Chantilly 3 web

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Essentially, crème Chantilly is sweetened whipped cream. Light, moist and very easy to make, it is my favourite dessert topping.

For best results, the cream needs to be full-fat and whipped when very cold. Leave it in the fridge until just before using it; if it is a warm day, you may place it in the freezer for a couple of minutes.

Ideally, the bowl should be very cold too. For this reason, I use a metal bowl and leave it to chill in the freezer, empty, for about half an hour before using it.

Once made, the crème Chantilly can be flavoured with vanilla seeds, cocoa powder, fruit puree, matcha green tea powder, etc.

Ingredients

Chantilly 1 web

250ml full-fat liquid cream
50g icing sugar

How to make it

  1. Leave a metal bowl in the freezer to chill for about 30 minutes.
  2. Pour 250ml full-fat liquid cream, which should be very cold, in the metal bowl and start whisking using a hand-held electric mixer.
  3. Add 50g icing sugar, one tablespoon at the time, taking care to mix it completely.
  4. Continue whisking until hard peaks form.

Chantilly 2 web

Enjoy!

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Soda bread web 3
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I love The Great British Bake Off (who doesn’t?). So I was very excited to be one of the production guests in this week’s An Extra Slice. Week three is bread week, so I had to bake a loaf – not just a normal one, one good enough to be on TV!

Despite the pressure, however, this girl is not for novelty shapes and bright colours, no matter what. I went for simple, elegant rosemary soda bread, decorated with a sunflower carving.

Soda bread is a quick bread. Unlike other types of bread, it does not include yeast and does not need proving. It does not need kneading either; in fact, kneading can make the final loaf quite heavy, so try handling it as little as possible. Without yeast and without proving, soda bread rises in the oven, thanks to the reaction between bicarbonate of soda (which is alkaline) and buttermilk (which is acidic).

The traditional deep cuts help the heat to get to the middle and the loaf to bake evenly. Carving a stylised flower shape on the top, rather than the usual cross, is a way to make the final result prettier and more personal.

As a homage to The Great British Bake Off, this recipe is based on Paul Hollywood’s. This version includes rosemary, but you can try other flavours (mint, feta cheese and beetroot is Ben’s favourite).

Soda bread web 1

 

Ingredients (for one loaf)

400ml buttermilk
250g wholemeal flour
250g plain white flour, plus extra for dusting
20g fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon salt

How to make it

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200 ºC. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Mix 250g wholemeal flour, 250g plain white flour, 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda and 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Add 20g fresh rosemary, finely chopped, and mix again.
  3. Stir in 400ml buttermilk to form a sticky dough. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and shape it quickly into a loaf. Do not knead it, or the bread will be heavy.
  4. Put the dough on the baking tray. With deep cuts through the dough, carve a flower or your favourite shape on the top. Dust with a little white plain flour.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes or until the loaf is cooked through – it should be golden and sound hollow when tapped on the base. Leave it to cool on a wire rack.

Enjoy!

Soda bread web 2

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20150815. Sugar'n' spice Index top

Before starting: ingredients

All-in-one cakes

Creamed cakes

Meringues

Whisked cakes and sponge cakes

Pastries

Biscuits and small bakes

Bread

Savoury bakes

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Cardamom web feature
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I discovered cardamom as a baking ingredient about a year ago in Sweden, where it is used widely since the Vikings brought it back from their travels to far-flung corners of the world. I cannot have enough since (and I am not alone – Ben had 40 cardamom buns as his birthday cake!). More exotic and interesting than cinnamon, it works beautifully in both summer and winter bakes.

Despite being a common ingredient of Persian and Middle-Eastern baking, as well as Nordic pastries, cardamom may be difficult to find in the UK or mainland Europe. In Britain, it is more often associated with curries, as big green cardamom pods are a common ingredient of Pilau rice. For most baking recipes, however, you will need ground cardamom, rather than the whole pods. Where to find it?

