Orange nußkuchen

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Nusstorte recipe - ink sugar spice

A simple yet delicious cake that uses a minimal amount of flour. In fact, if you’re used to baking you may think there’s not enough flour compared to the ratio of fat and sugar, but believe me it definitely works!

Nußkuchen (or nusskuchen) is a very traditional chocolate and almond cake, here I’ve revved it up a little with orange and caraway.

Notes

Don’t have caraway seeds? They can be omitted.

After zesting the oranges, they can lose moisture quickly and dry out. Keep them fresh until being eaten by popping in a beeswax wrap, cling film or a plastic food bag and keep in your vegetable crisper drawer in the fridge.

Equipment

  • 1 litre / roughly a 25cm x 13 cm loaf tin (it doesn’t have to be these exact dimensions, just don’t go much larger or smaller or your cake will be very shallow or overspill)
  • Large bowl (if not using a stand mixer)
  • Spatula/scraper
  • Electric whisk, stand mixer or large balloon whisk
  • Scales, measuring spoons
  • Baking paper/parchment
  • Zester/plane and skewer
  • Extra butter or cake release spray/mix
  • Pastry brush
  • Wire cooling rack

Ingredients

  • 100g unsalted butter – at room temperature
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 90g plain flour
  • 3 medium eggs
  • Pinch of fine salt
  • 100g flaked or chopped almonds or hazelnuts
  • 60g chopped chocolate (your choice or dark or milk to match your preference)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of caraway seeds
  • zest of two large (or three small oranges)

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 C fan / 200 C conventional oven or 350 F
  2. Cut a piece of the baking paper to the width of the tin base and long enough to lay in the tin with a few centimetres overlap each side. You do not need to line the tin fully – it is only to help you lift the cake out, it is unlikely to stick
  3. Lay the paper in the tin and either brush some warmed butter over the paper and tin ends or spray/brush with cake release
  4. Cream the butter and sugar vigorously together until pale in a large bowl with a spatula (or use your stand mixer)
  5. Add in the eggs, flour and salt, then mix in, at a gentler speed
  6. Grate the oranges over the bowl and sprinkle over the caraway seeds and ground cinnamon
  7. Add in the chopped nuts and chocolate chunks, and give a light mix
  8. Now, as a last stage (so the efficacy isn’t reduced) add in the baking powder and mix gently again until all the ingredients are dispersed
  9. Immediately pour or spoon into your prepared tin and smooth the top flat
  10. Place in the centre of the oven and bake for 45-50 mins
  11. Test by poking a skewer into the centre of the cake – it should come out clean with no sticky cake mix on it. If there is cake mix, place back in the oven for another 7-10 minutes
  12. When done, leave to cool in the tin until you can handle it, then lift the cake out using the baking paper and place on a wire rack to cool thoroughly
  13. A gorgeous cake to slice and serve with a coffee or orange juice. You can add a finishing touch of a dusting of icing sugar. It also is sublime with a dollop of fresh cream as a dessert

Thanks! If you’ve enjoyed this recipe please leave a comment or ‘like’.

Spelt shortbreads with streusel topping

SpeltBiccies2a

I love playing with different flours to change up the texture and quality of bakes that are traditionally made with wheat flour. Some flours will dramatically change the texture, crumb and consistency of a bake, but I’ve found spelt can be a direct replacement in my kitchen with very little change. The spelt flour looks slightly darker and heavier than white wheat flour, but this perception is slightly misleading.

What I’ve found is that spelt is thirstier than wheat; by that I mean it takes up more water in comparison to the same amount of white flour. This seems to be at odds with everything that I’ve read about spelt, suggesting it ought to be the opposite (that is, needs less liquid) – perhaps it’s the type of bakes that I’ve used it in. So, I’d just suggest that if you are converting recipes to spelt please bear in mind that the ratio of liquids to flour will need to be played around with to get it right, whether that’s more or less liquid.

Spelt may look heavy but it’s certainly not: it produces fluffy light bakes with a warmer, nuttier flavour and a slightly darker colour. I think it makes nice breads and is perfect for richer cakes like loaf cakes or traybakes but this is very personal – some people like spelt cakes but not bread or vice versa, or as I do just like it in anything.

It’s now very easy to get hold of spelt flours (white or wholegrain) now. I like the 100% British spelt from Craggs & Co, who are farmers based in the North East of England (this isn’t an advert, it’s just I love the quality of this flour). The spelt flakes I used in this recipe are also from here.

Notes

  • You can make these biscuits as normal rounds, but they are also nice as rings as I’ve done in some images
  • If you are making ring biscuits and don’t have a small cutter for the centre holes, a good hack is using the large end of a piping nozzle!
  • Makes about 20 – 24 (depending whether you cut out the holes or not)
  • You can get spelt flour in supermarkets, delis, health food shops and online easily
  • If you cannot get spelt flakes, then wheat or oat flakes can be substituted (but are less nutty and don’t match quite as well)

SpeltBiccies2b.jpg

Equipment

  • 2 large baking sheets, prepared with baking parchment or silicon sheets
  • Rolling pin
  • Palette knife
  • Large round cutter – about 6cm
  • Smaller cutter for the middle cut-out (something 1 – 2cm in diameter will do) if using
  • Large bowl and a small bowl
  • Pastry cutter (ideal but not necessary)

Ingredients – biscuits

  • Unsalted butter at room temperature – 170g
  • Caster sugar – 100g
  • White spelt flour – 250g
  • Salt 1/2 tsp
  • Vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract – 1 tsp
  • Milk – 20ml
  • Extra flour for dusting

