Sweet Comforts: The Round-Up

Thank you to everyone for your enthusiastic response to Sugar High Friday #61: Sweet Comforts. With forty entries to raise your spirits, there’s no excuse for anyone ever feeling down-in-the-dumps again!

Here then are your favourite sweet-comfort recipes (ordered loosely according to date of entry):

Nina from My Easy Cooking puts together a heavenly combination of left-over plums, cinnamon and star anise topped with a fragrant and mysterious scoop of melting ice-cream in her Plum Tarte Tatin with Vanilla and Cardamom Ice-Cream.

Nupur from One Hot Stove describes a Rice Kheer that is as soft and milky as baby food and equally as comforting and sweet.

Sweatha from TastyCurryLeaf contributes a Portugese version of rice pudding, a creamy lemon and cinnamon-scented Arroz Doce.

Soma from eCurry prepares a sweet, indulgent breakfast of Crêpes with Strawberry and Orange Compote to satisfy her ravenous appetite one Sunday morning.

Laura from The Spiced Life remembers a treasured family pony with these Salty Chocolate Chocolate Chip Oat Cookies.

This Upside-Down Caramel-Pear Chocolate Cake by Muneeba from An Edible Symphony is a magical amalgamation that will leave you weeping for more. Serve with caution.

Scrumptious from In my Box rescues the mushy apples from her CSA box with this sublime vegan and gluten-free Apple Upside-Down Cake.

Rose from Real Baking with Rose Levy Beranbaum contributes an exceptionally moist and tender Whipped Cream Cake, one of the most popular cakes from her newest book, Rose’s Heavenly Cakes.

Lubna from Yummy Food pampers her taste buds with this beloved Rava Kesari, a rich semolina dessert.

After an exhaustive search for that elusive New York cheesecake texture using only ingredients available to her in France, Pamela from The Cooking Ninja finally strikes gold in time for an important birthday with this  Lemon and Orange Cheesecake.

Bee and Jai from Jugalbandi fortify themselves against iron deficiency anaemia with this naturally moist and sticky  Ironwoman Date-Orange Cake.

Smitha from Kannada Cuisine recalls a rustic and very ancient family recipe for Belladanna, a sweet and nourishing rice dessert that is especially good for new mothers.

Rajani from Eatwritethink solves a case of sour grapes by making a soothing Grape Jelly.

Jamie from Life’s a Feast enters SHF for the first time with these rich and creamy Chocolate Petits Pots that are an adult version of a childhood pleasure.

Saveur from Taste Space invokes global harmony with these melt-in-the-mouth World Peace (Korova) Cookies.

Vicky from Sweets at Vicky’s soothes her nerves after a hard day by making Roasted Banana Cupcakes with extra frosting.

Deeba from Passionate About Baking gives way to her citrus emotions with this  Gâteau à l’Orange and a sprinkling of orange sugar.

Sarah from What Smells So Good? turns an old brownie recipe into these irresistible Cadillac Brownies, vegan and protein-rich treats especially for convalescing children.

Babe_KL from Babe in the City – KL returns to SHF with a warming Apple and Persimmon Crumble topped with cold vanilla ice-cream.

Asha from Fork-Spoon-Knife brings a smile to her neighbour’s face with these rich and comforting Cranberry Squares.

Nate and Annie from House of Annie put an abundance of fresh bananas to good use by making this tender and moist Banana Nut Bread.

Bash from Easy Recipes prepares a melt-in-the-mouth dessert of Gulab Jamuns, deep-fried sweet balls of khoya served in a sugar syrup.

Julie follows her first impulse and bakes a supremely moist and tender Flourless Cocoa-Almond Genoise.

Sarah from Maison Cupcake takes comfort from the healthy blueberries paired with a thick sweet and spicy cinnamon paste in these Blueberry and Cinnamon Tarts.

Susan emailed me her recipes for these beautiful Iced Butter Biscuits and …

… these temptingly more-ish Chocolate Cinnamon Squares, all-time favourites in her household.

