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Sourdough Wholemeal Loaf

Sourdough in all its forms is the best bread and I continue to add to my store of great stand by bread recipes. I don’t make as much wholemeal as I should – something I should do something about!

This is a lovely wholemeal sourdough loaf that is great for just about anything – fresh with butter or dipped in olive oil or toasted.

But it really makes great sandwiches. I’m particularly fond of an egg and mayo sandwich, as pictured here. But choose whatever filling you fancy.

It can be shaped as a batard in a proving basket and then baked in a pot, or equally baked in a loaf tin to make it easier to slice for the aforementioned sandwiches.

The recipe is based on my go-to sourdough method, with some tweaks for wholemeal. I have given instructions for both the batard in a cast iron pot and the loaf tin versions.

Ingredients

150g strong wholemeal flour

300g strong white flour

150g wholemeal sourdough starter 

325g tepid water

2 teaspoons honey 

10g salt

Method

Weighing, mixing, autolyse
Weigh both flours into a large bowl. Weigh the sourdough starter and add, followed by the water. Add the honey. Mix everything together very roughly, in order to incorporate the ingredients.

Cover the bowl and leave for 30 minutes to autolyse.  I use a clear plastic shower cap as a cover, as it fits nicely over most sized bowls. A plastic bag is fine too. The autolyse is an important step to activate fermentation. 

After the autolyse add the salt to the mixture. Now you can choose to knead the mixture using a dough hook in an electric stand mixer, knead by hand or use the stretch and fold method, essentially a no knead way of developing gluten in the dough. I strongly advise using a dough hook in a stand mixer – I have a KitchenAid which I swear by. You can really develop the gluten in the dough, which makes the dough much easier to pre-shape and then shape. *

Kneading and proving 
Using a mixer, mix the dough for 6 minutes on the lowest speed, then 4 minutes on the next speed up. The dough should be lovely and stretchy, and pass the windowpane test. If you pull and stretch a small section, it should be translucent. Cover the bowl again and leave the dough in a warm place to prove for about 4 hours. I usually do a couple stretch and folds too – one straight after mixing, and one half way through the prove. 

After the first prove of 4 hours the dough should have increased in size by about 50%.

Pre-shaping
Carefully remove the dough from the bowl with the help of a dough scraper onto an unfloured work surface. Definitely no flour needed! I use an oversized wooden board, but a bench top will work too. The dough will be stretchy, and shouldn’t be too delicate, but don’t be too rough! Slide the scraper underneath the dough, lifting it from underneath. You will feel the scraper catch the dough as it lifts it up. I try not to remove the scraper, just move it round all of the dough in a circle. Sometimes the scraper sticks, and you need to pull it out, remove the sticky dough, and then go under again, but the more you move around the dough, the tighter the dough becomes and the less likely to stick. Do this circular movement with the scraper a few times until the dough forms a round, wobbly ball that roughly holds its shape. Leave for 20-30 minutes to let the gluten relax.

Shaping
This is where you can shape for a batard in a proving basket to be baked in a pot or for a loaf tin. It’s important that you are super careful with the shaping as you don’t want to damage the dough you have worked so hard to develop.

Fo the batard shape, put the pre-shaped dough onto the work surface, lightly floured. Imagine the dough is sort of square shape. Take the two sides of the square shape that are opposite each other and gently stretch away from each other. Fold these stretched bits over each other in the centre of the dough. Turn the dough round 90 degrees and do the same with the other two sides of the square. Now that you have folded the 4 sides of the square, fold 2 of the opposing corners in the same way, and then fold the other opposing corners. Now roll up the dough like a Swiss roll, it doesn’t matter which side you roll up. Press the seam to seal.

If using a proving basket, carefully move the dough into a batard shaped proving basket, with the smooth side of the dough on the bottom and the seam side on top.

If using a loaf tin, butter a large loaf tin generously. Move the dough and place seam side down, into the tin. 

Second proving
While you can prove your dough for 2-3 hours at room temperature, I advocate the retarded or fridge prove, and this method serves me well. Leave the dough at room temperature for an hour then place in the fridge for 8-12 hours. Doing this at night works well as it allows you to bake your bread first thing the next morning.

Baking
For the pot method, pre-heat your oven to really hot – 250 degrees C fan-forced. Put the pot in when you begin to pre-heat, and leave for 20-30 minutes.

