Category Archives: Sweet Foods

Biscuits, cakes, muffins, tartes, etc.

Apple, ginger & gin upside-down cake

Baking with SpiritI’ve moved house since my last post.  I was only moving three minutes away, but given how much crap I seem to have accumulated on top of the ridiculous amount of stuff I already had, it turned into a feat of epic proportions.  I succeeded though, and have been busy settling in and discovering the quirks of my new kitchen (as well as trying to find the best light for photos – I’m still working on that one).  The first thing that I unpacked was all my baking paraphernalia, so that I could participate in this month’s Baking with Spirit, guest-hosted by Craig over at The Usual Saucepans.  He has challenged us to “Reinvent a Classic.”

Apple, ginger & gin upside-down cake 1

Initially, I wanted to do something G&T-inspired – Craig and I first became friends after discovering a mutual love for gin, so it seemed appropriate.  I had a few ideas, but I wasn’t really feeling excited about any of them.  Then, as I was unpacking some bottles of ginger beer, it hit me.  Gin and ginger beer is a thing (well… I’m pretty sure it’s a thing.  Ok, I just looked it up and apparently it’s gin and ginger ale that’s a thing.  A thing called a Gin Gin).  A couple of years ago, I had spiced mulled gin served with apple juice and it was delicious (made by Craig actually – how fitting).  What if I made an apple and ginger upside-down cake with gin in it?

Apple, ginger & gin upside-down cake 2

So that’s exactly what I did.  There isn’t actually any ginger beer (or ginger ale) in the cake because I didn’t want to open a whole bottle just to use a little bit, but it’s represented by ginger and other spices.  I thought about making this with pears, but I happened to have plenty of apples and no pears, so that was that.  Like many upside-down cakes, this is definitely a make-the-day-before cake.  I tried some of the cake not long after baking and couldn’t taste the gin, but the flavour developed overnight and you could taste it the next day – it was subtle, but added something a little different to the flavour profile of the cake.

Apple, ginger & gin upside-down cake 3

Apple, ginger & gin upside-down cake

Serves 8-10
Adapted from A Treasury of New Zealand Baking

Firm apples that keep their shape when baking are key, as you don’t want them to disintegrate into mush.  The actual number of apples required obviously will depend on their size and the size of the cake tin.  I reckon the recipe would be equally delicious with pears rather than apples, or a mix of the two.  Whilst utterly delicious as a snack (or breakfast…), this cake would also make a wonderful dessert, served with whipped cream.  The cake is best eaten the next day so that the caramel can really soak in and the gin flavour can develop, and will keep for a couple of days in an airtight container.

Ingredients

For the cake:
225g unsalted butter, softened
275g light brown sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
250g all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
3 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp gin
3 or 4 apples (I used Granny Smith)

For the caramel:
100g unsalted butter
130g light brown sugar
3 tbsp gin

Directions

To prepare the cake:
1.  Line the base of a 24 or 26cm round deep cake tin with baking paper.  Pre-heat the oven to 190°C/fan oven 170°C.

2.  In a large bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar with an electric whisk until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time.

3.  Sift the flour, baking powder, spices, salt and gin into the egg mixture and stir together with a spatula or large spoon until just combined.

4.  Peel, core and cut the apples into eighths.  Set aside.

To prepare the caramel:
5.  In a small saucepan, melt the butter and sugar together to make the caramel.  Once the sugar has completely melted and the mixture is smooth, stir in the gin and pour into the prepared cake tin.  Arrange the apples over the top of the caramel, then cover with the cake batter, smoothing the top (it doesn’t have to be perfect).

6.  Place the cake tin on a baking tray large enough to catch any caramel that might bubble over the sides (much easier than cleaning a caramel-encrusted oven…) and bake for 50-55 mins until a skewer comes out clean.  Cool in the cake tin for about 10 mins before turning out onto a serving plate to cool completely.  The cake is best eaten the next day.

Enjoy!

Apple, ginger & gin upside-down cake 4

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Pear & almond tart

I wasn’t sure what to expect following my last post.  Actually, I didn’t think anyone would still be following Sharky Oven Gloves, so I wasn’t expecting much of a reaction at all.  Not only am I touched (and surprised!) by how many of you are still loitering and took the time to comment, it was also really encouraging to hear that I’m not alone in feeling frustrated with the state of affairs within the food blogging community.  Thank you for sticking around guys!

Pear & almond tart 1

With my usual knack for excellent timing, things went a little haywire right after I published that post.  Between a string of minor disasters at the lab, some slightly dramatic strife with somebody (and an apparent alliteration problem), the ensuing feeling of wretchedness, finding out that I have to move house in two weeks and starting to organise the details of that, I’ve had to divert my attention away from the newly revived Sharky Oven Gloves.  But I finally have a recipe for you today: pear and almond tart.

