Category Archives: Sweet Stuff

How To Make Damson Curd

Surprisingly I found recipes for every sort of fruit curd under the sun on the internet and in my cook books but not for this so I have winged it and thought I’d share what I did.

For this recipe I have given the weight of cooked puréed de-stoned damsons. I think you need about 600-650 g fresh fruit to get this quantity.

The damsons I used were (I was told by Neil whose field they were growing in)  a variety known as Zwetschgen in Germany. They are bigger than the bullet like damsons and much smaller than the ones I have seen in the green grocers sometimes called damson plums. I am no expert in the many varieties of damsons. But you can always research more and read all about them on various sites like Wikipedia.

These ones were about 2.5 cms in length, dark, fat and ripe with a bit of give to the flesh. And, though tart, sweet enough to eat raw without making your mouth pucker.

IMG_4185.jpgI picked these ones with a  volunteer friend from the Community Garden at Blaise who lives near the Old Severn Bridge at Aust and happens to have a field lined down one side with glorious damson laden trees and blackberries. Who could resist an invitation to pick damsons? Not me!

The only drawback with damsons is their little stones and there are various ways to deal with them, you need patience!


damson curd

Joanna’s Damson Curd

per batch

Makes 4  7oz jars

500g of cooked and puréed unsweetened damsons
125g unsalted good butter
300g caster sugar
3 eggs + 1 egg yolk

Wash and gently cook the fruit in as little water as you can get away with. A slow simmer rather than a full boil. I cooked down about 2 kgs of fruit in a couple of cms of water. Don’t add sugar at this point.


When the skins are soft remove the stones by hand and either put the fruit pulp in the fridge or freeze it for another day if you have as much as I did or carry on as follows:-

If you have a food mill (I have one made by Good Grips which gets a lot of use) then pass the fruit through that as it will also help find any sneaky stones as well as breaking the cooked fruit down into a purée. You can also use a traditional sieve and  back of a wooden spoon to press the fruit through and prepare the purée.

Wash the jars in hot soapy water, rinse, and put on a tray in a warm oven to sterilise. Put the lids in a small pan of boiling water till just before needed.

Crack the eggs into a small bowl and whisk lightly.

In a Bain Marie or a double saucepan put the butter, sugar and fruit purée and stir over a gentle heat till the butter is melted.  If using a bowl over a saucepan remember not to let the bowl touch the water. Keep the heat on low all the way through this process.

Whisk the eggs in and keep whisking and stirring the mixture until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, this can take about ten minutes. Take your time and keep the heat low or you get scrambled fruit egg! Fruit curds continue to thicken up as they cool.

Pot up, screw the lids on, leave to cool, label with a two week use by date and a note to keep in fridge as this has a relatively short fridge shelf life. A good one to share with friends!


Use the curd to fill cakes, tarts, slather on crumpets and toast, in desserts, eat out of jar very quickly so the photo blurs…


Lemon Curd by Zeb Bakes

PS I have totally forgotten I have blogged about making fruit curd before. So if you want a recipe for citrus curds read the old post. I. Have. Totally. Forgotten. So if I repeat myself that is because I am getting old and forgetful.

And I think it is that long  (three years) since I last made it too. And such a pity as I love it so much!


Chocolate Frangipane Tart from thelittleloaf

Quarry Park, Bristol

It’s been a grey and icy weekend here in Bristol. I have been out with YakTrax over my boots to grip into the ice, I am getting too unsteady on my feet to slide and skid, though I have fond memories of setting up iceslides on the street when I was younger and more bendy.  We have played briefly in the park, wandered down through the wood, kicked a few snowballs into the air to be blown to smithereens by jumping poodles, inspected a magnificent seated snowman hanging out on a bench in Quarry Park, and climbed over small saplings brought down by the weight of snow on their branches.

Zeb inspects snowman in Quarry Park

Zeb inspects snowman in Quarry Park

It is very quiet though, I have seen the neighbours but that is about it. So what better way to spend a few spare hours than to imagine you are baking with a friend? I suggested to Heidi @ Steps On the Journey that we have a go at TheLittleLoaf’s Chocolate Frangipane Tarts. I was seduced by TheLittleLoaf’s lovely writing and her gorgeous photography as I have been many times before, but usually I look, bookmark and say “I must make this” and then I forget. I am very forgetful.

The recipe we did can be found in its beautiful entirety on by cliicking here.  I am just going to include some pictures and notes from making it before they are all gone!

the thinnest pastry I have probably ever made!

the thinnest pastry I have probably ever made!

