March 2014

March 2014

Monday, November 24, 2014

How to bake bread with the author of “Southern Italian Family Cooking”

I have been a lucky lady this month, with two bread baking experiences, and my latest foray into the art of dough products was a morning spent with my friend, Carmela.

Carmela's demo
On this occasion, Carmela welcomed her 3 students into her bright and cosy kitchen and, whilst we sipped coffee and biscotti and got to know each other, she explained that we would be making Grissini, Fennel bread and a Stromboli made from Foccacia dough. Her friendly and knowledgeable practical demonstration followed and, with the various ingredients already on the table, we then continued by weighing, mixing, and kneading the various doughs. Carmela helped when required and interjected with many great tips for us to use in the future.

Ready for weighing
Baked to perfection
There is nothing like the smell of bread baking in the oven to tempt the taste-buds and, by the end of the class, our huge array of hot, crisp and tasty products made my tummy rumble loudly! Fortunately, Carmela produced a plate of thinly-sliced parma ham with a tomato, mozzarella and basil salad, which we happily munched, together with some of our new bread – it was delicious!

Of course, everything about this lovely lady is Italian. From her family roots to her present-day occupation of tutoring, Carmela produces food for her family and guests that has the warmth and deliciousness of Southern Italy. In fact, her latest book has only recently been published and I’m so pleased that I have a copy on my shelves to dip into when the sky is grey outside and I need to cook with a dollop of generous sunshine. I can assure you, these recipes pack a whole load of flavour into simple ingredients and, as chef and restauranter Theo Randall has quoted, “this is a must buy for any family that loves to cook” – I couldn’t agree more!

Southern Italian Family Cooking by Carmela Sophia Sereno is published by Constable and Robinson and is available from Amazon. Details of her future classes can be found on her website here.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Bay Tree Cottage Workshops - Speciality Bread

Baked to perfection
Last Saturday I had the privilege to accompany my friend, Tony, on a baking course run by Bay Tree Cottage Workshops in Farthingstone, Northamptonshire. Tony, who is blind, is already an accomplished bread producer and, in fact, makes all the loaves needed for home consumption every week but this ‘Speciality’ class proved to be just the ticket to extend his repertoire and skills.

After arrival, in Tutor Jenny’s comfortable and welcoming kitchen, and whilst we sipped our tea or coffee, she explained the recipes that would be used and the order of the day. Then, it was all ‘hands-on’ accompanied by Jenny’s knowledgeable ‘how-to’ demonstrations.

Class assembled
Jenny uses her own tried and tested recipes and is a great believer in using ingredients which are already in the cupboard and fridge, thus adapting basic formula to whatever is available on the day. 

Rolling Nettle, cheese and chive bread
The morning seemed to speed by in a blur of flour, yeast, cheese, herbs, bacon and so much more - all with a welcome coffee break half-way through and a piece of one of Jenny’s famous cakes. 

Beetroot dough

Before we knew it, the students had produced a savoury corn bread, spiced flatbread with cumin and coriander, a plaited beetroot loaf stuffed with all manner of good things, as well as several nettle and chive rolls. Can you imagine the wonderful aromas?

Tony and corn bread
Afterwards, Tony told me he had experienced a good time - his disability had not proved a problem for him or the workshop - and he had definitely learned some new techniques. 

We would therefore highly recommend to anyone the huge variety of courses available at Bay Tree Cottage as, for certain, Tony and I will be back there to experience another few hours of pleasurable and productive tuition. Thank you, Jenny.

Ready for home

Monday, October 13, 2014

'The Lane' restaurant Northampton and Tarte Tatin

English new season Cox's apples
This week we had lunch at ‘The Lane’, which is located within Northampton College, Booth Lane. We have visited this restaurant many times, over several years, and always come away completely amazed that a training establishment could reach such high standards. The service and food are akin to any high-class eaterie and, at a bargain £9.50 for a three-course lunch-time meal, we always feel very privileged indeed to participate in the education of these young students – who are overseen by talented and hard-working tutors -  and incredibly fortunate to have this in our locality.

