Puddings and Cakes

Fantasy Cake

You know how the first sunshine of summer works – you sit outside in April or May after months and months of cold, grey, wet winter (and spring) days and you feel those first wonderfully warm rays sink into your bones – all is well with the world. Well, making and eating this cake is a similar experience: it’s best enjoyed warm – the sponge is moist and the deliciously gooey, sweet strawberries deliver summer direct to all of your senses – one of my favourite recipes from Lisa Faulkner’s book, ‘Recipes from my Mother for my Daughter’. Just lovely!

What you need…

1 x 23cm spring form cake tin, lightly buttered and lined with Bake O Glide or parchment paper on the bottom

175g unsalted butter, softened

150g caster sugar

150g self-raising flour

2 eggs

3 tablespoons milk

100g ground almonds

1 teaspoon almond essence

400g strawberries, hulled and halved

Icing sugar for dusting

What to do…

Preheat oven to 160°c / 325°f, gas 3.

Using a food processor, whizz together all the ingredients except the strawberries and icing sugar.

Stir in the fruit, reserving a handful for decorating.

Pour the mixture into the cake tin and put the remaining handful of fruit on top of the cake.

Bake in a preheated oven for about 1-1¼ hours. To test if it is cooked, pierce the cake with a skewer – if it is clean when you pull it out, the cake is cooked. If not, pop it back in for another 5 – 10 minutes.

Turn the cake out of the tin onto a wire rack to cool and then dust with icing sugar. It’s most gorgeous served just as its turning from warm to room temperature, ideally outside enjoying early summer sunshine.

Inspired by…

Lisa Faulkner

How easy…

Really easy and it comes with a sense of well-being!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tiramisu

Delicious, decadent, rich and boozy, this Italian coffee and chocolate-based ‘trifle’ is Connagh’s absolute favourite dessert. It is totally indulgent and you know without any doubt that you are being spectacularly naughty when that first spoonful goes down. It is not unusual in this house for those indulging to enjoy second and third portions. Utterly divine – life would be incomplete without this dessert taking centre stage on our table on a regular basis – loosen your waistband and give it a go!

Serves Connagh on his own or 12 generous portions

What you need…

1 x pretty trifle bowl

6 egg yolks

150g caster sugar

1000g mascarpone cheese

170ml Kahlua or coffee liqueur

400 ml cold, strong coffee

28 (up to) boudoir biscuits (sponge fingers)

50g plain chocolate, finely grated

What to do…

Place the egg yolks in a bowl with the caster sugar and beat together until pale and thickened, using an electric handheld whisk. Add the mascarpone and whisk slowly until it is evenly incorporated. Pour in 1 tablespoon of the coffee liqueur and whisk gently to combine.

Mix the coffee with the remaining coffee liqueur in a shallow dish. Dip each of the sponge fingers into the coffee and liqueur liquid and arrange in your serving bowl to cover the bottom. Gently plop over one third of the mascarpone mixture to cover the sponge fingers and then sprinkle on a layer of grated chocolate. Repeat these layers two further times, ending up with the sprinkled chocolate on the top. I use less chocolate on the top, preferring a lighter coverage for a prettier finish.

Cover your tiramisu with cling film and pop in the fridge for at least 2 hours but 24 hours if possible to let the flavours develop into their optimum lusciousness.

To serve, take your tiramisu out of the fridge about an hour before you want to indulge – fabulous!

Tiramisu 2 w

Tips…

The number of boudoir biscuits isn’t set in stone and depends on the size and shape of your trifle bowl.

If you have a wide, shallow bowl, it may only be possible to create 2 layers rather than the 3 I’ve done here – it doesn’t make any difference – it will still be fab.

Inspired by…

Nigella Lawson

How easy…

Simple and also, relaxing to assemble.

Key Lime Pie with Lime Jelly

A fabulous dessert that is completely different from anything else I have made. There have been lots of zingy lemon-infused dishes but limes take zing to a whole new level. In this pud, the sweet, ginger-infused pastry is light and contrasts deliciously with the sharp, tart but light lime filling and the tangy lime jelly – it’s beautifully refreshing. Personally, I preferred mine straight up but John opted for a little double cream to gently soften the lovely sharpness of this wonderful, summery dessert. Put it on your list for when the sun eventually comes out!

