Roasted hazelnut and chocolate ganache tart, caramelised figs

Happy Sunday! It’s been a slow weekend, and I’m not mad about it. It’s been a busy old week of work, events and a cinema trips, so some downtime in kitchen has been just what the doctor ordered. I’ve been thinking more and more about the kinds of recipes for entertaining friends and family at this time of year (see last week’s post), and with that came the idea for this hazelnut and chocolate tart.

I really enjoy working with chocolate; it’s such a versatile ingredient and has been inspiring me a lot lately. Pastry on the other hand is something I will 9/10 avoid making from scratch, but with some time on my hands, I gave this shortcrust method another go. It’s pretty fail-safe, and can be whipped up in 10 minutes so I’d encourage you to have a go too! With a decadently rich filling, nutty topping and sweet, ripe figs for a luxurious finish, these are flavours and textures that work in harmony.

Serves 8-10 | Prep: 30 mins | Cooking: 55 minutes

For the shortcrust pastry:

  • Round 20cm non-stick pie tin (removable base)
  • 250g organic plain flour
  • 150g chilled salted butter, cubed
  • 2-3 tablespoons water

For the chocolate filling:

  • 150g 70% dark chocolate
  • 400ml double cream
  • 120g whole hazelnuts
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • Pinch of sea salt

For the caramel sauce:

  • 100ml double cream
  • 50g salted butter
  • 2 tbsp light soft brown sugar

To serve:

  • Dusting of icing sugar
  • 4-5 fresh figs, halved
  • Caramel sauce

Step one: On a clean work surface, sieve the flour from a height. Use your hands to make a well, and rub the cubes of butter into the flour until you end up with a fine, crumbly mixture. Add a little water at this point to bind and knead the dough together, but avoid overworking.

Step two: Flour the surface and place the dough on top. Press firmly with the palm of your hand, then wrap in clingfilm before letting it rest in fridge for at least 20 minutes.

Step three: In that time, prepare the chocolate ganache filling. In a saucepan, simmer the cream on a low heat for about 10 minutes until it begins to bubble at the sides. Turn off the heat and add the broken pieces of chocolate and a pinch of sea salt, stirring continuously until smooth and melted. Leave to cool. Whisk one whole egg and one yolk, and add to the ganache. Mix well and set aside.

Step four: Flour the surface and roll your pastry so it’s thin enough to cover your tin. Gently and evenly press the pastry into the tin and up the sides. Prick the base several times with a fork, and use a sharp knife to remove the excess pastry from the rim. Fill with a circle of greaseproof paper and baking beans (or dried pasta). Blind bake for 15 minutes at 150 degrees to cook the pastry.

Step five: Once cooked, remove the greaseproof paper and baking beans. Spread the base with 60g whole hazelnuts, then fill with the ganache. Return to the oven for approx. 30 minutes. The edges should be firm and the centre still a little soft. Remove from the oven as the residual heat will continue the cooking process.

Step six: Crush and roast the remaining 60g hazelnuts on a baking tray for five minutes. This will release their natural oils and give a wonderful, earthy flavor to the tart. Sprinkle on the tart and chill for at least two hours.

Step seven: To make the caramel sauce, melt the butter and sugar in a saucepan on a low heat for about five minutes. Once bubbling, pour in the cream and stir gently. It will thicken quickly, so remove from the heat when this happens and set aside. It should be glossy and cover the back of a spoon.

To serve: Dust the tart with icing sugar. Halve the figs and assemble in the centre, and drizzle over the cooled caramel sauce generously. Slice and serve with lightly whipped cream.

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Baked white chocolate and ginger cheesecake, winter berries.

This has to be my ultimate dessert. A rich, creamy cheesecake ticks all the boxes for me; indulgent, just sweet enough and satisfying. Now that autumn’s here, this is a seasonsal take on what can be quite a summertime dessert. I also champion this recipe because it looks a lot more challenging than it actually is (trust me!). With a hint of ginger in the base, and a vibrant forest fruit medley on top, it’s a winner all round for this time of year. It’s time to organise that dinner party you’ve been talking about!

Serves 8-10 | Prep: 20 mins | Cooking: 50 minutes

For the biscuit base: 

  • 250g pack of McVities ginger nuts (substitute if desired, but these are the best)
  • 50g butter or sunflower spread
  • 1 tsp raw cacao powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger

For the cheesecake:

  • 280g  full fat cream cheese (I use Philadelphia original)
  • 200g marscarpone cheese (I use Galbani)
  • 100g good quality white chocolate (I use Green & Black’s 30% cocoa with vanilla)
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • Zest of a whole lemon
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • 150g frozen berries (blackberries, cherries, currents, blueberries)

Step one: Pre-heat the oven to 150 degrees (fan assisted). Grease and line a 20cm round tin. Set aside.

