Mary Berry

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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Brandy snaps

brandy snaps 1

Brandy snaps were my mother-in-law’s absolute favourite. So eager to please (in the early stages of my relationship with Ben) I attempted to make her some as a birthday gift. After several angry hours in the kitchen and lots of wasted ingredients I ended up with THREE that were just about presentable.

I then swore that I would never, ever make them again. But that was 10 years ago now.

On another, but relevant note (bear with me here), I am having a year of rereading. This is a brilliant experience which I would definitely recommend. In many cases I am enjoying my favourite books even more the second time around. And as the books are a stable, unchanging thing, this is highlighting to me just how much I’ve changed. I am rereading the books through older, more experienced and perhaps wiser eyes.

My experience with trying to make brandy snaps again after 10 years is similar. The memory of failure has nagged at me for all these years but this time around they came out just fine with a minimum of stress and I wondered what an earth all the fuss had been about. The thing is, it’s not the recipe that’s changed – it’s me. I’m definitely now more patient (which probably goes hand in hand with being a mother). I also now except advice and don’t assume I know it all already.

Plus, the amazing teaching tool that is YouTube didn’t exist all those years ago (if my instructions below are in anyway unclear I recommend watching Mary Berry’s YouTube video).

Mary Berry’s brandy snaps

Makes 8-12

  • 50g of butter
  • 50g of demerara sugar
  • 50g of golden syrup
  • 50g of flour
  • ½ a teaspoon of lemon juice
  • ½ a teaspoon of powdered ginger

Put the butter, sugar and syrup into a small saucepan and heat very, very slowly, stirring regularly until all the ingredients are melted. Take your time here and make sure that all the sugar has dissolved and is not grainy. It will take around 10-15 minutes (put your patient head on). Leave to cool a little (for around 5 minutes).

Measure out the flour and ginger and sieve into the saucepan once the butter/sugar/syrup mix has cooled.

Give everything a good stir and add the lemon juice. The mixture should now be smooth and glossy.

Take a flat baking tray and line with some baking parchment. Dollop a teaspoon of the mix onto the baking tray. Leave plenty of space between each dollop as they will spread out massively. I recommend 4 to each sheet and doing them in batches.

Place in an oven preheated to 160oC fan to bake. They will take around 10 – 15 minutes but start watching after 8. They should spread out and turn lacy and a nice deep golden colour.

Take them out of the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes. You will not be able to shape them straight from the oven as they will still be too runny.

When just firm enough, use a palette knife to carefully lift each brandy snap off the baking sheet. Then curl around a well-greased wooden spoon to shape. You can also make baskets by placing them over the bottom of a glass.

Leave to cool completely and go rock hard and then keep in an air tight container.

I prefer them unfilled but you can fill them with whipped cream if you like (you will need a piping bag and nozzle for this). Or cheat and use squirty cream. But don’t fill them until you are ready to eat or they will go soft.

Post Christmas notes

Happy New Year!

This was the Christmas present I received from my children.

postcard.jpg

This made me so happy – the promise of a delicious sounding meal is the perfect present for me. I am particularly intrigued by the ‘salted caramel light bulb’ – the idea of my 6 year old son who has obviously been watching too many reality cooking competitions.


Despite my last post (where I was very grumpy about Christmas) the festive spirit did eventually kick in and I actually ended up doing quite a bit of seasonal cooking. Mainly with my children as a way to keep them entertained during the holidays.

You will most probably not be interested in reading about these recipes now that Christmas is well and truly over. But I am just making a note of them ready for next year – because the main user of this blog is me!

Scroll down to see recipes for yule log, a gingerbread house and a chocolate salami (or just look at the photos).

Or ignore and wait for my next post which will probably feature something healthy.

Yule log

yule log.jpg

I’ve been making this for a couple of years now but for some reason haven’t posted the recipe. The cake part comes from my trusty Peyton and Byrne British Baking cookbook. The icing is Nigella’s and it is the best chocolate icing I have ever tasted. I’m not a fan of yule log but it always goes down well with the chocolate lovers in my family and makes a good Christmas Day dessert alternative for those crazy people who don’t like Christmas pudding.

