Jam drop biscuits to conclude the hiatus

Hello friends. My word, it has been far too long. A hiatus as long as mine from posting is quite unheard of in the blogging sphere, so I’ve come to learn. I am coming back to my happy cookery space with my tail between my legs. I’m offering some beautiful, ruby-like jam drop biscuits, if you’d care to stay?

Jam drop biscuits

In my part of the world, winter has given way to spring. The peach tree is in its lacey blossom, the birds are singing earlier and the days are growing incrementally longer. The wind has been kissed with warmth. The sky seems bluer and the air smells cleaner. This is mood-boosting weather, and not one soul here is complaining.

In some sort of Spring-induced joyousness I’ve taken to baking with a passion. Do you do the same? Last week I baked some chocolate-ripple cupcakes studded with dark chocolate chips that I dressed with coils of chocolate-orange frosting and sprinkled liberally with tiny silver cachous. Suitably comfortingly chocolatey and zingy citrusy for the transition to the warmer season.

But more recently I turned to Nana Jean’s handwritten cookbook for inspiration. I needed something transportable, easily shared and celebratory. In other words, I needed these jam drop biscuits.

The biscuits have a gloriously buttery yet light texture. Almost like shortbread biscuits, which I think is very quaint and pleasingly coincidental given that Jean had Scottish heritage. As I am sure you are familiar, each biscuit has a pond of jam sitting in the middle. I’ve turned to the jar of raspberry jam I used in the recreation of this raspberry coconut slice. Any jam will do, but you really need something with a good powerful flavour. Something almost a little acidic, to balance the buttery sweetness of the biscuit itself, you see.

The recipe is very simple. Cream the butter and sugar, mix in the well-beaten eggs, then stir through the sifted dry ingredients. You may be tempted, like I was, to pipe the dough into pretty rosettes before adding the jam. Don’t bother. The dough is far too thick to pipe, and you will only end up with more cleaning up to do! I suppose you could amend the recipe to make it more fluid, but I would be hesitant. The texture of these is truly special. To get the jam to sit nicely in the biscuits I used the floured end of a wooden spoon to make a small depression right in the centre. And, perhaps to appease my now-spurned wish to use my piping bag, I resorted to filling the reservoirs with jam with a small circular piping tip and disposable bag. Wholly unnecessary, of course. If you only have teaspoons then by all means use teaspoons and not a piping bag.

My only complaint about the recipe is how many biscuits it makes! I made a bit over 30 biscuits, which took three batches too cook in my small oven. What a first world problem indeed.

Happy baking comrades. Here’s a promise to many more timely posts!

