Floral waters by distillation

I generously was given a small copper still by HH for Christmas.

I only got around to using it recently when a couple of friends prompted me to use it. We meet up monthly to experiment on all things herbal. With our recent trials under my belt I thought I would see how elderflower works.

In general  flowers and petals don’t work too well; the steam being too harsh and causing the petals to go all soggy and impact into the perforated container so that the steam doesn’t penetrate well, or falls back into the bottom section of the still. However I’d heard good things about elderflower water so thought I’d give it a try.

I collected an entire bag of elderflower blossoms.

Image

Treating the process as I would anything herbal with the plant I stripped the flowers from the stalks – an extremely laborious process.

It seemed to take forever to work my way through the bag, while the amount in the holding vessel never seemed to increase 😦

Image

Eventually finishing the separating of the petals, boiling water was put in the base unit, the flowers above that and the swan neck on top. I made a paste/ putty out of flour and water to seal the joins.

Image

Image

A hose was connected to the cold tap to provide running water in a condenser unit.  I started to smell the most amazing aroma as low as 50 C. Fresh, light, potent and floral.

Image

I do wonder if the water I managed to get has any redeeming features as it came off at 100 C, hopefully not destroying fragile components. Reassuringly the water I got at the higher temperature still has a pleasant smell and taste.

There was a fine layer on top that may well be an oil from the resin off of the pollen. The water had a subtle but nice smell, always a bit green; is this from the flowers themselves or from the tiny stalks that still worked their way into the the mix?

Image

i bottled up 3 small , clip lid syrup bottles and 2 wee 20 ml jam pots. I’ll use the bottled floral water (stored in fridge) in face creams but use the jam jars as a toner on its own to see how it feels and behaves.

I’ll keep you posted on how it performs and how long it keeps.

Overall a worthwhile experiment, if only for that amazing initial smell; it lifted the whole room and my spirits with it! Now if I could only capture that smell (disturbing images from the film Perfume running through my head now , though that probably says more about me than the scent!).

Advertisements

Honeysuckle flower and Lemon Balm chocolates

The Honeysuckle flowers had been sitting in cream for a day and I thought I’d better use them in something.

I strained the flowers from the cream and kept the liquid. White chocolate was melted and the cream added to the chocolate; the cream should be heated up first. About 2 tablespoons of butter were softened and added to the mix. At this point I found that the chocolate drowned out the taste of the honeysuckle as it was too sweet,so I added more of the cream, forgetting to measure and note what I was doing – typical of me, lol. Will I ever manage to get a standard recipe that is repeatable – not if I carry on like this!

Then it was a bit runny so more chocolate was added, then it was a bit of a juggling act to balance sweetness and taste.

I ended up using Lemon Balm tincture to help preserve the cream content in the filling, this also helped to thicken up the mix as the chocolate doesn’t like the alcohol and shocks itself into thickening. The Lemon Balm added a hint of alcohol but actually brought out the flavour of the honeysuckle. I find that the honeysuckle taste is more of an aftertaste, lingering on the palate, while the Lemon Balm is more of an initial taste.

I used the dark chocolate as a shell, mainly because I’m a dark chocolate fan, but also I found the filling was on the point of being too sweet for me and needed the slightly bitter counterpoint of the dark chocolate. A standard 53.8% Callebault was used for the shell.

Image

Chocolate bars

I’ve had a new (to me) small temperer for a couple of weeks now and not got round to trying it out.

Today rectified that. What a difference.

I’ve been struggling recently with the microwave method of tempering, I’m not sure why as I’ve managed it successfully plenty of times before. Maybe the hot weather was a problem… The new machine is a rev 2 (Chocovision Revolation 2) bought on eBay. It deals with a small amount compared with what I can (normally) do in the microwave but it’s consistent and quick.

IMG_3280

IMG_3281

I decided to use the bar moulds to see how much would be filled with the amount I’d put in to temper. I got 2 full bars, think it would be the full 3 but I botched things up and dribbled into the middle mould:  I didn’t have space to empty the bowl into the moulds and scrape off the excess into bowls,as I was working at home and not in the studio flat. 😦

Anyway I used the little flower moulds instead of a 3rd bar. These worked alright but I found the light plastic too flexible so I didn’t get a neat scrape off the back and it was hard to knock the bubbles out of the moulds too.

IMG_3279

Image

I used tinctures in the chocolate to keep up the herbal theme.for one bar I used Licorice tincture in the chocolate and I sprinkled the back of the bar with Star Anise flavoured sugar. The sugar was made with Fair trade demerara sugar with Star Anise tincture added to give a damp sugar. This was put into a baking tray and lightly baked and dried in a low temperature oven. The sugar was taken out and partly ground up to break the newly formed lumps into smaller pieces. The tincture was from Baldwins herbal suppliers as I had run out of some of the  flavours I was wanting to try.

