Puddings and Cakes

Little Sticky Toffee Puddings with Naughty, Decadent Sauce

Soooooo gorgeous, sooooo yummy, soooooo bad for you! Well, in reality I guess the puddings aren’t that bad but the sauce!!!! Simply melt together butter, cream and sugar – that says it all. Oh, and there’s also the ice cream that we like to serve them with – that’s not healthy either, but what a heavenly combination. Like many desserts, it is after all the naughty element that tempts us, making them an absolute treat. These are a real winter favourite in our house. Give them a go, and they will be in your house too!

What you need…

8 x 175g metal pudding basins, thoroughly buttered and with a little round of greaseproof paper in the bottom.

1 x baking tray

175g stoned, chopped dates

175ml boiling water

½ teaspoon vanilla essence

2 teaspoons coffee essence (I use Camp)

¾ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

75g butter, at room temperature

150g caster sugar

2 large eggs, beaten

175g self-raising flour, sifted

for the naughty sauce

175g soft brown sugar

110g butter

6 tablespoons double cream

What to do…

Pre-heat the oven to 180c / 350 °f / gas 4.

Begin by putting the chopped dates in a bowl and pouring the 175ml boiling water over them. Add the vanilla, coffee essence and bicarbonate of soda and leave on one side. Next, in a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric hand whisk until the mixture is pale, light and fluffy.

Gradually add the beaten egg, a little at a time, beating well after each addition. After that, carefully and lightly fold in the sifted flour, using a metal spoon. Then, fold in the date mixture, including the liquid.

Right now, it’ll look really sloppy – that’s fine: it’s supposed to. Divide the mixture equally between the eight pudding basins. Place on a baking tray and pop in the oven for 25 minutes.

When cooked, leave to cool for five minutes. Slide a small palette knife around each pudding and turn it out. If they’ve risen too much, you may need to lop off the tops so that they will sit evenly on the plate when you turn them (which means you get to sample the sponge – yipppeee: chef’s privileges.

Place the puddings into a shallow baking tray.

Next, make the sauce by tipping all the ingredients into a saucepan and very gently heating them until the sugar has completely dissolved.

To serve, pre-heat the grill to a medium-high setting and pour the sauce over the wee puddings. Place under grill so the tops of the puddings are about 13cm from the heat and let them warm through for five minutes (keep an eye on them: different grills pump out different heats and you don’t want them to burn). The tops should go slightly crunchy and the sauce will be hot and bubbling

Serve your little sticky toffee puddings with naughty, decadent sauce either with double cream or salted caramel ice-cream (recipe to follow later this week). Simply, to die for!

Serving suggestion…

We were given a bottle of Monbazillac, Chateau Peyronnette, 2014, by my cousin’s hubby-to-be, Matt, when they stayed in the run up to Christmas. When I tried this wine with the sticky toffee puddings, it took them from being ‘sodding incredible’ (with the ice cream) to ‘wow! Just wow!’ with the wine!!! Just fabulous!!! One of those experiences without which life just isn’t complete!

Tips….

This recipe is for eight puddings. I always make eight and then freeze those not required at that time in their moulds, which just leaves you to decide how much of the naughty sauce you make – totally yummy, I can eat this by the spoonful…without the puddings! Really, very naughty but wickedly good.

So, for two people: 60g soft brown sugar, 40g butter, 3 tablespoons double cream; for four people: 120g soft brown sugar, 80g butter, 6 tablespoons double cream.

Inspired by…

My friend, Helen, who served them to us at supper one evening and of course, Delia Smith, whose fabulous and ingredient-stained ‘Christmas’ cookery book contains the original recipe, un-tinkered-with.

Baklava

When on holiday in Corfu this year, we happened upon a very traditional restaurant that was mainly frequented by locals and would have been pretty much impossible to find except via boat. We visited this fabulously authentic restaurant twice, enjoying the food as much as the sea view over a rickety wooden pontoon. At the end of each meal, we were presented with the most delicious baklava – a dessert widely recognised as the national dessert of those countries that made up the Ottoman Empire. I’ve always liked baklava but this homemade version knocked any shop-bought pretender into touch. It was the family’s grandmother whose job it was to create the dessert for the restaurant’s guests each day. I vowed there and then to do my best to replicate the gorgeousness that was that dessert and this comes pretty close. It’s easy to make but sooooooooo bad for you!!!!

