What is clotted cream?

In two words clotted cream is wickedly delightful. It is where two worlds collide, those two worlds being whipped cream and butter to create a little pot of goodness that is so utterly wonderful you just wish you could smother it on everything.

Okay, so that may be a little extreme, but once you have tasted the real thing you will never look back.

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Also known as Devonshire cream, clotted cream is a thick cream that originated in the Southwest of England. It has become so deeply rooted in the culture of South West England there is a constant battle between the counties of Devon and Cornwall to claim the rights as to where it originated, and which county makes it better.

Clotted cream was originally made by farmers to reduce the amount of waste from their milk. There is evidence that the monks of Tavistock Abbey (located in Devon) were making clotted cream in the early 14th century. A local regional cookbook, in 1658 ‘The Complete Cook’ had a recipe for ‘clouted cream’ and it is even mentioned in local folklore –

The Shepheardes Calendar, a poem by Edmund Spenser in 1579:

‘Ne would she scorn the simple shepherd swain,
For she would call him often heam,
And give him curds and clouted cream.’

Continue reading What is clotted cream?

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Fudging it up – part 2

Last week I told you all about the disaster I had when making fudge, and the many valuable lessons I learned from the experience. This week I continue with my tale of woe with three more baking mishaps.

Steamed Pudding

I was so looking forward to my steamed pudding with jam. I pulled out my tried and trusted Mary Berry cookbook, added all the ingredients and waited patiently while it merrily steamed away.

As an American my husband had never had a steamed pudding before and I was trying to get him excited by the prospect. I chatted incessantly for an hour about how wonderful this creation would be on a cold winters night, and everyone in England just loves a good steamed pudding.

After an hour the timer went off, I raced over to the cooker, took the pudding basin out, got a plate, turned the whole lot upside down and watched as the pudding slipped beautifully out of the bowl, onto the plate and looked just like it did in the cookery book.

Sadly though that was where the similarities ended, my husband took one mouthful and pulled a face. “So do you like it”? I asked enthusiastically. He pointed to the plate and asked if it always tasted like that? So I took a mouthful and that was enough for me. My beautiful jam steamed pudding was basically a salt bomb, so salty that my husband and I could barely eat a second bite.

Now, many English recipes call for self raising flour (aka self-rising flour in the US), and it turns out self rising flour in America contains salt…around 1/2 teaspoon per cup…and there was me thinking it was just the name that was different. Given I had added additional salt as per the recipe, it was a disaster.

Lesson learned, but I will make it again.

Continue reading Fudging it up – part 2

Baking The English Way

To get straight to the point, English cakes are plain, elegant and satisfying. At their best they are comforting, loaded with butter and steeped in history and heritage.

Eccles-cakes-007Most of the traditional cakes have a story to tell – from the Victoria sponge developed for Queen Victoria (who relished the new craze for tea-parties) to the humble Eccles cake which was illegal to eat in 1650 – anyone caught eating one would be sent to jail.

Thankfully times have changed and there are so many wonderful cakes for you to try.

Basically English baking consists of two things – butter and a good set of kitchen scales. Unlike baking in America the majority of English recipes are based on weight, which can be a little strange to get to grips with but when it comes to baking, it is all about accuracy and weight is far more dependable than measures.

Continue reading Baking The English Way