I’ve tweaked and tested this recipe at least four times over the past month *woe is me*, and am at last at the point where I’m completely happy with the outcome. Technique-wise I’ve actually harked back to one of my original cookie recipes which I posted about four years ago- it’s so simple and calls for a good old mixing bowl and wooden spoon, but delivers that chewy, crinkly texture which just can’t be rivalled. In terms of ingredients I’ve used a combination of rye and plain flour, three types of chocolate (duh), walnuts and a good dose of espresso; the resulting flavour is well balanced and borderline addictive, so proceed with caution (not actually, definitely give them a go).
- 150g plain flour
- 125g rye flour
- 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
- Pinch salt
- 1tbsp instant coffee (ground to a very fine powder)
- 150g unsalted butter
- 150g dark brown soft sugar
- 150g golden caster sugar
- 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
- 75g walnuts, coarsely chopped
- 100g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 100g milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 100g white chocolate, coarsely chopped
- Preheat the oven to 180c. Line two large trays with baking paper.
- Place the plain flour, rye flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a large bowl and roughly mix together with a wooden spoon. Add the instant coffee, butter and sugars to a saucepan and gently melt over a medium heat, stirring occasionally.
- Once the ingredients have melted together, set aside to cool slightly then add in the egg and egg yolk and whisk briefly to combine.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix together with a wooden spoon to form a soft cookie dough. Tip in the chocolate and walnuts into the bowl and mix to evenly distribute them through the dough. Chill the dough for at least 15 minutes.
- Using an ice cream scoop, form balls of cookie dough and line onto the baking trays (leaving lots of space for spreading). You will need to do this in batches (unless you have a huge oven and lots of trays!).
- Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes then set aside. They will be very soft when you get them out of the oven, but don’t worry, they’ll set up a little. Leave to cool and serve.
Sometimes ingredients just belong together, and that is certainly the case when it comes to sticky baked apricots and almonds. With these upside down almond cakes I’ve taken this tried and tested flavour combination and made it that little bit more delicious with the addition of fragrant, slightly woody rosemary, and salty-sweet pine nut praline (which, by the way, is extremely moreish). Serve up with a generous dollop of mascarpone and a drizzle of good quality honey and take a basic, fairly retro little cake to a great seasonal dessert.
Ingredients (makes 12)
For the rosemary honey
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 6tbsp runny honey
For the cakes
- 225g softened unsalted butter
- 225g golden caster sugar
- 3 eggs
- 150g plain flour
- 2tsp baking powder
- 2tsp chopped rosemary
- 150g ground almonds
- 175ml milk
- 6 ripe apricots
For the pine nut praline
- 100g pine nuts, toasted
- 125g caster sugar
- generous pinch sea salt
- creme fraiche or mascarpone
- Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease a mini cake tray (I have a tray with 6 holes, each slightly larger in size than a muffin- I just used it twice as the recipe yields 12 mini cakes) with butter then dust with flour and shake out any excess (greasing and flouring should prevent any sticking). To be extra safe, place a little circle of greaseproof paper in the base of each hole. If you don’t have a mini cake tray, you could make these in large muffin cases, yielding about 15-18.
- Before you make the cake batter, place the honey in a saucepan along with the rosemary sprigs. Heat gently until the honey starts bubbling slightly then set aside to infuse. You’ll use this later.
- For the cake batter, place the butter and sugar in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and beat until very pale and fluffy. Add the eggs in one at a time, beating well between each addition. To prevent curdling, add a little bit of the flour with each egg. Once all the eggs are incorporated, stir together the rest of the flour, almonds, baking powder, salt, and chopped rosemary in a bowl. Add half of these fry ingredients along with half of the milk and fold in, then add the rest and fold again until you have a smooth mixture.
