Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes with Chambord White Chocolate Ganache

Winter is back though fortunately not with the vengeance that was predicted.  At least in our area.  It was predicted we’d get 8-14in/20-35cm.  While it is still snowing we’ll only get a third of that.  Which is fine by us!

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This was our view yesterday and I felt it was a good time to bake.  The kids had early release from school in anticipation of the impending storm.  Turns out the storm took it’s time to start and they could have gotten a whole day in.

Our daughter had won a kit for a strawberry chocolate cupcake mix which she made for a class in school.  This sparked an idea for me to use real strawberries and to really make it posh I thought I’d make chambord white chocolate ganache.

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I made the cupcakes using this chocolate cake recipe.

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While the cupcakes were baking I made up the ganache.  I adjusted the white chocolate ganache I made previously as I didn’t need a lot.  I used 1/2 cup/4oz of cream, 1 tablespoon/1/2oz of butter and 4oz of white chocolate.  When the cream and butter were heating up I added 3 tablespoons of chambord for flavour.

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For the chocolate frosting I found an Allrecipes recipe.  I had to alter it a bit as I didn’t have enough baking cocoa.  So I cut the confectioner’s sugar to 2 1/2 cups rather than 2 3/4 cups as I had to use hot cocoa for the baking cocoa.  The sugar high from these cupcakes was quite something!

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Once all the ingredients are made it’s time to assemble. Cut a pyramid out of the cupcakes and insert the strawberry upside down and liberally drizzle the ganache over and around the strawberry.

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Cut the tip off the pyramid and put the top back on the cupcake and frost the top of the cupcake.

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The cupcake absorbs the ganache and makes it incredibly moist and flavourful.  The strawberry is the only healthy bit of this sweet!


Sunny Orange, Honey and Saffron to Bring in the New Year

It always amazes me how much work goes into the holidays only for it to go by faster than a blink of an eye.  It seemed this year it went by even faster.  But we had a lovely time with the kids and enjoyed a week of just hanging out with them.  I look forward to the week between Christmas and New Year’s as it’s just family time.  No where to be, perfect.

Of course, now that the holidays are over we faced with bitter, bitter cold.  So what better time to bake?  Helps keep the kitchen toasty warm.  Anything to help keep the heating costs down!  One of the gifts my husband bought me was a baking book called Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh.  He had heard an interview on the radio with Yotam Ottolenghi and found him very interesting.  Particularly the flavour combinations he likes to work with.  There are several recipes I want to try.  A while back I bought a madeleine pan so the recipe I chose to try first is his saffron, orange and honey madeleines.

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This isn’t a hard recipe but it does take a little time.  It’s also not completely traditional which allows the cookie to last more than a day because let’s face it, my hips won’t appreciate me trying to eat them all before they get stale.  My taste buds will but they aren’t the ones wearing the clothes.

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In a small saucepan melt 90g of butter (6 tbsp + 1 tsp) of unsalted butter, 2 tsp of honey and 1/4 tsp of saffron threads.  The book says the saffron is optional, say what?  I’m not leaving that out!  Keep the heat low while you are doing this.  Once melted remove from the heat and bring to room temperature.

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While the butter is melting prep the next ingredients in a food processor.  Add 2 large eggs, 75g (1/3 cup + 1tsp) granulated sugar, scraped seeds of about a 1/4 of a vanilla pod and the zest of a small orange. I used a clementine for this. Pulse until it is well blended.  Sift together  90g ( 1/2 cup + 1 1/2 tsp) of flour, 1 tsp of baking powder and 1/8 tsp of salt.  Add this to the food processor and pulse again until blended.  Next add the butter mixture and blend.  Scrape into a bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.

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Preheat the oven to 400F/200C and prep the baking pan by brushing the molds with melted butter and dust with flour.  I only have one pan so the book recommends washing, drying and reprepping between batches.

