Lemon Balm Shortbread

I love to bake with herbs either in savoury recipes themselves or to add a savoury twist to sweet recipes. My herb garden is currently abundant with beautiful leaves, from flowering thyme and sage to chives and rosemary. A new addition to my herbs this year was lemon balm. Being a member of the mint family, lemon balm is also known as balm mint, and indeed has similar leaves and vigorous growing properties to mint. The leaves have a mild lemony scent and I have been using it on fish and in salads for an alternative citrus flavour. Last weekend I used it to add a herby twist to a traditional lemon shortbread. (If you don’t have lemon balm however just add a little extra lemon zest to this recipe). Decorated with some dried edible flowers these would make a pretty edible gift, or a lovely summery teatime treat!

Lemon Balm Shortbread

Ingredients for the Shortbread (makes 12):

  • 170g plain flour
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 110g room temperature butter
  • 1tbsp finely chopped lemon balm leaves
  • Finely grated zest 1/2 lemon
  • Dried flower petals (optional, to decorate)
  • Icing sugar (optional, to decorate)

Method

  • To make the shortbread, preheat the oven to 180°C/356F.
  • Place the flour, caster sugar, butter and lemon zest in a food processor and pulse until the mixture has almost come together.
  • Add the chopped lemon balm and pulse a few more times until mixed in.
  • Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to between 0.5-1cm thick. If you are using edible flowers, sprinkle over the rolled dough at this point and give a further roll to press the petals lightly into the dough.
  • Cut out biscuit rounds using a 6cm round cutter (or any size or shape you prefer!).
  • Place the biscuits on a baking tray and bake for 8-10mins (turning half-way through if required) until lightly golden.
  • Leave to cool on the tray for a few minutes before gently transferring to a wire wrack to cool completely.
  • Once cool, dust with a little icing sugar.
  • Store in an airtight container.

Chocolate Raspberry and Pink Peppercorn Cupcakes

February is synonymous with Valentine’s Day which calls for some romantic baking! Dark chocolate and raspberry are a match made in heaven…here I have spiced up the combination in a cupcake recipe with the addition of some pink peppercorns. The spice adds an interesting little kick we well as being a pretty decorative flourish!

This recipe makes approx 16-20 cupcakes. Feel free to half the recipe if you don’t wish to devour this many between you and your loved one!

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Raspberry and Pink Peppercorn

Ingredients for the Dark Chocolate Cupcakes:

  • 100g unsalted butter,
  • 280g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 180g plain flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½  tsp bicarbonate soda
  • 8g cocoa powder
  • 120g good quality 70% dark chocolate
  • 160ml whole milk

Ingredients for the Raspberry Buttercream

  • 100g raspberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 500g icing sugar
  • 300g unsalted butter
  • Handful of pink peppercorns

Method

  • To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 160°C/315F and line two 12-hole muffin tins with 16-20 paper cases.
  • Place the chocolate, milk and half the sugar in a small saucepan and heat gently, stirring until all the chocolate and sugar have dissolved.
  • Meanwhile beat the butter and remaining sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and creamy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Scrape down the mixture from the sides if necessary.
  • Sift the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda into the butter and sugar mixture and mix gently until just combined.
  • Pour in the melted chocolate mixture and mix again, scraping any mixture down from the sides if necessary.
  • Divide the mixture between the cases and bake in the oven for approximately 20 minutes or until the top of the cupcakes are springy to the touch.
  • Leave to rest in the tray for a few minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely (note: tops of the cupcakes sink slighltly on cooling which is normal)
  • To make the buttercream, place the raspberries in a small saucepan with a small splash of water and heat gently until soft. Remove from the heat and mash. Strain through a sieve into a clean bowl, scraping the sieve to get as much of the juice as possible. Return the raspberry puree to the saucepan and simmer gently until the juice has thickened and reduced by about half. Leave to cool and thicken further.
  • Meanwhile, beat the butter and icing sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer for approximately 10mins until light and fluffy. A little at a time, add the concentrated raspberry puree to the buttercream, mixing between each addition, until the desired strength of flavour is achieved. Take care not to add too much such that icing is too runny.
  • To finish the cupcakes, pipe the raspberry buttercream on each cupcake and sprinkle with crushed pink peppercorns!

