Another week, another elderflower recipe! But the season is short and I couldn’t resist sharing another. These melt-in-the-mouth lemon shortbread biscuits are sandwiched with delicate elderflower buttercream and sprinkled with lemon zest. Easy to make and delicious with a cup of tea. To make the lemon and elderflower shortbread, you will need:
Preheat the oven to Gas 4/ 180C/ Fan 160C. Put the flour, sugar, cubed butter and half the lemon zest in a food processor and pulse to fine breadcrumbs.
Add the lemon juice, ½ tbsp at a time, pulsing between additions until a dough forms. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for 1 hr.
Either roll the dough out and cut into rounds, or if you’re in a hurry like I was, roll teaspoons of the dough into balls and flatten into rounds with the back of a fork. The dough is pretty sticky but that makes for lovely crumbly shortbread!
Bake for 8 – 10 mins until golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 5 mins on the trays. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Meanwhile, beat the softened butter with icing sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the milk until combined, then add the elderflower cordial and some lemon zest, if you fancy.
Spread or pipe a layer of icing onto the base of half the biscuits then sandwich with the other biscuits. Scatter with lemon zest. Leave to set for one hour. They will keep, unsandwiched, in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.
What are you baking this weekend?
Lemon and elderflower shortbread adapted from Tesco.
For the roasted rhubarb
400g trimmed rhubarb, cut into 4-5cm slices
110g caster sugar
1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
2 tbsp elderflower cordial For the cake
115g unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing
95g ground almonds
200g caster sugar
1 lemon, zested
3 eggs, 2 whole and 1 white only
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp elderflower cordial, plus extra for brushing
100g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
130g natural yogurt
Edible flowers, to decorate For the elderflower cream
300ml double cream
2 tbsp elderflower cordial
100g natural yogurt.
Preheat your oven to 200C/180C Fan/Gas 6. Grease and line two 20cm cake tins. To roast the rhubarb, line a high-sided baking tray with baking parchment, add the rhubarb, then top with the sugar, lemon juice, zest and cordial. Cover with tinfoil and roast for 25 mins until soft. Remove from the oven and reduce the temperature to 190C/170C Fan/Gas 5. Strain the rhubarb, reserving the syrup. Cream the butter in a mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes, then tip in the sugar and lemon zest.
Scrape down the sides, then turn the mixer up slightly and beat for a further 5 mins until light and fluffy. Turn the mixer down, then add the eggs, egg white, vanilla extract and cordial and mix together. Combine the flour, almonds, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Turn the mixer onto its lowest speed and spoon in the flour and almond mixture in several batches, alternating with spoonfuls of the yogurt.
Mix until just combined, with no streaks remaining, then add half the roasted rhubarb and 1 tbsp of its syrup to the batter and fold it in.
Divide the mixture evenly between the cake tins and bake for 25-30 minutes until a skewer inserted into each cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven, leave to cool completely in the tins on a wire rack, then carefully remove.
For the filling, whip the cream to soft peaks and fold in three-quarters of the remaining roasted rhubarb, along with the elderflower cordial and yogurt. Put one of the cakes flat-side down on a cake stand or plate, prick it all over with a skewer, and brush with a little more elderflower cordial.
Spoon on half the cream mixture, top with the other cake, and brush that cake with cordial, too. Spoon over the remaining cream mixture, top with the remaining rhubarb and spoon over some of the poaching syrup. Garnish with elderflowers or seasonal flowers and serve.
The weather may have been mostly grey and miserable in Scotland this week, but I’m finding sunshine through tropical flavours in my baking. This passionfruit and orange drizzle loaf is quick and easy to whip up but is deliciously moist, fresh and summery – even when the British weather is having other ideas! To make the cake, you will need:
170g butter or margarine
170g golden caster sugar
275g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp milk
Zest of one orange and 1 tbsp juice. For the topping:
100g granulated sugar
1 – 2 tbsp orange juice.
Preheat the oven to 180C/ Fan 160C/ Gas 4 and grease and line a large loaf tin. For the topping, halve the passionfruit and scoop the seeds out into a sieve over a bowl. Sieve until you’ve got all the juice out of them you can. Discard the pips. Add the sugar and orange juice to the mixture and set aside.
Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then fold through the eggs, flour, baking powder, milk and orange juice and zest until fully combined.
