autumn

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.

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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!

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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)…

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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

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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!

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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  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!

My Halloween Showstopper

This toffee apple cake, sandwiched together with salted caramel and toffee frosting, makes for the perfect table centre piece, especially when topped with honeycomb, haphazard spun sugar and mini toffee apple decorations… Give it a go this Halloween and you’re guaranteed to be popular with friends and family, old and young!

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For the sponge, you will need: 450g plain flour, pinch salt, 3tsp bicarbonate of soda, 1tsp baking powder, 3tsp cinnamon, 1tsp ginger, 250g caster sugar, 200g light brown soft sugar, 300g melted butter, 5 eggs, 3 apples

Grease and line two 20cm cake tins. Preheat the oven to 180c (fan).

Sift together the flour, salt, bicarbonate, baking powder, spices and caster sugar. Mix to combine. In a jug, mix the eggs, melted butter and brown sugar. Chop your apples finely into chunks.

Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture. Pour in the wet eggy liquid. Stir with a wooden spoon to fully combine and incorporate. Fold through the apple.

Separate the mix between the two tins and level the tops. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted.

When cooked, leave for 5 minutes to cool in tins then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.

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For the toffee frosting, you will need: 200g dark brown soft sugar, 100g butter, 100ml milk, 600 icing sugar, and more milk for loosening

Place the sugar, butter and milk in a saucepan and melt. Stir gently and set aside.

When cooled slightly, add the melted mixture to the icing sugar and stir until combined. If too thick, add drops of milk until a spreadable frosting consistency is achieved.

For the salted caramel recipe I use, click here. 

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To assemble the cake:

Trim the tops of the cakes if they’re not even, then spread 1tbsp salted caramel over the tops. Spread a generous swirl of the toffee frosting over the bottom layer and sandwich the other sponge over it. Coat the entire cake in toffee frosting, using a palette knife to achieve a smooth finish. Drizzle some salted caramel over the top.

For the crushed honeycomb recipe (optional) visit my last post and cancel out the chocolate!

Sprinkle the honeycomb in a circle around the top of the cake.

For the ‘toffee apples’, you will need: some roll out red icing, some kebab sticks and some caster sugar (amounts will depend on how many apples you would like!)

Roll the icing into small balls (slightly smaller than golf ball sized) and stick onto the end of a kebab stick. Place in the freezer to harden.

Place some caster sugar in a saucepan and melt over a medium heat. Once dissolved, let the sugar brown then remove from the hob. Take the icing balls from the freezer and dip in the sugar then leave to set. Arrange in a haphazard fashion around the top of the cake.

Enjoy!

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Rhubarb and Custard Eclairs

After catching up with last weeks Patisserie round on Bake Off, I decided to whip up my own eclairs using some rhubarb from the garden… What I came up with combines crisp choux pastry filled with stewed rhubarb and a delicious vanilla custard- what’s not to like?

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First, make the vanilla custard filling. For this you will need: 300ml milk, 2 egg yolks, 50g caster sugar, 1 vanilla pod, 4tsp plain flour, 4tsp cornflour, 300ml double cream (lightly whipped).

Mix together your egg yolks, caster sugar and the seeds from the vanilla pod in a bowl. After these are well combined gradually add the flours a little at a time, making sure you mix well between each addition.

Now heat your milk in a saucepan until just boiling. Add to the paste-like mix in the bowl and whisk, then return to the saucepan and heat for 3-5  minutes (or until well thickened). If it becomes lumpy, just whisk more vigorously.

Transfer to a bowl and cover with clingfilm to avoid a skin forming. After half an hour the custard will become almost set- now you need to stir to loosen then fold in the cream- your filling is now ready for piping!

Now prepare the rhubarb element of the filling; you will need: 3 sticks rhubarb, 3tbsp ginger syrup, 4tbsp caster sugar.

Heat the oven to 180c (fan).

Roughly chop the rhubarb and spread onto a baking tray. Drizzle over the ginger syrup and sprinkle on the caster sugar then cook for 15-20 minutes or until the rhubarb is soft.

Using the back of a fork squash the rhubarb and transfer to a bowl. It should be sticky and soft. Leave to cool.

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For the choux pastry, I followed Paul Hollywood’s basic recipe. You can find that here .

To assemble the eclairs, you will need: your choux buns, the vanilla custard, the roasted rhubarb, a sprinkling of ginger, 5tbsp icing sugar with a little water and food dye, and some crystallised ginger for decoration (optional).

Slice your choux buns in half horizontally. Take a piping bag and fill with the vanilla custard. Pipe little dots of the filling inside the bottom half of the bun until covered.

Now take your rhubarb and place on top of the custard layer (as pictured above). Close the lids on top.

Mix the icing sugar with a little water and food dye and drizzle over the tops of the buns for added sweetness, then place a piece of crystallised ginger at one end with a mint leaf as a final flourish.

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I hope you enjoy this latest recipe!

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