Cakes & Bakes: Lemon and blueberry Pavlova

Home-made lemon and blueberry Pavlova | H is for Home

One of the first things I remember baking as a kid in Trinidad are soupies. Plain meringue rounds, usually with a good dash of garish food colouring. I don’t think I’ve made meringue since then, so this dessert is a long time coming! This time the recipe will be a bit more sophisticated; I’ll be making a lemon and blueberry Pavlova. I’m not a great fan of dry, chalky meringue so I’m making it with a just about baked, soft, chewy Swiss meringue.

Four separated eggs and aluminium cup of sugar | H is for Home

For a successful meringue you need to ensure you do a few things. Firstly, use the freshest eggs possible. Next, separate you eggs – one by one – not into each other to ensure none of the yolk gets into the mix. If you don’t, the yolk of the last egg you crack splits, that would be all the egg whites ruined!

Swiss meringue mixture over a saucepan of simmering water | H is for Home

It’s also important to make sure that your mixing bowl and your whisk or whisk attachment are clean as a whistle. If they have any sign of oil or grease it will affect how well the egg whites form those all-important stiff peaks.

Beaten Swiss meringue mixture | H is for Home

Success on that front – so I was off to a good start!

Swiss meringue piped on to parchment paper | H is for Home

I decided on three graduated layers with whipping cream swirled with the gently simmered blueberries – and a small batch of my freshly made lemon curd.

Home-made lemon and blueberry Pavlova with jar of lemon curd | H is for Home

The flavours worked so well together – the sweet meringue combining beautifully with the slightly tart blueberries and the sweet, unctuous lemon. A real triumph!

Home-made lemon and blueberry Pavlova | H is for Home

Other great Pavlova fillings you could try are the classic strawberries, passion fruit & kiwifruit; mandarin; peach, pomegranate, banana & toffee (banoffee) or black cherry & chocolate (black forest). Or flavour the actual meringue with cocoa powder, fine ground coffee beans or – my new favourite – cardamom.

Lemon and blueberry Pavlova
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Ingredients
  1. 4 egg whites
  2. 200g/7oz caster sugar
  3. pinch of cream of tartar
  4. 150g/5oz blueberries
  5. 300ml/10½fl oz whipping cream
  6. 50g lemon curd
  7.  
  8. Home-made lemon and blueberry pavlova ingredients
  9.  
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 100ºC/200ºF/gas mark ½
  2. Line a large oven tray with baking parchment
  3. In a heat-proof mixing bowl, gently mix the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar over a simmering saucepan of water (make sure the bottom of the bowl isn't touching the water). Keep stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved
  4. Remove the mixing bowl from the saucepan and, using an electric mixer, beat on a slow speed rising gradually to a high speed. Continue for about 3-5 minutes until the meringue forms stiff peaks
  5. Spoon the meringue into a piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle
  6. Pipe 3 graduated circular shapes and 6-8 meringue kisses on to the parchment paper
  7. Bake for 1-1½ hours depending on how sticky or hard you want the finished meringue
  8. Put the blueberries into a small saucepan with a tablespoonful of sugar and cook on a low heat for about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool
  9. Beat the whipping cream until thickened and forms peaks. Set aside
  10. When cooked, remove the meringue from the parchment paper (you may need to use a palette knife) and allow to cool completely on a wire rack
  11. Put the largest meringue round on to a large plate and top with ⅓ of the whipped cream, ⅓ of the blueberry mixture and drizzle with ⅓ of the lemon curd
  12. Repeat with the two other circles of meringue (the smallest goes on the top)
  13. Decorate with the meringue kisses
H is for Home Harbinger http://hisforhomeblog.com/

No churn pistachio ice cream

Home-made no churn pistachio ice cream | H is for Home

Remember last week, I failed to use the bag of pistachios in my store cupboard? Well I’ve used them this week… well most of them, anyway.

Milk and pistachios in a saucepan | H is for Home

I’ve puréed them and whipped up a batch of pistachio ice cream adapting my basic no-churn ice cream recipe originally borrowed from Nigella.

Pistachio purée in an electric blender | H is for Home

It tastes nothing like the pistachio ice cream you can buy in a supermarket (in a good way).

