Warming plum and pear crumble

Now that it is almost December and suitably wintry, there are some nights when you just yearn for some hot delicious dessert fresh out of the oven to warm you up. Now I don’t have cake tins and baking trays but I did get very excited about a new purchase (sad I know) I made the other day. It is a cute little Pyrex dish with a microwavable lid that can store food in the fridge, freezer and be used in the microwave and oven. I was literally thinking as I bought it ‘this would be perfect for some crumble…’ So here it is.

Easy peasy pear and plum crumble (although obviously you can really use any fruit you like, and the recipe is by no means accurate, I don’t have the luxury of scales)

You will need:

-Unsalted butter (preferably)

-Flour

-Some fruit of your choice

-Oats/nuts (optional)

-Ice cream etc. (to serve)

-Sugar (this will probably be useful to add to your fruit if it is not very ripe or is a little sour) – you can also add this to your crumble topping but I was not willing to but a 500g bag of sugar I wasn’t going to use again…

 

These instructions are not specific and don’t really have any measurements, but crumble is pretty easy to make. Guestimate how much butter you need and then put in a little more flour that the butter. Add sugar/oats/nuts as you wish. I find the easiest method is just to mix it up with your finger tips and squish the butter into the flour so that you end up with something that resembles large breadcrumbs, ie. CRUMBLE.

   

Chop up your desired fruit into sizeable chunks (I don’t like fruit mush) – bear in mind that the fruit will shrink a lot in size to be sure to have enough to fill at least half of your dish. If your fruit is quite sour, I would advise cooking it a little in a pan on a low heat and adding some sugar, a little golden syrup etc. to sweeten it up a little before putting into your oven dish.

Now you are ready to assemble!

Cover the fruit with all the crumble and leave a thick enough layer (I would say a centimetre or two) of crumble on top of this.

Bake in a hot oven at about 180-200 degrees Celsius for half an hour or so. The fruit should be bubbling away and cooked with a lovely golden layer of crumble on top when ready.

I chose to serve with a generous helping of vanilla ice cream as I didn’t have any sugar in my crumble and I thought it needed a little sweetening up! Otherwise that’s it really.

>What are your favourite winter desserts to make?

New York Cheesecake

I love New York cheesecake, so I thought I’d have a go. We tend to bake them and them cut into slices for the freezer – that way we can defrost them as and when we want! I love this recipe, adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s on The Guardian column. It has a lovely mellow lemon flavour whilst the cake itself is very creamy and smooth with a lovely sour cream topping! Here’s how to make it.

New York Cheesecake, makes one 22cm cheesecake

Preparation time : 1 hour + overnight

Baking time : 2 and a 1/2 hours

For the base;

-100g butter (about 85g melted and 15g softened)

-170g digestive biscuits

-1tbsp golden caster sugar

-a pinch of salt

For the filling;

-200g golden caster sugar

-3tbsp plain flour

-a pinch of salt

-900g full-fat soft cheese (I like Philadelphia)

– 200ml sour cream

-2tsp vanilla extract

-zest of 1 lemon

-3 large eggs and 1 yolk

For the sour cream topping;

-200ml sour cream

-1tbsp golden caster sugar

-2tsp lemon juice

Once you’ve raided the supermarket for all that, you can start making the cheesecake (be warned that the mountainful of cream cheese and sour cream is not too much, though I know it very much looks it!)

First grease the tin and line with greaseproof baking parchment. I like to grease the paper too just in case the base sticks. Next my favourite part. Crush the biscuits, I did this one of those ‘zip-lock’ bags and a rolling pin. If you don’t feel angry, you can of course use a blender and gently pulse the biscuits until they resemble fine breadcrumbs.

 

Pour the biscuit crumbs into a bowl and stir in the melted and softened butter. When it is all bound together, press gently into the base of the cake tin trying to get an even distribution that is smooth across the whole area.

Bake the base at 190 degrees Celsius for 10-12 minutes.

Now make the filling by first stirring together the sugar, flour and salt in a small bowl. In a large separate bowl, beat the cream cheese until soft and fluffy.

 

Add one third of the sugar/flour/salt mix (see photo above left) to the cream cheese (see photo above right). Also add one half of the sour cream to the cream cheese bowl. Continue to do this until all the sugar, flour, salt and sour cream are thoroughly mixed in with the cream cheese to create a very smooth consistency.

 

 

Now add the vanilla extract and lemon zest. Finally add the 3 eggs one at a time plus the single yolk.

