It will come as no surprise to find out that I’m partial to a chocolate brownie, and having tried a fair few, I can safely say this variety (which I threw together as an experiment and didn’t have particularly high expectations for) is now a firm favourite. With a blackberry and cherry compote core and hazelnut praline top, these moist and deeply chocolatey bars deliver the dense, moist texture you expect from a great brownie, but also carry a welcome tang and contrasting crunch which make them a little different and perfect for late summer.
For the hazelnut praline
150g blanched hazelnuts
150g caster sugar
Generous pinch sea salt
For the black forest fruit filling
400g fresh or frozen black forest fruits (blackberries, cherries, blackcurrants- choose one or use a combination depending on your preference/availability)
2tbsp caster sugar
Zest and juice 1 lemon
4tbsp kirsch (optional)
For the brownie batter
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 plain flour
100g white chocolate, roughly chopped
100g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
Before you make the brownie batter, prepare the fillings. Start with the hazelnut praline; to make this simply place the sugar in a heavy bottomed pan and heat gently until it forms a caramel (don’t stir, just swirl the pan to move the sugar around). Once the caramel has taken on a golden colour, add the hazelnuts and stir to coat. Scrape the contents of the pan onto a baking paper lined tray and spread out in an even layer. Leave to harden.
To make the black forest filling, place 300g of the fruit in a saucepan along with the caster sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice and kirsch (if using). Heat gently until the berries release their juices, then increase the heat to medium and, stirring occasionally, reduce to a compote consistency. Set aside to cool.
The caramel will now have hardened around the hazelnuts. Break it up into pieces and place in a food processor, then blitz until you’ve got a coarse crumble (don’t over blitz, you want a little texture to remain).
Now it’s time to make the brownie batter. Preheat the oven to 170c and grease and line a 20x20cm brownie tin. Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and melt together over a pan of simmering water. Set aside to cool a little.
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).
Once the egg mixture is ready, pour the chocolate mix down the side of the bowl and fold in using a large metal spoon, then add the flour and do the same until you have a smooth, lump free batter. Now add the chocolate chunks and stir through to evenly distribute.
Tip half the mix into the brownie tin and level off. Scrape in the black forest filling and sprinkle over most of the hazelnut praline. Top with the rest of the brownie batter then, finally, scatter on the remaining fruits and praline.
Bake for 25-30 minutes.
When it’s ready, the brownie will have a crisp top but will wobble slightly when shaken and have a gooey texture inside. Set aside to cool (completely) in the tin then once it’s set up a little, remove, slice up and serve.
We’ve been enjoying a very unusual bout of beautiful hot weather here in the UK, so today’s recipe is an iced one. I served this up for my boyfriends birthday (after he broke the news to me that he didn’t want a cake- yeah, sacrilege I know) and although it requires a little more effort to make than a simple sponge, the creamy, indulgent and slightly bittersweet (thanks to the tahini and very dark chocolate) result is well worth it.
For the chocolate ripple
150g bitter dark chocolate
150ml double cream
pinch sea salt
For the cherry compote
200g fresh cherries (de-stoned)
3tbsp honey or caster sugar
Zest and juice of 1 orange
For the parfait base
75g caster sugar
125ml whole milk
250ml double cream
For the tahini crumble
25g demerara sugar
25g butter, cubed
100g plain flour
1tbsp black sesame seeds
Start by making the chocolate ganache for the ripple. To do this simply place the chocolate, salt and cream in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (don’t allow the water to touch the bottom of the bowl). Stir occasionally until it melts together and forms a smooth ganache. Set aside to cool.
Now prepare the cherry compote. Put the cherries, honey (or sugar), orange zest and juice in a saucepan and gently heat, stirring occasionally, until it reaches a sticky compote consistency (5-10 minutes). Transfer to a bowl and leave to cool.
Now it’s time to make the parfait base. Line a loaf tin with 2 layers of cling film, leaving an overhang on all sides.
