Invented by an Italian baker in the mid-nineteenth century, biscotti, meaning twice-baked, are crunchy biscuits ideal for dunking in coffee, tea, or if you want to be even more authentic, Vin Santo. Mine are studded with candied ginger and flavored with orange zest and cardamom, with chopped almonds for added crunch.
Surprisingly, Madeira cake does not contain Madeira. It is called such because it became popular in the early 1800s as an accompaniment to an afternoon glass of Madeira wine. The cake is lighter than a pound cake but denser than a Victoria sponge. Though it’s traditionally flavored with lemon zest, I’ve chosen to use blood oranges and jasmine green tea for a bright, slightly floral and not-too-sweet treat that goes just as well with afternoon tea as it does with a sweet dessert wine.
Viennoiserie has been called the bridge between boulangerie and patisserie. Made with enriched dough, some are laminated with butter to form the flaky, delicate layers epitomized in the croissant. Others are simply yeast doughs with added milk, butter, eggs and sugar to make soft, rich breads like brioche. I chose to make two laminated pastries: Passion Fruit Curd and Cream Cheese Danish, and Spiced Plum and Frangipane Kites.
In a nod to the multicultural background of this ancient dessert, I made one with traditional flavors — pistachio filling and orange syrup scented with orange blossom water — and one less traditional but incorporating the flavors of another culture — macadamia nut and coconut filling with lime syrup — for a Hawaiian touch. For the pistachio baklava, I chose to make it in the concertina shape, while the macadamia and coconut baklava is layered in a pan, then cut it into rectangles. Baklava is very versatile, and once you know the basic elements—phyllo pastry, flavored syrup and nut filling—you can experiment with different fillings and flavors until you discover your signature style!
A krantz, or kranz, is like a babka in that it is made of enriched dough swirled with chocolate, cinnamon or a fruity filling. Mine is filled with sweetened orange butter and fresh blueberries, with a hint of cardamom for a spicy warm glow. A kranz — which means wreath in German — is typically a braided loaf baked in a wreath shape, whereas babka is more often baked in a loaf pan.
Almost every culture has its own version of a hand-held savory pie. Hand pies have always been a convenient way to cook, transport and eat a simple but hearty meal wrapped in a portable pastry package. One such hand pie is the empanada. The name empanada is derived from the Spanish verb empanar, which translates “enbreaded” or “wrapped in bread.” These empanadas are filled with caramelized onions, figs, bacon and goat cheese. Served hot or cold, they make an excellent main course for a picnic or an easy snack on a road trip.
The savarin is one of many yeast-leavened cakes that come mostly from continental Europe. My savarin features the bright spring flavors of rhubarb and elderflower. When combined, all the elements of this elegant dessert work really well together. The syrup moistens the bread-like cake and gives it a more delicate crumb structure. The rhubarb compote adds sweetness, which is offset by the tangy elderflower cream. It’s a delicious combination of flavors and textures that make it perfect for a springtime tea.
Although the color of this blood orange custard tart doesn’t reflect the deep purple jewel-tones of the citrus gems it’s made of, if you close your eyes and take a bite, the sweet tangy flavor of oranges excites your tastebuds and fills your senses with happy thoughts! Fortunately, powdered sugar covers the humdrum color, and candied orange slices, blackberries, pistachios and meringue kisses make this tart a feast for the eyes as well as the mouth!
These raspberry-lemonade saucy puddings form a custard-like layer underneath a citrusy, light sponge — almost like a soufflé — while they bake. I used Meyer lemons, which are sweeter and less acidic than regular lemons, and raspberry coulis for extra flavor and a colorful swirl. Perfect for a dinner party, they can be served with more raspberry coulis on the side to give an even bigger burst of flavor and make these self-saucing puddings even saucier. For just a little effort, they look impressive and pack a flavorful punch!
