Probably one of the most rewarding aspects of foodblogging for me is the recipe development - experimenting, flavour combining and creating the foods that you had in mind and visualising how food you've been thinking of finally come out.
Sometimes it's just a flavour combination sometimes it's a description of foods that provokes my curiosity and I get the bug to just start cooking until it comes out as I have imagined it. Or not. There are failures of course, but it all contributes to gaining more experience. And seeing an idea becoming real is a unique experience.
One of the books I hold fond childhood memories of is The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien and the eponymous movie by Peter Jackson is in theatres now. In case you miraculously stayed away from the Middle Earth frenzy and have no idea what I'm talking about, the hobbits are cute creatures who love eat and drink most of anything else and both books Hobbit and Lord of the Rings are full of descriptions of foods (not only hobbits' but of other creatures in the fantasy world too).
A friend of mine and founder of Bulgarian Tolkien portal Endorion has recently asked me to bring some foods from the Hobbit book to life and I couldn't but jump from excitement. I chose two - the honey twice-baked caked that shape-shifter Beorn gave to the dwarves and Bilbo and the seed cake that the very same Bilbo used to treat the dwarves when they unexpectedly flooded his front door
I stumbled upon a great article on food in Middle Earth on Recipewise, which gave me a great base recipe for the caraway seed cake.
However to recreate the honey twice-baked cakes I thought I'd go to the original. That's what it says: "and twice-baked cakes that would keep good a long time, and on a little of which they could march far. The making of these was one of his secrets; but honey was in them, as in most of his foods, and they were good to eat, though they made one thirsty."
Twice baked - there is a word for that in modern language and it is biscuit (from bis- twice and -cuit- baked). However the method of baking biscuits today is not the one of twice baking. And although biscuits are true to the description, they are not to the method.
The most famous twice-baked foods today are the Italian biscotti also called cantuccini.
They have been popular since Roman times and were used by Roman soldiers for their qualities to keep good for long time and being nutritious.
Beorn's honey cakes had honey in them. And him being a shapeshifter bear he was probably eating some berries and nuts which are part of a bear's diet. So I decided to put them in the honey cakes too.
So these are one of the possible honey cakes the dwarves and Bilbo had on their journey to Erebor.
In another reality, these could make a nice foodie Christmas present, so at this time of the year, it's a win-win.
250 g runny honey
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp soft dark sugar
4 tbsp almond meal (+ 50 gr for dusting)
200 g toasted whole almonds
50 g dried cranberries
50 g whole rye flour
280 spelt flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
First toast the almonds at 160 degrees C for 10 or 15 minutes. Be careful they don't go brown. Leave to cool.
In a large bowl mix the honey with eggs, sugar and cranberries. Add vanilla extract, flours, baking soda, almond meal, oil, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. At the end add the whole toasted almonds.
Mix all ingredients until they form a hard and sticky dough. Divide into two parts and shape like cylinders. Roll each cylinder in ground almonds and place on a baking sheet with enough distance from each other. Flatten the top of each cylinder with the palm of your hand a bit then bake at 160 degrees C for 30 minutes - until the cakes are relatively hard to the touch. Leave to cool down completely before cutting with a very sharp or serrated knife at a 30 or 45 degrees angle, 1.5 or 2 cm slices.
The resulting slices should be baked again (twice baked) so place them on a baking sheet - no need to leave space between - bake at 180 degrees for 15 minutes - turning them half way.