Tag Archives: baking

Best cocoa brownies from Food52 Genius Desserts

30 Sep

 

Last year December, I bought Food52‘s incredible book, Genius Desserts. To say that this book is an inspiration, is an understatement. It is one of the best baking books out there for people with a serious sweet tooth that want to explore decadent, professionally tested, winning recipes. It also specifically resonates with me, because it is written in a language that speaks to my word-obsessed, food-adoring, recipe-focused brain.

As I’ve declared before: I. LOVE. BROWNIES. I dream about them. I search for them. I inhale them. I have long conversations about them. I sometimes bake them, but I more often test other people’s offerings. I’ve eaten some incredible versions in my life, but I don’t have a go-to version recently, to be honest. This post will rectify that, I assure you. So let’s start with the facts: brownies should be decadently chocolatey, fudgy and squidgy, not overly dominated by nuts, but with the addition of a soft walnut/pecan crunch here and there for texture. It should be cakey only in the way that it’s not completely dense like a no-bake chocolate fudge square. But dense enough to be considered almost underbaked, like a flourless chocolate cake, but less fragile. There’s that fine line between a great brownie and a perfect brownie, and I think I’ve just found the recipe (written by Alice Medrich) that allows you to create simple perfection. As the book states: “Alice knows chocolate. It speaks to her. We’re lucky to have her as a translator.”

 

The incredible thing is this: the best brownies are usually made with good quality (expensive) chocolate, but this recipe only uses cocoa powder and a few other simple ingredients – butter, flour, eggs, vanilla, salt, walnuts. The magic is in the way it is mixed and heated, starting over a water bath and later vigorously beaten for an exact “40 strokes”, leaving you slightly breathless yet exhilarated with your bowl of rich, thick, oozing, dark treasure. It is baked for a mere 25 minutes at 165 C, resulting in something that you might consider under-baked at first. But when it sets to room temperature, it is just perfect: intensely chocolatey, so moist that it will actually be spreadable if you try, but holds together just barely enough to be cut and held. Lastly, the added salt flakes provide lyrical depth.

Here it is – apart from the slightly finicky water bath, the rest is straight forward wooden spoon stirring. If you’re prepared to follow the recipe to a T, you will be richly (ahem) rewarded . For brownie connoisseurs, this recipe is an incredible find, and a must-try.

 

Ingredients: makes 24 square brownies (recipe slightly adapted* from Alice Medrich’s Best Cocoa Brownies via Food 52 Genius Desserts by Kristen Miglore)

*Notes: I don’t own a square 20 x 20 cm pan, so I made a batch that’s 1,5 times the original to fit a more commonly found baking tin size in South Africa, namely 20 x 30 cm. I also used salted butter instead of unsalted, upped the added salt and vanilla ratios slightly and used XL eggs instead of large. I chose to bake with Gideon Milling’s stone ground cake wheat flour, which is in my experience the best substitute for American recipes calling for all purpose flour.

  • 230 g salted butter
  • 375 g sugar
  • 125 g cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 10 ml vanilla extract
  • 3 XL eggs
  • 100 g cake flour (see notes above)
  • about 100 g walnuts, roughly chopped
  • salt flakes, for garnish (optional)

Method:

  1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 165 C. Line the bottom and sides of a 20 x 30 cm rectangular baking pan/tin with non-stick baking paper, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
  2. Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a pot of barely simmering water (the bowl can touch the water directly, in this case, but should “sit” on the edges of the pot and not on the bottom). Stir with a wooden spoon from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. (It might look gritty here but don’t worry, it will smooth out later.) Remove the bowl from the pot and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.
  3. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts. Spread evenly in the lined pan, edging it into the corners.
  4. Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter. Let cool completely on a rack in the tin.
  5. Lift up the ends of the lined paper, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 24 squares. If your room temperature is very warm, refrigerate the brownies before cutting for a more neat, even edge. Serve at room temperature, optionally sprinkled with salt flakes just before serving (can be stored in a covered container for a few days, without the salt flakes as they will draw water and “melt” into the brownies).
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Chocolate swirl individual pavlovas

