Thursday, 16 June 2016

The Great Cream Cheese Mystery...

My friend and Sugar Moon customer Deborah - you can read her beautiful blog here , where she writes about her life in West Wales (and takes fabulous photos!) - recently set me a challenge. She wondered why she (and several of her friends and neighbours) could no longer obtain good results when using Philadelphia cream cheese to make cream cheese frosting and recipes from U.S cookbooks, such as cheesecake. There was no problem with U.K recipes, just American ones. She wondered whether there was a different formula to the British product (and suspects it has changed recently, although she had no answer from Kraft when she contacted them to ask!) This really intrigued me, as I have never had a problem. At Sugar Moon , we don't use cream cheese in general...but I do when baking for friends and family and I almost exclusively bake from U.S cookbooks too. So I decided to experiment!
I made my usual cream cheese frosting - a staple of the Blue Angel Bakery repertoire, essential for Carrot Cake, Mango & Coconut Cake and many others. I used full fat Philadelphia ('light' versions just will not work as there is too much water and other ingredients in there...you need the fat!)
I always make the frosting in my trusty Magimix Pro food processor. I started with softened unsalted butter...
...added icing sugar....
...then I processed the two together to mix thoroughly before adding the cheese...
...now, it does tend to go a little runny to start with. But I just left the motor running and pretty soon (within a minute or two), it all came together to make a thick, smooth and shiny frosting...

Voila! As a balance, I also made exactly the same recipe but used a tub of Sainsbury's own-brand full fat soft cheese. Although this actually had a slightly higher fat content (25% as opposed to 21.5% in the Philadelphia) it didn't work nearly as well...
As you can see from the photo above, it 'split' slightly and had a grainy unpleasant texture.
Back to the Philly version. I wanted to check that it would pipe well and stand up as a proper frosting, so I filled a disposable bag and...
...it did the job perfectly. So I hope that helps, Deb? It kept well and was just as good texture-wise three days later (kept in a lidded plastic container in the fridge). I would say that several things definitely help; use a food processor if at all possible, because it works so quickly and seems to help with the mixing and texture of the finished frosting. Also, I think mixing the butter and sugar together first helps too. And lastly, perhaps, the proportions? The temptation when it's a bit runny is to add more icing sugar to stiffen it up, as this works so well with fondant or glace icings. But more sugar just makes cream cheese frosting runnier. It's the fat content that keeps everything firm...

The proportions I use are:

butter - 50g
icing sugar - 125g &
cream cheese - 1 family size tub which is 280g (and yes, Philadelphia, I have noticed that it used to be 300g for the same price....!)
Scale up as necessary depending on how much frosting you need!

I will test a US cheesecake recipe next and post it on our Facebook page for all those that are interested!
And after my last post ended with my lunchtime sourdough & tomato bruschetta, I thought I'd end this one with my Saturday (and many other) breakfast! More toasted sourdough - I really adore it - with homemade hummus (chickpeas soaked and boiled,plenty of flat leaf parsley, tahini, garlic and lemon juice) sprinkled with a little Maldon seasalt , lots of black pepper and a glug of olive oil. My favourite summery way to start the day (preferably eaten outside!)

We baked, packed and sent a LOT of Father's Day brownie boxes today...so their should be many smiling and chocolate-filled Dads on Sunday! If your Dad is still with you, or your children have a lovely one, or you have someone you think of as a Dad - make sure to give him a VERY big hug on Sunday. They are precious things!

Have a great weekend! xx

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Summer Treats...

 To celebrate the real start of Summer (and as I write this, the sun has just broken through the clouds at last!) I thought you might appreciate a new recipe. Sugar Moon has just taken a week off to rest and recuperate...you can read more about where we went here....and, as usual I came home itching to get into the kitchen straight away! Work doesn't begin properly until tomorrow, so these were made at home, and use the best of the current fruits - you can easily adapt this recipe to use whatever you like best. Raspberries, blackcurrants, gooseberries will all work well here - perhaps adjusting the sugar levels in the topping if the berries are very tart.

