Friday, September 14, 2012

Treat Me: Powder Puffs

I have been reading the most heartbreaking book this week about the childhood of writer Noel Streatfeild. In My Vicarage Family she describes growing up in straitened circumstances as the daughter of a vicar who was too busy thinking about godly matters to pay attention to the things that bothered his family, like having nice clothes to wear and decent food to eat.

Doing the right thing by the church and faith was paramount and there is a major fuss in the book when Noel and her sisters get invited to a birthday party during Lent. They are eventually allowed to go, but are not allowed to wear party dresses (not that they have any) or eat any birthday cake. The littlest sister, Louise, ends up eating some cake out of politeness but then dissolves into floods of tears fearing that she has committed a mortal sin.

Easy-Margaret-Fulton-Recipe-For-Powder-Puffs

Noel was considered the difficult one among her four siblings and she acted out accordingly. The one bright spot in her life was her cousin, John, who at the part I am up to is talking about joining the Territorials before he goes to Balliol because his father thinks it will make him more of a man (John secretly wants to become an actor). It is 1914 and I have a feeling things are not going to end well.

I have been thinking about these vicarage children all week, which seems to have crossed over to my Random Recipe choice. This month Belleau Kitchen is joining forces with the Tea Time Treats juggernaut that is Lavender and Lovage and What Kate Baked for a 'Tea Time' edition.
I ended up with Margaret Fulton's My Very Special Cookbook and after casually flipping to page 321, the word 'vicar' leapt out at me.

Cream-Cake-Powder-Puffs

Powder Puffs
Margaret Fulton (the matriarch of Australian cooking, on Twitter and still churning out books in her 80s) says these were traditionally made when the vicar came to call. I don't know any vicars and I doubt Noel Streatfeild's father would have eaten anything so sinful, but I took a plateful of these to work and the godless hordes declared them delicious.

2 eggs
1/2 cup caster sugar
3 Tbsp flour
3 Tbsp cornflour
1 tsp baking powder

Heat the oven to 220C and line two trays with baking paper.
Beat the eggs, then gradually add the sugar (this is easiest with an electric mixer of some kind). Beat until the mixture is light and mousse-like. Sift the dry ingredients over the top and fold in gently.
Using a teaspoon, drop small rounds of the mixture onto the prepared trays. To ensure they are round, not oval, hold the spoon vertical so the mixture runs off the end of it, not the side (as if you were making pikelets).
Bake for six minutes, then gently lift off the trays and leave on a wire rack to cool. When they are cold, put in an airtight tin.
About an hour before the vicar is due to call, sandwich the drops together with a blob of whipped cream. This waiting time is important, because it gives the sponge time to absorb moisture from the cream and puff up. The ones in the photos above are only mid-puff, which is why they look a little floppy. Dust icing sugar over the top and assume a saintly expression.

Speaking of whipped cream, here's a nifty trick I picked up from Dean Brettschneider. Whipped cream tends to separate when it's left to stand overnight, but you can stabilise it with gelatine. I tried this the other day with the powder puffs and it worked a treat. Just dissolve 1 tsp gelatine in 2 Tbsp warm water. Let cool (but not set). Whip a cup (250ml) of cream until soft peaks start to form, then pour in the gelatine and a tablespoon or so of icing sugar. Beat until stiff - but not too stiff, you don't want butter - then cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Have a great weekend, everyone. If you're at a loss for things to do, you could always pick up this knitting pattern...

Pattern-For-More-Tea-Vicar-Tea-Cosy

17 comments:

  1. I can relate to this post, my husband being the son of a vicar with three sisters - even though there is half a century between them the similarities are there. All the love was bestowed on the parishoners. I must say no more.

    The puffs look wonderful and could well be the reason why vicars spend so much time calling on their parishoners !!

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  2. These puffs do look really good and I'm sure they're not too sinful. The vicar doesn't seem to come round, though. I'm not sure what I've done to upset him. He might blame me for one of the shepherds in the nativity play turning up dressed as Spiderman last year and that really wasn't my fault. Oh well, more for me, then.

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  3. Oh I love this post Lucy. Must make these next time I have a high tea for friends.. probably not a vicar in sight. Although, I am going to a book reveal on Monday evening with a friend, and a vicar is taking us. She is a very lovely woman I'm told and I look forward to meeting her.
    Love to you special people. xoxoxo

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  4. This sound perfect for that surprise visit from your local clergy. Sounds and intriguing read - great inspiration for your bake.

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  5. These cream puffs look just the thing for a party table - shame on Noel's father!

    I was a huge fan of noel streatfield as a girl so I must get a copy of this book - did you read her books?

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  6. Oh Lucy, what a wonderful post. My sister and I were fans of the books so it brought back memories. Sounds like a good read and the powder puffs look so lovely. I could just imagine the mess I'd be in if the vicar did come to call.

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  7. I have never had a vicar call & odds on never will, but these would be just the ticket if Miss Marple ever dropped by ( how happy I would be!) or failing that a very lucky friend, just lovely, very sweet post:)

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  8. Do you know I could sink my teeth into these and really enjoy all that gooey cream oozing out the sides. Simply divine. Thanks so much for entering this month. Xx

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  9. Thanks everyone for your kind words. I absolutely LOVED Noel Streatfeild's books, especially Ballet Shoes, and now I realise why Petrova - the middle sister - was written so sensitively. I re-read Ballet Shoes earlier this year and it was every bit as good as I remembered. Alas, I have eaten too many powder puffs to ever make it to the Royal Academy of Dancing now...

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  10. You were destined to make these I think. They look fantastic and very in keeping with your reading material ;0)

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  11. Beautiful post, very inspirational story; kind of sad. Love your amazing 'powder puffs'...what an interesting name for cream puffs!
    So light, and perfectly delicious:D

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  12. You've just jogged my memory as to which one I've definitely read - Ballet Shoes. I must re-read it (and I probably still have it somewhere from my childhood!). They look like lovely, light little cakes. Perfect for afternoon tea.

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  13. They look like little puffs of heaven. My opinion of vicars who eschew cake are unprintable. I'm sure any god would thoroughly approve of your cakes.

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  14. I have just spent ages reading through all your recent posts and have really enjoyed myself. So many great posts, love the sound of the Alice Medrich book in particluar. Powder puffs look divine and you tell such a good tale :)

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  15. LOL, I say all the time to hubby..."more tea vicar" it's so English, I'm not even religious

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  16. LOVELY entry for Random Tea Time Treats and I love the look of that book Lucy! Karen PS: Will add you in the round up today!xxxx

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  17. These are so pretty and delicate - yum!

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Hello - thanks for stopping by. If this was real life I'd make you a cup of tea and open the biscuit tin, but in lieu of those things, let's have a chat anyway...

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