White chocolate and limoncello pralines

white-chocolate-limoncello-pralinesI made these pralines for my birthday as a treat for my colleagues, and they made me promise to make them again for my final day in the office (I decided to take up a position much closer to home – more time for baking that is! Oh and for the kids too of course!). As usual, I didn’t have any leftovers … I found this recipe in “Sweets made simple”, by Miss Hope & Mr Greenwood. The book is really hilarious, even if you are never going to try anything, it’s still very funny to read. In addition (and contrary to other “simple” sweets recipe books I bought in the past), the recipes really are simple and easy, even for busy people! This one doesn’t take a lot of time and is foolproof, but you do need to start in advance as it takes 3 days to make them (all due to overnight freezing, don’t worry!). So here’s how to make about 18 of them (I usually double the recipe):

Day 1 – 20 min work:
Heat 5 cm of water in a pan and put a heatproof bowl in top (making sure it’s not touching the water – this is called a “bain marie” – no idea why Mary took her baths like this but already glad she took one :-)). Place 100 g white chocolate in the bowl with 2 tbsp double cream and heat gently to allow the chocolate to melt (in the mean time, you can prepare the other ingredients). Take the bowl of the heat and stir in the zest of 1/2 lemon, 1-2 tbsp limoncello (italian lemon liqueur), a pinch of salt and 50 g butter chopped into cubes. Wisk until the mixture resembles home-made lemon curd. If the butter is too cold, you may need to put it back on the heat for a few minutes to help it melt. Spoon into a sealable container, put a lid on and chill in the fridge overnight.

Day 2 – 15 min work:
Line a tray (that will fit in the freezer) with baking parchment. Scoop up small teaspoons of the mixture, roll into balls, put on the tray and freeze overnight.

Day 3 – 20 min work:
Temper 300 g white chocolate by popping it into the microwave on high for 30 seconds at the time, stirring in between, until the chocolate looks nearly melted but there are still a few bits bobbeld on top. Take it out of the microwave and stir the chocolate gently until smooth. Use 2 forks to dip each truffle ball into the chocolate, toss to coat and place back on the parchment, roughening the chocolate with a fork. Do this with all your truffles and then chill in the fridge to allow them to set (I usually chill them overnight, but they set quite quickly, so they should be ready after an hour or so).

Because white chocolate melts easily, it’s best to store them in the fridge. I can’t really advise on how long they will keep, they haven’t lasted long enough to test that… Enjoy!

Free-from and all-in-one carrot cake (no gluten, dairy, eggs, soy)

Carrot_cakeI keep on finding recipes to adapt and I get more and more audacious (although at some point, I think I will conclude there are only so many elements you can replace if you still want to call it a cake). I first made this all-in-one carrot cake as a regular version (slightly adapting a Donna Hay recipe), but it turned out the free-from version was even tastier, so definitely a winner this time! Not that I will be sharing recipes of flops of course … Anyway, here’s how to bake it:

Preheat oven to 160 C fan. Place 400 g carrots in a food processor and process until finely chopped (or grate them by hand). If you are making a regular version (so not gluten-free), add 120 g pecans to the food processor as well (or finely chop them). Add 115 g rice flour, 110 g chestnut flour (or 225 g plain flour for the regular version), 1 and 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda, 175 g brown sugar110 g caster sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp mixed spice (if you don’t have mixed spice, just add more cinnamon), 2 tsp vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract), 125 ml vegetable oil, 2 eggs (or no-egg equivalent) and 70 g yoghurt (use sheep or goat yoghurt for the lactose-free version), and process or mix until combined.

Pour the mixture into a 22 cm round springform cake tin lined with non-stick baking paper and bake for 55–60 minutes or until just cooked when tested with a skewer. Allow to cool in the tin.

To make the cream cheese frosting, place 250 g cream cheese, 1 tbsp lemon  juice, 50 g ricotta, 55 g icing sugar and 1 tsp vanilla bean paste in a food processor and process until smooth (or mix with a hand-held mixer. Spread the frosting over the cooled cake to serve. For the dairy-free version: mix 200 g goat’s cream cheese with 210 g icing sugar, 1 tbsp lemon juice and 1 tsp vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract). Enjoy!

Fast and gluten-free: raspberry brûlée pots

Raspberry brûlée pots

Weekends are not as relaxing as they used to be… twin boys are always up early and they move so quickly now, you always need to keep an eye on them! The Sundays spending hours in the kitchen for a perfect bake are definitely over. Not that they ever really existed in my kitchen in the first place, but I like to think they did! In the mean time, I’m getting pretty good at whipping up something fast. Or at least in multiple stages. And this recipe fits the bill perfectly! Here’s how to make them:

Place 300 g frozen raspberries in a saucepan with 75 g sugar and simmer for 20 min until the mixture thickens. Divide over 4 ovenproof dishes (I can confirm that whisky glasses are not a valid alternative) and refrigerate until cold. You can easily do this a day ahead. Or if you don’t have time, use raspberry marmelade as an alternative, about 3 tbsp per pot will do.

