french apple tarts

29 Jul 2013

Every week I visit my local fruit shop and come home with a bag of large juicy granny smith apples - my favourite cooking apple. Normally I stew the apples with some sultanas and have stewed apples topped with yoghurt for dessert. Every now and again I need to come up with something a little more fancy for dessert.

These little French Apple Tarts fit the bill.

Apart from apples all you need is some apricot jam and good quality all butter puff pastry and the remaining ingredients you'll probably already have in the pantry.

It's not much of a recipe really. You stew the apples, cut the pastry into rounds, top the pastry with the stewed apples, decorate the tarts with some thinly sliced apples, sprinkle the tarts with caster sugar then bake them until golden, brush the tops with apricot jam and serve. It couldn't be much easier than that!

Here's the recipe for you.

French Apple Tarts - serves 6
375 g good quality all butter puff pastry – I used Caréme

Apple Puree
2 large green apples, peeled, quartered and chopped into chunky pieces (I used granny smith apples)
25 ml water
2 tablespoons caster sugar
15 gm (½ oz) unsalted butter
1 vanilla bean, split in half

2 small red apples (I used pink ladies) 
30 g (1 oz) unsalted butter, melted
caster sugar

Apricot Glaze
½ cup apricot jam
1 tablespoon water
Cream or ice cream, to serve

To make the puree, place the chopped green apples, the water, the sugar, the butter and the vanilla bean in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and cook gently for approximately 30 minutes or until the apples are soft and the excess liquid has evaporated. Remove the pan from the heat, take out the vanilla pod and allow the apples to cool a little before pureeing them. I used a stick blender but you could use a food processor or you could push the apples through a wire sieve. Check the apple puree for sweetness. You may need to add a little more sugar depending on how tart your apples are. Set the puree aside to cool completely.

Preheat the oven to 250°C/480°F. Line a baking tray with baking paper. On a floured surface, roll the pastry out a little, and then cut out six 10 - 12 cm rounds of pastry. Place the rounds of pastry onto the baking tray. With a sharp knife, mark a border about ½ cm in from the edge of the pastry which will form the side of the tart. Prick the base of each tart with a fork then place the tray of pastry cases into the fridge while you prepare the apple topping.

Peel and core the small red apples then slice into paper-thin slices using a sharp knife or a mandoline. I used a mandoline then cut each apple round into halves. Remove the tray of chilled pastry cases from the fridge and fill the inner circle of each case with 1-2 tablespoons of the apple purée. You may have a little apple puree left over. 

Top the purée with the sliced apple, starting at the centre of the tart, overlapping each slice of apple a little to form a circle of apple. The apple slices should completely cover the puree. Using a pastry brush, brush melted butter around the edge of the pastry and gently dab over the apple slices. Sprinkle a teaspoon or so of caster sugar over the sliced apples. This helps the apples slices to colour.

Place the tarts in the preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 180°C (350°F) and cook for another 10 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and the apple slices are slightly coloured.

While the tarts are baking, make the apricot glaze. Combine the apricot jam and water in a small saucepan and place over a low heat, stirring until dissolved. Pass the mixture through a wire sieve to remove any chunky pieces, then return the mixture to the pan and bring to the boil. Cook gently until the glaze is clear and the desired consistency is reached.

Remove the tarts from the oven and while the tarts are still hot, brush the apple slices and the edges of the pastry with the hot apricot glaze. Serve warm or cold with ice-cream or cream. 

The tarts don't keep well so you'll need to make and serve them on the same day. They're pretty yummy though, so that shouldn't be much of a problem.

I hope you enjoy the tarts.

See you all again soon,



sour cherry chocolate cake

22 Jul 2013

I've had some dried sour cherries lingering in the cupboard for about a year. I also have a half used bottle of morello cherries in my fridge. I don't like to waste food so I was looking for a recipe which contained both sour cherries and chocolate. Apart from Black Forest Cherry Cake there are surprisingly few sour cherry chocolate cake recipes on the internet so I decided to come up with my own. I used my old faithful Margaret Fulton chocolate sandwich cake recipe as the starting point, but apart from using jam dissolved in boiling water, everything else is different from the original.

I just love cherries and even though it's not cherry season in Sydney the Washington cherries we get in the supermarket are so nice I can't resist them. I know the food miles involved are horrendous but fresh cherries aren't an integral part of the recipe - I only bought a few for decoration.

I've made the cake twice now, once using dried sour cherries reconstituted in hot water and on the second occasion I used bottled sour cherries drained and halved. I actually prefer the bottled cherries as they're not as sweet as the dried cherries.

The cake is a simple chocolate butter cake that uses dutch process cocoa and berry jam for it's colour and flavour. It could be cherry jam but otherwise any berry jam like raspberry jam will do just fine.

I tweaked the recipe a bit between the first and second version mainly by increasing the cocoa content to make the cake more chocolatey to match the wickedly dark chocolate ganache topping.

