It’s Damson Season…time for a bit of Gin and Jam


During the summer holidays, we were lucky enough to visit friends who moved down to a farm in Gloucestershire, 5 months ago.

We all had a great time and hadn’t realised what a beautiful part of the country it is…the other great thing was that it was Damson season and there we plenty to be picked.

Now I know this is meant to be a baking blog, but when it comes to Damson’s the two best things to make with them are Damson Jam and Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas with out a nice tipple of home-made Damson Gin.

So here are the recipes for both and I’d like to add that these recipes are taken from my dearly missed Grandma, who was the queen of baking, preserving and most of all the Queen of Meringues.

Damson Gin

500g Damsons

750ml Gin

250g Sugar

Method:

Start by sterilizing a large ‘Kilner’ Jar or Demijohn (the neck must be wide enough to get the Damsons in and out). Now take your Damson’s and discard any over-ripe or bruised ones. Once you have discarded the bad ones, start to prick each damson once. Place all the pricked Damson’s into the jar and then pour in the sugar. Now top up with Gin…how easy can it be.

Give the jar a gentle shake and leave it to take in a cool dark cupboard, making sure that you shake it once a month.

You may also want to taste it once a month and add more sugar according to your taste.

It will be ready for drinking in 3 months, but can be left a little longer…it’s just perfect by Christmas

Now it’s time to strain the Gin and this is best done through a cheesecloth, or if you’ve had little ones a muslin square (minus the baby goop) is perfect. Pop the strained gin into bottles and either share or hoard it over Christmas.

It’s worth the wait….

Damson Jam

Makes: 7 x 225ml Jars

1.25kg Damsons

500ml Water

1.5kg of Sugar (granulated or preserving)

Method:

Again start by sterilizing all the jars. Now wash the Damsons and remove any stalks and pop them into a large pan or preserving pan, with the water. Cook slowly for about 30 minutes until the Damsons have broken down. Add the sugar and stir over a low heat until dissolved.

Increase the heat and boil for about 10 minutes before testing for a set. Remove the stones as they rise to the top. My Grandma used to check the set point by dropping a blob of the hot jam into a saucer of cold water, but I am a gadget freak and I prefer to use a sugar thermometer to make sure it has reached the setting point. The setting point is when the mixture reaches 105c (220F). If necessary, boil for a further minute, then test again. Once you are happy it has reached setting point, remove the pan from the heat, skim off any scum and allow to cool briefly.

Carefully pour into the hot sterilized jars and seal them. Allow the jars to cool before you label and store them.

Well that’s if for Damson season, just enjoy the fruits of your labour.

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Apple Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Frosting


Main ImageI was recently offered a few ‘homegrown’ baking apples and eagerly accepted them…then came the moment of, now what should I do with them?

I only had 2 and didn’t think there were enough to do a pie or crumble and therefore came up with the idea of creating a cupcake with an appley surprise, topped with fluffy, creamy, cinnamon frosting.

Apples and Cinnamon are always a great combination and this made great little cakes, perfect for tea-time treats or even thank-you gifts.

Here’s how I made them….I started with my all time favourite Vanilla Cupcake recipe from ‘The Hummingbird Bakery’ and adapted it.

Cupcakes:

120g Plain Flour

140g Caster Sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder

A pinch of Salt

3 tablespoons Unsalted Butter, Softened

120ml Whole Milk

1/4 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

2 Large Eggs

Apple Puree:

2 large Baking Apples, peeled, cored and chop

3-4 tablespoons of Granulated Sugar (depending on the bitterness of the apples)

1-2 tablespoons of Water

Cinnamon Frosting:

250g Icing Sugar

5 tablespoons Unsalted Butter, softened

1-2 tablespoons Whole Milk

1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon

Makes 12 Cupcakes

Pre-heat the oven to 170c / 160c Fan Assisted Ovens, Gas 3

Firstly make the apple sauce by putting the prepared apple into a pan with the sugar (taste during cooking as some apples can be more tart than others) and a tablespoon of cold water. Gently heat and allow the apples to reduce and turn into a nice smooth apple puree, stirring occasionally. If more water is needed then add the other tablespoon, but you really need to judge this, as you don’t want a runny apple puree. Once you are happy with the flavour and consistency, pop the puree into a bowl to cool.

