Lemon Curd Eclairs

I decided I wanted to make something a bit different when some friends came for tea. My Mum was an excellent baker, and one of the things I really loved were her chocolate eclairs. I thought I'd have a try at choux pastry as it's years since I've made any. [Many moons ago I went to cookery classes with a friend, and we made choux buns.]
Recently I was given a large jar of home-made lemon curd, so decided to try and use this as the filling instead of cream. I'd make some fondant icing for the tops.

Do I do a GBBO and say - 'Make some choux pastry' or give the recipe? Decided to do the latter.
This amount makes about 10 buns.

150ml water, 50g butter, 65g plain flour, 2 eggs lightly beaten

Put the water and butter in a pan and bring to the boil over a medium heat. Take off the heat and add the flour. Put back on the heat and beat with a wooden spoon for 2-3 mins till the mixture leaves the sides of the pan.
Cool slightly. Gradually beat in the eggs till they're all incorporated.

For the lemon curd eclairs:  you need a large jar lemon curd and some fondant icing and water.

Preheat oven 220C/gas7                      Grease 2 baking trays 

Put a large plain tube into an icing bag and fill with the choux pastry.
Pipe 7.5 cm lengths onto the baking sheets.
Bake for 15 mins, change the position of the sheets and turn the oven down to 190C/gas 5 and bake for another 20 mins.
Put onto a wire rack to cool.

Make a slit in the side of each pastry shell. Fill an  icing bag with a large plain tube and add lemon curd. Pipe some into each pastry shell.

Make up some fondant icing and spread some over each eclair.

Lovely textures - the pastry, the curd and the icing. Think I overdid the lemon curd a bit and would put less in next time. They make a nice change from the usual chocolate ones. Would certainly make them again.


Blueberry Muffin Cake

One of my favourite fruits is a blueberry, and I love blueberry muffins. I thought I'd try to use one of my usual recipes, but instead of individual muffins, make a muffin cake. I've added a topping to give it more crunch.

There used to be a prolific blueberry bush in the garden, but sadly this year it decided it had had enough!

Preheat oven 190C/gas5                                    Grease a 900g loaf tin.

In a bowl mix together 280g plain flour, 1/2 tpsn salt, 1/2 tspn bicarb and 1 tspn cinnamon.

In another bowl beat together 2 eggs, 100g caster sugar and 85g light brown sugar,then mix in 125ml sunflower oil, 125ml sour cream and 1 tspn vanilla extract.

Gently mix the dry ingredients into the wet one, but don't overmix

Stir in 290g blueberries dusted in 1 tbspn flour to stop them sinking in the cake.

Topping: 100g caster sugar, 50g plain flour, 50g butter cubed and 1/2 tspn cinnamon. Mix together to crumbs, then sprinkle over the top of the cake.

Pour into the loaf tin and bake for about 40-45 mins till golden.

The trick with the flour worked, as the blueberries were well distributed through the cake.
A nice moist texture, with the juicy fruit and the crunch from the topping. A success, and a change from the usual muffins.


Caramel and Pear Cake

325g caster sugar
4 pears, peeled, quartered, cored and sliced
175g self-raising flour
1 tspn baking powder
125g butter, melted
2 eggs
50ml milk
1 tspn vanilla extract

You need a 20cm  springform round cake tin

Preheat  oven to 180C/gas4, . 

Put 150g sugar in a pan and add 3 tablespoons of water. Dissolve the sugar over a gentle heat, then turn up the heat and boil until the sugar turns a rich amber colour. Swirl the pan  but don't stir. Pour the caramel into the base of the prepared tin which you've lined with baking paper which comes up the sides a little. Let it cool, then arrange the pear slices in a circle pattern on top.

Sift the flour and baking powder together. Add the rest of the sugar, and stir till mixed.. Add the melted butter, eggs, milk and vanilla, then mix at high speed for 1 minute to make a smooth batter. Pour over the pears and bake for 40 minutes to 1 hour. 
Cool for 10 minutes in the tin, then turn onto a wire rack and serve still warm.

It's a delicious dessert. The cake has a nice soft texture, then you have the juicy pears with the moreish toffee topping. 


Raspberry Buns

The mention of Rock Cakes in my book of British cooking, reminded me of the Raspberry Buns my Mum used to make. I loved these, and would hurry home from school when she'd mentioned she was making them. It was my Granny's recipe, and luckily Mum had written into her notebook.

