Michelle Darmody: Baking with elderflowers

Michelle Darmody: Baking with elderflowers

Many of us will have an elder tree growing within our two kilometre radius. I know of a few dotted around Dublin parks. 

With less cars on the road the parks feel cleaner, particularly the wonderful Phoenix Park which is closed to all but a few cars. 

The white spray of the elderflower blossoms are said to signal the first of the summer bounty and this year with the blue skies and warm weather they are opening a little early. 

If you do not have access to an elder tree there are many shops that supply elderflower cordial, which can be used to flavour cakes and icings, as well as being a refreshing drink.

Making cordial yourself can help preserve the taste of early summer throughout the year. 

Generally it is made with citric acid but this will probably not be easy to access right now. 

There is a more simplified recipe that uses lemon juice in its place.

Rhubarb is another ingredient that is coming into its own in early summer, for the ‘fool’ recipe it is combined with elderflower for a light floral taste. 

As well as lending flavour the rhubarb gives the sweet treat its pretty colour. 

The dessert was first mentioned in food writing in 1598 and was then spelled as foole and custard was used in place of fresh cream. 

There is a simplicity to the ‘fool’ that I love. 

It is a remarkable, elegant dessert for the fact it has so little ingredients; stewed, sweetened fruit and whipped cream.

Rhubarb and elderflower fool

500g of rhubarb, leaves removed

The zest of 2 medium oranges and the juice of half an orange

2 tbsp of golden caster sugar

4 tbs of elderflower cordial

350mls of cream

Michelle Darmody: Baking with elderflowers

Cut the rhubarb stalks into even sized pieces, toss them in the zest, orange juice, caster sugar and half of the elderflower cordial.

Simmer over a gentle heat until the rhubarb is soft.

Set it aside to cool completely.

Whip the cream until soft peaks form.

Fold in the rhubarb, setting aside the juices, fold in the remaining elderflower cordial.

You can drink the rest of the rhubarb juice with sparkling water for a refreshing drink.

Scoop the fool into four bowls and place into the fridge before serving.

Lemon yogurt cake with elderflower

50g of butter

275g of caster sugar

3 eggs, separated

225g of natural yogurt

1 tbsp of elderflower cordial

The zest of 3 lemons

175g of self raising flour

For the icing

140g of soft butter

240g of icing sugar

110g of cream cheese

1 tbsp of elderflower cordial

The zest of 1 lemon

Michelle Darmody: Baking with elderflowers

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees and line an 8-inch round tin with parchment — I use either a spring form or loose base tin.

Mix the butter sugar and egg yolks in a bowl.

Stir in the yogurt, cordial, zest until smooth.

Sieve in the flour and then stir it in until combined.

Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks and fold them into the batter.

Scoop it into the prepared tin and bake for an hour to an hour and ten minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

Once the cake is cool enough to handle transfer it onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Whisk all the ingredients for the buttercream together until light and smooth.

Slice the cake into two disks.

Spread the icing onto one disk and sit the other on top.

Cover the cake in the rest of the icing and decorate as you wish.

Elderflower cordial

15 elderflower heads

1 kg of golden caster sugar

1 litre of water

The juice and zest of two large lemons

Michelle Darmody: Baking with elderflowers

Wash the elderflower heads and shake them well.

Leave them sit upside down at room temperature to dry as you make the syrup.

Add the sugar, water, lemon juice and zest into a heavy based saucepan and bring to a very gently simmer to melt the sugar.

Remove from the heat.

Pour the syrup into a large ceramic bowl and add the flowers, immersing them in the syrup.

Cover and leave to stand in a cool place.

Stir it twice a day for two days then strain.

Sterilise your jars or bottles before pouring the cordial into them.

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