Lemon and elderflower sandwich biscuits

Week two: biscuit week.  Reflections on the GBBO revival so far – I’m warming to the new presenter / judge combination with every week that passes. Even previously dour and famously grumpy Paul Hollywood appears to have undergone a welcome transformation with the new line up – far warmer, far funnier, and much more likely (it seems) to engage in some off-script (I hate myself for using this word, sorry) banter. What more could we ask for?

I’ve chosen the signature to recreate again because a) I have absolutely no desire to make fortune cookies and they look fiddly as anything and b) I fear I’ll never have the will to recreate a showstopper.  So much to go wrong, and who would eat that amount of biscuit in my two person household?  M is good, but he’s not that good.  There you go: the proof you needed that I am a thoroughly unadventurous baker – so just to drive that point home, here are my thoroughly unadventurous sandwich biscuits (they tasted nice though).

I went for lemon and elderflower in an unashamed attempt to cling to the last vestiges of summer, and also because I had a bottle of my mum’s homemade elderflower cordial ready and waiting in the fridge for this very eventuality.

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For the biscuits, I used a recipe I’ve featured on the blog before here, simply using a slightly smaller cutter for slightly smaller biscuits and baking for a little less time.  I also skipped the icing drizzle as it felt like too much with the addition of the buttercream in the middle.

For the filling, I blended 200g of soft butter and 300g of icing sugar together until very light and fluffy using a handheld mixer, then added a decent splosh of elderflower cordial – be careful here as you need your filling to be soft enough to pipe, but still pretty stiff so it sets.

Once cool, you need to pair your biscuits.  If you’re a perfect, patient baker, all of your biscuits will be identical in size and shape.  If, however, you bake as I do, they will be largely uniform but – if you’re really honest – range in shape from a perfect circle to slightly oval and everything in between.

Pair them up as best you can, then use a piping bag to pipe five small rosettes around the bottom on one of your pairs. Place the other biscuit on top, and squish gently together. Once you’ve sandwiched all of your biscuits, dust lightly with icing sugar.

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All content and photographs are © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2017.

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Blackberry, marzipan and orange cake

I know, I know – I’m late to this party.  The excuse for my tardiness lies somewhere between being on holiday for most of last week, unthinkingly baking a giant chocolate cake just before the first episode aired (couldn’t bake another cake straight away, could I?) and a general scepticism about whether I’d want to get on the Bake Off Bandwagon at all this year.

I’ll admit that along with the rest of the nation, I was unsure about the move to Channel 4.  This wasn’t helped by the fact that just as the dust had settled and we’d all started to make peace with a Mel, Sue and Mary-less GBBO, somebody or other important at Channel 4 trailed the new series with a doom-laden reference to giving the show a “Channel 4 edge”.  If you’ve ever seen Channel 4 offerings like My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, you too would be concerned as to what on earth this “edge” might be.

Turns out it’s mainly just the presence of Noel Fielding.  And not really knowing who he was but being slightly put off by his hair (sorry) I have to admit I think he makes a pretty nice host – friendly and goofy rather than obnoxiously edgy.  Plus he is charmingly offset by the British institution that is Sandi Toksvig, so we can all calm down and enjoy another helping of basically-the-same-old-GBBO.  So I’ve decided (belatedly) to bake along!

Initial thoughts aside, it’s (well, was… see above) cake week.  The signature challenge was a cake with fruit in it.  I decided to adapt a beautiful orange and marzipan cake I’ve made before to include more blackberries and a little less orange. I had lovingly collected a heap of them at the cost of scratched shins, nettle stings and purple-stained fingertips, so they needed a home.

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Ingredients

For the cake

  • 175g (6oz) butter
  • 100g (3½ oz) caster sugar
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 250g (8oz) self-raising flour
  • Zest and juice of one large orange (reserve 2 tbsp for the icing)
  • 140g blackberries
  • 250g (8oz) white marzipan, fairly finely chopped

For the icing

  • 100g (3½ oz) icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp orange juice

Directions

  • Set the oven to 180°C (160 fan) and line a square or rectangular tin with grease proof paper.
  • In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy using a handheld mixer.
  • Beat in the eggs, one at a time, with a tablespoon of the flour each time, then beat in the orange juice (reserving two tablespoons for the icing) and zest.
  • Fold in the rest of the flour and half the marzipan pieces.
  • Sprinkle a handful of blackberries onto the bottom of the tin, then spread about a third of the mixture on top.  Sprinkle in about a third of the remaining berries, and about a third of the remaining marzipan.  Add half of the remaining mixture on top.  Repeat – add the rest of the marzipan and blackberries (expect a handful) then spread the rest of the mixture on top.  Sprinkle the handful of blackberries evenly over the surface.
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Leave in the tin for 10 minutes to cool slightly before removing from the tin to a cooling rack to cool completely.
  • To make the icing, mix the two tablespoons of orange juice with the icing sugar to reach a consistency with a good dribble.
  • Once the cake is cool, slice into 16 squares before drizzling the slices with the orange icing – leave to set.