January Baking – Mincemeat Scones

I always make a batch of homemade mincemeat in December, ready to make mince pies or other festive goods throughout the month. My version is vegetarian and sweetened only with the dried fruit itself so I feel it is a tiny bit healthier (!). This year I made these scones for Christmas morning but with a spare jar of two of mincemeat in the fridge come January I thought they are also a great bake to use up leftover mincemeat after the festive season. With a hint of spice and the sweetness of the fruit they are deliciously comforting straight from the oven with a cup of tea on a dark and cold January day!

Mincemeat Scones

Ingredients for the Mincemeat Scones:

  • 500g self-raising flour
  • 100g unsalted butter, cool but not cold
  • Good pinch baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1tbsp caster sugar
  • Grated zest 1 small orange
  • 250ml full-fat milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 jar mincemeat (homemade or shop bought), approx 200g
  • 1 egg mixed with a little milk to glaze
  • Handful flaked almond (optional)

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 170°C/315F.

Step 2: Sift the flour, baking powder and cinnamon into a large bowl. Add the salt and stir to combine

Step 3: Add the butter and rub into the flour until it looks like fine breadcrumbs.

Step 4: Add the caster sugar and stir to combine.

Step 5: Add the mincemeat and orange zest and stir again until just combined.

Step 6: Mix together the egg and milk before adding to the flour mixture. Stir until just combined. If a little dry add some more milk to make a moist dough.

Step 7: Turn the dough onto a floured surface and roll lightly with a rolling pin until approx 3cm thick.

Step 8: Cut out scones using a round cutter. Place scone on a lightly greased or lined baking tray and brush with the  egg/milk wash. Sprinkle with flaked almonds if using.

Step 9: Bake for 15-20mins until golden.

Step 10: Remove from the oven and place on a warm rack to cool.

Step 11: Enjoy as soon as possible with a little melted butter or some jam!

Storage: Scones are best enjoyed on the same day but can be stored in an airtight container. They can also be frozen for up to 3 months.

Rose Butter Madeleines with White Chocolate and Pistachio Praline

 

I recently received the most amazingly fragrant organic roses from Bumblebee Flower Farm in West Cork. The scent was something that you would never get from a standard shop-bought rose…these roses were those that you just wish to close your eyes and breathe for. My purpose was to try out some of the beautiful summer blooms from Bumblebee Farm for use as decoration in some of my cake designs, but I couldn’t pass the smell of these roses without thinking that I had to incorporate that scent into a cake too!

Madeleines are small French butter cakes baked in pretty scalloped-shaped madeleine moulds. I had only made them once before but thought that making a delicate rose-scented version would be perfect for these dainty teatime treats. To capture the scent of the rose petals, I infused the butter in the recipe first which resulted in a deliciously subtle sweet and fragrant flavour. If you can’t get your hands on rose petals feel free of course to add a little rosewater for a similar taste. This base recipe would also work with other flowers such as lavender.

Normally my recipes are self-explanatory but much like other French baked goods (macarons spring immediately to mind!), I have found that making madeleines is not quite as straightforward as it seems and a few little tricks are essential! In my first attempt at this recipe I only buttered the tin, resulting in cakes that stuck tight. A dust of flour is essential. Recipes vary greatly and I initially didn’t chill my batter but they subsequently rose and spread hugely outside the moulds, tasting delicious but losing their pretty shape. I found chilling the batter in the tin for about 30 mins solved this. I have also found that the light sponge doesn’t stay fresh for long, so feel no guilt in devouring these tiny treats on the day they are made!

Rose Butter Madeleines with White Chocolate and Pistachio Praline

Ingredients for the Rose Butter Madeleines:

  • 60g unsalted butter
  • Handful fragrant edible rose petals (or use 1/4 tsp of rosewater or other flavouring)
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 50g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder

For the Pistachio Praline:

  • 50g caster sugar
  • 50g shelled pistachios

To decorate (optional):

  • 100g white chocolate
  • Pistachio Praline
  • Dried rose petals

Step 1: To make the rose butter madeleines, preheat the oven to 170°C/315F.

Step 2: Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a low heat. Add the rose petals and leave to infuse, swirling now and then. The butter should become fragrant with the rose petals. Have a small taste to check and if not leave for a little longer or add more petals.

