Category Archives: Desserts

Chocolate Tiffin with Brandy Soaked Raisins, Crunchie, Maltesers and Digestive Biscuits

December is here and I’m busy thinking about sweet treats for the festive season.

Chocolate tiffin is pretty easy to pull together but the finished result is delicious and I find slightly addictive. Cut into squares it is easy to bring out at Christmas gatherings or to wrap attractively to give as a gift.

Chocolate Tiffin with Brandy Soaked Raisins, Crunchie, Maltesers and Digestive Biscuits from britinthesouth.comBelieved to originate from Scotland tiffin is just another variation on what would be known as a fridge or icebox cake in other parts of the world as it doesn’t need baking, just chilling. At its most basic it consists of crushed biscuits and raisins mixed with melted chocolate and allowed to set. British chocolate company Cadbury’s make a “Tiffin” bar which is essentially raisins and biscuits in milk chocolate. It was reintroduced last year after being off the shelves for more than a dozen years.

The joy of making your own tiffin is that it gives you endless license to customise it to your own tastes, choosing the type of chocolate, what type of biscuit and what other additions to use.

Chocolate Tiffin with Brandy Soaked Raisins, Crunchie, Maltesers and Digestive Biscuits from britinthesouth.com

Cadbury’s “Tiffin”. Good, but not as good as homemade

After a good deal of experimentation I’ve landed on the basic technique from this recipe from the brilliant chocolate maker Paul.A.Young but have then taken it in my own direction. I love his  suggestion of a blend of dark and milk chocolates which makes for a well balanced chocolate layer. Like him I use digestive biscuits for crunch (usually McVities) and raisins, but for this version I soaked the raisins overnight in brandy to make things a little more christmassy. If you want to skip the alcohol, plain unadulterated raisins will work fine. From his recipe I skip the glace cherries (not a big fan) and hazelnuts (allergic) but I do add a couple of other ingredients from the world of British confectionery. Maltesers add both texture as well as nuggets of malty flavour, whilst Crunchie bars add little pockets of honeycomb sweetness.

Chocolate Tiffin with Brandy Soaked Raisins, Crunchie, Maltesers and Digestive Biscuits from britinthesouth.comThe boozy raisins, crunchy biscuits, and the little flavour bombs of Malteser and Crunchie all combine beautifully to create an incredibly moreish chocolate treat.

Chocolate Tiffin with Brandy Soaked Raisins, Crunchie, Maltesers and Digestive Biscuits

4oz raisins

1 tbs brandy

2 Crunchie bars (40g / 1.4oz each)

3 bags of Maltesers (37g / 1.3oz each)

8oz Digestive Biscuits

4oz butter

6oz light agave syrup

0.5 tsp salt

6oz milk chocolate, chopped

6oz dark chocolate, chopped

The evening before you want to make the tiffin, mix the raisins with the brandy and leave to soak overnight.

The following day, start by placing both Crunchie bars in a freezer bag and bash with a rolling pin to crush. The aim is small chunks, not too big, and be careful not to produce a pile of Crunchie powder.

Chocolate Tiffin with Brandy Soaked Raisins, Crunchie, Maltesers and Digestive Biscuits from britinthesouth.comCrush two of the three bags of Maltesers in a similar fashion. The other bag of Maltesers will be left whole.

Crumble the digestive biscuits. Once again aim for small chunks rather than fine crumbs.

Line an 8×8″ baking pan with parchment paper.

Place the butter, agave syrup and salt in a medium pan and melt together over low heat, stirring frequently.

Add the milk and dark chocolate to the pan and stir continuously until smooth.

Chocolate Tiffin with Brandy Soaked Raisins, Crunchie, Maltesers and Digestive Biscuits from britinthesouth.comAdd the Crunchie pieces, bashed and whole Maltesers, raisins and crushed biscuits to the chocolate mix and stir well to ensure that everything is coated.

