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Spiced Fig, Pistachio and Dark Chocolate Tart

This is a proper grown up spin on the classic Bakewell tart, with chocolate pastry encasing an earthy pistachio frangipane and sweet spiced fig filling. Served up warm with vanilla ice cream or cold with creme fraiche, it would make for the perfect way to round off a late summer lunch or dinner party.

Ingredients (serves 8-10)

For the chocolate pastry

  • 225g plain flour
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 3tbsp icing sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 140g cubed butter, cold
  • 2 egg yolks mixed with 2tbsp cold milk

For the spiced fig compote

  • 300g figs
  • 2tbsp honey
  • 6-8 cracked cardamom pods
  • 1 vanilla pod, split
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • zest and juice 1 orange

For the pistachio frangipane

  • 150g soft unsalted butter
  • 150g golden caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 125g ground pistachios (I just blitz pistachios up in a food processor for this)
  • 25g plain flour

To finish 

  • a couple of extra figs
  • a few pistachios, chopped
  • 50g dark chocolate

Method

  1. Start off by making the pastry. To do this place the flour, cocoa, icing sugar, salt and butter in a food processor and pulse until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg and milk and pulse again until the mix starts to come together and form large lumps. Tip this onto a work surface and shape into a disc, about 1.5 inches thick (handling as little as possible). Wrap in cling film and chill for 20 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 170c and grease a deep tart tin with butter. Once the pastry has chilled and firmed up a little, lightly flour your work surface and roll it out to about 3mm thick. Roll up around a rolling pin then unravel over the prepared tin. Push the pastry down into the tin, using a spare piece to get it right into the corners and grooves (avoid stretching the pastry as this can lead to shrinkage when baking). Once well lined, trim any overhanging excess and return to the fridge for a further 20 minutes.
  3. Now take a piece of greaseproof paper, screw it in a ball and unwrap. Push it down into the pastry case and fill with baking beans. Blind bake for 15-20 minutes or until the sides are set. Once you reach this stage remove the baking paper and beans and return to the oven for a further 15-20 minutes, or until the pastry is cooked through and sandy to the touch.
  4. Make the compote next. To do this just slice the figs into small pieces and place in a pan along with the honey, cardamom, cinnamon, vanilla, orange juice and zest. Cook gently until it forms a sticky jam-like consistency then set aside to cool (you may have to add a little water during this process if the figs get a little dry before softening completely).
  5. By this point your pastry case will be ready, so set aside to cool a little and reduce the oven temperature to 160c. For the frangipane, beat together the butter and sugar until very pale and fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Once all the eggs are well incorporated, mix in the pistachios and flour to form a smooth mixture.
  6. Spoon the fig compote/jam into the base of the tart case and spread out. Spoon the frangipane on top and level off, then add a few extra fig slices in a pattern of your choice. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until the frangipane is set and golden. Set aside to cool (if serving cold).
  7. To finish the tart, melt the dark chocolate and drizzle all over the top. Sprinkle with extra pistachios and serve with cream, ice cream or creme fraiche.

Enjoy!

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Sticky Gingerbread with Maple Pecan Topping

I know, I said I would post something healthy and nutritious, but I’m not (yet). I made these sticky gingerbread bars with maple buttercream and pecan praline over Christmas and completely forgot to share the recipe (despite taking photos etc). I know they’re a little unseasonal now but it’s still winter so why not hang on to all that is spicy and indulgent?!

Ingredients:

For the gingerbread:

  • 250g butter
  • 250g soft dark brown sugar
  • 80g black treacle
  • 180g golden syrup
  • 325ml milk
  • 375g plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • pinch mixed spice
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 eggs

For the maple buttercream:

  • 100g soft butter
  • 600g icing sugar
  • 100g cold maple toffee sauce (shop bought OR made by melting together 75g butter, 50g golden syrup, 3tbsp maple syrup and 75g dark brown soft sugar, bringing to the boil then adding 50ml double cream and a pinch salt)
  • 2tbsp milk

For the pecan praline:

