Citrus Tart


So citrus season is upon us and I was tempted by some red grapefruits at the supermarket. [Read more…]

Rhubarb and Coconut Tart


We had such a glorious, hot, summer this year that most pick-your-own fruits came into season earlier than normal and I totally missed out. Yep, I missed the blackcurrants (I had great plans for these), the redcurrants, the gooseberries, the raspberries and even the fail-safe English strawberries. [Read more…]

Lime and Ginger Meringue Pie


This Lime and Ginger Meringue Pie, a variation on a well loved ‘classic’ dessert will bring some summery flavours to any occasion. [Read more…]

Cherry Pie

cherrypie-1-3So cherries are not in season here right now, but when I saw them on offer in the local market, I simply couldn’t resist…

Extortionately priced in the supermarkets, these cherries were such a bargain, I bought a couple of kilos. So what does one do with a large quantity of cherries – why bake a pie, of course?

Besides, my ‘Sweet Tarts and Pies’ section of the blog looks decidedly lacking, so this was definitely one to try.

cherrypie-1-4 [Read more…]

Mince Pies with Gingerbread Crust Pastry


I am so late with this post. I seriously can’t expect anyone to give these a try this side of Christmas 2013 (maybe Pin it for next year?)…

That said, when I was in the supermarket yesterday, stocking up on my last minute baking provisions for the next few days, I noticed they were totally sold out of ready-to-roll pastry.  There is a lot of mince pie production going on locally, I think.

If you are at all organised and have the time and inclination to give these a try, you won’t be disappointed.mincepie2

So what makes these pies special? The pastry.

I recently found this pastry recipe in a new book purchase, ‘Pie’ by Dean Brettschneider.  Oh, there are so many great recipes in here! (Expect plenty of pastry-inspired recipes in the New Year…my ‘Tarts and Pie’ sections on the blog are looking rather lacking).

As I had made some homemade mincemeat, this was the perfect opportunity to try out this gingerbread pastry – with a mince pie. I allowed my pastry to rest over night in the fridge but you really don’t have to rest it that long. It is important that it is chilled when you start to roll as it warms quickly and becomes a little sticky. As usual, I roll on a lightly floured piece of baking parchment and have some food wrap between the pastry and the rolling pin, to reduce sticking, assist rolling and minimise handling.

This pastry was very light and fragrantly spiced without being overwhelming ginger-flavoured.


As my mincemeat is heavy on the orange flavour (infused with orange juice and Cointreau), you can imagine the smells evoked in my kitchen whilst these were baking – a fruity, citrus aroma with spicy gingerbread – for me, the ultimate seasonal smell.

At this late stage, feel free to use a shop-bought mincemeat but avoid the shop bought pies – these are so much nicer.mincepie1

So soften the butter, preheat the oven, crank up your Christmas music of choice (mine is Michael Buble) and get baking these seasonal pies.

Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy 2014 to one and all, near and far! x

Mince Pies with Gingerbread Crust Pastry

Makes 12 Pies


    For the Filling
  • 350-400g* Homemade Mincemeat (see separate post), or shop-bought mincemeat
  • For the Pastry
  • 170g unsalted butter, softened
  • 85g light soft brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 250g spelt flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon all spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • To Finish
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tbsp. whole milk
  • Caster sugar, for sprinkling