Serves 8

What you need…

1 x 23cm spring form fluted tart tin, lightly buttered and lined on the bottom with Bake O Glide or parchment paper

for the pastry

250g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

50g icing sugar

Pinch of salt

1 tablespoon ground ginger

135g butter, cold and cubed

1 egg, beaten

2-3 tablespoons ice-cold water

for the filling

4 egg yolks

1 x 397g tin condensed milk

Juice of 4 limes

Grated zest of 2 limes

for the jelly

3 sheets gelatine

Juice of 5 limes

60ml water

Grated zest of 1 lime

40g caster sugar

1 drop green food colouring

What to do…

Tip the flour, icing sugar, salt and butter into your food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the ginger and pulse again until evenly incorporated. Add the beaten egg and 2 tablespoons cold water and pulse again until the pastry comes together. Add a tiny bit more water if needed. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and quickly knead into a ball – handle the pastry as little as possible. Wrap in cling film and pop in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Roll the pastry out to about 3mm thick and line the tart tin with it, making sure that the pastry stands just a little proud of the rim. Trim the edges, prick the base and pop back in the fridge for 30 minutes (to prevent shrinkage during cooking).

Preheat oven to 200°c / 400°f / gas 6 and put in a baking sheet to heat up.

Remove the pastry case from the fridge, line with parchment paper and fill up with baking beans. Pop onto the hot baking sheet and cook for 20 minutes. Remove the parchment and baking beans and cook for a further 5 minutes to dry out the pastry. Remove and set aside.

Reduce the oven to 180°c / 350°f / gas 4.

Using a handheld electric whisk, beat the egg yolks in a large bowl for 3 minutes. Pour in the condensed milk and whisk for a further 2 minutes. Add the lime juice and zest and whisk to incorporate evenly. Tip into the pastry case, smoothing over the top for an even spread. Pop back onto the hot baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes or until just set. Remove and allow to cool completely. Pop in the fridge to chill.

And then to the super tangy lime jelly! Soak the gelatine sheets in cold water for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, put the lime juice, water and caster sugar into a small saucepan and gently heat to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat. Squeeze the excess water from the gelatine and add to the pan, stirring until dissolved. Pour into a jug and stir in the lime zest and food colouring. Set aside to cool for 30 minutes.

Pour jelly over the top of your key lime pie – there will be a bit more than you need so stop pouring before it overflows the pastry! Pop back into the fridge for at least 60 minutes to set.

When you’re ready to indulge, ease your lovely key lime pie out of its tin and using a sharp knife, cut into slices. Enjoy this lovely tangy, fresh dessert that with a little double cream if liked. Just yummy and VERY moreish!

Inspired by…

Camilla Stephens, Higgidy

How easy…

This is not a difficult dessert at all and very rewarding. However, you do have to have other things to do to fill in the time whilst this dessert makes a few trips to the fridge – wasn’t a problem for me – I just found other little jobs to do and was then also cooking the lunch, so it all worked perfectly.

Orange Drizzle Cake

 

I heard on the Chris Evans’ radio 2 breakfast show on Tuesday that Great British Bake Off winner 2015, the lovely Nadiya Hussain, had been appointed to create a birthday cake for our wonderful 90-year- old Queen and that she’d decided to make an orange drizzle cake. Well, we all know that hers will be a thing of wonder but I thought that in my own small way, I would celebrate the day with a more basic version of the same. Using my Mary Berry lemon drizzle cake recipe as a basis, I simply swapped out the fresh lemon bits for orange – couldn’t be simpler! Whilst the lemon version is really zesty, zingy and fresh, the orange alternative is mellower and more subtle with a nod towards summer. They’re both lovely, dead easy, take no time and both very moreish. Happy Birthday ma’am!!!!

Serves 8

What you need…

for the cake

900g loaf tin, greased and parchment paper-lined

3 large eggs

175g self-raising flour

175g caster sugar

175g butter, softened

1½ teaspoons baking powder

Zest of 1 large orange, finely grated

for crunchy orange icing

100g granulated sugar

Juice of 1 large orange

What to do…

Preheat oven to 180c / 350 F / gas 4.

Chuck all the cake ingredients into a food processor and whizz until thoroughly mixed.

