Here’s another recipe that can, with an eye on the upcoming festive season, be part of a home-made Christmas, either for nibbling at home or prettily wrapped in cellophane as a gift.
It can also be customised in a number of ways, as I shall detail below, be it in the ingredients you choose or the finishing touches you employ.
Cinder toffee is a traditional UK sweetie recipe which has been around for centuries, and early recipes can be found in household manuscript books from the reign of Charles II. Recently, it has seen a return to popularity under the name Honeycomb Toffee. Whilst a more appetising name, perhaps, unless you actually make it with honey, it is, to my mind, a bit misleading, whereas you have only to glance at the Wikipedia page for cinder to see that the appropriateness is evident in both looks and definition.
The toffee is made by bringing a mixture of sugars to the Hard Crack stage and then quickly stirring in a small amount of bicarbonate of soda to produce effervescence. The mixture is then poured into a suitably prepared tin and as it cools, the air bubbles are trapped in the sugar, thus giving it its distinctive structure.
Having read numerous recipes online, it is fairly safe to say that the most popular combination of sugars is caster sugar and golden syrup. This gives a bright, golden toffee reminiscent of the insides of a modern Crunchie bar. Whilst delicious, the flavour is, however, very one-note, and extremely sweet, and I got to pondering how it might be improved.
I found a recipe in F.Marian McNeil’s The Scots Kitchen (1929) for Black Man, a version of cinder toffee made with treacle, and kin to the Yellow Man of Northern Ireland. Made solely with treacle and bicarbonate of soda, it would definitely have the dark, bubbled appearance of genuine cinders, however in experimentation, the treacle proved exceedingly bitter as well as being much too easy to burn.
I liked the idea of using more complex flavourings to make the toffee and so I have come up with a base recipe for cinder toffee, with suggestions of how to adjust it for variety and interest. By varying the sugars and syrups, the range of flavours can be quite extensive and with more time at my disposal, I believe similar subtleties could also be achieved using honey as the liquid sugar. Feel free to experiment yourself!
Base Recipe Components
Choose your main flavouring from either the solid sugars or the liquid sugars. For example, malt extract and caster sugar, Demerera sugar and golden syrup. Both together, e.g. treacle and dark muscovado, is too dark and will burn to bitterness.
- Solid sugar: This can range from fine, white, caster sugar, granulated sugar, soft light brown, soft dark brown, Demerera, light muscovado, dark muscovado all the way through to molasses sugar. The varying degrees of colour have a bearing on the eventual flavour which becomes richer and more caramelised the darker you go.
- Liquid sugar: Any sweet syrup liquid at room temperature can be used including golden syrup, molasses, maple syrup, treacle, agave nectar, malt extract, honey.
- Butter – for richness
- water – to help dissolve the sugar
- cream of tartar/liquid glucose – to help prevent crystallisation
- bicarbonate of soda – for the bubbles! This recipe only uses a teaspoon, which, if properly stirred through, is more than enough to produce sufficient bubbles. Using more will produce more vigorous frothing, however, it will also become more noticeable in the flavour of the toffee, as well as being trickier to stir through without clumping.
- Plain: Cinder toffee is delicious in it’s basic state, but will absorb moisture from the air if left exposed. Once cooled, it should be stored in an airtight box or ziplock bag to keep from becoming sticky.
- Dipped in chocolate: To keep the toffee crisp without the need for airtight storage, you can dip pieces in melted chocolate and set aside to cool. Although this will serve admirably, it will have a tendency to melt in the hand. The solution is to temper the chocolate, instructions for which abound on the internet. Whilst milk chocolate is the most popular pairing, you can experiment with a whole range of flavours from white through to the extremely dark. The sweetness of the cinder toffee made with caster sugar and golden syrup can be offset to a certain extent by dipping in dark (at least 60% cocoa) chocolate, not to mention the very pleasing contrast of the golden toffee against the dark chocolate. Similarly, the bitterness of treacle cinder toffee can be lightened by the use of white chocolate flavoured with lemon zest.
- Made into cinder coal: This is the most fun. By tossing the chocolate-coated cinder toffee pieces into some black caster sugar, they immediately become, to all intents and purposes, little pieces of sweet coal, and thus the embodiment of their name.
How to make black sugar
The intense colour provided by modern gel food colouring is ideal for creating vibrant coloured sugar. Although we’ll only be using black the principal is the same for making any shade of coloured sugar.
1tsp black food gel colouring
200g caster sugar.
- Pour the sugar into a small zip-lock bag and add the food colouring gel.
- Seal the bag and gently massage the sugar against the gel. It will gradually take on an intense colour whilst still remaining separate grains.
- Continue massaging the sugar until it is evenly coloured throughout. If the shade is too light, add a little more gel and repeat the massaging motion.
