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Baking

Easy, cheesy soda bread

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This is a really delicious and easy Irish soda bread recipe and you’ll want to make it weekly once you try it.

Serves 4 


Oil, for greasing
500g (1lb 1oz) plain flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
75g (3oz) Mature cheddar cheese, grated. *Please grate your own, the pre-packaged stuff is gross!
350ml(1 1/2 cups)buttermilk
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds

Heat the oven to 200°C , 400 F or gas mark 6. Lightly grease a baking sheet.

Put the flour in a bowl with the bicarbonate of soda and ½ tsp salt. Stir in the cheese.

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the buttermilk. Quickly stir together with a wooden spoon, then tip onto a lightly floured work surface and knead lightly to bring together – don’t over-knead, and it doesn’t matter if the dough looks rather craggy.

Put the dough on the baking sheet and shape into a round about 8 inches, then flatten slightly. Sprinkle with the seeds. Make a deep cross in the centre with the handle of a wooden spoon or knife. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden and the base sounds hollow when tapped. The cheese soda bread is best eaten on the day of baking.

Goat cheese, bacon and olive quick bread

This recipe is from David Lebovitz and is very easy to make. The flavors are divine and your guests will love it.

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6 slices of thick-cut bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch strips
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 to 2 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp kosher salt
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp Dijon mustard
6 oz fresh goat cheese, crumbled
1 1/3 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved lengthwise
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 red serrano chile, seeded and minced
2 tsp minced thyme leaves

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Coat a 9-inch loaf pan with cooking spray; line the bottom with parchment paper. In a skillet, cook the bacon over moderate heat until crispy, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

In a bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder, cayenne and salt. In another bowl, whisk the eggs with the buttermilk, olive oil and mustard. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and stir in the egg mixture until just combined. Fold in the goat cheese, Parmigiano, olives, bacon, scallions, chile and thyme. Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the surface.


Bake the bread until golden on top and a toothpick or metal skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the loaf to loosen it from the pan. Invert onto a plate and let cool completely. Cut the loaf into thick slices and serve.

Make Ahead

The bread can be wrapped well in plastic wrap and refrigerated for 1 week.

Hot Cross Scones

I adore hot cross buns but can’t seem to find them in Los Angeles. These hot cross “scones” have the flavor of hot cross buns but are much easier to make and they’re moist and moreish!

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8oz self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
3oz butter, softened
3 tbsp light muscovado sugar (or dark brown sugar)
1/3 cup small golden raisins (sultanas)
1/4 cup cut mixed peel
½ tsp ground mixed spice, see the recipe below. (It’s nothing like allspice)
1 large egg, beaten
3 tbsp buttermilk or 4 tbsp milk, plus extra for brushing
1/4 cup plain flour
2 tbsp caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Sift the self-raising flour into a large bowl; rub in the butter with your fingertips. Stir in the muscovado sugar, sultanas, peel and spice.

In a pitcher, beat together the egg, buttermilk and a pinch of salt. Pour into the flour mixture and bring together to make a soft dough.
Lightly dust a work surface with extra flour, then roll out the dough to no thinner than 1/2 inch. Using a 1 inch cutter, stamp out the rounds – try not to twist the cutter as this makes the scones rise unevenly.

Re-roll the trimmings and stamp out more. Transfer to a non-stick baking sheet.
Make the crosses. Mix together the plain flour and 1-2 tablespoons of water and knead to make a smooth dough. Roll out, cut into thin strips and put a cross on top of each scone. Brush with milk, then bake for 15 minutes, until well risen and golden.

For the glaze, dissolve the sugar in 2 tablespoons boiling water. Use to brush the tops of the scones as soon as they come out of the oven. Cool slightly on a wire rack. Eat while warm, or split and toast the next day and serve with a smudge of butter.

Allspice recipe

1 Tbsp ground allspice
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp ground mace
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground Ginger
Blend all spices together, and store in a sealed jar away from light.