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Spoon batter in to fill about 2/3s of the mold.  This was actually harder than it sounds as the flour sticks to the bottom which makes it slippery and hard to position.  Bake 9-10 minutes until golden and sponge like.

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While they are baking chop up the pistachio nuts.  You only need a couple of tablespoons of the nuts.  Melt 3 tablespoons of honey in the microwave.  Keep an eye on this as it won’t take long to melt.

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Brush the madeleine with honey and dip it in the nuts.  This was a classic case of chasing the natural light and losing. I was hoping to get it done before it got too dark.  I didn’t win the race!  But the days are getting longer so it won’t be long.  🙂

I love how these came out, the flavours were nice and bright.  Perfect for a winter’s day.


Making a Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey Mac and Cheese 

We’ve all done it.  Opened the door, peered in, shut it again.  Left to wonder what exactly is in that freezer.  Despite best laid plans it’s easy to lose the plot.  Our freezer is nearly 6 feet tall so it’s really not a good idea to lose the plot!  It got to the point where we couldn’t fit anything in and I was wondering how much money we were wasting by not using what we had.  

Off I went to get clear containers to organise the meats, leaving the baskets for all our fruits and veg we had harvested.  I did have to get rid of some things but overall getting it organised and knowing what the heck was in there was a success.  

One of my finds was a vacuumed bag of leftover Thanksgiving turkey.  So this post is either well overdue or too early for Thanksgiving.  😄.  Even though we seem to be stuck back in with the sticky heat of summer we did enjoy autumn weather for a few weeks.  It was wonderful and perfect for some comfort food.  Mac and cheese would do the trick.

Would you believe this onion was supposed to be a scallion?  We planted half a raised bed of bunching onions so you imagine our surprise to find proper onions growing.

While making the cheese sauce for this dish, cook up the pasta.  Preheat the oven to 375F/200C. In a separate saucepan heat up a couple of tablespoons of butter.   Coarsely chop half of a large onion and add it to the butter.

Sauté on low until the onions soften.  Then add a couple of cloves of garlic, finely chopped.  Cook for a couple of minutes then add about a cup and a half of chopped turkey.  Season with a couple of teaspoons of fresh thyme and sage.  If you don’t have fresh sage use about a teaspoon of ground sage.  Continue to season with sea salt and pepper.  Then add a half cup/4oz of dry white wine.

To make it a roux add 2 tablespoons of flour.

Stir continuously until the flour is incorporated and cooked, about three minutes.

Next add 1 1/4 cup of milk and heat through.  Don’t boil!  Once the cheese is warm enough to melt cheese add a cup of grated cheddar and half a cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  Stir until the cheese has melted,

Put the cooked pasta into a baking dish and add the cheese sauce.  Mix well. Top with more grated cheese.

Cover and bake for 20 minutes.  Uncover and brown the top of the dish.

Serve while hot.  Now we try to eat small portions in our house but with this dish we all had seconds and there weren’t any leftovers!  Guess we needed a break from salads.  😊


The Sinfulness of Chocolate 

Chocolate is a veg, right?  I mean it starts as a plant so it should count as part of our five a day.  Just like wine is fruit because it comes from grapes.  Hands up from those that are with me on this.  Anyone?

Because I completely forgot to do a birthday cake for our daughter earlier in the year I decided to make up for it when we celebrated a bunch of family birthdays a few weeks ago.  You know, she never said a word.  Once the lightbulb went off I felt really guilty.  A familiar feeling, I’m sure, for many parents.  Our daughter is a massive fan of chocolate, particularly dark chocolate I decided to go for a chocolate cake with ganache and raspberries.  Unsurprisingly, she was on board with this idea.

After doing a bit of research online and realising the recipes are pretty basic, making me wonder why I haven’t made it before, I used this guide from Add a Pinch to create my dessert.  I also made a chocolate cake as a base for this.  The difference between the glaze and the filling are the ratio between the cream and chocolate.  This is not a low calorie treat!

