Tag Archives: treats

ORANGE & HIBISCUS CAKE

hibiscus & orange cake

A little while ago I was given a big bag of dried hibiscus by a nice man from Honestea at the Smithsonian food festival. I knew I wanted to do more than just make a brew from it and it has sat patiently in my pantry whilst I’ve been distracted by all manner of festive goodies.

Now it can have my full attention though and I’ve chosen to try it out in an adaptation of my Greek yoghurt marble cake. It works really well, I think I like it even more than the chocolate version (and that’s saying something!) The colour of this is great, it’s a purple (almost blue) and orange cake without a single drop of food colouring in it. Amazing! Hibiscus has very tart, fruity flavour, not at all floral, as you might expect and the sweetness of the orange in this cake goes with it perfectly.
I’m looking forward to experimenting with the rest of the bag…

hibiscus & orange cake

Ingredients

zest and juice of 1 orange
15g dried hibiscus
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tbsp hot water
250g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
150g sugar
75g butter, melted
150g fat-free Greek yoghurt
2 eggs

hibiscus & orange cake

Pre-heat your oven to 190°c and grease and line a loaf tin.
Warm the orange juice a little and use this to steep the hibiscus in a small dish. Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in the hot water and set it aside to cool.
Sift together the flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl and then whisk the salt and sugar into it.
In a separate bowl or jug beat together the melted butter, Greek yoghurt and eggs, ensuring that they are well combined. Stir the bicarbonate of soda into this. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet mixture. Use a rubber spatula to stir everything together, until it is just combined. You don’t want to over-mix things at this stage.

hibiscus & orange cake
Divide the mixture roughly in two and fold the orange zest into one half. Use a tea strainer or small mesh sieve to squeeze as much liquid as possible out the steeped hibiscus and discard the ‘leaves’. Pour this liquid (it should be at least a couple of tablespoons) into the other half of the batter and stir it together.
Gently marble the two batters together and then pour them into the prepared loaf tin. Bake the cake for 40-45 minutes, until it is lovely and golden on top and a cake tester comes out clean. Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes and then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.

hibiscus & orange cake

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CRANBERRY AND STILTON SCONES

Cranberry and Stilton scones

I realise that flicking through the pages of this blog, it might seem that I’m all about the sweet treats. It’s a fair enough assumption, just look at how big the word ‘dessert’ is in that tag cloud on the right. (Mind you, the word booze is pretty big too…) But to be honest I love a savoury treat just as much. Especially if it’s cheesy.
When I’m at home for Christmas we’ll always go for a walk on Christmas day, even if the weather isn’t great, it helps to burn off some of the festive calories. We’ll usually come back from our walk and replenish some of those calories (it’s Christmas, okay!) with a yummy festive snack and I think these would be a really good contender. I don’t know why Stilton seems like a Christmas cheese but it really is. When else would you even consider buying your cheese in a fancy earthenware pot…?
My mum makes amazing cheese scones. They are so good toasted and buttered as an afternoon treat. This is my festive homage to those wonderous baked goodies.

Cranberry and Stilton scones

Ingredients
makes about 12 but more or less depending on the size of your cutter.

225g self-raising flour
a pinch of salt and pepper
1/2 tsp mustard powder (optional)
50g butter
85g blue Stilton
100g (ish) dried cranberries
1 egg
splash of milk

Cranberry and Stilton scones

Pre-heat your oven to 220°c and pop a large baking tray in the oven to heat up.
Sift the flour, mustard powder, salt and pepper into a large mixing bowl so that they are well combined and aerated.
Dice the butter and then lightly rub it into the flour with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs. Crumble the Stilton and add most of it the mixing bowl, keep a little back to sprinkle on top of the scones before baking. Toss in the cranberries and mix it all together.
Lightly beat the egg and use it to bring everything together to form a soft dough. If you need to use a little milk as well then that’s fine.

cranberry and stilton scones
Pat the dough out on a lightly floured surface, so that it’s about 1″ thick. Use a round cutter to stamp out the scones but be sure not to twist it. Place them on the hot tray (be careful) and brush the tops with a little milk before sprinkling on any Stilton that you kept back. Bake them for 10-15 mins until they have risen and are golden, and then let them cool a little on a wire rack. Serve warm or toasted and spread thickly with butter.

Cranberry and Stilton scones

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CHRISTMAS BISCOTTI

Christmas biscotti

I generally find that tackling wrapping a particularly daunting pile of Christmas presents is easier with something close by to keep your energy levels up.
Yes, coffee alone could do it but a piece of gingerbread biscotti on the side doesn’t hurt. And your reward after the final bow is tied and gift tag signed? A wee drop of your favourite festive tipple with a piece of Christmassy mincemeat biscotti to dunk in it of course!

