Cinnamon Buns

The smell of cinnamon buns baking in the oven is hard to beat. One of the best things about baking is that you can fill your house with the aroma of delicious sweet and savoury treats but within those smells there is a definite hierarchy. Bread, chocolate brownies and cinnamon buns have to be at the top of the list; I love cake as much as the next baker but the smell of cake in the oven doesn’t quite make me salivate and prepare to overeat in the same way that breathing in the scent of pure chocolate goodness or hot, sweet, fluffy buns does.

 

Cinnamon can be bought either as sticks or as a powder but, no matter how you try to disguise it, cinnamon is tree bark. There are several species from which it can be obtained but, in essence, it is the dried inner bark of trees of the genus Cinnamomum. This genus is part of the Lauraceae family, which also includes herbs such as bay leaves (bay laurel) and the classic millennial food: the avocado. Cinnamon is extracted by scraping the outer bark off freshly cut trees, beating what is left of the tree until the inner bark detaches from the rest of the plant and finally prying off the inner bark and leaving it to dry. After all of that work, only a thickness of around half a millimetre is actually used for the spice. The cinnamon trees are far thicker than the final cinnamon sticks which you can buy but as it dries, the bark curls up into the tight spirals which can be seen in the sticks (or quills). In Sri Lanka – one of the primary suppliers of cinnamon to the world – the tightness of the curls is used as a method of grading the product.

 

There are records of cinnamon dating back over four millennia, although some believe that what was recorded as cinnamon back then was actually cassia (native to China) – another species within the Cinnamomum genus but not true cinnamon (Cinnamomum Verum which is native to India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar). Cinnamon was highly prized and was gifted to leaders as well as being used as an offering in temples. Around 2000 years ago, the price of a pound of true cinnamon (about 1500 denarii) was roughly equivalent to 50 months labour for the average Roman. The price dropped rapidly from there as people started to use cassia which was far more available (a mere 125 denarii per pound) and tastes very similar. Nowadays cinnamon costs about £35 per pound for the standard own brand cinnamon sticks in a supermarket.

 

The primary constituent of the essential oil in cinnamon, and the one which gives cinnamon its distinctive smell, is cinnamaldehyde. This is what infuses your house when you bake cinnamon buns. As the boiling point of cinnamaldehyde is 248°C, baking will not drive off all of this compound so there will still be plenty left in the buns after cooking to give them the taste that you want. Obviously you can change the amount of cinnamon in the filling to suit your own taste but be careful not to put too much in. If you over cinnamon your buns, the filling can trigger pain receptors in the mouth giving a feeling akin to burning – this is what hot cinnamon sweets do. In the quantities given in the recipe, you won’t experience the burn and all you will get is cinnamon flavoured, yeasty heaven.

 

These things really are divine.

 

Cinnamon Buns

For the dough:

500g plain flour

80g caster sugar

1.5 tsp salt

10g instant yeast

2 eggs

60g butter

100ml water

80ml milk

 

For the filling:

100g unsalted butter

90g soft brown sugar (or white sugar if you don’t have any brown)

2 tbsp ground cinnamon

Pinch of salt

 

Glaze:

150g icing sugar

2tbsp milk

Pinch of salt

Optional: vanilla extract

 

 

 

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and yeast.

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In a pan, gently heat the milk, water and butter until the butter has melted and the mixture feels warm to the touch but not hot.

Add the milk and butter to the dry ingredients along with the eggs.

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Mix together slowly using a dough hook until a dough is formed – this will prevent you accidentally covering the kitchen in flour.

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Switch the mixer to medium and knead the dough until it starts to come away from the sides of the bowl.

Turn the dough out into a lightly oiled bowl, cover and leave to rise for 30 minutes.

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While the dough is rising, beat together the butter, sugar and cinnamon for the filling until it is very soft. You need to be able to spread this on the dough after it has been rolled out without tearing it.

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Grease a large baking dish. I use a tarte tatin tin.

Roll out the dough to a 24×18 inch rectangle.

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Spread the dough with the filling making sure to spread all the way to the edges.

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Roll the rectangle of dough up lengthwise into a sausage shape.

Trim off the ends as they will be messy and not have as much filling.

Cut the sausage into twelve to sixteen little spirals.

Place the spirals into the baking dish making sure to leave an inch or so between them so they can rise.

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Cover again and leave to rise for at least half an hour more or until the rolls have doubled in size.

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Preheat the oven to gas mark 3 (170°C).

Bake the cinnamon buns for 25 minutes. If they start browning too much, cover them with silver foil to stop them darkening any more.

Allow the buns to cool in the tray for about five minutes before turning them out onto a cooling rack. You may have to invert them onto a tray and then back onto the cooling rack as they are very soft and you don’t want to tear them.

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Sift the icing sugar into a bowl.

Add a tablespoon of milk and mix to make a thick paste. If the icing sugar is too thick, you can add more milk but be careful not to make the icing too runny.

Spread of pipe the icing over the still warm buns. The heat will cause the icing to be absorbed more and flow into all the cracks and divots of the buns.

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These can be served either hot or cold. They are so delicious however they are eaten.

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If you are a fan of fun bread, why not try making some bagels? You can make them cinnamon flavoured too…

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a dish which is far easier to make than you would expect!

H

Jaffa cake… Cake

For those of you who have been following me for some time, you may remember a blog post from a little over a year ago in which I discussed the controversies surrounding the pronunciation of the word scone – and the additional arguments about the order in which the cream and jam should be applied. The thing about the scone debate is that, even though it still rages to this day, it has never made it into the court (as far as I am aware- please correct me if I am wrong). The same cannot be said for the Jaffa cake.

