Anise Biscuits

I’ve been through The Cookbook Guru‘s book of choice for July and August, The Italian Baker by Carol Field, and put in little pieces of paper to bookmark all the recipes I want to try. The hard part is trying to figure out where to start.

I’ll definitely be making some of the wonderful breads and trying out the Biga (Starter Dough), but last night I felt like baking some biscuits.

These biscuits are wonderful.

They’re very much like Savoiardi biscuits. So light and crispy with a hint of aniseed.

They’re  also very easy to make too. Perfect with a hot cup of tea or coffee. Hard to stop at one….

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You’ll need:-

4 eggs

180g castor sugar

5g vanilla extract

grated zest of 1/2 lemon

200g plain flour

pinch of salt

3g baking powder

5-8g aniseed, crushed

Whisk the eggs and sugar together until very thick, about 8-10 minutes. Mix in the vanilla and lemon zest then gently fold in the sifted flour, salt and baking powder. Now stir in the aniseed.

Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a plain 1cm nozzle and pipe 10cm long strips onto a baking paper lined baking tray.

Bake in a pre-heated 190oC oven for 20 minutes then turn the heat down to 160oC and bake for a further 5-8 minutes until lightly browned and crispy.

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Cool on the trays for 5 minutes then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Personally I’ll be putting in a little more aniseed next time I make these. But then I love the flavour of aniseed.

Light, crispy and easy to make….sounds good to me…

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Enjoy…

Ma’amoul Swirls

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As you near the house all you hear is a familiar sound. The BANG of the Ma’amoul mould being hit on the edge of the table. Yep, it must be nearly Easter and Mum and Dad are elbow deep in Ma’amoul biscuit dough. On one side there is a big bowl of date filling and on the other a bowl of crushed walnut and rose water. The smell of melted ghee wafts out the kitchen and invades your nostrils. Only a few more steps and you’ll be amid the organized chaos and within arms reach of this years batch of Ma’amoul.

And then you see them….

Mounds of lightly browned date or walnut filled biscuits, still slightly warm and definitely too good to just stand around and look at so you make a run for them. But no…. you’re forced back by the  ‘DON”T YOU TOUCH THOSE’ yelled out in unison by both Mum and Dad…

I’d love to say that is a memory of our childhood but the truth is it happens still, every year.

These little gems are quite different to the Ma’amoul we wait for every Easter. My sister makes something very similar and I could sit and eat a whole plate of them with a cup of tea or coffee.

Let me tell you how I made Ma’amoul Swirls from this months The Cookbook Guru‘s beautiful book of choice, Saha by Greg and Lucy Malouf.

For the filling you’ll need:-

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200g fresh dates, pitted and chopped

4 Tblsp water

1 Tblsp castor sugar

1 Tblsp Kahlua (which I didn’t have so I used Dranbuie)

Melt the sugar in the water over a low heat then add the dates, stir well and cover. Leave for four or five minutes to soften then take off the heat and stir in the Kahlua. Leave to cool slightly then blitz in a food processor until smooth. Leave to cool.

For the Biscuit dough:-

270g plain flour

150g butter

30g icing sugar

20ml olive oil

45ml milk

Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs then stir in the sugar then add the milk and oil and work into a smooth dough.

On a floured bench, roll out the dough to a large rectangle, about 3mm thick, and spread the filling over the top evenly leaving a small margin on one of the long sides.

Now roll into a long sausage making sure to seal the edge well. Chill in the fridge for about an hour (this helps with the cutting).IMG_1512

Pre heat the oven to 160oC. Slice the biscuit log on the diagonal about 1cm thick and place them on a baking paper lined baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes then turn the heat down to 140oC and bake for a further 10 minutes.

Cool on wire racks.

The result…melt in the mouth biscuits. Absolutely delicious….

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My sister’s version is rolled in sesame seeds. I’ll have to try that next time.

Enjoy…

Gluten Free Shortbread Biscuits with Currants.

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My sister gave me some bags of different kinds of gluten free flours a while ago and while I’ve been experimenting with them I haven’t been blogging what I’ve come up with.

I woke on Friday morning with the urge to make shortbread biscuits and remembered the Banana Flour I was given and decided it was time to make a G.F.  recipe and post it.

So here we are. The biscuits are long gone but it’s time to transfer the recipe from a post it note to a blog post…

This was the first trial of these biscuits and while they are really good, I didn’t get a big enough hit of the banana flour so next time I’ll be trying a little more banana flour and a little less g.f. plain flour. Of course you could omit the the banana flour all together and just put in 150g g.f. flour and you’ll get a lovely buttery shortbread biscuit.

