Episode 28: Blue Cheese Pastry; Raspberry and Pistachio Meringue Cake

In this episode I was talking about a blue cheese pastry I’ve fallen in love with and a pistachio meringue cake I’ve made a couple of times now for very special occasions, including a friend’s micro-wedding this week!

Pear, Walnut and Blue Cheese Tart

The pear, walnut and blue cheese tart in all its glory. Sorry for the poor lighting!

Recipe by Anna Glover in Good Food’s Vegetarian Christmas, 2020

For the pastry:

  • 100g wholemeal flour (strong wholemeal and spelt wholemeal both work, too)
  • 100g plain/ all purpose flour (if using spelt wholemeal make this strong white flour)
  • 50g walnuts
  • 100g cold cubed butter
  • 1 egg (I found it works with both UK medium/ US large and UK large/ US extra large)
  • 50g hard crumbly blue cheese, such as Stilton or Gorgonzola Piccante
  • A pinch of salt

For the filling:

  • 3 UK large / US extra large eggs, 1 separated, egg white beaten (total weight c. 180g)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 125ml double cream (I’ve found I can use 150ml [ie. a whole small tub] and avoid waste)
  • 1 ripe pear, halved, cored and thinly sliced
  • 50g hard crumbly blue cheese, such as Stilton or Gorgonzola Piccante (I usually use more)
  • 40g walnut halves (I usually use more)
  • Butter for greasing the dish
  • Salt and pepper

To make the pastry: Put both flours and the walnuts into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the walnuts are finely chopped. Add the butter and a pinch of salt, then pulse again until the mixture resembles damp sand. Add the egg and cheese and pulse together again until the mixture comes together in a ball. Add tiny drops of cold water to bring it together, if needed. (KH: I find if I use a medium egg I need to add water, but don’t if my egg is large.) Wrap the dough and chill for 30 minutes.

Blind baking: Heat the oven to 200C / 180 fan / gas 6 / 390 F. Grease a 23cm tart dish with butter. Roll the pastry out on a work surface lightly dusted with plain flour to the thickness of a £1 coin (3.15 mm). Place into the dish, using the rolling pin as a transportation device if needed. Patch any cracks with off-cuts and press into the dish. Press the edge with the back of a knife. Prick the base with a fork, then line with a scrunched sheet of baking parchment and then baking beans/ dried pulses. Bake for 15-20 minutes, then remove the baking beans and parchment. Glaze the inside of the pastry case with the reserved egg white. Bake for a further 10-15 minutes until light golden and dry.

For the filling: Meanwhile, heat the oil in the pan and fry the seasoned leeks until soft. Leave to cool. In a bowl or jug, whisk the two whole eggs, egg yolk, cream and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the pear slices in the base, then spoon the leeks on top. Scatter in the cheese and walnuts. Pour in the egg and cream mix. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until set with a slight wobble in the centre.

Blue Cheese Pastry Straws

Blue cheese pastry straws

Make the pastry, as above, and roll out into a rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Scatter half with 50g blue cheese. Fold over and roll out again. Cut into strips. You could twist these if you like or cut them into fancy shapes. The pastry is very short so you may need to repair cracks now and then. Freeze. Brush with beaten egg. Bake at 200C / 180 fan / gas 6 / 390 F for about 25-30 minutes. Best served with slices of fresh pear.

Raspberry and Pistachio Meringue Cake

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen. Yes, this IS a lot of pistachios and very expensive to make, which is why I only do it for very special occasions! It’s incredibly delicious and not overly sweet. The meringue is chewy rather than crispy.

