davidn: (Default)
When we were snowed in a couple of weeks ago I asked my mum for her treacle scone recipe so we could have a fireside snack. I used to record my rare successes in the kitchen for future reference and wanted to revive doing so for this one, especially because I had to convert it all to America's stupid measurement system and wanted a place to write the altered recipe down.

Granny Bun's Treacle Scones

2 cups plain flour
Pinch of salt
4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 tbsp butter
1/2 cup milk (to start with - might need an extra 1/4 cup or so)
1 tbsp molasses

  1. Whisk or sift the flour, salt, baking powder, sugar and pumpkin pie spice into a bowl and mix it all together. (Originally the recipe calls for mixed spice, but pumpkin pie spice seems to be more readily available here and is almost identical)

  2. Chop the butter into pieces and rub it into the mixture with your hands until you have a uniformly crumbly mix.

  3. Pour the milk into a separate bowl and then mix the tablespoon of molasses into it so you have a concoction of... brown semi-sweet milk.

  4. Pour that into the dry ingredients and mix it together to get a soft cohesive but not sticky dough - add more milk if needed to stick it all together.

  5. Slap that on to a baking sheet, roll it out to half an inch thick, cut it up and bake for 12 to 15 minutes. You can roll it out and use a biscuit-cutter on it if you want, but I just use a pizza wheel to separate it into wedges.

  6. I did some icing with icing sugar, milk and more molasses, but it didn't work out very well. You can try if you like.

davidn: (savior)
It hasn't escaped my attention that I've been writing online a lot less recently. Short-form communication is nice for instantly showing people things, but if anyone goes back through social media after we're all dead, Twitter is not going to be something that even gets looked at. They'd have collapsed from boredom before getting through the first page.

So here's something I haven't done for a while - a recipe cataloguing another non-disaster in the kitchen. I say a 'recipe' but a lot of it is pretty imprecise - just feel your way as you go. That's always worked for me.

Rice Krispie Cake Thing

You will need
Some butter
Some Rice Krispies
A bag of marshmallows
A 12oz bag of milk chocolate chips
About 3oz of white chocolate chips
A strong constitution

Do this

The Rice Krispies layer is documented on the official site entirely dedicated to Rice Krispies - melt 3 tablespoons of butter slowly in a saucepan and add the marshmallows (it says 10 ounces but this is a ludicrous amount seeing as they're mostly made of air - I found an entire bag came out to only six ounces and it was enough). Then stir it around a bit, close the lid, turn up the heat, and peek in after about thirty seconds to see it all melting into a heap. Stir it to help it on its way and then add as much cereal as you need for the size you're going for (this isn't really an exact science).

Oil the pan you want to use and flop the resultant mixture into it - I did it in a nine-inch circular cake tin. If you have added enough marshmallow it will currently be the most difficult to handle napalm mess, but you can use a sheet of wax paper with oil or butter on it to spread it around without it sticking. Mould it around so that it's flat and compacted in the pan, then start on the chocolate.

Pour the entire bag of milk chocolate chips into a glass bowl and heat it up. Chocolate has to be handled carefully when heating, ideally in a double boiler, but I just used the microwave - put it in for a minute at first and then stir the chips around a bit, repeating the process with two more bursts of 30 seconds, and it should all be smooth. You don't want to overheat it because it'll set or blow up or something.

Once it's melted, pour the chocolate on top of the existing layer and then smooth it out with a spatula. Leave it to set - putting it in the fridge helps - and after an hour or so, perform the same melting process on the white chocolate to decorate the top. I emptied the melted white chocolate into a plastic bag and cut the tip off the bottom to make a crude piping device and just zig-zagged over the surface.

And once that's set a short while later, run a knife around the edge of the cake tin and - hopefully - it'll slide out smoothly. (I made sure to take a photo before I attempted this just in case I destroyed it.)


Dec. 16th, 2012 06:52 pm
davidn: (rabbit)
We made bread!

