Category Archives: meringue

Mothers’ Day Tea Party

I was really excited about baking for this Mothers’ Day tea party. It was my first Top Secret Tea Party since mid-December as the February event was cancelled because of snow – who’d have thought the weather could change so dramatically by mid-March – birds singing in the blue sky and sunshine warming our hearts – absolutely lovely. Secondly because seven daughters were bringing their three Mums and I wanted to create something special – no one wants to ruin Mothers’ Day, do they! Thirdly because this was another chance to hold a tea party at Tilly’s Vintage Workshop and Craft Studio in Chesterton, Peterborough. Tilly’s barn just gets cosier and cosier. There are currently lots of vintage wedding gowns hanging up – amazingly Tilly is going to cut them up to add to wet-felted scarves she’s creating with designer Sue Hughes (it’s thanks to Sue that I wear colourful felt flower corsages when I get to ‘be’ Lemony Drizzle) – think ‘cobweb’ fine merino wool in delicate colours, with lovely vintage wedding dress detail added in – beautiful – and although it sounds scandalous to cut something up that’s old and wonderful – it will be ‘reborn’ into something equally beautiful rather than simply hanging up, never to be worn again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Usually I take three days, minimum, to prepare for a tea party but due to the pressures of work I only had two days so it felt like a mammoth bakeathon to get everything baked and ready for the tea table.

I served elderflower cordial, chilled, in champagne flutes on arrival and bought in more almond loose tea from Imperial Teas of Lincoln. I LOVE this tea, which I first served at my chocolate themed tea party last November. It’s so delicate and refreshing, with or without milk. I also served an assam blend and Blue Lady, which is similar to Earl Grey.

I decided to try a new sandwich filling for this event – coronation chicken. I thought it was something grand and sophisticated, suitable for the gathering of mums and daughters. I used an old recipe, which required poaching chicken in water (I used free range chicken breasts) with bay leaves, peppercorns, thyme, carrot and onion. I left the chicken to cool in the cooking liquor before pulling the meat into small chunks. I then cooked finely chopped onion, well seasoned, in some olive oil and butter with a little garam masala and turmeric. Once the onion was cooked and cooled, I mixed it with mayonnaise, mango chutney, lemon juice and zest and a little fromage frais to loosen the mixture (I intended to add some cream but it didn’t need it).

I also served cheese scones topped with sundried tomato and lemon mousse. I’d been up to my elbows in scone dough that morning (well, not really but it felt like it) as I made cheese scones, plain scones, cherry scones plus a batch of gluten free scones. There was a moment of panic when the guests got their hands on the plate of gluten free sandwiches and scones, specially prepared for one guest who can’t eat wheat but luckily I managed to shout STOP before they’d eaten the lot!

The plain and cherry scones rose so much during baking that they actually toppled over in the oven. I’m not sure there’s any such thing as a scone that’s ‘too high’ though?! They were all eaten, topped with strawberry or cherry jam and lashings of clotted cream.

As for the cake selection….one of the guests had asked me to serve her favourite, carrot cake. No problem really, except I decided to use a different recipe than normal. I also decided to make it gluten free so that all the guests could eat it. It was a three layer carrot cake, completely covered in cream cheese and butter frosting. I was a tad nervous but as you can see from the picture, I needn’t have worried – it really was moist and delicious with a hint of orange (added to the batter and with zest grated onto the top; I also decorated the frosting with toasted coconut).

I made a chocolate and hazelnut torte which, as it’s a flourless recipe, is a relatively ‘flat’ cake, covered in a thin and glossy chocolate glaze which I then scattered liberally with chocolate flakes and toasted hazelnuts. I’ll certainly make this again as it was very moreish. One guest commented it would be nice served warm as a dessert with a dollop of cream and I couldn’t agree more. I certainly enjoyed eating the crumbs when I was clearing up, as that was all that was left!

