Tag Archives: baking

Gingerbread Ice Cream

Its the weekend and sometimes you just need a little cake and ice cream.  In this case together…in one dessert.  My gingerbread ice cream recipe uses leftover Hot Water Gingerbread cake (though you could use store bought gingersnaps if you were in a pinch) to make a delicious frozen custard.  Best of all, you don’t need to have an ice cream maker to do this recipe.

If you’d like to make this recipe, check it out on my recipe blog by clicking HERE.

Enjoy!

ice cream 5gingerbread ice cream 2.1

Nova Scotian Hot Water Gingerbread

rain gearAfter three weeks in the 30-odd degree sunshine of Guatemala and Belize, I have returned to an England which might not be unfamiliar to the Bronte sisters. Its late May, but there has been snow in some parts of the country. In London its 9 degrees Celsius and its raining; its been this way – more or less – over the last fortnight.

The good news about the cold, rainy weather – the only good news about the cold, rainy weather – is that I have an excuse to wear my new wellies A LOT and I get to eat porridge for breakfast every morning. (By now I would normally have switched to a bircher muesli for the summer) The café in my building makes excellent porridge. I know, I could make it myself at home for pennies – but for £2.50 I get a pot of porridge, a skinny cappuccino and a chat with Alvin, fellow foodie and café manager.

I had been desperately hoping to host a BBQ this coming long weekend. In anticipation of that, I had a builder come round last Saturday to construct a wooden deck in the back garden and I employed my husband to put together the John Lewis BBQ we were given as a wedding present last autumn. The rattan outdoor sofa set with matching coffee table has been artfully arranged on the deck and I’ve attempted to give the place that smack of Pottery Barn style with conch shells, pillar candles in glass hurricane vases and throw cushions…none of which have any business being outside in cold, wet English gloom. And as its now looking less and less like BBQ weather, I may be trading in prawn kebabs and sunscreen for central heating and comfort food. In fact, I might make some gingerbread.

This is old fashioned Nova Scotian gingerbread. I’m fairly sure it came off the back of a packet of something or other sometime back in the 1950’s because my best friend Sarah’s grandmother’s recipe is exactly the same as my own grandmother’s recipe.

Hot Water Gingerbread

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup Crosby’s fancy molasses (Brits – you’ll need to use a blend of golden syrup & dark treacle here)
  • 1/2 cup hot water (near boiling)
  • 6-8 Tablespoons melted butter

1. Mix dry ingredients.

2. Beat egg and add molasses, sugar and hot water.

3. Combine the dry and wet ingredients.

4. Add butter

5. Pour in 8 by 8 inch square cake tin.

6. Bake 350 for 45 minutes.

Sarah’s Mom says that this recipe doubles really well (their family is much bigger than mine). Also the old, dark metal tin which used to belong to Sarah’s Nana has gone missing, so if you see it, please send it back to her.

Bad Wife Cupcakes

The funny thing about marriage is that whatever action one spouse decides to take, it has an impact on the life of the other.

For instance, if Mr Harris decides to spend all day Saturday holed up in the living room with a case of Corona and a bag of pretzels watching the last leg of the Six Nations, it kind of affects my plans to spend a romantic afternoon, hand in hand, perusing Borough Market day.  And if I decide to catch up with some girlfriends for dinner at the Covent Garden Hotel one evening after work, that means Mr Harris orders a takeaway Chinese and eats it on the sofa in front of the TV while feeding prawn crackers to the dog has had his day impacted by my actions.

So at 4 o’clock on a Sunday afternoon when my husband excitedly pointed out to me the recipe for Skinny Red Velvet Cupcakes he had found on a foodie blog, I was…well, slightly taken aback by the sudden interest in cupcakes, but happy to go with his plan to stop by Sainsbury’s to buy the ingredients.  Mr Harris – on the rare occasions he does visit the kitchen – never bakes or cooks using what’s in the cupboard.  Any recipe requires a major shopping trip and an entire restock of our pantry WHETHER IT NEEDS IT OR NOT.  At quarter to five when we arrived home, the sudden passion for making cupcakes had somewhat disappeared and the lure of watching a week’s worth of CSI episodes on Sky Plus had become a far more attractive alternative.  It was at this point that I found myself in a kitchen full of mixing bowls and muffins tins, elbow deep in pink batter.

