Sweet sweet Friday: Italian Cinnamon Biscuits

In theory, one of the good things about freelancing is that you can work from home, as and when it suits. Mix freelancing with working for someone else (oh, and having a small person to look after) and you quickly realise that working when it suits means working late at night when you’d much rather be in bed.

This week has been all about late nights, which has made me realise two things. Firstly, I’ve become much better at working when I’d rather be sleeping. Secondly, I’m not much good in the kitchen after hours. Last night, after finally finishing off an urgent (and incredibly boring) job, I decided to celebrate by making a birthday cake for a friend. Overtiredness made me overconfident, which meant that I didn’t worry too much when a slightly acrid smell started emanating from the oven. As the smell grew stronger I realised that most of the cake had escaped the tin and was now cooking burning on the oven floor. This is not a relaxing, sleep-inducing discovery to make after 11pm, especially when you have used the last egg and most of the butter. Please, don’t try this at home yourselves.

But do join in the fab new challenge from Dom at Belleau Kitchen, in which he asks participants to pick a recipe at random from their cookbook collections. Here’s what I chose…

Italian Cinnamon Biscuits – Biscotti alla cannella
I have to confess I wasn’t too random about the choice of book – it’s our wedding anniversary on Sunday and the Boy Wonder gave me The Silver Spoon as a present some four years ago. I’ve never made anything from it, despite referring to it regularly. Now, I have no idea if these turned out how they were supposed to. I ended up adding an extra tablespoon of olive oil because I didn’t think the mixture was going to come together. They aren’t the prettiest biscuit, but the flavour is good. At this point in the week, that’s good enough for me!  But I’d love to know if this is what they’re supposed to be like. Can you help?

250g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
5Tbsp olive oil
130g caster sugar
grated zest of a lemon
ground cinnamon, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 200C. Grease a baking sheet with butter and dust with flour.
Sift the flour into a bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour in the oil, then add the sugar and lemon zest. Mix well, then leave to stand for 20 minutes. Shape into walnut sized balls, flatten slightly and place on the prepared tray. Dust with cinnamon, then bake for about 20 minutes. Leave to cool slightly on the tray for a few minutes, then cool completely on a rack. Go to bed, exhausted.

Amazin’ raisin polenta bread

Did you ever wonder where all the bread baking geeks hang out? I think I’ve found them. In the weekend I followed a trail of flour-dusted fingerprints to The Fresh Loaf, which is an amazing resource of bread recipes and advice. Most of the time the ‘artisan bread enthusiasts’ are speaking in a language I find quite tricky to decipher, but it’s addictive all the same. After my first visit I looked at my loaves and felt woefully inadequate. After the second, I made this raisin-studded loaf for breakfast. I’m not sure that it turned out as perfectly as a proper bread geek’s one would, but I was pretty happy with it all the same.

It’s probably best that you go here for the recipe, though it might be helpful to know that I played around with it a bit, using instant polenta instead of cornmeal, brown sugar instead of honey, and adding a tiny bit of allspice (but not too much, as cinnamon does bad things to yeast). I also soaked the raisins for a bit in hot water before adding them (and accidentally tipped the extra water in as well). If you have even the slightest bit of interest in bread, you’ve got to check this site out. Then come back and tell me what you made…

Sweet sweet Friday: Banana Parfait

Last week, when I was moaning about my fruitless search for a banana and chocolate semi-freddo recipe, lovely Peggy of Fake It ‘Til You Make It fame reminded me of the world’s easiest (and best?) dessert. It’s been hideously humid and sticky here (sorry, northern hemisphere readers) and this is just heavenly.

Banana Parfait
Gluten-free, vegan, sugar-free, fat-free, child-friendly, budget-friendly – there is a lot to love about this delectable dessert even before you taste it. You could always shave over some dark chocolate (or pour over some chocolate sauce (melt equal quantities of dark chocolate and cream), but it’s hard to beat as it is.

Are overripe bananas cluttering up your fruit bowl? Throw them in the freezer – you can peel them and wrap them in clingfilm if you like, but I just put them in, skin and all.
When you want to eat, take the bananas out (allow one per person) and peel off the skins with a sharp knife. Cut them into chunks and throw them in your food processor. Blitz until they have formed a smooth, icy puree (this makes a hell of a racket, but it’s worth it). Eat immediately. Chill out.

Do you have an end of the week sweet treat? Add a link to it here to spread the sweetness of Fridays…

Lucky old me and the UKFBA

I was feeling very cross and out-of-sorts yesterday morning and nothing was going right. I stomped down to the letterbox expecting a slew of bills – and discovered a nice surprise instead.

One of my daily online must-dos is visiting I’ve Blogged on the UK Food Bloggers Association website. It’s how I’ve discovered lots of great blogs and made some lovely blog friends. It’s also how this crisp new River Cottage Diary 2011 ended up in my letterbox. Janice (aka Farmersgirl), who set up I’ve Blogged, organised a giveaway to celebrate having 100 members – and lucky old me won it.

So thank you Janice, thank you UKFBA and thank you to everyone who posts on I’ve Blogged. You’re an important part of my day (especially when I’ve got the grumps)…