Condensed milk

Mary Berry’s honeycomb ice cream

honeycombicecream

‘Half Term Treat – Mary Berry’s Honeycomb Crunchies’ is by far my most successful blog post to date – if you judge success by the number of hits that is. This is quite depressing really because I wrote it with minimal effort, in a rush, with the children nipping at my heels.

I love honeycomb and when I had this ice cream at a dinner party recently I was in absolute heaven. I just had to look up the recipe and try it. Mary makes the honeycomb in exactly the same way as in the crunchies recipe and mixes it with a ‘cheat’s’ ice  cream that doesn’t need an ice cream maker. It’s so easy to make and I look forward to trying this ice cream technique with other flavours.

Mary Berry’s honeycomb ice cream

  • 4 tablespoons (60ml)  of golden syrup
  • 150g of caster sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda
  • 600ml of double cream
  • 397g (1 tin) of full-fat condensed milk

Measure out the bicarbonate of soda and set aside. Then line a flat baking tray with baking parchment and lightly grease with a flavourless oil.

Put the sugar and golden syrup into a saucepan and set it on a very low heat for about 10 minutes until all the sugar has melted, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. When the sugar is completely melted, turn up the heat to medium. Once the mixture has started to boil, leave to bubble without stirring until it turns golden-brown (this only takes a couple of minutes).

Turn off the heat, add the bicarbonate of soda and quickly whisk for a couple of seconds. The mixture will froth up massively so make sure you use a saucepan with plenty of room. Quickly pour it into the middle of the oiled baking tray and don’t spread it out or touch it or the tray. Leave for about 30 minutes to cool and harden. You can hurry things along by putting it into the fridge after about 15 minutes.

Now break the honeycomb into bite size pieces. Set a third of the honeycomb to one side for decoration, the rest will go into the ice cream.

For the ice cream, whip the cream in a large bowl until it has soft peaks. Then pour in the condensed milk and stir well to combine. Fold two thirds of the honeycomb into the ice cream.

Pour the ice cream mixture into a loaf tin lined with cling film, cover with more clingfilm and freeze for 6 hours or overnight.

When you are ready to serve, turn out onto a serving dish and top with the remaining honeycomb.

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Pumpkin pie

pumpkin pie with pumpkin 2
I’m a total Grinch when it comes to Halloween. I will carve a pumpkin (if pushed) but I was bought up to believe that ‘trick or treating’ is evil and the rest of the hype (a whole aisle of flammable costumes in Tesco for example) just makes me want to find a dark hole to climb into.

We do grow pumpkins because they are easy to grow at a time when not much else is happening on the allotment, but this year they were small and not great for carving. The upside was that they tasted amazing – the flesh was sweet and fresh, almost melon-like. My children happily gobbled it up raw.

With these delicious insides I decided to try making a pumpkin pie. I never liked it as a child but I thought I’d give it another go. So I googled for a recipe and this is an amalgamation of those that used ingredients I already had in my cupboard.

I stole the idea of a biscuit base from Good Food online (because I’m rubbish at pastry). Most recipes seemed to use evaporated milk but I only had condensed, so I found one that used that instead. The result was a pumpkin pie that was perfectly edible – rather like an egg custard tart with pizazz. Ben said it tasted Christmassy (that will be the cloves) so I might freeze some of the pumpkin puree and make this over Christmas.

Anyway, I know that I’ve missed the boat in posting this recipe now that Halloween (and Bonfire Night for that matter) have passed, but I wanted to record what I did ready for next year.

Pumpkin pie

At least 12 servings

For the crust

  • 200g digestive biscuits (approx. 13 biscuits), crushed (or you can use ginger biscuits)
  • 50g butter, melted

For the filling

  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves (or you could use nutmeg if you dislike cloves)
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 425g pumpkin puree (see below if you don’t already have this to hand)
  • 397g can sweetened condensed milk

To make the pumpkin puree, first cut a medium pumpkin (or two small ones) into large wedges and remove the seeds with a spoon but don’t peel. Put the wedges into a large baking tray, cover with foil and roast in the oven for 1 hour at 180oC (the pumpkin flesh should be soft and you can test this with a skewer, if it goes through with no resistance then it’s done). Leave to cool and then scoop out the flesh from the skin and puree in a food processor. This will probably make more than the quantity required for this recipe.

For the base, smash up the biscuits either with a rolling pin in a plastic bag (my preferred method), or in a food processor.