This is a really clear recipe.  I don’t have tartlet tins with loose bottoms, which I realised when I read the recipe properly this morning, so I improvised with these tins which worked fine.

An array of improvised tart tins

An array of improvised tart tins

I used all the pastry and filling and made 4 4” tarts which are bigger than they look and hold a lot of filling and 6 little flat 3 “ tarts which are more like a small flat jam tart. The hour in the freezer was the time out crunching across the icy wastes of suburban Bristol with the poodles. Brian commented that we could just have left them in the garden!

chocolate frangipane tarts

All puffed up out of the oven

I needed to adjust the baking temperatures to accommodate the different sizes, the big ones took a bit longer and the small ones less time, but I didn’t burn anything and I think they are cooked OK.

Clementine topped chocolate frangipane tartsI wasn’t going to skate up to Waitrose to see if they had fresh cherries on a Sunday, so I carefully peeled some segments of clementines to try and stay true to the spirit of the recipe with a fresh fruit on the top. They look a bit 1970s don’t they?

I also finally used this little chocolate microwave melting pot thing that I got from Lakeland and it worked beautifully and I got a lot less chocolate over me than I do usually when I melt chocolate.IMG_0299

The fiddly part for me is always working with pastry, it really isn’t my strong point, but chilling it helps, and freezing it definltely stopped it shrinking while it baked, so I have learnt a useful tip there.

Anyway these are rich and delicious and everything a  dark chocolate-almond loving person could want in a tea time treat! Thank you Little Loaf for the recipe! I need to get better at presentation but I was so relieved they didn’t fall apart with their thin and delicate pastry that I was perfectly content with the results. And here is Heidi’s post, an almost simultaneous broadcast! Hee hee! I love blogging at times like this :)

from a recipe by thelittleloaf

from a recipe by thelittleloaf

Clotted Cream Vanilla Fudge with Cherries

Fudge on its way to make someone happy

Fudge on its way to make someone happy

Did you think I had gone for good? Not yet. Hello! Happy Middle of January everybody! I have lots of lovely photos of things to share but I haven’t got round to writing the posts. I look at the photos and then I look at the keyboard, and my back hurts and I can just think of other things I would rather be doing than blogging, but this one was just begging to be written so here goes with one of those recipe posts with asides designed to let you into the cluttered (clotted?) thought processes of my mind. I think there must be a name for this type of post. Food Confessional? Bridget Jones Does Food? or the ‘OK it is a recipe post but really I am lonely and want you to love me by leaving me lots of comments sort of a post’ ? I am not sure, but they are fun to write anyway.

Clotted Cream Vanilla Fudge with Glacė Cherries

Do you have food stuffs like this in your home? I am sure you don’t, but every time I have opened the fridge since Christmas this tub of Roddas finest clotted cream has waved at me.

“Yoo, hoo”, it says, “What are you going to do with me????” And today it was waving slightly frantically and whispering in an out of date sort of way,

“Surely, you are not going to chuck me, just because of a date, no-ooo-ooo!!!”

Chopped up small!

Chopped up small!

Why didn’t we just eat it as it was? All will be revealed…

We don’t eat cream out of the carton on account of the asthma thing plus I am not good at eating fresh cream, it makes my tum gurgle and roil, but if it is boiled up and turned into fudge then suddenly it does neither of these things. Oh dear, this is turning into one of those 7 not very interesting facts you never really wanted to know about me sort of posts, get a grip Joanna – right now. OK here goes…. (pdf for recipe without all the asides click here)

