Monday, 27 June 2016

Almond Madeleines

Yesterday, I just fancied a little something sweet in the evening.

I didn't have any chocolate or biscuits in the cupboards - I tend not to buy them as I'm likely to demolish half a packet before you can say "portion control".

What I did have was flour, butter, eggs and caster sugar. The base ingredients to make all manner of baked things - I could have gone for sponge cake, cupcakes, shortbread. The possibilities, while not endless, were many.

But what I hadn't made in a long time was madeleines. Small, fluffy and shell-shaped, these little French cakes are elegant, lightly flavoured and perfect with a cup of tea. And I had just enough ingredients to make half a batch.

I won't go into my explanation of Proustian moments, which is another great reason to make madeleines, but you can read it here.

I had to poke around in the dark corners and under the bed in my bedroom until I found my silicone madeleine tray, which just goes to show how long it had been since I made them.

If you do not own a madeleine tray (apart from baking equipment obsessives like me and professional bakers, who does?) you could make these in cupcake cases instead.

I had to use whatever flavourings I had in the cupboard for my madeleines. I could have used vanilla, but that seemed a bit boring, so I used almond extract and some ground almonds and I am very pleased with the results.

This recipe makes 30-32 madeleines but I halved it and only made 16.

You will need:
150g butter, melted and then cooled slightly (still fully liquid) plus extra to grease
100g plain flour plus extra to dust
100g caster sugar
2 tbsp ground almonds
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp almond extract
2 medium eggs
icing sugar, to dust

1. Prepare your tray by greasing it with melted butter and dusting liberally with flour, tilting the tray to get flour into all the corners.

2. Whisk together the caster sugar and eggs until frothy.

3. Whisk in the remaining ingredients (except icing sugar) and leave to stand for 20 minutes. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 200C.

4. Whisk the mixture again then drop a heaped teaspoon of the mixture into each madeleine mould.

5. Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden brown and risen. Dust liberally with icing sugar and serve.

Except for the 20 minute resting time (which gives you a perfect opportunity to put your feet up and watch some Netflix), this is a really quick recipe. It's also very simple and can be made with just a few ingredients that, if you're into baking, you will probably already have.

Enjoy with a cup of tea.

Au revoir,


Thursday, 16 June 2016

Apricot Galette

Before I launch into the is recipe, a note on puff pastry. Puff pastry done well is a thing of beauty. The pastry is built of delicate layers of dough and butter, which expand when cooked to give a flaky, crisp texture.

The only problem is, making puff pastry from scratch is a long, long process. You need to be very patient. If you do not chill the pastry for long enough, the butter will ooze out and before you know what's happening, there's butter everywhere and the pastry is not salvageable.

You don't want that, do you? So the key is to keep the ingredients as cold as possible and work quickly whenever it's out of the fridge.

If you do notice the butter oozing out of the pastry, pop it back in the fridge and chill it a bit longer.

Of course, any sane person would avoid all this bother by buying pre-made pastry. You can get perfectly good pastry, ready to use, in any large supermarket.

But I never claimed I was sane.

So feel free to use ready made pastry in this recipe. If you have a spare day and a burning desire to make puff pastry, then I used Paul Hollywood's method, which can be found here.

But to return to the apricot galette. I made it to a Yottam Ottolenghi recipe. It was supposed to feature rosemary sprigs, but the supermarket didn't have any, so my galette was unadorned.

Ottolenghi reckoned you could get two galettes from 375g pastry. I found this not to be the case. When I tried to stretch the pastry that far it got too thin and I had to do some emergency repair work.

So I have adjusted the quantities in the recipe to take account of this and it now makes only one galette, which will serve four (greedy) people or six to eight with smaller appetites.

You will need:

375g puff pastry dough (rolled into a 19cm x 25cm rectangle)
40g ground almonds
35g light brown soft sugar, plus 1 tsp to sprinkle
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 whisked egg
2 tins apricot halves (480g drained weight)
25g unsalted butter, melted
1/4 tsp almond extract
25g smooth apricot jam

1. Mix together the ground almonds, sugar and lemon and sprinkle over the dough, leaving a border of 2-3cm.

2. Arrange the apricots cut side up on top of the almond mix, overlapping them slightly. Brush the empty pastry with the whisked egg.

3. Crimp the edges of the tarts by pulling the edges in, holding your thumb and index finger close together in a pinching motion on the outside edge of the pastry and pushing on the other side with your index finger. Brush with more egg wash.

4. Mix the melted butter and almond extract and brush generously over the apricots. Sprinkle the remaining sugar over the galette, cover it with cling film and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.

5. Preheat the oven to 190C. Bake the galette for 40 minutes until the pastry is golden brown, then leave to cool. Heat the apricot jam with 1 tsp cold water (30 seconds in the microwave should do it). Brush it over the galette.

You can serve warm, with a bit of cream, or the next day.

Happy Baking!


Saturday, 11 June 2016

Gooey Gluten-free Chocolate Brownies

Wheat is one of the most fundamental ingredients in the vast majority of most baked goods. 

Depending on the type of baked good, you're often relying on gluten strands to make up the structure. So what if you're gluten intolerant, or coeliac?

Well, it can make things a bit tricky. If you or anyone you are baking for has this problem, you'll have to get creative. 

But I like to look at it as an opportunity to use ingredients I wouldn't usually, or use them in a different way to usual.

My boyfriend's sister is coeliac, so when I decided to bake for a family gathering, I had to get online looking for gluten free recipes.

Some of them seemed to have about 100 ingredients, all of which were obscure and not obtainable from my local supermarket.

Then I found this recipe from It's a great recipe. Rather than flour you use ground almonds and the end result is everything a chocolate brownie should be; moist, gooey and topped with a shiny crust.

So thank you, Elizabeth. These brownies are great and I'm sure coeliacs and non-coeliacs alike will enjoy them.

This recipe serves 16. 

You will need:

150g dark chocolate (check that it is gluten free!)
3 large eggs
170g unsalted butter
150g caster sugar
150g muscovado sugar
100g ground almonds
1 tsp vanilla extract
85g chopped walnuts or brazil nuts

1. Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line a large rectangular baking tin. Break up the chocolate and put it and the butter in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water to melt. Whisk the eggs in a bowl until frothy. 

2. Add the sugars and whisk them into the eggs until fully combined, thick, dark and treacley. Make sure you are still keeping an eye on the chocolate mixture and stirring it every now and then.

3. When the chocolate mixture has melted completely, pour it into the egg mixture and stir until fully combined. 

4. Add the ground almonds, chopped nuts and vanilla extract and fold them in gently. Pour the mixture into your prepared tin and bake for 30-40 minutes, depending on how gooey you want your brownies!

5. Leave the brownies to cool in the tin before slicing them up into 16 squares.

There you go, a decadent treat whether you eat gluten or not!

Happy baking,