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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Hot Chocolate

IMG_3367tA short one this week, because I am once again in the midst of essay madness. Christmas is coming up quick, and I’m also trying to make all the edible presents I’m giving to people. I started a tradition last year of making up boxes for people with proper gifts but also lots of cute bits and pieces, like gingerbread families and peppermint creams and that kind of thing. This year (spoiler alert for anyone who thinks they’re getting gifts from me) I have made hot chocolate powder. As you can see above, I’m putting it in spice jars and making them look festive, which is giving me even more joy than usual because it is a break from trying to write about cultural appropriations.

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It’s really simple to make. Ingredients > blend > done.  Unfortunately I haven’t got to try any yet, but I can just tell it’s going to be amazing. The recipe comes from the lovely Deb at Smitten Kitchen, and can be found here. I need to go and buy marshmallows tomorrow so I can make myself a cup.

 

Pumpkin Muffins

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Okay, so I lied – it’s pumpkin muffins, not pie this week. And I’m cheating a little because this is from smittenkitchen.com instead of one of my recipe books – BUT I’ve had a really busy week and I’ve got another busy week ahead of me, and I wanted to make something that was still full of pumpkin, but also much easier for me to snack on. And easier for me to quickly make on a Sunday evening because I haven’t had time the rest of the week.

Being a masters student is busy, and I’ve just got a job, so it’s going to be even busier, and, shocking I know, I almost forget to want to bake. But if there is a week when I have enough time to make pumpkin pie before the end of the year, I will. We’ll just have to see how the whole work-study-life balance works out. Enough about me though, let’s talk muffins!

These are super simple to make and they taste like autumn, all friendly and spicy and delicious. I didn’t put the cinnamon sugar on the top because I’m lazy – but in hindsight I definitely should have. These are pretty great as savoury muffins, but if you wanted to make them sweeter, then I’m pretty sure they’d go really well with cream cheese icing (instead of the cinnamon sugar).

The recipe can be found here, and I hope you’re all enjoying your autumn!

Next week is going to be a surprise because I’m so tired at the moment that I can’t decide what to bake next. Zzzzzz

Marbled Pumpkin Gingersnap Tart

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This week we have our first autumnal bake. I invested in some pumpkin puree (because I’m too lazy to make my own) so there will most likely be some more pumpkin recipes coming. A couple of years ago my friend Allen made a cheesecake that had a ginger biscuit base, and I thought I’d have to try it out myself one day – and in this recipe came my chance!

I don’t think I can even begin to explain how amazing this tart is. If autumn could be a tart, this would be it. It’s so gingery and pumpkiny and DELICIOUS. I only made it about two hours ago (because I’ve been busy being a student this week – not a very efficient one, mind you) – so it was still warm when I ate it and I think it will be even better when cool. Ugh. Just so good.

It’s also Canadian Thanksgiving tomorrow, so if you want to make a Thanksgiving tart, make this. You won’t regret it. And Happy Thanksgiving too! (If you’re Canadian)

I really want to go on lots of autumnal walks and take beautiful photos now, but it’s dark and it’s meant to be raining all of next week so I will just reminisce about autumns past and eat this tart. Such a good tart.

Next week, pumpkin pie! (told you, autumn.)

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Marbled Pumpkin Gingersnap Tart (adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman)

crust:

115g ginger biscuits

85g digestive biscuits

50g butter, melted

cheesecake batter:

115g soft cream cheese

3 tbsp caster sugar

1 egg yolk

pumpkin batter:

1 egg

1 egg white

300g pumpkin puree (about 2/3 of a 425g can)

50g caster sugar

50g brown sugar

pinch of salt

3/4 tsp ground cinnamon

3/4 tsp ground ginger

few gratings of nutmeg

240ml double cream

1. Preheat the oven to 220C/Gas 7. Finely grind the biscuits in a food processor. Add the melted butter, and stir until the mixture is moistened. Press the mixture firmly into the bottom and sides of a 23cm tart tin. Place the tin on a baking sheet.

2. Mix together the ingredients for the cheesecake batter in a bowl until smooth.

3. For the pumpkin batter, in a separate bowl beat the egg and white, then whisk in the pumpkin, sugars, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. Gradually whisk in the cream.

4. Pour the pumpkin batter into the crust. Dollop the cheesecake batter over the pumpkin batter, then marble the two together with a knife. Bake for 10 mins, then reduce the temperature to 180C/Gas 4 and bake for another 30-40 mins, or until a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean. Allow to cool completely.

Mid-Week Cake Joy

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Okay, so there is more cake/a new post coming on Sunday, but I had to take a brief moment to talk about the BEST CAKE I HAVE EVER EATEN. I’m not even exaggerating. I am struggling to think of anything I love more than this cake. I’m a pretty big fan of banana cake as it is, but this is the ultimate banana cake. The banana cake to end all banana cakes. I am so in love with it I keep daydreaming about eating it, and slightly wishing that I hadn’t given half of it to Oli’s colleagues (generosity is good, and they seem to have appreciated it as much as me, but I only have two slices left and I’m feeling sad about it).

