Monday, 26 November 2012

tortas de aceite

These crispy, sweet flat breads are incredibly moreish and ever so easy to fall in love with. Ever since I first tried them in Spain several years ago I get regular cravings for them. You can get them over here but they're so expensive that they're difficult to justify. However, I have recently found out how to make them for myself and I can't believe how simple they are. With a straight forward method and cheap ingredients there's no doubting that these tasty treats are going to be making a regular appearance in my house. If you can get your head around a simple bread dough you'll have no difficulty with these. The literal translation is 'oil cakes' but that doesn't sound as good as the Spanish original. My understanding of their history is that they are a traditional sweet from Seville in southern Spain but are now enjoyed all over the world. 

Ingredients These quantities yield around 22 biscuits
100ml of olive oil
large pieces of lemon zest from a whole lemon (or equivalent amount of orange/clementine/tangerine zest)
1 tbsp aniseed (I couldn't get hold of any so used fennel seeds - I reckon you could also use fresh or dried rosemary for a different but equally yummy flavour combo)
1 tbsp sesame seeds
360g plain flour
20g fresh yeast*
80ml warm water
20ml anise (I used ouzo but use what aniseed flavoured alcohol you have to hand or increase the quantity of water)
30g sugar
pinch of salt
Beaten egg white and granulated sugar for finishing.

*My yeast comes in 50g blocks. So I used the other 30g to make my cardamon bread.
  1. Put the oil in a saucepan over a low heat. Add the zest and geat until it sizzles and darkens in colour. Add the seeds, turn off the heat and leave to cool. You need to be able to handle it within the dough so leave to cool for at least 15 minutes. Don't rush it and end up burning yourself.
  2. Combine the yeast and the warm water until thoroughly mixed. Put the remaining dry ingredients in a large bowl, make a well the pour in the water and oil (once cooled).
  3. Mix together until you have a rough dough then turn out on to the counter. Flour the surface if needed then knead the dough until smooth and silky.
  4. Place the dough in a large bowl, cover with cling film and a clean tea towel then leave for around an hour until it doubles in size.
  5. Preheat the oven to 220C and line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Once the dough had risen knock it back down then break off walnut/golf ball size pieces. Roll out each piece  on a lightly floured surface to around 2-3mm thick, rough circles (as thin as you can basically). 
  6. Place each rolled out circle on to the baking sheet, brush with the egg white then generously cover with sugar. Bake in the oven for 7-10 minutes (depending on the size of your oven and the number of baking sheets you have you will probably need to do this in batches). Keep a close eye on them. You want them to turn a rich brown colour and for some of the sugar on top to have caramelised. 
  7. Remove from the sheet as soon as they come out of the oven and leave to cool.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

prize winning swedish cardamon bread - two ways

MY VERSION These quantities will give you enough dough for two loaves. For variety I normally make one filled loaf and one plain loaf.

400ml milk
110g butter
30g of fresh yeast of 2 x 7g sachets of dried yeast
110g caster sugar
750g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tsp ground cardamom (it’s best if you split then remove the black seeds inside green cardamom pods and grind them in a pestle and mortar)
1 egg, beaten

Filling: (Enough for one loaf)
100g soft butter
60g soft brown sugar
25g granulated or caster sugar
2 tsps ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamon

Optional extras: handful of nuts and/or raisins

1. In a large saucepan, gently heat the milk , butter and ground cardamom until just warm and all the butter has melted.
2. Remove from the heat and once it has cooled to luke warm add the egg and fresh or dried yeast and whisk thoroughly. (If you are using fast action yeast just heat the milk, butter and cardamom and add the yeast with the flour and other dry ingredients).
3. Place the flour, salt, sugar (and fast action yeast if using) into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour in them milk, egg and butter mixture and combine everything together by hand or using a wooden spoon so that you get a rough dough.
4. At this stage you need to turn the dough out on to a floured surface and give it a good knead until it is smooth and silky. Place the dough in a floured bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a tea towel and place in a warm place to double in size (about and hour). Go and enjoy a cup of tea, listen to the radio or read a good book.
5. Once the dough has risen, knock it back, remove from the bowl and divide the dough in two. Then follow either the instructions for a plain loaf or the pull apart version.

