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“Now she went blossoming over her blood, and her blood went rushing deep beneath her.” – Rainer Maria Rilke, from The Book of Images, “The Saint” (translated by Edward Snow). These bars came about after I had an overflow of near-spoiled plums last week. I originally wasn’t going to post them. Sometimes there are things that I want to save all for myself. Not out of selfishness or indulgence, but rather, when you bake professionally, often, and for others, it’s good to keep something solely for you and your own sacred desire once in a while. I don’t do it enough. I wonder what it tastes like. These Black Plum and Rye Crumb Bars were too good not to share. They’re nutty, golden and crisp, with the most delicious sugared-jammy plum filled interior. There’s wholesome rye in the bars as well, which acts as an ideal flavour foil for all the rich fruit, spirited filling, and buttery tones going-on within. They’re the perfect thing for using up a glut of just-turned stone fruits too. I’ve made them before with white peaches and nectarines, once with apricots, and I can imagine mid to late summer berries would also make for a wonderful, bursting rendition.   NOTES – These bars are easily customisable according to what’s in season. Stone fruits such as apricots, nectarines and peaches always are wonderful, so too are berries, such as blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, or strawberries. You could even use a combination of fruit, depending what you have on hand. But just remember to keep the weight the same and adjust the sugar to the fruit accordingly. – The sugar amount required for the filling should be altered according to the natural sweetness of the fruit you’re planning to use. I’ve left it here in a mid-range of 75 grams. If you’re fruit is tarter, you may need to increase the amount of sugar required by a few tablespoons. The same goes for fruit that is more sweet or ripe, simply decrease the amount of sugar required as needed. –  I use rye flakes in the crumb. I prefer them to rolled oats simply because I adore the robustness, but you could use either. It goes hand-in-hand with the rye flour in the crust too. If you don’t have rye flour, you could use regular all-purpose or wholemeal in its place. I’ve even used spelt flour before with great results. I do recommend using the rye and sourcing the flakes though, it has a flavour like nothing else. –  I use pecans in the crumb but feel free to use another nut of choice or omit them entirely. I love to use flaked almonds or hazelnuts. BLACK PLUM AND RYE CRUMB BARS For the crust: 200 grams unsalted butter, cubed 210 grams all-purpose flour 50 grams rye flour 80 grams granulated sugar ½ teaspoon salt Pre-heat the oven to 180 Celsius (350 Fahrenheit). Grease and line a 20-cm (8-inch) square baking pan with non-stick parchment paper. Let the paper slightly overhang the sides. Place the butter into a medium-size saucepan set over medium-low heat. Heat, stirring often, until it is golden and melted. Turn off the heat and leave to cool slightly. Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, rye flour, sugar, and salt. Pour in the melted butter and use a large wooden spoon to work the mixture together until a soft dough ball has formed. Use your fingers to press this dough into the base of the prepared pan, making sure to press it into an even layer and all the way to the edges. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until just firm and beginning to turn golden brown. Set aside to cool. For the filling: 650 grams dark plums, from about 5 plums, roughly chopped 75 grams granulated sugar 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg ¼ teaspoon salt Zest from ½ small orange 50 milliliters brandy or freshly squeezed orange juice A few drops of angostura bitters Seeds from 1 vanilla bean pod or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean extract Place the plums into a large-size mixing bowl. Scatter over the sugar, flour, nutmeg, and salt, then sprinkle over the orange zest. Use your fingers to toss the ingredients together until incorporated. Add in the brandy or orange juice, angostura bitters, and vanilla. Use a large wooden spoon to stir the mixture together until evenly incorporated and moistened. Set the bowl aside whilst you prepare the crumb. For the crumb: 70 grams all-purpose flour 30 grams rye flour 40 grams rye flakes 30 grams granulated sugar ¼ teaspoon baking powder ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg ½ teaspoon salt 75 grams cold butter, cubed 50 grams pecans, chopped Combine the flour, rye flour, rye flakes, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt in a medium-size mixing bowl. Add in the cold butter and use your fingers to rub it into the dry ingredients until a roughly-sized crumb has begun to form. Add in the pecans and toss until combined. Set the bowl aside until needed. For finishing: A few tablespoons of powdered sugar Evenly spread the plum mixture over the cooled crust then scatter the crumb roughly over the top. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely. Once cool, carefully lift the bars out from the baking pan. Use a sharp knife to cut them into nine or twelve evenly sized pieces then sift over the powdered sugar before serving.

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“Even your sweetness is a storm.” – Eugenio Montale, an excerpt from Dora Markus (translated by Roberta L. Payne). I’ve found myself gravitating towards cool, dulcet, and creamy tones these past few months. More often than not, for reasons I don’t understand. But what I do know is, that when the weather begins to deepen and darken, I find myself hungering for cold things to match the cold outside. There’s something about mirroring the strength of the season outside, inside. Forget ice cream in summer, ice cream in winter is where it’s at. I’ve been making this Burnt Sugar Ice Cream for years and I’ve never tired of it. It’s one of the simplest recipes I know, but with a flavor pay-off that far exceeds its ease-filled nature. The burnt sugared undertones are well-bodied and deep, rich, but not so rich to the point of overwhelming. It’s ultra-creamy too, due to the higher ratio of cream to milk and the sextuple egg yolks within. A mouthful is pure, sweet, dissolution. An update since I last posted too. You can now find regular monthly installments in a column I’m writing for the ABC. It’s a baking column, inspired by the seasons, and I’m so happy to have another creative outlet to share with you all. Last month there were Chai Chocolate Chunk Cookies, this month, there’ll be another sweet recipe to look out for. You can follow along here, and I’ll make sure to update on social media as we go along. NOTES – You’ll need an ice cream machine to make this recipe. Make sure to freeze the churner bowl for at least 24 hours before use, and ensure that the custard base is completely cold before churning too. I prefer to make the custard in the afternoon and let it chill overnight before churning the next morning. – The custard stage needs careful multi-tasking and timing. While you’re burning off the sugar, you’ll need to slowly heat the dairy over the stove and have the egg yolks whisked and ready for tempering. But don’t be discouraged! It’s not a complicated process but it does require some care and attention. I find that adjusting the stove heat as necessary allows for everything to be timed correctly. Also, have your ingredients weighed and equipment set out before hand to allow for a more streamlined process and make sure you’re familiar with each step in the recipe. – Be careful not to over-heat the custard. It’s ready when the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and a sole bubble rises to the surface in the middle of the pot. If you’re not sure, I always think it’s better to under-heat than to over-heat and run the risk of it curdling. – I’ve left the salt here at ½ a teaspoon but I’ve also increased it to 1 ½ teaspoons in the past, which creates a slightly salted burnt sugar ice cream, similar in profile to salted caramel. Either rendition is heavenly, I’ll leave it up to you. BURNT SUGAR ICE CREAM 480 milliliters heavy cream 460 milliliters whole milk Seeds from 1 vanilla bean pod or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste 250 grams granulated sugar, divided 50 milliliters water 6 large egg yolks ½ teaspoon sea salt Put the cream, milk, and vanilla bean seeds into a large-size saucepan set over low heat and whisk to combine. Let this mixture come to a very slow simmer, making sure to keep an eye on it, whilst you burn the sugar and whisk the egg yolks (steps follow). Do not allow it to come to a boil. Whilst the cream is heating, place 200 grams of the sugar and the water in a medium-size saucepan set over medium heat and stir to combine. Heat the mixture, swirling the pan occasionally but not stirring, until it has turned a deep and dark amber color, about 7 to 8 minutes or 350 Fahrenheit (175 Celsius) on a candy thermometer.Watch this step carefully. The sugar will color slow at first, but will rapidly increase closer to the end.   Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg yolks and remaining 50 grams of sugar together until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Once the sugar has reached the desired temperature and color, pour it into the hot cream mixture over the stove. Be careful here! The mixture will sputter and rise as it’s added but will subside as it continues to cook. Whisk until well combined. It may seem difficult to come together at first, but it will. The hot cream will break down any firm sugared particles. Ladle a little of this cream mixture into the bowl with the whisked egg yolks. Whisk vigorously to combine so that the eggs are acclimatized to the heat. Pour all of the mixture back into the saucepan set on the stove. Continue to cook, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula and making sure to concentrate stirring around the edges of the pan, until it is thick enough to coat the back of it. Remove from the heat and stir in the salt. Immediately strain the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a large-size mixing bowl and cover the surface of it with a layer of plastic wrap. Set it in the refrigerator to chill overnight until completely cold. The next morning, remove the bowl from the refrigerator. Churn the custard according to the instructions of your ice cream machine. Once churned, the ice cream should be very thick, aerated, and doubled in size. Scrape the ice cream into a container or loaf pan, and seal or cover it with a layer of aluminum foil. Freeze for at least five hours before serving.
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“Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world goes on.” – Mary Oliver,  from ‘Wild Geese.’ I won’t say much here, rather, what I will say, is I know these are the ones you’ve been waiting on. Rich with dark chocolate, ultra-fudgy to the point of near molten, intense with undertones of espresso, thickly frosted, and slightly salted. I’ve made countless batches of these brownies within the last few weeks, more than I care to admit. They’re that good. And I wanted them to be perfect before I shared them with you all. Also, one of the pictures below is shot on my iPhone. Please don’t hold it against me, I loved the way the light reflected across the shiny-crackled crust. Make sure to keep an eye out on this space within the next few weeks too, there’s something more to come. NOTES
  • This recipe heats the butter and sugar over the stove until the mixture is dissolved and glossy. This is one of, not all of, the key elements to ensure a perfectly shiny-crackled crust. If you have a candy thermometer, make sure to use it here. The mixture is at the right temperature when it registers at 50 Celsius.
  • I always say this, but it’s true. The chocolate is the star, so, make sure to use a kind that you wouldn’t just bake with, but that you would eat. I use Callebaut callets for my chocolate chips, which consist of about 70% cocoa solids. You could use a chocolate that’s a little lighter in percentage, but, please do not use milk chocolate here. Make sure to use chocolate chips too, not chunks from a block. From experience, I’ve found that chips, when folded into the batter and spread with a palette knife into the pan, help to produce that shiny crust.
  • Make sure to use Dutch processed cocoa powder, not natural or Bournville cocoa powder. Dutch processed cocoa powder is alkalized, meaning, that it is much darker, smoother, and flavourally more intense than the other forms of cocoa.
  • I personally love the depth that the espresso brings to these brownies but I understand that some people don’t or can’t have it. In that case, feel free to omit the amounts of espresso powder specified within the ingredients.
SALTED ESPRESSO FUDGE BROWNIES For the brownies: 85 g all-purpose flour 1 tsp espresso powder ½ tsp baking powder ½ tsp salt 175 g unsalted butter, cubed 300 g granulated sugar 3 large eggs 75 g dutch processed cocoa powder 1 tbsp vanilla bean extract 200 g dark chocolate chips Pre-heat the oven to 180 Celsius. Grease and line a 20-cm square baking pan with non-stick parchment paper. Let the paper slightly overhang the sides. Whisk together the flour, espresso powder, baking powder and salt. Set aside. Put the butter and sugar into a medium-sized saucepan. Heat, over medium-low and whisking often, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture shiny and smooth. Do not allow it to bubble or foam. If you have a candy thermometer, you can tell it is ready when it registers at 50 Celsius. Whilst the butter mixture is melting over the stove, whisk the eggs, cocoa and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until it is glossy and flows like lava, about 2 minutes. Set the mixer speed on medium and slowly stream in the melted butter mixture. Whisk until evenly combined. Pause mixing and sift over the dry ingredients. Again, whisk until just combined. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer. Use a large wooden spoon or rubber spatula to fold in the chocolate chips until evenly incorporated throughout the batter. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan and use an offset palette knife to smooth out the top. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the brownie is firm around the edges and just set in the middle. A wooden skewer inserted into the middle should not come out clean but with a few moist crumbs attached. Remove from the oven and allow the brownie to cool completely in its pan. Once cool, coat the top of the brownie with the salted espresso frosting before sprinkling with salt and serving. For the frosting: 120 g dark chocolate, finely chopped 200 g unsalted butter, at room temperature 400 g confectioners’ sugar 100 ml heavy cream 50 g dutch processed cocoa powder 2 tsp espresso powder 1 tsp vanilla bean extract Flaked salt or fleur de sel, for finishing  First, melt down the chocolate. Place the chocolate into a medium-sized heat-proof bowl set over a saucepan filled with a few inches of barely simmering water. Do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water below. Heat, over medium-low and stirring often, until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the beater attachment, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Set the mixer speed to medium-low and slowly stream in the melted chocolate. Return the speed back to medium and beat until well combined, a further 2 minutes. Beat in the cream, cocoa, espresso, and vanilla until incorporated. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and beat for a further minute, or until the frosting is lightened in colour, smooth, and aerated. When you’re ready to frost the cooled brownies, use an offset palette knife or the back of a metal spoon to thickly spread the frosting over the top of the brownie. At this point, I like to chill the brownie for about half an hour to slightly set the top so it’s easier to cut, but, you could serve the brownies straight away. Make sure to sprinkle over a little pinch of flaked salt or fleur de sel, right before serving.