Jaffa cakes are a British snack created in 1927 by McVitie’s (originally McVitie and Price). They consist of a small cake layer and a thin circle of orange jam, topped with a layer of chocolate. Many supermarkets in the UK sell own brand Jaffa cakes as McVitie’s never trademarked the name and so, whilst the originals may still be the best-selling cake in England, you can find other varieties all over the place. I recently tried some similar style snacks from Poland some of which had raspberry jam and others blueberry.

The controversy surrounding Jaffa cakes arose because, in the UK, chocolate covered biscuits (for example: chocolate digestives and chocolate hobnobs) are taxed whilst chocolate covered cakes are not. The issue with Jaffa cakes was that they seemed to be created to avoid tax because they are eaten in the same manner and circumstance that you would eat a biscuit but are culinarily defined as a cake. It should be noted that McVitie’s have always classed them as a cake whereas HMRC wanted to class them as a biscuit to increase revenue from taxes which lead to the infamous court case.

The argument reached a climax in 1991 when it entered the court. There were many things taken into consideration before the final decision was given: Jaffa cakes are closer in size to a biscuit than a cake; they are advertised and packaged in the same manner as biscuits; they are displayed in the biscuit aisle of supermarkets and not with the other cakes; the batter for the “cake” contains egg, sugar and flour – it is a genoise sponge – and is closer to cake batter than biscuit dough; when they go stale, Jaffa cakes harden like stale cake and do not soften like a stale biscuit; the texture of a Jaffa cake is soft like a cake whereas biscuits are hard and can be snapped; and of course the product is literally called “Jaffa cakes” not “Jaffa biscuits”. The judge noted this final point and all but dismissed it saying that it was only a minor consideration. I still can’t make up my mind on which side of the debate I think the Jaffa cake falls but I definitely do eat them like a biscuit – then again I would never dunk one in my tea!

The cake in the recipe below is a Jaffa cake inspired cake. It is not meant to be recreating one but it should be reminiscent of a Jaffa cake. To that end, the top is designed to have the same shape as a Jaffa cake with the cake, jam and chocolate layers but it has been scaled up a bit. I would also recommend spreading the marmalade layer at the top of each piece over the rest of the slice unless you particularly enjoy eating a mouthful of marmalade (I don’t judge… peanut butter and Nutella are very eatable with a spoon…). The chocolate ganache replaces the actual chocolate on a real Jaffa cake because if you scaled up and had a proper chocolate layer, the cake would be uncuttable. It would be a messy nightmare waiting to happen.

I chose to set the jam with pectin for this as I find that vege-gel has a bizarre flavour and both real and vegetarian jelly are kind of wet meaning buttercream won’t stick. Frozen pectin set marmalade, on the other hand, adheres to the buttercream really well and gives a fantastic shape to the final cake.

I hope you like the recipe.

 

 

Jaffa Cake Cake

Cook time: 35 minutes

Total work time: 2 ½ hours

Setting time: as long as possible (overnight if you can)

 

Jelly:

1 jar of thick marmalade

Or

1 jar runny marmalade and 1 sachet pectin

 

For the cake:

335g (12oz). butter

335g (12oz.) sugar

6 eggs

335g (12oz.) self-raising flour OR plain flour with 1tbsp baking powder

Zest of two oranges

 

Buttercream:

Just to fill between the layers:

200g (7oz.) room temperature unsalted butter

300g (10 ½ oz.) icing sugar

25g (1oz.) cocoa

1 tbsp milk

 

Total coverage:

450g (16oz.) room temperature unsalted butter

700g (25oz.) icing sugar

50g (2oz.) cocoa

2 tbsp milk

 

Syrup (optional)

Juice of 2 oranges

75g sugar

50ml triple sec or other orange liqueur

 

Ganache:

Just the top:

100g dark chocolate

100ml double cream

 

Full coverage:

400g dark chocolate

500ml double cream

 

 

For the jam layer:

If using thick marmalade:

Line a six-inch cake tin with cling film and spoon the marmalade in.

Place in the freezer.

 

If using runny marmalade:

Line a six-inch cake tin with clingfilm.

In a pan, heat the marmalade until it has mostly melted but is not yet boiling.

In a separate pan, whisk the pectin into 60ml (1/4 cup) cold water. You may need to use a blender to get rid of all the lumps.

Heat the pectin water until it begins to slacken up.

Pour the pectin water into the marmalade and whisk it all together.

Heat the marmalade until It is boiling and allow to boil for one minute.

Turn the heat off and pour the marmalade into the tin.

Allow to set for an hour at room temperature before moving to the freezer.

 

For the cake:

Preheat the oven to gas mark 3 (170°C).

Grease three eight-inch cake tins and line the bases with baking parchment.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the orange zest and beat again.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition until the egg is fully incorporated. If the mixture looks like it is about to split, add a tablespoon of flour to bring it back together. If your eggs and butter are at room temperature, the mixture should not split at all.

Once all of the eggs have been added, beat in the flour in three additions.

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Split the batter evenly between the tins, level it and bake the cakes for about 35 minutes or until they are golden brown on top and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

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Allow to cool in the tins for five minutes before transferring the cakes to wire cooling racks to cool completely.

 

Optional: To make the syrup

Pour the sugar and juice into a pan.

Bring to the boil and allow to simmer for one minute.

Remove from the heat, stir through the triple sec and allow to cool.

 

To make the buttercream:

Beat the butter in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment until it is light and fluffy.

Add half of the sugar and beat until fully combined.

Add the rest of the sugar and the cocoa and beat again.

If the icing is very thick, add the milk and beat again to combine. This should result in a fluffy, soft icing which can be easily spread.

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To assemble the cake:

Level the cake layers and lay the first on an eight-inch cake board.

Use a pastry brush to brush syrup all over the top of the cake.

