Then, finally, on to this Claudia Roden classic ground almond and orange cake. I recommend having a slightly lower oven temperature (180C/ 350F / 160C fan) – I think this is the perfect amount of brownness on the outside for me!
There are still so many recipes I want to try, but these are all a good place to start!
Ultimate Chocolate Cake from Tarunima Sinha
This is a pretty damn good chocolate cake. Very slightly adapted from Tarunima Sinha, via Ravneet Gill’s Pastry Chef’s Guide. I’ve tried making it as a layer cake which also works – just do 2 – 3 tins and decrease the baking time to about 20-25 minutes. You can 100% do this without a stand mixer, but just be aware that the sugar likes to be really clumpy so you may need to give it a sieve or get in there with your hands to break it up.
100g milk chocolate (mine was about 35% cocoa)
100g dark chocolate
200g butter (I used salted)
A pinch of salt (make it a large one if your butter is unsalted)
160g plain flour
200g dark brown soft sugar
100g caster sugar
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
60g cocoa powder
180g eggs (3 UK large)
100g sour cream, buttermilk or even Greek yogurt
125ml cooled coffee (I opted for home made cold brew)
300ml/ 290g double cream
2 tbsp sugar
200g chocolate – I like a mix of dark and milk here, or a dark chocolate that’s around 50% cocoa. (I found my 72% cocoa one a bit too strong on its own)
Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F / 160 fan / gas 4. Grease an 8 in/ 20cm cake tin with butter and line with baking paper.
Melt the chocolates and butter together in a bain marie/ double boiler or cautiously in the microwave (stopping every 10-30 seconds to stir and check).
Pop the flour, sugars, baking powder, bicarb and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer.
Beat them on their own to break up any large lumps.
Add the chocolate mixture and beat until combined.
Add the coffee, sour cream and eggs and beat until combined.
Pour into the cake tin and bake for about 45 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean-ish.
This is for when you want a cake that needs no icing or decoration (other than maybe a drizzle of cream) – just a simple, very chocolatey, moist and fudgy, delicious cake. Adapted from Emiko on Food 52. Emiko says you can scale up or down this cake very easily, which is right. Just adjust the number of eggs then the rest of the ingredients accordingly. For example, 3 eggs would need 125g of the other ingredients, 4 would need 167g and 5 would need 208g. Just be aware that if the cake is large you may need to bake it for longer, or if a smaller cake you could increase the temperature very slightly and bake more quickly. This cake also happens to be gluten free.
208g ground almonds
208g dark chocolate
208g sugar (I used caster/superfine but granulated would be fine)
Preheat the oven to 160C / 320F / 140C fan / gas 3. Grease and line a cake tin – mine was 20cm/ 8in and springform.
Melt the chocolate and butter gently in the microwave or on a double boiler/ bain marie set up.
Whisk the eggs and sugar really well, ideally using a stand mixer so you don’t get sore arms, until tripled in volume.
Fold in the chocolate mixture and the ground almonds into the egg mixture, gently.
Transfer to the tin. Place the tin on a baking tray in case any fat leaks out. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until mostly set but still a little fudgy in the middle.
Benjamina Ebuelhi’s Hot Chocolate Halva Pudding/ Self-Saucing Dessert
This is arguably not a cake but what we Brits call a “pudding”, ie a squidgy, possibly slightly stodgy, delight. The amount of sugar in this is outrageous but it actually was surprisingly well balanced thanks to the sesame and cocoa flavours. Perfect for a special occasion or treat. I do have Benjamina’s fab book The New Way to Cake. but happily this is also featured as a genius recipe on Food 52. I haven’t written it out here as I didn’t adapt or change in any way (other than using brewed coffee not espresso powder). It’s perfect. Use good chocolate if you can, it will make all the difference. Also a good cocoa. Mine is Dutch processed Green and Black’s.
When making my beloved chocolate-dipped frozen bananas, I had some leftover chocolate. Not knowing what to do with it, I saw some strawberries in the freezer. I was surprised by how good this was. I liked the balance of using a pretty dark chocolate or a mix of dark and milk.
The River Cafe’s Genius Strawberry Sorbet
I’ve halved this recipe because my food processor and ice cream maker could not cope with the original amount. Otherwise it’s amazing.