- Drizzle about half a teaspoon of your infused honey into the base of each hole in your prepared tray. Half the apricots and place one half, cut side down, on top of the honey. Top with your cake mix (about 2/3 full) and level off the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cakes are well risen and a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
- While the cakes are baking, make the pine nut praline. To do this simply place the sugar in a pan and heat gently until it starts melting at the edges. Give it a swirl (do not stir) and once it’s all dissolved add the pine nuts. Stir to coat the pine nuts and once the caramel has reached a deep golden colour, scrape onto a piece of greaseproof paper and level out. Leave it to set hard (about 10-15 minutes) then blitz it up in a food processor with a very generous pinch of sea salt (don’t over blitz, it’s nice to have a bit of crunch).
- When your cakes are ready, leave to cool in the tins for a while then carefully turn out. Heat the remaining infused honey, just to loosen, then brush all over the surfaces. Serve each cake with a spoonful of mascarpone and some of the pine nut praline.
If you do one thing this weekend, make these brownies; with brown butter delivering a deep nutty flavour, pecans adding a welcome crunch and dark brown sugar leaving you with a molasses hit, they 100% deliver on flavour and texture and are perhaps the most delicious brownies I’ve made to date (drops mic) (cringes).
Ingredients (makes 9-12 brownies)
- 250g butter, cubed
- 250g dark chocolate
- 100g dark brown soft sugar
- 100g golden caster sugar
- 3 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
- large pinch sea salt
- 100g gluten free plain flour (I used Doves Farm)
- 100g chopped pecans
- 75g chopped white chocolate
- 75g chopped milk chocolate
Method (makes 9-12 brownies, depending on how hungry you are)
1) Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a 22x22cm brownie tray.
2) Place the cubed butter in a saucepan and melt over a medium heat. Once completely melted, up the heat and allow the butter to foam until it smells nutty and reaches a deep golden colour. At this stage, remove from the heat and add in the chopped dark chocolate. Let it sit for a couple of minutes then stir briefly to create a smooth glossy mix. Set aside to cool a little.
3) While the chocolate mixture cools, place the sugars, salt, eggs and egg yolk in a stand mixer (or in a large bowl) and beat until very light and voluminous (it will pretty much double in size). This stage is well worth the effort- it will give you that classic cracked top.
4) Once the egg mixture is ready, pour the chocolate mix down the side of the bowl and fold in using a large metal spoon. Add the gluten free flour and do the same until you have a smooth, lump free batter. Now add the chocolate chunks and pecans and stir through to evenly distribute.
5) Tip the mix into the prepared tin and level off. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
6) When it’s ready, the brownie will have a flaky crisp top but will still be gooey and moist on the inside. Set aside to cool (completely) in the tin then remove, slice up and serve.
These Bakewell inspired bars are made up of a crisp pastry base, zesty mince meat centre, cinnamon frangipane top, toasted almond sprinkling and a dollop of obligatory brandy cream; delicious and oh-so festive!
- 250g plain flour
- 140g butter
- 1tbsp caster sugar
- 3 egg yolks
- 3tbsp water
- 1 jar good quality mince meat (optional: add the zest of 1 orange and a handful chopped walnuts to it)
- 150g butter
- 150g golden caster sugar
- 75g ground almonds
- 75g self-raising flour
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 3 eggs
- handful flaked almonds
- 150ml double cream
- 1tbsp brandy
- 2tbsp icing sugar (plus extra for dusting)
- First, make the pastry (or skip steps 1 and 2 if you’re using shop bought shortcrust!). Place the butter, sugar and flour in a food processor and blitz until they form breadcrumbs. Pour into a large bowl. In a small bowl whisk together the water and egg. Add 4tbsp of this mix to the crumbs and stir with a cutlery knife. If there are still dry patches add a little more liquid until the mixture comes together to form a dough. Press into a thin disc shape and wrap in cling film. Chill for 15 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 190c. Lightly grease a rectangular tart tin. Take your chilled pastry and roll out to about 3mm thick. Line into the tart tin, pushing it into the corners as you go. Chill again for 10 minutes.
