The Tea Room Blog

Christmas – Baked In England – part 1

There isn’t much that is still made in England, but one thing we do make are some very good Christmas treats.

I have been in the US nearly 7 years and while I love it here the one thing I truly miss is Christmas in England and all the traditions that go with it, in particular the wonderful desserts and cakes.

We of course have the Victorians to thank for most of the wonderful creations, in particular the Christmas Pudding, and there are many delights us Brits love to consume in abundance during the festive season (and I am not just talking about the  tins of Quality Street Chocolates that can be found in homes up and down the nation). Every family has their traditions and their personal favorites of what they like to eat over the Christmas period, and many have recipes that have passed through many generations.

Generally you will find most of the following delights on the table at most homes in England:

  • Christmas Pudding
  • Christmas Cake
  • Chocolate Yule Log (aka known as Buche de Noel)
  • Mince Pies

Christmas Pudding
Lets start with everyone’s favorite the Christmas pudding. This beast of a pudding is truly delightful and is traditionally served as part of Christmas dinner. The pudding typically consists of many dried fruits held together by egg and suet, moistened with stout and rum, and flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg and other spices. The pudding is then steamed in a basin for around 6 hours (depending on its size), stored for a month (to let the flavors come together) and then steamed for a further 2 hours on Christmas day. It sounds laborious but it is well worth it.

Christmas-pudding-007

My mum has always made her own puddings and I have carried on the tradition, but the recipe is a closely guarded secret and if I shared it with you Mrs. Austin would not be pleased.

Continue reading Christmas – Baked In England – part 1

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Recipe – Mincemeat (sweet)

You can’t have Christmas without a mince pie. But you can’t have a mince pie without mincemeat. This luxurious, alcohol infused dired fruit mixture that everyone loves in England can be quite hard to find in America. Even harder to find is suet (a key part of the mixture), however this recipe is very easy to make and uses butter instead of suet.

Click here for the Full Recipe

Grams, Ounces and Celsius

The metric system, that wonderful system of grams, ounces, centimeters and meters, used in every single country apart from 3 – the USA, Myanmar (formerly Burma) and Liberia. All three still use Imperial and customary units.

Scales

First introduced by the French First Republic in 1799, discussed in English parliament in 1818, officially sanctioned in the United States since 1866, and formally introduced in the United Kingdom in 1965, America remains the only industrialized country that has not adopted the metric system as its official system of measurement.

Of course we wouldn’t have to worry about this if we weren’t trying to make an English recipe in the USA, but trust me, it is pretty easy to overcome.

Basically when following an English recipe you will not find the word ‘cup’ or ‘pounds’. What you will find is grams (g) ounces (oz) and cooking temperatures in Celsius. But have no fear, a good set of kitchen scales will solve the problem and I have already converted the majority of the temperatures for you – from Celsius to Fahrenheit.

The Golden Rule

There is however one golden rule when using weight, which is very important to remember – when using a recipe stick to using either g’s or oz’s but never a combination of both. Measuring one ingredient in g’s and another ingredient in oz’s, trust me, can get you in all sorts of trouble.

Continue reading Grams, Ounces and Celsius

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

Welcome to English Baking In America

Welcome to English Baking In America…lets get started!!!

You do not have to be a domestic goddess to be able to bake – trust me I am no Bree Van de Kamp.

In my experience, all you require is the desire to get your hands into the mixing bowl, the ability to rub flour into butter, patience, some tried and trusted recipes and reliable ingredients. Of course an array of baking pans also help, as will a set of kitchen scales – and if you are here then you are probably interested in making some English fare.

English cakes are plain, elegant and satisfying. At their best they are comforting, satisfying, loaded with butter and steeped in history and heritage.

Vicoria Sponge

My weekly blog will cover everything you will need to know to make the wonderful baked goods that are enjoyed regularly across the pond, including:

  • recipes from some of Englands best bakers (I have adapted them slightly to make them work with ingredients available in the US),
  • potential problems when using a recipe from England
  • hints and tips for English baking
  • checklists
  • the history behind some Englands favorite cakes and biscuits

So lets get you going on how to bake the English way….stay tuned!!!!