No-bake peach and almond tartlets

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 3/4 cup 35% cream
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp orange-blossom water
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 large ripe, firm peaches, peeled and diced
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted

METHOD:

  1. Stir crumbs with butter in a medium bowl, until mixture is moist. Line 8 cups in a muffin tin with cupcake liners. Scoop a scant 3 tbsp crumb mixture into each cup. Firmly press from centre of liner to edges and up the sides until crust is even with rim. Refrigerate until firm.
  2. Beat mascarpone with cream, honey, orange-blossom water and vanilla in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high until fluffy, about 2 min. Remove muffin tin from refrigerator and fill prepared crusts with mascarpone mixture up to the rim. Smooth tops. Refrigerate for about 1 hour.
  3. Stir peaches with sugar in a small bowl. Let sit until peaches soften, about 15 to 20 min. Drain liquid and stir in almonds.
  4. Unmold tartlets onto individual dessert plates. Scoop mixture over each tartlet.
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Coconut Rose Chocolate Macaroons

INGREDIENTS:

makes ~50 small macarons or 20-30 large macaroons

for macaroon shells*:

  • 200 gr powdered sugar
  • 120 gr blanched and slivered almonds
  • 20 gr unsweetened dried coconut flakes (not the sugared kind!)
  • 30 gr granulated sugar
  • 100 gr egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/4 tspn cream of tartar
  • 1/8 tspn coconut extract
  • 1/8 tspn rose extract

METHOD:

  1. Prepare two baking sheets lined with silpats or parchment paper and a pastry bag with a large round piping tip.
  2. Combine the powdered sugar, almonds, and dried coconut flakes in a food processor and grind until a fine powder. Sift thoroughly through a fine mesh strainer and set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, have ready the granulated sugar.
  4. In a separate mixing bowl, combine the egg whites and the cream of tartar. Using a balloon whisk, quickly stir the mixture until the entire surface is covered with foam. Then, start whisking the egg whites, gradually adding in the granulated sugar once the egg whites are very frothy. Whisk until you reach glossy, almost-stiff peaks.
  5. Gently fold the sifted almond and powdered sugar mixture into the egg whites in two to three stages, adding the coconut and rose extracts as you go. Mix just until the ingredients are incorporated and the batter slowly re-absorbs peaks. Do not overmix!
  6. Transfer the macaroon mixture to the prepared piping bag and pipe rounds on the lined baking sheets. Tap the baking sheets on the table a few times to release air pockets.
  7. Rest the macaroons for at least 30 minutes (and up to 60), until the outside shells are no longer tacky and sticky to a light touch.
  8. Preheat oven to 145 degrees C, with the oven rack in the bottom third of the oven.
  9. Bake the macaroons in the oven, one sheet at a time, for 24-28 minutes total, rotating the sheet half-way through the baking time to insure even baking.
  10. Remove from oven and let cool.

*Note: the resting and oven temperature and times are adjusted to what works in my kitchen and oven (which, to my knowledge and according to two oven thermometers, is quite accurate). Please note that you may have to adjust according to what works in your kitchen and oven.

for coconut-rose chocolate ganache:

  • 1/2 cup coconut cream (see note below)
  • 1 Tbspn butter
  • 1 tspn rose water
  • 2 tspn corn syrup
  • 4 oz. dark chocolate, chopped

METHOD:

  1. In a small saucepan, combine the coconut cream, butter, rose water, and corn syrup. Bring to a simmer.
  2. Once the coconut cream mixture is simmering, remove from heat and add the chocolate. Whisk until smooth.
  3. Let cool completely, and use to fill macaroons.
  4. Once the macaroons are filled, let them “cure” in an airtight container in the refrigerator overnight before serving.

Note: for coconut cream, skim the cream off the top of a can of coconut milk. A little bit of milk is okay.

