Cakes & Bakes: Elderflower shortbread

Home-made elderflower shortbread petticoat tails | H is for Home

It’s elderflower season again – one of the classic smells and tastes of summer!

Sprigs of elderflowers infusing into caster sugar | H is for Home

We see those frothy white flowers growing wild all around and can’t bear to see them going to waste.

Antique shortbread mould floured with polenta | H is for Home

We’ve already made a large batch of elderflower cordial which will last us a good few months. In the past, there’s also been elderflower champagne and elderflower cakes too. This week, we decided to try some biscuits – elderflower shortbread to be precise.

Home-made elderflower shortbread round prior to being cooked | H is for Home

There are various methods for incorporating the flowers’ flavour into the biscuit. We experimented with three – using cordial as one of the ingredients, infusing the sugar with elderflower bunches and finally incorporating the tiny petals into the biscuit mix itself.

Home-made

We found that cordial made the biscuits a bit hard, crystalline and possibly too sweet. The infused sugar runs the risk of lots of creepy crawlies escaping into the sugar (even if you shake carefully) – and the resulting elderflower flavour wasn’t intense enough for us. The last technique worked best for us – by quite a long way actually, so that would be our recommendation. The resulting shortbread was moist and crumbly with a wonderful distinctive flavour – give them a go before those flowers disappear!

Elderflower shortbread
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 10 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 10 min
Ingredients
  1. 3 elderflower heads
  2. 75g/3oz caster sugar
  3. 175g/6oz plain flour
  4. 75g/3oz fine semolina
  5. 175g/6oz butter
  6.  
  7. Home-made elderflower shortbread ingredients
  8.  
Instructions
  1. Make sure the elderflower heads are free of insects and brown bits
  2. Using scissors, carefully snip off the little flower heads add to the sugar and stir in. Allow to infuse for about an hour
  3. Preheat the oven to 150ºC/300ºF/Gas mark 2
  4. If using a mould, sprinkle it with semolina to prevent the dough from sticking
  5. Put the elderflower-infused sugar, flour, semolina and butter into a food processor and combine for about 30 seconds or until lumps begin to form
  6. Turn the mixture out on to a lightly floured work surface and bring together into a ball
  7. Press the dough evenly into your mould (or baking tin). If using a mould, turn the dough out onto a baking sheet lined with parchment
  8. Prick the top with a fork to prevent it from rising
  9. Bake for about an hour or until the shortbread just begins to brown
  10. Remove from the oven on to a wire cooling rack
  11. While still a bit warm score the top with a knife into petticoat tails/portions
  12. Once cooled completely, remove from the tin and cut into pieces
  13. Store in an airtight container for up to a week
H is for Home Harbinger http://hisforhomeblog.com/

Cakes & Bakes: Cornmeal loaf

Home-made cornmeal loaf | H is for Home

Dan Lepard is probably my favourite bread & pastry baker. I’ve cut out and kept some of his recipes that were published in his long-running (now sadly ended) column in the Guardian Weekend Magazine. Luckily, they’re all still available in the Guardian’s online archive.

Whisked wet cornmeal | H is dfor Home

I’ve had his tasty cornmeal baps recipe bookmarked for a few weeks, planning to give them a go. Instead of baps,I decided to turn them into a cornmeal loaf instead.

Mixing cornmeal, egg, honey, yoghurt and cold water | H is for Home

The recipe makes two 500g/ oz loaves. I found the dough a little on the wet side and the cooked loaf a bit too sweet so I’ve ever so slightly tweaked the recipe below. Saying that, this is one of the best loaves I’ve ever baked.

Mixing cornmeal loaf dough by hand | H is for Home

It has a great, slightly springy crumb and crisp crust.

Cornmeal loaf dough in a mixing bowl | H is for Home

Lepard recommends pairing it with fried chicken – building your own (probably far superior) McChicken Sandwich or KFC Fillet Burger. Justin also likes the idea of slicing it for a smoked bacon sandwich.

Two cornmeal loaves having a final proofing in loaf tins | H is for Home

Being a vegetarian, I might pair it with my home-made hummus or grilled Halloumi for its tangy saltiness.

Two risen, uncooked cornmeal loaves sprinkled with cornmeal before going in the oven | H is for Home

What would you pair it with?

