Thursday 19 November 2015

Savourez Tante Liliane’s Petits Fours biscuits

 Just like Grandma, I love coming across a traditional family recipe. Elisabeth, who  with her husband, Jean-Michel, runs La Tour de Giry, a comfortable Chambre d’Hote in Burgundy, not far from the Parc Regional du Morvan gave me a copy of her easy recipe for Petits Fours biscuits. She is a superb cook and loves to use local food in season which they often grow in their large garden. They also keep ducks and hens so have a constant supply of fresh eggs.
The Petits Fours biscuit recipe comes from family member, Tante Liliane who lives in the Auvergne region. Liliane is 82 years old and still bakes the biscuits today.  As you see, the recipe was handwritten in French, so I’ve translated it into English.
Petits Fours de Tante Liliane
 2 eggs
150g/5 oz caster sugar
125g/4½ oz melted butter
2 dsps cream ( I used crème fraiche)
1 sachet of baking powder
450g/1 lb plain flour

Beat the eggs with the sugar and add the cream, the melted butter and then the flour with the baking powder. Chill for 20 minutes. Roll out to 0.5cm thick and put into small rounds (Elisabeth suggested a small wineglass) and put onto baking trays. Bake for 10 minutes at 200C, Mark 6.
Meryl says : These biscuits are perfect at any time of year. The mixture freezes well uncooked so you can bake a smaller quantity.  It’s very versatile recipe too. I’ve baked them adding the zest and juice of a lemon, or 1 tsp cinnamon or 1 tsp cocoa to the mixture for a different set of flavours. There's plenty of scope for baking imagination! 

Tuesday 3 November 2015

Grandma Abson’s traditional Christmas Cake

Grandma Abson's Christmas Cake
Grandmas always know best about baking and this is Grandma's simple recipe which I bake every year. I can guarantee there’s never a piece left by Twelfth Night on 6 January.
What you need and how to bake
8oz /225g brown sugar
8oz /225g butter
1 tbsp black treacle (slightly warmed for 5 minutes in the oven)
1 tbsp golden syrup (slightly warmed for 5 minutes in the oven)
5 eggs (beaten)
9oz /250g self raising flour (sifted)
3-4oz / 75-100g glace cherries (washed and dried and cut into quarters)
4oz /100g mixed peel
10oz / 275g each of sultanas, raisins, currants
1 tsp each of cinnamon and mixed spice
2oz /50g chopped nuts +1oz /25g ground almonds or 
3oz /75g ground almonds
1/6 pint / 100ml stout 

Heat the oven 325F, Mark 3, 170C. Line an 8 inch/21cms cake tin (round or square) with baking paper or use a cake liner. Cream the butter and sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. You can do this in a food mixer.  Mix in the warmed treacle and golden syrup. Add the beaten eggs gradually and half of the flour and spices (cinnamon and mixed spice). Stir in the nuts/almonds and cherries, the rest of the flour, dried fruit, mixed peel and stout. Put the mixture into the cake tin and smooth over the top, making a slight indent in the middle. This stops the cake from rising too much in the middle and cracking. Bake for 3 to 3 ½ hours. Start with the oven fairly warm for 30 minutes and gradually reduce the oven temperature to finish in a slow oven at 250F, Mark ½, 130C.  
Grandma’s Tips :    
  • Wrap several layers of brown paper or newspaper around the cake tin and tie it with string before putting the cake into the oven to prevent it burning.
  • Use a thin cake tester to check if the cake is thoroughly baked. If it’s baked, there’ll be no trace of the mixture on the tester. If there are still traces of the mixture, then the cake needs further cooking time.
  • Once cooled, prick the cake all over the top and pour a tablespoonful of brandy over it. You can do this two or three times up to Christmas before decorating it.
The Final Touches
1. To make Almond Paste 
8oz/ 225g ground almonds
4oz/ 110g caster sugar
4oz/110g icing sugar
A few tablespoons of lemon juice or water
2-3 tbsps Apricot Jam

Mix the almonds and sugars together. Add sufficient lemon juice and/or water to make a stiff paste. Chill for 15 to 20 minutes. Spread a thin layer of Apricot Jam over the cake. Roll out the Almond Paste to 3/8 inch /1 cm thick and place on the top (and sides if you wish).
2. Choose your decoration
You can use Ready to Roll Icing to spread over the cake or make your own.
For Royal Icing you need
1 lb /450g icing sugar
2 whites of eggs
A little lemon juice
A tsp glycerine (optional)

Sieve the icing sugar and add the whites of the eggs and a little lemon juice. Beat until the mixture stands in stiff peaks. You can add glycerine to stop the icing drying out. Spread over the cake. Use a fork to make peaks in the icing to create a snow scene or for a smooth finish use a palette knife.
3. For a topping with Glazed Fruits
Fold dried fruit (e.g. raisins, sultanas, apricots, cranberries, cherries) and mixed nuts in a redcurrant jelly and apricot jam glaze and spread over the almond paste to make a jewel of a topping. 
And here’s the best thank you! 
Happy Christmas everyone!