Sunday, 1 May 2016

Chocolate pecan tart

I suspect this may be the same as a Mississippi mud pie but haven’t called it that in case, like key lime pie, there’s a specific ingredient/aspect that defines it and I’m not aware of it!  These things can be a minefield so I thought I’d avoid causing any offence – in all honesty it was the inclusion of pecan nuts that made me just think, ‘hmm, best not go there!’

It’s a bank holiday weekend so that means the glorious euphoria that only an extra day off work can bring!  I wanted to make something that would last all weekend and provide dessert.  This met the brief and was also a tart that I knew we wouldn’t get bored of – seriously, how you could you ever tire of chocolate tart?

The tart souffled up whilst cooking and sank when cooling.  Don’t panic when this happens; although my outer ring of pecan nuts stood up like sentries and meant the edge couldn’t sink back down giving an ‘interesting’ final look!  Here it is souffled….

….and sunken:

I do admire the design of pecan nuts – they look like shrivelled brains.  Walnuts and pecans have it sewn up regarding ‘interesting looking nuts’.  Most nuts are a bit dull looking – smooth and pale, but these two have raised the bar and always make me pause to look whenever I bake with them.  The complexity in shape that nature can produce is fascinating.  I’ve re-read what I’ve just written and concede that some people may find it weird.  I can assure you that it’s when I say I’ve started talking to the nuts that you should worry (or when I claim that they answer back!)


For the tart base:
225g biscuits – I used hobnobs, but digestives or ginger biscuits would also work
100g unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the filling:
170g plain chocolate
170g unsalted butter
4 eggs
170g dark muscovado sugar
150ml whipping cream
100g pecan nuts

To serve: whipped cream


Start by making the base: blitz the biscuits to crumbs in a food processor, then add the butter and blitz again until you have clumpy wet sand.  NB. If you use the food processor there is no need to melt the butter, unlike it you use the old ‘bash the biscuits with a rolling pin’ method!

Press the crumbs into a 20cm loose bottomed flan tin taking care to come right up the sides.

Place in the refrigerator while you make the filling.

Preheat the oven to 190C/fan oven 170C/375F/gas mark 5.

Melt the chocolate and butter together over a gentle heat.

Leave to cool for about 10 minutes – if the mix is too hot the eggs will scramble when you add them causing a lumpy final texture.

Whisk in the eggs and sugar until smooth and well combined.

Whisk in the cream.

Pour into the chilled biscuit base and place the pecan nuts on top, arranged however you wish.

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the chocolate filling looks set.

Leave to cool before de-tinning.  Don’t worry that your tart will settle as it cools – this is normal.

Serve in generous slices with cream.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Sunday, 17 April 2016

Fruit tea loaf

This recipe came into being because I made a whim purchase.  Whilst visiting a Greek Cypriot supermarket on the quest for baklava (as instructed by Mr CC; if only all quests in life were this tasty!), I spotted a pouch of dried red and white mulberries.  I was starting from a position of ignorance: I didn’t know anyone other than silk worms ate mulberries, but, seeing as I didn’t see any silk worms doing their shopping I deduced that they must also be human food.

What caught my attention was their beautiful knobbly appearance.  I want to describe them as looking like a raisin that had suffered a severe allergic reaction to something but this wouldn’t convey how cute they are.  Texturally, they are similar to a dried fig i.e. they have a bit of grittiness about them.  They are also very dry, which was why I decided to use them in a tea loaf, where they’d have the opportunity to plump and rehydrate.

Having read up about mulberries they seem to be considered a superfood.  I always struggle with this term as – to me – most food is pretty darned super, but it is because they’re high in protein, iron and vitamins blah blah science etc.  They taste nice too – which is the most important thing; imagine a less sweet sultana.

Thickly buttered fruit loaf is one of life’s great joys.  I always say that you can toast the loaf and then butter it, but I never have any left to get to do that!


340g dried fruit – I used dried mulberries and sultanas
60g glace cherries – chopped
110g dark brown soft sugar
200ml cold tea – I used 2 teabags to boost the flavour
225g self raising flour
1 egg


The night before you wish to bake the cake: place the fruit, cherries and sugar in a bowl and mix with the tea.  Cover the bowl and leave - ideally overnight but longer won't hurt.

Day of baking: Preheat the oven to 190C/fan oven 170C/375F/gas mark 5.

Line a 900g loaf tin with baking paper.

Mix the flour and egg into the pre-soaked fruit mix – ensure it is well combined and no pockets of dry flour or egg remain.

Spoon into the prepared tin and level the surface.

