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Little Lemon Shortbread Biscuits with Blueberry Jam

Little Lemon Shortbread Biscuits with Blueberry Jam

Little Lemon Shortbread Biscuits with Blueberry Jam

These are simple little two-bite morsels – great with a cuppa or pop a few in a pretty bag or box to give as gifts when visiting friends. You can use whatever jam you like – raspberry is always a winner when paired with lemon. I always use a bit of cornflour in shortbread as it makes them tender and crumbly, but you can make these with just plain flour. You can also make them gluten-free by using any plain gluten-free flour you wish.

Little Lemon Shortbread Biscuits with Blueberry Jam

Ingredients:

  • 190g butter, softened
  • 85g caster sugar
  • 200g plain flour
  • 70g cornflour
  • 1 lemon
  • half tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp blueberry jam

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the flours, finely grated zest of the lemon and 2 teaspoons of the juice, and the vanilla extract. Stir until well combined. Roll the dough into walnut sized balls and put them on an un-greased baking tray then use the handle of a wooden spoon to make a little well in the biscuits. Loosely cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge to chill for about an hour.

Heat the oven to 175C. Remove the tray of uncooked biscuits from the fridge. Arrange them so they’re about an inch apart – you’ll probably need two baking trays or to cook in two batches as you need to have the biscuits spaced out as they’ll spread a little on cooking; if you make two batches leave the second batch in the fridge until ready to cook. Use a teaspoon to fill the holes in the biscuits with jam; you may not need all of it so don’t be tempted to overfill them. Bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes until pale golden. Take them out of the oven and allow them to firm up on the tray for a few minutes, before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Devonshire Splits (Cream Buns)

Devonshire Splits, or Cream Buns

Devonshire Splits, a proper, old-fashioned tea-time treat!

My oldest living relative, great aunty Audrey, lives in Australia. She’s visiting the UK for a few months and staying with my mum for most of this trip. I haven’t seen her in about 20 years until this week but she’s hardly changed, is immense fun and a bit of a cheeky character. Apart from being the start of her visit, it was also her 87th Birthday, so naturally I felt the need to contribute to the celebrations in the form of some baking. She and my mum had been trying to order something they remembered from their childhood, what they called ‘Penny Buns’, from my mum’s local baker without success. I did a little online research, discovered that they were talking about Devonshire Splits and found a Nigel Slater recipe to recreate these yummy little cream buns that are filled with whipped cream and jam; a great variation on the scone for afternoon tea.

Devonshire Splits (or ‘Penny Buns’)

Ingredients:

  • 450g plain flour
  • half tsp salt
  • 14g dried easy-bake yeast
  • 2 tsp caster sugar
  • 30g butter
  • 300ml milk
  • extra flour for kneading

Put the flour, salt, yeast and sugar in a large bowl. In a pan, warm the milk and butter until the butter is melted, then allow to cool slightly until it’s hand hot (you’re going to be getting your hands in there and you don’t want to burn yourself or have the mixture too hot to bear).

Pour most of the butter and milk mixture into the flour and mix to form a soft dough; if necessary add more of the milk until it all comes together. The dough should be soft and a little sticky (err on the side of too wet rather than too dry).

Once you’ve got a ball of dough, tip it out onto a floured surface and knead for 5-10 minutes until it feels slightly elastic (you can’t really knead it too much, but you can certainly knead it too little). Put it back in the bowl and cover loosely with clingfilm or a clean tea towel, leaving it to prove somewhere warm for about an hour.

After the proving time your dough should be roughly doubled in size. Turn out on to a floured surface and divide into 8-10 pieces that area all about the same size. Roll each one into a ball and place on a floured baking tray (I used two trays), leaving a little space between each ball. Cover with some lightly oiled clingfilm and leave to rise again for 10-15 minutes. During this time, heat your oven to 200C.

Remove the clingfilm and bake for 18-20 minutes until pale golden. You know they’re done if they sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Cool on a wire rack.

To serve, cut a deep split and ease apart. Cram full of as much whipped cream and strawberry jam as you dare, and dust with a little icing sugar. A proper old-fashioned treat!

I’ve just discovered these little beauties won the Golden Spoon award this week from The Sunday Bake Club (thanks)! Take a look at their blog here.

Vanilla Cupcakes

Vanilla Cupcakes with Raspberry Jam filling and Buttercream icing

Vanilla Cupcakes with Raspberry Jam filling and Buttercream icing

There’s absolutely nothing new or fancy about these, just my standard vanilla cupcake recipe, but they’re a great basic to have up your sleeve (not literally, they’re better in your belly).  They’re always popular and the jam filling gives them a bit of a Victoria Sponge quality. The recipe makes 12 generously sized cupcakes, so be sure to use muffin cases rather than standard cupcake cases.

Vanilla Cupcakes with a Raspberry Jam filling

For the cupcakes:

  • 170g butter
  • 170g caster sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 170g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp milk

Heat the oven to 180C and prep a 12 hole muffin tray with paper muffin cases. Cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla extract. Beat in an egg then some of the flour, then another egg and more flour, followed by the last egg and what’s left of the flour and the baking powder, mixing until everything is incorporated. Finally add the milk and give the cake batter a final mix. Divide the mix evenly between the 12 muffin cases (an ice cream scoop is really helpful if you have one – makes it easy to get the same amount in each case) and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown, a skewer comes out clean or they spring back when lightly pressed. Transfer to a wire rack to cool; it’s important to quickly take them out of the muffin tray to cool as otherwise the paper cases can peel away from the cakes.

