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October 19th, 2016

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July 5th, 2016

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Bakewell tart

February 14th, 2013

niknoks

 

Well, at some point I had to hand over the recipe, so today I gift to you the Niknok’s bakewell tart. A straight forward, no fuss bake that is best kept that way. The pastry light and crumbly, the jam should be a layer of raspberry in my humble opinion (though cherry and blackberry work), and the frangipane, deep and fluffy.

 

Best served warm or cold, at anytime of day but always with a cup of tea.

 

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Walnut & coffee cakes

January 15th, 2013

niknoks

So, it is definitely January. Near freezing. Bouts of drizzly sleet. Not quite cold enough for ‘proper’ snow but cold enough to need comforting cake with your tea. My cake of choice today (always changes) would have to be a nut one. Nuts over fruit flavours at this time of year, with the exception of rhubarb, naturally.

This recipe is not the type of coffee and walnut cake Nigel Slater talks about having for his last supper. I love a butter cream but not necessarily a heavily flavoured one. The walnut comes first here, coffee second. This is a richer and dense yet light, less sugary, simpler flour less version that you can add a little frosting to but it really doesn’t need it. You can use coffee essence instead of fresh espresso, adjust depending on how ‘coffee’ you want it. You can also play around with different nuts to alter the flavours, try hazelnuts or pecans. They can be made individual cases as pictured, just take them out of the oven after about 30 mins.

Right, kettles boiled. Time for tea and my choice of cake.

 

 

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Pepper cookies

December 7th, 2012

niknoks

Now it’s time to deck the tree with, with…?

I am actually excited about the tree picking this weekend and adorning it. I lean towards the more traditional, more understated decorations but, in having a look for ideas, it turns out an array of golden, shimmery, fruity and tasty hanging bits was all the fashion in the 1870’s according to Wikipedia, even those strings of popcorn went on back then.

I am a big fan of digestible tree accessories and in my search through reams of festive munch-able delights, last year’s Observer Food Monthly came up trumps with this versatile Scandinavian biscuit base that can shaped, baked and scattered on the table, tie to the pine or even gathered up to build a gingerbread dwelling (or your own version of ‘The Shard’).

I adapted the mix by doubling the amount of white pepper, ground ginger and by adding half a teaspoon of mixed spice. Make sure not to roll the dough too thinly as the biscuits will scorch at easily; check them a few minutes early to keep your shapes safe.

Once cooled, get to work with lashings of icing and colourings, mini silver balls and last, but by no means least, the all essential edible glitter.

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Niknok’s spicy carrot chutney

November 27th, 2012

niknoks

Christmas pudding? Personally, I get far more excited about making up a jar of this and leaving it to ‘brew’ for a month or two, if I can bare to wait that is. I made this first one year when I needed a something to serve up with my home made sausage rolls and that something was never going to be ketchup.

I adapted a recipe from Sophie Gregson by adding onions, fresh ginger and more spice, so it’s got a good kick with out going chilli crazy. The carrots retain a crunch so it works perfectly with most cheese board wedges; particularly cheddar, brie and feta, oh and of course it’s great with those sausage rolls.

I make it all year round but around now with darker sugar and even more spice to intensify the rich flavours, making it even more festive for stocking filler gifts. In fact, I’d say it tastes just like Christmas.

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Chocolate & almond cake

November 16th, 2012

niknoks

Or its correct title Reine de Saba – Queen of Sheba, as Julia Child’s named it in her The French Chef Cookbook that accompanied the show in the late 60’s.

It was a good friends birthday this week and I was informed by his lovely girlfriend that he favours a good chocolate cake so, after hours (days, weeks) trawling through recipes I opted for this celebratory beauty from the queen of bakes herself.

I have become a little obsessed with the late Julia, largely since seeing the tattoo of her on the arm of Noah from the www.thewayweate.net blog. These two New Yorkers are recreating all, yes all the recipes ever published in the American magazine series ‘Gourmet’ – over 800 issues of them. If this brilliant dedicated pair love her, then I do too.