Apricot & Blueberry Bars

Base:

150g wholemeal spelt flour (you can use regular plain flour or even gluten-free if you prefer)
1 (preferably free-range) egg yolk
150g butter
100g ground almonds
20g whole hazelnuts (or whole almonds if you prefer them)
75g light soft brown sugar
pinch Maldon or other sea salt flakes (optional, but so good!)

Additional ingredients for topping:

50g wholemeal spelt flour (or other flour as above)
50g whole hazelnuts (or almonds as above)
1 tbsp light olive oil (or other vegetable oil if you don't like the taste!)
50g soft light brown sugar (optional, depending on tartness of your chosen fruit)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 180c
Line a 23cm square foil tray (or equivalent tin) with baking parchment

For the base: pulse ground almonds and whole hazelnuts for a few moments in a food processor until whole nuts are in small pieces...

 Add the rest of the base ingredients to the processor...
( This is the spelt flour we usually use...I love its nutty flavour and great texture...but do feel free to substitute as it won't make much difference to the finished bars!)
 Pulse until the ingredients form clumps....then press around 3/4 of the mixture into the prepared baking tray (leaving the remaining mixture in the processor bowl)...
 ...bake the base for about 10 minutes, until it turns a light golden brown....
 ...this will help prevent a soggy bottom! Then cover the base with your chosen fruit. As a guide, I used 5 apricots (stoned and roughly pulled apart) and 150g fresh blueberries...
 Add remaining topping ingredients to the rest of the mixture left in the processor and pulse to combine. It won't clump together as much, but will start to stick together if squeezed between your fingers. Scatter over the fruit...
 ...you want it to just about cover, but I always like to see a little of the berries peeping through the crumb! That's just personal preference though. Flatten the top slightly with your palms to help it stick together a little. Then bake for around 30 minutes, turning the tray halfway through the baking time to ensure an even colour...
 Cool thoroughly (preferably overnight in the fridge) before lifting from the tin using the edges of the baking paper and slicing into bars. They will crumble a little at the top, but just scoop these up with your fingers and enjoy!
 Apricots are one of the only fruits that I think are better cooked than raw...I just adore them in season.
 These bars would actually be gorgeous eaten slightly warm as a dessert, with cream or ice cream, too! Feel free to experiment and enjoy them. I thought I'd finish with one of my absolute favourite Summer lunches - this is usually what I would eat during the week, on a baking break (probably listening to The Archers!)
A toasted slice of good sourdough (I love Richard Bertinet's loaves available from Waitrose, if I can't find any handmade) rubbed with a raw garlic clove and topped with fresh, ripe tomatoes...here I added fresh marjoram from the garden and a sprinkle of nutritional yeast flakes. And always, lots of freshly ground black pepper. Heaven on a plate! Enjoy the summer and all it offers food-wise....it won't be here for long! Sugar Moon is now back in full production...so do visit our lovely website if you haven't already.

Happy June xx

Monday, 21 March 2016

Almost Spring.....