Also gracing the table (well, actually, a side table as we couldn’t fit everything on in one go) were pretty fondant fancies, Florentines and meringue with coffee mascarpone cream and pools of caramel. The only sweet item that the wheat-free guest couldn’t have was the fondant fancies. I think it’s important not to ‘single out’ guests with particular dietary requirements – it’s really quite easy to provide ‘naturally’ gluten free baked goods, like flourless tortes, meringues etc. and substituting GF flour for wheat flour can produce equally good results in your usual cake recipes (just make sure there is adequate liquid in the batter otherwise the texture will be very dry). Of course if the guest can’t take any risk that their tea has come into contact with food containing gluten then it wouldn’t be advisable that they attend; and as for catering for ‘fussy’ eaters with dietary demands…No, I don’t think so, but I’m happy to try to include guests like this lady who simply can’t eat wheat.

I hadn’t made Florentines before but they were generally declared to be ‘yummy’. Next time I would flatten the mixture with a spoon to ensure they come out wafer thin. I always like making up concoctions to partner a fluffy meringue and this version worked well. I flavoured the meringue mix with coffee extract (you could just use a few drops of espresso or even instant coffee granules diluted in hot water as that works equally well) and then added the same to some mascarpone cream along with some icing sugar. I made a lovely creamy golden caramel sauce and put a small pool into the top of each meringue before topping with the coffee mascarpone. To finish off I mixed more coffee with muscovado sugar and sprinkled the mix on the meringues, along with a shard of toffee – inadvertently created when the caramel started to go lumpy – waste not, want not!!

Conversation at the tea table centred on keeping chickens, baking disasters, Master Chef, children with special needs and reminiscing about school (two guests realised they knew each other as teenagers!). Once everyone could eat no more I insisted they pack away the leftovers into the tins and tubs they’d helpfully brought with them (a suggestion of mine which worked in everyone’s favour!) and they left, emerging from Tilly’s into the beautiful Spring sunshine.

I hope everyone enjoyed it – I packed up and headed off to see my own mother and grandmother along with the rest of the family – and ate more cake, drank more tea and, finally, put my feet up whilst Mr Tea very kindly washed up.

Lovely. Now it’s time to start planning for April’s tea party. Details are on the ‘events’ page of the blog.

Lemony x x

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Peterborough chocolate indulgence tea party

After weeks of anticipation it was finally here – my chocolate indulgence tea party to raise funds for Age UK. I love, love, love chocolate and couldn’t wait to create some new recipes to wow my guests and their taste buds. Several weeks ago I tried different scones/clotted cream/jam combinations to incorporate chocolate and I really didn’t like scones with chocolate baked into the dough. Lesson number one. Lesson number two – I tried an awful (awful being the right word) lot of savoury+chocolate combos and boy let me tell you some things just taste horrible when combined with chocolate (chocolate+olives anyone?!).

Here’s what I finally decided to serve today:

Hot chocolate on arrival in the garden – yes it was a bit chilly and yes it was a bit rich but I couldn’t resist. I also laid out some Willies Cacao samples to taste but I think my guests were a bit shy at that point so they didn’t really dig in.

Once seated in our shabby chic little summerhouse, complete with fairy lights and candles (including a gorgeous little blueberry pie candle from the Emporium Oundle which looked good enough to eat!) we had a good old natter whilst eating:

Cream cheese and chive finger sandwiches

Cheese scones with sweet chilli pepper and dark chocolate swirls

Walnut scones with blue cheese cream

Salted pretzels dipped in milk and dark chocolate

(so I didn’t add too much chocolate to the savouries in the end)

Then… plain scones, served with morello cherry jam or Nutella and a choice of white chocolate or Talisker single malt clotted cream. Something for everyone…including a new male guest who claimed not to like chocolate but who did not let the side down by the end of the afternoon!

Cake/sweet selection included a new favourite, chocolate Guinness cake topped with a cream cheese frosting and chocolate curls. I find this quite heavy personally; and in case you’re wondering, no it doesn’t taste of Guinness – the stout just makes the cake dark and rich.

I made chocolate brownies as my friends always rave about these – I’ve used Nigel Slater’s recipe since it was first published in the Observer in 2004 – it ALWAYS hits the (chocolate) spot! So fudgy and dense – no tinkering required – look for the recipe online and just follow it to impress your friends!

I experimented with a couple of new recipes which I think turned out rather well. These were inspired by my absolute favourite recipe book (I sit and read this in the evening, I just love it) – Green and Black’s Ultimate, published last year, and the Ghiradelli Chocolate Cookbook which I picked up a few years ago when I visited ‘America’s premier chocolatier’ in San Francisco. So, one recipe was rather British in origin and the other quite American.

