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Blueberry and Lime Bundt Cake

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Greetings from the blogging wilderness. I have moved house, unpacked a little and started to plan a lot. In the mean time, I have been quietly finding my way round my new oven (and planning its replacement). So, with an extension in the offing, blog posts won’t be super frequent, but I hope you will stay with me, and that the odd wee recipe like this will keep you interested.

It really is a super simple cake but, I think, very delicious. I tweaked and adapted Felicity Cloake’s Lemon Drizzle Cake recipe and ended up with this. If you want fruity, zingy, and moist, then this is the cake for you. It doesn’t need to be iced or served with cream. And it doesn’t need to be in a bundt tin: a loaf tin or even small round tin would be just as nice.

Ingredients:

175g of Butter

175g of Caster Sugar

3 medium eggs

4 Unwaxed Limes (3 might be enough if they are large)

100g of Self Raising Flour

75g of Ground Almonds

150g Fresh Blueberries plus a teaspoon of flour

Syrup:

Juice of the limes (about 100ml)

100g of Caster Sugar

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  1. Preheat the oven to 180C or 160C fan oven. Grease or spray your bundt tin (or any other shape that you want to use).
  2. Cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Zest the limes to give you three decent teaspoons of zest. Add this to the creamed butter and sugar and mix once more.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, with a teaspoon of flour after each addition to stop it from curdling.
  5. Once all the eggs are incorporated, tip the rest of the flour and ground almonds in, and fold in gently.DSC_0193
  6. Coat the blueberries in a teaspoon of flour, add most to the batter, and fold again.
  7. Carefully put the batter into the prepared tin and smooth gently. Scatter the remaining blueberries and gently press in to the batter.DSC_0196
  8. Bake for 30-35 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.DSC_0197
  9. Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out.DSC_0200
  10. Mix the 100g of caster sugar with the juice from the limes and slowly drizzle it over the cake, allowing it to absorb slowly. If you wish to hold some back for serving, do so.

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It is very moist and has a tender crumb. I hope you enjoy it as much as our family did.

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Speculaas Snowflakes

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There is no lengthy introduction to this recipe. I was given Gingerbread Wonderland for Christmas last year, but never got round to making any of the recipes in the book. Then I was recommended The Speculaas Spice Company later in the year. I decided to order some of their Speculaas spice blend in Autumn and to make Speculaas biscuits as gifts for my kids’ teachers for Christmas.

Steven, from The Speculass Spice Company, included a lot useful information about the spice blend, including a recipe. Their website has even more recipes. But I decided to make a new recipe with elements from their recipe and with those in Gingerbread Wonderland, and here it is.

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Ingredients:

100g of Butter
150g of Light Muscovado Sugar
1 Medium Egg
The zest of half an Orange
200g of Plain Flour
1/2 Teaspoon of Baking Powder
3 Teaspoons of Speculass Spice Mix
50g of Ground Almonds

  1. Cream the butter and sugar until paler and fluffy.
  2. Add the egg with a dessert spoon of flour, and the orange zest, and mix thoroughly.
  3. Mix all the dry ingredients together then add them to the butter, sugar, egg and zest. Mix until combined with a large spoon. It will be a soft dough but not sticky.
  4. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for an hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 160C (140C fan).dsc_0541
  6. Roll out the dough to the thickness of a £1 coin, then cut out the shaped biscuits and place on a baking tray. I used the Snowflake Cookie Cutters from Lakeland, but you could do any shape that you wish (you can buy wooden Speculaas moulds from the Speculaas Spice Company if you fancy being traditional).DSC_0545 (1).jpg
  7. Chill the cut out biscuits for 15-30 minutes then bake for 12 minutes. After a couple of minutes of cooling on the oven tray, move them to a cooling rack until completely cool and firm.

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So, if you are looking for something a little bit different from Gingerbread, then I think you should give these a try. They were a big hit in our house; I hope the teachers enjoy them just as much.

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Apple and Cranberry Snowflake Pies

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The creation of these came about entirely from the purchase of the snowflake pie mould from Lakeland. Initially, I thought about making regular mince pies with it, then I thought it might be nice to make something equally Christmassy but slightly lighter. I came up with apple and cranberry and the combination, with some Christmas spice, works very well, and would make a great alternative to those who don’t like traditional mincemeat.