Separate the eggs. Put the yolks in a large bowl along with the sugar and whisk until pale, meanwhile, heat the milk until just boiling in a saucepan. Remove the milk from the heat and pour into the egg yolks, then stir together until smooth. Return the mix to a clean pan and gently heat, stirring constantly. After a few minutes, the mix will start to thicken- once it coats the back of the spoon set aside and cool to room temperature.
Once the ganache, compote and custard have cooled to room temperature, whisk the double cream to soft peaks. In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites to medium peaks. Stir the tahini into the egg yolk mixture. Fold the double cream into the egg yolk/ tahini with a large metal spoon, then do the same with the egg whites, retaining as much air as possible. Ripple through 2/3 of the chocolate ganache and 2/3 of the cherry compote.
Spoon the remaining chocolate ganache and cherry compote into the bottom of the prepared tin, then spoon in the parfait mix. Cover with cling film and freeze for at least 4 hours.
While the parfait is freezing, make the sesame crumble. Preheat the oven to 180c. Rub together the butter and flour until they resemble breadcrumbs. Stir through the sugar and tahini, then tip onto a lined baking tray- bake for 10 minutes then check, shake and return to the oven to 10 more minutes, or until the crumble is golden brown. Stir through the sesame seeds and set aside to cool.
Take the parfait out of the oven 10 minutes before you’d like to serve it to allow it to soften slightly. Sprinkle on the sesame crumble and finish with some fresh cherries.
Make the most of the fleeting cherry season with this deliciously indulgent ode to my favourite things (chocolate and cherries). Great for a summer dinner party dessert or post-BBQ chocolate fix, this tart layers up cherry compote, orange blossom infused chocolate filling and cardamom cream, all encased in crisp, zesty pastry; you’d be hard pushed to find someone who’d turn down a slice.
For the pastry
225g plain flour
150g unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
50g caster sugar
zest 1 orange
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
For the cherry layer
400g cherries (de-stoned)
2tbsp caster sugar
zest and juice 1 orange
2tbsp cherry molasses (optional)
For the chocolate filling
125ml double cream
zest 1 orange
2tsp orange blossom extract
300g dark chocolate
1 egg plus 3 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
For the cardamom cream (optional)
200ml double cream
1tsp ground cardamom
2tbsp icing sugar
To decorate (optional)
edible flowers, petals only
Grease a 20cm deep tart tin lightly with butter.
Before you make the pastry, flavour the cream for the chocolate filling. To do this just pop the double cream, butter, orange zest and orange blossom extract in a saucepan and heat until the butter has melted and starts to gently simmer. Set aside until required.
Place the plain flour, butter and salt in a food processor and whizz on a pulse setting until they resemble breadcrumbs. Tip this mix into a large bowl and stir through the caster sugar and orange zest. Briefly whisk together the egg and egg yolk and add to the bowl then stir with a cutlery knife to form pastry. Once it all comes together in big lumps, shape it into one large disc (handling as little as possible) and wrap in cling film. Chill for about an hour or until the pastry is a little firmer. Preheat the oven to 180c.
While the pastry is chilling, make the cherry filling. To do this just place the de-stoned cherries, caster sugar, orange zest and juice, and the cherry molasses (if using- this is optional but it really helps intensify the cherry flavour) in a saucepan. Heat gently until the cherries release their juices, then up the heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cherries are sticky and resemble a compote.
Once the pastry has firmed up, roll out to about 3mm thick on a well floured surface. Line the tart tin with the pastry, ensuring that you push it into the corners and flutes. Trim any overhanging pastry and chill for 20 minutes.
When your pastry is sufficiently chilled, line with baking paper, fill with baking beans and blind bake for 10-15 minutes until the walls of the tart case can support themselves. At this stage remove the paper and beans and return to the oven for a further 5-10 minutes or until the pastry is completely cooked through with no grey, raw areas of pastry remaining. Set aside.
Now make the chocolate filling. Gently melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Meanwhile, remove the orange zest from the cream mixture and heat up. Once the chocolate has melted pour the cream into the bowl and briefly stir to combine, then set aside to cool a little. Put the egg, yolks and caster sugar in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and whisk until very thick, pale and voluminous (5-6 minutes). Add a large spoonful of this to the chocolate and mix in, then add the rest and carefully fold.