- The coloured sugar will keep in the ziplock bag for weeks.
110g caster sugar
30g unsalted butter
2tbs cold water
1 pinch cream of tartar or 1/2tsp glucose
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
- Line a roasting tin with parchment paper.
- Put all of the ingredients except the bicarbonate of soda into a non-stick saucepan and warm gently until the sugar has dissolved.
- Increase the heat until the sugars boil. Continue heating without stirring until the syrup registers 150°C on a thermometer.
- Tip in the bicarbonate of soda and mix briskly for 5 seconds, ensuring the powder is well incorporated.
- Pour the frothing mixture onto the baking parchment in the tin and leave to cool. You can speed this up (and thereby trap more bubbles in the toffee) by putting it into the freezer for 15 minutes.
- When completely cold, tap gently to break into bite-sized pieces.
To cover with chocolate
- Melt or temper 200g of your chocolate of choice.
- Drop pieces of cinder toffee into the melted chocolate and use a fork to lift them out.
- Tap the fork briskly on the side of the chocolate bowl in order to shake off excess chocolate.
- Lay the coated pieces on parchment paper to set.
- Store in an airtight container.
To make cinder toffee coal
- Whilst still wet, drop the chocolate coated pieces into the black sugar and toss to coat.
- Lift out the coated pieces and lay onto a wire rack until set.
- When completely cold, toss the pieces of coal gently in a wire sieve to remove excess sugar.
- Store in a ziplock bag or wrap in cellophane bags for presents.
Bacon Jam has been around for a while on these here Internets, and there are numerous ways of preparing it. It is a highly savoury spread or relish that can be used in a multitude of ways. In the picture you can see a BLT toast sandwich prepared with bacon jam – much speedier than grilling bacon rashers. You can also stir it through rice or pasta for a frugal insta-meal, use it to top baked potatoes or spread over the bread of your fried egg sandwich.
This recipe is my own, and very much from the That’ll Do™ School of Cooking, in that you can be as extravagant or as miserly as you like, with the ingredients that you have.
You can also customise it to your own personal tastes – mine stretch to a few fresh red chillies to add a bit of feisty heat and to catch the eye, strong coffee, some Henderson’s Relish for sharpness and, contrary to a great many recipes, no added sugar (the kecap manis is sweet enough). Just because it’s called jam doesn’t mean you have to drown it in sugar. Call it a jam for all the things you can spread it on/in.
You can choose any cut of bacon you like: streaky rashers, back bacon, smoked or unsmoked. Personally I buy cooking bacon as it is ridiculously cheap (less than £2/kg). Some supermarkets (Sainsbury’s) occasionally have packs of cooking bacon that contain the trimmings and ends of gammon joints, and if you turn the packs over and there is a hint of orange about the meat, then you’ve got some smoked bacon in the mix. Others are just filled with chopped bacon trimmings, so it can be worthwhile rummaging around, as each batch can vary.
I cannot stress enough how much the recipe below is a rough framework. Got more bacon? Bung it in. Like caramelised onions? Add more. Garlic fiend? Shove a load in.
I prefer to blitz my bacon jam in the food processor down to the consistency of pesto. It makes it much easier, not to mention quicker, when using it in other things, but you might prefer to keep it chunky, so the individual ingredients can still be discerned.
Whilst this recipe WILL make some delicious bacon jam, it is what *I* consider delicious bacon jam, which might be quite far removed from what YOU consider delicious bacon jam. So you will probably need to tweak it to your own personal tastes. Below you will find a list of spices and relishes that you can add to find tune the basic recipe.
Important points to remember:
- There is no right or wrong way to make bacon jam – it it totally up to you and your tastebuds.
- Speaking of which, you HAVE to taste it as you go, and then decide firstly if it needs anything extra, and secondly, what that extra thing might be.
- Don’t feel you have to add 101 extra ingredients – it is, first and foremost, supposed to taste of bacon. Don’t lose sight of that.
- Another don’t – Don’t forget to write down what you add, as you might hit on a million pound winning combination and want to recreate it later!
This would make an ideal home-made gift for the upcoming festive season: just pack the finished hot jam into a hot, sterilised jar and seal with a layer of bacon grease/lard/clarified butter. It will keep for 2 weeks in the fridge if no-one knows what it tastes like. Good luck with that. ;)
This and the next few recipes are my contribution towards festive baking and making – delicious additions to your own table, delightful as presents for others. I hope you enjoy!
