Mulling syrup for cider

Mulled cider is a great drink on a winter evening. Heavy on the cinnamon, warm to clutch in your frozen hands. What’s not to like? (Cider itself according to himself). So I make mulled cider for one by adding some pre-spiced syrup to a single can or bottle of cider.

It’s a fairly flexible recipe, so if you want it sweeter to go with a dry cider, add more sugar. Love cloves more than I do? Fire a few more in the pot. Can’t find ginger root? Substitute it for crystalised ginger and remove some sugar (I think I dropped it by 50g that time). I add the juice toward the end, as I don’t think it benefits from boiling. You can just quarter the oranges and throw them in at the start, but it doesnt really get as much juice out and you end up with some bitterness. If you’re hosting a party, skip making the syrup and add everything bar the water to the cider and heat that for a half hour instead.

I usually end up with about 600mL liquid in the end (after reducing to half and then adding in the juice), which does about 2.5 – 3L cider. As when mulling wine, if you use a terrible cider, it will be drinkable, but if you use a good cider it’ll be outstanding. If you’re planning to use it to mull apple juice (or low alcohol ciders), reduce the sugar by at least half, they’re very sweet to begin with, and adding loads of syrup will make it undrinkable.

Bottle, ikea. Funnel, ikea. Strainer, the metal filter from the drip coffee machine (paper reduces the grit at the end of the coffee, so the mesh is for mulling now)

Bottle, ikea. Funnel, ikea. Strainer, the metal filter from the drip coffee machine (paper reduces the grit at the end of the coffee, so the mesh is for mulling now)

  • 1 litre water
  • 200g caster sugar (you can go up or down depending on the type of cider you normally get)
  • 6 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tsp nutmeg (ground or grated, up to you)
  • 12 cloves (precise, you can up it if you love cloves)
  • 4 inches of ginger root, sliced (or a bag of crystallised ginger, but reduce the sugar)
  • Zest of 2 oranges (life’s too short for microplaning for this recipe, a regular zester will do)
  • Juice of 2 oranges

Put everything except the juice in a pot. Heat until it’s steaming gently but not boiling. Stir occasionally till the sugar is disolved. Continue to heat for about an hour and the liquid has reduced to half or a third of the starting volume. Add the juice of the oranges. Strain into a bottle. Let to cool, then store in the fridge.

The sad remains after the syrup is done.

The sad remains after the syrup is done.

When you want a hot cider, pour a bottle or can into a pot, add about 100mL of the syrup (or more or less to taste, 500mL + 100mL is about right spicewise to start with, drop to 60mL for longnecks). Heat gently and pour into a giant mug (or two regular mugs if you can share). I usually swirl the bottle of syrup before pouring as the ground nutmeg settles otherwise (it fits through the strainer, so it’ll always be there).

Polenta Spud Waffles for Chilli

Thanks to Lidl and Clare, I now own a waffle iron. I’m still trying to figure out the optimum breakfast waffle, and have yet to try mad things like waffling brownies, but I did make a potato-corn-based-waffle for going with delicious chilli. It’s not like a Potato Waffle, but as they’re already perfect and available frozen by the kg, I don’t need to figure those out.

Waffles and chilli

Waffles with beef chilli, sour cream and chive, tortillas and a reasonable amount of cheddar.
There was no time for finding the proper camera, so it’s back to phone pictures.

This recipe makes about 6 Belgian waffles-worth. Enough for three big plates of chilli, or two chillis and some breakfast.

  • 250g cold (leftover) mashed potato
  • 30g flour
  • 20g polenta
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 100mL milk
  • butter for oiling the waffle iron

Mash up the potato with the flour, polenta, and baking powder. Beat the egg and milk together in a jug. Pour into the spud/flour mix, beating all the time with a fork. The mix doesnt need to be smooth, just well combined. Turn on the waffle iron, and brush the plates with butter.
The batter puffs up, thanks to all the baking powder, so take care not to overload the iron. Turn halfway through cooking if needed.
Serve with chilli and lashings of cheese and sour cream. Any leftover waffles can be cooled on a wire rack and toasted for breakfast (or frozen for the next time you have chilli).