Gingerbread biscotti
Biscotti in America tends to have a slightly softer texture to the stuff I’m used to in Europe so that’s what I’ve aimed for with these but it’s just down to the length of the first bake really. If you want these to be very crunchy (which is better for dunking) then give them an extra five minutes or so the first time the dough goes into the oven. This will also make them a bit easier to slice.
I like to use dark chocolate to decorate the gingerbread ones and white for the mincemeat but use whatever you like. Or even leave them plain (although it is Christmas…)

Mincemeat biscotti

Ingredients
makes 20 slices

75g butter
50g white sugar
50g dark brown sugar
2 eggs
pinch of salt
300g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder

100g of mincemeat
OR
75g golden syrup
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
big pinch of allspice
40g crystalized ginger, finely chopped

chocolate to decorate

Christmas biscotti

Pre-heat the oven to 180°c and lightly grease a large baking sheet.
Cream together the butter, sugars and salt until they are pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and follow each addition with a spoonful of flour to stop it from curdling.
Next add either the golden syrup, if you’re making the gingerbread biscotti, OR the mincemeat and mix this in. Finally tip in the flour and baking powder (and spices and crystalized ginger for the gingerbread flavour) and beat the mixture to leave you with a soft sticky dough.

Mincemeat biscotti
Coat your hands in flour and then roll the dough into a sausage shape on the baking sheet. Flatten it a bit and then bake it for about 20 minutes. It should be starting to crack on the surface a little but not yet browned when it’s ready.
Take it out of the oven and leave it to cool for at least 20 minutes, until it is cool enough to handle and feels fairly firm. Cut the biscotti dough into 1.5cm thick slices and lay them out flat on the baking sheet.
Return these to the oven for 10 minutes then flip them over and cook them on the other side for another 10 minutes. They should be quite golden and crisp when they are done. Leave them to cool on a rack.
Melt some chocolate, any type you like, and use this to dip or drizzle over the biscotti. Allow the chocolate to set before munching away!

Gingerbread biscotti

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HUNGARIAN POGACSA

Pogacsa, Hungarian scones

This is something that I first tried on a trip to Budapest (I love Budapest!) and at the time I had no idea that they were a traditional treat. We were served them during a really fun wine tasting and, whilst the wine was good, I would have been happy just to have been given a plate of these.
I got this recipe from the Hungarian embassy during this years EU open house event in D.C. If you live in the area you should totally go to this by the way, it’s great fun. Their recipe used quite big quantities though so I’ve scaled it back quite bit and it still works fine.

Hungarian scones
I’ve baked these in the U.K (with my mum) and here in the U.S, where quark is a bit harder to find (Wholefoods stock it) and also a bit more runny in texture. This made the dough a bit more sticky to work with but both versions tasted as good as the ones I originally tried in Budapest. They’re very buttery and flaky and have a faintly tangy cheesy flavour from the quark.
These need quite a bit of resting time so they take a while I’m afraid, but the results are totally worth it.

Pogacsa, Hungarian scones

Ingredients
makes 18 small scones

170g plain flour
170g butter (not too cold, cut into small cubes)
170g quark
5g yeast
1 egg
pinch of salt and black pepper
paprika

Pogacsa

Combine the flour, yeast, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter and quark. Lightly beat the egg and add most of that to the bowl, you want to keep back a little for glazing the scones before they bake.
Now get stuck in with your hands and knead everything together so that you have a nice smooth dough. Depending on your quark, this might be a bit sticky, but you don’t need to worry about it too much. Cover the bowl and put it in the fridge for an hour.
After the dough has rested, roll it out onto a well floured surface, it needs to be about 1cm thick. Fold the dough in half and then in half again, so that it is four layers thick. Pat it down a little and then put it back in the mixing bowl and return it to the fridge for another 45 mins-1 hour. Repeat this rolling, folding and resting process again.
Pre-heat the oven to 210°c.
After the final resting period roll and fold the dough a final time and then roll it out so that it’s about 1cm thick. Score the surface of the dough with a hatched pattern, so that it looks like diamonds. Stamp out rounds with a 5cm cutter (don’t twist the cutter) and place them on a lightly greased baking sheet. Brush the tops of them with the reserved beaten egg and sprinkle them with a little pinch of paprika.
Bake the pogacsa for 25 minutes, by which time they should have puffed up into lots of flaky layers and be wonderfully golden brown.
You can let them cool on a rack for a bit but these are at their most delicious when they’re eaten warm.

