Posts tagged ‘cooking’

Speculoos 1
W&G on FacebookW&G on Twitter
This post is a little late, as speculoos biscuits (speculaas in Dutch) are traditionally baked in Belgium and the Netherlands on the eve of St. Nicholas day, on 5th December (and I did bake them before Christmas). When it comes to enjoying them, though, there really is no need to be so strict. Thin and crunchy, they are the perfect winter treat to accompany a hot coffee or a glass of milk – in January as well!

The speculoos spice mix (speculaaskruiden)

Speculoos spice mix webThe speculoos spice mix is what sets them apart from gingerbread biscuits. Comforting cinnamon creates the body of the mix; cloves and nutmeg are essential to give it a little warm kick. For two tablespoons of speculoos spice mix, you will need: 4 teaspoons of cinnamon; 1 teaspoon of nutmeg; and 1 teaspoon of ground cloves. You can skip other spices completely or personalise the basic mix by adding a pinch of the one or two spices you like the most (ginger, cardamom, white pepper, coriander, etc.).

The speculoos moulds

Traditionally, speculoos biscuits are stamped on the front with St. Nicholas’ image using handcrafted wooden moulds. In fact, the mould is such a part of the process that the word speculoos apparently comes from the Latin word for mirror (speculum), referring to St. Nicholas’ reflection. If you live in the Netherlands, Belgium or France, finding a speculoos mould should not be difficult; Dille & Kamille sells several online. If you live in Germany, a springerle mould will do the job just as beautifully. Anyone else can either bribe Central European friends or buy the moulds on good old Ebay: search for ‘speculoos mould’, ‘speculaas mould’ or ‘springerle mould’. Of course, you don’t need to use a mould at all: cookie cutters or even the rim of a glass will do.

The dough can be kept in the fridge for up to a week and the spice mix can be kept for a few weeks in an airtight tin in a cool and dry place.

D-P1120840 web

Ingredients (for 20-25 biscuits)

  • 500g all-purpose flour
  • 300g soft butter
  • 280g dark brown sugar
  • 70ml water or milk
  • 2 tablespoons speculoos spice mix
  • 2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
  • a little corn flour for dusting

Speculoos 3

How to make them

1. In a bowl, beat together 280g dark brown sugar, 300g soft butter and 2 tablespoons speculoos spice mix. Dissolve the resulting cream into 70ml water or milk.

2. Sieve together 500g all-purpose flour and 2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda. Sprinkle the flour over the butter mix and blend to get a thick, not too elastic dough. Be careful not to knead too much.

3. Wrap the ball of dough in cling film and let it cool in the fridge for at least two hours (or overnight).

4. About half an hour before baking, take the dough out of the fridge. Preheat the oven to 170 °C (160 °C for a ventilated oven). Cover your worktop with some baking paper (using baking paper rather than dusting with flour will keep the dough lighter and the worktop cleaner). Cut the dough into four parts. Cover the first one with some cling film and flatten with a rolling pin.

5. If you are using a wooden mould, lightly dust it with some corn flour. Press the dough into the mould with your hand to fit the design and cut the exceeding dough with a cutting wire or a sharp knife. Gently remove the dough from the mould by tapping the mould against the table or using a toothpick. If you are not using a wooden mould, cut the dough into shapes using a cookie cutter or the edge of a glass.

How to use a speculoos mould

6. Place on a baking sheet covered with baking greaseproof paper. If necessary, place in the fridge to cool for 30 min.

7. Bake at 170°C for around 10-15 min, depending on the size, until the speculoos are a deep golden brown . Turn the oven down if they are darkening too quickly.


Speculoos 4


Mont Blanc roulade 1

W&G on FacebookW&G on Twitter

Apparently created at the time of the Duchy of Savoy, Mont Blanc (the dessert) is a little cone of chestnut cream vermicelli and crème Chantilly over a base of meringue, inspired by the shape and colour of Mont Blanc (the Alpine mountain). As if the idea of a snow-capped peak were not wintery enough, I though that the earthy chestnut and fluffy meringue flavours of the Mont Blanc would make a lovely Christmas log. Enter the sugar-capped Mont Blanc meringue roulade with chestnut and whipped cream filling. Is there anything more Christmassy than that?

Although Christmas is all about indulgence, you do not want to use too much sugar in this recipe. The sugar in the meringue and the one used to make chestnut spread will be enough as sweeteners, so you won’t need to add more sugar to the chestnut filling or the whipped cream.

Chestnut puree and whole roasted and peeled chestnuts are generally available in supermarkets and health shops in the UK around Christmas, as they are used for stuffing and soups. If you cannot find chestnut puree you can make it by blending roasted and peeled chestnut, adding a little water if necessary. Chestnut spread (crème de marrons), made with sugar and vanilla, may be more difficult to find in small supermarkets, but it is easily available online. The original Mont Blanc recipe calls for some rum to give a deeper note to the chestnuts. If you don’t have it, you can use some whiskey cream or just skip the alcohol.