Pear & almond tart 2

The recipe this tart is based on neglected to specify the size of tin required…  So I guessed.  My guess was entirely based on the one size of tart tin that I happen to own, and that guess turned out to be wrong.  The pastry valiantly managed to contain all the filling, but only just.  I’ve ironed out the ratios and made a few other tweaks, resulting in a super scrumptious autumnal tart – pears scream autumn to me, and the almond filling makes the tart all dense and delicious and comforting.  Exactly what one needs to fend off the sudden, unwelcome appearance of winter this week.  As for the pastry, well, yum.  It’s a chocolate pâte sablée, which I always struggle to translate – I think it roughly translates to shortbread pastry.  The internet says “sweet cookie dough” which isn’t especially helpful.  Either way, its delicate chocolateyness works wonderfully with the pears and almonds.

Pear & almond tart 3

Pear & almond tart

Serves 8-10
Adapted from Tartes maison

The pastry can rest in the fridge for up to 2 days, so can be made the day before if time is a little on the tight side.  The recipe makes more recipe than required, but you could try freezing the leftovers or making a little extra tartlet.  The honey at the end is optional, but adds a little bit extra.

Ingredients

For the pastry:
200g all-purpose flour
65g caster sugar
50g cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
150g unsalted butter
1 egg
2 tbsp crème fraîche

For the filling:
120g unsalted butter, room temperature
120g caster sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
200g ground almonds
4 tsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 large or 4 small pears
Handful of flaked almonds
3 tbsp honey (optional)

Directions

To make the pastry:
1.  Mix the flour, sugar, cocoa powder and salt together in a large bowl.  Rub the cubed butter into the mixture with your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

2.  Whisk the egg and crème fraîche together in a small bowl before adding to the flour mixture.  Mix together with a wooden spoon until the dough starts to come together.

3.  Lay out a piece of cling-film, turn the dough out onto it and form into a disc 18cm in diameter.  Wrap in cling-film and refrigerate for at least 30 mins and up to 48h.

4.  Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/fan oven 180°C.  Butter and flour a 24cm tart tin.

5.  Remove the pastry from the fridge and carefully roll it out on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of 3-4mm.  Carefully transfer it to the prepared tart tin by draping it over the rolling pin (it’s quite a fragile pastry, so delicacy is key here).  Cut off any overhanging pastry and prick the bottom with a fork.  If your kitchen is really hot and the pastry is starting to go soft and sticky, refrigerate the pastry for about 30 mins.  Otherwise, line it with baking paper, add baking beans and blind-bake it for 5 mins.  Reduce the oven temperature to 190°C/fan bake 170°C and blind bake for a further 5-10 mins, until the pastry is just firm.  Remove the baking beans.  Keep the oven at 190°C/fan bake 170°C.

To make the tart:
6.  Whilst the pastry is baking, prepare the filling.  Cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla extract until pale and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating only until just incorporated.  Fold in the ground almonds, flour and cinnamon.  Set aside.

7.  Half the pears lengthwise, peel and core them.  If you’ve used three large pears, cut each half into four segments, if you’ve used four small pears, cut each half into three segments.

8.  Once the pastry is blind-baked, spread the almond filling evenly over the base.  Lay the pears over the top, gently pushing them in.  Scatter the flaked almonds over the top.  Bake for 30-35, mins until the filling is set and golden.

9.  Just before the tart is done, add the honey to a small saucepan and heat over a low heat until very runny.  Brush the honey over the top of the tart as soon as it comes out of the oven (it can be a little difficult not to displace the almonds), then allow the tart to cool in the tin for 10 mins or so, before turning out onto a wire rack.  Serve warm or cooled to room temperature.

Enjoy!

Pear & almond tart 4

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Sticky lemon & ginger muffins

The lab was a glum place to be on Thursday after that last gutting America’s Cup race.  Actually, NZ was a glum place to be.  Except, presumably, the place in Warkworth where most of the Oracle USA boat was built.  So Team NZ was beaten by a boat largely built and designed in NZ…  Totally not awkward at all, nope.  Anyway.  It’s depressing, so let’s not dwell on it too much.  My actual point is, we were all feeling a bit sulky.  And the solution to that is… cake.  Obviously.  Come on, this is a food blog.  Food is always the answer.

Sticky lemon & ginger muffins 1

Random RecipesI wasn’t sure what I wanted to bake.  Luckily though, Dom has set the theme of puddings, cakes and bakes for this month’s Random Recipes, so that conveniently bypassed the whole issue of indecision.  I randomly picked out A Treasury of NZ Baking, and randomly opened it at page 78: crunchy lemon muffins.  Oh hello…  After coming down with a cold over the weekend and being given lemons by several lovely people, I have plenty to use up.  Inspired by all the hot toddies that I’ve been making with said lemons, I added some ginger to the muffins.  I considered adding whisky, too, but decided to save that experiment for another time (I totally didn’t get distracted and forget).

