Pecan Pie Cheesecake with Brown Butter Pastry and a Caramel Core

I’m under no illusion that this bake is a bit of a project and should probably come with a health warning, but I can honestly say that the the result it delivers is well worth the effort and extra 4539 calories (joking about the calories… although probably not far off). I’ve gone for a brown butter rye pastry in place of a biscuit base here, which might sound controversial (maverick), but it matches up to the nutty pecan topping really well and acts as a great textural contrast to the smooth, caramel-cored cheesecake filling. Give it a go, but be warned, it’s been described as ‘like crack’ by my eloquent taste-testers (who aren’t and never have been ‘on crack’, for the record).

Ingredients

For the base

  • 150g butter
  • 175g plain flour
  • 75g rye flour
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2tbsp milk

For the caramel core

  • 100g caster sugar
  • 25ml water
  • 50ml double cream
  • pinch sea salt
  • 2tbsp rum or bourbon (optional)

For the filling

  • 600g full fat cream cheese
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 2tbsp corn flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 180ml soured cream
  • pinch salt

For the topping

  • 1 egg
  • 50g dark brown soft sugar
  • 3tbsp golden syrup or honey
  • 1tbsp butter, melted
  • 1tbsp plain flour
  • 100g pecan halves, lightly toasted

Method

  1. Start off by browning the butter for the pastry. To do this simply melt it in a pan until it’s gently foaming, smells nutty and is a light golden brown colour. At this stage pour the butter in a heatproof bowl and pop in the fridge or freezer to set hard.
  2. While the butter is firming up, make the caramel core. Place the sugar and water in a pan and gently heat until the sugar has completely dissolved and you are left with a clear syrup, then increase the heat and boil until it reaches a deep golden brown. Add in the cream (be careful as it will spit!) and stir for a further two minutes on the heat, then remove from the heat and add the salt and rum to taste. Set aside until needed.
  3. Back to the pastry; once your butter has firmed up, chop into cubes and tip into a food processor along with the flours, cinnamon and sugar. Pulse until it resembles breadcrumbs, then add in the milk and egg yolks. Pulse again a few times until the mix comes together in large lumps, then tip out onto your work surface and shape into a disc. Wrap in cling film and chill for 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease a 2.5inch tall/ 8inch wide spring form cake tin with butter and place a disc of greaseproof paper in the base.
  4. Roll out the pastry to about 3mm thick on a floured work surface then line the prepared tin, pushing the pastry into the corners as you go (I actually find it easier to cut out a circle of pastry for the base and 2 long rectangles for the walls when I’m using a cake tin for pies and tarts- just make sure you blend the joins between the pieces together and don’t leave any gaps). Trim away any excess from the top of the tin, prick a fork all over the base (not all the way through) to prevent air bubbles, then chill for 10 minutes, or until very firm. If you like you can cut out some leaves for decoration at this stage.
  5. Once firm, line the pastry case with baking paper and fill with baking beans (ensuring that they come all the way to the top of the walls), then blind bake for about 15 minutes, or until the walls are supporting themselves. At this stage, remove the paper and beans and return to the oven for another 10-15 minutes, or until the pastry is cooked through and golden. Set aside. Reduce the oven temperature to 120c.
  6. For the cheesecake filling simply whisk together the cream cheese, sugar and corn flour until smooth, then add in the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Lastly, whisk in the soured cream and salt. Tip half of this mixture into the pastry case then drizzle over the caramel. Top with the remaining cheesecake mix (this should come to about an inch below the rim of the pastry case). Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until the middle retains a little wobble. Set aside and allow to settle and cool down slightly. Increase the oven temperature to 170c.
  7. While the cheesecake is baking, mix together all the topping ingredients, except the pecans,until smooth. Once your cheesecake has cooled to a point where it’s no longer hot to the touch, arrange the pecan halves across the surface, then pour over the syrupy mixture. Return to the oven for 10-15 minutes until the topping has thickened slightly. Set aside to cool then chill to set up for at least 4 hours (ideally overnight). When you’re ready to serve, run a knife around the edge of the tin and gently release the cheesecake, then slice up and enjoy!

