Thursday, 25 February 2010

Recipe 7 - Date Pudding

A couple of weeks ago I was browsing in a charity shop (a thrift store to you Americans) and stumbled upon this:

Isn't that an awesome logo? There's another version on the back cover.

It's apparently not travelled all that far. Wakefield is in my own county of Yorkshire. God's own country.

I'm not sure exactly how old it is but it's definately post 1933 (the only date mentioned in it, the date the flour passed its test as being of a high enough quality for sale). I'm not sure when it may be from. Clearly it's not from the period during or immediately following the Second World War as rationing would have made baking most of these things impossible. Based on that I'd guess 1950s but it could be pre war I suppose... There's some great language in here:

As you'll see when we get to the recipes it's pretty vague. At this point ovens were solid fuel fired and nobody would know the temperature in there in degrees so cake recipes call for a 'quick oven' for example meaning hot rather than give a number as they do now.

You can tell just by looking at this thing that the recipes are good though. All the staining means it's spent many years on a kitchen countered getting spattered and that's a sign of use. You don't keep on using a recipe book that doesn't turn out yummy results!

I was excited to chose a recipe for a traditional British desert from here and one looked delicious and fit the bill perfectly:

Doesn't that sound delicious?

We'll use 60g of dates, that's round about half a cup. Rather than a cloth we'll use foil and greaseproof paper tied with string to top our pudding for steaming. There's a good how to video on the BBC good food website. They kind of gloss over it in there but you have to put an upside-down saucer in the bottom of the pan to stop the pudding bottom getting burnt.

Although often alone this could be served with custard or a toffee sauce made of cream, sugar and butter but I think we'll try and be a little healthier and not have that. It'll hopefully be great by itself, if not then a small amount of ice cream would be a perfect accompaniment. This pudding contains a total of 1400 calories.

I love dates. I'm really looking forward to this! Surely the 10p the recipe booklet cost was money well spent!

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Her results - Broken Glass Jello

I love this dessert! I didn't have enough Jell-O in my cupboard, so I went to the store on Saturday morning and bought my four favorite colors. I planned to use sugarfree but I worried that it might not bind with the unflavored Knox gelatin, plus the sugary stuff came in better colors. I got grape (purple), mixed berries (blue), raspberry (deep pink) and lemon (yellow).

I made the four colored Jell-Os solo on Saturday morning. Later that afternoon we Skyped while slicing up the Jell-O and poring the cubes into our big dishes. I downsized to an 8"x8" dish because the larger dish that the recipe called for left me with a single layer of multi-color cubes.

The stench of Knox gelatin helps explain why you pour a can of highly caloric delicious sweetened condensed milk into it! We noticed that the colored Jell-O tends to float, which explains why you see a lot of the colored stuff of the top but less on the bottom.

We sliced up the dessert and tried it the next day. Yummy! It's tender but not too soft, and it's flavorful but subtle enough that you could use any four flavors and they'd jive just fine. At first I couldn't taste the sweetened condensed milk, but with a little focus I could detect it and I've decided it's worth the calories!

I saw that he was eating his with ice cream (which seems to be a British tradition), so I went to the store and bought some Haagen Dazs five vanilla (a variety with only five ingredients and a little less fat). Double yum! Plus I added some of the blue sprinkles that he gave me for our four-year anniversary. It's a happy looking dessert. It looks extra cute on the fun plate his sister gave me.

I am so happy that we're doing this project. It's fun to look forward to doing something together every week, and I've never made so many desserts in such little time. I can't imagine it's good for my weight, but it's good for my psyche.

Monday, 22 February 2010

His results - Broken Glass Jello

This was quite a change from the previous recipes. It's the first where we haven't had to turn on the oven.

I used sugar free jelly. There are only four flavours I can get at the local shops. Unfortunately they're not too bright and exciting in colour and the blackcurrant and raspberry ones are very similar in colour when they're diced up. On the other hand they're a nice autumnal mix that go well together I think.

The other flavours are lemon and lime and orange. I made a pint of each according to the instructions on the packet. I know she made it firmer than the instructions as the recipe apparently calls for you to.

The other stuff came together nice and easily. I'd forgotten how truly awful gelatine smells. I hadn't forgotten how good condensed milk tastes. I enjoyed scraping out the can.

