Sampling the art of Nicky Grant, Patisssiere and Chocolatier

Romantic Infusion

Nicky Grant is a seductress.

One bite of her ‘Great Taste’ gold award-winning Cornish seasalt caramel truffles and I’m smitten!

It might be the quick snap sensation of the dark chocolate shell breaking apart under my teeth, followed by the oozing creamy-rich, sweet caramel centre on my tongue that transports a feeling of rapture straight from my head to my toes; or possibly the guilty memento of sin touched with smudges of cocoa powder left on my fingertips to lick? However, what sets these caramels apart, and my taste buds spiralling into bliss, is the barely discernible flavour of sea salt. Don’t ask me why or how, but salt appears to add something quite remarkable.  It turns a nod of approval into the tenderest proposal: ‘my heart is putty. I adore you’

All of this is a world away from Nicky’s previous life. Until 2001 she was a Corporate Identity Manager for BAA, a blue chip company in London, where her most of her life was spent in airports designing public spaces. Moving from corporate life to a farmhouse in west Cornwall might seem like a far cry from the sublime to the ordinary. Her husband Tom admitted, “I was a little nervous how she might react on meeting my large and almost overwhelming Cornish family.” However, for Nicky, it gave her the perfect opportunity to fine-tune a passion for another artistic design form completely. Continue reading

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The first slice and a New Year

The intention was to share my Christmas cake recipe back in 2010.But truthfully, I don’t really follow any tried and tested recipe.

My mother made the best fruit Christmas cakes and she must have followed the same recipe when she made each of her three daughters’ wedding cakes as well. What I remember was that they were dense, dark, full of fruit and nuts, bound together with a little ‘cake’ and steeped with brandy.  So they were very, very moist.

Unsurprisingly, my desire is to try to replicate her cakes. I’ve no idea what recipe she followed so I borrow all the best ingredients from several recipe books at once. I want a cake to be loaded with fruit, candied peel, nuts and spice. For 2010’s Christmas cake I used cranberries instead of cherries just to see if it would make any difference. I soaked the fruit and nuts overnight with brandy and, after a month just before icing,  laced the cake again liberally with rum.

The end result is an intensely sweet and fruity hit, and since the cake is so solid thin slices are easy to cut. Just as well, really, as I can only really manage a little of this luxuriously mixture at a time. Perfect with a refreshing cut of tea after a long and bracing walk in the winter time, or pretty good when I’m tired after a late night and I need a ‘sugary’ boost to lift my energy levels. Continue reading

Ten ‘Cornish’ best for the Christmas table.

Giving traditional Christmas Day dining a proper Cornish twist with unique food and drink specialities from the best local producers.

1. Apéritif:

Ninemaiden's Mead

‘Ninemaidens Mead’, Lanner, TR16 5TQ.

Mead, a sweet, honey-based alcohol and, was not invented in Cornwall, but has been strongly associated with the Duchy. Ninemaidens produce five different varieties: ‘traditional’, with a strong heather honey nose, and ‘spiced’, which makes an invigorating winter warmer. These could be just as easily drunk as a sweet desert wine.  ‘Apple’, ‘blackcurrant’ and ‘redcurrant’ are fruity, slightly drier but equally delicious. Honey is sourced from hives across West Cornwall and the best locally sourced ingredients are added during the brewing process.

For Christmas it can be warmed, mulled or added to a spicy winter punch. Alternatively, try their new ‘Gwires’, crystal clear distilled mead with a floral, honeyed bouquet; a great Cornish alternative to classic single malt.

Tel:(01209) 820939 / 860630 www.cornwallsolar.co.uk/ninemaidens Continue reading

A cake for a double digit.

My son had this idea for his 10th birthday, yesterday. He was very clear about it. He wanted a coiled snake and suggested this could be achieved by baking cakes in different sized tins. The smaller cake could sit on the larger one, and a smaller one again on that, except that I pointed out I was limited to two sizes of cake tins only in my cupboard.

He’s a creative thinker, a lover of reptiles and amphibians and very encouraging and complimentary of my efforts which helps a lot as I was nervous of making a complete hash of it.

The cake was a simple recipe. I weighed 4 eggs in their shells first and then used weighed out butter, sugar and flour to the same weight as the eggs. Continue reading

Big Buns Cake Company, Fowey

Homemade with ‘lashings’ of love.

Wendy Mitchell

Victoria Sponge

Wendy Mitchell’s cup cakes are munificent and tantalising at the same time. You can’t help smiling at her big, bold and bright buns for possessing childlike purity and adult naughtiness in equal measure. These are ‘Carry-on’ fancies, resplendent with British eccentricity, stuffed full of butter and humour where wholesome ingredients go hand-in-hand with double-whipped entendres. Some have nipple-resembling fat berries enticingly perched on butter-cream peaks; some support sugar sparkles and jelly beans; others have white-iced messages piped on chocolate tops: “Eat me”, “Hold me” or “I’m yours”.

Summed up by her own words her cakes are like, “When Enid Blyton meets the Beano.” A cross between ‘The Famous Five’ rushing home to find a lovely big chocolate cake on the kitchen table to be eagerly consumed with ‘lashings’ of old-fashioned relish and the Beano’s ‘Three Bears’ weekly pictured stealing grub from Hank’s store. “My cakes resemble those massive comic creations in full flight: thick layers and fat strawberries, dripping icing blobs and oozing cream.”

“It’s that fun that I associate with baking,” she says, “and that lovely, irresistible smell from the oven; cooking eggs beaten with sugar and the scent of vanilla.” There’s certainly something incredibly homely in the sweet aroma of baking. Wendy’s children return from school “with their little noses twitching and take the scent trail straight to the kitchen so I always splodge a bit of what I’m baking into bun wrappers for them to taste.”

Continue reading