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(c) Food Network

(c) Food Network

Winter has finally arrived and that means colder days and longer nights. While many dread winter, some enjoy it because of some of the activities one can do. Some of the best wintertime activities include bundling up in a blanket, listening to a fire in the fireplace, and drinking hot beverages. For most of us, tea and hot chocolate are the most common hot beverages but another popular hot drink during the winter is taken in the form of a hot apple drink: mulled apple cider!

Mulled apple cider is a warm and cheerful fruit drink that has been enjoyed by millions for generations. Mulled drinks go as far back as the 18th century. At first, a red hot poker was originally used to add sugar and cloves to alcoholic drinks like beer or cider. Nowadays, mulled drinks can be made non-alcoholic with just plain apple cider (apple juice that is technically “raw”).

Allspice, anise (usually star anise), cloves, citrus peels, and cinnamon are the most common ingredients used as mulling spices to help bring out the warm flavor of the apple cider. You can add other spices like peppercorns or nutmeg, it’s totally up to you! But the spices are usually ground together and steeped using cheesecloth, muslin, or empty teabags. Some people make little baggies of these mulling spices and give them away as gifts or simply use them in cakes or other baked goods.

Mulled cider is usually popular during the fall and wintertime. Once the holiday season passes, people still enjoy the drink all the way until at least spring or summer. The smell of the spices always signify the start of colder weather and of better times. Enjoy a warm cup along with a few biscuits or cake and curl up with a good book!

-CD

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(c) Good Housekeeping UK

If you miss custard creams or just crave them, then you can make them yourself with a few simple ingredients from your pantry and a little custard powder. This recipe for custard cream cookies is from Good Housekeeping UK. I first made this recipe before I had a kitchen scale (more on this later).

US Standard

  • For the cookie:
  • 2 cups All Purpose (plain) flour, plus extra to dust
  • 6 dry tablespoons Bird’s custard powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/8 cup or 7 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, chilled, cut into cubes
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • Filling
  • 1/3 cup (5 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup icing/powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp Bird’s custard powder

Or

Metric

  • 200 g (7oz) All purpose (plain) flour, plus extra to dust
  • 50 g (2oz) Bird’s custard powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 75 g (3oz) caster sugar
  • 125 g (4oz) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into cubes
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • For the Filling
  • 75 g (3oz) unsalted butter, softened
  • 125 g (4oz) icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp Bird’s custard powder
  • For the biscuits, put the flour, custard powder, baking powder, sugar and butter into a food processor, or use a fork and mix until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Alternatively, rub the butter into the flour mixture using your fingertips.
  • Add the egg and milk and mix until the mixture just comes together. Tip onto a work surface, bring together with your hands, then wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 mins or up to 1 day.
  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Lightly flour a work surface and roll out dough until 3mm (⅛in) thick. Cut it into an even number of 3cm x 4.5cm (1¼in x 1¾in) rectangles, re-rolling trimmings as needed. If you like, mark the rectangles with a diamond and a dot in each corner.
  • Put rectangles on prepared sheets and bake for 13-15 minutes until lightly golden. Cool on the sheet for 3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Meanwhile, put the softened butter into a large bowl and sift over icing sugar and custard powder. Mix to combine (don’t add water as it needs to be fairly thick). Set aside.
  • When the biscuits are cool, sandwich together with some of the filling, using a knife, spatula, or a piping bag if you want a less messy finish.

I admit that summer is not my favorite season of the year. It’s too hot, too bright, and nearly everyone I know goes away on vacation. While I am stuck at home, there isn’t much to watch on TV, either. I’m stuck watching a bunch of reruns until they come back with new episodes…until late September or early October.

But for some, August is the best time of the year for television! Why? Because it’s The Great British Bake Off! Viewed by millions in the UK, it’s one of the most anticipated TV events of the year! In the US, the show is known as The Great British Baking Show. The premise of the show is to find the best amateur baker in all of Great Britain. At the beginning of each season, there are ten bakers who are to bake a Signature Challenge, a Technical Challenge, and a Showstopper Challenge. These are each judged on appearance and taste. The show is run for ten weeks, ten episodes, and each episode has a theme, like pastry, bread, or even gluten free. The bake-off takes place in a tent, most recently in Berkshire.

Watching this show inspires me to unleash my inner baker. Many of the recipes the competitors make all look so delicious and easy, but looks can be deceiving! I have tried for several years to make a perfect Victoria Sponge and it has been so difficult! It has taken a lot of training and patience! So, for the next few posts, I will explain how baking products are a bit different in the UK, baking temperatures, measuring, and more about the Great British Bake Off.

Put on the kettle, it’s going to be fun!

-CD

IMG_20160723_0845101_rewindSummertime brings the best in food and drink, bringing sweet fruits, bountiful vegetables, and refreshing drinks. In the scorching hot summer heat, many of us love a nice, refreshing glass of iced tea. Perhaps you would like a bit of honey in it? But then there’s the issue of dealing with the mess of sticky honey!

