Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Doughnuts like Fanny's

Fanny Cradock. Doughnuts. It's a simple game of word association. It's hard to think of one without the other, even after all these years. It's not just me, is it? Various people claim to have muttered the famous line, various people claim to have spluttered their tea when they heard it, but no official record exists. Google it, you'll find lots of claims. Maybe it's better that way, it's maybe more fun to be able to change it round to suit, wonder if it was Johnnie or not, and wonder what Fanny herself thought about it all. It's a perfect gag really, almost anything can be included. People say it to me a lot 'Does your *whatever* look like a Fanny?' OK, they get it wrong, but they remember Fanny with a smile. It's maybe not the way she'd like to be remembered, but it could be worse, couldn't it?

I've made (kind of) Doughnuts with Fanny before, but they were really just fried flavoured bread circles. They were good though. Imagine my excitement to see that the next recipe in the Christmas Tea Time Treats edition was proper, real, actual, Fried Doughnuts. How very appropriate for my 100th post! Almost. It turns out that these are Fannys take on doughnuts, adapted for busy housewives and beginners to boot. Beginners? Gulp, 100 posts does not a professional make. I feel like poor old Gwen Troake being reminded that I am 'among professionals now.' Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised. I'm trying not to be disappointed. Smile, they are sure to turn out like Fannys at least.

So, sniff, whimper, flour is sifted with spices and baking powder, butter is rubbed in, sugar 'dredged in' and egg with a little milk cut in. Fanny says that it should be brought together like a pastry dough, with a trusty knife. Fanny uses lard ONLY to fry her doughnuts. I've never used veggie friendly Trex like this before, but in for a penny in for a pound - or rather into the deep fat fryer. Fanny fills her doughnuts before they are fried. I feel cheated, I was hoping I'd get to inject them all afterwards with gooey jam, maybe custard. Instead, Fanny uses a very clean finger to poke a whole in little balls of dough, blobs in some jam and re-rolls the dough round them. She probably has an old pink or green Tupperware bowl nearby to wash her hands in. I don't, but then I've already decided to use chocolate chunks for mine, less mess.

Fanny doesn't say how long to fry them, or at what temperature, but does say that the temperature is 'all important'. Hmmm, not important enough to say though. You don't want them raw, and you don't want them soggy. Nope, agreed. Fanny goes on to say that you don't want the lard to 'bubble sluggishly' and you don't want them to 'seethe fiercely', just somewhere in between. Lots of 'don'ts' but still no real clues what 'to do'. I guess. Once fried, they are simply rolled in caster sugar which can be flavoured with cinnamon, or not. The choice is mine. Thanks Fanny. I choose to use coloured sugar instead, I'm sure that it will give me 'one up' on those niggly neighbours of mine. Always the right choice if there is ever any doubt.

I don't often munch on a doughnut myself, but when I do I like them to be, well, doughy. It's the magic of yeast, sugar and fat that makes them so special. I tried one of Justin Gellatly's on a recent visit to Borough Market. Bliss. For Fanny, at least for now, they just seem like little balls of cake that are fried up. I am slightly disappointed really, I tried not to be but I am. I know she only has my best interests at heart, and I'm sure to find a proper recipe as the Cookery Programme progresses - it would be madness to introduce yeast at this very early stage wouldn't it. On the bright side I can use the joke again, just like Fanny recycling all her recipes I can insert the line from time to time. These doughnuts are good enough, taste alright and look the part, but they aren't going to worry Justin. Maybe I'm disappointed in myself. I'm forgetting that Fanny is teaching me, and this takes time. I can't just congratulate myself after 100 posts (thanks for reading by the way!) when there is so much still to come, Fanny has a lifetime of experience to share with me. For now though, despite having such a strong association in words and history, it turns out that Fannys don't turn out like doughnuts. 