To assemble the tart, tip the cherry compote into the pastry case and spread out in an even layer, then scrape the chocolate filling on top. Bake for 15 minutes then leave to cool completely in the tin (it should have a little wobble).
While the tart is cooling, make the cardamom cream. To do this simply whisk together the icing sugar, cream and ground cardamom until soft peaks form.
You can enjoy the tart at this stage- it will have a very fudgy, mousse like texture. If you chill the tart it will have a slightly different, but still delicious, texture (the cold will set it a little firmer, like a conventional chocolate tart). However you serve your tart, top it with a spoonful of cardamom cream and fresh cherries.
I know I’m getting a few months ahead of myself by posting a fig recipe (usually they come into season around late July), but when I saw some particularly plump, dark looking figs in my local fresh produce shop, I couldn’t help but cook them up with some delicious accompaniments. You could recreate this super simple recipe using any seasonal fruit- rhubarb, greengage or peach would work particularly well.
Ingredients (serves 6)
400ml Greek yoghurt
3tbsp runny honey
2tsp rose water
10-12 ripe figs
Few sprigs thyme
1 pomegranate, seeds only
Place the yoghurt, 1tbsp of the honey and the rose water in a bowl. Mix together then transfer to a muslin cloth and tie up the corners. Sit this in a sieve over a bowl for at least 24 hours (refrigerated).
After 24 hours the liquid will have drained from the yoghurt, leaving you with a thick, smooth labneh.
Once the labneh is ready, prepare the other elements of your dessert. Preheat the oven to 200c and line a high sided baking tray with greaseproof paper. Slice the figs into either halves or quarters (depending on your visual preference!) and spread out on the tray (cut side up). Drizzle with the remaining 2tbsp honey and sprinkle over the sumac. Roughly break the thyme into the tray too.
Roast the figs for 20-25 minutes until very tender and sticky. While the figs are cooking, toast the almonds in a dry frying pan until lightly coloured, then roughly chop.
To serve, spread a generous spoonful of the labneh onto your dessert plates and arrange some fig pieces on top. Sprinkle over the almonds and pomegranate seeds and lastly, garnish with some thyme, if you like.
Ripe, pink fleshed figs are one of my very favourite fruits and pair brilliantly with so many other ingredients, from goats cheese and honey to cured hams and walnuts. In this cake I have used dried figs soaked in tea ( a method commonly used with dates to make sticky toffee pudding) to flavour the spiced sponge, then added a salty sweetness with the caramel drizzle and finished it off with a tangy mascarpone cheese icing, earthy pistachio praline and slices of fresh fig. Though the finished cake makes for a really beautiful centre piece, you could also enjoy it as a warm pudding with the salted caramel and a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.
For the sponge:
300g dried figs, chopped
325ml hot black tea
185g soft butter
275g light brown soft sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
375g self raising flour
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1tsp ground cinnamon
pinch black pepper
For the salted caramel (this is a sort of cheats caramel- a bit like butterscotch sauce):
50g golden syrup
50g light brown soft sugar
50ml double cream
pinch sea salt
For the pistachio praline:
150g caster sugar
200g shelled pistachios
For the mascarpone icing:
300ml double cream
3-4tbsp icing sugar
fresh figs and herbs
Preheat the oven to 170c fan (325F/ gas mark 3). Grease and line a deep square tin (around 22x22cm).
Place the chopped dry figs in a bowl or jug and pour over the hot tea. Leave to infuse while you start making the cake batter.
In a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) cream together the butter and sugar along with the vanilla until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition.
Once the eggs are incorporated, sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda, spices and salt. Fold until the batter is smooth and all the ingredients are well combined then tip in your soaked figs (along with the tea) and fold once more.
Tip the mixture into the prepared tin and level off. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean with just a few moist crumbs attached when inserted.
While your cake is baking, make the salted caramel. To do this simply pop the butter, syrup, sugar and cream in a saucepan and melt together. Once melted bring to the boil and let it bubble for a couple of minutes, then remove from the heat, add the salt to taste and leave to cool.