You’ll need:

100g Gluten Free Plain Flour (I use Orgran brand)

50g banana flour

65g almond meal

1 tsp xanthum gum

30g gluten free corn flour (I use Whitewings)

90g castor sugar

150g salted butter

1 tsp vanilla extract

30g  dried currants

Here’s the hard part:

Put all the ingredients, except the currants, into the bowl of an electric mixer with a paddle attachment and turn the mixer on to low speed to begin with so that everything doesn’t fly out of the bowl and all over the kitchen.  After a couple of minutes increase the speed a couple of notches and let it mix until it almost forms a ball. At this stage throw in the currants and continue to mix until it all comes together and forms a kind of ball.

Roll the dough into a long sausage (about 35 – 40 cm long), wrap it in a sheet of baking paper and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. IMG_1355

When the dough is chilled and firm slice into rounds just under 1 cm thick, place on a baking paper lined baking sheet and bake in a pre-heated 1650C oven for 25 – 30 minutes or until very lightly browned on the edges.

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I actually sprinkled a little cinnamon sugar over a few of them before baking to see how they’d turn out. The cinnamon gives it a great lift but that’s just me playing with my recipes again.

Leave to cool on the tray while you grab a cup of tea or coffee.

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The great thing about this recipe is that you can keep the uncooked dough wrapped in plastic wrap for up to a month in the fridge and just cut off and cook as many slices as you need. A constant supply of fresh baked biscuits.

I packed a couple dozen of these in a bag for my sister Jacky (who is a Ceoliac), and delivered them to her at work with a cup of coffee. She loved them. Good deed done…

Enjoy…

For the love of Scones…

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Joining in the fun with Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial and making scones to celebrate International Scone Week.

These little beauties are an adaptation of a scone recipe I use very often. All I’ve done is substitute some of the ingredients for flavours my Mum loves (it is her birthday today after all), and regular readers know how I love to play with recipes.

So here’s some  Fig, Ginger and Pomegranate Scones:

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1/2 cup dried fig – chopped

1/4 cup glacé ginger – chopped

2 cups self raising flour

2 tsp ground ginger (put in less if you don’t like your scones too spicy)

1 tsp ground cinnamon

pinch of salt

1/2 Tblsp pomegranate molasses (you can buy this in just about every supermarket these days)

1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup cream

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Sift the flour, ginger, cinnamon and salt In a medium bowl. Add the dates and ginger and stir to combine.

Heat the milk, cream and pomegranate molasses gently until well combined. (Mine curdled a little at this stage but it didn’t affect the end product). Add to the flour and fruit mixture and mix with a flat bladed knife to form a soft. Don’t over mix or you”ll end up with a tough scone.

Tip out onto a lightly floured surface and press out to 2 cm thickness. 

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Cut into rounds using a 5 cm cutter. Place on a baking paper lined baking tray. Brush lightly with a little extra cream and bake in a pre-heated 210oC oven  for 12 – 15 minutes or until lightly golden. IMG_1331

Hope You have a Happy Birthday Mum and as always…

Enjoy…

Chelsea Buns

I love working with yeast. Mixing and kneading and shaping. The way the dough feels in my hands. It’s very therapeutic. And don’t get me started on the smell of baking bread. It fills the whole house with calm and warmth.
Once you have your basic bread recipe you can do so much with it. Adding different flavourings and seeds or herbs.
I still haven’t gotten into the sourdough side of things though. A baker friend told me how to get a starter dough going, how to feed it and use it but it just didn’t work for me. Perhaps I’ll try again some day. In fact, I definitely will.
In the mean time, I’ve been going through this months The Cookbook Guru‘s book of choice – Elizabeth David‘s English Bread and Yeast Cookery. There are lots of recipes that take my interest in this book and because there is lots of bread already floating around the house at the moment, I thought I’d start with something sweet.
Chelsea Buns are something I have loved for as long as I can remember so why not take this opportunity to try my hand at making them?

First batch didn’t work out too brilliantly. I had a hard time getting the dough to rise the first time, so I gave up and put it in the fridge (it was getting pretty late in the evening by the time I did give up though) The next morning I took it out and left it on the bench for an hour to come to room temperature.

It’s winter here and our place seems to get really cold so that probably didn’t help with the proving. Anyway, I gave the dough another knead and continued with the recipe. The second prove worked better and the final product turned out okay except I over cooked them.

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Oops. My bad.

Sooooo…

After distributing my near failed first batch of Chelsea Buns to my family I started another batch….

 

To make 12 Chelsea Buns I used:-

Dough:-

275g bakers flour

3g salt

20g castor sugar

115g butter cut into small cubes

80g milk

8g dried yeast

1 egg

Filling:-

40g butter – softened

40g brown sugar

5g mixed spice

50g currants

In a small bowl mix together the butter, sugar and spice until well combined. Set aside.

Glaze:-

1/2 Tbls milk

1 Tbls castor sugar

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Heat the milk to just warm and add the yeast giving it a little stir. Set aside for a few minutes. It should come up all frothy. That means your yeast is alive. Hooray.

In a bowl mix together the flour, salt and sugar. Rub in the butter then pour in the milk and yeast. Mix together to form a sticky dough then tip out onto a lightly floured bench top and knead for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Put back in the bowl, cover and leave in a warm place until doubled in size. It could take and hour, it could take two hours (or, like my first attempt, it could not rise at all but lets not get into that.)

