Basil Flower Shortbread

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Our basil is in flower at the moment, and it inspired me to call my Grandma and ask for her Aunt Maise’s shortbread recipe – she’s been promising it to me for a while.

I’d read a recipe for herb flower shortbread in Cooking With Flowers by Miche Bacher (such a beautiful book), and thought I would combine that idea with the Scottish classic.

The basil flowers add a subtle point of difference to the otherwise familiar biscuits. If you prefer, the flowers can be left out altogether or exchanged for other herb flowers like rosemary, oregano or lavender, depending on what you have in the garden.

I had my good headphones on for this bake and I must admit to grooving around the kitchen a whoooole lot while preparing and washing up. It was a Genesis and Led Zeppelin heavy shuffle.

I exercised both days this weekend (including a 36km bike ride this morning!) and I think that’s why I feel super energetic tonight.

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You’ll need

  • 225 unsalted butter, softened and chopped
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 1/2 cup rice flour, sifted
  • 2 1/2 cups plain flour, sifted
  • small pinch sea salt
  • 1-2 tbsp basil flowers
  • extra caster sugar for topping, if desired

Method

1. Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl.

2. Add butter to bowl and rub into dry ingredients using the tips of your fingers. This should take around 10 minutes and leave you with a well combined ball of dough, a bit like pastry.

3. Wrap the dough in cling wrap and refrigerate until firm, around 45 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, heat oven to 180ºC and grease a large oven sheet.

5. Cut chilled dough into two equal portions and roll out into rectangular lengths around 10cm wide.

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6. Cut into pieces around 2-3cm wide and place on the prepared tray. Prick biscuits with a fork and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until light golden.

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7. Sprinkle biscuits with the extra sugar and allow to cool.

Grandma used to make her shortbread for my Aunty and Uncle’s cafe and loves to tell the story of a chef who tried it and declared it the best he’d ever tasted.

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I realise that these photos aren’t the best, and I do apologise, but I think Grandma’s story should convince you to give this shortbread a try next time you’re after something easy for afternoon tea or lunches.

Have a great week!

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Choc Baileys Tarts

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I do apologise for the long delay between posts, I have been doing a bit of experimenting in the kitchen of late, as well as working hard at my new job!

My wonderful friends and I had a pool party yesterday and, as designated dessert maker, I adapted a recipe I’ve made a couple of times before.

I love chocolate tarts and they are a pretty regular fixture on my special occasion dessert list. I originally made this recipe as a large tart but have found it easier to serve and that the filling sets more quickly in individual tart form. The fact that they look super cute is just a bonus! The recipe is easily adapted to be gluten free by simply exchanging the flours for gluten free alternatives.

The tart case is a chewy, nutty adaptation of the base I use for my salted caramel slice, and goes beautifully with the rich chocolate-liquer filling. I topped each tart with a candied pecan, not the prettiest decoration, but they add a nice bit of extra crunch and nuttiness.These were a real hit and tasted great accompanied by some fresh berries and ice cream.

I always have music on at home,  especially when I’m baking. My soundtrack for recipe was Paul McCartney and Wings’ album Red Rose Speedway. I had to have a bit of fun with the sleeve, it fit too well.

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As Paul says, ‘Get On The Right Thing’ – give these tarts a go!

You will need:

Hazelnut tart cases:

  • 125g unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup (100g) hazelnut meal
  • 1/4 cup self raising flour, sifted
  • 3/4 cup plain flour
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

Choc-Baileys filling:

  • 200g good quality dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 300ml thickened cream
  • 2 tbsp Baileys Irish Cream Liquer

Candied pecans (if desired- plain pecans or hazelnuts will also work on top!):

  • 1/4 cup pecans
  • 1/4 cup caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180ºC and line a 12 hole muffin tin with rectangular strips of baking paper, with one end sticking over the edge of the cup (this means the cups stay well-shaped- no paper folds sticking in, and are easy to remove).

2. Mix butter, hazelnut meal, flours, brown sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl until well combined.

3. Press balls of mixture into prepared tin, making the base reasonably thick and pressing up the sides, trying to keep the sides even and not too bulky- you need room for the filling after all!

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4. Bake for around 15 minutes or until nicely browned. They should have puffed up a little bit in the centre at this point, and I use the back of a rounded measuring spoon to gently press the sides of the still-hot cases and make a nice rounded bowl for the chocolate filling to come. Let cool completely before filling.

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5. I made the candied pecans while my tart cases were cooling. If you would like some to top your tarts (or just to eat on their own), simply stir the sugar, water and vanilla in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until the sugar is dissolved.

Add the nuts and stir until the mixture starts to turn golden and bubble, keep stirring for a couple of minutes to make sure they are all well coated and then carefully turn out onto a piece of baking paper to cool.

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6. Add chocolate, cream, vanilla and Baileys to a medium mixing bowl and stir over a pot of simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl is not touching the surface. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth and well combined.

