Monday, 22 January 2018

Coconut & Almond Congress Tarts

I came across Congress Tarts in a book I was reading.  So I looked them up on the internet.  It seems to me that they are very similar if not identical, in most instances, to Bakewell Tarts.  I did see a couple of references to using coconut as well as almonds.

So for mine I decided to make a sweet shortcrust pastry base and mix coconut with the almonds for the filling.  My recipe is simple and easy to follow and the mix of ingredients for the filling really does give them a wonderful taste.   The coconut and almond mixture is placed on top of a little raspberry jam, so the end result if very tasty indeed.

The use of self raising flour and a little extra baking powder with the filling lets it rise very nicely.  Many versions of these tarts place a pastry cross on the top of the filling, but I thought that would break as the filling rose so I decided to do without it.

I am very pleased with how mine turned out.  They really are delicious and go well with my cup of tea in the afternoon.
Coconut & Almond Congress Tarts

Coconut & almond Congress Tarts - Video

For the pastry:
  • 225g plain flour(1 3/4 cups) or 255g pastry flour)
  • 110g *just under one stick)unsalted butter, cold and cubed
  • 50g (1/4 cup) caster sugar(icing sugar is fine too, or granulated)
  • 1 large egg(xl in USA)
  • 1 tbsp ice cold water
For the filling:
  • 6 tsp raspberry jam
  • 80g(1/2 cup + 1 heaped tbsp) self raising flour
  • 80g (about 2/3 cup) ground almonds
  • 50g (2/3 cuo) dessicated coconut
  • 80g (1/3 cup + 2 tbsp)
  • 1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk(xl in USA)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 80g(1/4 + 2 scant tbsp) very soft butter
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  1. Place the plain flour, caster sugar and butter into a large bowl(you can do this in a food processor) and rub between your fingers until the butter is worked in and the mixture has a breadcrumb like texture.
  2. Add the eggs and stir in with a table knife until the mixture begins to clump together.
  3. Add the water if necessary to make it clump.
  4. Use your hands to pull the mixture into the ball of dough, working just a little bit so that it is smooth.
  5. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for one hour.
  6. In a large bowl place the self raising flour, baking powder, ground almonds and dessicated coconut.
  7. Mix to combine.
  8. Add the softened butter and mix until everything is coming together in clumps( I used my hand mixer).
  9. Add the eggs and almond extract and mix until everything has formed a paste.
  10. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C F/350F.
  11. Grease  a 12 hole bun/patty tin( or use non stick).
  12. Flour the work surface and roll out the pastry to a thickness of 3mm(1/8 inch).
  13. Use a 9cm/3 1/2 inch cookie cutter to cut out 12 circles of pastry dough, re-rolling once if necessary.
  14. Gently place the circles into the 12 holes of the bun tin.
  15. Spoon 1/2 tsp raspberry jam onto the centre of each pastry case.
  16. Gently place an amount of the almond mixture(I used about a dessert spoonful) over the rapberry jam and push the mixture gently to the sides to try to avoid jam seeping up during baking.
  17. Bake in the oven for 20 to 23 minutes, until the tarts have risen and are a nice golden brown.
  18. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

All-in-one Victoria Sandwich Sponge Cake

I recently had a request from someone to do a video making sponge cake.  So I have decided that over the next few weeks I shall do three different types of sponge cake.  First up is a Victoria Sandwich, but this one is using the all-in-one method from Mary Berry's recipe. This is where all the ingredients are placed in the bowl together and mixed, rather than mixing ingredients a bit at a time.  Doing it this way requires little effort but it does need some extra raising agent as the eggs are not whisked in the same way as a normal sponge cake. 

This method works very well and is almost foolproof, providing that the batter is not mixed for too long.

A Victoria Sandwich is two layers with jam in the middle. Often some buttercream or whipped cream is added too. For mine I used strawberry jam and buttercream(with a little vanilla added).  

It turned out very well indeed, so I am very pleased.  The cake is delicious, ideal as part of afternoon tea.