I did the filling first.  In a saucepan, gently heat a 1 cup/8oz of heavy or double cream with 2 tablespoons/1oz of butter.  Don’t boil or scald but heat until the butter is melted.

In a large bowl add 2 cups/11oz of white chocolate.  Pour the cream mixture over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate has melted and everything has blended together.  If you would like you can also add a couple of tablespoons of flavouring, I didn’t to this stage because of the other flavours that I was putting together.  

Chill until it has a thick spreadable consistency.  Spread on the first layer of the cake and add a layer of fresh raspberries.

For the glaze, redo the cream and butter.  Pour it over a cup/6oz of dark chocolate along with 2 tablespoons/1-2oz of spiced rum and a pinch of salt.  Mix well.  This will be very liquid so it will need to be chilled a bit so it doesn’t completely run off the cake when you pour it on.  

Top with more fresh raspberries and serve.  I have to say this was a hit.  This will definitely be made again!


Perfect Bread for Mini Sliders

We’ve all had days where we get to the end of it and wonder if the moon was out of alignment.  Yesterday was like that for me.  Lots of wacky stuff seemed to happen and it was highlighted by two encounters with two gentlemen around 80 years old.  Maybe highlighted is too positive a word.

It started just before work when I was dashing across the street to get breakfast and the first guy stopped his little transit van, rolled down the window, and yelled out that I was a beautiful lady.  Since he didn’t say I was a broad or chick or something I smiled and said thank you.  As I was waiting for the bagel I started texting my husband about it.  Then I looked up.  There was the guy, arms wide, beaming at me.  He calls across the store how beautiful I am.  Things are starting to get awkward.  But I figured be nice because maybe he’s not all there.  I smiled again and said thank you.  He took my hand and started kissing it.  Oh boy.  I wished him a nice day and headed out.  But he followed me.  Kept saying over and over I’m beautiful then he started saying he loves me.  Hell of a way to kill a compliment.  As I pulled out in my car I looked across the street and he was still there waving!  He literally parked his car and followed me into the store.

A few hours later I was up front at work and another guy comes in wanting to have a walk in appointment.  He looked at the photos on the wall. Now admittedly I have a photo up there that was done by a professional that is several years old.  It still looks like me though.  He declares he wants to sit with Virginia Payne.  Keep in mind I have a name tag on plus that is a picture of me.  I said that is me and unfortunately I don’t have time for a walk in.  He said that’s not you.  Yes it is.  Not it’s not, it doesn’t look anything like you.  Well thanks, I said.  Then he doubles down and said the photo looks better you should keep it.  What on earth?

And that was my day in a nutshell.

A few weeks ago we were having a potluck with friends and I made mini sliders with my pulled pork recipe.  My sister gave my husband a book for Christmas called “The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day”  I found this really intriguing.  How can you have decent bread?  The five minutes is a bit of a misnomer but not far off.  The cool thing about this book is that there are a lot of recipes that take minimal effort for decent results.  And if you are wary of trying to bake bread, this would be a good place to start.

I chose the master recipe for the boule.  In a clear container that has a lid add 680 grams of lukewarm water and 10 grams of yeast.


Add 20 grams of kosher salt.  Then add 910 grams of all purpose flour.


Mix the ingredients until the flour is completely incorporated.


No kneading required!  Goes completely against everything I believe with bread making.  But I was trusting the recipe.  Cover loosely with the lid or with cling film.  Set it on the counter for a few hours to rise.  It needs to rise then begin to collapse.


Pop it into the fridge at least 3 hours though you can have in the fridge overnight.  Preheat the oven to 450F/230C.  Shape the bread into balls about 2in/5cm in diameter.  The trick here is not to overwork the dough.  This takes 20 to 40 seconds. Snip a cross into the top and let rest 30-45 minutes.


Because these are small rolls they only need to be baked 15-20 minutes.  When you put them into the oven add about a cup of ice to a cast iron container that is below the baking sheet.  This will add the steam necessary for a nice crust.


