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Recipe: Creamy Caramels

Creamy Caramels

  • Difficulty: medium
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A smooth and creamy caramel

Depending on the temperature you cook this to, the same recipe can be used for soft gooey caramel or a harder brittle caramel. Makes 2lbs of caramel.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups light cream
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup corn syrup (light or dark)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • optional: 1/2 cup chopped nuts

Directions

  • Lightly butter an 8″ square pan.
  • Heat cream to luke-warm in a large heavy sauce pan. Once warm, pour out half the cream into another container and set aside.
  • Add sugar, corn syrup and salt to the cream in the saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture boils.
  • Slowly add the cream that you set aside into the sauce pan, so the mixture doesn’t stop boiling.
  • Cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add butter and lower temperature but keep it boiling gently and continue to stir.
  • When temperature teaches 248F, remove from heat. Mix in vanilla (and optionally nuts) and let stand for 10 minutes.
  • Pour into pan and let cool to room temperature; remove from pan onto a cutting board and cut into pieces with a sharp knife. Wrap each piece in wax paper.
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Recipe: Basic Chocolate Fudge

Basic Chocolate Fudge

  • Difficulty: medium
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A great recipe to play with.

Once you’ve mastered the technique of basic fudge, you can add all sorts of flavourings, nuts and more. Makes about 36 pieces.

Ingredients

  • 4 oz unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Directions

  • Butter an 8″ square pan
  • Put chocolate and milk in a heavy saucepan; heat and stir over low heat until mixture is smooth and well-blended.
  • Add sugar and salt and stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved and mixture starts to boil.
  • Continut boiling over medium heat, without stirring to the “soft ball” stage (234F on a candy thermometer).
  • Remove from heat and add butter and vanilla.
  • Let cool to lukewarm (110F) then beat the mixture until it loses its gloss and holds it’s shape. Pour into pan and cool until set, then cut into squares.
  • Enjoy!
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Recipe: Uncooked Fondant

Uncooked Fondant

  • Difficulty: easy
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A very pretty and adaptable candy

This easy uncooked fondant can be used to make mints, pretty decorations, fillings for dipping chocolates and more. This recipe makes 1.5lbs of candy.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla (or a couple drops of your favourite flavour extract and/or food colouring)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1lb (454g) icing sugar

Directions

  • Combine butter, corn syrup, salt  and any flavourings and colourings in a bowl and mix.
  • Add in icing sugar and mix, first with a spoon and then kneading by hand until it it’s well-blended and smooth.
  • Shape as desired and store in an air-tight container.
  • Enjoy!
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Recipe: Barley Sugar

Barley Sugar

  • Difficulty: easy
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A classic simple hard candy.

Traditionally, this candy was made by boiling barley in water and straining, then adding the sugar. Any real (not artificial) flavour extract can be used instead.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • a couple drops of your favourite flavour extract, or 1 tbsp of lemon juice.

Directions

  • Heat all ingredients until they reaches 310F on a candy thermometer and then remove from heat.
  • Pour into a buttered baking sheet and cool until it can be handled, then cut into shapes or roll pieces into sticks. (Or, if you have access to metal candy molds, you can use then instead.)
  • Store in an air-tight container.
  • Enjoy!
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Recipe: Sponge Toffee

Sponge Toffee

  • Difficulty: easy
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One of the easiest and most impressive candies to make.

Our own version of a very traditional recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup dark corn syrup
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp baking soda

Directions

  • Heat sugar, corn syrup and vinegar until it reaches 300F on a candy thermometer and then remove from heat.
  • Sprinkle in baking soda, stirring as you add (to avoid clumps).
  • Pour onto a buttered baking tray and let cool.
  • When completely cold, break into pieces and store in an airtight container.
  • OPTION: Drizzle melted chocolate over your pieces of sponge toffee and let cool.
  • Enjoy!
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Recipe: Molasses Taffy

Molasses Taffy

  • Difficulty: Medium
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A great introduction to making taffy.