  • 227 g carton out of date but perfectly good Roddas clotted cream (meant for Mother-in-Law at Christmas who couldn’t come due to an outbreak of winter virus at her nursing home, well you did wonder I am sure, and you see that bag in the first picture, it’s going to her today)
  • 275 g of organic unrefined granulated sugar (Billingtons must have had an offer on when I bought this)
  • 50 g golden syrup (do you like those new bottles they sell this in? they sort of crackle don’t they? I find them very unnerving)
  • 50 g Danish (probably Swedish, see Misky’s comment) light syrup (another lost soul in the pullout purchased circa 2008 as I had squeezed all I could from the golden syrup bottle)
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of homemade vanilla essence (I have a litre of this made circa 2009)
  • a teaspoon of glucose syrup (bb 2007, unopened)
  • 120 g of glacė cherries (2012 Yay!) cut up with scissors for speed (meant for a Christmas cake that didn’t happen, not the natural ones, but the bright red ones that my husband considers to be ‘proper cherries’)
  1. Have a glass of cold water near your hob.
  2. Line an 18 cm square tin, bottom and sides, with baking parchment.
  3. Put the extra halves of cherries in the pan, which should appear on the top when you eventually turn the fudge out. (This was an afterthought, I freely admit, I am big on afterthoughts)
  4. Put everything except the cherries, in a deep heavy bottomed pan.
  5. Gently heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved and everything is well mixed
  6. Increase heat and put your sugar thermometer in the pan.
  7. When the mixture reaches the soft ball mark (116° C) lift pan off heat and drop a blob from your wooden spoon into the glass of cold water. it should form a nice soft but distinct mass, if it just dissolves into a cloud, it is not hot enough. I get little blobs with tails usually.You should most definitely taste to confirm the evidence of your eyes and the thermometer of course. You could do it again to double check if you happen to be fasting on the day you make this. (I am a mad impetuous fool).
  8. If you add the cherries about halfway through the next stage or as close to the end of the beating part as you can, then they won’t break up as much as mine did.Though ours went a delightful – some people might mutter ‘lurid’ under their breaths – shade of pink (hidden benefits).

    Halfway through Beating up the Fudge

    Halfway through Beating up the Fudge

  9. Find someone who likes beating a pan vigorously with a spoon for about five to ten minutes and offer them some inducement to do the hard bit, which is to beat the fudge until it goes thick and starts to seize up, the colour also changes from super shiny, through to a matt look. Or do it yourself if you are firm of arm and enjoy such activities.
  10. Pour and scrape the mixture into the prepared tin and leave to cool completely or even over night.
  11. Turn out, peel the parchment away, and cut into small squares with a heavy knife and swiftly dispense to everyone who likes it. If you have any left, then keep it in the fridge and it will get more grainy and less creamy over time. If one small and delectable square happens to find its way into your mouth, forgive yourself. Life is short and there will be more steamed vegetables tomorrow. Steamed broccoli fudge doesn’t have quite the same ring to it though, does it?
  12. Do you have any exotic leftovers from Christmas in your fridge that you need to use up?

Clotted Cream and Cherry Fudge Zeb Bakes

PS For a much more detailed and serious discussion on getting your fudge just right do read Celia’s great post here. Life is a learning curve.

Confessions of a Gibassier Groupie

GibassiersBaking buddies here is a post about these lovely Provencal sweet buns called Gibassiers which I have had my first go at baking inspired by the enthusiasm of Lynne who tweets as @josordoni and is a wonderful food blogger. They are a bit like brioche, but not as buttery, a bit like a doughnut, but not heavy, lighter than teacakes and really very good indeed.

Lynne has made these several times in the last month, and after a bit of hemming and hawing and hunting down ingredients on my part and a lot of encouragement from Lynne I had a go, along with  Thane Prince and Carla Tomasi on Twitter.

On the subject of orange blossom water, this brand, Cortas, is much much more pungent and flowery than the English variety. I sourced this at Bristol Sweet Mart, in St Marks Road in Easton, Bristol. Worth looking for if you can find it. As you open the bottle you are transported to a world where the sun shines and people hang out on dusty streets on humid nights and chat because it is too hot to go to bed. I reckon though that one could zest oranges, or use whatever you have to hand or can get hold of that makes you think of oranges.

There are a few recipes around, Lynne has tweaked hers over various bakes, you can read all about her experiments on her Greedy Piglet blog and she has very generously said I can write about it too, so here goes!

I have also bought Ciril Hitz’s book, Baking Artisan Pastries and Bread, the recipe has come from there, via The Fresh Loaf, and is reproduced in several places on the internet as well if you google. The book has loads of detail in it and some brilliant information about making laminated and sweet doughs and I am going to enjoy reading it and there is a DVD with it which I would love to be able to play for you, because it explains it all much better than I can. Bear in mind if you do this from this post that I have only made this once.

The day before you want to bake

Make a pre-ferment. This simply means mix up the following three ingredients and leave them covered overnight. The mix makes a firmish ball but it loosens and softens up once it has fermented.

  • ¼  – ½ tsp of dried yeast
  • 180 g of all pupose or bread flour
  • 110 g of milk

Day 2

Make a liquid mixture of:

  • 4 small eggs plus one yolk –  about 180g of shelled eggs  ( 2nd time made these used 130 g egg in total)
  • 80g of light olive oil (2nd time used 65 g olive oil)
  • 35 g of Cortas Orange blossom water but you will need more if you use a weaker one (2nd time used a mix of obw and dry Marsala wine, Carla’s suggestion)
  • 35 g warm water

NB: this is quite a lot of liquid and if you are not sure about your ability to work with a fairly wet dough then use less egg and less water, more like 150g of egg and 25 g of water as the original recipe.

