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Episode 55: Next-Level Caramel Shortbreads

Very Good Millionaire’s Shortbread

This is my base recipe for you to make your own riffs or just follow to get a classic caramel shortbread with a gooey salted caramel, bittersweet chocolate topping and melt-in-the-mouth shortbread. Arguably, there’s no need to change this timeless classic! I used the hazelnut Millionaire’s Shortbread in Benjamina Ebuehi’s A Good Day to Bake, and James Morton’s recipe from How Baking Works, as my starting points.

Use bars of chocolate, or at least some chocolate from bars, in order to temper the chocolate using the seeding method.

To make gluten free, replace both the plain flours and cornflour with 150g gluten free flour blend (I used Doves Freee plain white flour).

Makes 12-16 squares

Shortbread layer

  • 120g plain/ AP flour
  • 30g cornflour/ cornstarch
  • 100g unsalted butter and a good pinch of salt
  • 50g icing sugar

Salted caramel layer

  • A 397g/ 140z can (sweetened) condensed milk
  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 1/4 tsp flaky salt such as Maldon
  • 100g light brown sugar

Dark milk chocolate layer

  • 150g milk chocolate (around 33% cocoa solids)
  • 50g dark chocolate (around 70% cocoa solids)
  • A few sea salt flakes to decorate (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F / 180C / 160C fan. Grease and line an 20cm x 20cm / 8×8 in pan.
  2. Make the shortbread: mix the flour, cornflour and salt. Rub in the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs (I use a pastry blender). Stir in the icing sugar. Pour the crumbs into the pan and press down to get an even spread of filling – I use the back of a dessert spoon and my knuckles to do this. Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden around the edges. Leave to cool in the tin, ideally for about an hour.
  3. Make the caramel: tip the condensed milk, butter, salt and brown sugar into a pan. Melt then bring to a soft boil, bubbling, stirring continuously, for about 8 minutes. It will thicken a bit, but not too much – it will thicken and harden while it cools as well. Crumble and stir in the salt. Pour the lot on the shortbread. Allow to cool.
  4. Once the caramel is cool, melt 3/4 of the chocolate in a bain marie or gently in the microwave. Chop the remaining chocolate into small pieces. Stir the melted chocolate to ensure it’s evenly melted, then stir in the chopped chocolate vigorously. This helps the melted chocolate to “copy” the molecular structure of the chopped chocolate, which was tempered. Crumble over a few sea salt flakes, if you want. Use a large sharp knife to cut, you could also heat the blade as well to get a cleaner cut. You could also chill the shortbread for a cleaner cut, but I think it tastes better at room temperature.

Thyme and Hazelnut Millionaire’s Shortbread

This is really lovely – just a slight, aromatic twist on the classic. I tried infusing the butter with thyme but it got way too strong, so happily this easier method was better!

You need to use already tempered chocolate, in nice bars, if you want to have tempered chocolate on the top! If only some of your chocolate is tempered, melt the un-tempered stuff and chop the tempered stuff.

Makes 12-16 squares

To make gluten free, replace both the plain flour and cornflour with a gluten free flour blend (I used Doves Freee plain white flour).

Thyme Shortbread

  • 120g plain/ AP flour
  • 30g cornflour/ cornstarch
  • 100g unsalted butter and a good pinch of salt
  • 50g icing sugar
  • A few sprigs of thyme, leaves chopped unless they are already very small. Mine measured 3g on the scale

Hazelnut Salted Caramel

  • A 397g/ 140z can (sweetened) condensed milk
  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 1/4 tsp flaky salt such as Maldon
  • 100g light brown sugar
  • 160g hazelnuts, plus a few more to decorate the top, if you like

Dark Milk Chocolate Layer

  • 150g milk chocolate (around 33% cocoa solids)
  • 50g dark chocolate (around 70% cocoa solids)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F / 180C / 160C fan. Grease and line an 20cm x 20cm / 8×8 in pan.
  2. Make the shortbread: mix the flour, cornflour and salt. Rub in the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs (I use a pastry blender). Stir in the icing sugar and most of thyme leaves. Pour the crumbs into the pan and press down to get an even spread of filling – I use the back of a dessert spoon and my knuckles to do this. Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden around the edges. Leave to cool in the tin, ideally for about an hour.
  3. Remove the shortbread out of the oven but leave the oven on. Roast the hazelnuts for 10 minutes. Remove and cool. Switch off the oven. Once the hazelnuts have cooled, roughly chop them.
  4. Make the caramel: tip the condensed milk, butter, salt and brown sugar into a pan. Melt then bring to a soft boil, bubbling, stirring continuously, for about 8 minutes. It will thicken a bit, but not too much – it will thicken and harden while it cools as well. Crumble and stir in the salt.
  5. Mix 160g of the hazelnuts into the caramel then pour the lot on the shortbread. Allow to cool.
  6. Once the caramel is cool, melt 3/4 of the chocolate in a bain marie or gently in the microwave. Chop the remaining chocolate into small pieces. Stir the melted chocolate to ensure it’s evenly melted, then stir in the chopped chocolate vigorously. This helps the melted chocolate to “copy” the molecular structure of the chopped chocolate, which was tempered. Sprinkle over the remaining hazelnuts and thyme leaves and leave to cool completely before slicing. Use a large sharp knife to cut, you could also heat the blade as well to get a cleaner cut. You could also chill the shortbread for a cleaner cut, but I think it tastes better at room temperature.

