life on a smallholding

not quite a business, but more than a hobby

Strawberries and cream with a twist — Monday, 29th June

Strawberries and cream with a twist

Cheesecake
Strawberries and cream cheesecake with mascarpone and rhubarb coulis jelly

With Wimbledon coming up, the strawberries and cream will be out in force, always a firm favourite and why not, they make the perfect pairing.  However, there are many different ways they can be brought together and this week I have been doing just that, inspired by a punnet of the locally grown fruit.  But, there is a twist in my recipes, as they are all made using cream from my goats.  I know you can buy goat’s milk in the supermarkets, but has anyone thought of selling the cream? It’s not easy to come by, I have to collect the milk from the two girls for three days before I have sufficient to make it worthwhile to fire up the separator.  With a cow, I would probably have enough with one milking!  I’m no expert on the difference between the two, but I believe the fat globules in goat’s milk are smaller, making it easier to digest.  Nevertheless, you can do all the same things with it and when it is fresh, it doesn’t have a goaty taste or odour.

Strawberries and vanilla cream on a meringue nest
Strawberries and vanilla cream on a meringue nest

First up, I made a batch of meringue nests with leftover eggwhite, combined them with a generous dollop of vanilla whipped cream and topped with locally produced strawberries.  A light dusting of icing sugar sets if off to perfection.  So easy to make and yet absolutely delicious.

Strawverry sundae with vanilla gelato, chocolate ice cream, chopped strawberries and whipped cream
Strawberry sundae with vanilla gelato, chocolate ice cream,  crushed meringues, chopped strawberries and whipped cream

This sundae contained two types of ice cream, both made from goat’s milk.  The first a simple vanilla gelato, and the second a chocolate ice cream, made in the traditional way with egg yolks, hence the leftover whites.  Crushed meringues, chopped strawberries and whipped cream, made this dessert delish.

Vanilla panna cotta with crushed meringue, strawberries and rhubarb coulis
Vanilla panna cotta with crushed meringue, strawberries and rhubarb coulis

One of my all time favourites, creamy, silky, panna cotta.  It’s so easy to make, yet such lush tasting little treat.  I love it with coulis and this one came from the garden.  A few stalks of rhubarb, sugar and water in a pan, run it through a food processor, strain it, and it’s done.  Again, I added crushed meringue for a bit of crunch, and then finished it with the ever present strawberries.

Rhubarb ripple ice cream served on XXX with strawberries and blackberries
Rhubarb ripple ice cream served on a meringue nest with strawberries, blackberries and rhubarb coulis

I found another use for the coulis in the rhubarb ripple ice cream, which left me with more egg whites  When you’re faced with egg white, make meringues.  Put them together with the strawberries and a couple of blackberries (not from my garden, it’s far too early) and another beautiful but simple dessert is created.

Ginger snaps, crushed for the cheesecake base
Ginger snaps, crushed for the cheesecake base

Finally, we have the cheesecake.  This one was created from mascarpone (which was, of course made from my goat’s cream).  I firstly baked the ginger biscuits (a favourite Delia recipe).  Crushed gingernuts mixed with goat butter, formed the base, where I laid out the last of my strawberries.  I combined cream and mascarpone together with some caster sugar, then ladled the mix onto the base and smoothed it down.  Lastly, I made the jelly with the remainder of the rhubarb coulis and a couple of sheets of leaf gelatine to set it softly.  Left overnight in the fridge, the next day it was firm and ready to devour. Five glorious days of strawberries and goat’s cream.

Rhubarb coulis
Rhubarb coulis
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Rich tea anyone? — Wednesday, 7th November

Rich tea anyone?

Rich tea with a cuppa
Rich tea with a cuppa

For once my day wasn’t jam packed with chores so I thought I would continue the theme of making biscuits I didn’t really like in the hope of improving them with a home-made variety.  We have a concept of “emergency biscuits”.  A jar on the dresser in the kitchen is kept stocked just in case Himself needs a quick snack while he’s working hard.  It needed filling so I started thinking about my next challenge.

I was suddenly struck with the memory of Butter Osbornes that my late grandmother was very fond of.  I’m not sure I ever ate one and had no idea what they looked like but I thought a search on the internet would yield results.  However, I could find very little information on them.  It seems that Huntley and Palmers who used to produce them, have discontinued them.

Rich tea biscuits
Rich tea biscuits

There was no recipe to be had anywhere so I settled for Rich Tea biscuits which I’ve always found to be rather bland.  They are far from my favourite choice but I have to admit they are great for dunking in tea.

