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
100g plain flour
3 eggs (plus 1 extra for glazing)
pinch of salt
For the filling
200ml double cream
2tbsp (heaped) good quality honey (I used Greek Pine Honey)
Zest of 2 oranges
For the honeyed walnuts
2tbsp (heaped) good quality honey (as before)
good pinch salt
For the sauce (optional)
Juice 1/2 orange
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
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
200g ground pistachios (just blitz 200g shelled pistachios in a food processor until fine)
150g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
For the rose and raspberry cream
400g double cream
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.
Sometimes ingredients just belong together, and that is certainly the case when it comes to sticky baked apricots and almonds. With these upside down almond cakes I’ve taken this tried and tested flavour combination and made it that little bit more delicious with the addition of fragrant, slightly woody rosemary, and salty-sweet pine nut praline (which, by the way, is extremely moreish). Serve up with a generous dollop of mascarpone and a drizzle of good quality honey and take a basic, fairly retro little cake to a great seasonal dessert.
Ingredients (makes 12)
For the rosemary honey
2 sprigs rosemary
6tbsp runny honey
For the cakes
225g softened unsalted butter
225g golden caster sugar
150g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
2tsp chopped rosemary
150g ground almonds
6 ripe apricots
For the pine nut praline
100g pine nuts, toasted
125g caster sugar
generous pinch sea salt
creme fraiche or mascarpone
Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease a mini cake tray (I have a tray with 6 holes, each slightly larger in size than a muffin- I just used it twice as the recipe yields 12 mini cakes) with butter then dust with flour and shake out any excess (greasing and flouring should prevent any sticking). To be extra safe, place a little circle of greaseproof paper in the base of each hole. If you don’t have a mini cake tray, you could make these in large muffin cases, yielding about 15-18.
Before you make the cake batter, place the honey in a saucepan along with the rosemary sprigs. Heat gently until the honey starts bubbling slightly then set aside to infuse. You’ll use this later.
For the cake batter, place the butter and sugar in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and beat until very pale and fluffy. Add the eggs in one at a time, beating well between each addition. To prevent curdling, add a little bit of the flour with each egg. Once all the eggs are incorporated, stir together the rest of the flour, almonds, baking powder, salt, and chopped rosemary in a bowl. Add half of these fry ingredients along with half of the milk and fold in, then add the rest and fold again until you have a smooth mixture.
Drizzle about half a teaspoon of your infused honey into the base of each hole in your prepared tray. Half the apricots and place one half, cut side down, on top of the honey. Top with your cake mix (about 2/3 full) and level off the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cakes are well risen and a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
While the cakes are baking, make the pine nut praline. To do this simply place the sugar in a pan and heat gently until it starts melting at the edges. Give it a swirl (do not stir) and once it’s all dissolved add the pine nuts. Stir to coat the pine nuts and once the caramel has reached a deep golden colour, scrape onto a piece of greaseproof paper and level out. Leave it to set hard (about 10-15 minutes) then blitz it up in a food processor with a very generous pinch of sea salt (don’t over blitz, it’s nice to have a bit of crunch).
When your cakes are ready, leave to cool in the tins for a while then carefully turn out. Heat the remaining infused honey, just to loosen, then brush all over the surfaces. Serve each cake with a spoonful of mascarpone and some of the pine nut praline.
It will come as no surprise to find out that I’m partial to a chocolate brownie, and having tried a fair few, I can safely say this variety (which I threw together as an experiment and didn’t have particularly high expectations for) is now a firm favourite. With a blackberry and cherry compote core and hazelnut praline top, these moist and deeply chocolatey bars deliver the dense, moist texture you expect from a great brownie, but also carry a welcome tang and contrasting crunch which make them a little different and perfect for late summer.
For the hazelnut praline
150g blanched hazelnuts
150g caster sugar
Generous pinch sea salt
For the black forest fruit filling
400g fresh or frozen black forest fruits (blackberries, cherries, blackcurrants- choose one or use a combination depending on your preference/availability)
2tbsp caster sugar
Zest and juice 1 lemon
4tbsp kirsch (optional)
For the brownie batter
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 plain flour
100g white chocolate, roughly chopped
100g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
Before you make the brownie batter, prepare the fillings. Start with the hazelnut praline; to make this simply place the sugar in a heavy bottomed pan and heat gently until it forms a caramel (don’t stir, just swirl the pan to move the sugar around). Once the caramel has taken on a golden colour, add the hazelnuts and stir to coat. Scrape the contents of the pan onto a baking paper lined tray and spread out in an even layer. Leave to harden.
To make the black forest filling, place 300g of the fruit in a saucepan along with the caster sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice and kirsch (if using). Heat gently until the berries release their juices, then increase the heat to medium and, stirring occasionally, reduce to a compote consistency. Set aside to cool.
The caramel will now have hardened around the hazelnuts. Break it up into pieces and place in a food processor, then blitz until you’ve got a coarse crumble (don’t over blitz, you want a little texture to remain).
