Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Clementine and Pistachio Cake

It's on grey and gloomy days like today that it's nice to be able to turn to a sweet and zesty treat like this one. Pistachios marry really well with citrus so I've used clementines, which are abundant at this time of year. Try and buy ready shelled pistachios if you can, otherwise it's a bit of a chore getting them out of their shells. Also, grind them as well as you can but it's not a big issue if they are relatively coarse. A few chunks of pistachio here and there will give the cake a nice change of texture.

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 45-50 Mins
175g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
175g Caster Sugar
3 Large Eggs
100g Ground Almonds
100g Pistachios (Ground)
Zest of 4 good sized Clementines
50g Plain flour
1Tsp Baking Powder

50g Roughly Chopped pistachios
Juice of 4 Clementines
50g Caster Sugar

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and grease/line the base of a 20cm loose bottomed tin. In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugar then beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add in the pistachios and almonds, followed by the clementine zest. Sift in the flour and baking powder, then mix it all together and spoon into the tin. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 45 minutes, until the top of the cake is golden brown and a metal skewer can be removed cleanly from the centre.

When the cake is done put the clementine juice, chopped pistachios and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring it to the boil and leave it rumbling away for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. When it has started to thicken and become syrupy remove from the heat and spoon over the hot cake. Let the whole lot go cold in the tin, then carefully remove and enjoy at you leisure!

Friday, 25 November 2011

Sour Cherry Stollen Biscotti

Stollen, a fruit loaf similar to the Italian Panettone, is a real festive favourite and a treat as it is. However I think this spin on it is a really nice option if you just fancied a snack with a hot drink. A few points of note though. I've included the seeds of six cardamon pods, which won't look like much but you need to be a bit careful with a spice like cardamon, as go too far and it takes over. I've also stated in the recipe to chop the marzipan into small cubes. This is really important, as large lumps of marzipan really compromise the structural integrity of the biscotti themselves. You might find it easier to chill the marzipan before you chop it up, as it'll firm up and make it easier to work with.

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 60 Mins (ish)
250g Caster Sugar
250g Plain Flour
1/2Tbsp Baking Powder
Seeds from 6 good sized Cardamon pods, crushed to a fine powder)
1Tsp Mixed Spice
1Tsp Vanilla Extract
2 Large Eggs
Zest of 1 Orange
200g Dried Sour Cherries (Roughly Chopped)
150g Marzipan (Chopped into small cubes)

Right, start off by preheating the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line 2 large trays with baking paper. In a large bowl combine the sugar, flour, baking powder, cardamon, mixed spice and orange zest. In a separate small bowl beat the egg with the vanilla extract. Add the sour cherries and marzipan to the dry ingredients, give them a mix round then make a well in the middle. Pour in the beaten egg, mix for a bit with a wooden spoon until it starts to come together, then get your hands in there and work until it forms a dough. Drizzle a little water on your hands, then split the dough and form into two long sausages, about 5cm in diameter. Lay each sausage in the middle of a tray and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, until they've spread and the top is a nice even golden colour.

Remove and turn the oven down to 140C/2755/Gas 1. After 15 minutes, peel the cooked dough off of the baking paper and on a large chopping board slice the biscotti at an angle, about 1cm thick (Or you can go a bit thicker if you like them chunky!). Place the sliced biscotti back on the tray and put back in the oven. After about 14 minutes remove, carefully turn each biscotti over, then put back into the oven for a further 14 minutes. When done remove and place on a wire rack to cool. Done done done!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Mincemeat Cake

Although there is nothing wrong with a delicious mince pie, I thought it would be nice to try out something else with mincemeat. I've added orange zest, which I think adds to the heady spice, but you can try other things if you want. It really depends on the mincemeat you use. If you think it needs some bolstering, you could try some mixed spice, lemon, or even some more booze if you think it needs it. Feel free to experiment!

