Tag Archives: flour

Farmhouse Butter Biscuits

A lovely simple biscuit, quick and easy to work with and it gives a delightfully crisp buttery biscuit.  Nothing fancy at all, as simple and wholesome as a biscuit can get! These biscuits remind me of some I had as a child at a farmhouse on the way to the lake district. There were no such things as hygiene certificates then, this was literally the farmer’s wife selling tea and biscuits in her kitchen and they were some of the best I’ve ever had!

Makes 18 biscuits

125g butter, softened
70g golden caster sugar (Plus a few tsp extra for sprinkling)
1 egg yolk
160g plain flour
small pinch of salt

  • Heat the oven to gas mark 5 and prepare two baking trays with baking paper.
  • Cream together the butter and the sugar in a small mixing bowl.
  • Add the egg yolk and beat well to combine.
  • Add the flour and the salt (if your flour is at all lumpy do sift it in as it will mix easier).
  • Bring all the ingredients together into a soft dough.  It can help to use your hand to get it all together in the last bit.
  • Pinch off small walnut sized balls of dough and roll them in your palms to shape into rounds.
  • Place on the baking tray and use the heel of your palm to squish them flat.
  • Sprinkle the tops with the extra sugar.
  • Bake for 10 minutes until the edges are just starting to colour.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to sit on the tray for 5 minutes before trying to move them as they will break otherwise.
  • Allow to cook on a wire rack.
  • Put on a pot of tea and enjoy!
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Filed under Cookies and Biscuits, Easy, quick

Gingerbread

I love making a gingerbread house at Christmas time.  However, I’m never any good at eating it.  When you’ve worked so hard to assemble this work of edible art it’s heartbreaking to have to destroy it.  Therefore I thought what about a gingerbread village?  Little houses so you could eat them one at a time and not feel bad for destroying your entire creation!  So that’s what I did. 

These have been a labour of love I tell you!  I actually made the gingerbread weeks ago but never quite had the time to sit down and get on with putting them together.  As a result I ate a bunch of the sweets I had been going to use and there were more than a few breakages and someone, I’m looking at you dad, ate a roof tile.  In theory this recipe makes 6 little gingerbread cottages.  I got 3.  But such is life. 

This gingerbread dough isn’t perhaps the ideal one you’re looking for to make houses but it does make an excellent biscuit.  It spreads a little inconsistently while baking so I got some wonky bits and the dough is easiest to work with while still warm, after that it starts to crack a little while you’re handling it.  For that reason I haven’t given you the pattern I used for my houses, but they were about 3″x4″.  Next year I’ll be trying a different recipe for my houses but for biscuits to eat or hang on the tree I think this could be a winner. 

  Makes 6 3″x4″ houses or, in theory, 1 large house.  Make 1/2 if for biscuits unless you need dozens. 

250g unsalted butter
200g dark muscovado sugar
7 tbsp golden syrup
600g plain flour
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
4 tsp ground ginger

– Heat the oven to gas mark 6 and find every baking tray in the house. 
– Melt together the butter, sugar and syrup in a large pan. 
– Put the flour, bicarbonate of soda and ground ginger in a large mixing bowl and mix them together. 
– Pour the melted butter mixture into the flour and mix well with a spoon until a dough is formed. 
– Roll out the dough to a thickness of 5mm.  (You will have to do this in batches unless you’re very good and have a large work surface.)
– Cut out your shapes and place on lined baking trays. 
– Bake for 10-12 minutes watching carefully because it is very easy to burn these.  Try to get the houses each on one tray so they’re a consistent colour. 
– Allow to cool on the trays for 5 minutes until hard then cool completely on a wire rack. 
– Repeat for the rest of the batches. 

To assemble the houses I use a ‘glue’ made from 200g icing sugar and 2-3 tbsp boiling water.  You can use royal icing if you want it to be stronger but this tastes much better.  I pipe strips of icing down the edges of the ‘sides’ then carefully press all 4 walls together, you may need an extra pair of hands for this part.  Then I allow that stage to dry.  Once dried I put on the roof tiles again by piping strips of icing all around the top of the house then very gently pressing down the tiles.  Then I pipe a line along the apex.  The chimneys, if making, are done in almost exactly the same way.  I leave the houses to dry, preferably for an hour, then get on with decorating with sweets using the same kind of ‘glue’ to stick everything on. 

