Saturday, 11 January 2014

A Tale of (apple) Tarts

As you can tell, I've had a break from blogging. A wedding, job change, house move and making the decision to leave the country all took their toll and I needed to eliminate the extra pressure and guilt that comes from frantically trying to catch up with blog posts.

So now autumn is upon us, my winter coat has come out of hibernation and I've bought a new pair of gloves which should last about a week before I lose one and have a cold left hand. I'm trudging through autumnal leaves to work and millions of apples seem to be suicidally throwing themselves from trees. 

Both at home and work, I am being given more apples than I know what to do with. I have filled my spare jars with chutney and my friends with apple crumble cake but still the bags of apples lurk in the corner of my kitchen. 

So I've been perfecting the art of the apple tart.

I used Mary Berry's recipe because I love and trust her! I blind baked the pastry first whilst I make an apple puree with. Then I filled the case with the puree and topped with sliced apples, demerera sugar and flaked almonds. Served warm with Nigella's salted caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream it was YUM!

The cake tasted delicious but I slightly over baked the pastry and didn't have enough filling inside the tart. The flaked almonds were tasty but quickly went soggy.

The new improved tart had perfect pastry and brandy soaked sultanas in the apple puree. Both these things increased the yum factor of the tart but it still needs more filling....

I learnt from my mistakes and cooked plenty of apples with brandy and sultanas. Topped with sliced eating apples and demerera sugar and enjoyed with a dollop of creme fraiche - delicious!

So here's my final recipe:

165g plain flour
25g ground almonds
55g caster sugar
120g butter
1 egg

6 cooking apples
sultanas (a couple of handfuls or however many you fancy!)
2 eating apples
light brown sugar
2 teaspoons of mixed spice
2 tablespoons of brandy
A sprinkle of demerara sugar

This pastry is best made the day before you want to use it as it will be much easier to work with:
Rub the butter into the flour and almonds until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs and then mix in the caster sugar. Stir in the egg until the mixture begins to come together as a dough then tip onto a floured surface and knead. Cling-film and refrigerate overnight.

To make the tart:

Preheat the oven to 180C and soak the sultanas in the brandy.

Roll out the pastry to about 1cm thick and line a 20cm tin - make sure you push the pastry right into the corners. Cut off any excess pastry with a knife. Line the pastry with foil and fill with baking beans. By wrapping the foil tightly over the top of the tin and filling to the top with baking beans, you should prevent the pastry shrinking. Bake for about 20 minutes at 180C. Remove the foil and baking beans and return the pastry to the oven for about 5 minutes, until it has a light colour all over. Set aside whilst you make the filling.

Peel, core and chop the cooking apples into small chunks. Put the chopped apples, sugar and mixed spice in a saucepan. Cook over a low heat until the apples are soft but not mushy and then add the brandy and sultanas and remove from the heat. 

Peel, core and slice the eating apples and place on top of the cooked apple mixture. Sprinkle the demerara sugar on top and cook for about 15 minutes.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

A Wedding Feast

Apologies for being so absent recently, I have been rather busy getting married! I am also in the middle of changing jobs and moving but I will be back to baking and blogging soon I promise! In the mean time I thought I would share some photos of the baked goods we had on offer for our 'big day'.

Our wedding was very much a DIY affair, I called in a lot of favours to make bunting, chutney, cake stands, flower arrangements, cookies - the list goes on! For food we opted for a hog roast instead of a traditional 3 course meal and then a table of cheese, bread, crackers and chutney later in the evening. Pudding was a tables of cakes, biscuits and other sweet treats made my myself, my friends and family.

Our actual wedding cake took centre stage and was created by my colleague Hannah at The Pink Flamingo Bakery. The top layer was an orange sponge (coloured red and orange) filled with orange cream cheese frosting and covered with dark chocolate ganache. The bottom layer was carrot cake, filled with cream cheese frosting and covered with a white chocolate ganache - it was divine. The teacup with orange and red flowers in it fitted perfectly with our colour scheme and the teapots we used as table centres.

