Saturday, 19 May 2012

Tea Time Treats: Elderflower and Blueberry Jelly

This month's Tea Time Treats theme, hosted by the wonderful Karen, from Lavender and Lovage is flowers and all things floral.

Perfect now the sun has finally popped its hat on, come out to play and allowed our umbrellas to dry out for the first time in a gazillion weeks*.

With it being the sixth month anniversary of presenting the very first delightful and groaning Tea Time Treat table it occured to me that we haven't enjoyed that many jellies. And no tea time party is complete without a wibbling wobbling jelly.

Tempted as I was to make the jelly in the shape of a rabbit or a car, in honour of tea times of my childhood, the theme floral and flowers brings to mind a more refined, elegant and sophisticated dessert.

Elderflower and Blueberry Jelly
(Makes 2)

20ml Elderflower Liqueur
300ml water
2 gelatine leaves
50g blueberries, setting aside several to decorate

1. Measure the water in a jug and stir in the liqueur. 
2. Pop the geleatine leaves in a small glass bowl and add in a couple of tablespoons of the elderflower mixture. Leave to soak until the gelatine softens (approximately ten minutes).
3. Place the bowl over a pan of gently simmering water and stir continuously until the gelatine has completely dissolved
4. Return the gelatine to the elderflower mixture and stir well. Add in the blueberries and pour into the ramekins. Chill in the fridge for at least four hours or until set
5. Decorate with the remaining blueberries

Baker's notes...
  • You can substitute the Elderflower Liqueur for approximately 35ml Elderflower Cordial (according to taste)
  • To avoid the fruit sinking to the bottom, add the blueberries one hour into the jelly setting
  • Alternatives to blueberries include gooseberries and raspberries
  • Don't forget to enter this month's Tea Time Treats by 28th May!

* Possible a slight exageration. I will need to confirm with the Met Office.

Jubilee Bake Off: Elderflower Syllabub with Lemon Curd Biscuits

With only two weeks until the Jubilee celebrations, it is time to get baking for Queen and Country.

Ohh, I feel like James Bond. Except less shaken and stirred. And more mixed and stirred.

And just as I was thinking what to bake, the lovely people at Forman and Field got in touch to ask if I would like to take part in their Jubilee Bake Off.

I said yes quicker than Her Majesty would say yes to one thousand boats travelling in a great big flotilla down the Thames in a Diamond Jubilee Pageant.

I was sent a Mystery Box of Ingredients. I'd really, really hoped it may contain the crown jewels. It didn't. But it did contain the following:

  • Dove's Farm Flour
  • Longman's Unsalted Farm Butter
  • Forman and Field Lemon Curd
  • Creme Anglaise
  • Elderflower Liqueur
  • Original Beans Cru Virunga 70% Dark Chocolate
  • Mulled Pears 

I soon discarded the idea of Mulled Pear and Elderflower pancakes, with a Chocolate and Creme Anglaise sauce with Lemon Curd drizzle. 

And, after much deliberation, choose instead to bake dainty, lemony melt-in-your mouth biscuits which I hope perfectly accompany a delicate, fragrant creamy Elderflower Syllabub. 

During seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth century England, Syllabub was very popular dessert during festivities and celebrations. Which makes it highly befitting for Jubilee celebrations. Traditionally made with whipped cream, white wine, egg white, sugar and lemon I've omitted the egg white and substituted the white wine for the Elderflower Liqueur.