The photo doesn’t really do it justice, but if you want to make this AMAZING caramel walnut upside down banana cake and see some better photos of it, go to Smitten Kitchen

 

Chocolate Chip Brioche Pretzels

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This week I received a mixer from my very kind friend Seb. Generally I prefer to use my arms and a wooden spoon to mix things together, but now electric mixers pop up so frequently in recipes that it’s hard to believe that you don’t need one. And as it happens, the arrival of the mixer coincided with my wish to make this recipe, which genuinely does require a mixer, because apparently kneading brioche is hard and takes longer than bread, and so having the ability to throw ingredients in and watch the mixer do the work was pretty much a godsend.

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I always associate pretzels with those salty, malty tasting little crackers I had when I was younger, and I hated them. These pretzels, however, are the shit, so much so that Oli has added them to his “favourite things that I have baked for him list”, which also contains salted caramel tart and banana bread. And they make for a pretty awesome breakfast (best fresh out of the oven – I didn’t try warming them up, but I imagine they’d be pretty good, melted chocolate and all.)

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I made another rhubarb and almond loaf to take to my friend’s housewarming last night – it went down very well. But now I am slightly hungover after being given many a cocktail, and I smell of smoke (even after showering) because I spent the majority of the evening sitting outside by the fire. Genius. I am however, doing one better than Oli, who managed to spill crème de cassis all over his shoes, and didn’t realise until this morning. Classy.

And on that note, I will leave you with delicious pretzels, and the promise that I will actually make New York Cheesecake next week.

Chocolate Chip Brioche Pretzels (from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman)
makes 8

for the dough:
1/3 cup (80ml) whole milk
1 tsp instant yeast
2 1/4 cups (280g) plain flour
2 tbsp (25g) caster sugar
1/2 tsp table salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
8 tbsp (6oz or 170g) well- chopped chocolate or chocolate chips
1/4 tsp freshly grated orange zest (optional)

for the glaze:
1 large egg
1/2 tsp table salt
1 tsp water
Coarse or pearl sugar, for finishing

Make brioche: Whisk the milk and yeast together in a small dish until the yeast has dissolved. In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, stir together flour, sugar, and salt. Add the eggs and the yeast mixture, and mix at a low speed until the dough comes together in a shaggy pile. Raise the speed to medium, and beat for 10 minutes; the long mixing time creates the soft, stretchy strands brioche is known for. Add the butter, a third at a time, mixing the dough between additions. Now switch to the dough hook, and knead at low speed until a silky- smooth dough forms, another 5 minutes. Add the chocolate and zest, if using, and run the machine until it is mixed into the dough.

Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise in a warm spot for 2 hours, until almost doubled. Alternatively, you can rest the dough in the fridge overnight (or up to 24 hours), bring back to room temperature, and let the rise complete before continuing to the next step.

Meanwhile, line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Preheat your oven to 350F/180C.

Form pretzels: Gently deflate the dough, and divide it into eight pieces, about 3 1/4 oz (93g) each. Working with one piece at a time, roll each piece into an 18-inch-long rope about 1/2 inch thick. Curiously, I find these ropes easier to roll and stretch on an unfloured or very lightly oiled surface, but if you find yours sticking too much, lightly flour your counter before continuing.

To form the pretzel, draw the ends of a rope together to form a circle. About 2 inches from both ends, twist the rope ends together to close the circle– a full twist, so that the rope end that started on the right side finishes there. Fold the twist down into the circle, adhering the loose ends of the rope at five and seven o’clock on the base. Repeat to make eight pretzel twists. Transfer them to prepared baking sheets, brush them with glaze, and let them rest for about 15 minutes, during which they’ll puff slightly again.

To finish: Brush pretzels with glaze one more time, sprinkle with pearl or coarse sugar, then bake for 12 minutes, or until puffed and lightly bronzed.

Chocolate Hazelnut Crepe Cake – recipe

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As promised, the epically long recipe for the Pancaken. Enjoy!

From The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, by Deb Perelman

Crepes:

125g unsalted butter (will also be used for pastry cream)

550ml milk (Deb suggests whole, I used semi-skimmed, I’m sure both are fine)

6 large eggs

190g plain flour

pinch of salt

100g caster sugar

sunflower oil/melted butter for brushing pan.

