Category Archives: Sweets

Candied Orange Peel

In my continuing task to use or preserve the oranges that we’ve collected from our Abel & Cole box I decided to try candying orange peel. This is the sort of thing I would usually stay well away from, it just seems too fiddly and will I actually ever use the candied oranges? Or will they just waste away, staring at me mournfully every time I open the fridge?

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After some research I could see it’s not a difficult process it just needs a little time. There are lots of recipes around and in the end I settled for this recipe on Leite’s Culinaria by Carole Bloom. I had 8 small and slightly dodgy looking oranges to use and I didn’t have any orange liqueur so I used brandy instead because, well why not?

To make the candied orange peel, you cut the oranges up into fine slices, with some flesh attached, this stops the pith becoming too bitter. You then boil them for 5 minutes 3 times, each time refreshing the water and heating it from cold. Then you remove any leftover flesh, which is a bit of a faff, before mixing them with the sugar and brandy and cooking for an hour and a half over a low heat to allow them to fully soften and absorb all the sugar.

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A couple of my orange’s had really thin skin purely because they were old, but by the end of the third 5 minute boil you couldn’t tell which of the peel was from these oranges as they’d really bulked out. I was worried that the oranges being old was going to be a problem, but actually I think this is a great way to use up any oranges that have been forgotten about and have got a bit ropey.

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I rolled the cooked peel, hot out of the pan, in sugar which gives them a crunch. I did this in batches so some of the peel cooked for longer, meaning the syrup turned into more of a caramel giving the later peels a bit more of a snap. Both the softer and the more carmelised peel is really tasty, but it’s something to be aware of if you want them all to be the same consistency, you’d need to tip them all out of the pan at once, which I can imagine being quite messy and would probably waste a lot of sugar, something I tried to avoid. I’ve been keeping these in a tub in the fridge and The Boy & I keep stealing a couple whenever we fancy something sweet, so I needn’t have worried about them going to waste. I think they’re also going to make great cake decoration, perhaps combined with a certain blood orange curd.

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I’ve already been thinking about these for this year’s Christmas presents, perhaps cooked down with spices in the brandy syrup then dipped in dark chocolate. April’s a bit early for this really isn’t it? I’d better make a note of it somewhere and come back to it later in the year.

Simple Blood Orange Curd

The Boy and I get our fresh fruit and vegetables delivered every week from Abel & Cole. Using up the vegetables is easy & in summer we eat a lot of fruit, but in winter we just aren’t very good at getting through all the fruit. Over the last couple of months we have got oranges, blood oranges or satsumas every single week and we’ve clearly got very tired of them because they’ve been building up in the fruitbowl. I hate wasting food, so this week I decided to experiment with a few different recipes to use up as many of them as possible.

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The usual method for preserving a glut of oranges is marmalade, but if I’m honest I’m not a big fan. However I am a huge fan of lemon curd, so my first idea was to adapt a simple lemon curd recipe to create an orange curd. When I looked at my fruit bowl I had about 4 blood oranges lurking in the pile that looked a little past their best so I thought I’d use these up first.

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While researching methods I could see that most recipes mixed the curd in a bowl over a pan of water, most strained the mixture through a sieve, and then some called for the mixture to be poured into sterilised jars while hot and others just instruct for the mixture to be left to cool in the bowl. I decided to use Dan Lepard’s easy lemon curd recipe from Short & Sweet. The recipe takes a bit of a shortcut and mixes the curd directly in a saucepan, the mixture is then strained and left to cool. I put most of the mixture into a sterilised jar while hot and what was left over I let cool and put into tupperware in the fridge, I just have to make sure I use this batch first.

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Obviously as soon as it had cooled enough, I spread it on toast to try it. The initially the taste is sweet, rich and buttery and then the sharpness from the blood orange cuts through it. My blood oranges weren’t even that fresh and flavour is still fantastic. If you made this when the oranges were fresher it would be even more zingy.

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I’ve got a few other orange preserving recipes to try this week, so if you like citrus, keep checking back!

Easy Blood Orange Curd
Adapted from Dan Lepard’s East Lemon Curd from Short & Sweet.
Makes about 400-450g.

Ingredients
5 large egg yolks
1 large egg
finely grated zest of 3 blood oranges
125ml blood orange juice
150g caster sugar
225g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

If you are planning to keep the curd in jars, wash the jars in very hot water or in a dishwasher on high. Place in the oven on a very low temperature to dry out. Wash the lids in very hot water and leave them in the very hot water until needed. If you’re reusing jars, cut some greaseproof paper circles to go between the curd & the lid. If you don’t want to faff with jars, you can store the curd in a tub in the fridge instead, but it won’t keep as long.

Place the egg yolks, egg, zest, juice and caster sugar in a saucepan over a low-moderate heat and whisk until combined. Then add the butter & stir with a wooden or plastic spoon (metal can spoilt the flavour), until melted. Keep heating until it starts to boil, gently stirring the whole time to prevent it catching on the bottom.

As it starts to boil, remove from the heat and retrieve the jars from the oven if you’re using them. Pour through a sieve into a clean mixing bowl, pressing down the mixture to make sure all the juice is through. Then, if you are just going to keep the curd in tupperware, you can just let it cool in the mixing bowl before transferring it to your container & then into the fridge. Or, if you’re using jars, pour it into the jar while hot, place a greaseproof circle on top of the curd and twist on the lid. Leave to cool before storing in the fridge.