1 to 1 1/2 lemons, depending on taste
200g caster sugar
500g strawberries before hulling / 450g after hulling
Cut the lemon in half. Roughly chop one of the halves (including the skin and pips) and remove the pips. Whizz this in a food processor with the sugar until only small bits remain.
Roughly chop the strawberries and add these to the food processor and whizz until well combined. Add the juice of the other half of the lemon and combine. Taste. If you’d like more acidity add a little more lemon juice.
Churn in an ice cream maker or use the stir-freeze method. Leave to freeze for several hours before serving.
Roasted Strawberry Gelato
Gelato is characterised by making a custard thickened only with egg yolks (no cream, no starch), and then churning this with flavourings. It makes for an icier, cleaner finish, whereas French ice cream is richer. This is the way to getting a very well-flavoured natural strawberry ice cream, but the quantity of berries is a lot – sorry. Gelato isn’t hard but it’s a two or three-step process. Using a standard ice cream maker I’ve found I need to freeze the bowl for 24 hours in advance. This recipe is adapted from the fab ‘Standard Italian Vanilla Gelato’ in Ice Cream, Sorbets and Gelati by Caroline and Robin Weir.
For the gelato base:
470g/ ml whole milk (3.5% fat)
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
105g granulated or caster (superfine) sugar
100g / 5 UK large egg yolks
A pinch of salt
Whisk the egg yolks, salt and sugar until at least tripled in volume, very light in colour and very thick. Meanwhile, heat the milk and vanilla until steaming.
Gradually pour the milk into the egg yolk mixture and stir or whisk in gently. Transfer to a heat proof bowl (if not already using one) set over a pan of simmering water. Keep the bowl over the simmering water until the mixture has thickened so that you can draw a vertical line on the back of the spatula (some recipes say until it coats the back of a spoon).
If you do this over direct heat it’s much more likely that the eggs will coagulate (go lumpy). If they do, knock out the lumps with a hand blender. I found, though, that the mixture became a tiny bit lumpy again after churning, so I’d avoid the coagulation altogether if possible, and this method should make it possible. Cool then transfer to the fridge until ready to use.
For the roasted strawberries:
Hull 900g strawberries. Mix with 2 tbsp/ 30g sugar. Place on a massive lined baking sheet (or two) and roast at 170C / 325F / 150 fan / gas 3 for 1 hour, or until the strawberries are very soft and surrounded by a thick glossy gloop. (Some recipes go even lower and slower – I’ve seen some that take 3 hours!) Cool and transfer to the fridge until needed.
Churn the custard in an ice cream maker – pour it in while churning if possible. Churn for about half an hour until significantly thickened. Churn or stir in the strawberry mixture. Freeze for a good few hours. Enjoy.
If he doesn’t appreciate your fruit puns, you better let that..
In this week’s episode I talk to Kirsty Haigh about why she became a chef, food memories, food education, working with young people and her favourite things to bake. Follow her on Instagram @kirstyehaigh and also follow and donate to Edinburgh Food Social! @edinburghfoodsocial / edinburghfoodsocial.org
Recipes mentioned in the podcast are below!
Mango Tarte Tatin
Delicious, but wasn’t very strongly mango flavoured. I suggest this as a way to use up mangoes that are refusing to ripen, or to up the mango by serving it with a few slices of fresh mango on the side. I would still make it again!
2 large mangoes, stones discarded and sliced (the usable bits of flesh came to 517g for me)
The yolk of one egg, beaten (loosen up with a bit of milk/ egg white/ water, if it’s a bit stiff)
Serve with any combination of these (or none at all): ice cream, cream, fresh mango, a squeeze of lime
I used a 9 x 13 in / 23 x 33 cm enamel roasting tin, which can be used on the hob. However you could use a pan to make the caramel and a separate roasting tin. Just try to scrape out as much of the caramel goodness as you can from the pan!
Roll out the pastry to the size of the tin that will go in the oven and chill for 15 minutes or more.
Grease your tin, if using a separate tin.
Heat the sugar until it dissolves and starts to change colour.
Add the butter and stir (a wooden spoon or silicone spatula is best here).
Add mango and cook for a few minutes. This is partly to reduce the water content and partly to soften up any unripe mango slices. Leave to cool.
Preheat the oven to 200C / 180C fan / gas 6 / 400F.
Distribute the mango and as much of the caramel and juices as you can on the bottom of the tin. Top with the pastry. Brush with the beaten egg yolk.