Pull-apart Cardamon Bread
1. Grease and flour a tin.
2. Take half the dough and place on to a lightly floured surface. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough into a rectangle shape of about 0.5cm thickness.
3. Mix together the butter, sugar and spices then spread over the dough, sprinkle over the raisins and nuts if using. Make sure that there is an even covering.
4. Now cut the rectangle in half lengthways and roll up each smaller rectangle into tight log shape with the filling on the inside.
5. Cut into slices about 2-3cm thick and place the pieces into the prepared tin with the cut, see the picture below for how I did it.
6. Cover over again then leave in a warm place for the final rise of about an hour.
7. Preheat the oven to 180C then bake in the oven for around 30 minutes. You will know the bread is finished when the top is very golden brown.
8. Allow to cool in the pan for 20 minutes or so then loosen the bread with a knife and turn out on to a plate or board. Turn it right way up again using another plate to help.

1. Preheat the oven to 180C
2. Split the dough into three equal pieces and make each piece into a rope.
3. Plait/braid the ropes together and tuck the edges under.
4. Place on a lined baking sheet, brush generously with egg wash and sprinkle with slivered almonds or sugar crystals. Bake in the oven for around 30 minutes.
5. Once the loaf has cooled you can either serve it as it is or decorate with a simple glaze of icing sugar mixed with a couple of drops of water and a scattering of slivered almonds.

Saturday, 17 November 2012


Whilst stollen may be most usually associated with German Christmas feasting it has always been part of the festivities in my family. I get a little sad if there is no stollen around at Christmas. This year I'm attempting to make my own for the first time. How hard can it be?? My version is based on a few different ones in an attempt to find the flavour I remember from childhood. As usual I've gone to Dan Lepard for some inspiration from his book Short and Sweet as well as Helga's Christmas Stollen which can be found here. Essentially stollen is a bread dough enriched with milk, butter and/or eggs with dried fruit and marzipan and spices. You can vary the type and amount of dried fruit and spices to your preferences. Many recipes have no cardamon or cinnamon, much less spice or sometimes much more. This is not set in stone. There are also some lovely sounding versions around that contain glace or dried sour cherries. Use your imagination. Be creative and come up with a stollen that satisfies your taste buds.

My recipe is not at all difficult to make so please don't be put off by the quantity of ingredients or the number of steps included. However, you will need to have a day spare to make it. Once made it will keep for several weeks if stored properly.  Very festive and super delicious.

NOTE: I made 3 smaller stollen so that I could give them to my mum and sister but you could just as easily make two larger ones or one mega stollen! Just make sure you adjust the cooking times accordingly.

1kg strong bread flour
500ml milk
5 tsps fast action yeast
200g caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
450g unsalted butter
grated peel of 1 lemon
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cardamon 
650g dried mixed fruit (I used 350g raisins, 150g currants and 150g italian mixed peel)
5 tbps dark rum/brandy/vodka/amaretto
500g marzipan


  1. Mix together the dried fruit and the rum and set to one side to allow the flavours to mix together. You could even do this over night if you remember.
  2. Reserve about 2 tbsps of the flour to one side then put the rest into a large bowl with the sugar, salt, spices and yeast.
  3. In a saucepan put the reserved flour and lemon zest and gradually beat in the milk until it is thoroughly combined with no lumps. Then bring the mixture just to the boil. Remove from the heat and place in another bowl to one side. 
  4. Using the same saucepan gently melt the butter so it just becomes liquid then beat it into the milk and flour mixture. 
  5. Now, make a well in the centre of the flour and spices and pour in the milk and butter mixture. Bring everything together so that you've got a sticky dough. This is easiest with your hands. Then leave for 10 minutes. 
  6. For the next stage your arms are going to get a bit of a work out but turn on the radio and flour the work surface then get stuck into kneading the dough for 15 minutes or until you have a smooth dough. You may need to add some additional flour but try not to add any more than is absolutely necessary. 
  7. Now stretch the dough out so that you've got a fairly large rectangle. Put the dried fruits and rum mixture on top then carefully knead the whole lot together gathering together any stray bits as needed. 
  8. Divide the dough into the number of stollen you want to make then place in to separate buttered bowls, cover with cling film then leave to rise in a warm place for around 3 hours or until tripled in size.

  1. Punch down the dough, knead for a couple of minutes then cover and leave it to rise for another 30-50 minutes.
  2. Once the dough has risen again, form each one into a rough circle and add 1/3 (or equivalent proportion for the number of loaves you're making) of the marzipan filling in a line through the centre. Fold the edges of the dough over the marzipan so that it is fully enclosed. Place on a greased baking sheet, cover and allow to rise for another hour or more.
  3. Bake in the oven at 180C for about 45-55 minutes until brown.
  4. Once cooked, remove from the oven, brush with melted butter then cover generously with icing sugar and pat on to the loaf to form a solid coating and to seal them.

follow me

Follow Us