Step 3: Use a little of the butter to brush over the moulds of a madeleine tin. Then dust the moulds with a little flour, tapping out any excess.

Step 4: Whisk together the egg and caster sugar using a handheld or stand whisk until the mixture is pale and mousse like and has increased in volume.

Step 5: Sift the flour and baking powder into the egg and sugar mixture and fold in gently until just combined

Step 6: Strain the butter into the mixture, discarding the rose petals, and fold in gently until combined.

Step 7: Place a heaped teaspoon of the mixture into each of the moulds of the madeleine tray and place in the fridge for 30 mins.

Step 8: To make the pistachio praline, roughly chop the pistachios and place a square of baking paper on a tray.

Step 9: Heat the sugar in a small saucepan over a medium heat, swirling regularly until dissolved.

Step 10: Continue to heat the sugar until it caramelises, taking care not to burn.

Step 11: Remove from the heat, add the chopped pistachios and quickly stir to coat in the caramel. Pour out onto the baking parchment and leave to cool.

Step 12: Place the praline in a chopper or pestle and mortar and grind to a rough consistency.

Step 13: To finish the madeleines, remove the madeleine tray from the fridge and bake for approximately 12-15 mins until risen and springy to the touch. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes before gently removing each madeleine from its mould using a palette knife. Leave to cool on a wire wrack.

Step 14; Melt the white chocolate in a cup or small bowl in the microwave. Dip the tip of each madeleine in the white chocolate and place on a sheet of baking paper. Sprinkle some pistachio praline and rose petals over the top. Enjoy immediately!

And the award for Best Dessert Blog goes to…!

I was beyond thrilled to have won a Golden Tier Awards in New York last month. Bowled over actually is more like it! The Golden Tier Awards is the first American-hosted, international awards show of its kind, recognising the contribution of pastry chefs, cake and sugar-artists, dessert professionals, authors and writers, chocolatiers, instructors, and retailers and celebrating the very best the industry has to offer. The Awards were hosted by Lisa Mansour of the renowned cake supply shop and school, New York Cake,  along with American Cake Decorating Magazine.

A total of 14,000 nominations (yes!) from around the world were received, spread across 13 different awards categories…Cove Cake Design was in the Best Dessert Blog category. I was asked to submit photos of my work and links to my website and blog for the judging panel to review.

An esteemed panel of 15 cake artists and pastry chefs (that read like a whose who in the cake world) then whittled the nominations down to 3 finalists in each category and we were chosen in the Best Dessert Blog category alongside Olivia Bogacki and Veena Azmanov. I was deeply humbled to be amongst the 39 finalists, many of whom I have known and admired hugely for years.

With only 3 weeks until the awards ceremony, a business and 3 children meant that it was no mean feat to go to New York for the awards show. I am hugely grateful to one of my lovely clients who allowed me to deliver her wedding cake the night before her wedding day, and her florist (Melanie of Fussy Peacock) who so kindly agreed to arrange the flowers on her cake for me so I could catch a flight to New York in time! And of course I have to thank the grandparents for jumping in to babysit!

The Black Tie awards show took place in the iPic Theater in Lower Manhattan, with a glitzy cocktail party preceding the main event. The Best Dessert Blog category was up first and I had my incredulous Oscars moment (!) when my name was called out by Ron Ben Israel who presented my award. It was a fantastic night and I have to say the hugest of thanks to Lisa Mansour and all the staff of American Cake Decorating who organised such an amazing night, as well as all the judges who gave their time. And of course congratulations to all of the winners and finalists for whom I have the utmost professional admiration and respect!

On returning home the messages of congratulations were overwhelming. I can’t thank everyone enough for their continuous and generous support of my business. But most of all was the elation of my children, who had crafted congratulations cards for my arrival…they couldn’t wait to see the award! (although a subsequent win of a football trophy by my 7 year old was soon deemed to far surpass Mum’s trophy!).

