Bake-Off Wednesdays: Salted Caramel Blackberry Brownies

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The Bake-off’s back (sort-of – it’s a comic relief one)… and what better way to celebrate than with brownies? I had some excellent brownies baked for my birthday recently by my mother-in-law, and they reminded me that I still hadn’t put this recipe up which is a crying shame as it is so tasty. Well here it is:

Salted Caramel Blackberry Brownies

A lot of good words in one sentence.

When my sister, brother-in-law and nephew came to stay a while back, I wanted to bake them something, but my sister is a mega-picky eater so I felt like I couldn’t do anything even vaguely crazy – which made me want to even more 😉 Instead, I thought of a way to satisfy her, and me (and the rest of the family), by making a normal brownie with half of the brownie mix, and putting salted caramel and blackberries in the other half! Success. The brownie mix is really fudgey and tasty on its own which is great, but put a layer of salted caramel and some blackberries in the centre and it becomes ridiculously good.

Recipe taken and adapted slightly from Edd Kimber here

Salted Caramel Blackberry Brownies

makes around 20 brownies (depending on how greedy you/your recipients are!)

180g plain flour

3 tbsp cocoa powder

1/4 tsp salt

300g dark chocolate 65-75% cocoa solids

150g unsalted butter

220g light brown sugar

150g caster sugar

4 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

For the salted caramel filling:

150g granulated sugar

125ml double cream

10g salted butter, softened

Pinch of sea salt (to taste)

Handful of blackberries (optional)

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For the sauce: Put the sugar in a pan over medium heat and heat until it turns a dark brown colour – keep an eye on it, as it will burn if you’re not careful. Remove from the heat before it starts to smoke and pour in the salt and half the cream. The mixture will bubble and spit at you (rude) so be careful! Once it’s calmed down, add the remaining cream and the softened butter. Put back on the heat and stir until smooth. Set aside.

For the brownies:  Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a brownie tray and line with baking paper.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder and salt into a bowl and set aside.

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Put the chocolate and butter into a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until melted, then remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

Whisk the eggs and sugar together until thick and pale in colour.

Whisk in the cooled chocolate/butter mixture.

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Add the flour/cocoa powder/salt mixture and fold until just combined, don’t over-stir – you want some air left in the mixture.

Pour half the mixture into the prepared pan and level out.

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Dot the blackberries over the mixture, then add a thin layer of salted caramel sauce. Carefully spoon over the remaining brownie mixture and level it out.

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Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out almost clean (a few crumbs are fine).

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Enjoy the fruits of your labour – try not to eat them all in one go!

If you want to make normal brownies just leave out the sauce and blackberries, if you want to do half and half just halve the mixture for each type 😉

P.s. If you want to donate to comic relief you can text BAKE to 70005 (for a £5 donation)

Bake-off Wednesdays: The Final!

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So, it’s the big one. Only 3 people left – who’s going to win? My money’s on Richard…

Part of me is sad it’s the end of my bake-off challenges, I’ve learned some new techniques and have some new recipes to add to my repertoire which is great. The other part of me is happy to get back to a life that doesn’t involve baking and eating baked goods every week! I’m a bit baked-out, and feel like I need to eat better for a while  – there’s only so many times you can foist your cakes/tarts etc on friends and family over 10 weeks (maybe I don’t have enough friends?!).

Anyway, as well as it being the final, it is also my 20th post on this blog – that calls for a celebration cake right?

I went back to my comfort-zone this week with cake, but jazzed it up to try and make it final-worthy… and came up with:

Fig & Almond Mini-cakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

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I love figs and when I spotted a punnet of big juicy ones in the supermarket I pounced. I looked for fig cakes on pinterest and found lots of delicious-sounding ones, but not so many worthy of presenting to Mary or Paul – they had more of a rustic look, which is absolutely fine with me, but I was trying to go for a more polished look for the final.

I found my inspiration in this beautiful cake from dolly+oatmeal which is fig and hazelnut. It’s dairy free & gluten free so worth a look if that interests you, but I decided to change it a bit so I could use ingredients I either already have in the kitchen, or would use on a regular basis.

I used an almond cake recipe from Happy Home Baking, as I think fig and almond are a tasty combination. It makes one 22cm cake, but I used cookie cutters to make it into four layered cakes. I then filled it with cream cheese frosting and the fig compote from dolly+oatmeal, covered it in cream cheese frosting, and decorated with fresh figs and toasted caramelised almonds.

