Caramelised Fruit (but no nuts) Tart

I’ve looked at the picture of these tarts in the Hummingbird Bakery recipe book for so long; I’ve even bought the tart tins in preparation of making it … but I’ve never gotten round to it.  Why? Well it’s a mixture of I’m terrified of anything pastry-related and it takes a long time to make.

So why make it now? Well I had a spare Sunday and I was determined to do at least one pastry dish by the end of the year – otherwise I’m just a baking pansy! So I went out and got all my ingredients together, poured myself a glass of wine (for some Dutch courage) and I was on my way.

The pastry was made by whisking together the butter and flour and adding the sugar and egg. Once this started to turn into a dough I kneaded the mix to ‘bring it together’.  Now I’ve watched a lot of Great British Bake Off and I know all about over-kneading pastry … I have no idea what constitutes over (or under) kneading. Hmmm … I made a not-so-educated guess, wrapped it in cling film and put it in the fridge for 30minutes.

A glass of wine and an episode of Friends later I brought out the dough, cut it in half, put one half back in the fridge and started to roll out the other half to line my pre-greased tart tins.  The recipe says to roll out the pastry to 5mm but I managed to roll it out too thin on my first two attempts.  I also found that the pastry ripped really quickly and have no idea whether it’s due to under (or over) working the dough.

Thankfully I started to get the hang of working with the dough and managed to line all eight tins, the last one being much more professionally done than the first!  These went back into the fridge for another 30 minutes before they were lined with greaseproof paper, covered in baking beads and cooked for 10 minutes in the oven.

The baking beads are then removed and the tarts went back in the oven for another 10 minutes to turn a light golden brown colour. Once these were out and cooling, I got started on the filling.

 

Reading this recipe again, I’ve realised that the title is ‘Caremalised Fruit AND Nut Tarts’.  Clearly in my eagerness to get underway, I completely missed the nut part of the recipe.  I had bought tons of dried fruit but no nuts! Ah well. I measured out all the drived fruit and chopped up the dried apricots so that it wouldn’t look too bulky.

On to the caramel – if you’ve ever made caramel before you’ll understand the incredible, almost-impossible-to-deny temptation to stir the sugar and water while it’s boiling.  It’s unbelievable how stir-able that mixture looks bubbling away. I measured the double cream and butter to stop myself stirring it and it still wasn’t enough to distract me. I literally stood there staring at the caramel praying it would turn golden brown before I gave into temptation.

It did (thankfully) and from watching the Great British Bake Off I learnt to dunk the bottom of the pot into cold water – this stops the caramel from continuing to cook after you’ve taken it off the heat and greatly reduces the chance of burning it.

After cooling for a little while the double cream and butter was stirred into the mixture and poured on top of the dried fruit.  Once this was all mixed together, the dried fruit was separated between tart tins and put in the fridge for an hour to set. There seemed to be a LOT of fruit in comparison to the amount of space in the tarts, but I stuck to the recipe and created nice ‘mounds’ of filling.

 

Just before serving, I whipped up some more double cream to go with the tarts and brought it out after dinner with some tea. They went down really well with the family, it’s a really rich dessert and would make a really nice end to a posh dinner party.

I, however, found it a bit too rich and too sweet. OK so I put 100% dried fruit in there instead of a mixture of fruit and nuts, but I think the outcome would have still been too rich for me.  The pastry was lovely (and there were no soggy bottoms or breaks!); I think I’ve finally faced my fear and I’m already planning to try out some more recipes. I’d actually love to try this recipe again but with sliced bananas instead of dried fruit, as I think this would be heavenly.

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A Healthy Snack?!

I don’t know about you but I always thought muesli bars were ridiculously healthy.  OK they have lots of nuts and dried fruit but that’s good energy, right?! A colleague from work requested I made something nutty and healthier than your average cupcake so I immediately went for this recipe.

I’ve finally managed to learn that you have to read the ingredients and the recipe before you start, as I normally would realise I was missing an ingredient or had to chop up everything in halfway through making the recipe!

I knew there would be lots of chopping with the muesli bars so I didn’t start until everything was prepared.  There is a LOT of different fruits and nuts in the recipe.  I put in desiccated coconut, dried apricots, cranberries and dates, cornflakes, sunflower seeds, walnuts and oats.  The recipe also called for raisins but I completely forgot about them – It’s not because I hate raisins … honest!

