Puddings and Cakes

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!

 

Light and Zesty Lemon Tart

A really light, creamy yet zesty, fresh version of this classic dessert, this lemon tart is quite simply, delightful. Seconds all round, please.

Serves 6

What you need…

1 x 23cm/9in shallow tart tin, with a removable base

1 x flat baking sheet

for the pastry

175g flour

Pinch of salt

100g butter, straight from the fridge

25g caster sugar

1 egg, separated: yolk in one cup and white in another

2 dessertspoons water

for the filling

3 eggs

125g granulated sugar

Juice and grated zest of 2 lemons

100ml double cream

What to do…

Grease your tart tin.

Sieve the flour and salt into a large bowl. Cut the butter into small cubes and rub into the flour until the mixture is like crumbs. Add the sugar and gently mix in with a spatula. Beat the egg yolk and then tip into the mixture, stirring until the mixture sticks together. At this point add the water, one teaspoon at a time until the mixture comes together – you may not need the whole 2 dessertspoons.

Cover your working surface with cling film and then flour lightly. Roll out your pastry on the cling film until about 5mm thick, creating a circle as best you can. Cover with another piece of cling film and then slide a flat baking sheet underneath the whole lot to lift it and pop in the fridge for at least 45 minutes.

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

Remove pastry from fridge and, keeping the pastry between the two pieces of cling film, gently roll it out until it’s about 3mm thick and large enough to line the bottom and sides of the prepared tart tin.

Remove the top piece of cling film and gently place the pastry upside down (cling film facing up) into the tin. Gently press into the edges and using your thumb, break off the pastry of the top edge of the tin to give a neat finish. Remove the cling film and pop the pastry into the freezer for 10 minutes.

The pasty needs to be blind-baked now so line it roughly with parchment paper, making sure the sides are also covered with the paper. Chuck in a load of baking beans (or dried pulses which can be used many times over) and blind-bake for 15-20 minutes until the pastry feels dry.

Remove the paper and beans. Lightly beat your egg white and use it to brush over the pastry. Pop the pastry back in the oven for two minutes.

Take out of the oven and put to one side until you are ready to make your filling (this could be immediately, later on in the day or even the next day).

Set the oven to 120°c / 250°f / gas ½.

In a food processor, pop your eggs and sugar and whizz for about 8 minutes, until the mixture is pale and creamy. Add the lemon juice and zest and process for a further 5 minutes. Pour in the cream and whizz for another 5 minutes.

Pour into the pastry case and pop it straight in the oven to bake for 25-30 minutes or until the filling has just set in the centre.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before taking the tart out of its tin and transferring to a pretty plate or cake stand. When it’s completely cool, dredge icing sugar over the top. Slice and serve your light and zesty lemon tart – it’s fresh and zingy, light and frankly, delightful!

Serving suggestion…

A little splash of double cream works wonderfully and this is a great dessert to serve with a ‘sticky’ dessert wine.

Inspired by…

Rachel Allen

How easy…

Well, at the time of first making this, I had never made my own pastry but I nervously followed that element of the recipe to the letter and ….it was too ‘short’. The second time, I adapted it and added more water and it was absolutely delightful. The lemon filling is quite heavenly and a dead easy – just a case of processing.

I do love this recipe, because the ‘tricky’ bit, i.e. the pastry, can be done in advance and the filling is dead easy.

Warm Summer Fruits Pudding with Almonds

This is a proper winter-warming pudding, even though the first ingredient is summer fruits! It’s the perfect conclusion to a long, lingering Sunday Lunch and is immensely satisfying – only the Sunday papers and a doze needs follow…

Serves 6 – 8

What you need…

1 x pretty (because its for a pud) oven-proof dish, greased (mine is 20cms diameter and 10cms deep)

500g summer fruits (I buy frozen and let them defrost overnight)

175g caster sugar, plus ½ tablespoon

175g butter, room temperature

175g ground almonds

85g plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 eggs

2 tablespoons milk

2 pears, unpeeled, cored and sliced

What to do…

Pre-heat oven to 170°c / 325°f /gas 3

Tip your defrosted fruit into the ovenproof bowl and stir in the ½ tablespoon of caster sugar.

