Pavlova is a Great British classic, and although we usually associate it with summer days and strawberries, it’s a really versatile dessert which can be adapted for any time of year simply by changing up the seasonal fruit toppings. I love this variety as the fresh winter citrus and spiced mascarpone combined with a pop of pomegranate makes for a fresh alternative to a heavy Christmas pudding; perfect after a mammoth Turkey feast.
For the meringue
- 6 large egg whites
- 300g golden caster sugar
- 75g dark brown soft sugar
- 1tsp white wine vinegar
- 1tsp corn flour
For the toppings
- 400ml double cream
- 200g mascarpone
- 4or 5 clementines, zest and flesh
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
- 1tsp ground cinnamon
- 3-4tbsp icing sugar
- 100g dark chocolate
- 100g pomegranate seeds
- 75g pistachios, roughly chopped
- 5-6 figs, sliced (optional)
- Thyme and rosemary, to garnish (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 160c. Line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper.
- Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment. Whisk to medium peaks and start adding the sugar, a spoonful at a time. Once all the sugar (both brown and caster) has been added whisk until stiff peaks form and you’ve got a glossy, non-granular meringue. Stir the corn flour and white wine vinegar together in a small cup and mix into the meringue.
- Pile the meringue onto the prepared baking tray and roughly spread into a 30x20cm rectangle. I think the more wild and asymmetric the better. Place the tray in the oven and reduce the temperature to 120c immediately. Cook for 1 hour or until the outside is crisp, then turn the oven off and leave to cool in there for at least an hour (this prevents the meringue cracking too much which can happen when the temperature suddenly changes).
- Once cooled, set aside and prepare the toppings. For the cream, whisk together the mascarpone, cream, clementine zest, ground cardamom, ground cinnamon and icing sugar.
- Meanwhile melt the dark chocolate gently in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Slice the clementine flesh into rounds.
- To assemble the pavlova pile the cream onto the meringue, then arrange the clementine pieces and figs (if using) on top. Drizzle over the dark chocolate then sprinkle on pomegranate seeds and chopped pistachios. Finish with sprigs of rosemary and thyme, if using.
Cherry, super-sweet white chocolate, earthy pistachio; a pretty fool proof combination of flavours which marry together beautifully in these enriched sweet buns. I’ve added Arabica’s Cherry Molasses which they kindly gifted to me a couple of weeks back, and it brings a real tang to the overall flavour- delicious! I couldn’t resist adding cardamom to these as well; not only is it my favourite spice but it pairs really well with all three base flavours.
One thing to note before you embark on this recipe: while possible to make these by hand, it’s much easier with the help of a stand mixer and dough hook.
For the dough
- 150ml milk
- 140g room temperature unsalted butter
- 100g plain flour
- 150g strong white bread flour
- ½ tsp salt
- 50g caster sugar
- 1 sachet fast action dried yeast (7g)
- 1 egg
For the filling
- 4tbsp cherry molasses
- 50g unsalted butter
- 60g soft light brown sugar
- 100g white chocolate
- 1 1/2 tbsp ground cardamom
- 150g pistachios, ground
- Pinch salt
For the topping
- 1 egg, beaten
- Extra handful chopped pistachios (optional)
- Place the milk and 40g of the butter in a saucepan and heat gently until the butter melts. Set aside to cool a little.
- Meanwhile mix the flours, salt, sugar and yeast together in the bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook attachment.
- Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the warm milk mixture and the egg. Mix briefly with a wooden spoon to combine then switch on the stand mixer and beat at a medium speed for about 10 minutes. Once the dough seems smooth, increase the speed and add the remaining butter in cubes, waiting for each one to be incorporated before adding the next. You should be left with an elastic, very soft dough. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with oiled cling film. Leave to prove for 1 hour, then chill for 45 minutes (this controls the rise and allows the dough to firm up a little).
- For the filling, roughly chop the white chocolate and tip into a bowl. Place the butter, light brown sugar and ground cardamom in a saucepan and gently heat until the butter has melted and the sugar has almost all dissolved, then pour it over the white chocolate. Let it sit for a moment, then stir together. Set aside (don’t worry if it’s grainy).
- Roll the dough out into a large rectangle (about 30x50cm) and, making sure you’ve sat the dough landscape, cover 2/3 with the white chocolate mixture, leaving the right hand side bare. Sprinkle the pistachios on top and drizzle over the cherry molasses, then fold the uncovered dough over the top and the remaining left side on top of that, pressing down firmly to form another rectangle. Roll out to around 1.5 cm thick.
- Using a sharp knife, slice the rectangle lengthways, into 2cm wide strips. Take each strip and twist it several times, then wind it around your fingers to form a bun shape, finally taking the end over and under to conceal it. Place each bun on a lined baking tray, leaving room for the second prove. Once all the buns are assembled, cover with a damp clean tea towel and leave to prove for 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 170c (fan) and brush the proved buns with the beaten egg. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cooked through and golden brown. Garnish with chopped pistachio and serve warm or cold (best enjoyed on the day or the day after, reheated to refresh).
At last we approach fig season- one of my absolute favourite fruits, and so synonymous with Middle Eastern cuisine that it would be wrong to incorporate them into a bake which didn’t boast nuts, heady spices or sweet floral flavours; of course this cake contains all three, making it one of my favourite recipes I’ve posted on here to date. It’s not too sweet, nor is the icing too heavy, just a well balanced, flavoursome bake with flavours which work beautifully together. I hope you enjoy.
