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Sour Orange and Spice Almond Gluten Free Cake

A couple of weeks ago a bought a net filled with bright orange satsumas. Perfect little squashed ovals of sunny delight, bursting with sweet flavour that could be devoured at my desk as part of my resolution to quit my love affair with the office vending machine.

But instead of the sweet fruit I had devoured by the bucketload before the New Year, this bundle was lip-puckeringly sour – the type of sour that builds over the bridge of your nose and spreads across your face like a wave of heat. I would turn red with every slice, the skin impossible to separate from the pith, sending peals of juice squirting over my desk with every attempt. I wanted to throw the lot away but I just couldn’t resign these satsumas to the bin, no matter how awful they were. So I made a cake.

Sour Orange and Spice Almond Gluten Free Cake

It may seem like an odd start to a recipe – boiling the sourest oranges imaginable with a pinch of cloves before blending into a paste, but it’s rather therapeutic. Filling my kitchen with the sweet scents of orange and clove, it was like Christmas-but not quite had re-arrived in my flat. Blended into a chunky paste and mixed with the gluten-free fanatic’s favourite almonds, those sour-as-hell satsumas were transformed into the softest, pillowy sponge – sticky from the fruit but balanced by the nuts. Sweet spice lifts each slice with warmth without the hot flush the fruit on its own would bring. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – baking is just like magic.

 

Adapted slightly from Nigella Lawson

 

You Will Need

3 satsumas or clementines, sour if they need using up

4-5 cloves

250g ground almonds

225g caster sugar

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp mixed sweet spice (I used a pumpkin pie spice)

1 tsp baking powder

A few pinches grated nutmeg

6 eggs

2 handfuls blanched almonds


Place the oranges in a heavy bottomed pot with the cloves, cover with water and bring to the boil, leaving to simmer on the hob for two hours. Meanwhile, blitz the ground almonds, sugar, sweet spices and baking powder together in a food processor to make the mix super fine and to remove lumps.

boiling sour oranges

Once the fruit has been cooking for two hours and is soft, drain the fruit and leave to cool. Cut into pieces and remove the pips then blend in the food processor to a paste. You can keep some chunks for texture or blend until like fine marmalade – the choice is yours.

six eggs cracked into a bowl

Preheat an oven to 190oc/170oc fan and grease and line a 7 x 7 cake tin. In the bowl of a stand mixer – or a large bowl if mixing by hand – whisk the eggs until starting to foam, then beat in the almond and sugar mix. Tip in the orange paste and beat before pouring the batter into the cake tin, levelling with a spatula and dotting with the almonds.

Sour Orange and Spice Almond Gluten Free Cake

Place in the oven to bake for 1 hour. The cake will start to brown quite quickly, so cover with tin foil after around 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool in the tin for 10 minutes before removing the baking parchment and cooling the cake completely on a wire rack. Cut into 9 squares and serve, ideally with some crème fraiche or natural yoghurt.

Sour Orange and Spice Almond Gluten Free Cake

Double Chocolate and Raspberry Vanilla CupcakesWhere do you stand in the great Valentine’s Day war? Are you an advocate, bursting with excitement for a meal at a fancy restaurant or  thrilled at the thought of your loved one opening the card you lovingly pick out for them in Paperchase? Perhaps you are a hater, preparing for an epic night of horror movies and popcorn, hibernating from the pink hearts and overpriced chocolates or maybe you’re hitting the town with your mates – it is a Friday after all. Wherever your heart lies on February 14, I think we can all agree on one thing – we love cake.

I have a funny little relationship with cupcakes. Everyone seems to adore them, all pretty and precise with perfectly piped buttercream. But they are kind of awkward to eat – I normally end up with frosting on my nose. If it were my choice I would happily accept a slice of cake any day, but as I made these cupcakes for one of my many Valentine’s (lol) for her flatwarming, I thought I would indulge her love for all things pretty in pink. Don’t say I’m not good to you Nicola.

Double Chocolate and Raspberry Vanilla Cupcakes

You might be surprised to know this post falls under my Frugal February project, in which I use up baking odds and ends in a bid to reduce waste in my household. In this recipe, it’s the double chocolate ganache that has been given a second coming after I froze the leftovers from frosting a ‘Sorry You’re Leaving’ cake a few weeks ago. Rather than throw the surplus away, I scooped it up and placed in a freezer bag, smoothing out all the air and freezing. So simple and yet so convienient for frosting a batch of fragrant vanilla cupcakes – simply defrost overnight in a bowl. See, cupcake making isn’t all perfect piping – it can be really easy.