Turn your dough out of the proving basket onto a thin flat baking tray or peel, well dusted with semolina. The pretty side of the dough is now on top. Open the oven and carefully take the lid of the pre-heated pot off. You can then slide the shaped dough into the hot pot.

At this point you can score the dough using a lame or a very sharp serrated edge knife. For a batard, score with 1 or 2 long cuts down the length of the dough. Put the lid back on the pot. Turn the oven to 220 degrees C fan-forced. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for a further 20-30 minutes with the lid off. I have experimented endlessly with this latter baking time, and have come to the conclusion that the longer baking time gives a richer, browner loaf, which is what I prefer.

If baking in a loaf tin, pre-heat your oven to 250 degrees C fan-forced 30 minutes prior to baking. If you have one, use a baking or pizza stone. Place this in the oven at the time of pre-heating. Once the 30 minutes is up, to add steam to the oven, put a cast iron pan or a baking dish with water in it in the bottom of the oven. Put the loaf tin in the oven onto the heated stone.

Turn the oven to 220 degrees C fan-forced and bake for 45-50 minutes. The loaf should be dark brown on top.

For either the batard or the loaf, once cooked, remove from the oven, take out of the pot/tin and leave to cool for an hour.

Slice for sandwiches. Of course like any good sourdough, lovely with plenty of butter and home made jam!

*If you don’t have an electric mixer, I recommend the stretch and fold method – see previous post on Sourdough, Ultimate Bread here for how to do this. As for traditional kneading, there is plenty of information on the internet to guide you.

Sugar Plum Fairy Cakes

Everyone loves a cupcake, and a fairy cake with its little cake wings is so pretty.

I recently picked up some sugar plums, a late summer fruit. These are delicate little plums, perfect for adding a sugar coating.

So with a nod to Tchaikovsky’s ballet The Nutcracker and The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, here’s a recipe for little cakes with a sugar plum topping. I made 6 large cupcakes for the recipe, but you could just as easily make 12 small cupcakes.


Ingredients 

Little cakes

125g self-raising flour
125g caster sugar
125g butter
2 large free-range eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk

Creme Patissiere

240 mls milk
2 free range egg yolks
35g sugar
10g plain flour
15g cornflour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter

Sugar Plums

1 free range egg white
100g caster sugar
6 sugar plums or any small plums

Icing sugar for dusting

Method

For the cakes, preheat the oven to 180 degrees For this recipe you are making 6 large cupcakes – you should get 6 good size cakes from the mixture. Put 6 large paper cases in a Texas muffin tin.

Put all the ingredients except the milk in a food processor and blitz till smooth. Add the milk while pulsing to make a soft, dropping consistency.

Spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases, filling the cases equally.

Place the pan into the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until the cakes are cooked and golden on top.

Take the cakes in their cases out of the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack.

To make the creme patissiere, whisk the egg yolks with sugar until pale and slightly thickened. Whisk in the flour and cornflour.

Put the milk into a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Pour about a third of the hot milk over the egg yolk mixture. Pour the whole mixture back into the saucepan with the milk.

Bring to a boil, whisking until the custard thickens. Cook for a couple more minutes to cook out the cornflour. Remove from heat, add the vanilla and whisk in the butter.

Pour the custard into a bowl and cover with cling wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the custard to prevent a skin forming.

To make the sugar plums, preheat the oven to 170 degrees C. Whisk the egg white to loosen. Sprinkle the caster sugar onto a plate.

Dip each plum in the egg white, then roll the caster sugar to coat. Place the plums in a baking dish lined with baking paper and place in the preheated oven.

Bake the plums for about 15 minutes or until the sugar has melted and the plums are crusty.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Once cool, cut each plum into two, removing the stone. The sugar will melt after a few hours, but the plums will still be baked and sweet.

To assemble the sugar plum cakes: take each cake and cut out the top of each cake. Cut each top in half. Put a couple of teaspoonfuls of creme patissiere on each cake.

Position the cut cake pieces on either side of each cake. Place one or two plum halves into the centre of each cake.

Dust the cakes liberally with icing sugar before serving.

Oven Baked Chicken Risotto

I posted this recipe from Australia’s wonderful Bill Granger during lockdown the year before last. It seems so strange to be talking about lockdown in 2020 when we are still dealing with the pandemic…

It’s quick and easy because it’s an oven baked risotto. It makes sense to let the oven do the cooking rather than spend all that time stirring on the stove top.

