French Fruit Tart – James Martin Desserts

James Martin Fruit tart

I’ve neglected this blog lately, partly because I’ve been finding it harder to fit in trying new recipes but also busy. I really felt this tart was worth writing up. It’s a rubbish photo but it gives the idea of how nice this tart looks. We’ve started doing a regular neighbours dinner party where different homes contribute different courses and it was my turn to make dessert. It needed to serve 10 people but not with huge portions and I didn’t have very much time to prepare it and my time was going to be 10mins snatched her or there during the day. I love the James Martin Desserts book. It was a present from my cousin Shanaz who also loves to bake and cook. This looked impressive, wasn’t difficult to make (although the chocolate step was a faff see below) tasted lovely and was perfect quantity for 10.

This would make a lovely dessert for a country themed dinner party as it would easily adapt to a variety of flag designs with appropriate fruit.

Ingredients

  • 350 g puff pastry plus plain flour, for rolling out
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 85 g white chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 1/2 a vanilla pod, seeds only (optional)
  • 200 ml double cream, half whipped
  • 100 ml fresh custard
  • small punnet of medium-sized strawberries, hulled and halved
  • small punnet of blackberries and raspberries
  • 1 large banana, sliced
  • small bunch of seedless green and/or black grapes, halved
  • 4 tablespoons smooth apricot jam (I used my own plum jam and sifted out the fruit pieces)

Instructions

  1. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry and cut out a rectangle measuring 36 x 20 cm. Place on a baking tray. Using a table knife, score a 1 cm border around the edge, making sure you don’t cut the pastry all the way through.
  2. Brush the border with egg wash, taking care not to allow any to dribble down the sides because this will prevent the pastry rising evenly. Prick the base of the tart (not the border) with a fork and chill the pastry for 20 minutes.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 200 C. Bake the pastry for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and crisp. Slide onto a wire rack to leave to cool. Once cooled, gently press the centre of the pastry down to leave the frame around the edge. [When I did this I had a lot of crumbs and flaky pieces, next time I’ll brush these off]
    James Martin fruit tart pastry
  4. Melt the chocolate and brush over the bottom of the pastry [this step was a bit of a nightmare because of all the flaky pastry crumbs. I used 200g white chocolate and had two attempts and as you can see below it looked a mess. I assume the chocolate is to seal the base so the custard mix doesn’t make it go soggy]. Leave to set.

    James martin fruit tart chocolate

  5. Add the vanilla seeds to the cream and fold in the custard. Spoon and spread the cream mixture over the pastry base.
  6. Draw shallow lines in the cream mixture to create even sections of the fruit, and arrange the fruit on top so that each section is a contrasting colour. [There was something terribly satisfying about arranging the fruit]
    James Martin Fruit tart almost finished
  7. Heat the jam and, using a pastry brush, glaze the fruit. Allow to set before serving.

French Madeleines – Mary Berry’s Baking Bible

French Madeleines

The drawback of these delightful little cakes is you need a specialist tin eg. Madeleine Pan, Non-Stick 12 Hole. I put off getting one for ages as it seemed a bit indulgent getting a tin for just one type of little cake but I love the Bon Maman Madeleines so decided to give in and buy a tray. They are soft pillows of slightly lemony sponge with a slight crisp outer shell. I think I’ll try adding the lemon juice next time. Mary says this makes 30, it very much depends on the size of the hollow in your tray, I made 22. If I was making these for a tea party I’d buy a tray for little madeleines like this one Lakeland Silicone 24 Hole Mini Madeleine Cake & Chocolate Mould.

This recipe is from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible. If you like to bake and don’t already have this book I’d urge you to buy it and work your way through it. Her instructions are always precise and easy to follow, the results are always delicious.

Ingredients

  • 150g (5oz) butter
  • 3 large free-range eggs
  • 150g (5oz) caster sugar
  • 150g (5oz) self-raisng flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • grated rind of 1 lemon

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
  2. Melt butter in a small pan and allow to cool slightly
  3. Brush the madeleine tray with melted butter then shake in a little flour to coat, tapping out the excess.
  4. Whisk together the eggs and the sugar in a bowl until frothy (you will need an electric whisk for this).
  5. Fold in the remaining ingredients, (your mixture should resemble batter).
    Madeleine batter
  6. Spoon into Madeleine tray and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the mixture has risen a little in the middle and is fully cooked through.
  7. Grease and flour tray and repeat until all the mixture is used up (this mixture is fine to stand for a while)
  8. Transfer the madeleines to a wire rack and leave for a few minutes to cool slightly. These are best eaten on the same day.

Carrot Cake – The Great British Book of Baking

Carrot Cake -Great British Book of Baking

I didn’t manage to take a photo quick enough to get an uncut cake. This is only the second carrot cake I’ve ever made and to my mind this is superior to the Avoca carrot cake. It is from one of the Great British Bake-off (GBBO) tv series spin off baking books The Great British Book of Baking: 120 best-loved recipes from teatime treats to pies and pasties which is a lovely selection of truly British tea time treats. The aim of the book is to celebrate Britain’s baking heritage rather than feature recipes from contestants and as such if you only have one or two books on baking it would be a splendid choice.