RavenWorks: and by "we", you mean Whitney will make it, and you will try not to let the ingredients spontaneously combust in your hands as you pass them to her? :)

Yes, quite. But after spending two weeks in Britain after three entire years away and realizing that Whitney's doughnut recipe is now actually better than Tesco's, I was filled with a new determination that the things that I miss the most can't be created by black magic (though come to think of it, this is the only rational explanation for Marmite) and they must be replicable by some human recipe. Bread is one of the most basic building blocks of modern life imaginable, and yet you can't get anything like British supermarket bread here. For people in America, it is very difficult to explain what's actually different about it (try to imagine bread, except... slightly better) - Canadian white bread actually comes the closest, but it's still nowhere near as substantial as the stuff that I used to know.

So we tried using this recipe, and after about a day of following the recipe (which is mostly of letting it sit around), we got some nice results - I don't think that you could quite build houses out of these loaves, but we at least got something approaching the kind of texture that you'd expect from a bag of Kingsmill. You can see it slightly better in the photo in the recipe than the one here - the texture is less... airy than bread here, while at the same time being soft. Perhaps "spongy" is an unappetizing but almost appropriate word - possibly helped by the way that the recipe contains a surprising quantity of sugar and butter (apparently I had really been eating toasted cake all my life).

The experiments are continuing.
davidn: (rabbit)
I had an appalling dream in which Jeremy Clarkson was now the co-presenter of Newsnight with Pax-Man (both coincidentally shown here in this classic video), and that they were interviewing Piers Morgan. Even in the dream I commented that the mass of concentrated ego was likely to make the room explode, but in real life, I think I'd quite like to see that just for the inevitable hilarious punch-up.

Anyway... I made some coconut biscuits for Whitney's return last weekend. Actually, after looking up the recipes I nearly accidentally made American "coconut biscuits", those things that look like scones but aren't, and I was only when I saw it said they went very well with chicken that I was inspired to change the recipe I was using at the last minute. I also went in to bother people working in the supermarket about "glacé cherries" in the full knowledge that they would have no idea what I was talking about, telling them that I was looking for the kind of cherries you bake with that are glazed and come in a tub - but they eventually found me exactly what I was looking for, here simply called Red Cherries.

They're called Coconut Moments because the appearance was based on a type of biscuit my mother used to make from the Be-Ro Cookbook of the Year 1796 called "Melting Moments". I can't remember if those had coconut in them - if they did, then it follows that these are in fact Melting Moments.

~ Coconut Moments ~

1. Combine 1 1/4 cups of flour, half a teaspoon of baking powder, half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda and a couple of pinches of salt.
2. Pulverize an entire stick of butter (half a cup) together with half a cup of brown sugar and half a cup of white sugar, in a mixer - this will be doing most of the work from now on.
3. Add the contents of an egg, and half a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Keep on beating.
4. Shake the flour mixture from the first step in slowly, letting it mix into the mass evenly.
5. Add 1 1/3 cups of desiccated (Amr: shredded) coconut (Amr: coconut).
6. Have at it for a while yet to get the coconut blended in, then give the mixer a rest.
7. Preheat the oven to 350°F and put the mixture in the fridge while it's at it, to give it a chance to get easier to spoon out.
8. Drop out the dough in teaspoon sizes (slightly smaller than you would expect) on to a baking tray, put them in the oven and watch for them being ready after ten minutes.
9. Slice some glacé cherries down the middle, ready for putting them on the biscuits when they come out.
10. Attack each biscuit by putting a cherry in the middle as soon as they're out of the oven, placing it firmly through the upper layer before they have a chance to start cooling, and the cherry will fuse to the biscuit.
11. Transfer them to a cooling rack after a couple of minutes and send the next lot in.

