Friday, 26 February 2016

Honey and Walnut Rugelach

Rugelach are a Jewish pastry enriched with cream cheese and traditionally filled with things like nuts, jam and raisins.

Being a good girlfriend, I made these for my boyfriend, who is of Jewish heritage.

I originally attempted to make these little pastries around Hanukah, but unfortunately the recipe I was using was in cup measurements. I hate cup measurements. They are just not precise enough. And at some point, when I was converting all the measurements into grams, I got confused and only added half the flour required.

The results were delicious, but they were not rugelach. They were more like little piles of cheesy, sweet, nutty goo.

So this time I made sure to add enough flour, despite the annoying cup measurements.

My rugelach were a little untidy, and next time I would chop the walnuts more finely or blitz them in a food processor. I also make peanut butter and chocolate rugelach with finely chopped chocolate, but I would use grated chocolate or mini chocolate chips next time.

But Tom was happy with them, trying to eat one before I'd even taken a photo!

Another idea for a filling would be Nutella and finely chopped or blitzed hazelnuts.

This recipe makes 32. Don't be discouraged by my attempts, I'm sure you can do much better!

You will need:

For the pastry:
250g plain flour
220g butter
a quarter tsp salt
225g cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
icing sugar, to dust

For the filling:
200g walnuts or 100g each pecans and walnuts, ground small with 30 to 40 pulses in the food processor or chopped as small as you can manage
65ml honey
60g caster sugar
55g butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Make the pastry by either mixing the flour, butter and cream cheese in a standing mixer with the cake mixer attachment or beating together with a wooden spoon. It should look as below, although this is only half the mixture.

2. Separate the dough into two separate amounts and wrap in clingfilm, then flatten into thick disks. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

3. Preheat the oven to 190C. Dust a clean surface, hands and a rolling pin with icing sugar. Roll out one of the disks of dough into a circle, about 3mm thick. Mix together the butter, sugar, honey and vanilla for the filling and spread half over the dough, then sprinkle over half the nuts.

4. Cut the disk into 16 strips and roll up each strip from the edge of the circle to the centre, taking care to ensure the filling does not fall out. Place on a greased baking tray.

5. Put the first batch of pastries in the oven and repeat with the second batch. Bake each batch for 20 minutes until crisp and golden.

6. Remove the pastries from the baking sheet quickly, or they will stick. Serve warm.


If 32 is too many for you, the shaped dough also freezes well. Put them on a baking tray and ensure they don't touch, then remove when frozen and put in a freezer bag.


I repeated the recipe a couple of weeks after, chopping the nuts much more finely. This picture shows the results and is evidence that baking is, like any skill, a process of continuous improvement.

Trial and error is a major part of baking for me. It took me many attempts to get macarons right. So don't give up just because you have one imperfect bake!

Happy baking,


Sunday, 21 February 2016


I have a great weakness for focaccia. With its thin, crisp crust and soft, yielding interior, it is one of the most satisfying breads to bake.

If you have ever been to a Carluccio's restaurant, you will understand how my love of focaccia. They serve great hunks of the stuff, drizzled with olive oil and sea salt, for dunking into their thick, bean-filled soups.

So as I had made a Tuscan soup with beans and pasta last weekend, it seemed only appropriate to make some focaccia to go with it.

Here is a picture of the focaccia with eggs that Tom and I ate the next morning.

I used a standing mixer, because focaccia dough is quite sticky and difficult to work. If you don't have a standing mixer, you may want to use a dough scraper or oil your hands when working the dough, rather than flouring them.

You will need:
500g strong white bread flour
2 tsp dried active yeast
175ml lukewarm water
75ml extra virgin olive oil plus extra to grease and drizzle
75ml white wine
1 tsp dried and chopped oregano plus extra to sprinkle
2 and a half tsp salt
sea salt flakes to sprinkle over

1. Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the middle. In a separate bowl, sprinkle the yeast over 100ml of the water and leave for 5 minutes, until the yeast begins to dissipate and looks cloudy. Mix to dissolve.

 2. Pour the yeasted water into well in the middle of the flour and mix in some of the flour from round the edges to form a smooth paste. Cover the bowl with a tea towel for 20 minutes until the yeast mixture has risen.

3. Pour the wine, oregano and 75ml olive oil into the yeast mixture and mix together until a dough forms. If using a mixer, using the dough hook, put on a medium speed for about 7 minutes. If making by hand, knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Put in an oiled bowl and cover with clingfilm, then leave for 1 and a half to 2 hours to rise.

4. When the dough has doubled in size (see below), knock it back by pressing down lightly until most of the air is squeezed out and leave for 10 minutes.

5. "Chafe" the dough for 5 minutes by rotating it while exerting a gentle downward pressure. You should end up with a nice round lump of dough. Roll this out to the desired size and place on an oiled baking tray. Cover in clingfilm and leave for an hour to prove until doubled in size.

6. With floured fingers, make deep dimples in the loaf and sprinkle with oregano and sea salt flakes.

7. Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Drizzle with olive oil and serve warm. Mmm.



Sunday, 14 February 2016

Pancake Day: Masala Dosa

It was Pancake Day this week! One of my favourite days of the year. And although pancakes aren't strictly baked, I'm going to break the rules and write a blog post about pancakes.

