Mulling syrup for cider

Mulled cider is a great drink on a winter evening. Heavy on the cinnamon, warm to clutch in your frozen hands. What’s not to like? (Cider itself according to himself). So I make mulled cider for one by adding some pre-spiced syrup to a single can or bottle of cider.

It’s a fairly flexible recipe, so if you want it sweeter to go with a dry cider, add more sugar. Love cloves more than I do? Fire a few more in the pot. Can’t find ginger root? Substitute it for crystalised ginger and remove some sugar (I think I dropped it by 50g that time). I add the juice toward the end, as I don’t think it benefits from boiling. You can just quarter the oranges and throw them in at the start, but it doesnt really get as much juice out and you end up with some bitterness. If you’re hosting a party, skip making the syrup and add everything bar the water to the cider and heat that for a half hour instead.

I usually end up with about 600mL liquid in the end (after reducing to half and then adding in the juice), which does about 2.5 – 3L cider. As when mulling wine, if you use a terrible cider, it will be drinkable, but if you use a good cider it’ll be outstanding. If you’re planning to use it to mull apple juice (or low alcohol ciders), reduce the sugar by at least half, they’re very sweet to begin with, and adding loads of syrup will make it undrinkable.

Bottle, ikea. Funnel, ikea. Strainer, the metal filter from the drip coffee machine (paper reduces the grit at the end of the coffee, so the mesh is for mulling now)

Bottle, ikea. Funnel, ikea. Strainer, the metal filter from the drip coffee machine (paper reduces the grit at the end of the coffee, so the mesh is for mulling now)

  • 1 litre water
  • 200g caster sugar (you can go up or down depending on the type of cider you normally get)
  • 6 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tsp nutmeg (ground or grated, up to you)
  • 12 cloves (precise, you can up it if you love cloves)
  • 4 inches of ginger root, sliced (or a bag of crystallised ginger, but reduce the sugar)
  • Zest of 2 oranges (life’s too short for microplaning for this recipe, a regular zester will do)
  • Juice of 2 oranges

Put everything except the juice in a pot. Heat until it’s steaming gently but not boiling. Stir occasionally till the sugar is disolved. Continue to heat for about an hour and the liquid has reduced to half or a third of the starting volume. Add the juice of the oranges. Strain into a bottle. Let to cool, then store in the fridge.

The sad remains after the syrup is done.

The sad remains after the syrup is done.

When you want a hot cider, pour a bottle or can into a pot, add about 100mL of the syrup (or more or less to taste, 500mL + 100mL is about right spicewise to start with, drop to 60mL for longnecks). Heat gently and pour into a giant mug (or two regular mugs if you can share). I usually swirl the bottle of syrup before pouring as the ground nutmeg settles otherwise (it fits through the strainer, so it’ll always be there).

Raspberry bakewell tart

In my quest to learn how to make laminated doughs (think croissants), I picked up Murielle Valette’s Patisserie. It’s brilliant, I’ve even cooked more than one thing from it already (croissants, pain au chocolate, lemon tart, dense chocolate cake and the modified bakewell below). For my colleague’s birthday, I insisted on making her some cake, and made a bakewell as I had all the ingredients to hand (in fact, the pastry had been made and frozen the weekend before). Instead of the apricot and almond tart in the book, I went for a raspberry bakewell, which went down very well when I brought it into work on the Monday.

Slices of cake

Look at that beautiful layer of jam

I’d highly recommend the book if you like French pastries (and cake in general), it’s divided into a techniques section and various chapters based on particular doughs (puff pastry/brioche/choux) and I’ll certainly be making more from it. It’s a great way to fill your workmates with butter, as it’s a critical part of most of these tasty treats.

What a marvellous book!

What a marvellous book!

Pastry

  • 230g flour
  • 140g salted butter (normal butter in a gold wrapper, otherwise add salt)
  • 55g caster sugar
  • 1 egg

Rub the flour and butter together until it’s breadcrumblike. Don’t overwork it or the butter will melt and the pastry won’t be lovely and crisp. Mix in the sugar, add the egg and mix quickly until it forms a large ball. STOP WORKING THE PASTRY. Mash into a vaguely rectangular shape, wrap it in clingfilm and put it in the fridge, have a coffee and sit down for an hour.
Divide the dough in half and freeze a portion (you can use this for more cake in the future). Roll the dough out on a floured surface until it’s about 4mm thick. Gently lower it into your favourite pie tin and form gently into the corners. Trim the top of the pastry with a sharp knife and put the pastry into the fridge for another half hour. Pre-heat the oven to 160°C.
Put a load of baking paper into the pastry case and fill with baking beans (or uncooked rice or lentils, I use some red lentils I don’t care for). Bake for 40mins. Remove the baking paper and contents and put the pastry back in the oven for 5 more mins to brown the middle slightly. Take out of the oven to cool while you prepare the almond filling. Leave the oven on, you need it at 160°C in ten mins anyway.