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Recipe adapted from goodtoknow.co.uk; all other content and photographs are © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2017.

Bulgar wheat and roasted butternut squash salad {perfect packed lunch}

When I fall for a recipe, I fall hard — there are no occasional recipes in this house.  It’s a double edged sword of course, since eating something every other day can rapidly turn into never wanting to see it ever again.  You have been warned.

This salad started with the bulgar wheat pilaf from James Ramsden’s Love your Lunchbox — a lovely carby-but-wholegrain salad base — and several iterations later here we are.

If you have never had bulgar wheat and think it sounds horribly healthy and like it would taste that way, please try it cooked like this — it is healthy, but also delicious.  I promise.

Herby bulgar wheat and roasted butternut squash sprinkled amidst peppery rocket, cherry tomatoes, chunks of salty feta and thinly sliced red onion — all drizzled with a simple balsamic and honey dressing.  It’s veggie (I’m trying to reserve meat for evening meals lately), healthy and delicious.

In the same grand tradition that led me here, you can mix and match to find the combination you love best — I’ve suggested a few tweaks below but the possibilities are endless.

As the title suggests, this particular incarnation is designed as a packed lunch. I roast the butternut squash and make the pilaf ahead of time, then trundle the rest to work to chop and assemble in our basement kitchen complete with fridge and microwave.  If your facilities are more limited do your chopping before you leave home and toss together everything except the dressing — come lunchtime, just drizzle over the dressing and toss again.

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The quantities below are enough for 3-4 days worth of pilaf and squash, then just one serving of the rest as that’s the most logical way for packed lunch assembly — adjust as you wish!

INGREDIENTS

For the bulgar wheat pilaf (makes 3-4 servings)

  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 100g bulgar wheat
  • 200ml vegetable stock (I use 1/2 a stock cube for this amount)

For the roasted butternut squash (makes 3-4 servings)

  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and with seeds removed, chopped into chunks
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

For the salad (enough for 1 serving)

  • 6-8 cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • 1/2 bag rocket
  • 1/6 of a block of feta, cubed
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced

For the salad dressing (enough for 1 serving)

  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Squeeze of honey
  • Salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS

For the pilaf

  • Heat a splash of rapeseed or olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan and pop the kettle on
  • Once the oil is warm, add the onion and fry gently on a medium-low heat until soft
  • Meanwhile, dissolve your stock cube in the boiling water and set aside
  • Add the spices, stir and cook for a few more minutes until fragrant
  • Add the bulgar wheat and stir to coat before cooking for another minute or so, then add the stock
  • Bring to a boil before turning to the lowest heat, covering with a lid and cooking until the liquid is all absorbed and the bulgar is soft and fluffy.  It won’t take long for the bulgar to dry out, so if this happens turn off the heat and just leave the lid on until the wheat is soft – about 10 minutes maximum
  • Transfer the pilaf to a tupperware.  Once cool, this will keep in the fridge for about 4-5 days

For the roasted butternut squash

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180c (160c fan) and add the cubed butternut squash to a roomy mixing bowl
  • Add just enough olive oil to coat and season with salt and pepper to taste
  • Tip the squash into a baking tray (lined for easy clean up) and roast until soft and starting to caramelise — about 30 minutes
  • Transfer to another tupperware and allow to cool before storing in the fridge.  This will keep for about 4 days

For the salad

  • First, make the dressing.  I only ever eyeball this, and you know how much dressing you like.  I tend to aim for two parts olive oil to one part balsamic vinegar (I love vinegar but if you want a milder dressing, go for a 3:1 ratio) and then add a small squeeze of honey and salt and pepper to taste
  • Toss the rocket, cherry tomatoes, onion and feta in the dressing until well coated.  At this point you can reheat both the pilaf and the butternut squash in the microwave for a lovely warm salad, or leave them cold — either way is delicious.
  • Add the pilaf and squash to the rest, and toss again
  • Return to your desk to devour or better yet, find a sunny spot and enjoy

Mix it up: goat’s cheese or mozzarella instead of the feta / roasted aubergine or courgette instead of the squash / add sliced red or orange bell peppers / try a honey-mustard dressing

Listening to Bad Liar by Selena Gomez, Star of the County Down by The High Kings and Everywhere by Fleetwood Mac.

© Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2017.

Gooey Glastonbury brownies

Brownies — a classic, undoubtedly, but deceptively difficult to get right.  There are a lot of rich chocolate cakes knocking around masquerading as the real deal.  They’re very nice, but they aren’t brownies.  A gooey, very-almost-liquid interior finished with a cracked, shiny top is the order of the day here — lifted out of the oven tantilisingly close to being raw and perfectly squidgy once cooled.