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‘I, myself, concentrated so much on my sixth sense that I developed this vision which sees beyond facts, the better to find sensations and divinations. It is possible I never learned the names of birds in order to discover the bird of peace, the bird of paradise, the bird of the soul, the bird of desire. It is possible I avoided learning the names of composes and their music the better to close my eyes and listen to the mystery of all music as an ocean. It may be I have not learned dates in history in order to reach the essence of timelessness. It may be I never learned geography the better to map my own routes and discover my own lands. The unknown was my compass. The unknown was my encyclopedia. The unnamed was my science and progress.’ – Anaïs Nin, an excerpt from The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Volume 4: 1944-1947. After a little time away, I’m back. And with cake in hand. Not just any cake, rather, a Citrus Rose Battenberg Cake, in collaboration with and inspired by Foxtel’s Lifestyle’s show, The Great Australian Bake Off. With its thick layer of floral infused marzipan, alternating layers of pastel rose-hued almond sponge, double citrus sponge, and raspberry preserves, it’s heaven. If you’ve been around this space for a while, you’d know that I began baking as an amateur. And through the evolution of the blog, some of it good, some of it not so good, but all of it growth, I emerged as a baker. Not a cook, definitely not a chef, but a baker. It took time, patience, tests, and trails. And there were many failures, stumbles, and missteps along the way. All of which I had to own. But we got there. And through owning it, came growth. To the point where the act of baking is as natural as breathing. Never a thought, not even conscious action, rather something that’s engrained within the very fibres of being. For me, as a baker, the act of baking is far more than just the end result itself. And I think that’s something we all share in common. Baking as connection. Baking as emotion. A slice of cake that conveys a deeply personal form of expression, of journey, and of life. It’s something that I see often, both within myself, and others. You don’t just have to be a baker to have it. It’s in all of us. I think that’s why we love The Great Australian Bake Off so much. It’s a reflection of experience, growth, and journey. Of story. Coming together in a common love. And sharing in that. Starting off as an amateur meant there was a great deal of learning that had to be done. And for me, part of that was reading, watching, and following the actions of others. Learning techniques through success and failure, like the softness of sponge, the breath of yeasted dough, and the perfect moment to take a chocolate chip cookie out the oven. Things that couldn’t be taught, but that had to be done. The Great Australian Bake Off was one of those things that helped me. I’d watch, learn, become inspired, and challenge myself in the same way the contestants were challenged. And then share in it all at the end. I think that’s what baking is all about in the end. Connection. And sharing a slice of sweetness along the way. Through this Citrus Rose Battenberg Cake, as inspired by the final episode of The Great Australian Bake Off, I encourage you all to share in it with me. Prior to this, I hadn’t made a Battenberg before. Not for any good reason, I’d always wanted to. And after watching, learning, discovering, and becoming inspired, I had to create one too. It’s a cake that’s far from the usual. Made with alternating layers of bright, floral, and delicate sponge, in addition to a slathering of preserves and sweet marzipan, it’s perfect. A cake that’s full of vibrancy and life. And one that’s perfect for the season. I think we all need a little of that. NOTES – As Maggie Beer said, the sponge cake has to be soft and light. I find that sifting the flour three or four times beforehand helps the aeration within the cake which results in a perfectly light texture. Also, make sure that your eggs are at room temperature. For me, this means leaving them out on the counter a few hours prior to baking. And finally, make sure all your ingredients are measured and laid out beforehand, which allows for a smoother process and less chance of mistake. – In this cake, I used the end of season’s tart raspberry preserves that I had from last Summer. You could use any jam or preserve that you desire. Anything berry, in particular, strawberry, is a favourite. I could also imagine that a really thick and sweet citrus curd would be beautiful too. – The marzipan in this recipe is made from scratch. I wouldn’t recommend using store-bought marzipan. I personally think that home-made marzipan is so much more flavorsome, delicate, and delicious, not to mention easier to work with. Plus, it’s simple too.  I hadn’t made marzipan all that many times before, but, after watching the show, it seemed a much more streamline and quick process than I had thought. If marzipan isn’t for you, you could also cover the cake in a thick layer of buttercream. – You could decorate the cake however you desire. I loved how the contestants decorated their Battenberg cakes on the show. I’ve done it up once before with fresh raspberries over the top, but I’ve also left it plain, simple, and unadulterated. The choice is yours. – For more tips, I would recommend watching the new season of The Great Australian Bake Off in particular, the final episode, which features the Battenberg challenge. CITRUS ROSE BATTENBERG CAKE For the marzipan: 250 g almond meal 185 g granulated sugar 125 g confectioners’ sugar 1 large egg 2 tsp rosewater Pink food coloring, optional First, make the marzipan. Place the almond, granulated sugar and confectioners’ sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the beater attachment. Add the egg, rosewater and a few drops of food coloring (if using) and beat on medium-low speed until a soft, smooth and kneadable dough ball has formed around the base of the blade. Remove from the stand mixer and cover the dough in a layer of plastic wrap. Chill until needed. For the cake: 4 large eggs, at room temperature 210 g granulated sugar 170 g all-purpose flour 45 g almond meal ½ tsp salt 60 ml whole milk 1 tsp vanilla bean extract 170 g unsalted butter, melted Zest from 1 small lemon 1 tsp rosewater A few drops of pink food coloring Next, make the sponge cakes. Pre-heat the oven to 180 Celsius. Grease and line two 22 x 13 cm loaf pans with non-stick parchment paper.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk together the eggs and sugar on medium speed until pale, fluffy and doubled in volume, about 6 minutes. The mixture is ready when it is at ‘ribbon stage’, meaning that when the whisk is lifted it should flow like lava and hold a trail before collapsing back onto itself.  Meanwhile, in a separate medium-size bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, almond meal and salt. Whisk the milk and vanilla bean extract into the egg mixture until well combined. Stop mixing and remove the bowl from the stand mixer. Use a fine mesh sieve to sift over the dry ingredients then gently fold  using a large rubber spatula until almost combined. Some dry floury pockets should remain. Pour in the melted butter and again gently fold until just incorporated. Divide the batter between two small bowls. In one, fold in the lemon zest and in the other, the rosewater and pink food coloring. Pour each mixture into a prepared loaf pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the sponge springs back when gently pressed and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow the cakes to cool in their pans for 10 minutes, then, transfer them out and onto a wire rack to cool completely before using a large serrated knife to level off any domed tops and brushing with syrup. For the syrup: 50 g granulated sugar 35 ml amaretto liqueur 25 ml water In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, amaretto and water. Heat, stirring often to dissolve the sugar, until the syrup comes to a light simmer. Remove from the heat and use a pastry brush to glaze and moisten the tops of the cakes with it. For assembly: Confectioners’ sugar, for rolling 100 g raspberry jam To assemble the cake, slice the cooled sponge cakes lengthwise in half. You will have four evenly sized rectangular pieces to form the cake. Set aside. Set the marzipan out from the refrigerator and onto a work surface dusted with confectioners’ sugar. Using a rolling pin lightly dusted with more confectioners’ sugar, begin to roll the marzipan roughly out and into a large rectangular shape that’s about 42 x 22 cm in diameter. Spread a thin layer of the raspberry jam over the marzipan. Place a lemon sponge in the middle of the marzipan, then, place a rose sponge directly next to it. Spread a little more raspberry jam between the two cakes to sandwich. Repeat this process with the remaining cakes over the top to form one large layered cake in a chequered pattern. Carefully lift the edges of the marzipan over the top and sides of the cake. Tightly enclose it to seal then invert the cake so the marzipan seam is facing down. Dust off any remaining icing sugar. Place the cake in the refrigerator to chill until firm, about an hour. Just before you’re ready to serve, use a sharp knife to neatly trim off the ends to reveal the chequered pattern within. This post is sponsored, as always, all opinions are my own. Stream The Great Australian Bake Off available on Foxtel’s Lifestyle Now. You can keep up with the show here and here.