Pour into the lined tin and level the surface, then bake for 50 – 55 minutes until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
When the cake is cooked, prick the surface all over with a skewer and pour the syrup over the top while it is still warm. Leave in the tin to cool completely.
Decorate with edible flowers (I used coconut-scented gorse to complement the tropical flavour!) and serve with a pot of tea.
This week marks a highlight of the gardening calendar, the Chelsea Flower Show. I’d love to go some time, but for now I enjoy following the ambitious designs and beautiful blooms from afar, a ritual I have followed since my school study leave days! I thought a suitably floral bake would be appropriate this week therefore, and experimented to come up with these rose and strawberry melting moments. The buttery, rose-scented biscuits are sandwiched with a fruity, strawberry mascarpone cream – light, summery, aromatic and moreish. To make the biscuits, you will need:
92g butter (room temperature)
45g icing sugar
12g custard powder
112g plain flour
1/4 tsp rose extract (although I photographed vanilla by mistake!)
For the filling:
1 tbsp strawberry jam.
Preheat the oven to 170C/ 150C Fan/ Gas 4 and grease and line a baking tray with parchment. Beat the butter and icing sugar together until soft and creamy.
Add the rose extract and sift in the flour and custard powder. Mix together until you have a dough.
Roll the dough into small balls, around a teaspoon each, then squash down lightly with a fork to make biscuit shapes.
Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes on the tray then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the filling, lightly whip the mascarpone, then add the jam. It will quickly firm up as the sugar in the jam magically sets the soft cheese.
Sandwich the biscuits together, then sprinkle with icing sugar and edible rose petals and serve.
What are you baking this weekend? Have you been following the Chelsea Flower Show?
The biscuit base is adapted from Baking Mad, given a Rosie twist!
Chocolate and a cup of tea, perfect partners – especially on a dreich May weekend. This chocolate and Earl Grey torte balances deep, chocolatey richness with the aromatic, fresh notes of Earl Grey. Although it involves a wee bit of faff separating the eggs, it is well worth it for an impressive showstopper of a Spring dessert. It’s basically a giant, tea-flavoured brownie, with a crunchy crackle topping covering the gooey centre below. To make it, you will need:
leaves from 2 Earl Grey tea bags
100ml hot milk
250g good quality chocolate
200g butter, diced
140g ground almond
6 eggs, separated
200g caster sugar
cocoa, icing sugar and crème fraîche or cream, plus edible flowers (optional) to serve.
(The recipe also works with half the quantities, as I did for a smaller torte!)
Heat oven to 180C/ 160C Fan/ Gas 4. Grease and line the base and sides of a deep, 22cm loose-bottomed tin with parchment, so the paper comes about 2.5cm above the sides. Stir the Earl Grey tea into the hot milk.
Melt the chocolate, butter and a pinch of salt together in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Then stir in the ground almonds, followed by the egg yolks and milky tea, including the leaves.
Beat the egg whites until stiff, then beat in the caster sugar until stiff again.
Fold the whites through the chocolate mix and scrape into the tin.
Bake for 30-35 mins – the torte should still have a slight wobble. Then cool completely in the tin. Carefully remove the torte from the tin. Dust all over with cocoa and icing sugar, then serve in slices with crème fraîche or cream.
As I still await the first of the new season fruits, I’m turning to twists on baking classics to keep things interesting in the kitchen. I shared my coffee and walnut battenberg a few weeks ago, and raspberry and white chocolate blondies last week; this week I tried this deliciously springlike lemon thyme cake. It’s a Nigel Slater recipe – meaning it was always going to be tasty and well-balanced – and I substituted thyme leaves for lemon thyme, fresh from Edinburgh’s Secret Herb Garden, to make it even more citrusy. To make the cake, you will need:
200g golden caster sugar
100g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
100g ground almonds
4 free-range eggs
1 lemon, zest only
1 tsp thyme or lemon thyme leaves For the topping:
4 tbsp sugar
2 large lemons, juice only
1/2 tsp thyme or lemon thyme leaves.
(I halved the whole recipe to make a smaller loaf and it still worked well).
Preheat the oven to 160C/ 140C Fan/ 325F/ Gas 3. Line a 900g loaf tin with baking parchment. Cream the butter with the sugar in a food mixer until pale and fluffy.