Hazelnut Pastry Cream:

190g hazelnuts (for decorative purposes as well)

120g icing sugar

2 tsp hazelnut liqueur, such as Frangelico (I used Amaretto…)

pinch of salt

785ml whole milk

90g caster sugar

5 large egg yolks

5 tbsp cornflour

Butter reserved from crepes

Candied Hazelnuts:

130g caster sugar

2 tbsp water

pinch of flaky or fine sea salt

hazelnuts reserved from pastry cream

Chocolate Draping:

170g dark chocolate chips, or finely chopped chocolate (70% cocoa solids)

90ml double cream

1tbsp Frangelico or similar (or Amaretto!)

1. CREPES: In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Once melted, reduce heat. The butter will melt, then foam (I may have not noticed this when I panicked about my butter going foamy), then turn clear golden, and finally start to turn brown and smell nutty. Stir the butter frequently – don’t take your eyes off it, the time between when the butter begins to brown and when it burns is less than a minute. Once brown, remove from heat and transfer to a bowl. Leave to cool to a lukewarm temperature.

2. In a blender, combine the milk, eggs, flour, salt, sugar and 6tbsp of your cooled brown butter. Cover the finished mixture with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for an hour, or up to 2 days.

3. HAZELNUTS: Preheat your oven to 180C/Gas 4. Spread the hazelnuts out on a baking sheet, and toast them for 10 mins, rolling them around once or twice so that they toast evenly. Let them cool, then with dry hands, roll a few together between your palms until the skins come off – there might still be bits of skin left on, but that’s fine.

4. PASTRY CREAM: In a food processor, grind 150g of the toasted hazelnuts (set the other 40g aside for decorating/being complicit in thumb burning later), icing sugar, liqueur and salt together. Keep running the mixer until the powder begins to come together in damp-looking crumbs that combine in small clumps, then stop (otherwise you get hazelnut butter).

5. In a saucepan, combine the hazelnut paste, milk and sugar over a medium-high heat, and bring to a simmer, stirring a bit so it doesn’t scorch. In a bowl, whisk together the yolks and cornflour until smooth. Stream a small spoonful of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolk bowl while whisking. Repeat this a few times, and by the time you’ve done 5 or 6 additions you’ll find that the egg yolk bowl is hot – this is how you know you’ve added enough. Now go in reverse, slowly pouring the warm egg yolk mixture back into the hot milk in the saucepan, whisking the whole time, until the two are combined. Return the saucepan to the stove and, continuing to whisk, bring the mixture to a boil and cook for 2 mins. The mixture should thicken upon boiling, to a loose pudding consistency. Remove from the heat, and stir in the reserved 3 tbsp of browned butter from the crepe batter. Transfer it to a bowl, press a piece of plastic wrap against the top of the custard (to prevent skin formation), and chill the pastry cream until fully cold, which could take a couple of hours. If you’re pressed for time, set the bowl of custard in a half-full bowl of ice water, and it will chill faster.

6. CREPES: Preheat a medium frying pan over a medium-high heat. Once it’s heated, brush the pan lightly with melted butter or oil. Pour about 3 tbsp of batter into the pan (I used a medium-sized serving spoon, and it seemed about the right amount), swirling it until it evenly coats the bottom, and cook, undisturbed, until the bottom is golden, and the top is set – about 2 mins. Carefully flip, and cook on the other side for about 5-10 seconds. The first couple are likely to turn out badly, but after the second you should be fine (my first one was rubbish, so I ate it for breakfast). Transfer the crepes to a paper-towel covered plate to cool (it’s okay to stack them, promise). There should be enough batter to make about 19 23cm crepes, and you only need 16 to stack, so you’ve got room for errors.

7. CREPES ASSEMBLE: Lay the first crepe on your cake stand/plate. Spread with 50ml pastry cream. Lay the next crepe on top, and repeat until you get to the last one, which will act as the cake’s lid, and is for chocolate, not pastry cream.  Chill cake until ready for chocolate draping

8. CANDY HAZELNUTS: (**burn warning**) Spread out a piece of baking parchment on your counter, and have ready a small set of tongs or large tweezers. In a small, heavy saucepan, cook the sugar and water together over a high heat until the sugar melts and begins to turn a pale-beige colour, about 3-5 mins. Add a pinch of salt and the hazelnuts, rolling around to coat them. The caramel will cook a shade darker whilst you do this, to a light copper colour. Once it has, remove from heat, and then remove the hazelnuts one by one with the tongs, spreading them out on the parchment so they don’t touch. Whilst doing this, do NOT spill boiling caramel on to your thumb. At your own peril. Leave them to cool, either on the side or in the fridge.

9. CHOCOLATE: Put chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Heat cream and liqueur to a simmer in a small saucepan and pour over the chocolate. Let it sit for a minute, then stir until smooth. Remove cake from fridge, pour chocolate mixture over the top. Decorate the top with candied hazelnuts. Set the cake in the fridge until needed.

Well, I told you it was long. But if you dare attempt it, good luck! And don’t burn yourself.

Later this week: Apricot Crunchies!