Tip all the other ingredients except the pears into a food processor and process until thoroughly blended. Pour the mixture over the fruit and smooth over. Arrange the slices of pear on the top, ideally in an overlapping fan.

Bake in the oven for 2 hours!

Check that it is cooked all the way through by poking in a kebab stick – it should come out dry.

Serve straight away, either with warm custard or cold double cream – either way this warm summer fruits pudding with almonds is absolutely delicious.

Tip…

Assemble the fruits in the bowl, cover and pop in the fridge, prepare the pears, cover and pop in the fridge; and then chuck the rest of the ingredients into the processor. You can now leave everything until you’re ready to put them all in the oven – perfect if you’re entertaining. It takes less than five minutes to complete the preparation when you are ready.

Inspired by…

Can’t remember where I plucked this recipe from but I’ve been doing it for years!

How Easy…

Ridiculously! Remember though – 2 hours cooking time (the cooking smell is heavenly!)

 

Delicious Lemon Drizzle Cake

I just love this cake! For two reasons: firstly it is spectacularly easy to make and secondly, because it is truly scrumptious! Not naturally a spontaneous baker, I have even taken to quickly whipping up this cake on a whim just when we fancy a little slice of something yummy with our afternoon cuppa (him: tea, me: double espresso). Try it once and it will be on your favourites list.

Serves 8

What you need…

900g/2lb loaf tin, greased and parchment paper-lined

for the cake

3 large eggs

175g self-raising flour

175g caster sugar

175g butter, softened

1½ teaspoons baking powder

Zest of 1½ lemons, finely grated

for crunchy lemon icing

100g granulated sugar

Juice of 1½ lemons

What to do…

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

Chuck all the cake ingredients into a food processor and beat together thoroughly.

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 lemon 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 lemon 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 lemon drizzle cake – lovely fat slices! At this point, it is beyond delicious – light, reminiscent of being warm with a gentle but gorgeous citrusy tang that simply says, “eat more”. Wonderful!

Inspired by…

Mary Berry

How easy…

Spectacularly!

 

 

 

 

 

365 Chocolate Celebration Cake

I created this cake from a mish-mash of different recipes and having seen an image from The Clandestine Cake Club’s cookbook with Smarties toppling out of the middle of the cake. It caught my imagination! What a great way to celebrate my ‘365 images that make me smile’ project (whereby I spent a year posting a picture captured each and every day that made me happy). I decided that my version would be all chocolate but I wanted a sponge that was light and fluffy, a butter cream that was rich and to finish it off, the opulence that comes with a thick coating of shiny chocolate. This cake, made for the first time here, did not disappoint and I think it is perfect for a celebration.

I’ve used Smarties, but chocolate buttons would work equally well or, if it’s going to be demolished in one day, fresh raspberries would be delightful!

Serves 16+

What you need…

2 x 20cm / 8” cake tins (spring form or loose-bottomed ideally), greased and lined on the bottom with parchment paper.

1 deep cookie cutter (I used a 7cm-wide one but you could use a wider one if you wanted more sweets hidden in the cake).

 340g unsalted butter, room temperature

340g caster sugar

6 eggs

1 dessertspoon vanilla extract

140g milk

225g self-raising flour

85g cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking powder

Pinch of salt

for the chocolate butter cream and Smarties surprise

 50g dark chocolate (ideally 70% cocoa) broken into pieces

100g unsalted butter, room temperature

200g icing sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

225g Smarties

for the decoration

150g unsalted butter, room temperature

250g dark chocolate, broken into pieces

What to do…

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

Using a food processor, beat together the butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy. Whilst it’s still beating, add in the eggs, one at a time, ensuring that each is thoroughly mixed in before adding the next. Add the vanilla extract and milk and mix in.

In a large mixing bowl, sift in the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Mix well. Then, add in the ingredients from the food processor and, using a balloon whisk, fold together all the ingredients until they are thoroughly blended. Divide the chocolate sponge mixture between the two cake tins.

Bake the sponges in the oven for 45 minutes until the cake is firm and an inserted skewer comes out dry.

Allow to cool for 30 minutes in the tins and then turn out onto cooling racks to cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the butter cream, made especially gorgeous by the use of the melted chocolate.

