Warm hot cross buns; spiced, zested and dripping in butter, are as synonymous with spring as blossom and Easter egg hunts. I find the flavour particularly nostalgic, so thought I’d apply it to one of my favourite things- ice cream. This is made up of a classic custard base (which I infused with cardamom, mixed spice and cinnamon), a buttered hot cross bun crumb and plump orange-soaked raisins. The result is so delicious we got through about 1.5l in three days (wouldn’t recommend this).
- 400ml whole milk
- 400ml double cream
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 10 cardamom pods, cracked
- 1/2 fresh nutmeg, grated
- 1tsp mixed spice
- 8 egg yolks
- 85g caster sugar
- 50g light brown soft sugar
- pinch salt
- 225g hot cross buns
- 1tbsp demerara sugar
- 2tbsp butter
- 75g raisins
- juice and zest 1 orange
- You will need an ice cream churner for this recipe. If the bowl of your churner needs freezing, do this the day before.
- Pour the milk and cream into a large saucepan. Add the cinnamon stick, nutmeg, cardamom pods and mixed spice.
- Gently heat the milk to scalding point (just as it starts to simmer) then remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 10-20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks, caster sugar, soft light brown sugar and salt. Once this mixture is voluminous and light, strain the milk through a sieve and add in in a steady stream, whisking constantly.
- Pour the custard into a large clean saucepan and heat very gently, stirring constantly, until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat, close cover and leave to cool completely.
- Preheat the oven to 190c. While the ice cream base is cooling, make the hot cross bun crumb. To do this simply blitz the hot cross buns into a coarse crumb, then tip into a large frying pan along with the butter and demerara sugar. Stir to coat the crumbs in the melted butter and once they begin to crisp, tip onto a lined baking tray. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden. Set aside to cool.
- Place the raisins in a small bowl along with the orange juice and zest. Leave them too plump up.
- Once your ice cream base is completely cool, churn it for about 10 minutes or until it’s starting to thicken. At this stage, add 3/4 of the hot cross bun crumb and most of the plumped raisins. Continue to churn until thick, then tip into a large lined container, top with the remaining crumb and raisins and freeze for at least 4 hours. At this point, it’s ready to serve.
Soft, chewy, chocolate and rye cookie dough, molten chocolate chunks and nutty pockets of crumbled halva; all encased in a sea salt and pistachio crackle coating.
Ingredients (makes 18-22 cookies)
- 250g soft, unsalted butter
- 150g light brown soft sugar
- 125g caster sugar
- Sea salt
- 2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
- 175g plain flour
- 100g rye flour
- 50g good quality cocoa powder
- 3/4tsp baking powder
- 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 150g roughly crumbled halva
- 100g milk chocolate, roughly chopped
- 100g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
- 100g white chocolate, roughly chopped
- 125g pistachios, very finely chopped
- Gently melt the butter in a saucepan then tip into a large mixing bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer). Allow it to cool for a few minutes then add in both sugars and a pinch of salt. Cream together until light and fluffy.
- Once creamed, add in the eggs and egg yolk one at a time, beating well between each addition. In a separate bowl, stir together both flours, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and cocoa powder. Add these dry ingredients into the wet, beating only until just combined (do not over mix).
- Now, using a wooden spoon, stir in the halva and all the chopped chocolate. Close cover with cling film and chill for at least 2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 180c. Line 2 large trays with baking paper (you will need to bake the cookies in batches). Tip the chopped pistachios into a large bowl and add a generous pinch of sea salt. Stir.
- Take your chilled cookie dough and create equal balls using an ice cream scoop. Roll each ball of dough in the pistachio crumb, then arrange on the baking trays (I usually bake about 4 per tray to allow for spreading).
- Bake each batch for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven, sharply tap the tray on a flat work surface and return to the oven for 2-3 minutes. Repeat the tap step once more and bake for a further 2-3 minutes, or until the cookies are crisping up at the edges but still very soft in the middle.
- Once baked, leave to firm up a little on the baking trays, then serve.
These little dessert pots are really easy to throw together and make for a great plant based alternative to a conventional dairy cheesecake. The combination of sweet filling, salty crumble and tart but slightly floral rhubarb is delicious, and I love the contrasting textures too. Give them a try, and don’t hold back on the halva.
