So as I have already mentioned, I recently returned from a holiday in France and upon leaving the little gite, I was presented with a huge bag of plums from the hosts who had been busy harvesting the variety of wonderful trees in their garden. I have never really been overly fussed about plums but being one not to let anything go to waste, I thought I’d try my hand at baking something with them and this pudding is the result.
Sharp plums are topped with a light sponge flavoured with almonds and scented with zesty lemons for a really satisfying treat.
8 ripe plums, quartered and stoned
zest 2 lemons
4 tbsp brandy (optional)
100g soft butter
100g light brown sugar
100g self-raising flour
1 tsp almond extract
50g ground almonds
3 tbsp flaked almond
Custard/cream/icecream, to serve
Heat oven to 180C/160C fan. Toss the plums, cinnamon, lemon zest and brandy together in a bowl, then leave to macerate while you make the batter.
Cream the butter and sugar with an electric whisk until pale and fluffy, add the eggs one at a time then tip in the flour, almond extract and ground almonds. Mix until completely combined.
Tip the fruit into a buttered shallow baking dish, spoon over the cake batter, then sprinkle over the flaked almonds. Bake for 35-40 mins until browned and cooked through. Test if the pudding is ready by inserting a skewer. If it comes out clean, the pudding is ready. If there is some batter on the skewer then give it a few minutes more. Remove from the oven and serve warm with custard.
Flan patissier is the French equivalent of the custard tart. The delicious dessert is filled with simple, vanilla infused cream. It is the tart that you see in patisseries all over France. It is often made in a long slab that can be sliced as a treat at any time of the day.
I have provided a really in-depth method for making the pastry as this is so important to creating the final flan. The crumbly, buttery base is perfect with the thick, creamy custard filling.
For the sweet pastry:
350g plain flour
125g caster sugar
2 eggs, plus one yolk
pinch of salt
A little butter or baking spray, for greasing the tin
A little flour, for rolling
For the filling:
200ml full-fat milk
200ml double cream
1 vanilla pod
1 medium egg, plus 1 medium yolk
100g caster sugar
20g butter, melted
Essential kit You will need a 20cm loose-bottomed tart tin.
First, make the sweet pastry. You will need half the quantity given here. To make the pastry: Measure out all your ingredients before you start, and break your 2 eggs into a small bowl– there is no need to beat them. Separate the remaining egg. Put the flour and salt into a mixing bowl.
Now for the cold butter. What I do is take it straight from the fridge and put it between two pieces of greaseproof paper or butter wrappers (I always keep butter wrappers to use for this, as well as for greasing tins and rings), then bash it firmly with a rolling pin.
The idea is to soften it while still keeping it cold. I end up with a thin, cold slab about a centimetre thick that bends like plasticine. Put the whole slab into the bowl of flour – there is no need to chop it up.
Cover the butter well with flour and tear it into large pieces.
Now it’s time to flake the flour and butter together – this is where you want a really light touch. With both hands, scoop up the flour-covered butter and flick your thumbs over the surface, pushing away from you, as if you are dealing a pack of cards.
You need just a soft, skimming motion – no pressing or squeezing – and the butter will quickly start to break into smaller pieces. Keep plunging your hands into the bowl, and continue with the light flicking action, making sure all the pieces of butter remain coated with flour so they don’t become sticky.
The important thing now is to stop mixing when the shards of butter are the size of your little fingernail. There is an idea that you have to keep rubbing in the butter until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs, but you don’t need to take it that far. When people come to my classes, I find they can’t resist putting their hands back into the bowl to rub it just a little bit more, but if you want a light pastry, it is really important not to overwork it. If the mixture starts to get sticky now, imagine how much worse it will be when you start to add the liquid at the next stage. Add the sugar at this point, mixing it in evenly.
Tip the eggs, and the extra yolk, into the flour mixture and mix everything together.
You can mix with a spoon, but I prefer to use one of the little plastic scrapers that I use for bread-making. Because it is bendy, it’s very easy to scrape around the sides of the bowl and pull the mixture into the centre until it forms a very rough dough that shouldn’t be at all sticky.
While it is still in the bowl, press down on the dough with both thumbs, then turn the dough clockwise a few degrees and press down and turn again. Repeat this a few times.