- Now it’s time to blind bake. Screw up a piece of greaseproof paper and unfold, then press down into the case. Fill with baking beans and spread out to completely cover the base. Bake for 15 minutes until the sides are set then remove the beans and paper and bake for a further 5-10 minutes until the base is dry and sandy. Don’t let it colour as it will be returning to the oven when filled.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 170c.
- Now make the frangipane. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy then add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition (add a little of the flour to prevent curdling if you like). Once well combined, beat in the ground almonds and fold in the remaining flour and cinnamon.
- Now it’s time to assemble. Take your tart case and spread a generous layer of mince meat across the base. Top this with the frangipane and level out as best you can. Sprinkle with flaked almonds.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the frangipane is cooked through. If the pastry or almonds are browning too much just cover loosely with foil.
- Once baked, cool on a wire rack while you make the brandy cream. To do this simply whisk together the brandy, cream and icing sugar until thick. Spoon onto each bar, dust with icing sugar and serve.
I was recently sent some delicious Mandarin Edition chocolate from Amelia Rope. I am a big advocate of her single origin chocolate bars and am really pleased with this festive recipe I’ve developed using her product. The dark zesty chocolate goes really well with the crisp meringue, ginger cream and torched mandarin slices- it’s the perfect winter pavlova, ideal for Christmas day!
- 6 large egg whites
- 500g caster sugar
- 2 tbsp cocoa
- 400ml double cream
- 1tbsp icing sugar
- 4tbsp ginger syrup
- 4 pieces stem ginger, chopped
- 3 mandarins, sliced
- 2tbsp granulated sugar
- 150g Amelia Rope Mandarin Edition chocolate (2 bars)
- Preheat the oven to 180c. Spread the caster sugar across 2 baking trays and place in the oven to heat up (don’t let it melt or crystallise).
- While the sugar is heating up, put your egg whites into a large clean bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer). Whisk on low to build up air bubbles then increase the speed and whisk until you have medium peaks. Take your hot sugar and gradually add to the egg whites whilst whisking constantly. Once all the sugar has been added you will have a thick glossy meringue. Now add the cocoa powder and lightly swirl through the mixture to create a ripple effect.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 110c.
- Line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper. Roughly pile the meringue on in a wreath shape. Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until the meringue peels off the paper easily. The middle should be mallowy and the outside crisp. Once the meringue is cooked, switch the oven off and allow it to cool with the door ajar (this prevents cracks).
- While the meringue is cooling, make the toppings. For the ginger cream, just place the ginger syrup, icing sugar and double cream in a bowl and whisk until soft peaks form.
- For the torched mandarins, slice into pieces and line onto a baking tray. Sprinkle with the granulated sugar and place under a hot grill until caramelised (or use a blow torch).
- Melt the chocolate and cool a little.
- To assemble the meringue, layer on the ginger cream, followed by a sprinkling of chopped ginger, the mandarin slices and finally a generous drizzling of mandarin chocolate. Slice up and serve with any leftover ginger cream.
These brownies are rich, dense and studded with cranberries and white chocolate chunks- a great (and easy) festive treat to whip up for visiting family and friends over the coming weeks…
- 300g dark chocolate
- 210g butter
- 310g caster sugar
- pinch salt
- 3 eggs, 1 egg yolk
- 3tsp vanilla extract
- 120g plain flour
- 150g white chocolate, chopped into chunks
- 100g dried cranberries
- Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a square baking tin/ brownie tray.
- Place the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set it over a pan of gently simmering water. Do not allow the water to touch the bottom of the bowl or it could cause the chocolate to seize.
- Stir the butter and chocolate occasionally until melted then set aside to cool for a few minutes. Once the chocolate has cooled a little, add the sugar and salt then whisk (with electric beaters or in the bowl of a stand mixer) until well combined.
- Now add the eggs and whisk on high until the mix has lightened in colour and is glossy (about 5 minutes- whisking well at this stage is what gives you that classic flaky top!).
