Christmas breadstick stars

A play on my traditional grissini, tweaked into a festive shape and covered with any toppings you choose, though here I have used hemp seeds, poppy seeds and parmesan.

Notes

Use a fine milled flour, an 00 grade if possible such as Murino Molina from Bakery Bits (which is what I used here) or plain white flour or bread flour for brioche. At a pinch, any strong white bread flour will work if you can’t get a fine flour, but it won’t give you the ultimate crisp snap of a proper grissino.

Equipment

  • Large bowl
  • Stand mixer with dough hook attachment – if not kneading by hand
  • Pizza cutter, bread scraper or long sharp knife (non-serrated)
  • Baking trays, lined
  • Rolling pin
  • Pastry brush

Ingredients

  • 300g tipo 00, fine plain or other white flour (see notes above)
  • 4 g fast acting dried yeast
  • 2/3 teaspoon of fine salt
  • 4-5 turns of a pepper mill
  • 15mg olive oil
  • 195g tepid water
  • Added ingredients of your choice, but I used:
    • poppy seeds (1-2 tablespoons)
    • hemp seeds (1-2 tablespoons)
    • grated parmesan (about 10g)
  • An egg, whisked and used as a wash
  • Additional flour, for dusting the surface as required

Method

  1. Mix all the ingredients together into a scruffy mess and leave for 10 minutes
  2. Tip out and knead for 8 – 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and glossy or mix it in your stand mixer
  3. Leave the dough to rest in a lightly oiled bowl, covered with a tea towel or cling film until about doubled in size (if using continental flour it is likely to just rise by about another 50% instead). This could be anything between 30 – 90 minutes depending on the ambient temperature
  4. In the meantime, grate the parmesan and ready your seeds/flavourings
  5. When the dough is ready, lightly flour a surface and use a rolling pin to roll the dough out into as precise a rectangle as possible (any wobbly sides will need to be trimmed off)
  6. Cut strips from the dough, each about 1 cm thick – cut along the short edge
  7. Have the paper-lined baking sheets to hand
  8. Roll each of the strips lightly, so they form tubes rather than ribbons. Try not to stretch them too much (it will be easy to roll them on a less floured surface)
  9. Form a five pointed star with each strip of dough and pinch the two edges together at an end point:

    #breadstick #star #inksugarspice
  10. Complete stars with all the dough
  11. Cover and leave to rise again – for about 20-30 minutes until puffed up (they probably won’t double in size)
  12. Set the oven on to 200C fan / 220C conventional
  13. Paint an egg wash on each of the dough stars and sprinkle (or grate!) your favoured toppings on. I did a third of the stars in poppy seeds, a third in hemp seeds and the final third with grated parmesan
  14. Bake for about 17-18 minutes until a nice golden colour (under the toppings)
  15. Turn off the oven and leave for a further 5 minutes so they are crisp with a nice ‘snap’ when cooled and ready to eat
  16. Wonderful dipped in a little butter, hummus, salsa or to scoop up fondue or baked camembert
breadstick stars Christmas recipe by Inksugarspice

Mini panettone

I love a panettone at Christmas, but sometimes those large ones are just too large. You need a lot of family and friends round to get through it before it goes stale. These little muffin-sized panettone (or more correctly, panettoncini) are sometimes a better option, are delightfully cute and are also great as little individual bake-and-share Christmas gifts.

What’s extra handy with these (although this does degrade their quality a little) is that they can be frozen and brought out of the freezer to defrost at room temperature for half a day/overnight. So you can bake a batch in advance and defrost a few at a time.

Notes

Bake in muffin cases, or proper panettoncini paper cases are available. I purchase mine from Bakery Bits (they also have the large cases).

Traditionally, the large, full-size panettone need to be cooled while being hung upside down (skewers are in seated across the base to hang it). This stops the domed top from deflating. You do NOT need to do this with the panettoncini: they can cool in their cases standing up.

This is a wet dough – you can knead it by hand successfully, but it is so very messy! Simpler to use a stand mixer or food processor for this.