I really liked this cake – it has a great flavour to it, the sponge is really moist, and when made into mini cakes it works for dessert as well as afternoon tea. You could even go smaller with the cookie cutters and make them into sweet canapés 🙂

Mary and Paul would probably still think it’s not refined enough in the looks department, but I think it’s pretty good!

Recipe below:

Fig & Almond Mini-cakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients (makes one 8″ cake or approx. 4 mini filled sponges)

160g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and left to soften (keep 50g for frosting)

140g caster sugar

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

100g ground almonds

 40g self-raising flour

1 tablespoon milk

1 teaspoon amaretto liquer or vanilla extract (optional)

approx. 4 figs, roughly chopped, plus 1 or 2 extra for decoration

1 tablespoon maple syrup

juice of half a lemon

150g cream cheese

50g icing sugar

a handful of flaked almonds & a sprinkle of brown sugar (optional decoration)

Pre-heat oven to 180C. Grease a 22cm springform cake tin and set aside.

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Cream the butter and sugar in a stand mixer or by hand. Beat in the eggs, add the ground almonds, flour, milk, and amaretto or vanilla extract (if you wish), and beat until light and fluffy. Spoon the mixture into the cake tin and spread the batter evenly. Bake for 30-35mins, or until the sponge just springs back when pressed, or a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Leave the cake to cool for 5 minutes, then release from the tin. Run a knife around the bottom plate of the tin,  then turn out onto a wire rack and let cool.

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Whilst the cake is cooling, make the fig compote. Put the chopped figs, maple syrup and lemon juice in a saucepan. Simmer over a medium flame and stir until the figs soften and release their juices. Cook for about 15-20mins, letting the figs fall apart and the compote thicken. Take off the heat and let cool.

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Whilst the fig compote is cooling, make the cream cheese frosting and cut out the mini-cakes. Beat the butter until really soft, then add the icing sugar, cream cheese and an optional teaspoon of amaretto or vanilla extract, and continue to beat until smooth. Cut circles out of your almond sponge using a cookie cutter (mine was 2 1/4 in). Toast your flaked almonds with a sprinkle of brown sugar (if using).

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Assemble your cakes – spread some frosting over the bottom layer, top with a blob of fig compote, and sandwich. Use a palette knife or spatula to cover your cake in cream cheese frosting, then decorate with the fresh figs and caramelised almonds.

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I’m excited to use figs in lots of recipes this season, but this is a pretty tasty one to start off with!

What are your favourite recipes using figs?

Enjoy the final…

Bake-off Wednesdays: Patisserie

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First of all: It’s the semi-final! That seems to have crept up stealthily without me noticing…

Now then – Patisserie.

I love patisseries and their pretty little yummy morsels. I marvel at how people can make such tiny things so precisely, especially when you see a whole row of something and they’re all exactly the same…

Personally, I like to eat food from patisseries but i don’t make food from patisseries. I’m more of a rustic cooking kinda girl – not by choice, the food just turns out that way… and that’s what happened when i attempted to make Macarons this week too.

I know macarons are notoriously difficult to make, I tried to make them years ago and they didn’t turn out particularly well, and ever since I have just enjoyed eating them. A lot. No trip to London is complete without visiting Laduree or Pierre Herme. But I decided it was time to try again. I have two books on macarons that just sit on the bookshelf looking pretty, so i dusted them off and had a go.

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My macarons didn’t turn out like these beauties.

They tasted like macarons, with that wonderful chewy inside and crunchy exterior – i flavoured them with cinnamon and filled them with apple puree and honey ganache so they had the flavours of an apple pie – but, they looked a bit of a mess. No point in lying about it. I couldn’t pipe equal shaped circles – i couldn’t even find the right-sized nozzle so used a star-shaped one (that why they look a bit rippled). Some of them had ‘feet’ and some didn’t, some had ‘feet’ on one side and not the other, some erupted. It was all a bit crazy in my kitchen.

However, they did taste amazing so i will still share my recipe with you, and hope that yours turn out as pretty as the professionals. (if they do, feel free to make me jealous with photos).

I think I will attempt them again, but maybe when I have digital scales, more piping nozzles, and a better oven and/or oven thermometer – so in a couple of years perhaps 😉

Recipe taken from two recipe books – Macarons by Berengere Abraham and Macaroons by Parragon books

Cinnamon & Apple Macarons with Honey Ganache

*For the Shells*

2 large eggs, whites only (yolks will be used in the ganache)

60g ground almonds

110g icing sugar

1 1/2 tbsp caster sugar

1tsp cinnamon

*For the Apple*

450g cooking apples

3tbsp caster sugar

1tbsp water

*For the Honey Ganache*

2 leaves gelatin

100ml honey

2 eggs, yolks only

3 tsp caster sugar

250ml whipping cream

The day before making the macarons, separate the egg whites from the yolks and keep in the refrigerator – the egg whites need to be ‘aged’.

