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Lemon and Honey Marshmallows

It takes a couple of moments of consideration before you realise that marshmallows, like asparagus and rhubarb, have their own short season. It seems obscure that a sweet should have a time and a place, for every moment is a good moment to enjoy the fluffy sweetness of a marshmallow, even just for a minute. But thinking about those soft clouds of sugary fluff, the flavour profiles of most are more comforting and cosy rather than bright and fresh. They conjure images in the mind of dusky campfires, their consumers dangling speared sweets on sticks into spitting flames before eating their fired edges with trepidation. They are piled high in mugs of hot chocolate, instant or homemade, to melt into pools of sweet creaminess when the weather outside is splashing fat raindrops on the windows. Yes, marshmallows are given a short season of comfort without us ever realising it.

Close up of marshmallow mix on a whisk

That is not to say it isn’t impossible to spring forward with a palate pleasing marshmallow. The start of this new month heralds the arrival of lambs, bunnies and Easter eggs in a range of pleasing pastel shades, which I admit were the inspiration for these lemon flavoured sweets. Replacing part of the water used in the sugar syrup with freshly juiced lemon, it becomes rather easy to bring a brighter flavour to the humble marshmallow. Those pillows of meringue gradually increasing in volume thanks to vigorous whisking become flecked with little dots of zest. And honey replaces my go-to golden syrup to provide a subtle sweetness to mellow the lemon’s tartness. There is an element of comfort in this recipe – think hot toddies without alcohol or ginger – but the taste is pure spring. Like a new beginning and a new season for the candy normally confined to the colder months.

 

Recipe inspired by The Little Loaf

 

You Will Need

6 leaves of gelatine

100g cornflour

100g icing sugar

2 egg whites (about 80g)

285g caster sugar

Pinch of salt

2 large lemons

4 tbsp clear honey

Zested lemons

Place the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water and set aside to soften. Lightly grease a 7 x 7 square tin with oil (I used olive) then line with baking parchment. Lightly oil again then whisk together the cornflour and icing sugar in a bowl. Using a couple of tablespoons of the powdered mix, dust the inside of the tin until all sides are covered to prevent the marshmallow mix sticking.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the egg whites, two tablespoons of the caster sugar and the pinch of salt but don’t whisk yet. Zest the two lemons on a chopping board and reserve for later. Cut each lemon in half and squeeze the juice into a measuring jug. Two lemons will provide around 100ml of juice, which produces a fairly tart flavour, but if you would like your marshmallows to be more subtle, reduce the juice you use to 75ml (about 1 ½ lemons). However much juice you use, top up the liquid to 150ml with cold water.

marshmallow fluff on a whisk

Place the remaining caster sugar and the honey in a large saucepan and sieve over the lemon and water mix to remove any pips or large pieces of pulp. Place over a medium heat and prop in a sugar thermometer. Once the syrup reaches 110oc, turn on the mixer to medium high to whip the egg whites. Once the syrup reaches 115oc, remove from the heat, squeeze the water from the gelatine sheets and stir into the saucepan. Turn up the speed on the mixer and once the meringue is looking shiny and stiff, carefully pour in the hot syrup, taking care to avoid the beaters. Whisk on high until the mix increases in volume and the bowl cools down to room temperature. Once the marshmallow mixture is thick, shiny and leaves a trail once the whisk is removed, stir through the lemon zest then quickly scrape the mix into the tin, levelling off and smoothing with a spatula. Leave to set for at least four hours.

Once the marshmallow has set, dust a chopping board with a little of the powdered mix and oil a sharp knife. Turn out the marshmallow onto the board, dusting the top then carefully cut into squares. Dust each square evenly in the cornflour and icing sugar and repeat. Store marshmallows in the icing sugar and cornflour mixture to avoid them sticking together and keep in an airtight container. Serve as an after dinner palate cleanser or present in treat bags tied with ribbon as an Easter gift.

Lemon and Honey Marshmallows Close Up

Strawberry Doughnut // VSPP

When I was on study leave during high school, I would have a little lunchtime tradition for spurring me on/consoling my efforts/congratulating me on a good exam (delete as appropriate). I’d walk up to our local shop in the village to purchase a packet of chicken supernoodles (classy) and a pink doughnut from the bakery display right at the front of the store. Filled with all sorts of creations, throughout my childhood i would choose between the fat, thickly-iced cupcakes half dipped in sprinkles with a solitary smartie on the other side, empire biscuits with sparkling jelly sweets and my sister’s favourite, the mallow cone. But when it came to my teenage years, I would always go for a pink dough-ring to accompany my super healthy lunch, normally consumed ignoring my history notes and watching awful wedding shows on the obscure sky channels.

