2014 – a year of baking

Well, once again this is a bit late due to essay writing. But now I am finally done, and apart from having to go to work the next three days, my Christmas break has officially started!

I didn’t manage to bake anything new or exciting this week though (predictably), just more gingerbread, and some brownies for my housemate’s birthday. So instead, I thought I’d go through all the stuff I’ve baked this year and talk about some of my favourites. 2014 has gone quickly, but looking back to January feels like a lifetime ago. So much has changed since then – not least that I have proven to myself that I can post regularly on a blog for a year (well, I’ve still got a couple of weeks until its officially a year, but let’s call it that anyway).

So without further ado, here are my ten most favourite things I baked this year…

10. Plum Cupcakes – a celebration of all things autumnal!

9. Gingerbread Cupcakes – brought festive deliciousness

8. Rhubarb and Almond Loaf – this was a really good late spring bake, which I made multiple times because it was so tasty.

7. Suksessterte – perhaps the tastiest thing that I didn’t get to eat, but was made in celebration of my lovely friends getting engaged ❤

6. Peanut Butter Cookies – there should always be peanut butter cookies

5. Chocolate Chip Brioche Pretzels – these are the best breakfast you will ever had. And best snack you will ever have.

4. Peach Jam Scones – peach jam is the best jam ever, and it’s even better when you put it in a scone.

3. Walnut, Chocolate and Honey Tart – I can’t even. Every time I think about this I want to  make it and eat it all by myself

2. Caramel Walnut Upside Down Banana Cake – see above. Also, the tastiest thing I didn’t write a proper post about.

AND THE WINNER IS….

1. The Pancaken!!! – literally nothing will ever beat this – the most frustrating and rewarding thing I have ever baked. I don’t know if I’ll bake another one for Pancake Day 2015. Part of me wants to, and the rest of me is horrified at the prospect of spending hours making pancakes and burning myself repeatedly.

I hope you all had a great 2014, and have a Happy Christmas!

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Marbled Pumpkin Gingersnap Tart

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This week we have our first autumnal bake. I invested in some pumpkin puree (because I’m too lazy to make my own) so there will most likely be some more pumpkin recipes coming. A couple of years ago my friend Allen made a cheesecake that had a ginger biscuit base, and I thought I’d have to try it out myself one day – and in this recipe came my chance!

I don’t think I can even begin to explain how amazing this tart is. If autumn could be a tart, this would be it. It’s so gingery and pumpkiny and DELICIOUS. I only made it about two hours ago (because I’ve been busy being a student this week – not a very efficient one, mind you) – so it was still warm when I ate it and I think it will be even better when cool. Ugh. Just so good.

It’s also Canadian Thanksgiving tomorrow, so if you want to make a Thanksgiving tart, make this. You won’t regret it. And Happy Thanksgiving too! (If you’re Canadian)

I really want to go on lots of autumnal walks and take beautiful photos now, but it’s dark and it’s meant to be raining all of next week so I will just reminisce about autumns past and eat this tart. Such a good tart.

Next week, pumpkin pie! (told you, autumn.)

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Marbled Pumpkin Gingersnap Tart (adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman)

crust:

115g ginger biscuits

85g digestive biscuits

50g butter, melted

cheesecake batter:

115g soft cream cheese

3 tbsp caster sugar

1 egg yolk

pumpkin batter:

1 egg

1 egg white

300g pumpkin puree (about 2/3 of a 425g can)

50g caster sugar

50g brown sugar

pinch of salt

3/4 tsp ground cinnamon

3/4 tsp ground ginger

few gratings of nutmeg

240ml double cream

1. Preheat the oven to 220C/Gas 7. Finely grind the biscuits in a food processor. Add the melted butter, and stir until the mixture is moistened. Press the mixture firmly into the bottom and sides of a 23cm tart tin. Place the tin on a baking sheet.

2. Mix together the ingredients for the cheesecake batter in a bowl until smooth.

3. For the pumpkin batter, in a separate bowl beat the egg and white, then whisk in the pumpkin, sugars, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. Gradually whisk in the cream.

