These buttery shortbreads, dipped in white chocolate and flavoured with warming cardamom and citrus, have got me feeling (dare I say it) pretty festive. The format might be a bit retro but there’s something comforting and nostalgic about bedding in with a batch of homemade biscuits and a cup of builder’s tea at this time of year. Give them a try for a quick and easy twist on a classic.
Ingredients (makes 20-24 biscuits)
- 225g soft butter
- 100g caster sugar
- zest 1 orange
- 150g plain flour
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
- 75g rye flour
- 100g cornflour
- Pinch of salt
- 100g white chocolate
- 50g pistachios, finely chopped (optional)
- Place the butter, sugar and orange zest in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) and beat until very light and fluffy. Add in the flours, salt and ground cardamom and beat briefly until the flour is just incorporated and the mix starts to come together in large clumps (it’s important not to over-mix here as beating for too long could result in a tough biscuit which isn’t buttery and short!).
- Bring the mix together with your hands and roll out on a floured surface to about 1cm thick. Stamp out biscuits using a cookie cutter (or just slice the dough into squares with a knife) and line up on a lined baking tray. Chill for at least 30 minutes, or until firm. Preheat the oven to 180c.
- Once your biscuits have firmed up, bake for 12-15 minutes or until the edges are golden. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
- Melt the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water (or melt in the microwave at 30 second increments, stirring between each) then dip each biscuit in, about half way up. Place the dipped biscuits on a piece of greaseproof paper for the chocolate to set and sprinkle with pistachios.
A couple of months ago I bought, then promptly forgot about, some delicious pine honey which I intended to use as the central flavour in a pastry-based recipe. Now that it’s been retrieved from the depths of my cupboard it has well and truly fulfilled that destiny in these crisp craquelin choux buns. Simply filled with honeyed orange mascarpone and walnuts (also baked in the honey and a little salt) these make for a delicious treat, but served alongside honey butterscotch sauce and they’re next level- perfect for a fancy Autumnal dessert.
For the craquelin top
- 55g unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
- 65g soft light brown sugar
- 65g plain flour
For the choux
- 85g butter
- 220ml water
- 100g plain flour
- 3 eggs (plus 1 extra for glazing)
- pinch of salt
For the filling
- 300g mascarpone
- 200ml double cream
- 2tbsp (heaped) good quality honey (I used Greek Pine Honey)
- Zest of 2 oranges
For the honeyed walnuts
- 100g walnuts
- 2tbsp (heaped) good quality honey (as before)
- good pinch salt
For the sauce (optional)
- 75ml honey
- Juice 1/2 orange
- 25g butter
- 100ml double cream
- Generous pinch salt
- Start off by making the craquelin topping (when baked, this forms a crispy sweet layer). To do this simply mix the butter, sugar and flour in a large bowl (or in the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment on a slow speed) until it starts to form large lumps, then bring it together with your hands. Place the dough on a large piece of baking paper, top with another piece of baking paper, and roll out to about 3mm thick. Pop this onto a tray and leave in the freezer to solidify.
- To make the choux, put the water, butter and salt in a saucepan set over a medium heat (do not let it boil at this stage). Meanwhile, sieve the flour to remove any lumps. When the butter has melted into the water, increase the heat and bring to a rolling boil, then tip in the flour and stir vigorously until you have a smooth paste-like mix which comes away from the edges of the pan. Continue to stir for another minute to cook out the rawness of the flour, then tip into a clean bowl and close cover with cling film (this eggless stage is known as a ‘panade’). Leave to cool to room temperature.
- Preheat the oven to 190c. Line 2 large baking trays with greaseproof paper.
- Once the panade has cooled it’s time to add the eggs; whisk in a jug to break them up then very gradually add into the panade while beating with electric beaters. Stop adding the egg (you might have a little leftover) when the smooth, lump-free mixture reluctantly drops off the end of a spoon. Pile the choux mix into a piping bag, fitted with a large round nozzle.
- Pipe rounds of about 4cm wide onto the prepared baking trays, leaving plenty of room for expansion. Whisk the remaining egg in a bowl and brush a small amount onto each mound, smoothing down the tip. Take your craquelin sheet and stamp out 3cm circles. Place one on top of each choux mound (the egg will help secure it in place). Bake the choux for around 35 minutes, then skewer a small hole in each bun and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes, to dry out the middles. Once baked, they should be crisp and golden brown with a crackled appearance on top. Cool while you make the other elements.
- Toss the walnuts in the honey and salt and spread out on a baking tray. Cook for around 10 minutes or until caramelised then set aside to cool. Once cooled, roughly chop.