These cupcakes are so utterly romantic that they would make the perfect gift for your sweet toothed sweetheart this Valentine’s. The milk chocolate just takes the edge off the bitterness of the dark ganache and the sweet nubs of raspberry give little bursts of colour and flavour – like little edible rose petals. And of course, with a great hunk of vanilla sponge underneath, these cupcakes are enough to slay even the most hardcore Valentine’s hater. And even if you don’t have a Valentine, make them anyway and enjoy them with the friends you hold dearest before you paint the town loveheart red. Make cake and don’t declare war on Valentine’s just yet.

Cupcake close up

 

Cupcake recipe from Red Magazine

 

You Will Need

For the cupcakes

175g unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature

175g caster sugar

175g self raising flour

3 eggs

½ tsp vanilla paste

½ tsp baking powder

 

To finish

300g leftover ganache from this recipe, having used ½ 70% dark chocolate and ½ good quality milk chocolate

2 tbsp freeze dried raspberry pieces

Tip: If using frozen ganache, unwrap and place in a bowl covered with clingfilm and leave to defrost overnight.


Preheat the oven to 180oc/160oc fan and line a muffin tin with 12 cases. Place all of the cupcake ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer (or if using a hand held mixer, a large bowl) then beat together until smooth – about five minutes. Divide equally between the 12 cases and bake in the oven for 20 minutes until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool slightly in the tin then remove each cupcake and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

Double Chocolate Ganache

Place the now defrosted but cold ganache in a heatproof bowl and place over a pan of barely simmering water. This will help to bring back the shine of the ganache as it will have gone matte in the cold. Warm through until the bottom begins to melt then remove from the heat and whisk vigorously until you have a smooth and shiny ganache. Leave to cool for around 10 minutes.

How to frost cupcakes with ganache

To frost your cupcakes, take a spoonful of ganache and blob it onto the top of a cupcake. Using the back of the spoon, smooth the ganache right to the edges of the case. To finish, use the back of the spoon to firmly swoop around the cupcake, twisting as you go to create a rustic swirl. Sprinkle with the frozen raspberry pieces and then serve to the one you love.

Valentine's Cupcakes

Bourbon and Apple Spiked Mince Pies

Tradition is a beautiful thing, especially at Christmas time. We swap bouquets of flowers for bursting bundles of festive red poinsettias, potted and perfect for thrusting into the arms of our loved ones when we arrive home in time for December 25. We drink fizzy wine before noon, because everyone is jolly and a good drink bursting with bubbles just adds to the specialness of this time of year. We all eat like gannets, cheering plates of turkey to the table with applause, dousing puddings and dumplings in brandy and setting it all aflame like it’s the most natural thing in the world. Finding money in your dessert is considered good luck, as is scratching the initials of your beloved on a sprig of holly and placing it under your pillow on Christmas Eve. You make the effort to take yourself off to church even if it is only a once-yearly tradition and well up at the true meaning of Christmas during the final few minutes of every festive film on television. Ah, that most wonderful time of year, in all its tinselled, sweet smelling, snow laden glory.

As much as I do love all the elements of a traditional Christmas, or at least my family’s version of it, I do like to switch it all up now and again. Putting up a Christmas tree isn’t a family occasion anymore now that me and my sister have moved, but getting my own tree with my flatmate felt like a wonderful compromise. Without decades of collected baubles, tinsel and decorations, it’s a sparse little thing but it makes me smile so much when I come in from the cold. Plus it’s the real deal, which you don’t get from my parent’s tree which gets fluffed up each year from colour coded bin bags.

christmas tree

And similarly, my little home isn’t perfumed with treacle and sugar the way it is when my mam makes clootie dumpling, or that sticky crumbly smell from tray upon tray of mince pies. Recreating Christmas from scratch feels daunting but it’s also an opportunity for creativity, which is why I wanted to share my mince pie recipe – with a twist of course.