People have since asked me what it means to me to have won this and one word comes to mind..validation. I gave up my science career 9 years ago, spent the intervening years rearing children and running a house, somewhat then falling into cake decorating, a business and a blog. I work part-time from home covering all aspects of the business myself. Sometimes it is hard to find the time to be as creative as I would like to be, or to advance things as much as I would like to.  Probably like all those in creative industries I have had moments of wondering how I ended up here, whether I am good enough for it, and whether the juggle is justified. But to anyone starting a business, pursuing a passion, being creative and having moments of self-doubt I will leave you with one of my favourite quotes which springs to mind when wondering if the path chosen is the right one……

 

 

Lemon Raspberry Hibiscus Loaf Cake Recipe

 

I recently came across dried Hibiscus flowers on one of my many compulsive deli wanderings. Ruby red in colour, it is consumed as a tea, with a tart berry-like flavour, often requiring the addition of sugar to counteract this. I love using teas to flavour cakes and decided to try Hibiscus in a loaf cake, paired with the classic combination of lemon and raspberry. This cake recipe is deliciously moist due to the addition of natural yogurt, and the hibiscus flavour is introduced as a drizzle syrup, and in a tangy cream cheese icing. I decorated with candied hibiscus flowers, pistachio praline crumb (I do like to add pistcachio to all things possible!) and thyme flowers, but would be equally as good just with a smattering of fresh raspberries. Enjoy with a cup of your favourite brew!

(Note: If hibiscus flowers are hard to find this recipe is delicious as a simple lemon raspberry loaf cake. Simply substitute lemon juice for the hibiscus water in the syrup and omit the hibiscus syrup in the icing. Or ice with a simple mix of icing sugar and lemon juice!).

Lemon Raspberry Hibiscus Loaf Cake

Ingredients for the Lemon Rasberry Cake:

  • 190g unsalted butter
  • 190g caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 190g plain flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • Finely grated zest 2 lemons
  • 25g natural yogurt
  • Handful of frozen raspberries

Ingredients for the Hibiscus Syrup:

  • 75g caster sugar
  • 75g boiling water
  • Handful dried hibiscus flowers

Ingredients for the Hibiscus Lemon Cream Cheese Icing :

  • 100g cream cheese
  • 2tbsp natural yogurt
  • 1tbsp icing sugar
  • 2tbsp hibiscus syrup
  • Finely grated zest 1 lemon

To decorate (optional):

  • Candied Hibiscus flowers (you can buy these in a syrup in some good delis)
  • Thyme flowers
  • Pistachio crumb
  • Other options include fresh raspberries, candied lemon peel and edible flowers!

Step 1: To make the lemon raspberry cake, preheat the oven to 170°C/315F.  Grease and line a loaf tin.

Step 2: Cream together the butter, sugar and lemon zest with an electric mixer (or hand mixer) until pale. Scrape down sides regularly.

Step 3: Beat in the eggs one at a time.

Step 4: Sift together the flour and baking powder into a large bowl.

Step 5: Add the flour to the butter and sugar mixture and mix on slow speed until just combined.

Step 6: Add the natural yogurt and mix again until combined.

Step 7: Pour the batter into the lined tin. Push the raspberries about half way down into the cake so they are dispersed throughout the loaf. Smooth over the top and bake in the preheated oven for approximately 50 mins or until the top is springy to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Step 8: To make the hibiscus syrup, add the hibiscus flowers to the boiling water and leave to steep for 10-15 mins.

Step 9: Drain the hibiscus water into a small saucepan and add the sugar. Heat until the sugar is dissolved and a syrup formed.

Step 10: To make the hibiscus cream cheese icing, mix together the cream cheese, yogurt and lemon zest until combined. Add the hibiscus syrup a little at a time until the desired consistency and taste is achieved (you don’t want it to be too runny).

Step 11: To assemble the cake. When the cake is cooked remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 10mins before turning out onto a wire wrack to cool further.

Step 12: While the cake is still warm, poke holes in the top with a skewer and pour the warm hibiscus syrup over the top.

Step 13: When the cake has cooled completely, cover with the icing and decorate as you see fit! I used candied hibiscus flowers, pistachio praline crumb and thyme flowers. Some fresh raspberries would work equally well!

Storage: Due to the cream cheese icing this cake needs to be stored in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before serving and consume within 1-2 days.

Hazelnut Chocolate Orange Macarons

I made these macarons as my edible Christmas gifts last year. The combination of chocolate and hazelnut is a well renowned match made famous of course by Nutella! The addition of orange zest adds a fresh twist and the decoration of dipped chocolate coated in crunchy hazelnut praline adds an additional layer of flavour and luxury….the perfect gift and indeed luxurious teatime treat! Enjoy!