Equipment

  • 10-12 cases (see notes)
  • Stand mixer or bread machine on dough setting ideally. Or large bowl
  • Bread scraper
  • Scales, measuring spoons, knife, pastry brush
  • Small jug or bowl
  • Baking tray
  • Tea towel/cloth

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon of dried, fast acting yeast
  • 80ml milk, warmed to body temperature
  • 400g Tipo 00 or plain flour (not bread flour)
  • 2 teaspoons of (a good quality) dark cocoa powder
  • 2 medium eggs
  • Seeds of 1/2 vanilla pod or 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla powder
  • 120g golden caster sugar or light brown sugar
  • 50g of softened unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon of fine salt
  • 180g water
  • 75g dark chocolate, cut into chunks
  • 75g pistachios
  • 3 tablespoons of honey
  • 40-50g pearl sugar

Method

  • Warm the milk to about body temperature and whisk the yeast gently into it. Leave for 10 minutes until it begins to froth
  • In a bowl (if you are hand kneading) or into your mixer bowl add: flour, cocoa powder, eggs, vanilla, sugar, butter, salt and water and then also tip in the milk/yeast mixture
  • Knead for 10 minutes in your stand mixer until the dough becomes smooth and glossy and still very soft. (If kneading by hand, tip out on to a counter and work for about 14 minutes. It will be tough and messy going but it will eventually come together)
  • At this point add in the chocolate chunks and the pistachios
  • Leave in the bowl, covered with a clean tea towel, to rise for about 60-75 minutes. It will rise somewhere around half as much again (it won’t fully double in size)
  • After the dough has risen, liberally flour a work surface and tip the dough out in to it
  • Roll the dough out into a rectangle and (this isn’t strictly traditional but I find it works). Roughly about 40 x 70cm but it’s more important to get a standard thickness than a “correct” size. Roll the dough up using the longest edge into a long Swiss roll shape
  • Place all your panettoncini cases out on to a baking tray, so they’re ready
  • Chop the roll of dough into twelve or thirteen equal fat discs and gently roll each one into more of a ball shape. As a guide the dough pieces should be roughly 80g each
  • Lightly roll each piece into a ball and then pop it into a case, with the smoothest side upwards
  • Leave to rise for 20-30 minutes, covered with a clean cloth
  • While they are rising for the final time, turn the oven on to 200 C fan oven or 220C conventional oven
  • Bake for about 20-23 minutes. You can test with a skewer as you would with a cake
  • Leave to cool upright in the cases
  • Warm the honey (unless using a very runny honey)
  • Brush the tops of the panettoncini with the honey and sprinkle on the pearl sugar

One last thing, should you have any left over, panettone makes an awesome bread and butter-style dessert.

Cinnamon buns

Notes

This makes 12-16 cinnamon buns, depending on how deep you cut each slice

Tin sizes don’t need to be exact – the buns will expand outwards and/or upwards. If using a rectangular tin, use one about 20 x 30 cm and if using a circular tin, use one about 30cm in diameter

This is a wet dough so you may want to use a stand mixer instead of your hands for the kneading stage

Preparation time – 2hr 15 (about 45 minutes of this is hands-on activity)

Cooking time – 20-25 mins

Equipment

  • a tin to place the buns in – rectangular or circular will do. See notes above
  • pastry brush
  • rolling pin
  • large bowl
  • sharp knife
  • small ceramic bowl/cup or small saucepan
  • stand mixer with dough hook (if not kneading by hand)
  • clean tea towel

Ingredients – for the enriched dough

  • 300g wholemeal bread flour
  • 150g strong white flour
  • 1 teaspoon of fast action dried yeast
  • 40g caster sugar
  • a pinch of fine salt
  • 120ml milk (doesn’t have to be warmed but it’s better if it’s not fridge-cold)
  • 70ml tepid water
  • 1 medium egg (beaten)
  • 25 olive oil

Ingredients for the filling

  • 95g unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 50g demerara sugar
  • 100g chopped gale cherries

Ingredients for the glaze/topping

  • 30ml golden syrup or maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons of marmalade (with or without peel – your choice)
  • 30g – 40g of slivered almonds

