Monthly Archives: May 2009

A rainbow of Peppermint Creams

Looking back to the days when I was the pupil in a Home Ec class rather than the person instructing the only thing I can remember making was ginger nuts, jam tarts and peppermint creams. Proper retro food.

A few weeks ago one of my pupils approached me with a cookbook she had been given for her birthday and pointed out the Peppermint Cream recipe and how she would like to make these. I thought it would be a good opportunity for the kids to play around with cutters and colours. Back in the 1980’s we were hardcore in the Home Ec kitchen and used raw egg whites to make peppermint creams, but now thanks to me doing my Food Safety qualifications and realising that what I do in my home kitchen isn’t appropriate to do in school I needed to find a recipe that didn’t use raw egg. Using raw egg whites with kids and having to deal with the potential consequences (a salmonella outbreak flashed in front of my eyes) isn’t my idea of fun.

It took some trawling through lots of recipes to find a recipe that didn’t feature raw egg. Some replaced the egg with condensed milk and another with just plain milk. Then it dawned on me, could I just replace the egg with water? I haven’t made them since my school days so this morning armed with a big bag of icing sugar, my new food dyes and some peppermint extract I set about experimenting with peppermint creams.

Now I have to admit I don’t usually use food dyes, or if I do I try and use natural colouring but shopping in Lakeland has a habit of drawing me in and making me buy things I don’t realise I need…especially when they come in a rainbow of colours. I’m a bit of a novice when it comes to food dye and I need a bit more practice at thoroughly blending the gel dyes into the icing paste, just a good thing I like the marbled effect!

Peppermint Creams

400g icing sugar (you may need a bit more)
2 tbsp water (again you may need some more) or 2 tbsp condensed milk
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
food dyes (optional)

1) In a large bowl sift in the icing sugar then add the 2 tbsp of water and peppermint extract. Mix until you have a dry, firm dough. The more you knead it the more it will come together. If more water is required to bring it together add 1/2 tsp at a time.

2) If using dyes, knead into the icing then roll out until 5mm thick. Cut out shapes and place on greaseproof paper. Allow to dry for a few hours before eating. Once they are dried they can be dipped in melted chocolate.

Salad Season

The Bank Holiday has been a busy one with visiting relatives, good food, showing how much of a geek I can be at a Pub Quiz plus a visit to a Beer, Wine & Cheese festival. With the beautiful weather and the fact I had to cater for a crowd we had a delicious meal of salad leaves and radishes picked straight from the garden along with Hubby’s recently cured salami, honey & mustard ham, cottage loaf baked by me plus a large cheeseboard. To accompany all of this food we also tried some new Farrington Oils products.

I’ve been a big fan of Farrington Oils for years and have written before about how much I enjoy their products before. When I was offered the chance to try some of their new products, I jumped at the chance. Plus my family who buy their Mellow Yellow dressings from Waitrose were also interested in trying the new vinaigrette and mayonnaise.

The first to try was the Classic Vinaigrette. In the garden we are growing a mixture of rocket along with other strong tasting salad leaves and this vinaigrette accompanied them perfectly and managed to bring the flavours out well.

The mayonnaise is the newest addition to their ranges and it quite unlike any other mayonnaise out there. I’m not usually a bit mayo eater, but this version is mouthwatering. With the subtle taste of Dijon mustard plus the lemony sharpness, we have tried it with numerous dishes over the last few weeks. From chip dunking to more refined chicken salad each time it has been delicious. I think I will struggle to eat any other brand since tasting this version! As you can probably tell by looking at the jar in the pic it was rather empty by the time I got around to photographing it proving how much we enjoyed it.

Ginger & Dark Chocolate Biscuits

It’s very rare I buy biscuits for the house as I usually make them, apart from boring digestives for things like cheesecake. If I do buy biscuits I adore Green & Blacks ginger biscuits. Unfortunately I can’t find them anywhere and they no longer feature on the G&B website. They were crispy biscuits with a strong ginger kick and dipped in 70% dark chocolate. With a sweet craving, that a horrible microwave jam sponge wasn’t going to hit, I decided to play around with some store cupboard ingredients to try and emulate the delicious G&B biscuit.

Not in the mood for faffing around with dipping the biscuits I chopped up a 70% G&B bar and stirred it into the biscuit dough. They worked well even if they do look a bit ugly. They have a noticeable ginger taste, but I would be quite happy to double the amount of ginger and even try it with stem ginger. You’d never guess I like my ginger! I’ve enjoyed these with my mid morning cuppa…and have been trying to sneak some while Hubby isn’t looking.

Ginger & Dark Chocolate Biscuits

Makes approx 20

115g softened butter or margarine
50g granulated sugar
70g muscovado sugar
1 egg
125g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground ginger (double if you like lots of ginger)
75g 70% dark chocolate, chopped

1) Preheat the oven to 180oc. Beat together butter and the two sugars until light and fluffy. Then gently beat in the egg, flour, bicarb and ginger. Fold in chocolate.