Hazelnut Macarons with Chocolate Orange Ganache and Hazelnut Praline

Ingredients for the Hazelnut Macarons:

  • 50g hazelnuts
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 x 40g egg white

Ingredients for the Chocolate Orange Ganache:

  • 110g 70% dark chocolate
  • 100ml pouring cream
  • 10g caster sugar
  • 25g unsalted butter
  • finely grated zest 1 orange

Ingredients for the Hazelnut Praline Decoration:

  • 100g 70% dark chocolate, melted
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 75g skinned toasted hazelnuts, chopped

Step 1: To make the hazelnut macarons, preheat the oven to 170°C/315F.  .

Step 2: Place the hazelnuts on a baking tray and place in the oven for approx 10-15mins, shaking every few minutes to turn. Take care  not to burn. Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly before placing in a clean tea towel and rubbing to remove the skin.

Step 3: Place the skinned hazelnuts, ground almonds and icing sugar into a blender and grind to a fine powder. Sieve into a clean metal bowl, discarding any large particles. Add 1 x 40g egg white and mix to form a paste (called the tant pour tant). Set aside.

Step 4: Clean the inside of the metal bowl of a food mixer and the whisk attachment with lemon juice or boiling water to remove all traces of grease. Wipe with paper towel. Place the second 40g egg white into the bowl.

Step 5: Place the caster sugar and water into a small saucepan and bring to the boil, swirling now and then to ensure even heating.

Step 6: Meanwhile whisk the egg white to soft peaks. When the temperature of the sugar syrup reaches 105°C, increase the speed and whisk to stiff peaks. When the syrup reaches 115°C, remove from the heat and pour the syrup in a thin stream into the egg whites. Whisk for approximately 10mins until thick and glossy.

Step 7: Add about a third of the meringue mixture to the hazelnut/almond mixture and fold in to loosen. Then add the rest of the meringue mixture, folding in until it has a ‘flow’ similar to consistency of lava.

Step 8:  Fit a piping bag with an 8mm round nozzle and pour in the batter. Pipe small well-spaced rounds of batter approximately the size of  a walnut onto a silicone baking mat on a baking sheet (if you don’t have a silicone mat use baking parchment and attach the corners to the tray with a small blob of the batter). Tap the trays on the counter 3-4 times to remove air bubbles. If any fail to pop use a cocktail stick to do so. Leave to form a ‘skin’ for approx 25-45mins depending on ambient temperature and humidity (test by touching gently with the tip of your finger, if skin has formed your finger should come away clean).

Step 9: Bake in the oven for 12-15mins, turning the tray half-way through. Leave to cool completely on the tray before removing.

Step 10: To make the chocolate orange ganache, place the orange zest and cream in a saucepan and heat gently until warm. Remove from the heat and allow the orange to infuse for 1hr. Pass through a fine sieve to remove the orange zest.

Step 11: Add the sugar to the cream and reheat.

Step 12: Meanwhile place the chocolate into a mixing bowl.

Step 13: Pour the cream over the chocolate and stir until chocolate is melted.

Step 14: Finally add the butter and stir to combine. Allow to cool and refrigerate for approximately one hour before filling the macarons

Step 15: To make the hazelnut praline, heat the caster sugar in a small saucepan until dissolved. Swirl gently to ensure even heating. When the syrup is a golden brown colour, remove from the heat and add the chopped hazelnuts. Stir with a spatula before transferring to a piece of baking parchment to cool. When cool, break into a food processor and pulse gently to form a medium coarse powder.

Step 16: To finish the macarons, dip half the macaron shells in the melted chocolate and place on a piece of baking parchment. Sprinkle with the hazelnut praline and leave to set.

Step 17: Using a piping bag fitted with an 8mm nozzle, fill the other half of the macaron shells with the chocolate orange ganache and place the chocolate praline coated shells on top. Place the macarons in the refrigerator. They are best eaten after 24 hours and within 72 hours of filling.