Plus

  • extra flour for dusting
  • extra olive oil for resting the dough

Method

  1. Add all the dry ingredients into your bowl (that’s both flour types, sugar, yeast and salt) and mix them up a bit.
  2. Make a well in the middle and tip in the milk and water, beaten egg and olive oil and start to mix. This is a little wetter than bread and is messy so you may want to use a wooden spoon first to bring it together before you start to knead
  3. Alternatively, use a stand mixer with a bread hook instead of hand kneading
  4. If kneading by hand, tip out onto a lightly floured surface
  5. Knead for 8 – 10 mins (or in your stand mixer). The dough will have a smooth surface when it’s ready
  6. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with your tea towel
  7. Leave it to rise somewhere warm. This will typically take an hour and the dough will almost double in size
  8. Gently roll the dough out of the bowl on to a lightly floured surface and start to press it down gently into a rectangle (around 65cm by 15 cm)
  9. In a small bowl, mix the ground cinnamon, vanilla seeds, caster sugar and softened butter together
  10. Spread the cinnamon butter all over the dough
  11. Scatter over the chopped glace cherries
  12. Roll up the dough like a roulade/Swiss roll, starting from the long edge
  13. Cut the roll into 12-16 slices
  14. Place the slices end-on into your tin. If the slices have flattened as you cut them, you can reshape them by hand
  15. Space the slices around 1 cm apart
  16. Cover again and leave to rise a second time for around 30 mins
  17. Heat your oven to 180C fan/200C conventional.
  18. When risen, place in the oven
  19. After 10 mins turn the oven down to 160C fan/140C conventional and bake for 10 – 15 mins more
  20. Let the buns cool in the tin for 10 minutes
  21. Melt the syrup and marmalade together with a tablespoon of water – you can do this in the microwave or in a saucepan
  22. Brush the glaze over the top of the buns while they are still in the tin and then sprinkle with the almonds
  23. Leave until fully cool

Christmas cookie swap: festive caraway and cinnamon biscuit recipe

Christmas Cookies - Ink Sugar Spice

This year I’m participating in the festive cookie swap run by the wonderful (and award winning) blog “Jul’s Kitchen“, and thanks to a Twitter invite by the lovely Lucy Antal. Juls has stated that 230 people worldwide have participated this year, from countries as diverse as Taiwan and Argentina. Bakers only have to swap with those in their own country though.

If you’d like to read Jul’s blog post for the 2019 challenge you can here, though it’s now too late to join up for 2019. Perhaps set yourself a reminder for early November 2020 your calendar to get involved next year? Jul’s Kitchen is a collaboration between Giulia Scarpaleggia, a Tuscany-based food writer, photographer and tutor and her partner Tommaso Galli, who runs the communication, marketing and assists with tutoring.

The premise is to share the festive love! Bake a couple of batches of biscuits and dispatch them across the country, and you’ll receive cookies back. What’s not to love?! Sharing, having an excuse to bake, feeling festive, giving and receiving gifts and connecting with others.

If you want to look out for what the 230 participating people have shared then search for the hashtags #cookieswap2019 #julskitchen

I was delighted to receive some gorgeous Lancashire tosset biscuits from Lucy Antal and some Calzoncelli biscuits (in a little jar, with a cute pot of lemon curd!) from Katlin Stevens. Thank you ladies!

Here’s my Christmas biscuit recipe that I’ve developed and used for this cookie swap. It produces a relatively dry biscuit, as they did need to get posted. So, this recipe is idea for gifting – through the post or wrapped beautifully and hand delivered with love.

Notes

  • Makes about 35
  • Instead of dusting with icing sugar, for extra luxe dip in melted chocolate to finish

Equipment

  • Saucepan
  • Large bowl
  • Two baking sheets, lined
  • Fine sieve
  • Wire cooling rack(s)
  • Wooden spoons, scales

Ingredients

  • 70g of olive oil – I used Filippo Berio’s Classico (your choice of oil to meet your taste preference, but anything from a mild to an extra virgin will work: anything more special/rich/highly flavoured will affect the taste too much)
  • 112g black treacle
  • 2 teaspoons caraway seeds
  • 345g plain flour, preferably tipo 00
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 80g soft brown sugar
  • 1 medium – large egg
  • zest of one orange
  • plus you may need 15-20ml milk (depending on the size of the egg you used and humidity/dryness of other ingredients)
  • Icing sugar to decorate