  • 100g granulated sugar
  • 100g roughly chopped pecans

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c (fan). Grease and line a square brownie tray (about 20x20cm).
  2. Melt together the butter, sugar, treacle and golden syrup in a saucepan over a gentle heat. Stir occasionally then take off the heat and mix in the milk. Leave for 10 minutes to cool.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, bicarbonate of soda and spices. Make a well in the centre and crack in the eggs. Stir the eggs to break them up and incorporate some flour, then start gradually adding your buttery syrup liquid. Continue mixing (I do this with a wooden spoon) until all the liquid has been incorporated and you have a lump free batter.
  4. Pour into the prepared tray and bake for 45-55 minutes. When it is ready a skewer should come out with just a few moist crumbs attached when inserted.
  5. While the gingerbread is cooking, make the maple toffee sauce (if you’re not using shop bought); the method for this is in the ingredients list above.
  6. Once cooked turn the gingerbread onto a wire rack to cool.
  7. Now make your pecan praline. Simply place the pecans and sugar in a heavy bottom pan and heat gently until the sugar begins to melt. Tilt the pan occasionally to coat the nuts but don’t feel tempted to stir or the sugar will crystallise. Once the sugar reaches a deep golden colour remove from the heat and pour onto a piece of greaseproof paper to set. Once hard and cool break up the praline into small pieces (or a course dust if you prefer).
  8. Your final step is to make the buttercream. Put the soft butter in a bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and whisk until light. Gradually add the icing sugar and keep whisking until you have a pale and fluffy buttercream base (this will take 5-10 minutes).
  9. Once you’ve reached this stage add the milk and toffee sauce and whisk again until it is fully incorporated. The finished buttercream should be light brown in colour.
  10. To assemble the gingerbread bars simply slice the cake into 12 fingers and drizzle with any remaining toffee sauce you might have (optional) then pipe on the buttercream. Top with the pecan praline and serve.

 

Enjoy!

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.

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

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.

  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!

A Festive Twist…

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Everyone loves a Bakewell Tart, so why not make my seasonal variation of the classic British dessert this Christmas instead of a batch of mince pies? Sliced up hot or cold, this bake is a real crowd pleaser and gives your jar of mincemeat a much needed make over.

(I know this post might seem a little premature, but this is a bake you can whip up, freeze and serve whenever you need it- ideal for anyone with their hands full this year!)
So, for the pastry you will need: 230g plain flour, 125g unsalted butter (cubed), 3tbsp caster sugar, pinch salt, 2 egg yolks and 3 tbsp whole milk (OR one block readymade short crust pastry)

Rub the flour and butter together between your fingers until they resemble breadcrumbs. Add the caster sugar and salt then mix.

Tip your egg yolks and milk into the bowl and stir with a knife. Bring the ingredients together with your hands to form a ball, handling as little as possible (the less you handle the pastry the more crumbly and delicious it will be!). If the pastry seems too dry add another teaspoon of milk.

Wrap the ball of pastry in cling film and leave it to rest in the fridge for half an hour. In the meantime, grease a 22cm loose bottom tart tin and preheat the oven to 200c (fan).

After 30 minutes, remove your pastry from the fridge (or reach for the pack of readymade!) and flour a work surface. Roll the pastry out to about 4mm thick then line your tart tin, patching up any gaps with excess pastry and pushing it right into the corners.

Blind bake your pastry case for 15 minutes (10 minutes lined with greaseproof paper and baking beans then 5 minutes without) then remove from the oven.

Now, to make your filling and topping you will need:
¾ jar mincemeat, 1 apple (finely chopped), 1tsp cinnamon, zest 1 lemon, 150g caster sugar, 150g butter, 150g ground almonds, 1 large egg and a handful flaked almonds.

Mix the mincemeat, apple, cinnamon and zest then spread generously across the base of your pastry case.

Next, whisk together the sugar, butter, ground almonds and egg until smooth, then dollop all over the mincemeat. Use a palette knife to level out the mix to the edges of the tart case. Finally, sprinkle with the flaked almonds.

Turn the oven down to 180c (fan) and pop your tart in to bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Leave the tart to cool in the tin then remove and dust with icing sugar. Serve with a dollop of brandy butter or creme fraiche!

Enjoy!

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