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‘I learned simplicity, learned slowly and with difficulty how unassuming everything is, and became mature enough to put simplicity into words. And this all happened because I was able to meet you, back when the first time I was in danger of surrendering myself to formlessness. And if this danger always finds a way to return and always returns larger and stronger, it is also true that the memory of you grows in me, the awareness of you, and it too keeps strengthening.’ – Rainer Maria Rilke, an excerpt from a letter to Lou Salomé. There’s a restlessness that comes with the middle of the year. July, a month, that, awakens a sense of inherent unease. Her arrival, a swelling beneath of subterranean springs, of blistering and boiling, of overflow. I’ve never understood why we choose to furnish our wounds. And July, she’s long been licking at mine. The more she continues to lick, to unstitch what was once sewn, and undress the surgical wound, the more vulnerable the flesh comes to her infection. I long for her departure, but she’s thirty-one days of Winter, and I exist, here, wasted and wanton, for the arrival of Summer. July, an abyss of the season. A time so often without skin.  And then there’re these Sea Salt Violet Millionaire’s Shortbread. I promised them a few months ago, and it’s taken this long to bring them to fulfillment, but they’re here. Filled with a sugared layer of crème fraîche caramel fragranced with delicate violet, a buttered shortbread base, and a thick slathering of dark chocolate, they’re heaven. Richly so. A touch of sea salt rounds out their inherent richness and serves to elevate all the boisterous flavors within. A mouthful is ever-so crumbled, sticky-sweet, salty, and creamy, the perfect sugared antidote against the will of the month.   NOTES – Here, I use culinary violet essence. It’s incredibly concentrated, powerfully so, and a little bit does go a very long way. The strength of the essence will differ based upon its brand and constitution, so I suggest using only a tiny drop at the beginning, and adjust as necessary to reach your desired taste preference. For me, I wouldn’t exceed over an eighth of a teaspoon or about three small drops. You want the violet flavor to be delicate and present, not heavily-perfumed and overwhelming. If you can’t source violet essence, it can be substituted with another floral essence, such as rose, orange blossom, or even lavender. I’ve used almond before too. Again, adjust as necessary. And the essence can be omitted all together, if you prefer. – Because the chocolate is left unadulterated in this recipe, it should be the very best quality you can find. Use a dark chocolate that you wouldn’t just bake with, but that you would eat. Here, I use Callebaut callets that contain about 60% cocoa solids. The chocolate is dark and smooth, with just the right amount of bitterness. A chocolate with a minimum of 60% is a good amount to aim for here, but you could go a little higher, for something slightly more bitter. I wouldn’t exceed over 75%. And please don’t use milk chocolate, the sweetness of it would overwhelm the entire thing. SEA SALT VIOLET MILLIONAIRE’S SHORTBREAD For the crust: 250 g all-purpose flour 100 g granulated sugar 1 tbsp corn flour ½ tsp salt 200 g unsalted butter, melted 1 tsp vanilla bean extract Pre-heat the oven to 180 Celsius. Line a 20 cm square baking pan with non-stick parchment paper. Let the paper slightly overhang the sides. Set aside.  To make the crust, add the flour, sugar, corn flour and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the beater attachment. Beat on medium speed for a few seconds to combine the dry ingredients. Set the mixer speed to medium-low and stream in the melted butter. Beat until combined then add in the vanilla bean extract. Continue to beat until the dough is evenly moistened and has begun to roughly come together, a further minute. Stop mixing and tip the mixture into the prepared pan then use your fingers to press the dough into an even and flat layer. Bake until golden brown and just firm, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely before covering in the caramel. For the caramel:  250 g granulated sugar 60 ml water 125 g unsalted butter, cubed 120 g crème fraiche Seeds from 1 vanilla bean pod ¼ tsp violet essence ¼ tsp salt Next, make the caramel. Combine the sugar and water into a medium-sized saucepan set over medium heat. Heat, swirling the pan often but not stirring, until the mixture begins to turn an even amber color. It should reach about 120 Celsius on a candy thermometer. Lower the heat then add in the butter and crème fraiche and whisk to combine. Take caution with this step –the mixture will sputter, steam and foam when the dairy is added but will subside as it continues to cook, so be careful. Let the mixture continue to cook out for a further two minutes undisturbed then remove it from the heat and stir in the vanilla, violet and salt. It should be dark amber in color, thick, and slightly reduced. Immediately pour the caramel over the cooled crust, making sure that it reaches the edges and into an even layer. Set aside at room temperature to cool until the caramel is firm, about an hour. For the topping: 200 g dark chocolate, finely chopped Fleur de sel or flaked salt, for finishing Now, make the topping. Place the chocolate into a medium-sized heatproof bowl set over a saucepan filled with a few inches of barely simmering water. Do not let the bowl touch the water below. Heat, stirring often with a rubber spatula, until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and use an offset spatula to spread the chocolate into an even layer over the caramel. Place the pan in the refrigerator to chill until the slice is well set, about 2 hours, or overnight. When you’re ready to serve, sprinkle over a little fleur de sel or flaked salt, then use a warm and sharp knife to slice it into even sized bars or squares.

