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Lemon and Poppy Seed Pancakes

I’m always late to the party. I have the best of intentions, the slickest of plans and a pile of cookies ready in a sandwich bag to bring along to any occasion. But in life, things like bad hair days, ripped tights and poor pancakes ruin the fun, leaving me flustered, upset and late. I always do it but it never gets easier.

On Shrove Tuesday last week, I hummed and hawed over posting a recipe I knew wasn’t right. I tried the two ingredient pancake method that has crept across the internet of late, but there was nothing delicious or photogenic about these things. A mashed banana and a couple of eggs do not a good pancake make, no matter how suagr-free, gluten-free and diet-suitable it might be. They didn’t photograph well or taste of anything other than rubbery baby food and I had to stuff the idea to the back of the SD card archives. Ho hum.

So Pancake Day passed me by. Last year I had a lot of fun with my flatmates making crepes at 11pm at night, slathering with sugar and lemon (and Nutella at the bequest of others). The next day we made fluffy, American style pancakes with caramelised apples and ate perched on the worktop as the flat became overrun with parents and friends as usual. This year, I made a batch of cookies and watched Call the Midwife. Fun, but certainly not like the memories of last year.

I share Emma of Poires au Chocolat’s take on pancake eating, in that alone there is a certain amount of simple pleasure in a rolled up crisp crepe with sticky lemon juices mingled with a shower of caster sugar. But I also feel that the shared moments are also wonderful, and my pancake day ended up being five days later with my boyfriend, with stacks of these lemon and poppy seed pancakes, crisp bacon and buckets of black coffee. With the first real sunshine of the year; bright and vivacious with a brisk chilled air, my 2013 pancake memories are far better deliciously late than blandly on-time.

These pancakes combine a classic partnership that stays relevant for a reason. The flavour relationship exudes spring with its yellow and bluish flecks of colour in its sharp zest, sweet juice and crunchy seeds. Fluffy and light, this stack adds just the right amount of sweetness to salted back bacon and a generous drizzle of maple syrup.

 

You Will Need

200g self-raising flour

3 tbsp caster sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1 tbsp poppy seeds

Zest of 1 lemon, juice of ½

2 eggs

200ml milk

A knob of butter, for frying

Pancake Ingridients

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and poppy seeds. Stir through the lemon zest then make a well in the centre of the dry mix. Crack in the two eggs and whisk with a hand mixer until incorporated. Add half the milk and whisk, adding the rest until the batter is smooth. Squeeze in the lemon juice and whisk again.

Pancakes and Eggs

In a large non-stick frying pan, melt a knob of butter over a medium heat and spread across the pan. Dollop in tablespoons of batter, cook until bubbling, then flip and cook for a further minute. Remove and rest on a clean tea towel. Repeat until the batter is all used up then serve with crisp bacon and black coffee.

Brunch with Pancakes

Cranberry Orange Poppy Seed Cookies

I love baking in stages. It means less hassle, a controlled pile of dishes and more time to watch 30 Rock, the latter I am currently obsessed with. Yesterday morning I dragged myself out of bed, heated up the oven and began slicing and baking cookies alongside several cups of coffee and watching Tina Fey be wonderful consistently over a 20 minute period. 6am cookie bakes will change your life I tell ya.

I made these jewelled beauties for my first baking club meet for Pinnies and Petticoats. I will be covering it for work, so won’t mention too much on here, but it’s so lovely to see other passionate bakers in Aberdeen come together for a cuppa, a chat and a slice of cake. The brief this month was Valentine’s Day and after a long sift through my stash of cookery books and February Delicious magazines, I settled on this studded dough filled with gorgeous goodness.

Similar to shortbread rather than a traditional chewy cookie, these slice and bake-em-up’s use icing sugar for a perfect crumble-texture that carries flavour beautifully. With a burst of sour cranberries, zesty orange and  blue-ish flecks of poppy seed, these biscuits are a perfect present idea for the one you love. Bake and wrap or hand over chilled in baking parchment and spread the slice n bake love.

This dough can be whipped up in a good 20 minutes, rolled up into tasty cookie dough crackers and chilled overnight. Wipe down surfaces, have a glass of wine then bake when the heck you like. You could freeze this dough easily, then slice as required. Cookies on demand, I like that idea.

