There are very few things about modern cookery that actually make me sad. For my dad, the great tragedy is chilli being added to everything – chilli ketchup, chilli chocolate…other things. Some might be disappointed by the rise of burgers, or perhaps by how their native or favourite cuisine has been bastardised as its slipped into the mainstream, like Mexican food expert Diane Kennedy is.
I’m just sad that if you google macaroon, you get pages and pages of macarons, with not a shred of coconut in sight. Instead of golden, moist treats, it’s all smooth domed meringue, glued together with ganache or curd. The humble coconut macaroon has been usurped by the finicky French macaron. Continue reading →
his cake was borne of a feeling that told me, Yes, okay, it’s time to bake now, stop claiming lack of inspiration and just look around you. Eggs that supposedly went out of date days ago (still fine!), tubs of yoghurt, and a couple of limes. I desperately wanted to be back on the baking wagon right away; to be able to say, Whisk, whisk, fold, oven, done – victory! But my first attempt at this cake was honestly poor.
My ever-so-polite colleagues ate it even though the glaze was too thin and soaked through to make the cake the texture of gummy bears, so moist that it sat heavy in your stomach. But I knew it needed a lot more work – I knew I’d made mistakes, and I almost decided not to admit that on the internet.
Growing up alongside the invasion of social media makes it amazingly easy to have a skewed view of everyone else’s lives. It brings you to just a few clicks away from being fully mired in grass-is-greener delusions and gives you the tools to compare yourself to every single friend or stranger that pops up your feeds, while you sit there thinking, Oh my god, I know at least three people with book deals and I couldn’t even find a matching pair of socks this morning. (True story. I only have socks in three colours and I still struggle.)
Buuuuut of course that’s ridiculous. We all have different paths, and this small segment of mine means I can tell you guys what changes absolutely should not be made to this recipe (see notes!). It took a couple of tweaks – and a couple of batches of cake forced upon those colleagues – but it’s finally just right. Continue reading →
Every now and then I get really, really obsessed with a particular flavour or ingredient. I’ve been in danger of switching the target of my fickle foodie love to speculoos – I mean really, who doesn’t love biscuits smushed together with syrup? – but the sun’s shining and I’ve truly fallen for strawberry and coconut and oh my god I cannot stop jamming these tiny pastries into my pie hole.
With a little bit of oh-so-British sweetness teamed with the more exotic freshness of coconut, they’re the summertime cousin to the warmer months’ cinnamon rugelach. And as a bitesize morsel that can be prepared a few days ahead and doesn’t wilt in the sun, they’d also be superb for picnics and barbecues. I guarantee that despite their unassuming exterior, this little bite of summer will not disappoint.
Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
Makes 32 pastries
Notes Using a sharp knife to cut the dough into slices (step 8) will work, but for less drag use a pizza cutter.
For the cream cheese, low fat works absolutely fine and helps to balance out all that butter guilt!
1) To make the dough, using an electric whisk, beat together the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy.
2) In a small bowl, combine the flour and icing sugar, and add to the cream cheese and butter mixture, beating on the lowest speed until just combined. If your whisk’s lowest speed is still pretty fast (mine is) do this by hand with a metal spoon – you might need to get your fingers in there to fully bring the dough together.
3) Scrap the dough into a large piece of clingfilm, wrap well and chill in the fridge for two hours.
4) When the dough has chilled, divide it into to halves and pop one back into the fridge while you prepare the other.
5) On a well-floured surface, roll out the dough into a circle (or squircle, we’re easy-going around here) about 30cm in diameter.
6) Quickly heat the jam in a small saucepan to thin it out a little, then spread it over the dough using the back of a teaspoon or a pastry brush.
7) Sprinkle the coconut liberally over the top.
8) Cut the dough into 16 slices (like a pizza!). Starting from the outside edge, roll each slice tightly inwards and transfer to the baking tray, spacing them about 1 inch apart, taking care to tuck the point underneath.
9) When all the slices have been rolled, pop the tray into the freezer for 15 minutes, or fridge for 30, and repeat using the second piece of dough. Preheat the oven to 160C.
10) When all the pastries are rolled and chilled, bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden and puffed up. When baked, transfer the pastries to a wire rack immediately to prevent the jam acting like superglue as it cools. Sprinkle with icing sugar when cool.
I think it’s about time we got some healthy living up in here. I’ve loved the recent parade of cakes and pastries, but it’s hard not to feel guilty when you realise that your Instagram feed looks remarkably like a bakery’s shop window.
