Tea Time Treats

I love afternoon tea, I really do. A delicious spread of tiny treats makes me feel like a little girl playing ‘grown up ladies’. We used to do it on a regular basis, and a least once a year we would have a large gathering of friends round for tea and scones, but it hardly ever happens now, and using the next book reminded me why. Ah, chronic fatigue! What a chronic pain in the bum. I just don’t have the energy to spent all morning making cake, scones, pastry and sandwiches, and socialise. In fact, I just can’t be on my feet for any length of time these days; it’s very demoralising. I still love afternoon tea though. Pass the scones please.

Miss Hope’s Teatime Treats by Hope and Greenwood. Ebury Press, 2012.

“Cream tea, cake and cucumber sandwiches”

Where do we start? Hope and Greenwood describe themselves as “Purveyors of splendid confectionery”. We might describe them as a chain of high end traditional sweet shops; you may have seen their products in the supermarket, or caught their BBC series a few years ago.

So why did you buy it?

Flicking through the pages in the bookshop, I thought it was cute but not worth getting, as I already had so many similar recipes at home. Then something caught my eye… The introduction to each recipe ranged from amusing anecdotes to insanely bizarre humour, right up my street!

Judge a book by it’s cover…

It’s attractive in a kitsch sort of way, but like I said, you wouldn’t guess what it was really like inside.

Do you use it?

Not really, but I often read it.

What did you make?

I used a recipe from each section – savouries, cakes, pastry, and drinks, to get a feel for the book. What impressed me most was the accuracy of timings and quantities . Many, many recipes seem to give you too much or too little of various things, but these were spot on.

I made cucumber and strawberry sandwiches; it sounds like a strange combination but it really works, everybody loved them.

Then we had Jaffa Cake Madelines (not pictured) and Blueberry Bakewell tarts – which may not have been the best I’ve ever tasted, but were still excellent, then Sicillian Lemonade – which is really a lemon cordial that you top up with soda water – and is absurdly delicious!

Is the book still in print?

It seems to be out of print at the moment, but readily available second hand. The kindle version is still available.

Is it worth buying?

Yes, the recipies are reliable and it’s a jolly fun read.

Find out about Hope and Greenwood at www.hopeandgreenwood.co.uk

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…

Chocolate Horlicks Cake

It’s been a week since me and my youthful college Chums completed our English A level exam, though it feels like an eternity. Since then the weather has been wet and gloomy – hellooo British summer time! I’ve also been “under the weather” metaphorically with a yucky cold.

Today’s cake is a big warm hug on a plate, ideal for when you need a bit of comfort and a big cup of tea.

The recipe is a variation on the malted milk cake I posted a couple of years ago, only made with instant chocolate Horlicks instead of regular Ovaltine (both malt based hot drinks), and some lovely crunchy chunks of Maltesers in the icing. You can use another brand of ‘chocolate covered malt balls’ (catchy ain’t it), but I have yet to find one that tastes anywhere near as good as Maltesers.

Chocolate Horlicks Cake

  • 4oz (120g) butter
  • 7oz (210g) golden caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 8oz (240g) plain flour
  • 4oz (120g) instant chocolate Horlicks powder
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • 8floz (230ml) milk

Grease and line two sandwich cake tins. Pre heat the oven to 170°c/150 fan/gas mark 4.

Using a hand mixer or wooden spoon, beat together the butter and sugar. Whisk in the eggs.

Sift together the flour, Horlicks and baking powder. Add to the mixture in three or four stages, alternating with the milk until everything is well blended.

Divide between the cake tins and bake for around 20 mins until golden brown and springy to the touch. Allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes then finish cooling on a wire rack.

For the buttercream icing:

  • 4oz (120g) soft butter
  • 8oz sifted icing sugar
  • 4 tbsp Horlicks powder
  • 4 to 6 tbsp milk
  • 100g Maltesers or similar

Put everything in a big bowl and mix together, adding more milk if necessary for a soft spreading consistency.

Crush the Maltesers into chunks with the end of a rolling pin and stir into the buttercream.

Use half to sandwich the cakes together and spread the other half on top.

Malt is made from sprouted barley.