Sour Cherry and Pistachio Caramel Shortbread

Pistachio caramel is my new favourite thing and plumping up the sour cherries in hot water transforms them from hard bullets to an unctuous soft topping. If sour cherries are difficult to get hold of, you could try another dried fruit – but the sourness really works against the nuttiness, richness and sweetness of the rest of the bake. I found mahleb to taste quite a lot like cinnamon so it’s no stress if you can’t get hold of it. But if you can, it’s definitely worth trying.

Makes 12-16 squares

To make gluten free, replace the plain flour and cornflour with a gluten free flour blend. I used Doves Freee plain white flour.

Spiced brown sugar shortbread

  • 120g plain flour
  • 30g cornflour
  • 1 tsp ground mahleb/mahlepi OR a drop of almond extract and 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 100g unsalted butter and a good pinch of salt
  • 50g soft light brown sugar

Pistachio caramel

  • 200g pistachios
  • 397g/ 14oz can (sweetened) condensed milk
  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 1/4 tsp flaky salt, such as Maldon

Cherry topping

  • 100g dried sour cherries
  • Very hot water from a kettle
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F / 180C / 160C fan. Grease and line an 20cm x 20cm / 8×8 in pan.
  2. Make the shortbread: mix the flour, cornflour, salt and spices. Rub in the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs (I use a pastry blender). Crumble in the brown sugar with your hands to remove any lumps then stir it into the mixture. Pour the crumbs into the pan and press down to get an even spread of filling – I use the back of a dessert spoon and my knuckles to do this. Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden. Leave to cool in the tin, ideally for about an hour.
  3. Remove the shortbread out of the oven but leave the oven on. Roast the pistachios for 7 minutes. Remove and cool. Switch off the oven. Once the nuts have cooled, roughly chop them.
  4. Make the caramel: tip the condensed milk, butter, salt and brown sugar into a pan. Melt then bring to a soft boil, stirring continuously, for about 8 minutes. It will thicken a bit, but not too much – it will thicken and harden while it cools as well. Crumble and stir in the salt. Mix 180g of the pistachios into the caramel then pour the lot on the shortbread. Allow to cool.
  5. Pop the dried cherries into a bowl. Pour over enough just-boiled water to cover them. Leave to plump up until the water is cool. Pop into a sieve to drain the liquid off. Scatter the cherries on the caramel, followed by the remaining pistachios.

Middle Eastern Millionaire’s Shortbread

This recipe is truly delightful. Outrageously addictive. But I was unhappy with the ratio of halva to the other layers, so I have used a bigger pan and made a larger amount of the halva layer.

To make gluten free, replace the plain flour and cornflour with a gluten free flour blend. I used Doves Freee plain white flour.

Serves 16-20

Shortbread layer:

  • 250g plain/ AP flour
  • 35g cornflour/ cornstarch
  • 175g unsalted butter
  • 40g icing sugar
  • 40g caster sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract

Halva layer:

  • 300g halva, roughly crumbled into small pieces
  • 120g tahini

Tahini caramel layer:

  • 200g caster sugar
  • 120ml water
  • 100g unsalted butter, at room temperature, cubed
  • 80ml double cream
  • 150g tahini
  • ¼ tsp flaky sea salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F/ 180C/ 160C fan. Grease and line a 9×13 / 23x33cm tin.
  2. Make the shortbread: Tip the flours into a large bowl. Rub in the butter using your favourite method – I use a dough blender and twist until I get a breadcrumb-like texture. Stir in the sugars, salt, and vanilla. Pour into the tin and pat down. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside until completely cool, which takes about an hour.
  3. Mix together the tahini and halva. Spread over the shortbread.
  4. Heat the water and sugar in a small saucepan and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to a boil and cook for 12 minutes, stirring often. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter and cream, then the tahini and salt.
  5. Refrigerate for 4 hours to set before cutting up. Decorate with a little more flaked salt, if you like.

Episode 54: ‘Gluten Free Sourdough is Easier’?! with Mary Thompson

Listen to the latest episode on most podcast platforms!! Mary’s book, ‘Gluten Free Sourdough Baking’ is out now. You can find her on Instagram at ACoupleofCoeliacs.

In this episode I also recommend subscribing to the following newsletters:

  • Kitchen Projects, by Nicola Lamb
  • Hot Dish, by Sohla El-Waylly
  • Dorie Greenspan’s bulletin
  • Vittles

I ate at Little Georgia, Islington, N1 and talk about what I ate!

And I mention the new book Breadsong by Kitty and Al Tait.

You’ll have to listen in to find out what you SHOULDN’T eat when you come to London!!!

See you in two weeks, Kate ❤

Episode 53: Care Package Cookies

At the top of the episode I talk about a few things I’ve been listening to recently, and a few things I ate on holiday in Slovenia.

Whether you want to send biscuits to family or friends, or to raise money like I’ve been doing, these are three recipes I’ve found reliable and delicious!

My rather obvious tip is to use the smallest parcels you can so they don’t bounce around too much in transit. My more practically-minded partner showed me that just cutting straight down each corner with a pair of scissors can help create a shallower parcel. I’ve refined the sending process as well by using sealable compostable sandwich bags, which I can write on with Sharpie, and honeycomb paper, which is fully recyclable and doesn’t use a load of space to store as it goes quite a long way.

I’ve included my huge quantities so you don’t have to do the maths yourself if you want to send loads, but you may need to bring together the dough by hand towards the end of the mixing, unless you have a very large stand mixer!

The other biscuit I’ve been sending to people I’ve covered before. It’s an all-butter Black Cocoa Chocolate Sablé with Freeze-Dried Raspberries, from episode 50.

