Don’t ask me how it transpired, but yesterday the first chapter of my Masters dissertation ended up looking an awful lot like a 4lb lavender, blueberry and white chocolate bundt cake. There’s not even a special occasion like a birthday to justify it, I just really didn’t want to write the first chapter of my dissertation. This is a problem because I might fail my Masters but also I recently read Everything I Know about Love by Dolly Alderton (because all of my friends were reading it because they’re all Exeter graduates with an alcohol problem and desperately in need of therapy, too). Anyway I started taking Dolly’s advice for twenty-somethings as gospel (because she’s paid for a lot of therapy, and reading a book by a twenty-something who’s had a lot of therapy is kind of equivalent to paying for a lot of therapy, right?) and she said not to eat sugar because “it ruins your insides and your outsides”. I’m a whore for sugar, in all of its forms, but especially in the shape of bundt cake. Anyway, I can’t stop eating sugar because I have this theory that I’ll apply for The Great British Bake Off in 2019 and then I’ll make Noel Fielding try my bundt cake and then he’ll fall madly in love with me and we’ll run away to some Scandinavian country together and once we start going grey we’ll share our dark hair dye and it’ll be wonderful. (Just to clarify, I don’t fancy him, I just want to be in the remake of The Mighty Boosh). So you see, I have to practice making bundt cakes.
The thing with bundt cakes is that they’re distinctive because of their ring shape, but their spiralling patterns make it an absolute bitch to get out of the mould. The key is in the prepping of the tin, and ensuring the batter isn’t too thin, else it will be too moist and soft to get out. So follow my advice and it’ll (probably) come out like this:
If you’re an person with an unsophisticated palate who despises using “perfume” things as ingredients (like rose or orange blossom or lavender) then you can leave the lavender out. It works just the same. Just taste less posh.
Lavender, blueberry and white chocolate bundt cake (serves 12; vegetarian)
300g melted butter (Stork) plus extra for greasing that bastard tin
3 tsp dried lavender
150g white chocolate
325g caster sugar
350g self-raising flour, sifted
3 large eggs
150g icing sugar
A dash of purple food colouring
Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC. Grease the bundt tin. Using the bain marie method on the hob, melt the butter, 50g of the white chocolate and 2tsp dried lavender. This really helps to release that “perfume” flavour.
Once melted, leave to sit for 5 minutes before mixing in the caster sugar. Combine the eggs. Add the flour steadily, using an electric whisk on a slow setting to combine. Lastly, stir in 200g of the blueberries, leaving the remainder for decoration.
Pour the mixture into the tin, and bake for 60 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.
Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes, before removing onto a board to leave to cool completely.
Once cool, make the lilac icing and smoother on top. It doesn’t have to be neat. Melt the remaining white chocolate, and drizzle over the icing. Sprinkle over a tsp of dried lavender and pop on the blueberries.
Just in time for Easter, I thought I’d get Emma to write up a guest recipe for the blog. My friend and fellow Exeposé editor, her hot cross buns made me drool as I was scrolling through Instagram in bed this morning. Here’s what she had to say:
For the first nineteen years of my life, I was a self-declared hot cross bun loather. As far as I am concerned, candied peel and sultanas are public enemy number one. This year, I discovered the joy of almost fruit-free hot cross buns. These zesty, golden delights, bursting with crunchy cacao nibs, are well worth the four to five hours of your life necessary to tend to them. Now all I need is a recipe for a fruitless Christmas cake…This recipe makes 12 buns, approximately sized for those dwelling in rural Wiltshire. For the daintier appetite, perhaps more.
Orange and Cacao Hot Cross Buns (vegetarian; makes 12)
300ml milk (semi-skimmed or full fat – just definitely not skimmed)
50g unsalted butter
500g strong flour
A pinch of salt
75g caster sugar
1 large egg
Zest of 2 oranges
A handful of cacao nibs
50g plain flour
1 tbsp marmalade, loosened with a splash of water
Gently heat the milk and butter together in a saucepan until just bubbling away, then leave to cool until you can comfortably run a finger through it. It really must be neither piping hot nor room temperature when you get around to using it, or the yeast just won’t have fun and your buns won’t be prettily domed. Don’t be alarmed if the butter decides it wants to sit on top and not play nicely; it’s all going into the same dough and it’ll come together whether it wants to or not.