Spread a layer of buttercream on the cake.

Add another layer of cake and repeat until all the layers have been stacked and covered in buttercream.

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If you are covering the entire cake, remove some of the buttercream for later and use the rest to create a layer of icing down the sides of the cake. And over the top.

You do not need to crumb coat as the entire cake will be covered in ganache so this layer will not be seen.

 

Remove the marmalade from the freezer, place it in the centre of the cake and cover in the remaining buttercream smoothing over the edges so the top is reminiscent of a jaffa cake.

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Place the cake in the fridge for at least an hour to firm up the buttercream.

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For the ganache:

Chop the chocolate and place it into a large bowl.

Heat the cream until almost boiling (but don’t let it boil) and pour it over the chocolate.

Allow to stand for two minutes and stir together.

 

If you are only ganaching the top, gently pour the ganache over the centre and work outwards being careful not to let it flow over the edges of the cake. You can use an inverted cooling rack to get the lines across the top which a real Jaffa cake has in the chocolate.

If you are ganaching the entire cake, place the cake (on its board) on a cup or jar to raise it off the surface so the ganache can drip down the cake and off the sides. I like to do this over a baking tray so the excess ganache can be collected and used at a later date.

Pour the ganache in the centre of the cake and spiral outwards making sure to pour it so the ganache flows down the side of the cake and coats it evenly.

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Allow the ganache to set for half an hour and then transfer the cake to a serving board. You can decorate the cake as you wish now. I like to do something to cover up the ragged edge around the base – this can be piping excess buttercream in a border or covering the base of the cake in mini decorations.

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I would suggest when you serve this that people spread the marmalade in their slice over the whole cake and don’t just eat it as a separate layer but that’s just how I would eat this cake – you may know people who are happy to eat marmalade by itself.

 

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you a fan of the fruit and chocolate combination, you should definitely check out my Chocolate and Raspberry Layer Cake or maybe my White Chocolate and Raspberry Tart.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a recipe for a delicious soup.

H

Croissants

Croissants tend to be quite hit and miss when you buy them. In most cases, they are never as good as you remember – too dry, not flaky enough, lacking in ‘yum’ etc. The best way to avoid disappointment is to make them yourself… and it isn’t even that difficult! The main ingredient in making croissants (or any kind of viennoiserie for that matter) is time. The time spent physically making the dough is only about an hour and the rest is just waiting around letting the yeast and the fridge do their thing.

Viennoiserie could be described as the love child of puff pastry, bread and cake. A combination of everything good about baking, it’s a yeasted dough enriched with sugar, fat and egg and is often laminated. Because of this, you end up with the flavour from the yeast, fats and sugar; the flake of a laminated pastry; a rise from the yeast and the laminations in the dough; and a certain softness from the fats and egg which is not present in puff pastry. All in all, fresh viennoiserie is incredible.

The croissant is believed by many to have started life not in France, but in Austria (Vienna to be specific…). Although there is no hard evidence to confirm this, all circumstantial evidence points to the kipferl being the ancestor from which the croissant evolved. These were crescent shaped confections (kipferl meaning “crescent”, hmmmm I wonder what croissant translates as…) which were eaten around Europe. Kipferl are a yeast leavened crescent shaped roll eaten in Austria (there are many varieties around Europe and the Middle East including kifli, kifla, giffel, rogal and rugelach). There are, however, another origin stories for the croissant. One of the more interesting ones is the evolution from the Egyptian dish feteer meshaltet, a layered pastry consisting of thin layers of dough separated by ghee. Specifically, feteer halali was a similarly layered, flaky pastry but was in the shape of a crescent and was around well before the croissant.

However it was originally produced, fresh croissants are a thing of beauty and are very much worth the effort it takes to make them. With a bit of planning, they won’t even be that disruptive to bake. Fillings can be included but I feel that it is worth trying the plain ones before getting clever as if things go wrong, it is always helpful to know which step the problems occurred in. I hope you discover how easy and delicious these can be for yourself – and it doesn’t hurt that they will make your house smell wonderful.

 

Croissants

Work time: 60-90 minutes

Rest time: 15-20 hours

 

For the Viennoiserie dough:

500g plain flour

75g sugar

1 ½ tsp salt

100g cold butter

10g instant yeast

1 large egg (about 60ml)

2 tbsp milk

140 ml water

Optional: food colouring

Optional: 1 egg for egg wash

 

For the butter block: 250g butter

 

 

Cut the butter into cubes and rub into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

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Make a well in the centre of the flour and butter mix.

Around the edge of the well, tip the salt, sugar and yeast – try to avoid the yeast and salt touching.

Pour the water, milk and egg into the centre of the well.

Mix with a spoon until the dough starts to come together and then knead for about ten minutes until a smooth, shiny dough is formed – it will not be as smooth as bread dough as there is less gluten but it should still be homogenous and slightly bouncy.

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Place the dough back into its bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge overnight (at least twelve – eighteen hours).

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To make the butter block:

Take a piece of greaseproof paper and fold over the edges so a 6”x6” (15cmx15cm) square is formed. DO NOT CUT THE PAPER.

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Unfold the paper, place the butter inside the square and refold the paper around it.

Use a rolling pin to pound out the butter until you get an even layer. By folding the paper, you ensure that the butter will end up in the shape you want it to as it will not spread past the folds!

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Place the butter back into the fridge for half an hour.

 

Optional:

Take 100g of the dough and add a few drops of concentrated food dye. Knead this in, rewrap the coloured dough and place it back into the fridge for later.

 

Roll out the (remaining, uncoloured) dough until it is a little wider than the butter block and just over twice as long.

Remove the butter from the fridge and lay it at one end of the dough.