Our own version of a very traditional recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp baking soda

Directions

  • Before you start, gather some supplies you’ll need later: butter a baking sheet, cut out wax paper squares and butter the blades of a pair of kitchen scissors.
  • Heat all ingredients except butter and baking soda until it reaches 255F on a candy thermometer and then remove from heat.
  • Stir in butter and sprinkle in baking soda, stirring as you add (to avoid clumps).
  • Pour onto a buttered baking tray and let cool until you can pick it up. (It’s easier to work the hotter it is, so don’t wait too long.)
  • Cover your hands in butter and then pull taffy by twisting and stretching it, and then folding in half. Repeat this motion until the taffy becomes lighter in colour. (If hot enough, the taffy will want to sag and stretch on it’s own.)
  • When ready, form into a rope 3/4″ wide and cut into chunks with kitchen scissors. (Make sure you butter the blades beforehand!)
  • Wrap in squares of wax paper and twist both ends to close. Store in an airtight container.
  • Enjoy!
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Recipe: Victorian Christmas Cake

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Victorian Christmas Cake

  • Difficulty: Medium
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Full of fruits and spices, and perhaps lots of brandy, a scratch-made Victorian Christmas cake was a great way to show off wealth.

Original recipe source: Elaine Lemm, although we’ve made a few adjustments.

Ingredients

  • 525g (3 ½ cups) currants
  • 225g (1 ½ cups) golden raisins/sultanas
  • 225g (1 ½ cups) raisins
  • 110g (3/4 cup) mixed candied peel, finely chopped (make your own, using this easy recipe)
  • 165 (1 cup)  glace cherries, halved
  • 300g (3 1/3 cups) plain flour
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/4 level teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 level teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ level teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ level teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 300g (10 oz) butter, slightly softened
  • 300g (1 1/3 cups) soft brown sugar
  • Zest of ½ lemon
  • 6 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoon brandy, plus extra for feeding

Directions

  • Heat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas 2 The temperature is low as the cake needs a long slow bake. It is packed with sugars, fruits and brandy and if the temperature is any higher the outside of the cake will burn and the inside be undercooked.
  • Line a 23cm (9″) cake tin with 2 thicknesses of parchment. Tie a double band of brown or newspaper paper around the outside. This acts as an insulator and to prevent the cake from burning.
  • In a large roomy baking bowl mix the currants, sultanas, raisins, peel and cherries with the flour, salt and spices.
  • In another large bowl cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in the lemon zest. Add the beaten egg to the butter mixture a little bit at a time, beating well after each addition – do not try to rush this process as the mixture could curdle. If it does curdle simply add a tbsp of flour and mix again, this should bring the mixture back together. If it doesn’t come back together, don’t fret, the cake will still be delicious.
  • Carefully fold in half the flour and fruit into the egg and butter mixture, once incorporated repeat with the remaining flour and fruit. Finally add the brandy.
  • Spoon the cake mixture into the prepared cake tin making sure there are no air pockets. Once filled smooth the surface with the back of s spoon and make a slight dip in the center (this will rise back up again during cooking and create a smooth surface for icing the cake).
  • Finally, using a piece of paper towel clean up any smears of cake batter on the parchment wrapping, if left on they will burn, and though it won’t affect the cake, it doesn’t smell too good.
  • Stand the tin on a double layer of newspaper in the lower part of the oven and bake for 4½ hours. If the cake is browning too rapidly, cover the tin with a double layer of parchment paper after 2½ hours. During the cooking time avoid opening the oven door too often as this may cause the cake to collapse.
  • imageAfter 4½ hours check the cake is cooked. The cake should be nicely risen and a deep brown all over. Insert a skewer or fine knife into the centre of the cake. If there is sticky dough on the skewer when you pull it out it needs cooking longer, if it is clean, the cake’s done and remove from the oven.
  • Leave the cake to cool in the tin on a wire rack for an hour, then remove from the tin and leave to cool completely. Once cooled prick the surface of the cake with a fine metal skewer and slowly pour over 2 – 3 tbsp brandy. This feeding should be repeated every two weeks up until Christmas. The cake should be stored wrapped in parchment paper in an airtight tin.
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Recipe: Candied Peel

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After a lifetime of the dull-flavoured chopped “peel” you find in the grocery store at Christmas time, this easy recipe is a true revelation. You can use any kind of citrus, and each variety will give you a different taste and texture experience.

