Without a doubt the star of today’s strawberry shortcake recipe is the strawberry and yogurt filling. Normally I would use double cream which of course whips up to a delicious creamy consistency but is loaded with calories. For this dessert I wanted to try yogurt but to be honest I didn’t hold out much hope. I love yogurt and often eat it with my breakfast, use it in my cake mixtures and stir it into my main meals to give a lovely creamy sauce but could it substitute cream as one of the main ingredients in a dessert?
The problem with using yogurt as a substitute for cream is the watery liquid that sits on the top. Even if you mix it in, it will eventually separate leaving you with a soggy dessert. For my first attempt I tried putting the yogurt into a fine mesh sieve but that didn’t work. Most of the yogurt just ran through the sieve. My second attempt was much better, I used a muslin square (available from Lakeland) to line the sieve and then left the yogurt for about an hour. There was about half a cup of liquid which had drained into the bowl and I was left with a really thick yogurt which whipped beautifully and kept its shape once piped. Once the icing sugar had been added and mixed with the strawberries nobody could tell that it wasn’t cream. I absolutely adore cream but I can honestly say that I would replace it with yogurt in most of my desserts from now on.
I am not one for making New Year resolutions but I have set myself a goal to try and be more organised this year. Ever since having the kids I have struggled to get my life as organised as it was pre children. My husband is always telling me to write things down – so this year I will heed his advice and make lists, lists and more lists. Eight days into January and how am I doing with my newly organised life? Well not so great to be honest. After getting the kids up early on Monday and ready for school I found out at the last minute that I had written down the wrong date on my calendar and they were only due back to school on the Tuesday. Yesterday I went off to school with a list of things that I needed to ask at the school office but left the list in the car and promptly forgot half of what was on the list. Today I set off for town with my list of things to be done but had to turn back halfway as all routes into town were gridlocked due to flooding. Not really my fault but I got home feeling slightly deflated and very unorganised. A quick cup of coffee and a clear out of my kitchen cupboards left me feeling slightly more in control. I have now made a list of all the dribs and drabs left over from Christmas which need using up. All I need to do now is remember where the list is…
Well ok so the first thing on the list was a half packet of salted peanuts. Yes, I could have quite easily eaten them and nobody would have been any the wiser but I thought I would make something a bit more interesting to use them up. These chocolate peanut butter bars are so quick and easy and make a perfect tea time treat.
It’s been a couple of months now since I last participated in the Bake Along challenge so I was keen to try this month’s challenge which is an Italian Almond Tart. One of the main ingredients called for is Almond Paste which I have never come across here in the UK. A quick search on Google revealed quite a heated debate amongst the baking fraternity. It would appear that Almond Paste means something different depending on which country you come from. What I did learn is that Marzipan (as we know it in the UK) is not the same as Almond Paste. Almond Paste generally has equal quantities of ground almonds to sugar whereas Marzipan has a much higher ratio of sugar to almonds. I did have a look at a couple of brands of Marzipan and the quantity of almonds was only 25%. I also didn’t recognise a lot of the other ingredients which is never a good thing. Having established the ratio of sugar to almonds, the next deciding factor is what binding agent to use. This is where you see the difference between the different countries. I found recipes which used egg white, egg yolk, whole egg, water, sugar syrup, honey and some even had alcohol in them. I opted for the whole egg but only because I didn’t want to have to deal with the problem of a stray yolk or 1 egg white to use up. I also added Cointreau but to be honest I couldn’t taste it in the finished product. The end result was delicious and made for a perfect Almond Tart. It is really quick and so easy to make and freezes beautifully. No excuses… you have to try and make your own homemade almond paste. You won’t regret it.
This week has not been without its fair share of kitchen disasters. I have been trying to perfect a chocolate mousse terrine and gave up after my third attempt – never wanting to see another chocolate mousse again. I also tried my hand at deep fried cauliflower. Why? When I don’t like deep fried food and I don’t like cauliflower. I was not converted! By the end of the week I was looking for familiarity. Something that I knew would work. Something comforting. A good old fashioned oat cookie, crispy and perfect for dunking was my answer. These oat cookies were part of my Mum’s baking repertoire when we were growing up. We used to know them as Gypsy Creams and I was always intrigued as to where the name originated from but have never managed to find out. My Mum used to sandwich them together with a buttercream icing but I generally leave them plain as they last longer in the tin. For this batch I sandwiched them together with some leftover Mars Bar sauce (which, by the way is perfect over vanilla ice cream).
The internet is such an amazing tool. Last Friday I read a post on one of my favourite (Australian) food blogs Bake for Happy Kids where Zoe had made these gingerdead cookies. I thought they would be perfect for the kids to make in the run up to Halloween and so I bought the cutter from Amazon and by the next day the cutter had arrived at my house here in the UK.
Of course the kids were over the moon when I suggested making these scary Halloween Cookies. The gingerbread dough is very easy to handle and they only really needed my help to get an even thickness when rolling the dough out. I was a bit more dubious about their icing skills but they were determined to do it themselves. I showed them the first one and I found it quite difficult because I don’t have a particularly steady hand. My son who is 7 went first and was really confident and did a better job than me. The same can’t quite be said for my 4 year old but she had good fun licking the bowl.
I thought the cookie cutter was quite expensive but it worked really well and made a good impression on the raw dough which makes it easy when you come to ice them.
Now I’m off to clean up my kitchen ….. no sign of the kids.
Gingerbread men with a difference - perfect for Halloween.
40g caster sugar
40g soft dark brown sugar
75g golden syrup
250g plain flour
¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
150g icing sugar
35ml water (or enough to make a sloppy paste)
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.
Add the butter, sugars and golden syrup together in a saucepan and heat until the butter has melted.
Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and cinnamon into a large bowl.
Add the melted butter mixture to the flour and knead until it all comes together.
Leave the dough to one side to cool slightly. It can become too hard if you cool in the refrigerator.
Dust your work surface with flour and roll the dough out to about a 5mm thickness.
Cut the shapes out using a cookie cutter.
Transfer to your baking tray and cook in the oven for about 11 - 12 minutes.
Remove from oven and cool completely before icing.
To ice: Mix the icing sugar and water to a paste. Use a piping bag with a small nozzle and decorate as desired.
This recipe does not work well if you try and substitute the sugars stated in the recipe. I have tried it with granulated sugar and light brown sugar and the mixture becomes very crumbly and unworkable.