Whipped cream in a food processor | H is for Home

It looks nothing like it either – but if you like it like that, by all means add a couple of drops of green food colouring to the mix.

Tub of home-made pistachio ice cream with chopped pistachios sprinkled on the top | H is for Home

Finish with a generous sprinkling of chopped pistachios and you’ve got yourself a quick, simple summertime dessert to enjoy on it’s own, in a cone or as an accompaniment to a hot fruit pie or brownie.

Pistachio ice cream
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Ingredients
  1. 100ml/3½fl oz milk
  2. 30g/1oz pistachios (shells off weight)
  3. 300ml/10½floz double cream
  4. ½ tin condensed milk (200g)
  5. 2tsp vodka
  6. 20 pistachios, roughly chopped
  7. Home-made pistachio ice cream ingredients
  8.  
Instructions
  1. In a small saucepan, heat the milk and 30g of pistachios. Turn off the heat just before it begins to simmer. Allow to cool
  2. Put the double cream, condensed milk, vodka and puréed pistachios into an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on a high speed until firm (about 2 minutes)
  3. Decant the mixture into a 1-litre lidded tub/container, sprinkle the chopped pistachios over the top and freeze for at least 4 hours - preferably overnight.
H is for Home Harbinger http://hisforhomeblog.com/

Cakes & Bakes: Double espresso brazil nut cake

Slice of home-made double espresso brazil nut cake and double espresso in vintage 'Black Velvet' china | H is for Home

We’ve been enjoying a very successful British summer of sport so far with Andy Murray winning Wimbledon (and Heather Watson the mixed doubles), Danny Willett taking the golf US Masters title and Chris Froome dominating the Tour de France. The England cricket team have been performing well, Lewis Hamilton leads the Formula One championship… and our Olympic prospects are looking bright.

Boiling milk and coffee in a saucepan | H is for Home

Chopped brazil nuts | H is for Home

What could we incorporate into this week’s Cakes & Bakes to mark the start of the afore mentioned Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro? Why brazil nuts of course!

Double espresso brazil nut cake mixture in a pair of round cake tins | H is for Home

Cooked double espresso brazil nut cake layers cooling on a wire rack | H is for Home

I trawled all my cook books and the internet and eventually found Dan Lepard’s double espresso brazil nut cake recipe in the Guardian website’s Food & drink section. If you’re a fan of coffee & walnut cake, you’ll love this!

Making the sandwich filling for the double espresso brazil nut cake | H is for Home

Chocolate icing filling ingredients | H is for Home

His instructions call for a coffee water icing but I found a chocolate filling that I fancied (from my Little Books of Delight: Chocolate Cakes), so I combined the two together. I also added some whole and chopped brazil nuts to garnish the top. Serve it with a double espresso, what else?!

Iced & decorated double espresso brazil nut cake | H is for Home

Double espresso brazil nut cake
Serves 8
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For the cake
  1. 100ml/3½fl oz milk
  2. 2 level tsps instant coffee
  3. 1 tbsp fine-ground roasted coffee beans
  4. 175g/7oz butter, softened
  5. 100g/4oz light soft brown sugar
  6. 100g/4oz caster sugar
  7. 2 eggs
  8. 100g/4oz plain flour
  9. 100g/4oz spelt, rye or wholemeal flour
  10. 2 level tsps baking powder
  11. 75g/3oz brazil nuts, finely chopped
For the chocolate cream filling
  1. 100g/4oz butter
  2. 25g/1oz cornflour
  3. 25g/1oz cocoa powder
  4. 300ml/½pt milk
  5. 50g/2oz dark chocolate
  6. 100g/4oz caster sugar
  7. 8 whole brazil nuts
  8. 10g/⅓oz chopped brazil nuts
  9.  
  10. Home-made double espresso brazil nut cake ingredients
  11.  
For the cake
  1. Butter two 20cm Victoria sponge tins and line the bases with discs of non-stick baking paper
  2. Combine the milk, instant coffee and ground coffee in a saucepan and bring to the boil, then remove from the heat and leave until warm
  3. Beat the butter, brown sugar and caster sugar together until light and fluffy, then beat in the eggs, one at a time
  4. Beat in the coffee mixture until evenly combined
  5. Sift the two flours and baking powder together two or three times, then beat this through with the chopped brazil nuts
  6. Divide the mixture equally between the tins, heat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas mark 4 and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes away clean
  7. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes
  8. Remove from the cake tins and cool completely on a wire rack
For the filling
  1. Cream the butter until light and fluffy
  2. Mix the cornflour and cocoa with enough milk to make a smooth paste
  3. Put the chocolate and remaining milk into a saucepan and bring to the boil
  4. Pour on to the cornflour and cocoa mixture
  5. Return to the pan and simmer for at least 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the sugar and continue to simmer until the mixture reaches the consistency of a thick custard
  6. Cool, then gradually beat the custard into the butter
  7. Use some of the filling to sandwich the two cake layers together before using the rest to cover the top and sides
  8. Decorate with the whole and chopped brazil nuts
Adapted from The Guardian: Food & drink
H is for Home Harbinger http://hisforhomeblog.com/