Two cornmeal loaves cooling in their tins on a wire rack | H is for Home

Cornmeal loaf
Yields 2
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Cook Time
35 min
Cook Time
35 min
Ingredients
  1. 100g/3½oz coarse cornmeal or polenta
  2. 300ml/10½ fl oz boiling water
  3. 100g/3½oz plain yoghurt
  4. 400ml/14 fl oz cold water
  5. 1 medium egg
  6. 30g/1oz agave nectar or honey
  7. 7g/¼oz fast-action yeast
  8. 1kg/2.2lb strong white flour
  9. 50g/1¾oz cornflour
  10. 3 tsp fine salt
  11. Cornmeal to finish
  12.  
  13. Home-made cornmeal loaf ingredients
  14.  
Instructions
  1. Put the cornmeal in a large mixing bowl, pour on the boiling water, whisk and leave for 10 minutes
  2. Whisk in the yoghurt, water, egg and honey until smooth
  3. Stir in the yeast. Add the flour, cornflour and salt, and mix to a smooth dough. Cover and leave for 10 minutes
  4. Lightly oil a patch of worktop. Gently knead the dough on it for 10-12 seconds then return it to the bowl. Cover and leave an hour
  5. If making 2 medium-sized loaves, divide the dough into 2 pieces of about 500g each. Shape into ovals with a little flour before putting into greased loaf tins. Leave to rise for about 90 minutes
  6. Heat the oven to 200ºC/180ºC fan/400ºF/gas mark 6 and sprinkle with cornmeal. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden
Adapted from Dan Lepard: Step-by-step baking
H is for Home Harbinger http://hisforhomeblog.com/
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Cakes & Bakes: Rhubarb and custard tart

Home-made rhubarb and custard tart | H is for Home

One of the things that Todmorden is famous for is Incredible Edible, a group of local people who have started something of a revolution, growing food in public places in & around the town centre.

Incredible Edible rhubarb, peas, onions and chives growing in Todmorden Train Station car park

There are vegetables outside the police station and local community college, herbs along the canal tow-path and in the train station and an apothecary garden in the grounds of the health centre.

Stalks of rhubarb with metal colander

Everything is free for anyone to come along and help themselves – or even do a little weeding and clearing if the fancy takes them!

Measuring jug with eggs, custard powder and vanilla essence

The train station is on one of our daily dog-walking routes and it’s been lovely watching the progress of the peas, red onions, chives and the like.

Making custard

This week, along with the dog, I left the house with a pair of scissors and a carrier bag and cut a few stems of rhubarb – to use in a rhubarb and custard tart.

Pouring custard on tart pastry base

Rhubarb & custard is a classic British combination as is baked custard tart. I’ve put them together and come up with a delicious dessert.

Sticks of rhubarb in custard

I used the same pastry recipe as last week’s pear tart and made sure to add a tad more sugar than normal to the custard recipe… and a tablespoonful of Bird’s Custard Powder.

Home-made rhubarb and custard tart | H is for Home

The sweetness of the custard and the tartness of the rhubarb worked incredibly well – I’ll be making this one again before the end of the rhubarb season.

Rhubarb and custard tart
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Cook Time
40 min
Cook Time
40 min
For the pastry base
  1. 200g/7oz plain flour
  2. 60g/2oz icing sugar
  3. pinch of salt
  4. 125g/4½oz very cold butter
  5. 1 egg yolk
For the custard
  1. 400ml/14 fl oz double cream
  2. 100ml/3½ fl oz creamy milk
  3. 2 eggs, plus 2 yolks
  4. 100g/3½oz caster sugar
  5. 1tbsp custard powder
  6. 1tsp vanilla essence
  7.  
  8. Home-made fat rascals ingredients
  9.  
For the pastry base
  1. Put the flour, icing sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine
  2. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is cut in coarsely - you'll have pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and pea-size pieces and that's just fine
  3. Stir the egg, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition
  4. When the egg is in, process in long pulses - about 10 seconds each - until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds
  5. Just before your pastry reaches this clumpy stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change, so listen out
  6. Turn the dough out onto a work surface. Very lightly and sparingly - make that very, very lightly and sparingly - knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing
  7. Butter the tart tin and press the dough evenly along the bottom and up the sides of the tin. Don't be stingy - you want a crust with a little heft because you want to be able to both taste and feel it. Also, don't be too heavy-handed - you want to press the crust in so that the pieces cling to one another and knit together when baked, but you don't want to press so hard that the crust loses its crumbly shortbread-ish texture
  8. Freeze the pastry for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking
  9. Preheat the oven to 175ºC/375ºF/Gas mark 4
  10. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminium foil and fit the foil tightly against the pastry
  11. Bake the pastry for 25 minutes, then carefully remove the foil. If the pastry has puffed up, press it down gently with the back of a spoon
  12. Bake for another 3 to 5 minutes, then transfer the pastry case to a cooling rack; keeping it in its tin
For the custard
  1. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, slowly bring the cream and milk to a simmer
  2. In a large, heat-proof measuring jug, whisk together the eggs, yolks, sugar, custard powder and vanilla essence
  3. Pour the hot cream & milk mixture into the bowl, whisking continuously
  4. Carefully strain the custard on to the cooked pastry base (don't overfill)
  5. Slice the rhubarb into lengths and place into a pattern in the custard
  6. Carefully put the tart tin into the oven (rearrange the rhubarb lengths if they drift in the liquid during the move!)
  7. Bake for 40 minutes or until the top begins to brown
  8. Remove from the oven, sprinkle a little granulated sugar over the top and allow to cool on a wire rack before slicing and serving
H is for Home Harbinger http://hisforhomeblog.com/

