Thursday, 1 December 2016

Feeling Horny?

Fanny has an important question for us today. It's not something she quizzes us gently with at all. She is straight in there. Quite direct. Absolutely no messing around with this one, she just blurts out her query, and presumably stands back with her eyebrows arched awaiting the answer. It's important to establish before we proceed. So, Fanny wonders, are you a top or a bottom?

Fanny Cradock Cream Horns

Fanny insists that 'top' is best, after all its the professional way that's been done for decades and decades. She spends her time attempting to get her assistants to follow her lead and go for 'top', but some of them just don't like it, Fanny reports. Oh dear, this seems to be such a disappointment to dear old Fanny. Todays assistant, Sally, is singled out in particular. Fanny includes pictures of Sally trying to be a 'top' but failing miserably. She is just so much happier being a 'bottom'. There's no way round it.

Fanny Cradock Cream Horns

Despite her obvious disappointment and disdain, Fanny is prepared to accept that although Sally's chosen path is 'wrong' and certainly not 'best' it will nonetheless result in something rather pleasing. Fanny is focused on the prize. She decides for once not to enter into a debate. Fanny decides not to lock horns with Sally as, you see, Fanny and Sally have both got the horn today. Cream horns, naturally.

Fanny Cradock Cream Horns

Now, as I was saying, Fanny tends to take the classic route and winds strips of puff paste from the top of her horn mould to the bottom. She starts at the back or shallowest part. Sassy Sally however starts at the tip and works upwards. Whichever way you choose, please ensure that each over-lapping wind is at least one-third over the previous one. If need be wet down the last bit to stick it in place. Any surplus paste should be trimmed from the top of the cone. Otherwise, Fanny warns, the cones will not release properly, regardless if you choose to be a 'top' or a 'bottom'.

Fanny Cradock Cream Horns

Fanny lays down her horns on a baking sheet, brushes them with egg white and sprinkles with a little sugar before baking. If all the trimming is done correctly they should release from the mould and be ready for filling. The classic rule is to fill your horn with layers of confectioners custard, jam and finally whipped cream. However, Fanny is the rule breaker this time as she simply thinks it tastes better to whip up the cream, add some custard and jam and then pipe the mixture into the horns. It's all a bit sideways, but whichever way up you decide to do things the end result will be naughty and nice. Enjoy your trip round the horn...

Fanny Cradock Cream Horns

Monday, 21 November 2016

Respect Your Aelder

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. At least in Fanny Cradock's world. Having said that, she does start planning for the fateful day in January, such is the importance she places on the occasion. So perhaps everyday is like Christmas? For now though it's not puddings, fruit cakes, mincemeat or even decorations that has got Fanny all stirred up - it's the chance to say, although you may say uncharacteristically, 'thank-you' to all those that have supplied her throughout the year.

Fanny Cradock Thankyou Christmas Cake

You see there were seemingly certain teams of people who worked for the Cradock's who they sent large gâteaux for them to eat in their offices on their last working day before Christmas. They obviously had a lot of these mystery office workers dotted around, and they all needed a suitable cake to be dispatched in time for the final hoorah of the year. Clearly the cakes had to be delicious, full-on festive and large enough for the whole team to dig in. Fanny set her own housebound team to work on the 'thank-you' cakes. Michael started by making endless swiss roll panels. The ones which never crack.

Fanny Cradock Thankyou Christmas Cake

We've made them before, but I always enjoy doing them. So easy, and light, with fluffy panels resulting. As well as the panels, Fanny of course needed an almost endless supply of buttercream. She does have an unusual method for making it, or rather getting her team to make it. She starts with egg yolks. And a double-boiler. The yolks are whisked to a frenzy with icing sugar over a gentle thread of heat until pale and 'like cream'. Meanwhile, butter is also beaten until pale and fluffy, and then added to the eggy-sugar-cream mix. The result is a lovely, natural looking buttercream. It tastes pretty good too.

