Episode 63: Joyful and Delectable Festive Baking

What a fabulous time I’ve been having doing loads of festive baking and having an excuse to start early! (‘It’s for the podcast’ is my brilliant excuse.) Out of all the below and everything I baked last Christmas, the things I’m going to make again and again are Mrs Wilson’s mince pies (of course), vanillekipferl, rugelach (I might try some different fillings too!), mahleb shortbread, Linzer biscuits (perhaps trying with a different jam such as blackcurrant, which is very European of me!) and…. when I have time on my hands and don’t mind dirtying many bowls, the cozonac. It’s INCREDIBLE but is quite the ordeal to make – on a par with brioche, more complicated, slightly less difficult to knead.

Treacle Gingerbread Cookies

Adapted from a recipe posted by Benjamina Ebuehi on her Instagram.

To make around 18-20 cookies:
125g butter, melted
200g muscovado sugar – dark or light
50g black treacle, molasses or golden syrup (If using dark muscovado, use golden syrup/corn syrup. If using light muscovado then use black treacle or molasses)
1 UK/EU medium or US/Aus large egg
260g plain/AP flour
3 tsp /1tbsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground allspice or 1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg or mace (optional)
1 tsp baking soda / bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
Demerara, turbinado or granulated sugar, for rolling

To make 36-40 cookies:
250g butter, melted
400g muscovado sugar – dark or light
100g black treacle, molasses or golden syrup (If using dark muscovado, use golden syrup/corn syrup. If using light muscovado then use black treacle or molasses.)
2 UK/EU medium or US/Aus large eggs
520g plain/AP flour
2 tbsp ground ginger
2 tsp baking soda / bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp nutmeg or mace (optional)
1 tsp salt
Demerara, turbinado or granulated sugar, for rolling

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/ 160C fan / 350F. Line a big baking tray or cooking sheet with baking paper.
  2. Mix the butter and sugar together. If you want to avoid lumps in the sugar, sieve it. Stir in the syrup/treacle/molasses. Stir in the egg(s).
  3. Add the dry ingredients and mix well. Chill for 3 hours or, better, overnight.
  4. Roll into 30g balls. Roll in demerara/turbinado/ granulated sugar. Bake for 15 minutes for a soft bake, or 18 minutes for a crisper bake.

Walnut Rugelach / Cornulete cu Nuci

Adapted from Tava by Irina Georgescu

I’ve given a large quantity because these are biscuits to be shared! But, you can absolutely halve the recipe, or freeze some unbaked and bake from frozen – just add 1-2 minutes to the cooking time.

Makes 32

500g plain/ AP flour, plus extra for dusting
250g cold butter (add a good pinch of salt to the flour if the butter is unsalted)
40g caster/superfine sugar (I imagine that granulated is fine too)
3 egg yolks (my eggs were UK/EU medium which is US/Aus large)
150g sour cream (mine was a 17% Polish sour cream)
2 tsp milk or water
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla sugar (optional)
Demerara sugar, for sprinkling

For the filling:
150g walnuts
100g brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
50g butter

  1. Rub the flour and butter together until they look like breadcrumbs. You can use your thumb and fingers, a pastry blender or a food processor here.
  2. Add the sugar(s) and baking powder and mix well with a knife. Mix the sour cream with 2 of the egg yolks and the milk or water. Bring the dough together, kneading as little as possible. Add a drop or two more liquid if it’s too try to bring together. Wrap or cover and chill for 1 hour or overnight, if more convenient.
  3. Make the walnut filling by blitzing everything together in a food processor. Cover and chill until needed.
  4. Preheat the oven to 180C/ 160C fan/ 350F. Flour your work surface, rolling pin and hands. Take half/ quarter the dough (a lump weighing around 250g) and roll out to a circle, adding a sprinkle more flour if needed but not more than that! When you have a circle the size of a large dinner plate or slightly bigger, plate a dinner plate on top and cut around the excess. Cut the circle into 8 by going half way horizontally, vertically then cutting on the diagonals.
  5. Leaving a little space at the edges, gently squidge a bit of walnut filling on to each portion. Roll up from the long edge. Press the ends to seal and curve down a little to make a crescent.
  6. Place on a lined baking tray and bake for 15 minutes.

Mahleb Kurabia Shortbreads

Again, I make quite a large quantity because I like to share, but you can scale up or down. Mahleb is unique but tastes a little like a cross between bitter almond and cinnamon.

Adapted from Tava by Irina Georgescu.

240g soft butter (add a good pinch of salt to the flour if you are using unsalted butter)
120g caster/ superfine sugar
360g plain/ all purpose flour
20g mahleb, or 2 tsp cinnamon 1 tsp almond extract, or another flavouring such as orange zest and cinnamon

100g icing / powdered sugar, spiced if you like with 1 tsp mahleb or 1/2 tsp cinnamon

  1. Cream the butter with the sugar. Add the flour and spice(s). Chill for 2 hours or a bit longer if that fits in with your time better.
  2. Roll into 25g balls. Flatten them slightly. Chill and freeze for 10 minutes just before baking. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180C/ 160C fan. Bake for 15 minutes, you want them soft and not to change colour much.

3. Cool then roll in or dust with the icing sugar.

Zedernbrot – Lemon and Almond Biscuits

Adapted from Classic German Baking by Luisa Weiss

2 lemons
2 egg whites (mine were UK/EU medium which is roughly US/Aus large)
250g granulated or caster/castor/superfine sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract (optional)
1/4 tsp salt
400g ground almonds/ almond flour or a mix of almond flour and almond meal
125g icing/confectioners’ sugar

  1. Grate the lemon peel. Add 2 tbsp lemon juice. Whisk in the egg whites then the granulated/caster/superfine sugar and salt (and almond extract, if using).
    Add most of the almonds, and add more until it feels firm enough to roll out. Cover or wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.
  2. Preheat the oven to 325F/ 160-165C. Roll the dough out between two sheets of parchment paper to 1/3 inch thickness (don’t go too thin as you want some softness as well as some chewiness).
  3. Cut out and transfer to lined baking trays. They won’t spread much but leave a bit of a gap between them. If needed, rinse the cutter in cold water to prevent it sticking. Bake at a steady temperature for 10 minutes.
  4. To make the glaze, sift the icing sugar. Whisk in 2-3 tbsp remaining lemon juice. When the biscuits have cooled a bit, brush with the glaze.
  5. Leave to cool completely then store in air tight containers, separating layers with parchment paper. They keep for up to two weeks. I actually liked them better after about 5 days, partly as I had slightly overbaked them so they were a bit chewy at first.