Veggie chilli

Chilli non carne with plenty of cheese. Note the absence of sour cream. A foolish way to eat chilli

Raspberry bakewell tart

In my quest to learn how to make laminated doughs (think croissants), I picked up Murielle Valette’s Patisserie. It’s brilliant, I’ve even cooked more than one thing from it already (croissants, pain au chocolate, lemon tart, dense chocolate cake and the modified bakewell below). For my colleague’s birthday, I insisted on making her some cake, and made a bakewell as I had all the ingredients to hand (in fact, the pastry had been made and frozen the weekend before). Instead of the apricot and almond tart in the book, I went for a raspberry bakewell, which went down very well when I brought it into work on the Monday.

Slices of cake

Look at that beautiful layer of jam

I’d highly recommend the book if you like French pastries (and cake in general), it’s divided into a techniques section and various chapters based on particular doughs (puff pastry/brioche/choux) and I’ll certainly be making more from it. It’s a great way to fill your workmates with butter, as it’s a critical part of most of these tasty treats.

What a marvellous book!

What a marvellous book!

Pastry

  • 230g flour
  • 140g salted butter (normal butter in a gold wrapper, otherwise add salt)
  • 55g caster sugar
  • 1 egg

Rub the flour and butter together until it’s breadcrumblike. Don’t overwork it or the butter will melt and the pastry won’t be lovely and crisp. Mix in the sugar, add the egg and mix quickly until it forms a large ball. STOP WORKING THE PASTRY. Mash into a vaguely rectangular shape, wrap it in clingfilm and put it in the fridge, have a coffee and sit down for an hour.
Divide the dough in half and freeze a portion (you can use this for more cake in the future). Roll the dough out on a floured surface until it’s about 4mm thick. Gently lower it into your favourite pie tin and form gently into the corners. Trim the top of the pastry with a sharp knife and put the pastry into the fridge for another half hour. Pre-heat the oven to 160°C.
Put a load of baking paper into the pastry case and fill with baking beans (or uncooked rice or lentils, I use some red lentils I don’t care for). Bake for 40mins. Remove the baking paper and contents and put the pastry back in the oven for 5 more mins to brown the middle slightly. Take out of the oven to cool while you prepare the almond filling. Leave the oven on, you need it at 160°C in ten mins anyway.

Filling

  • 110g softened butter
  • 110g caster sugar (plain sugar or vanilla sugar)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract, if you use vanilla caster sugar, you can leave this out
  • 90g ground almonds
  • 25g flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 dessertspoons of good rasberry jam
  • a large handful raspberries, frozen is grand

Beat the sugar, butter and vanilla essence together. Add the ground almonds and flour and mix well. Beat the eggs and add a little at a time, mixing well.
Spread the jam on the bottom of the pastry case. Pour over the almond filling. Drop in some raspberries. Bake at 160°C for 45 mins. Cool in the tin. Turn out and serve with the best coffee you have.

Ready to go to work and get chopped up and devoured

Ready to go to work and get chopped up and devoured

Christmas Cookies, or anytime-spiced-iced-cookies

At the recent sugar craftnight in TOG (our annual Xmas party where the crafters eat too much cake and biscuits and hot chocolate), I had a go off proper icing, with an icing bag and all, and decorated a rather dapper velociraptor (raptor made by Becky).  It was also my first go off making royal icing for decorating, and I quite enjoyed the whole thing, so went out and got icing gear and a Christmas tree cutter so I could keep icing at home.

Cookies

Christmas jumpers are only for cookies, not grown humans

So far as I can tell, the only thing consistent between royal icing recipes is that it contains egg whites and sugar. The methods aren’t all consistent, and things like the addition of lemon juice or glycerine seem optional, even the eggs to sugar ratio varies from page to page.  If you’re using the icing to decorate a cake, there’s probably a lot more effort to be put into beating it to make it stiff, but for piping on to biscuits and doing a flood fill, things are a lot more flexible.  Also, use gel food colourings if you want proper colour, the liquidy ones only work when they’re what your using to hydrate the icing as you’d need to add to much for a vibrant effect.

