THANK YOU EVERYONE WHO HAS MADE THE AUCTION/SALE A HELLGODDESS-ASTONISHING SUCCESS. THANK YOU. The rough results are up on the auction site. When Blogmom and I have caught up on our sleep a little, one or the other of us will tell you more about final results and future whatevers. But chiefly . . . THANK YOU. Ding dong bell, you might say.
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There’s been a conversation on the forum about geographic perception. Or lack of perception.
Black Bear wrote on Sat, 08 October 2011 10:28
Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, the Dakotas–those are all “great plains states.”
I had a friend (who had grown up in Seattle) once inform me that those states were Eastern states. I just about died laughing. Honey, do you know where the Mississippi is? Do you know how many hours you have to drive from those states to get anywhere near the Eastern United States?
Everyone knows this iconic New Yorker cover, don’t they? Or are my own East Coast roots showing? http://bigthink.com/ideas/21121
The New Yorker shop [sic*] sells prints of it and if it cost about one-fifth of what it does cost I’d buy a copy.** http://www.newyorkerstore.com/steinberg-collection/new-yorker-cover-3291976/invt/124544/
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Meanwhile . . . I promised a friend about three weeks ago a red velvet cake recipe.*** I knew I had a red velvet cake recipe, but I also knew that I hadn’t made it in a while because if I’m going to deal with all those calories I want them really, really worthwhile. Here’s my biased take on the red velvet cake question: there isn’t enough chocolate because some deranged person has decreed it’s more about the colour.† I got rid of a lot of my cookbooks when we moved out of the old house—aside from the bookshelf space problem, menopause zero-metabolism was already creeping up on me—so even after trolling through the cookbook shelves of three houses†† there are at least two other red velvet recipes I can’t seem to find. But here’s one that I know I’ve made, both because I kind of remember it and because the annotations are clearly in my handwriting. And the pages kind of stick together. This is a good sign. I may have to make this one again some time.
Note that the original called for one tablespoon of cocoa powder and a two ounce bottle of red food colouring. Ewww.
½ c soft butter
1 ½ c golden sugar: the raw, low-refined kind that isn’t the pure white of standard granulated. It doesn’t have as much flavour as brown, but more than white, and it’s mellower than dark brown (and more interesting than light brown. Say I).
2 large eggs
1 tsp REAL vanilla
2 c flour, or maybe a little more
¼ c unsweetened non-Dutch-process ‘natural’ cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 c buttermilk, or 1 c milk minus 1T, plus 1T vinegar to sour it. I’ve been told many times this is cheating, but it’s a lot easier than finding buttermilk and then figuring out something to do with the rest of it. Theoretically, I think, if you’re using vinegar, it should be skim or low-fat milk—‘butter’ milk is a misnomer—but I always used to use whole/full fat because that’s what I drank, and it worked fine.††† Most of that soured-milk stuff works semi-interchangeably in baking—I always thought—you get a slightly different taste and texture if it’s sour cream or yogurt, say, but if your ingredients, especially your chocolate, are good quality it’ll all be silky—or velvety—and damnably excellent.
Standard cake deal: cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs. Sift dry and add alternately with sour milk. Beat hard, but don’t hang about either: as soon as the vinegar hits the baking soda your batter starts expanding. Turn into 2 8” or 9” round pans with removable bottoms which have first been buttered and floured with great enthusiasm and thoroughness. (A greased and floured cut-out of parchment paper works just as well if you don’t have push-out-bottom pans.) 350°F about half an hour: the layers should rise in the middle, and the edges start to pull away from the pan walls. Let cool at least ten or fifteen minutes before you try and get them out of the pans. I tend to think soured-milk cakes are more fragile than others, but that may just be my karma.
Frost when cool. I recommend vanilla buttercream, myself, but as you like.