Pogacsa, Hungarian scones

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CRANBERRY & ORANGE VICTORIA SPONGE

Cranberry & orange Victoria sponge

A well made classic Victoria Sponge is a thing of beauty, although I have to confess that I do always have to have cream or buttercream in my filling (sorry Women’s Institute).
It’s all about the texture. It should be light and springy with a nice even crumb so be careful that you don’t over beat the batter. In a traditional Victoria Sponge you also rely solely on the quality of your ingredients for the flavour so I always use real butter rather than baking margarine and I always try to find fresh free-range eggs. I only ever use free-range anyway but if you can get locally reared ones then 9 times out of 10 they’ll be richer than anything you buy in the supermarkets. They’ll also give your sponge great colour.
I find that I get the best results when I let all of my ingredients get up to room temperature before I start.
American self-rising flour does seem to be a tiny bit different to U.K self-raising flour but this recipe should work fine with both.

Classic Victoria sponge

If you want to make the classic Victoria Sponge then just leave out the orange zest from the sponge, sandwich it together with good quality jam (usually strawberry or raspberry) and dust the top with a little sugar.

classic Victoria sponge

Ingredients
serves 10-12

Orange sponge
3 eggs
the weight of the eggs (inc shells) in butter, sugar and self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
2 tbsp milk
zest of 1 orange

Cranberry compote
70g ish cranberries (mine were frozen)
30g sugar
juice of 1 orange

Swiss meringue buttercream
1 egg white
50g sugar
70g butter (room temperature and cut into small pieces)
zest of 1 orange

Cranberry & orange Victoria sponge

Pre-heat your oven to 180°c and grease two sandwich tins. Place a disc of baking parchment in the base of each.
Weigh your eggs, in their shells so that you know how much flour, butter and sugar you’ll need.
Sift together the baking powder and flour a couple of times and set it aside. This will get plenty of air into it.
Using a hand or stand mixer beat together the butter and sugar until it is pale, thick and fluffy, this should take a minute or two.
Lightly beat each egg and mix them, one at a time, into the butter and sugar. Follow each addition with a spoonful of the flour and beat it well. Once you have added all of the eggs briefly beat in the orange zest. Sift the remaining flour into the batter in two batches and carefully fold it in.

Cranberry & orange Victoria sponge
Finally stir in the milk to loosen the mixture to a nice soft dropping consistency. Divide the cake batter evenly between the two prepared tins (I actually weigh mine) and level off the tops. Bake them in the centre of the oven for 25 minutes. Don’t be tempted to open the oven door during this time as you might cause them to sink in the middle. Once the time is up open the oven door and test that the sponges are cooked with a skewer. Give them another minute or two if it doesn’t come out clean. They should feel light and springy once they are cooked.
Put the cooked sponges on a wire rack and let them cool in the tins for five minutes then turn them out on the rack and carefully remove the greaseproof paper. Let them become completely cool before you fill them.

Cranberry & orange Victoria sponge
Make the compote by combining the sugar, cranberries and the juice of the orange in a small saucepan. Pop this over a moderate heat and let it gently bubble away for a few minutes. Mash the berries a bit to release their juice, but be careful as they tend to pop and you don’t want them to splatter you with hot juice. Once the juice is thick and syrupy you can leave the compote to cool and become a bit jammy.
Swiss Meringue buttercream is next on your to-do list. Put the egg white and sugar in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Gently whisk it to keep it moving whilst it heats, it needs to be quite warm and the sugar needs to have dissolved into the egg white. Just rub a little between your fingers to check the temperature and that it isn’t grainy. Remove the pan from the heat and then whisk the egg white until it is stiff (like meringue) and cool. An electric mixer makes this pretty quick and easy. Once it is cool you can slowly beat in the butter, one small piece at a time. If the mixture is too warm then the butter will simply melt so make sure it’s cool before you start. You can pop it in the fridge for a few minutes if you need to. Continue to whip the buttercream until it has emulsified and become smooth and creamy and then mix through the orange zest.

Cranberry & orange Victoria sponge
Decide which of your cakes is the least pretty and place it, upside-down, on a serving plate. Spread the cold cranberry compote onto it and the follow this with the orange Swiss meringue buttercream. I prefer to pipe this but to be honest it isn’t going to make a blind bit of difference to the way it tastes!
Carefully place on the top layer of cake and then sprinkle it with a little icing sugar as a finishing touch.