Chocolate Tiffin with Brandy Soaked Raisins, Crunchie, Maltesers and Digestive Biscuits from britinthesouth.comSpoon the mixture into the lined baking tray and carefully spread it until level.

Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before cutting into generous chunks and enjoying.

 

Chocolate Bark with Coffee and Biscuits

In recent years the market for biscuits in Britain has declined a little as people try to eat more healthily, but the nation still munches its way through around £2 billion worth a year.

Chocolate Bark with Coffee and Biscuits from britinthesouth.comFor many Brits it is almost unthinkable to have a cup of tea or coffee without a Digestive or a Hob Nob to accompany it, sometimes on the side but often dunked. If the biscuit is chocolate coated, so much the better.

This British habit must have been on my mind the last time I was playing around with ideas for homemade chocolate bark, as the light bulb flickered on and I thought, why not put the coffee and biscuits in the chocolate?

Chocolate Bark with Coffee and Biscuits from britinthesouth.comAfter a few experiments to get the coffee and biscuit ratio right this treat was born.

 

Chocolate Bark with Coffee and Biscuits

6oz dark chocolate

5.5 tsp finely ground coffee

4 digestive biscuits, crumbled

 

Line an 8×8″ baking tray with parchment paper.

Gently melt the chocolate over medium heat in a double boiler or a glass bowl over a pan of water. Once it is melted, stir 4.5 tsp of the coffee and 2 crumbled biscuits into the chocolate and stir to combine.

Chocolate Bark with Coffee and Biscuits from britinthesouth.comPour this mixture into the parchment lined baking tray and smooth with a spatula. Sprinkle the remaining coffee and crumbled biscuit on top before the chocolate starts to set.

Chocolate Bark with Coffee and Biscuits from britinthesouth.comAllow the chocolate to cool a little and then place in the refrigerator until the mixture is firm (about an hour).

Break the chocolate bark into bite sized pieces to enjoy.

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“99”

In the middle of summer I often find my mind drifting to memories of back home.

At this time of year I particularly miss the English seaside, even though most of my childhood memories revolve around spots along the East coast where the breezes can be strong, the beaches pebbly and the murky North Sea rather cold.

"99" soft serve ice cream and Cadbury's Flake from britinthesouth.comNo seaside trip was complete without an ice cream, usually a “99”. For the uninitiated, a “99” is a cone of soft ice cream with a Cadbury’s Flake sticking out of it. A little research shows that no one really knows exactly where or when the “99” was invented or where the distinctive name came from, but pretty much everyone in Britain knows exactly what it is.

"99" soft serve ice cream and Cadbury's Flake from britinthesouth.comAn authentic “99” relies on soft serve ice cream so it is almost impossible to recreate at home. You really need to get it from a kiosk or an ice cream van serving a famous British ice cream brand like Mr.Whippy. That is why most people think of it as a treat, associating it with days out and special occasions.

Luckily, I found a way to replicate this iconic summertime treat in the heart of Georgia.

First I tracked down a couple of local sources for Cadbury’s Flakes, and stocked up.

"99" soft serve ice cream and Cadbury's Flake from britinthesouth.comSecondly, I had made a note of a video published a couple of years ago by Saveur magazine on making your own soft serve ice cream at home, using a stand mixer and dry ice.

The mix for soft serve is much lower in fat than regular ice cream and needs to be frozen much more quickly than a regular home ice cream machine will manage. You achieve this by putting the mixture in a stand mixer, churning it with the paddle attachment and slowly adding adding spoonfuls of dry ice which rapidly freeze it, whilst also bubbling like crazy and sending clouds of dry ice smoke around the kitchen, which is a lot of fun.

"99" soft serve ice cream and Cadbury's Flake from britinthesouth.comJust a few minutes later you’ll have ice cream with the taste and texture of soft serve. Just add a Cadbury’s Flake to give yourself a taste of an English childhood.

