Lemon and elderflower biscuits

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Monday was a big (ish) day – it was the first time I baked for my colleagues.  I will admit that I do pride myself on being a half-decent baker, so I really wanted to make a good impression! I thought for ages about what to make, bearing in mind one colleague’s nut allergy and another’s aversion to raisins, and also the fact that it’s pretty hot in England at the moment.

Then I remembered that we’d recently had some rather disappointing lemon biscuits in the office, which had led to an impassioned discussion about how a good lemon biscuit should be. It needed to have a crunch, but most of all, it needed to be completely and utterly, blow your socks off, lemony. There is little worse than a less than lemony baked good. It’s particularly insipid. (Can you tell I feel strongly about this…?)

So I settled on creating the most lemony of lemon biscuits to raise spirits on a Monday morning. I found these on Bake then Eat after rather a long time trawling the blogosphere for something that sounded like it could work, and after a few tweaks I ended up with rather a lot of perfect lemon biscuits. They are a little like shortbread in their texture – with a crunch, but also with a crumble. And best of all, they are incredibly lemony (even more lemony than the original recipe, I was insatiable).  The elderflower cordial in the icing was a last minute thing, but it gave the icing a glorious tang – it’s completely optional, and you can just use more lemon juice in its place.

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Ingredients

  • 250 grams butter
  • 140 grams Icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Grated zest of 2 unwaxed lemons
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 375-400 grams plain flour
For the icing
  • 70 grams icing sugar
  • Enough lemon juice to make a dripping consistency
  • A decent dash of undiluted elderflower cordial (optional)

DirectionS

– Beat the butter until it is light and fluffy, using a stand mixer or handheld whisk.

– Add in the icing sugar and mix until well combined.

– Beat in the vanilla extract and the egg yolk until the mixture is pale and creamy.

– Add the zest and the juice of two lemons, and use a wooden spoon to distribute evenly.

– Fold in 375g of the flour to bring it all together.  This will firm up a little while chilling, but at this point mine was still very wet, so I gradually added about 25g more flour until I had a biscuit dough consistency.

– Chill the dough in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

– Preheat your oven to 190C / 170 fan / gas mark 5 and take your dough out of the fridge. Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.

– Roll the dough out until it is about 5 mm thick, and cut out 2 inch (5 cm) rounds.  Place them on your baking trays with a little space between them.

– Pop them in your oven.  Mine took about 10 mins to be evenly cooked and beginning to brown very slightly, but I’d recommend watching very closely as they’ll get very brown very quickly

– Transfer to wire baking racks to cool.

– In a small bowl place your icing sugar, a little lemon juice and a dash of elderflower if using and mix all together. Add more lemon juice a little at a time to get the right drizzling consistency.

– Drizzle over your cooled cookies however you like.*

– Kept in an airtight tin these cookies will stay fresh for… well… 5 days so far and mine are still fine.

*Tip: I got the effect on mine by placing greased proof paper under my wire cooling racks and then drizzling from left to right across the whole row of biscuits. I kept going back and forth until I had an effect i liked, with the greased proof paper catching all of the drips!

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Listening to Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond, My baby just cares for me by Nina Simone, Fever by Ray Charles and Natalie Cole.

This original recipe is from Bake then Eat.  I’ve made a few changes, mainly adding way more lemon juice/elderflower. 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.

Crispy chilli beef with red peppers

This is an attempt at a classic Chinese takeaway dish — my boyfriend’s favourite in fact.  He loves it, and although this isn’t exactly the same, it’s delicious in its own right. I’ve made it twice now, and it’s a firm favourite in the lovely-treat-but-healthier-than-a-takeaway dinner category. It’s has a little heat to its thanks to the chillies, but I have a feeling that if you left them out you’d still be left with a deliciously sticky sauce perfect served with fluffy white rice. The red peppers are my own edition — what can I say? I’m my mother’s daughter and can’t often bring myself to create a meal wholly devoid of vegetables!

This is the kind of recipe that can seem a bit complicated at first, but after your first attempt it soon becomes more straightforward. In fact, most of the changes I’ve made to this dish were to simplify it from its even more complicated original! I didn’t have any black rice vinegar…

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Ingredients

For the crispy beef

  • 200g of beef steak (the thinner the better)
  • 100g cornflour, seasoned with salt and pepper

For the marinade

  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1 egg

For the sauce

  • 5 thin slices of fresh ginger,  finely chopped
  • 2 gloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • Dried or fresh chillies to taste, very finely chopped
  • 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato ketchup
  • 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons honey

Optional garnish

  • Spring onions, sliced

Directions

– First make the marinade. Mix together the sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar and the egg until well combined.

– Cut the beef into strips a couple of inches long. Add them into the marinade, swish around and let it sit for a couple of minutes.

– Heat a decent couple of slugs of cooking oil of your choice (I used rapeseed) in a deep frying pan over a medium heat.

– Meanwhile, add the seasoned cornflour to a shallow dish. Once the oil is hot, dip the beef pieces into the cornflour, shaking off the excess before adding to the pan. Fry until crispy and browned. Drain off the excess oil on kitchen paper and set the beef aside.

– In a clean frying pan, fry the ginger, garlic and chilli gently on a low heat. Mix together the soy sauce, tomato ketchup, balsamic vinegar and honey and add to the pan. Add the red pepper and turn up the heat. Bubble the sauce for a few minutes until thickened slightly.

– Return the beef to the pan and coat with the sauce.

– Serve immediately with rice and a sprinkling of spring onions.

Listening to Mr Hurricane by Beast,  Me and Julio down by the Schoolyard by Paul Simon, Can’t Stop by Red Hot Chili Peppers, Little Red Wagon by Miranda Lambert and Speaking a Dead Language by Joy Williams.

This recipe is quite heavily adapted from the Food Network website.  All other content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.