Orange and Aniseed Shortbreads

Adapted from Tava by Irina Georgescu

150g butter
250g plain/ all purpose flour
60g caster/superfine sugar
1 egg – UK/EU medium or US/Aus large
1/2 tsp baking powder
Orange zest
2 tbsp milk or orange juice
2 tsp crushed fennel seeds
2 tsp crushed aniseeds
2 tsp aniseeds to decorate

  1. Rub in flour and butter. Add the other ingredients and bring together into a dough. Chill well.
  2. Roll out in to a rectangle 8mm/ 1/3 inch thick. Cut out shapes. Chill again for 30 minutes before baking.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180C/ 350F. Bake for 12-15 minutes then cool. I like a softer bake and bake on the low end of this.

Home-Made Mincemeat

Adapted from Cook As You Are by Ruby Tandoh

120g dark brown sugar (you can, as I did, use muscovado)
100g peeled and chopped cooking apple (Mine was a Bramley. Cooking apples are less sweet and have a more floury texture. But if you only have an eating apple, just use it!)
200g dried fruit – I used a mixture of mixed dried fruit and currants, as it’s what I had, but raisins or sultanas are also good
Zest and juice of 2 small-ish oranges (preferably unwaxed), or measure the juice to 75g/ml
75g pecans, or whatever nut you fancy, roughly chopped
75g suet – vegetarian or beef (If you can’t get hold of suet, freeze some baking block and grate it, before popping it back in the freezer before using)
1 tsp mixed spice (if you can’t get hold of this, it’s basically ground coriander with a load of warm spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves)
A pinch of ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp brandy, or a rich spirit of your choice (e.g. spiced rum), you could also add a dash of something like Cointreau or Kirsch

Combine the sugar, fruit, orange zest, juice, nuts, suet, spices and salt. Heat gently and cook when steaming for 6-8 minutes. You’ll see why the suet is essential – it melts in to make the mixture glossy. Cool until you’re ready to use.

Mrs Wilson’s Mince Pies

For the pastry:
500g plain flour
175g icing sugar
375G butter
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 large orange

For the filling and assembly:
250g full fat cream cheese
50g caster sugar
500g mincemeat
Egg yolk and milk to glaze
Demerara/turbinado sugar, for sprinkling (optional)
Icing sugar to finish

To make a smaller amount:

250g plain flour
88g icing sugar
188g butter

125g cream cheese
25g caster sugar
250g mincemeat
Milk to glaze
Icing sugar to finish

  1. Rub in butter and flour. Add orange zest. Stir in orange juice until just sticking together. Rest in the fridge until really cold, or up to a couple of days.
  2. When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 190C/ 170C fan/ 375F. Grease a bun tin. Mix cream cheese with sugar. Roll out on a lightly floured surface to a few mm thickness.
  3. Fill pies halfway with mincemeat then add 1 tsp cream cheese mixture. If using lids, brush them with a little egg yolk mixed with milk. You could also sprinkle sugar on top.
  4. Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Quarkstollen / Quick Stollen

Adapted from two recipes – one over at ChefKoch.de (thanks to listener Julia for translating) and one in Classic German Baking by Luisa Weiss

For the dough:
400g plain/ all purpose flour
1 tbsp/ 16g baking powder
150g flaked/ slivered almonds
100g ground almonds/ almond flour
150g granulated or caster/superfine sugar
1/2 tsp salt
Zest of 1 lemon (preferably unwaxed)
120g unsalted, high-fat butter (at room temperature)
250g full-fat Quark, or similar (I used a Polish twaróg).
2 eggs (UK/EU medium or US/Aus large)

Optional flavourings (I used all of them!):
1/2-1 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp mace/ nutmeg
1/4 tsp cardamom
1 tsp vanilla sugar/ extract/ bean paste
200g raisins/ currants/ other dried fruit
75g candied citrus peel (I skipped this)
1 tsp rum aroma/extract, or 2 tbsp rum

For finishing:
50g butter
Plenty of icing/confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/ 160C fan/ 350F. While the oven is preheating, toast the flaked/slivered almonds until lightly golden on a baking sheet. Line another baking sheet with baking paper.
  2. Mix together the dry ingredients for the dough. Mix together the wet ingredients separately. Mix them together.
  3. Form into a loaf. Bake for about an hour until golden brown and baked through.

Cozonac Festive Bread with a Walnut, Chocolate and Coffee Filling

Adapted from.a few different recipes, most notably those of Irina Georgescu

For the dough:
600g strong white bread flour
8g salt
14g instant/ fast-action yeast
200ml full-fat milk (3-4% fat content)
2 UK/EU medium or US/Aus large eggs
2 UK/EU medium or US/Aus arge egg yolks (reserve the whites for the filling)
150g caster/superfine sugar (you can make granulated into superfine by pulsing a few times in a food processor)
1 tbsp vanilla extract
150g sour cream, at room temperature
80g unsalted butter, melted and cooled (or use salted and reduce the salt)

For the filling:
200g walnuts
2 tsp instant coffee or 2 scant tsp espresso powder (my preferred option)
25g cocoa
2 tbsp rum or milk
140g caster/superfine or granulated sugar
2 egg whites, reserved from the dough

Before it goes in the oven:
1 egg yolk beaten with a little egg white to loosen.

