Tag Archives: Pam Corbin

What’s for Tea? Lemon Madeira Cake

Madeira Cake Pam Corbin Cakes

I make a cake maybe once a month or so – I try not to eat all the cake myself but share it with people. We had a very nice coffee and walnut cake last time which took me forever to make as I cracked a whole bag of walnuts to do it, as the prepacked ones in the shops always look and smell rancid to me and today for tea we had a lemony Madeira cake from Pam Corbin’s Cake book.

I used a narrow based high sided Matfer tin, the one I use mostly for making high rye tinned breads  which holds a litre of water, so I hoped that is what Pam Corbin meant by a litre tin. Most mysterious.

This produces a nice slim cake, with the possibility of lots of small slices.

I adapted the recipe to use a proportion of Light at Heart stevia sweetened sugar and, oh horror of horrors, some Stork margarine, curious to see if I could taste either if I only used a bit of each. Well I can’t taste either of them in these proportions.  So I can hear you thinking, what next? Is she going to go all processed food on us? Is she going to start making cakes with coconut oil and icecream from cauliflower? Who knows? I might, but I think it is fairly unlikely.

I don’t like Stork and I don’t like margarine but I know lots of people who prefer the taste of both to butter. Cake is cake and infinitely adaptable.

So for my version of this cake, perfect for a lunch box or just for carving small slices off at random and as necessary

 

Lemon Madeira cake adapted from Pam Corbin’s recipe in Cakes

  • 200g of self-raising flour
  • 100 g unsalted butter
  • 50g Stork margarine
  • One large lemon finely zested
  • 1/2 tsp of Sicilian Limone essence from Bakery Bits
  • 4 large eggs
  • 100 g of organic granulated sugar
  • 25 g of Light at Heart
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice

For the icing

  • 100 g icing sugar
  • lemon juice as needed and a bit more Sicilian Limone essence
 

And then it is the usual thing of beating softened butter with sugar till light and fluffly, mine always looks wet and fluffy, not sure why and mixing in the zest and limone essence.

At some point I give up and get to the nitty gritty of the affair. I advance towards the hurdles of adding the eggs one at a time with a few teaspoons of flour with each one, Very similar to hurdles at which I was rubbish at school I may add.  I warm the eggs first and wish very hard that they don’t curdle. I am getting better at it slowly, but my heart is always in my mouth and my brow furrowed slightly while I do this.

Usually somewhere just after the first egg has gone in, I remember the tin, in fact I have a minor tin panic attack and rush around pulling tins out and staring at them as if I hope they will speak to me and say ‘Me, me, pick me’ but they never do.  Remember to turn the oven to 180 C (conventional electric not fan) /Gas Mark 4 if I am on a winning streak at this point.

I went for my old Matfer tin, greased it with butter, and popped a symbolic piece of baking parchment in the bottom. Turned the oven to 180 C/Gas 4. Did I mention nothing has ever stuck to this tin so far. The silver lining of my sometimes dark and thunderous cake making attempts is this tin and a couple of others. If you have a tin that won’t let go of your cakes, let go of the tin, you won’t regret it, I promise.  Sorry where were we?

Oh yes fold in the rest of the flour. Add a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice,  Wince a bit more, waiting for the cake mixture to scream and separate. Feel slightly disappointed when it doesn’t curdle for once.

Plop the mixture in the tin, set the oven time for 40 minutes, long narrow tin bakes quicker than a more traditional low slung loaf tin. Leave to bake, test with wooden stickie thing. Take out. Leave to cool in tin for ten minutes. Tip out onto cooling rack…

Next day.. mix up 100 g of icing sugar with a little lemon juice and plop it on the top. Go out in the garden and in a homage to the seriously good cake makers out there, pick some primroses, violets and geranium flowers and stick them on the top. Don’t they look fancy?

To those of you who have read this blog for a while a big apology that I still have mild panic attacks about making cakes, I think it is something to do with knowing that the ingredients are much more costly than for making bread and therefore there is more pressure on me to get it right, also there is in my eyes at least more that can go wrong. I don’t trust that the process will replicate itself each time I do it and while a slightly misshapen loaf is charming and rustic, a sunken cake that has left a big chunk of itself in the tin is just sad.

