Do you like the idea of making homemade hot cross buns? I do and sometimes I actually manage it. Yeasted buns need a bit of planning and a fair amount of time. Most years, I find it’s Good Friday before I know what’s going on. These hot cross bun pancakes have all of the flavour without the hassle and are ideal for Easter breakfast, brunch or tea. Plus, as it’s Easter, you can serve them with my easy chocolate sauce.
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.
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.
Whose up for a delicious savoury green vegetable galette? This quick rustic tart has a beautifully crisp and flaky pastry topped with a creamy spinach sauce, bell peppers, asparagus and peas. It’s a must try.
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.
Sweet and seasonally spicy with little chunks of half melted marzipan, these stollen cakes are delicious. They’re perfect for the festive season, whether that’s Christmas, New Year or Twelfth Night.
You can’t go through the Easter period without hot cross buns. They’re traditional! Homemade are, of course, the best. These super delicious choc cross buns are made with a pre-ferment and have a chocolate cross painted on the top.
Now what do you do with 100g of delicious handmade marzipan left over from making your simnel cake? Well, brownies of course – specifically Easter brownies. I’d had a look at Paul A Young’s simnel brownies, but although I really must try that recipe at some point in my life, I didn’t feel now was it. Possibly the best ever brownies I’ve yet made are those from Pam Corbin’s most excellent of books Cake: River Cottage handbook no 8. I still haven’t managed to post about them, so I’m posting this adapted second version first.
This is what I did:
- Melted 185g dark chocolate (100g with cranberries, 85g of 85%) with 185g unsalted butter in a pan over a low heat then left to cool slightly.
- Whisked 3 duck eggs with 275g sugar (175g vanilla caster & 100g dark molasses) using an electric whisk for a good 5 minutes until thick and doubled in volume.
- Folded the chocolate into the eggs.
- Sifted in 85g wholemeal spelt flour, 40g cocoa powder, 1 tsp cinnamon and a good grating of nutmeg.
- Folded it all in together.
- Gently stirred in 100g of marzipan I’d cut into small cubes.
- Spooned into a 9″ sq cake mould and baked for 27 minutes at 180C.
- Left to cool overnight.
- Cut into 16 squares and pressed a mini chocolate egg onto the top of each one.
Nothing much to say except mmmmmmm!! And I will most certainly be making these Easter brownies again. AND they are so quick to make, you still have plenty of time to whip some up for Easter tea.
I hope you all have a very Happy Easter and don’t forget to enjoy your chocolate.
Every month Kate of What Kate Baked and Karen of Lavender and Lovage take turns hosting a tea time treats event where it’s usually very hard to resist virtual overindulgence. I am submitting this to the massive Easter party hosted this month by Kate.