Cakes & Bakes: Apricot dartois

Slice of home-made apricot dartois | H is for Home

I’ve been looking at a tin of apricots in our store cupboard for about 2 years. Every time I opened the door it said, “use me, use me”, but I always reached for something else. But not this week – it was finally the apricots’ time!

Frangipane ingredients | H is for Home Home-made frangipane | H is for Home

I decided on a recipe from Michel Roux’s Desserts: A Lifelong Passion and made an apricot dartois.

Ready-made puff pastry | H is for Home

Dartois is traditionally two layers of puff pastry with a sandwiched layer of frangipane or jam. It can occasionally contain a savoury filling.

Making an apricot dartois base | H is for Home

It’s quite a simple recipe – especially if you’re using ready-made puff pastry – and the pastry cutting is very straightforward too. Don’t be put off by the precision! The amount of frangipane made in the given recipe is HUGE! I halved the recipe (what’s half of 5 eggs? I just used 3 medium-sized ones) it still made half a kilo of the stuff. I set aside the 150 grams needed for the recipe then portioned up the rest into small lidded tubs and froze it all for use at a later date.

Making an apricot dartois pastry lid | H is for Home

The resulting dartois is very attractive and very delicious. I don’t think it would look out of place in a French patisserie’s shop window!

Uncooked apricot dartois | H is for Home

I used tinned apricots, but peaches, pears, plums or figs also work really well. If you’ve got fresh fruit, you can easily poach it beforehand in syrup.

Cooked home-made apricot dartois | H is for Home

Serve warm or cold with a fruit coulis, cream or ice cream.

Apricot dartois
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For the frangipane [Makes 1.15kg/2lbs 10oz. I halved the recipe and still had enough for 3 portions]
  1. 250g/9oz butter, at room temperature
  2. 500g/1lb 2oz 'tant pour tant' (equal quantities of ground almonds and icing sugar sifted together)
  3. 50g/2oz plain flour
  4. 5 eggs
  5. 50ml/2 fl oz rum (optional)
For the dartois
  1. 1 500g pack of ready-made puff pastry (or you could make your own)
  2. 150g/5oz frangipane
  3. eggwash (1 egg yolk mixed with 1 soup spoon of milk and a pinch of salt)
  4. 1 tin apricot halves, drained (or you could poach your own)
  5. Icing sugar for dusting
  6.  
  7. Home-made apricot dartois ingredients
  8.  
To make the frangipane
  1. Beat the butter until very soft
  2. Still beating, add the tant pour tant and flour
  3. Add the eggs - one at a time - beating well between each addition until the frangipane is light an homogeneous
  4. Stir in the rum
To make the dartois
  1. On a lightly floured work surface, roll 225g/8oz of the pastry into a 27cm x 12cm/11" x 5" rectangle
  2. Roll this pastry around the rolling pin, then unroll it on to a baking sheet lightly dampened with cold water. Prick the pastry with a fork
  3. Using a spoon, spread the frangipane along the length of the pastry leaving a clear 2cm/¾" border on either side
  4. Brush these pastry borders with eggwash
  5. Pat dry the apricots and arrange them on the frangipane
  6. Roll out the remaining pastry into a 27cm x 13cm/11" x 5½" rectangle
  7. Fold the pastry in half lengthways without applying pressure
  8. Make incisions down the length of the pastry about every 4mm/⅙" with the heel of a chef's knife, leaving a 2cm/¾" strip intact on the two outside edges
  9. Unfold the pastry into its original shape and drape it over the rolling pin and unroll it on to the apricot-filled rectangle
  10. Lightly press the edges together with your fingertips and refrigerate the dartois for 30 minutes
  11. Preheat the oven to 175ºC/345ºF/gas mark 4
  12. Using a chef's knife, trim off about 3mm/⅛" in pastry along the length of the rectangle
  13. Delicately and sparingly brush the top of the pastry with egg wash
  14. Liberally brush the sides with more egg wash
  15. With the tip of a small, sharp knife, make light, diagonal incisions in the borders, then along the edges
  16. Bake for 25 minutes. Increase the temperature to 195ºC/380ºF/gas mark 6, dust the dartois with icing sugar and return it to the oven for 1-2 minutes, or place it under a hot salamander/grill for a few seconds until beautifully glazed
Notes
  1. Roux recommends serving it with a little jug of red fruit coulis. I prefer it with pouring cream.
Adapted from Desserts: A Lifelong Passion
H is for Home Harbinger http://hisforhomeblog.com/

