Eating it, cooking it, thinking about it

Either eating it, cooking it or plotting it

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Gingerbread biscuits

These biscuits have the virtue, if using a processor, of being very fast as well as being exactly what you'd expect from a ginger biscuit. They will keep well in a tin for up to a week. I usually make this recipe specifically to cut small chubby gingerbread men or pretty stars to top cupcakes with. Its a very fast recipe because at the end of an intensive cupcake baking session, the last thing I have the energy to do is start an unnecessarily elaborate biscuit recipe (  some methods leave dough in the fridge for an hour, some involve multiple processes) so this is the one I've developed. I have the dough made, and biscuits cut and in the oven in under 10 mins. Biscuit fact.

170g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp bicarb of soda
70g butter
70g sugar ( I generally use white caster sugar)
heaped tsp ginger
half tsp cinnamon
good pinch salt ( this really makes the difference)
115g of golden syrup

With the exception of the syrup, blitz everything in the processor til rubbly crumbs. I've done this with fridge cold butter and both room temp butter, and haven't noticed a great deal of difference when it comes to the baking. If you don't have a processor, use the rubbing in method with the butter, flour and salt. Then add the sugar, bicarb, soda and spices, rubbing in again. Measure out the syrup ( I grease a large serving spoon with oil, before dipping in the tin. I always get syrup in tins. But I've seen the squeezy bottle ones too. I saw marmite in a squeezy bottle once too. Weird) into a microwaveable bowl. This is my Patented Important Step. When you have your 115g of syrup, blast it in the microwave for around 15 - 25 seconds, so its warmed ( not hot!) and loosened. Tip your other mixture into this, and then bring it all together with wooden spoon/ your hands. Bring the mixture into a flat disc shape, whatever thickness you desire, and then roll out on a surface dusted with icing sugar. Thats it. Cut into whatever shapes you want, and bake in at oven for approx 20 mins at 160 degrees. Check them after 15 mins. And remember, they should be slightly soft when they come out of the oven as they harden on cooling. I've cut these into all kinds of shapes, and have also dipped them into dark melted chocolate. Just because. Obviously decorate them however you want them, more often than not, mine are brushed with edible lustre dust as they are sat on top of a big old cupcake as it is. Oddly good with lemony crumbly white lancashire cheese . Biscuit fact 2.

Mulling it all over

It's beginning to feel a bit like Christmas ! Snow on the ground in Glossop this weekend, apparently minus 3 outdoors today, and the town Xmas lights have been switched on ( I don't know who switched them on this year though ? It was Ricky Hatton one year) . Oh, and (not festive related, but) that coffee and pancake place I was talking about the other week is open now too, though I haven't had chance to go in yet (though on a stride past, I saw 3 Youths sat in there, making as decent a fist as possible of looking as Street as they could in what is essentially a Pleasant Tea Shoppe). Anyways, I've had my first couple of gingerbread lattes, mulled a cider and I've seen the Coca Cola Christmas ad, so for me, the season is well underway. Even if I do have a feeling of things slipping away before they've begun - but I suspect this is because I haven't done any Christmas shopping yet and I keep seeing Other People hoying bulky shopping bags around with them. I'll be putting my decorations up tomorrow so that'll help me wrest control back. Funny, the pressures we put ourselves under ...I forget frequently that LifeStyle magazines and telly programs are mainly void stuffing throwaway fluff, replaced by some upbeat new fad just the week after and that there really is no pressing need for me to make ginger biscuits to hang on the Christmas tree or Get Ahead for Christmas Dinner by parboiling parsnips now etc. But I still think about Doing It All. I have a vision of presenting family and friends with great gleaming jars of homemade fresh crisp piccalilli, or beautifully matured limoncello and sloe gin, all tastefully wrapped in brown paper and tied with jaunty flowing tartan ribbon. I made hokey pokey, truffles and fudge as some gifts last year, to some success, but for some reason this year, I'm on a savoury bent. Quite possibly because I've spend so much time in the pursuit of sweet stuff this year already ( and particularly so over the last couple of weeks, many cupcakes have been baked, including 100 for a wedding, plus wedding cake) so at the moment, I'm dreaming of terrines, chutneys, bread sauce and stilton. Though I've had a lovely time getting my Christmas cupcakes ready for the shop - I've gone the way of cranberry and clementine cupcakes , and mincemeat and orange zest cupcakes, all decorated in a festive stylee. I'll be doing some chocolate Rudolph ones soon, will try and post a pic when I have a min. There's also gingerbread cupcakes, topped with lemon frosting and gingerbread men (recipe to follow), and I'm thinking of some kind of mulled spice cupcake too. I love mulled wine, but I think I prefer hot mulled cider. I've also considered mulling cranberry and apple juice, and some kind of mulled cider sorbet. Isn't chai tea just mulled tea ?  I think I just like having cinnamon sticks and star anise floating around in a deep pan. So ancient and so exotic. Had a terrible hot cherry mulled wine at the Manchester xmas markets the other evening by the way, a real eye popping throat rasper. Soothed self immediately with a standard mulled wine and order was restored. And then went on to have a meal at Zouk, the recently much lauded new-ish Indian restaurant on Chester St in Manchester. Recommended - spanking fresh food, unobtrusive decor and fairly priced. Excellent wine prices too. They also run a cookery school which I quite fancy a day at - you know, just as soon as I've made the piccalilli, finished ( finished - who am I kidding ? started ) the xmas shopping, and woven tartan ribbon to wrap it all in. Hope your plans are coming on apace...Next post -  a recipe for gingerbread biscuits (ready for you to hang on the tree, naturally. And not snarf down 3 at a time with gingerbread latte. No sirree. Not me)

