61. Hungarian Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies

 

Lemon seeded cookies just asking to be eaten

Lemon seeded cookies just asking to be eaten

Cookie, cookie on my plate what will be your delicious fate? Lemon conjures up memories of spring time, Easter and fresh starts. As we’re nearing the final 20 bakes of my around the world in 80 bakes venture I’ve accumulated a lot of random ingredients that seemed like the most essential purchase at the time.

Stacks of Poppy Seed Cookies

Stacks of  glimmering white Poppy Seed Cookies

Like I’m ever going to use that pomegranate powder, gram flour, black mustard seeds and 4 bags of poppy seeds… So I’m getting creative. Working with what I have to make some new recipes, tweaking more traditional bakes to suit my more interesting ingredients.

Eat Me - cookie stamper

Eat Me!

All the recipes I found for Hungarian Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies were rather wet doughs, which had to be dolloped onto the baking tray or pinwheels with a poppyseed spiral running through them. I’m usually a fan of any recipe that doesn’t require a rolling pin but I received a beautiful cookie stamp for my birthday so I wanted to make a rollable dough so I could stamp away.

lemon Poppy seed cookies speckled dough

Poppy seed speckled dough

This recipe had to be tweaked gently to avoid creating too firm a dough as I would end up with a basic shortbread recipe, which is rather more Scottish than Hungarian. I took inspiration from Munn Cookies which are a traditional Jewish recipe. My Lemon Poppy Seed cookies are a Hungarian Munn Cookie hybrid! They’re a slim cookie (or biscuit to me) with a comfortingly crisp and crumbly texture.

Wrap your dough in cling film before chilling it for 30 minutes (or so a little longer won't hurt!)

Wrap your dough in cling film before chilling it for 30 minutes (or so a little longer won’t hurt!)

To make my recipe more mouldable I added more of everything. Calculating it carefully to get the balance right between the flour, sugar, seeds and butter. Creating a smooth buttery dough which rolls out beautifully once chilled.

Fancy fluted cookie shapes: Cutting out the Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies

Fancy fluted biscuit shapes: Cutting out the Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies

Chilling the cut and stamped cookies is the key to holding the shape and preventing too much oven spread.

These biscuits are pretty quick to bake. They take less than 15 minutes to whip up (especially if you’re using an electric mixer) and only 12 minutes in the oven. They spend longer in the fridge chilling than they do in the oven!

Poppy seed speckled and lemon zest flecked cookie close up

Poppy seed speckled and lemon zest flecked cookie close up

In addition to tasting great and looking pretty the poppy seeds bespeckling the cookies add an extra healthy dimesion. Poppy seeds are very common in many European baked good from bagels to seed cakes. They were traditionally incoporated into many desserts and breads as they are packed with nutrients, minerals and fibre. It’s suggested that Poppy Seeds can help with nausea and stomach upsets too. I also added some Chia Seeds for their superfood qualities to make these cookies a more health conscious snack.

Hungarian Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies

Go on.

The Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies are lovely. They retain their pale colour after baking so don’t expect them to develop a golden oven tan! They puff up slightly in the oven, leaving a smooth and shiny finish. They’re crisp and crumbly with a great crunchy texture owing to the seeds. You could add fewer seeds if you prefer, but I wanted to pack as many in as I could! The finished cookie reminds me of slices of dragonfruit.

Hungarian Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies

Hungarian Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies

If you prefer your cookies soft, bake them for 12 minutes at 175 degrees c. If you like a snap to your biscuits bake them for about 15 minutes. I feel rather refined sitting back in my chair with a poppy seed cookie to nibble on and a cup of Earl Grey to sip. The citrus in the tea brings out the lemon zest in the biscuit. A perfect combination! (Note: you may wish to share these with a friend who will point out any poppy seeds lodged in your teeth.)

Lemon seeded cookies just asking to be eaten

Lemon seeded cookies just asking to be eaten

These biscuits are subtle in flavour and high in texture. The lemon flavour cuts through the crunch for a perfect Spring/Summer snack.  They’re light and not too sweet. (But if you like sweeter biscuits you could add some water icing or melted white chocolate.) They freeze really well too (uniced), so you can keep a constant supply to hand.

I’m very tempted to make another batch and I’m very tempted to jazz them up even further, perhaps with a splash of lemon extract and a handful of chopped aromatic green herbs. Rosemary, Basil, Thyme, Verbana, or Mint would be amazing with the Lemon. Adding another level of sophistication to this already refined biscuit. Lucky  I have 3 and half bags of poppy seeds left to go…

Hungarian Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies

Someone’s trying to tell you something…

Hungarian Lemon Poppy Seed Cookie Recipe

  • 220g (1 cup) Butter
  • 220g (1 cup) Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 450g (3 cups) Plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 80g Poppy seeds (I used 70g poppy seeds and 10g chia seeds)
  • *A splash of lemon extract
  • *A handful of finely chopped green herbs (fresh or dry) such as rosemary, basil, thyme, mint or verbana

*Optional

How I made my Hungarian Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies

1. Beat together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy.
2. Beat in the egg until fluffy
3. Beat in the zest of 2 lemons
4. Beat in the flour, salt and baking powder
5. Beat in the lemon juice. Until the dough comes together in one ball.
6. Beat in the poppy seeds (and chia seeds if you’re adding them too, or just stick with poppy seeds!)

