autumn

Apple Gingerbread with Rum Caramel

This Autumnal bundt cake, inspired by the humble toffee apple, is perfect for feeding a bonfire night crowd; it’s easy to make, packed with flavour and can be enjoyed hot with ice cream or cold alongside your post-fireworks drink.

Ingredients

For the gingerbread:

  • 150g butter
  • 125g dark brown soft sugar
  • 175g golden syrup
  • 200g black treacle
  • 4 balls stem ginger, chopped
  • 2tsp ground ginger
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 freshly grated nutmeg
  • 250ml milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 300g plain flour
  • 3 Golden Delicious apples, peeled and chopped (about 1-2cm cubes)

For the rum caramel:

  • 200g caster sugar
  • 125ml water
  • 100ml double cream
  • pinch salt
  • 2tbsp rum (or brandy)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease a 22cm bundt tin (or 20cm square tin) with butter then dust with plain flour and tap off the excess. Set aside.
  2. For the gingerbread place the butter, sugar, syrup, treacle, stem ginger and spices in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Melt the ingredients together, stirring occasionally, until you have a smooth liquid. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes then stir in the milk and eggs.
  3. In a large bowl briefly stir the bicarbonate of soda and flour to combine. Add in the warm liquid and beat until you have a smooth batter (this should only take a minute or so- I do it by hand).
  4. Finally, add the chopped apples and briefly stir, then scrape the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 35-45 minutes until a skewer comes out clean with a few moist crumbs attached.
  5. Leave the cake in the tin for 10 minutes to cool a little while you make the caramel. For the caramel just pop the water and sugar in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves (do not let it boil and do not stir it at this stage). Once the sugar has dissolved up the heat and boil the syrup until it reaches a deep golden colour, then add in the cream, salt and rum and stir (it will spit a little but don’t worry, just watch your hands!). Set aside once your caramel is smooth and lump free.
  6. Now turn out your bundt cake (it will still be warm) and prick it all over with a skewer. Pour over most of the caramel, allowing it to sink into the holes. Serve with ice cream and any leftover caramel.

Enjoy!

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Hazelnut, Blackberry, Bay and Pear Pavlova

This pavlova screams Autumn; each element contains a seasonal hero and I definitely (big statement) prefer the combination of hazelnut meringue, blackberry cream and bay poached pears over the classic summer berry meringue we all know and love here in England. Make it for an Autumn gathering (or dare I say it- Christmas) and it is sure to be a crowd pleaser.

Ingredients

For the pavlova:

  • 5 egg whites
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 1tsp corn flour
  • 1tsp white wine vinegar
  • 200g chopped hazelnuts

For the poached pears:

  • 4 pears, peeled
  • 200ml blackberry rum (or sloe gin)
  • 1 vanilla pod, split
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 75g caster sugar

For the blackberry cream:

  • 400ml double cream
  • 2-3tbsp icing sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 250g lightly crushed defrosted frozen blackberries (these work really well for rippling as they are usually soft and juicy)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 130c and line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper. To start, make the pavlova. To do this place the egg whites in a large clean bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and whisk to stiff (but not dry) peaks. Once you reach this stage add the caster sugar 1tbsp at a time and keep whisking until you have a thick, glossy, grain free meringue. Now tip in the cornflour and white wine vinegar and briefly whisk once more to thoroughly combine. Finally, pour 150g of the chopped hazelnuts into the bowl and fold gently with a large metal spoon.
  2. Spoon the meringue onto your prepared tray and shape into a rough circle with a dip in the middle. Bake for 1-1 1/2 hours until the pavlova is crisp to the touch and peels away from the paper with ease, then switch off the oven and allow it to cool with the door ajar to avoid any major cracks.
  3. While the meringue is cooking and cooling, poach the pears. Pop the peeled pears in a saucepan along with the blackberry rum, vanilla pod, cinnamon stick, bay leaves and caster sugar then top up with water so that the pears are just covered. Simmer for around 25-30 minutes until the pears are tender but not mushy. Once ready, pick out the pears and leave to cool, then return the liquid to the hob, turn up the heat and boil until it reaches a syrupy consistency. Set aside to use later.
  4. For the blackberry cream, whisk the cream, icing sugar and vanilla to soft peaks then fold through the defrosted blackberries with a little juice (reserve a few whole ones for decoration).
  5. Now you are ready to assemble your pavlova. Put the meringue on a plate or serving platter and fill the dip with the blackberry cream. Pile up the pears on top, sprinkle with the remaining hazelnuts and drizzle over your syrup. Decorate with bay leaves or gold leaf, if  you like.

Enjoy!

