Financiers with Almonds and Argan Oil

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Thanks to a nasty throat infection I spent most of last week in bed with a temperature close to 40 degrees Celsius. Prior to last week, I had not taken any real time off work for being sick since a hernia surgery back in 2012. While surgery is never pleasurable, I remember I quite enjoyed being off sick at the time. I had my surgery in Germany and stayed with my parents for the 2 weeks afterwards. Despite my initially somewhat limited mobility my recovery proved to be a wonderful opportunity to catch up with my parents over long conversations, something my quick weekend trips back home don’t leave enough room for.

In some twisted way, lately I had begun thinking that it might actually be quite nice to be off sick again some time, naively thinking it could be a nice opportunity to catch up on some sleep and trashy TV. Little did I know that I would spend most of last week confined to my bed, with a pounding headache from the high fever and too ill to read or watch any TV. Thankfully at least sleep came easily – I must have slept over 14 hours on average those days. And while I am not quite fit enough yet to go on my morning runs or go to yoga, I have been back at work for a few days now and my voice is slowly starting to sound normal again. That also means I thought it was about time I told you about these Argan oil financiers.

As I will have mentioned a few times by now, my parents spent a couple of years living in Morocco before I was born and I grew up eating Moroccan food quite regularly. Yet it was not until a visit to an Argan oil cooperative during a whirlwind your of Morocco a few years ago that I first came across Argan oil. Touring the cooperative I not only learned how Argan trees are grown, the sheer amount of fruit needed to produce 1l of the precious oil, but I also learned about the important role the Argan oil cooperatives have in supporting local communities in providing paid employment to many women in rural Morocco.

Intrigued by its nutty flavour, I picked up my first bottle of Argan oil on that same trip and have been using it to drizzle over soups and salads ever since. Recently, I started experimenting more with Argan oil, including trying to incorporate it into cakes and desserts. One of my favourite recipes so far is to make financiers with Argan oil. And yes, Argan oil is expensive, but so are pistachios and spices like saffron and vanilla. And I would much rather bake financiers with Argan oil than have a bottle of Argan oil go rancid while using it ever so sparingly.

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Financiers with Almonds and Argan Oil

Note: Financiers are small French cakes made with no more than 4 ingredients at their most basic: egg whites, ground nuts, sugar and butter. While financiers can be very rich given the generous amount of butter their preparation requires, they lend themselves perfectly to variations – not only can you use different types of nuts and seeds in place of the more traditional ground almonds, but you can also replace the butter in part or in its entirety with different fats such as Argan oil, which will give your financiers a unique nutty flavour and delicate sweetness. And I might be biased here, since my dad often made coffee this way, but these financiers are wonderful alongside a small glass of cardamom-laced stove-top brewed coffee. 

Yields 6 financiers using a financier mould (alternatively you can use a medium-sized muffin tray)

Ingredients

3 egg whites
75g light muscovado sugar or caster sugar
60g ground almonds
60g spelt or all purpose flour
60ml Argan oil
30g melted butter

Directions

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and lightly grease 6 financier moulds.

Add the egg whites to a large bowl and whisk until frothy with a balloon whisk or a handheld mixer. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk briefly to incorporate.

Distribute the financier batter evenly among the 6 moulds.

Bake the financiers for ca. 25 minutes or until they are well risen, golden brown around the edges and springy to the touch.

Leave the financiers to cool in their moulds for a couple of minutes before carefully removing the financiers from their mould.

While financiers are best eaten the day they are made, they will keep for a couple of days if stored in an airtight box at room temperature.

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Blueberry and Thyme Buckle – Goes Well With Coffee – 6th Edition

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We are already half-way through February and so far I am not sure 2015 is all that. A good friend had a pretty scary car accident in January and while he is lucky to be alive, various broken bones mean he faces a long road to recovery. And maybe it is an age thing, but suddenly numerous friends are having had to deal with sick parents. Yet while the normal reaction to these kinds of news would be to be grateful for your own good health (which I generally am) and to try and live in the moment a bit more (well, I try), I must admit that I have been in a bit of a funk and generally feeling a bit ‘meh’ about everything.