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Ingredients for the filling:

1 Large Bramley Apple (about 250g once peeled, cored and chopped)

50g of Dried Cranberries (soaked overnight in 20g of Vanilla Vodka or orange juice)

100g of Light Brown Sugar

15g of Butter

1 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract

1/2 Teaspoon of Mixed Spice

1 Stick of Cinnamon

1 Heaped Teaspoon of Plain Flour

Zest of an Orange

  1. Soak the dried cranberries overnight in the vodka or orange juice to allow them to plump up.IMG_9868.jpg
  2. Chop the apple into small pieces and combine all the ingredients, except the plain flour, in a large pan and heat on medium.dsc_0545
  3. Cook the apple mixture, stirring every couple of minutes on a medium heat, allowing it to bubble away and break down a little, for about ten minutes.dsc_0552
  4. Once you feel that the apples have started to soften, add the plain flour, stir it in quickly whilst on the heat for a minute or two, then remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  5. It is now ready to use once cool.

Pastry

You can use bought pastry or make your own. You will need about 400/450g of pastry to make 12 snowflake pies. You could easily make these in a regular mince pie shape if you don’t have the snowflake mould.

This is a recipe that I got from a magazine, written by the owner of Betty’s tearooms in Yorkshire.

250g of Plain Flour

60g of Chilled Butter

125g of Caster Sugar

1 Large Egg, beaten plus another beaten egg for sealing the pies

  1. Rub the butter into the flour and sugar until it resemble breadcrumbs.
  2. Add the beaten egg and bring together. If it is a little dry, add a teaspoon of cold water.
  3. Form into a flat round, wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least half an hour.

Now comes the fun bit: making the pies. I won’t lie; they are quite time consuming, so make them when you have time and patience. But they are so pretty and deeply satisfying to make, and, therefore, are well worth the effort.

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Roll out your pastry to the thickness of a £1 as you would with regular mince pies. Then cut out 12 whole snowflake shapes, followed by 12 patterned snowflakes. (I think I would like to try making them without the holes in the future). You will need to scrape together the dough and roll it out a couple of times, but handle it gently and you should be fine.

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To make each pie, you need to place a whole snowflake shape back the pie mould, lining up the edges, then gently pressing down in the middle to stretch the pastry to fill the mould. Obviously, be gentle and take your time, so as not to rip the pastry.

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Lightly brush the edges of the snowflake shape with the extra beaten egg then add a heaped teaspoon of cool filling in to the centre of the pastry. Line up a patterned snowflake and press down gently.

Finally fold the other side of the mould over and press down to seal and created the impression along the edge of the pie. They should pop right out onto your hand. Place them on a baking sheet or a shallow mince pie tin.

Once you have made 12, cover loosely with clingfilm and chill for half an hour whilst the oven heats up to 180C (160C fan over).

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Then bake them for 20-25 minutes until golden and crisp.

You can leave them as they are, but I dusted them with icing sugar. They are delicious served warm (not straight out of the oven) with cream. I hope you enjoy their fruity spice as much as we did.

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At long last…

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It took a while, but I got there in the end with this recipe and beautifully detailed cake. It wasn’t so much the cake recipe, which I adapted from the Nordicware recipe card that came with the Snowflake tin, but getting it out of the damn tin.

I had an idea to adapt the almond cake recipe by adding some dried cherries soaked in Amaretto (which, by the way, are awesome on their own). It just felt more festive. Once I had fiddled with the batter amount and worked out the optimum quantity of cherries and soaking liquid, I thought it would be easy to pop the cake straight out using homemade goop (it works on other bundt and detailed pans). But this was not to be. This pan is on a different scale of difficulty to remove cake from.

I made it again, coating far more liberally with goop: fail. Then I looked on the internet for advice and it said you should only use a small amount on detailed pans like this, so I tried that. But that also failed.

I could see other people using this pan and releasing their cakes whole and beautifully detailed on social media, so I knew it wasn’t impossible. But it was so frustrating.

My friend, Jersey Jackie, knew the difficulties I was having with this cake. I mentioned that I had heard of Baker’s Joy, a spray release that is made and recommended by Nordic Ware for their more detailed pans. In this country it ranges from £6 to £40. Jackie responded in horror when I told her this, knowing that it sold for about $2 in her supermarket. She was a the best friend a baker could have because she bought me two cans and posted it over (though we suspect we may be sent to postal hell for posting them). I was prepared to give it one more shot before sending the beautiful pan to the charity shop. And I wouldn’t have persevered if the actual cake hadn’t tasted so good.

And, so, after four or five failed attempts, I finally managed to release the delicious cake from the tin completely intact, and smelling delicious.

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So, would you like the recipe? This cake would make a great cake for the festive period, even an alternative to rich fruit Christmas cake. Serve it with lots of berries and some fresh cream, and you have a light desert that has all the flavour of Christmas.

And if you don’t have the snowflake tin, just bake it in a 7″ round tin. Sprinkle with icing sugar and berries at it will be equally as Christmassy.

