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!

“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!

Gluten-free and dairy-free: swiss roll with marshmallow icing

dairy-free gluten-free swiss rollI haven’t been blogging for a while, but I had good reasons for it: at the end of last year, I wasn’t baking (or cooking) either, so I had nothing to blog about. This was caused to the nausea that comes with being pregnant… it being twins apparently made it worse! Luckily it passed the week before Christmas, so I could get back to my usual baking habits just in time (and with assistance from my sister, in charge of the cake decorations this year). So here is the first of my Christmas recipes, but you could make this at any time of the year (omitting the Christmas trees of course). As my sister-in-law is on a gluten-free and dairy-free diet, I opted for a swiss roll, swapping flour for gluten-free varieties. Here’s how to make it:

Preheat the oven to t180 C. Separate 3 eggs (you need 4 eggs in total) and beat the egg whites until really stiff (add a pinch of salt to speed up the process). No need to wash your mixer, you can go straight ahead and start mixing the 3 egg yolks and the left over whole egg together in a separate bowl with 120 g sugar until you get a foamy mousse (about 5 min). Stir in 50 g gluten-free flour, 25 g cornflour and 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda (to be replaced by 75 g self-raising flour if you don’t need a gluten-free version), followed by the beaten egg white.

Cover a baking sheet with tin foil (fold up the sides of the foil a bit to create an edge) and pour in the mixture (or use a swiss roll tin if you have one). Bake for 10 min until lightly golden and it springs back when you touch it. In the mean time, take another piece of tin foil and sprinkle it with a bit of sugar. Take the bake from the oven and turn it upside down onto the prepared foil. Gently peal of the layer of foil from the bottom. Spread your favourite jam all over (I used home-made forest fruit jam – made from half frozen fruit en half sugar (with pectin) and a squeeze of lemon, just follow the recipe on the sugar packaging if you want to make some), leaving a gap along one of the long edges. Sprinkle with a bit more sugar and start rolling it up from the opposite long edge. Put it on a serving plate with the seam at the bottom and leave to cool completely.

If you don’t feel like the extra effort (or sugar level), just dot the roll with some fresh raspberries and you’re done. Or go all the way and make the marshmallow icing by putting 2 egg whites in a heatproof bowl with 115 g golden caster sugar, 1/2 tbsp water and a good pinch of salt. Place over a pan of simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the hot water, and whisk until thick and leaving a prominent trail from the beaters (this will take about 4 min). Remove the bowl from the heat and continue whisking for another 3 min until cooled slightly and really stiff. Spread over the swiss roll using a large (palette) knife, you can use the back of a spoon to make a log pattern or just go wild with a piping bag. Use a cook’s blowtorch to toast the meringue to a golden brown (this will go really fast). It’s worth the effort, the toasting makes all the difference!

Decorate any way you want and enjoy!

Dairy-free and gluten-free: blueberry and coconut cake

dairy-free and gluten-free blueberry and coconut cakeThis weekend my in-laws came to visit but despite of the heat, we managed to keep our cool. My sister-in-law is on a dairy-free and gluten-free diet since a few months, so that was a new challenge for me. But I like a good challenge, and I went in search for a nice cake recipe. I found this one on the GoodFood website as a dairy-free recipe and it was easily adapted to make it gluten-free as well. It went down a treat and my sister-in-law went home with the few left-overs! Here’s how to make it:

Heat the oven to 160C and grease a 22 cm Bundt or ring tin with vegetable oil (I used sunflower). Whisk 250 ml sunflower oil, 3 eggs, 225 g sugar and 2 tsp vanilla extract in a large bowl. In another bowl, combine 300 g gluten-free flour, 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (or use self-raising flour) and 50 g desiccated coconut. Alternately, fold the flour mix and 175 ml soya milk into the wet ingredients, in 2-3 batches, starting and ending with the flour.

Spoon a quarter into the tin. Fold 140 g blueberries (they can be fresh or frozen, I prefer frozen as they break up more and give a blue colour and more flavour to the cake) into the remaining batter, then spoon into the tin. Bake for 1 h or until a skewer comes out clean (cover the cake with tin foil if it browns too quickly).

Cool in tin for 10 min, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely. Dust with icing sugar to serve. Enjoy!

A family favourite: bread pudding

Bread puddingI really love this recipe and it’s a great way to use up any leftover and stale bread. I grew up on this and it’s one of the first desserts I learned how to make myself. It’s really easy, very delicious and it keeps very well too, so you can enjoy it all week! You can vary the fruit to your liking as well.

Preheat the oven to 180 C. Put 200 g sugar and 1/2 l milk in a bowl and heat for 3 min in the microwave. Meanwhile, tear up 300 g stale bread in another bowl (you can use white bread, brown bread, or a mix of whatever you have lying around – as you will soak it, it cannot be too fresh). Give the milk a stir to dissolve most of the sugar and pour it over the bread. Leave to soak for a few minutes while you cut 1 apple into small pieces. I usually add some dried prunes as well. If you have a pear, it works too and you can add candied peel if you prefer. Mush the bread mix with a fork until you get a thick consistency (you don’t have to be very precise). Add the diced fruit along with 50 g raisins, a pinch of cinnamon, a splash of rum and a bag of vanilla sugar (10 g – you could add the seeds of a vanilla pod or 1 tsp vanilla extract instead as well). Mix 5 eggs and pour into the bread mix as well. Give everything a good stir and pour in a 20 cm round spring form lined with baking paper. Put in the oven for 45 min or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

You can eat this hot, with some vanilla ice, or cold (with or without custard). It’s very moist so it will easily keep for a week. Enjoy while listening to We Are Family by Sister Sledge.

