Paul A Young’s Sea-Salted Chocolate and Pecan Tart Recipe Review

Paul A Young sea-salted chocolate and pecan tartI was leafing through Paul A Young‘s Adventures with Chocolate recipe book and decided I HAD to bake this dark chocolate sea-salted and pecan tart (recipe online here)! The photo was just too irresistible! I made this for a week day dinner party last week but it did require baking it over two days so I’d recommend considering it for a weekend dinner party. The pastry is easy to create and using a food processor makes it super easy. I used medium yolks. I left it in the fridge for over an hour then rolled it out and left about a couple of inches spare so that the pasty overhung my dish and then cut off a bit of the excess. Next up another rest in the fridge for 15mins. I actually think it might be worth resting it for half an hour as I found my pastry did shrink a bit in the oven.

chocolate pastryI cooked the pastry at 160 degrees in a fan oven which was defo the right temperature for my oven atleast. I baked it for the full 20mins then another 8 mins and let it cool overnight. The next day I made the filling and popped it in the fridge before the dinner guests arrived. Now time to make the topping. Pour 100g of caster sugar in a small saucepan on a medium heat. Then don’t touch it. I know it sounds bonkers how can dry sugar turn liquid but it’s like magic! Keep that spoon far away from this sugar! Literally don’t touch it. Very slowly you’ll see the edges of the sugar start to liquefy and change colour. Give the pan a little shake to encourage the non-melted sugar to merge with the liquid bits. Very slowly you’ll start to get a nice golden brown caramel emerge. This Guardian article gives some nice tips on how to make different types of caramel.

chocolate and pecan tartThen pour it over halved pecans. It forms a lovely gooey caramel and quickly hardens. These are fab to sprinkle over the choc filling and it gives it a lovely crunch and texture and breaks up the monotony of the dark choc colour. Place on a big cake plate and watch your dinner guests’ eyes fill with glee! It serves 8 people as it’s very rich but boy was this a wonderful dessert!

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Jamie Oliver New Year Nuts

Festive nuts

Nuts! It’s the first day back to work. Well what better way to keep hold of that festive mood than to make some festive nuts. I gave these away as pressies for Christmas but they’re equally lovely as New Year treats or to chomp through during Dry January. This is a Jamie Oliver Honey-Roasted Nuts recipe which went well. I bought most of the nuts from Asda and a few from Sainsburys and I bought Kilner Jars from Robert Dyas (350ml ones). I doubled the recipe to make four jars. The nuts I used were pecans (they burn more easily than the others so keep stirring the nuts at regular points), unsalted cashews, peanuts, walnuts, brazil nuts (cut up in to halves), and almonds etc. 20mins was plenty of time in the oven. I used twice as much smoked paprika and it turned out really tasty. Jamie says use sweet smoked paprika but I couldn’t find anything saying ‘sweet’ on the label. Other tips? Personalise with this NotontheHighStreet ‘baked with love’ label maker and some festive ribbon. Nom nom nom.

Valentine Baking Ideas

Cupcake heartsWith only two weeks to go, it’s time to bring some inspiration to Valentine Baking and purchase some cool baking decorations or cupcake cases before it’s too late! Here is my top 10 list of Valentine Baking Ideas:

1. Make some delicious chocolate cupcakes (aka Hummingbird Bakery) and wrap them in these decadent red cupcake wrappers. Then sprinkle with cupcake decorations like these ones from Just Bake. You can view their full Valentine range here.

Red heart cupcake wrappers_Just Bake2. If you don’t think you can bake then this really is laid on a plate for you. Heart shaped cutter, cookie mix and Emma Bridgewater gift bag from John Lewis – no excuses boys!

3. From today, Peggy Porschen’s Valentine cupcakes are available to buy and feature a heart or a luscious pair of lips, for £3.50 each.

4. Or how about doing a Valentine Baking course together which Primrose Bakery are hosting on Sunday 17th Feb?

heart shaped macaron from Vera's Cookbook blog5. If anyone made these heart shaped macarons for me then I’d be pretty bowled over. Here’s a video to guide you through how to make them from Vera’s Cookbook blog. Macarons are notoriously hard to make but I think even if you managed to produce 3 perfect ones that would be impressive and show your appreciation for someone!

6. Or you could make heart shaped cupcakes with these silicone cases from Lakeland

7. I also liked the look of these jam filled heart shaped butter biscuits from BBC Good Food and you can buy the cutters here

red velvet cupcakes photographed by Kimothy Joyeates8. How about baking something in these mini heart shaped ramekins from Le Creuset?

9. If you prefer to bake with cups then this is a useful double chocolate heart shaped cake recipe covered in raspberries and you can buy heart shaped pans from Cakes Cookies and Crafts (BTW they’ve got an updated website since I last went on there – looks good!)

10. And finally…a red velvet cake…here’s a US recipe from SomethingSwanky or try the cupcakes recipe from Hummingbird High. To read my 2015 Valentine Baking Ideas, you can find them here.

