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The Floral Baker: Cakes, Pastries and Breads

 

Chorizo, saffron and Manchego muffins

makes 24 miniature muffins

350 g/12 oz/3 cups self-raising flour
teaspoon baking soda
teaspoon salt
50 g/2 oz/3 tablespoons diced chorizo
75 g/3 oz/ cup Manchego, grated
3 eggs
225 ml/8 fl oz/1 cup buttermilk
1/20 g/25 saffron threads, soaked in 1 tablespoon boiling water
5 tablespoons melted butter
or sunflower oil

Grease and flour a tray of 24 miniature muffin cups. Sift the dry ingredients together and then stir in the cheese and chorizo. Beat the eggs and the buttermilk and add them, together with the saffron infusion. Stir the wet and dry ingredients together quickly. Spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin tray or paper cases, and bake in a preheated oven at 200C/400F/gas mark 6 for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve hot or warm.

Copyright © Frances Bissell, 2007

 
 

Lavender chocolate whoopees

makes 8 to 12

50 g/2 oz/ cup caster sugar
1 tablespoon lavender sugar see below
2 large eggs,
beaten with
a couple of drops of lavender culinary essence
75 g/3 oz/ cup self-raising flour,
sifted with
1 to 2 tablespoons cocoa powder

Line or grease two baking sheets.

Whisk the sugars and egg until light and creamy. Carefully fold in the flour and cocoa mix.

Depending on the size of cake you want, place teaspoons or soupspoons of the mixture on the baking sheet well apart. Bake in a hot oven, 200C/400F/gas mark 6 for about 5 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool. When cold, sandwich with chocolate or lavender butter cream or flavoured whipped cream.

To make the lavender sugar:

When making lavender sugar, you need to choose lavender in full bloom and pick off each individual flower with a pair of tweezers for the purest colour. If you simply separate from the stalk the flowers enclosed in the sepals, you will get a greenish sugar.

Take freshly picked lavender and allow it to dry out for an hour or two. Then grind with preserving or granulated sugar. About 10 parts sugar to 1 part flowers is usually about right, but this needs to be tested, as the concentration of fragrant oils varies according to the amount of sun. Once you have ground the sugar, spread it out on greaseproof paper to dry further and, as it dries, break up the clumps which may have formed if the flowers were at all damp. I usually also add a couple of whole sprigs of lavender to the jar. Alternatively, simply layer sugar in a large jar with lavender heads. Over time some buds will detach themselves from the stalk and you will probably want to sift some of them out of the sugar before using.

Store the sugar in an airtight container in a dark, dry place. This is best used within a year. Much longer than that and the lavender flavour changes from floral and subtle to something spicy, almost akin to ginger. I have found this particularly noticeable when making lavender shortbread with year-old lavender sugar rather than freshly ground sugar.

Copyright © Frances Bissell, 2007

 
 

Orange flower crescents

makes about 18

200 g/7 oz/1 cups plain flour
175 g/6 oz/1 sticks unsalted butter
50 g/2 oz/ cup caster, plus extra see recipe
75 g/3 oz/ cup ground almonds
zest of 1 orange
1 tablespoon orange flower water

Line or grease two baking sheets.

Rub the flour and butter together, add the sugar, almonds, zest and orange flower water, kneading to a stiff paste. Roll out to about 1 cm/ inch thick and carefully transfer to baking sheets. Bake for 30 minutes at 150C/300F/gas mark 2. It is important not to let them brown. Transfer to wire racks to cool and while hot sprinkle with caster sugar.

The same method can be used for other floral scented crescents.

Copyright © Frances Bissell, 2007

 
 

Rose petal fancies

makes about 20 buns

150 g/6 oz/1 cups self-raising flour
150 g/6 oz/1 cup ground rice
100 g/4 oz/1 stick butter
100 g/4 oz/ cup caster sugar
2 egg yolks beaten with 1 tablespoon rosewater
a drop of rose essence
pink or red food colouring optional
rose petal jelly see below
1 egg white

Grease or line a baking sheet.

Sift the flour and ground rice and rub in the butter. Add the sugar and the egg, together with the rose essence and colouring, if using it. Mix well to a stiff paste. Divide into small balls and make a hollow in the middle of each. Spoon in a little rose petal jelly. Place on the baking sheet. Flatten slightly and brush with the reserved egg white. Bake at 200C/400F/gas mark 6 until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

To make the rose petal jelly:

makes three 250 g/8 oz jars

75 g/3 oz/1 cup rose flowers
600 ml/20 fl oz/2 cups water
juice of 2 lemons
teaspoon tartaric acid
450 g/16 oz/2 cups jam sugar (sugar with added pectin)

Put the fresh flowers in a saucepan. Pour on the boiling water to cover them, let it come back to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the flowers steep for several hours, or overnight if you wish.

Put a fine cloth, muslin or lawn, in a sieve and ladle in the liquid and flowers. Press down to extract as much liquid as possible, then discard the flowers. Pour the lemon juice through a sieve into a measuring jug, and add the rose water extract, bringing the liquid up to 500 ml/18 fl oz/2 cups. Pour the liquid and sugar into a heavy saucepan, stirring in the tartaric acid. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved, then bring to the boil and, once boiling, keep at a fierce boil for 4 minutes, by which time the mixture should 'jell'. Pour into hot jars, seal, label and store in a dark place, to keep the jelly nice and pale.

Copyright © Frances Bissell, 2007

 
 

Wild garlic flower and cream cheese tart

serves 4 to 6

300 g/10 oz plain short crust pastry
225 g/8 oz/1 1/3 cups cream cheese
50 g/2 oz/ cup crumbled or grated mild cheese see recipe
75 ml/3 fl oz/ 1/3 cup double cream
4 egg whites
about 2 dozen stems of wild garlic flowers

To prepare the flowers, separate the flower heads and chop the stems as you would for chives; both parts are used. Use a mild cheese such as Lancashire, young Cantal or Edam rather than Cheddar or Parmesan, which will overpower the subtle flavour of the wild garlic.

Grease and flour a 25 cm/10 inch tart tin.

Mix the cheeses and cream until soft and well-blended. Beat in two of the egg whites. Whisk the other two egg whites and fold into the creamed mixture, together with the wild garlic flowers and stems.

Spoon the cream into the pastry case, tap it hard on the worktop to settle the mixture and bake in a moderate oven, about 160C/325F/gas mark 3 for about 25 to 30 minutes, until the mixture has just set. It is important not to use a higher heat, as this will set the protein in the egg white much too firmly and cause the tarts to brown too much; they should remain pale and delicate in appearance.

Copyright © Frances Bissell, 2007

 
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