The finished cheesecake mixture

Brush a little butter onto the sides of the tin with the biscuit base in. Now wrap tin-foil around the tin coming up a few centimetres above the sides of the tin. Repeat so that you have two layers of tin foil encasing the cake tin. This is so that when cooked in a bain-marie, no water will seep into the cheesecake. Then pour the cream cheesecake filling on top of the baked biscuit base and use a spatula to smooth out to create a level top. Place your filled cheesecake into a deep baking tray and carefully pour boiling water into the tray so that the level of the water reaches about halfway up the cheesecake tin. (see photos below)

 

Bake at 170 degrees Celsius for an hour to an hour and three quarters until the middle of the cheesecake is firm.

Now to make the sour cream topping, stir all the topping ingredients together and spread an even layer over the cake (I would advise allowing the cake to cool for 15 minutes first).

Place this monster of a cake in the fridge and leave to set overnight (I would only remove the tin foil before doing this and leave the cheesecake in the cake tin). Serve when you please.

  

cooked as part of this menu

Vanilla Panna Cotta with Blueberry Coulis

So this is a little late but I have two more posts to do on the desserts I cooked for a large meal I cooked a while ago now. Anyway, panna cotta had been on my ‘to-bake’ list for quite some time now as I have had it before and loved the smooth creamy texture of this Italian dessert (from ‘cooked cream’). There are many ingredients in it to prepare but it can be a little tricky to make sure it is completely set and remove it from the dariole moulds in one piece! As the panna cotta itself was quite rich, I also made an accompanying blueberry coulis which helped by adding a slightly more tart flavour to the sweet cream.

Vanilla Panna Cotta with blueberry coulis, makes 4

Preparation time : 1-2 hours and overnight

Cooking time : 10-30 minutes

-3 gelatine leaves

-250ml full fat milk

-250ml double cream

-1 vanilla pod

-25g golden caster sugar

For the coulis;

-100-200g fresh blueberries

-2tsp sugar

-A few lemon drops

First soak the gelatine leaves in cold water until soft (I found this really quite fun as had never used gelatine before).

  

Pour the milk and cream into a small milk-pan. Then split the vanilla pod lengthways and scrape out the black seeds. Add the vanilla seeds, pod, sugar and the gelatine leaves (after you have squeezed out the water) all into the pan. Simmer gently until the sugar and gelatine has mostly dissolved, then take it off the heat and continue to stir and dissolve the rest.

Pour the mixture carefully into the moulds and wait until cool.

Then refrigerate overnight to allow the gelatine to set and the panna cottas to form completely.

To make the coulis, blend and sieve the berries, sugar and lemon drops. Microwave for a few minutes to thicken and you can also leave this in the fridge overnight.

To remove the panna cottas from their moulds, place in a tray of boiling water so that as much of the mould as possible is touching the water for about 10 seconds and then turn out onto a plate with the open side down. Carefully easy them out and they should hold their shape (fingers crossed!).

cooked as part of this menu 

Choose the next recipe on my blog!

Hey guys, so I have plenty of new recipes that I have been wanting to try, but not that much time – I recently started a new job at a farm where I get lots of lovely organic fruit and veg, meat and eggs, so I would love to put them to good use, but my sweet tooth also beckons…  Anyway since I can’t decide, I would love it if you would vote in my poll just below and I will try out the recipe with the most votes! Thanks!

So you can see my dilemma… it’s a pretty random bunch of recipes but I have been saving them for a while and would appreciate the votes. Ta! Also if you have any additional ideas that you think I could try, please comment and I will consider them all.

Chocolate Brownie Tart with Hazelnut Pastry

At last I have something to post about – I have been so busy to even think about baking or cooking anything new! So tonight I made a dessert as we had some friends come over. As it has started raining again, I didn’t want a totally summery dessert, so chose to make a chocolate brownie tart. I have made a very similar one before with pecans and shop-bought shortcrust pastry, but this time I wanted to try making the pastry myself. Our guests were vegetarian so I actually used vegan butter (just in case) but ordinary butter would be just the same as the fat for the shortcrust pastry.

Chocolate Brownie Tart with Hazelnut Pastry, makes one 23cm tart (serves 8-10)

Preparation time : 45 minutes

Baking time : 50 minutes

Hazelnut Shortcrust Pastry

– 50g blanched hazelnuts, finely ground

– 200g plain flour

– 1tbsp icing sugar

– 140g diced butter, at room temperature

– 1 egg yolk

– Flour, for dusting

Brownie filling

– 100g dark chocolate, 70% cocoa solids +

– 75g butter

– 2 large eggs + 1 yolk

– 50g golden caster sugar

– 1 tbsp cocoa

– a pinch of salt

– 5tsp instant coffee mixed with 3-5 tbsp hot water

– 50g hazelnuts, finely chopped

First to make the pastry, whiz the hazelnuts in a blender until finely ground.

