Category Archives: SUGAR

Everything that is sweet about this city

Sweet, sweet summer

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With all of this cooking and eating and cooking, and then eating again, I was feeling the balance of savoury to sweet needed a bit of tweaking. So we embarked on a couple of days of trial baking as an attempt to try out some new recipes. We opened up all the baking books, highlighting our favourites. Here is the shortlist in action.

Coconut macaroons

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Coconut and almond macaroons

ingredients
2 egg whites
115g (4 oz) icing sugar
115g (4 oz) ground almonds
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
115g (4 oz) dessicated coconut

directions
Preheat the oven to 150 degrees C (Gas 2). Grease two baking trays.
Use an electric beater to whisk the egg whites until stiff but moist. Sift in the icing sugar and gently fold into the egg whites. Gently fold in the almonds, vanilla extract and dessicated coconut until the mixture is combined, forming a sticky dough.
Spoon walnut-sized pieces of the mixture onto the baking trays.
Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until the macaroons are crisp and golden on the outside.
Transfer to a cooling rack.

Florentines (Chocolate optional. haha of course it is)

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ingredients
50g caster sugar
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons Congac or Grand Marnier
60g butter
50g plain flour
75g slivered almonds
50g sultanas
50g glace red or green cherries
100g chocolate, melted

directions
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C / Gas mark 4. Line 2 baking trays with non-stick baking paper or parchment.
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, honey, liqueur and butter. Warm over a low heat to melt the butter and sugar; remove from heat and stir well.
Add the flour, almonds, sultanas and glace cherries; stir well to combine evenly.
Spoon small amounts of the mixture onto the trays, leaving some space between them to prevent sticking together.
Bake for 8 – 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven but let them harden on the tray for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack.
Dip one side of each florentine into melted chocolate and leave to harden.
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These were my top faves of the day

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A platter of delights

Betty’s of Harrogate Fat Rascals

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Pre-oven fat rascals. Cherries for the eyes and an almond for the snarl. Cheeky rascals.

ingredients
100 g butter, softened
250 g plain flour
75 g currants
50 g mixed citrus peels
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
75 g golden caster sugar
150 ml whipping cream or 150 ml sour cream or 150 ml creme fraiche
1 egg, beaten
glace cherries, for decoration
blanched almond, for decoration (whole)

directions
Pre-heat the oven to 220°C/425F/Gas 7 and grease or line a baking sheet, or a cookie sheet.
Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs.
Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix well.
Add the cream and mix to a stiff paste – a firm dough.
Roll the mixture out on a floured board, to about 1″ thickness and stamp out rounds, of about 3″ in diameter. ( You can also shape the fat rascals by hand; take a piece of dough, about the size of a small egg, and make a small ball – flatten it out slghtly into bread roll shapes – like a bread bap shape.)
Arrange them on the greased baking tray and glaze them generously with the beaten egg.
Then place 2 whole blanched almonds on top with a halved glace cherry for decoration – pushing them down gently into the dough, so they do not fall off during baking!
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they have risen and are golden brown.
Allow to cool on a wire cooling rack.
Store them in an airtight tin for up to 4 days OR eat them straight away. Whichever.

IMG_1079Hello Fat Rascals

I think the balance has been restored!

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Bread

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That sister of mine is quite magnificent at the thoughtful present. She really achieves a relevant gift and this usually entails me working for my dinner.

Just before Christmas, I was advised to keep Thursday 20th December free. A highly anticipated prize, I was turning down every Tom, Dick and Harry so that I was prepared for whatever she could throw at me: impromptu space flight? dinner with Alec Baldwin or one of my other crushes? really the list is endless.

What she is capable of never ceases to amaze me.

Well, long story short, turns out the bread baking class she had signed me up for, at Le Pain Quotidien (Bleecker Street venue), was cancelled last minute and thus the surprise had to be revealed prematurely and the class rebooked. For February 16th in fact.

And so here we are.

I have just returned, via the F train, back up to my apartment, laden with enough bread to feed 5,000. Jesus, God bless him, could have done with me a while back. I have made deliveries en route however, some might say like a wheaty Robin Hood, and now I am left with a couple of baguettes, 3 dinner rolls filled with chocolate pellets and 2 batards of walnuts, apples and sultanas (my personal favourite). I also have a quarter of the pizza we made and dined on at the communal table and that, dear readers, will be for my lunch tomorrow!

