Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Grandma's Parkin

My Grandma would often bake and there would always be a tin of treats in the cupboard for when people called for a cup of tea and a chat, which they did often. She mostly made scones and tray bakes, with the cakes being cut into dainty little fingers and put into tins to store away ready for visitors. Grandma had a hostess trolley which would be loaded up with cake slices and scones and cups of tea and wheeled into the lounge for guests. This loading of the trolley was a job I loved to do when I was there and still now every time I take a lid off a cake tin and get a whiff of homebaked goodness I am transported back into her kitchen, doing the very important job of selecting slices of cake to display. Mostly I remember ginger sponge, parkin, lemon cake and scones (and a Christmas cake at Christmas), and if she knew I was coming, she would do a couple of plain scones since she knew I didn't like fruit. However, I was still happy picking the fruit out and eating them that way, since they were so nice.

I didn't start to bake myself until after she passed away, and I have always wished I could share what I make with her. I know it would have put a smile on her face for me to fill her cake tins up with home baked cake again, since in her later years, baking was one of the things she was no longer able to do. It was another way in which I could have helped her out and another connection we could have shared. I would love to know what she would think of it all - I suspect she would think I cut my slices too big and slap on far too much buttercream, and I don't think she would have much time for Kitchenaids and gadgets (now you see where I get that from!).

Anyway, I remembered that Mum had kept Grandma's little cookbook collection and I decided to have a look through to see if I could work out which recipes she used. This was the first one that jumped out as we knew she made Parkin, and it was handwritten on a well worn piece of paper.

8oz/240g medium oatmeal (this was almost impossible to find, but my Mum finally tracked it down in Holland and Barrett!)
4oz/125g self-raising flour
4oz/125g demerera sugar
2oz/55g margerine
1 egg, beaten
4oz/125g golden syrup
4oz/125g black treacle
"a little milk and ginger" - not quite sure how much I was meant to use, so did a couple of tablespoons of milk and 2 teaspoons ginger - would probably use a bit more ginger next time.

1. Preheat oven to 160c and line a 20cm square tin with baking paper.
2. Mix the oatmeal, sugar and flour together, and then rub in the margerine.

3. Gently melt together the golden syrup, treacle, ginger and milk in a pan (note: I didn't do this, I just bunged it all in, but after looking at other recipes I should have done it this way!).

4. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the melted mixture along with the egg.

5. Mix to combine, then pour into the prepared tin and bake for about an hour.

6. Cool in the tin for a bit and then transfer onto a wire rack.

I'm really not too sure on the instructions since Grandma's were slightly vague, as I think her recipe was more of a note to self on the ingredients and quantities rather than a detailed step-by-step guide! We ended up spreading melted chocolate over the top aswell which is probably sacrilege... but I noticed that the Caked Crusader also made parkin recently and apparently it is best eaten spread with butter and after a few days of being stored in a tin. Ooops!

Making the parkin really took me back, since 'rubbing in the marg' and 'making a well for the egg' were the two main bits of baking with Grandma that I remembered! It tasted so familiar and distinctly 'Grandma' especially since I don't actually think I've ever eaten Parkin anywhere else.  I'm looking forward to trying some of the other recipes in her collection to see if I can conjure up some of the other tastes, smells and memories of happy times with her.

Eunice Grace Whittaker, 10.07.1920 - 10.01.2008

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Cinnamon cake with blackberries

Another one that was made ages ago! I snipped this recipe out of the Sainsbury's magazine back in October-ish time, but I think it's a Dan Lepard recipe (really should have taken a note, all I have is a very neatly cut out rectangle with the recipe on). I love cinnamon cake and thought the addition of blackberries would make for a very wintry treat.... plus I was desperate for something without apples after the plethora of apple recipes I seemed to be baking in the Autumn!

Edit 17.01.12: Recipe is indeed from Short & Sweet by Dan Lepard and appeared in Sainsbury's magazine. Ingredients and method removed for copyright reasons.

This was a great cake, perfect with a cup of tea. Think I would add more cinnamon next time but apart from that it was lovely, light and fresh with the cream and fruit. The whole cake disappeared within the afternoon as I took slices to my mum and best friend and there were hungry boys around at the house for the F1 that day so when I returned there was only crumbs remaining!

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

The cake pop disaster

This post is long overdue, but I've got to catch up on what I've already baked before I can share anything new! Cake pops are something I had been wanting to try for ages now but had seen many people saying how you need to set aside lots of time and have lots of patience for them (patience not being something I have at all).  But after seeing the amazing Halloween cake pops (yep told you it was long overdue) on The Pink Whisk's blog I decided to give them a go as I love all things Halloween and wanted to top the spider cakes I did last year.

It was looking good. I even managed to get the right gel paste colours, some polystyrene boxes for display and track down the proper Silver Spoon buttons (plus a few bags of pink ones, since I was so confident I thought I could make some piggy cake pops at a later date), I cleared the diary and planned time for baking, cooling, crumbing, mixing, chilling, melting, setting, colouring, decorating.... I was feeling so confident! The confidence continued to grow as I baked up my chocolate sponge, made the buttercream and mixed it all into a paste. The balls were shaped, they were in the fridge to chill. Pumpkinny indent patterns were made, the chocolate was melted, the first few were on the sticks. Success!

And then this happened.

And it just kept happening! I don't know what happened with the first few flukes, but I suspect it was probably because I hadn't chilled the balls enough. By now I was in a raging mood and so I just dumped the rest of the chocolate over the remaining balls and left them all to chill.

The disaster became less of a disaster when we tasted them, because I have to admit, there were so tasty! I love chocolate orange and so the taste of the chocolate cake with the orange chocolate was so, so good. I wish I'd taken more care in dumping on the rest of the chocolate as they could really have been pumpkin cake balls, but I'd become obsessed with them being on sticks at that point and probably wouldn't have listened to reason!

It really wasn't worth whipping up and colouring any icing but luckily I had some writing icing lurking in the cupboard so managed to fashion a few pumpkins in the end.

Cake pops are definitely something I want to try again this year as the taste was definitely worth the faff, I just need to work on my patience levels and learn not to flip my lid at the first sign of trouble! Hilariously, by far the main thing people search for when visiting my blog has always been cake pops, so sorry to disappoint everyone twice over!

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Christmas Round Up

I'm sure you're all sick of looking at festive food by now, so I'll keep this brief! After the madness of last year's Blogvent, Christmas baking in my house this year was a bit more few and far-between! I only baked one new Christmas bake this year which was these Gingerbread cupcakes - recipe was from the Pink Whisk and can be found here.

They were yummy and very festive but a bit on the heavy, treacle-y side for me. Mike loved them though since he is a treacle fiend! Sadly I didn't have any cute gingerbread men to decorate them with but instead used some festive silver balls. I just used normal icing mixed with lemon juice instead of water.

I also made some star biscuits (same recipe as last year)....

... some Florentines, same as last year, which were bagged up and given as gifts, and I didn't even photograph! ....

.... and the starry Mincemeat slice, again the same as last year! Only a couple of slices got eaten, mainly because it was made on the 27th to use up the pastry and the mincemeat and everyone was already full!

 Had to be clever with the angles as some of the stars went a bit awry!
I received some lovely new baking books for Christmas, including Lola's Cupcakes and the Primrose Bakery, so I can't wait to try things out from them. One of my resolutions is to try recipes from more diverse sources since I always end up just going with BBC Good Food!

Happy New Year everyone! Hope 2012 is all that you wish for and more xxx

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