Posts from the ‘Baking’ category

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

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Enrica feature

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Today is my cousin Enrica’s birthday and this is her celebration cake! Trained as a lawyer, Enrica is a fine patissière at heart and the best cake-maker in the family (sorry other family members, but you know it’s true…). This recipe is based on her signature breakfast yogurt cake (having cake for breakfast is one of the many wonderful things about food in Italy), which I made berry-loaded and dairy-free. The lavender-infused sugar and the grated lemon zest give it a fragrant, lovely scent.

Happy birthday Enrica!

Enrica 0

Ingredients (for 6-8 people)

450 gr blackberries

300 gr cake flour

150 gr lavender-infused sugar (or white granulated sugar)

200 gr dairy-free soya yogurt

100 gr sunflower oil (or other vegetable flavourless oil)

3 whole eggs

Two tablespoons of blackberry jam

The zest of one untreated lemon, grated

1 bag (7gr) baking powder

A pinch of salt

Icing sugar for dusting

How to make it

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees. Using a food mixer, whisk the whole eggs with the lemon zest and a pinch of salt.

2. When the eggs are starting becoming firm, but are not making peaks yet, sprinkle the lavender-infused sugar a little at a time. Keep whisking until you have a light and frothy mixture. All in all, the whisking should take you at least 10 minutes.

3. Working by hand, delicately add the oil and the yogurt to the egg mixture, folding from bottom to top.

4. Mix the flour and the baking powder. Still working by hand, gently fold the flour mix into the egg mixture.

5. With a food processor, blend 150 gr of blackberries. Add half of the blend to the mixture. Pour the mixture into a tall cake tin, about 18 cm across, previously coated in oil and flour.

6. Bake at 180 degrees for about 45 minutes. Once the cake is ready, leave it on a wire rack to cool down.

7. While the cake cools down, prepare the cake filling by mixing two tablespoons of blackberry jam, two tablespoons of dairy-free soya yogurt and the remaining half of the blackberry blend.

8. Cut the cake in half horizontally.

9. Spread half the blackberry filling on the bottom half of the cake. Place the remaining blackberries on top and cover with the rest of the blackberry filling.

10. Cover with the upper half of the cake and dust with icing sugar. Enjoy!

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P1080957 feature

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Do like the Swedish do and share these buns and a coffee with a friend! Having a coffee break with friends or family is a social institution in Sweden, known as fika, and pastries (in particular cinnamon and cardamom buns) are so much a part of it that they are often referred to as fikabröd, fika-bread.

This recipe is based on the one by Linda Lomelino of the wonderful (and highly recommended) Swedish blog Call Me Cupcake, with some personal tweaks. Even if you have never used cardamom or fresh yeast in your baking before, it is really worth sticking to the Swedish recipe and giving it a try, as these are the two ingredients that give the buns their fragrant, aromatic flavour.

Fresh yeast is easily available online, in most whole food shops or from real bakeries.

In Britain, cardamom is more often associated with curries than with sweet pastries; cardamom pods are the big green pods in Pilau rice. For this recipe you will need the dark brown seeds inside the pods. Although supermarkets generally sells the green pods, rather than the seeds, the seeds are easily available online, including via Amazon. For this recipe, it is important to ground the seeds immediately before use, to keep their flavour and smell.

Cardamom pods, seeds and ground seeds

Cardamom pods, seeds and ground seeds

Ingredients (for about 18 extra-large buns)

840 g all purpose flour (1400 ml)
500 ml milk
325 g soft butter
180 g (200 ml) granulated or brown sugar
50 g fresh (live) yeast (or 14 g, that is two envelopes, of fast action dried yeast)
3 tablespoons freshly ground cardamom
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Pearl sugar, chopped almonds or granulated sugar for decorating
1 egg, lightly beaten [optional]

How to make them

1. Before starting mixing the ingredients you will need to proof the fresh yeast. Heat 500 ml milk in a saucepan or in the microwave until it is approximately 37°C (98.5 F). The temperature is important: if the milk is hotter, the yeast will burn; if the milk is colder, the yeast will not activate (if you do not have a cooking thermometer you can use a medical one – just don’t tell anyone). When the milk is approximately 37°C, sprinkle 50 g fresh yeast (or 14 g of fast action dried yeast) and add 90 g granulated or brown sugar. Stir well until dissolved, then leave aside for 5 minutes.