 

Adapted from the Joy the Baker Cookbook

You Will Need

225g soft unsalted butter

110g icing sugar

1 egg

1 yolk

½ tsp vanilla paste

330g plain flour

Pinch of salt

110g dried cranberries

Zest of 1 orange

1 tbsp poppy seeds

Rolled Up Cookie Dough

In a stand mixer, beat the softened butter and sugar together until creamy. Add the eggs and vanilla paste and beat again until smooth. You may need to scrape the sides and beat again to get the mixture consistent. Add the flour, salt, cranberries, orange zest and poppy seeds and using the fold setting (or a low speed) and mix until just combined then bring together with your hands. Separate the dough and split between two sheets of baking parchment. Press into an oblong shape 1 inch wide then wrap tightly and refrigerate. Leave to chill for at least 3 hours but overnight works best.

Sliced up Cookie Dough

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 180oc/160oc fan/Gas Mark 4 and line a baking tray with baking parchment. Remove the cookie logs from the fridge and slice to the thickness of 2 pound coins. Line the tray with 12 cookies, spaced an inch apart.

baking sheet with slice and bake cookies

Bake in batches for 10-15 minutes until lightly golden around the edges then leave to cool for five minutes on the tray before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Cocoa and Toasted Walnut Meringues

Confession time: I have a love/hate relationship with meringue. I love Lemon Meringue Pie, with its tart curd base and fluffy marshmallowy meringue piled high on top, the epitome (in my eyes) of foodie poetry. I hate polystyrene meringue shells, packed in pink boxes in supermarkets that turn to a pile of dust with one bite. Although I always save my egg whites for some use-em-up dessert (I made a lot of yolk based dishes this week) the idea to put macarons into practice again following a visit to Aberdeen patisserie gods Almondine went out the window. My lack of sugar thermometer and a downright refusal to try the French method again (bubbly, funny looking results) had me swerving towards a meringue recipe that would not crumble under pressure.

To the rescue came Sweet Tooth, the baking bible by lovely lady Lily Vanilli (who I interviewed for my dissertation no less) and these cocoa meringues caught my eye. With a charity bake sale cooing my name from work (a bakers job is never done), I rolled up my sleeves and tackled my meringue demons.

The resulting chewy, chocolaty, toasted nutty goodness confirmed meringues are back on the menu. Feedback ranged from “They look good”, “They taste amazing” and my personal favourite “I always thought meringues were an unfinished thing you had ‘with something’. But this cocoa meringue went perfectly just with a cup of tea”. High praise indeed from the workies.

Points to consider before tackling these meringues. Save up your egg whites. Cracking fresh will leave you with a lot of yolks and whites keep far better in the fridge. You can freeze them but I’d advise to keep covered in the fridge for up to five days, adding each white every time you need a yolk. Piping bags aren’t a necessity, a sandwich bag with the end snipped off will do just fine, or a speedier idea is simply to dollop with a spoon. Finally switch it up, these meringues would look gorgeous with a bright pistachio, or left plain white with a white chocolate drizzle and freeze dried raspberries. The world is your chewy meringue.

 

Adapted Slightly from Lily Vanilli’s Sweet Tooth

You Will Need

5 egg whites

1 tsp fresh lemon juice

A pinch of salt

230g caster sugar

30g cocoa power, sifted (I like Green and Blacks)

50g walnut halves

100g good quality dark chocolate

 

How to fold cocoa into meringue

Preheat an oven to 140oc/120oc fan/Gas mark 1 and line two baking sheets with baking parchment. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the egg whites, lemon juice and salt and begin to whisk on high. When the mix becomes frothy and soft peaks appear, add the sugar slowly, two tablespoons at a time. Continue until stiff peaks are formed – the whisk should hold a point of meringue when turned upside down. Fold in the sifted cocoa powder with a spatula in a figure of eight motion, careful to not knock any air out.

Divide the mix between 2-3 plastic piping bags, snip off the end and pipe swirls of meringue until you have around 25-30 shapes. Place the baking trays in the oven and bake for an hour or until set. Then switch off the oven and allow the meringues to dry inside for a further hour.

When cool, toast the walnuts in a small saucepan for around 5 minutes over a medium heat. Finely chop and set aside. Over a pan of simmering water, melt the chocolate in a bain marie, taking care to not let the bowl touch the water.

To decorate, either dip the bottom of each meringue in chocolate and nuts, or flick the chocolate across the meringues and sprinkle over the toasted walnuts. Leave to set then serve.

Finished Cocoa and Toasted Walnut Meringues