Find a pretty spot in the garden to take a photo and test at teatime.  Well, it’s cake innit?  Mine all mine, and even with those suspicious ingredients, still far nicer than most cake you can buy in the regular shops. And you can’t buy fresh flowers in a packet…

PS As there is a little bit of interest in the Matfer tin I used, judging by the comments, here it is:

 They aren’t cheap, but it has lasted and looks almost as good as when I bought it. It measures 10” x 3.5” (250 mm x 85 mm) around the top, narrowing by half an inch at the base. It is 3.25 “ deep and is deceptive in that it holds around 750-800g dough / a litre of water.  It has a rolled edge and sharp clean corners. I also have the smaller sized one of these which holds approximately 400g dough.

Matfer Loaf Tin

P1040046

Parmesan Pastry Piggies and Mince Pies

Rough Puff Parmesan Piggies

Before you ask, I don’t know who is going to eat all these…

I made double quantities of Dan Lepard’s light rough puff ‘spelt’ pastry ( I used kamut instead of spelt) from Short & Sweet and an excess of short crust pastry for my lemon meringue pie as well over the Easter weekend.

I used the first lot of the rough puff to make a quick lunch dish for my guests when they arrived, rolling it out and cutting it into rectangles and topping it with cheese, chorizo and butternut squash as I have done previously. This time I gave the pastry an extra fold, the one called a book fold and I fancy the layers were better for it, or else it is just practice which gives me hope that one day I will be brave enough to try making croissants.

Why did I make two lots? I ask myself questions like these and you might like to share in my waffly thought processes: I made two lots thinking vaguely that it would come in handy and while you are doing one lot of endless folding and chilling you might as well do two, at least that is what they always say in books don’t they?  But then I forgot all about the second lot till a night or two ago and was stricken with pastry guilt.

After some discussion about how long it could keep with Carla and Jean on Twitter and thinking that five days was pushing my luck as it was looking just a touch grey, despite being wrapped tightly in cling film, I hastily rolled it out last night and made these little parmesan piggies and some other bits and pieces from the puff. I was really pleased with the way the piggies kept their shape and got nice fat bellies though, so I might do that again one day.  Gingerbread puff pastry men, Christmas puff with sugar and spice on top, just random thoughts….

I also made a dozen decidedly unseasonal mince pies, only nine months to Christmas though –  as we still have jars of mincemeat left in the garage from two Christmases past,  this jar was a cherry and dried fruit mixture, recipe from Pam Corbin’s Preserves book, the fruits are soaked in loads of brandy and seem to keep forever.

And now I must get on and put up the tomato plants which are climbing out of their pots. They are looking pretty good so far !

If you want a different recipe for rough puff from Dan Lepard there is one here on The Guardian’s website which describes the technique as well.

What have you done with your Easter leftovers this week?

jarsonwall

One way to make Apple Chutney

I love chutney! A rich combination of autumn fruits, dried fruits and vegetables simmered for hours in a mixture of muscovado sugar and cider vinegar, seasoned with spices and root ginger is one of my favourite things to make. It takes far longer than jam, but is much less stressful, none of this pectin testing and no chilled saucers. Continue reading

9 Processing the Jars

T is for… Tarragon Tomato Passata

This is something of a labour of love; the trouble with making your own tomato sauces is that you get spoilt and don’t want to buy the shop stuff. It is labour intensive and, unless you have really good cheap tomatoes, probably not worth it from a financial point of view. However, nothing tastes as good as home made passata and you can adapt the recipe to suit your family’s palate.

The recipe we work off is from Pam Corbin’s wonderful book Preserves, one of the River Cottage Handbooks. We have made many other lovely preserves and chutneys from this book. Recommended !

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Continue reading

Blackberry Jelly

Blackberry Jelly and Testing for Pectin

Ready to go!

So here’s what became of that big basket of blackberries we picked on Sunday.

Testing for Pectin – how on earth do you know how much pectin is in any particular batch of fruit?  There are guidelines, Pam Corbin has a helpful list in her book ‘Preserves’ in which it says things like ‘early blackberries, medium pectin,low acid, late blackberries, low pectin’… but I am not that experienced in jam making that I can then instinctively know what to do next. Having had the experience of the damson jam setting like concrete once and being determined never to have that happen again, I veer the other way and often make runny slippery jams that slide off the toast and onto my lap….