Suggestions for flavourings for your Bacon Jam
In addition to – or even instead of – the ingredients in the recipe below, you could add some of the following
- Onions – brown, white, French, vidalia, red, shallots, spring onions, chives, garlic
- Spices – chilli powder, coriander, cumin, paprika (sweet/smoked/hot), cayenne, mustard(dry, mixed, wholegrain, dijon, artisan), ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, mace
- Sauces – Worcester sauce, anchovy essence, mushroom ketchup, walnut ketchup, light/dark soy (be careful, as v. salty, as is bacon), oyster sauce, Tabasco, hot sauce, sweet chilli
- Sweeteners (just because I don’t like them, doesn’t mean you have to miss out – go easy, though) Maple syrup, light-brown sugar, muscovado sugar, treacle, molasses, agave nectar
- Liquids – cider, beer ale, stout, whisky, brandy, ginger wine, bourbon, balsamic/sherry/rice/black/cider/red wine/white wine vinegar
Bacon Jam should be warmed before use, to bring out the flavours. A quick zap in the microwave or toss in a pan is all it takes.
700g cooking bacon
2 onions, peeled and chopped – or halved & cut in semi-circles if you’re not blitzing to a pesto
4 fresh red chillies, de-seeded and finely diced.
250ml strong coffee
60ml kecap manis
2-3tbs Henderson’s Relish
1tsp coarse ground black pepper
- Put the bacon into a pan and cook over medium heat. Use a spatula to break it up into smaller pieces. You can cook it as long or as short as you like, but I prefer well done, with specks of rusty caramelisation starting to appear, and the fat fully rendered.
- Lift the bacon from the pan with a skimmer and drain in a metal sieve.
- Add the onions and chillies and cook in the bacon fat ( for added flavour) until softened and caramelised. If you have a large excess of fat after the bacon has cooked, then drain some of it off, but I’ve never had that problem. Of course, this will also depend on the quantity of bacon you’re cooking.
- Return the bacon to the pan and add the rest of the ingredients.
- Simmer for 10 minutes.
- Transfer to a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles a coarse pesto.
- If you think there is too much liquid, return to the pan and simmer gently until the excess has evaporated.
- Taste and add further flavourings as liked.
- Spoon into jars and seal. Add a layer of melted fat if liked, to aid preservation.
- Store in the fridge and use on everything.
Those of you who are Keen™ will know that there’s already a muffin recipe on the blog. Nevertheless, I decided to revisit muffins in part because it is now ridiculously easy to get hold of fresh yeast but also because a lot of muffin recipes and videos Out There™ are just plain wrong when it comes to the method of shaping them. There, I said it. Oh yes, there’s no holding me back when my dander is up.
Because there’s no need to go faffing about with rolling out the dough and using *in her best Lady Bracknell voice of disapproval* a pastry cutter. Apart from anything else, it ruins the iconic shape of the muffin (a flattened top and bottom with a smooth, soft and pale crust around the middle) with an ugly seam where the dough has been compressed as it was cut.
This recipe is adapted from one listed in Florence White’s Good Things in England and dates from 1826, and without being overly dramatic, eating them is like biting into a cloud. To keep them as soft as possible, I’ve used ordinary plain flour and used the whey from some curd cheese I made earlier this week as part of the mixing liquid, as it gives a beautifully soft crumb. Don’t worry about having to use whey, you can just make the mixture equal parts whole milk and water.
Fresh Yeast Muffins
560g plain flour
20g fresh yeast
1 tsp granulated sugar
300ml whey + 150ml whole milk OR 225ml water + 225ml milk
cornflour for dusting
semolina for cooking (optional)
- Put the flour and salt into a bowl. I use my stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.
- Crumble the yeast into a small bowl and add the sugar. Work the sugar into the yeast then set aside for five minutes until it becomes liquid.
- Mix the whey and milk (or milk and water) in a small pan and warm gently to blood temperature.
- Pour the yeast into the milk mixture and then pour the whole into the flour.
- Mix thoroughly and knead for 10 minutes – five if using a dough hook.
- Cover and leave to rise for 1.5-2 hours.
- Deflate the dough, knead briefly, cover, and allow to rise for another 30 minutes.
- Sprinkle the work surface with cornflour. The dough is rather loose and prone to stickiness. The cornflour doesn’t stick to itself, and will therefore act as a non-stick layer between the dough and the work surface.
- Tip the dough out and divide it into 75g portions. This quantity of dough will, when risen and cooked, make the perfectly-sized muffin – 8-9cm across and 4cm thick. You can make them larger, but remember to adjust the cooking time accordingly.
- For each piece of dough, fold the edges in towards the middle, then turn over so that the folds are underneath and the top is smooth. Cup your hand over the dough and roll it in small circles, shaping the dough into a smooth ball. Set the ball on a cornflour-dusted surface to rise. Don’t put the balls of dough too close together, or they might rise into each other.
- Allow the dough to rise for 30 minutes from the moment the first ball of dough is shaped. They will take time to cook in batches, so with the staggered batch cooking, the last few will have risen just in time to be cooked.