This stuff is tasty! At first it seemed like you could barely taste the milk in it but the taste seems to build bite on bite and somehow seems a little stronger on the second day too. It's strange to me that American people don't eat jelly and ice cream together, they're an absolute classic at British children's birthday parties and a perfect complement to each other. I'm happy to have converted her to the cause at least! The beautiful sanding sugar is courtesy of the lady.

Next week is going to be another recipe that won't involve turning on the oven. Aside from that my lips are sealed! I'm looking forward to it.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Recipe 6 - Broken Glass Jello

One of his haunts is a blog called The Food Librarian, and he found a recipe there for Broken Glass Jello which was adapted from another blog, As soon as he showed it to me, I knew it would be my next pick. And so it is. Here's the pic from The Food Librarian's blog:

I'll be happy to skip my weekly trip to the store to stock up on butter and eggs! I think I have quite a few packets of uneaten Jell-O in my cupboard. I wonder how it'll turn out if I use a mix of sugarefree and regular Jell-O? Maybe I'll try and see...

Broken Glass Jello
(Adapted from The Food Librarian, which was in-turn adapted from JustJenn)

4 small boxes (3 oz. each) of Jell-O or store brand "gelatin dessert" in different colors.
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin

For each flavor, dissolve one box of jello in one cup of boiling water. Pour into a container and chill until firm (overnight is probably best).

After chilling the four flavors, cut them into small blocks.

Carefully mix the blocks in a 9 x 13 pan.

In a separate bowl, sprinkle 2 envelopes unflavored gelatin into 1/2 cup cold water. After the gelatin blooms, add 1 1/2 cup boiling water and dissolve. Add the can of condensed milk. Stir and cool. Pour cooled milk mixture over jello and chill overnight.

Cut into blocks or shapes and serve!

Her results - Vanilla Slice

He outdid me with his re-do of the recipe, but I'm satisfied with my tasty but not lovely outcome. We typically make a half batch of the weekly recipe, but I was feeling ambitious and thought I'd go out on Sunday evening and take this to share, so I made a full batch this time. But when the baking was done I felt ill PLUS the filling was runny, so I opted to stay home and serve myself a portion in a custard dish. It tasted so good. The next morning I was just one slice down with many to go, so I decided I'll eat it for breakfast every morning. :) Like the recipe says, it's best the first day. Days later, the flavor is still great, but the pastry has understandably lost it's flakiness.

I'd suggest making the custard outlined in the original recipe and serving it sans pastry. It's really good! Fresh vanilla bean seeds take it to the next level. One funny note: my vanilla bean (organic; that's all that was available ay my local store) was $12, and his was about $1.20. I'm pretty sure I need to move somewhere tropical, grow organic vanilla beans, and export them to American markets! One of my hobbies is organic gardening, and I've heard that the weather isn't right for trying to grow vanilla here in Houston. But the price of this bean combined with the yummy outcome makes me wonder if it's perhaps worth a try!

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

His results - Vanilla Slice

This week's recipe was an education. I learnt a fair bit while making it. Twice.

The frozen pastry turned out really good. I trimmed it and baked it between baking sheets as instructed.

I decided to make a triple layer slice in this awesome old loaf pan. It's new to me (I got it a couple of weeks ago from a charity shop) but it's probably 1960s I think. I like the way its corners are rounded not square. I already had another pan by Skyline, since I got this one I managed to pick up another, this time a large pie pan.

I made the custard just as the recipe instructed and assembled it all. It was hard to know how much the custard was going to thicken as it cooled but I kept cooking it until it stopped getting any thicker and was pretty gloopy. After it was all put together I left it to sit in the fridge for a few hours.

You see that stuff in the bottom of the bowl? That's the custard.

It wasn't anywhere near thick enough and I'm pretty sure that with that recipe it was never going to be. If anything I think it got a little thinner as it cooled, bizarely.

So it wasn't really a vanilla slice but it was tasty. Very much so. The custard was really delicious.

I was unsatisfied though and decided to start again. This time with just one layer of custard and in a wider, flatter dish. I consulted the oracle and it looks as if the custard could have done with about double the number of egg yolks. This was a bit of a problem since I only had three eggs in the house and it was 10pm by this point. I decided to have a bit of fiddle about and see what I could do. I dispensed with the water in the original recipe, and increased the amount of cornstarch quite a bit. I also mixed the eggs, sugar and cornstarch in a bowl and added the milk mix to that as per Delia to make double sure I wasn't going to wreck my last eggs. I also made sure it was very thick. I refused to have it be too thin this time!