‘The Lane’ is open Tuesday to Thursday for lunch and dinner and booking is advisable - call 01604 734280 or email Further information can also be found on their website

On our visit last Tuesday, my hubby chose the hot Tarte Tatin as dessert, which was accompanied by ice cream. It looked deliciously rich and gooey and it has inspired me to make this French classic at home this weekend.

Apples - peeled, cored and quartered
To save time and effort, I used shop-bought ready-rolled puff pastry but otherwise the ingredients are pretty much standard, i.e. 100g butter, 100g caster sugar, and about 6 apples – in my case I used Cox’s – peeled, cored and quartered. The oven was pre-heated to 220C or 200C fan, Gas mark 6.

Apples cooking in caramel
I melted the butter and sugar in a 20cm oven-proof frying pan, swirling the pan to combine and continued cooking until a toffee-coloured caramel was reached.

I turned the heat down and added the apple quarters, and continued to cook on a lower heat for 8-10 minutes whilst I cut the pastry into a round slightly larger than the pan.

Puffed and brown

After 8-10 minutes, I removed the pan and carefully draped the pastry over the apples and tucked the overhanging pastry in round the edges.

The tart was then baked for 20-25 minutes until the pastry was risen and golden in colour.

It turned out fine!
The hazardous part followed after I let the tart sit for 10 minutes. I covered my arm with a tea towel – just in case any hot liquid splattered from the pan - and I placed a large plate on top of the pastry and inverted it quickly and then carefully released the tart onto the plate. PHEW! DEEP BREATH! IT WORKED! 

My Northampton College ‘The Lane’ restaurant inspired pudding was a success and hopefully gained full marks from those who ate it. Why not try both for yourself – you will not be disappointed. 

Ready to eat

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Oven-baked apple crisps and Blackberry and almond cake

Oven-baked apple crisps
For me, September has been a ‘break-away’ month from writing on my blog. During this month I have, however, been fortunate enough to travel to Belgium, France, Holland and Germany and have indulged in some of the most wonderful sweet and savoury delicacies along the way; some of which I am sure will inspire me to greater baking creations in the months to come. On our return to the house last week, we found 2 ripe and ready apples left on the tree, as well as a bowlful of juicy cultivated blackberries. Of course, my baking ‘fast’ was over in a trice and here’s what I did with them…..

Oven-baked cinnamon apple crisps:
2 eating apples
1-2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
Ready for the oven

Line two baking sheets with parchment and set oven to 100C. Very thinly slice the apples into rounds, discarding the pips, (or use a mandolin). Arrange the slices in a single layer on the baking sheets and sprinkle liberally with the cinnamon. Bake for 90 minutes and then turn each slice over and continue to bake for a further 60-90 minutes, or until crispy. (This will depend on the juiciness of the apple variety). Eat straight away or keep in an airtight container for a few days. 

Blackberry and almond cake cooling
Blackberry and almond loaf cake:
2 large free-range eggs
200g of caster sugar OR 10 tablespoons of sugar substitute (I used Splenda)
185g ground almonds
70g spelt flour
1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon of almond extract
200g blackberries (or other fruit if preferred)
5 tablespoons of milk
Handful of flaked almonds
Icing sugar to serve

Preheat the oven to 170C. Prepare and line a 2lb loaf tin. Beat the eggs with the sugar until pale and thick. Fold in the flour, ground almonds, baking powder, milk and almond extract. Then gently stir in the blackberries. Spoon the mix into tin and sprinkle over the flaked almonds. Finally, bake the cake for 45 minutes or until the centre is cooked and the top is golden. Leave to cool for 10 minutes before turning out on a wire rack to cool completely. Sift over some icing sugar before serving.