- Put a heavy-based pan onto a large ring on a low heat.
- Cook the muffins in batches. Depending on the size of your pan, you can cook 4 or 5 at a time. Sprinkle the pan with semolina if you like, although if your pan is non-stick, this can be omitted.
- Gently slide a thin spatula under one of the risen balls of dough and transfer it to the pan turning it upside down as you do so, so that the top of the muffin cooks first. This will help create the perfect muffin shape, because the base of the dough is already flat and the top is rounded. If you cook the base first, the top continues to rise and curve, and the drying effect of the radiated heat from the pan will dry the surface of the dough and will make it ‘reluctant’ to flatten into the traditional muffin shape. Cooking the top first, the weight of the dough allows it to settle like a gently deflating cushion, into the flattened shape, and a partial hardening of the already flat bottom (which is currently the top) is fine.
- Cook for five minutes, then gently turn the muffins over and cook for another 5 minutes. When done, they should sound hollow when tapped.
- Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
- Wipe the pan free of semolina, then repeat until all the muffins are cooked.
To serve – very important
These instructions are adapted from Hannah Glasse, who insisted that no knife should touch muffins, as they would become heavy. Here is a guide to enjoying your fresh muffins.
You will need:
chilled butter cut into thin slices.
toppings such as jam, honey or sausage, egg and bacon, depending on degree of hunger.
- Whilst perfectly delicious soft pillows when freshly cooked, unless you are able to eat them hot from the pan, muffins should be toasted on the outside before being served. The insides are best left un-toasted, so you can bite down through the softness to the crunchy outside. The contrast is sensational.
- Grill for 2-3 minutes each side until the outsides have crisped, but not darkened.
- While the muffin is still warm, take a serrated knife – yes, I know Hannah said no to knives, but a little help is needed in order to divide the muffin. Take your knife and gently draw it around the side of the muffin like an equator, if you will – just breaking the soft crust to a depth of 1-2mm.
- Once the ‘skin’ (it really is too soft to be called a crust) has been scored all the way around, hold the muffin sideways and with the tips of your fingers, gently pull the muffin apart. The cutting will help it divide evenly into two halves.
- Quickly lay a slice of cold butter between the two halves and put them together again.
- Cover with a cloth to keep warm.
- After about a minute, turn each buttered muffin upside down, so that the now melted butter can seep into the other half of the muffin.
- Your muffin is now ready to be enjoyed as is, or to drizzle over the toppings of choice. Remember, do not spread your toppings, or the pressure will deflate your soft, billowy muffin.
Something simple and delicious for you this week which is also, my favourite detail, hugely adaptable. Confession: calling this a brownie is probably a bit of a liberty, especially if you’re a purist/expert like my sister. Nevertheless it is moist, richly in flavour, with the oats giving both texture and satisfaction. It can also be wheat free – gluten free if you like – containing just a tablespoon of regular flour. I’ve made it with white flour, gluten-free flour, barley flour, potato flour, more cornflour…honestly, the quantity is so small, it doesn’t really matter, it’s just there to soak up any excess moisture. Because it is so dry , adding an extra tablespoon of cocoa is probably the most delicious alternative.
The other unusual aspect is the dairy element. I’ve made it with cream cheese, fat-free quark, and curd cheese, just to see what effect each had on the texture. I was surprised to find that the curd cheese made it rather firm – too firm to be a brownie, but not hard enough to be a flapjack, but the texture of the brownie made with quark was almost as tender as the one made with cream cheese. If you’re not a fan of overly squidgy brownies, you can also firm up the end product by using a pan of larger dimensions, thereby spreading the mixture thinner. Totally your call.
Now I’ll be the first to admit that this isn’t an all-singing, all-dancing, bells-and-whistles showstopper recipe. However, alongside another perennial favourite recipe – Jamjacks – it’s simple, quick, delicious, and can be made with ordinary ingredients you probably have in your cupboard/fridge.
And that’s a winning combination.
NB I don’t have an overly sweet tooth, so the quantity of sugar is on the low side. Add an extra 50g if you like. I’ve merely listed ‘flour’ below, so you can add whatever you have to hand/prefer. Same with the milk and butter.
150g steel-rolled oats
1tsp baking powder
200g soft cheese – cream cheese/quark/curd cheese
100g butter – melted and cooled slightly
1 large egg
150g caster sugar
- Warm the milk until almost boiling, then add the oats and set aside to soak while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
- Grease and line a baking tin of dimensions 20cm x 20cm x 5cm (roughly, within 2-3cm is fine).
- Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl.
- Mix in the cheese, followed by the rest of the ingredients.
- Lastly stir in the oats and milk.
- Pour into your prepared tin and smooth over.