Fold the dough over the butter and seal it around the edges to create a package. If you have lots of overhand of dough, feel free to trim it but remember to leave the butter parcel sealed.

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Roll out the dough until it is about 6/7mm thick (about ¼ inch).

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Fold the ends to the centre and then fold down the central line to create four layers. This is a book fold.

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Wrap the dough and let rest in the fridge for at least an hour.

Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out lengthwise until it is the same thickness as before.

This time fold the top third of the dough down and the bottom third up. This is a letter fold.

Refrigerate for another hour.

 

If you are using the coloured dough:

Roll out the coloured dough until it is the same size as the laminated dough.

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Brush any excess flour off it and gently moisten the dough with a little water.

Lay the laminated pastry on top and lightly press down to seal.

Flip the pastry so the colour is on top and ensure there are no air bubbles.

 

Roll the pastry until it about just over 5mm thick. You want a long oblong of dough with a short side of about 30cm (one foot).

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Trim about a cm off the edges to reveal the coloured pastry on top of the laminated dough.

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Cut width wise across the pastry to get 6 smaller rectangles.

Cut each of these down the diagonal.

 

Line two baking sheets with baking parchment.

Take a triangle of dough and lay it coloured side down on the work surface.

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Gently stretch it so it is more of an isosceles triangle shape.

Make a 1cm slit in the short side.

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Gently tug the edges apart and begin to roll up the dough from the short side to the long.

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When it is fully rolled, lay the croissant on the baking sheet with the tip of the original triangle underneath the croissant to make sure that it doesn’t unroll.

Repeat with the rest of the pastry laying no more than 6 croissants on each sheet. Allow them to space to rise!

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Optional: Egg wash the croissants now.

 

Place the sheets into a draft free zone and let rise for two to three hours. I like to use a turned off oven to leave them in because it prevents the croissants drying out. Make sure to remove them from the oven before the next step!

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Look how beautiful the laminations in this croissant are!

 

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (200°C).

Optional: Egg wash the croissants again. This will make them super shiny.

Bake the croissants for 6 minutes.

Reduce the heat to gas mark 4 (180°C) and bake for another 6 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.

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These are best served still warm from the oven but can be kept in an airtight container for up to two days before they start to go bad. I would recommend reheating them either in the microwave or for five to ten minutes on your oven’s warm setting if the croissants are any older than that.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you are a fan of laminated pasty, you should check out my recipe for puff pastry and all of the amazing things you can do with it from Beef Wellington to Pastéis de Natas

Have a good one. I will be back next week with a recipe for a slightly faster recipe you can make for a delicious dinner.

H

Chocolate Ring Biscuits

Whenever someone brings in a Fox’s biscuit selection (other biscuit selections are available), the first ones to go are the chocolatey ring biscuits. The other biscuits are nice but there is something about shortbread with an obscenely thick layer of chocolate that just can’t be beaten for most people. The recipe below is my take on these biscuits. The chocolate layer isn’t quite as thick but you are welcome to double up to a kilo of chocolate and double dip the biscuits if you want them to be ultra-chocolatey.

As the chocolate is being used to coat the outside of the biscuit, and thus will be handled when the biscuit is eaten, it is important to make sure that it is well tempered. Tempering is a process where you control the crystal structure which forms when the cocoa butter in chocolate cools. This is why compound chocolate doesn’t need tempering… there is no cocoa butter in it, they use other fats instead! But real chocolate, with cocoa butter, has a far nicer taste and mouth feel, so to get the best results we must temper the chocolate. This involves melting the chocolate, cooling to a specific temperature and then warming it slightly before it is used.

Cocoa butter has six crystal stages which are arranged by the temperature at which they form: I, II, III, IV, V and VI. This ability to exist in multiple different crystalline structures, as exhibited by cocoa butter, is known as polymorphism and this polymorphic property is what can make or break your chocolate work. When you buy chocolate it has already been tempered and it is packed solid with type V crystals – the tempering not only gives the chocolate a satisfying snap when you break it but also is what keeps it solid at room temperature. Crystal types IV and lower melt well below 27°C, well below body temperature meaning that your chocolate will be soft at room temperature or immediately melt all over the hands of anyone who tries to touch in. In contrast, type V crystals melt just below body temperature (33°C) meaning that your fingertips will not melt it when you pick up the chocolate as they are slightly cooler than your internal temperature but when you put the chocolate in your mouth, it will begin to melt.

The issue is that when you melt chocolate so it can be used for covering the biscuits, you destroy the temper, that is to say that the heating melts the type V crystals which the manufacturer formed in the chocolate. Because of this, you must make sure to heat the chocolate well above the type VI melting point (36-37°C) so that there are no “bad” crystals and you can start the process of forming the chocolate from an unadulterated mixture. While the type VI crystals are solid at room temperature, their melting point is too close to body temperature so they don’t melt in the mouth as nicely as type V. The addition of unmelted chocolate cools the mixture as the unmelted chocolate not only must be warmed to the same temperature as its surroundings but will take in latent heat so that it can also melt. This rapid cooling, whilst also agitating the mixture by stirring, prevents the formation of type VI crystals. The reason we continue to slowly cool the chocolate down to around 28°C is to make sure that it is close to the type V crystal formation temperature. It is then warmed just a little bit to melt any type IV crystals that could have formed, slackening the mixture in the process, and making the chocolate perfect for dipping.

You will notice when you temper chocolate that as you approach the correct temperature, the chocolate becomes a lot more viscous. This is a good indicator that you are almost ready to dip. It will also mean that you get a thicker layer of chocolate on your biscuit and that is always a good thing.