My tipple of choice at the moment is bourbon; like whisky’s sweeter younger sister, its beautiful poured over ice with a squeeze of lemon, stirred into a comforting hot toddy or – as the barmen at The Tippling House will attest – in an Old Fashioned. I wanted to bring that sweetness to the classic mince pie, but with a busy job and Christmas shopping to complete, a full-blown homemade mincemeat was too much to tackle. But spiking a pre-made jar with apple, lemon and a good shot of bourbon? That’s my kind of baking.

unbaked mince pies

Putting your own stamp on mincemeat is a great way to save yourself time but more importantly, it gives you that all important chance to get creative and start your own traditions. The coarsely grated apple gives these mince pies extra bite while the lemon just lifts the flavour slightly. But that beautiful bourbon makes each bite sticky and unctuous – the filling seeping out the sides almost like caramel makes these crumbly mince pies hard to resist. For extra time saving, whizz up the pastry in a food processor but it’s not a necessary step. What is necessary is that you make merry this time of year in the traditional way – your way.

 

Adapted from Nigel Slater’s Perfect Mince Pie Recipe

 

You Will Need

150g cold unsalted butter, cubed

300g plain flour

1 egg yolk (save the white for marshmallows!)

2-3 tbsp water

1 jar mincemeat

1 small apple, coarsely grated – I used braeburn

2-3 tbsp bourbon

Zest of 1 lemon

Icing sugar to finish

perfect mince pie pastry

If using a food processor, place the butter and flour in the bowl and then pulse to a breadcrumb consistency. Add the egg yolk and pulse again before adding two tablespoons of the water and mixing again. If it looks too dry then add another until you have a smooth dough.

If making by hand, rub the butter and flour between your fingers to the breadcrumb stage then whisk in the egg yolk and water and bring together to a smooth dough with your hands.

processor made pastry

Turn the pastry out onto a floured surface and knead briefly until it comes together then cut in half and reserve one half for the tops of the mince pies. Preheat the oven at this point – 200oc or 180oc for a fan oven. Also look out your tin – I used a fairy cake tin which is fairly shallow, but for deep filled pies use a muffin tin – although you will make a smaller amount of pies if you do this.

mince pie pastry

Dust a rolling pin with flour and roll out one half as thin as possible – I went for around the thickness of a 50p. This dough is quite mallable so you can get away with it easier. Cut 12 circles using a cutter slightly bigger than your tartlet holes, re-using the scraps as you go. Press each circle into the tartlet holes, prick with a fork then place the tray in the fridge to avoid the pastry shrinking while you prepare the filling.

spiked mincemeat

Scoop the jar of mincemeat into a large bowl and stir in the grated apple, bourbon and lemon. Remove the tray from the fridge and place teaspoons of the mincemeat in each pastry case. Roll out the second half of the pastry and cut stars for the tops, pressing firmly on top of each pie.

filling mince pies

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes then remove and wait for the mincemeat to stop bubbling before scooping each pie out using a teaspoon and leaving to cool on a wire rack. You will have pastry and mincemeat left over at this point, so repeat the steps until it is all used up – I managed a further seven mince pies. Dust the mince pies liberally with icing sugar and serve warm.

mince pies

Salted Caramel, Golden Pecan and Chocolate Celebration Cake

I am a glutton for punishment. After swearing off cake rods, foil covered boards and palette knives after making my parents’ silver wedding anniversary cake in June, my little sister began creeping towards her 21st and another cake challenge appeared on the baking horizon. My Mam was sneaky about it – there was some flattery involved during a mid September phone call – and I dutifully send in my request for another day’s baking holiday, rolled up my sleeves and order a hell of a lot of sugar from Tesco. Two tier cake part two: this time, it’s personal.

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t requested to make a two tier cake but I do so love to push myself and so I sat one evening with a chilled glass of wine searching through my cook book library to find something to spark a fire within my cake baking soul. I don’t think it took me long before I had an idea sketched out on my ruled pad – an affair of salted caramel, dark chocolate and toasted pecans. A pure autumnal heaven.

