Saturday, 31 December 2011

New Year, New Chocolate & Apricot Tart

Any New Year plans we had were scuppered by coming down with the flu the day before. However, it would've been too depressing not to do ANYTHING vaguely celebratory on New Year's Eve, so in my mildly feverish state I dragged myself into the kitchen and made this delicious tart before hopping back into bed to save my energy for the glass of fizz with Mr Eve at midnight. It's a yummy combination of sweet pastry, apricot jam laced with lemon, and a soft, dark mousseline chocolate topping.

Bear in mind when casting a critical eye over this tart that it was the first time I've ever tried to make pastry, and I had a fever as I made it. So I didn't roll out the pastry thin enough, I overcooked the edges of the tart a little and as I was using a slightly smaller size tart tin I poured a bit too much chocolate filling into the pastry case. But hey, it was my first time at making pastry! And it tasted bloody gorgeous! Happy New Year and here's to a wonderful 2012 all you lovely people!

By the talented mistress of tarts, Tamasin Day-Lewis, from her book The Art of the Tart. Buy the book on Amazon here
Serves 8-10

for the sweet pastry:
225g plain flour
75g icing sugar, sifted
2 egg yolks
150g unsalted butter

1. Turn the oven to 200C (180C fan ovens) and get a 25cm or 30cm tart tin.

2. Using a food processor or food mixer, make the pastry by blending the icing sugar, plain flour and butter together.

3. Next add the egg yolks, and blend again until the mixture is well combined.

4. Shape the pastry into a ball and wrap in cling film, before leaving it to cool in the fridge for 30 minutes.

5. When the time is up, flour a rolling board and pin, and roll out the pastry so that it lines the tart tin.

6. To prepare to blind bake the chilled pastry circle, cut a circle of greaseproof paper and place it over the circle base, before covering with ceramic baking beans (or kidney beans or any kind of uncooked bean). Blind bake for 15 minutes, then remove the baking beans and greaseproof paper.

7. Now prick the base of the pastry with a fork, before putting back in the oven to back for another 5 minutes.

for the filling:
125g apricot jam
juice of half a lemon
180g unsalted butter
180g good dark chocolate
125g caster sugar
4 eggs, room temperature

8. Turn the heat of the oven down to 180C (160C fan ovens) before getting to work on the apricot element. Mix the apricot jam and lemon juice together. Then spread it evenly over the pastry base of the tart.

9. Next, melt the butter and chocolate in a bain mairie, a bowl over a pan of just simmering water. When melted, take the bowl off the heat to allow the mixture to cool a little.

10. Meanwhile, in a larger bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together until pale and foamy.

11. Using a wooden or metal spoon gently stir the chocolate mixture into the eggs and sugar until just combined.

12. Pour the filling into the pastry case. If your tart case is 25cm as opposed to 30cm, then you won't use all the chocolate filling - more spoonfuls for licking out the bowl I say!

13. Bake the tart for 20 minutes until the chocolate has formed a slight crust.

14. Once baked, leave to cool for a while, before taking out of the tin and scatter flaked almonds ontop if you like. Serve with double cream, creme fraiche or vanilla ice cream.

This tart was baked while listening to James Brown, The 40th Anniversary Collection

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Raspberry, Coconut & Passionfruit Cake

Yesterday I was faced with a cake dilemma. We had more family coming to stay, to join the throng of us already here, and we're all thoroughly overfed by now. What to bake that would be suitably celebratory but taste light and fresh after all the christmas excesses of chocolate and cream, rich fruit cake and spicy gingerbread? In the end I created a simple raspberry and coconut cake with a pretty passionfruit glaze. It is so gorgeous, in both taste and looks, that I've had to hide some to feed friends tomorrow, otherwise my greedy family would have had the lot!

Cake base & Passionfruit glaze recipe my own.

Serves 10

200g unsalted butter, room temperature
200g caster sugar
200g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 eggs
2 and a half handfuls of raspberries
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 and a half handfuls dessicated coconut

1. Turn oven to 180C (160C fan ovens). Grease and line a 20cm round baking tin.

2. Cream the butter and sugar by beating thoroughly together.

3. In a large bowl break in the 1st egg, and beat well. Add the 2nd egg, plus the baking powder and a spoon of the sieved flour and beat again. Do the same with the 3rd egg. Finally, fold in the 4th egg along with the rest of the sieved flour and the vanilla extract. Stir until the batter is totally combined.

4. Stir in the dessicated coconut.

5. Roll the raspberries in a little extra flour, before mixing them gently into the batter using a metal or wooden spoon. Be careful not to over mix, just a gentle slow stir once or twice is enough.

6. Pour the batter into the cake tin, smoothing it down with a spatula, and bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes. You'll know it's done when the skewer comes out clean.

for the passionfruit glaze:
3 passionfruit, pulp scooped out
4 tablespoons of caster sugar
juice of half a lemon

8. When the cake is cool, stir together the sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan.

9. Add the passionfruit pulp, and place the saucepan over a low heat hob, letting it simmer for about 10 minutes. If the mixture is too thick then add a little water to thin it.

10. Carefully spoon the glaze over the cake, letting it drip down the sides. Leave it to settle a little for about 15 minutes.

This cake was idly baked to the sounds of Kate Bush's album 50 Words for Snow

Monday, 26 December 2011

Nigella's Gluten Free Chocolate Cloud Cake

Happy Boxing Day everyone! Here's hoping you all had a wonderfully lazy and indulgent Christmas.

