Homemade Marshmallows

“At the end of the war, all the guns were collected and melted down”. This was what a friend and historian once told me. The romantic in me likes to think they used the metal for good, cast into medics to help the future generations.

Perhaps that’s why people think medics are so strong, forged from tanks and flak 88s, Rheinmetal running through our veins – we are indestructible. The great battleships used to make consultants; although when I think about it 617 Sqn might have proven this wrong.

So what do medics do when they take a hit, well there is always wine I suppose. The problem with this is that it’s not exactly healthy. Fear not though, for I have found a solution – Marshmallows (with hot chocolate and a friendly shoulder).

Marshmallows are basically just diabetes in solid form; made from egg white, sugar and gelatine, they form an integral role in breaking the silence when you need to talk, or comforting you when you are low. I mean when hasn’t an open fire to toast a marshmallow cheered someone up?

Marshmallows

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Ingredients

  • 3 large egg whites
  • 13 sheets gelatine
  • 25oz caster sugar
  • 2tbsp liquid glucose
  • 1tsp vanilla paste
  • 4oz icing sugar
  • 4tbsp cornflour

Start by going out for all the gelatine and sugar the nearest town will supply. You will need it, otherwise your marshmallows won’t set or will taste strange.

In a bowl, combine the gelatine sheets with 200ml warm water and set aside to soften.

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Whilst this softens, add the sugar, liquid glucose and water to a pan and heat. You need to bring this up to 130C but this will take some time (10-15mins).

In the mean time, separate out 3 egg whites and whisk in a mixer till soft peaks form. At this point you can stop whisking till the sugar has reached the nuclear heat of ‘soft crack’.

When the sugar mix has heated up to 130C, take off the heat and add in the gelatine and water. This is a very violent reaction so be careful. Mix to fully disolved.

Restart the mixer till the egg whites make firm peaks. At this point add in the sugar as a constant stream. Keep the mixer whisking for 10mins during which time the mixture will thicken considerably. At the last moment add in the vanilla.

Now for the fun bit, line 2 deep trays with clingfilm and brush with oil. Cover this with the icing sugar mixed together with 4tbs of cornflour.

Pour the marshmallow mixture into the tins. At this point you can swirl in some colours or flavours.

Now the waiting game – around 2hrs to be precise. This allows the marshmallows to form their unique outer shell.

After a period of time, turn the marshmallow out onto a surface heavily dusted with the icing sugar/cornflour mix. Cut into squares and slightly toss in the sugar.

Let’s eat

So, I mean the possibilities with these are endless: S’mores, coated in chocolate, topping a hot chocolate or simply toasted on an open fire.

So, for when you have run out of shop bought marshmallows but need a hot chocolate – there is a back up.

 

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Salted Caramel Macaroons

Not only are Macaroons the basis of most Bake Off showstoppers, they are a fantastic way to bond with people. In fact if I can’t have a meaningful conversation with someone over a coffee and a macaroon, I rarely keep in touch.

Believe it or not, I’m very fussy with food. I would say till the age of 18 I had a phobia of Fruit and Veg. It’s one of the reasons I got into baking, to allow me to explore foods on my own terms. A problem arises when I go to dinner parties though. As I don’t eat the food, I get lots of concerned looks, but usually the macaroons come out and the tension dies down.

One such occasion happened a few months ago. I was at a consultants house discussing research when his cousin Jenna noticed I wasn’t eating. After the meal instead of asking if I was ok, she simply placed an espresso and a macaroon next to me. What followed I can’t fully recall, some conversation about paradox of medicine and science fiction perhaps. All I recall was the macaroon, salted caramel with a hint of chocolate for dressing.

Here is my version of that macaroon – To my knowledge Dr Coleman bought them so I can’t steal his recipe for a direct comparison.

Macaroons

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Ingredients

  • 7oz Icing sugar
  • 4oz ground almonds
  • 3 egg separated – Whites (with no yolk)
  • 2oz Caster Sugar
  • Pinch of salt

Start by taking a pretty picture of the ingredients (including the caramel ingredients) with a set of vintage scales. These were my Grans – except they’ve been repainted.

Now, combine the icing sugar and ground almonds in a bowl and mix well. Then sieve to remove any large bits of almonds, these will cause the tops of the finished macaroons to split.

In a spotless, dry bowl add the egg whites with a pinch of salt. Whisk on high-speed, as if making meringues. When they have reached firm peaks (tested by holding over your head), add the caster sugar a spoon at a time.

