Sunday, 20 April 2014

Raspberry bakewell tart

 Two weeks ago I made the best jammy dodger biscuits I have ever tasted (modest, I know) using raspberry caramel.  What to do with the leftover caramel has occupied my brain probably more than it should so I was pleased when I decided on incorporating it into a raspberry bakewell tart.

I used the caramel in place of the jam layer that sits between pastry and frangipane and it behaved well –not making the pastry soggy and adding such sweet jamminess to the tart that I wonder if I could ever go back to jam. (Note to self: yes you will go back to jam because that only requires unscrewing a jar, whereas the raspberry caramel gave you anxious, tense moments peering into a pan of boiling sugar.
  Stop being pretentious.)

I added raspberries to the frangipane to add a hit of freshness and acidity and I think it ended up looking rather splendid (again, note my modesty!)  Perhaps it isn’t the most Easter-looking bake but I really fancied something bakewell themed.

You could serve this at room temperature with cream or warm for dessert with ice cream.  Every time I say about serving dessert warm with ice cream you should picture Mr CC in the background shouting, ‘or custard.  Custard would work.’  He likes custard.  A lot.

For the almond shortcrust pastry:
170g plain flour
60g ground almonds
110g unsalted butter, cold
50g icing sugar
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons cold water
For the frangipane:
150g unsalted butter, at room temperature
150g caster sugar, plus an extra teaspoon for sprinkling
100g ground almonds
2 eggs
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
50g plain flour
Handful of flaked almonds for scattering on top
For the raspberry:
6-8 tablespoons raspberry jam or raspberry caramel
200g fresh raspberries
To serve: thick cream; I chose clotted.  If you serve the tart warm then custard or ice cream

Make the pastry: Place the flour and ground almonds in a food processor and briefly pulse until they are combined.
Add the butter, diced into small cubes, and blitz until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. If you don’t have a food processor you can use the rubbing in method.
Add the sugar and blitz briefly.
Add the 2 egg yolks and water and pulse the processor until the dough just starts to come together.
Tip the dough out onto a sheet of clingfilm and bring together into a soft ball.
Flatten the ball into a disc shape (this will make rolling out easier) and wrap in the clingfilm.
Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/gas mark 4.
Roll the chilled pastry out between two sheets of clingfilm and use to line a 23cm loose bottomed round flan tin. No need to grease the tin as the pastry is buttery enough not to stick. It is very important that your pastry has no holes in it so patch carefully if need be! Don’t trim the pastry yet – leave the excess hanging over the side.
Line the pastry with a sheet of baking paper and weigh down with some baking beans.
Bake the pastry case for 15 minutes, then remove the beans and paper and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes.
Leave the pastry case to cool and, when cool, trim off the excess pastry.  I use a serrated bread knife as I find it doesn’t tear at the pastry and I have more control. (NB. For this tart I left the pastry untrimmed as it gave a nice rustic finish).
Now make the frangipane filling: Place all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and beat until whippy and combined.
Spoon the raspberry jam or caramel into the bottom of the pastry case - there should be just enough to cover the base; any more than this and the tart will be too sloppy.
Spoon the frangipane onto the raspberry jam/caramel and spread ensuring that it forms a seal with the pastry so no puree will bubble up during cooking.
Arrange the raspberries on top of the frangipane.
Scatter over a handful of flaked almonds, then finally sprinkle over a teaspoon of sugar.
Bake for approximately 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the frangipane comes out clean.
Leave to cool, in the tin, on a wire rack – only remove from the tin just before serving.
Serve either warm with ice cream or custard, or at room temperature with cream.
Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have made.


Sunday, 13 April 2014

Medlar and cinnamon upside down cake

This week’s bake turned into a bit of a voyage of discovery that all commenced one lunch time as I passed a Mediterranean greengrocers and saw a box of fruit labelled ‘medlars’.  I suspected they weren’t medlars because the medlars I’d seen were like oversized rosehips.  So I bought some and then went off to do my research (I know that’s the wrong way round – I should have researched first, but that’s just not the way I roll).

