18 March 2013


The third thing I baked for our afternoon tea was real mazarins.


Yes, I finally got my act together and opted for the recipe in the book "277 types of cakes". It is a bit fiddlier to do and at least one instruction was incomplete, but on the whole well worth the effort. They are called "Classical", however, I had to make some changes to the recipe, so I won't call them that. I used ready-made marzipan, though there are instructions on how to make it at home. And I didn't make true fondant for the final decoration, I don't have a marble slab and didn't have any time to spare in making it. Instead I opted for royal icing as I had a couple of egg whites left-over from the pastry cream I made for the coconut tops. The recipe calls for marzipan of type "50-50", also called "tant pour tant", meaning equal parts of almonds and sugar. I suspect shop-bought marzipan has some additives, but I believe a 50% almonds does the trick.

The amounts given are for 30 mazarins and in Sweden they are all the same size, in oval aluminium cases and weighing about 70 g each. However, the only aluminium cases I could find were round and smaller.

Ingredients for the filling
500 g marzipan with 50% almonds
250 g unsalted butter at room temperature
250 g eggs (about 5 medium sized)

  1. It is absolutely crucial that all ingredients are at room temperature or the filling will split.
  2. Break up the marzipan into small chunks into a large bowl, then using one hand, add a third of the butter and work it in to form a smooth mixture.
    This takes some time, but it's important not to incorporate too much air into the filling or it will puff up during baking.
  3. Add the next third of the butter and incorporate well, before incorporating the final third and achieving a lump-free goo.
  4. Now the mixture should be soft enough to be mixed with a spoon. Stir in the eggs, one at a time, incorporating well and stop just after the last egg is in.
  5. If not using immediately, cover the surface with cling film, making sure no air bubbles are trapped, and keep in the fridge.
  6. Let warm up to room temperature before using it.

The shortcrust pastry is called 1 - 2 - 3 because of the proportions of the ingredients. Eggs are added to make it easier to roll. It can be done in a mixer, but it's better done manually, so that the dough doesn't get over worked.

Ingredients for the dough
600 g plain flour
400 g unsalted butter at room temperature
200 g granulated sugar
100 g eggs (about 2 medium sized)

  1. Sift the flour onto the work surface and make a well.
  2. Place the butter and sugar in the middle, then pinch together into a crumbly mixture.
  3. Add the eggs and work together to a dough, then place in a plastic bag, squeeze out all the air, tie it tightly and let rest in the fridge for at least 1 h.
  4. The dough should be rolled while cold.

I prepared the above on Thursday and kept in the fridge, then took out early on Saturday morning to warm out, while I worked on the coconut tops.

And so yesterday, I put things together.

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 190 degrees C.
  2. Arrange round aluminium cases on trays which have a lip along the edges. The cases can glide easily, the lip will stop them from dropping on the floor.
  3. Dust the work surface with some flour, then roll out a piece of the dough to 3 mm thickness.
  4. .
  5. Using a round cookie cutter, cut out rounds and place in the aluminium cases. The cutter should be a little larger than the cases. Gently press the dough into each case.
  6. Place the mazarin filling in a piping bag, cut off a hole of about 2 cm diameter or use a large plain tip and pipe into the dough cases. Fill up to about three-quarters.
  7. Bake for about 18 - 23 minutes, until the mazarins are golden brown.
  8. Prepare the royal icing - place 3 - 4 dl of icing sugar in a bowl and start adding egg white, a couple of tsp at a time and stir in before adding more. Continue until the consistency is thin enough to be "self levelling", but not too runny. Keep covered until it should be used.
  9. Remove the mazarins from the oven and let cool enough so they can be handled.
  10. Place about a tsp of royal icing on top of a mazarin and spread it over the surface with a knife or spatula.
  11. Best served on the day of baking, but should be OK for a day or two afterwards as well. Ready baked mazarins can be frozen before being iced.

Well, I actually only made 15 mazarins, the rest of the dough and filling are now happily biding their time in the freezer. We still have way too many sweet things to eat. Certainly the coconut tops were well received and the younger of our guests found it very hard to stop eating the chewy fudge biscuits and had to be told off.