Elderflower Syllabub with Lemon Curd Biscuits
(Serves 2)

For the Lemon Curd Biscuits
100g softened butter
75g golden caster sugar
1 egg yolk
0.5 tsp Vanilla Extract
Zest 1 lemon
150g sifted plain flour
10 tsps lemon curd
Juice of 1 lemon
60g sifted icing sugar

For the Syllabub

150ml double cream
2-3 tbsps Elderflower Liquor
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp sifted icing sugar

To decroate
Grated zest of 1 lemon

1. For the biscuits: Mix together the butter, sugar, egg yolk, vanilla extract and lemon zest in a large bowl. Add the flour and mix to form a smooth, soft dough. Using your hands, form the dough into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for twenty minutes to chill
2. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas Mark 6. Roll out the chilled dough on a lightly floured work surface to a thickness of a £1 coin and, using a 4cm round cutter, stamp out the biscuits. You should be able to stamp out approximately twenty biscuits. Bake for approximately ten minutes until lightly golden in colour. Allow to cool on a wire rack
3. To make the Syllabub, combine the liqueur, lemon juice and icing sugar in a large bowl. Slowly and gently whisk in the cream using either a balloon whisk or an electric whisk until it reaches soft peaks. Spoon into two ramekins and chill for one hour.
4. When ready to serve, sandwich together two biscuits with a teaspoon of Lemon Curd. Mix together the lemon juice and icing sugar and drizzle over the biscuits. Grate the lemon zest over the biscuits and the chilled Syllabubs. Serve together and enjoy a Jubilant Jubilee!

Baker's notes...

  • When whisking the double cream for the Syllabub aim for soft, layered folds of cream and ensure the whisk reaches the cream right at the bottom of the bowl
  • The biscuit recipe will produce ten biscuits, plenty of leftovers to enjoy or feed to the corgis
  • A full list of the eight other bloggers taking part in the Forman's Jubilee Bake Off can be found here- I was delighted to see three good blogging friends of mine, Working London Mummy, Fabulicious Food and Lavender and Lovage are taking part!
  • With many thanks to Forman and Field for inviting me to take part in the Jubilee Bake Off and for sending the ingredients listed above. The competition closes on 31st May 2012 and the winner will be announced shortly afterwards. Follow the hashtag #Formansjubileebakeoff on twitter for all the updates!

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Birthday Surprises and Raspberry Tarts

It was my thirtieth birthday last week.

(If I was in the US I could now legally become a Senator [Hurrah! I'd implement my policy of free cakes for all!])

I was surprised by A with a lovely, lovely week long holiday. I had absolutely no idea where we were going and had spent the last three months trying to wheedle the destination out of an increasingly despairing A. I'm not terribly good at surprises you see.

But A remained resolutely watertight and by the time we got to the airport I still hadn't the foggiest.

And I was very happily surprised when A explained:

'We're off for a couple of days to Madrid then we fly to Sardinia'

I replied exclaiming 'Wow! That'll be brilliant!', followed rather rapidly with 'Erm... Where exactly IS Sardinia?!'

We had a quick geography lesson ('There's a big sea called the Mediterranean, which is bordered by France, you know where they make Croissants? And Italy, where they make those lush cannolis you like? And Spain, where we eat Tapas? And Sardinia is right in the middle')

Look at this Neapolitan ice cream style building in Madrid. And yes, I generally do compare most constructions to sweet treats.

The bounty advert style beach in Sardinia where many a happy hour was spent lazily discussing dilemmas such as 'If you could only have one type of cake for the rest of your life which would you choose?'. It is fair to say I not only started this particular topic of conversation but also had a lot to contribute to it.

Still discussing it now to be honest.

It was a brilliant week followed by a brilliant bank holiday with all family in the Brecon Beacons.

Anyways, to the cake. Or to be exact the raspberry tarts. These were A's request for his birthday way back in March. And here's how I made 'em.