Tea time!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Jaffa Twist Melting Moments

Are you ready for a melting moment?
I love receiving new products to review, especially if they relate to my passion for baking. This week I was thrilled to be asked to trial some flavoured icing sugars from Sugar and Crumbs. Their new flavour innovations – Black Forest, Chocolate Milkshake and Jaffa Twist - will be launched at the beginning of September to complement their numerous other tasty options, like Cherry Bakewell, Banana Split, Turkish Delight and Salted Caramel. 

Two new flavours - Jaffa Twise & Chocolate Milkshake
I would really like to try them all but on this occasion I decided to make some Melting Moments, using the Jaffa Twist sugar, as it could be incorporated in the biscuit itself, as well as being used in the buttercream filling. Plus a good sprinkling on the top of each one would provide maximum taste and flavour.

Melting Moments are rich and buttery and, as the name implies, have a melt-in-the-mouth texture, and everyone usually loves them. This particular recipe has been adapted from several that I have used over the years and resulted in round mouthfuls of scrumptious, chocolate-orange loveliness which were definitely enhanced by the use of Sugar and Crumbs Jaffa Twist icing sugar. Indeed, a real melting moment!

Rounds of loveliness
For approximately 16 biscuits, you will need:
175g butter, softened
60g Sugar and Crumbs Jaffa Twist icing sugar
Zest of ½ orange
160g plain flour sifted
70g cornflour

For the filling:
75g butter
125g Sugar and Crumbs Jaffa Twist icing sugar
1 dessertspoon orange juice
Zest of ½ orange
A small quantity of Jaffa Twist icing sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 160C/Gas 4 and line 2 baking trays with parchment.
Beat the butter and icing sugar until pale and fluffy, then add zest, flour and cornflour and mix until a smooth paste.
Roll mixture into about 32 large marble sized balls and place onto trays spaced apart.
Using a floured fork flatten each round slightly and create a striped pattern on each biscuit.
Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes, or until firm to the touch.
When cooked, they are best left on the trays to cool completely.

For the filling, mix the butter, icing sugar, zest and juice until well combined.

When the biscuits have cooled, carefully spread 16 with the filling and sandwich together with the other halves. Finally, dust with some more delicious Jaffa Twist icing sugar to make them look pretty.


Kindly note: The Sugar and Crumbs icing sugars were sent to me free of charge but I was under no obligation to provide a favourable review of this product.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Foodies 100 - specialist diet bakes

I was asked by Foodies 100 - the UK's largest network for food and drink bloggers - to share my favourite recent posts from 10 blogs and this is the result:

Specialist Diet Bakes

Gillian from Pat A Cake is taking the reigns today – she is wife, mother and new grandmother who lives on the Northamptonshire border and her lifelong passion for baking has led her to create her own blog.


Since childhood I have always loved the sights and smells of freshly made bread and cake. Sadly, however, I am now also old enough to remember the days when nothing was known about ‘food intolerances’. So, in this modern age, with lots of us now with special dietary requirements, isn’t it great to know that it’s still possible to indulge in the need to bake for everyone by using recipes that are suitable for those that are ‘gluten intolerant’, or have ‘a dairy allergy’, want a ‘low-fat’ diet, need ‘eggless’ cakes or perhaps, like me, would just prefer fewer calories and a healthier lifestyle.

Fortunately, our Foodies100 blogs offer a wealth of recipes, which are suitable for all occasions, and cater for all these needs and I have really enjoyed finding my Ten at Ten.

