Monday, 29 September 2008


Parkin is... well I'm not actually sure, which is exactly why I decided to make it. I came across the recipe, and there was no picture; I was intrigued. Some (admittedly lax) research found that this is a traditional northern England, especially Yorkshire, recipe, with the principal ingredients being treacle, oats and ginger. It is traditionally eaten on bonfire night but I didn't know that then, and as we don't really celebrate it over here in Ireland, I suppose I can be forgiven for making it a few weeks early.

I set out not really knowing what it was supposed to look/be like and to be honest when finished the appearance wasn't very encouraging:

Having popped it in the oven I started cleaning up, which was not mean feat. I used my wee trick of dipping the spoon in hot water so the treacle would slide off it easily, but unfortunately the recipe specified it as a weight and not a number of spoonfulls. This meant I managed to get treacle not only on my measuring scales (bowl and base) but the worktop, the book (thankfully the cover wipes clean), my elbow, the kettle (which I didn't use) and four spoons! By this time the parkin was ready... I think. Here's how it turned out:

Traditionally you leave parkin in a tin for at least a week before you eat it, but purely for the purposes of research (it smelt too good) I decided to try a bit. To be honest I was a bit disappointed, it was quite dry and not particularly ginger. The lumpy top was typical of a fruit cake with too little 'wet' mixture, but I wasn't sure if this was the cake here. However Delia Smith advises that this will solve itself by leaving it the requisite amount of time.

I'll have to update you all about it then!

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Viennese Fingers

Phew, it's been a very busy few weeks for me and I'm finally getting round to some baking and of course blogging.

I learnt a few lessons this week, the first being don't bake when you're tired, as you will make mistakes! This happened making Viennese Fingers. They are a buttery, shortbread type biscuit originating've guessed it... Austria. The recipe below is good, but I find that using 4 oz of plain flour instead of 2 oz of flour, 2 oz of cornflour doesn't make any difference and is much easier.

The first results of careless baking were not reading the instructions properly and putting 4oz and not 1 oz of icing sugar in. This was after I'd mixed it with the butter. Subsequently I did the only thing I could, made 3x the mixture to 'even' out the ingredients. Unfortunately (OK fortunately) this meant I make loads of them, and was popular with my friends and family for a while :) The second result was in slightly burning one set while piping out yet another. The taste was only very slightly affected but they didn't look as nice. I made my close family eat these ones.

The recipe is actually very straight forward, but there are a few tricks to making them better. The most important is to use real, full-fat butter. I normally prefer margarine for my arteries sake, but it being such a principal ingrediant here calls for quality. Also, unless you leave the butter out all night until it's very soft, shaping the mixture will be like piping wet sand. A final trick someone told me afterwards was to leave the full piping bag sitting in lukewarm water when not being used, to keep the mixture inside it soft.

Here's my result:

A star shaped nozzle gives a lovely shape, which is held perfectly in the oven. Traditionally these would have one end dipped in chocolate, but the result of lesson number two (check you have all the ingredients before you start) meant I had to leave them as they were. It was no huge detriment, as the flavour and texture really are lovely. Occasionally I have created sandwich style ones using chocolate spread, but personally I think the spread overpowers the biscuit and is a waste.

Next time I think I'll try Viennese Whirls, when I have more time to play with my piping technique. On another slightly random note, I took the picture on the biscuit tin lid simply because I had something in my other hand and couldn't reach the plates, but I quite like the effect :)

Friday, 12 September 2008

Cake Wrecks

Ruth over at Ruth's Kitchen Experiments found this site and I had to share; it's fantastic. It's 'professional' cakes which have gone wrong hilariously. I just hope one of mine doesn't end up there!

The link takes you to the cake that inspired the blog and had me actually laughing out loud.

Oh and I know I've been neglecting you all for a while but I promise some activity soon. I'm in a biscuits frame of mind...