Method

  • Warm your oven to 190° C fan / 210° C conventional or 400° F and set the shelves to the middle of your oven
  • Prepare two baking sheets with greaseproof paper or baking parchment
  • Weigh the black treacle and the olive oil both out into the saucepan and then add in the caraway seeds
  • Warm the treacle and oil over a low heat, while stirring with a wooden spoon, until the treacle softens and you can stir the two together (they naturally do not want to combine until warmed). Do not turn the heat up or the treacle will bubble
  • Once mixed, turn off the heat – do not keep on the heat longer than necessary
  • Weigh out all the other ingredients into your mixing bowl: flour, baking powder, all three spices, cocoa, vanilla extract, orange zest, sugar and egg and roughly mix them together
  • Using a sieve over the mixing bowl, pour out the oil and treacle mix so that the caraway seeds are captured in the sieve. (They’ve flavoured the oil and treacle but are now not needed)
  • Mix all the ingredients together
  • You may need a little extra milk if your ingredients feel powdery and are not coming together (this is normally due to a smaller size egg, but other things like lack of humidity in your kitchen etc can effect this). Add 15 ml of milk at first, and see if that is enough. Add a little more in tiny increments until you are satisfied – the mix should be robust but clump together well
  • Take a walnut-sized amount of dough (if you wish to be more precise, 20g of dough is a perfect size) and roll it in your palms to make a rough ball
  • Slightly squash the dough ball, so it becomes more disc-shaped and place on the baking tray
  • These biscuits do not spread much, so you can place them about 1-2 cm apart
  • Bake in the middle of the oven for 12 minutes
  • Transfer to wire racks to cool and dust with icing sugar when completely cooled
Christmas Cookies - Ink Sugar Spice

Sticky crumble topped gingerbread

imageSearching for a gingerbread recipe can be a bit confusing – for a start gingerbread can be a rich loaf cake, a pain d’epices, or it can be a crisp biscuit for gingerbread houses or little iced biscuits (see my own recipe for Gingerbread foxes). This is neither! Inspired in part by Grassmere gingerbread (a Lakeland classic) this is a gooey, soft biscuit with a spiced crumble topping and perfect for a Christmas treat.

Notes

  • Makes about 22 triangular biscuits, but you can chop them into any shape.
  • This is a double bake recipe, that is you need to bake shortbread first, then use this shortbread as part of the main bake.
  • These make awesome foodie Christmas gifts.

Equipment

  • small saucepan
  • small baking tray (about 18 cm x 24 cm)
  • parchment/baking paper/silicon mat
  • large bowl and a smaller bowl or cup
  • scales, measuring spoons
  • wire cooking rack
  • wooden spoon

Ingredients for the shortbread base

  • Plain flour – 145 g
  • Ground almonds – 30 g
  • Caster sugar – 70 g
  • Unsalted butter at room temperature – 110g

Other ingredients

  • Light brown sugar or demerara – 70g
  • Ground ginger – 2 teaspoons
  • Ground cinnamon – 1 teaspoon
  • Golden syrup – 40 g
  • Treacle – 30 g
  • Unsalted butter – 50 g
  • Crystalised ginger – 55 g
  • Lemon zest – zest of half a lemon

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 °C fan / 200 °C conventional
  2. Place some greasproof or baking paper in your baking tray
  3. Crumble the ingredients for the shortbread together in a bowl, mixing it in with your fingers until you get fine sand
  4. No need to roll out the shortbread – you are going to bake this as crumbs
  5. Tip the crumbed shortbread dough onto your baking sheet and spread it out so it’s in one thin layer
  6. Bake for 13-14 minutes until it’s starting to go a nice golden brown
  7. Remove and leave to cool a little
  8. Do not turn off your oven
  9. Crumble the cooked shortbread back into the bowl – leave the baking tray with the greaseproof paper to one side as you will use it again (and there is no need to lay a new piece of paper down)
  10. To the bowl, add 1 teaspoon of ground ginger, 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and the light brown sugar
  11. Mix thoroughly and ensure there are no large pieces of shortbread
  12. Spoon out about 25% of this crumble and put it to one side in a separate small bowl or cup
  13. Into the remaining shortbread crumble mix (still in the bowl) add in another teaspoon of ginger and the zest of half a lemon
  14. Finely chop the crystalised ginger and add that to the bowl as well
  15. In a saucepan, melt the additional 50 g butter with the treacle and golden syrup
  16. When melted (don’t let it bubble or boil) tip this into the crumble mixture in the bowl and mix it all together
  17. Pour this mixture out onto the lined baking tray and press it down so that it makes an even layer
  18. Bake for 10 minutes
  19. Remove the tray from the oven, sprinkle the reamining crumble (that you kept aside) all over the gingerbread. Even it out with your fingers or a fork and then press the crumble down slightly into the gingerbread (with your fingers or the back of a spoon)
  20. Bake for a further 4 minutes
  21. Leave to cool and cut into triangles or squares

image

 