So each time I make jam, three or four times a year at most, I re-read my books, looking for any pearl of wisdom, this time I found something good on a site called Jam World which is full of detail, even if the bit about making jam for competitions is a bit beyond me and it is the Jam World formula I have used this time.

How to test for pectin:

When you have prepared the juice for the jelly (more of this later) this is the time to test for pectin.

Place a teaspoon of the juice in a small cup and add two teaspoons of methylated spirits to it. Give it a little swoosh to mix and then leave to stand for a few minutes. Then have a look. Pour away the liquid spirits which will leave the jelly liquid behind. See how solid it is, if it is solid then the pectin content of your juice is high and you will get a good set and not need to add anything in the way of additional pectin. (I’ve also read recently that you can use whisky if you don’t have any methylated spirits, but I haven’t tried it.)

Looks like it gelled all right!

My jam was made with:

  • 5 and a half pounds of blackberries
  • 6 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 600 ml water
  • Brought to a boil and then left to simmer gently to release all the juice from the berries. Put all the fruit into a jelly bag and left it to drip through for most of the day. Then did the pectin test as above,  which showed there was enough pectin and then I put the juice in the fridge over night and carried on the next day.
  • First thing I put some saucers in the freezer to help me test the set later and prepared the jars, keeping them in the oven until they were needed.
  • Then I measured the quantity of juice
  • You then add 1lb of sugar for every 600 ml/pint of juice. For this batch that was 1230 grams of sugar. I used preserving sugar which has larger crystals and has a reputation for giving a better jam.
  • I warmed the sugar in the oven first and added it slowly to the juice, making sure the sugar was completely dissolved before bringing it up to the boil.
  • I did quite a lot of skimming and saved the scumble (the jammy scum which I think is very tasty though it doesn’t look that pretty) which I will have on my toast this week.

    Scumble skimmed off the top of the cooking jam

  • Using a sugar thermomenter we started testing for a set once the temperature got to 104 C. Jellies usually set between 104 and 106c. Ours set after about 12 minutes altogether and had reached a temperature of 106 C. We did three checks during that time, turning the gas off while we checked.
  • Check for a set by putting a little of the hot jelly on a cold saucer, leave for a few minutes and then push it gently with your finger, it if wrinkles as you push it, it is ready. Another thing you can do is hold a wooden spoon over your pan and observe the drips, if they look like they are setting that is another clue.
  • Brian carefully filled the jars and put the lids on (they had been simmering in a saucepan of water)  and I wrote some labels this morning and here they are.

    A tower of jam

Just under 5 lbs of jam to look forward to sharing around with family and friends.

Jam jars with spotty lids came from the jamjarshop website by the way.  We ran out of small jars last year so I ordered these when they were on sale.  Some friends are good and keep all their jars to give to us… and then they get more jam!

As it is only the beginning of the season I may go back to pick some more before the month is over… Today I came home with a bag of mirabelle plums, red and yellow, like over sized cherries, might be good in a clafoutis pudding? Never made one of those yet…

One year on.… Lots of people seem to read this post still, and I had another look at it this August (2011) as Carl Legge had kindly suggested it as a good read on Twitter. I realise that I never posted a picture of the jelly itself. What an omission!  Believe it or not, I have one jar left in the garage and tonight I dug it out and opened it and here is a quick photo. It has darkened a little and become a little grainy in texture; it is a year old but it still has that wonderful complex fruity taste that sings of the English countryside. I love blackberry jelly!

Blackberry Jelly

Elderflower Cordial Part 3

At last…

The following day we studied the instructions again. One thing I forgot to say; you need a thermometer. If you are going to do any of these recipes, it is essential. That and this book and you won’t go too wrong!

Pam Corbin’s method gives a cordial that you can keep on the shelf. Other methods give a result which you have to keep in the fridge, like the Jam Jar Shop Guide to Elderflower Cordial.

The alternatives have some version of making a sugar syrup first, then adding the flowers. Some recipes add chopped up whole citrus fruit rather than zest.  That method presumably is gentler on the flowers and you might get a more fragrant though shorter lived cordial that way.  There is a risk of mould if you don’t use a sterilising water bath to process the bottles and want to keep the cordial out of the fridge in storage.