Stephanie from About.com: Cooking for Kids rejects chocolate in favour of these Oatmeal Raisin Cookies that remind her of childhood snack times.

My little sister Lucy reveals a secret family recipe for this deliciously lurid and gluten-free Raspberry Fluff.

Koki from Cooking with Koki laments her lack of a cookie tree and comforts herself by baking these Orange and Almond Cookies instead.

Judith from Foodie Loves Baking craves something warm and comforting to warm her soul on a winter morning, so makes a Crock Pot Rice Pudding in a cherished heirloom.

Rujuta from The World According to Rujuta prepares a simple but regal Sheera (Sweet semolina), a sweet dessert that she finds irresistible.

My Mum got my Dad to email me her Fantastic Fruity Flapjack recipe – it’s not hyperbole; our family all agree that her flapjack truly is fantastic!

Good times roll again when Cristie from Edible Antics recognizes this Sour Cream Coffee Cake as an edible thread in the fabric of her life.

Sheetal from Eats, Eats & Eats relieves a challenging time in graduate core classes by making May’s Egg Tarts from a dearest friend’s recipe.

Ruchikacooks from Ruchikacooks gives thanks to the goddess for her support in tough times by lighting a Mavilakku (Sweet flour lamp) made from rice flour and ghee.

Graziana from Erbe in Cucina serves these delicious Pains aux Raisins warm at breakfast for a sweet awakening.

Cathy from Aficionado contemplates beauty and finds comfort in these soothing and spicy Chocolate Pepper Cookies from South Africa.

Kitty from Fahrenheit 350° shares an old family favourite, an incredibly indulgent and sinfully rewarding Candy Bar Pizza.

Jennifer from The Domestic Goddess transmits a magical experience from her childhood to her son when they prepare these decadent Profiteroles with Peppermint-Vanilla Ice Cream together.

And finally, my own piece of childhood comfort, A Finger of Fudge.

That’s all folks!

I’d like to offer a huge thank-you to our Domestic Goddess,  Jennifer for starting Sugar High Friday events over 5 years ago and for allowing me to host this January 2010 edition. Don’t forget to check Jennifer’s blog to find out where the party will be taking place next!

A Finger of Fudge

I’m a bit of a Last-Minute-Kate. Whether for university essays, exam revision or just plain old form-filling, I’ve always had a tendency towards procrastination and prevarication in the face of deadlines. So the fact that I’m posting my entry three whole days before the deadline for Sugar High Friday #61 is something of a miracle! Please remember this and think kindly of me when I revert to type afterwards 😉

When I chose the theme for this month’s SHF, my thoughts turned immediately to my Mum’s  orange trifle. Sweet and comforting, I’ve been known to make single portions for both myself and L when the evenings are long and dark and the rain is falling outside. However, as you can see, I’ve already written about this wonderful pudding at length for a previous SHF when the theme was Childhood Delights. Although I believe it’s impossible to overpraise my Mum’s trifle, perhaps submitting the same thing to two separate SHF events might have been overdoing it slightly …

And yet it’s remarkable how often a search for comfort leads to a trip down memory lane.

Way, way back in 1979, I was five years old and the proud owner of a two-wheeler Raleigh bicycle.

You can’t really see the bike in this photo, so you’ll have to believe me when I tell you that it was very shiny and very, very purple. I had also just succeeded in riding it without stabilizers when the photo was taken, which is why I’m looking very happy if somewhat chilly.

It was a few months after this photo when I set out with my Mum and my baby sister to take our dog for a walk. Naturally, I was full of beans and was allowed to ride my bike while my Mum pushed my sister in her big, heavy pram (yes, that’s my Dad in the photo and not my Mum, but you get the picture – just remember specifically that this pram was very big and very, very heavy).

After safely negotiating the one main road that ran down the length of our housing estate, we came to a network of footpaths that were a safe haven for wobbly five-year-old bike riders. I knew that our own circular route back home would lead eventually to an incredibly steep and long hill (by my five-year-old standards, anyway).

“I bet you can’t ride to the top of the hill without stopping,” my Mum challenged me.

