Thursday, 22 August 2019

Marmalade Shortbread Squares

I was tempted by a jar of marmalade in one of our local independent delicatessens  - blood orange, lime and chilli - but was quite disappointed when I tried it.

The fruit content wasn't very high (I know I should have checked before buying, but for what I paid I expected more) and the peel had been diced rather than shredded. On top of that the chilli flavour wasn't really noticeable either. However, it was too expensive to waste, so I decided to incorporate it into one of my favourite cookie bar recipes.

These shortbread squares are as near perfection as it's possible to get, I think. They are buttery, melt-in-the-mouth crumbly, yet still crisp (and they stay crisp, even after several days, which is quite a feat with a moist filling).

The original recipe is from Sue Lawrence's 'On Baking' , and used a filling of dates and currants cooked with ginger, honey and lemon juice to give a thick pulpy filling. I kept the shortbread layers exactly as they are in the recipe, and used 250g of marmalade for the filling.

170g SR flour
170g semolina
170g butter
85g caster sugar
250g marmalade of choice

Pre-heat the oven to 190C (170C fan), and line a 20cm square baking tin with a piece of baking parchment.
Put the flour and semolina into a bowl. Warm the butter and sugar together in a small saucepan until the butter has melted and the sugar is dissolved. Pour onto the flour mixture and combine thoroughly to give a wet sticky dough.
Warm the marmalade slightly, so that it is spreadable (I  put it in a small bowl in the microwave, for just a few seconds).
Put 2/3 of the dough into the baking tin and spread evenly over the base, pressing down firmly. Spread over the marmalade, leaving a 1cm margin around the edges.
Crumble the rest of the dough over the top, aiming for a fairly even distribution, and press down lightly just to make sure it sticks. There won't be enough to completely cover the surface but that doesn't matter - it will spread as it bakes, and a few gaps look attractive anyway.
Bake for 25 minutes, by which time it should be golden brown. Cut into squares immediately, but leave in the tin to get completely cold before removing - the shortbreads are too fragile to move while warm.

These were delicious! This shortbread recipe isn't over-sweet, so the biscuit layers were a nice contrast to the amount of sugar in the marmalade. The marmalade, although heavy in sugar, also had a pleasing sharpness to it's flavour so the whole thing was nicely balanced.

The possible variations on this recipe are as wide as your imagination - I've used jam, mincemeat, chocolate spread (with and without added caramel) other dried fruits (chopped and cooked with a little liquid until soft and pulpy) and have added chopped nuts and marzipan to the top layer of shortbread. I haven't tried fresh fruit yet - I think many fruits would be too wet for the shortbread to stay crisp, but pre-cooked and drained apples or pears might work.

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Dark Banana Ginger Cake

I feel as if I should apologise for three consecutive posts featuring loaves, but they are so practical now that I'm only baking for myself. Even with a small loaf cake, I often freeze part of it - mainly to save my waistline, not because I couldn't eat it all. Loaf shaped cakes are easy to portion and stack tidily in the freezer. In this case, I was able to bake this full-sized recipe (the second on the page) from the ever reliable Dan Lepard, but split it between two small loaf tins rather than bake it as one large 20cm (8") square cake. The cooking time for the smaller loaves was still 50 minutes.

I made a few changes to the recipe, some of which seemed inconsequential to how well the recipe worked - I used white bread flour, crystallised ginger instead of glacé, and added some ground spices to the recipe (1 teaspoon ginger and 1/2 teaspoon mixed spice). The final change was a bit more worrying - I only had two large bananas, which I was reasonably sure would weigh enough, but when the peel was off there was only 200g of flesh, not the 300g asked for in the recipe.

It was too late to back out at that stage so I went ahead, wondering if I needed to add anything to replace the missing 100g of banana. If the batter had been really thick, I might have added a tablespoon or two of natural yogurt, but it was very liquid, so I decided to go ahead with nothing else added.  I noticed afterwards that Dan says in the introduction to the recipe that the bran in wholemeal flour soaks up the liquid from the mashed banana, so maybe losing the bran and using less banana cancelled each other out!

I really liked this cake, it was firm and close textured but not heavy, and it still smelled and tasted of banana. I think adding a little extra spice was a good idea as even though I was using fiery crystallised ginger pieces it was nice to have some spice flavour in the cake crumb too.