Chocolate Sponge with Peaches and Pistachio

This recipe was born after craving for chocolate and peaches. I just thought it should go nice together and I didn’t want anything heavy. So I took a classic sponge recipe, substitute some of the flour with the coco powder. Then I decide to go for simple Chantilly cream and pistachio for decoration. Next time, I might try it with Mascarpone icing and toasted almonds instead.

CHOCOLATE SPONGE WITH PEACHES AND PISTACHIO

Ingredients:

225g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing

225g caster sugar

4 eggs

220g self-raising flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

50g cocoa powder

300ml double cream

2 tablespoons icing sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3-4 tablespoons of apricot jam

6 fresh apricots, ripen but not mushy

50g pistachio, chopped )or toasted almonds)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan. Lightly butter two loose-bottomed 20cm sandwich tins and line the bases with baking paper.

  2. Put the butter, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder and cocoa in a large bowl and beat with the mixer for 2 minutes, or until just blended.
  3. Divide the mixture evenly between the tins. Level the surface using a spatula or the back of a spoon.

  4. Bake for 25-30 minutes. The tops of the cakes should spring back when pressed lightly with a finger. Leave the cakes to cool in the tins for 5 minutes. Run a small palette knife around the edge of the tins, then carefully turn the cakes out onto a wire rack. Peel off the paper and leave to cool completely.

  5. While the cakes are cooling, put the jam in a little pan with 2 teaspoons of water and heat it up until it’s melted, set aside to cool slightly.
  6. Then make a Chantilly cream. Pour the cream into a large mixing bowl then whisk until soft peaks form. Add in the icing sugar and vanilla extract and mix in gently until well incorporated.
  7. To assemble the cake, spread with the jam and half of the cream over the first cake, put the other one on top (top upwards), spread with the remaining of the cream, decorate with fresh peaches and pistachio. To go one step further, you can glaze the peaches with some of the melted apricot jam, to give this extra shine to the cake.

 

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Baklava Loaf

This loaf is just as indulgent as Baklava, but a little bit easier on calories and the amount of sweetness. I love that it’s buttermilk based and full of crunch and texture.

BAKLAVA LOAF

(Adapted from Good Things magazine)

Ingredients:

For the filling:

200g mix of pistachios and walnuts, chopped

100ml runny honey

4 tablespoons butter, melted

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground clove

1/2 orange, zest only

 

For the Cake Mixture:

225g plain flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

50g sugar

1 large egg

50g butter, melted

250ml buttermilk

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Mix all the filling ingredients together in a large bowl and set aside.
  2. For the cake mixture, combine the flour, baking powder and sugar in a bowl. Put the egg, melted butter and buttermilk in a separate bowl and mix well. Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry, mixing well, but taking care not to overwork.
  3. Lightly butter a lot tin, pour in the cake mixture and spoon over the filling. Repeat twice, ending with the layer of the nut mixture.
  4. Bake it for 20-25 minutes or until the cake is golden-brown and springs back when pressed. Allow to cool before serving.

 

Apple, Carrot and Chia seed Muffins

Maybe they are not quite a ‘looker’, but they are super easy to make and super healthy to eat. Enjoy your cake for breakfast and feel good about it.

APPLE, CARROT AND CHIA SEED MUFFINS

(Adapted from Tesco Real Food)

Ingredients:

100g apples, coarsely grated

75g carrots, finely grated

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 lemon, finely zested

3 tbsp chia seeds

100g light brown sugar

75ml mild olive oil or vegetable oil

2 eggs

120g self-raising flour

½ tsp baking powder

2 teaspoons brown sugar (optional)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases. (However, I have to point out, I never managed to get 12 muffins out of it, only 9 maximum.)
  2. In a large bowl, mix the grated apple and carrot, cinnamon, lemon zest, chia seeds, sugar, 1/4 tsp salt, oil and eggs, until combined.
  3. Set aside for 5-10 minutes, or until the chia seeds have expanded a little. Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda into a separate bowl.
  4. Stir the dry ingredients into the carrot mixture, mix well to form a batter. Divide evenly between the muffin cases, and then scatter over the brown sugar, if using it. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until risen and springy to the touch. Remove from the oven and leave to sit for 5 minutes, before removing the muffins on a wire rack to cool completely.

 

Marmalade Brownies

With just a few simple tweaks, you can elevate your brownies to a different level. If you love orange flavour in chocolate, you’ll love these. I reduced significantly the amount of sugar and marmalade from the original recipe and it worked out very well. They are very fudge, gluten-free, with the perfect amount and flavour of bitter orange. Even better the next day!