Over the next few weeks I shall do a hot milk sponge and then a very light sponge, similar to a chiffon cake.  In each instance I will do single layers just to show how they are done.
Victoria Sandwich - All In One Method

Victoria Sandwich - Slice

Victoria Sandwich - All In One Method - Video
For the sponge cakes:
  • 225g self raising flour (1 3/4 cups)
  • 225 unsalted butter, softened (2 sticks)
  • 225g caster sugar (1 1/4 cups)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 4 large egss(xl in USA)
  • pinch of salt
For filling:
  • 3-4 tbsp strawberry or raspberry jam
  • 100g unsalted butter, softened (optional)
  • a dash of vanilla extract.
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F.
  2. Grease and line 2 20cm(8 inch) sandwich/cake pans.
  3. Place all the ingredients for the sponges into a large bowl and mix them together(I used a hand mixer, but manually or a stand mixer is fine).
  4. Do not over mix the batter.
  5. Transfer the batter equally between the two pans and spread to level all over.
  6. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes, until the cake is coming away from the side of the tin and the top springs back when gently pressed down.
  7. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool, removing the lining paper from the bottom.
  8. Place 100g of butter and the icing sugar and vanilla extract into a large bowl amd mix together until all is combined and creamy.
  9. Spread the jam over one of the sponge layer, almost to the edge.
  10. Turn the other sponge over so the bottom is facing upwards.  
  11. Spread the buttercream all over it, almost to the edge.
  12. Turn that layer of sponge over and place on top on the jam layer.
  13. Dust the top with icing sugar if you wish.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Lemon Italian Knot Cookies

I was intrigued when I saw some photos of Italian Knot Cookies recently and thought that they looked very good and would probably taste great, with a lemon flavour.  So today I am making some.

Although the recipe is quite simple the dough is very sticky to work with, so when rolling dough into lengths to knot plently of extra flour needs to be available to make it easier.  When the cookies are baked they are quite pale and are enhanced by some glaze, or icing, also flavoured with lemon.  For mine I made the glaze with a mixture of lemon juice and limoncello but lemon juice only will certainly work fine.

I am very happy with how the cookies turned out, they are light, firm and have a fantastic lemon flavour.  Those who dont want too much lemon can substitute some milk instead. It should also be said that they can be shaped in any way you wish, or find easiest.
Lemon Italian Knot Cookies
Lemon Italian Knot Cookies - Video
For the cookies:

  • 310g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 160ml flavourless oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp lemon zest
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice(or milk)
  • 3 medium eggs(large in USA)
  • pinch of salt

For the glaze:

  • 250g icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice(or 4 tbsp if not using limoncello)
  • 2 tbsp limoncello
  • Lemon zest for sprinkling, if desired.


  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer beat the eggs and sugar until fully combined.
  2. Add the oil, vanilla extract, lemon zest and lemon juice and mix until all is combined.
  3. Mix the baking powder, salt and flour together and add to the wet mixture.
  4. Mix on a low speed until the flour is fully combined and you have a sticky, pliable dough.
  5. Add a little more flour if the dough is still extremely sticky.
  6. Place the dough in some plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.
  7. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350 F.
  8. Line a couple of baking trays with parchment paper or silicone mats.
  9. Liberally flour the work surface.
  10. Take balls of dough, about 30-35 grams and roll into a sausage shape of about 6 inches long.
  11. Tie the sausage of dough into a knot, or make into a loop and plait the ends, or any shape you wish.
  12. Place on the baking tray.
  13. Bake in the oven for 16 to 18 minutes until the cookies are baked and just beginning to change colour around the edges.
  14. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.
  15. Mix the lemon jiuce and limoncello together.
  16. Add it to the icing sugar, retaining a little in case you don't need all the liquid.
  17. Mix together to form a paste of the thickness you want.
  18. Either dip the top of each cookie in the glaze and place on a rack to set, or brush the glaze over the tops of the cookies.
  19. Sprinkle a little lemon zest over the top of the glaze, if desired.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Coconut & Jam Sponge Cake

Coconut and Jam Sponge is an easy cake to make, and tastes so good.  This particular one can be cut into squares and enjoyed just like that, or it can be cut into larger pieces and served with custard as a dessert.

