Rich Sweetmeat Gingernuts

Ok, before we go any further lets clear something up. SWEETMEATS are articles of confectionery; not to be confused with SWEETBREADS which are gross bits of an animal (some kind of gland, I believe). Meat comes from the Old English ‘mete’, which basically means any kind of food. Right! Let’s get on.

You’ve probably noticed that I’m really into vintage cookbooks. As well as being fun to read, they’re a great source of inspiration. The recipes can be a little bit hard to interpret though.

Take, for example, this recipe for Rich Sweetmeat Gingernuts; found in the first edition of Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management. The list of ingredients is a little bizarre from the point of view of a modern reader.

There’s 1lb of treacle, 1lb sugar, 4 ounces of melted butter etc. But no quantity is given for the flour, just the tenuous direction to add as much as “may be necessary”.

Believe it or not, accurate lists of ingredients weren’t even a thing until Eliza Acton’s groundbreaking Modern Cookery for Modern Families was published in 1845. A book which was liberally plagiarised by Mrs Beeton.

Flour aside, that’s a lot of treacle. Like, A LOT. And it’s pretty powerful stuff. I knew I’d made these before for a Victorian tea party, and found them a bit strong (even though I’d cut the amount right down). The trouble is, I really can’t remember what I did with the recipe, so it was back to square one. Using a recipe for Cornish Fairings as a base, and interpreting the original quite loosely, I think the end result has turned out rather well.

While homemade candied peel will give the best results, use shop bought if you need to. The same goes for angelica, which can usually be found at this time of year, in those shops that specialise in gigantic bags of prunes and stuff. They could also be left out entirely if you’re not keen on that sort of thing.

Rich Sweetmeat Gingernuts makes 12-14

Ingredients:

  • 180g Plain flour
  • 2tsp ground ginger
  • 1tsp ground coriander
  • 90g golden caster sugar
  • 90g butter
  • 1tsp caraway seeds
  • 30g candied peel
  • 30g candied angelica
  • 4tbsp golden syrup
  • 1tsp treacle

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200c/180 fan/gas mark 4. Grease a couple of baking trays.

Sift the flour and ground spices into a bowl. Stir in the sugar. Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs.

Chop the peel and angelica into small pieces. Add to the bowl. Stir in the caraway seeds.

Gently warm the syrup and treacle in a saucepan or microwave until they are runny. Pour into the dry ingredients and mix together till it forms a stiff dough. If it seems a bit dry you can drizzle in a bit more syrup.

Divide into pieces about the size of a walnut, or just divide into the number of biscuits you want. Roll into balls, put on the baking trays, flatten slightly with your hand, and pop in the oven.

Bake for around 15 minutes, or until a rich golden brown. If you want a decorative effect on top, once the biscuits have puffed up and are starting to brown, squash them down the middle with a fork. This is purely optional.

They will still be soft when they come out the oven. Allow to firm up a little before transferring to a wire rack. Once cool, they should be crispy on the outside and delightfully chewy in the middle.

Ice-cream of the Month – Chocolate Oaty Biscuit

The idea for this ice-cream came to me all of a sudden, when trying to think of biscuits, ice-cream and dairy free foods all at the same time. Something like –

Dairy alternatives-oat milk-oats-Hobnobs-icecream…Eureka!

I’m not sure if I can call it Hobnob flavour, because it doesn’t have the actual biscuits in it (and copyright); but it does take the individual elements and make them into a glorious whole.

Normally  I would be extremely sceptical of non-dairy ice-cream, but honestly, this was amazing! If you want to go gluten free, then just use gluten free oats. It you don’t need to be dairy free and can’t get one of the ingredients, then just use regular milk or cream. I guess if you wanted to go vegan you could thicken the custard with cornflour, but the finished product wouldn’t quite have the right taste or texture.

Chocolate Oaty Biscuit Ice-cream

Ingredients:

  • 400ml oat “milk” (I used Innocent brand)
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 1tsp cornflour
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 70g golden syrup
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 200ml tub of oat “cream” ( I used Oatly creme fraiche)

For the oat crumble:

  • 100g rolled oats
  • 100g golden syrup
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 40g dark chocolate

Method:

In a large bowl, beat together the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour.

Heat the oat milk in a saucepan till almost boiling, then pour over the egg yolks, beating well the whole time.

Turn the heat down. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan. Stir over a moderate heat with a spatula or wooden spoon, until the mixture starts to thicken. Don’t cook for too long or it will curdle.