I still haven’t given you my favourite chocolate cake recipe, have I? Or have I? The Red Devil AKA McKinley’s Famous Exploding Chocolate Cake? Which is another of these sour milk + baking soda + chocolate = red. My Red Devil cake, despite its distressing incendiary habits, is the reason I pretty much don’t make any other chocolate cake any more. I don’t dare have cake very often‡ and I only really pine and yearn for that one.
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* I grew up in the hard-copy only era, certainly, but I also grew up at a time or anyway on the fringes of a society that believed The New Yorker was cool^. I am still having a hard time getting my head around the on line presence of a New Yorker shop. It’s like finding out that Hillary Clinton moonlights selling pencils on a street corner. I even follow the NYer on Twitter. It’s just not the same, reading the cartoons off a computer screen.^^
^ Although I don’t think I’ve actually read the thing since Janet Malcolm on Sylvia Plath, which seems to have been 1993. How time flies. Eeep. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/bios/janet_malcolm/search?contributorName=janet%20malcolm
^^ Which is not to say that some comics were not totally made to be read off computer screens. http://xkcd.com/730/
** Maybe this is the modern on line version of cool.
*** I believe she needed it by last week.
† Also, chocolate has changed. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_velvet_cake I’ve been trying to remember, but I seem to be unduly tired yet again today,^ my progress through the erratically charted geography^^ of chocolate. http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2010/02/cocoa-powder-faq-dutch-process-v/ I stopped using Dutch process when I stopped drinking cocoa, but that was a long time ago; I may have cluelessly used Dutch process in the pre-annotation version of this recipe, which would help explain why I thought it was boring. (It still needed more chocolate.)
^ Go away, you Mutant Virus, and take the ME with you! You have seriously outstayed your welcome!, as Holofernes might have said to Judith if he’d had the chance.
^^ I perceive a theme. Also, speaking of themes, anyone who doesn’t follow me on Twitter may need to know this: http://www.chocolateweek.co.uk/
†† I never said there weren’t drawbacks. . . .
††† I’d use low-fat now because the rest of the carton would be easier to give away, because that’s what everyone I know now uses. And yes, I assume I could still escape major punishment for ingesting the amount of (cooked) milk that was in a few pieces of cake, despite the ‘no dairy’ billboards lining my alimentary canal. I’d be worrying more about getting the waistband of my jeans closed.
‡ See: getting waistband of jeans closed
Okay, we’re on. The New Arcadia Bell Restoration Fund sale/auction that you were beginning to think I had forgotten about GOES LIVE THIS FRIDAY. MAKE A NOTE.
And, perhaps, to get you (back) in the mood . . .
OF COURSE THEY’RE CHOCOLATE CHIP. Don’t be daft.
I’m trying to remember the last time I made this recipe. The fine old American tradition of chocolate and peanut butter tends to make the British giggle and look superior.*
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies
¼ c soft butter. I did once make these with all peanut butter and mysteriously it wasn’t as successful. The straight butter brings out the peanut flavour somehow—as well as producing a better crumb—or again it may have been that particular jar/batch of peanut butter. Peanut butter isn’t as variable as honey, but it’s surprisingly variable nonetheless, especially, I suspect, if you decant it from giant vats at your health food shop, which I used to do, when I had a health food shop with giant peanut-butter vats. The original recipe called for equal amounts of butter and peanut butter, however, which I don’t approve of either. This is about the peanut butter. Well, and the chocolate.**
½ c chunky peanut butter. This may need adjusting depending on how squidgy your peanut butter is. But stand by to add more flour if the dough is very soft and goopy.***
1 c well tamped down dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract (NOT FLAVOURING. That hellgoddess obsession: use REAL VANILLA.)
2 c flour. I recommend half standard white and half spelt. They make white spelt now, if you can get hold of it. When I was still making these you could only get wholemeal spelt, and you could push up the percentage to about ¾ spelt, but you need a little plain white to lighten the texture. I’d try it with wholemeal and white spelt. The spelt flavour goes really well with the peanut butter.
