Welcome to my June blog. I’m a little late this month, but I’m happy to say that part of my excuse is that I’ve been testing, even more than usual, new products to go into my range at Home Bargains. There’ve been lots of lovely Christmas items to design, look at and finalise and some beautiful new cake and cupcake boxes to approve. Also, among other things, I’m so excited that after quite a bit of devising and trying different recipes, we have a fabulous mix for cinnamon buns ready to be packaged and put into the range. That’ll be the first product in there that uses yeast, and I know the whole idea of baking with yeast – letting the dough ‘prove’ somewhere warm while it rises and so on – can seem daunting if you haven’t done it before, but these buns are so simple to make and so delicious that I know you’re going to love them, and you’ll feel undeservedly proud when they turn out perfectly! While I’ve been testing, I’ve naturally made dozens of them, and my son and daughter-in-law (with whom we’ve been lucky enough to share our lockdown) have been freezing them all and warming a couple up every morning to have for breakfast. As she is American that’s making her feel very much at home, and she’s been largely my inspiration for getting them right. These should be on the shelves early in the autumn, and I’ll keep updating you.
Before that, the chocolate chip cookies and muffins should soon be in your local store – I’ve told you about these already, and they are now well on their way. I shall be keeping plenty of those in the cupboard for quick treats.
But in spite of these happier things, it’s still a very difficult, strange and disorienting time for us all. As I mentioned above, I feel very lucky to be with some of my family, but there are many others whom I haven’t been able to see for a long time, which makes me very sad. I do hope those of you who read this blog aren’t having too tough a time of it – hopefully there will come a time when we can all get back to some sort of normality (goodness knows when I’ll ever be able to be on stage again –which is of course my ‘proper’ job) but until then I do hope you aren’t alone and that you are getting through this horrible time without too much sadness and trouble.
Now: back to serious things like eating! This month I thought I’d make something really summery and a bit celebratory - just because I felt like it. It’s the season for summer berries and delicious cream (even if there isn’t any Wimbledon) and the pudding I’ve made is a variation on the traditional Strawberry Shortcake, using raspberries instead of strawberries (you can easily swap back if you’d rather.)
To be a little different, and because I happened to have some in the cupboard, I’ve added cashew nuts to the shortbread – it’s really tasty and gives a slightly crunchier texture – but I can’t honestly say that by the time you’ve smothered them with the cream and the fruit you can taste it much. Definitely worth adding if you want to make shortbread to eat on its own though.
Either way, here’s the recipe, and I’m sure you’ll agree that they look very pretty and are fun to make.
More next month!
Love Jane x
For the shortbread:
- 100g softened butter
- 50g cashew nuts (or use 50g more flour)
- 125g plain flour
For the filling:
- 125ml double cream
- 1 tbsp (15ml) icing sugar
- ½ tsp (2.5ml) vanilla essence
- 2-3 punnets raspberries
- Fresh mint to decorate (optional!)
Preheat the oven to 175C/160C fan/325F/gas mark 3 and lightly oil a baking sheet. Finely grind the cashew nuts in a blender or processor (or chop them finely).
Put the butter into a mixing bowl and check it is really soft by stirring with a wooden spoon. Add the sugar and cream together with the butter by beating well until it is pale and fluffy.
Stir in the chopped cashews.
Add the flour and stir gently until the mixture begins to come together into a rough dough.
Tip out onto the lightly floured work surface and use your hands as lightly and briefly as possible to bring the dough together into a ball – don’t over work it.
Make sure the work surface is still floured and pat the dough out with the heel or knuckles of your hand until it is about ½ cm (1/4“) thick, rolling lightly if necessary to smooth the surface.
Cut 4 rounds with a cutter 7-8cm across, re roll lightly then cut 4 more with a 4-5cm cutter.
Place on the prepared baking tray and bake for 15-20 minutes until the edges are just beginning to brown.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 5 minutes on the tray, then move to a rack to cool completely.
Meanwhile, combine the cream with the icing sugar and vanilla essence and beat until thick – being very careful not to over-whip: stop beating just before it is thick enough to hold its shape, as you can always thicken it slightly more with a spoon as you add it to the shortbreads.
Put one large shortbread onto each serving plate (or onto a large dish). Spoon on a generous dollop of the cream, then add some raspberries (I found I could get about 16 on each biscuit).
Put a little cream on the bottom of a smaller biscuit to help it to stick.
Add it on top of the raspberries and add a further dab of cream and a raspberry to decorate.
Finally, just before serving, dust with a little icing sugar and add a tiny sprig of mint.