There are several recipe that were family favourites that Mum didn't include in her book, and I've tried to replicate them but with little success - 'double custard' being one. She made a great apple flan in a flan tin, with a sponge base filled with stewed apple, then piped a layer of this 'custard' round the edge and puts dabs on top. The 'custard' looked a bit curdled, but was delicious. I know she made some Birds custard, but what she added to it, I don't know! I've tried various ways of making it, but they're all wrong. Sorry, I digress.

The buns are made in the same way as Rock Cakes - the rubbing in method.

You need
225g sr flour with 1 tspn baking powder
75g butter
75g caster sugar
1 beaten egg
raspberry jam
milk and caster sugar for the topping

Preheat oven 180C/gas4

Sieve flour and baking powder into a bowl and rub in the butter.stir in the sugar, then add the egg and enough milk to make a soft, but not wet, dough.
Divide the dough into 12 pieces and roll it into balls.
On a floured surface, flatten the balls and put 1/2 tspn of raspberry jam in the centre.brush the edges of the dough with jam then pull the dough up over the jam. Turn the buns over so the join in underneath.
Brush the tops with milk then bake for 15-20 mins till golden.
Cool on a wire rack - don't eat straight from the oven as the jam will be very HOT!

A taste of childhood. Nice soft texture inside , with a crunchy top and the jam oozing out. An easy to make treat.


Walnut and Date Cake

Another case of using up something at its ' Use By' date; this time some chopped dates. Wanted to make an easy cake, so made my Mum's Date cake with walnuts.
It's a cake that keeps very well.

Oven 180C/gas4                            Grease and base line a 20cm square cake tin.

In a bowl put 210ml boiling water, 175g chopped dates and 3/4 level tspn bicarbonate of soda. Leave it for 5 mins.
Cream together 175g soft brown sugar and 50g soft margarine, then beat in 1 beaten egg and the water and dates.
Sieve 225g plain flour with 3/4 tspn baking powder and pinch salt, then fold into the date mixture. Add 40g of chopped walnuts and mix together.
Spoon into the tin and bake for about 45-50 mins.
Cool on a wire rack then remove the paper.

This is just part of the cake, as I gave the rest to my lovely Polish neighbour! I sprinkled some sugar on the top  - not really sure why!
It has a lovely flavour, almost caramel taste from the dates and a nice crunch from the walnuts. It has a nice moist texture, and is excellent with a cup of tea or coffee. A nice old fashioned tea treat.


Chocolate and Hazelnut Biscuits

When 2 of my grandsons, aged 13 and 16 came to visit, to keep them off their x-boxes, I baked with them! We made these chocolate biscuits, and they were a great hit. Sadly there weren't any left to take home to their brother, so next time we'll have to make double the amount!

Preheat oven 190C/gas5                Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.

you need: 125g butter, 125g caster sugar, 50g dark brown sugar, 1 beaten egg, 1/2 tspn vanilla extract, 100g plain flour, 25g cocoa powder, 75g oats, 1/2tspn baking powder, 1/2 tspn bicarb, 125g chopped hazelnuts and 25g demerara sugar

Beat the butter and caster and dark brown sugars together till nice and smooth. Add the egg and vanilla and beat again.
Mix together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and bicarb. and add to the batter. Stir in the nuts.
Take tspns of the mixture and roll into about 30 balls. Put the demerara sugar on a plate and roll the balls in it. Put the biscuits about 5cm apart on the baking trays. Press them down gently then bake for about 10 mins. Cool on the trays for 5 mins, then turn onto a wire rack to cool.

You could use other nuts instead of hazelnuts. They're nice and nutty and crunchy. Very moreish.


White Chocolate Crunchies

My daughter's favourite chocolate is white, so having recently made my son's favourite dessert, and as she was coming to stay for a week - a very rare occurrence - I decided to make her something using her favourite ingredient.

I tried one of these crunchies at a coffee morning, and asked for the recipe.

The only cooking involved is melting the chocolate, butter and crème fraîche.

You need an 18cm square tin which you line with baking parchment.

Break up 300g white chocolate and put in a bowl. Add 150g butter and 1 tbspn crème fraîche and melt together gently over a simmering pan of water.

Crumble 100g Amaretti biscuits and chop up 100g candied fruit [I got mine in Waitrose].

When the mixture is melted, take the bowl and add the biscuits, fruit 25g dessicated coconut and 50g toasted flaked almonds. Mix it all together carefully. Spoon into the tin and leave to set in the fridge for 4 hours.

Cut into 20 squares when set, using a knife dipped in hot water.

It's very fruity and nutty. As expected with white chocolate, it's quite sweet. I like the combination of textures - the candied fruit, the biscuits and the smooth chocolate. Not something to have regularly, but a nice occasional treat.