The full recipe and details for the ice cream are here: https://www.chefsteps.com/activities/soft-serve-ice-cream

 

 

Sweet Lime Posset

I can happily spend hours browsing in some of the large ethnic grocery stores around Atlanta, with aisle after aisle of obscure Asian, Hispanic, European and Middle Eastern ingredients.

Sweet lime posset from britinthesouth.comI’m often drawn to the citrus selection, which offers fruit never seen in regular supermarkets, such as pomelos, sour oranges and makrut limes.

Sweet lime posset from britinthesouth.com

I recently stumbled upon a mound of what looked like large lemons but were labelled “sweet limes”. I’d never seen these before so jumped online to educate myself. Commonly found in South and Southeast Asia it is a different fruit to regular and key limes, and as the name suggests the flavour is sweeter and more mild. I couldn’t resist grabbing a few to play with.

Sweet lime posset from britinthesouth.com

Although a primarily Asian fruit I decided to give my sweet limes an ancient British treatment and turn them into a posset. Dating back to the middle ages, a posset was originally a spiced hot milky drink, with the milk curdled by the addition of wine or ale. Over the centuries it has evolved into more of a dessert which is set rather than liquid but is still made by curdling cream.

Sweet lime posset from britinthesouth.com

In Asia sweet limes are often simply used in drinks so I was disappointed when I squeezed and tasted some and found the juice rather bland, so I added a little regular lime juice to my posset to ensure a good citrus tang in the final result, which turned out to be a perfect summer dessert: light and creamy with a delicate lime flavour.

Sweet Lime Posset

2 cups heavy cream

5 tbs granulated sugar

3 tbs freshly squeezed sweet lime juice

2 tbs freshly squeezed lime juice

Put the cream in a pan, add the sugar and bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

Boil for 4 minutes ensuring the sugar is dissolved and making sure the cream doesn’t burn or boil over.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the lime juice. Allow the mix to steep for 20 minutes.

Stir the mixture again and then spoon into serving dishes. Once it is cool, refrigerate for at least a couple of hours to set before enjoying.

 

Bara Brith for St.David’s Day

As my wife originates from Wales I try to cook up something Welsh related on March 1st every year to celebrate the feast day of St.David. Last year it was Welsh cakes; this year I turned to another famous baked item from Wales: bara brith.

bara brith from britinthesouth.comBara brith translates from the Welsh into “speckled bread”, a fruity loaf made with dried fruit and mixed spices. The fruit is traditionally steeped in tea overnight to enhance the flavour, and the loaf is typically served sliced and buttered with a cup of tea.

Mixed spice is a peculiarly British blend that seems to have no direct equivalent in the States. The closest thing in the USA is pumpkin pie spice but that is usually too heavy on the cinnamon for my liking, so I mix my own blend from allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, cloves, coriander and ginger.

bara brith from britinthesouth.comThis is a relatively simple recipe. It just needs a little forward planning to soak the fruit in tea the day before you plan to bake it.

Enjoy, and have a happy St.David’s Day, or dydd gŵyl dewi hapus.

Bara Brith

Based on this recipe

1lb dried mixed fruit  (I used a 50/50 mix of sundried raisins and golden raisins)

9oz brown sugar

10 fl.oz. warm black tea (I made a strong brew of English Breakfast Tea)

2 tsp mixed spice (see recipe below)

1lb self raising flour

1 egg, beaten

Mix the fruit and the sugar with the tea and leave to steep overnight.

The following day, preheat the oven to 325F.

bara brith from britinthesouth.comSieve the flour into the fruit and tea mix and then add the mixed spice and the egg. Mix well.

Pour the mix into a loaf tin lined with parchment paper.

Put in the oven and bake for around 70-75 minutes. The bara brith is done when a skewer stuck into the middle of the loaf comes out clean.

bara brith from britinthesouth.com

Mixed Spice

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground allspice

1 tsp ground nutmeg

0.5 tsp ground mace

0.25 tsp ground ginger

0.25 tsp ground coriander

0.25 tsp ground cloves

Mix the spices together until thoroughly blended. Store in a sealed container. As well as using in this recipe this is a versatile mix that can also be used in other British baking recipes like fruit cake and hot cross buns.

