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Homemade hot cross buns with dark chocolate & cardamom

14 Apr

Friends, the Easter weekend is here and I would love to share this homemade hot cross bun recipe with you. I didn’t think that it was possible to get so close to the texture and taste of the kind of store-bought hot cross buns that I love (fluffy, fragrant, freshly baked, delicately brioche-y) with a home recipe, but I think these are pretty authentic!

Thank you to the team of Roodeberg Wine for the opportunity to work on this campaign – I loved every second.

Note: This recipe uses a stand mixer to make beautifully classic, fluffy hot cross buns. The cardamom & dark chocolate provide lovely depth of flavour and complex bitterness that really pairs well with the Roodeberg Red Blend – omit the cardamom & dark chocolate chips if you prefer a more traditional bun.

Ingredients: (for 12 large or 20 medium buns)

630 g (4,5 cups) white bread flour, plus extra for kneading
150 g (2/3 cup) caster sugar
10 g (15 ml) instant yeast
7,5 ml (1,5 teaspoons) salt
10 ml (2 teaspoons) ground “mixed spice”
10 ml (2 teaspoons) ground cinnamon
4 cardamom pods, seeds ground with a pestle & mortar (husks removed)
60 g (1/4 cup) butter, melted
375 ml (1,5 cups) milk
1 XL egg
1 cup (130 g) sultanas / golden sultanas
zest of an orange, finely grated
80-160 g dark chocolate, chopped into chunks

For the stripes: (Note: you can leave out the stripes if you want to!)

1/2 cup (70 g) flour
75 ml (5 tablespoons) water

For the glaze:

30 ml smooth apricot jam
15-30 ml water

Method:

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with K-beater, add the flour, sugar, yeast, salt and spices and mix well. Add the butter, milk, egg, sultanas and orange zest and mix for a minute. Change to the dough hook, scrape the sides, and continue to mix for 5 minutes. Add the chocolate chips and mix for 1 minute. Turn the sticky dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead into a smooth ball – adding a little more flour if necessary. Place the dough in a bowl, cover with plastic and leave to proof for 1,5 hours. In the meantime, line a large deep roasting tray with greaseproof baking paper.

Turn out the dough and punch it down, then divide it into 12 equal parts (for large buns) or 20 equal parts (for medium), shaping them into smooth balls by pinching any edges together at the bottoms. Flatten each ball slightly, then arrange in the prepared pan with some space in-between for rising. Cover with plastic and leave to rise for 30-45 minutes until almost doubled in size. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 180 C. When the buns are ready, mix the flour and water for the stripes, place in a piping bag with thin nozzle/hole, then pipe those classic “hot cross bun stripes/crosses”, easing the batter lines into the dips between the buns. Bake at 180 C for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and fully cooked, then leave to cool in the tins (don’t be tempted to eat them straight away, they need some time to settle otherwise they will seem undercooked). Serve warm or at room temperature, or toasted, with lashings of butter (and optionally jam).

Recipe developed exclusively for Roodeberg Wine.

Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

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Chocolate espresso cake

24 Mar

Is there anything in the world more tempting than a decadent, freshly baked piece of chocolate cake served with a cup of freshly brewed quality coffee?

I recently teamed up with Kenwood South Africa by welcoming their new Espresso Machine with integrated grinder into my home – a beautifully made stainless steel machine that has been bringing us a lot of joy in the mornings by making superb coffees and espressos. I love a manual espresso machine and prefer the involved craft to an automated machine. But the coolest bonus feature is the integrated grinder, meaning you can pour freshly roasted beans into the top funnel and press a button to get just the right amount of ground coffee directly into your pod filter. You can even adjust the grinding level with a bezel on the side.

I have now also mastered the steam nozzle and have been making “real deal” microfoam to go with my flat whites. It’s such a pleasure to finally figure this out! I’m not pouring patterns yet, but coffee making is certainly becoming a true passion.

There are many recipes where you can use freshly brewed coffees and espressos as an ingredient, so I’ve decided to bring you this easy, decadent, super moist, dark chocolate cake that features a strong cup of coffee in the batter (I’ve actually used 3 shots of espresso in my cup) and about half an espresso in the chocolate cream cheese frosting. The result is a deeply flavourful chocolate cake with a hint of bitter coffee – not overpowering at all.

The chocolate cream cheese frosting is very soft at room temperature in warm weather (almost like a soft mousse), so it’s best to store the cake in the fridge and serve it either cold or at room temperature. It will keep well for at least a week, if refrigerated, so it’s a great do-ahead dessert or tea time treat.

This machine retails for around R8 999 on various online platforms and in stores. Thank you Kenwood for bringing such joy into my home! I cannot wait to try out more coffee recipes.

(Shop this Kenwood Espresso Machine on Yuppiechef.)

Note: This recipe is based on an unidentified magazine cut-out for a fabulous “chocolate coffee cake” that my aunt Ena Coetzee from Wellington sent to me many years ago. She’s been baking this cake for decades, icing it with a simple, thick cocoa glaze. I’ve baked and adapted it many times for different occasions, but the original cake recipe is one of the best I’ve ever come across. I do prefer the cream cheese frosting to a glaze, but you can top it with your favourite chocolate or coffee based recipe for frosting (buttercream or glaze etc.) , if you don’t like cream cheese frostings.

Take a look at my how-to video:

Ingredients: (makes a 20cm 2-layer cake)

For the chocolate coffee cake:

  • 280 g (2 cups) cake flour
  • 70 g (3/4 cup) cocoa powder
  • 7 ml (1,5 teaspoons) baking powder
  • 10 ml (2 teaspoons) baking soda
  • 2,5 ml (1/2 teaspoon) salt
  • 400 g (2 cups) light brown sugar
  • 2 XL eggs
  • 250 ml (1 cup) milk
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) canola oil or olive oil
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) vanilla extract
  • 250 ml strong coffee (I brewed a triple espresso coffee)

For the chocolate cream cheese espresso frosting:

  • 2 x 230 g plain cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 125 g soft butter
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) vanilla extract
  • 375 g (3 cups) powdered icing sugar, sifted
  • 50 g (1/2 cup) cocoa powder, sifted
  • 15 ml (1 tablespoon) brewed espresso, cooled to room temperature

Method:

For the cakes: Preheat the oven to 180 C and line 2 x 20cm loose bottom cake pans with non-stick baking paper (and spray with non-stick spray). Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Ass the sugar and stir to mix. In a second bowl, add the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Mix well using an electric whisk, then add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and whisk until well mixed. Add the coffee and mix well, then pour into the prepared tins and bake at 180 C for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely in the tins. In the meantime, brew a single espresso and leave to cool.

