Tarte Alsacienne

I love recipes using apples, and I made this tart for dessert when my children came last weekend. It's unlike the usual French apple tart, as it has cream in the filling with the apples.
It comes from a leaflet I picked up somewhere, several years ago, when we were in Alsace, and I've made it many times since.

Preheat oven 190C/gas5                
You need a large fluted and greased flan tin [preferably with a loose bottom] - 24-26cm.

For the pastry : 170g flour, 1 tbspn caster sugar, pinch salt, 125g cold butter cut into cubes and 2 tbspn cold water.
Rub the butter into the flour to which the sugar and salt have been added. Add the water and make into a ball. Cover in clingfilm and put into the fridge for about an hour.
Roll into a circle, and use the rolling pin to fit the pastry into the flan tin.

For the filling:
You need 4 apples  - I used Granny Smith, but you could use Golden Delicious or Braeburn, but not Bramleys, as they don't hold their shape. Peel and cut them into quarters, take out the core and pips and slice them carefully into neat slices. Spread them out evenly over the pastry.
Beat 1 whole egg and 1 yolk in a bowl with 6 tbspn sugar, 20cl of double cream or crème fraîche and 1 tspn vanilla extract. Pour this over the apples and bake for 50-55 mins till golden.

You can, of course, use your favourite recipe for shortcrust pastry with a little sugar added. I like the textures of this tart - the crunchy pastry, the soft fruit mixed with a lovely creamy layer.
 I have made it with Bramleys, just to try them, and they became mushy instead of keeping the pretty slices.


Crumble Brownies with Pears

My family love Brownies and I usually make this recipe from Suelle's great blog 'Mainly Baking', but have a look there and you'll be spoilt for choice for Brownie recipes.
I wanted to try something different and, as often happens, I had a couple of pieces of fruit in the bowl that needed using - this time pears. So I decided to make a brownie base, then a layer of chopped pears and finally a crumble topping.
I didn't use Suelle's basic recipe this time, but one a friend gave me.

For the brownie part  you need - 200g dark chocolate, 50g flour plus 1 tspn baking powder, 150g butter [melted], 3 eggs and 125g caster sugar 

For the crumble - 75g flour, 80g caster sugar and 120g soft butter

You also need 2 pears, peeled, cored and cut into cubes.

Preheat oven 180C/gas4                 Grease a brownie tin - mine is about 25 x 20 cm [ or 10" x 8"]

Brownies - melt the butter and chocolate in the microwave or over simmering water. beat the sugar and eggs together then add the chocolate and butter. fold in the flour with baking powder.

Spoon the batter into the brownie tin and bake for 15 mins.
Make the crumble - rub the butter into the flour and stir in the sugar.
Take the brownies out of the oven, sprinkle the chopped pears over then top with the crumble.
Put back in the oven for 20 mins till the crumble is golden.

We loved these, although they didn't have quite squidgy texture that a normal brownie has -  probably because they are baked for longer. Lovely contrasts of texture - the soft brownie then the moist fruit and finally the crunchy topping. They won't replace my favourite brownies, but they are great as an alternative.


Blue Cheese and Nut Palmiers

This is a very quick and simple appetizer  I made for New year's Eve. I used Roquefort cheese as that's what I'd bought, but Blue Stilton, Bleu d'Auvergne etc would do just as well.

You need 1 pack puff pastry, 200g blue cheese, 1 egg and some chopped nuts - I used a mixture of walnuts and hazelnuts whizzed in a blender, but not too small.

Roll out the pastry; beat the egg and cheese together and spread over the pastry. Sprinkle over the chopped nuts. Roll up the 2 long sides towards the middle then cut into 2cm slices.

Bake on a tray lined with baking paper for about 15mins at 200C/gas6.

Not a wonderful photo, but only had a chance to take one before they all disappeared! A tasty appetiser, and one which you could easily vary - change the cheese, add herbs, add chopped up bacon or ham. The list is endless.
I liked the combination of the blue cheese and nuts - different textures, the nuts adding a bit of crunch.
Must have a problem with my fan oven, as sometimes things nearest the back of the oven get too brown, as with this palmier!


Galette des Rois

January 6th is Epiphany, when the Kings came to visit Baby Jesus, and in France you have a Galette for the Kings.
 It's a tradition to put a fève or bean in the centre of the galette, and whoever finds this in their slice is King or Queen and wears a gold crown [which is given with the galettes when you buy them in the baker's or supermarkets in France].
I made 2 galettes to take to my French conversation group today - one traditional one and one to which I've added some apples - not traditional!

For the traditional one you need:

2 packs puff pastry
125g ground almonds
100g caster sugar
100g melted butter
2 eggs beaten + one beaten egg to egg wash the top

For the apple version you just need to add 2 eating apples [I used Gala], 1 tspn cinnamon, a knob of butter and 1 tbspn caster sugar

Preheat oven 220C/gas7      A baking sheet covered with baking paper

Roll out the 2 packs of pastry and cut a large circle out of each.
Put the caster sugar, ground almonds and melted butter in a bowl and beat together.
Add the beaten eggs and mix well.
Put one of the pastry circles onto the baking sheet, then spoon the almond mixture on top, stopping 2 cm from the edge. Top with the other pastry circle.
For the apples version - melt a knob of butter in a pan, then add the apple cubes, 1 tspn cinnamon and 1 tbspn caster sugar and fry till golden. Spoon the apples over the almond mixture then brush the edge with water and put the other pastry layer on top. Press the pastry circles together using your fingertips.
Make a motif on top of the galette with a sharp knife. 
Brush the top with eggwash and bake for 25 mins.

