Saturday, 16 January 2021

Cranberry and Hazelnut Frangipane Tart

Just before Christmas, I bought a jar of Christmas Cranberry Curd; just after Christmas I bought another - 'reduced to clear' so that the supermarket could get rid of unsold Christmas stock. I didn't have a clear idea of what to do with them at the time, but the idea of using some in a Bakewell tart type of thing slowly took shape. So, in my first baking session since Christmas, that's what I made.

I didn't have enough ground almonds, but I did have ground hazelnuts which needed using. I thought the hazelnut flavour might be better with cranberry, as it's much stronger than the flavour of almonds (in fact, you really need to add almond extract if you want a strong almond flavour in anything).

I also had some Trex cooking fat in the fridge, which needed using up too. I've never used Trex in baking (it was bought to make a lining paste for bundt tins) but it was past it's BBE date, so needed to be used. I did taste it to make sure it wasn't rancid, and it was fine. I substituted 1/4 of the butter in the pastry with Trex and just that amount was enough to make the pastry shorter than usual. The pastry dough seemed a little more difficult to work with, but it was worth it for the result, and didn't seem to affect the flavour greatly.


  • Shallow 24cm tart/flan tin lined with chilled raw shortcrust pastry - no need to bake blind.*
  • 200g of cranberry curd (lemon curd or a jam of your choice can be used instead)
  • Frangipane - 100g softened butter, 100g caster sugar, 2 large eggs, 50g ground roasted hazelnuts, 25g ground almonds, 25g flour (I used SR flour, but think plain flour, or more nuts would be better **).
  • 2 tablespoon of chopped roasted hazelnuts.


Spread the cranberry curd over the base of the pastry case and return to the fridge while the frangipane is made.
Pre-heat oven to 200C/180C fan-assisted. Put a baking sheet in to heat up.
Make the frangipane by putting all the ingredients, except the chopped hazelnuts, into a bowl and beating until the mixture is light and fluffy and no specks of butter can be seen. Spread carefully over into the pastry case - I spoon small amounts of batter around the edge of the case then spread it inwards, so as not to move the curd or jam towards the edges of the pastry case, where it might erupt out of  any gaps between the frangipane and pastry. 
Use a teaspoon or a damp finger to try and seal the frangipane batter against the pastry sides, level the surface, then sprinkle over the chopped hazelnuts.
Transfer the tart to the heated baking sheet and bake at 200C for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 170C and bake for roughly another 25 minutes, until the frangipane isn't wobbling, and is golden brown in colour.

* I made shortcrust pastry using 300g flour, 150g butter and Trex and water to mix to a dough. I wanted some pastry for something else, so made more than necessary for one tart case. I'm guessing starting with 200g flour would be enough for just the tart case, and you could make a sweet shortcrust (adding sugar and egg) if preferred.

** The tart puffed up while baking, which I expected, as I'd added some SR flour, but it didn't sink evenly when it cooled, leaving a puffy rim around the edge of the tart and a fragile crust on the frangipane. This hasn't happened to me before, but I'm now rethinking the use of SR flour in frangipane. I'll try plain flour next time, but all ground nuts can be used too; I like a little flour as it makes the frangipane lighter and more cakey than when just nuts are used, but that's a personal preference.

This tart was absolutely delicious. The tartness of the cranberry curd stood up well to the flavour of the hazelnuts. My only disappointment was that the curd seemed to be absorbed into the bottom of the frangipane mixture, so that there wasn't a well defined layer of curd left after baking, as there usually is with jam. When I checked the curd ingredients, I noticed that it contained agar as a gelling agent, which gave it a strange gloopy consistency, but may also explain the way it behaved in the tart, when heated. Fortunately, this didn't affect the flavour, only the looks.

Wednesday, 23 December 2020

The Triennial Chocolate, Fig and Ginger Panforte

For some reason, I have made this Panforte, for Christmas, at three year intervals - 2014, 2017 and again this year. Perhaps it's going to be a tradition!

Panforte is a particularly suitable Christmas treat this year, when, if we are meeting friends and family at all, it's on a very restricted schedule with regards to both numbers and time. It keeps for weeks after making, so however few of you there are to eat it, you'll get through it without any waste. 

