Life is uncertain. Eat Dessert first.

Hummingbird Bakery

Afternoon Tea: Lemon Squares, Half-blondie/Half-brownies, Crunchy Top Scones

“There are few hours in life more agreeable then the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as Afternoon Tea” – Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady

A dining experience that has come back into vogue in the last few years, the rebooted 21st Century Afternoon Tea can sometimes fall between being a stuffy, mock-aristocratic pastiche, or a doilies and egg sandwich “granny chic” event. This article lists a couple of the best options for Afternoon Tea around Ireland.

The key to hosting a successful Afternoon Tea at home is a diversity of sandwich fillings served on a selection of breads, a variety of tea (and coffee) options, and a selection of bite-sized cakes! Tray bakes are your best bet, as they can just be cut into slightly smaller portions then you would normally serve.

I’ve previously blogged about the Half-blondie, Half-brownies – the other treats in the photo are Lemon Squares from The Hummingbird Bakery cookbook, and Crunchy-Topped Sweet Scones from Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Cookbook.

LEMON SQUARES

Preheat the oven to 170degC.

For the base, put 290g plain flour, 70g icing sugar, a pinch of salt, 230g unsalted butter and 2 tsp grated lemon zest in a freestanding electric mixer and beat until the mixer resembles breadcrumbs. Press the dough together with your hands, then press it evenly into the base of a deep baking tray, lined with baking parchment. Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes, or until light golden. Leave to cool, with the oven left on, while you make the topping.

Put 210g caster sugar, 3 eggs, 100ml freshly squeezed lemon juice and 3 tsps grated lemon juice in a bowl and whisk with a balloon whisk until well mixed. Pour carefully over the baked base and return to the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and the top has set. Leave to cool completely, then cover and refrigerate overnight.

CRUNCHY TOP SWEET SCONES

Sieve 450g plain flour, a pinch of salt, 25g caster sugar, and 1 and a half heaped tsp of baking powder into a large bowl. Cut 85g butter into cubes, toss in the flour then rub in the butter. Make a well in the centre. Whisk 3 eggs with 215ml milk, add to the dry ingredients and mix to a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured board.

Knead lightly, just enough to shape into a round. Roll out to 2.5cm and cut into scones with a ring cutter. Put on a baking sheet. Brush the tops with egg wash and dip each one in granulated sugar. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes until golden brown on top. Cool on a wire rack.

Serve split in half with jam and a blob of whipped cream.


APPLE WEEK! – Wednesday: Nutty Apple Loaf

The combination of apple, nuts and chocolate give an amazing texture to this fantastically autumnal loaf from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook.

Cream 175g unsalted butter (at room temperature) with 140g soft light brown sugar and 2 tbsp strawberry jam until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in 2 eggs. Sift together 140g plain flour, 1 tbsp baking powder and 1 tsp ground cinnamon in a separate bowl, then beat into the butter mixture. Stir in 100g shelled mixed nuts, 50g roughly chopped dark chocolate and 2 roughly chopped (peeled and cored) apples. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours, or overnight if possible.

Preheat the oven to 170degC. Pour the mixture into a greased and floured loaf tin, and smooth the top with a palette knife. Bake in the preheated oven for 50-60 minutes, or until brown and the sponge feels firm to the touch. A skewer inserted in the centre should come out clean (except for a little bit of melted chocolate). Leave the cake to cool slightly in the tin before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.


Lemon Cupcakes

There is something inherently satisfying about finding a recipe for something you want to make, and then realising you have every ingredient already in the fridge or cupboards – result! No trip to the shops required! These cupcakes come from the Hummingbord Cookbook.

Preheat the oven to 170degC. Put 120g flour, 150g caster sugar, 1 and a half teaspoons baking powder, 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest and 40g room temp unsalted butter in a bowl and beat on slow speed with a handheld electric whisk until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined. Gradually pour in120ml whole milk and beat until just incorporated.

