Humble (crumble) Pie

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Pie or crumble? One of life’s great conundrums! Now you can have your pie and eat it along with the crumble, all as part of the same pudding. Happy days!

Grease two 8 inch shallow cake tins/or pie dishes, before lining with a thin layer of shortcrust pastry. Homemade or shop bought, both work. I actually used shop bought as I had a block in the freezer I needed to use up. Prick with a fork, then put a piece of greaseproof paper on top of each and fill with lentils, rice or baking beans. Bake in a preheated oven at 180oC for twenty minutes or until golden and crispy.

While they are baking, prepare the crumble topping by blitzing 125g of each butter, light brown sugar, and self raising flour in a food processor. It will start to clump together and at this point add in a couple if handfuls of oats and mix with your hands to ensure the oats stay whole rather than being pulverised by the processor.

Leave the pie crusts to cool slightly before filling with cooking apples, blackberries, blackcurrants or whatever fruit you fancy.

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Sprinkle over about 50g of caster sugar then top with the crumble. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the fruit is tender and serve with custard.

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You can freeze one of the pies for use at a later date of you want or give it to a neighbour like we did. Enjoy!

Choux-laa-laa… A Paris-Brest of sorts.

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The iconic Paris-Brest dessert was created in honour of the Paris to Brest bike race which started in 1891. Circular in shape to represent a bicycle tyre, and typically filled with a praline cream, this choux pastry sensation can still be found in patisseries all over France. There’s an incredible garden centre near us which makes amazing cakes and pastries, my favourite of which is a Coffee Renoir, which they make in the same shape as a Paris-Brest. It’s filled with pastry cream and whipped cream, then doused in coffee icing and almonds. I’m a sucker for anything with creme pat in it, so thought I’d have a go at recreating it at home. Granted, my bike tyre looks like it has a puncture, but hey ho, looks aren’t everything!

For the choux pastry you’ll need:
130g plain flour
2 teaspoons of caster sugar
100g butter
4 free range eggs beaten
240ml water

Put the butter and water in a pan and heat until it starts to simmer. At this point dump in all the flour and sugar and beat hard with a wooden spoon. If your bingo wings aren’t flapping you’re not beating hard enough!

The dough will form a smooth ball. Leave to cool until it’s tepid then drizzle in the beaten eggs a bit at a time beating hard again until the egg is incorporated before adding more. You should end up with a glossy paste. Put it in a piping bag and pipe a circle on a well greased baking sheet. Pipe another circle touching the inside of the first one, then a third one on top of the first two.

Bake at 210oC for 15 minutes, then, without opening the oven door turn the temperature down to 180oC and bake for a further 15-20 minutes until crisp and golden. Remove from the oven and immediately poke repeatedly with a skewer to let the hot air escape and avoid the dreading shrinking choux.

When cool enough to handle carefully slice into two halves and allow to cool completely.
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Now, as I mentioned earlier I’m filling this with creme pat which will need to chill in the fridge for at least three hours (preferably longer), so you may want to bake it the day before. You’ll need:
750ml milk
1 vanilla pod, split, seeds scraped out.
150g caster sugar
6 free range egg yolks
60g cornflour

Heat the milk in a pan with the vanilla pod and seeds gently until it comes to a simmer. Meanwhile whisk the eggs and sugar together until light in colour then whisk in the cornflour. Sieve the milk mixture into a jug and pour half of it back into the pan. Slowly pour the remaining milk into the egg, sugar and cornflour mixture whisking continuously. Then pour the egg mixture back into the pan with the other half of the milk and whisk until it has thickened. Put into a clean bowl, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate.

Once it has chilled and set pipe it onto the bottom half of the choux circle.
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Now whip some cream with icing sugar to sweeten and a teaspoon of vanilla. The cream needs to hold its form, but be careful not to over whip. Pipe it on top of the creme pat.
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Put the top on and drizzle with coffee icing. To make the icing dissolve a heaped teaspoon of instant coffee in a tiny amount of boiling water to make a bit of a paste. Once cooled pour the paste a bit at a time into some sieved icing sugar. Taste. Add more sugar or coffee to taste. Pipe over the top and sprinkle with almond slices.
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Caramel Apple Cake

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Today, some friends and I went to a food festival at the beautiful Stonyhurst College. We decided (largely due to the lure of free entry) to each enter a cake into the ‘Great British Cake Off’ competition. I found the recipe for my entry, Apple Caramel Layer Cake in ‘Delicious’ magazine, and delicious it was (although, evidently not as delicious as some of the other entries as sadly I didn’t win!).

I’ve made the recipe a couple of times, but changed it slightly for this competition in that I only included two layers to make it easier to transport and slice. I also put apple puree and extra caramel between the layers as well as the Greek yoghurt and caramelised apple slices to give it a bit of extra bite. Caramelised apple slices and spun sugar finished it off nicely.