Fanny Cradock Thankyou Christmas Cake

Fanny tends to top these 'thank-you' cakes in mocha glacé icing. It's what you think of for Christmas, isn't it?  No, me neither. So I switch up the coffee for a new Scottish, foraged liqueur, or elixir, that I tried this week called Aelder. It's made by Buck and Birch, and packs a punch of herbs, botanicals and christmassy flavours of sweetness and spice. Should be perfect. Fanny borrows her recipe from Gretel Beer (who I also love) which is essentially a syrup, with added chocolate chips and a little olive oil. The Aelder makes a tempting syrup, so all looks good so far.

Fanny Cradock Thankyou Christmas Cake

Fanny divides her swiss roll panel into three and build layers of with buttercream filling, before it's all topped off with the glacé icing. Fanny recommends popping the cake into the porch to cool down before the icing covering is added, although I dare say the fridge might do. I think mine might've seized up a little, but it still covers okay. All that's left is a jaunty design with the remaining buttercream and perhaps a walnut or two for decoration, before Fanny fires them off to the waiting office teams. Add in any Christmas decorations you should wish too, of course. For bigger teams, just make more (Fanny states the obvious) and add them together into long lines of cake. Then, be thankful. Do you think the office teams were?

Fanny Cradock Thankyou Christmas Cake

Thursday, 17 November 2016

A Very Distinctive Fanny

You should know by now that I am obsessed. Totally and absolutely fixated. Preoccupied some might say. It's okay, you can say it too - it's not really a big secret that I am infatuated with Fanny is it? Madame Cradock is on my mind all the time. She has a grip on my thoughts. She's bewitched, bothered and bewildered me for some time. She has taken over my every waking moment, and truth be told she has dominated my dreams too. She's got her hooks into me and I'm delighted about it!

Fanny Cradock Research

I love being immersed in her life, her work and her crazy creations. I love reading her words, gazing at her images and second-guessing her thoughts. I love watching her work. Some say I am gripped. Some say possessed. Some say haunted. Some people might even say plagued. For me though it's a joy that I have created for myself. My life and her life were well and truly wound up and wrapped up together enough as it was before this past year, but I have taken the immersion to another level.

Fanny Cradock Research

I've just completed a Masters course in Gastronomy. Yes, me. It's been a roller-coaster year of lectures, reading, writing and presenting - it's been full-on all about the assignments, assessments and anxieties. All on top of work. Strangely though I've loved it too. And I have survived. Fanny has been my saviour you see, in a strange twist of fate. I seized the chance to spend three months over the summer researching, digging, uncovering, gasping and rejoicing her life. Her real life. She became the focus off my dissertation project.

Fanny Cradock Research

This was never the plan. She had already crept into every available space of my life, but it appeared that there was no escape. Or perhaps no return. No denial. All my worlds collided at just the right time, and I was offered access to Fanny Cradock's own personal archive. I just can't explain how exciting that was for me. Her contribution to the world has never really been discussed beyond the usual mentions of ballgowns, eyebrows and green potatoes. Until now... Could I do it?

Fanny Cradock Research

So research in hand, insights noted and somehow all pulled together into a (hopefully) coherent set of 12,000 words for submission, I handed in my work. Then waited. And waited. It seemed like forever waiting on that mark. Had I done Fanny justice? Had I repaid all the kind offers of help and access with something decent? Would anyone find my research as fascinating as I had? Had I just made a Cradock of myself? Well, it turns out that I needn't have worried. My work earned me a Distinction. It's official. I now have a distinctive Fanny. I'm super pleased of course. I'm hoping to publish my research in some shape or form, hoping someone will want to read it! Maybe I should go for a PhD next. After all, what better to top off being a distinctive Fanny than being crowned a Fanny Doctor?

Fanny Cradock Research

Monday, 7 November 2016

Petite Pyramid Power

From time to time, Fanny Cradock just wants to make something easy. Basic. Manageable. She often labels them 'for beginners' but she equally could say they were 'simple' or 'quick, store cupboard treats'. From time to time, that's exactly what I want to make too. This week was certainly one of those times. I've been away on holiday for a few weeks (did you miss me?) and each day since my return has been a struggle with jet-lag, not aided by the additional time changes back home. A perfect time to keep things simple.