Serves 8

What you need…

1 x 20 cm round baking tin, lightly buttered

6 filo pastry sheets, cut in half to create 12 squares (approx 25cm)

150g chopped nuts – walnuts, pistachios and almonds

1 teaspoon cinnamon powder

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon ground cloves

125g (!!!!!) butter, melted

for the syrup

300g sugar

200g water

40g honey

Zest of one lemon

1 cinnamon stick

What to do…

Pre-heat oven to 150°c / 300°f / gas 2

Melt the butter over a low heat, being careful not to burn it.

In the baking tin, lay one layer of filo pastry, then sprinkle melted butter over it. Repeat this process until you have used six sheets of pastry. You will have corners of pastry hanging over the baking dish – roughly fold them in and sprinkle them with butter.

In a bowl, mix together the chopped nuts, sugar, cinnamon and cloves. Sprinkle half the mixture over the filo sheets and then add five more layers of filo pastry and sprinkled butter until you have just one sheet of pastry remaining. Sprinkle the remaining nut mixture on top of the pastry layers and then top with the final pastry sheet – don’t forget to sprinkle over the butter. Again, fold in the overhanging corners and sprinkle with more butter.

Place the baklava in the fridge for 15 minutes to make it easier to cut into portions. Remove from the fridge and, using a sharp knife cut the pastry all the way down into eight portions.

Place the baklava on a low shelf in the oven and bake for 1½ hours, until the pastry is crisp and golden.

Meanwhile, prepare the syrup. Into a small saucepan, mix together all the ingredients and bring to the boil. Boil for about 2 minutes until the sugar is dissolved. Don’t stir the syrup – it can go lumpy if you do. As soon as the baklava is baked, ladle over the some of the hot syrup. Once it has been absorbed, ladle over some more and repeat this process until no more can be absorbed – there’s usually a bit left in the pan but rather too much than too little!

Let the baklava cool down and serve – to die for (literally, with all that butter and sugar!) Simply divine!

Inspired by…

A grandmother in Corfu and a lot of Internet research!

How easy…

Very easy. The outcome far outweighs any effort anyway!

 

 

 

Sumptuous Chocolate Brownies

Dark, slightly gooey, indulgent little squares of naughtiness: there’s nothing quite like a good chocolate brownie and this recipe is gorgeous, easy and quick – lovin’ it!!!

Makes 20

What you need…

250g unsalted butter

200g 70% dark chocolate

80g cocoa powder, sifted

65g plain flour, sifted

1 teaspoon baking powder

360g caster sugar

4 large free-range eggs

What to do…

Preheat your oven to 180°c / 350°f / gas 4.

Lightly butter and line a 24cm square baking tin with greaseproof/parchment paper. Roughly break up your chocolate and pop it into a large heatproof bowl together with the butter. Put the bowl over a steamer, sitting in a saucepan of simmering water. Melt the butter and chocolate, mixing until smooth.

In another bowl, thoroughly mix together the cocoa powder, flour, baking powder and sugar.

Take the melted butter and chocolate mixture off the heat and stand the bowl on a tea towel on your worktop (to prevent the bowl slipping). Add the dry ingredients to the bowl, mixing them in thoroughly.

Whisk the eggs and then tip them into the rest of the mixture, whisking them in until you have a lovely silky, glossy smooth mixture.

Pour your brownie mix into the baking tin and place in the oven for around 25 minutes. When done, your sumptuous chocolate brownies should be slightly springy on the outside but still gooey in the middle.

Allow to cool in the tin, then carefully transfer the bake to a large chopping board and cut into chunky squares. Purely for quality control reasons, now is a good time to try one – just to make sure that they are OK – and ooooooooh, yummy, reach for another…

Inspired by…

Jamie Oliver

How easy…

Dead easy!

Christmas Mincemeat Bread and Butter Pudding

 

If you have friends popping around for lunch (as I did today) close to Christmas and you’ve already over-extended yourself on the ‘to-do’ list (as I do, repeatedly), this is the perfect dessert – it’d dead easy, really lovely and very Christmassy but light. You can knock it up in a jiffy and it cooks itself whilst you’re enjoying your main course. A bonus is the scent of Christmas that wafts through the house as it’s cooking!

Serves 6

What you need…

18 x 23cm baking dish, about 5cm deep, lightly buttered

6 slices bread from a large loaf

50g softened butter

3 rounded tablespoons mincemeat

60ml milk (or Oatly if you want to cut down on dairy)

60ml double cream (or the Oatly version)

3 large eggs

75g caster sugar

1 tablespoon demerara sugar

25g candied peel, finely chopped

What to do…

Pre-heat oven to 180°c / 350° f / gas 4.

Generously butter the bread slices on one side, then spread the mincemeat over three of them and put the other three slices on top, effectively creating mincemeat sandwiches. Spread the rest of the butter across the top slice of each sandwich and cut each one into quarters to make little triangles.

