The first thing to say about these biscuits is that I had special help in the making and decorating of them. C and I wanted to make his mum something for Mother’s Day. She is quite partial to shortbread, but to make it extra special, we decided to flavour half with rose and decorate it with dark chocolate and the other half with kewar water and decorate it with milk chocolate. Kewar water is typically used to flavour Indian sweets and this is the smell that hits you when you walk into an Indian sweet shop. It’s very fragrant and sweet, not unlike rose water. I adapted the recipe from the John Waites recipe in the March edition of the Waitrose magazine. They turned out brilliantly.
200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
100g caster sugar
1 lemon, zested
½-1 tsp rose water (rose water can vary in intensity, so add just a little at a time)
1 tsp kewar water
1 tsp vanilla extract
300g plain flour
2 tbsp Waitrose Cooks’ Ingredients dried rose petals, plus extra to decorate
100g dark chocolate
100g milk chocolate
Chopped pistachio nuts for decoration
- Put the half butter, sugar, lemon zest, the rose water and vanilla in a large bowl and, using an electric mixer, beat together for about 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. Scrape the bowl down and add half the flour, a pinch of salt and the rose petals, mixing together briefly until it comes together as a dough. Tip the dough onto the work surface and bring together into a ball. Flatten with your hands, then roll out to a 25cm square; place on a baking tray and chill until firm – about 30 minutes.
- Do the same with the other half of the ingredients but this time use the kewar water.
- Preheat the oven to 170˚C, gas mark 3; line 2 baking trays with parchment. Halve the dough, then cut into 2.5cm-thick fingers or shape into hearts using a cookie cutter and pierce all over with a fork.
- Put the biscuits on the prepared baking trays and bake for 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
- Put the dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl and microwave in 30 second bursts until about ¾ of the chocolate has melted. Mix vigorously with a spatula until fully melted (this is a quick method of tempering the chocolate). Dip the rose shortbread halfway into the chocolate, allow the excess to drip off, then lay on a clean sheet of parchment to set, decorating with a few extra rose petals. Melt the milk chocolate in the same way and dip half the kewar water shortbread into it. Sprinkle with pistachio nuts. Once the chocolate has set, you can store the shortbread in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
‘Pineapple’ was the flavour of choice for this birthday cake. So with this in mind I searched through my recipe collection. As pineapple is a very juicy fruit, the cakes it tends to be used in are quite heavy like a hummingbird cake or a carrot cake. My friend for whom I made this cake is very glamorous and a hummingbird cake would simply not do. Once again Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh came to the rescue with this pineapple and star anise chiffon cake from Sweet. This elegant cake with its unusual profile flavour is a light, fluffy cake made by whisking the egg whites separately and then gently folding them in to create a pillow like texture. I’ve never made a chiffon cake before so I had to buy a chiffon cake tin, yet another tin to store under the bed! I followed the recipe more or less, but I didn’t use sugar syrup for the pineapple flowers that the recipe calls for, I just sliced the pineapple, removed the core and put the rings in the oven to dry. I also added peach Bellini truffles for the centre of the flowers, I know this is a bit like gilding the lily, but my friend is a more is more kind of girl. I was really happy with how the cake turned out and think I could add this to my repertoire.
1 large ripe pineapple (about 1.2kg), peeled, core removed
4 star anise
225g self-raising flour
240g caster sugar, plus an extra 50g for the egg whites
125ml sunflower oil
9 eggs, separated
Finely grated zest of 2 oranges
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
1 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
300g pure icing sugar, sift
- Preheat oven to 200°C.
- To make the cake, coarsely chop 400g pineapple, reserving remaining pineapple for dried pineapple flowers. Whiz chopped pineapple in a food processor until smooth. Transfer to a medium saucepan and bring to the boil over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes or until cooked through, then remove from heat. Reserve 200g pineapple puree for the cake and set aside to cool.
- Strain remaining 200g puree through a fine sieve placed over a bowl to yield the 60ml juice you will need to make the icing. If you don’t get enough juice, add water or orange juice to make up 60ml liquid.
- Using a mortar and pestle, pound the star anise until finely ground. Transfer a pinch of ground star anise to a bowl, cover and set aside until needed.
- Place flour, 240g caster sugar and 1/2 tsp fine salt in a large bowl with remaining star anise and whisk to combine. Make a well in the centre and add oil, egg yolks, zest, vanilla seeds and reserved pineapple puree. Using a fork, whisk wet ingredients together before gently drawing in the dry ingredients to make a smooth batter.
- Place egg whites in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk for 30 seconds or until frothy, then add cream of tartar. Continue to whisk until soft peaks form, then gradually add 50g caster sugar, a spoonful at a time. Continue to whisk for 5 minutes or until mixture is stiff and glossy. Gently fold egg white mixture into pineapple batter until just combined.
- Pour batter into the ungreased chiffon pan and bake for 50 minutes, covering with foil halfway if the top is browning too quickly, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove from oven and immediately invert the tin (don’t worry if the removable base slips down a little when the cake is turned over – the cake will remain suspended because the tin is not greased). Set aside for 1 hour or until completely cool. Turning the tin upside down allows the cake to cool with air flow underneath it. If the tin is not turned upside down, the cake will collapse.
- Reduce oven to 120°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
- To make the pineapple flowers; using a serrated knife, cut reserved remaining pineapple crossways into 2mm-thick slices and place on the baking tray.
- Transfer to the oven and bake for 1-11/2 hours (cooking time depends on how ripe the pineapple is) or until the slices are golden and completely dry, but still have some flexibility.
- Immediately shape hot pineapple slices either over the moulds of an egg carton or inside the holes of a muffin pan to form little cups. Set aside to cool and firm up.
- When the cake is cool, turn the pan cake-side up. Using a long palette knife, loosen cake from the sides and central tube, and turn out onto a serving plate.
- To make the icing, place icing sugar in a bowl. Using a wooden spoon, stir through reserved pineapple juice until well combined. Drizzle top of cake with icing, allowing some to drip down the sides. Top with pineapple flowers and sprinkle with reserved ground star anise to serve.