*Beat in the lemon extract and herbs if you choose to add them too
7. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill for at least 30 minutes
8. Roll out the dough on a surface dusted with icing sugar
9. Cut out 3 inch rounds (or whatever shape you prefer). I used my stamper here, gently pressing it into the dough.
10. Place on greased lined baking tray, cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (or longer)
11. Bake for 11-12 mins at 175 degrees c for a soft cookie or 15-17 minutes for a crisper biscuit. The cookies won’t take on any colour during baking so if they start to turn brown they’re more than ready!

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The Best Banana Bread I’ve ever made

image

My Bestest Banana Bread

I’m going to let you into a secret. I’ve been experimenting in the kitchen, trying new combinations of flours and flavours to make some tasty, healthy (ish) cakes using up food that would otherwise go to waste. And what did I conjure up? My bestest banana bread recipe, with coconut, pistachio and rye. Additional bonuses include an extra cake! This recipe is enough for 2 cakes, so you can freeze one for later or give it to a friend who needs a nutritious energy boost. It’s also low in sugar and gluten. (You could choose gluten free flour if you prefer.)

Bonus Banana Bread

Bonus Banana Bread

When my bananas are on the turn and almost ready for the bin I throw them in the freezer in their blacken skins to save for a later date.  (Yes you can freeze bananas. Feel free to peel them first and pop them in a tupperware container first if you want to use them from frozen for smoothies or milkshakes, then you don’t even need to add ice cream for a chilled drink).

Once I have 3 black bananas stockpiled I whip up my Banana Bread. Leave your bananas to defrost for an hour or so before you peel them to make your banana bread, as if they’re too cold it will make your butter solidify and could give you denser cake and an uneven bake.

This is really quick to make. Basically beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Followed by your bananas, vanilla and eggs, then the combination of flours and baking powder. Finally beat in a handful of sultanas and chopped walnuts. This takes about 15 minutes with an electric mixer.

I use two 6 inch round tins to bake this recipe, or you could bake one large banana bread loaf if you prefer. Liberally sprinkle the cakes with chopped nuts (whatever you have to hand is fine). I use pistachios which gives you gorgeous green flecks singing out in between the flaked almonds and hazelnuts.

As the cake bakes the batter rises up and supports the nuts, holding them in place for the final cake. It’s also the perfect way to disguise any uneven finishes on your cake, if like me you have an unpredictably hot oven.

My initial experiments involved using 100% coconut flour, but this ended in disaster. I think coconut flour needs to be balanced against other nuttier flours (I like using rye flour but spelt or wholemeal would work well too) to absorb some of the natural oils and sugars and avoid the quick to burn, blackened mess that I made.

In less than an hour (50 minutes at 150 degrees c to be precise) you will produce two beautifully moist banana cakes, that are perfect accompanied by a large mug of strong tea, perhaps after a bracing stroll by the coast. I’m drooling just thinking of that sweet sponge and nutty crunch of a cake. Wonder how many bananas I have lurking in my freezer today…

Perfect Cake spot: A blustry day by Alnwick Castle

Perfect Cake spot: A blustery day by Alnwick Castle

 Things I used to make my Bestest Banana Bread

  • 125g margarine (or butter)
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 3 over ripe bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 100g coconut flour (or finely ground dessicated coconut if you can’t find the flour)
  • 90g Rye Flour (or spelt or wholemeal) -NB: Spelt and Rye flours are not gluten free but may be more suitable to those who have a wheat intolerance. Use a wholemeal gluten free flour if you want to avoid gluten in this recipe.
  • 60g plain flour (feel free to use gluten free flour)
  • 3 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1tsp ground cassia (or cinnamon or mace)
  • Handful of chopped sultanas
  • Handful of chopped walnuts
  • * Topping: (2 handful of chopped/flaked nuts: almonds, pistachio, walnuts, hazelnuts
  1. Beat together sugar and butter until fluffy
  2. Beat in bananas
  3. Beat in eggs one by one
  4. Beat in vanilla paste
  5. Beat in coconut, plain, rye flours and baking powder and spice
  6. Beat in sultanas and walnuts
  7. Pour into 2 greased 6 inch round tins (or one large loaf tin)
  8. Cover the top of each cake entirely with a layer of chopped nuts
  9. Bake for 50  mins at 150 degrees c (or until a skewer comes out clean)

My other banana based recipes are Fanny and Otto’s Fijian Banana Cake

60. Japanese Matcha Green Tea Mochi – Gluten Free

Mochi are like no other cake I’ve ever tasted. At first I thought I didn’t like them, with their chewy jelly exterior and smooth paste interior, that’s just not as sweet as I’m used to in my sugar spiked desserts. However once you get past your preconceptions of what a cake should taste and feel like, you’re going to love Mochi. I can guarantee it.

Matcha Mochi

Matcha Mochi

The first time I experimented with Mochi was on a food adventure around Hong Kong. (Although they are a traditional Japanese sweet treat.) My friend Bobo and her Mam took us on a whistle stop tour of the real Hong Kong. Rolling from Dumpling Soup and Dim Sum, to Duck and Eel banquets. Sampling Chinese Milk Tea, Egg Tarts and Pineapple Cakes and everything in between. Including impressive dry ice tapioca desserts presented with a flourish of icy smoke clouds. This was my kind of trip! Although I must admit I didn’t manage to eat noodles for breakfast. A regret I still carry with me today. Unfortunately I’m much more of a tea and toast kinda gal!

But Mochi were something else. Deceptively bland on the outside in their floury cloak.  When you tentatively choose your mochi you immediately realise how soft and squidgey they really are . Take a bite and there’s a perfect balance of sweet bean paste to rice gel dough. I always thought that Mochi would be difficult to make at home, when in fact they are possibly one of the quickest bakes I’ve ever made! The assembly is the trickiest bit and even then it’s a bit like playing with Play Doh so it’s actually quite fun!