As none of us in the Eve household like traditional Christmas Cake, it's become a tradition over the years for my family to feast on Chocolate Cake and Fruit Cake on Christmas Day. The Murrambigee fruit cake was baked a week or so ago, and on Christmas Eve my toddler niece and nephew joined me in baking their first ever cake, Nigella's wonderful Chocolate Cloud Cake. Like a souffle, this cake needs no flour which makes it great for those with gluten intolerances, and it tastes oh so melt in the mouth with the rich chocolate base and the fluffy whipped cream topping. The twin toddlers my niece and nephew did the dusting and threw on some wafer butterflies with festive abandon before we all tucked in! My ideal delicious no fuss idle celebration cake.

By Nigella Lawson, it can be found in her book Nigella Bites, and also on her website, see it here.
Apparently her recipe originates from one by Richard Sax.

Serves 10

125g butter, room temperature
250g dark chocolate, minimum 70% cocoa solids
6 eggs: 2 whole & 4 separated
175g caster sugar
2 tablespoons Cointreau, optional (not if children are eating it)
grated zest of 1 orange, optional

1. Turn the oven 180C (160C fan ovens) and grease and line a 20cm cake tin.

2. Break the chocolate into pieces and melt over a bain maire (a bowl over a pan of almost simmering water). When melted, take off the heat and add the butter to melt into the chocolate until combined.

3. In a large bowl, whisk the 2 whole eggs and 4 egg yolks with 75g of the caster sugar, then stir in the melted chocolate and butter into the mixture with a wooden spoon. Next add the grated orange zest, and Cointreau if using.

4. In a second bowl, whisk the 4 egg whites til pale and foamy, then add the sugar gradually and beat until the whites are holding their shape but not too stiff.

5. Add a spoonful of the beaten egg white to the chocolate batter in the 1st bowl, then carefully and gently fold in the rest of the whites to batter.

6. Pour the batter into the cake tin, and bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes, until the cake has risen and cracked and a skewer in the centre comes out clean.

7. Let the cake cool in its tin on a wire rack. The middle sinks as it cools.

for the topping:

500ml double cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cointreau (not if children are eating it)
half a teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting decoration
glace fruit, fresh fruit or wafer butterflies for decoration

8. Before serving, put the cake - still in its tin - on a plate or cake stand, and remove from the tin.

9. Whip the cream until soft, then stir in the vanilla extract and Cointreau if using.

10. Beat the cream until it is firm but not stiff.

11. Spread the centre of the cake with whipped cream, and spread it out to cover the top of the cake.

12. Finally, dust with cocoa powder and decorate with whatever you fancy, the messier the better if the kids are decorating!

This cake was idly baked with my niece and nephew while listening to Christmas Carols on the radio.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Sticky Gluten Free Gingerbread

This is the stickiest, tastiest gingerbread loaf you can bake, particularly as the longer you leave it the stickier it becomes. I discovered this lovely moist recipe from River Cottage, and turned it gluten free, for an ideal easy-to-bake and easy-to-eat loaf cake to feed our family over Christmas.

Adapted from the recipe in a River Cottage Baking booklet by The Telegraph newspaper. You can buy the River Cottage baking book by Pam Corbin from Amazon here.

Serves 8-10

100g golden syrup
100g black treacle
75g unsalted butter
75g light muscovado sugar
150g plain flour
1 tsp ground ginger
half a tsp mixed spice
half a tsp ground cinnamon
1 egg, lightly beaten
75ml milk
grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
half a tsp bicarb of soda
85g finely chopped stem ginger in syrup (drained)

1. Turn the oven to 170C (150C fan ovens) and grease and line a 1lb loaf tin.

2. Heat the treacle, golden syrup, butter and sugar in a saucepan over a low heat, stirring gently.

3. Stir until the butter has melted and the ingredients are well combined.

4. In a large bowl, throw in the sifted flour, ground ginger, mixed spice and cinnamon.
Then make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, and pour in the cooled treacle mixture.

5. Next add the egg, lemon zest and milk, and stir gently to mix using a wooden or metal spoon.

6. Dissolve the bicarb of soda in a tablespoon of hot water and then pour it into the batter, before adding the chopped ginger. Stir gently to combine.

7. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin, and bake for approx 50 minutes. You'll know it's done when the top springs back under your finger, and a skewer comes out clean.

8. When baked, leave to cool in the tin for 20 minutes before placing onto a wire rack or plate to cool.

9. Ideally, leave for 3-4 days before eating, to make it extra sticky. Serve with cream or buttered like bread. It keeps for 2 weeks in an airtight tin, and also freezes well.

This cake was idly baked while listening to Nick Drake's album Way to Blue

Saturday, 17 December 2011

4 Tier Coffee & Walnut Birthday Cake

I didn't mean to make this cake so tall. I'd planned a normal 2 tier cake for Mr Eve's birthday, but then forgot to add the baking powder to the batter, and so decided to bake another set of sponges to try again. It turned out the second attempt didn't rise much higher than the first, so rather than waste cake (a terrible sin in my book), I put all the sponges together to make a rather comical looking high rise tower of cake.

