Elderflower Cordial

You know summer has arrived when the elder is in bloom.  You can often smell the sweet, pungent flowers carried on the warm June air well before you find the tree itself.

ElderflowersThe flowers are easily identified by their heady scent, but if you’re not sure, look out for the flat topped heads that appear in abundance at the end of May and into June in hedgerows, woodland and scrubland.  Lots of people have them in their gardens too and according to folklore, an elder planted by your home will keep the devil away.

The flowers don’t last for long and so now is the time to gather them to bottle a taste of summer.
Elderflower Basket
You can make lots of things out of the flowers – sorbet, fritters and champagne, but old fashioned cordial is super easy and tastes much better than the stuff you can buy year round in the supermarket.

The flowers are easy to harvest if you take a pair of sharp scissors or some secateurs out with you on your walk, and a basket to carry them in.  They wilt really quickly, so make sure you pick them on your way back home and choose a warm, sunny day when they will be at their very best.

Also, make sure you don’t pick too many flowers all from the same tree, or there won’t be any flowers left for the bees, or any berries – we will be back for you later…!

The following recipe makes around 2 litres, but can easily be sized up for a bigger batch and the sweetness adjusted to taste.  I think you need a jelly bag to make this as you need to strain the infusion, but you could use muslin and a sieve too.

Elder basket
Ingredients:
Around 30 heads of elderflowers, picked on a warm, sunny day
6 unwaxed lemons
1kg of sugar, or 800g sugar and 4tbs of runny honey
1tsp citric acid
1.5 litres of water

Elderflower cordial prep
Method:
Before you start, you have a choice, to wash the flowers, or not!

Lots of people think if you wash the flowers, you wash away the pollen and lots of the flavour and fragrance.  However, the flowers are usually full of thrips, also known as thunderflies or thunderbugs, so some people prefer to wash the flowers to remove them.

You will be straining the final product, but if you prefer to not see your lovely elderflower infusion teaming with hundreds of insects, then wash them!  I washed mine and still found a few in the jelly bag.  The final cordial was still full of flavour and fragrance too, so the choice is yours.

Snip the flowers into a clean bowl with the grated zest of 4 lemons and 2 sliced lemons.  Boil the water and pour over the flowers and lemons, stir, cover with a tea towel and leave overnight to infuse.  Reserve the zested lemons as you will need the juice.

Elderflower infusion
The next day, when you are ready to make the cordial, sterilise the bottles by washing in hot soapy water and then placing them in the oven at 140°C/210°F for up to 20 minutes.

Strain the infusion through a scalded jelly bag into a large pan and add the sugar (or sugar and honey), juice of 4 lemons and the citric acid.

Heat gently, stirring until the sugar has dissolved and bring up to a simmer but don’t let it boil.

Using a funnel, or very carefully, pour the hot cordial into the hot, sterilized bottles and seal using screw tops or swing-top stoppers like I used.  Leave to cool and store somewhere cool or the refrigerator for up to 4 months.

Elderflower cordial

The cordial can be diluted with water and ice for a refreshing drink on a hot day or added to prosecco, cocktails and a couple of tablespoons added to icing sugar makes a lovely summery frosting for cakes too.

If you have any cordial left over that doesn’t fit in the bottles, you can freeze into cubes to add to a gin and tonic, or add a little water and make ice lollies.

Elder cordial

 

 

Gin and Tonic Friands

When I purchased the black cherry flavoured icing sugar from The Vanilla Valley recently, I couldn’t resist adding some gin and tonic flavoured icing sugar to my order.  The obvious recipe of choice for me was friands as icing sugar is one of the main ingredients.

G&T Friands4

These are alcohol free, so would be good to take to work for a bake sale, but I did try adding real gin to the glaze with great results.

In reality, these friands are lemon friands and would be just as good with ordinary icing sugar. The tart lemon curd in the middle cuts through the sweetness and I couldn’t resist topping with a little candied lemon slice for a bit of kitsch.

G&T Friands6

I think it’s important to use a decent quality lemon curd here too, some of the very cheap versions taste like washing up liquid.  I chose Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference which wasn’t the most expensive one, but I did avoid the cheapest.  Of course home made is always best if you can get hold of some.

G&T Friands

Ingredients:
250ml egg whites – I use Two Chicks pasteurised egg whites
250g Sugar and Crumbs Gin and Tonic flavoured icing sugar
130g ground almonds
100g plain/all-purpose flour
Zest of one small lemon
165g butter – melted and cooled, plus extra for greasing the tin
1/2 jar of good quality lemon curd

To decorate:
1 cup of gin and tonic flavoured icing sugar, sieved
Water (or gin!)
Candied lemon slices

G&T Friands5

Method:
Pre heat the oven to 180°C/350°F and brush the friand pan with melted butter

Whisk the egg whites until broken down and frothy.

Fold in the almonds, flour and zest until just incorporated and stir in the cooled, melted butter.

Divide the mixture equally between the cups in the tin.

I used a piping bag to squeeze a little lemon curd into each cake, but you could easily do this with two teaspoons.  You only need a small amount – around a teaspoon.

Bake the friands for around 25-30 minutes.  They will rise up a little and become golden. Leave to cool in the tin for 10-15 minutes in order to firm up a little, before leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.

G&T Friands3

To decorate, mix the icing sugar with a small amount of water (or gin if using) to make a fairly thick, but still runny, glaze. Drizzle over the little cakes and stud each one with a candied lemon slice.

G&T Friands2

Definitely an unusual alternative to afternoon tea, but a welcome one.

G&T Friands1

Blueberry and Lemon Friands

My children all love blueberries and are mad on blueberry muffins. They love friands too, so before the summer is out I decided to cook a batch of blueberry ones which went down very well indeed!

Blueberry Friands

Since getting the friand tin, I have absolutely loads of ideas for different versions of friands, including using different types of nuts, but I’m trying to space them out a bit so they don’t get bored of them.

They are just so easy to make, I have to keep trying out different recipes. So far they have all been really good. This recipe is very similar to the blackberry recipe the other week, but there are a few tweaks. I use the Two Chicks pasteurised egg whites that I buy from the chilled section in the supermarket. As you can get two batches from each carton, I tend to test out a new one with the second half. The next one will be an autumnal themed one I think…!

Blueberry Friands overhead

Ingredients:
6 large egg whites/250ml Two Chicks pasteurised egg whites
250g icing/powdered sugar, sieved
130g ground almonds
100g plain flour, sieved
Zest of one un-waxed lemon
160g melted butter + extra for buttering the pan
1 large punnet of blueberries

Preheat the oven to 180°C and brush the friand tin with melted butter

Method:
In a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, whisk the egg whites until frothy and then add the melted butter and lemon zest.

On low speed (because it goes everywhere if you don’t) add the icing sugar and fold in the flour until just combined. Add in ¾ of the blueberries, leaving some to stud the top with. Mix these in by hand as you don’t want them to break up.

Using an ice cream scoop, divide the mixture equally between a 12 hole friand pan. Place 2-3 blueberries on the top of each cake and gently press them in. They will sink into the cakes a little as they bake.

Blueberry Friands double shot

Bake for around 30 minutes, until they have risen and turned golden brown. A toothpick inserted into the centre should come out clean.

Blueberry Friand1

Leave to rest for 15 minutes before gently turning out onto a wire cooling rack and dust with icing sugar.