You may have noticed already, but I’m all about trying to pack as many of my five-a-day into one glass as possible. I’m a bit of a fussy eater – my allegiance lies with Pink Lady apples and no other – but blitzed up with honey and yoghurt, fruit doesn’t have to feel like a chore. It can even feel kind of like dessert.
In all honesty, this isn’t really a recipe, more of a flavour combination suggestion. You know when you get a mango that maybe is a lower grade than is ideal for just eating? Sometimes, when the flesh of a mango is fibrous or doesn’t quite have the right sweetness, you just need to throw it into a smoothie and be damned with any other plans.
1 banana, peeled and cut into chunks
150g fat-free yoghurt
1 small mango, peeled and cut into chunks
1tbsp desiccated coconut
1 tbsp honey
2tbsp cold water
Using a blender or immersion blender, combine the banana and yoghurt until smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients, blend, and serve cold.
Sprinkle crushed up speculoos/Lotus biscuits on the top to be extra fancy.
This time last year, I was in stress-central. I was just about finishing up at the student paper: kissing goodbye to long evenings of cabin fever and fussing over typefaces, trying to let go of the tiny frustrations that made up my final weeks in the insular world of student media.
Instead, I’d begun spending 9-5 in a badly lit room with grey-tinted windows, worrying about the projects that would decide what grade would be on that piece of paper I would receive in July. I thought back to being 18, sitting, terrified, in a local cupcake shop and conducting an interview for the first time as my voice wobbled with nerves. My dreams took on the form of the work I was doing during the day, and I’d wake disappointed that I’d spent all night working and yet had to do it all over again.
But those final months were also when we spent evenings in the park and scorched black rectangles into the grass outside our house with our throw-away barbecues. They were the days when Pimms was on offer in the Tesco down the road and we drank it from tiny paper cups adorned with union jacks. They were the hours, days, weeks, and months we tried to savour as they rushed by and took us, willingly or not, ever closer to a more grown up life.
Recently, one of my best friends asked me: if someone had told you a year ago that this is where you’d be now, would you take it?
In the not-quite-year since I finally handed in that last project and went to bed, at long last, after being awake for 30 hours, a lot has changed. I have discovered what I love to do and I’m excited for what the future holds.
I left university, left home, and watched as everyone I’d come to love in those three years was scattered across the country, leaving us connected by only wires and signals. It has been scary and it has been sad, but blackened grass, too-strong Pimms, and cupcakes will always take me back.
As I mulled over the question my friend had asked, I made these strawberry and coconut cupcakes to transport me back to the wonder of that cupcake shop, to the array of colours and decorations nestled among retro cake stands and gingham fabric.
Strawberry and coconut is one of my most recent food obsessions: like pumpkin last year, I’ve tried to put it in almost everything. Strawberries and yoghurt and honey and coconut. Porridge with jam and coconut. Plotting and planning to make dairy-free ice cream with this extraordinary pairing. Of course I had to try it in cake form. What I love most about these cupcakes – apart from the fact that the cake is really simple – is that they look totally unassuming…and then you bite into one and bam! Flavour bomb.
I baked these cupcakes and then I took them to the best place I could: to a bar, to be eaten with three of the girls I slaved over that student paper with.
Strawberry and Coconut Cupcakes
Makes nine cupcakes
100g self-raising flour
2 medium eggs
185g unsalted butter
260g icing sugar
4 1/2 tbsp desiccated coconut, plus extra to decorate
1) Pre-heat oven to 160C and line a muffin tray with cupcake cases. Cream margarine and sugar until pale and fluffy.
2) On a low speed, beat in the eggs one at a time. Fold in the flour.
3) Split the mixture between the nine cases and bake on the centre shelf for about 10-15 minutes, or until firm to the touch and a cocktail stick inserted into the centre of a cake comes out clean.
4) Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. While they cool, whisk together the butter, sugar, and coconut on a low speed, and when combined, turn the speed up and continue until smooth.
5) When cook, use a sharp knife to make the space for the jam centre. Holding the knife at a slight angle, cut a cylinder about 1.5cm wide out of the centre of the cake. Discard (or, er, eat) these centres. Fill the space with about half a teaspoon of jam, so that the jam comes level with the top of the cupcake. Repeat for all cakes.
6) Using a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle, pipe the frosting on. Sprinkle with desiccated coconut to decorate.
P.S. Go and check out the Saveur food blog awards! There are so many incredible nominees, you need to give them your time.