Category Archives: Desserts

Dark Chocolate & Pistachio Coco Meringues

I never make meringues. My grandma makes the best meringues and every time I visit her I come home with a tin full, so I never feel the need to make my own. But no-one said I have to make plain meringues, & this is where Lily Vanilli comes in.

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Last Sunday morning I decided to try her Coco Meringues dipped in Chocolate & Crushed Pistachios. They’re super easy to make, just plenty of egg whipping and then a good couple of hours in the oven. Sadly I didn’t really think about the fact that we had a friend coming over for a roast dinner, so meringues occupying the oven for 2 hours wasn’t ideal. I took them out after an hour and a half and put them in the airing cupboard to keep drying out instead! It’s not a technique I’ve seen recommended in any books but it didn’t seem to do them too much damage. The inside was a little more mousse-like than chewy, but oh god that was not a bad thing…

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Christmas Baking : A Round-Up

I’ve left it far too late to go into any real detail about my baking activity over Christmas, but I photographed everything so it seems a shame not to share at least a few with you.

The Christmas Cake

I stuck with what I knew and made Nigel Slater’s Christmas cake again this year, but this time the Christmas cake was fed for four weeks on Whyte and Mackay whisky, and smelt even more incredible this time for being fed a decent alcohol! Last year I didn’t ice my cake, but this year I decided I was going to, the only problem was I hate marzipan. Hate. But then I stumbled upon this Christmas cake recipe from Dan Lepard, where he ices it with pecan marzipan. Problem solved. The pecan marzipan was delicious, I could have eaten it totally on it’s own in quite large quantities (and did, if I’m totally honest). After the marzipan came the icing and I cut stars out of the leftover icing to decorate the top, a simple but I think beautiful finish to a classic cake.

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The Christmas Pudding

I had stored this in my cupboard since I made it back in November, and then boiled it again for 3 hours on Christmas day. We flamed it with brandy because it would be rude not to, and then tucked in. I don’t normally eat Christmas pudding, but I had to try this one and I wasn’t disappointed. Light and soft and slightly sweet. Perfect with a dollop of extra thick double cream. It got the thumbs up from both my mother and grandmother (I don’t think I’ve ever seen my mum eat so much pudding!) and my grandmother’s only criticism was that she prefers a darker, heavier pudding, but that’s just a matter of preference – I know I wouldn’t have liked it like that! I’ve still got the second pudding in the cupboard, so that’s one thing off the baking list for next Christmas!

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The Gifts

I baked a selection of biscuits and sweets for my family & friends again for their Christmas presents. On the menu this year were Florentines, Chocolate & Hazelnut Macaroons, Pecan Marzipan Balls dipped in chocolate & Honeycomb. I was staying with my mother over Christmas and her kitchen became a bakery on the Sunday before Christmas, with biscuits and sweets on every surface. I managed to rope The Boy into helping and he became chief chocolate dipper for the Florentines, which helped speed things up rather! Once completed and cooled, I boxed the biscuits & sweets up in cardboard boxes and made them look suitably festive so they could be given away at the numerous family gatherings over the following few days!

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Christmas Baking : Christmas Pudding

I’ve never made a Christmas pudding before. I don’t even eat Christmas pudding, but it feels like a baking challenge that I should tackle. As always the initial challenge is choosing which recipe to follow. The two in contention were Dan Lepard‘s Simple Christmas Pudding & Nigel Slater‘s Christmas Pudding. I made Nigel’s Christmas cake last year and it was delicious, but Dan’s pudding did seem like an easier option, so I’m afraid that’s why I went for it.

So I started with a mix of raisins, cranberries, prunes & dates. When I made my Christmas cake last year I ended up with loads of dates in it, by accident really as the fruit mix I bought just had a lot of dates in. Having thought about it since I think that’s why it was so light compared to just using prunes/currants etc, so I decided to follow that idea here & use dates for 1/4 of the fruit.

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Then I added suet. I’ve never used suet before & to be honest I have no idea what I’m supposed to do with it, so I just mixed it in. Then I added light brown sugar, you can use dark brown for a richer pudding if you so wish.

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Next is plain flour, baking powder & breadcrumbs.

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Then I added mixed spice & nutmeg. Then almonds.

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A grated carrot followed by the zest & juice of an orange.

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Some golden syrup, but again, you can use treacle for a richer pud. Followed by 2 beaten eggs.

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Last ingredient is some dark ale, I used a little from a bottle of London Porter which The Boy was only too happy to finish off. And just mix them all together.

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I prepped a pudding basin by greasing with butter & lining the base with a small circle of greaseproof. I realised as I filled it that I had too much mixture/had bought too small pudding basins so I quickly prepped another one so I could make two puddings instead!

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After covering them with greaseproof paper & foil and fixing in place with an elastic band, I placed one in a large pan with water, with one of the basin lids at the bottom to lift it off the bottom of the pan a little. The pan was then filled with water to about half way up the basin & I left it to boil for 3 hours. I then lifted it out & left it to cool and put the other pudding in for 3 hours!

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Of course, I would love to show you the finished result (I’d like to see it myself) but we’ll have to wait until Christmas Day! Fingers crossed they’ve worked!

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Apple, Pear & Chocolate Crumble

I didn’t just stop at apple cake this weekend to use up the contents of my neglected fruitbowl. I also had some extremely ripe pears lurking in the fridge. I browsed through my Sweet Treats Pinterest board and found this Nigel Slater crumble from The Guardian.

As always with Nigel’s recipes it was very easy, I softened the pears (and an apple for good luck) in a pan for 5 minutes with sugar and lemon juice I then put these aside and left them to cool. Then later while I was waiting for dinner to cook, I blitzed flour & butter in my mini-chopper-type-device and then mixed in the sugar. At this stage I debated making more crumble mix as it didn’t look like it would cover the fruit in the dish I’d put them in, but I’m glad I didn’t. It was actually quite a lot of chocolate once I’d chopped it up and once baked it filled all the gaps in the crumble, mixing with the coarse sugar & crisp crumble.

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The result was a hot, sweet crumble, with a slight sharpness from the lemon juice. The bitterness of the dark chocolate contrasted against the sweetness of the fruit perfectly. We didn’t have any cream in the house, a must as far as I’m concerned for crumble, yet I would say this is probably the nicest crumble I’ve ever had. Would it be bad if I made one every day?

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