Sweet treats for a Jubilee street party

Chocolate crunchies are easy to make and customise to make them look pretty and appealing

Chocolate crunchies are easy to make and customise to make them look pretty and appealing - Credit: Frances Bissell

Bank holiday picnics in the park, street parties, and afternoon teas, there are plenty of occasions ahead when you might need to volunteer a tray bake or a batch of biscuits.

I've learnt from long experience how labour-intensive afternoon tea can be. The sandwiches must be delicate yet deliciously richly filled - and kept moist. (Clean, damp J-cloths work well). The scones must be light - and ideally served warm. You need a couple of 'big' cakes, such as a ginger loaf and a fruitcake, as well as a cream-filled sponge and numerous tea-time dainties.

I once spent a hot summer afternoon in Windsor, Connecticut baking 250 scones for a fund-raising afternoon tea for the local museum, all the while urging an army of volunteers to keep the sandwiches neat and to warm the teapots before brewing the tea.

Other volunteers had baked chocolate cakes, having been given the recipe and the ingredients. You would probably have expected an array of identical cakes. You would have been wrong.

Guest chef promotions in Paris, Hong Kong and New York honed my technique. Slice the sandwich loaves horizontally. Make up and refrigerate a large batch of dry scone mix and only take out enough for the day, to mix and bake. Restrict the sandwich fillings to three or four tried and tested favourites; lightly curried egg mayonnaise, smoked salmon and horseradish butter and traditional cucumber - de-seeded, salted, rinsed and pressed dry.

A fail-safe technique is to volunteer early to make simple items, pretty to look at, good to eat and easy on the baker. As attractive as macarons are, my rose petal kisses are much easier to make. The recipe is based on the little cakes my mother used to make for special occasions, and has undergone a few changes since I found it in her battered BeRO recipe book from the 1950s. The original recipe was for coffee kisses. Here with a hint of roses, it translates beautifully into dainty floral mouthfuls, sealed with a kiss of butter cream.

Still with childhood memories, it's quick and easy to mix up a batch of chocolate and cornflakes, especially if you have small helpers on hand who will enjoy making and eating them. The toasted nuts give an extra crunch.

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Cannoli are a more recent favourite, which I make whenever I can obtain cannoli shells, or feel like making them. It was time spent in Sicily that gave us a taste for these more-ish confections, made famous in The Godfather and Montalbano. It always amuses me, sitting in the departure lounge in Catania airport, watching the air crews in transit make a bee-line for Nonna Vincenza, the pasticceria specialising in selling the pastries and filling separately for you to assemble at home.

rose petal kisses

Rose Petal Kisses from the kitchen of Frances Bissell - Credit: Archant

Rose petal kisses (Makes about 20)

Ingredients:

150 g self raising flour

75 g caster sugar

75 g unsalted butter

1 egg beaten with 2 or 3 drops culinary rose essence

Filling

50 g icing sugar

Culinary rose essence or rose water

25 g unsalted butter, softened

Dash of red food colouring

To decorate: crystallised or dried rose petals

Method:

Mix the flour and sugar and rub in the butter. Stir in the egg and rose mixture. This makes quite a soft mixture, especially if working in a warm kitchen, so you might want to chill it for half an hour in the fridge. Form into marble-size balls. Place on well-greased baking sheet. Bake at 150-180°C/325 -350°F/ gas 3-4 for 15 to 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack and when cold sandwich with the butter cream made by mixing the filling ingredients together. Place a dab of butter cream on top of each filled biscuit and decorate with a crystallised rose petal.

Chocolate crunchies (Makes about 20)

100 g 70% chocolate bar

200 g cornflakes

50 g toasted, roughly crushed hazelnuts or flaked almonds

Decoration: raspberries, melted white chocolate, toasted flaked almonds, miniature marshmallows, yoghurt-coated raisins.

Method:

Melt the chocolate in a large bowl. Gently stir in the cornflakes and nuts and spoon into silicone or other non-stick paper cases.

When cool, decorate as you wish. Without the nuts, these are, of course, chocolate crispies.

Sicilian Cannoli are a lovely treat and quick to make if you buy the shells

Sicilian Cannoli are a lovely treat and quick to make if you buy the shells - Credit: Courtesy of Frances Bissell

Cannoli (Makes 12)

250 g ricotta

grated zest of a lemon

100 g chopped candied peel

12 glacé cherries, chopped

25 g 70% chocolate, chopped or roughly grated

12 cannoli shells

75 g pistachios or hazelnuts, chopped

Method:

Beat the ricotta until smooth and stir in the zest, fruit and chocolate. With a knife or teaspoon handle use the mixture to fill the cannoli tubes, smoothing the end surfaces. Dip these in the chopped nuts, or, if you prefer, some more chopped chocolate. I also like to include some chopped candied angelica, but it's not always easy to find.

©Frances Bissell 2022.  All rights reserved.