Make the dough:
1. In a stand mixer, mix the flour and salt, then mix in the yeast. Add the milk and combine well with the paddle attachment. Set aside.
2. Beat the eggs and yolks with the sugar until just before the ribbon stage, then mix in the sour cream, orange zest and vanilla.
3. Mix this into the flour mixture and beat, still using the paddle attachment on medium speed for about 6 minutes until thick strands of dough begin to separate.
4. Switch the mixer to low and add the butter, 1 tbsp at a time, combining well. At this point you may want to transfer to an oiled bowl (I kept it in the same bowl). Either way, cover and leave to rise until nearly doubled in size.

Make the filling:
1. Blitz the walnuts in a food processor until ground. Don’t go too far unless you’re trying to make walnut butter! Add the coffee, cocoa and milk or rum and blitz for a few second until combined. Set aside.
2. Whisk the egg whites until foamy, then gradually add the sugar until thick, glossy and holding peaks. Fold in the walnut mixture.

Assemble the loaves:
1. Grease two 2lb/ 900g loaf tins with butter and line with baking paper.
2. Lightly grease your work surface with a neutral oil. Divide the dough into four equal pieces. Pat out two of the pieces into rectangles. Spoon and smooth a quarter of the filling on to one side, then roll up into two logs. Twist the logs around each other the best you can (the dough is very slack) then pop into one of the loaf tins. Repeat with the other pieces of dough and the other loaf tin.
3. Cover and leave to rise until puffy, you could do this in a warm place for a quick result, or overnight in the fridge.

When you’re ready to bake!
Preheat the oven to 180C/ 160C fan / 350F. Mix up the egg wash. When the oven is preheated, brush the loaves with the egg wash. Bake for 20 minutes, then reduce the oven to 150C/ 130C fan / 300F and bake for a further 20 minutes. If your oven tends to burn the tops of things, you may need or want to put a foil tent over them for the last 10 minutes or so.

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Episode 61: Remember Rosemary

“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray, love, remember…” – Ophelia in Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Baby Rosemary Sticky Buns

This recipe is adapted from my perennial fave and fellow queer British baker Ruby Tandoh. Apparently rosemary sweet buns are popular in Mexico City. Take my word for it and don’t overdo the rosemary. The original recipe calls for 8 sprigs, but depending on how bushy your sprigs are, you may need significantly less. 5 was the right balance for me.

500g strong white flour
1 tsp/ 4g salt
7g fast-action/instant yeast
315ml lukewarm warm water or milk
100g softened butter
175g sugar (soft light brown was my preference)
Pinch of salt
The leaves of 5 rosemary sprigs- more or less depending on your sprigs and preference

  1. Mix together the flour and salt. Mix in the yeast. Mix in the liquid. Cover. Leave to ‘autolyse’ for a bit, if you like, to allow the flour to soak up the liquid evenly and the dough to start forming gluten bonds on its own. I do this for about 15-30 minutes.
  2. Knead the dough until smooth and passing the ‘windowpane’ test. Cover and leave in a warm place to double in size, about 1-2 hours.
  3. When doubled in size. preheat the oven to 200C/ 180C fan / 400F. Roll the dough out into a large rectangle. Blitz the rosemary with the brown sugar in the food processor, or finely chop your rosemary beforehand. Mix the rosemary sugar and butter together and spread over your rectangle. Roll up on the long edge. Cut into 24 slices.
  4. Bake in a lined roasting tin for about 20 minutes until golden brown and baked through.

Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies with Rosemary

I sometimes am lucky enough to get emails from publishers about exciting new baking books. Sugar and Spice Cookies, by Megan Neveu, is right up my street: simple recipes to make but with delicious, unusual flavour combinations and wonderful textures. I knew when I saw this recipe that it had to be included. Lemon and chocolate and rosemary and chocolate are woefully underrated combinations that deserve the same limelight as chocolate-orange.

I took some to my brother and sister-in-law’s house and it pleased both them and my nephews (aged 7 and 10). They even pestered me afterwards for where they could find the recipe. They are excellent cooks and bakers so that says a lot!

Makes 30 cookies

Cozy and classic meets fresh and vibrant in these cookies. They have the same taste and texture of traditional oatmeal chocolate chip cookies you know and love, but now with notes of citrus and pine. The addition of the rosemary and lemon zest brings a subtle hint of brightness that complements the chocolate chips beautifully. It’s a fresh spin on a classic I think you’ll absolutely love. (Megan’s words. Kate’s notes in italics.)

INGREDIENTS

1½ cups (180 g) all-purpose flour (plain flour)
1 tsp baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
½ tsp salt
1 cup (200 g) light brown sugar
½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar (or caster/castor)
1–2 tsp (1–2 g) finely chopped rosemary
Zest of 1 lemon (smallish if you use Mediterranean lemons)
1 cup (226 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 US/Aus large egg, room temperature (UK/EU medium)
1 US/Aus large egg yolk, room temperature (UK/EU medium)
2 tsp (10 ml) vanilla extract
2 cups (180 g) rolled oats
1½ cups (255 g) semisweet or milk chocolate chips (I used 35% cocoa solids milk chocolate)

DIRECTIONS

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda (bicarb) and salt until well combined. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the sugars, rosemary and zest on low speed until the texture resembles wet sand. Add the butter and beat on medium speed for 3 minutes, or until well combined. On low, mix in the egg, egg yolk and vanilla until smooth and well combined. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low, mix the dry ingredients into the wet until just combined. Stir in the oats and chocolate chips. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and chill it in the fridge for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Pull the cookie dough from the fridge to sit out at room temperature for 20 minutes before baking.

Scoop 2-tablespoon (30-g) amounts of the cookie dough onto the baking sheet 3 inches (8 cm) apart. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until the edges are set. Keep the cookies on the hot baking sheet for 10 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack to cool to room temperature.

Credit:

Reprinted with permission from Sugar + Spice Cookies by Megan Neveu. Page Street Publishing Co. 2022. Photo credit: Megan Neveu.

Apple and Rosemary Crepes

Adapted from a recipe in Irina Georgescu’s Tava.