Arrange the triangular sandwiches, butter side up, overlapping each other and almost standing upright in the baking dish.

Whisk the milk, cream, eggs and caster sugar together and pour the mixture over the bread, ensuring that all the bread is moistened. Scatter the candied peel over the top with demerara sugar. Pop in the oven and bake for 35 – 40 minutes until it’s puffy and golden – the Christmas smell as it’s cooking is wonderful.

Serve your Christmas mincemeat bread and butter pudding straight away, perhaps with a little double cream and a whole bunch of festive cheer!

Tip…

Try different breads, rather than just plain white – there are some lovely festive loaves in the supermarkets at the moment.

Inspired by…

Delia Smith (this is essentially my version of her Chunky Marmalade Bread and Butter Pudding but with the Marmalade replaced by mincemeat!

How easy…

It couldn’t be easier: an absolute gift during the festive season!

 

 

Anglo Italian Trifle

If one could describe a dessert as voluptuous in flavour and totally indulgent, this would be it. Amaretti and sweetend mascarpone rather than cream give this trifle an Italian twist, something which is emphasised by the Limoncello that it is laced with. Definitely naughty but difficult to say no to a second helping. This Anglo Italian Trifle is best enjoyed with a group of rowdy, hedonistic friends after a dribbly lunch or dinner or as the perfect alternative (or addition) to Christmas Pudding.

Serves 12

What you need…

1 x pretty, 2-litre glass trifle bowl

8 trifle sponges

1 jar of blackcurrant jam

100g Amaretti biscuits, plus a handful for the topping

300ml Limoncello

600g frozen fruits, defrosted: summer fruits work well

2 eggs, separated

100g caster sugar

750g mascarpone cheese

What to do…

Split the trifle sponges and make into sandwiches with the jam; then wodge them into your trifle bowl. Crush the Amaretti biscuits in your hand and sprinkle them all over the trifle sponges then pour over 180ml Limoncello.

Tip the fruit over the sponges and Amaretti, perhaps arranging the bigger attractive fruit around the edges – for presentation purposes – you’ll be able to see them through the glass.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff. Put to one side.

In a large bowl, use an electric whisk to whisk together the egg yolks and caster sugar until the mixture is thick and smooth . Still whisking, slowly add 60ml of Limoncello, creating a light, moussey mixture. Whisk in the mascarpone until everything is smoothly combined. Add the remaining Limoncello and give the mixture a final whiz with the electric whisk. Tip in the egg white and fold in with a balloon whisk – this makes the mascarpone ‘cream’ lovely and airily light.

Dollop the mascarpone ‘cream’ on top of the fruit and gently, spread it a little, creating little soft peaks.

Cover the trifle and and pop in the fridge overnight, allowing all the flavours to gather and the Limoncello to permeate the fruit, sponges and Amaretti, mingling with the fruit to create sheer yumminess.

About one hour before you want to plunge the spoon into your delectable dessert, take it out of the fridge to come to room temperature. Just before serving, crush the remaining Amaretti biscuits and scatter over the top of the trifle. (We have also decorated our with birthday candles and made it a very special birthday cake). Your Anglo Italian Trifle is now ready to be demolished! Just gorgeous!

Tips…

Change the fruit to reflect the season.

Keep tasting the mascarpone cream as you add the Limoncello – I like my trifles quite boozy – you may want a little less alcohol….or perhaps a tad more!

Inspired by…

Nigella Lawson

How easy…

Dead easy: no cooking, more of an assembly job with a bit of whisking but it looks and tastes spectacular!

Chocolate Candy Christmas Chalet

Ok, so for this one, I’m not going to list the ingredients or the process, but rather, just give you the link to the youtube video – it’s much easier to see how this lovely lady makes her chocolate candy Christmas chalet than for me to explain it. She makes it look unbelievably easy but I have to say, I did struggle rather – my first roof collapsed, I forgot to cut out a door and my window sills kept sliding down the walls. All that said, I’m sure that someone more experienced in a bit of cake decorating would find this really easy. In the end, I wasn’t too disappointed with my effort. The lovely lady on the youtube video made a Christmas house; mine is more of a rustic chocolate chalet! Anyway, it tastes great and we have a large plastic box in the fridge full of all the left over chocolate, so happy days! If you give it a go, enjoy!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmg7WRtgOlU

Scones with Strawberry Compote

I studied photography at a fabulous old mansion house called Woodley Hill House. It was run by a great team, who we all got to know really well and who helped us through the trials and tribulations of women in their 40s training in a new skill and getting overly emotional over exams. Anyway, each morning session was punctuated with tea break, for which we would all troop over from our classroom to the main house. The kitchen, in those days, was run by a lovely lady who had an absolute gift for making wonderful scones. I swore then that I would try to emulate them. This vow, coupled with the knowledge that John was legendary for making scones in his early teens, was put keenly into focus when I watched James Martin on Saturday Kitchen whip up these scones and ‘cheats jam’ in no time at all. So, this is my take on those. I can’t remember if they are as good as the college ones – probably not – they were to die for – and we’ll never know how they compare to John’s youthful offerings, but they’re pretty damned good and a cinch to make!