Ingredients – streusel

  • Spelt flakes (or malted wheat flakes) – 4 tablespoons
  • Chopped mixed nuts – 4 tablespoons
  • Granulated sugar – 2 tablespoons
  • Ground cinnamon – 1 tablespoon
  • Unsalted butter, softened a little – 1 tablespoon

Method

  1. Put your oven on to 180˚C fan, or 200˚C conventional
  2. Weigh out the butter and flour in the large bowl and either cut the butter into the flour using your pastry cutter or rub it in using your fingers (or you could use a food processor)
  3. Mix the rest of the biscuit dough ingredients into the butter and flour. Aim for a smooth dough but don’t overwork it
  4. Rest the dough for 10 -15 minutes in the fridge, wrapped in cling film or in a food bag
  5. When the dough is rested, dust both your work surface and your rolling pin fairly liberally with flour (there is a lot of butter in these biscuits and they may well stick otherwise)
  6. Roll out the dough to about 3-4mm thick and cut out as many rounds with the large cutter as you can. Then, if making rings, cut out a hole in the middle of each (you can re-roll these centre pieces of dough to make more biscuits)
  7. Mix the streusel ingredients lightly together in a bowl
  8. Put a teaspoon of the streusel mix on the top of each biscuit and spread it to the edges with the tip of a spoon. If you find this easier you can tip the streusel mix onto your worktop and then press the biscuits into the streusel, but be careful not to disfigure the shape of the biscuit by pressing too hard – I used the teaspoon technique on the round biscuits in my photos and the pressing technique on the ring versions
    SpeltBiccies2c-beforebaking.jpg
  9. Repeat with the rest of the biscuits, placing them gently on the prepared baking trays with at least 1cm gap between them
  10. If some of the biscuits look a bit bare in places you can sprinkle what’s left of the streusel over them before they go in the oven
  11. Bake for around 14 minutes in the middle of the oven
  12. As soon as the biscuits are out of the oven, lightly press the streusel down on the biscuits with the back of a spoon (to stop it from flaking off when eating)
  13. Leave to cool fully

SpeltStreuselShortbreads1

Pretzel rolls

pretzelRollsThese are no different to the knotted pretzels you can get, and if you want to please make this recipe into knot shapes.

The key to a pretzel is its slightly malty taste and it’s very dark crust colour. The crust is chewy, rather than crunchy and inside is soft and fluffy.

Notes

The key to the colour is a quick water bath for the proved roll just before baking. The water has, ideally, had lye added to it but bicarbonate of soda makes a reasonable (if not great alternative. (Please see the difference between the two photos on this page – the main pic of oval rolls, above, was doused in baked bicarbonate of soda and are very dark and the knotted sourdough pretzels below were dunked in just bicarbonate of soda in water – much lighter but still darker than a normal roll).

If you want a half-way house, bake a tray of bicarbonate of soda in an oven set at 100C fan / 120C conventional for 60 to 90 minutes. Let it cool and use – there will be some left over for another two or three batches if you’ve baked a whole pot of the stuff. Please note: it’s a good idea to put it back in the original pot, but tear off the original packaging and replace with a clear label immediately for ‘lye’. This will stop you mistaking it for normal bicarb in future baking projects. In fact, I store mine in a completely different place from my normal bicarbonate and other leaveners.

I have made these with lye water in the past (I now can’t get hold of lye water: I used to get it from one of the local Asian supermarkets, as it’s used when making ramen from scratch, but sadly they’ve all stopped stocking it. You may be able to source it online) and I’ve made them with both just bicarb and with this baked bicarb/fake lye.

Bicarb is good enough, but if you can be bothered using baked bicarb it does make the rolls go that little bit darker. Just be warned that handling baked bicarbonate of soda/fake lye or proper lye is all very caustic and is a skin and eye irritant. Keep away from children and handle it carefully yourself. Douse with a lot of water if you get it on your skin. If you’re at all terrified, just use normal bicarbonate of soda and don’t fuss that the colour isn’t quite deep as it should be.

Equipment

  • Two large baking sheets
  • Baking paper/parchment
  • Large bowl
  • Large saucepan
  • Fish slice, large slotted spoon or similar
  • Knife
  • Cling film
  • Measuring jug

Ingredients

  • Plain flour – 250g
  • Strong white flour – 250g
  • Milk – 145 ml/g
  • Water – 145 ml/g
  • Fine salt – 1 teaspoon
  • Dark drown sugar/Demerara – 30g
  • Malt extract – 1 (generous) teaspoon
  • Dried yeast – 7g
  • Rock salt for garnishing (if required)
  • Vegetable or light olive oil just for greasing
  • Extra flour for a little dusting

Ingredients for the water bath

  • Saucepan full of water
  • 3 tablespoons of either bicarbonate of soda or baked bicarbonate (see notes above). If you have managed to get some lye water, please follow the instructions on the bottle for the amount of water you’re using)