This recipe has quite a spectacular yield - some of the ones pictured are rather larger than directed in the above recipe and I got 30 out of this batch, but if you kept them down to an inch and a bit across each, I think that you could achieve fifty biscuits. But I guarantee that they'll disappear pretty quickly.
davidn: (Default)

I don't think I'll ever be able to explain why even though I'm lucky to make anything edible for my own dinner while surviving the experience with all my limbs intact, I still enjoy and am rather better at baking - it seems that as long as sugar is a primary ingredient of something, I'm perfectly all right. Last weekend, I made it my ambition to combine an oatmeal biscuit recipe I'd made before with a couple of extra steps, with the aim of making something approaching Hob Nobs.

~ Something Approaching Hob Nobs ~

You need these to make 12 biscuits:

3 oz butter
3 oz caster sugar
1 egg yolk
3 oz plain flour (doesn't even have to be modified for America)
Half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
A pinch of salt
1 oz rolled oats
1 oz of any sweet, oaty nugget-like cereal you can get your hands on. I used something called "Just Bunches" here, and in Britain, I think Crunchy Nut Clusters would work well.
6 oz chocolate chips for melting
Vegetable oil
A mixer
A microwave
An oven
Your hands

PROC Recipe

1. Cream the butter and sugar together into a sort of yellow sweet mass in an electric mixer. Then add these:

2. The egg yolk.

3. The flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt.

4. The oats.

5. The cereal.

6. Coldness. (Put it in the fridge for twenty minutes.)

7. Preheat the oven to 375F, 190C or Gas Mark 5, and oil up a baking sheet.

8. Hand-roll the mixture into balls, put them on the sheet and flatten them down with the bottom of a floured glass your fingers.

9. Bake them until they're golden brown. It takes about ten minutes, but you really have to watch them, because if they're in there for too long they'll just burn to a smouldering heap instantly.

10. Use a spatula to get them off the baking tray and upside-down on to a cooling rack (preferably with some paper underneath to catch drips for the next part).

11. Put the chocolate chips in a bowl and add a few drops of vegetable oil, then mix them around - and I really do mean "a few drops!" Even a teaspoonful is too much and will cause the chocolate never to solidify again once it's on the biscuits.

12. Microwave the oily chocolate. Be gentle with them - microwave for about thirty seconds and then stir them around, because the heat will transfer among them slowly - you don't want to burn them. Two trips into the microwave should do it.

13. By any means necessary, get the melted chocolate on to the undersides of the biscuits. You can do this by dipping them in, spatulaing the chocolate over them, or a combination of both. You could even slide them in so that one half is entirely chocolate-coated, but I'm not entirely sure how to dry them in this case.

14. Wait for the chocolate to harden. If you listened to me in step 11, store them in an airtight container. If you didn't, put them in the freezer - they'll solidify in there, and they're also nice if you eat them while they're frozen.

I've actually halved the original recipe because there's no chance that a two-person household can withstand more than twelve of these at a time - they're big and really very filling.
davidn: (Default)
If you'll allow me to redeem myself for a moment, I also made these last weekend, with the use of just seven fingers. And Whitney.

I will call them... "albino gingers". They came from a recipe I found while looking up ginger biscuits, and it didn't really work the first time - it needed a significant amount more flour than it said for them to stay biscuit-like instead of pancake-like, so this is the modified one - resulting in much lighter biscuits - that we came up with.

~ Albino Gingers ~

Loads of stuff
3 cups of plain flour
0.75 cup of margarine
1 cup of sugar
2.5 tsp ground ginger
1.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
0.5 tsp ground cloves
0.25 tsp salt
1 egg
1 tblsp orange juice
0.25 cup of treacle/molasses/golden syrup (the first you can get your hands on)
2 more tablespoons of sugar (just to be safe)

(Makes about 36)

But what you do with it's easy
1. Put the flour, ginger, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt together, therefore getting most of the ingredients out the way early on.

2. Cream the margarine and the cup of sugar together (taking care not to eat it all at this stage), beat in the egg, then stir in the juice and whatever treacle-like substance you chose.