For the meringue layers:

  • 225g caster sugar
  • The whites of 6 UK large/ US extra large eggs (c. 240g egg white)
  • 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
  • 400g pistachios without shells
  • 1/4 tsp salt

For the filling:

  • 50g white chocolate (75g if you want to drizzle on top)
  • 1 tbsp vanilla paste
  • 250g mascarpone (fridge-cold)
  • 250g double/ heavy cream (c. 50% fat) (fridge-cold)
  • 50g icing sugar
  • c. 250g fresh raspberries

To make the meringue layers (I like to do this the day before):

  1. Roast the pistachios in a preheated low oven (325F / 160 C / 140 fan/ gas 3) for about 15-20 minutes until toasty all around. You may want to give them a stir halfway through to ensure an even roasty-toastiness. Leave to cool. Leave the oven on at the same temperature.
  2. Grease, line and grease again four 20cm/ 8 in round cake tins. (You need to grease the parchment paper in order for half the meringue to not just be stuck on there.) If you only have two of these tins, no worries – you can bake the meringues in batches, or you could draw out circles on to parchment, place on baking trays and grease the circles.
  3. Blitz 340g of the pistachios with 100g of the sugar in the food processor until pretty finely ground, while very much avoiding taking it too far and making a nut butter. (Reserve the remaining pistachios for decoration.)
  4. Whisk the egg whites, 125g of the sugar and the cream of tartar to the edge of stiff peaks.
  5. Gently fold in the ground pistachio mixture, using a metal spoon and doing so in about 3 goes.
  6. Dollop gently into the tins, level (an offset spatula is very useful here) and bake for about 20 minutes in the same low oven (160 C / 140 fan / 325 F / gas 3).
  7. Leave to cool completely, then very gently transfer to a very airtight tin and leave overnight.
  8. Grind the reserved pistachios in the empty food processor bowl (you don’t really need to wash it out). Place in an airtight container and reserve for assembly.

For the filling – do this the morning of or a few hours before serving:

Melt the white chocolate and leave to cool. Whisk fridge-cold mascarpone and fridge-cold double cream with 50g of the white chocolate, vanilla paste and icing sugar. Place a meringue layer on the bottom and spread the cream with an offset spatula (or you could pipe it). Place another meringue layer and spread/pipe another layer of cream. Place the third meringue layer and spread/ pipe another layer of cream. Then put fresh raspberries on top of this. Top with the final meringue layer and a final thick layer of cream, then put more raspberries on top of this. Drizzle with the remaining white chocolate, if you like. Finally, scatter with the reserved ground pistachios.

Episode 27: Croissants, Pains au Chocolat and Blackcurrant Pastries

My first attempt at making these pastries! Please excuse the poor shaping and the under-bake on the croissants. ENTIRELY my fault for rushing!

I went back to my trusty copy of Crumb and the marvellous Ruby Tandoh for this! This dough you can use to make whatever breakfast pastries you like. I’m not going to write out the recipe as I didn’t make any changes. I thoroughly recommend buying her book, but otherwise here is her recipe republished. Here are my tips though if you decide to make this yourself!

  • Leave yourself plenty of time, take your time, and don’t rush. This is why some of my pastries were a bit underbaked.
  • Keep everything cold (until the second rise, or even through it if you choose to do this overnight)
  • Using instant/ fast-action yeast makes your life easier if you can get it
  • Read the instructions about shaping thoroughly. I find things like this really hard, maybe you won’t….
  • Pre-heat your oven really well so you get plenty of steam inside the pastries helping them rise nicely.
  • If you complete this, pat yourself on the back well done and enjoy. This really is a process!

Episode 26: Cute Chamomile Cupcakes

Four episodes in to Florals for Spring month… Am I converted to floral flavourings? I think I am! These chamomile cupcakes are really sweet little things. Though I think I was most taken with rose…

These cute little cake babies are based on a recipe in Ruby Tandoh’s book, Crumb. I LOVE THIS BOOK!

Ingredients

  • 225g butter
  • 160ml/g milk (I used whole/ high fat because yum)
  • 6 chamomile tea bags – plus one more to decorate the cakes (optional)
  • 160g caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs (UK large is c. 60g each)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 210g plain flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 200-300g icing sugar

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C / 160 fan / 350F. Line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper cases.

2. Put the butter, milk and the 6 tea bags in a small saucepan and heat to a simmer. Let it simmer for a couple of minutes, then set aside. After 5 minutes squeeze out and get rid of the tea bags. Leave to cool.