  1. Prepare the filling ahead if you are making 'Homemade Mincemeat'.
  2. Sift into a bowl the flour and all the spices. Set aside. In the bowl of a freestanding mixture, cream the butter and sugar together. Add the egg and continue to mix until incorporated. Add the flour to the mixture and beat until it comes together. Do not over mix.
  3. Tip the pastry mixture onto a piece of food wrap. Wrap and mould into a flattened ball. Chill for at least 30 minutes, or overnight.
  4. Once rested, pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees C, or Gas Mark 3.
  5. Place the pastry onto a lightly floured piece of baking parchment. With a piece of food wrap between the pastry and the rolling pin, roll the pastry until it is about 2-3mm thick. With a cutter, cut 24 rounds. (All of mine were the same size as I used a Madeleine pan, but if you are using a regular cupcake pan, cut 12 of one size and 12 slightly smaller rounds, to form lids). You will need to gather the pastry scraps and re-roll in order to achieve this number.
  6. Place the larger of the rounds into a 12 cup muffin/cupcake pan, gently pushing the pastry into the edges. Fill each round with mincemeat.
  7. With the egg wash - beaten egg and whole milk - brush the edge of the pastry. Top the pies with the smaller round. Brush all 12 pies lids with egg wash. Make two cuts in the pastry with a sharp knife.
  8. Bake for 15-17 minutes, turning the tray half way through. Sprinkle with caster as soon as the pies come out of the oven. Allow to cool on a wire rack.
  9. Store in an airtight container.


* I have put a range for the quantity of mincemeat to be used as it can vary dependant on the depth of your cupcake pan. I used a Madeleine pan which meant mine were more shallow. Typically, a shop bought jar of mincemeat weighs 450g, or 1lb.

Source: Pastry adapted from Dean Brettschneider’s ‘Pie’


Homemade Puff Pastry Fig Tartlets


I knew I wanted to have a go at making at puff pastry for the first time and I could not resist these beautifully fresh, purple-hued figs, so I put them together to form these Puff Pastry Fig Tartlets. I am really delighted with how they turned out.

Okay, I know that fundamentally anything that contains butter, sugar and fresh fruit has the potential to be totally delicious but these little tarts took me by surprise.

Puff Pastry aside, they are very simple and quick to make; basically squares of pastry, brushed in egg wash, top with fresh figs, sprinkled with golden caster and baked. The pastry dough puffs up to give a light, buttery, crispy pastry. The figs are softened and their juice, baked with the sprinkled sugar, gives a wonderful, fig flavoured syrup. Totally delicious. These could be served with afternoon tea, as a dessert served with a little mascarpone and drizzled honey on the side, or even for breakfast with a coffee.



So now I have managed to convince you that these little gems are worth a try, can I persuade you to consider a little homemade puff pastry experimentation?…

Why bother, I hear you mutter, when you can just buy it? This is true, but let me tell you, once you have made this pastry once, you will never feel that the shop-bought variety comes anywhere close to this.

I am not quite sure why I have never got around to it making it before now. The closest thing I have done to this is making croissant dough – another laminated dough. (Again, shop bought croissants are just a poor imitation to homemade ones). I suppose I have wavered because I know it can be a bit of a long winded process. Anyway, this being my first attempt, I have done a bit of research.


So where to look for a reliable recipe?

I referred to a number of my recipe books and all four had different recipes and different chilling times. My trusted ‘The Silver Palate Cookbook’ recipe consisted of nothing more than flour, salt, ice water and butter. Thomas Keller’s ‘Bouchon Bakery’ consists of the same but with the addition of white wine vinegar. Martha Stewart’s recipe is also similar but with the addition of a little sugar. Paul Hollywood’s recipe omits the white wine vinegar but includes eggs. So which way to go?

The actual work time in the kitchen is minimal but some recipes allow for resting and chilling for up to two nights. This is even too long for me!

I have come up with a combination of methods, chilling times and recipe ingredients that work for me and seem practical.figtartscombo1I have used the traditional ingredients: flour, salt, water, white wine vinegar and butter. I have used a combination of strong white bread flour and cake flour, although you could use just plain instead of the cake flour. I have used white wine vinegar as this acts as a tenderiser (you learn something new every day) and makes the pastry more flaky.

The key to a successful puff pastry is to keep everything as chilled as possible and to be as neat as possible in the rolling in order to form the layers. Mine is by no means perfect, indeed, an expert may say that some areas are a bit ‘rough puff’ but I guess success comes with practise.


Just a point about the chill times. Whilst the recipe may repeatedly say ‘chill for 1 hour’, please do not be constrained by this. If you are out the house and a few hours go by, don’t worry. There is no need to rush. Indeed, a couple of my sources suggest leaving the final chilling over night or 7 hours for a second time. Just go with what works for you. You friends will think you are going a little crazy if you leave a gathering to go and ‘turn’ your pastry!


