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10 July 2019

When I was at school, the lunch menu was a slow rotation of all the school dinner stalwarts: stodgy crumbles, sponge cakes and fruit pies, all served with a lot of vivid yellow custard. This was all well and good (I love all of these things - even the Birds custard), but very occasionally we'd see two words on the lunch menu - tacked to a burgundy pin board and monitored scrupulously - that would cause pandemonium. Banoffee. Pie.

The pie itself was - on reflection - not worthy of such excitement, but back then a slightly dry biscuit base, tinned caramel, sliced banana, shavings of cooking chocolate and a mountain of whipped cream was enough to send us wild. All these years later, I think back to that teenage euphoria every time I see it on a menu.

I wanted to translate those nostalgic flavours into a bar, and so it was that my banoffee blondies were born. I've added pecans to replicate the crunch of the pie crust, and swapped out the dark chocolate for white - although you could use whichever chocolate you prefer.
250g unsalted butter
175g white chocolate
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla bean paste (optional)
75g dark brown sugar
75g light brown sugar
130g plain flour
1 tsp fine sea salt
75g pecans, toasted
2 small ripe bananas
100g salted caramel sauce
Pinch flakey sea salt

Heat the oven to 170°C and line a 20x30cm tin with baking paper. 

Place the butter in a saucepan with 75g of the white chocolate, and place over a low heat to melt. Once the butter has melted, remove from the heat - the residual heat will melt any unmelted white chocolate pieces. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the eggs, vanilla bean paste and sugars for 2-3 minutes until pale, foamy and doubled in volume. Add the melted butter and chocolate and mix to combine, then add the flour and salt and fold together. 

Roughly chop the remaining 100g of the white chocolate and the pecans, then fold through the blondie batter. Pour into the lined tin, and level the surface with a palette knife. 

Slice the bananas lengthways, then gently place on the surface of the blondie batter. Don't press them in - they will naturally sink when baking. Drizzle the salted caramel over the top, and sprinkle with a little flaky salt. 

Bake in the heated oven for 25-35 minutes, until the surface is golden brown and the mixture has lost any wobble when lightly shaken. Allow to cool full before slicing.

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11 May 2019

Hello! How's your May going? It's been pretty drizzly and cold in London although - as wedding cake season is now underway - I'm secretly quite enjoying the unseasonably cool weather. I know, I know - but it does make transporting and building buttercream wedding cakes much less stressful!

As those of you who follow me over on Instagram will know (and side note that I'm a little more active over there - so follow along!), wedding season has started, which means I get to make beautiful (I hope!) wedding cakes most weekends from now through to September. I adore this side-hustle of mine and am so excited to be back in the thick of it.

This recipe feels a little pre-emptive, but I know that my very favourite flat white peaches are just around the corner, so I couldn't wait to share this with you. It's a recipe I developed last summer and never got around to posting here. This is so simple to throw together, and as it's meant to be rustic, you don't need to fuss over the finish too much. Just roll out your pastry, top with a sprinkling of ground almonds and juicy handfuls of macerated peach slices and bake. The simplest but most delicious of summer desserts.
Pastry (Alice Waters recipe)
140g plain flour
85g unsalted butter, cold
1 tsp caster sugar
1/2 tsp fine salt
cold water (around 2 tbsp)
4 ripe flat white peaches
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
30g ground almonds

To make the pastry, whisk the flour, sugar and salt together. Cut the butter into cubes, then add to the pastry. Using two table knives, toss the butter until it is well coated in flour, then quickly cut the butter into the flour. Continue until it is roughly incorporated - you should still be able to see some small chunks of butter within the flour. 

Add 2 tbsp of cold water, and quickly mix to combine. Bring it all together with your hands working as quickly as possible. If the pastry feels a little dry, add 1/2 tbsp more, continuing as needed. Shape the pastry into a disc, wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, or until needed.

Stone the peaches and slice, then place in a bowl with the lemon juice, sugar and vanilla. Stir to coat, then allow to macerate for 30 minutes, or up to two hours. 

When you are ready to make the galette, heat your oven to 200°C and line a baking tray with parchment. Roll the pastry out into a large disc directly onto the baking paper (if your tray has high edges, you can place the paper onto your work surface, and transfer back onto the tray once the pastry is rolled.

Dust the pastry with the ground almonds, leaving a 2 inch margin around the edge almond-free. Top with the peaches, retaining any macerating juices for later. 

Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until the pastry is starting to look cooked and golden, and the peaches are soft and just starting to caramelise. Remove from the oven and brush the peaches and pastry with the reserved macerating juices, then return to the oven to bake for a further 5-10 minutes until bronzed and cooked. Slice up and serve immediately, or allow to cool and serve at room temperature with cream. 

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Meringue Bark

31 March 2019

I'm not usually a lover of pastel baking. Pale pinks and yellows can quite easily teeter over into Cath Kidston and bunting territory and, while there's certainly a time and a place for both of those things, I try where possible to keep away from the twee when it comes to baking. What can I say - I prefer the Paris patisserie look to the village fete version, which is why I'm usually reticent to go too pastel in my approach. 

But as Easter approaches - intrinsically light, fresh and hopeful - I'm more prepared to let a glimmer of pastel into my kitchen. A touch of colour in meringue is somehow so much chicer than in a cake; with its cloud-like texture, there's something of the ethereal here which I can definitely get on board with. 

You guys shared so much kind feedback about my homemade Christmas gift guide series, which got me thinking about what you might like to make for loved ones come the four-day weekend. Meringue  calls for just two base ingredients and, once you've mastered the basic recipe, where you take things from there with decoration and colour is entirely down to you. For me, part of the joy of these shards is their irregularity, so don't get too het up on the slicing - pack them up in cellophane, or use to top your Easter pavlova. 
2 egg whites
100g caster sugar
Gel food colouring
Edible decorations - try dried flowers, rainbow sprinkles or chopped candied peel

Heat your oven to 120°C, and line three large trays with baking paper. In a squeaky clean bowl (you can lightly rub it with a slice of lemon first to ensure it is dust free), whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks. With the beater still running, add the caster sugar one spoonful at a time, whisking for ten seconds or so after each addition. This is to ensure the sugar is completely absorbed (which will prevent the meringue from weeping when it bakes).

Divide the meringue into three bowls, and add a dab of gel colouring to each. Mix to fully distribute the colouring. Spoon each batch of meringue onto separate baking sheets, and use a palette knife or offset spatula to spread the mixture thinly and evenly over the tray - you want the meringue to be about 1/2 a cm thick. Sprinkle with your chosen toppings. 

Place in the oven to bake for 25-40 minutes, until the centre feels only very slightly soft to the touch. Remove from the oven and lift the paper carefully onto a cooling rack to cool completely. Break into shards and serve.  

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