Friday, 24 October 2014

Da Doo Macaron Ron, Da Doo Macaroon

The whole world of Macarons vs Macaroons is enough of a hot bed of controversy without Fanny Cradock wading in. Not just the endless queries over how to pronounce them properly, but what's in them and what's the best method of making them? Generally it's accepted that Macarons are made with Almonds, and Macaroons with Coconut. It's seems like a very modern day foodie debate, but Fanny was ahead of the batch back in the 70's, well kind of. She gives two recipes for Macaroons, which she translates into French as Macarons of course, not really helping the debate at all. Johnnie insists upon them, but only if they are baked on rice paper. Fannys first recipe is referred to as 'Our Macaroons' or Les Macarons Maison, and are made with ground almonds, icing sugar and egg whites. Sounding familiar so far. The second recipe is for 'French Macaroons', or Macarons au Noix de Coco, made with coconut. Oh dear Fanny, you are really not helping with the confusion...

What Fanny didn't know was that in Scotland, we all get in even MORE of a tizz about Macaroons, as for us they are something very different indeed. I was fortunate enough to meet the Scottish/Italian foodblogger living in California, Christina Conte from Christina's Cucina, at this years BBC Good Food Show, where she shared her wonderful recipe for Scottish Macaroon Bars. She quizzed the audience to see if anyone knew the main ingredients... A few hands darted in the air immediately with the right answer of Potato and Icing Sugar. Yes, potato. I nipped home and tried the recipe for myself, but I kind of switched it up to make it a little more Fanny, using Sweet Potato instead and White Chocolate with Green Matcha Powder added. Pretty Halloween-y, and pretty tasty!

I have to say, Fannys Macaroons resemble the French delicacy a little more, but only a little - the ingredients are the same but the technique isn't as nerve wracking. If you've ever tried to make Macarons, you'll know what I mean, and I took a LOT of practice to eventually get some that I was happy with. 

Fanny doesn't use any colouring at all for her Macarons, which is unusual for her, and unusual for Macarons, even if they are Macaroons. She sifts the icing sugar and almonds together into a bowl, and then instead of making a meringue or adding sugar syrup, she simply works in unbeaten egg whites, with a knife. You don't want to beat them, you never know what might happen. Once the mixture comes together they are rolled into little 1/2 oz balls and popped on the rice paper ready to bake. I couldn't resist a BIT of colour of course, so used some gorgeous blue rice paper! 

For the Coconut version it's the same drill, replacing the almonds with desiccated coconut. Fanny says to press the balls, or little blobs as she calls them, down a little, brush them with cold water and add a blanched almond to the almond-y ones and half a glacé cherry to the coconut-y ones. I used some little candied lemons too. Then leave them sitting somewhere near a warm oven for two hours. Two whole hours. Then, they only need to bake for 10 minutes though. They emerge from the oven looking nothing like the ones in Fannys picture, but also nothing like Macarons or Macaroons. They are good though, chewy and sweet. It's a little bizarre eating the blue paper on the bases I have to admit. Easier to make than posh Macarons, but not as fun as Christinas Scottish ones. They are Gluten Free too. Back in the 70's I'm not sure that was ever mentioned, but surprisingly Fanny did endorse Mrs Crimbles Coconut Macaroons which were launched then, and are still available now in all the best 'free-from' aisles. Maybe it's not that Fanny is wading to the Macarons world as much as she is responsible for them. I'm sure that's what she'd say anyway.

I'm entering these into Treat Petite this month, hosted by Mr CakeyBoi and The Baking Explorer. It's a Trick or Treat Halloween theme, hopefully my Sweet Potato and Green Tea White Chocolate Macaroon Bars are spooky enough to count, and the other Macaroons will fill guisers bags and ensure they don't come back! Head over to see the other treats...

Monday, 20 October 2014

Oh, Flour of Scotland!