For the frosting: In a medium-large mixing bowl, add the cream cheese, butter and vanilla and whisk until very creamy. Add the sifted icing sugar and cocoa powder, and carefully whisk until fully incorporated. Add the espresso and whisk until very creamy. At this point the frosting will be very soft, so you can refrigerate it for 1 hour to firm up if the weather is warm. To assemble, place one layer of cake on a cake plate, top with frosting, them top with the second layer of cake and frost all over. Neaten the edges by wiping off any excess frosting, them refrigerate the cake to firm up and set. Serve at room temperature or straight from the fridge, with a cup of freshly brewed espresso of coffee of your choice.

Note: This recipe was created in collaboration with Kenwood South Africa. All recipe content, photography and videography by Ilse van der Merwe. Video music by Hooksounds.com.

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Fudgy fig blondies

2 Mar

It is fig season in the Boland and I couldn’t feel more inspired! These must be some of the most beautiful fruit known to mankind – “dark with drama” on the outside, jammy soft and lusciously ruby on the inside. I grew up with the soft, light green variety of figs in our home garden. They were OK, but we never really loved them. Fast forward a few decades and I now know and adore quite a few varietals of figs, and I honestly love every single one.

My go-to way of enjoying figs will always be fresh, as part of a simple cheese board with preserves and fresh bread, or with extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic in a caprese salad. But when it comes to baking, the possibilities are endless. I’ve posted my favourite fig frangipane tart some time ago – I make this tart every year during fig season a couple of times, it’s such an elegant dessert. But the other day I wanted to try something new, so I thought of my friend Anele Horn’s delicious raspberry blondies that she made at a dinner party a few months ago. She said the original recipe called for rhubarb and strawberries, so surely it should work with figs?

She sent me the link of the original recipe from Taste Australia, and I adapted it for the size of my small new cream enamelware tin (how beautiful?), reduced the sugar content (because my ripe figs were definitely sweeter than rhubarb) and simplified some of the steps. The results are absolutely dreamy: golden edges that are perfectly chewy and caramelized, the figs omitting a royal perfume and jammy texture, the centre gooey and fudgy with pockets of white chocolate chips. I’m going to be making these a few more times this season, that’s for sure!

PS: Thank you XTN Family Farm for the beautiful figs that I’ve had the privilege of experimenting with over the last week. If you are interested in buying +-750-800g boxes of fresh figs weekly from these Wellington-based orchards (seasonal; limited; Stellenbosch-based distribution), give me a shout and I’ll send you a price list: ilse@thefoodfox.com.

Ingredients:

  • 100 g butter, chopped
  • 240 g white chocolate, chopped into small chunks
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) caster sugar
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) vanilla extract, or 10 ml (2 teaspoons) vanilla essence
  • 2 XL eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 ,25 cups flour (310 ml/175 g) white bread flour or cake flour
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) baking powder
  • 1 ml (1/4 teaspoon) salt
  • about 4 medium-large ripe figs, sliced into quarters or wedges

Method:

*Note: I used a 17 x 23 cm enamel baking tin, which is not a regular size. You will get the same results with a 20 x 20 cm square tin, or a 16 x 26 cm oven dish – anything slightly bigger will also do, but don’t go smaller.

Preheat the oven to 180 C with oven rack in center of oven. Line a suitable baking tin (at least 3,5 cm deep, see *note above) with non-stick paper. Place the butter and 2/3 (160 g) of the chopped chocolate in a microwavable medium size mixing bowl and microwave for 30 seconds. Stir, then continue to microwave for another 30 seconds and stir. Leave to heat through and melt completely for about 5 minutes, stirring now and then. Now add the sugar, vanilla and eggs to the melted chocolate mixture and stir until well mixed with a spatula or wooden spoon (do not whisk). Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together, then stir it into the butter mixture until just combined. Finally, add the remaining 80 g chopped white chocolate and fold in until evenly distributed, then scrape the mixture into your prepared tin. Use a spatula to create a flat even layer that reaches all the corners, then top all over with fig quarters/wedges, pressing them into the mixture. Bake for about 40-45 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown and the centre has a golden colour all over. Remove from the oven and cool completely in the tin. To slice, tug on the baking paper edges and remove the blondie slab from the tin onto a chopping board. Slice into squares, then remove the paper. Refrigerate in an air tight container, and enjoy straight from the fridge or at room temperature. (Should last in the fridge for at least 3-4 days.) Can also be served as dessert, at room temperature, with a dollop of whipped cream.

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My favourite milk tart

27 Feb

 

A mandala stencil will allow you to sift the most beautiful patterns on top of your milk tart. (Photography & co-styling by Tasha Seccombe.)

 

Today is National Milk Tart Day! I didn’t even know a national day like this existed, until the team of KWV Roodeberg asked me to assist with creating a recipe to pair with their beautiful Roodeberg Rosé.

In the process, I proceeded to test all kinds of milk tarts: baked, unbaked, stove top filling, condensed milk filling, cookie crust, blind baked crust, store bought puff pastry crust – you name it! And the following recipe has won my vote: a blind baked buttery crust with a stove top cooked filling consisting of milk and cream, thickened with flour and corn starch, enriched with whole eggs, infused with lemon rind, almond essence and vanilla. While many people might think the list of ingredients look long, I can promise you that I’ve simplified the method and it is seriously easy (and forgiving) to make. I specifically wanted to side step the part where you needed to fold in whisked egg whites into an already cooked stove top custard mixture, before getting baked, meaning that it is actually cooked twice. Just too many steps and too many dirty bowls and pots!

