I think I’m in a bit of a ‘list’ cycle at the moment where I make a list, start ticking things off and then start another list the next day. Will thinks my lists are hilarious, but in my defence, it means I don’t have to keep remembering what needs to be done and I get that little bit of satisfaction crossing something out.
With just over a week to go until ‘due day’, I have been on a bit of a mission to get those small tasks completed that have a tendency to be left undone and put off till next weekend. But also to get the jobs done that are far easier to complete when it’s only me to get somewhere rather than with a baby.
This week I’ve done the opticians, had the electrician in to fix the oven, got a pedicure (obviously a necessity), had a massage (a requirement), and been to the dentist.
The dentist is of course the one you endlessly put off. Just the thought of it brings me out in a cold sweat and makes my jaw clamp shut. I had the most awful dentist as a child, just mean and unnecessarily painful. They whipped out endless teeth in preparation for years of train track braces. They were over zealous with numbing injections and I’m pretty sure if my memory is correct, they could have made more effort with their own breath when having to be in such close proximity.
The only saving grace to visiting the dentist was the promised trip by mum to the newsagent a few doors down that had THE best penny sweet selection. And in those days (so old!), they really were just a penny or 2p for the bigger sweets.
With a numb mouth and a sulky face, I’d wander in, grab a paper bag and fill it up with as many sweets as I could possibly get away with. My favourites being the beer bottles, fizzy cola bottles and the pink and white mushrooms. I still can’t walk past a pick ‘a’ mix iwithout having a glance to see if I spot my favourite few on offer. However, they are never quite as good as I remember after those dentist appointments.
I’m pleased to say I’ve graduated from that grumpy mean dentist, to a lovely lady in Cobham that I travel more than 30 minutes to visit every 6 months. She won me over when instead of using a needle to numb my mouth (whilst taking out wisdom teeth) she gave me a bubble gum sponge to numb the gums first and then talked endlessly to me about men, holidays and anything that might distract me. I think it was these winning factors that keep me going back, but it might also have something to do with the Jonny Wilkinson poster on the ceiling. A girl after my own heart.
With a little more time on my hands at the moment, one of the things on my list to tick off was to have a go at making homemade fruit pastilles. Everyone has a particular favourite flavor in a packet and if possible I’d opt for the strawberry or lime ones.
With it feeling very much like summer is in the air, I figured strawberries are at their best so trying to make a summer berry flavor seemed only sensible.
It was the first time I tried out using a sugar thermometer in a recipe and I realized that actually for a batch this small, having a thermometer that had a high immersion point (i.e. you needed a large mixture in which to immerse your thermometer to get a good reading) was quite tricky. But I muddled through and the time spent checking the temperature, stirring more and rechecking was definitely worth it.
These homemade pastilles aren’t as chewy as a fruit pastille but instead have a lightness that makes it very easy to keep going back for more. They are so much more fruity than the shop bought variety and I’m sure it made a huge difference to the flavor using fruit that is in season.
The strawberries and raspberries are rich in flavor but beautifully smooth in form, as you’d expect a chewy sweet to be.
Fruity, sweet, sugary mouthfuls of delicious sweets..
Summer berry pastilles
Makes approx 40 sweets (depending on your cutter choices)
You’ll need a sugar thermometer
Sunflower oil, for greasing
450g mixed strawberries and raspberries
2 tbsp lemon juice
400g caster sugar
30g apple-based liquid pectin (I found this online from amazon)
150g granulated sugar
Lightly grease a 18-20cm square baking tin and then line with clingfilm. Make sure you go all the way up the sides as this will help you remove the pastilles from the tin once they’ve chilled and set.
Make sure you have all your ingredients weighed out and to hand so that you aren’t trying to weight things at a later point when you’re trying to stir a very hot mixture!
Hull and quarter your strawberries before adding them to a pan along with your raspberries, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of the caster sugar.
Cook gently over a low to medium heat until the berries are soft and juicy. Once they’ve reached this point, push them through a fine mesh sieve so that you remove the seeds and then weight your puree.
Pour 400g of puree into a clean pan, add the remaining caster sugar and place over a low heat. Ensure you stir frequently and keep stirring until the sugar has all dissolved.
Pop your sugar thermometer into the pan and bring the mixture to the boil. Continue to cook the mixture until it reaches 107 degrees. It’s important to keep stirring frequently to prevent the mixture scorching at the bottom of the pan.
Now add your remaining lemon juice and the pectin to the pan and whisk to combine. The temperature will reduce slightly, so continue to cook and stir until the puree returns to 107 degrees and the mixture has become very thick and almost jam-like.
To test if the mixture has reached setting point, drop half a teaspoon of mixture into a bowl of cold water. If it sets into a soft ball, you’re ready. If not, then continue to cook for a few more minutes.
Pour the mixture into your lined tin in an even layer and leave until cold. Cover with clingfilm and leave overnight to set firm.
The next day, scatter the granulated sugar onto a baking tray in an even layer and carefully flip the Summer berry pastille (slab) out the tin and onto the sugar.
Peel off the clingfilm and using a hot or lightly greased kitchen knife, cut the pastille into 1&1/2 cm squares or use greased small shaped cutters.
Coat each piece in granulated sugar and leave to dry for about an hour before shaking off any excess sugar.
The pastilles can be stored in an air tight container, packed between layers of baking parchment to prevent them sticking together.