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 c chopped dark chocolate or semisweet chocolate chips
I’ve been known to add ½c chopped hazelnuts. No, not peanuts. Hazelnuts are more interesting, and to my taste they go with peanut butter better than most of the other standard nuts—almonds, walnuts, cashews. I bet Macadamias would be good too.
Cream butter and peanut butter together thoroughly, then brown sugar. Then beat in egg, finally vanilla. Beat AND BEAT till fluffy. Mix the baking powder and soda into the flour(s), stir till all the same colour, then add to the creamed stuff. Beat till blended but no more. Stir in chocolate chips last.
Drop on greased or parchment-paper-lined cookie sheets. 350°F, probably about 12 minutes, till they’re just going brown around the edges. They’ll be fragile when they come out, so leave them alone till they’re at least half cool. This is why I use parchment paper: you can just pull it, cookies still in place, off the sheets. Of course then you run out of counter space†, but hey.
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** It’s always about the chocolate.
*** The worst thing that happens if you guess wrong and your cookies are too goopy, is that they run together while they’re baking and you have to cut them up and then eat them carefully because they’ll stay fragile even when they’re cool. But they’ll taste fine. That’s the worst thing that happens if your cookie sheets have edges all round. Let me tell you about how having cookie/baking sheets with edges all the way around is a very good thing.
† Unexpected Uses of Hellhound Crate Top.
It’s more of the sunny blue/falling wall of water business today, and very annoying it is too. We went on what ought to be one of our favourite hurtles this morning and . . . it was raining when we got there so we sat in the car a little longer while the roar of the meteorological tumult drowned out Radio 3, which didn’t disturb the hellhounds so much but didn’t improve my temper any. When we finally started off anyway it was rain = sulky hellhounds. Then steambath sun = sulky hellhounds. Then more rain = sulky hellhounds. More sunny sauna = sulky hellhounds. AAAAAUGH. The weird visuals included sky so black it really looked like Thor or Odin or someone was about to clap the lid over us alternating with a fuzzy white sun about half the size of the sky—plus the ankle-level theatrics. When the rain was coming down in thwacks if you were on a hard surface you were walking through a tiny geyser-garden as the water-balloons of rain hit and burst upward again. When the sun came out everything did promptly start steaming—probably including myself and the hellhounds, but I wasn’t at a good angle to see this—I can vouch for the steaming sheep however, and steaming sheep are . . . bizarre. Plus the dry-ice boa constrictors of murk coming off the road and the trees, including fallen logs. I was starting to worry about barrow-wights. It was totally possible that some of that wreathing smoke drifting off the bigger logs was going to solidify, stand up and come after us. Maybe the hellhounds really had our best interests at heart. They didn’t give the impression of having our best interests at heart. They gave the impression of having gone more or less limp in their harnesses and requiring me to frelling carry them. *
Of course I have been thinking of Ajlr’s bees. I hope the weather has been better where they are and they are not already telling each other the story of their origins in a bright and beautiful place from which they were evicted without warning for displeasing their gods . . . in some manner they wot not of, which is usually the way with displeased gods. Despairingly they wonder, what can they do to regain their gods’ favour? Pssst—make honey. Make lots and lots of honey.
This recipe began life using milk and maple syrup. I stopped using milk a long time ago and then when I moved over here maple syrup became gold dust and the Fountain of Youth**. Which is when I started using tea and honey. Yes, tea. I make it STRONG, but even so you’re getting comparatively little per muffin and unless you’re very susceptible to caffeine I wouldn’t have thought it would buzz you. One of the pleasures, to me, of these muffins is that they’re different every time because both tea and honey vary so immensely. Well, okay, I like messing about with teas of character† . . . and there are teas that are good with honey and teas that, in my capricious opinion, are not. But then I like honey with character too, and when you get two assertive entities together you have to be a little careful. So if you’re going to go down this route, you’re going to want to do your own experimenting. Which is part of the fun. I will point out however, before you decide instead to pop round to the corner shop and buy some doughnuts, that the fact that there’s flour and so on involved in the actual muffins means that the match between the tea and the honey does not have to be perfect.