3. Beat the eggs and sugar for 3 minutes with an electric whisk until very light and airy. Pour 200g of the butter and milk mixture as well as the vanilla down the side of the bowl and fold in with a spatula. Sift the flour and baking powder in a separate bowl (or straight in if you prefer) and fold in in two goes, making sure there are no lumps.

4. Divide between the cases. Bake for 15 minutes. Check they are baked through by pressing the top gently of one of the cakes. It should be springy. Or you could do the skewer test. Stick it back in the oven for a few minutes if necessary. (I found 15 minutes to be about right.)

5. Put the remaining butter and milk mixture in a mixing bowl and refrigerate while the cakes are in the oven. When the cakes are out and have cooled, make an icing with the remaining butter and milk mixture by sifting in as much icing sugar as you need to get the desired consistency. You could use more butter as well if you would rather have a firmer icing: I found it was very much a runny icing. Sprinkle with great contents of the extra teabag to decorate, if desired.

Episode 25: Lemon Loaf with Elderflower Drizzle and Elderflower Cream

As part of Florals for Spring month I tried elderflower to see if I could actually like it. I don’t think I’m as sold on it as I am on rose, but I like it and I think it is a nice refreshing note in cocktails and ice lollies. I also liked it with lemon, in this cake, but found you need to dial back the lemon from a standard lemon drizzle cake so the elderflower isn’t overwhelmed. A convenient thing about using elderflower cordial is it’s already a syrup, so you can use just as it is to drizzle in cakes or to flavour cream.

This recipe is adapted from recipes by Ravneet Gill and Helen Goh (both fab bakers and wtiters). It made a nice change from the typical creaming butter and sugar method. I’m usually lazy about sifting flour, but because there’s a lot of folding, it’s actually important here to avoid pockets of it in the finished cake. It’s really reliable. For best results you want a really consistent, even oven temperature, so preheat the oven really well, if you can.

Lemon Loaf with Elderflower Drizzle and Elderflower Cream

For the cake:

  • 3 large eggs (UK large – c. 180g whole)
  • 225g caster/ superfine sugar
  • 150ml / 140g double cream
  • 75g butter
  • 180g plain flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • The zest of 1-2 lemons, depending on the size of lemon and how much you can get from them. (I do love a lemony cake, but if you want to taste the elderflower, don’t go overboard.)
  • 6 tbsp (90ml) elderflower cordial (I used Bottle Green)

For the cream: 150ml/ 140g double cream, 3 tbsp (45ml) elderflower cordial

1. Preheat the oven to 180C / 160 fan/ 350F. Grease and line a 1lb /900g loaf tin. These seem to vary a lot, but the one I’ve had success with for cakes is light coloured and on the smaller side. (I now reserve my black loaf tin for bread duty.)

2. Zest the lemons and set aside. Weigh the flour and add the baking powder in a bowl and set aside.

3. Whisk the eggs and sugar until very light and frothy and roughly tripled in volume.

4. Melt the butter in a small pan or the microwave. Stir in the cold cream. Heat again if necessary, very gently, so you have a barely warm but liquid mixture. (Too warm will scramble the eggs.)

5. Pour the butter and cream down the side of the bowl, then fold them, and the zest, in gently to the egg mixture with a spatula.

6. Sift in the flour mixture and fold in, in two goes.

7. Bake for 50 minutes or so, until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

8. Take out of the oven and leave for 5-10 minutes. Stab all over, maybe about 12 or 15 times, with a skewer. Evenly pour over the elderflower cordial. Leave to cool completely in the tin.

9. To make the cream when you’re close to serving the cake, whip the cream on its own to soft peaks. Add the elderflower cordial and beat in until just combined.

Episode 24: Orange Blossom and Cinnamon Cupcakes (with Lemon Curd Icing)

In this episode, I talk about my favourite cookbook before getting into the orange blossom trials. I made two pretty bad bakes before arriving at this one! Orange blossom and cinnamon is a common combination in Moroccan cooking and really works. The lemon curd icing gives some citrus sharpness to compliment the warmth and fragrance of the cinnamon and orange blossom water.

