March 2014

March 2014

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Ginger and Cinnamon biscuits

There's nothing like a biscuit and a brew!
Biscuits are as British as a cup of tea. Everyone has their own favourites - digestives, custard creams, shortbread, wafers, or chocolate bourbons – the choice is endless. Strangely, however, despite the pastime of home-baking reaching epidemic proportions, how many of us actually make our own? Perhaps it’s time, amidst all the talk of diets and the evil of sugar etcetera, to bake our own biscuits occasionally, as a treat, rather than simply placing a factory-made biscuit packet in our shopping basket each week at the supermarket? Just a thought!

A National Trust recipe for traditional Northumbrian Ginger and Cinnamon biscuits caught my eye this week and the spicy results had a satisfying crunch to the edges with a slight chewy texture in the centre. My ideal accompaniment for a steaming afternoon brew! Enjoy…..

Melt 170g butter, 170g soft brown sugar, and 4 tablespoons of golden syrup in a saucepan, or microwave. Sift together 300g plain flour and 2 teaspoons each of bicarbonate of soda, ground cinnamon and ground ginger. Pour the melted ingredients onto the flour and mix well. Leave to cool until it is possible to roll walnut-sized balls of dough into rounds (slightly damp hands are good for this). Place on baking sheet well apart to allow for spreading. Bake for approximately 15 minutes at 160C or Gas mark 3. They will still be soft when hot but will harden when cooled on a wire rack.

Melt butter, sugar and syrup

Spaced well apart on baking tray

Sunday, March 2, 2014

A Slice of Life

Ready for tea
Growing up, I spent many hours and days being looked after by my Grandparents. In fact, for the first 2 or 3 years of my life we – Mum, Dad, my Sister Lynda and me - lived with them until we bought a house and moved just a few doors away. After school, I would walk home and Nan would always have a meal ready. She was a good, somewhat plain cook, but generally seemed to use the freshest of ingredients. One of my favourite suppers occurred most Saturdays when all 6 of us would enjoy a shellfish tea. Winkles, cockles, and shrimps would be piled high in bowls in the centre of the dining table and we would devour the lot accompanied by a large Hovis loaf, which was sliced at the table and slathered in unsalted butter. Steaming cups of tea would follow together with some form of cake. 

Nan wasn’t a great cake baker – her Victoria sponges always originated from a packet of Green’s sponge mixture - but she was a mean shortcrust pastry maker and her suet puddings were to die for! She often, as I remember, made a rather nice Coconut Slice – I can see her now rolling out the pastry on the kitchen table - and I was reminded of this the other day when I found a similar, old-fashioned, recipe.

Today, my updated ‘Slice’ can be made in several ways, by changing flavours and textures to suit what I have in the cupboard. So why not experiment, make it yours, and then it might be included in your own edible and treasured family memory? 

Here’s how I made it…..

Preheat oven to 180C (170C fan)/Gas 4. Lightly grease and line an 8 x 12 inch (20 x 30 cm) shallow tin. 

Ingredients for the base: 125g unsalted butter, 80g caster sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 2 egg yolks, 250g plain flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 tablespoon milk, 160g jam (your choice of flavour - I used my own plum and cinnamon).

Ingredients for the topping: 40g chopped walnuts (or other nuts you prefer), 80g chopped glace cherries (or other dried fruit such as chopped prunes, chopped apricots, raisins, etc.), 30g choc. chips, 2 egg whites, 115g caster sugar, 45g desicated coconut, 30g puffed rice cereal (I used coco pops).

Cream butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. 

Sift flour and baking powder together and then fold into the creamed mixture, followed by the milk. Then press into the prepared tin evenly and smoothly (take a little time over this). Finally, spread the jam over the surface and sprinkle over the chopped fruit, nuts and choc chips.

Beat the egg whites until stiff peak stage and then, whilst continuing to whisk, slowly add the caster sugar. Lastly, fold in the coconut and puffed rice. Carefully spread the mix over the slice - I used a metal spatula.

Bake for 30-35 mins until firm and golden. Cool the slice in the tin and then cut into fingers. Enjoy!