That’s where the Nektar Honey Crystals come in. It is a sweet mixture of honey and cane sugar meant for times where you need just a bit of sweetness. They are small yellowIMG_20160723_0912131_rewind granules that come in an easy to pour bottle or in small packets, perfect for when you want to take your honey on the go. When you use a packet of honey, this is equivalent to one teaspoon of liquid honey, so it gets very sweet! Try it in green or black teas!

Uses for these crystals are not just for drinks but for food, as well! When I tried these for myself, I sprinkled some (well, a little too much) on my plain oatmeal and on my fruit for breakfast one morning. It really added a lovely flavor to my oatmeal and made my fruit taste even sweeter, kind of with a maple taste.

Other ideas for using these Nektar Honey Crystals are not limited to just breakfast food and tea, but to smoothies, baking, and even cooking savory foods! Add some crystals to a BBQ sauce or sprinkle some in with your seasonings for your steak rub. These are sure to please your taste buds and save you time.

-CD

 

 

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(c) Crystal Derma – English Tea Store

We are in well into the beginning of summer and in the end of Iced Tea Month. The weather has already warmed up and many have switched from their standard hot tea to iced tea. Independence Day (also known as Fourth of July) is upon us and so many us of are either preparing for a big barbecue or are going to one. Others are just trying to escape the unbearable summer heat.

What other way to escape the heat than ice pops? What if I said you could use tea in your ice pops? It may sound crazy but it’s a very refreshing idea. You could use tea alone or you could add whatever else you want, like fruit or juice. All you simply need is a mold (and a few popsicle sticks if your ice mold is like mine). Simply brew your tea, any kind you like, and just let it cool. Once you are finished brewing and cooling, fill the molds so they don’t overflow and freeze. Every ice pop mold varies, so your ice mold may come with sticks or you may have to buy them separately. Once filled, freeze overnight for best results. To release from the molds, fill a bowl, pan, or container that is at least as tall as your mold with warm water and dip ice mold with pops in for about 20-30 seconds until the pops loosen. If you still have a bit of trouble getting them loose, dip them again. They should come out. Serve and enjoy!

For just a few of my flavors, I used a few flavors like Tangiers Lemon White Tea mixed with Lemonade, Pomegranate Hibiscus Green mixed with Pomegranate juice, Hawaiian Colada Rooibos with some fresh cut pineapple, and Bingo Blueberry with fresh cherries. It’s perfect for everyone, including children!

Bonus idea! Freeze tea so you can add it to your iced tea instead of plain ice without watering it down! Perfect for enjoying in the shade with family and friends or by the poolside.

-CD

 

national-iced-tea-month-june

If you have ever used a slow cooker to slow cook something, then you might know that slower is sometimes better. It’s wonderful for foods like beef stew or roasts. I love to slow cook something all day because the r20160608_085026esults are always worth it. The same goes with tea. Depending on the tea you’re brewing, sometimes it’s worth brewing it just a bit longer for a wonderful flavor.

This method applies with Sun Tea. What is Sun Tea? It is tea that has been brewed and left out in the sun for several hours. It is very easy to make.

All you need is about 3-5 teabags of your favorite tea (the most common used is Lipton but I used Yorkshire) or more, depending on how strong you like your tea, distilled or filtered water, and a large clear container with a lid.

 

 

 

  • Simply fill the container with water and add the teabags.
  • Take the container out to a sunny area, either indoors or outdoors, where it gets a lot of sun (or else it’s not sun tea!) and let it stand for about 2-4 hours.
  • Bring it out of the sun and chill in the refrigerator. Once chilled, add sweetener and ice to taste. Enjoy!

Sun Tea is the best during the summer because it puts the summer heat and sun to good use and “boils” the tea for you, saving energy and money on your gas and/or 20160614_151446electric bill. You won’t need to use a kettle so it doesn’t heat up your home. Try making some Sun Tea this summer. You will not be disappointed!

Tips:

  • Try making Sun Tea with other kinds of tea, like green or herbal.
  • Add fruit or herbs with the brew for a lovely flavor!

-CD

IMG_6119

(c) Julia Briggs

  • Oven 190 C, 375 F, Gas mark 5
  • A greased two pound loaf tin
  • 6 oz butter
  • 6 oz caster sugar
  • 3 medium eggs or 2 eggs and the whites from another recipe
  • 4 oz self raising flour
  • 2 oz ground almonds ( for a different texture, you can use all flour though)
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder

 

  • Icing (of your choice) I used:
  • a 7 oz block of dark chocolate and
  • 3 oz butter melted together then poured of the finished cake

IMG_6113Cream the butter and sugar together then add the eggs and beat hard.  Slowly add the flour, milk and ground almonds if using and combine well.   Now divide your mixture into two and add the cocoa powder to one half.  Spoon the two mixtures alternatively into the tin and tap down to rid the mixture of any air pockets.

Now with a thin knife blade or a skewer draw through the mixture to mixIMG_6114 slightly and produce a marbled effect.  Bake for 40-45 minutes until well risen and firm to the touch.  Test with a cake test or skewer.  Leave to cool in the tin for about 15 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack.

