Pistachio and Orange Blossom Simnel Cake

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Fruit cakes are a favourite of mine, I love the comfort of a nice big, chunky wedge of a unfussy cake, laden with fruits, spices and flavour, a perfect partner to accompany a pot of tea. Christmas has its traditional fruit cake slicked with brandy and covered in a rich, thick royal icing. Easter has a fruit cake all of its own too, the Simnel cake.

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This Easter classic is a fruit cake which is topped with a layer of marzipan, it had a layer of marzipan inside¬†then¬†topped with¬†eleven marzipan balls. I was wanting to make a nice celebratory cake for this Spring celebration that wasn’t your usual celebration cake of a layered iced cake or a chocolate laden cake. I see¬†simnel cakes¬†gracing food magazines every Easter so I knew this cake was the next fruit cake to be crossed of my list.

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I flipped through my magazine scrapbook folder and landed on this version with a ¬†fresh twist. Pistachio and Orange blossom. I’ve never baked with orange blossom before so I was¬†very excited to try it out. It’s¬†gives the cake an¬†incredibly light¬†fresh flavour, a¬†little floral with light orangey tones. I can’t wait to bake with it again, maybe more towards summer perhaps.

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This fruit cake isn’t as heavy as you usual kind, it only contains two types of dried fruits, sultana’s and currants. I soaked mine in 1 tbsp of brandy for around 15 minutes, this adds a little extra flavour and moistens them up nicely. Simnel¬†cake usually contains mixed peel but seeing as I can’t stand the stuff¬†it’s not gonna get¬†it’s debut in any fruit cake of mine!

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As well as its top layer of marzipan it also has a thin layer on marzipan in the centre of the cake. The gives the cake a lovely added flavour and texture.

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The marzipan isn’t any your normal marzipan it’s pistachio marzipan. It’s quick to make and not as time-consuming as you might think. It takes a¬†matter of minutes. To a large bowl combine ground pistachios, ground almonds, icing sugar, caster sugar, almond extract, lemon juice and a beaten egg. Mix together until it comes together then knead until it’s all come together. Toast the pistachios, this will bring out their flavour tenfold. You’ll need 1/3 of the marzipan for the centre of the cake. Roll it out into a 8 inch circle, cover with clingfilm and set aside. Wrap the remainder of the marzipan up in clingfilm and set aside for later.

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I added more orange zest than was required and discarded the required lemon zest. I wanted to bring more orange to the cake to compliment the orange blossom. Spices are abundant, you can’t have a fruit cake without spice. Cinnamon, ginger and freshly ground nutmeg flavour the cake lightly. All these flavours weave in and out of each other giving you a light and fresh take on a fruit cake. Start it early in the morning as it take up to 2 hours to bake. A low heat is the key when baking fruit cakes, it may take a lot longer to bake than other cakes but if you bake it too fast it will come out dry as a boot. Pistachio and Orange Blossom Simnel Cake 8

The cake is a simple creaming method for its base. Cream the butter, sugar and your orange zest until light and fluffy. When it’s creaming you can combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and the remaining pistachios into a medium bowl and also in another medium bowl you can combine the sultanas, currants and the brandy. Add your eggs and orange blossom water then alternating between the dry and fruited mixtures mix everything together.

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The Simnel cake has 11 marzipan balls on top. They are meant to represent the apostles minus Judas. The cake dates back to medieval times where it would have been eaten on the middle Sunday of lent when the 40 day fast would be¬†relaxed. It’s now traditionally eaten on Easter Sunday.

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I dusted my version with a light layer of icing sugar, this light sweetness offsets the marzipan nicely. This cake would be great for a tea time treat after you’ve had your traditional Easter lunch, be sure to make room now.

