Tarte aux Noix or Walnut Tart

I love Autumn and its flavours, and one of my favourite is nuts. I know I've mentioned it before, but every Autumn in France we got given a bag of walnuts from my neighbour's tree. She used to make this tart with some of them.
I bought a large bag of shelled walnuts on offer at a local deli, so decided to make her tart. I know the taste won't be quite the same, not using fresh nuts, but it will be a lovely memory of Reneé.

Preheat oven 200C/gas6.            23cm tart tin

Pastry: 125g flour, 75g butter, 25g caster sugar, pinch salt, 1 egg and 25ml water.

Mix all the ingredients together into a firm ball of dough. Pop in fridge till needed.

Filling: 500g shelled walnuts, 150ml crème fraîche, 60g caster sugar, 1 beaten egg, 1 tspn vanilla extract and icing sugar for the top.

Keep enough walnuts back to have enough to cover the top. Put these on a baking tray and put into the oven for a few minutes till they have some colour.

Put the rest in a blender and blitz to powder. Add the cream, sugar, egg, salt and vanilla extract. Mix well.

Roll the pastry out to fit the tin, then pour in the mixture.

Bake for 30 mins then leave to cool in the tin. Arrange the saved walnuts on the top, making a pattern if you wish. Sprinkle over icing sugar.

You can use ready made shortcrust pastry or your own favourite recipe. My neighbour doesn't do anything with the walnuts she puts on the top, but I prefer to toast then to give them a nicer flavour and crunch. Good contrast of textures between the nut topping and the soft filling. I love the flavour of the blitzed walnuts. A nice Autumnal treat.


Pear Fondant

I love pears and I wanted to make something different with them. Happily my French friend came to my aid again and gave me this recipe. It's a dessert not a cake, but is easy to make.

4 medium pears [firmish but not too hard]
150g plain flour
100g caster sugar
2 eggs
100ml milk
3 tbspn vegetable oil
2 tspn baking powder

For the topping:
80g melted butter
3tbspn caster sugar
1 egg
Flaked almonds

Oven 180C.                             Grease and flour  23cm cake tin

Put the sugar and eggs in a bowl and beat till light and fluffy. Add the flour, baking powder and oil and mix in. Pour half of this batter into the cake tin.
Peel the pears and cut into strips. Put on top of the batter in the tin and spoon the rest of the batter on top. Bake for 30 mins.
Topping- Beat the egg and sugar together then add the butter and mix together.
After the fondant has baked for 30 mins, take out of the oven and pour over this mixture. Sprinkle over some flaked almonds and bake for a further 20 mins. Leave to cool in the tin.

The fondant has a lovely mixture of textures - the soft pears, the smooth custardy filling and the       crunchy almonds.  You could use 50g of ground almonds instead of 50g of the flour, or you could       use 40g melted butter instead of the oil. You could also use other fruit like apples or plums. This is a great Autumn treat!                                                                                                                            


'Fondant au Chocolat' Cake

The small 'fondants au chocolat' were the puddings which caused the most problem when I used to watch Masterchef! My French friends recently came to visit, and knowing how I love to try new things, she brought me her recipe for a large cake version. The biggest problem was choosing the right tin, as G had used a French one and I wasn't sure which one of mine to use.

In the end, I used a tin I use to make quiches, 22cm. It has a loose base which was very useful.

The recipe:
 100g chocolate [my friend used cooking chocolate in her recipe. but I used supermarket's own dark]
 75g softish butter
 3 eggs
 100g caster sugar
 40g plain flour
 1 tspn baking powder

Oven 180C                        Grease and flour a 20/22cm tin

Break up chocolate and cut butter into pieces. Melt over a pan of simmering water, or in the microwave. Mix together.
In another bowl beat eggs and sugar till white and fluffy. Add to the chocolate mixture carefully, then fold in the flour and baking powder.
Pour into the tin and bake for 20-30 mins. don't overbake. The centre should still be soft, like a brownie.
Leave to cool int eh tin for a few minutes. The cake can be served warm or cold.

I sprinkled some chocolate chips onto the baked cake, but I didn't really have enough! I also dusted it with sieved cocoa.
You can eat this cake as is, or serve it with fruit - raspberries go very well. It's also great as a dessert with ice cream, cream or to be French, Crème Chantilly. The texture was just like a brownie, soft and smooth, but not quite as ‘fondant’ as the smaller versions.


Chocolate Tartlets with Spiced Biscuit ( Speculoos) Spread

These came about because I found a jar of my favourite Biscoff spread in Sainsbury's. I've since noticed that Lidl sell the same kind of spread called Spiced Biscuit spread. I expect most of the supermarkets now have their own versions.
I bought a new tartlet tin so wanted to try it out, and chocolate and spice seemed to go well together.
I was very lazy and bought a pack of shortcrust pastry, but of course you can make your own from your favourite recipe, or even buy ready made tartlet shells, so then you'd have no cooking at all!

You need; 1 pack ready shortcrust pastry, 100g dark chocolate, 3 tbspn spiced biscuit spread, 100ml single cream, 60g butter and a few crumbled Biscoff biscuits [or supermarket equivalent] to sprinkle on top.