Salted Caramel, Golden Pecan and Chocolate Celebration Cake side view

I must say I only came across two or three major challenges whilst making this cake; I had learned my lesson in preparedness which I will share as part of this recipe, so for the most part my haphazardness wasn’t the issue. I had also learned that two different cake batters will take up valuable time, so I set about my calculator to do some bizarre maths to concoct one huge recipe that challenged my Kmix on more than one occassion. Don’t ask me how I did it – I’ve already forgotten – but my usual tactic is to use the amount of eggs as a starting point and divide and multiply from there. But my main issue was the Italian meringue frosting, and although so beautiful and fluffy, this concoction caused many a tear during construction. Luckily I worked out a few solutions should you come across the same problem.

preparing to bake a two tier cake

Should you wish to tackle this cake, I’ve structured this post slightly differently than I usually do to show you parts that can be made ahead of time, where you should leave plenty time and to illustrate the lessons I learned along the way. I hope you enjoy it.

All  recipes are inspired by Edd Kimber’s incredible debut book The Boy Who Bakes, but with a heavy amount of quantity adaptation and my stupidly ambitious imagination.

 

Two days before

For the toasted pecans

100-150g pecan halves (I did this by sight so it isn’t an exact science)

A can of gold lustre spray (I love the Dr Oetker ones)

 

Preheat an oven to 150oc/130oc fan and line a baking tray with parchment. Spread the nuts evenly in one layer on the tray and bake for around 5 minutes, keeping a close eye on them as they will burn easily. When the nuts smell fragrant and toasty, remove from the oven and leave to cool. Shake the lustre dust can and spray evenly from around 15cm away – if you can do this outside all the better as it can make the worktop sparkly. Leave to dry then turn each nut over and spray again. Once dry, store in an airtight container – these will last pretty well, I’d say around a week.

 

For the salted caramel

300g granulated sugar

250ml double cream

20g butter

2 generous pinches of flaked sea salt

Pour the sugar into a pan and place over a medium heat. Slowly melt the sugar until it is liquid but don’t stir – swirl the pan if you need to. Keep an eye on the caramel once melted, as it beings to boil it will change colour and become golden, at which point remove from the heat and pour in half the cream – be careful it will bubble up. Stir then add the butter and remaining cream and place back on the heat to melt down any lumps. Add the salt then pour into a heatproof container – a jug is best for pouring. Cool to room temperature then cover with clingfilm and chill in the fridge. Salted caramel will last for about a week in the fridge.

I used three 20cm sandwich tins and two 15cm tall tins with removable bases for this cake, so if you want to be even more prepared, cut out your linings beforehand – this will save you time the next day.

cocoa powder

One day before

Your next step is to get all those cakes baked, so grease and line each tin using your prepared paper from the night before. I would also suggest individually weighing out everything before you begin baking – it may seem an arduous task but I’ve adopted it since I started my blog and find it helps me gather my thoughts and ensure I have everything ready to go. Plus once you’ve done all your weighing you can play this tune as you bake. It’s what I did.

 

This is my favourite chocolate cake recipe – it is fudgy but not too dense and carries a variety of flavours with ease. At some point I’d love to swap the boiled water for freshly brewed coffee – I think it would make for an excellent combination.

 

For the 3 x 20cm and 2 x 15cm chocolate fudge cakes

165g good quality dark chocolate (I used 71%)

165g unsalted butter, softened

420ml boiling water

420g plain flour

210ml buttermilk

4 ½ tbsp cocoa powder (I used Green and Blacks)

3 tsp bicarbonate of soda

510g soft brown sugar

1-2 tsp vanilla paste

4 ½ beaten eggs

Tip: I know the above sounds weird but it’s what my mathematical mind could come up with. To measure half an egg, weigh a beaten egg and divide by two – mine was 50g so I used 25g. Use one half in this recipe and use the other for scrambled eggs or a wash for scones.

how to half an egg

The recipe is the same as my Ultimate Chocolate Cake so follow the link for the method, making sure to divide the batter between the three sandwich tins and adding a little more to each of the smaller tins to give the top tier a little height. The 20cm cakes should be baked first for 20 to 25 minutes then bake the 15cm cakes – they will only need about 15 to 20 minutes so keep an eye on them but don’t open the oven door until halfway through baking.

Once the cakes have cooled the final task is to make the salted caramel frosting.