But this weekend I decided I had had enough. After three weekends away and with the sun starting to show its face just long enough during the day to remind me that winter is nearing its end, I decided to spring-clean my flat. I also did some yoga and finally got to spend a day in the kitchen again. Grains and beans were cooked for the week ahead, soaked almonds were turned into almond milk, the left over almond pulp was turned into a huge batch of grain-free granola and a financier recipe was re-tested. But the best part about a weekend at home after so many weekends away? Waking up in my own bed on Sunday morning and knowing that one of these blueberry and thyme buckles was waiting for me to have for breakfast.

Ever since making this Blueberry Icecream and smooching a generous scoop between two Momofuku Corn Cookies, I have been a little obsessed with the combination of corn and blueberry. While an unusual pairing where I grew up, after trying it for the first time it just made perfect sense to me. Corn has a natural sweetness that just begs to be incorporated into sweet dishes and the slight tartness and almost herbaceous flavour of blueberries makes it a rather intriguing combination.

_MG_0980While it took me a while to come up with a recipe for the most recent Goes Well With Coffee Post, as soon as I saw that ‘berry-like’ was one of the aromas on the SCAA’s flavour wheel, I knew I wanted to bake something with blueberries. While the SCAA lists apricots and blackberries as examples, the berries I associate the most with coffee are definitely blueberries given they are commonly listed as part of the flavour profile of Ethiopian coffees. So what better coffee to pair with one of these buckles then a cup of Yirgachefe from the Kochere region in Ethiopia?

In other news, my recipe for Dark Chocolate Truffles with Orange and Sichuan Pepper made it into the Telegraph the other day. I also did a little interview which you can read here.

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Notes: The recipe below makes 8 individual buckles. You can bake them using 10cm tart rings lined with parchment paper, like I did here, alternatively you can bake the buckles in a muffin tray. However, you could also make one large buckle cake using a 23cm springform or round cake pan (if so, you will want to increase the baking time to ca. 60 minutes).

Ingredients

For the Buckle Batter

120g sugar
100g butter, softened
2 eggs
80g yoghurt
180g masa harina
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt

For the Blueberry Thyme Layer

250g blueberries
1/2 tsp thyme

For the Cornmeal Crumble

90g masa harina
90g polenta
90g butter, cold
75g sugar
Pinch of salt

Pre-heat the oven to 175 degrees celsius. Line eight 10cm tart rings with parchment paper (to do this, I cut out small squares of parchment paper just a little larger than the tartlet rings. I then crunch up the parchment paper into a small ball before unfolding it and lining the tartlet rings with it – this helps to ensure you can press the parchment paper flush against the sides of the tartlet ring). Alternatively, grease 8 holes in a medium size muffin tin.

In a medium bowl beat the softened butter with the sugar until light and fluffy (this will take ca. 5 minutes). Add the egg and beat to incorporate, followed by the yoghurt, again, beating to incorporate. In a separate bowl briefly whisk the masa harina with the baking powder and salt before folding this into the wet ingredients until you have a smooth batter. The batter should have dropping consistency – if it appears too stiff whisk a couple of tablespoons of milk into the batter to loosen it.

Distribute the batter evenly among the tart rings, smoothing the top of the batter with the back of a spoon.

Add the blueberries to a small bowl and scatter the dried thyme over the berries. Use a spoon to briefly mix the two.

Distribute the blueberries evenly among the tart rings.

To make the crumble topping, add the masa harina, the polenta, sugar and salt to a large bowl. Stir to combine. Add the cubed butter. Rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture appears sandy and there are no large chunks of butter remaining. Scatter the crumble over the blueberries and press ever so slightly so the crumble will better adhere.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the buckles are starting to turn golden brown and a skewer inserted into the middle of the buckles comes out clean.