Slice in half, add the pulled pork with shredded cheese and red onion that has been marinated in apple cider vinegar.  These are a little messy so not for dressy parties but for casual get togethers these are perfect.



Eggnog Cookies

I have an obsession.  I think my husband might stage an intervention.  I get started and I can’t stop, just go down the rabbit hole.  What makes me lose track of time so quickly?  Genealogy.  It’s a time sucking, fascinating hobby.  I love the history and the detective work but it’s also been wonderful finding relatives.  Not the distant relatives, though that is fun as well, but actual second cousins.  Which is just fabulous.  I connected with three in the UK and one in Australia.  I love it.  🙂

I didn’t get as much baking over the holidays as I would have liked but my daughter was mentioning she had eggnog cupcakes and I thought ooh, I want to make cookies with eggnog.  I searched round on the internet for some ideas.  I found a recipe on allrecipes that I could change up a bit and that was easy to whip up.

I used the hand mixer for this as you don’t want to over mix the ingredients.  In a medium bowl add 3/4 cup/12oz of butter softened, a cup/8oz of white sugar, and 1/4 cup/2oz of brown sugar.


Cream the ingredients together until it is light and fluffy.  Add 2 egg yolks, 1/2 cup/4oz of eggnog, and a teaspoon of spiced rum.  Mix at medium speed until well blended.


In a separate bowl blend together 2 1/4 cups/18oz of all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg, and 1/2 a teaspoon of cinnamon.  Gradually add it to the mixing bowl.  Don’t over mix the cookie dough, just mix until the dry ingredients are incorporated in.


Spoon the dough onto a cookie sheet that has not been greased.  About a teaspoon size.  Bake at 300F/150C until golden brown.  20-25 minutes depending on your oven.  While this is baking mix equal parts spiced rum and milk then add powdered sugar until you get the consistency you want for the glaze.


When the cookies come out of the oven, drizzle the cookies with the glaze.  Then all you have to do is enjoy!



Shortbread for Not so Short

My son has taken to calling me shorty.  Sigh, problem is that he isn’t wrong.  But he thinks it is hilarious that he keeps growing like a weed and he is pretty much out pacing me in any high heels I may have.  This ship has sailed.

Even though we are in the throes of a hot summer I wanted to bake for the kids so they’d have a treat after they came back from camp.  In keeping with the shorty theme and trying not to overheat the kitchen I decided to make shortbread.  I had made this before but my camera setup wasn’t working, turns out I needed to change the batteries on the remote.  That was easy to fix but I may be facing bigger issues with the camera.  Fingers crossed I’m not but it’s been acting very strange.  I love the camera so I want it to behave!

Years ago my parents gave me a cookery book called “Cape Breton Pictorial Cookbook” and it was edited by Yvonne LeVert.  It is a collection of recipes from the area and the influences from immigrants.

I used my hand mixer for this to cream the butter and sugarShortbread 1 2016

In a medium mixing bowl cream together a cup of softened butter and a 1/2 cup of brown sugar.

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This will take a few minutes.  Add a teaspoon of vanilla and gradually add two cups of flour, mixing a bit in at a time.  Tip out onto a floured surface.

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Knead to form a ball.  Now the recipe said to roll out.  Which seemed weird but hey I tried it.  Wrong!  You definitely need to chill for at least a half an hour.

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Preheat the oven to 300F/150C.  On a well floured surface roll out the dough with a well floured rolling pin.  Roll it out to about an 1/8″ of an inch.  Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes you want and prick the tops with a fork.  Bake 15-20 minutes until they are golden brown.

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Let cool and enjoy.  We’ve been enjoying it with the rhubarb ginger jam I made recently.  The tart and sweet go really well together.


Bringing Out the Big Buns

I think if you are a parent you will find yourself at some point say something that your young child will think is the funniest thing and from that time forward it becomes an in joke.

