Chocolate and Pear Charlotte

 One of my favourite French desserts is a Charlotte, and I had a tin of pears which needed using and a recipe from a French neighbour for making a chocolate and pear one. It doesn't need cooking, just chilling.

I bought a Charlotte mould when living there, but you can use any deep cake tin.
It's simple to make and delicious.
Charlottes can also be made with bread.

You need:

a large packet of boudoir biscuits [sponge fingers] or make your own 
200ml whipping cream
a sachet of vanilla sugar [about 1 tbspn]
large tin of pears in syrup
150g dark chocolate
4 egg yolks

Open can of pears and pour syrup into a small bowl and slice the pears. Dip the boudoir biscuits into the syrup and line a Charlotte mould with them, keeping some back for the top.

Using an electric hand beater, beat the cream and vanilla sugar together till it's thick.

Melt the chocolate over a low heat. Turn the heat off and add the egg yolks, beating together till the mixture cools. Add the cream and mix together.

Pour half this chocolate mixture into the mould over the biscuits and add half the sliced pears; cover with the rest of the chocolate mixture and finally top with a layer of the syrup-soaked boudoir biscuits.

Put in the fridge for 12 hours, then carefully unmould the Charlotte.

You can see that a Charlotte mould is curved, so made in an ordinary deep cake tin it won't look quite the same. You could use other fruit to make a Charlotte - strawberry, raspberry, blackcurrant, gooseberry etc The biscuits I used were quite thick, but any thinner boudoir biscuits work just as well.


Mascarpone, Coffee and Chocolate Tart

 This is one of our family favourites. It always seems be a hit with people, so am going to add it to my 'to make' list for our little Close's Jubilee party.

It's  lovely mixture of chocolate, mascarpone with a hint of coffee, all in a pastry case. Doesn't need much cooking - just the pastry case.

You need:

a pack of shortcrust pastry [or of course make your own]
200g dark chocolate
250g mascarpone
1 dspn instant Espresso coffee
3 egg whites
pinch salt
80g caster sugar
chocolate shavings to decorate [opt]

Preheat oven 180C/gas4                     Grease a 21cm tart tin/dish

Roll pastry out to fit the tin, prick with a fork and bake blind for 10 mins.

Break chocolate up and put into a pan; sprinkle a little water over and melt on a low heat.

Once it's melted, take off the heat and add half the mascarpone and 1 dspn of instant Espresso coffee powder and mix well.

Take the pastry out of the oven, cool then add the chocolate mixture. Put in fridge for an hour.

Whisk the egg whites to peaks with the salt then add the rest of the mascarpone and the sugar. Mix together.

Take the tart out of the fridge, put onto a plate then spoon over the cream mixture. Sprinkle over some chocolate shavings if you want.

 I decided to pipe a little of the cream mixture on the top before adding the shavings. You get a crunchy pastry, then a layer of chocolate with a good hint of coffee, which contrasts nicely with the pastry texture, then the soft creamy topping and the crunchy bits of chocolate shavings. If you don't want such a deep chocolate layer, you could use a larger tart tin.


Ginger [Almost Sticky Toffee Pudding] Cake


I love ginger in all its forms. 

As with all ginger cakes, this one is better the day after you've baked it, as its flavours can then  develop. This version has dates in it, hence the title I've chosen!

So you need: 

75g unsalted butter
100g dark muscovado sugar
125g black treacle
125g golden syrup
2 eggs
225g self raising flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
50g stem ginger, finely chopped
75g dates pitted and finely chopped

For the icing:
100g icing sugar
1 tbspn stem ginger syrup (from the jar of stem ginger)

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4                Line a 900g loaf tin with baking parchment or a liner

Put the butter, sugar, treacle and syrup in a pan and melt together over a gentle heat.

Cool for about 5 mins before beating in the eggs.

Fold in the flour and the ground ginger, then stir in the dates and chopped ginger.

Spoon into the tin and bake for about 50 mins.

Cool in the tin for 10 mins then turn out onto a wire rack.

Icing : Mix the icing sugar with the syrup, adding slightly more syrup if you think it needs it. You want it to be thickish, but not so thick that it can't run over the sides.

You can really taste the flavours of the various ingredients. It has a lovely soft texture and is just the thing to have with a cuppa. If you want, you can eat it as a dessert, so leave off the icing and add custard or cream. 


Dark Chocolate and Raspberry Cake

 My daughter loves dark chocolate and raspberries, and as she was coming up for the weekend for Mothering Sunday,  I found this recipe in my scrapbook which was perfect for her.

Raspberries seem to be available fresh all year round now. I do try and buy seasonally, but this cake is so good!

For the cake you need: 

250g dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
200g butter
1 tspn instant coffee, dissolved in 1 tbspn hot water
5 eggs
100g caster sugar
75g plain flour
100g raspberries 

Preheat oven 170C/gas3                    Grease and line a 20cm springform tin

In a saucepan, put the chocolate, butter and coffee and heat over a low heat till melted and glossy.
In  a bowl beat the eggs and sugar till pale and fluffy.   Pour in the chocolate mixture, add the flour and fold together gently.
Pour this batter into the tin and sprinkle the raspberries over the top. Bake for about 40 mins till the cake is firm.