 It's Easter on Sunday...I can't believe that even as I'm writing it! The clocks will be springing forward by an hour and we'll start to see those wonderful long days again. It seems like yesterday that we got back from Australia...the Sugar Moon website was updated and is now more beautiful than ever...then this happened:
Valentine's Day! These were our limited edition Dark Chocolate & Raspberry Brownies, that flew out of the oven and off the shelves that week. We sent out lots of beautiful boxes, with the most romantic messages inside. It's one of the aspects of Sugar Moon that we enjoy most. Handwriting YOUR messages onto one of our specially printed postcards. Each one tells a story and they are almost always happy ones! So don't forget to let us know your message, if the brownies are for a gift. You'll find our 'gift message' box when you are checking out. Sugar Moon brownies make a lovely present to tell someone you love them, you're thinking about them...to congratulate and welcome a new baby, a new house...or just because you feel like it!
 These are our brownie of the moment - Easter Mini Egg Double Chocolate. Strictly limited edition (last orders with free delivery are 10am on Wednesday 23rd March!) and absolutely gorgeous!
 To order, just go to our website and choose the Taster Menu option. Then just drop us a line (or leave a note in the Gift Message box) to let us know you'd like the Easter Specials! We'll do the rest....
 We are always devising new flavours for our retail outlets too. This was last week's Almond Amaretto Brownie for Laurie's Corner . A beautiful brownie, full of ground and flaked almonds with amaretto biscuits soaked in French Brandy too...
 But, as ever, our very bestseller at the moment is the Salted Caramel....
 ...seen above while in production! A layer of our handmade salted caramel goes through the middle of the brownies and caramelises around the edges....they are fudgey and irresistible!

 We do love to have an experiment now and then...
 Peanut Butter Swirl are beloved by many! But not much can beat a warm Salted Caramel or Double Chocolate Brownie with a cup of something hot on a chilly Spring day...
If you haven't already do visit & like our Facebook page ,where we post new flavours and special offers as and when they are available....as well as all the latest news from Sugar Moon!

See you soon and have a great Easter x

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Welcome to 2016!


Happy 2016! How has January been for you? We started very differently this year. Took a longish break to visit family in Australia, which was incredible. A great way to see in the New Year...hot, sunny and surrounded by amazing food. Australia has some really exciting restaurants and food destinations...fabulous produce...and influences from near-neighbours in the Far East as well as so much that is grown in the vast country itself. I always leave feeling inspired and excited to get back to the Sugar Moon kitchen for some experimentation!

One of our brilliant wholesale customers, the Egg House Butchery likes to be surprised from time to time...so we introduced this Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies to them recently and it's flying off the shelves. Full of roasted peanuts, with a peanut butter and dark chocolate chip swirl to finish, it's one that I have to bake and get OUT of the kitchen as the temptation is so great!

If you love this combination, then you can find it there currently...but for how long?! Another surprise flavour may replace it before too much time has passed....
While you are visiting this really special shop in Haddenham, pick up some of the free-range meats on offer too. I bought this beautiful spare-rib joint for a family lunch last week...

and everybody raved about it. Ricky and his team make their own amazing sausages too...with guest flavours including the really popular MyMate version (guess what they contain?!) A highly recommended 'proper' butcher...some of the guys even sport handlebar moustaches (although sadly not straw boaters yet...I wouldn't put it past them soon though!)

Another of our wholesale customers is the independent and hugely popular ice-cream/waffle & crepe land of dreams that is The Works. They make all their Italian-style ice cream on-site, as well as the waffles and crepes (sweet and savoury) of course. Their sundaes have to be seen to be believed...my 7 year old nephew's eyes were literally popping when he saw his! They are launching a new Brunch menu in early February, and Sugar Moon has developed a couple of cakes to add to their list..the first is a Sour Cream Espresso Cake...
It has a swirl of espresso & cinnamon sugar running through it....
...and is finished with chocolate espresso beans....


Just the smell wafting through our kitchen is addictive!
As for the other cake, watch this space for the recipe in the next blog post.....

Over the NewYear period, while the kitchen was closed, we took the opportunity to update our beautiful Sugar Moon website . You'll find that it's now been redesigned to be completely compatible with your phone and tablet, making ordering a much better experience. You can also now choose a guaranteed delivery date....although we still retain our non-guaranteed free postage option as well. And there will be some exciting new additions throughout the year as well.

 Don't forget that Valentine's Day is creeping up on us now too...and Sugar Moon Brownies are the perfect way to say 'I love you'...either to someone else, or to yourself!

Thanks for visiting Sugar Moon !



Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Christmas at Sugar Moon...