2) On a lined baking tray, blob teaspoons of the mixture. As these spread leave about 3cm between each biscuit. Bake for 10, until golden.

3) After baking, transfer straight away to a wire rack to harden. You’ll probably need something like a fish slice to move them as before they have hardened they are quite floppy.

Cherry Bakewell Biscuits

With a hectic and stressful week in work I wanted to do some stress relieving baking and a recipe I found on a forum I lurk on, ticked all the right boxes. The recipe is based on Smitten Kitchen’s slice & bake cookie palette. I’ve never made a biscuit like this before, but I think I now may be hooked. It is such an easy technique and it was nice coming home from work with some fresh dough in the fridge knowing I was less than 15 min away from freshly baked biscuits. These are also the first biscuits (I think) that I’ve made in my KitchenAid. I did a half batch as quite frankly my hips are turning more Nigellaesque by the day.

While looking through my baking cupboard for biscuit fillings I found some glace cherries that really needed to be used. Along with my almond extract the idea hit me. Biscuits inspired by my favourite cake, a Bakewell tart and so it was born – Cherry Bakewell Biscuits.

They are incredibly moreish and Hubby & I are trying not to eat them all in one sitting, and yes they do taste like the hallowed Bakewell. The primary reason for making them is for a treat in our lunchboxes as if I know I’ve got a little homemade treat in my box I’m less inclined to raid the staffroom biscuit tin. I’ve already started to think about other variations of this biscuit – dark chocolate & sour cherry, lemon & poppyseed, apricot & almond…

Cherry Bakewell Biscuits
Based on Smitten Kitchen’s slice & bake cookie palette
Makes 25

115g unsalted butter, room temperature
40g icing sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp almond extract
140 plain flour
100g glace cherries, chopped

1) Beat together butter and sugar until you have a buttercream, then beat in yolk and extract.

2) Add cherries and flour then beat again until ingredients are well combined. Flatted dough into a disk, cover in clingfilm and chill for 30 min.

3) Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out into a long log with a diameter of around 3cm. Wrap back up in the cling film and chill for a further 2 hours (minimum). If the dough isn’t chilled sufficiently it will begin to misshape when it is sliced ready for baking.

4) Preheat oven to 180oc. Cut the dough log into rounds about 1cm thick and place on a lined baking tray. Bake for 12-14 min until they are cooked. Once cooked transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Sour Cream Rhubarb Cake

At the moment Hubby & I are training for the Yorkshire 3-Peak Challenge, I was coerced into doing it by a good friend. One of my lifetime ambitions has been to complete a marathon and considering there is no chance you’ll get me running a marathon the next best thing is to walk the equivalent distance of a marathon while taking climbing 3 peaks along the way…oh and all in 12 hours. Thinking about it, running the London Marathon is becoming more appealing.

Back in me youth I would have had no problem but now I’m a 20-something I need to get my fitness back and prepare myself mentally for it. We’ve been doing quite a lot of walks recently and am slowly trying to increase the distances. This bank holiday We headed to Calke Abbey to do a 12 mile walk while taking in the bluebells and Foremark Reservoir with of course the obligatory ice-cream stop. The one thing I like about walking is seeing the seasons change and I’m getting better at spotting wild food.

The other task for the bank holiday was to find something to do with the rhubarb that was beginning to take over the raised beds. Now, rhubarb is my most hated veg, yes to me it’s a veg as it grows up from the ground rather than from a tree/bush/plant. It doesn’t help that I’ve never had much luck cooking with rhubarb. I’ve tried making crumble with it and roasting it, but nothing could make me like it…until now. Ok I lie the Rhubarb Bellini I drank at River Cottage began to convert me.

In time honoured tradition of having surplus veg and not having a clue what to do with it I put it in a cake. Think back to the Beetroot Brownies & Squash Honey Drizzle Cake (though I have Hugh to thank for both of these recipes). While surfing the web for a recipe that took my fancy I stumbled across a recipe for Sour Cream Rhubarb Squares on the Good Food website. I did alter the recipe somewhat as many of the comments mentioned it was too sweet and I overestimated how much of the rhubarb int he garden was ready to be picked. I was really pleased with the result. It made a beautifully moist and light cake with the nuts on top giving a nice contrasting texture. It also worked well hot with a custard just as well as it did cold with a cup of tea. I imagine it would also work with apple instead of rhubarb.

Sour Cream Rhubarb Cake
12 slices

100g unsalted butter, softened
50g golden caster sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
100g of mixed nuts, roughly chopped (I used brazils, almonds & walnuts)
200g soft dark brown sugar
1 egg
225g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
300ml soured cream
150g rhubarb, chopped into 1cm pieces

1) Melt 15g of the butter then stir in caster sugar, cinnamon and nuts. Put to one side while you make the cake batter.

2) Preheat the oven to 180oc then line a 33x23x5cm baking tin. Cream together the remaining butter with the soft dark brown sugar and egg. Then fold in flour, bicarb, soured cream and rhubarb. Pour into tin.

3)Sprinkle the cake with the sugary nut mix. Bake for 35 min.

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