Cherry and Amaretto Almond Cake

Start the day or evening before you want to bake the cake so that you can soak the dried cherries in the Amaretto. They should absorb all or almost all of the liquid, but drain them before tossing in the flour before baking to be sure that they are not too wet.

100g of Dried Cherries

50ml of Amaretto

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The dried cherries will soften and plump up in the Amaretto.

115g Soft Butter

200g Caster Sugar

2 Medium Eggs, gently beaten

1 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extact

1 Teaspoon of Almond Extract

100ml Milk

200g Plain Flour

50g Ground Almonds

1 Teaspoon of Baking Powder

 

A Tablespoon of Icing Sugar to sprinkle over the finished cake.

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  1. Spray your tin with Baker’s Joy and pre-heat your oven to 180C (or 160C if it’s a fan oven). If you are using a regular baking tin, grease and line as normal.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the Vanilla and Almond extract and quickly beat in.
  4. Add the Baking Powder and Ground Almonds to the Plain Flour and sieve.
  5. Slowly add the beaten egg to the creamed butter and sugar mixture, beating well between additions, adding a teaspoon of the flour mixture to avoid curdling each time.
  6. Once all the egg is added, fold in one third of the rest of the flour, baking powder and ground almond mixture.
  7. Now fold in a third of the milk. Repeat, alternating between the dry mixture and the milk.
  8. Toss the drained cherries in a tablespoon of flour.
  9. Put the batter in the tin, then add the floured cherries, pushing some in to the batter and leaving a few on top. This is less of an issue if you are using a regular tin, but you really don’t want the cherries to sink to the bottom of the snowflake tin and get stuck to the details.dsc_0151
  10. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until risen, golden and a skewer comes out clean. If baking in a 7″ round tin, it may take longer.dsc_0154
  11. Leave in the tin for 10 minutes. Time this and don’t guess otherwise that cake may not pop out of the tin.
  12. After 10 minutes, turn the cake out upside down on a rack to cool.
  13. Once cool dust with icing sugar and serve as you please.

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I am so glad that I stuck with this cake because the finished cake is so damn pretty. And there is no fancy decoration required at all; just a sprinkling of icing sugar.

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I hope you give it a try and enjoy it too.

 

The Elvis Bundt

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In the distant past this cake started off as Nigella Lawson’s Banana Loaf. Since I have been using this recipe I have fiddled with it a few times. Then, when my American friend sent me Reese’s Peanut Butter Chips, I decided that peanut butter would be a splendid addition. Of course, The King was famous for loving this combination; hence the title.

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This recipe doesn’t make a large bundt. It fills a 2lb loaf tin, if that is your preference, or a 6 cup bundt pan (about 1.5 litres). It’s an every day cake that is easy to portion and slice up.

And if you can’t get the peanut butter chips, then get the same weight in Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and chop them into chocolate chip sized pieces.

First, make the cake.

Ingredients

175g of Plain Flour

2 Teaspoons of Baking Powder

1/2 Teaspoon of Bicarbonate of Soda

125g of Melted Butter

120g of Light Brown Sugar

2 Large Eggs

3 Ripe Bananas

1 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract

150g of Peanut Butter Chips

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  1. Preheat the oven to 170C (150C fan) and coat the inside of your bundt tin in cake release or homemade goop (which is one part flour, one part flavourless oil, and one part shortening {I use Trex}).
  2. Mix the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda together in a bowl and put to one side.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk the melted butter and sugar together, then mix in the eggs.
  4. Stir in the vanilla extract and the bananas, followed by the peanut butter chips.
  5. Fold in the flour mixture in two batches and mix gently until all combined.
  6. Pour into your tin, gently tapping it on the worktop, then bake for 35-40 minutes. (If you are baking in the loaf tin, it will take over an hour, but check after 50 minutes). The cake is ready when a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  7. Remove from oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Then gently shake the pan to make sure it is loose then turn out on to a cooling rack. Leave until completely cool.

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Whilst the cake is cooling, you can make the Peanut Brittle.

Peanut Brittle

15g of Butter

100g of Caster Sugar

70g of Peanuts (I used salted, but unsalted is fine if that’s your preference)

  1. Put the sugar and butter in a heavy bottomed pan and heat slowly on medium until the they have melted together to form a golden caramel.
  2. As soon as there are no sugar granules left, add the peanuts and stir quickly to coat them all in caramel.
  3. Pour the peanut and caramel mixture on to a silicone or paper lined tray and spread out.
  4. Allow to cool and harden before breaking up and chopping to the desired consistency. I made mine quite fine, but you might prefer big chunks, or even to pulse it in a blender for a super fine powder.