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“You have broken down the veils of flesh and all the cushions that protect the nerves – you have played on the raw nerves, the very tenderest filaments of our sense organs. The effect is delirium, ecstasy which becomes unsupportable.” – Henry Miller, an excerpt from ‘A Literate Passion: Letters of Anaïs Nin & Henry Miller: 1932-1953.’ I don’t claim to know very much. The few things I do, sleeplessness, thirst, and unfolding to the wild of your own skin. And cookies. I claim to know cookies. They’re the vice that’s forever served me best. Of all the variations that frequent this space, this rendition is by far my favourite. Filled with rich pools of bitter dark chocolate, molten chunks of vanilla bean-studded halvah, deep burnt butter undertones, toasted walnut flecks, and slight hints of salt, they’re heavenly. A little richer than the usual, but all the more delicious. NOTES – Here, the butter is melted down until it reaches burnt perfection and then re-chilled to form a consistency ideal for beating, and then re-weighed. It’s important to make sure that it has a malleable, soft, and supple feel to it, similar to that of room temperature butter, before use. It usually takes a total of 30 minutes chilling time to reach this stage but it all depends on your refrigerator and its temperature. It’s best to check on the butter every so often, giving it a gentle stir, as time goes on. You could also burn off the butter a few days in advance, re-chill it until solid, then let it come to room temperature the day of making.   – Halvah can be sourced in a variety of different flavors but I prefer to use plain or vanilla bean halvah in this recipe. The more neutral the halvah, the more the other flavors within the cookie will compliment and shine. In saying that though, there have been times when all I’ve had on hand was chocolate halvah, and on one occasion, coffee halvah, and both have worked out well. So whilst I recommend something neutral, the beauty of this recipe is that it’s open to your experimentation and personal preference. – These cookies are perfect for times of craving. You can easily keep the dough balls sealed and stashed in the freezer for a few months and bake them off in moments of sweet whim and weakness. That’s hot cookies in a matter of minutes, no action time required. HALVAH, BURNT BUTTER AND WALNUT CHOCOLATE CHUNK COOKIES 225 g unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature (plus a little more for the re-weigh) 250 g light brown sugar 110 g granulated sugar 1 large egg 1 tablespoon vanilla bean extract 350 g all-purpose flour 1 ¼ tsp baking soda 1 tsp baking powder ¾ tsp salt 220 g dark chocolate, roughly chopped 50 g toasted walnuts, finely chopped 100 g plain halvah, broken into rough chunks Flaked salt, for finishing Begin by making the burnt butter. Place 150 g’s of the butter into a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Set the remainder of the butter aside. Heat, stirring often, until the butter is golden and melted. Increase the heat to medium-high and continue to cook, swirling the pan often but not stirring, until the butter is beginning to turn amber in color and nutty in fragrance. The butter will begin to foam but will subside as it continues to cook. Some burnt solids should have formed at the base of the saucepan. Remove from the heat and pour the butter into a bowl or pouring jug. Set it in the refrigerator to set until malleable and soft, similar in texture to room temperature butter, about half an hour. Make sure to give it a gentle stir every so often. Once set, remove the burnt butter from the refrigerator and re-weigh it. Add the remainder of the plain butter set aside above. Re-weigh to reach a combined total of 225 g’s. You may need to add a little more plain butter depending on how much evaporated during the burning process. Set the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the beater attachment and add the light brown sugar and granulated sugar. Beat, on medium speed, until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Pause mixing to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl. Add in the egg and beat well until incorporated. Add in the vanilla bean extract and beat for a further minute. The dough should be considerably lighter in color and more aerated.  Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, soda, powder, and salt, in a medium-sized mixing bowl until combined. Set the mixer speed to medium-low. Add in half of the dry ingredients. Beat until just combined, some floury pockets should remain, then add in the remainder of the dry ingredients. Again, beat until just combined. Add in the dark chocolate and walnuts and beat until evenly distributed throughout the dough, about 15 more seconds. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and use a large wooden spoon to carefully fold in the halvah chunks. Take care with this step. You want the halvah to remain intact and not disintegrate within the dough – so be gentle with your folding. Cover the bowl with a layer of plastic wrap and set it in the refrigerator to chill until just firm, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 180 Celsius. Set an oven rack in the middle of the oven and line three large baking sheets with non-stick parchment paper. When just firm, remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator. Using a small cookie scoop (1” or 2.5 cm in diameter) or a generous tablespoon as a measure, scoop out as many dough balls as possible from the dough. Divide them evenly between the sheets, making sure to allow room for spreading, and sprinkle over a little flaked salt over their tops. You should be able to fit 8 balls per sheet. If you have some dough balls left over, either set them in the refrigerator to chill whilst the other cookies bake, or seal and store them in the freezer, to bake off another time. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Three quarters of the way into baking, about 8 minutes, open the oven door and raise the cookie sheet by a few inches. The cookies should just be beginning to puff in the middle. Use a little force to tap the sheet against the oven rack, so that the cookies deflate slightly. You should see the chocolate begin to spread. Close the oven door and let the cookies bake and inflate again for a further minute to a minute and a half. Repeat this raise and tap process for a total of 3 more times. The cookies when done should be golden, crisp around the edges, and the middles just set with chocolate puddles throughout. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool on their sheet for 5 minutes, before carefully transferring them to a wire rack to cool further before serving warm or at room temperature.