In a separate bowl sift together the flour and baking powder then mix with the almonds. Lightly beat the eggs then fold them into the butter mixture in two or three parts, beating them in thoroughly each time. If the mixture looks as if it is about to curdle, stir in some of the flour.
Grate the zest from the lemon and mix it with the thyme leaves. Pound the two together with a pestle, or another heavy weight, and stir into the cake mixture. Gradually mix in the flour, baking powder and almonds.
Spoon the cake mixture into the lined tin and bake for 45 minutes.
For the topping, dissolve the sugar in the juice of the lemons over a moderate heat and stir in the thyme leaves (and even flowers when in season). As the cake comes from the oven, spike the surface with a skewer and spoon over the syrup.
Leave to cool and serve in slices. Delicious with yoghurt.
What are you baking this weekend?
Recipe via Nigel Slater – can’t wait for his new veggie cookbook!
For the second part of my Boden Spring collaboration (you can see my first post here, talking about Spring workwear) I thought I would challenge myself to style a more casual look – in this case, a Spring jumpsuit. I love the concept of jumpsuits – the elegance and simplicity of a one-piece and the stylish, put-together nature it instantly evokes – but they can be tricky to pull off if you don’t have a model figure or stature, i.e. if you’re a normal person like me! Here are some simple tips I’ve learnt for how to make a Spring jumpsuit work in reality.
Firstly, the cut is all-important. I opted to style the Frederica jumpsuit (available in navy and red or blue and currently reduced): I adore the delicate, ditsy print and the fact that it combines pink and red in the springlike pattern – and again can be made to look different by pairing with each different shade. Here, I’ve pulled out the latter hue with the pop from the pillarbox red cross-body Lingfield mini saddle bag. What’s more, a darker background and smaller print flatter an hourglass figure, not to mention the wrapover front and wide sleeves that cater for a larger bust and not-so-muscly arms.
Although jumpsuits can be a less practical option, this one has fast become the easiest to wear that I own – the waist is elasticated and there are no buttons or zips! Moreover, a removable tie belt cinches in the waist: my tip would be to leave it tied and hanging loose, rather than in a bow, so it draws the eye down the body and elongates the leg. This jumpsuit would look just as lovely with trainers, but I wanted to wear these heeled Harriet clogs to give me a little more height. Like me on the East Coast of Scotland, if it’s not quite the weather for bare legs where you are but you desperately want to wear your new sandals, make sure you match your socks or tights to the colour you’re wearing on your lower half – another trick I learned is key to lengthening a silhouette. I finished the look with this denim jacket: a nod to the ‘nineties trend but a timeless wardrobe staple in my book.
What are you wearing at the moment? How would you style a Spring jumpsuit?
Jumpsuit, jacket, bag and sandals c/o Boden, vintage accessories, but all love of jumpsuit wearing and ‘seventies style clogs entirely my own.
The end of the early Spring hungry gap is finally approaching, but I’m waiting impatiently for the start of the Summer fruit season. I’ve spotted some Scottish strawberries, but there were about six big ones in an expensive box and it’s still a bit early so I decided to wait – and I’m sure they’ll be all the sweeter for it! In the meantime, I’m making the most of frozen berries to liven up my home baking. These raspberry and white chocolate blondies combine sharp, frozen raspberries with nutty brown butter and vanilla-scented white chocolate – it’s melted through the mixture, with bonus chunks on top. To make them, you will need:
200g unsalted butter 200g, plus extra to grease the tin
150g white chocolate, roughly chopped
300g light muscovado sugar
3 large eggs
200g plain flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 180C/ Fan160C/ Gas 4. Butter, then line, a shallow rectangular tin (approx 25cm x 22cm). Melt the butter in a pan then cook gently for about 5 minutes, until the melted butter turns golden and the butter smells biscuity and sweet.
Cool for 5 minutes, then add half the white chocolate and set aside for a couple of minutes to melt. Stir until smooth.
Use electric beaters to whisk the muscovado sugar and eggs together for about 2 minutes until thick and pale.
Tip in the flour, salt, cooled chocolatey butter and vanilla, then fold in with a metal spoon or spatula until even.
Pour the mix into the tin, then scatter with the rest of the chocolate and the raspberries.
Bake for 40-45 minutes or until risen all over, with a dark golden crust. Cool completely in the tin, then cut into squares.
