Strawberry & Rhubarb Syrup

Summer is here! (It’s forecast to rain tomorrow, but 3 days of sunshine and 20+ degree heat is good enough in the UK). To celebrate all the sunshine and possibility of sitting outdoors without a jacket, I made some delicious, delicious syrup. It was one of those recipes you see and think to yourself “I need that in my life”. And I wasn’t disappointed. I took some rhubarb from my parents’ garden, bought some strawberries and a lemon, and a cute milk bottle, and after very little effort, I had this:

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It’s great as a summer drink mixer – use 2-3 tbsp of syrup and add sparkling water, or my personal preference, bitter lemon. If you’re feeling like you need some alcohol, add 2 shots of gin, and maybe a few crushed mint leaves. Beautiful.

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Ginger and Lemon Biscuits

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Uhhhhhh… I think I just found my favourite biscuit EVER. These are so beautiful. If you like ginger biscuits, these are even better. The hint of lemon is just wonderful, and it works really well. I’ve been drinking a lot of herbal tea recently, and when I was feeling a little under the weather the other week I bought some ginger and lemon tea (best mixed with honey). It made me feel so much better – pretty powerful flavour! But then I was flicking through my recipe books looking for Christmas ideas, and these stood out. I figured it was worth a try, and that ginger and lemon might be nicer together when mixed with sugar and flour and golden syrup instead of hot water. I was not wrong.

The original recipe says to use freshly grated ginger instead of ground ginger, but I found the crystallised ginger to be so strong that I thought having fresh ginger on top of that would be too overpowering (it also meant I didn’t have to try and find ginger root from somewhere).

If you’re not a huge fan of ginger, then I think these can probably be adapted to be lemon and honey biscuits instead (another great tea). Swap the golden syrup for honey, and the crystallised ginger for candied peel, and either leave out the ground ginger or swap it for vanilla extract or something. I’m hoping to try this next week. Also, a lot of biscuit recipes say you should refrigerate the dough for a while, and usually I don’t bother, but in this case the dough is really soft, so that time in the fridge is pretty important.

I think I will be making many a batch of these in the run up to Christmas…and I’ll have to try not to eat them all myself.

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Ginger and Lemon Biscuits (adapted from ‘Scandilicious Baking’ by Signe Johansen)

125g softened butter

125g brown sugar

1 egg

50ml golden syrup

50g crystallised ginger, chopped

3 tsp ground ginger

zest and juice of 1 lemon

200g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1. Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Mix the egg, golden syrup, ginger, lemon zest and juice together in another bowl and the flour and baking powder together in a third bowl.

2. Alternate between adding wet and dry ingredients to the butter mixture, mixing as you go until it starts to form a dough. Refrigerate the dough for 1-2hrs.

3. Preheat oven to 190C/Gas 5 and line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper. Using a teaspoon, place small lumps of mixture on the sheets, leaving about 4-5cm between each one. Bake for 8-10 mins until golden, and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Lemon Bars

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What a week! It’s still super hot here, which means it’s even hotter where I work, and we’ve been busy doing window displays and making things pretty for a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party themed day. I got up at 7am yesterday and made 40 jam tarts before 9:30 and then went to work. And I’ve been helping Oli clean his house, which he moved out of yesterday. All in all I’m pretty tired, but luckily I made these lemon bars earlier in the week when things were less busy – but I’ve also been too busy to eat them. That will change today.

I got my food processor on Monday, which is very exciting, although I haven’t used it yet, because somewhere in my head I thought that making lemon bars would require a food processor. Nope. One day I will learn to read recipes. So as it turned out they were pretty straightforward, and just involved a lot of zesting of lemons (managed to grate my thumb – safety warning). I have eaten one, and they were good, and very lemony (duh), but other than that, not that exciting. When I was making them I was thinking of the tartest lemon tart I ever had which was made by Jordi, it was delicious but also made you pull a face every time you took a bite because the lemon was so strong. I thought my lemon bars might turn out like that, but almost disappointingly, they didn’t.

This time next week I will be on a plane to Canada, so if my to do list before then doesn’t stop me (seriously, I have so much to do), I will be queuing new posts whilst I’m gone and it will be just like I’m here. Except I won’t have much interesting to report. Maybe I’ll edit them with exciting Canada updates. We’ll see. I’m not committing to anything here.

As a final note, I will apologise for a lot of the recipes being from the Hummingbird Bakery at the moment. It will get more varied come autumn when we’re doing apple, fig and pear recipes, promise.

Next week: Peaches and Yogurt Ice Cream

 

Lemon Bars (from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook by Tarek Malouf)

Makes about 12

210g caster sugar

3 eggs

100ml freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 tsp grated lemon zest

base:

290g plain flour

70g icing sugar

230g butter

2 tsp grated lemon zest

 

1. Preheat the oven to 170C/Gas 3. Line a 33 x 23 x 5cm baking tray with greaseproof paper.

2. For the base, put the flour, sugar, butter and lemon zest in an electric mixer and beat together until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs (or rub the butter into the dry ingredients by hand). Press the dough together with your hands, then press it evenly into the base of the tray. Bake for about 20 mins, or until light golden. Leave to cool slightly.