I have to admit there is always the temptation to purchase one when I go back home, stuffed into a paper bag, the icing sticking to the paper. Eaten on the sofa accompanied by a coffee, luckily without any school notes to ignore. The only doughnuts available around these parts are those mass produced versions in neat rounds with perfect sprinkles, stuffed with sickly sweet jam or the tiny ones sold in plastic boxes in volumes of 15. Sometimes you just want a bite of nostalgia. So naturally, I turned to the kitchen.

Iced Strawberry Doughnuts // VSPP

I’ve been desperate to try homemade doughnuts for months, but have been rather put off by a lot of sources. One of my baking books (intended for the home baker) announces one shouldn’t bother if they don’t own a temperature regulated deep fat fryer. Others stick to baked doughnuts which are more cake-like their slightly-crisp fried counterparts. But despite the off-putting posts and books, I was keen to give it a go and thus my interpretation of my study leave doughnut was born.

I won’t lie, fried doughnuts aren’t the most therapeutic of baking projects – if you need to whack the heck out of a dough then choose a bread rather than this enriched one, as it is very delicate and sticky. But after all the proving, frying and dipping in glaze, they are picture perfect even if they are a bit knobbly, squint and lopsided. But I think that’s what I love about them – you couldn’t just pick up one of these doughnuts in a supermarket. They may not be uniform, but they are born from my nostalgic memories of those study leave lunches and to me, that’s what makes them perfect.

Strawberry Icing Blob // VSPP

 

Adapted slightly from Joy the Baker

 

You Will Need

1 sachet fast action dried yeast, plus two tablespoons warm (not tepid) water

240g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

3 egg yolks

60g unsalted butter, room temperature

250ml whole milk, room temperature

2 tbsp caster sugar

1 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla paste (optional)

Vegetable oil for frying and kitchen towel to drain excess oil

 

For the strawberry glaze

150g icing sugar

2 – 3 tbsp boiling water

4 drops strawberry flavouring

2-3 drops red gel food colouring

Enriched Doughnut Dough Ingredients

In a bowl, whisk together the yeast and the water and leave for five minutes until the mixture is foamy and bubbling.

Doughnut Dough before Proving

In the bowl of a stand mixer fixed with the dough hook attachment, add the flour, yolks, butter, milk, sugar, salt and vanilla if using, and mix on low speed until combined, then up the speed to medium high for three minutes. Stop the machine and scrap down to ensure it’s all combined, then sprinkle with flour to prevent a crust from forming then cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and place in a warm environment to prove for 1 ½ to 2 hours – I placed mine next to the boiler.

Doughnut Dough after first Prove

Once proved and doubled in size, carefully empty the dough onto a clean, well floured work surface and roll to ½ inch thickness with a floured rolling pin. Using round cutters around 2-3 inches wide, cut around nine circles from the dough and using a small 1 inch cutter or bottle top, cut out holes from the middle of the doughnuts. Don’t re-roll scraps. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment and spread with an even layer of flour then carefully place the doughnuts on the sheet, adding the doughnut holes to be used as testers. Cover with the tea towel and leave to prove for a further 30 minutes.

Doughnut Dough after first prove

Once the doughnuts have puffed up slightly, fill a heavy bottomed pan with vegetable oil and heat to 180oc on a sugar or digital thermometer. Carefully remove a doughnut hole from the sheet and place in the oil, cooking for one minute on either side. Remove from the pan once cooked and drain on a plate covered with paper towels. It should be golden and cooked inside. Repeat with the remaining doughnut holes, keeping an eye on the temperature before cooking the doughnuts.

Start with one doughnut to gauge the speed they cook and aim to fry for two minutes on either side, using a timer to guide you. If the doughnuts are cooking too quickly, take the pan off the heat and continue frying – the oil should come down in temperature slightly but keep using your thermometer to check. Once golden either side, remove each doughnut using a fish slice and drain on paper towels before transferring to a paper towel lined wire rack to cool completely. Repeat until all the doughnuts have been fried.

To make the glaze, whisk together the icing sugar and the boiling water to a paste, adding a little more water if necessary to make it smooth but not too runny. Add the flavouring and the colouring – I went for baby pink which was around three drops, but if you want a deeper colour add a few more. Chose the best side of each doughnut and dip in the icing, carefully twisting and letting the excess drip off before leaving to dry on the wire rack. Once the iced doughnuts have dried, serve with coffee. They are best eaten the day they are made.

