Category Archives: Baking & Blogging

Orange Blossom & Almond Biscotti

You can whip up these orange blossom & almond biscottis at a moment’s notice. They keep very well for weeks in an airtight container. This recipe was inspired from my childhood travels to Tunisia. As the Mediterranean sun retreated in the afternoons, I’d indulge in a refreshing ‘citronnade’ (freshly squeezed lemonade) and dip one of these almond biscottis known as ‘boulou’ in the land of the Touareg, and enjoy the cool breeze under the shaded veranda of my grandfather’s home.

The crunch of the toasted almonds and sesame seeds coupled with the delicate perfume of orange blossom water makes these biscotti a perfect late afternoon treat with coffee or in the summers with freshly squeezed lemonade.

Follow the next few steps and reward yourself with this treat in a moment of peace & tranquillity, away from the madding crowd.

Ingredients (makes 20 biscottis)

  • 500g plain flour (sifted)
  • 11g baking powder
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 150g vegetable oil
  • 2 tbs of orange blossom water (alternatively 1tsp orange blossom extract)
  • Few drops of tepid water if need be
  • 75g freshly toasted almonds
  • 25g freshly toasted sesame seeds

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (356°F) and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper

2. Sift the flour, baking powder and caster sugar in a large bowl.

3. Add the vegetable oil and orange blossom water.

4. Attach the dough hook in an electric mixer, knead for 5 minutes until the dough forms a souple and smooth dough

5. Add the toasted almonds to the dough and mix by hand using a wooden spoon

6. Take a small amount of dough in the palm of your hand, form a circle

7. On a clean work surface, sprinkle the toasted sesame seeds and delicately roll the dough with your fingertips to form a small log so the seeds coat the surface of the dough. At this point, it’s really important that you work with speed and are agile with your fingertips so that you don’t incorporate too much heat into the dough. This would result in the dough becoming sticky and slightly harder to work with.

8. Place your biscotti onto the baking sheet and repeat until you have used all the dough

9. Bake for 30-35 minutes. As they bake, let yourself bask in the fragrance of the orange blossom water wafting out of the oven.

10. Remove from the oven and let them cool off on a cooling rack.

Let your imagination run wild and experiment with different flavour combinations. How about adding sultanas, or combining pistachios with rose water, chocolate with orange zest? Possibilities are endless! That’s the beauty of the culinary world… it’s a blank canvas waiting for you to make your mark.

Bon appétit mes amis.


Syphon Brewing

There’s nothing better than a beautifully brewed Syphon coffee and almond biscottis to awaken your senses and face the winter blues head on. I had been flirting with the idea of experimenting with Syphon brewing for a few months now. A brand new Hario TCA 3 cup Syphon adorned my kitchen counter on a Sunday morning, beseeching me to reveal it in all its glory.

Syphon coffee makers, also known as vac pots and vacuum brewers, made its grand debut on the coffee scene in Germany and France in the 1830s and remained popular until the mid-20th Century. This brewing technique remains relatively niche, having been safeguarded and propelled into the 21st Century thanks to coffee geeks around the world.

I sampled my first Syphon at Penny University in London last summer. The sensorial yet scientific nature of Syphon making is enthralling and I strongly urge you guys to give it a go.

Syphon brewing method

1. Grind: Measure 20.4g of coffee beans and grind (slightly finer than an aeropress/filter grind). I used Sightglass Coffee’s Rwanda single origin beans for this brew.

2. Water: Fill the bottom chamber with 340 ml off-the-boil water (preferably filtered).

3. Heat: Place the heat source underneath the Syphon maker and gaze intently as the water in the lower gas chamber transforms into a vapour and forces the water to travel up the tube to the upper glass chamber, passed the cloth filter.

4. Saturate: The full saturation of the coffee grounds takes place in this upper chamber. Once the water reaches a temperature of 93°C (200°F), carefully pour the ground coffee and stir to create turbulence and saturate the grounds. All the while, take great care to adjust and control the heat source to ensure the water remains in the top vessel, without boiling it.

5. Brew: Gently steep for 50-60 seconds.

6. Turbulence: Remove the heat source. The water vapour will contract and return to its liquid state. The water in the top vessel is drawn back into the vac pot, as the air is sucked back down filter and the grounds are ‘vacuumed’, resulting in turbulence and bubbling. This signals that your brew is done.