Sticky lemon & ginger muffins 2

They didn’t come out very crunchy.  As in, they didn’t come out crunchy at all.  I’m not entirely sure why, but I’m guessing it’s something to do with the glaze, which certainly made them sticky – perhaps too much of the sugar dissolved in the lemon juice or our house is too humid and the crunch was lost.  Despite that, they were utterly delicious and lemony, which I love, with a hint of ginger poking through.  So I’ll definitely be making them again.  Especially since they’re also super quick to prepare – start to finish only took about 40 minutes.  Amazing or what?

Sticky lemon & ginger muffins 3

Sticky lemon & ginger muffins

Makes 15 muffins
Adapted from A Treasury of New Zealand Baking

Avoid using muffin liners as I think they’ll just go soggy from the glaze – silicone moulds or directly baking in the muffin holes are the way forward.  These are best eaten within two days, either warm or room temperature.

Ingredients

For the muffins:
75g unsalted butter
250g all-purpose flour
175g caster sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground ginger
Pinch of salt
250ml milk
1 egg
Zest of 2 unwaxed lemons

For the glaze:
60ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
60g caster sugar

Directions

To make the muffins:
1.  Preheat the oven to 220°C/fan oven 200°C.  Set out 15 silicon moulds or butter 15 holes in muffin tins.

2.  Melt the butter in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little.

3.  Meanwhile, sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, ginger and salt together into a large bowl and whisk together with a fork.

4.  Add the milk, egg and lemon zest to the bowl of butter and whisk together with a fork.  Add to the bowl of dry ingredients and fold through with a metal spoon until just combined (you don’t want the mixture to be super smooth and traces of flour is good).  Add a heaped spoonful of batter to each muffin mould or hole.  Bake for about 12 mins until lightly browned and the tops spring back when lightly pressed.

To make the glaze:
5.  Whilst they are baking, add the lemon juice and caster sugar to a small bowl.  Don’t mix.

6.  Once the muffins are out of the oven, brush the tops with the glaze using a pastry brush.  Try not to stir the glaze to minimise the sugar dissolving.  Repeat until all the glaze is used up.  Allow the muffins to sit in their moulds/tin for 5 mins before lifting them out onto a wire rack to cool.  Serve warm or cooled to room temperature.

Enjoy!

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Grapefruit curd

You guys, it’s spring!  Spring officially started on the first of September here in NZ, and you know what that means?  It’s baby animal season!  There are loads of lambs gambolling around in the fields.  There are fuzzy calves aplenty, too.  I don’t know if fuzzy calves are a NZ thing (I’ve no idea what breeds are farmed around here) or if I just haven’t paid much attention to the calves in other countries.  Either way, they’re adorable.  All of the baby animals in the fields are adorable.

Tawharanui lamb pile

So cute!  We came across those little specimens of fluff during a mini-hike through Tawharanui last week.  In other news (super smooth segue alert), we finally got through our mountain of grapefruit.  Huzzah!  Today’s grapefruit-themed recipe is for grapefruit curd.  Curd is a great way of using up any citrus surplus, and super easy to boot.  It just needs a bit of babysitting and continuous stirring until it’s done.  So drinking a shedload of tea beforehand isn’t recommended, because you can’t really abandon the hob mid-curd-production.  Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.

Grapefruit curd 1

Once it’s done, cooled and set, you can do a tonne of stuff with curd, including eating it straight from the jar with a spoon.  If you have any left after “quality control,” it’s an excellent addition to baked goods (think sandwich biscuits, macarons, etc.) or spread on crumpets or toast.  It also makes a wonderful filling for some blind-baked pastry cases, especially topped with a dollop of whipped cream and eaten for breakfast whilst watching Team NZ smash the US during one of the America’s Cup races (because they’re on at breakfast time for us – thank you time zones).

Grapefruit curd 2

Grapefruit curd

Makes enough to fill about two 350ml jars
Adapted from my lemon curd recipe

I used yellow grapefruit, but this would work equally well with pink grapefruit.  To sterilise the jars, wash in hot soapy water, rinse thoroughly and dry in an oven pre-heated to just over 100°C.  The curd will keep for about a week in the fridge (possibly longer, but I’ve never had a batch remain uneaten for more than a couple of days). 

Ingredients

2 large or 3 medium grapefruit (yellow or pink)
1 small lemon
4 eggs + 2 egg yolks
110g butter
220g caster sugar

Directions

1.  Juice the grapefruit and lemon into a small bowl or jug.  In another small bowl, beat the two eggs and the egg yolk together well.

2.  Melt the cubed butter in a large heat-proof bowl over a simmering pan of water (make sure that the water doesn’t reach the bottom of the bowl).

3.  Add the sugar and the zest and juice from the grapefruit and lemon, followed by the eggs.  Stir the mixture carefully and constantly with a spatula, making sure the mixture doesn’t boil.  Once the mixture coats the back of the spatula (turn the spatula flat and run your finger through the mixture coating it – if you can draw a line through the mixture and it doesn’t re-fill, then it’s done), remove from the heat.

4.  If using the curd straightaway, pour into a bowl, otherwise, pour into sterilised glass jars.  Allow to cool (it will thicken further) before sealing and storing in the fridge.