3. Combine the two amalgamations above together by stirring the dry ingredients into the wet ones.

4. Put the remaining sugar into a tray, roll the resultant doughy mixture in it in balls about the size of walnuts, then press them into disc shapes on ungreased baking trays.

5. Bake them at 350F for about ten minutes, and let them cool slightly before attempting to move them.

I think that their lighter-than-normal colour comes from us having used half golden syrup in place of the original molasses, and because of the expansion of flour compared to other ingredients to get them to stay in biscuit form. They have a light ginger taste, but are heavier than you would expect from looking at them!

I also realize that by this point, my measurement confusion is at a point where absolutely nobody will get through this recipe without a conversion table.


Apr. 16th, 2010 01:20 pm
davidn: (rabbit)
I made something new last weekend!

Point out my suspect choice of recipe source all you like, but this one came from [livejournal.com profile] cookingfailures - a post about a failure to make ASDA children's Easter cakes (which sounded about my kind of level) that I was immediately inspired to try myself, mostly in fascination of the way that you cut the cake into squares before icing the pieces so that you had the opportunity to put more toothrot per square inch on to them. Here, as far as I could make out from squinting at it, is the recipe.

Alphabet Cube Cake Things

275g butter
150g golden syrup
150g clear honey
125g caster sugar
4 medium free-range eggs
350g self-raising flour
450g (yes) icing sugar
Yellow colouring
Writing icing

1. Preheat the oven to 160C (320F in the measurement system I had to use) and line a cake tin with wax paper or whatever it's called in Britain
2. Put the butter (cubed), golden syrup, honey and caster sugar into a pan and heat them gently until they've all melted together into a sort of sickly mass.
3. Pour this into a bowl and leave it to stand for 10 minutes.
4. Add the eggs and sift the flour into it, then whisk it until it's a smooth batter.
5. Pour this into the cake tin and bake it for about 45 minutes, then leave it to stand for another 15 minutes.
6. Cut the resulting plank into cubes (you can work out the logistics of this for yourself).
7. Make up the icing sugar quite thickly with the yellow colouring, then once that's set, apply random letters to the top (or other symbols as well if you get fed up, as demonstrated above).

I quickly found out that the cakes were deceptively difficult to ice, because you have to use a positively Wingeresque* explosion of it to cover the surface of them all and have it dripping the right way - the surface of the cakes will not be uniformly horizontal as the picture on the recipe would have you believe! All you can do is spoon it over them very quickly and hope that most of them settle right, without causing too much of a flood of spare icing around the entire kitchen.

It has to be said that they didn't turn out quite as well as I'd hoped, but they weren't completely terrible for a first attempt at them and some value is reclaimed by the way that you can play about with them - you feel a compulsion to keep rearranging the cakes to form sentences that make sense, though admittedly my batch currently spells E@T A HORSE. I had one when I was on Skype to my parents and my dad said "I can see why it says '?' - 'am I edible?'" and "I hope they're eaten by this evening, or they'll glow in the dark". (He's where I get it from.) They were nice enough when freshly made, but they quickly deteriorated.

I think that I overcooked the cake a little (the instructions say more time than I've reported here) and it came out too dry, but having used Splenda instead of sugar might also have had something to do with it - I thought that the batter was very substantial even before cooking it, so it's possible that more liquid would help. On the positive side, they're absolutely nowhere near as sickly as you would think they were from the initial sugar-honey-syrup-butter napalm that you're directed to concoct.

* Do not look up
davidn: (Jam)
Knowing my usual escapades in the kitchen by now you would probably be surprised that I was ever allowed anywhere near that end of the flat, but I have one skill there that isn't genetically suppressed (or washing up) - somehow, I do have a baking ability. I made some very nice scones for a brunch gathering the other week.