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What shall I tell you about? I shall tell you about the instants. I exceed my limits and only then do I exist and then in a feverish way. I’m very feverish… will I ever be able to stop living? God help me, I die so much. I follow the tortuous path of roots and breaking through the earth, for passion is my talent, in the burning of a dry tree I twist in the flames. To the duration of my existence I give a hidden meaning which surpasses me. I’m a concomitant being: I unite myself past, present, and future time, the time that throbs in the tick-tick of clocks.”  – Clarice Lispector, an excerpt from ‘Agua Viva.’ I’m leaving again soon. Not for long but long enough for me to forget the place from which I came. It’s never taken great lengths to do that. The mornings I wake in a different bed deliver me unable to remember who I once was. The days that came before cease to exist and so do I. Then the sun rises. I wish I could tell you of all the ways I tremble at the thought of stagnation. The hungering ache for life’s blood that mirrors the eternal ebb and flow of the ocean. But I won’t. I’m desiring to end with Lilith here. She’s the sole thing that’s been of consummation lately. “Do you think they can cure her? Do you know what she wants? Do you think they can cure this fire? She wants to leave the mark of desire on every creature in the word. If she were Caesar, she’d do it with a sword. If she were a poet, she’d do it with words. But she’s Lilith. She has to do it with her body.” –   Lilith, Robert Rossen (dir.) (1964) NOTES – This Sugared Dark Chocolate Tahini Banana Bread is one for remembering. It’s full of sweet character, deep nutty undertones, molten flecks of dark chocolate, and a crisply caramelised sugared top. It’s ultra-moist too. Always make sure to use over-ripe bananas in this recipe which yields a loaf with the most delicious textural character and flavor. Alternatively, if your bananas aren’t over-ripe yet, you could set them in the oven to roast in their skins until blackened, then peel and leave to cool before using. – Be cautious of not over-mixing! A perfect banana bread is one that’s tender, soft and moist not dense and rubbery. Here, make sure to beat the batter until the flour has just begun to incorporate, some dry floury pockets should remain, then, remove the bowl and finish mixing by hand with a large wooden spoon whilst folding in the dark chocolate chunks. SUGARED DARK CHOCOLATE TAHINI BANANA BREAD 240 g all-purpose flour 1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder ¾ teaspoon baking soda ½ teaspoon salt 350 g bananas, plus 1/2 a length-wise sliced banana reserved for the top 200 g light brown sugar 100 ml neutral vegetable oil 70 g tahini 1 teaspoon vanilla bean extract ½ teaspoon sesame oil 2 large eggs, at room temperature 190 ml buttermilk, at room temperature 125 g dark chocolate, roughly chopped 2 tablespoons granulated sugar Pre-heat the oven to 180 c (350 f). Grease and line a 23 x 13 cm (9 x 5 1/2 inch) loaf tin with non-stick parchment paper. Let the paper slightly over-hang the sides. In a medium-size mixing bowl, sift together the flour, powder, soda, and salt. Set aside until needed. Add 350 g of the bananas into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the beater attachment. Beat until roughly mashed, about 30 seconds. Pause mixing and add in the light brown sugar and vegetable oil. Beat, on medium speed, until light in color and well combined, 3 more minutes. Add in the tahini, vanilla bean extract and sesame oil until incorporated. Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Set the mixer speed to low and slowly stream in the buttermilk. Add in the dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated, no more than 15 seconds. Some dry flour pockets should remain throughout the batter. Stop mixing and remove the bowl from the stand mixer. Add in the dark chocolate chunks, then, using a large wooden spoon, gently fold them throughout the batter until evenly incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin until it is about ¾’s of the way full. Lay the reserved sliced banana half over the top then scatter over the granulated sugar. Bake for 50 minutes, or until risen, golden brown, and fragrant. A skewer inserted into the middle should come out with a few moist crumbs attached. Remove from the oven and leave the bread to cool in its tin for 15 minutes before transferring it out and onto a wire rack to cool further before slicing and serving.

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“It is June. I am tired of being brave.” – Anne Sexton, an excerpt from ‘The Truth the Dead Know.’ There isn’t a week that goes by where I don’t make some rendition of a frangipane tart. My freezer is full of left-over pastry dough and surpluses of streusel that always end up in tart form. It’s become a new kind of ritual. And one, that for me, signifies the strength of the season. There’s thinly sliced pears, quince, and apples for the cool slowing’s of Winter and Fall. And blistering over-ripe stone fruits and berries for the warming creep of Spring and Summer. And this Raspberry Almond Streusel Tart is among my current seasonal favourite. It’s a tart that’s easy, good, and possesses just the right amount of sweetness to sate. Simple yet refined enough too. The pâte sablée crust is perfectly buttered, tender and short. And is the best kind of vehicle to devour a wealth of rich filling. The almond frangipane is the star and staple. It’s velvety, nutty, and elevated with an enlivened undertone of citric zest and warm liquor. There’s jammy-tart raspberries studded throughout. And a final flourish of textured streusel and powdered sugar. It’s a tart best served under the sun with lashings of cream to round out the afternoon. NOTES – This tart serves as the perfect base recipe to highlight whatever is in season. You can easily switch out the raspberries for a plethora of different fruits, depending what you have on hand. My personal favourites are blackberries, strawberries, and thin slices of rhubarb and pear. I’ve done it up once before with figs too. The options are endless. You could alter the character of the frangipane too. I often end up using hazelnuts instead of almonds for the cooler months, which results in a little more deep and intense flavour. – I prefer to make the pâte sablée in a food processor purely because it allows me to control the temperature of the dough more effectively as it isn’t exposed to bodily heat. If you don’t have a food processor, you could make it by hand with similar results. Just make sure to chill and let the dough rest for a little while longer before rolling it out and placing it in the tart shell. RASPBERRY ALMOND STREUSEL TART For the pâte sablée: 250 g all-purpose flour 100 g confectioners’ sugar ½ teaspoon salt 165 unsalted butter, cold 1 large egg yolk 2 tablespoons iced water To make the pastry, place the flour, sugar, salt, and butter into the bowl of a food processor. Process until the mixture forms that of a coarse meal like texture with some pea-sized pieces of butter running throughout it, about 20 to 30 seconds. Add in the egg yolk and water. Pulse, until the mixture is just beginning to come together and form a soft dough ball around the base of the blade, no more than 30 seconds. Tip the dough ball out and onto a sheet of plastic wrap, then, flatten the ball into a rough disc shape. Cover and chill for at least an hour.  For the streusel:  50 g all-purpose flour 1 tablespoon granulated sugar ¼ teaspoon salt 30 g unsalted butter, cold and cubed 20 g flaked almonds In a small bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, and salt until combined. Add in the butter. Use your fingers to rub the butter into the dry ingredients until fine crumbs form, then, using a slightly greater amount of pressure, squeeze the mixture together until large clumps have formed. Toss through the flaked almonds. Set the bowl in the refrigerator to keep cool until needed. For the frangipane: 125 g unsalted butter, at room temperature 125 g granulated sugar 2 large eggs, at room temperature 1 tablespoon brandy Zest from ½ small orange 165 g almond meal 35 g all-purpose flour ¼ teaspoon salt To make the frangipane, place the butter and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the beater attachment. Beat, on medium speed, until light and fluffy, 4 minutes. Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add in the brandy and orange zest. Set the mixer speed to medium-low. Add in the almond meal, flour, and salt. Beat until just combined, about a minute. Increase the mixer speed back to medium and beat for a further 3 minutes, or until the frangipane is pale and fluffy. Set aside for assembly.  For assembly: 150 g raspberries, fresh or frozen Confectioners’ sugar, for finishing Pre-heat the oven to 180 c (350 f). Lightly butter and flour a 22 cm (9-inch) fluted tart tin with a removable base. Put the tart tin on a large baking sheet and set aside. Set the chilled pastry out and onto a floured work surface and lightly flour the top. Using a wooden rolling pin, begin to roll the dough out and into a rough circular shape, a few centimeters larger than the tin you’re using. It should be about 4 mm (.15 inch) in thickness. Carefully transfer the dough into the tart tin. Using your fingers, gently adjust the dough into the tin making sure to press it into the base and edges. Trim off any excess overhang. Using a spatula or the back of a metal spoon, spread the frangipane evenly over the tart base. Stud over the raspberries making sure not to press them in all the way but instead just indenting them into the filling. Evenly sprinkle over the streusel. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the frangipane is set, the tart is golden-brown all-over, and fragrant. Remove from the oven and set the tart onto a wire rack to cool completely before carefully removing it from its tin. Sift over a little confectioners’ sugar before slicing and serving.