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‘Everything Bagel’ Rye Scones with Scallion Cream Cheese – Goes Well With Coffee – 5th Edition

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When my eyes first fell upon the SCAA’s flavour wheel I remember scanning the different flavours and at first nodding in agreement – citrus (yep), berry (yep), chocolate (yep) – and then my eyes fell on ‘alliaceous’ (garlic and onion) and I was a bit flummoxed. I had certainly never tried a coffee and thought – ‘hmm, not bad, I just wish it did not taste so strongly of onion or garlic’ (nor in fact have I ever reminisced fondly about a coffee that reminded me of our favourite alliums!). So I had to do some research to understand where that onion or garlic flavour in coffee can come from.

It turns out, there are two reasons why the flavour of coffee can remind you of onion and garlic. Both can be a side effect of ‘wet processing’ (also referred to as washed processing) of coffee beans, a process which involves coffee beans (after being removed from the coffee cherries but still retaining their mucilage) being stored in water-filled fermentation tanks for 4-48 hours.

While wet processing, which I understand is mainly used for arabica beans, is associated with higher quality coffees as the fermentation process is key to the development of the coffee’s complex flavour, the emergence of yeasts and mould in the water during the fermentation stage can lead to the final coffee tasting off (in particular, coffee may taste sour or indeed develop a flavour reminiscent of onions). Similar off flavours can result when the water used during the fermentation stage is not fresh. While certain off flavours can be desirable as they give coffee its particular flavour and body, a noticeable onion or garlic flavour can thus indicate poor processing and is clearly undesirable.

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Leaving aside the reasons as to why your coffee might taste of onion and garlic or not, there is certainly no denying that a bagel slathered in cream cheese alongside a decent cup of coffee is a pretty perfect way to start the day. As partial as I am to sweet breakfasts, I make an exception when it comes bagels (and avocado toast if I am being honest), especially ‘everything bagels’ and scallion cream cheese – those bagels rolled in a generous helping of a mix of sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dried onion and garlic bits. And when the next decent everything bagel is an 8 hour plane ride away and you kind of want one NOW then these ‘Everything Bagel’ Rye Scones hit the spot just so. They may be no bagel but you can have them on your table in less than 30 minutes from when that ‘Everything Bagel’ craving first hit, so there is that.

All of which is to say that these ‘Everything Bagel’ Rye Scones are the latest recipe in the Goes Well With Coffee series and are my attempt of turning the flavours of garlic and onion into something delicious you can enjoy alongside your morning coffee (even if you might not actually want your coffee to taste of onion and garlic).

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 ‘Everything Bagel’ Rye Scones with Scallion Cream Cheese

Makes 8 small scones or 6 regular scones

Note: if you follow the recipe to the letter you may find yourself thinking that these scones are rather small. Well, they are. If I am hungry, I will have two, otherwise, I will have one with some fruit and yoghurt on the side. They are also the perfect size to make for a brunch where people might want a scone but not a whole scone, lest it make them too full to fully enjoy the various brunch options.

Ingredient
200g wholemeal spelt flour
50g wholemeal rye flour
1/4tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp white sesame seeds
1 tsp black sesame seeds
1 tsp poppy seeds
1 tsp dried onion
1/2 tsp dried garlic
50g cold butter, cubed
125g yoghurt
60ml milk plus extra for brushing the scones before baking

Everything bagel mix
1/4 tsp salt
1tsp white sesame seeds
1tsp black sesame seeds
1tsp poppy seeds
1 tsp dried onion
1/2 tsp dried garlic

Scallion Cream Cheese
250g cream cheese
4 tbsp milk
1/2 bunch of spring onions, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

In a large bowl whisk together the spelt flour, rye flour, salt, baking soda, the two types of sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dried onion and dried garlic. Add the cubed butter and rub into the flour. When the mixture appears sandy and there are no large chunks of butter remaining, form a well in the middle of the mixture and pour in the yoghurt and the milk. Stir everything together until you have a shaggy ball of dough.

Place the dough on a floured surface and knead briefly until you have a fairly smooth dough. Flatten into a round disk and cut into 8 triangles. Place each triangle on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Brush with a little milk and scatter the everything bagel mix over the scones, pressing the mix slightly into the scones to make sure they adhere well to the dough.

