Pistachio and Rose water Shortbread hearts.

Cookie Credentials Continued….

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My Internets down and has been for the last 10 days!! My little fingers have been itching to blog about all that’s crumbly, fluffy, crispy, buttery, freshly baked, iced, diced, bouncy, moist, springy and oozing something delicious!! But alas it could not be and I have been bursting to get these Iranian inspired fancies on a page. Rose Water & Pistachio short bread Hearts.

Without the internet I have become agitated, forlorn, throwing myself on the bed and preying to the ceiling, why don’t you work? What have I done? Why can’t we sort this out? But we were so good together!!! I am constantly checking the connection like a teenager waiting for the phone to ring, waiting for the new love of my life to call and end this misery. But the internet does not love me. In fact I doubt it even remembers my name. Fine! because I have started a love affair with the internet in the café across the road. It has been good to me, dependable and has the added benefit of baked goods, coffee on tap and continuous Christmas hits that remind me remember to “rock around a Christmas tree, feed the world, that baby it’s cold outside, to stay another day, to look to the future, simply have a wonderful Christmas time, and to wish it was Christmas everydaaaayy!!”

To express my love I think it’s only apt that I share a recipe for something else I love dearly, Shortbread! So following on from my cookie credentials blog featuring my Avocado and dark chocolate all American cookie I about turn to a delicately flavoured middle eastern inspired biscuit.

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I love middle eastern sweets and they use all of my favourite nuts and spices – cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, almonds and pistachios. I wanted to do something that captures some of these flavours and pep up an old fashioned short bread recipe (which are always very popular with the family at Christmas). The short bread recipe I have chosen is a really simple one that anyone can do. Why simple? Well, I am really excited about baking and passionate about getting those who are afraid of the bake into the kitchen. Though baking can be more of an exact science than cooking shall we say,it can be simple and it can be fun! So to those I know who think of themselves as a disastrous baker be scared no more!

These make great gifts as they are very pretty and look gorgeous wrapped in Cellophane and tied with a bow. Think Christmas gift ideas. Apropos of my next blog ‘Homemade Christmas gifts’. Or a perfect ‘Thank you gift’ or just a ‘ I love you and am thinking of you gift’ which is the gift I gave my other half last week and that he took in his packed lunch to work ribbons and all. Short bread is my favourite type of biscuit and growing up with a lot of Scottish family many different types have been consumed.
There are many similar recipes out there and this is the one I use. But before we get started I’ve highlighted some BIG TIPS!

TIP 1 – I am using icing sugar as I want a more delicate biscuit which is perfect for the subtle flavours of Rose and Pistachio. Scottish short bread uses caster sugar and is more robust and crumbly.

TIP 2 – The short bread must be put in the fridge for 1 and a half hours which helps to develop flavour and helps it hold its shape.

TIP 3 – Bake in the middle of the oven exactly!! We need an even top and bottom heat for this. Bake for around 13 minutes but keep an eye on these, we want a nice even golden colour. Take them out just before the sides start to change from golden to light brown. Depending on your oven you may need to whip them out a little earlier or anything up to 15 mins.
Rose Water and Pistachio Short Bread –

For the biscuit – Makes around 12 Medium hearts.

190g Plain flour

170g unsalted Butter

90g Icing Sugar

1 large egg yolk

Pinch Salt

Pistachio’s

For the Ice –

2 tsp Rose Water (from any Middle eastern Super Market or from the foods of the world isle in Tesco).

Icing Sugar

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Method –

1 – Measure out your dry ingredients first in a large mixing bowl.

2 – Chop up your butter (room temp) and rub into dry ingredients to make bread crumbs

3 – Add the egg and form the dough. Pick it up and mould into a large ball.

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4 – Wrap the ball in cling film and set aside in the fridge for 1 and a half hours (now go and do something else for that time to stop yourself from cheating and taking it out early)

5 – Heat the oven 20 mins before you are ready to put the shortbread in at 170.C

6 – Grab yourself 2 large pieces of baking parchment. Put the dough ball between the sheets and roll out the dough on top of the top layer of the parchment to around half a centre meter thick. Cut out with a heart shape cutter (mine was around 6 cm big).IMG_3841

7 – Line a baking tray with baking Parchment add the short bread.