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Christmas Pie

Christmas is tradtionally a time of leftovers.  We’ve got just about all of the sandwich suitable turkey off it now so now it is time to think of other things to make with the bits and pieces left over.  There are lots of options available but few I’d actually enjoy.  Pie seemed the way to go.  Not only can you use the turkey but there’s nothing stopping you from using up some stuffing or leftover vegetables or even a few dollops of cranberry sauce.  Got a ham? Pop it in too!  Whatever is left or takes your fancy, within reason, then in it goes!  I usually keep things simple.  I might do turkey, stuffing and cranberry but I’d leave out the vegetables.  Ham, turkey and vegetables go well together too.  If you’ve got a lot of mash then why not skip the pastry and use that?  It really does depend entirely upon what you have and what you like.  If you’ve only got turkey to play with then a simple turkey and mushroom pie is great too. 

Makes 1 average pie dish serving 4 people. 

For the pastry:
225g plain flour
pinch of salt
50g butter, chilled and diced
50g Trex (white vegetable fat), chilled and diced
3-4 tbsp chilled water

– Mix together the flour and salt.
– Add the butter and Trex and rub into the flour with your fingertips until it looks like breadcrumbs. 
– Add 3 -4 tbsp cold water by sprinkling it evenly over the surface fo the mixture.  (I used 3 tbsp and a bit.)
– Using a flat bladed knife mix it together until it forms a dough. 
– Gather it together with your hands and lightly knead for a few seconds to bring it together. 
– Form the dough into a ball and wrap it in clingfilm.  Place it in the fridge for 30 minutes. 

For the filling:
1 onion, chopped
Turkey/ham/vegetables/stuffing/etc.
a good splash of olive oil
2 tbsp cornflour
1/2 pint chicken stock

– First saute your onion with a pinch of salt in a little oil in a frying pan.  Add whatever leftovers you’re using and stir gently to combine. 
– In a separate small pan add a good splash of oil, at least enough to cover the base of the pan. 
– Gently heat this until it just starts to shimmer a bit then add the corn flour.  Whisk rapidly to combine. 
– Pour in your chicken stock, still whisking and keep stiring until it is a smooth sauce. 
– Pour this sauce into the other pan and stir well to mix. 

To make pie:

– Lightly flour the worksurface and the rolling pin, not the pastry. 
– Turn out the chilled dough onto the worksurface and roll it out in one direction, turning it as you go until it reaches about 3 mm thick. 
– Place your pie dish upsidedown on top of the pastry and cut a line around the dish about 1 cm out to leave room for shrinkage. 
– Cut a second line around this about 1.5 cm thick.
– Fill the pie dish with the filling.
– Moisten the edge of your dish with a finger dipped in water then press the 1.5 cm thick strip round the outside of the dish trimming the length to fit.   
– Moisten this pastry with water again then lay the rest of the pastry over the top using the rolling pin to help lift it across. 
– I fluted the edges of this pie.  It’s very simple.  You basically place the thumb and index finger of one hand on the ‘inside’ of the pie and with the index finger of the other hand press the edge of the crust inwards between the two fingers of the other hand.  Move round the pie and keep going until the whole edge is fluted. 

– With any spare pastry I like to make decorations for the top of the pie.*  I went for a Christmassy snowman and Christmas trees.  Again just dampen any pastry you’re pressing together to make it stick. 
– Once you’re done brush the top of the pie with beaten egg and cook in an oven preheated to gas mark 7 for 40 minutes until the pastry is a golden brown and the contents heated through.  If it starts to look too brown then cover with foil or butter papers** for the remaining cooking time. 

* And any spare spare pastry I stamp out shapes with cutters, brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with grated parmesan to make cheesy biscuits. 

** I keep the butter papers when I’ve used a block for covering things like this.  It saves on foil and is a great little recycling tip!

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Last Minute Christmas Cake

I have to say I’m cheating a little here with my own rules as I haven’t ever cooked this on my own.  In fact my participation has only ever advanced to weighing ingredients and helping fill cake tins.  Christmas is my mum’s domain.  She’s been doing it for years and she’s on a roll, my interference is not needed!  However, I had to share this cake recipe with you as it really is a last minute cake.  It doesn’t need to mature and if you’re forgotten to buy a cake and you’re totally desperate, well, start now! 

Makes 1×8″ (20cm) cake

125g butter
500g mixed dried fruits
125g dates, stoned and chopped (or apricots or prunes, big fruits are what you’re after.)
175g brown sugar
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
200ml water
1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
1 tsp ground cinnamon

90g glace cherries, chopped
60g chopped mixed nuts
45ml brandy
250g plain flour
pinch of salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp baking powder

– In a large pan melt the butter and then add the dried mixed fruits, dates (or other fruits), sugar, bicarbonate of soda, water, mixed spice and cinnamon. 
– Bring this to the boil and cover.  Simmer for 15 minutes. 
– Leave the pan, covered, overnight. 
– The next day put it in a mixing bowl, or use a machine like a kitchen aid or kenwood chef to do the hard work!
– Add the cherries, nuts and brandy.  Mix a little. 
– Add the flour and salt and mix in. 
– Add the eggs and the baking powder and then mix thoroughly making sire everything is well combined. 
– Line an 8″ cake tin with foil, shiny side down, and 2 layers of greaseproof paper. 
– Brush lightly with oil. 
– Tip in the cake mix and level out the top.  Create a small dip in the middle with the back of a spoon to prevent doming. 
– Place a small ovenproof dish or tin of water in the bottom of an oven heated to gas mark 2. 
– Place the cake in the oven on the middle shelf and cook for 2 1/2 – 3 hours covering the top with foil after 1 hour. 
– Test with a skewer to see if it’s done.
– Cool in the tin then turn out and pour on a little more brandy before either wrapping and storing or covering with marzipan and icing.

