Every year during January and February Seville oranges (Bitter oranges) arrive in our local fruit shops and supermarkets. I’m not sure if it’s because I recently saw the film ‘Paddington’ (and he does love his marmalade sandwiches), but this year I decided to make some marmalade.
Of course, alternatively it could be having all the glamour of the Tudors every where you look, that I unconsciously made a few connections – Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots – marmalade! It’s one of those English things we were told at school that the word marmalade comes from Mary Queen of Scots when a French cook concocted a preserve from Seville oranges for a sickly Mary – ‘Marie est malade’. Not true, (doesn’t surprise me) a far more accurate history of marmalade suggests Henry VIII would have known the preserve which was imported from Portugal and made from quinces. Then it appears that gradually this recipe was adapted to use other fruit including bitter oranges.
I used a BBC Good Food marmalade recipe which I’ve made before. And, in for a penny in for a pound I found an interesting recipe for ‘marmalade’ teacakes (light yeasted buns with dried fruit). It was really a basic teacake recipe with 150 grams of HOMEMADE marmalade dissolved in the milk that is added to the flour to make the dough. The finished teacakes looked nice and were pleasant when toasted and buttered, but I couldn’t specifically taste the marmalade flavour unless a bite included a chunk of shredded peel. Well, you know, why not spread with extra marmalade!
Do we need an excuse to bake rich, indulgent treats? Sometimes it is easy to believe all the hype in the media that everybody is the same the planet over. But that is plainly not true as we can see in the ‘Blogging World’. Not everyone celebrates Christmas and of those that do not everybody celebrates in the same fashion. We don’t all have turkey, Christmas pudding and mince pies.
Living in East Anglia there are plenty of Christmas traditions, however the traditional mid-winter celebration and feast predates Christianity. Our weather may not be as harsh as the northern regions, but a mid-winter treat certainly brings a glow of pleasure in the midst of all the grey and gloom.
The New Year was my excuse for an indulgent treat and I baked a white chocolate and stem ginger cheesecake (the Mary Berry version).
Firstly I made the cheesecake base with melted dark chocolate and butter mixed into some crushed digestive biscuits. Then, I finely diced four bulbs of stem ginger (that is ginger preserved in syrup).
Then I beat together two tubs of cream cheese with half a pot of sour cream and two beaten eggs in the whizzy machine.
Finally I mixed in a couple of bars of white chocolate that had been gently melted over hot water along with the prepared stem ginger and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. After pouring all the mixture onto the biscuit base the cheesecake was baked for about 45 minutes.
Delightfully easy to make and delightfully easy to eat!
What was I thinking when I made a tin full of gingerbread Christmas cookies over a week ago – that they would last until Christmas! More fool me and, of course they’ve already all been eaten and now a second batch are required. Just as well I enjoy a Sunday afternoon bake.
It’s quite an easy recipe. After melting together butter, muscovado sugar and golden syrup you mix in the dried ingredients flour, spices and a little bicarbonate of soda.
Following a light kneading the gingerbread dough is given a 30 minutes chill in the fridge before rolling out and cutting into shapes. The recipe I use says 12-15 minutes in a moderately hot oven, but I’ve found if you like a crispy snap then 20 minutes is needed.
Finally, pipe a few swirls of royal icing decoration. My piping skills are minimal and made worse for this batch as I cut the hole on the icing bag too big, but by then I’d filled it with the icing and wasn’t going to start again. Sometimes near enough will just have to be good enough.
Well, this week in UK telly land sees the final of the Great British Bake Off. Not to everybody’s taste, but I have enjoyed this pleasant and rather quaint diversion from all the bad news filling the airwaves.
The GBBO has also nudged me into having a go at baking off-piste shall we say. That is I’ve been experimenting and devising new combinations for old recipes. My latest weekend bake was a version of sticky buns.
Yeast cookery isn’t too difficult it is mostly about not being in a hurry. These sticky buns are made with an enriched dough studded with stem ginger and hazelnuts and baked with a coating of my buttery, caramel sauce. It’s the caramel that gives these buns the glossy, sticky finish.
Enriching a dough means adding butter, sugar and eggs which makes a softer, heavier dough. However, the addition of fat and sugar also slows the action of the yeast and therefore the proving time has to be longer. But the waiting is worth it when you sample the finished sticky buns.