Waiting for Agnes

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Ginger Nut August 14, 2010

Filed under: Beautiful baking,Parenting — titchandboofer @ 8:40 am
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There are so many good excuses for baking biscuits. You have visitors coming for tea, your biscuit jar is empty, you’re hungry in the afternoon, you’re going visiting, someone you know has had a baby/moved house/lost a pet/boiled their kettle, you’ve suddenly realised you have an excess of flour and must clear out your cupboard before going on holiday…in six months. My excuse – at 7am the small person wanted to sit on the kitchen floor and whack some pots with a spoon. I got bored with this far sooner than he did and he was still going strong after I’d had a mug of tea and fed the livestock. I figured if I was going to hang out in the kitchen being an oversized groupie to a band of one, I might as well squeeze in a little pre-breakfast biscuit baking.

Early Morning Biscuits

90 grams of unsalted butter

75 grams of brown sugar

115 grams of treacle

100 grams of stem ginger pieces

200 grams of plain flour

3/4 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda

1 tablespoon of ground ginger

1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius (160 fan forced)

Combine the butter, sugar, treacle and ginger in a small saucepan. Stir over low heat until combined.

Remove from heat. Stir in sifted dry ingredients. Leave to cool for 10 minutes.

Roll tablespoon-sized balls of mixture into balls with your hands – greasy but satisfying. Place on trays, allowing ~3cm between each ball.

Bake about 10 minutes then leave to cool on the trays.

Like most gingery delights, these are dark and dense, slightly sticky, with a beautiful heat to them. Just right to snack on when you’ve come in from the cold, or to nibble on while you check facebook, or to feed the baby who eats nothing but cornflakes.

They will keep for about a week in a container. That’s if no-one in your house eats biscuits.


A little something for afters August 9, 2010

Filed under: Beautiful baking — titchandboofer @ 1:10 pm
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Cupcakes do not appear very often in our kitchen. Partly because the beloved has a strong aversion to them – oddly, they seem to make her angry – and partly because they are a bit too portion controlled for me. Some things work well in little uniform serves. Rich, creamy things like brulees, petit pots and mousses. But if I’m going to have cake at home I want the opportunity to cut a big wedge of it if necessary, or to be able to sneak a little sliver as I’m passing through the kitchen. As a gift though, cupcakes work well. They’re like shiny little baubles – fun to unwrap, pretty to look at and tasty into the bargain. My grandmother (The Great Granny) is celebrating her eighty-third birthday this month. She is a woman built, as Alexander McCall-Smith would say, for comfort. She is also a woman who enjoys food, gifts, gifts of food, a good cup of tea and ‘a little something for afters’. Despite various health-related threats, pleading and cajoling from her GP and brief periods of ‘being good’, The Great Granny¬†has declared that from now on she’s going to eat whatsoever she pleases. Tomorrow I will be shamelessly supporting this declaration with a gift of these:

Sticky Ginger Cupcakes

from The Hummingbird Bakery, Portobello Road, London

120 grams of plain flour

140 grams of caster sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder

1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon of ground allspice

a pinch of salt

40 grams of unsalted butter at room temperature

120 mls of full cream milk

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

200 grams of stem ginger in syrup (I used Buderim Baby Stem Ginger which comes in a 300gm jar – good for snacking as you go)


100 mls of full cream milk

~10cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into four chunks

400 grams of icing sugar

125 grams of unsalted butter at room temperature

finely grated zest of half a lemon

crystallised ginger to decorate


12-hole muffin tray

cupcake cases in any colour you like

First off, for the icing – put the milk and fresh ginger pieces into a jug, cover and put in the fridge for a few hours (or overnight).

Preheat your oven to 170 degrees celsius (160 fan forced).

Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice, salt and butter into a large bowl. Using a freestanding mixer or handheld electric beaters, mix on slow speed until the mixture is a sandy consistency and well combined.

Continue mixing and gradually add half the milk.

In a separate bowl, whisk the remaining milk, the egg and the vanilla extract. Add this to the flour mixture, continuing to mix slowly until smooth.

Drain the stem ginger, reserving the syrup for later. Then, finely chop the ginger pieces. This is the messiest and fiddliest part of the whole production. If you’re at all like me, you will end up with syrup stuck to all your utensils, the bench, your face, the baby and all your cupboard door handles. Of course, this is less likely if you don’t spend as much time trying to lick the syrup off your hands instead of just washing them.

