Cakes & Bakes: Shortbread rounds, three ways

Home-made shortbread rounds with mug of tea | H is for Home

Whenever the biscuit stash in our store cupboard reaches critical levels there are normally two obvious options to remedy the situation. Firstly, I can whip out a pre-made refrigerator cookie dough roll from the freezer. Alternatively, if the frozen stock is depleted, I can whip up a quick batch of shortbread.

Vintage wooden shortbread round mould | H is for Home

Justin bought me this vintage wooden biscuit mould a few weeks ago, so it was a great opportunity to use it for the first time to make some shortbread rounds.

Home-made shortbread round with vintage biscuit mould sprinkled with semolina | H is for Home

We think the mould might be Indian so we’ve added a few spices in homage – cardamom, ginger and vanilla.

Three home-made shortbread rounds on a tray lined with parchment paper | H is for Home

The swirl pattern it makes is just beautiful – I needed to sprinkle some polenta into the mould so the dough didn’t stick and it also helped with the definition.

Three home-made shortbread rounds cooling on a wire rack | H is for Home

We liked all three flavours. And it has to be said that, if we hadn’t been trying to think of suitable Indian spices for biscuits, we probably would never have tried cardamom shortbread – yet we both thought that it was very successful. I’ll definitely be making these again soon!

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Shortbread rounds, three ways
Ingredients
  1. 175g/6oz/¾ cup plain flour
  2. 50g/2oz/½ cup cornflour
  3. 50g/2oz/¼ caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  4. 115g/4oz/½ cup butter, chopped
  5. 1 cardamom seed, removed from the pod and ground
  6. ¼ tsp vanilla essence
  7. ¼ tsp ground gingerHome-made shortbread ingredients
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Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F/Gas mark 3. Lightly flour the mould with semolina (or plain flour if you don't have it) and line a baking sheet with non-stick parchment paper
  2. Sift the flour, cornflour and sugar into a mixing bowl. Rub the butter into the flour & sugar mixture until it binds together and you can knead it into a soft dough
  3. Divide the dough into thirds (130g/4½oz each) and gently knead the ground cardamom into one, vanilla into the next and ground ginger into the last
  4. One by one, place each ⅓ of dough into the mould and press to fit neatly and evenly. Invert the mould on to the baking sheet using your fingers if necessary to gently to release the dough shape
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until pale golden in colour
  6. Sprinkle the top of the shortbread with a little caster sugar and cool on a baking sheet
  7. Cut the rounds into 'petticoat tails' whilst still warm
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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!

Red Leicester cheese scones
Yields 9
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 175g/6oz self-raising flour
  2. 50g/1¾oz strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
  3. ¼ tsp onion salt
  4. 55g/2oz unsalted butter, room temperature
  5. 25g/1oz red Leicester, grated
  6. 150ml/5fl oz whole milk, plus 1tbsp extra for glazingHome-made red Leicester cheese scones ingredients
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Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 220ºC/425ºF/Gas mark 7
  2. Grease or line a baking tray with baking paper
  3. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, add the flours, onion salt and butter into a bowl and rub together using your fingertips until you get a fine breadcrumb consistency
  4. Mix in the cheese
  5. Make a well in the centre and add the milk
  6. Bring the dough together with your hands, being careful not to knead or the dough will become tough
  7. Dust the work surface with flour and press the dough out to the thickness of about 2cm/1in
  8. Cut out the scones using a 5cm/2in circular cutter and place onto the prepared tray
  9. Bring the offcuts together gently, again being careful not to knead and cut out as many circles as possible until there's no dough remaining
  10. Brush the tops with milk and bake for 12-15 minutes until the tops are golden and well risen
  11. Allow to cool for a few minutes on a wire rack
  12. Serve warm with butter
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Adapted from Nadiya's British Food Adventure
H is for Home Harbinger http://hisforhomeblog.com/

Cakes & Bakes: Coconut shortbread

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Home-made coconut shortbread | H is for Home

Shortbread is my favourite biscuit. Sweet, crumbly, buttery and great with a cup of tea. What could be better? This coconut shortbread gives an old classic a bit of a twist.

Just take the basic shortbread recipe – butter, flour and sugar – and add an egg, dessicated coconut and a little cold water.

Coconut shortbread being mouldde | H is for Home

A great effort to reward ratio. Sweet, crumbly, buttery and now coconutty… and still great with a cup of tea!!