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“I will touch a hundred flowers and not pick one.” – Edna St. Vincent Millay, an excerpt from ‘Afternoon on a Hill’ An end to ardour. When the dying death of last light was beautiful and all things fade like the sun. The roses are in their swollen bloom, the color of dusk. There’s a heat to it. A heat that comes with the end of things. I pluck a rose and feel it. Feel the bloom, know the bloom, I am the bloom. And then it withers and I feel that too. The rose and I know much of withering. For I withered once, once in December. I’ve always thought there are certain blossoming’s that wild things must know, just as there are certain burnings the body must endure. How flowers understand their fated end. The end that comes from being plucked, loved, and cherished. I wonder how true that is for us too. But blossoming, blossoming is the sole thing for which we were built. This Rhubarb, Rose and Almond Cake with White Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream has been on the back-burner for months. For lack of a better reason, I got consumed. Again. But, I wanted to bring it to the blog before rhubarb season was well and truly over. Rhubarb has always been one of my favorite ingredients to work with. Its distinct tartness when paired with sweetness from white chocolate and floral notes from rose is a combination that’s forever entrenched within my heart. And when paired with the earthen undertone of almond, it’s heaven. A slice of cake that’s not easily forgotten. NOTES – The cake is made using the reverse creaming method, which uses the technique of incorporating the butter into the dry ingredients instead of creaming together the butter and sugar. The result is a cake that is kept moist for longer, with a finer crumb and bakes up almost always flat. – If you don’t care for gin, you could replace it with another alcohol of choice. Amaretto would be a perfect substitute. Or, if you prefer not to use alcohol at all, simply replace the gin with an equal amount of water. – The recipe for the white chocolate swiss meringue buttercream makes a lot, enough to thickly frost the cake however way you desire. I decorated the cake in generous swoops and swirls of buttercream but you could frost it thinner for a more naked cake effect. The recipe will also yield more than enough for piped detailing if you so desire. I’ve left it up to your discretion. – I used a little pink food coloring to dye the buttercream. A few drops was all it took for a beautiful pastel pink shade but you can add as many drops as you feel necessary to achieve your desired aesthetic. RHUBARB, ROSE AND ALMOND CAKE WITH WHITE CHOCOLATE SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM For the cake:  315 g cake flour 90 g almond meal 2 teaspoons baking powder 1 teaspoon baking soda ½ teaspoon salt 290 g granulated sugar 200 g unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature 200 g egg whites, at room temperature 275 ml whole milk, at room temperature 2 teaspoons rose water 1 teaspoon vanilla bean extract ½ teaspoon almond extract Pre-heat the oven to 180 c (350 f). Grease and line 4 x 18 cm cake pans with non-stick parchment paper. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the beater attachment, beat the cake flour, almond meal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar, until the dry ingredients are evenly distributed. Set the mixer speed to medium. Add in the butter, a tablespoon at a time, until it is all used up. Continue to beat for a further 3 to 5 minutes, or until the mixture forms a well combined sandy meal-like texture. Meanwhile, in a separate large pouring jug or mixing bowl, whisk together the egg whites, whole milk, rose water, vanilla bean extract, and almond extract. Set the mixer speed to medium-low. Pour in half the liquid ingredients. Beat until just combined then pour in the remaining half. Pause mixing to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl as needed. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and beat the batter is light and fluffy, 3 more minutes. Divide the batter between the prepared cake pans and use a rubber spatula to help smooth out the tops. Bake, for 25 to 35 minutes, or until the cakes are risen, lightly brown, and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let the cakes cool in their pans for 15 minutes before carefully turning out and onto a wire rack to cool completely before frosting. Once cool, level off any domed tops. For the rhubarb compote:  350 g rhubarb, trimmed, cleaned, thinly sliced 130 g granulated sugar 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice 1 teaspoon rose water Seeds from 1 vanilla bean pod To make the rhubarb compote, place the rhubarb, sugar, lemon juice, rose water, and vanilla bean seeds into a medium-sized saucepan set over medium-low heat. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the fruit has softened, is beginning to break down and the sugar has dissolved, about 8 minutes. Increase the heat to medium. Continue to cook, stirring often, until the mixture reaches a light rolling boil. Reduce the heat back to medium-low. Allow the mixture to slowly simmer for a further 6 to 8 minutes, or until reduced by a quarter. Remove from the heat and place it into a medium-sized bowl. Allow the mixture to come to room temperature, then, place it in the refrigerator to chill until further needed. It should have thickened up and must be completely cool before use.  For the gin sugar syrup:  50 g granulated sugar 50 ml water 30 ml gin Combine the sugar, water, and gin in a medium sized saucepan set over medium heat. Heat, stirring often, until the sugar is dissolved. Bring the mixture to a light rolling boil, then, remove it from the heat. Immediately use a pastry brush to evenly glaze the cut tops of the cakes with the sugar syrup.  For the white chocolate swiss meringue buttercream: 150 g white chocolate, roughly chopped 260 g egg whites 300 g granulated sugar 500 g unsalted butter, very soft at room temperature 1 teaspoon rose water ¼ teaspoon salt A few drops of pink food coloring Put the white chocolate into a medium-sized heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water on low heat. Do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water. Heat, stirring often with a rubber spatula, until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove the bowl from the heat and set it aside to cool. Next, place the egg whites and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk by hand to combine. Place the bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water set on medium-low heat. Do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water. Heat, whisking often, until the mixture reaches a temperature of 70 c (160 f) on a candy thermometer. The sugar should be completely dissolved and the mixture hot to the touch. Once at temperature, remove the bowl from the heat and set it on the base of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk, on medium-high speed, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the mixture holds stiff peaks. The bowl should no longer be hot to the touch and the meringue should be glossy and cool. Pause mixing and swap the whisk attachment for the beater attachment. Add in the butter, a tablespoon at a time, until it is all incorporated. Add in the melted and cooled white chocolate, rose water, salt, and a few drops of pink food color. Increase the mixer speed to high and continue to beat until the buttercream is thick, evenly dyed, and silky smooth, 5 more minutes. Set aside for assembly. For assembly: Place the first cake layer cut side facing up onto a serving plate or cake stand. Using an offset spatula, spread about 4 generous tablespoons of the buttercream over the top and sides of the cake. Slightly hollow out the center of the buttercream with a metal spoon to form a “dam” which will create a little edge that makes sure your rhubarb compote doesn’t overflow the sides of the cake when filling and layering. Gently add on the second cake layer, cut side facing down. Again, repeat this frosting and filling process. Repeat again for the third cake layer. Gently press on the final cake layer, cut side facing down. Cover the top and sides of the cake with a thin layer of the buttercream then set the cake in the refrigerator to chill the crumb coat until firm, about 30 minutes. Remove the cake from the refrigerator and use a large offset spatula to thickly spread on a final layer of the buttercream, or however you wish. Place the cake back in the refrigerator to set for a further 30 minutes, before slicing and serving.