My Mochi Mountain at Confidential Canapé Collective

My Mochi Mountain at Confidential Canapé Collective

You can apparently buy red bean paste (also called Anko) pre made (if you can find it!). I couldn’t find any so made my own, and as per usual, made it up as I went along! I chose dried Aduki beans from my local health food shop. These beans are also know as Azuki or Adzuki beans. They are much smaller than kidney beans and apparently rather good for you. They’re classed as a ‘superfood’ which is a bonus. (Just in case you’re interested they are high in soluble fibre, and rich in other nutrients such as B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, zinc, iron, copper and manganese.)

Tender Aduki Beans after 2 hours simmering

Tender Aduki Beans after 2 hours simmering

You do need to plan this one in advance if using dried aduki beans. You must soak them overnight in cold water. Change the water the next day, then bring them to the boil and simmer them for 2 hours. Once they are tender they’re ready to make into a paste. I didn’t realise that you’re supposed to remove the skins by passing them through a sieve, so I ended up with rather more textured paste than some Japanese confectionery would use… This is called Tsuban (red bean paste). If you sieve your beans you’ll end up with smooth Koshian paste. Once you’ve mastered Anko making, you can use it to fill lots of other Japanese desserts such as Dorayaki (Japanese Red Bean Pancake) or Red Bean Ice Cream (I’m adding these to my list right now!).

The Aduki Sweet Red Bean paste

Anko – Aduki Sweet Red Bean paste

Once your beans are tender, drain the water and stir in the sugar. Then add a splash of water (half a cup) and allow to simmer . As the water evaporates the paste thickens. When you can draw a line along the bottom of the pan with a spoon the paste is ready. Allow it to cool and blend with a hand blender to a smooth paste. If you make too much you can freeze it for future use.

The very runny rice flour sugar and water batter ready for microwaving

The very runny rice flour sugar and water batter ready for microwaving

Technically this is a non-bake bake. You only need to microwave the glutinous rice flour, sugar and water for 3 minutes 30 seconds to produce a wonderfully gelatinous dough! It’s amazing how many Mochi you can eek out of the small amount of flour, water and sugar.

The very hot and thick gel dough. You can see my fingermarks where I tried to remove the piping hot dough out of the bowl with my bare hands. Be careful!

The very hot and thick gel dough. You can see my fingermarks where I tried to remove the piping hot dough out of the bowl with my bare hands. Be careful!

Sift one cup of glutionous rice flour (I used my left over Pandan flavoured flour from my Pandan Chiffon Cake. It’s got to be glutinous rice flour as this is the sticky kind. It’s still gluten free despite it glutinous qualities.), followed by 1/4 cup of sugar, 2 tsp of matcha green tea powder, and 1 cup of cold water into a microwave safe bowl. Whisk gently until you have a very smooth thin batter. You could choose other flavourings or colours such as jasmine, taro or coconut. Add your preferred flavouring before cooking!

Cover the bowl with cling film and microwave on high for 3 mins 30 secs. The dough will thicken and inflate. Check it and then microwave for a further 30 seconds if it needed to be a bit firmer.  Et voila you have a extremely green jelly dough ready to shape!

The bright green dough scooped safely out of the bowl with a knife

The bright green dough scooped safely out of the bowl with a knife

IT WILL BE VERY HOT when you take it out of the microwave! Most recipes tell you to shape it whilst it’s hot. I can assure you it’s much easier to work with when cool and less likely to sizzle your hands, so be careful.

Lots of rice flour everywhere to stop the dough from sticky to everything

Lots of rice flour everywhere to stop the dough from sticky to everything

Dust your worksurface with rice flour (other recipes say to use potato starch or cornflour, but as I had rice flour to hand I used that and it was fine.) You’re going to want to dust your hands too as the jelly dough sticks to everything! Mine was a vivid green so it looked like I’d been slimed. I’m still finding green goo in my kitchen… Take a small amount of dough (about 1cm x 5cm) and flatten it out using your finger tips on the worksurface. Press it into a round shape about 3mm thick.

Fold in the edges to seal in the red bean paste

Fold in the edges to seal in the red bean paste

Dollop a nice large marble sized pea of red bean paste in the centre of your dough and fold the dough over the paste to seal it in. Turn the Mochi over and roll it in a cupped hand or on the work surface to encourage the sealed edge to stick together and create a smooth round finish. Roll it in a little more rice flour and pop it into a mini cupcake cake case. Roll and repeat until you’ve used all of your paste and dough!

Shape shape shape your mochi

Shape shape shape your mochi

You could choose other pastes or ice cream to flavour your mochi with. Next time I’m going to try matcha ice cream centres!

The finished Mochi sitting pretty

The finished Mochi sitting pretty

I had to make a second batch of dough as I’d been a bit too enthusiastic with my portion sizes first time round. My Mochi were more dough than paste which isn’t as tasty to eat.

The first batch - I had rolled some too thin so the red bean paste is lurking periliiously close to the surface of some mochi

The first batch – I had rolled some too thin so the red bean paste is lurking periliously close to the surface of some mochi

It could be the complex combination of it’s jelly like texture or the smooth savoury yet sweet paste filling that make Mochi so memorable. Or perhaps it’s the unusually satisfying bite that they possess. Once you’ve tried them I’m sure you’re going to want to try them and experiment with more flavour combinations. They’re small so you probably want to eat at least 2 in a sitting!