8 – Bake in the middle of the oven exactly!! We need an even top and bottom heat for this. Bake for around 13 minutes but keep an eye on these, we want a nice even golden colour. Take them out just before the sides start to change from golden to light brown. Depending on your oven you may need to whip them out a little earlier or anything up to 15 mins.

9 – Take out and put on a cooling rack. While cooling add 2 tsp of Rose Water in a bowl and sieve icing sugar slowly. Remember that the Rose Water is to be a subtle flavour and not like drinking a bottle of your great Aunts floral Perfume (which yes I have done by the way but I was only 5 and it just smelt so nice I thought I would just radiate it always if I consumed the bottle). So you may want to add a little tap water too. You want the icing to be runny and not watery. The constancy needs to be perfect to drizzle with so we can artistically drape our biscuits with our luxurious, pink, rose water ice. With a vintage pink food colouring or red add to the mixture to achieve the desired colour pink you want. I use Sugarflair colour paste. I think that the pastes are better than the liquid food colours you get in the supermarket. Colour paste lasts for ages and you just need a little for a big effect. If you are using paste for the first time I find it best to add the colour to the icing with a tooth pick dipped in the colour and then swirled into the icing. It always surprises me how little you need.

10 – With a teaspoon I drizzle the ice back and forth over the biscuit.

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Love the green colour of the pistachio’s in contrast to the pink ice. I think these biscuits are very elegant. They are delicate, buttery and crumbly. Drink with Earl grey yea for utter bliss and a taste of the high life.

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Grab yourself some Cellophane bags and some ribbon and make a lovely gift. I find using cake pop bags are fantastic and you can order them at any online cake craft store. A homemade gift is one of the best gifts as it is one of the most thoughtful and it’s from the heart and is actually…a heart…mine!

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Enjoy this cake adventure and add it to your cake diary. More homemade gifts to come next time in the run up to the big day.

The Cake Diaries xoxo

Sweet can be Healthy! Afternoon Tea with a twist.

I love, love afternoon tea! I always have. Call me old fashioned but I still try to uphold it everyday.

To those unsure of what ‘tea time’ is, it’s a small pause in the day, it’s around 4 – 5pm. It’s not lunch and it’s not dinner, it’s that hungry time of day when nothing but a cuppa will do and you fancy a treat. According to Afternoontea.co.uk (and I quote straight from their website) Tea time became popular around the early nineteenth century when the 7th Duchess of Bedford is said to have complained of ‘that sinking feeling’, during the late afternoon.

Amen sister!! We hear you!

(But I’m not talking about High tea and champers darling. Delicate morsels and genteel conversation, no that is a whole new blog for another time).

I’m talking good old fashioned British afternoon tea. I’m talking crumpets, toasted English muffins Eccles cakes, hot buttered toast oozing butter and marmalade, rock cakes and…..wait for it…. Scones! My all time favourite. Tea time has a lot of memories for me as it was the one sure time of day I would have my mother all to myself. It was the same thing most afternoons and it went a bit like this –
Slam front door.
Shout ‘Mum, I’m hooooommme’.
Thud upstairs as loud as an elephant.
Throw School uniform in all directions around the room.
Dress in ‘cool’ teenager clothes ( this usually meant gluing glittery stars to the side of my face, lots of bangles and large hoop earing) cringe, oh the 90’s!!
Be brought down the stairs by dreamy smell of baking coming from the kitchen.
Throw self on couch.
Search for TV remote always expertly hidden from sibling down back of sofa.
Door opens.
Heavenly mother enters with a tray laden with home made jams, a pot of tea with tea cosy!! And fresh from the oven something light, fluffy and Doughy, preferably with currents or chocolate chips. Then my mother would try her best to prize information from me about my day as I grunted teenage replies and got stuck in. Ahhhh, bliss!

Sadly, my mother is no longer with us and I am quite sure that is the reason that tea time is so special to me. It helps me to remember her and the happiness and warmth that always surrounded her. She was a real peach my mother and the sweetest kind. Though as a teenager I never told her, it really was the happiest part of my day and I wouldn’t have shared it with anyone else.

