Image courtesy Rev Stan, via Flickr Creative Commons

Downton Dish: Cinder Toffee

Welcome back, American friends! Time for you to get caught up on Downton, and this first episode’s a doozy. You get scheming, illicit sex, fireworks over the dinner table, and an honest-to-god bonfire. So what could be more appropriate to snack on this episode than that Bonfire Night favourite, cinder toffee?

Also known as honeycomb, puff candy, and hokey pokey (for reasons unknown), cinder toffee is a sweeter, more widely appealing Bonfire Night treat than bonfire toffee, which is made with treacle and can be a bit bitter. Either one can be part of the menu as people gather around to watch the fireworks and burn Guy Fawkes in effigy every 5 November.

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GBBO Inspiration: Lemon and Rosemary Fairy Cakes

This happens every year. I settle down to watch the Great British Bakeoff and happily spend an hour absorbing images and descriptions of deliciousness, thinking vaguely, at some point, ‘oh, it’d be nice to have a bit of cake/tart/giant croquembouche.’ And somehow, within 24 hours (typically more like 12 hours) that desire becomes an all-consuming need, and by the time my husband gets home from work the next day we’ve got something cooling on the countertop while I’m frantically beating icing or melting caramel and our son’s giving his dad a look that says, ‘I dunno, dad, she’s been muttering about proper sponge consistency all day. I think she may have a problem.’

But at least we grownups get cake at the end of it.

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Chocolate-Chili Macarons with Cinnamon Buttercream

I’m the type of person who takes ‘this is a very hard thing to do/get right’ as a personal challenge. For example: I heard that socks are really difficult to knit, so I learned how to make them. So, it was inevitable that macarons, with their reputation for being hard to make, would be on my hit list at some point. Turns out, the socks … Continue reading Chocolate-Chili Macarons with Cinnamon Buttercream

Downton Dish: Molten Toffee Puddings

Surprises come in all shapes and sizes this episode. There’s Robert’s surprise birthday party, with Rose’s ‘gift’ to him (which turns out to be more of a gift to herself), and a few other things, good and bad. Since I’ve been skewing savoury on these blogs the past few weeks, I thought I’d go the sweet route and serve up some cake with a surprise … Continue reading Downton Dish: Molten Toffee Puddings

Downton Dish: Peach Melba

Dame Nellie Melba is in the house! To put that in perspective, for this crowd and this time, it’s roughly like Niles and Frasier Crane getting Pavarotti to sing at one of their dinner parties. Or having Kanye West or Katie Perry play at your birthday party (depending on your musical tastes). It was a pretty big deal—after all, this is a woman that had … Continue reading Downton Dish: Peach Melba

Chocolate Orange Victoria Sponge

In honour of cake week on GBBO, I thought I’d share the recipe for one of my new favourite Victoria sponges. Now, chocolate and orange isn’t exactly a groundbreaking flavour combination, but you have to admit, they go together like strawberries and rhubarb: both are perfectly delicious on their own, but put them together and you’ve got some serious yum. Jazz it up for a dinner party with some candied orange peel, or, if you’re in a hurry or can’t find any, finish the cake off with a dusting of icing sugar.

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Ice Cream Sandwiches

So, we came back from the south of France and walked right into an honest-to-God heatwave. Apparently, Britain’s trying to make up for last year’s summer ‘o’ suck and is overcompensating just a tad. Which isn’t a terrible thing–it’s actually quite pleasant up here in Scotland, and now we can all pull out those sundresses we totally forget we even owned. The one issue is this: no air conditioning. Hardly any building has air con, because why the heck would they? Our office is absolutely boiling. We have to find other ways to keep cool. Delicious ways.

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Downton Dish: Charlotte Russe

Apparently, in Isobel’s mind, the best way to distract a mother from the grief of losing a child is to have her over for lunch. And, oddly, she turns out to be right, but mostly because Robert shows up to make a scene and look like a intolerant jerk and a buffoon yet again. Though he’s enraged by the idea of his wife, daughters, and mother being served luncheon by a (gasp!) former prostitute, the ladies all take one look at the pudding and decide to stay. I’ve never had a Charlotte Rousse, but if the picture’s anything to go by, I don’t blame them one bit.

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