1 Jul

Individual chocolate swirl pavlovas topped with whipped cream and fresh berries. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

 

This is a recipe that I originally created in 2017, but failed to ever publish here. I’ve created so many different recipes for pavlova on my blog – it never disappoints when ending off a celebratory feast in style. So let’s make room for yet another one: chocolate swirl individual pavlovas with cream and dark berries. It covers all the bases of a great dessert in one go: chocolatey, crunchy, gooey, creamy, tangy, sweet and indulgent.

Now that we live on a berry farm on the outskirts of Stellenbosch, it seems only apt to be celebrating the fruit of our neighbours’ labour. We see their teams working in the berry orchards often, pruning and plowing in the winter mud to get ready for a new season. The recipe was created during January some years ago, so those dark berries might not be locally in season right now (although I’ve seen some amazing berries in some local supermarkets recently). Keep this one up your sleeve for when you find nice big batch of fresh seasonal berries in store. The chocolate meringues are decadently sweet and indulgent, so they definitely need an unsweetened whipped cream or double thick yoghurt topping, and some tart berries. A sifting of dark cocoa powder makes them mysteriously dreamy.

Ingredients: (makes 6)

  • 4 XL egg whites at room temperature
  • 1 cup (250 ml) caster sugar
  • 5 ml white vinegar
  • 10 ml corn flour (Maizena)
  • 80 ml 50-70% dark chocolate, melted
  • 250 ml fresh cream, whipped to soft peaks (or thick double cream plain yoghurt)
  • about 2 cups fresh mulberries and blue berries
  • about 1/4 cup flaked almonds, toasted
  • cocoa powder, for dusting (optional)

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 150 C. Line a standard baking tray with non-stick baking paper.
  2. Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk until white and foamy (soft peaks).
  3. Start adding the caster sugar, one tablespoon at a time every 30 seconds or so, whisking on high speed. When the sugar is well combined and the mixture is stiff and glossy, add the vinegar and corn flour and whisk until well mixed.
  4. Turn the mixer off. Add the dark chocolate to the bowl and use a spatula to quickly swirl it into the meringue mixture. Do not mix too much, one or two quick turns will be enough as you want to keep the dark chocolate swirls visible (and it will continue to mix when you spoon it onto your baking tray).
  5. Spoon the mixture onto the prepared baking tray in 6 individual round shapes. Place in the oven and immediately turn the heat down to 120 C. Bake for 50 minutes, then turn the oven off and leave the pavlovas in the oven without opening the door to cool for at least 3 hours (or overnight).
  6. When completely cool, serve dusted with cocoa powder, topped with whipped cream, fresh berries and toasted almonds. Serve at once. (Unassembled meringues can me stored in an air tight container for up to 3 days.)

Individual chocolate swirl pavlovas, before adding your toppings. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

 

Note: Your can store the pavlovas (without toppings) in an air tight container for a day. After this, they will still be edible for another day or two, but they will lose some of their crunch and might collapse in the middle. If you want to pack them for a picnic dessert, opt for double cream yoghurt instead of whipped cream, and assemble them on location instead of ahead.

Also check out a few of my other pavlova recipes:

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Pecan shortbread cookies

23 May

Freshly baked pecan shortbread cookies, dusted with icing sugar. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

 

This is a magnificent recipe from my very first handwritten recipe book that I compiled as a child in the early 1990’s. It reminds me of the icing sugar dusted shortbread that I saw in almost every confectionery shop while traveling in Greece in 2010 (except they mostly had a crescent shape).

Unfortunately I have no idea where this recipe came from, and thus cannot give the rightful credit to the writer. If anyone out there recognizes this exact recipe or can identify the origin, please let me know.