Prep time: 10 Mins
Baking time: 50-60 Mins
200g Unsalted butter (Softened)
150g Soft Brown Sugar
3 Large Eggs
Zest of 1 Orange
200g Mincemeat (About half a jar)
1Tsp Baking Powder
225g Plain Flour

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and grease/line the base of a 20cm deep loose bottomed tin. Cream together the butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time. Fold through the orange zest, followed by the mincemeat. Sift in the flour and baking powder, then mix it all together and spoon in the tin. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 50 - 60 minutes, or until a metal skewer comes out clean from the middle. You might find you have to cover it for the last 10 minutes if it starts to brown too much on top, so keep some baking paper or foil handy just in case. When it's finished baking remove the cake from the oven, let it cool for about 20 minutes in the tin, then turn out onto a wire rack. When it's completely cool slice and enjoy, ideally with a nice cup of tea!

Friday, 18 November 2011

(Baci di dama) Ladies' Kisses

These Italian biscuits are so easy to make and perfect for a dinner party or just to share with that special someone! So-called because the two sandwiched biscuits resemble a kiss, you can make them with ground almonds or ground toasted hazelnuts. Also I add a dash of vanilla, which may not be that traditional but I think gives them an added depth of flavour.

Prep Time: 10 Mins
Baking Time: 20 Mins
150g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
115g Caster Sugar
1 Egg Yolk
1/2Tsp Vanilla Extract
115g Ground Almonds or Ground Toasted Hazelnuts
175g Plain Flour
50g Good Quality Chocolate (You can use dark, milk or even white if you prefer!)

Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, then beat in the egg yolk. Add the vanilla then mix in the nuts and flour. Spoon the mixture onto some cling film, wrap and chill in the fridge for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3 and line a couple of large trays with baking paper. Take the mixture out of the fridge, then break off small pieces and roll into balls. You should be able to get about 40 out of this quantity. Making sure you leave a decent gap between each ball, place them on the baking paper. Bake for about 20 minutes, until golden, leave to cool for about 15 minutes, then let them cool on the tray.

When the biscuits are cold melt the chocolate over a bain-marie or in the microwave then sandwich together the biscuits in pairs and leave to set. Easy!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

White Chocolate and Peanut Butter Blondies

Blondies are a great alternative to brownies and I've recently tried these out using peanut butter. The end result is delicious, slightly fudgy with notes of vanilla, butterscotch and of course peanut. I've used smooth organic peanut butter in this version, but you can use crunchy if you want some added texture.

Prep time: 15 Mins
Baking time: 25 Mins
100g Unsalted Butter (Plus extra for greasing)
200g Peanut Butter
200g White Chocolate
2 Large Eggs
200g Light Muscovado Sugar
1Tsp Vanilla Extract
150g Plain Flour
1Tsp Baking Powder

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and grease/line base of a 20cm square tin. Put the butter and peanut butter into a saucepan and stir over a low heat until melted. Break the chocolate up into a bowl and pour over the melted butters, stirring until combined, then set aside. Now is a good time to get your hooter in and have a sniff. It smells amazing! In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs, sugar and vanilla, then pour in the white chocolate mixture and stir it all together with a wooden spoon. Sift in the flour and baking powder then beat vigorously until the whole mixture comes together. It has a slightly unusual, doughy consistency but do not fear! Spoon into a tin and spread evenly to the edges. Bake in the centre of the oven for 25-30 minutes, until golden and just firm. Leave to cool in the tin for 30-45 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack. Slice into squares and munch until your heart's content!

Thursday, 10 November 2011


Sachertorte is a rich chocolate cake originating from Austria. It’s delicious eaten the same day you bake it, but even better a couple of days later. I found this version in the Green and Blacks cookbook, but personally I prefer using Valrhona. My advice would be to use whatever you prefer, but don’t be afraid to experiment!

