food

Cherry and White Chocolate Brownies

These fudgy brownies incite frenzied eating in my house; they barely saw the light of day when I made them last and half my family were out… It’s hardly surprising they are so addictive though- white chocolate matches brilliantly with fresh cherry compote (particularly when accompanied by a very generous glug of slightly unseasonal brandy).

Ingredients:

For the compote:

  • 300g cherries (stones removed)
  • 2tbsp caster sugar
  • 1tbsp water
  • large glug brandy (this amount is totally down to your taste)

For the brownies:

  • 300g dark chocolate
  • 200g butter
  • 2 eggs
  • caster sugar
  • 225g plain flour
  • 200g white chocolate chunks

Method:

  1. Start by making the compote. Roughly chop the cherries. Place in a pan along with the sugar, water and brandy. Heat gently, stirring occasionally, until the cherries become soft and the syrupy liquid starts to thicken (about 10 minutes). Once the consistency is somewhat jam-like, taste and add more brandy if you like (you can leave out the brandy entirely if it’s not your jam- ha.). Set aside to cool.
  2. Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line a brownie tin (around 22x22cm is perfect).
  3. Place the butter and dark chocolate in a  heatproof bowl and set over a pan of gently simmering water (don’t let the water touch the base of the bowl). Stir occasionally and remove from the heat once melted together.
  4. Place the eggs and caster sugar in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and beat together until well combined.
  5. Add the chocolate mixture to the bowl and fold in followed by the flour and 2/3 of the white chocolate chunks. Tip into the lined baking tin and level out.
  6. Dollop the compote all over the surface of the brownie and finish by sprinkling on the remaining white chocolate. Bake for 25-35 minutes until the top is set but the inside is moist and a little gooey.
  7. Allow the brownie to cool completely in the tin then slice up and serve.

Enjoy!

Soured Cream Chocolate Cake with Salted Caramel Buttercream and Almond Brittle

This isn’t a sophisticated cake. There is nothing particularly fancy or groundbreaking about the flavours or decoration; however, sometimes (and by sometimes I mean far more often than is deemed acceptable) I just crave a proper, dense, delicious chocolate hit, and for that this delivers every time (whether smothered in salted caramel buttercream or chocolate ganache- I’ll take either).

Ingredients:

  • 300g caster sugar
  • 300g soft butter
  • 225ml soured cream
  • 3 eggs
  • 2tsp vanilla extract
  • 75g cocoa powder
  • 300g plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • pinch salt

For the buttercream:

  • 100g soft butter
  • 100g salted caramel sauce
  • large pinch salt
  • 500g icing sugar
  • 2-3tbsp milk

For the brittle:

  • 200g caster sugar
  • 100g almonds

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a 10 inch cake tin.
  2. Place the sugar and butter in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and cream together until light, pale and fluffy. In a jug whisk the eggs, soured cream and vanilla. Add to the creamed mixture in 3 additions, beating well between each to ensure they are fully incorporated (add a little of the flour if you’re worried about curdling).
  3. Sift the cocoa powder, plain flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt over the wet ingredients and mix to combine. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 45-55 minutes until a skewer comes out clean when inserted. Once baked leave to cool in the tin.
  4. Now make your brittle. Line a tray with lightly oiled baking paper. Place the sugar and almonds in a heavy bottomed pan and heat until the sugar melts. Tip the pan to coat the almonds in the caramel and leave it until it reaches a deep golden brown then pour onto the prepared baking paper. Use a wooden spoon to move the almonds around into a single layer, then leave to set hard.
  5. For the salted caramel buttercream (this is a bit of a guilty pleasure- it’s obviously very sweet so you could coat the cake in a dark chocolate ganache if you’re more grown up than me), simply beat the soft butter, caramel sauce and salt (I will be posting a recipe for salted caramel sauce soon if you’d like to make your own, otherwise just buy shop bought!) together until creamy, then gradually add the icing sugar until it reaches a light and thick consistency. Lastly, loosen up with a few drops of milk if necessary (do this by eye).
  6. To assemble, remove your cake from the tin and smother in buttercream. Break up the brittle and use as shards, or smash into a crumb and sprinkle over the top of your finished bake.

Enjoy!

Orange, Dark Chocolate, Pistachio and Cardamom Cookies

This recipe takes the classic chewy chocolate cookie and turns it into something altogether more grown up with a little help from crushed pistachios, orange zest, dark chocolate chunks and ground cardamom. Stash them away from kids (and other adults- let’s be honest) and enjoy when you’ve got a quiet moment to yourself, preferably with a strong coffee.