Method

  1. Measure out the milk and water together and warm slightly (you can do this by adding much warmer water to cold milk) – the liquid needs to be tepid
  2. Soften the butter
  3. Weigh out and then mix all the ingredients (except the oil) in the large bowl, bring together into a rough mess
  4. Tip out on to a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough comes together into a smooth ball, about 8-10 minutes
  5. Lightly oil the bottom of the bowl and put the dough back in it to prove
  6. Cover with cling film or a linen tea towel
  7. While the dough is proving you should prepare the two baking sheets with a layer of parchment/greaseproof/baking paper
  8. Lightly oil the surface of the paper – the dough is quite sticky when proving and can be a job to get off the paper
  9. If you want to make the baked bicarbonate, you could do this now (see notes above)
  10. When the dough has just about doubled in size, tip it out onto a surface and divide into six or eight equal portions (depending on how big you want your rolls to be)
  11. sourdough pretzels.png
    These are knotted pretzels, just to show the knot shape – although these are not quite the same recipe, as they are made with a sourdough starter. Also please note that these were put in water with plain bicarbonate of soda, so notice the colour is not as dark as with the pretzel rolls in the main photograph

    Form the dough portions into small oval rolls or pretzel knots (to do this, roll out into a sausage shape with thin ends and a fat middle, shape into a crescent and then twist the ends over each other once and place each end on the opposite side)

  12. Place the rolls on the prepared baking trays and cover with lightly oiled cling film
  13. Leave to rise until they are almost doubled in size and are almost springing back when lightly pressed with a finger tip (ie there’s about 15 – 20 of prove left)
  14. Put your oven on to heat up – to 200C fan or 220C conventional
  15. Fill your saucepan up with water and add the bicarbonate of soda and bring to the boil
  16. Once boiling, turn down to a simmer
  17. Carefully lower one of the rolls into the water and let float for about 5 seconds, flip over with the slotted spoon/fish slice and let the other side lie in the water for another 5 seconds
  18. Remove the roll and place back on the parchment
  19. Repeat with the rest of the rolls
  20. Make one large slash in the thickest part of the roll if you have made knots and two or three slashes in each oval roll
  21. Sprinkle with the rock salt if you want – this is particularly traditional on the knotted rolls
  22. Bake in the oven for 16-18 minutes
  23. The rolls should sound fairly hollow when tapped on the bottom (not quite so much as for a loaf) and will be a really dark brown. By the way, be brave and leave the rolls in the oven – your normal instinct will be to take them out early because they look done! Pretzels are very darkly coloured, not burnt
  24. Leave to cool, split and serve with something traditional like a Swiss cheese and Bavarian ham or whatever you like

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

 

 

Speculaas winter toffee

wintertoffee1It’s Guy Fawkes Night as I start writing this recipe up – November the fifth. The night when fireworks light up the sky (and scare the wildlife and people’s pets) and bonfires blaze across the UK.

By  this date in the UK the weather has turned for the worst, the clocks have recently gone back plunging us into darkness an hour earlier in the evening and the big chill has set in. No matter that the winter solstice is still six-seven weeks away, it’s already wintry. Everyone has certain foods that are synonymous with the start of deep winter and evoke that combined smell of autumn leaves, burning fires and even sulphorous fireworks. These foods for me include old family favourites I was brought up with such as bangers and mash, seasonal thick soups, jacket potatoes and treacle toffee.

Over the winter I’ll make several batches of my winter toffee to share out, give as presents and, of course, a treat for ourselves. Just a few days ago I was lucky enough to be sent a batch of special speculaas mix from vanDotsch spices to try. I didn’t want to go straight down the route of making speculaas cookies (that’s too obvious for me – although I expect I’ll end up making a batch or two)  I thought I’d combine spice and confectionary. Turns out that the warming, spicy, Christmassy speculaas goes famously well with the creamy treacly flavour of my toffee recipe.

So what is speculaas?

If you’re thinking you’ve never heard of speculaas before there’s a high probability you’ve tried it without even realising it. Ever had a little rectangular ginger-y biscuit with your coffee? Those commercially made, bite-sized biscuits so beloved of coffee shops and baristas are speculaas biscuits. Speculaas is a warming, festive spice mix mainly associated with the Netherlands, although versions are also found throughout Belgium, Luxembourg parts of north eastern France and Germany under slightly different, localised names such as spéculoos (France) and Spekulatius (Germany).

It’s synonymous with those pretty, pressed Christmas biscuits. I read that traditionally families would have their own variations of the spice recipe and their own heritage biscuit moulds. Although the mix clearly differs from one household to another, all versions have a similar base which might include warming cloves, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom and white pepper. This mix from vanDotsch Spices comes from the company owner’s family recipe and has a ‘secret mix of six spices’ together with high grade cinnamon, cloves and ginger. I’ve been to the Netherlands a few times and have consumed quite a few speculaas koekjes (of course…) and, although I can’t compare side-by-side with a typical mix, this particular speculaas does taste pretty good to me.

Notes

Be careful!! All toffee is hot Hot HOT while you’re making it. Please don’t get burnt – wear long sleeves and use gloves when pouring the toffee out.

vondotsch.pngPurchase the vanDotsch speculaas spice mix online (you can even buy carved biscuit moulds too)  from the Speculaas Spice Company, which is run by Steven Dotsch, an Amsterdammer (or Mokummer) now living in London. This particular speculaas spice mix is based on his Grandmother’s unique blend.

