Sunday, October 21, 2007

Seasonal Treats

The biscuit recipe given below makes an excellent base as it is strong enough to hold a shape and can also be sandwiched together. Soft fillings should be added after the biscuits have been baked and cooled. For Jammy Dodger type biscuits, cut out whole rounds from the rolled dough, then take half of these and cut a small round out of the middle - this is done before baking. Once baked and cooled, cover the underside of one whole biscuit with jam, then top this with a biscuit with the hole. Fill the hole with more jam if you wish. Other biscuits can be left complete and sandwiched together (similar to custard creams). Suggestions for fillings will follow the recipe.

This dough can be shaped in a variety of different ways by altering the consistency which is done by increasing or decreasing the amount of egg used. For a softer dough, able to be pushed through a biscuit press or piping bag, use 2 eggs. For a firmer dough, that needs rolling, use just the one egg.
Creamed Sugar Dough:
(175g) butter, softened
(300g) caster sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tsp grated lemon rind (or other flavouring)
(350g) flour
pinch of salt
Cream together the butter and the sugar until pale and fluffy. Sift together the flour and the salt, the stir this gradually into the creamed mixture. When too stiff to stir, mix in the remaining flour by hand. Roll out to about 1/4" (5mm) thick and cut into chosen shapes. Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for about 10 minutes. Cool on a cake airer. To fill, spread the underside of one biscuit with chosen filling then place a biscuit on top, underside down.
Softer dough for piped biscuits, which contain more egg need cooking at a slightly higher temperature 190C etc, for about 15 minutes until pale golden.

suggestions for biscuit fillings:
dried fruits: apricots, prunes, dates, figs - blitzed with honey to make a paste.
icing sugar, bound with water or butter or liquid flavouring
ganache: a blend of melted chocolate and cream whipped together
jam or lemon curd.

Halloween 'Pumpkin' Heads: makes 6
6 oranges
3 packs different coloured jellies: orange, lime, blackcurrant
Slice just over an inch from the top of each orange and scoop out the flesh and membranes. Make face shapes in the orange shells by cutting out eyes and a zig-zag mouth. Make up the jellies using a threequarters of the recommended amount of water (or half if you want a firmer jelly), then - once set, chop finely and use to stuff the 'heads', replacing the lids if you wish. These can be prepared in advance (up to a couple of days) and kept chilled in the fridge. If handing them out at the door, pre-wrap in clingfilm.

Halloween Biscuits:
Use the above biscuit recipe, pipe spider's webs, bats, scary faces onto the cooked biscuits using a black icing (can be bought in tubes or as icing pencils). If you wish the biscuits can first be covered with a thick white water icing, left to dry before drawing on the special effects.

Scary Little Monsters:
Either buy a mini chocolate Swiss rolls and cut across in half to make chunks, or use muffins or fairy cakes (paper cases removed). The idea is to roll out ready-made white fondant icing into circles (approx 4 " but depends on the width and depth of each cake). Spread a little jam on the top and sides of the cake (helps the fondant to stick), then lay over the icing as you would do a tablecloth. You need enough for it to drape down to the base of each cake. Make folds or pleats by pressing in the sides so that at least part of the icing sticks to the cake. (The aim is to make it look as though someone is playing ghosts with a sheet over them). Use a couple of small chocolate drops or raisins for eyes, fairly near the top of the cake.

Just love this next one.
Witch's Worm Brew:
In a blender, blitz together a punnet of hulled strawberries, a few ice cubes and the juice of an orange or two (could use the oranges from the 'Pumpkin Head' recipe above). Pour into a cauldron (a glass bowl will do), and drop in plenty of worm sweets, draping one or two over the sides of the bowl to make them look as though they are crawling out. Serve immediately.

Toffee Apples:
1 tsp butter
1 lb (500g) sugar
2 tsp water
wooden skewers*
apples, washed and dried
Place the sugar, butter and water in a pan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Raise the heat to medium and boil for 20 minutes. Allow to cool, then reboil for 15 minutes more.
When the toffee is ready, place a skewer into each apple and dip into the toffee, covering well. Stand the apples end down on waxed or parchment paper to harden. Wrap in clingfilm.
Note: The recipe says that wooden skewers can be obtained from your butcher. Otherwise I suggest using those flat lolly sticks - make a slit in the apple and push in. The toffee should stick to it and help it stay in the apple.

Vegetarian Chestnut Sausages: serves 4
2 carrots, grated
1 courgette, grated
7 oz (200g) cooked, peeled and chopped chestnuts
1 egg
3 oz (75g) fresh breadcrumbs
1 tsp mustard powder
handful chopped parsley
Mix everything together, roll into sausage shapes and chill in the fridge until firm, preferably overnight. To cook, dip in egg, roll in breadcrumbs and fry in shallow oil until golden.

The 'I can't be bothered to bake' Cake: serves 8 (F)
3 x 9" sponge flans
4 egg yolks
3 oz (75g) caster sugar
1lb 2oz (500g) mascarpone cheese
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 x 284 carton double cream, whipped
4 - 6 tblsp coffee liqueur
3 fl.oz (75ml) strong black coffee
4 oz (100g) plain chocolate, grated
7 oz (200g) white chocolate curls
Whisk together the egg yolks and the sugar until very pale and fluffy. Stir in the masacarpone cheese, the vanilla, cream and half the liqueur. Add the rest of the liqueur to the coffee.
Place one sponge layer on a plate, drizzle over some of the coffee/liqueur, spread a third of the creamy mixture over the cake and sprinkle over half the plain chocolate. Put on the next cake layer and repeat, topping with the final cake. Spread the final third of the cream mixture over the top and sides of the cake and sprinkle over the white chocolate shreds. This can be made a day ahead of time and kept chilled in the fridge. Very similar to the Sicilian Cassata, posted up last year, which does freeze, this Tiramasu round version should surely freeze.
Tip: Instead of buying flan cases, cook up a batch of your own sponge bases and freeze them. If the frozen sponges are fairly deep, they can be easily be cut through to make two thinner layers. Alternatively, using a cling-film lined cake tin, assemble the above cake using split trifle sponges instead of bought flans. Having said all that, the cake could also be assembled (using the trifle sponges) in a lined loaf tin - this makes it easier to slice off what you need.