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Only when the cake is completely cool should you make the chocolate glaze.

Chocolate Glaze

200g of Dark Chocolate

4 Tablespoons of Golden Syrup

100g of Butter

Place all ingredients in a bowl over simmering water and stir until melted and well blended. Allow it to cool for 10-20 minutes (until it is about 40C), stirring every few minutes, before pouring it over the cooled cake. 

[If you decide to make this as a loaf cake, then only make a quarter of the quantity of chocolate glaze and simply drizzle back and forth across the top of the cooled loaf.]

Cover the cake in the glaze by leaving the cake on the cooling rack, but place some greaseproof paper underneath to catch the excess chocolate glaze. After putting the glaze in a jug pour it carefully over the bundt cake, making sure that it is completely covered and fairly smooth. Once you have covered it, give the rack a couple of taps on the work top to ensure a smoother finish. Allow is to rest for 15 minutes.

Move the cake as carefully as you can (without disturbing the glaze) with a palette knife and spatula to the serving plate or stand. Simply grab small handfuls of the chopped peanut brittle and press it into the bottom edge of the cake. It should adhere to the still soft glaze. Brush or blow away any excess.

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If you prefer, you could sprinkle it over the top, or use shards of brittle and decorate the top of the cake with them.

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The Elvis Bundt isn’t a fine dining dessert. It’s a ‘take a slice and have it with your morning coffee’ kind of cake.

The cake is moist and heavily flavoured with banana. But when you eat it you get the occasional chunk of peanut butter, and it just works as a flavour combination so well. The chocolate glaze adds a touch of decadence and the peanut brittle adds another layer of flavour with the addition of a little but of crunch.

And if it takes your fancy, go crazy with the decoration. Add sprinkles and edible glitter and take Elvis to Las Vegas.

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I hope you enjoy it as much as my colleagues did.

Bonfire Roulade

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If you are entertaining tomorrow night, with or without fireworks for Bonfire Night, and haven’t settled on what to serve for dessert, then I have the very recipe for you.

I made a version of this last Hogmanay, and it was a dream dessert. It was Tiramisu Swiss Roll Cake by Izy Hossack at Top With Cinnamon.

When I heard that Baileys were bringing out a Pumpkin Spice edition, I knew I had to incorporate it into this dessert, instead of the regular Marsala.

I take no credit whatsoever for coming up with the roulade idea, and my recipe is simply a tweaked version of Izy’s. I don’t feel too bad, however, because I know Izy adapted the sponge element from The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Berenbaum (Rose’s website), so all is good.

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Bonfire Roulade

Sponge

5 Large Eggs

100g of Golden Caster Sugar

1 Teaspoon of Gingerbread Syrup (If you don’t have any, use Vanilla extract)

75g Butter, melted and cooled

100g of Plain Flour

25g Cornflour

2-3 Tablespoons of Icing Sugar mixed with 1 Teaspoon of Pumpkin Spice

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan) and grease and line a 40x30cm swiss roll tin.
  2. Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Then whisk in 50g of sugar until stiff and glossy.
  3. Whisk the remaining sugar 50g of sugar into the yolks until pale and thick.
  4. Pour the yolk mixture, plus the gingerbread syrup, into the egg white mixture and whisk until just combined.
  5. Pour in the melted butter to the egg and sugar mixture and fold in gently.
  6. Sieve the flour and cornflour over the top and fold that in gently, trying to keep as much air and lightness as possible.
  7. Pour into the prepared tray, spreading it out as evenly as possible, and bake for 15 minutes. It should be springy and golden.
  8. Lay out a clean tea towel and sprinkle it generously with the icing sugar and Pumpkin Spice mix.
  9. Turn the sponge out onto the tea towel covered with the icing sugar, peal back the greaseproof paper, then trim the sponge to 24x36cm. Gently but firmly roll up the warm sponge in the tea towel and put to one side to cool completely.

Baileys Pumpkin Spice Soak

100ml of Boiled water

1 Tablespoon of strong instant coffee

75ml of Baileys Pumpkin Spice

  1. Dissolve the coffee in the boiled water and mix the Baileys through.

Whilst the roulade is cooling, make the filling and chill until it’s needed.

Filling

150ml of Double Cream

130g of Mascarpone

70ml of Baileys Pumpkin Spice

2 Tablespoons of Icing Sugar

1 Teaspoon of Gingerbread Syrup (again use Vanilla if you don’t have any)

  1. Whip the double cream until thick, then stir in the Mascarpone. 
  2. Pour in the Baileys and syrup, and sprinkle in the icing sugar, and whisk until smooth and thickened again. 
  3. Chill.

