Ground pistachios are loaded with flavour and colour, providing a welcome shot in the arm to otherwise beige bakes, as evidenced by this verdant cake and regiment of rose tartlets.
Nut-based cakes can tend to slump into shades of brown and beige, but pistachios will lift your baking out of that rut and into greener pastures. Grind the nut kernels to a fine meal and they can be folded through anything from cookie batters to cakes, frangipane and buttercreams.
Both of this week’s recipes call for a food processor or coffee grinder to blitz the pistachios. I try not to be prescriptive when it comes to kitchen equipment (you don’t need fancy gadgets to bake well – I baked for years in a squalid student kitchen, using saucepans for mixing bowls and forks for whisks) but if you can get a cheap coffee grinder or multipurpose processor I’d strongly recommend it. You’ll be able to grind nuts, seeds and spices quickly and easily, unlocking recipes like these, which use ground pistachio in place of the more readily available ground almond.
Using oil instead of rich butter here helps the pistachio’s subtle flavour take centre stage, yielding a simple cake with a soft, verdant crumb. A little cardamom accents and balances the sweetness of the sponge and its white chocolate glaze, adding a delicate sharpness which I really like, though you can leave it out if you’re not fond of it.
Cardamom pistachio cake with white chocolate ganache
200g pistachio kernels
250ml sunflower or almond oil
250g caster sugar
10 cardamom pods, seeds only, ground
1½ tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs
100g plain flour
1½ tsp baking powder
A pinch of salt
For the ganache
200g white chocolate, very finely chopped
50ml double cream
5 cardamom pods, seeds only, ground
1 Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Grease two 20cm-round cake tins – preferably loose-bottomed or springform ones.
2 Using a coffee grinder or food processor, blitz the pistachios until finely ground. Reserve 2 tsp of the nuts for decorating. Beat the oil with the caster sugar, the cardamom, vanilla extract and eggs to create a batter. In a separate bowl, combine the pistachio, flour, baking powder and salt, then lightly fold it into the batter.
3 Divide the batter between the two tins, level the tops and bake for 25 minutes, or until the cakes are just beginning to shrink from the sides of the tins and a knife inserted into their centres comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tins before removing.
4 Prepare the ganache topping. Combine the white chocolate with the double cream in a small heatproof bowl and warm gently either in the microwave (in 10-second bursts) or over a pan of barely simmering water. As soon as the chocolate has mostly melted, remove from the heat and stir gently to combine.
5 Add the ground cardamom, then spread thickly over the top of each cake layer. Leave to cool and firm up a bit, then stack the layers and sprinkle the top with the reserved pistachio.
These are much like bakewell tarts – crisp shortcrust pastry, jam, frangipane and a slick of icing – but with a raspberry and pistachio flavour base instead of the usual cherry and almond. Rosewater adds a light floral edge, but it’s important not to overdo it. Add just a couple of drops at a time and taste as you go, swapping out the rose entirely in favour of vanilla extract or orange blossom water if you prefer.
Rose, raspberry and pistachio tartlets
100g unsalted butter, softened
100g caster sugar
2 large eggs
100g pistachio kernels, finely ground
A few drops of rosewater, to taste
30g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
150g seedless raspberry jam
For the pastry
125g unsalted butter, cubed
225g plain flour
60g caster sugar
For the icing
150g icing sugar
A few drops of rosewater
Edible dried rose petals, optional
1 First, make the pastry. Rub the butter into the flour and sugar using your fingertips until no visible chunks of butter remain. Drizzle in the milk, then bring the ingredients together by making cutting motions through the mixture with a small knife until all the flour has moistened and the dough is starting to form small clumps.
2 If the dough feels a little sticky, press it into a flattish disc, wrap it in clingfilm and refrigerate it for 20-30 minutes before rolling. Otherwise, roll it out on a lightly floured work surface until it’s 3-5mm thick. Cut circles large enough to line the base and sides of the moulds of a 12-hole muffin/cupcake tin. Gently line the tin with the pastry circles, re-rolling any offcuts if necessary. Chill the prepared tin in the fridge for 30 minutes while preheating the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Place a heavy baking tray in the oven to heat – it will help the bases of the tarts to crisp as they cook.
3 Beat together the butter and sugar for the filling before adding the eggs, ground pistachio and rosewater, to taste. Combine the flour and baking powder in a separate bowl before adding to the wet mixture and fold lightly together to combine.
4 Dollop 1-2 tsp of jam into each chilled pastry case, then divide the pistachio mixture between them, smoothing the tops as you go. Transfer the tin of prepared tarts to the oven and place on the preheated tray. Bake for 25 minutes. The filling should be golden and domed. Leave to cool completely.
5 Stir together the icing sugar, water and rosewater for the icing, adding sufficient water to make the icing thin enough to spoon on to the tarts, but thick enough that it won’t run straight off. Scatter with a few rose petals, if that’s your kind of thing.
Top Photo: You’ll save yourself a lot of work by using a food processor or coffee grinder to blitz the pistachios. Photograph: Jill Mead for the Guardian