The mistake I made was to pipe too much filling, so my mazarins mushroomed a bit. This means that I have more dough than filling left, but that's easy to remedy.

Lundulph's verdict: very nice.

A further comment on the "classical" mazarins - as I mentioned before, they should really be glazed with runny fondant. But in order to do that, they need to first be glazed with apricot glaze. This is called "aprikotyr" in Swedish and I went ahead and made it, but here is where the instructions let me down - the simple, yet very important bit about glazing the mazarins with the apricot glaze while it is still hot. Because once it had cooled, it was like jelly. This practice is to prevent the fondant from soaking up moisture from the mazarin and going soggy. However, when using royal icing, this doesn't happen, so I made it in vain. But I've frozen it too, might get to use it at a later date.

Update 25th March: Due to the much-ness of all the baking, I froze a number of the ready glazed mazarins and thawed them earlier this week. Guess what, they were absolutely fine, perhaps a bit on the crumbly side perhaps. For Easter Sunday, I'll thaw the dough and filling and make some more. By the way, I thawed the mazarins by just leaving them out in the kitchen, nothing fancy at all.

Update 23rd June: The other week, I thawed the dough and filling. The dough felt a bit sticky, so I had to be a bit more generous when dusting with flour, but the mazarins turned out very nice as well. As predicted, I ran out of filling before running out of dough. I also ran out of aluminium cases, so instead I lined my heart shaped tins and used gooseberry jam as filling, before covering with more dough, just like with the vanilla hearts. I glazed with royal icing and they turned out really nice too.


16 March 2013

Coconut tops 2

I was originally planning to make these on Tuesday already, however, I was quite tired and then other things came in the way, so I ended making these early this morning.


This is a slightly more advanced recipe than the one I've done before. It is from my Swedish book "277 types of cakes".

First, I had to make "vaniljkräm" or "vanilla cream", which is basically crème pâtissière or pastry cream. I made half of the given amount, as I was low on eggs by this point. The cream turned out very nice, even though I made some minor alterations to it. I think it would work rather nicely as filling for macaroons too.

Pastry Cream
Ingredients 250 g full milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
60 g egg yolks (about 3, from medium sized eggs)
62 g granulated sugar
20 g cornflour
12 g unsalted butter

  1. Place the milk in a thick-bottomed saucepan and add the vanilla essence, then bring to the boil. As soon as it boils, remove from the heat and let stand for 10 - 15 minutes.
  2. In the mean time, beat together yolks, sugar and cornflour until pale and fluffy.
  3. Once the milk has completed its "rest", pour it into the egg mixture and whisk together until the mixture is smooth.
  4. Pour the whole mixture back into the saucepan, place it back on the hob and bring to the boil again, while stirring constantly.
  5. Once it comes to the boil, add the butter and stir it in, then remove from the heat. At this point the cream will thicken dramatically.
  6. Continue to whisk until completely smooth, then transfer to a shallow large dish, cover the surface with cling film and cool as quickly as possible - place in a fridge or in cold water.

According to the book, the pastry cream is good for 1 - 2 days if kept in the fridge, the quicker it is cooled down, the longer it will last. Freezing is also good, and should be done as soon as possible. Once thawed, it will most likely split, this is fixed by heating it up in the microwave and stirring it through.

Ingredients 90 g pastry cream
450 g dessicated coconut
150 g eggs (about 3 medium sized eggs)
75 g unsalted butter at room temperature
225 g granulated sugar
300 g dark chocolate (optional)

  1. Line 3 baking sheets with baking paper.
  2. Stir together all ingredients until well combined.
  3. Using your hands, form balls about the size of golf balls (or 30 g), then shape into cones and place on the baking sheets.
  4. Leave to dry for at least 1 h.
  5. Pre-heat the oven to 210 degrees and bake until they go golden brown on top, about 15 - 18 minutes.
  6. Leave to cool completely on the baking sheets.
  7. Optional: Melt and temper the chocolate, then dip the bottoms of each cone and allow to set.