Bake for about 25 minutes. Leave to cool for 5-10 minutes before turning out on to a dish / baking tray that is large enough and has a rim, so the juices don’t go everywhere! Be swift and decisive with your turning out.
Admire and feel very proud of your creation. Slice. Squeeze over a little lime juice, if desired. Serve with a dollop of cream, ice cream, a few slices of fresh mango or just as it is.
Mango Ice Lollies / Popsicles / Ices
This is less of a recipe and more of a suggestion! Basically mango, lime and some kind of dairy go really well together.
I used 2 ripe mangoes, about 200g whipped double/ heavy cream, about 2 tbsp icing/ confectioners’ sugar, the zest of a lime and the juice of half. I just blended this all together.
But you could use yogurt, whole milk, any type of cream or even a coconut yogurt or dairy-free cream. Just taste before freezing to make sure you’ve got the consistency and taste you want. Mine was quite thick but if you want a more refreshing popsicle use yogurt or milk.
Adapted from Jerelle Guy’s Strawberry Spoon Cake. The brown sugar gives it delicious caramel notes. The strawberries are really prominent – as they should be!
275g soft salted butter (or use unsalted and a pinch of salt)
350g hulled strawberries (about 400g before they’re hulled)
275g light brown sugar
285g whole milk
285g plain/ all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
Preheat the oven to 350F / 180C / 160 fan / gas 4. Grease and line a 9x13in / 23x33cm tin.
Mash the berries with half the sugar.
Whisk the butter and remaining sugar until much lighter and fluffier. Whisk in the flour, baking powder and then the milk.
Transfer to the baking tin. Spoon over the strawberries and juice on to the cake batter.
Bake for about 35 minutes- turn it down if you are worried about the sides or bottom burning.
Cool for a few minutes or serving. Alternatively, you can cool it down completely and reheat however much you need before serving. Best served warm with vanilla or earl grey ice cream (recipe on the way!) .
Blondies with Fresh Cherries and Dark Chocolate
I used my base blondie recipe (adapted from several different sources) but using some dark chocolate instead of all white and added fresh cherries I needed to use up. The result was fabulous: jammy cherries, buttery cake and gooey chocolate. So I’m sharing it here.
200g butter (for best results use European style) (this is a bit under two sticks in the US)
100g white chocolate, good quality if possible
150g dark chocolate, in large pieces.
200g plain/ all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
250g light brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 UK large eggs (equivalent to US extra large, roughly 60g each or 180g in total)
Preheat the oven to 180C / 350 F / 160 C fan / gas 4. If you are using a glass or ceramic dish, I’d turn it down a little to accommodate for the heat retention of the pan – say 170 C or 325F. For best results use a thin, light coloured metal pan. Grease and line a 9 x 13 in / 33cm x 23cm tin/ dish.
Stone the cherries and set aside. Melt the butter and white chocolate together, stir and set aside to cool slightly. Measure out the flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl. You could sieve to ensure no lumps or just check it isn’t looking lumpy.
Whisk the eggs and sugar together for several minutes until tripled in volume. This is key to the crackly top finish on brownies and blondies. I used a stand mixer to make life easier, an electric hand whisk would work but you’d be standing there for a long time.
Fold in the butter and white chocolate mixture, then the flour mixture. Go slowly, steadily and make sure there are no pockets of unmixed flour or butter.
Transfer to the baking tin/ dish. Scatter over the cherries and dark chocolate pieces evenly. Bake for about 40 minutes, checking maybe 5 minutes before that time to see if they’re done. It’s okay for them to have a bit of a wobble in the middle but they shouldn’t be liquid! Leave to cool completely in the dish.
This week I tried out hot water crust pastry for the first time, making mushroom pasties.
Mushroom and Tarragon Pasties
I used this recipe from Ruby Tandoh and reviewed it on the podcast!
I used my leftover rough puff/ flaky pastry from last week’s episode to make the most incredible bakewell pudding. I also did some goodbye baking as I’m changing jobs, including a chocolate sheet cake with a mascarpone icing and a vegan banana cake with pecans and chocolate. A vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe is being refined, I’m not 100% happy with it although it did please a lot of young people.