For the cake

  • A tablespoon of melted butter for greasing
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 130g of caster sugar, plus 35g
  • 100g of self-raising flour, plus some for dusting
  • 25g of cocoa powder
  • A pinch of cream of tartar
  • A little icing sugar for dusting

For the icing

  • 175g of dark chocolate
  • 250g of icing sugar
  • 225g of soft butter
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 180oC.

Brush a 33cm x 23cm swiss roll tin (or shallow baking tin) with melted butter then line with baking parchment. Brush the parchment lightly all over with melted butter and then dust lightly with flour tipping out the excess.

Beat together the egg yolks and 130g of sugar until pale and creamy.

Sift together the flour and cocoa powder and fold into the egg/sugar mixture.

In a separate, scrupulously clean, glass bowl whisk the egg whites with 35g of sugar and the pinch of cream of tartar until soft peaks form.

Stir a third of the whites into the egg yolk mixture to slacken the mix, then gently fold in the remainder with a metal spoon taking care not to knock out too much air from the mix.

Pour into the prepared tin and spread out as evenly as you can with a palette knife.

Bake for 15 minutes until the cake has risen and is springy to the touch.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes.

Dust the top of the cake with icing sugar and place a layer of clingfilm on top followed by a chopping board. Tip the cake out onto the chopping board, then take the short end and roll up incorporating the clingfilm into the roll. Leave to cool completely all rolled up.

For the icing, melt the chocolate in a microwave or in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Let it cool a little.

Mix together the soft butter and icing sugar until pale in colour. Then add the melted chocolate and the vanilla essence. Beat until smooth.

Unroll the cake and spread with an even layer of icing. Then cover the outside of the log with icing and use a skewer to make log like marks.

Dust with icing sugar just before serving.

NOTE: For a less rich cake, make half the amount of icing and fill the centre of the roll with whipped cream saving the chocolate icing for just the outside.


 

Mary Berry’s Gingerbread House

gingerbread-house-1

I once made a gingerbread house from a kit. It was fun to make but inedible. The gingerbread itself was vile – stale and tasteless.

Elizabeth and I had a lot of fun making this one from scratch but it wasn’t easy. She made the gingerbread mix but I did the rolling and cutting out using this template:

http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/tv/christmasbakeoff/gingerbread_house.pdf

Do follow Mary’s advice about rolling between baking parchment it makes it much easier. Also remember to trim the gingerbread after cooking using the template as a guide as it will have spread a bit. I forgot to do this but it would have been easier if I had. I had a lot of gingerbread left over which I made into biscuits. The gingerbread itself is absolutely delicious.

Next year I’m going off piste and designing my own template.

For the gingerbread

  • 375g of butter
  • 300g of dark muscovado sugar
  • 150g of golden syrup
  • 900g of plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tablespoons of ground ginger

For the icing

  • 3 egg whites
  • 675g of icing sugar, sifted
  • 3 teaspoons of lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 180oC fan.

Melt the butter, sugar and syrup together in a large pan. Sieve the flour, bicarbonate of soda and ground ginger together into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour in the melted butter mixture, stir it in and, when cool enough to handle, knead to a stiff dough.

Divide the mixture into five equally-sized pieces, cut one of these pieces in half (so you have six pieces in total). Roll each piece out between two sheets of baking parchment until it is about ¾cm thick. Using the templates as a guide cut out all the sections and slide onto baking trays before baking.

For the pieces with windows remove from the oven after 7-8 minutes, sprinkle boiled sweets (crushed with a pestle and mortar) into the window holes and return to the oven for another 3-4 minutes until the sweets have melted.

For the other pieces (without windows) bake for 10-12 minutes.

You will need to do this in batches unless you have a very large oven and several baking trays.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes, then trim around the templates again to give clean, sharp edges. Leave to cool completely on a wire rack. You will not be able to remove the windowed pieces from the baking parchment until the windows have cooled and hardened completely.