A mouthful of mochi! Yum yum yum!

A mouthful of mochi! Yum yum yum!

This dough recipe was enough to make 16 small mochi. I had enough paste left to make another batch so made a second batch of dough. Good news Mochi are gluten free and low in sugar so they’re relatively health conscious snack or dessert too. It’s best to store Mochi in an air tight container. They will keep for a couple of days if you don’t eat them all straight away!

My Mochi Mountain at Confidential Canapé Collective

You can see the Matcha Mochi are a bit darker in colour and more rounded in shape 🙂 My Mochi Mountain at Confidential Canapé Collective

I made my Mochi to share with friends at out Confidential Canapé Collective which we hosted at my new house. I really enjoyed making and eating these little sweet treats. I definitely prefer my Mochi with matcha in the dough. It gives a richer yet subtle flavour whilst tinting the dough naturally with a dark green hue. I was surprised by how many disappeared that night and some friends even took a couple home for later. Therefore I can confidently declare my Matcha Mochi a success! I can’t wait to attempt Matcha ice cream next!

Things that I used to make my Mochi

Matcha Green Tea Mochi Dough Recipe

Really quick to prepare! Makes enough dough for approx 16 small mochi

  • 1 cup of glutinous (sticky) rice flour – I used pandan flavoured flour but you could use plain and add other flavours
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1/4 cup of caster sugar
  • 2 tsp matcha green tea powder

Mochi Filling Red Bean Paste (Anko) Recipe

Takes a bit of preparation: Soak over night and boil for 2 hours

Makes enough to fill approx. 30 mochi

  • 100g dried Aduki beans
  • cold water
  • 50g sugar

Red Bean Paste Instructions

  1. Soak the dried beans in cold water over night
  2. Drain the water.
  3. Cover the beans in cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 2 hours til tender.
  4. Drain the water. Stir in sugar. Add half cup of water. Simmer til very soft and water is evaporated.
  5. Blend with hand blender to a smooth paste.

Mochi Instructions

  1. Whisk the ingredients together into a thin batter
  2. Cover with cling film and microwave for 3 minutes 30 seconds and then a further 30 seconds if needed to firm the dough up further
  3. Allow to cool before scooping the dough onto a rice floured surface (use more flour as needed to prevent sticking)
  4. Take small pieces (1x5cm) of the dough and shape into rounds
  5. Place a marble sized dollop of your chosen filling in the centre of the dough
  6. Fold the edges over the filling. Press the edges to seal
  7. Turn the mochi over and roll in a cupped hand to seal the edges further.
  8. Dust with rice flour and place into paper case
  9. Leave to set at room temperature for an hour
  10. Eat!

Cooker Chaos and the Fiery Beast in my Kitchen

An Armenian Gluten Free Orange Cake with Orange Blossom icing and candied peel

An Armenian Gluten Free Orange Cake with Orange Blossom icing and candied peel

January has been a busy month filled with baking and frustration with the new-to-me-yet-old-to-our-house oven which has no temperature or oven settings remaining on it. Leaving the delicate science of oven temperature in the lap of the gods or in my case the sizzle of the grill.

This month I have successfully

  • set fire to my oven gloves and a pan lid!
  • grilled a puff pastry pie
  • charred a cake that took me 4 hours to make
  • threw 5 inedible cakes away – even Super Hans turned his nose up at them and he has been know to eat raw sourdough starter when it’s been dropped on the floor
  • and sobbed silently at the oven window glued to my newly purchased thermometer checking the temperature hasn’t yet reached ‘towering inferno stage’ and frazzled my Madelines.
Grilled pie anyone?

Grilled pie anyone?

I must admit I considered throwing the fiery beast in the bin, but the bin isn’t quite big enough… so back to patiently burning my cakes and starting over, and over, I went.

I guess this oven is a bit like baking with an Aga? (Having never used an Aga I may be making this up) I put my limited Aga knowledge to good use and attempted to control the heat by placing extra baking tins in the oven, to protect my precious cakes from the uncovered elements in the oven and ward off the extra hot spots. Adding tin foil hats to my cakes wherever possible to guard against the scorch. If you have any suggestions on how to bake in a small, yet very hot, electric fan oven please send them my way!

Undeterred I continued and eventually managed to bake some edible and rather lovely cakes, although I had to admit defeat on some of the more delicate bakes. It seems I shall be baking only robust cakes and breads that can withstand the heat until I can get to grips with the animal in my kitchen.

This month I’ve taken the opportunity to recreate some of my most favourite around the world in 80 bakes with a slightly new twist. Mainly that I have crammed as many international elements and Middle Eastern flavours that I could possibly think of into one cake. And the result? My 4 layer Iranian Pistachio Cake with cardamom; home made lemon curdTurkish Delight and Rose Italian Meringue. Which means I finally conquered the ever elusive Turkish Delight using a very good Rachel Allan recipe. I even treated myself to 2 new cake tins that are the same size! Unheard of in my house, so now I can actually make cakes that sandwich together. Hurrah! I predict there will be many more layered cakes in my future.

Cramming many international elements into one cake: A 4 layer Iranian Pistachio Cake, with homemade lemon curd, Turkish Delight and Rose Italian Meringue

Cramming many international elements into one cake: A 4 layer Iranian Pistachio Cake, with homemade lemon curd, Turkish Delight and Rose Italian Meringue

I also re imagined my Armenian Gluten Free Orange and Almond Cake into a bundt cake with ribbons of orange blossom icing and home made candied peel. Much less syrupy than my last attempt with thick piped glace icing which gave a great sweet contrast to the slightly bitter orange and almond cake.