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Assembly

  1. Once the roulade is completely cold, unroll it carefully. Brush the Bailey’s Pumpkin Spice Soak all over it. You will need to do it several times until it is all soaked in. It seems like a lot of liquid, but use it all.
  2. Now spread the Mascarpone filling close to three edges, leaving a gap of about an inch on the far side.
  3. Roll it up as neatly as you can towards the edge with the gap, taking care to avoid cracks.
  4. Chill for at least half an hour.

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Glaze

30g of Butter

150ml of Double Cream

100g of Dark Chocolate

1 Tablespoon of Golden Syrup

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  1. Melt all of the ingredients for the glaze together in a bain marie. 
  2. Allow it to cool slightly.
  3. If you feel that the ends are a little untidy, trim the roulade with a sharp knife.
  4. Place the chilled roulade on a wire cooking rack and pour the chocolate glaze over it slowly, to ensure it covers it entirely.
  5. Sprinkle with whatever you fancy (I used various metallic sprinkles).
  6. Allow the glaze to firm up before moving to a serving platter.

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The roulade is moist and boozy, with the warm spice of autumn. It makes a great dessert rather than a cake to have with your morning coffee, but worth the effort if you are looking for something with a wow factor, especially if you serve it with some indoor fireworks.

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Cinnamon and Maple Doughnuts

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These started out as something quite different. I was aiming for a pumpkin doughnut, filled with a pumpkin pie type filling. I made a pumpkin dough, and made the doughnuts. I made a creamy pumpkin pie filling. I fried the doughnuts and filled them, but it just didn’t seem quite right.

So then I decided to make them small, unfilled doughnuts. And I moved away from the pumpkin in the dough (I didn’t feel it was adding anything in the way of flavour it texture) and stuck to the spices. These weren’t flavourful either.

I tried adding maple syrup to the dough and simplifying the flavour from pumpkin pie spice mix to just cinnamon. I kept the maple syrup glaze and chopped pecans but added cinnamon sugar. Bingo!

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Sweet Dough

200g of Milk, scalded then cooled

50g of Maple Syrup

15g of yeast

500g of Bread Flour

60g of Butter, softened

40g of Caster Sugar

10g of Salt

2 Large Eggs

2 Teaspoons of Cinnamon

 

Cinnamon Sugar

3 Tablespoons of Caster Sugar

1 Teaspoon of Cinnamon

  1. Put all the dry ingredients in a bowl and roughly rub in the butter.
  2. Add the eggs and maple syrup to the milk and blend.
  3. Add the liquid to the dry and work until you have a soft and moist dough. It will be quite wet to start with, so use a mixer if you don’t feel confident handling it yourself. If you have read some of my other bread recipes you will know that I don’t knead the dough but work it using the Slap and Fold method. I find this so much easier, especially with wet doughs.
  4. Once the dough is smooth and soft, shape into a tight ball and place in a lightly floured bowl, covered with a clean cloth, for one hour and a quarter.
  5. After the first prove, scrape the dough onto a lightly floured worktop and de-gas by bashing with the flat of your hand.
  6. Fold the dough in on itself and start to portion out 30g pieces.
  7. Form the 30g individual pieces into tight balls and shape with your hands, then allow them to rest on a baking tray for a further 45 mins.dsc_0152
  8. 10 minutes before their second prove it up, start heating up 1 Litre of flavourless oil in a medium sized saucepan. The oil needs to reach 170C.
  9. In batches of four or five, gently lower each dough ball into the hot oil on a long handled slatted spoon.
  10. They will cook for about two minutes before turning themselves over in the oil. Allow them to cook on the other side for two to three minutes. They will be a dark golden brown all over.
  11. Lift them out of the oil with the long handled slotted spoon and place each doughnut on some kitchen paper to absorb some of the oil. Be very careful as everything is very hot.
  12. Blend the sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl and roll the slightly cooled doughnuts in the bowl to coat them in cinnamon sugar before putting to one side.
  13. Fry all the doughnuts balls and coat them in cinnamon sugar.
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Moose Maple Butter is a delicious blend of Canadian Maple Syrup and butter. 

Maple Glaze

70g Moose Maple Butter

50g Icing Sugar

To Finish

30g Pecans, chopped

  1. Melt the Moose Maple Butter then blend in the icing sugar until you have a smooth glaze.
  2. Drizzle over the doughnuts and sprinkle with the chopped pecans.

If you can’t find Moose Maple Butter then blend some Maple Syrup, melted butter and icing sugar until you have a thick pouring consistency.

Of course, the doughnuts are delicious warm, simply coated in cinnamon sugar, and you don’t have to glaze them at all. But, I am a sucker for Maple Syrup and I love all kinds of nuts, pecans being one of my favourites. So, this is the finish I prefer.