Cake ingredients: 2 room temperature UK large eggs (c. 120g), 150g plain / AP flour, 150g caster (superfine, but granulated should be ok) sugar, 150g room temperature salted butter, 50g Greek or natural yogurt, 1 tsp orange blossom water (I think they vary a lot – I used Steenbergs), 1 scant tsp ground cinnamon, 1 scant tsp baking powder.

Icing ingredients: 75g icing / powdered sugar, 75g salted butter, 75g good lemon curd (I used Morrison’s The Best Sicilian and highly recommend it), 1/2 tsp orange blossom water (again, I used Steenbergs)

Cake method: Line a muffin tin with 12 cupcake cases. Preheat oven to 180C / 160 fan/ 350F. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg gradually – in at least two stages – combining really well each time. Add the flour, blossom water, cinnamon, baking powder and yogurt and whisk to combine but don’t overdo it. Bake for about 20 minutes or so until the cakes spring back when touched. Leave to cool completely before icing.

Icing method: Beat the butter on its own until lighter and fluffier with an electric hand whisk. Add the icing sugar and combine with a spoon first to stop the icing sugar coating your kitchen. Then beat this with the butter until fluffy. Add the lemon curd and beat in briefly to combine. Chill until needed. Use a small spatula to gently cap each cake with icing.

Episode 23: Earl Grey and Rose Tea Loaf (plus Hot Cross Buns and Chocolate Nests)

Welcome to Florals for Spring month! To start with, I shocked myself by actually liking rose when used delicately. According to colleagues (and me) this cake is well-balanced, delicious, moist and has an unctuous texture. If you definitely don’t like rose, I would urge you to use the vanilla variation. Adapted from Molly Baz.

Earl grey and rose tea loaf ❤

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 250g caster/superfine sugar (granulated probably fine too)
  • 190g vegetable oil
  • 235g full fat Greek yogurt, warmed to room temperature in the microwave
  • 3 tablespoons earl grey tea leaves (loose leaf or 4-5 high quality teabags)
  • 1-2 tsp rosewater (I used Steenbergs, I think they vary a lot) OR 1 tbsp vanilla paste or extract
  • 250g plain/ all purpose flour (or white spelt flour)
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp of salt

Method

  1. Prepare a light-coloured standard loaf pan (2lb/ 900g) and preheat the oven to 160C/ 140 fan / 320 F / gas 3.
  2. Grind the earl grey in a pestle and mortar until fine.
  3. Whisk the eggs and sugar until tripled in volume.
  4. Pour the oil, yogurt and rosewater/vanilla down the side and whisk in.
  5. Add the flour, salt, tea leaves, bicarb and baking powder and whisk or fold in.
  6. Transfer to the prepared loaf pan and bake for about an hour, until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Hot Cross Buns

A tray of perfect chubby babies

It’s taken me a while to perfect these. So if it’s too late for this year, sorry! Definitely try them next year. This very enriched dough makes them ultra fluffy. If it’s easier for you to get hold of, you can substitute this spice blend for 2.5 tsp mixed spice and 1.5 tsp cinnamon. I do like my spices on the heavier side, so feel free to pare it down if you like.

Makes 12 generous buns

  • 500g strong white flour
  • 5g salt
  • 70g light brown soft sugar / caster sugar
  • 1 tsp mace
  • 1.5 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • scant 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 3/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 8g instant (fast-action) yeast
  • 300ml tub single cream
  • 50g butter
  • 2 medium/ large eggs (UK medium is c. 50g, UK large is c. 60g)
  • 150g currants (or raisins/ sultanas)
  • 50g candied citrus peel
  • For the egg wash: 1 egg yolk and around 3 tsp egg white
  • For the crosses: 60g plain/ strong white flour, 70g tepid water

Method

1. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the flour, sugar, salt and spices. I use a dough whisk for this mixing stage but you can use a fork if not. Then add the yeast and mix through. (This is to prevent the salt from inhibiting the yeast.)

2. Gently melt the butter in a heat proof jug in the microwave. Tip in the cream and stir well to combine, then pop back in the microwave and heat to around body temperature, stirring well after each short burst. (Too hot will kill the yeast but warm will help it work a bit faster.)

