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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Coconut, Almond and Blueberry Cake

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So, I finally get the chance to bake out of the new Ottolenghi book, Sweet. I have had the book for quite a while, but these days I really need an excuse to make something high in calories, even it if it is delicious. When I found out it was the birthday of a colleague, that could only mean one thing: I would have to bake a cake, diet or not!

This cake is exceptional. The ground almonds make the texture very moreish and decadent; the blueberries burst with juiciness and the coconut and lemon zest add a complexity to the flavour.

 

Ingredients

180g ground almonds

60g desiccated coconut

250g caster sugar

70g self-raising flour

¼ tsp salt

4 large eggs

200g unsalted butter, melted, then set aside to come to room temperature

1½ tsp vanilla extract

 finely grated zest of 2 lemons

200g fresh blueberries

20g flaked almonds

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Directions

  • Grease and line a 23cm round cake tin. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C Fan/Gas Mark 4.
  • Place the almonds, coconut, sugar, flour and salt in a large mixing bowl and whisk to aerate and remove the lumps.
  • Place the eggs in a separate medium bowl and whisk lightly. Add the melted butter, vanilla extract and lemon zest and whisk again until well combined. Pour this into the dry mix and whisk to combine.
  • Fold in 150g blueberries, then pour the mixture into the tin. Sprinkle the last of the blueberries on top, along with the flaked almonds and bake for 50–55 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Keep a close eye on it towards the end of cooking: the relatively large number of eggs in the mix means that it can go from still being a little bit liquid in the centre to being well cooked in just a few minutes.
  • Set aside for 30 minutes before inverting out of the tin, removing the baking parchment and placing the cake the right way up on a serving plate. It can either be served warm with cream or set aside until cool.

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