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Jam Oysters

Jam Oysters

When I made my declaration about not doing any more fancy eating posts for a while, I had forgotten about these delicious little jam tarts I had baked the other day for the Royal Occasion. Nevermind, it may be too late for the wedding, but this fabulous recipe is sure to come in handy for any tea party/special occasion you have in mind that you want something a tiny bit special for.  Jam Oysters.  Sounds funny to you I am thinking, a name like Jam Oysters.  But let me explain . . .

They are really only jam tarts.  Fancy jam tarts.  Little almond frangipane filled short crust pastry tarts that you bake until the frangipane is golden brown and then the magic happens . . .

You take the tip of a sharp knife and carefully remove the frangipane once the tarts have cooled, taking care to keep it intact. You then fill the baked and now empty tart shells with a portion of raspberry jam, and a layer of  piped vanilla buttercream. At the end you pop that frangipane layer back on top and dust with icing sugar.  I suppose it looks a bit like an opened oyster shell, but with what is a much tastier filling than an oyster . .  in my honest opinion.

They look quite pretty on a tea table  . . . and are just that tiny bit more special than a plain old jam tart.

They are as light as air  . . .  and oh so tasty.  Use a good raspberry jam for this. If you don't have homemade, us a good storemade one, which in my case is always Bon Maman.  And not just because of the jar . . .

Although to be sure that little gingham red and white cap draws me like an ocean siren draws a sailor.  I just love Bon Maman preserves, both the contents and the jars. So pretty and pretty tasty!

I thought they looked quite pretty balanced on top of these little Jenny Wren egg cups . . .  just like the little Jenny's are about to take to the air with their sweet little surprises  . . . 

Such pretty little birds . . .  such pretty little cakes  . . .

Incredibly tasty too and sure to be a big hit at your next soiree!  I have given recipes for the tarts as well as the pastry (a sweet shortcrust) and for the buttercream.  YUM! 

*Jam Oysters*
Makes 18 

Not only are these a real treat for the eyes, but they are delicious as well. They look complicated but they really are very easy to put together.
175g  of prepared shortcrust pastry (make your own or use ready made) (1/2 pound)

70g butter (1/3 cup)
70g ounces of caster sugar (1/3 cup + 1/2 TBS)
85g ground almonds (scant cup)
1 medium free-range egg, lightly beaten
Few drops of almond essence

You will also need:
Raspberry jam to fill
Vanilla Butter Cream icing to fill
Icing sugar to dust

Pre-heat the oven to 190*C/375*F/gas mark 5. Roll out the pastry thinly and cut into rounds, using a 3 inch fluted pastry cutter. Use this to line 18 patty tins.

Cream the butter together with the sugar until fluffy and well incorporated. Stir in the ground almonds, beaten egg and the almond essence. Mix well.

Place a small spoonful of the almond mixture into each pastry case. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until set and nicely browned.

Remove from the oven to a rack to cool. Once they are thoroughly cooled, carefully remove the almond filling with a knife. Fill the pasty cases with the jam and pipe a bit of butter cream on top of each. Replace the almond filling on top, dust with icing sugar, and serve.

*Rich Sweet Shortcrust Pastry*
makes 1/2 pound 

The best way to make shortcrust pastry that has a crisp crumble in the mouth texture is to do it by hand, rather than by machine. Using a  machine tends to overwork the gluten in the flour and the pastry has a tendancy to end up springy and shrink when cooked..  Resting the pastry for a half hour in the fridge is also an important step because of the high proportion of butter to flour, which makes it difficult to roll out when warm. 

280g plain flour (2 cups)
4 ounces cold butter (1/2 cup)
6 TBS icing sugar, sifted
2 egg yolks
2 TBS water 

Sift the flour into a basin. Add the butter, cut into pieces and rub it into the flour until it resembled fine dry bread crumbs. Add the icing sugar. Whisk in well. Make a indentation in the centre of the butter mixture. Beat the egg yolks and water together. Pour into the indentation and then, using a fork, mix together to a rough dough in the basin. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for a few minutes until smooth. Shape into a ball and then place into a zip lock bag. Place in the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes, while you make the filling.  Proceed as per the recipe requirements for whichever recipe that you are using to fill the tart with. 

*Perfect Vanilla Buttercream Icing*
Makes enough to fill and frost a layer cake

225g butter, softened (1 cup)
390g icing sugar, sifted (3 cups, confectioners, powdered)
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 to 2 TBS double cream 

Beat the butter and sugar together on low until well blended and then continue to beat on mdeium for another few minutes until it begins to become fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and 1 TBS cream, only adding the second one if needed until you have a frosting of spreading consistency. 