7. Pour mixture into cups until full, I created some cool marbling on a couple of the tarts by using a little measuring cup with a pouring lip with a little bit of cream coating the sides. Will definitely do it to all of them next time, test out my rusty barista skills.

8. Place tarts in the fridge until set and top with candied pecans to serve. So good!

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Some becma bakes fans:

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Jackie couldn’t wait to dig in…
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Two thumbs up from noted food critic Keira.

Salted Caramel Slice!

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You might have already noticed my fondness for salted caramel goodies.

It began in 2011 at an amazing chocolate shop in Camden Passage, London called Paul A. Young Fine Chocolates. Their sea salted caramel was a revelation and I have been a devotee ever since.

That devotion means salted caramel appears in my kitchen on a pretty regular basis; this incarnation is a twist on a well loved classic and is definitely one of my favourites.

I love it so much that I usually give most of it away so I don’t indulge too much!

You will need:

Base

  • 1/2 cup plain flour
  • 1/2 cup self raising flour
  • 1 cup tightly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup dessicated coconut
  • 120g butter, melted

Salted Caramel filling 

  • 1 tin sweetened condensed milk
  • 30g butter
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • about 2 tsp sea salt flakes

DSC_0212Chocolate 

  • 180g dark eating chocolate (I used Cadbury Old Gold)
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil

Method 

1. Preheat oven to 180C and grease and line a 20x30cm slice tin.

2. Stir the sifted flours, coconut, sugar and butter in a bowl until combined.

3. Press base mixture into prepared tin and place in the oven for 15 minutes or until slightly browned.DSC_0203

4. Meanwhile, heat condensed milk, golden syrup, 30g butter and 1tsp salt flakes in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir continuously for about 15 minutes or until golden. Let cool for 2 minutes and then carefully taste the still hot mixture, adding the rest of the salt if desired.

5. Spread salted caramel over base, sprinkling with more sea salt flakes if desired, and return to oven for 10 minutes.

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6. Remove slice from oven and cool.

7. Stir chocolate pieces and oil in a small saucepan over low heat until melted, then pour over cooled slice, smoothing with a spoon if necessary.

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8. Refrigerate slice for 3 hours or chocolate has hardened.

9. Cut into around 30 pieces with a hot knife.

I sometimes top the slice with additional salt flakes, like Himalayan pink salt, to finish the look. I didn’t this time because I had added salt between the chocolate and caramel layers, and because it wouldn’t have stayed on top for the journey in for morning tea at work.

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This recipe yields a nice big batch that will have you firmly in the good books with friends and family. Plus, the satisfaction of eating something this mindbogglingly delicious is always amplified when you’ve made it yourself.

Have a great week and happy baking!

Passionfruit Melting Moments

passionnnnnI’m a sucker for a good biscuit.

The passionfruit vine on our fence is going crazy at the moment (it isn’t even planted in our backyard, thank you neighbours!), so I’ve been incorporating the flavour into lots of my baking.

The tangy passionfruit flavour goes really nicely with the crumbly, buttery biscuits. Perfect with a cup of tea or as a late night treat.

I made the biscuits purple to evoke the contrast of the passionfruit shell with the yellow pulp. I probably didn’t achieve the perfect colour but I still think they look pretty. So, food colouring  is totally optional here.

You will need:

Biscuits

  • 250g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • red and blue food colouring, if desired
  • pinch of sea salt flakes
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 1/2 cups plain flour, sifted
  • 1/2 cornflour, sifted

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Passionfruit butter cream

  • 90g unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 tbsp passionfruit juice, seeds removed

Method

1. Preheat oven to 160ºC and line two oven trays with baking paper.

2. Beat butter, vanilla, salt and icing sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add food colouring if desired, and stir to achieve a light purple mixture.

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I love my Kenwood Chef!

3. Add flours in two batches, stirring between additons.

4. Using lightly floured hands, roll generous teaspoons of mixture into balls and place on prepared trays, leaving 2cm spaces between each of the biscuits. Flatten slightly with a lightly floured fork.

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5. Bake for about 15-20 minutes and stand on trays to cool.

6. Meanwhile, make the butter cream. Beat butter and icing sugar (does anyone else hate sifting opened icing sugar as much as I do!?) until light and fluffy. Stir in passionfruit juice until combined.

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7. Sandwich biscuits with about a teaspoon of the butter cream. Mmm mm!

Makes about 20 filled biscuits.

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Little Lemon Cheesecakes

I love these little cold set cheesecakes for their ease and light but indulgent taste. They are simple to make and look great set out at a party or dinner- plus, you won’t need to fire up the oven.

I was first inspired to make them as a canvas for the gorgeous salade de fleurs I found at The Essential Ingredient, and have varied the topping to include fresh violets, candied flowers and lemon rind.They look lovely with berries, too- basically you want to pair them with something colourful and tasty!