Chocolate Ring Biscuits

Prep time: 1 hour

Cook time: 18 mins

Dipping time: over an hour

Makes around 35-40 biscuits

Ingredients

11 oz. (310g) plain flour

1/4 tsp salt

7oz. (200g) butter

4 oz. (110g) sugar

2 egg yolks

1 tsp vanilla extract

To cover:

500g dark or milk chocolate (you will need to temper this if it is real chocolate).

50g white chocolate for decorations.

To make the biscuits:

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4 (180°C).

Place the butter and flour into a food processor and blend until the mixture resembles sand (this is like rubbing the butter into the flour – which also works – but is more effective as you don’t introduce heat from your hands).

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Add the sugar and salt and blend again until fully combined.

Pour in the vanilla extract and add the egg yolks. Blend again until everything appears homogenous.

The mixture should feel slightly sticky.

Pour the contents of the blender onto a surface. Use you hands to squeeze all of the bits together and continue to compress until the dough comes together but try to avoid kneading the dough too much so you don’t get too much gluten forming – a little is fine as you need the gluten to hold the biscuits together when you dip them.

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Lightly flour the dough and roll out to ¼ inch (about 1/2cm) thickness.

Use a two-inch cutter to cut as many rounds out of the dough as you can.

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You can bake the biscuits as they are at the moment (circles) but you will get fewer than 40.

To make the rings, use a cutter just smaller than half an inch (about a centimetre) to cut a circle in the centre of each of the larger circles. I found that the cap from a bottle of whisky was best for this as I didn’t have a proper sized cutter.

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Place the rings on a tray lined with baking parchment – leave about an inch between each biscuit.

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Place the rings on a tray lined with baking parchment – leave about an inch between each biscuit.
Let the biscuits rest in the fridge for ten minutes to firm up.

Bake for 18 minutes – or until the biscuits start turning golden around the edge.

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When the biscuits are cooked, transfer them to a wire rack to cool and leave until completely cold.

If you are using compound chocolate, ignore the tempering instructions. Just skip to the dipping stage.

Tempering the chocolate

Chop up two thirds of the chocolate and place it into a large bowl.

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Roughly chop the remaining chocolate and place in a smaller bowl and off to one side for later.

Fill the base of a saucepan with water and place the big bowl of chocolate over the top.

Heat the water until it is just simmering – don’t let it properly boil – whilst occasionally stirring the chocolate in the bowl until it melts. Don’t stir to vigorously (it’s just unnecessary).

Continue to heat the chocolate until it has reached 55°C for dark chocolate or 45°C for milk chocolate. If you do not have a thermometer, dip your finger in and the chocolate should be uncomfortably warm. If you do have a thermometer, you can still dip your finger for an excuse to eat some of the melted chocolate – I would. PSA: remember to wash your finger between dips

Remove the bowl of melted chocolate from the heat.

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Tip the contents of the smaller bowl (the unmelted chocolate) into the melted chocolate and gently stir. This will bring the temperature of the chocolate down whilst also introducing the desired V crystals into the mixture. These V crystals from the unmelted chocolate will help seed the formation of more of them in the melted chocolate as it cools.

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Continue to stir the chocolate until it reaches about 29°C for dark chocolate or 27°C for milk chocolate. This will feel cool to the touch. If you dip a spoon in the chocolate and place it in the fridge, the chocolate should harden very quickly to a semi-shiny state on the back of the spoon.

Place the chocolate back over the heat until it reaches 31°C for dark or 29°C for milk. If you don’t have a thermometer, heat it gently for about 45 seconds to a minute. This will slacken the chocolate a little making it easier to work with.

Remove the chocolate from the heat again.

The Dipping

Set up a dipping station with the biscuits on one side of the bowl of chocolate and a lined baking sheet on the other.

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Use a fork to place a biscuit into the chocolate and make sure it is just covered.

Lift the biscuit out and gently tap the fork on the side of the bowl a few times to let the chocolate drip off.

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Place the biscuit on baking parchment and repeat with the rest.

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For the white chocolate decoration, melt the white chocolate in the microwave in fifteen second bursts stirring between each heating.

Pour the chocolate into a piping bag, make a tiny hole in the end and pipe lines of chocolate across the entire batch of biscuits. This will ensure that the biscuits have the same design but each one is unique.

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I hope you enjoy the recipe. If you fancy trying some classic shortbread or alternatively, going the other way and making yourself some millionaire’s shortbread, you should definitely check out my recipes for them.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a super duper spicy recipe.

H

Tiramisu Swiss Roll

As I have said several times in the past, there is a bizarre mystique that surrounds many baked goods causing people to believe that they are too difficult to make at home. The swiss roll is one item which has been given this reputation by nefarious rumours but is far simpler than you may imagine. They are surprisingly sturdy and once rolled, can be wrapped up in clingfilm or parchment paper and moved easily from one place to another without having to worry about them losing their shape.

The Great British Bake Off has helped bring swiss rolls back into fashion like so many other baked goods. The classic questions which arise when making a swiss roll are: how to prevent it from cracking? How to get a tight roll? I will address these one at a time but the answers are intrinsically linked as what both boil down to is how the cake batter is mixed.

When it comes to preventing a swiss roll from cracking, each backer has their own method which they swear by. I have tried a couple of different methods and will give you my opinion on them, but please remember that everyone has their own way and I can only judge the techniques from the results that I have had. There first of three main methods that I have encountered regarding the prevention of cracking is the pre-roll. This involves rolling up the cake while it is still hot and very soft. You let the cake cool in the rolled position before unrolling it, applying the filling and then rerolling the cake. This is meant to cause the cake to ‘remember’ the rolled-up shape so when the filling has been added, it is easier to roll up again. I do not like this method and, truthfully, I have had the most disasters while using it. Why would you handle a fragile cake more than you need to? You are rolling/unrolling this cake three times more than if you wait for it to cool before filling and rolling. The second method involves cooling the cake flat, still in its tin, under a damp tea towel. The tea towel prevents too much of the steam from escaping but also stops it condensing and being reabsorbed into the cake leading to a soggy mess, as would happen if the cake were covered with a hard object. This method seems to work, but you may have to remoisten the tea towel if it dries out from the heat as you want to keep the cake in a humid environment.  The final method involves adding a little water to the recipe or simple syrup to the finished cake. The additional moisture in the cake gives it more flexibility allowing for a tighter roll as the cake can bend more without breaking.