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Cake

INGREDIENTS:
For the cake:
  • 130g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 100g peanut butter (I used crunchy)
  • 45g unsalted butter, soft
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 50g soft brown sugar
  • 75g (1.5) eggs, lightly beaten
  • 75ml buttermilk

For the chocolate ganache:

  • 150g dark chocolate (approx 72%)
  • 125ml double cream
  • 25ml buttermilk
  • 1 tbsp light brown sugar

To finish:

  • small handful of peanuts (I used salted)
  • approx 1 tbsp cocoa nibs

METHOD:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Butter and flour a 6″ cake tin (double all ingredients for a 9″ tin or two 8″). Sieve the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a bowl.
  2. Weigh the peanut butter, butter, caster sugar and brown sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer. Cream together, beating for about 4 minutes until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl with a spatula. Add the egg in small splashes, beating very well in between. When the egg is incorporated, clean down the sides then add half the flour. Mix on low speed until the mixture starts looking uniform, then add the buttermilk in a steady stream. Once you’ve added all the buttermilk, take the mixture off the stand mixer. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and fold in with a spatula.
  3. Transfer to the prepared tin and level. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick can be removed cleanly from the middle. Leave in the tin for five minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool. When the cake is totally cool, split it into two or three layers with a serrated knife.
  4. To make the ganache, chop the chocolate up into small chunks and place it into a bowl. Put the double cream, buttermilk and brown sugar in a small pan and warm over a medium heat. When it starts to steam, pour over the chocolate, pushing all of the chunks into the liquid. After a few moments start stirring in the centre, slowly incorporating the rest of the liquid until you have a thick, glossy ganache. Leave to cool for a few minutes to thicken slightly.
  5. Place the layer that was the top of the cake upside down on the serving plate on top of some strips of parchment paper. Smear some ganache over the layer, then add the next cake layer. Repeat for the next layer if you cut into three. Cover the cake with a thin layer of icing – a masking coat – then put in the fridge to chill. Finally cover the cake with a full layer of ganache, trying not to overwork it. Arrange the peanuts and cocoa nibs on top of the cake for contrasting crunch.
  6. Best served at room temperature, though it keeps well covered in the fridge for a few days.

(Makes approximately 8 slices)

Strawberry Cream Layer Cake

INGREDIENTS:

For the strawberry puree:
  • 350g fresh ripe strawberries
METHOD:
  1. Wash and dry the berries. Remove the stems and place into a food processor or blender. Blend until it is as smooth as possible. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl to remove the seeds.
For the icing:
  • 250g marscarpone
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 80g strawberry puree
METHOD:
  1. Beat the marscarpone with a spoon in a medium sized bowl until smooth. Add the icing sugar and beat until combined. Add the strawberry puree in four batches, beating to combine between each addition. Put into the fridge to chill and set a bit while you make the sponges etc.
For the sponges:
  • 105g plain flour
  • 40g cornflour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 45ml cold water
  • 160g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
METHOD:
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  2. Grease and line two 7″ tins (or 6″ – I used these the first time).
  3. Sift the flour, cornflour, baking powder and salt together three times.  Place the yolks and water in bowl of a stand mixer and whip on high for 1 minute.
  4. Add the sugar and whip for appox 5 minutes – until the mixture is pale, fluffy and leaves a trail when the whisk is lifted out.
  5. Add the vanilla and whip for a few seconds to combine. Transfer the mixture to another bowl (unless you have two stand mixer bowls) and wash the bowl up, drying it carefully. Whip the egg whites in the mixer to stiff peaks.
  6. Place the yolk mix bowl on a damp cloth to stop it moving. With your non-dominant hand sift the flour slowly over the yolk mix, while your dominant hand folds it in, using a whisk. Use a large metal spoon to add and then fold in 1/3 of the egg whites. Finally fold in the remaining 2/3 of the whites.
  7. Quickly transfer the mixture to the two tins and put in the oven. Bake for about 20-25 minutes – a skewer should come out clean from the middle of the cake and it should spring back from a touch. Immediately slide a knife around the edge of each cake so that it shrinks evenly.
  8. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes then remove to the rack and peel off the paper.
For the vanilla syrup:
  • 75ml water
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla pod
METHOD:
  1. While the sponges are baking, place the water and sugar into a small saucepan. Scrape the seeds out of the pod and add both the seeds and pod to the pan. Heat over a medium heat until the sugar has fully dissolved. Leave to steep until needed.
To assemble:
  • 100ml double cream
  • 150g fresh strawberries
  • remaining strawberry puree
METHOD:
  1. Whip the double cream until it holds soft peaks. Split the cool sponges into two with a serrated knife. Cut the strawberries into thin slices of about 1/2 cm.
  2. Cover the serving plate with four strips of baking parchment and then set one sponge circle on top. Brush 1/4 of the syrup over the sponge.
  3. Spoon over about 2-3 tbsp of strawberry puree, spreading it out as you go. Spread a 1/3 of the whipped cream over the top, leaving a small space around the edge.  Arrange 1/3 of the strawberry slices over the cream in a single layer.
  4. Add the next sponge circle and press it down lightly. Repeat the syrup, puree, cream and strawberries for this circle and the next. F
  5. inally add the last layer and brush over the last 1/4 of the syrup. If you like, cut a wooden skewer to size and use as a dowel to keep everything in place. Use about 1/3 of the icing to create a crumb coat, concentrating on filling any gaps on the sides between layers.
  6. Chill for 30 minutes. Finally smooth over the rest of the icing and add any decoration – I piped whipped cream dots on the first, then wrote on the second with white chocolate.