Makes 12 little ones (I figured they wouldn’t be so bad for the waistline if they were little!)

What you need…

5cm diametre cookie cutter

Baking sheet, lightly buttered

225g self-raising flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Pinch salt

25g caster sugar

50g unsalted butter, cut into cubes

150ml whole milk

for the strawberry compote

250g strawberries, hulled and halved

100g jam sugar

60ml water

1 heaped teaspoon arrowroot

What to do…

For the strawberry compote, pop the strawberries, sugar and water in a small saucepan and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and, using a small balloon whisk, mix in the arrowroot. Set aside to cool.

To make your scones, use a roomy bowl to sift in the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in the sugar. Add the butter and using your fingertips, quickly rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Add the milk, a little at a time, working to form a smooth dough. Let the dough rest for 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 220°c / 425°f / gas 7.

Lightly flour your work surface (I cover my surface with cling film and then flour it – this means less cleaning up at the end as I just roll up the cling film complete with all the left over pastry bits and chuck the lot in the bin – job done!)

Roll out the dough until about 2cm thick. Using your cookie cutter, cut 12 scones out of the dough – avoid twisting the cutter to loosen the dough as this could result in uneven rising – just tap the dough out instead.

Place your scones on the baking tray and dust with flour.

Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until just starting to brown.

To serve your scones with strawberry compote, split the scones, lather with clotted cream and then dribble over the compote – delish!!!

Inspired by…

James Martin

How easy…

Very easy – I was most surprised!

 

 

 

 

 

Chocolate Amaretti Cake

A scrumptious moist cake that combines the sweetness of chocolate with the texture and bite of Amaretti biscuits and almonds and then delivers a hint of orange, delighting the taste buds! It keeps for days (in the unlikely event that every last divine morsel isn’t devoured in minutes) and is a cinch to make – created this morning in just a few minutes whilst still in PJs! Give it a whirl!

Serves 8 – 12

What you need…

1 x 20cm round spring-form cake tin, lightly buttered and the base lined with parchment paper

150g 70% dark chocolate

50g Amaretti biscuits

100g ground almonds

175g caster sugar

Zest of 1 orange, finely grated

100g room temperature butter, cut into cubes

4 eggs, beaten

Icing sugar for dusting

What to do…

Preheat oven to 180°c / 350°f / gas 4.

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set in a steamer over simmering water.

Pop the Amaretti biscuits in a zip-lock food bag, seal and then crush the biscuits evenly using a rolling pin.

In a food processor, tip in the biscuits, ground almonds, caster sugar and orange zest and whizz until evenly blended. Add the butter and whizz to blend. Add the eggs gradually, processing the whole time. Then, add the melted chocolate and briefly whizz again until blended.

Tip the mixture into your cake tin and pop your chocolate Amaretti cake mixture into the oven, baking for 35 minutes or until the cake is puffed up and slightly cracked around the edges.

Remove from the oven and leave to sit for 15 minutes before carefully transferring to plate/cake stand. Dust the crisp top with icing sugar and serve, with an espresso, a glass of Disaronno liqueur or just on its own. Divine, but I might have already mentioned that!

 Inspired by…

Rachel Allen

 How easy…

Ever so!

Christmas Mincemeat and Mince Pies

Before this blog, it had never occurred to me to make either my own mincemeat or my own pastry. The latter happened for the first time last week and as for mincemeat – I am a total convert. It’s spectacularly simple and fills the house with festive fragrance as it gently cooks in the oven. I did struggle with the pastry (too short apparently, according to John – the pastry, not me!) but wow! I can honestly say that these mince pies are the best I’ve ever tasted – it’s not my cooking, but the fantastic recipes!

for the mincemeat

Makes 2.75kg (6 – 7 jars, I used a collection of different sized jam jars!)