Stir the chopped ginger into your cupcake mixture by hand gently, just mixing until evenly dispersed.

Spoon the mixture into the cases lining the muffin tin, filling each one ~2/3 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes. They are done when they look golden and are slightly springy to touch.

While the little lovelies are baking put the reserved syrup and an equal amount of water in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil and let boil until reduced by one third. When you pull the cupcakes out of the oven, spoon a little of this syrup over each one.

Now you could just stop here. Eaten this way, these little cakes are still gloriously moist, hotly gingery and with a lingering zingy aftertaste. But half the fun of a cupcake is in the icing:

Beat the icing sugar,  butter and lemon zest together at medium speed until well mixed and smoothish. Switch to a slow speed and slowly pour in the strained ginger-infused milk. Once all the milk is incorporated, switch to high speed and beat for ~5 minutes until light and fluffy.

Dollop your icing generously onto the cooled cupcakes. You can be as artful as you like. In my haste to get one of these in my mouth I was not artful at all, but the snowy whiteness of the icing on the golden cupcakes is still beautiful. To finish, dot with sliced crystallised ginger and sprinkle with a little more fine lemon zest.

What could be better than a little something that has three different forms of heavenly ginger? For an even sweeter ginger hit, you could top them with Buderim Ginger Bears, serve them with ginger tea, followed by ginger nougat…..


Gingerly July 25, 2010

Filed under: Days of our chickens' lives,Wintery soups — titchandboofer @ 10:44 am
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I love ginger. I love it candied, sweet and fibrous, wrapped in a firm shell of dark chocolate. I love it in a damp, dark gingerbread hotcake, with apple and sabayon. I love it hot and tangy in a dinner of braised lamb with black bean. I’ll drink it in tea, bake it into sticky, fragrant muffins and sprinkle it on chai. Swept away by my all-consuming passion, I decided I could make a heavenly dessert of ginger and dark chocolate mousse. To keep a long and disappointing story brief, I could not. Amalgamating incompatible recipes and being cavalier with custard led to an overly light, fluffy and not-set-enough mousse which, even for a ginger lover, was like being slapped in the face with a whole hand of it. The chocolate had somehow disappeared and….. oh I could go on and on.

The most disappointing part really has to do with the eggs. I’d squandered five large brown eggs, the equivalent of five days work for Agnes. To make matters worse, Betty, our black silkie, has decided to go broody and has given up laying in order to snatch the others’ eggs and hunker down on them possessively. Mrs P, our peculiar Polish hen, has gone off the lay, or is hiding her brilliantly white eggs somewhere very clever. Lola, our white silkie, is laying sporadically but I suspect she is distracted by Betty’s behaviour. Hopefully she won’t go broody too. We’ve already had to find an emergency half-dozen fertilized eggs for Betty. It seemed far too cruel to let her sit there for weeks, waiting for chicks to appear beneath her. I do worry for the chicks though. Despite all reassurances from my poultry sources, I suspect a hen that took several weeks to work out how to get in or out of her house may not make the best parent.

Anyhow, until supplies are up, baking is off. But we still have to eat and I have ginger on my mind and, conveniently, on the kitchen bench. So, rather than heavenly mousse, what follows is heavenly soup. This soup is my favourite. It’s easy and quick, warming and cheap. The heat from the ginger is offset by the sweetness of the carrots and honey. At this time of year in our house, it is made about once a week, served up with a handful of parsley and a hunk of crunchy, buttery toast.

Carrot & Ginger Soup

1kg of carrots, peeled & chopped roughly

1 red onion, chopped none too finely

1 chunk of ginger, to taste, generally about a 5cm piece – chopped a little more finely than the onion

1 litre of vegetable stock (I use Massel ultra stock cubes)

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 spoonful of honey, as generous as you like


In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over a medium heat. Add the onion and ginger, stirring for 4-5 minutes, until softened and fragrant.

Add the carrots and stock. Bring to the boil then reduce heat to low-medium and simmer gently for 25-30 minutes, until the carrots are tender.

Puree – I do this in a bench-top blender, but only because I don’t have a stick blender (competing with small flan tins for top spot on my kitchen wish-list).

Bring to a simmer again, stir through the honey, then serve with or without parsley.