Chocolate Garam Masala Snickerdoodles – Goes Well With Coffee – 3rd Edition

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This weekend is the first weekend I am spending in Brussels since the beginning of November. While the weather is no different from what it was four weeks ago (Brussels has a tendency to be equally grey and rainy all throughout November to March), there is no denying that Christmas is close – the strings of lights that now connect the buildings on my side of the street with those across the street were the first telltale sign when I came back from my trip to New York over Thanksgiving.

The trip itself was everything I could have asked for and more. I slept more than I had in weeks, I tried out some new exercise classes (it turns out I don’t actually hate spinning and Pure Barre is as hard as everyone says it is) and even found a new pair of glasses. But most importantly, I got to hang with my good friend Michelle who didn’t say anything when I wanted to have dinner at Semilla just because a random photo of one of their dishes on instagram had me intrigued, who was happy to jump on the subway to travel up to Greenpoint in Brooklyn just so we could visit a bakery my friend Sarah told us to seek out and who was equally excited to overdose on caffeine each day just so we could try as many cafes as possible.

High on my list of cafes to visit in New York was Blue Bottle, not just for their fantastic coffee I had heard so much about  but also for their baked goods, especially the Saffron Vanilla Snickerdoodles. I first heard of these via Heidi’s blog. And when I finally ordered the Blue Bottle Book, it was the first recipe I turned to.

Admittedly, I was slightly less enthusiastic about the Saffron Vanilla Snickerdoodles once I tried them – it might have been an off day, but the cookie we tried was pretty chewy, very heavy on the saffron and had a strong aftertaste of baking soda – although, having developed a bit of a weakness for saffron-flavoured anything, I am still keen to try the recipe from the book. That being said, I kept on thinking about Snickerdoodles even after we left. While not a cookie I grew up with, I am fascinated by the idea of a rather plain cookie that is rolled in  a flavoured sugar before baking (the Blue Bottle version, as Caitlin admits in the book, isn’t in fact a traditional Snickerdoodle as it is the cookie itself that packs a punch of flavour and there is no extra dusting of sugar involved) – so many possible variations, including this Chocolate Garam Masala version!

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These cookies take their inspiration not just from the Blue Bottle Saffron Vanilla Snickerdoodles but also from some Chocolate Curry and Coconut cookies we saw at Baked the day we were leaving. While Garam Masala has found its way into granola, cookies and even a couronne in this space, it had yet to be paired with chocolate. And now that I have tried it, I am not sure what took me so long. It turns out chocolate is the perfect canvas for garam masala – it tames the slight earthiness and savoury notes of garam masala (thanks to cumin and coriander which are typically included in the spice mix) some might find odd at first in sweet preparations.

This is the third post in my “Goes well with Coffee” series here on the blog and these Chocolate Garam Masala Snickerdoodles fall firmly into the “Chocolate-like” aroma spectrum. These cookies, although not tooth-achingly sweet are rather large (something I came to like while we were in New York where every cookie we tried alongside our numerous coffees was roughly the size of the palm of my hand) and one is the perfect size for those 4pm hunger pangs. If possible, given the bold chocolate flavour and the subtle spice from the garam masala, I would eat these alongside a Turkish coffee – a coffee as rich, dark and bold in flavour as these cookies.

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Chocolate Garam Masala Snickerdoodles

Notes: These cookies are very straightforward to prepare. The two things to bear in mind (and this applies to all cookies made with chickpea flour): do not try the raw dough (raw chickpea flour tastes leguminous in the worst possible way) and, for the same reason, do not underbake the cookies – you are looking for crisp edges and a cookie that is nicely puffed up in the oven but that buckles within a couple of minute of being taken out of the oven. 

Ingredients

60g butter, at room temperature
50g raw cane sugar or caster sugar
50g light brown sugar
1 egg
120g chickpea flour
30g cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

50g raw cane sugar (or caster sugar) plus 1/4 tsp garam masala for dusting

Directions

In a large bowl, beat the butter together with the raw cane sugar, the light brown sugar and pinch of salt until fluffy (3-5 minutes). Add the egg and beat to combine.