Tip into the loaf tin and bake in oven for 35 minutes or until golden brown and shrinking away from the sides of the tin slightly.

Pop tin on a cooling rack and leave from 10/15 minutes until the cake is warm rather than hot.

Prick over the top of the cake with a skewer.

Mix together the sugar and orange juice and pour over the top of the cake whilst it is still in its tin. It will look like there’s loads too much topping – keep the faith and pour the lot in. Walk away.

Come back 10/15 minutes later and the orange drizzle topping will have largely disappeared – it’s gone into the cake (with the help of your skewering) to ensure that it is wonderfully moist.

When it’s cool rather than cold, loosen the sides away from the tin and lift out, using the paper. Dispense with the parchment paper and serve your delicious orange drizzle cake – as you taste it, I swear the gentle warmth of an early summer sun seeps into your bones – it is truly delightful…and for next to no effort.

Inspired by…

Nadiya Hussain for bringing the idea to my attention and Mary Berry for providing me with the original recipe used.

How easy…

Spectacularly!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chocolate, Orange and Cardamom Diva Cake

 

I have been wanting to make this cake for a while but I knew that I would involve committing several hours to the cause. Music on, all equipment assembled and at the ready: I set to. It is an absolute stunner – definitely an OMG wonder of a celebratory cake! A sheer pleasure of many layers, your tastebuds are delighted first by rich chocolate, then by the light, zesty orange butter cream, then by the gentle warmth of cardamom and the intense, distinctive taste of pistachios, returning finally to the rich chocolate. John Whaite may call it ‘Opera Cake’, but to me it’s a glorious diva – requiring a huge amount of attention but worthy of it given the integral gift of enjoyment it exudes! If you have the time and want a real show-stopper of a cake, this is it! Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients or instructions: it’s just like having five mini recipes for one ultimate creation – worth every second!

Makes 18 good-sized slices

What you need…

2 x 20 x 30cm Swiss roll tins, buttered and lined with parchment paper

5 egg whites

25g sugar

4 eggs

100g pistachios, ground (in your food processor)

50g ground almonds

150g icing sugar

45g flour

40g unsalted butter, melted

for the ganache

100ml milk

8 cardamom pods, bruised

200g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

20g unsalted butter, room temperature

for the syrup

60g caster sugar

60ml water

4 cardamom pods, bruised

Juice from 1 large orange

for the orange buttercream

75ml unsalted butter, room temperature

Zest from 1 large orange

150g icing sugar

1 teaspoon fresh orange juice

to decorate with chocolate mirror glaze

1 gelatine leaf

120g golden caster sugar

60ml water

1 tablespoon golden syrup

75g cocoa powder, sifted

60ml double cream

Gold leaf (optional but opulent!)

What to do…

Sponges

Preheat your oven to 200°c / 400°f / gas 6.

Into your processor tip in the eggs, pistachios, almonds, icing sugar and flour. Whizz until well combined.

Using a handheld electric whisk, beat together the egg whites in a mixing bowl until stiff peaks are formed. Tip in one third of the sugar and whisk in thoroughly before repeating with a second third and then the remaining sugar.

Onto the egg whites, gently pour the pistachio mixture and the melted butter. Using a balloon whisk, gently fold together so that all three elements are evenly incorporated.

Pour into your two Swiss roll tins, smooth surfaces and pop in the oven for 12 – 15 minutes or until light golden brown and springy to the touch. Remove from the oven and cool completely in their tins whilst you make the ganache, butter cream, syrup and glaze.

Ganache

For the indulgent ganache, pour the milk into a saucepan with the 8 cardamom pods, set over a high heat until the milk begins to steam and then remove from the heat, allowing the cardamoms to infuse for 10 minutes.

Pop your chopped chocolate into a heatproof bowl.

Remove the cardamom pods and then heat the milk until bubbles start to form around the sides. Pour the milk over the chocolate and after 30 seconds, use your balloon whisk to beat like crazy until the chocolate is melted. Add in the butter and whisk until all is incorporated and is lovely and glossy. Set aside.

Syrup

Place the sugar, water and 4 cardamom pods into a saucepan and bring to the boil over a high heat. Boil for 3 minutes. Allow to cool a little. Add the orange juice and set aside.