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Makes – One, 8 inch round cake

Ingredients

{pistachio marzipan}

  • 50 grams (1 1/2 ounces) Pistachios, toasted
  • 150 grams (1 1/2 cups) Ground almonds
  • 140 grams (1 cup) Icing sugar
  • 150 grams (3/4 cup) Caster sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon Almond extract
  • 1-3 teaspoons Lemon juice
  • 1 Large egg, lightly beaten

{cake}

  • 50 grams (1 1/2 ounces) Pistachios, toasted
  • 200 grams (7 ounces) Unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 220 grams (1 cup) Light brown muscovado sugar
  • Zest of 1 1/2 large navel oranges
  • 170 grams (1 1/3 cups) Self raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon Baking powder
  • Pinch of Maldon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon Ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon Freshly grated nutmeg
  • 250 grams (8 1/2 ounces) Sultanas
  • 170 grams (6 ounces) Currants
  • 1 tablespoon Brandy
  • 4 Large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon Orange blossom water

{decorate]

  • 2 tablespoons Apricot jam
  • 1 teaspoon Orange blossom water
  • Icing sugar to dust

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160C,320F. Place the pistachios on a baking tray and toast for 10 minutes, leave to cool.
  2. Start by making your marzipan. Place the pistachios in a food processor and blitz until finely ground. Set 50 grams (1 1/2 ounces) aside for the cake and place the rest you’ll be using for the marzipan in a medium-sized bowl.
  3. Add the ground almonds, icing sugar, caster sugar, almond extract, 1 teaspoon of lemon and the egg. Mix together until it starts to come together, if it’s still a bit dry add a little more lemon juice and knead until it’s come together.
  4. Get 1/3 of the marzipan and place on a clean work surface dusted with icing sugar. Wrap the rest in cling film and set aside for later. Roll out¬†until you have a 8 inch circle. Get a round 8 inch cake tin that you’ll be baking the cake in and use it as a guide. Wrap your circle in clingfilm and set aside.
  5. Pre-pair a round, loose bottomed 8 inch cake tin by greasing the bottom and sides with butter. Line the bottom with parchment paper and then place a strip of parchment around the inside of the tin, coming up 2 inches higher than the tin. Set aside.
  6. To make cake place the butter, light brown sugar and the orange zest into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment set to high and cream until smooth and fluffy. Meanwhile in a medium bowl add the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and stir through the ground pistachios and set aside.
  7. In a smaller bowl add the sultanas, currants and brandy give a little stir and set aside also.
  8. Scrape down your bowl with a spatula and with the mixer on a lower speed gradually add the beaten eggs adding a little at a time. Halfway through adding your eggs add a spoonful of the flour mixture. Scrape down your bowl with your spatula and then add the orange blossom water and mix for 10 seconds.
  9. Starting with the flour mixture add a 1/3 to your batter with the mixer on medium speed until just combined then add the dry fruits. Continue to do this until everything has been thoroughly mixed together.
  10. Spread 1/2 the batter into your pre-paired tin then lay in your disc of marzipan. Spoon the rest of the batter on top and smooth it over. Bake for 1 hour 45 minutes – 2 hours or until deep brown. It may be difficult to test the cake with a cake tester as you have the marzipan in the centre and this will remain moist when prodded. I inserted my cake tester just shy of halfway and when that came out clean I pulled it from the oven. This was at about 1 hour 50 minutes and it was perfectly cooked. After one hour my cake was browning rather quickly so I placed a layer of foil on top so it wouldn’t burn.
  11. Leave the cake on a wire rack for 15 minutes before transferring to the wire rack to cool completely.

{decorating the cake}

  1. Roll out 2/3 of the remaining pistachio marzipan onto a well icing sugar dusted surface to a 8 inch circle.
  2. In a small pan over a low heat, heat the apricot jam with the orange blossom water. Brush on top of the cake then place your marzipan circle on top.
  3. With the rest of the marzipan roll out 11 balls and using the jam stick them onto the top of the cake. Dust a light layer of icing sugar on top and serve.

Notes

* Recipe adapted from Waitrose Kitchen Magazine

* Give yourself all day for this cake, it need’s up to 2 hours in the oven and then it will take a goof few hours to cool. To help the cooking process you can always pop the cake in the fridge for an hour.

* This cake will a last for up to 3 days stored in a cake tin with a tight-fitting lid.

* Keep in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.

 

 

Currant Flecked Hot Cross Buns

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Whenever I bake with yeast I always get that gentle reminder of how delicious fresh from the oven bread is. Nothing else compares to it.

 

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The warm bread, puffing up steam in your face as you pull apart its tender structure, the butter you’ve just spread melting down your finger tips, that taste of freshly made bread. Your not going to get that at any supermarket..