Ingredients (makes 20-24 large cookies)

  • 225g butter
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 150g dark brown soft sugar
  • zest 1 orange
  • 1tsp ground cardamom (or 8-10 cardamom pods, crushed)
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g pistachios, roughly chopped
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 300g plain flour
  • pinch sea salt
  • 300g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Method:

  1. Place the butter, sugars, zest and ground cardamom in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) and cream together until light and fluffy using electric beaters (or a wooden spoon if you’re slightly mad/ less lazy than me).
  2. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Once the eggs are fully incorporated, tip in the pistachios and stir. Now sift the bicarbonate of soda, flour and salt into the batter and beat briefly to form a soft dough.
  3. Finally, add the chocolate chunks and stir with a spoon to evenly distribute. The dough won’t be firm and to make cooking easier I like to freeze it before baking. To do this simply lay a long rectangle of cling film across your work surface, spoon on the dough in a long line and roll up, shaping into a log. Chill for half an hour and at this stage preheat the oven to 180c and line some baking trays.
  4. Once your cookie dough logs have firmed up a bit, unwrap them and cut into slices (about 1.5 cm thick). Place the slices on the prepared baking trays with generous spaces between them for spreading (I usually put about 4 on each tray).
  5. Bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly golden but still soft and chewy in the middle. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Enjoy!

Spring Lemon and Courgette Cake

This deliciously fresh tasting cake made up of homemade lemon curd, tangy cream cheese frosting and moist courgette sponge makes for the a great Easter treat, and the recipe will serve you well over the coming months when you’re looking for a simple and zesty summer bake too.

Ingredients:

  • zest 3 lemons
  • 200g butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 375g grated courgette (2-3)
  • 75g sultanas
  • 300g self raising flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 4-5tbsp milk

For the lemon curd filling:

  • 4 lemons (juice and zest)
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 100g butter, cubed
  • 3 eggs, 1 egg yolk

For the cream cheese icing:

  • 300g cream cheese
  • 100ml double cream
  • 100g icing sugar

To decorate: edible flowers, courgette ribbons, chocolate eggs

Method:

  1. Make the lemon curd first; put the lemon zest and juice, caster sugar and eggs in a saucepan and briefly whisk. Set over a gentle heat and gradually add the butter cubes, whisking constantly. After a few minutes the curd will start to thicken- keep whisking until you have used up the butter and stop when the lemon curd coats the back of the spoon (about 10-15 minutes). Set aside for later and cover the surface with cling film to prevent a thick skin from forming.
  2. Preheat the oven to 160c. Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins.
  3. Place the butter, lemon zest and caster sugar in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and cream together until light, pale and fluffy. Add the eggs in one at a time, beating well between each addition.
  4. Squeeze any excess moisture out of the grated courgette then fold into the batter along with the sultanas.
  5. Sift over the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Carefully fold in followed by the milk. The batter will be very thick- don’t be alarmed!
  6. Split the batter between the two tins and level off. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden, well risen and a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
  7. Leave the cakes to cool in their tins while you make the cream cheese icing. Place the cream cheese and cream in a bowl and beat together until thick, then sift in the icing sugar and beat to combine.
  8. Now it’s time to assemble your bake. Take your first cake and level off the top (if necessary) then pipe a circle of cream cheese icing around the edge. Fill the middle with your lemon curd (using the cream cheese line as a barrier) and place the other cake on top. Cover the complete cake with the remaining cream cheese icing and decorate as you wish.

 

Rhubarb and Lime Sorbet (No Churn)

Spring has well and truly sprung here in Bucks, and the sunny weather has inspired me to make something zesty, refreshing and seasonal. This brilliant pink sorbet really hits the spot after a three course dinner or makes for a great component in a larger dessert. I’d advise preparing it a day or two ahead as it does require blitzing a couple of times (but no ice cream maker needed- result!).

Ingredients:

  • 250g granulated sugar
  • 500ml water
  • 400g rhubarb, sliced into 4 inch lengths
  • zest and juice 3 limes
  • 1 egg white (optional)

Method:

  1. Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Add the rhubarb pieces and poach for 15-20 minutes until very soft.
  2. Remove the rhubarb from the saucepan and place in a food processor along with the lime juice.
  3. Increase the heat on the rhubarb sugar syrup and boil until it reaches ‘thread’ stage. This isn’t as complicated as it sounds; you can check it’s ready in two ways. Firstly, you could use a sugar thermometer and make sure it reads between 223 degrees and 235 degrees. Secondly, if you don’t have a thermometer just add cold water to a bowl and drop some of the syrup in- if it forms a thin thread in the water, it’s ready (I use this method).
  4. Once you’ve reached thread stage take the syrup off the heat and cool a little, then add half to the rhubarb and lime ( too much will make the sorbet too sweet!). Blitz to a smooth puree and pass through a sieve, then add the lime zest. Pour into an ice cream tub and freeze for 4-6 hours, stirring occasionally to help break up ice crystals.
  5. After the sorbet has frozen, break it up and return to the blender. Add the egg white (if you can’t eat these or are making this for vulnerable people, just skip this) to lighten the texture and blitz again until smooth.
  6. Freeze again and use as required.

Chocolate Hazelnut Meringue Roll

Yes this is really a roulade but I can’t bring myself to type that word (in my head it’s associated with hostess trolleys, raspberry pink table runners and, worst of all, glace cherries), so let’s settle on meringue roll. Regardless of the terminology though, this is delicious; hazelnut studded meringue, smooth milk chocolate cream, dark chocolate ganache and to top it off, caramel covered hazelnuts- it’s pretty much a guaranteed winner (plus it’s not as complicated to make as it looks, providing you’ve got a good whisk… or guns of steel).