Bake for 20 minutes until the scones are well risen and golden brown.

While the scones are baking, prepare the scallion cream cheese. Whisk the cream cheese together with the milk to loosen it. Add the sliced spring onion and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

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Lemon Curd and Pinenut Bakewell Tarts – Goes Well With Coffee – 4th Edition

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My company’s London office is snuck right between St Paul’s and City Thameslink Station. While the options for lunch (Leon, Pret a Manger, Pod, Crush etc) are pretty much the same as for most of Central London, the office has the benefit of being close to a number of decent coffee places. One cafe I had been meaning to try for a while is Alchemy Coffee. So when I found myself working in our London office a few months ago on a rather hot September day, I decided to make a little detour on my way back from lunch and stop by Alchemy Coffee to get an iced cold brew coffee with milk.

Cold brew coffee, which is typically made by steeping coffee grounds overnight in cold water (straining the coffee grounds before serving), has been around for a while now but over the last 12 months or so, cold brew coffee suddenly became trendy and sales really took off in London with many cafes offering their own cold brew coffee and some place even selling bottled cold brew coffee.

I like cold brew coffee for a couple of reasons – above everything else, I love its flavour. Cold brewed coffee often tastes smoother and more balanced with far less acidity than coffee brewed with hot water. In fact, there are plenty of coffees I have enjoyed as a cold brew but not otherwise. I also like how cold brew cuts down the preparation time in the morning – no messing around with the coffee maker, aeropress, moka etc. Once you have made your cold brew coffee, all that is needed in the morning is a tall glass and some ice (optional yet highly recommended add-ons: a generous pour of almond milk and a teaspoon of maple syrup).

I never actually got round to trying Alchemy Coffee’s cold brew coffee as the girl behind the counter refused to serve me when I asked for a cold brew coffee with some milk. The only options were having the cold brew coffee black or with some lemon juice (I was told that adding anything else to the cold brew coffee would destroy the carefully balanced flavour profile of the coffee). While I still struggle to understand the logic of refusing to serve a cold brew coffee with milk but being perfectly happy to add sharp lemon juice to a coffee brewed specifically in such a way to carefully balance the coffee’s flavours (in particular its acidity), this incident did serve as a reminder that coffee and citrus go rather well together.

This is not surprising given that a number of coffee varieties have citrus notes, in particular those from Ethiopia (although such varieties are now grown across the world) and those grown at high altitude. Coffees with a lighter roast are also more likely to have a citrus flavour than those with a darker roast (as the citrus notes disappear with the longer roasting process).

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I am rather partial to a Coffee and Orange Tiramisu (as Niki Segnit says, it is “nicer than it sounds”). And I would take this Orange Mocha Marble Cake over traditional marble cake any day. And while I cannot testify to its effectiveness, back home in Germany, a black coffee with a shot of lemon juice is supposed to be the ultimate hangover cure.

Serving something citrussy alongside your cup of coffee is thus a no-brainer – whether in the form of a Lemon Poppy Seed Muffin, a wedge of Tarte au Citron, a handful of Liquorice and Orange Madeleines or indeed a lemony twist on Bakewell Tart such as this version.

While Bakewell Tarts can be tooth-achingly sweet, here the sharpness of the lemon curd cuts through the sweetness and richness of the frangipane. The pine nut frangipane itself is delicate in flavour and while pine nuts are not cheap, I love the almost resinous flavour they have.

While temperatures here in Brussels are hovering dangerously close to the freezing point again, it will be a while before I start drinking cold brew coffee again. But in case you are somewhere warm and are looking for a guide on how to make cold brew coffee, here is one from Blue Bottle: https://bluebottlecoffee.com/preparation-guides/cold-brew.

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Lemon Curd and Pinenut Bakewell Tarts

Makes six 10x2cm tarts

I was lucky enough to come home from Italy with a bag of lemons from a friend’s lemon tree so I made my own lemon curd for these tarts. You can certainly use store-bought lemon curd (which also has the benefit of keeping better than homemade lemon curd). That being said, making lemon curd at home is easy, cheap and quick, so if you have never tried making it yourself, I have copied below the recipe I used.