Cakes & Bakes: Peanut butter baked cheesecake

Home-made peanut butter baked cheesecake | H is for Home

It’s Justin’s 50th birthday today so, of course, I had to make him a birthday cake.

Crushed plain chocolate digestive biscuits for peanut butter baked cheesecake base | H is for Home

I made a peanut butter baked cheesecake – seeing as cheesecake is his favourite kind of cake, and he’s quite partial to peanut butter too.

Cheesecake cake tin wrapped with wet tea towel

I also wanted to try out a tip that I found on the internet this week. Apparently, instead of using a Wilton Bake Even Strip (which helps keep your cake level and prevent a cracked top), you can wrap the sides of the tin with a wet cloth or tea towel.

Peanut butter baked cheesecake batter ingredients | H is for Home

It worked pretty well, there was a slight bulge to one side of the top which I put down to the overlap of the cloth. Next time I’ll use a cloth cut down to fit the circumference exactly. So long as the cloth is very wet, it won’t burn in the oven. Elasticated cloth, or nylon/polyester fabric probably wouldn’t work very well in the heat of an oven; stick with cotton or linen.

Pouring peanut cheesecake batter on to biscuit base

The plain chocolate digestive biscuits gave just that bit of extra depth of flavour over plain digestives, and baking the base for 10 minutes gave it a ‘biscuity’ taste and texture.

Chocolate topping ingredients for peanut butter baked cheesecake

I used mascarpone, but you can use Philadelphia or any other plain full-fat cream cheese.

Smooting chocolate topping on peanut butter baked chesecake | H is for Home

Results were delicious – a rich, indulgent treat.

Home-make peanut butter baked cheesecake with toasted mixed nut sprinkles | H is for Home

There’s only one slice left – that must mean that the birthday boy approves!

Peanut butter baked cheesecake
Serves 6
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For the base
  1. 150g/5oz plain chocolate digestive biscuits
  2. 30g/1oz butter, melted
For the filling
  1. 250g/9oz mascarpone cheese
  2. 2 eggs + 1 egg yolk
  3. 100g/3½oz caster sugar
  4. 150g/3oz crunchy peanut butter
  5. 60ml/2fl oz soured cream
  6. ½tbsp cornflour
For the topping
  1. 125g/4½oz soured cream
  2. 50g/2oz dark chocolate
  3. 15g/½oz caster sugar
  4. 3tbsp mixed chopped toasted nuts (optional)
  5.  
  6. Home-made peanut butter baked cheesecake ingredients
  7.  
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C/150°C fan/325°F/as mark 3
  2. Grease & line and 22cm diameter spring form tin
For the base
  1. Using a food processor, grind the plain chocolate digestives into fine crumbs
  2. Add in the melted butter and combine well
  3. Tip the mixture into the prepared tin pressing down firmly & evenly using a cold metal spoon to form a level base
  4. Put the base into the oven for 10 minutes, when cool put it into the fridge to set
For the filling
  1. After washing out the processor bowl, use it to combine the mascarpone, eggs, yolk, sugar, peanut butter, soured cream and cornflour to a smooth consistency
  2. Pour the mixture into the over the base and bake for 30-40 minutes until just set
  3. Allow to cool for half an hour on a wire rack before putting the tin into the fridge to chill
For the topping
  1. In a small saucepan, gently warm the soured cream, chocolate and sugar stirring to form a smooth sauce
  2. Pour the mixture on top of the cold cheesecake and allow it to set in the fridge
  3. When cooled & set, run a sharp knife around the edge of the tin before easing the cake carefully
  4. Finish with a sprinkling of mixed chopped toasted nuts (optional)
H is for Home Harbinger http://hisforhomeblog.com/