Remove from heat and stir in the salt, syrup and vanilla. Put the oat cream in a jug and pour the custard in, beating with a fork to combine. Put aside to cool, then chill in the fridge.

To make the oat crumble:

Toast the oats in a large frying pan. This will take around 3 minutes. You want the oats to have a nice nutty, toasty smell but not to be significantly browned.

Remove from heat and stir in the salt and syrup. Return to the heat, stirring quickly, for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and tip the oats onto an oiled baking tray to cool down.

When cool, break into small pieces. Chop the chocolate into small pieces, mix with the oat chunks, and put in the fridge to chill.

When everything is chilled, follow your ice-cream machines instructions, remembering to add two thirds of the oat/chocolate mixture when prompted. Keep the remaining oat crumble to use as a topping.

If you don’t have an ice cream maker, you can put the chilled custard in a tupperware container in the freezer. Every hour, break up the ice crystals with a fork or whisk. When it is almost completely frozen, mix in 2/3 of the oat crumble and leave in the freezer to set.

To serve, remove from freezer and allow to soften for 5-10 minutes before scooping, as it sets quite firmly.

The Good Life

This book review has been a long time coming because I’ve been busy doing studenty things at university; now it’s lockdown/holiday, let’s see if we can catch up a bit. Actually lockdown has been a good opportunity to catch up on the recipes in this book, because there are like, a lot…

In the early 1930’s Florence White was concerned that the English way of life was going down the drain; people couldn’t cook properly anymore and were eating too much fancy foreign muck. I wonder if she read the Daily Mail too?

Before our precious traditions were “crushed out of existence” she endeavoured to compile a book of traditional and regional recipes. Some came from older books, others were sent in by the man (or woman) on the street. Strangely enough these traditional recipes include various curry and pillau dishes, and lump in Stotch, Irish and Welsh dishes under the general banner of “England” but we’ll gloss over that.

The methods aren’t always clear, some ingredients are nigh on impossible to find, some recipes are just gross; but it was interesting to see how, and indeed how little, English food has changed over the centuries. So here goes..

Good Things in England by Florence White. First published 1932

Why did you buy the book?

I think it’s mentioned as one of the all time classic cookbooks in Nicola Humble’s marvellous book Culinary Pleasures, an excellent reference for beginner collectors.

Judge a book by it’s cover…

It’s naff, but it was the seventies so we’ll let them off. You’ve never seen a less appetizing salmon roll in your life.

Do you use it?

Not necessarily to cook from, but as a useful reference when researching vintage recipes.

What did you make?

A bunch of stuff. There are a lot of sections, so I tried to cover a bit of everything, which is probably why it’s taken me six months. Ok, we tried mock turtle soup (but without the calf’s head) which was nice, could be used a an interesting starter for a themed dinner party; baked fish with bacon and peas, mock hare – basically a fillet of beef seasoned like game – then ‘Hindle Wakes’ a slow cooked chicken flavoured with lemon and prunes, then coated with streaky bacon and finished in the oven, I recall that one being pretty good. For pudding we had apple pie scented with rosewater, Ripon ginger cake, Shrewsbury cakes (actually biscuits), Gypsy bread and Yorkshire mint pasties (more on those later). I wanted to make the older version of Bath buns but you just can’t get caraway comfits anymore!

Image
Hindle Wakes

Is it still in print?

Surprisingly, yes. It must really be a classic then.

Is it worth buying?

That’s a tough question. You won’t find it much good for everyday cooking. Modern tastes and reliable supplies of food mean we’re unlikely to be making brain sauce or rook pie anytime soon; we don’t need seven ways to cure meat or sixteen varieties of gingerbread. However, it is interesting from a historical or research point of view, or if you like collecting vintage books.

Henry I died from a “surfeit of lampreys”, a gross slimey fish.

Happy Little Accidents?

Painter Bob Ross, famously said something along the lines of “There are no mistakes, only happy little accidents”. Does this apply to recipe fails, as well as trees? Sometimes. Not always.

The way the macarons turned out was rather dissapointing, especially considering how much time and effort goes into making them. Thankfully in this case there was a soloution. Macarons are made with egg whites, leaving several unused egg yolks. Instead of letting them go to waste, I use them to make ice cream.Well, you can get cookies ‘n’ cream ice cream, so why not macarons ‘n’ cream. After all, they were already broken into handy bite sized pieces. It’s even good enough to re-start Ice Cream of the Month!

