30 Jun 2011

Afternoon Tea: Seaham Hall

Seaham Hall is somewhere I've known of for many years now. Friends and family members have had delightful sounding spa days, delicious meals and have even worked in their prestigious kitchens, but I have never before experienced what they have to offer.  I'm not one for being poked, prodded and smeared with cleansing mud so I was left with the arduous task of sampling their afternoon tea menu, what a hardship.




That morning I had a few errands to run so we left the house on an empty stomach, a single cup of tea fueling my energy levels.  By 3pm I was famished and raking through my bag for lone sweeties, long since left over from my many cinema food smuggles. Our tummies grumbling we opted for the Full Afternoon Tea, still a little worried we may leave unfulfilled. Oh how wrong we were.






We were presented with a selection of sandwiches, a perfectly formed sausage roll which had Kris moaning with delight, both savory and sweet scones, and several cakes including my very favorite, chocolate banana bread.  Even with this eye pleasing bounty the lovely waiter then emerged from the kitchen carrying two fruit tarts, compliments of the chef, how wonderful!


By the time we'd munched and chomped our way through this banquet of treats I was around seven pounds heavier and eying up the chaise lounge opposite, itching for an afternoon snooze.  

I would highly recommend Seaham Hall for your Afternoon Tea requirements, but please, do make sure you're hungry and wear loose fitting clothes. Don't say I didn't warn you!

21 Jun 2011

Buckeyes

I hate this time of year. All the way up here in the depths of North East England the weather is sucky to say the least!  We don't get sun, instead we get overcast sky and muggy, sticky heat. This is angry Katie weather, this is when my inner bitch really comes out to play.  Its this time of year I really feel sorry for Kris. Sorry baby, I don't mean it, I'm horrid when I'm sticky!


You can probably gather that my heat rage is intensified while baking, especially considering my kitchen is a real sun trap during the afternoon.  This is why any recipe which doesn't require me to turn on that damned oven yet still scratches my baking itch makes me smile a giant smile.


Buckeyes are my kind of sweetie.  Peanut butter and chocolate, yes please, in my face! They've been on my to bake (well, to make) list since I got the Baked Explorations book last Christmas.  All I've been waiting for is a muggy day like today to justify the super easy task of whipping these up.

Buckeyes
(from Baked Explorations)

Ingredients:
1/4 cup  cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups peanut butter (I used chunky as I grabbed the wrong jar from my cupboard, D'oh)
1 cup digestive biccy crumbs (from about 10 biccies)
3 cups icing sugar
1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, melted and cooled
12 ounces dark chocolate (60 to 72%), coarsely chopped

Method:
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and peanut butter together until combined. Add the graham cracker crumbs and beat for 10 seconds. Add the sugar and butter, and mix on the lowest speed until it stops floating off everywhere, then increase the speed until the ingredients are combined. Scrape down the whole bowl well, then mix again. The mixture will be quite sturdy and a little dry — perfect for shaping. Set it aside while you prepare the coating.

Melt the chocolate either over a double boiler, stirring until it is completely smooth or in a microwave in 30 then 10 second increments, stirring before you start it again until it is completely smooth. Let it cool to tepid while you shape the peanut butter centers. 

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Scoop out slightly more than one tablespoon’s worth of filling  and use your hands to form it into a ball. Place the ball on the prepared sheet and repeat the process until all of the candies have been shaped. They can sit close to each other but make sure they are not touching.

Using a fork or large skewer, dip each ball into the chocolate and roll it about so that almost the entire candy is coating, leaving a small circle uncoated. Allow the excess chocolate to drip off the candy before placing back on the lined baking sheet.

Chill the buckeyes until they are set, about 30 minutes before munching down with a big glass of milk!

9 Jun 2011

Parma Violet Cupcakes

Everyone has something that can instantly transport them back to their childhood, be it the smell of freshly cut grass, the touch of your favorite bear or the taste of candy you haven't nibbled upon since you were eight.  For me, it's Parma Violets.  


While on a recent charity shop bringe I happened across an old style sweet shop, their shelves were piled high with vintage favorites such as sugar mice, beach balls and, of course, Parma Violets.  Instantly I snapped up several packs (50p each, how's that for inflation!!) with the intention of turning them into cupcakes.  Sadly, they didn't last long and I munched my way through both rolls during the car ride home.  I'm a greedy soul really.

 
Then I remembered my long forgotten bottle of violet liqueur nestled snugly between my loathed bottle of Baileys and never opened bottle of Barcadi. Thirty minutes later I was the proud mama to a batch of parma violet cupcakes.  I can see this one being a keeper!

Parma Violet Cupcakes

Ingredients:
110g unsalted butter, softened
225g golden caster sugar
2 large free range eggs
150g self raising flour
125g plain flour
120ml milk
 2tbsp violet liqueur
 
Method:
Heat the oven to 180C and line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper cases. 

In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and the sugar until well smooth.   Add the eggs one at a time, mixing into the mixture between additions.
 
Sift the flours together into a separate, smaller, bowl.  Measure out the milk in a jug and then add the violet liqueur.  Add the flour mixture in three additions alternating with the milk.

Spoon the mixture into the paper cases, filling about 2/3 full.   Bake for about 25 mins until golden brown and a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool inthe tin for 5-10 minutes.   Then turn out to cool completely on a wire rack.


Oh yes, I almost forgot! The winner of the teacup cupcake is none other than Maria of Frills and Spills!  If you could drop me an email with your details I'll get them posted asap :)