As I mentioned, I was low on eggs and had 3 whites over from the pastry cream, so instead of 3 whole eggs in the recipe above, I used two and topped up with egg white to reach the required 150 g. I think this meant the coconut tops were a little paler than they should have been. But I have come across recipes with only egg whites, making the coconut tops completely white.

The book states that each cone should be 50 g, but I tried this and I think that was too much, 30 g size is better. This resulted in 32 coconut tops.

I skipped the chocolate - I have yet to master the art of tempering. Besides I was running out of time. An alternative, you can put the melted, tempered chocolate in a small piping bag and drizzle over the coconut tops.

These were very nice, but not as sweet as I expected. Lundulph liked the texture and he does like coconut. I'm thinking that perhaps some lemon zest mixed in there might be nice. Lundulph wrinkled his nose.


We've invited some friends over for afternoon tea on Saturday and as I'm working in the City since a week ago, I need to start well ahead, since I also have to do a number of shopping excursions to get the ingredients.


So I started by buying most things today and making something quick. Thus the fudge biscuits. Besides, Lundulph has been asking for chewy biscuits for ages. The recipe is from my Swedish book on 277 types of cakes. It also utilises some ingredients that aren't readily available in the UK, so here is my version.

Makes about 60 pieces
320 g plain flour
5 g baking powder
160 g unsalted butter at room temperature
130 g granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
40 g golden syrup
30 g maple syrup


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade and line 2 - 3 baking sheets with baking paper.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the flour and baking powder.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and pinch together into a dough, but careful not to over-work it. It should just hold together.
  4. Divide up the dough into pieces, then each piece rolls out to the length of the baking sheet and is about 2 cm in diameter.
  5. Place two rolls per baking sheet only and bake until golden brown. The recipe said 15 minutes, but I ended up baking them for 22 minutes.
  6. Take out from the oven and immediately cut into pieces at a slight angle, then carefully transfer to a cooling rack and let cool down completely, then they will go harder and chewier.
  7. Once completely cooled, store in an airtight container and careful, they are very moreish!

I divided the dough into 6 parts of 115 g each and baked on 3 baking sheets. The first two went in as rolled and seemed to take ages to swell up. At the 15 minute mark, the edges had reached the right colour, but overall the sticks were fairly pale. Once they were golden brown, the edges were slightly overdone, so when I cut up the pieces, I trimmed the edges and gobbled them up together with Lundulph, while they were still hot. I then flattened the second and third batches, but it didn't seem to make much difference.


I think my baking sheets are about 35 cm long and I got precisely 60 nice biscuits from this bake. We also tried one completely cooled down biscuit and it was very crunchy and chewy. Initially Lundulph thought they weren't sweet enough, but actually they were, it just takes a few seconds to kick in. Thus we're going to bed happy and sugared up tonight.

Update 16th March: After a week in a box, the biscuits have gone hard and lost most of their chewiness. I also felt they weren't sweet enough. I think caster sugar next time instead of granulated and maybe increase the amount of the golden syrup too, it's really sweet.

10 March 2013

Carrot and date cupcakes

A few weeks ago, I was treated to some really lovely muffins. I wasn't able to find out for sure what type they were, but it seemed that they had carrots, nuts and dates in them, along with some spices, so I decided to try and re-create them.


After some searching I found a recipe that seemed to have the correct ingredients. So I got the ingredients and am particularly happy to have got hold of some really lovely dates - very soft and creamy. But when I came to actually making the muffins and started converting the amounts to metric, it became obvious that this recipe would not work for me. The amount of dates needed seemed way over the top and with my recent banana muffin experience, I'm very cautious. Some of the other amounts were also suspicious.

So, I resorted to checking what Delia Smith and Mary Berry had to say on the subject. Well, Delia had two recipes, but for carrot cake, not muffins and I didn't have all the ingredients for them. The Mary Berry one seemed very intriguing and I will give it a try some day. This time, I used it as a guidance for the amounts of my recipe instead.