The great thing about puff pastry is that it can be used for sweet and savoury bakes and freezes very well (wrapped in food wrap, then a plastic bag). Maybe if you go to the trouble of making this, you could double the batch and freeze half of it?


In my eyes, this puff pastry is worth the effort. I will not buy shop-bought again. This is too delicious.

Homemade Puff Pastry Fig Tartlets

Makes 9 tarlets (10cm x 10cm)


  • 150g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 150g cake flour, or plain flour
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 180ml cold water
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 250g unsalted, French butter, chilled
  • 7 fresh figs
  • Egg wash, 1 egg beaten and strained through a sieve
  • 50g golden caster sugar, for sprinkling


  1. In a bowl, or a freestanding mixer with a dough hook attachment, mix together the flours, salt, white wine vinegar and water. When the dough comes together, tip onto a floured work surface and knead for approximately 5-10 minutes. Form into a ball shape. In a lightly greased large bowl, place the ball of dough and score the top of it, using a sharp knife, with a cross (this helps in the resting of the dough). Cover the bowl with food wrap and chill in the fridge for 7 hours.
  2. Layer the chilled butter, top and bottom in some food wrap, and with a rolling pin, batter and roll it down into a rectangle approximately 20 cm x 40cm. Put on a baking sheet and place in the fridge for it to chill and harden again.
  3. After 7 hours of chilling, lightly dust the work surface and roll the dough out to approximately 20cm x 60cm rectangle. Place the chilled butter on the bottom two thirds of the dough, removing the food wrap as you go. Ensure that the butter comes to the edges and the more neat the position, the better result you will receive with your pastry. Trim any excess or ragged edges if need be.
  4. Fold the top third (unbuttered part) of the dough down onto the butter and bring the bottom third of the dough and butter combination up and over it. Push it down and pinch the edges together to neaten it and ensure no butter is exposed. You now have a three layers of dough and two of butter. In a lightly floured dusted plastic bag, place the dough into it and return to the fridge, ensuring it is flat. Chill for a least one hour.
  5. On your floured work surface, remove the dough from the bag and again roll the dough out to a rectangle 20 cm x 60cm again, with the short end towards you. This time the pastry will be folded as a Book Turn. Fold the bottom quarter up to the half way point of the dough and the top quarter down to the middle until the dough meets. Fold the dough along the centre line. Chill for a further one hour.
  6. Repeat with the single turn rolling and folding process - roll to 20cm x 60cm again and fold into thirds again as in the first rolling/folding process. Chill for a one hour.
  7. Repeat this single turn process one final time.
  8. Whilst the dough is chilling for a final time, prepare the figs by gently washing them and drying them gently with a soft cloth, or kitchen paper. Remove the tough stems and slice each fig into eighths.
  9. Prepare the egg wash by beating a egg and passing it through a sieve.
  10. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C, or Gas Mark 4.
  11. Roll the chilled dough onto a lightly floured work surface, aiming to achieve a square approximately 30cm x 30cm. With a sharp knife, score and cut the dough into equal squares, approximately 10cm x 10cm. Place each square onto a parchment lined baking tray. Carefully brush the pastry with the egg wash, being careful not to let it spill down the sides otherwise the pastry will not 'puff'.
  12. Arrange six of the fig eighths onto each piece of pastry. Sprinkle generously with the golden caster sugar. Bake for approximately 25 minutes on the top shelf of your oven. (If you do not want to bake all the tartlets at once, they can be stored in the fridge for up to two days prior to baking).
  13. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.
  14. Serve.

Source: Methods and Recipe adapted from a combination of Paul Hollywood’s ‘How To Bake’, Martha Stewarts’ ‘Baking Handbook’ and Thomas Keller’s ‘Bouchon Bakery’. Researched also from Rosso & Lukins’ ‘The Silver Palate Cookbook’


Pumpkin and Ginger Whoopie Pies

pumpkinwhoopies-2So I was planning on sharing these Pumpkin and Ginger Whoopie Pies with you closer to Halloween but I am so pleased with how they turned out, that I couldn’t resist posting them now.