“Mothers ruin” chutney

chutney2_2018Tapping fingernails on the table and looking wistfully through the window: I wondered what can I do with all those stubbornly-still-green tomatoes left on the vine in the greenhouse (or in the greengrocer’s) at this time of year?

They’re plump, juicy with a shiny skin but are just totally colour-change refuseniks. No matter how sunny your windowsill they just won’t budge their coloration now. You could fry them off or add to casseroles, but they’re a little too tart to eat like a fully scarlet tomato so I’ve turned my glut of green goodies into a gin-soaked unctuous and fruity chutney. Hence the mothers ruin title, and the gin does make it a rather delish yet not-so-ordinary relish.

So, here’s praise to autumn and the excuse for bottling and preserving all of nature’s generosity and a hearty Cheers! to green tomatoes. And that toast is not something you hear everyday when applying a dollop of chutney to a cracker!

Notes

  • You need to prep the fruits the day before and leave to soak overnight
  • Makes four full sized jam jars (typically these are between 330mml – 390ml)
  • I’ve stopped wanting to make huge volumes of chutneys, pickles, jellies and jams as I don’t sell them on. I think three to four jars of something is enough for us. This is one to open now, a couple to keep me going and one to give away. But then I don’t have an allotment so I’ve not got kilos and kilos of produce to use up, just a greenhouse and a few planters’ worth. This recipe does multiply up easily, so if you have that enormous allotment glut of tomatoes (and an outlet for the many jars you’ll produce) then do double, triple (or more) the quantities
  • You can use red tomatoes for this recipe, no problem at all
  • You can use any gin – but a fruity one is most suitable. I’ve used Brockman’s which has a considerable taste of blackberry to it

Sterilising glass jars

Put pre-washed clean glass jars in the oven at about 130˚C for 20 minutes or put them through a dishwasher cycle on your hottest setting

Be careful handling the hot jars out when done

NB:  don’t put any rubber seal in the oven; it’ll just melt. Wash these in hand-hot water and leave to dry on a kitchen towel or clean tea towel

greenTomatoes

Equipment

  • Large, heavy bottomed saucepan or pickling pan
  • Large wooden spoon
  • Knife, cutting board
  • Small bowl
  • Cling film or plastic bag
  • Four clean, sterilised jam jars (see notes above)
  • Shallow, large container or dish

Ingredients

  • Green tomatoes – 600 – 630g
  • Fine salt – 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon
  • Red onion, large – 1
  • Celery – 1 stick
  • Sultanas or golden raisins – 100g
  • Dates, chopped – 70g
  • Sharp eating apples, 2 (such as Granny Smith or use 1 x cooking apple)
  • Brown sugar – 150g
  • Ground ginger – 1 teaspoon
  • Allspice – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Chilli flakes – 1 teaspoon
  • Black onion seeds – 1 teaspoon
  • Cider vinegar – 225ml
  • Gin – about 60ml

ISS_painted

Method

  1. Douse the sultanas and dates with the gin in a small bowl the day before making the chutney. Cover with cling film and leave to soak up the gin overnight
  2. Wash and chop the tomatoes, place them in a shallow container and scatter over the tablespoon of salt and mix in lightly. Leave to one side for at least an hour
  3. After an hour or so, rinse the tomatoes of the salt and pat dry in a clean tea towel
  4. Chop all the ingredients into little cubes/pieces (or use a food processor if you have one but chop the ingredients in batches or you’ll process them too finely).
  5. Do not throw away any gin that was not soaked up by the fruit – you can pour this straight into the large saucepan for the next stage while you chop the ingredients
  6. Put everything in the large saucepan, give it a good stir and bring to a boil
  7. Boil for a couple of minutes and strain off any scum
  8. Turn down to a simmer and let it simmer away for 90 minutes, stirring and checking on it regularly (though you don’t need to stand guard for the whole 90 minutes, please don’t leave it for more than a few minutes at a time as it will catch on the bottom of the pan)
  9. It should reduce to a moist but not soggy chutney. If the ingredient pieces are too big for your liking, you can use a stick blender to chop them further, but do use this by pulsing it rather than having it on constantly or you’ll have a pulpy preserve, rather than one with nice chunks of fruit and veggies in
  10. While still hot, carefully decant into the pre-sterilised jars
  11. Leave until fully cold

chutneycloseup

 

