Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Chocolate Almond Cake - Queen Of Sheba Cake

I was reading Julia Child's Mastering The Art of French Cooking when I came across what she calls Queen of Sheba Cake. I then took a look at Youtube and I found an episode of her 1960s TV show where she made the cake.  It looked interesting so I thought that I would try it.  I converted the recipe to metric measurements and set to work.

Making the case is quite easy and when it bakes the top cracks somewhat.  Then when baked the outer couple of inches will test 'clean' with a skewer and the centre will test 'moist' with some chocolate on it.

When the cake is cool a thin layer of ganache is poured over it before being dressed with a few whole blanched almonds.

I actually made the cake twice, as I had camera problems the first time.  The cakes turned out very well and I was very pleased with the resulting flavour and texture too.
Queen Of Sheba Cake
                                 Queen Of Sheba Cake - Video

For the cake:
  • 115g dark chocolate
  • 115g softened unsalted butter
  • 115g caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp dark rum(or strong coffee)
  • 3 medium egg yolks(large in USA)
  • 3 medium egg whites(large in USA)
  • 60g ground almonds
  • 60g plain flour
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 15g extra caster sugar
  • pinch of salt
For the ganache:
  • 60g dark chocolate
  • 1 tbsp dark rum(or strong coffee)
  • 60g butter, cubed
  • blanched almonds to decorate.
  1. Melt the chocolate in a bain marie/double boiler and set aside to cool somewhat.
  2. Butter and flour an 8 in cake tin(I used springform), and line with parchment paper.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350 F.
  4. In a large bowl(or a stand mixer) cream the butter and 115g sugar until fluffy.
  5. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, and beat until incorporated.
  6. Mix the chocolate, rum and almond extract together and pour into the butter mixture and beat to combine.
  7. Add the flour and almonds and mix until combined.
  8. In a separate bowl whisk the eggs, with a pinch of salt until nice and frothy and beginning to increase in volume.
  9. Gradually add teh 15g sugar, and whisk until the egg whites have formed stiff peaks.
  10. Add 1/3 of the egg whites to the batter and mix to combine and loosen the mixture.
  11. Add the remaining egg whites and gently fold in until fully combined.
  12. Pour the batter, which will be quite thick, into the cake tin and spread to cover evenly.
  13. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes.
  14. Remove from the oven leave to cool for about 10 minutes before running an edge around the outside edge and turn out onto a cooling rack.
  15. When the cake is cooled melt the chocolate with the rum, in a bain marie/double boiler.
  16. Remove from the heat and add the butter, stirring until it has melted and the mixture is smooth.
  17. Gently pour the ganache over the cake(stand on the wire rack over a baking tray) and spread over and allow to run down the sides to fully coat.
  18. Place a few almonds on the top as decoration.
  19. Set aside to allow the ganache to firm up before serving.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Passion Fruit Curd & Peach Tart

Having made more Passion Fruit curd I decided to make a tart using it.  For that I needed shortcrust pastry and some fruit.  I decided on an easy recipe and used tinned peaches.

Shortcrust pastry is delicious and this recipe uses a combination of butter and lard, to make it even shorter, with just a little sugar to sweeten it.

You could easily make the pastry in a food processor, but it is also very simple to make in a bowl, by hand.  The important thing is not to add too much ice cold water as that would make the pastry too wet and rather than crisp it would become hard when baked.

My tart case turned out very well and it was a simple thing to spread the curd in and then place the sliced peaches on top.  I also grated some nutmeg over to give that extra bit of flavour.

Before serving it is necessary to chill the tart, so that the passion fruit curd can firm up again.