In a separate bowl whisk together the chickpea flour, cocoa, pinch of salt and baking soda. Add to the butte mixture in one go and beat to incorporate. Cover the bowl and place in the fridge to rest for 1h.

While the dough is resting in the fridge, pre-heat the oven to 175 degrees and line a sheet pan with  parchment paper.

In a bowl mix the remaining sugar together with the garam masala.

Using an ice-cream scoop drop tablespoon sized cookies into the spiced sugar. Roll each cookie in the sugar to coat before placing it on the sheet pan, leaving a couple of centimetres of space between the cookies. Bake for 17-20 minutes or until the cookies have puffed up in the middle and are crisp on the edges. Leave to cool for ca. 5 minutes before moving the cookies to a cookie rack (the cookies will buckle and firm up as they cool).

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As is quickly becoming clear, I am not just far far far behind on my Christmas shopping, Christmas baking has also taken a bit of a backseat around these parts this year. I am aiming to rectify that over the coming 10 days or so.  If you are still looking for inspiration for your Christmas baking session, I am planning to bake a batch (or two or three) of these cookies:

  • Heidi’s Rosewater Shortbread;
  • Heidi’s Swedish Rye Cookies  (if I get round to baking these, I think I will add a pinch or two of ground cardamom to the dough);
  • these Peppernuts I made last year – while the recipe uses Indonesian Long Pepper, Ale brought back some wonderfully fragrant Kampot Pepper from his trip to Cambodia in the summer that would be perfect for this recipe; and
  • these Chickpea Flour Gingersnaps (I may or may not increase the ginger hit by folding some crystallised ginger into the dough as well).

Spiced Sweet Potato Mont Blanc

 

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Earlier this year, I started sharing some of my recipes on Food&, a great website bringing together others as obsessed with food as myself to share their stories, photos, recipes or illustrations with the rest of the world. Going forward, I will be working even closer with Food&, as I have just joined their team of contributing editors. To kick things off, the new contributing editors and myself are sharing some Thanksgiving recipes on Food& throughout this week.

When the other new editors and myself were discussing what dishes to feature for Thanksgiving week, we quickly agreed we wanted to stay true to the traditional ingredients featured in a Thanksgiving feast but to come up with new recipes based around them. At first, I kept on staring at an empty page when trying to come up with ideas – I did not grow up celebrating Thanksgiving and the one Thanksgiving I spent at my friend Laura’s in Minneapolis was but a snapshot of what Thanksgiving entails. But after a few days of brainstorming, pouring over my cookbooks and researching Thanksgiving dishes old and new, I happily settled on a Spiced Sweet Potato Mont Blanc.

Mont Blanc is a classical French dessert, traditionally featuring chestnuts and whipped cream with either a meringue or buttery shortbread base. In a nod to the marshmallow topped sweet potatoes found on many Thanksgiving table, this Mont Blanc hides a generous dollop of homemade marshmallow fluff underneath a mountain of sweet potato cream swirls laced with the same spices used for another Thanksgiving classic: pumpkin pie.

Although new to me, I quickly discovered that a sweet potato based Mont Blanc is not such a new idea at all, as it is a fairly common dessert in French pastry-obsessed Japan. And if you can get your head around the idea of eating a sweet potato-based dessert, then I think you will like this dessert as much as I do (and I like it so much I may have eaten one Mont Blanc each for lunch and dinner one day when I was testing this recipe).

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Head on over to Food& for the recipe.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Miso Teacakes with Buckwheat and Kinako Graham Crackers

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Food envy is real and it starts early. For me, it started in primary school. Looking back, I am not sure what I thought I was missing but whenever I caught a glance of the contents of my classmate Victoria’s lunchbox, I was green with envy. Instead of sandwiches made with thick slices of wholemeal sourdough bread, her sandwiches were made with white bread rolls, a once in a while weekend treat at our house. In place of the small Cox apples my mum picked up at the weekly apple stand just around the corner from our paediatrician’s office, Victoria’s lunchbox had candy bars. For Victoria, lunch was washed down with Capri sun orange juice instead of my homemade ice tea (half fruit tea, half apple juice).