With the help of your spoon or scraper, turn the pastry onto a work surface.
Work the dough as you did when it was in the bowl: holding the dough with both hands, press down gently with your thumbs, then turn the dough clockwise a few degrees, press down with your thumbs again and turn. Repeat this about four or five times in all.
Now fold the pastry over itself and press down with your fingertips. Provided the dough isn’t sticky, you shouldn’t need to flour the surface, but if you do, make sure you give it only a really light dusting, not handfuls, as this extra flour will all go into your pastry and make it heavier.
When you flour your work surface, you need to do this as if you are skimming a stone over water, just paying out a light spray of flour. (Funny as it seems, people in my classes actually practise this, like a new sport.) You need just enough to create a filmy barrier so that you can glide the pastry around the work surface without it sticking.
Repeat the folding and pressing down with your fingertips a couple of times until the dough is like plasticine, and looks homogeneous.
Your pastry is now ready to roll out and bake. Store in the fridge until ready to use.
Preheat the oven to 190°C/gas 5.
Lightly grease a 20cm loose-bottomed tart tin with butter or baking spray
Lightly dust your work surface with flour, then roll out the pastry into a circle 5mm thick and large enough to fit into the tin, leaving an overhang of about 2.5cm.
Roll the pastry around your rolling pin so that you can lift it up without stretching it, then drape it over the tin and let it fall inside.
Ease the pastry carefully into the base and sides of the tin without stretching it, and leave it overhanging the edges. Tap the tin lightly against your work surface to settle it in. Prick the base of the pastry all over with a fork to stop it from trying to rise up when in the oven (even though it will be held down by baking beans, it can sometimes lift a little).
You can use a large sheet of baking paper for lining your tart case, however I prefer to use clingfilm (the kind that is safe for use in the oven or microwave) as it is softer than paper and won’t leave indents in the pastry. Place three sheets of clingfilm (or one sheet of baking paper) over the top of the pastry case, then tip in your baking beans and spread them out so they completely cover the base. Don’t trim the pastry yet. Put the case into the fridge for at least one hour (or the freezer for 15 minutes) to relax it.
Pre-heat the oven to 190C / gas 5.
Remove the pastry case from the fridge and put in the pre-heated oven for about 20 minutes until the base has dried out and is very lightly coloured, like parchment.
Remove from the oven and lift out the clingfilm (or baking paper) and beans. Don’t worry if the overhanging edges are quite brown, as you will be trimming these away after you have finished baking your tart.
Brush the inside of the pastry case with the beaten egg and put it back into the oven for another ten minutes. The inside of the pastry, and particularly the base, will now be quite golden brown and shiny from the egg glaze, which will act as a barrier so that the pastry will stay crisp when you put in the filling.
Let the pastry case cool down then you can trim away the overhanging edges.
Turn down the oven to 180°C/gas 4.
To make the filling, put the milk, cream and vanilla pod (split and seeds scraped in) in a pan, bring to a simmer (be careful not to let the mixture boil), then take off the heat and leave to infuse for at least an hour. Remove the vanilla pod.
In a bowl, mix the egg, yolk and sugar until pale and creamy, and then whisk in the cornflour. Stir in the melted butter.
Put the pan containing the milk and cream mixture back on the heat and bring slowly to the boil, whisking all the time, then turn down to a simmer for 1 minute, still whisking all the time. Take off the heat and pour onto the egg and sugar mixture, stirring well.
Pour the mixture into the tart case and bake for around 45 minutes, until the filling is firm to the touch and a deep, dark golden on top — like the top of a crème brûlée. Take out of the oven, slide off the tin, and cool completely on a wire rack before serving.
I would love to provide a picture of the cake as a whole with its silky, chocolate custard covering but once I removed it from the fridge to serve, it didn’t last two seconds before everyone crowded round for a slice! I made this for my little brother’s birthday. He is a massive chocolate fan and this cake certainly delivers in that respect.
For the chocolate sponges:
150ml vegetable oil, plus extra for greasing
200g plain flour
70g cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
200g light brown soft sugar
100ml strong coffee
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
For the chocolate custard:
250g golden caster sugar
500ml full-fat milk
140g chocolate, 85% cocoa solids, broken into cubes
2 tsp espresso powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
Make the custard first as it needs to chill. Put all the ingredients, except the vanilla, in a large pan and bring gently to the boil, whisking all the time, until the chocolate has melted and you have a silky, thick custard. It will take 5-7 minutes from cold. Stir in the vanilla and a generous pinch of salt then scrape the custard into a wide, shallow bowl. Cover the surface with cling film, cool then chill for at least 3 hrs or until cold and set.
