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.

Double chocolate brownie cookies

Picture the scene.  It’s Sunday night. You want to bake a tin full of goodness for work tomorrow. But should you make brownies or cookies? Answer: both. And don’t hold the chocolate chunks.

I found the answer to my cookie vs brownie dilemma on Smitten Kitchen which, by the way, is pretty much my go-to baking blog after the perfection of her salted chocolate chunk cookies.

Described by one of my colleagues with a completely straight face as ‘one of the best things I have actually ever eaten’, I recommend this most excellent of hybrid baked goods to you.

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Ingredients

115 g unsalted butter
115 g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
190 g dark or light brown sugar
25 g granulated sugar
2 large free range eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
45 g cocoa powder
130g plain flour
115 g dark chocolate, chopped into fairly generous chunks

Directions

  • Melt the butter and dark chocolate together in the microwave or a very low heat on the hob.  Remove from the heat when the chocolate is almost melted, then stir until smooth.
  • Whisk both sugars into the melted butter and chocolate mixture before adding the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla.
  • Whisk in the baking soda and salt, and sieve the cocoa powder into the batter.
  • Next, sieve in your plain flour and stir until combined.
  • Add the chunks of chocolate and stir in.
  • Pop the bowl into the fridge for about half an hour (but apparently you can leave it in for up to a few days).  The chilling makes these easier to scoop.  If you leave the batter in for longer than 30 minutes it’ll harden more, so leave to sit at room temperature for a little while before spooning out.
  • Once the dough is chilling, preheat your oven to 175°c.
  • Scoop the dough into about two-tablespoon sized mounds and place evenly on a tray / trays lined with baking paper, allowing room for them to spread out a little.
  • Bake for 11 to 12 minutes, at which point they will still definitely look like they aren’t baked.  Take them out anyway, because you don’t want to lose the fudgy, soft centre.
  • Let the brownie cookies firm up on the trays for a few minutes before carefully transferring to a cooling rack.
  • Enjoy warm if you can, but in case you’re not up for demolishing the entire batch in one sitting or you have people in your life who expect you to share, these are also yummy (and still fudgy – yay!) once cooled.

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This recipe is from Smitten Kitchen. The photographs and other words are  © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2016.

Foodie Adventures {Warsaw}: a whistle stop tour

What do foodies do when they go on holiday? It’s honestly not a trick question. They eat. And we certainly made the most of our time in Warsaw last month, eating in as many different places as possible all over the city. Here is a whistle stop tour of some of the best.

Cheesecake Corner

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We spent several lovely afternoons watching the world go by from a cafe on Krakowskie Przedmieście, one of Warsaw’s prettiest streets. Cheesecake, a good book and a healthy dose of sunshine-soaked people watching — it doesn’t get much better than that, does it? This Oreo cheesecake was delicious. Creamy and rich, but not too sweet. The view from the white wicker chairs outside wasn’t bad either. Their website is here.

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Tapas Gastrobar

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This was a little way away from our hostel, but very much worth the walk. The decor was just up my street: white and blue dominated, combined with geometrically patterned tiles and vintage posters in shabby chic frames. The food was exquisite and the service was fast and friendly. A highlight was the salted pork belly – hot and delicious. The cold potato salad smothered in aioli was a little unexpected, but worked perfectly. Check it out here.

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Ceprownia

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The guidebook hit the nail on the head when it described Ceprownia as ‘hearty shepherd’s fare’: this is where we got our first taste of Polish food when we first arrived in Warsaw last year, and it’s the first place we visited when we returned this year. Homely stews, potato fritters, amazing fried goat’s cheese and more pickles than you could shake a stick at all consumed by lamplight in an interior made mainly of wood, this is Polish food at its most uncomplicated. Special mention goes to the creamy salad dressing that came with every dish. We had dinner there on our first night, and went back for lunch on our last day. Visit their website here.

