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Herb Cakes & Biscuits

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Herb Cakes and Biscuits


Herbs are usually associated with savoury dishes but they produce delicious and unusual results when added to baking and other sweet foods.

Southernwood Cake
You can make this in a food processor, which is easier on the arm muscles, but the texture is not as good.

150g plain flour
50g self-raising flour
5 teaspoons finely chopped southernwood (from the tips of the stems)
175g granulated sugar
150g softened butter
4 eggs

Sift the two flours into a mixing bowl, stir in the chopped southernwood and sugar. Add the soft butter, in dollops, and the lightly mixed eggs and, using a stout fork, start to gently mix and mash all together. Once you have a rough mix, increase the pressure and beat as hard as you can for one minute.
Pour the mixture into a lined 1lb loaf tin and bake in a 180C (350F, Gas 4) for 30 minutes. Lower the heat to 170C (325F, Gas 3) and finish baking for about 45 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. Take care that is does not burn: cover with greaseproof paper if it is browning dangerously. The cake will split along the top and slightly erupt, like a volcano. When done, take out of the loaf tin to cool on a wire rack but wait to peel off the liner until it is cold.

You can also make this cake using tansy instead of southernwood; use just 4 teaspoons of chopped tansy.

Sweet Cicely Cake
You can make this cake look really impressive by lining the bottom of the cake tin with a sweet cicely leaf so that, when turned out, the cake has the leaf embedded in the top. Use an 8” (20cm) deep round cake tin or 2 sandwich tins.

175g self-raising flour
175g soft butter
175g granulated sugar
squeeze lemon juice
4 rounded teaspoons chopped sweet cicely leaves
3 eggs

First butter the cake tin/s. Choose an elegant sweet cicely leaf and remove the thick stalks. Arrange the leaflets upside down on the buttered tin.
To make the cake: beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, add the lemon juice and the sweet cicely and beat again. Beat in the eggs one at a time and continue beating until the mixture goes soft and looks like whipped cream; fold in the flour.
Pile into the tin/s, smooth the surface and bake in a 170C (325F, Gas3) oven for 20 minutes if in 2 tins, 30-40 minutes if in one.

Butter Cream for sandwiching the two halves together (you can split a single cake - carefully).
100g butter; 175g sieved icing sugar
2 heaped teaspoons green and soft sweet cicely seeds
Beat the butter until soft and gradually add in the icing sugar. Choose soft, green sweet cicely seeds, they are deliciously aniseedy and really sweet. Chop finely and beat into the icing. Use to sandwich the two halves of the cake together, leaving the top with its embedded leaf on show for all to admire.

Lavender Biscuits
Lavender flowers impart an unusual flavour to sweet dishes but they are strong, so use sparingly.

275g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon lavender flowers
175g butter
125g sugar
1 egg 1 small glass vodka

Sieve the flour into a bowl, sprinkle in the lavender flowers to infuse. Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then beat in the egg followed by the vodka; then the flour and lavender, a spoonful at a time. Leave the soft dough to rest for an hour.
Roll or pat out to pound coin thickness, cut into small rounds and lay on a buttered baking tray. Sprinkle with extra sugar and bake in a 220C (425F Gas 7) oven for 15-20 minutes.

Instead of lavender flowers you could use rosemary leaves, finely chopped, or hyssop. These would be particularly good as an accompaniment to fruit salad or ice cream.