Jiucai you bing
Chinese spring onion pancakes
Ingredients
  1. 500g/18oz plain flour, plus extra for rolling out
  2. 1tbsp baking powder
  3. 2tbsp sesame oil
  4. Half a bunch of thinly sliced spring onions (about 6 stems)
  5. 2tsp chilli flakes
  6. ½tsp cracked peppercorns
  7. 1tbsp sea salt
  8. vegetable oil for fryingJiucai you bing ingredients
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Instructions
  1. In the bowl of a food mixer, combine the flour, baking powder and sea salt. Make a well in the centre
  2. Add 315ml/11fl oz water into the well and, using the dough hook attachment, mix until the dough comes away from the sides and forms a ball (less than a minute)
  3. Cover the bowl with cling film and allow the dough to rest at room temperature for about an hour
  4. Turn out on to a lightly floured surface, divide into halves, putting one back into the bowl and recovering with cling film
  5. Roll the first ball of dough out into a rectangle ½cm thick
  6. Brush the rolled out dough with 1tbsp sesame oil
  7. Sprinkle 1tsp chilli flakes, ¼tsp cracked peppercorns and half the sliced spring onions
  8. Roll up the dough tightly along the long side into a cigar shape and cut into 3 equal pieces
  9. One by one, gently stretch each piece before rolling it into a spiral and tucking one end under
  10. Flatten each spiral into a disc of about 1cm thickness
  11. Repeat stages 5-10 with the second half of the dough
  12. Put a heavy bottomed frying pan or skillet over a medium flame and add vegetable oil
  13. Once hot, fry the pancakes for 5-8 minutes on each side until browned
Notes
  1. Serve hot with soy sauce and/or sweet chilli, garlic, ginger dipping sauce
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Cakes & Bakes: Red velvet cake

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slice of red velvet cake with cup of tea | H is for Home

 For ages I’ve admired all the images of red velvet cakes that show up in my Pinterest stream. The cakes, which are an American phenomenon, look amazing but I had no idea what they tasted like.

unpacking red velvet cake with cup of tea | H is for Home

When we were sent these heart-themed baking accessories by Meincupcake, I decided that the day had arrived for me to embark upon my red velvet cake challenge!

red velvet cake with cup of tea | H is for Home

As far as I could tell from the photos I’d seen, most red velvet cakes adhere to certain rules; layers, cream cheese frosting and a propensity towards flamboyance!

red velvet cake dry ingredients | H is for Home

I need to point out, I used the Rowntree cocoa that I already happened to have in the store cupboard. It was Dutch processed, meaning that during production, it has been ‘alkalised’ to give it a smoother flavour. I could tell by looking at it that it had been processed because it’s quite dark brown. Unprocessed cocoa is often referred to as cacao and is much lighter in colour.

red velvet cake wet ingredients | H is for Home

Unprocessed cocoa is called for in the recipe (although it’s not absolutely necessary) as all kinds of alchemy are involved in the making of the cake! The cocoa, buttermilk, baking soda and vinegar all commingle to produce the most moist, light, heavenly cake you’ve ever tasted – with the brightest, reddest crumb!

adding food colouring to red velvet cake batter | H is for Home

Now that I’ve got the Dutched versus un-Dutched details out of the way, let’s get on to the business of cake-making!

adding buttermilk to red velvet cake batter | H is for Home

As I mentioned before, there’s a lot of science involved in making red velvet so the order in which the ingredients get added really makes a difference.

folding in egg whites to red velvet cake batter | H is for Home

The buttermilk and the vinegar add acidity to the mix producing a bubbly chemical reaction with the alkaline baking powder and helping make the red colour really bright.

folding in egg whites to red velvet cake batter | H is for Home

The eggs are separated and the egg whites whipped into peaks and folded in gently at the end to add even more lightness to the sponge.

red velvet cake batter in heart-shaped cake tins | H is for Home

I think I mentioned previously that big cakes are just too much for just the two of us (even with me being a greedy cake eater!). So, instead of making a 4-tiered cake, I made a large 2-tier and a smaller 2-tier cake, giving one of the cakes away to friends.

cooked red velvet cakes in heart-shaped cake tins | H is for Home

I wanted to use both my newly-acquired accessories in this recipe, so I thought I’d use the pastry cutters to make red, heart-shaped shortbread biscuits to adorn the cake.

making red, heart-shaped shortbread biscuits | H is for Home

 I love cream cheese frosting, especially on carrot cake. Next time though, I’ll tweak the recipe so the mixture is firmer and less runny.

making cream cheese frosting | H is for Home

It’s delicious either way, but when it’s firmer you’re able to pipe the frosting on the top and have a thicker layer of it in the middle.

frosted & decorated red velvet cake with cup of tea | H is for Home

The resulting cake was so MASSIVE, we didn’t have a big enough plate to hold it!

detail of frosted & decorated red velvet cake with cup of tea | H is for Home

I think I remained very restrained with my cake embellishments – I was considering red edible glitter, hundreds & thousands… in the end, I just studded it with a few little chocolate beans.
frosted & decorated red velvet cake with cup of tea | H is for Home
I’m really happy with my first attempt and can’t wait to have another go!