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I’d encourage you to give this one a try. It really is beautiful and a lovely way to use up all those seasonal cooking apples! Enjoy.

Chocolate and peanut butter cheesecake

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This cake is not for the faint hearted, or weak hearted for that matter. If you’re watching your calorie intake you’re reading the wrong blog, as this is the ultimate in chocolate peanut butter blow outs.

A friend had given me a jar of chocolate spread, and because it’s not the type of thing I’d usually spread on my toast I wanted a recipe to use it up. Hence coming up with this beauty!

For the base I used a packet of chocolate digestive biscuits, some salted peanuts, and melted butter. Having accidently put too much butter in the biscuit crumbs, I needed to ad-lib a little using whatever I could lay my hands on to soak up the excess butter, as we didn’t have any other biscuits in. So, some pretzels and granola later the base was ready. I pressed it into a springform tin and chilled it whilst making the topping.

The topping was completely made up as I went along. I whipped approx 300ml double cream  then mixed in 500g mascarpone, a jar of smooth peanut butter and a jar of chocolate spread. It needed a bit of something sour to cut through the richness and about 200ml of natural yoghurt did the trick.  After spreading the topping on the base I drizzled about 50g melted milk chocolate over the cheesecake and sprinkled with crushed salted peanuts. Leave to set in the fridge over night.

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This dessert was one of a few I did for a welcome home party for some friends who had just arrived back from a round the world adventure.

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I also did a rhubarb, strawberry and rose water pavlova:

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Mini creme pat and filo, fruit tartlets (recipe here) :

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A fruit platter and a cheeseboard.

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It was a great success and a lovely evening was had by all.

Chocolate Balloon Bowl

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I actually made this a while ago before my blogging days, and have been meaning to post it for ages. This is one show stopper dessert that looks amazing, but doesn’t require much in the way of skill.

You’ll need a balloon, a packet each of dark, white and milk chocolates, a Bain Marie to melt the chocolates and something to perch the balloon in. Firstly, blow the balloon up, but not too full. Stand it in a mug or something to keep it stable, and put a piece of foil or baking paper underneath to catch any drips. Now melt the dark choc so it is just melted, check that it’s not too warm (trust me, you don’t want to spend forever wiping ribbons of dark chocolate off your kitchen because the balloon exploded!…yes, it happened to me!). If the chocolate is just warm you should be ok. Pour it over the top of the balloon and leave to set. Do the same with the white and then milk.

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Once the choc is set, remove the balloon from the mug, and place a dollop of melted choc on the baking paper and stand the upturned balloon in it. You now have a stand for your bowl.

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Once fully set, very carefully make a minute cut in the knot of the balloon aiming to let the air out very slowly. If you do it slow enough, the balloon should come off in one piece. If it doesn’t, pic away the bits that are stuck to the chocolate. Fill with your favourite dessert (I used a very simple to make Eton Mess).

Place the bowl on a large platter and smash in front of your guests upon serving.

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Rhubarb crumble cake

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Rhubarb is one of those vegetables that tastes great in a variety of dishes provided you add enough sweetness to counteract is distinctive tartness. I love it in a crumble, but wanted to make something with it that I could take to church and people could eat easily after the service without the use of bowls and spoons. Cue, the crumble cake. Moist rhubarb sponge, topped with a lovely oaty crumble.

For the cake,  mix 2, 250ml cups of plain flour with 1 cup sugar, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt. Then mix in 1 cup Greek yoghurt (I used 0%fat), 3 small lightly beaten eggs, and two and a half very long sticks of rhubarb, diced (approx 4 cups).

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The batter will be ridiculously thick, but fear not, during the cooking process all that lovely rhubarb will release its sumptuous juices to compensate for the stiff mixture. Spread it in a greased and lined baking dish.

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Now, put half a cup of cold diced salted butter in a dish with half a cup of brown sugar and plain flour respectively. Add in a teaspoon of ground cinnamon and rub together to form breadcrumb like granules. Don’t do it too fine as lumps add texture and crisp up nicely during baking.  At this point mix in a half a cup or so of oats, and sprinkle the mixture over the cake batter. As you can probably see from the pics, my crumble didn’t sprinkle well because I did not have any chilled butter, so had to use some which had been sitting at room temperature, and it never makes good crumble like that, although it will still taste delicious.

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Bake at about 180oC for about 45 minutes, or until the batter is cooked and the rhubarb is softened. Leave to cool in the tin before cutting into squares. Serve with custard or clotted cream if you do desire. 

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Chocolate and peanut butter mini cakes

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The other day I watched Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, whip up a batch of peanut butter frosting. As well as smooth peanut butter, she added in regular butter, a splash of cream and icing sugar. 