Strawberry Doughnut // VSPP

 

Healthy No Bake Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

I think I may have fallen slightly in love with my food processor. What started out as a hesitant attempt to use my new kitchen gadget has quickly become my go-to for just about everything. From healthy brownies to orange cakes, it seems that I am incapable of writing a recipe without sneakily whirring a few almonds or pureeing a few satsumas in this magical machine of mine.

Before you chastise me for breaking my handmade baking ethos yet again, I offer up a plate of these beautiful no-bake cookie bars with pleading, Puss in Boots eyes in order for you to consider adding one to your kitchen gadgetry. Another case of pure kitchen magic, these bars are made with no butter, sugar, eggs or flour, yet retain that sweet, crumbly bite that can be found in a simple oatmeal cookie.

Health No Bake Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

I made these cookie bars for my bake club this month, as the theme was *all natural ingredients*. While some went down the ‘butter is natural, right?’ road, I as usual took it all too literally and went a bit raw diet/clean eating on the group. Just like when someone asks me to ‘just bake a cake’, I will still be smoothing the ganache at 1am to make it is just right. Like the baking freak I am.

Tweaked slightly from Shutterbean’s recipe, I swapped the cashews for almonds to give these bars a real punch of flavour. I also switched up the maple syrup for honey for a sweeter stickiness but kept those all-important dark chocolate chunks with a good pinch of Cornish salt. Although baking without eggs and flour can seems a little challenging, this recipe took less than 10 minutes to make before the mix chills out in the fridge for a few hours. I seem to say it a lot these days, but it really is like baking magic. I think my food processor is fast becoming my favourite kitchen toy.

Adapted slightly from Shutterbean

You Will Need

240g whole almonds

20g rolled oats

3 tbsp honey

¼ tsp cinnamon

Pinch grated nutmeg

90g Deglet Nour dates, pitted

Pinch of fine sea salt

60g walnuts, chopped

50g 70% dark chocolate, chopped

No Bake Chocolate Chip Cookie Bar Ingredients

Line a 7 x 7 square tin with baking parchment and set aside. In a food processor, whizz together the almonds and the oats to a fine powder for around 30 to 60 seconds. Add the honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, dates and salt then whizz again to a dough that clumps together when squeezed in your hand.

Cookie Dough Mix

Add the walnuts and chocolate and pulse briefly to mix through then scoop the dough into your prepared tin. Press down into an even layer with your knuckles or the back of a spoon until smooth, then place the tin in the freezer for an hour or chill for four until your cookie bars are solid. Remove from the tin and slice into rectangles or squares. Keep chilled in an airtight container before serving.

Healthy No Bake Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Coffee and Walnut Healthy No Bake Brownies

I would consider myself a fairly traditional baker. I suppose I had to be really, because I started this blog in my student days when my kitchen kit comprised of a cheap mixer, a scratched plastic bowl and an old fashioned set of spring scales. It was a kitchen of bare essentials, the real tool being my hands. Butter would be rubbed through my fingers for crumbles and pastries; I employed the two-fold whisking technique to ensure my arms didn’t stiffen. Everything was sight and sound and making do and I quite like that about baking. Just how you yourself make the recipe without the need for gadgets to help you along the way. Honest baking.

It therefore seems sacrilege that I have become ever so slightly obsessed with my food processor. I had entertained the idea of buying one for a while, but things like ASOS dresses and H&M jumpers always seemed to take precedent. And besides, I liked making pastry by hand and bashing digestives with a rolling pin. But I was gifted a second hand one and I approached it with trepidation. I was like a caveman when I finally managed to switch it on, jumping about three feet in the air when it whirred into action, chopped and cutting and pulsing so precisely in seconds I wondered how I would ever live without one.

Coffee and Walnut Healthy No Bake Brownies

And so, it seems like a betrayal of my hands that I bring you a wholly food processor recipe today. But I have to admit, it’s too damn good to ignore. After all the excesses of the festive period, it finally feels good to be eating well again and these healthy brownies are no exception. They are gluten, dairy and sugar free, the only sweetness coming from a healthy portion of finely chopped Mejool dates and a smidge of cocoa powder. Essentially a traybake, two types of nuts are pulsed in a machine, mixed with a teaspoon of fresh coffee and cocoa then whirred with dates to create a fudgy, sweet brownie without an egg, block of butter or pound of brown sugar in sight. I’d probably call them an alternative to cereal bars, like a health food that shouldn’t be healthy and so far I have resisted two birthday cakes in the office in favour of two of these sweet brownie thins. This is like baking magic.