Meg.

~~~

Jam drop biscuits

½ cup butter, soft

¾ cup sugar

2 eggs, well beaten

2 cups plain flour

½ tsp bicarb soda

1 tsp cream of tartar

¼ cup jam

Preheat oven to 200oC. Sift together the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add the eggs and beat well. Stir through dry ingredients.

Make small balls from the dough and place on a baking sheet. Using the back of a wooden spoon, first dip in flour, then create a depression in the centre of each biscuit. Fill with jam using a teaspoon or piping bag. Bake batches for 15 minutes each.

Don’t eat when straight from the oven. The jam will be as hot as Hades and melt the inside of your mouth.

Enjoy!

Banana bread from other grandmothers

It has been a long time between recipes. You know when your bones ache and your head feels too busy, too clamoured, too noisy? That has been this week for me. But banana bread saves the day. As always.

Yesterday I was graciously given four spotted bananas. Nana Jean doesn’t have any banana bread recipes in this cookbook. In her mother’s book, there are plenty. But her mother’s book is packed away in storage, and it is completely beyond my ability to find it at the moment. And by that, I mean, I cannot fathom entering the shed and looking through the two dozen or so boxes amongst all the spiders and dust and spiders.

I have recently read a book that tells the tale of a Russian woman and her self-creation as a cook. It is called Tatiana’s Table, and it is beautiful. In this book I found a recipe for banana bread. And much like I fall in love with characters in books, I fell in love with the idea of Tatiana’s banana bread. And so this morning, with unseasonable light streaming through the window, I set to recreating this cake.

And let’s be honest. Banana bread is a cake. Lacking any yeast I find it difficult to reconcile true bread with banana bread. But whatever makes you happy, and whatever comes to your tongue naturally!

Tatiana recommends throwing in a half cup of chocolate chips, or walnuts. I am a purist, though, and had no desire to do this, even though I have both in my pantry. If you choose to deviate, please let me know the results!

Oh, and I should mention that I was probably somewhat subliminally influenced by Linguistics & Cakes’ banana bread that I stumbled upon a week or so ago. I have so much love for baking blog inspiration, do you?

Merry baking comrades…

Meg.

~ ~ ~

Banana bread

a la Tatiana, from Paulina Simons’ Tatiana’s Table

110 g butter, at room temperature

1 cup sugar (I used half a cup, as I don’t like very sweet things)

2 eggs, at room temperature

4 tsp fresh lemon juice

1 tsp grated orange zest

1/3 cup water

1 tsp vanilla extract (I use organic vanilla bean paste)

4 very ripe bananas, mashed

1 ¾ cup plain flour

1 tsp baking powder (soda)

1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 180 deg. C (350 deg. F). Grease the bottom of a loaf pan.

Cream butter and sugar, then add the eggs. Mix in juice, zest, water, vanilla and lastly the bananas. Fold in the flour (which has had the salt and baking powder thoroughly mixed through) until just combined. Pour into tin and bake for about 45 minutes, or until golden and fragrant.

~Enjoy!

Raspberry slice

Raspberry slice

Most people have a wide range of friends. When you meet someone new and try describing your friends to them, how do you start? Do you say “my nursing friend” or “my university friend”? If you’re like me, and like most people I have met, you will probably say “oh, she’s my glamorous friend” or “he’s my adventurous friend” or “she’s the dare devil”. And if life were a stall of baked goods, your friends may resemble different cakes, biscuits and slices. Which leads me, in a convoluted segway, to this raspberry jam slice.

There’s no two ways about it, this raspberry slice is gorgeous. Sophisticated and homely, tart yet sweet and toothsome. I suppose that with a description like that, you can consider this slice as a warm squeezing hug from your most glamorous friend. Comforting yet elegant.

The key here is to buy quality jam. Not lip-puckeringly sweet jam, but homemade slightly-tart very-flavoursome jams. And as denoted below in the graceful hand of my Nana Jean – any jam will do. In fact, I am sure marmalade would do. Heck, even nutella would do, if you are that way inclined! Go for it… and be sure to let me know about the results!