So why Glastonbury brownies?  This recipe is from Nigel Slater who has a glorious knack for describing his culinary creations.  Although Nigel calls these his ‘very good chocolate brownies’, and they are, it’s his subtitle that has stuck (pun intended?) with me — ‘a 24-carat brownie as dense and fudgy as Glastonbury mud’.  Yes please.

N.B. This recipe is fairly forgiving — 70% cocoa solids are delicious, but it works just as well with Asda’s own brand plain baking chocolate. The caster sugar can be replaced with bog standard table sugar, and a mix of brown sugars you have to hand if need be, or if you’d prefer it.

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INGREDIENTS

  • 300g golden caster sugar
  • 250g butter
  • 250g plain or dark chocolate
  • (Optional) 50g white chocolate
  • 3 large eggs plus 1 extra egg yolk
  • 60g flour
  • 60g cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp baking powder

DIRECTIONS

  • Preheat the oven to 180c, 160c fan or gas mark 4 and line a 23cm by 23cm baking tin with grease proof paper
  • Using a handheld mixer (or a stand mixer if you’re lucky) beat the sugar and butter together for a few minutes until light and fluffy — keep going until it’s creamy
  • Set 50g of the dark chocolate aside, then melt the rest however you like (I find bain-maries a faff, and luckily one of my mother’s life lessons was how to melt chocolate safely in a microwave. It burns easily, but the key is checking the chocolate often, and stopping when there are still some chunks unmelted — stir to melt the rest.)
  • Chop the remaining dark chocolate (and white chocolate if using)
  • Break three eggs into a small bowl and add the egg yolk before beating lightly with a fork
  • Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and a pinch of salt.
  • With the mixer running, gradually add the egg and beat well after each addition
  • Fold in the melted chocolate, then the chopped chocolate, with a large spoon
  • Finally fold in the flour mix without knocking the air out (gently but firmly)
  • Scrape into the tin, smoothing the top
  • Bake for about 30 minutes.  It’s worth checking at 25 minutes, and then again every 3 minutes – you want a skewer to come out slightly sticky with some moist crumbs, just not completely coated in raw mixture.  Remember the brownie will keep solidifying as it cools, so err on the wet side.
  • Serves 12, or one after a bad day

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Listening to Twist and Shout by The Beatles, Respect by Aretha Franklin and Your Song by Rita Ora.

© Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2017.

{microwave} lemon curd

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Spring has sprung in London, and what more appropriate way to welcome the bright, sunshiney days than with a bright, sunshiney kitchen project? Enter: lemon curd. It’s smooth and buttery, oh-so-lemony and — most importantly — sunshine yellow.

This version is made in the microwave, so it really couldn’t get much easier. It’s from an ancient microwave cookery book and mum has been making it for years. On the first properly warm weekend of the year, I asked her to text me the recipe and about half an hour and many lemons later I had my own jar full of sunshine.

Enjoy it on toast, as a cake filling, in cupcakes or by the spoonful.

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 lemons
  • 4oz (115g) butter, cubed
  • 4 eggs
  • 8oz (230g) sugar

DIRECTIONS

  • Zest and juice the lemons before adding to a microwaveable bowl
  • Add the sugar and eggs, and whisk until combined
  • Add the cubed butter, and give the mixture a gentle stir to distribute evenly
  • Microwave for 5-6 minutes in total, whisking very thoroughly every 30 seconds
  • When it’s ready, the curd should be starting to thicken – remember it will continue to thicken as it cools
  • Remove from the microwave and keep whisking until the curd reaches about room temperature
  • Sieve the lemon curd into a jug (for easy pouring) to remove the zest and any lumps*
  • Pour into a clean jar and store in the fridge (I can’t vouch for this lasting for much more than a week at most, because it’s never around that long…)

*I prefer my lemon curd totally smooth and without any zest but many people prefer it with some bite / texture – skip this step if you fall into the latter camp.

Listening to What’s Inside by Sara Bareilles, Confident by Demi Lovato and The Minnow & The Trout by A Fine Frenzy.

 © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2017.

Elderflower and almond cake

This is the most moist cake (try saying that three times, fast) I have ever made. By a million miles! It’s similar in many ways to a lemon drizzle in texture, but the ground almonds make it both denser and squidgier. The cream cheese frosting is not overly sweet, which perfectly offsets the sugary goo of the cake itself. This is summer in a pudding – yellow sponge dripping with elderflower and lemon, swirls of bright white frosting and a sprinkling of crushed pistachios make it a joy to behold. And to eat.

Special shout out to my mum, who not only made the elderflower cordial featured here but also nursed it on the train down from Darlington to London and then carried it around the city all day to give to me. Thanks mum!