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Christmas Pudding & Ginger Snap Trifle with Brandy Whipped Mascarpone Cream and Cocoa Nibs

I’m a big fan of Christmas and part of the enjoyment for me is planning our menus ahead of time and making sure our fridge and store cupboards are well stocked, especially if people drop by unexpectedly or we find ourselves wanting to make a list minute edible gift.

Christmas Pudding & Ginger Snap Trifle with Brandy Whipped Mascarpone Cream and Cocoa Nibs from britinthesouth.comEven with the best planning I inevitably end up with leftovers and surplus items and part of the fun of the days between Christmas and New Year is finding interesting things to do with all the goodies we have on hand.

I love traditional British Christmas pudding but invariably end up with spare pudding each year. It is great crumbled and then sauteed in a little butter and slathered with cream, or stirred into vanilla ice cream.

Assessing the contents of my fridge I found not only leftover pudding, but half a tub of mascarpone and an open carton of heavy cream. My store cupboard revealed an open bag of ginger snap cookies and a container of cocoa nibs that I hadn’t been able to resist. Trifle seemed to be the obvious answer.

I crushed the ginger snaps, crumbled the Christmas pud, whipped together the mascarpone and cream with a little sugar and brandy and then it was simply a case of layering the ingredients to make an eye catching and delicious seasonal dessert.

Christmas Pudding & Ginger Snap Trifle with Brandy Whipped Mascarpone Cream and Cocoa Nibs from britinthesouth.com

Christmas Pudding & Ginger Snap Trifle with Brandy Whipped Mascarpone Cream and Cocoa Nibs

12 fl.oz (1.5 cups) Heavy whipping cream

4oz Mascarpone

1 tbsp Sugar

1 tsp brandy (optional)

6oz Crumbled Christmas pudding

2oz Crushed Ginger Snaps (Ginger Nuts)

Whip the cream and the mascarpone together until the mixture starts to stiffen. This can take a few minutes so it is easier if you use a stand mixer as I did, although you can do it by hand.

Add the sugar and brandy to the cream and mix for another minute to incorporate.

To assemble, place alternative layers of ginger snap, cream and pudding in your serving dish. I made four small trifles but it could be done in one larger bowl.

To finish, sprinkle the top of the trifle with cocoa nibs. If you don’t have cocoa nibs, grated chocolate would be a great alternative.

These are best if enjoyed immediately but if not they can be stored in the fridge for 2-3 days.

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Edible Whisky Infused Snowflakes

I cannot claim credit for the original idea for these but it took a few experiments and a bit of trial and error to perfect the technique.

edible whisky infused snowflakes from britinthesouth.comA couple of years ago I was on a transatlantic flight a couple of weeks before Christmas and one of the options on the inflight video channels was Heston Blumenthal’s “Fantastical Food Christmas Special”. This was a series where he made supersized and fantasy versions of British food classics and the Christmas edition included edible tree decorations and a Christmas pudding large enough to climb into.

He experimented with various ways of producing alcoholic snow with little success. He finally opts for “rice paper snowflakes infused with a special whisky infused sugar”, but only makes the briefest mention of them with no detail on how he does it. Many of the fantasy dishes on Heston’s TV shows use ingredients, equipment or techniques that are out of my reach but whisky infused paper sounded well within my grasp, and a great addition to our tree decorations.

edible whisky infused snowflakes from britinthesouth.comThe starting point is rice paper, also known as wafer paper, edible sheets typically made with from potato starch or rice. Used in cake decorating and candy making they can be found in cake supply stores or online.

I used a snowflake shaped punch from an art supply store to make the snowflakes but you can use any shape that takes your fancy. The next step is to make a thick paste from powdered sugar and whisky (or the alcohol of your choice). Using a small brush, “paint” this onto the paper and before it dries sprinkle on some sparkling sugar to add some twinkle to the final result.

edible whisky infused snowflakes from britinthesouth.comThese snowflakes are somewhat delicate and are at their best within 2 to 3 days of being made before the alcohol dissipates and they dry out. You can hang them on your tree, use them as a drinks garnish or hand them out as an unusual nibble at holiday gatherings.

