Saturday, 25 March 2017

Pine Nut & Sesame Seed Dunkers - Cookies

I was reading some Waitrose Magazines and came across a very enticing, and simple, recipe for Pine Nut and Sesame Seed Dunkers.  Dunking, for those who don't know, is dipping a biscuit or cookie in tea or coffee.  In the UK we love to dunk our biscuits, so this seemed like a great recipe to try.  The recipe is also on the Waitrose website.  

The recipe makes 20 biscuits, but is not a large amount of dough, so I used the processor on my hand blender which worked well.  But a normal food processor will be fine too, especially if you double up the recipe.

Now as well as being a lovely biscuit the recipe suggests making a slit in the biscuits as soon as they come out of the oven, with a skewer, going half way across each one, so that you can rest them over the lip of a cup.  I found that a small knife worked better than a skewer, and having made the slit I pulled it open a little.  This obviously needs to be done before the cookies have cooled and hardened.

With a crisp outside, and a nice chewy centre, courtesy of golden syrup, these really taste great.  Of course baking a little longer and the centres will firm up too.  But I enjoyed them just as they were.

As a easy to make recipe, these are ideal, and you don't even have to bother with making the slits in them, they will taste just as good. 
Pine Nut & Sesame Seed Dunkers
Pine Nut & Sesame Seed Dunkers - Video
  • 30g sesame seeds
  • 120g plain flour
  • 1/2tsp baking soda
  • 1/2tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 60g cold butter
  • 60g light brown sugar
  • 65g golden syrup
  • 30g mixed chopped peel
  • 40g pine nuts
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/400F
  2. In a food processor whizz the sesame seeds for about 15 seconds, to release some of the oils.
  3. Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt and whizz again to mix in.
  4. Add the butter and pulse the mixture until it has turned to a fine breadcrumb texture.
  5. Add the sugar, golden syrup(you could use corn syrup), chopped peel and pine nuts.
  6. Pulse again until the mixture all comes together.
  7. Roll about 20g of mixture into walnut sized balls and place on a lined baking sheet, leaving a 3cm(1 1/4 inch) gap between them.
  8. Bake in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes until they have spread and turned a nice golden colour.
  9. Remove from the oven and, if you want to slit them, make a slit in each one, frm the centre out to the edge and spread it slightly to make a larger gap.
  10. Allow to cool completely on the baking tray.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Butter Tarts

Yesterday I made Passion Fruit Curd and Lemon Curd Tarts, but I had a disaster with the video.  So although I posted the recipe on this blog I couldn't post the video on Youtube.  So I decided to make something else today, just to get something on Youtube.  I decided upon a suggestion from my sister in Canada, Butter Tarts.  These seem to be a Canadian invention, and are similer to Treacle Tart in the UK, except that in the latter breadcrumbs are included in the filling. 

The recipe for the pastry is a sort of flaky pastry and it really quite easy to make.  Then the filling has syrup and butter as the main constituents.  However the syrup is more usually maple syrup or corn syrup.  For mine I used golden syrup, which is a big favourite of mine for baking. 

The tarts themselves usually have a rather rustic look, as the pastry gets wrinkled as it goes into the muffin tin.  So, rather than try to flatten it out and make everything look pretty I kept with the wrinkly look. Although you can make these without any additions you often find pecans, walnuts, or sultanas added.  I opted for sultanas.  They are also a very moist, or wet, tart.  The caramel must be completely cool in order for it to firm up a little.  Even so they can be a little runny, but very delicious indeed.

Having watched videos of the tart being made I noticed that they rise and form a dome as they bake.  But that dome then sinks as they cool down.  So I was happy to see that mine did exactly that.

After letting them cool completely I took them out of muffin tin and ate one.  I must say they have a great flavour, like caramel, with the delicious flaky pastry and then some sultanas too they are very good indeed.

This recipe is enough for 6 tarts, so you can double it if you want to fill a muffin tin.
Butter Tarts