Mother’s Day Recipe-Orange Blossom Pistachio Shortbread with Pomegranate Glaze

I always love to have some cookie recipes up my sleeve, something that can be made quickly for an edible gift, or when expecting guests for an afternoon cuppa. For this recipe I adapted a simple shortbread base to incorporate the delicate flavour of orange blossom combined with pistachio, pomegranate and a sprinkling of rose petals..a favourite flavour combination! Delicate and pretty these would be perfect for Mother’s Day!

Orange Blossom Pistachio Shortbread with Pomegranate Glaze

Ingredients for the Orange Blossom Shortbread:

  • 150g icing sugar
  • 300g plain flour
  • 150g cornflour
  • 300g soft unsalted butter
  • 1tsp orange blossom water (or use finely grated zest 1 orange if you don\’t have this)
  • 100g shelled pistachios
  • 1 egg, beaten

Ingredients for the Pomegranate Glaze:

  • Juice from one pomegranate
  • Approx 300g icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp orange blossom water (optional)
  • Rose petals to decorate (optional)

Step 1: To make the shortbread, Place the pistachios on a baking tray and place in the oven for approx 10-15 mins until lightly toasted, shaking every few minutes to turn. Take care  not to burn. Place in a processor and pulse until coarsely ground. Scatter the ground pistachios over a baking tray or sheet of greaseproof paper. Set aside.

Step 2: Sieve the icing sugar, flour and cornflour together and transfer into a food processor. Add the butter and orange blossom water and process until the mixture forms a ball of dough.

Step 3: Remove the dough from the processor and divide into 3. Roll each piece into a log shape approx 4cm in diameter.

Step 4: Brush each of the shortbread dough logs with beaten egg and roll in the ground pistachio to coat.  Wrap tightly in cling film and place in the fridge for 30 mins to chill. (Note: the dough can be stored in the fridge at this stage for up to 24 hours before proceeding with the next step if you wish to prepare in advance)

Step 5: Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 160°C/325F.

Step 6: Remove the shortbread from the fridge and unwrap the cling film. Using a sharp knife cut the dough into rounds. Place on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment or a silicone baking mat. Bake for approx 15 mins until lightly golden. Remove the tray from the oven and leave to cool for approx 5 mins before gently removing with a palette knife to a wire rack to cool completely.

Step 7: To make the pomegranate glaze, sieve the icing sugar into a medium size bowl. Remove the seeds from the pomegranate and pour any juice into a separate bowl. If the pomegranate is not particularly juicy simple pulse the pomegranate seeds in a small food processor and pass the pulp through a sieve, collecting the juice and discarding the seeds.

Step 8: Slowly add enough pomegranate juice to the sieved icing sugar to make a smooth icing that is spreadable but not too runny. Add the orange blossom water and mix.

Step 9: To finish the cookies, spread the pomegranate glaze over each of the cookies using a palette knife. Sprinkle with rose petals and any leftover ground pistachio. Store the cookies in an airtight container. Best consumed within 2 days.

Storage: The cookies keep well in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

 

Vegan Banana Bread with Miso Caramel

Banana bread is a firm favourite in our house, delicious for a lunchbox or teatime treat and also a great way to use up those overripe bananas! For everyday family baking I prefer to opt for this healthier version over traditional banana bread recipes, which are often laden with sugar.  Made with spelt flour, vegan and free from refined sugar, it is not too sweet and comes with a little less guilt….just what is needed in January!

This bread can be enjoyed on it’s own but I discovered a recipe for vegan caramel on Gather and Feast  and thought that it would be a lovely addition. The vegan caramel was delicious, with the coconut sugar adding a toffee-like flavour. Obviously in an experimental mood, I decided to try adding miso to the caramel as an alternative to sea salt to counteract sweetness. I first came across using miso in sweet dishes after seeing Nigella Lawson‘s miso ice-cream recipe in her book Simply Nigella. Having fallen in love with Japan and its cuisine on a family trip there last year, I jumped at the chance to extend my use of Japanese ingredients to  my baking.  If you don’t regularly use miso however, feel free to add a pinch of sea salt to the recipe for the same effect! For a final flourish I topped with toasted pecans….enjoy!