3. Put the sugar, eggs, lemon juice and zest in a bowl and whisk until well mixed. Pour carefully over the baked base and return to the oven. Bake for 20 mins, or until the edges are golden brown and the topping has set. Leave to cool completely, then cover and refrigerate overnight.

Lemon & Thyme Loaf

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HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY/BRITISH SUMMERTIME!

So, today was supposed to be a Mother’s Day post. But then my oven blew up. I wish I was joking, but I got home on Thursday evening to find that the electricity in my house had tripped and the whole place smelt of burning plastic. We quickly realised the smell was coming from the oven, and that it would no longer switch on. No, I didn’t leave it running for hours on end or anything – it’s been playing up for a while (because everyone loves an oven that switches itself off in the middle of baking something). Someone is coming to fix it next week (I hope), so I’m going to my parents’ today and making the secret Mother’s Day thing there, where they have a functioning oven.

As a result, we have Lemon and Thyme Loaf instead! It’s very simple, and tasty – I didn’t really get the thyme flavour coming through, but that might be because I didn’t use enough, or perhaps because I didn’t make the syrup. I baked this shortly after the thumb burning incident with the Pancaken, and I genuinely couldn’t bear the thought of being near molten sugar again. It tastes good without the syrup, I’m sure it tastes even better with it.

Lemon and Thyme Loaf (from Hummingbird Bakery’s ‘Cake Days’)

Loaf
190g soft, unsalted butter
190g flour
zest of 2 lemons
3 tsp finely chopped lemon thyme leaves
190 caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
3 large eggs
1/4 tsp salt
25ml sour cream
Syrup
40g caster sugar
zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp finely chopped lemon thyme leaves
40ml water

1. Preheat the oven to 175C and grease a loaf tin.

2. In a mixer, or with a hand whisk, or with some EFFORT, beat together the butter, sugar, lemon zest and thyme until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl to make sure it’s all mixed in.

3. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add in half at a time to the butter mixture. Stir the sour cream in, and then pour into the loaf tin.

4. Bake for 40-50 mins, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Whilst the loaf is in the oven, make the syrup by putting all the ingredients in a saucepan together, bring to the boil, and let it reduce by half until you have a syrup. Pour the syrup over the loaf whilst it is still cooling in the tin.

Next week: the Mother’s Day post!

Lemon Toasts

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I’ve had the French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook for about 2 years now. No, in case you’re wondering, I’ve never used it. But it had some interesting recipes, and I liked the concept, even though I was never going to actually follow the diet. To be honest, I admire anyone who is willing to spend a weekend only eating leek soup, and have one of their breakfast staples be “magic breakfast cream”, which sounds really suspect until you read the ingredients list (yogurt, lemon juice, cereal, walnuts, in case you’re wondering). One of the main things that stood out for me from the book was the brunch section, and particularly lemon toasts. They’re basically a slightly classier version of French toast, but super tasty and REALLY filling. The recipe says to use brioche, and when I went to buy it, I was faced with plain or chocolate chip. Both the same price. Obviously I got the chocolate chip (because as can be seen here, chocolate makes everything better).

Also, because this is the most basic and quickest thing I’ve baked so far this year, I thought I’d share some of the other things I’ve been baking this week, namely apple pie, and PIZZZAAAAA. When I went back to my parents’ house the other week, I was given some apples (some of the vast stock left over from this autumn). I finally got around to using them, and even when your apples are so soft that it’s initially really difficult to peel them, they still make good pie. I got the Observer Food Monthly last weekend, which contained bread recipes from Nigel Slater. So I made a massive batch of dough (1.6kg to be precise), and made one loaf, two pizzas, and some rolls. I was going to make maple and walnut buns, but I already have so much cake-related food in my house, that I just can’t take anymore. The pizza was particularly fantastic – sausage, goat’s cheese and mozzarella, really simple to make (once you’ve got bread dough), and can be seen here. If you feel like making some bread, and focaccia and pizza and buns, then you can find Nigel Slater’s recipes here (as soon as you see the photos, you’re going to want to, believe me).

Lemon Toasts (from ‘The French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook’ by Mireille Guiliano)

(serves 4 – I underestimated this, but it’s definitely true. I still have some left to use for breakfast another day)

1 egg white

6 tbsp sugar

90g ground almonds

juice and zest of 1 lemon

1/2 tsp orange zest (or, if you’re me, 1 tsp of orange juice)

4 slices of brioche (or 2 little brioche rolls per person)

1. Preheat the oven to 190C/Gas 5

2. In a bowl, whisk together the egg white and sugar until creamy. Add the ground almonds, lemon juice and zest, orange zest, and mix until smooth.

3. Place the brioche slices on a greaseproof-lined baking sheet and cover the top of each with an even layer of the lemon-almond mixture. Place in the oven and bake until lightly golden, 8-10 mins. Serve warm.