3. Add the cream and butter mixture and the eggs. Mix together well, leaving no pockets of unmixed flour. Cover the bowl with a plate/ cling film/ shower cap and leave for about 30 minutes. This helps the flour absorb more liquid and gluten bonds will then start forming, leaving you with less kneading to do.

4. Add the currants and peel and knead until you can stretch out a few inches of dough and see light coming through them. (The windowpane test.) Ensure the fruit is as well incorporated as possible, but it can be tricky and it’s not your fault! Cover the bowl again and leave until doubled in size and very puffy. (Takes about an hour or longer in a cooler kitchen.)

5. Line a baking tray. Tear lumps off the dough of around 101-102g each and pop them on a plate or clean work surface. Once you’ve got those lumps all weighed, shape each bun. Pull dough from the centre up and over, turning as you go, until you have a taut ball. You could also scoop underneath and round to form even more surface tension. (This helps them keep their shape and puff up beautifully.) Cover with a light tea towel or cling film and leave until puffy. (This takes about 45 minutes or possibly longer in a cooler kitchen. You can also bung them in the fridge overnight as this slows the yeast down.)

6. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to moderate (I do 180 C to avoid burning the bottoms of my buns, but you may be okay to bake at a higher temperature for less time.)

7. Make up your egg wash and cross mixture. Mix the egg yolk and 2-3 tsp egg white in a small cup or bowl. In a small mixing bowl, mix the flour and water for the crosses. You need a consistency that will come off the spoon easily but not be too runny. Tranfer to a small piping bag or plastic sandwich bag. Use straight away, or if you leave it too long you may need to add more water as the mixture will get drier.

7. Brush the egg wash on to the buns with a pastry brush. Once all the buns are egg washed, snip a small hole into your piping bag (or makeshift piping bag). Pipe vertical and horizontal lines over the buns to make crosses.

8. Bake for around 15-25 minutes depending on your baking temperature and oven. I turn mine around halfway through due to my oven being hotter on one side. Leave to cool on the baking tray for a while before transferring to a cooling rack. I just carefully slide everything off including the paper.

Note: These are best eaten within 24 hours of being made. If not eaten quickly, freeze them. Defrost before toasting. (I use my microwave’s defrost function for about 1 minute.) In Britain it’s practically the law to eat them toasted if they aren’t warm from the oven. Spread liberally with butter, clotted cream or lemon curd.

Chocolate Nests

Chocolate nests with chicks

Makes around 18. I found it a great way to use up an excess of chocolate. Feel free to halve or double the recipe. The recipe is from Jane’s Patisserie (very successful recipe, thank you, and will now be my base for no-bake fridge cake things).

  • 400g chocolate, broken up (I like half dark and half milk, or all dark)
  • 100g butter
  • 100g golden syrup
  • a pinch or two of salt
  • 7 shredded wheats (315g), broken up
  • 54 miniature chocolate eggs (3 per nest) or as many as you want
  • other springtime/ Easter decorations, if wanted

Line two cupcake trays. Melt the chocolate and butter gently, stirring well. A bain marie or short bursts in the microwave both work well. Stir in the golden syrup. Add the broken up shredded wheats and stir to coat the lot with chocolate mixture. Spoon into cases. Top with mini eggs and any other decorations Leave to set at room temperature or in the fridge.

Episode 22: Raspberry and Sumac Yogurt Cake

This cake is mega good. Moist, loads of raspberries distributed throughout and it keeps well in an airtight container (as small as possible to keep out as much air as possible. Sumac has a tart, citrus flavour, and in a flash of inspiration the other day I thought ‘What about raspberries?’. As I had hoped, they do go well together. Of course, very few good ideas in food are new, so having Googled ‘raspberry sumac cake’ there are actually quite a few out there!

A slice of raspberry, sumac and yogurt cake

It’s roughly based on this recipe from Clotilde Dusolier at Chocolate and Zucchini.