Add the melted butter and mix until well combined. Tip into a 23cm, loose-bottomed tart tin. Use the back of a spoon to spread the mixture evenly over the base and up the sides of the tin. Put in the fridge and chill for at least half an hour.

Preheat your oven to 17oC.

Mix all the ingredients for the filling together until smooth.

Remove the crust from the fridge and place on a baking tray in the middle of the oven. Pull out the shelf and carefully fill with the pumpkin mixture, pouring it right to the top. Try not to slosh the filling over the sides as you push the shelf back in.

Bake for 40 minutes until set.

Cool in the tin to room temperature then chill completely in the fridge.

Serve cold.

Pumpkins sinister

pumpkin pie slice

Nigella’s brilliant breakfast bars

breakfast bars

These breakfast bars are really clever. They’re a bit like flapjack but instead of combing the dry ingredients with butter, sugar and syrup, they simply use a tin of condensed milk. There is still some sugar (about 14 grams per bar), but a lot less fat and a good amount of calcium from the milk. Plus there are wonderfully healthy nuts, seeds and oats  (I’m avoiding using Jamie’s ‘superfood’ buzz word because that’s just annoying),

Breakfast is the only meal of the day where I can entertain the concept of eating ‘on the go’. Even then it’s only because the mornings are terribly chaotic now that I have children to herd off to school. But whilst I allow myself to eat breakfast standing up, I will not eat and walk because I’m a complete snob about that.

I love Scarborough, but I’m disgusted by the sight of people strolling along the seafront eating cartons of fish and chips, dropping a few on the pavement as they go. Even when we buy ice cream from a van I make the children find a nice place to sit first.

Rant over.

These bars aren’t just for breakfast, they also make a good mid-morning/mid-afternoon snack too (just make sure you’re sitting down nicely though before you tuck in). I’ve been making them for my husband to nibble on (do men nibble?) when he’s bored in the shop or when he’s driving around in his van delivering furniture. They are slightly more wholesome than chocolate orange digestives (his current obsession) which don’t feel at all satisfying unless you eat at least four.

Breakfast bars (From ‘Nigella Express’)

Makes 16 large bars

  • A 397g tin of condensed milk
  • 250g of jumbo rolled oats
  • 75g of shredded coconut
  • 100g of dried fruit (Nigella uses cranberries but I use sultanas because they’re cheaper and I don’t like cranberries anyway. But I’ve also had good results with chopped, dried apricots or dates)
  • 125g of mixed seeds (pumpkin, sunflower and sesame)
  • 125g of unsalted, unroasted peanuts (or other nuts that you like)

Preheat the oven to 130oC.

Line a 23 x 33 x 4 cm baking tin with parchment, making sure that it goes all the way up the sides, and grease with oil or margarine.

Warm the condensed milk in a large saucepan, then tip in all the other ingredients and stir well to combine.

Tip the mixture into the tin and press down firmly either with a wooden spoon or with damp hands (which is what I do).

Bake for 1 hour, then remove and leave to cool for 15 minutes.

Cut into squares with a very sharp knife. Make them as big or small as you like (Nigella cuts hers four down and four across to make 16).

Leave to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Millionaire’s shortbread

millionaires shortbread
I know I’ve written about this before, but I maintain that dieting in January is a rotten idea. We need tasty treats (and the occasional glass of wine) to make the dark mornings and freezing cold days bearable. These Millionaire’s shortbreads are just the thing to make life feel like it’s worth living and help you soldier on until spring.

And if you cut them really small there’s no need to feel at all guilty.

There are a few processes involved so I would not describe this recipe (which comes from Peyton and Byrne’s British Baking) as easy, but it does make a large amount so you will have enough to giveaway and share the love, as well as keeping some for yourself.

Millionaire’s shortbread

Makes about 30 small squares

Shortbread

  • 200g butter, softened
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g semolina
  • 200g plain flour

Caramel

  • 300g butter
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 75g golden syrup
  • 397g can of condensed milk

Chocolate

  • 300g of reasonable quality plain chocolate

Preheat your oven to 170oC fan.

Lightly butter and line a 33cm x 23cm Swiss roll tin or shallow baking tin.

Combine the shortbread ingredients in a bowl and mix with your fingers until the butter is evenly distributed and the mix starts to come together into a crumbly dough. Press the dough into the tin and prick it all over with a fork. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until a light golden brown. Place on a wire rack to cool.