A couple of things to point out – for aesthetic purposes I pressed my brownie mix into a 7 by 7 tray but it does yield rather thin brownies. Personally I like the size, but if you would prefer them thicker, you can double the recipe or press into a smaller tin such as an 18cm sandwich tin. The original recipe also extols the virtues of raw products, but I couldn’t find any cacao powder or almonds that hadn’t been blanched. I doubt it makes much of a difference but if this falls in line with your diet then go for it, I’d love to hear the results.

I do feel like I have betrayed my natural instincts to get my hands dirty with this recipe, but I am quietly excited as to how this new gadget will change my baking routine. But I can’t see myself giving up making pastry by hand. I like interspersing the traditional with the contemporary.

 Recipe slightly adapted from The Minimalist Baker

You Will Need

90g whole almonds (not blanched if possible)

80g walnuts

20g cocoa powder (or cacao if you can find it), plus extra for dusting

1 tsp freshly ground coffee or espresso powder

200g Medjool dates, pitted

No Bake Ingredients

Tip the almonds and 40g of the walnuts into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add the cocoa powder and coffee and pulse again until crumb-like. Pour the nut mixture into a bowl and set aside.

Finely Ground Coffee

Place the pitted dates into the bowl of the food processor and whizz until paste-like. Remove and place in a separate bowl then re-add the nut mixture to the food processor. With the processor running, add clumps of the dates through the chute until you have a soft dough. Squeeze the mixture in your hand – if it clumps together its ready. If not, add a couple more dates or a splash of water and process again.

Raw Brownie Mix

Prepare the tray you wish to use by lining with baking parchment – I used a 7 x 7 square tin but for thicker brownies use a loaf or sandwich tin. Tip the brownie mix into the tin and add the remaining walnuts. Stir with your hands to combine then press down the mixture evenly with your knuckles. Place the tin in the fridge to allow the brownies to harden for at least two hours then remove and cut into squares or wedges. Dust with cocoa powder and serve. These brownies will last for about a week and a half in an airtight container in the fridge.

Coffee and Walnut Healthy No Bake Brownies

 

Brown Sugar Chai Spiced Marshmallows

When I was in primary four, my sister and I made homemade gifts for each of our teachers for the end of term. Forget the cliché of a shining red apple come summertime, we rolled up our sleeves and made what I suppose you could call a kid-friendly rocky road. A very simple blend of crushed digestive biscuits, tooth-suckingly sweet condensed milk and shining glace cherries, the recipe just calls for it to be stirred in one big bowl together with those baby white and pink marshmallows. It’s a recipe that my mam used to make when she was a teenager and it was adopted for many a bake sale when we were younger. On this occasion, we rolled the mixture into logs and refrigerated then covered in chocolate before dotting mini marshmallow spikes along the top. Marshmallow hedgehog presents – they were a hit let me tell you.

As a little one, we were always encouraged to make things by hand to make gift giving more personal, a belief I still hold today. Of course, there are only so many toilet roll tubes made into Celtic football player pencil holders my uncles could take, but the feeling that you have created something so personal just for that person really is unbeatable. It’s why I took to making cakes for my friends in high school on their birthdays; always a simple Victoria Sponge affair sandwiched with jam, topped with water icing and blobby melted chocolate piping to spell out Happy Birthday. Handing out slices in the playground seems to have morphed into my weekly Tupperware box filled with weekend baking goodies for my work colleagues on a Monday morning. Making people smile with a little gesture makes it worth any effort involved.

Which is why making these marshmallows as gifts make the perfect feel good return as they are so simple to make. For relatively little effort, this pillow soft mixture turns into a mountain of fresh marshmallows that will evoke a smile from any adult who ate Flumps as a kid. Of course these marshmallows aren’t as sickly sweet as those helter skelter twists, but light as a feather covered in a light dusting of cornflour and icing sugar. To make these marshmallows more winter appropriate, I added brown sugar for a deep caramel flavour that works so well with gently spiced notes from chai tea. Sliced up and served with a cup of coffee, they make for the perfect mid morning treat but melting into pools on top of a mug of hot chocolate would be my strictest advice. And if you know of any teachers that deserve a homemade gift, you really cannot go wrong with marshmallows – even if they are made to look like hedgehogs.

Chai Spiced Marshmallows

 

Adapted slightly from Eat Like A Girl

 

You Will Need

150g corn flour

150g icing sugar

3 egg whites

30g powdered gelatine (mine was just over two packages)

150ml water

4 tbsp golden syrup

100g soft light brown sugar

100g caster sugar

100ml water

1 chai tea bag

Tip: I’ve made these marshmallows twice now, but the third attempt with vegetarian gelatine was a bit of a fail. As it is such a different consistency to regular gelatine, I would advise you to seek out a vegetarian recipe rather than adapt this one.