An Armenian Gluten Free Orange Cake with Orange Blossom icing and candied peel

An Armenian Gluten Free Orange Cake with Orange Blossom icing and candied peel

Thanks for reading and I hope January is treating you well. I’m looking forward to hopefully baking not burning some new and exciting international recipes very soon.

Starting Sourdough with James Morton

Meeting James Morton - the King of Sourdough

Meeting James Morton – the King of Sourdough

My friend Kate very kindly offered to drive us to Glasgow for James Morton’s ‘Stollen Moment’ show. Armed with James’s new book, a cheese board, a selection of homemade scones, sticky buns and a flask of tea we trotted off merrily to Glasgow to enjoy the show and meet the lovely Great British Bake Off finalist in person.

My new favourite bread book and now it's even signed by James

My new favourite bread book and now it’s even signed by James

What a great show. James patiently answered our questions whilst demystifing the art of bread and sourdough baking and making a lovely sourdough stollen on stage for us to sample. He explained how it’s not really scary and you don’t actually have to knead your bread all that much to get a brilliant loaf! You can prove it in the fridge and save your energy for more important things like eating the bread. Music to my ears. We even got to take away a bit of James’ sourdough starter home with us.

My first attempt at sourdough bread where the lid has stayed intact!

My first attempt at sourdough bread where the lid has stayed intact! Check out that golden crust and even crumb! Success at last!

Mine is merrily bubbling away in it’s jar fed with equal amounts of flour and water with some sultanas thrown in for good measure. (You take them back out again once the starter is bubbling and frothy again. Yet another great tip on reinvigorating a tired sourdough starter from James)

I’ve tried and failed so many times before to make sourdough. I now realise where I’ve been going wrong, I never threw any of it away! I was merely accumulating large quantities of floury water. Resulting in a very weak yet well fed sourdough which produced rubbish flat, doughy bread. My loaves were rather mishapen and usually split along the side so the top normally fell off. Yum. Delicious (!)

Christmas morning breakfast. Sourdough mince pie cinnamon buns. They're rather filling!

Christmas morning breakfast. Sourdough mince pie cinnamon buns. They’re rather filling!

I’m now wise to it. You’ve got to dispose of a third of your starter before you feed it, every time. This gives a much stronger and active sourdough. One that can actually rise bread and give a glorious sour note to the loaf too. I’m simply using a cup measure to throw in a cup of flour (any flour, strong, white, rye, malted, plain, brown etc. will do) and a cup of water. Then I give it a good stir with the handle of a wooden spoon. (My jar is quite tall so the handle works best)

Mincemeat sourdough crown

Mincemeat sourdough crown

I feel a little guilty pouring large amounts of sourdough down the sink, so have started sharing my cast off starter with friends too which they can just feed as normal. Do let me know if you fancy a bit! I can provide sandwich bags and I’m than happy to share the sourdough joy. (But it’s not that difficult to make your own too… have a look below.)

Sourdough Starter bagged up and ready for sharing.

Sourdough Starter bagged up and ready for sharing.

Apologies for my lack of bloggage over the last few weeks. I’ve been very busy, painting decorating and moving house, celebrating our first wedding anniversary (where has the time flown!?) and baking vast quantities of Christmas puddings and sourdough bread in all forms over the holidays. (Think rosemary foccaccia, wholemeal pizzas, buns, loaves and rolls!) The freezer is full of enriched doughs, mincepie rolls and scones. I can’t wait to try out the rest of the recipes. I think we’re going to need more flour!

My Basic Sourdough Starter

It’s still going strong one month on!

  • 1 cup of flour (any flour, strong, white, rye, malted, plain, brown etc. will do)
  • 1 cup of cold water
  1. store in a non air tight container at room temperature (Take the rubber seal out of a kilner jar to avoid nasty sourdough explosions with all the built up gases!)
  2. discard a third of the mix and feed every day if you’re baking regularly
  3. or store your starter in the fridge and feed once a week if your baking less frequently
  4. feed it the day before you want to use it (or when it’s really bubbly)
  5. stir in some sultanas to reinvigorate a tired (flat) starter. (pick them out again if you don’t want sultanas in your bread)
  6. use 200g of sourdough starter in your dough when wanting to make a full sourdough loaf
  7. or add 100g of sourdough to other breads alongside instant yeast to give a subtle sourdough flavour

Basic Sourdough Bread

Since this post I’ve experimented more and created another sourdough recipe ‘Hot Pot Sourdough’ which also works a treat.

  • 500g strong flour (I like to use a combination of whatever I have in the cupboard which is usually strong white flour, rye flour, malthouse brown, and some wholemeal chapatti flour)
  • 10g salt
  • 200g sourdough starter
  • 300g (or ml it’s the same if you’re using a electronic scale) water
  1. Knead the mixture together and allow to prove over night in the fridge. (Yet another life changing tip from James. You don’t have to knead your bread very much if you leave it for a long first prove. Chilling it means the bread proves slowly and allows the bread to develop a more rounded sour flavour!) My fridge is now always filled with a loaf proving, ready for the next day.
  2. Knead the dough to shape it and add some seeds for more texture (I like to use linseed, sunflower and poppy seeds)
  3. Allow it to prove at room temperature for an hour or so, or over night in the fridge
  4. Bake at 220 degrees C for 10 minutes then reduce to 200 degrees and bakes for a further 20- 25 minutes
  5. wrap in a tea towel whilst still hot, to soften the crust and eat with whatever your heart desires! Maybe, hot soup, butter, jam, nutella.