We love eating candied peel on it’s own, or on a place with nuts and cheese, but it also makes an out-of-the-world incredibly in your homemade fruitcake, mincemeat or shaved thinly on your whipped shortbread.

Candied Peel

  • Difficulty: easy
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Enjoy these on a cheese and nut plate or as an ingredient in your Christmas baking.

Ingredients

  • Your favourite citrus fruit (oranges, lemons, grapefruit, limes, etc)
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup water

Directions

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  1. Rinse the fruit.
  2. Remove the skin (peel and pith, the white part), and cut the skin into strips about ¼” wide. Set the fruit itself aside and plan something fantastic to make with it.
  3. Place the strips of peel in a large saucepan and cover with cold water.
  4. Set on the stove on high heat and bring to a boil. Drain the water from the peels and repeat this process twice more.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and ¾ cup water.
  6. Pour the sugar water into a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Let the mixture cook for 8-9 minutes at a constant simmer.
  7. imageAdd the peel and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour, adjusting heat as necessary to maintain the simmer. Avoid stirring, as this will cause crystallation. If necessary, swirl the pan to make sure that all of the peels get covered with the syrup. At the end of this period, the peels should be translucent.
  8. Drain any remaining syrup from the peels and set aside for other use (perhaps tea?!) There will probably be only a tablespoon or two of syrup left. Spread the peels out on a drying rack and leave to dry for 4-5 hours. Store in an airtight container with some granulated sugar at the bottom.
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Recipe: Victorian Mincemeat Tarts

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The sweet and spiced fruity filling we now think of as mincemeat is a pale imitation of the minced meat (and spice, preserved with brandy) of long ago that was served as a main course, instead of a dessert. As spices and fruit became more commonly available historically, the recipe shifted from savory to sweet. This recipe bridges the gap, providing a filling that’s familiar (if richer and tastier) while still including not only the beef fat (suet) but also some meat itself.

This is a great recipe to make ahead; the alcohol and sugar in the recipe provide a strong preservative effect and properly canned, this filling can be stored for a year or longer and getting tastier as it does so.

Check out this article for some great stories form the history of mincemeat. We’re particularly curious about the whale mincemeat in 1861…

Mincemeat Tarts

  • Difficulty: medium
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No store-bought version can compare to the deep, rich flavours of scratch-made mincemeat, especially with a traditional recipe like this.

Like many old recipes, this one is vague on the amount of spice to add. Trust your instincts and keep notes for next time. Also, the ingredients that do have definite quantities are in weights, not volumes, so be sure to pull out your kitchen scale.

Adapted from BBC Food.

Ingredients

For the mincemeat

  • 450g/1lb sirloin steak, finely chopped
  • 450g/1lb suet, grated (if you buy a bag of “chopped suet”, you’ll likely find flour listed as an ingredient; try instead of find pure suet at a local butcher. If included, the flour makes the texture of the filling much more pasty.)
  • 4 large apples, peeled, core removed, flesh chopped
  • 1.35kg/3lb currants
  • ½ small loaf day-old bread, grated
  • Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
  • Ground cinnamon, to taste
  • Ground cloves, to taste
  • Ground ginger, to taste
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 450g/1lb sugar
  • 2 lemons, zest and juice
  • 3 large oranges, juice only
  • Candied peel, diced (optional,o but its easy to make your own and adds a ton of flavour)
  • 250ml/9fl oz brandy
  • 250ml/9fl oz ruby port