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Condensed Milk Cookies

I’ve posted this recipe before calling it American Cookies but I’m British so all my cookie recipes are ‘American’ or I call them biscuits.  When people ask me to make these they ask for “the condensed milk ones” and so I have renamed them.  I’ve also discovered since I first made them just how versatile the basic cookie dough can be.  Today I made the final addition to everyone’s christmas hamper:  Individually flavoured cookies. 

My sister has become obsessed with peanut butter and chocolate and so I made her peanut butter and chocolate cookies.  Dad loves ginger and chilli and so that’s what he got.  Mum was harder as she’s a mum and so says she likes whatever I make her but I know she loves marzipan so she got a sort of bakewell cookie… a fakewell if you will.  I also made myself a batch of chocolate and hazelnut cookies for immediate snacking.  There are no photos of that flavour as my family immediately snacked on them!  The joy of this is I made one batch of dough and then simply divided it into 4 and carried on to do all the different flavours I wanted. 

Makes ~36 cookies

255g unsalted butter, softened
225g golden caster sugar
170g condensed milk
350g self raising flour

For the toppings: (no amounts as it depends how many you make of each flavour)
natural coloured glace cherries
marzipan
flaked almonds
stem ginger in syrup, chopped into eighths
ginger and chilli sauce (I used Tesco’s Finest ice cream sauce but it’s totallyoptional.) 
cocoa powder
peanut butter
chocolate chips
chopped hazelnuts

– First line 5 baking sheets with baking paper and heat the oven to gas mark 4.  (If you don’t have 5 then just prep the paper and then reuse trays as they come free.)
– Cream together the butter and the sugar until soft and fluffy. 
– Mix in the condensed milk. 
– Add the flour and mix until it is all combined in a soft dough. 
– Divide the dough into 4 if making 4 flavours. 

For Chocolate and Peanut Cookies:
– Take 1/4 of the dough and put it into a smaller bowl. 
– Add a few spoons of cocoa powder and knead in until it forms a nice even chocolate colour. 
– Pinch off a walnut sized (and I really mean walnut sized, it’s smaller than you’d think!) bit of dough and roll it into a ball. 
– Flatten into a disc between your hands.
– Add a spoon of peanut butter to the centre. 
– Fold and pinch over the edges so that the peanut butter is completely enclosed in the dough. 
– Place on the baking tray leaving at least 1″ between cookies and flatten slightly and tidy up any really wonky ones. 
– Repeat with the rest of that dough. 

For Ginger Chilli Cookies:
– With the next 1/4 pinch off walnut sized bits and make into balls. 
– Flatten into a disc between your hands.
– Place 4 chunks of ginger in the centre of the disc and fold up the edges of the dough to make a sort of bowl around it. 
– Place on the baking tray leaving at least 1″ between cookies and then pour over a little of the syrup from the jar or some of the chilli ginger sauce. 

For the ‘Bakewell’ Cookies:
– With the next 1/4 pinch off walnut sized bits and make into balls. 
– Flatten into a disc between your hands.
– Pinch off a ball of marzipan about the size of a Malteaser and flatten into a disc. 
– Place the disc in the centre of the dough and fold over the very edges. 
– Place a glace cherry in the centre and then flaked almonds aroung that. 
– Place on the baking tray leaving at least 1″ between cookies. 

For the Chocolate and Hazelnut Cookies:
– With the final 1/4 flatten the dough out and sprinkle with chocolate chips and chopped hazelnuts. 
– Knead these in until well distributed throughout the dough. 
– Pinch off walnut sized bits and make into balls. 
– Flatten into a disc between your hands.
– Place on the baking tray leaving at least 1″ between cookies. 

– Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes.  (I switch over the top and bottom trays after 10 minutes then give them both 5 minutes more.)
– Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the tray for 5-10 minutes. 
– Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

 NB. These cookies do spread a lot, almost double, so be very careful not to place them too closely together:

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Cranberry Loaf

I found this recipe over on Joy of Baking and knew it was just perfect for what I wanted.  It was very simple to prepare as it’s essentially a muffin mixture and it would keep very well for a week, in fact getting better over the week, so perfect for posting for Christmas presents.  It also looks so very Christmassy! 