Now whisk 250 g double cream until it starts to hold its shape (it doesn’t need to be completely stiff). Add 420 g Greek-style thick yoghurt, 2 tbsp sugar and 1 tsp vanilla extract and mix again. Spoon over the raspberry mixture and refrigerate until cold (at least 30 min).

When ready to serve, sprinkle with sugar and caramelise the sugar with a kitchen blow torch until golden. Enjoy!

“All-free” rose and pistachio cake


OK, so far for my good intentions to blog again once a week. I guess it just can’t be new year every day! But as you can imagine, it hasn’t stopped me from baking. Right now my third cake of the day is in the oven because tomorrow we are having a birthday party for the boys, one year already! I suggested making something they can easily eat, like cookies, but their dad insisted it needed to be a cake so they can make their first proper mess (it seems they have been training for it for weeks now) and we can have the obligatory, slightly out of focus, messy picture. I’ll let you know next time how that went! But first we celebrated the birthday of my mother-in-law a couple of weeks ago so I made a dessert my sister-in-law could eat as well. Meaning without gluten, dairy, eggs and soy. I was quite proud of the result and it tasted really nice as well! Here’s how to make it:

Heat the oven to 170 C fan and line a 20 cm tin with greaseproof paper, or, if you’re not the greaseproof-paper-lining-person, just grease the tin with vegetable oil.

Put 75 g each of semolina, rice flour and sweet chestnut flour in a bowl (you need 225 g of flour in total, you can also use gluten-free flour instead. The chestnut flour will give a nutty taste). Add 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (or gluten-free baking powder) and a pinch of salt, followed by 75 g ground almonds and 100 g caster sugar and mix.

In a separate bowl, mix 2 eggs (I used no-egg egg replacement) with 50 g runny honey (or 1 generous tbsp), 250 ml natural yoghurt (unsweetened, I used goat yoghurt), 150 ml sunflower oil and the finely grated zest of 1 lime (you’ll need the juice for the syrup later). Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and slowly pour in the wet ingredients, bringing them together with a whisk until they are just combined (if you want, you can add 50 g chopped unsalted pistachios at this point). Pour the mixture into your tin and bake in the oven for 50 min or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Allow to cool in the tin for 20 min and while the cake is cooling, make the lime syrup: in a small saucepan, boil 150 ml water with 100 g caster sugar for about 5 min until it is reduced by half. Add the juice of 1 lime and boil for a further 2 min, then cool and add 2 tbsp rose water. Make holes on top of the warm cake with a skewer and, with a tablespoon, spoon the syrup all over the top. Leave to settle for 1 hour.

Serve with some raspberries on top. Enjoy!

Blueberry and pistachio cake with coffee cardamom cream


I’ve decided I really needed to get blogging again. I took this decision a few months ago and now spent quite some time figuring out where to schedule it in. Not that it takes much time, but one of my agenda points highlighted as a main priority these days is “twin boy management” (boss sometimes seems to differ). As with most things, I handle this quite well if I do say so myself so I manage to find some spare time as well, but lying on the couch has recently become a new hobby of mine… it’s a bit like what some people get at the gym (so I’m told), it really becomes addictive!

Anyway, today I found the solution: blogging from my mobile while lying on the couch! The boys are doing fine by the way, taking a nap as we speak (either that or doing something they are not supposed to – in any case, it’s quiet).

Ever since having them nearly a year ago, I haven’t stopped baking, I just stopped writing about it. I already used to go for the quick-and-dirty-chuck-it-all-in-a-bowl recipes a lot in the past and even more so now. Also, baking became a multi-step (and sometimes even multi-day) process, where I add an ingredient to the bowl, hand back a toy (that is immediately thrown back on the floor), add some more ingredients, prepare a bottle, preheat the oven… you get the point.

Anyway, back to food: I baked this cake for our family easter lunch. It’s not our traditional easter bake. That’s made of layers of milk-soaked cookies and coffee buttercream and an absolute favourite of my parents and grandparents. But I don’t like it and neither do my siblings and as I was in charge of dessert we didn’t see it this year. However, easter without buttercream is just no real easter according to my mum, so I came up with this solution: a light and fruity cake with the all important buttercream! Luckily I took a picture before everyone arrived as not a single crumb remained after the meal! Here’s how to make it:

Melt 175g butter and leave to cool. Heat oven to 160C and lightly grease and line the base of 2 x 20cm sandwich tins with baking parchment. Grease the tins again, dust with a little caster sugar and a little flour, then tap out any excess.

Put 4 eggs and 225 g golden caster sugar in a heatproof bowl and, using an electric whisk, mix briefly to combine. Place the bowl over a pan of steaming water and continue to whisk until the mixture is pale and thick – when the whisk is lifted, the mixture should leave a trail on the surface lasting about 5 secs. This will take about 5 to 10 mins. Remove the bowl from the pan and continue beating for 2 mins.

