Friday, 11 May 2012

Almond Paste and a bit of a catch-up!

How time flies when you fly of to America for 3 weeks and return the first day of school. Not a moment to spare since and frankly got a bit zonked but now after a timely visit of generously helpful Grandparents, life has caught up a bit and there is now time to jot down a few words and new recipes. America was as amazing as it was 25 years ago on my last visit and my friends as fun and generous as they were then when we were all having fun in New York and Long Island together. The highlights were of course entirely different to the highlights 25 years ago and it makes me giggle to think of the things that I now think of fun; Alas not nightclubs, cocktail bars and all night parties but horse and carriage driving in Virginia, watching 2 pairs of Osprey dive for fish in Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, shopping in Bloomingdales in New Jersey and the Circle Line Cruise around the Statue of Liberty in New York. Hhhmmm.......not exactly glitzy!
We did however concentrate on the delights of the local food and wine in each county and I was amazed at how many vineyards there were in Maryland and they were quite nice but no wow factor unlike the best of our English wines. Maryland crab cakes were delicious and we sampled three lots only to find that they were all totally different in taste and texture, artistic licence gone a bit mad. I shall make some this weekend for fun.
New York cheese cake unbelievable delicious and so light yet rich at the same time, tons better than our cheesecakes here, unless of course home-made!
Nobody seemed very keen on much exercise on our trip but we did enjoy a couple of spring walks in the woods in Virginia until it was whispered that the local brown bears were starting to come out of hibernation and to keep a look out. Return was prompt! Carriage driving was on the other-hand entirely perfect and our favourite ride was into Middlesburg and into the ice-cream parlour where all of us including the dog and horses enjoyed the best ice-cream that I have ever had! I am now improving my own ice-cream recipes!
Back home at last and glad to see that the endless rain the Herefordshire has been having is at last having an effect and my stream in the garden is full and my new plants, trees and climbing delights are all spreading out and growing faster this spring than in the previous 2 years. Hope for the garden yet! I will battle on trying to convert a blank farm yard canvas into a charming English garden!
Having crammed in a couple of house parties to add to my usual whirlwhind existance I have tried out some amazing new recipes to delight my guests. I have to say that the cookbook by Eric Lanlard is exceptionaly good and his chocolate chip cookies, lemond meringue roulade, lemon and passionfruit tart, Baked blueberry cheesecake, malteser squares and rhubarb and apple tart were all without excepton excellent. Buy the book if you like baking!
I have had a new experience in baking, using almond paste as a base, I made flour-free chocolate chip cookies and they were divine and very easy. Scrumptious warm with tea, coffee or hot chocolate and amazing with ice-cream.
Here is the recipe:
Line a cookie sheet with greaseproof or teflon sheets
Preheat oven to 350degrees
Mix in a large bowl, 3/4 cup (170g aprox) almond butter (which you buy in health food shops or big supermarkets) with 1/2 cup light brown soft sugar and 1/2 cup granulated sugar.
Add 1 large egg, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, 1 teaspoon pure Vanilla extract, a pinch of fine salt,and mix well.
Fold in 1 very heaped teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 cup slivered or flaked almonds and 1/2 cup dark,milk or white chocolate pieces or chips.
Scoop out walnut size balls of dough and place well apart on the sheets so that they can spread.
Bake for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Leave to cool but eat warm if you cannot resist!

Apologies for american measurements!

My next recipe is reassuringly English!
Cinnamon Nutella Cake
Preheat oven to 180C/gas 4 and line a 20cm round cake tin
Put 175g softened butter, 175g caster or granulated sugar, 3 large eggs, 200g self-raising flour, 1 heaped teaspoon baking powder,2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, and 4 tablespoons milk into a bowl and for a couple of minutes with an electric hand whisk until light and fluffy.
Tip 3/4 of the mixture into the prepared tin and shake to smooth out. Plop 4 heaped tablespoons of Nutella into spaced out blobs and then cover lightly with the remaining cake mix.
Sprinkle or don't sprinkle with 50g roughly chopped hazelnuts depending on whether you are nutty people or not and bake in the oven for about 1hr or until golden brown and cooked through.
Cool in the tin and then turn out and serve or wrap in foil to keep for up to a week. Very useful for an iminant invasion of family or friends for the weekend!

Happy Baking to you all and I am now off tobake my new Ale Fruit Loaf which is gluten free, to "do" my three hanging baskets and plant out my extremely leggy white geraniums while the sun has momentarily burst out  from behind black clouds and into slightly more spring-like light and warmth.

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