Archives for posts with tag: Tea

Lambs are in the fields, and daffodils on the streets on Tooting. Spring is here.  Along with the showers, sunshine and flowers of March comes Mother’s day, closely followed by Easter (to be discussed separately).

Two tea-related recipes coincided over the week before Mother’s day, although as usual there is some delay in writing about them. The first was camomile and vanilla gluten-free cupcakes, and the second some teapot shaped cakes for mum and the M.I.L. I do love tea, and teapots, and tea cups, and afternoon tea, and most tea-related activities.

Whilst on a weekend in Essex visiting friends, we went to an antiques market and I came across a musical teapot. Made in 1950s Japan, this fairly ordinary looking teapot has a clockwork mechanism underneath it that means it plays a tune every time the teapot is lifted. You have to wind it up occasionally, and I had to buy it immediately. This may have been the start of the revival in us drinking tea from the pot.

Teapot and cakes

Is it tea cupcakes? Or teacup cakes? I’m not too sure of the correct terminology, but either ways these cakes really do taste of vanilla and camomile, and are lovely served with a pot of camomile tea, or in our case, Sri Lankan Ceylon tea.

I made the cakes in silicone teacups, using Ruby Tandoh’s camomile cake recipe for the Guardian here, however substituted gluten-free flour as I had my aunt and uncle, Moy and Keith, coming over one sunny Sunday afternoon. The camomile buttercream icing set them off perfectly and was not too sweet.

The cakes were rather dry; I blame the gluten-free flour, which tends to suck moisture out of most cakes. I would try them again with ground almonds instead. However if you did want to use gluten-free flour you could just increase the quantity of tea and butter liquids, I’d say by 30%.

Camomile cakes

Following from the antiques fair success of my musical teapot, and the (relative) flavour success of camomile and vanilla, I had been thinking about teapots and tea and cakes, and thinking about teapot cakes. It took me several days of the journey to and from work to conceptualise what I wanted to make, but eventually I managed to spend Tuesday night the week before colouring fondant icing and making handles and spouts, and flowers and hearts. I wanted them to firm up before I put them on to cakes, so they needed a few days to dry out.

Thursday night was planned for making cakes, but after a long day at work one drink with a colleague turned in to several more and Friday night was a bit of a rush to get the two cakes made.  I did manage it though, and used a giant cupcake mould in addition to two Pyrex bowls to get two slightly different globe-shaped cakes. I used a basic chocolate sponge recipe and cream cheese frosting to sandwich the two halves together. I had to carve some stray bits of cake off to smooth out the shape of the cakes.

I covered one cake in fondant icing that I had rolled out thinly, and added an extra bit on top to make the lid. I used some runny white icing to stick on my flowers and hearts. Because I had to transport the cakes to Bristol I didn’t put the handle and spout on to the cake until we got there. I didn’t fancy our chances of getting it down the M4 intact!

Teapot flowers

The handles and spouts crumbled when I tried to assemble the teapot cakes on the Friday night, however I think this is because I didn’t put cocktail sticks in to them as supports until the icing had already firmed up several days later. If I was going to make them again, I would definitely make sure I do this on the day I shape the fondant. Luckily I used Fimo as a backup and it only took a few minutes to cook it once I quickly shaped some pieces. I would suggest using Fimo even though it is not edible, as it is a lot sturdier.

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I didn’t take any pictures of the assembly process, however did do a Google search on “teapot cakes” and got some ideas from sites such as this one here

I used cream cheese frosting with lilac food colouring for my second teapot cake, and decorated it with flowers, lid, handle and spout in a similar fashion. I really enjoyed making the cakes and although they were not 100% perfect, they were lovingly made and I’m sure I could do a neater job of icing them next time.

M.I.L. teapot

It was great to make a mother’s day pressie that was enjoyed by all the family, including myself, and the cakes did not last long at all! I’d say they provide 6-8 medium-sized slices of cake so it isn’t really a sufficiently large volume of cake for a big celebration, instead better suited for family times.

Happy springtime!

Flowers

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Due to the “storm” that was about to hit London (even Barry the Thames Barrier has gone down) on Thursday, my train to the gym was severely delayed, therefore I abandoned exercise and was able to come home from work at a decent time.

My Mum and Dad were coming late last Sunday night, determined that we would fit in a Lebanese at a newly opened local establishment down the road upon arrival. The purpose of their visit was some minor DIY, and I needed to give them energy whilst tiling my kitchen windowsill the following morning.

So I recreated one of Mum’s favourite biscuits, if that is indeed the culinary category in which this treat falls. Millionaire’s shortbread. What better tea time (or any time) treat?

Sparkly shortbread

Crunchy shortbread biscuit, a large amount of soft, sweet, caramel, and a definitive dense chocolate topping, The chocolate and biscuit are working together to hold in that caramel, and the ratio of biscuit to caramel in this recipe is far more generous than most shop bought equivalents (and of course contains no nasty preservatives).

As has been a feature of several recent(ish) posts, I have borrowed someone else’s recipe (in this case Carnation’s, of condensed milk fame) and adapted it a little.

http://www.carnation.co.uk/recipes/60/Millionaires-Shortbread

This is a rather simple recipe, and you don’t even need a sugar thermometer to get the caramel right (see reference to disastrous macarons in previous post I am still holding out for one for Christmas).

I have made this recipe several times, and feel that I am close to perfecting it. I find the base works best when you blitz the shortbread in the food processor, finer crumbs = sturdier biscuit base. This is the cheat’s shortbread base, you can also make your own from scratch which is straight forwards but more time-consuming.

Stirring up shortbread

Next, you make the caramel. Gently stir together the butter and sugar until fully melted, and then drizzle in the condensed milk, stirring continuously as you don’t want it to burn. I don’t know why but I find a wooden spoon helps this process. And you can smack away any fingers trying to get an early dip of the sweet nectar!

Keep stirring even though you don’t want to, for fear of burning. I also have a fear of the caramel not setting, so I do stir it until notably thicker. Then pour on to the cooled shortbread and leave to chill out for a while.

Caramel

Leave the caramel to cool in the fridge and melt two bars of chocolate (200g in total) over a bain-marie, which is easier to control the temperature than melting in a saucepan directly. Dark, milk and white chocolate toppings are all delicious, or even a combination of them together.

To get a celebration-like finish to the shortbread, I then melted white chocolate and flicked it across the top, then scattered tiny edible gold stars over the tray.

Mini shortbreads

I am experimenting with finger-sized treats that I can parcel up as presents, and so made some tiny shortbreads in silicone petit-four cases.

Petit fours

My biggest tip for making shortbread is to score the chocolate topping before it has entirely set, otherwise it is a nightmare to cut in to straight lines.

Scoring the chocolate topping

There are loads of sweet (terrible pun – sorry!) recipes on this site. I want to try the fudge recipe next time, but not until I have my sugar thermometer…

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