Coffee & Walnut is a deservedly classic flavour combination, one of Mr Eve's favourites, and this version is as scrumptious to taste as it is fun to see. For a more conventionally delicate and smaller layer cake, just halve the ingredient quantities for the batter and the buttercream.

Adapted from the recipe in a River Cottage Baking booklet by The Telegraph newspaper. You can buy the River Cottage baking book by Pam Corbin from Amazon here.

Serves 16

400g plain flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
400g unsalted butter, room temperature
200g light muscovado sugar
200g caster sugar
6 eggs, room temperature
100ml coffee essence (or 2 tablespoons instant coffee dissolved in 2 tablespoons boiling water)
200g chopped walnuts
85-100ml milk

1. Turn the oven to 180C, and grease and line four 18 inch sandwich baking tins.

2. Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until light and fluffy.

3. Add the eggs one at a time, with a spoonful of the flour after each one, and beat well after each addition.

4. Mix in the coffee essence or dissolved instant coffee.

5. Next sift the flour and baking powder into the cake batter, stirring it in gently with a wooden or metal spoon. Finally, add the walnuts, and stir gently again until just combined.

6. Distribute the batter evenly between the four cake tins, and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes. You'll know the cakes are done when the tops spring back under your finger, and a skewer comes out clean.

7. Leave to cool in their tins for 20 minutes, before placing onto wire racks or plates to cool further.

for the buttercream:

180g unsalted butter, softened
375g icing sugar
6 teaspoons coffee essence or 6 teaspoons instant coffee dissolved in 6 teaspoons of boiling water
50g chopped walnuts

8. To make the coffee buttercream, beat the butter until creamy and then add the sifted icing sugar and coffee flavouring, beating thoroughly until well combined.

9. When the cakes are cool, place one on a large plate, then spread with a layer of buttercream.

10. Place the second cake ontop, pressing down carefully and firmly, before spreading the top of that cake with more buttercream and placing the third ontop.

11. Spread the third cake with buttercream, then sandwich with the top, fourth, cake.

12. Finally, spread the leftover buttercream generously over the top cake. Dot with more chopped walnuts.

for the chocolate heart topper, optional:

50g dark chocolate, chopped into chunks

13. To make the topper, melt the chopped chocolate in a bain maire (a bowl over a pan of simmering water).

14. Once melted, take off the heat and pour into a piping bag with the smallest circle nozzle. If you don't have this you can make a piping bag by snipping a hole in the corner of a freezer bag.

15. Next line a baking sheet or tray with parchment or baking paper. Pipe chocolate onto the paper in a heart shape, making sure that all the lines join up. Then place the sheet into the fridge to chill the topper for 10 minutes.

16. Using a spatula, gently lift the topper from the paper, and place it atop the cake.

17. Serve in small slices with cream.

This cake was idly baked to the sounds of the Cello Suites No.s 4-6 by Bach.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Gluten Free, Dairy Free Christmas Fruit Cake: Murrambidgee Cake

I have a confession to make: I hate Christmas cake. Can't stand the stuff. The dense claggy crumb, the overly sweet marzipan and royal icing, it's just never done it for me. Not to mention all that hoopla with baking the cake a month in advance, soaking the fruit and rolling the marzipan and cutting pristine holly leaves out of ready to roll icing. It's a cake to be baked by a perfectionist baker, not an idle one.

So instead I've been searching my cookery books to find the perfect festive fruit cake, one that's quick and easy to make and scrumptious and subtle to taste. This wonderful recipe by Sophie Grigson is ideal, a family favourite created by her mother the great food writer Jane Grigson, which tastes gorgeous whether made on Christmas Eve or a week before. It's surprisingly healthy, consisting more of fruit and nut than cake. I've turned it gluten free and made a few other adaptations to use up our store cupboard glace fruit and nuts, but this is still very much the Murrambidgee cake of the Grigson family fame.

Adapted from the recipe in Sophie Grigson's book The Country Kitchen. Buy the book on Amazon here

Serves 10-12

150g walnut halves
50g whole almonds
50g whole hazelnuts
50g pistachio nuts, shelled
50g pine nuts
250g stoned halved dates, or 100g sultanas & 150g dried peach halves
175g glace cherries
100g seedless raisins
100g chopped candied peel
finely grated zest of 1 lemon or lime
100g gluten free flour mix (Dove's Farm or M&S)
half a teaspoon baking powder
half a teaspoon salt
150g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
half a tablespoon thin honey
brandy or rum

1. Turn the oven to 150C (130C fan ovens). Grease and line a round 20cm baking tin.

2. Roast the hazels, almonds and pistachios for 10 minutes in the oven, then leave to cool before rubbing the skins off the hazels.

3. Chop the nuts and dates or peaches in half.

4. In a large bowl, mix all the nuts, candied peel, lemon zest and fruit together. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt on top.

5. In a second bowl, beat the eggs and vanilla extract together.

6. Add the beaten egg and vanilla, and stir until well combined.

7. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin.

8. Bake in the oven for 1 and a half or 2 hours. You'll know it's done when a skewer comes out clean.

9. When baked, leave to cool in the tin for 20 minutes before running a knife inside the edges to lever the cake carefully out onto a wire rack.

10. Place the cake on a clean cloth, before piercing a few holes with the skewer into the top of the cake, and pouring the alcohol in.

for the optional topping:

apricot jam
2 teaspoons lemon juice
60ml water
walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, pistachio nuts
glace cherries
glace ginger
candied peel
marron glaces
anything else you fancy

11. Heat the apricot jam, lemon juice and water in a saucepan over a medium heat. Boil for 10-15 minutes, before forcing through a sieve or wire strainer. Brush the liquid glaze over the top and side of the cake.