Next week: a Mother’s Day surprise!

Poppy Seed Cake

So, moving house happened, and now it’s time to get down to some baking. I’ve finally begun the process of registering my business, which involves frightening things like tax returns and hygiene procedures. Still working without an internet connection in my house until next Thursday, so I won’t be getting that far with it before then. But hopefully by the new year it’ll all be up and running. Next week I’m going to spend my days off working on recipes previously mentioned in my List, like mini salted caramel tarts and carrot cake. Every time I bake at the moment there are things I realise I still don’t have for my kitchen. Currently the main thing I am missing out on is a cooling rack, which I really need to buy before I start full scale cake making.

 

I’m really bad at using the cookery books I already own – working in a bookshop doesn’t help this – there are always new books with new recipes in. I’ve resolved to spend Monday going through my existing cookery books in order to stop myself from buying one I’ve now got my eye on – Rachel Allen’s Bake. The other day I made the poppy seed cake from this book, and it is excellent. Kitchen disasters happen though, and mine for this one was that I completely messed up the icing – let me just say that the picture of this cake in the book is fantastic, and I was so disappointed when mine basically ended up looking like it had been topped with scrambled eggs. The icing was vanilla buttercream, but wasn’t your conventional icing sugar + butter, instead it was a custard + butter. I have never made custard before, and this certainly wasn’t a good first attempt. It didn’t help that I was cooking dinner at the same time as trying to make this icing, so my attention wasn’t fully on the custard any way. It seemed to be going reasonably well until I added the butter too early and it went lumpy and disgusting. Also probably not helped by the fact I decided that I should just use a spoon instead of a whisk. Error.

Despite all of this, and the rather buttery consistency of the icing, it still tastes pretty good. I added some lemon juice and lemon zest because I thought that would be a good added flavour (I am a fan of lemon & poppy seed muffins), and it certainly does.

 

150g butter, softened

100g caster sugar

3 eggs, beaten

100g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

75g poppy seeds

1. Preheat the oven to 170C, gas mark 3. Butter a 20cm/8in cake tin and line with greaseproof paper.

2. Cream the butter in a large bowl or in an electric mixer until soft. Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Gradually add the beaten eggs, beating well between each addition.

3. Sift in the flour and baking powder, add the poppy seeds and stir until combined.

4. Spoon the mixture into the tin, bake for 25-30 mins or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

5. Allow the cake to stand for 5 mins before carefully removing it from the tin and on to a wire rack to cool.

Icing

150ml milk

125g caster sugar

2 egg yolks

175g butter, softened

1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Place the milk and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a gentle boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

2. Whisk the egg yolks in a small bowl, then pour the milk onto the yolks, whisking continuously. Return the mixture to the pan and cook over a low-medium heat, stirring all the time with a wooden or silicone spatula until it thickens and the mixture just coats the back of a spoon – this may take around 10 mins. Do not allow the mixture to get too hot or it will scramble. Pour into a bowl or jug and allow to cool slightly.

3. Meanwhile, place the butter in a bowl and whisk until soft and light.

4. Gradually add the almost cooled (room temperature) custard to the butter, whisking all the time, until it is combined. Add the vanilla extract and mix.

 

Spread icing over cake, or cut in half and use it to sandwich the cake together.

 

 

Herman: complete

So I finished making my Herman cake. That was…almost a week ago now, but somehow, time has slipped away from me once again, between birthday and interviews and seeing people, a week has passed. 

 

I never got around to taking a photo of Herman. There are still pieces of him left, but it’s just not the same now that he isn’t whole anymore. He did taste incredibly good though. The recipe asked for more cinnamon than I am personally comfortable with (I don’t especially like cinnamon except when in small amounts so it’s not the overpowering taste. However this does not stop me wanting to try that stupid challenge where you eat a teaspoon of cinnamon and have to try not to throw up), so I put less in, but due to whatever, there were still bits of it that tasted very heavily of cinnamon. I worked around it, it was still awesome. So I wouldn’t mind if another Herman worked it’s way back around to me at some point in the future (Laura this is not an invitation for you to return one of your parts to me). 

 

Herman was the only cake that I baked this week, but I received other cake, and plenty of baking-related items for my birthday – cake tins, cupcake cases, icing pens, etc (as well as lots of other lovely things). The first cake I received was made by Laura and Julian, chocolate and banana flavoured, which was lovingly decorated with an owl (made of banana and chocolate buttons) by Laura. I don’t know what it says about me that the majority of things I received were either owl, cat or cake related. Image

I also received vanilla berry cake with lemon icing from my sister today, which was equally awesome.

 

Something I received from my Scandinavia-loving friend Ffi today, was a Scandinavian baking cookbook – including lots of exciting bread recipes, like chocolate soda bread, and Kefir spelt sourdough – and cake and pastry recipes, such as Swedish princess cake, “success tart” and Danish sesame and poppy twists. All look incredibly good.