Recently, a friend told me that this dish is her go to recipe for risotto, as it’s so much easier than cooking risotto the traditional way.

So I thought it’s about time I posted it again, to encourage reluctant risotto cooks to give it a go!

Bill’s recipe has leeks and asparagus as the veggies. You could replace the leeks and/or asparagus with whatever you fancy – zucchini, peas, broad beans or even tomatoes for a red hued risotto.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
500g chicken breast or thighs, cut into thin strips
1 onion, finely chopped
1 leek, sliced into rounds
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
250g Arborio rice
500ml chicken stock
250ml white wine + extra if needed
1 bunch of asparagus, sliced on the diagonal
A handful of grated parmesan or pecorino cheese, plus extra to serve
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large casserole dish on the stove top over a high heat. Add the chicken pieces and cook, stirring frequently for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and set aside.

Add the remaining olive to the pan, then the onion and leek, and cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes or until the onion and leek are soft. Add the lemon zest and cook, stirring for 30 seconds. Add the Arborio rice and stir to coat the grains in the oil. Add the chicken stock and white wine, and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally.

Cover the casserole and put in the oven for 20 minutes. At this point, if the risotto seems to have absorbed all the liquid, add a splash or two of white wine. Add asparagus, return the chicken to the casserole and bake for a few minutes or until the asparagus is just tender, the liquid is absorbed and the rice is cooked. Bill says to do this for 3-4 minutes, I found it took more like 10 minutes to fully cook the rice.

Stir in parmesan or pecorino and season with salt and pepper. Serve with extra cheese.

Coffee Walnut Rustic Cake

Coffee and walnuts, a match made in heaven. This is a simple but very delicious cake, great for the afternoon tea table. There’s not much to do to decorate the cake apart from icing it, so I’m calling it a “rustic” cake. You could go fancy if you wanted to!

You mix most of the ingredients at the same time, so it’s a kind of one bowl cake. You just add the coffee dissolved in milk and walnuts at the end.

Bake the cake in two layers, fill and ice with buttercream. You could easily make this as cupcakes as well!

Ingredients

Cake 

50g ground almonds

125g self-raising flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

125g caster sugar

125g butter

2 large free-range eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 teaspoons instant coffee powder

2 tablespoons milk

50g chopped walnuts + a few extra for decorating

Buttercream Icing

125g butter, softened

250g icing sugar, sifted

2 teaspoons instant coffee

1 tablespoon milk

Method

The Cakes

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C fan forced. Grease two 18cm (7″) cake tins.

Put all the ingredients except the milk, coffee and walnuts into an electric mixer and mix until smooth and well incorporated. Dissolve the instant coffee into the milk, and add together with the chopped walnuts into the mixture.

Divide the batter equally between the two tins.  Place the tins in the oven and bake for 25- 30 minutes or until the cakes are cooked and golden on top, and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven, leave in the tins for 5 minutes before carefully turning out of the tins to cool on a wire rack.

Buttercream Icing

In a food processor, cream together the butter and icing sugar until light an fluffy. Dissolve the instant coffee into the milk. Add this mixture to the icing, process until light and creamy.

To assemble

When cakes are completely cool, spread half of the buttercream icing on the bottom layer, and top with the second layer.

Roughly ice the top and sides of the cake with the rest of the buttercream using a palette knife. When you get to the sides, occasionally dip the palette knife into cold water as you ice to remove some of the thicker icing and to create the “naked icing” effect. The idea is that the top of the cake is well iced and that the side sides are stripped back for a more rustic look.

Quick Make Coffee Walnut Cake!

Shetland Buns

I visited Shetland pre-pandemic when we could travel from home in Australia to the UK. I was so taken with the islands – the breathtaking scenery, the wildlife, the history and culture and of course the food!

This recipe is based on a recipe called Yeast Buns from Margaret B Stout’s “Cookery for Northern Wives” published in 1925. This book documents many Shetland recipes and was an insight into traditional cooking.

I made and blogged the buns a while back, see here. I’ve made a few more tweaks this time. The original recipe makes a lot of buns! So this time I divided the recipe in two, making a batch of 12 buns and I also made a lovely large fruit bun, with lemon icing.

I converted the imperial measurements to metric. doing a little bit of rounding up or down, but as I wanted to keep the integrity of the original measurements, I didn’t change anything too drastically.