Mix the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a large bowl – preferably one attached to a mixer with a dough hook, as enriched dough is a sticky business. When the milk mix is sufficiently cooled, pour it in with the dry ingredients. Add your egg, and get your mixer(or yourself)to work. 10 minutes will be sufficient; your dough should be pliant and still just sticky enough to irritate you. For the first hour-long proofing cover the dough with a clean, damp tea towel in a spot that’s just-above-room-temperature.
When your dough has doubled in size, pop in your cacao nibs and orange zest – add in a teaspoon of orange extract if you’re not the subtle type. Mix it once again, ensuring you have a nice, even distribution of cacao nibs and orange zest. Wrap it back up with its tea towel in that sunny spot, for another hour.
Retrieve your dough. It should now be supple to the touch, relatively clean to handle and full of tiny, delicate pockets of air, so move and shape it with care. Tenderly split it into twelve little lumps of goodness and roll very lightly until one face is nicely domed, smooth and otherwise presentable, then arrange on a lined baking tray however you please – just bear in mind that straight lines make piping the crosses easier. A three by four pattern with half inch gaps between usually suits me. Cover with the tea towel and leave them to snooze for another hour.You really cannot rush a good hot cross bun.
Pre-heat your oven to 200°C, gas mark 7. Hot cross buns are relatively low maintenance during the actual baking process (compared to how high maintenance they are while proofing) so as long as it’s a tad hotter than you’d bake a sponge, it’ll do. Just watch them closely and bring them out a few minutes earlier/later if necessary.
Slake your plain flour with a little tap water until it forms a thick, pipe-able paste. Pop it in a piping bag with a plain, round nozzle. If you haven’t got a piping bag, I always think that a sealed sandwich bag with a minute corner snipped away does the job just as well. Pipe the crosses onto the buns. This mixture isn’t the most pliant, so leave a little more than you think you need dangling over the edge of the end buns.
Bake for 15 minutes or until they’re browned – it might be a bit of a flat and disappointing brown, rather than that often-promised “golden brown”, but that’s okay. We aren’t done yet.
Whilst the buns are baking, melt down a little high-quality marmalade over the hob. I recommend loosening it with a little water – no more than a teaspoon. As soon as the baked goods are out of the oven, apply evenly with a silicone pastry brush. Leave your offerings to cool just a little before serving with a liberal smudge of good, salted butter.
Keep up with Emma’s culinary creations and editorial responsibilities on Instagram.
This year I’m lucky to have a wild rosemary bush growing in my garden, and though I knew wanted to make orange brownies, I wanted to add something that would make the flavour more experimental. After once sampling a stilton brownie at a food festival, I thought a little rosemary wouldn’t be overly adventurous. Next time I would like to bake with lemon and basil – but I’m unsure the brownie base would suit – fortunately, it does for this.
Orange, rosemary and dark chocolate browniesvegetarian; makes approximately 10 portions
50g brown sugar
2 small sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 tsp cinnamon
150g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
175g butter for baking
275g caster sugar
130g plain flour
2 large free-range eggs
1 tbsp cocoa powder
Begin by making a sugar syrup for the crystallised orange slices which will embellish the brownies. To do this, dissolve the brown sugar in water on the hob over a medium heat. Bring to the boil and stir until all the sugar is dissolved. Reduce to a low heat, and a slices of 1 whole orange, cinnamon and sprig of rosemary. Leave to crystallise for approximately 7 minutes on each side. Remove the slices from the pan and place on kitchen roll, and then in the fridge to set whilst making the brownie batter.
Preheat the oven to 17o°C. Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl of a saucepan of simmering water (be sure not to let the base of the bowl touch the water). Stir occasionally until melted and incorporated.
Remove from the hear. Add the sugar and mix in well, followed by the flour and the cocoa powder. Stir in the eggs. Grate the zest of the second orange, and pop in with a handful rosemary trimmings, and stir into the brownie mix.
Spoon the mixture into a prepared baking tray with baking parchment. I used a square tin (23cm x 23cm x 5cm) for mine. Partially bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, the remove from the oven and add the crystallised orange slices. Place back in the oven and bake for a further 20 minutes. Leave to cool completely before removing before removing from the tray.
Rose petal and pistachio cakevegetarian; serves 10
Bottled rose water and dried rose are incredibly exciting ingredients. I bought them about a year a go for a mere couple of pounds from an International food supermarket, and they’ve been a little neglected at the back of my cupboard, amongst the things I told myself I’d always get round to using. And once I practised this recipe to perfection, they were all gone.