This milk tart is softly set, which means that it slices best when served straight from the fridge. I love eating it cold or at room temperature. And the best part is that the crust doesn’t get soggy over time, it stays flaky and crunchy!

Using a stencil for sifting ground cinnamon just lifts this simple tart to the next level. I bought a bulk pack of 12 mandalas and now I can sift so many beautiful patterns on my tarts and cakes – it’s a game changer. The trick is to wait until the custard is set before placing the stencil on top, and to keep the stencil really close to the surface (ask a friend to hold it in place) while you sift the cinnamon. This way you get really crisp lines that will stay that way.

The floral notes of the Roodeberg Rosé (rose petal, Turkish delight, raspberry) playfully picks up the aromatics of almond, vanilla and citrus in the milk tart filling. It’s an unusual and fun combination!

Quick note: to simplify this recipe even further, you can substitute the cream for more milk of the same quantity, and leave out the lemon rind and cinnamon stick infusion while heating the milk. Also, if you don’t like the taste of almond essence, just leave that out too. I personally adore all of these flavour elements, but they’re not essential!

These beautiful off-white bougain villa leaves reminded me of creamy milk tart. And just look at how translucent the KWV Roodeberg Rosé is! Pure magic! (Photography & co-styling by Tasha Seccombe.)

 

Ingredients: (makes 1 medium size milk tart)

For the crust:

1,5 cups (220 g) cake flour
1/3 cup (45 g) powdered icing sugar
1/4 teaspoon (1 ml) salt
125 g cold butter, cubed
1 XL egg yolk
1 tablespoon (15 ml) iced water

Spray a 22-23cm round tart tin/dish with non-stick spray and set aside. Place the flour, icing sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to mix. Add the butter and process until it resembles fine bread crumbs. Add the yolk and cold water and continue to process on low speed until it just starts to come together in clumps. Turn out into the tin and press evenly into a thin layer all over the bottom and up the sides (you might not need all of the pastry). Trim the edges, prick all over with a fork and place in the freezer. Now turn on your oven to 190 C with rack in the center to preheat while the dough firms up. After 20 minutes, transfer the cold tin to the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven to cool while you make the filling.

For the filling:

2 cups (500 ml) full cream milk
2 tablespoons (30 g) butter
2 strips lemon rind, thinly peeled (optional)
1 stick cinnamon (optional)
1/2 cup (125 ml) cream (or substitute with more milk)
1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
2 XL eggs
3 tablespoons (45 ml) corn flour / Maizena
2 tablespoons (30 ml) cake flour
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1 teaspoon (5 ml) almond essence
1-2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, for dusting

Place the milk, butter, lemon rind and cinnamon stick in a pot on the stove top over medium heat. When the milk mixture just starts to boil, remove the pot from the heat and leave to steep while you get the egg mixture ready. Place the cream, sugar, eggs, corn flour, cake flour, vanilla and almond essence in a mixing bowl and mix well with electric beaters.  Remove the rind and cinnamon stick from the warm milk, then pour the cream and egg mixture into the warm infused milk, stirring continuously. Place the pot back over medium heat and stir continuously until the mixture starts to thicken (2-3 minutes). Turn down the heat to very low and continue to stir until the mixture is very smooth, thick and glossy (1-2 minutes) – taking care not to let the bottom burn. Remove from the heat and pour into the baked pastry case. Smooth the top and leave to cool to room temperature. To use the stencil: place it gently on top of the cooled tart, then sift cinnamon all over to reveal the pattern. Lift the stencil and serve at room temperature. Store in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 3 days.

Tip: If your custard mixture seems to have thickened with some clots, use electric beaters to make it silky smooth before you pour it into the prepared base. It’s quite forgiving!

(This recipe was proudly and exclusively created for KWV Roodeberg Rosé for Milk Tart Day 2022.)

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My mother’s legendary aniseed brioche (anysbeskuit)

30 Aug

For the past 30 plus years, my mother Erna Uys has been baking the best aniseed brioche I’ve ever tasted. I say aniseed brioche and not “mosbolletjies”, because although this loaf might look like mosbolletjies, it simply isn’t. She calls it “anysbeskuit”, but I’ve also read that it is known as “soetbeskuit” – a tall and feathery sweet brioche flavoured with aniseed that you can also break into tufty fingers for drying out as rusks. My mother’s recipe doesn’t contain any fermented grape juice, which is the key ingredient to traditional South African mosbolletjies – an identical looking loaf that is usually made shortly after grapes are harvested in the Boland. What makes her recipe different is that it contains condensed milk, and more than double the amount of aniseeds that are found in other aniseed brioche recipes.

When I was a child, my mother used to bake for a local bakery called “Die Koskas” (The Food Cupboard) here in Stellenbosch. Her aniseed brioche (which most people just called mosbolletjies because it looked exactly like it) were baked in massive loaf pans, still luke warm when she delivered them, keeping the bags open to release the last bit of steam. People used to wait in line to buy these, so her loaves never really even hit the shelves before being lapped up.

Aniseed brioche is a labour of love, mostly because you need patience. It takes long to make because the rich dough needs a few hours to proof properly, a second proof of about an hour or two when inside the tin and another 50 minutes of baking time. But once you’ve tasted the warm feathery tufts slathered in butter, you’ll know why it’s special and why people go crazy for it. I’m sharing this special family recipe in collaboration with Gideon Milling, using their South African grown, stone ground cake wheat flour – a fantastic all-purpose flour that I use very often for anything from cakes to pizza.

