Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Pistachio and cashew baklava

Baklava can be tooth achingly sweet and sometimes that sweetness overpowers, as if there’s varying textures of sweetness and nothing else. But when you’ve tasted baklava from one of its (many!) home counties, it's almost like a rude awakening to the fact that there is more to it than 10 cups of sugar.

Super fresh baklava is gooey, the syrup seeps when you bite into it and it’s less cloying than the stuff sitting on the supermarket shelves collecting dust. You won’t find rose or orange blossom water in the authentic Ottoman versions (i
f you let the rosewater bubble away with the sugar the results are only slightly floral which I prefer) because the pistachios are fresh enough to hold their own. Have you ever tasted fresh pistachios? They taste so…green. And expensive. I love the almost bland creaminess of cashews, so I’ve paired them with pistachios in this recipe to economically bulk the nuts out. 
The baklava from Karak√∂y in Istanbul is drenched in melted sheep’s butter. I mean, it’s nice, but you couldn’t sit there and eat a whole tray of sheepy baklava, and luckily this kind of butter isn’t widely available in England so unsalted cow’s butter (expect to see ‘cow’s butter’ in my recipe lists from now on ;)) does the job.

PS, I’ll leave making my own filo pastry off the agenda for now, or until I grow a beard and look like one of these guys.
Pistachio and cashew baklava

Makes 1 tray of baklava, aprox 20+ pieces,

  • 250g unsalted butter
For the syrup
  • 250g unrefined sugar  
  • Dash rosewater (optional)
  • 1 tbsp honey
For the pastry
  • 250g packet fresh filo pastry 
  • 100g cashews 
  • 100g pistachios

  1. The first step is to clarify the butter. Place the block in a small saucepan and heat on low until completely melted. Turn the heat up only slightly and let it bubble until foam stops coming up to the top. Use a metal spoon to skim off the foam and discard. Pour the liquid through a fine sieve to get rid of the milk solids, repeat if there is foam/milk solids still floating around. Set aside.
  2. Add 200g of cold water to a medium sized heavy bottomed saucepan along with the sugar and rose water. Boil rapidly on high heat for 7-10 minutes, but keep an eye out as it can burn. Stir in the honey then transfer to a jug and set aside to cool. 
  3. Preheat the oven to 180 Fan C. Add the cashews and half the pistachios into a food processor and blitz until fine and almost powdery, and then add the rest of the pistachios and pulse a few times until roughly chopped. 
  4. 4Carefully lay the filo on a clean work surface and place a 30cm x 14cm sized rectangular tin on top, making sure it's the right way up. Use a sharp knife to cut around the base of the tin. Lower half the filo sheets inside the tin, evenly spread the nut mixture on top and place the second half of the filo sheets on top. Use a sharp knife to cut 1-inch strips along the shorter length of the tin. Then cut diagonal strips 1-inch apart along the width of the tin, so that you end up with lots of triangles. 
  5. Pour the clarified butter (you may need to reheat) evenly over the pastries and bake for 25 minutes or until the tops of the baklavas are golden. Immediately pour the cooled syrup over the hot baklava, cover, and leave to rest for 3 hours or overnight before serving. 

Love Em xx

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Blood orange drizzle cake

It doesn’t get much more humiliating than having your last post be festive themed… Trees are blossoming and British men are shorts-clad in 10-degree weather. Then there I am, blogging an out of season drizzle cake. 
Cakes that require baking in rectangular tins get my vote. They can be iced, without all the fuss of splitting, straightening, filling, crumb coating and sweating. This is the sort of baking I want to do in the middle of the night because I'll wake up to a cooled cake which I can slice up and toast. It also requires just the right amount of elbow grease… i.e. not much at all. 

Blood oranges are tangier than your regular variety, adding their fresh juice to icing sugar makes for an addicting tangy topping. The sponge will taste as if it is an orange cake (a moist one at that, thanks to the ground almonds) but the flecks of blood orange zest are worth the change of fruit. 
Blood orange drizzle cake

  • 200g unsalted butter, softened 
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 2 blood oranges
  • 3 eggs
  • 75g ground almonds 
  • 125g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder 

For the syrup 
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar 

For the icing 
  • 250g icing sugar 
  • Juice of 1 orange

This cake works well with 2 fat lemons or ordinary oranges. 