So, now lethargic from over-doughing myself, I am going to cheat a bit and show you my afternoon spent in SoHo insteaad of telling you any more. I do hope you don’t feel short-changed.

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My apron

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I spy with my little eye? A highly desirable Kitchen Aid AND the pizza toppings for later on

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Yep I was covered in flour (King Arthur Company in particular) from toe to tip

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Squidgy, bubbly dough weighed out on some retro scales

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This is where we filled the proofed dough with toasted walnuts, apples and sultanas

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Rollin’ rollin’ rollin’

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Baguettes in their couche (snug as a bug in a rug as you can see) and a monster pizza shovel

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Yes that is chocolate and butter. And yes they are going in the middle of mini dough balls

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The posh “Pain d’Epi” style. Tres joli

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Pain d’Epi d’Ashbridge

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Yeah. I pretty much made all of this toute seule!

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Making our dinner to finish. A combination of dough, gravity and knuckles (in summary)

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Preparing the bread for the oven. Give the old carbon dioxide some pretty holes to sizzle out of

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Eh voila. I think my work here is done.

Magnifique? Super? SUPER COOL? 

Mais oui!

Al Pacino

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Pacino and Cannavale discuss their salesman prowess

I can’t honestly think of a better title for this post. It’s Sunday evening and I have just finished watching the second feature in my Al Pacino film marathon. Scent of a Woman is of course a classic (and don’t just take my word for it. Pacino got an Oscar for his role) and it has left me exhausted, with a bit of a headache really and absolutely amazed that last night I was 8 rows away from the great man himself.

An impromptu, reckless Broadway purchase yesterday morning, I spent a crazy sum of money for the privilege of sitting near to Johnny, not far away from Frank (Slade and Serpico), hey and of course in touching distance of Michael Corleone (if I nipped out the row and ran really quickly, and before anyone tackled me, to the stage that is!). Last night at 8.05pm, for those of you not following along well, there were 8 heads between me and Tony Montana! And now, as meringues bake in the oven, I am trying to piece together the surreal blur that was Glengarry Glen Ross on Broadway.

[The meringues are a desperate attempt at consuming sugar, since my only source comes in the form of cane and with a dozen eggs in my fridge and not much else I have had to resort to Delia Smith meringues to get me through my movie run this evening.]

I was sat very snuggly between two large-ish men. One, I noticed after a few moments sat next to him, was quite clearly drunk (he fell asleep and mildly snored at points but luckily the prolific shouting on stage kept that to a minimum), and all around me, tourists. You know the type. Buying Broadway tickets for the main star! Cheeky so-and-sos. As the curtain was raised and that man sat in a makeshift Chinese restaurant, with a fellow actor, we heard a scream from the back of the orchestra,

“I love you Al Pacino!”

Tourists! By Jove it is hard work going to the theatre with all this rif raf!

Anyway what about his voice? It was all there. His intense eyes, his hair, his expressive mouth as he repeated his lines over and over. Mr Al Pacino is on stage people. STOP COUGHING!

The play was good (well it does have a Pulitzer). Mamet’s dialogue is excellent. It has a similar feel and frustration to Death of a Salesman and I was really impressed with the fast paced exchange between the actors. I had watched a preview online, in the few hours before the show, and some actors had commented on the musicality of the script. I saw that in action. Bobby Cannavale was wonderful. Playing Pacino’s Ricky Roma (from the 1992 movie–earning Pacino a Best Supporting nomination in the same year he won Best Actor for Scent of a Woman) he really made an impression on me. I also loved seeing Richard Schiff (The West Wing’s Toby Ziegler) in real life. A little behind on the series (by almost a decade) I have been religiously watching West Wing episodes, most nights now for the last few months, and feel very close to the cast. So seeing, possibly my favourite, only EIGHT heads away was divine.

My buddy Schiff (Tobes)

I really cannot say much else. The whole evening was like a dream. Al Pacino has been a staple legend in my household since I was a little girl (less Serpico, more Scent of a Woman before you blame my parents) and just like with Dustin Hoffman, and with Jane Fonda, I was all of a flutter.