Heat oven to 180C/160C fan. Grease and line two 20cm cake tins with baking parchment – if your cake tins are quite shallow, line the sides to a depth of at least 5cm. Put flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, light brown soft sugar and 1 tsp salt in a bowl and mix well. If there are any lumps in the sugar, squeeze these through your fingers to break them up.
Measure the buttermilk, coffee, oil and vanilla in a jug. Add the eggs and whisk until smooth. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and whisk until well combined. Pour the cake mixture evenly into the two tins, and bake for 25-30 mins until risen and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool in the tins for 10 mins, then turn out onto a wire rack, peel off the baking parchment and leave to cool.
To assemble, cover one of the cake layers with a generous helping of the custard. Add the second layer to the top of this and spoon the remaining custard on top of the cake then spread it around the top and down the sides until smooth. Chill for 15 minutes to firm up the custard again.
Chill for 2 hours, or longer if possible, before serving, and eat it cold. This cake can be made up to 2 days ahead. The cake gets fudgier and more enticing the longer you leave it. The coffee in the recipe cannot be tasted but really brings out the intense cocoa flavours in the custard and the sponge and the addition of a small pinch of salt in the custard really intensifies the chocolate even further.
A kuchen is a cake-like dessert, very similar to a cheesecake, that has a soft dough crust and a topping of custard or cheese that contains berries or other fruits. I love this recipe for many reasons. There are no stray egg whites or yolks left to deal with when the cake is finished. What’s not used in the crust is used in the custard and that appeals to my “green” instincts. The cake, which can be made without a mixer, is very easy to do and has the added advantage of being low in fat and only moderately sweet. Best of all, it can be made with fresh or frozen berries of any type. Frozen berries will produce a creamier cake because of the liquid they exude as the cake bakes.
1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups fresh or frozen berries
1-1/2 cups plain low-fat or non-fat yoghurt
2 tablespoons plain flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 slightly beaten egg yolks
1 slightly beaten whole egg
1+1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 180C. Lightly grease bottom and sides of a 9-inch spring-form tin. If using frozen raspberries, thaw at room temperature for 15 minutes then drain.
In a medium mixing bowl stir together 1 cup flour, the first 1/2 cup sugar, salt and baking powder. Add melted butter, 2 egg whites and first teaspoon of vanilla. Stir by hand until mixed.
Spread onto the bottom of the cake tin; sprinkle with berries. Set aside.
For the filling, place yoghurt in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons flour. Add remaining sugar, yolks, whole egg, zest and remaining vanilla. Mix until smooth then pour over berries.
Bake for about 55 minutes or until the centre appears set when shaken gently. Cool for 15 minutes then remove sides of pan. Cover and chill until serving time, up to 24 hours. If you are feeling brave, you can remove the pan bottom. I wasn’t feeling brave. Transfer to a serving plate.
Fancy a hearty, warming pudding but don’t have much time? Look no further! You can whip up this mix and cook it in the microwave giving you a light fluffy sponge soaked in syrupy goodness in minutes. No need to thank me, just get some custard and enjoy!
You can try this recipe with lots of different toppings. Try different flavours of jam or marmalade. You can even try flavouring the sponge. Add lemon or orange zest, sultanas, chocoloate chips or even mashed banana.
4oz caster sugar
4oz plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon hot water
3 tablespoons jam or golden syrup
Cream margarine and caster sugar together. Beat in the eggs and fold in the sieved flour and baking powder. Add the hot water.
Grease a 1 ½ pint heatproof bowl with margarine and place the jam or syrup in the bottom. Heat on full power for 30 seconds.
Add the sponge mixture. Cover loosely with cling film and heat on full power for 5-6 minutes. Timing will depend on the topping used. Remove from the microwave and leave to stand for a few minutes before turning out.
Serve with loads of custard or ice cream – obligatory!