Makes 6-8 crepes, enough for 2 people. Do double the recipe if you like!! The sauce is excellent on vanilla ice cream with a few toasted nuts on top, if you have any leftover!

For the crepes:
Around 75g unsalted butter, for frying
2 UK/EU medium or US/Aus large eggs
1 tsp sugar (I used golden caster but granulated would be fine)
A pinch of salt
200ml milk – preferably full-fat but another kind will work

For the sauce:
30g caster./granulated sugar
200ml/g apple juice
1-2 tbsp lemon juice (start with 1 and taste)
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 rosemary sprigs
40g unsalted butter

Start the crepes by mixing the eggs with the flour, sugar and salt. Add the milk gradually to incorporate well. Rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Make the sauce: Melt the sugar in a pan, swirling to help it melt evenly. Caramelise to a dark golden colour. Remove from the heat and add the apple juice, lemon juice and cider vinegar and the rosemary sprigs. Simmer until the caramel has dissolved in the juice. Remove the rosemary sprigs. Stir in the butter and simmer until slightly reduced and thickened- about 8 minutes. Turn off the heat. Warm through before serving.

Make the crepes: Heat a little butter in a medium-large non-stick frying pan or well-seasoned skillet. Wipe round (being careful not to burn yourself!) if necessary to ensure even coverage of butter on the pan. Ladle in some mixture and quickly swirl it round to create a thin layer of crepe. Flip when golden on the bottom side and set on the top and cook a little more until it looks done.

Serve hot, with extra butter and sauce. I think it would be lovely with some caramelised apples, but I haven’t yet tried this out.

Rosemary Chocolate Loaf Cake

This is via another fave, Rukmini Iyer, in The Sweet Roasting Tin

For the cake:
170g light brown sugar
50g olive oil
120g full-fat natural yogurt
3 UK/EU medium or US/Aus large eggs
A pinch of salt
120g plain/all-purpose flour, plus 1/2 tsp for the chocolate
1 + 2/3 tsp baking powder
50g cocoa powder (Dutch-processed is my preference and is the norm in the UK)
30ml milk
2 sprigs rosemary, leaves finely chopped
100g chocolate, chopped – my preference was for 35% cocoa solids milk chocolate

For the ganache:
150ml double/heavy cream
150g chopped chocolate – my preference was for 35% cocoa solids milk chocolate
A pinch of salt
1 long sprig of rosemary
1 long sprig of rosemary to decorate (optional)

First, make the cake. Preheat the oven to 180C/ 160C fan / 350F. Grease and line a 2lb/900g loaf tin. Mix the flour, rosemary, salt, baking powder. Mix the olive oil, yogurt and sugar. You may want to sieve the sugar if lumpy, or use an electric whisk to break up lumps. Then mix in the eggs, one at a time. Add the flour mixture and combine but avoid overmixing. Add the milk and combine. Toss the chopped chocolate in 1/2 tsp flour then sprinkle it over the top of the batter. Push the chocolate down a little so it is partly covered. This method ensures the chocolate doesn’t all sink, but also doesn’t burn from being too exposed. Bake for about 45 minutes until it springs back or a skewer comes out clean of raw cake batter.

While the cake is cooling, make the ganache. Heat the cream with the rosemary sprig until steaming but not boiling. Remove the sprig of rosemary. Add in the chocolate. Leave for a few minutes, then stir. Cool for a while then spread over the top of the cake. Serve when the ganache is set. Decorate with the remaining sprig of rosemary, if you like.

Additional Suggestions

P.S. Not featured or tried yet, but I want to bake:
– Ravneet Gill’s Apple and rosemary tarte tatin
– Nigella Lawson’s Rosemary Remembrance Cake
– Blood orange rosemary cookies in Sugar and Spice Cookies by Megan Neveu.

Episode 60: Musings on Muffins

This episode was a JOY to research! All the below recipes BANG.

Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffins

SOOOOO GOOD

This recipe is absolutely exceptional.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Muffins

Delish!!!

Adapted, very lightly, from the Sweet Roasting Tin by Rukmini Iyer

200g plain/ all purpose flour
50g cocoa powder (I like Dutch processed and use Green and Blacks)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine salt
Sea salt flakes
150g soft dark brown or light brown sugar
90g olive oil
100g natural or Greek yogurt
150ml/g milk
1 UK/EU medium or US/Aus Large egg
100g chopped dark chocolate (mine was 70% cocoa solids)
12 heaped teaspoons of dulce de leche or tinned caramel (I use Nestle Carnation caramel)

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C / 180C fan / 400F. Line a muffin tin with 12 cases.
  2. Sieve the brown sugar into a large bowl. Alternatively, you can break up large lumps with a fork and/or your fingers. Add the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and fine salt and whisk/ fork together.
  3. Whisk together the olive oil, yogurt, milk and egg. Stir into the dry ingredients along with 75 of chopped dark chocolate until no unmixed flour remains and no further.
  4. Spoon about a tablespoon of mixture into each case, then add a heaped teaspoon of caramel, followed by a pinch of sea salt flakes. Top off with the remaining mixture before scattering the remaining chopped chocolate over.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes until it springs back to the touch. Cool briefly and eat while warm or cool completely before storing in an air tight container.

