Monthly Archives: September 2013

Nectarine and Lemon Thyme Crumble Pie

This wasn’t the pie I was planning to bring to you today. It was supposed to be rustic and oozing with fruits, folded up into a neat little parcel and served up as a galette. It was going to have a beautifully crumbly shortcrust base, piled high with soft fruits and served with a dollop of vanilla ice cream. One solitary wisp of heat was supposed to escape from the top as I took pictures, with me probably dressed in jeans and looking forward to a nice glass of red with my dinner.

Currently I am sat in shorts, sandals and a t-shirt sipping pink wine as I write this. What happened?

Apparently Aberdeen isn’t quite done with the sunshine yet and we are currently experiencing a bizarre Sunday heat wave. The beach was crammed with families earlier; I noticed a couple corking a bottle of white around 2pm in their garden and the lawnmowers were out in force. This was definitely not pie weather.

Or was it? As I racked my brains for a baking replacement I recalled a no-bake peach pie from the Sprouted Kitchen. I pulled out my cookbook of the same name and quickly dreamt up a riff on this beautiful summer dessert. The base is inspired by the lemon thyme crumble in the book and acts as a flapjack base on which the creme filling is spread across. It is soft and oozy – more pudding-like than a clean cut slice of cheesecake – and acts like a self-saucing accompaniment to the fragrant ripe peaches. Whipped up in no time, this summer beauty was duly hidden away in the fridge to set in one of the easiest bakes I’ve ever made. With the oven only required to crisp up the base, this is the perfect Sunday treat when the weather takes an unexpected turn for the better. Cheers!

Inspired by several Sprouted Kitchen recipes


You Will Need

For the crust

40g unsalted butter

2 dessert spoonfuls of runny honey

100g ground almonds

100g rolled oats

½ tsp ground cinnamon

2-3 stalks lemon thyme, leaves removed

For the filling

240g crème fraiche

240g icing sugar

1 lemon, zested plus 1 tsp of juice

3-4 ripe nectarines

Lemon thyme leaves to garnish

Note: The filling of this pie is quite wet and therefore needs to be refrigerated overnight. If you can’t wait that long, I’d suggest filling with some lemon scented whipped cream for a speedier option.

Crumble Crust Ingredients

Preheat the oven to 200oc/180oc fan/gas mark 4. Heat the butter and honey together in a saucepan over a medium heat until melted then pour the mix into a large bowl. Add the almonds, oats, cinnamon and lemon thyme leaves and mix together until crumbly.

Lemon Thyme Crumble Mix

Take a little of the mix in your hands and squeeze – it should clump together and be slightly sticky. If not, add a couple of splashes of water and mix again – do this with your hands to gage the right amount of moisture required. Press the crumble into a 23cm fluted tart tin with your knuckles until even and smooth then place in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes until the crumble crust is golden then remove and cool completely.

Crumble Crust

Place the crème fraiche, icing sugar, lemon zest and juice in the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl if using a hand held mixer. Using the balloon whisk attachment, whip the mix together to soft peaks then spread on top of the crumble crust. Thinly slice the nectarines and arrange in concentric circles on top of the crème filling. Place in the fridge to set  overnight.

Nectarines arranged on top of pie

To serve, squeeze over a little lemon juice and sprinkle over some extra lemon thyme. Slice into wedges and enjoy with pink wine.

Serve with Pink Wine

Brown Butter Spiced Pecan Cookies by Victoria Sponge Pease Pudding

The search for the perfect cookie is a never ending story that many of us are trying to conclude. Is it made from one, two or three kinds of sugar? Does it have chips or chocolate chunks? Is it gluten-free, laden with wheat or made with healthy grain flours? Are there piles of pecans, a touch of smoked salt or a tang of zest hidden in between those chewy folds of dough? Or is it crispy and thin? The story of the perfect chocolate chip cookie is never ever ending.

