A panoply of (sometimes) lovingly handmade crud.

Tag Archives: spices

I’ve had a recipe for chai tea spiced blondies saved on Pinterest for a while, and I decided to finally make them when I needed something quick for an event last week. I think of a blondie as a white chocolate brownie, so this is something a bit different. It’s a heavily spiced, dense cake topped with rich chocolate ganache flavoured with chai tea. It’s really very good. The black pepper is particularly surprising in a sweet dish, and very warming.

If I make this recipe again, and I probably will, I will tinker with reducing the amount of ganache, and adding some of the white chocolate into the blondie itself.

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Ingredients

Makes 1 8″ square cake, which I cut into 24 small blondies. They’re rich.

  • 225g (2 sticks) salted butter
  • 275g (1 1/3 cups) packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 250g (2 cups) plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1tsp ground black pepper
  • 1tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg

Note: If you don’t have the exact spices listed, feel free to play around with adding other things from your cupboard.

For the ganache

  • 3 chai tea bags. I used Pukka brand because they smelt the strongest in the supermarket
  • 300ml (1 1/4 cups) double/heavy cream
  • 400g good quality white chocolate, chopped

Method

Note: if you are making these for an event, you need to start at least six hours in advance to give the ganache enough time to set. Learn from my mistakes, people!

1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F.

2. Butter an 8inch square baking tray, then line with parchment paper. Actually do both steps as the batter is very thick, so you need the butter to hold the parchment in place. If your baking tin doesn’t have a loose bottom, use a long strip of parchment that overhangs on two sides, so you can easily remove the cake at the end.

3. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar, until light and well combined. Add the vanilla.

4. Add the eggs and mix until smooth.

5. Sift in the flour and spices and stir until ingredients come together. Do not over-mix.

6. Transfer batter to prepared tin and level the top. Tap the tin hard on your countertop to release any trapped air.

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7. Bake for 25-35mins, until top is golden and the cake passes the toothpick test.

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8. Place tin on a wire rack to cool completely.

9. For the ganache, finely chop the white chocolate. Put the cream and tea bags in a small pan over a medium heat until the cream just starts to boil. Remove from the heat and add the chopped chocolate (if you use loose tea, strain first!). Leave for a minute to melt, then stir until smooth. Taste the ganache. You may need to squeeze the tea bags to make sure the flavour is released.

10. Leave the ganache to cool to room temperature. Stir periodically to keep it smooth.

11. Once the cake is totally cool, spread the ganache over the the top and leave to cool for at least half an hour, in the fridge or at room temperature, before removing from tin and slicing.

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I’m getting quite into my autumnal baking, so I decided to try this bread flavoured with the increasingly popular spiced pumpkin. As I learnt, plain pumpkin doesn’t have much of a flavour but it does give this bread a lovely colour, and add moisture. As it’s an American recipe (upcoming stereotype warning), it’s incredibly sweet. I’ve dialled down the sweetness in the recipe below, but you can find the original here. The result is very similar to a cinnamon roll, with an added kick from the glaze if you use it. If I make this again, and I definitely will if I see pumpkin on sale, I would add some pecans because nuts make everything better. Everything.

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Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2tsp (1 sachet) instant yeast
  • 3/4 cup (half a tin) pumpkin puree*
  • 1/4 cup sugar (granulated is fine)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 cups strong white flour

For the spiced sugar

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp butter

For the glaze

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/8 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp milk
  • 3/4 cup icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp rum (replace with more milk if you want to make this  non-alcoholic)

*Yes, I used tinned pumpkin. There was no way I was going to mess around with a pumpkin myself, and I had some left over to make another autumnal recipe. It does look funny, though.

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Method
1. Brown 2tbsp butter in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Browned butter seems to be very fashionable in America at the moment. You allow the butter to melt and turn frothy…

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…then watch carefully as the milk solids become golden brown. Don’t take your eyes off the pan at this stage as the butter can very quickly blacken and burn. This is what you want it to look like

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2. Remove pan from heat and gently add milk. Return to the hob and heat through.

3. Allow to cool until just warm. Add the yeast and 1/4 cup of sugar, and leave to stand for 5 minutes.

4. Add the pumpkin, salt and 1 cup flour. Stir until combined.

5. Add the remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time until you have a slightly sticky dough.

6. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for about 6 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. It will still be a little sticky, try not to add too much flour.

7. Transfer the ball of dough to a lightly oiled bowl. I put mine back in the saucepan to save on washing up.

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8. Leave to rise for 60-90mins, until doubled in size.

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9. While the dough is rising, make the cinnamon sugar that will flavour the bread and create the tearability of the loaf.
Brown another 2tbsp butter. Add the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and mix well, making sure the sugar absorbs the butter evenly.

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10. Grease your 9×5 loaf tin and set aside.
11. Once the dough has risen, return to a lightly floured surface and roll out to a rectangle that is 20x12ins.

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12. Sprinkle evenly with the cinnamon sugar. Take some time over it, pressing the sugar into the surface of the dough evenly.
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13. Slice the dough vertically (as pictured) into six even strips. Try to make each strip just slightly narrower than the width of your loaf tin.
14. Stack the strips on top of each other.

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15. Cut into six even squares and stack into the loaf tin vertically. You may need to squish them down so they all fit.

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16. Cover and leave to rest for 30-45mins.
17. Preheat your oven to 180C/350F.
18. Bake your risen loaf for 30-40mins. The top will be a deep golden brown. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes, before removing to a wire rack.

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19. Prepare the glaze. Heat the butter, milk and brown sugar in a small saucepan. As soon as it comes to the boil, remove from the hob and stir in the rum and icing sugar. Pour over the loaf while it’s still warm.