Me? Lacking any jam in the fridge, and lacking any farmers markets in our town this weekend, I ventured to the supermarket with my brother. We chose a seedy crimson red raspberry jam because it was teasingly labelled ‘homemade’ from ‘grandma’s own secret recipe’. How fitting, you must be thinking to yourself. A homely small grandmother-esque jam for My Nana’s Menu. Wrong. I read the label when I got home: product of Serbia. Anyway, it was divine, despite the carbon footprint.

in the making

And took less than an hour from start to finish.

The base isn’t as firm as most baked slices. It is like a flexible cake layer which soaks up the vibrant jam, which turns hot and sticky and fragrant in the oven. The coconut layer oozes out to a chewy, toasty and moreish topping. Overall, a very nice special occasion (or bake sale) slice indeed.

Effortless and inspiring. Like the very best friendships!

Hope your weekend baking efforts have been just as successful.

Happy Sunday hombres!

Meg.

~ ~ ~

Raspberry slice

Raspberry slice

¼ lb butter

¼ cup sugar

1 egg, beaten

1 ½ cups SR flour

½ jar (ish) of good-quality jam

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

Beat butter and sugar to a cream. Beat in the egg, then the flour. Use your hands if necessary to form a glossy dough.

Butter and line a flat tin. I used a brownie tin, which was too large, but the dough is firm enough to create any size you like. Press the dough out flat with a knife, and spread with jam.

1 egg

½ cup sugar

1 cup desiccated coconut (or shredded coconut)

Beat all ingredients and spread over the top of the jam with a fork. Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden.

Let the slice cool in the pan before slicing into thick fingers.

Farmers markets and weekend baking

Happy mid-week to you all.

A few weekends ago I ventured out into the cold and windy weather in search of a farmers market. Do you also brave the elements to seek out local produce? It is a rewarding escapade.

The market was small. It seemed as though the producers had looked out of their frosted-over windows and chose their warm beds. Or perhaps they had travelled to other markets.

But it was of little matter! The swans were out flaunting their graceful walk, and the ducks weren’t fazed by the cold. So I told myself to toughen up, and was duly rewarded for my perseverance.

I found piles of large paper bags filled with knobbly dutch cream potatoes. The couple serving me were rugged up with thick knitted scarves that nearly covered their ears and were numbly folding away money despite their fingerless gloves. The woman, stacking even more bags of potatoes at the rear of the three-sided tent, asked if I mashed these potatoes. Why yes, I do; they are lovely and smooth and rich in flavour. But the woman was surprised; she had only ever roasted them. Well that is something you would never learn at a supermarket, would you? Roast them I shall!

I also found little cucumbers, which were as long as my hand is wide. Plump and glossy and tied in little mesh bags, they were so tempting. I adore cucumber. Sliced with a little salt and pepper, cucumbers form the basis of my lunch whenever I can find them. Surely cucumbers aren’t in season here, but the grower uses a glasshouse. Or a hothouse. I should really ask next time. He chuckled a little at my enthusiasm for the cucumbers, but he seemed quietly chuffed that other people enjoy his food. They were gone from my house within three days.

Finally, my toes like ice, I came across a tea stall. There were little containers filled with loose leaf teas, all lined up in a neat row. At one end of the stall was a stash of slender wire tea infusers. At the other end, an assortment of eclectic tea containers. One woman was oohing and ahhing over the different black teas, but I was drawn to the greens. I’m a late addition to the green tea band wagon, but I’ve certainly fallen for the simple clean flavour. Have you, too?

I zeroed in on one tea exotically named Japanese dew. Which summons visions of early morning maple leaves doesn’t it? The tea consists of long dry green leaves studded with lilac and rose coloured petals. I have no idea these are, but the tea is very fragrant. Sweet, even. It comes of some surprise to me that I actually like this tea, because I am someone with high distaste for anything unnaturally floral scented.

I won’t be baking until the weekend. But when I do, I’ll be looking at the apple sponge recipe, as it is apple season. Or perhaps scones. They would go perfect with the tea.

Until then amigos.

Meg.

Cinnamon cakes

Cinnamon cakes