Ingredients

  • 2 UK large eggs (c. 60g each)
  • 300g full fat Greek yogurt (c. 250ml) – warmed gently to room temperature
  • 200g caster / superfine sugar
  • 80g vegetable oil
  • 250g plain / all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda/ baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp fine salt
  • 2 tablespoons sumac, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 300g raspberries
  • Around 2 tablespoons demerara/ turbinado sugar, for sprinkling (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C / 160 fan / 350 F/ gas 4. Grease a 23cm, high sided cake tin (I used a springform one) with vegetable oil and line the base with parchment paper. If you are using a springform or any tin that may leak, pop it on a baking tray.
  2. Get a large mixing bowl and measure out the eggs and sugar. Sift the flour, take out 2 tablespoons of it, then add the raising agents and sumac into a medium-large bowl, and mix them together. Put the 2 tbsp flour into a medium-sized bowl and very gently coat the raspberries with flour. (This stops them sinking so you get an even distribution throughout the batter.) Warm the yogurt gently to room temperature if you haven’t already – I put it in the microwave very briefly and stir well. You could put it in a warm water bath, alternatively.
  3. Whisk the eggs and sugar until pale and much bigger in volume. Add the vegetable oil by pouring it down the sides, and do the same with the yogurt. Whisk these in until just mixed. Fold in the flour mixture gently until no lumps or streaks remain. Finally, fold in most of the raspberries. Transfer the mixture to the cake pan. Dot over the remaining raspberries. Sprinkle over the demerara/ turbinado sugar.
  4. Bake for around 45-50 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean of batter. Don’t be afraid to take it out before or after the time suggested, depending on how it is looking and the skewer test! Leave to cool completely before cutting into it, otherwise the crumb won’t be set and you may end up with a right mess. I’d cool it really well in the tin before taking off the sides or trying to move it anywhere.

Episode 21: Gorgeously Golden Turmeric Sugar Cookies

I’m not really superstitious but 21 is my birthday date and for some reason I just like it as a number. My prep for episode 21 didn’t disappoint, and it only took me one try to get these cookies right, thanks to a great recipe. Turmeric is earthy, citrus-y, fragrant and really hard to describe. I use it quite a lot in cooking (and love it) but not in sweet baking. Here it elevates a cookie from being nice to being interesting, complex and delicious. In this episode I also talk about my plans for a hot cross buns-baking marathon…

Very, very slightly adapted from Emma LaPerruque on Food 52.

Makes 12

Ingredients

For the dough:

  • 115g butter (room temperature)
  • 150g golden or white caster/superfine or granulated white sugar
  • A pinch of salt (use more or less depending on whether your butter is salted)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 150g plain flour

For the sugar crust: 50g granulated sugar, 2/3 tsp turmeric

Method:

  1. Heat oven to 375F / 190C. Line two baking trays with parchment paper or silpat.
  2. Beat the butter, sugar and salt to combine and cream slightly.
  3. Add the egg, vanilla, turmeric, baking powder and flour. Mix well.
  4. Refrigerate for at least 10 minutes. I found I needed to do this for longer, maybe 20 or 30 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the sugar and turmeric for the sugar crust.
  5. Portion the dough into twelve chunks. Mine were about 37g each. Roll into balls, then roll in the sugar crust mixture. Place on the baking trays.
  6. Bake for 9-11 minutes. Hopefully it will have crispy edges but still be a bit softer in the middle. I swapped my baking trays halfway through as my oven cooks unevenly.

Episode 20: Getting Carried Away with Caraway Seed Cake

Perfect with a cup of tea… seed cake with a tender crumb

There seem to be two schools of thought when it comes to seed cake recipes: fewer seeds, less sugar and a bit drier – sort of a more austere approach – or sweeter, strongly flavoured, and more moist. I prefer the latter! This delicately aniseed cake has been around for literally hundreds of years. Some websites even claimed that it’s medieval. It’s mentioned in Winnie the Pooh and the Hobbit! Credit to Andrea and Stefin of Preheated baking podcast: it took two American bakers to inspire an English woman to try this traditional British bake! And Regula Ysewijn, a Belgian baker whose historical British baking books are just wonderful. It’s so fun seeing your own country – that you thought was pretty boring – through someone else’s eyes…

P.S. This cake keeps well for a couple of days at room temperature in an airtight container or bag.

