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Matcha Pistachio Blondies

19 July 2018

They say it's not easy being green. True, these funny little blondies do have something of the Kermit the Frog about them, but I think it's kind of amazing. Let me elaborate.

I know I'm a little (read: about five years) late to the matcha craze. What can I say? I suppose the slightly acrid flavour profile learnt from several terrible matcha lattes - complete with burnt milk and creepy latte art - put me off. I finally decided to give matcha another chance and, experimenting with this enigmatic ingredient in my own kitchen,  my eyes have been well and truly opened to a whole new world of subtle, aromatic flavour that is perfect for baking.

Blondies are one of my favourite things to bake (and to eat). Their sweet, gooey, melty, butterscothey deliciousness is the perfect canvas for chocolate, nuts and fruit, either fresh or dried. Matcha pairs beautifully with white chocolate; the silky texture and sweet flavour is the perfect foil to the earthiness of the tea. I've tweaked my blondie recipe here to add melted chocolate to the base, giving the finished blondies the most incredible, decadent texture. Verdant pistachios, like crunchy little jewels, bring even more greenery to the party.
250g unsalted butter
175g white chocolate
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
150g caster sugar
100g pistachios, shelled 
150g plain flour
10g matcha
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking power

Line a 20x30cm baking tin with parchment, and heat your oven to 150°C. Place the butter in a small saucepan along with 75g of the white chocolate, and melt over a very gentle heat. As soon as the butter has melted, remove from the heat. Any chocolate pieces that have not fully melted should do so by sitting in the warm butter. Set aside.

Place 50g of the pistachios in a food processor. Pulse until ground to a coarse, sandy powder. Set aside. Chop up the remaining 100g white chocolate into pieces, and set aside.

Place the eggs, vanilla and caster sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk for a couple minutes until thick, pale and fluffy. Carefully pour in the melted butter and chocolate, whisking until just combined. 

In a separate bowl, whisk together the ground pistachios, flour, matcha powder, salt and baking powder. Add to the egg mixture, and mix until just combined. Add the remaining 50g whole pistachios and the white chocolate chunks, and mix through. 

Pour into the prepared tin, and spread the mixture to level. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until the surface is set but the centre of the blondies wobbles very slightly when shaken. Allow to cool completely before slicing. Use a clean, hot knife to achieve clear cut edges.

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Blackcurrant, sloe gin and white chocolate Jaffa cakes

17 June 2018

This morning, I scrolled back through my blog archives and - perhaps for the first time - read my way through the first year of recipes that I posted here. It's been four years since I first started writing Pudding Lane, and it felt lovely, nostalgic and generally rather sweet to revisit the thoughts, experiences and bakes of my slightly-younger self.

While I definitely cringed at a couple of my weaker sentences (and whoever it was that told me stop starting each post with a quote, thanks again), I felt more in touch with that time in my life than ever. Tinkering around in the funny little Stockwell kitchen I shared with friends, and placing much less pressure and meaning on my love of baking, seems simultaneous yesterday and a lifetime ago. Not that I needed it, but this archive of memories represents yet another reason to feel so thankful for this little blog.

As I sifted through Christmas mincemeat couronnes, elderflower and blackberry friands and that gin and tonic cake, I felt a small glimmer of sadness that that aforementioned tinkering around in the kitchen happens less than I'd like these days. While I'm often baking, my evenings and weekends tend to go into recipe development commissions, wedding cakes and styling jobs. While I am so, SO grateful to be working on such exciting projects (the 22 year old with a broken boiler would have laughed at the thought), I do miss those early days too.

And funnily enough, today's recipe came about on a rare empty Sunday last weekend. Leftover blackcurrants and sloe gin found their way into a thin set jelly, and with a couple of leftover milkybars unearthed (read: forgotten - leftover chocolate gets eaten in this house), my very favourite Jaffas got a little adult makeover. I hope you enjoy these as much as we did.
Makes 24
For the jelly
250g blackcurrants
50g caster sugar
Parred peel of 1 lemon
90g water
90g sloe gin
4 gelatine leaves
For the cakes
50g plain flour
120g golden icing sugar
40g ground almonds
4 egg whites
80g butter, plus extra for greasing
Pinch salt
300g white chocolate

To make the jelly, begin by lining a baking tray with three layers of clingfilm, leaving plenty of overhang. 

Place the blackcurrants, sugar, lemon peel and water in a plan. Place on a medium heat and slowly bring to the boil. Allow to boil for five minutes, until it is foamy and the blackcurrants have all burst. Remove from the heat, and allow to cool for a few minutes. 

Place the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water, and leave for five minutes to bloom. 

While the gelatine is soaking, carefully pour the berry mixture through a sieve. Use a spoon to push as much juice and blackcurrant puree through as possible. Discard the remaining seeds and lemon zest. Stir in the sloe gin.

Once the gelatine has soaked, squeeze to remove any excess water. Add to the blackcurrant mixture, and stir until melted and mixed through. Pour the mixture into the lined baking tray. Allow to cool to room temperature, then transfer to the fridge to allow the jelly to set completely. 