Cranberry & orange Victoria sponge

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NUTELLA PROFITEROLES

Nutella profiteroles

I wasn’t joking the other week when I said that I needed more choux pastry in my life. If you’ve never tried to make it before I think you’ll be surprised at how easy it is. You don’t even need any fancy equipment to make profiteroles either, just a saucepan, a wooden spoon, a baking sheet and a couple of teaspoons. It’s pretty quick, super easy and will make you feel all sorts of fancy when you show off your patisserie skills.
The filling of these is a super-simple two ingredient Nutella mousse (it’s just whipped cream and yummy Nutella but shhhh…don’t tell anyone.) Despite being so simple it tastes incredible, which let’s be honest, most things made with Nutella do!
I don’t like to serve these with the classic chocolate sauce because I think that it over powers the mousse, and tends to make them a bit too sweet. Just a little chocolate decoration is all that required.
Mr Colonial Cravings was a huge fan of these, I’m pretty sure that if I’d left him alone with them he would have eaten all 16 in one go.

Nutella profiteroles

Ingredients
makes 16

choux pastry
60g butter
120ml water
75g plain flour
2 eggs

filling
200ml double cream
100g nutella

chocolate to decorate

Nutella profiteroles

Pre-heat the oven to 200°c and line a large baking tray with parchment or a silicone mat.
Put the butter and water in a medium saucepan and bring it to boil. Remove the pan from the heat and tip in all of the flour. Vigorously beat it with a wooden spoon until you end up with a ball of dough that has pulled away from the sides of the pan. Lightly beat the eggs. Add about a third of the egg to the pan and beat it in. Once it has been absorbed add another third and beat it again. After the third and final addition of egg, the dough should become soft, smooth and glossy.
Use a couple of teaspoons to drop blobs of the dough onto the prepared baking tray. If you need to smooth off any edges or pointy bits then just dip your finger in a little water first.
Bake the choux pastry for 30 minutes then turn off the oven and open the door a bit, leave them in the oven for a further 10 minutes to dry out a little.
Once they are done you can transfer them to a wire rack to cool. I would recommend poking a little hole in them, somewhere discreet, to let the steam out and prevent them from becoming soggy. You can use this later when you fill them.

Nutella profiteroles
Softly whip the cream for the filling, so that it just holds its shape. Take a big dollop of the cream and mix it into the Nutella to lighten it a bit. Transfer this mixture back into the rest of the cream and whip it again, until it becomes more stiff, but be careful not to over-whip it.
Put the Nutella mousse in a piping bag fitted with a plain tip. Insert the tip into the steam hole that you created in each of the cooled profiteroles and gently squeeze in the filling. Drizzle the top of each one with a little melted chocolate and then pop them in the fridge until you are ready to serve them.

Nutella profiteroles

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APPLE PIE SCONES

Apple pie scones

My mums apple trees are very prolific. They produce more apples than they can actually consume. I always like to come up with ways that she can use them to provide a bit more variety to the usual pies and crumbles (not that I would ever turn down a bowl of my mums apple pie or crumble!)
Last year she made my lovely honey apple oat cake (https://colonialcravings.wordpress.com/2014/10/17/apple-honey-oat-cake/) but this year I thought I would suggest these as an ‘anytime’ treat. These are yummy for breakfast, lunch or dessert!
The chunks of apple add great texture and the spices give them a lovely autumnal feel.
I reckon these would make an excellent base for the traditional Cornish delicacy of ‘thunder and lightning’, that’s scones topped with clotted cream and treacle. Because cream teas aren’t just for summer!

Apple pie scones

Ingredients
makes about 15
500g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate or soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp allspice
pinch of salt
10g sugar
70g butter
1 large eating apple (about 200g before it’s peeled and cored)
250-300ml buttermilk or milk soured with lemon juice
brown sugar to decorate

Apple pie scones

Pre-heat the oven to 200°c and put a large non-stick baking sheet in there to get nice and hot.
Sift together the flour, raising agents and spices into a large mixing bowl. Use a fork to mix through the salt and sugar and then lightly rub the butter into it with your finger tips.
Peel and core the apple and then cut it into small dice. Toss this through the flour mixture and then make a well in the centre of the bowl. Pour in about a third of the buttermilk/milk and stir it together. Keep adding more milk and mixing until you have a nice soft, but not sticky, dough. You might not need the full 300ml.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently pat it out until it’s around 1″ thick. Stamp out circles of the dough, being careful not to twist the cutter and re-rolling the dough as necessary until it has all been used.
Take the hot tray out of the oven and arrange the scones on it. Brush the tops of them with a little milk and then sprinkle them with a little brown sugar.
Bake the scones for 20-22 minutes, until they are well risen and nicely browned. Transfer them to a wire rack to cool and eat them with clotted cream or enjoy them whilst they are still a little warm with lashings of butter.

Apple pie scones

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