A Coffee Cake

There are times when you just want something nice to have with your cuppa or coffee. This isn't a cake with coffee in it, but is an American cake suitable for eating with coffee, or at least I presume that's what a coffee cake is for!. It's the filling that makes this cake - I used some dark chocolate chopped up, but you could use some nuts - chopped walnuts or pecans.
 It come from a charity shop book I bought ages ago called ' Cakes my Mom used to make'. I've made this cake several times, and have adapted the recipe to suit what I wanted. I make it in a 23cm Bundt tin, so it's a big cake.
Preheat oven 180C/gas4
For the filling:
Mix together 170g dark brown sugar, 1 tbspn cinnamon, 1 tbspn cocoa powder, 160g chopped dark chocolate or chopped nuts.
For the cake:
220g butter, 225g caster sugar, 1 tspn vanilla extract, 3 eggs, 350g plain flour plus 1 tbspn baking powder and 1 tspn bicarbonate of soda, 500ml sour cream or crème fraiche, icing sugar for dusting
Grease your Bundt tin well, or spray it with the easy release spray [I find these sprays good to get cakes out of awkward shaped tins, especially silicone ones].
In a mixer cream together the butter, sugar and  vanilla extract till light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time. In a bowl mix together the plain flour with the baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. On a low speed, add the flour in 3 lots, alternating with the sour cream or crème fraiche, also in 3 lots.
Pour 1/4 of this batter into the tin. sprinkle 1/3 of the filling over this, and repeat till you have 4 layers of batter and 3 of filling in the tin.
Bake for about 50 mins. Leave in tin to cool for about 15 mins then turn out onto a wire rack.
Dust the top with icing sugar.

Not a very good photo, but you can see the layers. It's got a good crumb and a nice contrast of flavours and textures in the filling. You get an extra bit of chocolate flavour from the cocoa.  I think I prefer this chocolate version to the original nut one.


Crumbly Cranberry Cheesecake Pie

The idea for this cheesecake came about because I had a punnet of cranberries and some cream cheese to use up, so I thought of a cheesecake. Crumble toppings seem to be in fashion and this would give an extra dimension to the dessert.
So, there's a pastry crust, then the cheesecake, the cranberry layer then a final crumble layer.
The cranberry layer has the same consistency as cranberry sauce, so you could use a jar of sauce instead of fresh cranberries.

Preheat oven 180C/gas4       23cm tart or pie tin

To make the cranberry filling - put  250g cranberries in a pan with 6tbspn granulated sugar, 1/2 tspn lemon zest, 1 tspn lemon juice and 120ml water. Bring to the boil on medium-high heat, then reduce to simmer for about 10 mins till cranberries are soft; leave to cool.

To make the crumb base and topping - mix together 175g plain flour, 100g sugar, 1/2 tspn baking powder, 1/2 tspn salt ; add115g butter cut into dice and rub together till breadcrumbs. Take out about 50g crumbs for the topping, and bring the rest together to make a ball.
Press into the base of the tart tin; try to make it even.

For the cheesecake - put 250g cream cheese in a bowl with 100g caster sugar; beat with electric mixer till light and fluffy. Add a large egg and 1 tspn vanilla extract and beat gently to mix. Pour the cheesecake mixture over the pastry base and spread it evenly.
spoon the cranberry mixture over the cheesecake then sprinkle over the rest of the crumbs.

Bake for30-35 mins till the topping is golden and the cheesecake filling is set.

Cool, then put in fridge for about 2 hrs before using. Keep in the fridge.

I didn't spread the cranberry mixture to the edge of the crumb base, but left a border all round. I think I'd make more crumb mixture another time to get a better crumb topping.
 Not sure whether to call this a pie or a cheesecake! We loved the sweet/tart flavour with the cranberries, and the cheesecake is smooth and creamy .A good contrast of flavours and textures.
 An unusual dessert, and a good way of using fresh cranberries.


Chocolate and Pear Tartlets

My turn to host Book Group, so thought I'd make tartlets rather than a cake. Found a small tin of pears in the cupboard that needed using, hence the idea for these tartlets. I love any chocolate and pear combo, so this would be the base.
So, a pastry shell filled with an almond cream, slices of pear, then a creamy chocolate topping. I used 2 pears from a tin of pears in juice, but you could use fresh pears which have been poached in a sugar syrup.

I made a sweet sc pastry with 150g flour, 50g caster sugar, 75g butter, 1 egg yolk and 1-2tbsp water, but you could make the pastry without the sugar if you prefer. You don't need to be told how to make this pastry, but put it in the fridge for about an hour before you use it.

Roll this out to about 2mm thick then cut out circles with a cutter to fit your tart tin. It makes 12; prick bases with a fork then put in the fridge.

For the almond cream, in a bowl mix  together 50g ground almonds with 50g icing sugar, 40g soft butter, a beaten egg, a couple of drops of almond extract and a tbspn of single cream.
Take the tartlet shells out of the fridge and spoon a layer of almond cream into the bottom. Bake for 15mins at 180C/gas4. leave to cool.

