Lavender Chocolate Shortbread

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Yep, I have a thing for shortbread. Salted caramel is my main love, but I keep coming back to these little buttery, crumbly, not-too-sweet bundles.

This recipe is adapted from one of my earlier posts for Basil Flower Shortbread, and works on the same principle- working an unexpected flavour into a familiar base.

You can incorporate as much or as little (or indeed, none) of the floral element as you like, by adding or omitting the Lavender oil and flowers. I bought my Lavender oil from my local chemist, it’s not too expensive and is also really nice to add to caramels.

You can use either fresh lavender gathered from a garden that you know is pesticide free, or use the dried culinary version. Mine came from the dangerous store that is The Essential Ingredient.

The floral flavour is subtle and unexpected, which brought most of my taste testers back for a second helping and a “what is that interesting flavour?”. The best thing is, too, that the recipe makes 40-50 biscuits, so you can enjoy them in a big group or out of a jar with tea and a book at home.

Speaking of books, The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly and its sequels are the reason this post comes so long after the last one. It’s the fourth or fifth time I’ve read them and they are so amazing that they make me blind to all other pursuits!

I’d love to hear your feedback on this recipe if you decide to give it a try! Thanks for reading becma bakes.
You’ll need:DSC_0408

  • 2 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 1/2 cup rice flour
  • 3 tbsp cocoa
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp dried or fresh lavender
  • Drop of lavender oil
  • 240g unsalted butter, chopped and softened
  • 100g dark chocolate, chopped

Method:

1. Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl and stir to combine.

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2. Add butter and rub in with the tips of your fingers until mixture is combined and has a crumbly texture.

4. Add lavender elements and chocolate and mix into your shortbread base with a spoon or your fingers; whichever you find more easy.

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4. Press mixture into a firm ball shape and wrap in cling wrap and place in the fridge for 15 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, heat oven to 180ºC and grease two large oven sheets.

6. Roll out your dough on a lightly floured surface and use a cookie cutter of your choice (in size & shape) to cut out your biscuits. Roll out and repeat until you’ve used as much of the dough as is practical. Check out the below picture- you really do get a good number for the work!

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7. Bake for 20-25 minutes- they won’t go too brown and will firm up more as they cool, so be aware of the smells coming out of the oven to help you judge when they’re ready!

8. Cool on the trays and store in an airtight container. Enjoy at any time of the day- they are especially tasty with a cup of tea or coffee.

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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.

red rose chocolate tart

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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Salted Caramel Shortbread

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This (less than pretty) batch were a request from my bestie “I love that you bake stuff all the time. Constant supply for Jackie!”

These delicious biscuits have been a crowd pleaser every time I’ve made them, and if you give them a go you’ll soon know why 🙂

Buttery, melt in your mouth shortbread sandwiched with a layer of salty-sweet caramel and dipped in dark chocolate. Amazing. (my own description just made my mouth water so much that I had to stop writing to go and grab the last one from the fridge)

The process is reasonably easy but quite time consuming because of cooling and refrigeration a couple of stages of ‘construction’. For this reason the original recipe from The Women’s Weekly requires shop bought shortbread rounds- I think it’s worth spending the time to make your own, though, as the home made shortbread is what really makes these biscuits special.

I find a good way of managing my time with this recipe is to make your biscuits and caramel the night or morning before you need the biscuits, and then come back the next or later in the day to fill, chill and dip them.

Makes about 18 biscuits

 You’ll need:

For the shortbread rounds

  • 250g butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup (75g) caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 2 cups (300g) plain flour, sifted
  • 1/2 cup (90g) rice flour, sifted

For the salted caramel filling-

  • 1/2 cup (110g) firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 60g butter, chopped
  • 1/2-1 tsp sea salt flakes, to taste
  • 2 tsp water
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cornflour
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) milk, mixed with above cornflour
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the chocolate dip-

  • 185g dark eating chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil

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Method:

1. Preheat oven to 160 C and grease and flour two oven trays.

2. Beat (soft, not melted!) butter and caster sugar with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Stir in the water and flours in two batches.

3. Turn the mixture out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Roll into tablespoon sized balls and flatten slightly with a lightly floured fork.

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4. Bake about 40 minutes or until just beginning to turn golden brown around the edges.

5. Meanwhile, make your salted caramel filling. Place the sugar, chopped butter, water and half your sea salt into a small saucepan and heat until the sugar is dissolved. Add milk mixture and stir until it boils and thickens. Remove from the heat and whisk in egg yolk and vanilla. Allow to cool for ten minutes before tasting, and add more salt flakes to taste, if required.

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6. Place in a bowl and cover with clingwrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Remove cooked biscuits from oven and cool on trays.

***TAKE A BREAK***

7. Spread caramel over half of your cooled shortbread and sandwich with remaining biscuits (I try to size/shape match my pairs before putting them together). Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour (I do this on a cooled tray).

8. Melt chocolate in a small bowl over a saucepan of boiling water (without the water touching the underside of the bowl) OR if you’re game, in the microwave in short bursts at medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in oil.

9. Dip one side of the cold cookies into the melted chocolate and stand on baking paper, at room temperature, until set. When set, feel free to pop them in the fridge, they taste super good either temperature.

So! As you can see this one is a bit of a lengthy process. I promise you it’s worth it, and you can easily work the different stages around the rest of your day (I went to the gym and then came home and dipped them in the chocolate. Dangerous. Tasty).

These are great at a party or to take as a sweet treat to a friend’s place. Have fun!

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Yummmm

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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!