Next, make the pistachio praline topping. Line a tray with greaseproof paper and put the sugar and pistachios in a heavy bottom pan. Heat gently until the sugar starts melting. Swirl the pan occasionally to coat the pistachios and prevent burning. Once the sugar has completely melted increase the heat and turn the pistachios with a wooden spoon until the caramel reaches a deep golden colour, then tip onto the prepared tray and leave to set hard.
Lastly, make the mascarpone icing. In a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment) whisk together the mascarpone, cream and icing sugar until you have a spreadable (but not overly whipped) consistency.
Once your cake is baked, prick lots of holes all over the surface and pour on about 2/3 of the salted caramel, allowing it to sink into the sponge. Leave to cool in the tin.
When your cake is completely cool you’re ready to decorate. Spread the mascarpone icing in an even layer all over the top and sides (or just the top if you like, it’s up to you!) and smooth with a palette knife. Use the remaining cooled caramel to drizzle down the sides then crush up the praline and sprinkle around the edges. Arrange the fresh fig slices on top and add some woody herbs (such as rosemary) for colour.
Shake up the classic British pavlova by combining seasonal strawberries with black pepper, tangy creme fraiche and pistachio meringues; the combination of sweet, spicy and savoury balances beautifully and is a great dessert option for casual summer evenings.
Ingredients (makes 12):
300g caster sugar
6 egg whites
125g chopped pistachios
2tbsp caster sugar
cracked black pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 180c. Line 2 trays with greaseproof paper (you can secure this down with a little meringue once it’s made).
Put the sugar on a baking tray and heat for 10 minutes in the oven until hot to the touch (not melting), then set aside. Reduce the oven temperature to 120c.
Place the egg whites in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and whisk until you reach medium peak. Add one third of the hot sugar and increase the whisking speed until well incorporated. Add the remaining sugar in 2 additions, whisking well between each. You should eventually have a thick glossy meringue with no grains of sugar. Tip the chopped pistachios onto the meringue and fold in gently. Spoon the meringue into piles on the prepared trays and smooth into your desired shapes.
Bake for 1-1/2 hours until the meringues can be peeled from the paper with ease. Once baked, turn the oven off and leave to cool with the door closed (to prevent cracking).
Now make the strawberry compote; place the strawberries, sugar and water in a saucepan and heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar melts and the strawberries release some juices. Now just cook until your desired consistency is achieved (I like to keep the fruit whole where possible but you can break down the strawberries by cooking for longer if a smoother result is what you’re after).
Cool the compote and serve up with a generous spoonful of creme fraiche (or lightly whipped chantilly cream) and a crisp but chewy pistachio meringue.
Looking at the photographs of this cake, you could be fooled into thinking it’s mid Autumn and the trees are turning. They’re not, but given the weather here in the UK (it’s pretty miserable; grey skies and that fluffy rain which get’s you far more wet than you’d think) it might as well be. With this in mind I thought I’d bake something spiced, nutty, simple and comforting to combat the bad weather blues: enter this moist carrot and apple loaf cake laced with cinnamon, ginger and walnuts topped with maple cream cheese frosting…
225ml vegetable oil
225g soft light brown sugar
125g grated carrot
125g grated apple
225g self raising flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g chopped walnuts
zest 1 lemon
For the icing;
5tbsp maple syrup
2 heaped tbsp icing sugar
250g cream cheese (full fat)
100ml double cream
Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line a large loaf tin with baking paper.
Place the oil, sugar and eggs in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) and, using electric beaters, beat together until voluminous and well combined. Now add the grated carrot and apple and briefly beat again to evenly distribute.
Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, spices and salt over the wet ingredients and beat in until just combined. Lastly, fold in the walnuts and lemon zest. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin and bake for 40-50 minutes until a skewer comes out clean when inserted. Cool in the tin.
While the cake is cooling, make the maple cream cheese icing. Simply whisk together all the ingredients until thick and spreadable.
Once the cake is completely cool, top with the cream cheese icing and some walnuts, edible flowers or apple crisps, if you’re feeling fancy.