Following on from the great success of orange cream finger-biscuits, and following three days of wet dreary weather, I ventured deeper into Nana Jean’s cookbook for something warm and comforting. Written in her trademark copperplate was the recipe for cinnamon cakes.

Do you like cinnamon? I do. Well, truth be known, that is an understatement. I truly wholeheartedly unequivocally love cinnamon. I have no idea why; I haven’t grown up eating many foods with cinnamon. But now, in my 20s, I have it almost every day with breakfast. At the moment, I have a bit of a breakfast ritual with oats, milk, plain yoghurt, chia seeds, some ground ginger and almost a teaspoon of cinnamon. Do you have a regular breakfast recipe? I find the way people greet the morning fascinating.

But back to cinnamon cakes. For those who read my disastrous brownie experience may be wondering if Jean included all cooking directions with this recipe. Nope. No oven temperature, no specified baking trays. Ah, to be as proficient a baker as my grandmother, who seemingly had no need for directions!

cinnamon cake recipe

cinnamon cakes

Nonetheless, the cinnamon cakes were a great success. Fragrant and sweet, dense and moreish. The photographs belie the crunchy exterior and oh so soft cake interior. My mother, no fan of sweet things, went back for seconds. And as for the process: it is so simple. And the dough is a dream to work with – soft and sticky, helping to bind the dusting of ground cinnamon.

I have baked these in a large cupcake tray, which helped to cook each cake evenly and prevented the mixture from spreading. However, in hindsight, if you have oven-proof tea cups or small ramekins I am sure they would look cute as a button. Don’t you think?

Happy cooking comrades.

Meg.

~ ~ ~

cinnamon cakes

cinnamon cakes

Cinnamon Cakes

2 cups plain flour

1 egg

1 cup sugar

1 tsp cream of tartar

½ tsp baking powder

60g (2 oz) butter, softened

Little milk

Ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Sift the flour with baking powder and cream of tartar. Rub the butter into the flour mixture. Add the sugar, then the egg. Add enough milk to make a soft, mouldable dough. Roll out the dough on a board that is well dusted with more plain flour. Roll out as a rectangle about ½ inch (1.5 cm) thick. Sprinkle liberally with ground cinnamon. Roll into a long sausage; be gentle. Slice wedges off the sausage and place into the individual muffin/cupcake tins. Bake for about 35 minutes or until golden brown and your whole kitchen smells of cinnamon.

Orange cream finger-biscuits

These citrus-y and light orange cream finger-biscuits have been resurrected from a newspaper clipping recipe pasted to the inside of Nana Jean’s cookbook. Thank you to one I. M. Lohrey, the author of this beautiful recipe.

Have you ever heard of orange creams before? Here in Australia the first orange creams, dubbed ‘orange slice’ biscuits were sold in 1922 by Arnott’s. The orange slice was featured in a number of Assorted Cream selections during the 1920s and early 1930s, and you can still find the slim cream-filled biscuits in the packets today.

For those unfamiliar with orange creams – and you have my condolences, for they are truly  delicious – they consist of two vanilla biscuits with a layer of sherberty orange cream. They are tangy, and oh so more-ish.

The biscuits I present to you differ from the Arnott’s version. The biscuits aren’t flavoured with vanilla. Instead, they rejoice in sweet simplicity. I would say that vanilla would be cloying when paired with the orange filling, which is thick and fragrant. And the icing is perfectly zesty. I have never encountered an icing recipe like this. It requires you to ‘heat through’ the ingredients on the stove before pouring the mixture, still warm, over the filled biscuits. When the icing sets it cocoons the biscuits in a thin, snug and zingy casing. It feels, and looks, pretty special.

As I mentioned yesterday, citrus fruits are in season year-round. So whether you are from the northern or southern hemisphere, this recipe is ready and raring to go. And from my reading, it seems that the USA is experiencing extreme heat; how awful. If you are an American craving an orangey baked treat, be reassured by the fact that these biscuits only need 10 minutes in the oven.

Oh, and they go very nicely with chai tea.

Here’s to I. M. Lohrey and her exemplary orange cream finger-biscuits!

Meg.

~ ~ ~

Orange cream finger-biscuits

Orange cream finger-biscuits

a la I. M. Lohrey

Biscuits:

2 heaped tbsp butter