7. Dismantle: Carefully remove the top vessel from the vac pot and place it in the stand.

8. Indulge: Let the coffee cool slightly, to allow the complex aromas to develop. Indulge in a balanced, clean cup of coffee.

The following Intelligentsia video will help you guys visualise this process:


Vanilla Butter Pound Cake Anyone?

Let’s go back to the basics.

The history of pound cake dates back to the early 17th Century in England, however only rose to stardom a hundred years later when the recipe was divulged in most American and English cookery books. Pound cake almost inevitably conjures up the notion of a rich, dense, moist, buttery yet light cake, perfect for a teatime treat.

Getting to grips with the ingredients…

As the name suggests it, pound cakes are prepared with 1 pound of eggs, flour sugar and butter biensûr! It is a great starting point to learn the basics of patisserie.  The ingredients are so simple, n’est-ce pas? The fate of your pound cake therefore lies in your mixing technique. Unlike sponge cakes, that are light and fluffy, we should be ever so grateful to butter for giving pound cakes their rich and dense quality. Too much butter is a no-no as it results in a heavy and solid pound cake, which is definitely not what you’re after. And so, the obvious question prevails: how can you capture the rich, dense and moist flavour while preserving the light texture of the pound cake? The answer is hidden in the recipe below. Notice how we are balancing 3 whole eggs with 3 egg yolks. The eggs are incorporated ever so gradually in the mixture and the additional 3 egg yolks are key to creating an emulsion to help retain the moisture and air in the mixture. All your ingredients must be at room temperature or else if they are too cold, the air in the mixture will disappear into outer space.

What I love about pound cake is that it can be as plain or as versatile as you’d like! The original pound cakes were baked with dried and candied fruits, nuts and spices. I enclose below the recipe of an absolutely delicious vanilla pound cake to start you guys off. Use it as your base to explore further creative options. How about Lemon Buttermilk Pound Cake, Walnut and Raisin Pound Cake or perhaps go for the wild card: Basil and Tarragon Pound Cake and Lavender Honey Pound Cake?

I chose to bake a Vanilla Butter Pound Cake, served with homemade strawberry and rosewater sorbet. Why don’t you guys try to serve it with a dollop of lavender cream or fresh berries to balance out the sweetness of the cake.

Onto the recipe…

Here’s what you’ll need, using an 8 x 4 inches (20 x 10 cm) loaf pan. Don’t forget that all ingredients should be kept at room temperature.

  • 3 whole eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 vanilla bean, cut lengthways (scrape the beans)
  • 1 tsp water
  • 1/2 pound (227g) butter
  • 1/2 pound (227g) granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 7 ounces (200g) light white flour, sifted
  • Melted butter for the loaf pan
  • Baking paper to line the loaf pan

Step 1

Start by brushing melted butter on the inside of the loaf pan and line the loaf pan with baking paper to avoid the cake sticking to the pan. Set aside.

Step 2

Place the whole eggs, egg yolks, vanilla beans, vanilla extract and water in a bowl. Break up the eggs without beating them to incorporate air.

Step 3

Place the butter in a mixer bowl and beat using a paddle attachment for 2 minutes.

Step 4

Add the sugar gradually and continue beating for another 4 to 5 minutes until the mixture is pale, light and fluffy.

Step 5

Continue beating the mixture while adding the egg and vanilla mixture ever so slowly over 5 minutes.

Step 6

Add the teaspoon of salt and fold the sifted flour incorporating it in small batches.

Step 7

Pour the mixture in the loaf pan and bake at a low temperature 350˚F (185˚C) for approximately 1 hour. Insert a wooden skewer through the centre of the cake to gauge if the cake is fully baked. The skewer should come out clean. Remove the cake from the loaf pan and let it cool to room temperature.

And voilà! It doesn’t get much simpler and satisfying than that. Wrap in cling film and store at room temperature for a week… if it survives that long without being devoured! Give it a shot and do let me know how you get on.

PS: The scene below from Sleeping Beauty came to my mind as I was baking away in the kitchen and humming to the theme song. As Fauna, the Good Fairy, ‘gently folds’ her eggs into the mixture, it reminded me of how misleading recipe books can be!

Enjoy viewing the video clip. A très bientôt mes amis!