Equipment

  • Large heavy bottomed pan
  • Small baking tray (20cm x 20cm would be ideal but you can ‘cheat’ with a larger tray as I do – more later)
  • Kitchen foil
  • Wooden spoon
  • Sharp heavy knife
  • Something to break the toffee up with – a rolling pin, back of a heavy knife or a toffee hammer if you have one
  • A jug or glass filled with cold water
  • A sugar thermometer (though you can do without this)

Ingredients

  • Unsalted butter – 115g
  • Granulated sugar – 115g oz
  • Demerera sugar – 115g oz
  • Single cream – 100ml
  • Bicarbonate of soda – 1 teaspoon (5g)
  • Black treacle – 1 tablespoon (15g)
  • Golden syrup – 1 tablespoon (15g)
  • Cider or white wine vinegar – 2 tablespoons (30g)
  • Speculaas spice mix – 1 1/2 teaspoons (7.5g)
  • Extra unsalted butter for greasing, about 15 g

Method

  1. Prep your baking tray first:

If you have a small tray that’s roughly 20cm x 20cm (or more-or-less the same volume) then you can just line it with the foil, grease it with the extra unsalted butter and leave to one side

foiledtin
Sorry this is a terrible photo – juggling hot toffee and a camera wasn’t ideal. Hopefully it’s enough to show you how I’ve shortened my tray with foil

If you have a baking tray that is larger than this, you can ‘fake’ the right size by using foil. Rip off a sheet of foil that will cover the tray. Cover the tray with the foil and press it down into the sides and ‘corners’. Now, make a pleat in the foil to shorten the tray size and use the overhang of the foil to secure it in place on the tray edges

Grease this foil tray with the butter and set to one side for later

  1. Weigh the butter and sugars and place in the saucepan (if you have an electronic scale you should be able to weigh them directly in the saucepan) and put over a gentle heat to melt the butter
  2. Add the golden syrup, black treacle and vinegar and turn up the heat to medium, stirring gently at first to help the ingredients combine
  3. When the ingredients are melted turn up the heat to almost full and bring to the boil – bring up to about 110C, or a rolling boil for about 2 minutes
  4. Now add the cream, speculaas and bicarbonate of soda and stir briefly and gently
  5. Bring to boil – you need to get to just about the ‘soft crack’ stage which is 132C – you can test this by dropping a little of the toffee in a jug of cold water without having a sugar thermometer (I actually do both – have a thermometer and use the water test). If it can be formed into a ball that’s just a little bit squishy, then it is ready. (If it is still too soft and maybe even starts dissolving in the cold water then it needs boiling for longer – keep testing every 30 seconds to get to the right stage)
  6. When it is ready turn off the heat and wait for the boiling to subside a little (this reduces the chance of it spitting and you getting burnt)
  7. Once calmed down enough, pour the toffee into the greased tray – be careful not to handle it or get it on your skin
  8. Leave to cool for five minutes
  9. Once it’s cooled enough to touch (it’ll still be warm though) it can be marked with a knife into squares. Warm a knife in hot water and dry, then drag the blade across the top of the toffee, pressing down a little to create a score line. You don’t need to do this step – you can just smash it into irregular pieces. All this is doing is giving break lines in the toffee so when you smash it when it is fully cold it should break into squares (you’ll get some irregularities – it’s not an infallible method and depends on your smashing technique too!). I wouldn’t try to chop the toffee into squares at this stage as its edges deform under the pressure of the knife and the toffee often sticks to the knife blade (I speak from experience). Even irregular shards look better than toffee that’s been cut into shape when still soft, as the shards have lovely crisp edges
  10. Leave to cool completely in the tin
  11. Once cold, peel off the foil and smash into chunks
  12. Store in airtight containers (don’t expose to moisture as this will start to dissolve and degrade the sugar content) – and it will keep for a week or so under these conditions

Praline flavour soft cookies

caramelcookies

I’ve been tinkering with these biscuits for a couple of weeks – I think now I have this recipe just about as good as it can get. My twin lads now basically hover in the kitchen waiting for a batch to be just cooled enough to eat. So I’m thinking that might be a good endorsement!

Notes

Makes about 22 – 24 biscuits, each about 5 cm diameter.

Chill the biscuits before you bake them to ensure they stay thick and slightly crunchy. If you pop them in the oven straight after making they will flatten, giving you a very different biscuit altogether (still highly edible but thin and crisper).

I have made these biscuits with a proprietary gluten free flour – they need about a minute more in the oven, but came out otherwise roughly the same.

Please do make these with the sugars listed below – demerara/soft brown and golden caster. I do believe that the browner sugars have a slightly nuttier taste, because there is just a little of the molasses left in the sugars – or I have read actually added back in to some white sugars after it is initially extracted/centrifuged out. Is it me or does that sound insane (and how do I find out which brown sugar this is?)?  This nuttier taste then adds significantly to the caramel-ly flavour of the finished biscuits.

Also, it’s not just the flavour – the two different sized sugar crystals (demerara being larger and more boxy) provide different profiles to the bake. The soft brown sugar will melt quicker – if you used all of this smaller granulated sugar the biscuits would be smoother and well, more ‘biscuity’ rather than like a proper soft cookie. If you don’t have these sugars you can substitute demerara for granulated and soft brown for normal caster; well… if you have to.

Purchase the caramel syrup in the coffee aisle in a supermarket. You know the ones that they add into coffee to flavour it? I have used both Monin and Vedrenne makes for this (I ran out of one after a first test then only found the other to purchase). I can’t tell the difference between them.