This recipe contains walnuts and as you can see in the photo it is very definitely specked through with orange strands of carrot. It is a very soft cake and hard to cut tidily, since it is so soft I decided it would be too messy to go into school lunch boxes. It doesn’t taste too sweet the way some (especially commercial) carrot cakes do. One of my teens loves this cake, the other is not so sure but he will eat it.

Ingredients

For the Sponge

  • 225g Self Raising Flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg (I used ground)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mixed spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 225g soft light brown muscovado sugar
  • Grated zest of 1/2 an unwaxed orange
  • 100g walnut pieces
  • 3 medium free-range eggs (beaten)
  • 150ml sunflower oil
  • 250g grated carrots (approx 3 medium carrots)

For the filling and topping

  • 200g full-fat cream cheese
  • 50g unsalted butter, softened (and it really does need to be soft)
  • 150g icing sugar, sifted
  • Grated zest of 1/2 an unwaxed orange
  • 2 teaspoons of orange juice

Instructions

for the cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°c
  2. Grease and baseline two 20.5 cm round tins
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder and spices into a large bowl
  4. Use a wooden spoon to mix in the sugar, orange zest and nuts followed by the beaten eggs, sunflower oil and grated carrots.
  5. When combined, divide the mixture between the two cake tins and spread evenly.
  6. Bake in the oven for approximately 25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the centre comes out clean. Turn the cakes out onto a wire rack and leave to cool.

For the icing

  1. Beat together all of the ingredients with a wooden spoon until very smooth and creamy. It should be of a spreadable consistency. (In warm weather you may need to cool the mixture in the fridge before using).
  2. Spread almost half of the mixture onto one of the cakes. Top with the second cake and spread the remainder of the mixture over the top.
  3. Optionally decorate the top of the cake with orange zest, walnuts or if you want to go completely over the top little marzipan carrots. I left mine plain.

Sticky Gingerbread – Nigella Christmas

Nigella Christmas Gingerbread

Before I put the Christmas cookbooks away I thought I’d best try a few recipes. I’d planned to make the sticky gingerbread recipe from Nigella Christmas over Christmas but I couldn’t find any black treacle in the cupboard. This recipe really is very easy to make and delicious. I find Nigella’s recipes to be a bit more hit and miss than anyone else’s but she is consistently good on cakes. My tin was slightly bigger than she recommended so my pieces are flatter than her picture. I dusted my gingerbread with icing sugar before serving (the icing sugar had been absorbed by the left over gingerbread the next day).

Ingredients

  • 250g butter
  • 200g golden syrup
  • 200g black treacle
  • 125g dark brown sugar
  • 2 tsp finely grated ginger
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp bicarb of soda, dissolved in 30 mls warm water (2 tbsp of water)
  • 250ml full fat milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 300g plain flour

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c/150c fan/gas 3 and prepare a 20 x 30cm baking tray by lining it with baking paper.
  2. Place the butter, sugar, golden syrup, black treacle, cinnamon, cloves and the fresh and ground ginger in a medium sized saucepan and heat gently. When this mixture has melted take it off the heat and add the milk, bicarb of soda with water and the beaten eggs
  3. Sift the flour into a large bowl
  4. Pour the wet ingredients on to the flour and beat until well combined. I ended up with quite a few pockets of flour which I mostly beat out with a whisk.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 45 – 55 minutes (The mixture will be very runny – don’t worry that’s what it should be like). Don’t overbake.
  6. When ready, remove from the oven and place the tin on a wire rack to cool. This recipe will cut into about 20 squares and will keep for up to 2 weeks in an airtight tin. You can also freeze it for  up to 3 months.

Rachel’s Brownies

brownie pieces

My sister-in-law Rachel makes the best brownie I’ve ever tasted. I don’t know where she’d got the original recipe but I assume she’s adapted it over time as I can’t find any recipes with these relative quantities. It’s taken me a while to extract the recipe as Rachel has never written it down so I’ve had to follow and make notes. Hers look better than the photo above; she makes brownie at least once a week so they are as perfect as it’s possible to be.

Ingredients

  • 180g good quality dark chocolate
  • 180g butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 130g plain flour
  • pinch salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 180C
  2. Break chocolate into pieces and place in a small saucepan with the butter
  3. Melt over a low heat and mix together
  4. Meanwhile whisk eggs and sugar together in a large bowl
  5. Pour melted chocolate and butter into eggs and sugar mixture mixing all the while (chocolate and butter mix does not need to cool first)
  6. Add vanilla essence and mix in
  7. Fold in the flour
  8. Pour into a 20cm x 20cm silicon tray
  9. Bake for 20 minutes (or until sides are coming away from side of tray)
  10. Remove tray from oven and place somewhere where it will cool (onto a granite surface is ideal. Inside of brownie should be squidgy and top slightly flaky
  11. After 10 minutes turn out onto a board and cut into pieces (this is very rich so small cubes work)

