Tag Archives: Cocoa powder

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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Crème de menthe & chocolate sandwich biscuits

I’m afraid that I’ve rather neglected the We Should Cocoa blog challenge over the last few months – another victim of my general disorganisation and just that whole life thing.  I had planned to sneak back into the challenge last month, with a knock-your-socks-off mango and chocolate twist bread (the special ingredient was “mango“).  I was, however, thwarted by my general inability to successfully work with yeast, and the bread came out a complete failure.  So much for that plan.

Crème de menthe & chocolate sandwich biscuits 1

We Should CocoaThis month’s We Should Cocoa challenge is being hosted by Victoria of A Kick At The Pantry Door, and she has chosen the marvellous ingredient of “mint“.  I have always been a fan of the truly fabulous combination of dark chocolate and mint, and was a champion Bendick’s Mint Crisp and After Eight snaffler as a child (and totally not still as an adult, ahem).  Luckily, this month I actually have an entry to send in, in the form of some rather scrumptiously adorable crème de menthe and chocolate sandwich biscuits.  Which I realise is quite a wordy recipe title.

Crème de menthe & chocolate sandwich biscuits 2

These biscuits go in for a double chocolate whammy – there’s cocoa powder in the biscuits themselves, and the filling in the middle is white chocolate based.  I know that white chocolate and mint can be quite sickly, but it’s only a thin layer, so actually it works, balanced by the cocoa powder in the biscuits.  The mint flavour is quite subtle, which I like.  The original recipe referred to them as wafers, but I feel that suggests that they’re quite crisp, whereas actually they’re more on the chewy side of the biscuit spectrum.  I love the little holes in the top biscuits – I think they’re rather cute.  I’d wanted to use a fluted cutter so that the holes would be all pretty and scalloped, but discovered that I didn’t have one small enough.  Next time!

Crème de menthe & chocolate sandwich biscuits 3

Crème de menthe & chocolate sandwich biscuits

Makes 45-48 sandwich biscuits
Adapted from Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-In-Your-Mouth Cookies

If you don’t have any crème de menthe (or don’t want to use alcohol), you can also use peppermint extract, though in lesser quantities, particularly in the filling – taste as you go.  The biscuit dough can be made in advance and kept in the fridge for up to three days, or frozen up to three months.  To freeze the biscuit dough, form into a log, wrap in baking paper, followed by tin foil and seal in a ziplock bag or airtight container.  You might need to cut the log in two to fit.  The finished biscuits will keep in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Ingredients

For the biscuits:
225g caster sugar
190g all-purpose flour
70g unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
200g unsalted butter, softened
3 tbsp whole milk
2 tsp crème de menthe

For the filling:
150g white chocolate
1-2 tsp cream
1 tsp crème de menthe

Directions

To make the biscuits:
1.  Sift the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large bowl and stir together.  Rub in the butter with your fingers.

2.  Mix the milk and crème de menthe in a glass or ramekin.  Whilst mixing the sugar mixture with an electric whisk, pour in the milk mixture.  Mix until the dough clumps around the beaters.  Knead for a few minutes with your hands to make sure it is evenly mixed.

3.  Spread a 50cm piece of baking paper or tin foil out on the work top.  Roll the biscuit dough into a 40cm long log of about 4cm in diameter.  Wrap in the baking paper and twist the ends.  Refrigerate for at least 1h until firm.  The dough can be refrigerated for up to three days, or if keeping for longer, it can be frozen up to 3 months.

4.  Line a couple of baking trays with baking paper.  Pre-heat the oven to 175°C/fan 155°C.

5.  Once the dough is ready, slice into 4mm slices and space them at least 2cm apart on the prepared baking trays.  Refrigerate any slices not going straight into the oven.  Bake for 12-13 mins (they will puff up in the oven and are ready about 1½ mins after they’ve deflated again).  Using a bottle cap (a wine screw cap works excellently – I found that beer caps were a bit more difficult to get a grip on.  An apple corer would also work in a pinch) cut a circle in the centre of half of the biscuits.  Leave the cut-out centres in until cool – take care as the biscuits are quite fragile.  Remove the biscuits to wire racks to cool fully.

