Category Archives: Dessert

Tiramisu Cake

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So George’s sister introduced us to our local Clandestine Cake Club. Each month they hold themed cake making/scoffing extravaganzas based on three simple principles:

1. You make a cake big enough to share
2. You get together and eat and share your cakes (and attempt conversations between mouthfuls of yumminess)
3. You take all sorts of cake home and get fat for the next week

This month’s theme was cakes based on other puddings or in other words, puddings masquerading as cakes. There’s no judging or egotism, just friendly people filling their faces as bemused members of then general public mosey on by. This tiramisu cake is based on the Smitten Kitchen tiramisu cake recipe, whose marsala cream is to die for. In fact, even if you don’t make the cake just make the cream and let spoon meet mouth.

Ingredients

For the coffee cake:

150g butter
120g sugar
150g self raising flour
3 eggs
1 tbsp baking powder
3 tbsp coffee essence such as camp coffee or very strong instant coffee

For the chocolate cake:

130g plain flour
40g cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
100g butter
2 eggs
120g sugar
120ml buttermilk (made simply by adding a tablespoon of lemon juice to milk and leaving for 10-15 minutes)
pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla essence

For the coffee syrup:

3 tbsp coffee essence (as above)
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp icing sugar

For the marsala cream:

250g marscapone
50g icing sugar
200ml double cream
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 tbsp marsala wine

Method

Preheat the oven to 160oC/320oF/gas mark 3  as you prepare the cakes and grease two 23cm (or thereabouts) cake tins.

For each of the two types of cakes, mix the dry ingredients together in separate bowls (sieved flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, cocoa). Add the butter and mix with an electric whisk until each turns to a sandy consistency. Add the respective flavourings.

In a separate bowl or mug, gently beat the eggs for one cake and add to the mixture a bit at a time, whisking until incorporated. Repeat with the eggs for the other cake. The coffee cake mixture is now ready to be poured into the cake tin and baked for 20-30 minutes. To the chocolate cake mixture, add the buttermilk and continue whisking until it becomes smooth. Pour into the second tin and bake for 20-30 minutes.

When baked, take the cakes out of the oven and mix up the coffee syrup in a small bowl. Drizzle evenly over the cakes and leave the cakes to cool fully.

To make the marsala cream, (which by the way, is extremely versatile and I challenge you not to eat any before it sees your cake) begin by beating the marscapone with the sieved icing sugar. In a second bowl, whisk the double cream until it forms stiff peaks. Add around a quarter of the cream to the marscapone mixture and mix thoroughly. Add the rest of the cream to the marscapone and fold very gently, so as not to lose the air from the mixture. When evenly mixed, store in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble your cake…if you can manage to not eat it all first.

To assemble the cake, place the chocolate cake on a plate or tray (the chocolate cake is slightly more structurally sound thus it makes sense for it to go on the bottom). Cover with a thick layer of marsala cream. Place the coffee cake on top. Spread the remaining marsala cream over the top. Dust with cocoa powder in some kind of pretty pattern. And go and join your local CCC!

Tadaaah!

Homemade Chai in a Bottle

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Makes approx. 1.5 litres chai concentrate

Ingredients
10 tea bags
2 cinnamon sticks
80g light brown sugar
3-inch piece of root ginger, grated
10 whole cloves
½ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 whole star anise
1 tsp fennel seeds
½ teaspoon of whole black peppercorns
peel of one orange (I peeled it like an apple, so the large strips won’t fit through the sieve at the end)
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

Method

Add all ingredients except the teabags and vanilla extract to a large saucepan along with a litre of water and bring to the boil. Boil around 800ml water in a kettle and add to the teabags. Leave to soak for a few minutes and squeeze. Add the tea to the pan. Simmer for 20-30 minutes before straining to remove the bits. Add the vanilla extract and decant into bottles whilst still warm. Seal the bottles and allow to cool.

Store in the fridge once cool. I would guess (though this hasn’t been tested) it would keep for 2-4 weeks unopened and 2 weeks once opened. When required, pour out around 2cm of syrup (more or less depending on taste) into a cup before topping up with hot milk or boiling water.

