March 2014

March 2014

Sunday, December 30, 2012

New year's day macaroons

As my parting shot for 2012 I thought I would share with you my recipe for Sparkly Pink Almond Macaroons. What could be better than a plate of these easy pretty biscuits to accompany a shared cup of tea or coffee when visitors call on New Year’s day?  They would equally make a lovely girly foodie gift at any other time of year.
2 egg whites
225g golden caster sugar
125g ground almonds
¼ tsp almond extract
25 blanched almonds
pink food colouring and pink edible sparkles (optional)
Preheat the oven to 180C (fan oven 160C) mark 4. Then line baking trays with edible rice paper. Whisk the egg whites in a clean grease-free bowl until stiff peaks form. Using a large metal spoon, gradually fold in the sugar, then gently stir in the ground almonds and almond extract to make a firm paste. Finally, if liked, tint the mixture to a strong pink colour.
Spoon teaspoons of the mixture on to the baking trays, spacing them well apart. Press an almond into the centre of each one and bake for 12-15 minutes.
Remove from the oven and leave on the baking sheets for 10 minutes to harden slightly, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Trim off rice paper edges and sprinkle, if liked, with edible sparkles. On cooling these biscuits have a soft, chewy centre. Once made, eat within 1 week and store in an airtight container or wrap in cellophane as a gift.
Makes approximately 20.
Around 80 calories per biscuit
A very happy munching New Year!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

"It's the most wonderful time of the year"

Frangipane mince pies
As the Andy Williams old song goes.....
"It's the most wonderful time of the year
With the kids jingle belling
And everyone telling you "Be of good cheer"
It's the most wonderful time of the year......
Reindeer - ready for action
And now I feel that I am just about ready for the festivities to begin. Yesterday we even visited some reindeer temporarily housed at our local garden centre. The staff confidently told us that they would only stay until they were needed on December 24th. Aaaaaargh!

Home-made gifts
Today I put together the various home-made items that I have produced as gifts for family and friends – Cranberry vodka, Cinnamon and apple room fresheners, pink macaroons, Christmas cakes for one and, I didn’t forget the pets, carrot, cheese and parsley bone-shaped biscuits.

Who's a good boy then!
 We then spent a happy hour or two this morning delivering our seasonal goodies – Jasper (a retriever) especially enjoyed his early present - before finally returning home to produce my ‘Bake ahead Christmas mince pies’.

Mince pies ready for the oven
This year, I decided to make them slightly differently in that I used a sweet short-crust pastry for the bottom, added a heaped teaspoon of mincemeat, before finally topping with a frangipane mixture studied with marzipan. Flaked almonds completed the assembly. The wonderful aroma of warm spices filled the kitchen and I am pleased with the result.

Yes.....It's the most wonderful time of the year
There'll be much mistletoeing
And hearts will be glowing
When loved ones are near
It's the most wonderful time of the year”

Friday, December 21, 2012

Bake ahead Christmas - Part III - a biscuit tree

What a merry time we had last weekend with friends making biscuits to produce a Christmas tree tower. Our husbands gallantly used their good right arms to do the mixing of a simple sweet dough recipe:

300g unsalted butter, softened
300g caster sugar
2 small eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
a pinch of salt
600g plain flour, sifted

and we used Lakeland 3d Christmas cookie cutters to make the shapes. When baked and cooled I covered the biscuit stars in rolled fondant icing, brushed all over some edible glitter and decorated the edges with silver balls. I actually thought it might turn out to look like the leaning tower of Pisa but, as you can see, it is fairly straight and ready for the festive table.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Bake ahead Christmas Part II – mini Christmas cakes

I couldn’t resist making some individual Christmas cakes this year as gifts. They are so simple to make but pretty when complete and popped into a cellophane bag, decorated with festive ribbon and tagged.

The amount of mixture to fill 8 paper cups is the same as required for an 8” cake tin. So, just use your favourite fruit cake recipe or, if preferred, why not make a sponge base? Both of these mixtures cook perfectly well in paper cups and, in fact, the thickness of the paper cup is a bonus when baking fruit cake with a high sugar content as it helps it not to burn.

I lined my cups with muffin cases, stood them in a deep bun tray to keep them upright, and baked the mini cakes for around 1 hour or so at 140C (fan) 150C gas 2-3 but tested them with a skewer and made sure that this came out clean.

Once out of the oven and cooled I tipped the cakes out of the cups and trimmed the muffin cases to below the cake height to neaten. The cakes were then placed back in the paper cups ready for decoration.

I brushed the cake tops with apricot jam and placed on top a circle of rolled out marzipan. Finally I topped everything with a circle of rolled fondant icing and decorated with a fondant snowflake which had been brushed with edible glitter.

Yes, good things do come in small packages.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Good Food in winter

Cakes at the NEC

It has been a busy few days. At the end of November I took hubby to the Good Food Winter Show at the NEC Birmingham and we both thoroughly enjoyed our day out. It wasn’t too busy and the exhibition was well planned with loads of interesting stands to visit.  Samples of food and drink were in abundance and it was perfectly possible to nibble and sip your way around the centre without having to resort to the usual exhibition catering. Nevertheless, us ‘old fogies’ need to get off our feet every now and then and so it was a welcome relief to sit and watch the BBC Radio 4 Food and Farming Awards ceremony in the theatre. The awards were hosted by Valentine Warner and Sheila Dillon and it was a humbling experience to see and hear the back-stories behind each winner. We also saw many ‘food celebs’, including Angela Hartnett, Paul Hollywood and Raymond Blanc, present the accolades. It was a thought-provoking hour and with new ideas and new enthusiasm I am so grateful that these entrepreneurs bring such exciting food and drink items to our tables.

Watching Brendan Lynch of GBBO fame.