3 T butter
¾ c strong tea
1/3 to ½ c honey: this is going to vary both with how sweet you want your muffins and how runny your honey is. I’m always going on in my recipes about how individual ingredients vary††. Honey more so than most. Honey is actually fairly tricky to bake with, but muffins are pretty accommodating.
Melt the butter, let cool; beat the egg, add the honey, then the tea, then the melted butter.
1-2 c wholemeal/wholewheat flour. You want about 1 ½ c flour total, but if you want to use some white flour to lighten it, use up to ½ c.
½ c (dry) oatmeal
1 T baking powder
If you like cinnamon (I often put cinnamon in my tea), you can add 1 tsp ground
Mix all this dry stuff together, then stir in quickly to the wet. I recommend using a whisk. It’s true that lumps will (probably) bake out, but they make me nervous.†††
Plop in about 12 muffin cups, which you’ve either buttered first or put paper muffin cups in.‡ About 20 minutes at 400°F. They should puff up beautifully, and the tops should be pretty hard. And if you wanted to brush them, when they come out of the oven, with a little honey thinned with a little water, that would be good too. If you want to you can run them back in the oven again for just about a minute more, to get a nice crackly effect from the honey wash.
And you want a good book to read while you eat your muffins, right? And what more suitable . . . Look what a friend in Cambridge (. . . Massachusetts) sent me‡‡:
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* Speaking of not being at a good angle to see if they were steaming. My eyeballs were probably steaming.
** Yes, all right, you can buy it in the shops here. At £100/thimble. And you can only get the pale polite grade A, not the darker more interesting ones.
*** For example, the following. I’ve been a teaholic for forty years, but the serious fannying around began about twenty years ago when a friend living in Paris came to visit us at the old house bringing several tins from Palais des Thes. Wow. My world changed.
† And let us not forget one of my favourite Wondermarks: http://wondermark.com/557/
†† And that it makes me furious that cookbooks rarely acknowledge this. I wonder how many nascent cooks and bakers had their nerve wrecked early on by recipes that were a disaster despite having been followed exactly, down to the last basilisk eyelash. In the real world there is no exact. There’s only a general principle applied to your basilisk.
††† I personally think the whole ‘don’t overbeat your muffin batter’ is kind of a bugbear. But it’s true you beat only minimally, unlike a cake batter, say, where you want to see the batter change colour.
‡ Hint: I think paper muffin cups are one of the great discoveries of modern science.
‡‡ And yes, if you’re having trouble reading it on your monitor, that does say Harvard Book Store.
I’ve been to the dentist again. He has many children to put through college.* This time however I came home with TEETH. Well, more teeth. Oh, all right, one more tooth. But it’s one of the big fat chewing ones. Plus a recap (so to speak) of the one behind that.** The truly horrifying thing however is the Next Phase which involves a phoenix egg and a sliver of bark from Yggdrasil and a drop of water from Charon’s bow-wave and one or two other things that . . . well, I really could buy a new car for what the Next Phase is going to cost. But ordinary dentists won’t look at my teeth*** Would it be so bad living on porridge for the rest of my life? Porridge and cake. I tweeted when I got home, numbed to the eyeballs barring the distant precognitive throb, that I was looking at my nice healthy green salad in dismay because it required chewing and would it be so bad to have cake for lunch? —And was promptly encouraged by several responding tweeters. Twitter is dangerous. In a lot of ways that don’t make it onto the stats.
