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.
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.
I’ve tweaked and tested this recipe at least four times over the past month *woe is me*, and am at last at the point where I’m completely happy with the outcome. Technique-wise I’ve actually harked back to one of my original cookie recipes which I posted about four years ago- it’s so simple and calls for a good old mixing bowl and wooden spoon, but delivers that chewy, crinkly texture which just can’t be rivalled. In terms of ingredients I’ve used a combination of rye and plain flour, three types of chocolate (duh), walnuts and a good dose of espresso; the resulting flavour is well balanced and borderline addictive, so proceed with caution (not actually, definitely give them a go).
- 150g plain flour
- 125g rye flour
- 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
- Pinch salt
- 1tbsp instant coffee (ground to a very fine powder)
- 150g unsalted butter
- 150g dark brown soft sugar
- 150g golden caster sugar
- 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
- 75g walnuts, coarsely chopped
- 100g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 100g milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 100g white chocolate, coarsely chopped
- Preheat the oven to 180c. Line two large trays with baking paper.
- Place the plain flour, rye flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a large bowl and roughly mix together with a wooden spoon. Add the instant coffee, butter and sugars to a saucepan and gently melt over a medium heat, stirring occasionally.
- Once the ingredients have melted together, set aside to cool slightly then add in the egg and egg yolk and whisk briefly to combine.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix together with a wooden spoon to form a soft cookie dough. Tip in the chocolate and walnuts into the bowl and mix to evenly distribute them through the dough. Chill the dough for at least 15 minutes.
- Using an ice cream scoop, form balls of cookie dough and line onto the baking trays (leaving lots of space for spreading). You will need to do this in batches (unless you have a huge oven and lots of trays!).
- Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes then set aside. They will be very soft when you get them out of the oven, but don’t worry, they’ll set up a little. Leave to cool and serve.
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.
Don’t be put off by the inclusion of parsnips in this recipe; they’re deliciously sweet root vegetables which work in the same way as carrots when baked alongside nuts, sugar and spice. I’ve filled and topped this cake with refreshing ginger mascarpone which acts as the perfect contrast to the spiced walnut, parsnip and orange sponge.
For the cake:
- 4 eggs
- 200g caster sugar
- 50g light brown soft sugar
- 300ml sunflower oil
- 225g plain flour
- 2tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- large pinch salt
- 2tsp ground ginger
- 1tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 grated nutmeg (fresh)
- 450g grated parsnip
- 100g sultanas
- zest 2 oranges
- 175g chopped walnuts
For the ginger mascarpone:
- 450g mascarpone
- 3tbsp ginger syrup
- 2-3tbsp icing sugar
- 100ml double cream
- 3 stem ginger balls, diced
- 50g chopped and toasted walnuts
- a little caramel sauce (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins.
- Place the eggs, sugars and oil in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and beat until pale and thick. Stir together the plain flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg in another bowl then add to the egg mixture and beat briefly to throughly combine. Stir in the grated parsnip, sultanas, orange zest and walnuts.
- Split the cake batter evenly between the two prepared tins and level off. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted. Once baked, leave the cakes to cool in the tins.
- While the cakes are cooling, make the ginger mascarpone. To do this simply whisk together all the ingredients until smooth.
- To assemble the cake spread a generous layer of ginger mascarpone over the first sponge, sandwich on the second then spread over the remaining mascarpone. Top with stem ginger pieces, chopped walnuts and caramel sauce, if you like.
This cake is a straight forward throw-it-all-in, mix, bake and frost situation (but tastes uh-mazing). The pecan brittle is optional but I think the nutty crunch and slightly bitter caramel really adds to the spiced sponge and tangy cream cheese frosting- definitely a winner!
- 225ml vegetable oil
- 225g soft light brown sugar
- 4 eggs
- 250g grated carrot
- 225g self raising flour
- 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 2tsp ginger
- 2tsp cinnamon
- pinch salt
- 1/2tsp mixed spice
- 75g chopped pecans
- For the brittle: 100g caster sugar, 100g pecans, pinch salt
- For the frosting: 80g butter, 250g full fat cream cheese, 400g icing sugar, zest 1 lemon
- Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a square brownie tray (about 22x22cm).