12. Place the topping fruit and nuts over the top of the cake, press down firmly before brushing with more glaze. Leave to cool and set.

13. Carefully wrap the cake in greaseproof paper, and then in cling film or kitchen foil. Store in an airtight cake tin.

This cake was idly baked while listening to Arcade Fire's album The Suburbs.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Gluten Free, Nut Free: Salted Caramel Meringue Kisses

These are the first meringues I've ever made, and quite frankly they are a doddle. If you've a working electric whisk then half the battle is won. Dinky, sweet and tasty, they make great presents to give for Christmas. I've frozen them, unfilled, to defrost on Christmas Eve and then spread with salted caramel or lemon curd. The great thing about these meringues for anyone with allergies is that they're naturally flour and nut free. If you'd like to make them dairy free too then you could replace the salted caramel with raspberry jam.

Adapted from the meringue recipe by Joanne Wheatley on the BBC Food Website. See her recipe here

Makes about 40 mini meringues, so 20 filled kisses

3 egg whites, room temperature
1 teaspoon lemon juice
150g caster sugar

1. Turn the oven low, to 110C (90C fan ovens).

2. Line baking sheets or trays with non stick baking paper (you may need to do this in shifts if you only have one baking sheet or tray). Lightly brush the baking paper with vegetable oil.

3. Whisk the egg whites and lemon juice in a large bowl until they form stiff peaks.

4. Next add one third of the caster sugar, and whisk again until smooth and glossy.

5. Fold in the rest of the sugar.

6. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag with a small fluted or plain round nozzle, and pipe small rounds onto the baking paper, allowing space between each one.

7. Bake in the oven for approx 2 hours, then take out and leave to cool totally on a wire rack.

8. Store in an airtight container until needed, or wrap carefully in clingfilm and freeze in freezer bags, removing from the freezer 2 hours before filling and serving.

For the kiss filling: 
shop bought jar of salted caramel

9. To serve, spread the flat side of half the meringues with about a teaspoon of salted caramel, then sandwich together. If you prefer you could spread them with lemon curd and whipped cream instead.

10. To give these meringue kisses as presents, present them in mini cupcake cases, in pretty boxes or bags.

These meringue kisses were idly baked to the soundtrack of the film Broken Flowers.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Christmas Muffins

I made these simple muffins the other day so that they could be frozen and eaten over Christmas, but that didn't stop me 'testing' one of them, and Nico the kitten licking a second to death. The thing is, they just smell so good, and the flavours of cinnamon, ginger, dried cranberry, mixed peel and nut work brilliantly together.

Base adapted from the recipe at BBC Good Food online. See the recipe here
Makes 12 medium sized muffins

300g self raising flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
100g dark muscovado or light muscovado sugar
100g walnuts, broken into small pieces
70g dried cranberries
70g mixed peel
2 teaspoons mixed spice
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
300 ml milk
2 eggs, room temperature
100g unsalted butter, room temperature
12 glace cherries or fresh cranberries, optional
1 tablespoon icing sugar, optional
12 dried or fresh bay leaves, optional

1. Turn oven to 190C (170C fan ovens). Fill a 12 hole muffin tray with medium muffin cases.

2. Place all the ingredients except the eggs, milk and butter in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients.

3. In a smaller bowl, beat the eggs until light and frothy.

4. Next, gently melt the butter over a low heat.

5. Pour the eggs, milk and melted butter into the well of the dry ingredients. Stir the batter gently until combined.

6. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cases, and bake in the oven for approx 20 minutes. You'll know they're done when a skewer comes out clean.

7. When baked, leave the muffins to cool on a wire rack.

8. When the muffins are cool, you can either freeze them wrapped in kitchen foil and placed in freezer bags, or you can eat them there and then!

9. To decorate, roll glace cherries or fresh cranberries in icing sugar, and place one atop each muffin. Add a bay leaf rolled in icing sugar if you fancy. If you want the cherries and leaves to be fixed securely, you could always wet the icing sugar to make glace icing, spooning icing over the tops before sticking the fruit topping.

These muffins were idly baked to the 1 O'Clock News on BBC Radio Four, and lovingly licked by Nico the kitten

Monday, 28 November 2011

Wholemeal Apple Crumble Cake

What do you get if you cross a crumble with a cake? Why crumble cake of course! This is a subtly spiced dark winter version of your classic apple crumble, made with sweet woody cinnamon, treacly dark muscovado sugar and a healthy wholemeal crumb. If you'd like to make a sweeter summer version of this cake which would rise more, then just swop the wholemeal flour with plain flour, and the muscovado with caster sugar. It's one of those cakes that helps me work through our glut of autumnal garden apples and smells incredible as it bakes in the oven. I've made this crumble cake in advance to take to some friends who we'll be supping with this weekend, so there are no photos of the cut cake or cake slices, sorry.