What you need…

450g cooking apples, cored, left unpeeled and chopped small

225g suet

350g raisins

225g sultanas

225g currants

150g cranberries

225g candied peel, finely chopped

350g soft dark brown sugar

Grated zest and juice of 2 oranges

Grated zest and juice of 2 lemons

50g flaked almonds

4 teaspoons ground mixed spice

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

6 tablespoons brandy/cognac

for the sweet shortcrust pastry (makes about 12 mince pies)

1 x 12-hole tartlet tin, lightly buttered

125g unsalted butter

65g icing sugar

1 egg yolk

250g plain flour

1 – 2 teaspoons water

for the finish

1 egg, lightly beaten

icing sugar to dust

What to do to make the mincemeat…

The evening before you want to cook the mincemeat, combine everything, except the brandy/cognac, in a large casserole, stirring the ingredients in as you add them to make sure that they are thoroughly mixed. Pop the lid on and leave in a cool place overnight to allow the flavours to gather.

The following morning, preheat the oven to 120°c / 225°f / gas ¼.

Pop the casserole, with its lid on, into the oven and cook for 3 hours.

Remove from the oven and over the next few hours, whilst it is cooling, give it a little stir every now and then to make sure that the now melted suet is evenly distributed and coating the other ingredients, rather than being separate.

When it’s cold, stir in the brandy and spoon into clean jars with lids/seals. Keep your Christmas mincemeat in a cool, dark cupboard until you are ready to make your mince pies.

What to do to make your mince pies…

Mix together the butter and icing sugar until they are completely blended. Add the egg yolk and then the flour. Kneed until you have a smooth dough. If you’re struggling to get it to stick together, add a little water and continue to knead. Leave to rest for at least 1 hour before using.

Preheat the oven to 190°c / 375 °f / gas 5.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry to a little less than 5mm thick. Using a cookie cutter, cut out 12 rounds slightly larger than the tartlet moulds for the pie bottoms and gently push them in. Fill them with mincemeat. Using a cookie cutter 2 sizes smaller than the first, cut another 12 rounds for the lids. Brush a little beaten egg around the edges of the lids and stick them to the top of the mince pies. Brush with little more egg and then, using a sharp knife, cut a little hole in the top of each one to allow the steam to escape during cooking.

Bake for around 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Transfer to a cooling rack and when cool, sprinkle liberally with icing sugar.

Take a bite and absolutely relish the abundant gorgeousness of these festive treats – a good reason to have Christmas all year around! Once you’ve made your first Christmas mincemeat and mince pies, you’ll never revert to shop-bought again!

Tip…

Ideally, make your mincemeat in October/November. Stored in a cool place, it will keep for months and just needs to be brought out whenever you fancy a quick batch of festive loveliness!

Inspired by…

Team effort here: mincemeat by Delia Smith; pastry from Raymond Blanc

How Easy…

On the mincemeat, very little effort for such a lovely outcome. I nearly gave up on the pastry as it kept falling apart when I stuck to the original recipe. The addition of a little water resolved the issue and it was worth persevering.

 

 

Marmalade Bread and Butter Pudding

This delightful bread and butter pudding is based on the classic version but all dressed up! A gorgeous crunchy, slightly zesty top contrasts wonderfully with the soft, fluffy inside of light custard-soaked bread. So simple and so spectacular – it should definitely be a regular on the winter menu.

Serves 4 – 6

What you need…

18 x 23cm baking dish, about 5cm deep, lightly buttered

6 slices bread from a large loaf

50g softened butter

2 rounded tablespoons thick cut orange marmalade

60ml milk (or Oatly if you want to cut down on dairy)

60ml double cream

3 large eggs

75g sugar

1 tablespoon demerara sugar

25g candied peel, finely chopped

What to do…

Pre-heat oven to 180°c / 350° f / gas 4.

Generously butter the bread slices on one side, then spread the marmalade over three of them and put the other three slices on top, effectively creating marmalade sandwiches. Spread the rest of the butter across the top slice of each sandwich and cut each one into quarters to make little triangles.

Arrange the sandwiches, butter side up, overlapping each other and almost standing upright in the baking dish.

Whisk the milk, cream, eggs and sugar together and pour the mixture over the bread, ensuring that all the bread is moistened. Scatter the candied peel over the top with demerara sugar. Pop in the oven and bake for 35 – 40 minutes until it’s puffy and golden – the smell as it’s cooking is absolutely divine.

Serve your marmalade bread and butter pudding straight away, perhaps with a little double cream.

I then leave what’s left over on the worktop to cool down before it goes in the fridge for the next day. However, the fact that I leave a teaspoon in it as well means that very little actually makes it to the fridge – it’s just too tempting!

 Tip…

Try different breads, rather than just plain white, especially those with added fruit.

 Inspired by…

Delia Smith

 How easy…

It couldn’t be easier: make a few marmalade sandwiches, a bit of whisking, a smidge of scattering and the job’s done!