#308 Walnut Biscuits

The blog has been a little quiet of late because of a combination of business and broken car. This means that I’ve not been able to explore St Louis’s butcher’s shops, markets et cetera anywhere near as much as I’d hoped this month. However, there are still a few simp recipes to do in the book and this is one of them. I had hoped to not do any recipes from the Teatime chapter of the book because I have done so many and there are so many under-represented chapters. However, beggars cannot be choosers, so I made these walnut biscuits that are very similar to the sugar thins I made ages ago. Don’t feel guity about eating a load of these either; walnuts have more antioxidants than any other nut. You might end up a fat little piggy, but you’ll have none of those pesky free radicals aging the skin of your three chins.

Start off by creaming together seven ounces of softened butter with five ounces of caster sugar. Next, beat in a large egg and then eight ounces of self-raising flour and three ounces of chopped walnuts.

Spoon a third of the mixture onto a rolled out piece of cling film and roll it up tightly to form a sausage shape that is about 2 inches in diameter.

Repeat with the rest of the mixture. Put the sausages of dough in the fridge to harden up over-night. You can freeze them like this too.

Next day, peel away the cling film and slice up the dough thinly and place on baking sheets. Bake for no more than ten minutes 190°C (375°F).

Griggers reckon they go well with coffee, and I am sure they do, but as I am not allowed to drink coffee anymore (Doc’s orders), it’ll have to be a tea.

#308 Walnut Biscuits. A nice, crisp biscuit that is sweet and crumbly; it certainly would go with unsweetened coffee or tea. The only problem with them is that there weren’t enough walnuts. I would go to four or maybe five ounces of walnuts. 7/10

#217 Granary Bread with Walnuts

It’s been a while since I’ve done a bread recipe, and I’m definitely out of practise. I chose this one because it seemed suitably wintery, plus it used up flour that has been sat in the cupboard for a while now and I am trying to clear them, as I’ve mentioned previously. (As an aside, does anyone have a recipe that uses rice flour? It’s been sat there since that rubbish rice cake.) The main ingredient is granary flour, though I’m sure you could use wholewheat instead; I used a little stoneground flour left over from the Northumbrian Wholemeal Scones and Doris Grant’s Loaf from yonks ago. Grigson calls granary flour ‘Granary’ flour, because it’s a proprietary blend of malted flour and other nice things from one particular miller, though she doesn’t say who.

Don’t be put off by bread-making, Grigsoners, I really like doing it, and did start to get good at it, and even if it is a bit on the heavy-side, it will taste so much better than bought stuff. I think that it is the yeast flavour. Supermarket bakeries cannot compete – even with your worst effort!
Sift together a pound of ‘Granary’ flour, 4 ounces of strong white bread flour and 2 teaspoons of fine sea salt in the bowl of a food mixer. Add a packet of dried fast-action yeast (I reckon that’s about 2 level teaspoons) and mix well. Using the dough hook, stir in around ½ pint of warm water so that a soft, rough dough forms around the hook. Add two tablespoons of walnut oil and briefly knead, add more flour to make it smooth before placing in an oiled bowl. Cover with clingfilm and allow to ferment in a warm place until it has doubled in bulk. The time could be anywhere between an hour and several hours, depending on where you do this. As I don’t have an airing cupboard, I pop the bowl over the radiator. Knock back the dough (i.e. punch the air out of it) and knead in 4 ounces of roughly chopped walnuts. Now either place in an oiled loaf tin (or tins) or make it into a shape. I decided on a nice big round rustic loaf (i.e. the easiest). Use a very sharp knife and make some slashes on the top of the loaf and, bake in a very hot oven – 230⁰C – until cooked; this will depend upon the shape and size of your loaf, mine took 25 minutes. The way to tell is to tap the bottom – if it sounds hollow, it is done. Cool on a wire rack and eat with cheese, a winter stew or warm with butter and honey, I reckon.

#217 Granary Bread with Walnuts. Definitely the best bread so far – dense and with a good crumb, but not heavy. The flavour of the walnuts and the oil come through well, but are relatively neutral so that it would go equally well with sweet or savoury food. It’s very easy to make, all you need is some patience. Great stuff – a really nice, country loaf that is a little different, yet very classically English. 7.5/10.

#86 Walnut Cake

We all went up to Cumbria to visit Frances and James last weekend. It was also Dean’s birthday, so I thought I’d make a cake. On asking him what cake he’d like, he said ‘anything, as long as it’s not from that bloody book of yours’. Well that’s just lovely, isn’t it? I think he’s expecting brains and gonads in every recipe. After giving many alternative suggestions and turning them down, he eventually went for a walnut cake. Where did I find a recipe? You know! It’s a good cake too, for a walnut cake – the icing is a complete faff though. If you can’t be bothered to do the icing, do butter cream instead.

For the cake:
Cream together 5 ounces of butter with 6 ounces of sugar; beat in 2 beaten eggs, then 8 ounces of sifted self-raising flour, 3 ounces of coarsely chopped walnuts and 4 dessertspoons of milk. Lastly, add half a teaspoon of vanilla essence (or use vanilla sugar instead of normal sugar). Line an 8 inch cake tin, add the mixture and bake for 1 to 1 ¼ hours at 180°C. Test with a skewer, and when ready turn out onto a cake rack and allow to cool.

For the icing:
A bit tricky this bit…Stir a ¼ of a pint of water and a pound of sugar lumps in a pan under a low heat until the sugar gas dissolved. Raise the heat and add a generous pinch of cream of tartar. Boil the syrup until it has reached the soft-ball stage which is 120°C; easy if you have a sugar thermometer, which I don’t. Alternatively, as it boils, carefully remove a teaspoon-full of syrup and drop it into small cold water. Fish out the blob of sugar, and if it is soft but can form a ball between your fingers, you are done. You mustn’t stir the syrup as it boils; this reduces the temperature, causing the sugar to crystallise, resulting in total disaster. It takes a few minutes, so in the meantime, whisk two egg whites until stiff in an electric mixer, and when the syrup is ready pour it into the egg whites with the electric mixer on full-whack. Keep mixing until it has nearly set and then add a teaspoon of vanilla essence. You should have a lovely smooth meringue icing. Spread this over the cooled cake with a palette knife and decorate with some walnut halves.

It is very important to wait until the icing has nearly set – I didn’t and it went everywhere!

Not a wedding hat, but in fact, a cake.

#86 Walnut Cake – 6.5/10. Certainly an above-average cake as far as walnut cakes go. Not normally a big fan really. I think it may have been nicer with some coffee-flavoured butter cream instead of the posh icing, but that’s just me.