Enjoy!

Grapefruit curd breakfast tartlets

A winning breakfast, right there.

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Grapefruit galore!

We’ve accidentally ended up with a glut of grapefruit at our house.  Somebody brought a whole bucket in to the lab the other day and one of my housemates and I got a bit carried away when we grabbed some (there were plenty left for everybody else though).  Then my other housemate turned up yesterday evening with even more grapefruit.  Don’t be surprised if there’s a bit of a grapefruit theme over the next week or so…

Mini mountain of grapefruit

Baking with SpiritThe great thing about grapefruit and other citrus is that although they’re winter fruit, they always makes me think of summer, they bring zingy little rays of sunshine to any wintery proceedings.  Spring officially starts on Sunday, so we’re nearly done with winter here and summer is definitely on its way, but I’ll still take anything with a hint of sunshine that I can get.  Except mosquitoes – I killed my first one of the season this morning.  Not cool. Anyway, I digress.  Janine over at Cake of the Week has chosen “Summer” as the theme for this month’s Baking with Spirit challenge.  Now the most summeriest of drinks is, of course, Pimm’s, but I don’t have any at the moment and none of the accompanying fruit are in season here.

Sugar cookies with grapefruit & gin glaze 2

As I was looking at our literal mini-mountain of grapefruit I decided that perhaps I should do something citrussy as my “summer” entry.  I’m going for the winter version of summer.  Did you know that grapefruit and gin go wonderfully well together?  I didn’t know that until last night (thank you Flavour Thesaurus).  I decided to make simple sugar cookies – the catharsis of rolling out cookie dough appealed to me – with a grapefruit and gin glaze.  The cookies came out a bit softer than I was expecting, but are rather delicious – the zing of the grapefruit and subtle hint of gin in the glaze really make them.

Sugar cookies with grapefruit & gin glaze 3

Sugar cookies with grapefruit & gin glaze

Makes about 50 cookies
Cookies slightly adapted from Glorious Treats
Glaze by Sharky Oven Gloves

Rolling these out can be a bit of a faff, but you want to minimise the amount of flour that you add.  These cookies keep their shape really well when baking, so feel free to use whatever fun cookie cutters you have.  I used orange grapefruit, but I’m sure red grapefruit would work wonderfully as well.  You won’t need all the juice from the grapefruit that you take the zest from, so you might as well just drink the rest.  Ideally with a slug of gin.  I definitely recommend the combination!  These cookies will keep for a couple of days in an airtight container.

Ingredients

For the cookies:
375g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
225g unsalted butter, room temperature
200g caster sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of 1 grapefruit

For the glaze:
200g icing sugar
2 tbsp gin
2 tbsp freshly squeezed grapefruit juice

Directions

To make the cookies:
1.  Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium-sized bowl and stir together.

2.  In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric whisk until light and fluffy.

3.  Add the egg, vanilla and grapefruit zest and whisk together.

4.  Whisk in the flour a little at a time.  Once it has all been incorporated (it will be rather crumbly), knead together with your hands to form a dough.  Wrap in cling film and either refrigerate for about 2h or pop in the freezer for 20-30 mins (make sure it doesn’t harden otherwise you’ll have to wait for it to thaw).

5.  Line a couple of baking trays with baking paper.  Pre-heat the oven to 195°C/fan oven 175°C.

6.  Take half of the cookie dough (if it’s been in the freezer, transfer the remaining dough to the fridge) and either roll it out between two sheets of baking paper or roll it out on a lightly floured surface with a sheet of baking paper over the top.  (This is to minimise the amount of extra flour added.  I did it the first way, which was a bit of a faff but did work, you just have to anchor the bottom sheet.)  Roll the dough out to a thickness of 4-5 mm.  Cut out rounds of dough using your chosen cookie cutter (I used a 6cm scalloped round cutter) and place on the prepared baking trays, about 2cm apart.  Pop the baking tray in the freezer for 5 mins before baking for 8-10 mins, until just starting to turn golden.  Leave the cookies on the tray for about 1 min before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

7.  Repeat with the remaining cookie dough and leftover bits.

To make the glaze:
8.  Once the cookies are completely cooled, make the glaze.  Sift the icing sugar into a small bowl, add the gin and grapefruit juice and whisk together by hand.  Pour the glaze into a zip-lock bag, snip a tiny corner off and drizzle over the cookies (I usually set paper towels underneath the wire racks to catch and dribbles of glaze).  Allow to set before arranging on a plate or transferring to an airtight box.

Enjoy!

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Blueberry & almond tart

I’ll be honest, I didn’t do a whole lot of cooking whilst I was in Edinburgh – I took full advantage of my mum’s excellent cooking and effectively enjoyed a whole month of being spoilt.  It was awesome.  One of the few things I produced was when Kat came down and we went over to Craig’s for dinner and an evening which revolved around gin, wine, James Bond and much laughter with a healthy dose of immaturity, reminiscent of many evenings spent together in St Andrews.  The only thing missing were my shark-shaped oven gloves (they were busy guarding the house back in NZ).