The Whoopie Pie is a US baked good that is made of two rounds of flavoured cake, with a sweet creamy filling, or frosting, sandwiched between them. They are very easy to make and freeze well so can be made ahead of time.

pumpkinwhoopies-1You can use fresh, or tinned, pureed pumpkin. I have used the tinned version which is readily available in most supermarkets all year round. It is a lot less messy and time consuming than preparing the fresh pumpkin and, in my mind, has a great flavour.


I have adapted this recipe slightly by way of altering the spice content in the actual pie, and the cream cheese frosting. I have included cinnamon, all spice and ground ginger although I reduced the ginger content in the batter mix as I wanted to enhance the cream cheese frosting by adding syrupy, diced stem ginger. This gives the pie a real ‘kick’ of warmth amongst the sweet cream cheese frosting. My goodness, is this frosting delicious? (So much so, I made another cake just so that I could make this frosting again).

pumpkinwhoopies-1-3So who would like these Whoopie Pies? Basically everyone!

The ginger in them makes them a real grown up indulgent treat around Halloween and Bonfire Night. You could offer up mini ones to the children, perhaps with less stem ginger in the frosting, or you could leave it out completely and substitute for 1 teaspoon of vanilla paste / extract.

The fact that the cake can be frozen makes them perfect for parties, or large gatherings as they defrost quickly and are easy to assemble. Then again, you don’t need the excuse of a party to make these. They go perfectly with a cup of tea…


Pumpkin and Ginger Whoopie Pies

Make 9 large, or 24 mini pies


  • 280g plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon all spice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 200g soft dark brown sugar
  • 115ml vegetable oil
  • 250g pumpkin puree, fresh or tinned
  • 65ml milk
  • 1 egg
  • For the Frosting
  • 300g icing sugar
  • 55g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 115g cream cheese
  • 40g diced stem ginger in syrup


  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, all the spices and the salt and mix thoroughly.
  2. In a separate bowl, or the bowl of a freestanding mixer, mix together the sugar, vegetable oil, pumpkin and milk until well blended and smooth. Whisk in the egg.
  3. Gradually add the dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Cover the bowl with food wrap and chill for approximately 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C, or Gas Mark 4. On two baking trays, lined with parchment, pipe, or spoon equal amounts of the mixture into rounds (small or large), depending on your required size of pie. Remember to allow for space around each pie as they will spread during the baking process. For large whoopies, bake for 10-12 minutes and for smaller ones, 8-10 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool a little on the baking trays and then transfer to wire cooling racks to cool completely.
  6. Either frost and assemble the Whoopie Pies, or freeze in a large plastic container, layer with baking parchment to prevent sticking and frost at a later date.
  7. For the Frosting
  8. Whip the butter until light and fluffy using and electric whisk for freestanding mixer. Add the cream cheese and whip further. Sift the icing sugar into a separate bowl and then slowly add to the butter and cream cheese mixture. Once the mixture is light and fluffy, add the syrupy, diced stem ginger and mix well.
  9. Use immediately or store in the fridge in an airtight container.
  10. To assemble the Whoopie Pie, pipe or spoon a sufficient quantity of frosting onto one flat side of the pie. Form a sandwich with a second pie. Optional - dust with icing sugar. Serve.

Source: Slightly adapted from Claire Ptak’s ‘The Whoopie Pie Book’



Red Gooseberry Hand Pies with Elderflower Mascarpone Cream


Red gooseberries are the ‘stars of the show’ here.

I have wanted to bake with these ever since receiving Nigella’s ‘The Domestic Goddess’ when first published in 2000 and I read her Red Gooseberry Clafoutis recipe.

