Blackberry Jam

‘Sup ladies and gents, missed me?

‘Fraid I’ve been having fun picking blackberries, raspberries, elderberries and sloes… I now have more than I know what to do with and have given myself nettle rash in the process.

But I thought I would make some jam. Now jam is easy, you just simmer fruit with sugar and voila, yummyness in a jar.

 

The jam making process:

 

1. Pick a fruit, any fruit (this is not an exaggeration, you can literally use any fruit)

2. Weigh your fruit. We were taught at school to not even attempt making jam with over 2kg of fruit as it gets hard to pot, but under that you’re fine.

3. Make sure you remove all bruised and battered fruit and it’s best to use fruit that is slightly under ripe.

4. Make sure you check (via t’internet or a jam making book, which if you have then I don’t know why you’re bothering to read this, but then again I have one so I’m not entirely sure why I’m writing this) the level of pectin your fruit contains. I have differing opinions on blackberries, my book says low, my teachers say high. I went with a low level of pectin. Pectin is a carbohydrate found in the skin and cores of all fruit, it helps with the setting of the jam…I think.

5. Use a large crystal sugar i.e. granulated sugar or preserving sugar, as it will dissolve quicker. Also whatever the weight of you fruit the weight of the sugar will be the same.

6. If the fruit is low in pectin use a jam sugar or certo, which is liquid pectin

7. Have a cold plate in the fridge, this is for your flake test later.

8. I swear there was another point which I’ve forgotten, actually if I’m honest then there’s probably a lot of points that I’ve forgotten, but I think most of the important bits are there.

Right, now that the boring stuff is out of the way we can get onto the good bits, but first look at this picture of blackberries:

 

That was nice wasn’t it? Now, moving on swiftly…

 

The Recipe

 

700g blackberries

700g jam sugar or 700g preserving sugar with 60ml certo

2 tbsp lemon juice

50ml water

1. Firstly we’re going to sterilise the jars. Pre-heat the oven to 140C/GM 1/275F, wash the jars that you will be using with their lids in very hot soapy water, dry them and then place them in the oven for 20-30 minutes. You will need about 3 x 440ml (1lb) jam jars for this amount.

2. Place blackberries in a large pan with the water and lemon juice and heat until the blackberries have released their juice and have broken down slightly

3. Meanwhile weigh out the sugar, place it on a baking sheet and place in warming oven (around 110C) for about 10 minutes. This helps the sugar to dissolve quicker when added to the fruit.

4. Once the blackberries have broken down turn the heat right down, remove the sugar from the oven and add it to the blackberries. Stir very gently until the sugar has dissolved and then turn the heat back up again.

5. Boil the jam for about 8 minutes. To check if it is ready remove the plate from the fridge and dollop some jam on and place it back in the fridge for a minute of so. (Whilst this is happening make sure your jam is off the heat so you don’t go beyond the jam point into cheese territory.) Remove the plate from the fridge and if you can push your finger through the jam and create a channel that stays then your jam is ready. If not then keep heating it until it does.

6. Once your jam is done turn the heat off, and gently skim off the fat that has accumulated (or apparently you can add a knob of butter and this will do it for you). Leave the jam to cool down for a little bit otherwise all the fruit will sink to the bottom and then carefully pour it into your sterilised jars, whack on a lid and leave to cool completely until set. Then enjoy on toast, or on a tea cake, or in a bakewell tart, whatever you fancy!

Oh and if you are uber clever then you can just skip most of step 5 if you have sugar thermometer, just boil it until it reaches the word jam and your done. Or you can be a complete idiot like me and have one but not use it…

In other news my cat has decided to shun all kitty beds and sleep on my Hobbs trousers instead, such expensive taste, thanks Marvin (that’s the cat)…this is him:

Strange isn’t he? Trust me he looked weirder when he was younger…

Anywho, happy jam making! I’m making elderberry tomorrow.

 

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The Almighty Cheese Sauce

Is it bad that I can’t spell my own blog name? But then I can’t spell much so that’s not much of a surprise…anywho, it’s all about cheese today.

When stuck for something quick for dinner I always turn to cheese. Be it macaroni cheese, cauliflower cheese, a cheese sandwhich, or occassionally just a block of cheese (I’m not joking I have done this before and I didn’t even have the excuse of being drunk).

Anyway I’m going to tell you how to make a simple cheese sauce. These measurements make a coating consistency sauce, Leiths words, not mine, so if you want it thicker, use more butter and flour…I think.

Melt 20g butter in a pan, briefly remove from the heat and stir in 20g plain flour, return to heat again and cook for a couple of minutes (this is so it doesn’t taste of flour). This is called a roux. Remove from the heat again and veeeery graaadually stir 290ml (1/2 pint) of cold milk into the hot roux until you get a smooth liquid free from lumps. (If lumps do occur get out your whisk and beat until they vanish.)  Next place the pan back on the heat and stir continuously until the liquid thickens and starts to boil, then season with salt and pepper and add a cheese of your choice, though cheddar or gruyere seemes to be the best. I haven’t put down an amount because it depends on how cheesy you want it, but it tends to take quite a bit. If the mixture is too thick for you then just add a spot more milk.

And voila cheese in sauce form. My mum and I often eat this with a spoon, my dad says it’s like eating branston pickle out of the jar. I tell him to shush.