  • First up, writer Charlotte Pike’s savoury cheddar and spinach muffins on her Charlotte’s Kitchen Diary blog shows just how simple it is to sneak in healthy vegetables whilst baking for the family.
  • Or, if you are craving a sweet fix but would prefer something low fat and without sugar, then look no further than Alida’s My Little Italian Kitchen. Her healthy and flavoursome easy fat and sugar free pureed apple cake is a recipe I am definitely going to try out next weekend!
  • Now, for the last two years or so, after visiting our local oilseed rape farmer on an Open Farm Sunday, I have often swapped rapeseed oil (it is rich in omega 3, vitamin E, has low saturated fat content and is high in monounsaturated fats) for butter and I’m looking forward to using this amber liquid in ‘Supper in the suburbs’ recipe for skinny carrot cake – it looks so delicious.
  • Next on the agenda just has to be Holly Bell’s blog – Recipes From A Normal Mum – which remains a firm favourite. As I waited for my daughter to give birth to my first grandson in June, I was aware that Holly was also awaiting the arrival of her third son and I delved into her blog regularly to see how she was faring. These gluten free brownies are obviously perfect for those with sensitivity.
  • Another lady that I have followed since her Great British Bake Off days is Ruth Clemens and her blog The Pink Whisk. I rather fancy her egg-free savoury blue Monday and walnut biscuits.
  • Like me, do you find there are times when a list of ingredients just screams ‘healthiness’? Such is the case with Laura’s blog How To Cook Good Food and her oat, date and pecan breakfast loaf. I’m sure this would make a lovely change from the usual toast at breakfast.
  • Now, here’s a clever recipe that caught my eye: lemon and almond magic cake from Apple and Spice. In Katie’s own words “It intrigued me as the magic part comes from the cake mix separating out into three distinct layers during baking. A top sponge layer, a custard middle layer and a firmer base layer. It looked incredible and I couldn’t wait to try it for myself.”Me too!
  • The following blog is all about helping to feed someone with complex allergies. If you are struggling to find healthy and palatable substitute foods The Recipe Resource is full of recipes and useful tips. This pizza base, for example, is free from wheat, dairy, egg, soy and corn.
  • Back now to breakfast with honey nut oat clusters from A Kick At The Pantry Door – a delicious alternative to the usual cereal and just perfect accompanied by a good dollop of yogurt and a swirl of additional honey.
  • Lastly, a recipe which is similar to my own lemon parsnip and hazelnut cake but, instead of a large cake, this blog from north of the border, Cakeyboi showcases his parsnip and pecan cupcakes.
And so yes, it is true, you can still have your cake……and eat it too!
Gillian x

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Lighter Baked Lemon Cheesecake

Lighter Baked Lemon Cheesecake with summer fruit compote
Quark is a mild and creamy fresh cheese without the sour taste of yoghurt. It has much a lower fat content than cream cheeses and has no salt added and, therefore, is perfect for those of us trying to keep their waistlines! It also is full of protein and is loaded with minerals, including calcium which, according to the medics, helps us to build and maintain strong bones.

So, what can we do with it? In the past, I have used quark as a foil to make interesting dips with the addition of chives, or horseradish, chopped herbs, or sweet chilli sauce for example. Another idea would be to mix it with caramelised onions and roasted garlic. Spread onto crostini it would make a perfect appetiser.

Quark, of course, can also be sweetened with fruit puree, or honey and, in today’s offering, it is used as an ingredient in this very simple Lighter Baked Lemon Cheesecake which I served today with a summer fruit compote.

You will need:

3 free-range eggs, separated
75g caster sugar
2 tablespoons of plain flour
250g carton of quark
2 lemons, zest and juice

Icing sugar for dusting

Beat the egg yolks and sugar to a pale cream. Then add the quark, zest, juice and flour and mix well.

Whisk the egg whites until fairly stiff and then fold them gently into the quark mixture.

Pour into a greased and lined 20cm tin and bake at 180C (160C fan) or gas mark 4 for about 50 minutes until set and brown. 

Cool in the tin before turning out and dusting lightly with icing sugar.

