Saturday, June 27, 2009

Chocolate and English fudge/toffee squares aka Billionaire or Millionaire's shortbread!!

Don't these look yummy? (Who put the fingerprints in the top?) First a layer of shortcake, then a layer of caramel or English fudge topped with a layer of chocolatey ganache lusciousness. I first discovered these hugely sweet, but not cloying, treats at a cafe in the Lake District of Northwest England (by the way one of my favourite places ever, home of Wordsworth and divine rolling hills) and although I don't suppose they are a particularly British dessert (as I did once find a similar delight in Oklahoma) the fudge part is very English. A lot of Brit fudge differs from US in that it is crystallized, crumbly and melty as opposed to soft and chewy. Having grown up with the crumbly version I am very much partial to it, plus my teeth are not so fond of chewy things that threaten to dislodge my 100 year old fillings!!
Here is Lucie stirring the fudge mixture that I fear we overcooked, due to mirth!!, so it was a little harder than I wanted it to be....Lucie had not tasted this kind of fudge before and she was consuming it in such vast quantities and at such a rate of speed (why DO people say that instead of just 'speed') I was concerned she might induce some kind of apoplexy in herself....luckily she just got really happy!!
Again this picture shows the overcookedness of the is too caramel coloured and you can see how hard it is as it set instantly when glopped into the not fear though it tasted just fine!! was just a little too toothsome and slightly hard to cut.

from 'Entertaining with Cranks' (Cranks is a chain of excellent vegetarian restaurants in Blighty and I think they were pretty much responsible, along with Neal's Yard, for the Veggie
Revolution in the UK)
4oz white flour
3oz butter (I use salted as I like the tang)
1 egg yolk
2 oz sugar

1. Cut or rub or food process the butter into the flour
2. Add the sugar and swish in
3. Make a well in the centre of the mix and add egg yolk, mix with a fork to blend in and then squish together til a ball is you know try to handle this as little as possible so it doesn't warm up.
4. Squush the ball into the bottom of a springform or removable base piepan that is about 8" diameter.
5. Bake in a 375F oven until pale brown and 'set' remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

This is actually a candy/sweet recipe from 'Farmhouse Kitchen 2' for Swiss Milk Tablet
14 oz white sugar
2 oz butter
7 fl oz condensed milk
4 fl oz half and half or whole milk

1. Put sugar, half and half or milk and butter in a heavy bottomed pan and melt over low heat until sugar is dissolved.
2. Bring to a boil whilst stirring, and add condensed milk
3. Continue boiling and stir constantly so the mix doesn't catch and burn (Lucie and I were laughing and let this happen thus the overcooking and slight overcolouring of the 'fudge')
3. Recipe says to boil til 240F but I think this is too high and the fudge would get really hard so I only let it get to 210 (plus I don't think my thermometer works anyways)...the best way to tell if it is done, and believe you me this isn't a very scientific way...BUT the mixture gets considerably thicker and starts looking like boiling lava..big sputtering also starts to crystallize on the side of the pan...something you actually want in this recipe...if you pour a little of the mix onto a cold saucer when it cools it should be getting crystally and not chewy...sorry this is so vague...honestly however this layer turns out it will still taste GREAT!!! And of course you can do this part on it's own if you just want to have crumbly English fudge.
4. When your intuition tells you it's the right time pour onto the top of the shortcake layer....then allow to cool considerably before pouring on the next layer

CHOCOLATE GANACHEY GOOEY LAYER:For my taste this was actually too much chocolate goo so in future I would make half this recipe...but if you like chocolate go ahead with the full complement!!
4oz chocolate (whatever kind you like best in whatever form you like best)
1 oz sugar
2 oz butter
3 fl oz whole milk or half and half or cream

1. In a bowl over simmering water melt all the above until well blended...allow to cool before pouring over the fudge.

...and there you have it! Lucie and I made this treat on Wednesday last and I had my final piece yesterday and I must say I think it improved over the know how some things just get better with a little time...this appears to be one of those things!!! Happy crumbling!!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

More colour on a rainy day!

I originally finished this 'mandala', an acrylic painting on panel, late in 2006 but just recently I felt compelled to rework some of the layout and now it is refinished as below....
.....there isn't that much difference but I think I have simplified the overall feel of the painting and I prefer the way it looks now. These 'mandala' (circular designs used for meditation) paintings really are meditation for me, they are fun to paint and remind me of Spirograph and Paint by Numbers, both of which I was obsessed with as a child. The watercolour illustration work I do, as in the previous post, is actually hard work that requires a lot of planning, thinking and lengthy execution so when I want to relax and have fun I draw up a complex design on panel and fill the shapes with my happy pastel pallette....a colour wheel I cannot, no matter how hard I try, get away from. The painting is relaxing and pretty mindless and I can make these panel paintings really quite large...up to 4 feet diameter and larger if James is willing to help me do some carpentry which I am useless doing on my own.

It has been raining non-stop here in Maine for what seems like an aeon so I thought I would brighten things up not only with my Prism Mandala but with a picture of some stunning paeonia's from our neighbours garden, they have a beautiful, evanescent scent which makes me smile on yet another dreary weather day!

I had two recipe posts lined up but have recently had some major computer problems and lost all the images I had for these posts...I am rebaking and photographing tomorrow so the next recipe should be up by the weekend...check back for chocolate caramel shortbread squares!!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Recycling my artwork!

I designed this illustration for a paper products company some few years ago and it was quite successful on paper plates, napkins and the like. Just recently I realized I could rework it with some nice hand lettering into a tribute to Mother Nature and our local farmers so here I am adding the lettering to the basic central design. All my artwork is done by hand, mostly with watercolour paints as here, I do type out the lettering on the computer first but then I trace it and put it onto the necessary curve by hand and that gives me the ability to let the lettering have a human touch in slight inconsistencies here and there in the quality of the line.

Here is little Eleanor helping me paint....she is very good at constructive criticisms!!

The final design with the lettering added...I have to say I am quite pleased with the result!!

Here is the design applied to a fitted women's t-shirt......this one is organic...
...and a cute little baby's bodysuit, this one isn't organic but I do have organic one's at my Cafe Press store along with tote bags, greetings cards, lots of different t's for men and women and children and other various and sundry gift items...please do me the honour of taking a look by clicking here. Thanks so much!!!!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The robin chicks are growing apace.....

Now the little sweet peas look more like birds and here they are having a relaxing moment in between snacks from Mum and Dad....I am glad they are quite well camouflaged in their nest and no-one, other than me, seems to be bothering them!!