Bake for approximately 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.  If the cake is browning too quickly, don’t be afraid to cover it loosely with foil.

Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Serve in slices with butter thick enough to leave teeth marks when you bite into it!

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Sunday, 10 April 2016

Pecan cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

I haven’t yet baked a single cupcake during 2016 so thought it was about time I rectified this most heinous situation.  The pecan sponge is an adaptation of a recipe where it was intended as a 20cm cake served as dessert with toffee sauce.  Most sponges can be converted into cupcakes pretty simply by a reduction in baking time.

The original recipe used maple syrup instead of the golden syrup I used; I made this switch because Mr CC actively dislikes the smoky flavour of maple syrup.  He’s not known for being picky about food, there are probably less than a handful of no-go ingredients for him, so it would seem rude not to accommodate him.  I prefer golden syrup too!

Take time to blitz the pecans to a fine crumb but, at the same time, don’t blitz them for too long so they start to release their oils.  Once you hit the look of ground almonds, stop!  I kept mine perhaps a bit coarser than ground almonds:

Pecans have a robust flavour so I chose a cream cheese frosting as I thought it would hold its own against the nuts.  The tang of the cream cheese works well and I kept it simple with a dash of vanilla.

There are three distinct flavours to these cupcakes – cream cheese, syrup and pecans.  They all hit together but the pecan is the one you’re left with at the end.  They are sweet – as you’d expect with sugar, syrup and pecans (which I always think of as a sweet nut) - but it’s a flavoursome sweet rather than a sugary sweet; you aren’t left with itchy teeth!


For the sponge:
200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
150g muscovado sugar
350g pecans – blitzed to fine crumbs in a food processor
3 eggs
100g golden syrup
150g self raising flour

For the frosting:
200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
300g icing sugar
180g cream cheese – I used Philadelphia
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To decorate: pecan halves


Preheat the oven to 170C/ fan 150C/340F/gas mark 3 ½.

Line two cupcake pans with paper cases – I got 20 generous sized sponges.

Beat together the butter and sugar until light and well combined – it will never go quite as fluffy with brown sugar as it would with caster.

Beat in the ground pecans.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

Beat in the golden syrup.

Fold in the flour.

Spoon into the paper cases and bake for approximately 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cakes comes out clean.  Mine took 20 minutes.

De-tin and leave to cool on a wire rack lined with either kitchen or baking paper – the reason for this is that the nuts release oils during cooking and by standing it on something absorbent you will end up with nice dry paper cases by the time they’ve cooled.  (NB. Removing them from the tin ASAP stops them continuing to cook when out of the oven -this is what can cause the paper cases to gap and look ugly).

Now make the frosting: beat together the butter and icing sugar until well combined and smooth.

Beat in the cream cheese and vanilla.

If the frosting is very soft don’t be afraid to refrigerate it for 30 mins or so before using.

Pipe over the cupcakes, or spread with a knife if you prefer.

Decorate with pecan halves.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Monday, 28 March 2016

Lemon cream pie

Sometimes, I can be sceptical about recipes if they look too simple.  This was such a recipe and gosh was I wrong!  Firstly, it’s no bake so is super quick to make; secondly, it has few ingredients and thirdly, it requires no skill or techniques whatsoever.  Win-win-win!
The texture of this is amazing – it is the softest, lightest, smoothest texture I can recall.  Imagine a whipped mousse crossed with a cloud and you’d be getting there!  The lightness of texture offsets the richness so it’s actually deceptive; I could quite easily have been on my second slice before I realised how creamy it was!

The basic method could be adapted to any citrus fruit – it’s the acid from the fruit you need to set the cream.  It worked very well with lemon because the fresh zing balanced the richness of the cream.  The gingernut base gives an extra flavour too.

Just about the perfect dessert for a lazy holiday weekend.  It keeps for 2-3 days in the fridge so you can just cut slices as they’re required (makes a refreshing change from all the chocolate!).  I know that I will also adapt this recipe to build it in a glass too – the creamy filling was light enough to work with that style presentation.


225g gingernut biscuits
115ml unsalted butter, at room temperature
300ml double cream
265g condensed milk
Juice of 2 lemons
zest of 1 lemon


Blitz the gingernuts in a food processor.

Add the butter (no need to melt it if you’re using a processor) and blitz again until you have the texture of clumpy damp sand.

Press into the bottom of a 20cm loose bottomed flan dish and press a little up the sides too.

Refrigerate while you make the filling.

Whip the cream until it reaches the soft peaks stage.

Fold in the condensed milk, lemon juice and zest.

Spoon into the biscuit base and spread out.

Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.