Conference Pear and Dark Chocolate Tart

This tart is simple but indulgent and marries together an Autumn favourite (pear) with my biggest weakness (chocolate). It makes for a delicious weekend treat served warm with ice cream but would equally round off a dinner party with a topping of lightly whipped Calvados cream; either way you can’t go far wrong with chocolate pastry and almond frangipane studded with ripe pears and oozing dark chocolate…

Ingredients

For the pastry:

  • 200g plain flour
  • 25g icing sugar
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 140g cold cubed butter
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2tbsp cold water

For the filling:

  • 5 eggs
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 300g ground almonds
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 pears, sliced
  • 100g dark chocolate, broken into pieces

To finish:

  • 3tbsp honey
  • 50g dark chocolate

Method

  1. Start off with the pastry. Place the flour, cocoa, icing sugar and butter in a food processor and blitz until it takes on the texture of coarse breadcrumbs (you could also do this by rubbing these ingredients between your fingers then stirring in the egg and water with a cutlery knife). Add the egg yolks and water and pulse. Stop when the crumbs start to clump together to form large lumps of pastry then tip out, push together and shape into a disc. Wrap in cling film and chill for 10 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180c. Lightly grease a 22x22cm loose bottom tart tin with butter. Take your pastry and roll out on a lightly floured surface to about 3mm thick. Line the tart case, pushing the pastry into the corners with a smaller lump of dough. Trim the edges and return to the fridge to chill for a further 15 minutes.
  3. Once your pastry is firm, line with baking paper and baking beans and bake for 10-15 minutes until the sides are set. Remove the paper and beans and prick the base all over with a fork then bake for another 10 minutes or until the base is cooked through and has a sandy texture with no damp areas.
  4. While the pastry is cooking make the filling. To do this simply place the eggs, caster sugar, ground almonds and vanilla in a food processor and whizz up until well combined (or beat together with a wooden spoon).
  5. Reduce the oven temperature to 140c. Pour half the almond filling into the cooked pastry case and then sprinkle over the broken up chocolate. Add the remaining filling, level out, then arrange your pear slices all over the surface. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the filling is golden and well risen.
  6. When your tart is ready, heat the honey a little and brush all over the surface to create a shine. Melt the dark chocolate (either in a ban marie or in the microwave) and flick across the top as desired to finish it off.

Slice up and serve with a dollop of creme fraiche or Calvados cream.

Spiced Toffee Apple Compote

This spiced apple side is so easy to make and pairs perfectly with so many dishes; sandwich it between sponges to make deliciously moist celebration cakes, use it as a topping for porridge and waffles, enjoy it warm with ice cream or pile it onto meringue for the ultimate Winter pavlova!

apple-compote

Ingredients:

  • 75g butter
  • 100g dark brown soft sugar
  • 4 large cooking apples
  • 1tsp ground ginger
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2tsp mixed spice
  • zest 1 orange

Method:

  1. Core, peel and dice the apples.
  2. Place the butter, sugar, apples, slices, juice and zest in a large saucepan. Allow the sugar and butter to melt on a low heat then stir to coat the apples.
  3. Increase the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the apples are tender and the sauce thickened slightly. Finish with a pinch of salt, if you like.
  4. This compote is delicious served hot or cold (and you can reheat it if you’d like to use it the following day).

The Best Hot Chocolate

If you know me you will be well aware that chocolate is my kryptonite; if it’s there, I will eat it/ drink it/ not share it. In winter I naturally move onto hot chocolate and drink it by the bucketload (this year I’ve had to reign it in as last winter I got into an at-least-once-a-day habit… don’t tell me how bad that is for me. I know).

Anyway, addiction aside, I thought it was only right for me to share my recipe for the best, most luxurious hot chocolate you can make at home (tis the season after all)…

hot-choc-real

Ingredients:

  • 250ml water
  • 3tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 litre milk (I use semi skimmed)
  • 100g dark chocolate (chopped)
  • 50g milk chocolate (chopped)
  • 4tbsp granulated sugar
  • pinch salt
  • For serving (optional): torched marshmallows, chocolate stirrers, whipped cream

hot-chocolate-real-2

Method:

  1. Bring the water to a simmer in a large saucepan. Add the cocoa and whisk out the lumps, then add the milk gradually, constantly stirring.
  2. Bring back to a simmer and add in the chocolate, sugar and salt. Whisk until all the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.
  3. Distribute into 4 mugs and if you want to be really fancy, top with whipped cream, marshmallows and more chocolate.

Pecan Pie Cheesecake

Over the past couple of weeks the weather here in UK has regressed to it’s favourite state; dark, cold and foggy. While this sadly means we must mourn the loss of that unseasonably mild Autumn, it also means we have legit excuses to eat some pretty amazing food; think pies, tarts, puddings and roasts. Yes, that miserable UK weather is sounding a lot better now isn’t it?

