Pecan Caramel + Biscoff Birthday Cake

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It was a weekend of birthdays for me last week. My sisters 30th and my friends 31st. It meant it was also a weekend of cake. Since we are still in lockdown and I have all the time in the world for once, I decided to make them both birthday cakes.

I’m really missing the culture of coffee and cake; although this heatwave here in England makes me crave ice cream by the tub load. I miss sitting, chatting and relaxing over a slow coffee and sweet cake with a loved one. I don’t often make cakes like this is in my spare time. I prefer a humbler cake at home but the special people in your life deserve something wonderful.

That brings us to this lovely cake. Five layers of brown sugar sponge, dark pecan caramel and glossy light-as-air Biscoff swiss meringue buttercream. A dream. Surprisingly, this cake isn’t too sweet. I was worried it was all going to be a bit much together, but it’s helped by the light texture of the buttercream.

In these weird and unfamiliar times, I like to think that something as simple and small as a piece of cake can help. Even if it is just a little.

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Continue reading “Pecan Caramel + Biscoff Birthday Cake”

Salted Caramel Brioche Doughnuts

IMG_1900Unbeknown to me, it was national doughnut day a few weeks ago. As soon as my WordPress, Instagram and Facebook feeds filled up with photo after photo of puffed, golden, chocolate covered doughnuts; I was mad that I had no idea this day even existed and more so that I’d missed it.

I hadn’t made doughnuts in a really long time. For me, they’re the ultimate sweet treat. So many people think of them as the ultimate guilt trigger too. The way I see it is that life’s too short not to eat delicious food. If you can’t eat it now then when are you ever going to eat it?

Lots of you have probably visited Borough Market in central London. The first time I went I was on my own; a scared London newbie with no idea where anything was. I walked around the market, strolling past the same stalls about fives times (only now do I realise I missed half the market.) It was a ridiculously busy saturday lunchtime and I was still overcoming the notion that I had to push to the front of the crowd to get served. Along with an abundance of bread, cheese, sweet treats and fresh vegetables, I came away with a morsel that would force me back to the market a whole lot more in the future. Continue reading “Salted Caramel Brioche Doughnuts”

Caramel Nut Tart

Caramel nut tart

I think you can see for yourself, but I think that this tart is seriously beautiful. The top of the caramel dances in the light like glass. The nuts peep out of the surface like gems. All of that sweet crunchy goodness is encased in short and crumbly cinnamon pastry. When the tart is fully set it cuts really nicely. It’s really sweet so you don’t need anything on the side apart from some creme fraiche or marscapone.

I like to keep a little of the caramel back for Ice cream, because you’ve got to always think of your next sweet fix right?

Tart on stand

Assorted nuts

before rolling

finished pastry

Cut nut tart

 

 

Ingredients – Recipe adapted from The Bouchon Bakery – yields one 8 by 3/4 inch tart

Pastry (Pâte Brisée)

  • 152g plain flour
  • pinch salt
  • 115g cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 30g cold water
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • a few grates of fresh nutmeg

Filling

  • 185g assorted nuts (I used: cashews, pistachios, pecans and macadamia)
  • 85g glucose
  • 125g sugar
  • 20g unsalted butter
  • 130g double cream (divided into 100g and 30g)

Method

Pastry

  • Place 70g of the flour with the salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Turn the mixer to low-speed and gradually add in the butter cubes. Once all the butter has been added, turn the speed to medium and beat for about 1 minute until the butter is fully incorporated. Turn the speed back to low and gradually add in the remaining 82g of flour. Mix until combined; don’t over mix here. Add in the water and beat on low again until smooth, not sticky. There shouldn’t be any lumps of butter left in the dough.
  • Take the dough out of the mixer, pat it into a disk and wrap in cling film. Refrigerate for an hour or overnight. The longer the better.
  • When you’re ready to roll out the dough, take a 8 inch tart ring and place it onto a lined baking tray.
  • Unwrap your pastry and place it between two pieces of parchment paper. Using a rolling-pin, hit the top of the dough. Continue to do this so that your pastry begins to get thinner and wider. This will ensure the pastry doesn’t crack when being rolled.
  • Start by rolling your pastry, rotating 90 degrees every so often so that your pastry is still circular. Roll it big enough to fit well over your ring. This is important as you need excess to push into the corners of the tart ring.
  • Remove the top piece of parchment paper. Turn the dough over so that the pastry side is down. Lay this over your tart ring and gently ease the pastry into the tart ring, pushing it against the bottom and sides. Now peel off the parchment paper and press down the pastry into the tart ring again so that it is securely in the tart ring, with no gaps along the base edge of the ring. If you have long nails, take an excess piece of pastry, roll it into a ball, dip it in some flour and use this to push your pastry.
  • Note: if you like, you can just roll your dough out between parchment, peel off the top layer, dust the pastry with flour and turn upside down. Peel off the other piece of parchment paper and flour this side of the dough. Roll the dough around your rolling-pin and unroll it over the tart ring. Then push it into the ring. This is a more traditional way of lining a tart ring, which you may be more used to.
  • Cut off any excess pastry that hangs over the edge of the tart ring, using a sharp knife.
  • Freeze the lined tart ring for 30 minutes, this will help to keep the pastry from shrinking when baking.
  • While your tart is freezing, pre-heat your oven to 160 degrees C.
  • When your tart is ready for blind baking; take a piece of aluminium foil, scrunch it up in your hands, unravel it and line the inside of your tart. Fold over the edges of the foil over the ring to protect the edges of the tart as well. Fill the tart with baking beans or rice.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, rotate the baking tray and bake for another 20 minutes. Keep an eye on your pastry; depending on your oven, it may not take 40 minutes. The dough should be set underneath the foil and no longer sticky.
  • Remove the baking beans and foil and return to the oven for another 10 minutes until golden brown. Set aside to cool.

Filling

  • Place your assorted nuts onto a baking tray at 160 degrees C. Roast for about 8 minutes, until golden brown.
  • Place the toasted nuts into the baked pastry case, still in its tart ring. The tart should be very full.
  • For the caramel: Before you start, get all of your ingredients ready. Place the glucose into a large saucepan, on hight heat, and bring to the boil.
  • Turn the heat to medium and add the sugar in three additions, stirring between each addition until the sugar has dissolved. After a few minutes the sugar should be bubbling and a rich amber colour, 177 degrees C.
  • Quickly stir in the butter. Once the butter has melted, stir in the 100g of cream. Be careful as the caramel will bubble violently.
  • Continue to cook the caramel, stirring every now and again to keep it from burning in places. When the caramel reaches 120 degrees C, take it off the heat.
  • Now add in the 30g of cream and stir to combine.
  • Pour the caramel over the nuts in the tart shell. Do this slowly so that it doesn’t spill over the edges. Some of the nuts will stick out of the top. If you reserve a bit of the caramel, take a pastry brush and brush caramel onto the top of the nuts to make them shiny.
  • Leave to set completely. Remove the tart ring and serve.