If you want to get a tight roll, the easiest way to learn is by practice. Trying to avoid too much filling at the end of the cake where you start rolling is imperative, as if there is too much cream it will prevent the cake from folding over into a super tight swirl and you will end up with a cake more reminiscent of an arctic roll. The other thing to do is to make sure that you don’t underfold the mixture when you are adding the flour, if there is too much air left the cake will overinflate in the oven and will be too thick to roll properly – of course you must be careful not to overmix the batter and knock all the air out but, like I said before, practice is key.

Once you have mastered the swiss roll, you will see that it is a great last-minute cake as you can make the entire thing from start to finish in under an hour (assuming you aren’t trying anything ultra creative). The one given in the recipe is slightly more technically challenging because of the addition of the chocolate stripes but if you don’t feel like attempting them, you could always chop up some chocolate and sprinkle it over the filling before rolling to keep the chocolate flavour but avoid the faff of a second batter.

 

 

 

Tiramisu Swiss Roll

Time: around 2 hours

 

For the chocolate stripes:

50g butter

50g icing sugar

30g flour

20g cocoa

2 egg whites

 

For the coffee cake:

3 eggs

125g caster sugar

120g plain flour

2 tbsp instant coffee powder

1 tbsp tepid water

Pinch of salt

 

For the syrup:

100ml water

100g granulated sugar

½ tsp instant coffee

2 tbsp kahlua/tia maria/rum (optional)

 

For the Filling:

250g mascarpone

100ml double cream

50g icing sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

 

 

 

Make the stripes:

Cream the butter and icing sugar in a bowl.

Mix in the egg whites until completely incorporated.

Mix through the flour and cocoa.

The mixture should be a spreadable paste. If it is very thick, add water ½ tsp at a time until the paste is a little thinner.

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Cut a piece of baking parchment the same size as the base of your swiss roll tin.

To decorate the outside of the cake you have a few options: you can pipe swirls etc across the sheet of parchment, you can cover the whole thing and use an icing scraper to scrape away sections to give perfect stripes or you can use Sellotape to cover areas of the paper to give you completely straight edges on your stripes when you have spread the chocolate mix over the gaps and then removed it.

Once you have decorated the paper, place it on a flat tray in the freezer for fifteen minutes to half an hour.

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While the design is hardening up in the freezer, butter the edge of your swiss roll tin, this will help you remove the cake later as they can stick rather spectacularly.

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (200°C).

Sift the flour and coffee powder into a bowl and set aside.

Place the sugar and eggs into the bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment fitted.

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Whisk until the mixture has turned light, foamy and thick – around seven minutes. It will not reach the same stability as pure egg whites, the mixture will still flow but will be absolutely full of air.

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Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in half of the flour mixture along with salt.

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When the first batch is mostly incorporated, add the remaining flour and fold it in.

Pour the water around the edge of the mixture in the bowl – if you pour it into the middle, it can deflate the mixture.

Fold the water through. This additional liquid will help give an even textured cake and prevent it from cracking when you roll the cake up.

Remove the parchment paper from the freezer and place it into the bottom of the swiss roll tin.

Pour the batter on top and gently spread it out. Be careful not to be too aggressive when spreading as you don’t want to disrupt the pattern on the base of the tin.

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Bake for 10-12 minutes until the cake is just golden on top and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

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While the cake is baking, make the syrup.

Combine the water and sugar in a pan.

Bring to the boil and stir to dissolve the sugar.

Add the coffee and stir again.

Pour the syrup into jug and set aside to cool.

After it has cooled for ten minutes or so, add the alcohol of your choice.

The syrup should be no more than slightly warm to the touch when you use it.

 

Remove the cake from the oven.

Lay out a sheet of baking parchment, which is bigger than the cake, on a flat surface.

Dust the top of the cake with icing sugar, loosen the edges from the side of the tin.

Flip the cake out onto the baking parchment so the base with the design is now on top.

Gently peel off the parchment which is on the designed side of the cake.

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Cover the cake with a damp (but not wet) tea towel and leave to cool.

 

To prepare the filling, beat the mascarpone, vanilla and icing sugar until the mascarpone has softened.

Add the cream and mix again. The mixture will go very runny and then as the cream is beaten, it will thicken up again. Stop when the filling reaches a thick but spreadable consistency as you don’t want it to rip the cake apart when you add it.

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To assemble the cake:

Gently flip the cake onto a new piece of baking parchment so the patterned side is down.

Lightly brush the top of the cake with syrup. This will help prevent cracking.

Spread the filling across the top of the cake leaving a centimetre strip filling free along both short ends of the cake.

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Starting at one of the short sides, use the parchment to help fold the end of the cake up and over before rolling the cake up down its length. Make sure the seam is underneath the cake as the weight on top will prevent the cake unrolling.

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Trim the edges to neaten them up and transfer the cake onto a serving platter.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you are a fan of swiss roll style cakes, why not try your hand at a chocolate log (they aren’t just for yule) or if you would like a slightly simpler tiramisu, check out my recipe here.

Have a good one and I will see you next week with a spicy beef dish which is great for dinner and as a cold lunch the next day too.