For the shortcrust pastry

  • 225g/8oz flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 115g/4oz butter or margarine, cut into cubes
  • Water, as necessary
  • 4-6 tsp milk
  • 1 tsp sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F.
  2. For the mincemeat, mix all of the mincemeat ingredients together in a large bowl, using your hands, until well combined.
  3. Transfer the mixture to a saucepan and heat over a very low heat for 3-5 hours, stirring occasionally, or until it has reduced to a thick, dark paste.
  4. Meanwhile, for the shortcrust pastry, sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the butter or margarine cubes, then rub them into the flour using your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  5. Gradually add the water, a tablespoon at a time, stirring well until the mixture comes together as a stiff dough.
  6. Turn out the pastry onto a lightly floured work surface and knead well until smooth and elastic.
  7. Roll out the pastry onto a lightly floured work surface to a 1cm/0.5in thickness. Using an upturned bowl, cut 8-10 discs from the pastry. Reserve the remaining pastry.
  8. Place a coffee mug into the centre of each pastry disc and draw the sides of the pastry up against the mug, overlapping the edges, to form free-standing pastry cases.
  9. Divide the mincemeat evenly among the pastry cases.
  10. Roll out the remaining pastry onto a lightly floured work surface. Using the same mug as before, cut 8-10 discs from the pastry to create ‘lids’.
  11. Place one pastry ‘lid’ on top of each pie, tucking the edges into the pastry case. Pinch the pastry together well to prevent the filling from leaking out during baking. Using a sharp knife, cut a cross into the top of each pastry lid to allow the steam to escape.
  12. In a bowl, mix together the milk and sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Brush the top of each pie with this mixture.
  13. Place the mince pies onto a baking tray. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the pastry is crisp and golden-brown.
  14. Remove the mince pies from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
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Recipe: Tomato Tart

Nothing beats a tasty tomato tart, hot from the oven! Photo © Grist Mill, 2016.

As we mentioned in our previous recipe for tomato jam, we’ve been part of a project to grow out tomatoes for the Canadian Seed Library, a project of Seeds of Diversity, an exceptional non-profit dedicated to collecting, preserving and sharing heritage seeds. Through the first week of October, we’ll be exploring recipes that suit each of these varieties.

Our second tomato from the Library is a large cherry tomato called Camp Joy. (You can see them in the image above.) It’s about 4cm, perfectly round, dense, low in seeds, and very flavourful. Camp Joy is named after Camp Joy Gardens near Santa Cruz, California that was one of the early leaders in bio-intensive gardening. It was developed by noted English gardener Alan Chadwick, who was at Camp Joy teaching classes in organic gardening.

An oven-baked tart is a great way to showcase this gem of a tomato and we love any excuse to play with puff pastry.

Tomato Tart

  • Difficulty: easy
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Either as a bite-sized morsel or a larger tart to share, this is a great way to showcase perfectly ripe tomatoes.

Ingredients

  • a handful of large, ripe cherry tomatoes, washed and cut in half (Camp Joy tomatoes, being the size of a two-bite brownie, are perfect for this)
  • one package puff pastry
  • 3 tbsp soft goat cheese
  • a few tbsp fresh herbs (we love basil, but you can try thyme, rosemary, chives or parsley)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Although we have a couple of technique suggestions, this simple recipe is just an excuse to play and experiment. Mix tomato varieties, try different cheeses and consider including other ingredients like roasted garlic or caramelized onions.

Directions

  1. Defrost the puff pastry, for an hour on the counter or overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. Preheat oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Cut the tomatoes in half, then place cut-side down on paper towel (to absorb some of the moisture) for up to a half hour.
  4. Unfold and roll out the pastry into an 11 inch square on a lightly floured surface. Trim off the corners with a sharp knife to shape the pastry sheet into a circle; score a circle (lightly track it with a knife) around 1 inch in from the edge.
  5. Crumble the goat cheese into the centre of the crust, then put the tomatoes on, cut side up. Brush tomatoes with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with fresh herbs.
  6. Bake in middle rack of oven for 15 minutes or until pastry is golden brown.
  7. Cut into quarters, serve cool or hot and enjoy!

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