Cakes : Bakes: Crème caramel

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Home-made heart shaped crème caramel | H is for Home

I got, not one but two, pressure cookers in a mixed lot at auction last week. I’d been after one for a while – it’s a piece of kit that was always being used in my parents’ (and my friends’ parents’) kitchen.

Small Le Creuset heart-shaped ramekins in the pressure cooker

I haven’t used one in decades. They’re superb for cooking bean, pulse and rice dishes in particular…

Caramel poured into moulds

…but this is a ‘Cakes & Bakes‘ post, so a more suitable dish was required. I spent last night looking at all manner of pressure cooker recipes and decided on crème caramel.

Making custard for crème caramel

Probably not something you’d immediately think of making in a pressure cooker – but it appeared quite straightforward, so ideal for me to reacquaint myself with the hissing and steaming beast.

tin foil covered heart-shaped ramekins in a pressure cooker

The results were actually delicious!

Nettle loaf
Yields 1
Cook Time
35 min
Cook Time
35 min
  1. 5g/⅙oz active dried yeast
  2. 300ml/10.5 fl oz warm water
  3. 500g/18oz plain flour
  4. 10g/⅓oz salt
  5. handful of nettle leavesNettle loaf ingredients
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  1. Add the yeast to the water and stir to remove any lumps. Add a teaspoon of sugar (optional) to help it along if the yeast is a bit old. Set aside for 15 minutes until it forms a foam
  2. In a colander, rinse & drain the nettle leaves removing any thick stalks. Set aside 4 or 5 of the leaves before roughly ripping the remainder
  3. Add the flour to a large mixing bowl and make a well in the middle
  4. Pour the yeast liquid into the well in the flour
  5. Bring the flour into the centre and combine
  6. Add the salt to the dough and knead to form a ball
  7. On a lightly floured work surface, knead the dough for 10-15 minutes
  8. Put the dough back into the bowl, cover with clingfilm and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size (about an hour)
  9. Lay the reserved nettle leaves, smooth side down, into a well-floured banneton if you have one. If not, lay them into a well-greased loaf tin
  10. Once proved, empty the dough out on to a lightly floured work surface and knead in the nettles (this is best done wearing a pair of clean rubber gloves)
  11. Form the dough into a ball and place into the banneton (or oblong if using a loaf tin)
  12. Put the banneton/loaf tin into the large mixing bowl and cover with clingfilm and leave to prove, again until doubled in size, in a warm place
  13. Preheat the oven to 240ºC/465ºF/Gas mark 9, put an empty roasting dish on the bottom shelf of the oven and fill a cup with cold water and set aside
  14. Once the loaf has risen, if using a banneton, grease a baking sheet and gently decant the loaf on to it, trying not to knock any air out of it
  15. Quickly & carefully pour the cup of water into the roasting dish before putting the loaf into the oven
  16. After 10 minutes, turn the oven down to 200ºC/ 400ºF/Gas mark 6
  17. Bake for a further 20-25 minutes before taking it out of the oven
  18. Leave to cool on a wire rack for at least half an hour before use
H is for Home Harbinger

Cakes & Bakes: Chocolate caramel chestnut cake

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Home-made chocolate caramel chestnut cake | H is for Home

When we did our Christmas shop, we picked up a bag of chestnuts – something you’d only really see in the shops around that time of year.

stack of orange cake tins and handful of chestnuts

We had thoughts of a lovely Christmas lunch, followed by a walk in the snowy countryside and then coming home to roast the chestnuts in our wood-burner. Chance would be a fine thing! Three weeks on, the bag of chestnuts was still in our vegetable rack waiting for its big day.

making caramel sauce

I had a look through my cookbooks and online and came across a recipe for a chocolate caramel chestnut cake. The original recipe has a brandy syrup which I substituted with rum. It also calls for edible gold dust to brush on the chestnut garnish – not something I had to hand! It looks so pretty that I’d definitely plan ahead and order some if I was making the cake for Christmas or another special occasion.

brushing rum syrup on a layer of chocolate caramel chestnut cake

This recipe looks like a big, time-consuming job but as its author, Dorie Greenspan, says:

Because every element of the cake can be made ahead, you can work on it in stages. The filled and glazed cake can be kept in the refrigerator for a day, but add the chestnut garnish right before serving.”

The ganache is best if refrigerated overnight. The glaze needs a 4-hour rest and the cake, if it’s been seriously chilled, needs some serious time on the counter to come to room temperature – serve it cold, and you won’t get the full measure of pleasure from the ganache so plan ahead.”