Step two: Crush the biscuits with a rolling pin in a sandwhich bag or plastic bag. You want a semi-smooth texture with a few chunky bits.

Step three: Melt the butter on a low heat, add the crushed biscuits, ginger and cacao and stir until well coated and softened. Remove from the heat and press evenly into the lined cake tin. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Step four: In a heatproof bowl, gradually melt the broken white chocolate over a bain-marie (a pot of simmering water) until completely smooth. This should take around 8 minutes. Set aside.

Step five: In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and marscarpone until smooth. Add the salt, grated lemon zest and eggs one at a time, mixing throughout.

Step six: Once cooled, stir the white chocolate into the mixture along with the honey. At this point the mixture will be silky smooth and cover the back of a spoon completely.

Step seven: Remove the base from the fridge. Pour in the wet mixture and smooth with the back of a spoon for an even finish. Bake for approx 50 minutes. The edges should be light brown and coming away from the tin slightly but firm to touch (don’t worry about minor cracks). The centre should still have a little give.

Step eight: On a low heat, thaw the frozen berries until softened and oozing natural juices. Set aside and cool before topping the cheesecake for serving.

Vegan banana bread & cashew cream frosting

Another Sunday, another recipe! Lately, I’ve really been enjoying plant-based eating more so than my usual vegetarian diet, and so I’ve filtered this into this week’s bake. I absolutely adore banana bread, so I figured a vegan-friendly version would be a quick and easy go-to for anyone wanting to experiment with baking with substitues.

A note on the ingredients – I’ve left out the eggs and butter, instead opting for the classic ‘flaxseed egg’ and dairy-free butter which both work a treat. The cake itself is quite close textured and dense because of the wholemeal flour, and the addition of soft, chewy dates gives a subtle caramel sweetness. The finishing touch is the fluffy cashew cream frosting which is super simple to make and the perfect substitue for mascarpone, traditional butter icing or cream cheese.

Serves 8-10 | Prep: 15 mins | Cooking: 1 hour

For the cake batter: 

  • 100g (organic) self-raising flour
  • 100g (organic) wholemeal flour
  • 100g soft brown sugar
  • 200g dairy-free butter (Pure, Flora or Vital are good brands)
  • 2 over ripe bananas, mashed
  • 10 soft pitted dates, chopped
  • 2 grated carrots
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp vegetable or rapeseed oil
  • 2 tbsp ground flaxseeds
  • 1/4 cup water

For the frosting:

  • 50g dairy-free butter
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 100g soaked cashew nuts
  • 1/4 cup non-dairy milk (soy, almond or oat)
  • Zest of 1 lemon

Step one: Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees. Grease and line a 20cm loaf tin. Set aside.

Step two: In a large mixing bowl, add the flours, baking powder, salt and spices and mix well. In a smaller bowl, add flaxseeds and water and leave for 5 minutes to thicken.

Step three: In a seperate bowl, cream the butter and sugar until creamy or use an electric mixer. Add the ‘flaxseed egg’, oil, grated carrot and chopped dates, then mix well.

Step four: Blend the bananas for 1 minute or mash well by hand. Add to the wet ingredient mixture.

Step five: Add the dry ingredients to the wet bit by bit, ensuring you continue to mix well for an even finish. You should have a thick consistency that coats the back of a spoon. Pour into your lined tine and bake for approx 1 hour. You can adjust the temperature if the cake browns too much on top. The knife test will check the centre is cooked through.

Step six: Blend the softened cashews and milk until a thick yet smooth texture is achieved. Set aside.

Step seven: In a bowl, cream the butter and icing sugar until whipped and smooth. Add the cashew mixture and set aside in the fridge to keep cool.

Step eight: Once the cake has cooled, finish with the frosting and grated lemon zest to serve. Et voila!

Zesty orange & almond cake with coconut frosting

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When I’m reading articles, magazines and watching cooking videos for inspiration and new techniques, I often come across this classic bake and I’ve been wanting to try it out for a while. The thing is, I’m not keen on orange within cooking so I was always put off making this myself – that was until I tried it at one of my favourite Lebanese restaurants in London – Comptoir Libanais. I was pleasantly surprised at how subtle the orange flavour actually was, so here is my variation on the delicious wheat and gluten free cake.