Edible Whisky Infused Snowflakes

2 sheets wafer paper

1 tbsp powdered sugar

1.5 tsp whisky

2 tsp sparkling sugar

Cut out the snowflake shape (or whatever shape you desire) from the sheets of wafer paper. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper

Mix the powdered sugar and whisky into a thick paste. Using a small brush carefully paint the sugar and whisky solution onto the wafer paper shapes.

Before the paste dries sprinkle with sparkling sugar.

Leave to dry before eating or using to decorate. To prevent the paper from curling as it dries place another sheet of parchment paper on top and then put a flat object such as a chopping board on top of that.

Yield: 12 snowflakes

 

 

 

 

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Panettone Truffles

For longer than I care to remember I’ve been a lover of Italian food, wine and culture and when I lived in London I regularly flew over to Italy for a taste of la dolce vita.

panettone truffles from britinthesouth.comAs a result, the Christmas shopping list for my household always includes a panettone, the famous Italian sweet bread that is an increasingly common sight in shops as Christmas approaches.

panettone truffles from britinthesouth.comPanettone is delicious just as it is, but is also great toasted and liberally spread with butter or mascarpone, and also makes a great bread and butter pudding. A few years ago I experimented with making truffles from some leftover panettone. I loved the results and after sharing some of them with friends I now have to make increasingly large batches every year. They are pretty easy to make but are an elegant and delicious Christmas treat.

The recipe is loosely based on a recipe for “Syrup Sponge Nuggets” from Hope & Greenwood’s “Sweets Made Simple”, an excellent book for those wanting to make chocolates and candy at home.

Panettone Truffles

8oz Golden syrup or agave syrup

2oz Unsalted butter

8oz Crumbled panettone

8oz White Chocolate

12oz Dark Chocolate

Put the crumbled panettone in a bowl. Melt together the syrup and butter over medium heat and then add to the panettone and stir to combine.

panettone truffles from britinthesouth.comGently melt the white chocolate over medium heat in a double boiler or a glass bowl over a pan of water. Once melted add it to the panettone and syrup mixture and mix together. When cool, place in the refrigerator until the mixture is firm.

Taking a teaspoon full of the mixture at a time, roll into balls to form the centres of the truffles. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, then return to the fridge to firm up again.

panettone truffles from britinthesouth.comMelt the dark chocolate for the coating in a double boiler. Dip the truffle centres in the melted chocolate to coat and place on baking parchment to set before enjoying.

Yield: 38-40 truffles

panettone truffles from britinthesouth.com

 

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Oat & Walnut Whisky Balls

Bourbon balls are one of many items that can be filed under the category of “things I’d never encountered until I moved to the South”.

oat and walnut whisky balls from britinthesouth.comInvented in the early 20th century in bourbon’s homeland of Kentucky, these little booze infused treats have become a staple at Christmas gatherings in the South.

Variations on the theme exist but the most common versions are made from crushed cookies, chopped pecans, cocoa powder, powdered sugar, corn syrup and of course a generous slug of bourbon. Other versions often use more chocolate and fewer cookies.

After experimenting with a number of permutations, I have settled on the recipe below. Although loosely based on the bourbon ball recipe from the splendid book, “Southern Living Christmas All Through The South”, I have substituted most of the main ingredients with products from the other side of the Atlantic. Balls with a British twist, you could say.

I have seen many recipes over here use vanilla cookies as their base. I have opted for Hobnobs, one of the most popular biscuits in Britain. The recipe uses plain Hobnobs, which are available in the US but harder to find than the chocolate covered versions which many supermarkets carry. They are available online if you can’t find them in a store.