Now just pour over cooked cauliflower (or any other cooked ingredient that goes with cheese) and place in a 180C/200C oven for 20mins or so, or pour over cooked pasta to make macaroni cheese.

 

 

Happiness in a bowl for me (oh and I chucked in cooked bacon and sweetcorn to make it extra yummy)

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White Chocolate Buttercream

I have decided that all buttercream in the future should be white chocolate buttercream. Sooooo yummy.

Cream 150g softened butter with 180g of sifted icing sugar and 1 tbsp water until combined. Melt 150g white chocolate (I use Green & Blacks) in a bowl over a pan of simmering water or in the microwave (sacrilage I know) for 30 seconds to 1 minute (but keep an eye on it). Beat the melted white chocolate into the butter and icing sugar mix and combine. And  you are left with the best cake filling EVER! I could just eat it from the bowl.

I’m going to use this later for the filling for Devils Food cake which I am making for a client. Hopefully the post for that cake should be up next week sometime. I warn you this icing is very very sweet, it’s the type of thing my mother would complain about, but I love it!!

Happy baking all…

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Coffee and Chestnut

You know what’s nice? Avocado. You know what’s also nice? The surprise in my housemate’s voice when she said I looked nice (note sarcasm).  But anyway, coffee and chestnut may not be the first flavour combination that jumps to mind, but it works!

My very first client wanted a birthday cake for her mother. She really likes chestnuts so we were brainstorming about what would go with it and both decided on coffee. So I did a plain coffee cake as the base with a chestnut filling and a coffee glace icing to cover it.

I was debating over what recipe to use for the cake base. For something like a coffee cake you need a moist but not incredibly close textured cake, like the texture you get from a carrot cake. I have this brilliant all in one recipe that I have used constantly since I was six making butterfly cupcakes with my mum.

All-in-one is another of the 5 cake methods. This is where you chuck everything in a bowl and beat it all together. This is very similar to the creaming method except that there is a chemical raising agent (baking powder) because you don’t cream the butter and sugar which usually incorporates air. Is this making any sense? It isn’t to me and I know what I’m talking about.

Coffee cake

 

170g self-raising flour

170g sugar

170g butter at room temperature (you can use either salted or unsalted)

3 eggs

1 ½ tsp baking powder

3 tsp coffee granules

2tbsp of just boiled water

(Technically 1 medium egg weighs 55g, what you’re meant to do is weigh the eggs and then weigh the exact same amount of flour, sugar and butter. But this works just as well.)

Pre heat the oven to 180C/GM 4/350F

Line 3 8 inch individual sandwhich tins with greaseproof paper or an 8 inch springform or loose base cake tin.

Even though it’s an all in one cake I still like to beat the butter briefly just to break it up a bit.

Dissolve the coffee granules in the 2tbsp of just boiled water.

Once the butter has been slightly beaten add the sugar, sift in the flour and crack in the eggs. Add the dissolved coffee and the baking powder.

Beat it all together until smooth

Pour into the sandwhich tin/tins and bake in the oven for 20 mins until the cake is firm and a skewer inserted comes out clean. Leave to cool for 5 minutes and then carefully place on a wire rack to cool completely.

 

Chestnut buttercream

 

110g butter

300g of icing sugar (I think this is right, but I always do it to taste so add more or less if you want)

around 40ml of milk

around 40ml of double cream

around ¼ of a can (~100g) of chestnut puree (I use Merchant Gourmet, found at most supermarkets, oh and I also do this to taste, if you like a more chestnutty flavour then add more!)

Cream the butter and sift in the icing sugar, whisk together until light and fluffy.

Add the milk and the cream and whisk again

Add the chestnut puree (be warned it looks alarmingly like dog food) and whisk again.

 

Coffee Glace Icing

 

around 500g icing sugar

4 tsp coffee granules dissolved in 4 tbsp of boiling water

For decoration (optional):

cake crumbs

7 or 8 cooked and peeled chestnuts

2 tbsp ground down coffee granules

Sift the icing sugar

Add the dissolved coffee and mix, add more boiling water to bring to a smooth thick paste.

If it goes lumpy (which it may, this is me we’re talking about) just whizz it in a food processor, if you don’t have a food processor like me then you have the laborious task of gradually shoving it through a sieve (yay).

 

Construction

 

Divide the buttercream in 2 and spread half over the bottom 1/3 of the cake, place the 2nd layer on top and spread the rest over this layer. Place the final layer on top.

Pour the coffee icing over the top of the cake so it dribbles down the sides, smooth over with a wet palette knife.

Decorate however you want. I ground down some coffee granules, added some cake crumbs and roughly chopped cooked chestnuts and sweetened it with a bit of caster sugar and then placed it artfully (yeah right) in the middle of the cake.

Place a dollop of apricot jam or strawberry jam in the middle of a cake board and veeeery caaarefully place the cake on top. This anchors it in place so it won’t (easily) fall off which is very important when I’m involved because I do drop things constantly.

And voila! Your cake is made!

 

 

Boy that was long! Now I’m going to go because I’ve been sitting in the same place for far too long and my bum’s gone to sleep and rather disconcertingly I can smell smoke. I’m going to go check the house isn’t on fire.

 

Happy baking!

 

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