Buttercream

In your food processor, tip in the butter and orange zest. Whizz until evenly mixed. Add the icing sugar and orange juice. Whizz until pale and light. Set aside.

Glaze

Soak the gelatine leaf in a bowl of cold water for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the sugar, water and golden syrup in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer vigorously for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and, using a balloon whisk, beat in first the cocoa powder and then the cream. Return to a moderate heat for 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Remove from the heat. Squeeze the excess water from the gelatine and add to the chocolate mixture. Stir until dissolved. Sieve into a jug and set aside.

Assembly Job

Here we go – time to assemble – this bit is really relaxing and I loved seeing it all coming together.

Carefully remove your sponges from the parchment paper and from each one, cut a 20cm square, also giving you a 20cm x 10cm rectangle.

Take a 20 x 20cm sponge and put it on the board or plate that you intend to serve this glorious diva of a cake on. Using a pastry brush, apply the syrup to the sponge, using about one third. Then, spread two-thirds of the ganache evenly over the top. Pop the sponge in the freezer for 5 minutes. Clear up a bit.

Place the two rectangular sponges on the ganache to create the second 20 x 20cm square sponge layer. Apply half the remaining syrup all over the top and then spread over all of the buttercream. Pop in the freezer for 5 minutes. Clear up a bit more.

Take the remaining square sponge and evenly apply the remaining syrup all over. Flip it (so that the syrup is on the underside) and gently place it on top of the buttercream. Spread the remaining ganache over the top and then pop the cake back into the freezer for 20 minutes. Clear up a lot!

The glaze needs to be runny so pop it in the microwave for 30-second bursts until it is glossy and runny again. Enjoy gently pouring it evenly over the chilled cake, making sure the whole surface is covered. Put back in the freezer for 30 minutes until set.

To serve, first a little tidy up of the diva, so it looks its absolute best! Fill a tall jug with boiling water from the kettle and arm yourself with your sharpest knife. Dip the knife in the water, dry and then trim one side of the cake by just 5mm to create a sharp edge with beautifully defined layers. Repeat the dip, dry and trim process for the remaining three sides and then again to divide the cake up into either smaller cakes (I made 3 smaller rectangular cakes, each serving 6 slices) or slice up the whole lot. Decorate with gold leaf if you’re feeling opulent or simply indulge in the loveliness that is this fabulous cake!

It absolutely WAS worth the effort! Enjoy!!!!

Tips…

Freeze the left over egg yolks from the biscuit sponge – you only need one more to make a fabulous and large Tiramisu (recipe to follow).

Rinse and dry food processor bowl, balloon whisks and saucepans as you complete the first stages to reduce the final washing up pile!

Inspired by…

2012 Great British Bake Off winner, John Whaite

How easy…

It’s not a difficult recipe but it does take hours and my kitchen looked like a bombsite during the process. Called into play were the food processor, mini chopper, electric hand whisk, juicer and mixing bowls as well as three balloon whisks, jugs and countless spatulas, knives and spoons. I am a messy cook anyway but wow! this was a whole new level of kitchen mayhem, even for me. Saying that, during the cake assembly, when it is popped into the freezer for a few sessions, the dishes, surfaces and equipment gradually got washed, wiped down and returned to normal so when this glorious cake was finished, it was centre stage in a spotless kitchen with only the whirring of the dishwasher as a gentle reminder of the havoc that had reigned!

Pistachio, Orange and Rosemary Biscotti

I was introduced to these gorgeous biscotti last September at a Macmillan coffee morning hosted by my lovely friend, Sue. Lots of scrumptious homemade cakes graced her table but it was the biscotti that I enjoyed the most. That very afternoon, I was on the email to request the recipe. It turns out that Sue’s son, Josh, had made the biscotti and on contacting him, I discovered that the recipe originated from 2012 Great British Bake Off winner, John Whaite. A perfect accompaniment to a good, strong cup of coffee, the combination of pistachio, orange and rosemary is simply exquisite and the recipe is so very, very easy. So, ‘thank you’ to Sue and Josh for the recipe and for prompting me to buy the John Whaite Bakes cookery book. Try these biscotti – best shared with friends.