Of course, you can buy green whole cardamom pods in most supermarkets and then crush them to get to the dark brown seeds inside. However, this operation can be quite long and fastidious (it took me about 20 minutes of crushing and some motivation for the photo sequence below!).

Cardamom pods, seeds and ground seeds

Cardamom pods, seeds and ground seeds

When I find myself around London’s Marylebone I pay a visit to Totally Swedish, a wonderful little shop on Crawford Street, where you can buy Kockens Kardemumma ground cardamom (also available in their online shop). Ground cardamom can be found in other online stores as well, for example Ottolenghi’s.

For best results, however, it is important to grind the seeds immediately before use, to keep their flavour and fragrant smell. If you have the time, it is worth buying cardamom seeds (easily available online, including via Amazon) and grind them at the last minute.

 

Flavour combinations

Cardamom tastes delicious combined with: rosewater, orange, pistachio, walnuts, hazelnuts, coffee and cinnamon.

 

Try cardamom in these recipes

Swedish cardamom and cinnamon buns (kardamomma bulle)
Autumn gold dairy-free cardamom and walnut cake

 

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Meringue web feature
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There’s something magical about meringues. I love the idea that these airy, featherweight glossy blobs are made of only two ingredients (egg whites and sugar). I love their purity: they are naturally fat-free, gluten-free and dairy-free. And I love that this purity and simplicity requires some precision: meringues are all about sticking to a few rules.

If unicorns exist, their horn is not made of ivory: it’s made of meringue.

In essence, meringues are made beating sugar into egg whites. These two ingredients can be combined in several different ways to make the classic piped, dry meringue; the toppings of lemon meringue pie or baked Alaska; or the “islands” of île flottante (floating island). In the French method, the simpler one, the mixture is then baked. In the Swiss meringue method, egg whites and sugar are whisked over a bain-marie. The Italian meringue method uses boiling sugar syrup instead of caster sugar.

Do it like a pro: equipment

Copper bowls are best for whipping egg whites, because the chemical reaction between the copper and the egg whites makes the foam more stable. Alternatively, you can use any large glass or stainless steel bowl. A ceramic bowl will do, but please don’t use a plastic bowl – they tend to collect grease, no matter how well they are washed, and you risk compromising your egg foam.

Rule number one of making meringues: keep the egg whites far from any fat. Even small amounts of fat can causes the beaten egg whites to collapse.

Even a little water or fat can ruin the whole meringue, so make sure that the bowl and beaters are perfectly clean and dry to obtain maximum volume. Wiping the bowl with a wedge of lemon to remove any traces of grease can often help the process.

Finally, you will need an electric whisk; whisking the eggs with a manual balloon whisk is best left to those with action hero-sized biceps.

P1120291 web detail

 

Eggs and sugar

French meringue has only two ingredients: whipped egg whites and sugar.

Caster sugar is better than granulated sugar because it is easier to dissolve in the egg foam. I follow Laduree and BBC Good Food and use half caster (during the whisking stage) and half icing sugar (during the folding stage). As icing sugar dissolves quicker in the stiff egg mixture, it reduces the risks of over-mixing and of leaving sugar grains undissolved. Whichever sugar you use, steer clear of sugar substitutes: the sugar stiffens the foam and is necessary to the structure.

Both egg whites and sugar chemically attract water. For this reason, Martha Stewart recommends avoiding making meringues on a rainy or really humid day. Now, this seems like sensible advice for those lucky human beings who live in California, Southern Spain or other similarly blessed sunny places. If, like me, you live in London (or other similarly less-blessed rainy places), waiting for a perfectly dry day would become quite unpractical. So, do as the British have done for centuries, lift your collar and ignore the weather!

Although not necessary, cream of tartar (potassium tartrate) if often used to help increase the volume and stability of whisked egg whites.

Meringues can be flavoured with cocoa powder, cinnamon or almonds. These must be mixed in at the end, delicately folding from the bottom up.