If you have never made meringue before, have a look at my post on French meringue for some basic tips. Compared to a classic dry meringue, a meringue roulade needs more sugar for elasticity and it is baked at a higher temperature. The rolling needs a firm hand: here’s how Baking Queen Mary Berry does it.


PS: The lovely golden birds on the photos are by Danish designer Jette Frölich.


Mont Blanc roulade 4

Ingredients (for 10 slices)

For the roulade

  • 5 egg whites
  • 275g caster sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar

For the chestnut filling

  • 400g unsweetened chestnut puree
  • 400g chestnut spread (crème de marrons)
  • 150g whole roasted and peeled chestnuts
  • 2 tablespoons rum (optional)

300ml fresh double cream

Icing sugar, for dusting

Mont Blanc roulade 2


How to make it

1. Pre-heat the oven 200°C/180°Fan/Gas 6. Line a large swiss roll tin (about 37×27 cm) with greased non-stick baking paper (note: this last step is not necessary if you are using a silicon tray).

2. In a squeaky clean, large bowl, start whisking 5 egg whites with an electric mixer on full speed. When they get foamy, add ½ teaspoon cream of tartar. Keep whisking and gradually add 275g caster sugar, one spoonful at a time: one third at the soft peaks stage; another third at the firm peaks stage; and the last third at the stiff peaks stage. Whisk until very, very stiff and glossy.

3. Spread the meringue mixture into the prepared tin in a uniform layer. Place the tin in the pre-heated oven and bake for about 8 minutes until very golden. Then lower the temperature to 160°/140°Fan/Gas 3 and bake for a further 15 minutes until crisp and firm to the touch.

4. Remove the meringue from the oven and turn it upside down on to a clean towel or a sheet of non-stick baking paper. Remove the paper from the base of the cooked meringue and allow to cool completely.

5. While the meringue cools down, prepare the chestnut filling by mixing 400g chestnut puree, 400g chestnut spread, 150g whole roasted and peeled chestnuts, roughly chopped, and 2 tablespoons of rum (optional).

6. Whip 300ml fresh double cream.

7. Spread evenly the chestnut filling and then the whipped cream over the meringue.

8. To form a roulade, roll up the meringue firmly from the long end, using the towel or baking paper to help you. Make sure to keep the roll very tight.

9. Wrap in non-stick baking paper or foil and chill before serving. Serve dusted with icing sugar.

Mont Blanc roulade 3


P1120523 web
W&G on FacebookW&G on Twitter


My grandmother had a persimmon tree in her back garden in Italy and I have always loved their sweet vanilla taste and firm, shiny flesh. More exotic than apple and pear and with a warm, golden orange colour, persimmon (also known as Sharon fruit) is my favourite autumn fruit. To welcome the new season, I combined it with cinnamon and organic apple juice, two traditional autumn flavours, for a light and creamy seasonal cake.

In keeping with the Italian theme, I decided to go for a very simple Pan di Spagna sponge. Pan di Spagna is a traditional Italian sponge cake with a light and airy texture and only three ingredients: eggs, sugar, and flour. The basic Pan di Spagna sponge cake contains no butter, milk or oil, which makes it low-fat and perfect for a dairy-free diet. If you want to keep the persimmon compote dairy-free and low-fat as well, substitute the whipped cream with soya cream. Of course, you can also leave the cake naked or just add a sprinkle of icing sugar on top!

A-PdS1c web

There are different methods to make Pan di Spagna sponge: this recipe, based on Giallo Zafferano’s, uses the egg-separated method. Like angel cake, Pan di Spagna cake does not need raising agent: it raises thanks to the air and steam trapped inside the egg foam. Because the mixture needs to be as light as possible to raise properly, I recommend using a low-protein (weak) type of flour, such as US (unbleached) cake flour, Italian grade 00 flour or French T55 flour.



Ingredients (for 6-8 people)

P1120488 webFor the Pan di Spagna sponge

  • 5 eggs
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 75g 00-type flour (or other weak flour)
  • 75g corn flour
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar

For the persimmon compote

  • 5 persimmons
  • 250ml organic apple juice
  • 2 tablespoons whipped cream
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

For the crème Chantilly

  • 250ml full-fat whipping cream
  • 50g icing sugar

To assemble and decorate

  • 30ml organic apple juice
  • 1 persimmon
  • A few mint leaves

How to make it

How to make the Pan di Spagna sponge cake

1. Pre-heat the oven at 180-160ºC. Grease and line with baking paper a medium round tin (18cm diametre). Sieve together 75g 00-type flour (or other weak flour) and 75g corn flour.

2. Separate the whites from the yolks of 5 eggs; this is easier when the eggs are fridge-cold. Take care not to leave any trace of the yolks in the egg whites bowl.

3. With a sharp knife, cut the vanilla pod in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the egg yolks bowl.

4. Whisk the yolks and the vanilla seeds with 100g caster sugar until the mixture doubles in size and becomes light and fluffy (see photo 4b for how it should look like).

5. Whisk the egg whites with 50g caster sugar and ½ teaspoon cream of tartar until they make hard peaks.

6. Using a large spatula, gently mix the egg whites to the yolks mixture. Take care not to overmix: you don’t want to knock the air bubbles out of the mixture.