GLUTEN-FREE MARMALADE BROWNIES

Ingredients:

200g dark chocolate

100g butter

4 eggs

100g sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 tablespoons ground almonds

5 tablespoons marmalade

3 tablespoons flaked or chopped almonds

pinch of sea salt

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Line 25cm square tray with baking paper.
  2. Break the chocolate into the heatproof bowl and melt over the simmering water or in the microwave. Add the butter, stir well to combine.
  3. Separate the eggs. Whisk the egg white until meringue-stiff. set aside.
  4. Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar and vanilla, then fold in the ground almonds.
  5. Add the cooled but still warm chocolate mixture into the yolk batter. Then gently fold in the egg whites, a third at the time, do not knock the air too much.
  6. Pour the ready mixture on the the prepared tin.
  7. Gently warm the marmalade in a small saucepan with the spoon of water until it’s a bit loose. Then spoon this over the brownies mixture randomly. Sprinkle with the almonds on top and seas salt, bake for 20-25 minute or until the knife inserted int he middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin completely before removing and cutting into the squares.

Road trip through Somerset & Raspberry Oat Slices

Over the Easter break we spent two nights, three days in rural Somerset, having a little road trip and visiting National Trust places. I know it sounds very grown-up, but we find it very therapeutic after a busy and sometimes stressful week to get away from towns, shops, news, chores and reconnect with the nature and simple things.

For some of you who are not familiar with National Trust, it is charity that works to preserve and protect historic places, spaces and historic landscapes.

Our fist stop was Montacute House, a grand Elizabethan mansion house with what used to be described as an ‘Elizabethan garden’.

Then we moved on to Lytes Cary Manor, which is much more intimate medieval manor house with its beautiful Arts and Crafts-inspired garden, was once family home to the Elizabethan herbalist Henry Lytes.

Next day we visited a place called Tyntesfield, a Victorian country house and estate, which serves as a backdrop to the story of Gibbs family who built their wealth from the guano trade. They transformed a Georgian house to a Victorian Gothic masterpiece and filled the house with the incredible collection of more then 60,000 objects.

This paces is amazing and so different from any other NT places we’ve been, it’s huge and packed with so many interesting things, that one visit is not enough to fully appreciate and experience everything this house has to offer.

On our last day before coming back home, we went to Lacock Abbey, Fox Talbot Museum and Lacock Village. The Abbey itself has almost 800 years of history of previous owners with sophisticated taste, who turned it from a nunnery into a quirky family home, furnished with well-loved mementoes and furniture. It was also a home of William Henry Talbot, creator of the first photographic negative and now this place counts as a birthplace of photography.

I also want to mention the place where we stayed for two nights. I found it on airbnb the night before we left, what luck it was. It is a small converted barn at Amberwell, small village of Alhampton, run by a lovely couple Jeffy & John. This place is perfect for the people who appreciate a low key country retreat, but at the same time Jeffy and John made you feel like a very special guests, providing everything you need for your comfort and more. The weather wasn’t great during our stay, but we didn’t mind at all, because after our day of the house and grounds trotting we were coming back to most comfortable and relaxing place with the log fire.

If you are in UK the and looking for the week-end away, I can not recommend this place enough: https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/23850201

While we were there Jeffy treated us with tea and homemade raspberry slices. They were so good, that  I had to ask for the recipe and make them as soon as possible. It turned out to be one of this very uncomplicated bake, which proves again, sometimes less is more. And thank you again, Jeffy, for introducing these to us.

These oat slices are something in between flapjack and biscuits, and absolutely delicious. The original recipe asks for raspberry jam, since we arrived I already made them twice, once with the raspberry jam and another with homemade blackberry and apple, and the next time, I’d like to try them with the apricot jam. So here is the recipe (originally came from allrecipes.co.uk):

RASPBERRY OAT SLICES

Ingredients:

5 tablespoons light brown soft sugar

125g plain flour

1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

pinch salt

100g porridge oats

125g butter, softened

250g good quality raspberry jam

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 C. Grease one 20cm (8 inch) square cake tin and line with baking parchment.
  2. Combine brown sugar, flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and porridge oats in a large bowl. Rub in the butter using your hands to form a crumbly mixture.
  3. Press 3/4 of the mixture into the bottom of the prepared cake tin, reserving the rest for the topping. Spread the jam over the base, but not quite to the edges as it will spread.
  4. Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture over the top and lightly press it into the jam.
  5. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes in preheated oven or until lightly browned. Allow to cool before cutting into slices.
  6. Enjoy with a cup of tea!