Hot cross buns are not as sweet as sweet rolls, but the added fruits and spices give them a flavor profile on par with any holiday bread. I’ve used cardamom in mine to add warmth, while the orange zest and cranberries lend their sweetness. Otherwise, the only sweetener in the recipe is a touch of honey. The orange-and-honey glaze gives them just the right finishing touch with both its tangy sweetness and glossy sheen.
Biscuits in the U.K. are what Americans normally call cookies, but what Americans call crackers, Britons would call savory biscuits. The inspiration for my savory biscuits came from a bread my mom baked occasionally when I was growing up. Seasoned with dill seed and onion, we called it dilly bread. Dill seeds have a slightly stronger flavor than dill weed, reminiscent of caraway. These dill-and-onion crackers make a great accompaniment to soup and pair well with many cheeses. Serve them at your next wine-and-cheese tasting, or add them to a charcuterie board!
What better filling for a pumpkin spice Swiss roll than a light, airy, eggnog-flavored cream? I used a traditional pastry cream recipe but swapped out the milk with eggnog. Then, to lighten it up, I folded in some whipped cream to make an eggnog diplomat cream. The chocolate polka-dots add a whimsical touch to this festive fall treat or holiday dessert!
As we enter the finals of the 2013 season of GBBO, this signature challenge is for a savory picnic pie made with shortcrust pastry. My Chicken Curry Gala Pie features layers of coconut rice, curried chicken, peas, roasted butternut squash and, of course, a continuous hard-boiled egg throughout (accomplished with some slight of hand, er, egg). This savory pie is to be served outside the pan, so the pastry must be strong enough to hold up to all those fillings. (Read on…)
Because of their small stature, canapés often feature stronger flavors and richer ingredients than you’d be able to eat in larger quantities. This Signature Challenge called for 12 each of three different kinds of savory canapés. I made smoked salmon-stuffed choux puffs with fresh dill, caprese tartlets with homemade pesto, and parmesan-and-black-sesame crackers with fig-and-goat-cheese spread. (Read on…)
Rye has less gluten than wheat, which results in a heavier loaf with a tighter crumb. This recipe yields a smallish, dense but flavorful loaf, reminiscent of what you find in Europe, perfect with smoked fish and sharp cheese for a wonderful midsummer smorgasbord! (Read on…)
Roly-poly puddings are rolled up like a Swiss roll and filled with jam, dried fruits, or treacle and breadcrumbs. At one time, because roly-poly was often steamed in an old shirt sleeve, it was also called shirt-sleeve pudding, dead man’s arm or dead man’s leg. My roly-poly is filled with an apricot-walnut filling and decorated with candied walnuts. (Read on…)
This challenge was for a sweet yeasted bread, traditionally served at teatime, often flavored with fruits and spices. My loaf is a cherry chocolate chip bread. I used glacé cherries to try and recreate the flavors of one of my mom’s favorite confections, chocolate-covered cherries, in a tea bread. This bread makes a great teatime snack (or even breakfast) with a schmear of butter and a mug of coffee. If you want to be really decadent, slather it with Nutella and have it for dessert! (Read on…)
The challenge for this episode was to produce a traybake with layers of complementary flavors and good textures — each element made from scratch — and cut into identically sized squares or rectangles. Since the rhubarb in my garden was just ripening, I chose a pastry-based recipe, a rhubarb frangipane tart. (Read on…)
Ideally, I would have waited until the pie was completely cooled to cut into it, but what tastes better than a piece of warm, freshly baked pie? Cutting into it too soon meant that the piece fell apart and the juices ran all over the bottom of the pie plate when I took it out, but I didn’t care! The flavor of the peaches and the warmth of the spices (especially the ginger) made for a great-tasting pie. (Read on…)
Despite its humble beginnings, the trifle has become quite an elaborate affair. Nothing to be trifled with, really. It is a feast for the eyes as well as the palate — with layers of sponge or biscuits, fruit and custard, and either jam or fruit-flavored gelatin, all topped with whipped cream or meringue and decorated with fruit or nuts or crumbled biscuits. (Read on…)