Equipment

  • 2 large baking trays (or cook in two batches if you only have one)
  • A third, smaller baking tray or ceramic oven proof dish
  • Bowl
  • Small ice cream scoop if you have one (this ensures the biscuit dough is the same size for every one)
  • Baking parchment/greaseproof paper
  • Wooden spoon (no mixer is needed for this recipe)

Ingredients

  • Unsalted butter at room temperature – 120g
  • Demerara or soft brown sugar – 100g
  • Golden caster sugar – 50g
  • Egg, medium – 1
  • Ground almonds – 30g
  • Plain (or gluten free) flour – 150g
  • Baking powder – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Hazelnuts, roughly chopped – 70g
  • White chocolate drops – 60g
  • Salt – a pinch
  • Caramel syrup – 1 1/4 teaspoons

Method

  1. Put the oven on to 120C fan, about 140C for a conventional oven
  2. Pour the hazelnuts onto the smaller tray/dish and bake in the oven for about 10 minutes gently until they start to turn a light toasty brown (don’t let them burn)
  3. Remove and leave to cool
  4. When the nuts are cool, roughly chop them
  5. Line the two baking trays
  6. Cream the butter and sugar together in the bowl (as best as you can – the larger particle sugar will stop you getting as creamy a consistency as you would with just caster)
  7. Mix in the flour, ground almonds, baking powder, salt, caramel and egg
  8. Add in the nuts and white chocolate drops and mix gently until they are distributed evenly throughout
  9. Make about 24 small balls with the dough using the small ice cream scoop, or use a tablespoon measure, and place with at least a 2cm gap between them on the trays
  10. Flatten them very slightly
  11. Refrigerate for 15 minutes
  12. Preheat your oven to 180C fan/ 190C conventional
  13. Put in the oven for 12 -14 minutes
  14. They are done when they are just about to go golden brown at the edges. They will be slightly soft, but do check they are not underdone in the middle (if a biscuit looks a bit translucent in the middle it still needs a couple more minutes baking). They will firm up a little more as they cool
  15. Let them cool on the tray – if you lift them onto a wire rack while they are warm you risk breaking them

PB&J Viennese Whirls

PBJwhirlsdrawing.jpgIf Elvis had visited Vienna, he’d have asked a local Konditormeister to create this for him.

This is a recipe for a standard vanilla Viennese whirls, but I have also included how to make your own peanut butter (it’s pretty easy) and raspberry jam, especially as they’re in season (it’s early September as I write this).

This is another bake along recipe to accompany episode two of the Great British Bake off, clearly being biscuit week. As such, I’ve also illustrated this one as well – and I’ve offered to create a drawing of a bake made by one of the participants – a name will be drawn out of the hat at the end of the run of the Great British Bake Off. The signature bake round this week was iced biscuits and the showstopper was a 3D biscuit sculpture. I passed on both these as I’ve made many iced biscuits recently and there’s no way we can eat a whole 3D sculpture – that’s just too much biscuit and I do hate waste. I’ll leave those for Christmas when there are lots of people round.

whirlscomplete2

I’ve previously blogged a recipe for pistachio and mascarpone Viennese whirls – so if you want something away from the norm of vanilla Viennese but still with a difference, please try these out.

As usual, this Twitter-based challenge is hosted by The Baking Nanna and Rob Allen and uses the hashtag #GBBOTwitterbakealong. What’s been really delightful is both the number of people playing along and that a few very high profile and talented chefs and pâtissiers have joined in too. I’m particularly delighted to see Claire Clark has been kind enough to participate and comment on our amateur bakes – she’s basically my ultimate pâtissier. Plus, @MyLegoMan has joined in too – if you’re not following their Twitter or blog you’re missing out!

Notes

  • Use groundnut oil for the peanut butter – this is actually made from peanuts, so it slightly enhances the taste (it’s a fairly bland oil) and just ‘feels’ right to use it.
  • Makes about 11 or 12 sandwiches (about 22 – 24 biscuits)
  • You can’t really make the peanut butter without a food processor. I’d suggest if you don’t have one, just go buy a good quality peanut butter and choose one that doesn’t contain palm oil
  • Make the jam at least several hours in advance, preferably the day before as it needs to cool

Equipment – peanut butter

  • Baking tray
  • Food processor

Ingredients – peanut butter

  • Plain peanuts – 300g
  • Groundnut oil – about 1 teaspoon (if you can’t find groundnut oil, use rapeseed or sunflower)
  • Fine sea salt – add to your taste

Method – peanut butter

  1. Lay all the peanuts out in a single layer on the baking sheet and dry roast (ie no oil) in a medium oven – about 130C fan/150C conventional – for around 15 minutes
  2. Take the peanuts out when they’ve gone that characteristic salted-peanut-brown, that is they should look like they’ve got a light suntan and no more. Don’t let them burn or you’ll ruin them
  3. Leave them to cool a little – you can advance to the next stage when they’re cool enough to touch or fully cold
  4. Blitz them on a pulse setting in your food processor
  5. Stop when they are starting to look little rubble – take out about 25% if you like crunchy peanut butter
  6. Now start the food processor again and then add the oil – dribble it in and stop when the consistency looks about right

    peanutButtermaking1

  7. Scrape out the peanut butter into a jar or click lock box
  8. If you kept some crunchy bits, add this back into the peanut butt now and mix in
  9. It’s now ready to use in these Viennese whirls – or eat!

    peanutButtermaking2

Equipment – strawberry jam

  • Large solid bottomed saucepan
  • Sugar thermometer (glass or digital) – if you don’t have one you can do the ‘plate test’ (see later)

Ingredients – strawberry jam

  • A large punnet of strawberries – about 300-400g, make sure you de-hull them and remove all the leaves
  • The same weight in jam sugar as the strawberries

