Chocolate Pie Traybake.

I was in an experimental mood yesterday, so found this American recipe given to me by a friend. It's a sort of traybake pie, with pastry top and bottom and a chocolate filling. I love chocolate in any form and this sounded interesting.

Preheat oven 180C/gas4           Grease and flour a 18x30cm cake tin.

To make the pastry put 250g flour, 250g butter of margarine, an egg yolk and 4 tbspn of water into a processor and blitz. Wrap in cling film and put in fridge to rest.

For the filling beat 6 egg whites till stiff; add 200g caster sugar gently. Mix in 5 egg yolks, one at a time. Add 1 tspn vanilla extract, 140g grated or melted dark chocolate and  the juice a a lemon and mix together carefully. Fold in 80g ground hazelnuts or walnuts with a spatula or spoon.

Cut pastry in half and roll out one piece to fit the tin. Spoon over the chocolate filling then top with the other piece of pastry.

Bake for about 30 mins till golden.

You can make a white glacé icing or just sprinkle with icing sugar. Cut into squares when cold.

It's a very short pastry and not too easy to roll out. Maybe the amount of butter is wrong? I rolled it between 2 pieces of clingfilm. There's quite a lot of filling, so I think if I did this again I'd make the slices much smaller. It's very rich with a nice contrast of textures between the pastry and the filling. The chocolate layer isn't too soft; it's given some body by the hazelnuts. There's a hint of lemon in the background.  An unusual traybake which makes a good dessert.


Cinnamon and Apple Madeleines

I seem to have made quite a lot of calorific pudds lately, so I wanted to make something simple but delicious. I love French madeleines, so decided these would be just right. I know that Proust's plain madeleine is perfection, but I wanted to make them different, so decided to add one of my favourite flavour combinations - apple and cinnamon. [I'm in apple mode atm!] I used a jar of apple purée instead of bothering to cook some.

Madeleines look very simple, but I have had a few disasters making them. Some recipes say that you use brown butter, but you have to keep a close eye on the butter or it burns [one disaster]. Then to get the traditional hump, you need to put the batter in the fridge for 1-2 hours, and some recipes tell you to put the tin in the fridge too for an hour before using. One chef even puts his tin in the freezer. Then another says before you bake them you must heat a baking sheet in the oven, and put the madeleine tin on this. Did I say they were simple?

 Making them is unusual in that you mix the flour, sugar and egg first and then add the warm melted butter. It's a Genoise sponge mixture.

I used the basic recipe which I cut out from a Marie Claire magazine many years ago, and added apple and cinnamon.  It makes 12 madeleines, just the right amount for my tin. They're best eaten fresh.

Preheat oven to 220C/gas7

Flour and butter the tin well so the little cakes come out easily.

Beat together 150g caster sugar and 2 eggs till white and fluffy, then fold in 150g flour with a tspn of cinnamon added and stir in 125g apple purée. Melt 120g butter and add this to the mixture with a pinch of salt. Spoon a generous tbspn of the mixture into each hole and bake for 10-15 mins till golden. Don't overbake. Dust them with granulated sugar.

I should have cut one open to show the inside, but they were eaten so quickly that I just had time to take this photo! Three voracious grandsons! I love Dorie Greenspan's description of these as 'cakey cookies'. They're brown and crisp on the outside, then spongy and soft inside, and the puréed apple makes them extra soft, and I love the hit of cinnamon, not too much, just a nice hint.


Pecan, Apple and Salted Caramel Cheesecake

If you're on a diet, this isn't the recipe for you! It's a recipe for a special occasion, and as our French friends were coming to stay for a few days, I thought this was one of those occasions.

It's another case of using up ingredients that are near their 'use by' dates; this time it was a tin of Carnation Caramel, a bag of pecans and a few Granny Smith apples.
The idea for a cheesecake came from a programme I watched on Food Network - the chef was using walnuts and apples in a cheesecake.

So what you have is the usual biscuit layer at the bottom, then a layer of the salted caramel, a layer of chopped pecans, a layer of apple purée, then the cheesecake and topping it off some whipped cream with a drizzle or so of the salted caramel. What's not to like?

You need a 23cm springform tin or the same sized pie dish. Preheat oven 180C/gas4.

To make the biscuit base - mix together 12 digestive biscuits with 3 tbspn caster sugar and a tspn of cinnamon. Melt 75g butter, add to the biscuit mixture and bring together with a fork. Press it into the tin, coming about 2/3 of the way up the sides. Bake for about 8 mins till golden, then leave to cool.

For the caramel and pecan layer you need a tin of caramel and 125g pecans, roughly chopped.
Spread a layer of caramel over the biscuit base, then sprinkle with the chopped pecans. Keep a few pecans back to sprinkle on the top. Put in the fridge.

Peel, core and slice 5 Granny Smith apples. Melt 75g of butter in a pan then add 80g light brown sugar, 1 tspn cinnamon, 1/2 tspn salt and simmer gently for a minute or so. Add the apples till soft - about 10 mins; cool, then spoon over the pecans.

For the cheesecake - beat together 250g cream cheese with 50g sugar using an electric mixer, till mixture is smooth. Add an egg and beat again. Then add 1 tbspn lemon juice and 1 tspn vanilla extract and beat in. Pour this over the apple and smooth over. Bake till the cheesecake is set - about 30 mins. Cool the cheesecake in the tin, then put in the fridge overnight or for at least 4 hours.

Remove the cheesecake from the tin; whip 200ml of double cream and spread over the top. Drop a few spoonfuls of caramel over the cream and swirl. Sprinkle with the leftover pecans and serve.
Keep any leftovers in the fridge.

This is a rich cheesecake; maybe the cream is unnecessary, but it adds more luxury. Our friends loved it; the soft biscuit base, then the sweet caramel, the crunchy nuts, the soft smooth apple and the silky cheesecake finished off by cream and a swirl of the soft caramel. Certainly a special occasion dessert.


Raspberry and Pinenut Tart

 I decided to have a good sort out of my baking cupboard, to find any bits and pieces that needed using up. I found some pine nuts and ground hazelnuts, both very near their 'use by' date, so decided to use them in a tart. What would go well with them?  I always have some frozen raspberries ready to use, as they're one of my favourite fruits and thought these would work well with the nuts. For the filling I'd use creme fraîche instead of cream, not to make the tart too rich.

My loose-bottomed tart tin is 23cm. Preheat oven 200C/gas6

You need 300g of shortcrust pastry, bought or home made [ I added a little sugar to it].
Roll out the pastry to fit the greased tin, and put in the fridge.

Break 3 eggs into a bowl; add another yolk, 120g caster sugar and 60g ground hazelnuts. Whisk together , then add 100cl creme fraîche  and 1 tspn vanilla extract and mix together well.

Put 200g of raspberries on top of the pastry and pour over the egg mixture. Sprinkle 80g of pine nuts on top and bake for 35-40 mins till the top is golden. Leave the tart in the tin to get cold before removing.

I really liked the different textures in the tart - the pastry, the creamy filling, the soft tart raspberries and the crunch of the pine nuts. The flavours worked well together. A nice easy summer dessert.

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