What are you baking this weekend?
Raspberry and white chocolate blondies recipe adapted from Olive Magazine.
Some baking classics shouldn’t be meddled with – but what about merging two together? This coffee and walnut battenberg cake combines two timeless bakes: a chequerboard of complimentary vanilla and coffee-walnut sponges, sandwiched with coffee buttercream and wrapped in marzipan for a classic battenberg finish. If you’re looking for a less traditional battenberg, try my lemon and pistachio version. Made for a special birthday, I’d argue this cake is even greater than the sum of its parts – though you’d expect no less from Mary Berry – and worth the wee bit of extra effort in assembly. To make the cake, you will need:
100g caster sugar
2 free-range eggs
100g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
50g ground almonds
few drops vanilla extract
3 tsp milk
1 1/2 tsp instant coffee powder
25g shelled walnuts, chopped. For the coffee butter icing:
100g icing sugar
40g butter, softened
1/2 tsp instant coffee powder
1 1/2 tsp milk. To decorate the cake:
225g white marzipan
5 small walnut pieces.
For the cake, preheat the oven to 170C/ 150C Fan/ 325F/ Gas 3. Grease the bottom and sides of a 20cm square, shallow cake tin. Cut out a piece of greaseproof paper that is 7.5cm longer than the length of the tin. Fold the paper in half widthways, then open out the paper and push up the centre fold to make a 4cm pleat. Line the base of the tin with this, placing it to ensure the pleat runs down the centre of the tin making, in effect, two rectangular tins.
Beat the margarine, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder and ground almonds in a large bowl for 2-3 minutes, until smooth, lighter in colour and glossy looking.
Spoon slightly more than half the mixture into a separate bowl and stir in the vanilla extract and 1½ teaspoons of the milk. Set aside. Mix the coffee in the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons of milk, stirring until it has dissolved, then stir this into the other bowl of mixture along with the chopped walnuts.
Spoon the vanilla mixture into one half of the tin and the coffee-walnut mixture into the other half. Level the surface with a knife, check the paper divider is still in the middle.
Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until the cake is well risen, springy to the touch and has shrunk slightly from the sides of the tin. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes, then loosen the cake from the sides with a rounded knife, turn it out, peel off the parchment liner and finish cooling on a wire rack.
Meanwhile, make the butter icing: sift the icing sugar into a medium bowl and add the butter. Mix the coffee and milk together until the coffee has dissolved, and pour into the bowl. Beat everything together with a wooden spoon until soft and smooth.
Trim the crispy edges from the cooled cake, then cut and trim if necessary into 4 equal strips. Lay one vanilla and one coffee-walnut strip next to each other, using a little butter icing to stick them together and spreading a bit more on the top. Stick the remaining strips together with icing and place them on top to create a chequerboard effect. Spread a little more icing over the top of the assembled cake and place, iced-side down on the rolled out marzipan. (Roll out on a surface lightly dusted surface – it should be the length of the cake and wide enough to wrap around the cake – you could measure this with string).
Reserve a teaspoon of the icing and spread the rest over the remaining three sides of the cake (not the ends). Brush off any crumbs from the marzipan, then roll the cake over in the marzipan, pressing to neatly cover it. Brush the join lightly with water, pressing it to seal. Turn the cake over so that the join is underneath.
Trim a slim slice from each end of the cake to neaten and show off the chequerboard effect. Smooth the marzipan over with your hands. You can do fancy things with crimping and scoring, but I just decorated the cake by laying the walnut pieces down the centre, securing them the reserved butter icing.
Did anyone else struggle with the return to work after the Easter break?! I know I did – and especially so after the most glorious and creatively restorative Ballintaggart Seasonal Retreat in Highland Perthshire. You know that feeling when a setting, people, activities leave your creative cup flowing over? Well Ballintaggart was all that and more for me, a sensory overload of inspiration. So good that I almost considered not sharing – but in real life I will rave about it to anyone who will listen and I can’t resist telling the story of our visit. Ballintaggart Farm has been on my radar for some time, and coincidentally I was chatting to a friend about them recently when I saw they were hosting a Spring retreat. The focus was on yoga, among other activities, alongside good food and an idyllic setting – so without a moment to lose I clicked “book” and Al’s birthday present (he is the yogi, not me!) was set in motion.