Add 1 egg to the flour mixture and continue beating until just incorporated, scrape down the sides of the bowl and then continue mixing until the mixture is smooth. Spoon the mixture into paper cases until two-thirds full and bake in a preheated oven for 20-25 minutes until the sponge bounces back when touched. A skewer inserted into the centre should come out clean. Leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in the tray before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

For the lemon icing, beat 250g sifted icing sugar, 80g room temp unsalted butter, 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest and a couple of drops of yellow food colouring with an electric hand-mix on a medium-slow speed until well mixed. Turn down to slow speed and slowly add 25ml whole milk. When it is all incorporated turn the mixer up to high speed and continue beating until the icing is light and fluffy.

When the cucpakes are cold, spoon the lemon frosting on top and decorate with a little lemon zest.


Happy St Patrick’s Day – Green Tea Cupcakes

To celebrate St Patrick’s Day, I’ve made some green cupcakes, combining a traditional cupcake recipe from Susannah Blake’s “Cupcakes” book, with the green tea icing from The Hummingbird Cookbook. Green tea, the traditional Japanese drink, works really well in cakes when combined with chocolate or vanilla. It is important to use green tea powder called “Matcha” for the icing, which is available in specialist tea shops.

Preheat the oven to 180degC, then line a muffin tin with paper cases. Beat 115g butter (at room temp) and 115g caster sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy. Beat two eggs together, then gradually beat into the sugar and butter mixture.

Sift 115g self-raising flour into the the bowl, and the fold in by hand. Stir in 2 tablespoons of milk with 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence and a few drops of green food colouring, to make a creamy, spoonable mixture.

Spoon heaped tablespoons of the mixture into each paper case, then bake for about 17 minutes until risen and slightly golden on top and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Transfer the cakes to a wire rack and leave to cool completely before decorating.

For the green tea icing, beat together 250g sifted icing sugar, 80g unsalted butter (at room temp) and 20g Matcha green tea powder until the mixture comes together and is well mixed. It is easiest to do this with an electric mixer. Slowly pour in 25ml of whole milk, then beat again until the icing is light and fluffy. Spoon the icing on top of the cakes, and if desired decorate with a light sprinkle of Matcha powder.


Raspberry Cheesecake Brownie

From The Hummingbird Bakery cookbook, this triple-layer dessert is a cinch to make but looks and tastes amazing. Very difficult to stop after just one slice!

For the brownie base, melt 200g of roughly chopped dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. When melted take off the heat, and then cream 200g unsalted butter with 250g icing sugar in a large bowl. When it’s light and fluffy, gradually add three eggs, lightly beaten, mixing well each time. Beat in 110g of flour bit by bit until you get a smooth mixture. Slowly pour in the melted chocolate, mix thoroughly, and then pour the mixture into a 33x23x5cm baking tray lined with greasproof paper. Smooth the top so it’s flat.

For the cheesecake layer, beat 400g cream cheese, 150g icing sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract until smooth and thick. Gradually add two beaten eggs, beating the mixture until it’s smooth and creamy. Be careful not to overmix or the cheese will split. Carefully spoon this mixture over the brownie and smooth it out, being careful not to mix the two. Bake in a preheated oven at 170 deg C for 30-40mins until the cheesecake is firm to the touch and light golden around the edges. The centre should still be pale. Leave to cool completely in the tin, then refrigerate for at least two hours.

When you are ready to serve, remove the brownie/cheesecake to a board. Lightly whip 300ml of whipping cream, then add 100g icing sugar and 150g raspberries, and whisk until firm but not stiff. The raspberries should break up and turn the cream pink. Spread the topping evenly over the brownie and decorate with more raspberries. Enjoy with a cup of coffee!


Black Bottom Cupcakes

From The Hummingbird Bakery cookbook again, this time some dark chocolate sponge with a dollop of chocolate chip cheesecake baked into it, topped with cream cheese frosting and dusted with cocoa powder. A perfect treat for a Friday afternoon!


Red Velvet Cupcakes

From The Hummingbird Bakery cookbook, a dozen red velvet cupcakes – deep red sponge with cream cheese icing, delicious with a cup of coffee for your 11am tea-break!