Separating the eggs

Separating the eggsCold eggs separate more easily because the whites hold together better, so make sure to separate the eggs when they are fridge-cold. Crack the egg in half and hold the shell halves over a bowl. Transfer the yolk back and forth between the halves, letting the white drop into the bowl. Alternatively, you can use an egg separator (my friend Linda gave me one as a present and it works pretty well). Transfer the yolk to another bowl.

When separating eggs, be careful not to cut the yolk, as whites containing any yolk will not beat properly. If a speck of egg yolk falls into the egg whites, lift it out with an empty eggshell half or a clean teaspoon. Do not try to fish it out with your fingers; even the oil on your skin will prevent the egg whites from expanding!

Whisking the eggs

While eggs separate better when they are cold, egg whites whip better when they are at room temperature. After separating, bring the egg whites to room temperature by letting them stand for 15-30 minutes.

Whisking makes the egg whites foam glossier and thicker. You can check the progression of the egg whites looking at the peaks they form when the beater is lifted: the first stage is soft peaks; the second stage is firm peaks; and the last stage is stiff peaks. Soft peaks have tips that curl over and disappear when the beaters are lifted. Stiff peaks have tips that stand straight and hold their shape when the beaters are lifted.

Peaks compared text

To test that the meringue is done, you should be able to hold the bowl upside-down over your head without it sliding out. Less dramatically, you should be able to hold a spoonful of it upside down and none of it drops off.

Adding the sugar

Add one third of the sugar at the soft peaks stage; another third at the firm peaks stage; and the last third at the stiff peaks stage. Don’t add any sugar before the whites have been whipped to soft peaks, as this can double the time you have to whip the egg whites to get a foam.

Add the sugar one spoonful at a time and keep beating the whole time. Adding the sugar gradually to the egg whites ensures that the sugar dissolves completely. To tell if the sugar is dissolved, rub a bit of the foam between your fingers: it should feel completely smooth. If it feels gritty, the sugar is not dissolved, so keep beating.

Baking

Hard meringues are not really cooked; they are dried out in a very low oven to allow the water in them to evaporate. The result should be white, crisp and dry.

Rule number two of making meringues: bake at very low temperature (60-70 ºC) for a very long time (4-6 hours, ideally overnight).

If you make meringues on a rainy or humid day, you will probably have to bake the meringues longer than on a dry day.

Meringue 4 web

Ingredients

  • 3 large eggs
  • Caster sugar, same weight as the egg whites (depending on the size of the eggs, this should be between 90g-120g)
  • Icing sugar, same weight as the egg whites (depending on the size of the eggs, this should be between 90g-120g)
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar (optional)

How to make them (French method)

  1. Preheat the oven to fan 60ºC (conventional 70ºC). Line two baking sheets with baking paper.
  2. Take three large eggs out of the fridge and separate them, tipping the egg whites into a large clean mixing bowl (preferably glass or metal, not plastic). Weight the egg whites (if your scale does not take away the tare automatically, weight the egg withes together with the bowl and subtract the weight of the empty bowl). Weight the caster sugar and the icing sugar (each should be the same weight as the egg whites).
  3. Add half a teaspoon cream of tartar.
  4. Once the egg whites have reached room temperature, whisk them with an electric hand whisk or mixer on a medium speed until frothy.
  5. Increase the speed to high and continue whisking until soft peaks form. Slowly sprinkle in one-third of the caster sugar, sieved, one spoonful at a time. Adding the sugar slowly helps prevent the meringue from weeping later. Whisk.
  6. Slowly sprinkle in the remaining two-thirds of the caster sugar, sieved, one spoonful at a time. Whisk until stiff but not dry. The mixture should be thick and glossy.
  7. Sieve the icing sugar. Sprinkle it over the mixture, one third at the time. Gently fold in with a rubber spatula or a big metal spoon, keeping as much air in the mixture as possible.
  8. Once the icing sugar is fully incorporated, pour the mixture into a piping bag and pipe on to the baking sheet in round or square shapes.
  9. Bake for as long as you can: ideally overnight, but at least two hours. The meringues should stay white but they should sound crisp when tapped underneath. Switch the oven off and leave the meringues to cool inside it.
  10. Enjoy!