Here are a few notes on this recipe:

  • My mother’s original recipe calls for 2,5 kg cake flour, which is just too large a batch for regular home baking (it yields 3 extra large loaves which might feed at least 30 people). I changed the recipe to use 850 g cake flour, still resulting in an extra large loaf by anyone’s standards.
  • *If you want to bake this loaf in one extra large pan, you’re going to look for something about 35 cm long and 15 cm wide. The largest pan that I own (pictured in this post) is 34 cm long and 9 cm wide, resulting in the tops rising above the pan’s sides if I use all of the mixture, so I’ve recently started filling it with only 75% of the dough, filling a very small second pan on the size with the remaining dough. However, my mother’s pans are large and wide enough to “contain” the dough and result in two rows of very neat looking smooth rounds on top. You can certainly also split the dough up and bake two large loaves of about 25 cm x 10 cm, or three medium loaves of 20 x 9 cm – this way you can gift one or two loaves to a friend.
  • My mother insists on frothing her instant yeast in water with some sugar, although technically you should be able to add it in with the dry ingredients. I follow her guidance.
  • If you want to make sure that your loaf doesn’t stick to the pan, rather just line it with baking paper. Most modern pans are relatively non-stick these days, but some older pans tend to stick, even when greased well. The brioche is VERY tender when warm from the oven, and will break if it cannot slide out easily.
  • This loaf will last quite a few days on the shelf, wrapped in plastic. It might become a lot firmer, but will regain its magic with the help of a toaster. The great thing is that it slices very neatly the older it gets, so you can make beautiful melba toasts (dry out in the oven at 70 C for about 1 hour) that will keep for weeks in an airtight container. Perfect addition to your next cheese platter.
  • This loaf makes wonderful rusks – sliced each individual segment lengthways (or break it with the use of a fork to keep the feathery look), then dry out at 70 C for about 5 hours without it getting any colour.
  • Aniseed are small little spice seeds and have a distinctive liquorice flavour. They cannot be substituted with similar sounding whole star anise or similar looking cumin seeds – it’s a completely different spice.

Here are some how-to photographs to guide you through your first “anysbeskuit” adventure:

Start with using good quality natural stone ground flour, like Gideon Milling’s cake flour. The dough is enriched with a free range egg, butter and condensed milk, and flavoured with aniseed. It need 2-4 hours to proof – it should triple in size.

I use a kitchen scale to make sure my balls are all an even size. Shape them by hand to ensure a smooth surface.

Make sure your pan is very well oiled. The balls should fit tightly and should preferably only cover the lower third (or maximum lower half) of your pan. They will proof to double in size, and rise even more while baking.

 

Ingredients:

(makes 1 XL loaf or 2 large loaves or 3 medium loaves – see *pan size guides in notes above)

Prep time: 20 min for mixing & kneeding, 2-4 hours for proofing, 15 minutes for shaping, 1-2 hours for second proof, 50 minutes for baking.

  • 180 ml (3/4 cup) luke warm water
  • 10 g (3 teaspoons) instant yeast
  • 200 g (250 ml) white sugar
  • 850 g (6 cups) Gideon Milling cake flour
  • 10 ml (2 teaspoons) salt
  • 20 g (3 tablespoons) aniseed
  • 60 ml (4 tablespoons) condensed milk
  • 100 g butter, melted
  • 1 XL egg, lightly whisked
  • 250 ml warm water (warmer than luke warm, but not boiling)
  • oil, for brushing the bowl & tin
  • for the syrup: 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water

Method:

In a medium jug/bowl (about 500 ml capacity), add the warm water, yeast and 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Stir, then leave to froth for about 10 minutes while you get the rest of the ingredients ready. To the bowl of a stand mixer (or just a large mixing bowl, if doing this by hand), add the rest of the sugar along with the flour, salt & aniseed. Stir to mix. When the yeast mixture is frothy, add the wet ingredients to the mixing bowl in the following order: condensed milk, butter, egg, warm water and then the frothy yeast mixture. Mix on low speed using the K-beater for about 30 seconds, then switch to the dough hook and knead on low speed for 10 minutes (if working by hand, stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture become sticky, then knead for at least 10 minutes until the mixture is very smooth and soft, adding a little flour if the mixture is sticking to the working surface). Lightly oil the inside of a large bowl with room for proofing, then shape the dough into a smooth ball and add it to the bowl. Cover with plastic and leave to rise in a warm area until tripled in size – 2 to 4 hours depending on weather conditions.

In the meantime, oil the inside of your preferred *tin/s using a pastry brush. When the dough is ready, divide it into 12 balls of the same size (about 170 g each). Lightly oil your hands, then shape each ball by pushing it from below through the hole you make by pressing your thumb and forefinger together, pinching it at the bottom to stay round, then arrange tightly in rows in your tin/s. Again, cover with plastic for a second proof – you need the dough to almost reach the top of the tins. While it is proofing, preheat your oven to 170 C and arrange your oven rack to be in the lower third. Remove the plastic from the tin when the dough has proofed enough, then bake the loaf for 1 hour at 170 C. In the meantime, make the syrup by stirring the sugar and warm water together in a cup.

When the baking time is up, have a clean, thick folded tea towel ready, then turn the freshly baked loaf out onto the towel (the loaf is too soft for a cooling rack at this stage). Brush with the syrup, then leave to cool slightly before serving warm – tearing off the “bolletjies” one by one to reveal their natural feathery nature. The loaf can also be sliced (when cooled), if preferred. Best served with butter (and optionally also jam).

– In proud collaboration with Gideon Milling. –

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Lemon semolina syrup cake

25 Aug

This easy, scrumptious, moist, bright yellow cake is the fourth and final recipe in the series #WhenLifeGivesYouLemons with LemonGold. It is made with four whole boiled LemonGolds (they’re seedless, so no need to remove seeds) and gets drenched in a lemony, almondy syrup as soon as it comes from the oven. The bright yellow colour doesn’t only come from the yellow fruit pulp (skins and all), but also from the use of extra virgin olive oil, locally sourced free range eggs and pale yellow semolina, resulting in a truly golden colour. Fine semolina lends a tender soft crumb, light as air.

The cake can be stored on the counter, covered, for up to 3 days, or refrigerated for up to 1 week. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream, or at room temperature with a cup of coffee.

Ingredients: (serves at least 8)

  • 4 LemonGolds
  • water, for boiling
  • 180 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 140 g (2/3 cup) sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 XL free range eggs
  • 2 cups (250 g) fine semolina
  • 20 ml (4 teaspoons) baking powder

Method:

Preheat oven to 180 C and spray a large rectangular deep baking dish with non-stick spray (mine is 24 x 30 cm).