(Serves 10-12)

Rose & Pistachio Layer Cake

INGREDIENTS:
For the pistachio layers:

  • 90g unsalted butter
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 100g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 20g ground pistachios

For the rose buttercream:

  • 75g egg white (2-3 eggs worth)
  • 110g granulated sugar
  • 125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp rose water

To assemble & decorate :

  • 1 unsprayed rose
  • 1 egg white
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 20g ground pistachios

METHOD:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170C. Grease two 5″ round tins. Beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl and add the eggs and pistachios. Beat to combine. Divide between the two tins. Bake for 20-25 minutes until a skewer can be removed cleanly from the centre. Cool in the tins for 5 minutes then remove to a wire rack until cool.
  2. To make the sugared petals, carefully pull the petals off the rose. Discard any bruised or brown petals. Separate an egg and put in a small pot. Put the sugar in a small bowl/pot. Using a paintbrush or pastry brush, lightly cover a rose petal in the egg white. Either carefully press the petal into the sugar or sprinkle it on. Put to dry on a sheet. Repeat for all your petals. Leave to dry for about 30 minutes or until fairly hard before using.
  3. For butter-cream – When you’re ready and have all your ingredients set out, combine the whites and sugar in a medium heatproof bowl and place it over a pan of simmering water. Whisk until the temperature hits 160F and the mixture is smooth (check by rubbing a little between your fingers).
  4. Transfer to a stand mixer (or just use a hand whisk with the same bowl) and start whipping on medium-high. Whip for about 8 minutes – it should be really thick and glossy and gorgeous. Check that it is room temperature – if not leave it for another minute or two slowly whisking. Turn the speed back up to medium/high and add a piece of butter (should be about tbsp sized pieces). Whisk until totally incorporated, then add another. Repeat until all the butter is used.
  5. At this point if it looks soupy and thin, pop it in the fridge. If not, keep whipping until it is thick and luxurious again – this can take quite a while. When ready, whip in the rose water teaspoon by teaspoon, checking after each addition for taste.
  6. Split each of the cakes into two. Place four strips of greaseproof paper on your cake plate and then place one of the layers on top. Remove 1/3 of the butter cream to another bowl and fold in the pistachios. Spread a 1/3 of this pistachio buttercream over a layer. Repeat with the rest of the layers.
  7. Use some of the remaining plain rose buttercream to smooth a thin layer of icing over the cake – a crumb coat. Place in the fridge for 10 minutes. Finally use the remaining butter cream to put a final coat of icing on top of the crumb coat. Arrange the rose petals on top of the cake and sprinkle with a few remaining pistachio crumbs if desired.

(Serves 5-6)

Chocolate Cake

INGREDIENTS:
For the icing:

  • 275ml double cream
  • 250g granulated sugar
  • 130g 99% unsweetened dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 100g unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the cake:

  • 450g granulated sugar
  • 200g plain flour
  • 85g unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 275ml milk
  • 135ml canola oil/another oil with no flavour
  • 275ml boiling water

METHOD:

