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Saturday, 24 November 2012

Fluffy Ideas

One of the things I really love about being part of the Milton Keynes foodie scene is meeting other foodie people and being introduced to new foods. Sometimes these foods are familiar in idea but are made from superior ingredients and with gentle methods and result in an end product far removed from a commercially made version. Sometimes, the foods are things I have never come across before.

Recently, my friend Laura has started a business selling handmade gourmet marshmallows. These are one of those things that when made commercially can actually be pretty grim. Overly soft, overly sweet and with an odd after-taste that raises suspicions about what the ingredients are. Stark contrast to the lovely things that Laura makes - plump, delicately flavoured and offering just the right amount of resistance as you bite into them. And if that wasn't enough, she makes them in several delicious flavours too - vanilla, lemon, raspberry and chocolate chip. Yes, chocolate chip marshmallows - yum! There will probably be other flavours with time as she works on product development, which is just fine by me as I'm always available as a taste-tester!

In conversation Laura mentioned that she also makes marshmallow fluff. This isn't something I had come across before but it sounded intriguing and I was more than willing to experiment with it. Unlike conventional marshmallows which come in little pillows you can hold in your fingers, marshmallow fluff comes in a jar and is soft, creamy and spreadable. Laura tells me that some people do just spread it on toast or in a sandwich, sometimes with jam and/or peanut butter, and it can, of course, be licked straight off the spoon.

When Laura gave me a jar of marshmallow fluff this week I instantly could see its potential as an ingredient in home baking. That afternoon whilst munching on a mini jam tart I realised that it could be jazzed up a bit with a blob of fluff on top so gave it a go and got a 10 out of 10 mark from my youngest daughter! This weekend I made a batch of basic biscuits and had a go at making sandwich biscuits. A biscuit base, a thin smear of raspberry or strawberry jam, a splodge of fluff and a biscuit on top - simple.

Then, another variation, a biscuit base, a smear of jam, a dollop of fluff and a sprinkle of dessicated coconut; a bit like a naked Tunnocks Tea Cake.

And for a bit of fun - iced gems - mini biscuits, a blob of fluff and a sugar flower on top.

Well, I don't know how much effort it is for Laura to make a batch of fluff but once made it is a brilliant, easy to use ingredient to add a touch of creaminess or fluffiness to biscuits and cakes. Great fun!

For more info have a look at Laura's facebook page http://www.facebook.com//Milton-Mallows

Basic Biscuit Recipe:

4 oz (110g) butter
2 oz (55g) caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 oz (85g) plain flour
2 oz (55g) wholemeal flour
1 oz (25g) oat bran
¼ teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 180°C, gas 4 and grease a large baking sheet. Cream together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract and stir well. Add the flours, oat bran and baking powder and combine to form a soft dough. Roll out the dough on a floured surface and use pastry cutters to cut out biscuits. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until golden brown then cool on a wire rack.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Remembrance Biscuits

Next Sunday is Remembrance Day and once again paper poppies are being worn to show support for members the armed forces who have died in the line of duty.

Here's an idea you could use to help raise funds for this cause - Remembrance Biscuits. Cook a batch or two and ask for a donation to the British Legion in exchange for a biscuit.

Remembrance Biscuits:

8 oz (225g) self-raising flour
4oz (110g) butter
4 oz (110g) caster sugar
Natural red food colouring
Dark jam such as Blackcurrant or Blackberry

Preheat oven to 190°C/gas 5 and grease a baking tray. Rub the butter and flour together until it resembles breadcrumbs. Mix in the sugar. Mix plenty of food colouring into a small amount of milk then use this to bind together the mixture until to forms a soft dough. Roll the dough into a fat tube then slice it into about 12 pieces. Place the slices onto the baking tray then use the end of a wooden spoon to make an indentation in the centre of each biscuit. Spoon a little jam into the indentation. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes then cool on a wire rack.