 At my primary school swapping lunch boxes wasn’t really a thing, but I certainly came very close to considering it when Victoria brought in a sandwich that took my food envy to a whole new level: a sandwich stuffed with a Schaumkuss (the German equivalent of a mallomar, where the digestive base is replaced with a thin round waffle). And Schaumkuesse just happened to be one of my favourite treats then (I once ate 9 in a row without feeling sick). In fact, they still are.

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I love the mixture of different textures and flavours, the waffle base, the pillowy sweet marshmallow fluff and the thin layer of dark chocolate.  And I can’t be alone with this given the sheer variety of marshmallow or marshmallow fluff based treats you can find in the sweets aisles of grocery stores across the world, whether it be mallomars, teacakes, the German Schaumkuesse of my childhood, Wagon Wheels etc. I had been meaning to play with the various elements to turn this childhood favourite into something a little different and that is how this recipe came about.

Miso has been making its way into more and more sweet dishes in my house.  Mixed with cream for a salted toffee sauce. To fill homemade rolos. Into white chocolate blondies. Hot chocolate. A miso apple pie filling is next on the list. Here, some sweet white miso makes its way into the homemade marshmallow fluff, giving it a little edge and taming its sweetness slightly. The waffle base of the Schaumkuesse of my childhood is replaced with a graham cracker base, much like for a mallomar or teacakes. However, to complement the miso marshmallow fluff, the graham cracker gets a little make-over as well. Brown rice flour, buckwheat flour and a small amount of kinako create a hearty and crumbly shortbread with toasted cereal notes and that provides the perfect base for a dollop of marshmallow fluff and a lick of dark chocolate (and that just happens to be gluten-free, in case that matters to you).

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Miso Teacakes with Buckhwheat and Kinako Graham Crackers

Notes: The possible variations for these teacakes are endless, you could use milk or white chocolate to cover the marshmallow fluff, you could flavour the marshmallow fluff with a fruit curd like passionfruit, you could place a dollop of jam or dulce de leche on each graham cracker before topping it with the marshmallow fluff etc. The one recommendation is to make sure you spoon or pour the chocolate topping over the marshmallow fluff. I tried to be smart when I first made these and tried dipping the teacakes head first into the melted chocolate, only to realise that the marshmallow fluff started melting. So don’t do that. 

For the Graham Crackers

60g brown rice flour
30g  buckwheat four
10g kinako
25 g sugar
20g light brown sugar
1/4 tsp baking soda
Generous pinch of sea salt
25g cold butter, cubed
25 ml maple syrup (or 1 tbsp plus 2 tsp)
40ml full fat milk (or 2 tbsp plus 2 tsp)

For the Marshmallow Fluff

2 egg wites
100g sugar
1/4 tsp white miso

For the Chocolate Coating

200g dark chocolate, chopped

Directions

Start by making the Graham Grackers. Add the brown rice flour, the buckwheat flour, the kinako, the sugar, the light brown sugar, the baking soda and the salt to the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times just to combine. Add the cubed butter and pulse until the mixture is sandy. Next, pour in the maple syrup and, again, pulse to combine. Add the milk, one tablespoon at the time, until everything comes together into a soft dough. Turn out onto a piece of cling film, shape into a rough ball, wrap the dough in the cling film, flatten it into a disk and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours to firm up.

Pre-heat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius and a line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Place the dough between two pieces of parchment paper the size of a sheet pan and roll out until the dough is ca. 3 mm thick. If the dough feels too soft, place in the fridge or freezer to firm up before cutting out the crackers. Cut out circles the size of a digestive biscuit (or any other shape) and lay on the prepared sheet pan. The cookies won’t spread much so you can place them fairly close to another. Continue until all the dough has been used up (you may have to reroll the dough – if so, make sure the dough is placed in the fridge to firm up again before you do so). While you wait to finish cutting the cookies, place the sheet pan with those already cut in the fridge.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until puffed up slightly and crisp on the outside. Place on a wire rack to cool.