Fanny Cradock Coconut Pyramids

Fanny urges that on weeks just like this, I reach for the comfort of coconut. Desiccated of course. It's something I always seem to have in the cupboard, although I'm never really very sure when I've bought it, or what I've used it for. What is it used for? It may have been nestled in there next to the tins of treacle for ever and ever, it's best not to look at the best before date at times like this, just get on wth the job in hand.

Fanny Cradock Coconut Pyramids

For Fanny, even the most simple of things must be elevated, and discarded coconut is no different. She suggests transforming them into Pyramids, or Les Petites Pyramides, to give them a necessary boost to their self-esteem. She adds caster sugar, vanilla and a choice of eggs to the lonely coconut. To help create the majestic pyramid shape, she adds eggs or egg whites, depending on the texture you prefer in the finished product. Whole eggs, beaten, for a close texture, and unbeaten egg whites if you like it loose and more melting.

Fanny Cradock Coconut Pyramids

Well, I don't know what I prefer in coconut pyramids, but it seems a shame to waste an egg yolk unnecessarily, so I go 'whole'. It's really just a case of mixing it all together. Simple. Straightforward. Uncomplicated. Well, Fanny takes it to another level as you'd imagine by adding some harmless vegetable colouring. Fanny suggests pink, or carmine to be exact, but I'm in the mood for blue, or teal to be exact, and orange personally. I blame the jet-lag. So the mixture is halved and coloured.

Fanny Cradock Coconut Pyramids

Fanny says you can buy 'rather comical' moulds to make the pyramids, but she scoffs at those when your very own hands are more than able to fashion a simple cone shape all by themselves. Besides, you'll only end up spending more time banging them out of the moulds afterwards than you'd ever do in making them by hand. Silly. Ludicrous. Ridiculous. Once you're happy with the shape, pop them into an oven at 350F for 15 minutes and before your very eyes, Les Petits Pyramides will appear and delight. They smell like a long-forgotten childhood memory, and taste simply stunning. So, that must be what coconut is for after all...

Fanny Cradock Coconut Pyramids

As the colours are an almost perfect match for the logo, coincidentally, I'm adding these to this months Treat Petite hosted by Cakeyboi and Baking Explorer. Check out the other treats here and by searching for #TreatPetite across social media.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Boi's II (Married) Men

I think Fanny Cradock was a frustrated wedding planner. She was forever banging on about 'suitable' things to make, and ways to decorate your own home 'simply' for the reception. She was determined to plan it, even if you didn't ask her to. She tells us she had recently decided to give a reception for someone or other which was 'one of those occasions Johnnie and I were driven almost hairless', which doesn't sound like the most glowing of references does it? My dear blogging pal, Cakeyboi, recently got married to Disneyboi on a trip to Canada. They are having their reception soon back home, but sadly I am unable to make it, as I will be away. I'm gutted. Perhaps they'd benefit from some of Fanny's advice instead - no need to thank me Cakey, Disney and anyone else planning a big bash, just call it my wedding gift to you...

Fanny Cradock Wedding Recipes

Fanny insisted that she catered the wedding without any hired help whatsoever. It simply wouldn't be fair to those of us that cannot hire any help for her to do so. So she didn't. She only had the help of her army of assistants, who were already on board I imagine. No need to hire any more. Fanny's wedding plans are all based around Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed and Something Blue. I do hope Cakey and Disney are paying attention to this. Don't hire any help. There are more detailed suggestions to come.

Fanny Cradock Wedding Recipes

For something old, Fanny insisted an old tradition be revived. A Receiving Arch. Presumably to be received under. Essential for a wedding. She gives detailed instructions on it's construction. Diagrams and plans. For something new, it's an idea to have two cakes - a three-tiered one and a fancy nancy French one, a Croquembouche. Fanny borrows an idea in the shape of making a third cake, or set of cakes, for the Bridesmaids. Seemingly it's a good trick, as they too will become brides one day and will remember your kindness by asking you to cater their wedding too. The gift that keeps on giving. The something blue is a homemade ice-bucket for the champagne, made by filling a plastic bucket with water, coloured blue, frozen (if you can find a freezer large enough), removed from the bucket, hollowed out ready for the bottle to be inserted. And then melts all over your impressive table, presumably?

