Tuesday 27 June 2017

Georgian Gingerbread takes the biscuit

Three hundred years following the birth of James Paine, architect of  The Mansion House Doncaster, a number of events are being held to commemorate the occasion. It was a great privilege to try out some Georgian/Regency baking recipes at one of the events. I adapted a recipe from the 1826 The Cook and Housewife’s Manual by Mistress Margaret Dods.

Two pounds of flour, a half pound of brown sugar, a half pound of orange peel cut into bits, an ounce of ground ginger, half an ounce of caraway seeds, cloves, mace, and some allspice. Mix with these a pound and a half of treacle, and a half pound of melted butter. Mix the ingredients well together, and let them stand for some hours before rolling out the cakes. The paste will require a little additional flour in rolling out. Cut the cakes, mark, the top in diamonds with a knife, and bake them on tin plates.
 Here’s my updated version for Georgian Gingerbread

175g/6oz black treacle or molasses
50g/20z butter
50g/2oz light brown sugar
250g/9oz plain flour
50g/2oz orange peel/mixed peel
1-2 teaspoonsful ground ginger
½ teaspoon caraway seeds
½ teaspoon grated or ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon allspice

Preheat the oven to 180C or 160C fan oven. Warm the sugar, butter and black treacle/molasses in a pan until melted. In a separate bowl, mix the remaining ingredients. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the sugar/butter/molasses mix. Mix well, then leave in the fridge to cool for 30 minutes. Roll out the dough to a thickness of about 1 cm, then cut into diamond shapes. Bake for about 15 – 20 minutes.
Georgian Gingerbread proved popular with visitors, including the Civic Mayor. The black treacle makes for a more intense flavour and a heavier texture than the lighter Gingerbread we are more used to. What's your take on Georgian era baking? 

Tuesday 20 June 2017

Looks as good as it tastes

Grandma Abson’s recipes have always had fantastic feedback about their taste, texture and simplicity but capturing all that in a simple photo has proved more of a challenge for me than baking her recipes.

I only have one photo of Grandma with a cake and that's the one on her 90th birthday but, since starting to write Grandma Abson’s blog, I’ve amassed a wealth of photos of her wonderful baking at talks and events to celebrate her legacy.
I’ve also learnt some tips and tricks about what works and what doesn’t in food photography by seeing what professional photographers do and looking at food photos in magazines, cookbooks and websites. 

I'm trying to make Grandma’s baking look just as inviting as the taste. My early attempts didn’t do justice to her recipes but I’d like to think that, although I’m not a photographic genius, I’ve made some progress. 

Most of all, the advent of the smart phone camera has made it much more accessible for me. Developments in cameras show see how far camera technology has come. So, here are my 5 ideas for perfect Food-tography:
Make the food look tempting 
You don’t need to use the tricks of the professional food stylists but it’s worth cutting into a Paradise Cake so it looks as if you are inviting the viewer to take a slice.
Balance the shot 
Arrange the ingredients for Parkin so you are showing what’s needed. Move the items around the board to draw the eye to a different angle.
Check the lighting 
Try to use natural light and not flash unless necessary. Create the right ambiance for these Flakemeal Biscuits so it’s not too harsh or dull.
Crop the first attempt 
Focus down on a key element of these Yorkshire Puddings.
Check the camera tools 
Check out the tools to edit your photos. They can turn an acceptable photo into an exceptional one with the Easter chicks loving this Simnel Cake.
Grandma would have found it amazing to see photos of her mouth-watering recipes. Just as we can’t resist the aromas and tastes of home baking straight out of the oven, make sure it looks as good it tastes! Have you got more camera tips to snap that taste?