When I was little and we had pancakes, my mum would always insist we ate something proper first. Which ruined it, obviously, because then we had less room for pancakes.

But when I was planning our pancake extravaganza with the boyfriend, we were looking up savoury pancake recipes when I stumbled across the masala dosa, a dish I first ate at a restaurant in Tooting, when I lived there.

This is a savoury chickpea pancake stuffed with a spicy potato mixture. It seemed like a perfect prelude to sweet pancakes and turned out to be fairly easy to make.

This recipe serves four people. Get to it!

For the dosa batter:
95g chickpea (gram) flour
125g plain flour
half tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 and a half tsp mustard seeds
400ml water
olive oil, to fry

For the filling:
600g peeled floury potatoes
4 tbsp olive oil or sunflower oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
30 fresh curry leaves (apparently unobtainable in Wood Green or Finchley)
1 large onion
half tsp turmeric
3 green chillies, chopped finely
2 tsp fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
scant tsp salt

1. Mix together the flours for the dosa with the mustard seeds and bicarbonate of soda.

2. Make a well in the middle and pour into the water, whisking as you until a loose mixture forms. You may not need to use all the water.

3. Make the filling next. Boil the potatoes for 20 minutes until tender. Drain, then lightly crush with a fork or potato masher. Put the oil in a wok or heavy bottomed pan on a medium heat. When it's hot, add the mustard seeds. When they pop, add the curry leaves and fry for 30 seconds. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Pour in 120ml of water, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring now and then, until the onion softens more. Add the salt, turmeric, chillies and ginger and mix for 2 minutes. When the liquid has evaporated, add the potatoes and fold them in. See below for what the filling looks like - although this is only about a quarter of the total amount.

4. Cook the dosa by greasing the pan with oil, and heating over a medium heat. Drop some spoonfuls of batter into the pan and rotate the pan to spread it in a wide circle.

5. When bubbles start to appear in the batter and it starts to look dry, put some filling in the middle and fold over and fry for a few seconds on each side, so that the dosa is crisp.

6. Serve with mango chutney and natural yoghurt.

Delicious! But no substitute for sweet pancakes, which is why we followed it with thin, crisp crepes with sugar and lemon.

I'm already looking forward to Pancake Day next year!

Happy pancake-making,


Monday, 8 February 2016

Two Bakewell Tarts

Few things can beat a well-baked bakewell tart. I've already made and blogged a bakewell tart, a few months back. But you can't have too much of a good thing, so I'm going to post a couple of recipes for variations on the bakewell tart.

This tart I made to Mary Berry's recipe - there are enough almonds to form a proper layer on top and some water icing adds a bit of decoration.

And this bakewell tart is made almost the same way, but is decorated differently - with raspberries pressed into the frangipane and a handful of almonds scattered over.

First, Mary Berry's recipe. This serves about 8 people.

You will need:

For the pastry:
175g plain flour
75g cold butter
2-3tbsp cold water
23cm tart or flan tin, greased with butter
foil or baking paper
baking beans or dried beans or rice

For the filling:
half a jar of jam (raspberry is traditional but for blackberry and apple jam see my recipe here)
110g butter
110g caster sugar
110g ground almonds
2 eggs
25g plain flour
half a tsp baking powder
50g of flaked almonds

For the icing:
80g icing sugar
2-3 tsp water

1. Mix the flour and salt in a bowl and cube the butter into the bowl. Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs.

3. Mix the cold water into the crumble mixture little by little until it comes together into a ball when kneaded together - you may not have to use all of it. Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least half an hour. Preheat the oven to 200C towards the end of this time.

4. Make the filling in the meantime, melting the butter and then removing from the heat and adding the sugar. Add the eggs and flour at the same time and beat to combine - the flour will stop the mixture from curdling. Beat in the ground almonds and baking powder.

5. Roll out the pastry on a well-floured surface until the surface area is big enough to fill the tin, using an offcut of pastry to press the pastry into the corners.

6. Line the tin with baking paper or foil and fill with baking beans, dried pulses or rice to weigh it down. Then bake for 15 minutes, removing the paper and whatever you used to weigh it down 2 minutes before the end of the baking time. 

7. Spread the jam across the base of the pastry case, then spoon the frangipane on top and smooth it out with the back of a spoon. Add the flaked almonds and bake for 25 minutes until well risen and golden, adding the flaked almonds on top after 20 minutes - if you think the almonds are browning too much, put foil over the top.

8. While the tart is cooling, mix together the water and icing sugar for the icing. When the tart has cooled, pipe or drizzle it over the top in a zigzag pattern.

9. Serve!

Now for the raspberry topped tart. 

You will need:

For the pastry:
175g plain flour
75g cold butter
2-3tbsp cold water
23cm tart or flan tin, greased with butter
foil or baking paper
baking beans or dried beans or rice

For the topping:
handful of fresh or frozen raspberries
handful of flaked almonds

1. Follow the first recipe up to the end of step 6.

2. Spread the jam across the base of the pastry case, then spoon the frangipane on top and smooth it out with the back of a spoon. Space out the raspberries and press gently down on each one so it sinks into the frangipane a little. 

3. Scatter the almonds over and bake for 25 minutes until well risen and golden, covering with foil if you think the filling is browning too much.

4. Serve! Maybe with cream.

There, bakewell tarts. Baked well. 

Happy Baking!