Custard Biscuits with Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

With the spring properly here now we are enjoying the fresh flavours that come with the warmer weather.  Our garden is coming along with the busy bees arriving to enjoy the blooms.  Our gooseberry and black currant bushes are a hive of activity which is wonderful.  The garden makes a happy place for the bees and butterflies.  Need to work on plants to invite along the hummingbirds.

One of my favourite flavours growing up was strawberry and rhubarb.  My mum would make a divine strawberry and rhubarb pie that I loved.  I wanted to bake something that would include that delicious combination.  I was flipping through the “Sweet” book by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh and found a recipe for Custard Yo-Yos that had a rhubarb icing.  I thought I would do a strawberry and rhubarb jam instead for the filling.

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Make the jam first to give it time to cool.  Use a ratio of 1:1 for the strawberry and rhubarb.

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In a small saucepan add the fruit and a bit of water so the fruit doesn’t catch as you bring it to a simmer.  Add brown sugar a bit at a time until you get the flavour and thickness desired.  You do want this on the thick side so it doesn’t drip too much out of the biscuit sandwich.

Preheat the oven to 350F/180C

In a mixer bowl sift together 175g/1 1/3 cups of all purpose flour, 65g/1/2 cup custard powder, 65g/1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon of salt.  If you don’t have custard powder ( 😦 )  you can use cornstarch (cornflour) but it won’t be much of a custard biscuit without the custard!  I like using Bird’s custard powder.  One because it’s good and two it’s what we can easily find.  Cube 170g/3/4 cup of unsalted butter that is at room temperature.  Add it to the mixer bowl.

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Blend on low until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  Next add 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract.  If you had to use corn starch then make it 1/2 a teaspoon.  At this point you will probably be wondering, as I was, how on earth was this dry mixture going to come together.  Have no fear!  The butter starts it’s job with the vanilla.  Start on low then speed up to medium to bring the dough together.  It will take 30-60 seconds to happen.

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Line your baking sheet with parchment paper.  Roll balls of dough of about an 1 inch/2.5-3cm.  Place the balls about 1 1/2in/4cm apart.

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Dust a fork with flour and press into the tops of the balls.  Don’t go all the way through!  Just go about halfway.

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Bake for 25 minutes.  If you use more than one baking sheet, rotate them halfway through.  You want the biscuits dry on the bottom and slightly golden.  Leave them on the sheet for a couple of minutes then transfer them to a cooling rack.

When the biscuits and jam are cool make sandwiches.

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There is nothing like custard with strawberry and rhubarb.  Definitely flavours of the beautiful warmer weather.

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Who Doesn’t Love a Tart? A White Wine Mushroom Tart…

See, when tax season ends it is supposed to be spring.  Normally I can get outside in the fresh air and putter about in the garden.  Mother Nature did not get the memo this year!  On Monday we had a two hour delay for school due to snow and ice.  It’s just been cold this week.  The strong winds took down a large tree in town.  She is being cruel!

I really hope the warm weather shows soon because it would be nice to have a spring longer than a couple of weeks.  Summer likes to show early here.

Every Tuesday night we have pizza and sometimes I buy a phyllo dough mushroom tarts with white wine.  It’s been on my list to recreate it but I decided instead of fiddling round with the phyllo that I would make my short crust pastry.

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In a skillet melt 3 tablespoons of butter.  Finely chop shiitake mushrooms to give you a cupful.  Finely chop shallots until you have about 1/3 cup.  Sauté the mushrooms and shallots on medium heat.  Chop up fresh thyme and rosemary, about a small handful total and add them to the skillet.  After cooking for several minutes add a 1/4 cup/2oz of dry white wine.

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Grate about 3/4 cup of jarlsberg and put it in a medium bowl and set aside.

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Preheat the oven to 350F/175C and prep the pastry.  Technique to do the pastry is here.  For this recipe I used 1/2 cup/70g of flour, a pinch of salt, and just under a 1/4 cup of butter.  When the butter is fully incorporated into the flour gradually add cold water a bit at a time until the dough comes together.  Roll out thinly.

Add the mushroom mixture to the cheese and mix well.  Add a dollop to the pastry.

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Pinch the dough closed and slice three vents into the top.  Brush with a beaten egg.

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Bake for 20-25 minutes until the pastry is golden and flaky.

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These are great for a cheese and wine night or if you have a potluck to go to.