I googled medlars and site after site came up with the rosehip-looking type.  Dead end after dead end.  So I put my faith in google; I typed “soft fruit medlars that look a bit like apricots” and bingo!  I asked and the internet delivered.  What I had were loquats aka Japanese medlars aka Japanese/Chinese plums or biwa if you prefer.  It seems to be the fruit of a thousand names!

Mine felt like ripe apricots and the skin peeled off easily without needing to dip the fruit in boiling water.  For this cake I probably could have left the skin on as it’s very thin but I didn’t want to risk it.  The stone comes out easily but I also peeled away the thin white papery layer around it.

They have a beautiful flavour and were really juicy.  Imagine a less gingery mango with elements of orange, peach and apricot and you’d be getting close.  Fruity and sweet at first but finishing with a sharper acidic flavour I really fell for them in a big way and wished I’d come across them sooner.

This upside down cake contains cinnamon and vanilla, two spices that work well with most fruits.  You could serve this cake at room temperature for afternoon tea, or hot with custard or ice cream for dessert.

Here’s to more happy discoveries at the greengrocers!


For the base of the cake:
10-12 medlars, halved, stoned and peeled -  prepared weight 340g
60g unsalted butter
125g soft brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the sponge:
140g unsalted butter, at room temperature
140g golden caster sugar
2 eggs, plus 1 white
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
200g plain flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
75ml milk

To serve: cream, ice cream or custard


Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/ gas mark 4.

Use an all-in-one liner for a 20cm round springform tin.  If you don’t have a liner, wrap the outside of the tin in foil as you don’t want anything to leak during baking.

Start by making the base: Place the butter in the cake tin and put into the oven for about 3 minutes or until it has just melted (but isn’t burned or bubbling).

Stir in the brown sugar and cinnamon.

Arrange the fruit into the butter mix and put the tin to one side.  I put my medlars cut side down so they sat flush to the tin.

Now make the sponge: beat the butter and sugar until pale and whippy.  Don’t skimp on this stage.

Beat in the eggs one at a time followed by the additional white and vanilla.

Stir in the flour, baking powder and milk and mix until the batter is smooth and well combined.

Spoon over the fruit taking care not to disturb it.

For upside down cakes it’s important that the cake doesn’t ‘dome’ too much whilst baking because, when you turn it out, this will become the bottom.  I manage this by making a dip in the centre and building up the batter around the edge of the cake – during baking this usually settles out to an even layer.

Stand the cake tin on a tray in case the caramel bubbles up and bake for approximately 1 hour but check after 40 minutes to ensure the top isn’t browning too much.  If it is, loosely cover it with foil and continue to bake until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Leave to cool for 30mins-1hour in the tin before turning out and leaving to cool completely.  If you’re serving for a dessert turn out after about 10 minutes cooling time.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Sunday, 6 April 2014

Jammy dodgers

Every once in a while, because I am a good wife, I ask Mr CC if there’s anything he would like me to make.  Every time (without fail) he will pick something that, when I look at the recipe, I think ‘hmmm, not sure I can really be bothered with that’.  These biscuits are a good example.  They are also a good example of why you should let yourself be pushed out of your comfort zone because they are divine, and I would NEVER have chosen to make them!

I’ve made biscuits sandwiched with jam before but they don’t have that chewy quality that a good jammy dodger has.
  Now I know why.  It’s because you should use raspberry caramel rather than jam.  I say this like it’s my idea – it isn’t.  I learned this whilst searching for recipes and coming across The Pink Whisk a blog written by a former Great British Bake Off finalist.  The most I can take credit for here is being able to read.

I tend to avoid anything that involves making caramel; boiling sugar is not my friend.  We fell out a while back when I decided to test if the top of a crème brulee was crispy but tapping it with my finger.  Once I had separated finger tip from boiling sugar I realised I had a new kitchen foe to join yeast (well documented on this site) and squash (long story).

Passing the raspberries through a sieve is so much easier with a sieving mushroom.  This is a simple piece of kit – I think mine cost under £3 but it is the best thing for getting every scrap of goodness out of something you’re straining.  It leaves behind a dry pulp of seeds.  I’ve had mine for a few years now and I love the way each fruit stains the wood a darker colour – a sign of use! So much equipment is over-engineered or too complex but this is as simple as the day it was invented and does the job perfectly:

The caramel is a faff to make but worth it.  Stupidly, I decided to double the quantity as I was doubling the biscuit amount – this meant it took longer to boil than it would normally and it wasn’t necessary anyway as the recipe quantities (as stated below) makes more than you would need for a double batch of biscuits.  Not that it’s a bad thing – it keeps in the fridge for 3 weeks so I shall use it in other bakes.

