most of summer fruits in our local market. Here’s a recipe for a summer dessert which Jeannette gave me after a talk I did at her Local History group. The ground almond filling reminds me of Grandma’s Bakewell Pudding. 
Apricot and Almond Flan
Shortcrust Pastry case
4 oz (110g) butter
8 oz (225g) plain flour 
1 egg
A little water (or a little milk and water)
Rub the butter into the flour and salt. When the mixture is like breadcrumbs, make a well and add the egg. Add the water to make a dough. Let it stand for ½ hour in a cool place before rolling out. 
3oz /75g butter
2 oz/50g sugar
2 eggs (well beaten)
½ oz/10g self raising flour
3oz/75g ground almonds
1lb/450g fresh apricots
Make up the pastry and leave to ‘relax’ in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Then roll out the pastry and line a 9 inch/23 cm flan dish. Then make the filling. Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy and add the beaten eggs. Fold in the flour and ground almonds. Turn the mixture into the pastry case.  Cut the apricots in half and remove the stones. Arrange the apricots on top of the almond filling and bake in a preheated moderate oven 190C (Fan 170C), Mark 5, 375C for about 25 minutes until the top is well brown. Remove from the oven. 
Apricot glaze
2 - 3 tbs Apricot Jam
1 tbsp hot water
Heat the Apricot Jam in the hot water until thick and just boiling.  Then brush over the top of the flan. This is a dish which can be served hot or cold and can be served the next day.
Meryl’s tip : You can use dried apricots. Soak in water for 15 minutes. Apricots are my top summer fruit. What are your favourites? 

Sunday 27 July 2014

Cameras rolling …….

 The Great Kitchen Doncaster Mansion House
‘Hello, I'm Meryl and I'm going to show you how to make…’ This is how I started filming some of Grandma’s classic recipes. To be honest, I was scared stiff about being in front of three cameras despite the fact that I'm fully at ease demonstrating Grandma’s recipes and talking about her life and baking. So just like Grandma would, I rolled up my sleeves and got stuck in. 
The film crew comprised a team of final year Media students from the University of Huddersfield. They are a great bunch of people to work with; they even did the washing up between shoots and of course tasted the finished products. The production will count towards their final project. We were filming in The Great Kitchen in The Mansion House in Doncaster. 
This is an amazing venue with an old cast iron range not unlike the one Grandma worked with when she was 'in service'. I chose four classic recipes from Grandma's repertoire to show different baking techniques. 
mouth watering Shortcrust Pastry for a delicious Apple Pie.
scrumptious Scones 
and a traditional Victoria Sandwich
This cake was named after Queen Victoria who died in 1901. Grandma was 14 years old by then and was already 'in service'. Later, Grandma won prizes for her light and fluffy version of this classic sponge cake, which she finished with homemade raspberry jam and butter cream - and we love it just like that today. Here's the recipe: 
Victoria's Sandwich
3 eggs and their weight in each of 
caster sugar
 self raising flour 
margarine or butter
Milk to mix. 
Raspberry Jam 
(Meryl's Tip : If you buy jam, get the better quality, sometimes called ‘Conserve’)

Cream the butter and sugar. Beat the eggs and add to the creamed mixture. Fold in the flour. Add the milk and mix in gently. Put into 2 x 7 inch (18cms) greased tins. Bake for 20 minutes in a quick oven.  (375F, Mark 5, 190 C)Then make the Butter Cream.
Butter Cream
2 oz butter
4 oz icing sugar
Few drops vanilla essence
1-2 tbsps tepid water or milk
Icing Sugar (for dusting the top)
Cream the butter and icing sugar. Add the vanilla essence and water or milk.
When cold, spread the butter cream and raspberry jam on the top of one cake and place the other on top. Sprinkle icing sugar on the top cake. 
Where’s the mic gone?
We've just a couple of sequences still to film then, it’ll be final edits and credits. Thanks to everyone who helped me set this up. Let me know if there are other recipes you’d like to see me bake – I think I've quite got the taste for this filming lark.