I think pears are annoying. Lovely, but annoying. They sit around in the fruit bowl looking all delicious and they’re never ripe. Then, when one is ready to eat the rest immediately go ripe too and then you have to eat them all at once. Well I’m not standing for it any longer, I decided that I would use the pears while they are under ripe so I can enjoy them while waiting for the others to ripen. The word ripe has lost all meaning. These mini toffee pear pies are made from surprisingly few ingredients (if you buy readymade pastry) and are just perfect for celebrating the pear in all its I’m-never-quite-ready-ok-now-I’m-too-ready glory.
I love cheesecake. This recipe for mini cheesecake mess is a great way of using up almost anything sweet you’ve got hanging around and, if I do say so myself, look pretty cute too. A lovely little sweet treat for lunch or after dinner. Have you ever tried to make cheesecake (or cream cheese icing) with low fat soft cheese? It never seems to work for me and just ends up all runny and no good at all. I thought I’d give it a try with some Laughing Cow Extra Light to see if that would work, and use up some leftover festive food in the cupboards, and I was so pleased with how they turned out!
I have a secret and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who keeps this quiet. I love baking, but, most of the time it never turns out quite how I envisaged it would. Getting all of a huff in the kitchen when the butter is still too cold, spilling the ingredients even when I’m being extra careful and being super paranoid checking the oven temperature is an awful lot of hard work for something that turns out too flat, not quite right or sinks in the middle. Cakes, I’m looking at you. Frankly, I’ve had enough of aiming for perfection and frowning at anything that dares to come out of the oven less than 100% correct, and if it tastes good who cares if it looks a bit skewiff? Enter my Perfectly Imperfect Chocolate Cake.
You will need (for a 20cm tart):
For the pastry –
- 220g plain flour
- 120g butter (I used salted)
- Cold water
- 1 can dulce de leche
For the chocolate topping –
- 200g high cocoa chocolate
- 150ml double cream
- 25g salted butter
- Sea salt, I really like Cornish Sea Salt for this as I think it has a lovely clean flavour
I was so impressed with how my pastry case turned out I felt I needed to provide evidence that I had made it myself!
Make the pastry by rubbing the butter into the flour until you have a breadcrumb texture then bring the mixture together into a dough using a little cold water.
Knead the dough lightly on a floured surface then roll out and line a 20cm tart tin.
Cut or roll off the excess and prick the base with a fork.
I have been noticing more and more things in the hedgerows. Perhaps it’s due to the purchasing of a foraging handbook which has become the mainstay of my bedside table or maybe my observational skills have drastically improved. Whichever the reason it has meant even more slowing down and stopping on a walk; not irritating if you are me but rather tiresome if you are walking with me. Apparently.
You will need (for one finished cake):
- 1 sticky toffee and date cake mix
- 1 egg
- 125g unsalted butter
- 175ml boiling water
The instructions were really easy to follow and the kit contained everything including a butter measurer, a skewer to test doneness and baking paper. It smells lovely when you open the bag too thanks to the fresh vanilla in the sugar.
You start by greasing and lining a 20cm x 20cm tin and preheating the oven. The pre-weighed dates are mixed with boiling water to soften them. The sugar is mixed with butter before the flour is added. The egg and date mix is added after that. I’ve not made a cake with that method before but it worked a treat and was really easy to mix up. This goes into the oven for around 30 minutes.
I have wanted to attempt this classic French ‘King of Tarts’ for so long; the rhubarb seemed like a perfect addition. I have made many frangipanes in the past so just halved what I would normally put in my large fluted tart tin for this recipe.
You will need (for one finished galette des rois):
- 1 pack ready rolled puff pastry
- 3 large sticks of rhubarb cut into inch sized pieces
- 2 tbsp demerara sugar
- 75g unsalted butter, very soft
- 75g caster sugar
- 75g ground almonds
- 1 egg
- 2 tsp milk and 1 egg beaten together (for glazing)
Preheat the oven to 180C and put the rhubarb onto a baking tray in a single layer. Sprinkle over the demerara sugar and then toss the rhubarb in the sugar so it all gets nicely coated. Put this in the oven for 15 minutes to roast. When it’s done the rhubarb should have softened but retained its shape and be gently caramelised. Put the rhubarb to one side to cool. Leave the oven on after you remove the rhubarb as you’ll need it at 180C to bake the tart.
I have wanted to try making an enriched dough for a while so this was a perfect excuse. Mix together the flour, caster sugar and yeast in a bowl or mixer. Make a well in the centre and add the warm milk, egg and butter. Turn the mixer on or start to mix with your hands. Once mixed, knead the dough until it is nice and stretchy. Cover and leave in a warm place for 45-60 minutes or until doubled in size.
Remove the dough from the bowl and knock some of the air out. Divide the dough into two pieces and roll each piece out into a long rectangle. As you can see from the above picture an actual rectangle was hard for me to achieve but a bit of a jaunty angle here and there never harmed anyone. Spread a few spoons of the dulche de leche along the bottom two thirds of the long edge of the dough. Take half the banana and squeeze this onto the caramel towards the bottom edge of the dough. Top with half the chocolate chips.
The New Year is always full of optimism, resolutions and excitement. What is your resolution this year? Some people choose dieting/getting healthy/losing weight as their resolution and to those of you reading this who may have just started their path to a healthier lifestyle, I apologise. This recipe is not for those who strive for a smaller waist. This is pure, unashamed indulgence; layers of buttery shortbread sandwiched with dulce de leche, topped with salted caramel and dark chocolate. Not millionaire’s shortbread, but Zillionaire’s Shortbread.
Parkin is a traditional cake eaten on Bonfire Night so I made some a few days before the picnic as I had heard it is a cake better left before eating. This would be the perfect accompaniment to the warm gooey pears.