                                           Butter Tarts - Video
For the pastry:
  • 150g plain flour
  • 113g cold butter
  • 30g egg
  • 13g caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp cold water
For the filling:
  • 82g soft light brown sugar
  • 66g melted butter
  • 1 medium egg(large in USA)
  • 1/2 white vinegar
  • 1/2tsp vanilla extract
  • 125g golden syrup(or maple syrup or corn syrup)
  • 30g sultanas( or chopped pecans and walnuts)
  1. Lightly grease six holes of a muffin tin.
  2. In a bowl place the flour, salt and sugar and mix to combine.
  3. Add the butter and toss around to coat.
  4. Cut the butter into the flour until you have a rough texture, with the butter still in little lumps.
  5. Whisk egg and water together and add into the bowl.
  6. Mix in until a dough is forming.  Don't overmix, maybe use your hand to pull it together.
  7. Form the dough into a log and wrap in plastic wrap, then chill for an hour.
  8. Cut the log into 6 pieces and roll each one out until it is about 4'5- 5 inches in diameter. ( I used a four inch cookie cutter and then rolled a little more)
  9. Place each disc of pastry into a hole in the muffin tin, leaving the wrinkles in place.
  10. Place the muffin tin in the fridge to chill whilst making the filling.
  11. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/400 F.
  12. Place the melted butter, syrup and sugar into a bowl and whisk to fully combine.
  13. Add the egg, vanilla and vinegar together and whisk, then pour into the butter mixture.
  14. Whisk again until everything is fully combined and quite liquid.
  15. Fill each tart case almost to the top.
  16. Bake in the oven for 5 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 190C/170C Fan/375F.
  17. The tarts will dome as they bake.  When the time is up remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before removing from the tin.  Use a knife or small spatula to run around the edge to make sure nothing is sticking before removing. It is important to make sure they are completely cool, so that the filling has time to 'set up' as it will be very moist.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Passion Fruit Curd Tarts & Lemon Curd Tarts

I recently bought some Passion Fruit Curd, which was delicious, so I decided to make some myself adn see how it turned out.  Mine tastes great too, so I just had to make some tart cases to use the curd in.  Since I didn't have enough curd to fill 12 mini tart cases I used some shop bought lemon curd to fill the remainder.

My pastry is a very easy, shortcrust, on.  Simply process the ingredients until they just begin to form a dough.  Then rest it in the fridge before rolling out.  Another rest after rolling and placing in the tart tin.  Then blind bake it and you are ready to fill with the delicious curd of your choice.

Nothing could be easier, and the lovely, buttery pastry goes so well with almost any curd.

So give this one a try.
Passion Fruit Curd & Lemon Curd Tartlets

  • 300g plain flour
  • 125g cold butter cut into cubes
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 1 medium egg(large in USA)
  • 2 tbsp cold milk.
  • 200g Passion Fruit Curd
  • 200g Lemon Curd(or you can use any flavours you want.


  1. Place the flour, sugar and butter into a food processor and process until it has formed a breadcrumb-like texture.
  2. Add the egg a pulse to combine.
  3. Add 2 tbsp cold milk and keep pulsing until the dough begins to clump(if necessary add a little more milk).
  4. Remove from the processor and form into a ball
  5. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
  6. Take a 12 hole bun tin, or any tin, including muffin pan.
  7. Cut the pastry dough into 12 equal pices and roll out to line each hole in the tin.
  8. Prick the base of the pastry.
  9. Line with aluminium foil and place in the fridge for another 30 minutes.
  10. Trim off any excess, carefullyPreheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350 F.
  11. Fill each hole of the lined tin with baking beans(or something like rice).
  12. Bake in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until the pastry has begun to turn golden brown.
  13. Remove from the oven and remove the beans and foil.
  14. Trim off any excess pastry, but do it carefully.  If it doesn't come off easily leave it alone.
  15. Place the pastry back in the oven  to finish baking to a nice golden brown, about 10 minutes.
  16. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
  17. Fill each of the pastry cases with curd and level off.
  18. Decorate with blueberries if you wish.
  19. Then serve.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Viennese Cookies - Sablés Viennois

Viennese Cookies, or Sablés viennois, are a lovely buttery cookie/biscuit similar to spritz cookies.  But they are piped into shapes, rather than pressed.

The recipe is very simple and I have tried it a couple of times, in different guises, to see whether it affected how well the shapes were retained.  In both cases the cookies spread some and lost a bit of their shape.  I have watched lots of videos and it seems that most people's spread similarly.  So I read  up a little on how to stop cookies from spreading and it seems that you don't want too much air in the butter.  I had been creaming mine for quite a while.  So in my third attempt I barely whisked the butter at all when incorporating the icing sugar, and only a little more when mixing in the egg whites and vanilla bean paste. I also read that the oven temperature was very important, as too low a temperature lets the mixture spread.  So, where I had adjusted for convection baking at a lower temperature in the first two attempts in this final attempt I baked without convection, at the higher temperature.

There seems to be a couple of different types of recipe, one that includes cornflour and one that uses some egg whites.  I opted for the egg white in the hope that it would help hold the shape.