 

Making Whoopie…Carrot Cake Pies That Is

The amount of chocolate our kids still have from Christmas is going to keep them going for quite awhile.  They would disagree completely with me, of course.  As scrooge like as I was being in the chocolate department I didn’t want to forego any treats.  I’m not that mean!

So what do bunnies really like?  Carrots!

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I did a search on Pinterest for fun easter desserts.  The plethora of Peeps desserts was a bit scary.  Aside from the fact none of us like Peeps, my kids aren’t little so something less sugar high inducing would do the trick.  I found this Mini Carrot Cake Whoopie Pies recipe and I thought it would be fun to make.  Not to mention easy!  And as we’re still plugging away at our renovation of the bathroom project, well, easy is key.

I will say the overall time to make this of 18 minutes is seriously over optimistic.  Give yourself an hour.  There is only so fast I can go!

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C

Begin with finely grating 180g of carrot.  This will give you 1 1/2 to 2 cups of shredded carrot.

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In a mixer add 113g/1 stick of butter (room temperature) along with 100g/1/2 cup of packed light brown sugar and 100g/1/2 cup of white sugar.

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Cream all this together for several minutes until creamy and blended well.  While this is mixing mix the dry ingredients together in a medium sized bowl.  Add 250g/2 cups all purpose flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

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Gradually add the dry ingredients to the mixer.  Once all the ingredients are mixed well add the grated carrot.

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Using a piping bag and a large nozzle pipe out the batter into circles about an inch/2.5cm onto parchment paper.  This is very sticky and they come out like wizard hats.  Don’t worry about that, it will smooth out in the oven.  Just tap down the real pointy peaks.

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Bake 6-8 minutes until set and golden.  Allow to cool for a few minutes.

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While these are baking prepare the cream cheese frosting.  I chose to use neufchatel cheese which has a 1/3 less fat.  I know, a funny time to start worrying about calories but what can you do?

In a large bowl add 8oz/226g of the cheese and 56g/1/2 stick of butter (both at room temperature).

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Using a hand mixer cream the two ingredients together for a few minutes.

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Add 187g/1 1/2 cups of confectioner’s (powdered) sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract.  Mix well until the frosting is smooth and light.

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Pair up the mini cakes so both sides are relatively equal in size.  Spread the frosting on one side and add the other to make a sandwich.

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Keep the ones you don’t eat right away in the fridge.  Not going to lie, these were really good.  With the carrot how unhealthy can these be?  Ahem.  😉

Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes with Chambord White Chocolate Ganache

Winter is back though fortunately not with the vengeance that was predicted.  At least in our area.  It was predicted we’d get 8-14in/20-35cm.  While it is still snowing we’ll only get a third of that.  Which is fine by us!

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This was our view yesterday and I felt it was a good time to bake.  The kids had early release from school in anticipation of the impending storm.  Turns out the storm took it’s time to start and they could have gotten a whole day in.

Our daughter had won a kit for a strawberry chocolate cupcake mix which she made for a class in school.  This sparked an idea for me to use real strawberries and to really make it posh I thought I’d make chambord white chocolate ganache.

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I made the cupcakes using this chocolate cake recipe.

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While the cupcakes were baking I made up the ganache.  I adjusted the white chocolate ganache I made previously as I didn’t need a lot.  I used 1/2 cup/4oz of cream, 1 tablespoon/1/2oz of butter and 4oz of white chocolate.  When the cream and butter were heating up I added 3 tablespoons of chambord for flavour.

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For the chocolate frosting I found an Allrecipes recipe.  I had to alter it a bit as I didn’t have enough baking cocoa.  So I cut the confectioner’s sugar to 2 1/2 cups rather than 2 3/4 cups as I had to use hot cocoa for the baking cocoa.  The sugar high from these cupcakes was quite something!

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Once all the ingredients are made it’s time to assemble. Cut a pyramid out of the cupcakes and insert the strawberry upside down and liberally drizzle the ganache over and around the strawberry.

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Cut the tip off the pyramid and put the top back on the cupcake and frost the top of the cupcake.

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The cupcake absorbs the ganache and makes it incredibly moist and flavourful.  The strawberry is the only healthy bit of this sweet!

Sunny Orange, Honey and Saffron to Bring in the New Year

It always amazes me how much work goes into the holidays only for it to go by faster than a blink of an eye.  It seemed this year it went by even faster.  But we had a lovely time with the kids and enjoyed a week of just hanging out with them.  I look forward to the week between Christmas and New Year’s as it’s just family time.  No where to be, perfect.