Some recipes recommend warming all these together and that is probably a good idea. I whisked quite hot water into the top three ingredients and they didn’t curdle, but it might be safer just to heat very gently in a bowl on top of a pan of hot water… ?

In another bowl sift together

  • 200 g 00 flour or all purpose flour
  • 200 g bread flour
  • 100 g sugar
  • 6g salt
  • 12 g yeast – I used less yeast than Lynne but I am using that active instant sort which is very busy stuff (Second time used 10g yeast)

You might as well get the other stuff ready now too

  • 70 g softened unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp of crushed aniseed seeds
  • 70g finely chopped candied orange peel

All the above are going in the dough

You will also need a bit later on in the proceedings :

  • some egg wash (this is a beaten egg and a bit of milk whisked together)
  •  about 100 g melted butter
  • a bowl of caster (fine) sugar to dredge the buns in once they have been baked. (Second time used granulated and it doesn’t stick so much or melt like the caster sugar does)

I am not the best person at being organized but on this occasion I did do a proper mise en place and got it all ready. The trouble with buns is that there are lots of processes and I run out of surfaces to put things on if I don’t make a bit of an effort. Note on flour: use what you have, don’t not make these because you don’t have 00 flour, use your regular bread flour just not the very strong baker’s sort.

I freely admit I didn’t handmix this so if you are going to do this by hand do read Lynne’s blog as she is very good at this and there are ways to do it that make it easier.

I used the Kenwood as I hate handmixing sticky doughs like these, but then I have become a bit of a wimp in these matters.

I put the liquid mix in the Kenwood, added the pre-ferment which I broke into small chunks and let it all mix up for a bit to loosen the preferment. Then I added the dry ingredients first and mixed them up till it looked plausible, probably for about three/four minutes, then added the softened butter bit by bit till it was all taken up by the dough and the dough was taking on a soft and silky look and feel, that takes a fair bit of time (and forms a gluten window – yes I did that the second time. The dough also gets lighter in colour once the butter is worked in properly, a good clue to look for ) and then finally sprinkled the seeds and the candied peel into the dough and worked that in too.

Then I left it all to rise in a covered bowl. Currently I am using my little top oven as a proving chamber. I open the door and the light comes on then I put the bowl in, and close the door but keep it open a crack by stuffing a tea towel or the oven gloves in the door. It reaches a temperature in there of about 24 – 26 C which is good enough for me.

After an hour and a half, it was huge and bubbly, a very excitable dough!  I floured a board, and pressed it out gently and then cut it up into 15 x 80 g chunks, quite big buns these were, you could make smaller or bigger or make it all as one big bread, or all sorts.

I rolled the pieces into balls and then started to shape them. If you have ever made fougasse or bagels you will know that any hole you cut or shape in a lively dough will fill in as it rises and again when it bakes, so be bold with your holes and don’t forget to stretch the shapes out sideways before you put them on your parchment lined trays to prove.

Gibassiers being cut and stretchedI flatten the balls into ovals and used a little cheese knife to make the cuts. I have just watched the bit on the DVD which comes with the book and it really shows it beautifully there, as well as what the dough should look like. Aha.

Here is one of my little drawings indicating where the cuts go. The ones in the middle you need to do with something fairly short that you can push directly into the dough, not a knife.  The edge cuts you can do with the edge of a dough scraper or a knife.

Leave to prove till they are nice and plump but not deflated, I left mine for another 40 minutes this time.

Eggwash the buns before you bake them in a hot but not too hot oven. I have funny settings on mine, my fan is about 10 degrees hotter than most people’s  (Neff Circotherm settings) so I baked mine on 170 C, look up the equivalent of Gas Mark 6 for your oven. Take them out when they are golden. I checked them after 12 minutes, I think I took them out after 15 minutes and maybe they could have come out earlier.

Paint them with melted butter while they are still hot, then let them cool down a little and dredge them in sugar. If you do the sugar bit while they are too hot, I did that with one lot, the sugar starts to melt.

Instagram Gibassiers

Share them out, give them away, save a couple for you and a friend, warm in the oven a little before you eat them. That’s it!