  1. Start with the icing. Combine the cream and sugar in a large saucepan. Put over a medium heat and bring to the boil. Once it starts to properly bubble, turn the heat down to low and simmer for 6 minutes. It foams up a lot. Take off the heat and leave to cool for one minute then add the butter and chopped chocolate. Stir until smooth then transfer to another bowl and stir in the vanilla. Leave to cool, stirring occasionally.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Butter, line and flour two 8″ cake tins (not ones with removable bases, the batter is too liquid).
  3. Place the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer with the beater attached. Stir on the lowest setting until a uniform brown colour.
  4. Add the beaten eggs, milk and canola oil then turn the mixer up to medium and beat for 2 minutes. Boil the kettle while it beats then turn off and pour in the water. Mix it on low until smooth – it is very soupy.
  5. Divide between the two tins – I think mine were 650g each. Carefully transfer to the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes or until a skewer can be removed from the centre cleanly (mine took 40). Leave to cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes in the tins then turn out and remove the paper.
  6. By the time the cakes are totally cool, the icing should be thick enough to ice – it should hold its own weight.
  7. Place one of the cakes onto a serving plate lined with paper strips. Spoon some of the icing into the middle and spread it out. Add the top layer then spoon about half the rest of the icing onto the top. Drag down and over the sides and smooth over. Add the rest as you need it, working fairly quickly. Use a palette knife dipped in a jug of hot water then dried with a towel to get a shiny finish. Watch out as you move it – the layers can slide a little until it sets up.
  8. Add any decorations, final flourishes and candles then slice and enjoy.
Version 2
INGREDIENTS: 
makes one 3-layer 8″ cake

for frosting:

  • 1 3/4 cups (350 gr) sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 7.5 oz (213 gr) unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
  • 12 Tbspn unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 1/2 tspn vanilla extract

METHOD:

  1. In a saucepan, bring the sugar and heavy cream to a boil over medium heat.
  2. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the cream and sugar for six minutes. Be careful not to let the saucepan overflow.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the chocolate and butter until they have completely melted.
  4. Stir in the vanilla extract.
  5. Let the frosting cool completely, whisking every now and then during cooling.  (You can do this step in the refrigerator to speed up the process)  Once completely cool at room temperature, the frosting will be spreadable.

for cake:

  • 3 cups (600 gr) sugar
  • scant 3 cups (425 gr) AP flour
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbspn (135 gr) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tspn salt
  • 2 1/4 tspn baking powder
  • 2 1/4 tspn baking soda
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cup hot coffee

METHOD:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease, flour, and line the bottoms of three 8″ round cake pans. If desired, wrap the cake pans with bake-even strips.
  2. In a mixer bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Mix to combine.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the beaten eggs, vegetable oil, and milk. Stir to mix. Then, with the mixer on low, pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix on low until evenly distributed.
  4. Pour the hot coffee into the batter and mix on medium low until smooth. The batter will be soupy.
  5. Divide the batter between the cake pans.
  6. Bake for 35-45 minutes. When a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out cleanly, the cakes are done. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
  7. Level the cakes (this is easier if they’ve sat in the freezer for at least one hour beforehand).
  8. Stack the cakes, spreading a layer of frosting in between each cake layer. Frost the outside of the cake–for a smoother finish, use a hot knife.

Note: this recipe also works for a 3-layer 9″ cake, with slightly shorter layers.

Raspberry and Almond Layer Cake

INGREDIENTS:
For the cake:

  • 100g butter
  • 40g light brown sugar
  • 70g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g plain flour
  • 20g ground almonds
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2-3 drops almond essence

METHOD:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170C.
  2. Grease two 5″ tins (or one and simply bake one after another).
  3. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, flour, almonds and baking powder and beat until well combined. Add the almond essence and briefly beat in.
  4. Divide between tins and bake on a medium shelf for about 20-25 minutes or until golden and a toothpick comes out clean.
  5. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool throughly.

To assemble:

  • 1 medium punnet fresh raspberries
  • 3 tbsp raspberry jam
  • 200ml double cream
  • few drops almond essence
  • small handful of flaked almonds

METHOD:

  1. Slice each cake into two.
  2. Place one cake on the serving plate, cut side up (reserve the nicest half for the top – the bottom half is often neater). Spoon on a tbsp of raspberry jam and spread – add more if you think you need it. Reserve a handful of the prettiest raspberries to decorate.
  3. Cover the jam with raspberries, slightly squished – you could cut them in half to make them go further and have a neater, more stable cake. Top with another cake and repeat, the another cake and repeat. Place your final cake on top. You may find it useful to use a few toothpicks as dowels to help the structure – just remember to take them out!
  4. Whip the double cream until fairly stiff, then add the almond essence. You could also add a tbsp of icing sugar if you like – I prefer mine unsweetened. Whip a bit more until it forms a good beak when you remove the whisk.
  5. Spoon about half the cream on top of the cake, then start working it down the sides with a palette knife.  Add the rest of the cream when you need it. It’s difficult to work with and doesn’t behave particularly well, but I promise it’s worth it. When you’re satisfied, top with the reserved raspberries and the handful of flaked almonds.
  6. Best eaten the day you put it together because of the cream