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"Smidgen - a small amount of something." Oxford Languages

Smidgens the chocolates

Actually Smidgens are also an American chocolate created by a Pennsylvanian company called Gertrude Hawk Chocolates. These Peanut butter Smidgens are their top seller. They were created in the 1980s when the third generation of the family invested in a machine called a 'one-shot shell moulder'. The company was founded by Gertrude Hawk in 1936 to bring some money into the family during the Great Depression. Since then her son Elmer and now his son David have taken turns at running the company - well actually I think Elmer and David run it together. They began in Scranton in the family's home, but when the state government ousted them in favour of a new road, they moved to another Pennsylvanian town. I don't think they are a huge company but successful enough. So a brief smidgen about smidgens.

Make your own dulce de leche

Dulce de leche is a trendy sweet paste, traditionally made by stirring milk with sugar for hours and hours. So, of course we buy it from the supermarket and you can these days. Not that I have ever used it or indeed tasted it I have to say. We eat very few desserts these days. But everyone raves about it.

Anyway, most unusually I was watching Adam Liaw and his SBS show The Cook Up the other day, and at the end he showed this really nifty way of making dulce de leche. Now I'm pretty sure he just put a can of condensed milk, minus its label into the oven and after 1, 2, or 3 hours, depending on how brown you wanted your finished product, you got dulce de leche. Did he put the cans into water? I can't remember but I thought this was so simple that it was worth passing on, but alas I can't find his version, so don't try it. Because unless you do it right you could end up with exploding cans. However, do not despair, there are a few - well actually lots if you include all the slight variations - other options which are equally simple - David Lebovitz, Serious Eats and SBS Food/Camellia Ling Aiebischer represent the main ones. Or you can find a summary of three different ways to do it on the Garlic and Zest website. This lady was very thorough in her analysis and dos and don'ts and she seemed to think the pressure cooker method was best. If you have one. The things to remember seem to be to to remove the label and its glue because:

"If bits of paper wrappers are stuck to the can of sweetened condensed milk, the sticky residue will leach into your pan or instant pot, leaving a weird, tacky film" Garlic and Zest And:

"Do not attempt to open can while still hot; this can cause pressurized hot caramel to spray dangerously." J. Kenji López-Alt

Or just buy some from the supermarket - although that will cost you around $7.00 for a slightly larger jar than a can of condensed milk at $1.80. Time + fun or + anxiety, or money?

Still on condensed milk - and introducing filo - two separate coincidences

Instead of making dulce de leche with condensed milk or if you chicken out at the last moment, you could instead make this Condensed milk custard filo pie. So not good for you but so good. I came across it somehow the other day, and in the current Coles Magazine there is also a very tempting Apple and custard filo pie, which uses that technique I used the other day for a cauliflower cheese filling, whereby you make a long open sausage of filo filled with something and then coil it into a pan before cooking. Looks extremely impressive.

Crumpet oddities

There are heaps of ideas out there of things to put on top of crumpets, and I'm sure you can think of a few too, but I recently, coincidentally came across two crumpet things which are really different.

The first is from Ottolenghi - and another coincidence - they are called Knafeh crumpets with maple cardamom syrup - the coincidence being the knafeh about which I wrote recently. They are a bit weird - I mean he slits them a bit and stuffs with mozzarella and feta, then butters the sides and sprinkles with sugar before frying, finally pouring over a syrup that contains lemon. Sweet and savoury all in one. Now it could work or it could just be horrible, and they do look gorgeous, but then he has top food stylists and photographers. Scatter with rose petals - which I see you can now buy in Woolworths at least.

Then there is this Air fryer crumpet garlic bread from Taste. Now I don't have an air fryer, although I almost succumbed recently to an Aldi version. But I think you could do this in the oven too. Slice your crumpets in half, fill with your normal garlic bread butter, garlic, parsley, plus some cheese, sandwich together and cook. I also saw an Instagram thing which took this a step further by adding ham and tomatoes to the mix. Or salami!

Crumpets, are, I suppose just a kind of bread, so anything you can do with bread you can do with crumpets. I've definitely seen croutons for a start, and bread puddings too.

Two yummy looking desserts for when you're feeling down

Little mango pots from Ravneet Gill are for when your husband has bought a whole tray of mangoes and you don't know what to do with them - they're just mangoes, cream, sugar and lemon. Then there's Eton Mess raspberry swirl cheesecake - somewhat more complicated but not really. It looks more complicated than it actually is and we all love cheesecake don't we? Still I suppose that too is more of a summer thing.

Muffin pan potato gratins

I thought this was just a one-off TikTok kind of thing when I came across it the other day, but no it's everywhere and in so many different versions. The one I found in Taste caught my eye, not just because of the basic idea - stacks of potato slices cooked in muffin pans but because in this recipe called Caramelised muffin pan potato gratins the potatoes are finished with a drizzle of Golden Syrup. Golden Syrup? The Nagi Maehashi of Recipe Tin Eats version - Cheesy mini potato gratin stacks looks rather more normal. Add bits of bacon, herbs, and on and on if you cruise the net.

Eggs in a hole

And last of all one of those things you see in all those cheery articles about breakfast or quick snacks, or amusing the kids whilst getting them to eat good things. This one is Coles advertising their buns in their latest magazine, and there is no recipe - you just hollow out a sliced bun drop in an egg and cook in the oven. They suggest pouring a tomato relish over when done. It's a nice idea and you could, of course, add other things - bacon, tomato, herbs - drizzle with cream ... I suppose if you have kids it might be fun. But then again maybe we should feed the kid within us with something simple like this.

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