Several years ago we were having a family game afternoon, I think it was Monopoly, and I was ready to make a big move.  I meant to say “I’m bringing out the big guns!”  Instead I said “I’m bringing out the big buns!”  Oh boy.  The kids just lost it laughing.

This past weekend I managed to do it for real with brioche.  I was going for small but ended up with the opposite.  I was planning on making cheeseburgers so I wanted to make the buns.  I found a brioche recipe by Paul Hollywood.  Most of the recipes follow pretty much the same ingredient list.  I chose to follow his because he used weights for the ingredients.  This is a two day affair.

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In a large mixer bowl add 500g of bread flour, 7g of salt, 50g of sugar, and 10g of yeast.  Keep the yeast separate from the salt until you start mixing.

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Add 5 medium eggs and 140ml of whole milk that has been warmed.  You don’t want the milk to be hot, just warm to the touch.

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With a dough hook blend all the ingredients together.  Once the ingredients are combined increase the speed of the mixer to medium and “knead” for 6-8 minutes.  The dough will become shiny and elastic.

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Add 250g of softened butter.

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Mix until the butter is completely incorporated.  You will need to scrap the sides of the bowl a few times to make sure all the butter is mixed in.  This will create a very soft pliable dough.

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Place the dough into a plastic container with a lid.  Put it into the fridge overnight.  You want at least 7 hours to chill.  The next day flour a counter well and tip out the stiffened dough onto the countertop.

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Punch the dough down to remove the air.  I followed the recipe and divided the dough into 9 equal pieces.  Paul Hollywood’s recipe called for baking this in a round tin with nine balls proofing together.  I wanted separate buns so I got out a cookie sheet.  Roll out each piece into smooth balls.

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Evenly space out the balls.  Spray cling film with oil and cover the dough.  Proof the dough for 2-3 hours.   They will be about double the size.   Preheat the oven to 375F/190C.

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Bake until the brioche is golden brown and cooked through.  You will need to check with a skewer to make sure the brioche is done.  It takes about 20-30 minutes.

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It was at this point I realised I probably should have made 18 balls of dough.  Here were the big buns.  Keep in mind I only had a pound of ground beef which means quarter pounders with buns that could take a lot more.  Harkens back to the “Where’s the Beef” adverts.

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You want an even crumb that is soft and bounces back when pressed with your finger.  If it stays indented it wasn’t baked completely.

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I made up our gourmet burgers and kept it simple with a side of chips.  This bread isn’t difficult to make and the flavour is really good.  If you can find the time I highly recommend giving this a go.


Victorian Sponge and a Fabulous Trip

There is something really surreal about being in London in the morning and the Hannafords grocery store in NH at night on the same day.  It messes with your head.  But we had an amazing trip.  The weather was just gorgeous, we even got a bit of a tan!  I didn’t blog as much I as planned because I forgot the cord for my camera.  Like most people I always forget something.  At least it wasn’t something major like a passport.

A few years ago I had tried to make a Victorian Sponge and it failed.  The middle wouldn’t cook and it was heavy, basically the opposite of what it should be.  I wasn’t sure if my technique was off or the flour was just different enough.  So it was on my list to make it while visiting my in-laws.  My MIL makes a fabulous Victorian Sponge.  My son is a fan so I wanted to get this figured out.

My MIL is a great teacher as it came out perfect!  Enough that I will be trying this here at home with our flour.

The cookery book she had is called The Dairy Book of Home Cookery.  No idea who wrote it as it didn’t indicate.  Which is weird.

If at all possible use a hand mixer rather than the big mixers as you need to be delicate with the batter.  Preheat the oven to 350F/180C.  Prepare two 7in/18cm tins by greasing with butter.  Cut out circles of parchment paper to line the bottom of the tins.

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In a mixing bowl add 4oz of caster sugar and 4 oz of softened butter.  Cream the two ingredients together with the hand mixer.

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Now this is where I went a bit wrong the first time I made this.  I was about to move on to the next step when my MIL said I wasn’t close!  Keep mixing.  And be patient.  It needs to be pale in colour and fluffy.

