Baking · Biscuits

Apricot, Almond and White Chocolate Biscotti Jenga

For those of you who have been watching the Great British Bake Off, you may remember the Millionaires shortbread Jenga puzzle created by Frances. Well, I had to get in on that! Also, jenga-stacking biscotti is far more difficult – I think I need some practice to make mine as neat as hers! Here is the result then – Jenga biscotti flavoured with apricots, almonds and white chocolate.

Apricot, Almond and White Chocolate Biscotti

All of us have a favourite combination, one that we will return to time after time. Mine is the combination of apricots and almonds. My favourite treats used to be the apricot and almond crunchies from Thorntons (until they stopped making them – if anyone from Thorntons is reading this please bring them back!). Having both of the ingredients in my cupboard I knew therefore that part of my baking for his week would include this combination. I also wanted to try adding white chocolate to the mix, having seen many other recipes that have combined these ingredients (apparently) successfully.

However, whilst there are many different recipes around, none of them matched exactly to what I wanted. Layer cakes were out – when there are only two of you it becomes a little two much, and having made three different sets of cupcakes over the weeks, that idea was less popular as well (apparently you can have cupcake overkill – who knew?)

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Then it hit me. Biscotti. Perfect. They can be drunk with my tea, and be taken to work as a quick (albeit unhealthy) breakfast if needed. It was 7.36 in the evening, however Max wasn’t going to be home for a long time, so baking took over! This recipe creates a softer, more chewy biscotti, described by Max as being a cross between a scone and a shortbread, however if you wish it to be more traditionally crispy then by all means bake it for longer.

This recipe is taken from here

Apricot and Almond Biscotti

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter/margarine
  • 1-1/2 cups caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 squares white chocolate, melted
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 tsp. almond extract
  • 3-1/4 cups flour
  • 2-1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped toasted whole almonds
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup chopped white chocolate

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Beat margarine and sugar in large bowl with mixer until light and fluffy.  Mix in eggs, chocolate, orange juice and almond extract. Add the flour, baking powder and salt and mix well. Stir in the almonds, white chocolate and dried apricots. Shape the dough into 2 logs and place on a baking tray. Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown. Remove fom the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes before placing on a chopping board and cutting each log into 16 slices. Place these slices flat on a baking sheet and bake for another 20 minutes, turning halfway through.

Remove from the oven, leave to cool completely before enjoying with a large cup of coffee.

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Baking · Cake · Cupcakes · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge

Malta: Cassata Siciliana Cupcakes

Flag of Malta

‘Hang on’, I hear many internet-based voices say. ‘This cake isn’t Maltese! It’s Sicilian! She doesn’t know what she’s talking about!’ Now, if you are one of these people, you are not wrong (about the first bit at least) – this cake is indeed Sicilian. The flavour combination of this dessert is most commonly found as a cake, but is also the basis of a favourite ice-cream flavour, and by extension a fabulous ice cream cake. However, it is exceedingly popular on the island of Malta as a dessert, particularly at Easter, and as my version is not a strict replica of the original, I feel few qualms about putting it in this category.

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As no doubt the pictures show, this is a loose rendition of the flavours of the cake, rather than a complete replica. The actual cake is far more complex and detailed, where as these share the same flavour profiles but can be whipped up very easily. The almond-scented cake is soaked in a rum drizzle, before being topped with green marzipan, and a ricotta frosting including chocolate chips and candied orange peel. The ricotta cheese frosting is almost unsweetened, however this is not to your taste then feel free to add more icing sugar.

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Cassata Siciliana Cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 8oz butter
  • 8oz caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 8oz self raising flour
  • 2 tsp almond essence
  • 50ml dark rum
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 20ml water
  • 100g white marzipan
  • Green food colouring
  • 200g ricotta cheese
  • 4 tbsp dark chocolate chips
  • 4 tbsp candied peel
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar

Instructions

Preheat the oven to Gas mark 5, and line a 12-hole cupcake tin. Cream together the butter and sugar, before beating in each egg individually. Add the flour and almond essence and mix well. Spoon into the cupcake tin and bake for 30 minutes until well risen and golden brown. Remove and place on a baking rack to cool.

