Sunday, 3 October 2010

Birthday buffet

It was my eldest daughter's 8th birthday yesterday and in the afternoon she invited 4 friends over for a Science party. As an ex-science teacher myself, I ran the party, guiding the children through a series of exciting science experiments for an hour and half, followed by a buffet tea, jelly and compulsory cake. It was a lot of hard work and the kitchen looked trashed by the end of it but I'm pleased to say the children had a great time and they went home bubbling with excitement and telling their parents all about it. Any parent of children of that age will know that things have to be VERY exciting for a child to voluntarily tell you anything about it!

Knowing I had this party at the end of the week, I had to get myself organised at the beginning of the week. My youngest daughter had a cake sale at school on Friday and I knew that by then I would be too busy with party preparations to make cakes for that. So last Sunday, with plenty of apples harvested from our trees, I made some individual apple pies and instead of cooking them I popped them in the freezer until Thursday then baked them fresh for Friday. I had a few spoonfuls of the apple filling left over so I put some into the bottom of foil tart cakes and made a little bit of crumble topping to go on top. These I cooked after taking the Sunday roast out and we had one each, served with whipped cream on top.

Individual Apple Pies (makes 12)

1 lb (450 g) apples – peeled and sliced
¾ oz (20 g) light brown sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon water
4 oz (110g) plain flour
4 oz (110g) wholemeal flour
4 oz (110g) butter or margarine
2 oz (55g) caster sugar
A little milk
A little extra brown sugar

Placed the apples, sugar, cinnamon and water in a pan and cook with the lid on for twenty minutes until fluffy, stir occasionally. In the meantime, preheat oven to 180°C (gas 4). In a bowl, sift together the flours and rub in the butter/margarine to make a breadcrumb consistency. Add the sugar then bind with a little water to form a dough. Roll out the dough and cut out circles to form the bases. Place the base circles into foil tart cases or a suitable pie tin. Add a heaped teaspoon of the filling to each base. Cut lids out of the pastry and place a lid on each pie, crimping the lid and base together between finger and thumb. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until almost cooked. Remove the pies and turn the oven up to 190°C (gas 5). Brush each lid with a little milk and sprinkle brown sugar over then return the pies to the oven for a further 5 to 10 minutes until golden. Cool on a wire rack.

Whilst we were at it, we used some of the smaller apples to make horrible shrunken heads to go on the shelf in the science party "lab". To do this, we peeled the apples then cut faces into them, similar to Halloween lanterns. Then we stuffed them into Kilner jars of brines for several days. After that, we rinsed them off, patted them dry and put them in a warm place to dry out for a few more days. By then they were ready to sit on the shelf, the brining and drying process stopping the usual apple browning long enough to serve their purpose. I expect we may make some more of these for Halloween.

One of my daughter's favourite restaurants is Red Hot World Buffet and she asked if we could make her party food similar to what you can get there. That's a big ask but I did my best with a selection of savory buffet food but it was the desserts I had most fun with. The girls love the desserts at Red Hot because they are tiny and they can eat lots without getting full. So I made some tiny little jellies, teeny blackcurrant cheesecakes, bite size pots of popcorn and some homemade iced-gem biscuits.

As you might imagine, these all went down very well with the children. Although when Steve tucked into a large version of the cheescake later that evening, slumped on the sofa in post-party exhaustion he said, "This cheesecake is really good... I mean REALLY good." I guess he was all out of adjectives by that point but I appreciated the sentiment!

Blackcurrant Cheesecakes

1 and half oz butter
6 digestive biscuits
250g tub marscapone cheese
1 and half oz icing sugar
3 tablespoons blackcurrant and lemongrass cordial (or something similar!)

Melt the butter. Crush the biscuits in a blender or in a bag hit with a rolling pin. Mix together the biscuit crumbs and butter then press the crumbs into 4 small dishes or large glasses. Refrigerate the dishes whilst you make the topping. Mix the cheese and sugar together until smooth then add the blackcurrant cordial a spoonful at a time, stirring between additionals. Dollop the cheese mixture onto the biscuit bases and smooth. Refrigerate and serve chilled.

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