The Best Bakewell Pudding Recipe
This got RAVE reviews at work, from my partner, and I also thought this was one of the tastiest things I have ever made. I usually opt for a shortcrust pastry but the flaky pastry (which apparently makes this a pudding rather than a tart?!) was absolutely INCREDIBLE. So crisp and buttery. The fresh cherries also went jammy during baking and made the filling a little bit gooey. Trust me on this and see for yourself. Best eaten within 24 hours but my partner ate some the day after this and didn’t complain!
330g home made rough puff/ pastry flaky pastry (see last week’s recipe)
150g soft salted butter, plus some to grease the dish (if using unsalted, add a pinch of salt)
150g caster/ superfine sugar (granulated is probably fine!)
150g ground almonds
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 UK large egg (US extra large / c. 60g in weight)
A handful of flaked almonds to decorate (optional)
A few tbsp cherry preserve or cherry jam (I used Bonne Maman)
About 100g fresh cherries, halved and pitted
Flour, for dusting
Butter a large pie dish. (Mine was a 27cm / 10.5 in Pyrex glass dish.) Lightly dust a clean work surface and a rolling pin with flour. Roll out the pastry to a few millimetres thick so it will fit inside the pie dish. Leave a couple of millimetres extra at the top of the sides as it will shrink when baking. Prick the bottom with a fork about 6 times. Cover and refrigerate for half an hour.
Preheat the oven to 190C/ 170 fan / 375F / gas 5. Scrunch up a large sheet of baking paper so it will completely cover the bottom and sides of the pastry with some overhang. Place over the pastry and then fill with baking beans or dried pulses. Bake for 15 minutes, then carefully tip out the baking beans into a bowl. Return the pie crust to the oven to dry out for a further 15 minutes. Remove from the oven. If the crust has any air bubbles, gently press them down with the back of a spoon.
Turn the oven down to 180C / 160C fan / 350F / gas 4. Beat the butter and sugar for a minute. Add the egg and a spoon of the almonds and beat in. Add the remaining almonds, the almond extract and the baking powder and combine.
Spread cherry jam over the bottom of the crust until there are no gaps (but you don’t want too thick a layer). Fill with the almond mixture. Place the cherries on top in an even manner. (They will sink but it’s easier to put them in at this point!) Bake for about 30 minutes, then check if it is done or needs longer by putting a skewer in the middle. Scatter over the flaked almonds, if using, and return for a further 10 minutes if it’s still liquidy. Check again. Mine needed 40-45 minutes if I remember correctly, but I baked it until just set, which gave a perfectly gooey filling. Leave to cool in the dish until almost room temperature, then place on a wire rack to cool further. Cooling it fully ensures a great texture, but you can warm slices in the oven before serving, if you like.
Feed-A-Crowd Chocolate Sheet Cake with Mascarpone Icing
I’m guessing most of us still aren’t baking for crowds, but maybe in the coming months or year we will be able to. This makes two sheet cakes in foil roasting tins 36x26cm / 15x10in, serving 24(!) people. Mine were a little too thin so I’ve upped the eggs to 6. For this amount of mixture I’d recommend using a stand mixer, if you have one. The icing got a lot of compliments and recipe requests. To me it had a mellow, not-too-sweet white chocolate kind of flavour, which I think must be the vanilla and the creaminess. This balances perfectly with the tartness of fresh raspberries!
6 UK large/ US extra large eggs (360g)
90g Dutch-processed, high quality cocoa (I use Green and Black’s)
270g plain/ AP flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
360g light brown sugar
360g soft salted butter (or unsalted with a pinch of salt)
150g double/ heavy cream
150g strong cold coffee
3 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla sugar
For the icing: 500g mascarpone, 125g icing sugar, 2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla sugar
For the top: 300g fresh raspberries
Preheat the oven to 180C / 160C fan / 350 F / gas 4. Line the foil roasting tins with baking paper. Some overhang is fine or even good.
Beat the butter and sugar for a few minutes until very light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and combine after each addition. Add the flour and combine. Add the cream, coffee and vanilla and combine.
Bake for about 15-20 minutes, and then check to see if it’s set. If it’s still liquidy, return to the oven for 5 minutes or so, then check again. Mine took about 20-25 minutes.
To make the icing, simply plop all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk. Spread over completely cooled cakes. Just before serving, scatter over the raspberries.
Vegan Banana Cake with Dark Chocolate and Pecans
Adapted from a recipe in The Quick Roasting Tin by Rukmini Iyer. This cake is much lighter than a classic banana bread and so low in refined sugar I ate it guilt-free for breakfast the next day. (Not sure anyone medically qualified would agree with this!)
300g banana flesh (about 3 medium bananas)
70g olive oil
80g light brown sugar
90g orange or clementine juice (you could also add the zest, if using fresh oranges)
250g plain / AP flour
4 tsp baking powder (I know it sounds like a lot but it didn’t turn out soapy)
100g 70% cocoa solids dark chocolate (check it’s vegan if you need to), chopped or broken up
100g pecans, broken up
Preheat the oven to 180C / 160C fan / 350F / gas 4. Line a small-ish roasting or baking dish (20x15cm / 8x6in) with baking paper, leaving some overhang.
Break up the bananas into your mixing bowl. Whisk with the oil and sugar until smooth. Add the flour and baking powder and combine.
Tip into the roasting dish. Scatter over the chocolate then the pecans. Bake for 20 minutes, then check with the skewer test. If it’s still liquidy, pop back into the oven for a few minutes, then check again. Leave to cool in the tin for a good while before using the baking paper to transfer it to a wire rack to cool further. Keeps for a couple of days in an airtight container but probably would stale quickly after this.
This week I was trying a rough puff recipe from Gemma Stafford at Bigger Bolder Baking, then using it in a chocolate frangipane galette from Olive Magazine. It didn’t all go to plan though it still tasted good… listen to the podcast to find out why!
This week I was trying to hone my pastry skills with two technical bakes: passion fruit cream puffs and Danish pastry cream envelopes. I also made a really, really simple and quick comforting chocolate dessert cake. In the podcast I give a (pretty comprehensive) guide to British baking terms and ingredients!
Choux Pastry Recipe
50g butter (salted or unsalted with a pinch of salt)
80ml whole milk (3.5% fat) AND 80ml water (OR 160ml 2% / semi-skimmed milk)
65g plain flour
2 UK large / US extra large eggs (c. 120g in their shells)
Preheat the oven to 200C / 180 fan / 390 F / gas 6. Stick down a sheet of baking parchment on a large baking tray with a little butter to hold it down.
Put the butter, milk, water (and salt, if needed) in a small pan. Heat together until steaming.
Add the flour all in one go. Beat with a spatula or wooden spoon, keeping the pan on the heat, for a couple of minutes, stirring continuously.
Take off from the heat and leave for 5 minutes. You could transfer to a bowl to make this slightly faster. Beat the eggs in a separate cup or small bowl. Beat them in gradually, using a wire whisk from halfway through. The texture should be a “resistant drop”, forming a triangle shape when you hold the spatula horizontal to the bowl before dropping after a couple of seconds.
Spoon into a plastic piping bag, then snip the end off to a width of 1 cm / just under 1/2 an inch. (Alternatively, you could use a nozzle of the same size and a better-for-the-planet renewable piping bag.) In a pinch you can use a plastic ziplock / thick sandwich bag instead of a piping bag.
Pipe about 10-12 circular puffs, leaving a few cm (a couple of inches) between each one so there is room for them to expand in the oven.
Bake for 15 minutes, then turn down to 180C/ 160 fan / 350 F / gas 4 and bake for a further 15 minutes. Do not open the oven door, especially not in the first 20 minutes of baking. They need to be really crisp and golden brown- don’t be afraid to leave them in a couple of minutes longer if you’re unsure, as long as they aren’t on the edge of burning!
Remove from the oven. Leave to cool for a minute, then transfer to a wire rack. As soon as you are able to do so without horribly burning yourself, slice them open carefully with a serrated (bread) knife about 2/3 of the way up. Place the tops next to the bottoms. The bottoms should be upright to allow steam to escape.
Creme Patissiere Recipe
Makes about double the quantity needed for pastries or puffs!
300ml whole (3.5%) milk
The yolks of 3-4 large eggs (UK large or US extra large, or you can weigh the yolks – you want 60-80g yolk.) (To get a lovely yellow, you want really high quality eggs that have a rich orange yolk. In Britain, St Ewe’s eggs and Clarence Court Mabel Pearlman eggs are ideal.)
45g caster/ superfine sugar (granulated should work fine too)
3 tbsp / 25g cornflour
1.5 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract
Heat the milk until steaming. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and sugar for 4-5 minutes until very light and creamy, then whisk in the cornflour. (You do need a stand mixer or electric beaters for this bit, unless you’re Popeye.) Scrape down the sides and around the bottom, especially if you’re using a stand mixer.
Very gradually add the hot milk by pouring it down the side of the bowl while whisking slowly. You have to whisk constantly The easiest way to do this is with a stand mixer on low speed but you can absolutely do this by hand. (Don’t whisk on a high setting, as it will get unmanageably frothy.) Return to the sauce pan and put back on the heat, stirring constantly with a spatula. After a few minutes you will notice it suddenly starts to thicken – that’s the starch molecules bursting and it will make the cream very gelatinous, very quickly! Keep stirring until you have an even consistency (you may want to take it off the heat after it’s mostly thickened).
Transfer to a small heatproof bowl, cover the surface with cling film to prevent a skin forming, and leave to cool. When it’s at room temperature, pop into the fridge until you’re ready to use it. You can loosen it up by giving it a good stir. I’ve found this method very reliable, but if you do have any lumps, you can knock them out with a hand blender.
(Passion Fruit) Creme Chiboust Recipe
Creme chiboust is literally just pastry cream and whipped cream mixed together. Make a creme patissiere as above, and add about 250g whipped double / heavy cream (c. 48% fat) to this. In this instance I used slightly more – 300ml/ 290g. I found it fine to whisk it in gently, but recipes usually suggest folding it in after loosening up your creme pat by giving it a beat or whisk on its own. To make it passion fruit, cut about 6 wrinkly passion fruit in half and scrape out the filling into a sieve over a bowl. Leave to strain. Stir and press to strain more juice. Stir this in with the whipped cream. You can, of course, leave in or use some of the seeds, it’s just my preference that I’m not keen on them!
Danish Pastry Cream Envelopes
I made the danish pasty dough from Ruby Tandoh (link here). (I find that with my oven I need to bake at a lower temperature for the first 10 minutes.) I rolled out the dough, cut it into 12 squares, plopped a dessert spoon of creme patissiere in each and added a couple of raspberries on top before pinching two corners in to shape. (My shaping needs work!!!) Optionally, you could top with flaked almonds, change up the fruit, use jam, etc etc. I have plans to try making pastries with lemon curd, tinned apricots (which would make oranais aux abricots or abricotines) and many more variations.
Easy-Peasy Chocolate Studded Cakey Dessert
This is what I turn to when I need a comforting pudding fast. It’s based on something my Mum made when I was growing up.
3 UK large / US extra large eggs (c. 180g in weight)
180g room-temp butter (and a pinch of salt if the butter is unsalted)
140g plain flour with 1/2 tsp baking powder or 140g self-raising flour (leave out the baking powder if you want it to be more fudgy!)
40g cocoa powder (I used dutch-processed but natural is probably fine)
180g caster/ superfine sugar (granulated is fine)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Around 200g broken up bits of chocolate- I like milk and white chocolate callets by Belcolade)
Preheat the oven to 180C / 350 F / 160C fan / gas 4. Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Add the flour, cocoa powder, vanilla and beat until just combined. Transfer to a small lined casserole dish. Bake for about 15 minutes until it passes the skewer test. Best served WARM!
In this episode I was talking about a blue cheese pastry I’ve fallen in love with and a pistachio meringue cake I’ve made a couple of times now for very special occasions, including a friend’s micro-wedding this week!
Pear, Walnut and Blue Cheese Tart
Recipe by Anna Glover in Good Food’s Vegetarian Christmas, 2020
For the pastry:
100g wholemeal flour (strong wholemeal and spelt wholemeal both work, too)
100g plain/ all purpose flour (if using spelt wholemeal make this strong white flour)
100g cold cubed butter
1 egg (I found it works with both UK medium/ US large and UK large/ US extra large)
50g hard crumbly blue cheese, such as Stilton or Gorgonzola Piccante
A pinch of salt
For the filling:
3 UK large / US extra large eggs, 1 separated, egg white beaten (total weight c. 180g)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 leek, sliced
125ml double cream (I’ve found I can use 150ml [ie. a whole small tub] and avoid waste)
1 ripe pear, halved, cored and thinly sliced
50g hard crumbly blue cheese, such as Stilton or Gorgonzola Piccante (I usually use more)
40g walnut halves (I usually use more)
Butter for greasing the dish
Salt and pepper
To make the pastry: Put both flours and the walnuts into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the walnuts are finely chopped. Add the butter and a pinch of salt, then pulse again until the mixture resembles damp sand. Add the egg and cheese and pulse together again until the mixture comes together in a ball. Add tiny drops of cold water to bring it together, if needed. (KH: I find if I use a medium egg I need to add water, but don’t if my egg is large.) Wrap the dough and chill for 30 minutes.
Blind baking: Heat the oven to 200C / 180 fan / gas 6 / 390 F. Grease a 23cm tart dish with butter. Roll the pastry out on a work surface lightly dusted with plain flour to the thickness of a £1 coin (3.15 mm). Place into the dish, using the rolling pin as a transportation device if needed. Patch any cracks with off-cuts and press into the dish. Press the edge with the back of a knife. Prick the base with a fork, then line with a scrunched sheet of baking parchment and then baking beans/ dried pulses. Bake for 15-20 minutes, then remove the baking beans and parchment. Glaze the inside of the pastry case with the reserved egg white. Bake for a further 10-15 minutes until light golden and dry.
For the filling: Meanwhile, heat the oil in the pan and fry the seasoned leeks until soft. Leave to cool. In a bowl or jug, whisk the two whole eggs, egg yolk, cream and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the pear slices in the base, then spoon the leeks on top. Scatter in the cheese and walnuts. Pour in the egg and cream mix. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until set with a slight wobble in the centre.
Blue Cheese Pastry Straws
Make the pastry, as above, and roll out into a rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Scatter half with 50g blue cheese. Fold over and roll out again. Cut into strips. You could twist these if you like or cut them into fancy shapes. The pastry is very short so you may need to repair cracks now and then. Freeze. Brush with beaten egg. Bake at 200C / 180 fan / gas 6 / 390 F for about 25-30 minutes. Best served with slices of fresh pear.
Raspberry and Pistachio Meringue Cake
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen. Yes, this IS a lot of pistachios and very expensive to make, which is why I only do it for very special occasions! It’s incredibly delicious and not overly sweet. The meringue is chewy rather than crispy.
For the meringue layers:
225g caster sugar
The whites of 6 UK large/ US extra large eggs (c. 240g egg white)
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
400g pistachios without shells
1/4 tsp salt
For the filling:
50g white chocolate (75g if you want to drizzle on top)
1 tbsp vanilla paste
250g mascarpone (fridge-cold)
250g double/ heavy cream (c. 50% fat) (fridge-cold)
50g icing sugar
c. 250g fresh raspberries
To make the meringue layers (I like to do this the day before):
Roast the pistachios in a preheated low oven (325F / 160 C / 140 fan/ gas 3) for about 15-20 minutes until toasty all around. You may want to give them a stir halfway through to ensure an even roasty-toastiness. Leave to cool. Leave the oven on at the same temperature.
Grease, line and grease again four 20cm/ 8 in round cake tins. (You need to grease the parchment paper in order for half the meringue to not just be stuck on there.) If you only have two of these tins, no worries – you can bake the meringues in batches, or you could draw out circles on to parchment, place on baking trays and grease the circles.
Blitz 340g of the pistachios with 100g of the sugar in the food processor until pretty finely ground, while very much avoiding taking it too far and making a nut butter. (Reserve the remaining pistachios for decoration.)
Whisk the egg whites, 125g of the sugar and the cream of tartar to the edge of stiff peaks.
Gently fold in the ground pistachio mixture, using a metal spoon and doing so in about 3 goes.
Dollop gently into the tins, level (an offset spatula is very useful here) and bake for about 20 minutes in the same low oven (160 C / 140 fan / 325 F / gas 3).
Leave to cool completely, then very gently transfer to a very airtight tin and leave overnight.
Grind the reserved pistachios in the empty food processor bowl (you don’t really need to wash it out). Place in an airtight container and reserve for assembly.
For the filling – do this the morning of or a few hours before serving:
Melt the white chocolate and leave to cool. Whisk fridge-cold mascarpone and fridge-cold double cream with 50g of the white chocolate, vanilla paste and icing sugar. Place a meringue layer on the bottom and spread the cream with an offset spatula (or you could pipe it). Place another meringue layer and spread/pipe another layer of cream. Place the third meringue layer and spread/ pipe another layer of cream. Then put fresh raspberries on top of this. Top with the final meringue layer and a final thick layer of cream, then put more raspberries on top of this. Drizzle with the remaining white chocolate, if you like. Finally, scatter with the reserved ground pistachios.