Serves 8-10
Inspired by a recipe given on the Waitrose website. See their recipe here.

for the base:
3 eggs, room temperature
170g dark muscovado sugar
150g wholemeal flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
50g raisins
170g unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon runny honey
1 tablespoon milk, optional

for the apples:
3 eating apples, not too sweet
1 or 2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
for the crumble topping:
85g caster sugar and/or dark muscovado sugar,
85g wholemeal or plain flour
60g rolled oats
85g unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Turn the oven to 180C (160C fan oven). Grease and line a 20cm/23cm round spring form cake tin. Get out 2 small bowls and 1 large mixing bowl.

2. Peel, and slice the apples thinly, then scatter them with 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and set to one side in the first small bowl.

3. In the second bowl, mix together the crumble ingredients by hand, until the mixture has the consistency of breadcrumbs. Put to one side.

4.  In the third, largest bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together thoroughly for approx 10-15 minutes.
You need to get it to the point where the eggs and sugar have paled and leave a trail when you lift the whisk.

5. While the eggs and sugar are whisking, melt the butter over a low heat. Let the butter cool slightly before gently folding it into the pale frothy eggs and sugar with a wooden spoon. If you stir too violently at this point you'll prevent the batter from rising in the oven, so gentleness is the key.

6. Next sieve the wholemeal flour and baking powder into the batter, again stirring very gently with a wooden spoon. Add the raisins and honey, and stir until just combined.

7. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin. Carefully place the apple slices over the batter, and finish off by scattering the crumble mixture over the top of the cake.

8. Bake in the oven for approx 50-55 minutes. Check it after 45 minutes, and if the crumble is browning too quickly then cover the top of the cake with a sheet of kitchen foil before putting in the oven to continue baking.

9. You 'll know the cake is baked when a skewer comes out clean. Leave it to cool in the cake for 15 minutes before placing onto a wire rack or plate. Serve warm with vanilla icecream or cold with some cream.

This cake was idly baked while listening to Peter Pears singing Winter Words by Benjamin Britten

Friday, 25 November 2011

Orange & Marmalade Lattice Tart

This is the first time I've ever used shortcrust pastry, adapted for this tart from a lovely recipe by Tamasin Day-Lewis. I made several rookie errors in this bake, but the end result tasted divine, so I include it despite my knowledge that it has not been baked in the 'correct' way. My first error was that old chestnut of misreading the recipe: tired and idle, I added the orange juice to the zest before attempting to beat in the butter and sugar, causing the mixture to curdle and creating the treacle tartesque texture of the filling. My second was to use a silicone flan tin which I'd got free with a magazine. Silicone is great to use when baking muffins or cupcakes, but I realised when trying to release the warm tart from the tin that the silicone wasn't strong enough to support the bake and it started to crack at the edges as I moved it. Booo. So, note to self, next time use a proper loose based tart tin and read the recipe properly! And to you dear readers, learn from my mistakes and you will create a tart that looks and tastes truly gorgeous.

Adapted from Tamasin Day-Lewis's recipe in her fabulous book The Art of the Tart. Buy the book on Amazon here
I added the pastry lattice to the tart.

Serves 8

375 ready made and rolled shortcrust pastry, chilled
2 egg whites, beaten
3 tablespoons marmalade
grated zest and juice of 4 oranges
225g vanilla or golden caster sugar
125g unsalted butter, room temperature
4 eggs

1. Roll out three quarters of the ready made shortcrust pastry into a circle that's big enough to line the 22cm tart tin with a little overhang. Place the pastry circle into the tin, pressing it down at the edges. Shape the leftover pastry into a ball, cover with clingfilm and put this and the pastry circle in the fridge for 30 minutes.

2. Turn the oven to 190C (170C fan ovens).

3. To prepare to blind bake the chilled pastry circle, cut a circle of greaseproof paper and place it over the circle base, before covering with ceramic baking beans (or kidney beans or any kind of uncooked bean). Blind bake for 15 minutes, then remove the baking beans and greaseproof paper.

4. While the pastry is still blind baking, in a small bowl beat 1 egg white. Once baked, prick the pastry circle base and brush it with the beaten egg white before putting it back into the oven for another 5 minutes.

5. Remove again from the oven and using a knife spread the marmalade over the base of the tart as it cools.

6. In a large bowl, mix the orange zest with the butter and sugar, creaming them together until well combined.

7. Beat the 4 eggs until fluffy and pale, then add them to the butter, sugar and zest mixture.

8. Next place the bowl over a bain mairie (a pan of just simmering water), and stir the mixture until the sugar has dissolved.

9. Take off the heat, and stir the orange juice into the mixture.

10. Pour the mixture over the marmalade spread pastry base.

11. Take the chilled ball of leftover pastry and roll it out. Cut strips of pastry into approx 1cm wide strips, and carefully place the strips over the orange and marmalade filling. I didn't bother, but if you want to make it look especially smart you could also place a few long strips around the edge of the tart to create a rim.

12. In another small bowl whisk the 2nd egg white until fluffy, before brushing the pastry lattice (and the rim, if made) with the beaten egg.

13. Bake in the oven for approx 25 minutes. Serve warm or cold, with cream or custard.

This tart was idly baked while listening to Sorry I Haven't A Clue on BBC Radio 4

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Snowstorm Birthday: Coconut, Ginger & Cherry Cake

I created this gorgeous layer cake for my father's birthday, a variation of the cherry and almond cake I've blogged about before. The addition of glace ginger gives it a particularly festive zinginess, ideal to balance out the gluttonous sweetness of the coconut and glace cherry. A very special and scrumptious cake. Dad loved it, and he certainly wasn't the only one!

