Horseshoe Shortbreads

I feel like I have unwillingly embarked on a trip to the past lately, mostly because these biscuits were (and still are) a staple of Italian bakeries. I remember seeing them behind the big glass counter as a kid and being slightly puzzled by their unconventional shape. They might be traditional shortbread biscuits shaped as horseshoes and then dipped in chocolate and yet, somehow, they are something more too.

Making them is a cup of tea: I would say the only challenging part is shaping them. The secret here is, unlike all other shortbread, to keep the pastry very warm, so that you can roll and shape them very easily. Don’t worry if they all come out differently, because unless you start weighing every single walnut-sized nugget of pastry, you won’t be able to get them all perfectly equal. And, I say, who cares? Life is difficult enough and they won’t taste any different. If you don’t like dark chocolate, you can choose to dip the ends in white chocolate, or opt for a more artistic choice and combine both. On that note, you could also decide to go for a stripey pattern, that is completely up to you.

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Ingredients

  • 500g plain flour
  • 150g icing sugar
  • 125g cornflour
  • 375g unsalted butter
  • 250g dark chocolate

Method

  1. Start with the pastry. Sift the flour, icing sugar and cornflour in a big bowl, then add the butter in small cubes and start rubbing it in. If you are unsure of how to proceed, check my tutorial.
  2. Once your butter is fully incorporated and your mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs, try and bring the pastry together by gently pressing it down and applying more heat with your hands. This will gently melt the butter and make your pastry clump together.
  3. At this point, you can either shape the pastry into one/two long logs and put them in the fridge to use later (as I did), or you can start straight away.
  4. Take walnut-sized lumps of pastry and gently squish them in your hands to warm them up. The texture should still be firm but it should mould easily. Gently press each nugget on a non-floured work surface and, pressing still, roll them backwards and forwards, trying to apply an even pressure with your hands. This will create a long snake-like little roll of pastry.
  5. Using a very sharp knife, trim the edges so they are straight, then gently bend the roll to a horseshoe shape. Place on a lined baking tray and proceed with the rest of the pastry.
  6. Before baking these, put them in the fridge to firm up for at least 1 hour (and up to overnight). Were you to try and bake them straight away, they would melt.
  7. Towards the end of the chilling time, pre-heat your oven to 180C.
  8. Bake for 25 minutes, but keep an eye on them as they burn easily. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack before proceeding. In the meantime, melt the chocolate over a pan of simmering water, then set aside to cool slightly.
  9. When you are ready, take a horseshoe biscuit and dip the extremities in chocolate, then let the excess one drip off the biscuit before placing it back on the baking parchment. Leave to cool until hardened.

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Banana Boston Cream Cake

Ever heard of the Hummingbird Bakery? Well, if you haven’t, then you should. I have been making their Guinness Cake for ages and it’s always a raving success. They have so many amazing and creative ideas for desserts and they have recently published their second book (which, of course, is already in my possession). It’s called Home Sweet Home and contains plenty of innovative recipes for cupcakes alongside more traditional cakes and American-inspired pies and tarts. Just delicious! This cake comes from this book, so I hope I am not breaching anyone’s copyright by posting the recipe on here. It is a banana sponge cake with a custard filling and a chocolate ganache on top. Now tell me you don’t want to eat it! The recipe involves three main steps, so I will divide ingredients and method accordingly.

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Ingredients (for the sponge)

  • 100g unsalted butter, softened
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 banana, mashed
  • 125g soured cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 300g plain flour
  • 1/s tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Method (for the sponge)

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Grease and line two 20cm cake tins.
  2. Using an electric whisk, cream the butter and the sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well and scraping down the sides of the bowl.
  3. In a jug, mix together the mashed banana, soured cream and vanilla extract.
  4. In a bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and bicarb.
  5. With the whisk on a medium speed, pour the soured cream mixture into the creamed butter and sugar and mix well to ensure all ingredients are incorporated. Add the dry ingredients and mix until you have a smooth batter.
  6. Divide the batter between the two tins and bake for 25-35 minutes. Check the cakes are cooked with a skewer. The sponges should be light and bounce back when slightly pressed.
  7. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely.

Ingredients (for the custard)

  • 250ml whole milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 15g plain flour
  • 15g cornflour

Method (for the custard)

  1. In a medium pan, bring the milk and vanilla extract to the boil.
  2. In a bowl, mix the yolks with the sugar, flour and cornflour until it forms a paste. You can also add a small amount of the milk to loosen the mixture up.
  3. Once the milk is ready, slowly pour it into the bowl with the eggy mixture and whisk until fully incorporated.
  4. Pour it back in the pan and cook on a medium heat, stirring constantly, until it forms a thick custard. The process will not take more than 5 minutes. You need to keep an eye on the eggs and keep on mixing because if the heat is too high they will scramble and you will end up with a mess. If you notice the eggs start creating lumps, take the pan off the heat and whisk ferociously until the mixture is smooth again.
  5. Once cooked, pour the custard in a bowl and cover with clingfilm to prevent a skin forming.

Ingredients (for the ganache)

  • 300g dark chocolate
  • 300ml double cream

Method (for the ganache)

  1. Pour the cream in a pan set over a medium heat and bring to the boil.
  2. Break the chocolate into smallish chunks into a bowl.
  3. Once the cream is hot, pour over the chocolate bits and leave to rest for a good couple of minutes.
  4. Mix to melt all of the chocolate.

Assembling the cake

  1. Once the sponges and the custard have cooled completely, start assembling the cake.
  2. Place one of the sponges on your cake stand or plate and pour the custard on top of it. Spread it with a palette knife and ensure the whole surface is covered. Top with other sponge layer.
  3. Wrap the cake in clingfilm and put it in the fridge to set for another 45 minutes.
  4. Once that is done, take the cake out of the fridge and peel off the clingfilm.
  5. Set the assembled cake on a wire rack standing on a baking tray and pour the ganache on top, ensuring the whole cake is covered. repeat the procedure if needed.
  6. I personally spread the ganache with a spatula, so that is why I didn’t get a shiny effect in the end.

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