My very talented cousin made gorgeous chocolate lollipops in dark and white chocolate which were decorated to fit in with our colour scheme. We displayed them in jam jars and they were very popular!

When Matt and I first went to Paris together, we bought a lemon tart from a patisserie near the Sacre Couer. The perfect pastry, zesty lemon filling and sweet italian meringue topping was so mouth watering that we named it 'the best tart in the world'. I thought it was only right that our favourite tart should feature at our wedding!

My husbands surname is 'King' and although I decided not to take his name I thought it would be nice to include a reference to his name. So my friend made some deliiiiicious vanilla shortbread in crown shapes. She used gold beads and edible lustre spray to make them look extra regal!

We had a few gluten intolerant guests and I obviously didn't want them to miss out on pudding! I made a rather boozy fruit cake which even I liked, and I don't usually eat fruit cake (isn't it amazing what a bottle of brandy can do?!). Gluten free versions of fruit cake work well as there's a lot less flour than sponge cakes and no raising agent. I also adapted the hummingbird chocolate cupcake recipe by replacing the flour and adding 1/2 tsp xantham gum and made mini cupcakes.

I gathered together jam jars, baskets, boards and cake stands to display the sweet treats. My sister made some cake stands from old sherry glasses and plates and a friend of my mum's made the stand for the wedding cake from wooden logs!

So now that I am left with empty cake stands, it's time for me to get creative to the kitchen again - be back soon!

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Garlic Bread

I've had this post all ready to publish for a while but it hasn't seemed appropriate in this heat! However this week I am all about comfort food and it doesn't get much more comforting than this! It's a relatively quick and easy recipe so no slaving away in the kitchen and I think it makes a great addition to a summer salad.

I love garlic. I love garlic WAY too much! My housemate and I used to roast whole bulbs and eat it as a snack (probably a good job that out boyfriends lived about 150 miles away at the time!)

Garlic bread is a great way to jazz up and bulk out a regular meal. I realise that you can buy a garlic bread sticks cheaply and chuck them in the oven but let's face it, nothing beats freshly baked bread. This recipe really doesn't take long and you can easily mix it up and leave to rise and you prepare your lasagne or cottage pie).

I'd like to experiment with different ways of making garlic-y bread but for now this is a quick and delicious addition to dinner with the family. I've used Paul Hollywood's recipe for his cottage loaf as this only require 5 minutes of kneading and an hour to prove.


400g strong white flour
1.5 ts salt
30g yeast
60g softened butter
250ml water

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Knead on a floured surface for about 5 minutes return to the bowl and leave to rise for 1 hour.
Shape your loaf and place onto a lined and oiled baking tray. Dust with flour and cut vertical .... in the bread. Bake for 30 minutes (the top of the loaf should be golden brown).
Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Roast two bulbs of garlic for 30 minutes at about 200C. Once cool enough to touch, squeeze out the garlic and use a fork to mash it into the softened butter.
Cut the bread into thick slices and spread the garlic butter onto each slice. Chop about five cloves of raw garlic and sprinkle over the bread as well as chopped chives and cracked black pepper. Place under the grill for a few minutes until lightly toasted and enjoy the buttery, garlicy, doughy goodness!

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Cake Decorating

A few more photos of my cake decorating and proof that I have no idea what I'm doing....

A year ago I didn't know how to cover a cake with sugarpaste. I had never really worked with it at all apart from an extremely poor attempt at making a football themed 21st birthday cake for my boyfriend! So I've very much taught myself as I go along, as much out of necessity as anything. This process occasionally involves me discovering that I'm 'doing it all wrong'!

Up until recently I have covered all my cakes with a layer of buttercream and then put the sugarpaste on. I have struggled to achieve that smooth, finished look with my sugarpaste and I now realise that this is because I haven't left the buttercream to set before covering with sugarpaste. I've started doing this with the last few cakes I've made and have really noticed the difference.