This year, this panforte will almost be all mine! Apart from a brief visit from both my children on Christmas Day for an exchange of presents and a meal together, the Covid restrictions mean, like many others, I'll be alone most of the time. That doesn't bother me - all I need is a good book to keep me happy, and it will only be a few days before we're all back into the routines of our lives. For me that can be quite hectic, as I volunteer at the local Food Bank, which has been very busy since the start of the pandemic.

I followed my original recipe from 2014, which was a compilation of several other recipes, in a quest for perfection. I could vary the flavours by changing the fruit, or leaving out the ginger, but this particular combination of chocolate, figs and ginger, together with the spices and hint of orange, works so well that I'm reluctant to make changes.

Here's wishing you the best 

for this Festive Season, 

with hopes that 2021 

will be better for all of us!

Sunday, 6 December 2020

The 'Perfect' Malt Loaf?

Ten years ago, I made Dan Lepard's Malt Loaf and although it was tasty, it didn't bear much resemblance to the squidgy, moist Soreen Malt Loaves found in most supermarkets. 

Considering how long it is since I made that loaf, I can't help wondering why I haven't made one since, or why it's been on my mind so much, lately.

Anyway, putting those questions aside, I thought I'd try Felicity Cloake's 'Perfect' recipe this time, as she does a lot of the leg work by comparing, and trying, available recipes from reliable sources, and taking the best elements from each. The only unknown factor is whether her tastes coincide with mine, but in this case, they fortunately did.

I followed the recipe exactly (the suggested size of loaf tin is a standard 2lb tin) and it really couldn't have been simpler - mix the sugar, syrups, liquid (tea) and fruit together, leave to soak a while, then stir in the dry ingredients, transfer to the prepared loaf tin and bake. 

9 tablespoons of malt extract is 135mls, which was conveniently measured out by filling a 1/2 cup (125mls) to the point of overflowing. Lightly coating the measuring cup with oil ensured the malt extract flowed out easily too - no scraping out needed. 

I also followed the suggestion to wrap the cake in baking paper and leave for at least 2 days before cutting it, difficult though that was. Knowing cake is in the house is such a temptation, but it was worth the wait!

The loaf was everything I'd expected - strongly flavoured with malt, moist, sticky and stodgy. It wasn't quite as squidgy as a Soreen loaf, but that was actually a point in it's favour for me. Much as I like Soreen, I don't like how a slice can be squeezed into a gummy ball about half it's size.

So, was it 'perfect'? Very nearly!

My only slight criticism was that the flavours of the prunes and the malt blended so well together that the prunes were only detectable as a change in texture. I think next time I will try making the loaf with a proportion of sultanas too, so that the fruit adds more flavour contrast.

Thursday, 26 November 2020

Apple and Cranberry Cake

I usually make this cake, which is two layers of a scone-like dough sandwiching a layer of fresh and/or dried fruit, as a dessert. I often make it when I haven't got time to fuss around with pastry, as the result is very similar to a pie, but much easier to make. 
This time, I wanted to capture some of the essential flavours of Autumn, which is one of my favourite times of the year for seasonal baking. So I used eating apples, dried cranberries and cinnamon in the filling, and some flaked almonds in the topping.


150g butter
150g caster sugar
1 large egg
300g SR flour
3 eating apples, peeled, cored and sliced* 
80g dried cranberries
1 teaspoon cinnamon
30g flaked almonds
icing sugar to dust
* I usually slice the apples into water to which I've added a little lemon juice or vinegar, to stop the fruit discolouring. When I'm ready to use the slices, I drain them well and pat dry on a clean tea towel. 

Preheat the oven to 180C, and line the base of a 20cm (8") springform tin with baking parchment; grease the sides with a little butter if your tin needs it.
Melt the butter in a large mixing bowl, in the microwave, or in a saucepan on the hob - if you do this in a large pan you can mix the dough in it too. The butter doesn't need to be really hot - just completely melted.
Stir in the sugar, then beat in the egg.
Add the flour and mix in thoroughly - it should give a soft crumbly dough.