Of course, now that the holidays are over we faced with bitter, bitter cold.  So what better time to bake?  Helps keep the kitchen toasty warm.  Anything to help keep the heating costs down!  One of the gifts my husband bought me was a baking book called Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh.  He had heard an interview on the radio with Yotam Ottolenghi and found him very interesting.  Particularly the flavour combinations he likes to work with.  There are several recipes I want to try.  A while back I bought a madeleine pan so the recipe I chose to try first is his saffron, orange and honey madeleines.

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This isn’t a hard recipe but it does take a little time.  It’s also not completely traditional which allows the cookie to last more than a day because let’s face it, my hips won’t appreciate me trying to eat them all before they get stale.  My taste buds will but they aren’t the ones wearing the clothes.

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In a small saucepan melt 90g of butter (6 tbsp + 1 tsp) of unsalted butter, 2 tsp of honey and 1/4 tsp of saffron threads.  The book says the saffron is optional, say what?  I’m not leaving that out!  Keep the heat low while you are doing this.  Once melted remove from the heat and bring to room temperature.

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While the butter is melting prep the next ingredients in a food processor.  Add 2 large eggs, 75g (1/3 cup + 1tsp) granulated sugar, scraped seeds of about a 1/4 of a vanilla pod and the zest of a small orange. I used a clementine for this. Pulse until it is well blended.  Sift together  90g ( 1/2 cup + 1 1/2 tsp) of flour, 1 tsp of baking powder and 1/8 tsp of salt.  Add this to the food processor and pulse again until blended.  Next add the butter mixture and blend.  Scrape into a bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.

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Preheat the oven to 400F/200C and prep the baking pan by brushing the molds with melted butter and dust with flour.  I only have one pan so the book recommends washing, drying and reprepping between batches.

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Spoon batter in to fill about 2/3s of the mold.  This was actually harder than it sounds as the flour sticks to the bottom which makes it slippery and hard to position.  Bake 9-10 minutes until golden and sponge like.

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While they are baking chop up the pistachio nuts.  You only need a couple of tablespoons of the nuts.  Melt 3 tablespoons of honey in the microwave.  Keep an eye on this as it won’t take long to melt.

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Brush the madeleine with honey and dip it in the nuts.  This was a classic case of chasing the natural light and losing. I was hoping to get it done before it got too dark.  I didn’t win the race!  But the days are getting longer so it won’t be long.  🙂

I love how these came out, the flavours were nice and bright.  Perfect for a winter’s day.

Making a Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey Mac and Cheese 

We’ve all done it.  Opened the door, peered in, shut it again.  Left to wonder what exactly is in that freezer.  Despite best laid plans it’s easy to lose the plot.  Our freezer is nearly 6 feet tall so it’s really not a good idea to lose the plot!  It got to the point where we couldn’t fit anything in and I was wondering how much money we were wasting by not using what we had.  

Off I went to get clear containers to organise the meats, leaving the baskets for all our fruits and veg we had harvested.  I did have to get rid of some things but overall getting it organised and knowing what the heck was in there was a success.  

One of my finds was a vacuumed bag of leftover Thanksgiving turkey.  So this post is either well overdue or too early for Thanksgiving.  😄.  Even though we seem to be stuck back in with the sticky heat of summer we did enjoy autumn weather for a few weeks.  It was wonderful and perfect for some comfort food.  Mac and cheese would do the trick.


Would you believe this onion was supposed to be a scallion?  We planted half a raised bed of bunching onions so you imagine our surprise to find proper onions growing.

While making the cheese sauce for this dish, cook up the pasta.  Preheat the oven to 375F/200C. In a separate saucepan heat up a couple of tablespoons of butter.   Coarsely chop half of a large onion and add it to the butter.


Sauté on low until the onions soften.  Then add a couple of cloves of garlic, finely chopped.  Cook for a couple of minutes then add about a cup and a half of chopped turkey.  Season with a couple of teaspoons of fresh thyme and sage.  If you don’t have fresh sage use about a teaspoon of ground sage.  Continue to season with sea salt and pepper.  Then add a half cup/4oz of dry white wine.


To make it a roux add 2 tablespoons of flour.


Stir continuously until the flour is incorporated and cooked, about three minutes.


Next add 1 1/4 cup of milk and heat through.  Don’t boil!  Once the cheese is warm enough to melt cheese add a cup of grated cheddar and half a cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  Stir until the cheese has melted,


Put the cooked pasta into a baking dish and add the cheese sauce.  Mix well. Top with more grated cheese.