Blueberry & almond tart 1

Oven gloves or not, we obviously weren’t about to turn up empty-handed, so we raided my mum’s recipe collection and decided to make a blueberry and almond tart.  I was super excited about being able to bake with summer berries.  Because yay, summer!  And yay, blueberries!  And yay, baking with Kat!  We ate a lot of blueberries that day.  We bought rather more than we needed for the tart, so we ate all the evidence whilst it was baking.  Healthy baking!  (That’s totally how it works, right?)

Blueberry & almond tart 2

The tart came out all purple and moist and delicious, all courtesy of the juices of the blueberries.  As well as looking pretty, it packs a marvellous blueberry flavour punch, wonderfully complemented by the ground almonds which also shine through.  I can’t wait for summer to roll around in NZ and blueberries to come into season so that I can make it again.  That said, frozen blueberries would work perfectly well, but a fruit tart in winter just seems rather anachronistic to me – anybody feel the same?

Blueberry & almond tart 3

Blueberry & almond tart

Serves 6-8
Adapted from a random recipe cutting

You can use either fresh or frozen blueberries – if using frozen then just bake them slightly longer before adding the filling.  I know the oven temperatures seem pretty hot.  The tart is best eaten at room temperature and the day it is made as the pastry will start to go a little soft if kept too long.

Ingredients

1 portion of tart pastry (recipe makes 2 portions)
5-6 heaped tbsp ground almonds
500g blueberries, fresh or frozen
2 eggs
100g crème fraîche
75g caster sugar
Handful flaked almonds, to decorate

Directions

1.  Butter and flour a 24 or 26cm tart tin.  Make the tart pastry, roll it out, transfer to the tart tin and refrigerate for 30 mins.

2.  Pre-heat the oven to 230°C/fan oven 210°C.

3.  Prick the pastry with a fork, sprinkle the ground almonds evenly over it and cover with the blueberries.  Bake for 10 mins.

4.  Meanwhile, beat the eggs together in a medium bowl.  Add the crème fraîche and sugar and whisk together.  Pour evenly over the blueberries, reduce the oven temperature to 200°C/fan oven 180°C and bake for a further 30 mins until golden.  Ten minutes before the end, sprinkle the flaked almonds over the top.  Allow the tart to cool in the tin for about 10 mins before turning out onto a wire rack to cool fully.

Enjoy!

Blueberry & almond tart 4

I’m submitting this recipe to Made with Love Mondays which is hosted by Javelin Warrior and is all about making food from scratch.

Made with Love Mondays, hosted by Javelin Warrior

 

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Nashi pear & ginger upside-down cake

As this post publishes, I should be about 10,000m in the air.  On a plane, obviously.  Specifically on a plane somewhere between Sydney and Heathrow.  Which doesn’t really narrow things down much.  And actually, my exact geographical location is largely irrelevant – the point is that I’m off to Edinburgh for a month.  It won’t really be a holiday, but I’m still excited to see my mum and family.  I’m just hoping that the UK’s sudden recent bout of real summer carries on whilst I’m there.  Whatever the weather, posts are likely to be even more sporadic than they currently are.

Nashi pear & ginger upside-down cake 1

Going away for a month means having a serious fridge and pantry clear out.  I had done a rather good job of using up all my perishables without having to resort to any bizarre combinations, but still had a few nashi pears (aka Asian pears) kicking around.  Since I had more nashi pears than days left to eat them in and I knew that my housemates wouldn’t eat them, I decided to bake with them (big surprise there…).  I happened across a nashi pear and ginger upside-down cake recipe which, aside from making me salivate, also called for 200g of yoghurt, which is precisely how much I had left in the fridge.  A clear sign from the, uhm, pantry gods (uhm, yeah…), that this recipe just had to be tested.

Nashi pear & ginger upside-down cake 2

I adore the combination of pear and ginger, and nashi pears are no exception.  Like any decent upside-down cake, the sides go a little crispy and all caramely and delicious.  The cake itself is basically gingerbread, which to me just smacks of a perfect winter treat.  The slice that was missing by the time the cake got to the lab was obviously an offering of thanks to the pantry gods and nothing at all to do with my breakfast.  I mean really, who would ever eat cake for breakfast?  Definitely not me, nope.

Nashi pear & ginger upside-down cake 3

Nashi pear & ginger upside-down cake

Serves 10-12
Adapted from Anna Eats Auckland

This would work equally well with normal pears or even apples (choose a variety of pear or apple with pretty firm flesh so that they keep their shape and don’t go all mushy).  The Chelsea golden syrup here in NZ seems to be a little richer in flavour than that in the UK, so if you’re using Lyle’s perhaps think about substituting a little bit of the golden syrup for treacle.  I prefer eating the cake the next day so that the caramel can soak in, but it’s also delicious served warm, perhaps accompanied by a scoop of ice cream.  The cake will keep for a couple of days in an airtight container.