Ingredients (for best results they all need to be at room temperature when you add them!)

  • 3 UK large eggs (c. 180g)
  • 180g salted butter (or unsalted and a pinch of salt)
  • 180g caster (superfine) sugar
  • 180g plain (AP) flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 100g full-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp (or 3 tsp) caraway seeds

Method

1. Grease and line a 900g/ 2lb loaf tin, preferably light coloured and thinner metal to prevent it getting too dark on the outside. Preheat the oven to 160 C / 140 fan / 320 F / gas 3.

2. Gently toast the caraway seeds in a dry pan for a couple of minutes until a little more fragrant. Bash these up a little in a pestle and mortar, but you don’t need to actually grind them. It’s just to release a little more of their oils.

3. Cream the butter and sugar with electric beaters or using a stand mixer. Do this until extremely fluffy, it’ll take at least a few minutes. In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs and add, very gradually, to the butter mixture, to incorporate and create an emulsion. I literally do half an egg at a time for best results.

4. Add the ground almonds, flour, seeds and baking powder and beat until just incorporated. Finally, add the yogurt and incorporate very gently, perhaps just using a spatula if you have the patience.

5. Transfer to the loaf pan. Tap on the counter to get rid of any large bubbles to ensure an even texture. You can also swirl through the batter with a skewer to achieve this. Bake for 50-60 minutes. You want a skewer to come out clean, but if you over-bake this cake it will be dry.

Episode 19: Pink Peppercorn and Ruby Chocolate Shortbread #SpiceIsNice

I first came across pink peppercorn in sweet baking in Benjamina Ebuelhi’s fab book The New Way to Cake, which has in it a recipe for pink peppercorn madeleines. Pink peppercorns have a warm spice at the back of your palate, and at the front they taste sweet and sour. They are derived from a berry.

My partner suggested using ruby chocolate after we tried a version with milk chocolate. Milk chocolate was nice but the slightly sour berry notes in ruby chocolate compliment pink peppercorns perfectly. The colours also go perfectly together!

This recipe is just using the 3-2-1 principle of shortbread (3 parts flour, 2 parts butter, 1 part sugar – all measured by weight) with a couple of small twists. Using 3-2-1 it’s really easy to create your own recipes!

P.S. Spelt flour isn’t strongly flavoured, so it isn’t a necessity, but it does make lovely, crumbly shortbread if you want to get hold of it.

Pink peppercorn shortbread with ruby chocolate topping

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons pink peppercorns, measured whole, plus a few more to decorate
  • 150g white spelt flour (or just use plain/ all purpose)
  • 100g salted butter (or use unsalted with a pinch of salt)
  • 50g caster/ superfine/ white granulated sugar
  • 1 egg yolk (I used a UK large egg but any size will do, to be honest you could actually leave it out but I liked the richness here)
  • A scant teaspoon of water, if necessary
  • c. 50g ruby chocolate (it does alternatively work with milk or white)

Method

  1. Grind the peppercorns in a pestle and mortar. (I’ve tried doing this in a food processor but prefer the slightly chunkier bits you get from doing this by hand.)
  2. Rub in the flour and butter: use a pastry blender, fingertips or a food processor and rub together until you have crumbs the consistency of damp sand.
  3. Stir in the sugar. Beat the egg yolk lightly with a fork in a cup or small bowl, then stir in.
  4. Bring the mixture together with your hands. If that proves difficult, you might consider adding the scant teaspoon of water, or a very teeny drop more if necessary. Go slowly.
  5. Form into your desired shape and chill very well. I opted to press it into a greased and lined 8″ / 20cm cake tin. I then chilled it for a good hour.
  6. Preheat the oven to 190C /170 fan/ 375 F / gas 5. Bake for approximately 15 minutes, depending on how thin it is, until just turning golden on the bottom or sides. If you have baked it in one block, score it with a knife while it’s warm out of the oven, so it will be easier to cut. Cool completely.
  7. Melt the chocolate either gently and carefully in the microwave or using the bain marie method. Drizzle over the shortbread (or dip the biscuits in, if you prefer and have a steady hand).