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Cats & Crumble


Being Grown Up Cons : Bills, mortgages, responsibility, eye watering dental bills, worry about health, worry about worrying too much, catch self humming Andrew Lloyd Webber tunes, worry watch too much tv, worry not enough time to read, worry Not Improving Self, worry not enough time generally, worry drink too much pepsi max

Being Grown Up Pros : Big Bowl apple crumble with ice cream for tea.

Apple Crumble 
 4 - 5 eating apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
250 g plain flour
50g wholemeal flour
1tsp baking powder
175 g butter
175g sugar ( I use half brown and half white, both granulated and caster)
pinch sea salt
good pinch or two of cinnamon
extra tbsp plain flour

Put the peeled, cored and chunked apple into a buttered baking dish. Tumble it all together with the tablespoon of plain flour and pinches of cinnamon.

Put all other ingredients into a processor and pulse til rubbly ( or, if by hand, rub fat and baking powder  and flour together, then add the sugar & sea salt). Pour on top of apple. Bake for 45 mins at 180 degrees. Eat for tea. Feel disproportionately pleased. Have seconds when its gone cold and claggy. Hum something from Cats.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

One of the only plus points of my recent toothache* has been the omnipresent taste of clove oil in my mouth. I won't bang on about My Toothache* as there's nothing duller than hearing someone else's hard luck story ( and, have you noticed, people take it as cue to tell you theirs - only you can guarantee that their story is far more dramatic , heroic amounts of pain withstood, fortitude and suffering, the likes of which Andy McNabb would have a hushed reverence for) . I find the taste of cloves just the right side of antiseptically spicy, both treaty and medicinal. And very seasonal. Most of my recent baking has been suffused with the good stuff,  cinnamon, cloves, ginger and brown sugars - spiced pumpkin cakes, carrot cakes, sticky toffee cakes, both for the shop and for private orders. I have a wedding order in a couple of weeks for a spiced pumpkin cupcake tower that I'm particularly looking forward to working on. The decoration is on an autumnal and ivy leaf theme which I think will work beautifully, all russets and greens and golds. I'm also working on a cupcake order for an 18th birthday, going with a vibe of elegant sparkle, and that feels sneakily festive too, silver sparkles and stars. I am such a sucker for the festive vibe, I've already got my seasonal candles on the go of an evening ( spiced apple, honey and chocolate, spiced pear, red apple wreath, silver fir) and tonight, some people are coming over for a meal and I'll be cracking out a mini Christmas dinner, roast parsnips, stuffing, sprouts and all ! Sticky toffee sundae for pudding. Having had a fairly heavy baking time of it particularly over the last week, its almost a novelty to be making something non cake related ( and easy to eat - me teeth, you know..).Still,spaghetti hoops on brown buttered toast with grated cheese takes some beating ( had for tea twice this week. Never knowingly restrained..) but beaten it was this week, by a 7 course meal at Ramsons Restaurant in Bury. I've long wanted to go, having read the reviews , and finally made it late last week. Carpaccio of brill, seared scallops, breast of woodpigeon, brown shrimp ravioli, roast loin of venison, cheeses, pannacotta with fragolina grapes and then marmalade sponge with drambuie custard. Each course matched to a particular wine. All very well executed, smartly served , with purees and dashes of sauces and oils ( pea, saffron, lemon, beetroot, liquorice, rowan and juniper) here and there as you might expect, but I dunno...something lacked a bit. It felt, perhaps rather than tasted, all a little bit uniform. The owner was keen to make his presence felt and seemed to make sure we knew how much he knew about his wines. His bon mots felt a little bit over polished., as if he was determined to make himself the very epicentre of Your Ramsons Experience.  I don't want to be churlish about a place that starting serving raw fish to Bury diners in 1985, and I won't groan that the scallops were served with a pea puree, because a classic is a classic ( spaghetti hoops and grated cheese) but I did find the atmosphere to be a little off. And try as I might, I just don't like wood pigeon. I want to, I think I should, but I don't. Same with duck and seabass. I'd love to love them, and airily order them..I've had them all done well, done badly but I just can't enjoy them. No-one knows what I suffer. Have I mentioned me teeth ?
* painful
*  very painful