Trouble was I was using a recipe for pancakes.
Not Pancakes

8 ounces of self-raising flour
3 ounces of sugar
2 eggs
About 6 tablespoons of milk, or as much as it takes to make it behave reasonably like a pancake mixture

1. Throw all the above together into a mixer for a couple of minutes (Traditional Scottish method: Stir with a wooden spoon for three hours)
2. Drop them out on to a hot griddle or frying pan one tablespoonful at a time (use a two-spoon scraping method for maximum efficiency)
3. Turn them over when they bubble on the surface

And that's about it. I'd got the recipe for them from my mum, and I remember it coming from a Be-Ro cookbook which was published in about 1796 that we keep on the shelf, under the name "Dropped Scones". But they'd always been... flatter, as I knew them before - these turned out to be about three quarters of an inch thick.

Perhaps it's due to self-raising flour not really existing anywhere I've been to in America, and an acceptable substitute being adding a ratio of baking powder and salt to plain flour, making them rise more than expected. Or it could be that a tablespoon is a lot smaller in America, and so I guessed the amount of milk wrongly (I would actually guess that ten American tablespoons is closer to what you want). It could be that either of those differences have somehow turned the recipe I always knew as pancakes into what they were always intended to be. Whatever these are, though, they were very nice.
davidn: (bald)
I've been inundated with requests for the recipe to the Squared Cake. Actually that's a blatant lie, I haven't received a single one, but I thought that writing it up would be a good way to keep on revelling in my bakery-inspired bigheadedness for a while. Besides, I think that having some sort of easily available recipe library (now two in total) will be useful in case I ever have to bake something in an emergency. It might yet happen.

Credit goes to Carol Vorderman off How 2 for inspiring this cake, for which I saw the theory about ten years ago but never got around to actually putting into practice until last week. That's where the idea came from - the actual procedure I just made up as we went along. It should make a reasonably large cake that should serve eight to ten people... I don't know, look at the entry below to get an idea of the size.

~ Squared Cake ~

Stuff Needed
6 eggs
Castor sugar
Self-raising flour
A conversion table, probably
Chocolate powder
Icing sugar
About two hours for the manufacture (much less if using two cake pans)
A spare night to let it solidify
The oven preheated to 190°C
An appointment at the dentist

  1. Ideally, you should have two eight or nine-inch cake pans so that you can do both the sponges at the same time, but we used just one. Grease and flour one, grease and chocolate powder the other.
  2. For the plain layer, beat three of the eggs, 1/2 cup of castor sugar and 3/4 of a cup of self-raising flour in a bowl, then pour into the plain pan.
  3. Do the same for the chocolate sponge, replacing about half the flour with chocolate powder.
  4. Bake both of these for about twenty minutes - test them with a cake tester (or, if you're as ill-equipped as us, just use a knife).
  5. Leave the cakes upside-down to cool and solidify a bit for half an hour. The reason to leave them upside down is to try and let them settle into a reasonably flat shape, as you'll be stacking them - it's up to you to decide whether this actually helps.

  1. Here's the interesting bit. Using a bowl or a plate or something as a template, cut a circle into the centre of each sponge. The aim is to leave an outer circle of about the same width as the height of the sponge. It doesn't matter if it's a bit off, but be careful that you keep the knife reasonably upright and don't tear the rest of the cake too much with it. The best way to cut it cleanly is to use a small knife, stick it in the cake, then induce a muscle spasm in your hand to rapidly twitch it up and down as you cut round. Remove the template and run the knife around the trench to free it of the outer circle.
  2. Once that circle's done, do the same again with a mug in the centre of the smaller circle that you've just cut. Try and make the layers roughly equal in width - it doesn't really matter about the size of the centre, as you can even cut out another circle if you're feeling confident.
  3. Swap the two middle circles of the sponges round - the sponge recipe is quite sturdy, so it should hopefully be easy to do this without breaking them. You now have two complete cakes of alternating flavours.