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Weigh out 4 oz of self raising flour.  Take a tablespoon of flour to the mixture and add an egg.

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Mix well and repeat this step with another egg.

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Sift the remaining flour in and gently fold it into the egg and butter mixture.

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You want to keep it airy as you do this step, don’t crush the fluffiness!  Divide the batter between the two tins.

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Bake for 25-30 minutes until it is golden brown and is springy to the touch.

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Cool for a few minutes then turn out on cooling racks.  Once it is cool spread jam of your choice onto one of the cakes and top with the other cake.  We used my Mil’s amazing rhubarb and ginger jam.  I’ll have to try to recreate it.  Delicious!  Sift powdered sugar on top.

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Serve when ready.  Add a cup of tea and enjoy!

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So glad my MIL helped me with this because this is definitely a treat we love.  🙂

Tips: If the batter comes out a little dry because of the flour add a little milk.  For different flavours add a teaspoon of vanilla or almond extract.



Bakewell Tart and Delicious Traditions

Another season down and on to feeding the creative side of my brain!  I managed to end the tax season in my typical fashion of coming down with a really bad cold.  So much for hitting the ground running.  I am finally catching up with everything.  Unfortunately bills and things have to have a higher priority than blogging.  Boo.

Part of my inspiration this year for blogging is to bake or cook dishes that have a bit of family tradition.  I place a great deal of value on having a connection with the past as we go forward with the new generations.  I don’t like history forgotten.

A few weeks ago I asked my dad what treats his mum cooked or baked when he was growing up.  My Grandma is someone I’d love to go back in time and spend a day baking with.  She was incredibly smart and the ultimate multi-tasker.  I sometimes think she would read, watch telly, and do the cross word at the same time because her brain needed the high end exercise.  She passed away when I was very young but I have wonderful memories of her.

My dad responded with a list of things she would make like amazing homemade bread, sponge cake, and bramley apple pies.  She would also make bakewell tarts.  As this has been on my list for awhile I thought that would be a great place to start.

The recipe I used was from the Baking with Mary Berry baking book my sister gave me for my birthday.  It is actually pretty straight forward.

Preheat the oven to 400F/200C.

In a mixing bowl add 1 1/2 cups of flour and 6 tablespoons of cold butter.  You will see this is not for the faint of heart when it comes to butter!

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Using a pastry fork blend the butter and flour until well blended.  You want it to look like small bread crumbs.  I found it weird that no salt was in the recipe.  It wasn’t too bad but next time I make it I would add about 1/4 tsp of salt.

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The next step is to add a bit of cold water at a time until the pastry comes together.  This part is hard to explain as you don’t want it too dry or too wet.  So keep adding until is just comes together.  This step always brings me back to when my dad taught me how to make pastry.  He learned from my Grandma.  I was an adult when he taught me but it was still fun standing side by side learning from him.

Wrap the pastry in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.

In a saucepan, melt 9 tablespoons (see what I mean?) and add 1/2 cup of sugar.  Cook for a minute or so.  Remove from the heat and let cool for a few minutes.

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A one large egg, beaten, 3/4 cup of rice flour, and 1/2 tsp of almond extract.  Mix well.

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Set aside.  Grease a tart pan that has a loose bottom.  The recipe called for 7 1/2in/19cm diameter pan.  I don’t have one of those but I have a rectangle one roughly the same area size.  Roll out the pastry and lightly press into the pan.

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Trim the excess and set aside.  Spread raspberry jam on the bottom of the pastry.  I kept it a bit too thin this time round but I will put more in.

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Pour in the filling and then cut the excess pastry in to strips and place them in a criss cross pattern.  Brush with milk.

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Bake for about 45-50 minutes until golden brown and the filling is set.

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If you would like dust it with icing sugar.

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This isn’t overly complicated and is worth the effort to make.  The almond and raspberry flavours are a great pairing.  I hope I did my Grandma proud.  🙂