 

 

Soft Cottage Cheese Biscuits

These biscuits are a taste of childhood for me. It comes from the time when our mums couldn’t get hold of chocolate, nuts or any other ‘exotic’ ingredients easily, so they had to make some treats with what was available. However, the cottage cheese was a staple ingredients in any household, hence in our culture so many recipes are based on this product, which is still very popular to this day.

These biscuits are very frugal, just 4 ingredients, but you need to get hold of this type of cottage cheese/farmers cheese/tvorog to get a right consistency. Luckily, it’s widely available in all big supermarkets, in  ‘world section’.

They are the best while still warm, with glass of milk.

SOFT COTTAGE CHEESE BISCUITS

(About 30-35 biscuits)

Ingredients:

200g butter,at room temperature

250g farmers/cottage cheese

350g plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

sugar for rolling , approx 150g

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Line up a baking sheet with the parchment paper.
  2. In a big bowl, mix together the butter and cottage cheese first, then add the flour and baking powder. Using a wooden spoon or a mixer, make sure it is well incorporated. At this stage, you might need to add a bit more flour to get the consistency of sought when it is pliable, but not sticking to the hands.
  3. Then, on a lightly dusted with flour clean surface, roll out the dough at about 0.5 cm thickness. Cut the circuits with the cookies cutter (I prefer using 3 inches/88mm cutter).  Cut as much circles from the dough as possible, save the scraps, scrunch them into a little ball and reuse it, repeating the the same process.
  4. Put the sugar into a small bowl and press one side of  the circle of dough into the sugar. Fold it in half to form a half moon shape. Press one side into the sugar again, fold it in half and press one of the sides in the sugar. Alternately, you can press both sides in the sugar straight away, but in this case your biscuits will be much darker in colour and crispier. I normally do half and half to satisfy everyone. Notice that there is no sugar added in a dough, so you control how much sugar you want to roll into the biscuits.
  5. Place the cookies on pre lined baking tray and bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until the cookies are puffed and golden.

Apricot and Pistachio Bars

Another bake from ‘Baked in America’ book and another success. To be honest it even exceeded my expectations.

One of the downside of this book is a lack of photographs. I’m not into step-by-step ones, however, I appreciate at least one photo to go with any recipe. Especially if it’s a completely unknown to you recipe, at least to know what this dish should look like. In this case, there was a photo with the recipe, but it was so dark that I presumed the bake included some chocolate or cacao powder. I read the recipe again and again and still couldn’t understand what was added to make the bake so dark. Then I realised, that if you put the required amount of sugar ( a whopping 450g for the filling and another 100g for the base!!!) that anything will turn black, as well as all your taste buds will be numb forever.

Actually, this time I baked with my friend and we decided to follow the recipe precisely, apart from adding only 1/3 of the asking sugar amount. Other than the sugar issue, it is a good bake with a rather short but firm buttery base and wonderful topping, slightly gooey, but full of texture with lovely cardamon aroma.

APRICOT AND PISTACHIO BARS

Ingredients:

For the pastry base:

90g icing sugar

300g plain flour

225g butter, softened

For the filling:

225g dried apricots

115g plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 salt

1/2 ground cardamon

4 eggs

190g light brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

100g pistachios, roughly chopped

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Butter the tin (30x23x5cm), and line with parchment.
  2. Place the dried apricots in a pan, cover with water and simmer for about 10 minutes to rehydrate them. Drain, cool, chop the apricots, then leave them aside.
  3. For the crust base, using mixer or processor, on a low speed combine the sugar, flour and butter until the mixture is crumbly. Dump the whole lot into the prepared tin, press it on to the bottom and slightly aside (I found the back of the metal spoon is good for that). Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until just barely browned. Remove from the oven, put aside, let it cool.
  4. For the filling, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cardamon and set aside. Using the same bowl from the crust mixture, combine the eggs, sugar and vanilla until evenly mixed. Then add the flour mixture, until it well incorporated. At the end, fold in the cooled apricots and the pistachios. Pour the batter over the cooled crust and smooth it.
  5. Bake it for another 25-30 minutes, until it evenly browned. Let the bake cool in the tin completely , then cut into squares or triangles, sprinkle icing sugar on top, if you wish.