- Place the oil, sugar, eggs and grated carrot in a large mixing bowl and briefly whisk to combine. Now sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger, cinnamon, salt and mixed spice and beat together with a wooden spoon until smooth. Fold in the pecans.
- Tip this mixture into the square tin and bake for 25-35 minutes until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
- While the cake is cooking, make the brittle. To do this simply place the pecans and sugar in a heavy bottom pan and gently heat until the sugar melts (don’t stir but swirl the pan occasionally). Once the sugar has melted allow it to reach deep golden brown then pour onto a piece of greaseproof paper and allow to set hard and cool.
- Once your cake is cooked and cooling on a rack (in the tin), make the frosting. Beat the butter until smooth then add the cream cheese and whisk until combined. Gradually pour in the icing sugar and continue to whisk for a few minutes- you should achieve light smooth consistency. Stir in the lemon zest last.
- Turn the cake out of the tin once it’s cooled and level off if necessary. Spread a generous layer of the cream cheese frosting all over then break up the brittle and sprinkle on.
- Slice up and serve (and try to resist coming back for a second piece).
This four layer ginger cake filled with lightly salted toffee sauce and tangy cream cheese frosting is a great alternative to the classic Christmas fruit cake, and is usually the preferred option in my house.
The Scandi-style flowers I’ve used for decoration were sent to me by Bloom & Wild, a brilliant flower delivery company who focus on carefully selecting the best seasonal blooms. The bouquet I received ( the Sadie) is part of their Christmas range and I would definitely recommend you check out their other options; I don’t know about you, but I find it tricky to find a wide range of good quality cut flowers outside of London (I know, first world problems), so it’s great to know I can choose more unusual varieties online and have them delivered straight to my door the next day by Bloom & Wild.
I hope you like how I’ve made use of the flowers and perhaps this could inspire some other botanical themed Christmas cakes!
- 380g butter
- 220g black treacle
- 80g golden syrup
- 340g dark brown soft sugar
- 6 eggs
- 380g self raising flour
- 3tbsp ground ginger
- 2tbsp ground cinnamon
- 60g soured cream
- 6 pieces stem ginger, grated (from a jar)
- For the toffee sauce: 50g butter, 50g dark brown soft sugar, 50g golden syrup, 75ml double cream, large pinch sea salt
- For the cream cheese frosting: 200g unsalted butter (soft), 250g cream cheese, 900g icing sugar, seeds of 2 vanilla pods
- Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins.
- Place the butter, treacle, syrup and sugar in a large bowl (or bowl of a standing mixer). Beat together until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs in one at a time along with a little of the flour to prevent curdling. Mix well between each addition. Once the eggs are fully incorporated, sift in the remaining flour, cinnamon and ginger. Fold gently then finally stir in the stem ginger and soured cream. Split between the 2 prepared tins and bake for 30-40 minutes.
- While the cakes are cooking, make the toffee sauce. Place the butter, syrup and sugar in a saucepan and melt over a medium heat. Once melted pour in the cream and add the salt. Mix to create a smooth sauce then set aside to cool and thicken.
- Now make your cream cheese frosting. Put the butter in a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer) and beat until fluffy and light in colour. Add the cream cheese and vanilla and beat once again until well combined. Now, still beating, gradually add the icing sugar. Once all the icing sugar has been added increase the speed and mix until the consistency is light, thick and spreadable.
- When the cakes are ready, a skewer should come out clean when inserted. Rest in their tins for 10 minutes then remove and leave on a wire rack until they are completely cool.
- Now you are ready to assemble your layer cake. Level off the sponges as best you can then slice in two (you should be left with 4 layers). Place one layer down on your plate or cake board. Secure with some cream cheese frosting if it’s a little slippy. Now spread over a few tablespoons of the toffee sauce. Allow it to sink into the sponge then apply a thick even layer of cream cheese frosting. Top with the next sponge and repeat until the sponges are used up.
- With the remaining cream cheese frosting, cover the cake all over and smooth down with a cake scraper. Decorate with fresh flowers dusted in frosty edible glitter or get creative and come up with your own design to suit the occasion.
More decorating ideas:
- Leave the cream cheese frosting rough and decorate with mini gingerbread houses to create a snow drift scene.
- Top with traditional/vintage Christmas cake decorations.
- Make little white meringue kisses and cover the top of the cake with them, then dust with gold edible glitter.
- Top with frosted fruit and rustic greenery.