Spiced Carrot Muffins

Without crumble topping is also very nice

Using the template recipe in Rukmini Iyer’s Sweet Roasting Tin, with my own twists

250g plain / all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder, one of them slightly heaped
150g light brown sugar (or a mix of white and dark brown sugar)
150g Greek or natural yogurt
100ml/g milk (mine was whole, ie. 3.5-4% fat, but it doesn’t matter too much)
90g oil (I used grapeseed)
1 UK/EU medium or US/Aus large egg
150g carrot, fairly finely grated (the second-biggest side of a box grater)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp nutmeg or 1 tsp ground mahleb
1/2 tsp ground ginger (optional)
3/4 tsp fine salt
1/2 tsp ground allspice
50g lightly roasted pecans, chopped
100g white chocolate, chopped
OPTIONAL CRUMBLE TOPPING
50g raw pecans
50g plain/ all purpose flour
25g cold butter
Pinch of salt
25g sugar (demerara or brown sugar are both great here)

  1. Preheat the oven to 190C / 170C fan / 375F. Line a muffin pan with 12 cases.
  2. If using, make the crumble topping by rubbing the butter and flour together and then stirring in the sugar and nuts. Alternatively, you can rub them all together by hand. Set aside.
  3. Sieve the brown sugar into a large bowl. Alternatively, you can break up any large lumps with a fork and/or your fingers. Then mix in the flour, baking powder, spices and salt.
  4. Mix together the yogurt, milk, egg and oil.
  5. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry, along with the grated carrot, chocolate and lightly roasted pecans.
  6. Spoon the mixture into the cases, then sprinkle over the crumble topping over each.
  7. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, until they spring back to the touch,

Lemon and Hazelnut Sour Cream Muffins

STOP IT

Again, I used recipes in The Sweet Roasting Tin by Rukmini Iyer as my starting point.

250g plain/ all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder, one of them slightly heaped
150g dark brown sugar
3/4 tsp fine salt
Zest of 1 lemon
90g flavourless oil (I used grapeseed)
200g sour cream
30ml/g lemon juice (roughly 1 lemon, but it’s best to measure)
1 UK/EU medium or US/Aus large egg
100g white chocolate, chopped
50g lightly roasted hazelnuts, chopped
IMPORTANT CRUMBLE TOPPING:
25g cold cubed butter
Pinch of salt
50g plain flour
50g raw hazelnuts
25g brown sugar

  1. Preheat the oven to 190C/ 170C fan / 375F. Line a muffin tin with 12 cases.
  2. Make the crumble topping by rubbing together the ingredients, or you can just rub together the butter and flour and stir in the nuts and sugar.
  3. Sieve the sugar into a large bowl or fork/rub it together until no large lumps remain. Stir in the flour, baking powder and salt.
  4. Whisk together the oil, sour cream, lemon juice and egg.
  5. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients along with the white chocolate and hazelnuts.
  6. Spoon the mixture into the cases, then sprinkle over the crumble.
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until they spring back to the touch.

Fig and Walnut Muffins

TOO good.

Here, I actually used this recipe for raisin and cinnamon muffins from Ruby Tandoh as my starting point.

100g butter, melted and cooled
180g light soft brown sugar (or a mix of dark brown and white sugar)
2 UK/EU large or US/Aus XL eggs
200g sour cream/ Greek yogurt
120g plain/ all purpose flour
120g wholemeal flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda/ baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine salt
120g dried figs, chopped
1/2 tsp cinnamon of 1 tsp ground mahleb
50g lightly roasted walnuts, chopped
IMPORTANT CRUMBLE TOPPING:
50g raw walnuts
25g butter
Pinch of salt
25g demerara or brown sugar
50g plain / all purpose flour

  1. Preheat your oven to 190C / 170C fan / 375F. Line a muffin tin with 12 cases.
  2. Make the crumble topping by rubbing all ingredients together between your fingers and thumbs, or you could rub together the flour and butter then stir in the nuts and sugar. Set aside.
  3. Sieve the sugar into a large bowl, or break up any large lumps with a fork/your fingers. Stir in the flours, bicarb, baking powder and salt.
  4. Whisk together the eggs, sour cream and butter.
  5. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry along with the figs and walnuts. Spoon into the cases, then sprinkle over the crumble topping.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes until it springs back to the touch.

Episode 59: Honey Cakes are the Bee’s Knees

Honey Loaf Cake with Sweet Dukkah

I forgot to get a picture of this one – sorry!! I wasn’t actually intending to use it on the podcast, but it was so good I had to include it.

I’m always on the look out for dairy-free cakes since I have a close friend who a) appreciates my baking (he has excellent taste!!!) and b) is allergic to the proteins in cows’ milk. He is also allergic to sesame, so I changed up the dukkah. Follow the link to find the original which I’m sure is absolutely delicious. This went down very well with some very discerning birthday guests.

Recipe adapted from this one in Benjamina Ebuehi’s The New Way to Cake.

For the cake:
300g plain / all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
160ml/ 170g vegetable oil
240ml/ 250g blossom honey
100g caster/ superfine sugar (though I’m sure granulated would work fine too)
100g soft light brown sugar
2 UK large / US XL eggs (c. 130-140g egg in their shells)
1 tsp vanilla extract or bean paste
200ml strong-brewed English breakfast tea

For the syrup:
3 tbsp / 45 ml honey
60ml water

For the dukkah (Kate’s non-sesame version):
90g blanched almonds, chopped roughly or buy them already flaked
1 tsp caraway seeds
1/2 tsp rose petals
Scant 1/2 tsp cardamom
2 tsp poppy seeds

1. Preheat the oven to 180C / 160C fan / 350F. Grease and line a loaf tin. The original recipe calls for a long loaf tin, which I do not own, so I just used a regular 1lb / 900g loaf tin. (The original recipe bakes at a higher temperature due to the tin being longer as well, so I baked this lower and slower and it worked out just fine!

2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, bicarb/ baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Pour in the oil, honey, sugars and eggs and whisk until there are no lumps in the batter. Pour in the vanilla and tea. Stir until smooth. Pour into the cake pan and bake for around an hour, or until it passes the skewer test.

3. Heat the water and honey in a pan to make the syrup. Stir until the honey dissolves.

4. Blitz the dukkah ingredients in a food processor or spice grinder until you have a rough mixture.

5. Mix the dukkah with the syrup. Spread on top of the warm cake. Leave to cool completely before slicing.

Fig and Honey Sponge Pudding

Sticky and delicious

I followed this recipe from Miriam Nice. My recipe notes below!

If you are baking in another country, large eggs in the UK and EU are around 63-73g, or a US XL.
Instead of self-raising flour (which I don’t use even though I’m British!) just use 2 slightly generous teaspoons of baking powder.
To mix the sponge, you can use the creaming method, all-in-one, or even whisk the eggs and sugar and mix in melted butter with a tablespoon of flour. All work! You may, however, want to add a tablespoon or two of milk so it is a “dropping” consistency.
So long as you use metric weights in your baking the rest should be easy to follow! This is a great dinner party dessert when figs are in season.