Pate Sucree
85g soft butter
35g sugar
1 egg
Pinch of salt
200g yellow maize flour

Pinenut Frangipane
100g soft butter
100g sugar
2 eggs
80g ground pine nuts
20g yellow maize flour
20g whole pine nuts

6 tablespoons lemon curd*

Directions

Start by making the pate sucree. In a bowl, beat the soft butter and sugar until creamy. Add the egg and beat well to incorporate. Whisk the salt into the flour and stir into the wet ingredients. Using a spatula or a wooden spoon work the flour into the wet ingredients until the mixture forms a cohesive dough. Shape the dough into a ball, wrap in clingfilm, flatten into a disk and place in the fridge to firm to rest for at least 30 minutes.

While the dough is resting, prepare the frangipane. In a bowl beat the butter with the sugar until creamy. Add the eggs one by one and beat to incorporate. Add the pine nuts and yellow maize flour and stir to combine. Set aside.

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Knead the chilled dough until pliable then roll out to 2mm thickness on a floured surface. Prepare a sheet pan with six 10x2cm tart rings. Line the tart rings (you may have to re-roll the dough to be able to do so) cutting off any excess dough with a sharp knife.

Carefully spread 1 tablespoon of lemon curd over the bottom of each tart, followed by the frangipane (this should fill each tart to just below the top). Scatter the remaining pine nuts over the tarts.

Bake for ca. 15-20 minutes or until the frangipanie is golden brown and set. Leave tarts to cool for at least 10 minutes before carefully removing the tart rings. Dust with icing sugar to serve.

*Lemon Curd

Makes 1 small jar



Ingredients
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
75g butter, cubed
1 egg plus 1 yolk
110g sugar

Directions

Add all the ingredients to a small saucepan. Heat on medium heat until the butter and sugar are melted. Stirring constantly wait until the mixture starts to thicken considerably and has reached 70 degrees Celsius. Strain the lemon curd and pour into a jam jar.

Stored in the fridge the lemon curd will keep for 5-7 days.

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You can find all other posts in the Goes Well With Coffee series here.

Chickpea Flour Gingersnap Cookies

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I started back at work this week and as things have been quieter than expected these past few days, I have had some time to think about the year ahead. While I used to be a firm believer that New Year’s resolutions were a waste of time (and, in the case of gym memberships signed up for on 1 January, likely a waste of money too), the older I get, the more benefit I see in them.

I am all in favour of exercising regularly, feeding yourself nourishing food with the odd feast thrown in for special occasions and generally being kind to ourselves and others, but I also know that life has a habit of making all these good habits rather difficult to keep at times (whether through stress in the workspace or at home). These days, I embrace the New Year as an opportunity to take stock of where I am in my life and where I want to be in my life (and how to get there). And from there I work out a list of aims for the year, aims big and small.

There was plenty of big stuff last year – an exciting job offer, the move to Brussels for example. This year, I have some smaller aims, and one of them is to sleep more. With a job that has a habit of shortening the amount of shut eye I get during weeknights (and on occasion on weekends too), rather than make the most of the nights I leave the office early enough to get some much needed sleep, I seem to have turned into a bit of a night owl, often not going to bed until 1 or 2am – making the 7am wake-up call during the week rather painful. I am trying to get into a habit of going to bed before midnight again and so far, it’s working.

I am also excited to shake up my exercise routine a bit. While regular runs and gym sessions are key to my sanity, I was getting rather bored with both until I started practicing yoga regularly back in September. While I used to do Bikram Yoga back in London, I never attended other types of yoga classes until now and I have been really enjoying learning a new skill, even if the first few classes left me feeling rather clumsy. Yoga also seems to have the added benefit of making me sleep like a baby the night after a class, so there is that too. I am also starting swimming again, something I haven’t done for exercise since my early teens.