Brands2Life British Bakeoff for ByteNight

Great British Bakeoff  - BBCLast week I was one of three judges for the ‘Brands2Life British Bakeoff‘ at work to raise money for Byte Night – the IT industry’s sleep out to raise money for Action for Children. Along with fellow judges @goldenbrown01 and Lucy, we judged the cakes on three criteria – flavour, the bake and presentation. We had a huge selection of cakes to choose from – Mississippi Mud Cake to Sachertorte to chocolate swiss roll and Chocolate and Guinness cake. All but one entry was chocolate – a brave banana cake.

I have never eaten so much cake in one sitting!! It was really fun to judge the cakes and sachertorte came in first place for its glossy finish, tasty sponge and jam, icing and sponge combo. It looked very professional too. In joint second place was the chocolate and hazelnut cake for doing well across the board and the refridgerator cake for being particularly ‘scrummy’. Well done to everyone that entered! We then sold the cakes to raise money for Byte Night and made over £100!

Chocolate sachertorte cake

How to make Vanilla Extract

How to make vanilla extract on the Cake takes the biscuit blog

For Christmas pressies, I decided to make homemade vanilla extract. I can now write about them since I have given the pressies away 🙂 I was given a jar by my sister-in-law as a present last year and I thought it would be a great gift idea for me to replicate as I use the jar all the time! It’s super easy and is a nice pressie that is practical and will last for ages. I bought my little jars from a shop called Tiger. The only ingredients you need is vodka – I used Smirnoff – you don’t need anything too fancy plus high quality vanilla pods – 1 per jar. I had good customer service from Vanilla Mart and you can buy the pods in all sorts of different types and quantities.

  • Cut lengthways down the vanilla pod, leaving 1 inch connected at one end.
  •  Put the vanilla pod in a preserving jar – it needs to have a tight fitting lid.
  • Cover with the vodka to the top of the jar and give it a shake.
  • Store in a cupboard for 2 months and hey presto you have your own vanilla extract for baking with!
  • The vanilla extract lasts for years – you just keep topping it off with the vodka.

I got some good tips from this recipe on Simply Recipes. I was intrigued to learn that each vanilla pod comes from an orchid that has been pollinated by hand. Once the vanilla seed pod has developed, it must be hand picked as well. Who knew!

Nigella’s New Year Chocolate Cookies

Nigella Christmas chocolate cookies with chocolate glaze and sprinkles made by Naomi LongworthAfter Christmas I caught up on lots of Christmas cookery programmes like Nigella and Nigel Slater. I thought Nigella’s Christmas chocolate cookies looked yummy so I wanted to try them out. It turned out the programme was a repeat from 2008 and took me a while to find the recipe online – thanks to Living in the Kitchen with Puppies for this link. It was only in American units so I had to convert it. I’ve shared the recipe below which I also had to tweak a little bit (for the chocolate glaze). If you ever need to convert weights from US to UK for different ingredients then this is a useful site – Recipes4Us. The cookies should be baked at 160 degrees for a fan oven, 180 degrees for a normal oven.  Nigella can show you how to make the cookies far better than I can – here’s the YouTube clip.

The cookies turned out well if a bit crumbly so if you make bigger cookies I’d cook them for a bit longer than 15mins. And don’t bother cutting out nice Christmas shapes like I did originally – the cookies just expand and pretty much develop into circles whatever you do! I had fun choosing mini Christmas tree sprinkles and edible gold stars (part of my Christmas pressie!) to decorate the cookies over the chocolate glaze. For the first time, I took these photographs outside and I do think the light looks really good on them (thanks to Jonathan Pollock). More to come on food photography outside! BTW, the boyfriend loved the cookies and kept stealing them when I wasn’t looking (note the lesser number of cookies in the second picture) and they went down well with work colleagues although I ruined their healthy eating regimes on day 1. Whoops!

New Year cookies by Naomi Longworth

Cookie dough

260g butter (2 1/4 sticks)

170g caster sugar (3/4 cup)

33g cocoa powder (1/3 cup)

250 g flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Chocolate glaze

170g icing sugar (1 1/2 cup)

2 fl. oz of boiling water (1/4 cup)

1 tsp of vanilla extract

Christmas sprinkles

Edwardian Garden Party – afternoon tea treats

I have finally got back to the blogging after a little reprieve during the holidays but rest assured I have been baking and have lots to update you on! I have also been watching the Great British Bake Off and it has inspired me to do more baking. I thought the tarte au citron from Mary Berry would be a great recipe to try soon.

Back in June I was invited to an Edwardian Garden Party. It was great fun and full of delicious afternoon tea goodies. I managed to get a few snaps of the raspberry and champagne jelly and these little lemon and mini cupcake treats on vintage crockery! This year Lili Vanilli has been researching the Edwardian High Tea so you can see her photo story if you’re feeling inspired!

