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Cobnut blackberry cake and my John Lewis gift guide

20 September 2017

I am painfully aware of my tendency to wax lyrical about how much I love autumn. What can I say? This season of changing hues, dappled light and cold sunshine is just so special. I'm a creature of habit and September marks the start of the school year (a ridiculous justification I know, given that I am now 25 and my school days are little more than an increasingly foggy blur of anxiety and bad hair days). I'm an October baby and - despite nursing a futile fear of getting older - the child within me does still rather look forward to all the excitement and attention that birthdays bring.

Autumn also sees the hedgerows weigh heavy with produce, which ignites new ideas and brings new recipes to my kitchen every year. I can wear my favourite thick jumpers and cashmere socks without bursting into flames and, at the risk of losing readers for jumping the gun a little here, the C word starts to slip into day-to-day dialogue which fills me with that wonderfully warm feeling of the familiar and the delicious. Yes, I went there - I can only apologise.

On the subject of Christmas, I often get asked for gift recommendations for bakers. I am quite picky about baking-ware. I only want to have things in my kitchen which I like to look at. As I've grown older, I've consciously moved away from the pastel pinks, polka dots and bunting prints that you so often see used in baking designs. Instead, I am slowly building up a selection of ceramic tableware and good quality, beautifully designed cookware. Neither of these things come cheap, but I think it's worth playing the long game. And so, let me present my gift guide for bakers, which I'm delighted to be partnering with John Lewis to bring you!

John Lewis is where my Mum bought our school shoes. It's where my granny bought my sewing machine, and the dress patterns which she used to teach me to sew. It's where I have bought all of my kitchenware, and where I seem to find myself when I've had a tough day and just want to feel happier. I can't put my finger on it, but John Lewis seems to do just that.

John Lewis have an extensive baking range (take a look here), so are a good place to start when buying for bakers. I find that most shops seem to either have style or substance - John Lewis really does have both.
John Lewis Craft Collection
Copper has certainly had a renaissance in the kitchen. Copper and rose gold are two of my favourite tones in kitchenware - I love the peachy, warm notes they bring without being overly girly. These Craft Collection measuring spoons and measuring cups make a great practical present - and look picture perfect hanging from display rails or pegs in the kitchen.
Meri Meri for Liberty 
Perfect for stylish cake bakers. I am obsessed with the gorgeous range of cupcake cases, toppers and flags by Meri Meri. They are cute without being cutesy, which I find a delicate line to walk and one that few brands quite get right. The party pick toppers are playful yet stylish, the neon tones keep the palette current and the limited edition Liberty range is - let's be honest - to die for.
Robert Welch Radford 'Time For Tea' Collection
Essential kitchenware for everyone: a cake slicer and a set of cake forks. And I mean essential. These stainless steel sets are worth the investment for the perfect tea time spread.

And on that note - cake! This cake is so easy to whip up and is perfect for teatime. Cobnuts are one of my favourite autumnal ingredients. They have a wonderfully intense flavour which works beautifully in sweet and savoury recipes alike. Swap the blackberries for raspberries, currants or slices of mirabelles, greengages or early season pears.

100g cobnuts, dehusked
120g unsalted butter
60g caster sugar
60g dark brown sugar
2 eggs
120g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp fine salt
100g blackberries

Heat the oven to 170°C and line the base of a 7" cake tin with a disc of baking paper. Butter the sides of the tin. 

Roughly chop the cobnuts, then set aside. Place the butter, caster sugar and dark brown sugar in a bowl and cream together until pale a fluffy. Beat in the eggs, mixing well after each addition. Sieve in the flour, baking powder and salt, and fold to combine. Add the blackberries and stir through.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin, and level with the palette knife. Top with the cobnuts, then baking in the centre of the oven for 20-25 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

This post was written in affiliation with John Lewis, but all views are - as always - entirely my own.

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Chocolate cherry mousse cake + The Chocolate Show!

14 September 2017

Ah, chocolate. Sweet, unadulterated delight and comfort perfectly wrapped in coloured foil and patterned paper. Sometimes, the simple things really are the most special.

As summer draws to a close, I find myself drawn back to cocoa in my baking. From the deep, bitter notes of dark chocolates to the silky caramel of milk and the heady sweetness of white chocolate, this wonderful ingredient has infinite possibility for flavour and texture. Melted, as it is in this recipe, and whipped with eggs and sugar to create a soft mousse-like cake is my new favourite way to eat my favourite sweet treat. And it's gluten free to boot, too.

If you love baking with chocolate too, then you might be interested in hearing a little more about The Chocolate Show which is coming to Olympia, London this autumn 13-15th October. I know, right. There are few concepts I’ve got on board more quickly with than a whole weekend dedicated to chocolate.

The Chocolate Show is the ultimate celebration of the nation’s favourite sweet treat. The event showcases edible delights and chocolate goodies in all their forms, from bars and bakes to desserts, patisserie, ice cream and truffles. There will also be demonstrations, masterclasses and tastings with the likes of Nadiya Hussain and master chocolatier Paul A Young. Exhibitors will include Hotel Chocolat, Guittard, Lauden, Bad Brownie Co, Akesson’s, Rococo and many more sources of deliciousness. Yum!

You can buy your tickets to the show here. See you there! 
75g cherries, stoned
1 tbsp Kirsch 
75g unsalted butter
100g good quality dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids)
2 eggs
75g caster sugar
Pinch of salt

Heat your oven to 170°C and line the base of a 7” round tin with a disc of baking paper. Butter the sides of the tin. Stone the cherries, then place in a bowl and cover with the Kirsch. Leave to infuse until the cake batter is ready.

