Re-bake: millionaire’s shortbread

Millionaire's shortbread (second tier, centre)

Millionaire’s shortbread (second tier, centre)

I was invited round to my boyfriend’s house this weekend for a sumptuous afternoon tea organised by his sister, who is a super brilliant baker! I was obviously very excited, until I realised that I had to bake something too. My boyfriend eventually advised me (read: made me) to make some millionaire’s shortbread.

I do like millionaire’s shortbread a lot, but I haven’t had much luck with making it in the past. I must have baked it about four or five times, but I’ve only managed to nail it once, due to issues with the caramel and shortbread on separate occasions. Annoyingly, I can’t for the life of me remember the recipe I used for the perfect millionaire’s shortbread. So, I decided to adapt a recipe for salted caramel shortbread from the Guardian instead.

I like this recipe mainly because of the shortbread itself, which contains semolina – creating a really nice, substantial texture. The caramel is made by simmering an unopened tin of condensed milk in water for 2 hours, while the topping is melted milk chocolate and butter.

Shortbread, pre-baking

Shortbread, pre-baking

Caramel-covered shortbread

Caramel-covered shortbread

I’ve used the tin-boiling method for the caramel before, but it didn’t turn out quite right – too pale and gloopy. So I decided to simmer the tin for a good deal longer this time, and it seemed much better.

However, it still failed to set despite an overnight stay in the fridge, so I just decided to plough on and make the chocolate topping anyway, using some ‘extra special’ milk chocolate and a little bit of Milka chocolate, along with a knob of butter. I was a bit worried that I’d put too much butter in, as the resulting mixture seemed to be more like a ganache, but it did set overnight (phew!).

The final product was very nice indeed – everything tasted as it should. However, I’m still annoyed about the caramel not setting. As you can see in the first picture above, the caramel ended up dripping everywhere – not great when it’s on a beautiful cake stand filled with other perfect-looking goodies! If anyone can tell me what the secret is to the perfect set caramel, I’m all ears.

Yesterday’s afternoon tea went swimmingly – there were four kinds of sandwiches, two types of macarons, mini Bavarian slices and mini scones (which I knocked up at the last minute from this recipe) served with strawberry jam and clotted cream, as well as cava and lashings of tea, of course! We had to ‘get rid’ of some of the leftovers this afternoon as well, and now I’m all sugared out, but it was well worth it!

The recipe

Adapted from this River Cottage recipe for salt caramel shortbread in the Guardian – just omit the salt in the caramel and shortbread, and feel free to use salted butter instead of unsalted in the shortbread itself (which is what I did!).

First bake: lime and coconut biscuits

Lime and coconut biscuits

 

After finally using up all my mincemeat I was at a bit of a loss over what to bake next. I didn’t want to do anything too difficult or substantial, so I decided on this rather interesting recipe for lime and coconut biscuits that I found online a few months ago.

As you all know by now, I bloody love coconut. I also love lime, but usually only ever have it in cocktails! So I was quite intrigued by the combination of the two flavours.

The biscuits were very easy to make; I knocked them up on Sunday morning, having not had much sleep, and managed to not make any mistakes! (I know!) It was just a case of mixing everything together, topping with coconut, baking and icing.

Lime and coconut biscuit mix

Lime and coconut biscuit mix

I didn’t have any coconut shreds, whatever they may be, so I just topped the biscuits with extra dessicated coconut, making them look a bit like macaroons (not macarons). My icing was a bit on the watery side, but the lime flavour came through really strongly in spite of this.

Lime and coconut biscuitsThe biscuits tasted amazing – very coconutty and very, very limey. I think they could have done with longer in the oven than the recipe suggests, because they were quite big and weren’t quite as crunchy as I would have liked, so I would recommend leaving them in for around 10 minutes longer if yours come out large too.

The recipe

On Eggrecipes.co.uk here: http://www.eggrecipes.co.uk/recipes/view/lime-and-coconut-crunchy-biscuits

First bake: mincemeat and marzipan teabread

Mincemeat and marzipan teabread

 

I ended up baking three batches of mince pies with the mincemeat I made a few weeks ago, but still had lots left over! Which is a good job, as I’d been planning to bake this mincemeat and marzipan teabread for the office’s Christmas bake sale for a while.

I do like a good teabread, and this is no exception. It was really easy to throw together, although it did involve rubbing flour and butter together to make ‘breadcrumbs’, which always takes me ages!

Mincemeat and marzipan teabread mix

Mincemeat and marzipan teabread mix

The final mix, after adding all of the ingredients to the bowl, was fairly thick, and I had to push it right down into the corners of the tin to make sure it didn’t end up a funny shape like my spotted dog.