Please note: I’ve taken elements from a couple of my favourite bread recipes here to make something that I know I and my oven can handle. It’s a slightly wet dough which compensates for the drier brown/wholemeal flours but not too liquid  so it can be handled and shaped. I can’t recommend James’ book enough if you haven’t already bought it. I’ve learnt so much from it and I’ve only read the introduction and tried a couple of recipes so far. (And I haven’t been paid to say that!) I’m still yet to master some of the more advanced bread recipes in James’s book but I’m enjoying practising and getting a lot of dough up the walls and in my hair in the process.

Happy New Year! Thanks for reading my blog! I promise there are more international bakes to come as soon as possible once I’ve got the hang of my new oven which unfortunately no longer has the temperatures on the dial! An oven thermometer is winging it’s way to me now as I type.

57. Iranian Pistachio Cake

Iranian Pistachio Cake - powered by pistachios

Iranian Pistachio Cake – powered by pistachios

How delicious are pistachios? Ever since I’ve ventured to Greece and gorged myself on Baklava and Pistachio Gelato in Italy I’ve longed to flavour more with the glorious green god of nuts. I could eat them every day and love the Middle Eastern desserts which feature the beauteous nuts. Thank god I remembered to buy shelled pistachios this time round as this contains a HUGE amount of pistachios! No more lonely hours spent cracking nuts in the kitchen or broken nails for me.

How many pistachios can you cram into one cake?

How many pistachios can you cram into one cake?

I was looking for an especially decadent cake for my friend’s birthday and the Iranian Pistachio Cake offers everything I was looking for. A delicious, moist, sweet sponge with a hint of exotic spice. I know Pistachios aren’t cheap, so you could try substituting them for your favourite nuts (or whatever you have in your cupboard) instead. Maybe almonds, cashews or even hazelnuts? They would also be gorgeous versions of this cake.

Start with beating the butter and sugar together...

Start with beating the butter and sugar together…

As with most cakes the Iranian Pistachio Cake begins with beating the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy. Adding as much air as possible to get that wonderfully tender sponge.

Grind up your nuts, salt and spices

Grind up your nuts, salt and spices

Then for the fun part, smashing up the nuts! Blitz the pistachios with an electric blender/food processor until they’re finely ground. Careful not to grind them too much though as the nuts will release their oils and end up as a pistachio paste which will deflate your cake (or if you keep going you could make your own raw nut butter). I  ground my cardamom along with the salt for extra friction in a pestle and mortar and then added it to the nuts and blitzed them all together to ensure the spice was evenly distributed and fine.

The eggs should then be beaten into the butter one at a time. Beat the mixture until very fluffy and increases in volume.

Whisk in the eggs one at a time

Whisk in the eggs one at a time

Combine the ground pistachios, spice and salt with the flour and baking powder in a separate bowl. Measure the milk into a jug and add the vanilla paste. Fold one third of the flour into the butter mixture followed by a third of the milk. Fold in a third of the flour followed by another third of the milk alternately until all of the ingredients are fully incorporated into the batter.

Pistachio Cake ready and waiting

Pistachio Cake ready and waiting

Carefully pour the cake batter into a greased cake tin so you don’t knock any of the precious air out of the sponge. I wanted to test out my new fluted brioche tin to make the cake look a little more fancy. (Hope you like my holiday souvenir! I managed to squash 3 cake tins in my suitcase from Portugal! Is it just me who brings baking equipment home from holiday?) I love the moulded shape. Using a smaller tin means the cake requires a longer baking time in the oven but I think the dramatic shape is well worth the effort.

Fully baked Iranian Pistachio Cake chilling

Fully baked Iranian Pistachio Cake chilling

After almost an hour in the oven the cake was thoroughly cooked.  I patiently waited 30 minutes before tentatively opening the oven to check if it was done and continued to check every 10 minutes with a skewer that the cake was cooked. The edges did start to brown, so I resorted to a cap of tin foil to protect the top of the cake from burning. You could bake the cake in a bundt tin or a 9 inch round tin. and should take a little less time to cook. You will need to bake it for probably around 30-40 minutes if you’re using a larger tin as the cake will be thinner and require less cooking time. The final cake is a deep brown in colour and springs back when touched.

Rosewater sugar icing

Rosewater sugar icing – the perfect consistency!

Cardamom is a regular character in Eastern cakes and desserts. It compliments the delicious pistachios with it’s subtle spice. Traditionally this cake doesn’t ask for any icing, but I thought something sweet would be a welcome addition. I added my own rosewater glace icing to sweeten the sponge. I always struggle with glace or water icing, with it often ending up runny, resulting in soggy cakes and never endingly wet icing. If I was hoping to make a syrup I would be able to do this with my eyes closed. Desperate to get it right, I actually measured my liquids before adding them to the icing sugar! Using my kitchen aid I beat the icing sugar adding the rosewater one teaspoon at a time to ensure I didn’t over egg the pudding, as I’ve learnt from experience you can’t take extra liquid out if you get a bit too enthusiastic with the bottle…

Genuinely thick rosewater icing

Genuinely thick rosewater icing

Triumph! I succeeded in making a thick pipeable rosewater icing for the first time ever!! Hurrah! If anything it could have been a tiny bit more runny so that it could run down the sides of the cake giving a natural trail in it’s wake. Next time I may add a smidge more rosewater to make it slightly more runny. But hey I’m not complaining! I was aiming for an rosey flavoured iced bun effect and that’s exactly what I got.