For the filling/icing:

  • about 12 tsp raspberry jam (about 120g but it all depends on how big you make the holes)
  • 225g butter, softened
  • 500g icing sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Once the cupcakes are cool, hollow out centre so you’re left with a hole that goes to about half way down the cake. You can easily do this with a teaspoon, or there are cupcake ‘corers’ on the market (I have one, but only because my mum bought me one, I was quite happy with the teaspoon method so don’t rush out to buy one). Fill the holes with the jam – I find this easiest with two teaspoons, using one to scrape the jam from the other and guide it into the hole.

Put the softened butter in a bowl and sift the icing sugar on top. I’m not normally a stickler for sifting, but it does help with icing sugar as it can get a but lumpy. You need to mix the butter and icing sugar until creamy, but I wouldn’t suggest using an electric hand mixer until you’ve given them a bit of a mix with a wooden spoon first – otherwise you and your kitchen are likely to look like you’ve had an accident in a cocaine plant. Once you’ve got the butter and sugar basically combined, add the vanilla and have at it with the electric whisk. My best tip for making brilliant buttercream icing is to whisk it for longer than you think you need to. When you think it’s done, keep going for a few more minutes. If you keep whisking it becomes light, fluffy and whipped like the kind of icing you’d get in a top notch bakery or cake shop. Use a palatte knife to generously ice your cupcakes; put a big dollop on top of the jam filling and then spread it out to cover the whole of the top of the cake. Or if your any good with a piping bag you can do it that way. There are loads of tutorials online about how to ice cakes, they all explain it far better than I can here; the only way to get good at it is to practice and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a ‘rustic’ looking cupcake. I like to add a bit of edible glitter, but you might want to go for some sprinkles or just leave plain.

You could use this recipe to make smaller cupcakes if you don’t have a muffin pan or muffin cases, but be sure to reduce the cooking time by 5 minutes or so.

Vanilla Cupcakes, filled with Raspberry Jam

Vanilla Cupcakes filled with raspberry jam, prior to being topped with buttercream icing

Peach & Blueberry Swiss Roll

Swiss roll with homemade jam

Swiss roll with homemade jam and mascarpone cream

It seemed appropriate that my first post on this blog should be about my contribution to the first meeting of the Brighton Baking Bunch baking club I recently set up. I wanted to make something I’d never attempted before, originally planning on making a four-tier chocolate and hazelnut layer cake (something I’m sure I’ll still try soon), but then I was inspired by a lovely recipe for peach donuts by one of my favourite baking bloggers, The Ginger Bread Lad. As donuts are best eaten within a few hours of being made and being a little nervous of deep frying, I decided to have a go at making a Swiss roll. The addition of homemade peach and blueberry jam is what really elevates this recipe, but you could always use a good shop-bought jam if you wanted to cut corners.

Swiss Roll with homemade Peach & Blueberry Jam and Vanilla Mascarpone Cream

For the jam:

  • 4 ripe peaches
  • 100g blueberries
  • 125g sugar

Prepare your peaches by scoring a cross in the skin at the top or bottom of the peach. Blanch in boiling water for about 20-30 seconds, then take them out; the skin should peel away very easily, but don’t worry if there are a few flecks left on the flesh. Remove the stones, then squish the flesh through your fingers into a medium sized saucepan, along with the blueberries and sugar. Bring to the boil, stirring regularly to make sure your jam isn’t sticking to the pan. Boil vigorously for 10-15 minutes, keeping an eye on it all the time. You can hear when it starts to turn from fruit sauce to jam as the bubbles get thicker (you’ll understand what I mean when you try for yourself!). Check if it’s done by putting a teaspoon sized amount on a cool plate, leaving it for a minute and then running your finger through it – when it has become jam it should ‘wrinkle’ and it won’t run down the plate when tilted. Place in a clean bowl to cool, transferring to the fridge until needed. This makes just enough for the recipe, but if you make more then store it in sterilised jam jars.

For the sponge:

  • 3 medium eggs
  • 80g caster sugar (plus about a tablespoon for finishing)
  • Seeds of half a vanilla pod
  • 1 tbsp warm water
  • 80g plain flour

Heat your oven to 190C and grease and line a 23 x 33cm Swiss roll tin or high sided baking sheet with greaseproof paper. Whisk the eggs, caster sugar and vanilla until really fluffy and pale in colour. Stir in the water, then sift in the flour and fold in lightly – you want to keep as much of the air in without leaving pockets of unmixed flour. Pour in to the prepared tin and smooth it out with the back of a spatula so it’s even and reaches the corner of the tin. Bake for 10-15 minutes – it’s done when it’s golden and feels springy to the touch. Remove from the oven and turn out onto a second sheet of baking parchment that’s been dusted with the extra caster sugar. Leave it for 10 minutes and then carefully peel back the lining paper and leave it to cool completely.

For the vanilla mascarpone cream:

  • 250g mascarpone
  • Seeds from half a vanilla pod
  • 3 or 4 tablespoons sifted icing sugar

Cream all the ingredients together in a bowl; begin with 3 tablespoons icing sugar and check to see if you think it’s sweet enough, adding the remaining sugar to taste.

When your sponge is cool, smooth over the mascarpone cream, leaving a border of about 1cm all the way round. Then cover with the jam, also leaving a little border as this will ooze on rolling. With the shortest side of the sponge facing you, fold the edge away from you, trying to tuck this first fold in as much as possible to keep the roll tight. You may find it helpful to use the baking parchment to pull the roll together. Once it’s fully rolled place it on your serving plate (spatulas or fish slices are helpful if you’re not confident enough to do it with your hands) with the join underneath to prevent in from unrolling. Dust with icing sugar before serving.

I neglected to get a decent photo, mainly out of greed (must get better at taking photos before tucking in!), but here’s a snap of a slice just before it was devoured.