Prepare three 20cm sandwich tins by lightly greasing with oil (I used grapeseed) then lining with baking parchment. Prepare your marshmallow dusting by sifting together the icing sugar and corn flour then add a little to each tin, shaking it around until the tins are nice and dusted. Set aside this mixture as the rest will be used later to coat the marshmallows.

Add the balloon whisk attachment to a stand mixer and place the three egg whites in the bowl but don’t whisk yet. Pour the gelatine into the water and set aside – it will go spongy.

Slicing marshmallows evenly

In a saucepan, combine the syrup, sugars and remaining water and place over a medium heat. Start whisking the egg whites on a medium speed until you have soft peaks. Keep a sugar or digital thermometer handy to check the temperature – you are looking for hard ball on a sugar thermometer or 121oc on a digital one.

Once the desired temperature has been reached, carefully pour the syrup down the sides of the whipped whites on a low speed. Once the sugar syrup has been used up, scoop the gelatine into the saucepan and melt down using the residual heat. Stir the contents of the chai teabag into the gelatine then pour into the mixer still on a low speed. Increase to high and whisk for 4-5 minutes. The marshmallow should almost reach the top of the bowl and will become fluffy. Scoop into the prepared tins and shake to level out. Leave to set for a few hours.

To cut, lightly oil a knife and cut into wedges or squares. Dust with the icing sugar mix then store in an airtight box with the residual powder for up to a week.

Quick Peach Vanilla Jam with Scone

When I think of making jam, there is just one essential that springs to my mind – the iconic and ridiculously sized berry pan. I have two in my family; one at my Granny’s which used to reside at the top of her kitchen cabinets next to vintage scales and a ‘pig’ hot water bottle before her recent kitchen refit. My Grammy’s pan (her mother’s I believe) now lives at my Mam and Dad’s underneath the hob as a sort of large container for kitchen odds and ends – last time I checked it housed ice lolly moulds and a game for table-top curling. Yet despite their decorative and storage uses, they have helped to make jar after jar of luscious fresh fruit jams, lemonades, a batch of ginger ale and one ingenious use that involved cooking a very large lobster.

I remember a good few summers of jam making with my sister and Granny, lugging plastic punnets up row upon row of strawberry and raspberry plants at Pick Your Own’s in the north-east, sneaking handfuls of Scottish ripened soft fruits into my mouth. The sweetness that comes with the varied seasons – all sun and rain of it – ensure those fat Scottish strawberries will always trounce their sun-soaked sisters in Spain. It almost seems criminal to pour bag upon bag of sugar over the hulled fruit, but as it breaks down and becomes so deliciously jammy, you understand the reasoning behind it. Blipping contentedly as you stir…and stir…and stir some more. But a word of warning – wearing a white t-shirt during this process is ill advised. There is a suitably goofy looking picture of me aged 14 with an even goofier fringe with a big raspberry splatter up my GAP t-shirt. Aprons are advised.

Fresh peaches in a bowl on white background

After all those fond memories of ‘proper jam making’, it seems criminal to throw away the ratios, do away with properly sterilised jars and saucers stacked in the freezer for setting points. To not have jar upon jar stacked in the cupboards like preserved fruit jenga, just waiting to cascade on the floor as you search for the lasagne tin. And to not use those beautiful berry pans that bring back so many memories. But time and space are an issue in this baby sized kitchen I share and so one deeply delicious, seriously satisfying jar of fresh peach jam is just enough to curb the cravings of well set raspberry preserve.

The original recipe I adapted from called for a jam thermometer and a temperature of 190oc to 200oc before taking off the heat, but my digital one refused to go past 90oc. I admit I discarded the thing and played it by ear, added a touch of boiling water when it looked a little dry towards the end. But the end result is still a lusciously thick jam that will fill your kitchen with the summery fragrance of peaches and vanilla. Try smothering on toast, scones or dollop on rice pudding.  With only a shelf life of around two weeks, it doesn’t last long but when jam tastes this good, I promise you will be eating it straight from the jar in no time.

Adapted from The Sprouted Kitchen and Shutterbean

You Will Need

600g ripe peaches (around 5-6 will do)

80g granulated sugar

2-3 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice

½ tsp vanilla paste

Quick Peach Vanilla Jam Ingridents

Remove the stones from the peaches and cut into quarters. Place in a large heavy bottomed pan and add the sugar, 2 tbsp of the orange juice and the vanilla paste. Place over a low to medium heat and stir to combine the ingredients.

