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Simnel Cake Ice Cream

Simnel Cake ice cream

I am not religious, but I do enjoy all the major Christian holidays, chiefly because they are all held together with copious amounts of marzipan. I love marzipan. I’m that person that will eat the spare almond paste off your Royal icing when you’re defeated by Christmas cake or buy a block of it to eat slices off. And don’t get me started about those exquisite little fruits modelled from the stuff you get in posh grocers and Fortnums. I am definitely in the pro-camp.

I spend a lot of time wanting to increase the ways I can get marzipan into my life, so Easter and its siren song of Simnel cake pleases me hugely. I toyed with these mini ones from Nutmegs Seven which look light as a feather, but I’ve also been fiddling around with trying a marzipan ice cream for ages and suddenly it came together and I realised my world needed Simnel cake ice cream immediately.

You could of course bake a Simnel Cake and break it up into homemade ice cream and bob’s your uncle, but I have a deep shuddering hatred of wet cake. Things like trifle and tiramisu make me feel funny inside. So I needed something more deconstructed, but simple and I think, with this recipe, I’ve cracked it:

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Candied Peel

I love love love candied peel. I used to run to the baking cupboard and cram spoonfuls of it in my mouth when my mum wasn’t looking. It was my favourite bit of any fruitcake or barmbrack. This is especially odd since I don’t like oranges as a fruit, juice or flavouring, and generally eschew citrus fruits of all kinds. But mellow those citrus rinds in vats of sugar and it’s hypnotic to me.

An inability to read recipes a few weeks ago meant I ended up with an overabundance of grapefruits when making marmalade for cake and found myself wondering what to do with them all. A casual Twitter conversation about Christmas preparations brought about a massive lightbulb moment. I would make my own candied peel. Never mind if it was incredibly faffy and complicated: I could rise to the challenge!

Imagine my glee when this Waitrose recipe popped up and I realised candying my own peel was actually easier than pie. Radio on, sleeves rolled up, I set about peeling and de-pithing my citrus fruit. I had a mix of pomelo, ruby grapefruit, lemons and orange, but avoided limes as I thought it might be too overwhelming, like cordial.

Get four pans going on your hob and simmer the peels separately in hot water for about 20 minutes to soften them up. Then split the peels into two pots to simmer in the syrup. I actually made two batches of candied peel and found it easier to keep the peels bigger and cram less peel into the pans as they bubble and soak up the sugar. I just did two batches of the syrup to be sure nothing caught or burned. Keep the heat down low as you can, you only want the merest blip in the syrup to stop it getting bitter or caramelising. Then go off and do stuff while your house smells truly amazing…

I came back to my peel when there was still a tiny bit of syrup left, and lifted the biggest pieces out with tongs, laying them on baking trays. The smaller bits went into a sieve to drip any excess syrup off, as you don’t want so much syrup on the pieces: they dry crunchy and I didn’t fancy trying to boil my pan dry and win the challenge. I then left the trayfuls of peel in the living room to dry as it was the only place I had room, but the airing cupboard or anywhere the cat can’t walk on them will do.

About three days later, I turned the peel with tongs and left for another two or three days or until I remembered about it. I popped it in a ziplock bag, with a tablespoon or so of icing sugar, and shook it up to coat it and stop it sticking together. Some went into the Christmas mincemeat. Some went into cellophane bags to give as gifts. The rest was stored in a jar to be used for various festive recipes closer to the time and the leftover syrup stored for a drizzle cake or put on porridge or ice cream.

So if you didn’t do a cake on Stir-Up Sunday, impress people with homemade candied peel instead. You will never buy one of those tiny tubs again after you’ve tasted the citrus sensation of making your own. It tastes as good as it looks!

Marmalade Cake

I haven’t thought much about marmalade for years, despite a fondness for Paddington himself, but I was given some for Christmas last year and have been pondering what to do with it since I don’t like oranges. Inspired by Oliver Thring’s recent piece on this traditional preserve in The Guardian I decided to try baking with it in place of using lemon.

A marmalade loving little bird told me that Nigel Slater had the ultimate recipe for marmalade cake and thanks to the power of online archives, I soon had my little hands on it. It had a simple list of ingredients and was part of an article about easy straightforward baking. What could go wrong? Read more

Hot Cross Buns

Hot cross buns

I don’t particularly like raisins, but I absolutely love Hot Cross Buns with a passion. As Easter treats go, I would always choose a hot cross bun over an Easter egg. This is probably because I haven’t worked out a way to put butter on a chocolate egg yet…my eyes lit up when I saw Dan Lepard’s recent recipe in the Guardian for Spiced Stout Buns as these are a grown up hot cross bun.

Luscious hot cross buns slathered in butter

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