This cake is good with a cuppa or as a dessert. It's ideal as a special cake for Mothering Sunday. It's rich and 'chocolatey', so a small slice is enough! I like the contrast between the squidgy cake and the soft raspberries.


Tosca Cake

 I got this recipe from a friend recently, and have been waiting for an opportunity to try it out. Yesterday was my friend's birthday, so a good enough reason to bake!

It's a caramel Genoese sponge which has an almond topping. I wondered if the name was linked to the opera, but my friend said it was a Scandinavian recipe. Who knows?

So you need: 75ml buttermilk, 75g butter, 3 eggs, 150g cazster sugar, 1 tspn vanilla extract, 150g plain flour, 1 tspn baking powder and a pich of salt

For the topping you need: 150g flaked almonds, 125g butter, 125g soft brown sugar and 50ml milk

Preheat oven 180/gas4                       Grease and line a 23cm springform tin

Beat eggs, vanilla extract and caster sugar together till pale and thick, 

Add baking powder and salt to flour and stir together.

Fold 1/3 of flour into batter with third of the buttermilk, then repeat with other 2/3.

Mix together gently and spoon into tin. Bake 40 mins till golden. Put onto a wire rack.

Make topping while cake is baking.

Toast almonds in a dry frying pan or in the oven, but don't burn!

Mix all the topping ingredients into a pan and stir together over a medium heat until the butter has melted.

It bubbles and thickens a bit. Turn oven up to 200C/gas6

Pour over the cake, spreading to edges. Put back in the oven for 10 mins. Keep an eye on the cake as mine got rather brown around the bottom!

Take out and cool in tin for 5 mins, then run a knife round the edges and cool on a wire rack.

Serve cooled.

We loved it. Great soft texture of the sponge contrasting well with the crunchy topping. Will definitely make it again.


Galette de Rois aux pommes

 Not been around for a while because I haven't been well. Hope everyone had a good Christmas and a belated Happy New Year!

It's January, so must be Galette de Rois time again! I love these and made several of them to take to our French group's postponed Christmas get together.

One of them was apple; I know I have already put 2 or so recipes for apple ones on here, but this one is so quick and easy that it's almost a must make!

You need: 2 sheets of puff pastry, 125g caster sugar, 1 tspn vanilla extract, 500g apples, peeled and sliced, 1 tspn cinnamon and 1 egg yolk.

 Pr4e4heat oven to 220C/gas7                 You need a baking sheet

Put the apples in a pan with the sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. Simmer for 20 mins then put aside to cool.

Roll out of the pastry sheets and cut a large circle [I drew around my biggest flan tin]. put this on the baking tray and spread the apple mixture on top, leaving a 3 cm edge all round. Wet this edge  using a pastry brush then roll out the second pastry sheet, cut out a matching circle and place on top. Using a fork, press the edges firmly together.

Cut the traditional pattern on top with the sharp point of a knife, then brush over with egg yolk mixed with 1 tbspn water.

Bake for 20 mins at the 220C then turn oven down to 170C and cook for a further 10-20 mins till golden.

Sorry, I'm not very good at doing the decoration on top. It's quick, light and easy to make, a bit like a large chausson de pommes. When the apple is cooked, give it a mix together so it's not lumpy. I wish they'd sell puff pastry that comes ready done as a circle, as in France, as my dinner plates were too small, so luckily I have a large flan tin which I drew round.


Caramel Pear Cake

After watching GBBO last week, I thought I'd try my hand at making caramel. My first few attempts burnt or just didn't work, but finally I got the result I wanted. I didn't want a very dark caramel, just a sort of blonde colour. This is my friend's recipe, and it's not one that would win prizes for looks, but it tastes delicious. 

So you need: 150g caster sugar and 3 tbspn water for the caramel, 75 g caster sugar, 100g flour, 2 tspn baking powder, 1kg pears, 3 eggs, 125g soft butter, 3 tbspn milk and 1 tspn vanilla extract

Preheat oven 180C/gas 4                           grease and flour a 23cm cake tin

For the caramel: put the 150g sugar in a pan and add the water. Leave till it's become a light blonde colour,* then pour into the cake tin and leave to cool.

Beat the eggs with the 75g caster sugar till white and fluffy. Add the flour, baking powder, butter and beat together, then add the milk and vanilla and stir in.

Peel and slice the pears and put them in 2 or 3 layers over the cold caramel. Spoon over the batter and bake for 40 mins.

Leave in the tin to cool.

I think I'll add a tspn of mixed spice next time. It has a lovely soft texture, which contrasts well with the pears, and the caramel gives it another layer. A nice Autumnal treat. You could use apples instead of pears. *I didn't give much help on making the caramel. A video on You Tube is helpful!

Chocolate and Pear Charlotte

  One of my favourite French desserts is a Charlotte, and I had a tin of pears which needed using and a recipe from a French neighbour for m...