Other Treats

Pineapple & White Chocolate Pavlova

Following the success of my first ever homemade meringues back in October last year, I’ve been keen to have a go at a full-blown pavlova. A sweet, snowy mountain adorned with smooth white cream and colourful fresh fruit, I’ve always thought pavlovas make a spectacular dessert, as well as being a nice lighter alternative to cake.

I thought if my attempt turned out like the delicious marshmallowy-on-the-inside-crisp-on-the-outside individual little clouds I made previously I’d be happy, but I was worried that this monster version would be more temperamental, and cook unevenly or shatter into sad little bits of chalk dust when baked. Luckily, I needn’t have had such concerns as it came out beautifully.

Although the topping combination was my idea, I can’t take credit for the meringue base here. My kitchen-whizz mum suggested I use her failsafe pavlova recipe from her trusty old copy of The Love of Cooking by Sonia Allison (from 1972!), and it proves that the oldies are certainly goodies as it worked perfectly. It’s definitely going to be be my go-to recipe in future!

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Now here I must confess that I’m not a massive fan of berries, which are a staple of the quintessential pavlova. I love anything strawberry, raspberry or blueberry flavoured, but I just don’t enjoy the texture of the fruits themselves. However, I needed something that would cut through the sweetness of both the meringue and white chocolate, so I decided to use refreshingly sharp pineapple instead and I think it worked really well.

The finished article went down an absolute storm with my family, and I’ve definitely been bitten by the homemade meringue bug, so I’ll certainly be making more pavs in the future!

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INGREDIENTS – serves approx. 6 people

For the meringue base:

  • 4 egg whites
  • 225g/8 oz caster sugar
  • Quarter tsp cream of tartar
  • 2 tsp cornflour
  • 1 tsp vinegar (any kind will do)

For the topping:

  • 1 36g sachet Dream Topping + milk as needed by the packet instructions (or 250ml/0.5 pint double cream)
  • 1 432g can pineapple chunks or slices in juice, drained
  • 50g/1.5 oz white chocolate, chopped into chunks
  • A sprinkling of white and pink edible pearls (optional)

METHOD

For the meringue base:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 130 degrees C (or 110 fan) and line a large flat baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Place the egg whites in a very clean mixing bowl and whisk with the cream of tartar until white and frothy.
  3. Continue to whisk while adding the sugar a few tablespoons at a time until stiff, glossy peaks form – this will take a good few minutes (you should be able to hold the bowl of mixture over your head without it spilling out!)

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  4. Gently fold in the cornflour and vinegar with a spatula (and don’t panic at the odd acidic smell like I did – this will disappear once it’s cooked, I promise!)
  5. Dollop the mixture in a rough circle on the baking parchment, ensuring it’s in a thick layer so you can’t see the paper through it at any point.
  6. Place in the oven and bake for around 1-1.5 hours, until a crisp shell has formed and the meringue is very slightly golden on the top but mostly white.
  7. When cooked, remove from the oven and leave to cool.

For the topping:

  1. Prepare the Dream Topping (or cream) according to the packet’s instructions – it should be quite thick and not runny – and then pile it on top of the meringue base.
  2. If using pineapple slices, cut them into small chunks and scatter on top of the Dream Topping, followed by the white chocolate chunks.
  3. Finish with a sprinkling of a few pretty pink and white pearls if you fancy, and serve immediately.
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Iris Tart

Our lovely and amazingly hardworking intern at work from the Netherlands, Iris, sadly left us a couple of weeks ago. To mark the occasion, I wanted to make her a genuine Dutch ‘vlaai’, which is a traditional tart made with fruit and a yeasted dough and topped with a distinctive lattice pattern.

Unfortunately, I only had a couple of hours to create one so I cheated and used an American recipe for a (supposedly) Dutch almond lattice tart with apricot jam that I found online and used regular shortcrust pastry instead of a dough that involved proving, kneading etc. The ingredients were pretty much all in tablespoons which was a bit frustrating (ever tried precisely measuring out a tablespoon of solid marzipan?!) and I didn’t have quite a few of the required ingredients so I ended up improvising and making up my own version. It took quite a while to cook in the oven, the top becoming ever browner while the middle remained soggy as I panicked that I’d incinerated it, convinced the finished product was going to end up an outright insult to the good people of the Netherlands.