Fanny isn't feart (scared) of anyone, and certainly not the entire Scots nation. She feels her instructions are clear, follow her and you will succeed is her mantra. Even when it just seems wrong. Or maybe just not what we are used to. Fanny reckons that all Scots will 'have a fit' at her recipe for Shortbread because she insists that we 'stick to self raising flour' even for this. She never wavers from her love of self-raising. Maybe to try and appease each and every Scottish person alive and dead, she includes three different recipes with differing and different ingredients to make standard Shortbread, Scotch Shortbread and a 'wild alternative', Orange Shortcake.

The technique remains fairly similar for this related trio. The key thing seems to be to make sure that the ingredients don't get too warm while they are being prepared. Fanny says to mix them on a cold surface. I use a chilled bowl as I don't have the marble work tops installed Chez Cradock. First take the butter - which can be squeezed vigorously through a clean cloth if it's a little liquidy, eek I'm not sure but I'll skip this, it sounds messy - and the sugar together. Work them up with a small knife in each hand. Chop chop. It's Fannys favourite technique, and it's a little like fencing. Not that I've ever tried fencing, but I'm imagining. Keep chopping away until they are well combined, simple as that, making sure that the 'warmth of the human hand' goes nowhere near it, as the butter will 'oil'. Some would say that Fanny had no human warmth of course.

After some furious chopping the flour is added in gradually. More chopping. It's really quite good fun (maybe actual fencing is too?) but I reckon you could give it a quick whizz in the food processor and achieve the same result. No fun though. For the 'Standard Shortbread' it's a mix of self-raising flour and Rice Flour, but for the 'Scotch' version no Rice Flour is used. The chopping results in a crumb-like mix, and this is Fannys cue to us all to stop. Check your hands, not for cleanliness, but for warmth again. If you have been furiously fencing with the knives as explained your hands may be hot, so plunge them in a bath of ice cold water before proceeding. Brrrrr.

For both shortbreads, the crumbs need to be pushed into butted and floured moulds to bring them together. Cold hand remember. For the Scotch version I'm using an oblong dish and to complete the Saltire Flag 'illusion' I sprinkle on some blue sugar before baking. Fanny prefers to decorate them after baking with holly leaves made of fondant, and ONLY AT CHRISTMAS (because presumably it's too costly at other times of the year) a thick dusting of icing sugar. That sifter is never far from Fannys warm almost human hand at this time of year.  The 'Orange Shortcake' is altogether different.

The ingredients are different for a start - quite a bit of baking powder is added to the already lifted self-raising flour, with salt, an egg yolk and orange juice joining the sugar and butter. It's all chopped together in the same way, with the orange juice being added gradually until it forms a paste. I added some harmless food colouring to the juice to make it even more orange-y. Fanny warns that the amount of juice you will need to add depends completely on the size of your egg yolk, so please do not 'slop on regardless'. Give the paste a quick knead, roll it out either into one big circle or cut into fun shapes. I've gone for a selection of Halloween ones, ghouls, pumpkins and cats which don't really look like cats, and therefore don't feature in the finished photo. I reckon Fanny would like it, keeping up the cold, inhuman feel. The final results are as ever great. All three shortbreads are light and the orange ones are puffy, but still buttery, slightly crunchy and crumbly. The orange ones aren't very orange-y, but still taste good. Maybe some orange icing would help. Or fondant. Or orange flavoured icing sugar thickly sifted. Not that likely to spook my fellow country folk at all are they? 

Friday, 17 October 2014

Crumbs! Biscoff-ing a Saucepan Cake!

You won't be at all surprised to know that I love a bit of nostalgia. It's not news in any shape or form. However I love the way that my rambling recollections spark other people to remember food of old fondly, and not just think 'what the heck' at the array of colours and shapes Fanny enjoyed so very much. I love those comments too of course! All comments are more than rate fully received, I may just be a feedback junkie. When I recently started this Christmas partwork, a lovely Twitter-er, Dame Chlorella, asked if she'd missed Fannys Viennese Saucepan Cake, or Wiener Pfann-Kuchen (too many innuendos to contemplate including) as that was one her Mum made each year. I'd never heard of it, but it made me smile to see it in the pages that were to come... So a trip down memory lane for some and a waddle up a brand new street for others.