While the cookies are baking, prepare the marshmallow fluff. Place the egg whites, the sugar and the white miso in a large bowl sitting in a pan of simmering water (making sure that the bowl does not touch the water). Whisking constantly, heat the egg white, sugar and miso mixture until the sugar is melted and the mixture is opaque (this should take ca. 10-15 minutes). Remove the bowl from the pan. Using an electric whisk, beat the egg white mixture until it turns white and fluffy and can hold its shape (this will take ca. 5 minutes). Transfer to a piping bag and pipe tablespoon sized blobs on each graham cracker. Leave to set for 30 minutes.

In a small bowl set in a pan of simmering water melt half the chopped chocolate. Once melted, remove the bowl from the pan and add the remaining half of the chopped chocolate. Once the chocolate is completely melted spoon a couple of teaspoons of melted chocolate over each graham cracker, ensuring that the marshmallow fluff is completely covered with the chocolate. Set aside for the chocolate to harden.

The teacakes will keep for a couple of days but will taste best on the day they are made when the marshmallow fluff will be the fluffiest and the graham cracker base will be nice and crunchy.

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Persimmon & Ginger Sourdough Scones – Goes well with coffee 2nd Edition

 

_MG_0342I am no expert on the history of coffee or coffee culture, so I am not sure who first had the idea to add ground spices to coffee but as ideas go, it was a pretty good one. Today, we have Turkish coffee which, although primarily referring to a specific brewing method (the process by which very finely ground coffee, typically made from Arabica beans, is brewed in a special small pot called Cezve or Ibrik), also refers to coffee often flavoured with cardamom. Then there is Arabic coffee, which is often spiced (often rather heavily) with cardamom, cloves and sometimes even saffron or cinnamon. Both are strong drinks, typically served in small glasses or small cups, that are typically consumed laced with industrial amounts of sugar.

Despite these long-standing traditions for preparing coffee flavoured with fragrant spices, there are plenty of people who insist that good coffee is best enjoyed as is, and should not even be adulterated with the addition of milk or sugar (let alone with spices) which dilute or change the flavour of the coffee itself . While I certainly enjoy coffee ‘as is’, there is something intriguing about coffee laced with the likes of cardamom, cloves, cinnamon or nutmeg.  Their brightness pairs well with coffee’s flavour and the warming qualities of these spices make the flavour of the coffee linger that little bit longer on your tongue.

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When it comes to ‘Warming Flavours’, the SCAA’s Flavour Wheel mentions ‘pepper’ and ‘cedar’ as notes you might detect during a cupping.  I cannot recall ever having tried a coffee I would have described as peppery, although woody notes like ‘cedar’ sound less far off from some of my coffee experiences. When I think of warming flavours, I think of warming spices, and ginger is usually the first spice to come to mind. A flu remedy not just because of it’s anti-septic and anti-inflammatory properties but also because it helps you sweat, thereby helping to bring body temperature down in case of a fever, a steaming mug of hot ginger and lemon tea is usually my go-to remedy at the first sign of a cold. Although, if I am being honest, I much prefer to bake with ginger, whether in powdered form, as stem ginger in syrup or candied ginger.

I have already written about my love of scones and how much I love that I can wake up any day of the week with a sudden craving for scones and less than 30 minutes later I can pull a tray of fresh scones out of the oven. My gold standard of perfect scones are the ones you can get at GAIL’s bakery in London. Back when I still lived in Angel (only about 2 years ago, although it feels like much longer), I would sometimes get up early on weekdays just so that on my walk to work I could go to GAIL’s in Exmouth Market to have breakfast, specifically to have one of their scones.

_MG_0363What I love in a good scones is an outer layer that is ever so slightly crispy (or even positively crunchy thanks to a layer of coarse sugar) but that gives easily away to a soft and buttery interior, studded heavily with  fresh or dried fruit, chocolate chips or nuts.  GAIL’s scones have all of that and then some. If my tastebuds can be trusted, my favourite version at GAIL’s is made with fresh blueberries, dried apricots and candied ginger (and, as I discovered when putting together this post, I am not alone in thinking these scones are ‘it‘).