Now it’s time to make the brownie batter. Preheat the oven to 170c and grease and line a 20x20cm brownie tin. Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and melt together over a pan of simmering water. Set aside to cool a little.
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).
Once the egg mixture is ready, pour the chocolate mix down the side of the bowl and fold in using a large metal spoon, then add the flour and do the same until you have a smooth, lump free batter. Now add the chocolate chunks and stir through to evenly distribute.
Tip half the mix into the brownie tin and level off. Scrape in the black forest filling and sprinkle over most of the hazelnut praline. Top with the rest of the brownie batter then, finally, scatter on the remaining fruits and praline.
Bake for 25-30 minutes.
When it’s ready, the brownie will have a crisp top but will wobble slightly when shaken and have a gooey texture inside. Set aside to cool (completely) in the tin then once it’s set up a little, remove, slice up and serve.
This cake, decorated with whimsical blooms from the Eloisebouquet 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
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
200g ground hazelnuts (to make these just blitz 200g blanched hazelnuts in a food processor until fine)
150g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
For the lavender mascarpone cream
3-4tbsp of the lavender honey
350ml double cream
To garnish (optional)
The Eloise bouquet by Bloom and Wild
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.
This recipe is the first in a two part collaboration with Bloom and Wild, the letterbox flower delivery service. They’ve recently launched a collection of bouquets inspired by three well recognised destinations we all associate with summer; the tropics, the meadow and the desert. This week I’m going all club tropicana with the Ines, a bouquet inspired by the flora and fauna of, you guessed it, the tropics. The cake I’ve created to reflect this theme boasts four coconut sponge layers, a filling of caramelised pineapple and rum caramel, and a lime cream cheese frosting. It really delivers on flavour and if you’re throwing a birthday party any time soon would be a great centre piece… Also, the UK feels like the tropics at the moment anyway so you might as well go the whole hog and theme your baking accordingly (nearly went a whole post without mentioning the weather there… NEARLY).
For the coconut sponges
350g unsalted butter, softened
350g caster sugar
zest and juice 2 limes
350g self raising flour
50g desiccated coconut
100g coconut yoghurt
For the caramelised pineapple filling
1 ripe pineapple
75g soft dark brown sugar
50g unsalted butter, cubed
For the rum caramel (this will leave you with a little left over- keep in the fridge for a few days and use on ice cream!)
200g caster sugar
85g butter, cubed
125ml double cream
spiced rum, to taste (I used 2 shots)
generous pinch sea salt
For the cream cheese icing
125g unsalted butter
400g icing sugar
200g cream cheese (full fat)
zest 2 limes
For decoration (optional)
the Ines bouquet by Bloom and Wild
toasted coconut shavings
rum caramel drips
Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins. Preheat the oven to 160c.
Start off by making the sponges. Place the butter, caster sugar and lime zest/juice in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and beat together until very light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition (add a spoonful of the flour every now and then if you’re worried about curdling).
Once the eggs are well incorporated, add the flour, salt and desiccated coconut and fold carefully with a large metal spoon. Finally, fold through the coconut yoghurt.
Scrape the batter into the two cake tins and level off the tops. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until the sponges are golden and a skewer comes out clean when inserted. Once baked, set aside to cool in the tins.
Increase the oven temperature to 180c. Slice the pineapple into even chunks, discarding the skin and central core. Soften the butter slightly and mix together with the sugar. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and dot over half the butter mixture then place the pineapple pieces over the top in one layer. Top with the remaining butter mixture then place another piece of greaseproof paper on top and finally, add another baking tray to weight it down. Place in the oven and cook for 20 minutes, then turn the pineapple pieces over and cook for another 15 minutes (or until golden and caramelised). Once caramelised, roughly crush the pineapple then set aside and leave to cool completely.
While the cakes and pineapple are cooling, make the rum caramel. To do this simply tip the sugar into a heavy bottomed pan and gently heat until it melts (do not stir, just swirl the pan occasionally). Once the sugar has melted, allow it to reach a deep golden colour then add in the butter and stir (it will spit a little so be careful). Now add the cream and stir again. Cook out for a further 2 minutes on the heat, then remove from the hob, add the rum and stir once more. Set aside to cool.
Finally, make the cream cheese icing. Place the butter in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and beat until light and smooth. Add half the icing sugar and beat again (cover the bowl with a clean damp tea towel to avoid an icing sugar explosion) until well combined, then add the rest along with the lime zest. Once these ingredients are well combined, add the cream cheese and beat until smooth.
Once all the elements are cool, it’s time to assemble the cake. To do this slice both sponges in half horizontally (so you have four even layers) and place the first down on your serving plate of choice. Mix half the rum caramel in with the pineapple (reserve the rest for drips). Pipe a ring of cream cheese around the edge of this layer and fill the middle with your pineapple mixture. Repeat until you’ve used up all your sponges then spread a light layer of cream cheese icing all over the cake. Chill for 10 minutes (to catch all the crumbs) then spread the rest of the icing on neatly. Finish with the flowers, or alternatively use toasted coconut and lime zest.