I mean, can anything be too chocolatey? Here's the recipe for you. This quantity makes one small bundt cake. For a 21 cm bundt cake, double the ingredients, but keep the cooking time the same.

125 g unsalted butter, softened
⅓ cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
¾ cup self raising flour
¼ cup plain flour
3 (20 ml) tablespoons dutch process cocoa
1 tablespoon cherry or raspberry jam blended with sufficient boiling water to make ½ cup, then set aside to cool.
⅓ cup sour cherries, drained and halved or 30 gm coarsely chopped dried sour cherries soaked in hot water for 1 hour then drained.

75 gm chocolate (I used a combination of milk chocolate and 70% dark chocolate)
75 mls cream
Optional - fresh cherries

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Grease and flour a small bundt tin. I use a 1 tablespoon each of flour and cocoa, sifted if there are any lumps, to avoid getting white flour marks on the sides of the cake.

Sift the flours and cocoa together into a small bowl and set to one side. In a medium size bowl, combine the softened butter, caster sugar and vanilla and beat until light and creamy. Mix in the egg and a spoon of the flour if the mixture starts to look curdled. Mix in the flour alternately with the jam mixture to make a smooth, soft batter. Gently fold in the sour cherries before spooning the batter into the prepared tin.

Bake on the centre rack in the oven for 35 – 40 minutes until the cake tests cooked when a skewer is inserted. Remove the tin from the oven and allow the cake to cool for abut 15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Allow the cake to completely cool before decorating.

Chocolate Ganache
Chop the chocolates into small pieces and place in a small bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan or in the microwave until just below boiling point. Pour the cream over the chocolate and allow the mixture to sit for about 10 minutes until the chocolate melts. Stir until the mixture until smooth then set to one side for about 20 minutes until the ganache has thickened.

Drizzle the ganache over the cooled cake, then decorate with the fresh cherries, if desired. Serve the cake at room temperature.

I hope you enjoy the recipe. 

Bye for now,


wholewheat spaghetti with green olives and anchovies - pronto

15 Jul 2013

A few months ago the ABC showed Nigella Lawson's most recent tv series Nigellisima. Lots of the recipes didn't appeal to me but I liked the sound of spelt spaghetti with green olives and anchovies.

I looked for the recipe online but all the links to the recipe were broken. I went to the bookshop and I couldn't find a single copy of the book, so I put the recipe on the backburner. A few months back I finally found the recipe online and typed it up. I couldn't find any spelt spaghetti but as I had some wholewheat spaghetti in the cupboard I used that instead. 

I'm no fan of pine nuts so I used some chopped macadamia nuts instead and the rest I already had in my pantry or lurking in my fridge.

Put simply, this is just a green olive tapenade recipe served over spaghetti. Apart from the spaghetti nothing in the sauce is cooked so it takes no time to whip it together. 

Here's the original recipe for you.

(Serves 2)

8 oz. spelt spaghetti
Salt for pasta water, to taste
10 pitted green olives
10 anchovy fillets (from can or jar), drained
1 clove garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons pine nuts
Leaves from small bunch parsley (about 1 cup, packed)
Zest and juice of 1/2 unwaxed lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
Pepper (optional)

Put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta. When the water comes to a boil, salt generously, or to taste, and add the pasta; my spelt spaghetti needs 8 to 9 minutes, so I set the timer for 7 and start testing for doneness then.

To make the sauce, put the olives, anchovies, garlic, pine nuts, parsley, lemon zest and juice and olive oil in a small bowl and blitz with an immersion blender (or in your mini processor bowl). Don’t worry about the odd unmashed pine nut (or olive); indeed, they are rather appealing.

Just before draining the pasta, remove a cupful of starchy cooking water and immediately add 2 tablespoons of it to the bowl of sauce, then give another brief blitz to combine those last ingredients.

Top the drained pasta back into its pan, then pour and scrape the sauce on top and toss to mix, adding more of the cooking liquid if you feel you need the sauce to be looser.

Season to taste – you may want pepper or more lemon juice, but I can’t see salt being necessary – then toss again and turn out onto a warm serving dish or divide between two plates or bowls.

I've made this twice so far, the first time for dinner one night and the second time for my Sunday lunch. By the time I'd photographed the dish the spaghetti was barely lukewarm which actually enhanced the flavours. So do yourself a favour and make this, but to get the best flavour I'd actually serve it lukewarm or even cold

Update - if you like this recipe, you might like this was one for pasta shells with tuna, lemon and artichoke as well.

I hope you all had lovely weekends. See you all again soon with some more baking,



strawberry ice cream

8 Jul 2013

I don't usually post images from my delicious bites column for decor8 but I had so many out takes from July's strawberry ice cream column I thought I'd share some of the images with you.