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Baking your own bread is always better in my opinion but the fact that can always stop you from regularly baking with yeast is time. Baking with yeast is almost an all day project what with waiting for the dough to rise then prove. I started the buns just after midday and I was eating one fresh from the oven around 4pm.

 

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Well worth an afternoon in the kitchen.

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These hot cross buns are simply flavoured. Currants are the only dried fruits in these and¬†for the spice,¬†a teaspoon of mixed spice. I love mixed spices aroma, it’s a great spice to use when you want a few warming flavours but not a truck of load of different spices weighing it down.

 

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This recipe has been adapted from The Great Holiday Baking Book – Beatrice Ojakangas. The book is packed full of breads,¬†sweetbreads and cakes.¬†These¬†recipes are broken down by all your holidays.¬†New years, Christmas,¬†Easter,¬†Thanksgiving ect. ¬†Everything about this recipe was great, the ease of it, you don’t have to wait long for them before their ready to into then oven, 2 hours total is all and the deliciousness of them. They are the best hot cross buns that I’ve ever eaten.

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The method in making these is a simple one done in a food processor. Okay for those of you short of time or not used to baking with yeast but from experience your more likely to get a softer, lighter and well structured dough if you knead these yourself which exactly what I did. If you are going to do all of it in the processor then mix it for 2 minutes, until soft and smooth.

 

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Here’s how I made these delectable soft buns. First of Is the dough. In the bowl of a food processor add the flour, yeast, sugar, mixed spice, salt and lemon zest. In a small saucepan heat the milk to boiling point¬†(100C) remove from the heat then add the butter, stirring to melt. Stir in the eggs and vanilla extract then pour into the dry ingredients. Blitz until it starts to come together then turn out onto a clean, well floured surface. Or keep mixing in the processor until soft and smooth.

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Now this is where it gets a bit messy. This dough is very wet and sticky but don’t worry just Knead the dough until it’s smooth and soft. It won’t be sticky any more. It’ll take 5-10 minutes so just keep on kneading, it will come together. Add the currants a little at a time to the dough, kneading in each little batch before adding the next. Keep on going until all the currants have been kneaded in. Now pop the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling-film and leave somewhere warm for 1 hour to rise.

 

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I like my buns big, this recipe for me made 8 but the original recipe states 16. If you want smaller golf ball sized ones then you should get 16 but don’t stress on your bun size, go with what makes you happy. After the dough has had its first rise, shape the dough into your buns then place them on a baking sheet covered with baking parchment and cover loosely with a clean, tea towel. Leave again in a warm place to rise for 45 minutes-1 hour until doubled in size. This is the time to heat your oven to 205C,190C(Fan),400F.

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Once risen grab a sharp knife and make crosses in your buns, brush with a simple egg wash, this is going to make them glisten and golden. Bake for 15-25  minutes or until golden brown and firm. Make up an almond scented icing then pipe onto the cross. As the buns are still warm it will run and not be so white but if you want the pure whiteness to stand out wait for them to cool before piping on your cross.

 

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Eaten when warm is an utter delight.

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Homemade bread is better for you. When you buy bread or fruited bread from the shops it will last you for a good few days but with these hot cross buns they are best eaten the day that they were made. They taste good the day after but beyond that they start going hard and flakey. Ever wondered why? It’s because your supermarket baked goods are packed full of preservatives.

 

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The cross that goes on top of these is a thick sugary almond icing. The almond flavour is strong but so good. If you don’t like almond then leave it out, but I loved it. In the recipe it states to pipe your iced cross on top of warmed buns, the icing will melt a little but these are intended to be eaten warm so if you prefer more of a prominent cross then wait until its cold.

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These buns are soft, pillowy, flecked with juicy currants and flavour packed. Eat warm with good butter and your afternoon will be filled with a satisfying delight. You’ll have mastered yeast and made an Easter classic a lot healthier for you than local supermarket. A win all round I think!

 

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Yields – 8 Good sized buns.