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I hope you enjoy this recipe. Maybe pumpkin doughnuts will eventually come good, but for now I am happy with these little sweet and spiced dough balls.

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Maple, Apple and Pecan Danish Pasties

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These Danish Pastries were inspired by being handed a bag of the cutest little apples from a friend’s garden a week before another friend and her family were due to visit. I thought they would make the perfect addition to a breakfast pastry and I could take the opportunity to use Moose Maple Butter again to make the most delicious glaze.

The day before I wanted to make the pastries I made a Crème Pâtissière and stored it in the fridge. And that evening, I made a batch of Danish Pastry dough. I used Paul Hollywood’s recipe, leaving it to chill and prove overnight in the fridge.

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In the morning I rolled out the dough to approximately 45cmX28cm then trimmed the edges with a pizza wheel. I then divided it into rough 8cm squares. I don’t think the pastries would work any bigger than this; as it was, they were rather substantial at that size.

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I decided to form this into a fairly simple Danish Pastry shape that would allow for a bigger area for the Crème Pâtissière and Apple to sit on. I simply folded in two corners to the centre and pressed down firmly. I covered the pastries with clean tea towels and allowed them to prove for two hours.

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I then prepared the apples, which I had originally planned to peel, but loved the colours of their skin, so keep them on.

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I halved and cored them.

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I decided to poach them for five minutes in a vanilla sugar syrup. I had one in the fridge from another bake, but simply warm one part sugar to two parts water with a vanilla pod (use the shell of the one you used for your Crème Pâtissière) until the sugar dissolves, then add the apples and poach gently for five minutes.

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Slightly wrinkly but still pretty

I then removed them from the saucepan and allowed to cool. Once cool I sliced them as carefully and evenly as possible. Of course, these apples were tiny, so I used half of one for each pastry. You will probably have bigger apples and decide to use only a couple of bigger slices instead.

I then preheated my oven to 200C (180C fan).

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After two hours proving

Once the pastries had proved, I gave them an egg wash, then put a generous dessert spoon of Crème Pâtissière in the centre before arranging the slices of apple on top.

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They went straight into the oven for 18 minutes until they were golden, risen and crisp.

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Once they came out, I allowed them to cool for ten minutes whilst I made the glaze, which I then drizzled over the still warm pastries.

Glaze

50g of Moose Maple Butter

60g of sieved Icing Sugar

Melt the butter and mix in the icing sugar until very smooth. I used a piping bag but you could easily use a spoon to drizzle it over the pastries.

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I then sprinkled them with 40g of Pecans, chopped fairly small.

If you cannot get Moose Maple Butter you could try making a glaze with Maple Syrup but if you do get a chance to try it, I thoroughly recommend it.

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I realise that making pastries like this is fairly time consuming, but if you plan well, and don’t expect them to be ready at 7am, then they are easily achievable. I think they make a weekend with friends staying a little bit more special.

Dulce by Helen Vass

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This image encapsulates Helen: she is friendly; fun; happy to share her knowledge and skills; and most relaxed when working in the kitchen with ingredients that she is passionate about.

If you are a fan of the Glasgow food scene, then you may know Helen Vass. She is pastry chef at 2AA Rosette restaurant, Number 16, in the West End of the city. You may also know her from being part of the winning team of professional pastry chefs, along with Samantha Rain, winner of UK Junior Chocolate Master in 2014, and Mark Tilling, established chocolatier and UK Chocolate Master, teacher and pastry chef, who competed in Bake Off: Crème de la Crème earlier this year.

Ever since her success in Bake Off, Helen has been in demand to share her desserts and expertise. And one of the routes that she has taken to reach this demand is to host dessert pop-up events in her home town of Glasgow. How she has manages to fit the preparation for such events into her schedule as a restaurant pastry chef is quite remarkable.

I was fortunate to buy a ticket for her most recent pop-up, held in Studio 93 is Glasgow: a beautiful venue, tucked away beside the River Kelvin, with a state of the art demonstration kitchen and photography studio space.

My friend who was initially chumming me couldn’t make it at the last minute, but my dear friend, Barry, met through the Glasgow Cake Club, jumped at the chance to sub Mhairi, and off we went. And what a wonderful afternoon we had.

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The Spanish wines brought from Spain by Helen, especially for Dulce

Despite arriving horrible late, we were greeted very warmly by Helen, and immediately offered a glass of Perelada Brut Rosé Cava D.O Cava. She then explained a little bit about the menu and how she would be assembling and demonstrating each course.