Until I muster up the courage to check whether GAIL’s new book includes a recipe for these scones (if it does, I clearly have to buy the book, something I can’t really justify given the huge pile of cookbooks I already own and don’t have enough time to cook or bake from, if the recipe is not in the book then the distance to my nearest GAIL’s bakery now that I live in Brussels is even harder to live with), I will happily settle for this sourdough version studded with persimmons and candied ginger.

_MG_0385I first started baking sourdough scones last winter in Rome after coming across a recipe in Tartine No 3. And while I have yet to try the recipe actually in the book, adapting my own scone recipe to mainly rely on leaven as a rising agent (as well as a small amount of baking powder and baking soda) gave my scones an even better texture, producing scones that are crisper on the outside yet softer on the inside.

I recently started baking my own bread again (with much better results now that I finally succumbed and bought a heavy casserole that I use not just for stews but also to bake bread in – if you want to know why baking bread in a Dutch oven results in better oven spring, i.e. a better risen bread, it is to do with head conduction and this article explains it all). My go to formula for preparing leaven for 2 loaves of bread leaves me with exactly 50g of surplus leaven – now I could just adjust the ratios and either bake bigger loaves or just make less leaven, but it turns out 50g of leaven is the perfect amount to make 6 sourdough scones. And a fresh batch of sourdough scones is the perfect Saturday morning coffee accompaniment when you have just mixed your bread dough and now have to face an agonising 24h wait before you can enjoy a slice of fresh bread.

Before we get to the recipe for these scones, I just wanted to say that I did not really expect to be away from this space for so long (the longest I have ever gone between posts if I remember correctly). The reasons are altogether uneventful – work is keeping me so busy it’s been 2 weeks since I last did laundry, most dinners come courtesy of the sushi shop across the road from my office and eating breakfast at home rather than in front of my pc at work feels like a huge achievement. That being said, I have been testing a few recipes which I am hoping to share with you all soon (like this buckle for example).

If you would like to learn how to make Turkish coffee, SeriousEats did a great a while back which you can find here.

For an easy recipe for making spiced coffee, click here.

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Persimmon and Candied Ginger Sourdough Scones 

Notes: Persimmons can be very very juicy. Which is nice when you eat them on their own, ideally bent over your kitchen sink, but not so nice when they turn your scone dough into a soggy mess. So try and find persimmons that are still a bit firm. As for the ginger, I used candied ginger but I reckon stem ginger would work equally well. While I am perfectly happy to enjoy a scone fresh out of the oven as is, come day 2, I prefer to cut them in half, toast them and slather them in salted butter (come to think of it, a miso butter would be nice here).

Makes 6 large scones.

Ingredients

100g yoghurt
50g leaven
200g plus 2 tbsp wholemeal spelt flour
30g cane sugar
Pinch of salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
80g butter, cold, cubed
1  small firm persimmon (you are looking for ca. 150g flesh), diced
30g crystallised ginger, chopped finely

Optional: 1 tbsp cane sugar

Directions 

1. Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius.

2. In a bowl whisk together the yoghurt with the leaven. Set aside.

3. Add the 150g spelt flour, cane sugar, salt, baking soda and baking powder to a bowl and stir together with a spoon.  Add the cubed butter and cut the butter into the flour with a knife or a pastry cutter (you can also use your hands) until the mixture is sandy with only a few larger pieces of butter remaining.

4. Add the yoghurt and leaven mixture and briefly knead until the dough just starts coming together but is still a bit shaggy. Turn out onto a floured surface, pat into a rectangle and add the persimmon and ginger on one side of the rectangle. Fold the other side of the rectangle over the persimmon and the ginger then briefly knead the dough to evenly distribute the persimmon and ginger. If your persimmon is very juicy and the dough starts feeling very sticky, add the remaining 2tbsp flour, kneading briefly to incorporate.

5. Place the dough onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Shape the dough into a rectangle, ca. 3 cm high. Using a floured knife cut the rectangle into 6 squares and carefully pull them apart, leaving 2-3cm of spaces between the scones.  For extra crunch, sprinkle the scones with cane sugar before placing them in the preheated oven.