Any jam would be good to use, strawberry, apricot, blueberry, blackberry etc.  But for mine I used raspberry jam as it is my favourite and goes so well with coconut.  

As I mentioned the recipe is a simple on, just mix the ingredients, bake and then top with jam and coconut.  What could be easier?

Although in the recipe I  recommend using a 20cm x 30cm(8inch x 12inch) cake tin a smaller, square one, 20cmx20cm for instance could be used but the baking time would need to be adjusted as the volume batter in a smaller tin would need more baking.

My sponge turned out very well and I let it cool down a little before turning it out and topping it with the jam and coconut.  I also used the base of the cake as the top, just to keep it level, but that is just a personal preference.

The cake tasted great, a lovely light sponge with the delicious topping.  Ideal with a cup of tea, or served as a dessert with custard.
Coconut & Jam Sponge Cake

Coconut & Jam Sponge - Video
  • 225 g self raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 225g softened butter
  • 4 large eggs(xl in USA)
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 60g dessicated coconut
  • 3 - 4 tbsp raspberry jam
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F.
  2. Grease and line a 20cm x 30cm(8 inch x 12 inch) baking tin.
  3. In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffly.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time with a little of the flour to avoid curdling, and beat until all combined.
  5. Mix the baking powder into the remaining flour and pour into the butter mixture and fold in.
  6. Add the milk and vanilla extract and fold in.
  7. Pour the batter into the cake tin and spread out to make level all over, making sure to get into the corners.
  8. Bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the cake is springy to the touch and a skewer comes out clean when poked into the middle.
  9. Allow to cool for a few minutes in the tin and then turn out onto a rack to cook for longer.
  10. Spread a layer of jam all over the top of the cake(I used the cake upside down to get a level surface)
  11. Sprinkle the coconut over the jam and gently press down  to make it stick to the jam(you may not need all the coconut).
  12. Leave to allow the jam to set a little and then cut into squared for serving.

Friday, 29 December 2017

Chocolate Sponge & Pink Custard - School Dinners

Somebody who watches, and comments, on my Youtube videos recently mentioned that she remembered a chocolate sponge, with pink custard, that she had as part of her school dinners.  That took me back more than 50 years to when I was a school and had the same thing.  Having done some research I see that many people recall this particular dessert.  Others enjoyed a coconut sponge with jam and pink custard.  So that might be another recipe I will try out sometime.  But for today I am sticking with Chocolate Sponge and Pink Custard.  My viewer remembers it as Buffalo pudding or sponge but I didn't encounter that in my searches. 

For my sponge I opted for a tried and tested method of weighing the eggs, still in the shells, and using that weight to inform the remaining ingredients.  In the recipe below I will put the weights I used, but they can be adjusted by the size of the eggs.

As for the pink custard, well that was always a bit of a cheat at school since it wasn't custard at all but pink blancmange served warm, before it could set.  Blancmange is not so common these days in the UK, but you can still buy packs of four flavours in most supermarkets.  I used one sachet from such a pack, raspberry flavoured.  Of course the pink custard is not mandatory, normal custard, or chocolate sauce or, indeed, any fruit sauce would be just fine too.

