Now…which of the three GBBO biscuit challenges did I attempt this weekend? Was it the playable biscuit board game, sandwich biscuits or the technically challenging fortune cookies? As much as I wanted to make an edible snakes and ladders, it was the slightly easier sandwich biscuits that took my fancy.
A number of biscuits came to mind like empire biscuits and custard creams but I’also made these before. I wanted to try a new bake and had a look through my biscuit cookbook by the GBBO iced biscuit queen, Miranda Gore Brown. One recipe that took my fancy was for bourbon biscuits. A biscuit tin favourite and something I remember from when I was younger and I used to raid my Grandma’s biscuit tin. But Mr W doesn’t like them (shocking considering how much he loves chocolate) and my mum won’t eat them so will need to be saved for a bake for work weekend.
Then I came across a recipe for lemon and poppy seed polenta biscuits. I’ve never seen the lemon and poppy seed combo as a biscuit before and have always wanted to try making lemon and poppy seed muffins (as they sound yummy). I also liked the idea of the cream cheese filling to sandwich them together instead of the typical buttercream filling you find with most sandwich biscuits.
I spread the making of these over two days. Friday night I made the actual biscuits which was simpler than most as the ingredients can go straight in the food processor. When dividing the biscuits, make sure you make an even number that are roughly the same size as they will be sandwiched together. Be warned, you do need to make some room in the fridge as the biscuits need to be chilled for at least 30 minutes whilst on the baking trays. So, unless you have a super large fridge, maybe wait until the day before you do your food shop 🙂 Once baked, I left them to cool overnight so that I could be certain they wouldn’t melt the filling. On the Saturday morning I whipped up the cream cheese filling and sandwiched the biscuits together. Before starting this, make sure you pair up your biscuits so that you are sandwiching similar sized biscuits together. Nothing worse than being left with two biscuit sized extremes. Once made I’ve kept in the fridge as I don’t want the cream cheese filling to go off. I then let it come to room temperature before eating.
So….polenta in a biscuit. First time I’ve had one to be honest. I found that the texture and taste reminded me slightly of cornbread but with the zesty lemon coming through. They are quite substantial biscuit so you won’t be eating more than one at a time. In total I managed to make 10 sandwiched biscuits. If I was to make them again, I would consider making them smaller so that they are a bit easier to eat. The use of polenta and rice or spelt flour make these a gluten free bake.
Lemon and Poppy Seed Polenta Biscuits
- 175g caster sugar
- 20g quick-cook polenta
- 100g rice or spelt flour (I used Spelt)
- 170g unsalted butter, softened and cut into pieces
- zest of two lemons
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 20g poppy seeds
For the filling
- 200g full fat cream cheese
- zest of one lemon
- 1tbsp icing sugar
- 2tbsp caster sugar
- 2tbsp lemon juice
- Put sugar, polenta and flour into a food processor and whizz well. Add the butter and lemon zest and whizz until it resembles small breadcrumbs. Sprinkle the poppy seeds over the mixture. Beat the eggs and vanilla extract together. Add the eggs to the food processor and mix to get a wet, sticky dough.
- Line some baking trays with non-stick baking paper. Using a small ice cream scoop or two tablespoons, place walnut sized balls of dough on the tray and keep them at least 5cm apart. Chill for at least 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 180C and bake the chilled biscuits for 10-12 minutes (until golden and firm to the touch). Leave to firm on the tray for at least 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.
- Put all the filling ingredients into a bowl and beat together until light and creamy. Add a little more lemon juice if the mixture us to dry. When the biscuits are completely cold, spread a layer of filling onto the base of one biscuit and gently press a similar sized biscuit on top.
Recipe taken from Biscuits by Miranda Gore Browne
A few months ago I started my own rye sourdough starter. It’s not as difficult as you think. It’s just a combination of flour (dark rye for me) and water that you mix together. This mixture is then ‘fed’ on a daily basis with more flour and water until bubbles start to form. Some starter recipes suggest adding yeast but the whole point of sourdough is that yeast isn’t included, instead the fermentation from the bacteria helps the bread rise and gives the bread its distinctive sour taste. Whilst I’m feeding mine (in preparation for using it) I leave it on the side in a container with a tea towel over the top. When I’m not going to be using it regularly I put a lid on the container and place it in the fridge. This slows down the fermentation and reduces the activity of the bacteria. When I know I want to use it, I remove from the fridge, take off the lid, cover with a tea towel and allow to come to room temperature. I then repeat the feeding process until it starts to bubble/look frothy. Since running out of rye flour I have been using strong white flour. This hasn’t affected the starter and it still has a slight rye flavour to it.
I’ve been using King Arthur Flour and Hobbs House Bakery for guidance on how to make a starter and also for recipe ideas. I’m not an expert on sourdough so if you are wanting to start your own starter, please look at these websites.