I used some pieces of folded paper stuffed down between the cling film and the dish to keep the sides parallel since there's quite a flare to the dish.

This time it set up beautifully. If anything the custard could have been a little less solid but better safe than sorry!

The photo above is the whole thing as it came out of the dish. Looking good! Then I decorated it and sliced it up!

The tiny specks you can see in the custard are vanilla seeds. This was packed with them. On top of the ones from the bean this fancy vanilla extract I use is yummy, syrupy and packed with seeds too. If you look carefully you can see them in the caramel topping from the caramel cake.

This second batch turned out to be every bit as delicious as the first and it stayed as slices too. It's a seriously tasty treat. I would recommend everybody to make and eat plenty of these things but I'd say use a different custard recipe since she also couldn't get it to set up. It's nice that we have each other to check our results against. It's good to know it's not just you.

It's her turn to choose for next week. I've already decided what I want for the week after that but it's staying a secret for now!

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Recipe 5 - Vanilla Slice

I absolutely adore these things. In France they're called mille feuille meaning 'a thousand leaves' because of all of the layers of pastry. I guess that's where the name for the sonic youth album comes from despite there being tree-grown leaves on the cover, does anyone know? I believe they're sometimes called Napoleons over the Atlantic. They're apparently almost a national dish in Australia along with Lamingtons (something else I hope to make sooner or later in the transatlantic kitchen). They're also pretty quintisentially British I'd say and every bakery has their own, slightly different, version.

We'll be making half of this recipe from the Australian site Spicy Ice Cream. They themselves adapted it from 'Modern Classics 2' by Donna Hay. The version pictured on Spicy Ice Cream looks really nice:

But to me a proper vanilla slice has a beautiful iced top like this stunner from Brown's Bakery in Albert Park, Australia.

You can find some more fantastic images at this, sadly neglected, Australian vanilla slice blog.

I considered having us make the pastry but I know that she's a little short on time and there's enough to do I think so we'll use frozen.

Vanilla Slices!


• 1 sheet ready prepared puff pastry, thawed
• Icing sugar, for dusting

Vanilla Custard
• 175 ml milk
• 175 ml single cream
• 30g butter
• 1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 65g sugar
• 20g cornflour
• 65 ml (½ cup) water
• 3 egg yolks

1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4 (180°C, 350°F). Cut pastry in half. Trim each piece of puff pastry to slightly bigger than the slice tin you are using. Place on baking trays lined with non-stick baking paper. Top each piece with another baking tray as a weight and bake for 35 minutes or until puffed and golden. Cool on racks.

2. To make the custard, place milk, cream and vanilla seeds and vanilla extract in a medium sized saucepan and heat until just before boiling point. Turn off the heat, cover, and allow to infuse for 10-20 minutes.

3. After it is infused, add butter and sugar and cook until hot but not boiling. Mix the cornflour and water to a smooth paste and whisk into the hot milk mixture. Add the egg yolks and stir, allowing to simmer for 6 minutes or until the mixture has thickened. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

4. Line your slice pan with non-stick baking paper. Place one of the pastry sheets on the bottom, pour in the custard and top with remaining pastry. Refrigerate for 2 hours or until set. Cut into squares using a serrated knife.

5. Ice them and serve!

This adds up to 2600 calories. The number of calories per slice obviously depends on how many bits you cut it into. The linked recipe suggests you make 5 500+ calorie slices but I'll be making them smaller and slightly less calorific.

I'm so excited for these!

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Her results - Lancaster Lemon Tart

There's nothing quite like avoiding the cool, rainy weather outside by sitting in your bed in PJs and eating pie.

I can best describe this dessert as:
  • cohesively crumby and almost cakelike;
  • only barely sweet;
  • quite lemony but not tart;
  • made of nuts but hardly nutty tasting;
  • comforting and filling but not decadent.
I chose to make pie because it reminds me both of home and my pie fiend boyfriend. In my home state of Kentucky, we most often eat cream pies (chocolate, coconut and butterscotch), derby pies, pecan pies, and buttermilk/translucent pies. And that's only the tip of the iceberg!