Ingredients (serves 4-6)
For the sesame crumble
- 75g rye flour
- 25g plain flour
- 50g coconut oil, chilled
- 50g demerara sugar
- large pinch salt
- 2tbsp white sesame seeds
For the roast rhubarb
- 250g rhubarb
- 2-3tbsp caster sugar
- 1tbsp rose water
For the ‘cheesecake’ mix
- 250g dairy free cream cheese
- 100g dairy free yoghurt
- 2tbsp caster sugar
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 100g plain halva
- few dried rose petals (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 180c. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
- To make the crumble rub the coconut oil into the flours until the mix resembles coarse breadcrumbs, then stir through the sugar, salt and sesame seeds. Tip onto the prepared baking tray in one even layer and chill for 20 minutes (chilling will help keep any clumps of crumble together to create more texture once baked).
- Once chilled, bake the crumble for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown, turning occasionally. Set aside to crisp up while you prepare the other ingredients.
- Slice the rhubarb into 2 inch batons and toss in the sugar and rose water. Line a high sided roasting tray with greaseproof paper and arrange the rhubarb pieces over the base in one layer. Roast for 15 minutes or until the rhubarb is tender but still holding its shape. Roughly shred half the rhubarb to form a compote consistency and leave the rest in whole pieces. Set aside to cool.
- While the rhubarb is roasting, make the ‘cheesecake’ mix. To do this simply whisk together the dairy free cream cheese, dairy free yoghurt, sugar and lemon zest until smooth (it will be looser in consistency than a classic dairy cheesecake, but the flavour is very similar and it works really well in a pot with the other ingredients). Chill.
- When all the elements are cool, you’re ready to assemble. Start off by distributing the shredded rhubarb between the pots to cover the bases. Now fill the pots to 3/4 full with the cheesecake mix. Add a generous spoonful of crumble on top, then a baton or two of rhubarb. Finish with a good sprinkling of crumbled halva and garnish with rose petals, if you like.
This vegan banana bread is perfect if you’re after maximum taste pay off in exchange for minimal effort; the method calls for just a mixing bowl and hand whisk and you’ll have it in the oven in less than 10 minutes. I add chunks of dark chocolate and a shot of espresso to my banana bread as it adds a great depth of flavour and slight bittersweet finish, but feel free to omit these (if you’re weird and don’t like my two favourite things).
- 125ml vegetable oil
- 100ml dairy free yoghurt (I used Alpro plain)
- 100ml nut milk (I used almond)
- 3 very ripe bananas (roughly mashed) plus 1 extra banana (halved down the middle)
- 2tbsp instant coffee granules dissolved in 2tbsp boiling water
- 75g light brown soft sugar
- 75g caster sugar
- 225g plain flour
- 1tsp baking power
- 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
- generous pinch of salt
- 150g 70% dark chocolate
- Preheat the oven to 180c. Line a large loaf tin with greaseproof paper.
- Place the oil, yoghurt, milk, mashed banana, both sugars and coffee in a bowl and whisk together. Now add in the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt and whisk again until you have a smooth batter. Roughly chop 100g of the dark chocolate and stir that in, reserving the rest. Scrape the batter into the prepared tin and arrange the banana halves on top.
- Bake for 50-55 minutes or until well risen, springy and golden. Once baked, leave to cool in the tin, then melt the remaining dark chocolate and drizzle over the top.
It’s January. It’s bloody freezing. I’ve hit a new level of pale, the Christmas tree has gone to festive heaven and everyone appears to be chasing a dry January (with varying levels of success) or hitting the gym. With these bleak facts in mind, I’m not going to share a protein-5cal-superfood recipe (that would be off brand anyway); instead, here’s a delicious way to use up any old dried fruit and nuts you have lying around after Christmas. It’s not an energy ball but it’s not the worst thing you could be eating. Enjoy!
- 200g 70% dark chocolate
- 50g coconut oil
- 100g tahini
- 1tbsp maple syrup
- generous pinch sea salt
- zest 1 orange
- 150g mixed nuts (I used pistachios, almonds and pecans), roughly chopped
- 120g dried figs, roughly chopped (I love figs with orange and tahini, but you could use any dried fruit)
- 2tbsp sesame seeds, lightly toasted
- Place the chocolate, coconut oil, tahini, maple syrup, seas salt and orange zest in a large heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water (ensuring that the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl) and melt gently, stirring occasionally.
- Once the contents of the bowl have melted, mix briefly to form a smooth, glossy liquid. Set aside to cool a little.