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs

220 g (1/2 lb) plain flour

1 tsp cream of tartar

1/2 tsp bicarb soda (baking soda)

pinch salt

Cream the butter and sugar, then add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift in the dry ingredients and make into a dough. Roll out about 1/4 inch (bit less than 1 cm) thick and cut into fingers. Bake at 200 degrees Celsius for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack before filling.

Filling:

3 tbsp icing sugar

1 large tbsp butter

1/2 orange, juiced

Beat ingredients in a small bowl and use to wedge pairs of biscuits together.

Icing:

1/2 orange, zest and juice

enough icing sugar to make it ‘pourable’

Warm in a saucepan and pour onto fingers. Will set in a few minutes.

Seasonal baking

Hello!

I am very excited to tell you that I recreated something that looks a little bit like this today…

Latest recreation

The latest recreation… still in progress

But I want to finesse some nice photographs, so I will tell you more about those babies tomorrow. (Just as an aside: they worked splendidly, unlike my horrendous brownies from last week).

Meanwhile, I wanted to make mention of seasonal baking.

Seasonal baking?

Well, sure, you’ve probably heard of eating according to the seasons; eating the produce that ripens at certain times of the year. Eating in this way is better for the environment, better in terms of flavour and better for your wallet. Ever tried buying raspberries during winter? Like $8 for a small punnet over here! Ouch.

Most people would understandably associate seasonal eating with dishes like salads and roasted vegetables. Spring vegetable pasta is a common  recipe out in the blog ether. But those strawberries served with scones at high tea should also be considered. And how about those blueberry muffins? The fruit adorning a pavlova? Mango flummery? Seasonal baking, in my opinion, is a little overlooked. Because in the realm of the internet, those seasons can become blurred.

From Chasing Delicious (chasingdelicious.com)

I stumbled across this infographic a few weeks ago. Although the months are aligned with the northern hemisphere seasons it is still relevant for us Australians (or New Zealanders, South Americans or Southern Africans…). Even though I’ve always liked the idea of eating seasonally, I admit to being a bit of a cowboy about it. Relying on my intuition and some gardening knowledge. But armed with a poster like this, how could a home cook go wrong? Or, for that matter, a home cook, student, waitress and intern like me.

When you read about all the benefits of seasonal eating, they are often untenable. Sure, we may understand how it benefits the environment in some abstract sense. But often seasonal eating advocates don’t say how good it makes the cook feel to be using what nature provides. It’s pretty addictive.

Thankfully, citrus is available year-round. I am enamoured by citrus-laced cooking. Are you? I was perplexed when I overheard someone in our staff room express disgust for anything citrus-y in desserts. But clearly, this must be a common ‘thing’.

And yes, those biscuits are citrus flavoured. I look forward to sharing them with you tomorrow!

Happy cooking.

Meg

The best brownies for a diet, or to serve your enemies

Nana Jean was a wily soul. When cornered by an acquaintance imploring her for a recipe she would deflect, muttering ‘oh I have it written down somewhere’, only to conveniently forget its whereabouts. By my father’s accounts, Nana was proficient at culinary misdirection.

Seemingly, Jean’s covert cooking operations extended to her cookbook. Unfortunately for me, there are dozens of recipes without specified oven temperatures and no mention of what dish in which to cook the cake or pudding. And this brings me to these brownies.

When you think of brownies, what comes to mind? Nuts and fruit? Slice-shaped baked cake-like wedges? Chocolate?

Yes, well, there was no mention of chocolate in this recipe.

No melted chocolate. No cocoa. Nothing.

And no nuts.

The horror.

I did some cursory review of brownie recipes online. I headed to Epicurious, which espoused the virtues of cocoa as opposed to melted chocolate (it’s an interesting concept – read about it here). I had in my possession a packet of cacao, and so tried to substitute this for cocoa. I also guessed the quantity of chocolate powder, hoping (or perhaps even naively believing) that I had inherited some kind of sixth-sense for baking. I haven’t.

Cacao – not so innocent