Bienenstich / Bee Sting Cake

Sticky, crunchy and cakey

Recipe from Classic German Baking by Luisa Weiss, or found here in cup measurements.

I found that the yeasted cake layer is quite thin, and also goes stale really quickly, so is best eaten on the same day. Next time I’m going to make a bit more of it, and possibly alter the cake layer recipe a bit, but I’ll serve it the day it’s made. Not including custard in the middle seems to be controversial among my German friends, but this still differs from a Swedish toscakaka in that it’s yeasted rather than made with chemical raising agents such as baking powder.

For the cake layer:
200g plain/ all purpose flour
1 tsp fast-action/ instant yeast
50g granulated or superfine/caster sugar
3 tbsp/ 45g/ 45ml whole milk
1 egg
50g European-style high-fat butter

For the topping:
130g good butter
100g light brown sugar (or just use granulated)
100g honey (I used blossom honey)
50g double/ heavy cream
1/4 tsp salt
200g blanched sliced/ flaked almonds

For the cake, stir together the flour, yeast, sugar together. Then stir in the salt. Stir in the milk, and egg and knead together. Then knead in the butter. The dough should still be soft. Leave to rise for about an hour. It won’t double but it will get a bit puffy.

Press the dough into the pan. Preheat the oven to 180C/ 160C fan/ 350F. Line a 23cm x 33cm / 9in x 13 in tin with baking paper.

To make the topping. place everything except the almonds in the pan and bring to the boil, then simmer for 3-5 minutes, stirring. Stir in the almonds and remove from the heat. Cool for 10 minutes.

Spread the topping evenly over the dough. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and crisping. (Mine took 25 minutes.)

Let cool on the rack for 20 minutes. Cut into squares before serving.

Burnt Honey Cake / Russian Honey Cake

I followed this recipe from Edd Kimber, and consulted the 20th Century Cafe’s version on NYT Cooking.

Episode 58: Basque Bakes

In August, I was lucky enough to be able to go to the Spanish side of the Basque country, primarily Bilbao but with day trips to San Sebastian, Guernica and Bermeo.

Here are some things we ate!!!

On to our bakes for this week!

Basque Cake/ Tart

Is it a pie? Is it a cake? Does it matter? It’s delicious!

Adapted from this recipe by Nicola Lamb.

For the cake/tart layers

Cream 140g room temperature butter, 110g sugar and 1 tsp vanilla sugar (optional). Add 2 egg whites, the zest of a lemon (optionally) and 10g lemon juice and combine the best you can. Add 150g plain/ AP flour, 75g ground almonds, a pinch of salt, 1/2 tsp baking powder and a scant 1/2 tsp baking soda / bicarbonate of soda. Refrigerate for 3+ hours.

Heat 300g milk with 2 tsp vanilla extract or bean paste. Meanwhile, whisk 2 egg yolks and 1 egg white with 90g sugar and 25g cornflour/ cornstarch. While whisking slowly, drizzle the hot milk down the side of the mixing bowl. When all combined, return the mixture to the pan and heat gently, stirring, until it bubbles and thickens. Stir really well. Transfer to a bowl or jug, place cling film directly on the top of the liquid to prevent a skin forming.

To assemble, portion off 150g dough. Roll this out between two floured sheets of parchment paper to an 8inch circle and put in the freezer while you work on the rest. Grease an 8 inch/20cm tart tin or springform pan really well. You may also want a parchment paper circle at the bottom. Pat the remaining dough into the base of the tin and then top with the custard, before laying the circle you rolled out over the top.

Put back in the fridge while you preheat the oven to 190C. Pop it on a baking tray then when the oven has come to temperature, bake for around 40 minutes until golden brown on top. Cool for a couple of hours before slicing to allow the crumb to set – but it is best served warm!

Basque Cheesecake

Adapted to metric from Molly Baz’s recipe.

Preheat the oven to 200C / 400F.

Beat 900g cream cheese and 300g sugar. Beat in 6 US large/ UK medium (or 5 UK large) eggs in gradually, one egg at a time. Then add 480g double/ heavy cream and whisk to combine. Finally, beat in 6 US large/ UK medium or 5 US XL/ UK large eggs.

Grease a 10 inch springform pan really well. Pop it on a baking tray. Bake for about an hour, it will still be a bit wobbly but shouldn’t be liquid. It will be puffed up and will fall – not to worry, that’s just what it does!!

Episode 57: Seeds Everywhere, on Everything: Crunchy and Chewy Seedy Breads

Koulouri – Cypriot Village Bread

  • 7g fast-action/ instant yeast
  • 1.5 tbsp sugar
  • 1 piece of mastic
  • 2 pieces of mehlepi/mahleb
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, plus more for greasing
  • 4 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp nigella/ black onion seeds
  • 1/2 tsp aniseed

Grind the mahlepi/mahleb finely with 1 tsp flour. Do the same with the mastic. Mix the salt, mahlepi/mahleb, mastic, cinnamon and 1 tbsp sugar into the remaining flour (minus 1 tbsp). Mix in the yeast. Mix in 330ml warm water and the olive oil. Add more water if you need to to bring the dough together. Rest for 10-30 minutes (just 10 if your kitchen is warm). Knead in a mixer or by hand until it passes the ‘windowpane test’. Leave to rise until doubled.

Roll into a long sausage, around 30cm / 12 inches. Place onto a lined or oiled baking sheet. Cut the dough into 20 and gently pull them apart so there is a small gap between each piece (2mm/ 0.01inches). Mix the remaining tbsp flour with 2 tbsp warm water. Brush the dough all over with this. Mix the sesame seeds, nigella seeds and aniseed together and pat all over the dough, including underneath. Cover loosely and prove again until roughly double.