So now you know what to do if you make a total pigs ear of your macarons, or if you inexplicably find yourself with a pile of macarons that need using up quickly. I’ve left the ice cream plain, so you could use any flavor of macarons you liked, mine were coffee flavoured.

Macaron Chunk Ice Cream

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 300ml milk
  • 90g sugar
  • 400ml double cream
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • 150g – 200g crumbled macarons (any flavour)

Put the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour in a bowl and whisk to combine. Heat the milk to boiling point.

Pour the milk onto the egg yolks, whisking the whole time. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and heat gently, stirring the whole time with a wooden spoon or spatula (the whisk won’t make enough contact with the bottom of the pan, risking a burnt and lumpy custard) until the custard has thickened to the consistency of cream and remove from the heat.

Pour into a large jug and add the double cream. Cool in the fridge. Chill the macaron crumbs in the freezer.

Make the ice cream following the instructions for your machine, adding the macaron crumbs when prompted, or towards the end when the ice cream is nice and thick. If you don’t have an ice cream machine you can pour the custard into  a 1.5 litre tupperware container and put it in the freezer. Every couple of hours, stir with a fork to break up large ice crystals. When it is fairly thick but still stirable, add the macaron crumbs.

Apparently the first macrons were made in Italy rather than France.

Mediocre Macarons

Macarons were all the rage a few years ago, and are still a firm favourite with the Instagram baking crowd. And why not? They’re pretty, versatile, delicious, and gluten free. So it is with sadness that I pronounce this book a big “nope” and consign it to the charity shop.

Admittedly macarons are not for beginners. It’s not that they’re hard per se, but you need to be familiar with the techniques. But then again, I’m not exactly a beginner having made successful macarons a couple of times in the past (from a different book).

Macarons By Annie Rigg. Ryland, Peters and Small, 2011.

“Chic and delicious French treats”

One of my biggest gripes about some cookbooks is the assumption on the writers part that you already know what they’re talking about, without any explanation. For example: the first instruction is to mix the ground almonds and icing sugar in a blender. I don’t actually have a blender, so I mixed it with a spoon. The macarons failed spectacularly, one of the reasons being that the ground almonds are not fine enough and need to be chopped even finer or your macaron mixture will not work. Did the book point this out? Nope. There were several other points at which I made small mistakes that led to ultimate failure, and which I wouldn’t have made if the author had gone to the effort of explaining. So here is a shortened review

Judge a book by it’s cover.

It’s beautiful! And a cute size.

Why did you buy it?

To replace my previous macaron book, which had some bizarre flavour combinations and wasn’t nearly as classy looking. Also I am theoretically a fan of the author.

Is it worth buying?

I dunno. If you’re a macaron fanatic and are 100% familiar with all the techniques then it might be worth having. Otherwise use an Internet tutorial which will guide you through each step. Or better still, leave the macron making to that one friend who is good at it. I’m certainly never making them again.

Yes, it is still in print.

Want to see my macarons? Cheeky!

Oh, and the tray will be joining the book at the charity shop.

But what happened to the macarons? Wait for the next post…

Bird’s Nest Cookies

“There’s a change in the air, you can smell it. Fresh growth is sprouting under the weak sunshine and the birds in the garden are busy collecting nesting materials. The domestic birds: Verity, Scootaloo, Meg and Moriarty, can feel it too and laying is in full swing. Visitors are compelled to leave with half a dozen eggs whether they like it or not.”

This is an extract from one of my early posts. Sadly all of these hens are long since deceased. They are ‘ex-chickens’, who have shuffled off this mortal coil and ceased to be.* Sadly we no longer keep hens at all; the garden of Crumb Villa is just too small. I do miss them though. The main bird life around here is enormous crows, and seagulls. We don’t live anywhere near the coast, but every morning they wake me up at 5 am shouting “Bleurgh”, or making noises that sound like hysterical crying.

We may not have any fresh eggs to offer visitors anymore, but with Easter over, it’s a good time to buy chocolate eggs at a reduced price and make these yummy bird’s nest biscuits instead. You probably already have recipes for shortbread and chocolate crispy cakes, so go rootle them out and gather the ingredients. You will also need a bag of marshmallows (the proper ones, not Flumps) and about 200g of chocolate mini eggs.