This year is already starting to look pretty busy with 3 trips across the channel planned for the next 3 months alone (for work, to attend a friend’s hen night as well as for a wedding) and several trips back home to see my family pencilled in my diary (not to mention my regular trips to Italy to see Alessandro). Yet I am actually hoping for a somewhat quieter year. With several trips each to Copenhagen, Zurich, London and home to Germany, a trip to Laos and Thailand, a week’s skiing and a week in New York and numerous Italy trips, not only have I lost count of the number of flights and trains I took last year, I have also been craving some quality time at home. I am looking forward to exploring Brussels more and I am also looking forward to making the most of the big kitchen in my apartment by cooking my way through the latest additions to my cookbook collection and all those recipes I keep on bookmarking. After all, it was the kitchen I fell in love with when I first saw the apartment and is also the reason I ended up renting a slightly awkwardly shaped open plan apartment on the third floor of a building without a lift and a staircase without handrails.

One ingredient I am very excited to play with in my kitchen at the moment is chickpea flour. A pantry staple of mine for a few years already ever since I discovered just how delicious farinata (the thick rosemary and olive oil flavoured chickpea pancakes from Italy’s Liguria region) is, I only recently started using it for anything other than farinata or as a binding agent when making vegetable fritters. Well, it turns out chickpea flour is very versatile- it makes incredibly moreish chocolate chip cookies, it can be used to make all sorts of flatbreads (I have even made tortillas with it) and crackers and can also be turned into pasta (high on top of my list of things to try!). For other ideas on what to make with chickpea flour, this article on Food52 by Lindsey might give you some ideas.

When I came across recipe for chickpea flour gingersnap cookies on Erica’s blog, I knew I had to try them. The older I get, the more I like bold ginger flavours and I was hoping the slight earthiness of the chickpea flour would compliment the spiciness of the ginger rather well. And what can I say, these were a total hit. I wrapped some to take home with me to Germany over the holiday and both my parents and siblings loved them as well. In fact, we ended up having these alongside the grapefruit possets we had for dessert on 25 December and the zingy, chewy yet crunchy cookies were the perfect contrast to the tart and creamy possets. Next time I make them, I might even add some dark chocolate chunks or cacao nibs to the dough as well – there is something about the spiciness of ginger that I find goes really well with earthy and bitter dark chocolate.

As the only two changes I made to Erika’s recipe were to use maple syrup instead of the honey as well as adding 50g of finely minced crystallised ginger to the dough, rather than re-copy her recipe here, I suggest you had to her blog for the recipe.

A tip, while most organic stores will stock chickpea flour, it can often be bought more cheaply (albeit not organic) in Asian supermarkets.

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Rye, Walnut and Cardamom Crescents

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Earlier today I heaved a rather large suitcase (heavy from Saturday’s frantic run around Brussels to buy various Christmas presents), a large bag, a laptop bag and a handbag onto the Thalys to take me home to my parents’ place in Essen, Germany. After 14 years of having to fly from various places in Europe to see my family, it is amazing to be able to take a direct train to go home, with no risk of delayed trains or bad traffic to get to the airport or long queues to get through security. Like every year, I am dividing my time between Germany and Italy and after spending Christmas with my family, I will be flying to Rome on Friday to join Alessandro and his friends and family for further Christmas celebrations and to ring in the New Year.

After what can only be described as a very ‘full’ year, I am looking forward to a bit of downtime over the break as well as seeing a bit more of Alessandro than I have been able to since he started his course in Turin back in September and has been busy preparing for various exams. I should be back in this space with a new post in the first week of January and, until then, I wish you all happy holidays and a wonderful start to the new year!

As a final hurrah before the holidays, I wanted to share the recipe for these Rye, Walnut and Cardamom Crescents. While Christmas is only a few days ago and you may have better things to do than bake cookies  this late, me and my sister actually have a tradition of baking cookies as late as 23 December in the evening (since our work schedules would not always allow us to get together much earlier) and these cookies are quick and easy to prepare (truth be told I always make them in a food processor!). Also, these cookies are made with rye flour and I have been meaning to tell you about how I am slowly but surely growing rather fond of rye as an ingredient!