Helen is very influenced by her experiences working in Barcelona. After completing her HNC in Patisserie at the City of Glasgow College in 2014, during which she worked weekends at Blythswood Square Hotel, she moved there to hone her skills further. She had previously learned a great deal from World Champion Pastry Chef, Jordi Bordas, whilst working in his patisserie in Barcelona in 2011. Spanish World Chocolate Master, Hans Ovando, has also been a large influence and inspiration in her pastry career.

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Sourdough Toast with Chocolate Cremeux, Olive Oil and Vanilla Sea Salt

The Amouse Bouche consisted of Sourdough toast with Chocolate Cremeux, olive oil and vanilla sea salt. The texture of the cremeux was like satin. Helen explained that she relies, like many pastry chefs, on her hand or stick blender to ensure the smoothest of textures in many components of her desserts. This was a revelation to me, and I think I will follow her advice to invest in a much better, sturdier version than the domestic blender that knocks about my kitchen.

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Pistachio, Raspberry and Pink Cava Verrine

Next, she presented us with one of my favourite flavour combinations: raspberry and pistachio. The Pistachio, Raspberry and Pink Cava Verrine consisted of three delightful layers of different flavours and textures. She explained that many boozy desserts lose the flavour hit, and promised that this Cava rosado mousse would be true to the Castell Perelada cava from which it was made, and it really was. It was light and creamy, balanced well with the tart Scottish raspberry compote and sweet pistachio crumble. She passed round the Italian pistachios for us to smell their aroma and observe their vivid, green colour.

As part of her explanations about her style of cooking, Helen emphasised how she is keen to balance the levels of sugar in her desserts and only uses whipping cream. This is not for health benefits, she was quick to point out, but for mouth feel and lightness on the palate. And truly, as we progressed through essentially four desserts, I didn’t feel overwhelmed by a cloying sweetness or creaminess. She had judged the balance and order of everything perfectly.

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Chocolate Entremet

Next up was probably my favourite course and the thing I want most to learn to make (I did ask her once last year if she would be running classes on this very dessert), the Chocolate Entremet.

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Layers of smooth and crunchy lusciousness

It consisted of a chocolate and hazelnut dacquoise sponge; chocolate, praline and salted fried corn (Kikos in Spanish, and an absolute new favourite for me) crunch; Praline cremeux; dark chocolate mousse (54% cocoa solids); covered in a chocolate mirror glaze; whole Kikos; and Arribas origin milk chocolate discs, from Ecuador. This was my perfect dessert: smooth and creamy chocolate with a nutty and salted corn crunch to lift it to another level of delight. It wasn’t too rich or heavy like many chocolate desserts can be: it was perfect.

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Liablis Muscat 2015 D.O Valles de Sadacia, slightly out of focus, but what a pretty bottle!

And it was perfectly paired with this delicious muscat: Liablis Muscat 2015 D.O Valles de Sadacia. It also wasn’t overly sweet, but light and brought out the salted corn, or Kikos, very well.

Our last course was so imaginative and fun. Helen explained that it would normally be a surprise, but as she was assembling in front of us, we would understand the process and see the components as she went along. I, personally, really enjoyed this aspect to the session. We were free to ask questions and Helen was so good at answering freely whilst expertly assembling in front of us.

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Helen putting the finishing touches to the Chocolate Entremet

I love it when professionals aren’t precious about their “secrets” and are comfortable enough of their own skills that they can share advice to those who are interested. And Helen is one of those generous souls.

 

The last dessert was Helen’s take on Lemon Meringue but consisted of a lemon shaped chocolate exterior, filled with a lemon cremeux, meringues and sablé biscuits. Again, it was well balanced and combined fruitiness, sharpness and sweet chocolate. And we all had fun breaking in to our lemons when they were presented to us.

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The finished Lemon Meringue

This was served with another Spanish sparking wine; Seguar Vivdas Aria Brut Nature D.O Cava.

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Inside the chocolate case was Lemon Cremeux, Meringues and Sablé Biscuits

Once we had completed this course we moved to the studio space where tea, coffee and macarons were served, though the Cava still flowed for those who still fancied fizz.

This was an even more relaxed environment, and Helen took the opportunity to talk to all of her guests. No diva here!

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Helen in conversation with very satisfied guests

Barry and I absolutely loved our afternoon with Helen. We were delighted with the food; curious and questioning of her knowledge; and overwhelmed by her approachable and friendly manner.

At £50 a ticket, it’s something that you have to plan to do in advance, but for the quality of ingredients, finished desserts and wine, it is exceptionally good value. If you are interested in eating world class desserts, and are interested in how they are made and knowing more about the ingredients and components, then get yourself along to one of Helen Vass’ future Dulce events. You won’t be disappointed.