For the cakes
- 100g chopped dried figs
- zest and juice 1 orange
- 2-3tbsp rose water
- 250g butter, cubed
- 200g caster sugar
- 50g soft light brown sugar
- 4 eggs
- 400g grated carrot
- 225g plain flour
- 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 2tsp baking powder
- large pinch salt
- 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 2 heaped tsp ground cardamom
- 1tsp mixed spice
- 100g pistachios, roughly chopped
For the icing
- 300ml double cream
- 200g cream cheese
- 3tbsp honey
- 2-3tbsp rose water
- 50g chopped pistachios
- 1tbsp dried rose petals
- 4-5 figs
- Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line two 7 inch cake tins.
- Roughly chop the figs and discard the stalks. Tip into a bowl and add the orange juice and rose water. Leave to soak until required.
- In a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) cream together the butter and both sugars until pale and thick. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition (add a small amount of the flour with each egg to prevent curdling).
- Stir through the grated carrot and soaked figs (along with any juice the figs haven’t absorbed). Mix together the dry ingredients and pistachios and fold through the batter until no streaks of flour remain.
- Split the batter between the prepared tins and level off. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
- Let the cakes sit in the tins for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.
- Meanwhile, place the cream, cream cheese, honey and rose water in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment) and whisk until pipe-able. Adjust the levels of sweetness and rose flavour to taste.
- Once the cakes have cooled down, slice them in half horizontally, leaving you with 4 equal layers. Pile the rose and honey cream into a piping bag with round nozzle. Place the first layer onto a serving plate and pipe little mounds all over the surface, then top with the next layer. Repeat until all the cream mixture is used up, then sprinkle rose petals and pistachios over the top and arrange the figs in an attractive way, if using.
No matter how many elaborate desserts or multi-step bakes I make, I will always have time for the humble brownie; there is something deeply satisfying about that fudgy melt-in-the-mouth core and crackly top, plus they are incredibly versatile- throw anything in (within reason) and you can guarantee a delicious result. These festive brownies are studded with orange-soaked sour cherries, pistachios and milk chocolate chunks, and hum with cardamom, cinnamon and mixed spice.
- Juice of 1 orange
- 100g roughly chopped sour cherries
- 250g butter, cubed
- 100g 80% dark chocolate
- 150g 70% dark chocolate
- 100g dark brown soft sugar
- 100g golden caster sugar
- 3 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
- large pinch sea salt
- 1tsp ground cardamom
- 1tsp ground mixed spice
- 1/2tsp ground cinnamon
- 100g plain flour
- 75g roughly chopped pistachios
- 150g roughly chopped milk chocolate
- Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a 22x22cm baking tin. Soak the sour cherries in the orange juice and set aside until required.
- Put the dark chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of gently simmering water. Leave to melt, stirring occasionally, then set aside to cool a little.
- Meanwhile beat together the sugars, salt, eggs and egg yolk in a stand mixer (or a large bowl) 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.
- 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 flour, salt and spices and do the same until you have a smooth, lump free batter. Now add the pistachios, chocolate chunks and cherries (strain away the orange juice) and stir through to evenly distribute.
- Tip the mix into the prepared tin and level off then bake for 25-30 minutes. 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 in the tin then remove, slice up and serve.
Coffee cake is one of my all time favourites, but this spin on a classic is perhaps even better (I know, big claim). The cardamom hum in the sponge goes really well with the simple coffee buttercream, and the crunch of earthy pistachio praline rounds off the overall flavour and prevents it from being overly sweet. Make these for any occasion (you can fool people into thinking they’re fancy with the help of a piping bag and edible flowers) and they are sure to go down a storm.
- 200g softened butter
- 200g soft brown sugar
- 3 eggs
- 200g self raising flour
- pinch salt
- 8 cardamom pods, emptied and ground
- 3tbsp coffee granules mixed with 3tbsp boiling water
- 3tbsp milk
For the buttercream:
- 200g softened butter
- 400g icing sugar
- 2tbsp coffee granules mixed with 2tbsp boiling water
For the praline:
- 100g pistachios
- 100g caster sugar
- Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line a brownie tin (around 20x20cm).
- Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy then add in the eggs one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Add the flour, salt and ground cardamom and fold in until well combined. Do the same with the coffee and milk.
- Once your straightforward batter is ready, spoon into the tin and level off. Bake for 30-35 minutes until well risen and a skewer comes out clean when inserted. Cool in the tin.
- While the cake is cooling, make the praline. Place the sugar and pistachios in a heavy bottom pan and allow the sugar to melt (don’t stir, just tip the pan to move the sugar around). Once it’s melted and golden, swirl the pan to coat the nuts in the caramel then tip onto some greaseproof paper and leave to set hard.
- Now make your buttercream. Beat the butter until light then gradually add the icing sugar, whisking until very light. Add in the coffee and whisk again to combine. Once it’s streak free and smooth, pile into a piping bag ready to decorate.
- Slice the cooled cake into nine squares (or larger/smaller pieces depending on your appetite!). Pipe the coffee buttercream on top in little kisses (or freestyle with rosettes/patterns using different nozzles). Break up the praline and roughly crush then sprinkle a generous helping on top of the buttercream.