For the icing, whisk the egg whites in a large bowl until frothy. Using a wooden spoon or a hand-held electric mixer on slow speed, add the icing sugar a tablespoonful at a time. Stir in the lemon juice and beat the icing until it is very stiff and white and stands up in peaks.

On a cake board spread a layer of icing thinly over the surface to stick the house on to and to create a snow effect.

Use the icing to glue all the pieces together and assemble the house. It is helpful to have another pair of hands but the mixture sticks and hardens very quickly so this part is not as tricky at it looks. Mary suggests using cocktail sticks to hold the roof in place but I didn’t find this necessary.

I don’t believe in being prescriptive about the decoration. Buy lots of sweets and chocolate buttons and be creative. Use a little blob of icing to glue each sweet to the gingerbread and pipe icing around the edges of the house if you want a neat look.

For younger children just smear the icing all over the surface and then let them add sweets in any way they like. Try to let go of any urge to be neat and tidy and buy extra sweets as for everyone that goes on the house another will go in the mouth.

gingerbread.jpg


 

Nigella’s Chocolate Salami

chocolate salami.jpg

This is good fun – it’s basically a chocolate biscuit fridge cake doing a very good impression of a giant meat salami. It flummoxed everyone in my family. It keeps very well in the fridge so it can be made well in advance. My husband is still ploughing through ours and will not entertain the idea of throwing it out.

  • 250g of good quality dark chocolate
  • 250g of amaretti or rich tea biscuits (I used rich tea because I do not like almond flavourings)
  • 100g of softened butter
  • 150g of caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of amaretto liqueur (I used brandy instead)
  • 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
  • 75g of almonds, roughly chopped
  • 75g of hazelnuts, roughly chopped
  • 50g of pistachios, roughly chopped
  • Icing sugar to decorate

Melt the chocolate either in a microwave (which is what I do) or in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Set aside to cool a little.

Smash up the biscuits in a polythene bag with a rolling pin. You want a rough texture not dust.

In a mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar and add the eggs one by one. Then mix in the liqueur. Don’t worry if the mixture looks curdled.

Sift the cocoa powder into the melted chocolate and then stir the whole lot into the egg mixture.

Finally add the crushed biscuits and nuts and mix thoroughly to make sure that everything is covered with chocolate. Put in the fridge for half an hour to firm up a bit.

Now for the shaping. Lay a couple of sheets of cling film onto your work surface and tip the chocolate mixture into the middle.

Shape the mixture into a rough sausage shape (approximately 30 cm long) and then roll up with cling film and twist the ends of the clingfilm to tighten. Then put it in the fridge for to set for at least 6 hours but overnight would be better.

Dust your work surface with icing sugar. Take the salami out of the fridge and tie some string onto the twisted clingfilm of one end. Trim away as much cling film as you can but leave the two twisted ends. Dust the whole salami and your hands with icing sugar and then string up the salami – this is tricky to describe but this video is helpful. Finish by tying the twisted end with string. Roll up in tin foil or a new layer of clingfilm until you are ready to serve.

Serve fridge cold.

Macarons (or is it Macaroons?)

macaroons1

Dainty, pretty and staggeringly expensive macarons seemed to be everywhere in Belgium. We only had them once (as a treat) but this prompted the children to ask when I was going to make macarons again. I vowed that on our return home I would dig out my Mary Berry recipe, defrost the egg whites in the freezer, and rustle some up.

This week I finally kept my promise.

It was then that I remembered why I don’t make macarons very often.

The recipe (which is described as easy) seemed straight forward and all went swimmingly until the part which says very neatly (in soft and calm Mary Berry voice).

“Spoon the macaron mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 1cm round nozzle. Pipe 5cm circles onto the baking tray”.