For the key ingredient, namely the alcohol, I have gone for Scotch whisky. The primary ingredient in Hobnobs is oats, which pair well with Scotch, as seen in other delicious Scottish oat and whisky combinations such as cranachan and atholl brose.

I also plumped for walnuts instead of pecans and rather than corn syrup I used Golden Syrup, a popular sugar syrup from back home. These little delicacies are pretty easy to put together but look and taste great.

oat and walnut whisky balls from britinthesouth.com

Oat and Walnut Whisky Balls

3oz walnuts

12 plain Hobnob biscuits (around 6oz)

0.25 cup powdered sugar

1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tbsp Golden Syrup

0.25 cup Scotch whisky

Lightly toast the walnuts over medium heat until aromatic, stirring regularly (about 4-5 minutes). Take care not to burn them. Once they have cooled a little finely chop them. Put around one third of the nuts aside to decorate the balls later.

Crush the Hobnobs into a fine crumb. You can put them in a bag and bash them with a rolling pin or whizz them in a food processor.

In a large bowl, mix two thirds of the chopped nuts and the crushed biscuits with the other ingredients. Once thoroughly mixed, roll the mixture into 1″ balls, then coat them with the remaining chopped walnuts.

Store in the fridge for up to two weeks.

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Chocolate Stout Ganache

Young’s Brewery was founded in Wandsworth in south London in 1831. When I lived in London I enjoyed sampling their fine ales whenever I encountered them.

Sadly, their old Ram Brewery in Wandsworth was closed for redevelopment a few years ago and production of their beers moved to Bedford, over 60 miles north of the original brewery, although the old building retains a small microbrewery, enabling the location to still claim to be the oldest site of continual brewing in Britain.

Chocolate Stout Ganache from britinthesouth.comOn this side of the Atlantic the only Young’s beer I find with any regularity is their “Double Chocolate Stout”, which not only offers distinct hints of chocolate on the nose and palate from the use of roasted dark malts, but for good measure includes real chocolate and chocolate essence. It is a distinctive and flavourful beer, and with the holiday season upon us I couldn’t resist adding yet more chocolate to it to come up with a unique dessert.

Ganache is usually made by combining chocolate with cream but I substituted the chocolate stout for cream, and instead of rolling into balls to make conventional truffles I poured it into shot glasses to form the basis of a mini “pint”. I used 60% bittersweet chocolate which combined with the beer to make a rich, velvety layer which was then topped off with a white chocolate and cream ganache to form the head of the beer. The sweet creamy top layer contrasts beautifully with the dark chocolate and beer combination, and eaten with a teaspoon from the shot glass it is just the right size for a decadent little dessert.

Chocolate Stout Ganache from britinthesouth.com

Chocolate Stout Ganache

8oz bittersweet chocolate (I like Ghirardelli 60% or Guittard 74%)

1 cup (8 fl.oz) chocolate stout

6oz white chocolate

0.5 cup heavy whipping cream

 

Chop the dark bittersweet chocolate into small pieces and place in a heatproof bowl.

Heat the beer over medium heat until it starts to bubble. Do not boil.

Pour the hot beer over the chocolate and stir well to combine. Transfer the mixture to a jug and pour into glass or plastic shot glasses (I used 1.65 fl.oz (50ml) glasses). Leave space at the top of the glass for the white chocolate “head”.

Put the glasses into the fridge to set (about 1-2 hours).

Chocolate Stout Ganache from britinthesouth.comTo make the white chocolate ganache break the white chocolate into pieces and melt over medium heat in a double boiler or a glass bowl over a pan of water. Meanwhile gently heat the cream in a small pan. Do not boil. When the chocolate is melted remove from the heat and gently stir the warm cream into the chocolate. When combined, transfer the ganache to a jug and gently pour on top of the dark chocolate layer in the shot glasses.

Return to the fridge to set for at least an hour or two before enjoying. Will keep in the fridge for 4-5 days.

Yield: 10 x 1.65oz glasses

Chocolate Stout Ganache from britinthesouth.com

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