- For the filling, just whisk together the mascarpone, cream, honey and orange zest until light and smooth. Pile into a piping bag. Finally, for the sauce heat the honey and orange juice in a saucepan and simmer for a couple of minutes, add in the butter and stir until it’s melted, then add the cream and salt. Keep gently simmering, stirring occasionally, until slightly thicker (a few minutes should be fine), then set aside.
- To assemble the choux buns, slice each one in half and pipe some mascarpone cream into the base. Top with a sprinkling of walnuts and a little sauce, then place the lid on. Serve with some extra sauce.
No intricate decorations, fillings or tiers here, just one humble layer of ludicrously fudgy, crinkly chocolate joy (which is, entirely by chance, dairy and gluten free). For a real depth of flavour and the perfect balance of bitter and sweet, take note of my chocolate recommendations and use a good quality olive oil (this recipe idea actually stemmed from a yearning to bake with a deliciously floral, wincingly expensive extra virgin oil I picked up in Greece last month*).
* Disclaimer: don’t judge, I was in that holiday headspace where you flash your card with the sort of cavalier attitude usually reserved for Monopoly money… sufficed to say, I could do with passing GO right now
- 200g 60% dark chocolate
- 100g 70% dark chocolate
- 100g 80% dark chocolate
- 200ml good quality olive oil
- 275g light brown soft sugar
- 75ml strong espresso
- 5 eggs
- Generous pinch sea salt
- Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line an 8 inch cake tin.
- Roughly chop all the chocolate and place it in a heatproof bowl along with the olive oil. Put the sugar and coffee in a saucepan and gently heat until the sugar has completely dissolved (avoid bringing it to the boil at this stage).
- Once the sugar has dissolved increase the heat and bring to the boil, then pour over the chocolate. Leave for a few minutes while the chocolate melts, then stir everything (chocolate, olive oil, sugar, espresso) together to form a smooth, glossy liquid. Set aside to cool to room temperature, then stir in the egg yolks.
- Place the egg whites in a large bowl with the salt (or bowl of a stand mixer) and whisk to stiff peaks. Carefully fold the whites into the chocolate mixture in two batches using a large metal spoon, then scrape the mixture into the prepared cake tin (make sure you don’t scrape from a height or you’ll knock out some of that air you’ve just put into the whites!).
- Bake for 50-60 minutes, then leave to cool completely in the tin. When cooling, the top of the cake will dip and crack- don’t worry, it’s a smooth, flourless torte, not a sponge cake! Once cool, slice up and finish with a dusting of cocoa powder. Serve with creme fraiche, if you like.
Bloom and Wild have just released a beautiful range of bouquets for Autumn/Winter, in collaboration with infamous London department store, Liberty. Each bouquet has been artfully designed to reflect some of the most coveted prints in the Liberty archive, from the vintage look 1910 Elysian Day, to the vibrant 60s Ciara. This week marks 5 years of letterbox flowers from Bloom & Wild, and to mark the occasion they asked me to create a very special birthday cake which encapsulates the style of the Bloom and Wild X Liberty collection.
To make this celebratory cake really striking, I’ve decorated it with meadowy blooms and wild greenery from the Rachel Deluxe bouquet, which is inspired by a 1988 Liberty print. To keep things simple but delicious, the sponge I’ve developed is light and zesty, with a hum of pistachio. For the filling I’ve gone with a raspberry and rose cream, in part because the bouquet boasts stunning quicksand roses but also because British raspberries are nearing the end of their season, so we need to make the most of them while we can. To apply the flowers, I trimmed and sealed the stems, then arranged them in as natural a way as possible, staying true to the print. I hope you all like what I came up with and enjoy the recipe- it’s perfect for late summer celebrations!
For the sponges
- 350g soft unsalted butter
- 325g golden caster sugar
- Zest 2 lemons
- 6 eggs
- 200g ground pistachios (just blitz 200g shelled pistachios in a food processor until fine)
- 150g plain flour
- 2tsp baking powder
- Pinch salt
For the rose and raspberry cream
- 400g double cream
- 200g mascarpone
- 2-3tbsp rose water (add this in small amounts, tasting between each addition)
- 2-3tbsp icing sugar (to taste)
- 200g fresh raspberries, lightly crushed with a fork
To finish (optional)
- Bloom and Wild Rachael bouquet, or pistachios and crystallised rose petals
- Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line two 7 inch cake tins.
- Place the butter, sugar and lemon zest in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and beat until very light, pale and fluffy (this can take about 10 minutes). Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition (add a little bit of the flour with each egg if you’re worried about curdling). Once all the eggs are well incorporated, add the rest of the flour, ground pistachios, salt and baking powder and fold in using a large metal spoon.