To make the filling & assemble:
6.  Once the biscuits are completely cooled, prepare the filling.  Break or chop the white chocolate into small pieces and add to a heat-proof bowl with the cream.  Melt together over a saucepan of barely simmering water.  Once the white chocolate is smoothly melted, remove the saucepan from the heat, and stir in the crème de menthe.  Don’t worry if the chocolate seizes up.

7.  Spread about ½ tsp of the filling onto each of the base biscuits and top with one of the biscuits with a hole.  Allow to set before serving.

Enjoy!

PS – The raw biscuit dough is really quite tasty.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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Aztec roasted pumpkin seeds

Those spiced sweet potato cupcakes that I mentioned on Friday did indeed get rid of my October pumpkin-baking itch, but they also opened up a whole new little obsession: roasted pumpkin seeds.  I’d never tried roasting pumpkin seeds before, mostly because I never have pumpkin seeds to roast.  In fact, I bought pumpkin seeds for the first time a couple of weeks ago, on a whim.  I read somewhere that pumpkin seeds are appetite suppressors (but don’t take my word for it – I can’t remember where I read it), so I thought it might be a good idea to keep a packet in my desk for when I get peckish mid-afternoon but didn’t bring a snack.  A flawless plan but for the teeny tiny minor detail that I discovered that I don’t really like raw pumpkin seeds.  To me, they’re bland and a little bit chewy and not particularly enjoyable to eat.  Oh.  Bummer.

So what do you do with a pack of pumpkin seeds that is taking up cupboard space?  You add spices and a little bit of sugar and roast them.  Obviously.  After my first successful attempt last week, I decided that roasted pumpkin seeds were the way forward, and started to think of other flavours to try out.  I remembered that the special ingredient for this month’s We Should Cocoa challenge (which is being hosted by Nat at HungryHinny) is “pumpkin.”  Now, pumpkins and other squashes aren’t in season here anymore, but pumpkin seeds also count…  So what about roasting pumpkin seeds with some cocoa powder?  (Which I realise may actually be the most basic and straightforward way to combine pumpkin and chocolate.)

I decided to take a leaf from the Aztec flavour bible and add cinnamon and chilli powder to the cocoa powder.  I was already familiar with the marvellous combination of chocolate, cinnamon and chilli, and adding the flavours to pumpkin seeds turned out to be a fabulous idea, even if they do look as if they’d just been dug out of the earth (thanks cocoa powder!).  I particularly love the gentle, but satisfying, crunch of the seeds followed by the aftertaste of warmth from the chilli powder.  Now I keep a little tupperware box of roasted pumpkin seeds in my desk and they do the trick nicely if I get the mid-afternoon munchies.  The chilli is especially handy on a cold day.  Oh and they take about 3 minutes to prepare (plus roasting time), so it’s an easy snack to throw together.  So easy and straightforward in fact, that I almost feel like I’m cheating by sending this in as my entry to We Should Cocoa – it’s hardly even a recipe!

Aztec roasted pumpkin seeds

Makes about 100g
Based on Serious Eats

This recipe would work with fresh pumpkin seeds, too – don’t worry too much about cleaning them perfectly as the stringy pumpkin bits will just add flavour (although try to get rid of any big stringy bits as this will make it easier to mix).  You can adjust the amount of chilli powder depending on how much you enjoy spiciness (I’m not a huge spicy person, so the amount specified is just right for me) – I’d suggest tasting the seeds before roasting and adjusting the spices as necessary.  The roasted pumpkin seeds will keep for about two weeks in an airtight container.

Ingredients

100g pumpkin seeds
20g unsalted butter
1 tbsp dark brown sugar
¾ tsp cocoa powder (at least 70%)
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
Just under ¼ tsp chilli powder

Directions

1.  Line a baking tray with tin foil.  Preheat the oven to 175°C/fan 155°C.

2.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan.  Place the pumpkin seeds in a medium-sized mixing bowl.  Add the melted butter and stir until the seeds are fully coated in melted butter.

3.  Add the brown sugar, cocoa powder, ground cinnamon and chilli powder to the seeds and stir until well mixed and coated.  Spread in a single layer on the lined baking tray and bake for 30 mins, stirring every 10 mins.

4.  Allow to cool on the baking tray (the popping noises are normal) and serve or store in an airtight container.

Enjoy!

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