I wanted to use rectangular foil ‘takeout’ containers so as to ship and transport it easily and these were smaller than the 9″x5″x3″ tin the recipe called for so I doubled the recipe thinking may be I’d get 3 out of it, nope, got 4!  Yum, one spare!  It’s a really interesting flavour too, you have the sharpness of the cranberries with hints of fruity and nuttiness.  The crust also forms this delicious sugary crunch.  A surefire winner this one.  My test subjects of my mum’s office were begging for the recipe!

 

Makes 2 8″ x4″x3″ ‘loaf tins’

460g plain flour
700g golden caster sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
zest of 1 orange
1 large egg
56g butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp vanilla essence
360ml milk
100g fresh cranberries (Dried if fresh not available)
90g mixed peel (I used whole preserved orange peels chopped up)
60g chopped mixed nuts

– Heat your oven to gas mark 4 and grease your tins. 
– In a large bowl mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and orange zest. 
– In a large jug mix together the butter, vanilla and milk. 
– Mix the two together and stir well to combine.  (Doesn’t matter if there are some lumps in there.)
– Add the fruits and nuts and stir through. 
– Pour into the tins and bake at the top of the oven for 1 hour.  Cover the top with foil if it gets too brown. 
– Test with a skewer to see if it’s done then remove from the oven and cool completely. 
– Wrap in foil to store for up to a week.

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Bagels

Bagels are, in theory, very easy to make.  If you can make a simple bread then you have all the skills you’ll need for bageling.  However, it seems to be an acknowledged problem that unless you have very good luck your first batch won’t be great.  You have to learn by experience with bagels it would seem! *

[ * I have now given bagels another go and it was indeed my fault the first time, see my Bagel Update for how to get those holes in.] 

The problem with these bagels was that I left them for too long on the second rise coz the kitchen was occupied.  This meant that they just collapsed after poaching.  They’re still delicious but rather flat.  Something of a cross between an English Muffin, melba toast and a bagel really!  I also didn’t make the holes big enough so they have dimples instead.  But I make these mistakes so you don’t have to.  Take heed and don’t over rise and make a bigger hole! 

The other problem I’m having at the minute is the temperature.  We’ve got 6″ of snow!  Unless the fire’s going in the evening I don’t have anywhere to rise bread so I’m having to just about double the time for everything.  Even regular baking is going a bit haywire as everything’s too cold!  I did the first rise overnight but didn’t need to use the fridge, the whole house is a fridge! 

Makes 10

450g bread flour
7g fast action yeast
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
250ml warm water
2tbsp honey
3 tbsp sugar
seeds for sprinkling
1 egg white

– Mix together the flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl. 
– Make a well in the centre and add the warm water and honey.  This should be quite a stiff dough so you may not need all of the water keep back a few tbsp and go very gradually, mixing a little between additions. 
– Mix with a spoon until combined into a dough. 
– Turn out onto a lightly floured worksurface and knead for about 10 minutes until soft and smooth. 
– Lightly oil a clean bowl and leave overnight in a cold place or in a warm place for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.  Overnight is recommended as more flavour develops. 
– Prepare 2 baking sheets with baking paper brushed with oil. 
– Once risen knock down and divide the dough into 10 roughly equal balls. 
– Roll into spheres by cupping your hand over the ball on the work surface and rolling it around until even. 
– Poke a hole in the middle using a wooden spoon. 
– Use your fingers to coax the hole bigger until you can get your hand inside it. 
-Roll the circle a bit bigger and looser. **
– Lay down on your oiled baking paper keeping the hole at around 2 inches if you can.  The dough will be quite elastic so this will take a bit of cunning!
– Leave to rise for about 20 minutes until they’re puffed up. ***
– Meanwhile heat the oven to gas mark 7 and get a very large pot of water to the boil with the last 3 tbsp of sugar, you want the absolute biggest pot you can get and it wants to be a good 3-4″ deep.  It doesn’t want to be a rolling boil but just simmering. 
– Once the bagels have risen slip them into the water in batches and poach for one minute on each side using a spatula to flip them. 
– Fish them out and drain them off a bit and put them back on the oiled tray.  Brush with the egg white let down with a little water and whisked a bit and sprinkle on any toppings you like.  I used  nigella seeds.  
– Put the trays in the oven and cook for 10 minutes then flip over the bagels and switch the trays over and cook for another 10 minutes until golden brown. 
– Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes then enjoy!

** See the Bagel Update for a better technique, twirl the ball round the stick to get a bigger hole. 

*** This is unnecessary it would seem but feel free to give them a bit of a rest before poaching.

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Filed under Breads, Moderately easy