- Once you have a light, lump free cake batter, split between the two tins and level off the tops. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
- Once baked, leave the cakes to cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then remove and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
- While the cakes are cooling make the filling. To do this simply whisk together the cream, icing sugar, mascarpone and rose water until spreadable. Take 2/3 of this filling and ripple through the raspberries. Put the remaining 1/3 to the side (this is for coating the outside of the cake).
- When you cakes are completely cool, slice in half horizontally so that you have four even layers. Place the first layer on your serving plate and spread over 1/3 of the raspberry cream, then repeat until you’ve stacked all four.
- Take the remaining rose cream and spread a very thin layer over the cake to seal in any crumbs. Chill for 10 minutes to firm up a little, then cover with the last bit of rose cream (use a palette knife or cake scraper to do this). This stage is optional, you can leave the sides bare if you like.
- To finish the cake, arrange fresh flowers all over the top (ensuring that you seal any ends and remove them from the cake before consumption!). Alternatively, decorate with lemon zest, pistachios and rose petals.
This cake, decorated with whimsical blooms from the Eloise bouquet by Bloom and Wild, is made up of four layers of moist hazelnut sponge soaked in lavender honey syrup, filled with a fresh blackberry compote and covered in delicately flavoured lavender mascarpone cream. The bouquet is inspired by a summer meadow, so it seemed only right to pick out some of my favourite ingredients the British countryside has to offer for this recipe; together the balance of nutty, floral and fruity flavours are delicious. Try this one out in August/September for a really special seasonal centre piece.
For the lavender honey syrup (this is used to soak the sponges and flavour the mascarpone icing)
- 100ml runny honey
- 75ml water
- 4 sprigs fresh lavender or 1tbsp dried lavender
For the blackberry compote
- 400g fresh blackberries
- 3tbsp runny honey
- Zest and juice 1 lemon
For the hazelnut sponges
- 350g soft unsalted butter
- 325g light brown soft sugar
- 6 eggs
- 200g ground hazelnuts (to make these just blitz 200g blanched hazelnuts in a food processor until fine)
- 150g plain flour
- 2tsp baking powder
- Pinch salt
For the lavender mascarpone cream
- 3-4tbsp of the lavender honey
- 350ml double cream
- 300ml mascarpone
To garnish (optional)
- The Eloise bouquet by Bloom and Wild
- Fresh blackberries
- Crushed and toasted hazelnuts
- Start by making the lavender honey (to give it time to develop in flavour). To do this just place the honey, water and lavender (whichever sort you’re using) in a saucepan and gently heat until the honey has dissolved into the water. Once this has happened, simmer for 2 minutes then set aside and leave to infuse until required
- Now make the blackberry compote by gently heating the blackberries, honey, lemon zest and juice in a saucepan. Stir occasionally, until the blackberries release their juices and reduce down to form a compote consistency. Set aside to cool.
- Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins.
- Place the softened butter and sugar in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and beat until very light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, beating very well between each addition (add a tablespoon of the flour each time to prevent curdling). Once all the eggs are well incorporated, fold in the ground hazelnuts, remaining flour, baking powder and salt with a large metal spoon.
- Divide the mix between the prepared tins and level the tops. Bake for 35-40 minutes (or until well risen and a skewer comes out clean when inserted). Once baked, prick the surfaces of the cakes with a fork and spoon over 3-4tbsp of the lavender honey syrup, then leave to cool completely in the tins.
- While the cakes are cooling, make the lavender mascarpone cream. Put all the ingredients in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and whisk until thick and spreadable. Scrape half the mixture into a piping bag. Now you’re ready to assemble the cake (providing all your elements are completely cool!).
- To put the cake together, slice the sponges in half horizontally (so you have four even layers). Place the first layer down on your chosen plate and pipe a thick ring of mascarpone cream around the edge, then fill the middle with one third of the blackberry compote and repeat this until you’ve stacked up all four layers. With the remaining mascarpone cream, cover the cake and smooth with a palette knife. Decorate with blooms from the Eloise bouquet or freestyle with hazelnuts, fresh blackberries and lavender.
Light, buttery sponge flavoured with lemon, tart pockets of soft, juicy gooseberries, and a generous swirl of elderflower mascarpone make up this simple summer cake and ode to the British countryside.
- 225g butter, softened
- 225g caster sugar
- zest 2 lemons
- 1tsp vanilla extract
- 4 eggs
- 225g self raising flour
- 75g ground almonds
- 1tsp baking powder
- 250g gooseberries (blueberries, blackberries or raspberries would also work well)
- 200g mascarpone
- 3tbsp elderflower cordial
- 1tbsp honey
- Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a 9 inch cake tin.