Gluten free golden flapjacks with mango, dried cherries and coconut

I love all things flapjack and there is a limitless number of combinations for them. Being gluten-free they are so popular and this is a winning combination of flavors, kind of taking you to blue water beaches, sunshine and palm trees. Wait, that’s here!! Thank you Sophie Dahl for this recipe

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Makes 8 to 12

2 tbsp golden syrup
4 tbsp liquid honey
5 oz salted butter
5 oz porridge oats
4 oz dessicated coconut
3 oz dried sour cherries
3 oz dried mango, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 F
Grease a medium-sized deep baking tray or Swiss roll tin (The depth of the tray will depend on the thickness of the flapjacks.)
In a large saucepan, melt the golden syrup, honey and butter together over a low heat, stirring until well combined.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the oats, coconut, cherries and mango.
Pour the flapjack mixture into the prepared pan and press it down gently into the corners of the tin.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until deep golden-brown on top.
Score the flapjacks into pieces while still hot and allow to cool in the tin turning out and cutting completely

Kiwi apricot slice with brown sugar icing

Here’s another great slice or tray-bake recipe from New Zealand which is really delicious! The flavor of apricots is fabulous in this no-bake winner

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For the base
4 oz butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 can sweetened condensed milk (7 fl oz)
1 cup dried apricots, chopped
9 oz graham crackers or another plain sweet cookie, finely crushed

For the brown sugar icing
4.5 oz butter
3 tsp milk
3 tbsp brown sugar
3/4 cup icing sugar (powdered sugar)

Lightly grease a 8″ by 12″ Swiss roll tin.
Place the butter, sugar and condensed milk in a saucepan and heat until melted. Do not boil.
Stir in the apricots and crushed cookies. Press into the tin and allow to set in the fridge.

For the brown sugar icing, place the butter, milk and brown sugar into a pan and bring to boil for 2 minutes.
Take off the heat and mix in the icing (powdered) sugar to form a smooth consistency.
Spread over the base and return to the fridge to set. Once set, cut into slices and store in an airtight container in the fridge.

No-bake chocolate, fig and date slice

I adore slices, or as they say in New Zealand and England, “traybakes” There are so many easy recipes for them, and many of them like this one, are no-cook recipes. This is another one that reminds me of Christmas, and is especially nice as it is chocolatey as well as fruity.
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1lb dried figs
3/4 lb (12 oz) good plump, moist Medjool dates, preferably pitted
4 oz pitted prunes (or in the US they call them dried plums)
1 orange, grated zest and juiced
1/4 cup Grand Marnier
1 tbsp liquid honey
8 oz good quality dark chocolate, 72% or over
4 oz roasted hazelnuts, skins removed and halved (or buy them already toasted)
Cocoa powder for dusting at the end

Line a Swiss roll tin with baking parchment, making sure there is an overlap so it’s easy to remove the slice.
Thinly slice the figs. Pit the dates and slice the flesh, then slice the pitted prunes.
Place these in a large bowl with the orange zest, juice, Grand Marnier and honey.
Cover and leave to stand in a cool place for at least one hour.

Place the chocolate pieces in a small bowl over simmering water or in the top of a double boiler, ensuring the bottom of the bowl the chocolate is in does not touch the simmering water below.
Allow the chocolate to melt, Take it off the heat when almost melted (there will be a few lumps still in it) then gently stir until it’s completely smooth.

Stir the hazelnuts and melted chocolate into the fruit mixture and mix well. Spoon the mixture into the lines tin and spread, leaving the mixture at about 1 inch thickness. (You may not fill the tin)
Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge to firm up.

To serve, cut into about 40 small squares and dust with cocoa.
This slice will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week – if you are lucky!

White chocolate, cranberry and pistachio fudge

This is so pretty and tastes even better than it looks.