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Cafe Vincent

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This was our favourite breakfast spot: a French- style patisserie on Warsaw’s main street. They had row upon row of every baked good you could think of, fresh from the oven, and a nice selection of drinks to go with them. We enjoyed the madeleines (already explored on this blog, here, and the boy’s favourite) and I had one of the best lemon tarts I’ve ever had! Very lemony, and the perfect level of intense tartness. I love breakfast on holiday… Cafe Vincent don’t have a website that I can find, but you can visit them at Nowy Świat 64, 00-357 Warszawa, Poland if you happen to be in the vicinity.

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Lots of our recommendations of where to eat came from the ‘In Your Pocket’ city guide, which was invaluable as we hurried about Warsaw. You can download it for free here – we loaded the PDF version onto M’s Kindle, which was super handy.

Listening to Kaleidoscope Heart by Sarah Bareilles, Apple Honey by the Woody Herman Orchestra and Take me for what I am from RENT.

© Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Foodie Adventures: Brockley Market

A couple of weeks ago, the boy and I headed to Brockley Market on one of our weekend adventures.  It was a bit of a trek from North West London to Lewisham, but it was worth it for this lovely market, which was an absolute food geek’s paradise! Stall upon stall was laden with fresh, gorgeous produce, from artisan sourdough to homemade cordial, and almost every one was manned by a friendly stall holder, passionate about their wares and eager to explain the painstaking processes of producing their food.  It was great to talk to so many people so clearly pursuing their passions, and so proud of what they had to sell.

One lady explained to us what makes sourdough different from normal bread, before advising us on the best loaf for sourdough beginners (n.b. it was delicious). Another guy explained how he made his beautiful cheeses, while M made himself at home getting endless advice about different craft beers. We also tried some very VERY hot BBQ sauces, touted by some very eager guys who took great glee in our reaction to their mildest offering!

There were loads of street food trucks to choose from for lunch — our resolutions to save money and eat at home having rapidly disintegrated. After much deliberation, we went for the Saltwood Fish Bar. Matt had the fish and chips, which he declared to be one of the best he’d ever had. I had the calamari and chips — squid coated in polenta and deliciously crisp — alongside some wonderfully garlicky aioli. We ate this on several large wooden benches set at one corner of the market, alongside people enjoying everything from burritos to huge burgers from the other stalls.

I’d thoroughly recommend taking a trip to Brockley if you find yourself in the area. It’s a lovely way for anybody who likes food (isn’t that everybody…?) to spend a Saturday morning.

For the where, when and how, the website is here.

And now, for many many photographs…

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Listening to There is an Answer by A Great Big World, Wonderful Unknown by Ingrid Michaelson and 22 by Taylor Swift.

© Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Foodie adventures: Beam Cafe, Crouch End

Last Sunday, I went for a wonderful brunch with one of my best friends in one of my favourite parts of London. Could a Sunday morning get much better? I love Crouch End for its abundance of pretty cafes and cute card shops – perfect for a weekend wander. Unfortunately it was a bit of a rainy morning when we headed to Beam Cafe for breakfast, so there was less wandering and more eating brunch in the cosy confines of this lovely eatery. Not a problem in the slightest.

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I ordered the Eggs Royale: fluffy muffins lightly toasted, topped with perfectly poached eggs, smoked salmon, delicately creamy hollandaise sauce and a tumble of chives. It was delicious. Thinking about it now (8pm on a Monday evening) I could eat it all over again. In fact, I’ve thought about this dish an unhealthy number of times since I polished off the last forkful. This is what brunch was invented for.

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Freshly squeezed orange juice: sweet and tangy at the same time with a pleasing amount of froth

My friend had the avocado, egg and bacon on toast — she enjoyed it very much. I’d thoroughly recommend this little cafe: the interior was simple and cosy and yet felt chic at the same time. Even a couple of tight-fisted northerners like ourselves conceded that the prices were pretty darn reasonable, especially given how genuinely exquisite the food was and what a nice part of London this is. We’re already devising excuses to return soon!