Preheat oven 200C                    Grease a tartlet tin.

Roll pastry out on a floured surface and cut out discs using a 71/2 cm /3" cutter. Line the tin with these then bake for 20 mins. Take out of the oven and leave cases to cool on a wire rack.

Break the chocolate into pieces then melt 60 g with 1 tbspn water over a simmering bowl of water [or just melt in microwave].  Pour into the cooled tartlet cases and put in fridge for an hour.

Melt the rest of the chocolate with the cream and butter over simmering water.

Take tartlets out of fridge and spread a layer of the biscuit spread over the chocolate layer. Pour the rest of the melted chocolate mixture over and put in fridge for 2 hrs before serving. Sprinkle some broken Biscoff biscuits over the top.

I love the mixture of chocolate and spiced biscuit. The pastry gives a nice crunch as does the biscuit topping, which is a good contrast to the soft filling. They are quite rich, but a good treat.


Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Courgette Loaf Cake

I went to tea with a friend recently and she'd made this loaf cake. If you're on a diet, look away now! It involves chocolate, peanut butter and courgettes, but you wouldn't guess about the courgettes as they add moisture but no flavour. The negative bit is that you use several bowls, but the end result is well worth it!

So for the loaf you need: 
2 small courgettes grated [leave the skin on], 2 eggs, 80ml honey, 120ml vegetable oil, 100g soft brown sugar, 2 tspn vanilla extract, 1/2 tspn bicarb, 1 tspn baking powder, 200g plain flour, 75g smooth peanut butter, 1/2 tspn instant coffee, 25g cocoa, 50g chocolate cut into pieces and 25g chocolate melted with 25g smooth peanut butter.

Preheat oven 170C           Line a 900g loaf tin with baking paper

In bowl A mix together the courgettes, eggs, honey, oil, sugar and vanilla extract.
In another bowl B sieve the flour, baking powder and bicarb together, then add to the batter.
In yet another bowl, C, pour half the batter and add the peanut butter to it. 
Add the cocoa, coffee and chocolate pieces to bowl B and mix well.
Put alternative spoonfuls of the batter into the loaf then swirl together using a knife.
Bake for about an hour then leave to cool on a wire rack in its tin.
When it's cool, take the loaf out of the tin and drizzle the chocolate and peanut butter mix on top.
It's delicious, and I love the texture of the mixture. It's moist with a soft crumb, and the different flavours mingle well. The topping sets like fudge. An indulgent treat, occasionally!


Blueberry Streusel Cake

There are lots of blueberries around at the moment and I love them.
I've been eating some every morning with my cereal, but decided I wanted to make a cake. This is one of our favourite loaf cakes, but with a streusel topping. The original recipe was from an American website so has been converted from cups - hence the odd amounts. I've tweaked the recipe because it had way too much sugar in the cake. I like making cakes with oil - makes me think they're healthier!

So, preheat oven 190C/gas5

Grease a 900g loaf tin.

Put 80g granulated sugar in a bowl with 60ml sunflower oil. Mix together with an electric mixer, then add 1 egg, 250ml milk and 1 tspn vanilla extract and beat till smooth and creamy. Fold in 280g plain flour which has been sieved with 3 tspns baking powder. Mix to a batter without lumps. 
Put 220g blueberries in a bowl and add 1 tbspn flour and coat the berries with it. Then gently fold the blueberries into the batter.
Pour into the tin and smooth top [ batter should fill about 2/3 of the tin or it will overflow when baking]. Mix 60g granulated sugar with 50g flour and 50g butter and rub in to make the streusel. Sprinkle this over the batter and bake for about 50mins-1hr. After about 30 mins I covered the top with foil to stop the streusel burning. Cool on a wire rack.

It make a nice treat with a cuppa, and keeps for a few days in an airtight tin. I like the contrast in textures between the cake and the streusel and the softness of the fruit. If you like, you could add more topping, but for me, the ratio is just right. A nice easy cake to make.


Peanut Chocolate Bars

If you like Hershey's peanut butter cups, which I do, then these are for you. They aren't the healthiest of options, but as a treat they're very moreish. 

120g unsalted butter
175g icing sugar
260g smooth peanut butter
12 digestive biscuits made into crumbs
60g unsalted butter
90g chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

You don't need an oven to make these. Line a 20cm square cake tin with foil, leaving some hanging over the sides and butter the foil.

Melt the 120g butter in a saucepan over a low heat. When melted, take off the heat and add the icing sugar. Stir till smooth. Add the peanut butter and the crumbs and again stir till smooth.
Spread this mixture into the cake tin and smooth the top.
Melt the 60g of butter in the same saucepan and add the chocolate.Stir till it's nearly melted, then take off the heat and stir till it has completely melted. Pour this over the layer in the tin and smooth.
When cool, put into a fridge for at least 30 mins to set.
Use the overhanging foil to take it out of the tin. A pizza cutter is useful for cutting into 16 bars.
Keep in an airtight box in the fridge.

I like the texture of these bars, firm and with a great peanut butter taste, then the chocolate kicks in. They are so moreish!