- Place the butter, sugar, lemon zest and vanilla in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) and beat until very light, pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition. Add a little flour if you’re worried about curdling.
- Once all the eggs are well incorporated, fold in the flour, ground almonds and baking powder. Trim the tops and stalks of the gooseberries then fold them through the cake batter.
- Scrape the cake batter into the prepared tin and level off the top. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the cake is springy and golden (or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted). Once baked, leave the cake to cool completely in the tin.
- Meanwhile, whisk together the mascarpone, elderflower and honey. When the cake is cool, swirl the mascarpone over the cake and decorate with fresh flowers.
If you do one thing this weekend, make these brownies; with brown butter delivering a deep nutty flavour, pecans adding a welcome crunch and dark brown sugar leaving you with a molasses hit, they 100% deliver on flavour and texture and are perhaps the most delicious brownies I’ve made to date (drops mic) (cringes).
Ingredients (makes 9-12 brownies)
- 250g butter, cubed
- 250g dark chocolate
- 100g dark brown soft sugar
- 100g golden caster sugar
- 3 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
- large pinch sea salt
- 100g gluten free plain flour (I used Doves Farm)
- 100g chopped pecans
- 75g chopped white chocolate
- 75g chopped milk chocolate
Method (makes 9-12 brownies, depending on how hungry you are)
1) Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a 22x22cm brownie tray.
2) Place the cubed butter in a saucepan and melt over a medium heat. Once completely melted, up the heat and allow the butter to foam until it smells nutty and reaches a deep golden colour. At this stage, remove from the heat and add in the chopped dark chocolate. Let it sit for a couple of minutes then stir briefly to create a smooth glossy mix. Set aside to cool a little.
3) While the chocolate mixture cools, place the sugars, salt, eggs and egg yolk in a stand mixer (or in a large bowl) and beat 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.
4) 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 gluten free flour and do the same until you have a smooth, lump free batter. Now add the chocolate chunks and pecans and stir through to evenly distribute.
5) Tip the mix into the prepared tin and level off. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
6) 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 (completely) in the tin then remove, slice up and serve.
Chocolate, tahini, sesame seeds (and more chocolate). What’s not to like? With four layers of dark chocolate sponge sandwiched together with creamy milk chocolate ganache smothered in sesame-studded tahini buttercream, this little twist on a classic chocolate fudge cake makes for a great celebration centrepiece which boasts a delicious balance of sweet, nutty and rich cocoa flavours.
For the cake
- 375g plain flour
- 300g caster sugar
- 85g cocoa powder
- 2tsp baking powder
- 2tsp bicarbonate of soda
- large pinch sea salt
- 3 eggs
- 325ml milk
- 175ml vegetable oil
- 2tsp vanilla extract
- 100g dark chocolate
- 325ml just boiled water
- 2tsp instant coffee granules
For the milk chocolate ganache
- 200g milk chocolate
- 175ml double cream
- pinch salt
For the icing
- 100g tahini
- 200g soft butter
- 600g icing sugar
- Pinch salt
- 3-4tbsp black sesame seeds
For decoration (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins with baking paper.
- Melt the dark chocolate, either in a heatproof bowl in the microwave or in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Once melted, set aside to cool slightly.
- In a large bowl stir together the flour, caster sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt. In a jug, lightly whisk the eggs, milk, vegetable oil and vanilla extract. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the contents of the jug into it. Stir the wet and dry ingredients together until well combined then add the melted chocolate and stir again (I just use a balloon whisk for this- nothing electric is required as you don’t need to incorporate much air).
- Pour your just boiled water over the instant coffee granules and once they’ve dissolved, gradually add to the chocolate batter, stirring gently with your whisk as you go. The final cake batter will be very thin but don’t worry, it bakes beautifully.
- Split the mix evenly between the prepared tins and bake for 40-50 minutes ( or until a skewer comes out clean with a few moist crumbs attached). Once baked leave to cool completely in the tins.
- For the chocolate ganache, place the milk chocolate,salt and cream in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Gently melt together (ensuring that the water does not touch the base of the bowl) and once smooth and creamy, set aside to cool completely.
- For the buttercream, beat together the butter, tahini, salt and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer (or using electric beaters) until light and fluffy. Now add the icing sugar in batches, beating well on a slow speed between each addition. Once it’s all in increase the speed and beat for about 5-10 minutes until very light, smooth and creamy. Add in the sesame seeds and briefly mix again to distribute them evenly through the buttercream.