6. Bake for ca. 20-25 minutes until the scones are well risen and light brown in colour.

Other Posts in the “Goes well with coffee” series:

Toasted Cornmeal and Salted Honey Shortbread 

Toasted Cornmeal and Salted Honey Shortbread … Goes Well With Coffee – 1st Edition

_MG_0279This post is a little different from my regular posts as I have decided that, over the next few months, I want to do a series of posts all around one theme. And no, we are not talking Christmas cookies (even if Pinterest might have you believe you should be dusting off your star-shaped cookie cutters already). Instead, this little series will be all about things that go well with coffee. And by things that go well with coffee, I, of course, mean cakes, cookies, pastries and all their various incarnations. Because, really, isn’t the whole point of sitting down for a cup of coffee the opportunity to enjoy something sweet alongside said cup of coffee?

The series is inspired by the Coffee Taster’s Flavour Wheel produced by the Specialty Coffee Association of America. As it says on the SCAA’s website, the Flavour Wheel develops a glossary of coffee terms based on sensory science and is used by coffee cuppers to describe the coffee they want to buy and/or sell.

I first came across the Flavour Wheel in a small coffee shop in Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand earlier this year and was immediately drawn to the right hand side of the two pie charts. It is that pie chart which groups together the various aromas you might find in a cup of coffee into 18 different categories of ‘umbrella’ aromas such as “floral”, “leguminous” or “malt-like”. While not all flavours or aromas can be found in every single cup of coffee given the different varieties of coffee, the different processing and roasting techniques as well as the various preparation methods, it is nonetheless fascinating to have a visual display of all the different aromas you might find in a cup of coffee. At the same time, it is a neat overview of flavours that will likely pair well with a cup of coffee (in particular those coffees that display the same flavour profile).

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While the coffee scene is constantly changing, the latest craze being cold brew coffee and lattes made with almond and other nut milks, I wish the same could be said for the pastries and cookies served alongside the coffee. All too often, a cafe’s pastry case can be a bit of a let down, with few places venturing beyond the usual suspects of almond croissants, blueberry muffins, brownies or lemon tarts which, even if well executed, do become a bit boring after a while.

One of the benefits of brewing coffee at home (other than saving a few bucks) is that you have complete freedom over what to have alongside your coffee and making sure it goes well with your chosen brew. And this is where this series comes in – over the next few months I will aim to share 18 new recipes for cakes, pastries, cookies and the like that go well with coffee – one for each of the 18 ‘umbrella’ aromas shown in the Flavour Wheel. And while I am no professional coffee cupper (let alone a lay one), I may even suggest suitable coffee pairings from time to time.*

*Before anyone shouts, let it be said that I believe in equal opportunities when it comes to coffee – I enjoy Vietnamese coffee, a pot of Turkish coffee brewed over a camp fire, a latte made with coffee from my dad’s aeropress just as much as a shot of espresso made with Jamaican Blue Mountain beans whose price per pound equals my weekly grocery budget.

To kick things off, the first recipe in this series is for Toasted Cornmeal Shortbread, made with honey, it falls under the ‘Syrup-like’ category of aromas in the Flavour Wheel.

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Toasted Cornmeal Shortbread

Note: If you are a fan of cornbread, this shortbread is for you. While in the oven, the taste of freshly baked cornbread will invade your kitchen. Once baked and cooled, you end up with a shortbread with the same toasted corn flavours and sweetness from honey of traditional cornbread yet with the buttery richness and crumbly texture of shortbread. And if you have ever sunk your teeth into one of Christine Tosi’s Corn Cookies, the flavour profile of this shortbread is quite similar, albeit more complex thanks to the toasted cornmeal and the honey.

Ingredients

125g cornmeal
125g butter, soft
25g honey
50g cane sugar plus 1 tsp cane sugar
40g cornstarch or brown rice flour
1/4 tsp sea salt plus one large pinch

Directions

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line a small round tart pan with parchment paper (my small round tart pan measures 17cm across – if doubling the recipe, line a regular springform cake pan with parchment paper instead).