- Once the chocolate mix has cooled, stir through the mixed nuts, dried figs and most of the sesame seeds. Tip into a lined tin/mould (mine was roughly 20x12cm) and level out with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle over the remaining sesame seeds, then leave in the fridge to set for at least 2 hours.
- Once set, slice up and serve (keep refrigerated).
This striking but deeply comforting dessert is perfect for Christmas if you’re after something a little bit different to your bog standard figgy pudding; it’s essentially a twist on the nostalgic sticky toffee pud, but is lifted with ginger, cinnamon, black pepper and orange then drenched in a sauce which I’ve infused with classic chai spices (black peppercorn, cardamom, cinnamon, anise, cloves and fennel seeds). I’m going to be serving this up on Christmas day with vanilla ice cream (though it would be amazing with a rose or pistachio variety!).
- 225g butter
- 225g soft dark brown sugar
- 70g black treacle
- 135g golden syrup
- 200g pitted dates, roughly chopped
- 200ml boiling water
- 100ml milk
- 350g plain flour
- 2tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 2tsp ground ginger
- 1tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- zest 1 orange
- 2 eggs
For the sauce
- 100g dark brown sugar
- 75g butter
- 50ml maple syrup
- 125ml double cream
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 star anise
- 2 cloves
- 1/2tsp mixed spice
- 5 black peppercorns
- pinch fennel seeds
- 4 green cardamom pods, cracked
- pinch sea salt
- Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease your bundt tin generously with butter then coat with plain flour, tipping out any excess.
- Before starting on the pudding mix, infuse the cream for the toffee sauce. To do this pour the cream into a small saucepan and add the cinnamon stick, star anise, cloves, mixed spice, peppercorns, fennel seeds and cardamom pods. Heat gently until just boiling then set aside until required.
- Place the dates in a small bowl then pour over the boiling water. While the dates are soaking, melt the butter, sugar, treacle and syrup in a large saucepan. Once the contents of the pan have melted add the milk, orange zest, soaked dates and water. Stir together until well combined. Set aside to cool a little.
- Sift the plain flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger, cinnamon and black pepper into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the middle and break in the eggs. Briefly mix the eggs to break them up then gradually add the contents of the saucepan. Stir together with a wooden spoon until you have a smooth, lump-free batter.
- Pour the batter into the prepared tin (ensuring that you leave a 1.5 inch gap at the top of the tin for rising) and bake for 40-50 minutes (or until a skewer comes out with a few moist crumbs attached when inserted).
- While the pudding is cooking, finish the sauce. To do this simply place the sugar, butter and maple in a small saucepan and melt together until gently bubbling, then remove from the heat and strain in the flavoured cream and salt.
- Serve the pudding warm with a generous helping of sauce and vanilla ice cream.
No matter how many elaborate desserts or multi-step bakes I make, I will always have time for the humble brownie; there is something deeply satisfying about that fudgy melt-in-the-mouth core and crackly top, plus they are incredibly versatile- throw anything in (within reason) and you can guarantee a delicious result. These festive brownies are studded with orange-soaked sour cherries, pistachios and milk chocolate chunks, and hum with cardamom, cinnamon and mixed spice.
- Juice of 1 orange
- 100g roughly chopped sour cherries
- 250g butter, cubed
- 100g 80% dark chocolate
- 150g 70% dark chocolate
- 100g dark brown soft sugar
- 100g golden caster sugar
- 3 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
- large pinch sea salt
- 1tsp ground cardamom
- 1tsp ground mixed spice
- 1/2tsp ground cinnamon
- 100g plain flour
- 75g roughly chopped pistachios
- 150g roughly chopped milk chocolate
- Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a 22x22cm baking tin. Soak the sour cherries in the orange juice and set aside until required.
- Put the dark chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of gently simmering water. Leave to melt, stirring occasionally, then set aside to cool a little.
- Meanwhile beat together the sugars, salt, eggs and egg yolk in a stand mixer (or a large bowl) until very light and voluminous (it will pretty much double in size). This stage is well worth the effort- it will give you that classic cracked top.
- Once the egg mixture is ready, pour the chocolate mix down the side of the bowl and fold in using a large metal spoon. Add the flour, salt and spices and do the same until you have a smooth, lump free batter. Now add the pistachios, chocolate chunks and cherries (strain away the orange juice) and stir through to evenly distribute.
- Tip the mix into the prepared tin and level off then bake for 25-30 minutes. When it’s ready, the brownie will have a flaky crisp top but will still be gooey and moist on the inside. Set aside to cool in the tin then remove, slice up and serve.