Now for the cupcake batter. Pop the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt & butter into the electric mixer (or use and electric hand mixer, as I do…one day I will own a ‘KitchenAid’) and beat on slow speed until you get a grainy, sandy consistency and everything is combined. Gradually pour in half the milk and beat until the milk is just incorporated.

Whisk the egg, vanilla extract and remaining milk together in a separate bowl for a few seconds, then pour into the flour mixture and continue beating until its all incorporated (make sure you scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula) Don’t overmix the batter.

Spoon the batter into 12 cupcake cases until 2/3’s full and bake in the preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes, or until light golden and so that the centre springs back when you touch it. Leave to cool for 5 minutes in the tray before turning out onto a wire cooling rack.

While the cakes are cooling, make the frosting.

Beat the icing sugar, cinnamon and butter together with an electric whisk on medium-slow (otherwise you and the kitchen will have a light dusting of icing sugar) until the mixture is well mixed. Then with the whisk turned down to slow speed add the milk a little at a time. Again you don’t want the frosting to be too loose or too firm, depending on whether you are piping the frosting or not. Turn the whisk up to high and beat until light and fluffy (at least 5 minutes). Set to one side.

Now the cupcakes are completely cooled, take a sharp paring knife and remove small circular plugs from the top of the cupcakes. Don’t go too deep, as the cake will fall to bits when you take it out of the casing to eat (messy for everyone involved), once you have done this to all the cakes (don’t worry about the bits you’ve take out…if its anything like our house, you’ll have hungry little chicks standing right next to you wanting to taste them) start spooning the apple puree into the hole, until they are full, not overflowing.

Now add the frosting as you would normally. I went for a piped finish and dusted mine with a fine dusting of cinnamon icing sugar (really simple, 1 tablespoon of Icing sugar mixed with 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon)

I’ve given these as thank you presents to a couple of people now and had no complaints at all, apart from my in-house chief taster and junior tasters who didn’t want anybody else to have them!

Well Happy Baking and let me know how you get on.

Feel free to e-mail me with your success piccies and I’ll create a little gallery to showcase them all.

lottie.TheSnowdropBakery@gmail.com

Blueberry & Lemon Loaf


This has to be one of the easiest, tastiest and most well received loaves/cakes I have ever made.

It’s a great cake to bake if you’ve got family or friends coming over….and there are two main reasons for that….Firstly it obviously tastes fantastic…. it’s moist, tangy and filled with pockets of juicy, jammy blueberries and secondly the aroma it sends through the house is amazing….They’ll want a slice of it straight from the loaf tin.

It also travels well….I recently took one camping and it looked and tasted just as impressive on a tin plate, as it did at home.

So now down to the important stuff….the recipe

Blueberry and Lemon Loaf Recipe:

(Makes 1 loaf)

195 grams Plain Flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

85 grams unsalted butter, room temperature

150 grams granulated white sugar

2 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (outer yellow skin of the lemon)

120 ml milk

200 grams fresh blueberries

Lemon Glaze:

50 grams granulated white sugar

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Method:

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees C (160 degrees C for Fan Assisted ovens) and place the oven rack in the center of the oven. Butter (or spray with a non stick vegetable spray) the bottom and sides of a loaf Tin (9 x 5 x 3 inch) (23 x 13 x 8 cm).

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt – This just puts some air and lightness back into the flour (feel free to sieve it, if you want to)

In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter until softened (about 1 minute).

Add the sugar and continue to beat until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Beat in the vanilla extract and lemon zest.

With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture (in three additions) and milk (in two additions) alternately, starting and ending with the flour. Mix only until combined.

Now gently fold in the blueberries.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 55 to 65 minutes, or until the loaf is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring the 50 grams of sugar and the 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. If you have extra zest left over, I like to add it to the syrup. It gives a bit of texture to the top of the loaf.

When the loaf is done, remove from oven and place on a wire rack. Pierce the hot loaf all over with a wooden skewer or toothpick and then brush the top of the loaf with the hot lemon glaze. Cool the loaf in the pan for about 30 minutes then remove from pan and let cool completely on a wire rack. Before serving give a light dusting of icing sugar, just to make it look even more pretty.

This bread is best served on the day it is made…if it even makes it past cooling down that is….you’ll be surprised how quickly it get devoured.

Now sit down, have a cup of tea and enjoy watching their faces as they tuck into it (maybe treat yourself to a slice as well)