Wholemeal maple syrup, date and pecan sticky buns

IMG_2203Can’t beat a fluffy, cinnamon-y, fruit, sugary breakfast bun. These are made with two thirds wholemeal for more of an earthy bite. I’m not sure I really believe wholemeal is truly much healthier than white bread, but it certainly feels more righteous.

Date and walnut are a traditional combination for a number of recipes (not just baking) but, although I do like this, I find pecans preferable. (Often if you can’t get hold of the freshest walnuts they can be a little acrid, where pecans do not seem to deteriorate in this way). I added a maple-syrup sauce for added sweetness, well that and it seemed to instill a sort of North American/Canadian vibe with the pecans (though what the dates are now doing there I am not sure – perhaps next time I’ll swap them from dried cranberries!).

Notes

This makes a lot of buns! About 16 in fact. They can be divided and frozen after baking – you can actually put the maple syrup sauce and the nuts on before freezing, though I would recommend adding the icing after you’ve defrosted them. (Leave overnight on a wire rack to defrost thoroughly).

Equipment
  • a tin to place the buns in. I used a 30 cm casserole dish, but any shape is just fine bowl
  • small saucepan
  • pastry brush
  • rolling pin
  • large bowl
  • sharp knife and a small spoon
  • small ceramic bowl or cup (this may be going in the microwave)
Ingredients – for the enriched dough
  • wholemeal bread flour – 300g
  • strong white flour – 150 g
  • easy-blend yeast – 15 g
  • caster sugar – 50 g
  • fine salt – a pinch
  • milk – 125 ml (doesn’t have to be warmed but it’s better if it’s not fridge-cold)
  • water – 75 ml (tepid rather than warm)
  • medium egg (beaten) – 1
  • unsalted melted butter – 25 g
Ingredients for the filling
  • butter, softened – 80 g
  • ground cinnamon – 1 teaspoon
  • Half a vanilla pod’s worth of seeds
  • caster sugar – 25g
  • chopped, stoned dates – 50g
Ingredients for the glaze/topping
  • crunched-up pecans – 35g
  • maple syrup – 30ml
  • marmalade (with or without peel – your choice) – 2 tablespoons
Icing
  • water – “enough” – by this I mean just enough to make a dropping consistency with the icing sugar – this will be around a tablespoon
  • icing sugar – about 75g
Plus
  • extra flour for dusting

Method

Preparing the dough

  1. Add all the dry ingredients into your bowl (that’s both flour types, sugar, yeast and salt) and mix them up a bit.
  2. Make a well in the middle and tip in the milk and water, beaten egg and melted butter and start to mix. This is a little wetter than bread and is messy (half the fun) so you may want to use a wooden spoon first to bring it together before you start to knead.
  3. Tip it out onto a clean surface. Try to resist adding a dusting of flour to the surface if you can (or if it’s not too ingrained a habit). Yes, some of it will stick to the surface but as you continue kneading it will lift off and combine, and then you haven’t changed the chemical constitution of the dough too much by increasing the ratio of flour. Alternatively, I expect you can use a machine with a bread hook – but this will also need 10 minutes (I always find it interesting that elbow grease and electricity have the same effect when it comes to dough).
  4. If the dough is a little hard work add a touch more milk – as mentioned, it should be just slightly wetter than bread (more like how wet a sourdough or brioche would be).
  5. The kneading will take about 8 – 10 mins depending on how vigorous you are! Just like other breads, the dough will be smooth and a bit bouncy when it’s ready. This is one of those things that you just get used to seeing after you’ve baked for a while.
  6. Clean out your original bowl and lightly grease it (or use another) and pop in the dough. I usually chuck a large linen teatowel over my rising bread, and sprinkle over a little bit of water onto the towel, but cling film will do nearly as well (this shouldn’t need dampening as it creates an airtight seal and the bread is already moist).
  7. Leave it to double in size somewhere warm but not hot – this will typically take an hour or so but it depends on the warmth. Like other sweet doughs you could make this one evening and leave in the fridge or somewhere cool to rise overnight.