Cover and bake for 20 minutes.  Uncover and brown the top of the dish.


Serve while hot.  Now we try to eat small portions in our house but with this dish we all had seconds and there weren’t any leftovers!  Guess we needed a break from salads.  😊

The Sinfulness of Chocolate 

Chocolate is a veg, right?  I mean it starts as a plant so it should count as part of our five a day.  Just like wine is fruit because it comes from grapes.  Hands up from those that are with me on this.  Anyone?

Because I completely forgot to do a birthday cake for our daughter earlier in the year I decided to make up for it when we celebrated a bunch of family birthdays a few weeks ago.  You know, she never said a word.  Once the lightbulb went off I felt really guilty.  A familiar feeling, I’m sure, for many parents.  Our daughter is a massive fan of chocolate, particularly dark chocolate I decided to go for a chocolate cake with ganache and raspberries.  Unsurprisingly, she was on board with this idea.

After doing a bit of research online and realising the recipes are pretty basic, making me wonder why I haven’t made it before, I used this guide from Add a Pinch to create my dessert.  I also made a chocolate cake as a base for this.  The difference between the glaze and the filling are the ratio between the cream and chocolate.  This is not a low calorie treat!


I did the filling first.  In a saucepan, gently heat a 1 cup/8oz of heavy or double cream with 2 tablespoons/1oz of butter.  Don’t boil or scald but heat until the butter is melted.


In a large bowl add 2 cups/11oz of white chocolate.  Pour the cream mixture over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate has melted and everything has blended together.  If you would like you can also add a couple of tablespoons of flavouring, I didn’t to this stage because of the other flavours that I was putting together.  


Chill until it has a thick spreadable consistency.  Spread on the first layer of the cake and add a layer of fresh raspberries.


For the glaze, redo the cream and butter.  Pour it over a cup/6oz of dark chocolate along with 2 tablespoons/1-2oz of spiced rum and a pinch of salt.  Mix well.  This will be very liquid so it will need to be chilled a bit so it doesn’t completely run off the cake when you pour it on.  


Top with more fresh raspberries and serve.  I have to say this was a hit.  This will definitely be made again!

Perfect Bread for Mini Sliders

We’ve all had days where we get to the end of it and wonder if the moon was out of alignment.  Yesterday was like that for me.  Lots of wacky stuff seemed to happen and it was highlighted by two encounters with two gentlemen around 80 years old.  Maybe highlighted is too positive a word.

It started just before work when I was dashing across the street to get breakfast and the first guy stopped his little transit van, rolled down the window, and yelled out that I was a beautiful lady.  Since he didn’t say I was a broad or chick or something I smiled and said thank you.  As I was waiting for the bagel I started texting my husband about it.  Then I looked up.  There was the guy, arms wide, beaming at me.  He calls across the store how beautiful I am.  Things are starting to get awkward.  But I figured be nice because maybe he’s not all there.  I smiled again and said thank you.  He took my hand and started kissing it.  Oh boy.  I wished him a nice day and headed out.  But he followed me.  Kept saying over and over I’m beautiful then he started saying he loves me.  Hell of a way to kill a compliment.  As I pulled out in my car I looked across the street and he was still there waving!  He literally parked his car and followed me into the store.

A few hours later I was up front at work and another guy comes in wanting to have a walk in appointment.  He looked at the photos on the wall. Now admittedly I have a photo up there that was done by a professional that is several years old.  It still looks like me though.  He declares he wants to sit with Virginia Payne.  Keep in mind I have a name tag on plus that is a picture of me.  I said that is me and unfortunately I don’t have time for a walk in.  He said that’s not you.  Yes it is.  Not it’s not, it doesn’t look anything like you.  Well thanks, I said.  Then he doubles down and said the photo looks better you should keep it.  What on earth?

And that was my day in a nutshell.

A few weeks ago we were having a potluck with friends and I made mini sliders with my pulled pork recipe.  My sister gave my husband a book for Christmas called “The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day”  I found this really intriguing.  How can you have decent bread?  The five minutes is a bit of a misnomer but not far off.  The cool thing about this book is that there are a lot of recipes that take minimal effort for decent results.  And if you are wary of trying to bake bread, this would be a good place to start.

I chose the master recipe for the boule.  In a clear container that has a lid add 680 grams of lukewarm water and 10 grams of yeast.

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Add 20 grams of kosher salt.  Then add 910 grams of all purpose flour.