Fanny Cradock Wedding Recipes

Fanny is full of helpful advice that I am sure Cakey and Disney will be pleased to have. 'Continue whipping until very stiff' are excellent words of encouragement in themselves for newly-weds, but Fanny also suggests that you 'neaten off your blobs and stud them with glacé cherries' just to be sure. Fanny continues with her words of wisdom. 'Just line them all up, and go down the line and PUSH, PUSH, PUSH' and if need be 'spread all over and right down to the base of each side, before you slip them in.' Fanny reassures us that 'when it comes to filling and clapping together in pairs' that there is nothing to it really, 'no skill, just patience and a steady hand'. Indeed Johnnie 'always steadies his hand with the other and supports his elbow on the table.' So fear not Cakey and Disney, all will be well.

Fanny Cradock Wedding Recipes

This advice may not suit all however, especially those challenged by temperature control. Fanny says 'if by any chance you suffer from hot, moist hands' you can forget about doing it yourself. The 'excessive palm moisture will penetrate' seemingly and everything will just stick. No-one wants that, especially at a wedding. So there we have it Cakey and Disney, all the advice you will ever need for a perfect wedding reception. Fanny does warn though that 'after a while the skin on your finger-tips will become hard', so take extra care won't you? She's talking about the Croquembouche, clearly. You knew that though, right? Enjoy the reception!

Fanny Cradock Wedding Recipes

Thursday, 13 October 2016

We're Clear of Yesteryear Cheer with Premier Beer Pioneers at the Frontier + Edinburgh Craft Beer Revolution Festival ticket giveaway

Fanny tended to leave the drink choices to her husband, Johnnie. After all she was too concerned by the busy housewives in the kitchen to concern herself with drinks. That was The Man's Domain. Or at least it was... Things are changing... You may say there is a revolution brewing. In Edinburgh at least. There is an actual Edinburgh Craft Beer Revolution Festival happening in November. I chatted to one of the organisers, Richard Servanchx, to find out just how much things have changed? I asked him if beer was still just 'for men'?

"Perfect timing for this question! My girlfriend, Lisa, hosted a women-only beer event at the Caledonian Brewery and it was a real success! Beer is not only a mans' drink and the 'hipster' movement is one of the reasons for the change. The way to serve craft beer, and the different fruity aroma coming from the Hops really opens this complex drink to women", Richard tells me.

Fanny Cradock Edinburgh Craft Beer Revolution

Complex with a fruity aroma? Sounds just like Fanny really. Fanny liked to match a tipple with her food, but she preferred wine mostly. Beer was reserved to be served with curries typically in the 1960s and 1970s at least. Have things changed much? What's your 'perfect serve' in food terms to match with food?

"Beer is becoming more and more popular nowadays, as you can see in the drinks menus around Scottish restaurants. Even as a French rep in Scotland, I sometimes match my cheese with a good craft beer and it is delicious!" Richard begs me not to send this interview back to France, for fear he will be banned. I'm sure there are no French readers so he will be safe. Ahem.

Fanny Cradock Edinburgh Craft Beer Revolution

Craft beers just weren't around in Fanny's day. There were three kinds of beer that people drank in the 1970s, in Scotland at least - Tennents Lager, McEwans Export or Sweetheart Stout. Things have changed from those days of warm cans adorned with cold-hearted, scantily clad, crafty women, haven't they?

"I did not know those were beer, I thought they were just water with added aroma! The USofA was one of the first countries to push the craft beer concept, they still are more than five years ahead of us! I agree that marketing has changed, with trendier packaging, but I really think it is more the vision of the beer that has evolved!"

Fanny Cradock Edinburgh Craft Beer Revolution

Scotland seems to have gone bonkers for artisan and heritage products - we are all tripping over our sourdoughs to bake with ancient grains - do you think it will spill over into the beer world? What trends should we watch out for?

"Craft brewers love to experiment, they are already using some special ingredients such as chipotle, lavender and rye - that's what makes this drink so interesting and complex. The possibilities are infinite, I trust the creativity of those young brewers to make it happen. The Scottish Craft Beer market is already booming, more and more breweries are working with distilleries to create some unique Scottish craft beer!"