Heat the rum, caster sugar and water in a pan until it reaches the boil, before reducing the heat and simmering for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour over the cupcakes, before leaving them to cool completely.

Tint the marzipan green, before rolling out to a thickness of 1mm. Cut out a piece of marzipan sufficient to cover the top of your cupcake and cover each cupcake, trimming the edges to create a neat finish. Mix the ricotta cheese, icing sugar, candied peel and chocolate chips, reserving a small handful to decorate. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag and pipe a small amount on the top of each cupcake, before finishing with the few reserved chocolate chips.

Baking · Cake · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge · Uncategorized

Andorra: Peach, Almond and Rosemary Coque

The flag of Andorra Español: La bandera de And...

Despite being a microstate (a term I did not know existed, but I like it!), Andorra is unique in that it has two co-princes; namely the president of France and the Bishop of Urgell. This means that François Hollande is not only premier of France, but also an elected reigning monarch of Andorra. As a result he is the only monarch in the world to be elected by the common people – granted not those of the country he rules, but still!

Andorran cuisine shares much of its basis with Catalan cuisine, and so will often seem very Spanish in preparation. However, one thing that sprung out at me was the prevalence of preparations that combine both sweet and savoury foods, an idea which I was excited about the possibility of trying out in cake form. My first thought was to combine this idea with a recipe for coques, a sweet dough recipe, including fruit and a sweet almond picada (a herb and nut mixture similar to a pesto, but without cheese).

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I was unable to find a suitable coques recipe so the following recipe is adapted from Nigella Lawson’s How To Eat. I used the basic dough recipe, spread the dough with a sweet almond and rosemay picada and topped this with a layer of peaches. Crumbled amaretti biscuits are crumbled on top before the cake is baked in the oven. Lovely hot or cold, this can also be created with other fruits – if you have access to blackcurrants these make a delicious addition. I love this as a breakfast cake, or eating a slice with a cup of tea in the evening – really I could eat it anytime!

[Note on yeast – the first time I made this, it didn’t rise. Still tasted delicious but wasn’t quite as soft and pillowy as I would have hoped for. It turned out that the yeast I was using was too old, and therefore did not react as it should have done. You can test to see if you yeast will work effectively by dissolving it in lukewarm water – if bubbles form after about 3 minutes then it is alive and raring to go! Otherwise, sadly it is no longer with you and will not help in your cake-making quests!

Andorran-Inspired Peach and Almond Coque

Ingredients:

Dough:

  • 400 gram(s) strong white bread flour
  • ½ teaspoon(s) salt
  • 50 gram(s) caster sugar
  • 1 packet(s) yeast (easy blend, about 3g)
  • 2 medium egg(s)
  • ½ teaspoon(s) vanilla extract
  • ½ lemon (juice)
  • ¼ teaspoon(s) ground cinnamon
  • 125 ml milk (luke warm)
  • 50 gram(s) butter (softened)

Toppings:

  • 24 blanched almonds
  • 1 spring of rosemary
  • 1 slice stale bread, toasted, crust removed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon amaretto
  • 2 teaspoons of water
  • 4 peaches
  • 100g/4oz Flour
  • 75g/3oz Butter or margarine
  • 75g/3oz Sugar
  • 50g/2oz crushed Amaretti Biscuits

Instructions:

Place 350g of flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a bowl and set aside. In a different bowl, beat the eggs before adding them to the lukewarm milk, along with the vanilla extract, lemon zest and cinnamon. Gradually start to add the liquids to the flour mixture, mixing them to form a smooth dough (You may need to add more flour if it is too sticky). Add the softened butter and knead for 10 minutes, until smooth. Cover and leave in a warm room for about an hour until doubled in size, before punching down and stretching into a baking tin (greased and lined). Leave for 15-20 minutes to prove (a final rise aimed at ensuring a final fermentation of the yeast) before brushing with beaten egg

To make the picada, process the blanched almonds until finely ground. Add in the amaretto, water, cocoa, rosemary leaves and the slice of bread, and process to a puree, adding a little more amaretto if it is a bit dry – you are aiming for a smooth paste. Spread the mixture on top of the dough.