Peach Vanilla Jam

Once the juices begin to release, turn up the heat to medium and cook for around 15 minutes. Keep stirring to avoid the sugars catching. The jam should go a deep sunset colour and resemble a puree. If it looks a little dry, add a splash or two of water from a kettle to loosen a little.

Cooling Peach Jam

Towards the end, taste for sweetness – add a little more sugar and the remaining orange juice if you like your jam a little sweeter. You can use a thermometer to check if the jam is ready, which is around 190oc to 200oc. However I took a teaspoonful out and left to rest for around 15 seconds. If it feels jammy to the touch and is holding its shape, it should be ready.

IMG_4593

Remove the pan from the heat and spoon into a clean bowl to cool completely, stirring occasionally to release the steam. Prepare a jam jar by washing then covering in boiling water (this is the quickest way of sterilizing I find). Once the jam is cold, spoon into the clean dried jar and keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Peach Vanilla Jam Close Up

Recently I had my first encounter with a Twitter troll over a small, ring shaped snack that began a debate over the term ‘food’. According to said troll, doughnuts cannot be classified as food because they are sugary, fatty and all round bad for you. Oh dear.

My doughnut troll had me fuming for a few hours, but then I straightened myself out and wondered how I could channel his thoughts into a post. I thought about my blog, its message and how I consider baking to be a social thing; solitary momentarily as you are lost in the butter and sugar but then full of life as you bring a beautiful cake, tart or loaf to the table to be enjoyed by friends and family. It’s a discursive thing baking, and I could talk all day about flavours and textures, but if some people out there write off patisserie, baking and bread making because of the high calorie content, I will begin to despair.

I am lucky that I have never had any issues with food. My relationships with fruit and vegetables are the same with butter and sugar. I appreciate both and understand what my body needs and what my body craves. A morning smoothie with three fruits will kick start my day and make me feel great, yet a mid morning doughnut with a strong black coffee is a sweet little pick me up when the morning drags. Getting the balance right is crucial to having a good relationship with food and not denying yourself is also key to happy mind. Why torture yourself with celery sticks when you really fancy a creamy éclair? By making a few simple changes, it is possible to enjoy the things you love without feeling down about cheating on a diet.

Harry Eastwood shares my feelings about our relationship with food and if you have any interest in slimline French cooking, I urge you to seek out a copy of her book The Skinny French Kitchen. A beautiful tome of pretty macarons, classic Coq au Vin and beautiful but light profiteroles, it is the perfect book that illustrates how flavour and calories don’t always go hand in hand. To illustrate my feelings about patisserie and the art that goes into creating something so beautiful, I decided to adapt a few of her recipes into a stunning treat of light and crispy choux pastry, silken crème patisserie studded with fresh raspberries and a soft icing hat to adorn a simple baby éclair.

The point Eastwood argues with her book, is to enjoy food properly and through baking these little treats I completely understand what she means. As well as tasting gorgeous and looking pretty (with a few calories taken off with some simple adjustments), there is real skill and a little effort that goes into one little éclair. The appreciation from start to finish of your ingredients will show you it’s possible to enjoy delicious food without feeling awful after you’ve finished.

So I would like to say this to my troll; sweets and cakes may be a little unhealthy, but to deny yourself is even unhealthier. Please take a moment to think about the skill and dedication it takes to make a perfect éclair, macaron or doughnut – only then will you appreciate it on your plate.

 

Adapted from The Skinny French Kitchen by Harry Eastwood

Makes around 20 baby éclairs

You Will Need

For the Crème Patisserie

300ml semi skimmed milk

½ teaspoon vanilla paste

2 egg yolks

20g caster sugar

20g plain flour

A small handful of fresh raspberries, chopped

 

For the Choux Pastry

125ml water

1 teaspoon caster sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

20g butter, cubed

70g plain flour, sieved

2 eggs

 

For the Glaze

100g icing sugar

1 drop red food colouring

A little hot water

 

The crème patisserie will need to be made first to allow time to chill in the fridge. Whisk together the milk and vanilla paste in a saucepan then bring to a simmer over a medium heat. Remove from the heat and set aside. Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until pale and creamy. Add the flour and whisk again until smooth. Carefully pour the warm milk into the egg mix, whisking all the time. Once smooth, return the custard to the pan and bring to the boil, stirring continuously. Once thickened, remove from the heat and transfer to a clean bowl. Cover with clingfilm over the surface to prevent a skin forming then cool to room temperature then place in the fridge.