Preheat the oven to 200C / 180C fan / 400F. Add a dish of boiling water to the oven to create steam (I have a gas oven which produces steam anyway so I skipped this.) Bake for at least 22 minutes then check, it will probably need more time but it’s good to check It wants to be golden brown. Mine took about 30.

Covrigi – Salty Poppy Seed Twists

  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 7g fast-action/ instant yeast
  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • 1 tsp fine salt
  • 3 tbsp olive or sunflower oil
  • 2 tbsp baking soda / bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 3/4 tsp flaked salt
  • 1 tbsp onion flakes or Nigella/ black onion seeds

Mix the sugar and salt into the flour. Mix in the yeast. Mix in 260ml warm water and 2 tbsp oil. Rest for 10-30 minutes (no more than 10 if your kitchen is pretty warm). Knead in a mixer or by hand until it passes the ‘windowpane’ test. Cover and leave to rise until doubled.

Divide into eight pieces. Roll each piece into a long sausage and cross over the ends for a pretzel shape. Transfer to an oiled or lined baking sheet , cover and leave to prove until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 220C / 200C fan / 420F. Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add the bicarb/ baking soda. Mix together the poppy seeds, sesame seeds, flaky sea salt and onion seeds/flakes. Lower the pretzels in the water for 30 seconds a side or submerge the whole thing for 30 seconds using a mesh strainer. Return to the trays. Brush with the remaining oil and sprinkle liberally with the seeds. Bake for 18-20 minutes.

Lagana – Clean Monday Bread

  • 7g fast-action/ instant yeast
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • 3/4 tsp fine salt, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing
  • 3 tbsp sesame seeds

Mix the half the sugar and salt into the flour. Mix in the yeast. Mix in 275ml of body temperature water and the olive oil. Mix to a shaggy dough. Rest for 10-30 minutes (no more than 10 if your kitchen is pretty warm). Knead in a mixer or by hand until it passes the ‘windowpane’ test. Cover and leave to rise until doubled.

Stretch or roll out the dough to fit a 30 x 25cm / 12 x 10 inch lined or greased tin. Cover loosely and leave to rise again until roughly doubled in size. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 220C / fan 200C / 420F. Dissolve the remaining sugar in 2 tbsp of just-boiled water.

Press the dough to make indents all over, a bit like a focaccia. Brush with the sugar water. Sprinkle over the sesame seeds and a good pinch or crumble of salt. Bake for 20-22 minutes.

Rye, Caraway and Poppy Seed Bagels/Beigels

Adapted from Ruby Tandoh’s Crumb

For the tangzhong:

115ml/ g water or milk, 25g strong white flour

For the dough:

  • The tangzhong you made
  • 300g strong white flour
  • 125g dark/wholemeal rye flour
  • 1 tsp fine salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 8g diastatic malt powder (optional)
  • 1 tbsp flavourless oil
  • 2 tbsp caraway seeds
  • Flour or polenta, to dust
  • 2 tbsp bicarbonate of soda/ baking soda
  • 2 tbsp barley malt extract/ syrup (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp flaky salt, crumbled up
  • 30g poppy seeds
  • Oil, to grease

Make the tangzhong by putting the liquid and flour in a pan. Heat and stir until you get a gloopy mass. Transfer to another bowl if you like so it cools more quickly.

Once your tangzhong is warm but not hot, or room temperature is fine also, get on with the dough. Mix the salt, sugar and flours. Mix the yeast in. Mix in 250ml warm water, tangzhong and the oil. Mix to a shaggy dough. Rest for 10-30 minutes (just 10 if your kitchen is warm). Knead until it passes the ‘windowpane test’ then knead in the caraway seeds. Cover and leave to rise until doubled.

Turn out, divide into 8 and shape into bagels by rolling into a ball, push your finger through and twirl around a bit. Prove again until puffy and 1.5x in size. Preheat the oven to 200C / 180C fan / 400F.

Put a large pan of water on to boil, add the baking soda/bicarb and malt extract, if using, to the pan and stir to combine. Lower the bagels in and boil for 60 seconds per side then transfer to a greased or lined baking sheet. Sprinkle over the poppy seeds, if using.

Bake for about 25 minutes.

Herby Sesame Twists

Adapted from Benjamina Ebuehi’s A Good Day to Bake

  • 450g strong white flour
  • 1 tsp fine salt
  • 9g instant/ fast-action yeast
  • 6-9 tbsp finely chopped herbs (Benjamina suggests tarragon, chives and dill)
  • 40g olive oil
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 80-100g sesame seeds

Mix the salt into the flour. Mix in the yeast into the flour. Mix in the herbs. Mix in 240ml lukewarm water and oil to form a shaggy dough. Rest for 10-30 minutes (just 10 if your kitchen is warm). Knead until smooth and elastic. Prove until doubled in size.

Divide the dough into 6. Split each piece in half and roll each into a long sausage. Twist the strands together and bring together to make a loop, pinching to seal. Line a baking tray.

Mix the honey and 100ml lukewarm water. Dip each twist in the honey water and then into the sesame seeds. Place on a prepared baking tray. Loosely cover and prove until around 1.5x the size. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200C / 180C fan / 400F.

Once proven and the oven is at temperatue, bake for 18-22 minutes until golden.

Episode 56: Summer Essentials

We’ve had some hot days (by London standards) and the fruit and veg has changed… hence inspiring this episode!

Cold Brew

I’m a complete coffee fiend. I don’t mind drinking hot drinks in the summer (I drink English-style tea several times a day all-year-round). I’ve never quite gotten why some people are so against it – people in hot countries still drink hot drinks. But I do like to have a bottle of cold brew on the go alongside sometimes having my pour-overs. As well as being delicious, great black or with milk, cold brew is great for throwing in a cake batter without having to wait for the coffee to cool down. It’s the easiest type of coffee to make, so long as you can wait 24 hours. You need some sort of funnel (I just use my pour over thing), filter paper and a bottle.

50g coarsely ground coffee, 400-500ml/g cold water (I prefer still but by all means use sparkling if you like). Ice and/or milk of your choice to serve.