Dusted with icing sugar

Monday, July 14, 2014

Healthier almond and citrus cake

Healthier almond and citrus cake
Since just after last Christmas, when I bought it in Waitrose for a satisfyingly low £1, I have had a tin of Amaretti Virginia in my store cupboard. I just love the beautiful bright red tin and have since discovered that these tasty little Italian almond biscuits – a cousin of the French macaron – have been made by the Virginia company in Liguria since 1860. Sadly, I happened to notice the other day that the croccanti (crunchy) version I had bought was nearing the sell-by date – presumably why it had been reduced - and so they needed using up!

My ‘Healthier almond and citrus cake’ containing amaretti biscuits proved to be just the ticket. Here’s how I made it…..

For the cake:
200g Flora (or other low-fat spread)
10 tablespoons (20g) Splenda (or other sugar alternative)
3 large eggs - separated
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons and juice of 1
200g ground almonds
2 teaspoons baking powder
9 or so amaretti biscuits

To serve:
Small quantity icing sugar
Low fat creme fraiche, yoghurt or ice cream

Line a 20cm loose-bottomed tin and preheat oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5.

Cream together Flora and Splenda and then blend in egg yolks. Add lemon zest, lemon juice, ground almonds and baking powder - mix well together. 

In a separate bowl, whisk egg whites until light and fluffy. Gently add these to the cake mix in 3 batches (being careful not to knock out the air from the whites).

Cake mix topped with chopped amaretti
Spread half the mixture into the cake tin and then add the amaretti (chopped into large chunks or left whole if preferred).

Spoon the remaining mix over, smoothing the surface.

Transfer to the oven and bake for 30 - 35 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. 

When baked, leave for 5 minutes in tin and then turn out to cool.

Shortly before serving, dust with icing sugar. This will keep for several days in an airtight container.

Ready for serving

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Low calorie soft fruit and almond friands

Low calorie soft fruit and almond friands

So this is it, I am ‘on the wagon’ again this month……no, it’s not the alcohol I will try to exclude but it is all unnecessary sugar and all things fattening! Since starting my blog, and indulging my passion for baking, my weight has climbed. This, coupled with a severe back problem and little exercise has been a real downfall. Anyway, enough of the confessions, I now regularly attend an Aqua Zumba class which has helped my movement significantly and, with a couple of bowls games each week, I think I have stepped-up my physical needs. However, my love of all things ‘cake’ must also be assuaged and I think the following recipe satisfied my need perfectly – a small, delicate morsel, high in flavour and low in fat and sweetness

3 egg whites
1 tsp almond extract
100g ground almonds
25g plain flour
4 tbsp Splenda
75g Flora (or other low fat spread) melted
100g soft fruit - I used my home-produced tayberries
25g flaked almonds

Preheat oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Lightly grease a 12 hole mini muffin tin (I used cake release spray). Beat the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. In a separate bowl sieve together the flour, almonds and Splenda. Mix in the melted spread and almond extract. Lastly, gently fold in the egg whites until well combined. Spoon the mixture into the tin, top with 2 or 3 berries and scatter over the almonds. Bake for about 12 minutes until springy and golden. When cooled, dust with a little extra Splenda.

Ready for the oven

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Rock Cakes or Marazion Buns

Marazion buns
I wonder if, like me, you keep a scrap book of recipes? My own bright blue one has the words ‘Hip Chick’ on the cover. So, yes, that’s how old it is! It’s now really rather shabby and battered but has cuttings and scribblings from many years past and I love it. It’s rather like a diary in that I can leaf through it and can recall a time when I found a particular recipe in a magazine, perhaps the week before I needed a gorgeous-sounding pudding for a family occasion, cut it out, and stuck it in my blue book ready for action. If it was a success, I would put a tick or remark by it, so that I knew I could use it another day. 

Sadly, my scrap book of recipe memories doesn’t always reveal where I found the original recipe and, like today when I leafed through, to find a suitable sweet offering to take to my daughter Laura in hospital, it was a fairly easy task to decide to bake some Marazion Buns. Now, don’t ask me why they have this name – all I know is that they could originate from Cornwall.  They are rather like Rock Cakes but I have also added a little twist or two of my own to the ingredients. Here’s how I made them:

(The original notes are in ‘ounces’ but I’m sure you can easily convert the amounts into grams.)

