Jammy baked figs, warming spices and a slightly nutty, salty-sweet sauce; it’s seasonal bakes like this which make the transition from Summer to Autumn that bit easier (even when the rain is unrelenting, my holiday a distant memory and the sky an ominous shade of purple-grey).
Brown butter caramel
- 75g butter
- 200g caster sugar
- 100ml double cream
- good pinch salt
Spiced fig cake (makes one 8 inch cake)
- 175g soft unsalted butter
- 100g light brown soft sugar
- 75g caster sugar
- 3 eggs
- zest 1 lemon
- 3tbsp milk
- 175g self raising flour
- 1tsp ground cinnamon
- 1tsp mixed spice
- 1/2tsp ground cardamom
- 1/4tsp freshly ground black pepper
- pinch salt
- 6-8 figs
- 1tbsp demerara sugar
- Start by making the caramel. Place the butter in a pan and melt down over a low heat. Once melted, increase the heat and foam until browned. Pour into a bowl and leave to cool.
- Tip the caster sugar into a heavy bottomed pan and heat gently, swirling occasionally (but not stirring) until it melts. Increase the heat until the caramel reaches a deep golden brown, then add the browned butter and stir (take care, it will spit a little). Once the butter is well incorporated add the cream and stir. Cook for a further couple of minutes until slightly thickened, then add the salt to taste.
- Preheat the oven to 170c and grease/line an 8 inch baking tin. Place the butter and sugars in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) and cream until light and fluffy. Add the eggs in one at a time, beating well between each addition (add a little of the flour here if the mix looks like it might curdle). Mix in the lemon zest and milk.
- Add the flour, spices and salt to the bowl and fold in with a large metal spoon. Dice 2/3 of the figs and fold those into the mixture too, then scrape it all into the prepared tin. Slice the remaining figs into 6ths and arrange on top of the cake, then sprinkle over the demerara sugar.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
- Once baked, leave the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then remove and transfer to a wire rack. You can serve this cold or warm (I prefer the latter), but either way, warm up the caramel just before serving and drizzle all over the cake slices.
I know declaring a love of tahini and halva makes me sound a) melodramatic b) painfully millennial and c) like a bit of a dick, but I really have come to crave it, especially in and on desserts and baked goods; the savoury nuttiness and slight bitter note contrasts perfectly with sweet bases and makes for a dangerously moreish result. That definitely applies to this ice cream, which is next level thanks to the texture contrast of crumbled halva through a smooth custard base. Give it a try, it might just be the most delicious ice cream I’ve ever made (although as we have established, I come from a place of bias on this front).
- 250ml double cream
- 725ml full fat milk
- 225g caster sugar
- 6 egg yolks
- Generous pinch salt
- 200g tahini
- 150g crumbled halva
- 1tbsp toasted sesame seeds (optional)
- Pour the cream and milk into a large saucepan. Bring to scalding point then take off the heat. Meanwhile, whisk the sugar and yolks until pale and well combined. Whisk the hot cream mix into the yolks, followed by the tahini and salt. Once smooth, tip the custard base into a clean saucepan.
- Set the saucepan over a low/medium heat and stir continuously until it thickens to form a custard which coats the back of a spoon. Pass through a sieve and chill.
- When the custard is cool, pour into an ice cream maker and churn until thick and creamy. Stir the crumbled halva through this mix, reserving a little for the top of the ice cream.
- Scrape the churned ice cream into a 1 litre container and smooth off. Scatter over the remaining halva and sesame seeds, if using. Freeze for at least 4 hours then serve.
These little dessert pots are really easy to throw together and make for a great plant based alternative to a conventional dairy cheesecake. The combination of sweet filling, salty crumble and tart but slightly floral rhubarb is delicious, and I love the contrasting textures too. Give them a try, and don’t hold back on the halva.
Ingredients (serves 4-6)
For the sesame crumble
- 75g rye flour
- 25g plain flour
- 50g coconut oil, chilled
- 50g demerara sugar
- large pinch salt
- 2tbsp white sesame seeds
For the roast rhubarb
- 250g rhubarb
- 2-3tbsp caster sugar
- 1tbsp rose water
For the ‘cheesecake’ mix
- 250g dairy free cream cheese
- 100g dairy free yoghurt
- 2tbsp caster sugar
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 100g plain halva
- few dried rose petals (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 180c. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
- To make the crumble rub the coconut oil into the flours until the mix resembles coarse breadcrumbs, then stir through the sugar, salt and sesame seeds. Tip onto the prepared baking tray in one even layer and chill for 20 minutes (chilling will help keep any clumps of crumble together to create more texture once baked).
- Once chilled, bake the crumble for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown, turning occasionally. Set aside to crisp up while you prepare the other ingredients.
- Slice the rhubarb into 2 inch batons and toss in the sugar and rose water. Line a high sided roasting tray with greaseproof paper and arrange the rhubarb pieces over the base in one layer. Roast for 15 minutes or until the rhubarb is tender but still holding its shape. Roughly shred half the rhubarb to form a compote consistency and leave the rest in whole pieces. Set aside to cool.