Makes 20ish

What you need…

125g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

75g caster sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

Zest of 1 large orange

50g dried apricots, roughly chopped

80g pistachios, roughly chopped

1 sprig rosemary, finely chopped

1 egg

1 tablespoon milk

What to do…

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

Into your food processor tip the flour, sugar, baking powder, orange zest, apricots, pistachios and rosemary. Whizz until all the ingredients are evenly mixed.

Beat the egg and milk together and then add to the other ingredients. Whizz again until a dough is formed. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and give the dough a quick knead to bring it all together and roll it out to form a long, fat sausage, maybe 23cms in length.

Place on a baking sheet lined with Bake O Glide or parchment paper and then pop in the oven to bake for 25 minutes or until light golden brown.

Remove from the oven and, using a really sharp serrated knife, cut into 1cm-thick slices. Pop back in the oven and reduce the temperature to 130°c / 250°f / gas ½ and bake for a further 15 minutes.

Allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Then make yourself a lovely strong coffee and sit back and enjoy these delicious, crunchy biscotti – just yummy and very moreish!

Biscotti close up w

Inspired by…

Josh initially and then John Whaite

How easy…

Dead easy. Got up, showered. Made biscotti. Had coffee. Lovely morning!

 

 

Baked Lemon Pudding

Returning from the gorgeous Amalfi Coast where lemon trees seemed to adorn every hillside, heavily laden with ripened fruit, I was inspired to do something with lemons. It is however, not yet warm enough to do a lemon sorbet or something naughty with the mildly addictive and delicious Italian lemon liqueur, Limoncello (both of these things are coming though, I promise) but I happened on this pudding recipe which manages to combine being oh so very, very light, fluffy and zesty with being gently comforting. Delving my spoon into the ‘still warm from the oven’ loveliness that is baked lemon pudding, the grey English skies didn’t seem so dreary after all. It’s also beyond easy and took next to no effort – perfect for the first day blogging after a week’s pampering. Give it a go!

Serves 4 – 6

What you need…

1 x 1 litre ovenproof dish, lightly buttered

1 x deep roasting tin

Kettle of boiling water

90g unsalted butter, cut into cubes

130g caster sugar

3 large eggs, separated

Zest and juice of 2 unwaxed lemons

30g plain flour

200ml milk

What to do…

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

Using an electric hand held whisk, beat the egg whites in a bowl until stiff and glossy. Set aside.

Chuck into your food processor the butter and sugar and whizz until softened and pale in colour. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, fully incorporating each one before adding the next. Keep whizzing and add the lemon zest and then the flour. Still whizzing, slowly tip in the lemon juice and then the milk – it will be a really sloshy mixture – don’t worry.

Tip the sloshy mixture into the egg whites and, using a balloon whisk, very gently fold the two together.

Carefully pour the mixture into your ovenproof dish and put the dish in the roasting tin. Pour boiling water into the roasting tin until it’s about 2cm deep. Pop the whole lot into the oven and bake for 35 – 45 minutes or until it’s golden brown (I left mine in for 40 minutes so whilst the inside tasted sublime, the top was a bit too dark – ovens vary!)

Cool slightly before serving this deliciously easy, light and tangy lemon pud. Enjoy!

Inspired by…

delicious magazine

How easy…

Very, very easy and a complete joy!

Easter Simnel Cake

The Christmas cake was finished a long time ago so along comes Easter with the opportunity to create this lovely, richly-flavoured, moist fruit cake with its two layers of marzipan: one in the middle – which really adds to the cake’s moistness – and one on the top which is toasted. The marzipan top is decorated with 11 marzipan balls, representing the 11 true disciples of Jesus (minus Judas), with the larger 12th ball in the middle representing Jesus himself. The cake is definitely a celebration and should take pride of place for Easter tea! Really easy to make if you have an electric stand mixer!

Makes a 23cm cake

What you need…

Ideally, an electric stand mixer (I have a Kenwood K-Mix) otherwise a robust wooden spoon and a lot of strength to mix by hand!)

1 x 23cm round spring form cake tin, lightly buttered and lined with Bake O Glide or parchment paper

for the marzipan

500g ground almonds

250g caster sugar

250g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting

2 eggs

½ teaspoon almond essence

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon lemon juice

for the cake

1kg raisins

175g glacé cherries

50g ground almonds

125g currants

300g plain flour

1 teaspoon grated nutmeg

½ teaspoon mixed spice

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

300g soft margarine (I used Stork)

300g caster sugar

6 eggs

1-2 tablespoons brandy, your choice!