Fanny Cradock Edinburgh Craft Beer Revolution

Edinburgh is pretty much back-to-back festivals throughout the year these days, what makes the Edinburgh Craft Beer Revolution Festival so special? What should we all go? What can we expect when get there?

"A lot of women, as it's a women drink now," jokes Richard. "Seriously, the festival is run and organised by beer enthusiasts, where the only goal is to showcase amazing beers and to socialise with passionate, open-minded people. You can expect fantastic beers to suit every taste, unique food to pair it with - not just curries, but burgers and specialities such as Scoff's Cullen Skink in a Bun! And, of course, a lot of entertainment such as pub quizzes, arcade games, Giant Twister and so much more... You need to come and see for yourself!" Did someone say Giant Twister? I'm there...

Fanny Cradock Edinburgh Craft Beer Revolution

Well, if like Richard you are gagging for a decent beer - he chooses Big Raspberry Dog Chew from Fallen to quench his thirst - and you fancy winning a pair of tickets to the Edinburgh Craft Beer Revolution for yourself (thanks to Lanyard Media), simply fill in the rafflecopter thingy with your details and so on (it will pick the winner) and leave a comment below letting me know which beer you are most looking forward to trying... Good Luck! Lanyard will send the prize directly to the winner.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Tickets are on sale now at www.revolutioncraftbeer.com
Online tickets from £10
On the door tickets from £10
Tickets include festival entry, a Craft Beer Revolution branded glass, a £2 beer voucher and entry to masterclasses. A donation to Brewgooder’s #DrinkBeerGiveWater can be made when booking tickets online, which helps provide clean water to over 1,000,000 people. 

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Broadly, A Green Bean Scene

Some of the things that Fanny cooked have just not survived into our stylish, state-of-the-art kitchens. Some of the things are perhaps just a little too retro to be considered cool or chic today. Some of the things don't seem to be required any longer in our modern lives. Some of the things have perhaps disappeared for good reason. Some of the things were probably already seen as 'old hat' by the time the partwork was produced in the 1970s. Some of the things just wouldn't have been retro, cool, or worth remembering even then. But, Fanny loved them. One of those such things is aspic.

Fanny Cradock Broad Bean Tartlet

You just don't see it pop up on menus any more. Nowhere. No TV chefs are clambering to bring it back. No-one is desperate to give it a make-over or in any way keen to reintroduce it to our table. Not a mention. Essentially it's a flavoured stock, set with jelly and poured over meats and vegetables to keep them sparkling and fresh, and often including elaborate designs. What's not to like? It sounds so much fun. I have no idea why aspic is not back, back, back. On every menu. Every buffet table. In every kitchen.

Fanny Cradock Broad Bean Tartlet

Fanny uses it to keep things looking bright and appealing, of course. And what could be more appealing than the broad bean. I love them. So green and fresh looking, they are most vibrant of the beans. Once you release them from their 'overcoats' that is. While they are still wearing those, they look dull and unappealing. Fanny's idea is to make a flan to show them off to their max, all nestled closely together in their shortcrust pastry case. We know the recipe by now, so Fanny merely refers to it in the past. Quickly pulled together and blind baked, all ready to be fancied up.

Fanny Cradock Broad Bean Tartlet

Fanny insists we steam our broad beans. She may have insisted that they be freshly picked from the garden, and if I had a garden I would have pursued this insistence. Instead, I insisted on visiting the local supermarket, and found some lovely looking ones lurking in the freezer. They steam well. I have hidden an egg in the boiling water underneath, which bubbles away while the steaming takes place. Even fancier ideas from Fanny are afoot.

Fanny Cradock Broad Bean Tartlet

Fanny piles the luscious green beans into the pastry cases, and makes little decorations to look like flower petals from tiny little slices of tomato and the hard-boiled egg white, efficiently cooked. It's quite fiddly work. Fanny asks that we chose our favourite aspic, or cheats aspic, and cover the flans gently. My favourite of course contains no gelatine, instead a simple flavourless jelly made from Agar flakes. The finished flashy flans have flair and form. The 'aspic' makes them shimmer. It all seems much more exciting than simply some broad beans in pastry. That alone is surely enough reason to Bring Aspic Back? Ah, but then there is the taste...

Fanny Cradock Broad Bean Tartlet