- Bake for 1 hour. After 30 minutes, turn the tin around and cover lightly with either baking parchment or foil, to prevent the edges from getting scorched.
- Cool in the tin.
 Who still gave it a solid 7 on her scale of Brownie Excellence!
 Using gluten-free oats, obvs.
 Which is why, if you want to Chocolatize™ anything by adding cocoa, you then need to remove an equivalent quantity of flour, otherwise you’ll alter both the texture and taste of your bake.
 I made my own curd cheese (only because no shops nearby sell it), with vegetable rennet and rich Jersey milk, drained it exceedingly well, then pressed it under a weight, so it was very dry. Deli curd cheese might be less dry.
 If you like them squidgy, you could bake for a shorter time – I suggest 45-50mins.
Scotch Eggs are delicious, I think we can all agree that that is fact. Alas, they are also usually deep fried, and can thus be prone to being either overcooked or dry, or greasy or, heaven forfend, all three. Something needed to be done!
Behold my new creation – The Scone Egg™!
Everything you love about scones and Scotch eggs in a single, warm, comforting bundle of deliciousness!
These are also a natural progression from some savoury scone variations I included in MY BOOK </subtle>. If you’ve got a copy, you will find the scone recipe on page 248. A couple of pages later, there are some suggestions for customising a basic scone recipe. The savoury scones are very popular with The Lads that look after my car, at my local garage.
What started out as an attempt to combine all the deliciousness from a Breakfast Sandwich into a scone, took a bit of a detour and here we are at Scone Eggs! Soft, crumbly scone, spicy sausage, an egg that is still runny in the middle, and no deep frying!
These are ideal for brunch, either as is, or you could go completely over the top and combine them with all the fixin’s for Eggs Benedict. *dabs drool from keyboard*
To ensure a liquid center to your egg, they should be boiled for no longer than 5 minutes. This makes them a little tricky to peel, but if you follow the instructions below, you will be blessed with a much lower egg ruination rate. Alternatively, go for hardboiled eggs and make the whole process altogether less fiddly, and which would also make them more sturdy and therefore suitable for picnics, etc.
You will need some small individual pudding bowls to bake them in – I use foil ones like this – which can stand several uses with careful washing between bakes.
The key to baking a light scone is, as ever, the speed with which you can get them into the oven after adding the liquid to the dry ingredients, whilst avoiding being too rough with the dough. Have everything ready – eggs boiled and cooled, foil cases oiled – and your oven at temperature before stirring in the liquid and you should be able to have them in the oven in about 5 minutes.
I’ve specified more eggs, just in case there are cracks or breakages when removing the shell. In addition, depending on how thickly you wrap the scone mixture around the egg, you may get up to 6 Scone Eggs from this recipe. Or not. But you will most definitely get four.
6-8 large eggs
1 x 400g pack of good-quality sausages
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp coarse ground black pepper
½-1 tsp dried thyme
½-1 tsp dried oregano
½-1 tsp dried sage
¼ tsp celery seed
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
225g plain flour
30g unsalted butter
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1tsp cream of tartar
1 large egg
½ tsp salt
80ml plain yogurt
1 large egg for glazing
- Prepare the eggs.
- Bring a pan of water to the boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer (this will help keep the eggs from cracking).
- Add the eggs, gently lowering them into the water with a spoon. Allow them to cook for 5 minutes, then drain the water and cool them in cold water. The eggs will be easiest to peel once completely cold, so either add some ice or more cold water if necessary. For hardboiled eggs, cook for 10-12 minutes.
- Once the eggs are completely cold, remove the shell. I won’t go into just how many eggs I went through in the development of this recipe, but let us just say it was substantial and resulted in the method outlined below:
- Take a teaspoon and with the back of the spoon, tap around the ‘equator’ of the egg, making sure the shell breaks into small pieces.
- Then use the back of the spoon to break the shell around each end of the egg.
- With the point of a sharp knife, break away the shell from the ‘equator’ region, until you can peel both shell and skin away together, preferably still attached to one another. This is key in removing the shell smoothly and successfully. Sometimes bits of the shell will drop away leaving the skin intact. Use the point of the knife to break through until you can hold shell and skin together between your fingertips.
- Once you can hold both skin and shell together, peel around the middle of the egg, then peel each end.
- Lay the peeled egg carefully on a plate – its soft middle will mean it doesn’t hold its shape entirely, but enough until you’re ready to wrap the scone mixture around.
- Prepare the sausage
- Remove the skin from the sausages and put the meat into a frying pan over medium heat.
- Sprinkle with pepper, salt, herbs and spice to taste.
- Using a spatula, break up the sausage meat as it cooks.
- Continue chopping and turning the meat until cooked through. Set aside to cool.
- When cold, tip the cooked sausage into the bowl of a food processor and blitz very briefly to break up any large chunks. You don’t want it as fine as breadcrumbs, but at the same time no piece larger than about 1cm.