Cake base adapted from the cake recipe in Joanna Isle's lovely little book from the 1980s, A Proper Tea buy the book on Amazon  
Topping and other additions my own recipe.

For the base:
115g glace cherries
115g glace ginger
200g self-raising flour
pinch of salt (optional)
200g caster sugar
3 eggs, beaten
50g ground almonds
50g dessicated coconut
200g butter
half a tsp almond extract

1. Turn the oven to 160C (140C fan oven). Grease and line a 23 inch baking tin or two 18 inch tins.

2. Halve the glace cherries and glace ginger and roll them in a little extra flour, before putting them to one side. Rolling them in flour may stop them from all sinking to the bottom of the cake when it's baking (although, being an idle cook, I don't worry about that sort of thing).

3. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until creamed.

4. Add the first beaten egg to the creamed mixture, then sieve in a little of the flour and stir gently before adding the other 2 eggs, and the rest of the flour, salt if using, and almond extract a bit at a time.

5. Throw in the cherries, ginger, coconut and ground almonds. Stir the cake mixture gently by hand with a wooden spoon until the fruit and nuts are well combined.

6. Pour the batter into the prepared baking tin or tins and bake for approx 50 minutes, until the tops have browned and a skewer inserted comes out clean. Leave in the tins for 10 minutes before transferring onto a wire rack or plate.

for the filling:
4-6 tablespoons cherry jam (I used M&S red cherry conserve)

7. When the cakes have cooled, spread cherry jam over the bottom cake, sandwiching the other cake ontop.

for the topping:
100g icing sugar
2 tablespoons water or coconut milk
3 or 4 large handfuls coconut curls or dessicated coconut
1 large handful glace cherries
1 large handful glace ginger

8. Make glace icing by whisking the water and icing sugar together until a firm but runny consistency. Pour the icing over the top cake, letting it drip down the sides. Quickly scatter coconut over the top cake before the icing dries. Add the glace cherries and ginger to decorate, then sprinkle more coconut on top.

9. Leave for half an hour to let the icing and topping settle, before serving the cake with cream, custard or icecream.

This cake was idly baked while listening to The Velvet Underground & Nico's debut album.

Lemon Curd Cupcakes

My gorgeous lemon curd cupcakes make the ideal store cupboard bakes. At this time of year, when our fruit cages are bare, all I need is some shop bought lemon curd and one solitary lemon to make these simple cupcakes sing. Very moreish, very pretty, and with a pleasingly generous dollop of curd inside the heart of each cake.

My own, makes 12 medium muffin-sized cupcakes

for the base:
125g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
125g unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
125g light muscovado sugar
finely grated zest of 1 small lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice

1. Turn the oven to 180 (160 fan) and place medium cupcake cases in a 12 muffin baking tray. Cream the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl, until smooth and fluffy.

2. Throw in the eggs one at a time and beat in, adding a spoonful of flour after each one. Then stir in the lemon zest and tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice.

3. Next sieve the flour and baking powder into the mixture, stirring gently until the batter is well combined.

4. Spoon the batter into each cupcake case, until they are approximately two-thirds full (you want to leave enough room for the cakes to rise).

5. Place in the oven for 20 minutes. You'll know the cakes are done when a skewer comes out clean.

6. Take out of the oven and leave for a few minutes, before moving the cupcakes in their cases to a wire rack or plate to cool.

for the filling:
approx 180g lemon curd

7. Once the cupcakes are cool, use an apple corer or a sharp knife to remove the centre of the cake, then fill the hole with lemon curd.

8. When all the cupcakes have been filled, spread a little extra lemon curd over the top of each.

for the icing:
225g unsalted butter, room temperature
425g icing sugar
50ml milk
1 teaspoon lemon juice
food colouring tint paste (I used Primrose, both by Sugarflair)
wafer butterflies, sugar flowers or lemon peel curls to decorate, optional

8. Beat the butter until creamy. Stir in the milk and mix together. 

9. Sift half the icing sugar into the mixture, and stir thoroughly, before adding the other half and continuing to stir until it is a thick paste. Take care stirring the icing sugar, as this is a bit messy, I tend to wear an apron as I've been known to accidentally drench myself in it when stirring too vigorously!

10. When the icing is combined, the only thing left to do is to colour it. With colour tint pastes you only need to add a pin prick amount before stirring it in to give the icing a beautiful pastel colour.

11. Get a pint glass and place a piping bag with a nozzle inside the glass, so that the nozzle is on the bottom of the glass. Fold the piping bag edges over the glass rim. Spoon the paste into the piping bag, then carefully take the bag out of the glass and twist the end of the bag so that the icing is well contained.

12. Pipe the icing over the cupcakes and decorate with sugar flowers or wafer butterflies, lemon peel curls or anything else you fancy. To pipe a rose, you start piping in the middle of the cupcake and work outwards. To pipe a classic swirl, you start piping at the outer edge of the cupcake and work inwards.

These cupcakes were idly baked to the sound of the Mazzy Star album She Hangs Brightly 

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Gluten Free Marmalade Cake

This marmalade cake is moist, light and gorgeous, with the added benefit of being gluten free. The chopped mixed peel and orange slice topping give it a festive look just right for winter, and it makes a delicious, easy and healthy alternative to a traditional heavy christmas cake. To make it even more celebratory you could double the base quantities and turn it into a layer cake, spreading a good thick splodge of marmalade or whipped double cream between the two sponges. The quality of marmalade will have a direct impact on the taste of this cake, so try to buy the best you can.

