Divine Roquefort cookies

These just melt in your mouth and are gorgeous to serve with a nice red wine.

Makes 36 small ones

4 oz self raising flour
4 oz butter
2 oz really mature Cheddar cheese
2oz Roquefort or other blue cheese that is pungent
1/2 cup sesame seeds

Sift the flour into a bowl and add the butter
Crumble in the Roquefort.
Grate the cheddar cheese and add to the bowl.
Using your fingers, mix all the ingredients together well to form a dough.
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 mins to 1 hour.
Toast the sesame seeds in a dry frying pan until golden, stirring and watching they don’t burn.
Remove and set aside to cool.
Roll the dough into 36 balls and toss each ball in the sesame seeds, pressing to coat well.
Place the balls on a greased baking sheet and press on each one lightly with a fork to flatten a bit.
Bake at 400 F for 10 minutes or until golden.
Store them in an air tight container. (but you won’t have any left to store!)

Easy Breton apple cake with salted caramel sauce

This is very easy to make, mostly in one bowl.  Very moist and the caramel sauce is divine!

For the cake:

10 tbsp butter, melted and cooled, plus 2 tbsp for the apples
1 1/4 cups of flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp Kosher salt (not regular table salt)
1 cup sugar plus 2 tbsp sugar, divided
Zest of a lemon
3 large eggs
4 firm apples (you can mix varieties too) peeled, cored and thickly sliced

Preheat the oven to 350 F
Butter and flour an 8” cake pan (It’s easier to use a spring form tin)

Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. In a large bowl, mix the eggs, sugar, 10 tbsp of melted butter and the lemon zest.
Add in the dry ingredients and mix well to form a batter.
In a heavy medium skillet, heat the 2 tbsp of butter and add in the apple slices.
Sprinkle with 2 tbsp of sugar and cook for about 8 to 10 minutes on medium heat until the apples are juicy and caramelized.
Keep stirring, so the apples don’t stick.
Lay half the apples on the bottom of the prepared cake pan and spoon half the batter over them.
Don’t worry if the batter doesn’t completely cover the apples.
Layer with the rest of the apples, then the rest of the batter.
It’s easiest if you have a rubber spatula to spread the batter.

* It’s nice to sprinkle the cake with some cinnamon sugar before putting into the oven.

Bake in a preheated oven at 350 F for 35 to 45 minutes, testing with a toothpick for doneness.

Salted caramel sauce

1/4 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cream
3 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp Kosher salt (not regular salt)

In a small, heavy saucepan, heat the water and sugar on medium boil until turning golden, about 8 to 10 minutes.
You can scrape the brown bits on the sides of the pan down with a wet pastry brush. Take the golden liquid off the heat and carefully add in the cream. It will bubble fiercely, so be very careful not to splatter yourself.
Place back on the stove and stir for 2 minutes.
Add in 3 tbsp butter and salt and cook for another minute or two until the butter and mixture is nice and smooth.

Transfer to a heat resistant vessel, and place in the fridge to cool. You can make the caramel sauce 5 days in advance

Walnut and olive mini breads

These are irresistible!!

Makes about 45

For the Dough:

3+1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra if needed
Pinch of salt
2 & 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup corn or olive oil
4&1/2 oz unsalted butter, softened at room temperature (it should be really soft to touch)
2 tbsp apple cider or red wine vinegar
1 cup plain yoghurt
1 cup finely (but not too finely) chopped walnuts (you should feel the bite)
1 cup pitted sliced black olives (Kalamata)
To Glaze
1 egg yolk, beaten
Preheat the oven to 375 F . Lightly grease the bottom of a large baking sheet.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the oil, butter, vinegar and plain yoghurt. Stir to mix. Add the walnuts and olives and stir to combine.
In a medium bowl combine the flours, salt and baking powder. Stir to mix.Add the flour mixture to the walnut/olive mixture. if the dough is sticky, gradually add more flour and knead the dough until it is tender and pleasant to the touch but not too tight or sticky.
Taking a little at a time, shape into balls about the size of a big whole walnut.
Arrange the balls on the prepared baking sheet. Brush their tops with the beaten egg yolk.
Bake until golden, about 40 minutes.
Bring to room temperature before serving. 
The inside of these mini breads should appear moist, it’s normal! 