I just adore these old fashioned, traditional teatime recipes  that you find here in the UK.  I adore frangipane anyways, but when you pop it into pastry along with some jam and buttercream, well that is just a couple of little heavenly bites that I truly have a difficult time resisting!!!  Bon Appetit!

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Marie Rayner
Lemon Raspberry French Toast

Lemon Raspberry French Toast

Royal weddings aside, I do like to pull the boat out a bit at the weekend when it comes to breakfast/brunch.  I actually did this last weekend, but am only getting to show it to you now.  I found and adapted the recipe from a site which I like called Tablespoon

There were a few things I liked about the recipe. One was that it was built especially for two people and we are only two.  Secondly I liked that it was simple and used things I normally have on hand.

I confess right now, I am not a huge fan of ricotta cheese.  It is a consistency thing.  I MUCH prefer cream cheese, which is smoother and richer.  So that is what I chose to use instead. By all means use ricotta if you prefer it. I don't.

The cheese is mixed with some honey and lemon peel and then spread onto slices of french bread. Easy peasy.  You spread it on all of the slices of bread, and then top only half of them with the fresh raspberries.

I adore fresh raspberries. It was not always so.  My sister and I gorged ourselves on freshly picked raspberries from a neighbors bush when I was a girl, and I ended up getting sick afterwards.  That was a really naughty thing for us to do really, so fair dues that I ended up sick. A fitting punishment.  It was a very long time before I could face a raspberry and my father was hoovering raspberry seeds out of the carpet in our car for a very long time. Lets just say I was not very popular with either the neighbors or my dad!

Thankfully I have since gotten over my aversion to them.  I really enjoy them now, but do have to watch my consumption somewhat due to my diverticulitis.  Enough said!

They work beautifully in this recipe, but I expect any berry would work well.  So just pick your favourite kind and go with the flow!

The honey in this is also a real favourite for me. I adore honey. For this I used Acacia honey . . .  lovely delicious flavours! 

*Lemon Raspberry French Toast*
Serves 2

Quite simply delicious with a lemon cream cheese and fresh fruit filling. 

120g cream cheese (4 ounces)
60ml honey (1/4 cup)
2 1/4 tsp finely grated lemon zest
8 slices (1/2 inch thick) soft French bread
95g fresh raspberries (3/4 cup)
1 large free-range egg, beaten
75ml milk (1/3 cup)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 6. Line a 15 X 10 X 1-inch baking sheet with foil.  Spray with non-stick cooking spray.  

Whisk together the cheese, 2 TBS of the honey and 2 tsp of the lemon zest. Spread about 1 rounded TBS onto each slice of bread. Place 3 berries on top of half of the slices of bread and cover with the remaining bread slices, cheese side down. 

Beat the egg, milk, salt, vanilla and cinnamon together in a shallow bowl.  Place the sandwiches in the bowl.  Let soak for 5 minutes, then flip over and soak for a further 5 minutes.  Transfer to the prepared baking sheet. 

Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, until golden brown.  To each sandwich with the remaining raspberries, drizzle with the remaining honey and sprinkle with the remaining lemon zest.  Serve immediately. 

Whew!  After all of the cooking I have done over these past few days I am exhausted!  I really pulled the stops out for the wedding weekend and am happy now to go back to normal.    A bit of restraint is now in order!  I wonder what I will cook up next?  Hmmm . . .  food for thought! Bon Appetit! 

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Marie Rayner
Souffle Omelet & Cornbread Muffins

Souffle Omelet & Cornbread Muffins

I wanted to do a bit of a brunch/breakfast today to celebrate the Royal Wedding.  Something which incorporated traditions from both sides of the pond, and I have been having a good hard think about it all week.  I wanted to include something very American along with something quite British and, by Jove! I think I cracked it. NO pun intended! 

The American bit includes lovely Buttermilk Corn Muffins, pan fried potatoes and fresh berries.  The corn muffins are baked in heart shaped muffin tins, because, after all  . . .  it is a wedding day.  They are moist and delicious, but a tad bit unusual in that they are topped with candied corn! 

It really is a special touch. These muffins are so moist and delicious, you are guaranteed to love them!

The British side of the menu incorporates Pigs in Blankets,  grilled tomatoes, and a beautifully light as air Herbed Souffle Omelet! I've also included fresh raspberries because you need to have some fruit don't you and our chosen tipple is elderflower cordial mixed with sparkling water, but you can certainly drink whatever you want with this. Fuzzy navels if you do alcohol might be nice. We don't. Do alcohol that is. 

You can find my recipe for the pan fried potatoes here. Failing having cooked potatoes in the refrigerator, feel free to use tinned new potatoes, drained well, sliced thin and patted dry.  Works a charm. 