My first bake using my starter was a rye sourdough loaf. I would give the bake a 5 out of 10. The flavour was there but the texture was a bit dense. Sourdough takes longer to kneed and I made it all by hand. The recipe said to kneed the dough for 10 minutes until smooth. I was kneading it for 30 minutes and felt I wasn’t going anywhere. I eventually stopped and continued with the recipe but it was wetter than I was expecting. Next time I will use a dough hook and see if that helps. Sourdough has longer proving times (up to 5 hours for first proving and 12 hours for second proving) which improves the distinctive flavour. I’ve also attempted making sourdough pancakes where the sourdough starter is incorporated into the pancake recipe. Again, these had the distinctive sourdough flavour and the earthiness of the rye flour. The texture was also similar to that of my usual pancakes. If you want to give these a go, the recipe I used is here. I included the addition of some chopped chocolate truffles. I added these to the top of the pancakes before I flipped them over in the pan. I served with blueberries and almond slivers as a birthday breakfast for Mr W.
Yesterday morning I decided to give sourdough crumpets a try. I was surprised at how few ingredients you actually need to make them. Although crumpet rings are not a necessary piece of equipment (apparently small food cans with both ends taken off work just as well) they do make life easier. I’ve also used them when making pancakes and poaching eggs (multipurpose utensil). I found the recipe on the Hobbs Bakery website (link above) when trying to find different uses for my starter so that it is not sat in the fridge for months on end.
Sourdough Crumpets (makes 4)
- 270g sourdough starter
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp runny honey
- 1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda
- Mix your sourdough starter, salt and honey together in a bowl and leave to stand. The starter will slowly start to bubble (I left mine for 20 minutes and some small bubbles had appeared).
- Grease a frying pan and your crumpet rings. Place the frying pan on a medium heat and put the crumpet rings in the pan.
- Add the bicorbanate soda to your sourdough starter mix. This will cause the starter to bubble.
- Once the frying and crumpet rings are hot, pour the batter into the rings and leave a 1/2 cm gap at the top. Slowly cook the crumpets and keep an eye on the bottom of the crumpet as this can easily burn.
- Once the edges have cooked, gently take off the crumpet ring (may need to loosen edges with a knife) and flip the crumpet over. Cook for a further 3 to 4 minutes.
- Keep these warm whilst you repeat steps 4 and 5 with the remaining batter.
I made four crumpets with the above recipe. These were delicious for breakfast (one with jam and one with butter).
I did find the crumpets a little too salty (which you also get with the shop bought kind) so would consider using a little less.
I found the texture on my first two crumpets to be a bit doughy inside. For the next two I used a lower heat and cooked for a little longer. I have yet to try these (4 for breakfast is a little excessive and Mr W doesn’t like them).
So, the Great British Bake Off is back and some mixed reviews to go with it. For those who aren’t aware (where have you been?), GBBO has moved from BBC1 to channel 4. It’s taken everything with it except Mary, Mel and Sue. It’s the same tent in the same location with the same benches and even the same opening credits. There is now the addition of Sandie, Noel, Prue and some advert breaks (which is actually a welcome relief). Some reviews have been that it is obvious that the dialogue between Sandie and Noel is scripted and doesn’t seem as natural as Sue and Mel. What we need to remember is that the show is currently on it’s eighth series which means that there has been 7 years for the show to become what it was and for the dynamics to work (with Mary, Paul, Mel and Sue). I’m sure if we were to watch the first series again, we will have some comments to make about the presenters. Personally, I’m just glad it’s back on 🙂
So the first episode was cake week with the first bake needing to be a fruity cake. Now, this seemed to fit in well with my need to make a cake, in particular an apple cake….an Italian apple cake. Now I’ve made an Italian apple cake before but the flavours did not quite meet the bar set by the version Mr W had whilst we were on honeymoon. So I did a bit of research in preparation for my weekend bake and managed to find a recipe on pinterest which looked like the apple cake I wanted. It was simple and uncomplicated (just what I needed to ease me back into baking). The inspiration for mine came from Manus Manu , a website full of Italian recipes. This particular cake was light and moist with hints of vanilla, sweetness from the apple and a zing from the lemon zest. Would go perfect with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (or gelato if we’re being fancy). It definitely benefits from a dusting of icing sugar on top. I didn’t have any for the first time we ate it but bought some so we could have a dusting on our second slice (never assume you have an ingredient in).
Torta Di Mele Della Nonna (Granny’s Apple Cake) (Serves 12)
- 3 apples, peeled and sliced
- 2 eggs
- 200g plain flour
- 100g butter, melted
- 180g caster sugar
- 150 ml milk
- 1 lemon zest
- 1 pinch of salt
- 2 ½ tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Icing sugar (for dusting)
- Grease and coat with flour a 22 cm – 9 inch springform pan and keep it aside.
- Beat the eggs and sugar until pale and fluffy.
- Add the melted butter and keep beating.
- Add the milk and flour, little by little and keep beating.
- Add the baking powder, salt, lemon zest and vanilla extract.
- Fold in the apple slices and pour into the prepared springform pan.
- Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180°C for 45 minutes.
- Let the cake cool down, then release from the tin, dust it with icing sugar and serve it.
As we don’t have 12 people in our house and didn’t particularly want to eat the cake for 6 days straight (as delicious as it is), I have put some slices in the freezer to test how well it freezes (fingers crossed).