Make the crumble by working the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles rolled oats. Add the sugar and crushed amaretti biscuits and mix to combine. Chop the peaches and use to top the dough, before covering with the crumble topping. Bake in an oven preheated to 200°C/Gas Mark 6 for 15 minutes, before turning the oven down to 180°C/Gas Mark 4 and baking for another 20 minutes.  The dough should be golden brown and the topping will be set (not crunchy). Leave to cool, and cut into large pieces for ultimate enjoyment!

Baking · Cake · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge

Spain: Orange and Almond Cake

Flag of Spain

Young Catherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry...

This cake was conceived in honor of Catherine of Aragon, the Spanish-born princess who became Queen consort of England during the Tudor Period. Though predominantly remembered for her refusal to divorce Henry VIII (thus allowing him to marry Anne Boleyn), she is also remembered as a female role model who gained much popular support. From raising an army to fight the Scots to promoting the education of women during a time when this was not encouraged, she made such an impression on England that Thomas More said of her that ‘If not for her sex, then she could have defied all the heroes of history.’

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This cake pays homage to her Spanish upbringing through the use of oranges and almonds, both of which would have been plentiful in the palace of the Alhambra, where she spent her early childhood. The decoration features a pomegranate, her chosen emblem, which she is said to have adopted to boast of her fertility (sadly a boast that was to ring hollow in later years), whilst the addition of golden lustre and dragees represents the Spanish sun (which I think we could all do with at the moment!)

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Orange and Almond Cake

Ingredients:

  • 2 oranges (total weight 280g/10z)
  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 200g (7oz) caster sugar
  • 225g (8oz) ground almonds
  • 2 tbsp flaked almonds

To decorate:

  • White marzipan
  • Pomegranate seeds
  • Gold lustre powder
  • Gold dragees

Instructions:

Roughly chop the oranges, leaving the peel on, but removing any pips. Place them in a small saucepan with 1 tbsp water and cover. Cook gently for 30 minutes until the oranges are soft and any liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Preheat the oven to 180˚C (350˚F, Gas Mark 4). Grease and line a 9in round baking tin and set aside. Using a food processor, finely chop the oranges.

Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, and then add in half the sugar. Once combined, whisk for another minute.

In a different bowl whisk the remaining sugar and the egg yolks until thick and creamy (about 2-3 minutes). Stir in the finely chopped oranges and then fold the ground almonds into the mixture

Using a metal spoon, stir in three tablespoons of the egg white mixture to loosen the mixture, before gently folding in the rest of the egg white mixture. Spoon into the prepared tin, and sprinkle the flaked almonds over the top.

Bake for 50–55 minutes or until the cake is golden and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Check the cake after 20 minutes and again at 30 minutes, and cover lightly with foil if it is browning too quickly.

Once removed from the oven, leave the cake to cool before removing from the tin. Place on a serving plate ready to decorate.

Dust your clean worktop with icing sugar and roll out a circle of marzipan large enough to cover the cake. Using the rolling in to help, life the marzipan over the cake, allowing it to drape down the sides. Using your fingers (or a fondant smoother if you have such a thing!), start to smooth the marzipan down the sides of the cake, trimming off the excess as you go. You will likely have a small crease at the back of your cake – to solve this problem use a sharp knife to cut away the excess and then smooth the edges to eradicate the cut. (Don’t wory if you can still see a little bit – this can be the back of the cake!)

To decorate, use a tea cup to make an impression in the centre of the top of the cake, and fill this impression with a light coating of gold lustre powder. Outline this shape with pomegranate seeds, ensuring a small crown shape is made at the top of the fruit to represent the stem (use a template to get the correct shape if wished). Use more pomegranate seeds to embellish the bottom of the cake. Finish the decoration with gold dragees before eating and like Catherine of Aragon, dreaming of Spain.

You may have noticed that recently there have been quite a few very simple cakes – this is because I have been working on an idea for a very complex cake (at least as far as decorations go!) This will hopefully be appearing in a few days time, assuming all goes well… I’m very excited to start it and am hoping for a good result!

