Wales and Welsh Cakes.

We just got back from a magical trip to Wales. The number of castles scattered wherever we went was incredible. Some in total ruins while others painstakingly preserved to the original designs. All there for people to walk around and through. Down to the deepest cellars right up to the tallest towers and turrets.

Cardiff Castle

 

Caerphilly Castle

Carreg Cennan Castle

 

The coastline is wild and magnificent, the little towns and villages unique and the people friendly, happy and sincere. Truly a wonderful place to visit.

We even had a drink in the pub where my husband’s pop was born. (Yes, he was born in the pub!) 

Breakfast in some places consisted of the usual continental and/or a cooked breakfast plus a plate piled high with moist and crumbly sugar dredged Welsh Cakes. In any bakery or cafe and there they were again and in grocery stores in packets of 6 or 8.

Honestly, you’d think we’d be well sick of them but noooo….we weren’t even nearly done with them.

We came across a little cookbook with traditional Welsh baking recipes and wouldn’t you know it….inside a Welsh Cake recipe. So naturally we had to buy it. My belief is that I will be making every one of the delightful treats in this book….and so to begin…

Welsh Cakes

225g plain flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp allspice

Pinch of salt

230g butter -cubed

115g sugar

100g currants

1 egg  – beaten with 1 Tbls milk

castor sugar to sprinkle
Sift together the flour, baking powder, allspice and salt into a large bowl. Rub in the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs. Stir through the sugar and currants then add the egg and milk mixture and stir lightly with a butter knife until it all just comes together into a stiff dough. Roll out on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of 1/4 inch and then use a 5cm cookie cutter to cut into rounds.

 Heat and butter a heavy based frypan or griddle and cook the rounds for about 3 minutes on each side or until they’re golden brown.

Sprinkle with castor sugar and just you try to stop at one…


Delicious.

Enjoy…

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…

Smell’s Like Christmas….Gingerbread Biscuits.

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December comes around so quickly. Hard to believe it’s been a year since I last had my gingerbread biscuit cutters out.

The kitchen smells of ginger and cinnamon and fruit mince pies.

I’ve yet to make my gingerbread house though. I’ll have to get a move on.

There are two gingerbread recipes I use but this one is my favourite.

Its actually a ginger nut biscuit recipe from Margaret Fulton’s Book of Home Baking. One of the most used recipe books in my collection. I have adapted the recipe a little to make it more Christmasy, but I do use the original recipe many times throughout the year.

My young nephew could easily down a half dozen of these biscuits without drawing breath. Luckily he’s considerate enough to share whatever is left.

So here is the recipe:

In a small saucepan melt together 60g butter, 2 Tblsp treacle, 2 Tblsp golden syrup and 70g dark brown sugar over low heat until the butter and sugar have melted. Leave this to cool down for a few minutes then add 225g self-raising flour, 2 tsp ground ginger (or a little less if you don’t like it too spicy) and 1 tsp ground cinnamon and mix until you get a smooth thick paste. I then wrap it up and let it cool down for about a half hour to make it easier to handle.image

Now roll it out between to pieces of baking paper or plastic wrap to about 8mm thick and cut with your favourite biscuit cutters. Arrange on baking trays lined with baking paper and sprinkle with a little raw sugar and bake at 170c for 12 – 15 minutes depending on whether you want them really crunchy or a little chewy in the middle.image

Leave them on the baking trays for a couple of minutes to cool down slightly before transferring onto cake racks to cool down completely.

Simply replace the wheat flour with gluten free flour for a gluten free batch of gingerbread happiness.

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Hope you enjoy…

Brian makes Anzac biscuits

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Yessiree, he sure does.

The perfect biscuit too…

1 cup flour plain flour, desiccated coconut, rolled oats, white sugar.

125g butter, 1 tablespoon golden syrup, 2 tablespoons water, 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda.

In a bowl, mix together flour, coconut, oats and sugar. In a small saucepan, gently heat water butter and syrup until butter has melted. Stir in the bicarb. It will bubble and froth. (Really cool) Pour melted, frothy stuff into the dry stuff and mix really well. Roll onto walnut sized balls and place on baking paper covered baking trays, leaving enough room for spreading. Flatten with the bottom of a glass and bake in a 150C oven for about 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on wire rack.

Enjoy with a cup of your favourite tea.