My most recent batch were for New Years Eve, and I was rushing to leave (typical Becma) so I didn’t get a chance to get any photos of the process, but it’s fairly simply to follow.

Ingredients 

Base 

  • 200g digestive biscuits
  • 100g unsalted butter, melted.
  • 1 tbsp lemon rind, finely grated

Filling

  • 300ml single cream
  • Philadelphia cream cheese
  • 250g icing sugar, sifted
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp lemon rind, finely grated

Decoration 

I suggest: Salade de fleurs, fresh violets, candied flowers, lemon rind and fresh berries.

Method 

1. Line a 12 hole muffin tray using squares of baking paper (or paper cupcake cases, if you’re in a hurry).

2. Break up the biscuits using a rolling pin or food processor until you have mostly fine crumbs (I like a few bigger bits for texture). Add the butter and rind and stir or process until well combined.

3. Place about 2 tablespoons of base mixture into each of the lined spots and press down. You want nice thick bases for your cheesecakes, so use a bit more mixture if you have leftovers, just make sure you don’t go above the halfway point. Place in the freezer for 30 minutes or until firm.

4. Beat the cream in a large bowl with an electric mixer until it nearly holds its shape but not quite, then beat in softened cream cheese until smooth.

5. Add juice and rind and begin beating on a medium speed, gradually adding icing sugar until the mixture is smooth and mostly free of lumps.

6. Spoon mixture on top of the prepared bases (still in tray) and place in the freezer for at least two hours. Remove baking paper from frozen cheesecakes and move to fridge shortly before serving. Decorate with whatever you have chosen and serve with berries, if desired.

Yum!

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(Gluten Free!) Nutella Cake

DSC_0108   Nutella!That delicious nutty chocolate spread that more than a few of us have surreptitiously eaten straight from the jar. I came across this recipe when I was looking for something to take to dinner at my Uncle & Aunty’s places. Nigella is rightfully called a domestic goddess- lots of my favourite cakes are hers. The effort vs pay off for this cake is crazy, it’s easy and tastes amazing. I made it for my best friend Jackie’s 24th birthday dinner a couple of weekends ago and it was delicious, even her Mum, who isn’t a Nutella fan, enjoyed it (we were sneaky and didn’t tell her exactly what type of cake it was). You’ll need: DSC_0073 Cake

  • 400g jar of Nutella
  • 100g dark chocolate, melted
  • 100g hazelnut meal
  • 6 large eggs, separated (do this with cold eggs, over a separate bowl to avoid yolk/white contamination- mine were room temperature and I tempted fate separating them over the main bowl)
  • 125g soft unsalted butter
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon Frangelico

Icing 

  • 100g hazelnuts
  • 125g double cream
  • 1 tablespoon frangelico
  • 125g dark chocolate, chopped

Method:  1. Preheat oven to 180ºC 2. Whisk egg whites and salt in a large bowl until soft peaks form. In another bowl, beat the butter and nutella together (this takes some elbow grease, so make sure your butter isn’t too cold), then mix in the the egg yolks and hazelnut meal and finally the Frangelico. 3. Add the cooled melted chocolate and fold through, before adding a dollop of egg white and mixing until combined. Fold in the rest of the egg white mixture gently, a third at a time. DSC_0089 4. Pour the mixture into a  greased and lined 23cm round springform tin and cook for about 40 minutes or until risen slightly and beginning to come away from the sides of the tin. Cool on a rack, leaving in the tin. 5. Toast the hazelnuts in a dry frying pan over medium-high heat until golden brown. Make sure you keep shaking the pan to achieve an even colour and avoid burning one side. If there are still skins on your hazelnuts after toasting, place them, still warm, onto a slightly damp tablecloth fold, rubbing until the skins come away (this can take a number of minutes,  especially depending on how finicky you are about getting all the skin off). Cool on a plate. DSC_0102 6. To make the ganache icing, place the double cream, frangelico and chocolate into a saucepan. Heat gently until the chocolate has melted, then remove from the heat. Whisk mixture until it has thickened enough to ice the top of the cake (again, this takes some time). 7.  Carefully remove the sides of the tin, leaving the cake on the base. Ice generously with your chocolate icing and cover with the cooled whole hazelnuts. I added some food safe gold shimmer to mine as it was a special occasion, but the cake looks great as Nigella created it. The picture of Jackie’s cake shows what happens when your egg whites have some yolk in them- they still went stiff but the consistency was a bit off- hence the slightly sunken look.

The end cake should serve at least 6-8 people, it’s very rich and dense, so each person only needs a sliver!

Let me know how you go with it 🙂

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The birthday cake sunk a bit because I had trouble with the egg white/yolk separation. For some reason I’d thought that starting to make it at 12am was realistic.
The first cake rose as it should because the whites were yolk-free.
But the first version rose as it should have!