“Let’s face it, a nice creamy chocolate cake does a lot
for a lot of people; it does for me.”
When it’s apple season it also happens to be pear season. My Grandmother always grew pears aswell as apples and always kept a fruit paring knife in her apron to dole out fruit to the hungry grandchildren. She always kept the pears on the windowsil to ripen. And for me, often, pears are like avocados. A 10 second window of ripeness that often happens, apparently, in the middle of the night, so that they go from rock- diamond hard to mush in 12 hours. This cake uses pears, but they are nearly better when not quite ripe.
200g Plain Flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
200g sugar, plus more for sprinkling
100g butter, melted and cooled, plus more for brushing
80ml plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 large pear, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon minced crystallized ginger
Preheat the oven to 180°C and butter and line a loaf tin. In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar with the melted butter, buttermilk, eggs and vanilla. Using a wooden spoon, mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, then fold in the pears and ginger.
Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 45 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean; loosely cover the top with foil during the last 15 minutes to prevent over-browning.
Transfer the cake to a wire rack and let cool completely in the pan. Invert the cake onto a plate and invert again. I like to “paint” the cake top with sugar syrup and I scatter some sugar crystals. Slice the cake and serve with some softly whipped cream.
This Apple Charlotte recipe is loosely based on a Russian recipe. Classic Russian cuisine abounded in nifty quick recipes for unexpected guests. This puffy dessert requires only sliced tart apples, a few handfuls of berries and a simple batter. However as it takes so long to cook it would really only be suitable to serve to guests if you have advanced warning. If they just popped in unexpectedly I’d probably go with scones…. 😉
40g plain dry bread crumbs
3 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
280g caster sugar
225g plain flour
200g soft fruit
4 large firm tart apples—peeled, quartered, cored and thinly sliced crosswise
1 cup blueberries
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Icing Sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 180oC.
Butter a 10-inch oven proof frying pan and dust the bottom with the bread crumbs.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the eggs with the milk, vanilla and 200g of the sugar. Beat in the melted butter until well mixed, then beat in the flour until a thick batter forms.
In another large bowl, toss the cup of soft fruit with the sliced apples, cinnamon and the remaining sugar.
Spread one-fourth of the batter in the prepared skillet and top with the apples and berries. Using an offset spatula, spread the remaining batter over the fruit in an even layer.
Scatter the remaining 8 to 12 pieces of fruit on top and gently press them into the batter. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 1 hour, until lightly golden and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Let cool completely, then dust with confectioners’ sugar. Slice into wedges and serve.
A dollop of crème fraîche or vanilla ice cream.
I just love bread and butter pudding. And we have some gorgeous panettone bread left over to use in the best way possible- this recipe is as good with brioche as with panettone. And really if push comes to shove, it’s good with any old white batch loaf type- just remove the crusts. Sure you can’t make it ALL into breadcrumbs…. and using up leftovers is COOL these days.
8 thick slices panettone crusts, cut into 2.5cm cubes
50g butter, melted
4 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons dark rum (if desired)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
75g chocolate chips
2 tablespoons caster sugar
20g Icing Sugar
Preheat oven to 180oC. Place bread in large bowl. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons melted butter and toss. Transfer to rimmed baking sheet. Bake until bread begins to colour, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes. Cool. Brush your baking dish with 1 tablespoon melted butter.
Heat the cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat until bubbling. Remove from heat. Whisk eggs and yolks in large bowl. Add rum, vanilla, and salt; gradually whisk in warm cream. Stir in bread cubes. Let soak 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Mix chocolate chips into custard mixture. Pour into prepared dish. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar. Bake until puffed and set in centre, about 35 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar. Serve warm, with some freshly whipped cream. Divine.
As you know at this stage, I’m more than a little obsessed with financiers, or friands. For a number of reasons;
1.They use up egg whites if you don’t want to make macaron or meringues
2. You don’t need any fancy mixing equipment, the tin is a plus, but not entirely necessary, you could make them in muffin tins
3. You can add all kind of flavourings to them
These are perfect for using up those apples. I prefer to use eating apples, but cooking apples would work just aswell, just adjust the sugar until they are palatable.