Cover the lemons with water and bring to a boil. Turn heat to a simmer and cover with a lid, then cook until soft (about 30 min). Remove with tongs and cool slightly, then remove the hard woody end stubs and cut into quarters. Blitz until smooth in a food processor. Now add the olive oil, sugar, salt and eggs. Process until well mixed, scraping the sides. Add the semolina and baking powder and pulse to mix.

Scrape the mixture out into the prepared baking tin and smooth the surface, edging the mixture evenly into all the corners. Bake for 30 minutes (while you make the syrup) – the centre should be cooked and the surface golden. Remove from the oven and cut into diamonds, then ladle the syrup all over.

For the syrup:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • juice of a LemonGold
  • 5 ml almond essence

Boil all the syrup ingredients for 1 minute, then set aside to cool. 

Serve warm with a scoop of ice cream, or at room temperature with a strong coffee.

 

 

 

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Apple caramel pecan pie

13 May

I adore apples in every shape and form – tart and crunchy, sweet and juicy, fresh, baked, caramelized, stewed – the works. They’re the easiest lunchbox treats, the most convenient quick snack, the humblest dessert ingredient that never disappoints.

Today is international Apple Pie Day! I teamed up with Dutoit Agri to create my favourite “apple pie” inspired dish – they said it could be a pie, a smoothie, a sweet treat, anything derived from the humble yet classic apple pie. Seeing that I haven’t created an apple pie in some time, I was extremely keen to create an actual pie, especially after recently visiting one of the Dutoit Agri apple farms in the Koue Bokkeveld in April this year. It was eye opening to see the vast orchards, treated with the utmost care and respect by generations of farmers, the fruit ripe and plump and wholesome. I understood in that instant that the humble apple played an indispensable role in our South African community, and that the family business that is Dutoit Agri is key to many household’s basic nutritional intake.

Here is my take on the classic apple pie that can take on so many jackets: an apple caramel pecan pie – a fruit-focused pie made with a combination of Dutoit Agri’s Granny Smith and Golden Delicious apples, steeped in a brown sugar liquid, swirled with caramel treat and pecan nuts, baked in a flaky buttery pastry casing, topped with beautiful lattice pastry strips. The result is something between a pie and a pudding, because it crumbles irresistably as you plate it, perfect for a bowl full of pudding and whipped cream.

To skip some of the labour, you can opt for a convenient store-bought short crust pastry which is very stable to handle and bake, but with less of the flakiness and none of the sweetness. But it you’re keen for a tender flaky crust that’s fragrant with butter and vanilla, make your own – recipe listed below.

This recipe is something between a traditional American-style chunky apple pie, a French-style finely sliced apple pie and a caramel pecan pie. It might not behave neatly when sliced (and rightly so), therefor you can certainly scoop it with a spoon into bowls instead of trying to slice, serving as a pudding instead of tea-time treats. Best served slightly warm with a generous dollop of unsweetened whipped cream.

Notes & tips:

  • I’ve used a combination of Granny Smith and Golden Delicious apples, but you can use only one varietal if you want to.
  • I’ve used a 23 cm round pie dish, about 4 cm deep. You can also use a 20 cm dish, the pie will just be piled a bit higher – remember that the cooked apples will soften and sink back.
  • If you’ve never worked with pastry before, or if you are not keen on doing lattice work, remember that you can always just place the strips in one direction with a little space inbetween – it will be much easier and equally beautiful. Another option would be to cover the pie completely with a rolled out layer of pastry, just trim the sides and make a few slits in the top for the steam to escape. (As mentioned earlier, you can also use store-bought short crust pastry for a quick and convenient alternative – it isn’t sweet like my recipe, but it is still crisp and flaky and very easy to handle.)
  • Always place a regular baking tray underneath the pie dish when baking, as the caramel tends to bubble up and escape over the sides. This way you prevent any caramel from dripping on the base of your oven.
  • The pie gets covered with a layer of foil half way through baking to prevent it from browning too much. To make a very convenient foil dome lid, turn a dinner plate upside down and shape a sheet of foil to fit it, then use to cover.
  • For a cheeky twist, replace the pecan nuts with chopped Peppermint Crisp chocolate bars (perhaps 1 medium bar is enough) for an Apple Caramel Peppermint Crisp Pie.

Ingredients: (serves 8) – also check out my how-to video on Instagram!

For the filling:

  • 10 medium size apples (about 1,1-1,2 kg), suitable for cooking (Granny Smith, Golden Delicious etc.)
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) demerara sugar
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) white sugar
  • 1 ml (1/4) teaspoon salt
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) ground cinnamon
  • 2,5 ml (1/2 teaspoon) allspice
  • 20 ml (4 teaspoons) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 30 ml (2 tablespoons) corn flour

For the sweet sort pastry crust: (optional – you can also use a store-bought short crust pastry or puff pastry)

  • 280 g (2 cups) cake flour
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) caster sugar
  • 2,5 ml (1/2 teaspoon) salt
  • 200 g cold butter, cut into cubes
  • 2 XL egg yolks
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) lemon juice
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) vanilla extract
  • 20 ml (4 teaspoons) ice cold water

For assembling & serving:

  • 1/2 can “caramel treat” / caramel dessert topping
  • 1/2 cup (50 g) pecan nuts, chopped
  • 1 egg, whisked (for brushing)
  • 250 ml (1 cup) fresh cream, whipped (for serving)

Method:

For the filling: Peel the apples, cut them from the core and slice finely. Place the slices in a large mixing bowl, then add the demerara sugar, white sugar, salt, cinnamon, allspice and lemon juice. Stir well to coat on all sides, then leave to macerate for 30 minutes. (At this point, you can continue making the pastry – see below.) The fruit will release liquid and a pool of dark brown sugary syrup will form on the base of the bowl. Sprinkle the corn flour all over and stir again to mix very well. Set aside.