225g baking butter, softened to room temperature (I am forever loyal to stork)
225g caster sugar
225g self-raising flour
2 large free-range eggs
1 tbsp rose water
40g unsalted pistachio kernels, chopped
For the icing:
125g sifted icing sugar
2 tsp rose water
2 tbsp warm water
1/2 tsp pink food colouring
40g unsalted pistachio kernels, chopped
Dried rose petals (optional)
Pre-heat the oven to 170°C and prepare a non-stick loaf tin with baking parchment or butter.
In a mixing bowl, cream together the baking butter and caster sugar. Gradually sift in the self-raising flour, add the eggs one at a time, and combine well.
Stir in the rose water and pistachios so the flavours are evenly distributed through the cake mix.
Pour the mix into the loaf tin, and even out the surface with a spatular. Bake in the oven for 50 minutes, or until a knife through the centre comes out clean.
Once cooled take the cake out of the tin. Create the icing by combining the sugar with rose water, warm water and pink food colouring. Smoother the top of the cake with it. Sprinkle on pistachio kernels, and dried rose petals if you’re feeling decadent.
making use of the carob powder and syrup I brought home from Cyprus, I thought I’d try combining some awesome Cypriot flavours into this indulgent dessert. These ingredients are easily found in all well-stocked Turkish food shops.
2 large free range eggs, whites and yolks separated
60g caster sugar
200ml double cream
2 figs, peel removed
1 heaped tsp carob powder
1 tsp carob syrup
Whisk the egg whites with an electric whisk until stiff peaks are formed.
Slowly whisk in the caster sugar, continuing until the egg whites are stiff and glossy.
Whisk the cream in a separate bowl until soft peaks are formed – be sure to not whisk too much otherwise it’ll curdle.
Fold in the cream, egg yolks, the inside flesh of 2 figs, carob powder and syrup into the mixture until well combined.
Pour into a plastic container and freeze for at least 2 hours. Serve with more fresh fig, and carob syrup, according to taste.
Sea salt and dark chocolate avocado mousseserves 4; vegan
this vegan desert is a lighter alternative to conventional chocolate mousse. The base is made simply from frozen banana and avocado. The sea salt compliments the dark chocolate, giving it a bitter and rich edge.
1 hass avocado, chilled
1 frozen very ripe banana
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp sea salt
2 squares of good quality dark chocolate, grated
Freeze the banana in slices. Scoop out the flesh of the avocado into a food processor, followed by frozen banana, cocoa powder, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Blend into a smooth paste. If too thick, add ice cubes, and pulse.
Taste, and add more maple syrup if needed. Stir in the sea salt and pop the mousse into ramekins. Sprinkle with grated chocolate, and leave to chill and set in the fridge before serving.
goji berries are a current superfood trend…spread peanut butter onto these loaf slices for a morning energy hit
Banana and goji berry loafmakes 10 slices; vegetarian
85g unsalted butter, softened
110g light muscovado sugar
1 heaped tbsp peanut butter
3 ripe bananas, mashed
200g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
40g walnuts, roughly chopped
40g dried goji berries
30g dried banana chips
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Grease a loaf tin and line with baking paper.
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Stir in the peanut butter. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then add the mashed bananas.
Mix in the flour and baking powder until well combined and smooth. Stir in the walnuts and goji berries.
Spoon the mixture into the lined baking tin. Decorate with banana chips, whole walnuts and more goji berries. Bake in the oven for 50 minutes, until golden brown, and a skewer comes out clean when put in the middle.
Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before removing and serving. Store in an air tight container.
decorate these fragrant cookies with candied dark chocolate orange dippers
200g softened butter
130g brown sugar
260g plain flour
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of 1/2 orange
50g dark chocolate, chopped
Handful of chopped hazelnuts
For the chocolate orange dippers
1 orange, sliced into segments
50g dark chocolate, melted
50g caster sugar
Cream together the softened butter and brown sugar. Add the egg yolk and vanilla extract, and combine well.
Add in the flour alongside the chopped dark chocolate, orange zest and hazelnuts. Mix well until it forms a sticky dough.
On a floured surface, roll the dough into a ball and wrap in cling film. Put the cookie dough in the freezer for 45 minutes. While in the freezer, pre-heat the oven to 180ºC / fan.
Take the cookie dough out of the freezer and mould into 12 discs. Place the cookies on baking paper and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Leave to cool before serving.
To make the candied chocolate orange dippers, as shown in my photo, create a syrup in a pan by warming the water with caster sugar. Bring to the boil on a medium heat, stirring until all the sugar is dissolved.
Add the orange slices and simmer on a low heat for 15 minutes. Remove them from the pan, and pop them in the fridge to cool and harden.