- Set aside.
- Make the scone mix.
- Preheat the oven to 220°C, 200°C Fan.
- Put the flour, butter, bicarbonate of soda, cream of tartar, salt and egg into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until it resembles breadcrumbs.
- Tip the mixture into a bowl.
- Weigh out 200g of cooked sausage meat and add to the scone ingredients. Stir through.
- Whisk the milk and yogurt together.
- Check you’ve got everything to hand to get the scones into the oven, pudding tins greased, egg for glazing whisked, pastry brush handy, oven hot, etc.
- Using a rounded knife, gradually add the milk mixture, stirring the dry ingredients as you go. You might not need all of the liquid, depending on the moisture in the sausage, so proceed cautiously – you can still bake an overly moist scone mixture, but it might slip off the egg before it is fully cooked.
- When the mixture has come together, tip out onto a floured surface. With floured hands, roughly shape it into a circle, then divide it into quarters.
- For each egg, do the following:
- Take a piece of dough and place it in the palm of your left hand.
- Use your thumb and fingers to shape a hole or pocket into the dough. Be careful not to press the dough too thin – it should be 1.5-2cm thick.
- Take one boiled egg and place it into the pocket.
- Mould the scone dough around the egg until it is smoothly covered. Pinch off any excess dough and put on one side. You will end up with sufficient dough to wrap another 1 or 2 eggs.
- Decide which end of the scone is smoothest and then drop the moulded scone into a buttered pudding tin, smooth side uppermost.
- Place on a baking sheet.
- When all scones are formed, brush over the tops with the beaten egg.
- Bake for 15 minutes, turning the baking sheet around after 10 minutes to ensure even colouring.
- When fully cooked, allow to firm up for 5 minutes before gently easing them out of the tins. Run a knife around the edge first, in case the glaze has caused it to stick to the tin. Set onto a wire rack to cool.
- Enjoy at once.
 You DO have a copy, don’t you!? No pressure…..
 I take a box of warm scones in whenever my car needs some TLC.
 Caveat: as long as you eat them within 30 minutes of baking – as they cool, the yolk will continue to cook and longer than half an hour and it will be solid.
 Should be at least 90% pork, certainly not less than 85%. My UK recommendations are
- Black Farmer Premium Pork Sausages
- Debbie & Andrew’s Harrogate Sausages
- Sainsbury’s Ultimate Pork Sausages, Taste the Difference Range
This list is by no means exhaustive, they are just the brands I have tasted and can vouch for personally.
As a complete contrast to the glitz and glamour of the New Lemon Meringue Pies, the enjoyment in this recipe is the simplicity.
As we rush headlong through autumn, the apple harvest is in full force and I thought it appropriate to celebrate the abundance with a twist on the classic apple pie.
In the UK we’re blessed with the Bramley Apple, a gloriously sharp cooking apple that cooks to a cloud of apple froth. Unfortunately, this quality means that pies baked with Bramleys invariably end up somewhat hollow: the glorious mound of sliced apple that entered the oven emerging having deflated into a small pile of apple froth. Still delicious! But also a bit of a disappointment.
This recipe sidesteps using the classic Bramley in favour of apples of the dessert, or eating, variety, which are sweeter and hold their shape better. There are so many different British eating apples, you can ring the changes with this recipe merely by changing the type of apple you choose. Russet apples have a golden skin dotted with rough patches, and a rich, almost nutty flavour that goes exceptionally well with cheese (and nuts, obvs.). My daughter’s favourite is Worcester Pearmain, glorious red skin that blushes into dazzling white, juicy flesh, and a flavour reminiscent of lemons and strawberries. Whichever variety you choose, remember to sugar accordingly. The quantity given below is more of a general guideline – use less if you prefer a sharper taste, or if the apples you have are rather sweet.
The other twist in this recipe is the pastry, which I’ve crisped up with the addition of oats (my love of crunchy oats is well documented in the blog). I’ve also added a swirl effect by treating the pastry like cinnamon bun dough: brushing with butter, sprinkling with sugar and spices and then rolling up. Once chilled, the pastry roll is cut in half (one for the top, one for the bottom) and sliced into disks. The top and bottom pastry sheets are created with a patchwork of these swirls, placed close together and then rolled with a rolling pin until they form a continuous sheet of pastry. The pastry is fabulously crunchy and the swirl of sugar and spiced compliments the filling perfectly.
Simple. Autumnal. Perfick.
Apple Slice with Oat Swirl Pastry
300g plain flour
100g rolled oats
2tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 large yolk
50ml-ish milk, creme fraiche, double or sour cream to mix
For the swirl
30g unsalted butter
100g sugar (any kind, I like demerera)
2tsp spice (a mixture of whatever takes your fancy: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, etc.)