4. Pour the pumpkin batter into the crust. Dollop the cheesecake batter over the pumpkin batter, then marble the two together with a knife. Bake for 10 mins, then reduce the temperature to 180C/Gas 4 and bake for another 30-40 mins, or until a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean. Allow to cool completely.

Suksessterte – Norwegian vanilla cream ‘success tart’

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So, this week was supposed to be sticky toffee pudding (don’t worry, it’s coming next week). Then I found out that my lovely friends Rosie and Jim had got engaged! So I had to make them something appropriate to celebrate 🙂 – I’ve been waiting a while for a good enough success to make a ‘success tart’ and this is definitely it! They really loved it, which is wonderful!

I really want to make another one now though, because I feel like there were a few bits I could have improved on. This tart is best made the day before you want to eat it/give it to someone I think, because the custard takes a little while to set, so by the time I had to take it out it was still pretty wobbly in the middle. I also made the mistake of taking the base out of the tin before putting the custard on it. Do not do this. It is a bad idea that leads to collapsing bases. I’m slowly getting the hang of making custard though, which is a positive – making this was slightly out of my comfort zone, and a lot of things could have gone more wrong than they did, so I’m really glad I did it. Once I’d poured the custard into the base, Oli was practically licking out the saucepan, the custard was that good. It’s really rich and buttery, with a nice hint of vanilla.

From the recipe point of view, one thing I love is that you use egg whites in the base and egg yolks in the custard, which means you end up with no egg waste at all. A lot of recipes that involve either whites or yolks normally don’t have any use for the other, and I don’t like that. Anyway, I highly recommend this – I guess it’s not just for successes, because even making it without anything going wrong feels like a success in itself.

Next week, Sticky Toffee Pudding! (for real)

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Suksessterte, or Norwegian vanilla cream ‘success tart’ (from Scandilicious Baking by Signe Johansen)

Base:

5 egg whites

200g icing sugar

200g ground almonds

1 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

Topping:

150ml double cream

100g caster sugar

5 egg yolks

200g butter, cut in 1cm cubes

1 tsp vanilla extract

cocoa powder for dusting

1. Preheat the oven to 170C/gas 3-4 and lightly oil a 23cm round cake tin.

2. Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt in a large bowl until stiff peaks form. Add the icing sugar a few spoonfuls at a time and keep whisking until stiff peaks form again. Put the ground almonds in a separate bowl with the baking powder and salt and stir well. Gently fold the egg whites into the dry ingredients until just blended – don’t knock out all the air, but no blobs of egg white.

3. Pour gently into the cake tin, smooth with a spatula and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 30-35 mins or until golden and firm to the touch. It may sink slightly after it’s removed from the oven. Leave to cool in the tin whilst you prepare the topping.

4. Bring the double cream to a simmer in a saucepan, stir in the caster sugar and allow to dissolve completely before removing from the heat. Put aside to cool slightly. Lightly beat the egg yolks in a medium, heatproof bowl. Stir a couple of spoonfuls of the warm cream into the yolks, then pour in the rest of the cream and stir vigorously to create a smooth, creamy custard.

5. Pour the custard into a saucepan and stir over a low heat until it thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon. As soon as it has thickened, remove the pan from the heat and place on a cool surface. Gradually incorporate the butter cubes, whisking vigorously as you fold them in. If the mixture cools too much, simply pour into a heatproof bowl, place over a pan of simmering water and keep whisking as you add the butter cubes. Once the butter is fully incorporated, stir in the vanilla extract, then pour the filling into a medium bowl and cover with cling film directly on the surface to stop a skin forming. Once it has cooled slightly, place the filling in the fridge and chill until it is thick and stiff (about an hour or so).

6. Remove from the fridge and beat the filling with a spatula to soften it slightly before spreading on the almond tart base. Smooth the top of the tart and put back in the fridge to chill for at least an hour (preferably several). Serve lightly dusted with cocoa powder.