Place a plate under the rack to catch any drips then make up the icing and pour over the cake.  Enjoy a thick slice with any tea you like.  -JAB

IMG_6124

(c) Julia Briggs

Looking through an old recipe book of my Mother’s for something tasty to make I came across these biscuits.  They always looked impressive after they had been wrapped round the rolling pin and they do taste nice.

You will need:

  • 3 large egg whites
  • 4 oz icing sugar
  • 4 oz plain flour
  • Finely grated zest of one large orange
  • 3 oz butter (melted)

You need to make up the mixture and leave it for 30 minutes so no need to put the oven on until after that unless you are cooking other things.  Next week’s recipes is for a marbled cake and I used the three egg yolks left over from this recipe in that.

Whisk the icing sugar with the egg whites lightly and then stir in the flour orange zest and melted butter until well combined.  Leave the mixture in the bowl covered with a tea towel for half an hour. Set the oven to 200 C, 400 F gas mark 6.

IMG_6116

(c) Julia Briggs

Grease or line some baking sheets, then place three teaspoons of mixture on one baking sheet spread apart and stretch each spoonful into a larger, thinner circle.  Continue with the other sheets and bake for about 10-12 minutes until just starting to go brown around the edges.

 

IMG_6117

(c) Julia Briggs

Whilst still hot from the oven wrap each biscuit around a rolling pin to curl and then leave to set.  Just as with brandy snaps, if they go too cold they will break rather than curl, in this case you can just put them back into the oven for a minute or two to soften again then they will curl nicely.  Continue with until you have used up all the mixture and then leave them all to go cold.

They will store for up to one week in an airtight tin.  Serve with a good cup of mint tea and your guests will be most impressed.

-JAB

IMG_6012

(c) Julia Briggs

My husband does not like jam but loves Marmalade so I make him cake or buns and he puts marmalade in the middle so I thought I would experiment with a real marmalade cake just for him!  He likes the ‘no peel’ marmalade but you can use either.

Oven 180 C  350 F  Gas Mark 4  A well greased 9″ cake tin or two 7″ ones.

I made the normal cake mixture but added more flour and, of course, marmalade.

You will need:

  • 8 oz softened butter
  • 8 oz caster sugar
  • 10 oz Self Raising Flour
  • 4 medium sized eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of Marmalade

Icing:

  • 4 oz Icing Sugar
  • 2 oz Marmalade (if using Marmalade with peel in sieve the peel out)
  • 1 teaspoon orange juice.
  • orange peel from the sieved Marmalade or sugared orange slices to decorate
  • Extra Marmalade and double cream  for sandwiching the cakes together
IMG_6004

(c) Julia Briggs

Beat the sugar and butter together until light and creamy then add the eggs one at a time with a tablespoon of flour to stop it curdling.  Fold in the flour and the Marmalade with a figure of eight movement and divide between your tins or spoon the whole mixture into the one tin if using a large cake tin.  Bake for approximately 35-40 minutes until firm to the touch and a cake tester or needle comes out clean.  Leave in the tin to cool slightly then turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

Make the icing by combing all the ingredients together.  Split the cake and spread some marmalade on the bottom half and whipped cream on the top half and then sandwich the cake together and pour on the icing.  Decorate with the orange slices.  Enjoy with a nice cup of tea.

-JAB

 

 

IMG_5998

Julia Briggs (c)

Is it OK to say I do not like chocolate cake?  I do make chocolate cakes and I do eat some chocolates, like Maltesers but I have never been a fan of rich chocolate cakes so I make this orange flavour cake and put chocolate chips in and it is good.

You can of course use cocoa powder in place of some of the flour if you want a chocolate colour, you can also use milk, plain or white chocolate chips, I only had white chocolate in stock.  I filled half with orange marmalade and half with lemon curd and butter icing to satisfy the whole family!

You will need: Two 8″ cake tins well greased or one well greased 10″ cake tin. Oven 180 C  350 F  Gas Mark 4

  • 8 oz Butter
  • 8 oz Caster Sugar
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • A few drops of vanilla essence
  • A few drops of orange essence
  • 8 oz Self Raising flour
  • Grated rind of an orange
  • juice of half an orange
  • 4 oz chocolate chips
IMG_5995

Julia Briggs (c)

Cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy then add the beaten eggs with a spoonful of flour and the vanilla and orange essence.  Fold in the flour, grated rind, juice and chocolate chips.  Pour into two 8″ cake tins or one 10″ tin.  Cook for 35 minutes until well risen and firm to the touch.  Leave in the tin to cool slightly, using a cake tester or needle prick all over the top of the cake and then mix the other half of the orange juice with a little hot water and pour onto the cake. When slightly cool take from the tin and place on a wire rack until completely cold.

Slice the cake, or not if you have made two!  Spread orange marmalade or lemon cheese on the bottom half then cream or butter icing onto the underside of the top half of the cake.  Sandwich them together and enjoy a piece with a cup of tea.

 

–  JAB

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