To make the choux pastry, preheat the oven to 200oc/180oc fan/ Gas Mark 6. Line a baking tray with baking parchment or a baking mat and set aside. In a saucepan, add the water, sugar, salt and butter and place over a high heat. Bring to the boil then add the flour all at once and turn down the heat. Whisk until you have a smooth ball of paste in the pan then remove from the heat. Leave to cool for a couple of minute to avoid scrambling the eggs in the hot pan. Once cooled slightly, add the eggs one at a time and whisk hard. This will take a little time and patience as at first the pastry will look thick and porridge like. Keep working it until a smooth elastic looking dough appears. Spoon into a piping bag (I like the disposable ones) and snip off the bottom to the thickness of your thumb. Pipe lines on the baking sheet about 6cm long spaced well apart. Place in the oven for 15 minutes, and then wedge the door open slightly with a wooden spoon and bake for a further 5 minutes. Leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

Remove the crème patisserie from the fridge and loosen up with a balloon whisk. Fold in the chopped raspberries carefully, taking care to have a slightly marbled crème, rather than a pink one. Spoon into a piping bag and cut a small hole at the end. Make up the glaze by adding a little hot water at a time to the icing sugar and food colouring until a thick but spreadable icing is formed.

Carefully slice each éclair lengthways and pipe a little line of crème inside then sandwich the top back on. Carefully spread a little glaze on top with a round bladed knife then set each éclair back on the cooling rack to set. Serve with a couple of fresh raspberries and a cup of tea.

 

 

Can you eat a whole Crunchie? If so, I am impressed. I think this is a ‘skill’ that has evaded me somewhat. The honeycomb is too hard, gets stuck in my teeth and the texture is just weird. I’d sooner chip off the dairy milk coating and just eat that. I realise this makes me sound like I have false teeth. Rest assured I don’t.

Proper honeycomb however, is magic. I remember my first taste of it, as we toured the chocolate shops and factories round Margaret River in Australia. Someone bought a big bag of the homemade stuff and it was divine. The ‘combs were irregular, slightly sticky and a little soft. Perfect honeycomb, if such a thing exists, is like that.

Honeycomb is also a relatively simple and pretty thing to make. Watching the three ingredients melt together and turn from a sandy brown to a deep golden colour is lovely to watch and the transformation bicarbonate of soda brings to the mix is like baking magic. Smashed into shards and drizzled with chocolate turns a bar of honeycomb into a pretty present with just a little bit of effort. Of course, you could just eat a piece with a cup of tea, slightly smug in the knowledge that your honeycomb is far better and more sophisticated than a Crunchie. Sorry Cadbury, I think you need to step up your game.

 

Adapted slightly from Granny’s Honeycomb Toffee recipe

 

You Will Need

A little vegetable oil for brushing

175g granulated sugar

125g golden syrup (this is easiest to weigh with a tablespoon that has been heated in a mug of hot water – the syrup just slides off!)

1 ½ level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

3-4 squares each of milk, white and dark chocolate

 

You will also need a sugar thermometer to heat the honeycomb to the correct temperature and three piping bags for the chocolate

 

Lightly brush a 7 inch square tin with vegetable oil and line with a sheet of baking parchment. Set aside. Place the granulated sugar and golden syrup in a large heavy based pan with two tablespoons of water. Place over a low heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved.

Then begin to boil the mixture. Keep a sugar thermometer handy and keep testing, you want the honeycomb to boil to the ‘crack’ stage, which is 156oc. Once the honeycomb is ready, keep your prepared tin next to you, then quickly stir in the bicarbonate of soda and pour straight into the tin and leave to cool. Leave your pan, spoons and thermometer to soak in hot soapy water to make it easier for cleaning.

Once the honeycomb has set, remove from the tin and place on a chopping board, still with the baking parchment underneath. To create shards, simply take a large knife and attempt to cut into the slab. It will shatter, but this is the effect you want. If you would prefer uniform honeycomb, mark into squares before completely set then break apart. This isn’t a foolproof method speaking from experience – honeycomb will break the way it wants to break!

To decorate, melt the squares of chocolate in individual bowls for one minute each, stir and reheat for a further minute. Place each type of melted chocolate into a separate piping bag and either pipe neat squiggles along each piece, or go a little less regimented with long sweeping lines like I have. Repeat with each type of chocolate then leave to set. Serve with ice cream, place in cellophane bags and tie with ribbon for a pretty present or simply eat as it is.