Mary Berry easy lemon cheesecake recipe review

lemon cheesecake by cake takes the biscuit blog

On Sunday I wanted to make a dessert for some friends coming round. After a BBQ with lots of meat, I thought something light and refreshing would go well. I started sifting through my recipe books and found that there were plenty of cheesecake recipes out there but a lot of them were a bit faffy especially if you had to bake one. In the end I plumped for the easy lemon cheesecake recipe from Mary Berry’s Ultimate Cake Book because it was super easy. I was impressed about how quickly it could be made.

It says to use a 9 inch flan dish, but as I didn’t have one, I used an 8 inch cake tin which was loose bottomed. The first thing to do is mix the 10 crushed digestive biscuits, 2 oz of melted butter and 1 oz demerara sugar together for the biscuit base. I found that the base did go a bit soggy when eating it so I now want to experiment with baking the base for a short amount of time before adding the filling.

For the cheesecake filling, you mix together 150ml of single cream, 1 tin of condensed milk, almost a pack of soft cheese (175g) and zest of 3 lemons. I used light condensed milk and light soft cheese so this was a bit healthier. Then you add the juice of 3 lemons – I actually put the juice through a sieve to make sure the filling was really smooth. It’s also really important to use a whisk to get rid of any lumps when you add the soft cheese. The lemon juice almost instantly thickens the mixture as long as you keep whisking. Pour the mixture into the cake tin and leave for four hours to set. Just before serving I added strawberries round the edge. If you’re more organised than me then you can make it the night before, which is actually a good plan if you’re preparing for a dinner party. I would definitely make this again because it was faff free. If you want more info on Mary Berry and her other books you can read about her here.

Afternoon tea review: Wyndham Grand Hotel, Chelsea Harbour

On Saturday, I went to afternoon tea at the recently refurbished Wyndham Grand Hotel in Chelsea Harbour. It was a lovely sunny day and the Harbour was a great setting. My friend had found a special deal on the Afternoon Tea website for a champagne afternoon tea for £20 which was a bargain. The afternoon tea was themed and because of the Chelsea Flower Show currently being on, it included flowers and herbs being subtly woven into the menu. You can read the menu here.

Wyndham Grand Hotel London

First up, we were ravenous and ate all the sandwiches, though if you want an extra plate, it’s £6.50. I liked the salmon and cream cheese one and it was nice and fresh. I’m not a personal fan of lavender so the honey and ham sandwich with lavender bread was not to my taste. The next layer was some lovely warm scones which were wrapped in a linen napkin to keep in the heat. We managed a scone each but there was another scone still to go at! The scones were fresh and came apart easily in two pieces and we smeared on plenty of clotted cream and strawberry jam.

Next up were the smaller cake delights and everyone had their own favourites. The one I enjoyed the most was the flourless chocolate cake with chilli. The chilli was mild enough not to be too overpowering and there was a lovely treacly gooey taste at the end of your mouthful. I also enjoyed the lemon drizzle cake and the rose and raspberry chibouste (looks like a shotglass in the pic) but you did have to dig a little deeper to get the lovely creamy filling so that the raspberries weren’t too sweet with it. The lavender shortbread wasn’t for me but it was nicely done and I did love the idea of the violet and blackberry eclairs although they were too dry. There was limitless tea and coffee and my friends chose mint and breakfast tea and a cafetiere of coffee whilst I went for a cappuccino.

The hotel has been done in a modern style and the seats were comfortable although I’m not sure the lounge bar had the right furnishings for afternoon tea. If it had been warmer we would have ventured on the terrace for the great Chelsea Harbour views. Overall it was a fantastic afternoon out and after the champagne we all felt very pampered and relaxed. I felt thoroughly stuffed from the afternoon tea so went for a long bike ride and did my fastest ever lap of the park so it must have been down to all that sugar!

Royal Wedding cake ideas

As I am moving house the day before the Royal Wedding, I’m likely to be too exhausted to bake. No doubt my kitchenware will be the first thing I unpack though! However, I didn’t want to miss out on all the cake fun so I have found some great places for Royal Wedding cake baking inspiration.

  • Crumbs and Dollies have made these gorgeous Royal Wedding cupcakes which you can order online.

Royal wedding cake

  • Beas of Bloomsbury are doing a Royal Wedding  lock in after hours which sounds fabulous. Between 7 and 9pm on 29 April, you can toast the happy couple with a glass of champagne, ‘kiss me kate’ cupcakes, mini victoria sponges and mini eton messes, Kate and Wills macarons and some traditional fruitcake!
  • Cupcake Style are offering all the Union Jack sprinkles, flags and decorations you could ever want.
  • Let them eat cake exhibition – only on today and tomorrow Mon 25 April – hosted by Tate & Lyle Sugars – an exhibition of royal wedding cakes throughout the ages – it’s free to go and is open 10-5pm.
  • You have to love this lady, Sheila Carter, for spending two months KNITTING Kate and Wills a royal wedding cake!
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