Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Top tip for jam makers

As the jam making season is well upon us I find it important to share a few family secrets.
I use a lot of recycled jars for my jam making and all this talk of "sterilizing" and "sealing" used to through me into frenzied episodes of doubt, "OH,that sound's complicated, I 'll never be able to do that!" So I ended up putting it off until the next year and the next. But fear no more. It's not complicated or scary! Once you know what to do it becomes apparently easy and you wonder why you've never tried it before. My mum who is a master jam maker told me about this one.There is science behind it and it works so I'm happy with that!
The sterilization process can be very straight forward. Wash and clean your jars and lids in warm soapy water and rinse. Place them on a baking tray and place them in a warm/hot oven for 15/20 minutes. I usually do this just as the jam is finishing off.
Now...sealing the jam. You need to do this to expand the life of your jam. It should in theory if done correctly last until the next year. Wax lids and paper are messy and a pain... a little bit of trapped air under these and mold sets in.
Once your jam is ready don't wait for it to cool. Ladle the hot jam in to the pre-sterilized jars just up to the ridge under the neck of the jar but not up to the rim (leave about 2 cm or so).
Make sure it's closed tight. Careful when handling hot jam and hot jars, good oven gloves and a kitchen towel are essential to have near by. Turn the covered jars upside down and as the jam cools in the jar this forms a natural vacuum and once it's completely cool turn it back up the right way up and the jam and gravity work their magic. Hey presto!
For my fab fig jam recipe visit:

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Death by Chocolate Cookies

These beauties are easy to make and very tasty to eat.
A firm favorite in my household they tend to not last very long.
There a mixture between a biscuit and a a Jaffa Cake.
That same dilemma, is it a biscuit or is
it a cake? Their soft cake like richness and quantity of chocolate in this recipe lead me
to give them their very appropriate name.They kind of
reminded me of the Cake version but without the frosting and with a little bit more bite.
If you love dark chocolate then this is the one for you otherwise if you find it all
too rich you can use milk chocolate or white chocolate instead. Also don't be shy...I use this recipe as a base and add other ingredients like nuts, crystalized ginger, and what ever takes my fancy. They keep pretty well but I doubt they'll last more then a couple of days...they are deadly moor-ish!
This recipe makes about 24 large biscuits

You will need:
150g unsalted butter
75g dark chocolate broken in small bits
1tbsp of strong black coffee
75g caster sugar
75g brown muscavado sugar
2 eggs beaten lightly
30g good quality cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
225g plain flour
150g dark chocolate pieces (high quality and high cocoa content)

For dipping:
75g dark chocolate melted

In a sauce pan melt the butter and 75g of dark chocolate pieces over a low heat. Stir until smooth and remove from heat. Stir in coffee ,stir until incorporated and set aside for 5 minutes until cool. Stir in the eggs and the sugars.
In a large bowl sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Mix in the melted chocolate mixture. Stir in the 150g dark chocolate pieces. Using a spoon drop dough into rough rounded shapes onto lightly greased cookie sheets. They will spread so don't pack them in too tight. Bake in a preheated oven 350F/170C for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove tray from oven and leave to cool for 1 minute before removing from sheet. They look pretty soft but will harden slightly when cold. Place on a wire rack to cool completely.

Place the final 75g of dark chocolate in a "Bain Marie" (bowl over pan of boiling water)
and stir chocolate until it melts.
With some cooking tongs hold biscuits by the sides, dip the bottom of the biscuits so to coat only the under side and leave to set with the dipped chocolate side upwards.
Once cool place in a biscuit tin or container...
Ok, Who am I kidding? Have a cup of tea and enjoy they're very hard to resist!

Friday, 21 September 2007

Saturday the 22nd of September

Tomorrow Handsome Betty baked Goods will be in store, at Beautiful Interiors (Walthamstow,London) with her fab outdoor cafe for the last of the Summer Garden Art and Craft Markets.
I've been baking lovely,fresh cakes this morning and all that's left to do is ice the fairy cakes!
There is also free tea and coffee served in vintage crockery to have with your cake so don't be your self!
On the menu this Saturday:
Lemon Bundt cake
Wheat free carrot cake with lovely cream cheese icing
Chocolate,pear and almond French Tart
Iced Fairy cakes
and Death by Chocolate Cookies.

All baked by my fair hand the evening before,100% vegetarian, natural,no nasties, no e numbers...just tons of love!
Come down and sit under the fig tree and enjoy the last of the good weather!
I'll be posting my EASY Death by Chocolate Cookie recipe next week. Why not try it for yourself?
There's nothing more satisfying and relaxing then's easy,fun and best of all
you can eat your creations!

Wednesday, 19 September 2007


From a very early age my grandmother introduced me to baking passing on to me a deep rooted family tradition. All the women in our family were cake makers! My fondest memories are of helping her place pineapple rings in the bottom of the tin for upside down cakes that seemed to permanently reside in my gran's sideboard. She would look after us every summer and it seemed that everyday without fail there would always be a cake to go with our 5 o'clock tea. Moist, yellow, fluffy, buttery cake flesh...I can still smell it and it bring me feelings of joy, of being safe and loved.
My gran was an Anglophile and absolutely loved the whole "cream tea" thing. She would always say: "Do you know who introduced tea to the English? It was our queen Catherine of Braganca!". Being a proud Portuguese lady she was proud of many other national traditions but this was actually the one she was most proud of.
By the age of six I started baking my own in my favorite toy ever...a mini plastic plug in , cooks with the heat of a light bulb toy oven. Ahhhh..."easy bake oven"! It actually worked. The cake tins were pretty small and there was a knack of getting them out without burning yourself...dangerous toys, hey those were the 1970's but that put me well on my way to experimenting with recipes and making up my own!
Unfortunately my grandmother is no longer able to bake as Altzheimers has taken hold and all her recipes have been misplaced,forgotten or thrown away by relatives. A great inheritance and treasure lost forever! I just wish I had paid more attention or written it all down.
As an homage to my beautiful grandmother I decide to set up a blog with recipes of some of my favorites. Feel free to try them and send me some of your own if you like. It's all about sharing! My cake recipes are never difficult or very labor intensive ...I like to keep it simple yet delicious.
E mail me and I'll bake/cook them, try them out and post them for everyone to see. I'll be giving away a few of my closely guarded secrets's great to share what you've learned from others and pass on your own creations so they live on in someone else's kitchen!
I bake and sell my cakes in a shop "Beautiful Interiors" in their Craft Market on weekends once a month. They're 100% vegetarian, using free range eggs and freshly baked with only the best no nasty additives or e numbers! Also I do on occasion bake special cakes like "Wheat Free" and "Sugar Free" treats.
I've just made a lovely fig jam with figs from the shop garden. Isn't it crazy how they grow in London? Check the shop blog page for the recipe for this delightful jam:
Kind regards.