Shaping, filling and rolling the buns

  1. Gently roll the dough out of the bowl on to a (lightly) floured surface and start to press it down gently (no heavy pummeling!) into a rectangle. You’re aiming for something about 65cm by 15 cm (2 foot by 10 inches in ‘old money’).
  2. Mix in the ground cinnamon, vanilla seeds and caster sugar into the softened butter
  3. Now you’re ready to add the filling ingredients. Spread the cinnamon butter all over the rectangle of dough – but leave a 1 cm gap down one long edge (this is to help the dough stick into a roulade shape later)
  4. Scatter over the chopped dates
  5. Now you need to roll up the dough like a roulade/Swiss roll, starting from the long edge which you haven’t left with a 1 cm gap. Brush a little bit of water or milk onto that edge you left so it sticks to the outside of the dough once you’ve roll it all up. It should look just like a doughy Swiss rollRolling up the dough
  6. Cut the roll into 15-16 slices
  7. Pop the slices end-on into the tin, so that you can see the Swiss roll shape and all the lovely fillings from the top. You may need to push the back into more of a round shape, as slicing them may have flattened them a little. Space the slices between 1 – 2 cm apart so that when they rise they bump into each otherSticky buns - ready to bake
  8. Cover with a that clean, damp tea towel or cling film from earlier and leave it to rise and prove a second time. You want them to puff up to about double what they were but this shouldn’t take as long as the first rise – about 30 mins.
  9. Pop on your oven to 180C fan/200C conventional.

Baking and glazing

  1. When risen, take off the covering and pop the tin in the middle of the oven and set the timer for 10 mins. After 10 mins don’t take them out – turn the oven down to 160C fan/140C conventional and cook for between 10 – 15 mins more. You want a nice golden top (not light but not too dark). You may need to turn the tin after the first 10 mins if your oven is not cooking very evenly (as you want the buns to all have the same depth of colour).
  2. Fetch the buns out when ready and leave to cool in the tin a bit.
  3. Now make the glaze by melting the maple syrup and marmalade together with a tablespoon of water until bubbling and the marmalade has melted completely into the maple syrup
  4. Add in the crunched-up pecans into the maple syrup sauce
  5. Brush (or pour) it all over the tops of the buns (while they are still in the tin), try a little to spread the pecans evenly across the buns
  6. Leave until fully cool
  7. Make the icing by mixing the icing sugar with the water until you get a smooth dropping consistency
  8. Drizzle the icing all over the buns with a small spoon and leave until the icing has solidifiedFullSizeRender

Unctuous plum chutney

chutneyFullNot sure about you, but I love a good chutney. I can quite easily leave dressings off my salads – in fact I prefer them ‘naked’ – but I have to have a chutney, pickle or a decent sauce with my cold meats and cheeses. It’s just not right to have a quality slice of ham or a good cheese without them being paired with a preserve that makes them really shine.

This is one of my favourite preserve recipes to keep stocked up. It’s also a really lovely coloured chutney, with a warm red hue. I only mention this because many chutneys are necessarily just ‘brown’ because of their ingredients – not that there’s anything wrong with a brown chutney – but it’s nice to have a jar of something a bit more colourful!

The recipe is best when made with British in-season damsons in autumn, but any plums will do at any other time of year. This a great use for any hard plums you’ve purchased that require further ripening at home. In late spring, foreign imports of very hard plums start to appear so it’s a great time to make a chutney, a jam or a compote.

I really think the nigella seeds add to this, so I would urge you not to omit them. However, if you are finding it difficult to obtain them, then black onion seeds could be substituted but they do impart a slightly different flavour. In this case I would only chop up one of the onions to balance the flavour of the chutney out better and crush up a quarter teaspoon of fennel seeds and add those in too.