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Miso Caramel Chocolate Fondants with Salted Cashew Crunch

A classic, but better; think filthy dark chocolate fondant with an oozing liquid centre, then throw in the addition of pooling, hot, slightly-savoury miso caramel sauce and a salted, nutty crunch topping. Need I say more?

Ingredients (these quantities yielded 6 large fondants but would make 8 smaller ones)

For the miso caramel

  • 100g caster sugar
  • 25ml water
  • 50ml double cream
  • 2tbsp white miso
  • pinch salt

For the chocolate fondant base

  • 180g butter, plus a little more for greasing
  • A little cocoa powder, for dusting
  • 250g dark chocolate
  • 275g golden caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 175g plain flour

For the salted cashew crunch

  • 75g cashews, toasted
  • 100g caster sugar
  • Generous pinch salt
  • 1tbsp sesame seeds

Method

  1. Before you make the chocolate mix, make the miso caramel. To do this place the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar has completely dissolved, then increase the heat and boil until it reaches a deep golden colour. At this stage, add the double cream and stir for another minute before taking the saucepan off the heat and adding the miso paste and salt. Stir until smooth, taste and adjust the level of salt then pour into a heatproof tub and chill until firm.
  2. For the salted cashew crunch place the sugar in a pan and melt, then allow it to turn golden brown and add the cashews, sesame seeds and salt. Stir to coat the cashews with the caramel then tip onto a piece of greaseproof paper and leave to set hard, then roughly chop into a coarse crumb.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease the insides of the fondant moulds with the extra butter, then dust with cocoa, shaking to coat. Tip out any excess then place all the moulds on a baking tray, ready to be filled.
  4. For the chocolate mix, place the chocolate and butter in a large heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir occasionally until smooth then set aside to cool a little. Whisk in the sugar (using a good old fashioned hand whisk will do) then the eggs, one at a time. Fold in the flour and once you’ve got a smooth mix split half of it between the moulds. Now create a little indent in the middle of the chocolate in each mould and scrape in a heaped tablespoon of your caramel. Top up with the remaining chocolate mix until each mould is filled to about 2cm below the rim.
  5. Bake the fondants for 17-22 minutes or until they are set on top and around the sides but still have a slight wobble in the middle (this time will vary from oven to oven and mould to mould so keep an eye on them- bare in mind my moulds have a 2inch wide base/3 inch wide rim/are 2 inches in height, and the fondants took 22 minutes in my old school oven!).
  6. Once the fondants are ready, leave to sit for a minute or two then run a knife around the edge of each mould. Carefully turn the fondants out onto serving plates and sprinkle with some salted cashew crunch. Serve with vanilla ice cream for added indulgence.

 

Enjoy!

Spiced Pear Sticky Toffee Muffins

Sticky toffee pudding is one of my all time favourite desserts; rolled out on many a Sunday after a family roast and drenched in sweet, buttery sauce, there are few dishes more comforting. Now, I’m not going to lay claim to these sticky toffee inspired muffins beating the classic pud format, however, unlike that Autumn staple, they needn’t be reserved for lazy weekends as they’re conveniently hand held, light in texture, benefit from the addition of fresh pear, and are just as delicious cold as they are hot from the oven and dripping in toffee. Make them now and they’ll last for a few days in an air tight box.