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas 4. Grease and line a 1 lb/500g loaf tin. Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl with an electric whisk (or freestanding mixer) until pale and doubled in volume. Grate in the zest of the oranges and set them aside for the toppings. Add the eggs one by one, mixing after each addition until well combined. Pour in the almonds, flour and baking paper and mix until just combined, and then fold the mixture using a spatula until there are no white streaks.  Bake for 45/50 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  2. Whilst the cake is baking make the syrup. Pour 1 tbsp boiling water over the sugar  and stir until the sugar dissolves, then add the orange juice. While the cake is still hot, poke holes in several places and carefully pour the syrup evenly over it, then leave to cool.
  3. Add 2 tbsp orange juice to the icing and stir vigorously, then slowly add a drop at a time, until you have a thick, pourable consistency (you may not need the whole orange). Pour the icing over the cooled loaf, garnish with sliced oranges then leave to set and serve immediately. 
  4. I hope my lack of posting doesn't deter you from swinging by, because I’m still baking like a maniac and feeling the need to share it. 

Love Em xx

Friday, 19 December 2014

Mincemeat and frangipane tart

As we get older, do our sweet-buds start appreciating the finer desserts in life, do we prefer treacle steamed pudding to whipped cream covered microwave brownie with toffee sauce? I’m 22 today and I cannot be bothered for birthday cake. Steamed pudding or mince pie tart? Pass it over. 

A couple of months ago I was kindly asked by the delicious. magazine team if I’d like to take part in their 2014 mince pie challenge. Of course I said yes, but not without crapping my pants a little. Richard Bertinet, Rebecca Smith – delicious.’ very own food editor and the managing director of The Guild Of Fine Food were to judge my clumsy baking? Have. A. Laugh. 

This Blogger was up against The Chef and The Gran. Gran’s mince pies deservedly came up trumps and won the judges over with her dreamily flaky pastry and suet studded mincemeat. To be honest, never trust a gran who can’t make a winning mince pie. 
I’m sharing the mincemeat recipe I used for my pies on here today, but these Almond Mince Pies are the ones I took with me to the challenge. 

I admit it is too late to start giving this mincemeat monthly feeds, but if you have any mincemeat knocking around, you could spread a layer of frangipane under a pastry shell and top it with mincemeat, so that all the juices from the mincemeat sink in to the un-toasted, slightly unflavoured ground almonds. As the mincemeat is cooked twice, you only really need to feed it if you can taste the difference between fresh and matured cognac (Side note: I cant). 

I hope you all have a very merry Christmas, and if I don’t see you before 2015, thank you all for stopping by and reading/making the recipes – you're all amazing!
Mincemeat and frangipane tart


For the pastry
440g plain flour
75g caster sugar
35g ground almonds
Pinch sea salt
220g unsalted butter
1 egg + 1 egg separated 
1 tsp almond extract

I used a 20cm deep tart tin, but the pastry in this recipes caters up to a 23cm tart tin of any depth. 

For the frangipane
60g unsalted butter, softened
50g ground almonds
50g caster sugar
1 egg 
2 tsp plain flour 
1/8 tsp vanilla extract 
Pinch of sea salt

For the mincemeat
550g of your favourite mincemeat or...
340g sultanas
250g raisins
140g currants
50g dried cranberries, finely chopped 
250g / 3 Pink Lady apples, peeled and cubed
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Zest of 2 oranges, juice of 3
300g dark muscovado sugar 
1 ball stem ginger, finely chopped
3 tsp cinnamon
1 ½ tsp cloves 
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp all spice
Pinch of sea salt
90g shredded suet
90g unsalted butter, melted
150g flaked almonds, toasted 
160ml Grand Marnier, or ordinary cognac

Generously serves 10


For the mincemeat, stir the dried fruit together in a large bowl. Dice the apples and add them to the bowl, grate over the lemon zest, squeeze in the juice and stir to coat the fruit.  Next add the orange zest and juice, sugar, spices, peel, salt and fat then stir until everything is evenly coated. If using ordinary cognac, add the zest of the 3rd orange.  Carefully fold through the almonds. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave in a warm spot overnight, stirring occasionally to agitate the flavours. 

Preheat oven to 110°C/90°C Fan. Transfer the mincemeat to a baking tray, cover the top with foil and bake for 2 hours. Set aside to cool slightly, and then stir in the alcohol. Lastly, transfer to sealable sterilised jars. The mincemeat will last for 2 years if stored in a cool and dark place, feed it with about 1 tbsp of brandy every couple of months for an added kick. The flavours improve a little over time, so these are perfect for a last minute mince pie knock-up.