If you cant buy passion fruit curd you can make your own, as I did, using the recipe found here: .  You could also use a different flavoured curd if you wish.
Passion Fruit Curd & Peach Tart
                        Passion Fruit Curd & Peach Tart - Video Ingredients:
  • 255g plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 80g cold butter, cubed
  • 47g cold lard, cubed
  • 3-4 tablespoons of ice cold water
  • 2 x 410g tins of sliced peaches
  • 1 half peach, from another tin, if you wish to make a centre circle.
  • 227g passion fruit curd
  • Nutmeg for grating over the top, if desired
  1. In a large bow places the flour and salt and mix together.
  2. Add the butter and lard and gently coat the cubes in flour.
  3. Then rub the butter and lard into the flour using your fingertips and thumbs, until you have a breadcrumb like texture.
  4. Gradually add the water, a tablespoon at a time, and stir in using a knife until you have little balls of dough forming. 
  5. You may not need all the water, stop when the balls are beginning to clump together.
  6. Use your hands to pull the dough together into a large ball and flatten to a disc.
  7. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
  8. Roll the pastry out, on a lightly floured surface,into a circle large enough to line a 9-10 inch tart tin, overlapping the sides.
  9. The pastry make crack, that is fine, just patch it.
  10. Cut off the excess and chill again for 30 minutes.
  11. Preheat the oven to 190C/170C Fan/350F.
  12. Prick the pastry all over with a fork, ready for blind baking.
  13. Line the pastry with parchment paper, of foil, and fill with baking beans(or rice, dried beans etc),
  14. Bake for 15 minutes.
  15. Remove from the oven and take out the baking beans and paper.
  16. Bake for a further 5 minutes then remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
  17. Take some of the curd, I used four heaped dessert spoons full, and spread evenly over the base of the tart case.
  18. Arrange the peach slices as you wish onto the curd.
  19. Grate the nutmeg over the top if you wish.
  20. Refrigerate until fully chilled before serving.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Flapjacks - A Tasty Oat Traybake

In the UK Flapjacks are a firm favourite.  They are very simple to make, and just so delicious and contain so few ingredients.  Most of the ingredients are likely to be in the food cupboard of most British homes.

So these are not the same as flapjacks in the USA which I believe is a type of pancake.

Oats, butter, golden syrup, sugar and a pinch of salt is all it takes to make Flapjacks.  That doesn't sound much, but put them together and they really do create a wonderfully chewy treat.  They can be made crunchy, by baking longer and layering thinner, but the traditional flapjack is the lovely chewy version.

For the oats I used porridge (or porage depending on how you like to spell it) oats and added some rolled oats.  Porage oats tend to be slightly smaller than the rolled one, so are better suited to this recipe.  The rolled oats, being just that little bit larger, give a better look to the top of the flapjacks but they don't affect the flavour. 

From start to finish they only take 40 minutes to make, though you should wait for them to cook before cutting into bars or squares.

Mine turned out just exactly as I like them, nice and chewy and tasting simply delicious.  With a recipe this simple I can think of no reason why anyone would opt to buy those in supermarkets which certainly don't taste as good.
                                               Flapjacks - Video Ingredients:
  • 400g porridge(porage) oats
  • 100g rolled oats
  • 250 unsalted butter
  • 250g soft light brown sugar
  • 100g(5 tbsp) golden syrup) (at a push you could use maple syrup or honey)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F.
  2. Line a baking pan with parchment paper (mine was 20cm X 30cm(8X12 inches).
  3. Mix the oats together(you could use just porridge oats) and mix in the salt.
  4. In a large saucepan put the butter, golden syrup and sugar and heat until all have melted and mixed together.
  5. Take the butter mixture off the heat and add the oats. (you could do this in a large bow rather than the saucepan).
  6. Mix all the ingredients together until the oats are fully coated with the wet mixture and are sticking together.
  7. Tip the mixture into the lined baking tin and press down to level out across the tin.
  8. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until the edges are just beginning to brown and dry out.
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
  10. As the flapjacks cool you can score the top into the sizes you want.
  11. When fully cooled cut into the size you wish and serve.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Cheese and Onion Pasties

Today I decided to make some savoury pasties.  I have a new tool that I thought would work very well for shaping the pasties.  I chose cheese and onion, with potato, as the filling.

So what I needed was a nice shortcrust pastry, though puff pastry would have been fine too.  It is just that I prefer shortcrust for pasties.

The recipe is actually very simple,  but it just takes a little time from start to finish.  