Baking · Cake · Desserts · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge

Lithuania: Karstas Sokoladas Tortas

ltlargeOver the last few weeks, Max has been asking ‘Where is your Lithuanian Cake? When is that one coming?’ I’ll admit, I was putting it off until I got a good idea, but here it is! I am proud to present, straight from the cold Baltic states, Karstas Sokoladas Tortas, or Hot Chocolate Cake

English: Vilnius at dusk

We went to Vilnius (the Lithuanian Capital) for my 24th Birthday two years ago, and quite frankly fell in love with it. From the beautiful old town to the impressive Trakai Castle, it was a lovely trip and one we would love to repeat (soon!). I also fell in love with the hot chocolate – so thick and chocolate-y that you had to eat it with a spoon! I was delighted therefore to discover that they also incorporated this into puddings, namely providing you with a bowl of melted chocolate, cream and almonds! This cake is inspired by the fond memory of that dessert.

Island castle of Trakai, Lituania Français : L...

A melting-centred chocolate ad almond cake, sprinkled with flaked almonds and served with whipped cream – Simply heaven on a plate!

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Karstas Sokoladas Tortas

Ingredients:

  • 100g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 100g butter, chopped
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 50g plain flour
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 2 eggs and 2 yolks
  • 50g melted butter
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • Whipped cream, flaked almonds and grated dark chocolate, to decorate.

Instructions:

Using a pastry brush, cover the insides of four ramekins with melted butter and chill in the fridge for 10 minutes. Remove from the fridge and brush again with melted butter before adding in a small amount of cocoa powder, ensuring the entirety of the inside is covered. Repeat for the other ramekins and return to the fridge.

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a small bowl, stirring until the mixture is smooth before leaving to cool for 10 minutes. Beat the eggs, yolks and sugar together until the mixture is thick and pale, forming a trail when the whisk is lifted. Use an electric whisk if possible – it’ll make your life so much easier! Sift in the flour and ground almonds and mix gently. Fold in the chocolate and butter mixture until you have a gently incorporated batter. Pour this into the moulds and return to the fridge for at least 45 minutes, preferably a few hours.

When you are ready to serve, preheat the oven to gas mark 6. Bake on the middle shelf for 16-18 minutes until the tops have a slight crust and the cakes have come away from the side of the pots. Leave for one minute before turning out onto a plate and decorating with the whipped cream and flaked almonds. Serve immediately and enjoy!

[Note on ovens: not all ovens are equal! The original recipe for these said they would only take 10 minutes – not the case with my oven, so I kept putting them back for further 2 minute intervals until they were done. This issue becomes problematic with dessert recipes like this when timing is so paramount, so you must keep a close eye on the puddings and don’t be afraid to keep them in longer (or indeed take them out sooner!) if they look done. Only you know how your oven works so don’t be afraid to experiment if these timings don’t work out perfectly! However, if it is slightly overdone, it is still delicious, it just wont melt in the middle!]

Baking · Cupcakes · Nation Cake Challenge · Natural Decorations · North America

Mexico: Chilli Chocolate Cupcakes with Horchata Frosting

Flag of Mexico See also: List of Mexican flags

Mexican food is a prime example of a fusion cuisine – the original cuisine of the Aztec people combined with the European cuisines of those who came over during the Spanish Conquest of 1519-21. Whilst the Spanish conquistadors made a failed attempt to superimpose the Spanish style on the conquered Aztec peoples, elements of the cuisine did enter the Mexican recipe books and are recognisable today. Due to the strong links between the cultural traditions and the cuisine, Mexican cuisine has been denoted an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO – the only cuisine to make the list!

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At the moment, my entire knowledge of real Mexican food has come from the delightful restaurant Wahaca, and the books of it’s founder Thomasina Miers. I love Wahaca, and it is always near the top of my list of things to do when I’m near London. These cupcakes are a homage to some of my favourite things on the menu – churros, horchata and mole. It features a chilli chocolate cupcake, filled with a chilli-chocolate ganache and topped with an almond-cinnamon buttercream frosting.I then decorated these with a red chilli and a sprinkle of ground cinnamon. Enjoy!