I've been making a version of this strawberry ice cream for many years. It all began with a strawberry mousse recipe that I froze then after I was given an ice cream recipe book, it morphed into this version. I didn't have an ice cream maker at the time, so I came up with a version that could be made in the freezer.

I still don't own an ice cream maker but my parents do, so I made this batch of ice cream during one of my trips to Brisbane,
with 2 punnets of strawberries and my ice cream bowls carefully wrapped in my hand luggage.

The ice cream only contains a few ingredients - strawberries, sugar, eggs, lemon juice and cream. The base of the ice cream is an egg mousse to which you add the strawberry puree and cream, which you whip for the freezer version and leave unwhipped if you're using an ice cream maker.

It's winter here in Sydney so I had a bit of trouble finding ice cream cones (and any sunlight I might add). I didn't really fancy having to make homemade cones so I was really glad when I discovered my local frozen yoghurt shop sold them.

Here's the recipe for you.
Strawberry Ice Cream
250g strawberries
½ cup caster sugar
the juice of half a lemon
2 large eggs
300 mls cream

Wash and hull the strawberries. Mash roughly in a bowl. Add half the sugar and the lemon juice and mix until the sugar has dissolved. Place to one side.

Combine the eggs and the remaining sugar in a medium bowl and whisk until combined. Place a small saucepan of water onto the stove and bring to a simmer. Place the bowl containing the egg mixture over the simmering water and make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't make contact with the water. Continue to whisk the mixture until it becomes light and fluffy and is lukewarm to the touch.

Remove the bowl from the heat and continue to whisk the egg mixture until it’s three times its initial size and has returned to room temperature. Place the bowl in the fridge to cool.

If using an ice cream maker, combine the egg mixture, the cream and the strawberry mixture together in one bowl and place in the ice cream maker. Churn the mixture until it sets then scrape from the machine into a storage container and place in the freezer until it's time to serve.

If not using an ice cream maker, whip the cream in a medium size bowl until soft peaks form. Gently mix the cream, the strawberry mixture and the egg mixture until just combined. Place into a sealed container and freeze until the outer edges are firm and the centre is soft. Remove the ice cream from the freezer, place the contents into a bowl and stir until smooth. Replace the ice cream mixture back into the storage container, seal and return to the freezer until set.

About 30 minutes before serving time, take the ice cream from the freezer and place it in the fridge to allow the ice cream to soften a little.

When the weather warms up a little I hope you get a chance to make this ice cream because it is very yummy.

I started this strawberry sampler a few months ago and have kept working on it when I get a bit of spare time. 
I thought you'd like to see how it was progressing. It takes me about 3 hours to stitch those leaves so it could be a while before it's finished.

See you all again soon,


rhubarb crumble cake and canada day

1 Jul 2013

A few months ago I made a Plum Crumble Cake for my Delicious Bites column on decor8. One of the readers suggested adapting the cake to make a rhubarb crumble cake. I thought that was a great idea and when I saw rhubarb was on sale at my local fruit shop I decided to give it a go.

Once upon a time I discovered the 'More Gretta Anna Recipes' cookbook. Inside was a recipe for plum cake and over time I've adapted the recipe so many times I can't remember the original recipe. This rhubarb crumble cake is my latest adaption of the recipe.

Rhubarb is one of my favourite fruits so while the cake was baking I made a batch of oven baked rhubarb to put on my breakfast.

The cake rose high and handsome and the whole house smelt of cinnamon.

Here's the recipe for you.

Rhubarb Crumble Cake

Crumble Topping
¼ cup (55 gm) brown sugar
¼ cup (35 gm) plain flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup (60 gm) pecans or walnuts
30 grams (1 oz) cold unsalted butter cut into small chunks
½ cup chopped rhubarb

Cake Ingredients
250 grams unsalted butter
½ cup caster sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
1½ cups self raising flour
½ cup plain flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
175 mls buttermilk
2 cups chopped rhubarb 

Grease and line the base of a 23 cm springform tin. 
Preheat the oven to 190°C. 

To make the topping, combine the flour, brown sugar and cinnamon in a food processor. Add the pecans and butter and pulse until just combined. Place the crumble topping in a small bowl and refrigerate while making the cake.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Add the 2 eggs and mix until combined well.Sift the flours with the cinnamon. Add the flour alternately with the milk to make a soft batter. Mix in the 2 cups of chopped rhubarb. 

Spoon the batter into the greased tin. Sprinkle the top of the cake with the crumble and tuck the remaining rhubarb into the crumble layer. 

Bake the cake for 1-1¼ hours or until the cake tests cooked when a skewer is inserted into it. Cool the cake in the tin for about 15 minutes before turning out to cool on a wire rack.

I love Canada having spent some time living and working in Edmonton in Alberta. I keep revisiting Canada every chance I get. It's my second favourite country in the world, after Australia of course.

July 1 is Canada Day so Happy Canada Day to all my Canadian friends.

Bye for now,

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