In a dry pan toast the cornmeal on medium heat until fragrant and just starting to colour, stirring constantly to prevent excessive and uneven browning. This should take ca. 3-5 minutes.  Set aside and let the cornmeal come to room temperature (otherwise it will melt the butter needed for the shortbread).

In a large bowl beat the soft butter together with the honey and sugar until light and fluffy. This should take ca. 5 minutes.

In a separate bowl whisk together the cornmeal, cornstarch (or brown rice flour, if using) and 1/4 tsp of sea salt. Dump on top of the beaten butter and stir with a large spoon until well amalgamated.

Press the dough into the lined tart pan, using a small rolling pin to ensure even thickness. Sprinkle with the remaining sugar and salt.

Bake for 18-20 minutes or until just starting to brown around the edges. The shortbread will seem impossibly soft at this stage, but don’t despair, it will firm up as it cools. To slice it, leave the shortbread to cool for ca. 5 minutes so it will hold its shape (if you wait until the shortbread has come to room temperature it will be too firm to slice). Leave shortbread to cool completely before removing from the pan.
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Given the strong toasted corn flavour, I think a Singaporean ‘Kopi’ (served hot or poured over ice) would be a great match for this shortbread. Kopi is the coffee traditionally consumed in Singapore. Typically made with robusta beans, roasted with butter and sometimes sugar as well, Kopi is deeply aromatic, with toasted cereal and caramel notes. Once topped up with condensed milk it tastes just the way I imagine a Cereal Milk latte would taste. And while it may not be appealing to serious coffee connoisseurs, it is delicious in its own right and I have yet to come across anyone who did not fall hard for Kopi after trying it for the first time.

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I believe humans get a lot done, not because we’re smart, but because we have thumbs so we can make coffee.” Flash Rosenberg _MG_0296

Individual Victoria Sponge Cakes with Chamomile and Macerated Strawberries

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I am not the first person to pair Chamomile and Strawberries – there is a recipe for chamomile panna cotta and macerated strawberries in one of Heston Blumenthal’s books and a quick jaunt around the internets will bring up recipes for chamomile sorbet, chamomile custard and other sweet floral delights made with chamomile. Yet, it is a rare combination. Maybe unsurprising given a lot of us will have grown up sipping tepid chamomile tea while recuperating from yet another childhood illness.

Yet with herbs finding their way into baked goods more and more, it is about time we gave chamomile a second chance. Its flavour is delicate. Lemony, even a bit grassy, and undoubtedly floral. Moderation is key when using chamomile – too generous a helping will yield a bitter flavour yet, if you show too much restraint, the chamomile will be imperceptible.

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These individual Victoria Sponge Cakes are my idea of the perfect treat for a summery afternoon tea. Quicker and less involved than baking a regular-sized version. And the addition of chamomile, the use of macerated strawberries rather than jam and the topping with whipped creme fraiche are enough to give the original recipe a delicious make-over without straying too far from the original.

Depending on how many I am serving I also like baking individual Victoria Sponge cakes, using muffin tins to bake small, cupcake sized sponges. Rather than splitting these small cakes in half, I like simply topping each with a generous dollop of whipped cream or creme fraiche and a spoonful of my favourite jam, or even some macerated berries or fruit compote.

Head on over to Food& for the recipe.

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Pistachio Olive Oil Miniature Cakes

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I once read an article about that strange feeling of returning to a city where you once used to live. To discover that this city has not been preserved in some kind of time bubble. That life in this city has moved on. Your friends have made new friends, filling that small hole your departure might have left. Shops have shut or moved. Restaurants have come and gone. How odd this is, whether or not this city has a special place in your heart or whether you were in fact glad to leave it when you did.

It feels like I have spent most of my twenties either moving to London or moving away from London. After university and law school there I spent some time in Germany, working in a law firm to save up enough cash to travel around Argentina and Chile for a few months (which, incidentally is where I met Alessandro). I came back to London for my training contract only to leave again after 18 months for a 6 months stint in Brussels where I finished my training contract. It was back to London to start life as a lawyer before moving to Rome in 2012 and, earlier this year, to Brussels. From where I stand now, I probably won’t ever move back to London permanently (even if past behaviour might indicate otherwise and although my friends are secretly or not so secretly hoping I will come back one day). And while I have always had a love-hate relationship with the Big Smoke (as amazing as London is, it is not always an easy place to live), I miss it dearly and I try to go back as often as I can.