Tip: make it gluten-free by replacing the bread by gluten-free bread.

Use up leftover raisins in rum-raisin cookies, carrot cake or an apricot and marzipan twist.

So easy and always a success: rocky road squares

Rocky road squares
Rocky road squares

I’m always surprised that this is such a big hit because it just so easy to make! Even grown ups get a twinkle in their eye when I opened my box at work recently (I made them for my birthday). Some colleagues seemed to have so many questions they had to come and personally ask me that day… Needless to say, I only took an empty box back home! This is again one of my trusted GoodFood recipes, this time I got it from one of their small books, 101 cakes & bakes.

Line a 20 cm square tin with baking paper (if you don’t have a square tin, you can also make one yourself out of tin foil – or you can buy Lakeland’s Parchment Lined Foil, I’ve just bought it and already I’m a big fan!). In a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (aka “au bain marie”), gently melt 500 g milk or dark chocolate, broken into pieces. Then stir in 10 marshmallows cut into small pieces and 85 g roughly chopped mixed nuts (pecans, almonds or walnuts will all do as well).

Pour the mixture into the tin and smooth the top. Leave to set for at least 2 hours (or overnight) before cutting it into 2.5 cm squares. To get a smooth and easy cut, just dip a sharp knife in hot water and wipe it, the heat will make it much easier to cut the squares. Trust me, this chewy, crunchy bite will be an instant hit anywhere… Enjoy!

Use up your leftover speculaas: speculamisu


To use up leftover speculaas and to surprise a friend who, because of her allergy to gluten, had never eaten tiramisu, I came up with a combination of both: speculamisu. It’s the same mix as for tiramisu, but instead of using ladyfingers (aka boudoirs) dipped in coffee, I use speculaas.

Let’s face it: after years of tiramisu revival, you’re bound to be ready for a change. If so, this is a great alternative.

Mix 4 egg yolks with 100 g icing sugar and a splash of amaretto. Add 500 g mascarpone and mix well (you don’t want any lumps). Beat 4 egg whites until stiff (add a small pinch of salt to make it easier). You should be able to hold your bowl upside down without the egg whites moving. Carefully spoon the egg whites under the mascarpone mix.

Put a layer of speculaas at the bottom of your serving this (if you didn’t have time to make them yourself, you can off course use shop-bought speculaas). You don’t need to soak them in anything, a couple of hours with your mascarpone mix and they will be soft. Add a layer of mascarpone mix, another layer of speculaas en so on. End with a layer of mascarpone mix.

That’s all there is to it! Put in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight and you’re ready to go. If you want, you can sprinkle some cacao powder on the top to decorate. If you prefer a regular tiramisu, just swap the speculaas for ladyfingers and dip them in strong coffee first. Enjoy!

A belgian classic: (gluten-free) speculaas

Belgian-style cinnamon cookie

I really love these cinnamon cookies that are mostly served around Sinterklaas, at the beginning of September. But that doesn’t stop me from eating speculaas the whole year round, and this family recipe does just the trick for me! In addition, you can easily make them gluten-free if you are allergic to gluten. With that allergy, you can’t eat bread, pasta or anything containing flour, which includes most desserts and of course cookies. But there is a solution: you can buy gluten-free flour and gluten-free baking powder. If you live in a modern country such as New Zealand, you’ll find them in the gluten-free isle of your supermarket. In countries where people thing that someone with a food allergy is just someone who wines too much (like Belgium), you need to go to a health food store to get them.

Gluten-free flour has a less dense and more powder-like consistency then regular flour, so it clings less to other ingredients. But for most cakes and bakes, that is not an issue because eggs can do all the sticking you need. That’s also true for this recipe. In addition, as the cookies are really flat, you don’t need any lift so you can do it without baking powder.

If you’re hungry now, I’ll have to disappoint you, the cookie dough needs to stand overnight… For starters, melt 150 g butter in the microwave. Add 125 g dark brown sugar, 1 egg yolk, 2 tbsp of water and 1 tbsp of speculaas mix. Or if you don’t have this mix in your spice rack, just grind the seeds of 2 cardamom pods and add them together with 1 tbsp of cinnamon. Now add 200 g of gluten-free flour or self-raising flour. You can use your hands to kneed the dough so that everything is combined. Let the dough rest in a cool place for 24 hours.

The next day, heat the oven to 180 C. Knead the dough again a bit to loosen it, roll little balls and flatten them on a baking sheet. Make sure to space the apart a bit as they will spread in the oven. Bake for 12 min and allow to cool on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy!

Use up left-over speculaas in speculamisu or in speculaas bread or us as a base for cheesecake.