Ingredients (makes 6-8 large muffins)

For the muffin batter

  • 225g plain flour
  • 1 1/2tsp baking powder
  • 1tsp ground ginger
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 125ml vegetable oil
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • 100g light brown soft sugar
  • 1 large pear, diced
  • 100g pitted Medjool dates, soaked in boiling water

For the sticky toffee sauce

  • 60g butter
  • 60g light brown soft sugar
  • 80ml double cream
  • pinch salt

Optional finish

  • caramelised pear slices (to make these, just slice up 1 pear into 3mm thick pieces. Heat 2tbsp light brown soft sugar and 2tbsp butter in a pan until gently bubbling then add the pear pieces and cook for 1-2 minutes on each side or until golden)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Line a 12 hole muffin tray with muffin cases (this recipe makes 6-8 large muffins but if you prefer a smaller cupcake-size you will get 12).
  2. Place the flour, baking powder, spices and salt in a small bowl and stir together. In a larger bowl, whisk together the eggs, vegetable oil, vanilla and sugars until well combined, then stir in the diced pear. Drain the boiling water off the dates and crush them up into a rough paste and add those in too. Finally, fold in the dry ingredients until just combined (don’t worry if the batter is lumpy and a few specks of flour remain- the trick with muffins is to mix as little as possible to achieve a light texture).
  3. Fill each case 3/4 of the way up and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the muffins are well risen and a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
  4. While the muffins are baking make the sticky toffee sauce. Place the butter, sugar, cream and salt in a small saucepan and set over a gentle heat. Allow the butter and sugar to melt, stirring occasionally, then cook until the ingredients come together to form a smooth, golden sauce. Add the salt to taste.
  5. When the muffins are ready, prick a few holes over the surface of each one and pour on a generous helping of toffee sauce. Finish with some caramelised pear slices, if you like.

Enjoy!

Orange, Cardamom and White Chocolate Shortbread

These buttery shortbreads, dipped in white chocolate and flavoured with warming cardamom and citrus, have got me feeling (dare I say it) pretty festive. The format might be a bit retro but there’s something comforting and nostalgic about bedding in with a batch of homemade biscuits and a cup of builder’s tea at this time of year. Give them a try for a quick and easy twist on a classic.

Ingredients (makes 20-24 biscuits)

  • 225g soft butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • zest 1 orange
  • 150g plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 75g rye flour
  • 100g cornflour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 100g white chocolate
  • 50g pistachios, finely chopped (optional)

Method

  1. Place the butter, sugar and orange zest in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) and beat until very light and fluffy. Add in the flours, salt and ground cardamom and beat briefly until the flour is just incorporated and the mix starts to come together in large clumps (it’s important not to over-mix here as beating for too long could result in a tough biscuit which isn’t buttery and short!).
  2. Bring the mix together with your hands and roll out on a floured surface to about 1cm thick. Stamp out biscuits using a cookie cutter (or just slice the dough into squares with a knife) and line up on a lined baking tray. Chill for at least 30 minutes, or until firm. Preheat the oven to 180c.
  3. Once your biscuits have firmed up, bake for 12-15 minutes or until the edges are golden. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
  4. Melt the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water (or melt in the microwave at 30 second increments, stirring between each) then dip each biscuit in, about half way up. Place the dipped biscuits on a piece of greaseproof paper for the chocolate to set and sprinkle with pistachios.

Enjoy!

Pumpkin and Pecan Brown Butter Cake with Bourbon Caramel Icing

Make the most of squash season with an ode to the Autumn months; made up of heavily spiced pumpkin and brown butter layers, smooth bourbon-laced caramel cream cheese icing and a slightly salty crunch of pecan brittle, this cake is absolutely delicious and marries together some of my favourite flavours.

Ingredients (serves 10-12)

For the bourbon caramel

  • 200g caster sugar
  • 50ml water
  • 100ml double cream
  • 1-2tbsp bourbon ( spiced rum would also work, or feel free to omit the alcohol)
  • pinch sea salt

For the cake

  • 250g butter, cubed
  • 4 eggs
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 50g soft light brown sugar
  • 225g plain flour
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • large pinch salt
  • 1tsp ground ginger
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 1tsp ground cardamom
  • 1tsp mixed spice
  • 450g grated pumpkin (alternatively, you could use carrot or squash)
  • 75g sultanas
  • zest 1 lemon
  • 100g pecans, roughly chopped

For the icing

  • 250g mascarpone
  • 250g full fat cream cheese
  • the bourbon caramel

For decoration (optional)

  • pecan praline (to make this melt 100g caster sugar in a pan until golden, then add 75g pecans, stir to coat and set on a piece of baking paper- once set, crush up)
  • thyme sprigs

Method

  1. Start off by making the caramel. To do this place the water and sugar in a saucepan set over a gentle heat; do not stir, but swirl the pan occasionally to encourage the sugar to dissolve. Once the sugar has dissolved and you have a clear syrup, increase the heat and boil until it turns golden brown. At this stage add the double cream and stir, then pour in the bourbon and stir again. Continue to stir on the heat for another couple of minutes, then set aside and add the salt to taste. Leave to cool completely.
  2. Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins with baking paper. Place the butter in a saucepan and leave to melt and bubble until it starts to brown and smell nutty. Set aside to cool.
  3. Once the butter has cooled put it in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) along with the sugars and egg and mix until pale and thick (about 5 minutes). Beat in the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt, baking powder and spices and stir until just combined. Stir through the pumpkin, sultanas, lemon zest and pecans. Split the batter between the cake tins and bake for 30-40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
  4. Leave the cakes to cool completely in the tins. Meanwhile, make the icing by simply whisking together the mascarpone, cream cheese and caramel until smooth. Pile into a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle.
  5. Once the cakes are completely cool, remove from the tins and slice in half horizontally (leaving you with 4 layers). Pipe the icing in little mounds over the whole surface area of the first layer, then stack up the remaining layers, repeating the piping as you go. Decorate the top with pecan praline and thyme.

Enjoy!

Dark Chocolate and Peanut Butter Brownies (Vegan/Gluten Free)

I’ve tried a lot of vegan brownies which are dry, crumbly or ‘raw’. Sure, there’s a time and a place for healthy alternatives and we can’t just slob around eating sugar-laden baked goods all day, but if I want a brownie and I’m vegan (I’m not I’m just being really selfless…) I want the real thing, not a load of dates and coconut oil. With this not-very-2018 thought in mind, I’ve been attempting to put together a recipe for a completely vegan and gluten free brownie which rivals a conventional dairy/egg based one. The recipe I’ve devised delivers a fudgy core and crisp top, rich flavour and all round delicious result- give it a try, it’s a good place to start with vegan baking.

Ingredients (makes 16 small brownies, or 9 big ones!)

  • 125g smooth peanut butter, plus 50g more for the core and topping
  • 75ml vegetable oil
  • 275g dark chocolate (I used half 60% and half 80%), plus 75g roughly chopped for chocolate chips
  • large pinch salt
  • 100ml aquafaba (the starchy water you get in a can of chickpeas- you will get about 100ml from one can)
  • 1tbsp ground flaxseed mixed with 1tbsp water (this replicates an egg yolk very well!)
  • 100g dark brown soft sugar
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • 100g gluten free plain flour (I used Doves Farm)
  • few chopped peanuts, for topping (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a 20x20cm square brownie tin.
  2. Mix together the flaxseed and water at this stage to give it time to thicken an form an egg-yolk consistency. Put the oil, peanut butter and 275g of the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set it over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Allow the ingredients to melt together, stirring occasionally, then remove from the heat to cool to room temperature.
  3. Place the aquafaba in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment) and whisk until soft peaks just form. At this stage add in the flax mixture, sugars and salt (it’s amazing how much this looks like eggs whisked together with sugar!). Whisk again until the sugars are well incorporated then fold in the cooled chocolate mixture with a metal spoon, followed by the flour. Scrape half of the batter into the prepared tin then dot over half of the extra peanut butter and some of the chopped chocolate. Top with the remaining batter and repeat the peanut butter/chocolate stage, then finish with the peanuts (if using).
  4. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until crisp on top but very slightly wobbly in the middle. Leave to cool completely then slice up and serve.

Enjoy!

Craquelin Choux Buns with Honeyed Walnuts, Mascarpone and Orange

A couple of months ago I bought, then promptly forgot about, some delicious pine honey which I intended to use as the central flavour in a pastry-based recipe. Now that it’s been retrieved from the depths of my cupboard it has well and truly fulfilled that destiny in these crisp craquelin choux buns. Simply filled with honeyed orange mascarpone and walnuts (also baked in the honey and a little salt) these make for a delicious treat, but served alongside honey butterscotch sauce and they’re next level- perfect for a fancy Autumnal dessert.

Ingredients

For the craquelin top

  • 55g unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
  • 65g soft light brown sugar
  • 65g plain flour

For the choux

  • 85g butter
  • 220ml water
  • 100g plain flour
  • 3 eggs (plus 1 extra for glazing)
  • pinch of salt

For the filling

  • 300g mascarpone
  • 200ml double cream
  • 2tbsp (heaped) good quality honey (I used Greek Pine Honey)
  • Zest of 2 oranges

For the honeyed walnuts

  • 100g walnuts
  • 2tbsp (heaped) good quality honey (as before)
  • good pinch salt

For the sauce (optional)

  • 75ml honey
  • Juice 1/2 orange
  • 25g butter
  • 100ml double cream
  • Generous pinch salt

Method

  1. Start off by making the craquelin topping (when baked, this forms a crispy sweet layer). To do this simply mix the butter, sugar and flour in a large bowl (or in the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment on a slow speed) until it starts to form large lumps, then bring it together with your hands. Place the dough on a large piece of baking paper, top with another piece of baking paper, and roll out to about 3mm thick. Pop this onto a tray and leave in the freezer to solidify.
  2. To make the choux, put the water, butter and salt in a saucepan set over a medium heat (do not let it boil at this stage). Meanwhile, sieve the flour to remove any lumps. When the butter has melted into the water, increase the heat and bring to a rolling boil, then tip in the flour and stir vigorously until you have a smooth paste-like mix which comes away from the edges of the pan. Continue to stir for another minute to cook out the rawness of the flour, then tip into a clean bowl and close cover with cling film (this eggless stage is known as a ‘panade’). Leave to cool to room temperature.
  3. Preheat the oven to 190c. Line 2 large baking trays with greaseproof paper.
  4. Once the panade has cooled it’s time to add the eggs; whisk in a jug to break them up then very gradually add into the panade while beating with electric beaters. Stop adding the egg (you might have a little leftover) when the smooth, lump-free mixture reluctantly drops off the end of a spoon. Pile the choux mix into a piping bag, fitted with a large round nozzle.
  5. Pipe rounds of about 4cm wide onto the prepared baking trays, leaving plenty of room for expansion. Whisk the remaining egg in a bowl and brush a small amount onto each mound, smoothing down the tip. Take your craquelin sheet and stamp out 3cm circles. Place one on top of each choux mound (the egg will help secure it in place). Bake the choux for around 35 minutes, then skewer a small hole in each bun and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes, to dry out the middles. Once baked, they should be crisp and golden brown with a crackled appearance on top. Cool while you make the other elements.
  6. Toss the walnuts in the honey and salt and spread out on a baking tray. Cook for around 10 minutes or until caramelised then set aside to cool. Once cooled, roughly chop.
  7. For the filling, just whisk together the mascarpone, cream, honey and orange zest until light and smooth. Pile into a piping bag. Finally, for the sauce heat the honey and orange juice in a saucepan and simmer for a couple of minutes, add in the butter and stir until it’s melted, then add the cream and salt. Keep gently simmering, stirring occasionally, until slightly thicker (a few minutes should be fine), then set aside.
  8. To assemble the choux buns, slice each one in half and pipe some mascarpone cream into the base. Top with a sprinkling of walnuts and a little sauce, then place the lid on. Serve with some extra sauce.

Enjoy!