2-3tbs apricot or plum jam, or marmalade
You can double the filling quantities for a positively towering appley slice. The quantities below give were used to make the bake in the picture above.
1kg dessert apples (6 or 7)
2 rounded tablespoons cornflour
lemon juice (optional)
- Put all the ingredients for the pastry except the milk/cream into the bowl of a food processor and blitz to crumbs. Gradually add the liquid and mix until the whole comes together.
- Tip out onto a floured work surface and knead smooth.
- Roll out thinly (3-5mm), keeping it in a neat rectangle (30cmx40cm-ish).
- Melt the butter and paint over the surface, using a pastry brush.
- Mix the spice with the sugar and sprinkle over the whole surface of the pastry.
- Starting from one of the long sides. roll yp the pastry into a long sausage shape.
- Wrap in cling film and chill for at least 30 minutes. You might want to cut the roll in half now, for ease of storage.
- Remove half of the pastry and slice the roll into ‘coins’ 1cm thick.
- Line your traybake tin (Mine is a 25cmx35cm springform tin) with baking parchment, folding the sides to the exact size of the tin. Repeat with a second piece of parchment.
- Using the folds as a guide, arrange the swirls of pastry over the bottom of one of the pieces of parchment
- Cover with clingfilm and roll with a rolling pin, until the pastry spreads and joins together. Feel free to trim the sides and patch any holes with the trimmings.
- Lay the parchment and the pastry into the bottom of your traybake tin. Brush with the jam/marmalade.
- Repeat with the second half of the pastry, again, using the folded parchment as a guide. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
- Peel, core and grate the apples. A mandolin is perfect for achieving apple ‘matchsticks’. Toss in lemon juice if using.
- Mix the cornflour with the sugar, and stir into the apples.
- Once mixed, pour the apples into the traybake tin and press down firmly.
- Slide the top pastry onto the apple filling and press firmly. Trim off any excess.
- Bake for 40-50 minutes, turning the tin around after 25 minutes to ensure even baking.
- Allow to cool completely in the tin. The apple filling WILL settle as it cools, so keeping it in the tin will allow it to hold its shape.
- When completely cold, cut into portions with a sharp knife.
- Serve warm with a little cream, or enjoy cold in your packed lunches next week.
Despite the title, this post is actually about three recipes, which involve looking differently at something familiar to create something new, and how those recipes can also be combined to create something new. This all came about when I saw a competition to re-imagine a classic dessert. Ultimately, I was ineligible due to geographic location *shakes fist in exasperation*. Nevertheless, I’m more than just a little pleased with the end result. Go me.
50g (2 large) egg-whites
75g caster sugar
Very much the least used of the meringues, and hardly ever in the context of actual meringues. Most recipes that call for Swiss meringue use it as a base for some kind of frosting, which is a real shame since it is actually probably the simplest of the meringues to make, and provided you have a stand mixer, definitely the easiest. It is also excellent at holding it’s shape when piped, making it ideal for creations that aspire beyond the blobby.
The sugar and egg-whites are placed in a metal bowl over simmering water and whisked lightly until the sugar is dissolved and the egg-whites reach a temperature of between 50°C and 71°C. The temperature is important depending on the use you intend your meringue, the higher temperature is for meringue that will not be cooked further (for use in buttercream, etc). Since that is not the intent here, I’m going to suggest whisking to a temperature of 60°C. This doesn’t take very long at all – 2-3 minutes at most. You can check that the sugar is dissolved by rubbing a little of the mixture between your finger and thumb: if you don’t feel any graininess, you’re good to go.
Transfer the mixture to the bowl of your stand mixer, fitted with a balloon whisk (I actually whisk the egg whites and sugar in the metal bowl of my Kenwood), and set the motor running. Whisk the mixture until it is cooled and firm – between 5-8 minutes. And that’s it. Fantastically firm meringue that holds its shape magnificently, ideal for all your fluted piping needs. Today, however, we have another use for it.
I chose the name for these from their cooking method, although it was a close call between these and 10-second Meringues, because that’s how long they take to cook. The only reason I didn’t go with this as a name was because in the recipe below, due to their shape, they actually take 15 seconds. Setting aside the why’s and wherefores of 5 seconds between friends, here’s how it works.
Pipe your meringue mixture into silicone moulds, ensuring they are filled completely, with no air bubbles. Smooth over the surfaces and then zap them in the microwave. Despite the short amount of time, the meringue cooks through and, most importantly for what I have planned for later, holds its shape. What you end up with is a cooked meringue that is borderline ethereal in texture, but which doesn’t subsequently collapse, making it ideal for enrobing in numerous flavoured glazes or coatings before combining with other ingredients into an infinite number of delicate desserts. It is like biting into a cloud, frozen in time.