For the chocolate cream, heat 6cl of milk in a pan with 6cl of single cream. - don't boil. Beat an egg yolk into 25g of caster sugar till white, then pour in the warm liquid and stir well. Pour back into the pan and over a gentle heat stir continuously to thicken the mixture. Break 85g dark chocolate into pieces, pour the milk mixture over and stir gently till the chocolate has melted - leave to cool.

Slice the pears thinly [you only need 2 pears] then put a couple of slices onto the almond mixture and cover with the chocolate cream. Smooth the top then put in the fridge for about 30 mins before serving.

Excuse the silly ribbon in this photo - my daughter's idea! These are the finished tarts.

My Book Group loved the various textures - the crunchy pastry, the almond cream which has some  texture from the almonds, then the soft juicy pear and finally a lovely creamy chocolate topping. I'll certainly make these again.


Two Galettes - Apple and Cinnamon and Raspberry and Almond

January is the month for Galettes.  Usually I make the traditional Galette de Rois, puff pastry with a lovely almond cream filling [there's a recipe on here for one],  but I decided to try something different. I had some apples and raspberries to use up, so decided to make an apple and cinnamon one, and a raspberry and almond one.
Cinnamon and apple are a marriage made in heaven for me, but wasn't sure about almonds with raspberries, but it turned out well.
Using bought butter puff pastry makes them so quick and easy to make. The French bought puff pastry comes in a round, very useful for making tarts etc. I haven't found any round ones here.

For the apple and cinnamon one:

You need 2 sheets of puff pastry or a 500g slab, 4 apples [ I used Granny Smith], 100g caster sugar, about 50g apple purée [I used a jar of ready made from Lidl ], 1 egg and 1 tbspn of cinnamon. 1 china bean or dried bean as a fève.

Preheat oven 180C/gas4
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Peel and core the apples and slice finely. Put the sugar, purée and cinnamon in a bowl and add the apple slices. Mix together. 
Roll the pastry into 2 circles, about the size of a large dinner plate, put one onto the baking sheet and spoon the apple mixture in the middle , leaving a 2 cm border around the edge. Add the bean to the mixture to be traditional.
Beat the egg and brush around the edge of the bottom circle before putting the other one on top. Press the edges together.
Brush the top of the galette with egg wash, and make the traditional marks [like on a pitivier] with a knife. Mine were a bit haphazard!
Bake for 30 mins till golden.

I used some purée as well as sliced apples to give a better texture to the filling. It's a trick my Mum used in her apple tarts.

If I do this again, I think I'd like to have some almond in the filling, maybe some chunks of marzipan., but it was good.

For the raspberry and almond one:

You need 130g ground almonds, 130g soft butter, 130g caster sugar, 130g frozen raspberries, 2 tbspns flour, 1 egg yolk, 2 sheets of butter puff pastry, or a 500g block and of course the bean.

Preheat oven 180C/gas4  and line a baking sheet with baking parchment.

Beat the butter with a fork to make it soft, then add the sugar and beat together. Add the ground almonds and flour and mix together. 

Roll the sheets of pastry out and cut into 2 circles about a large dinner plate size. Put one circle onto the baking sheet and spread the almond mixture onto it, leaving a 2cm border round the edge. Add the bean.
Beat the egg yolk then brush round the edge of the pastry. Sprinkle over the frozen raspberries. Cover with the other pastry circle and press the edges together firmly.
 If you want, make the circles on the pastry with a knife, then brush the top with egg wash.
Bake for 30 mins till golden.

I had this pretty cake stand as a Christmas present, so was happy to show it off! The raspberries and almonds worked well together, the tartness of the fruit complimenting the sweetness of the franzipane. Good variation of textures too.


Gateau Nantais

After all the indulgences of Christmas and the New Year, I thought I'd make a simple cake. The addition of rum makes it a bit different, and as I brought a bottle back from France, this is a good way of using some of it.
 Doing some research about the origins of the rum, I found that in the 18th century it was very popular in Nantes, and came in on the trading ships from the Caribbean.
The cake is perfumed, dense, moist and has a hint of almond, and to enhance the rum flavour, the traditional white icing is usually made with rum instead of water.

 The cake:

Preheat oven 180C/gas 4             Grease and base line a 23cm cake tin

Beat 220g of room temperature butter with 250g caster sugar till white and fluffy. Gradually add 80g of sr flour, 200g ground almonds and 4 tbspn rum. Mix together thoroughly. One by one beat in 4 eggs.
Spoon the batter into the tin and bake for 30-40 mins till golden. Cool on a wire rack.


3 tbspn icing sugar mixed with enough rum or water to make a soft but not too runny icing.
Pour over the cooled cake and smooth with a spatula.

As I said, it's a very simple cake, but the rum gives it its unique flavour. If you don't like rum and leave it out, I guess you'd get a routine almond flavoured sponge cake!

My French friend thinks it's best made the day before you want to use it, to let the flavours develop. We ate ours the same day, and it had plenty of flavour!

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