Troubleshooting

If your meringue starts to brown: the oven temperature is too high causing the sugar to caramelize.

If the inside of the meringue is chewy and sticky instead of dry, crisp and crunchy and/or the outside of the meringue separates from the inside: the oven temperature is too high, causing the outside of the meringue to dry and set too quickly.

If your meringue starts “weeping” or “sweating” (that is, beads of moisture form on its surface) the sugar has not properly dissolved in the egg whites. To prevent this, add the sugar slowly during mixing.

Meringues will keep for at least a week if stored in an airtight container, but they don’t like to be in the fridge.

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Angel cake 1 web
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This traditional American recipe is truly heavenly! Super-fluffy and feather-light, it’s made with whisked egg whites, sugar and flour – basically, a floury meringue. It doesn’t contain any butter or milk, which makes it perfect for a dairy-free diet, and it’s very low in fats (no oil or other fat in the batter).

The cake’s rise comes from whipping the egg whites. To whisk up the perfect meringue, clean the inside of the bowl with some lemon juice to make sure that it’s not greasy and whip the eggs at room temperature. A low-protein type of flour, such as US (unbleached) cake flour, Italian grade 00 flour or similar, will give the best results. Superfine / caster sugar will mix better than granulated sugar.

Angel food cake tin

Angel food cake tin

For the cake to rise properly, the cake tin must be ungreased. For this reason, not all cake tins will do. If you can, get hold of an angel food cake tin (I borrowed it from my cousin Enrica, but they are easily available online). The shape of this tin, like a truncated cone, is designed to ensure that the cake bakes evenly and rises as high as possible. Cooling the cake upside down on the pan’s legs prevents the top from sinking (if your tin does not have “feet”, balance it on the neck of a glass bottle).

I added lemon zest to the traditional recipe, but you can substitute it with vanilla seeds. Serve alone, sprinkled with icing sugar or topped with whipped cream or fresh berries.

AC feature web

Ingredients

  • Angel cake ingredients web10 large free-range egg whites, at room temperature
  • superfine / caster sugar, same weight as the egg whites minus 50g/1.8oz (for example, if your egg whites weight 300g/10½oz, then you need 250g/8.8oz caster sugar)
  • unbleached cake flour, grade “00” flour or other low-protein flour, 1/3 of the weight of the egg whites (for example, if your egg whites weight 300g/10½oz, then you need 100g/3½oz flour)
  • the grated zest of 2 untreated, un-waxed lemons
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • icing sugar (for dusting)

How to make it

1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas 4 (160ºC if you have a fan oven) and arrange an oven shelf in the bottom third of the oven.

2. In a large bowl, whisk 10 egg whites with an electric hand whisk or mixer on a medium speed for one minute until frothy. The egg whites will whisk better if they are at room temperature.

3. Add the zest of two lemons and 1 teaspoon cream of tartar and continue whisking until soft peaks form.

4. Increase the speed to high and sprinkle in two-thirds of the caster sugar, one tablespoon at a time. Whisk until stiff but not dry.

5. With a fine sieve, sift together the flour and the remaining caster sugar in a bowl. In six additions, sift and sprinkle the dry ingredients over the egg mixture, folding in quickly but gently to keep as much air in the mixture as possible.

6. Pour batter into an ungreased 25cm/10in angel food cake pan or other tube pan with a removable bottom. Gently smooth the top with a spatula.

7. Bake for 45-50 min or until golden brown and springy to touch.

8. Remove from the oven and immediately turn upside down onto the tin’s cooling legs or over the neck of a glass bottle. Leave to cool completely, for at least one hour.

9. Carefully run a knife around the inner and outer edges of the pan to release the cake. Place on a plate, bottom side up. Sprinkle icing sugar on the top.

Enjoy!