Ingredients

For the cake:
125g unsalted butter
300g all-purpose flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt
250ml (340g) golden syrup (not the easy-pour stuff)
175g light brown sugar
2 eggs
200g plain Greek-style yoghurt (normal would be fine, too)
75g crystallised ginger

For the caramel:
100g unsalted butter
125g light brown sugar
3 medium or 2 large nashi pears

Directions

To make the cake:
1.  Line the bottom of a deep 24cm round cake tin (mine is 5cm deep).  Line a baking tray larger than the cake tin with tin foil.  Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/fan oven 180°C.

2.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a low heat.  Take it off the heat as soon as it is melted.  Meanwhile, sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, spices and salt into a medium mixing bowl and stir together.

3.  Add the sugar, golden syrup, eggs and melted butter (you’ll need to melt more butter later so save yourself some washing up by re-using the same saucepan) into a large mixing bowl and whisk together until smooth.  Fold in the dry ingredients with a metal spoon until just combined.  Roughly chop the crystallised ginger, add to the batter with the yoghurt and stir until combined.

To make the caramel:
4.  Add the sugar and butter to the small saucepan from earlier and melt together over a low heat until smooth.  Meanwhile, peel and core the nashi pears.  Slice medium-sized pears into eights or large pears into twelfths.

5.  Pour the melted caramel into the prepared cake tin.  Arrange the pear slices over the caramel and then carefully pour and spread the cake batter over the top.  Place on the prepared baking tray (this will catch any caramel that might bubble over) and bake for 55-65 mins until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

6.  Allow to cool in the tin for 10 mins before turning out onto a serving plate.  Serve warm or room temperature.

Enjoy!

Nashi pear & ginger upside-down cake 4

 

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Apple flamusse

Apple say what now?  Flamusse aux pommes is a Burgundian speciality.  Now, to be perfectly honest, I’m from a region right next to Burgundy and had never heard of a flamusse aux pommes until last weekend when I happened to be flicking through my trusty Larousse des desserts for ideas on how to make a slight apple surplus disappear.  Turns out that it’s effectively an apple clafoutis.

Apple flamusse 1

I added spices because A) I am pretty much incapable of baking without spices, particularly in winter, and B) it’s actually a crime not to pair apples with spices – I mean come on, apples are just crying out for cinnamon at the very least.  Since I’ve never eaten apple flamusse before, I’ve no idea how “traditional” this recipe is.  Frankly, I’m not particularly bothered because the results were marvellous, and it’s not my regional speciality that I’m messing with, so I’m not fiercely protective of it.  There was a terribly French, rather insouciant shrug happening whilst I wrote the latter part of that sentence.

Apple flamusse 2

AlphaBakesThis month’s special letter for the AlphaBakes challenge, which is being hosted by Caroline Makes, is “F.”  F for flamusse – how convenient!  That’s actually one of the reasons I ended up settling on this recipe – there are so many apple recipes out there that I was having a hard time choosing which one to try out.  It ended up being a rather excellent choice and came out scrumptiously delicious, provided you like flan-like textures (I know not everybody is into that sort of egginess).  Some rum-soaked raisins would no doubt make an excellent addition – I didn’t test that theory out as I didn’t think that would be quite appropriate for a Tuesday morning at the lab…

Apple flamusse 3

Apple flamusse

Serves 6-8
Adapted from Le Larousse des desserts

 

Pick a type of apple that will hold its shape when baking but isn’t too sweet – I used braeburns.  The flamusse can be served either warm or fully cooled, and will keep for a day or two.

Ingredients

4 apples (I used braeburn)
75g caster sugar
60g all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
Pinch of salt
3 eggs
500ml whole milk
Icing sugar, to serve

Directions

1.  Butter a 24cm round fluted tart tin.  Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C.

2.  Peel and core the apples and finely slice them.  Lay the slices in overlapping concentric rings in the tart tin.  I like to alternate the direction of the apple slices from ring to ring, but that’s just personal preference.

3.  Sift the sugar, flour, spices and salt into a large mixing bowl.  In a small bowl, whisk the eggs together with a fork.  Add to the dry ingredients and mix with a spatula until completely smooth.  Stir in the milk a little at a time.

4.  Carefully pour the mixture over the apples (do this near the oven as the tin will be pretty full) and bake for about 45 mins until golden and cooked (if it looks really wibbly-wobbly, bake a little longer).  Allow to cool for 15-20 mins before turning out onto a plate (make sure you do it whilst the flamusse is still warm).  Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve warm or fully cooled.

Enjoy!

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Bleu-blanc-rouge pour le 14 juillet!

We had a potluck party last night to celebrate various happenings at the lab.  The original excuse was somebody being accepted into a PhD programme, but since one of my labmates recently handed in, we added that as a further excuse.  And then “oh, it’s French national day on Sunday?  Let’s celebrate that, too!”  So a Woohoo PhD/no more PhD/Bastille Day party.  Sacré bleu, what an excellent idea!