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Mix the ingredients until the flour is completely incorporated.

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No kneading required!  Goes completely against everything I believe with bread making.  But I was trusting the recipe.  Cover loosely with the lid or with cling film.  Set it on the counter for a few hours to rise.  It needs to rise then begin to collapse.

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Pop it into the fridge at least 3 hours though you can have in the fridge overnight.  Preheat the oven to 450F/230C.  Shape the bread into balls about 2in/5cm in diameter.  The trick here is not to overwork the dough.  This takes 20 to 40 seconds. Snip a cross into the top and let rest 30-45 minutes.

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Because these are small rolls they only need to be baked 15-20 minutes.  When you put them into the oven add about a cup of ice to a cast iron container that is below the baking sheet.  This will add the steam necessary for a nice crust.

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Slice in half, add the pulled pork with shredded cheese and red onion that has been marinated in apple cider vinegar.  These are a little messy so not for dressy parties but for casual get togethers these are perfect.

 

Eggnog Cookies

I have an obsession.  I think my husband might stage an intervention.  I get started and I can’t stop, just go down the rabbit hole.  What makes me lose track of time so quickly?  Genealogy.  It’s a time sucking, fascinating hobby.  I love the history and the detective work but it’s also been wonderful finding relatives.  Not the distant relatives, though that is fun as well, but actual second cousins.  Which is just fabulous.  I connected with three in the UK and one in Australia.  I love it.  🙂

I didn’t get as much baking over the holidays as I would have liked but my daughter was mentioning she had eggnog cupcakes and I thought ooh, I want to make cookies with eggnog.  I searched round on the internet for some ideas.  I found a recipe on allrecipes that I could change up a bit and that was easy to whip up.

I used the hand mixer for this as you don’t want to over mix the ingredients.  In a medium bowl add 3/4 cup/12oz of butter softened, a cup/8oz of white sugar, and 1/4 cup/2oz of brown sugar.

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Cream the ingredients together until it is light and fluffy.  Add 2 egg yolks, 1/2 cup/4oz of eggnog, and a teaspoon of spiced rum.  Mix at medium speed until well blended.

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In a separate bowl blend together 2 1/4 cups/18oz of all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg, and 1/2 a teaspoon of cinnamon.  Gradually add it to the mixing bowl.  Don’t over mix the cookie dough, just mix until the dry ingredients are incorporated in.

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Spoon the dough onto a cookie sheet that has not been greased.  About a teaspoon size.  Bake at 300F/150C until golden brown.  20-25 minutes depending on your oven.  While this is baking mix equal parts spiced rum and milk then add powdered sugar until you get the consistency you want for the glaze.

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When the cookies come out of the oven, drizzle the cookies with the glaze.  Then all you have to do is enjoy!

 

Shortbread for Not so Short

My son has taken to calling me shorty.  Sigh, problem is that he isn’t wrong.  But he thinks it is hilarious that he keeps growing like a weed and he is pretty much out pacing me in any high heels I may have.  This ship has sailed.

Even though we are in the throes of a hot summer I wanted to bake for the kids so they’d have a treat after they came back from camp.  In keeping with the shorty theme and trying not to overheat the kitchen I decided to make shortbread.  I had made this before but my camera setup wasn’t working, turns out I needed to change the batteries on the remote.  That was easy to fix but I may be facing bigger issues with the camera.  Fingers crossed I’m not but it’s been acting very strange.  I love the camera so I want it to behave!

Years ago my parents gave me a cookery book called “Cape Breton Pictorial Cookbook” and it was edited by Yvonne LeVert.  It is a collection of recipes from the area and the influences from immigrants.

I used my hand mixer for this to cream the butter and sugarShortbread 1 2016

In a medium mixing bowl cream together a cup of softened butter and a 1/2 cup of brown sugar.

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This will take a few minutes.  Add a teaspoon of vanilla and gradually add two cups of flour, mixing a bit in at a time.  Tip out onto a floured surface.

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Knead to form a ball.  Now the recipe said to roll out.  Which seemed weird but hey I tried it.  Wrong!  You definitely need to chill for at least a half an hour.

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Preheat the oven to 300F/150C.  On a well floured surface roll out the dough with a well floured rolling pin.  Roll it out to about an 1/8″ of an inch.  Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes you want and prick the tops with a fork.  Bake 15-20 minutes until they are golden brown.

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Let cool and enjoy.  We’ve been enjoying it with the rhubarb ginger jam I made recently.  The tart and sweet go really well together.