“Bet you I can!” I countered as I pedalled furiously ahead, my chin set determinedly.

At the foot of the hill, the path curved around to begin its ascent. Suddenly, as I turned, my wheels slipped in some gravel and my bike careered sideways, tipping me to the ground. I slid a few yards through the gravel and fell awkwardly on my left arm.

Mum, dog and pram soon arrived at the scene of the disaster. My bike’s handlebars were twisted, my left arm hurt furiously and the shortest way home was up that hill. It wasn’t looking too good until Mum bribed me with the promise of a packet of sweets from the VG shop at the top. I gritted my teeth after that and somehow my Mum and I managed to push/carry/drag the heavy pram, the bent bike and the bemused dog all the way up the slope. I still have flashbulb memories of the struggle!

My Mum kept her word and bought a Cadbury’s Finger of Fudge for me as a reward for my bravery. It was just the sweet, sugary treat that I needed at that moment. Its soothing mix of melting chocolate and smooth, creamy fudginess successfully transported me away from the dull, throbbing pain in my left arm. Even today, the familiar jingle of the 1980s advert is enough to carry me back to that very day when I was comforted by a finger of fudge (and my Mum’s cuddles, of course … but the fudge does feature prominently in my memory!).

(Incidentally, did you notice the similarity between the Cadbury’s Fudge jingle and the Lincolnshire Poacher?)

A visit to the hospital later, it turned out that my arm had been broken in the fall. So, just to complete the story, here’s a picture of me looking quite enigmatic with a pot on my arm. I’m not sure what the grey shadow on the right is … the ghost of Christmas past, perhaps?

Although I can easily walk down into our village today and buy a finger of fudge in the local shop, I wanted to try to recreate this sweet comfort treat for myself at home. After all, I may need the recipe distressingly soon if even the very taste of this iconic chocolate bar becomes little more than a distant memory in a Kraft takeover of Cadbury

A Finger of Fudge (basic fudge recipe adapted from Simple Sweet-Making)

1 lb granulated sugar
1/4 pint milk
2 oz butter
1 tsp liquid glucose
1 tsp vanilla extract

Dissolve the sugar in the milk in a 4-5 pint saucepan. (This is the part I find the most difficult – it sounds so simple, but it always takes me forever to achieve (or not, as my many failures testify). This time, I used my fingers to stir the sugar, which seemed to help. I also transferred it several times into a clean pan when the sides seemed to be getting gummed up with sugar crystals – I probably lost a bit of the solution in the process, but I kept going regardless. And this is the best fudge I’ve ever made, so I couldn’t have done too much wrong … However you achieve it, just make sure that there are absolutely no sugar crystals left in the solution before you reach anywhere near boiling point).

Add the remaining ingredients and stir to incorporate.

Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan (the mixture didn’t reach up to the immersion point on mine at the start, but once again I carried on regardless – all turned out well when the mixture bubbled ferociously up the sides of the pan) and boil to 238 degrees F (soft ball stage). Stir the mixture from time to time as its temperature rises to prevent it from burning, but stop stirring as it reaches the soft ball stage.

Carefully stand the pan in a roasting dish filled with ice water to stop any further rise of temperature. Be careful not to knock the pan or stir the mixture at all. Leave it for 10 minutes or until the fudge has cooled to about 110 degrees F.

Here, the instructions say to beat until thick then turn out onto a board and knead until smooth. (In my own doubtlessly flawed attempt, I found the fudgy caramel thing to be far too sticky to beat, so I scraped it onto the work surface and pulled it about a bit with a bench scraper. I then gave up in frustration and left home to collect L and M from school. When I returned, I was astonished to find that the sloppy goo had actually started to set in a fudge-like manner in the centre of the flattened shape in which I had discarded it.)

Form into logs about an 1 1/2 inches long. (Think Play-Doh.)

Dip into melted chocolate and place on trays lined with baking parchment until dry.

When dry, break off the drippy bits of chocolate and give to small children in need of comfort.