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‘I learned simplicity, learned slowly and with difficulty how unassuming everything is, and became mature enough to put simplicity into words. And this all happened because I was able to meet you, back when the first time I was in danger of surrendering myself to formlessness. And if this danger always finds a way to return and always returns larger and stronger, it is also true that the memory of you grows in me, the awareness of you, and it too keeps strengthening.’ – Rainer Maria Rilke, an excerpt from a letter to Lou Salomé. There’s a restlessness that comes with the middle of the year. July, a month, that, awakens a sense of inherent unease. Her arrival, a swelling beneath of subterranean springs, of blistering and boiling, of overflow. I’ve never understood why we choose to furnish our wounds. And July, she’s long been licking at mine. The more she continues to lick, to unstitch what was once sewn, and undress the surgical wound, the more vulnerable the flesh comes to her infection. I long for her departure, but she’s thirty-one days of Winter, and I exist, here, wasted and wanton, for the arrival of Summer. July, an abyss of the season. A time so often without skin.  And then there’re these Sea Salt Violet Millionaire’s Shortbread. I promised them a few months ago, and it’s taken this long to bring them to fulfillment, but they’re here. Filled with a sugared layer of crème fraîche caramel fragranced with delicate violet, a buttered shortbread base, and a thick slathering of dark chocolate, they’re heaven. Richly so. A touch of sea salt rounds out their inherent richness and serves to elevate all the boisterous flavors within. A mouthful is ever-so crumbled, sticky-sweet, salty, and creamy, the perfect sugared antidote against the will of the month.   NOTES – Here, I use culinary violet essence. It’s incredibly concentrated, powerfully so, and a little bit does go a very long way. The strength of the essence will differ based upon its brand and constitution, so I suggest using only a tiny drop at the beginning, and adjust as necessary to reach your desired taste preference. For me, I wouldn’t exceed over an eighth of a teaspoon or about three small drops. You want the violet flavor to be delicate and present, not heavily-perfumed and overwhelming. If you can’t source violet essence, it can be substituted with another floral essence, such as rose, orange blossom, or even lavender. I’ve used almond before too. Again, adjust as necessary. And the essence can be omitted all together, if you prefer. – Because the chocolate is left unadulterated in this recipe, it should be the very best quality you can find. Use a dark chocolate that you wouldn’t just bake with, but that you would eat. Here, I use Callebaut callets that contain about 60% cocoa solids. The chocolate is dark and smooth, with just the right amount of bitterness. A chocolate with a minimum of 60% is a good amount to aim for here, but you could go a little higher, for something slightly more bitter. I wouldn’t exceed over 75%. And please don’t use milk chocolate, the sweetness of it would overwhelm the entire thing. SEA SALT VIOLET MILLIONAIRE’S SHORTBREAD For the crust: 250 g all-purpose flour 100 g granulated sugar 1 tbsp corn flour ½ tsp salt 200 g unsalted butter, melted 1 tsp vanilla bean extract Pre-heat the oven to 180 Celsius. Line a 20 cm square baking pan with non-stick parchment paper. Let the paper slightly overhang the sides. Set aside.  To make the crust, add the flour, sugar, corn flour and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the beater attachment. Beat on medium speed for a few seconds to combine the dry ingredients. Set the mixer speed to medium-low and stream in the melted butter. Beat until combined then add in the vanilla bean extract. Continue to beat until the dough is evenly moistened and has begun to roughly come together, a further minute. Stop mixing and tip the mixture into the prepared pan then use your fingers to press the dough into an even and flat layer. Bake until golden brown and just firm, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely before covering in the caramel. For the caramel:  250 g granulated sugar 60 ml water 125 g unsalted butter, cubed 120 g crème fraiche Seeds from 1 vanilla bean pod ¼ tsp violet essence ¼ tsp salt Next, make the caramel. Combine the sugar and water into a medium-sized saucepan set over medium heat. Heat, swirling the pan often but not stirring, until the mixture begins to turn an even amber color. It should reach about 120 Celsius on a candy thermometer. Lower the heat then add in the butter and crème fraiche and whisk to combine. Take caution with this step –the mixture will sputter, steam and foam when the dairy is added but will subside as it continues to cook, so be careful. Let the mixture continue to cook out for a further two minutes undisturbed then remove it from the heat and stir in the vanilla, violet and salt. It should be dark amber in color, thick, and slightly reduced. Immediately pour the caramel over the cooled crust, making sure that it reaches the edges and into an even layer. Set aside at room temperature to cool until the caramel is firm, about an hour. For the topping: 200 g dark chocolate, finely chopped Fleur de sel or flaked salt, for finishing Now, make the topping. Place the chocolate into a medium-sized heatproof bowl set over a saucepan filled with a few inches of barely simmering water. Do not let the bowl touch the water below. Heat, stirring often with a rubber spatula, until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and use an offset spatula to spread the chocolate into an even layer over the caramel. Place the pan in the refrigerator to chill until the slice is well set, about 2 hours, or overnight. When you’re ready to serve, sprinkle over a little fleur de sel or flaked salt, then use a warm and sharp knife to slice it into even sized bars or squares.

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