Vegan Banana Bread with Miso Caramel

Ingredients for the Banana Bread:

  • 250g wholemeal or plain spelt flour (or you can use regular flour)
  • 1tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 80ml milk of choice (I used almond milk)
  • 2tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 120ml maple syrup
  • 1tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 large ripe bananas

Ingredients for the Miso Caramel:

  • 35g coconut sugar
  • 15g coconut oil
  • 80g coconut cream
  • 1tsp white miso paste
  • handful of toasted pecans, chopped

Step 1: To make the banana bread, preheat the oven to 180°C/350F.  Grease and line a 1lb loaf tin with baking parchment.

Step 2: Place the bananas in an oven proof dish and roast in the oven for 10-15 mins while you are preparing the other ingredients. The roasting increases the sweetness and flavour of the bananas but if you don’t have time for this simply mash the bananas as they are.

Step 3: Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon into a bowl

Step 4: In a separate bowl, mix the milk, vanilla bean paste, maple syrup and lemon juice.

Step 5: Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until just combined. Add the roasted/mashed banana and mix again.

Step 6: Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 30-40 mins.

Step 7: To make the miso caramel, place the coconut sugar, coconut oil and coconut cream into a small saucepan. Heat gently until ingredients are combined. Continue to heat for approximately 5 mins until the caramel has thickened enough such that it begins to coat the back of a spoon.

Step 8: When cooked, remove the banana bread from the oven and place on a wire rack. Using a skewer, pierce several holes along the top of the banana bread. While the bread is still warm, pour over the caramel sauce. (If sauce has cooled and thickened too much, either add a little boiling water or heat again gently). Top with chopped toasted pecans.

Chocolate Gingerbread Mini Bundts with Irish Whiskey Orange Caramel Glaze

 

chocolate-gingerbread-cake-2_edited-1

As many know I am a huge fan of mini bundt cakes. Often requiring little in the way of adornment they are the perfect individual treat for guests. I wanted to make a festive version and this Chocolate Gingerbread cake recipe is deliciously light and fluffy so not too heavy for a Christmas dessert. Adapted from a recipe by Supergolden Bakes, I have paired it with an Irish Whiskey Orange Caramel glaze for a little extra indulgence!

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The recipe makes 10 mini bundt cakes but if you prefer to make one large cake, double the quantities for a large bundt tin and increase the baking time to 40-45 mins. The caramel recipe makes more than is needed but store any leftover in a clean jar in the fridge and feel free to pour over ice-cream, cakes and desserts over the festive season!

Chocolate Gingerbread Mini Bundt Cakes with Irish Whiskey Orange Caramel Glaze

Ingredients for the chocolate gingerbread bundt cakes:

  • 75g dark chocolate
  • 75g unsalted butter
  • 75 soft brown sugar
  • 60g self-raising flour
  • 30g ground almonds
  • 2 medium eggs, separated
  • 1/2 tbsp black treacle
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda

Ingredients for the Irish Whiskey Orange Caramel:

  • 75ml cream
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 50g cold butter, cubed
  • 2tbsp Irish (or other) whiskey
  • finely grated zest 1 medium orange

Step 1: To make the cake, preheat the oven to 160°C/315F.  .

Step 2: Melt the chocolate over a pan of simmering water and leave to cool.

Step 3: Beat the butter and sugar together until light and creamy.

Step 4: In the meantime whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl until stiff peaks form. Set aside

Step 5: Beat the egg yolks into the creamed butter and sugar mixture.

Step 6: Add the cooled melted chocolate and treacle and beat until combined.

Step 7: Fold in the flour, ground almonds, spices and bicarbonate of soda.

Step 8: Add a spoonful of egg whites to the mixture and fold in gently with a metal spoon before folding in the remainder of the egg whites

Step 9: Divide the batter between 10 silicone mini bundt moulds. Place on a tray in the oven and bake for approximately 15 mins or until top is springy to the touch. Remove from oven and leave to cool for 15mins before carefully turning out of the moulds.

Step 10: To make the caramel sauce, heat the cream gently in a saucepan.

Step 11: Put the sugar in a larger saucepan and heat on medium heat until the sugar starts to dissolve. Swirl to ensure it heats evenly.

Step 12: When all the sugar has dissolved add in the butter a cube at a time and stir until smooth.

Step 13: Slowly pour in the cream and stir again until smooth.

Step 14: Finally add the whiskey and orange zest and stir.

Step 15: While caramel sauce is still runny, pour over the mini bundt cakes. The cakes taste best warm but to my family taste testers they were also equally delicious cold!

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