Al Pacino, I may not entirely remember last night, but you were definitely worth every penny.

Valentine’s Day in a Commerical Wonderland

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Will there be anything in the post? Do I even care?

Ha silly question. Of course I do. I want all of the chocolates and I really love flowers (hint hint), even though they die all too soon. So, this disgusting display of over sentimental fluff that is being bulldozed over the city (and world) today is absolutely fooling me.

So far I have done pretty well. A red Gatorade for breakfast. A card from one of the girls at work who printed it off in front of me. Pink Champagne for our special lunch at the Rockefeller University (surrounded by really old Nobel Prize winners. Who said romance was dead?) and an insane amount of squidgy chocolate cake. Delusional bliss.

Saint Valentine. Go you.

True love is either a violin playing goat OR two elephants having a smooch. Probably.

A compulsory party (the best kind?)

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Never before have I had to force feed a group of hombres cake (I am learning Spanish in my spare time so may be inclined to slot Spanish words into my blogs now to demonstrate my progress).

In a past, but not too distant, life I was a prolific baker. I have mentioned this previously but always feel it is important to revise points of importance in order for them to be successfully digested. A technique I have been utilising effectively in my Spanish vocabulary learning (as an aside). In my past life I was never a quality baker. I leaned more to the side of quantity rather than quality.

I might say that my love of baking stemmed from childhood days spent in Nana’s flat during the school holidays. The sisters would always be occupied effectively; indulging in crafts, baking, playing cards and knitting to name a few. However, I must point out that I have implied here that my sister and I busied ourselves in equal measures on these tasks, but that would be misleading. The fact is, I was more of an observer. I would observe the baking; only involving myself by licking the bowl pre-oven and then again, when the product resurfaced, diving right in. In terms of the knitting, I would have every intention of knitting reams of scarves, hats of all colours and sizes and working up to a jumper or two, first for a baby/toddler, then for a grown up and possibly even starting my own woollen business. Knitting is conducive to dreaming after all. However, inevitably time would pass and two lines of woolly hoops would have been completed and I would have to lay down the needles and switch my attentions to Countdown or, better still, Supermarket Sweep.

Crafts were more common outside of the cosy flat, which was incidentally located inches away from a sweetie mix up from the local newsagents. Are we at all surprised by my addiction to sugar? We sisters would be ushered by bus to our local library for some exciting pillow embroidery, pottery (possibly if my memory correctly serves) and other such artistic endeavours. My sister has always been more inclined to create things of beauty and precision. I am more of a keen starter. Someone with impeccable intentions but little commitment towards a finished product. But I would always enjoy the day and would be delighted to show the mother as she pulled up in our white people carrier, known throughout the land (our village) as the infamous Ashbridge moto. We would slide back the rusty doors to the car and hop in, ready to splurge out details of all our exciting adventure stories of krispie cakes and patchwork quilting as we whistled up the hill to our village home.

But if I am honest I did not learn the tricks of the trade, as it were, from the Nana. Sure, I picked up the fundamentals of cake science and probably thought I knew a lot more than I did but one day the truth of my cakery flaws was finally revealed. On this fateful day I had decided to make a cake solo. I forget the reason, but it was going to be a surprise and I was highly motivated from start to finish. My focus was sustained throughout. So that, when my family returned, from wherever they had been, the cake was ready to take out of the oven. I was terribly excited and mostly proud of my ability to carry out this “craft” to completion. That is, until the cake was removed from the tin….. with a thud. This cake was not light and fluffy as I was so accustomed to. It was not springy to the touch. It was more Saharan drought than moist and airy and I was utterly confused as to what element of my preparation had led us to this brick-like gateau. My family were, however, highly amused. My reputation, unfortunately, preceded me. Their lack of bewilderment was quite infuriating. It was unclear to all as to what I had included, or failed to, to create such a monstrous excuse for a dessert. Until I let the fatal particulars slip.

Ooh yummy

Have you got any clotted cream to go with that?

Yes OK I had gathered up the batter in my hands and plonked it on the cool work surface (pre-floured of course). I keenly remember thinking it was incredibly, and unmanageably, sticky and so continued to add more and more flour to prevent my cake batter from attaching itself irreparably to the bench-top. Can you guess my mistake readers? Oh yes, having observed cake baking AND scone baking over my childhood of cookery courses I had successfully created the first cakescone. Also known as a “rock”. But not a rock cake, those leave you with a full complement of teeth in your mouth. I fear my creation would leave you with few!