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Ingredients

225g butter at room temperature

50g self raising flour

200g ground almonds

1 teaspoon baking powder

225g golden caster sugar plus 15g extra

grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

4 eggs, beaten lightly

150ml undiluted elderflower cordial (I used homemade, but you can buy in shops too)

150g cream cheese

150ml double cream

A generous handful of chopped pistachios

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c (160 fan) and grease a 9 inch springform cake tin or similarly sized loose bottomed one with butter or a non-stick cooking spray.  Line with greaseproof paper.
  2. Using a mixer of electric whisk, cream together the butter, lemon zest and 225g of sugar until pale and fluffy.
  3. Add the beaten eggs gradually, beating well between each addition.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and almonds then add this to the butter-sugar mixture.  Mix together scrape into the cake tin, smoothing the top gently.
  5. Bake for 35-45 minutes until risen and golden.
  6. While the cake is cooking make a syrup by combining 100ml of elderflower cordial, the extra sugar and lemon juice in a small pan, stirring gently until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat to cool.
  7. Once it’s done, leave the cake in the tin to cool, pricking lots of holes all over with a skewer, then pour over the elderflower syrup, spreading it all over the cake’s surface so it sinks in evenly.  Leave to cool completely.
  8. For the frosting, mix the remaining 50ml elderflower cordial and the cream cheese together until smooth.
  9. Add the double cream and mix again until really smooth.  When the cake is completely cool, remove it from the tin gently and cover with the frosting, using a knife to create swirls if you like. Scatter over the pistachios and devour.

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Listening to: Your body is a wonderland by John Mayer, Send my love (to your new lover) by Adele and Hold Up by Beyoncé.

I adapted this recipe from eat the right stuff, the main change being swapping the marscapone for cream cheese. Everything else is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2016.

Sunken apple and honey cake

Well hello there. You’re looking lovely today. I know it’s been a while… But I have to say I’ve made my peace with falling firmly under the ‘occasional blogger’ category. And for me — a resolutely all-or-nothing, perfectionist kind of human — that’s actually something rather special. But I will admit I’ve missed it (and shout out to the lovely Rhonda who says she misses me too!) so here I am with a recipe I hope you’ll love and an overlong introduction you might appreciate less.

I’ll cut to the chase (finally) and say this cake is delicious. The sponge is simple and not overly sweet, but combined with soft apple and a slightly salted honey glaze it reaches new heights. Enjoy!

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Ingredients

For the sunken apples

4 smallish apples, peeled, cored and quartered
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Cake mixture

125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup runny honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs, separated
2 decent pinches of salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
160g plain flour

Honey glaze

1/4 cup honey
A generous pinch of sea salt

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F/175c/155c fan.
  2. Coat a 9-inch springform tin with butter or a nonstick spray.  Line the bottom of the pan with a circle of parchment paper.
  3. Prepare your apples: place each quarter core side down on a chopping board, and use a knife to create parallel thin slices only cutting halfway through the apple so it holds together. If you accidentally cut all the way through (I did!) then just reassemble once you come to put on top of the cake in a minute.
  4. In a bowl, gently toss your apples with lemon juice and 2 tablespoon granulated sugar.
  5. Prepare cake mixture by beating the butter and sugar together in a bowl with an electric whisk until fluffy.
  6. Add the honey and beat until combined.
  7. Add your vanilla and egg yolks, beating until just combined.
  8. Sprinkle salt and baking powder over the top, and mix for just 5 seconds until they disappear.
  9. Add flour, half at a time, mixing only until just combined each time
  10. In a separate bowl with hastily cleaned and thoroughly dried beaters (unless you own two sets, you domestic goddess you), beat egg whites until stiff.
  11. Stir 1/4 of them into the cake mix to lighten it a little.  Fold in the rest in three additions. It will seem initially like it’ll never combine — persevere with gentle, patient folding. Only fold the last addition of egg whites until it has mostly disappeared — a couple of faint streaks is fine.
  12. Spread the mixture into the prepared cake tin, smoothing the top.
  13. Arrange apple quarters face down over the cake mixture.  You don’t need to smush them in, just nestled on the top is fine. Pour any extra lemon juice and sugar in the bowl over the apples.
  14. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes or until a toothpick or skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let rest on a cooling rack for a few minutes, then run a knife around the edge to make sure it’s not sticking to the pan at all, and unhinge the sides. Let cake cool completely.
  15. Before serving, if you’d like the glaze to look glossy, or whenever the cake is cool, if you don’t mind if the honey sinks into the cake, make the honey glaze. Warm 1/4 cup honey and a good pinch of sea salt until it thins to a glaze consistency — this will take less than 30 seconds. Brush honey-salt mixture over cooled cake and enjoy.

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Original recipe from yep, you guessed it, Smitten Kitchen.  All photographs and the ramblings at the top are © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2016.