I’ve also adapted the recipe to make in a KitchenAid or similar.

I’ve tweaked the ingredients in these ways. I substituted instant yeast for fresh yeast. I added a lot more more dried fruit than in the original, adding extra fruit again for the large fruit bun. I also added some more flavour in the form of vanilla extract and almond essence, as well as cinnamon and allspice.

I made the large fruit bun in a paper panettone case, but you could make it in a large high sided cake tin. You would end up with a slightly wider bun, but with less height.

Ingredients

For the sponge

227g strong flour

9g instant yeast

1 teaspoon caster sugar

426 mls milk

Mixture

567g strong flour

113g caster sugar

113g butter

2 free range eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon allspice

113g sultanas

113g raisins

100g candied orange

100g sour cherries (for the large bun)

Glaze

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon milk

Icing

200g icing sugar

Juice of half a lemon

The ingredients (except for the cherries) are for both the little buns and the big one. Divide the mixture in half after proving and before shaping.

Method

Here is the method, adapted from the rather scant instructions given by Margaret Stout.

For the sponge, sieve the flour into a large bowl, then add the yeast and sugar. Gradually add the lukewarm milk, stirring to make a smooth batter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a tea towel or a disposable plastic shower cap. Leave to rise in a warm place for an hour.

Prepare the rest of the mixture. Put the flour, caster sugar and butter into the bowl of a KitchenAid fitted with a dough hook and mix until thoroughly combined. Add the sponge mixture, beaten eggs, vanilla extract, almond essence, cinnamon and allspice. Mix well, for for at least 5 minutes until the dough is elastic and passes the window pane test.

Cover the mixture in the bowl with plastic wrap/tea towel/plastic shower cap and leave to rise again for 1 ½ hours.

Remove the risen dough and stretch into a large rectangle. Scatter the sultanas, raisins and candied orange, a small amount at a time, over the dough, folding the dough over after each addition. You want to incorporate the fruit as evenly as you can into the dough.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C fan forced.

Now divide the dough into two.

Take one half of the dough and divide into 12 pieces. Shape each into a ball and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Cover the tray loosely with a tea towel or large plastic bag and prove for 30 minutes in a warm place.

Take the other half of the dough, and stretch into a large rectangle. Scatter the sour cherries a small amount at a time, over the dough, folding the dough over after each addition.

Shape the dough into a large ball and place in a panettone case or large cake tin. Cover with a tea towel or plastic bag and prove for an hour in a warm place.

When the small buns have proved, put them into the preheated oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the buns are a deep brown colour.

Remove the buns from the oven, and while warm, brush the tops of the buns with a tablespoon of sugar mixed with a tablespoon of milk.

When the large bun has finished proving, put it in the oven and bake for 20 -25 minutes or until a deep brown colour.

Remove the large bun from the oven and leave to cool.

For the icing, mix the icing sugar with the lemon juice to make a thick lemon paste. You may need to adjust either ingredient to get the right consistency.

If you think the buns need zhushing, you could drizzle a little of the icing for the big bun over the tops. I made this icing a little more “drippy” by adding in more lemon juice. However I iced some and also left some plain.

Both the small buns and the large bun keep well as they are enriched with milk, butter and eggs. They are quite soft, and they remain soft even after a couple of days.

You could eat either bun as is or butter liberally – I even toasted the small buns the next day and ate with lashings of butter!

Peach, Plum and Raspberry Hazelnut Cake

Although we’ve had a tough summer in Sydney with so much rain, stone fruit is just starting to come into its own. Not the best stone fruit that we’ve ever had, but in late January it’s lovely to have some beautiful peaches, nectarines, plums and apricots. And of course berries are beautiful and plentiful and cheap at the moment!

I’ve been playing around with recipes involving stone fruit and ground almonds and hazelnuts. I’ve made a few upside down cakes which I’ve been very pleased with. This one is an “upright” cake with the fruit placed in the cake batter, some of it just showing through.

As usual, this is a food processor cake so it’s pretty quick and easy! You can serve it plain or drizzle some icing over the top, although it doesn’t really need it. It’s great served with cream, Greek yoghurt or vanilla ice cream.

