Since returning from New Zealand we’ve been spending most weekends down at the cottage, the Boyfriend inventing new and more ingenious ways to catch the rabbits (score so far – Boyfriend: nil, rabbits: merrily increasing by the day) and me pottering around in the kitchen, baking cakes and slices to fill the tins. It’s a great opportunity to try out recipes that I’ve been hoarding away from other blogs and websites (does everyone else have a word document on their desktop which they update regularly with recipes that take their eye?) as well as working my way through the piles of cookbooks currently on my desk, including Bill Granger‘s latest, Cook with Jamie, the Rose Bakery cookbook, Sophie Conran‘s Pies and Cook by Thomasina Miers. Bakingsheet is a rich source of recipes and Nic’s Mexican Chocolate Loaf Cake, albeit without the orange rind and made in a round tin, was a successful gift for our hosts in Cobh last weekend even though I felt that my cinnamon was past its freshest date. A Maya Gold-flavoured variation of Thomasina Miers’s chocolate cake, baked in a Bundt cake tin from my NZ kitchen which I manage to cram into our luggage this time, was a success with one sister – who liked its fudgyness – and a failure with the other, for being too rich! Sometimes you just can’t win.
Being out in the country with limited shopping opportunities available locally (hence the stale cinnamon), recipes are often a triumph of available ingredients over specified ingredients and many days find me scrabbling through my collection of recipe books in the cottage for something I can make with what’s at my disposal. No butter for the Mexican Chocolate Loaf Cake? The recipe is quite muffin-like so I used sunflower oil instead. Wanting to make muffins for a family gathering? Allyson Gofton‘s Great New Zealand Baking Book stepped into the breach with chocolate chips substituted for the berries in her Chocolate Berry Muffins.
With my electric hand mixer living in Dublin at the moment, I’m also used to figuring out ways around the instructions “cream the butter and sugar together”. There were alterations and substitutions aplenty when I decided to make shortbread using Jamie Oliver‘s recipe in one of my Christmas pressies, Cook With Jamie. Instead of creaming, I used my pastry blender to rub the butter into the flour and used extra flour instead of the cornflour that had suddenly gone amiss. Still, the end result more than justified the means – not as short as it would have been if I had used the cornflour or some rice flour, but its buttery goodness more than knocks the spots off any bought biscuits. Just what’s needed for dunking in hot chocolate on cold Friday nights when we arrive down from Dublin.
PS – Happy Valentine’s Day!
Simple Lemon Shortbread
Butter – 250g, cubed
Flour – 375g
Light Muscovado sugar – 125g
Lemon – 1, zested
Caster sugar – 3 tablespoons
Preheat oven to 150°C. Butter a 25cm x 38cm x 4cm baking tin and leave to one side.
Rub the butter and flour together until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Rub in the sugar and lemon zest until the mixture starts to come together. Press evenly into the prepared baking tin and prick with a fork.
Cook for 50 minutes until pale golden. Remove from oven, sprinkle immediately with the caster sugar and let cool on a wire rack for five minutes. With a sharp knife score the shortbread into approximately 7cm x 2.5 cm fingers.
Makes approximately 50 fingers.