This cookie is like an ultimate nut-flavoured shortbread. It is luxurious, yet really easy to make. I absolutely love pecan nuts, and this cookie catches the essence of pecans in one buttery, delightful bite.

Note: These cookies were photographed in 2015, but I never posted it on my blog! Now that I’ve recently settled into a new kitchen that is much bigger than my previous one, I’ve got my baking mojo on and I’m ready to explore some of my best older recipes and definitely many new ones. Hope you love this one!

Pecans are (along with almonds) my favourite nuts to bake with. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

 

Ingredients: (makes 20-24)

  • 125 g butter, soft
  • 250 ml (140 g) self-raising flour
  • 50 g pecan nuts, finely chopped
  • 2,5 ml vanilla extract
  • 50 ml (25 g) icing sugar, plus more for dusting
  • 20-24 whole pecan nuts

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 160 C and line a large baking tray with non-stick baking paper.
  2. Place all the ingredients except for the whole pecan nuts in a food processor or stand mixer and mix until it comes together in a ball of dough. Do not overmix.
  3. Roll balls of dough about the size of a small walnut and place on the lined tray, leaving enough space in between. Use the back of a water/whiskey glass (flat surface) to flatten each cookie. Dip the flat glass surface in flour if it starts to stick.
  4. Place a whole pecan nut in the middle of each cookie and gently press to stick. Bake for 25 minutes until lightly straw coloured, not brown.
  5. Remove from the oven, then immediately dust with icing sugar using a sieve. Leave to cool completely, then store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
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Fig frangipane tart

4 Mar

Buttery, flaky pastry on the outside, squishy sweet almond filling on the inside. (Table runner & napkins by Design Team Fabrics & Peppertree Bags. Plate & bowl by Hertex HAUS. Photography & styling by Ilse van der Merwe.)

 

I recently bought a 10kg crate of beautiful, purple figs for making preserves. After processing the ripest fruit into jars of soft set conserves, spiced sweet pickles and two large racks of dried figs, a bowl full of firmer figs were set aside for making a tart or two.

Squidgy almond pastries are the stuff my dreams are made of, and this fig frangipane tart ticks all the boxes. The pastry base is buttery and flaky (no blind baking required), the frangipane filling is moist and gooey, and the beautiful figs bake to a soft consistency that showcases their natural jammy goodness.

This tart is best served at room temperature, with or without a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream.

Linen by Design Team | Napkins: Garden Bloom, parchment on sky. Table Runner: Small Line Protea, prime parchment OP on charcoal.

For the pastry base: (enough for 2 tart bases, recipe adapted from The Ultimate Snowflake Collection by Heilie Pienaar)

  • 500 ml (280 g) cake flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2,5 ml) salt
  • 15 ml caster sugar
  • 200 g cold butter, cubed
  • 1 XL egg yolk
  • about 20 ml ice-cold water
  • 5 ml fresh lemon juice

Method:

Place the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor and process to mix. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. In a small bowl, whisk the yolk, water and lemon juice together, then add it to the flour/butter mixture. Process until it comes together in a ball, then transfer to a sheet of cling wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm up.

Spray a 23 cm fluted loose bottom tart tin with non-stick baking spray. On a lightly floured surface, roll out half of the pastry dough to a thickness of about 3 mm. The pastry will easily tear, but don’t worry – you can patch it easily by pressing excess dough into the cracks. Transfer the rolled out dough carefully into the tin and press it neatly into the corners. Cut the excess pastry neatly off on the edges. Use a fork to prick the bottom of the tart all over. Now it is ready for the filling (see below).

Note: The second half of the pastry can be frozen for another time, otherwise refrigerate and use within 3 days.