Anyway, as is so often the case with cooking, it turned out fabulously and received lots of compliments from my colleagues. Despite its success, it’s certainly not authentic Dutch cuisine so I decided to christen it with its own unique name, Iris Tart, in her honour. I’ll certainly be making it again and will think of her when I do!

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INGREDIENTS

For the pastry:

  • 340g/12 oz plain flour
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 170g/6 oz butter
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

For the filling:

  • 115g/4 oz butter
  • 130g/4.5 oz marzipan (+ extra if you wish to use for decorations)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 85g/3 oz caster/granulated sugar
  • 45g/1.5 oz plain flour
  • 150g/5 oz dried apricots, snipped into small pieces
  • Sprinkling of demerara sugar

METHOD

For the pastry:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan), grease a large heatproof flan dish with butter/margarine and place the apricots in a jug of boiling water to soak.
  2. Place the flour, sugar and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl and then rub the butter into the mixture with your fingertips until breadcrumb-type bits form. Add the milk and form into a ball of dough. If it’s too sticky add some more flour and if it’s too dry and crumbly add a splash more milk.
  3. Wrap the pastry in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for at least 25 minutes.

For the filling:

  1. About 5-10 minutes before the pastry’s chilling time is up, beat the butter, eggs and sugar together in a bowl.
  2. Grate the marzipan block into the mixture (you may want to chill it for a bit if it’s too squishy to grate) and then fold in the flour and soaked apricot pieces.
  3. Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out on a floured surface with a rolling pin until it’s about 0.5cm thick. Carefully transfer onto the prepared flan dish and gently press down into the fluted bits. Trim off the excess pastry with a knife.
  4. Squish the offcuts back together and roll out again. Cut into 9 strips, each around 1 inch wide and long enough to lie across the tart.
  5. Pour the filling into the flan dish and then carefully arrange the pastry strips in a lattice pattern on the top – ‘glue’ them together with a bit of water on your fingertip if needs be.
  6. Sprinkle the tart with some demerara sugar and then place in the oven for around 35-40 minutes until the top is golden brown and the filling is cooked through.
  7. Transfer onto a wire rack to cool and decorate with extra marzipan adornments if you fancy. Enjoy the tart cold as it is or serve warm with a bit of cream or ice cream.

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Virtuous Fruity Porridge Bars & Sinful Nutella Porridge Bars

Okay, let’s start with the healthy version. I’m often guilty of running late for work in the morning but I really don’t like to rely on sugary and unsatisfying cereal bars for a super quick breakfast.  As cereal or toast isn’t exactly the most practical thing to try and make at my desk, I wanted to try and make some homemade alternatives that are a bit more wholesome and virtuous than store bought on-the-go snacks.

These fruity bars contain no refined sugar and are adapted from a recipe I came across for blueberry porridge squares as part of a guest post on Deliciously Ella’s website. I decided to incorporate apples and raisins as these are two things I currently have in abundance at home (thanks, in part, to the final glut from my scrumping adventures as mentioned in my previous two posts!), but you could use pretty much any fruit you like, dried or otherwise. Dried cranberries also work well and I can imagine dried apricots, either straight out the packet or rehydrated, would be delicious too. You could also add chopped nuts to add a bit of a crunch.

These bars are a revelation in that they really do taste like porridge, despite the lack of conventional bowl and spoon! They’re not crispy and chewy like a flapjack but rather divinely squidgy and filling – perfect to keep you going until lunchtime (or at least elevenses…)

And now to mention their dark and sinful counterpart. My other half has been very poorly recently and he mentioned that he loves porridge with a cheeky dollop of Nutella in it so this was the perfect opportunity to adapt the recipe further and transform it into a no-holds-barred sugary, chocolatey, indulgent treat. This version certainly does not share its fruity cousin’s status as a healthy option but it’s so, so good and dangerously moreish! I’ve included both recipes below for you to choose depending on how virtuous or decadent you’re feeling.

