Justin cooked a curry for visitors between Christmas & New Year. We figured it would be the ideal flavour contrast to all the other seasonal fayre – and judging by the crowds we’ve noticed in our local curry house this week, we weren’t alone!! I usually make some type of cake for dessert, but following a hearty curry that option would likely prove too filling.
Dainty Indian sweets would be the perfect end to the meal. I chose to make coconut ladoo (or laddu) because we already had all 3 ingredients in our store cupboard.
It’s the flavour of the pungent ground cardamom which gives this sweet its Indian taste.
There are other kinds made with chickpea flour or semolina instead of coconut and fried in ghee. They are also be made with the addition of dried fruit and/or nuts such as pistachios or cashews.
They’re make a great little alternative present to the more usual box of chocolates.
A treat often served at celebratory events such as the Hindu festival of Diwali
- 1 tin (397g) condensed milk
- 250g dessicated coconut
- 5 cardamom pods
- Remove the cardamom seeds from their papery outer shell and grind finely using a pestle & mortar
- In a large saucepan add 220g of the dessicated coconut, condensed milk and powdered cardamom
- Heat over a medium flame stirring constantly until just before the mixture begins to colour (about 5 minutes) and most of the liquid has evaporated
- Allow the mixture to cool slightly before forming into balls the size of marbles using the palms of your hands
- Roll the balls in the reserved 30g of dessicated coconut
H is for Home Harbinger http://hisforhomeblog.com/
This nutty millionaire’s shortbread tastes SO much better than any I’ve ever bought from a shop. I happened to have bags of whole almonds and hazelnuts in the larder, but it would be equally as good if you made it using pecans, Brazil nuts or walnuts. Cashew butter instead of peanut in the shortbread could be a good alternative to try too!
Cakes & Bakes: Nutty millionaire’s shortbread
- For the shortbread
- 125g/4oz butter, softened
- 2tbs peanut butter, smooth or crunchy
- 75g/3oz caster sugar
- 75g/3oz cornflour
- 175g/6oz plain flour
- For the topping
- 397g/14oz tin of sweetened condensed milk
- 100g/3½oz mixed nuts (I used ½ & ½ hazelnuts and almonds)
- 125g/4oz plain dark chocolate
- To make the caramel topping, put the unopened tin in a heavy-based saucepan and completely cover with water. Cover the saucepan with its lid and boil for about 1½ hours, topping up the water level if needed.
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350F/Gas mark 4, 10 minutes before baking.
- Line a 22cm/8inch square cake tin with parchment/greaseproof paper
- Cream together the butter and sugar until light
- Sift in the cornflour and plain flour and mix to form a smooth dough
- Using the back of a dessert spoon, press the mixture evenly into the lined cake tin and prick all over with a fork
- Bake for 20 minutes or until just turning golden brown
- Put the nuts on to a baking tray and toast them in the oven for 10-15 minutes
- Remove the shortbread from the oven and set aside on a wire rack
- Remove the nuts from the oven and wrap them in a clean tea towel. Rub the nuts together to remove most of the skins (especially if you're using hazelnuts or 'red skinned' peanuts)
- Reserve 9 of the nuts, roughly chop the remainder and sprinkle them evenly across the shortbread
- Open the tin of boiled condensed milk (if the contents are quite rigid you can soften it by warming slightly in a saucepan on the stove or decant into a microwaveable container and heat for 20-30 seconds). Pour the caramel over the nuts and spread evenly. Refrigerate while you prepare the chocolate
- Break up the chocolate into pieces and put them into a heat-proof bowl
- Using a saucepan small enough not to allow the bowl to touch the bottom, fill the bowl with just enough water so that it doesn't come into contact with the base of the bowl
- Simmer the saucepan of water until the chocolate has just melted
- Pour the chocolate evenly over the top of the caramel
- Place the whole nuts on top of the chocolate, one for each portion
- Allow to set before slicing into squares & serving
You can parboil the tinned condensed milk in advance and the caramel can be stored for months & months before use. I always have a few cans of 'cooked' condensed milk stored in our larder.
We’ve been hooked on the Great British Bake Off since the very start. That’s where we were first introduced to the author of the syrup sponge recipe we’re featuring today.
Ruth Clemens of The Pink Whisk was the runner up in that inaugural series. Since then, she’s become a successful blogger, has had a number of cookbooks published and is a regular contributor to magazines; I tore out and kept this recipe from a recent copy of Stylist. The recipe is quick & simple to make and, if you’re a fan of very sweet gooey puddings like me, tastes great!
The sponge went down a storm with Justin, he enjoyed his with a scoop of vanilla ice cream – I paired mine with a dollop of crème fraîche. Custard would be another delicious option!