H

Pastéis de Natas

I thought that I didn’t like custard tarts. It turns out that I was just unfortunate enough to have never tried these absolutely divine creations. A rich, cinnamon and vanilla egg custard encased in shatteringly crisp, flaky pastry turns out to be just thing to make you feel better after a stressful day… or anytime to be honest.

Pastéis de nata were born of convenience. Catholic monks at the Jerónimos Monastery used egg whites to starch clothes and, as you may imagine, they got through a lot of them. To avoid wasting the yolks, the monks baked them into cakes and pastries. In an attempt to earn some money to prevent their monastery being closed the monks joined with the local sugar refinery to sell small custard tarts. The monastery still closed (in 1843) and the recipe was sold to the owner of the sugar refinery who opened the Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém in 1837. Their descendants still own the patisserie to this day which is where the Pastéis de Belém, an alternative name for the pastries (but only when sold from this specific shop), can be bought.

There are two things which stand out to me about the Pastéis de nata separating it from the level of mediocraty that most custard tarts inhabit and both of them are to do with the pastry. Firstly, the pastry is a soft lamination. That is to say, the butter is not kept super cold like in classic puff pastry but is instead so soft that you can easily spread it on a very fragile dough. Secondly the lamination in the final product is vertical.

By using soft butter in the pastry, the lamination is far less pronounced than it would be for a classic puff pastry. The definition between the layers isn’t as strong because some of the softer butter is absorbed into the pastry while it is being rolled. This creates a texture which is somewhere between standard puff pastry and Danish pastry dough. The ultra-high oven temperature causes the pastry to cook very quickly resulting in a super crisp exterior and ensuring that the pastry is fully cooked despite no blind baking and only a short baking time. This also prevents the butter melting into the pastry in the oven as the flour begins to cook before it can absorb any more of the fat.

The direction of the lamination has a distinct effect on the final product. Where normal puff pastry has horizontal layers, the Pastéis de nata dough has vertical ones. This means that it expands horizontally in the oven, outwards and not upwards, which prevents it forcing the filling out and spilling. It also gives a far more beautiful final result as the lamination in the pastry walls of the tart is far more prominent than if a standard puff pastry had been used.

I know they are a bit of a faff to make but I guarantee that these pastries are 100% worth it. Let me know how they go for you!

Pastéis de Natas

Makes 24

Cook time: 15-20 minutes

Prep time: 45 minutes

Rest time: at least 4 hours

Ingredients:

270g flour

200ml water

Pinch salt

250g very soft butter

6 egg yolks

250ml + 60ml milk (the creamier the better, but don’t use actual cream!)

3 tbsp flour

265g sugar

150ml water

1 cinnamon stick

1 tsp vanilla extract

To make the pastry:

In a stand mixer:

Put the flour, water and salt into the bowl of a mixer with the dough hook attachment.

Mix and knead with the stand mixer until the dough forms a very soft bowl and starts to come away from the sides of the mixing bowl.

Heavily flour a surface, tip the dough onto it and coat in flour.

Wrap in cling film and leave for at least fifteen minutes.

By hand:

Stir the salt into the flour and pour in the water.

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Using a wooden spoon, mix the ingredients until they are combined and form a very soft dough.

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Tip onto a surface and use a pastry scraper to help stretch and knead the dough. DO NOT ADD MORE FLOUR.

Once the dough begins to get more elastic and less sticky (around ten minutes), coat it in flour, wrap in plastic and leave to rest for at least a quarter of an hour.

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If your butter is not super soft, heat it gently in the microwave, for ten seconds at a time until it begins to soften. Make sure to stir between each heating to ensure that it doesn’t fully melt anywhere. Make sure the butter is very soft before setting aside.

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This butter has been heated too much. If your butter also melts, allow it to cool in the fridge and stir it vigorously every five minutes to ensure it doesn’t set at the edges whilst remaining liquid in the centre. Continue this until the butter is a thick pastey consistency.

Generously flour a surface and turn out the dough.

Roll it into a rectangle about 18”x12”.

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Take one-third of the softened butter and spread it down two-thirds of the length of the dough. Do not spread it all the way to the edges.

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Fold the unbuttered third of the dough across and then fold the opposite side on top to create three layers. Gently press the edges to seal.

Rotate the pastry through a quarter turn and reflour the surface if necessary. The pastry is super soft and sticky so don’t be afraid to use a lot of flour at this stage.

Roll it out again into a rectangle and repeat the folding instructions with another third of the butter (half of what is left).

Rotate, roll and old again using the remaining butter.

Roll out the dough into an 20”x18” rectangle.

Roll it up into a tight log starting at the closer side to create a spiral of lamination.

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Wrap the dough up and refrigerate for at least four hours and preferably overnight.

To make the filling, whisk the 60ml portion of milk into the flour in a large bowl.

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In a heavy based pan, add the sugar, water and cinnamon stick. Heat to dissolve the sugar and bring to the boil without stirring. Leave for one minute.

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While the sugar is dissolving, scald the remaining milk. This is done by bringing it to the boil in a separate pan.

The moment the milk boils, take it off the heat and pour it into the flour and milk mix whisking constantly.

Once the sugar syrup has boiled for a minute, take it off the heat. Remove the cinnamon stick and like the milk, pour it in a thin stream into the flour mixture, whisking constantly.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks to break them up.

While continuing to mix, pour in the milk and sugar syrup mix in a thin stream. This is very hot and you want to avoid cooking the eggs and causing them to scramble.

Once the eggs are incorporated, stir in the vanilla extract.

Strain the filling mixture into a jug, cover and leave to cool.

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To assemble the tarts:
Preheat your oven to 260°C (500°F) or the highest setting (this tends to be around gas mark nine which is 230/240°C).

Lightly butter a 12 pan cupcake tin.

Remove the pastry from the fridge, cut in half lengthwise and place half of it back into the fridge.