Jarred, the curd should last a month or two, but once opened or if storing in a tub then it should last about a week.

Christmas Baking : A Round-Up

I’ve left it far too late to go into any real detail about my baking activity over Christmas, but I photographed everything so it seems a shame not to share at least a few with you.

The Christmas Cake

I stuck with what I knew and made Nigel Slater’s Christmas cake again this year, but this time the Christmas cake was fed for four weeks on Whyte and Mackay whisky, and smelt even more incredible this time for being fed a decent alcohol! Last year I didn’t ice my cake, but this year I decided I was going to, the only problem was I hate marzipan. Hate. But then I stumbled upon this Christmas cake recipe from Dan Lepard, where he ices it with pecan marzipan. Problem solved. The pecan marzipan was delicious, I could have eaten it totally on it’s own in quite large quantities (and did, if I’m totally honest). After the marzipan came the icing and I cut stars out of the leftover icing to decorate the top, a simple but I think beautiful finish to a classic cake.

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The Christmas Pudding

I had stored this in my cupboard since I made it back in November, and then boiled it again for 3 hours on Christmas day. We flamed it with brandy because it would be rude not to, and then tucked in. I don’t normally eat Christmas pudding, but I had to try this one and I wasn’t disappointed. Light and soft and slightly sweet. Perfect with a dollop of extra thick double cream. It got the thumbs up from both my mother and grandmother (I don’t think I’ve ever seen my mum eat so much pudding!) and my grandmother’s only criticism was that she prefers a darker, heavier pudding, but that’s just a matter of preference – I know I wouldn’t have liked it like that! I’ve still got the second pudding in the cupboard, so that’s one thing off the baking list for next Christmas!

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The Gifts

I baked a selection of biscuits and sweets for my family & friends again for their Christmas presents. On the menu this year were Florentines, Chocolate & Hazelnut Macaroons, Pecan Marzipan Balls dipped in chocolate & Honeycomb. I was staying with my mother over Christmas and her kitchen became a bakery on the Sunday before Christmas, with biscuits and sweets on every surface. I managed to rope The Boy into helping and he became chief chocolate dipper for the Florentines, which helped speed things up rather! Once completed and cooled, I boxed the biscuits & sweets up in cardboard boxes and made them look suitably festive so they could be given away at the numerous family gatherings over the following few days!

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We’re Sorry You’re Leaving Cupcakes

One of my friends at work left last week. She’d not worked with us for very long, but we’d had such a lot of fun since we started sharing an office that I’m going to miss her! I have no doubt that her leaving was definitely not goodbye, she’ll only be working a couple of tube stops away and us booze-hounds have got to stick together. She has the most incredible sweet-tooth and eats sweet things like I’ve never seen sweet things eaten before (there was a frightening instance with two chocolate bars and 30 seconds that I think will haunt me for a long while to come!), so it seemed appropriate to bake something to celebrate/commiserate her leaving.

As I mentioned before, I received a ludicrous number of cook books for Christmas and the one that’s really caught my eye is the Lily Vanilli cookbook. I love Lily’s bakery off Columbia Road & the cookbook doesn’t disappoint. It’s a beautiful book, with a great balance of basic recipes and tips and really unusual twists and flavour combinations. I thought I’d start with the first recipe in the book, a vanilla sponge, but to make it easier to transport into work I made them as cupcakes. I topped them with chocolate buttercream and honeycomb. I am totally obsessed with honeycomb at the moment. I’ve made it repeatedly over Christmas and it’s ace, (which reminds me there’s still some in the cupboard, I might need a mid blog post snack…).

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This was a bizarre sponge recipe. First you mix the dry ingredients with the butter until it’s like a crumble mix and then you add eggs, vanilla extract & milk. I’ve never made a cake recipe using this method before, so I was intrigued to see the outcome. The result was a thick but light sponge, which one of my colleagues described as ‘like a muffin, but not as heavy’, which I think summed it up quite well. I would definitely use this method again.

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Now I should get something straight: I am not a cupcake baker. I like cake. I am also not about pretty decorative cakes with lots of icing and pretty coloured sponge. I am about big flavour. So as someone who bakes as much as I do, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that this is the first time I’ve ever piped icing onto cupcakes. What can I say, I’m normally more of a palette knife kind of girl! That’s probably a lie too. I’d probably usually just use a teaspoon or a fork.  And not only are they piped but they have decoration! The shards of honeycomb look awesome spiked into the top of the cupcakes!

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Then. The next morning. I opened the tin and much to my horror and confusion, the honeycomb had disappeared. Gone. Disintegrated into a puddle of syrup on the cupcake! The leftover honeycomb was fine (I’m still eating it now), but all of the cake honeycomb had gone. Every piece. Luckily my friend Google is never far away, but even he wasn’t yielding many answers. Eventually I cobbled together an answer. Honeycomb disintegrates when exposed to moisture. This will happen if left out in the air, but stuck in a cake, it sucks up the moisture like no tomorrow and eventually melts. Lesson learned: honeycomb cake decoration must be added just before serving. Not the day before!

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I love a stack of tins after a productive evening’s baking!