6oz spelt flour (or wholemeal if you prefer)
6oz plain flour
2 tsps baking powder
Pinch of salt
½ tsp mixed spice
¼ tsp Ndali organic vanilla powder
6oz butter (or margarine)
6oz golden caster sugar
4oz mixed dried fruit
3oz desiccated coconut
10 glace cherries (chopped)
1 large egg
1 tsp orange extract
Milk to mix
A small quantity of Demerara sugar for topping

Sift and mix flours, baking powder, spice, vanilla and sugar into a large bowl. Rub in butter until crumbly. Stir in mixed dried fruit, cherries and coconut. Whisk egg lightly with orange extract and about a tablespoon of the milk. Stir into dry mix to form a dough – may need a little more milk. Pile 12 or so rocky heaps on a baking parchment covered tray, top with a sprinkling of Demerara sugar, and bake for 15-20 minutes in a pre-heated oven. Gas mark 5 or 190C. Cool on a wire rack. These are best eaten on the day of baking, which is no problem in our house!

Desiccated fruits

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Lemon Pancake Cake

My throwback recipe from 2014 would make an ideal treat for Shrove Tuesday this week. It is also featured in  the CCC Cook Book 'A Year of Cake' on page 39.

Stainless Steel Earth Pan by Ozeri
I recently took delivery of a Stainless Steel Earth Pan by Ozeri and wanted to cook something which would really test (according to the manufacturer) the “100% PFOA-Free Non-Stick coating”. According to the manufacturer’s description, the Environmental Protection Agency in the USA has found that PFOA (PerFluoroOctanoic Acid), often found in traditional cookware, once ingested is capable of remaining in people for a very long time, and has been shown to cause developmental and other adverse effects in laboratory animals. Ooooh errr…I am no scientist, simply a humble housewife, but such warnings did raise a slight alarm when I looked at my old, worn and well used pots and pans!

Anyway, what could I cook which would test the pans actual performance and non-stick quality? The answer just had to be a simple pancake. My Lemon Pancake Cake is a perfect and special family dinner dessert, easily put together, with few ingredients.

Perfect pancake
I used my usual sweet batter recipe – 1 cup flour, 1 cup eggs (2 or 3 depending on size), 1 cup milk, 1 dessertspoon sugar) and 1 tablespoon water. This mix made about 10 pancakes and, much to my amazement, I didn’t have to use any oil at all! During cooking, after the batter was poured in, I was able to carefully lift the edge and turn it over, before finally sliding it out to a waiting plate. Not one stuck! 

Cream and lemon curd layer
The cooked pancakes were inter-leaved with non-stick parchment and then left to cool. I then lined a loose-bottomed cake tin with cling film and stacked my pancakes, interspersed with lemon curd and a lemon-flavoured cream – 300ml double cream, zest of 2 lemons and juice of 1, all beaten to soft peaks. The tin was then placed in the fridge overnight for the cake to set.

With its combination of manufacturer’s claim for health benefits, as well as its powerful non-stick properties, I will certainly consider buying other products in this range.

Ready for guests

The Stainless Steel Earth Pan was sent to me free of charge but I was under no obligation to provide a favourable review of this product.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Chocolate Ecstasy Tour - London

My fellow chocolate tourers.

I can’t believe a week has gone by since hubby and I joined 8 others on a Chelsea Chocolate Ecstasy Tour and I am certainly getting chocolate withdrawal symptoms whilst writing and thinking about our experience!

William Curley chocolate.
We firstly met Elle, our lovely guide, plus our fellow chocolate tourists at William Curley in Ebury Street. The displays of the most exquisite patissierie and sweet confections were an absolute feast for the eyes – we knew we were on to something good! As we sat drinking hot chocolate, Elle asked about our favourite flavours, and we happily munched upon one or two samples before leaving for our next destination.

