There is something truly magical about saffron. Its almost hallucinatory aromatic scent sweeps me away in an Arabian daydream and that vibrant yellow-orange colour almost seems like edible gold.
Every time I cook with this mysterious spice, it feels as if I’m preparing food for the Gods. I know this sounds silly (really really silly) but I can’t help but feel bewitched by its mystical background and utterly gorgeous perfume. And correct me if I’m wrong, but I honestly believe that every foodie on this planet is nodding in complete agreement right now.
All of us foodies know that –since we’re all so very accomplished in the kitchen- saffron is not only a brilliant spice to cook with, it is unfortunately (ridiculously) expensive. Saffron is like the Ferrari of spice, turning all other aromas into drab Volvos.( No offence to all Volvo drivers out there, though 😉 )
So what better way to honour saffron’s star status than by adding it to a super luscious cake batter? I think it goes without saying that I treasured this saffron cake like they were a new pair of Manolo Blahniks. A cake that even surpasses the magic of a “regular” saffron cake (although one could never call saffron regular) by oomphing up the recipe with the hypnotising aroma of rose water. This cake is not just a dessert, it’s an entire collection of Arabian fairy tales, all baked into one beautifully decadent expression of mind-wandering hysteria.
So be prepared, because this cake will cast a spell over you and you will never be able to lift it off (But you won’t want to, I promise!)
Saffron and almond cake with apricot and rose glaze
For the cake:
• 100gr butter
• 150gr caster sugar
• 125gr ground almonds
• 2 eggs
• 50gr plain flour
• Pinch of salt
• ¼ tsp saffron powder
• 50gr chopped dried apricots
For the glaze:
• 50gr apricot jam
• 1 tsp rose water
• Almond flakes
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and lightly grease a bundt-cake tin.
2. Mix together the sugar, butter and saffron on a low speed.
3. Add the eggs and mix through. (Try not to overwork the mixture. The best part of this recipe is that you simply have to throw it all together without much of a fuss. 😉 )
4. Sift in the almonds, flour and salt and mix until the mixture is completely smooth.
5. Stir through the chopped apricots.
6. Pour the batter into your cake tin and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes.
7. Leave the cake to cool down completely in the tin before you remove it.
8. While the cake is cooling, add the jam and rose water together in a small saucepan and heat on a low heat. Spread the mixture generously on top of the cake and garnish with almond flakes.
Forget Grace Kelly, Jackie O. and Marilyn. No Hollywood diva can compete with the delicate and dainty appearance of the Millefeuille. Although I usually opt for the more robust cakes and pies with bold and rich flavours, today I felt like tackling the grandeur and grace of one of France’s greatest classics.
My version of the Millefeuille is –as always- a bit different from the original. Instead of thousand layers of puff pastry (which is what “millefeuille” literally means), I just had two. Admittedly, my version may not have the majestic luxury of the French classic, but I believe it still looks rather delicate and refined. (Just nod your head if you agree 😉 )
However, when it comes to flavour, my very own personalized rose and apricot Millefeuille far surpassed the rather boring flavour palette of the original. (no offence to all French pastry chefs) I went for a rose and honey flavoured custard topped with fresh apricot, dried cranberries and home-made meringues. It tasted so exquisite, it was almost impossible to believe I had made it myself! It would even make Michel Roux jealous!
Michel Who? Exactly. No one nails the essence of superior flavour better than I do. Me, pretentious? Just remember: if you want to be a good baker, you have to be a bit boastful! 😉
Rose and apricot Millefeuille
• One sheet of puff pastry
• 2,5 dl milk
• ½ tsp rose water
• 3 egg yolks, (you can save the egg whites for the meringues or use shop-bought meringues)
• 2 tbsp corn flour
• 2 tbsp caster sugar
• 3 tbsp runny honey
• Handful of dried cranberries
• 3 ripe apricots, peeled, stoned and halved
• Almond flakes
• Icing sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C and line a baking tray with baking parchment. Cut out 6 rectangular pieces of puff pastry, brush them with some of the remaining egg white and sprinkle over some almond flakes. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Let them cool completely before cutting them in half horizontally.
2. To make the custard, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and corn flour until pale and fluffy.
3. Heat the milk, honey and rose water in a pan over medium heat until it starts to boil. (I also added a couple of drops of red food colouring to give the custard a beautiful pink hue.)
4. Add some of the hot milk to the egg mixture and mix well. Then pour the egg mixture back into the pan of milk and beat constantly on a low heat until the mixture starts to thicken. Pour the rose custard in a bowl and cover with cling film. Let it cool completely.
5. Cut the puff pastry cases in half and spread a thick layer of rose custard on the bottom layer.
6. Top with small chunks of apricot, dried cranberries and some crushed meringues.
7. Finish with the top layer of puff pastry and dust with icing sugar.