Price Points: Kitchen timers

Selection of kitchen timers | H is for Home

Kitchen timers are terribly undervalued kitchen tools. If it weren’t for our vintage Junghans wall mounted example many a meal, cake or loaf of bread would have been totally ruined!

I have a memory like a sieve and only its short, sharp ring alerts me to what I was doing half an hour ago. And we’ve noticed that Justin’s mum & dad could do with one too – they’re forever returning to the kitchen during cooking to check the clock on the oven instead of setting a timer and getting on with something else. It’s always good to accumulate a few Xmas pressie ideas so that’s gone on the list.

Here are three timers with various price tags, tick-tock and silent digital models, contemporary and vintage, plain black and brightly coloured, ones that ring and ones that quack! Take your pick!

  1. Tesco Basics timer – £2.50, Tesco
  2. Vintage kitchen timer – £22.00, H is for Home
  3. Alessi duck kitchen timer – £35.00, Selfridges

Cakes & Bakes : French pear tart

Slice of home made French pear tart | H is for Home

It takes quite a few stages to make this French pear tart but it’s well worth the time and effort. If you don’t think you’ll have the time all in one day to do it, you can prepare most of it well in advance and bring it all together on the day you plan to bake & serve it.

Sweet tart dough ingredients in a food processor bowl | H is for Home Mixed sweet tart dough ingredients in a food processor bowl | H is for Home

You can whiz up the pastry, press it into the tart tin and freeze it… weeks in advance.

I must admit, it has got to be – by a country mile – the most delicious pastry I’ve ever made!

Peeled pears and squeezed lemon

You can cut corners (and time) by using tinned pears or simply omitting the poaching stage if using fresh fruit.

Almond cream in a food processor bowl with bottle of rum in the background | H is for Home

The almond cream can be made a couple of days before and left covered & chilled in the fridge until just before it’s due to be put in the oven.

Almond cream in sweet pastry case | H is for Home

My rectangular tart tin is so large that I had to double up the almond cream recipe and cut the pears into quarters rather than halves.

French pear tart before being put in the oven | H is for Home

The resulting tart is very attractive (not to mention photogenic!) and can be cut so each person gets a neat slice of pear.

Home made French pear tart | H is for Home

It’s moist and sweet – sweet enough to serve with a dollop of tangy crème fraîche or thick Greek yoghurt on the side.

Home made French pear tart, detail | H is for Home Home made French pear tart, detail | H is for Home

The perfect bake for a dinner party or daily treat.