I made meringue nests, then poked a little hole into them into which I poured salted, velvety caramel (I’m salivating now….it was very gorgeous indeed!), then I put a small blob of whipped cream on top so I could anchor a rich chocolate truffle – I infused the cream with rosemary from the garden – then I drizzled the little beauties with melted milk chocolate and a little more caramel. Heaven.

Experiment no. 2: I crushed oreo cookies, mixed with butter and lined a mini tartlet case with the buttery crumb. Into the freezer they went. Then I whisked some cream with icing sugar and combined it with some smooth peanut butter and some cream cheese. Oh and some chopped dark chocolate. I froze these babies until an hour before the tea party. I could have happily eaten the whole tray of these Peterborough mud pies!

I spent some time experimenting with loose teas to serve today and everyone tried the black tea with almond and the Maya Gold though we all decided the former was a winner (smells like marzipan!) and the latter was quite pleasant, something perhaps to drink at bedtime? The almond tea came from Imperial Teas in Lincoln – worth a visit to the tasting room on the Steep Hill. Maya Gold came from Nothing But Tea in Bedford.

Whilst everyone packed their take home tins (which I’d asked them to bring along!) with leftover cake I handed out little bags of chocolate which I’d tied with ribbon. I tempered dark chocolate with chilli and sea salt and white chocolate with pistachio and cranberry – lovely little gifts which they can either give away or consume greedily!

I’m constantly surprised how cosy our little summerhouse is – the windows steamed up and no one needed to borrow a scarf, though I’d supplied several, just in case… What a pleasant way to spend an afternoon with new and old tea party guests. The conversation didn’t wane for even a minute and covered local schools, special needs, child minding, secret tea rooms, commuting, research, conferences, where we were brought up and jobs. A fabulous tea party and yet again I’m a very happy secret tea party hostess!

Lemony Drizzle x x

An afternoon of vintage loveliness!

Finally, I have time to post details of the delightful topsecretteaparty
at Tilly’s Vintage Craft Workshop a couple of Sunday’s ago. I was really
excited about this tea party, because every time I visit Tilly’s barn, at Hall
Farm, Chesterton on the outskirts of Peterborough I come away with bags of
ideas about things to make and sew – of course I can rarely find the time to
make most of it a reality, but the inspiration is there and surely it’s only a
matter of time before I actually make some of these projects?! It was at Tilly’s
that I learnt to applique (I made a lovely little lavender bag and was very
pleased with my efforts), the wonders of bondaweb (great for a lazy sew-and-so
like Lemony he he..), and the possibilities for upcycling tired clothing / how
to jazz up jackets etc., plus all that is fabulous about wet felting – I got to
make a gorgeous flower corsage out of beautiful merino wool. Have a look at Tilly’s
Facebook page/events and see what takes your crafting fancy https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Tillys-Vintage-Workshop-Craft-Studio/216476658376432.

Anyway….Tilly and Lemony decided afternoon tea at the Barn
would be a fab way of introducing people to vintage crafting – a civilised tea
party around Tilly’s wonderfully large table whilst drooling over my cakes and
scones and Tilly’s shelves full of fabric, linens, ribbons and books/magazines…
what could be nicer? The fact that Tilly currently has several vintage wedding
dresses hanging up was a bonus – so pretty!

Six lovely ladies came to tea – a wonderful
mix of chatty people with such different backgrounds and interests –
dressmaking, photography, textiles, academic research, a café owner,
radiography…!! They all enjoyed browsing Tilly’s shop and workshop whilst
sipping their elderflower cordial from champagne flutes.

Then they got down to
the serious business of afternoon tea…which included egg mayonnaise finger
sandwiches on wonderful Hambleton’s Bakery 7 seed granary bread; cheese scones
with red pepper cream (Appearance No.2 for these little savoury delights, as
they were such a hit at the fashion+tea party the weekend before); plain scones
with Hall Farm strawberry jam – made by the farmer’s wife a few feet from Tilly’s
barn! Plum, pear and apple jam was also on offer from Saints and Sinners in
Spalding (Lovely) and, of course, lashings of clotted cream.