Equipment
  • Large heavy saucepan
  • Three empty, clean and sterilised 180-200g glass jars with lids
  • Cutting board, knife, spatula
Ingredients
  • Plums, stoned and diced – 300g (weigh after the stones are taken out)
  • Carrots, peeled and very finely diced – 60g
  • Red onions, two small onions, finely diced – 2 whole
  • White wine vinegar – 100ml
  • Red win vinegar – 90ml
  • Chilli, a red mild-ish chilli, finely chopped (seeds and all!) – 1 long or 2 smaller chillies
  • Fresh ginger, grated – about a 1 cm piece
  • Dried chopped apricots – 80g
  • Nigella seeds – 1 teaspoon
  • Tomatoes, chopped – 60g (I used baby plum tomatoes)
  • Salt – 1 teaspoon/5g
  • Soft brown sugar – 300g
Method
  1. Put the pre-diced/chopped plums, carrots, onions and both amounts of vinegar in your saucepan and bring up to a simmer
  2. Cook at this level (please no heavy boiling) until the vegetables and fruits start to soften a little – about 12 minutes
  3. Now add in all the rest of the ingredients and stir until combined
  4. Let it all simmer, stirring regularly (to ensure nothing catches on the bottom of the pan) until the chutney becomes sticky and unctuous
  5. While it is simmering, keep an eye on it to turn the heat down as the liquid evaporates to keep it at a gentle simmer – you don’t want it to boil
  6. This simmering stages takes one hour to get to the right consistency (providing you are simmering and not boiling the hell out of it!)
  7. Arrange your sterilised jars (see my recipe post for lemon curd about notes on how to sterilise jars at home) so they are close to hand and uncluttered  by anything else (clearing a space and having them close minimises your chances of fumbling and burning yourself)
  8. Carefully tip the chutney into the jars, using a jam funnel if you have one. Please be careful not to burn yourself, although chutneys are not quite as lethal as jams and marmalades
  9. Gorgeous with cured meats or cold chicken, this chutney also is a good marriage for a strong cheese and can be stirred into sauces to make a rich accompaniment for game

ChutneyJar.jpg

Spiced biscuit spread

biscuit spreadI developed this recipe to go along with my Mont Blanc recipe. I used a ready made biscuit spread (OK, Biscoff) to make the first batch, and as you may know, it’s not like me to use a proprietary product when I can make it from scratch myself.

In the USA this type of recipe is referred to as ‘cookie butter’. I think I read one too many Viz comics as a teenager and I can’t bring myself to refer to it as that (if you’d read a Viz, you’d know – and you’d be left scarred as I’ve been!!).

I started with blending up the biscuits, working from that point to recreate the taste and texture as closely as I could. I didn’t look at any other recipe until after I was happy, but when I did look online they’re all much more complicated than how I created mine…

I saw recipes that use some things I don’t think are needed – lemon juice, oil and evaporated milk, for instance, and some that required cooking. This is simple, creamy and uses the minimum of ingredients to recreate the original jar of Biscoff.

You can use your own homebaked speculaas biscuits or shop bought Biscoff/alternatives. Both will work. Alternatively, use digestives and two teaspoons of speculaas spice mix.

This makes about a typical jar full, and is enough for the Mont Blancs. Keep in the fridge and use within about 3-4 days as it includes fresh cream without being cooked.

This is a totally no-cook recipe.

Equipment

  • A blender or food processor. (Sorry – for this one you really need it. You may be able to get away with crushing the biscuits in a pestle and mortar but I am not sure – also if you’re using it for the Mont Blancs, then I don’t think you’d get it fine enough to be able to pipe this way)
  • Flexible spatula

Ingredients

  • 300g spiced biscuits (your own, a speculaas biscuit, Biscoff etc)
  • 6 tablespoons of dark brown sugar (
  • 6 tablespoons of double cream
  • 45g of unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 60ml water

Method

  1. Break the biscuits up a little into your blender and whizz until they are as fine crumbed as possible
  2. Add in everything, except the water and pulse until it all comes together. The heat from the blender blade friction will be enough to loosen the ingredients and help them mix together
  3. Pour about 3/4 of the water into the blender and continue to mix – it will obviously now loosen
  4. Stop the blender (turn off at the switch to be careful) and test the consistency of the spread – it needs to be a little softer than smooth peanut butter
  5. Add more water if it’s still too stiff a mixture or stop where you are if it’s already the right consistency. I expect you will need all the water
  6. Using a flexible scraper to get it all, scrape out and store in a jar or bowl in the fridge