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16 oz. good white chocolate, chopped (chips will work, too)
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp pure vanilla essence
2/3 cup chopped dried cranberries, divided
1/2 cup dry roasted, unsalted pistachio pieces, divided

Line an 8″ square baking dish with parchment or wax paper.
Combine the white chocolate and sweetened condensed milk in a double boiler or a glass/stainless bowl over some simmering water.

Heat until the mixture melts together, whisking occasionally. Stir in the vanilla extract and remove from the heat.
Add all but about 2 Tbsp. each of the cranberries and pistachios to the white chocolate mixture, stirring to combine.
Spread the mixture into the baking dish in an even layer. Top with the remaining pistachios and cranberries, pressing them in slightly with a spatula if necessary.
Allow the fudge to set in the fridge and then cut into 1.5″ squares.

Italian Panforte for Christmas

This is so Christmassy, stuffed full of fruits, nuts, chocolate and spices.  Again, so easy to make, and will transport you straight to Italy.

 

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1 1/2 cups whole blanched almonds (unblanched is also fine)
3/4 cup whole hazelnuts, toasted
3/4 cup whole walnuts, lightly toasted
1/2 cup dried figs coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups dried mixed fruit (the type used for Christmas cake)
3/4 cup plain flour
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 tbsp water
1/3 cup runny honey
3/4 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 F

Grease and line with baking parchment, a large rectangular or 2 round baking tins.
Mix the nuts, figs, mixed fruit, flour, cocoa powder, ground cloves, pepper, cinnamon and coriander together in a large bowl.
Place the water, honey and sugar in a pot and slowly bring to the boil, then simmer for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
Pout the syrup into the dry ingredients and stir thoroughly.
Place in the prepared tin and flatten with wet hands. The mixture should be no more than 1 inch 9approx) thick.
If there is some mixture over, then place into another tin.
Bake for 35 minutes. Cut into squares when cool

Rosemary and pine nut brittle

Lovely crunchy, salty, rosemary scented pine nut brittle. Your guests will adore it as it’s so different, great for the holidays and easy to make.

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MAKES ABOUT 2 DOZEN PIECES

2 cups sugar
2 ½ cups pine nuts, toasted until light golden
8 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 tbsp. finely ground sea salt

Heat the sugar in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until it becomes a liquid, golden caramel.
Add the pine nuts and then the butter and stir until the butter is fully absorbed by the caramel

Stir in half each of the rosemary and salt, and then pour onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, spreading to create an even layer; sprinkle with the remaining rosemary and salt while warm. Let cool completely and then break into bite-size pieces.
Store in an airtight container between sheets of wax paper.

Easy orange, rosemary and polenta cake

I love making cakes when you don’t have to “cream the butter and sugar” As soon as I see a recipe that asks for that, I’m out of there. This one is so easy and uses the whole orange, which gives it a very intense flavor that the fresh rosemary positively flirts with! And a great added bonus is that it is also gluten free.

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Serves 8

Butter, for greasing
2 large oranges
6 extra large free-range eggs
6 oz polenta
6 oz ground almonds
9 oz golden caster sugar
1 heaped tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 tsp demerara sugar

For the orange drizzle
4 oz caster sugar
3 tbsp orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier, Cointreau or Triple Sec
1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
Grated or shredded zest of 1 orange

Grease and base-line a 9 inch springform cake tin. Put the whole oranges in a large pan of water, bring to the boil and simmer for 1 hour, until soft. Remove, cool, then halve and remove the pips.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Whizz the orange halves (with the skin) to a purée in a food processor. Beat in the eggs, polenta, almonds, sugar and rosemary.
Pour into the tin and sprinkle with the demerara sugar. Bake for 1 hour, until the cake is risen and golden.
For the drizzle, dissolve the sugar in 100ml hot water in a pan. Boil for 5 minutes but don’t let it color. Remove from the heat and cool briefly. Add the liqueur, rosemary and zest.
Cool the cake in the tin, then turn out and drizzle with the syrup.