Needless to say I have never managed to get my hands on red gooseberries for one reason or another. Firstly the red, or dessert, gooseberry season is fairly short and comes after the green, more familiar, gooseberry season. The red variety is usually, larger, plumper and sweeter than its green counterpart and can be eaten raw. These are perfect for desserts.

redgooseberrypies-1-6When  I saw these in my local Waitrose I immediately bought two punnets. I did indeed make Nigella’s Clafoutis and very deliciously it was too. I had hoped to post it but with a family gathering, there was no time for photos and procrastination, just food consumption.

I therefore ventured back to Waitrose and bought three of the four remaining punnets, unsure of what I would do with them. Anyway, I decided to freeze a lot of them. I see no reason why you can’t do that with much of the wonderful seasonal fruit at the moment, apart from strawberries. It will be great to bake something of summer when the winter days are dark, long and cold. Whilst we are on that tangent, I am conscious that four out of my last five posts focus on fresh fruit. I am just drawn to baking with these at the moment. This season is relatively short and before long, we will be looking forward baking with warming ginger, cinnamon, chocolate and all spice.


Back to the pies. These have been adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe. I am a big fan of hers. Huge in fact.

This pastry is very easy to make and requires relatively short chilling times which is a bonus in my eyes. It is light, yet firm enough to hold the fruit. I have adapted the recipe in a few ways, firstly in the quantity. If you are going to go to the effort to make these, you want more than 8 pies, in my opinion. Secondly, I have obviously adjusted the filling to my choice and the sugar content accordingly.


I would also, suggest that these pies freeze quite well. Therefore, only bake the number you need to serve at any one time. It is nice to have a few ’emergency’ bakes lined up in the freezer.


As for the cream, I just felt that the elderflower complimented the gooseberry rather nicely. Together they are a real treat…


Red Gooseberry Hand Pies with Elderflower Mascarpone Cream

Makes 16 pies


    For the Pies
  • 2 tbsp. sour cream
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 4 tbsp. ice cold water
  • 420g plain flour, plus extra for dusting work surfaces
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 100g granulated sugar, plus 2 teaspoons
  • 220g unsalted butter, chilled
  • 250g red gooseberries, rinsed and halved
  • 3 teaspoons cornflour
  • 1 egg, beaten, for brushing
  • Caster sugar for sprinkling
  • For the cream
  • 250g mascarpone cheese
  • 4 teaspoons elderflower cordial


    For the Pies
  1. Mix together the sour cream, lemon juice and ice cold water and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a freestanding mixer, mix together the flour, salt and two teaspoons of granulated sugar. Add the chilled butter, preferably cubed and mix until you have a crumb-like consistency.
  3. Beat in the sour cream mixture until combined and the dough comes together.
  4. Divide the dough into four balls and flatten slightly. Wrap in separate food wrap and chill until firm. or approximately 45 minutes.
  5. Have four separate layers of baking parchment to hand. One at a time, take a chilled dough portion and roll onto a flour dusted sheet of baking parchment. Try to aim for a rectangle measuring approximately 15cm x 30cm. Place on a baking tray. Repeat with the other three dough portions and stack the rolled dough one on top of the other. Place the dough laden tray into the fridge for about 15 minutes until it comes firm.
  6. To prepare the filling, rinse the gooseberries and half them. Place them in a bowl and add the 100g of granulated sugar and the cornflour and stir together.
  7. Take the chilled dough sheets and one at a time, with a pastry cutter or sharp knife, vertically divide the dough into four equal portions. Take a large spoonful of gooseberries and place in the middle of the a pie portion. Ensure you sprinkle additional sugar from the bowl to ensure the fruit gets a good covering. Repeat for the other three pies portions. Brush the area around the gooseberries with the beaten egg. Fold the pastry over, so forming a pie, pressing the sides together. Trim the joined edges with a pastry cutter.
  8. With a sharp knife, make a few cuts in the pastry to let the steam escape. Place on a lined baking tray.
  9. Repeat for all the remaining dough and pie portions.
  10. Freeze the hand pies until firm, approximately 45 minutes. Alternatively, remove the quantity you want to bake after 45 minutes. The remaining pies can remain frozen.
  11. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C, or Gas Mark 4.
  12. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with caster sugar, as desired.
  13. Bake for approximately 25 to 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool. Serve warm or room temperature.
  14. For the cream
  15. Thoroughly mix the mascarpone cheese with the elderflower cordial. Serve with the pies.