 

For the salted caramel italian meringue buttercream

400g granulated sugar

255ml water

8 egg whites

720g unsalted butter, softened and cut into small pieces

3-4 scoops of salted caramel

Place the sugar and water in a sauce pan over a medium heat and bring to the boil. Place the egg whites in the bowl of stand mixer fixed with the whisk attachment and begin to whip on medium. Place a sugar or digital thermometer in the sugar syrup and once the mixture reaches 115oc turn up the speed on the meringue to high. Once the syrup has reached 121oc, carefully pour down the side of the bowl with the whisk still running. Once the meringue has cooled to room temperature, add in the butter piece by piece until marshmallowy and smooth. Add the caramel and whisk again, tasting and adding more if required.

To assemble the cakes, dab a 20cm cake board with a little buttercream then place one of the larger cakes on the bottom. Spread over a good dollop of buttercream and drizzle with a little salted caramel (you may need to reheat slightly to get an even drizzle) and top with another cake. Repeat the steps with the final cake then give it a good crumb coating with a palette knife. Leave somewhere coolish to firm up slightly then repeat with the smaller cakes, assembling on a slice of parchment as it will need to be lifted off and placed on the bigger cake the next day. I sliced both 15cm cakes into two for a four layer effect.

Now, I would highly recommend finishing the frosting after an hour of letting the cakes rest as this will allow them to firm up and be much easier to handle during assembly on the day. The reason being Italian meringue butter cream will harden in the fridge and become a pain to work with. However it is salvageable but again, owing to experience I would advise you not to go down this route.

Confections of a Foodie Bride has a great guide on fixing Swiss meringue buttercream which is in essence a similar idea and mine unfortunately went down the cottage cheese route. The melt-and-mix method did work but it was too thick for spreading on my cakes and wouldn’t stick. I discovered that placing small amounts in the microwave to melt for 10 seconds with a vigorous stir did the trick and became marshmallowy once again.

Salted Caramel, Golden Pecan and Chocolate Celebration Cake low angle

On the day

To assemble your cake, place the bottom tier on a cake stand and stick three cake rods in the centre measured to sit about an inch flush of the top. Carefully place the top tier on top of the rods in the middle of the cake the best you can and push down gently. If it’s a bit wonky, no matter – make the side with the biggest space the front. Touch up as necessary with some more buttercream then heat the remaining salted caramel until a good pouring consistency. Using a jug or even better a chef’s squeezy bottle, run the caramel around the circumference of the top and bottom tiers, allowing it to drip down the sides. Chop half your golden pecans and scatter on top of the caramel, nestling the whole pecans in amongst the smaller pieces.

cutting the cake

I know this is a scarily large post, but I felt it important to address each issue as I faced it and to give a realistic timeline for creating this cake. But it is so worth the effort and made the birthday girl really smile. I’d advise picking up some tall spindly candles to really finish it off and give the cake extra height – and that final extravagant birthday flourish. Happy baking! *collapses*

blowing out the candles

Winter Spiced Plum Galette

Britain has a love affair with pies. They are the stalwarts of summer picnics; fat little pork and jelly parcels bundled up with hot water pastry and slice-me-up shortcrust filled with ham, beaten eggs and cheese. Then there is the autumnal arrival of those tart Bramley apples that upon baking become fluffy and sweet, caged up in precise latticework and served with Birds Eye custard, the jolly yellow colour that reminds us that we can never be bothered to make it from scratch. Then there is winter, with unctuous mincemeat dripping with suet, currants and booze that is spooned into the family sweet pastry recipe and served up from the middle of November. Yes, we love a good pie.

Upon thinking, it seems there isn’t much room for haphazardness with Great Britain’s love of pie; each recipe is carefully constructed and moulded to produce the same product time and time again. Ok, perhaps some families top their mince pies with stars, others a smooth disc of shortcrust, but they are all the same. Could they be a bit…boring?

folded unbaked galette

I think that is why I like galettes so much. They are a free form pie, a kind of ‘I fancy pie but don’t want the faff of lining a tin, blind baking and measuring lattice strips with a tape measure’ type pie. This recipe is actually a leftover one, using the cinnamon pastry from my Cranberry and Clementine Christmas Pies. Since that was taken care of, all the effort went into dressing some ripe plums in brown sugar and spices before being baked into a beautiful festive pie. Because there is barely any effort involved in this recipe it might be a nice one to serve on Christmas Eve using mince pie pastry off cuts. Bear in mind this pie would probably only serve two, so if you want to feed a crowd, use a full quantity of cinnamon pastry and double the filling, perhaps baking for around 5 to 10 minutes longer. Either way it gives a stunning result and is the perfect antidote to perfect pies everywhere. Fancy a slice?

