Sunday, 13 April 2014

Hot Cross Cookies

Easter is just one week away. Enough time to stockpile the Mini Eggs*, fill up the bread tin with Hot Cross Buns and countdown to the glorious four day bank holiday weekend. 

What joy: four whole days off work with no faffy commitments like at Christmas time. We'll be heading back to the motherland (Wales) carrying our own body weight in Easter Eggs. Several magazines and newspapers have taste tested Easter Eggs (tell me how you get that gig, please) with reviewers salivating over offerings from Betty's, Hotel Chocolat and Prestat. I'm not in the least bit fussy. As long as it is chocolate, in the vague shape of an egg and contains a packet or two of smaller sweet treats I'm as happy as the journalist who did get the plum job of spending an afternoon sampling all the eggs in the name of 'research'.

Meanwhile, if you do have a spare hour this coming weekend (and there are 96 hours to choose from), try these Hot Cross Biscuits. Sweet chewy cookies with a hint of spice and packed full of juicy fruit, these make a fun alternative to the traditional Hot Cross Bun. 

*In event of some national supply crisis. You never know. 

Hot Cross Cookies

125g melted butter 
75g light brown soft sugar
50g granulated sugar
1 large egg
225g plain flour
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
50g sultanas
50g raisins
50g mixed peel

50g icing sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/350F. Grease and line two baking trays with baking paper
2. Beat the butter and sugars together  lectric mixerwith an efor a few minutes until light and fluffy. Beat o
in the egg until combined
3. Fold in the flour, mixed spice and bicarbonate of soda until a dough forms, stir in the dried fruit and mixed peel
4. Using a tablespoon drop rounded balls of dough onto the baking sheets, ensuring each cookie is well spaced as apart. There is no need to flatten the dough
5. Bake for fifteen minutes until golden 
6. To make the crosses sieve the icing sugar into a bowl and add just enough water to form a thick paste. Pipe crosses over the cooled cookies and allow to set

Baker's notes...

  • The cookies will still be soft when removed from the oven but will harden on cooling
  • The melted butter adds a chewiness to the cookie and the brown sugar a fudgey flavour
  • Best enjoyed with a large glass of milk. An Easter egg is optional  

Monday, 7 April 2014

On The Road: A Weekend in Valencia

Last weekend we went to Valencia, Spain. This is how we got on...

Valencia attracts 80,000 British holidaymakers a year. Other than the obvious- oversized cameras, halting words of Spanish, an upside map - it was easy to tell the tourists from the locals. Us visitors, memories of a long wet winter fresh in minds, were in proper, true holiday wear- shorts, vests and the like- our pale, wan Northern European skins soaking up the vitamin D. Valencians by contrast continued their daily business in thick scarves, big boots and fur coats despite the 25C heat. 

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Marbled Mocha Loaf Cake

A coffee cake could be thought of as rather an old fashioned bake. A staple of a bake sale and a standard of a cake stall. Whereas the macaroon, a delicate dacquoise or eclair evoke the perfect Parisian patisserie, the humble coffee cake, with its light airy sponges sandwiched together with a generous dollop of sweet, slightly synthetic coffee buttercream brings to mind a village fete, tombola and a lot of homemade bunting. 

But that's really no bad thing. Infact, Nigel Slater would choose a coffee and walnut cake as his last supper. And if its good enough for Nige, heck, it most certainly is good enough for me.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Date and Orange Hot Cross Buns

Similar to its Easter-sweet-treat colleague, the Creme Egg, Hot Cross Buns are now available all year round in a myriad of different (and posh) flavours. It's easy to throw in the basket a pack or two during a weekly food shop or at the local bakers. But I promise shop-bought ones are incomparable to the reward of producing a tray of freshly baked homemade Hot Cross Buns, enjoyed warm with a cuppa over the long Easter weekend.

Yes, the bun dough is super sticky and requires the patience of Mary Berry when sifting through the hundreds of thousands of hopeful applications for the next series of The Great British Bake Off, determined to find the next Frances, John, Joanne or Edd. 

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Celebrating Three Years of What Kate Baked: Cherry Chocolate Biscuit Bars

The making of these bars involved a thirty minute walk to Waitrose, fourteen minutes perusing the aisles, ninety seconds of which was spent indecisively selecting the chocolate for the recipe and forty seconds chatting happily with the cashier as to what I was planning to bake. On return home, ten seconds was spent arguing with clingfilm as I attempted to line a loaf tin. One minute involved violently bashing digestive biscuits into smithereens in a plastic food bag, the clingfilm episode still fresh in my mind. Chocolate, syrup and butter was melted for three minutes into a lovely, sweet, rich gloop. The battered biscuits and a couple of bags of soured cherries were stirred for thirty seconds into the gloop before being spooned into the loaf tin. My husband and I then spent an increasingly impatient three hours waiting for the bars to set in the fridge before devouring with gusto. 

Friday, 21 March 2014

Peach and Almond Pie and Giveaway: Baking Set and Cinema Tickets for 'Labor Day'

Many a great film is defined by an iconic scene of food on the big screen. That moment in Lady and a Tramp when a clandestine kiss is shared over a bowlful of spaghetti. The 1961 Château Cheval Blanc quaffed in a Styrofoam cup in a burger joint in the final scenes of Sideways.  The sweet, tempting and ultimately deadly for poor, greedy Augustus Gloop, chocolate river in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Those pies with their inventive names inspired by the life events of baker Jenna in Waitress. And of course THAT infamous scene at Katz's Delicatessen in When Harry Met Sally.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Luscious Lemon Loaf Cake with Lime Drizzle

It's very tempting to bake with bright, zesty citrus fruits this time of year; the fresh, zingy lemons, limes and oranges brightening the last few days of Winter and representing the much anticipated longer, warmer Spring days. A cheery promise of what is to come. 

As I squeeze, juice and zest the lemons and limes for this cake I'm reminded of a family Easter holiday several years ago that found us in Sóller, North West Mallorca. An attractive market town, Sóller is nestled among miles upon miles of abundant, lush orange groves in the very aptly named 'Golden Valley'. Breakfast each morning would start with a large glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. The citrus flavoured ice creams in the local heladería became firm favourites, enjoyed each evening in the cobbled main square. Strolling through the surrounding area, we'd greedily inhale the heady scent of citrus blossom. I'd wager my favourite bundt tin that there isn't is a sweeter, sunnier perfume to be found.