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” 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.

Tangy and tasty: lemon tart

Lemon tartBy now you probably know that I totally love all things with lemon and this is another great example. This tart is so delicious and fantastically easy to make! You can go all the way, making the pastry as well, but if you need a quick dessert I’ll indicate where you can cheat your way through it and still get a great result in the end! This is a recipe by Gregg Wallace, masterchefs number one sweet tooth, for GoodFood magazine where he made a series called “Gregg’s perfect pud” and this really is just that! Here’s how to make it:

First, make the pastry. If you don’t have enough time, just skip this step and go for shop-bought short crust pastry instead. This recipe makes a double amount of pastry, so you can freeze half. Next time, just defrost it and continue with the next steps! Mix 500 g plain flour and 140 g icing sugar in a bowl. Rub 250 g cubed butter into the flour with your fingers until crumbly. Mix in 4 egg yolks (you can freeze the egg whites and use them for meringues later). If the pastry is still too dry, add 1-2 tbsp water until it comes together. Roll into a ball and divide in half (freeze the other half at this stage). Flatten out the pastry with your hands, wrap the dough in cling film, then chill for at least 30 mins.

While the pastry is chilling, make the filling. Beat 5 eggs, 140 g caster sugar, 150 ml double cream and the juice of 2-3 lemons (about 100 ml) together. Sieve the mixture, then stir in 2 tbsp lemon zest (if you don’t like zest in your tart, you can just leave it out and add a bit more lemon juice instead).

Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to about the thickness of a £1 coin, then lift into a 23 cm tart tin. Press down gently on the bottom and sides, then trim off any excess pastry. Stab a few holes in the bottom with a fork and put back in the fridge for 30 min.

Heat oven to 140 C. Line the tart with foil and fill with rice or dried beans. Bake for 10 min, then remove the tart tin from the oven, discard the foil, and bake for another 20 min until biscuity. When the pastry is ready, remove it from the oven and pour in the lemon mixture. Tip: make sure the distance to your oven is not too large: the filling is very liquid so it spills easily. I tend to just partially slide the tin out of the oven and pour the filling in and slide it back. The less I need to walk around with it, the less I can spill (otherwise half is on the floor for sure). Bake again for 30-35 min until just set. Leave to cool (do this in the oven if you are worried it is still a bit too wobbly), then remove the tart from the tin and serve at room temperature or chilled.

So if you are a beginner: just buy the pastry, no one will know! The filling couldn’t be easier, just beating everything together, so nothing can go wrong. Enjoy and use up left-over lemons and cream in lemon pudding.

Easy and so delicious: lemon pudding

Lemon puddingMy parents came to dinner recently to discuss some plans for our apartment. As it was a last minute invitation, I needed something quick, easy and with a minimum of ingredients for dessert. So I turned to my trusted Fast, Fresh and Simple cookbook by Donna Hay where I found this lemon pudding. It already looked good on paper, but it turned out to be totally delicious! I will definitely make this again and again. Here’s how to make it:

Place 500 ml cream (single pouring cream) and 110 g sugar in a saucepan over a medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Allow to simmer for 6 minutes or until the cream has reduced slightly (I usually don’t really have a clue when that is, also, I’m bad at simmering, I go from boiling to not boiling, to boiling again… that seemed to work too). Add 80 ml lemon juice (from about 4 lemons) and simmer for a further 2 minutes. Pour into cups, glasses or ramekins and refrigerate until set. If, like me, you have little time to allow them to set, you can soak 1 leave of gelatine in cold water for a few minutes, squeeze it very well and stir it into the hot creamy mixture before filling your cups.

Serve with fresh raspberries while listening to Lemonade by Alexandra Stan.

Use up left-over lemons in a light lemon drizzle cake, a lemon cake, a lemon and poppy seed loaf or a raspberry and lemon mess. You can use left-over cream in a bavarois, a mango and cardamom panna cotta or a basil panna cotta.