Filtration:  Brian poured the liquor  carefully out of the bucket where the flower heads and zest had been soaking overnight into another container and strained it through a muslin bag to remove particles. The liquid was very dark and we worried that we were gong to end up with a brown cordial.

Then we did some sums;  1.5 litres of liquid to 1 kg of granulated sugar plus one heaped teaspoon of citric acid were the proportions used.

We added all of the lemon and orange juices reserved from the previous day, about 500 ml, to the strained liquor, sugar and citric acid. Heated it up slowly to dissolve the sugar and then realised that we had forgotten to strain the citrus juice, so we put the whole lot through muslin again. Twice.  A mistake that could be fixed! No floaty particles now!

Our jam pan held 4.5 litres worth of liquid so that’s what we worked with.

We sterilized the bottles and  Brian carefully simmered the cordial. It stayed a murky brown. I took a spoonful and put it in a glass and diluted it to see what it tasted of. Not quite right somehow, but I couldn’t work out why.  A little bitter, a little polleny, not what I expected.

I went away to do something and when I came back Brian had transformed the cordial. The secret was buried in Pam’s notes:   it has to come up to  88° – 90° C whilst being simmered, for two minutes, this not only extends the shelf life but transformed the cordial into a paler and brighter fluid. Now it tasted right, silky, floral and citrussy. For a moment there I thought we were going to have to chuck the lot!

Much happier now, Brian proceeded to fill the bottles leaving a gap of an inch at the top for expansion in the final stage.

He then arranged them in two waterbaths, positioning the bottles so they didn’t touch the sides of the pan and standing them on folded tea towels. Tops on bottles not done up tight at this point.

The water was brought up to 88° C and kept there for 20 minutes. A thermometer is essential!

After this, he hoiked them out and tightened the tops.

Bottles of golden June delight! I found some ancient sheets of label paper and used one of the photos as a background image for these labels.

Thank you Pam and thank you Brian, chief bottler and preserver!  A summer of delightful elderflower spritzers beckons….

Edit: Later in the month  when we were “Around and About” we made a second batch using a cold steep method. This batch was a lot more lemony and had less of the elderflower aroma too it, but had a much paler colour.

Elderflower Cordial Part 2

Lots to do…

The recipe, method and important advice on sterilising bottles all come from Pam Corbin’s wonderful and indispensable book Preserves.  There are always different ways to make something like this,  but she hasn’t let us down yet.

Unwaxed lemons and oranges are a good idea if you are planning to include zest in anything. If you can’t get them then give the ones you have a really good scrub to remove any coatings. I used organic fruit but if I couldn’t get organic I would still have a go at this. The elder flowers aren’t there all year round after all.

I treated us to some fancy bottles with ceramic tops – though not enough in the end for the quantity of cordial we ended up with –  and a jar of citric acid from the Jam Jar website last week, as well as a very important mini funnel. I think if anyone is thinking of producing this stuff on a big scale they would need to really hunt around for a cheaper source of container though and recycle as much as they can, which is what we did for most of the bottles we used. I have to tell you that Brian took over at a certain point in the process, as he loves filtering and bottling and sterilising. Says it reminds him of when he used to make beer!

My first job was to sit and inspect the flowers for insects and caterpillars. I had a little help.  We found a few caterpillars and some green bugs I had never seen before but they were surprisingly empty of visible wildlife. I was pleased about that. I then zested eight lemons and a couple of oranges.

The bag of flowers, and the two lots of zest were flung into the beer tub where I admired their transient beauty and grabbed this shot.  I squeezed the juice from the fruits separately and stored it in the fridge for the following day.

Then we created a witches brew by boiling numerous kettles of water until we had enough to comfortably cover the flowers and zest.  The flowers mostly turned brown and the whole thing smelt faintly of wee and hot green stuff.  Quite scary, but one has to believe that Pam Corbin knows what she is doing and it says in the book that this is an old River Cottage recipe so we thought we can blame Hugh FW as well if it all goes wrong! We put the lid on the tub and left the whole lot to brew for twenty-four hours.

Click here for Elderflower Cordial Part 3