 

AC Step 9 web

Step 9

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6. Lemon shortbread web
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This is the traditional, 1-2-3 shortbread recipe: 1 part sugar, 2 parts butter and 3 parts flour – so for 100g of sugar, you will need 200g of butter and 300g of flour; or 1 cup sugar, 2 cups butter and 3 cups flour. The reason why I love this recipe is that it lets delicious, honest ingredients shine through – plus, it’s easy to remember!

What makes or breaks shortbread biscuits is the butter, so make sure that you use the best quality butter you can afford (those yellow farmhouse organic butters are ideal). I used salted butter because I like to counter-balance the sweetness of the sugar; however, that’s just a matter of taste and unsalted butter will work just as well.

When working the butter, it’s important to pay attention to its temperature. The butter must be very soft before you start making the dough, or it won’t become creamy enough to mix properly with the sugar and flour. That’s why it’s a good idea to work it on its own, before incorporating the sugar. Once the dough is mixed, on the other hand, you want to keep it cool to make sure that the biscuits keep their shape in the oven.

Use seasonal ingredients as natural flavours: I added lemon zest and matcha green tea powder for spring, but you can try adding lavender in summer, vanilla in autumn and orange zest or cardamom and cinnamon in winter. If you use matcha green tea powder or a similar dry ingredient for flavouring, remember to reduce the flour accordingly.

Enjoy!

4. Lemon shortbreads web feature

Lemon shortbread biscuits

Ingredients (for about 20 biscuits)
100g (3½oz) granulated or caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
200g (7oz) salted butter at room temperature
300g (10½oz) plain flour, sifted, plus extra for dusting
The zest of two organic and un-waxed lemons, grated

How to make them
1. Preheat the oven to 160°C (325°F or Gas mark 3).

2. Cut 200g salted butter into small cubes and cream it until pale and fluffy.

3. Add 100g granulated or caster sugar and mix together, either by hand or using an electric hand whisk, until pale and smooth. The mixture will still be gritty, as the sugar does not dissolve in butter at room temperature.

4. Add the zest of one lemon.

5. Using a spatula, slowly fold in 300g plain flour until completely incorporated (try not to work the flour too much or the biscuits will not be so crumbly). The mixture should look like breadcrumbs.

6. Using your hands, gently squeeze the mixture together into a ball of dough. Wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge for 2 hours.

7. Dust the work surface with a little flour and gently roll the dough out to about 5mm (¼in) thick. Cut into flower shapes using a biscuit cutter.

8. Transfer the biscuits to a baking tray lined with baking parchment and sprinkle each biscuit with a pinch of sugar and a pinch of lemon zest. If it is a hot day, chill in the fridge for 15 more minutes to make sure that the biscuits hold their shape when baking.

9. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until pale golden-brown.

10. Remove from the oven and transfer the biscuits to a wire rack to cool.

5. Lemon shortbread web feature

Matcha green tea shortbread biscuits

Ingredients (for about 20 biscuits)
100g (3½oz) granulated or caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
200g (7oz) salted butter at room temperature
270g (9½oz) plain flour, sifted, plus extra for dusting
1½ tablespoon matcha green tea powder

How to make them
1. Preheat the oven to 160°C (325°F or Gas mark 3).

2. Cut 200g salted butter into small cubes and cream it until pale and fluffy.

3. Add 100g granulated or caster sugar and mix together, either by hand or using an electric hand whisk, until pale and smooth. The mixture will still be gritty, as the sugar does not dissolve in butter at room temperature.

4. Mix 1½ tablespoon matcha green tea powder into 270g plain flour.

5. Using a spatula, slowly fold the flour mixture in the butter mixture until completely incorporated (try not to work the flour too much or the biscuits will not be so crumbly). The end result should look like breadcrumbs.

6. Using your hands, gently squeeze the mixture together into a ball of dough. Wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge for 2 hours.

7. Dust the work surface with a little flour and gently roll the dough out to about 5mm (¼in) thick. Cut into leaf shapes using a biscuit cutter. If you don’t have a leaf-shaped cutter, you can use a round biscuit cutter, overlapping two circles.