Continue to whisk the mixture while trickling the melted butter around the edge of the bowl. Sift in 200g self-raising flour and 85g ground pistachios, very gently give the mixture 2-3 folds, then add 100g blueberries and fold again, being careful not to knock out all the air. Divide the mixture between the tins and bake for 25-30 mins, until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

To make the buttercream, beat 250g softened butter and 200g icing sugar together with 2 egg yolks. Add 1 tablespoon instant coffee, diluted in 3 tablespoons water, and the crushed seeds of 6 cardamom pods and beat until combined.

Cool cakes in their tins for 10 mins, then turn out onto a wire rack. Remove lining paper when completely cooled. Sandwich the cakes together with the coffee cardamom cream, and spread some more on the top and around the sides. You can also decorate it with pistachios and blueberries.


“All-free” lemon drizzle cake (no gluten, lactose, eggs, soy …)

Lemon_drizzle_cakeIt’s been quite a while since I’ve posted new recipes on my blog. It’s not that I stopped baking (although I’m baking slightly less), it’s that I’m not really finding the time to right about. The reason is that next to my day job, I have a new task: twin boy management! The boys are now 8 months old and doing great, but it makes baking (and writing about it) a bit more of a challenge. It also makes it a multi-step (or somethimes even multi-day) process, spread out during the day. But of course, come Christmas, I wasn’t going to let me family down so I was once again in charge of desserts (two days in a row). As my sister in low has been diagnosed with a gluten-, lactose-, egg white-, soy- (and other things I’m forgetting) intolerance, it became quite a challenge. To be honest: the first attempt (not this recipe) went straight in the bin. This meant that I needed a plan B, and I needed it fast! So I looked at the GoodFood website, and found this recipe for a light lemon drizzle cake, which I could easily adapt. I’ll indicate possible changes you can make depending on your diet.

Heat oven to 160C and line a 20cm round cake tin with baking parchment. Put 175g rice flour (or use gluten-free or self-raising flower), 1 and 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda (use baking powder if you’ve used self-raising flour), 50 g ground almonds and 50 g polenta in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the zest of 2 lemons (you’ll need the juice later) and 140 g sugar, then make a dip in the centre. In another bowl, beat 2 eggs (I used “no-egg” egg replacement and followed the instruction on the box, you can find this in health food shops), then stir in 225 g yogurt (I used goat yoghurt as I wanted to avoid lactose, which you can find in health food shops or biological supermarkets, it tastes very much the same as regular yoghurt). Tip this mixture along with 75 ml rapeseed oil (or use sunflower oil) into the dry ingredients, then briefly and gently stir with a large metal spoon so everything is just combined, without overmixing.

10 mins if it starts to brown too quickly. While the cake cooks, make lemon syrup. Tip 85 g sugar into a small saucepan with the juice of the 2 lemons and 75 ml water. Heat over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. Raise the heat, boil for 4 mins until slightly reduced and syrupy, then remove from the heat.

Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool briefly in the tin. While it is still warm, turn it out of the tin, peel off the lining paper and sit the cake on a wire rack set over a baking tray or similar. Use a skewer to make lots of small holes all over the top of the cake. Slowly spoon over half the lemon syrup and let it soak in. Spoon over the rest in the same way, brushing the edges and sides of the cake too with the last of the syrup.

Ideal brunch material: speculaas bread

speculaas breadI love brunch, it’s my idea of an ideal Sunday. Preferably, I stay in my pajamas until noon, unless we have guest of course. Because inviting guest allows you to really go for it and fry and bake anything you fancy. I recently bought a new cookbook by Juliette’s, a famous cookie bakery in Bruges, all around speculaas, the cinnamon and ginger cookie that is very popular in Belgium. It contained an excellent recipe for the cookie itself (which I won’t blog about, as it was for industrial quantities, but do try my speculaas recipe) and lots of recipes to use up any left-over cookies, like in this bread. Really easy and totally delicious! The recipe is for 2 small loafs, so you can always pop one in the freezer if you want. Here’s how to make it:

Lightly warm 220 g milk in the microwave and stir in 25 g dried yeast until it is dissolved. In a large bowl, mix 1 egg with 550 g bread flour and add the milk mixture. Knead well, cover with cling film or a dry tea towel and leave to rise until doubled in size.

Knock the air out of the dough, add 10 g salt, 25 g sugar and 125 softened butter cut in cubes and knead until you get an elastic dough that no longer sticks to your work surface (about 5 tot 10 min). Allow to rise until doubled in size.

Knock the air out of the dough and split in to two. From each half, keep a small piece (100 g) apart. Roll out the big piece to a long rectangle and put a speculaas biscuit at the long end of the rectangle. Flip the dough with the cookie over, add another cookie and continue until you reached the end of the dough (you need about 200 g speculaas biscuits in total for the 2 breads). Roll out the small piece to a rectangle as well and use it to wrap your rolled bread in. Repeat with the second batch. Put in a buttered loaf tin, brush with a beaten egg and leave to rise for another 45 min. Preheat the oven to 160 C and bake for 25 min or until the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

If you don’t have speculaas biscuits, I’m sure this will work with other biscuits as well, it’s easiest if you use rectangular once. I think ginger biscuits would taste great as well. Enjoy!