Filling

  • 110g softened butter
  • 110g caster sugar (plain sugar or vanilla sugar)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract, if you use vanilla caster sugar, you can leave this out
  • 90g ground almonds
  • 25g flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 dessertspoons of good rasberry jam
  • a large handful raspberries, frozen is grand

Beat the sugar, butter and vanilla essence together. Add the ground almonds and flour and mix well. Beat the eggs and add a little at a time, mixing well.
Spread the jam on the bottom of the pastry case. Pour over the almond filling. Drop in some raspberries. Bake at 160°C for 45 mins. Cool in the tin. Turn out and serve with the best coffee you have.

Ready to go to work and get chopped up and devoured

Ready to go to work and get chopped up and devoured

Rasberry Drizzle Cake

I always like to have a box of frozen raspberries in the freezer. They keep pretty well and sure, when they’re going into cake they’ll be mushed up a bit anyway.

For the rasberry drizzle cake, I gave the rasberries a quick stewing, to both defrost and collapse them, and to collect a tasty syrup for drizzling on top. To be honest, I hadn’t quite decided what sort of cake I would make before I began stewing them, but when I couldn’t find the recipe I wanted in my email archive, I went with adapting the lemon drizzle cake.

cake

Serving suggestion: cake, and some tasty coffee

  • A box of frozen rasberries (mine was about 3/4 full)
  • 2 tablespoons of water
  • 3 teaspoons of vanilla sugar (or regular sugar)
  • 125g butter (softened, leave it out for a few hours at room temperature)
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs (beaten in a mug)
  • 175g self-raising flour (sifted)

Put the rasberries, water and vanilla sugar in a pot. Put on a medium heat and stir it occassionally until all the rasberries are defrosted. Mush them a small bit to get some extra juice out, but not so much you end up with all mushed rasberries. Strain the rasberries through a sieve and set them aside, returning the syrupy juice to the pot. Heat the pot, swirling from time to time, until it has reduced about three times to a thicker syrup and set aside.

rasberries in all their forms

The reduced raspberries and their syrupy guts.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line a cake tin (I used my 16cm square one). Cream together the butter and sugar. Add a little egg, mix well, then a tablespoon of flour and mix that in. Repeat until the egg and flour is gone. This gives a nice smooth cake batter. You could do all this in a food processor if you own one of course.

Mix the rasberries into the cake batter. I mixed it into all the batter, but if you divide the batter you can get a nice marbled cake. Pour into the cake tin, and bake for 25-30 mins (put a knife in, if it comes out clean, it’s done).

Turn out onto a wire rack, remove the baking paper and flip it over. Poke loads of holes in the top of it with a cocktail stick or skewer. Pour over your reserved syrup from earlier. It’ll probably look like a blood (jam) bath as the red syrup doesnt blend in as well as the lemon syrup. That’s ok though, you can always dust it with icing sugar just before you present it to the happy eaters.

If you happen to have a lemon to hand, I think the juice might be a good tangy addition to the rasberry syrup. Rasberries are tart enough, and the sugar added above isnt enough to neutralise this, but extra tart flavour is always welcome in a drizzle cake.

r drizzle cakes

Most of the rest of the tray, little do they know their fate…

Beans on Toast or “Sorry I’ve been up the walls”

I have been quiet of late haven’t I. We just moved house (gone is the gas hob and fan oven, and it’s back to conventional oven and electric hob) and we’re still unpacking two weeks later. On top of which I caught that marvellous virus that’s doing the rounds. I also got a new camera not so long ago (you may have noticed the browniecheesecake picture was better than the ones I took with my phone camera). So to try out the new kitchen and my camera, I have documented my beans on toast method.

Our new back garden and windowsill

Our new back garden and kitchen window sill. The agave is still doing well, and the houseleek went to flower so the mother plant is about to die off to leave room for the chicks.

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Delicious cinnamon snails!

It took me a while to realise I liked cinnamon. I think I must have been in my late teens when it hit me that this stuff is AMAZING. A wonderful warm flavour that goes great with apples, or better yet, some sugar and butter and little else.

Action shot of the icing going on the cinnamon rolls

These delicious rolls of joy were made from a recipe by Smörgåsblog. You should have a good look around that site, there’s some very delicious treats to be found.

The cinnamon snail recipe can be found here.

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Boxer the Bear

As you may know, I’m a crocheter at heart.  Since I learned to crochet, I essentially gave up knitting and can’t go back.  However, I’ve taken to machine knitting as a way to still knit without the fiddly hassle….

I was recently given a Bond Classic knitting machine and have been making squares and handbags on it.  I got it into my head that I’d like to make a teddy bear, but struggled to find patterns online, so I came up with one.  As both sides of the bear need to be the same, I have actually documented this pattern and will reproduce it below for future reference.

There are a few modifications that could be made, like making the body shorter and a bit narrower.  The ears are a particular puzzle. They could be made separately but I’m lazy like that.  The head was the original pattern for the body, but I figured it was a bit small given the size of the legs I had made!

Boxer the bear

Boxer sitting pretty on the laptop. His nose was broken in a boxing match…

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