 So...four weeks to go! How are YOU doing? Here at Sugar Moon, our Christmas preparations are in full swing...and we wanted to post the ordering arrangements for December and the holiday period so that everything runs as smoothly as possible!
so....THE CUT-OFF TIME FOR ORDERING BROWNIES FOR CHRISTMAS IS 12 NOON ON FRIDAY 18TH DECEMBER! All brownies will then be baked and sent USING ROYAL MAIL'S 'FIRST CLASS SIGNED FOR' SERVICE on MONDAY 21ST DECEMBER (this is the last day for First Class post).
 Brownies have a good shelf-life of at least a week to ten days (full storage and ingredients lists are enclosed with each order) so they will be fine throughout the important days! They also freeze brilliantly for up to a month.
 You can ORDER at ANYTIME that's convenient for you from now on....just please DROP US AN EMAIL to hello@sugarmoonbrownies.co.uk to let us know that the order is for CHRISTMAS and we will HOLD IT BACK until the right time! Equally, if you'd like your brownies sent for another occasion (or just for you!) and they are NOT FOR CHRISTMAS, then please let us know that too!
If you have any questions, requests or specific instructions then please DO ASK!! You can leave a comment on this post....or email us....or tweet us(@SugarMoonUK)...or use our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/sugarmoonbrownies) whichever you prefer! We are here to help at any time! If you would like to order a mix of flavours then the TASTER MENU box is the best option. YOU CAN REQUEST THAT SPECIFIC FLAVOURS BE INCLUDED OR OMITTED!! Again, just let us know...

After 18th December, the WEBSITE WILL BE UNAVAILABLE FOR ORDERS until 14TH JANUARY 2016...as the site is having a little facelift and essential maintenance and updates will be carried out.

We'd like to wish ALL our wonderful customers and friends a really fabulous holiday season and everything good for the New Year! Thank you for your support throughout 2015...and we hope to bring you much more chocolate happiness in 2016! xx

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

A weekend in the Tarn...

 This post is a little different from my normal ( baking related) one...because I wanted to tell you about a wonderful long weekend we went on recently, to South West France on the edge of the Pyrenees...a break with a difference because it included a wonderful cooking course....
 I've followed Robin Ellis' blog for a few years now. He is an actor, most famous for playing Ross Poldark...the lead in the original 1970's series 'Poldark', based on the addictive series of books by Winston Graham. He and his wife, Meredith, moved permanently to France about 15 years ago and they live in an idyllic former presbytery in a tiny hamlet just outside the ancient hilltop village of Lautrec. As well as continuing to act (he has a part in the current Poldark series, although he is a crusty and cold-hearted judge this time around...leaving the dashing Captain Poldark role to Aidan Turner) he also writes delicious cookbooks and runs these lovely courses in healthy Mediterranean cookery for small groups a few times a year...
 I have to confess here that I wasn't the one taking this course...I do quite enough cooking, as you can appreciate! But Paul loves to cook and was really looking forward to expanding his repertoire! I just went along for some relaxation, the French countryside and to make new friends...
The weekend started well (we were so lucky with the weather, too...) We met everyone else on the course under this vine arbour, drank tea, ate cake and got to know a little about everyone. The courses are deliberately small and manageable..8 cooks on ours, with 3 of us along as spectators...so everyone can participate easily.
 
 The venue for the course...and our home for the weekend...was the idyllic La Terrasse de Lautrec (do visit their website...English translation at the top...you will see just how gorgeous it really is!)
 The attached 'gite' was where all the cooking tuition - and much of the eating - happened. Although I had initially imagined lounging around for the weekend, it was actually much more fun to be around the 'Bravehearts' (as Robin dubs his band of cooks) ...laying the table for our communal lunches and dinners...chatting with Meredith (a beautiful, serene woman whom it is a joy to know) and smelling the delicious fragrances of garlic and olive oil drifting from the kitchen...
 The classes are very 'hands-on' with everyone contributing to the meal...
 ...the aprons are given out at the start of the weekend, and taken home as a lovely reminder (Paul's was stained with tomatoes and peppers..but this just makes it more special!)

