Saturday, 20 April 2019
This time I was aiming to get the flavours of the traditional Simnel cake (marzipan, dried fruit, spices) into the little shortbread squares. As I was using some mincemeat left over from Christmas to get the fruit and spice into the filling I added the tang of citrus flavours (in the form of marmalade) to brighten the flavour and make it feel fresher and more Spring-like. For the final step, I grated marzipan into the topping.
170g SR flour
85g caster sugar
100g marmalade (I used three-fruit marmalade for a sharper flavour)
100g white marzipan
Preheat the oven to 190C/170C fan. Line a 20cm (8") square tin with parchment.
Weigh the flour and semolina into a large bowl. Mix the mincemeat and marmalade in a small bowl.
Put the butter and sugar in a small saucepan and heat gently until the butter has melted and the sugar dissolved.
Pour this mixture onto the flour mixture and mix well to combine.
Put 2/3 of the dough into the prepared baking tin and spread evenly. Press down firmly as you level the mixture and smooth the surface.
Spread the mincemeat mixture over the dough, leaving a small margin around the edges.
Break up the remaining portion of dough into crumbs, still in the bowl, and coarsely grate the marzipan into the bowl. Gently mix the marzipan and dough crumbs together, then sprinkle them evenly over the filling. Press the topping down very lightly.
Bake for 25 minutes until golden brown. Rest for 5 minutes, then cut into 16 squares while still hot. Cool completely in the tin - they will fall apart if you try to move them while still hot.
Mixing marmalade and mincemeat for the filling worked really well. The marmalade added the fresh zing that I wanted and also muted the level of the spicing in the mincemeat, so that it didn't taste as if I was eating a Christmas mince pie. The marzipan flavour in the topping didn't come through as strongly as I had hoped for, but I'm not sure how I could remedy that. Introducing almond extract would be difficult in this particular recipe, without flavouring all of the shortbread dough. Altogether it was an harmonious blend of flavours and textures.
Friday, 12 April 2019
A friend gave me a pack of ground whole almonds, which hadn't had the skins removed before they were ground. They were much darker in colour, but not much different in flavour, so I still added a few drops of almond extract, to make sure the almond flavour came through properly. I also had the remains of a bag of dried apricots, and some prunes bought for breakfast when my sister was staying a while back.
I used the 'all-in-one' method, which is absolutely fine for even these type of loaves, which have a higher proportion of flour than sponge cakes. For speed, the butter can be softened (gently) in the microwave, or you can use baking spread.
100g softened butter
100g caster sugar
100g SR flour
50g ground almonds
2 large eggs
a few drops almond extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
50g soft dried apricots, *chopped into small pieces
50g soft dried prunes, *chopped into small pieces
2 tablespoons flaked almonds
*easiest to do with scissors
Preheat oven to 180C and prepare a small (1lb, 450ml) loaf tin - I used a pre-formed non-stick liner.
Put all the ingredients, except the dried fruit and flaked almonds, into a bowl and beat until well mixed and smooth. You may need to add a tablespoon or so of milk or water to get a dropping consistency.
Stir in the dried fruit and transfer the batter to the prepared loaf tin.
Level the top and sprinkle over the flaked almonds.
Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a test probe comes out clean
Cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Store in an airtight container when completely cold.