Spring is here: light lemon drizzle cake

lemon drizzle cakeAs you know by now, I’m a happy subscriber of GoodFood magazine. And each month, it contains a recipe “make-over”, where a classic recipe (aka calorie bomb) gets upgraded to a lighter version. Last month, it was the lemon drizzle cake and it sounded like the perfect ending for an otherwise not so light meal when my brother and his girlfriend came to dinner last Friday. And it got the seal of approval: most went for a second slice! Thus eliminating the lighter effect I assume but who cares 🙂

For those of you who are interested or looking for a guilt-free treat, “lighter” means 243 kcals per slice (if the cake is cut in 12 slices), whereas a classic lemon drizzle cake will be 335 kcals per slice. This is achieved by substituting butter for oil and yoghurt which also means you can use less eggs. The sugar was reduced and ground almonds and polenta were added. Here’s how to make it:

Preheat the oven to 160 C, lightly oil a 20 cm round cake tin and line the base with baking parchment. Put 175 g self-raising flour in a bowl with 1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder, 50 g ground almonds and 50 g polenta (if you don’t have polenta or don’t want to use it, you can use 100 g ground almonds instead). Stir in the zest of 2 lemons (you will need to juice later as well for the topping) and 140 g golden caster sugar. In a separate bowl, beat 2 eggs with 225 g natural yoghurt. Make a dip in the dry ingredients and pour the yoghurt mixture in the dip followed by 75 ml rapeseed oil (if you can’t find rapeseed oil, use sunflower oil instead. Don’t be tempted to use olive oil, it has a strong taste that will come through in your finished cake). Briefly stir so everything is combined without overmixing.

Pour the mixture in the cake tin and level the top with the back of a spoon. Bake for 40 min or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cover loosely with foil for the final 5-10 min of the top starts to brown too quickly. Remove from the oven and let it cool briefly in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack.

While the cake is in the oven, make the lemon syrup. Tip 85 g caster sugar into a small saucepan with the lemon juice (of the 2 lemons you zested before) and 75 ml of water. Heat over a medium heat stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat and boil for 4 min until slightly reduced and syrupy. When the cake is on the wire rack, poke it all over with a skewer and slowly spoon the syrup on top in 2 batches so it can soak into the cake (you may want to put your wire rack over a sheet of cling film to avoid washing all the syrup of your counter top). If you prefer a crunchy topping instead of a sticky one, use 1 tbsp less caster sugar for the syrup and sprinkle that over the cake after you soaked it. Or dissolve the sugar in the lemon juice without adding the water and without heating it. Enjoy while listening to Lemon Tree by Fools Garden.

Use up leftover polenta in a polenta, orange and blueberry loaf. Leftover lemons are great in hazelnut and lemon madeleines, a lemon and poppy seed loaf or a lemon cake.

Impressive gift: hazelnut and lemon madeleines

Hazelnut and lemon madeleines
Hazelnut and lemon madeleines

These madeleines are totally delicious and always a success. They look absolutely great too, so they make a great gift! My dad is a huge fan, so I made them recently for fathers day. My mom said after dinner that she would love a madeleine, but my dad just said she couldn’t have any, they were all for him… This recipe comes from Lorraine Pascale‘s Baking Made Easy and it’s really not that hard. All you need is a madeleine tin, which you can find anywhere really.

Preheat the oven to 180 C and oil the madeleine tin with vegetable oil. Put 4 eggs in a large bowl and whisk until they have almost doubled in volume, then, while still whisking, gradually add 100 g caster sugar down the sides of the bowl. This will take about 10-15 min with an electric mixer (if you have a kitchen aid or anything like that, just use the machine, it’s so much easier! You can put the timer on 15 min, slowly adding the sugar in the first 5, and then do whatever you like in the mean time). The result will be a very light, fluffy and mouse-like batter.

Add 80 g melted butter around the sides of the bowl so as not to knock out all the air, then add the seeds of 1/2 vanilla pod and fold the mixture over itself to combine, using as few strokes as possible. Add a pinch of salt and 100 g sifted plain flour in 2 batches and carefully fold it into the batter. Add 40 g toasted hazelnuts, finely chopped or ground (I use ground almonds, that works equally well) and the zest of 1 lemon and stir to combine. Spoon the mixture into the madeleine moulds until two-thirds full (the recipe suggests using a piping bag, but even though the mixture is very runny, I make it work with a spoon). Bake in the oven for about 10 min or until the madeleines are springy to the touch and are turning a light golden brown colour. Leave to cool in the tin for a few seconds, but not more, transfer them to a wire rack immediately or they will stick to your tin (I’m talking from experience here). Just push them gently on one side to slide them out. Eat them within two days or they will dry out (don’t worry, they won’t last that long!). Enjoy!