Source: Adapted from ‘Martha Stewart Living’ Magazine, July/August 2013

Crab Tarts


Crab tarts.

Sounds bizarre I know, but I have been wanting to make these for many years. I trawled through all my collated recipes, ripped pages from various magazines over the years and, rather organised of me, filed in ‘Waitrose Food Illustrated’ folders. (Yes, that is how old they are!). My criteria for selection being, ‘that looks tasty…I’ll make that one day’…

That day has come.

I have drooled over these crab tarts, from an Easy Living magazine, many times. Every time with the intention of making them but not having ready-rolled pastry in the house, or the thought of making pastry, put me off. No longer.


Inspired by our Cornish break and delightfully fresh (caught that day) Crab Sandwiches. I embarked on these without hesitation with my new found pastry making confidence. However, don’t put off making, you can always use ready-rolled short crust pastry. In this glorious weather, you want something quick and delicious to make.

These are wonderfully, light, lemony and of course, full of succulent crab. A lovely, light lunch to serve for friends.

Crab Tarts

Makes 4 Tarts


    For the Pastry
  • 250g plain flour, plus extra for dusting surfaces
  • Pinch of salt
  • 125g unsalted, chilled
  • 2 medium egg yolks
  • 50ml cold water
  • Egg wash, 1 egg beaten with a tablespoon of milk
  • Or,
  • 375g ready-rolled shortcrust pastry
  • For the Filling
  • 150g fresh Cornish crab meat, or 1 x 170g tin of jumbo crab meat
  • 2 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 200ml double cream
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
  • 1 lemon, zest finely grated
  • 2 tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan
  • Freshly ground pepper and salt (optional)


    For the Pastry
  1. Put all the dry ingredients into the bowl of a free standing mixer and mix together. Add the butter, cut into small cubes into the mix and combine until you have a breadcrumb-like consistency.
  2. Add the egg yolks and mix further until combined and then add the water until the dough comes together.
  3. Place a piece of food wrap onto the work surface. Tip the dough onto the food wrap. Shape into a ball, flatten slightly and wrap.
  4. Chill overnight or at least three hours before rolling.
  5. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C, gas mark 4.
  6. Unwrap the chilled dough and place another layer of food wrap over the top of the dough ball. Roll the dough between the two sheets of wrap until the required thickness, approximately 3-5mm. Ensure that the dough is large enough to fill 4 x 8.5cm tins, plus edges and a little overhang. Do the same with the ready rolled pastry if using.
  7. Place the tins, upside down on the pastry and cut around ensure that there is sufficient for each tin. One at a time lift a portion of pastry and carefully line the tin, ensuring that it fills all the fluted edges. Repeat for the remaining three tins.
  8. With a fork, prick the surface of the pastry before added crinkled (the more crinkled the better!) baking parchment and baking beans.
  9. Blind bake for approximately 6-8 minutes. Remove from the oven and remove the baking beans and parchment. Brush with egg wash and return to the oven for a further 6-8 minutes, until the base of the pastry looks dry. Trim the edges of the pastry at this point, whilst it is still warm.
  10. For the Filling
  11. When the pastry has cooled. Divide the crab meat equally between the pastry bases and distribute evenly throughout. Sprinkle with the chopped spring onions.
  12. In a large jug, mix together the egg yolks, cream, mustard, lemon zest and freshly ground pepper and salt.
  13. Pour over the crab in the pastry bases, them almost to the top. Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan.
  14. Bake for approximately 20 minutes until set. Remove from the oven and allow to stand for 10-15 minutes before serving.
  15. Serve with a salad.

Source: Pastry from Paul Hollywood’s ‘How to Bake’. Crab filling adapted from ‘Easy Living’ Magazine