And so we come to the title of this article. These brownies truly resemble brownies. They are gorgeously studded with sultanas and walnuts – they haven’t sunk to the bottom of the dish; by some kind of culinary magic they are perfectly suspended through the slice. They smell amazing when pulled from the oven. They are very convincing imitations of brownies. But they taste truly awful. The cake is bitter and as for the texture… well it’s a bit stodgy. Sort of claggy. Perfect for those on a diet – you’ll get all of that giddy excitement of indulging in something as truly sinful, truly comforting as a brownie, and once you’ve taken a bite you have absolutely no desire for more. Your craving has evaporated. And your enemies, if they have the displeasure of tasting these brownies, will be suitably revolted.

However, I am not going to grace you with my recipe. Just in case some unwitting soul skips right to the recipe and wastes a great deal of time, hope and promises on delivering a plate heavy with brownies. You’re welcome.

And as a postscript, it was suggested to me by a friend that Jean may have simply written down the parts of the recipe she thought she may forget. That in all her cookery experience she had no need of cocoa quantities, no need to state the obvious with the nuts, no need to discuss oven temperatures and baking dishes. I like this interpretation. It’s nicer than thinking of Jean purposefully omitting things from her cookbook during her youth, to the chagrin of her grandchildren some 80 years down the track.

Yes, so, I am currently on the search of the perfect brownie recipe. I sorely need to redeem myself in the eyes of my disappointed younger brothers. Do you have a tried and tested go-to never-fail smiles-all-round brownie recipe? All tips, directions or commiserations will be gratefully received!

Meg

Coconut ice from across the seas

Coconut ice

Coconut ice originates from post-war England.

Sugar was no longer scarce. Sweet tooths long oppressed returned with a vengeance. Housewives set to the task of lavishing sweetness upon their husbands and children. And so coconut ice was born.

Sweet, moreish morsels made creamy by the addition of coconut. They are cute as a button, don’t you think? How joyous it must have been to see a plate heaped with these pink and white slices after the years of rations during the war.

It would be rare for an Australian child to be unfamiliar with coconut ice. But unfortunately, the youngest generation have been regaled with supermarket versions of the sweet. Anaemic, uniform rectangles that fit into their rectangle plastic cubicles and further wrapped with hospital-issue-esque plastic sleeves. If there is any romance in such sweets, it is a mundane and bland romance indeed.

So, in the spirit of recreating Jean’s menu, I donned one of my aprons (floral) and set to work on her recipe.

I have read that there are two versions of coconut ice. The more mainstream version calls for condensed milk and icing sugar. It is a simple mix and set method. The less well-known version requires the cook to create a sugar syrup of sorts, blended in with the coconut and then press the pillowy mixture into a pan to set. It is the latter version that Jean documented.

Given the success of the cream puffs the other day, I had high hopes for this coconut ice recipe. I mean, it truly rejoices in the human desire for sweet, toothsome treats. And what joyless soul could say that is a bad thing?

I made two batches as my first batch turned to ashy coconut dust after I duly boiled the mixture for 15 minutes. The second batch I boiled for only 5 minutes. This yielded a more pleasing texture. However, I was a little heavy-handed with the food colouring. Instead of a pale blush pink, my confections are a lush, jewel-like magenta.

And as for the taste? Well I have to admit that I do not have the kind of palate that craves intense sweetness. Chocolate? Sure. Cakes? Certainly. But I can give or take lollies. And when I tasted these cute little rectangles when they were just set, they were like an edible sugar injection. For kids, a fast train to candy-licious heaven. That said, after a night mellowing in the fridge the coconut flavour has really intensified. So the key here is a generous resting time in the fridge.

So would I recommend the recipe? Yes, if you love sweets. Or, like me, you fell in love with the romantic history of coconut ice.

Meg

PS. Oh, and I meant to mention Podkins’ board on pinterest of old books. I’m a little bit in love.