Tasty and fun: lemon and poppy seed loaf

Lemon and poppy seed loaf
Lemon and poppy seed loaf

I went to London for a weekend a few weeks ago and you cannot go to London without going to the Waterstones bookstore near Piccadilly circus: it’s huge! You’ll easily spend a couple of hours there, trust me. In my case, I can’t enter a Waterstones without buying a cook book, so this time I went for Cake Days, the new book from the Hummingbird Bakery. Of course I had to try it straight away and I am a fan of all things lemony, so this seemed the perfect candidate! I adapted it slightly for more lemony sweetness mmmmm…

Preheat the oven to 150 C and grease a loaf tin with butter, then dust it with flour. Or, if you’re lazy like me, buy baking parchment paper cases that fit your loaf tin. I got mine from Lakeland. Cream together 190 g softened butter and 190 g caster sugar with a mixer. Add 3 eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. You can sift all the dry ingredients together in another bowl and then add them in 3 batches, or, if you’re lazy like me, you don’t bother with sifting and other bowls, and you just add 190 g flour in 3 batches. After the second batch, add 25 ml milk (the recipe calls for whole milk, but we only ever have semi-skimmed and that works just fine). With the final batch of flour, add 1 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp salt, 4 tbsp poppy seeds and the zest of 2 lemons with the final batch. I also added the juice of half a lemon for a bit more of a lemon taste (I really do love lemons). Increase the speed and keep mixing until the batter is smooth and even, then mix in 80 g ricotta cheese (this will keep the loaf moist and rich).

Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for 50-60 min until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack.

The recipe suggest topping the cake with a soaking syrup when still hot (made by boiling the juice of 1 lemon with 50 g of sugar and 100 ml water until reduced by half) but I find that way too sticky. You can go for a lemon glaze instead, just mixing the sugar with the lemon juice and spooning that over the still hot cake or you can do what I did and opt for a lemon icing instead. For that, first cool the cake, then mix half an egg white with the juice of half a lemon and lots of icing sugar (you really need lots of it, you want it to be quite thick and not very runny anymore) and spread it over the cake.

This is a basic icing recipe, I only increased the lemon juice for that lemony flavour. If you want regular icing, just mix an egg white with lots of icing sugar and only add a few drops of lemon juice (you need that to make sure it hardens, you can replace it with a few drops of vinegar as well). Enjoy!


Lazy Sunday: lemon cake

Lemon cake
Lemon cake

This is my boyfriend’s favourite cake and a really easy one too! It comes from one of my most loved cookbooks: A second helping by Alexa Johnston. I bought it as a souvenir on holiday in New Zealand. We went there for a month so we only could pack the absolute essentials. That also meant we couldn’t buy any heavy souvenirs as we had no extra space. So we left our Belgian chocolate with our friends over there and came back with the cookbook instead. The book includes traditional recipes all with a story attached and they are all equally delicious! This cake has an intense lemony tang and it’s not too sweet.

Preheat the oven to 160 C and lightly grease a medium-sized loaf tin (about 22 cm x 11 cm). Cream 115 g softened butter with 150 g sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the zest of 2 lemons (you need about 2 tsp, but if you love lemons as much as I do, a bit more will never hurt). Then add 2 eggs, one at the time, beating well after each addition. Use a spoon to gently fold in 180 g of self-raising flour in about three lots (or use plain flour and add 1 tsp of baking powder – I never bother to sift my flour, this is a lazy recipe after all). Alternate it with adding 110 ml milk, also in three lots.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for about 40 min. until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. The cake will have a long crack running along the tops and should be just pulling away from the sides of the tin. Remove from the oven and leave it in the tin.

Combine 70 g of sugar and the juice of the 2 lemons (you need 2 tbsp, again, more can never hurt) and spoon this mixture over the top of the still hot cake. It will soak in a little and run down the sides, leaving a thin crust of sugar on the top. Finish cooling in the tin. If you want, you can freeze the cake: wrap it well in waxed paper and tin foil first. This cake will easily last you the best part of a week, so you have your daily dessert all ready! If you can avoid eating it all at once that is… Enjoy!