You are only limited by the size and shape of your silicone moulds. I must confess, I ordered the barque-shaped mould used in the photo above, but you can play around with whatever shape you have – cupcake, mini muffin, hemisphere, etc. Loaf-shaped silicone moulds might work well for larger desserts. The possibilities are endless.
This is the third and final recipe revisit I have for you today. You might think crème patissière is pretty much one-dimensional, but not at the hands of Monsieur Philippe Conticini, whose recipe this is. I will confess to being a long-time admirer of Chef Conticini, and if you are unfamiliar with him or his illustrious career, I can recommend it as well worthy of a Google Search. He has great skill in re-imagining classics of French patisserie and I came across the result of him turning his attention to crème patissière on YouTube. It is not a huge departure from the classic recipe: more vanilla, fewer eggs, the use of gelatine – but the result is astonishing in both texture and flavour. Feel free to substitute your own favourite recipe if you prefer, but his is worthy of at least a trial, I assure you.
Here is the original recipe, with vanilla. I shall actually be using lemon as flavouring, but the method is the same. You can view the original video – in French – here.
250ml semi-skimmed milk (can also use whole)
6g vanilla seeds (3 pods)
2 large yolks
42g caster sugar
10g plain flour
2 sheets gelatine
20g unsalted butter – diced and chilled
- Put the milk and vanilla into a saucepan together with 1 tablespoon of caster sugar and cover with clingfilm.
- Heat gently until bubbles are visible around the edge of the pan, then remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 30 minutes.
- After this time, carefully remove the clingfilm and make sure any condensation on the plastic falls back into the pan, to preserve as much flavour and aroma as possible.
- Set the gelatine to bloom in cold water.
- Put the yolks into a bowl with the remaining sugar and whisk to a light froth.
- Mix the flours together then add to the egg mixture and whisk thoroughly.
- Pour a little of the hot milk onto the egg mixture, whisking thoroughly, then pour everything back into the pan.
- Whisk over medium heat, until the custard has thickened – 2-3 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and whisk in the gelatine and cold butter.
- Cover a plate with cling film and pour the custard onto it. Cover the surface completely with more cling film and chill in the fridge until cold and set – about an hour.
- When ready to use, tip the chilled custard into a bowl and whisk briskly for about 2 minutes.
The result is so light, so delicate, silky-smooth with an almost intoxicating flavour. A real revelation.
New Lemon Meringue Pie
So here is my re-imagining of the classic Lemon Meringue Pie. It is assembled, rather than baked whole, and employs steam meringues coated in a glaze of rich honey lemon curd, over a lemon custard in a sweet shortcrust pastry shell. To finish, the edge between the meringue and the custard is disguised with a string of freshly whipped cream ‘pearls’.
You will need:
- Sweet pastry shortcrust tart shells: I used this cornflour shortcrust, but you can use your own favourite. Fully blind bake your pastry shells in whatever shape you please and set aside to cool.
- Lemon-flavoured crème patissière, chilled and whisked: Use Chef Conticini’s recipe above, substituting the zest of 1 large lemon for the vanilla seeds.
- Steam Meringues: made with the Swiss meringue above and cooked in silicon moulds of your choosing in the microwave. Mini-muffin-sized hemispheres will need only 10 seconds, larger moulds will require longer. Practice first before filling the whole sheet with the meringue.
- Honey lemon curd: Using this recipe. For an exceptional variation, you can find make it with lemon-blossom honey from the Pyrenees.
- 300ml double cream – whipped.
- Strips of lemon zest, tied in a knot, as garnish
NB If you want to make these ahead of serving, consider painting a layer of melted white chocolate inside your pastry shells, to prevent them from becoming soggy from the crème patissière.
- Fill the pastry shells with the lemon crème patissière. This is probably easiest done with a piping bag and a 1cm plain nozzle.
- Arrange the cooked meringues onto a wire rack over a tray. Pour the honey curd evenly over the meringues until fully coated. This is easiest done when the curd is slightly warm and therefore flows a little more smoothly. The excess curd will drip through and onto the tray, from where it can be re-used if required.
- Using a thin slice or small offset spatula, lift the coated meringues from the rack and lay them onto your filled tart shells.
- Pipe a border of cream pearls around the edge of the meringues to cover the join.
- Garnish with the lemon twists.
I have tried to introduce an elegance of presentation, whilst still retaining the essential elements of this classic dessert. Obviously, it can be varied by using different flavours of citrus fruit, or even stepping away from the tradition and using freeze-dried fruit powders to flavour the custards with fruits such as strawberries, blackberries and cherries, and different flavours of curd. I do hope you will have a go trying at least the steam meringues – I’d love to know how your experiments go!
Happy Baking! :D