Sweet Comforts: Sugar High Friday #61

When I posted my holiday riddle for you all, my Dad (thanks, Dad!) commented that he thought I’d gone into hibernation. If there’s such a thing as a blog hibernation, then it’s probably true. The seasons seem to have slipped from Autumn …

… into Winter …

… whilst I’ve been warming myself in the kitchen, squirreling away my hoard of baking photos among files on my computer and never quite managing to post anything about all of this on my blog. Somehow, I’ve failed to tell you about the chocolate brownies, tomato corn pies, quiches, sandwich loaves, crispy pizzas, citrus biscuits, holiday garlands and tangy lemon cakes that I’ve been making. I’ve prepared carrot cakes for ballet examiners, coffee and walnut cakes for friendly neighbours and chocolate chip cookies for my children’s friends, feeding my growing collection of food images without bringing any of this fare here to the table for you to share.

I wanted to show you our chestnut roaster long ago (congrats to Bungalow Barbara for being the first to guess the correct answer to my riddle!). My father-in-law discovered it in a charity shop and brought it to us as the perfect solution for roasting the chestnuts we had already started gathering from our very top-secret locations nearby …

… (if I told you where they are, the chestnuts would all be gone before we could get there next year, now wouldn’t they? 😉 ).

Here’s the roaster. It’s cast-iron and was made by Cousances.

And here it is in action, just to prove it works (and that we’ve used it!).

Chestnuts, sweet chestnuts. I remember cupping my chilled hands around paper packets brimming with hot, freshly-roasted chestnuts in the streets of Paris one winter. I was a teenager and these were the first sweet chestnuts that I can remember tasting. They later became a characteristic feature of the infamous Whickham bellringing outings I went on with my sister in the 1990s, when we would return to our youth hostel in the evening to roast chestnuts around an open fire, drink much beer and sing merrily until the early hours. Does anyone remember the story of the conkers in Joe 90s’ guitar …?

So, what does all of this have to do with Sugar High Friday?

Well, as the weather turned colder and I struggled to escape from an increasing lethargy towards writing, I turned to one of my favourite food blogging events to provide a motivation for me to emerge from my unintended hibernation. And I discovered that my favourite food blogging event was without a host for January.

If I was looking for a stimulus, then I certainly found it. Not only am I now participating in this month’s Sugar High Friday, I am also hosting it.

Ta Daaa! – let me present Sugar High Friday #61: Sweet Comforts.

Sugar High Friday (SHF) was created by Jennifer, the Domestic Goddess and is a monthly desserts extravaganza. The host (i.e. me) picks a sugary theme and the participants (i.e. you) make an exemplary dessert based on the host’s choice of topic for that month. On the ‘Sugar High Friday’ at the end of the month, the host presents a round-up of all the entries for you to feast on.

Keeping in mind my current need for warmth and inspiration, the theme that I’ve chosen for January 2010 is:

Sweet Comforts: Desserts you Turn to for Comfort.

Here is your opportunity to forget the calories and health-warnings and to prepare that one sweet treat that comforts you when you’re feeling blue.

Perhaps it’s a nostalgic pudding from your childhood, a sticky slice of gooey chocolate cake or a deep bowl of luxurious ice-cream. Go on – show us how you tickle your neuro-receptors when you’re looking for a little bit of comforting indulgence!

Participation is open to everyone, with or without a blog. Here are the details:

  • Make your sweet comfort food between now and Monday 25th January 2010. Take a photo and post about your recipe on your blog (or in an email to me if you haven’t got a blog).
  • Include a link to this blog announcement.
  • Email me your name, blog URL, the name of your dessert and a link to your post by Monday 25th January.

Please email all of your entries to amerrierworld [at] googlemail [dot] com, with SHF Sweet Comforts in the subject line. If you’re happy for me to grab a photo directly from your post for my round-up then you don’t need to send in an image with your entry. Otherwise, please include the image that you’d like me to use in your email (jpeg format).

I’ll post a round-up of all entries on Friday 29th January, so be sure to check back then.

Have fun – I look forward to hearing from you 🙂 .