- While the rhubarb is roasting, make the ‘cheesecake’ mix. To do this simply whisk together the dairy free cream cheese, dairy free yoghurt, sugar and lemon zest until smooth (it will be looser in consistency than a classic dairy cheesecake, but the flavour is very similar and it works really well in a pot with the other ingredients). Chill.
- When all the elements are cool, you’re ready to assemble. Start off by distributing the shredded rhubarb between the pots to cover the bases. Now fill the pots to 3/4 full with the cheesecake mix. Add a generous spoonful of crumble on top, then a baton or two of rhubarb. Finish with a good sprinkling of crumbled halva and garnish with rose petals, if you like.
A couple of months ago I bought, then promptly forgot about, some delicious pine honey which I intended to use as the central flavour in a pastry-based recipe. Now that it’s been retrieved from the depths of my cupboard it has well and truly fulfilled that destiny in these crisp craquelin choux buns. Simply filled with honeyed orange mascarpone and walnuts (also baked in the honey and a little salt) these make for a delicious treat, but served alongside honey butterscotch sauce and they’re next level- perfect for a fancy Autumnal dessert.
For the craquelin top
- 55g unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
- 65g soft light brown sugar
- 65g plain flour
For the choux
- 85g butter
- 220ml water
- 100g plain flour
- 3 eggs (plus 1 extra for glazing)
- pinch of salt
For the filling
- 300g mascarpone
- 200ml double cream
- 2tbsp (heaped) good quality honey (I used Greek Pine Honey)
- Zest of 2 oranges
For the honeyed walnuts
- 100g walnuts
- 2tbsp (heaped) good quality honey (as before)
- good pinch salt
For the sauce (optional)
- 75ml honey
- Juice 1/2 orange
- 25g butter
- 100ml double cream
- Generous pinch salt
- Start off by making the craquelin topping (when baked, this forms a crispy sweet layer). To do this simply mix the butter, sugar and flour in a large bowl (or in the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment on a slow speed) until it starts to form large lumps, then bring it together with your hands. Place the dough on a large piece of baking paper, top with another piece of baking paper, and roll out to about 3mm thick. Pop this onto a tray and leave in the freezer to solidify.
- To make the choux, put the water, butter and salt in a saucepan set over a medium heat (do not let it boil at this stage). Meanwhile, sieve the flour to remove any lumps. When the butter has melted into the water, increase the heat and bring to a rolling boil, then tip in the flour and stir vigorously until you have a smooth paste-like mix which comes away from the edges of the pan. Continue to stir for another minute to cook out the rawness of the flour, then tip into a clean bowl and close cover with cling film (this eggless stage is known as a ‘panade’). Leave to cool to room temperature.
- Preheat the oven to 190c. Line 2 large baking trays with greaseproof paper.
- Once the panade has cooled it’s time to add the eggs; whisk in a jug to break them up then very gradually add into the panade while beating with electric beaters. Stop adding the egg (you might have a little leftover) when the smooth, lump-free mixture reluctantly drops off the end of a spoon. Pile the choux mix into a piping bag, fitted with a large round nozzle.
- Pipe rounds of about 4cm wide onto the prepared baking trays, leaving plenty of room for expansion. Whisk the remaining egg in a bowl and brush a small amount onto each mound, smoothing down the tip. Take your craquelin sheet and stamp out 3cm circles. Place one on top of each choux mound (the egg will help secure it in place). Bake the choux for around 35 minutes, then skewer a small hole in each bun and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes, to dry out the middles. Once baked, they should be crisp and golden brown with a crackled appearance on top. Cool while you make the other elements.
- Toss the walnuts in the honey and salt and spread out on a baking tray. Cook for around 10 minutes or until caramelised then set aside to cool. Once cooled, roughly chop.
- For the filling, just whisk together the mascarpone, cream, honey and orange zest until light and smooth. Pile into a piping bag. Finally, for the sauce heat the honey and orange juice in a saucepan and simmer for a couple of minutes, add in the butter and stir until it’s melted, then add the cream and salt. Keep gently simmering, stirring occasionally, until slightly thicker (a few minutes should be fine), then set aside.
- To assemble the choux buns, slice each one in half and pipe some mascarpone cream into the base. Top with a sprinkling of walnuts and a little sauce, then place the lid on. Serve with some extra sauce.
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
- a couple of extra figs
- a few pistachios, chopped
- 50g dark chocolate
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
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.
This cake, decorated with whimsical blooms from the Eloise bouquet by Bloom and Wild, is made up of four layers of moist hazelnut sponge soaked in lavender honey syrup, filled with a fresh blackberry compote and covered in delicately flavoured lavender mascarpone cream. The bouquet is inspired by a summer meadow, so it seemed only right to pick out some of my favourite ingredients the British countryside has to offer for this recipe; together the balance of nutty, floral and fruity flavours are delicious. Try this one out in August/September for a really special seasonal centre piece.