My chocolate sponge turned out very well, nice and light with a lovely flavour,for a more intense chocolate flavour more cocoa powder could be added, but I didn't need that.  Served with the pink custard it was very good indeed.
Chocolate Sponge & Pink Custard 

Chocolate Sponge & Pink Custard - Video

For the sponge:
  • 3 large egss, weighed with shells on(205 grams) - (XL in USA)
  • same weight, 205g self raising flour(a good 1 1/2 cups)
  • same weight, 205g caster sugar(1 cup will be fine)
  • same weight, 205g softened butter(3/4 cup + 2 1/2 tbsp)
  • 25g cocoa powder(3 tbsp) (more for a stronger chocolate flavour)
  • 30ml milk(2 tbsp)
For the pink custard:
  • 1 sachet of raspberry or strawberry blancmange powder
  • 568ml(1 pint) milk
  • 45g(3tbsp) caster sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F
  2. Grease and line an 8" square cake tin(larger could be used, but will give a thinner cake so baking time should be adjusted).
  3. In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, with a tablespoon of flour each time, and beat until combined.
  5. Sift the flour and cocoa powder into the bowl and fold in until combined(or do it very with a mixer on very low speed).
  6. Add the milk whilst mixing in the flour.
  7. When all has been mixed together place the batter into the cake tin and spread out until it covers the entire tin and is fairly level.
  8. Bang the tin a couple of times, on the counter, to remove any large air bubbles.
  9. Place in the oven and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a skewer poked into the centre comes out clean.
  10. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  11. Place the blancmange powder into a bowl with the caster sugar and three of tablespoons of milk and mix to a paste.
  12. Heat the remaining milk until warm and pour  a little over the blancmange paste.
  13. Mix thoroughly until all is combined.
  14. Pour the remaining warm milk into the mixture and stir until combined.
  15. Pour mixture back into the saucpan and heat until just boiling, stirring all the time.
  16. Allow to simmer gently for one minute.
  17. Remove from the heat and pour into a jug for serving.
  18. While still warm any excess can be poured into a small bowl and placed in the fridge to set as blancmange.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Fig & Date Bundles - For Christmas

I was looking around for an alternative to mince pies for Christmas.  I love mince pies but I know that not everybody enjoys them.  In my searches I came across a recipe on Better Homes and Gardens for what they call Italian Fig Bundles.  They looked wonderful in the photograph and the recipe read quite well.  So I decided that I would make them, but call them Fig & Date Bundles as both those ingredients figure in large measure.

Basically a dough is rolled and cut into shapes.  Half the shapes have a lovely fig and date filling(with raisins, pine nuts and orange) placed on top and then a second shape, with an 'X' cut into it, placed on top and pressed down around the side.  The 'X' will open up to show off the filling. 

This does seem a great alternative to mince pies, or just as a lovely addition to Christmas treats.

Although the recipe details the ingredients for the filling I am sure they can be varied to include, for instance, dried apricots, chopped hazelnuts to make whatever flavour you enjoy.

I must say I loved the result of my bake they looked good and tasted even better.  They had the lovely crisp pastry and the rich, fruity filling.  These are perfect for the holiday season.
Fig & Date Bundles

Fig & Date Bundels - Video

For the dough:
  • 480g(3 3/4 cups) plain flour
  • 150g(3/4 cup) caster sugar
  • 170g(3/4 cup) softened unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 60ml(1/4 cup milk)
  • 1 medium egg(large in USA)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
For the filling:
  • 35g(1/4 cup) raisins
  • 42g (1.3 cup) pine nuts
  • 110g(2/3 cup) pitted dates, chopped
  • 130g(2./3 cup) dried figs, chopped(I used soft-dried)
  • zest of an orange
  • 45ml orange juice
  • 1/2tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg with 1 tbsp of water for brushing over the top.
  1. In a large bowl whisk the butter(I used my hand mixer) until nice and fluffy, about 30 seconds depending on how soft it is.
  2. Add the sugar and whisk until all combined.
  3. Add the salt, egg, milk and vanilla extract and beat until all is combined.
  4. Mix the baking powder into the flour and pour all into the wet mixture.
  5. Mix together until it forms clumps and all the flour is mixed in.
  6. Use your hands to pull the dough together into one large ball.
  7. Divide into four and wrap each part in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  8. In a food processor(I used the processing attachment of my immersion blender, half mixture each time), place the figs, dates, pine nuts, raisins, orange zest, orange juice and cinnamon. 
  9. Process until all has been combined into a paste.
  10. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F
  11. Line a couple of baking trays with parchment paper or silicone mats.
  12. Roll out a portion of the dough to a thickness of an 1/8th inch/3mm and then cut out an equal number of squares or circles using a serrated pastry wheel or a cookie cutter.  The circles should be 2 1/2 inches/just over 6 cm and squares should be 2 inches/5 cm.  
  13. Place half onto a baking tray and brush the edges with egg wash.
  14. Place a scant teaspoon of the fig mixture into the centre of each piece on the tray.
  15. With a very sharp knife cut an 'X' into each of the remaining pieces.
  16. Carefully place each piece with an 'X' over the heap of fig mixture and press down the edges onto the pastry base.  
  17. Brush all over with an egg wash and sprinkle with some coarse sugar.
  18. Bake in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes until the bundles are a nice golden brown.  
  19. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Friday, 22 December 2017