  1. Mix up a positively obscene amount of chocolate icing. I don't know the measurements for this, so you'll have to use your imagination. Spread this icing between each circle so that they're glued together.
  2. Cover the top of one doctored sponge in icing, then place the other on top of it. Make sure that they're aligned with each other.
  3. Slather this entire arrangement in as much icing as possible - the icing for the outside should be fairly thick but still spreadable. Ideally, you don't want the concentric cracks in the top of the cake showing through, or the join in between the layers.
  4. The decorations are optional, so do whatever you like. We made up a bit more icing (plain this time) and piped it around the edge of the cake using a small plastic bag. The top of the cake was done by piping parallel lines on to it, then dragging a fork lightly through them (but a skewer would be much more suitable). If you're going to do this, make sure the icing is still wet, otherwise the tracks you make will show. If you get this decoration to work, award yourself a biscuit.
  5. Cover the cake with a bowl, turn the lights out and sing it a lullaby.
  6. Eat the rest of the icing and stay up all night. (Largely optional.) The icing on the cake will have solidified.

  1. Because of the large amount of icing, this is a pretty sturdy cake. No matter how well you've glued it, you have to be careful when cutting the cake, or the squares will come apart. Saw into it gently, and make sure that you've separated an entire piece before trying to move it - any tugging and you'll probably only get half a slice out.
  2. Take photographs of the cake and post about it on the Internet.
davidn: (Default)

Since the mention of sticky toffee pudding in my last entry, I've had requests for the recipe from [livejournal.com profile] mercuryanna and [livejournal.com profile] adararose_2, who both had the opportunity to try the AMH version of it while in Scotland. I'll put the recipe I use up here - this attempt came out of a second year H.E. class, and is the only thing I remember from it.

Some ingredients might not be readily available in America - there was a bit of difficulty getting self-raising flour and double cream there. I think "heavy whipping cream" is close enough to double cream, and if you can't find self-raising flour, plain flour and baking powder will do, but you'll have to guess the amount. Also, feel free to replace white and/or brown sugar with demerara sugar, it works just as well for both of them.

As for measures, they're all in metric, which everyone in Britain uses except my house. But on the Internet, a conversion table is never far away. Remember, as said in the H.E. handbook, this is obscenely full of margarine and sugar and so on, so try not to have heart attacks.

~ Sticky Toffee Pudding ~

50g margarine
150g caster sugar
2 eggs
200g self-raising flour
100g dates
2.5ml baking soda
250ml boiling water

100g margarine
100g brown sugar
250ml double cream

Gas Mark 5 (190˚C or 375˚F) for 30 - 40 minutes

  1. Set the oven and grease an ovenproof dish. (Or if you're like me, don't bother, it never seems to make much difference.) Actually, I find that a casserole dish works best for baking it.
  2. Cut the dates up into small pieces. This is an awkward job - get someone else to do it (fiancee?) if possible. How large your date chunks should be depends on your preference, but pretty miniscule works best for me.
  3. Place the chopped pieces in a bowl with baking soda and pour boiling water over them, so that the water just covers the dates.
  4. Set that aside for later on.
  5. Break the eggs one at a time into a cup then into a small bowl, or directly in to the small bowl if you're feeling confident.
  6. Cream the margarine and sugar in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Try not to eat it all on the spot.
  7. Beat the eggs in gradually.
  8. Fold in the flour, sieving it as you go. The mixture will become stiff as you reach the end.
  9. Pour a little of the water out of the date mixture, then add the remainder to the main mixing bowl. The aim is to make a liquid but reasonably thick substance - it will probably appear too watery at first, but keep stirring and things should work out fine.
  10. Pour into the prepared dish and bake. I find the guide of 30 to 40 minutes pretty conservative, it often needs more time.

  11. To make the sauce, just throw the sauce ingredients into a large pan together, and mix them until all the lumps are eliminated.
  12. Bring it to the boil. (This wasn't actually an official part of the recipe, but I find that it works best to thicken it.) Once it's bubbling, turn the heat off.
  13. When the sponge is ready, pour a little sauce over it to moisten, then put the rest in a jug for pouring over it.
  14. (Optional) Add a little milk to the sauce if it thickens too much - it will if it's left standing for a while.

Good luck!

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