Makes 24
12 whole dates
3 - 4 large carrots
400 g self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
3 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
2 dl chopped walnuts
250 g honey
4 medium eggs
4 dl water
1.2 dl grapeseed oil

300 g unsalted butter at room temperature
500 g icing sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
100 g maple syrup
4 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp milk (if needed)
ready-made tiny sugar carrots for decoration


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C. Prepare the muffin cases - you need 24 of 5 cm diameter.
  2. Cut the dates lengthwise in half and remove the stone, then set aside.
  3. Peel and trim the carrots, then grate coarsely. Weigh up 300 g for the recipe.
  4. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and walnuts.
  5. Add the carrots, honey, eggs, water and oil and stir together to get thoroughly mixed through. It will look like runny porridge with orange sticks in it.
  6. Pour some of the batter into the cases, filling to about a third. Then place a date half in each, with the cut side up.
  7. Distribute the remaining batter in the muffin cases, then bake until they go golden brown, about 50 minutes. Check with a toothpick for readiness.
  8. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.
  9. While the muffins are baking, place the butter, icing sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and stir together with a fork until well combined.
  10. Add the maple syrup and vanilla extract and incorporate well.
  11. If the mixture feels too thick for piping, add the milk and incorporate. Wrap tightly so the icing doesn't start drying and store in a cool place until it's needed.
  12. Once the muffins have cooled completely, prepare a piping bag with a nozzle and transfer the icing to it, then pipe onto each muffin.
  13. To finish, place a small sugar carrot decoration.

I have two muffin tins, taking 12 cases each, so had two batches to bake. The first one I baked for 45 minutes and they had a really nice colour on the surface when they came out. I'd tested for readiness several times and each time, the toothpick came out with small amounts of batter. I let them cool inside the muffin tin, which is fairly thick, so would extend the baking a little. They were slightly warm by the time I took them out.

The second tin, I left to bake for 60 minutes and it went a bit darker on the surface than I would have liked. But the tooth pick came out clean. However, when I cut in half one of each batch, the 45 minute one seemed moister than the 60 minute one. And this was indeed the feeling I had when I ate them. Lundulph commented that the 60 minute ones were better as the creaminess of the date became more prominent. However, once the icing was in place, the date creaminess was lost a little. Lundulph was adamant that the date should be in one piece in the middle and not chopped and stirred into the batter. These dates don't really have that strong a flavour, so chopping them up would make them disappear completely. Possibly this goes for all dates, I don't know.


On the whole, I'm very pleased with this recipe, as I feel I put it together myself to a much larger extent than before. I've also been racking my brain on variations for the future. For starters, if the muffins won't be iced, then the amount of honey should be increased, they weren't very sweet on their own. The recipes on Delia Smith's website had orange zest in them and that might complement the flavours nicely.

After baking was over, the whole house smelt very nice, but I think if I'd used butternut squash instead of carrots, the result would have been the same. Lundulph reckoned it's just there to add bulk. The carrots do add some sweetness and certainly moisture. I would have liked a bit more crunch, so will probably toast the walnuts beforehand. And use honey with stronger flavour too.


I'm particularly pleased with the icing - inspired from this recipe, I used the amounts from my cookie monster cupcakes, but added vanilla and cinnamon. Actually I made half the amount, from 150 g butter and this as barely enough for 20 cupcakes, so I've doubled the amounts in the recipe above, so that all 24 muffins can be decorated and one doesn't have to worry about running out. I should practise my piping though.

2 March 2013

Hot & spicy goose/chicken noodle soup

In the cold snap of late, I thought soup might be nice. My original plan was to make this on Wednesday, but due to Lundulph being out almost every evening this week, I only got to make it tonight.

This is a recipe card from Waitrose and a very recent at that - the card says early February 2013 and so it isn't on their website yet. At least I wasn't able to find it, as I trawled through the 350+ results on "soup" and 150+ results on "noodle".


I also decided not to follow the recipe entirely - there is still some goose meat left in the freezer from Christmas and I really didn't like the look of the sugar snaps, so opted for green beans instead. And I wanted fancier mushrooms than regular button ones.