Birds Nest Biscuits

  • A batch of round shortbread bicuits (I used about 10, with some left over). You could use ready made ones if you like.
  • A batch of  chocolate cornflake or rice crispy cake mix
  • Marshmallows
  • Chocolate mini eggs

Bake the shortbread until pale gold in colour (unless you are using store bought).  Cut some marshmallows in half and put half a mallow on each biscuit. Pop them back in the oven for a couple of minutes until the mallow has melted slightly (if using store bought, preheat the oven to a medium high temperature for this step). Transfer them to a wire rack to cool.

Prepare the chocolate cornflake mix. Put a large spoonful of mixture on top of each biscuit, covering the marshmallow. Press three chocolate eggs on top of each one and leave till the chocolate has set.

Don’t do what I did, and try to melt all of the marshmallows at once in a saucepan. You will never get the resulting sticky mess as far as the biscuits; have you ever read the story of Brer Rabbit and the tar baby? Need I say more!

*Search for ‘The Parrot Sketch’ by Monty Python’s Flying Circus on YouTube

Toffee Apple Flapjacks

Picnic season is upon us. Pack your blanket, waterproofs, swimming costume, sun screen, umbrella, wellies, sun hat, a flask of tea and let’s go!

The British weather certainly keeps things interesting! Anyone who has taken a break at the seaside will recall the biting Atlantic winds, sandy sandwiches and sitting huddled in the car while it pours with rain, because there’s nowhere else to go. We can have snow in April, balmy days in Bournemouth in the winter and everything else in between. Sometimes the sun shines (“Phew, what a scorcher!”) Be prepared for anything, but don’t let it stop you getting out and having fun!

This year I bought Mr Crumbs membership of the National Trust as an anniversary present and we are trying to tick of as many places as possible before it runs out. Thankfully not having to pay to get in means we can take advantage of the excellent cafês and tea shops instead of having to eat sarnies on a bench in the rain, which is nice. But there is something rather romantic about a traditional picnic in beautiful surroundings, so I’m on the lookout for recipes and ideas for picnic food that it easy to prepare, easy to eat and (most importantly) travels well! These toffee apple flapjacks fit the bill nicely, even Eldest Son who is not keen on flapjacks raved about these. Simply change the oats to gluten free oats, for a gluten free option.

Toffee Apple Flapjacks

  • 3 dessert apples
  • juice of ½ a lemon
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 130g toffees (I used Werthers toffee, because it’s softer than a lot of other brands and is easier to cut up)
  • 140g butter
  • 140g golden syrup
  • 50g brown sugar
  • 250g rolled oats
  • pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 180°c/160 fan/gas mark 4. Grease and line a square cake tin or traybake tin.

Peel, core and chop the apples. Put in a small saucepan with the lemon juice and caster sugar, simmer gently until soft. Puree till smooth. Chop the toffees into smallish chunks. A greased knife or scissors will work best.

Measure out the oats into a large bowl. Put the butter, brown sugar, syrup and salt in a saucepan and heat gently until the butter has melted. Pour the butter mixture and apple puree onto the oats and mix well. Stir in the toffee pieces.

Scrape everything into the prepared cake tin and bake for around 20 mins, until golden brown on top. Cool in the tin on a wire rack. Cut into squares or bars while still slightly warm.

Chocolate Chips and More

Last year, Buttered Crumbs went through a phase of adding various “chips” to biscuits. Mini chocolate eggs, Daim bar pieces, sugared almonds and so on. But I don’t think I ever got round to posting a basic chocolate chip cookie recipe, so here you go. It’s based on the recipe from the first Hummingbird Bakery book, and one of the best I’ve come across.

Have you seen those extra small chocolate mini eggs? They’re a fabulous alternative to choc chips or Smarties ( a British M&M) in a nice chunky cookie. Anyway, now is the time to buy some because you can only get them around Easter time

Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 115g  soft butter
  • 175g light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 200g plain flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1¼ bicarbonate of soda
  • 100g – 150g chocolate chips/ Smarties or similar

Makes around 12

Preheat the oven to 170°c (gas mark 3). Grease a couple of baking trays.

Beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract.

Sift the flour, salt and soda into the mixture and  mix until a soft dough is formed. Stir in the choc chips.

Roll the dough into balls about the size of a walnut ( or bigger, it’s up to you), pop them well apart on the baking trays. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden brown.