Fold in the almond/sugar mix to the egg whites using a large metal spoon till completely incorporated. The end result will be a light but glossy mixture which runs slowly off the spoon.

Transfer to a piping bag with approx 1cm opening and pipe the size of macaroons you want to make onto baking paper. I always thing about the size of an old penny is correct.

The next bit is important, leave them for between 15mins to 1hr to form a crust. When the outside is firm, not sticky/tacky/soft, transfer to a preheated oven at 170C and bake for 10mins.

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Remove from the oven when the tops are crisp and the bottoms dry. Leave to cool completely on the baking tray.

 

Salted Caramel Buttercream

Ingredients

  • 2oz Butter
  • 2oz  Sugar
  • 100ml Double cream
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 pinch of sea salt
  • 2oz unsalted Butter
  • 4oz Icing sugar

After weighing all the ingredients, start by heating the sugar and water till it has reduced down to produce a thick syrup with a light brown colour. Don’t stir during this period, it will act as a point of crystallisation and mean you have to start again.

Once the syrup is ready, add in the butter and cream. This bit is the part you don’t want to be stood with your face over the pan…….. it causes a lot of steam.

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After this, it’s simply a case of cooking the caramel down until a temperature of 118C is reached. At this point, it’s ready; you can add in the salt now or even a kick of vanilla, lavender or just leave it deliciously plain. Obviously I’ve added a bit of French sea salt…

Cream the unsalted butter together with the icing sugar till no lumps remain. Then add a healthy spoon of the salted caramel and a dash of double cream.

Right, all that remains is to combine 2 shells of the macaroons with a generous helping of the caramel buttercream and put the coffee on. Whilst it brews, pipe a few decorative lines of chocolate onto the top shell.

Let’s eat

So there you have it, delicious salted caramel Macaroons. Crunchy on the outside with a chewy core, the sweet filling partly offset by the bitter edge of the sea salt.

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All you need now is someone to share them with – a friendly actress usually helps.

Sloe Gin and Honey Roasted Ham

It’s nearly Christmas and that means that a very large amount of food is currently resting in my fridge…….. Beef, Turkey, a small chicken, but the one I’m most excited about is the “Gammon Joint”. Not because I like Gammon, but because it’s the makings of my Boxing Day Ham.

It’s a tradition to have jacket potatoes on Boxing day with the left overs, and the Cox household is no exception. Along with the cold turkey, we always have a homemade ham. I perfected the recipe a few years ago and it’s a festive mix of sloes, honey and clovers.

Boxing Day Ham

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Ingredients

  • 3Kg Unsmoked Gammon Joint
  • Apple Juice
  • Cloves and Sloes
  • Thyme, Coriander, Sage
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Carrots, Celery and Onion
  • Brown Sugar
  • Honey
  • Sloe Gin

It’s best to make the Ham a couple of days before Christmas, then it can rest in the fridge and carved when needed.

Start by roughly chopping the celery, onions and carrots. They add flavour to the boiling stock and also stop the meat sticking to the pan. Add to the pan and then place the Gammon joint on top.

To the pan add the herbs and spices. The Sloes are ones I have left over from a recently finished batch of sloe gin. It’s kind of like recycling, same excuse I use when drinking the gin……..

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All that remains is to add enough apple juice to cover the meat. If you have any cider lying around add that to the pot as well.

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Simmer on the slow hob of the Aga (mid heat on an electric/gas) for an hour per pound. During the 3 hours you might need to skim the top of the pan or add a bit more water to keep the Ham covered.

After the Ham has boiled, take out of the cooking liquor and transfer to a roasting pan. Then channel your inner engineer and use a handful of bamboo skewers to support the Ham standing vertically.

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Using a sharp knife, strip the skin off the meat leaving the fat below. Cut this into diamonds and then stud with cloves.

Mix the 2 heaped tablespoons of the sugar, a shot of sloe gin and a good squeeze of he honey in a mug and warm till melted together. I find leaving it on the top of the age for 5 mins works, but a minute in the microwave would work just as well. Paint the glaze onto the ham, concentrating on the top.

Cook in the oven for 45mins at 180C or the middle of the Aga. Remember to keep a close eye on it though, the sugar can burn if it gets too hot.

Let’s Eat

Once cooked, allow the ham to cool before transferring onto a board. All that remains is get a sharp knife and carve a few slices – as thick as you like them. If you can’t wait for Boxing day; french bread, pickle and a few silver skins make a good accompaniment.

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Otherwise a simple Ham and mustard on white would be perfect in my eyes.