English pies are altogether different. They're much less sugary and showy. I agree that this could be a good introduction to English desserts for anyone who's curious. I think the traditional Bakewell Tart might be an even better choice for a newcomer. I really like this tart, but it might act as ammunition for those who like to claim that British food is boring. This pie isn't bland, but it's just a nice simple lemony dessert. A Bakewell Tart has a more complex balance of sweet fruitiness and nuttiness.

I had two firsts while making this: I made my first lemon curd and my first traditional pastry piecrust. The curd came out great; I can't wait to have the remains on biscuits or toast. The crust is pretty nice. It's absolutely delicious along the vertical edge, but a little odd on the bottom. I think my dish was perhaps a little too big so the pastry at the bottom is a little too thin. If you make this, use a small pie dish if you have one.

Monday, 8 February 2010

His results - Lancaster Lemon Tart

It's another cracker of a dessert! I've probably eaten my own body weight in Bakewell Tart over the years but I've never had this offshoot of the family before. The lemon goes really well with almond, making for a really pleasant whole. As always Delia's recipe is spot on. There's just the right amount of sweetness in this, enough to satisfy but it's not overpowering like last week's caramel. It's an interesting contrast to Bakewell Tart, less almondy and richer, but slightly less sweet.

We made it a two day event this week, lemon curd and pastry on saturday and the topping and putting together the day after. It was nice to spend the extra time together doing this. The lemon curd is really, really good. Mind you you can't go far wrong when it's just fat, sugar and lemon. It was a little hard to tell when to take it off the heat since you knew it'd thicken up as it cooled but luckily I got it just right

I thought I had another lemon for the topping but I didn't. I did have a bottle of lemon juice but I decided to use a lime I had sitting around instead and it worked out really well. I love the smell of lime zest and it sets the tart off really nicely. I left it in the oven for just about exactly as long as Delia said to but I had to cover it loosely with foil really early on to stop it browning up too much. If you're making it then watch out for that. Mine was pretty brown when it came time to turn down the oven and there was nearly half an hour to go after that.

I put a little extra salt into the pastry and it really gave it an extra little something. The pastry's just the right mixture of crispy and chewy and has a wonderful flavour. I'd recommend this to anyone, especially Americans interested in what an authentic British dessert recipe is like (there's obviously a huge variety of British recipes but this is a fine one).

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Recipe 4 - Lancaster Lemon Tart

This week I've chosen Lancaster Lemon Tart. This recipe is taken from Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course, Classic Edition. I was thankfully able to copy and paste it from Delia Online.

When my boyfriend moved to Houston, he brought this cookbook with him. It was a present from his mother. She enscribed it,

"July 15, 2006
For Thom,
As you embark on your big adventure in America - a reminder of 'good old English' cooking.
Happy cooking!
All my love.

Delia's cookbook is the quintessential English guide to cooking, basically equivalent to my fellow American Irma Rombauer's Joy of Cooking.

The tart will have 2200 calories. Delia says this should be 4 to 6 slices but we'll make them smaller than that. You can work out the calories per slice easily enough. The total for the curd is 750 calories, but 180 calories worth will be going into the tart.

Lancaster Lemon Tart
(serves 4-6 people)

This is a first cousin of a Bakewell tart, using home-made lemon curd instead of jam, which I think goes very well with the flavour of almonds.


For the pastry:
3 oz (75 g) plain flour
¾ oz (20 g) lard
¾ oz (20 g) margarine or butter
a pinch of salt

For the filling:
3 rounded tablespoons lemon curd
3 oz (75 g) butter, at room temperature
3 oz (75 g) caster sugar
1 egg, beaten lightly
1 oz (25 g) ground almonds
4 oz (110 g) self-raising flour
grated rind and juice of 1 large lemon
1 oz (25 g) whole almonds, peeled and halved


Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6, 400°F (200°C).