Macarons tricolores 1

As the lab’s bona fide French person, I wanted to do something relevant to Bastille Day, something French.  I was considering madeleines, a particular speciality of mine, and always a popular offering.  But then I realised that it’s been a while since I made macarons…  And then it hit me: I could make blue, white and red macarons like the French flag, aka macarons tricolores!  So one blue shell, a white filling and a red shell.  I think that qualifies as suitably French.

Macarons tricolores 2

I used a white chocolate ganache for the filling.  I was originally going to add Amaretto, but discovered that we didn’t have any, so I used Frangelico instead.  It was a delicious alternative.  I thought that making two batches of shells would be terribly time-consuming, but actually I was able to make the blue shells whilst the red shells were setting and they then set whilst the red shells were baking.  So actually it worked out rather well.  I didn’t work the blue batch for quite long enough which is why nearly all the blue shells ended up with nipples, which irritates my perfectionist side, but doesn’t affect the taste.

Macarons tricolores 3

The macarons were a hit and definitely a fun way to celebrate le 14 juillet (Bastille Day).  Everybody loved the whole French flag thing, as well as the taste (most important).  Now get your berets on* and have a marvellous 14 juillet.  Maybe even let off some fireworks (if that’s legal where you are).

Super keen French Mel

Yup, super keen French person, right here.  Cocorico!  (That wasn’t last night by the way, but a few weeks ago when France played the All Blacks at Eden Park.  France lost.  Quelle surprise.)

Macarons Tricolores

Makes about 80 small macarons (so about 160 shells of 1.5/2 cm diameter)
Macaron shell recipe based on Mad About Macarons!
Ganache recipe by Sharky Oven Gloves

Obviously making two colours of shells is totally optional, but it does make these macarons fun, and is actually not as time-consuming as you’d expect.  Make sure you leave these at least 24h before eating them, in order to allow the ganache to soak into the shells a bit.  They’re best stored in an airtight box in the fridge – just remember to bring them out at least 30mins before eating them, so that you can appreciate the flavour fully!

Ingredients

For the macaron shells:
150g room temperature egg whites
270g icing sugar
180g ground almonds
100g caster sugar
Red & blue food colouring paste or gel (optional)

For the ganache filling:
40g whipping cream (NZ: pure cream)
150g white chocolate
30g Frangelico or Amaretto

Directions

To make the macaron shells:
1.  Line three or four flat baking sheets with baking paper and set aside.  Prepare two piping bags with plain round piping tips of the same size (if you only have one, you can wash it in between the two batches of shells, but make sure to dry it thoroughly).

2.  Split the egg whites evenly between two large mixing bowls.  If you can’t get it exactly evenly, adjust the proportions of all the other ingredients according to the weight of the egg whites.

3.  Blend half of the icing sugar (135g) and half of the ground almonds (90g) together (don’t skip this step!).  Sift them through a medium sieve into a bowl.  Sift them again if necessary.

4.  Make the French meringue by whisking the one of the bowls of egg whites into glossy firm peaks, gradually adding half the caster sugar (50g).  Add a few drops of the red food colouring gel to the mixture just before the end and mix well to get the shade of red that you wish.

5.  Incorporate the French meringue into the dry ingredients using a large spatula and mix well.  Now work on the mixture by pressing down well with the spatula, going backwards and forwards, to press out the oxygen from the egg whites (this is the macaronnage stage), until you have a smooth mixture.  Don’t do this for longer than 5 minutes.  The result should be a soft and brilliant mixture that forms a “ribbon” on the spatula.

6.  Transfer the mixture to one of the previously prepared piping bags and pipe out the desired size of rounds (mine were about 2cm in diameter).  Press the nozzle right down on the paper and finish off with a flourish to obtain a nice round.  Leave a good space between them so they can spread out.

7.  Leave the shells to set for about 30 mins (this helps to produce the feet).  Preheat the oven to fan-oven 160°C.  When you can feel that a skin has formed over the top, they are ready to go into the oven.

8.  Whilst the red shells are setting, repeat steps 2-7 with the remaining shell ingredients, but this time add blue food colouring to make the batch of blue shells.

9.  Bake one tray at a time in the centre of the oven for about 8-10 mins (to see if they are done, touch the top – if there is a “wobble,” leave them in 2-3 mins longer).  Leave them to cool on the baking trays, and when they are completely cool, carefully remove them and pair one red and one blue shell up by size.

To make the ganache filling & assemble:
10.  Whilst the macarons are setting and cooking, make the ganache filling.  Heat the cream, and as soon as it starts boiling, add the chocolate (broken into pieces) and the Frangelico.  Mix with a wooden spoon until smooth (don’t let it boil or you will boil off the alcohol and we wouldn’t want that now, would we?).  Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to thicken on the countertop (or in the fridge if absolutely necessary – if it’s taking too long or not setting).