For the sweet shortcrust pastry: Place the flour, caster sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to mix. Add the cold butter cubes and pulse to mix until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs, then add the yolks, lemon juice and vanilla and process briefly to mix. While the motor is running, add the iced water through the feeding tube and process until it just starts to come together in a ball, then remove from the bowl and divide into two equal parts, patting them into flat disks with floured hands. Cover each and refrigerate until ready to roll out (can be made ahead and refrigerated for a day or two).

For assembling: Preheat the oven to 180 C and place a rack in the middle. Grease a 23 cm round deep pastry dish with non-stick spray. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the first disk of pastry to a rough circle of about 30 cm in diameter (or cut a ready rolled sheet of store-bought shortcrust/puff pastry into a 30 cm round), adding more flour to prevent the pastry from sticking. Carefully transfer it to the pastry dish, easing in the sides and leaving a slight overhang. Spoon the apple filling and all the liquid into the lined pan and smooth the top. Warm the caramel in a medium size jug in the microwave, then stir until smooth, and pour all over the top of the filling. Scatter all over with the pecan nuts, then place the whole pie as is in the fridge while you roll out the second pastry disc. Again, on a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry to a rough rectangle and cut into 12 long strips (or use another sheet of store bought pastry for this). Arrange the strips on top of the pie to form a lattice (or any other pattern of your choice), then trim the sides – I cut any leftover pastry into thinner strips and place all around the sides, then press with a fork and brush all over with the whisked egg. Place the prepared pie on another baking tray, then bake for 45 minutes uncovered. Lightly cover with foil (see notes above), then continue to bake for another 45 minutes. Remove from the oven, remove the foil and leave to cool completely for the liquids to set – the pie is best cut when completely cooled, as it will hold its shape, but best served slightly warm (a microwave will do the trick!). Serve warm or at room temperature with a dollop of whipped cream.

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Pistachio cake with chocolate mousse & ganache glaze

3 May

This is my ode to Mothers Day 2021 – a celebratory double layered cake made with bright green locally farmed pistachios, lightly infused with almond extract, vanilla and rose water, sandwiched with Joostenberg Deli‘s ready-made decadent chocolate mousse and topped with an easy dark chocolate ganache glaze. The texture of the cake is so tender and moist, and it bakes beautifully even on top (so you don’t have to slice off any humps). It is slightly sweet and a little salty, golden with a tinge of green, and invitingly fragrant.

Pistachios have always been one of my absolute favourite nuts – breathtakingly beautiful and the most delicious delicate flavour. They’re more expensive than other nuts, so I usually use them sparingly. But this year, I feel like we all need a little extra pampering. On a recent trip to Joostenberg Deli, I discovered the unrivalled quality of Senqu River Pistachios from the Prieska area. They sell it in 150 g packets at R112 – the most beautifully vibrant, fresh, large, bright pistachios I’ve ever seen. I decided to celebrate pistachios as an ingredient, baking it into a delicately green cake, pairing it with fluffy, rich chocolate mousse and glossy ganache for a show-stopping centrepiece. Although the recipe might seem exuberant, the ingredients will cost you around R300 in total (maybe less) and considering that the cake will feed at least 12 people, it’s truly worth making for a special occasion.

Senqu River pistachios, Nature golden caster sugar, Usana eggs and Valrhona 70% chocolate disks. All available from Joostenberg Deli.

Joostenberg Deli will also stock Valrhona’s dark chocolate disks available in smaller tubs soon, which means that you’ll have access to chef’s quality chocolate in convenient small shapes for melting without having to buy bulk. Other ingredients that make this cake fabulous are Natura’s golden caster sugar and Usana’s free range eggs – all available from Joostenberg’s Deli.

This cake is best served at room temperature, but do store it in the fridge if you’re not serving it right away, as the mousse is made with fresh cream. Other frostings that will work very well are 1) classic cream cheese frosting, 2) vanilla, rose or chocolate buttercream or 3) creme patissierre. You can also make a fragrant rosewater syrup, pouring it over the cake when warm from the oven, and serving the cake with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream – Joostenberg makes a fabulous pistachio ice cream which will be the perfect partner.

Pipe a layer of Joostenberg’s chocolate mousse on the first cake layer.
Pour the ganache glaze over the second layer.
Top with chopped pistachios and some rose petals, optionally.

For the cake: (makes a double layered 20 cm cake, serves 12)

(Notes: Recipe adapted from the fabulous Broma Bakery. This recipe uses 3 large eggs – if you only have XL on hand, use 2 whole eggs plus 1 egg white).

  • 150 g (1 + 1/3 cup) raw pistachios – reserve a tablespoon for topping
  • 280 g (2 cups) cake flour
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) salt
  • 15 ml (1 tablespoon) baking powder
  • 2,5 ml (1/2 teaspoon) baking soda
  • 125 g butter, softened
  • 60 ml vegetable oil
  • 300 g (1 + 2/3 cups) golden caster sugar (or regular caster sugar)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) vanilla extract
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) almond extract
  • 5-10 ml (1-2 teaspoons) rose water (optional)
  • 180 ml (3/4 cup) double cream yoghurt (or sour cream)
  • 180 ml (3/4 cup) milk

For the ganache glaze:

  • 30 ml (2 tablespoons) butter
  • 70 ml (4 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) milk
  • 100 g dark chocolate, 70% cocoa (I used disks, but you can also just chop a chocolate bar)

Other:

  • 500 ml ready-made chocolate mousse (find it in the fridge at Joostenberg Deli)
  • a few rose petals for decoration, optional

Method:

1) Preheat the oven to 180 C (regular convection) and arrange the rack in the middle of the oven. Grease 2 x 20cm loose bottom cake tins with non-stick spray and line the bases with non-stick baking paper, spraying the paper’s surface too.

2) In a food processor, process the pistachios to fine crumbs (don’t use a power blender, because you might end up with a paste). Add it to a mixing bowl along with the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda, then stir with a whisk to mix.

3) In the bowl of an electric mixer, add the butter and oil and beat until well mixed and creamy. Add the sugar and beat until light and creamy. Add the eggs, vanilla, almond extract and rose water and mix until very light and creamy.