8. Transfer the biscuits to a baking tray lined with baking parchment and sprinkle each biscuit with a pinch of sugar. If it is a hot day, chill in the fridge for 15 more minutes to make sure that the biscuits hold their shape when baking.

9. Bake for 15-20 minutes.

10. Remove from the oven and transfer the biscuits to a wire rack to cool.

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Choc Spelt Courf feat
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Christmas can be delicious without being over-indulgent. This chocolate cake recipe, by Linzi Barrow of Clandestine Cake Club Lancaster for the Goovy Food Company, includes courgette and spelt flour for a great yet not-too-sweet taste. What is more, it is dairy-free. A star-shaped tin (I used Ikea’s Drommar) and some sparkly decoration will make it extra-special. This is how I like my Christmas nights: starry and chocolate-y!

Ingredients (for 8 people)

225g courgettes
200g spelt flour
175ml light agave nectar
75ml olive oil
2 eggs
4 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
Edible gold spray, golden sugar, white chocolate stars and icing sugar to decorate

How to make it

1. Preheat oven to 180°C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Oil and line a star-shaped cake tin.
2. Sift 200g spelt flour, 4 tbsp cocoa powder, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda, and 1/2 tsp salt into a bowl.
3. Add 175 ml light agave nectar, 75 ml olive oil and 2 eggs and mix well.
4. Grate 225g courgettes and add to the mix.
5. Pour your batter into your prepared tin. Bake for approx 45 minutes until well risen and until a skewer comes out cleanly from the middle. Cool in the tin for about 10 minutes and then on a wire rack.
6. Decorate with edible gold spray, golden sugar, icing sugar and white chocolate stars. Enjoy!

 

CSC cake 7

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Walnut cake feature
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This recipe is inspired by the coffee, cardamom and walnut cake in Fiona Cairn’s beautiful book Seasonal Baking (which I wholeheartedly recommend). I love baking with seasonal ingredients and the caramel and walnut decoration reminds me of golden autumn leaves. This is the perfect cake to have with a warming coffee after a brisk walk in the park on a Sunday afternoon!

In addition to making it dairy-free (of course!) I substituted the buttercream with a soya-based coffee and cardamom cream, which is lighter and less sugar-heavy.

The round and warm scent of cardamom makes a good addition to autumn and winter bakes (have a look at my Swedish cardamom and cinnamon buns). For this recipe you will need the dark brown seeds inside the cardamom pods. Although supermarkets generally sells the green pods, rather than the seeds, there is no need to go through the fastidious process of de-seeding the pods, as the seeds are easily available online, including via Amazon. It is important to ground the seeds immediately before use, to keep their flavour intact.

Ingredients (for 6-8 people)

275g caster sugar
275g icing sugar
175g margarine, plus more for the tin
125g flour
100g walnuts halves
100g ground almonds
3 eggs
6 tsp (about 30 g) freshly ground cardamom
4 tbsp (about 50ml) decaf coffee
3 tbsp (about 40ml) whipped soy single cream
1tsp vanilla extract
1 bag (7gr) baking powder

How to make it

1. Prepare the ingredients: cut 175g margarine in pieces and leave it out to soften; roughly chop 50g walnuts; sieve together 125g flour and 1 bag (7gr) baking powder. Grease a 20cm round cake tin and line with baking parchment.

2. Preheat the oven to 180°C / fan 160°C / gas mark 4. Keeping them separate, place both the 50g walnut halves and the 50g chopped walnuts on baking trays and roast for six minutes. Cool.

3. Using a food mixed or an electric whisk, cream together 175g margarine, 175g caster sugar and 1 tablespoon decaf coffee until very light and fluffy. Lightly beat 3 eggs, then add them to the mixture. Gradually add 50g ground almonds and 3 teaspoons freshly ground cardamom. Gently fold in the flour-baking powder mix and 50g chopped walnuts; don’t over-mix.