Once it has risen, turn out onto a bench top and give it another knead for a minute or two minutes then roll it out into a rectangle 20cm x 30cm.

Spread with the butter and sugar mix and sprinkle the currants  evenly on top.IMG_1223

Take one of the shorter ends and fold it 3/4 over the rest of the dough and then bring the other end over to cover this.IMG_1243

IMG_1244Now turn the whole thing a quarter turn so that the long side is closest to you. (Gee, I hope that made some sense.)

Carefully roll out again to the original size rectangle (20 x 30 cm)

Now roll the dough tightly into a sausage shape starting from the long sides.IMG_1226

Phew, glad that’s over….

Cut into 12 equal pieces and place them a little apart on a baking paper lined baking tray and flatten slightly with your hand.

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Cover loosely with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place for 45 minutes to rise (or until doubled in size)

When ready, bake in a 210oC oven for 15 minutes until lovely and brown.

Heat the milk and sugar for the glaze until the sugar has melted and brush over the warm buns.

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Then they’re ready…

Let them cool down slightly before gorging on them (though I didn’t). It’s just good manners right???

Yay for batch number two…

Enjoy…

 

 

 

Cranberry and Coconut Macaroons

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I made a batch of these macaroons for my sisters 40th birthday party on the weekend. They were well received. Several people asked for the recipe so I thought I’d do a blog post and share it with you as well.
I played with the recipe by adding different ingredients and really liked the cranberry macaroon, though they do taste just as good plain. Just leave out the cranberries and mix all the ingredients in a bowl.

These are very simple to make and look impressive piled up on a serving dish.

All you need is:-

175g shredded coconut

130g castor sugar

pinch of salt

2 tsp vanilla

60g dried cranberries roughly chopped

2 egg whites

1 egg yolk

Blend the cranberries, eggs and vanilla in a blender until the cranberries are chopped up into small pieces.

Mix the coconut, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add the cranberry and egg and mix with your hands until everything is well combined.

Form tablespoons of the mixture into whatever shapes you like (I used a teaspoon and my hand to form a cone shape but whatever’s easier for you. It will all taste the same)

Place them onto a baking paper lines baking sheet and cook at 130C for 20 – 25 minutes or until lightly brown.

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Cool on sheet.

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They store well for a week in an airtight container, but trust me, there won’t be any left to store.

Please enjoy…

Ataif – Walnut Stuffed Pancakes with Rose Water Syrup.

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Happy to have just made it in for this months The Cookbook Guru book of the month – The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden.

Okay, this one was really hard to get a hold of but persistence pays off.  I ordered it from one library who ordered it in from another library and finally…..

My thought was to go straight to the sweets section and make something from there. I’ll have a better look at the rest of the book a little later.

My mum and I have been making something very similar to these little stuffed pancakes for years and because the only time I follow recipes to the T is when I’m at work, I sort of combined the two recipes and ended up with these…

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Light pancakes with a sweet walnut and cinnamon filling with just a hint of rose water. I like them as they are but for the sweet tooth the syrup is thick, sweet and sticky.

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This recipe will make about 30 Ataif.

For the pancake batter:-

1 1/2 tsp dry yeast

1 tsp sugar

1 3/4 cups lukewarm water

1 1/3 cups plain flour

pinch of salt

In a bowl mix together the yeast, sugar, flour and salt. Add the water and use a whisk to mix it all together making sure there are no lumps of flour left. Cover with plastic wrap and leave for an hour in a warm spot until it’s all frothy. Give it a good whisk.

Lightly wipe a non-stick fry-pan with a little oil and put over a medium-high heat. When it’s hot pour in tablespoons of the batter a few cm apart so they don’t touch. You’ll only be cooking one side of the pancake. It’s ready when the top is full of little holes and it’s lost it whiteness. If you let it dry out too much you won’t be able to get the edges to stick together.

Place on a plate and continue cooking the rest of the pancakes.

For the Walnut Filling:-

120g shelled walnut pieces

50g brown sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp rose water

Put the walnuts, sugar and cinnamon in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until very fine. Add the rose water and give it another quick mix and its ready.

For the Syrup:-

75g water

150g white sugar

2 tsp lemon juice

1 star anise

2 Tbls rose water

Stir the water, sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan until the sugar melts, add the star anise and bring to the boil without stirring. Let it boil for 10 minutes until its thick and coats the back of a spoon. Stir in the rose water then let it cool.

To Assemble:-

Take one pancake, put a 1/2 – 3/4 tsp of the filling in the centre. Fold in half and close by pinching the edges with your fingers.

Arrange on a serving dish with the syrup in a little bowl or glass.

Sound like  a big job but really its just pancakes. Anyway, every time I’ve made these people always come back for more so they’re worth the effort.

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Enjoy…