I've got a feeling that Fanny wouldn't like me updating her recipe, but I'm doing it anyway. I fear this is where I would've gone wrong had I been cooking alongside Fanny herself. It's a really simple one, but one of her poor assistants clearly got it all wrong. So my changes are an attempt to avoid any killer glowers and public put-downs from Fanny. We know the poor un-named assistant (my guess it was Young Sally) did wrong because instead of glossing over it, Fanny photographed it for the partwork along side one that she prepared 'properly' by herself. To further reinforce the mistakes the quivering assistant has made, she notes, or actually gleefully states, just for fun you understand, each and every error. The saucepan cake only has four ingredients - butter, syrup, chocolate and biscuits, so what on earth could go so badly wrong? 

Well, anyone with Fannys experience will be able to recognise immediately that the cake on the left is the wrong one, right? Look at those shameful lumps of biscuit! Imagine biting into those at a sophisticated party! Everyone would think it's one of those new-fangked Rocky Road things. Without Fanny even pointing it out even I can see that they've had the heat too high in the saucepan and that strategically placed wooden spoon has barely been used. However, look at the smooth and glossy one on the right which has been treated gently in heat terms, but obviously bashed into oblivion thereafter. Much more acceptable for any Christmas Buffet table, especially if tiddled up with some whipped cream lightly flavoured with Kirsch. 

For the 'cake' butter, golden syrup and cooking chocolate (especially for hardcore nostalgia fans) are heated very, very gently together until they become one. Fanny says to then crumble in some plain biscuits 'fairly finely' and beat it until it comes together. Remember her warning of the assistant-done-wrong here. Or, do as I have done, and take this opportunity to switch things up a bit and add ready blitzed up biscuits in the form of Lotus Biscoff spread. 

I'd never tried it before, but was intrigued after seeing others rave about it on Twitter. Maybe I'm spending too much time on Twitter. It's dead sweet and has the texture of peanut butter (a little), but tastes just like the little biscuits you get with your coffee. It comes in Smooth or Crunchy, but I'm using the Crunchy one for this, after all Fanny did say 'fairly fine' didn't she? I mean, I'm happy to update things to some extent, but I'm not going to go absolutely bloomin' crazy am I? The finished mixture looks glossy and thick as its poured into an oiled flan ring. Fanny suggests smoothing off the top with the cut side of half a lemon. It's not a trick I'd heard of before, but it does seem to work. I'm hoping the smooth appearance of the cooled cake would please not only Fanny but also Dame Chlorella. I hope the ones her Mum made weren't the same as Fannys assistants attempts... I'll be checking on Twitter for the answer, although I promise not to name and shame. Possibly. Maybe. 

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Bier, Bundt und Butter

Fanny is decidedly determined to include a Deutchsland cake in her Christmas tea-time treats, in honour of Prince Albert, consort to Queen Victoria. Fanny says this is only right as 'they', being the Royals, the Germans, the Saxe Coburgs, 'brought Christmas to our Island' and without them we would have very different Christmas traditions. The Christmas Beer Cake, or Bierkuche, doesn't seem to have become a firm favourite for Brits, but we do seem to have adopted the entire month of Oktober to celebrate German ales so perhaps it is appropriate after all? It's another cake, or perhaps a sweet bread - she can't decide - which Fanny says improves with age, and yet again one which will have your waistline twitching in preparation for the winter ahead. Fanny insists its made in a ring shaped tin, for Germanic tradition presumably and not as an homage to Prince Alberts most famous piece of jewellery? Anything is possible with Fanny though, and she may have her tongue tucked firmly in her cheek with this one.

The flavours are full-on festive, packed with spice - cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves - all mixed in with a deep, dark German Ale. I'm using Erdinger Dunkel simply because I like it, but Fanny recommends using 'any old ale'. She mixes up her measurements for this one, using oz's for flour and butter and the more American-preferred 'cups' for the Black Treacle and Raisins. I'm working on the conversion of 1 cup to be 8 oz, so let's keep our fingers crossed! Fanny from time to time in other recipes specifies teacups, or breakfast cups, but for this one it's just 'cups'. 