Makes a great Christmas gift all dressed up with ribbons, tags and a cinnamon stick and would also be nice as a flavouring in cakes and traybakes.

How to bake the World’s Best Brownie

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Brownies are great. Everybody loves a well baked brownie – you might know someone who doesn’t, but you only remember them because they are one in a million. This recipe is extremely versatile. It’s a rich, moist brownie that you can throw anything into to make it your own. The other great thing about this recipe is it is extremely difficult to get wrong – there is no danger of overmixing anything and it ending up as a chocolatey mess, and I have found that using the basic ranges of ingredients works just as well – just don’t tell anyone!

Ingredients

200g dark chocolate
250g unsalted butter (or baking spread/Stork)
300g sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
4 large eggs
80g cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
65g plain flour

Method

Melt the butter and chocolate  in a bowl above a saucepan of boiling water slowly. You can do this in a saucepan directly, but just be sure to do it slowly and keep stirring it regularly – it will be fine. Add the sugar to a bowl (or a large jug) along with the vanilla essence. Pour in the chocolatey buttery mixture and stir well. Add the four eggs and mix thoroughly until smooth. Sieve the flour into the bowl and beat until smooth and silky – you can try very hard – but I have never found it possible to overmix this – just beating it with a wooden spoon until smooth works just fine. Line a brownie tin with baking paper (neatly – this is the most important bit!) and pour in the mixture. Gently bash the tin on the worktop Bake for around 15 minutes at 170° until the outside is cakey and the middle is still a bit squidgy. As a general rule – check your brownie and if it wobbles when you shake it – it needs longer – ideally 5 minutes after the time it stops wobbling. There is a varying degree of squidgyness so if you’re into eating your brownie with a spoon – you probably want to leave it for less time – mine turn out quite sturdy, but moist in the middle. This advice becomes very important when you start adding things like raspberries and cheeseecake topping.

Optional extras:

You might like to try adding chopped nuts, chocolate chips, cherries, fresh raspberries (you can add frozen too – but you’ll need to substantially increase the cooking time) or chopped stem ginger. Add to the mixture at the end.

If dark chocolate is not your thing – this recipe works just as well with milk chocolate – just knock the sugar down to 250g and the butter down to 200g.

Adding a cheesecake topping and swirling it through the mixture adds a wonderfully simple, yummy extra. Mix 150g cream cheese with 60g icing sugar and a tsp vanilla extract. Beat in one egg and dollop on top of the mixture. Swirl through with a skewer or knife. Alternatively pipe it in lines and sweep the skewer through it in alternate directions for a posh pattern.

You could use this mixture to create a base for a normal cheesecake, or a triple layered brownie cheesecake. I would recommend halving the recipe and adding the cheesecake and raspberry cream layers according to the recipe here. You could just as easily add a non-baked cheesecake mixture to the top of a thinner brownie base and chill to set. Any other ideas for how to use this ultimate brownie recipe would be greatly appreciated – post ideas below!

For more of our brownie ideas and thoughts, see Our Quest for the World’s Best Brownie.

Apricot & Rhubarb Galette

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Galette, it appears to be me, is simply a fancy-pants Frenchy-wenchy way of saying “tart”. This recipe is adapted slightly from the cherry galette Smitten Kitchen cookbook I bought my sister for her birthday. I’m sure this would work equally well with all manner of stone fruit; peaches, nectarines, plums et cetera!

In making this tart I managed to make the amateur error of halving all the pastry ingredients bar the water, which is possibly the worst thing to include too much of! Fortunately I managed to save it and just had an extra large tart. I mean galette. Which is no bad thing in my book! This pastry could be used for any manner of sweet tarts/pies.

Pastry

Ingredients

110g plain flour
55g ground almonds
½ tsp salt
½ tbsp granulated sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
110g butter, straight from the fridge
60ml cold water

Method

Sieve the flour, almonds, salt, sugar and cinnamon into a large bowl. Add the butter in 1cm cubes and rub in with your hands (or one of these bad boys) until the largest blobs are the size of a pea. Stick in the fridge for five or ten minutes before adding the water, a third at a time, stirring in with wooden spoon or spatula until one large clump forms. The quicker you work the better. Wrap in cling film and stick in the fridge for at least an hour.

Tart

Ingredients

1 lot of pastry
30g ground almonds
1½ tsp flour
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp granulated sugar
15 butter, softened
¼ tsp almond extract
¼ tsp vanilla paste
1 large egg, separated into white and yolk
300-325g apricots (approx. 10) halved and stoned
125g rhubarb (approx. 1 stick), cut into ½ thick slices
apricot jam
1 tbsp coarse sugar

Method

While the pastry is in the fridge add the ground almonds, flour, sugar and cinnamon into a bowl. Vigorously mix in the butter, almond extract, vanilla paste and egg white until smooth. Stick in the fridge if not using straight away.

Preheat the oven to 200o/400oF/gas mark 6. Flour a work surface and a rolling pin, fetch the pastry dough and roll out to a 30cm circle. Transfer to a baking tray lined with baking parchment or buttered greaseproof paper. Spoon on the almond paste and spread evenly, leaving a 5cm border. Layer on the rhubarb and apricots (not going over the border). Fold over the excess like so, it needn’t be overly neat.

Whisk the egg yolk with a teaspoon of water and brush the folded over crust, then sprinkle with the coarse sugar. Dollop a little apricot jam over the fruit and spread it best you can.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until pastry is golden brown, turning halfway through for even browning. Serve warm or cold, with custard or cream or vanilla ice cream or any combination!

tarte aux abricots

Home-Made Christmas Mincemeat

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My recent mincemeat swirl recipe has been a huge success in our house. Not only have me and my house-mates now made around 5 batches between us, it has spread beyond – to family, friends, tutors…! We now consumed over 6 jars of mincemeat this year so I thought it was about time I branched out and came up with a recipe for my own.

This recipe has been adapted from lots of individual recipes online and from family and friends to get the best of both when it comes to taste and cost. All in all, this recipe comes in at around £5-7 (based on Morrison’s own brand ingredients, Dec 2012) but it makes a tonne of beautiful, home-made mincemeat, perfect for presents or just for your own personal (never-ending) stash of mince pies. Compared to other mincemeat recipes that use brandy or whisky to soak the fruit, this one not only gets bonus points for value, but the flavour of the mulled wine adds so much more to the mix too.

Unlike some recipes, this does not require any cooking, like jams or chutneys. However, for a more sticky, jam-like mincemeat, heating the soaked fruit and juices with 3 tbsp water, in a saucepan on a low heat for 20 minutes. This could be done before putting it into jars or using in your recipe. I would advise doing this if making open tarts or the mincemeat swirl recipe.

Makes approx 3-4lb.

Ingredients

1kg mixed fruit and peel (stuff from the value range is fine, we won’t tell)
180g vegetable suet
1 orange, zested and juiced
1 lemon, zested and juiced
500ml mulled wine (or red wine plus extra ground spices)
2-3 apples, chopped (bramley or eating – whatever you have around)
1-2 tsp ground ginger
1-2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
pinch of mixed spice

Optional:
150g brown sugar (will make it sweeter but will probably help it keep for longer)
75g almonds (or other similar nuts), chopped

Method

Chop the apple into small chunks. Throw everything but the suet into a large bowl and cover with clingfilm -alternatively, use a large saucepan with a lid. Leave in your kitchen overnight, at room temperature, stirring regularly to allow the fruit to soak up all the juice. In the morning, add the suet before spooning into jars.

Keep in a cool dark place. If you have time, your mincemeat will appreciate 2 weeks to allow the flavours to enhance, but if not, it tastes pretty good the same day!

In the unlikely event that you have any of this mincemeat left over after Christmas, it will probably keep for a few months, unopened. However I would be reluctant to keep it for more than 6 months due to the lower alcohol content in this recipe compared to standard ones using brandy or whisky without adding the extra sugar. But, your choice.

Orange & Raisin Sticky Toffee Pudding

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There are times in life when you happen to find yourself with a big bag of dates lacking a little purpose. Or is that just me? Assuming I’m not alone in experiencing this situation I shall continue…

The answer? Give your dates a purpose. And what better purpose than filling up your grumbly tummy with some sweet, indulgent Sticky Toffee Pudding?

Basic recipe courtesy of Be-Ro. But we have snazzed it up a little and reduced the sugar slightly. To be honest I might even reduce the sugar further in future…

Serves 8 FATTIES or 16 skinnies

Ingredients

Pudding

250g stoned dates, chopped
50g raisins
220ml boiling water
150g self-raising flour
110g butter
150 soft dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
zest and juice of 2 oranges
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger

Sauce

110g butter
125g soft dark brown sugar
150ml double cream
zest of two oranges
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger

Method

First, find a tin and casserole dish combination so that your tin will sit easily in the dish as you will need to steam this pudding in a “bain-marie” stylie. DON’T make the mistake we did and pour your mixture into a tin first before realising you don’t have a casserole dish/other receptacle large enough to accommodate the tin! Grease your tin well and/or line with baking parchment. One 20cm square pan will do it, we did ours in 2 loaf tins which lead to “taller” puddings. It makes no difference really, other than they took a little longer to cook through.

Add chopped dates and raisins to a bowl and pour over the boiling water. Squeeze in the juice of one of your oranges, add the bicarb and leave to stand until the raisins are plump and the dates get…mushy…for lack of a better word. Approximately 10 minutes, anyway.

Preheat the oven to 180oC/350oF/Gas Mark 4. Cream together all remaining pudding ingredients in a large bowl until “light and fluffy”. Use an electric whisk, or shear brute strength, the choice is yours! Add the dates/raisins to the cake mixture and pour into your tin. Cover with a layer of parchment paper and a double layer of foil – folding the edges under and ensuring it’s well sealed. Try to avoid having the parchment dip into the mix if possible.

Place tin in casserole dish (or roasting tin) and pour poiling water into the dish until half-way up the pudding tin. Stick in the oven for an hour. Take out, check the middle and cook for more time if necessary – make sure to replace the foil lid. Meanwhile, make the sauce! This is so easy it hurts. Add everything to a small pan. Warm gently until sugar has dissolved, stirring constantly to ensure everything disperses evenly. See – EASY.

Serve pudding while hot, slathered in sauce. And, if you’re being particularly greedy, cream.

Or custard.

Or ice-cream.

Or all the above.

Fatty.

Spiced Mincemeat Swirls

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It’s November and now Hallowe’en is over, it’s officially acceptable to begin thinking about Christmas! What better way than to bake these INCREDIBLE little beauties – a wonderful amalgamation of cinnamon swirls and mince pies.

Makes approx. 15.

Ingredients

for the sweet dough:
250g strong white bread flour
3/4 tsp salt
7g fast-action yeast
40g sugar
20g butter, softened
160ml warm water

for the filling:
10g butter, softened
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ginger
250g (approx.) mincemeat

for the glaze:
2 tsp ginger jam (or apricot)
1 tsp water

for the icing:
4 tsp icing sugar
a little bit of cold water

Method

Make the dough by sieving the flour into a large bowl. Place the yeast on one side, the salt on the other and sprinkle the sugar all over. Add the softened butter to the middle, pour in about half of the water and mix with your hands. Slowly add the rest of the water whilst mixing until you form a soft dough that is ever-so-slightly sticky.

Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 5-10 minutes until evenly smooth and just springy. Roll into a long rectangle (roughly 20 x 40 cm) and press one end very firmly onto the work surface to stop it from moving. Spread a very thin layer of soft butter over the dough, followed by an even sprinkling of ginger and cinnamon, then the mincemeat. Roll up the dough from the free edge to form a tight roll. Slice into 1 cm sections and place on a greased baking tray leaving a roughly 2 cm between each.

Prove in a warm place for around an hour until the gaps between the swirls are filled. When proved, brush with milk. Bake for 10-12 minutes at 180*C until golden brown.

Remove from the oven and place to one side. Water down the jam a little to make the glaze and brush over the buns. Mix up the icing to a thick, piping consistency. Pipe thinly over the buns and leave to cool before eating.