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Red velvet cake
Serves 12
for the cake mixture
  1. 475ml/16fl oz vegetable oil
  2. 3 large eggs, separated
  3. 1½tsp vanilla essence
  4. 6tbs red food colouring
  5. 450g/15½oz granulated sugar
  6. 440g/15½oz self raising flour
  7. 60g/2oz cocoa powder (preferably not Dutch processed)
  8. 1½ tsp salt
  9. 250g buttermilk
  10. 2tsp baking soda
  11. 2½tsp white vinegar
for the frosting
  1. 280g/10oz cream cheese
  2. 125g/4½oz butter, softened
  3. 250g/9oz icing sugar (sifted to remove any lumps)
  4. 2tsp vanilla essence
for the shortbread
  1. 125g/4oz butter
  2. 55g/2oz caster sugar
  3. 180g/6oz plain flour
  4. 1tsp red food colouring
to decorate
  1. chocolate beans, glimmer sprinkles or heart confetti (all completely optional!)
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for the cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 175ºC/350ºF/Gas mark 4
  2. Grease cake tins well (I used the 25½cm/10-inch and 30½/12-inch heart-shaped cake tins)
  3. Separate the eggs and set aside
  4. In a large mixing bowl, combine the vegetable oil and sugar until dissolved
  5. Mix in the egg yolks before carefully adding the food colouring (you don't want to splash red all over yourself!)
  6. In another mixing bowl, combine the flour cocoa powder and salt
  7. Add these dry ingredients into the wet ingredients in two batches, alternating with adding the buttermilk
  8. Using an electric mixer in yet another mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks are formed. Set aside
  9. In a small bowl or teacup, mix the baking powder and vinegar
  10. Add to the batter
  11. Carefully fold the egg whites into the batter
  12. Divide the batter between the cake tins
  13. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes away clean
  14. Allow to cool completely in the tins
  15. Carefully remove from the tins and slice each cake in half horizontally using a large serrated knife (like a bread knife)
for the frosting
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter and cream cheese
  2. Gradually add the icing sugar until completely mixed in
  3. Cover with cling-film and keep refrigerated until you're ready to use
for the shortbread biscuits
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter, sugar and food colouring together until smooth
  2. Add the flour and mix until the the colour is uniform and the dough comes together into a large ball
  3. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently roll out thinly until the mixture is about ½cm/⅕in thick
  4. Form into shapes (I used the smallest size heart-shaped pastry cutter) and place onto a greased baking sheet
  5. Sprinkle liberally with caster sugar before chilling in the fridge for about 20 minutes
  6. Bake for 5-8 minutes, or until pale pink
  7. Allow to cool on a wire rack
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Adapted from New York Times
Adapted from New York Times
H is for Home Harbinger http://hisforhomeblog.com/
Sweet potato cake
For the cake
  1. 350g plain flour
  2. ¼tsp ground cloves
  3. 2tsp ground cinnamon
  4. 1¼tsp ground ginger
  5. ½tsp ground nutmeg
  6. 1tsp baking powder
  7. 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  8. ½tsp salt
  9. 350g sweet potatoes, peeled & grated (about 3 small potatoes)
  10. 235ml vegetable oil
  11. 300g soft brown sugar
  12. 4 eggs
  13. 1tsp vanilla extract
  14. 100g chopped walnuts
For the frosting
  1. 225g cream cheese
  2. 115g butter, softened
  3. 175g icing sugar
  4. ½tsp vanilla extractHome-made hot cross loaf ingredients
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For the cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 175ºC/350ºF/Gas mark 4 and grease a pair of 23cm/9-inch circular loose-bottomed cake tins
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, sift together the flour with the ground spices, baking powder, bicarbonate soda and salt
  3. In a large mixing bowl, add the grated sweet potato, vegetable oil and sugar and combine
  4. In a measuring jug lightly whisk the eggs before adding the vanilla extract. Stir to mix in
  5. Stir in the egg mixture to the sweet potato in 3 batches, stirring well after each addition
  6. Carefully fold the flour mixture into the sweet potato mixture
  7. Add the chopped walnuts and stir in so they're well dispersed through the batter
  8. Pour the batter equally between the two cake tins before baking for 20 minutes in the centre of the oven
  9. After the 20 minutes, turn the oven down to 150ºC/300ºF/Gas mark 2 and cook for a further 10 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of a cake come out clean
  10. Allow to cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before taking the cakes out of their tins
  11. Allow to cool completely (at least another hour). Make the frosting.
For the frosting
  1. Mix the cream cheese and softened butter until there are no lumps
  2. Add the vanilla essence and icing sugar (sieve the sugar first if there are any lumps) and mix thoroughly. Cover with clingfilm and store in the fridge until the cakes have cooled and are ready to frost
  3. Once cooled, turn one of the cakes over so that the top is face down on a serving plate. Cover the top generously with frosting.
  4. Place the second cake on the first, with the top facing up. Cover the top generously with frosting. Serve. The cake will keep for up to 5 days in the fridge.
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Cakes & Bakes: Nutty millionaire’s shortbread

