bakery

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!

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A Very Late Christmas Cake

I have got to apologise for my lack of posts over the festive period. My intentions were to share lots of recipes with you, but I’ve been a huge let down on that front! It’s not that I haven’t been baking (I haven’t stopped as a matter of fact), I just haven’t had the time between working almost full time and getting all sorts of Christmas errands organised to take photographs and upload…

Now that I have a quiet week before I go back to being a manic crazy person again, I thought I would share my Christmas cake (better late than never!) which, ironically, I made over a month ago!

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The cake was created for a Christmas canapé party and is made in the traditional way- i.e. lots of booze, fruit, marzipan and icing ( I used Sailor Jerry spiced rum, as it’s my favourite!).

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The cake topper was my own creation, crafted from ready to roll white icing which I left to harden and then painted with food colourings. The icicles are made from melted mints.

Again, apologies for the belated post- maybe you could bookmark this and recreate this wintery sleeping fox cake as something a bit different next Christmas!

Easy Peasy Chocolate Fudge Cake

Sometimes you just can’t beat the classics, so I decided it was about time I shared my tried and tested chocolate cake recipe. Simple but delicious, this chocolatey treat is a guaranteed crowd pleaser and can be jazzed up for parties or left plain for a tea time treat- go on, give it a try!

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For the fudgey sponge, you will need: 350g plain flour, 1tsp bicarbonate of soda, 2 tsp baking powder, 400g caster sugar, 80g cocoa powder, pinch salt, 1tsp espresso powder, 3 eggs, 160ml vegetable oil, 250ml milk, 100g dark chocolate, 150ml boiling water

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

Sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, caster sugar, cocoa powder, salt and espresso powder.

In a jug, whisk the eggs,vegetable oil and milk. Pour into the dry mixture and combine thoroughly.

Take the dark chocolate and melt in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Leave to cool for a few minutes then fold into the mixing bowl with the other ingredients.

Add the boiling water a splash at a time, mixing carefully until thoroughly combined.

Split the mix between the two cake tins and place on the middle shelf of the oven. Bake for 35-40 minutes until springy.

Leave the cakes in their tins to cool for ten minutes then remove and leave to return to room temperature on a wire rack.

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While the sponges are cooling, making the frosting with: 600g icing sugar, 125g soft butter, 6tbsp milk, 100g dark chocolate, 50g cocoa powder.

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water then set aside to cool.

Sift the icing sugar and cocoa powder into a large mixing bowl then cube in the soft butter. Add the milk. Using an electric whisk, mix together the ingredients, then add the melted chocolate and whisk again until completely smooth. If the frosting is too stiff just add some more milk until the desired spreadable consistency is achieved.

Take your sponges and cut them in half horizontally, leaving you with four layers. Frost between the layers then cover the outer edges. Sprinkle with chocolate shavings for a simple finish.

Enjoy!