The “brown butter” element is a valuable technique, but used in this recipe to give that extra layer of flavour, so hold your nerve and don’t be tempted to skip this stage.
Brown Butter Apple Financiers
150g Butter, soft
3 medium egg whites
125g Caster Sugar
55g Plain Flour
55g Finely Ground Almonds
½ teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla paste
2 Eating Apples, peeled and chopped into smallish pieces.
40g butter, melted- fro greasing and apples.
Preheat the oven to 170oC. Brush the financier tray extremely well with half approx.. of the melted butter
Heat the remaining butter and brown the chopped apples in this. Leave to cool.
Melt the 150g of butter until the solids have separated and they are starting to turn brown. Remove from the heat and cool.
Mix all the remaining cake ingredients, apart from the apples, in your mixer until light in colour and a little fluffy. Add in the melted 150g of butter, mix well again and leave for 30 minutes in the fridge to rest. This helps remove unnecessary bubbles. Rebrush the tin, and fill the sections ¾ full. Spoon the apples pieces on top.
Bake for 15- 20 minutes. Cool in the tray for 5 minutes.
I ‘m a fan of frangipane. And never would have been drawn to it when I was younger. But for me it’s almost a perfect combination of spongelike texture with a pastry base. A match made in heaven once there isn’t an over-powering taste of almond essence. Ugh. Double ugh in fact.
The earliest mention is in a French Cookbook in 1674! Some believe that the name bears homage to St. Francis of Assisi. That a noblewoman named Jacopa da Settesoli brought some to him on his death bed in 1226.
I like to make this tart a little hap hazard, no need for perfect pastry crust or to get the ruler out to measure the distance between the apricots. So I suppose it’s a pie really. The basil gives a lovely perfume to the apricot filing. And somehow makes it a little less sweet, which, unlikely as it seems, is a good thing!
200g plain flour
100g butter (from the fridge)
50g caster sugar
½ teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
For the frangipane
100g soft butter
100g caster sugar
140g ground almonds
75g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
About 5 basil leaves
8-10 apricots, stoned and quartered
Icing sugar, softly whipped cream and vanilla bean paste
To make the pastry, mix the flour, butter and a pinch of salt into your food processor. Pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and pulse again. Add the vanilla, egg and 1-2 tablespoons of cold water, and pulse until the dough just comes together. Tip out and shape into a disc. Chill for 30 minutes, then roll out the pastry between two sheets of greaseproof paper, as this pastry is very crumbly. Line a loose-bottomed tart tin with the pastry, pressing it into the sides. Chill for at least 30 mins.
Meanwhile, prepare the frangipane. Using electric beaters if you have them, beat the butter until creamy, then add the sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs, beating well after each addition, then stir in the almonds, flour, and the torn basil leaves.
Heat oven to 160oC fan 4 and put in a baking tray to heat. Spoon the frangipane into the tart case and smooth. Poke the apricots into the frangipane. Bear in mind it’s a very rustic tart.
Transfer to the baking tray, in the oven, and bake for 40-50 mins (cover with foil after 30 mins if the tart is getting too dark) until the fruit is tender and a skewer poked in the frangipane comes out clean.
Leave the tart to cool in the tin for 10 mins, then transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm or cold, dusted with icing sugar, with a dollop of softly whipped cream mixed with a little vanilla bean paste, if you like.
I just love apricots, they bring a taste of French summer into our home. And although I didn’t purchase mine from a market stall at the side of the road (Lidl’s best), they are still beautifully coloured and soft skinned.
125g plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
75g butter, room temperature
70g Caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
75ml full fat milk
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Preheat oven to 160oC. Put the paper cases in the tin. Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined.
With mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in 3 additions alternately with milk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Divide this batter among muffin cups (cups will be only 1/3 full) and smooth tops. Top with the apricot slices and sprinkle liberally with brown sugar.
Bake until cakes are golden and a tester inserted into the centres comes out clean, 20–25 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack; let pan cool 5 minutes. Transfer cakes to rack and let cool completely.
As many of you know, I am a big advocate in my cooking and eating of three mantras:
Keep it simple
Keep it local
Keep it seasonal
So when a suggestion of a cookbook called Seasonal Baking popped up in my suggestions, I jumped at it.