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nutty millionaire's shortbread

This nutty millionaire’s shortbread tastes SO much better than any I’ve ever bought from a shop. I happened to have bags of whole almonds and hazelnuts in the larder, but it would be equally as good if you made it using pecans, Brazil nuts or walnuts. Cashew butter instead of peanut in the shortbread could be a good alternative to try too!

Cakes & Bakes: Nutty millionaire’s shortbread

Yield: makes 9 squares

Cakes & Bakes: Nutty millionaire’s shortbread

Ingredients

  • For the shortbread
  • 125g/4oz butter, softened
  • 2tbs peanut butter, smooth or crunchy
  • 75g/3oz caster sugar
  • 75g/3oz cornflour
  • 175g/6oz plain flour
  •  
  • For the topping
  • 397g/14oz tin of sweetened condensed milk
  • 100g/3½oz mixed nuts (I used ½ & ½ hazelnuts and almonds)
  • 125g/4oz plain dark chocolate
  •  
  •  

Instructions

  1. To make the caramel topping, put the unopened tin in a heavy-based saucepan and completely cover with water. Cover the saucepan with its lid and boil for about 1½ hours, topping up the water level if needed.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350F/Gas mark 4, 10 minutes before baking.
  3. Line a 22cm/8inch square cake tin with parchment/greaseproof paper
  4. Cream together the butter and sugar until light
  5. Sift in the cornflour and plain flour and mix to form a smooth dough
  6. Using the back of a dessert spoon, press the mixture evenly into the lined cake tin and prick all over with a fork
  7. Bake for 20 minutes or until just turning golden brown
  8. Put the nuts on to a baking tray and toast them in the oven for 10-15 minutes
  9. Remove the shortbread from the oven and set aside on a wire rack
  10. Remove the nuts from the oven and wrap them in a clean tea towel. Rub the nuts together to remove most of the skins (especially if you're using hazelnuts or 'red skinned' peanuts)
  11. Reserve 9 of the nuts, roughly chop the remainder and sprinkle them evenly across the shortbread
  12. Open the tin of boiled condensed milk (if the contents are quite rigid you can soften it by warming slightly in a saucepan on the stove or decant into a microwaveable container and heat for 20-30 seconds). Pour the caramel over the nuts and spread evenly. Refrigerate while you prepare the chocolate
  13. Break up the chocolate into pieces and put them into a heat-proof bowl
  14. Using a saucepan small enough not to allow the bowl to touch the bottom, fill the bowl with just enough water so that it doesn't come into contact with the base of the bowl
  15. Simmer the saucepan of water until the chocolate has just melted
  16. Pour the chocolate evenly over the top of the caramel
  17. Place the whole nuts on top of the chocolate, one for each portion
  18. Allow to set before slicing into squares & serving

Notes

You can parboil the tinned condensed milk in advance and the caramel can be stored for months & months before use. I always have a few cans of 'cooked' condensed milk stored in our larder.

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Charity Vintage: Scottish shortbread moulds

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two vintage 1970s Scottish shortbread moulds for sale on eBay for Charity in support of the British Heart Foundation
(ends 8 Dec, 2013 22:09:08 GMT)

Ever since we posted the recipe, we’ve had people get in touch asking us to sell them our vintage Scottish shortbread mould – we’ve turned down all-comers!

This pair of vintage wooden Scottish shortbread moulds, originally from the 1970s, is currently for sale on eBay for Charity by & in support of the British Heart Foundation*. We’re considering bidding on them ourselves. Our mould is quite plain, it has a lovely scalloped edge but it doesn’t have the lovely thistle pattern like this one. And the listing includes a bonus – a single shortbread round mould which we don’t have.

*BHF is the nation’s heart charity. They help save lives with information, patient care and pioneering research. With our support, they’re beating heart disease for good.