This cake, or sweet bread, starts with the beer being gently heated with some butter and Black Treacle, quite a lot of treacle, until the butter melts. Off the heat, it's time to add the raisins and leave it to cool down to 'blood temperature' for all that lovely stuff to fatten up the fruit. Meanwhile the self-raising flour (remember Fanny never uses anything else!) is sifted with an incredible three teaspoons of baking powder, some salt and the spices. There are no eggs in this cake/bread at all, so presumably all that baking powder is required to lift it?

Fanny insists I butter and flour my Bundt in preparation of the mix. I tend not to use my Bundt tin all that much for fear of the cake getting stuck, but Fanny hasn't let me down so far. The chubby and now blood temperature raisin, beer, butter and treacle mix is folded into the sifted flour and spices with some chopped walnuts before transferring to the floured tin. No looking back. All that baking powder is making it rise up even before it goes into the oven. It bakes for a whopping 50 minutes, but does turn out fantastically well! Phew! The finished cake/bread or whatever it is tastes so wintery. Fanny says there is nothing else to do for the cold season than to cut yourself a huge fat wedge, slap some butter thickly on it, pour yourself a hearty foaming beer, sit back and put weight on. Who am I to disagree with Fanny? Winter waistline here I come - prost! 

I've entered this blogpost into #CookBlogShare hosted by the very lovely Lucy over at SuperGoldenBakes


Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Gingerly hurtling towards Christmas

Fanny thinks that our houses should be filled with an array of tea-time treats all throughout the winter, as we are always sure to be hungry. What could be worse than a steady stream of hungry folk popping in to visit and not only the cupboards being bare, but every tin too... Worst still, imagine no-one comes round and you've got nothing to eat all by yourself to cheer you up. Just saying. Either way, it's time to get baking now just incase, and Fanny has some tea-time treats that will keep for a while, just as long as you store them properly. Actually her Gingerbread will actually improve if tucked away for a time.

With a slight chill in the air, the thought of warming ginger and snuggly treacle seems like the perfect thing. Fanny makes her Gingerbread with 'pure lard' incase we have to hibernate for several months our arteries will remain intact, but for me it's what I hope is a suitable vegetarian alternative, Trex. I've no idea if it will work the same in a cake, it's great in pastry though! 

Fanny sets about preparing the gingerbread by gently heating the 'lard' and the treacle. Or the lard then the treacle, she really can't decide. This is one of those recipes, despite being tested time and time again in her very own kitchen to ensure perfection, that says both things. 'Place the lard and the treacle in a small pan over a very low heat' and 'when the lard is melted, beat thoroughly with the warm treacle'. Not being too sure which is best, I first mix some soft brown sugar with an egg, I can't go wrong there, can I?

There is clearly no time for dithering, there may just be a knock at the door at any moment, and a barrage of hungry folk will be blustering their way into my living room expecting to open my tins and be fed. Maybe. I go with option one, melting the 'lard' with the treacle, then giving it a little beat just because I'm really still not sure. Easier to fathom, I sift some flour with a few spoons of gorgeous ground ginger and sprinkle some bicarbonate of soda in a couple of tablespoons of milk. In goes the sugar and egg mix. In goes the melted 'Trex and Treacle'. In goes the gently bubbling milk. And mix. 

