Little Almond and Fruit Cakes (by William and Suzue Curley)
100 gms butter
200 gms ground almonds
200 gms extra fine granulated sugar
40 gms eggwhites (approximately 1 to 2 eggs)
50 gms apricot purée
40 gms honey
200 gms beaten eggs (approximately 4 eggs)
cherries (cut into 4)
20 gms of pistachios
raspberries (cut into 2)
20 gms sliced almonds, slightly grilled
2 plums cut into 2, seeded and chopped
20 gms of hazelnuts, slighly chopped and grilled
Melt butter on low fire.
In a bowl or a free standing mixer with a leaf, beat the ground almonds, sugar and eggwhites.
Slowly add the apricot purée and honey. Continue to beat until you get a creamy consistence.
Add the beaten eggs and the melted butter.
Store the mixture in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
Pre-heat oven at 180°C.
Remove mixture from fridge and fill up a piping bag with the mixture.
Fill muffin cases. If not in silicone, grease the moulds.
Arrange the garnishings on top of each cake, making the following combinations:
cherries and pistachios, raspberries and almonds, plums and hazelnuts
Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.
It took me four trials of different recipes before I finally found the best recipe. This one is from Pierre Hermé, famous French pastry chef whose macaroons are simply divine. His madeleines are soft, buttery and just about sweet.
200 gms of flour
1 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
200 gms of butter, melted
240 gms of granulated sugar
zests of one organic orange or lemon (if you cannot find organic ones, just wash the fruit with baking soda)
Mix all the dry ingredients. Melt the butter and leave to cool. Grate the orange or lemon for zests. When all these are ready, whisk the eggs and sugar until frothy, creamy and twirls like a soft ribbon. Add one tablespoon of the flour at a time, alternating with melted butter. Add the zests. Now, the first secret of a good madeleine is to allow your mixture to “sleep” at least overnight. The next day, pre-heat oven at 220°. Grease madeleine moulds (the most practical for me are silicone moulds – no greasing and easy removal of baked goodies. Though, silicone moulds are not ideal for all types of cakes). Use a No. 10 decorating tip and fill a pouch with the mixture. Pipe 3/4 of this mixture in the madeleine alcoves. Bake at 220° and after four minutes, reduce heat to 200°. This is the other secret of the madeleine – the “sleeping” and the change of temperatures will give you the nice hunchback so typical of madeleines. Cook for another 4 minutes. I usually underbake to have a softer cake. Cool on a grill but make sure that the “scallop” side faces upwards so as not to destroy the design. (IMPORTANT: Know your oven. I have given temperature indications but each oven is different. You can also lower the temperature to around 210° if you think that its browning too fast.)
Light Sweet Scones from Rachel Allen
500 gms Italian flour (if not available, sift all purpose flour)
1 tsp rounded bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp rounded cream of tartar
1 tsp sea salt (I like Sal d’Ibiza. They give a nice salty crunch)
125 gms unsalted, cold butter
25 gms caster sugar (I make it 50 gms just in case someone wants to eat scones without jams)
1 beaten egg
275 ml butter milk (I reduce to 250 ml because even I use the rest for brushing the tops, I still have a bowl left)
50 gms caster sugar (optional)
Preheat oven at 220°C. Sift dry ingredients except sugar. Rub in cold, diced butter until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Add the sugar and mix well. (At this point, I would scoop the flour and raise it several times to bring in air). Set aside about a third of the beaten egg and combine the rest with the buttermilk, then slowly add to the flour mixture and mix briefly to combine into a moist dough. Place on a slightly floured work surface and knead ever so slightly to bring together, then press or roll out to a thickness of 2 cm. Using the cutter, cut out approximately 12 scones and place on a floury baking tray. Add about a teaspoon or so of buttermilk to the remainder of the beaten egg to make an egg wash. Brush the scones withe the egg wash and bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown on top. Eat as soon as possible.
75 gms cold butter
440 gms self-raising flour
60 gms sugar
200 ml buttermilk
Pre-heat oven to 200°. Rub cold butter with self-raising flour until they resemble bread crumbs. Add the sugar until they are well blended. (Again, at this point, I would spend about three minutes scooping and raising flour to bring in a lot of air) Beat eggs with buttermilk. Slowly add this egg-buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture until just about blended. Mixture should be not to dry, not too moist. You should be able to make a soft dough. Instead of a cutter, I just use my hands to form unshapely balls and place them on a greased, floured cookie tray. Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown. I remove mine after 10 minutes.
Postscript. Scones are best eaten warm, fresh from the oven. I admit being a glutton but not to the point of eating 12 scones in one sitting. So, I freeze them and when I feel like being comforted, I bring them out of the freezer and warm them in the oven for about 5-10 minutes.