‘Murphy’s Law’, ‘Sod’s Law’ and ‘That’s Life’ are phrases I often attribute to working in an ice rink. There are always the times when it is useful; on occasion its warmer working on the ice than outside during the St Petersburg-esque Scottish winters, but more often than not, I will be working when everyone and their dog are having barbeques, drinking cider and eating ice creams. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job but it is rather soul destroying seeing girls flouncing around in sundresses and sunglasses as I trudge along in my thermals. So yesterday, when the sun put his hat on, I was determined to taste some of that summer sunshine despite my layers.

The idea for homemade cornettos is one that has been bouncing around my head fairly rapidly for the past few weeks, but I only just found the time to create these cuties. Which is madness really, as they involve four ingredients, look beautiful and taste fantastic with very little effort. Pistachio and dark chocolate work so well together, creating not just a fantastic texture contrast of smooth and crunchy, but also look visually stunning together. Other variations could lie with white chocolate and popping candy cones, milk chocolate and vermicelli cones or strawberry flavoured chocolate cones with freeze dried raspberries. So simple and so beautiful. Sod’s Law may be my working rule of thumb, but these cones are my summer blogging saviour.

Inspired by Recipes from a Normal Mum

 

You Will Need

4 waffle cones

75g good-quality dark chocolate

A small handful shelled pistachios, finely chopped

½ tub good quality ice cream, slightly softened

Place each cone in a mug, pointy end down. Melt the chocolate in the microwave for 1-2 minutes, stirring halfway through. Leave to cool for 2 minutes then spoon a teaspoon of chocolate into each cone and smooth round the insides using a knife. Dip the ends in the chocolate for an overlap, then sprinkle with pistachios inside and round the edges. Repeat with the other cones and leave to set in the mugs for about 2 hours. Set the chocolate aside, you can re-melt later to top the cones.

Once set, re-melt the leftover chocolate in the microwave. Fit a piping bag with a star shaped nozzle and fill with the ice cream. Working quickly, pipe the ice cream into each cone and begin to spiral inwards towards the top. Finish with a drizzle of the melted chocolate and the remaining chopped pistachios and freeze for 30 minutes standing upright in the mugs, then either serve or store in a freezer bag.

Days like these (endless rain, thick muggy air, the looming mud bath at T in the Park) have me craving an indoors hide out. A thick blanket, comfy jim jams, a mug of coffee and a pack of jammie dodgers. Sometimes I wish my doctor could prescribe me these things after 5 long shifts at work in a row. Forget ‘making the most of my day off’, after a considerable amount of ice skating all I want to do is stick lovefilm on repeat and make my way through some trashy-but-loveable films (Princess Diaries anyone?).

The traditional accompaniment to movie days and nights is popcorn, but recently I discovered an alternative to my usual salty snack. Shutterbean, one of my go-to food blogs, recently made an inspiring take on a Jamie Oliver popcorn recipe, which was slathered with spiced butter, lime juice and a good dose of salt. Still savoury, but packing a whole lot more punch than the usual sodium chloride.

This popcorn recipe is a beaut. Not only because it tastes like popcorn was always supposed to taste, but it is the first outing of my hand me down Le Creuset pan from my Grammy. The thick set pan allows for some serious poppin’ and less chance of charcoaled corn, but any old lidded saucepan will do really. Hot melted butter is toasted with colourful paprika, unmistakable cumin and herby oregano. Add a good splash of fresh lime and the sauce is a fiery blend of flavour. Quickly toss in freshly made popcorn to coat each pop and stir through some homemade lime salt, which is a simple way to add flavour to your typical seasoning, adding zest with each bite. On a miserable day, a bowl of this with a cold beer is like a little tropical paradise on your sofa. Give your popcorn a makeover with some spice. Anne Hathaway may be a princess, but this popcorn is king. Ole!

 

Adapted from Shutterbean and Jamie Oliver Magazine

 

You Will Need

3 tablespoons vegetable or sunflower oil

1/3 cup popcorn kernels (or 75g if you don’t have measuring cups)

1 teaspoon rock salt

1 lime, zested and juiced

3 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon paprika, smoked if you have it

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano

Set a heavy based pan over a medium heat and add the sunflower oil. Put 3 kernels in the pan and cover with a lid until the popcorn starts popping. Pour in the remaining kernels and keep moving the pot to avoid burning. Once the popping has slowed down, almost to a stop, remove from the heat and set aside.

To make the lime salt, rub together the lime zest and salt with the back of a spoon to release the oils until smashed and fragrant. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat and add the spices, cooking for one minute. Add the lime juice and quickly pour over the popcorn evenly and stir quickly to cover each piece. Sprinkle over the lime salt and serve in bowls with a beer.