Friday, February 27, 2015

Making Welsh Cakes for St. David's Day




Warning: Recipe for incredibly moreish treat below!

I had never made Welsh Cakes before, but with St. David’s Day coming up on March 1st, I thought I would give them a try. Oh my, why did I wait so long?

This simple recipe produces a wonderful light and airy sweet that isn’t quite scone, isn’t quite cookie, isn’t quite pancake. Fresh out of the pan, sprinkled with sugar, I had to be quick to take the photos before the family ate the entire batch!

The Welsh name for these little cakes is ‘Pice ar y maen’ with ‘maen’ meaning bakestone (like a griddle), which is how they are cooked.  I do not have a griddle but used a heavy-based frying pan and they came out a treat.

I used Mary Berry’s recipe. Give it a try, but remember, I warned you!

Makes 12

8 oz (2 cups) self-raising flour (or 8 oz all-purpose flour with 2 tsp baking powder)
1 tsp baking powder
4 oz (1/2 cup) butter, diced
3 oz caster (1/2 cup) (superfine) sugar
3 oz (1/2 cup) currants
½ tsp mixed spice (optional)
1 egg, beaten
about 2 tbsp milk
 A little butter for the pan
3 inch pastry cutter

1.     Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Add the butter and rub in with your fingertips of a pastry blender until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

2.     Add the sugar, currants, and mixed spice (if using), and stir to mix. Add the egg and enough milk to form a soft but not sticky dough. I needed a little more than 2 tablespoons.

3.     On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to a ¼ inch thickness. Cut into rounds with the pastry cutter.











4. Heat a griddle or heavy frying pan and melt a little butter in it. I found that because of the butter in the cakes, they didn’t need much extra in the pan and didn’t stick. Cook the Welsh cakes on the hot griddle or pan over low heat for about 3 minutes on each side until cooked through and golden brown. Be careful on the first flip, as they are still a little fragile at this point. Use a large spatula to do this.

5.     Leave to cool on a wire rack.




Best served on the day you make them, sprinkled with some sugar and a little butter, if you like, and with a lovely cuppa, of course!




Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas Cracker Centerpiece


Christmas Cracker Centerpiece
Many years ago, after watching an episode of the children’s show Blue Peter, I decided to try and make my own Christmas cracker centerpiece. Christmas crackers are a mainstay of a traditional English Christmas dinner; a tradition dating back to Victorian times.

Apparently, a London sweetmaker, named Tom Smith, first made crackers in about 1850. He had seen the French ‘bon bon’ sweets (almonds wrapped in pretty paper), and one night, while he was sitting in front of his log fire, he became very interested by the sparks and cracks coming from the fire. Suddenly, he thought what a fun idea it would be, if his sweets and toys could be opened with a crack when their fancy wrappers were pulled in half. And so crackers were born.
A cracker is placed at every setting on the Christmas dinner table. Available in many colors and sizes, the paper tubes are always filled with a joke, a little gift and a paper party hat! As family & friends sit down for the wonderful feast, the first order of business is to pull these crackers.
Each person grabs one end of the cracker with a neighbor at the table grabbing another and then pull! The popper inside “cracks” as the paper rips apart and the contents of the cracker spill out. We then read the corny jokes and put the paper crowns on our heads – no excuses. We all look silly together, but that’s part of the tradition.
So back to the centerpiece: All those years ago I said to my mum, “I want to make the big Christmas cracker!” I found the cardboard, probably bought some crepe paper at W.H. Smith, and got to work. Unfortunately my mum didn’t have the backstage elves like on Blue Peter where the presenters would miraculously pull a finished “make” from under the table and say, “here’s one I made earlier.”
But we muddled through and produced the centerpiece – and I loved it! The small crackers were still at each place setting and my homemade centerpiece adorned the center of the table filled with little treats for everyone.
As projects go this one isn’t too difficult. As my original creation no longer existed, a few years ago I decided to recreate the cracker for my family.
Here’s one I made earlier :)
The cracker is made up of 2 tubes that fit together. Get some sturdy cardboard – a couple of empty cereal boxes work. It’s up to you how big you make it, so cut 2 larger rectangular pieces of card for the middle pieces and 2 smaller rectangular pieces of card for the ends. They should be the same width but different depths. You should have 2 set ups like this picture below.
Make 2 like this.
Find some strong wrapping paper or foil paper and cut 2 large pieces big enough to lay a large and a small piece of card on each one. Lay the pieces of card on as shown in the picture. Glue the card onto the paper and fold the excess pieces from the side over onto the card like wrapping a gift. Do this with the other 2 pieces of card.
Fold excess paper over
Now make tubes out of the two pieces you have created. I use a stapler for this. Make sure one tube is narrower than the other, so that it will fit into the larger one.
Staple the tubes
Remember it will be filled with sweets or little gifts and you will want to pull it open and have the contents be a surprise for your guests.
You will have 2 tubes like this
Cinch the paper

One half of the cracke
Where there is just paper in the two tubes between the two pieces of card use string or gift ribbon to cinch them to create the cracker look. 