*The honey ganache takes 3 hours to set so you may wish to make that before the macarons*

To make the shells: Bring the egg whites back up to room temperature. Put the ground almonds and icing sugar in a food processor and blitz for a few seconds. Sift the mixture into a bowl and set aside.

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In a stand mixer (or with a hand mixer), whisk the egg whites until they are soft peaks. Gradually add in the cinnamon and caster sugar until glossy and firm.

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Sieve the almond/sugar mixture over the egg whites and fold in with a spatula, until well combined. This will take at least 50 ‘folds’! Continue until it looks like a shiny batter.

Fit a piping bag with a 1cm nozzle, fill with the mixture and pipe out 15 circles onto two baking sheets covered in greaseproof paper. If they are a bit peaked, wet your finger and gently push down.

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Tap the baking trays sharply on a work surface to get rid of air bubbles. Leave to stand at room temperature for at least an hour, until a crust forms (you should be able to touch the top of the macaron without it feeling sticky).

*I used some slightly larger bits of almond and icing sugar to make a crumble topping for the macarons at this point. Just dry fry in a small pan and sprinkle on top before cooking.* 

Whilst the macarons are resting, pre-heat the oven to 150F and make the filling (or have a cup of tea).

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When ready, cook the macarons for 10-12 mins. Leave to cool for 10 minutes, then carefully peel off the greaseproof paper and leave to cool completely.

Use one or both of the fillings to sandwich the macarons together.

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To make the Apple: Peel, core and chop the apples. Place in a saucepan with the sugar and water, and simmer for approx 10 minutes, or until the apple is soft. Mash with a fork to make a puree, and leave to cool.

To make the Honey Ganache: Put the gelatine leaves in a small bowl of cold water and leave for 5 minutes. In a saucepan, heat the honey over a low heat until warm. Remove from the heat, drain the gelatine leaves and add to the honey. Stir well until dissolved.

Whisk the egg yolks with 1tsp of the caster sugar and then add to the honey/gelatine mix. Whisk the whipping cream with the remaining caster sugar until firm, then add to the honey mixture and combine well. Leave to cool, then chill for at least 3 hours in the fridge.

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These two were the most photogenic – about a third could probably pass as macarons, the rest were best ‘deconstructed’ – thank goodness they tasted good!

I think a more technical book might be best to read before re-attempting them, as mine were pretty but not particularly helpful – i gleaned more information from the internet. If anyone has any macaron-making tips please share!

Uh-oh it’s the final next week… Who do you want to win?

Bake-off Wednesdays: Pastry/Advanced Dough

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Forgive me for I am cheating a bit this week – I’ve tried to incorporate two episodes into one bake, because I didn’t really have time to bake twice straight after coming back from Spain (and I need to regain some control over how much i’m eating!)

So this week to continue the Spanish theme I made Churros 🙂

Churros are made of a choux pastry dough, which is then piped through a star-shaped nozzle into boiling oil, and fried until puffed up and golden. They are often eaten for breakfast dipped in hot chocolate or with a coffee. They evaded me for a while in Spain recently however, they seemed to prefer pastries with their chocolate for breakfast in Girona – so that’s why i’m not sick of them yet…

I’d never made choux pastry before, so I consider this advanced for me! Although I found it pretty easy, so maybe it’s not that difficult, just something different?

Anyway, I found a few recipes on the internet, including some for baked churros, which I thought worth trying as they would be healthier than their fried cousins.

I originally decided to just make baked, but then thought better of it and decided it would be useful to make both versions and compare…

I adapted a recipe for baked churros by The Little Loaf and used it as the dough for both types of churros, I also used a chocolate sauce recipe by BBC Good Food and adapted that slightly too.

The verdict wasn’t that surprising to me – the fried tasted better (doesn’t it always?!). They puffed up more in the oil than the baked did, which gave them a chewy texture and a crunchy exterior, the baked version was lovely and crisp, but fairly hollow inside.

Here’s a comparison photo for you:

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 My mum, who is on a diet, did appreciate the baked version however, as it meant she could still enjoy dessert and not feel too guilty, so they’re worth making for that reason at least.