 

You Will Need

1 quantity of leftover cinnamon pastry from *this recipe*

3 ripe plums

¼ tsp ground cinnamon, plus extra to finish

¼ tsp ground ginger

A few pinches of nutmeg

A few twists of cracked black pepper

1 tbsp soft light brown sugar, plus extra to finish

1 tbsp plain flour

1 egg, beaten

Spiced plums and sugar

Preheat an oven to 200oc/ 180oc fan and line a large baking sheet with baking parchment. Remove the pastry from the fridge and leave to come to room temperature slightly.

Slice the plums into eighths and place in a medium sized bowl. Sprinkle over the spices and sugar and stir to combine. Sprinkle over the flour then combine again. Set aside.

Flour a clean work surface then carefully roll the pastry to a rough circle that is around the size of a 20cm sandwich tin. Don’t worry if the edges are jagged, a rustic looking galette is quite nice. Roll to around 5mm thickness then carefully transfer to the baking sheet. Don’t worry if a piece breaks off, just press it back on and roll with a rolling pin to bring back together.

Cover in Sugar

Pile the spiced fruit in the middle of the pastry then fold up the sides. The best way to do this is to fold up one piece then move clockwise overlapping slightly and pinching a little. Brush the pastry with the beaten egg and sprinkle over a little cinnamon and brown sugar to finish. Bake in the oven for around 20-25 minutes until the pastry is golden and the fruit jammy. Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly before serving warm. A dollop of vanilla ice cream adds the perfect cooling texture.

Serve with Ice Cream

Clementine and Cranberry Christmas Pies

For me, Christmas begins on December 1. That first foil window on an advent calendar burst open with a pop of a fingernail, the chocolate consumed with a mouthful of coffee. Later that day my annual Muppets Christmas Carol screening takes place, usually accompanied by sweeties, blankets and cosy jim jams. I love this little tradition, it’s quite personal and solitary away from the other festivities that are all about being with as many people as possible. Sometimes it’s just nice to sit and absorb the Christmas spirit on your own.

But this year I’ve started early. It might be the frost glittering on the pavement on my way to work, the way my hands ache under hot water after a spell in the cold. Drinking more coffee and huddling my hands around the cup as soon as I arrive in the office. It’s those little things that signify that winter is coming.

Now that I have flown the nest, I don’t get those wonderful Christmassy smells in my kitchen the way I used to at home. Mam’s beautifully flaky mince pies baked on some random evening in December, accompanied by clouds of icing sugar and a few sneaky fingerfulls of dough. The once a year clootie dumpling evokes more of a sound than smell memory, the way the plate rattles at the bottom of the pan as it steams for hours. The sickly sweet air of tin upon tin of Quality Street, little baked party food canapés and a good dollop of sticky sweet chilli sauce in a ramekin to accompany it. And that’s before you even get to the turkey.

I hope these little Christmassy pies make it into my own festive traditions. I wanted to make something without mincemeat, as I have a few vegetarian friends who aren’t able to eat the store-bought jars as they largely contain suet. As I don’t have the inclination to make jar upon jar of animal-friendly mincemeat, I looked to the classic flavours of cranberry and clementine to spike these pies with a little festive fragrance. Having soaked up the juice of the fruit, the dried cranberries take on a mulled wine flavour that works perfectly with the pillow soft frangipane topping. Dusted with sugar, no-one will know the difference between the classic and the contemporary. I think this year’s Christmas Carol viewing will be accompanied by a warm plate of these pies.

Tip: The pastry and frangipane recipes below will make more than you require. If you want to make more than 12 pies just soak a few more cranberries, otherwise freeze the leftover frangipane for another recipe and refrigerate the pastry scraps – I have a recipe coming soon for using up the leftovers.