Chop up the butter and chocolate and place in a heat proof bowl set over a pan of just simmering water. Stir until just melted, then remove from the heat and set aside.

Separate the eggs. Place the egg yolks, caster sugar and salt in a mixing bowl, and whisk until foamy. Fold in the melted chocolate and butter until glossy and smooth.

Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks, then fold into the chocolate mixture. Add the cherries, and mix through. Pour the cake mixture into the prepared tin, and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the cake has risen and cracked. The cake should still have a small wobble at the centre when gently shaken. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before carefully removing from the tin. 
This post was written in affiliation with The Chocolate Show, but all views are - as always - entirely my own.

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Blackberry and Star Anise Friands {from Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh}

7 September 2017

I've written before on Pudding Lane about my love for all things Ottolenghi. By 'all things', I mean of course that Ottolenghi is synonymous with much more than just Yotam Ottolenghi himself - he is restaurants, he is cookbooks, he is piles of cloud-like pastel meringues and tray upon tray of perfectly sweet morsels, almost too pretty to eat.

But eat them we do, because Ottolenghi's creations are more than a little bit magic. They inspire joy and indulgence while perfectly balancing the natural acidity and bitterness of seasonal produce with a lightness of touch that - in my humble opinion - very few can muster. Four years a Londoner, and I still know of few joys more special than leaving Ottolenghi on Upper Street with a weighty white box of sweet treats dangling from my wrist. And as for the man himself? Well, my mind was made up when I listened to Yotam's Desert Island Discs and he chose a lemon tree as his one luxury on a desert island. A man after my own heart, it would seem.

And so you can imagine my delight when Yotam and Helen's team sent me a copy of their gorgeous new creation, SWEET. This is the book which, I suspect, many Ottolenghi fans have been waiting for - finally, it's time for dessert.

Written in collaboration with the venerable Helen Goh, SWEET has over 100 gorgeous recipes which I cannot wait to try. For now, I bring you Yotam and Helen's recipe for sweet little blackberry and star anise friands. A quintessentially Ottolenghi treat, perfect for Autumn.
180g unsalted butter, plus an extra 10g, melted, for brushing
60g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
200g icing sugar
120g ground almonds
1½ tsp ground star anise
1/8 tsp salt
150g egg whites (from 4 large eggs)
finely grated zest of 1 small orange (1 tsp)
18 whole blackberries (about 120g), cut in half lengthways
for the icing
60g blackberries, plus an extra 24 small blackberries, to garnish
¾ tbsp water
1 tsp lemon juice
165g icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C Fan/Gas Mark 7. Brush the 12 holes of a regular muffin tin with the melted butter and sprinkle all over with flour. Tap the tray gently to ensure an even coating of the flour, then turn upside down to remove the excess. Place in the fridge to chill while you make the batter.

To brown the butter, place in a small saucepan and cook over a medium heat until melted. Continue to cook until the butter is foaming, gently swirling the pan from time to time, to allow the solids to brown more evenly. You will see dark brown sediments begin to form on the sides and bottom of the pan. Continue to allow the butter to bubble away until it turns a rich golden brown and smells of toasted nuts and caramel. Remove the pan from the heat and let it stand for 5 minutes, to allow the burnt solids to collect at the bottom of the pan. Strain through a fine-mesh  (or muslin- lined) sieve, discarding the solids. Allow the browned butter to cool slightly before using. It should still be warm when folding into the mix later: if it is too hot, it will ‘cook’ the egg whites; if it is too cool, it will be difficult to incorporate into the mix.

While the butter is cooling, sift the flour, icing sugar, ground almonds, star anise and salt into a bowl. Place the egg whites in a small bowl and use a whisk or fork to froth them up for a few seconds – you do not need to whisk them completely.

Pour the egg whites into the sifted dry ingredients and stir until they are incorporated. Add the orange zest and browned butter and mix until the batter is smooth.

Remove the muffin tin from the fridge and fill the moulds just over two-thirds of the way up the sides. Place three halved blackberries on top, cut side down, and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 210°C/190°C Fan/Gas Mark 6 – starting with a high oven temperature and then bringing it down is the way to achieve the lovely brown crust you want – turn the tray around in the oven for even cooking, and continue to cook for another 8 minutes, until the edges of the friands are golden brown and the centres have a slight peak and spring back when gently prodded. Set aside to cool before removing them from their moulds: you might need to use a small knife to help you release the sides.

If you are icing the cakes, place 60g of blackberries in a small bowl with the water and lemon juice. Use a fork to mash them together, then pass the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve to extract as much fruit juice as possible: you should get about 60ml. Sift the icing sugar into a medium bowl, pour in the blackberry juice and combine to make a light purple runny icing: it should just be thick enough to form a thin glaze on the tops of the cakes. Spoon the icing over the cakes, spreading it to the edges so that it runs down the sides. Do this on a rack, if you can, as icing them on a plate or sheet of paper means that the icing will pool at the bottom. Place 2 small blackberries on each friand, set aside for 20 or 30 minutes to set, then serve.

Recipe taken from Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh (Ebury Press, £27) Photography by Peden + Munk. I was lucky enough to recipe a press copy of this book but all views are - as always - entirely my own. Buy your copy HERE!

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