Cakes & Bakes: Sweet potato cake

Slice of home-made sweet potato cake | H is for Home

I think we’ve mentioned before that we often receive ‘food parcels’ from Justin’s mum when we visit on a Sunday. They usually contain some chocolate, cheese, crackers, vegetables and a treat for the dog. Generally, things she thought looked interesting on her shopping trips during the week.

Grated sweet potato | H is for Home

It often includes vegetables that she bought too many of, which was sweet potatoes this time around.

Vegetable oil, eggs and vanilla extract

I decided to incorporate them into a cake in just the same way you’d add carrot to carrot cake.

Folding flour into sweet potato cake mixture

Adding root vegetables to cakes isn’t immediately logical, but it really does work for any sceptics out there.

Pouring sweet potato cake batter into cake tins

We’ve made cakes with sweet potatoes, cassava and carrots in the past, you can even use beetroot and parsnips.

Cooked sweet potato cakes

The raw, grated sweet potato adds a moist sweetness and depth of flavour.

Frosted sweet potato cake

This sweet potato cake recipe also includes chopped walnuts and mixed ground spices, finished with a delicious cream cheese frosting.

Sweet potato cake with a slice removed

It’s a substantial yet light cake – the perfect afternoon pick-me-up.

Sweet potato cake
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For the cake
  1. 350g plain flour
  2. ¼tsp ground cloves
  3. 2tsp ground cinnamon
  4. 1¼tsp ground ginger
  5. ½tsp ground nutmeg
  6. 1tsp baking powder
  7. 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  8. ½tsp salt
  9. 350g sweet potatoes, peeled & grated (about 3 small potatoes)
  10. 235ml vegetable oil
  11. 300g soft brown sugar
  12. 4 eggs
  13. 1tsp vanilla extract
  14. 100g chopped walnuts
For the frosting
  1. 225g cream cheese
  2. 115g butter, softened
  3. 175g icing sugar
  4. ½tsp vanilla extract
  5.  
  6. Home-made hot cross loaf ingredients
  7.  
For the cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 175ºC/350ºF/Gas mark 4 and grease a pair of 23cm/9-inch circular loose-bottomed cake tins
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, sift together the flour with the ground spices, baking powder, bicarbonate soda and salt
  3. In a large mixing bowl, add the grated sweet potato, vegetable oil and sugar and combine
  4. In a measuring jug lightly whisk the eggs before adding the vanilla extract. Stir to mix in
  5. Stir in the egg mixture to the sweet potato in 3 batches, stirring well after each addition
  6. Carefully fold the flour mixture into the sweet potato mixture
  7. Add the chopped walnuts and stir in so they're well dispersed through the batter
  8. Pour the batter equally between the two cake tins before baking for 20 minutes in the centre of the oven
  9. After the 20 minutes, turn the oven down to 150ºC/300ºF/Gas mark 2 and cook for a further 10 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of a cake come out clean
  10. Allow to cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before taking the cakes out of their tins
  11. Allow to cool completely (at least another hour). Make the frosting.
For the frosting
  1. Mix the cream cheese and softened butter until there are no lumps
  2. Add the vanilla essence and icing sugar (sieve the sugar first if there are any lumps) and mix thoroughly. Cover with clingfilm and store in the fridge until the cakes have cooled and are ready to frost
  3. Once cooled, turn one of the cakes over so that the top is face down on a serving plate. Cover the top generously with frosting.
  4. Place the second cake on the first, with the top facing up. Cover the top generously with frosting. Serve. The cake will keep for up to 5 days in the fridge.
H is for Home Harbinger http://hisforhomeblog.com/