Adapted from the great recipe by Nigel Slater. See his recipe at the Guardian newspaper website here
Serves 8

for the cake base:
175g unsalted butter, room temperature
175g caster sugar
175g gluten free plain flour mix (Dove's Farm or M&S recommended)
1 large orange (for zest and juice)
3 eggs
75g good quality marmalade

1. Turn oven to 180C (160 fan), and grease and line an 18 or 20cm round cake tin.

2. Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until light and fluffy.

3. Finely grate the orange, putting the zest to one side for later.

4. Beat in the eggs one at a time, stirring well between each addition.

5. Add the marmalade and grated orange zest, and beat again until well combined.

6. Next gently stir in the gluten free flour using a wooden spoon.

7. Finally add the juice of half the orange, mixing it gently into the batter.

8. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin, and bake in the oven for about 35-40 minutes. You'll know the cake's done when the top bounces back under your thumb and a skewer comes out clean.

9. When done, take the cake out of the oven and leave to cool in the tin for about 20 minutes, before carefully placing it on a wire rack to cool further.

for the orange topping:
100g icing sugar, sieved
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 or 3 large handfuls of chopped mixed peel
2 large oranges, chopped into thin segments

10. When the cake is cool. you can add the topping. To make the orange icing glaze, combine the icing sugar and orange juice in a bowl and beat with a fork until the icing has a runny consistency. Spoon the icing over the cake, letting it fall down the sides.

11. Place the slices of orange around the outside edge of the top of the cake. Fill the middle of the top with chopped mixed peel, and then leave it to set for half an hour. Serve with just a cuppa if you're eating this for tea; or with a healthy drizzling of cream and the accompaniment of a good glass of wine as an after supper treat.

This cake was idly baked to the sounds of Marianne Faithfull's album 20th Century Blues

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Blackberry & Apple Tarte Tatin

This delicious rustic and easy twist on the traditional Tarte Tatin is quite a find. You won't need a fancy ovenproof pan as you would with most Tatin recipes, a cake tin does the job just as well. Nor will you need to take the time to make the puff pastry from scratch, for ready made is really where it's at with this recipe. What a gorgeous dish, and with all the hard work taken out of it, ideal for an idle baker.

Adapted from the recipe given in Good Housekeeping's Easy Bakes, Cakes & Puds Summer 2011, which is still on sale in national newsagents. For more information go to the Good Housekeeping website here.
I've added the cinnamon and star anise, and changed their recipe from raspberry & apple to blackberry & apple, for an extra autumnal taste.

Serves 6

75g butter
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
150g caster sugar, plus a little extra
6 Cox or other eating apples, washed,
125g blackberries, washed
375g ready made puff pastry
5 tbsp double cream, plus extra to serve

1. Butter the base and sides of a 23 inch roundspringform cake tin, before sprinkling a little caster sugar over the base.

2. Peel, core and halve the apples.

3. In a frying pan, heat 25g diced cubes of the butter over a medium heat until foaming gently. Then add the prepared apple halves to the butter, cut side facing up and in one layer only. Throw in the star anise and cinnamon stick, and cook for 10-15 minutes until the apples start to caramelize.

4. Place the apple halves, still cut side up, onto the base of the baking tin. Next add the blackberries so that they nestle in the space around the circles of apple. Sprinkle over 1 teaspoon of the caster sugar and then put the tin to one side to let the apples cool down.

5. Turn the oven to 200C (180 fan ovens).

6. Roll out the pastry to a thickness just over 0.5cm. Then cut it into a 24cm circle.

7. Gently place the pastry circle over the apples and blackberries, and using a spoon lift the fruit to tuck the pastry down into the edges of the cake tin. This will help the pastry to hug the fruit as it bakes. Prick a few holes in the pastry to allow the steam out as it bakes.

8. Bake in the oven for about 35 minutes, until the pastry is golden.

9. While the Tarte Tatin is baking, you can make the butterscotch sauce. Heat the remaining 50g of butter over a low heat hob until melted.

10. Next gently stir the remaining caster sugar, plus the split vanilla pod, into the melted butter, so that it dissolves into it. Turn the heat up high and let the sauce bubble until it turns a light caramel brown colour. Then quickly and carefully remove from the heat and gently stir in the cream, making sure not to splash yourself with any of the sauce which will be very hot and could easily burn you.

11. When the Tarte Tatin is baked and the butterscotch sauce ready, place a large plate over the top of the cake tin and turn upside down gently. Carefully remove the tin, so that the Tarte is on the plate, before spooning butterscotch sauce over the top of the Tarte. The blackberries will have turned the apples and pastry a gorgeous pink.

12. Add some more blackberries for decoration, and perhaps a few herb leaves from the garden to decorate. Serve warm with more double cream and butterscotch sauce.

This Tarte Tatin was idly baked while listening to little Nico the kitten playing with a cardboard box

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Klaus's bread

Mr Eve was taught how to make this delicious, soft on the inside, crusty on the outside farmhouse loaf by his German chef stepfather Klaus, and he bakes it for us whenever he can. The taste and texture is in a different league to that of even bakery bought bread. All he's done is add a couple of tweaks to Klaus fantastic recipe. He's keen to stress that he's an inexperienced baker, but the recipe is so simple that he's baffled why people would use clunky bread making machines when the act of making the loaf is such a pleasure. For me the act of eating the loaf is even more of a pleasure! One more note from Mr Eve, if you want to bake bread then please refrain from adding any sugar to the dough: "Sugary bread is for numpties".