Crushed pistachio topping

Crown of crushed pistachios

Smashing up a handful of pistachio in the pestle and mortar I got a bit artistic, adding a crown of crushed pistachios whilst the icing was still sticky so it holds the nuts in place once set. I didn’t want it to look too pristine, so I threw some nuts at the edges of the cake too allowing the crumbs to stick to the icing tracks too.

Happy Birthday Mel!

Happy Birthday Mel!

I loved this cake, so much so I helped myself to 2 slices. (Me? Greedy?) It makes a wonderful alternative to the traditional chocolate birthday cake. A grown up cake full of flavour. Sweet, light and spicy with a tiny crunch to it powered by pistachios. It feels wonderfully exotic with every waft of cardamom balanced against the gentle rose icing. I will most definitely be baking this cake again.

The perfect pistachio slice

The perfect pistachio slice

Each slice glows with the subtle green flecks from the pistachios, contrasting beautifully against the white icing. The cake cuts smoothly and is really robust, so it travels well. (Just in case like me you end up regularly carrying cake around to surprise people with.)

Iranian Pistachio Cake recipe

Iranian Pistachio Cake

Things I used to make my Iranian Pistachio Cake

  • 170g butter
  • 200g sugar

Beat until light and fluffy

  • 3 eggs

Beat in the eggs one at a time until pale and fluffy

  • 180g (3/4 cup) of pistachios
  • 1 tsp of ground green cardamom (this was 9 or 10 cardamom pods)
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Blitz the pistachios, spice and salt together until finely ground

  • 140g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder

Stir the pistachios into the flour and baking powder

Fold one third of the flour mix to the butter and eggs

  • 110ml (1/2 cup) milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Add the vanilla to the milk

Fold one third of the milk to the butter and flour mix

Alternate adding flour and milk to the mix and continue until all ingredients are incorporated

Pour into a greased (and lined if your tin will allow for this) tin and bake at 180 degrees C for 50-60 minutes until a skewer comes out clean from the centre of the cake.  Put a tin foil hat on the cake if it starts to darken too much.

Icing

  • 170g icing sugar
  • 10 tsp rosewater
  • handfull of crushed pistachios
  1. Beat the rosewater into the icing sugar one teaspoon at a time to ensure you get the right consistency. Thick yet runny icing.
  2. Smash the pistachios up to rough pieces and decorate the cake as you wish
  3. Devour with a glass of champagne (if it’s an especially decadent occasion) or proper cup of strong coffee would work wonderfully too. Enjoy!

52. Armenian Orange and Almond Cake (incidentally also Gluten Free)

Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

This Armenian Orange and Almond cake almost screams health (in a rather pretty way). It contains 2 whole oranges! (yes that’s right the pith and peel and everything), no butter, a relatively small amount of sugar and a whole bunch of almonds. Of course almonds are full of minerals and vitamins (vitamin E and Bs) and healthy fats that you need to live a lovely life, so surely this is a cake that you should be eating as part of you balanced healthy lifestyle! Oh and I did I mention it’s also gluten free? No flour required so even better for those with gluten intolerances/allergies too.

A very moist slice of Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

A very moist slice of Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

We’re flying into the final 28 bakes of my aroundtheworldin80bakes adventure now and what a cake to take us up to bake 52. This recipe was very kindly given to me by a fantastic lady that I work with who is from Armenia. I asked if she had any traditional cake recipes that I could try as it’s another country that I’m still yet to visit and she produced this from her repertoire.

I Heart Cake. Do you?

I Heart Cake. Do you? You could win a lovely cake mould if so!

I lovingly recreated the handwritten recipe in my kitchen using a pretty heart shaped mould that Mustard Gifts sent me to try. Thank you very much! I love my heart shaped cake mould. Next on my list of things to try is a heart shaped jelly. Not only does it look pretty whole (part of me wanted to decorate it like a flower!) but when you cut yourself a nice wedge it comes out as a perfect heart shape. The cake will make 6 heart shaped slices or 12 finger shaped sliced (depends on how much you love your friends and family as to how big a slice you’d like to give them…) You could also win one of these gorgeous cake moulds worth £15! (Competition has now closed.)

My orangey bakey heart

My orangey bakey heart

I knew I had to bake this cake to take along with me to the Clandestine Cake Club gathering this week, at the Knit Studio at Blackfriars. Our theme this week was history. I thought the Armenian Orange Cake would be a great recipe for me to use, full of Armenian tradition and handed down to my friend through her family. It did not disappoint. I managed to work my through the entire cake collection sampling a wonderful array of cakes along the way. I love Cake Club!

Clandestine Cake Club Newcastle - History theme

A fine selection of cakes at our History themed Clandestine Cake Club Newcastle, at the Knit Studio, Blackfriars

One of my favourite things about this cake is that it’s really quick to make. Boiling the whole oranges is the most time consuming part of this entire cake. They need to be boiled for 2 hours, covered in water and with a  lid on the pan to help retain the heat. I boiled my oranges the day before so I was extra prepared.

Boil 2 whole oranges for 2 hours. Simple

Boil 2 whole oranges for 2 hours. Simple

Once the oranges have reached boiling point allow them to simmer on a low heat for the full 2 hours. The oranges smell amazing, and it floats around the house carried by the steam from the pan. Leave them to cool (so you don’t burn yourself) and then blend them up to a pulp.

Soft boiled oranges

Soft boiled oranges

They’re so soft and tender they pretty much fall apart in your hands. I used a stick blender to blitz mine into a thick smooth orange paste. You could also use a food processor.