PS here is the last one being shared with Brian for breakfast yesterday, might have to make some more soon…

PPS Update:  For those of you who come back to read this again, I have been reading Ciril Hitz’s book and am learning new stuff about mixing these doughs. It’s very exciting and I’m going to have another go. If you look at the rounds of dough in the first photo you will see that they look a little greasy, I think that is because my butter was too warm when I mixed it into the dough. Ciril Hitz says that the butter should be pliable but cold, not warm when it is mixed in. So to do that you need to take a cold piece of butter and bash it with a rolling pin or something and then mix it in bit by bit, even putting the bowl back in the fridge if it looks like it is getting too hot.  I did say this was the first time I had made these didn’t I?

Update: I made them again the following week, hence all the notes in brackets. I am sorry if it confuses anyone actually trying to bake from this. Basically if you use less egg, less oil and cold  pliable butter, and knead for longer you get a more elastic dough which is slightly easier to shape and is more bread like and less brioche like.  I wanted to try both ways and see if I could see a difference. The only other very slight change I make is that I use the small amount of water to loosen the preferment in the mixing bowl before I add the other liquid ingredients. It just made sense to me to do that. I don’t intend to rewrite the post, but if you are seriously trying to make these then do ask if I have confused you or better still buy a copy of the book!

Here are a few photos from the second time I made them, a bit fuzzy, but they show the cutter I made second time round…

Cutter made from a dough scraper

Cutter made from a dough scraper


Cut bun before being stretched out gently

Cut bun before being stretched out gently


Stretching out the bun

Stretching out the bun

A shared Gibassier and some rare sunshine!

Friends are Olympic Gold

I was sent a comfort parcel by Julia not so long ago which included a tin of her golden homebaked walnut shortbread biscuits.

I  consumed the whole lot in the space of a couple of days, so I have begged the recipe from her. My past attempts at shortbread biscuits haven’t always been that good, so she has shared her recipe with me and they work perfectly, even if, like me, you overcook the first lot slightly because you are so bad at judging when biscuits are cooked.

So here are my Olympic biscuits to see us through to the end of the Games.

So part of my problem (and I have a few at the moment),  according to everyone who knows me, is that I put myself down, and the problem with putting yourself down, is that when people say nice things you don’t believe them and would prefer it if they didn’t. Neat isn’t it? So just make the biscuits, no credit to me please, it’s all Julia’s  work, who has tweaked the original BBC Good Food recipe to perfection.

But we are on safe ground with biscuits, and these are the business, buttery and crisp and melt in your mouth and go perfectly with the British antidote to all of life’s troubles: a great cup of tea!

Here is Julia’s recipe which she says I can share with you.

I wrote the recipe out exactly as she sent it to me. See below. I was trying out the  Noteshelf app for iPad which had exciting hearts and little pictures and you can write on it with your finger as well. The photo shows the wisely labelled tin they came in.

And what did I do with the spare egg whites? I made Financiers (friands) aux Pépites de Chocolat from a French Baking book that another wonderful friend gave me!

Edit : Lovely Phil who chefs at The Loaf in Crich (we met in Yorkshire at Joe and Martin’s Baking Weekend a couple of years ago)  has had a go at the biscuits too – as he had a new biscuit tin which needed filling. I cheekily asked him if he would take a pic if he made them, here they are, complete with mug of tea, I hope he doesn’t mind me showing you his photo. Julia  – your biscuits are a hit with everyone!

and here are Carla’s (made in Rome)

she has titled this photo ‘The Biscuit Diet started this afternoon…. ‘ She never does things by halves either  “I did twice the recipe so had 4 logs..walnuts hazelnuts raisins cranberries ( and lots lemon zest)”


Home Made Jaffa Cakes – the Marcus Wareing ones

For my friend Lynne – Get well soon!

Simple! Ha! Marcus Wareing’s Home Made Jaffa Cakes recipe from Great British Chefs – recipe can be found here.

It sounds so simple doesn’t it? Make a tray of little tiny spongy things, cut them in half, take out a bit of the middle bit, blob some marmalade in there, dip them in melted chocolate, take a photo, give to one’s true love who has asked for them. Well, let me say this. NO! It is not an easy recipe. No, no, no.

Continue reading

Peanut Butter Cookies from Short & Sweet

Dan Lepard Peanut Cookie Short & Sweet

Yesterday I had E’s help playing along  with me in the Short & Sweet baking challenge which you can join in with any time. Read more about shortandtweet here on Evidence Matters’s tumblr blog.

She is a good sport, not only did she do the washing up, but she made these fantastic peanut butter cookies !  She even watched benignly while I tweeted away as we baked. Continue reading