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.

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.

Happy New Year!

The cynic in me is tempted to avoid new year’s resolutions. Largely because I’ve never stuck to them in the past and tend to give myself a bit of a hard time when I don’t succeed at things.  But setting an intention is meaningful in itself. Even if it only lasts for one day, you’ve still taken the time to think about what you’d like to change — definitely worth doing in my book.

So even if things go slightly awry as I rush headlong back into real life, here are the intentions I’d like to set for 2016:

  1. Mornings. I resolutely and proudly am not a morning person. My mornings are a hectic rush which usually consist of dragging myself out of bed, losing my keys, not being able to find any clothes that aren’t creased and then nearly missing my train. In 2016 I’d like to change that.  I would love my mornings to be a time of mindful preparation for the day whether that’s heading to the gym for an early morning swim or making breakfast and listening to the radio before walking calmly to the train station. This will be a challenge – it’ll mean going to bed earlier, waking up earlier and putting in effort, but I think the improved peace of mind will be more than worth it.
  2. Yoga. I really really love yoga, but it’s one of the things that gets squeezed out of my life when things get busy or I get stressed. I want 2016 to be the year that I get into better yoga practice and stick with it.  I’m starting with Adriene’s 30 day Yoga Camp – let me know if you’re joining too!
  3. Packed lunches. Ah, packed lunches. You are so much healthier and cheaper than buying lunch every day in Soho. So why am I so terrible at sticking with you? This year, please can we be better friends? I promise to dedicate at least one hour every Sunday evening to preparing you so that hopefully we can make things work this time around.

And to round things off, we started 2016 with a lovely walk to High Force Waterfall at Forest-in-Teesdale. It was freezing (literally — there were icicles!) but great.

Happy new year!

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And finally a bonus new year picture of these three jokers. Left to right my Dad, my little brother and Matt.

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Everything is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2016.

The Friday Frame {18} Early morning cows

So turns out the ‘Friday Frames’ series is less of an ‘every Friday’ type thing, more of a ‘sometimes, often not on a Friday’ type thing.  Let’s call it an ‘occasional photography series’.  Okay good, I feel better now.  I’ve really learned that the best way to enjoy this blog is to just go with the flow and post what I feel like when I feel like it.

And on that note, here’s a picture of some cows in a field in Lincolnshire. The sun had just risen, and I had woken up in a room with the radiators turned on. I can’t stand sleeping with central heating on, even when it’s freezing, because it gives me a potentially real and potentially completely psychosomatic headache. I therefore put on shoes and a big jumper over my pyjamas and clumped down the long drive of the farm where we were staying.  I say clumped because I can never quite bring myself to tie my shoelaces when I’m wearing shoes with pyjamas, and a strange trying-to-stop-shoes-coming-off gait is the result. . It was lovely to be out in the cold, fresh air.  And then I came to rest on a gate in front of a field full of cows.* And that was lovely too.

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Listening to Gold Digger by Kanye West and Jamie Foxx, Don’t Speak by No Doubt and Here (in your arms) by Hellogoodbye.

*… also horses.

Moderately incoherent rambling and photograph © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Be Thankful

Thanksgiving.  It’s not a holiday we celebrate on this side of the pond, but I’ve seen enough American films and read enough décor blog posts to know the deal. Pumpkin pie, cinnamon-scented candles, turkey, more pumpkins, and that episode of Friends where Rachel crucially misunderstands the ingredients of a ‘traditional English trifle’ and everyone pretends to like it. Oh, and then there’s the thankfulness part. Taking a moment to reflect on everything that you have to be grateful for in your life – a way to end the year with a focus on the positives.

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Although as a British person I am duty-bound to view most US traditions with a healthy dose of good old-fashioned grumpy cynicism (sorry guys!), I really like this one. And in that spirit, I was tagged by the lovely lady over at White Walls and Wanderlust to complete the ‘Be Thankful Challenge’. So here goes.

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Rules

– Share this image in your blog post.
– Write about 5 people in your life you are thankful for.
– Write about 5 things in 2015 that you are thankful for.
– Spread the love and challenge 5 other blogs to take part.

Five people I am thankful for (in no particular order!)