It all comes together quickly into a slightly sweaty looking concoction, slipping around the bowl like it's having way too much fun. That'll be the lardy Trex I guess. But it smells heavenly. Fanny gives one of her 'options' here, if you feel like 'going grand'. Now, I ALWAYS feel like going grand, and you know, you never know who's going to be next to knock on your door, so you've got to be prepared, right? And hopeful. Going grand here means chopping in some glacé ginger and mixing it in well. How very grand indeed. Luckily I have a jar of Opies to hand. The gingerbread can be baked in any number of ordinary cake tins, Fanny says, but the key is to make sure they are prepared properly - by buttering and flouring them well. I do. So, after half an hour in the oven, Fanny suggests letting it cool in the tin, but will it come out? It does. Fanny says that once it's cooled it's best to wrap it thickly and securely in tin foil and storing it away for a week or so. I don't. Not being one to wait and ever hopeful that someone will come a-knocking, I set it up on my cake stand and get my knife ready. I've got a feeling I'm not going to be hungry tonight after this little beauty! All to myself...

Friday, 3 October 2014

It's Chrissssssssstmas! Are you fond of festive fondant?

Christmas is so important to Fanny that she dedicates several parts to whipping up endless treats and essentials for the annual celebration. So, for the next few months it's all Noël round here as I prepare along with Fanny. Previously I'd be one of those people who refused to think about the 'C' word at least until after Bonfire Night, and more likely well into December, but Fanny must be infiltrating my mind and soul. I am cheerily skipping through the fake snow of the Christmas department of John Lewis, watching back-to-back Christmas shows on Food Network UK and stocking up with winter-y ingredients as if my flat is to be hazardously cut off from civilisation at any moment. Fanny aims to get me prepared, but I am slightly concerned I may peak too soon...

For Fanny, the most festive of treats is cake. Not only was she determined that everyone should be able to afford a piece of cake at least once a year, but that at Christmas they should be decorated in a sufficiently celebratory fashion. Viewers and readers must've bombarded Fanny with 'cross letters' saying that her Royal Icing cracked their teeth, for here she recommends the softer Fondant as her covering of choice. However, Fanny says, please do not be alarmed into thinking that this is in any way a 'classic' fondant which must be worked up with a spatula on a marble surface. No, Fannys version is much less complicated. And everyone should make their own fondant, shouldn't they Mary Berry? The horror of shop bought was not in Fannys mind.

Fannys version involves adding an egg white and some gently warmed liquid glucose to sifted icing sugar. Fanny warns NOT to beat the egg white at all. Fanny has another warning to ONLY buy your liquid glucose for the chemist. Please update this advice to read 'any good supermarket' unless you want some very funny looks next time you pick up your prescriptions. This fondant is so easy, she sets poor Johnnie to it - simply working it up to a stiff paste and kneading it on a dusted surface. Any flavourings and colours may be added, I choose just to add some pastel shades. Well almost pastel shades.

Fanny uses her fondant to cover cakes, to stamp out pretty little designs to add to cakes and to cover her very favourite Minature Bûches de Noël, or Mini Swiss Roll Christmas Logs. Fanny clearly trusts us now to return to the very beginning and prepare her 'no-crack' Swiss Roll, the only difference is to make it thinner than usual. So I divide the standard mixture between two pans. Once cooked for only a few minutes, the panels are trimmed and cut into eight pieces of equal size. The trimming is essential to ensure that the roll up perfectly without those shameful cracks. 

Fanny fills her Mini Bûches with jam, jelly or buttercream. I went brambling at the weekend with my Mum for the first time in years, and made a very nostalgic batch of Bramble Jelly. I can clearly remember the smell and taste of my Grans jelly several decades after last having the joy of it, so this was my attempt to recreate it. I added some Elderflower Gin from Edinburgh Gin to the batch and it tasted perfectly hedgerow-retro-tastic. Perhaps my Gran used to add Gin to hers too? Either way it makes a perfect filling for these little festive fancies. Once spread and rolled up the fondant needs to be rolled out and cut to size to cover them. Fannys final warning is to roll out the fondant on a cold surface sprinkled with CORNFLOUR this time, which will not affect the fondant if the cakes are stored. It's like insurance she says, to avoid nasty little humps appearing like dogs under the bedclothes. Please take heed, and do not write any nasty letters to say it has if you haven't. Fanny has lots of Christmas knowledge to share, and doesn't have time to read them.