If the ends aren’t straight, you may have to trim them.

Cut the log into twelve rounds and place them into the tins with the spiral of lamination facing upwards.

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Leave for fifteen minutes to soften.

Fill a small ramekin with water as you will need wet fingers for the next bit.

Using wet thumbs, gently flatten the centre of each piece of dough – do not flatten the edge, you want a sort of well shape.

Moving outwards, gently squash the dough into the shape of the tin coming about three quarters of the way up the side (there are plenty of videos online which will show you how to do this properly).

Use half of the filling mixture to fill the cases about 75-80% full.

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Bake for fifteen to twenty minutes, turning at ten minutes, until the top of the tarts has blistered to dark brown is several places. You don’t want them to be fully dark brown all over but you also want a bit of colour.

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The tarts will come out of the oven puffed up. The filling will collapse as they cool.

Take the tarts from the oven and let cool for five minutes before removing from the tin.

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These are best served still warm from the oven (but not boiling hot) and sprinkled with a little bit of icing sugar and cinnamon. The filling is delicious and the pastry is stunningly crisp. The pastry will stay crisp for about 48 hours but soften over time.

Store in the fridge where possible!

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you are a fan of flaky and puff pastry, be sure to check out my recipe for it – I promise that it isn’t as hard as it seems. You could even use your puff pastry to make salmon en croute or Beef Wellington.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a recipe for a delicious roast dinner with an obscene amount of garlic. It’s wonderful.

H

Almond Cake Petit Gateaux

Petits fours are some of my favourite things to bake. Meringues, macarons and petits gateaux; there is just something about miniature baked items that is ultra satisfying. They are often layered or glazed and look so appetising that it’s lucky that they are traditionally served at the end of a meal when you are full, as if I wasn’t stuffed I could eat a whole plate of them myself.

The recipe for these cakes does not include any sort of raising agent. Instead, the butter, sugar and marzipan are vigorously beaten which incorporates tiny air bubbles into the mixture. The expansion of this air in the heat of the oven is what gives the cakes their rise. This is very similar to how pound cakes were made when the butter was beaten until it was soft and had increased massively in volume because air had been mixed into it. The natural rise means that, whilst light in texture, the cakes remain very moist and dense helping them cut cleanly and hold together when decorated.

What makes this recipe different from a standard sponge cake is the addition of marzipan. Marzipan is made of almonds, sugar and often egg whites. This is why the recipe doesn’t have the classic ratio of ingredients for a sponge cake but rather the flour, sugar and butter have been cut as they have been replaced by the ingredients in the marzipan. Ground almonds are a classic way of giving a cake a moist crumb so by adding not only those but also the egg white in the marzipan you can guarantee that the final product will have an amazing texture. The marzipan also helps weigh down the cake, fighting against the expanding air in the oven so the cake doesn’t rise too much.

The miniature cakes made from this recipe are the perfect end to a meal. They are not too heavy to eat and everyone gets their own individual cake. They would also sit beautifully on the final layer of an afternoon tea as, owing to their size, they can be eaten along with lots of other little things.

Let me know what you think of the recipe as it is a massive hit in my house.

 

Almond Cake Petit Gateaux

Time: 3 hours

 

300g marzipan

90g cake flour

150g butter

135g sugar

4 eggs

Pinch of salt

 

Filling:

Raspberry/apricot/ginger jam

100g butter

150g icing sugar

¼ tsp almond extract

1 tbsp milk

 

Optional

100g dark chocolate

100ml double cream

1 tbsp glucose syrup

 

Preheat an oven to gas mark 5 (190°C).

Line the base of a swiss roll pan with butter and baking paper.

Break the marzipan into the bowl of a stand mixer.

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Add the butter and sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Do not worry if it feels a little grainy, this is from the marzipan and will melt out in the oven.

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Mix in the salt.

Add the eggs one at a time and mix until fully incorporated after each addition.

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With the mixer running on slow, mix in the flour.

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Spread the mixture evenly across the base of the tin ensuring that it does not dome in the centre.

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Bake for 15 minutes or until it is golden and slightly risen. A skewer or toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake should come out clean.

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Leave to cool in the tin.

 

In a bowl, beat the butter for the icing until it is light and fluffy. It will go very pale and soft.

Sift in the icing sugar in three batches beating after each addition.

Add the almond extract and the milk and beat again until the buttercream is super soft.

 

Using a small, round biscuit cutter, cut as many circles of cake out of the sheet as possible.

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If you do not wish to include a chocolate ganache:

Spread half of the cakes with buttercream and jam before topping them with another circle to make a mini sandwich cake.

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Dust with icing sugar.

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If you wish to coat with ganache:

Spread either jam or buttercream on half of the cakes and sandwich them in pairs.

Use a mini spatula to spread a thin layer of buttercream around the outside and over the top of the cakes.

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Place them in the freezer for 20 minutes.

While the cakes are setting, roughly chop the chocolate and place it in a bowl.

Heat the cream and glucose in a saucepan until the cream is just about to boil.

Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and leave for two minutes before mixing it together into a smooth ganache.

Leave this to cool down.

 

Before you coat the cakes, make sure that the ganache is not warm to the touch otherwise it will melt the buttercream and slide off the cakes.

Remove the cakes from the freezer and place them onto a wire rack. Place this rack over a tray with raised edges as this will catch the ganache that drips off.

Pour the ganache over the cakes endure that it has flowed down all the edges.

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Place the cakes in the fridge to set for at least half an hour.

You can leave the cakes like this or use any excess buttercream to decorate them.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you are a fan of petits fours, check out my macaron recipe. I also have one for meringues, both French and swiss style (you may as well try them both – that would be the scientific way to decide which is better).

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a delicious pasta dish.

H