Method – strawberry jam

  1. If you don’t have a thermometer stick a side plate in the fridge now – all will become clear later!
  2. Chop any small strawberries into halves and larger ones into quarters
  3. Put the strawberries into the saucepan and pour in the sugar
  4. Leave to macerate for 6-7 minutes
  5. Add about 3 tablespoons of water and turn the heat on under the saucepan
  6. Bring the strawberries to the boil; don’t stir
  7. Scoop off any scummy stuff if it appears and discard
  8. Heat until the jam reaches 104C. You can test for this without a thermometer by taking the plate out of the fridge and dropping a little of the jam on to it. Give it a few seconds to cool (it will be scalding hot straight from the saucepan) and then push it with your finger. If it’s set and ready it will wrinkle up and your finger will leave a clean trail
  9. As we’ll be using it as soon as it’s cold enough, you can just pour it into any container big enough: no need for it to be sterilised as it doesn’t have to keep
  10. Leave to cool

Equipment – biscuits

  • Two large bowls
  • Wooden spoon
  • Balloon whisk or hand/stand mixer
  • Piping bag with large star-shaped nozzle
  • Piping bag with smaller circular nozzle
  • baking trays lined with parchment/paper
  • Microwaveable bowl

Ingredients – biscuits

  • Unsalted butter – 100g
  • Icing sugar – 25g
  • Plain flour – 100g
  • Cornflour – 1 tablespoon
  • Baking powder – 1/4 teaspoon
  • Vanilla extract – 1 teaspoon
  • Milk chocolate – a large 200g bar

Method – biscuits and construction

  1. Turn the oven on to 170C fan / 180C conventional
  2. Cream the butter and icing sugar together with a wooden spoon
  3. Mix in the rest of the ingredients – you need the mix to be somewhere between a batter and a dough: only just liquid enough to squeeze (with effort) through a large nozzle piping bag (if it is any more runny than this it will not hold its shape from the nozzle and will flatten)
  4. Transfer the mix to the piping bag with the large star nozzle
  5. Pipe 3cm rounds until all the mix is used up. This will be hard work as the mix is thick
  6. Bake in the oven for 12 minutes (you may need to turn if your oven cooks unevenly)
  7. Leave to cool for a few minutes in the trays (the biscuits are soft and will split if move too early) and then cool completely on a wire rack
  8. For the chocolate covering, break it into little pieces
  9. Leave out about a fifth of the chocolate then put the rest in a bowl
  10. Warm in the microwave in 30 second bursts – checking after each interval and giving a little stir
  11. When the chocolate is melted, take it out and add the chocolate pieces you left out earlier – stir gently until these pieces are melted into the rest
  12. Dip the biscuits half into the chocolate or ‘paint’ the chocolate on with a spoon
  13. Leave the biscuits again until the chocolate has hardened
  14. To assemble, put a teaspoon of peanut butter on the flat side of a biscuit, top with a teaspoon full of the jam and them sandwich another biscuit on top
  15. Repeat for all the whirls until they’re all turned into PB&J sammiches
  16. These won’t keep long, as Viennese biscuits are very delicate, probably 48 hours at most

    PBJwhirls1

Iced Souvaroffs with rhubarb and apricot jams and pistachio cream

souvaroffs2

Now – who’s excited about the imminent new series of the Great British Bake Off? Almost everyone involved in the Twitter baking community for a start!

I’ve included some of my illustrations in this recipe to help you make these Souvaroff biscuits.

This year the fab and lovely Baking Nanna and Rob Allen have put together a  #GBBOTwitterBakeAlong baking fest via Twitter to coincide with the series – however as it’s starting a little later than we’d all anticipated we’ve all got a chance to do a little practice for a couple of weeks before the show starts in earnest and we bake along to match that week’s theme in “the tent”.

First up is biscuits.

I am going to try to do a “showstopper” for each of the weeks of the bake-along. I did struggle to decide what to do. Biscuits are one of my strong points, and if you’re familiar with this blog or my Instagram account you’ll know I’ve done some really complex and/or unusual ones in the past. I did think ‘go big’, but actually this week’s been a tad difficult and I had to do a bake that was split into parts; biscuits one time, filling another, piping later on. I didn’t have the ability to spend a few hours at a time.

I decided to do a new and slightly more intricate version of my own strawberry Souvaroff recipe. In the original I actually went and researched the history of the biscuits as well as develop the recipe. It’s the biscuit that inspired the jammy dodger – and actually is far superior. It’s genuinely worth trying to bake a batch.

Notes

  • because I used an intricate cutter and wanted a clean, sharp biscuit (in my head I am actually in the GBBO tent so am trying my bestest!) I actually baked the shortbread in one large slab then pressed out the shapes while it was still hot. If you don’t want to do this and want to prepare traditionally, you can cut out the biscuits before baking and arrange with spaces in between on the baking sheet
  • You can also omit the buttercream and just sandwich the biscuits together with jam (they’ll keep longer than with cream and jam)
  • Makes about 20 rounds or 10 finalised sandwich biscuits
  • If you’re feeling not up to the piping, you can either drizzle with the icing in a zigzag pattern or omit the icing entirely
  • Both apricots and rhubarb are low in naturally occurring pectin, so you will have to use preserving sugar (granulated sugar with pectin already added). This is widely available in supermarkets. Because I have made these jams in small batch amounts I have used preserving sugar – normally if I am making many jars of jam at a time I’ll calculate the sugar and pectin amounts separately, but here it is not worth it with just a jar sized amount. Much easier to use the prepared stuff in this instance
  • Make the jams in advance, allowing them to cool
  • Finally, not got pistachio paste or can’t be bothered to make your own? Just leave it out – not quite so completely delicious but still yummy

