Desserts


The salted caramel trend is still going strong – and quite right too. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth and consequently never really ate caramel much, but I adore salted caramel. I could eat it by the bucket.

I usually double the amount of salt in any recipe to make it more to my tastes, but left the amounts as they were quoted in the recipe for this one.

I think my caramel could be a smidge darker, but overall I was quite pleased – everything was cooked through properly and it stayed together, which I count as a success!

Salted Caramel Tarte Tatin

Salted Caramel Tarte Tatin

Recipe from Delicious Magazine

Ingredients

  • 8 braeburn apples
  • 200g golden caster sugar
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp flaky sea salt
  • 375g block all-butter puff pastry
  • Plain flour for dusting

Method

1. Peel, core and halve the apples. Don’t worry if they turn brown – you won’t notice in the finished tart. Put the sugar in a 20cm ovenproof frying pan (measured across the base) with 50ml water, then melt the sugar slowly over a low heat. Once the sugar has melted, turn up the heat and bubble for 5 minutes or so to give a golden caramel (don’t let it get too dark – see above right).
2. Take the caramel off the heat immediately and stir in the butter – it will foam quite vigorously. Sprinkle the caramel with the sea salt (it will melt into it), then arrange the apple halves on top, cut-side up, so they fill the pan – slice any leftover apple into wedges to fill in the gaps (the apples will shrink as they cook). Put the pan back over a gentle heat, then cook for 5 more minutes. Turn the heat off and let the apples cool completely.
3. Heat the oven to 220°C/fan200°C/gas 7. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to the thickness of a pound coin, then lay over the cooled apples in the pan. Trim the pastry using the edge of the pan as a guide, then carefully tuck it inside the edge around the apples, making sure they don’t move. Bake for 30 minutes until dark golden and puffed. Remove from the oven, stand for 5 minutes, then carefully invert the tart onto a serving plate.

Mmmmmm

Mmmmmm

Kieran loves millionaire’s shortbread. I love salted caramel. So this was always going to be popular.

Millionaire’s shortbread is of course shortbread, layered with caramel and chocolate. I usually find it a bit too sweet for my taste,  but this ‘billionaire’ version includes peanut butter and salted caramel, the salt in which offsets the overall sweetness. Don’t get me wrong though, it’s still really rich and decadent.

It’s a lot easier to make than it looks too. All of the layers are relatively quick to prepare – you just have to have patience while you wait for them to set.

Billionaire's shortbread

Billionaire’s shortbread

Recipe from BBC Good Food.

Cuts into 15 big slices or 20 smaller ones

For the base

  • 225g butter, chopped into cubes, plus a little for greasing
  • 140g unsalted peanuts, toasted and cooled
  • 225g plain flour
  • 50g cornflour
  • 85g golden caster sugar

For the peanut butter layer

  • 140g butter
  • 225g smooth peanut butter
  • 140g icing sugar

For the salted caramel layer

  • 2 X 397g cans Carnation caramel
  • 1½ tsp flaky sea salt or ½ tsp fine sea salt

For the chocolate-toffee topping

  • 3 x 100g bars dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
  • 140g soft dairy toffees
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • ½ tsp flaky sea salt
  1. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Grease and line a 20 x 30cm rectangular cake tin with baking parchment – the best way to do this is with 2 long strips of parchment. Put the ingredients for the base in a food processor and blitz until it starts to clump together – don’t worry if the peanuts are still a little chunky, they will add a lovely texture. Tip onto your work surface and knead briefly to bring together as a dough. Press the dough into the base of your tin in an even layer. Bake for 25 mins until golden, then set aside to cool.
  2. To make the peanut butter layer, melt the butter and peanut butter in a small pan and mix until smooth. Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl, then pour in the hot butter mixture and stir to combine. While the mixture is still warm, pour over the base and smooth out with a spatula. Chill for 2 hrs until set.
  3. To make the caramel layer, put the caramel and salt in a pan, bring up to the boil and simmer vigorously for 2-3 mins, whisking continuously, until the colour darkens a shade or two and the caramel thickens slightly. Leave the caramel to cool for 20 mins (see tips, below). Once cooled, pour it over the peanut butter layer and return to the fridge for a further 2 hrs.
  4. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. Meanwhile, put the toffees and the milk in a small saucepan and gently heat. They will clump together and struggle to melt at first, but keep heating and eventually they will turn into a runny toffee sauce.
  5. Remove the tin from the fridge and pour the chocolate over the salted caramel layer, tipping the tin to spread the chocolate over the surface. Use a spoon to quickly drizzle the caramel over the chocolate in a thin loopy pattern (or see tip, below). If the toffee starts to get too thick, add a splash more milk or cream and pop it back on the heat until runny. Sprinkle over the sea salt flakes and put the tin back in the fridge to chill for 2 hrs before slicing.