  • The Boy. My partner in crime, my best friend and the person who makes me laugh most in the world, who seems to be able to fix everything from broken taps to broken hearts and who makes every day better just by being in it. I’m so soppy.
  • My family. Some more of my very favourite people.  Being with them is like being wrapped in a great big blanket and protected from everything that is wrong with the world. They’re quite funny too.  And as my brother once said in one of his more profound moments, “Families aren’t made to be apart.”
  • My friends! All here together because picking one or two favourites wouldn’t seem fair. I love them all for different reasons, and they all mean the world to me. They are the most intelligent, kind and funny bunch of people, and I’m so glad I’ve been lucky enough to collect them along the way.
  • Dan. Perhaps it’s odd to have somebody on your list you’ve never actually met, but I know this person is patient, kind and incredibly good at his job. Dan is the therapist who helped my boyfriend through his serious and very scary struggle with anxiety this year, and I could not be more grateful to him.
  • Everyone reading this. Too clichéd? Sorry. But honestly, I’m truly thankful for everyone who reads my blog, and for the conversations we have in this little corner of the internet about cakes and fairy lights and adventures and everything in between.

Five things I am thankful for

  • My flat. It’s been my first home away from my family, and my first with Matt. It’s warm and cosy and clean and finally feels like home. It’s our safe little nest for the end of the day, and for that I am incredibly grateful.
  • Challenges. My first year after graduating hasn’t been without its fair share of struggles, some of them very big and real and scary. But I’ve faced them all, overcome them, and my life is better as a result. I’m grateful for everything those hard times taught me.
  • My job. I’ve found a job and a team that I absolutely love. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned this year is that a terrible job can make you truly miserable. If you hate your job I beg you to leave right now if you can find a way. There is much better out there for you, you just need to find it.
  • Britain. For all of its faults – and there are many – I’m incredibly thankful that this is my home. I’m thankful that I live in a generally peaceful, liberal country where my rights are preserved and protected. I’m thankful that medical care is free and available to everyone who needs it. And I’m also grateful for the wry humour, the conversations about the weather and that wonderful British awkwardness.
  • Language. I love the intricacies of language, discovering new words and unusual sayings, and that feeling of immense satisfaction when you find the right words. I’m also evidently a windbag, given I’ve basically written a paragraph for each of these!

Five nominations

Fuelled by Oats – a lovely positive sunbeam of a blog and blogger

The Thankful Heart – such a fitting blog name, her blog really encapsulates this whole theme perfectly.

Persephone H – a fellow foodie

With all my Affection – one of the prettiest blogs around

A Cornish Mum – this blog has a little bit of everything for everyone

Listening to: Hold my Hand by Jess Glynn, Ashes and Wine by The Civil Wars and Masochist by Ingrid Michaelson.

The words and the images apart from those relating to the challenge are © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Warsaw: the Botanical Gardens

When we were in Warsaw a couple of weeks ago, we spent a lovely afternoon wandering around the Botanical Gardens, part of the University of Warsaw.  A short bus ride from our hostel, the gardens were the perfect haven after a few days’ sightseeing in the bustling city. We spent a lovely few hours reading on a secluded bench amid the trees and flowers.

It was one of the times recently when I’ve felt most relaxed – it was lovely to just switch off and just be in a beautiful place.  It’s moments like that which really nurture us, I think. When I wasn’t daydreaming, I powered through much of The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling!), which, incidentally, I LOVED and would thoroughly recommend.

If you happen to be in Warsaw and would like to visit the gardens yourself, the  website can be found here.  There is a small charge to venture inside – I can’t remember how much it was, but I’m pretty sure it worked out at less than £1 in the good old GBP.

Here are some of my photographs which I took – take a botanical wander with me!

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This is actually the beautiful open boulevard just outside the gardens themselves

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Listening to I like this one by Joe Stilgoe, Waitress Song by First Aid Kit, Everyone is Gay by A Great Big World and Sister Rosette Goes Before Us by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss.

Everything is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

{The best} microwave chocolate chip cookie

I think like most people who have craved a late night freshly baked snack, I’ve had mixed results with microwave ‘cakes’ and ‘cookies’. I’ll just say ‘rubbery’, and leave it at that.

This cookie is different. And without wanting this post to devolve into histrionics, it has changed my relationship with the microwave forever. Having a delicious chocolate chip cookie available within ten minutes is, admittedly, dangerous, but well — you only live once. And if you’re going to have an evening treat, make it this wonderfully gooey, deliciously sweet, ridiculously easy microwave cookie.

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Ingredients

1 tablespoon (14g) butter
1 tablespoon (13g) sugar
1 tablespoon (13g) light brown sugar
A tiny splash of vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
3 tablespoons (30g) plain flour
2 heaped tablespoons (30g) chocolate chips

Directions

– Grab a ramekin or mug that’s microwave safe (this won’t rise, so no need to use something big)

– Place the butter in the ramekin and melt in the microwave; do this in short intervals at about 70% power until just melted.