- To assemble the cake, slice the cooled sponges horizontally into two even layers (leaving you with four layers). Sandwich them on top of each other with a generous helping of ganache in between, then cover the whole cake with a thick coating of tahini buttercream using a palette knife (this buttercream is a little more textured than the regular kind due to the addition of tahini, so dampen the palette knife before spreading to achieve a smooth surface).
- To decorate, spinkle with extra sesame seeds for an understated look, or go to town which chocolate shards and sesame brittle.
This granola is super easy to make and can be adapted with your choice of nuts and seeds; I particularly like this variety as the cacao nibs add a hint of chocolate which pairs really well with the coconut flavour. If you want to keep it vegan serve this with seasonal fresh fruit, nut butter and coconut yoghurt or enjoy as a sprinkling on top of an Acai bowl.
- 400g whole oats
- 75g pumpkin seeds (or sunflower seeds)
- 75g chia seeds (or poppy seeds)
- 75g hemp seeds (or flax seeds/ sesame seeds)
- 100g cacao nibs
- 100g pecans (or brazil nuts/walnuts/hazelnuts)
- 1tsp cinnamon
- 1tsp mixed spice
- 175g coconut oil
- 250g coconut nectar (or agave syrup/honey)
- 100g coconut shavings
- Line a large high sided baking tray with greaseproof paper and preheat the oven to 160c.
- Place the oats, nuts, seeds, cacao nibs and spices in a large bowl and stir to combine. Put a saucepan over a medium heat and add the coconut nectar and coconut oil- melt these together and once you have a lump-free liquid remove from the heat.
- Pour the melted liquid into the dry ingredients and stir together until everything is evenly coated. Tip this into the prepared tray and spread out then bake for about 30-40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes to make sure the edges don’t catch.
- When the granola is almost ready add the coconut shavings and bake for a further 10 minutes- it’s important you add these near the end as they don’t need too long to colour.
- Once the granola is golden and has dried out a little, set aside to crisp up and cool then tip into jars and use as required.
This ode to the fruits of winter will brighten any grey day with it’s sticky layers of spiced sponge, fresh ginger mascarpone cream and smooth blood orange curd. Decorate with pomegranate seeds, candied blood orange slices and chopped pistachios for a welcome explosion of colour during these colder months.
For the cake
- 250g golden syrup
- 3 tbsp ginger syrup
- 190g butter
- 3-4 lumps stem ginger, diced
- 175g dark brown soft sugar
- zest 1 orange
- 375g self-raising flour
- 2tsp ground ginger
- 1tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- a pinch of salt
- 3 eggs
- 260ml milk
For the blood orange curd
- juice and zest 2 blood oranges
- juice and zest 1 lemon
- 2 eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- 100g caster sugar
- 100g butter, cubed
For the ginger mascarpone cream
- 1tbsp icing sugar
- 1tbsp ginger syrup
- 300ml double cream
- 250g mascarpone
Garnish ideas (optional)
- pomegranate seeds
- chopped pistachios
- candied orange slices
- shards of tuile or ginger biscuit
- Start off with the ginger cake. Grease and line two 7 inch cake tins and preheat the oven to 180c.
- Place the golden syrup, ginger syrup, butter, diced stem ginger, dark brown sugar and orange zest in a saucepan and melt over a low/medium heat. Once the ingredients are melted bring to the boil and leave to bubble for about a minute, then set aside to cool a little.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl stir together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Make a large well in the centre and tip in the melted butter mixture. Whisk the wet and dry ingredients together until smooth and flour lump free. In a jug whisk the eggs and milk together with a fork and add those into the mixing bowl. Whisk once more to combine then split the batter between the prepared cake tins.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
- While the cakes are baking make the blood orange curd. To do this simply place the blood orange zest and juice, lemon zest and juice, eggs and egg yolks and caster sugar into a heatproof bowl. Whisk together to combine then set over a pan of simmering water (without the water touching the bowl). Add the butter cubes one at a time, constantly whisking. Once all the butter has been added and is melted, continue to whisk until the curd has thickened to a coating consistency (this will take between 5-10 minutes). Once the curd is ready, set aside to cool in a clean bowl with cling film flat across the surface (this will prevent a skin from forming).
- When the cakes are ready leave them to cool completely in the tins. Once cool, even the tops off if necessary then slice each horizontally (so you are left with 4 even cake layers).
- Now make the mascarpone cream; tip the double cream, icing sugar, ginger syrup and mascarpone into a bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and whisk until thickened and smooth.
- Once all your components are cool it’s time to assemble the cake. Place one layer on your chosen serving plate and pipe dots of mascarpone cream around the edge then fill the centre with blood orange curd. Repeat until you’ve used up the cake layers and decorate the top as desired.