Adapted from one inherited from Klaus Boemke
Serves 8-10

650g bread flour: a third to a half of which should be strong white bread flour; the rest can be a combination of brown bread flour, wholemeal, granary, rye or spelt flour;
7-10g fast acting yeast;
a pinch of salt;
a couple of knobs of butter;
400ml tepid water

1. In a large bowl mix the bread flours together with the yeast.

2. Add a pinch of salt and several knobs of butter to the bowl, mixing it into the flour and yeast with a wooden spoon.

3. Add the water, making sure that it is tepid - neither hot nor cold.

4. With an electric whisk, mix the dough together for a couple of minutes until it's well combined and a solid enough consistency to be lifted out of the bowl in a ball. You might need to add a little more water if the dough feels too dry, or a little more flour if it feels too wet.

5. Now for the fun part; lift the dough ball out and knead, stretch, press and beat it with your hands for a few minutes to bring air into the loaf. Mr Eve likes to pretend it's George Osborne's face and give it a few good punches. Very therapeutic.

6. Put the kneaded dough back into the bowl, cover the bowl with a tea towel, and leave in a warm place for about 45 minutes to rise.

7. Shortly before the dough has finished rising, turn the oven on to 190C (170C fan ovens).

8. Grease a little butter onto the base of a baking tray, to stop the bread sticking as it bakes.

9. Take the risen dough out of the bowl, beat and knead the air out again, and shape it into a loaf, before placing it onto the baking tray.

10. Bake in the oven for about 40-45 minutes. To work out whether it's done at this point, turn the loaf upside down and pat the bottom a couple of times with the base of bread knife. You should hear a hollow sound.

10. Once baked, put the loaf on a wire rack or plate to cool. We like to cut and eat the bread while still hot, which makes the texture more soft and crumbly to slice; it will firm up as it cools. For lunch today we ate slices of this loaf topped with westcountry cheddar and large dollops of our friend Anne's delectable home made apple, date and walnut chutney. Yum!

This bread was idly baked by Mr Eve while we listened to Florence & The Machine's album Ceremonials

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Spiderweb Cupcakes

I was planning on baking and blogging these delicious halloween cuties earlier in the week, but then a certain little lady came into our lives and took all my attention.

Nico the kitten likes feather teasers, purring loudly, cat milk and having her stomach stroked. Now that she's sleeping I can press on with blogging my halloween cupcakes. but allow me one more photo please before I do. Aaaah the blissful life of a kitten.

Cupcake base recipe my own.
Chocolate icing adapted from the recipe Death By Chocolate Cupcake by Lisa Harris at Good Food Channel, see the recipe online here.
Spiderweb topper idea and design by Jessica Dodell-Fedder at, see it here.
Makes 12 large cupcakes.

for the batter:
150g unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
200g self raising flour
half a teaspoon baking powder
200g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100ml milk
80g dark chocolate (70% solids)
2 tablespoons cocoa powder

1. Turn oven to 180C (160C fan ovens). Fill a 12 hole muffin pan with medium sized cupcake cases.

2. In a large bowl, throw in all the batter ingredients except the milk, chocolate, and cocoa powder, and beat well until combined.

3. Next add the milk, and stir again.

4. Melt the chocolate over a low heat in a saucepan before leaving to cool for a moment. Add the cocoa powder and stir carefully. Then pour in the melted chocolate and continuing stirring gently until the batter is smooth and combined. 

5. Spoon the chocolate batter into the cases. Fill until they are two thirds full.

6. Put the muffin tray in the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes. You'll know they're done when a skewer comes out clean.

7. When done, leave the cupcakes for a couple of minutes before placing them on a wire rack to cool, and you can get on with the icing.

for the chocolate icing: 
50g cocoa powder
325g icing sugar, sifted
1 tbsp whole milk
225g unsalted butter, room temperature

8. Mix the icing sugar and cocoa powder in a large bowl. When combined, beat in the butter.

9. Add the milk, and whisk briskly for at least 2 minutes until smooth and the colour has lightened.

10. Use a palette knife or the back of a spoon to spread the icing over the cupcakes, before adding the spiderweb toppers.

for the spiderweb toppers:
150g white chocolate, broken into small pieces

11. Melt the white chocolate gently over a bain mairie (a bowl placed over a pan of almost simmering water). Once melted, take off the heat and pour into a piping bag with the smallest circle nozzle. If you don't have this you can make a piping bag by snipping a hole in the corner of a freezer bag.

12. Print out the spiderweb toppers template that you'll find here. Next line a baking sheet or tray with parchment or baking paper, and slip the spiderweb template underneath the paper. Pipe white chocolate onto the paper over each template, making sure that all the lines join up. It's worth practising this, if like me you've never made chocolate toppers before, as the first few may be a disaster. Continue until you're created 12 toppers, then place the sheet into the fridge to chill for 10 minutes.

13. Using a spatula, gently lift the toppers from the paper, and place one atop each iced cupcake.

These cupcakes were idly baked while listening to the Kings of Leon album Only By The Night.