– To the melted butter, add the sugars and the vanilla. Stir together until combined ( a teaspoon is easiest on this scale!)

– Add the egg yolk and stir well.

– Add the flour, and stir in. The consistency should be similar to real cookie dough; if it’s too runny add a little more flour, and if it feels too stiff add a splash of milk.

– Add the chocolate chips and stir in. For this cookie I used a mixture of milk and dark chocolate chips – use whatever you fancy. Flatten the surface of the cookie.

– Microwave at about 70% power for between 30 and 40 seconds.

Tip: You don’t want to overcook this as it will dry out. The first time, only cook for 30 seconds; if it’s still looking quite wet on top, microwave for another 10 seconds. The cookie will continue to cook after you remove it from the microwave, and retains its heat for a while so be careful!

– Devour with a side of ice cold milk. Pretentious mini milk bottle not obligatory.

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Listening to Black Magic by Little Mix, Sugar by Maroon 5 and Hit me with your best shot by Pat Benatar.

This recipe is from Sweetest Kitchen with a few very tiny tweaks. All other content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Flying saucer cakes – honey & vanilla madeleines

The best thing about creating food, as far as I’m concerned, is making it for other people.  It’s one of my favourite ways to show I love somebody.  When I was about ten, that meant trying to make a pink mushroom birthday cake for my mum, and learning the hard way that you cannot ice a cake when it’s hot from the oven.  As I got older and slightly more handy in the kitchen, it has meant pancakes or scrambled eggs or huge plates of pasta for my hungry brother, and impromptu desserts for whoever is coming around for dinner.  Surprise birthday cakes in sixth form and careful research to find out which baking would most cheer up a friend mid essay crisis.

And that’s how I came to make madeleines for the first time.  My boyfriend has been talking for a while about a kind of cake crossed with a biscuit which he remembered from holidays in France.  It took some googling to find out what he was referring to, but it turned out to be these little golden cakes — denser than a sponge, but lighter than a biscuit. And so I set about working out how to make them, then putting two into a tupperware each evening for him to take to work the next day.  What can I say, I love through cake.

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Traditionally, madeleines are made in a special tin which creates delicate little shell-shaped cakes.  But let’s be honest, I have neither the space nor the money to buy a whole new set of trays.   One day, I will have a kitchen straight out of a Lakeland Plastics catalogue.   Today is not that day: I have two functioning cupboards in my kitchen, so adaptability is the name of the baking game here.  I took a gamble, made my first batch in a cupcake tray, and it worked just fine.  They may not be as refined as their French cousins, but I kind of enjoy their spaceship stylings.  This version is delicately flavoured with vanilla and honey, and although I do ostensibly make these for M, they don’t all make it to his lunchbox…

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Ingredients

  • 100g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g butter, melted
  • 1 whole egg, separated, plus 1 egg white
  • 1 tbsp clear honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Icing sugar, for dusting

Directions

– Preheat oven to 190c (170c fan oven or gas mark 5).

– Use a tiny amount of the melted butter to grease a 12-hole cupcake tray (or a madeleine tray if you have one) and use a sieve to dust lightly with flour.

– Mix the flour and sugar in a bowl. Put the butter, egg yolk, honey and vanilla into a separate bowl and whisk together.

– Using a hand held whisk, whisk the two egg whites until stiff.

– Fold the butter mixture into the dry ingredients until evenly mixed, then gently fold in the egg whites until thoroughly combined.  Be careful not over mix (you want to keep the volume in the egg whites).

– Divide between the moulds and bake for 10-12 mins until golden brown and firm to the touch.

– Leave to cool in the moulds for a few minutes, then turn out and cool on a wire rack.

– Dust with icing sugar before serving, if you like.

I haven’t tried it, but I feel like these would be really fun to decorate with smarties, chocolate chips, coloured icing and strawberry laces, to make them look like actual spaceships. That would definitely be a legitimate use of time for a twenty-something, right?

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Listening to: Overwhelmed by Rachel Platten, Stutter by Marianas Trench and Girl by Beck.

Edit: 10th July 2016

My mum bought us madeleine trays! These ones are kind of prettier – I even dusted them with icing sugar…

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This recipe is from the BBC Good Food website.  All other content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Daytrippers: Brighton

Some photographs from a sunny day out in Brighton. It was our first visit to this lovely seaside gem, complete with window shopping, ice cream and lots of windy sunshine. We loved it!

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Listening to Photographs by Joshua Radin, Snow (Hey Oh) by Red Hot Chilli Peppers, This Kiss by Faith Hill and This will be (An Everlasting Love) by Natalie Cole.

All content is ©Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.