Cornflake Tart

I recently had a request, on my Youtube channel,  for a cornflake tart recipe.  The lady who requested it wants to make in for her husband who has fond memories his school dinners where it was served.  Having read up a little bit about cornflake tart it seems that is was fairly common on the menu at schools years ago.  Some recipes add some coconut to the tart but I am going with a basic recipe, most seem to be fairly standard, with pastry, cornflakes butter and golden syrup.  It also has a layer of strawberry jam on the base of the pastry case to give another flavour to enjoy. I followed a recipe from Bakingmad

This is another fairly straighforward recipe and doesn't take much effort, but it does require some waiting time, to let the pastry chill.  Then the pastry is blind-baked before being line with jam and topped with the cornflake mixture and baked for a few more minutes.  Then, once it has cooled a little it will set firmer and, I guess, will be ideal served with lashings of custard. 

I have to say my tart turned out very well indeed and tasted great, with the sweet mixture coating the crunchy cornflakes, with a fruity strawberry jam and a very short pastry.  Just perfect with some custard. 
Cornflake Tart

Cornflake Tart - Video

For the pastry:
  • 80g unsalted butter, cold
  • 180g plain flour
  • 30ml cold water.
For the topping:
  • 100g cornflakes
  • 65g unsalted butter
  • 135g golden syrup
  • 30g dark brown sugar
  • 100g strawberry jam
  • pinch of salt
  1. Place the flour and 80g butter into a large bowl and rub between your fingers until the texture resembles breadcrumbs(this can be done in a food processor).
  2. Gradually add the cold water and mix together until till the mixture starts to form clumps. 
  3. Use your hands to pull the mixture into a dough that comes cleanly away from the sides of the bowl.
  4. Form the dough into a disc shape and place in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for an hour.
  5. Once chilled take the dough from the fridge and place on a lightly floured work surface and roll out to a circle about 28cm/11 inches in diameter.
  6. Place the dough into a 23cm/9inch fluted tart tin, pressing the sides into the flutes.  Leave any excess in place for the time being.
  7. Place the dough back into the fridge for 30 minutes.
  8. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F
  9. Prick all over the surface of the dough with a fork.
  10. Line the dough with parchment paper and cover with baking beans(or rice, beans etc).
  11. Blind bake for 15 minutes, then remove the baking beans and parchment paper and bake for a further 5 - 10 minutes until the bottom is fully baked.
  12. Remove from the oven and place to one side.
  13. Place the 65g butter, sugar, golden syrup and salt in a saucepan and heat until all is melted, stirring until the sugar is fully dissolved.
  14. Remove from the heat and gently stir in the cornflakes.
  15. Spread the stawberry jam evenly over the base of the tart case.
  16. Cover with the cornflake mixture and gently spread around to make it as even as possible.
  17. Bake in the oven for 5 minutes.
  18. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes. 
  19. Remove from the tin and place on a wire rack to cool further.  As it cools the filling will firm up. 
  20. Serve very slightly warm, or cold, with custard if desired. You need to leave it long enough for the syrup to set everything together.