Cake may have been somewhat more prominently than sometimes on my mind today however because last night I made:
I realise that the concept of leftover chocolate is foreign to many of us, and once upon a time it would have been foreign to me too and at least mildly implausible to Peter. But that was Then. This is Now. Peter has mouth trouble and I have Post Menopausal Zero Metabolism. Meanwhile, however, we are notorious for loving chocolate, so people tend to give it to us. I do not wish to discourage this excellent habit. And furthermore now that I’ve invented Leftover-Christmas-Chocolate Bars I may have to arrange for leftover chocolate henceforth.†
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Butter a 13 x 9” pan
¾ c butter
1 ¾ c sugar
2 large eggs, room temp
1 ½ tsp REAL vanilla††
1 ½ c all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder††
½ c unsweetened cocoa powder
1 c chopped-up Leftover Chocolate. The point here is that it should be lots of different kinds. I had four or five different sorts plus some ginger fudge. Don’t chop too small or it’ll disappear in the baking.
Cream butter and sugar. I scrape with the spoon in my right hand and knead with my left. Better results sooner. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Then the dry stuff. Be sure everything is THOROUGHLY mixed. Then finally stir in the chopped-up chocolate.
Bake about half an hour. I started checking after about twenty minutes because there’s kind of a lot of chocolate involved and I wanted to make sure nothing untoward happened. It’ll still be slightly squidgy when you take it out, and I assume it’ll fall a little—mine did, but I was expecting it to. This is a sign of excellent chewy-squidginess-with-crunch-around-the-edges to come. I also wasn’t sure what the ginger fudge would do if it was baked so I sprinkled it over the top and put the pan back in the oven for five minutes, just to melt it enough to stick.
From a health and safety standpoint I have to admit these are not a great deal better than pure chocolate, but they are fearfully good. And they give you something to pass around during your handbell tea break.†††
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* Not to mention the horses. I was going to say that I didn’t think they went to college . . . but in fact one of them does. And horse college costs as much as human college. Maybe more.
** Was I just In Denial or, thirty years ago, did dentists lead you to believe that once crowned, your tooth or teeth will stay crowned? This is I think the third refit I’ve had. At vast, three-years-undergrad-at-Cambridge prices, of course. And that doesn’t count the disintegrated root canals, which were another thing that thirty years ago were supposed to be for life. Pardon me, but first-world life expectancy for women has been well over fifty for longer than the last thirty years. Teeth: design FAIL.
*** At least not any longer than it takes to scream and run away.
† I’m aware that this is not an original idea. I’ve done something like it before myself. But this is probably the first time I’ve thought ‘why don’t I sweep up all the bits and pieces from not-quite-as-indulgent-a-Christmas-as-in-years-past and do something egregious?’
†† Maybe. I was making them at the mews and Peter doesn’t seem to have a set of measuring spoons. I know he made me take the fourteen or twenty-six spare sets of measuring spoons^ away with me but I hadn’t realised he didn’t have any. This Will Be Rectified. Meanwhile after forty-odd years of baking I probably know what a measuring-tsp quantity looks like.
^ When I was first over here, it was hard to find measuring cups and spoons in standard American sizes so I got . . . kind of paranoid. And would come back from a visit to the States with my suitcases not merely full of All Stars and black jeans but measuring cups and spoons. Glass jugs—which I prefer—have a built in population control mechanism, but metal measuring spoons live forever. I may have got a little carried away with the reserve measuring spoon sets.