Equipment

  • 1 large baking sheet, prepared with baking parchment or silicon sheet
  • Rolling pin
  • Palette knife
  • Large shaped cutter – about 6cm
  • Smaller cutter for the middle cut-out (I used a heart but any small cutter, 1 – 2cm in diameter will do)
  • Bowls
  • Piping bag with small circular nozzle
  • Clean small paint brush

If you are making your own jams, you will also need:

  • Sugar thermometer
  • Two large saucepans (or make one jam at a time and use a single pan)
  • Two sterilised jars and lids – see my tips on sterilisation in my lemon curd recipe

Ingredients – for the Souvaroffs

  • Unsalted butter – 200g
  • Caster sugar – 100g
  • Plain flour – 200g
  • Polenta (fine cornmeal) – 50g
  • Salt 1/2 tsp
  • Vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract – 1 tsp

Ingredients for the pistachio cream

  • Vanilla buttercream – about 100ml (make with butter, softened – 70g and icing sugar – 170g roughly). This is a small amount, so you might want to take some from a previous recipe or make more and freeze it for later)
  • Whipped double cream or clotted cream – about 60ml
  • Pistachio paste – two dessertspoons

Plus:

  • Rhubarb jam: either:
    • half a standard 340/350g jar or
    • 4 stalks of rhubarb, chopped into small chunks
    • the same weight in preserving sugar (sugar with pectin already added) as the rhubarb weighs
  • Apricot jam: either:
    • half a standard 340/350g jar or
    • about 8 apricots, stones removed and chopped into about eight pieces each
    • the same weight in granulated sugar (sugar with pectin added) as the apricots weigh

Ingredients – icing

  • About a half cupful of royal icing to your favoured recipe or:
    • 1 egg white, whisked lightly
    • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
    • about 250g sieved (to remove any lumps) icing sugar (plus have a bit more handy)
  • Metallic food colouring* (if you don’t have this you can just use normal food colouring and add it to the royal icing as you mix). This requires painting on, as if you mix the metallic colouring in it loses its sparkle and is just a normal colour. *I used two colours in these pictures – a silver and a metallic purple

Method – jams

For the rhubarb jam

  1. Wash the chopped rhubarb and place it in the bottom of a large saucepan
  2. Clip the sugar thermometer on the side of the saucepan if you are using a bulb thermometer
  3. Tip the sugar in gently and add only just enough water to wet the sugar and no more (a couple of tablespoons)
  4. Turn up the heat and bring the fruit and sugar to a boil
  5. Do not stir, you may gently ‘swirl’ the sauce pan if you really think it’s necessary
  6. Heat to 104C – and let it simmer at this point for a couple of minutes
  7. Test whether the jam is done by dropping a little of the mixture on a cool plate – if you push the jam and it wrinkles as you push it, then it is ready. If not let it boil for a few minutes more and then re-test
  8. When done, carefully pour into the sterilised jar and leave to cool

For the apricot jam

  • Repeat all the steps as for rhubarb jam, obviously using the pre-prepared apricots instead

Method – biscuits

  1. Put your oven on – fan oven at 180˚C, or 190˚C conventional
  2. Mix all the ingredients together. Aim for a smooth dough but don’t overwork it
  3. You’ll need to dust both your work surface and your rolling pin quite liberally with flour for these biscuits (due to the high quality of butter in them)
  4. Cut the parchment to fit inside your baking tray (or ensure your silicon mat fits it)
  5. Roll out the dough to about 3-4mm thick on top of either a sheet of parchment or your silicon mat
  6. Gently lift up the whole paper (you made want to use a cake lifter, a couple of spatulas, a bread board or another willing pair of hands to help) and place the whole lot on the baking tray
  7. Bake in the bottom or centre of the oven for 10 – 12 minutes. It should not be browned at all
  8. Have your cutters ready
  9. Leave to cool for one minute – no more (only so they don’t burn you) – and then get to work immediately!
  10. Use your cutters to cut as many large shapes as possible, and then cut our smaller ‘windows’ from just HALF of those large shapes (you need half to be complete for the bottoms and half with a gap in for the tops)souvaroffFilling
  11. Leave to cool a little, then using a palette knife transfer the biscuit shapes onto a wire rack
  12. The leftover biscuit remnants and crumbs make a lovely crumble topping or are good for a cheesecake base – you can freeze them for later use

Method – cream

  1. Make the buttercream by whipping the icing sugar into the butter, adding a drop or two of water if needed
  2. Once made, whip in the cream and the pistachio paste

To assemble

  1. Spread a thin layer of the cream over the bottom half biscuit (ie a biscuit with no hole in it)
  2. Put a heaped teaspoonful of jam over the buttercream, in the centre of the biscuit (if you don’t put it in the centre you’ll end up mixing jam and cream together and it won’t look so nice as an end results) and spread outwardssouvaroffDrawingCuttingOut
  3. Press one of the tops (ie a biscuit with a shape cut out) onto the biscuit base you’ve just covered with cream and jam