So, I made the cupcakes.  And they turned out fine.

It was at this point that Mr H wandered into the kitchen and interest in the recipe suddenly reignited.  He decided to take over the real man’s work – frosting.  He insisted that I leave ‘his’ kitchen while he prepared the cream cheese frosting.  I felt distinctly nervous about the whole thing for several reasons.  Mainly because Mr H didn’t have much experience eating cream cheese frosting, let alone making it.  The whole thing smelled of disaster.  With a self satisfied look on his face, he proudly produced a bowl of thin, gloopy…not frosting…possibly icing?  It tasted of cream cheese and wasn’t really all that sweet.  Worried he’d predict my lack of faith and duplicitous nature, I waited until he’d gone back to the living room before quickly grabbing what was left of the icing sugar, dumping it in the bowl and rapidly transforming the sweet soup into a slightly thin, but acceptable form of frosting.

I joined my husband in the living room several minutes later.  “See?” he said, with a self-satisfied look on his face.  “I told you it would be fine and YOU didn’t think I could do it.”  I apologised and told him I was wrong.  I told him his frosting was excellent.  And quickly returned to the kitchen to finish decorating the cupcakes before he suspected the truth – that I am a bad wife.

So, I return to my original point.  The funny thing about marriage is that whatever action one spouse decides to take, it has an impact on the life of the other.

Oh, and by the way, by the time I was finished with these cupcakes, they weren’t ‘skinny’ anymore.  Here’s the recipe.  With good cream cheese frosting.

Bad Wife Red Velvet Cupcakes

2 1/2 cups cake flour

1 cup moscovado sugar

1 tbsp unsweetened dutch-process cocoa

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp white vinegar

1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce or mango puree

1/4 cup butter, softened

1 egg

2 egg whites

2 tsp vanilla

1 1/3 cup light buttermilk

1 tbsp red food colouring

1.  Preheat oven to 350. Line cupcake tins with liners.

2.  In a large mixing bowl, stir together flours, salt, cocoa, and baking powder.

3.  In another large bowl beat sugar, applesauce and butter. Beat in eggs and vanilla.

4.  In a separate bowl mix baking soda and vinegar. Add half of the dry ingredients into the egg mixture, mix well. Add buttermilk, red food colouring and mix well. Add the remaining dry ingredients and fold in vinegar and baking soda.

5.  Pour in prepared cupcake liners 3/4 of the way.

6.  Bake 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool, then frost with low fat cream cheese frosting.

Good Cream Cheese Frosting

300g Icing Sugar, sifted

50g Unsalted Butter, at room temperature

125g low fat Cream Cheese, cold

1.  Beat the icing sugar and butter together in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) on medium-slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed.

2.  Add the cream cheese in one go and beat until it is completely incorporated. Turn the mixer up to medium-high speed.

3.  Continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy, at least 5 minutes. Do not overbeat, as it can quickly become runny.

Shop by the Season

Fresh raspberries from Kent I bought at Bermondsey Farmer’s Market this morning

I don’t always buy organic.

I do when I can, but sometimes I prefer to buy the local Kent or Sussex grown tomatoes if that’s what is available at the farmer’s market, rather than the organic Spanish ones at the big chain superstore, which are laden with the additional guilt of unecessary food miles and extra packaging.  I shop the way my conscience tells me to, and sometimes that means that means making difficult choices.  The one choice I never compromise on, however, is how my food tastes.   I’m not going to buy either of those tomatoes if they taste of damp cardboard.  And certainly not unless they smell like a tomato should smell; of damp earth and acidic fruitiness.

Buying what’s in season usually keeps me on the right track for getting the freshest & most flavour packed produce.  And, as a farmer I am not, my vegetable guy at the market always steers me in the right direction, so my general horticultural ignorance doesn’t seem to hinder me too much.