Allow to cool for a minute on the trays, if you try to move them too soon they will fall apart. Then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

I would love to know what wild and wonderful things you add to your cookies!

minieggs

 

Go Bananas

Buttered Crumbs approves of the war on waste. According to the Love Food, Hate Waste website, the items most frequently wasted are:

  1. Sliced bread
  2. Milk
  3. Potatoes

After that come fizzy drinks, cheese and apples. While bananas are in the top ten, I’m suprised they aren’t higher up the list. In my experience bananas are either green and under ripe or spotty and over ripe, perfect ripeness existing in theory only. Although sadly guilty of chucking out the aforesaid food stuffs on a regular basis (except milk), the amount of bananas that end up in the compost bucket would make a monkey weep.

What is even more shocking is that an over ripe banana can be popped in the freezer until you have enough to make banana bread or suchlike. Mr Crumbs insists on buying bananas that are very ripe, so in a couple of day’s they are inevitably squishy and brown, with that horrid vinegary smell. I can only eat a banana that is slightly green around the edges AND sliced into rounds. Peel one and eat it? Don’t disgust me!

Banana bread, cake and muffins are all good ways to use up fruit past it’s best, though I get put off by the weird black squiggly fibres, why are they black anyway? A different way to use them up is to make these delicious soft bake flapjacks, good for breakfast, snacks and lunchboxes.

Banana and Maple Syrup Flapjacks

  • 10 oz (300g) rolled oats
  • 4oz (120g) butter
  • 4oz (120g) brown sugar
  • 3 small or 2 medium very ripe bananas
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup

Grease and line a traybake tin. Preheat the oven to 170°c (150 fan, Gas mark 3)

Weigh the oats into a large bowl. Mash the bananas with a fork.  Melt the butter, sugar and maple syrup in a saucepan. Pour the melted stuff over the oats and mix well. Add the mashed bananas.

Pour the mixture into the tray and level the surface. Bake for around 20 mins or more, until the top is golden brown.

Cool in the tin then cut into squares. Makes 12 to 18 squares depending on how big you want them.

Buttered Crumbs Bake Off: Technical Challenge – Scones

Q: What’s the fastest cake in the world?

A: Scone!

The second technical challenge in series 1 of the Great British Bake Off was scones, Paul Hollywood’s scones to be precise. I did try them a while back but to be honest they weren’t anything special (try for yourself here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/paul_hollywoods_scones_70005) So rather than recreate his rather fussy recipe I’m going to share the recipe that I think makes the perfect scone.

A good scone should be light and fluffy, not dry and crumbly. It shouldn’t have so much baking powder in it that your teeth feel squeaky clean after eating it (like baking soda toothpaste) Enter Mrs Simpkins, author of the absoloutley essential ‘Tea With Mrs Simpkins’ http://www.mrssimkins.co.uk/

She has a lot to say about the art of making scones and quite frankly they are the best, and very simple to make. I didn’t think they could be improved on until today when I tried using buttermilk instead of milk, just that little extra moistness and richness of flavour, wow!

Mrs Simpkins Scones

  • 8oz (240g) plain flour
  • 1½oz (45g) very soft butter
  • 1oz (30g) caster sugar
  • 2tsp cream of tartar
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 5floz (140ml) warm milk or buttermilk Although you get a better rise with warm milk, it will work just fine with milk from the fridge

Makes from 4 to 8 scones depending on the size of the cutter used.

Pre heat the oven to 200°c/400f/gas mark 6. Grease a baking tray and find your biscuit cutter. I recommend a 2½ inch diameter cutter, they do grow much larger than this in the oven!

Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar into a large bowl. Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs then stir in the sugar.

Mix in the milk or buttermilk to make a sticky dough. With floured hands, briefly knead the dough on a floured surface only just long enough to bring everything together. If you overhandle the dough you will get tough scones!

I find it easiest to pat the dough out with my hands rather than trying to use a rolling pin, it is VERY sticky. Pat or roll if you must, till the dough is about an inch/2.5cm high. Stamp out rounds using a floured cutter, or if your’e feeling lazy just divide it into balls or cut into squares/wedges.

Place well apart on the baking tray and bake for around fifteen mins or until light brown ontop. I bake at 200º degrees even though most recipes say to go higher, but I know that my oven is rather fierce. It’s worth investing in an oven thermometer to check how your oven is performing.

You can brush egg wash on top if you like, I think it’s a waste of time and egg.

Cool on a wire rack. To serve, split in half and spread thickly with jam and clotted cream.

In England jam first v’s cream first can cause heated debates. Jam first is the Cornish way and cream first the Devonshire way. I prefer to spread the cream first because it is easier to spread the jam over the cream than vice versa, however I do think that jam then cream looks prettier…Gah, a very British dilemma!