With this in mind, I found myself thinking about lot’s of toffee based bakes on my commute the other day (I know, calm down), and decided I would try out transforming the classic pecan pie into a cheesecake. It turned out really well so here is the recipe!

cheesecake-2

Ingredients:

For the base: 150g digestive biscuits, 150g pecan nuts, 100g melted butter, 1tsp cinnamon, 2tsp caster sugar

For the filling: 700g cream cheese, 100g icing sugar, 1tsp vanilla paste, 300ml double cream, 200ml Carnation caramel, large pinch salt

For the topping: 50ml maple syrup, 50g dark brown soft sugar, 50g butter, 50ml double cream, 100g toasted pecans, pinch sea salt

cheesecake-1

Method:

  1. Grease and line a spring form cake tin.
  2. For the base of the cheesecake, blitz the biscuits down to a crumb in a food processor. Add the pecans, sugar and cinnamon then blitz again. Once you have a course sandy texture add the melted butter and blitz once more until well combined. Pour into the tin and press down with the back of a spoon. Chill while you make the filling.
  3. For the filling, whisk together the cream cheese, vanilla and icing sugar until smooth. In a separate bowl whisk together the double cream and salted caramel sauce until medium peaks form.
  4. Fold the caramel cream into the cream cheese mixture. Once well combined, pile onto the biscuit base and smooth out. Chill for 2 hours (minimum) to set.
  5. While your cheesecake is setting, prepare the topping. Simply place the maple syrup, brown sugar, butter and salt in a saucepan and melt together. Once melted, bring to the boil and remove from the heat then add the double cream and mix. Set aside to cool.
  6. Once the cheesecake is set, arrange the pecans all over the surface (as with a traditional pecan pie). Pour the maple sauce all over the top of the pecans then sprinkle with a final flourish of sea salt. Chill for one hour then slice up and serve.

cheesecake-4

Pumpkin Spice Layer Cake

This cake is the ultimate Autumn centre piece- it combines a moist spiced pumpkin sponge with cream cheese frosting, caramel buttercream, pecans and salted toffee sauce; the best flavours of the season! I decorated mine in a really rustic semi-naked style, but you can refine yours to make it a little more formal if you like.

fall-cake-3

Ingredients

  • 450ml vegetable oil
  • 450g soft light brown sugar
  • 7 eggs
  • 450g self raising flour
  • 2tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 3tsp ginger
  • 3tsp cinnamon
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 grated fresh nutmeg
  • 250g sultanas
  • 400g grated pumpkin

For the Toffee Sauce: 100g butter, 100g dark brown soft sugar, 100g golden syrup, 100ml double cream, large pinch sea salt

For the Caramel Buttercream: 200g butter, 75g of the toffee sauce, 500g icing sugar

For the Cream Cheese Frosting: 250g cream cheese, 150g butter, 500g icing sugar, 1tsp vanilla extract

Extras: 200g roughly chopped pecans

fall-cake2

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c and grease and line three 7inch cake tins.
  2. Place the eggs, sugar, salt and oil in a large bowl then whisk until light and well combined. Sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg then gently stir with a spatula until non-streaky and smooth.
  3. Now add the sultanas and pumpkin. Mix well and distribute the batter evenly between the three tins. Bake for 30-45 minutes. When a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the cakes, they are done. Once cooked, remove from the tins and cool on a wire rack.

fall-cake4

  1. While the cakes are cooling, make the frostings. Start off with the toffee sauce. Place the dark brown sugar, golden syrup and butter in a saucepan and melt together. Once melted, bring to the boil then remove from the heat and add the cream. Stir then set aside to cool.
  2. Now make your cream cheese frosting. Whisk the butter with electric beaters or a stand mixer until fluffy, then add the cream cheese and whisk again. Once well combined, gradually add the icing sugar and continue whisking until you have a light frosting. Fold in the vanilla.
  3. Once your toffee sauce has cooled you can make the caramel buttercream. Simply beat the butter until really light, then add the icing sugar gradually until you have a simple fluffy buttercream. Finally, add 75g of the toffee sauce and stir through.
  4. To assemble the cakes just place one sponge on a plate and pipe a ring of cream cheese frosting round the edge. Fill the centre with caramel buttercream and sprinkle over some pecans. Now just top with another layer and repeat until all the cakes are used. Thinly coat the outside of the cake with cream cheese frosting and pipe a design on the top with the caramel buttercream. Pile on pecans for decoration and drizzle generously with the remaining toffee sauce.
  5. Enjoy!