Well, Christmas is nearly upon us and this will be my last post now until next year. So I’m leaving you with these delicious wholemeal clotted cream shortbread with chestnut flour and cinnamon.
Carrot cake is one of our nation’s favourite cakes, apparently. Who would have thought something as healthy as carrots would appeal to such an extent? As I was dreaming autumn thoughts the other day, I had a sudden urge to try making carrot cake in flapjack form. It worked beautifully and these carrot cake flapjacks are just the best.
As you may have gathered by now, I do like to cook and bake with the seasons. When I made my latest Suma order I had some autumnal baking very much in mind. I still have apples from my mother’s garden and although the wildlife got all of our cobnuts this year, hazelnuts are very much on my radar. So, I made an apple and hazelnut spelt rye sourdough bread loaf.
Age is supposed to confer wisdom, but the main thing I notice these days is that my joints are a little creaky. I try to alleviate this by getting as much turmeric into my diet as I can. This is the first time I’ve made it the star of the show, however. Building on my recent success with hemp milk, I decided to combine these two oriental power houses to make spiced turmeric milk. If the hemp doesn’t get you, the turmeric will.
Now who doesn’t love nibbling on a bit of raw cookie dough? It’s an experience that evokes happy childhood memories. Well you’re in luck. The chilli chocolate chip cookie dough I’ve made here is not for baking, no, it’s for pure indulgent eating in its raw state. And not only that, it’s also egg and dairy free, made with healthy ingredients. flavoured with chilli and cinnamon and above all else, delicious.
Of all the biscuits I made in my epic Christmas bake last year, these pistachio biscuits made with almonds and flavoured with a little rose, cardamom and cinnamon were the ones that received the most rave reviews. So *drum roll* I’m finally going to give you the recipe. It’s the next in my Flavours of the Middle East series.
Easter is fast approaching and as it gets ever nearer, my thoughts turn to chocolate, although to be fair, my thoughts are rarely far from this exquisite food of the gods. Over the years I’ve made many Easter chocolate cakes, some more child friendly than others. These ones, containing rather a lot of rum are definitely of the adult variety.
Back along when I made these mini chocolate surprise cakes for a friend along with these dairy and gluten free lemon and almond coconut cakes, I also made some rather fun apple crumble and custard mini cupcakes.
Fruit vinegars make a wonderful addition to many dishes. Vinegar captures the essence of the fruit beautifully reminding us of the season in which it was harvested. This blackcurrant vinegar gives a flavoursome tang to sauces, salads and desserts. It goes particularly well with beetroot. A little poured over simple vanilla ice-cream gives a real wow factor and mixed with water, it makes a refreshing drink.
Gingerbread is almost synonymous with Christmas and making some to hang on the tree is something I aspire to each year. This year, I’ve actually done it. Not that we have a tree to hang any on, but I’m hoping that the friends we are giving them to will.
Reading through a review copy of What to Bake & How to Bake It, I noticed a recipe for iced gingerbread cookies that used treacle as a variation. I find the word treacle very hard to resist – something to do with childhood memories of my mother’s treacle pudding, I imagine. Decision made: I would knock up some gingerbread. I followed the recipe almost exactly, adding only a little chocolate (of course) and a few additional spices. A pinch of black pepper for additional warmth was needed I thought as well as some allspice for Vanesther’s Spice Trail and some nutmeg.
What to Bake and How to Bake It by Jane Hornby (published by Phaidon Press at £19.95), is a rather beautiful book. It’s quite a large hardback and has a turquoise textured paper cover that makes me want to stroke it. Two matching turquoise bookmarks add distinction and there are plenty of gorgeous pictures to admire. It appears to be more a work of art than a manual. It’s certainly a book to treasure.
As the title suggests, this book is aimed principally at those who are new to baking or who require a confidence boost. Each recipe is spread over four to six pages, with lots of step-by-step aerial photography and accompanying instructions. Ah, so it is a manual, albeit a rather lovely one. Methodologies, terms and equipment are covered at the beginning and there are plenty of tips and tricks to be found throughout. Anyone working through a few of these recipes would learn pretty much everything they needed to turn out fabulous, cakes, breads, biscuits, pies and desserts. Despite this, I think the book is also useful to the more experienced baker; most of us still have something to learn. Creating a Swiss roll is one of my bêtes noirs, so maybe I’ll be able to crack it with the steps shown here.
There are fifty recipes in total and although the classics are represented, there is plenty here to keep the more experienced baker interested and inspired. Shortbread is covered for example, but orange, lavender, pecan and chocolate versions are also given. I have my eye on the malted chocolate birthday cake as I’m a sucker for a malteser and if I hadn’t been ill in the run-up to Christmas, I would have made the pistachio and fig biscotti which sounds exotic and comforting in equal measure. Other bakes that might restore me to health include: blueberry-cinnamon crumb cake, cranberry stollen and Linzer cookies.
This is how I made:
Spicy Gingerbread with Limoncello Icing
- Melted 110g Rodda’s salted butter in a large pan with 200g dark brown sugar, 2 tbsp treacle and 25g dark chocolate.
- Allowed to cool a little then beat in a duck egg (large hen’s egg would be fine).
- Beat in 2 drops Holy Lama cinnamon extract (2 tsp ground cinnamon), a drop of black pepper extract and a drop of nutmeg extract.
- Sifted in 150g wholemeal flour and 200g plain flour, 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda, 1 tsp allpice and a heaped tsp ground ginger.
- Mixed until just combined, then left in my cold kitchen to firm up for an hour.
- Gathered the mixture together to form a ball of dough and rolled out on a floured surface to about the thickness of a £1 coin.
- Cut various shapes from it, rerolling the leftovers again and again until the dough was all used up.
- Placed biscuits on a lined baking tray and baked at 180C for 7 minutes – mine were quite small and larger biscuits would need a couple of minutes or so longer.
- Used a chopstick to make holes for threading whilst the biscuits were still hot from the oven, then removed them to a wire rack to cool.
- Mixed 3 heaped tbsp icing sugar with just enough limoncello to make a thick, but slightly runny icing.
- Piped this onto my biscuits and left them to dry.
- Made about 80 biscuits.
The biscuits smelt wonderful, both in and out of the oven and were as warming and delicious as I’d hoped. The touch of limoncello icing gave an added note of sophistication. They may not have looked very sophisticated, but I’m blaming the flu virus for that. CT and I quickly polished off all the rejects and the rest got packed into bags for gifts.
I am sending these biscuits of to Vanesther over at Bangers & Mash for The Spice Trail, which is allspice this month.
Some are also winging their way to Karen over at Lavender and Lovage who has appropriately chosen sugar and spice for this month’s Cooking with Herbs.