I mean, I surely don’t need to explain to you why I made this.

Unless of course, you don’t know what a jaffa cake is, in which case you have my deepest sympathies.

In short, it’s a orange flavoured cake/biscuit thing, with a layer of orange jelly, coated in chocolate.  It’s usually bitesized – and if you’re of a certain age, the only way to eat them is like this:

It would be quite difficult to do that with this giant version, which is possibly one of the best cakes in the known universe. It’s the first time I’d made jelly from scratch and it turned out really well. The cake is moist and the chocolate is, well chocolatey. It’s also a whopping 822 calories per slice, so make it for a crowd!

Giant Jaffa Cake

Giant Jaffa Cake

Clearly, I couldn’t wait for the chocolate to set before cutting off a slice.

Recipe from BBC Good Food

  • 250g pack butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
  • 300g golden caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 100g full-fat natural yogurt
  • 300g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • zest 4 large orange (use the oranges below)

For the orange jelly

  • juice 5 large oranges (about 500ml), save the zest of 1 orange to finish
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • 6 gelatine leaves

For the chocolate ganache

  • 300ml pot double cream
  • 200g milk chocolate, finely chopped
  • 100g dark chocolate, finely chopped
  1. First make the jelly. Grease a 20cm round cake tin and line with cling film (you can use the 23cm tin that you will bake the cake in, but you’ll have to make this the day before so that you can remove it before making the cake). Remove the zest from 4 of the oranges and set aside for the cake. Tip the orange juice and sugar into a saucepan and gently heat to dissolve the sugar. Meanwhile, soak the gelatine leaves in cold water for a few mins until soft. Remove the gelatine from the water, squeeze out any excess and add to the warm orange juice, stir until the gelatine has dissolved. Pour the liquid into the lined cake tin and chill for at least 4 hrs or preferably overnight.
  2. Heat oven to 160C/140C fan/gas 3 and line a 23cm round cake tin with baking parchment. Tip all the cake ingredients into a large mixing bowl and combine with an electric hand whisk until smooth. Spoon into the tin and smooth over the surface. Bake in the centre of the oven for 55 mins, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 15 mins, then invert onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.
  3. Now make the ganache. Heat the cream in a small pan until hot. Put the chocolate in a small bowl and pour over the cream, leave for 10 mins, then mix well – you should be left with a smooth chocolate sauce. Leave at room temperature until the ganache cools and thickens a little (you can put it in the fridge to speed this up, but keep an eye on it, as it will set quickly).
  4. To assemble the cake, place it on a cake stand and trim the top to give you a flat surface. Warm the apricot jam in the microwave until a little runny. Paint it over the top of the cake, then flip the orange jelly out of its tin, and position on top. Using a palette knife, swirl the chocolate ganache over the orange jelly, letting it dribble down the sides of the cake a little. Serve straight away or within 24 hours.

I’m a huge fan of James Martin generally. While I appreciate  and enjoy the work of chefs that are pushing the boundaries with foams, soils and microherbs, I also appreciate chefs like James Martin who excel at good, traditional,  no nonsense food. It has a chef-fy twist, but the roots will be in classic flavour combinations and techniques. He’s opened a restaurant in a casino in Manchester that I hope to visit soon ( on my first attempt to visit, I wasn’t allowed in as I couldn’t prove I was over 18. As a 29 year old, I was naturally delighted. )

For now, I’ll have to stick to making his recipes at home.

This one is a winner! It’s the same principle as a chocolate fondant – where you cut into the pudding and a soft centre oozes out at you – but instead of chocolate, this one is flavoured with toffee.

I didn’t have enough soft brown sugar for the recipe, so topped it up with a few tbsps of  treacle, so I ended up with a delicious treacle toffee. Which is also obviously why my toffee is darker than the photo on the recipe.