Put 2/3 of the dough into the cake tin, and spread evenly with your fingers, building up a little wall of dough around the edge of the tin, to contain any excess fruit juices.**
Mix the flaked almonds into the remaining dough.
Mix the prepared apples, dried cranberries and cinnamon together and spread over the dough base.
Crumble the rest of the dough over the top, then press down lightly, spreading the dough a little to give good coverage over the top. The dough will spread more during baking, so don't try to fill all the gaps.
Bake for 50-60 minutes until the top is firm and golden. Cool for about 10 minutes, then run a knife between the cake and the edge of the tin, to stop and leakages of fruit juice sticking to the sides.
Dust with icing sugar before serving; I like this at room temperature, and I usually leave it on the springform base as it's quite fragile, but  it can be moved to a serving plate if you have a large cake lifter.
** There's a photograph here which shows how the cake is assembled.

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Apricot, Cranberry and Ginger Flapjacks

Up until now, I thought my recipe for flapjacks was perfect. Over the years the ratios of sugar, syrup and butter were tweaked and the quantities adjusted until the flapjacks were thick and chewy.

One thing I have never done is add flour to my flapjacks, so I was intrigued to see that Lynn Hill of Traditional Home Baking is an advocate of doing so, maintaining that it helps to give the flapjacks the desired chewy texture. Although I like the texture of the flapjacks produced by my recipe, I'm not too proud to see if this suggestion is an improvement.

I followed Lynn's recipe for Fruity Flapjack, but rather than the fruits suggested in the recipe, I used 100g of chopped dried apricots, 50g of cranberries and 30g of chopped glacé ginger, which had been rinsed and dried to remove the syrup coating. I also added 2 teaspoons of ground ginger to make sure there was enough ginger to taste. The mix of apricots and cranberries is one of my favourite combinations in baking.

Our recipes are very similar in the quantities of ingredients used (apart from the flour), although Lynn's bakes in a slightly larger tin, so I was interested to see how much difference adding the flour would make. 

It was huge! 

The texture was completely different - much softer as well as chewy. I think adding the flour also helped absorb the butter mixture more completely too - my flourless flapjacks are usually a bit stickier.

Both recipes have their merits so I'll probably use both in future, depending on the result I want. Mine are chewy and sticky, Lynn's are softer and chewy. However, when I do use flour, I think that I will go back to baking in a slightly smaller tin, as I prefer a thicker flapjack.

Saturday, 31 October 2020

Chai Swirl Loaf Cake

I've made this cake a couple of times before, with no problems, but this time the cake sank towards the end of the baking time - the only explanation I can give is that I may have been a touch heavy-handed with the baking powder. It did mean that the whole cake didn't make a very good photograph.

This time I was making the cake for a Halloween celebration virtual Cake Club meeting, so used a couple of props in the photograph. As I would be freezing most of the cake, I didn't want to use frostings or icing to give a Halloween look.

This Chai Swirl Loaf Cake is a Ruby Tandoh recipe, and the mix of spices used is delicious - none of them stand out individually, although the pepper gives quite a warming sensation!

The only thing I do differently to what's stated in the recipe is to layer the two different batters and allow them to marble naturally during baking, due to the convection currents within the heating cake batter. I think this gives a much smarter appearance than random dollops, and it looks as if the cake in the photograph with the newspaper article was made that way too.

Thursday, 15 October 2020

'Hodge Podge' Shortbread Squares......

 ...... or, clearing the store cupboard!

One of the reasons I keep returning to this recipe, besides how delicious it is, is that it is so quick to make, and doesn't require any fresh ingredients such as eggs or milk. The filling is very adaptable, as witnessed by the filling I used this time, in an attempt to use some of the remnants of my baking supplies, lingering in jars and packets. 

I followed the recipe here, including adding chopped toasted hazelnuts to the topping. This time the filling was:

the last of a jar of mincemeat - 200g
the scrapings from a jar of ginger curd* - 50g
currants - 50g
two balls of stem ginger, finely chopped
2 tablespoons of syrup from the stem ginger jar

*the ginger curd was lemon curd with added fresh ginger, but it didn't taste strongly of either lemon or ginger, although it was tart. It was a disappointment, flavourwise, but I wasn't going to waste it if I could find a use for it.

Adding the other ingredients to the mincemeat toned down it's spiciness and sweetness, but I still didn't get as much of the ginger flavour as I'd hoped for. That didn't stop the shortbread squares being as good as usual though! The crumbly shortbread, subtly spiced filling and crunchy hazelnuts in the topping all blended together well.