I have so many favourite cookie recipes that it is impossible for me to wade in with my version held high in my hands. One day I want the bitterness of dark chocolate, the next I prefer the childhood smoothness of white. I want fruit pieces, no wait nuts! Actually, can I swirl in some honey? It feels like the perfect cookie dough is actually a lesson in chemistry.

Pecans and Chocolate Chips

I think if you are new to the perfect cookie game, a great place to start is a great base recipe. For this strand of the adventure I looked to The Little Loaf, playing with the quantities of her Brown Butter Buckwheat Cookies to suit my own tastes. A smidge more brown sugar, a dash of autumn’s favourite pumpkin spice, a cup of quality chips and warming notes of nutty toasted pecans. The depth of browned butter lifts these cookies and marries well with the chunks of nut and the melting pools of chocolate. Actually, I think these are my new favourite cookies – until I hit the kitchen again.

Adapted from The Little Loaf

You Will Need

185g unsalted butter, softened

120g caster sugar

120g soft light brown sugar

1 egg and 1 yolk

225g plain flour

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp pumpkin spice mix (I used this one)

Pinch of salt

50g pecans, toasted and chopped

200g good quality milk chocolate chips

Brown Butter Cookie Ingredients

Firstly you will need to brown the butter. Place 85g of the butter in a small saucepan and place over a medium heat. Melt the butter then begin to swirl the pan. The milk solids will start to separate and crack but keep going, you are looking for a golden brown colour that smells nutty. Pour the brown butter into a bowl, scraping the brown bits from the pan into the bowl and leave to cool for 20 minutes.

Adding brown butter to cookie dough

Place the remaining butter and sugars in a bowl and cream together using a hand held electric whisk or a stand mixer. Add the egg and yolk and whisk again until the mix is smooth then pour in the cooled brown butter. Whisk again until fully incorporated.

chocolate chip cookie dough

Whisk together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, pumpkin spice mix and salt in a large bowl then pour into the wet mix all at once. Stir to combine then add the chocolate chips and chopped pecans. Cover the bowl in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using.

portioning cookies

Preheat the oven to 180oc/160oc fan/gas mark 3 and line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Scoop tablespoons of the cookie dough onto the tray spaced well apart. Bake in the middle of the oven for 8 – 10 minutes until the edged are browned. Remove and leave to cool on the tray before placing on a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the rest of the dough.

Brown Butter Spiced Pecan Cookies

Caramelized Milk Chocolate and Chai Eclairs

I love how food trends are constantly adapting and changing. You can barely keep up with the snowballing popularity of the Cronut without ten new imitations popping up in its place (including the Greggsnut, the chain bakers’ admirable attempt which was launched yesterday). I remember when I first tasted salted chocolate and found it unbearable; now I love a smattering of salt sprinkled on my chocolate chip cookies. For a while, food blogs the world over seemed to be drowning in salted caramel and why not? It was one of those lightbulb moments whereveveryone sat up and noticed the delicious balance between salty and sweet.

A couple of months ago the new kid on the block was caramelized white chocolate. Forget blocks of Milkybar, everyone was dipping strawberries in the stuff, swirling it into brownies and licking it off their hands. Beautifully rich in colour like a Caramac, the realisation that roasting chocolate could elevate its greatness saw it treated like a gift from the angels.

I was intrigued to see that milk chocolate was starting to get the caramelized treatment too. Not as wide reaching as the white stuff, but a few blogs were covering the discovery and I wanted in. After my Love and Death by Chocolate Cake, chef gave me a bag of Callebaut chocolate so I could work on my tempering. But I think slowly roasting is now up there with creating chocolate shards.

Caramelizing milk chocolate uses the same method as white, but it appears disheartening as you can’t see much of a change in colour as the minutes tick past. But the beauty lies in the taste – reserve a few pieces of the chocolate to compare with after the process has finished – it brings a whole new dimension to what we normally associate with the likes of Dairy Milk. It has a grown up taste, deeper and richer with an almost coffee-like tang. You could skip this step if you are short of time, but the smell of chocolate slowly melting will give your kitchen the air of a chocolatier’s paradise. A sneaky spoonful after every stir is also a delightful chef’s perk.