I dont really like cooked cheese, so I didn't taste the pasties, but I was able to try the pastry on one of the small ones.  The pastry was fantastically light and flaky, due to the lard.  I know the full pasties will taste great too, and are ideal warm or cold.
                                       Cheese & Onion Pasties 

                                    Cheese & Onion Pasties - Video
  • 400g plain flour
  • 300g potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes.
  • 300g grated cheddar cheese, I used medium, but strong would be fine too.
  • 2 small onions, chopped
  • 1 tsp English mustard powder.
  • 100g butter, cubed and chilled
  • 100g lard cubed adn chilled
  • 1 medium egg(large in USA), beaten
  • 1 extra egg, for an egg wash.
  • 4-6 tsp ice cold water.
  1. Place the potatoes in a saucepan with some water and bring to the boil.  Let them simmer for about 10 minutes.(If you wish to mash the potatoes you should boil them for longer)
  2. Drain the potatoes and set aside to cool.
  3. In the bowl of a food processor place the flour, lard and butter.
  4. Pulse until the mixture has turned into a fine breadcrumb texture.
  5. Add the beaten egg and pulse to mix it in.
  6. Add 3 tablespoons of water and pulse until the mixture clumps together.  
  7. Take out of the processor and place on a slightly floured work surface.  
  8. Pull the dough into a disc and cover with plastic wrap and then chill for 30 minutes.
  9. Meanwhile, place the potatoes and onions into a large bowl, mix together and sprinkle the mustard powder over the top.
  10. Add the cheese and mix together again. Set aside.
  11. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/400F
  12. Line a couple of baking trays with parchment paper, or silicone mats.
  13. Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out to about 1/4 inch thick.
  14. Cut circles of the diameter you wish, I did 6 inches/15cm(then I did some smaller ones too).
  15. Place some of the filling into the middle of the cut out pastry, leaving a gap around the edge. (don't over fill or you will get leakage - which i did on a couple of mine).
  16. Brush the edge of the pastry with egg and then fold one edge over the filling and press down onto the other edge.
  17. Press the edges together with a fork to make a pattern.
  18. Brush the top with egg wash.
  19. Make a hole in the top to allow steam to be released during baking.
  20. Place the pasties onto the baking trays and bake in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the pastry is cooked and a nice golden brown.
  21. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.
  22. These pasties can be frozen, either before or after baking. 

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Easy Banana Muffins

One of the viewers on my Youtube left a comment asking if I might make some Banana Muffins.  He had seen my video of Banana and Carrot Muffins, but is not a lover of carrots.  So I thought that I would do some banana ones, with an additional which can be easily omitted, that being hazelnuts.

I am basing this recipe on one from, but I have amended it slightly.  As I said I am using some hazelnut, which have a lovely flavour, but you could easily omit them.  You could also add some spices, like cinnamon.  But I didn't want to detract too much from the banana flavour.

Muffins are very easy to make, it is just a case of mixing all the dry ingredients together, then mixing all the wet ingredients together and combining the two without over mixing them.

This recipe will make 12 muffins.  I think I used paper cups which were a little large, but that really doesn't matter.  You don't even have to use paper cups, if you grease the muffin tin.

My muffins turned out very good, and just so tasty.  
Banana Muffins

                                        Banana Muffins - Video
  • 240g plain flour
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • large pinch of salt
  • 112g melted and cooled unsalted butter
  • 1 medium egg(large in USA), beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g chopped hazelnuts(if you wish - or any other nuts)
  • 470g of mashed banana(this was three large bananas for me)
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F.
  2. Line a muffin tin with paper cups, or grease the tin.
  3. Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar and chopped nuts together until evenly mixed.
  4. In a large bowl place the mashed banana, cooled butter, vanilla extract and beaten egg and whisk to combine.
  5. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
  6. Divide the mixture evenly into the paper cases.
  7. Baked in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until the muffins are springy on top and a skewer poked into the centre comes out clean.
  8. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack until completely cooled.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Caramel Slice - Squares

I was recently reading through an old recipe book that I brought back from Canada last year, 150 Delicious Squares.  This book is by Jean ParĂ© and dates back to the early 1980s.  I read through the book and quite liked the look of several recipes.  I also noted that almost half the recipes included chopped walnuts and/or almonds.  I don't mind either of those but I decided to vary one of the recipes, for Caramel Slices by using chopped pecans instead.

I also converted the ingredient to metric measurements (reducing the amount of soft brown sugar too), for my own comfort, since I am used to baking that way.  
The recipe is simple, with just a base that is left to cool and then topped with a caramel frosting.  The base, as well as having the chopped pecans, has coconut, brown sugar, egg and butter.  So I just knew it was going to be very tasty.

