Bake with Michelle Darmody: Sweet treats for your Valentine

Chiffon cake, like the name suggests, is a very light, soft sponge. When made well it is delicious and melts in the mouth.

Oil is used in place of butter and whisked with water to help create a soft, springy cake.

The sponge should bounce back after you press a finger into it. By adding lots of air into the egg whites volume and lightness are added.

Michelle Darmody

The chiffon cake was invented in 1927 by a man named Harry Baker who was an insurance man turned baker.

The name I can only presume is taken from the light, transparent chiffon material. I find that chiffon cake is the perfect way to showcase the delicate flavour of rosewater.

Rosewater is a distillate of rose petals, it is the byproduct from rose oil production. It is widely used in Middle Eastern cooking and played a larger part in western baking until it was usurped by vanilla in the late 19th century.

A small bottle of delicate rosewater can be found in most Middle Eastern or Indian shops, as well as many speciality food stores.

A bottle will last quite a while and is quite inexpensive. Turkish delight is one of the main treats associated with rosewater.

I have hazy childhood memories of beautiful boxes filled with soft, powdery, Hadji Bey’s Turkish delight. I have loved the sweet ever since.

Some flavours just work together rosewater and pistachio are two that are perfectly matched.

Both hail from the from the same region and the green and subtle pinks visually compliment each other.

Dried Raspberry and Rosewater Cookies

For the cookies:

250g of butter, soft

140g of golden caster sugar

150g of self-raising flour

225g of porridge oats a handful of dried raspberries

For the rosewater glaze:

Half tbs of rosewater

2tbs of icing sugar

Beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Stir in flour, oats and mix everything together very well. Add the raspberries and mix again.

Roll the dough into the shape of a log and wrap it in baking parchment. Place the log into your fridge to firm up for at least an hour.

Heat the oven to 170C and line a baking tray with parchment. The log can then be sliced with a warm knife to the size you desire.

Cut all the cookies the same size. Place them onto the baking tray. The cookies will spread as they bake so leave a little room for them to expand.

Bake for about 20 minutes until golden, keep an eye on them if they are cut thin. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Stir the rosewater and icing sugar together and drizzle over the cookies.

Rosewater and Pistachio Rice Pudding

120g pudding or short grain rice

480 mls of milk

20 mls of cream

1 tbs of honey a small knob of butter, soft

Half a tsp of ground cardamom

1 tbs of rosewater

a sprinkling of brown sugar

a handful of pistachio nuts, finely chopped

Heat your oven to 180C. Add the rice, milk, cream, honey, butter, cardamom and rosewater into an oven-proof dish.

Stir everything well and place into the oven. Leave to bubble gently until the rice has soaked up most of the milk, should take just over an hour.

Sprinkle with the brown sugar and chopped pistachio and place back into the oven for a further eight to 10 minutes until the rest of the liquid is soaked up. Make sure the rice in the centre is soft.

Chiffon cake

Rosewater Iced Chiffon Cake

For the cake:

125ml of sunflower oil

200ml of room temperature water

7 eggs, separated

2 tsp of rosewater

375g of golden caster sugar

345g of plain flour

1 tsp of bread soda

a pinch of salt

For the rosewater icing:

200g of icing sugar

100g of butter, soft

1 tbs of rosewater

To decorate:

a handful of pistachios,

shelled and very finely chopped

a handful of edible rose petals

Heat your oven to 160C and line a 9in-round cake tin with parchment or a 10in-round tin with a hole in the centre, as shown in the image.

Mix the oil, water, egg yolks, rosewater and sugar and whisk until it forms a smooth batter. Whisk the egg whites until it forms stiff peaks and set aside.

Stir the flour, salt and bread soda well, then sieve them into the batter. Stir gently until combined.

Fold the egg whites into the batter and gently scoop into the prepared tin. Bake for an hour then cover the exposed top of the cake with tinfoil.

Place back into the oven for 10 minutes or until baked through. Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then transfer onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Whisk the icing sugar, butter and rose water together until smooth. Apply to the cooled cake with a pallet knife and decorate with the pistachio and rose petals.

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