I also decided to chill my cookies before baking. So I chilled two trays of piped cookies for 30 minutes.  I had one smaller tray that I didn't chill.  It seems that the chilled ones retained slightly more definition, so maybe that is the way to go.
Viennese Cookies - Sablés Viennois
                   Viennese Cookies - Sablés Viennois -Video
  • 190g very soft, unsalted butter
  • 225g plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • seeds from half a vanilla pod
  • 30g egg whites
  • 75g icing sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.
  2. Place the butter into a bowl and briefly whisk to mix evenly.
  3. Add the icing sugar and mix again, until just combined.
  4. Add the egg whites and vanilla seeds and mix to combine.
  5. Sift in the flour and mix in, with a spatula, until just combined.
  6. Line a couple of baking trays with parchment paper, with corners stuck to the tray with a little butter.
  7. Place the dough into a piping bag fitted with a large open star nozzle(I used 1M)
  8. Pipe shapes onto the parchment paper, leaving a decent gap between each one to allow for spreading (I piped a few different shapes).
  9. Chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
  10. Bake the cookies in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until the edges are just beginning to change colour.
  11. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the trays for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. 
  12. When cooled place in an airtight container to store until required.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Almond Sponge & Caramel Frosting

I enjoyed my Almond and Coconut Sponge so much that I decided the cake recipe needed to be used again, but with a different filling and topping.

Caramel, a nice thick one, seemed ideal.  I also decided to make a square cake, rather than a round one, so although the cake recipe is identical I used an 8 inch square cake tin rather than a 9 inch round one.

The cake is very easy to make and ends up as a wonderfully light sponge with a awesome flavour of almonds.

Making the caramel frosting, which ends up with a slightly grainy texture, is a bit fiddly and takes a while.  As I was pouring my caramelised sugar into the other indgredients it hardened, but then softened and dissolved nicely at the cream mixture heated up.  It would have been better to pour the other ingredients into the caramel as it was still on the heat, but I used a wide pan to make the caramel and needed a saucpan to finish off.

But it turned out fine in the end, and the resulting frosting is a very sweet caramel flavour.

Once the cake was frosted I cut and tasted it.  The almond sponge is light and simply delicious, complemented by the thicky, fudge-like caramel frosting.

This is well worth making, all the effort is rewarded with a lovely cake.

Almond Sponge with Caramel Frosting
Almond Sponge with Caramel Frosting - Video
For the cake:
  • 6 medium(large in USA) eggs, room temperature, separated in to yolks and whites)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 200g sugar
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 125g plain flour
  • 1 tsp (5g) almond extract
For the frosting:
  • 500g granulated sugar
  • 70g granulated sugar, to caramelise
  • 240ml double cream
  • 15g plain flour
  • 226g softened butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 170C/150C Fan/340F Grease and line bottom and sides of an 8 inch square cake tin (or a 9 inch (ropund one) with parchment paper. 
  2. Separate egg whites from yolks. Add a pinch of salt over the whites and start mixing until foamy. 
  3. Gradually add sugar and continue whipping until stiff peaks form. 
  4. In a small bowl mix egg yolks with almond extract and fold them into the whipped whites. 
  5. Mix the ground almonds and the flour together and gradually(in three parts) fold into the egg mixture.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. 
  7. Bake for 40-45 minutes until lightly golden. 
  8. Remove from the oven and let it cool for about 10-15 minutes before removing from the tin and allowing to cool completely.
  9. Heat 70g of granulated sugar in a heavy bottomed pan, until it melts and turns a nice golden brown.  Watch all the time as it is easy to burn it.
  10. Mix the cream, flour sugar and almond extract together and pour into the caramel, stirring all the time.
  11. Heat until the temperature reaches 114C/238F(if the caramel solidifies dont worry, keep stirring and it will dissolve again as the temperature rises).
  12. Take off the heat and add half the butter, stirring until it is melted.
  13. Allow the caramel sauce to cool until it is about 43C/110F then whisk with a hand mixer(or in a stand mixer) for about 10 minutes.  The mixture will crystalise somewhat.
  14. Add the remaining softened butter and whisk again until for a further 5 minutes
  15. Cut the cake into two even thickness layers.  
  16. Spread some of the caramel frosting onto the bottom layer.
  17. Place the second layer on top and then frost all over with the remaining frosting. You may want a bowl of hot water ready in case you need to heat the spatula to help spreading as the frosting firms up as it cools.
  18. Refrigerate for a couple of hours, to let the frosting really firm up well, before serving.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Bread Mix - Cheese & Onion Loaf

Today I decided on a slight departure from my usual baking.  In the UK we can get some wonderful bread mixes to make loaves or rolls.  These mixes are very simple to use and can go into a bread machine or just be mixed by hand.  In most cases it is as simple as adding water to the mix and then kneading and letting it rise before baking.  