Now what this doesn’t say is that it is almost impossible to hold the piping bag steady with one hand and fill it with the other because the extremely sticky mixture won’t come off the spoon and you’ve run out of hands. And whilst you’ve been faffing about trying to fill the bag from the top the runny mix is dripping straight out the bottom of the nozzle. You just about manage to pipe messy circles but then, when you have to refill the piping bag, you can’t prise it open because it’s stuck together with syrup. And your hands stick to everything they touch because they’re covered in bright green macaron mix…as is the work surface…the sink…and the floor.

Perhaps I needed one of these piping bag stands that they sell in Lakeland.

 

piping-bag-holder

But I don’t like Lakeland – who sell pointless gadgets to the desperate (in this case me) and gullible.

You can also buy this.

pipping-set

 

Now this does look like it would work but I’m not sure I’m that devoted to the art of macaron making to invest in specialist equipment.

Anyway, I battled on and once the rough looking macarons were baked and sandwiched together they didn’t look too bad. I picked out the best ones for the photograph above and placed them on a beautiful James Hake dish which helped.

The thing is I don’t even like macarons. But I do like making people happy and the smile of anticipation on my children’s faces when I showed them the results of my labours was well worth all the fuss and washing up.

I pretended not to hear when they asked “Mummy, when are you going to make macarons again?”

PS. I still don’t know whether it’s macaron or macaroon.

Mary Berry’s macaroon/macaron recipe

Makes 9-12

For the macarons

  • 125g ground almonds
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 3 egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons of caster sugar
  • ½ teaspoon of cream of tartar
  • Food colouring (whatever colour takes your fancy)

For the butter cream filling (my recipe)

  • 100g of dark chocolate
  • 50g butter
  • 200g of icing sugar

For the macarons, first mix together the icing sugar and ground almonds and try to get rid of any large lumps by crushing with the back of a spoon (you’re meant to blitz in a blender but this makes too much washing up for my liking).

Using an electric whisk beat the egg whites in a scrupulously clean large bowl until stiff peaks form. Then slowly whisk in the cream of tartar and caster sugar until the mixture is smooth and glossy.

With a large metal spoon, gently fold in the food colouring, icing sugar and ground almonds.

Take a piping bag fitted with a 1cm round nozzle. Fill the bag with the mixture (as best you can) and pipe 5 cm circles of mixture onto flat baking sheets lined with baking parchment. I draw around a 5 cm round biscuit cutter onto the baking parchment to make a guide but it is worth noting that the mixture does spread so if you want your macarons to be 5 cm then don’t pipe all the way to the edge. It’s a good idea to leave plenty of space between each macaron in case they spread more than you hope.

If a peak forms on top then flatten it down with a damp finger. Tap the trays sharply onto the work surface to expel any air bubbles and then let the macaroons settle for about an hour, or until the surface is no longer sticky.

Heat the oven to 160oC and bake for 15 minutes.

Leave to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the baking parchment with a flat knife and transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Make up the butter cream filling by melting the dark chocolate and mixing with softened butter and icing sugar until smooth. You could also fill the macarons with standard butter cream, or lemon curd or whipped cream.

Use the filling to sandwich the macarons together. Then chill in the fridge until the butter cream has set before storing in an air tight container at room temperature.

Half term treat – Mary Berry’s honeycomb crunchies

honeycomb crunchies
I don’t often cook the recipes featured on the front page of the BBC website, but as a huge fan of Crunchie chocolate bars I just had to give this one a go.

I’ve always wanted to try making honeycomb and it’s actually quite straightforward with Mary’s recipe (the only tricky bit is getting the molten sugar off the saucepan afterwards).

These chocolaty bites are absolutely delicious. They are crunchy and chewy at the same time and the sugar content is so off the scale that my children went mad for them. My daughter Elizabeth ate three pieces in one day, but then again so did I.

Mary Berry’s honeycomb crunchies

For the honeycomb

  • 1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • flavourless oil (such as vegetable oil), for greasing

To assemble

  • 250g of dark or milk chocolate (I used half dark and half milk)
  • 100g butter, cut into 1cm cubes
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 150g digestive biscuits

Start by making the honeycomb. Measure out one teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda and set aside, then lightly grease a flat baking tray.

