In the old school spirit of stir up Sunday I thought now might be a good time to share my favourite mincemeat recipe (it’s not compulsory to make this on 25th November though, it will work just as well after a few days of maturing!). This is pretty classic in it’s foundations and I’ve been making it for a few years, but this year I’ve jazzed it up with some of my favourite Middle Eastern flavours (think pomegranate molasses, orange blossom, cardamom and pistachios). You could make traditional pastry-topped mince pies with this mincemeat, but I think it works really well with a tahini crumble topping- try it out!
For the mincemeat (makes about 1kg)
100g dried apricots, diced
100g dates, diced
75g dried figs, diced
50g mixed peel
2 oranges, juice and zest
1tbsp orange blossom extract
2tbsp pomegranate molasses
1tsp ground cinnamon
1-2tsp ground cardamom
2 Bramley apples, peeled and diced
200g vegetarian suet
50g roughly chopped almonds
50g roughly chopped walnuts
75g roughly chopped pistachios
150g Demerara sugar
50g muscovado sugar
200ml spiced rum
For the pastry (enough for 8 large, deep fill mince pies or 12 smaller mince pies)
250g plain flour
2tbsp caster sugar
2 egg yolks
For the crumble topping
30g demerara sugar
50g butter, cubed
150g plain flour
1tbsp icing sugar, for dusting
Ideally a week ahead of making the mince pies, make the mincemeat. To do this stir together all the ingredients except for the rum in a large bowl. Cover and leave the flavours to develop overnight.
Preheat the oven to 120c. Tip the contents of the bowl into a deep roasting tray or oven-proof baking dish and cover with foil. Cook for 2 hours, turning gently every 45 minutes or so with a wooden spoon. Add in the rum and stir, then return to the oven, covered, for a further half an hour.
Set the mincemeat aside and allow it to cool to room temperature, stirring a couple of times to keep everything well coated.
Once the mincemeat has cooled down, store in well-sealed, sterilised jars. You can use the mincemeat at this stage, but if you can, leave it for a week or so for the flavours to intensify even more.
When your mincemeat is ready to be used, make the pastry. Place the flour, butter, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse until it resembles breadcrumbs. At this stage add the egg yolks and milk and pulse again until the mix comes together in large lumps (alternatively, rub the butter into the flour, salt and sugar using your fingertips then stir in the yolks and milk using a cutlery knife). Tip the dough out and shape into a disc using your hands. Wrap in cling film and chill for 10 minutes.
For the tahini crumble rub the butter and flour together until they resemble rough breadcrumbs, then stir through the sugar, tahini and sesame seeds.
Grease your cupcake tray generously with butter. Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface to about 3mm thick and cut out circles to fit the cupcake holes (make sure your circles are big enough to create a deep mince pie- you want a generous amount of filling!). Push the pastry into the holes then fill with the mincemeat (in my large deep fill tray I put about 2 heaped tbsp of filling in each, but judge according to your tin).
Top with a heaped tbsp of the crumble and bake for 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden and the crumble crisp. Enjoy hot from the oven with a dusting of icing sugar and dollop of cream or brandy butter.
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).
For the base
175g plain flour
75g rye flour
50g icing sugar
2 egg yolks
For the caramel core
100g caster sugar
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
180ml soured cream
For the topping
50g dark brown soft sugar
3tbsp golden syrup or honey
1tbsp butter, melted
1tbsp plain flour
100g pecan halves, lightly toasted
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
50ml double cream
2tbsp white miso
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
175g plain flour
For the salted cashew crunch
75g cashews, toasted
100g caster sugar
Generous pinch salt
1tbsp sesame seeds
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!).
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.
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
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 light brown soft sugar
80ml double cream
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)
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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
Pinch of salt
100g white chocolate
50g pistachios, finely chopped (optional)
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!).
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.
Once your biscuits have firmed up, bake for 12-15 minutes or until the edges are golden. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
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.
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.
For the craquelin top
55g unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
65g soft light brown sugar
65g plain flour
For the choux
100g plain flour
3 eggs (plus 1 extra for glazing)
pinch of salt
For the filling
200ml double cream
2tbsp (heaped) good quality honey (I used Greek Pine Honey)
Zest of 2 oranges
For the honeyed walnuts
2tbsp (heaped) good quality honey (as before)
good pinch salt
For the sauce (optional)
Juice 1/2 orange
100ml double cream
Generous pinch salt
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.
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.
Preheat the oven to 190c. Line 2 large baking trays with greaseproof paper.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
No intricate decorations, fillings or tiers here, just one humble layer of ludicrously fudgy, crinkly chocolate joy (which is, entirely by chance, dairy and gluten free). For a real depth of flavour and the perfect balance of bitter and sweet, take note of my chocolate recommendations and use a good quality olive oil (this recipe idea actually stemmed from a yearning to bake with a deliciously floral, wincingly expensive extra virgin oil I picked up in Greece last month*).
* Disclaimer: don’t judge, I was in that holiday headspace where you flash your card with the sort of cavalier attitude usually reserved for Monopoly money… sufficed to say, I could do with passing GO right now
200g 60% dark chocolate
100g 70% dark chocolate
100g 80% dark chocolate
200ml good quality olive oil
275g light brown soft sugar
75ml strong espresso
Generous pinch sea salt
Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line an 8 inch cake tin.
Roughly chop all the chocolate and place it in a heatproof bowl along with the olive oil. Put the sugar and coffee in a saucepan and gently heat until the sugar has completely dissolved (avoid bringing it to the boil at this stage).
Once the sugar has dissolved increase the heat and bring to the boil, then pour over the chocolate. Leave for a few minutes while the chocolate melts, then stir everything (chocolate, olive oil, sugar, espresso) together to form a smooth, glossy liquid. Set aside to cool to room temperature, then stir in the egg yolks.
Place the egg whites in a large bowl with the salt (or bowl of a stand mixer) and whisk to stiff peaks. Carefully fold the whites into the chocolate mixture in two batches using a large metal spoon, then scrape the mixture into the prepared cake tin (make sure you don’t scrape from a height or you’ll knock out some of that air you’ve just put into the whites!).
Bake for 50-60 minutes, then leave to cool completely in the tin. When cooling, the top of the cake will dip and crack- don’t worry, it’s a smooth, flourless torte, not a sponge cake! Once cool, slice up and finish with a dusting of cocoa powder. Serve with creme fraiche, if you like.