For this cheese and onion loaf, which is Wright's Cheese & Onion Bread Mix the whole thing can be completed in 90 minutes, which is very fast indeed for bread. The results are great too, as is the case with most of the mixes I have tried from various sources.  As I did mine by hand those are the instructions I give below.   The dough doesn't have to be a loaf, it can be divided into pieces to form rolls(but reduced baking time to 15 minutes).
Bread Mix - Cheese & Onion Loaf

Bread Mix - Cheese & Onion Loaf - Video

  • 500g Cheese & Onion Bread Mix
  • 320g luke warm water
  1. In a large bowl put the bread mix and make a well in the centre.
  2. Add the lukewarm water.
  3. Mix together for 5 minutes, using a spoon or your hand, making sure all is combined.
  4. Flour the worksurface and tip the dough out onto it..  Leave for 5 minutes
  5. Knead the dough for 2 minutes, using more flour on the surface if still sticky.
  6. Form into a ball
  7. Leave for a further five minutes.
  8. Form the ball of dough into the shape you want, either to go in a 2lb loaf tin or to bake in a round on baking tray.
  9. Cover with a tea towel, or clingfilm, and leave to rest for 30 to 40 minutes, until doubled in size.
  10. As the dough is proving preheat the oven to 230C/210C Fan/410F.
  11. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes until the loaf sounds hollow when the underside is tapped.
  12. Turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Eccles Cakes

Eccles Cakes are named after a town in Lancashire, England.  They are made with a flaky pastry, though some people use puff pastry, and have a spicy currant and chopped peel filling.  I really like Eccles Cakes, and especially the lovely flaky pastry.  I make mine with all butter, using a recipe from BBC Good Food, though varying the technique slightly.

The recipe above says it will make 8 but, depending on size, you can get more than that. Instead of cutting my pastry to 12cm circles I used a 10cm (4 inch) cookie cutter.  That allowed me to actually make 18 Eccles cakes, of a reasonable size.

As I had cut out smaller rounds than recommended in the recipe, I kept an eye on them as they baked in case i needed to remove them sooner than suggested for the larger ones, but 20 minutes was an ideal time for them to colour nicely and to cook the pastry right through.

They taste great, the lovely buttery and flaky pastry and the rich, fruity filling are ideal to be eaten whilst still warm.  But they are also great when completely cooled down.  They are not overly sweet either, since there is no sugar in the pastry, just in the filling.  I just love them and can hardly stop eating them.

Eccles Cakes
Eccles Cakes - Video
For the pastry
  • 250g block cold butter, cut in cubes and placed in the freezer to go very hard
  • 350g plain flour
  • juice ½ lemon
  • 100ml iced water
For the filling
  • 25g butter
  • 200g currants
  • 50g mixed chopped peel
  • 100g light muscovado sugar
  • 1 tsp each of cinnamon, ginger and ground allspice
  • zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
  •  3tbsp of orange juice
To glaze
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • 3 tbsp preserving sugar, or granulated sugar if you don't have preserving sugar
  1. Melt the 25g of butter in a saucepan.
  2. In a bowl mix the currants and chopped peel together.
  3. Add the spices and the muscovado sugar and mix again.
  4. Add the lemon and orange zest, and the orange juice and mix again.
  5. Pour in the melted butter and mix for a final time until all is combined.  Then set aside until needed.
  6. Tip flour into the bowl of a food processor with half the butter and pulse to the texture of breadcrumbs. 
  7. Pour in the lemon juice and 100ml iced water, and pulse to a dough. 
  8. Tip in the rest of the butter and pulse a few times until the dough is heavily flecked with butter. It is important that you don’t overdo this as the flecks of butter are what makes the pastry flaky.
  9. On a floured surface roll the pastry out to a neat rectangle about 20 x 30cm. 
  10. Fold the two ends of the pastry into the middle , then fold in half . 
  11. Roll the pastry out again and refold the same way 3 more times resting the pastry for at least 15 mins each time between roll and fold, then leave to rest in the fridge for at least 30 mins before using.
  12. Heat the oven to 220C/200C Fan/425F and line one or two baking trays with parchment paper.
  13. To make the cakes, roll the pastry out until it’s just a little thicker than a £1 coin and cut out rounds about 12cm across, use a smaller cutter if you dont want large ones, I used at 10cm cookie cutter. 
  14. Re-roll the trimming if needed, and cut out again.
  15. Place a good heaped tablespoon of mixture in the middle of each round.
  16. Brush the edges of the rounds with water, then gather the pastry around the filling and squeeze it together . 
  17. Flip them over so the smooth top is upwards and pat them into a smooth round. Flatten each round with a rolling pin to an oval until the fruit just starts to poke through, then place on a baking tray. 
  18. Cut 2 little slits in each Eccles cake and brush generously with egg white and sprinkle with the sugar .
  19. Bake the Eccles cakes for 15-20 mins until  golden brown and sticky. 
  20. Leave to cool on a rack and enjoy while still warm or cold with a cup of tea. If you prefer, Eccles cakes also go really well served with a wedge of hard, tangy British cheese such as Lancashire or cheddar.