Now, eating tea time treats everyday may seem like a rather unhealthy pass time, but no!! It’s not and I won’t hear you say ‘I’d love to, but I really shouldn’t’ as you stare longingly at my chocolate brownies, strawberry tart or my beloved scones! You are not getting away with it I tell you and you shall have scones and feel damn good about it afterwards. There is nothing that pains me most than to see someone eat something they truly love, which gives them so much pleasure for all of 3 minutes then to see them end in complete misery and guilt about it. In my mind treat means special. Something to be taken time over, feel indulged by. So I’m flying the flag for ‘sweet can be healthy’.
What interests me most about baking is how versatile it can be. It’s not all about the sugar and butter and I’m not all about the sugar and butter either (see my Good morning Sunshine bars for more inspiration). So here is another recipe to feel truly good about.

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I am making my wheat-free, sugar-free, virtually fat free scones……. again for the 3rd time in 2 weeks.
I am tweaking the recipe as I go and have recorded with photo’s. I say virtually fat free as my first experiment with them was to make them totally fat free (no butter/Margarine) though in the back of my mind I knew that they would need a little fat to keep them as fluffy as possible and keep them ‘Scone like’. With no fat they are rather dry and tough. So in this recipe I use only 25g organic (vegan) margarine and the other 25g I make up with mashed avocado. There it is again my third blog recipe with avocado. My very own super food. Hopefully if you have never baked with avocado before and tried baking my Chocolate and Avocado cookies last week, this idea will be less scary.

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These Scones are my favourites right now as they are so quick and easy. A perfectly healthy and nutritious treat for mum’s looking for a healthy after school snack for the kids, an easy Vegan recipe for those eating clean and a sure fire way for a Polly like myself to get her girlfriends to stay for afternoon Tea!

You can have them steaming on a plate in 30mins flat. Using dried dates, and grated Apple for sweetness, keeping it wheat-free with wholemeal spelt flour for fibre and putting some really good natural fats into the mix with avocado. I will also tell you how I serve them best for a filling and nutritious meal.

Ingredients –

225g Wholemeal Spelt ( I use Doves Farm)

25g Avocado

1 Apple

50g dates

25g Organic Vegan Margarine

1tsp Cinnamon

1 & a half tsp baking powder

100m Almond milk

Pinch Salt

Almond milk (or Skimmed/semi skimmed milk).
Method –

0 – Pre-heat oven to 220.c / Gas mark 7/ 425.f

1 – Mix together the Flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.

2 – Mash the Avocado. Add the Avocado and Organic Margarine and rub into the flour.

3 – Grate 1 apple and stir into the mixture and add your dates.

4- Gradually pour in the Almond milk until you reach a nice soft dough.

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5 – Kneed a little and with a rolling pin roll to about 1 inch – 1 inch & a half thick.

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6 – Using a round cookie cutter of 5cm or 6cm cut about 10 Scones.

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7 – Grease a baking tray and place the scones in the middle of the Oven and bake for around 12 Minutes.

8- As you wait with baited breath for them to rise, bake and the timer to ping I do the washing up to stop my complete frustration at having to wait 12 whole minutes for then to be ready!!

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Washing Up!

9 – My mother always use to tell me that after taking anything baked out of the oven you should wait until they cool. Sorry Mum! this is just not a possibility. Time waits for no scone!

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10 – Eat it hot and eat it now. I love slicing a scone open and watching a little steam rise from it’s belly and burning my finger tips a little as I prize it open. This is my scone ritual.

How I ate them (keeping it clean)  –

For afternoon Tea I had them fresh out of the oven with Greek yogurt and honey . Also perfect first thing in the morning sprinkled with Chia seeds.

The next day I warmed them up a little and had them for lunch topped with cream cheese and smoked, flaked salmon and salad. The Apple and date sweetness goes so well with the creamy cheese and smoked salmon fillets ( serve the salmon cold). So delicious.

They are a healthy alternative to the traditional teatime scone (depending on what you choose to put on them of course) I felt no guilt after eating 3 in a row!

So take a pause each day, linger over the wonderful tastes and textures and raise your china tea cups to cheers all the mum’s for this late afternoon treat. Up hold British tea time, stay healthy and love every mouthful, because baking is an adventure!!

Yours Truly,

The Cake Diaries…