tea time

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.

Hveteboller (Norwegian buns)

Hvetteboller2

When we were on holiday in Norway we lived on these buns or boller. They were delicious, the children’s loved them, they were easy to buy from 7-elevens (which are everywhere in Norway) and cheap (well by Norwegian standards at least).

I’ve been meaning to have a go at making them ever since our trip (well over a year ago now) and I found this Norwegian recipe online. The google translation was somewhat eccentric so I had to use my small amount of common baking sense filling in the gaps. The result was good though – I’m judging this on the fact that the whole batch didn’t even make it past lunchtime.

I have always thought cinnamon was the quintessential Scandinavian spice but the main flavour in these buns is cardamom. Cardamom is not grown anywhere near Norway but apparently the Scandinavian love affair with cardamom is deep set –  dating back to Viking times when those pesky, marauders bought it back from their raids on Constantinople where it had been traded from India.

To make the buns I used my special new flour – locally grown and then ground at Nottingham’s Green’s Windmill (bought in bulk in a large 12.5kg sack). How lovely it was to use local, organic, unbleached flour which was comparable in price to the Allison’s I usually buy in Tesco. I know for a fact that this flour is well regarded and used by some top quality restaurants (Sat Bains name was above mine in the order book!). But do make sure you phone ahead before making a special trip to Green’s Windmill to buy flour as they struggle to keep up with demand and often run out.

Hveteboller (Norwegian buns)

Number of servings – 12

  • 500g of strong white bread flour
  • 100g of caster sugar
  • ½ a teaspoon of salt
  • ½ a teaspoon of freshly ground cardamom
  • ½ a teaspoon of baking powder
  • 100g of butter
  • 350ml lukewarm milk
  • 12g of quick yeast
  • 1 beaten egg for glazing

For a chocolate version

  • Good quality dark chocolate (one small square for each bun)

Start by mixing half of the flour with sugar, salt, cardamom and baking powder. Then crumble the butter into the bowl and rub with your fingers until you have a mix the texture of fine breadcrumbs.

In another bowl or jug stir the yeast into the lukewarm milk and add the other half of the flour. Leave to stand for half an hour to bubble up.

Add the yeast mixture to the rest of the flour and knead for about 10 minutes until elastic. It is a very wet mixture but it will become a lot less sticky as you knead. Cover with cling film and let the dough rise until doubled in size – somewhere between 1 and 2 hours.

Divide the mixture into 12 and shape into rounds (inserting a piece of chocolate in the centre for the chocolate version). Place seam down in a baking tray and cover with cling film.

If you are cooking straight away

Leave to prove for 30 minutes and set the oven to 220oC.

Brush the surface of the buns with lightly beaten egg and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden.

Cool on a rack.

If you want fresh buns for the morning

Put the buns in the fridge and leave to rise slowly overnight.

In the morning set the oven to 220oC and take the buns out of the fridge to come up to room temperature (about 30 minutes).

Brush the surfaces with lightly beaten egg and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden. Cool on a rack but eat whilst still warm.

NOTE: You don’t need to add the chocolate surprise – they are just as delicious without. You could also add chocolate drops to the mix instead – or some recipes use raisins.

Hvetteboller

Easy chocolate biscuits

easy chocolate biscuits

I bake these simple chocolate biscuits when I want to make my husband and son happy because they are both of the opinion that all sweet treats should involve chocolate in some form.

But this week I’ve been making them for fundraising volunteers (to spur them on with school Christmas Fayre preparations) and builders (so that they hurry up with the work on my husband’s new shop and give me some real employment in the new year). They’ve proven to be very popular.

I think they would also make brilliant Christmas biscuits if you used a Christmassy cutter and some plain white piped icing for decoration.

Chocolate biscuits

Makes about 20

  • 225g of self-raising flour
  • 100g of caster sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder
  • 100g of margarine
  • 5 tablespoons of milk
  • A few drops of vanilla extract
  • Some melted dark chocolate for drizzling (optional)

Heat the oven to 180oC fan.

Line two flat baking trays with parchment.

Mix the flour, sugar and cocoa powder then rub in the margarine until you have fine breadcrumbs.

Add the milk and vanilla extract and bring together with your hands to form a soft dough.

Knead lightly on a floured surface and then roll out to 1/2 cm thick and cut into 7 cm rounds using a cutter. You can make them smaller if you prefer (and this will obviously make more).

Place on baking trays and bake for 15 minutes.

Remove from the baking trays and leave to cool on a wire rack.

For the optional chocolate drizzle, melt some dark chocolate slowly in the microwave or over a bain marie (a bowl over a pan of simmering water). Drizzle the chocolate over the biscuits and put in the fridge for 10 minutes to harden.

Or you can forget the dark chocolate drizzle and instead sandwich with Philadelphia and dark chocolate spread, they look like Oreo cookies and are in the same vein as my cheat’s chocolate cheesecake.

Marble cake

marble cake 1

This is a really good cake to have in your baking repertoire – it looks impressive but is straight forward to make and doesn’t need icing. It’s a winner in our family (probably because it involves chocolate) and the kid’s love to help make it.

The recipe was printed in a free pull out section of the Daily Mail (this is not a paper that I’m a fan of but my father-in-law gave it to me…honest). It comes from Paul Hollywood’s ‘How to Bake’.

I for one am looking forward to the new series of ‘The Great British Bake Off’ now that the World Cup has ended and there is literally nothing worth watching on TV.

Marble cake

Serves 8 – 12

  • 200g butter, softened
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of good quality vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 250g plain flour
  • 3 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons of full fat milk (although I used semi-skimmed because we don’t buy full fat and it was just fine)
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa powder

Heat the oven to 180oC fan and line a 1kg loaf tin with baking parchment.

In a large bowl beat the butter, 180g of the sugar and the vanilla extract until light and fluffy (I use an electric hand whisk).

Beat in the eggs one at a time then sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl and gently fold in with 2 tablespoons of the milk.

Spoon two thirds of the mix into the prepared tin.

Sift the cocoa powder into the remaining mixture, add the remaining 20g of sugar and 1 tablespoon of milk and fold until well incorporated.

Spoon the chocolaty mixture into the tin then run a fork through both mixes, swirling the two together to make a marbled effect.

Bake in the oven for 45-70 minutes – testing with a skewer after 45 minutes to see whether it is done (it’s done if the skewer comes out clean). Paul leaves his for 55 – 70 minutes but mine was done after 50 minutes.

Remove the cake from the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack.

You can dust the top with icing sugar if you want it to look pretty.

NOTE: I would advise making this cake when you know it will be eaten up quickly (if you’re having people to stay for the weekend for example). The use of butter and no icing means that it doesn’t keep that well and dries out within a couple of days. If you do have some left however, then you can refresh by zapping each slice in the microwave for a bit (10-20 seconds should do it).