To ice

  1. Make up the royal icing by adding the lemon juice and two thirds of the egg white to the icing sugar and mix together
  2. If it is not coming together and needs more liquid add the rest of the egg white
  3. If it is still not the right consistency for piping, add a few drops of water (add the plain food colouring in now too if you do not want to paint it on)
  4. If you’ve ‘gone too far’ and the icing is too runny, just add a little more icing sugar
  5. Put the royal icing in the piping bag fitter with the small round nozzle and pipe scrolls on the tops of the assembled biscuits. If you don’t want to attempt scroll work, neat zigzags will look great too
  6. Leave the icing to set for 20 – 30 minutes and then dip the paint brush in the food colouring and carefully paint over the piped scrollssouvaroffIcing
  7. I used two metallic colours and bled them into each other, but one colour on its own still looks fabulous

Chill slightly – as they include cream they won’t last longer than two days (Souvaroffs made with just jam will keep longer in an airtight container)souvaroffs1

Strawberry and cream Souvaroffs – the original jammie dodgers

souvaroffslandscape

These petit four sablés have been adapted from a very old French recipe I found (late 1800s). Although it was a French recipe, these biscuits had an intriguing Russian name and I tried to research where they came from or who they were named after.

I discovered one or two French websites that claimed the biscuits were named after General Suvorov, a Russian who fought in the Crimea (amongst other campaigns) and was reportedly Russia’s ‘greatest ever General’ because he was never undefeated. I’m not sure that’s quite right, but it’s quite a romantic notion. My heavyweight Larousse Gastronomique says that they were named after one of his descendants, Prince Suvorov (the Royal moniker was given to the General and then handed down). The Prince spent a lot of time and money in Paris restaurants in the late 1800s, which would make him more contemporary to the recipe. During the Victorian era (and continuing up to today), often a high class restaurant with an ambitious chef would try to please one of its very rich patrons by naming a recipe after them to ensure continued patronage (for example, peach Melba, a dessert named after Dame Nelly Melba).

A partridge dish has been named after this Prince as well, which adds to the likelihood that these little sablés bear his name too. Both the pheasant dish and the sablés have changed the spelling over time from Suvorov to Souvaroffs, probably because of colloquial pronunciation. These biscuits are basically rounds (or whatever other shapes you want to make) sandwiched together with jam, with the top biscuit having a central cut out so that you can see the jam inside. I’ve added a layer of cream to turn it into a posh jammie dodger, albeit one with quite an illustrious history. I wonder if these actually influenced the creation of the jammie dodger – Souvaroffs certainly came first.

Notes
  • I’ve decided to alter the original ingredients a little, by adding polenta. If you want to do the original recipe I found just omit the polenta and use 250g of plain flour instead.
  • I cut out the centre of the biscuits after they had been baked so that I had a sharper edge to the cut out. This meant I had several mini biscuits (the centre bits I cut out) but they didn’t go to waste and got eaten too – and they’re cute! You can do the cutting out before baking if you prefer, but it will ‘bleed’ during cooking as the biscuits spread.
  • You could also roll the dough into a log-shape, chill, then slice the rounds off.
  • If you don’t have a tiny cutter for the centres on the top halves, then you can use the large end of a piping nozzle.
  • You can also omit the buttercream and just sandwich the biscuits together with jam (they’ll keep longer than with cream and jam).
  • Makes about 20 rounds or 10 finalised sandwich biscuits.
  • These biscuits are quite short, that is they are crisp when cooked.
Equipment
  • 2 large baking sheets, prepared with baking parchment or silicon sheets
  • Rolling pin
  • Palette knife
  • Large round cutter – about 6cm
  • Smaller cutter for the middle cut-out (I used a heart but any small cutter, 1 – 2cm in diameter will do)
Ingredients – for the Souvaroffs
  • Unsalted butter – 200g
  • Caster sugar – 100g
  • Plain flour – 200g
  • Polenta (fine cornmeal) – 50g
  • Salt 1/2 tsp
  • Vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract – 1 tsp
Ingredients for the cream
  • Vanilla buttercream – about 100ml (make with butter, softened – 70g and icing sugar – 170g roughly). This is a small amount, so you might want to take some from a previous recipe or make more and freeze it for later)
  • Whipped double cream or clotted cream – about 100ml
Plus:
  • Strawberry jam – you’ll need the best part of a standard 340/350g jar
Method
  1. Put your oven on – fan oven at 160˚C, or 175˚C conventional
  2. Mix all the ingredients together. Aim for a smooth dough but don’t overwork it
  3. You’ll need to dust both your work surface and your rolling pin quite liberally with flour for these biscuits (due to the high quality of butter in them)
  4. Roll out the dough to about 3-4mm thick and cut out as many rounds with the large cutter as you can – it’ll be around 20
  5. Place them gently on the prepared baking trays
  6. They will spread so leave some space between them
  7. Bake in the bottom or centre of the oven for 14 – 15 minutes. They should not be browned at all
  8. Leave to cool for one minute – no more – and then use your small cutter to cut out a shape from HALF of the biscuits (you need half to be complete for the bottoms and half with a gap in for the tops).
  9. Leave to cool completely
Method – cream
  1. Make the buttercream by whipping the icing sugar into the butter, adding a drop or two of water if needed
  2. Once made, whip in the cream
To assemble
  1. Spread a thin layer of the cream over the bottom half biscuit (ie a biscuit with no hole in it)
  2. Put a heaped teaspoonful of jam over the buttercream, in the centre of the biscuit (if you don’t put it in the centre you’ll end up mixing jam and cream together and it won’t look so nice as an end results) and spread outwards
  3. Press one of the tops (ie a biscuit with a shape cut out) onto the biscuit base you’ve just covered with cream and jam
  4. Chill slightly – as they include cream they won’t last longer than two to three days (Souvaroffs made with just jam will keep longer in an airtight container)