Olia Hercules’s Ukrainian ‘Berlin’ Curd Cheese Biscuits

Golden and beautiful

There’s a recipe here, which takes liberties in my view by using ‘minor’ adaptations of adding orange zest and vanilla, which I feel is totally unnecessary. The key flavour is the curd cheese, which is milky, light, slightly acidic and rich all at the same time. The only adaptations I’ve made are to make it slightly easier for my clumsy self to get an even coating of sugar. I even used an eastern European margarine, so as not to cloud the flavour of the cheese.

KEEPING QUALITIES: Obviously this is very important when sending biscuits in the post! Olia says they keep for a week, but I beg to differ. I reckon they keep well for a few days. After a few days they aren’t so good, so I’d recommend refreshing them in a moderate oven (350F/ 180C / 160C fan) for a few minutes. I send them first class so the recipient should get them the next day or, at the latest, the day after. Another trick you could try (though I admit I haven’t) is freezing them and sending them frozen so they thaw out en route).

To make around 18-20:

  • 80g margarine
  • 200g fresh acid-set curd cheese: syr, sir, twaróg, tvorog, quarg, farmer’s cheese. (Ricotta isn’t quite the same I’m afraid, it’s wetter and less acidic and most quark is a bit too acidic.)
  • 200g plain/ all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • 50g-75gish granulated sugar, or as much as you need for an even coating on three sides (all will be explained)
  • A small splash of milk or water, for brushing – say about a tablespoon

To make around 45-50:

  • 200g margarine
  • 500g fresh acid-set curd cheese (see above)
  • 500g plain/ all purpose flour
  • A couple of pinches of salt
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 150-200gish granulated sugar, or as much as you need for an even coating
  1. Mix the margarine and cheese together in a bowl. Add the flour, salt and baking powder and mix together.
  2. Knead the dough briefly, wrap or cover and chill for 30 minutes or up to a few hours. This is primarily to allow the flour to absorb the moisture evenly. It will also make them slightly easier to roll out. If you live in a hot climate this is particularly important to stop the margarine melting.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180C/ 350F / 160C fan. Line a large baking sheet/ cookie sheet.
  4. Flour the work surface well. Roll the dough thinly to about 1/8 inch / 2mm. Stamp out 4 inch/ 10cm circles. Offcuts can be re-rolled and stamped.
  5. Pour the sugar into a shallow plate. Put the milk or water into a small bowl and get a pastry brush at the ready. Brush a semi-circle of dough with the milk or water, then dip into the sugar, then fold the dipped side into the middle. Repeat with one side of the folded dough. Finally, brush one side of the dough (which is not in a quarter-fold) and dip again. Place, dipped side-up, on the baking tray. Pop them in the fridge for 20 minutes if your kitchen is warm.
  6. Space the biscuits out a little, they spread a bit but not loads. Bake for around 30-35 minutes until golden all over.

Soft Cocoa and Vanilla Abbracci

These abbracci are a hybrid in more than one way. It’s two doughs ‘hugging’ each other. But it’s also a take on my favourite shop-bought Mulino Bianco abbracci, but with a texture more like the delicate, melt-in-the-mouth Austrian/German vanillekipferl (vanilla crescents) thanks to the ground almonds and icing sugar. These aren’t really sweet and have a subtle texture and flavour, which I think is sometimes nicer than a massive hit of richness.

For the very large quantity, I’ve found I need to do a little bit of mixing by hand. Kelly the Kitchen Aid struggles to get it even.

KEEPING QUALITIES: These last fantastically well. They’re good for at least 10 days!

Makes about 30

  • 250g plain/ all purpose flour
  • A pinch of salt
  • 230g butter, softened
  • 90g icing/ confectioner’s sugar
  • 200g ground almonds/ almond flour
  • 2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1 tsp vanilla sugar (if you can get it – I particularly recommend Tosleffs)
  • 30g Dutch-processed cocoa (This is the norm in the UK. Natural would work, but would be a bit too light in flavour as we’re using a small amount)
  • 1 tbsp milk

Makes about 45-50

  • 375g plain/ all purpose flour
  • 2 pinches of salt
  • 345g butter, softened
  • 135g icing sugar
  • 300g ground almonds / almond flour
  • 3 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla sugar (I particularly recommend Torsleffs)
  • 45g Dutch-processed cocoa (This is the norm in the UK. Natural would work, but would be a bit too light in flavour as we’re using a small amount.)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp milk
  1. Cream together the butter and sugar until combined.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the cocoa and milk. Combine.
  3. Split the dough. Remove about 420g or 630g for the very large batch. Mix the cocoa and milk together, add to the remaining dough and combine.
  4. Refrigerate for an hour or up to several hours.
  5. Split dough into little balls, about 14-16g, keeping the two flavours separate. Roll into crescents. Now press together the ends of each crescent to join them.
  6. Chill again for at least ten minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180C / 350F / 160C fan.
  7. Bake for 14 minutes. They may not look ‘done’ but we are going for a soft texture here.

Ravneet Gill’s Vegan Chocolate Sablé with Freeze-Dried Raspberries

I trialled these with black cocoa, but without dairy butter to mellow it, they were too powerfully flavoured. They’re great with ordinary Dutch-processed cocoa. I wouldn’t go with natural cocoa here because they have quite a lot of baking soda/ bicarbonate of soda (this is to make them very short in texture). This would react with the acidity of natural cocoa and make them spread a lot.

KEEPING QUALITIES: They last for ages – at least a week in an airtight container or bag.

Makes around 12

  • 75g neutral oil (I use grapeseed/ ‘vegetable oil’ as we often call it here)
  • 1 tbsp/ 15g golden syrup (another thick syrup is good if you can’t get this – try barley malt extract or perhaps dark corn syrup)
  • 70g light brown sugar
  • 4g / scant tsp bicarbonate of soda/ baking soda
  • Small pinch sea salt flakes
  • 20g Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 110g plain / all purpose flour
  • 20g 70% cocoa content dark chocolate (check it’s vegan if necessary)
  • 12g freeze dried raspberries

Makes around 24

  • 150g neutral oil (I use grapeseed/ ‘vegetable oil’ as we often call it here)
  • 2 tbsp/ 30g golden syrup (another thick syrup is good if you can’t get this – try barley malt extract or perhaps dark corn syrup)
  • 140g light brown sugar
  • 8g / 2 scant tsps baking soda/ bicarbonate of soda
  • Large pinch sea salt flakes
  • 220g plain / all purpose flour
  • 40g 70% cocoa content dark chocolate (check it’s vegan if necessary)
  • 24g freeze dried raspberries
  1. Mix together the oil and golden syrup in a small bowl.
  2. Sift the brown sugar, flour and cocoa into a large bowl. (I’m not normally a sifter, but brown sugar and cocoa get clumpy and I’ve found it absolutely necessary here.) Crumble in the salt. Combine with a spoon or fork. Add the oil and golden syrup and mix together to combine. Finally, chop the chocolate really small, crumble in the freeze-dried raspberries and combine into the dough.
  3. Roll the dough the best you can into a cylinder shape, or two cylinders if you’re making a larger batch. It doesn’t behave that well but you’ll get there, don’t worry! Refrigerate for 4 hours. Freeze for 2 hours. (If you need to, you can take out of the freezer, slice then re-freeze and bake from frozen when you’re ready.)
  4. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/ 350F / 160C fan. Slice the biscuit dough into 5mm / 1/4 inch slices. It’ll be crumbly and hard to work with. Don’t panic, just press it back together where necessary – it’ll come together in the oven. Leave space between them. Bake for 15 minutes.

Episode 51: Loafly Loaf Cakes

Ravneet Gill’s Carrot Loaf Cake (Dairy Free)

Great rise and crumb: Carrot loaf cake

This recipe is in Rav’s first book, The Pastry Chef’s Guide, but she also published it on her Instagram a while ago.

  • 3 large eggs (I used 3 UK large but UK/EU medium or US/Aus large is actually what the original recipe calls for)
  • 150g dark brown sugar
  • 113g vegetable / grapeseed oil
  • 300g grated carrot (from about 4 medium carrots)
  • 225g plain wholemeal flour (sub in 75g dried shredded/ dessicated coconut, if you like)
  • 15g/ 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 15g raisins, if you want them (I didn’t), or a similarly sized dried fruit (chopped dates might be nice?)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F/ 180C / 160C fan / gas 4. Grease and line a 2lb/ 900g loaf tin.
  2. Whisk the egg and sugar until combined. Add the oil and combine.
  3. Stir in the carrot and raisins, if using.
  4. Fork together the flour, baking powder, salt and spices. (Sift if lumpy.) Stir in.
  5. Transfer to the loaf pan and bake for 45-50 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.

Malted Milk Loaf with Malt Cream

Malted Milk Loaf with Malt Cream

Very loosely based on the vanilla and bay loaf in Rukmini Iyer’s The Sweet Roasting Tin.

  • 50g milk
  • 50g malt drink e.g. Horlicks
  • 170g butter
  • 170g caster sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 3 UK medium/ US large eggs (170g)
  • 175g plain flour
  • 55g ground almonds
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt (less if your butter is salted)

For the malted cream: 50g malt drink powder (e.g. Horlicks), 300ml/ 10 fl oz double/heavy cream

  1. Preheat oven to 180C / 350F. Grease and line a 2lb / 900g loaf tin.
  2. Heat the milk in a small saucepan with the Horlicks until dissolved. Set aside.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar with the vanilla extract. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, combining well between each.
  4. Add the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and salt and combine well. Stir in the milk.
  5. Transfer the batter to the tin. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until it passes the skewer test.
  6. To make the malted cream, heat the cream and Horlicks together, stirring until the Horlicks has dissolved. Cool then refrigerate until totally cold. Whisk to soft peaks before serving the cake.

Benjamina Ebuehi’s Honey and Tahini Loaf

Seen here with black sesame seeds

Recipe in the Guardian. I think it is also in her new book, A Good Day to Bake.

I talk in more detail in the podcast, but if your loaf pan is a dark colour and/or a poorer conductor of heat such as glass or ceramic, I’d recommend baking at a slightly lower temperature. Also, pull it out early and check how it’s doing – I didn’t do this the first time I made it and it dried out a little from overbaking. For me, it needed 5 minutes less than the specified baking time. I also doubled the glaze!!!

Melissa Clark’s Marmalade Loaf Cake

Fabulous texture and flavour: marmalade loaf cake

Adapted, very barely, from here.

  • 220g thick cut, bitter Seville orange marmalade (I used Duerr’s)
  • 170g butter + 1 tbsp for glaze
  • 150g caster/ superfine sugar or granulated sugar
  • The zest of 1 lime
  • The zest of 1 orange
  • 2 tbsp orange juice
  • 2 eggs + 1 yolk – UK/EU large or US/Aus extra large. Alternatively, just use 3 US/Aus large or UK/EU medium
  • 190g plain flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder (7g)
  • 3/4 tsp salt, or less if your butter is salted
  • 30g icing sugar, for glaze
  1. Preheat oven to 180C/ 350F. Grease and line a 2lb/900g loaf pan, leaving overhang on the long edges so it can be more easily lifted out later. Coarsley chop any really big chunks of peel in the marmalade. This wasn’t necessary for me.
  2. Beat the butter, sugar (not the icing sugar) and zests together until fluffy and light. Add the eggs, one by one, beating to combine. Don’t worry hugely if it splits a bit, you could add a little of the flour to try to prevent this.
  3. Sift the flour and baking powder and mix with the salt. Add this to the cake mixture and combine.
  4. Add 110g of the marmalade and the orange juice.
  5. Transfer to the loaf tin. Bake for about 50-55 minutes until it passes the skewer test.
  6. Heat the remaining 110g marmalade with the icing sugar and the tablespoon of butter. Heat together until combined. The heat loosens up the marmalade to make it more of a pouring consistency.
  7. Pour and slather on top of the cake. I preferred to do this while the cake was still in the tin. I could lift the cake out using the parchment paper overhang.
  8. Leave to cool completely before eating.

Episode 50: Black Cocoa Bakes

Edd Kimber’s Chocolate Sablé Biscuits

Adapted, barely, from here. These are EXTREMELY well balanced. I liked them with just good quality white chocolate. Makes about 25 in my experience

  • 140g plain/ all purpose flour
  • 140g wholemeal rye flour
  • 40g black cocoa (or Dutch-processed)
  • 3/4 baking soda/ bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp flaky salt
  • 220g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 125g caster/ granulated sugar
  • 125g light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract/ bean paste
  • 200g white chocolate or caramelised white chocolate, chopped
  1. Sieve the flours, cocoa, bicarb into a bowl. Add salt and whisk together.
  2. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until smooth.
  3. Add the flour mixture and combine. Add the chopped chocolate. It will be difficult to bring together, but you’ll be rewarded in the shortness of the finished biscuit.
  4. Press and roll into two logs about 3 inches across as best you can.
  5. Refrigerate until very firm, 4 hours or more I found.
  6. Preheat oven to 160C convection/ 325F/ 140C fan. Cut chunky slices about 1/2 inch / 1.3 cm thick. Leave some space around for spread.
  7. Bake for 13 minutes. There aren’t any good visual cues, due to the colour and shortness of these biscuits, but just trust they will be done.

River Cottage Pear Cake

A perfect mid-afternoon cake

Adapted (very slightly) from here.

  • 4 pears (I like conference pears)
  • 185g butter: 150g for the cake and 35g butter for the pears
  • 2 tbsp soft light brown sugar
  • The zest of an orange (optional)
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 100g plain / all purpose flour
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 2 large eggs, c. 120-140g in their shells
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  1. Peel the pears, remove their stalks, cut them into quarters and remove the seeds. Roast pears in 35g butter, light brown sugar and orange zest, if using, at 180C / 350F / 160C fan for about 25-30 minutes until soft.
  2. Leave the oven on the same temperature. Grease with butter and line a 23cm / 9 inch springform cake pan.
  3. Sift then whisk together the ground almonds, flour, cocoa powder and baking powder.
  4. In a different bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Finally, mix in the milk to achieve a “dropping” consistency.
  5. Transfer the chocolate cake mixture to the cake tin. Top with the pears and top with roasting juices.
  6. Place the cake tin on a large baking tray (as an insurance policy in case of any leaking). Bake for about an hour – check at 50 minutes.

Chocolate Tahini Shortbread

I love the drama of the black cocoa biscuit and the white sesame seeds

These I adapted from a lemon and tahini biscuit in Ruby Tandoh’s Crumb. If you want to convert them back (I recommend trying both to be honest!!!!) then omit the cocoa and sesame seeds, use 240g AP/ plain flour and add the zest of 2 lemons into the butter mixture.

  • 120g butter
  • 120g tahini
  • 120g caster or granulated sugar
  • 205g plain / all purpose flour
  • 35g black or Dutch processed/alikinised cocoa
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • around 50g sesame seeds, for rolling
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/ 350F (160C fan). Line a baking tray or two with baking parchment.
  2. Cream the butter, tahini and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  3. Whisk together the flour, cocoa and baking powder.
  4. Add this to the wet mixture in two stages (this is partly for even mixing, but moreso to prevent your kitchen being covered in cocoa and flour!).
  5. Roll into balls of about 25g. Roll in the sesame seeds. Space out a little on the baking sheet(s) – they don’t spread much though. Bake for 12 minutes. Because of the size of my oven and baking sheets I do this in two stages.

Dorie Greenspan’s World Peace Cookies with Freeze Dried Raspberries

Simply phenomenal stuff…

Adapted (just a little) from here and here.

Makes around 20-24

  • 170g all purpose/ plain flour
  • 28g cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda/ bicarb
  • 155g butter, softened
  • 50g caster (superfine) or granulated sugar
  • 134g light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp flaky salt (less if your butter is salted)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or bean paste
  • 150g good milk chocolate (mine was 37% cocoa solids), chopped into smallish pieces
  • 15-20g freeze dried raspberries, chopped into small pieces
  1. Cream the butter, vanilla and sugar together.
  2. Sift the cocoa, baking soda and flour and mix gently.
  3. Add to the butter mixture and combine.
  4. Add the chopped chocolate and raspberries and combine.
  5. Shape into two or three logs, around 1.5 inches/ 3.8cm diameter.
  6. Refrigerate thoroughly – about 4 hours.
  7. Preheat the oven to 325F/ 170C (150C fan).
  8. Cut into 1/2 inch / 1.3cm thick rounds. If they fall apart a bit, press them back together and they’ll cohere together in the oven.
  9. Bake, spaced a little apart – they’ll spread a bit but not loads – for 12 minutes. They won’t look “done”, but trust the process.
  10. Cool and enjoy. They keep for about 3-4 days in an airtight container or ziploc bag.

Episode 49: Flavour-Full, Gluten-Free Cakes

Though I am able to eat gluten, many of my favourite, tried-and-true cakes are gluten free. This is because I love ground nuts and I love a moist crumb. In chocolate cakes and brownies you can very often get away without traditional flour, using ground nuts and/or eggs to replace the structure flour provides. In swiss rolls, using no flour or very little flour is essential to avoid cracks in the roll. Cakes also often keep better, if made with ground nuts – sometimes they’re better the next day and still good a few days after they’re made.

P.S. If you’d like, I can make another gluten free cake episode in the future, I’ve got plenty more ideas and good recipes to test and share! Perhaps with different flours or nuts. Email me if you’d like to see this – flourbuttereggssugar@gmail.com

Quick note: If using baking powder, make sure it’s gluten free (if needed), because not all of them are – but it should be fairly easy to find one.

Emiko Davies’ Torta Caprese

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Simple but utterly delicious.

I covered this in the Quest for the Perfect Chocolate Cake episode, but it is honestly a fantastic cake. Simple to make and delicious.

Crumbs & Doilies’ Chocolate Swiss Roll

Yule Log / Swiss Roll

I covered this recipe from Crumbs and Doilies ages ago. It was delicious, but were I make it again I would add another element: brandy cherries, a curd, a tart jam, maybe spicing. Sometimes simplicity is good, but sometimes it’s a bit boring. However, a fantastic base recipe. It also doesn’t have to be Christmassy – it could be filled or decorated differently.

Claudia Roden’s Whole Orange Cake

Whole orange cake on a summer picnic – it’s good year-round

I covered this in the whole orange cakes episode (of course we needed a whole episode on whole orange cakes!). The crumb is absolutely incredible and is actually better the day after it’s made. Don’t just take my word for it – lots of food writers have called this cake ‘legendary.’

Raspberry and Pistachio Meringue Cake

Ready for a mini wedding reception!
Ready for my partner’s birthday a couple of years back

I have made this for very special celebrations (including a friend’s micro lockdown wedding!) and it’s wonderful. I adapted it from a hazelnut macaron torte recipe from Deb Perelman, who adapted it from somewhere else. But I really love the combination of pistachios, raspberries and mascarpone cream. Grown-up but also people-pleasing.

Nigella’s Chocolate Olive Oil Cake

I made this one for a colleague’s birthday, but the photography/ styling is a bit naff. Definitely go to Nigella’s website for a tempting photo!!!

Nigella’s Chocolate Olive Oil Cake is wheat and dairy free, and all the better for it. The olive oil brings out different flavours in the chocolate than butter. The crumb is incredible. This is my go-to cake for people who can’t eat dairy. Stupendous.

Valeria Necchio’s Torta di Nocciole with Lemon Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Torta di Nocciola

This cake comes from Piedmont, where hazelnuts are abundant. Piedmont is well worth a visit if you ever plan a trip to Italy – especially in autumn when hazelnuts and truffles are in season. We stayed in Turin which we really enjoyed: not too touristy, church history and great food. But Alba is where the Slow Food festival is held.

Adapted barely, just to make it even easier and to include conversions, from here.

For the cake:
  • 3 UK/EU medium or US large eggs (c. 57g each), separated
  • 150g caster (superfine) / granulated sugar
  • 250g skinned, toasted hazelnuts (Note: If they aren’t pre-toasted, put them on a baking tray and go low and slow in the oven for 10-15 minutes. If they aren’t skinned, you can skin them after this by rubbing them together in a tea towel or shaking between two sieves. Don’t worry if you don’t get 100% of the skin off, it’s perfectly edible. Cool before using.)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 30g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • A pinch of cream of tartar (optional)
  • Icing sugar, to dust (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 170C / 150C fan/ 325F. Grease a 26cm / 10 inch tin with butter.
  2. Whisk egg whites to stiff peaks in a very clean bowl, with a pinch of cream of tartar for extra stability, if you wish. In a separate bowl (but you can use the same whisk if you do things this way round!), whisk the yolks with 75g of the sugar until pale yellow and airy.
  3. Blitz the hazelnuts with the remaining sugar to a fine flour – don’t go too far or you’ll have hazelnut butter. Add this, the baking powder and the salt to the egg yolks and combine. Stir in the melted butter. Gently fold in the whites.
  4. Bake for 35-40 minutes to moist crumbs.
To make the lemon swiss meringue buttercream:
  • 75g egg whites (c. 2 large)
  • 100g caster/ granulated sugar
  • 113g butter, softened but not too warm
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  1. Whisk (by hand is fine) the egg whites and sugar in a mixer bowl or large bowl over a pan of steaming water – you don’t want it too hot – until the sugar has dissolved. If you rub a little between your finger and thumb you shouldn’t feel any sugar granules.
  2. Whisk the egg whites and sugar to stiff peaks. A stand mixer is ideal here. It takes up to 8 minutes.
  3. Change the attachment to the beater, if using a stand mixer. Beat in the butter gradually, around a tablespoon at a time, until smooth and well-incorporated. Beat in the lemon zest.

Rukmini Iyer’s Tarta de Santiago

Tarta de Santiago (non-traditional decoration)

This Tarta de Santiago – or St James’s cake! – is so light and delicious. The subtle lemon and cinnamon flavours are fragrant and sophisticated as well as just delicious. Did I mention it’s easy to make? The recipe is via The Sweet Roasting Tin by Rukmini Iyer, but this cake is traditional in Galicia, Spain.

  • 250g caster/ superfine/ granulated sugar
  • 250g ground almonds
  • 200g eggs (which is about 4 US large or UK medium)
  • 1 lemon, zest only
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • A pinch of cream of tartar (this just helps stabilise the whisked egg mixture, but it isn’t essential nor is it in the original recipe)
  1. Grease and line a 23cm/ 9 in springform cake tin. Preheat the oven to 350F/ 180C / 160C fan/ gas 4.
  2. Whisk the eggs and sugar (and pinch of cream of tartar, if using) until the mixture reaches the ribbon stage (where when it falls on to the mixture from the whisk, it leaves a ribbon-like trail for a couple of seconds before sinking in).
  3. Fold in the dry ingredients.
  4. Bake for about 40 minutes until moist crumbs. I found I could just look at this one and tell it was done.

Episode 48: Ap-peeling Orange Recipes

Ottolenghi’s Star Anise, Fig and Orange Soda Bread

Recipe here.

Caramelised Orange Pudding with Vanilla and Maple Syrup

Adapted from OTK Shelf Love

  • 4 large oranges roughly (you’ll need 2 to slice and char, the zest of two and the juice of around 2, 110ml in total)
  • 285ml maple syrup (165ml for the pudding, 120ml for the syrup) (10 fl oz.)
  • 160g plain/ AP flour (5.6 oz)
  • 65 ground almonds / almond meal (2.3 oz)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt (less if using salted butter)
  • 345g butter (225g for the pudding, 120g for the syrup) (12.2 oz, around 3 sticks)
  • 3 eggs plus one yolk (I used UK medium-large, around 60g/2.1oz each without shells)
  • 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste
  • 225g light brown soft sugar (7.9 oz)
  • To serve: barely sweetened, vanilla-flavoured whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, or just plain double / heavy cream (whichever you choose, you don’t want it too sweet as the pudding is sweet enough)
  1. Preheat the oven to 160C / 325F. Line a 30x20cm / 8 x 12 in baking tin (not loose-bottomed) with parchment with some overhang. The type of tin is important: a light-coloured metal tin is ideal. I used white enamel. If using glass or ceramic, you may need to reduce the oven temperature or use a water bath.
  2. Thinly slice 2 oranges. Char them in a hot non-stick pan for 1-2 minutes per side. My pan did not like this, but I’d recommend wiping round the pan with a little flavourless oil to help it along if the non-stick isn’t very non-stick anymore.
  3. Pour 120ml maple syrup into base of tin. Top with the charred orange slices.
  4. To make the pudding, beat the butter, salt and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time and then the egg yolk. Add baking powder, flour, salt, almonds and combine. Finally, add the zest of 2 oranges, the juice of about 1 (60ml), 2 tbsp maple syrup and the tbsp vanilla paste and combine.
  5. Dollop on top of the oranges, taking care not to dislodge them. Smooth roughly.
  6. Bake for about 55 mins – 1 hour to moist crumbs. It shouldn’t be too cakey, as it’s a pudding with a large amount of fat and sugar in it and puddings are meant to be squidgy.
  7. Towards the end of the baking time, make the syrup. Heat up 120g butter, 120ml maple syrup and the 50-60ml orange juice (around 1 orange). Boil for about a minute, taking care not to burn.
  8. Once the pudding is out of the oven, stab all over with a skewer and pour the sauce over it evenly. Serve immediately, or re-heat to serve as leftovers. Keep in the fridge.

Melissa Clark’s Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake

Blood orange olive oil cake

Adapted from here. Phenomenally moist and strongly orangey, this is a cake I will be making again!

  • 3 blood oranges
  • 200g sugar (7oz)
  • 3 US large eggs (UK medium-large)
  • 210g plain/ all purpose flour + 1 tbsp
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda / bicarb
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 133g pure olive oil (I used light)
  • Around 93g full-fat Greek yogurt (3.3oz)
  1. Preheat oven to 350F / 180C (convection). Grease and line a 2lb/900g loaf pan.
  2. Zest all 3 of the oranges. Mix with the sugar in a small bowl, using a fork or your fingers.
  3. Peel and segment two of the oranges and cut the segments in half by width. Toss the pieces in a tablespoon of flour to help stop them sinking.
  4. Squeeze the remaining orange and then add yogurt so that orange juice plus yogurt weighs 158g. I found my orange released 65 juice so I added 93g yogurt.
  5. Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl.
  6. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the sugar, eggs, yogurt mixture, olive oil until well combined.
  7. Add the dry ingredients (flour mixture) and combine well, scraping down the sides and bottom.
  8. Transfer to the loaf pan.
  9. Bake for around 50-55 minutes. (Mine took 50.) A skewer should come out clean from the middle.

Episode 47: Cheesemaking and Chocolate-Lemon Cheesecakes

In this episode, I talked about cheesemaking and cheesecake’s possibilities and combinations.

Cheat’s Cheesecake

On my cheesemaking course, we made cream cheese and stirred in fillings. We were given one to try as an example: cream cheese mixed with lemon curd, that they smeared on a digestive biscuit (I imagine a Graham cracker would work just as well). Delicious! If you’re stuck for a dessert and have no time to make one, or you just want a little after-dinner bite, I highly recommend it.

Cupcake Cheesecakes

I came across these blueberry lemon cheesecakes on Delish and was inspited to make my own, showcasing the flavours of sharp lemon curd cream and the black cocoa taste of Oreos together. However you could do this with any soft cookie you like and any preserve or curd.

Chocolate and Lemon Mascarpone Cheesecake

Adapted from Rukmini Iyer’s Sweet Roasting Tin.

I love Rukmini but found the proportions a little off, with a huge, dense layer of chocolate to a very modest layer of lemon. So I’ve given my own version below. I also think it would work well as a cream pie, with just a chocolate ganache instead of a cream cheese mixture – and would be lighter. If you’d like to do that, a whippable chocolate ganache is usually 2:1 cream to chocolate by weight. Also, if it makes things easier, do use all cream cheese or all mascarpone instead of needing to buy both cheeses.

  • 150g (5.2oz) chocolate digestive biscuits, or similar (Graham crackers would work well)
  • 60g (2.1oz) melted butter
  • 125g (4.4oz) cream cheese, spreadable consistency
  • 125g (4.4oz) mascarpone
  • 150g (5.2oz) dark chocolate
  • 1tbsp / around 15g syrup (the original recipe calls for honey, but golden syrup, corn syrup or even maple syrup would work)
  • 225g (8oz) good shop-bought lemon curd
  1. Crush the biscuits and stir in the butter. (The easiest way to do this is in a food processor, but failing that you can go for the bashing-with-a-rolling-pin method.)
  2. Press into a 20cm/ 8in springform cake tin with the back of a spoon. Put in the fridge to set.
  3. Melt the chocolate and leave to cool a little so it’s not hot. Whisk the cream cheese and mascarpone together until smooth. Add the chocolate gradually, then the syrup, and whisk in until smooth.
  4. Spread the lemon curd over the biscuit base. Then dollop the chocolate mixture on top and smooth. Put in the fridge to set for several hours, or overnight.

Episode 46: Brilliant Brioche and Terrific Tangzhong

In this episode I talked about my baking resolutions for 2022 and how I’m planning my baking year! I then talked about these two recipes….

Tangzhong: Believe the hype

So, um, it’s 2022 and I’m only just saying this. BUT… King Arthur Flour’s pillow soft cinnamon rolls, which were their recipe of the year for 2021, are excellent. Tangzhong is a brilliant method and I now use it regularly. https://www.kingarthurbaking.com/recipes/soft-cinnamon-rolls-recipe I look foward to trying their recipe of 2022, bagels, this time I’ll try to report back before the year ends!

Brioche: A weekend recipe. Effort, but fun

Brioche in all its fluffy, buttery glory

I found this recipe in Niki Segnit’s brilliant book Lateral Cooking.

  • 500g strong white flour
  • 50ml milk (or water), slightly warm to the touch but not hot (I must admit I don’t use a thermometer when I make bread, but I am informed that this is around 37C or 98F.)
  • 250g butter, softened
  • 7g salt
  • 30-60g sugar
  • 12g instant/ easybake yeast (you could instead use 15g dried yeast, if you wake it up in the tepid milk)
  • 5 eggs (mine were c. 60g each) at room temperature, beaten, plus 1 egg yolk for egg-washing

Mix. Mix together the flour, salt and sugar. Add the yeast and mix in. Add the milk and eggs and mix to form a dough. (I like to use my Danish dough whisk but you could use a kneading attachment or even a fork.) At this point I leave for somewhere between 10 minutes and half an hour to give the gluten a head-start before I knead, but you can start kneading straight away.

Knead. Knead until it is smooth and elastic. Niki says that doing this process by hand is ‘both an experience and an ordeal’. Given I’m lucky enough to have a stand mixer, I went with that. To your kneaded dough, start adding the butter, bit by bit, stopping sometimes to scrape the sides and bottom. Once you have fully and evenly incorporated the butter, cover the bowl and leave to rise for 1-2 hours (or maybe a bit more) in a warm place until significantly puffy or doubled in size. (Or, as I did, you can instead give it a slow rise in the fridge overnight – mine took around 12 hours.) Niki says you need to be patient with brioche dough, due to its fat content the rises take longer than a conventional loaf.

Shape and rise again. I went for 9 buns that weighed roughly 120g of dough each, but you could instead make other shapes, or 2 loaves. Then leave to rise overnight, for 12-16 hours, or possibly even longer, followed by a warm rise of a few hours. Or, you can do as I did, and just leave it in the fridge for ages – mine took 24 hours. You’re looking for a fingertip to make an impression for a few seconds instead of springing back immediately.

Egg-wash and bake. For a brown top you need egg yolk, for a shiny top ideally thin it out with a little egg white, but failing that water or milk does just fine. I also sprinkled the top with demerara sugar. I put my buns in a 23cm/9in square tin, which was really rather small, and they didn’t stay as one bun but merged into one slightly delightful lumpy mass. It took rather longer than the recipe stated, too: Niki told me 190C / 375F for 20-25 minutes. Her oven may well be more efficient than mine, but mine took 35 minutes. You’re looking for it to sound hollow when tapped, and to reach an internal temperature of 190F / 87C.

Sweet Doughs: More Directions

In the episode I talk about the many variations, specialities and combinations you could try out with sweet bread.