I had some left over chocolate buttercream in the fridge which I wanted to use up (recipe on the BBC Website), so loosely following what I’d seen the Barefoot Contessa doing, I came up with my own version by simply beating the chocolate buttercream with a tub of smooth peanut butter, a splash or two of double cream, a pinch of salt, and icing sugar.  This is all to taste, making adjustments as you go along. If if tastes good to you, then it’s fine. I put it in a piping bag ready for the next stage. 

I was a bit disappointed my cakes had come put if the oven with unsightly domes on top.

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Never one to be defeated though, I decided to make individual mini cakes, by slicing the tops off the cake, and using a cookie cutter to make little rounds, as so:

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“What about all that waste?”, I hear you shrieking. Fear not my friends, I have plans for the left overs….(see here) Pipe the frosting on each mini cake and adorn with a few halves of salted peanut.

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The amalgamation of the rich sweet chocolate, with the creamy saltiness of the peanut butter is an unlikely union, but as the old adage goes, opposites attract, and this is certainly a match made in heaven. Enjoy!

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Christmas flapjacks

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Two of my most favourite things in the world are Christmas and flapjacks, so imagine my delight when a friend passed this recipe on to me years ago. It has become a firm Christmas staple in our house, with friends and family alike reveling in the novelty of the fact they’ve not been served yet another mince pie, but yet they’re still experiencing those lovely warming Christmas flavours. What I find even more appealing is the fact you can knock them out in 45 mins including the half hour cooking time. Perfect for last minute guests.

Here’s what you’ll need:

8oz porridge oats
6oz soft brown sugar
3oz pain flour
6oz butter
1lb mincemeat
1/2 tsp bi-carb
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Put all the dry ingredients into a bowl.
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Melt the butter and mix into the bowl of dry ingredients to form a sticky flapjack.
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Press 2/3 of the mixture into a greased shallow baking dish.
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Spread the mincemeat on top. I make no apologies about using shop bought mincemeat for this as, let’s face it, who has time to make their own at this hectic time of year? I certainly don’t.
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Sprinkle the rest of the flapjack mixture on top and bake at about 180oC for half an hour.
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Ignore the baking potatoes... An accompaniment for dinner tonight.

Now, you could serve this straight away as a pudding with custard or cream, almost like a Christmas crumble, but if you want it to hold its form and be able to cut it into squares then let it cool in the tin before removing.
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And there you have it. Super easy Christmas flapjack in a flash. Delicious!
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Spiced Orange and Yoghurt Pudding

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As you may have already noticed, I’ve mentioned Slimming World in a few of my previous posts. After Christmas I bit the bullet and made a conscious decision to finally try to shift the baby weight, after all, the only thing wearing a bit thin was the excuse with the aforementioned baby actually being a feisty 22 month old toddler!

Before and after 60lb weight loss.  I'm somewhere between the two now.

Before and after 60lb weight loss. I’m somehwere between the two now.

Before getting pregnant I’d had to lose 60 pounds in order to do IVF, and I was the fittest I’d ever been. All the hard work paid off and I was rewarded with a beautiful, health 10lb 4oz baby at the end of it. To my horror though, not only had I gained a baby, I’d also gained half the weight I’d lost back. Anyway, long story short, it’s now time to start shifting it.

Needless to say IVF was a great incentive to stay focussed, but this time I’m struggling. Truth is I love food. I love cooking it, eating it, sharing it, experimenting. Food and entertaining is a huge part of our lives and it’s not unusual for us to have friends over for dinner a few times a week. Is this lifestyle conducive to weight loss? At first glance, no, not at all. However, I don’t think it needs to be that way. With a few swaps here and there good food and even desserts can be factored into a weight loss plan.

Here’s a recipe for a Slimming World Spiced Orange and Yoghurt Pudding which is 4 ½ syns per serving and serves 6.
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This is what you’ll need:
3 Eggs separated
4oz Golden caster sugar
1tsp. Cinnamon
450g Fat free natural yoghurt
Zest of one unwaxed orange
3floz orange juice
1oz Plain flour
1oz Toasted almonds

Preheat the oven to 180oC. In a mixer whisk the egg whites and half the sugar until white and fluffy peaks, then spoon into a bowl and set aside.
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Add the eggs yolks and remaining sugar into the mixer bowl and beat until pale and creamy, then add in the yoghurt, cinnamon, orange juice and flour and mix until well combined.
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Gently fold the egg whites into the mixture until all combined and spoon into a lightly greased tin, or oven proof dish. Bake in a Bain-Marie making sure the water is no higher than halfway up the tin. Place in the oven and cook for about 40 minutes until golden on top.
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Scatter over the almonds and serve with a dollop of reduced fat crème fraiche if desired. One thing I will warn you about is using a lose bottomed tin. I thought that if I wrapped it in tin foil before putting it in the bain-marie it would be fine, but some of the water did make it through making the bottom of the pudding a little wet. Next time I’ll stick to a fixed-bottom dish instead.

Enjoy!