The cake has a rich yet velvety texture, with a centre similar to a crumbly brownie but far more grand. The topping makes it all the more decadent with a think layer of dark chocolate melted with butter and either rum or coffee. Orange or bergamot flavours may add to it to. I toasted almonds to cover the outside but you can throw chocolate shavings, cocoa powder or just keep it shiny and slick.

Regardless of the finish, once you have tasted this, you’ll understand the title for Julia and the cake and then possibly the tattoo.

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Spiced pumpkin cake

October 31st, 2012

niknoks

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Halloween. And a proper one at that, there’s been enough dry light to turn the leaves golden, orange and red there’s the dark, dark, dark by 5 and that chill in the air. It’s spooky enough for me.

I originally planned to make a French Spiced Cake from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 2 but decided I wanted a little less dried fruit and a lighter bake, so it can be decorated. Julia’s can wait. I love making carrot cake at this time of year, particularly Nigel Slater’s recipe, but fancied something different today. Time to get the scales out and experiment.

After an afternoon weighing and calculating, the result is a real autumnal treat. Lots of warm flavours with ginger, mixed spice and cinnamon, then pumpkin, apple and pecan. I used roasted pumpkin in mine but you could use pre-made purée to save a bit of time.

The frosting can be coloured, flavoured, sprinkled or of course, glittered; be as subtle or garish as you like.

Try a simple butter vanilla one (coloured with orange for my mini pumpkins pictured):

250g butter
750g icing
1 tsp vanilla

and as I did here, a cream-cheese version as the base:

100g cream cheese
100g butter
700g icing sugar

with 30ml apple juice (orange, blackberry, pear work too).

Right, I better go. I have a very scary costume to slip into…

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Hazelnut & almond cakes

October 17th, 2012

niknoks

Nuts. I am a sucker for nuts. Particularly the hazelnut. If I was going to describe what early autumn tastes like, it would be ‘like golden pan-roasted hazelnuts’, if I was Nigella gushing on her new show that is.

This little recipe – and it really is little – comes from a very good French friend of mine who treated me with it as a ‘must try’ when I was new to baking. It is Le Creusois from the Creuse region in France. She adapted her recipe by replacing the flour with ground almonds. Another of those simple recipes where you can count the ingredients on one hand with just butter, sugar, ground nuts and well whipped eggs. Slow baked and on low, the result is more of a torte; dense and m-word, delicate yet nutty and textured. I keep two of the yolks in mine but otherwise it’s the same.

I have made many variations of this; pistachios work with the almonds for the summer and all-almond is lovely scattered with a few raspberries. Next I may try adding a bit of cocoa or even a brown sugar with pecans for the late, darker autumn.

Now, I wonder how Nigella would describe that?

Fairtrade chocolate tiffin

October 10th, 2012

niknoks

The best thing about the little chill in the air? Chocolate takes a lot longer to melt so I get to make and scoff one of my all-time favourites without getting my fingers quite so sticky.

The chocolate tiffin. This week I had the pleasure of opening a beautiful tote bag of Fairtrade baking goodies send out as part of their brilliant Big Fair Bake Campaign. A bounty of nuts, dried fruits and dark chocolates made me immediately think of tiffin.

This is such a simple no-bake recipe that really does taste like it has taken time. You can make it as budget or as expensive as you like, with the fruits and nuts you use dictating the overall taste. In February I blogged the basic recipe but here I packed in brazils, almonds and hazelnuts for the nuts, sultanas and apricots for the fruit and broke-up homemade shortbread for the biscuit. Plus a handful of Maltesers – the chocolate melts but the honeycomb remains whole.

The result is a perfectly decadent blend of rich chewy crunchiness that warms up your insides, more so when you know you are supporting global trade that is proper, right and fair.

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