While the jelly is setting, making the cakes. Heat the oven to 170°C / 150°C fan. Melt a little extra butter, then brush two cupcake/muffin trays with the melted butter, ensuring all the moulds are well coated.

Place the 80g of butter in a small pan, and set over a medium heat. Allow it to melt, then continue cooking for a couple minutes, until the solids on the surface have turned from white to brown. This will give the butter a deeper, nutty flavour. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool a little.

Separately, whisk the flour, golden icing sugar, ground almonds and salt to combine. Add in the egg whites, and whisk until smooth and glossy. Pour in the butter, and whisk until smooth. Set the batter aside to rest for 15-20 minutes. 

Once rested, divide the mixture between the 24 buttered moulds. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the surface of the cakes is golden and the edges have browned. Allow to cool in the tin for five minutes, then use the end of a palette knife to carefully ease the cakes onto a cooling rack. Allow to cool completely. 

Once the jelly is set, use a 3 or 4cm round cutter to cut neat circles out. Place these on top of the cakes, then transfer to the fridge to chill. 

Break the chocolate up into a heatproof bowl, then carefully set this over a pan of water. Ensure that the water is not touching the bowl. Heat until the chocolate has just melted, stirring occasionally to help the chocolate melt. Remove the bowl from the pan, to allow the chocolate to cool. 

Once the chocolate is only just warm to the touch, drizzle on top of the cakes, covering the jelly. Do not be tempted to put the chocolate on while it is still hot, or it will melt the jelly. Allow to set at room temperature. 

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Raspberry macaroons {with Lakeland}

30 May 2018

There are few sweet treats more delicate or elegant than French macaroons. These almond meringue sandwiches are not always easy to get right, but that first perfect batch will make all the effort worth it. To celebrate National Macaroon Day, I've partnered with Lakeland to share my top tips for perfect macaroons, every time.

Tips for macaroon success -
Begin with your mis en place, which means getting everything ready and in its place before you start baking. Line your baking sheets with paper, draw out your guide line circles (if using), and weigh all of your ingredients out before you begin mixing.

Measure your ingredients precisely. For a mixture so delicate, even a couple of grams over or under can distort the texture of the batter. I really recommend investing in a good set of digital scales, such as these, for baking.

Ensure that your egg whites are at room temperature, and don’t be scared to mix the dry ingredients into the whisked egg whites. While you don’t want to knock all of the air out, you do need to ensure everything is smooth and well incorporated. Under-mixed macaron will appear grainy, so keep mixing until your mixture is supple and shiny.

Use a disposable piping bag to pipe your macaroon shells. This will allow you to create neat, round disks, which I find impossible to achieve by hand! You can also use a piping bag to fill your macarons with ganache, buttercream, jam or jelly.

Finally, be patient and ensure that the shells have time to rest and have formed a ‘skin’ before you bake them. This will give your baked macaron a smooth, shiny surface, and allow the batter time to develop the characteristic ‘foot’ to the finished macaron. Good luck! Tag me in your pictures over on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter - find me @puddinglaneblog. 
175g icing sugar
125g ground almonds
75g caster sugar
3 large egg whites
pinch of salt
80g butter
250g icing sugar
Approximately 200g raspberries

Now is the time for precision. Preheat your oven to 130C. Line 4 baking trays with baking parchment, and mark 3cm circles on the other side of the paper (this feels tedious but you'll thank me later). Weigh out the almonds and the icing sugar exactly, then pass through a sieve to ensure the mixture is an even consistency. 

Clean a separate mixing bowl using half a lemon (this is to ensure any specs of dirt are removed). Add the egg whites and the salt to the cleaned bowl, then whisk into soft peaks. Once the whites are stiff enough to hold their shape, add the caster sugar 1 tsp at a time, whisking in between each spoonful to ensure the sugar is dissolved. 

Add in the icing sugar and almond mixture. Using a plastic spatula, fold the two mixes together. Do this gently - you want to remove some of the air but not all of it, so it's better to mix slowly. The mixture is ready when it is shiny, combined and falls off the spatula into a ribbon consistency. 

Spoon the mixture into a plastic piping bag. Snip off the end, then pipe the mixture onto the prepared trays, using the circles you drew to ensure that each shell is the same size. Once the shells are piped, you need to leave them to rest, so that they can form a skin which will protect them from cracking when they rise in the oven. I leave mine for an hour to be safe, but they're ready once you can touch them lightly and not leave a mark. 

Bake in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes. The shells are ready when you can peel them off the paper. Remove from the oven and transfer onto a wire rack to cool completely. 

To make the filling, whisk the butter to soften then slowly add the icing sugar. Once the two are combined into a sandy texture, then add a raspberry at a time, whisking in-between, until the mixture takes on a stiff buttercream texture. This will be between 5-10 berries. 

Cut the remaining raspberries in half. To sandwich, spread a layer of butter cream on a macaron, then place half a raspberry in the centre and top with a second macaron.
The post was written in affinity with Lakeland but all views are - and always are - entirely my own. 

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