Orange and Star Anise Autumn Leaves

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I don’t often make biscuits but having watched The Great British Bake Off I felt quite inspired, though I wasn’t going to be making a biscuit chandelier! There is very much a sense of autumn in the air, and so the leaf cookie cutters I bought a year or so ago were brought out of their hiding place.

Ottolenghi’s Sweet book has this lovely recipe for orange and star anise biscuits. I really enjoyed the star anise when making the blackberry and star anise friands and since then I have been using this usually neglected spice as often as I can. I now use star anise in my porridge instead of cinnamon. I did simplify the original recipe as I only had plain flour not the two types of flour the recipe called for: rice and ‘00’.

I have to say that I ‘tested’ a significant number of biscuits and they were really delicious. The only thing I might change next time would be to increase the amount of orange zest. Otherwise these biscuits are a true celebration of autumn!

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Ingredients

430g plain flour

165g caster sugar

⅛ tsp baking powder

1½ tsp ground star anise (about 3 whole star anise)

1 tsp flaky sea salt

finely grated zest of 1 large orange (1 tbsp.)

scraped seeds of ½ vanilla pod

250g unsalted butter, fridge-cold, cut into 2cm cubes

1 large egg, lightly beaten

Directions 

1. Sift the flours, sugar, baking powder and ground star anise into a large mixing bowl. Add the salt, orange zest and vanilla seeds and mix to combine. Add the butter and use the tips of your fingers to rub it into the dry mix until there are no large bits of butter and the consistency is that of breadcrumbs. Add the egg and mix gradually, using your hands or a wooden spoon, until the dough comes together. Shape into a rectangle and wrap tightly in cling film. Set aside in the fridge for at least 1 hour to firm up.

2. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C Fan/Gas Mark 4. Line two baking trays with baking parchment and set aside.

3. Cut the dough in half and roll out one half on a lightly floured work surface until it is just under 0.5cm thick. Using cookie cutters, cut out the biscuits and place them on the lined baking trays, spaced 1cm apart. Re-roll the scraps to cut out more biscuits.

4. Bake for 16–17 minutes, in batches if necessary, rotating the trays halfway through to get an even colour. They should be golden brown on the edges, lightly golden in the centre and have a golden brown underside. Transfer to a cooling rack until completely cool.

5. The dough can be made a day ahead and kept in the fridge overnight; make sure you remove it from the fridge and allow it to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before rolling, so it becomes malleable. The dough can also be frozen before or after it is rolled and shaped; if the latter, bake from frozen and increase the cooking time by 1 minute.

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Pineapple and Star Anise Chiffon Cake

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‘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.

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Ingredients

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

Method

  • 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.

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