Use the funnel to put the coffee in a 1 litre/ 1 quart bottle. Add the water. Shake. Put in the fridge. Leave for 24 hours. Strain. It may take a while, so I tend to strain while I’m doing other jobs like washing up or cooking. That’s it! It’s good for about a week in the fridge I think.

It’s STRONG! So do water it down or add milk and ice, to your wish.

Banana Choc Ices

Errr. So this really couldn’t be any easier. You peel and halve some ripe bananas, stick a skewer or lolly stick in them and freeze them. If using skewers warn your guests so they don’t pierce the roofs of their mouths.

Once frozen, you dip them in melted chocolate – use a spoon to coat evenly. My chocolate preference is 50-50 dark and milk. Then you roll them in roasted nuts of your choice. My favourite is roasted pecans, broken up into small pieces. Hazelnuts and salted roasted peanuts are also good. That’s it!

You obviously have to like banana. These aren’t a good replacement for a normal chocolate ice lolly for people who don’t actually like banana. But they are wonderful!

No-Churn Ice Creams

These aren’t winning any awards for health but they are so easy and delicious. If you don’t have an ice cream churn they’re particularly fab.

The base is 300ml/ 10 fl oz heavy/ double cream and 397g/ 14 oz (sweetened) condensed milk.

Simply whisk these two up together to stiff peaks – perhaps with a pinch of salt, then gently stir or whisk in your mix-ins.

These work even better if you add a little alcohol for a softer serve, but this isn’t essential. Despite having lived in Scotland, I don’t really like whiskey of any kind (sorry). No Bourbon, single malt Scotch or anything else for me, thanks. But Nigella uses it. I like to use Grand Marnier (orange liqueur), Chambord (raspberry liqueur), Kahlua (fruit cream), Baileys (coffee cream), spiced rum and creme de cassis (blackberry liqueur).

Depending on what kind of ice cream you’re making, consider adding vanilla as well.

Another variation: use a tin of caramel/ dulce de leche instead of the condensed milk. It will be sweeter, so do balance with more salt and use smaller servings.

I just had this genius idea: you could steep a flavouring such as earl grey tea or chai spices or tarragon in hot cream, let the cream cool down fully again, refrigerate it, then treat it as before.

Blitz-and-Churn Fruit Sorbets

I covered this last summer, but The River Cafe’s strawberry sorbet is absolutely magnificent. It’s rightly on Food 52’s Genius Recipes. Honestly one of the best ices I’ve ever made or tried. Unless you have an enormous ice cream churner, halve the recipe. The balance between the sugar and the lemon pith catapults this into being so much more than a basic strawberry ice.

This summer I plan on trying out the peach and lemon sorbet as well (also on Food 52), using whatever stone fruit I can get my hands on that looks good. Please do let me know of any other blitz-and-churn recipes I should try out!

My Mother’s Chocolate Sauce

Ready in minutes, this goes sticky on ice cream but has a gloriously bitter edge from the cocoa. Someone I was seeing once jokingly proposed to me based on this sauce. Please do adjust the quantities to your liking, I don’t usually actually measure this sauce but I figured I have to give a rough guide! It tastes 1000 x better than anything you get in a bottle from the shop.

Serves 4 allegedly but I’ve been known to eat at least half of this in one sitting….

  • 50g butter or margarine (growing up in the 90s, my mum used marge but I now use butter). It does work with vegan blocks as well, but maybe use a little less. If you want a richer sauce that doesn’t go as sticky, use 75g butter.
  • 100g golden syrup – I’m informed that corn syrup is a reliable replacement
  • 25g cocoa

Stick all of them in a pan. Gently heat to melt the butter. Once combined, boil it furiously for about a minute or more gently for a couple of minutes – this reduces it to make it more sticky.

Serve with: vanilla ice cream and possibly some raspberries.

Topped Ice Cream and Sundae Ideas

My Slovenian recipe book suggests putting pumpkin seed oil on vanilla ice cream and finishing with a little crumbled flaky salt. I will and will report back. I may add a few toasted pumpkin seeds on top, too (IMO a highly underrated ingredient.) I quickly depleted the small bottle we brought back in salad dressings, but pumpkin seed oil is common across central Europe, I think. I have a couple of Hungarian shops near me so I’m hopeful.

People on TikTok (an app I’m definitely too old for) suggest putting soy sauce on vanilla ice cream. Apparently it has salted caramel vibes. I’ve also seen sesame oil on ice cream, with more mixed reviews.

Affogato. Summer is affogato season as far as I’m concerned. Not everyone in Britain knows what this is. It’s more common in London but not so common in sleepy seaside towns. So I’ve been known to order an espresso and a scoop of vanilla ice cream and then pouring the espresso over the ice cream to the bemusement of wait staff and mild embarrassment of my partner. Phenomenal.

My opinions on Sundaes.

Sundae is a wonderful vehicle for balance and texture, yet all-too-often we just get sweet on sweet on sweet and gloop on gloop on gloop.

For grown-up sundaes, we’re going to need the following.

  • More fruit compotes. Imagine vanilla ice cream, crumbled ginger biscuits/cookies, rhubarb compote . DIVINE.
  • Well balanced sauces. Steer away from the squeezy bottled trash in the supermarket and make your own. My mother’s chocolate sauce (above) is a good start. Make a ganache! Or use products that are actually good, like condensed milk, dulce de leche, honey or maple syrup. How about sweetening up some nut butter even?
  • Crispy and crunchy elements that actually taste of something. Bland wafers are out. Spiced biscuits, salty oaty biscuits (a good UK example is Hobnobs), dark chocolate digestives etc are in. Tuiles/ cat’s tongue biscuits are in. Stroopwaffles are in. Granola is in! Sesame seed brittle is in!
  • Consider adding nuts or seeds. Toasted flaked almonds. Roasted pecans, hazelnuts or walnuts. PISTACHIOS. Toasted pumpkin seeds. These will all add a slightly savoury note, roasty-toastiness and CRONCH.

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.