The fruity bars can easily be made vegan friendly and/or dairy free with a few minor adjustments, which I’ve suggested below.

20151123_190618I added some mixed nuts to this batch of fruity ones 🙂

20160325_151756.jpgI made the original batch of Nutella ones in a round cake tin as I was at my other half’s and he doesn’t have the recommended rectangular tray!

INGREDIENTS – makes approx. 12 bars

For the fruity porridge bars:

  • 300g oats
  • 225g eating apples
  • 100g raisins
  • 100ml honey (or maple/agave syrup to make it vegan)
  • 225ml milk (or oat/soya/almond milk to make it vegan/dairy free)
  • 3 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp water

For the Nutella porridge bars:

  • 300g oats
  • 2 heaped tbsp Nutella or other chocolate & hazelnut spread
  • 100g dark chocolate chips
  • 100ml golden syrup
  • 225ml milk
  • 2 tsp vanillla extract

METHOD

For the fruity porridge bars:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan) and line a rectangular cake tin with baking parchment.
  2. Peel and core the apples and chop roughly into chunks no bigger than a 50p piece.
  3. Place them in a saucepan along with the lemon juice, water and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for around 5-7 minutes, or until the apple pieces are soft and squashable. Turn off the heat and allow to cool slightly.
  4. Pour the oats into a large mixing bowl, then add the apple mixture, raisins, honey, milk, vanilla extract and the final teaspoon of cinnamon. Stir until combined.
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin then pop in the oven and bake for around 20 minutes, or until the mixture feels fairly firm to the touch.
  6. Allow to cool and slice into bars with a sharp knife.

For the Nutella porridge bars:

Follow the recipe as above but omit steps 2 and 3 and add the Nutella, syrup and chocolate chips in place of the fruit, honey and cinnamon in step 4.

20160325_151627Oozing patches of Nutella – what could be better?!

Categories: Healthier, Other Treats, Raw/Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Cookbook Challenge 3 – Trine Hahnemann’s Scandinavian Marzipan Tarts

I was given Trine Hahnemann’s beautiful book, Scandinavian Baking, for Christmas last year and have been meaning to have a go at some of the recipes from it for a while. I have a soft spot for all things Scandi (Norway and Iceland are top of my bucket list of places to visit!) and love the sound of a lot of their traditional bakes, both sweet and savoury. I have to admit that I have made an alteration to this recipe and substituted the original lingonberries after ending up with a fabulous haul of blackberries following a productive foraging session in the fields near my house. Scrumping is one of my favourite things to do when autumn arrives so I thought it fitting to use the fruits of my labour and add a British twist 🙂 The berries’ tartness and the sweet, nutty marzipan are a match made in heaven.

I tend to stick with cakes or biscuits when baking so these lovely simple tarts were a perfect way to try something a bit different. I’d never made my own pastry before but it was so easy I’ll definitely be doing it again! This bake would also work wonderfully as one large tart for sharing, or with other kinds of sharp fruit. Trine’s recipe said to use individual fluted tins but a standard muffin tray works fine.

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I topped my tarts with a few flaked almonds as a final flourish.

INGREDIENTS – makes 16 tarts

For the pastry:

  • 170g plain flour
  • 60g icing sugar
  • 115g butter, chilled
  • Half an egg, lightly beaten
  • Pinch of salt

For the filling:

  • 300g marzipan
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 100g butter, softened
  • 150g lingonberries (or blackberries)