Put your chocolate into a heatproof bowl and then into a steamer over a saucepan of simmering water. Gently melt the chocolate and then set aside until it is cool enough to touch.

In a separate bowl, sieve in the icing sugar and then beat together with the butter. Add the vanilla essence and then tip in the warm chocolate. Mix together using a small balloon whisk to ensure it is evenly and thoroughly blended. Set aside until you are ready to assemble the cake.

Take your cookie cutter and cut a hole in the centre of each sponge, making sure the hole is in the same place in each sponge so that they will line up once assembled. From each cutout of sponge, slice a 1cm piece across, inserting one back into the bottom sponge.

Spread the butter cream evenly across the bottom sponge. Pop on the top sponge. Using a small spatula or palette knife spread more butter cream across the ‘join’ of the two sponges (so that the edge of the cake will look neat once the chocolate decoration is poured over).

Tip the Smarties into the hole in the middle of the cake and then pop the remaining 1cm deep sponge circle on the top, thus recreating a complete top sponge.

For the decoration, put the remaining broken chocolate in a heatproof bowl in a steamer over simmering water and gently melt. Once melted, mix in the butter. Drizzle over the cake until the top and the sides are covered evenly. Allow to set.

Serve to thrilled gasps as you cut into it when the Smarties tumble out and murmurs of appreciation when they eat it!

Tips…

There will be some melted chocolate left over – dip in some strawberries – great with an espresso after the main event!

Before I drizzle over the melted chocolate, I take a double piece of parchment paper with a circle cut out of the middle which is the same size as the sponges and pop it over the sponges so it is resting on the cake stand, effectively acting as a bib! When I’d finished drizzling (and making a considerable mess) I waited for the chocolate to set and then cut the parchment bib away revealing a spotless cake stand – marvellous!

How easy…

The 365 Chocolate Celebration Cake is very easy but it takes lots of time, mainly because you have to wait for the sponges to cool. If you’re in for the day and can potter about doing other things in between each stage of the cooking and assembly, perfect!

 

 

Lemon Polenta Cake with Rosemary Syrup

My absolute favourite dessert: the sponge is soaked in sweet rosemary syrup – a perfect foil to the summer raspberries piled up in the middle and the clean, crisp Greek yogurt it’s served with. Once tried, this recipe will be with you forever!

Serves 10-12

What you need…

175g polenta

50g plain flour

1½ teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

5 tablespoon plain yogurt

5 tablespoon rapeseed oil plus extra for greasing

Grated rind of two lemons

2 tablespoon lemon juice

2 eggs, plus 2 egg whites

600g caster sugar

400ml water

3 heaped teaspoons dried rosemary

Fresh raspberries

Greek yogurt to serve

What to do…

Heat oven to 180°c / 350°f / gas 4.

Sift polenta, flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl.

Place yogurt, oil, lemon rind and juice into a jug and stir until combined.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and egg whites with 200g of the sugar for a few minutes until creamy. Beat in the yogurt mixture until smooth and then fold in the dry ingredients until just combined – don’t overmix.

Pour the mixture into a 1.2 litre/2-pint lightly oiled ring cake tin. Bake for 40-45 minutes until a thin skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Meanwhile, place the remaining 400g of sugar in a pan with 400ml water and the rosemary. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Leave to cool completely and then strain through a sieve.

When the cake is cooked, place on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes, then ease a blunt knife around the outside to separate the cake from the tin. Invert cake onto a serving plate.

When completely cool, prick all over with a thin skewer and, using a tablespoon, drizzle over half the rosemary syrup so that it completely soaks into the cake, making it lovely and moist (tip: this part can take quite a while – I do it slowly, sometimes whilst watching TV).

Pour the remaining rosemary syrup into a pretty serving jug and pop in the fridge until ready to use.

Tip raspberries into the hole in the middle and serve your lemon polenta cake with rosemary syrup with dollops of Greek yogurt and the chilled rosemary syrup. Decorate with rosemary sprigs if desired. Divine!

Inspired by…

The Top 100 Recipes from the Food & Drink Series

How easy…

Really easy – a pleasure to create and so stunning on the eye and the taste buds!