Finished cracker

You can now decorate it as you like, as shown in the picture at the the top of the post. Your centerpiece is ready! Fill it with sweets or little gifts and your guests are sure to be impressed.
Fill the cracker with yummy treats

Have fun going crackers! Please let me know if you have any success making one! I would love to see your results. If you send me a photo I will post it in a blog in the New Year.


Email info@thebeeskneesbritishimports.com with your photo.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays & Best Wishes!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Irish Apple Cake


Apple picking is one of the things I most look forward to about the fall in New England. It is a family tradition for us, and we are lucky here in Eastern Massachusetts as there are many local orchards to visit. The crisp, juicy apples right from the tree are so delicious and, of course, the baking options are endless!

I was given this Irish apple cake recipe from a friend and it really is so quick and easy to make with fantastic results. The hardest part is peeling and cutting the apples! As you mix up the ingredients it doesn’t look much like a cake as it’s rather stodgy and the apples don’t seem to mix in, but the apple chunks sink into the batter as it bakes and the finished product is moist and delicious.

The recipe calls for nuts, but as my daughter and I are allergic to tree nuts I leave them out and it seems to make no difference at all to the recipe. Serve with vanilla ice cream or heavy (double) cream for a real treat!


Irish Apple Cake

 









Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F

Ingredients
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup oil
2 ½ cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla

4 cups apples, peeled and diced
6 oz package of butterscotch morsels
1 cup walnuts or pecans (optional)

In a large mixing bowl, cream sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla. 

Add the sifted dry ingredients and stir by hand. Batter will be stiff. Mix in the apples and nuts (if using nuts). Pour into an ungreased 9x13x2 inch pan. Sprinkle with the butterscotch morsels.






Bake at 350 for 50 – 60 minutes.










Serve with cream or ice cream.

Enjoy!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Top 10 Gifts from The Bee's Knees




  Tyrrell Katz London Icon Mugs
This set of 2 bone china mugs from designer Tyrrell Katz is the perfect gift for your favorite Anglophile!



Victoria Eggs Festive Fun Tea Towel and Mug

In the style of a newspaper this wonderful Christmas design combines classic typography and silhouette imagery to list our favourite things that make up a perfect British Christmas. Featuring Father Christmas, Stockings, Baubles, Brussels Sprouts, Fairy Lights, Party Games and the Queen’s Speech.



       Emma Bridgewater Christmas Town Mugs
Lovely litho mugs handmade in Stoke-on-Trent, England featuring the new Christmas Town pattern. The deep red is perfect for the Christmas season.



  Catherine Colebrook Retro Tea Pots & Mugs
These lovely mugs & teapots are beautiful and they are made in the UK (as always) so the quality is wonderful. They are a size that also holds a decent cuppa’s worth rather than a polite sip or two!

Emma Ball UK Tea Towel
Destination Britain! These lovely cotton tea towels are made in England featuring a montage of area Emma has painted in the UK.


Kenneth Turner Candles
Our gorgeous Kenneth Turner luxury candles have become very popular. The fragrances are delicate yet lovely. The candles in glass have a burn time up to 50 hours. All the candles are hand poured in Britain of fragranced mineral (paraffin) wax that is not hazardous to your health, and our wax does not pose any adverse effects to the environment.




 Emma Bridgewater Flower Mugs
Our ever-popular half pint flower mugs from Emma Bridgewater make the perfect gift. Hand made in Stoke-on-Trent, England of Cornish clay you can bring a piece of England into you home.


Burleighware
Our beautiful blue Burleighware is a timeless classic. This British pottery is made in Stoke-on-Trent by hand as it has always been. Start your collection today. We now have accessories to match!

      I’d Rather . . . Mugs from Stubbs
      You are sure to find the right I’d Rather mug for someone on your list from our large selection. A fun gift for everyone!






Tyrrell Katz Pirates & Princess Range
We can even help with the little ones on your list. These adorable mugs, lunch boxes, snack boxes and water bottles are perfect for the kids. They will be ‘The Bee’s Knees’ at school with these in their backpack! Fill the mugs with treats (not included) for a really fun gift.