 The food is simple, but created from the finest local ingredients cooked 'just so' to bring out the beauty of them...
 As many of you will know, eggs are my nemesis (in a recognisably 'eggy' form) but I loved this frittata because it was so full of sweet red onions and fresh garden herbs...delicious!
 We also visited markets....the little one in Lautrec on the Friday morning...
 and the much larger one in nearby Castres on Saturday morning. I love any food markets...great for people watching as well as produce..and these were no exception! Plus we had time for a wander around Castres too...visiting the magnificent cathedral and having a coffee in a cafe overlooking the market, soaking up the brilliant Autumn sunshine...
 All the meals were memorable...stuffed mackerel fillets with fennel and cucumber salads...full of dill and lemon...
 ...a starter of french beans, olives and tiny tomatoes with a beautiful garlicky dressing...
 In fact, garlic was a recurring theme of the weekend...Lautrec is the home of pink garlic (l'ail rose de Lautrec) which is renowned for the strength of its flavour...although it's not at all harsh, and strangely doesn't seem to cause the dreaded 'garlic breath' (although I may just have thought this because we all ate so much of it!) As part of the course, we visited a nearby garlic farm...
 These are the bulbs drying off before being planted for next year's crop...hanging up for the air to circulate, in time-honoured tradition!
 The garlic is everywhere here...tied into intricate trusses, which help to preserve the bulbs (and look lovely too!) The farm was a real working one...a hotchpotch of contented animals stared at us interlopers as we wandered around...beautiful cattle (Blonde Aquitaines) an inquisitive donkey, many chickens and this 'on guard' gentleman...
 who reminded me very much of the goose from 'War Horse',if you have seen the play, as he shepherded us around!
 Our favourite times, I think, were spent as a group...we all got on particularly well, with none of the tension you can sometimes find within a gathering of very different people. We were either American or British and I like to think that we made some new friends for life during the weekend...
 Shared meals were a joy - this was the fantastic spread created by the Bravehearts for our last lunch on the Sunday. We were lucky to be able to eat outside, with wine and laughter as accompaniments..
 All the food was paraded out proudly by the cooks, from the blue doors of the gite...
 I loved standing under the little kitchen window, hearing the murmur of Robin's melodious voice as he gently guided and instructed...
 One of the students, a lovely American lady who was celebrating a significant birthday with us, persuaded me to join her for a swim...how could I resist this gorgeous pool?!
And the village of Lautrec itself...with the influences of the Romans who were once here still visible...was captivating...
 Traces of the past everywhere...so unmistakably French, too!


 On clear days, you can see across to the Pyrenees from here, but those are the Black Mountains on the horizon...



 The medieval market place is very special...and the church has a breathtaking interior...
 I found it much less intimidating than many Catholic churches...much lighter and less forbidding, somehow!
 We loved these little clasps that held the wooden shutters back on many of the houses...tiny details make a place so special...
 And views...breathtaking and captivating wherever you turned!
 This is France, seen from our plane on the way home....au revoir, ma cherie!
 And the white cliffs of Dover...that have meant 'home' to so many returning to England (we were no exception!)
Our abiding memories of the weekend are of warmth and happiness...of the sun, of new tastes, of friends made, and of the welcome of our hosts Robin, Meredith, Simone and Dominique...it all added up to a very special time!



** More information on Robin's books and courses on his blog here....I believe the courses are already fully booked for next year, but there are sometimes cancellations so you may be lucky! And the books (a third will be published early in 2016) are highly recommended as a source of simple, tasty and healthy lunches and suppers...I use them both a lot! The courses are very friendly, informal and inclusive...even if you are a novice, you won't feel out of place!**