Breadsticks, or grissini in Italian, originated in the Piedmont region of Italy in the 1600s, but their popularity spread throughout Italy and even as far away as France, where Napoleon, in the early 1800s, established a stagecoach courier service between Turin and Paris to provide him with a regular supply of what he dubbed “les petits bâtons de Turin” (the small sticks of Turin). For my grissini, I chose a basic recipe, adding my own touch by using a homemade “everything bagel” seasoning mix to flavor the breadsticks. (Read on…)
Orange and cranberry is a classic combination, and the spices make the whole cake smell and taste very Christmas-y. Having just discovered cranberry curd this holiday season, I wanted one more excuse to incorporate it into my baking repertoire. (Read on…)
For this signature challenge, Paul and Mary specified a pithivier with a savory filling. It being the end of summer, I had plenty of tomatoes, a few sweet peppers and a freshly made batch of pesto on hand. I love how roasting vegetables brings out the sweetness by caramelizing their naturally occurring sugars. It does the same to garlic, mellowing its flavor. (Read on…)
The challenge—to create three different kinds of petits fours (like the canapés of desserts) using different baking techniques—seemed like a test of all that the bakers on The Great British Baking Show had learned so far. For my petits fours, I made chocolate macarons with mocha ganache filling; lime, mint & white chocolate mousse tartlets; and raspberry–chocolate mousse in chocolate cups. (Read on…)
For my crackers, I dug back into the recipe file where I keep most of my mom’s old recipes. I remembered a cracker she used to make—a wafer-thin pastry seasoned with cheese and dotted through with sesame seeds. (Read on…)
Because I love cinnamon rolls, and I grew up with my mom’s cinnamon rolls, I wanted to use her recipe. But I wanted to put my own spin on it. A couple spins really. I know it’s not a revolutionary combination, by any means, but a maple-bacon cinnamon-cardamom roll sounded like a little bit of heaven to me, so I set out to create it! (Read on…)
For this Signature Challenge, the bakers had to make two kinds of sponge puddings. I decided to make a traditional sticky toffee pudding, mostly because I’d never tried one before and I wanted to know how it tasted. For my other pudding, I chose a simple rhubarb steamed pudding in order to use some of the rhubarb that’s been growing like wildfire in my side yard. (Read on…)
For this challenge, Paul and Mary only specified that the Wellington be at least 8 inches long and be completely covered in pastry. They didn’t specify what the filling should be. I decided to use a turkey breast stuffed with cheese, wrapped in prosciutto and then pastry. (Read on…)
One of my favorite flavor combinations is chocolate and orange. So when the Great British Baking Show tasked its contestants with baking a torte cake with multiple layers of filling, it was more than intuition that prompted me to choose these two flavors. Wanting to infuse my orange filling with the essence of fresh oranges, I chose a recipe for orange curd. My complementary filling would be a simple chocolate mousse, and I planned to enrobe the entire torte in a chocolate ganache. To top it all off, and add even more intense orange flavor, I decided to make candied orange zest to use as a garnish. (Read on…)
Basically, the tarte tatin is an upside-down pie, usually apple, with the fruit caramelized in butter and sugar on the stove before being topped with pastry and baked. After baking, the tart is turned upside down onto a plate so the fruit is on top, covered with a golden caramel sauce. (Read on…)
I have so much more respect for the bakers in the tent after attempting this challenge! Not only did they have to make two different kinds of flatbreads (one with yeast and one without), they also had to make them both within 2½ hours! I chose to make naan–because that’s always been my favorite whenever we eat at Indian restaurants–and paratha. I went with a basic naan recipe and topped it with roasted garlic and cilantro. My parathas I decided to stuff with the flavors from my favorite vegetarian chili—sweet potatoes, black beans and spices. (Read on…)
… After lifting the bottom of the pan off of the parchment paper I had lined it with, I was able to peel back the paper to reveal the dark brown, gooey caramel coating and the apple ring topping of my now right-side-up upside-down cake! (Read on…)