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The courtyard at Studio 93

Thank you, Helen, for a fabulous afternoon.

Dulce by Helen Vass

Studio 93

Toasted Pecan and Pumpkin Rolls with Maple Syrup Glaze

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If you have read my posts at this time of year, you will already know that autumn is my favourite season, and, I think, my most creative in terms of recipes. I love the spices and caramel flavours that are so abundant in our cooking and baking as the weather gets colder. And the fruits and vegetables that we eat are hardier and can withstand some spice.

This post and recipe is indicative of that and I hope that North American friends will be flattered by my obsession with their Fall flavours and bakes, and that my recipe will secure a thumbs up from at least some of them.

A word of warning, however, this is a very wet dough to start with, so don’t be alarmed. I use the Bertinet method or “fold and slap” to work the dough, and in only 5 minutes, the dough is smooth and manageable. But this dough will be very happily made in a mixer with a dough hook, just remember to finish it off by hand and form it into a smooth ball of dough before it proves.

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Sweet Dough

400g of Bread Flour

200ml of Milk (scalded but brought back to lukewarm or room temperature)

1 Large Egg

12g of Yeast (fresh or dried)

40g of Butter (if you can get Moose Maple Butter then it adds another delicious maple note)

8g of Salt

30g of Light Brown Sugar

  1. Put all of your ingredients (except for the milk and egg) in a large bowl and rub in the butter. Add the egg to the milk, gently whisk, then add to the bowl and work the dough. It will be very soft and wet: do not be tempted to add more flour. [If you worry about such a wet dough it can easily be made in a mixer with a dough hook. Add all the ingredients and mix on slow for 2 minutes, then medium for 5 or 6 until it forms a smooth dough. Finish by hand.]
  2. Scrape the smooth dough together and put back in the bowl and cover with a clean cloth for 45 minutes.
  3. After 45 minutes scrape the dough out onto a floured worktop, keeping the top worktop side and the bottom facing you. Flatten the dough with the palm of your hand and fold it in on itself, then turn over to form a neat ball of smooth dough again.
  4. Return to the bowl, cover and leave for a further 30 minutes.

Pecan and Pumpkin Filling

60g of Pecans (actually only 40g for the filling and the other 20g are for sprinkling on top of the finished buns.)

1 Large Egg Yolk

120g of Light Brown Sugar

50g of Soft Butter (again if you can get Moose Maple Butter then use that)

100g of Canned Pumpkin

2 Teaspoons of Cinnamon

1 1/2 Teaspoons of Nutmeg

1 Teaspoon of Ground Ginger

1/8 Teaspoon of Ground Cloves

These spices are probably the equivalent of 3 teaspoons of Pumpkin Spice, so if you have that and it’s easier to measure that out, then go ahead.

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  1. Toast the pecans lightly in the oven at 180C for 5 minutes. Be careful as they burn very easily, as I found out to my cost.
  2. Once cooled, leave 20g of pecans to one side (to sprinkle on top at the end of the bake) and finely chop the remaining 40g.
  3. Put all of the ingredients in a bowl and whisk or mix together until well blended.

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Now to assemble.

  1. Remove the dough from the bowl and de-gas with the flat palm of your hand as before, and fold into three as you would a letter.
  2. With a well floured surface and rolling pin, roll it out until it  measures approximately 12″ by 14″.dsc_0056
  3. Spread the pumpkin and pecan paste over the dough, leaving an inch gap along one of the long sides.
  4. Carefully roll it up. It is a very soft dough so handle gently.
  5. Once rolled, trim little off of each end, then cut into 9 evenly sized pieces. Lay them in a 3 by 3 pattern on a lined baking tray and prove for an hour under a cloth.dsc_0059
  6. Preheat your oven to 200C (180C fan) and give the now risen buns an egg wash before baking for 20 minutes.
  7. They are baked when golden in colour and sound hollow when tapped.dsc_0068

Maple Syrup Glaze

40g of Maple Syrup

40g of Icing Sugar

  1. Make the maple syrup glaze by mixing the maple syrup and caster sugar together.
  2. Drizzle the glaze over the buns once they have cooled a little (or it will simply run off) and scatter the remaining 20g of pecans, chopped as finely as you prefer.

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These buns are pillowy soft, but not too sweet. The pumpkin and nuts bring them back from being too cloyingly sweet, as some cinnamon buns can be.

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Enjoy them warm for a weekend late breakfast (you can easily put them in the fridge, covered in clingfilm, for their final prove and bring them back to room temperature for half an hour in the morning, whilst your oven heats up).

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I hope that you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed inventing and testing them.

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