For the pastry, place the flour, ground almonds and sugar in a food processor and blitz for 10 seconds to combine. Add the cubed butter and pulse 3 to 4 times until rough breadcrumbs form. Put the processor on a slow blitz and pour in 1 egg, water and almond extract, as soon as a ball of dough takes shape, stop the mixer. If the mixture feels dry add a tbsp extra water. Pat the dough into two discs, making sure one is two thirds bigger than the other and wrap with clingfilm. Refrigerate until chilled, around 30 minutes. 

Prepare the frangipane. In a freestanding mixer with the paddle attachment (or with a bowl and spoom spoon), cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add ground almonds and mix for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. On low speed, add the egg, then the flour and salt. Set aside. 

Remove the larger piece of dough from the fridge. Sprinkle a light film of flour over a work surface and roll the chilled dough to the thickness of a £1 coin, large enough to cover the inside of the tart tin. Roll the dough around the rolling pin and carefully unfold it into the tin. Brush the base of the pastry with some of the separated egg white, just enough to create a seal. Use a spoon or spatula to spread the frangipane across the bottom of the shell, then carefully dollop the mincemeat on top of the frangipane. Fill it up as far as you can, if you’re using a wet mincemeat, use a little less to prevent leakage. 

Take the remaining dough out of the fridge and roll as before, large enough to cover the top of the tart and to the thickness of a £1 coin. This time, press a star cutter where the centre of the tart is, and then roll the dough over the pastry shell. Trim the edges and seal the sides. Use the remaining dough to cut extra star shapes and place them around the centre of the star. 

Pop the tart in the freezer for 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180°C Fan. Lightly brush the top with the egg yolk. Bake for 45/50 minutes, until the top is a light golden brown. Cover the top with foil if it browns too quickly.  Leave the tart to cool on a wire rack and then sprinkle with a generous dusting of icing sugar. Lasts for 3 days if kept covered. 

Love Em xx

Monday, 8 December 2014

Yeasted Almond and Sea Salt Deep Dish Chocolate Chip Cookie

Inside our flat there is a seven-foot tree held in position by the ceiling. This year we chose a sparing selection of fancy shmancy £4-a-pop John Lewis decorations instead of 100 glittery baubles from the Pound Land.  The tree is leaning slightly to the left, but I suppose that’s what happens when you invest in something real. 

Baking cookies in a cake tin won’t add a touch of all spice to a Christmas baking repertoire, but it does add a barely cooked doughy middle to the modest sized batch this recipe yields. I think that adding some ground cloves or cinnamon, or a warming combination of both elevated with some fresh nutmeg, could work beautifully, especially if you’re finally in the festive spirit (festive spirit = continuous spice trip in the month of December). Let’s not forget that cookies are a bribe the kids might use on Santa so he doesn’t disappoint them with a lump of coal.  Not to be ageist, but the heaps of sea salt, whole nuts and bitter chocolate in this cookie tray bake are all adultly ingredients too.
My favourite recipe for chocolate chip cookies is the New York Times adaptation of Jacques Torres’ recipe, which is made with bread flour. Since discovering it, all of my cookies have had bread flour in them because it gives a chew, and a slight sturdiness on the outside that is difficult to forget. 

To amplify the bread-like flavour I used yeast as the raising agent and chilled the tray overnight, maturing the fermentation like this created a surprisingly subtle yeastiness. Bicarbonate of soda is fine to use as a replacement, but I’m sick of accidentally adding too much bicarbonate and ending up with a batch of soapy baked goods. Using fast acting yeast eliminates all possibilities of that, and it creates a crispy and crackly top layer caused from the swollen air pockets that rise to the top of the cookie overnight. Yeast and bicarbonate of soda both produce carbon dioxide that helps the cookie rise in the oven, but I much prefer the characteristics of bread in my cookies instead of, say, Imperial Leather.
Yeasted Almond and Sea Salt Deep Dish Chocolate Chip Cookie

Makes 8 large pieces or 16 slithers.