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Chilli Chocolate Cupcakes with Horchata Frosting

[Note on the spicing: I like my chilli and so enjoyed the quantities shown here. The cakes were not burn-your-mouth-off hot, but there was a definite after-heat from the dried chilli. If you are not a chilli fiend, feel free to decrease the quantities, they will still work well]

Ingredients: (Makes 12)

Chilli Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 4oz plain flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 4oz butter
  • 4oz caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp ground almonds
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp chilli flakes

Chilli Chocolate Ganache:

  • 100g good-quality chilli chocolate
  • 100ml double cream

Horchata Frosting:

  • 40g butter
  • 125g icing sugar
  • 10ml almond milk (plain milk will do)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp ground almonds

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas mark 4. Line a 12 hole baking tin with paper cases and set aside.

To make the cake, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth, before adding in the eggs one at a time. Add the flour, baking powder, cocoa and almonds and mix thoroughly. Add the chilli flakes and stir through. Pour the mixture into the bun cases and bake in the oven for 30 minutes until firm and well risen.Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.

Make the chocolate chilli ganache by melting the chocolate in a bain-marie, before adding the cream to the mixture. Leave in the fridge to cool for 30 minutes before using.

Use either a cupcake corer or an apple corer to remove the middle of each cupcake.Fill with a small amount of chilli-chocolate ganache and leave to cool for 20 minutes.

Make the horchata frosting by mixing together the butter and icing sugar until thick and fluffy (about 5 minutes) Add the almonds, cinnamon and milk and beat for another 5 minutes. Spread onto the cupcakes and top with a red chilli and a spinkle of ground cinnamon.

To make the chili flowers shown here, cut the chilli into 8 segments, ensuring you do not cut all the way to the stem (thus leaving the segments attached to the stem and head of the fruit. Place in iced water and leave until curled as shown. This may take quite a while, so don’t worry if it doesn’t happen immediately!

Baking · Cake · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge · Natural Decorations

Croatia: Orange, Almond and Lavender Cake

Civil Ensign of Croatia

Croatia has to be the most beautiful place that I have been to – I spent some time in Dubrovnik once and I can honestly say I have never been anywhere quite like it. The sea, mountains, islands, old city – what more can you ask for?

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This cake had a lot to live up to then. Not only did it have to be delicious, but also look good – challenge accepted! Lavender is a key export of Croatia, and is heavily cultivated on the island of Hvar. I love the taste of lavender, and so it was a no-brainer that I would incorporate this flavour into this dessert. I added the flavours of orange and almond to this, in homage to the orange trees full of fruit which were evident all over Dubrovnik.

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The cake is topped with an orange buttercream and decorated with dehydrated orange flowers and soft gold pearls. The technique used for the orange flowers is the same as that of the pineapple flowers used in the Nyamanku Cake – however they take far longer to dry out, due to the higher water content of the slices. Be patient – the result is worth it!

Orange, Almond and Lavender Cake

Ingredients:

  • 8oz butter
  • 8oz caster sugar
  • 4oz flour
  • 4oz ground almonds
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • zest of one orange, finely grated
  • 5 tsp lavender (ensure this is edible and has not been adulterated with essential oils!)
  • 125g icing sugar
  • 40g butter
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 10ml orange juice
  • 1 orange
  • 2 tsp lavender flowers.

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to gas mark 5 and grease a 6in round cake tin. Beat together the butter, sugar, flour, eggs, baking powder and ground almonds until well combined. Stir in the lavender flowers and orange zest and pour into the tin. Bake for 50 minutes until golden brown and firm to the touch. leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before removing and leaving to cool on a cake rack.

Turn the oven down to gas mark 1 and line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Thinly slice the orange and place in the oven to dry out, turning occasionally. This will take about 2 hours, but check as necessary. Remove from the oven and place into mini muffin tins to air-dry completely.

Make the buttercream by beating the butter and icing sugar until thick and fluffy – it will take about five minutes! Beat in the orange juice and zest to form a thick consistency. Spread over the cake and use a palate knife to smooth the edges and create a nice finish. decorate with the orange slices and the reserved lavender (this is absent on the picture as the wind blew all of mine away – it looked pretty before though!)