Brownie uncut

Number Birthday Cake

Number 5 smarties cake

This isn’t really a specific recipe as I use a standard 4 egg victoria sponge recipe. I started making number cakes when my boys were very young. Initially I hired the tins but the combination of a full time job and young children made it difficult to get the tins back on time so I started to buy the numbers as I needed them. Children love these cakes, especially when they are allowed to decorate them with sweets. I usually do chocolate with chocolate fudge icing as shown above but white icing and dolly mixtures also work well. The cakes are also popular  with adults for significant birthdays. I made a ‘2’ and a ‘1’ for one of my nephews using chocolate fudge icing that I got as smooth as possible then dusted with gold dusting powder. I also made a ‘7’ and a ‘0’ for my sisters father in law with one number as a chocolate cake and the other vanilla sponge. The number ‘5’ above is for my youngest niece. As a busy mum one of the things I liked about using these tins is I didn’t need to spend too much time getting icing perfect.

The most time consuming/fiddly part is lining the tin!

Ingredients for Victoria Sponge

  • 225g unsalted butter, very soft
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 200g self-raising flour (if making chocolate substitute 4-6 tbsps flour for cocoa powder)
  • 25g cornflour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder (if using processor method)
  • 3-4 tablespoons milk

Instructions for Victoria Sponge

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C / gas mark 4.
  2. To make this basic sponge cake in the food processor: put all the ingredients except the milk in the food processor and process till you’ve got a smooth batter. Then pulse, pouring the milk gradually through the funnel till your cake mixture’s a soft, drooping consistency.

Chocolate Fudge Icing

I’ve put the quantities for Delia’s chocolate fudge icing from her Delia’s Complete Cookery Course below, I usually make double for a number cake but have plenty left over, I could probably get away with 1.5 times.

Ingredients for Chocolate fudge icing

  • 75g granulated sugar
  • 75ml evaporated milk
  • 100g dessert chocolate
  • 40g butter
  • 2 drops vanilla essence

Instructions for Chocolate Fudge icing

  1. To do this, combine the sugar and evaporated milk in a heavy saucepan. Heat gently to dissolve the sugar, stirring frequently. When the sugar has dissolved and the mixture comes to the boil, keep the heat very low and simmer for 6 minutes without stirring.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat and, using a small balloon whisk, whisk in the chocolate, followed by the butter and vanilla extract.
  3. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and, when it is cool, cover it with clingfilm and chill for about an hour to allow the mixture to thicken.
  4. Then beat again, and spread on sponge. Covering a number cake takes a while and you need to be careful to make sure all edges are covered as it’s easy to miss some.

Number 5 cake tin

  1. The first thing you notice about the tin is that it is open both sides so you need to place it on a baking tray to bake the cake. You need to start by greasing and lining the baking tray.
  2. Then cut a piece of baking parchment or greaseproof paper the size of the frame allowing at least a 2-3cm border all round.
  3. Cut strips of baking parchment or greaseproof paper wide enough to line the inside of the frame.  You don’t need to do one long strip, you can do several which makes it easier to position them. Place the frame, making sure the number is reversed, on the paper and trace round the inside of the frame.
  4. Draw your cutting line around the tracing allowing at lease 2cm all the way round.
  5. Cut out carefully and then snip the border at about 2cm intervals from the outside edge to the tracing line.  Where the shape changes direction make sure that you cut into the angle.
  6. Fold in the flaps. Where there is a curve it may be necessary to add a few snips.
  7. Grease  the number frame and position it with the number reversed.
  8. Ease the tracing into the frame pressing the paper onto the greased surface of the baking sheet and the flaps onto the greased side of the frame.
  9. Press the paper strips onto the greased side of the frame, overlapping where necessary and using a little more butter to stick the overlaps.
  10. The frame is now ready to be filled with cake mixture. There is a little bit of a knack to filling the frame. It is less obvious on this tin but the cake mixture rises more in the middle of the wider parts of the tin so I dip the mixture a little in the middle with a slightly deeper dip the wider the tin.

Peanut Butter and White Chocolate Blondies – Rachel Allen Bake

Blondies

I made the blondies because Aidan likes peanut butter, I like white chocolate and I wanted to make something different from Rachel Allen’s Bake cookbook. They were nice but not amazing (like her date bars). Jon is very keen on brownies made from dark chocolate so unsurprisingly he found them a disappointment. I like her idea of using peanut butter and may play around with the recipe to make a brownie version.

Ingredients

  • 125 g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 100 g butter at room temperature, plus extra for greasing
  • 150 g crunchy peanut butter
  • 175 g light brown sugar
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 75 g white chocolate, chopped

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 170C/gas 3. grease and line a 20 x 20cm square cake tin.
  2. Sift the flour and baking powder into a small bowl and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, cream the butter and peanut butter together until very soft. Add the sugar, egg and vanilla extract and beat until well combined. Add the flour, baking powder and the chopped chocolate and mix to form a dough.
  4. Place the dough into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for 25–30 minutes, or until golden brown and almost firm in the centre.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin, before removing and cutting into squares.