Ingredients

{dough}

  • 375 grams (3 cups) Self-raising flour
  • 5 1/2 teaspoons Active dried yeast
  • 50 grams (1/4 cup) Caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Mixed spice
  • Pinch of Maldon sea salt
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 175 ml (3/4 cup) Milk
  • 55 grams (1/4 cup) Unsalted butter
  • 2 Large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Pure vanilla extract
  • 110 grams (3/4 cup) Currents

{glaze}

  • 1 Large egg
  • 1 tablespoon Milk

{Icing}

  • 125 grams (1 cup) Icing sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon Almond extract

Method

  1. In the bowl of a food processor add the flour, yeast, sugar, mixed spice, salt and lemon zest.
  2. In a small saucepan heat the milk too boiling (100C) remove from the heat then add the butter, stirring to melt. Stir in the eggs and vanilla extract then pour into the dry ingredients. Blitz until it starts to come together then turn out onto a clean, well floured surface.
  3. This dough is very wet and sticky. Knead the dough until it’s smooth and soft. It won’t be sticky any more. It’ll take 5-10 minutes so just keep on kneading, it will come together.
  4. Add the currants a little at a time to the dough, kneading in each little batch before adding the next. Keep on going until all the currants have been kneaded in.
  5. Now pop the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling-film and leave somewhere warm for 1 hour to rise.
  6. heat the oven to 205C,190C(Fan),400F.
  7. Make a cross in each bun make a simple egg wash by mixing together egg and milk with a fork then brush each bun. This is going to make them glisten and golden.
  8. Bake for 15-25 ¬†minutes or until golden brown and firm. Make the almond scented icing by¬†sifting the icing sugar into a medium bowl then stirring in the milk and almond extract.¬†¬†Place the icing into a plastic bag and snip the corner off then pipe onto the cross. Either leave to cool or eat whilst warm. I’d go for the latter.

Notes

* Recipe adapted from The Great Holiday Baking Book – Beatrice Ojakangas

* These are best eaten fresh from the oven, however they will last for up to 2 days stored in a cake tin with a tight-fitting lid.

* Keep in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight

Baking News!

Baking News (10.03.14)

* I think Spring has arrived a little early here in our part of UK, we’ve had some beautiful days filled with warm sunshine we even saw a butterfly in our garden yesterday, you’d think we were headed for Summer and not Spring! I’m loving the warm air so I hope it stay’s around. The day’s are getting longer too, I love the extra hours of light.

* At our farmers market we spied some beautiful tulips that we couldn’t resist buying. We’d just bought a new vase and were on the hunt for some seasonal flowers to fill it and these glorious flowers were perfect. I can’t stop taking photo’s of them. If you follow me on Instagram you’ll of seen them already. We bought three bunches, a light pink bunch, a peachy yellow bunch and a pinky orange bunch. All the stunning shades blend perfectly together.

* It’s a special someone’s birthday at the end of the month and his birthday treat of choice is a cheesecake. I’ve never made cheesecake before. I tried a sticky toffee baked cheesecake the other week and it was a disaster. It tasted horrible and it wouldn’t budge out of it’s tin, then when it did finally break free it collapsed in my hands! We could only stand there and laugh. So cheesecake two was the total opposite. Pure cheesecake heaven!! It tasted amazing! Totally amazing! My partner told me to put it in the freezer and oh my, frozen cheesecake is a must, it’s like ice cream but cheesecake ice cream. I need to make a cheesecake themed ice cream I think. We had to throw it away to avoid eating the whole thing in one go, it’s that good! Best cheesecake ever. I’ll share the recipe with you guy’s when I make it next. It’s need multiple re-makes just to soothe my new found cheesecake addiction!

* I’ve finally started my Easter baking with two themed treats being made this past weekend. Both were a big success, I really can’t wait to share them with you.

* Has anyone else been baking Spring inspired treats yet?

* Sweet and Savoury Sunday Link Party #51 reached over 100 link ups! How great is that?! I hope you all link your projects, I love reading your posts and seeing what you’ve all been up to. So what are you waiting for, link up to Sweet and Savoury Sunday Link Party #52 now!!

* I hope everyone has a great start to there week :)

Here are two minty themed treats that I can’t wait to try when the warmer weather makes an appearance.

- Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream from Wallflower Girl - My favourite ice cream flavour just got healthier, love it!

- Mint Limeade from One Sweet Appetite¬†– This year will be the year that I make homemade lemonade and I’m going to start with this one!

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