Pistachio Shortbread

This is one of those recipes which turns out differently every time I make it.  Today I actually thought it would be a fail (jinxed by last week?). But no, it worked.  I got the recipe from one of the fabulous series of publications by Australian Women’s Weekly – this one entitled “Wicked Sweet Indulgences”.  How could I resist with a title like that?!

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This is where I admit I neither like, nor dislike pistachios.  But I love their pink and green colour. Well, that’s me, shallow to a T.  Show me a pretty colour and I’m yours!

Remember not to play with your food……………

nuts

This recipe contains – apart from cake flour – rice flour, cornflour and ground almonds.  These help create a lovely, light, crumbly texture.

Beat together butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the flour, cornflour, rice flour and ground almonds.

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Mix in the chopped toasted pistachios, spoon onto the baking trays in mounds and bake.

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I was supposed to keep aside some pistachios to place on the top of the shortbread before baking, but I threw them all into the mixture.  Sometimes you just have to!!

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, I wish you a peaceful day 🙂

 

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Cheese Scones

Before you read any further, I must warn you, this is a baking fail. Not a fail as in everyone who ate my cheese scones died a long slow agonising death….but a fail as in lack of baking success. The scones are perfectly edible, we are all still alive and healthy (relatively so anyway……) but they did not turn out the way I hoped they would. This happens.

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I have a go-to scone recipe which I use all the time. It is quick, easy, the scones are light, I’ve adapted it for sweet or savoury and it always works.  The recipe uses oil instead of butter and this results in a wetter dough, which can’t be neatly cut and shaped, but instead is dolloped from a spoon onto the baking tray.  But, looks aren’t everything!

I do from time to time wish however, that my scones looked beautiful and neat.  To do that I would need to use a different recipe.  One which uses butter, and the “rubbing in” method.  After a lengthy consultation with Aunty Google, I chose a recipe for cheese scones which had the word “ultimate” in their title.  Well, there’s a promise!

My only deviation from the recipe was to use less cheese – yes, even I can’t believe I did that.  The quantity seemed to much, and I cut it by a third.  I am glad I did, as I cannot see how the extra cheese could have worked at all.

I did the “rubbing in” bit, but, life is too short really to “rub in”, isn’t it.  So I used my handy tool equivalent (what on earth is it called? I haven’t a clue).

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Once the required breadcrumb texture had been achieved, I mixed in the grated cheese and the milk.  I began to panic….this didn’t look enough. 12 to 16 scones the recipe said….the dough was very dry and I had to add a bit more milk.  I was worried I’d add too much milk and the dough would be too wet, and I’d feel I’d have to add more flour….and, you know how it goes, we’ve all been there!

Finally I managed to get the dough to come together enough that I could pat it out on a board and cut out my scones.

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Now those (don’t look at the cracks please!) look nice and neat.  But I only managed to get 10 (medium size) scones out of the dough.  12 to 16 would have been teeny tiny midget scones…. and into the oven they went.

The colour looked fine…..but…BUT…they didn’t rise much.  Why? Baking fail alert!!!  I cut one open – very thin halves because of the lack of rise.  It looked – in my opinion – to be okay texture-wise, it was light, not heavy.  I didn’t bake bricks!  Was there still too much cheese?  I will definitely try this style recipe again, but I’ll source another recipe to see if it makes any difference.

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Still, the taste is right – lovely mature cheddar, fresh warm scone, cold salty butter….

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, I wish you a peaceful day 🙂

Blueberry Pancakes with Bacon and Maple Syrup

Some mornings only pancakes will do. Those lovely thick American style pancakes.  Combine them with a mixture of salty and sweet…..what more could you want!

I used the fabulous Nigella Lawson’s recipe for American Breakfast Pancakes from “How to be a Domestic Goddess” as the base.

These pancakes are comforting, satisfying, and when feeding a horde of hungry people are a useful fall-back.  I love them accompanied by crisp bacon and lashings of maple syrup. Salty-sweet heaven.