Blitz the boiled oranges to a smooth paste

Blitz the boiled oranges to a smooth paste

Next thing is to basically whisk all of the eggs together with the sugar until frothy and a little air is incorporated. Then whisk in the ground almonds and baking powder. Then whisk in the orange paste. No fuss, just whisk the entire thing in one bowl. Even better there’s not a lot of washing up involved in this cake!

Whisking up all the eggs

Whisking up all the eggs and sugar

The cake batter doesn’t take long to whisk together. Whisk it until it is a beautifully smooth, thick and glossy. You will see the gorgeous orange flecks throughout the batter. It’s very easy to pour and spread into the shapely mould.

A thick, glossy smooth orange flecked batter. Easy to pour and spread into the shapely mould

A thick, glossy smooth orange flecked batter. Easy to pour and spread into the shapely mould

Once everything is fully incorporated simply pour it into your greased baking tin/mould and bake in a preheated oven for 30-45 minutes at 200 degrees C /400F

Thoroughly greased I Heart Cake Mould

Thoroughly greased I Heart Cake Mould

I like to use spray on cake release to grease my cake tins and having not had much success with silicon bakeware in the past I may have gone a tad overboard with the old grease spray here. The I Heart Cake mould worked like a dream, the cake baked evenly and not a single bit of the cake stuck to the mould. Success!

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven on a pre heated baking tray

One way to ensure your silicon mould is supported and heated evenly I’ve found, is to pop it directly on to a baking tray that has been heated as the oven warms. This makes it even easier to lift the supple mould in and out of the oven and ensures the heat touches the mould evenly.

Fresh from the oven - Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

Fresh from the oven – Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

Now I did think when I read the recipe that 200 degrees C is rather a high temperature for a cake, normally a sponge with baking powder might bake at 180 C as a maximum. 200 C is more like a bread baking temperature which can take that kind of heat, however I wanted to follow the recipe to the letter. I was slightly alarmed to see how dark the cake had turned in the oven however it didn’t make the slightest bit of difference, it tasted perfect and was moist all the way through. Not a dry edge in sight, but just for peace of mind I might reduce the heat next time to 180 after the first 15 minutes of baking.

Cooling gently on a greaseproof covered cooling rack

Cooling gently on a greaseproof covered cooling rack

I left the cake to cool slightly in the mould to retain it’s shape and merely tipped it out onto a greaseproof covered wire cooling rack (to stop the cake marking or falling through the gaps). It’s quite a robust cake with all of the almonds in so it can take a bit of handling. The cake slid smoothly out of the mould and looked impressive before I even added a layer of icing to it.

A good layer of Orange blossom icing

A good layer of Orange Blossom Water sugar icing

I’ve never really been successful with making my own glaze icing and yet I continue to persevere. I decided to add a layer of icing to the cake to add a little more sweetness. I clearly got the measurements wrong (yet again when will I learn!) as the icing wouldn’t set despite being left over night!) so I ended up scraping it off and leaving the cake with the syrupy goodness from the icing seeping into every pore instead. This made one extremely moist cake. Similar to some of my other Arabic creations Baklava and Basboosa.

One orange blossom water syrup soaked Armenian Orange Cake

One orange blossom water syrup soaked Armenian Orange Cake

Icing sugar is probably not the best choice of decorative tool when dealing with a syrup soaked cake, however I wanted a quick white decoration to contrast with the golden sponge. Armed with a paper doily, icing sugar and my trusty tea strainer I placed the doily on the cake and dusted it liberally to ensure the cake got a good coating. I think its a brilliant (and cheap!) way to create an impressive decoration. I think I may be a little obsessed with this now as you can see with my Crack Pie stencilling

Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

Doily decorations all round – Armenian Orange and Almond Cake (ps. no one will notice the dent I put in the top of the cake when scrapping off the icing with a spoon will they…)

To continue the heart theme I sliced up some homemade candied orange peel into dinky heart shapes and placed one in the centre. As Mary Berry always says it’s good to decorate your cake with a little of what’s on the inside to give a hint of what it’s offering

Practice makes perfect - slicing candied peel into hearts

Practice makes perfect – slicing candied peel into hearts. No fingers were lost in this process

Armenian Orange cake is the most intensely orange cake I’ve ever tasted. Perfect if you like a fruity cake that’s not too sweet. The almonds give it a wonderful texture and the added sweetness from the icing lifts the slightly bitter tang of the orange peel.  An interesting cake with a healthy twist, it’s a wonderfully moist and light summery bake. The full oranges give the cake a whole other level of moisture and depth of flavour. Another cake that would be perfect with a strong cup of tea or an espresso. This is great cake for those who enjoy a good pound cake and who aren’t a great fan of buttercream icing. Although you could ice this in any which way you prefer if you’re a buttercream fan go for it. I heart all cake! Yum!

Armenian Orange and Almond Cake
A perfect piece of my heart - armenian orange and almond cake
Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

Things that I used to make my Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

  • 2 oranges
  • 6 eggs
  • 230g sugar
  • 230g almonds
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  1. Boil the oranges for 2 hours
  2. Blend the soft oranges into a paste
  3. Whisk the eggs and sugar until frothy
  4. whisk in the almonds and baking powder
  5. Whisk in the orange paste until all is combined
  6. Bake for 30-45 minutes in a 9 inch tin at 200 degrees C or 400F

Icing

  • 150g icing sugar
  • 2 tbs orange blossom water
  • the zest of one orange
  • a little water to thin the icing if need

Mix it all together until smooth and thick. Pour over the cake.

*Or dust with icing sugar! The choice is all yours

 

That icing sugar sure disappears fast!