 The cake below is a chocolate cake which I covered in chocolate ganache instead of buttercream. This creates even more defined and smooth edges and I will definitely continue to use ganache on chocolate cakes.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Gluten-free Red Velvet

My baby sister turned 18 last month - something that was very scary and made me feel rather old! I wanted to make her a special birthday cake so decided to attempt my first tiered cake. It needed to be gluten free so I turned to my trusty red velvet recipe - a wheat-free variation of the Hummingbird classic. This recipe made a deep 8" cake, a regular 6" and mini cupcakes.

Gluten-free Red Velvet Cake Batter

375g caster sugar
950g margarine
6 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla essence
3 tbsp red food colouring
65g cocoa powder
950g gluten free flour
1 tsp xantham gum
1 tbsp bicarbomate of soda
1 tbsp salt
3 tbsp white wine vinegar

Cream the sugar and margarine until light and fluffy. Beat in three eggs until well mixed and then add the other three and mix well. Mix in the vanilla, red food colouring and cocoa powder and scraoe the sidesto make sure you don't ose any cocoa powder! Alternate adding the milk and flour until it is all mixed in. Add the bicarb, salt, xantham gum and white wine vinegar and beat the btter until smoot, making sure there are no lumps stuck to the bottom of the bowl.

Cream Cheese Frosting

900g icing sugar
150g butter
350g cream cheese

Beat the ingredients together until smooth and will spread easily.

In terms of the decoration, there was no obvious theme so I wanted to work with the colour of the cake and use bright colours to create a fun and slightly kitsch look.

Baked and decorated, the main challenge with this cake was the transportation from St. Albans to Brixton, keeping it safe and away from 'tasters' overnight and then up to North London. But after two trains, two tubes and two very achey arms the cake arrived safely at my parents house in time for a birthday barbecue.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Happy Birthday!

I have a few blog posts in the pipeline but have been far too busy eating, drinking and generally enjoying being the birthday girl to do anything productive!

So for now I will leave you with a guest blog post over at Cakes for Dorothy, another baking blog which is written by Emma...

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Let them eat brioche!

I love baking bread. I also love eating bread. To be honest I'm an all round bread lover!

Despite this I am definitely a beginner when it comes to bread baking mainly due to time contraints - I may have time to whack together a dough but leave it to prove, knock it back, prove again and THEN bake...?

When I do get the time however, I love to orrganise a day around baking (and then eating) some doughy treats. So with a lazy Monday ahead of me, out came my baking hat and Paul Hollywood's '100 Great Breads'. I decided to make Brioche Tetes mainly to see whether I could and the prospect of freshly baked brioche was very exciting!

The recipe was very easy to follow and I was pleased with the results (I have had mixed success with bread so I had my fingers crossed!). They didn't rise as much as I expected in the proving stage and turned out rather wonky but they smelt amazing when they came out of the oven and tasted delicious.


375g strong white bread flour
40g caster sugar
15g yeast
1 tsp salt
75ml milk
3 eggs
185g softened butter

Mix the flour, sugar, yeast, salt, milk and eggs by hand for about 8 minutes until it's a smooth dough (or 5 minutes in a food processor). Add the butter to the dough and mix for a further 10 minutes (or 5 minutes in a food processor). Put the dough in a bowl, cover and leave in the fridge overnight. 

In the morning the dough is easy to work with, break it into 75g pieces and shape each pieces into a larger and a smaller ball. Put the larger balls in the muffin case and push the smaller balls onto them. Leave to rise in a warm place or 1 hour. 

Preheat the oven to 200C, brush the dough with eggwash and bake for 15 minutes until golden. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Although the dough does need to be left overnight, the first stage doesn't take long at all so I mixed the dough in the evening and finished it off the next day so it needn't take up too much time. Just try it. Go on...!

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Morphy Richards