Apricot jam, melted, for glazing

What to do…

First, make the marzipan and I’m going to assume a mixer is to hand – this would be hard work otherwise! Fit the mixer with its dough hook. Tip all the marzipan ingredients into the bowl and mix it together on a slow speed until it comes together into smooth dough. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 140°c / 275° f / gas 1.

Wash and dry the mixer bowl and return it to the machine. Fit the ‘K paddle’ (beater attachment).

Into the bowl, tip the raisins, cherries, almonds and currants into the bowl and mix on a slow speed until all are evenly blended. Add the flour, nutmeg, mixed spice, cinnamon, margarine and sugar and again, mix on a slow speed until all evenly blended. Then drop in one egg at a time, whilst the mixer is still going and mix thoroughly before adding the next one. Finally, add the brandy and mix in.

Cut a little less than half of the marzipan and roll it out to about 1 cm thick on a work surface that has been lightly dusted with icing sugar. Use the base of your cake tin as a template to cut a circle out of the marzipan. Put the scraps with the rest of the marzipan, wrap tightly in cling film and pop in the fridge, ready for use after the cake is cooked and cooled.

Spoon half of the cake mix into your cake tin. Then, lay in the circle of marzipan. Then, top with the rest of the cake mixture. Pop in the oven and bake for 3 hours. Indulge in the fabulous smell that pervades the house!

Leave the cake to cool in the tin and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

When it’s cold, roll out the rest of the marzipan as above and again cut out a circle the same size as the cake. Glaze the top of the cake with the warmed apricot jam and then lay the circle of marzipan on the top. Use the left over marzipan to create 11 balls of the same size and one bigger one. Brush the bottom of each ball with apricot jam and arrange the 11 balls around the edge of the top of the cake; placing the larger one in the middle. Then, to toast your Easter Simnel cake, either put it under a moderate grill – watch it like a hawk – it will brown quickly, or used a cook’s blowtorch for the job (much more fun!)

Your cake is now ready to take centre stage in your Easter tea celebrations (and, unless there’s a big crowd of you, for several days afterwards!) Moist, rich and a really, really lovely very proper cake! Enjoy!

Inspired by…

Lisa Faulkner

How easy…

It’s not difficult at all if you have an electric mixer – I wouldn’t want to make by hand!

The history of Simnel cake according to my Google search…

The Simnel cake is associated with Easter today, but was originally made for Mothering Sunday, the fourth Sunday in Lent. Originally Mothering Sunday was the day when the congregations of the daughter churches of a parish went to the mother church, usually an abbey, to give their offerings.

In the 17th century, Mothering Sunday became the day when girls and boys in service were allowed a day off to go and visit their mothers. This was their one and only holiday. The girls would bake their mothers a Simnel cake as a gift.

Simnel cakes have been baked since the middle ages and it is believed that the word Simnel comes from the Latin ‘Simila,’ which meant very fine flour made from wheat. Made properly, the cake would keep for a few weeks, thus the baking of a Simnel cake for Mothering Sunday was not only a gift from a girl to her mother, but also a test of the girl’s cooking skills. The cake would not be eaten until Easter Sunday, and the whole family would be anxious to see if the cake was still moist.

With the demise of service after the First World War, the Simnel cake began to be treated as an Easter cake in its own right. The cake is decorated with eleven marzipan balls, representing Jesus’ disciples minus Judas the traitor.

 

Easter Hot Cross Buns

These are Mary’s hot cross buns and they ARE gorgeous – really fruity and beautifully spiced with cinnamon and mixed spice. They look fab as well with the golden syrup glaze. I would recommend them but only if you’re having a relaxing day at home, enabling you the luxury of lots to time to revisit the kitchen several times. They’re not difficult, just take some time but very lovely and worth the time.

Makes 12 large buns or 18 medium-sized

What you need…

1 x electric mixer fitted with a dough hook!!!!

2 x baking sheets, lined with Bake O Glide/ baking paper

1 x piping bag fitted with a fine 3mm nozzle (for the crosses)

40g butter

300ml milk

500g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting

75g caster sugar

2 teaspoons mixed spice

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Grated zest of 1 lemon

10g salt

10g fast-action dried yeast

1 egg, beaten

200g sultanas

50g chopped candied peel

Olive oil for greasing

for the topping

75g plain flour

100ml water

2 tablespoons golden syrup

What to do…

In separate saucepans, gently melt the butter and also warm the milk, just to tepid.