The thing I love about this cake is how simple it is to make and the moist, dense texture the ground almonds give once baked. If you want a healthy alternative to traditional sponge bases, then definitely give this zesty cake a try! The addition of coconut in the frosting takes the flavour to a new level, complimenting the fruity orange and nutty almonds.

I’m trying out a new 24mm lens here, so do let me know if you like the photo quality a little more!

Serves 8 | Prep: 15mins  Cooking: 40mins

For the cake:

• 200g demerera sugar
• 200g unsalted butter
• 150g ground almonds
• 150g fine polenta
• 3 eggs
• 1/2 baking powder
• Zest and juice of one whole orange

For the syrup:

• Juice from half an orange
• 1 tsp demerera sugar
• 2 tsp good quality runny honey
• 1/4 cup cold water
• 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the frosting:

• 180g tub soft cream cheese
• 1 tsp creamed coconut
• 1 tsp good quality runny honey
• 2 tbsp unsweetened desicated coconut

Step one: Pre-heat oven to 160 degrees. Line and greese a 20cm round tin and set aside.

Step two: In a mixer, blend the sugar and butter for 5 minutes until creamy. Add the eggs one by one.

Step three: Add the polenta, ground almonds and baking soda and whisk until well combined. Grate the orange zest in and add the juice before giving a final mix by hand.

Step four: Pour the mix evenly into the tin and bake for 40 minutes until golden brown and firm to touch.

Step five: In a small saucepan heat the water, orange juice, sugar and honey on a medium heat until reduced and coats the back of a spoon. This should take 3-4 minutes. Add the vanilla extract and set aside until the cake is cooked.

Step six: Whilst the cake is still hot, prick several times with a fork then pour the syrup over the cake and leave to cool.

Step seven: In a small bowl, mix all of the frosting ingredients together until smooth.

Step eight: Smooth the frosting evenly over the cake with a knife and sprinkle with orange zest. Cut into slices and serve cold.

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Blueberry, lemon & coconut loaf cake

I’ll admit. I have holiday blues, big time. I’ve had a few weeks off from blogging and life in general with an amazing couple of weeks spent in Jamaica with the family. New Years saw me return to my home town of Birmingham to spend it in good tradition with my best girlfriends (which involved a lot of excited conversations, good food, relentless dancing and minimal sleep) and finally, quality time with my extended family. It was a much anticipated and relaxed Christmas and New Years for me, but now my working life in London is back in full swing. And so is Not Without Cake. I have missed my kitchen!

While I was away enjoying home comforts, I did the age old thing of trying to set myself some realistic resolutions for 2015, many of which were around the whole staying organised, using my (very sophisticated) diary type of thing and continuing to travel the globe. I also said I wanted to get over my dislike of certain foods. I’m all for trying new things in a bid to stay healthy and cultured, but there some things I’ve never enjoyed. This recipe involves blueberries; one of the dreaded fruits I disliked. I researched a few recipes for a light blueberry based cake because I wanted to try something for the blog and with a few adaptations, I made this loaf cake. I have to say, I have done a 360 degree turn around and will definitely make this again.

With the lightest of textures, it’s jam packed with fresh blueberries, coconut and lemon zest which is a dreamy combo. I also added soya yogurt for extra lightness to cut the rich fruitiness and it produced the most wonderful bake. If you don’t like blueberries on their own, try this recipe and you might just be converted too.

Serves 8 | Prep: 10 minutes | Cooking: 40 minutes

For the cake:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 100g soft light brown sugar
  • 150g softened butter
  • 200g self raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 200g fresh blueberries
  • 50g sweetened desiccated coconut
  • 1 whole lemon
  • 1 cup soya yogurt or plain Greek yogurt

Step one:  Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees. Greese and line a 20 cm loaf tin with baking paper.

Step two: In a mixer or bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until combined. Melt the butter for 60 seconds in the microwave or on the hob until there are no lumps. Add this to the eggs and sugar.

Step three: Gradually add the flour and baking powder to the batter until completely smooth.

Step four: Add the washed blueberries whole, along with the coconut and zest of one lemon. The juice is optional but I omit the juice because the yogurt will cut the sweetness.

Step five: Lastly, spoon in the yogurt and combine evenly, without crushing the blueberries. The batter should be smooth and thick enough to cover the back of the spoon.

Step six: Bake for approx 40 minutes or until the top is browned and a knife runs clean from the cake. Leave to cool for 15-20 minutes before eating.