Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Fig Bars and flu

I haven't done any baking for a while, firstly I was busy stripping the foul pink floral wallpaper off of our bedroom walls so I could decorate it and then this week The Tarts household was struck with plague. Well, flu. So cooking has been limited to toast and canned tomato soup, which is the only food I've been able to taste, and indeed been able to cook thanks to the time limit on my standing upright ability.

I made these fig bars before all of the above nonsense struck after managing to get a glut of beautiful black figs. I ate alot of them just as they were- fresh, sweet and jammy, wrapped in parma ham or with a little piece of sharp feta or creamy, tangy gorgonzola. As I had so many a few became a little too soft for my liking so went about looking for a recipe to use them up, with my love of fig rolls in mind. Fig rolls with their sweet, jammy filling wrapped in a crumbly golden stodge that is neither pastry nor biscuit are really rather heavenly, and I don't know if it's jst me but there's something very war time retro about them.

Anyway, I found this recipe for Fig Bars which seemed to be a happy mix of traybake and fig rolls. The flour based mix forms both the base and the crumble topping (so one less bowl, which is always good) and the figs are jammy, sweet, slightly spicy and wonderfully warming. Truly lovely.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Sunday Baking- Stem Ginger Cookies

I don't often bake cookies and I've no idea why, but I'm on course to change this, starting with these stem ginger cookies. I hated stem ginger as a kid and I blame my mum's favourite- ginger jam, which assaulted my senses when I tried it as a child. Things have changed and now I don't quite feel complete unless I have a jar of syrup drenched amber globes of ginger stashed somewhere in my kitchen, and liking stem ginger feels to me like a very grown up thing to do. I like ginger snaps but sometimes find their tooth snapping qualities a little undesirable, so these soft, chewy and slightly crisp on the edges, cookies are a perfect balance. Highly recommended.

Amber gold
Stem Ginger Cookies
Makes 30 small or 20 medium cookies

350g self raising flour
pinch of salt
200g golden caster sugar
1 tbsp ground ginger
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
115g unsalted butter
90g/generous 1/4 cup of golden syrup
1 large egg, beaten
150g stem ginger in syrup, roughly chopped

-Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C and line 3 baking sheets baking paper.
-Roughly dice the butter and place in a small saucepan with the golden syrup (add a bit of the preserving syrup from the ginger if you want) and heat gently until the butter has melted. Remove from the heat and allow to cool until just warm.
-Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl, add the salt, caster sugar, ground ginger and bicarb. Stir to combine.
-Pour the melted butter and syrup mix over the dry ingredients, then add the egg and two thirds of the stem ginger. Mix with a spoon to combine and then use your hands to bring the dough together completely (it will look like there's not enough liquid, but be patient and when yo mix with yor hands it will come together, honest).
-Roll 20-30 balls (for rough measurement I'd say a well loaded teaspoon will produce a small cookie and a scant dessert spoon will yield a medium one. For super mega big cookies, a good tablespoon) of the dough and place on the baking sheets, with plently of room for them to expand, I'd say no more than 2 rows per sheet. Flatten slightly with your hands and then sprinkle each cookie with a little of the remaining stem ginger.
-Bake for 12-15 minutes, dependent on your chosen size of cookie, until light golden in colour. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the sheets until firm enough to transfer to a cooling rack.

-Store in an airtight container, but only after scarfing down enough warm, spicy cookies to make you feel sick.

And for the love of all that is holy, if you finish up a jar of preserved stem ginger, DO NOT throw away the syrup. It is divine drizzled over ice cream or pancakes or use it to sweeten herbal tea, or hot water with some lemon juice and some of the syrup is wonderfully warming. Can also be used in place of normal sugar syrup in cocktails. Anything! Just don't waste the nectar of the gods!

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

TSR Bakers September Bake - Scones

Scones are one of those sweet treats that have something of the nursery about them. For me they're not really associated with high tea and oddly cut sandwiches but sunny days in the garden, eaten with soft salty butter and runny strawberry jam. Despite this, I don't tend to make sweet scones, prefering savoury cheese ones, mainly because Mr Tarts doesnt particularly like sweet treats, but cheese scones always go down well.

So this month's bake was a good choice, courtesy of Cakecuccino. The recipe makes 8 so I divided the mix and made 4 sweet scones and 4 cheese. Recipe can be found here for 8 sweet scones.

I often find scones can be quite dense, but these were soft, crumbly and delicious. I suspect the addition of double cream instead of milk is responsible. Will definitely be making these again!

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