Prep time: 15 Minutes
Baking time: 60 Minutes

For the cake
Butter (For greasing)
200g Dark Chocolate (60-70% Cocoa Solids)
6 Eggs
310g Granulated Sugar
150g Ground Almonds
1.5Tsp Freshly Ground Coffee
6Tbsp Apricot Jam

For the icing
100g Dark Chocolate (60-70% Cocoa Solids)
40g Unsalted Butter

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and grease/line a 23cm springform tin. To make the torte start by melting the chocolate over a bain-marie (Or use the microwave if you’re sure of the timings), then remove from the heat and set aside. Separate 5 of the eggs, then whisk the egg yolks with the whole egg you have left and the sugar, until creamy. In another bowl whisk the egg whites until stiff. Add the ground almonds, coffee and melted chocolate to the egg yolk mixture and mix it all together. Fold in the egg whites then pour into the tin. Bake in the centre of the oven for 60 minutes, covering for the last 20 minutes to stop the top browning too much. Let it cool for 20 minutes or so in the tin, the remove and leave to cool completely on a wire rack. Once it has cooled, melt the apricot jam over a low heat, then strain and brush over the top.

For the icing, again melt the chocolate over a bain-marie. Add the butter and stir in until it resembles the thickness of double cream, then remove from the heat and pour evenly over the cake. Smooth over the top and sides using the back of spoon then leave to set. Done!

Monday, 7 November 2011

Sticky Date Cakes

Man alive it's really gloomy round here today! Chilly and cloudy and generally pretty dreary all round. It's days like this when a nice warm cake recipe really hits the spot and this one is both easy to make and delicious to eat. You should get about 12 out of the mix and can serve them on their own or with cream, ice cream or even custard!

Prep time: 15 Mins
Baking time: 20 Mins
270g Pitted Dates (Chopped)
250ml Water
1Tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
150g Unsalted Butter (Plus a bit extra for greasing)
185g Self Raising Flour
265g Soft Brown Sugar
2 Eggs (Beaten)
2Tbsp Golden Syrup
185ml Single Cream

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and grease a 12 cup muffin tray. Place the dates and the water in a saucepan, bring to the boil, then remove from the heat. Stir in the bicarbonate of soda then add 60g of the butter and continue stirring until it's melted. In a large bowl sift in the flour, then mix in 125g of the sugar. Make a well in the centre then pour in the date mixture, followed by the egg. Mix it all together, then spoon evenly into the muffin holes and bake in the centre of the oven for about 20 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean from the middle of one of the cakes.

For the sauce, put the golden syrup, cream, the remaining sugar and butter in a small pan and stir over a low/moderate heat for about 4 minutes, until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil then simmer for a further 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. To serve turn the warm cakes out, pierce them a few times with a skewer then pour over some of the sauce. Mission complete!

Friday, 4 November 2011

White Chocolate and Orange Muffins

I think white chocolate and orange work really good together, but if you fancy another combination this is a really good basic muffin recipe. Also, I've used orange extract, which you can pick up in the supermarket these days, but if you struggle to get hold of that vanilla works great as well. This mix will make about 12 muffins.

Prep time: 15 Mins
Baking time: 20 - 25 Mins
125ml Vegetable Oil
200g Caster Sugar
2 Large Eggs
1Tsp Orange Extract
250g Plain Flour
1/2Tsp Baking Powder
250g Plain Yoghurt
150g White Chocolate (Chopped up roughly)

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6 and line 12 cup muffin tray with cases. In a large bowl whisk together the sugar and the eggs then slowly pour in the oil, followed by the orange extract. Sift in half of the flour and baking powder, stir in half the yoghurt, then sift in the rest of the flour and baking powder followed by the rest of the yoghurt. Fold through the chocolate then spoon evenly into the muffin tray. 

Bake in the centre of the oven for 20-25 mins, until a skewer or sharp knife can be cleanly removed from the centre. Leave to cool on a wire rack. How easy is that!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Nigel Slater Pear and Chocolate Crumble

Found this recipe in the Observer last Sunday and just tried it out. It's fantastic, rich and sumptuous, with a beautiful marriage of flavours and textures. Really easy too!