You can tell I’m feeling stretched when I start making simple rustic cakes like this spiced apple loaf. Although it doesn’t look much, the apple and yoghurt keep it nice and moist, it’s not too sweet and you can really taste the butter, the tang of the apples and the subtle spices. It’s great with a cuppa, doesn’t leave you feeling too guilty, and the prep time is only about half an hour.

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Recipe

Adapted from here.

  • 100g butter
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g buttermilk or yoghurt*
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 200g flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 3 medium eating apples
  • 50g walnuts, chopped (optional)

*I used Greek yoghurt. You can make your own buttermilk by adding 1 teaspoon of lemon juice or vinegar to a cup of milk and leaving to stand. The recipe notes say that ordinary milk (or low fat yoghurt, for that matter) works fine but I would worry the cake might be a bit dry. Although with all that apple it’s probably be fine.

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180C (170C fan). Grease a 1lb loaf tin, or similar
2. Melt the butter and leave to cool. Meanwhile, slice or chop your apples. Peeling is optional, I don’t bother.
Whisk the eggs and sugar until well combined and light, 1-2mins
3. Add the butter, milk/yoghurt and vanilla and mix until incorporated
4. Stir in the dry ingredients. You will be left with a very thick batter
5. Add the apples and nuts if using. It will look like a lot of apple but it’s fine. If you want a simple decoration, reserve 10 or so apple slices.
6. Transfer the batter to your greased pan and level the top. Decorate if you want.

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7. Bake for 50-60mins. Check after 40 and cover with foil if it’s looking too brown. Once the cake passes the knife test, remove and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

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It’s best to cut this cake with a sharp knife, otherwise all the bits of apple make the slices uneven. But then you get to ‘clear up’ the crumbs. Yum.


I’ve been intending to get into jam for ages. Like, five years. In fact, I bought some pectin about that long ago in preparation for my jammy exploits. Until I saw the prohibitive price of fruit. Last year, a friend and I went on a great spread-making workshop that reignited the passion that had lain dormant for so long. And then on Tuesday night I spotted some bargain fruit at the supermarket. The time (and plum harvest) was ripe. And here are the fruits of my labour (pun totally intended.)

Four jars

I’ll be giving most of this away. Much as I enjoy jam, it would take me at least a year to get through this, plus the plastic container of jam I put in the fridge as I hadn’t sterilised enough jars. This jam is sweet but still with an edge of tartness and a strong, warming hit of spice. I tasted it a few times throughout to monitor this (and because that’s just what I do, okay?)

Ingredients:

This makes about four 340g jars, plus one 200g jar.

  • About 1.2kg of plums
  • About 1kg of sugar
  • 1 sachet pectin
  • 1 or 2 lemons
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5-7 cloves (I used 10, which I think was a bit of overkill)
  • 3 allspice (pimento) berries (I used 5)

Feel free to experiment with spices. I reckon some grated root ginger (or, indeed, powder) would be lovely in this. Star anise also adds an aniseedy hum. Make sure you count how many cloves etc you put in so you can pick them all out at the end. No one likes crunchy bits in their jam.

Equipment

  • A large, clean pot. The fruit should only fill it halfway so that you don’t risk it boiling over
  • A wooden spoon
  • A grater
  • Five jars, with lids. I just recycle jars, ensuring I wash them thoroughly.
  • A saucer.
  • Funnel (optional. I will get a proper one for the next time I make jam.)

Method

  1. Thoroughly wash and dry your jars in hot, soapy water. Set the jars aside and put the lids in a clean bowl.
  2. Put a clean saucer in the fridge. You’ll need this for the ‘wrinkle test’ later.
  3. Cut up your fruit and remove the stones. You can be very messy about this, it doesn’t matter. Eat or chuck any very bruised bits. I recommend doing this in front of the telly as it’ll take a while.Cut plums
  4. Put over a medium to low heat and cook the fruit until soft. Grate in the lemon zest, squeeze in the juice and bung in the spices.The spices
  5. Once the fruit has softened, add the sugar. Stir and turn up the heat.
  6. Cook until the sugar has dissolved. Taste at this point (be careful, it’s hot!) and add more sugar if necessary. I started with 600g, then upped to a kilo.Bubbling
  7. Put the oven on, to 140degrees and pop your clean jars (not lids) in.
  8. Leave the jam to boil quite strongly. After about 20 mins, begin testing to see if it has reached its setting point. Put a teaspoon of the jam onto your cold saucer, leave for a few seconds, and push your finger through it. If the surface wrinkles, it’s ready. If your finger slides though it cleanly, leave it for a few more minutes, then test again. I tried to take a picture of the test, but my camera is too rubbish. Apparently setting point is 104-105degrees on a sugar thermometer, if you’re lucky enough to own one.
  9. Pour boiling water over your jar lids to sterilise these.
  10. Once your jam is at setting point, remove from the heat. Leave to stand for about half an hour and pick out the spices.
  11. Remove any froth from the surface of the jam and discard. Stir.
  12. Get your jars out of the oven and carefully dry the lids with kitchen paper or a spotlessly tea towel.
  13. Carefully pour the jam into your jars. Leave a 1cm gap at the top and immediately screw on the lid. I sieved one jar because I’m going to give it to my granny, who is on a low fibre diet. The sieving yields a smoother and clearer jam, but I prefer it with the bits of skin in there. Also, the sieving is quite a lot of hassle and mess if you don’t have a decent funnel.
  14. You’re done! If your jars were sterilised properly, unopened jam should keep in the cupboard for a few months, and a couple of weeks once opened.

If you’re a sad sack like me, you’ll also want to waste some time designing labels for your jars. It’s wise to label them with the date so they don’t get confused with any other mysterious jars cluttering up your cupboards.

Labels

But I think they add a little something to the handmade charm.

Labelled jars