Saturday, December 19

Orange & poppy seed cake


I've never made an orange and poppy seed cake before, though I've certainly eaten them. I ate one last week and it inspired me to make my own. This is an incredibly simple cake, so there's not a lot to go wrong. Making the batter takes around 10 minutes and then it's just a matter of popping the cake in the oven and wandering off to an hour. The cake then rises beautifully and does it's thing. Easy.

This cake definitely needs to be made in a deep sided tin because it rises so much, I can only imagine the awful mess you'd end up with if you used anything shorter than 10cm (4") in height. There's nothing worse than making delicious cake and then having to leave it sitting on the bench, teasing you, while you scrub out the oven. Yuck.

This cake is very simple, both in technique and flavour. That's not a bad thing but it does require the syrup to bring it do life. Without it it's just too plain. If I make this again, I'm going to try putting some honey into the syrup, mmm.

Orange & poppy seed cake with orange scyrup

Orange and Poppy Seed Cake

(adapted from Simple Essentials: Fruit)
serves 10

250g (8 oz) butter, softened
220g (1 cup) granulated sugar
3 eggs
1/4 cup poppy seeds
1 tablespoon finely grated orange rind
300g (2 cups) self raising flour, sifted
125ml (1/2 cup) milk

Preheat the oven to 160°C (325°F), grease and line the bottom of a square 22cm (8 1/2") cake tin.

Combine the poppy seeds, orange rind, and flour in a bowl and set aside.

Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until light and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition.

Reduce speed to low, or mixing by hand, add 1/3 of the flour mixture. Once combined, add half the milk. Add the remaining flour and, once combined, the pour in the remaining milk. Milk lightly to combine.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin and smooth the top Bake for 55 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack or remove from tin and eat warm.

Orange Syrup

220g (1 cup) granulated sugar
250ml (1 cup) freshly squeezed orange juice
Zest of two oranges

Place the sugar, orange juice, and zest in a small saucepan over a low heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat and boil for 7-8 minutes or until syrupy. To serve pour the syrup over the cake.

Thursday, December 10



We're not big Christmas people in my house, I think if it weren't for the decorations covering the shops we'd probably forget about it entirely. That said, there is one thing I go out of my way to embrace at Christmas time; that thing is gingerbread.

Gingerbread is without a doubt my favourite biscuit. There's something utterly filling about it. The spices tantalise the taste-buds and leave me completely content. The combination of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and whatever else you put in them is delicious.

Everyone seems to have the own preference for gingerbread. There seems to be no agreement about how they should be. Some like them soft; others like them crisp. Some like molasses; others can't stand it. Some use fresh ginger whilst others use ground ginger straight from the container.


The gingerbread I made today are more gingernuts to me, they're very crisp and sweet. No decorative shapes or royal icing. They have a hint of molasses but it doesn't dominate the other flavours. They're simple and delicious. That said, this recipe is quite versitile, for more bread-y gingerbread roll the dough thick.


(adapted from The Joy of Vegan Baking)
makes about 36 biscuits

375g (3 cups) flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground cloves
110g (1/2 cup) butter, softened
50g (1/4 cup) brown sugar
100g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
1 egg
50g (1.7 oz) molasses
175g (6 oz) golden syrup

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, or the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until combined, then add the molasses and golden syrup and continue to beat until throughly mixed.

Add the flour in 2 to 3 batches, combining each batch lightly before adding the next. Beat until the dough comes together. Add 1-2 tablespoons of water if required.

Remove the dough from the bowl and divide in half. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours.

Once chilled, preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Line 3 baking trays with baking paper.

Remove one batch of dough from the refrigerator and, between 2 sheets of baking paper, roll out to 3mm (1/8") thickness. Using any cookie cutters you like, cut out shapes and transfer them to the prepared trays. Bake for 7-15 minutes depending on the size of your biscuits. The biscuits will be lightly brown when cooked and will not stick to the paper when lightly tapped. Roll out and cut the second batch while the first is still cooking.

Once cooked remove from oven and cool on trays for a few minutes. Once firm, transfer to wire racks to finish cooling.

Tuesday, December 1

Chocolate earl grey shortbread


I have never liked Earl Grey tea so I'm not sure what drove me to make these. I suppose they sounded nice in theory and I was curious as to how they would taste. I knew that I should have trusted my gut instinct and listened to the voice that said "you know, you don't like Earl Grey one little bit" but I didn't. Instead, I went out and bought Earl Grey tea explicitly for the purpose of making these biscuits. Maybe I thought these biscuits would convert me. Well, they didn't. I still can't stand Earl Grey tea.

However, these aren't all bad. The texture is amazing though not at all the like shortbread I normally make. These little biscuits crumble a bit when broken and also dissolve in the mouth. I know I would love these if it weren't for the Earl Grey tea in them, so if you like Earl Grey you'll probably adore these! I fully intend to make them again without the the tea.

Chocolate earl grey shortbread

(adapted from The Art & Soul of Baking)
makes 18-25 biscuits

50g (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon good-quality Earl Grey tea leaves
115g (4 oz) butter, cold and cut into pieces
105g (3/4 cup) all-purpose flour
20g (3 tablespoons) unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sanding sugar, optional
200g (7 oz) dark chocolate

place the sugar and tea leaves in the bowl of a food processor and grind for 1 minutes, or until the leaves are finely chopped. Add the butter, flour, cocoa powder, and salt and process for about 45 seconds. Scrape down the bowl and process for a further 15-30 seconds or until the dough looks uniformly dark and forms large, shaggy clumps. Alternatively, combine with a pastry blender until the dough reaches the same consistency.

Turn the dough out on to the bench and knead gently several times to bring the mixture together.

Squeeze the dough into a log about 30cm (12") long and about 2.5cm (2") in diameter. Gently roll it back and forth until smooth. If the dough becomes sticky, place it in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes to firm up.

Sprinkle sanding sugar on to the bench, alongside the log and roll the dough in the sugar to coat evenly. Cut a piece of cling wrap about 10cm longer than the log and center the log at one of the long ends. Roll the log tightly and twist the ends of the wrap to secure. Insert the log into a cardboard paper towel roll to help the dough keep its shape. Refrigerate for 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F), fine a baking tray with paper.

Remove the dough from the fridge and side it out of the cardboard. Using a thin knife, slice it into 1cm (3/8") rounds. Place the biscuits 2.5cm apart on the baking tray. Bake for 30 minutes,rotating the tray halfway through. Remove tray from oven and transfer the biscuits to a wire rack to cool.

Once cooled, melt chocolate and using a fork, flick the chocolate over the biscuits to decorate.