Pouring chocolate glaze on to the chocolate caramel chestnut cake

To roast the chestnuts (in an oven, if you don’t have the quintessential ‘open fire’), preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/gas mark 6. Mark a small cross on the flat side of each using a small sharp kitchen knife making sure you pierce the skin but not cut the nut inside. You could also pierce a few times with the fork. Put the nuts on a baking sheet, cut side up, and cook for about 10-20 minutes, turning a couple of times until the skins open. Peel while still warm.

Home-made chocolate caramel chestnut cake, sliced | H is for Home

The completed cake looks very impressive with it’s height, multiple layers and glossy finish. Tasty too – well worth the time and effort!

Easy pizza base
Yields 3
  1. 2 tbsp fast acting yeast
  2. 1 tsp sugar
  3. 1 tbsp olive oil
  4. 300ml lukewarm water
  5. 500g strong flour
  6. ½ tsp sea saltEasy pizza base ingredients
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  1. In a measuring jug mix the oil, lukewarm water, sugar and fast acting yeast
  2. Leave in a warm place for 10 minutes for the yeast to begin foaming
  3. In a large mixing bowl combine the flour and salt and make a well in the middle
  4. Add the yeast mixture and combine to a smooth, firm dough
  5. On a floured work surface, knead the dough for 5 minutes and form into a ball
  6. Put the ball into the large mixing bowl, cover with cling film and leave in a warm place to prove until it doubles in size - about an hour
  7. Tip the dough back out on to the floured work surface, divide into 3 equal parts and flatten each into 1cm circles
  8. Leave to rest for 15 minutes before adding toppings and cooking
H is for Home Harbinger

What a Tart!

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slice of chocolate and salted caramel tart on vintage 'Aztec' plate with matching cup & saucer

Last week I watched the first episode (which was all about chocolate) of Raymond Blanc’s new series on BBC 2, Kitchen Secrets. The programme reminded me of a chocolate & salted caramel tart recipe that I’d torn out from a recent Telegraph Stella weekend magazine. It turned out so well and tasted so delectable that I thought I’d share it with you!

Chocolate & salted caramel tart

Yield: serves 8

Chocolate & salted caramel tart


  • For the pastry
  • 300g/10½oz plain flour
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 150g/5½oz butter
  • 3 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tbsp water
  • For the caramel
  • 250g/9 oz golden granulated sugar
  • 6 tbsp water
  • 100ml/3½ fl oz single cream
  • 125g/4½oz salted butter, melted
  • ½ tsp sea salt flakes, plus extra to decorate
  • For the chocolate filling
  • 125/4½oz good quality dark chocolate, broken into chunks
  • 85g/3oz butter
  • 1 egg plus 2 yolks
  • 3 tbsp caster sugar


  1. To make the pastry, put the flour, cocoa and butter into a food processor and whiz until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and whiz again. Mix the egg yolk with the water and add that. Process again until the mixture comes together in a ball. You may need to add a little more water. Wrap in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for half an hour. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface and use to line a deep 24cm (9 in) tart tin with a removable base. Carefully trim the excess from the rim and keep to patch up any holes later on. Put in the fridge or freezer to chill until firm. Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/gas mark 6.
  2. To make the caramel, put the sugar and water into a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Heat slowly so that the sugar dissolves. Once it has, turn up the heat and boil until the syrup turns to caramel – you will know by the smell and colour. Be careful not to take it too far and burn it. Once it has reached the caramel stage, stir in the cream – stand back as it will hiss and spit – and the butter. Add the salt and stir to help everything to melt and blend. Leave to cool.
  3. Prick the base of the tart case, line with greaseproof paper or foil and fill with baking beans. Bake blind for 12 minutes, then remove the paper and beans and leave to cool a little. Pour in the caramel. Turn down the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4.
  4. To make the filling, melt the chocolate with the butter in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Remove and leave to cool a little. Whisk the eggs and sugar using an electric beater until the mixture is light and fluffy and has increased in volume. Stir in the chocolate and butter. Pour over the caramel and put in the oven. Bake for 12 minutes. Leave until cool enough to handle, then carefully remove the rim and put the tart on a plate. Decorate with a very light scattering of sea salt flakes and serve.

chocolate and salted caramel tart with one slice removed

It’s incredibly rich – you won’t need a big slice – a dollop of crème fraîche makes a perfect accompaniment.

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