You can buy bags of powdered royal icing in the shops, so you can make up as much as you need.  Thin it out with lemon juice so you can pipe with it, and thin it out even further for flood filling areas that you’ve piped around the edges (see the Xmas trees, the edge is the boundary to stop the flood fill rolling off thet cookie).  The advantage of the powdered royal icing is that the egg whites are dried and mixed already, meaning you don’t have to mess around separating egg whites and feeding raw egg to people who don’t want it (and may not recognise that it’s in icing).

Pretty trees

The trees were flood filled after piping around the edges. They were decorated when the flood was mostly dry, so the icings merged a little.

Of course, what’s the point in iced cookies without cookies! Many thanks to Carri for the recipe which I have duly modified by chucking in some spices.  I’ll probably be more heavy handed the next time, but at this ratio, people who normally don’t like cinnamon or ginger did their best to eat the whole batch. You could also use vanilla in place of the spices, though I think cinnamon should be added to every baked thing (within reason, maybe).  Leave some undecorated for the people who don’t care for icing.

 

  • 225g butter
  • 175g icing sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 450g flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 180°C and line some trays with baking paper. Get the wire cooling rack ready and a plate for cooled cookies too, as the cookies will constantly be going in and out of oven and you’ll need somewhere to put them. This recipe makes a LOT of cookies.

Cream the butter and sugar together, then beat in the egg. Sift the flour, baking powder and spices and add to the mix. Knead briefly and roll out to about 5mm thick. Cut out with your preferred cutters, place on the baking tray (they don’t spread too much during cooking, but leave a little space between them anyway). Bake them for about ten minutes, until they are a pale golden colour. Let to cool for a minute before transferring to the wire rack (they’re a little fragile straight out of the oven). When they’re cold, move them off the rack to a plate, as the next batch will be out of the oven shortly.

showing off

The cookies should be golden before you turn them into instruments of sugar delivery

When the cookies are all made, make up the icing according to the pack. Take some of the icing into a new bowl and add the colour and thin with lemon juice until you can pipe it. If you want to floodfill, go round the outside of the area you want to fill, then thin the icing even further with more lemon juice so it’s pourable and you can fill the space on the cookie. The floodfill ends up paler than the outline if you simply thin the outline paste without adding more colour. Let the icing to partly dry at least before you move on to the next step. These cookies lasted about four days from baking, well they were finished within four days, so I’m not sure how long they’d last beyond it.

Craigies Ballyhook Flyer 2012

This has been lying in the fridge for a few weeks, waiting for me to get around to drinking it.  The Craigies Ballyhook Flyer smells like actual apples, appley apples rather than fermented apples.  It’s dark and cloudy and smells even more appley when it’s in the glass.  It’s a very dry cider, not as sweet as it smells, but it’s very drinkable (now it’s aaaaaaall gone).

If you like dry cider, you’ll love it. If you like sweet cider, you won’t. If like me, you prefer medium dry, you’ll just have to try it, and have it at the right time when you’re in the mood for it. I’d love to cook with it, I’d say it’d be lovely for casseroling sausages in. Sadly I’ll have to go seek out a bottle in town and I can be lazy at times.

Bought from: Celtic Whiskey Shop

How much: Somewhere between €4 and €5 (Irish cider isn’t particularly cheap but seems to stay under a fiver in off licences)

Ate with: The memory of Chinese takeaway, eaten earlier in the evening

ABV: 5.8%

Buy again? Maybe if I come across it. I imagine it’d be amazing for cooking pork or ham in…

craigies ballyhook flyer

It’s gone now, but it was delicious and not-see-through

When Science goes bad, there’s always Cake

Many of the scientists at work are talented bakers, and the rest are pro’s at eating cake. Quite a few of us have the back up plan “if the science doesn’t work out, I’ll open a bakery/café/restaurant”, after all, baking is a sort of science…

During an experiment that wasn’t going very well, I started chatting with Laura about cakes that could represent various aspects of science, whether the experiment is working or not. So here’s some of my possible science-cake suggestions, and some examples of how science can learn from disaster cakes.