Sometimes, however, in the interests of healthy eating – 5-a-day and all that – I like to throw in a little something else.  Sweetcorn works very well, but today I used blueberries.

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Put the bacon under the grill and cook to your preference.  I like my bacon really crisp.  I mean REALLY crisp! And whilst that is happening, blitz the batter in a blender or with an electric whisk.  I substitute a glug of sunflower oil for the butter in the recipe and find it works just as well.

Throw in the blueberries, or sweetcorn, or leave as is and let it rest for a while before dropping spoonfuls in a pan and cooking.

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And, finally, sit down and enjoy!

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Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, I wish you a peaceful weekend 🙂

Meringues (egg-free)

The word of the day is aquafaba. Yes, that slimy liquid in a can of chickpeas or beans.  It is magic, that stuff!  We’ll swiftly gloss over my previous failure using this liquid to make an egg-free chocolate mousse….and move on the one recipe I’ve had continued success with: meringues. And, what’s not to like about a meringue!! Especially one with no eggs.  NO EGGS!  Yes, my hatred of egg continues.

And so, to the meringues. Drain a can of chickpeas – you’ll need 120ml of the liquid. Of course you’re going to make hummus with the chickpeas rather than throw them away, aren’t you.

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Now, have patience and watch the liquid transform, you’ll think it won’t, but it will …..use an electric whisk, you’ll thank me (it takes a while to whisk….)

Whisk until soft peaks form and then slowly whisk in 100g caster sugar, a bit at a time until the whole lot is incorporated and you have a lovely shiny stiff mixture….

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This can be spooned or piped on to a baking tray lined with baking paper.  I like to pipe them because it makes me feel posh! You’ll need 2 trays, this will make about 40 small meringues. Bake at 90°C (fan oven) for about 1h30 – or till the meringues lift easily off the baking paper.  Leave to cool.

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They are fine as they are, but I like to dip their bottoms in chocolate for a bit of extra oomph.

I used Lindt Raspberry Intense for a bit of tang. Once the meringues have cooled, dip their bases in the chocolate and leave to let the chocolate set.  Patience is a virtue.  Don’t forget to lick the bowl afterwards (cook’s prerogative)

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And, at last…..egg-free meringues.  Store in an air tight container.  Do not put in the fridge!

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, I wish you a peaceful weekend 🙂

 

 

 

Sponge Cake with Cassis Syrup and Raspberry Buttercream

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I don’t often bake a plain sponge cake – cupcakes, yes, but a big cake no.  My larger cakes tend to be flavoured – lemon drizzle, coffee & walnut, chocolate…..and so today I tried a plain sponge cake.  Except in the end it was not plain. I did a few little tweaks.  Yes, you knew I would, didn’t you!  However, today is the day I wished I had left well enough alone.  I wished I had just followed the recipe.

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I do love, love, love this Nielsen-Massey vanilla bean paste.  I only ever use vanilla extract if I can’t get hold of this.  The lovely little specs of vanilla seed just add to its magic.

Eggs.  The necessary evil of baking.  I’ve mentioned before that raw eggs are revolting.

And, so on to the baking.  The recipe I used is for a vanilla sponge, and one of its ingredients is Greek yogurt. I chose this particular one in the hope that it would give a nice moist sponge.  I found the recipe on the BBC Good Food website.

I didn’t want a plain cake, it would have to have icing.  Whilst it was baking in the oven I got to thinking….maybe a syrup drizzled over the cake before the icing would give it a little extra oomph.  I chose Cassis, that divine blackcurrant liqueur as the base of the syrup. Framboise would have been better , but I had none, and so Cassis it was.

I got a bit concerned a third of the way during the baking that things might not go well, the cake was already well risen and golden on top.  But I gritted my teeth and after peering through the oven door nervously for the rest of the baking time, I took the cake out at its allotted time.  The top is cracked.  To be honest, a lot cracked! And slightly crispy.  I’m thinking too much sugar in the batter?