Ingredients

150g hazelnuts

150g butter

150g sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla paste

3 free range eggs

50g plain flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

8 peaches and blood plums cut into quarters or eighths slices

A handful of raspberries (about 10-12)

Drizzle icing

1 tablespoon of lemon juice or rosewater

Icing sugar

Method
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C fan forced, 180 degrees C non fan forced. Grease a 23cm springform tin.

Put the hazelnuts in a dry frying pan and toast over a medium heat until just brown. Blitz half in a food processor until fine crumbs. Blitz the other half so that they are still quite chunky. Remove from the food processor. There’s no need to wash it – just use again for the cake batter.

Beat butter and sugar in the food processor until pale and well creamed. Add vanilla paste.

Add the eggs one at a time, adding a tablespoon of the flour at the same time with each egg. Mix in the food processor until each egg is incorporated. Mix in the rest of the dry ingredients by pulsing carefully. Some of the nuts will still be quite chunky which will give texture to your cake.

Spread the cake batter in the tin, smoothing the top with a spatula.

Arrange the peach and plum pieces in a circular pattern in the batter, pushing the pieces right into the mixture. Place the whole raspberries in between the stone fruit, just on top of the cake.

Bake for 35 – 40 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean. If the cake is browning too quickly, cover the top with foil to prevent burning.  When cooked, remove from the oven and leave to rest for 15 minutes.

Carefully remove from the base of the springform tin, removing the baking paper.

You can serve as is, or with a dusting of icing sugar, or a lemon or rosewater drizzle icing.

To make a drizzle icing, mix a tablespoon of lemon juice or a tablespoon of rosewater with enough icing sugar to make a drippable drizzle! Drizzle over the cake using a fork.

Serve on its own or with cream or ice cream.

White Nectarine, Ginger and Hazelnut Upside Down Cake

I love this cake as it’s so easy to make. It’s yet another cake based on stone fruit and a kind of frangipane mix, this time using ground hazelnuts.

You can make it with apricots, peaches and plums. And as it’s an upside down cake you get to see the lovely fruit on top of the cake!

Oh, and it’s all done in the food processor. Labour non intensive!

Ingredients

150g butter

150g sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla paste

3 free range eggs

100g plain flour

100g hazelnut meal

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon ground ginger

4 white nectarines, cut into thin slices

1 tablespoon of stem ginger pieces, sliced thinly (5-6 pieces)

3 teaspoons demerara sugar

Method


Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C fan forced, 180 degrees C non fan forced. Grease a 22 cm springform tin.

Beat butter and sugar in a food processor until pale and well creamed. Add vanilla paste.

Add the eggs one at a time, adding a tablespoon of the flour, hazelnut meal, baking powder and ground ginger mix at the same time with each egg. Mix in the food processor until each egg is incorporated. Mix in the rest of the dry ingredients by pulsing carefully.

Arrange the nectarine slices in the springform tin in a circular pattern, slightly overlapping. Place the ginger slices in between the nectarine slices. Spread over the cake batter, smoothing the top with a spatula. Sprinkle the mixture with the demerara sugar.

Bake for 35 – 40 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean. If the cake is browning too quickly, cover the top with foil to prevent burning.  When cooked, remove from the oven and leave to rest for 10 minutes.

Carefully invert the cake onto a plate to serve.

Blueberry Oat Scones

I’m a big fan of Claire Ptak and her bakery in London. It was a delight to visit last time I was able to travel to the UK, pre Covid! I love her book “The Violet Bakery Cookbook”, and some of the recipes in it have inspired this one.

These tasty morsels are a cross between scones and biscuits. They are quite dense, with ground rolled oats and blueberries.

The mixture is very crumbly and will be difficult to bring together into a dough, particularly with the frozen blueberries. But don’t worry, just pat the mixture into shape and by resting it, you can cut the rounds from the mixture.

Here’s my recipe. This makes 12 smallish scones. You could double the quantities for larger, more substantial scones.

Ingredients 
100g rolled oats
150g plain flour
3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda 
1/2 baking powder 
1/2 tsp salt 
50g raw sugar or brown sugar
Zest of half an orange
125g cold unsalted butter cut into 1 cm chunks
150g creme fraiche
125g frozen blueberries 

Method
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C fan forced. Line a baking sheet with baking paper.

Blitz the rolled oats in a food processor until finely ground. Mix all the dry ingredients plus the orange zest in a bowl or in a food processor. Cut in the cold butter by hand until the mixture resembles large breadcrumbs, or you can continue to use a food processor on pulse, but be careful not to overwork the dough.