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Fork – ACTION SHOT

Listening to Holding Back the Years by Gretchen Parlato, Let’s hear it for the boy by Deniece Williams and Put the Gun Down by ZZ Ward. All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Foodie Adventures: Regency Cafe, Pimlico

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Regency Cafe

I found Regency Cafe during a post-interview wander, which left me floating around Pimlico in search of a late breakfast. I was instantly intrigued by how retro this place looked; white block lettering against a black-tiled exterior, with red and white checked curtains at the windows. Correctly guessing that this kind of place would not take cards, I walked past initially, found a cash point, then went back. Inside, it really was like a time warp. Faded photographs and movie posters in frames lined the cream- tiled walls, and the tables were like the kind you’d associate with a canteen. Linoleum. The menu was spelled out in white letters on those black boards that used to display cinema times: slightly wonky and with some of the letters handmade where they’ve been lost or damaged. The food on offer instantly reminded me of home: the North of England has managed to keep far more of these ‘greasy spoons’ open, and so the fried liver on offer was reminiscent of the tiny cafe where I waitressed growing up. In London, though, there are very few of these places left. The ones that do exist tend to have a manufactured kind of feel, like they’ve been created to look like this kind of cafe, rather than actually being the real thing.

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Specials Board (+ builders’ tea; bottom left)

In my pencil skirt and blazer (remember, post-interview), I was suddenly conscious of looking very out of place: the cafe was mainly filled with working men taking their mid- morning break; all steel-capped boots, dusty overalls and fluorescent jackets. The service was rough and ready, but that only added to the warmth of the place — you order at the counter and then, when your food’s ready, they call out the order and you go up to collect it yourself. The man behind the counter had the kind of infectious friendliness that afflicts all of the best cafe owners; he seemed to know most of the people who came in and out, and by the time you left he bid you farewell like a long-lost friend.

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Condiments in technicolour

Builders’ tea; strong, milky and sloshed into plain white mugs, sat on most of the tables, accompanied by the full English breakfasts that you’d expect. Some people were tucking into large plates of rice and curry, despite the early hour: a chalkboard and the industrial-sized vat of mango chutney beside the till made it clear that this was the lunchtime special: Wednesday is curry day, apparently. The food was what you would expect: it was fresh, tasty and cheap. Definitely no frills, but this is the kind of place that shuns anything resembling frills at first glance. Standing at the counter and glancing at the menu, a man made a quip about Heston Blumenthal, that British gourmet chef famous for his weird, wonderful and very frilly creations (think, snail porridge) which I couldn’t quite hear. The owner replied jovially; ‘Oh yeah, Heston bloomin’ hell!’ It had been a long time since I’d heard anybody say ‘blooming’, and it reminded me instantly of my Dad, who is a fan of that particular exclamation of incredulity or annoyance. I’ve come to think of it as quite an old-fashioned phrase, and it made me realise that this cafe was filled with the invisible London which I hadn’t really experienced before.

Coming to London as an Oxford graduate, I’ve experienced a very particular face of the city. The posh bars and cafes, the professionals I meet when I go for interviews, and the other graduates who I spend most of my time with. But this cafe, and the people saying ‘blooming’, are more like the community I came from originally; using slang, and drinking tea from plain white mugs in cafes that only have two choices of bread (white or brown) and aren’t interested in any kind of smoothie. Don’t get me wrong, I love rye bread and passion fruit smoothies, but I also miss the simplicity of the small, rural place where I grew up.

When I went to Oxford, I was surrounded by people that mainly (not everybody!) spoke very stereotypically ‘British’ English; they were ‘posh’, I supposed you’d say, for want of a better word. Most people spoke very similarly, and I was instantly mocked for my deepened vowels, and the way that I said certain words, like ‘butter’ or ‘grass’. And even though most of it was just friendly teasing, it made me feel like I stood out. So without really realising I started to disguise my Northern accent; I didn’t let my vowels get too deep, and I rarely relaxed into the richness of slang and sayings that I’d grown up with. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the way the people in this cafe spoke reminded me inescapably of home, and that was really very nice.

Well, that turned into something of a tangent, but it comes down to the fact that if you’re looking for two eggs, chips and a Diet Coke for £4, then this place is ideal. And its friendliness is only enhanced by how rough it is around the edges.

Listening to: Warpath by Ingrid Michaelson, I Will Never Let You Down by Rita Ora, Strong and Wrong by Joni Mitchell.

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.