METHOD

  1. Sift the flour, icing sugar and salt into a bowl and rub in the butter with your fingers until the mixture resembles crumbs.
  2. Add the egg and stir until the pastry comes together in a ball.
  3. Wrap in clingfilm and leave in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  4. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C and grease 16 mini fluted cake tins or 2 muffin trays with butter.
  5. Roll the chilled dough out on a floured surface until 5-8mm thick then cut out rounds with a 9cm cookie cutter.
  6. Place the rounds in the prepared tins or muffin tray and grate the marzipan.
  7. Mix the grated marzipan, eggs and butter into a smooth paste and use to fill the pastry cases, then add the berries (about 3-4 per tart if you’re using blackberries).
  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the bottoms of the pastry cases are slightly brown then remove from the tins and leave to cool on a wire rack.
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Cherry Bakewell & Cherry Chocolate Scones

Apologies for the lack of action on my blog recently – I’ve been back in my hometown doing some office temping at my old workplace for the last three weeks and left all my recipes back in my flat in London! I’ve also not been doing so much baking recently due to the sweltering weather (I’m not good with heat; I’m a bit of a summer grinch!), although I’m looking forward to making cakes for both my best friend and my boyfriend who have birthdays in the next couple of weeks.

Anyway, here’s a recipe I’ve been meaning to post for a while. I love scones as they’re so darn simple to make – nothing but flour, butter and milk in their most basic form – and they’re so versatile, so I decided to do decadent a twist on the traditional plain kind for Sunday Baking Club’s (@SundayBakeClub on Twitter) charity cherry theme a while back. Both types came out really well and tasted delicious with a bit of butter or just on their own (mountains of jam and clotted cream not required here unless you have an incredibly sweet tooth!) The chocolate ones had a sweet, sticky texture and the bakewell ones had a lovely marzipan-like flavour. Perfect to enjoy as part of an alfresco afternoon tea!
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INGREDIENTS – makes approx. 8-10

For the cherry bakewell scones:

  • 250g/9 oz self-raising flour
  • 55g/2 oz butter
  • 25g/1 oz caster/granulated sugar
  • 150ml/5 fl oz milk
  • 40g/1.5 oz glace cherries, chopped
  • 2 tsp almond essence
    To decorate:
  • 2 tsp almond essence
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar
  • 4-5 glace cherries, halved

For the cherry chocolate scones:

  • 250g/9 oz self-raising flour
  • 55g/2 oz butter
  • 25g/1 oz caster/granulated sugar
  • 150ml/5 fl oz milk
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 40g/1.5 oz glace cherries, chopped
  • 40g/1.5 oz dark or milk chocolate, chopped
  • 0.5 tsp vanilla extract
    To decorate:
  • Handful of flaked almonds
  • 2 tsp icing sugar
  • Few drops of milk or water

METHOD

For the scones:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan) and line a large rectangular baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Place the flour, sugar and chopped cherries (plus the cocoa powder and chopped chocolate if making the chocolate scones) in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the middle.
  3. Place the butter, milk and almond essence (if making the bakewell scones) or vanilla extract (if making the chocolate scones) in the well and roughly mix with a knife.
  4. Rub the liquid into the dry ingredients with your hands until a pliable dough forms. If the mixture is too sticky, add a little more flour and if it’s too crumbly, add a little more milk.
  5. Place the dough on a floured surface and roughly pat until it’s around 3cm/1in in thickness, then cut out scones with a large round or fluted cookie cutter. Squish the offcuts together and repeat until all the dough is used.
  6. Place the scones on the prepared baking tray and bake in the oven for around 15 minutes until they’re slightly brown on the bottom.
  7. Leave the scones to cool on a wire rack. They can be frozen at this stage if you wish.

For the cherry bakewell decorations:

  1. Mix the icing sugar and almond essence together thoroughly until a runny mixture forms.
  2. Drizzle in a criss-cross lattice pattern over the cooled scones then top each one with half a glace cherry.

For the cherry chocolate decorations:

  1. Mix the icing sugar and milk/water together thoroughly until a runny mixture forms.
  2. Place a small blob in the centre of the top of each scone using a teaspoon, then arrange 5 flaked almonds in the shape of flower petals using the icing as ‘glue’. Finish each flower with a tiny blob of icing in the centre.
Categories: Chocolate, Other Treats | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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