Archive | April 2014

Easter is nesting time….

Little nests Easter is a time for chocolate/eggs/simnel cake or whatever else you like to make. What could be more fun to make than these little nests?   I have friends who make the ‘nest’ with cornflakes or rice crispies but this recipe which uses ‘ Shredded Wheat’ is even better as you can get the real feel of  little twigs! ( Eatable and chocolate covered of course!) I used a bag of Cadburys mini-eggs – if my grandchildren had been here for the production event I would have used two bags two allow for the ‘one for the ‘nest’ one for me’ technique – but as it was, one was just perfect.

Recipe  (makes approx 18)

150 g chocolate (dark or milk depending on taste)

2 Mars Bars

50g unsalted butter

2 tsp golden syrup

approx 5 Shredded Wheat crumbled

a bag of mini eggs.

Method

Put paper cases onto a baking tray and put aside.

Break the chocolate into pieces/ cut the Mars bars into slices, add them to the butter and syrup in a small pan. Melt together over a low heat – being careful not to let the mixture burn. Set aside to cool for a while.

Stir about a third of the Shredded Wheat into the melted chocolate mixture and mix together well.  Continue adding the Shredded Wheat a little at a time and mix well after each addition.  Stop when you feel the mixture won’t take any more ‘twigs’ !

Put a spoonful of the mixture into each case – make a dent in the middle of each with your thumb, or the handle of a wooden spoon. Press three eggs into the centre of each ‘nest’ while the mix is still wet.

Put the tray in the fridge and allow to chill overnight – then store in an airtight plastic box.

Just try one or two to make sure they are the right – then invite friends (preferably with children) to help you out!

Nests Easter nests

This is a particularly extravagant version of ‘nests’ – you could easily do it without the addition of Mars bars. Easter is a time of chocolate decadence – so decide for yourself!

 

 

Italians do it best – reflections on Assisi

There is no doubt that Italians do cookies and biscuits to the edge of decadence. Only in the South did I find such total dedication to chocolate and cream added to butter, pecans, chocolate chips and caramel. Of course it stands to reason that the close connection with the South of Italy and that Southern States in US is no coincidence at all. So here are some random pictures from cake/biscuit shops in Assisi Italy. Added to that there is a picture of a man dressed as a statue of St. Francis! He is asking for donations and the two nuns next to him were not part of the ‘act’ they were asking him exactly where he came from and why he was asking for money. They were obviously charmed by him and smiled when I put some money in his ‘pot’ He gave me a slip of paper, telling me in several languages the meaning of ‘belief’ The nuns positively cooed and I wandered on my way, just a little bemused by the whole event.

cake shoop window Assisi window Italian job toriglioni Italian style St Francis

Easter – baking heaven

This  is a great season to be baking – whether you are struggling to remember how many marzipan balls go on top of a Simnel cake or whether you have  decided to learn how to mold your own Easter eggs rather than leave it in the capable hands of uncle Cadbury/Lindt or even wicked old uncle Nestle. (the one who sent all that milk to Africa)

However you think about it – Spring is here and it is time to roll out the rolling pin; gather your chocolate bunnies and just enjoy!

First stop is

EASTER COOKIES

These seem to be a tradition of the South West of England. Actually as a girl from the North West, I had never heard of them till I began making cookies for a local market here on the south coast a year or so ago. In fact during a chat with an elderly customer about the spices used in these biscuits – I mentioned how regional  to the south they were.  She looked at me with high disdain and retorted

‘I expect you are not so religious up there’

Good to know the old North South divide is alive and well in Wimborne. I longed to debate what buttery shortbread with currants had to do with religion – maybe there was some mention at the Last Supper that I had missed.  Next time I am in the presence of Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting I will check if there isn’t a little pile of Easter cookies lurking on a corner of the table. As we all know – the customer is always right – even when they are totally wrong. I held my peace and smile a special warm (but knowing) smile.

Easter biscuits

 

Easter biscuits are delicious and certainly no more just for Easter than a puppy is for Christmas. They have a crumbly texture and are buttery with a hint of mixed spice and a smattering of currants. I usually cut them with a serrated cutter as they look prettier that way. Be careful not to overcook them – they should be pale and interesting on completion and not brown edged. A light dusting of castor sugar makes them complete.

One customer at the market wanted these biscuits for so long that I had to change the name – they became ‘Aircraft show cookies’ ‘It’s November already cookies’ and anything else that came to mind.

Ingredients

150g butter

125g castor sugar

Finely grated zest of a lemon

2 medium egg yolks

250g plain flour

1/2 tsp mixed spice

40g currants

Method

Preheat oven to 180 f/160c/gas 4.

In a large bowl beat the butter, sugar and lemon zest until creamy. Beat in the egg yolks until smooth, then beat in the other ingredients until a ball is formed.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and roll out until 5mm thickness. Using a 7 cm cutter cut out into approx 24 biscuits.

Place on parchment lined baking trays and bake for 15-18 mins until pale golden at most.  Sprinkle with castor sugar and then cool on a wire rack.

Store in an airtight tin or box.

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