4. Pour into the tin and bake at 160°C (fan) for 60 min, or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

5. Prepare the caramelised walnuts: lay 50g walnut halves on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Put 100g of caster sugar and 100ml of cold water in a saucepan and dissolve the sugar over a gentle heat, stirring with a metal spoon. Increase the heat to a boil, stop stirring and occasionally brush the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water, to prevent crystals forming. Boil until the mixture turns a beautiful caramel gold and has thickened.

6. Have a sink or washing-up bowl of cold water to hand. Plunge the base of the pan into the cold water, then, using a teaspoon, drizzle the caramel over the walnuts on the tray and leave to set.

7. For the coffee and cardamom cream, mix 275g icing sugar (sifted), 50g ground almonds and 3 teaspoons ground cardamom. Using a food mixed or an electric whisk, add 3 tablespoons decaf coffee and 3 tablespoons whipped soy cream. If it is too runny, add more icing sugar. If it is too stiff, add more whipped soy cream, until it reaches the desired texture.

8. When the cake is completely cool, cut it in half horizontally. Spread half of the coffee and cardamom cream over the bottom half, then place one half over the other. Spread the other half of the coffee and cardamom cream on top.

9. Decorate with the caramelised walnuts and the caramel shards. Enjoy!

P1100293 web

P1100299 web

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Craftseller magazine
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Watkins & George is getting famous! Part of an interview I gave to the lovely Amy Hunt has been published in the November 2014 issue of Craftseller magazine.

Craftseller is the UK’s fastest growing multi-craft magazine and the only monthly title for craft sellers. Launched in 2011, it’s packed with handmade, on-trend projects, real life success stories and tips on maximising profit.

Thank you so much to Amy for giving me this great opportunity! The whole interview is below.

* * *
Q: What are your most popular products?
A: My “Hug me Hugh” up-cycled cable-knit cushions are especially popular around Christmas. I make them re-working vintage Aran fisherman jumpers into huggable cushions and soft toys. I have always admired the craftsmanship behind intricate cable-knit patterns and I love working on knits started by someone I don’t know. Quite literally, it’s like picking up the threads of someone else’s life!

Q: Why do you think handmade items are gaining more popularity?
A: Handmade items are absolutely unique, one of a kind. They establish a personal connection between the maker and the person who enjoys them. It is comforting to know that someone took the time to make something unique especially for us. As a costumer, I want to know where a product comes from, who made it and how. Handmade objects have a history that mass-produced high street items do not. They are 100% ethical as well.

Q: How do you sell your items – online/ markets?
A: I sell my items mostly online, in my Etsy shop. It’s a great way to reach a very wide audience and can be easily fit around work and family commitments. However, nothing beats direct contact with people who can touch and feel my knits. Christmas is the perfect time for markets and fairs, especially for those, like me, who make seasonal items. For the first time this season, I will be at the Truman Brewery Market in London’s Brick Lane in the run up to Christmas.

Q: What will be really popular in your range this Christmas?
A: My “Size Matters!” extra-chunky, oversize scarves and cowls are stylish and playful and I expect them to be a hit this Christmas, especially in bright, vivid colours. I source extra-bulky luxury yarn from a small family-run Finnish company and use 25mm knitting needles. I keep the designs very simple to make the material stand out. My extra-chunky scarves have an amazing texture: people cannot stop touching them!

Q: Do you take commissions? If so, what are customers asking for?
A: Yes I do take commissions. All my items are one of a kind and I am happy to personalize them to make them extra-special. In some cases customers ask for small tweaks to a product they like, such as different buttons. In other cases they ask for something they cannot find in the shop and it is fun to design something new together.

Q: How long do you take to make items roughly, and what do you charge roughly?
A: Finding the right balance between high-quality, unique products and affordable prices is the greatest challenge when developing new designs. Personally, I believe that handmade is about quality and I am fierce about the quality of the materials I use. Of course, insisting on high-quality materials means higher costs. Keeping my designs simple is also a way to keep reasonable prices.

20141023 Craftseller magazine issue 43 web


 

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