For the lavender honey syrup (this is used to soak the sponges and flavour the mascarpone icing)
- 100ml runny honey
- 75ml water
- 4 sprigs fresh lavender or 1tbsp dried lavender
For the blackberry compote
- 400g fresh blackberries
- 3tbsp runny honey
- Zest and juice 1 lemon
For the hazelnut sponges
- 350g soft unsalted butter
- 325g light brown soft sugar
- 6 eggs
- 200g ground hazelnuts (to make these just blitz 200g blanched hazelnuts in a food processor until fine)
- 150g plain flour
- 2tsp baking powder
- Pinch salt
For the lavender mascarpone cream
- 3-4tbsp of the lavender honey
- 350ml double cream
- 300ml mascarpone
To garnish (optional)
- The Eloise bouquet by Bloom and Wild
- Fresh blackberries
- Crushed and toasted hazelnuts
- Start by making the lavender honey (to give it time to develop in flavour). To do this just place the honey, water and lavender (whichever sort you’re using) in a saucepan and gently heat until the honey has dissolved into the water. Once this has happened, simmer for 2 minutes then set aside and leave to infuse until required
- Now make the blackberry compote by gently heating the blackberries, honey, lemon zest and juice in a saucepan. Stir occasionally, until the blackberries release their juices and reduce down to form a compote consistency. Set aside to cool.
- Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins.
- Place the softened butter and sugar in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and beat until very light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, beating very well between each addition (add a tablespoon of the flour each time to prevent curdling). Once all the eggs are well incorporated, fold in the ground hazelnuts, remaining flour, baking powder and salt with a large metal spoon.
- Divide the mix between the prepared tins and level the tops. Bake for 35-40 minutes (or until well risen and a skewer comes out clean when inserted). Once baked, prick the surfaces of the cakes with a fork and spoon over 3-4tbsp of the lavender honey syrup, then leave to cool completely in the tins.
- While the cakes are cooling, make the lavender mascarpone cream. Put all the ingredients in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and whisk until thick and spreadable. Scrape half the mixture into a piping bag. Now you’re ready to assemble the cake (providing all your elements are completely cool!).
- To put the cake together, slice the sponges in half horizontally (so you have four even layers). Place the first layer down on your chosen plate and pipe a thick ring of mascarpone cream around the edge, then fill the middle with one third of the blackberry compote and repeat this until you’ve stacked up all four layers. With the remaining mascarpone cream, cover the cake and smooth with a palette knife. Decorate with blooms from the Eloise bouquet or freestyle with hazelnuts, fresh blackberries and lavender.
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.
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
- 1-2tsp sumac
- Few sprigs thyme
- 1 pomegranate, seeds only
- 75g almonds
- 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.
I’m kicking it old school today with a seasonal take on a childhood classic; baked custard. Custard is something which, until a few years back, filled me with dread. I think it has something to do with enduring memories of school puddings accompanied by lukewarm, thick skinned, unsettlingly lumpy custard… That said, a good baked custard I had at cookery school a few years back converted me after years of avoiding the stuff; it was deliciously smooth, creamy and comforting and since then I can appreciate how the simple format can make for a really versatile dessert.
In this spring recipe I’ve flavoured the custard with cardamom and paired it with some orange blossom roast rhubarb and pistachios for added texture. Once you’ve made it once though you’ll definitely want to play with other flavours. Coffee, chocolate, citrus, rose and almond are just some flavours you might like to try, but the possibilities and accompaniment choices are endless.
Ingredients (serves 4-6)
- 4 eggs
- 115g caster sugar
- 300ml whole milk
- 300ml double cream
- 10-12 cardamom pods, seeds removed and ground
- 300g rhubarb
- 75g golden caster sugar
- Juice and zest 1 orange
- 2-3tbsp orange blossom water (I used a great Arabica Food & Spice variety)
- 100g pistachios
- Preheat the oven to 140c.
- Whisk the eggs and sugar together to combine. Heat the milk, cream, vanilla and ground cardamom seeds in a saucepan to just below boiling point then leave the flavours to infuse for 10 minutes.
- Bring the cream mix back up to scalding point then pour it all over the eggs. Whisk to combine then strain through a sieve into a jug. Distribute the mixture between four individual oven proof serving dishes.
- Place the dishes into a deep roasting pan and fill with enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the custards are almost set but have a gentle, uniform wobble in the middle.
- The custards can be served warm or cold, so depending on your preference you might like to prepare the rhubarb and pistachio topping before baking the custards. I personally like them cold so once they’re cooked just take them out of the water bath to cool completely. Once cooled you can refrigerate the custards until required.
- Meanwhile, up the temperature of the oven to 180c. Place the rhubarb in a bowl along with the sugar, orange zest, orange blossom water and orange juice. Toss to evenly coat then tip everything onto a lined baking tray and roast for 10-15 minutes.
- When it’s done the rhubarb will be tender but hold its shape. Set aside to cool and make sure you reserve the delicious cooking syrup. Last of all, roughly chop the pistachios.
- To serve, top the custards with a generous spoonful of roast rhubarb and some of the orange syrup. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios and enjoy!