In the old school spirit of stir up Sunday I thought now might be a good time to share my favourite mincemeat recipe (it’s not compulsory to make this on 25th November though, it will work just as well after a few days of maturing!). This is pretty classic in it’s foundations and I’ve been making it for a few years, but this year I’ve jazzed it up with some of my favourite Middle Eastern flavours (think pomegranate molasses, orange blossom, cardamom and pistachios). You could make traditional pastry-topped mince pies with this mincemeat, but I think it works really well with a tahini crumble topping- try it out!
For the mincemeat (makes about 1kg)
- 275g sultanas
- 100g dried apricots, diced
- 100g dates, diced
- 75g dried figs, diced
- 50g mixed peel
- 2 oranges, juice and zest
- 1tbsp orange blossom extract
- 2tbsp pomegranate molasses
- 1tsp ground cinnamon
- 1-2tsp ground cardamom
- 2 Bramley apples, peeled and diced
- 200g vegetarian suet
- 50g roughly chopped almonds
- 50g roughly chopped walnuts
- 75g roughly chopped pistachios
- 150g Demerara sugar
- 50g muscovado sugar
- 200ml spiced rum
For the pastry (enough for 8 large, deep fill mince pies or 12 smaller mince pies)
- 250g plain flour
- 140g butter
- Pinch salt
- 2tbsp caster sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- 2tbsp milk
For the crumble topping
- 50g tahini
- 30g demerara sugar
- 50g butter, cubed
- 150g plain flour
- 1tbsp icing sugar, for dusting
- Ideally a week ahead of making the mince pies, make the mincemeat. To do this stir together all the ingredients except for the rum in a large bowl. Cover and leave the flavours to develop overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 120c. Tip the contents of the bowl into a deep roasting tray or oven-proof baking dish and cover with foil. Cook for 2 hours, turning gently every 45 minutes or so with a wooden spoon. Add in the rum and stir, then return to the oven, covered, for a further half an hour.
- Set the mincemeat aside and allow it to cool to room temperature, stirring a couple of times to keep everything well coated.
- Once the mincemeat has cooled down, store in well-sealed, sterilised jars. You can use the mincemeat at this stage, but if you can, leave it for a week or so for the flavours to intensify even more.
- When your mincemeat is ready to be used, make the pastry. Place the flour, butter, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse until it resembles breadcrumbs. At this stage add the egg yolks and milk and pulse again until the mix comes together in large lumps (alternatively, rub the butter into the flour, salt and sugar using your fingertips then stir in the yolks and milk using a cutlery knife). Tip the dough out and shape into a disc using your hands. Wrap in cling film and chill for 10 minutes.
- For the tahini crumble rub the butter and flour together until they resemble rough breadcrumbs, then stir through the sugar, tahini and sesame seeds.
- Grease your cupcake tray generously with butter. Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface to about 3mm thick and cut out circles to fit the cupcake holes (make sure your circles are big enough to create a deep mince pie- you want a generous amount of filling!). Push the pastry into the holes then fill with the mincemeat (in my large deep fill tray I put about 2 heaped tbsp of filling in each, but judge according to your tin).
- Top with a heaped tbsp of the crumble and bake for 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden and the crumble crisp. Enjoy hot from the oven with a dusting of icing sugar and dollop of cream or brandy butter.
In the words of Jez (Peep Show reference, sorry if you don’t watch it), ‘I am a Christmassist’. I love everything associated this time of year; heady spices, mulled anything, twinkling lights, the smell of fir, infinite chocolate, roll necks and nostalgic films. With that in mind, I’ve got lots of festive recipes lined up for December, kicking off with these spiced buns, packed full of orange-soaked fruit and white chocolate- delicious warm from the oven with a strong coffee.
For the dough
- 75g butter, plus extra for greasing
- 220ml milk
- 50g caster sugar
- 1tsp sea salt
- 500g strong white bread flour
- 2 sachets fast action dried yeast (14g)
- 2 eggs (1 for the dough and 1 for glazing)
For the filling
- 75g dried cranberries, roughly chopped
- 50g sultanas, roughly chopped
- Zest and juice 2 oranges
- 125g butter, softened
- 125g dark brown soft sugar
- 1tsp ground cinnamon
- 1tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp mixed spice
- 100g white chocolate, roughly chopped
For the topping
- The reserved orange juice, plus 3tbsp caster sugar
- A few extra cranberries, roughly chopped (optional)
- 75g white chocolate, melted (optional)
- Start off by making the dough. Put the butter and milk into a saucepan and very gently heat until the butter melts, then set aside until lukewarm. Stir together the sugar, salt, yeast and flour in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook attached) then make a well and add in the lukewarm milk/butter and one of the eggs. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry, first using a wooden spoon to bring everything together, then using your hands to form a soft dough (alternatively, do this by setting your dough hook to a low speed).