You Will Need

For the Cinnamon Pastry

250g plain flour

25g icing sugar

¼ ground cinnamon

125g cold unsalted butter, cubed

1 egg, beaten

 

For the Clementine Soaked Cranberries

2 clementines

80g dried cranberries

2 cloves

 

For the Frangipane

150g unsalted butter, at room temperature

150g caster sugar

150g ground almonds

2 eggs

40g plain flour

 

To finish

Flaked almonds

Icing sugar

Cinnamon pastry ingredients

To make the pastry, sift together the flour, icing sugar and cinnamon into a large bowl then rub in the butter carefully. Make sure you have cold hands to prevent the butter melting. Once the mix resembles breadcrumbs, add ½ to ¾ of the beaten egg to the mix and stir together with a round bladed knife before bringing together with your hands to form a pastry ball. The shortcrust needs to hold together but not be too wet. Wrap tightly in clingfilm and press down to form a flat disc then refrigerate for 30 minutes. Do not throw the remaining egg away.

Meanwhile, zest the two clementines and set aside – this will be used to flavour the frangipane. Place the cranberries in a bowl and squeeze over the juice from the clementines and stir through the cloves. Leave to macerate for as long as possible.

Clementine Frangipane

Dust a clean work surface with flour and roll out the pastry to a 5mm thickness and cut out circles using a 4-5cm round cutter. Carefully lift the pastry with a palate knife and lightly press into a greased muffin tin. Re-roll and cut from the scraps until all the muffin holes are filled. Refrigerate the tin for a further 30 minutes – this will eliminate shrinking. Gather up the pastry scraps, cover in clingfilm and either freeze or refrigerate – I have a recipe coming up that is perfect for the leftovers!

Preheat an oven to 200oc/180oc fan/Gas Mark 6. Line each pastry case with a square of baking parchment and line with baking beans before baking for 15-20 minutes until the pastry feels dry. Remove the paper and beans and bake for a further minute to dry out. Brush the pastry with the remaining egg to seal and return to the oven for a final bake for 2 minutes. Cool the pastry cases completely.

Baked Christmas Pies

To make the frangipane, beat the butter and sugar together in a stand mixer for three minutes until creamy. Add the almonds then beat in each egg one at a time. Add the flour and clementine zest and around a tablespoon of the juice from the soaked cranberries and mix again.

Divide the soaked cranberries between the cases the dollop over spoonfuls of the clementine frangipane. Sprinkle over the flaked almonds then place in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the frangipane is golden brown. Leave to cool in the tray for a few minutes before carefully removing the pies and leaving to cool on a wire rack. Dust over a little icing sugar and serve warm.

Take a bite of a Cranberry and Clementine Christmas Pie

Autumnal Breakfast Rice Pudding (Dairy Free!)

I am really excited to share this recipe with you today. Not just because its two years since my very first post, but because of the lightbulb moment that went off in my mind as I devoured this bowl of rice pudding, standing by a window dressed in flannel tartan jim jams in between large slurps of black coffee. In that moment, I felt like I had finally started to understand free from recipes.

I haven’t mentioned it much on here, but I have been cutting down on my dairy intake, specifically milk, almost to the point where I don’t have it at all. I’ve swapped my little pint of semi-skimmed for almond and coconut milk and to be honest the only place I have noticed the difference is on my waistline. A portion of oats soaked in a good glug of the stuff makes a delicious and filling breakfast and my morning smoothie has a nice nutty edge from the almonds. But I have been reluctant to try cooking with it until I had an intense craving for rice pudding last week. I hesitantly whipped up this batch on a quiet, gloomy October morning and was hit by how simple and delicious it was.  And what’s more, I didn’t even notice it was made with coconut milk.

pumpkin spice rice pudding

I wanted to bring a comforting warmth to this pudding and the use of my favourite pumpkin pie spice filled my kitchen with the sweet and spicy notes of cloves, cinnamon and cardamom. The brown sugar dissolves into a beautiful caramel flavour that works well with just the tiniest amount of vanilla paste. Topped with my current obsession of toasted pecans and a good drizzle of maple syrup, this is the only way to truly kick start your day. What’s more, this recipe makes the perfect single portion. Sorry, I am not sharing mine…

 

You Will Need

70g arborio rice

260ml coconut milk (I use this one) + a little extra if required

1 packed tbsp soft light brown sugar

¼ tsp pumpkin pie spice mix

Dot of vanilla paste (optional)

 

To serve

2 pecans, toasted and chopped

Maple syrup for drizzling

 

Note: Naturally gluten free, risotto rice also makes this breakfast dessert hybrid completely free from however do check the packaging in case it has been processed in a factory handling gluten products, especially if you are medically gluten sensitive.