I was pretty impressed with how authentic the fried ones tasted, and how easy they were to make! The chocolate sauce was really silky and glossy too…

Recipe for both versions below:

Serves 6-8

Churros

80g plain white flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

pinch salt

100g golden caster sugar, divided

2 tsp cinnamon

50g unsalted butter, cubed

150ml cold water

2 large beaten eggs

750ml sunflower/vegetable oil – if frying

Chocolate Sauce

200g bar 70% chocolate, broken into chunks

100ml double cream

100ml whole milk

3 tbsp golden syrup

½ tsp vanilla extract (optional)

If you’re not a fan of dark chocolate you can use half dark, half milk…

*If making Baked Churros, preheat oven to 200C and line a few trays with baking paper*

Sift the flour and salt over a piece of baking paper and leave near the hob (this makes it easier to combine ingredients for the dough). Mix 90g of the caster sugar with the cinnamon in a large bowl or tray and set aside.

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In a medium saucepan, heat the butter and water together until the butter is melted. Bring to the boil then turn the heat down low and tip in the sifted flour/salt and remaining 10g caster sugar. Beat with a wooden spoon over the heat until a smooth ball of dough forms that leaves the sides of the saucepan – it will look a bit like mashed potato! Remove from the heat and leave for a couple of minutes, then beat in the eggs, a small amount at a time, until the mixture is smooth. Put to one side for a few minutes.

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While the dough is resting, make your sauce. Put all the sauce ingredients into a pan on a low heat, stirring until you have a smooth shiny sauce. Keep warm.

For Fried Churros:

Fill a deep saucepan one-third full of oil. Heat until a cube of bread browns in 45 seconds – 1 min (approx 170C if you have a thermometer). Cover a large plate with kitchen paper.

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Fit your piping bag with a star-shaped nozzle (approx 1.5-2cm wide). Fill with your dough and pipe strips of it straight into the pan, cutting them off with a pair of scissors – you might need someone to help with that bit. I managed to get about 6 or 7 in the pan each time, without them sticking to each other.  Fry until golden brown and crispy, then remove with a slotted spoon and drain on the kitchen paper.

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As soon as the churros are ready, roll in the cinnamon sugar mixture and serve with the thick hot chocolate sauce – get dunking!

For Baked Churros:

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Fit your piping bag with a star-shaped nozzle (approx 1.5-2cm wide). Fill with your dough and pipe lines onto the prepared baking paper-covered trays. Bake each tray for 12 – 15 minutes or until crisp and golden – you might have to do this in batches.

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As soon as the churros are ready, roll in the cinnamon sugar mixture and serve with the thick hot chocolate sauce – get dunking!

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*You may well eat all of these in one sitting – I wouldn’t blame you, but if there are some left over, or you need to make them in advance, you can re-heat them in the oven on a medium heat for 5 minutes – this will make them nice and crispy again too! The chocolate sauce can be re-heated on the hob or in the microwave, but remember to check every few seconds in the microwave so you don’t burn it.*

Buenas Noches!

Bake-Off Wednesdays: European Cakes

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I’m back in my comfort zone with this weeks challenge – no scary pastry or bread, just a nice easy cake…

NB: Last week’s tart did go down well at the dinner party in case anyone was wondering!

I originally thought of making an Italian Polenta cake as I like the grainy texture, but when I was given 3 bags of apples at the weekend I knew they had to be incorporated! So German Apple cake it was.

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This cake is light and moist, with a tasty crumble topping, of which there is also a layer inside the cake. I liked the fact that toasted flaked almonds are used in the crumble – they add another nice texture and flavour. The original recipe uses sour cream, but I had a pot of crème fraiche that needed using, so subbed that in instead. If you’d rather use sour cream, just swap it back.

This has had good reviews from my work colleagues, husband, and a fairly prolific apple cake maker – so it’s safe to say it’s a good one! It will probably be made again, when I run out of other things to use the rest of the apples in…

Can be served warm or cold, and with crème fraiche or sour cream on the side too, if you fancy it.

Original recipe found here

German Apple  Cake

175g/6oz unsalted butter
175g/6oz caster sugar
675g/1½ lb Bramley apples, peeled, cored and sliced
3 large eggs, beaten
200g/7oz plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
150g crème fraiche – loosened with a little milk

Topping:
50g/2oz unsalted butter
50g/2oz soft brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
75g/3oz plain flour
50g/2oz toasted flaked almonds

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1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C/ 350°F/Gas Mark 4. Line a 20cm (22cm in my case) spring form tin with baking parchment. Melt 25g of the butter and sugar together in a large frying pan. Add the Bramley apple slices and sauté for 3-4 minutes or until the apples are tender. Leave to cool.

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2. Make the crumble topping by melting the butter and stirring in the remaining ingredients.

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3. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy then gradually add the eggs beating well between additions. Sift over the flour and baking powder then gently fold into the mixture with the creme fraiche.

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4. Spoon two thirds of the cake mixture over the base of the tin, scatter over a third of the crumble mixture and top with the remaining cake mixture.

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Finally, scatter over the Bramley apples and remaining crumble mixture. Bake in the oven for approximately 75 minutes. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes before transferring to a plate/rack.

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Enjoy!

P.S. Next weeks Bake-Off post won’t be on time as i’ll be coming back from a min-holiday in Spain. I will endeavour to make it/post it soon after though…

Bake-Off Wednesdays: Tarts

*Warning* This post contains spoilers (if you’re a guest or host of the dinner party I’m going to tomorrow!)*

If I’ve learned anything from last weeks Bake-Off, it’s probably never to attempt a Baked Alaska in the height of summer… or at all! Poor Iain, the stress got to him – and having thrown pastry in the bin last night in frustration, I’m pretty sure I would have done the same in the Bake-Off tent. There was a lot of controversy over how long his baked Alaska was out of the freezer, why Diana had done it, why he hadn’t been told etc – but I’m sure the editors had a hand in making it seem so dramatic – and only those in the tent really know what happened. Fingers crossed this week will be less stressful – Although mine hasn’t been…

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This weeks challenge is Tarts and Pies. I’d decided to make a tart as we’re going to a dinner party, and I thought it would be a good dish to take over for dessert. I thought this would be a nice, easy, week as I’ve made them in the past – but something happened to me last night and I just couldn’t get the pastry right. The first batch ended up over-worked and got chucked in the bin, the second batch either didn’t have enough water in it, had too much butter in it, or was too cold – and just crumbled when I tried to roll it out. I think I’ll stick to cakes in the future 😉

In the end the OH had more patience than me and managed to coax the second batch of dough into behaving by adding a bit more water. It was never going to the best dough ever though as I realised later I’d forgotten to add the caster sugar to it second time round too! It ended up ok in the end though… I tried a little bit this morning just to check, and the flavours of the tart are really nice together, and sweet enough that you don’t notice the unsweetened pastry.

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I’ve got a hankering for cherries at the moment, and found a recipe on Red online by Gregg ‘It’s like a hug in a bowl’ Wallace (Masterchef presenter) which combines the cherries with white chocolate and a hint of cinnamon – a done deal in my eyes! I hope the other guests agree 😉

White Chocolate and Cherry Tart

Serves:  6-8
Preparation Time:15 minutes – plus chilling time
Cooking Time:1 hour

You will need
175g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
½ tsp ground cinnamon
125g unsalted butter, chilled and diced
25g caster sugar
2–3 tsp iced water

For the filling
2 eggs
40g caster sugar
150g white chocolate, finely chopped
300ml double cream
450g fresh black or red dessert cherries or
2 x 425g cans pitted black or red cherries
Ground cinnamon, for dusting
Extra cherries to decorate (optional)

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NB: I bought two tins of pitted cherries to use as they were cheaper, but they didn’t taste strongly enough of cherry for me, so also bought some fresh ones and did ‘half and half’. There were also some fresh cherries left over for decoration!

Method

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1. To make the pastry, sift the flour and cinnamon into a bowl. Add the butter and rub in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar and add enough of the water to mix to a firm dough.

(I used my stand mixer but also rubbed some of the butter in)


2. Turn the dough out on to a lightly-floured surface and knead briefly. Wrap in foil and chill for 30 minutes.

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3. Roll the dough out on a lightly-floured surface and use to line a 23 x 2.5 cm deep loose-bottomed flan tin. Trim off the excess pastry around the rim. Prick the tart case with a fork all over, to stop it rising. Line the tart case with foil, fill with baking beans and bake in a preheated oven, 200°C /400°F/gas mark 6, for 10 minutes. Remove the foil and beans and bake for a further 5 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.


4. Meanwhile, to make the filling, beat the eggs and sugar together in a bowl. Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream in a small, heavy-based saucepan, then pour over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate has melted. Pour over the egg mixture, stirring constantly.

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5. Pit the cherries, if using fresh, or thoroughly drain the canned cherries. Arrange in the flan case. Pour the chocolate mixture over the cherries.

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6. Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes until the chocolate cream is set. Dust with cinnamon and serve warm, decorated with extra cherries if you like.

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Recipe by Gregg Wallace, found on Red Online

As you can see it, it turned out pretty ‘rustic’, but it tastes good… Fingers crossed it goes down well tomorrow evening!

Bake-Off Wednesdays: Desserts

On the weekend, the OH and I walked some of the Bath Skyline Walk. This is a 6 mile walk around the outskirts of Bath, featuring hills, fields, woods, a ‘sham castle’ and views of the city. We only had time/energy for about half of it, but managed to fit in all of the above!

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Views of Bath and the ‘Sham Castle’ built in the 18th Century by Ralph Allen, to improve the view from his house!

We took a tub with us in the hope of collecting some blackberries, and we weren’t disappointed.

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Although a lot of the bushes weren’t quite ripe yet, we managed to fill the tub, and eat a couple… In a couple of weeks time I don’t think you’ll be able to move for blackberries on the walk – we may have to go back!

I’d decided to incorporate some blackberries into this week’s bake-off challenge, and because this week we are trying to be healthy-ish (to combat the excesses of the last couple of weeks!), I tried to find a dessert that wasn’t completely naughty.

I remember Crème Caramels were made by the bakers one year, and so decided on one of its distant relatives – the Panna Cotta.

Panna Cotta, the dessert made with mountains of double cream? I hear you. Not what automatically comes to mind when thinking of healthy desserts, but I had a thought it could be made with yoghurt, and a quick search of the internet provided me with a few recipes that seemed to agree with me.

Most seemed to incorporate greek yoghurt with some double cream and milk, so i bought both and had a go….

Now, this didn’t end up as healthy as I’d hoped, because I had to make them twice…  It all tasted lovely the first time round, but didn’t set properly, so was more like a very creamy yoghurt dessert than a set dessert – see photo below!

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I’d followed one recipe in terms of the gelatine to cream/yoghurt ratio, but looking at other recipes they all seem to have more than mine did. So I tried it again, and upped the gelatine content substantially.

This time things looked more promising!

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Flavour-wise, I decided to infuse the cream with some thyme that we had leftover in the fridge, and used honey-flavoured greek yoghurt to add a bit more flavour.The blackberries were great, I just left them fresh, but you could make a coulis with them if you wanted. I also crumbled up a butter galette biscuit to add some texture – a ‘biscuit crumb’, if you will 😉

We ate this for breakfast as it didn’t feel as naughty as a traditional Panna Cotta!

Thyme and Honey ‘Panna Cotta’ with Blackberries

Serves 3-4

Ingredients

3 Gelatine Leaves

175ml Milk

50ml Double Cream

250g Honey-flavoured Greek Yoghurt

20g Caster Sugar

Approx 4 sprigs of Thyme

Blackberries

Put the gelatine leaves into a bowl of iced water and leave to soften for five minutes.

Put the milk, cream, sugar and thyme sprigs into a small pan and bring slowly to the boil.

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Remove the softened gelatine from the iced water, gently squeeze out the excess water and stir into the milk and cream (discarding the thyme sprigs). Remove from the heat and stir until the gelatine has dissolved.

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Pour this mixture through a sieve to get rid of any lumps, and pour into the greek yoghurt slowly, whisking as you go. When thoroughly combined, pour the mixture into your moulds (I used tea cups), cover with cling film and place in the fridge for at least 5 hours.

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When ready to serve, run a sharp knife around the rim of the mould, and briefly dip the mould into hot water to help loosen the panna cotta. Jiggle it around again, repeat if necessary, and gently pull away from the sides with your fingers or a spoon. It will come out eventually! Alternatively, if you can’t or don’t want to get it out you can serve it in the mould/teacup etc – see photo below. It still looks pretty, just slightly less impressive! If turning out, do so onto your serving plate and garnish with blackberries, biscuits, and another small sprig of thyme (if desired).

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This dessert definitely tasted healthier than a normal Panna Cotta, I think the yoghurt gave it a fresher taste, and the thyme made it slightly more savoury. It still tasted good though, and I will definitely be making it again next time I want a ‘lighter’ treat!

Bake-Off Wednesdays: Bread

Panicky feeling, deep breathing, scared-looking…

That was me last week when I realised this week’s Bake Off is Bread week. I knew the day would come, I just hoped I would have a few more weeks to psyche myself up .

I’m scared of bread. Not eating it (maybe of eating too much of it!), but making it. We had a bread machine that never really produced the goods, the OH tried making it ‘free-hand’ and it didn’t come out quite right, I’m just glad Paul Hollywood hasn’t been around to see any of our bakes!

But it was time to try again… I scoured my pinterest boards to see if I’d pinned anything that would ease my way into bread-making, and found a couple of recipes that looked easy – but maybe too easy. No yeast and no kneading sounded good but a bit of a cop-out – if I was gonna make bread it had to involve at least some of the scary bread-making processes! (I will be trying them in the future though…)

So instead I made:

Truffled Potato and Goats Cheese Flatbread

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A recipe that sounded amazing – if carb-heavy! It involved yeast and proving, but not rising, so that was good enough for me. (I find the ‘will it, won’t it rise’ the scariest!)

And it came out pretty well 🙂 Nice crisp base, (no soggy bottoms here), tasty, made enough dough for two nights tea which is always a bonus, and made me interested to try out other bread recipes in the future – win win.

It’s a nice, quite luxurious-sounding vegetarian meal, but of course you can add meat if you want! We added sausage the second night (because it wasn’t unhealthy enough first time round…!) Also, if you don’t really like truffle oil then any flavoured oil would be nice – or just skip the oil and put some garlic or onions on it. It was like a posh pizza really.

Recipe adapted from The Kitchn

Truffled Potato & Goat Cheese Flatbread

Serves 2 – 3 (using half the dough)

Dough:
1.5 tsp Active Dry Yeast
Just under 300ml Warm Water
475 gms Bread Flour (I used white)
1.5 tsp Salt
2 tbsp Olive Oil

Potato Topping:
200 gms Small Potatoes, sliced as thin as you can make them! (about 6 to 7 potatoes)
2 tbsp Olive Oil, divided
120 gms Soft Goats Cheese
Fresh Thyme
Freshly grated Parmesan
Smoked Paprika
Salt and Black Pepper
White Truffle Oil

To make the dough, put the warm water in a bowl and sprinkle the yeast over. Set aside for 5 to 10 minutes, until dissolved.

Mix the flour and salt in the bowl of stand mixer fitted with hook attachment. Add the olive oil and the yeast/water mixture. Mix on a medium-low speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, it should take about 3 to 5 minutes. (If  the dough seems very sticky at this point, add a tablespoon or two of flour.)

NB: If you don’t have a stand mixer, this can all be done by hand – just takes longer (and i’m lazy)! Put the ingredients in a bowl and mix with a wooden spoon, then knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until elastic (will roughly take twice as long by hand than mixer).

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Transfer the dough to a large bowl greased with oil. Cover with cling film and leave in a warm dry place to rise until it has doubled in size – this should take around 45 minutes.

DSCN0156I put the dough on top of the pre-heated oven near the back to keep warm when proving.

Get out any pent-up aggression by giving the dough a punch (also lets out some air…) and form it into a ball. Wrap the ball tightly in cling film and pop in the fridge until ready to use.

To make the flatbread, put a baking tray on the middle rack of the oven and preheat to 230°C. If using all the dough you’ll need two trays.

If only using half of the dough (which makes enough for 2-3 peoples tea), the other half can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days or frozen for 3 months.

Put the dough on a sheet of baking paper and roll into a thin, large rectangle (I made mine the same size as my baking tray – approx 30cms x 22cms). Brush the surface with olive oil and prick the dough all over with a fork to stop it from rising.

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Toss the sliced potatoes with a little more olive oil and overlap the potatoes over the dough, before seasoning with salt and pepper.

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Transfer the dough and baking paper to the baking tray, and bake until the flatbread is crisp and the potatoes are golden – this should take around 15 minutes.

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Remove flatbread from the oven. Now it’s time to add all the toppings! Sprinkle over some thyme leaves. Crumble the goats cheese over and add a handful of grated Parmesan. Sprinkle over some smoked paprika and any extra salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with the truffle oil.

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Slice and serve straight away!

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Let me know if you have any fool-proof bread recipes I could try 🙂

A little note on truffle oil: Don’t buy it from Waitrose! I made the mistake of buying their “A Drizzle of Truffle Flavour Olive Oil” and there is definitely no truffle in it or anything resembling ‘truffle flavour’. It is disappointing as Waitrose Chef’s ingredients range is normally fairly good, but i went online the next day and found bad reviews for it on Ocado – I wish i’d seen those before i’d bought it. I instead managed to find some white truffle oil from TruffleHunter which actually tastes and smells of truffle – it can be bought in Jamie’s Italian Deli (Bath) or Arch House Deli (Bristol) and is more expensive but definitely worth it!

Bake-Off Wednesdays: Biscuits

This week on the Great British Bake Off the theme is biscuits – and what a lovely theme it is. Who doesn’t eat biscuits? Not the healthiest of snacks but certainly a tasty one, we always seem to have a packet in the tin at work which is dangerous, but quite helpful when the afternoon 3pm slump looms.

At home, we are fairly good and don’t often buy biscuits – i do make them sometimes though. Last week i made some condensed milk cookies because we had half a can of condensed milk left over (from drinking vietnamese coffee) and didn’t want it to go to waste. The recipe for those is here if you’re interested…

This week, i decided it was savoury biscuit time!

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Blue Cheese and Poppy Seed Biscuits

I LOVE CHEESE

This will not come as a shock to anyone who knows me, if there was a cheese-aholics anonymous i would probably be a member (although i have no intentions of giving up my addiction, maybe just rationing myself a bit more!)

But anyway…

These biscuits are buttery, crumbly, cheesy and delicious. I like the extra texture the polenta gives them too. They are perfect with a glass of red wine, and they would make a cute present for someone who likes cheese!

If you’re not a blue cheese fan, firstly what’s wrong with you? (Joking), secondly, feel free to swap the blue for some cheddar or other semi-firm cheese and i’m sure it will taste (almost) as good 😉

Recipe taken from Delicious Magazine

Makes approx 25 biscuits

Ingredients

150g Blue Cheese (I used Stilton), roughly chopped

100g Unsalted Butter, softened and roughly chopped

1 Medium Egg Yolk

100g Plain Flour (and extra for rolling out)

75g Quick-Cook Polenta

Poppy Seeds for sprinkling

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Preheat the oven to 200C.

In a bowl or mixer, combine and mash together the cheese and butter.

Add the egg yolk, sieved flour and polenta, and mix until it forms a stiff dough.

Form into a ball, wrap in cling film and put in the freezer to firm up for approx 10 mins.

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When ready, roll out onto a floured surface until approx half a centimetre thick.

I did this in stages, as i found the dough wouldn’t stick together if i tried to roll out the whole lot in one go.

Cut with a cookie cutter – i used a 58mm one. Scoop up the offcuts and roll them into a ball, to roll out and use up as much of the dough as possible.

If you don’t have cookie cutters use a cup, or roll the dough into a log shape and cut into slices instead!

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Line a tray with greaseproof paper and put the discs on.

I managed to fit about 16 on one tray…

Sprinkle each disc with poppy seeds and press down lightly so they stick to the dough.

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Put in the oven for 12-15 mins, until golden brown

 they smell so good in the oven, you may try to get them out early!


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When ready they will look a bit like this! Place on a wire rack to cool.

we managed to leave them for about 2 minutes before diving in – they are really nice warm though…

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Enjoy!

N.B. I have kept some of the dough from this in the freezer to make on a different day, as i didn’t have time to do two batches. If you do this, let it defrost and warm up a bit before you try to roll it out!

Bake Off Wednesdays: Cake

Mel & Sue, Queen Bezza, scary Paul, custard disasters, style over substance, ovens not heating up, ridiculously tasty looking cakes, biscuits, bread, tray bakes, tarts, pies…

…It’s back! I am a little over-excited about the new series of ‘The Great British Bake Off’ starting tonight (8pm BBC1).

To commemorate this I thought I would aim to do a post every Wednesday of recipes that fit in with the episodes theme – tonight’s is cakes!

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Lime, Yoghurt and Olive Oil Cake

I made this cake at the start of the summer – it feels like a really summery cake because the yoghurt and olive oil gives it a light texture, and the limes and sugar make me think of mojitos! It also goes well with a gin & tonic by the way…
I hadn’t made a cake using olive oil and yoghurt instead of butter before, but was really pleased with the outcome. It’s pretty simple to make – no fancy kitchen paraphernalia required – only a wooden spoon, a cake tin, and an oven… This cake will be made again!
It looks really pretty with the extra lime and sugar sprinkled on the top too.
Recipe nabbed from Souvlaki for the Soul – i just changed the measurements from US to UK
 
Ingredients

285g whole full fat Greek yoghurt

79ml of olive oil

225g caster sugar

zest of one lime

4 tablespoons lime juice

2 eggs

220g of sifted plain flour

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Extra lime zest and golden granulated sugar for topping

 

 

Instructions

Pre-heat the oven to 180 C

Grease a 22cm springform baking tin

Mix the yoghurt, olive oil, sugar, lime juice, zest, and eggs in a  bowl until well combined.

In a separate large bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt.

Pour the wet ingredients mixture into the flour mixture and use a wooden spoon to mix until just combined. Don’t overwork the batter.

Pour into the baking tin and cook for approx 45-50 mins. The cake is ready when it has browned on top and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Leave it to cool in the cake tin for five minutes and then invert it onto a cake cooler.

Once cooled, combine one tablespoon of lime zest with two tbsps of the granulated sugar and sprinkle liberally on top.

 

Sit down with a cup of tea (or a mojito) and enjoy the fruits of your labour – it’s worth it.

 

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