Toffee Pudding

Toffee Pudding

Recipe from James Martin via BBC Good Food

For the toffee centre

  • 100g soft brown sugar
  • 75ml double cream, plus extra to serve

For the sponge

  • 75g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
  • 75g soft brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • 75g plain flour
  1. To make the toffee for the centre, put the sugar and cream in a pan over a medium heat, stir until the sugar has dissolved, then turn up the heat and let the toffee bubble for 3 mins until thick. Pour into a bowl and chill for 2 hrs until set.
  2. Remove the toffee from the fridge. Use a dessertspoon to scoop out 2 walnut-sized pieces, roll into balls and pop back in the fridge until needed. Any remaining toffee can be reheated to make a sauce to serve alongside the puddings.
  3. Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Generously grease 2 small pudding moulds. Beat the butter and sugar together in a bowl until pale and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla, and beat until combined. Add the flour and a pinch of salt. Divide the mixture between the moulds, reserving 2 tbsp. Push a toffee ball into each pudding, and cap off with the remaining mixture. The puddings can be frozen at this point or chilled for 2 hrs.
  4. Put the puddings on a baking tray and cook in the centre of the oven for 20 mins. Turn the puddings out straight away, serve with ice cream and a little extra reheated toffee sauce, if you like. To cook from frozen, heat oven to 180C/160 fan/gas 4 and cook for 35 mins.

Kieran loves a bit of rice pudding so thought I’d make some so we could have a big bowl while watching a film. I was looking for a traditional and low maintenance recipe and came across this one from Simon Hopkinson. I’d seen him make it on his cooking show and it looked pretty easy – and it turned out really well.

Creamy, smooth, rich and exactly what I was looking for. Make sure you dredge with plenty of grated nutmeg!

Rice Pudding

Rice Pudding

Recipe from Simon Hopkinson on BBC Food Website

Ingredients

  • 40g/1½oz butter
  • 100g/3½fl oz pudding rice (or Spanish paella rice)
  • 75g/2½oz caster sugar
  • 1 litre/1¾pints full-fat milk
  • 150ml/5fl oz double cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or ½ vanilla pod, split lengthways
  • pinch salt
  • plenty freshly grated nutmeg

Preparation method

  1. Preheat the oven to 140C/285F/Gas 1.
  2. Melt the butter in a heavy-based casserole dish over a medium heat. Add the rice and stir to coat. Add the sugar, stirring until dissolved. Continue stirring until the rice swells and becomes sticky with sugar.
  3. Pour in the milk and keep stirring until no lumps remain. Add the cream and vanilla and bring the mixture to a simmer. Once this is reached, give the mixture a final stir and grate at least a third of a nutmeg over the surface. Bake for 1-1½ hours and cover with foil if the surfaces browns too quickly.
  4. Once there is a thin, tarpaulin-like skin on the surface, and the pudding only just wobbles in the centre, it is ready.
  5. Serve at room temperature.
Just out of the oven

Just out of the oven

I adore earl grey, so have incorporated it into my baking a number of times, with varying degrees of success.

Most recipes I’ve tried that are supposedly earl grey flavoured don’t actually taste of it. I’ve tried ‘earl grey flavoured’ cupcakes, tea cakes and bread to no avail.

It seems to me that they contain such meagre amounts of the earl grey tea itself that it’s no wonder that it doesn’t affect the overall flavour. Most of them only contain a couple of tablespoons of tea. Either these recipes need to pump up the volume flavour-wise, or quit with the false advertising. When something tells me it’s earl grey flavoured, I want to taste earl grey.

This strudel has the same problem.  This recipe is saved by the sorbet, which is undoubtedly earl grey flavoured and goes with the strudel perfectly. This recipe also makes enough sorbet to last you months.   The strudel itself, regardless of my irritation with the potency of the flavourings, is actually delicious and very easy to make.

Pear and Earl Grey Strudel

Pear and Earl Grey Strudel

Recipe by James Martin, lifted from BBC Food

Ingredients

For the sorbet
  • 30g/1oz Earl Grey tea leaves
  • 300g/10oz caster sugar
  • 1 lemon, juice only
  • 1 litre /1¾ pints boiling water
For the strudel
  • 700g/1.5lb pears, peeled
  • 1 tbsp Earl Grey tea leaves
  • 3 tbsp caster sugar
  • ½ lemon, juice only
  • 150g/5½oz sultanas
  • 100g/3½oz flaked almonds, toasted
  • 100g/3½oz soft light brown sugar
  • 1½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 275g/10oz ready-made filo pastry
  • 1 heaped tbsp icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
  • 100g/3½oz butter, melted
  • 2-3 rich tea biscuits, crumbled, to serve (optional)