For the pigs in blankets, simply wrap cocktail-sized chipolata sausages with bacon  and bake them in a hot oven for about 25 minutes until golden. You can do this and then then throw the omelet together and pop it in for the last few minutes of them cooking. I also threw the grilled tomato in with the pigs in blankets. Just cut a medium vine-ripened tomato in half through the middle and place it onto the baking sheet with the pigs, cut sides down, halfway through their bake time. 

Altogether it makes for a really lovely little brunch/breakfast, just to whet your whistle and get you all set up for the big do. Todd really enjoyed this.  It was perfectly ample just for two people, with plenty of corn muffins leftover to munch on while we are watching the wedding, with maybe a nice hot cuppa and some jam for spreading. Yes, I rock that way.  Jam and corn muffins to me, go together like peas and carrots. It is the North American in me that loves that sweet/salty combination! 

I even went out in the garden and picked a small vase of whatever wildflowers I could find.  Primrose, bluebells and daisies. I think Meghan would approve. 

Just look at how nice and light and fluffy that omelet is, and I have to say  . . .  if I don't say so myself, DELICIOUS! In all truth I could not finish it all.  I did finish the corn muffin however.  They are one of my weaknesses . . . especially when they are as tasty as these ones are!  Adapted from a recipe found in The Gathering of Friends Volume 2.

*Sweetheart Cornbread Muffins*
makes 10 - 12 muffins

Deliciously moist heart shaped cornbread muffins topped with candied sweetcorn kernels. 

145g sweet corn kernels (1 cup)
120g + 1 TBS butter (1/2 cup + 1 TBS)
125g of granulated sugar +1 TBS (2/3 cup + 1 TBS)
2 large free range eggs
240ml buttermilk (1 cup)
1/2 tsp baking soda
170g cornmeal (1 cup)
140g plain flour (1 cup)
1/2 tsp salt   

Preheat the oven to 190*C/375*F/ gas mark 5.  Butter a 12 cup heart shaped muffin tin.  Set aside. 

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the sugar and corn  Cook and stir over high heat for 2 to 3  minutes, until the corn starts to brown. Remove from the heat. 

Melt the 120g butter (1/2 cup) and whisk in the sugar.  Beat in the eggs until well blended.  Stir in the buttermilk.  Whisk together the soda, cornmeal and flour.  Stir into the wet mixture, just to combine. Divide between the prepared muffin cups.  Sprinkle a portion of the candied corn over top of each. Bake in the preheated oven for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Serve warm.

*Herbed Souffle Omelet*
Serves 2

As light as air and a quick and simple make, so long as you don't overcook them.  Timings are pretty solid so DO follow them. Very pretty and quite delicious! 

3 large free range eggs, separated
pinch of salt or to taste
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 TBS butter
1 TBS finely chopped fresh herbs (Use your favourite combination, I used
oregano, basil, chives and thyme)
60g sour cream (1/2 cup)
2 TBS milk 

Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 6.  Use a 10 inch oven proof non-stick with sloping sides. (If your skillet has a plastic handle, cover the handle with foil.) Warm your plates. 

Briskly beat the egg yolks to break it up. Whisk together the egg whites with an electric whisk, along with a pinch of salt, until they are stiff but not dry.  Fold into the egg yolks. 

Melt the butter in the skillet over nigh heat. As soon as the butter begins to foam, pour in the eggs. Spread the egg out with a spatula to cover the bottom. Cook for about 1 minute, until the bottom is golden brown.  Bang the skillet into the oven and cook for about 3 minutes until it is set. It should be spongy, but still moist.  Remove from the oven and sprinkle 2 tsp of the herbs down the centre of the omelet and spoon all but 2 TBS of the sour cream over the herbs.  

Whisk the remaining sour cream with the milk. Fold the omelet in half.  Spoon the milk/sour cream mixture over the omelet and sprinkle with the remaining herbs. Serve immediately. 

I am on pins and needles until I see the dress.  We will be watching all of the festivities from the best seats in the country, on our sofa in front of the telly.  

The excitement over this wedding is really tangible. I was watching the news people today speak to a few people in the crowds gathering around the Windsor wedding route, from both sides of the pond and there is a real feeling of happiness and gaiety in abundance!  You just have to smile. 

With all that is negative in this world, this wedding is a lovely spot of sunshine and positivity. I am sorry that Meghan's dad isn't well enough to walk her down the aisle, but well pleased that Prince Charles has stepped up to do the Honor.  It says a lot about how much she is already loved by the Royal family.  I wish them all the happiness in the world.   