4) Add the yoghurt and milk and beat slowly until the mixture start to look curdled (don’t overmix), then add the dry ingredients and continue to fold it in by hand, continuing until the mixture is very smooth and creamy with speckles from the nuts.

5) Divide the mixture between the two prepared pans and smooth the tops, then bake at 180 C for 35 minutes or until golden and fully cooked (an inserted toothpick should come out clean). Remove from the oven, leave to cool in the tins fo 15 minutes, then carefully remove from the tins and leave to cool completely.

6) To make the glaze, heat the butter and milk in a heat proof jug in the microwave until the butter has melted (don’t let the milk boil). Add the chocolate discs/pieces and leave to melt for a few minutes, then stir until smooth. Now assemble the cake: Place one layer on a cake stand, then use a piping bag filled with chocolate mousse to pipe mousse all over the surface (or just spread it with a knife). Top with the second layer of cake, then pour the ganache glaze all over, edging some of the glaze over the sides. Decorate with the reserved pistachios (roughly chopped) and a few rose petals. Serve at once, or store in the fridge and return to room temperature before serving.

This recipe is part of a proud collaboration series with Joostenberg Bistro & Deli.

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Coq au vin pie

18 Mar

Easter is around the corner and I just had the privilege of creating an Easter-inspired recipe for La Motte with their iconic 2018 Millennium – a Merlot Cabernet Franc red blend. 

I immediately thought of the (also iconic) French chicken stew, coq au vin – a delightful dish made with red wine, mushrooms and onions, perfect for the cooler Autumn weather in the Boland. But for an Easter celebration, I really wanted to go the extra mile and turn the stew into a scrumptious (boneless) pie with a royal homemade sour cream pie crust. 

Making pie from scratch is not a quick meal, but it is certainly one of the most rewarding. My advice would be to start the day before, making the pastry (it needs quite a bit of folding and rolling) and making the stew. Let the stew cool, debone it, and refrigerate. Then assemble the pie about an hour and a half before you want to serve it – take your time with cutting out extra shapes using a cookie cutter or just a small sharp knife. I cut all my leaves by hand, making the grooves with the edge of the knife. This pie is quite saucy, so I prefer not to line the base of my pie dish, but to rather go over the top with pie shapes on top so that they stay super crisp. Bake any delicate or elaborate shapes on a separate lined baking sheet, brushed with egg wash and sprinkled with salt flakes – the baking time will be shorter than the assembled pie, so just keep an eye on it (about 25-30 minutes, depending on the size and thickness).

I served this festive pie with a luxurious seasonal salad of honey glazed butternut with figs, pomegranates, spinach, blue cheese and pecan nuts. The salad and the pie both pair exceptionally well with La Motte’s 2018 Millennium, and the wine is available at 15% off between 15 March and 15 April 2021, available online or from the farm.

For the sour cream pastry:

Note: if you want to save time, use a good quality store-bought puff pastry instead for the crust.

  • 3 cups (420 g) cake flour
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) salt
  • 250 g butter, cold, cubed
  • 250 ml thick sour cream
  • 1 egg, whisked, for brushing

In a large wide bowl, mix the flour and salt, then add the butter cubes, rubbing it into flat small discs with your fingers. When the cubes are all transformed into discs, add the sour cream and stir with a wooden spoon until it comes together in a rough ball (don’t add any liquid, it will eventually become a soft ball of dough). Cover with plastic and rest the dough for at least 30 minutes (if it is a cool day, it can be rested on the counter top in a cool spot, but if it is hot, rather rest it in the fridge). Roll out into a rectangle on a floured surface, then fold into three layers (when facing horizontally, fold the right side to the middle, and the left side over both layers to the middle, making 3 layers). Immediately roll out again into a rectangle, and fold into three layers. Repeat a third time. Rest the dough for another 30 minutes. Now repeat the 3-part rolling and folding process. Rest again for 30 minutes. The dough is now ready to roll out into a 5 mm thick sheet (on a lightly floured surface) before cutting out and baking.

For the coq au vin:

  • 45 ml olive oil
  • 1 large free range chicken (about 1,5 kg), cut into quarters
  • salt & pepper
  • 3 medium onions, sliced into 1/8 wedges
  • 200 g streaky bacon, chopped
  • a generous handful thyme sprigs, leaves only (discard stalks)
  • 30 ml (2 tablespoons) cake flour
  • 15 ml (1 tablespoon) tomato paste
  • 1/2 bottle (375 ml) dry red wine (I used La Motte’s 2018 Millennium)
  • 250 g portabellini mushrooms, halved

In a wide large pot/casserole with lid that can also go into the oven, over medium heat, add the chicken and fry on both sides until golden. Season with salt & pepper, then remove from the pot. Add the onions, bacon and thyme, and fry until the onions start to soften slightly and the bottom of the pot starts to turn sticky. Add the flour and tomato paste, and stir for a minute, then add the red wine and stir to loosen all the sticky bits on the bottom. Bring to a simmer, then replace the chicken quarters and add the mushrooms, pushing them down into the sauce. Cover with a lid and braise in the oven for about 1h15 minutes or until very tender and falling from the bone. Remove from the oven, turn the chicken pieces over, replace lid and leave to cool to a temperature where it is easy to debone. When cool, using tongs and clean hands, debone the chicken and shred the meat into chunks. Check the seasoning of the sauce and add more salt  & pepper if necessary. Transfer the filling to a large deep pie dish and press down to create a flat surface. Now top it with the pastry. 

Preheat the oven to 180 C. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the rested pastry to a large slab of about 5 mm thick. To cover your round pie dish with pastry, measure a circle slightly bigger than the dish, then cut it out with a pizze cutter or sharp small knife (the dough will always shrink back a little while baking). Carefully place over the pie dish, then use a fork to make indents on the edges (if you want to). Brush with egg wash, then cut more small decorative shapes to adorn the edges and centre, using a cookie cutter or a sharp small knife. Brush all the extra shapes with egg wash. Cut a few slits into the top for steam to escape, then bake for about 50 minutes on the centre rack until golden brown. Remove from the oven and serve hot. 