The device isn’t capturing cells at all:
Super rich dense chocolate brownie, with walnuts. Served sandwiched with a very good vanilla icecream and a dark chocolate and whiskey sauce poured over the top.  In a bowl, because you’ve learned your lesson about fluids misbehaving and a plate would make a mess.

A sadly batched tray of muffins, tasty but unbeautiful

Don’t buy the cheapest gloves, don’t buy the cheapest muffin cases. Science and baking have learned many similar lessons

The perfect micrograph using all those fiddly fluorescent stains
Summer fruits tart, with a rich, chewy batter half enveloping the fruit, and a very crisp yet crumbly base. Served with whipped cream with a hint of vanilla. The juicy fruits might stain the cream but it’s all terribly beautiful and neatly presented.

Even Linus Pauling gets it wrong
An orange drizzle cake, moist and delicious, with a scoop of lemony moussey curdlike stuff. No longer full of vitamin C after baking, but hey, megadosing vitC doesn’t work anyway!

Poor melty cinnamon rolls, but they went to a good home

The rolls have leaked in the oven? Still delicious. The PBS leaked in the autoclave? Still a sterile buffer.

Have you any science-cake suggestions? Could you happilly substitute science for cake in your every day life (or vice versa)?

So you’re thinking about doing a PhD, eh?

It’s that time of year, the undergraduates are finished and wondering what to do WITH THE REST OF THEIR LIVES OH NOES! So a number of them have been directed to me, and told “ask her what it’s like, see if she’d recommend it”. I shall restate most of my advice below, for those of you who haven’t got to hear it from my face and because, apparently, it’s not bad advice.
Continue reading

Tempted? Summer Sweet

Tempted? are a cidery based in Northern Ireland who have a range of Irish craft ciders, and bring out the odd seasonal batch of something new.  This summer’s offering is Summer Sweet, and it is so very sweet.

Unfortunately, despite my fondness for sugar, it was a bit too sweet. It’s a cloudy cider, with a strong oakey taste as well. A few ciders do the woody-taste well, but with the extreme sweetness, it just didn’t work out.  I’ll stick to the other ciders in Tempted?’s core range, and wait to see what appears next year instead.

Bought from: Martins of Fairview

How much: Just under €4.50

Ate with: Sweet Chilli Pistachios (these are AWESOME)

ABV: 5%

Buy again? Not this one, but probably other Tempted? ciders

It is indeed sweet

It is indeed sweet

 

Mac’s Armagh Cider (Lyte)

This evening, after a long day, I opened a bottle of Mac’s Armagh Cider. Only the lyte though, as at 3%, it shouldn’t do too much damage to tomorrow morning.

It’s a good medium cider, and remarkably dry for a low(ish) alcohol cider (it’s not dry, but far from the sweetness of pure apple juice). It’s very tasty and appley, a solid cider.

The label is a bit plain, and has a link to a broken website (www.macsarmaghcider.com) and an email address I’ve emailed about said broken site.  It tells you which harvest your cider came from (mine was harvest 20), and surprisingly, the calories (it say 225 but i don’t know if that’s /mL or /bottle).

Bought from: Irish Celtic Whiskey Shop

How much: Don’t remember, it was a few months ago

Ate with: Tesco Cheese Curls (don’t judge me)

Buy again? Definitely, just need to haul my ass into the city centre to do so.

Lovely cider

A lovely pint of cider, with an offputtng blue backlight

sCider is Delicious

I’m going to start keeping a list of tasting notes for various ciders (mostly Irish, all craft) on the blog. I’m not sure whether to keep it as part of the main site or try to make a subblog, but wordpress isn’t making the latter very straight forward. They will be gathered here for those of you who are interested.
It’s not quite science, but it is VERY delicious (usually), so it should fit for the most part. Will have to start having my fancy camera on hand when I have the odd pint from now on :)