French pear tart
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Cook Time
55 min
Cook Time
55 min
For the pastry
  1. 200g/7oz plain flour
  2. 60g/2oz icing sugar
  3. pinch of salt
  4. 125g/4½oz very cold butter
  5. 1 egg yolk
For the pears
  1. 3 medium pears
  2. 1 lemon
  3. 1 litre water
  4. 250g/9oz granulated sugar
For the filling
  1. 85g/3oz butter, softened
  2. 150g/5oz caster sugar
  3. 75g/2½ ground almonds
  4. 2tsp plain flour
  5. 1tsp cornflour
  6. 1 egg
  7. 2tsp dark rum or vanilla essence
  8.  
  9. Home-made French pear tart ingredients
  10.  
For the pastry
  1. Put the flour, icing sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine
  2. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is cut in coarsely - you'll have pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and pea-size pieces and that's just fine
  3. Stir the egg, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition
  4. When the egg is in, process in long pulses - about 10 seconds each - until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds
  5. Just before your pastry reaches this clumpy stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change, so listen out
  6. Turn the dough out onto a work surface. Very lightly and sparingly - make that very, very lightly and sparingly - knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing
  7. Butter the tart tin and press the dough evenly along the bottom and up the sides of the tin. Don't be stingy - you want a crust with a little heft because you want to be able to both taste and feel it. Also, don't be too heavy-handed - you want to press the crust in so that the pieces cling to one another and knit together when baked, but you don't want to press so hard that the crust loses its crumbly shortbread-ish texture
  8. Freeze the pastry for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking
  9. Preheat the oven to 175ºC/375ºF/Gas mark 4
  10. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminium foil and fit the foil tightly against the pastry
  11. Bake the pastry for 25 minutes, then carefully remove the foil. If the pastry has puffed up, press it down gently with the back of a spoon
  12. Bake for another 3 to 5 minutes, then transfer the pastry case to a cooling rack; keeping it in its tin
For the pears
  1. Peel the pears, leaving them whole
  2. Bring water, sugar and the juice of the lemon to a boil in a saucepan just large enough to hold the pears
  3. Add the pears to the boiling syrup, lower the heat so the syrup simmers and gently poach the pears until they are tender when pierced with a knife - about 15 minutes
  4. Cool the pears to room temperature in the syrup
For the filling
  1. Put the butter and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and process until the mixture is smooth and satiny
  2. Add the ground almonds and continue to process until well blended
  3. Add the flour, cornflour and egg. Process until the almond cream is homogeneous
  4. Add the rum or vanilla and process just enough to blend
To combine
  1. Fill the baked pastry case with the almond cream, spreading it even with an offset metal icing spatula
  2. Thinly slice each pear half crosswise, lift each half on a spatula and place carefully on to the almond cream to form an attractive pattern
  3. Bake the tart for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the almond cream puffs up around the pears and browns
  4. Transfer the tart to a wire rack to cool to just warm or to room temperature before removing it from its tin
  5. Allow to cool completely before serving
Adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours
H is for Home Harbinger http://hisforhomeblog.com/

Cakes & Bakes: Fat rascals

Home-made fat rascals and mug of tea | H is for Home

We were in Ilkley today – collecting items from auction and having a mooch around the charity shops.

flour and cubes of butter in a mixing bowl

We wandered passed Betty’s Tea Rooms, but didn’t go in – the breads and cakes in the window certainly looked good though.

Adding milk to fat rascal dough | H is for Home

Fat rascals are a famous offering from this establishment – and I decided to rustle up a batch when we got home. They’re quick and easy, so a perfect bake if you’re pushed for time (which I was if I wanted to get my Thursday recipe made, baked, photographed and written up in a couple of hours before posting in the evening.

fat rascals dough rolled and sliced | H is for Home

I used a traditional fat rascals recipe from Old Yorkshire Recipes by Joan Poulson (which you can get on Amazon for a penny!). It contained very sketchy instructions, so I checked some of my other recipe books. I found the exact recipe, with the exact, same instructions in Mary Hanson Moore’s A Yorkshire Cookbook. Even though Betty’s and Taylors of Harrogate trademarked the name ‘Fat Rascal’ in the 1980s, the pastries have actually been in existence since the 18th century at the latest.

Uncooked fat rascals on a baking sheet | H is for Home

We love this humble little bake – a bit soft biscuit, a bit rock cake, a bit scone. The Betty’s version is bigger and fancier with its cherry and almond decoration. My fat rascals have a simple sprinkle of sugar.

Home-made fat rascals cooling on a wire rack | H is for Home

They’re absolutely perfect with a cup of tea – we found that eating them just very slightly warm with cold butter was our absolute favourite, but all manner of preserves would work well too.

Fat rascals
Yields 24
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Cook Time
20 min
Cook Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 300g/10½oz plain flour
  2. 150g/5¼oz butter, chilled
  3. 75g/2⅔oz currants
  4. 37g/1⅓oz brown sugar
  5. pinch of salt
  6. 100ml/3½ fl oz milk
  7.  
  8. Home-made fat rascals ingredients
  9.  
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas mark 6
  2. In a large mixing bowl, rub the butter into the flour
  3. Add the currants, sugar and salt
  4. Mix in the milk, enough to make a slack dough
  5. Roll out to ½" thick, cut into rounds and dust with icing sugar (I think caster sugar worked better)
  6. Put on to the greased baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned
Notes
  1. Gorgeous served still warm with butter and fruit jam!
H is for Home Harbinger http://hisforhomeblog.com/