Saturday, April 10, 2010

Weekend Starts Here

My food processor has been taken from the cupboard where it used to lurk, and is now placed on top of a small cupboard next to a run of electric sockets. This means it can be quickly plugged in and lifted to the table at the side, where I can sit and use it far more often. As done yesterday when I managed to make the Millionaire's shortbread as planned. That's a first, for how many times have you heard me say "I will be making such and such today" - and then never do.

A slight change of plan in that I expected the recipe to make shortbread to fill an 8" x 8" square baking tin, so as I intended using a larger foil tray-bake tin (Lakeland sell these in sets of ten and they are wonderful as they can be washed and used again and again) measured out double the ingredients. Should have read the instructions more closely, as the recipe was for a Swiss roll sized tin anyway - so ended up making enought to make two trays of M's shortbread. On the good side, only needed to use one batch of the 'fudge/caramel' to cover both shortbreads.

If you wish to have a go at making one trayful, the instructions are as follows. My version gives slightly thinner layers of shortbread, caramel and chocolate than the norm for this 'biscuit' - which is no bad thing as it is so rich that a little goes a long way. Using the caramel ingredients as shown is enough for one tray.
This time am giving only metric weights as it just seems to make it easier.
Shirley's Millionaire's Shortbread:
250g plain flour
175g butter
75g caster sugar
Put the above into a food processor and blitz together (or mix the flour and sugar together in a bowl and rub in the butter with your fingersuntil like fine breadcrumbs). Tip this into a Swiss roll tin and press firmly down, levelling the surface. Bake at 180C for 20 minutes or until just beginning to be tinged with gold. Then remove and cool in the tin.
50g butter
50g light brown muscovado sugar
1 x 397g (or might be 379g) tin condensed milk
Put the butter and sugar into a heavy pan over low heat, stirring until dissolved, then stir in the condensed milk. Bring to the bubble, then simmer for 5 minutes, stirring to prevent it burning on the bottom of the pan. Cool slightly, then pour over the shortbread, levelling the surface.
chocolate topping:
Break one bar of 70% (or other) dark chocolate into pieces, then place in a container standing over hot water. Leave to stand until softened, then stir until fully melted. Spoon this over the set caramel, and smooth the surface. As difficult to get the top perfectly flat, I tend to run a fork up and down the chocolate to give a wiggly pattern.

One tray was covered with the chocolate topping late yesterday evening, Beloved kept hovering over it and asking if it was ready. "Not yet" I replied, and a few hoverings later "Won't be ready until tomorrow", and his face fell. My own feelings will be worse when the biscuit is sliced, for myself cannot have any at all. All that sugar. Even one crumb would make me want to eat more and more and more...
Today, will cover the second tray with more chocolate, half of which will be white chocolate, and swirled with the dark, aiming for a marbled effect. No doubt this M's shortbread will keep fairly well in an airtight tin, but will give our daughter half anyway.

Anyone with a food processor will find making the shortbread 'mix' (flour, sugar and butter) so easy to do, and this could then be stored in the freezer ready to make shortbread when the oven is on for something else.

Returning to the use of weight and measures. It now seems that now, all newly published recipes use only the metrics. This annoys me because I still prefer to use the imperial, although by now have had enough practive to be able to convert one to the other fairly easily. Also have a gadget with a set of dials so that I can alter grammes to ounces, kilos to lbs, and millilitres to fluid ounces. It also gives both the C, F and gas equivalents for oven temperatures.

My aim is to give a recipe in the simplest way possible. But perhaps not quite a simple as the way I jotted down the recipe for the above shortbread. For my own purposes wrote down weights of flour, butter and sugar, then bracketed these together and wrote at the side "blitz tog., press in tin, bake 180C for 20". The caramel ingredients were also bracketed together and "melt, simmer 5 then pour" written at the side. The chocolate I remembered how to melt, and knew it needed spreading over the top, so no need to write down anything re that. My version of culinary shorthand perhaps.

However complicated a recipe may appear at first, it can become much easier to understand if we re-write the method again in our own words. Sometimes it seems as though cooks give far more information than is really necessary. Yet much of it is, especially for novice cooks - such as creaming fat and sugar together 'until light and fluffy', as the lightness of the creamed mixture is important when baking a cake, but a fairly experienced cook would probably only need to jot down 'cream fat & s tog.".

Trouble with me is I scribble down recipes on backs of envelopes, and then these get mislaid, lost or thrown away. So have to start again.
Somewhere have a ring binder full of hundreds of recipes, often five or more printed on just one side of a sheet of A4 paper. Proof that we don't always need a lengthy method to make something.