Preparation method

  1. For the sorbet, mix together the tea leaves, caster sugar and lemon juice in a heatproof bowl. Pour over the boiling water and set aside to steep for at least 30 minutes.
  2. When the mixture has steeped, strain it through a fine sieve into an ice cream maker. Churn the mixture, according to the manufacturer’s instructions, until almost frozen, then transfer to a freezable container and place in the freezer until set.
  3. (NB: To make the sorbet without an ice cream maker, freeze the mixture in a freezable container for one hour, then remove and stir to break up the ice crystals. Repeat the freezing and stirring process 2-3 times, until the sorbet is frozen solid.)
  4. Meanwhile, for the strudel, preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5.
  5. Stand the pears in the bottom of a saucepan. Add the tea leaves, caster sugar and lemon juice, then pour over enough cold water to just cover the pears. Bring the mixture to the boil, stirring carefully.
  6. When the liquid is boiling, reduce the heat until it is simmering. Poach the pears for 15-20 minutes, or until tender. Drain the pears, rinsing off any tea leaves that stick to them, then set aside to cool slightly.
  7. When the pears have cooled, cut them into quarters, remove the cores, then chop roughly.
  8. In a bowl, mix together the chopped poached pears, sultanas and almonds until well combined.
  9. Mix together the soft brown sugar and ground cinnamon, then fold the mixture into the pear mixture until well combined.
  10. Lay the filo pastry onto a work surface lightly dusted with icing sugar. Overlap the sheets of pastry slightly to form a rectangle about 40cm x 30cm/16in x 12in. As you layer the filo pastry sheets, brush each sheet all over with the melted butter.
  11. Continue to add the remaining filo pastry sheets in layers, brushing each sheet with more of the melted butter, until all the filo pastry and butter is used.
  12. Sprinkle the pear mixture onto the filo pastry rectangle, leaving a 2.5cm/1in free at the edges of the rectangle.
  13. Fold the free edges of the long sides of the rectangle back over the pear mixture. Starting at one end of the shorter sides of the rectangle, roll up the filo pastry and pear filling to form a swiss roll.
  14. Transfer the filo pastry roll to a baking tray and dust all over with the icing sugar. Bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes, or until the pastry is crisp and golden-brown.
  15. To serve, slice the cinnamon strudel and place one slice into the centre of each serving plate. Sprinkle some of the rich tea biscuits in a pile alongside the strudel. Place a scoop of the Earl Grey sorbet on top of the crumbled rich tea biscuits.

Merry Christmas! I hope you all had a good one! Of course, I spent most of it eating and drinking so the rest of my holiday will be spent drifting off on the sofa or trying to burn it all off at the gym. I’ll need an extra hour in the gym for this cake.

The title of this is misleading. Although this is described as a black forest traybake, the only cherries you’ll find in this are the glacé cherries scattered on top. Really, it’s chocolate cake with black forest themed adornments. But of course,  there’s nothing wrong with that.

 

Black Forest Traybake

Black Forest Traybake

  • 75g /3oz cocoa powder
  • ¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • unsalted butter for greasing
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 370g /12¾ oz light muscovado sugar
  • 180ml /6¼ fl oz groundnut or vegetable oil
  • 200g /7oz self-raising flour sifted

ICING

  • 150g/ 5oz dark chocolate about
  • 50 per cent cocoa
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 2 tbsp whipping cream
  • 1 x 100g Toblerone bar finely sliced (I didn’t have Toblerone, so used Flakes instead)
  • 75g /3oz glacé cherries halved

  1. Whisk the cocoa with 200ml / 7fl oz boiling water, whisk in the bicarbonate of soda and leave to cool for about 20 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4 and butter (or grease with a little extra vegetable oil) a traybake tin about 30cm x 23cm x 4cm deep (12in x 9in x 1½ in). There is no need to line it unless you are planning to turn out the cake whole.
  3. Whisk together the eggs, sugar and oil in a large bowl, then fold in the flour, and then the cocoa solution. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 30-40 minutes until risen and firm and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Run a knife around the edge of the cake and leave to cool.
  4. To make the icing, break up the chocolate and gently melt it with the golden syrup and cream in a bowl set over a pan containing a little simmering water, whisking until glossy and smooth.
  5. Drizzle the icing over the cake, scatter over the Toblerone slices and arrange the cherries here and there. Set aside to harden for a couple of hours before cutting into squares. They will keep well in an airtight container for several days


My baking group was having a ‘garden glut’ week, where we all had to bring in bakes that were made with vegetables. I wanted to move away from carrot or beetroot cakes, so went with sweet potato, since I had loads of them in my fridge.

This turned out really well. The spiced cake works really well with the maple icing. A great big slab of this would be perfect with a cup of tea! (or a pint of guinness, as I found at the baking group).

IMG_2652

Sweet Potato Cake with Maple Icing

Adapted from recipe on Raspberri Cupcakes blog

I ramped up the spicing in the cake for extra flavour and also added some chopped pecans for texture. 

For the cake:

  • 2-3 largered sweet potatoes (enough to make 2 cups cooked & mashed)
  • 2 3/4 cups plain flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1tsp mixed spice
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups golden caster sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 40g chopped pecans

For the icing:

  • 125g cream cheese
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  1. Cook and mash your sweet potatoes and leave them to cool. 
  2. Preheat oven to 160°C (325°F). Sift flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder, mixed spice and salt together. In a seperate bowl, add sugar and oil to sweet potatoes; using electric mixer, beat until smooth. Add eggs 2 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture; beat just until blended. Beat in vanilla. Add the chopped pecans. 
  3. Make sure your bundt tin is well oiled – bake for 1 hour or until a cake tester comes out clean. 
  4. Cool in tin for 15 mins before turning out onto a rack to cool completely. 
  5. Mix the icing ingredients together and dollop liberally onto the cake. 
  6. Decorate with some pecans. 

The theme for the baking group I go to was ‘no bake’, so anything you could make without the assistance of an oven.  I decided to make a chocolate mousse cake, well, because chocolate mousse is awesome.

Chocolate mousse cake

Chocolate mousse cake

And didn’t it look pretty.  I didn’t bet on Manchester getting such a good summer.

This is one minute after I took it out of the fridge at work.

Errr, it melted

Errr, it melted

And this is an hour later, when I got to the baking group.  Walking with it in the sunshine had completely melted it – so if you’re going to make this, keep it in the fridge for as long as possible!

Thankfully, I can report that it tasted awesome. No prizes for appearance though!

Recipe adapted from BBC Good Food

For the base

  • 100g 70% plain chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 100g butter
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • 200g Hob Nobs

For the mousse

  • 100g 70% plain chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 200g milk chocolate (at 30% cocoa solids), broken into pieces
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 300ml whipping cream
  • 2 punnets strawberries
  1. For the base, melt the chocolate with the butter and golden syrup in a bowl over barely simmer watering or on a low heat in the microwave.
  2. Put the biscuits in a bag and crush with a rolling pin until they reach a crumb consistency. Combine the two and spread over the base of a 23cm springform tin. Refrigerate for about an hour to set.
  3. For the mousse, melt the remaining plain chocolate and the milk chocolate together in the same way and allow to cool until lukewarm. Using an electric beater, whisk the eggs whites in one bowl to stiff peaks. Softly whip the whipping cream in another bowl until thickened but not as far as soft peaks.
  4. Stir the egg yolks into the chocolate, then beat the cream into the mixture – a balloon whisk is good for this. Work quickly if the chocolate looks like it might be becoming grainy. Gently fold in the eggs whites, spread the mixture over the biscuit base and return to the fridge overnight.
  5. Release from the tin and decorate with concentric circles of strawberries and serve.

Rhubarb is quite often an impulse purchase for me. It’s not on the list when I go to the greengrocer, but when I see it I can’t resist buying some. It’s something that reminds me of my dad, who loves rhubarb. He can’t resist a good old crumble, but I much prefer it in a sponge cake, with custard poured all over it. This cake could be one of my favourites.

This isn’t bursting with the flavour of orange, so next time I make it, I’ll be throwing another whole zest of orange in there.

Rhubard sponge and custard

Rhubarb  and orange sponge and custard

Recipe from BBC Good Food.

  • 400g rhubarb, thickly sliced
  • 280g golden caster sugar
  • 225g butter, softened
  • finely grated zest and juice 1 orange
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 100g pack ground almonds
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 medium eggs
  • small handful flaked almonds
  1. Tip the rhubarb into a bowl and sprinkle over 50g of the sugar. Stir so the rhubarb is covered, then set aside for 30 mins to draw out some of the juices (macerate). Meanwhile, grease and line the base and sides of a 23cm loose-bottomed, round cake tin with baking parchment and heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4.
  2. Tip remaining sugar, the butter, orange zest and juice into a large bowl and beat with an electric whisk until well blended. Add the flour, almonds, baking powder and eggs, then beat again until smooth. Fold in the rhubarb and any juices. Spoon into the tin and level the top.
  3. Sprinkle with the flaked almonds, then bake in the centre of the oven for 1 hr-1 hr 15 mins until risen, golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cover with foil if the cake starts to brown too much during cooking. Leave in the tin for 15 mins before removing and cooling completely on a wire rack.

 

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