For the caramel, combine all the ingredients in a large saucepan over a low heat and stir with a wooden spoon until the butter has melted. Turn the heat up to medium so that the mixture starts to simmer and keep simmering and stirring the mixture until it turns a deep golden brown and looks like thick caramel fudge (for me this took 15 minutes). Don’t be tempted to leave it for a second as it will catch on the bottom of the pan and burn. Pour over the top of the cooled shortbread in an even layer and leave to cool and set.

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering walker or on a low heat in the microwave (which is what I do). Pour over the caramel layer and spread as evenly as you can with a palate knife. Leave to set and then cut into small squares (about 3-4 cm squared) with a very sharp knife.

They keep very well in a tin for up to 5 days (if they last that long).

Christmas fudge

Fudge - main photo

Less than a week now until Christmas Day and as usual I’m running around like a maniac trying to finish off my shopping and make a start on the dreaded wrapping. And, as is tradition in our house, we have to put aside one evening in the week before Christmas for fudge making. My husband dreads the day because it involves some serious physical labour (in the form of furious hand mixing which never fails to give you a dead arm). That said, this recipe is worth the effort because it’s an absolute godsend – the perfect present for those hard-to-buy-for uncles, fathers, brothers-in-laws and (if you want to be a creep) teachers.

Whilst I call this recipe fudge it is really more like Scots tablet. It is not soft and chewy like a lot of fudge but has a grainy texture with a slight bite and it melts just wonderfully in your mouth.

Fudge

Makes enough for 6 large bags

  • 175ml milk, semi skimmed is fine
  • 175g butter, cut into cubes
  • 800g caster sugar
  • 1 x 397g tin of condensed milk

You will need a large aluminium pot with high sides. Mine is from Ikea.

Line a baking tin (18 x 27 cm, or one with the same area) with tin foil and then cling film and place in the freezer for a few hours or overnight.

Put the milk and butter into the pan and melt over a medium heat. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve.

When the sugar has dissolved turn the heat up and when it is beginning to simmer add the condensed milk.

Stir the mixture continuously with a wooden spoon while you simmer for about 9-10 minutes or until the mixture turns a light amber colour. I do this on instinct but there is a sugar thermometer on my Christmas list so that next year I can check that it has reached 116oC.

Now for the laborious part – remove the mixture from the heat and place on a damp cloth. Beat with a wooden spoon until the mixture starts to lighten in colour and thicken up. You need to be able to pour the mix into the tin so don’t let it thicken up too much. This usually takes about 5 minutes and you will need a team mate to help you mix in relays otherwise your arm will fall off.

Pour the mix into your lined and frozen tin. Leave to cool at room temperature and then place in the fridge until set.

To cut up the fudge you will need a really sharp knife. Aim for neat squares but in reality the brittle texture  means you will get shards of all different sizes and lots of crumbs (save the crumbs – they are delicious on ice cream or just spooned directly into your mouth when you need a sugar rush to get through the Christmas chaos).

I put my fudge in clear presentation bags (from Lakeland) and tie with some Christmas coloured ribbon. I then store in the fridge until ready to give away and have to try very hard not to steal a piece or two.

NOTE: The hazardous boiling of sugar means that this is not one to get young children involved in. Mine however will very happily eat it.

Boiling the fudge mix. Make sure you stir continuously otherwise it will catch on the bottom of the pan.

Boiling the fudge mix. Make sure you stir continuously otherwise it will catch on the bottom of the pan.

Remove the fudge from the heat and beat until it thickens. This is my slave/husband vigorously stirring.

Remove the fudge from the heat and beat until it thickens. This is my slave/husband vigorously stirring.

The prepared tin lined with foil and clingfilm.

The prepared tin lined with foil and clingfilm.

Fudge cooling before going in the fridge.

Fudge cooling before going in the fridge.

Cutting up.

Cutting up.

In squares/shards.

Finished ready for bagging.

Ode to the digestive – part 3, Key lime pie

key lime pie

This is another really easy recipe with a digestive biscuit base. There are so many versions of Key lime pie knocking around, some baked, some not, some with a biscuit base and some with pastry. I think a truly authentic pie should actually have a pastry case, a similar filling to mine but uncooked, and then the addition of a meringue topping, rather like a lemon meringue pie. Put like that my version has so little in common with the real thing that maybe I ought to give it a new name.

The benefit of this version is that it’s cooked so you can serve it to pregnant women. The sharp lime flavour means that it works well as a dessert to follow a Thai, Indian or Mexican inspired menu where you’ve used lots of spice and garlic. The lime flavour is pretty intense and if you’re not a fan of limes then you can use lemons instead.