Image

The second bar had Elderberry tincture added to it, and had Elderberry tincture flavoured sugar shaken over the back of it, though I kept some of the lumps in it to see if the taste came out more.

Image

The wee flowers were made from the same elderberry tinctured chocolate as the second bar.

I think they look quite good overall and am pleased with the new machine. I definitely need more space to work though working in my own kitchen was never on the cards with the dogs being at home.

I ‘d ventured into a car boot sale, as I routinely do – to the horror of friends who say I/ we have far too much stuff already (it’s true we do, but so much is useful, at least that’s what I keep telling myself :-)) anyway, I’d come back with a rather nice pressed, green glass bowl with leaves and acorns ‘n’ things on the base and sides.

IMG_3282

I wondered if it would release the chocolate if I used it as a mould, and behold

Image

it does, though I was tentative about banging it vigorously to release the bubbles, so there are some present. I only really covered the base as I wasn’t sure if I’d get the chocolate out. I think the bowl has potential though, permit me an evil chuckle, hah! another excuse to go to car boot sales; to look for unlikely items that may be possible chocolate moulds!

Honeysuckle and Strawberry Ice Cream

I had one of the older godchildren over to stay for 5 days recently. I mistakenly thought that as was involved with the Scouts and seems to like Bushcrafty things that he would be into foraging. No such luck – though it might have been because it was with me… he definitely preferred HH’s ‘man crafts’ this time round. They made small aluminium stoves out of drinks cans, hobo stoves from cutlery drainers, and spent quite some time tweaking them – many thanks HH 🙂

However the one plant related thing that seemed to go down well was, you guessed it, ice cream. nom nom nom lol.

First get reluctant teenager to pick lots of Honeysuckle blossoms. Then go and get lots more yourself as 5 flowers does not an ice cream make.

Image

I went for quite a large bowl full to get as much pollen and nectar into the cream as possible.

Try to make sure no wee beaties are present. Pick on a dry day and early on so that all the oils haven’t evaporated off in any midday sun – this has actually become an issue for us in bonny Scotland recently as we’re in the presence of a decent summer! It’s not something I normally have to worry about 😉

Cover the blossoms with cream, either double or single. Both have a good fat and water content. Leave to steep, covered, overnight in the fridge. The water soluble components will dissolve in the water phase of the cream while the fat soluble compounds will be absorbed into the fat in the cream. This way we get as many constituents out of the honeysuckle as we can.

Image

Don’t forget to put your ice cream tub or container into the freezer to solidify and chill down properly. I used a small, home ice cream maker; the kind with a bowl you put in the freezer, add the contents, and its churned up in the bowl with a paddle. Takes about 15-30 mins from adding your cream mix to the bowl and switching on.

Next day strain out the cream from the blossoms

Ingredients

2 egg yolks ( so avoid this recipe if you’re pregnant)

70g icing sugar

200 ml milk (again you can infuse blossoms in the milk – I didn’t as we were running out of fridge space)

200ml of the infused cream

300g of fresh strawberries. I used mainly normal ones via the market but I also used some of the little wild strawberries that are trying to take over my monoblock and front garden.

1. beat the egg yolks and icing sugar until light and creamy.

2.Add the milk and stir in.

3, In a separate bowl, whip the cream until it is stiff.

4. Add the cream to the egg mixture and combine thoroughly.

5. Puree the strawberries and add to the mixture. It’s your choice whether you want a smooth puree or leave it chunkier with bigger bits in. With a fussy eater of a teenager our version had to be smooth, and triple checked for no ‘bits’ in. He was unhappy with the seeds, but even he conceeded that it wasn’t really an issue.

6. Chill in fridge for 4 hours or put mixture in freezer for 30 mins or so to chill down.

7. Set up ice cream maker, ignoring helpful teenage interventions, and add mixture. let paddle do its work, et voila! Delicious ice cream, well technically a parfait I believe, as it’s basically a custard. Even a teenager has given it a seal of approval, what more could I say! lol. The honeysuckle, although a mild, subtle flavour, lingers after the fresh hit of the strawberry and so makes it appearance at the end of the mouthful. It softens the strawberry and makes it a bit more elegant.

Other options for this might be to use coconut cream and milk if you are dairy intolerant, although i would be tempted to also substitute the flowers then, and use Gorse flowers instead. Try other variations and see what works for you. My next version is going to be with sweet cicely or lemon balm, tho’ the lemon balm might be nicer as a sorbet…. so many things to try now, might need to let that waistband out (again! ) oops.

Not many photos for this, sorry, but it all chuntered along so quickly that by the time I had thought of them it was all over with – and eaten!