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However, one of the joys of icing a cake is that it covers a multitude of sins.  I made the Cassis syrup and poured it over the cake, then left it to cool before covering it with icing I made a raspberry flavoured buttercream, and threw some lovely sprinkles over the top.  A pink cake after all has to have a little bit of sparkle, doesn’t it!

The true test however, is in the eating. Crunchy top aside, the cake is fine.  A Framboise syrup would have been better, but the Cassis does work.  The buttercream has a delicate, rather than in-your-face raspberry flavour – and although it doesn’t show in the photo it is pale pink.  Would I make it again? Probably not, just because I can’t see anywhere to go with it.  Does that make sense? I think there would be better versions of the cake, and whilst this is fine – my kitchen taster enjoyed it – it just doesn’t work well enough for me – even if I were to come up with a few more tweaks!!  Live and learn!

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, I hope you have a peaceful day 🙂

 

Cranberry and Peach Crumble

To be honest, this is not really a recipe.  More a throwing together of a few ingredients and cooking, and hoping for the best!  I have a few packs of cranberries which I had frozen, and somehow I have not had the chance to use them yet.  So, in spite of it being summer – not classic crumble weather – I thought I’d give this a go.  I wanted something very simple.  I like my cranberries on the sharp side, and in order not to add too much sugar, I balanced the sour / sharp with the sweetness of tinned peaches.  I do also have the awful habit with certain things (crumble topping for one….) not to use a recipe but to throw in the basic ingredients and hope for the best!

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So I emptied a packet of frozen cranberries into the dish, added two tins of peach segments (drained) and sprinkled some light muscovado sugar over the top.

My crumble topping was just plain flour, butter and golden caster sugar. And into the oven it went, until hot and bubbling.

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Yes, I admit that photo doesn’t look that appealing, but trust me, in real life it did look a whole lot better!  A portion of this, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream……

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Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, I wish you all a peaceful weekend 🙂

Banket

P1000807Some of my family come from the Netherlands and every year relatives there would send us a box of goodies. Salted Liquorice, chocolate (usually in the shape of our initials), a Delft tile and Banket. Banket is a sausage roll-shaped pastry with an almond filling.  It is not something I have seen anywhere else and so after a while when family passed away and we no longer received these boxes I would think longingly of this pastry.

Fast forward a few years and I saw a recipe in a magazine for Galette des Rois.  It looked interesting, it was disc shaped and had an almond filling.  I baked it but found it too greasy. And so I tweaked the recipe….and tweaked it….and tweaked some more. And then I thought – the filling is rather similar to that of Banket, why don’t I tweak a bit more and try to recreate this pastry….and so I did. And so, here, dear readers, is my version of that pastry.

Ingredients:

70 butter at room temperature

80g golden caster sugar

1 medium egg, lightly beaten

300g ground almonds

1 tablespoon Amaretto liqueur

1 tablespoon almond extract

400g ready-made puff pastry

Preheat the oven to 190ºC(fan oven).

Unroll the pastry and place it on a baking sheet lined with baking paper.  Cut the pastry in half along the width and slightly separate the two pieces of pastry. (Yes, I hang my head in shame, I always buy ready-made pastry, life is too short to make my own).

Beat the butter with the caster sugar using an electric whisk, until light and fluffy. Whisk in the egg.  Stir in the ground almonds, the alcohol and the almond extract.

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Divide the mixture in two, and spoon over the centre of each of the pieces of pastry.

Lightly wet the edges of the pastry with a bit of water and carefully fold the pastry over the filling, along the ends and the length, pressing carefully to seal the edges.  Each piece should look like a large thick sausage roll. If you’re feeling posh, brush some eggwash over the top of the pastry (it is worth it, it makes it look beautifully golden).

Place in oven for 30 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden.  Breathe in that lovely almond fragrance!  This can be eaten hot or cold, but is really best when lukewarm.

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, I wish you a peaceful weekend 🙂