Then add the flour, icing sugar, butter and pulse for a few minutes until similar in consistency to breadcrumbs. You may need to stop occasionally to ‘unstick’ the mixture from the sides so that it is all evenly mixed. Ensure that the butter is room temperature and diced before adding to the mixture.

Next add the egg yolk (separate by cracking gently and allowing the albumen/egg white to drop into a spare bowl whilst keeping the yolk controlled between the two egg shells – see here for a clear demonstration) to  and 1-2 tbsp cold water to the breadcrumbed pastry and pulse a few more times until it comes together.

Tip the dough out onto a clean floured surface and shape into a flat disc. Cover this  with clingfilm (or a small bag) and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. If you don’t have a blender/food processor or don’t want to, check out this recipe for shortcrust pastry by Delia Smith.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and roll out the pastry gently onto the floured surface to fit a 23cm tart tin. Mine was rather crumbly so I put it into the tart tin and used my fingers to push it out gently. Try to get an even thickness on the base and the sides. Trim off any excess off the edges and prick the base with a fork. Cover and line the pastry case with baking parchment and weigh down by ceramic baking beans (uncooked rice and lentils make good alternatives). Bake for 20 minutes.

                  

After 20 minutes have elapsed, remove the beans and baking parchment and bake for a further 5-10 minutes until golden brown.

Next move onto the chocolate brownie filling. Place the broken dark chocolate, butter and coffee mixture into a glass heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Whilst waiting for it to melt and mix into a smooth mixture, roughly chop the hazelnuts for the brownie. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, yolk and sugar together. Once the chocolate mixture has melted together and cooled for some time, add to the egg mixture with the cocoa,hazelnuts and a pinch of salt. Taste and if too bitter (especially if high cocoa solids %), add another tablespoon or two of golden caster sugar.

Pour the hazelnut brownie mixture into the cooled pastry case. Decorate with spare nuts if you wish.

Bake the whole brownie tart for 20-25 minutes until a clean knife can be removed from the centre. Cool away from the oven or it will dry out a little. Serve with crème fraiche  to balance the rich sweetness.

Leftover slices (tomorrow’s breakfast…)

Share your views or ideas by leaving a comment below!

Passion Fruit Crumble Cake

This is a joyous cake which positively radiates yumminess. I absolutely love the crumble topping with a hint of coconut which gives the cake a little something extra. The passion fruit comes through well (3’s the magic number!) and makes the cake a glowing yellow with the crunchy black seeds to give some bite! It is very easy to make and guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser. This recipe is adapted from Dan Lepard’s column with the Guardian and I really like the fact that the use of butter, sunflower oil and yoghurt reduces the fat content but also makes the cake lighter in texture. I hope you enjoy it!

Passion Fruit Crumble Cake, makes one cake of 22cm diameter or two small loaves (as in the photos)

Preparation Time : 30 minutes or so

Baking Time : 1 hour

Passion fruit cake

– 75g unsalted butter

– 25ml sunflower oil

– 175 golden caster sugar (you may to adjust this and add more according to the ripeness of the passion fruits)

– pulp from 3 passion fruit

– 25g cornflour

– 3 medium eggs, separated

– 100ml or so of plain yoghurt

– 200g plain flour

– 2tsp baking powder

Coconut crumble

– 50g unsalted butter

– 75g plain flour

– 50g golden caster sugar

– 40g desiccated coconut

Line the baking tin(s) with baking parchment. Gently melt the butter in a microwaveable pyrex glass bowl until soft. Add the oil, sugar and cornflour mixing thoroughly. Then mix in the egg yolks and yoghurt. Finally mix in the passion fruit pulp and have a quick taste! Sift and gently add the flour and baking powder. Finally in another bowl, whisk the egg whites until light and fluffy (just before meringue texture). This adds lightness and air into the cake – ensure the bowl and whisk are very clean otherwise your won’t get soft peaks. Lastly carefully fold in the egg whites into the passion fruit mixture slicing through the mixture so that the egg whites are fully incorporated. Pour the mixture into your prepared tin(s).

To make the coconut crumble topping, mix the butter, flour and sugar together. I find it easiest to use your fingers you can really make sure it is mixed well. Finally also mix in the coconut into the crumble. If you don’t like coconut you could substitute and experiment with different flavours (feel free to comment your ideas). I am not a huge fan of coconut but I think it subtly complements the passion fruit perfectly. Sprinkle generously over the cake mixture in the tin(s) – I like to leave some biggish lumps as I just adore crumble! Bake for an hour (my two smaller loaves took about 40 minutes) at 180 degrees.

When the cake is ready and an inserted skewer is removed clean, leave the cake(s) to cool a little in the tins. Serve up warm soon after. I’m on the hunt for any ways to improve the presentation of these cakes so if anyone has any suggestions, please comment below.

Happy Eating!