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Marie Rayner
Lemon & Elderflower Cake

Lemon & Elderflower Cake

 Day two of beautiful food. I was going to save this for Saturday, but then I thought some of you might want to bake this cake so I would give you a days heads up to do so, because after all, we are all going to be glued to our TV screens on Saturday for the big wedding!  I can't believe that the date is already here and hip hip hooray, it looks like we are in for a lovely sunny day on Saturday!  They do say "Happy is the bride the sun shines on!"  I don't know who "they" are, but I am well pleased that Meghan and Harry are going to have a sunny day!  Yippee! Only one more sleeps for all of us! Can't wait!

It has been tipped that their wedding cake is going to be a Lemon & Elderflower Cake, and that is so fitting as this is the time of year that the elderflowers are in bloom.  The flavours of Lemon & Elderflower go together very well.  

Elderflower Cordial is a very popular drink over here. Its made from fresh spring elderflowers steeped with sugar and water into a type of syrupy soft drink that you mix with water for consumption. Its very popular with the ladies.  When I worked at the Manor, every time there was a luncheon for the ladies, I had to greet the with chilled and iced glasses of elderflower cordial when they arrived.  Very popular indeed. They do say that Lychee liqueur is a fair substitute. I can't say for sure.

In any case I have baked a lovely Lemon and Elderflower cake for the royal occasion.  It is a double layer cake and flavoured with both lemons and elderflower cordial.

I have decorated it simply, with meant to be  . . .  elderflower blossom . . .  and silver dragees.  Todd brought me home some kind of blossom, but its not elderflower, however it looks pretty anyways.

It has a lovely moist crumb, which is also enhanced by brushing the warm cake with an elderflower/lemon sugar syrup when it comes out of the oven.

Even more flavour comes from the filling of lemon curd, which is also whisked together with some cordial.

Very pretty and very delicious indeed.  But I have also taken the flowers off and shown you a simpler way of presenting it by simply icing it naked . . .

Piping on little rosettes of buttercream and once again, scattering silver balls over top  . . . 

I am a huge fan of the naked cake look.  We get enough sugar in our diets, so paring down a bit on the frosting on a cake, just seems to make sense.  In any cake, I like the way it looks . . .

*Lemon & Elderflower Cake*
Makes 1 8-inch layer cake 
A beautiful cake with a lovely moist crumb and wonderful flavours.  

For the cake:
225g unsalted butter, at room temperature (3/4 cup +3 1/2 TBS)
225g caster sugar (1 cup + 3 TBS fine granulated sugar)
4 medium free-range eggs, lightly beaten
225g plain flour (1 1/2 cups + 2 TBS)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
the finely grated zest of one unwaxed lemon
4 TBS elderflower cordial
For the syrup:
75ml elderflower cordial (1/3 cup)
25ml fresh lemon juice (2 TBS)
50g granulated sugar (1/4 cup)
For the frosting:
225g butter, softened (3/4 cup + 3 1/2 TBS)
390g icing sugar, sifted (3 cups, confectioners, powdered)
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 to 2 TBS double cream
You will also need:
about 4 TBS lemon curd
1 tsp elderflower cordial

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4.  Butter 2 8-inch layer cake tins and line the bottoms with baking paper. Set aside. 

Cream the butter with an electric mixer until light.  Add the sugar and whisk it in until light and fluffy.  whisk the elderflower cordial into the eggs.Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a separate bowl.  Whisk in the lemon zest. Start whisking the flour into the creamed mixture alternating with the eggs, beginning and ending with flour.  Mix well together.  Divide the batter between the two prepared pans, smoothing the top.  

Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. 

While the cake is baking, make the syrup. Combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan and warm gently over medium low heat, swirling to melt the sugar. Keep warm.  


 Once the cake is out of the oven, spoon the syrup over each layer a bit at a time, letting it absorb.  Place the cake tins on a wire rack and leave the cakes to cool in the pans completely, before removing from the tins.

To make the buttercream beat the butter and sugar together on low until well blended and then continue to beat on mdeium for another few minutes until it begins to become fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and 1 TBS cream, only adding the second one if needed until you have a frosting of spreading consistency.

Whisk together the lemon curd and elderflower cordial. 

Place one cake layer on a cake plate. Pipe a border of buttercream around the edge.  Whisk together the lemon curd and cordial.  Spoon into the centre of the buttercream border on top of the cake and spread it out. Top with the other cake layer, with the bottom side up.  Spread a thin layer of buttercream all over the cake if you want a naked look, or pile it on if you want a  fuller look. Decorate as desired.

However you choose to decorate it, if at all, I am sure of one thing and that is that you will simply adore this cake.  Its delicious!  Happy wedding eve!    I can't wait!  (Can you tell???)

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Marie Rayner

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