If the yeast is alive and active, it will release in the water and feed on the sugar. After a while, you should be able to see a bubbly foam forming on the surface, which is carbon dioxide being released (see photo 1). This is proof that the yeast is active. If after 5 minutes you cannot see any bubble, unfortunately your yeast is not working. You need to throw the milk solution away and start again. It is annoying, but it’s better starting again now than seeing your buns lying flat in the oven!

2. While waiting for the yeast to activate, mix 150 g soft butter, 2 teaspoons freshly ground cardamom and ½ teaspoon salt until smooth in a large bowl. After the yeast has activated, add the milk solution to the butter mixture.

3. Gradually add 840 g all purpose flour, then work until the dough is smooth and elastic.

4. Cover the bowl with a cloth and put in the oven, turned on at the minimum temperature. This is not to start the baking, but to help the dough rising. Leave to rise for about 45-60 minutes, until doubled in size.

5. Meanwhile, mix 175 g soft butter, 90 g granulated or brown sugar, 1 ½ tablespoons freshly ground cardamom, 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon and ½ teaspoon vanilla extract for the filling. Set aside.

6. When the dough is ready, roll it out into a large rectangle, about 40×50 cm. Spread the filling on top.

7. Fold the dough in half (you should have half of it layered on top of the other half).

8. Cut out long strips of dough (about 1-2 cm wide).

9. Properly spinning a cardamom bun into a knotty shape is an art: here is how the professionals do it. If you haven’t mastered the art yet, you can just twist each strip (as in photo 9a) and then roll it (as in photo 9b).

10. Put the buns on a baking tray covered with baking paper, cover with a clean cloth and leave to rise for 30 minutes. In the meantime, pre-heat the oven to 250°C (480F).

11. If you are not worried about egg allergies, brush the buns with a lightly beaten egg (the more egg you use, the browner the buns will be after baking). However, this is not an essential step – skipping it will make your buns egg-free.

12. Sprinkle the buns generously with pearl sugar, granulated sugar or chopped almonds and the remaining cardamom and cinnamon. Bake for about 8-11 minutes, depending on the size of the buns.

13. The buns are at their best when they are warm. Enjoy!

 

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Fresh (live) yeast
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Fresh yeast (also known as live yeast) makes a real difference in many baking recipes, so it is worth giving it a try. Getting your hands on some may seem complicated at first, as fresh yeast is not generally available in your local supermarket. Once you know where to look, however, the additional effort is close to zero.

Below are some tips on where to buy fresh yeast in North London. Please do let me know if you know of other places – I am happy to add your suggestions to the list!

Wherever you get your fresh yeast from, keep in mind that it is highly perishable and needs to be kept at fridge temperature. If you get it from a shop, take it back home as soon as possible. If you get it online, make sure that it is sent in temperature-controlled packaging. In any event, always proof it before adding it to your recipe.

From your local bakery

Many bloggers suggest to ask your local bakery to give you some of their fresh yeast. If you local bakery does indeed bake good bread and pastries, they will have fresh yeast and may be willing to give some to you, if you ask nicely. They would usually do this for free, especially if you don’t need much. I love the idea of sharing the yeast as an act of love, so I gave it a try and asked Le Moulin bread & patisserie (182 Kentish Town Rd, NW5 2AE). They very nicely gave me a small quantity for free. Rumours are indeed true.

From your local whole food store

Most whole food stores sell fresh yeast. I get mine from the Earth Food Store in Kentish Town.

Online

Fresh yeast is easy to find online, for example from Ocado. I recommend The Bertinet Kitchen & Bakery, a cookery school based in Brighton. The fresh yeast on sale in their Amazon shop, was packaged in a temperature-controlled bag, arrived firm and moist, and gave lovely bubbles after proofing.

Happy baking!

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