Nope, not my idea of a mouth-watering tea break!

So now I am the laughing stock of my family. A joke in cookery spheres. An embarrassment to Delia Smith and Mary Berry alike. I decided, therefore, from that day on, that my calling was not in the line of baked goods.

Fast forward a few years and I am an undergraduate student. My Grandpop has been collecting American-sized baking mixes and is delivering them at regular intervals to me so that I can feed my friends and make some new ones in the process. I find that I like this way of baking: just add eggs and maybe a cup or two of water. A step by step guide on the box and voila 30 or so minutes later my home smells like a heaven and hungry, sugar-crazed students are rushing to relieve me of my fare. (Sugar is certainly the cheapest form of bribery)

I have been reborn. My reputation left far behind me I am teaching myself again how the science of baking can complement my chosen career. I can engage successfully with my peers through the medium of cookies, krispie cakes, lemon drizzle and chocolate tray bakes. I have no need to expand my repertoire since these staples are all the youngsters need to satisfy their tastes and that suits us both!

So it is safe to say, I have been a born-again Delia for several years now. Feeding the rich and sometimes even the poor with flour, sugar and eggs. Sometimes I go a little crazy and make a bakewell tart. I know, madness after what I just described? Probably just to prove to myself, more than anything, that I am no fake. Yes I can make a mean shortcrust pastry (but only when Jamie Oliver holds my hand throughout).

Cue New York City and a laboratory of scientists and medics. Cue no formal arrangement of birthday celebration and cue my new calling in life. A party of cakes whether you want one or not. Yes that is correct. You scientists will eat my sugary creations and you will love them. You will leave your precious benches, be it reluctantly, and you will sing that global singalong “Happy Birthday” and then you will take a piece of brownie, a slice of chocolate cake or even a ball of Mars bar krispie cake and you will stand in silence as I watch you eagle-eyed until you finish every last crumb. No seriously, lick those fingers and then I will unlock the door.

I am Delia Smith reincarnated (before she dies) and I will make you joyful on sugar.

How trivial can it get?

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It seems to me after my last two posts that blogging is somewhat trivial. In fact if we judge this blog, for example, I have covered such topics as ice cream flavours, Cadbury’s Creme Eggs, a 2 hour (or so) visit to NYC by President Obama who I did not even catch a glimpse of or even attempt to, Alec Baldwin and his impending friendship with me driven by my need to photoshop his already photographed person with a certain extra individual who could best be described as ME.

The list is not endless (I have only submitted 28 posts at this point) but the triviality is diverse. I think I need to re-evaluate the purpose of my blogging. A self-obsessed venting of how much I enjoy sugar is not really adding to anyone’s day. Really my adventures have dwindled in recent weeks and I must revive them promptly before I feel the need to visit every cupcake establishment in the city in order to plot a graph of varying deliciousness for my reader(s).

Reader(s) (an optimistic s) I implore you to stick with me. I am feeling adventurous I promise. In fact I feel a bubbling of excitement as I plot my next move. Hang on in there.

Momofuku

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I know I have created a section JUST for food. And why wouldn’t I? It needs the respect. But I just had a sugar rush and thought I should log it.

compost cookie: pretzels, potato chips, coffee, oats, butterscotch and chocolate chips (random mix but surprisingly delicious)

corn cookie: basically cornbread in cookie form. My love of cornbread knows no bounds. In fact it is so great it is deserving of it’s very own post!

birthday cake truffles: rainbow cake crumble, sprinkles, vanilla frosting (yum)

chocolate malt cake truffles: malt fudge, malted milk crumbs and charred marshmallow

franken pie: inspired by the mismatch monster of fiction this pie is made up of two slices of each of their “standard” pies; crack pie (evocative name for toasted oat crunch with a gooey butter filling), candy bar pie (chocolate, caramel and peanut butter goodness), cinnamon bun pie and grasshopper pie (graham crust, mint cheesecake and brownie filling)

is your mouth watering yet? thought so!

Well don’t delay. You can find these treats in the East Village and Midtown.