Artisan du Chocolat.
Our second stop of the day was at Artisan du Chocolat. True artisans are often fanatical about their products and it was evident from the tastings here that this company insists on high standards. I sampled my favourite, sea salted caramel chocolate, and its liquid centre was truly delicious. I also noticed bottles of the caramel in the window and I was sorely tried but resisted the temptation to buy. I knew there would be more delights to follow.

Pierre Herme macarons.
Elle expertly shepherded us to the next location, pointing out places of interest along the way, and I couldn’t believe my good fortune when I discovered that we were to visit the establishment Pierre Herme of Paris. What could be better than beautiful chocolate, as well as their famous exquisite macarons. I have to tell you, macarons are my guilty pleasure and when I sampled the ‘Infiniment CafĂ© Iapar Rouge du Bresil’ sample, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. 

I really can’t emphasise enough how each retailer on our tour was so welcoming, samples were freely given, at no time were we rushed, and all our questions were answered with enthusiasm. 

Our guide Elle.
Our final stop took us to Rococo Chocolates and a fascinating in-depth talk by Elle on the growing of cacoa and all the facets of chocolate production. Of course, we were almost at chocolate overload but still had room to sample various cocoa solid examples from zero per cent - a white chocolate which, of course, had no cocoa solids, just the butter but it was flavoured with cardamom and was yummy – to one which was 100% and was rather too overpowering for most of the group. 

Although this was my first visit to Rococo, I have read about its creator, Chantal Cody, and her inspiration to open ‘a chocolate paradise’ and, seated in her Sloane Street shop, it was obvious where her passion lies. Delicious chocolate containing healthy ingredients surrounded us, which is sourced ethically, produced and packaged beautifully. I do hope it won’t be too long before I can revisit.

A Rococo display.

Thank you so much Elle and Chocolate Ecstasy Tours – it was a chocoholic delight!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Hot Cross Bikkies

Hot Cross Bikkies
The ‘specialness’ of Hot Cross buns only being available at Easter seems to have diminished greatly in recent years with supermarkets filling their shelves with them soon after Christmas, or worse still, before! Likewise, many traditions like the sharing of hot cross buns to ensure friendship throughout the following year have sadly gone by the board and others, like hanging a hot cross bun in the kitchen to protect against fires and to ensure that all breads turned out perfectly, have long been forgotten. By the way, the hanging bun was, apparently, replaced just once a year! What wonderful ancient folklore we have in Great Britain.

So, this year when we visit friends on Good Friday, I will be taking something a little different to share - my Hot Cross Bikkies. They are warmly spiced, just like a traditional bun, with a hint of citrus and succulent with dried fruit and, more importantly, are easy to make. Here’s how –

Lurpak Cook's Range
125g unsalted butter (I used the new Lurpak Baking Butter)
75g soft brown sugar
The zest of one whole orange
1 egg yolk
200g Spelt flour
25g custard powder
1 tsp mixed spice
¼ tsp ground ginger
100g mixed dried fruit

For the topping:
50g icing sugar
1 tsp freshly squeezed orange juice

Stamp out approx. 18 circles
Preheat oven to 200C (190C fan), Gas mark 6 and line two baking trays with baking parchment.

Cream the butter, sugar and zest and then beat in egg yolk.

Sift the flour with the custard powder and spices and combine with the creamed mixture, along with the dried fruit, to form a dough. Wrap in cling film and pop in the fridge for 20 mins to chill.

Then, place the dough between two sheets of baking parchment, and roll out to approximately 5mm in thickness and stamp out rounds using a 7cm cutter.

Place them (about 18) on the prepared trays, and bake for 15 minutes until golden.

Allow to cool on their trays for 10 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack.

Finally, when biscuits are completely cold, mix icing sugar with the orange juice and pipe a cross on the top of each biscuit.