A sort of Key lime pie

Serves 8-10

Base

  • 200g digestive biscuits crushed with a rolling pin or in a food processor. (I think it is fine to use cheaper value digestive biscuits for bases.)
  • 75g butter

Filling

  • Zest of 3 limes (leave this out if using bottled lime juice)
  • 150ml lime juice (about 4-5 large limes, or use bottled lime juice)
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 x 397g tin of condensed milk

Preheat the oven to 160oC fan.

For the biscuit base melt the butter in a saucepan and then add the crushed digestives. Stir to combine and then tip into a loose bottomed flan tin with a diameter of 23 cm. Press the biscuit mixture up the sides of the tin as well as on the bottom. Leave to chill in the fridge while you prepare the filling.

In a large mixing bowl add the eggs and lime zest (if using) and mix with an electric hand whisk until thickened. This usually takes about 2 minutes. Then add the condensed milk and whisk for another 4 minutes. Finally add the lime juice and give it another quick whisk (it will really thicken up now)*. Then pour into the prepared base and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

* I’ll let you into a secret, the last time I made this I misread the recipe and added the lime juice to the eggs instead of just the zest in the first step. In a panic I just bunged in all the filling ingredients together and whisked for a couple of minutes (it thickened up immediately because of the lime juice). I have to say that the result was exactly the same but I feel I should give you the legitimate recipe in the first instance.

When it’s completely cool cover and chill in the fridge until you are ready to serve. I don’t cover with cling film as the top is very fragile and comes away with the cling film when you remove it. I tend to cover with a shallow bowl which fits neatly over the tin without touching the surface of the pudding but you could also just put it in a large Tupperware container and then in the fridge.

Remove from the fridge for about 20 minutes before serving. I like to decorate with a dusting of icing sugar (don’t do this in advance though as the sugar just melts into the surface). You can also drizzle melted dark chocolate over the top if you want to be really fancy.

I like this dessert just for itself but if you want to work the presentation then a dollop of crème fraiche with some lime zest grated over the top works well.

Ode to the digestive – part 2, banoffee pie

banoffee pie

As with Marmite people seem to love or hate banoffe pie. I adore it, but it’s my husband’s absolute worst nightmare. For this reason (and because it is so calorific) I only ever make it when we have a really big gathering with lots of other desserts. As we haven’t had people over for a while this is why there’s no picture to show you of one I’ve made recently. At parties it’s always the first to go leaving me disappointed that there are no left overs to enjoy as a hung-over breakfast the morning after.

Because you can now buy the condensed milk ready caramelised there’s really not much to this dessert. Gone are the days of boiling the tins in water for several hours on the hob. When I was a student I had a terrible accident making banoffee pie – the pan boiled dry and I ended up with exploded caramel covering the whole kitchen. By the time I’d finished scrubbing molten sugar off the walls, ceiling and floor the kitchen had never looked so clean and our slum landlord was delighted.

This is a useful recipe to have to hand but I do feel like a bit of a fraud because it’s virtually identical to the one on the side of the Carnation condensed milk tin.

Easy-peasy banoffe pie

Base

  • 200g digestive biscuits crushed with a rolling pin or in a food processor. (I think it is fine to use cheap own brand digestive biscuits for bases)
  • 100g butter

Filing

  • 1 x 397g tins of caramel condensed milk (sometimes also known as dulce du leche). This results in quite a thin layer of caramel. If you like it thicker you can use two tins
  • 4 small bananas (or enough to cover your base when sliced thinly)
  • A small 300ml carton of whipping cream
  • Grated milk chocolate to decorate

For the biscuit base melt the butter in a saucepan and then add the crushed digestives. Stir to combine and then tip into a loose bottomed flan tin with a diameter of 23 cm. Press the biscuit mixture across the the bottom of the tin and up the sides. This is a bit fiddly and it is quite tricky to get it even. I find using my fingers or the back of a spoon quite helpful. Leave to chill in the fridge.

Slice the banana thinly (about 2mm) and arrange it neatly over the biscuit base.

Pour the tin of caramel over the banana and spread evenly using a palette knife. Do not be tempted to beat the caramel to make it easier to spread and this will change the consistency completely and make it too runny.

Chill in the fridge. When you are ready to serve whip the cream and spread over the top. Decorate with grated chocolate.