My teabread was done after the hour in the oven specified by the recipe, but my boyfriend made this a while ago and it took him far longer in his electric fan oven. Not sure why, as my oven’s a gas one so you would expect it to take longer in mine!

Mincemeat and marzipan teabread

 

The resulting teabread was delicious – not too dry, packed with fruity, boozy flavours and topped off with lovely moist bits where the marzipan cubes had melted during baking. I thought it seemed a bit flat considering there was self-raising flour in it, but looking at pictures on other blogs, this seems to be a normal size!

Mincemeat and marzipan teabread

 

The recipe recommends serving this in slices spread with butter. I didn’t get a chance to do this, but as it worked so well with the spotted dog, I would recommend doing the same if you ever make this particular teabread!

The recipe

From BBC Good Food 101 Cakes & Bakes and also available online here: http://theenglishkitchen.blogspot.co.uk/2009/11/mincemeat-and-marzipan-teabread.html

First bake: extra rich mince pies

Extra rich mince piesAs a Hindu, I don’t really ‘do’ Christmas – happily, there’s no need for me to stress out about presents and cooking a big family meal! I do, however, very much ‘do’ the delicious treats that come with the festive period – especially mince pies.

I’ve always had shop-bought mince pies, but decided that, this year at least, I would attempt to bake them myself for a change. Having never even made pastry before (I know, I know), this seemed like a pretty huge challenge! So, after looking at quite a few different recipes, I settled on one particular source that I knew wouldn’t fail me – Dan Lepard’s Short & Sweet.

There are a couple of mincemeat recipes in the book – a ‘proper’ suet-based one and another quicker one that’s suitable for vegetarians. I (obviously) opted for the latter, called dark rich mincemeat. The method involves whisking together brown sugar, lemon zest and juice, dark ale (I used Marston’s Oyster Stout) and grated Bramley apple before adding spices (I used cinnamon, ground cloves and mixed spice), raisins (I used sultanas), dried cherries, prunes, currants and more apple and leaving it to thicken on the hob. You then stir in a few tablespoons of brandy or rum (I used Captain Morgan’s Spiced) at the end.

Dark rich mincemeat ingredients

Dark ale + spiced rum + big pile of fruit =…

Dark rich mincemeat

…this!

I made the mincemeat on Friday night. Yesterday, I steeled myself for my first ever attempt at pastry. I used the extra rich mince pies recipe in Short & Sweet, as opposed to the standard sweet shortcrust pastry recipe, as I was rather intrigued by the idea of adding cream cheese (yes, really!), ground almonds and baking powder to the pastry. The addition of these ingredients makes for a sturdier, cakier crust than a normal mince pie might have.

The pastry-making went surprisingly well – I only had a near disaster when I realised I hadn’t cut out enough discs to go on top of the pies. Luckily, I had a small bit of pastry left over that I could just about roll out into the correct size! I think the dough could have been a bit smoother, but I had to grind some flaked almonds in a food processor, and they didn’t come out as fine as I’d have liked.

Extra rich mince pies

Filling the mince pies…

I initially followed the recipe by cutting out 10 and 8 cm discs, but as my tray was a little shallower than a standard muffin tray, I decided to switch to 9 and 7 cm discs after doing the first one. You can see the larger mince pie in the top left corner in the pic above. I was a little worried that I’d rolled the pastry out too thick, but it turned out to be just right what with using the smaller sized pastry discs.

Extra rich mince pies

Mince pies ready to go in the oven

Extra rich mince pies

The recipe required a hole to be cut into the lid of each pie, making them look a bit like pork pies, especially with the lack of fancy crimping around the edges. The holes help the steam escape from the middle during baking. I left them in the oven for the stated length of time – 25 minutes – but I probably should have checked on them earlier, as they came out a little browner than I’d hoped!

Extra rich mince pie

The browning didn’t matter, in the end. The pies were absolutely delicious; they did indeed feel very sturdy and the crust was pleasingly thick and a little cakey, due to the baking powder, I think. The filling was gorgeous – wonderfully rich, sweet and boozy. I had two warm from the oven and I nearly wept with joy at how lovely they were!

Extra rich mince pie

I’m very pleased with myself for making these, and for managing to make pastry for the first time! I would heartily recommend the recipes for both the mincemeat and pastry if you like the idea of a rustic-looking mince pie with a bit of heft (and aren’t at all bothered about calories…).

The recipe

Both the mincemeat and pastry recipes are from Short & Sweet by Dan Lepard. They’re also available online here (mincemeat) and here (pastry).