Ingredients:

For the meringue:

  • 100g hazelnuts
  • 4 egg whites
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 50g icing sugar

For the chocolate filling:

  • 400ml double cream
  • 3tbsp cocoa powder
  • 3tbsp icing sugar

For the topping:

  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 100ml double cream
  • handful hazelnuts
  • 100g caster sugar

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease a 20cm x 30cm (roughly) shallow baking tin with a little butter then line with greaseproof paper. Set aside.
  2. Place the hazelnuts on a baking tray and roast in the oven for 5-10 minutes or until golden brown. Once golden cool a little then blitz in a food processor to create a corse crumb texture. Set aside to cool for later.
  3. Whisk the egg whites to form medium peaks then add the caster sugar  in three additions, whisking well between each. Once you’ve added all the sugar continue to whisk until the meringue reaches stiff peaks, then add the crushed and cooled hazelnuts. Fold the nuts in carefully then tip the meringue into your prepared tin. Spread out evenly to the edges with a spatula or palette knife. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until it has some light colour.
  4. When your meringue is ready, place on a wire rack and leave to cool in the tin. Dust the icing sugar in an even layer over a large rectangle of greaseproof paper, ready for when you turn out the meringue.
  5. While the meringue is cooling, make the chocolate cream filling. To do this sift the cocoa and icing sugar into the double cream and whisk to soft peaks with electric beaters.
  6. When the meringue has cooled turn out onto the prepared paper. Spread the chocolate cream all over the surface, leaving a gap of about 1cm around the edge.
  7. Using the paper to help you, roll up the roulade lengthways. I always find it’s easier if you do this away from you, using the paper to help tease up the meringue. It will crack, but don’t worry, it’s meant to!
  8. When your roll is complete, make the ganache. To do this just chop up the dark chocolate and place in a bowl, then heat the cream to just below boiling and pour directly over it. Leave it to melt together then give it a stir to completely combine. Set aside to thicken a little then pipe down the centre of your roll.
  9. For a final (completely optional) flourish, pour the sugar into a heavy bottomed pan and heat gently. Allow the sugar to melt (do not stir, just swirl), then take it to a golden amber colour. Once it reaches this colour remove it from the heat and keep an eye on it’s consistency. Once it thickens and begins to form sugary threads, dip the whole hazelnuts in and pull out to create spiky caramel coated nuts- the perfect decoration!

Enjoy!

Rhubarb and Pistachio Tartlets

I’m a big fan of rhubarb (I’ve decided putting it in granita with lime zest is my favourite way to eat it- I’m sure that could be blitzed into a daiquiri of sorts as well… anyway I digress) and thought I’d take the last stems of the season to make some nutty frangipane tartlets. This recipe calls for pistachios and almonds in the frangipane to create an earthy flavour which I think pairs really well with the tart rhubarb.

Ingredients:

For the pastry: 125g plain flour, 70g butter, 1tbsp caster sugar, pinch salt, 1 egg yolk, 2tbsp cold water

For the rhubarb: 75g caster sugar, 100ml water, 2 stems rhubarb

For the frangipane: 50g butter, 50g caster sugar, 1 egg, 75g ground almonds, 75g shelled pistachios (blitzed until roughly ground), 1tbsp plain flour

Method:

  1. To make the pastry, place the cold butter and plain flour in a food processor along with the salt and sugar. Blitz until the mix resembles fine bread crumbs then whisk together the egg yolk and water in a small bowl. Add half this liquid to the crumbs and pulse until they start clumping together. If it still seems a little dry, add another teaspoon of the egg and briefly pulse again. As soon as the dough forms little lumps stop the machine and tip out the contents. Press together and shape roughly into a disc (don’t overwork). Wrap in cling film and chill for 20 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 190c.  Grease and flour four small (about 8cm) tart cases.
  3. Once the pastry has firmed up a little, roll out to about 2-3mm thick. Line the tart cases, carefully using a little ball of spare pastry to get it right into the corners. Trim away any excess and chill again for 10 minutes.
  4. For the rhubarb, dissolve the sugar in the water over a gentle heat then bring to the boil. Remove from the hob and add in the chopped rhubarb. Leave it to soften in the hot syrup until required.
  5. Now it’s time to blind bake the tart cases. To do this just line the pastry cases with some baking paper and baking beans to ensure that the walls are supported. Bake for 10 minutes then remove the baking beans and paper and bake for a further 10 minutes until a sandy consistency is achieved with no grey areas.
  6. While the cases are baking make the frangipane. Place the butter and sugar in a food processor and blitz until light and fluffy, then add the remaining ingredients and pulse to fully combine (this should take a few minutes). The final consistency should be smooth and creamy (remember, if you don’t have a food processor you can use a stand mixer, electric beaters or a wooden spoon!).
  7. Now it’s time to assemble. Just place 1-2 heaped tablespoons of the frangipane into the tart cases, smooth out then top with some rhubarb pieces (don’t overfill, remember leave a little bit of room for expansion).
  8. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the frangipane is golden. Top with some white icing if you like and enjoy warm or cold with a big dollop of creme fraiche.

Enjoy!