††† I’ve been trying to figure out if there’s a way to mention this on the blog that won’t just bore you all to death. I need to gloat here, okay? You might give me the benefit of remembering that I had a brain full of dental anaesthesia this afternoon, and in fact when I’d tried to practise on Pooka before real people showed up with real handbells it had been so awful I’d considered that perhaps it wasn’t the anaesthesia at all, I really had lost my mind. So I was feeling pretty cowed when Niall came in, started unwrapping handbells^, and said that we were going do an exercise that James had had the Saturday handbell group doing last weekend, which you might call Merry Go Round Plain Hunt. Plain Hunt is the pattern-before-the-pattern to all bell ringing: it’s the first thing you learn after you can more or less handle your bell, and it gives you a dreadful clue^^ of what is to come.^^^ Merry Go Round Handbell Plain Hunt is that after you have rung however many ordinary ‘courses’ as they’re called of plain hunt you pass one bell to the person on your left. And then you ring normal plain hunt again. On whatever weird pair of bells you’re now holding. This is not how you ring handbells: you ring the trebles, which are the one and the two, or the three and the four, the five and the six, or the tenors (if you’re ringing on eight), the seven and eight. This is what you learn; this is what you’re used to. This is what you can COPE WITH. But for merry-go-round, after the first pass you’re holding the one and the eight, or the two and the three, the four and the five, the six and the seven. Which means that diabolical SHAPE of what you’re ringing is blown to pieces. I can’t do this! I wailed—I can’t do anything unless I’ve thought about it and practised it first. I can’t think handbells on the spot like this.
But I did. It just about killed me, but I did it. I got it. I got all of the weird pairs: the 2-3, the 4-5, the 6-7, the 8-1. Yaay me. Gloat.
^ And yes, I agree, one of the reasons I need my own set of handbells is so I can knit little storage bags for them.
^^ Although not nearly dreadful enough
^^^ ARRRGH. Have just wasted half an hour trying to persuade either Google or any of my three bell-ringing simulators to produce a diagram of plain hunt major. It can’t be this hard. So, here. I’ve just written it out. Make that scrawled. The point is just to look at the shape of what you’re ringing if you’re ringing two bells. The method line is the same for everybody: you go straight out to the back, strike twice in last place, go straight down to the front, strike two blows in first place, and go out to the back again till someone says ‘that’s all’. The only trick when you’re ringing it in the tower is where you’re starting in this very straight in and out pattern. If you’re the two (or any even-numbered bell) you go down to the front first; if you’re the three (or any odd-numbered bell) you start by heading out to the back. Easy peasy. Now get your head around it if you’re ringing two bells. The front and back pairs are still pretty simple; they stay pretty parallel, one ‘blow’ as it’s called apart, and they only have to remember to cross at the front and the back. (The treble is in red, and the two is in blue. I should have done them both in the same colour, but bell ringers are trained to think of the treble by itself, because it usually is.)
But look at the shape of what the 3-4 rings (both in green). This is what I mean about the inside pairs. The 5-6 is like this only mirror-image. (I will spare you why the 5-6 is worse than the 3-4 in bob major.)
Roll on 2011. I like the look of ‘2011’. A very nice collection of numbers nicely arranged. May it be a Year of Multifaceted Wonderfulness.**
I think we need a sticky celebratory pudding. A little late for tonight, but it’ll be excellent tomorrow too. If you’re not too the-day-after-the-night-before-ish for getting your eyes to focus on a recipe.
Spicy cranberry gingerbread pudding
The original recipe wants you to make eight individual puddings. You must be frelling joking. You’re already going to have to make the sauce as well as the pudding. Life is way too short to spend that much time buttering pudding basins, not to mention cleaning the suckers afterward, since in my experience putting them through the dishwasher is pretty futile. I don’t know, are there Miniature Pudding Basin Liners like there are paper muffin cups? The latter entirely revolutionised my baking half a million years ago when I discovered them, or someone started making them, which I think is what happened—some muffin-eating industrialist’s wife told him that paper muffin cup liners would not only mean he could have fresh muffins every day but that they would thereby be made wealthy***.