The early rise to get to Highland Perthshire was more than worth it. Greeted with mugs of steaming tea we took in the spectacular views of the valley from the elevated position of the farm and chatted to the other retreaters before commencing our morning flow session in the most beautiful light and airy setting. This was my first ever time doing yoga, although it is something I’ve wanted to try for a long time. I’m not sure I knew exactly what I was letting myself in for as a complete beginner as the first class was challenging – but I was determined and made my way through the vast majority of poses and felt the glow of achievement with the support of the lovely people around me.
After all that exercise, we had certainly earned our brunch. Luckily, at Ballintaggart this is a multi-course affair. Starting with the spectacular sourdough and homemade preserves (I’m still thinking about the caramelised apple one), followed by their homemade sunshine granola, fresh fruit and Katy Rodger’s yoghurt and, last but not least, the tastiest dhal I’ve ever had – topped with a soft boiled egg from Ballintaggart’s own chickens. The perfect balance between wholesome and indulgent, we left the table comfortably full and ready for a little exploring…
Ballintaggart is the brainchild of family partnership Chris, Rachel and Andy Rowley. I first came across the team in the guise of Charlie and Evelyn’s Table, Edinburgh supper club, at an event by Google here in the capital five years ago and raved about their food even then (retro post alert!). Consequently, I was sad when they seemed to disappear – but this was matched by my excitement when I heard of their new venture. The first thing that strikes you at Ballintaggart is the friendly, relaxed atmosphere – and those views. They’ve worked to reflect the surroundings in the food, the decor and the ambience and everything they do is marked by thoughtfulness. It’s clear to see why the family fell in love with the setting, and Rachel’s dreams of keeping chickens came true! Now to work on my own avian aspirations…
After a chance to relax and explore after the morning’s activities, we were treated to a tour of the grounds and kitchen garden by Rachel and Ballintaggart head chef Jess Young. We learned all about apple gluts, growing from seed as total beginners (this gives me hope) and Ballintaggart’s considered menu planning. The team keep their finger on the pulse of trends in Europe’s culinary capitals – all with a contemporary Scottish spin and focus on local and seasonal ingredients as well as flourishes from the farm itself. On a personal note, it was particularly inspiring to be surrounded by such able, professional and imaginative young women and the creative atmosphere on the Farm and Cook School was infectious.
Jess talked us through various recipes and demonstrated key techniques in a Spring cooking masterclass. Al and I were charged with making the asparagus salad (my first of the year and all the more special for it!), which we chargrilled and served with toasted almonds, goat’s cheese and Jess’ expertly made wild garlic aioli. Simple, beautiful and contemporary – it was far more than the sum of its parts. With some tips thrown in for sourdough bread baking (I’m not sure my set-up can compete with Ballintaggart’s three-day process, but the taste difference certainly shows!), smoking, knife skills and so much more, I now feel ready to shake up my Spring cooking repertoire. After a pause for a cuppa and a baked good or two, we reconvened to make our own soothing essential oil sprays – surprisingly simple and the scent was sensational. Another thoughtful and creative twist on the day.
Then it was time for our second and last yoga session of the day, this time a slower yin variety with added meditation and nidra. I found this a lot less strenuous and although I had trouble stopping my mind from wandering (it has a lot of wandering to unlearn!) I certainly felt relaxed, and the whole group seemed to enter a zen-like state as we chatted before dinner over a cup of hot honey, ginger and lavender on the terrace (I am still dreaming about this otherworldly beverage).
You would think it wasn’t possible to be hungry again, but the food was so thoughtful (again!) and balanced that it hit the spot and we were ready for our dinner; Rachel and Events Manager Katie had transformed our yoga setting. More of that dreamy sourdough followed by asparagus, kale, wild garlic and Isle of Mull cheddar risotto made with pearl barley – fresh, light and creamy – and a rhubarb financier to finish, complete with Katy Rodger’s creme fraiche flavoured with blood orange. The table styling was particularly delightful, with lovely personalised touches, edible seeds as favours and even a candle for the birthday boy – completely unprompted. We retired to our room at the Grandtully Hotel just down the road, showered in the most beautiful blue bathroom and sank into the comfiest hotel bed I have ever slept in. Thanks so much for taking such very good care of us, team Ballintaggart – we can’t wait to come back and visit you again one day.