I made a morello cherry and vanilla
buttercream layer cake – which was incredibly messy to cut and serve but tasted
great nonetheless!! Meringues sandwiched with my homemade lemon curd (always
have to have something Lemony on the menu!) 

and some iced gingerbread biscuits –
which I have to confess were a last minute substitution as I seem to have lost
the knack of making shortbread – two attempts were nibbled on by myself and Mr
Tea and rejected – what’s happening?! I have won awards for my shortbread in
the past (at Nassington and Yarwell village show, in case you were wondering!)
and now I just can’t get my act together – I’ll keep trying though as I love
shortbread and I hate to be beaten by something so simple!

Tilly told the guests all about her
Barn and workshops and one of the guests, Sue, gave everyone lots of ideas for
crafty keepsakes including using baby clothes. I then forced everyone to take
home bags containing leftover cake – I like to think they can share my baking
goodies with their loved ones long after their own tummies are full up! And as
luck would have it, one of the guests, Amy, is setting up a photography
business so asked to take some piccies which I’ve made use of here… isn’t it
nice meeting new people and helping each other out? You can look at Amy’s
photographs on her blog http://amylewinphotography.wordpress.com/

Tilly and I have lots of ideas for
future joint ventures and I’m hoping to become a more regular visitor to the
Barn, at Tilly’s regular sew-in café (Wednesdays 7-9pm and Saturdays 2-4pm) –
after all, I’m determined to make at least some of my Christmas gifts this year
so I need to get sewing! And if you come along to the topsecretteaparty on 2nd
December you might just get to visit Tilly’s for some Christmas inspiration of
your own…

Lemony x x

 

 

My lemon curd experiment

I know I mentioned some weeks ago that I’d made some lemon curd…so finally I have a few minutes before bedtime to post the details….I’m still thinking about it, as it was particularly yummy and, as I’d been challenged to come up with a dessert that would go into a pudding basin mould, I thought I’d combine my lemon curd attempt with making a suitable pud for a BBQ I was invited to over the August Bank Holiday weekend (oh what a distant memory now – though it’s actually warmer now than it was that day!!).

It’s pretty straight forward to make lemon curd – even Delia says so 🙂

I used a tip I read, to stir with a whisk rather than a wooden spoon, so whether that helped the creaminess factor I don’t know. It took a lot longer to thicken than my recipe stated, but it got there eventually, though the pictures show it wasn’t looking very promising at first!! To make 2 decent jars of the lemony good stuff, simply put the zest and juice of 4 lemons (unwaxed are nicest), 200g caster sugar, 100g butter into a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Once the butter has melted add 4 lightly beaten eggs and stir occasionally with a whisk until the mixture thickens – this took around 20 minutes. Cool then pour into clean jars. Keep in the fridge or eat immediately if you’re greedy! Would keep for a week or two though.

So after admiring the sunshiny loveliness of the curd I used it to make a frozen lemon, cream and meringue bombe. You need some meringue pieces – to save time on this occasion I used shop bought meringue nests, which I broke into pieces – I wasn’t at all impressed with the quality of the meringue so it really is worth making your own – it’s not hard so have a go! I whisked a vast quantity of icing sugar with whipping cream and the juice of about half a lemon – this thickened up into a cloud of sweetened lactic gorgeousness (had a few sneaky spoonfuls to try it out at this point….). So…. simply put a layer of the cream mixture, followed by dollops of lemon curd and meringue pieces and keep repeating until you fill your cling film lined pudding basin (or loaf tin, if you want to make a terrine). Now.. on top of this I laid a thin layer of madeira sponge which I’d soaked in a big glug of sherry – so the sponge fitted the diameter of the pudding basin… hope you’re following this! Pop it into the freezer overnight.

To turn out, I sat the bowl in a washing up bowl of hot water for a couple of minutes then turned onto a serving plate. Garnished the top with some lovely raspberries…. a good sprinkling of icing sugar would have been nice too. It was very yummy indeed…. the sherry had infused the whole bombe…it wasn’t overly sweet…just lemony and lovely for sharing with family and friends. Give it a try! If you want more exact quantities just leave me a comment and I’ll dig out the details!