11.  Once cool, use a teaspoon to deposit a dollop of ganache onto one shell of each pair. Then place the partner shell on top, and use a slight twisting motion to squash the shell down onto the filling.

12.  Leave in the fridge for at least 24h before serving (I know, it’s difficult! But so worth it!!)

Enjoy!

*I’m allowed to stereotype because I’m French.

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Making marmalade the Mel way

I hurt.  All over.  And it’s my own silly fault.  You see, due to a general lack of exercise for the past few months, I’m shockingly unfit.  So it was obviously an excellent idea to go from practically no exercise to cycling on Saturday, playing two hours of ultimate frisbee on Sunday (I don’t even know how I got talked into that.  It involved an awful lot of stop-start running.  I hate running.) and cycling again yesterday.  Pacing myself sensibly is not one of my strong points.  And holy guacamole am I paying for it.

Tamarillo marmalade 1

That same all-or-nothing approach isn’t just restricted to poor exercise-related decision-making.  There were some beautiful tamarillos at the farmers’ market a few weekends ago.  So instead of buying a few, I came away with 2kg.  I knew I had some recipes for various tamarillo-based preserves and chutneys squirrelled away, so I dug them out and decided to transform the evidence of my, ahem, slight overenthusiasm into tamarillo marmalade.  Despite loving marmalade, I’d never actually tried making my own before, so this seemed as good a time as ever.

Tamarillo marmalade 2

To be perfectly honest, halfway through slicing 1.5kg of tamarillos, I got a bit bored and started to question whether all this effort was going to be worth it.  I had a similar crisis of enthusiasm the following evening whilst making the marmalade and wondering why it was taking forever to gel.  When I checked the recipe again, I discovered that I’d mixed up the quantities with another recipe that I’d considered and used 1.5kg of tamarillos instead of 1kg.  And then I’d forgotten that I’d used 1.5kg of tamarillos and calculated the sugar based on 1kg of tamarillos.  No wonder.

Tamarillo marmalade 3

Thankfully, the marmalade did eventually gel.  And also happens to taste delicious.  Tamarillos are a little bitter, but not hugely so, which means the decreased sugar isn’t problematic, the marmalade is just the right amount of bitter.  So it worked out wonderfully.  That, I’m afraid, is the Mel show – more than a little disorganised, but I somehow usually manage to fudge it and make it look/taste like I totally knew what I was doing.  More by accident than any sort of actual skill.  Which I’m sure gives you great confidence in my recipes…*

Tamarillo marmalade 4

Tamarillo marmalade

Makes just over 4 x 350ml jars
Adapted from A fruit cookbook

To sterilise the jam jars, wash the jars and lids in hot, soapy water before placing on a baking tray and placing in an oven on low heat until fully dried, about 10 mins or so.  It might be an idea to use jam sugar, since the added pectin would probably help the marmalade gel a bit quicker.  I should warn you that the marmalade does take a while to make, and you do have to keep an eye on it.  But don’t be put off by that, just make sure you don’t have any pressing engagements.  The marmalade is delicious on toast and scones or in porridge and would probably make a delicious meat glaze, too.

Ingredients

1.5kg tamarillos
750g caster or granulated sugar (or jam sugar)
2 unwaxed oranges
1 unwaxed lemon

Directions

1.  Place the tamarillos in a heat-proof bowl (you may need to do this in batches) and pour boiling water over them.  Allow to sit for 1-2 mins, then skin them, starting by lopping off the stalk with a sharp knife and peeling off the rest of the skin (the skin peels away very easily once started).  Finely slice the peeled tamarillos, place them in a large bowl with 250g of the sugar and stir together.  Cover with a lid or cling-film and leave to stand overnight.

2.  Finely slice the oranges and lemon, removing any pips.  Add to a large mixing bowl with 750ml water, cover with a lid or cling-film and also leave to stand overnight.

3.  The next day, place several saucers or small plates in the freezer.  Add the orange and lemon peel and water to a large heavy-bottomed pan and simmer over a medium-low heat until the skins turn transparent.  Then add the tamarillos and simmer until tender.  Finally, add the sugar and ensure that it dissolves before turning the heat up a little and bringing the marmalade to a rolling boil.  After about 15-20 mins, remove one of the saucers from the freezer, place 1 tsp of the marmalade and place in the fridge for 1 min.  Push your finger through the marmalade on the saucer.  If it wrinkles, the marmalade is ready.  If not, allow the marmalade to continue on a fast boil for another 4-5 mins and test again.  Continue until the marmalade wrinkles.  As soon as the marmalade is ready, remove from the heat.

4.  Allow to cool for 20 mins.  Skim any scum off the top and ladle the marmalade into sterilised jars and seal (a jam funnel helps considerably).

Enjoy!

PS – I’m submitting this to this week’s Made with Love Mondays hosted by the lovely Javelin Warrior.

Made with Love Mondays, hosted by Javelin Warrior

* I feel that I just should point out that I only ever post recipes that actually worked for me.  And if I’m not sure, I’ll double test them.

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