4 - 5 portions
150 g shiitake mushrooms
160 g enoki mushrooms
150 g green beans
2 - 3 breasts of chicken or goose (previously cooked)
5 Oxo reduced salt chicken stock cubes
1.7 l boiling water
0.5 dl dark soy sauce
0.5 tbsp chilli flakes
1 packet dried instant noodles, without the flavour sachet
1.5 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp granulated sugar
a bunch of salad onions (8 - 9)


  1. Brush the shiitake mushrooms clean and slice into strips. Remove the "root" parts of the enoki mushrooms and cut the bunches into 3, then divide into smaller bundles.
  2. Trim and wash the beans, then cut in two or three. Trim and wash the salad onions and cut into 3 cm pieces.
  3. Cut the meat into bite-sized pieces.
  4. Crumble up the stock cubes in a large saucepan. Boil up the water in a kettle, pour over the stock cubes and stir to dissolve them completely.
  5. Set the saucepan on the hob and add the soy sauce and the chilli flakes. Once the liquid is boiling, add the mushrooms, beans and meat. Break up the noodles and drop into the soup.
  6. Let simmer for 3 - 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then stir in the lime juice, sugar and onions and remove from the heat and serve.

OK, so I made some changes to the original recipe - dried chillies instead of fresh etc, but no matter how you look at it, it's a glorified way of preparing what is essentially student food. And it's nothing wrong with that - most of the time was spent cleaning and cutting things up. So very suitable for a mid-week dish.

Lundulph liked it and so did I.

1 March 2013

Banana-Nutella Muffins

Once again I mysteriously came across an appealing recipe, while browsing for something completely different.


The combination of banana and Nutella is always a winning one, I've previously done - peeled and wrapped in aluminium foil together with generous dollops of Nutella.

So I had great hopes for these and set about to convert the measurements to metric. As I write this, I realise that I used baking powder instead of bicarbonate of soda (listed as "baking soda" in the original recipe). Dang!

Makes 12
6 tbsp butter, melted and cooled (about 100 g)
4.75 dl plain flour
1.8 dl granulated sugar
0.75 tsp bicarbonate of soda
0.5 tsp salt
3.5 dl very ripe bananas, mashed with a fork
0.6 dl plain yoghurt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
0.6 dl chopped and toasted hazelnuts
12 tsp Nutella


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (160 degrees for fan assisted) and line a muffin tin with paper cases. Gently melt the butter, removing from the heat before all of it has melted, that way it will cool quicker.
  2. Mix together the flour, sugar, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a large bowl and set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, stir together the mashed bananas, yoghurt, eggs and vanilla extract.
  4. Quickly fold in the wet mixture into the dry mixture and also add the hazelnuts.
  5. Divide up the batter between the cases, add a tsp of Nutella to each and swirl around with a toothpick. The Nutella must be at room temperature and maybe even warmed up for a few seconds in a microwave, to make swirling easier.
  6. Bake for about 25 - 35 minutes until the muffins are golden brown and are baked through. Use a toothpick to test, it should come out clean.
  7. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

As the muffins were baking, they smelt so wonderful, I opened the kitchen door and let the smells spread out through the house. Once they were ready and out of the oven, I noticed that they were heavier than expected, as I moved them from the muffin tin to the cooling rack. And as tempting as it was, I managed to resist trying one, but waited for Lundulph to come home, which was very late.

And then disappointment - the muffins were heavy and didn't feel spongy. They tasted nice, but were very dense, not at all what I expected. Lundulph suggested having them with custard and I think perhaps a few seconds in the microwave might soften them up a bit.


Thus we have 10 more muffins to get through, I've frozen most of them and perhaps I'll give this recipe another try, with bicarbonate of soda and I might change the amounts as well. I realise why there is yoghurt on the ingredients list, it is moist and acidic and activates the bicarbonate, so that it bubbles up and is the reason why the recipe of sponge cake without eggs. works. Oh well, never mind...