~~~

Coconut ice

Coconut ice


1 cup sugar

¼ cup milk

½ cup desiccated coconut

Red (or pink) food colouring

 

Line a loaf tin with baking paper. It does not need to be oven-proof. Even a rectangular lunch box tub will do.

Add the sugar, milk and coconut to a saucepan. Bring to the boil and stir continuously for 5 minutes. This ensures the sugar dissolves, softens the coconut and infuses the mixture with a divine fragrance.

Take the saucepan off the heat. Spoon half of the mixture into the lined tin. Press the soft mixture down, making sure there are no gaps. Add about 3 drops of food colouring into the remaining coconut mixture. If using pink colouring you will need to add more to get a flushed rosy hue. Mix well before spooning over the white layer in the baking tray. Press down.

Allow to set in the refrigerator or, alternatively, sit the dish on the bench to glisten and tease your family until it has cooled completely. Cut into rectangles and serve with a nice cup of tea.

Dashing cream puffs

Stick out your little finger and cinch in that waistline, cream puffs are coming.

Cream puffs

Amid the pages and pages of recipes in Nana’s cookbook I sought something familiar. But with exotic names like champagne pastry and bachelor’s buttons, familiarity was a lost cause. Or so I thought, until my eyes settled on cream puffs.

 

Cream puffs. What an innocent and feel-good name for a dessert! It conjures images of prim little ladies proffering trays of golden balls elegantly sugar-dusted, their rosy cheeks pulled into indulgent smiles.

Cream puffs, I subsequently thought to myself, must be a harmless recipe. And sufficiently innocuous for my first attempt at recreating Jean’s menu.

My dad was less convinced. He recalled perfectly round puffs of pale pastry, heavily laden with a rich whipped cream filling.

‘Is that not a little ambitious?’ he asked. ‘A choux pastry?’

The recipe made no mention of choux. Nana was raised in Yarrambat in the Dandenong Ranges on the outskirts of Melbourne, and had probably never heard of the French pastry. A part of me loves the solid Anglicised versions of all Jean’s recipes. It tells you a lot about how insular, or unaware, Australian cooks generally were of international cuisines before the 1970s.

But back to the choux. Inwardly panicking, I tried to brush off Dad’s scepticism.

‘The directions seem easy enough,’ I paused. This was true, but I still scrambled to change the subject. ‘I won’t need to buy any of the ingredients.’

Ingredients

In fact, I would be surprised if you needed to go out of your way to buy the ingredients, either. Flour, butter, eggs, water and a pinch of salt for the puffs. Sugar free! What a novelty! However, the puffs are filled with sweet vanilla-laced whipped cream and dusted with drifts of icing sugar, negating any true virtuousness of the pastry.

Let’s not kid ourselves, though. These babies just ooze elegance. The quantities here make about 24 gossamer-light puffs. Once piped until brimming with cream and arranged on a platter… you would be proud to serve them to royalty.

As for the ease of recreation? Virtually fool-proof. The pastry is a dream to make. Just be aware that the puffs can look a little ramshackle. But practise makes perfect, as they say.

One last note: the frugally minded hostess in me calculated the cost of this fine dish. Between six and seven dollars for the lot. Bon appetit!

~~~

Cream puffs

Cream puffs

If you closely inspect the photos of the cookbook, you will notice that this recipe deviates slightly from Jean’s. This is because I use large eggs (700g), far larger than she would have had access to. I also converted her imperial measurements to metric. After making a few batches I settled on the following as the ideal quantities.

1 cup (114g, ¼ lb) plain flour, sifted

55 g (2 oz) unsalted butter

3 eggs

Pinch salt

1 cup (½ pint) water

600 ml thickened cream

3 tsp vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)

6 tsp caster sugar

Icing sugar, to dust

Bring water, salt and butter to the boil in a medium saucepan. Once boiling, tip in the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until it forms dough and pulls away from the side of the pan in a thick smooth lump. Allow to cool.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 200oC (about 400oF). Line a flat tray with baking paper, or grease well.

Beat the eggs well and add gradually to the cooled pastry. Beat until smooth and glossy. Place in small rounds the size of a walnut on the baking tray. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Do not open the doors for the first 20 minutes. You will probably need to do cook the puffs in a few batches. Cool on a wire tray.

For the whipped cream, whip together the cream, vanilla and sugar until very thick.

When the puffs are cool, split and pipe with whipped cream, and dust with drifts of icing sugar.