Meanwhile, into your mixer, chuck the flour, sugar, spices, lemon zest, salt and yeast. Put the mixer onto a slow speed and blend the ingredients together.

Add the melted butter, half the warm milk and the egg and mix until all the ingredients are blended. Add a little milk at a time now and keep checking the blend – the dough needs to come together and be on the wet side, rather than dry. You might not need all the milk. I reckon I had about 50mls that was not required.

Once you’re happy with the dough, add in the sultanas and candied peel and let the mixer do its thing on a low speed for 10 minutes, at which point the dough will be silky and elastic. Turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface and give it a couple of kneads, just to get it into a ball shape.

Smear olive oil all around the inside of a nice roomy bowl, pop in your dough, cover with cling film and then leave it somewhere warm for 1½ hours or until doubled in size. (I put mine underneath the kitchen radiator).

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes. Return to the bowl, re-cover with cling film and leave in your chosen warm place for a further hour.

Turn the dough out again onto your floured surface and divide into 12 or 18 equal parts, depending on whether you want large or medium-sized buns. Shape each 1 into a ball and pop them onto the baking sheets, flattening them slightly.

Slip the baking sheets into a large polythene bag (I used large shopping bags) making sure that the bag doesn’t touch the buns – they’ll stick! Leave for a further hour until the buns have doubled in size.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 220°c / 425°f / gas 7.

To make the crosses, mix together the water and plain flour to make a paste; then spoon into the piping bag.

When the buns have risen, remove from the bags and pipe a cross on top of each one. Pop the buns in the oven bake for 15 – 20 minutes until pale golden brown (I overdid mine a bit!)

Finally, melt the golden syrup in a pan and, whilst the buns are still warm, brush the top of each one to give them a lovely – sticky – shine. Cool on a wire rack and then dig in to your Easter hot cross buns – they are lovely and worth the return trips to the kitchen!

Inspired by…

Mary Berry

How easy…

They are not difficult at all, particularly if you have an electric mixer. But they do tie you to the house for quite a while so your schedule needs to be such that you can pop back into the kitchen to complete the 3 stages. Absolutely worth it if you have the time.

Heavenly Lemon Torte

 

This heavenly dessert is right up my street: ridiculously easy, tastes amazing and…doesn’t even require any cooking! Picture if you will a spoonful: the light and fluffy cream filling excites your taste buds with the gentle tanginess of lemon and then, the taste of chocolate follows through – absolutely delightful! The only other thing it needs is another spoonful and then another….Give it a go!

Serves 10 – 12 depending on how generously you cut your slices!

What you need…

for the base

1 x 20cm round spring form baking tin, lightly buttered and lined with Bake O Glide or parchment paper

300g dark chocolate digestive biscuits

50g butter, melted

2 tablespoons double cream

for the filling

300ml double cream

265g condensed milk (2/3 of a standard 397g tin)

Lemon juice from 2 large or 3 small lemons

Zest of 1 large lemon

What to do…

Roughly break up your chocolate digestives, shove them in the food processor and whizz until they are crumbs. Remove the processor blade and then, using a spatula, mix in the melted butter and cream.

Press evenly into the bottom of your baking tin. Pop into the fridge whilst you prepare the filling.

Using a handheld electric whisk, whip the cream until it’s quite stiff and then, using a large balloon whisk, gently fold in the condensed milk, lemon juice and zest. Tip the lot onto the chocolate digestive base and return to the fridge to chill for at least 1 hour before serving. That’s it!!!

To serve, remove from the tin (I normally leave my puds on the base part of the spring form tin for fear of imminent collapse if it was removed) and gently peel away the Bake O Glide from the sides. Decorate with a little peeled lemon rind if you like and then just cut yourself your first – but most certainly not your last – slice of heavenly lemon torte – just yummy!

Inspired by…

The filling came from a Tim Siadatan recipe, but the base is attributed to Rachel Allen.

How easy…

It’s just a bit of mucking about really! And no cooking!

 

 

 

 

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