Put the sugar and golden syrup into a saucepan and set it on a very low heat for 10 minutes until all the sugar has melted. Stir 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.

Line a square 20.5cm/8in tin with baking paper.

Break up the chocolate into small pieces and put in a heatproof bowl. Melt gently over a pan of simmering water, then add the butter and golden syrup. Stir until the butter has melted and the mixture is smooth. Set aside.

Use your hands or a knife to break up the biscuits and honeycomb into chunks the size of your thumbnail (Mary uses a rolling pin to do this but I found that this just smashed them into tiny crumbs). Put them into a mixing bowl and pour over the melted chocolate mixture. Stir until all the chunks are coated and pour the whole lot into the prepared tin. Spread it right into the corners.

Cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for 2 hours before cutting into squares with a sharp knife. Mary cuts hers into 16 but you can make them as big or little as you like.

Eat straight from the fridge. Mary says they keep for a couple of days but if yours last that long then you’ve got more willpower than I.

NOTE: These are fun to make with kids, but although they will love watching the bit where the honeycomb froths up keep them at a distance as the mixture is scalding hot.

Ode to the digestive – part 4, baked vanilla cheesecake

baked cheesecake

I dream about baked vanilla cheesecake – it’s my favourite dessert of all. This week I’ve been reading about the last food requests of people on death row and this would definitely be my pudding of choice for a final ever meal.

I have tried lots of different recipes for baked cheesecake and have always struggled with the texture. They have tended to be a little on the stodgy side and rather claggy. I think this recipe works well though. It initially started out as a Mary Berry but I’ve adapted it by whisking the egg white to give it a lighter texture.

It’s good on its own or with a raspberry sauce.

Baked vanilla cheesecake

Serves 8

For the base

  • 100g crushed digestives (about 7 biscuits)
  • 50g butter

For the filling

  • 700g full fat soft cheese
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon of good quality vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 150oC fan.

For the base, crush the digestives in a food processor or in a food bag with a rolling pin. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the crushed biscuits and stir until incorporated. Tip the mixture into a 20 cm loose bottomed tin (about 8 cm deep) and press down firmly with your fingers or the back of a spoon to form the biscuit base. Cover with cling film and leave to rest in the fridge.

Measure the cheese into a large bowl and beat with a wooden spoon or an electric hand mixer until soft. Add the sugar and beat again until well mixed.#

Separate the eggs and whisk up the whites until soft peaks form.

Add the egg yolks and vanilla essence to the cheese mixture and stir to combine. I do this bit by hand with a metal spoon. Next, add just a spoonful of egg white to the cheese and stir in to slacken the mixture. Then very gently fold in the rest of the egg whites attempting to keep as much of the air in the mixture as possible.

Tip the mixture onto the biscuit base and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the cheesecake is puffed around the edges but still wobbly in the centre.

Turn off the oven but leave in the oven to cool.

Chill well in the fridge and serve well chilled.

A chocolate twist
For a chocolate ripple version, add just half the finished mixture into the tin in spoonfuls with gaps between the dollops. Then add 150g of melted plain chocolate to the remaining mixture and spoon into the gaps. Finally, swirl the top with a skewer or knife to make a marble effect. Make sure that the chocolate is not too hot when you add it otherwise it will start to cook the eggs in the cheesecake mixture.

Cracks
Cracks always appear in my baked cheesecake. I have a feeling that the air in the egg white in this recipe probably encourages the mixture to crack, but I’d rather have a light texture and cracks than a stodgy texture with no cracks. To be honest because it’s only an aesthetic thing and it still tastes good I’m not particularly bothered. If you are then there are some tips to avoid cracking in this link. If you hit on a winner then please do let me know. It the meantime I’m going to opt for the last suggestion and cover the cracks with sauce.

http://dianasdesserts.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/bakingtips.cheesecakes/

Eddie licking the bowl.