The biscuit is a classic buttery vanilla biscuit and it’s got a lovely short but not too crumbly texture.  It’s the perfect carrier for the star of the show – the raspberry caramel.  It’s more jammy than jam and, as you’ll see from the recipe, contains a lot of sugar...but it’s not too sweet.  It is a really exciting discovery for me and I’m already thinking about how good blueberry caramel would be.

These were a big hit and I fear I’ve made a rod for my own back as I know they will be requested again.  It’s not that they’re difficult to make but they take time.  Any biscuit where you have to roll out and cut the dough takes time, but the addition of the caramel means they are not a quick bake.  Good job I made a double batch!

For the raspberry caramel:
120g fresh raspberries
Approx 75ml double cream
300g caster sugar
75ml water
100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
For the biscuits:
220g unsalted butter, at room temperature
110g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
340g plain flour

Start by making the raspberry caramel: Mash the raspberries through a sieve into a bowl or, if the top is wide enough, your measuring jug.
Transfer the raspberry juice to a measuring jug and add cream until you have 140ml of liquid.
Place the sugar and water into a large pan – go larger than you think for safety reasons.  A silver lined pan makes it easier to spot the caramel darken.
Gently heat the sugar and water and, initially just to ensure the sugar and water are mixed, you can stir.  Stop stirring after a couple of minutes.
Have a heatproof pastry brush (mine was silicon) and a bowl of cold water to hand.  As the sugar melts you will see little crystals stick to the pan; wet the brush and just push them back into the syrup.  This will minimise the risk of your caramel crystallising later.
Bring to the boil.  As the mix heats up it will become clearer.  You will also notice the size of the bubbles decreases and the mix takes on a thicker texture.
After a few minutes of boiling the colour will start to change.  Don’t walk off and do something else as it can burn very quickly. 
When you have a rich caramel colour remove the pan from the heat and add the raspberry cream and butter.  It will bubble up so be prepared for it (this is also why you should use a bigger pan than it looks like you’ll need).
Stir vigorously to mix all the elements together.  My sugar started to clump a bit at this point but returning to the heat got rid of virtually all the issues!
Return to the heat and stir all the time whilst bringing it up to the boil.
Boil for two minutes before pouring into a bowl and leaving to set.  I poured it through a sieve into the bowl and was glad I did as there were a couple of lumps of sugar.
Leave to cool.
Place in the fridge to set.
Now make the biscuits: beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Beat in the vanilla.
Add the flour and mix together, finishing off by using your hands to make a ball of dough.
Flatten into a fat disc and wrap in clingfilm.
Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/gas mark 4.
Line as many baking sheets as you have in non stick foil or baking paper.  I have three and used them in rotation, baking in batches.
Roll the dough out between two sheets of clingfilm.  You’re aiming for the thickness about no more than a £1 coin.
Cut out the biscuits using the size cutter of your choice.  I used a plain round cutter just over 6cm in diameter and got 16 biscuits from the quantity of dough given in the ingredients above. 
Use a tiny round cutter to remove the centre of half the biscuits – this will provide a window to showcase the raspberry caramel.
There is no need to leave big gaps on the baking sheet as the biscuits hardly spread whilst baking.
Bake for approximately 10-12 minutes until golden brown.  I turned the trays round halfway through cooking to ensure even baking.
Leave to firm up on the baking sheet for ten minutes before transferring to a wire rack and leaving to cool completely.
I didn’t make the biscuits up until the day I planned on serving them just to ensure the caramel didn’t make the biscuits soggy.
When you’re ready to make them up, place a generous ½ teaspoon of the raspberry caramel onto a biscuit, and top with a biscuit that has a circle cut out of it.  Squeeze gently to ensure the caramel covers the whole biscuit.
NB. If your caramel is too hard to spread, heat it briefly to soften and it will spread like a dream!  I didn’t do this and gave it a rapid stir to soften it – this worked for me as I wanted to keep the caramel on the stiff side so the top biscuit didn’t slide.
To keep the caramel firm, store in the fridge until 10 minutes before serving.
Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have made.


