First off, apologies for the brief recipe hiatus. I’ve recently moved house and have been trying to figure out the perfect temperature to bake with in my new (incredibly retro) gas oven. And no, it’s not been as simple as converting degrees to gas marks- this oven has its own special way of working (i.e. it’s lukewarm for the majority of settings until the last when it turns into Mordor and burns everything in sight). Anyway I think I’ve cracked it now, so here’s my first recipe a la 1980s oven; tahini and pistachio brownies. They’re really simple to make but deliver everything you’d expect from a really good brownie- a dense, moist texture with added crunch from the pistachios and a deep indulgent chocolate flavour, which is definitely enhanced by the slightly salty, nutty pockets of tahini and halva.
250g good quality dark chocolate
250g unsalted butter
250g golden caster sugar
generous pinch sea salt
150g plain flour
100g milk chocolate, roughly chopped
50g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
75g chopped pistachios
100g halva, crumbled
100g tahini, well stirred
Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a 22x22cm brownie tray.
Place the dark chocolate and the butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (don’t allow the water to touch the base of the bowl or the chocolate will burn). Melt gently, stirring occasionally, then set aside to cool a little.
In a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) whisk together the golden caster sugar and eggs until pale and voluminous (about 3-5 minutes). Fold in the cooled chocolate mixture followed by the sea salt and flour. Add the milk chocolate and dark chocolate chunks and most of the pistachios (reserve a few for sprinkling on the top) then stir.
Tip half the brownie mix into the prepared tin then dollop over half the tahini and sprinkle on half the halva. Top with the rest of the brownie mix and repeat, then finish with the reserved pistachios.
Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the middle is almost set but retains a slight wobble. Set aside to cool completely in the tin.
Zesty lime and fiery ginger make for a winning combination in this super simple cake (and I don’t know about you, but I’ve been yearning for a taste of something summery recently). For all out sunshine vibes decorate with edible yellow flowers (I’ve used violas), lime zest and crystallised ginger.
250g soft butter
250g light brown soft sugar
2tbsp golden syrup
250g self raising flour
2tbsp ground ginger
1tsp baking powder
75g chopped stem ginger (in syrup)
For the lime drizzle: 75g caster sugar, juice 4 limes
For the lime cream cheese frosting: 50g soft butter, 150g cream cheese, 400g icing sugar, zest 3 limes
Preheat the oven to 160c (fan). Grease and line a 20cm cake tin.
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy then mix in the golden syrup. Add the eggs one at a time along with a tablespoon of the flour. Mix well and scrape down the sides of the bowl between each addition.
Once the eggs have been incorporated, sift over the remaining flour, ginger, baking powder and salt; fold in the sifted ingredients followed by the stem ginger then transfer the batter into the prepared tin. Level out and bake for 35-40 minutes (or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted).
While the cake is cooking, make the lime syrup. To do this simply place the juice and sugar in a saucepan and gently heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil for a minute then remove from the heat and set aside.
When the cake is ready, prick all across the surface with a skewer and pour over the lime syrup so it sinks deep into the cake. Leave to cool while you make the lime cream cheese frosting.
To make the frosting, beat together the butter and cream cheese until smooth, then add the icing sugar slowly while continuously whisking. Whisk until light and smooth then add the lime zest and a drop of milk if the consistency is a little stiff.
To assemble the cake, cover neatly with the frosting then decorate with extra lime zest, crystallised ginger, herbs and edible flowers.
Intense, rich, drag-me-out-of-bed coffee; yep, it’s the lonely hero of many a dark January morning, and for me, my second favourite cake flavour (after chocolate…duh). If you too trust in the caffeine hit, are partial to a slab of cake and have fallen off the health wagon you should definitely try out this recipe- the loaf format looks a bit different and the hazelnuts pair really well with the strong coffee flavour which is delivered in the sponge, frosting and espresso drizzle.
For the sponge:
225g soft butter
225g golden caster sugar
225g self raising flour
1tsp baking powder
3tbsp strong instant coffee
For the espresso soak:
3-4 tbsp strong instant coffee
1tbsp caster sugar
For the filling/decoration:
600g icing sugar
200g soft butter
2tbsp strong instant coffee
handful chopped toasted hazelnuts
Optional: espresso powder and coffee beans
Preheat the oven to 160c and grease/line a large loaf tin.
Cream together the butter and sugar using an electric whisk (or in the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment) until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs in one at a time, whisking well in between each addition to ensure they are well incorporated (you can add a little of the flour if you’re worried about curdling).
Once the eggs have been added sift in the flour, salt and baking powder. Fold into the mix then add the instant coffee and stir. Scrape the batter into the loaf tin and bake for 30-35 minutes (or until golden brown and cooked all the way through- a skewer should come out clean with a few crumbs attached when inserted).
Allow the cake to cool in the tin while you make the frosting and soak.
For the frosting, place the butter, mascarpone and instant coffee in a bowl (or again, use a stand mixer) and whisk until light, well combined and fluffy. Now gradually add the icing sugar whilst mixing on a slow speed. Once all the icing sugar has been added increase the speed and keep whisking until you have a spreadable, light and smooth icing. Set aside.
For the soak simply mix together the coffee and sugar. Take your cooling loaf cake and slice in half horizontally. Prick holes in the surface of each piece and drizzle the soak all over, allow it to sink in. Set aside until completely cool.
Once the cake is completely cool spread a generous amount of mascarpone icing across the bottom layer along with a sprinkling of hazelnuts. Sandwich on the top sponge and cover the outside edges in the remaining icing. If you like, you can use a flat piping nozzle to create a ripple look, then top with more hazelnuts and some espresso powder.