Four ingredients for autumnal rice pudding

In a heavy bottomed pan, whisk together the coconut milk, brown sugar, spice mix and vanilla if using. Stir through the risotto rice and place over a medium heat until bubbling, stirring occasionally.

making rice pudding in a le creuset

Turn down to low and cover, cooking for 20-25 minutes and stirring occasionally until the rice is soft. You may need a little more coconut milk to loosen the pudding slightly – just stir in to desired consistency then remove from the heat.

Spoon the rice pudding into a bowl and top with toasted pecans and a generous drizzle of maple syrup.

autumnal breakfast rice pudding

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

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

bluberry and lime polenta cake

I’m not really sure I could handle a gluten free diet. Don’t get me wrong, I have massive respect for those who opt out of bacon sandwiches with thick, springy bread or a huge plate of macaroni cheese – either by choice or for health reasons. But I am a girl who eats two slices of toast for breakfast and eats a disgusting amount of aforementioned cheesy pasta dish for my tea. No flour? No thanks.

However this week, Kathryn from London Bakes served up this delicious balsamic strawberry polenta cake and I was in GF heaven. Those juicy plump strawberries, bursting with juice married with lemon had me at hello. In the post, Kathryn added that this cake was gluten free in an almost throw-away manner, like it didn’t really matter at all. And you know what? I totally agree.

I have never baked or even cooked with polenta before; it always conjures up images of fat packets lining the shelves in the supermarkets when we are on holiday. I haven’t really seen it in the depths of Aberdeen supermarkets until I went looking for it and even then it was nestled with the Indian foods rather than the Italian as I had expected. Still, this mustardy yellow cornmeal sure packs a punch in this delicious summertime cake.

bluberry and lime polenta cake

I decided to make two thirds of the original recipe for two reasons – one, I didn’t think I had enough ground almonds and two, I was worried the batter would be too much for my measly sandwich tin.  I was right on both accounts but if you are well endowed on the almond front and have a deep 20cm cake tin then go ahead for the full hog. But this scaled down version still feeds an army for the perfect pudding.

I also switched the strawberries and lemon for blueberries and lime, as I love the zingy combination. The blueberries were starting to turn anyway and burst beautifully into jammy pools of sticky dark purple. The lime brightens this cake up and with a cooling dollop of plain yogurt (I don’t see the point in buying crème fraiche for one spoonful) I would wholeheartedly jump ship to the gluten free side. But can I keep my macaroni?

 

Adapted from London Bakes

 

You Will Need

150g unsalted butter, cubed at room temperature

150g caster sugar

150g ground almonds

2 eggs

2 limes, zested with the juice of ½

1’/2 tsp vanilla paste

½ tsp baking powder

70g polenta

150g blueberries

blueberry and lime polenta cake

Preheat an oven to 170/150oc fan/gas mark 3. Grease and line a 20cm sandwich tin and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer  – or a large bowl if using a handheld whisk – beat together the butter and sugar until smooth and creamy. Beat in the almonds until fully incorporated, scraping the bowl to ensure the batter is mixed through. Beat in the eggs one at a time until fully combined.

bluberry and lime polenta cake

Add the lime zest and juice of ½ of one of the limes along with the vanilla paste, baking powder and polenta and stir to combine. Carefully fold in a small handful of the blueberries through the mix.

bluberry and lime polenta cake

Dollop the batter into the cake tin and smooth with a spatula. Dot the remaining blueberries across the top of the cake, pressing in some as you go then place in the oven for 45 minutes until golden.

bluberry and lime polenta cake

Cool in the tin for 10 minutes then carefully place a wire rack over the top and invert. Remove the baking parchment and leave to cool completely. When ready to serve, place a plate on the bottom of the cake and upturn so the berries are on the top. Cut into wedges and serve with plain yoghurt or creme fraiche.

bluberry and lime polenta cake

Thank you very much to any readers who nominated me for the Cosmo Blog Awards 2013 – i didn’t make the cut this year, but the lovely Lottie’s Little Kitchen did! If you want to vote for your favourite foodie, click here!