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Signature Bakes: Grey days call for colourful food




Need an energy boost to help you through winter’s last leg? Ian Cumming, Cambridge’s Great British Bake Off finalist, serves up a savoury with a kick of chilli and a sweet treat with citrus zing

Chilli Biscuits

These tasty biscuits are very simple to make and endlessly adaptable depending on what flavours you like and how much heat you can tolerate. They’re also good to make with kids as you can make them any shape you want too.

Ingredients:

150g plain flour

3 heaped tsp paprika

1 tsp salt

90g unsalted butter

60g finely grated cheddar

20g finely grated parmesan

1 - 2 tsp chili flakes

1 egg yolk

1.5 tbsp cold water

sweet chilli sauce

Method:

Put the flour, paprika and salt in a mixing bowl. Dice the butter into small pieces and rub into the flour until it disappears. Grate in the cheddar and parmesan and then pop in the chilli flakes before thoroughly mixing them all together.

Put in the egg yolk and the cold water and cut through the mixture with a knife to help mix it all through. Once you have done so, bring it together and knead for a minute or two. Flatten it into a disk, wrap in plastic and then chill in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.

Dust a work surface with flour and roll out the dough so it is a little thicker than a £1 coin. Use a pastry cutter about 5cm wide and cut out discs. Use a much smaller pastry cutter - about 1.5cm - to cut out a hole in the middle. Bring the leftover pastry together and roll it out again cutting out more discs as before. Then take those leftovers and roll them out much thinner - about the thickness of a 2p coin.

Line a baking tray with some parchment and then put the big discs on top. Preheat the oven to 190C. Using your small cutter cut out small discs and lay them carefully inside the big discs pressing them in gently so they fit very snugly. Put a small blob of sweet chilli sauce in the middle. Bake for about 10 minutes or until nice and golden. Leave on the tray to completely cool.

Citrus Slice

These beauties will keep the scurvy away! With loads of lemon juice in them they pack a hearty dose of Vitamin C and zing to keep you healthy and happy at the start of the year. There are three layers or elements to this bake and you can create one, two or three of them depending on your commitment. Making shortbread is a great simple skill. Adding the lemon layer makes it something above and beyond the normal. The further addition of the Italian meringue not only makes it look amazing but also rather decadent. This recipe is for a 20 x 20 tray.

Ingredients:

Shortbread:

140g unsalted butter at room temperature

70g caster sugar

1/4tsp salt

140g plain flour

70g rice flour (if you haven’t got any, then use 210g plain flour)

1 tsp vanilla

Lemon layer:

200ml double cream

200ml lemon juice & zest - about 4 or 5 lemons

3 large eggs

2 large egg yolks (save the whites for the meringue)

250g caster sugar

10g cornflour

Italian meringue:

2 large egg whites

100g caster sugar

10g golden syrup

25g water

Method:

You can do the shortbread by hand or in a mixer with the paddle attachment. Beat the butter, caster sugar and salt in a mixing bowl. Once combined add the flour, rice flour (if using) and vanilla and briefly beat.

Dust a work surface with flour and roll out to fit the tray. Line the tray with parchment, pop the shortbread in and smooth it out to fill the tray. Spike the shortbread all over with a fork and then bake at 150C for about 20 to 30 minutes or until nice and gold.

Whilst the shortbread is baking, prepare the lemon layer. Put the double cream in a small pan along with the lemon zest, bring to a simmer and leave to cool. Put the eggs, egg yolks and caster sugar in a mixing bowl and whisk for a minute or two until it turns a little paler. Sieve in the cornflour and whisk again. Whisk in the double cream and then the lemon juice. Run it all through a sieve.

As soon as the shortbread is baked pour a couple of tablespoons of the lemon liquid on top and spread it all around using a pastry brush ensuring that it is completely covered. Return it to the oven - this is to seal the shortbread and stop it going soggy. Bake for 3 or 4 minutes. Carefully pour over the rest of the lemony liquid and then bake for about 20 minutes or until it is just firm. Set aside to cool.

Whilst it is cooling you can start on the Italian meringue. Put the egg whites in a large mixing bowl. Ideally this should be in a standing mixer like a Kitchenaid. Put the caster sugar, golden syrup and water in a small pan. Put the pan on the heat and bring it up to 115C.

At this point whisk the egg whites to soft peak stage. Hopefully by the time they reach soft peaks your sugar mixture should have reached 120C. At this point turn off the heat, turn the mixer to high and very carefully - it’s fiendishly hot! - pour it in a thin, steady stream down the side of the bowl making sure you just miss the whisk. Turn the whisk down to medium speed and keep whisking until the bowl feels warm to the touch.

By now you should have a gorgeous, thick & shiny meringue that is wonderful to pipe. Choose your favourite piping nozzle and get creative. In the photos here I was clearly in a neat mood as I just piped stars in a grid but do as you wish.

If you have a blow torch to hand, the final step is to wave it carefully over the top to give the meringue some lovely brown stripes - and marshmallow flavours. Don’t worry if you don’t, though, as the egg whites will have been cooked by the hot sugar.


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