Chai really is the perfect autumnal flavour for those that are already sick at the thought of Pinterest overloaded with pumpkin spice-themed everything. I personally I love the flavour – I’m a sucker for a pumpkin spice latte (don’t hate me) – but paired with the deep tones of the chocolate, chai really is a star for autumnal baking.

There may seem like a lot of steps to these éclairs but I promise they are worth the effort. You can chill the crème patisserie a day ahead and even bake the choux bun beforehand and store in an airtight box, but there is something so soothing about a lazy Sunday making these from start to finish. Just make sure you leave enough time to devour in one go – for tasting purposes of course…


You Will Need

For the Chai Crème Patisserie

300ml semi-skimmed milk

½ tsp vanilla paste

2 chai teabags (I use the M&S blend)

2 egg yolks

20g caster sugar

20g plain flour


For the pastry

125ml water

20g unsalted butter, cubed

¼ tsp salt

1 tsp caster sugar

70g plain flour, sifted

2 eggs


For the topping

100g good-quality milk chocolate (I used Callebaut)

50g pecans (optional)


Tip: I used Poires au Chocolat’s method for caramelizing chocolate. I’ve added the basics below, but for a more in-depth explanation (including a brand taste test), have a read of her post here.

 creme patisserie ingredients

Begin by making the crème patisserie, as it needs time to chill in the fridge. Pour the milk into a medium sized saucepan and whisk in the vanilla paste before adding the chai teabags. Place over a medium heat and warm until simmering. Remove from the heat and squeeze out the teabags and discard.

making creme patissere

In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar for around 3-5 minutes until pale and creamy. Add the flour and whisk until smooth. Carefully add a splash of milk at a time and whisk until the egg mixture is smooth. Once all the milk has been added, return the custard to the saucepan and heat until boiling. Keep whisking to prevent lumps forming until the custard thickens. Pour into a small bowl and press a sheet of clingfilm directly on the crème patisserie’s surface to prevent a skin forming. Cool to room temperature then place in the fridge to cool completely.

Choux pastry ingredients

Preheat an oven to 200oc/180oc fan/gas mark 4 and line a large baking sheet with baking parchment. Heat the water, salt, sugar and butter in a saucepan until boiling then add all the flour at once. Stir to a thick paste then take off the heat and leave to cool for 2-3 minutes.

Making choux pastry

Add one egg and whisk into the paste – it will look lumpy and porridge-like but persist, it will come together. Once smooth, add the second egg and whisk until a shiny dough is formed. Scoop the dough into a piping bag (I like the plastic disposable ones) and cut a hole around 1cm wide. Pipe 8 fat lines around 8-10cm long onto the parchment spaced well apart then place in the oven for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, wedge the door open with a wooden spoon and continue cooking for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and pierce a hole either end of each bun to release the steam. Leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

Caramelizing Milk Chocolate Picture

Preheat the oven to 120oc/100oc fan/Gas mark 1. Place the chocolate on a clean baking sheet (broken into pieces if you are using a bar) and place in the oven. You will be cooking the chocolate for a total of 65 minutes, removing and stirring after the first five minutes, then every ten minutes. It easier if you write down the timings and cross them off as you take the chocolate out of the oven, stir then return it. After the chocolate has caramelized, scrape into a bowl for assembly.

filling eclair buns with creme patissere

To assemble the éclairs, slice the choux buns lengthways and either slice right through or leave a little hinge. Scoop the cooled crème patisserie into a piping bag and snip off the end, piping inside the éclairs in a zig zag pattern. If using the pecans, gently heat in a saucepan until fragrant and chop. Spread spoonfuls of the caramelized milk chocolate across the top of each éclair and decorate with the chopped nuts if using. Éclairs will keep in the fridge for around 1-2 days, but are best eaten as soon as possible.

Close up of caramelized milk chocolate and chai eclairs