- Sift in the flour and fold then finally stir in the white chocolate and cranberries. Tip into the lined baking tin and spread out. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until set but still very moist in the middle.
This four layer ginger cake filled with lightly salted toffee sauce and tangy cream cheese frosting is a great alternative to the classic Christmas fruit cake, and is usually the preferred option in my house.
The Scandi-style flowers I’ve used for decoration were sent to me by Bloom & Wild, a brilliant flower delivery company who focus on carefully selecting the best seasonal blooms. The bouquet I received ( the Sadie) is part of their Christmas range and I would definitely recommend you check out their other options; I don’t know about you, but I find it tricky to find a wide range of good quality cut flowers outside of London (I know, first world problems), so it’s great to know I can choose more unusual varieties online and have them delivered straight to my door the next day by Bloom & Wild.
I hope you like how I’ve made use of the flowers and perhaps this could inspire some other botanical themed Christmas cakes!
- 380g butter
- 220g black treacle
- 80g golden syrup
- 340g dark brown soft sugar
- 6 eggs
- 380g self raising flour
- 3tbsp ground ginger
- 2tbsp ground cinnamon
- 60g soured cream
- 6 pieces stem ginger, grated (from a jar)
- For the toffee sauce: 50g butter, 50g dark brown soft sugar, 50g golden syrup, 75ml double cream, large pinch sea salt
- For the cream cheese frosting: 200g unsalted butter (soft), 250g cream cheese, 900g icing sugar, seeds of 2 vanilla pods
- Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins.
- Place the butter, treacle, syrup and sugar in a large bowl (or bowl of a standing mixer). Beat together until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs in one at a time along with a little of the flour to prevent curdling. Mix well between each addition. Once the eggs are fully incorporated, sift in the remaining flour, cinnamon and ginger. Fold gently then finally stir in the stem ginger and soured cream. Split between the 2 prepared tins and bake for 30-40 minutes.
- While the cakes are cooking, make the toffee sauce. Place the butter, syrup and sugar in a saucepan and melt over a medium heat. Once melted pour in the cream and add the salt. Mix to create a smooth sauce then set aside to cool and thicken.
- Now make your cream cheese frosting. Put the butter in a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer) and beat until fluffy and light in colour. Add the cream cheese and vanilla and beat once again until well combined. Now, still beating, gradually add the icing sugar. Once all the icing sugar has been added increase the speed and mix until the consistency is light, thick and spreadable.
- When the cakes are ready, a skewer should come out clean when inserted. Rest in their tins for 10 minutes then remove and leave on a wire rack until they are completely cool.
- Now you are ready to assemble your layer cake. Level off the sponges as best you can then slice in two (you should be left with 4 layers). Place one layer down on your plate or cake board. Secure with some cream cheese frosting if it’s a little slippy. Now spread over a few tablespoons of the toffee sauce. Allow it to sink into the sponge then apply a thick even layer of cream cheese frosting. Top with the next sponge and repeat until the sponges are used up.
- With the remaining cream cheese frosting, cover the cake all over and smooth down with a cake scraper. Decorate with fresh flowers dusted in frosty edible glitter or get creative and come up with your own design to suit the occasion.
More decorating ideas:
- Leave the cream cheese frosting rough and decorate with mini gingerbread houses to create a snow drift scene.
- Top with traditional/vintage Christmas cake decorations.
- Make little white meringue kisses and cover the top of the cake with them, then dust with gold edible glitter.
- Top with frosted fruit and rustic greenery.
Everyone loves a chocolate eclair, and these Starbucks inspired ones (filled with coffee cream, dipped in milk chocolate and topped with a strip of dark chocolate and hazelnut praline) make a nice seasonal change from the usual vanilla cream variety.
