Ruby bakes with cin­na­mon

Aro­matic cin­na­mon can add warmth and mel­low­ness to your bak­ing – es­pe­cially when used along­side other spices. Use it spar­ingly to add el­e­gance to th­ese choco­late tarts and a del­i­cate pi­quancy to this chai swirl loaf cake

The Guardian - Cook - - Front Page - Ruby Tan­doh Ruby Tan­doh is Cook's bak­ing co­lu­minst and the au­thor of Crumb (Chatto & Win­dus)

Cin­na­mon is aro­matic with­out be­ing pun­gent; sweet, mel­low and warm

Cin­na­mon is maybe the most-used bak­ing spice, and for good rea­son – it’s sweet, mel­low, warm and aro­matic with­out be­ing pun­gent. It’s a ro­bust flavour, though, and when used too gen­er­ously it can lapse into an over­bear­ing clag­gi­ness. While there’s an el­e­gance to a sim­ple cin­na­mon glaze or but­tery cin­na­mon bun, I think cin­na­mon’s at its best when made to work along­side other spices. Try it with a pinch of sharp car­damom, fen­nel and black pep­per in a chai spice blend, per­haps, or bal­ance it with hot chilli as in the choco­late tarts be­low.

Cin­na­mon-spiced choco­late tarts with honey cream

You don’t have to serve th­ese with the honey cream, but I find it helps to bal­ance out the bit­ter­sweet flavour of the choco­late ganache.

Makes 12

250g plain flour 75g caster sugar 1 tsp cin­na­mon ¼ tsp salt 125g un­salted but­ter, firm but not fridge-cold 3 tbsp milk

For the fill­ing

200g dark choco­late (70% co­coa solids) 150ml dou­ble cream 3 tbsp runny honey 2 tsp cin­na­mon ¼ tsp salt Chilli pow­der, to taste

For the cream

250g mascarpone 4 tbsp honey 150ml dou­ble cream Cin­na­mon, to dust

1 In a large bowl, stir to­gether the flour, caster sugar, cin­na­mon and salt. Cut the but­ter into 1cm cubes, then add to the flour mix­ture and rub into the dry in­gre­di­ents us­ing your fin­ger­tips, or blitz in a food pro­ces­sor. Keep go­ing un­til there are no vis­i­ble chunks and the mix­ture is fine and sandy. Add the milk and cut it into the mix­ture us­ing a small sharp knife (or, again, in the food pro­ces­sor), dis­tribut­ing the liq­uid evenly un­til no dry flour re­mains and the dough is be­gin­ning to come to­gether in small clumps. Add a drop more milk if nec­es­sary. The dough ought to be just moist enough to hold to­gether as a mass when squeezed.

2 If the dough’s a lit­tle sticky, press it into a flat­tish disc, wrap in cling­film and chill it for 15-20 min­utes be­fore con­tin­u­ing. Oth­er­wise, get straight to work rolling it out of a lightly floured sur­face. Roll to a sheet no thicker than 5mm – it should mea­sure roughly 30x40cm. Use a 10cm-di­am­e­ter pas­try cut­ter to stamp out cir­cles. Press the pas­try cir­cles into the moulds of a 12-hole muf­fin/cup­cake tin, tak­ing care to press out any folds and push the pas­try firmly into the sides of the tin. Trim any ex­cess and place the tin in the fridge for 30 min­utes or the freezer for 15 min­utes, giv­ing the pas­try a chance to re­lax and so min­imis­ing shrink­age dur­ing bak­ing. Mean­while, pre­heat the oven to 200C/400C/gas mark 6.

3 While the pas­try chills, cut a dozen 12-15cm squares of bak­ing parch­ment and have some bak­ing weights or un­cooked rice or lentils ready. Once the pas­try has chilled, line each tart with a square of bak­ing parch­ment and fill the parch­ment with bak­ing weights. Bake the cases in the pre­heated oven for 15 min­utes be­fore gen­tly re­mov­ing the bak­ing weight parcels, parch­ment and all, and re­turn­ing the tart cases to the oven for a fur­ther 5 min­utes to crisp and lightly brown. Leave to cool in the tin.

4 While the pas­try cools, pre­pare the ganache fill­ing. Finely chop the choco­late, then place in a heat­proof bowl along with the cream. Set the bowl over a pan of sim­mer­ing wa­ter and stir while the mix­ture gen­tly steams. Once all the choco­late has melted and the mix­ture is smooth and glossy, add the honey, cin­na­mon and salt. Stir in a pinch of chilli pow­der, then add more to taste.

5 While it’s still warm and runny, spoon the ganache into the pas­try cases in their tin. Leave to cool com­pletely, then trans­fer to the fridge for at least 30 min­utes be­fore un­mould­ing.

6 Once the tarts are ready, pre­pare the honey cream. Beat the mascarpone with the honey un­til smooth. In a sep­a­rate bowl, whisk the cream to soft peaks, then fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone mix­ture. Serve each tart with a spoon­ful of honey cream and a dust­ing of cin­na­mon.

Chai swirl loaf cake

This is just a sim­ple mar­ble cake, but with a chai spice mix­ture in place of the usual co­coa pow­der. You can bake it in a 20cm round tin, too, cooking for a slightly shorter time if so.

Serves 6-8

150g un­salted but­ter, soft­ened 150g caster sugar 3 large eggs 2 tsp vanilla ex­tract 150g plain flour 2 tsp bak­ing pow­der ¼ tsp salt 6 car­damom pods, seeds only, ground 1 tsp fen­nel seeds, ground 2 tsp ground cin­na­mon 1 tsp ground gin­ger ¼ tsp black pep­per 25g soft light brown sugar

For the top­ping

50g un­salted but­ter, very soft 150g cream cheese 50g ic­ing sugar Ground cin­na­mon, to dust

1 Set the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Grease and line a 2lb/900g loaf tin.

2 Cream to­gether the but­ter and sugar un­til smooth, then beat in the eggs, one at a time, fol­lowed by the vanilla ex­tract. Mix the flour, bak­ing pow­der and salt to­gether in a sep­a­rate bowl then fold th­ese dry in­gre­di­ents into the wet mix­ture to form a thick bat­ter.

3 Put 250g of the cake mix in a sep­a­rate bowl. Com­bine the spices and sugar, then add this to the bowl of bat­ter, com­bin­ing gen­tly, but thor­oughly.

4 Scoop the light and dark cake mixes into the tin, dol­lop­ing spoon­fuls of each hap­haz­ardly to cre­ate a pat­terned bat­ter. Swirl a small knife lightly through the mix a cou­ple of times to mar­ble the two colours.

5 Bake for 50-55 min­utes or un­til the cake has risen, set and lightly browned. A skewer in­serted into the mid­dle of the cake should come out with just a crumb or two stuck to it. Leave to cool in its tin for half an hour or so be­fore un­mould­ing on to a wire rack.

6 Once the cake has cooled com­pletely, pre­pare the top­ping. Beat the but­ter un­til very smooth, then stir in the cream cheese a lit­tle at a time. Sift in the ic­ing sugar and mix well un­til com­bined. Spoon this on to the cooled cake and slather thickly all over the top, nudg­ing it into soft swirls and rip­ples as you go. Dust a lit­tle ex­tra cin­na­mon on top to fin­ish.

Cook's tip When blind bak­ing, it helps to scrunch up the bak­ing parch­ment then smooth it out be­fore push­ing it into the mould. This helps the pa­per fit snugly to the con­tours of the pas­try tin.

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