I don’t have any other of this lady’s books. But had a little gander at her website, which unfortunately she doesn’t keep up to date. But she’s probably too busy making cakes! Being in the business of making cakes for over 25 years, I think she probably could be classed as an expert.
White Chocolate is a temperamental ingredient and it needs to be handled with care. It’s not chocolate in the strict sense as it doesn’t contain cocoa solids. It is difficult to melt, so for this recipe you really have to be organised and melt it very very slowly. but it’s worth it, I promise.
The fruit element is also very important, I have used fresh (bought) berries, but frozen work just aswell.
225g self raising flour
225g Caster Sugar
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
Zest of one Lemon
200g White Chocolate
250g berries (mix of blueberries and raspberries)
Melt half of the white chocolate slowly over a saucepan of hot water. Meanwhile cream the sugar and softened butter well, add the flour, eggs, zest and baking powder and mix thoroughly. This is best done in the mixer, and beat the hell out of it.
Mix in the other 100g of white chocolate and then gently stir in the berries.
Bake at 170oC in a traybake tin for about 20 minutes. Leave to cool in the tin then maybe drizzle some extra melted white chocolate over it- to e sure to be sure!
It’s tradition in our house that Santa puts a Terry’s Chocolate Orange in our stockings Christmas morning. And, to be honest, it’s the only time of year that I have one. Some have the family now prefer the darker version. I still like the milk version. So when I was browsing through my cookery emails (BBC Good Food) I spied this little beauty, and had to try it.
I’ve adjusted the recipe as the original doesn’t make a big enough dessert, I’ve also used Chocolate Orange Digestives in the base, for an extra kick of chocolate AND orange.
300g Chocolate Orange Digestives
140g melted butter
400g soft cream cheese (I use Philadelphia)
200g icing sugar
2 Terry’s Chocolate Oranges
Crush the biscuits and mix well with the melted butter to make the base. Press this into a loose ring cake tin (8”) and leave to set in the fridge.
Meanwhile melt 1 1/5 of the chocolate oranges and set aside. As an aside, we do not have a microwave, so I always give a warning if melting chocolate in the microwave- it’s SO EASY to burn.
Whip together the cream cheese and the icing sugar. In a separate bowl whip the cream until soft peaks form. Add this to the cream cheese mix, and fold gently but well until completely combined.
At this stage I move some of this mix into the “cream” bowl. Then add the melted chocolate into the main mixture. This gets mixed well, and then I swirl the “cream” bowl mix through to give a fancy pattern!
Then carefully add the whole lot onto the cold biscuit base. Refrigerate until set, approx. 5 hours.
Remove carefully from the tin, pipe some freshly whipped cream onto it and decorate with the extra orange pieces.
We have just harvested the last of the apples. Phew. Well when I say we, I mean, of course the royal “we”. And most of them are going to cider making and apple juice. But it would be just unfair not to make some apple desserts. There are probably more variations on apple pies then there are apples. But I have a number of favourites, one of which involves making THE easiest crust ever, and doesn’t take cold hands, or indeed, any resting. This means it can be made at the last minute, if you feel like a little something sweet.
We use alot of Elstar apples. It’s an offspring of Golden Delicious, and was introduced in 1972 from the Netherlands. It produces great crops, year after year, the apples last for some months when they are harvested. We use it alot, and although it doesn’t have the sharp green skin that many want their apples to have, the taste is fantastic. There are 144 apples native to Ireland, the Armagh Bramley Apple was awarded a protected status from the EU last year (A little like protecting champagne, and the Waterford Blaa). I think my favourite is the Blenheim Orange for a cooking apple variety.
The recipe I use is great with lots of fruits, but with something like an apple, I tend to sauté them first to start the cooking process.
The crust is a simple crumble crust, that is simply mixed and pressed into the serving dish. This tart doesn’t like being removed from it’s cooking dish, so is best served straight from it. But it also doesn’t need resting or chilling.
Then simply add the semi cooked apples, cover with some cinnamon infused sugar, and bake until the sugar covering melts.
Then the cream/ egg yolks mix is poured gently over the apples, if possible while the tart stays on the oven shelf. this cooks until golden and set.
It only needs to cool for about 20 minutes before ready to slice carefully, and of course it can be served with more cream!