- 3 eggs
- 85g butter
- 220ml water
- 105g plain flour
- 100ml strong black coffee, cold
- 2 tbsp light brown soft sugar
- 300ml double cream
- 100ml mascarpone
- 2 tbsp icing sugar
- 100g hazelnuts
- 100g caster sugar
- 100g milk chocolate
- 100g dark chocolate
- Preheat the oven to 200c. Line 2 large baking trays with greaseproof paper. Sieve the flour twice to ensure there are no lumps then pour onto a square of greaseproof (this means it is ready to tip straight into the choux when you need it!).
- Place the butter and water in a saucepan. Heat gently until the butter has melted then bring to a boil. Once boiling, remove from the heat and immediately shoot in all the flour. Stir very quickly for about a minute until the mixture is shiny and coming away from the sides of the pan. Now tip into a large bowl and spread thinly to speed up cooling.
- Once the choux mixture (called a panade at this egg-less stage!) has cooled to room temperature it’s time to add the eggs. Whisk the eggs in a jug to break them up then pour 1/4 into the bowl. Whisk with electric beaters to fully incorporate, then keep adding a little more and whisking until you reach a dropping consistency (this means the mixture should fall off a spoon when shaken after about 4 seconds). You might not need all the egg.
- Pile the choux into a piping bag and pipe 5 inch lines onto the prepared sheets (leaving space for expansion). Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden then pierce each eclair with a skewer, reduce the temperature to 180c and bake for a further 10 minutes to dry out. When they’re ready they should be crisp and nicely browned. Cool on a wire rack while you make the fillings and toppings.
- For the coffee cream, heat the brown sugar and coffee together then set aside to cool.
- In a large bowl whisk together the mascarpone, cream and icing sugar until thick. Fold in the coffee mix when it’s cooled completely.
- For the hazelnut praline, place the sugar and nuts in a small saucepan. Stir occasionally to encourage the sugar to melt then take it to a deep golden colour. Pour onto greaseproof paper, leave to harden then break into pieces or smash into a dust (depending on your decorating ideas!).
- For the chocolate topping simply melt the milk chocolate and allow it to cool. If you’d like to recreate the chocolate strip just melt and set the dark chocolate on a flat surface in the fridge, then slice into your desired shapes.
- To assemble the eclairs, slice them in half and fill with the coffee cream, dip in the melted chocolate and decorate with the set dark chocolate and praline.
This cake is super easy to bake and is great if you’re looking to experiment with different flavours; the cardamom adds a distinct hum of spice to the light sponge which pairs really well with the earthy pistachios and super sweet white chocolate topping.
For the cake:
- 350g soft butter
- 350g caster sugar
- 6 eggs
- 375g self raising flour
- 1tsp baking powder
- pinch salt
- 1 1/2 tsp cardamom seeds, crushed to a fine powder
- 150ml milk
- 100g chopped pistachios
For the topping:
- 150g white chocolate, chopped into small pieces
- a few crushed pistachios and some dried rose petals (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 160 (fan). Generously grease a bundt in with butter then sprinkle over some flour. Shake to coat the edges completely then tip out any excess (this should ensure that the cake doesn’t stick).
- Cream together the butter and sugar with an electric whisk (or a stand mixer) until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating between each addition (add a little bit of the flour each time if you’re worried about curdling!).
- Once the eggs are fully incorporated and you have a smooth mixture, add the (remaining) flour, baking powder, salt milk, and cardamom. Whisk until light and well combined.
- Now fold in the pistachios and scrape the batter into the prepared bundt tin. Even out and bake for 30-40 minutes.
- When your cake is ready a skewer should come out clean when inserted. Once cooked, rest for 5 minutes in the tin then turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
- While your cake is cooling, melt the white chocolate gently in a heatproof bowl above a pan of simmering water. Set aside to cool.
- Once your cake and topping have cooled you’re ready to decorate. To do this drizzle the white chocolate over the bundt and let it drip down the sides. Sprinkle with pistachios and rose petals for a simple but elegant finish.
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!
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
- Grease and line a spring form cake tin.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.