Luckily I didn’t have to make any difficult choices this morning when at the farmer’s market.  My fish guy, Chris, was there with his truck back full of sustainably caught sole, haddock, crab, plaice and mackerel.  I bought some plaice and got the instructions on how to prepare it.  Chris is a 4th generation fisherman and though I’ve not been buying from him for too long, his fish is always fresh & odour-free and I’ve found his advice to be consistently spot on.  When I prepare my dinner tonight, I’ll season and flour the plaice lightly and fry it in butter, finishing it only with a squeeze of lemon.  A little fennel, sliced thinly and sauteed to transparency in butter (if I still had a gallbladder, it would hate me now) and well seasoned with salt & pepper and a tablespoon of luxuriously thick and tart creme fraiche stirred in at the end, will make a beautiful and simple side dish to accompany the fish.

But wait, I need to tell you more about the butter!  Its Glastonbury butter!  Green’s of Glastonbury are a family-run dairy farm from…well, Glastonbury in Somerset, where their organically certified herd munches on the grass around the slopes of Glastonbury Tor.  They are mainly a cheese producer, but they also sell their own butter, which is sold in huge round wodges and they also make the most nutty and sharp unpasturised cheddar you will ever taste.

After the amount of butter and creme fraiche in my supper, I think the cheddar will have to wait for another day, but the abundance of raspberries in season means I will still be having dessert tonight.  But this time, no Greek yogurt, no creme fraiche, no drizzle of honey.  Just plain raspberries, so ripe that each drupelet bursts open and starts to melt as it touches your tongue.

Cake & Jam

Butterylemonyvanillaness.

Gooseberry Jam

Until you have tried this cake you will think that is a non-existent and very silly word.  After you have tried this cake, you will know exactly what I mean.  Yellowy organic butter creamed to whiteness with organic sugar.  Eggs from free-range, organic, corn-fed chickens are mixed in, one by one; each yolk is almost orange and the batter starts to regain its golden eggy shade again.  Vanilla and fresh organic lemon zest are added for flavour, and two sticky dollops of honey from my parent’s apiary.  Baking powder, some sea salt and spelt flour are sifted in to the mix and slowly stirred to the thickness of an old fashioned cake batter which smells like the birthdays of your childhood.  And just when you think it sounds as if it might be getting to be too sweet, now imagine that I have cut the cake in half and spread a thick layer of gloriously tart and freshly homeade gooseberry jam.

The gooseberry jam itself was another learning experience.  I’ve never made it before, and every time you try to preserve a new fruit, estimating its pectin content is a bit like throwing craps.  So I turned to Nigel Slater, who I always turn to when I have no idea what I’m doing.  (He won’t know it, but he taught me to roast my first chicken when I, as a naieve vegetarian, thought I’d treat my boyfriend to a Sunday roast.)  I roughly followed a recipe, mixing the gooseberries with an almost equal quantity sugar and a drop or two of water, to partly dissolve the sugar.  Its incredibly satisfying, popping the gooseberries with a spoon as they start to warm up and become soft.  (All the therapeutic qualities of bubblewrap, but with a lovely tart smell.)  I squeezed in a bit of lemon juice to help keep the lovely livid shade of gooseberries in tact, but to no use, as they soon took on a translucent, candied fruit quality, and after about 45 minutes of regular stirring and fussing, the jam finally became jammy, with big chunks of partly dissolved gooseberry skins – all in a beautiful quincy rust shade.

In all truth, this cake was intended to culminate its existence in the form of a Washington Pie.  But, in order to turn a vanilla cake filled with gooseberry preserves into a proper Washington Pie, like the kind my grandmother makes for my visits to Canada, you’d need to cover the entire thing in a thick layer of whipped cream.  For today, though, I’m afraid that some semi-health conscious urge has stopped me from going to these lengths.   We instead, settle for a slice each, after dinner, with a heaped spoonful of low fat creme fraiche.