When I do go back, London doesn’t feel any different from when I used to live there (in fact whenever I sit on the 38 bus going towards Angel I have to remind myself that I no longer live just off Essex Road but instead should get off the bus at Angel tube station for the short walk to my sister’s flat by the Regent’s Canal). But London certainly looks different. Much like New York and other major capital cities, London is in a constant flux of shop openings and closings, pop-up events, new restaurants and cocktail bars, former dodgy neighbourhoods becoming the new ‘place to be’ etc. It is almost impossible to keep up with the momentum when you live in London – it is practically impossible when you no longer live there. But when I do go back I always enjoy trying a few new places together with my old favourite hang-outs. One of those new-to-me places that I recently went to for the first time is the ACE hotel in Shoreditch.

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A few months ago my sister Helena, my friend Verena and I had spent an afternoon spent wandering around East London before getting caught in a downpour. Given where we were, the ACE hotel seemed like the closest dry spot that would also serve us a cup of decent coffee. While we didn’t stay long in the end, I do remember rather vividly the mini pistachio olive oil cake I ordered. Because it was by far the best pistachio cake, the best olive oil cake, and in fact the best nut-flour based cake I have ever tasted. It was a far cry (in a good way) from most nut cakes I have eaten – not dense at all, rather very light and moist but without being in the slightest bit greasy. Bright green from the pistachios, the flavour of the cake was surprisingly delicate – a grassy olive oil contrasting with yet also rounding out the flavour of the pistachios, a little lemon zest adding some wonderful brightness.

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Pistachio flour, whether you make your own from whole pistachios or buy already ground pistachios is expensive, likely at least twice as expensive as almond flour, so I use it sparingly. Sparingly in the sense that I do not often bake with it but when I do it has to be a recipe where the flavour and colour of the pistachios will shine. I think that these miniature pistachio and olive oil cakes are as close to the cake I had at the ACE hotel as I can get without knowing their actual recipe. What these cakes most definitely have in common with the one I tried at the ACE hotel is the gorgeous green colour (which, sadly, does start to fade after the first day or so), and the wonderful balance of flavours between the pistachios, the grassy olive oil and the bright lemon zest. They were also a wonderful way to use the pistachio flour Alessandro bought me a while ago and which I had patiently been waiting to use until the right occasion.

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Individual Pistachio Olive Oil Miniature Cakes

Makes 9 miniature cakes

Ingredients
3 eggs, separated
110ml olive oil
30ml milk
135g sugar
135g pistachio flour
135g spelt flour
Pinch of salt
Zest of 1 lemon

Glaze: 2 tsp plain yoghurt, enough icing sugar to make a thick but pourable glaze (ca. 60g icing sugar provided your yoghurt is not too runny).

Optional: a small handful of chopped pistachios

Directions

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and grease 9 friand tins or 9 small cake or muffin tins.

In a large bowl whisk the egg yolks with an electric whisk while slowly pouring in the olive oil, followed by the milk. Add the sugar in one go and whisk to combine.

In a separate bowl whisk together the pistachio flour, the spelt flour, pinch of salt and the lemon zest. Fold into the egg yolk mixture.

In a clean bowl and using clean beaters, whisk the egg whites until stiff. Fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter to help loosen it (it will seem very stiff at this stage but will loosen with the addition of the egg whites). Add the remainder of the beaten egg whites and carefully fold into the batter, trying not to deflate the mixture.

Carefully spoon the mixture into your tins. Place in the oven and bake for ca. 25 minutes or until well risen and a wooden skewer inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tins for 5-10 minutes before carefully removing the cakes from their tins and setting aside to cool completely.

In a small bowl whisk together the yoghurt with just enough icing sugar to get a thick but pourable glaze. Top each cake with ca. 1 teaspoon of glaze. If using, scatter a few chopped pistachios over each cake.

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