A good egg custard tart is so simple but so many times, done wrong. The tart should have a buttery, rich and crisp pastry with a smooth, velvetty custard filling that has just set and is lightly spiced with nutmeg.
Follow my tips below for a wonderful treat!
For the sweet shortcrust pastry:
175g plain flour
A pinch of salt
2 Tbsp caster sugar
110g unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
1 egg yolk
2 Tbsp ice water
For the filling:
400ml single cream
Freshly grated nutmeg
2 eggs, plus 2 yolks
75g caster sugar
To make the pastry, sift the flour, salt and sugar into a mixing bowl. Add the diced butter and run in with your fingertips until the mixture looks like fine crumbs. Using a round bladed knife, mix in the egg yolk and water to make a firm dough. If the mixture seems a bit dry and crumbly, stir in a little more water a teaspoon at a time.
Wrap the dough in clingfilm and chill for 20-30 minutes. Roll out on a lightly floured work surface to a circle about 28cm across then use it to line a 23cm loose-based deep flan tin. Prick the base with a fork then chill for 15 minutes. Do not make the holes go all the way through the pastry. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 190C. Line the pastry case with greaseproof paper, weigh down with baking beans, rice, flour etc and bake ‘blind’ for 15 minutes until lightly golden and just firm. Remove the paper and beans and bake for a further 5 to 7 minutes until the base is thoroughly cooked, firm and lightly browned. Remove from the oven and leave to cool while making the filling. Reduce the oven temperature to 150C and put a baking tray in the oven to heat up.
3. Put the cream and milk into a saucepan, add a small grating of nutmeg and slowly bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 5 minutes.
4. In a heatproof bowl, thoroughly beat the eggs and yolks with the sugar with a whisk until lighter in colour and very smooth. Stand the bowl on a damp cloth so it does not wobble then gradually pour the hot cream into the bowl in a steady stream, stirring constantly.
5. Set the flan tin on the hot baking tray and strain the mixture through a sieve into the pastry case. Grate nutmeg over the surface – you can be quite generous – then carefully transfer the tray to the oven and bake the tart for about 30 minutes until lightly coloured and just firm – it will continue to cook for a while after it is removed from the oven (if overcooked, the mixture will curdle). Leave to cool then carefully unmould. Serve at room temperature the same day for best results. Can be stored in the fridge for a couple of days loosely wrapped in foil.
I recently visited my family in Nottingham. Nottingham is home of the Bramley apple so it seemed a great idea to finish off a big Sunday lunch with a local produce, great English pud’ for everyone to dig into!
Tart, sharp softened fruit is topped with crunchy, buttery, sweet crumble mix. Hot out of the oven with a scoop of melting ice cream… Yum!
You could use whatever fruit you have and like for a crumble filling; peaches, rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries, plums etc. Just cut and cook them down like you do the apples.
The crumble recipe provided is for a classic and basic topping too but again, experiment to your heart’s content. Oats are great, spices and mixed nuts add variation too.
2-3 large Bramley apples
2 Tbsp demerara sugar
1/2 tsp mixed spice
Peel and core the apples then slice and add to a pan with a splash of water. Place over a medium heat and gently cook the apple until it begins to soften and break down.
Add the blackberries and continue cooking until they release their wonderful juices and turn the mixture a wonderful deep purple colour.
Add the sugar and taste for sweetness. Apples and berries can vary in tartness so adjust accordingly. Add the mixed spice and remove from the heat.
Spoon the mix into an ovenproof dish.
Basic Crumble Topping
8oz plain flour (or whole wheat)
5oz soft brown sugar
A pinch of salt
1/2 tsp mixed spice (optional)
3oz butter at room temperature
1 level teaspoon baking powder
Pre-heat the oven to 180C
Place the flour in a large mixing bowl, sprinkle in the baking powder, salt and mixed spice then add the butter and rub it into the flour lightly using your fingertips. Then when it looks all crumbly, add the sugar and combine well.
Now sprinkle the crumble mix all over your fruit in the pie dish. Place the crumble on a medium-high shelf in the oven and bake it for 30-40 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
Instead of flour use 4oz whole wheat flour and 4oz porridge oats
For a nutty topping, try 6oz whole wheat flour, 3oz chopped nuts and cut the sugar to 3oz.
Serve with ice cream, custard or double cream. So good.