This is my traditional one

This is the one with apples

My daughter did the traditional swirly pattern on the apple one, much better than mine, as I didn't cut deep enough so the pattern didn't really show!
I love the simple one, the crisp pastry contrasting with the soft almondy filling. The apple added another texture and flavour, but I prefer the traditional one.


A Chocolate Bûche de Nöel with Salted Caramel

Some kind of Chocolate Log is a Christmas tradition in our house, Sometimes I cheat and buy a 'good' one, but this year decided to make it. The cake is a chocolate Genoise sponge and the filling has salted caramel in it - one of my favourite things - and it's covered with a great chocolate icing/ganache.

For the Genoise sponge: 

Preheat oven 200C/gas6                   Grease and line a swiss roll tin with baking paper.

Separate 4 eggs. Beat the yolks with 100g of caster sugar till pale and fluffy.
In another bowl sieve together 120g plain flour, 4 tbspn cocoa powder and 1 tspn baking powder and fold into the batter.
Beat the egg whites till stiff then fold them gently into the cake batter.
Spoon into the tin and level the top.
Bake for 10 mins.
Take out of the oven and roll the sponge up using the baking paper to help you. Leave it on a rack to cool.

For the Caramel Cream:

In a bowl mix together 200g of mascarpone with 6 tbspn of salted caramel [I bought a jar in Waitrose] using a fork.

Unroll the cooled sponge and spread the caramel cream over the top, then re-roll and put in the fridge.

For the chocolate icing:

Melt 100g dark chocolate [or a good cooking chocolate] with 80g butter which has been cut into cubes.

Bring 50ml of double cream to the boil; take it off the heat then add the chocolate mixture and 100g of sieved icing sugar. beat together till you get a smooth icing, then let it cool.

Take the Bûche out of the fridge and cover with the icing, then put back in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. 

My daughter did the fancy lines round it and added the decoration - a few marzipan fruits on the top and so I could take a photo, but we took them off again so I could freeze it till the big day. Hope it freezes ok - will let you know how it tasted!


Spicy Chocolate, Butterscotch and Fruit Cake

A couple of years ago my lovely Dutch friend sent me some goodies, including some of my favourite speculoos [ or speculaas?] biscuits. I used them in a recipe I found in a French magazine, and decided to make the cake again. It doesn't need any cooking.

125g speculoos biscuits [or any spicy biscuit - the ones they sell in Lidl are good]
4 dried figs, finely chopped
4 dates, finely chopped
2 tbspns sultanas
60g melted butter
200g milk or plain chocolate - broken into small pieces
15cl single cream
2 packets of Werther's originals or other butterscotch sweets

22cm cake tin - preferably a silicone mould

Crush the biscuits and mix them with the dried fruit and melted butter. Press the mixture into the bottom of the tin/mould and put it in the fridge to harden.
Break the chocolate up into a bowl.
Put the cream in a small saucepan and bring to the boil, then pour it over the chocolate.
Stir well till the mixture is nice and smooth. Cool.
Take the base mixture out of the fridge and pour the chocolate over, then put it back in the fridge again to harden [for about 2 hours].
When the cake's ready, put the Werther's into a polythene bag or tea towel and crush them with a rolling pin. Sprinkle them over the top of the chocolate.

Not a very good photo - this is the top of the cake. Good variety of textures - a crunchy, chewy base -  I liked the dried fruit added to the biscuits - then a smooth chocolate layer and finally the crunchy butterscotch topping. Not good for one's teeth, but delicious, and so easy to make! 
 The cake itself isn't too sweet, but the topping is! As it uses dates and figs, could this count towards your 5 a day?!!


Apple and Caramel Upside Down Cake

Have had a bit of a 'lost my cake-making mojo' time lately, but had some apples in the fruit bowl that needed using, so decided I wanted to make one of my favourite desserts - Tarte Tatin - as a cake. I'm a bit of a coward when it comes to making caramel, so used some from a can!

Preheat oven 180C/gas4                             Grease a 18cm springform tin and line the base with baking paper.

Using a tin of Carnation 'Caramel', spread a layer over the base of the tin [think I used about 120g].
Peel and core 2 apples - Coxes or something similar, then slice them and layer them onto the caramel.
Cream together 125g butter and 125g caster sugar till nice and fluffy. Beat in 2 eggs then fold in 120g of sr flour. Add about 2 tbspn milk to loosen the mixture.
Spoon the batter over the apples and bake for 35-45 mins till the cake is risen and golden.
The caramel will be round the sides of the tin!
Cool in the tin for a bit then turn the cake out, upside down, onto the serving plate.
Serve with some nice vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

This is better as a dessert than as a slice of cake, as it's rather sticky. There's a good contrast between the sweet, sticky caramel and the crunch in the apple. Don't cut the apple too thin, then it will still have some bite to it when it's cooked, and not become mushy. A good way to use up a couple of apples.