  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 125g light brown sugar
  • 2 pinches sea salt
  • 1 tsp coffee extract or brewed coffee
  • 1 egg
  • 200g strong bread flour
  • ½ tsp fast action yeast
  • 100g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 50g almonds, roughly chopped

  1. In a small saucepan brown the butter on medium heat. Let the butter sizzle in the pan for a few minutes, keep an eye on it as it burns really quickly, you’ll know it’s browned when it starts to smell nutty. Pour the butter into a bowl and leave to cool slightly. Add the sugar, salt and coffee extract to the butter and stir to combine then crack in the egg and briefly whisk.
  2. In a separate bowl stir together the flour and yeast and add to the butter mixture. The mixture will be a little wet. Fold through the chocolate and almonds. Dump the dough into an 8-inch round cake tin and use the back of a spoon to gently press into the tin. Tightly wrap the tin in cling film and leave in the fridge for 2 hours or overnight. Once you're ready to serve the cookie, preheat the oven to 200˚C/fan 180˚C/gas 6 and bake for 18 minutes, or 14 minutes for a gooey middle. Cookie lasts for 3 days if covered.

Waitrose might have nailed gingerbread this Christmas, but they also have a lovely collection of chocolate cake recipes on their website. I made their ganache covered red-velvet-like layer cake and filled it with tangy freeze-dried strawberries, which was dense and hit all the right choco-spots. You can find the recipe here, along with lots more chocolatey goodness.

Love Em xx

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Pistachio & Chocolate Biscotti + A Giveaway

mbakes turned three last month! We’re nearly out of the annoying toddler stage and hopefully; the recipes aren’t as clumsy anymore. Pair the diabolical explosions of sugar I used to post back in ’12 + 13 with my nighttime flash photography, and it makes me want to cry and murder every cupcake on the planet. 
Aaaaand then there’s Jane Hornby, she’s been writing recipes professionally for 15 years and her new baking book What To Bake & How To Bake It came out recently. If you have years of recipe writing under your belt and a whole book containing mostly quintessentially British recipes within, that’s enough to draw me in. The glorious book might be aimed at the amateur baker, but there's no harm in adding a collection of stable recipes to your collection (15 years = stable recipes, okay?). WTB&HTBI felt genuine, much more so than a book by a celebrity chef, whose home economist likely thought up/tested the recipes and then stuck a coy image of said celeb chef on the front cover to push the sale of copies, isn’t that annoying? 

What’s the USP, I hear you ask? (You’re not asking this), it might be the photography, which kind of reminds me of Ikea. Each recipe (there’s 50 of them, including pumpkin pie and JAFFA marble cake) comes with beautiful overhead step-by-step photographs from start to finish.  This recipe for pistachio chocolate chip biscotti is an adaptation from the pistachio and fig version in the book, every recipe in here is meant to be simple, so I chose the simplest of the lot, to see how good Jane’s ‘simple’ was, and my oh my, Jane’s simple is simply delicious, crunchy and not at all eggy. 
To celebrate three years, Phaidon have kindly offered two copies of What To Bake & How To Bake It for me to giveaway. To enter, follow the instructions on the rafflecopter below. You can only enter if you live in the UK, don’t hate me!
Pistachio & Chocolate Biscotti


2 tbsp melted butter
100g shelled pistachios 
100g dark chocolate chips
200g unrefined caster sugar 
3 eggs
300g plain flour, plus extra for dusting and rolling 
1 tsp baking powder 
1/2 tsp salt 
Zest from 1 orange 


Grease and line a large baking tray with baking parchment. Preheat oven to 180 C / 350 F. 

Put the sugar and eggs in a large bowl and whisk for one minute, until the mixture is frothy and paler than when you started out. Whisk in the butter. 

Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt and add them to the eggs. Use a spatula to fold together to make a dough. Add the zest, nuts and chocolate and stir into the dough using the spatula. 

Scatter a generous amount of flour on the work surface and turn the dough out onto it. Split the dough in two and dust each one with more flour. Shape and lightly pat each piece into an 8-10 inch sausage, taking care not to overwork. Gently lift each piece onto the baking tray, bake for 30 minutes then leave to cool on a wire rack and reduce the oven to 160 C / 320 F.

Use a serrated knife to slice into 1cm pieces, then spread the cookies on the lined baking tray and bake for another 30 minutes, turning them over half way through so both sides are golden. Cool the biscotti on a rack, or eat warm, they'll last for 2 weeks in a cookie jar.
Love Em xx
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