- Once you have a soft dough, turn it out onto a very lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes (or just keep the dough in your stand mixer bowl and increase the speed of your dough hook for 6-8 minutes) or until your dough is smooth, stretchy and elastic.
- Now tip the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with oiled cling film and leave to prove for about an hour and a half, or until doubled in size.
- For the bun filling, place the cranberries, sultanas, orange zest and orange juice in a bowl and leave to soak for half an hour. Meanwhile, beat together the butter, sugar, cinnamon, ginger and mixed spice until smooth. Grease a high sided 20x30cm rectangular tin or 25x25cm square tin and line with greaseproof paper.
- Once the dough has proved, tip out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a rectangle, about 5mm thick. Spread the cinnamon butter mixture across the surface of the rectangle in an even layer, ensuring that you go all the way to the edges. Now strain the orange juice away from the dried fruits into a saucepan (save this for later). Sprinkle the fruits over the cinnamon butter then lastly distribute the chopped white chocolate.
- Now, with the long side facing you, roll the rectangle up like a roulade. Slice into 12 even slices if you’re using a rectangular tin (about 2cm wide) or 9 even slices if you’re using a square (about 2.5cm wide). Arrange the pieces, swirl side up, in the prepared tin and cover with a piece of lightly oiled cling film. Leave to prove for 30-40 minutes or until well risen and springy (before this prove there will be little gaps between the buns, but they should be just touching when ready to bake). Preheat the oven to 180c.
- Once risen, whisk the remaining egg and brush all over the tops of the buns. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Meanwhile, place the reserved orange juice and caster sugar in a saucepan and heat gently, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is syrupy. When the buns are baked, brush the syrup all over the tops, then drizzle on the white chocolate and finish with chopped cranberries, if you like.
It might be winter, but there’s no reason why ice cream should be an indulgence reserved for the warmer months (especially when it tastes this good). This variety consists of a smooth and nutty peanut butter custard base and a generous helping of crunchy caramelised white chocolate, which is rippled through and sprinkled on the custard after churning. Side note, caramelising white chocolate in the oven is a game changer- it takes on a beautiful golden colour and intense butterscotch flavour; once cooled it can be broken into a crumble and used on just about anything!
Ingredients (makes about 1.5 litres)
- 200g white chocolate
- 250ml double cream
- 725ml whole milk
- 225g peanut butter (I’d usually always favour the crunchy variety, but use smooth for this!)
- Generous pinch sea salt
- 225g golden caster sugar
- 8 egg yolks
- a handful of peanuts, roughly chopped (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 140c. Before you make the peanut butter custard, caramelise the white chocolate. To do this break the chocolate into rough chunks and lay out on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Pop the tray in the oven for about half an hour, or until the chocolate is golden brown (it will look a little almost burnt, but don’t worry!). Set aside to cool while you make the custard.
- Pour the double cream and full fat milk into a large saucepan, bring to a boil then set aside. Whisk the sugar and egg yolk together in a large bowl until pale and thick, then gradually add the hot cream mixture followed by the peanut butter and salt then whisk again to combine.
- Return the mixture to a clean pan and set over a medium heat. Stir constantly until it thickens and reaches a custard consistency (or coats the back of a spoon- be careful not to overheat or the mixture will end up looking like scrambled eggs).
- Once the mixture has thickened, strain through a sieve and chill for an hour, then pour into an ice cream maker and churn for at least half an hour (or until very thick and creamy).
- While the ice cream is churning, break up the caramelised white chocolate into a coarse crumble then line a 1.5litre tub or loaf tin with greaseproof paper.
- When the ice cream is ready, scrape it into a bowl along with 2/3 of the white chocolate crumble. Ripple the chocolate through the ice cream with a large metal spoon, then tip it into the lined tub/tin and level out. Sprinkle the remaining white chocolate crumble on top and finish with the chopped peanuts. Cover and freeze until firm. Remove the ice cream from the freezer 10 minutes before you’d like to serve it, to make scooping easier.