Even though to me they are an uninspiring biscuit, I discovered that they have quite a history.  A bit of research told me that they are a plain, round biscuit, developed in Yorkshire in the 17th century.  Originally called Tea Biscuits, they were designed as a light snack between meals for the Yorkshire upper-classes.

After that I was keen to find out if home-baked would improve the not-so-humble Rich Tea.


Makes approx 18 biscuits

Ingredients
  • 2 tbls golden syrup (I used 1tbls golden syrup & 1 tbls maple syrup)
  • 85g butter
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 1 egg
  • Pinch of salt
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 180C.
  2. Melt the butter and syrup in a pan then add to the dry ingredients in a food processor.
  3. Mix until it resembles breadcrumbs then add the egg to form a soft dough.
  4. Roll out to about 3mm thick onto a floured surface and cut out the rounds with a cookie cutter.
  5. Place on a non-stick baking tray and prick with a fork.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown in colour.
  7. Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly then move to a wire rack and cool completely.
  8. Enjoy by dunking in a cup of tea – preferably Lady Grey.


And the verdict?  Overall – disappointing.  A pale, crisp biscuit with not a lot of taste.  I think they would have been better rolled out thinner and I also found that they didn’t stay crisp for long but started to soften after a very short time.

A great biscuit for dunking
A great biscuit for dunking
And now Bourbons — Sunday, 12th August

And now Bourbons

Bourbons
Home made Bourbon biscuits

I am continuing in my quest to make traditional biscuits and focusing on the ones I like least to see if home-made can improve them.  This time I decided to tackle the humble Bourbon biscuit.  Next to custard creams, these are my second least favourite.  I discovered that these chocolate and cream creations were the invetion of Peek Freans back in 1910 and traditionally made of two oblongs sandwiched together with a chocolate filling.

Bourbons filled
Bourbons filled

Rather than stick with tradition and anyway I don’t have an oblong cookie cutter, I decided on a pretty flower shape.  Mine certainly looked good and although not wildly exciting, they were certainly better than the shop bought variety.

The one niggle I am coming across with biscuits in general is that they tend to go soft very quickly, even though I store them in an airtight tin.  Not sure what the solution is to that problem.

And now bourbons

  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

Makes approx 10 complete biscuits

Ingredients
  • 50g butter
  • 50g soft brown sugar
  • 1 tbls golden syrup
  • 110g plain flour
  • 15g cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tbls Demerara sugar (ground) for decoration
  • 50g plain chocolate
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 2 tbls strong black coffee
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160°C.
  2. Sift together flour, bicarb and cocoa powder.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy and beat in syrup.
  4. Add the flour and mix until a soft dough is formed.
  5. Turn out onto cling film and leave in the fridge for an hour.
  6. Lightly flour the worktop and roll out the dough to 1/2 cm thickness.
  7. Using a cookie cutter of choice cut out an equal number of shapes and place on a greased baking sheet.
  8. With a fork, pierce the surface of the biscuits several times and then sprinkle the ground Demerara sugar over half of the shapes.
  9. Bake for approx 15-20 minutes.
  10. Remove from the oven and leave on the baking sheet for 10 minutes to harden up then move to a wire rack to cool completely.
  11. For the filling, melt the chocolate over a bowl of hot water, then beat with the icing sugar and vanilla, adding the coffee gradually (you don’t want it too runny) until you have a smooth paste.
  12. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag and with the biscuits centre side up, pipe onto half of them.
  13. Sandwich biscuits together in pairs with the sugar side on top.

Pretty Bourbons
Pretty Bourbons
Custard creams, the nation’s favourite biscuit – really? — Saturday, 23rd June

Custard creams, the nation’s favourite biscuit – really?

Custard creams
Custard creams that deserve to be favourites

With all the talk in the news of custard creams being such a popular biscuit I was keen to have a go at baking some.  I have to say I was surprised as given the choice, the custard cream would be the last one I’d pick.  In fact I would probably walk away rather than eat one.  I’ve always thought they were dry and boring.

Nevertheless, home made custard creams could be a vast improvement on shop bought so I did a search online for some recipes and my favourite was by The boy who bakes.

However, all the recipes I found contained custard powder.  For someone who is obsessed with making everything from scratch, this didn’t go down well so I was curious to know if I could use real custard instead.

Home made custard creams
Home made custard creams, a million miles away from shop bought

I began looking into the contents of custard powder, thinking it was real custard, freeze dried but it’s actually a mixture of cornflour, salt, annatto colouring to make it yellow and some vanilla flavouring.  Not an egg in sight.  In fact it was invented by Alfred Bird in 1837 as his wife was allergic to eggs.