Quickly stir in the creme fraiche until just mixed in. Stir in the frozen blueberries.

Turn the mixture out onto a floured board, and pat into a square about 3 or 4cms thick. Rest for 5 minutes at least, even 10 minutes.

Using a 6cm cutter, cut out rounds and place onto the baking sheet. You will probably get 8 or 9 from the dough, then you will need to gather up the remains of the dough and pat together (don’t re-roll) before cutting out the last few rounds.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until the rounds are brown on top. You could check after 20 minutes to see how they are coming along. Take out of the oven and wait until the oat scones are cool before serving.

Serve on their own – they are sweet enough – or with homemade berry jam and Greek yoghurt.

Orange Zest Shortbread

I made this shortbread for New Year’s Day yesterday. I think shortbread is one of the best things to come out of Scotland, not forgetting whisky!

It’s based on a Jamie Oliver recipe for chocolate orange shortbread, original recipe here. I left out the chocolate for simplicity’s sake, but by all means add this in. I think the orange is the star of this recipe!

It’s super simple. I made it in the food processor. After baking just leave in the tin before cutting into fingers.

Great for New Year – but don’t wait till then – a very nice tea time or coffee time treat any time of the year!

Ingredients

150g butter at room temperature

200g plain flour

50g golden caster sugar or raw sugar, plus extra to sprinkle

Zest of an orange

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Grease a 20cm square baking tin and line with baking paper.

Put the butter, flour, sugar and the finely grated zest of half the orange into the bowl of a food processor.

Gently pulse the ingredients until they just come together- don’t overmix.

Tip the mixture into the lined baking tin. With your hands pat the dough into the tin, being careful not to knead it. You will end up with a layer about 1cm thick. Don’t worry if it’s looks a bit messy, it will look fine after baking.

Prick the dough all over with a fork.

Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly golden brown.

Take out of the oven, and leaving in the tin, mark fingers using a sharp knife. There’s no need to cut through – it’s just to help cut the fingers once the shortbread is cold.

Sprinkle over a little more sugar, and grate over the zest of the other half of the orange.

Leave to cool completely, and then cut the shortbread into fingers along the marked lines.

Remove the fingers from the tin.

The shortbread will keep well in an airtight tin for a few days!

Speculaas Biscuits

St Ncholas Day was 6 December – so I’m a little late in posting this recipe for these delicious spicy biscuits, traditionally made for that day. But they are also eaten anytime during the Christmas season.

They are so fragrant with Christmas spice, and they make perfect edible gifts. Making them really puts you in the Christmas mood too!

This recipe is based on one I found from the brilliant people at SBS television here in Australia. You really need to stamp designs on them, and I have a couple of heavy duty Nordic ware stamps. I also have a fabulous maamoul mold, a traditional Middle Eastern pastry and biscuit mold. You put biscuit dough inside the maamoul, then turn the dough out with a lovely imprint.

But you could just as easily use any biscuit cutters.

The recipe called for a mixture of Christmas spices but I used a St Nicholas Spekulaas spice mix from Gewürzhaus Spice House in Sydney. I have included the ingredients for the individual spices as well as the pre-prepared mix.

Ingredients

250g plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

150g firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon each of ground nutmeg, ginger and cardamom

(Or 1 tablespoon St Nicholas Spekulaas spice mix)

1/4 teaspoon salt

150g cold butter

Method

Put the flour, baking powder, sugar, spices, salt and butter in a food processor and whiz until you have a mixture that resembles breadcrumbs.

Add a tablespoon of iced water and pulse until mixture just comes together. Do this carefully – don’t overmix!

The dough will be quite loose. Turn it out onto a board or bench top and bring together into a large ball. Wrap the ball in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm the dough and make it easier to work with.

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.

Remove the dough from the fridge. Roll the dough out – don’t go too thin or it will be hard to cut – and use any kind of biscuit cutter to stamp out shapes. Or if you have biscuit stamps or a maamoul mold use those!

Place the biscuits on the baking trays. Roll out any scraps of dough again and stamp out more shapes. Refrigerate the trays for 20 minutes to help the biscuits keep their shape.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. These biscuits are quite soft in the middle so they won’t bake hard.

Once cool enough to handle, remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Store biscuits in an airtight container for a week, or you can freeze the biscuits too!

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