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