Sunday, 30 March 2014

Almond, amaretto and raisin cupcakes

There are many ways to induce me to buy something but one of the quickest is to make the small bottle a replica of the large therefore making it look cute in comparison.  I realise on reading this some of you will be thinking ‘what on earth is she on about’ whereas others will be nodding, thinking, ‘yeah, I totally get that’.  To cut a long story short I bought a miniature of Disaronno on a whim in a supermarket. (The egg in the photo is to illustrate how tiny and cuuuuuuuute the little bottle is!)

Having purchased my cute miniature I had to come up with a way to use it.  For those that haven’t tried it, Disaronno is a brand of amaretto, an almond liqueur.  Instantly I started thinking about an almond based cupcake so adapted my orange and almond cupcake recipe by losing the orange and replacing it with liqueur soaked raisins. I do have a fondness for booze soaked raisins and see no reason why they should only feature in Christmas baking.

Mr CC always announces loudly, lest I forget his views on the matter, that the best frosting/buttercream is cream cheese based.  Seriously.  He says this whenever the subject comes up on cookery shows or in conversation.  I get it: he likes cream cheese frosting.  All the (not so) subliminal messages must have worked because what’s on this cupake?  Cream cheese frosting!  It works well here as it holds it own against the bold flavour of the cupcake whilst adding another flavour and texture.  A lighter buttercream could get lost.

The cupcakes took on a little more colour than I’d normally like due to being overbaked by 3 minutes (which didn’t thankfully affect their taste or texture).  How can I be so precise?  Because I was hoovering and didn’t hear the timer; when I did it had been beeping for 3 minutes!  That’ll teach me for trying to multitask.  Kids – don’t be like me.  Don’t hoover and bake; it isn’t worth it.  This is actually one of the things Mr CC mocks me for over any other: refusing to accept that some items are designed to be mobile.  Hence, our cordless phone sits in the base unit and is never anywhere near me when it rings and, why our kitchen timer – with a clip on the back so it can attach to anything – was in the kitchen beeping away while I was hoovering the bedroom.  I’d like to say I’d learned my lesson, but.......

While the Disaronno is a dominant ingredient of the cupcake it’s worth noting that the entire 18 cucpakes use only one a miniature bottle, so if you’re not keen on alcohol please don’t be discouraged from this recipe.  Also, there is only 1 tablespoon of alcohol that isn’t cooked.

The Disaronno plumped up the raisins and made them much juicier, almost like berries.  One of my eaters, who didn’t know the method for making the cupcake, commented on this; I always think if someone notices without prompting then it must be true! 


For the sponges:
150g raisins or sultanas
4 tablespoons amaretto liqueur – I used Disaronno, but you could use rum or brandy if you prefer
225g unsalted butter, at room temperature
225g golden caster sugar
3 eggs
190g plain flour
75g ground almonds
2 teaspoons baking powder

For the frosting:
200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
450g icing sugar
200g cream cheese – I used Philadelphia
1 tablespoon amaretto (Disaronno) liqueur


Preheat the oven to 170°C/fan oven 150°C/340°F/gas mark 3.5

Line two cupcake pans with 18 paper cases.

About an hour before baking, or the night before if you remember, soak the raisins in the amaretto.

Now make the sponge: beat together the butter and sugar until light and pale.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

Beat in the flour, almonds, and baking powder.

Gently stir in the raisins, including any liquid that has not been absorbed.

Spoon into the paper cases.

Bake for approximately 22 minutes, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
Leave to cool.

Now make the frosting: beat the butter until soft.

Add the icing sugar and cream cheese and stir together manually before going back to the stand mixer – this stops the icing sugar clouding up!

Beat until well combined.

Beat in the amaretto.

Spoon into a piping bag and, if the frosting is very soft, don’t be afraid to chill it for ten minutes before piping.

Pipe over the cupcakes.

Refrigerate until 30 minutes before serving.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.