It started with a twist on treacle tart using stale rye bread in place of the breadcrumbs, then I bookmarked these Swedish Rye Cookies from Heidi’s blog, and only a few weeks ago I started working on a Lebkuchen recipe using rye bread. While Alessandro is studying in Turin, his pasta maker is on permanent loan to me, so I also bookmarked this Rye Pasta recipe (again, from Heidi’s blog) to try. Meanwhile, I finally got hold of rye flakes and am looking forward to trying it in baked porridge recipes and making a rye version of these Oat and Cardamom Florentines as well. However, pending my trying out new rye recipes, by far my favourite thing to do with rye flour at the moment are these Rye, Cardamom and Walnut Crescents.

While the recipe for these crescent-shaped cookies is but a simple twist on a Vanillekipferl recipe, a cookie traditionally eaten around Christmas in both Germany and Austria (where the flour, ground almonds and vanilla bean in the Vanillekipferl are swapped for rye flour, ground walnuts and a generous pinch of ground cardamom), the resulting cookies take on an entirely different character.

Vanillekipferl have mass appeal because no one, young or old, can resist a Vanilla-flavoured cookie with a crumb so buttery the cookies practically melt on your tongue. Using rye flour gives these crescents a different texture – somewhat coarser and sandier. Together with the dark colour of the rye flour and the complex flavour of the walnuts (earthy and fruity while verging on bitter thanks to the tannins in the skin of the walnuts), these crescents appear rather rustic at first bite. But at second bite, you are hit with the sweet and spicy flavour of the cardamom, which creates this perfect contrast to these otherwise rather rustic cookies. A final dusting of cardamom-laced icing sugar on these not overly sweet cookies and these crescents end up being rather moreish (I ate close to half a batch by myself when I first baked them and had to take the remainder to work to stop me from finishing the entire batch on my own). So if there is still any space left in your cookie tin, I would highly recommend you bake a batch of these crescents!

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Rye, Walnut and Cardamom Crescents

Note: Firstly, if you are in the habit of baking with cardamom but have yet to buy cardamom seeds in their pods, I would recommend switching to buying cardamom seeds in their pods going forward. Cardamom has a very delicate flavour which fades quickly once the seeds are ground. To grind the cardamom, I simply squash the pods with a large knife and then grind the seeds in a pestle and mortar (and I keep sifting the ground cardamom until I have the required amount). Secondly, depending on the size of your crescents, the baking time will vary. For large crescents (approx. 15g of dough per crescent), the cookies will take ca. 15 minutes to bake and the recipe will yield ca. 20 cookies. If making smaller crescents, making the crescents will be a bit more fiddly (and you will end up with 30-plus cookies), but the baking time will reduce to ca. 10-12 minutes. 

Ingredients

150g rye flour
40g ground walnuts
Seeds from 2 cardamom pods, finely ground
Pinch of salt
45g sugar
100g butter, cold; cubed
1 egg

For dusting: 2 tbsp powdered sugar, seeds from 2 cardamom pods (finely ground).

Directions

Add the rye flour, ground walnuts, ground cardamom, pinch of salt and sugar to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine.

Add the cubed butter and pulse until the mixture is the texture of sand. Lastly, add the egg and pulse briefly to combine.

Turn mixture out onto a floured surface and briefly work into a smooth dough, being careful not to overwork the dough. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge to firm up for at least 1 hour.

Pre-heat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius and line two sheet pans with parchment paper.

Oil your hands with vegetable oil (to stop the batter from sticking to your hands) and, using scant tablespoon-sized pieces of dough, form little crescents and place them on the sheet pans (the crescents will not spread much in the oven so there is no need to leave a significant amount of space between the cookies on the sheet pans).

Bake for 12-15 minutes (depending on size) until the crescents are crisp on the outside and just starting to colour.

In a bowl mix the icing sugar with the ground cardamom. Dust over the crescents while they are warm. Leave the crescents to cool on the sheet pan for 5 minutes before placing them on a cookie rack to cool completely.

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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).