For the honey glazed butternut, fig, pomegranate & blue cheese salad:

Note: the glazed butternut can be made ahead before you bake the pie. Serve at room temperature.

  • 1 medium butternut, peeled and sliced into 1 cm thick slices (remove seeds)
  • 30 ml (2 tablespoons) olive oil
  • 15-30 ml (1-2 tablespoons) honey
  • salt & pepper
  • dressing:
    • 3 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice)
    • 10 ml Dijon mustard
    • 5 ml honey
  • about 150 g swiss chard spinach, chopped (stems finely sliced) – or use rocket leaves
  • 6-8 ripe black figs, sliced 
  • 100 g blue cheese, crumbled
  • seeds of 1/2 ripe pomegranate
  • 1/2 cup (50 g) pecan nuts, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 220 C. Arrange the butternut on a large baking sheet lined with non-stick baking paper. Drizzle all over with olive oil and honey, then toss with a spatula to cover on all sides. Season with salt & pepper, then roast for 20-25 minutes or until brown on the edges and tender.  Remove from the oven and let cool.

Make the dressing: add the olive oil, vinegar, mustard and honey to a small jar, season with salt & pepper and shake vigorously. Add the spinach to a mixing bowl, then add half the dressing and toss to coat all over. Transfer the dressed spinach to a salad serving platter, then add the glazed butternut, figs, blue cheese, pomegranate seeds and pecan nuts. Serve at once (the dressed spinach will continue to wilt on standing). 

This post was proudly created in collaboration with La Motte Wines.

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Almond financiers (a step-by-step guide)

11 Aug

A few years ago, I discovered almond financiers while shopping at Joostenberg Deli. They produce a wide range of French-inspired pastries within their bakery, also including madeleines, croissants, etc. These unassuming little pastries looked intrigueing: no icing, no impressive decoration, just rectangular golden nuggets with their characteristic cracked tops. I’ve always been a sucker for any type of almond pastry, so I expected to love them. But when I finished all six in the packet by myself before even getting home, I knew I was hooked. Crunchy on the outside, densely moist in the middle, with the distinctive yet subtle almond flavour that all frangipane-style pastries are globally adored for.

I’ve since created a recipe for baking my own, using a mini-muffin tin instead of the original iconic rectangular molds that I cannot seem to find anywhere (I suppose they do look like little gold bars, and perhaps therefor the “financiers” name). I’ve baked many batches of these, and they never disappoint. Over the years I’ve adapted the recipe slightly to suit a number of easy substitutions (even using home-ground whole almonds) and to make sure that they didn’t stick to the pan as easily (the purists prefer buttering the moulds, but I honestly think non-stick spray does a better job).  I’ve also found David Lebovitz’s financiers post very handy, and specifically found the comments section very insightful (because so many people wanted to know if you atually stir in the egg whites without giving them a whisk first, and the answer is yes, you stir them in just a gloopy as they are). Apart from turning the butter into browned butter over the stove top, the rest is literally a stir-together vibe – it couldn’t be simpler.

I’ve created a few visuals in my kitchen, showing you what the process and the mixture look like – keep scrolling down to get the full recipe at the end of the post. Have fun in the kitchen and prepare to fall in love with these humble little nuggets.

Browned butter – take a look at the essential darker bits that form at the bottom of the pan. Keep swirling to prevent the butter from burning.

Separating my eggs – you’ll only use the whites, so keep the yolks for making custard later.

Add the ground almonds to a mixing bowl, along with flour, salt and sugar. Use store-bought “almond flour” (blanched ground almonds) or make your own by grinding whole almonds to a powdery consistency in a blender.

Add the whites to the dry ingredients and mix to a sticky thick batter.

Add the slightly cooled browned butter to the batter and stir until fully incorporated.

It’s a stirring game – no technique, very easy.

Keep stirring until the butter is fully incorporated.

Use two spoons to drop the batter into a mini-muffin tin that’s thoroughly sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

Optionally, top with a few flaked almonds.

Bake for 12 minutes at 220 C (or 200 C for fan assisted ovens).

Remove carefully from the tin using a sharp small bladed knife, and cool on a rack.

French simplicity at its finest: freshly baked almond financiers, baked in mini-muffin tins.

Ingredients: (makes 24 mini-muffin financiers)

  • 100 g salted butter
  • 140 g (1 cup tightly packed) ground almonds / almond flour (or grind your own from raw almonds)
  • 180 g (4/5 cup) light brown sugar (or white sugar)
  • 60 g (1/2 cup) white bread flour (or cake flour)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 XL egg whites 
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • about 1/4 cup flaked almonds (optional)

Method:

  1. Make the browned butter: Place the butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, swirling every now and then until melted. It will start to sizzle and bubble with a slightly “split” look. Continue to swirl from side to side (do not stir) every 15 seconds, watching it carefully. The large spattering bubbles will change to a gentler fine coffee-coloured foam – when this happens, check for a golden brown residue on the bottom of the pan. As soon as you spot this golden brown residue starting to form, remove the pot from the heat and keep on swirling until the foam subsides and you are left with a liquid, nutty, brown butter. Be careful not to burn the butter. The butter should now be around 80 ml in total, which is perfect. Set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 220 °C (or 200 °C if using fan-assisted oven). Spray a 24 hole mini-muffin tin generously with non-stick spray.
  3. Add the ground almonds, sugar, flour and salt to a large mixing bowl and stir with a spatula. Add the egg whites and extract and stir well – it will be a sticky, thick batter.
  4. Add the slightly cooled but still liquid browned butter and stir until well mixed. Divide the mixture evenly between the mini-muffin holes using two spoons. Top with some flaked almonds (optional) then bake for 12 minutes until golden brown and risen.
  5. Remove from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes in the pan before use a sharp small knife to loosen the sides of the financiers. Leave on a cooling rack to cool to room temperature.
  6. Serve with tea/coffee. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Note: If you are using unsalted butter, rather add 1/2 teaspoon salt. If not topping with almond flakes, the financiers with rise a little more and you’ll see more of the characteristic “cracked” top.

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