Really easy Irish soda bread (almost no knead!)

This bread is SO simple, which means you can have fresh soda bread at the drop of a hat.
Thank you to the Ballymaloe Cookery School, Shanagarry, Ireland

3&3/4 cups flour
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1&1/2 to 2 cups buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 375F
Sift the dry ingredients. Make a well in the center.
Pour most of the milk in at once. Using one (clean) hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, add more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky
When it all comes together, turn it out onto a floured board, knead lightly for a few seconds, just enough to tidy it all up.
Pat the dough into a round, about 1.5 inches deep and cut a deep cross on it to let the fairies out!
Let the cuts go over the sides of the bread to make sure.
Bake on a baking sheet in a hot oven (375F) for 45 minutes or until cooked. You can tell that it is done by tapping the bottom of the bread. If it is cooked it will sound hollow.

Pine nut and rosemary shortbread

These are fabulous!!   The recipe makes about 24 small cookies

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp fine-grain sea salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup natural cane sugar or white sugar
zest of 1 large lemon
2/3 cup pine nuts, toasted and loosely chopped
2 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped

Combine the flour and salt in a small bowl and whisk to combine.
In a separate bowl or stand mixer, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and lemon zest and mix again, then add the flour mixture, nuts and rosemary and mix until the dough goes just past the crumbly stage and begins to really clump together (don’t over mix but under mixing will make the dough seem a bit dry, which can be difficult to handle) It’s a fine line!
Turn the dough onto a floured work surface. Knead the dough just once or twice to bring it together, then divide it into a ball (or 2 balls) and flatten into disks about 1 inch thick.
Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat mat.
Roll the dough out to 1/3 inch thickness on a lightly floured surface.
Cut into whatever shapes you desire and place on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the cookies are beginning to brown on the bottom.
The baking time will vary depending on the size of the cookies, taking less time for smaller ones.

Variations-  Use chopped raw or toasted walnuts and 1 tbsp coarsely ground coffee in place of the lemon, pine nuts and rosemary


A great no-cook pud idea

I don’t get any marks for great photography for this picture, except to show you the container of booze with the raisins plumping up as you read this!
My favorite recipe book, “Cook Simple” by Diana Henry, has this idea in it and it’s brilliant.
There are so many uses for these raisins, in baked apples, poured over ice cream, heated or kept cold,  in bread puddings, in trifles ……
Put either “Chilean Flame” raisins ( in Los Angeles, they are just called “Flame”) or good Moscatel raisins into a tall sealed jar, leaving enough room for the fruit to expand as it plumps up.
Pour over enough booze (it should be something sweet like Madeira or Marsala) to cover the fruit completely, put the lid on tightly and leave to plump up.
In a day or so, top up with more booze if the fruit is starting to come over the level of the liquid.
These are delicious served with vanilla ice cream, or big dollops of Greek yoghurt or creme fraiche. Scatter the serving with toasted hazelnuts, pine nuts or almonds.

Easy Irish Soda Bread (brown)

Screen shot 2014-06-01 at 8.28.35 PM
3 cups whole wheat bread flour (as coarse as possible)
1 cup unbleached white bread flour (I use King Arthur brand)

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 3/4+ cups buttermilk

2 ounces butter (preferably Irish Kerrygold,available at Trader Joes)

1 egg
Melt the butter over gentle heat.
In a medium-sized bowl lightly beat the egg and then gradually add the buttermilk all the while stirring to incorporate the egg. Beat in the butter.
In another bowl sift and mix the dry ingredients and then stir in the buttermilk mixture. 
If you are using a baking tin the mixture should be on the wetter side – ( like a thick brownie mix, something you could pour into the tin, not scoopable by hand really). If your dough is too dry, mix in small splashes of buttermilk until it is the right consistency.
Cook at 400F for 50 minutes on the middle rack. You want to hear a sort of hollow sound when you knock on the bottom of the tin. Resist the urge to take the bread out too soon, or the middle of the bread won’t get cooked through.
Makes 1 loaf.