Cakes & Bakes: Super sticky syrup sponge
- for the sponge
- 125g/4½oz golden syrup
- 100g/3½oz butter
- 100g/3½oz caster sugar
- 265g/9½oz plain flour
- ¾tsp bicarbonate of soda
- ¾tsp baking powder
- 165g/6oz golden syrup
- 215ml/7½ fl oz boiling water
- for the topping
- 50g/1¾oz golden syrup, warmed
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas mark 4
- Line the base & circumference of a 20cm/8'' round springform tin with non-stick baking paper
- Add the 125g golden syrup to the base of the tin
- Put all the sponge ingredients into the bowl of a food processor, adding the boiling water last
- On the slowest speed and using the whisk attachment, mix together the batter slowly increasing the speed to medium until well combined
- Pour the batter over the golden syrup in the tin
- Bake for an hour
- Carefully release the cake from the tin and invert onto a serving plate
- Pour the warmed golden syrup on top and serve
The first & last time I made fudge I was about 12 years old. The only way I could get it to set was to stick it in the freezer for a few hours. It wasn’t exactly inedible, but it was bad enough to put me off attempting it again until now.
Just like our taste in ice cream, Justin & I differ in our taste in fudge. He likes it plain, I like mine stuffed full of fruit, nuts, chocolate and alcohol! To please us both, I made a normal portion of basic mix, divided it into two and made one half into rum & raisin fudge.
I used the basic recipe I found on the Carnation website. I’m already thinking of folding some of this fudge into some of my home-made vanilla ice cream – what do you think?
We don’t do the Valentine’s night restaurant ‘thing’ – long rows of tables for two, knocking elbows with the couples either side. So we usually stay in with something good to eat and a bottle of red.
This Valentine’s, Justin made gnocchi Gorgonzola and I made chocolate mousse for dessert (I even served them in heart-shaped ramekins). We rented a film, bought a bottle of nice Shiraz and settled in for the night… perfect!
Chocolate mousse isn’t quite a cake or a bake but I thought I’d share the recipe anyway! I tweaked a recipe from Gordon Ramsay’s Sunday Lunch: And Other Recipes from the F Word
Cakes & Bakes: Chocolate mousse
- 100g dark chocolate
- 300ml double cream
- 2 tbsp brandy
- 1 egg white
- 50g caster sugar
- White chocolate shavings, to garnish
- Break the chocolate into small pieces and set aside. In a small saucepan, heat half of the cream until boiling
- Turn off the heat, add the chocolate pieces and stir until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth
- Pour the mixture into a bowl set over a large bowl of iced water and add the rest of the cream and brandy
- Using a hand-held electric whisk, beat the mixture to soft peaks
- Remove the bowl from the iced water
- Whisk the egg white with a hand-held electric beater until it forms stiff peaks
- Add the sugar to the egg white, one tablespoon at a time, whisking continuously
- Using a large metal spoon, carefully fold the meringue through the chocolate mixture
- Spoon or pipe into chilled ramekins or serving glasses/pots
- Garnish with the white chocolate shavings
- Serve immediately or chill for up to 2 days
I’ve been making this version of baked vanilla cheesecake since way back in 2004! It’s a Gordon Ramsay recipe that I tore out of a weekend newspaper magazine supplement. Luckily the page has been protected inside a plastic punched pocket (that’s the proper word for one of those things apparently!) otherwise it would have disintegrated by now from all the use it’s seen.
It’s a dessert that I go back to again & again. It’s really easy to make and is simply delicious – especially after it’s had a few hours to cool down. The consistency is light and melt-in-the-mouth; so much better than those recipes that use gelatine – which I don’t eat as I’m vegetarian.
It’s great served with a ginger or summer fruit compote. We had some with a lovely blueberry compote made from frozen blueberries (much cheaper than the fresh ones and you can get them year-round). Of all the Cakes & Bakes I’ve made over the years, this has long been Justin’s favourite!
Gordon Ramsay's vanilla cheesecake
- 100g unsalted butter, plus a little to greases the tin
- 200g digestive biscuits (I sometimes use ginger nuts with about half the above quantity of butter)
- 50g caster sugar (Again, I use half this amount if using ginger nuts)
- 500g cream cheese (I've used both Philadelphia and mascarpone successfully) at room temperature
- 200g caster sugar
- 3 eggs
- 2 tbsp cornflour
- 300ml soured cream
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- Lightly grease a 20cm spring-form cake tin
- Melt the butter gently in a small pan on a low heat. Roughly break up the biscuits and and place them in a food processor. Process the biscuits for 2-3 minutes until they resemble fine crumbs. Add the sugar, then pour in the melted butter and process for 30 seconds to combine
- Put the biscuit mixture into the base of the tin, using the back of a tablespoon to smooth the surface evenly. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes
- Rinse out the processor bowl. Place the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl and process for 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the cornflour, sour cream and vanilla essence and process for 30 seconds to combine
- Pour the filling into the tin and bake in a low oven at 150°C for 1 hour. When cooked, the cheesecake should be well-risen, with a golden brown top. It should feel slightly firm to the touch - if the mixture still appears wet, continue to bake a little longer. When cooked, turn off the oven and allow the cheesecake to cool in the oven, with the door ajar. When completely cool, place in the fridge. Serve with summer berries and pouring cream
- Cooking the cheesecake in a bain marie or using a Wilton Bake-Even Strip stops the top from cracking
H is for Home Harbinger http://hisforhomeblog.com/