After what seemed like hours of chopping, I could start putting everything together.  I melted the butter, golden syrup and sugar in a large pan and set it aside to cool slightly.  There was a lot of butter in the recipe and I was starting to worry about how buttery the taste would be, but I figured there were so many other ingredients, the buttery taste would balance out.

Then, all you literally do is put everything in a big bowl, mix it, stir in the butter mixture and put it in the lined baking tray. Then I pressed the mixture down with the back of a tablespoon to compress it.

 

The most intriguing part of the recipe was to cover the mixture with greaseproof paper and cover with jam jars and tins so that it compresses even more. That definitely earned me some disapproving looks from the folks when they got home!

Once cooled, I put the mixture in the fridge overnight and cut it up in square slices to take to work.  My compression skills weren’t too great and the muesli bars tended to break apart quite easily.

The taste test came the next day with a cup of tea and a muesli slice for breakfast: it was a lot nicer than I expected. I’m not the biggest fan of dried fruit (why would you ruin perfectly tasty fruit?!) or coconuts but it came together well in the muesli bar.  Furthermore, it kept me going till lunch, which was great.  BUT… it was ridiculously buttery.  It was only bearable because there were so many other flavours going on.

Overall a good choice, albeit not the healthy choice I thought it was.  It’s a recipe I would make again, however surprised I am to admit it.  When I do make it again, however, I’ll definitely put a lot less butter in it.

A Christmas Marble Loaf

So, it was Christmas (as if you didn’t already know) and there were a few recipes that I had saved up specially. Firstly, I wanted to remake the Cinnamon and Raisin Loaf, as I was naughty and didn’t blog on it the last time I made it.

I started by whisking together the butter and sugar; and adding the eggs one at a time.  My £3 electric whisk was starting to make some really strange noises and I said a tiny little prayer to get it through the day, as I had so much to bake!

I carried on whisking the mixture and added the flour, baking powder, salt and soured cream to the mixture.  The recipe then said to take out some of the mixture and stir in the cinnamon.  This made a really lovely smelling brown batter. The raisins were then stirred into the remaining batter.

I then put the original batter in the greased and dusted tin and spooned in the cinnamon batter on top.  Now the first time I tried this recipe I was too scared to mix it in too much in case it all turned one colour.  This time I tried to stir it in more but was still a bit worried about over mixing.

The loaf went into the oven for around an hour; about halfway through the smell started to waft from the kitchen.  Boy do I love the smell cinnamon makes in a cake! I was so tempted to take it out there and then but I prevailed and didn’t open the oven door till the timer went.

The cake came out and was essentially demolished.  I absolutely love this cake; it’s the perfect mixture of sweetness and cinnamon. It goes great with tea or coffee and was the perfect pre-Christmas treat.  I even could deal with the raisins, although I’d love to try it with dark chocolate chips next time.

Time To Pretend To Be Healthy

I’ve gotten told off a lot lately for baking so much, even though it is somewhat inevitable because of this blog.  So, this week I decided to go for a recipe that actually looked (and sounded) healthy: Oat and Raisin cookies.  Now I’d normally run a mile from anything with raisins in (why would you ruin a grape by drying it out?!?) but I knew the family would love them so gave it a go.

The recipe was pretty simple to be honest,  firstly you mix up the butter and two different types of sugar, add the eggs; then mix the flour and oats and other bits and bobs and finally add them to the mix.  Et voilà , you have your batter.

Then its just a matter of scooping up equal portions and putting them onto baking trays and in the oven.  I would suggest rolling each cookie into a ball and flattening a bit before you put them on the baking tray, as it makes them look rounder, nicer, and generally neater (I’m a perfectionist I know!)

12 minutes later, I took out some very good smelling cookies.  I always get a bit worried when I’m baking cookies because they never seem completely cooked when they come out.  If you’re like that too then DON’T WORRY! That’s what makes them nice and gooey in the middle and as long as it passes the skewer test, you’re good.

For those who don’t know what a skewer test is (shame on you if you don’t); it’s simply when you put a skewer (a small knife also works) though the middle of the cake/cookie/anything and if it comes out clean then its cooked.

I got the official seal of approval a little later in the day; by seal of approval I do mean a series of grunts, yumms, and mmm’s from family members when they had a cookie each with tea.

I do really like these cookies despite the raisins; I really liked the taste of the oats in the cookie.  I am tempted however, to try them without raisins in them.  Now THAT would be amazing.  All in all I’d say there were a nice treat to have when you’re pretending to be healthy.