7. Gradually sift the dry ingredients over the mixture, gently folding them in until they are completely incorporated.

8. Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake at 180ºC for 40 minutes (static oven) or at 160ºC for 30 minutes (ventilated oven). The cake is ready when it springs back if poked with a finger.

9. Once the cake is baked, turn the oven off and leave it in the oven to cool down for about 10 minutes. Then take the cake out of the oven and let it cool completely before taking it out of the tin.

How to make the persimmon compote

10. Cut 5 persimmons in small pieces.

11. Transfer the persimmons to a pan and add 250ml organic apple juice and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Slowly simmer on a low heath for about one hour, until the compote reduces to the consistency of a jam.

12. Blend the compote in a food processor until smooth. Add 2 tablespoons whipped cream and mix well. Set aside.

How to assemble and decorate the cake

13. Make the crème Chantilly by whisking together 250ml full-fat whisking cream and 50g icing sugar.

14. Cut the cake in three horizontal layers.

15. Drizzle 10ml organic apple juice over the bottom layer. Spread half of the persimmon compote and then a layer of crème Chantilly over the persimmon compote layer.

16. Place the second layer of cake on top of the first one and drizzle 10ml organic apple juice over it. Cover with the remaining persimmon compote and a layer of crème Chantilly.

17. Top the cake with the third layer and drizzle the remaining 10ml organic apple juice over it. Spread a thin layer of crème Chantilly over the whole cake and leave to rest in the fridge for at least half an hour. This layer will create a smooth surface for the rest of the crème Chantilly to be laid upon.

18. Once the first layer of crème Chantilly is set, cover the cake with the remaining crème Chantilly. Decorate with one persimmon, sliced, and a few mint leaves.

This cake keeps well in the fridge for 1-2 days.

P1120510 web

1 Comment

EM web 1

W&G on FacebookW&G on Twitter


Despite the cold and wet English weather, I am determined to cling to the last summer days. Like the weather, Eton mess is quintessentially English, in a Mary-Poppins-and-Harry-Potter kind of way!

A mixture of strawberries, cream and meringue, this dessert takes its name from Eton College, where it is traditionally served at the annual cricket game against Harrow School – and has been since the 19th century.

As, of course, traditions are there to be broken, my version of this classic recipe includes pistachios and mixed berries. With a toast (and a farewell) to the rainy English summer!

EM web 2

Ingredients (for 4-6 people)

  • 500g mixed berries (strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries)
  • 500g meringues (here’s how to make them)
  • 400ml full-fat double cream
  • 250g pistachios
  • 1 tablespoon caster sugar
  • The juice of one lemon


How to make it

  1. Chop 500g mixed berries in a bowl, adding 1 tablespoon caster sugar and the juice of one lemon. Leave some berries aside for decoration.
  2. Shell, blanch in boiling water and peel 250g pistachios. Roughly chop them.
  3. Whip 400ml full-fat cream until stiff peaks form and fold in 500g meringues, broken up.
  4. Spoon layers of the cream-meringue mix, pistachios and berries into 4-6 jam jars.
  5. Decorate with whipped cream, whole berries and pistachios.



EM web 3

1 Comment

Chantilly 3 web

W&G on FacebookW&G on Twitter

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.


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



Cardamom web feature
W&G on FacebookW&G on Twitter

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


1 Comment

6. Lemon shortbread web
W&G on FacebookW&G on Twitter

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.


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.


Enrica feature

W&G on FacebookW&G on Twitter


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!

1 Comment

P1080957 feature

W&G on FacebookWatkins & George Etsy shopW&G on Twitter

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!



Lentils and curry cake 1
W&G on FacebookWatkins & George Etsy shopW&G on Twitter

Have you ever wondered what to do with the red lentils that somehow end up forgotten at the back of the cupboard? A wonderfully moist and flavourful cake, of course!

This is a very easy and quick recipe, slightly modified from a version published in Elle à Table, March-April 2014.

Allergy warning: this recipe contains eggs, dairy products, gluten and nuts.

Ingredients (for 8-10 people)

350g red lentils
150g gruyère cheese, grated
70g breadcrumbs
50g hazelnuts, chopped
2 good-sized carrots, cubed
1 onion, sliced
6 eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons curry powder

How to make it

  1. Pre-heat the oven at 170 degrees.
  2. Boil the lentils in plenty of water for about 10-15 minutes, adding a tablespoon of salt when the water starts boiling. Drain and keep on the side.
  3. In a pan, lightly fry the onion in a little olive oil. When it becomes golden, add the carrots. Season with salt and pepper and continue cooking for 5 minutes.
  4. In a bowl, whip the eggs with the grated cheese and the breadcrumbs.
  5. Add the lentils, the carrots and onion mixture, the olive oil and the curry powder. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Butter and dust a rectangular cake tin with flour. Fill with the cake mixture.
  7. Sprinkle the cake with the chopped hazelnuts.
  8. Bake for 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean.