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.

Episode 45: Loving Lebkuchen

Lebkuchen Spice Mix

Very lightly adapted from Luisa Weiss’s Classic German Baking

  • 30g ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tbsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground mace
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 tsp ground aniseed (I bashed some star anise then blended it with the other spices using a machine)
  • 1/8 tsp white pepper

Aged Lebkuchen

Aged lebkuchen
From Shauna Sever’s Midwest Made. On website A Beautiful Plate.
The only important thing I changed was using 2 tbsp lebkuchen spice mix instead of the called-for spices.

Elisenlebkuchen Feine

Elisenlebkuchen from Nuremburg
Recipe from Axel Müller, Schwabach (near Nuremburg) via my friend Anja!

Makes 30-35, approx 70mm (2.75in) diameter; more if you make them 50mm (2in) diameterm as I did. Store in an airtight container.

Ingredients

  • 270g eggs
  • 250g demerara sugar
  • 50 g granulated sugar
  • 300g ground almonds
  • 300g ground hazelnuts
  • 100g candied lemon peel, finely chopped
  • 100g candied orange peel, finely chopped
  • 15g lebkuchen spices
  • 2 tbsp rum, if liked (I used Cointreau)
  • Oblaten wafers or rice paper cut into rounds

Toppings

Sugar glaze: 150 g powdered/ icing sugar, 1 egg white, 1 splash of lemon. Mix everything and pour/ brush on.

Chocolate: 250 g Kuvertüre high quality chocolate, melted. Dip them into the chocolate. (Kate: I used a mix of dark and milk.)

For both, about 100g whole almonds, to top (if wanted)

Instructions:

  1. Finely grind the orange and lemon peel with some of the nuts in a food processor. 
  2. Beat the eggs with the sugar until frothy. Add the remaining ingredients in order.
  3. Let the dough mature in the fridge overnight.
  4. Use a teaspoon to put the dough on small wafers and smooth it out a little. Bake at 170-175 C / 340F convection oven for about 20 minutes.
  5. After cooling, brush with whole milk then dark chocolate or sugar glaze. (Kate: I skipped the milk by accident.)

Episode 44: German and Austrian Christmas Biscuits

Linzer Augen

Linzer augen, or ‘eyes from Linz’ (a city in Austria)

I used this recipe from Nigella, though I changed the proportions of flour and hazelnuts to 200g of each. This made it very sticky to roll out, so I’m not sure I’d recommend it, but it was delicious and they probably keep better. I couldn’t get hold of redcurrant jelly so I just used raspberry jam, but I think the redcurrant would help both balance the sweetness and fat with more acidity, and also provide a brighter colour. In future I might try finding a more tart jam. It’s not traditional but a curd would also be lovely.

Pfeffernusse

Adapted from London Eats.

Pfeffernusser, or ‘pepper nuts’
  • 150g all-purpose/ plain flour
  • 150g ground almonds
  • 150g runny honey
  • 100g sugar (depending on the flavour of your honey you may want to use light brown sugar or caster/granulated)
  • 1 tsp cold water
  • 60g egg (1 UK large / US extra large)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda / bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Icing sugar and water (I’m afraid I didn’t really measure this)
  1. Preheat oven to 375F / 190C.
  2. Put the honey and sugar in a pan and put on a low heat. Heat up, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Stir in the spices and salt. Add the tsp cold water. Transfer to a bowl.
  3. Allow to cool to warm. Add the egg and combine. Add the flour, ground almonds and baking powder, baking soda and combine.
  4. Roll into walnut-sized balls. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Allow to cool completely
  5. When cooled, make a paste of icing sugar and water. Dip the cookies in this paste. Alternatively, some recipes suggest rolling them icing sugar – do as you wish! They do need the extra burst of sugar as their interior isn’t overly sweet.

Vanillakipferl

I’ve essentially just halved this recipe from Plated Cravings for my two-person household. I also very slightly changed the method. Though, they keep well and it’s very easy to eat a lot of these, so you may want to stick to the original quantities!

Makes 20

For the dough:

  • 125g all purpose / plain flour
  • pinch of salt (a large pinch if your butter is unsalted?)
  • 115g butter, softened
  • 45g powdered / icing sugar
  • 100g ground almonds (you could sub in hazelnuts or pecans)
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste or scraped seeds of 1/2 vanilla bean

For the vanilla sugar:

  • 45g powdered/ icing sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp vanilla sugar (I like the fine one from Danish brand Torsleffs, because you need to be able to sift it. If yours has bigger grains of sugar, you could process it with the powdered sugar in a food processor to make it fine. You can also make your own by mixing vanilla seeds with sugar and leaving for a couple of days.)
  1. Combine all. I opted to cream the butter and sugar, then add the vanilla, then the flour and ground almonds.
  2. Chill well for an hour or more. Towards the end of this time, preheat the oven to 180C/ 350F (convection).
  3. Split into twenty pieces of c.19g each.
  4. Roll into small crescents. Refrigerate again for 10 minutes. (I tried not doing this and they came out more flat.)
  5. Bake for 12-15 minutes until the edges are turning golden. They are meant to be soft. 12 was plenty for mine.
  6. While still warm, sift over half the vanilla sugar mixture. When cool, sift over the rest.

Hausfreunde

Recipe converted to metric and slightly adapted from Food and Wine.

Makes 24

  • 240g flour
  • 50g sugar – I used caster but granulated equally good
  • 170g butter, softened
  • 1 large egg (mine weighed 60g)
  • 1/4 tsp salt (less if using salted butter)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 150g marzipan
  • 140g dark chocolate
  • 24 walnut halves, toasted in a low oven for 10 minutes
  • 2 tablespoons apricot jam
  • A handful of powdered sugar
  1. Cream butter and sugar to combine. Add egg, vanilla, salt and flour and beat to combine. Wrap and refrigerate for an hour or more.
  2. Preheat oven to 350F / 180C (convection). Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/4 in or 1/2 cm thick. Cut out cookies using a 2 – 2.25 inch / 5cm cutter. Space out on a lined baking tray with about an inch between them. Bake for 10 minutes. (I have no idea why the original recipe specifies 20 – it’s way too long for cookies this size.) Cool completely before assembling.
  3. To assemble, roll out marzipan on a surface dusted with powdered sugar and cut out 2in / 5cm rounds. Warm the apricot jam. Brush on both undersides of the biscuit with the jam, sandwich the two halves with a circle of marzipan. Melt the dark chocolate and dip the biscuits, or pour the chocolate over if you prefer. Top with a walnut and brush with more apricot jam or dust with powdered sugar.

Episode 42: Delectable Chocolate Chip Cookies

I don’t believe THE perfect chocolate chip cookie exists – unless you can get magical ones that change according to your mood and particular tastes. Instead, there are different chocolate chip cookies for different moods and preferences. I’m not fussy and will scarf down any and all of these wonderful CCCs happily, but consider these possible options.

Salted Peanut XL Cookies

Huge salted peanut chocolate chip cookie

Why it works: The water, raising agent and high quantities of chocolate and butter help these spread into massive, crispy cookies. You also bake them lower which aids the spread. These are an adaptation of Sarah Kieffer’s Pan-Banging Cookies. You don’t quite get the look of the original recipe but they are lower effort. While you need the sugar content to get the right texture, I like to add salted peanuts to help balance the sweetness.

Be aware of: In the UK we have smaller standard-size ovens, and on my large-ish baking trays I can only fit three cookies due to the spread! So be prepared to be patient as you may need to do a few rounds of baking and cooling.

Makes 13 huge cookies

  • 285g plain / all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda/ bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 heaped tsp flaky sea salt, crumbled, or 3/4 tsp fine salt
  • 225g room-temperature/ soft butter (I use European-style, high fat)
  • 200g light brown sugar
  • 150g regular sugar (I use golden caster sugar, but granulated would be absolutely fine)
  • 1 large egg (50-60g)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp cold water
  • 100g dark chocolate (mine is 71% cocoa solids), chopped
  • 100g milk chocolate (mine is 35% cocoa solids), chopped
  • 200g salted peanuts
  1. Whisk the butter and sugar together. Since you aren’t looking for a tall cooking, you don’t really need to cream for ages.
  2. Add the egg and vanilla extract and whisk in.
  3. Add the flour, baking soda/ bicarb, salt and flour and combine.
  4. Add the chocolate and peanuts and combine.
  5. Throw in the fridge for half an hour or so, or until you’re ready to bake.
  6. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 350F / 180C / 160 fan/ gas 4.
  7. Measure 100g of dough, shape into a rough ball and plop on a lined baking tray, very well spaced apart. As it says above you may need to do a few rounds of baking and cooling as they are so huge. Bake for 12 minutes until they look relatively well set. When under-baked, they’re still delicious but don’t hold their shape.

Brown Butter, Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Cookies

LOOK AT THE COLOUR. LOOK AT THE CRISPY AND GOOEY BITS

These are absolutely incredible. Deeply flavoured, caramel-y, gooey, chewy, crispy. These are now my favourite chocolate chip cookies. Adapted from Food and Wine.

  • 250g butter before browning – around 205g after browning
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda/ baking soda
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 300g flour
  • 250g dark brown sugar
  • 50g caster/ granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs (c. 120g)
  • 1 tsp flaky salt, or 1/2 tsp fine salt
  • 250g chocolate – I used 125g 70% cocoa solids dark chocolate and 125g 40% cocoa solids milk chocolate
  1. Brown the butter: Melt the butter in a saucepan, and leave to cook, stirring occasionally, until foamy, smelling nutty and starting to brown. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer. Leave to cool to barely warm (around 15 minutes in my experience).
  2. Beat the butter with the sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla. and combine
  3. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda/ bicarb, salt and chocolate and combine.
  4. Roll into balls of around 76-77 g each. You should have about 15. Cover with cling film or something else to stop them going dry. Refrigerate for 1 hour or more. You can also freeze these before baking.
  5. Bake for 12 minutes at 375F / 190C / 170C fan / gas 5. If frozen, they will take about 2 minutes longer for a gooey cookie. For a texture like baking from the fridge, reduce the temperature and increase the time – I found 15 minutes at about 360F / 185C / 175C fan was just right.

The Soft, Sophisticated One (also Vegan): Olive Oil Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Vegan olive oil cookies- these ones I added chopped hazelnuts to

Why it works: Refrigeration allows the flour to hydrate properly, giving a more even consistency, as well as firming them up. Minimal baking at a pretty low oven temperature ensures softness. Also, unless they’re really under-baked (in which case they lose structural integrity), I found they lasted a good 3-4 days after baking without getting stale, which must be thanks to the olive oil. Oh, and this might be weird but I also quite like eating them straight out of the freezer. (I do the same with Hobnobs, a salty chocolate biscuit we have here.)

Adapted, barely, from Rukmini Iyer’s The Sweet Roasting Tin. (I am, in my view anyway, Rukmini’s biggest fan.)

Fancy a twist? Add about a couple of sprigs of rosemary, leaves stripped and chopped finely. Or 10 sage leaves, chopped. (You may want to set a few leaves aside of either for decoration.)

  • 325g all purpose / plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp sea salt flakes (I used Maldon)
  • 150g chopped chocolate – dark is good, so is a mix of dark and milk. (On one occasion I used a hazelnut vegan chocolate a bit like a non-vegan milk chocolate.)
  • 170g soft light brown sugar
  • 125g light olive oil
  • 85g water
  • 100g nuts (optional) – hazelnuts or pecans are both great and could be pre-roasted, chopped, whole or roughly broken
  1. Mix the flour, baking powder, 1 tsp crumbled sea salt flakes and chocolate
  2. Whisk the sugar, oil and water. This is easier to do with an electric whisk.
  3. Add the wet mixture to the dry and combine. Refrigerate for about two hours.
  4. Towards the end of this time, preheat the oven to 350F / 175C / 155C fan / gas 3.
  5. Roll out the cookies with your hands into golf ball-sized balls. Space apart a bit. Bake for 12 minutes. It’s okay if they look soft and light-ish in colour.
  6. Allow to cool on the baking tray.

Episode 40: Here Today, Scone Tomorrow

Classic Scones, Cheese Scones, Fruited Scones

Classic scones are basically a 4:1 or 3:1 ratio of flour to butter (by weight), with baking powder (or soda), a little sugar and enough milk added to make a dough. They’re a crumbly, flaky quick bread – achieved through not using as much liquid as a bread and using the rubbing in method with the fat. Some use egg to wash the tops before baking, others just use milk. Some use buttermilk instead of milk, or add a squeeze of lemon juice to sour normal milk before using.

Rolling and stamping out does seem to help them keep their shape when baking, but if you prefer a more rustic scone by all means just pat it into a circle and divide using a knife or dough cutter.

I’ve gone with a smaller quantity of scones than most recipes, due to the fact that they really need to be eaten fresh (though they do freeze well). Feel free to scale up if you’re baking for a crowd.

Also – you can consider adding spices such as vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger. I think ginger scones with ground ginger and stem ginger would be a knock-out.

Hear me out, but you could leave out/reduce the sugar for a cheese scone but still have dried fruit in it. We serve dried fruit cakes and breads with cheese all the time in England and it’s completely delicious.

P.S. To me, chocolate does not belong in scones, but I can’t articulate why. It’s just not a thing. I love them both separately but never the twain should meet. But I could be missing out?!

Basic Scone Recipe

Makes 4-8 depending on how big you make them.

  • 150g plain/ AP flour
  • 50g butter
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 heaped tsp/ 6g baking powder
  • c. 25g sugar (you may want to reduce if making cheese scones, but many recipes don’t)
  • c. 75ml milk (whole preferred but whatever you have on hand – scones are not fine pastry they’re homely and rustic)
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten with milk, to glaze, or a little extra milk (you could sprinkle the scones with a little sugar before baking if you like – coarse for a crunchy top e.g. demerara or turbinado)

Additions

  • 50g sultanas, currants or raisins (for fruited scones)
  • 45g grated cheddar (for cheese scones)

Serving essentials

  • Clotted cream and jam, to serve (if making sweet scones)
  • Butter if making cheese scones – you could also consider serving them with more cheese and a little chutney.
  1. Preheat the oven to 190C/ 375F/ 170Cfan/ gas 5.
  2. Mix the flour, salt and baking powder.
  3. Rub the flour into the butter using your preferred method – fingertips, pastry cutter, food processor, whatever.
  4. Stir in the sugar.
  5. Add the milk to form a dough. Use your judgement here – if it’s looking too dry, add more, a drop at a time, or if it’s looking wet enough, do stop before 75ml/g.
  6. Pat out to a few inches’ thickness (thicker or thinner depending on how you’d like your scones). Stamp out shapes as you like.
  7. Bake straight away for around 15 minutes. Best eaten on the day they’re made, even better slightly warm – but not too warm to melt the clotted cream…

Dawn Perry’s Sour Cream and Fruit Scones

Adapted from here.

I’ve been meaning to try a scone with real berries in it since I saw some raspberry scones my Aunt had been served up at a tea room in Devon. This is the second recipe I tried, and was more successful. I think the key is using frozen berries so they don’t add too much moisture before baking.

I’ve converted everything to metric and halved the sugar – we Brits prefer a less sweet scone because we tend to serve them with really good cream (and usually jam, but I prefer this berry scone with just cream).

Any British purists reading – a lot of historic scone recipes call for buttermilk, so sour cream is really not a bad idea.

Makes 8 large scones

  • 255g plain/ all purpose flour
  • 50g sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder (yes, a full tablespoon)
  • A pinch of salt
  • 115g butter (I use salted)
  • 130g frozen berries (I used a mix of blackberries and blueberries; they really MUST be frozen and strawberries will not work well – stick to blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, cherries or similar)
  • 135g sour cream (full-fat)
  • 60g milk (whole preferably, but I used semi-skimmed/ 2% as it’s what I had)
  • 1 egg yolk and about 2 tsp more milk, for brushing
  • To serve: ideally clotted cream – if you can’t get hold of it, the highest fat cream you can find, lightly whipped
  1. Preheat the oven to 190C/ 375F / 190C fan / gas 5.
  2. Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. Rub in the butter and flour using your preferred method. The original recipe suggests using grated butter, I just loosely rubbed the butter into the flour using my pastry cutter.
  4. Make a well in the centre, add the sour cream and most of the milk. You might want to hold a little back in case you don’t need it all. Bring together into a ball. Add the rest of/ a little more milk if needed but very gradually and carefully – it will quickly turn into a sticky mess.
  5. Working quickly so they don’t defrost, mix in the berries.
  6. Pat out into a circle or square. Divide into 8. Bake for about 25 minutes, checking at 15 and 20 to see how much longer it may need. If it’s catching (this is probably the sugar from the berries), turn down the oven a fraction.

More Scone Ideas….

I could do several episodes just on scones, but I do enjoy other things occasionally! Instead, if you’d like to try different recipes from those given, you may wish to purchase The National Trust’s Book of Scones by scone-obsessive Sarah Merker. Or have a look at the scone section on their website. If you’re baking for vegans or dairy free people, look at the vegan scone recipe here – which includes a method for a vegan clotted cream replacement.

Episode 38: The Whole Orange (Cake)

In this week’s episode, Kate talked about her recent fixation with whole orange cakes.

Starting with this one from John Torode, which didn’t turn out quite how she wanted… (also, I forgot to take a picture – sorry!)

Then on to the Best Whole Orange Cake recipe from Sunset Magazine, adapted by the team at Food 52.

Then, finally, on to this Claudia Roden classic ground almond and orange cake. I recommend having a slightly lower oven temperature (180C/ 350F / 160C fan) – I think this is the perfect amount of brownness on the outside for me!

Episode 37: Escape to Barra

In this episode Kate talks about her and Gemma’s visit to Barra (Gaelic spelling Bharraigh) in the Outer Hebrides. Here are some of the things they saw and ate!

Victoria Sponge Cake from the Cafe at Vatersay
One of the beaches at Vatersay
The view from our table at the Hebridean Toffee Company!
Scone from Macroon’s Tea Room, Castlebay Post Office, Barra
Kate eating her scone
Part of one of our packed lunches while out walking and swimming – made with Strathdon Blue cheese from the Highland Cheese Company.
Bread made by Kate.
Kate and a view on Barra
A curious sheep (I think – could be a ram?!) looks at Gemma
Sunset in Oban
A small loch on Barra

Episode 36: The Quest for Perfect Chocolate Cake

There are still so many recipes I want to try, but these are all a good place to start!

Ultimate Chocolate Cake from Tarunima Sinha

This is a pretty damn good chocolate cake. Very slightly adapted from Tarunima Sinha, via Ravneet Gill’s Pastry Chef’s Guide. I’ve tried making it as a layer cake which also works – just do 2 – 3 tins and decrease the baking time to about 20-25 minutes. You can 100% do this without a stand mixer, but just be aware that the sugar likes to be really clumpy so you may need to give it a sieve or get in there with your hands to break it up.

  • 100g milk chocolate (mine was about 35% cocoa)
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 200g butter (I used salted)
  • A pinch of salt (make it a large one if your butter is unsalted)
  • 160g plain flour
  • 200g dark brown soft sugar
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 60g cocoa powder
  • 180g eggs (3 UK large)
  • 100g sour cream, buttermilk or even Greek yogurt
  • 125ml cooled coffee (I opted for home made cold brew)

Ganache

  • 300ml/ 290g double cream
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 200g chocolate – I like a mix of dark and milk here, or a dark chocolate that’s around 50% cocoa. (I found my 72% cocoa one a bit too strong on its own)

Cake Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F / 160 fan / gas 4. Grease an 8 in/ 20cm cake tin with butter and line with baking paper.
  2. Melt the chocolates and butter together in a bain marie/ double boiler or cautiously in the microwave (stopping every 10-30 seconds to stir and check).
  3. Pop the flour, sugars, baking powder, bicarb and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer.
  4. Beat them on their own to break up any large lumps.
  5. Add the chocolate mixture and beat until combined.
  6. Add the coffee, sour cream and eggs and beat until combined.
  7. Pour into the cake tin and bake for about 45 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean-ish.

Torta Caprese

This is for when you want a cake that needs no icing or decoration (other than maybe a drizzle of cream) – just a simple, very chocolatey, moist and fudgy, delicious cake. Adapted from Emiko on Food 52. Emiko says you can scale up or down this cake very easily, which is right. Just adjust the number of eggs then the rest of the ingredients accordingly. For example, 3 eggs would need 125g of the other ingredients, 4 would need 167g and 5 would need 208g. Just be aware that if the cake is large you may need to bake it for longer, or if a smaller cake you could increase the temperature very slightly and bake more quickly. This cake also happens to be gluten free.

  • 208g ground almonds
  • 208g dark chocolate
  • 208g butter
  • 208g sugar (I used caster/superfine but granulated would be fine)
  • 5 eggs
  1. Preheat the oven to 160C / 320F / 140C fan / gas 3. Grease and line a cake tin – mine was 20cm/ 8in and springform.
  2. Melt the chocolate and butter gently in the microwave or on a double boiler/ bain marie set up.
  3. Whisk the eggs and sugar really well, ideally using a stand mixer so you don’t get sore arms, until tripled in volume.
  4. Fold in the chocolate mixture and the ground almonds into the egg mixture, gently.
  5. Transfer to the tin. Place the tin on a baking tray in case any fat leaks out. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until mostly set but still a little fudgy in the middle.

Benjamina Ebuelhi’s Hot Chocolate Halva Pudding/ Self-Saucing Dessert

This is arguably not a cake but what we Brits call a “pudding”, ie a squidgy, possibly slightly stodgy, delight. The amount of sugar in this is outrageous but it actually was surprisingly well balanced thanks to the sesame and cocoa flavours. Perfect for a special occasion or treat. I do have Benjamina’s fab book The New Way to Cake. but happily this is also featured as a genius recipe on Food 52. I haven’t written it out here as I didn’t adapt or change in any way (other than using brewed coffee not espresso powder). It’s perfect. Use good chocolate if you can, it will make all the difference. Also a good cocoa. Mine is Dutch processed Green and Black’s.

Episode 34: Sweet on Strawberries: Sorbet, Gelato and More…

Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries

When making my beloved chocolate-dipped frozen bananas, I had some leftover chocolate. Not knowing what to do with it, I saw some strawberries in the freezer. I was surprised by how good this was. I liked the balance of using a pretty dark chocolate or a mix of dark and milk.

The River Cafe’s Genius Strawberry Sorbet

I’ve halved this recipe because my food processor and ice cream maker could not cope with the original amount. Otherwise it’s amazing.

  • 1 to 1 1/2 lemons, depending on taste
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 500g strawberries before hulling / 450g after hulling
  1. Cut the lemon in half. Roughly chop one of the halves (including the skin and pips) and remove the pips. Whizz this in a food processor with the sugar until only small bits remain.
  2. Roughly chop the strawberries and add these to the food processor and whizz until well combined. Add the juice of the other half of the lemon and combine. Taste. If you’d like more acidity add a little more lemon juice.
  3. Churn in an ice cream maker or use the stir-freeze method. Leave to freeze for several hours before serving.

Roasted Strawberry Gelato

Gelato is characterised by making a custard thickened only with egg yolks (no cream, no starch), and then churning this with flavourings. It makes for an icier, cleaner finish, whereas French ice cream is richer. This is the way to getting a very well-flavoured natural strawberry ice cream, but the quantity of berries is a lot – sorry. Gelato isn’t hard but it’s a two or three-step process. Using a standard ice cream maker I’ve found I need to freeze the bowl for 24 hours in advance. This recipe is adapted from the fab ‘Standard Italian Vanilla Gelato’ in Ice Cream, Sorbets and Gelati by Caroline and Robin Weir.

For the gelato base:

  • 470g/ ml whole milk (3.5% fat)
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 105g granulated or caster (superfine) sugar
  • 100g / 5 UK large egg yolks
  • A pinch of salt

Whisk the egg yolks, salt and sugar until at least tripled in volume, very light in colour and very thick. Meanwhile, heat the milk and vanilla until steaming.

Gradually pour the milk into the egg yolk mixture and stir or whisk in gently. Transfer to a heat proof bowl (if not already using one) set over a pan of simmering water. Keep the bowl over the simmering water until the mixture has thickened so that you can draw a vertical line on the back of the spatula (some recipes say until it coats the back of a spoon).

If you do this over direct heat it’s much more likely that the eggs will coagulate (go lumpy). If they do, knock out the lumps with a hand blender. I found, though, that the mixture became a tiny bit lumpy again after churning, so I’d avoid the coagulation altogether if possible, and this method should make it possible. Cool then transfer to the fridge until ready to use.

For the roasted strawberries:

Hull 900g strawberries. Mix with 2 tbsp/ 30g sugar. Place on a massive lined baking sheet (or two) and roast at 170C / 325F / 150 fan / gas 3 for 1 hour, or until the strawberries are very soft and surrounded by a thick glossy gloop. (Some recipes go even lower and slower – I’ve seen some that take 3 hours!) Cool and transfer to the fridge until needed.

To finish:

Churn the custard in an ice cream maker – pour it in while churning if possible. Churn for about half an hour until significantly thickened. Churn or stir in the strawberry mixture. Freeze for a good few hours. Enjoy.

Episode 33: Magnificent Mango (and much, much more) ft. Chef Kirsty Haigh

If he doesn’t appreciate your fruit puns, you better let that..

In this week’s episode I talk to Kirsty Haigh about why she became a chef, food memories, food education, working with young people and her favourite things to bake. Follow her on Instagram @kirstyehaigh and also follow and donate to Edinburgh Food Social! @edinburghfoodsocial / edinburghfoodsocial.org

Recipes mentioned in the podcast are below!

Mango Tarte Tatin

Mango tarte tatin

Delicious, but wasn’t very strongly mango flavoured. I suggest this as a way to use up mangoes that are refusing to ripen, or to up the mango by serving it with a few slices of fresh mango on the side. I would still make it again!

  • 75g butter (I used salted)
  • 75g granulated or caster sugar
  • 500g puff pastry (I used home made – see here for recipe)
  • 2 large mangoes, stones discarded and sliced (the usable bits of flesh came to 517g for me)
  • The yolk of one egg, beaten (loosen up with a bit of milk/ egg white/ water, if it’s a bit stiff)
  • Serve with any combination of these (or none at all): ice cream, cream, fresh mango, a squeeze of lime

I used a 9 x 13 in / 23 x 33 cm enamel roasting tin, which can be used on the hob. However you could use a pan to make the caramel and a separate roasting tin. Just try to scrape out as much of the caramel goodness as you can from the pan!

  1. Roll out the pastry to the size of the tin that will go in the oven and chill for 15 minutes or more.
  2. Grease your tin, if using a separate tin.
  3. Heat the sugar until it dissolves and starts to change colour.
  4. Add the butter and stir (a wooden spoon or silicone spatula is best here).
  5. Add mango and cook for a few minutes. This is partly to reduce the water content and partly to soften up any unripe mango slices. Leave to cool.
  6. Preheat the oven to 200C / 180C fan / gas 6 / 400F.
  7. Distribute the mango and as much of the caramel and juices as you can on the bottom of the tin. Top with the pastry. Brush with the beaten egg yolk.
  8. Bake for about 25 minutes. Leave to cool for 5-10 minutes before turning out on to a dish / baking tray that is large enough and has a rim, so the juices don’t go everywhere! Be swift and decisive with your turning out.
  9. Admire and feel very proud of your creation. Slice. Squeeze over a little lime juice, if desired. Serve with a dollop of cream, ice cream, a few slices of fresh mango or just as it is.

Mango Ice Lollies / Popsicles / Ices

Mango ices

This is less of a recipe and more of a suggestion! Basically mango, lime and some kind of dairy go really well together.

I used 2 ripe mangoes, about 200g whipped double/ heavy cream, about 2 tbsp icing/ confectioners’ sugar, the zest of a lime and the juice of half. I just blended this all together.

But you could use yogurt, whole milk, any type of cream or even a coconut yogurt or dairy-free cream. Just taste before freezing to make sure you’ve got the consistency and taste you want. Mine was quite thick but if you want a more refreshing popsicle use yogurt or milk.

Strawberry Pudding

Strawberry Pudding

Adapted from Jerelle Guy’s Strawberry Spoon Cake. The brown sugar gives it delicious caramel notes. The strawberries are really prominent – as they should be!

  • 275g soft salted butter (or use unsalted and a pinch of salt)
  • 350g hulled strawberries (about 400g before they’re hulled)
  • 275g light brown sugar
  • 285g whole milk
  • 285g plain/ all purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F / 180C / 160 fan / gas 4. Grease and line a 9x13in / 23x33cm tin.
  2. Mash the berries with half the sugar.
  3. Whisk the butter and remaining sugar until much lighter and fluffier. Whisk in the flour, baking powder and then the milk.
  4. Transfer to the baking tin. Spoon over the strawberries and juice on to the cake batter.
  5. Bake for about 35 minutes- turn it down if you are worried about the sides or bottom burning.
  6. Cool for a few minutes or serving. Alternatively, you can cool it down completely and reheat however much you need before serving. Best served warm with vanilla or earl grey ice cream (recipe on the way!) .

Blondies with Fresh Cherries and Dark Chocolate

I used my base blondie recipe (adapted from several different sources) but using some dark chocolate instead of all white and added fresh cherries I needed to use up. The result was fabulous: jammy cherries, buttery cake and gooey chocolate. So I’m sharing it here.

  • 200g butter (for best results use European style) (this is a bit under two sticks in the US)
  • 100g white chocolate, good quality if possible
  • 150g dark chocolate, in large pieces.
  • 200g plain/ all purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 250g light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 UK large eggs (equivalent to US extra large, roughly 60g each or 180g in total)
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C / 350 F / 160 C fan / gas 4. If you are using a glass or ceramic dish, I’d turn it down a little to accommodate for the heat retention of the pan – say 170 C or 325F. For best results use a thin, light coloured metal pan. Grease and line a 9 x 13 in / 33cm x 23cm tin/ dish.
  2. Stone the cherries and set aside. Melt the butter and white chocolate together, stir and set aside to cool slightly. Measure out the flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl. You could sieve to ensure no lumps or just check it isn’t looking lumpy.
  3. Whisk the eggs and sugar together for several minutes until tripled in volume. This is key to the crackly top finish on brownies and blondies. I used a stand mixer to make life easier, an electric hand whisk would work but you’d be standing there for a long time.
  4. Fold in the butter and white chocolate mixture, then the flour mixture. Go slowly, steadily and make sure there are no pockets of unmixed flour or butter.
  5. Transfer to the baking tin/ dish. Scatter over the cherries and dark chocolate pieces evenly. Bake for about 40 minutes, checking maybe 5 minutes before that time to see if they’re done. It’s okay for them to have a bit of a wobble in the middle but they shouldn’t be liquid! Leave to cool completely in the dish.