Was it worth trying to reinvent the wheel – not really.  Just this once I gave in and used the custard powder I found stashed at the back of the larder.  One thing I do know about custard powder is that mice love it, so if you need something as bait, try it out.

As I didn’t have much butter in the house, I cobbled together my own recipe and here it is.

Custard creams

Ingredients

Makes 12 complete biscuits with a spare half for tasting!

  • 100g margarine
  • 100g plain flour
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 50g custard powder
  • 1/2 tsp of vanilla essence

Filling

Limoncino
A bottle I picked up from Lidl  – a lemon cream liqueur
  • 50g butter, softened
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 25g custard powder
  • 1/2 tsp limoncino (limoncello would be fine) or vanilla paste for biscuits suitable for children

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and mix well until a soft dough is formed.
  3. Tip out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to approx 1/2 cm thickness.
  4. Using your preferred cookie cutter, cut out shapes, ensuring there is an even number – one for the top and one for the bottom.
  5. Place on a greased baking tray and prick each shape with a fork.
  6. Place in oven for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown. Keep an eye on them, you don’t want them too dark.
  7. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes before moving to a wire rack.
  8. In a food mixer beat the butter until smooth.  Add the sifted icing sugar, custard powder and limoncino and mix in slowly at first, until well combined.
  9. Arrange the biscuits in pairs with centres uppermost.
  10. Spoon the filling into a piping bag with a star nozzle attached and pipe onto one half of each pair.  Alternatively, you can spread on with a pallet knife.
  11. Place the other half centre down on top of the icing and push gently.  Don’t push too hard or the filling will squash out.
  12. Leave somewhere cool to set and then enjoy with a nice cup of tea.


Custard cream on plate
This could become my favourite

These were so easy to make and they taste fantastic – not in the least dry.  The biscuit was light and crumbly and the cream filling was absolutely delicious, especially with that little tang of limoncino, although I’m sure vanilla would be just as good.

Next week maybe I’ll tackle my second least favourite biscuit – bourbon.

Oat so scrumptious — Sunday, 17th June

Oat so scrumptious

Delicious oaty biscuits with a chocolate topping
Delicious oaty biscuits with a chocolate topping

The dogs always give their daddy a wee gift on Father’s Day but this year I hadn’t had an opportunity to get anything.  We had been out to the local plant centre to buy pressies for our own fathers however, with Himself shadowing me around the store, I didn’t get a chance to sneak in a little something for him.

The scaffold tower
The scaffold tower

Yesterday I had an idea to make him some biscuits, there are no gifts closer to his heart than food related ones.  The difficult part was getting him out of the house.  I suggested he may want to try out his “new” scaffolding that would be put to use pretty soon when the steading roof was repaired.

He agreed and spent the whole day building it next to the trees that need topping.  As it was picked up from a scrap yard, it needed quite a lot of work to make it usable so he was very well occupied.

In the meantime I got to work on the biscuits in relative peace, although there were a few times when he appeared at the kitchen window hoping for a cuppa and I had to hide my work. That’s the problem when you live and work together, you rarely get time on your own.  I remember once when I was trying to ice his tractor birthday cake and he was in and out like a fiddlers elbow.  It ended up an awful mess.

These biscuits are based on everyone’s favourite, the Hobnob, and they turned out absolutely scrumptious.  I bagged them up with my Lidl vacuum sealer and presented them in a delightful little tin with his breakfast this morning.

Biscuits in tin
Biscuits in tin

Oat so scrumptious

Ingredients

Makes about 20 biscuits

  • 115g self-raising flour
  • 115g porridge oats
  • 115g caster sugar
  • 115g margarine
  • 1 tbls golden syrup or honey
  • 1 tbls hot water
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 100g melted chocolate plain/milk/white
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Knob of butter

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 180 degrees C.
  2. In a bowl mix together the flour, oats and sugar.
  3. Put the golden syrup, margarine and water into a small saucepan and melt over a low heat.
  4. Stir in the bicarb.
  5. Pour onto the dry ingredients and mix well.
  6. Form into small balls and place on a baking sheet with plenty of room in between them.  Flatten them slightly.
  7. Bake for approx 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.
  8. Leave to cool on the baking sheet for around 10 minutes where they should firm up and then move carefully to a wire rack to cool completely.
  9. When the biscuits are cold, melt the chocolate of your choice in a bowl over a pan of hot water.  Add a knob of butter and a pinch of sea salt and stir well.
  10. Pour into a piping bag and decorate your biscuits.
  11. Leave chocolate to harden and then enjoy!

Absolutely delicious
Absolutely delicious