Anyway. In the absence of miniature pudding basin liners, you can make it in an 8” square pan, although a 6-cup Bundt is ideal because it looks pretty without being nearly so much work.†
1 ¾ c all-purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp (ground) ginger
¼ tsp allspice
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
2 medium/large eggs, room temp
5 T soft butter
¼ c blackstrap molasses
¼ c dark brown sugar. If you’re a wimp you can use white sugar
1 heaped teaspoon freshly grated ginger root
4 oz preserved ginger in syrup, finely chopped, with its syrup
about 1 c water
Sift the dry stuff together. Squash the butter and sugar together thoroughly, then add molasses, then eggs. Beat well. Then start adding flour alternately with water, and mixing each time, starting with flour: half the flour, then half the water, then half the flour . . . then stop. At this point add the two gingers (the ground went in with the spices in the dry), so you can judge how much water you’re going to need to make a good batter. I have found I need slightly less than the full 1c. Beat well again. If you are an electric-mixer person, use it. The batter should get very homogenous and very slightly paler.
Pour in your chosen WELL BUTTERED pan, and bake about half an hour at 350°F/moderate. It should look done like a cake looks done. Use a toothpick if you’re nervous. If it’s a Bundt, you’ll want to let it cool a bit and then turn it out; if it’s in a boring old brownie pan, you can just serve it from there.
Sweet Cranberry-Cider Sauce
1 lb cranberries
16 fluid oz British cider. Which is to say, alcoholic. If you can get British/hard cider, use whatever kind you like to drink, which is to say this is not the time to go cheap. If you can’t get hard cider, use about 1 ½ c ordinary cider and ½ c port, Madeira, sherry, or whatever of that kind of thing you have around. You ought to have something of this sort because it’s great for enlivening dull food. You could certainly use Calvados or some such but I think that’s getting on for apple overkill myself.
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp (ground) cloves
¼ tsp nutmeg
about ¼ c, somewhat depending on how dry your cider/etc is and how sweet you like your sauce, dark brown sugar
2 oz preserved ginger in syrup, finely chopped, with its syrup
Put the cider in a pan with everything else except the preserved ginger. Bring to boil, boil gently till cranberries pop. Take off the heat, add the ginger. Let cool. Reheat just to warm to serve. You can warm the pudding too. I generally don’t, but you don’t want it cold from the refrigerator.
It’s five minutes to midnight as I write this. Tick . . . tick . . . tick. . . . ††
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* We had ringing practise tonight. How sad is that? New Year’s Eve and we’re all in the bell tower making horrible crashing noises.^ There were even enough of us tonight to make a wide variety of horrible crashing noises. But I think possibly some of us had got a head start on celebrating.^^
^ Niall did suggest that if anyone wanted to ring in the New Year it could probably be arranged . . . but not by him.
^^ Which is to say that my Cambridge was perhaps more accurate than some others of those present.
** In the immediate future however . . . I have had a long detailed email from a professional photo geek, who says in essence:
(a) Yes, the Canons are too slow.
(b) Yes, the Panasonics’ jpeg handling isn’t good enough.
At present my choices seem to be:
(a) Learn photo editing after all and shoot in RAW mode.
(b) Give up on the compact idea and go for a full DSLR.
(c) Learn to draw.
How’s progress on cloning coming? I need two of me, whatever I decide. I need hours for photo editing and I need hours to write more books to pay for my renovated, upgraded and expanded camera habit. Or I need hours with my sketchbook. Hours and hours and hours and HOURS AND HOURS. And possibly a gene-splice from JMW Turner or James Whistler or John Everett Millais or Edward Burne-Jones.
*** And she could hire someone to make muffins while she got on with writing her great novel. He probably wanted a bigger car or a string of polo ponies or a castle in Spain. Men.^
^ Although I’ve always wanted my castle in Scotland which is manifestly insane. Winter? Darkness? Rising damp? Cold? I think the top ten most uncomfortable places on earth must include at least one paradigmatic Scottish castle.
† Although they don’t go too effectively through the dishwasher either. Butter it really well.
†† And I’m listening to Handel’s MESSIAH. Well, it’s festive. They’ve got the last night of the Proms running on Radio Three and I cannot take the blurky self-congratulation. It’s stickier than the above pudding, which is not appropriate on the radio. Get a grip, guys.