I'M really into the Scandi-food movement right now, so was thrilled to find a cute little recipe that I hoped would signal my safe, if nervous, initiation into the Herald and Times Cake Club.
It seemed simple enough. I enjoyed using buttermilk and honey and spices; it felt homely and warm. But when I mixed the honey with the other ingredients the mixture felt way too sticky and voluminous so I began to panic. Had I followed the instructions properly? It took ages and ages and lots more flour to make it more manageable, and finally I got it all wrapped up in Clingfilm and into the fridge for 24 hours.
You have to remember to factor in a lot of time for this recipe: after the fridge, you have to roll out the stiff dough to cut lots of little cakes (recipe say 7 large, 15 middle-sized and 13 small but somehow I had more than that), and after baking them you need to let them cool before finding enough Tupperware boxes to store them in for at least a week. Only then do you start covering them in chocolate.
And that was another time-consuming task. I must admit I hadn't realised how difficult it would be to get a nice smooth finish. My first batch was quite lumpy as melted chocolate hardens fast! I was pleased that I'd used orange flavoured choc, as it blended well with the spices.
Then you store the cakes again for at least another week to let the spice flavours mature. Not for you if you're impatient by nature, but well worth the wait.
At least, that was the verdict according to my very kind colleagues.
from Trine Hahnemann's Scandinavian Christmas (Quadrille; £16.99).
3 egg yolks
500g plain flour, plus more to dust
100g rye flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground allspice
For the tempered chocolate
400g-500g dark chocolate (50%-60% cocoa solids), finely chopped.
Melt the honey and leave it to cool. Add the egg yolks and buttermilk and mix well. In a separate bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and spices, then fold them into the honey mixture.
On a floured work surface, knead the dough until smooth. Wrap it in clingfilm and chill for at least 24 hours.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 170degC/345degF/gas mark 31/2. Sprinkle the dough with a little flour and place it between two sheets of baking parchment. Roll the dough between the parchments to 1cm thick. Peel off the top layer of parchment and cut out hearts with different sized cutters, until all the dough has been used.
Place the cookies on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Bake for 12 minutes, then cool on a wire rack. (You may need to bake in batches.) Store in an airtight tin for about a week before covering them with tempererd chocolate (see below).
Cover the hearts in the chocolate and place on a try lined with baking parchment. Let cool until set, then store in an airtight tin. You could decorate with a glossy picture or edible glitter. They keep for two to three weeks.
You will need a sugar thermometer. Melt two-thirds of the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water (the bowl must not touch the water). When it has reached 50DegC (120degF), add the rest of the chocolate. Mix well until melted. Gently heat until it reaches 31degC (90degF0. Now it's ready to use.