Orange and Star Anise Autumn Leaves

IMG_1254

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!

IMG_1260

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.

IMG_1257 - Copy

Gingerbread and Cranberry Linzer Cookies

gingerbread-and-cranberry-linzer-2

I made these for exam marking, trust me, nobody’s favourite time of year! Obviously, this called for some festive cheer to get us through the hundreds of exam papers we needed to mark. I decided to make a variation on the Austrian Linzer Torte which is characterised by almonds and preserves. This gingerbread cookie is also made from almonds and the preserve is a very festive cranberry and orange combination.  The Linzer cookies went down well and we are already half way through the marking. I found this recipe on:  http://www.wholebiteblog.com/new-blog/2016/11/22/gingerbread-cranberry-linzer-cookies

 

Ingredients  (Makes 2 dozen)

75g whole almonds

85g cup dark brown sugar

225g unsalted butter, softened

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

2 tablespoons molasses (I used black treacle)

350g plain flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

    1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

For the Filling

85g soft brown sugar

2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

Zest of one orange

gingerbread-and-cranberry-linzer

 Instructions 

Toast almonds in a small dry pan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring often, until they turn golden brown and smell nutty. Rub the nuts in a kitchen towel to remove any loose skins, then transfer to a food processor. 

Pulse the almonds and half the brown sugar in a food processor until finely ground and sandy. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and remaining brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the nut mixture and beat 1 minute longer. Scrape down the bowl and beat in the treacle and vanilla. Scrape one more time and add the egg. Mix until fully combined. 

Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl, whisking to combine. Add the dry ingredients to the mixer and mix on low until just combined. Form the dough into a ball and flatten into a disk. Wrap the disk in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine cranberries, brown sugar, orange juice and zest in a saucepan over a low heat. Cook and stir for 3 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally until the berries have burst and the mixture has thickened, 8-10 minutes. Be sure to scrape the bottom as you stir to prevent from sticking and burning. Let the filling cool completely

Preheat oven to 190/180/Gas 5. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment or non-stick baking mats. Roll out the chilled dough on a well floured surface to between 1/8-1/4 inch thick. Using a round cookie cutter, cut out as many cookies as you can and transfer to the prepared baking sheets, leaving an inch of space between each. Using a smaller cutter, cut our the centre of half of the cookies. Bake 10-12 minutes, until the edges are golden brown. Reroll the remaining dough and repeat the process. If you want more of a biscuit texture, bake for longer.

Once the cookies are cooled, spread a spoonful of jam on the bottom side of a whole cookie. Sandwich together with a cut out cookie. Make sure not to add too much jam or it will ooze out the sides. About 1 teaspoon in the centre should do the trick. Repeat with remaining cookies. 

gingerbread-and-cranberry-linzer-cookies