Tag Archives: Dessert

Vanilla and Amaretti Cheesecakes with Balsamic-Infused Strawberries

I saw a version of these completely delectable little cheesecakes on Saturday Kitchen and thought that I must give them a go. Wow! The TV didn’t do them justice – the rich, smooth creaminess of the cheesecake is perfectly contrasted by the warm, sweet, lusciousness of the strawberries, their flavour emphasised by balsamic vinegar (most unexpected). They look fabulous, are so easy to make and taste out of this world!

 Serves 4

 What you need…

 4 x chefs’ rings, 5.5cm diametre x 6cm deep (easily available online)

10 Amaretti biscuits

250g cream cheese

125g caster sugar

125g crème fraiche

240ml double cream

1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out

for the strawberries

200g strawberries, hulled and quartered

2 teaspoons caster sugar

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

What to do…

In a large bowl, tip in your cream cheese, caster sugar, crème fraiche, double cream and vanilla seeds. Whisk until smooth and thickened up so that the whisks leave a distinct trail.

Place the chefs’ rings on a flat plate, lined with Bake O Glide or parchment paper. Spoon the cheesecake mixture into each ring, pushing the mixture down to make sure there are no gaps. Smooth off the top with a palette knife and pop them in the fridge for at least 2 hours to set. If you are having friends around for dinner, you can do this bit in the morning and leave the rest until you are about ready to serve.

Just before you are ready to serve, pop your Amaretti biscuits into a plastic zip-lock bag and using a rolling pin, crush them inside the bag to create a dusting.

Remove the cheesecakes from the fridge and set aside at room temperature for 5 minutes.

Place the Amaretti crumbs on a plate and then dip each of the cheesecakes in their chefs’ rings into the crumbs, 2 – 3 times if necessary – to make sure that the end is thoroughly covered. Dip both ends in the Amaretti crumbs.

Then, hold your breath (!) and lightly shake each cheesecake from the chefs’ ring onto its serving plate. Despite your total disbelief, it will gently drop down the ring and then plop out beautifully onto your serving plate – looking gorgeous!

Meanwhile, heat a saucepan over a high heat. Tip in the strawberries and sugar and cook, stirring continually for about 1 minute. Pour over the balsamic and cook for a further 1 minute.

Spoon some of the strawberries onto the plate alongside the cheesecake. Absolutely delicious – the strawberries contrast the cheesecake perfectly, both elements enhancing the flavour of the other. Serve your vanilla and Amaretti cheesecakes with balsamic-infused strawberries together with a wee glass of Disaronno Italian liqueur or a lovely little dessert wine to complete the indulgence! Yum!


Chefs’ rings are almost like slices of metal piping you might expect on a building site! Another description would that of a cookie cutter, double the normal depth.

Inspired by…

Stuart Gillies, with James Martin on Saturday Kitchen

How easy…

Really easy, the only nervy bit is when you’re watching the cheesecake slowly drop through the chefs’ rings but be patient, and it will be fine!

Brandy Snaps

I remember growing up in the 1970s and many a weekend punctuated by my parents’ dinner parties. All that rushing around in the daytime concocting wonderful dishes – Dad normally on the mains and mum on the desserts. Then the tidy up, quick bath and ready to receive guests. Featured in many of those evenings were after dinner drinks: port, brandy and liqueurs, which sadly have largely fallen out of fashion these days and the 1970s-iconic brandy snaps. Shop bought, full of sugary whipped cream, I remember praying that they wouldn’t all be eaten and inevitably they weren’t (I suspect I was allocated one or two from the outset). There is nothing quite like the crunch of the golden, lacy brandy snap quickly followed by the luscious cream; the combination of which made the taste buds wake up and party! They’ve been on my list for a while so here’s the first attempt. I decided against the traditional cigar shape, thinking that might stretch me too far this time around. But having done them once, I’ll give that a go next time.

Makes 12 good sized brandy snap bowls

What you need…

2 x large baking sheets, lined with baking parchment or ‘Bake-O-Glide’ (see Tips)

60g unsalted butter

2 tablespoons golden syrup

60g caster sugar

60g plain flour, sifted

½ teaspoon ground ginger, sifted

What to do…

Heat the butter, syrup and sugar in a medium pan until the mixture is fully melted and smooth. Set aside to cool to room temperature for about 20 minutes.

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

Tip the flour and ginger into the butter mixture ands stir to make a thick paste.

Dollop 4 tablespoons of the brandy snap mixture onto each of the lined baking sheets – spacing far apart – they REALLY spread.

Put one tray in the oven and bake in the oven for 7-8 minutes, until deep golden and lacy.

Remove the first tray from the oven and pop the other one in.

Allow the first batch to cool for a few minutes until they are slightly firm but still pliable. Lift them out, one at a time, and mould them over an upturned glass/teacup or ramekin to make a bowl shape. They take a couple of minutes to set so maybe have three or four glasses. Once set, transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

After 7-8 minutes baking, remove the second set from the oven and repeat the cooling, moulding, cooling process with them. I split the brandy snap cooking into two to give myself enough time to mould the first four without worrying that the second four might be hardening too much to shape.

Once cool, store them in an airtight container until you’re ready to serve. Serve these sweet, crunchy bowls with whatever takes your fancy. They work particularly well with strong-flavoured ice cream (e.g. salted caramel, brandy, coffee) or cream topped with seasonal fruits, as shown in the image. Enjoy! Especially good with an espresso coffee on the side!