Raspberry Tarts

For the pastry:
250g plain flour
125g butter
1 tbsp icing sugar, sifted
Zest of half a lemon

For the creamy bit:
400ml whole milk
5 egg yolks
75g caster sugar
15g plain flour
2tsps cornflour

Plus a punnet of raspberries and icing sugar to finish

1. To make the pastry: Sift the flour into a large bowl. Coarsely grate the butter into the bowl. Add the zest and icing sugar and using your hands, bring the dough together, adding a few drops of water if necessary to bind. Wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for one hour
2. Preheat the oven to 220C/Gas Mark 7. Take the chilled pastry from the fridge and roll out on a lightly floured surface, to roughly 4-5mm thick. Line the base and sides of a 22cm tart tin (or four small tart tins). Line the pastry case(s) with baking parchment and fill with baking beans. Blind bake for 10-15 minutes or until lightly golden. Set aside to cool
3. To make the creamy bit, aka the creme patisserie: In a bowl, whisk the sugar and egg yolks together until the mixture doubles in size and is pale in colour and set aside. Heat the milk over a gentle heat, ensuring it doesn't boil. Pour the warm (not boiling) milk over the sugar and egg mixture, add the flours and gently mix together. Return the mixture to the saucepan and heat once again, whisking continuously until the mixture begins to thicken. Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool. 
4. Once the creme patisserie is cooled, spoon into the pastry cases and decorate with raspberries, finishing with a dusting of icing sugar

Baker's notes..
  • I choose to make a relatively simple straightforward pastry, although an almond pastry would be a lovely accompaniment
  • This is best constructed no more than an hour before serving
  • And summer fruit can be used to decorate- strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, redcurrent. Ohh, the possibilities!
  • I'm entering this into this month's One Ingredient challenge hosted this month by Laura from How to Cook Good Food. The theme is lemons and I appreciate it is a little cheeky entering these, as they contain just a minute amount of lemon, but Laura has kindly welcomed them!

Monday, 7 May 2012

Olympic Baking: Bolt's Salted Caramel Chocolate Brownies

There are 80 days until the Olympic 2012 Opening Ceremony on 27th July.

And if you look very, very carefully you may spot me there.

Nope, I won't be appearing with Team GB after being selected to represent my country in the 100m. Or even the Greco-Roman Wrestling.

I'm volunteering with the Workforce Team at the ceremonies!

Are you sitting comfortably? Let me tell you the story of my own Olympic journey (Gagh! The 'J' word!)

Way back in January I applied to be a performer in the ceremonies- they were looking for people with rhythm. So, ignoring the last two words of what they were looking for, encouraged instead by the fact they were looking for 'people', I applied. The first audition was lots of fun- over two hundred very enthusiastic, friendly people dancing away. A bit like a massive wedding party except without the booze, dodgy DJ or cake.

I was invited back for a second audition (hurrah!) and, donning my lucky underwear, I set off for the recall auditions. I'd like to think I was recalled because of my attitude to Beyonce during the congo section (well thats what I named that section). Afterall, I do like to think of myself as the fourth member of Destiny's Child and all.

But the next four hours (!) were supremely challenging. And that's putting a rather optimistic spin on my efforts.

We were instructed on a routine. I couldn't remember the dance steps if my life depended upon it. And when I could remember the odd bit of the routine, my timing was so diabolical it was as though I was in an entirely different time zone to the rest of the auditionees.

I decided to improvise.


I added some freestyle jazz hands at the end.

It wasn't enough. And while I won't be performing at the ceremonies, I will be a part of the Greatest Games the World has ever seen with volunteering with the Workforce team.

I for one can't wait.

And to celebrate, here is the first in a mini-series that is Olympic Baking...

Bolt's Salted Caramel Chocolate Brownies

While I suspect Usain Bolt, the Fastest Man on the Earth (TM), is on a strict diet, full of proteins and, erm, chicken nuggets, maybe once he's won his gold medal he can indulge in a Brownie or two. Complete with the Bolt of Lightening.

This recipe is the best Brownie recipe I've ever, ever tasted: Nigel Slater's. The original recipe can be found right here in The Observer

Baker's notes...

  • I made half the recipe, using 125g Hotel Chocolat salted caramel chocolate. Lindt also produce a similar chocolate
  • These are the goo-iest, fudg-iest, most delectable Brownies on this earth. And if you can resist (ha!) they'll last up to three days...
  • ...Unlike these ones, which categorically did not last three days: