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Pistachio Meringues with Strawberry and Black Pepper Compote

Shake up the classic British pavlova by combining seasonal strawberries with black pepper, tangy creme fraiche and pistachio meringues; the combination of sweet, spicy and savoury balances beautifully and is a great dessert option for casual summer evenings.

Ingredients (makes 12):

  • 300g caster sugar
  • 6 egg whites
  • pinch salt
  • 125g chopped pistachios
  • 400g strawberries
  • 2tbsp caster sugar
  • splash water
  • cracked black pepper, to taste

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Line 2 trays with greaseproof paper (you can secure this down with a little meringue once it’s made).
  2. Put the sugar on a baking tray and heat for 10 minutes in the oven until hot to the touch (not melting), then set aside. Reduce the oven temperature to 120c.
  3. Place the egg whites in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and whisk until you reach medium peak. Add one third of the hot sugar and increase the whisking speed until well incorporated. Add the remaining sugar in 2 additions, whisking well between each. You should eventually have a thick glossy meringue with no grains of sugar. Tip the chopped pistachios onto the meringue and fold in gently. Spoon the meringue into piles on the prepared trays and smooth into your desired shapes.
  4. Bake for 1-1/2 hours until the meringues can be peeled from the paper with ease. Once baked, turn the oven off and leave to cool with the door closed (to prevent cracking).
  5. Now make the strawberry compote; place the strawberries, sugar and water in a saucepan and heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar melts and the strawberries release some juices. Now just cook until your desired consistency is achieved (I like to keep the fruit whole where possible but you can break down the strawberries by cooking for longer if a smoother result is what you’re after).
  6. Cool the compote and serve up with a generous spoonful of creme fraiche (or lightly whipped chantilly cream) and a crisp but chewy pistachio meringue.

Enjoy!

Soured Cream Chocolate Cake with Salted Caramel Buttercream and Almond Brittle

This isn’t a sophisticated cake. There is nothing particularly fancy or groundbreaking about the flavours or decoration; however, sometimes (and by sometimes I mean far more often than is deemed acceptable) I just crave a proper, dense, delicious chocolate hit, and for that this delivers every time (whether smothered in salted caramel buttercream or chocolate ganache- I’ll take either).

Ingredients:

  • 300g caster sugar
  • 300g soft butter
  • 225ml soured cream
  • 3 eggs
  • 2tsp vanilla extract
  • 75g cocoa powder
  • 300g plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • pinch salt

For the buttercream:

  • 100g soft butter
  • 100g salted caramel sauce
  • large pinch salt
  • 500g icing sugar
  • 2-3tbsp milk

For the brittle:

  • 200g caster sugar
  • 100g almonds

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a 10 inch cake tin.
  2. Place the sugar and butter in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and cream together until light, pale and fluffy. In a jug whisk the eggs, soured cream and vanilla. Add to the creamed mixture in 3 additions, beating well between each to ensure they are fully incorporated (add a little of the flour if you’re worried about curdling).
  3. Sift the cocoa powder, plain flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt over the wet ingredients and mix to combine. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 45-55 minutes until a skewer comes out clean when inserted. Once baked leave to cool in the tin.
  4. Now make your brittle. Line a tray with lightly oiled baking paper. Place the sugar and almonds in a heavy bottomed pan and heat until the sugar melts. Tip the pan to coat the almonds in the caramel and leave it until it reaches a deep golden brown then pour onto the prepared baking paper. Use a wooden spoon to move the almonds around into a single layer, then leave to set hard.
  5. For the salted caramel buttercream (this is a bit of a guilty pleasure- it’s obviously very sweet so you could coat the cake in a dark chocolate ganache if you’re more grown up than me), simply beat the soft butter, caramel sauce and salt (I will be posting a recipe for salted caramel sauce soon if you’d like to make your own, otherwise just buy shop bought!) together until creamy, then gradually add the icing sugar until it reaches a light and thick consistency. Lastly, loosen up with a few drops of milk if necessary (do this by eye).
  6. To assemble, remove your cake from the tin and smother in buttercream. Break up the brittle and use as shards, or smash into a crumb and sprinkle over the top of your finished bake.

Enjoy!

Orange, Dark Chocolate, Pistachio and Cardamom Cookies

This recipe takes the classic chewy chocolate cookie and turns it into something altogether more grown up with a little help from crushed pistachios, orange zest, dark chocolate chunks and ground cardamom. Stash them away from kids (and other adults- let’s be honest) and enjoy when you’ve got a quiet moment to yourself, preferably with a strong coffee.

Ingredients (makes 20-24 large cookies)

  • 225g butter
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 150g dark brown soft sugar
  • zest 1 orange
  • 1tsp ground cardamom (or 8-10 cardamom pods, crushed)
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g pistachios, roughly chopped
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 300g plain flour
  • pinch sea salt
  • 300g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Method:

  1. Place the butter, sugars, zest and ground cardamom in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) and cream together until light and fluffy using electric beaters (or a wooden spoon if you’re slightly mad/ less lazy than me).
  2. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Once the eggs are fully incorporated, tip in the pistachios and stir. Now sift the bicarbonate of soda, flour and salt into the batter and beat briefly to form a soft dough.
  3. Finally, add the chocolate chunks and stir with a spoon to evenly distribute. The dough won’t be firm and to make cooking easier I like to freeze it before baking. To do this simply lay a long rectangle of cling film across your work surface, spoon on the dough in a long line and roll up, shaping into a log. Chill for half an hour and at this stage preheat the oven to 180c and line some baking trays.
  4. Once your cookie dough logs have firmed up a bit, unwrap them and cut into slices (about 1.5 cm thick). Place the slices on the prepared baking trays with generous spaces between them for spreading (I usually put about 4 on each tray).
  5. Bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly golden but still soft and chewy in the middle. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Enjoy!

Lemon, Thyme and Honey Cake

I’ve been back in my winter coat and even wore a scarf yesterday due to the fact that the weather here in the UK has been akin to a small child throwing a tantrum… that said, when I made this cake (and naturally spent the day inside) it was gloriously sunny and something light and zesty was in order. This is essentially a lemon drizzle with a couple of welcome extras; a subtle hum of thyme and a honey spiked tangy cream cheese icing- the perfect understated but delicious cake for a casual summer get together.

Ingredients:

  • 225g soft butter
  • 225g caster sugar
  • zest 4 lemons
  • 1tbsp chopped thyme
  • 4 eggs (free range)
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 2-3tbsp milk

For the lemon drizzle:

  • 3tbsp runny honey (local where possible)
  • 2tbsp caster sugar
  • 125ml lemon juice

For the lemon cream cheese frosting:

  • 300g cream cheese
  • 50ml double cream
  • zest 2 lemons
  • 3tbsp runny honey (plus extra for a final drizzle, if you like)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line a square baking tin.
  2. Place the butter, sugar, lemon zest and thyme in a bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and cream together until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Once the eggs are thoroughly incorporated, sift in the flour and pour in the milk. Fold gently until well combined then scrape into the prepared tin and level off. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
  3. While the lemon and thyme sponge is cooking, make the lemon and honey drizzle. To do this simply put the honey, lemon juice and caster sugar together in a small saucepan and heat until the sugar has dissolved and formed a syrup. Set aside.
  4. When the cake is ready, skewer holes all across the surface and pour the drizzle evenly over the top, allowing it to soak in. Leave to cool completely in the tin.
  5. While the cake is cooling, make the cream cheese icing. Place the cream cheese, double cream, honey, lemon zest and icing sugar in a bowl and whisk until thick. Spread a generous layer over the completely cooled cake and drizzle with any extra honey.

Enjoy!

 

Cherry Blossom and Eucalyptus

No recipe to see here, just some decorating inspo for those of you who prefer less refined looking cakes (this is my preference- if I could put fresh flowers and greenery on every cake, I probably would). The base cake pictured is my classic chocolate fudge variety, filled with salted dark chocolate ganache and covered in swiss meringue chocolate buttercream; for decoration I’ve gone with seasonal blooms from the garden and hedgerows nearby (yeah, I live in the middle of nowhere and it has it’s perks!). I’ve never used eucalyptus before and have been pleasantly surprised with how versatile the leaves are- the curves and bends in the stems lend themselves to framing the cake and when paired with the cherry blossom (which, though beautiful, I fear may wilt very quickly) the overall effect is elegant and effortless.

Hope you like the cake and are inspired to freestyle with lots of different plants and flowers on your next bake!

 

Spring Lemon and Courgette Cake

This deliciously fresh tasting cake made up of homemade lemon curd, tangy cream cheese frosting and moist courgette sponge makes for the a great Easter treat, and the recipe will serve you well over the coming months when you’re looking for a simple and zesty summer bake too.

Ingredients:

  • zest 3 lemons
  • 200g butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 375g grated courgette (2-3)
  • 75g sultanas
  • 300g self raising flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 4-5tbsp milk

For the lemon curd filling:

  • 4 lemons (juice and zest)
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 100g butter, cubed
  • 3 eggs, 1 egg yolk

For the cream cheese icing:

  • 300g cream cheese
  • 100ml double cream
  • 100g icing sugar

To decorate: edible flowers, courgette ribbons, chocolate eggs

Method:

  1. Make the lemon curd first; put the lemon zest and juice, caster sugar and eggs in a saucepan and briefly whisk. Set over a gentle heat and gradually add the butter cubes, whisking constantly. After a few minutes the curd will start to thicken- keep whisking until you have used up the butter and stop when the lemon curd coats the back of the spoon (about 10-15 minutes). Set aside for later and cover the surface with cling film to prevent a thick skin from forming.
  2. Preheat the oven to 160c. Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins.
  3. Place the butter, lemon zest and caster sugar in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and cream together until light, pale and fluffy. Add the eggs in one at a time, beating well between each addition.
  4. Squeeze any excess moisture out of the grated courgette then fold into the batter along with the sultanas.
  5. Sift over the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Carefully fold in followed by the milk. The batter will be very thick- don’t be alarmed!
  6. Split the batter between the two tins and level off. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden, well risen and a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
  7. Leave the cakes to cool in their tins while you make the cream cheese icing. Place the cream cheese and cream in a bowl and beat together until thick, then sift in the icing sugar and beat to combine.
  8. Now it’s time to assemble your bake. Take your first cake and level off the top (if necessary) then pipe a circle of cream cheese icing around the edge. Fill the middle with your lemon curd (using the cream cheese line as a barrier) and place the other cake on top. Cover the complete cake with the remaining cream cheese icing and decorate as you wish.

 

Brown Sugar Meringues with Rum Caramel and Bananas

Meringue is a guaranteed crowd pleaser throughout the year, whether you enjoy it torched on top of lemon meringue pie or piled high with summer fruits as the base of a retro pavlova. Though these classic forms of meringue are delicious, I thought I’d try out a brown sugar variation for a richer flavour; they worked brilliantly and the brown sugar adds a deep molasses kick which pairs really well with rum caramel sauce, caramelised bananas, peanuts and creme fraiche.

meringues1

meringues4

Ingredients (makes 6-8 large meringues):

For the meringues:

  • 225g dark brown soft sugar
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 4 large egg whites
  • pinch salt

For the rum sauce:

  • 200g granulated sugar
  • 50ml water
  • 40g butter
  • 75ml double cream
  • pinch salt
  • 2-3 tbsp dark rum

For the caramelised banana:

  • 100g caster sugar
  • 25g butter
  • 2 bananas

For the toppings:

  • chopped peanuts
  • some creme fraiche

meringues2

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 120c. Line 2 baking trays with greaseproof paper.
  2. Place a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water and add the brown sugar and egg whites. Whisk with electric beaters until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is voluminous and hot to the touch.
  3. Remove the bowl from the heat and keep whisking. Add the caster sugar a tablespoon at a time and increase the speed on your beaters. Whisk until you have stiff peaks.
  4. Pile the meringue into nests on the prepared baking trays. Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Switch the oven off when you can easily peel the meringues off the paper and they are crisp. Leave in the oven to cool for an hour.
  5. While the meringues are cooling make the caramel. Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Once the sugar has dissolved bring to a boil and allow to turn into a deep caramel colour. Remove from the heat and add the cream, butter and salt. Whisk until smooth (it will spit). Allow the sauce to cool slightly then add the rum. Taste and add more if you feel it needs it (hardcore). Set aside.
  6. For the bananas, place the sugar in a heavy bottom pan. Heat, allowing the sugar to melt. Swirl occasionally but do not stir. Take the sugar to a golden colour and add the butter (it will spit). Stir together then add the banana pieces. Cook for a few minutes then turn over and remove from the pan.
  7. To assemble top the meringues with creme fraiche, followed by the bananas, sauce and peanuts.

meringues3

Enjoy!