Having baked the base it is left to cool completely before making the frosting and spreading over the base.  Then it is just a case of cutting into squares.

Mine turned out very well indeed, with a nice firm base that is chewy inside.   The aroma from the oven while the base was baking really whetted the appetite for what was to come.  They taste great, extremely moreish.

I  baked the base in my new mini oven, or toaster oven, since it is a convection oven and it comes to temperature much quicker than my main oven.  Also since the mini oven is so small it actually needs less electricity to keep it heated to temperature whilst baking. Mini ovens. or toaster ovens, are not really common in the UK, but are becoming more available.  They are ideal for cooking small dishes,  so just perfect for this recipe.
Caramel Slice - Squares
                                 Caramel Slice - Squares - Video
For the base:
  • 56g unsalted butter
  • 190g soft brown sugar
  • 1 medium egg (large in USA), beaten
  • 70g chopped pecans(you could use walnuts)
  • 95g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 75g dessicated coconut
For the frosting:
  • 56g unsalted butter
  • 110g soft brown sugar
  • 30ml milk(2 tbsps)
  • 125g icing sugar
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F and line a 9x9 inch baking tin with parchment paper.
  2. Melt the butter for the base and pour into a bowl.
  3. Add the soft brown sugar and mix to combine.
  4. Add the egg and mix again, until fully combined.
  5. In a bowl mix the flour, baking powder, salt, pecans and coconut.
  6. Add that mixture to the butter mixture and stir until fully combined.
  7. Scrape the mixture into the baking tin and spread evenly across the base.
  8. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes until the mixture is cooked and has slightly browned.
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
  10. To make the frosting place the butter, brown sugar and milk into a saucepan and bring to the boil.
  11. Simmer for 2 minutes.
  12. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. (you can speed up the cooling by pouring the mixture into a cool bowl, or dipping the pan into cold water).
  13. When the mixture has cooled add the icing sugar and stir into to make a nice frosting that is spreadable. (add a little more milk if too stiff, or more icing sugar if too loose).
  14. Spread the frosting over the base and allow to set before cutting into squares.
  15. Note:  you can get 36 1 inch squares, though I prefer larger ones, you can cut them to whatever size you wish.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Cream Cheese & Vanilla Cookies

I was looking at a blog recently, Ma Petite Boulangerie and I saw a lovely looking cookie, or biscuit, made with cream cheese and vanilla.  I thought I would like to try them. The blog is actually in Spanish so I had to use a translator program to see the recipe in English, and then to do a bit of guessing to make sure I got things right.

The cookies are actually a pastry type dough which is rolled out, coated in sugar and then rolled up into a sausage shape and cut to size before baking.

It all seemed simple enough so I decided to try it.

I must say that I think the cookies turned out well, and taste very good indeed, with the vanilla flavour and just a slight creamy flavour too.  They are also simple to make. They actually are similar to palmiers, but of course not using puff pastry and are shaped differently. 

Cream Cheese & Vanilla Cookies

                        Cream Cheese & Vanilla Cookies - Video
  • 200g cream cheese
  • 100g unsalted butter(at room temperature)
  • 250g plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 80g granulated sugar
  1. In a mixing bowl cream the cream cheese and butter together.
  2. Add the salt and vanilla bean paste and mix again.
  3. Add the flour and mix until combined and clumping together.
  4. Pull the dough together and place between two sheeting of parchment paper.
  5. Roll out to a thickness of 2-3mm or 1/4 inch, in a rectangle shape of about 13inches x 10 inches.
  6. Place in dough in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.
  7. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/350 F
  8. Remove from the fridge and sprinkle about 3 tablespoons of sugar over the dough.
  9. Use a rolling pin to gently press the sugar onto the dough.
  10. Roll up, the long side of the dough into a sausage about 13 inches long.
  11. Cut the dough into 1/2 inch thick slices, so you will have about 26.
  12. Place each slice into the remaining sugar, coating on both sides.
  13. Place each slice onto a baking tray, lined with parchment paper, leaving a gap between each for spreading.
  14. Bake in the oven for 20 to 30  minutes, or until the cookies have turned a nice golden brown. I baked mine for 30 minutes as the centres didn't seem baked through.
  15. Remove from the oven and leave for a couple of minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.