Only in the last month did I discover Bake-O-Glide. Having far too much Champagne and canapés at my friend Susan’s house, I watched as she put tray after tray of food in her Aga, re-using the same Bake-O-Glide. Each time, the canapés really did glide off the lined baking trays with ease. No scrubbing or soaking afterwards. She simply put the Bake-O-Glide in the dishwasher and then it was ready for use again. A total convert, I now use this all the time – it’s not expensive, easily available (ordered off the Internet and it arrived the next day) and can be used 100s of times. If you already know about this stuff, you’ll think I’m bonkers; if not, order some now: total revelation!

To get the golden syrup to slide easily off your tablespoon, first wipe the spoon with olive oil – works brilliantly (saw this on Simply Nigella).

Inspired by…

Good Housekeeping

How easy…

They are not difficult but you do have to give them your full attention.

Truly Scrumptious Salted Caramel Ice Cream

I’ve never made ice cream before but somewhere down the line I’ve acquired an ice-cream maker. However, when I decided to try out this recipe I didn’t realise that the bowl had to be put in the freezer 24 hours beforehand! So, this one was done by hand and having done it once this way, I’m afraid that the machine is back where it came from, at the back of the cupboard. This ice cream is an absolute cinch to make and tastes truly scrumptious! Not only that, but it’s quite a soft ice cream, so if you have a bit of craving for ice-cream NOW, there’s no waiting about whilst it softens enough to scoop. So, this first attempt will be quickly followed by a second, third, fourth…try it and enjoy!

Serves 6 – 8 (unless you keep it secret, in which case just the 1!)

What you need…

170g caster sugar

225ml double cream

150ml milk

4 egg yolks

½ teaspoon sea salt

What you do…

Place a medium sized saucepan on a high heat and add 140g of the caster sugar. Heat, shaking the pan occasionally until the sugar melts into a rich caramel colour.

Take off the heat and slowly add the double cream, using a balloon whisk to incorporate it into the sugar. Bring back to the boil. Pour in the milk, again whisking in.

Meanwhile, in a separate bowl use an electric hand-held whisk to beat together the egg yolks and remaining 30g caster sugar until you have a pale, mousse-like mixture. Pour the hot caramel into the bowl and whisk the lot together. Set aside to cool down.

Add the salt to the cooled mixture and pour it all into a deep plastic bowl and pop it in your freezer.

After 45 minutes, take it out of the freezer and whisk vigorously using your electric hand-held whisk – it will have started to freeze around the edges – break up the frozen sections and return to the freezer.

Repeat this process another three times at 45-minute intervals and then leave it – it should be ready within 4 hours of first going in the freezer.

Take a spoon or scoop and delve in to check your handiwork – truly scrumptious is the best that I can come up with but that doesn’t cover it – delectable, delicious, delightful…I could go on but really, you just need to try your own truly scrumptious salted caramel ice cream!

Serving suggestion…

Amazing with little sticky toffee puddings, scrumptious chocolate brownies (both on previous blogs) or, as in the picture here, with brandy snaps (recipe to follow) or… on it’s own – just you, the spoon and the ice cream!

Inspired by…

Another foodie blogger: A Spoonful of Sugar (www.aspoonfulofsugarblog.com)

How easy…

Sooooooooo easy, just don’t forget that it’s in the freezer for whisking part!



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!




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!

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!


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.

The Yummiest Profiteroles

One of my son’s favourites, these little profiteroles are fabulously naughty: pop them in and just revel in the indulgence that pervades your tastebuds!

What you need…

50g butter, preferably unsalted, plus a knob

2 tablespoons caster sugar

75g white flour, sifted with a pinch of salt

2 eggs, lightly beaten

300ml double cream

200g good quality dark chocolate

What to do…

Heat the oven to 220°c/200°c fan/gas 7.

Put butter and 2 teaspoons of the caster sugar in a saucepan with 150ml water. Place the pan over a low heat until the butter and sugar have melted, then bring to the boil. Take off the heat, add the flour all at once and beat energetically with a wooden spoon until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan.

Leave to cool for 5 mins, then, using a food processor gradually beat in the eggs bit by bit until you have a stiff, glossy mixture. Rinse two baking trays with cold water, shaking off any excess so they are slightly damp (this helps the choux pastry to rise). Using two teaspoons, spoon blobs of the mixture onto the baking trays. Then place in the oven and cook for about 18-20 minutes until well risen and brown. Remove the profiteroles from the oven and cut a small slit in the base of each one so they don’t collapse. Cool on a wire rack.

When they are cold, whisk together the remainder of the caster sugar and double cream until just holding its shape. Sweeten to taste. Spoon cream into a piping bag and using the slits in the base of the profiteroles, fill each bun to nearly bursting point with cream (these desserts are exuberant so no half-heartedness here – total indulgence or don’t bother!)

Break up the chocolate and put into a heatproof glass bowl in a steamer over a pan of boiling water. When the chocolate has melted, use a spoon to spread it over the profiteroles – again, no holding back – it should be dribbling down the sides in an ‘artistic’ manner. Put the chocolate-topped profiteroles in a cool room to set. Stack up on top of one another to create a mountain of naughtiness and serve. Just scrummy!

Inspired by…

BBC Good Food

How Easy…?

Really easy if you follow the instructions! The wrong flour results in flat, hard disks (I know from experience) but give them a little attention and you will be addicted!






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