Start by making the pastry. Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl, holding the sieve up as high as possible to give the flour an airing. Then cut the fat into small cubes and add them to the flour. Now, using your fingertips, lightly and gently rub the pieces of fat into the flour – lifting your hands up high as you do this (again to incorporate air) and being as quick as possible. When the mixture looks uniformly crumbly, start to sprinkle roughly 2 tablespoons of water all over. Use a round-bladed knife to start the mixing, cutting and bringing the mixture together. Carefully add more water as needed, a little at a time, then finally bring the mixture together with your hands to form a smooth ball of dough that will leave the bowl clean. (If there are any bits that won't adhere to it, you need a spot more water.) Now rest the pastry, wrapped in foil or polythene, in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes. Roll out the pastry and line the pie plate, fluting the edges, then spread the lemon curd all over the pastry.

Now cream the butter and sugar together till pale and fluffy, then gradually beat in the egg about a teaspoonful at a time. Gently and carefully fold in the ground almonds and flour, followed by the lemon juice and grated rind.

Now spread this mixture evenly over the lemon curd, smoothing it out with a palette knife. Then sprinkle the halved almonds over the surface. Bake it, on a baking sheet, in the centre of the oven for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to gas mark 2, 300°F (150°C), and continue cooking for a further 25-30 minutes.

This can be served either warm or cold with cream.

Lemon Curd

This recipe is taken from Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course.

grated zest and juice of 1 large, juicy lemon
2 large eggs
3 oz caster sugar (75 g)
2 oz unsalted butter (50 g)


Place the grated lemon rind and sugar in a bowl. In another bowl whisk the lemon juice together with the eggs, then pour this mixture over the sugar. Add the butter cut into little pieces, and place the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Stir frequently until thickened - about 20 minutes. Cool the curd.

If you want to make this ahead, store in a clean dry jar with a screw-top lid. It is best eaten within a week.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

His results - Caramel cake

This recipe's a really good one! The cake was moist and tasty when I ate a piece still warm and it was even better the day after. It's day two now and I'm really looking forward to seeing what wonders another evening sitting there has done for it.

The cake came together pretty easily and was fun to make. It seemed a little bit more involved than it needed to be - as a batter and straight after baking it tasted identical to the easy peasy all in one sponge recipe I normally use. On the second day though there was a slight tartness from the buttermilk which worked really well against the very rich caramel.

As you can see I put it into two 7" square pans instead of the 8" pan in the recipe. It fitted perfectly and there's a bit more surface area for the caramel.

There was a minor disaster when it came to the caramel. Unpackaging my new jam / candy thermometer I discovered with my finger that the glass had broken in the package. I should have taken a photo with the shard sticking out of my fingertip because it was fairly spectacular in length and viciousness. Due to the lack of a thermometer I had to cook the caramel stuff by eye.

Not that it seemed to suffer at all. This stuff is delicious. When the cake was fresh it seemed overpoweringly sweet but that seems to have mellowed to a richer and more complex flavour in the time since. In my one concession to slight healthiness I used single cream not double to make this. It worked out really well and when I get round to making this again I'll probably try it with milk because I think it would turn out every bit as tasty.

The caramel's texture is great but in terms of ease of carrying this about for my packed lunch I'd probably have been better off either cooking it slightly less so it sank into the cake more or cooking it slightly more so it set up a bit harder. As it is it's yummily sticky which is great for the mouth but not so good for the tupperware.

I heartily recommend this cake to everyone. Make it and leave it for a day if you can - then tuck in!

I can't wait to see what we're baking next week. It's her pick!

Her results - Caramel cake

After last week's icky cupcakes, we redeemed ourselves with this delicious caramel cake. Yummmm!

Making caramel cake turned out to be easy and enjoyable. The cake is basically a traditional yellow sponge that gets half its fat from buttermilk. The caramel glaze is a great alternative to the traditional icing that I've known for years. I'm glad to add it to my repertoire.

I unknowingly glazed the bottom of my cake instead of flipping it right side up before pouring the caramel over it. I like how this caused the surface to be more flat and smooth.

My only snafu was forgetting to run a knife around the edge of the cake before turning it out onto a rack, which caused a tear along one edge of the cake. Oh well, it looks good from the other angles! This evening I shared some cake with a new friend and an even newer acquaintance, and tomorrow I'm taking the majority of it to work for a co-worker's b-day. It's nice being able to share the wealth.

I highly suggest this cake. It's rich and delicious, like tres leches for rural southerners! It's highly caloric but perfect for a splurge.

I get to pick what we bake this weekend. It's currently toss up between something remotely healthy and some good old fashioned pie. Stay tuned to see what wins out!
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