For the filling:

  • 90 g soft butter
  • 1/2 cup (105 g) caster sugar
  • 2 XL eggs
  • 5 ml almond essence
  • 100 g ground almonds
  • 15 ml cake flour
  • about 10 medium or 15 small figs, halved
  • 10 ml smooth apricot/fig jam, heated, for brushing

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Place the butter and caster sugar in a food processor and mix until creamy (you can also use electric beaters). Add the eggs one by one, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping the sides. Add the essence, ground almonds and flour and mix well. Scrape the mixture into the prepared tin lined with pastry, and tilt it to evenly fill the bottom. Arrange the fig halves cut sides up in the tin (the filling will rise a little inbetween, so don’t be alarmed if it seems to be a little “shallow”).

Bake at 200 C for 15 minutes, then turn down the heat to 180 C and bake for another 25-30 minutes or until the filling has puffed up and is golden brown on top. Remove from the oven, then gently brush all over with the heated jam, taking care not to break up the tender surface. Let it cool completely, then remove the tin casing and serve in slices.

This fig frangipane tart makes an elegant tea time treat, and can also be served as a dessert.

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How to make soft hamburger buns

14 Aug

Soft and perfectly golden hamburger buns, fresh from the oven.

A few weeks ago I started a new collaboration with Kenwood South Africa. In my role as brand ambassador over the next few months, I have received their Chef XL Titanium – you’ll see it featuring in some of my upcoming recipes and videos. I’ve been using this machine for some time now and it is such an incredible tool! From macaroons to butter icing, ciabatta to Italian meringue – what a joy to use it. In my next post, I’ll do a full review of this premium mixer, so stay tuned.

More and more people are welcoming the craft of making the perfect hamburger at home. Most of us have the 100% beef patties down (or know where to buy a really good one from a local butcher), many of us can make a killer mayo (or aioli – even better), and then it’s up to you to add what you love: pickles, tomato, lettuce, relish, caramelized onions, cheddar etc. One of the most key parts of the burger, however, is the bun. If you’re stacking all that incredible stuff on a bun that’s going to fall apart when you bite it, or worse – a bun that’s too tough to bite through, your burger will be ruined. What you are looking for, is a soft brioche bun that’s about the same diameter as your cooked pattie (patties shrink in the pan), not too high so that you can still bite through your assembled burger, with or without sesame seeds on top (I prefer sesame), sliced horizontally, buttered and pan toasted to a golden perfection. It should be light enough to easily bite through without much resistance, but sturdy enough to hold together when all the juicy bits drizzle down towards the bottom half. So next time you’re going the full monty with making burgers at home, start with making these incredibly soft hamburger buns – it’ll change your burger game forever.

Note: You’re going to need an electric mixer for this recipe. I used my Kenwood Chef XL Titanium – it’s an absolute pleasure to use. The light around the attachment port shines right into the bowl, and although it’s quite a big bowl you can always see what’s going on inside. The machine is very strong and makes light work of the dough. The solid stainless steel attachments are very easy to change and along with the stainless steel bowl they are easy to clean. Keep an eye out for a full review of this machine within the next week, and watch my video of how to make soft hamburger buns below.

Ingredients:

 

  • 200 g butter, cubed
  • 500 ml (2 cups) milk
  • 10 ml (2 teaspoons) honey
  • 1 kg stone ground white bread flour (divided in two halves)
  • 30 g (45 ml) instant yeast
  • 20 ml (4 teaspoons) sugar
  • 10 ml salt (2 teaspoons) fine salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 egg, whisked, for brushing (optional)
  • 30 ml (2 tablespoons) sesame seeds, for topping (optional)

Method:

  1. In a small saucepan, add the butter, milk and honey and stir until the butter has melted (do not boil). Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with K-beater, add 500 g flour with the yeast, sugar and salt. Mix gently.
  3. Add the warm milk mixture to the flour mixture and mix on low speed. Add the eggs and continue to mix until incorporated (about 30 seconds), then add the second half of the flour and continue to mix for about 1 minute.
  4. Change from K-beater to dough hook (scrape any excess dough mixture using a spatula), then mix with the dough hook on medium-low speed for about 5-10 minutes or until the dough is very smooth and elastic.
  5. Turn out the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into portions (I prefer to weigh it individually – you’re looking for balls of about 110-120 g each). Shape each piece of dough into a ball by tucking the seams in underneath, then flatten it slightly and place it on a lined baking tray, leaving enough space inbetween for rising.
  6. Cover lightly with plastic and leave to rise in a warm area for about 25 minutes or until doubled in size. While the buns are rising, preheat the oven to 200 C.
  7. When the buns are risen, use a pastry brush to paint it with whisked egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds (or just leave plain, if you prefer). Bake for 12 minutes (in the middle of the oven) or until golden brown and cooked. Remove from the oven and let it cool completely on a wire rack.
  8. Store in an airtight container or covered plastic bag, and use within 3 days. Best for hamburgers when sliced, buttered and toasted in a hot pan. ​

Note: Baked cooled buns can be successfully frozen for up to 3 months.

*Regular cake flour won’t yield the same results as stone ground white bread flour and will result in a more sticky dough that is harder to handle. Rather use stone ground white bread flour, if you want to achieve the best results possible.

This post was created in proud collaboration with Kenwood South Africa.

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Orange, olive oil and semolina cake with Chinese 5-spice

25 Jun

A wintery orange & semolina cake with Chinese 5 spice and caramel orange syrup. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

 

It’s finally citrus season and I’ve already made a huge batch of marmalade with the abundance of oranges all around me. I adore citrus flavours in cakes, so this recipe was a delightful experiment after doing lots of research on olive oil cakes (did you know that baking with olive oil instead of butter can extend the shelf life of a cake with up to 2 weeks?).

Where many olive oil cakes call for a very mild olive oil, this one needs the very best extra virgin olive oil that you can find. The flavour should be medium-intense to intense, to create a cake that is very moist in texture but also smells richly fragrant of the essence of olives and orange. It is a cake that can be eaten on its own, very much like a cake bread, but can also be dolled up with a syrup and some whipped cream or even a cream cheese frosting for a decadent dessert or tea-time treat.

Note: Although my recipe has been featured before on The Pretty Blog, they have since shut down their website and I’ve had a few requests for republishing it. Here it is:

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium size oranges
  • 125 g white sugar
  • 125 g soft brown sugar
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 cup fine semolina
  • 10 ml baking powder
  • 5 ml baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
  • 15 ml ground Chinese 5-spice
  • 2,5 ml salt
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 XL eggs
  • 5 ml vanilla extract

Method:

  1. Place the oranges in a small saucepan filled with water and bring to a boil. Cook until soft – about 30 minutes. Remove from the water, slice in quarters, remove the seeds, then puree (with skins) and set aside.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 180 C. Grease a bundt tin thoroughly with non-stick cooking spray.
  3. Place the white and brown sugar in a food processor and process for about 1 minute.
  4. Add the flour, semolina, baking powder, baking soda, 5-spice and salt. Process to mix.
  5. Add the orange pulp, olive oil, eggs and vanilla and process until just mixed. Scrape the sides and pulse one last time.
  6. Transfer the batter into the bundt tin and use a spatula to smooth the surface evenly.
  7. Bake for 50-55 minutes until an inserted skewer comes out clean, then remove from the oven and cool in the tin.
  8. When cool, carefully tap the tin from side to side to make sure that the cake does not stick to the tin. Turn the cake out on a plate or rack.

For the caramel orange syrup: (optional)

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • juice of a small lemon

Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat, tipping the pan from side to side (do not stir). Boil until the syrup starts to turn golden in colour, then add the orange juice and lemon juice – be careful as it will splatter. Remove from the heat and stir to combine. You can carefully pour the syrup over the cake immediately if you prefer for it to be fully absorbed by the cake (and will make it deliciously moist), or you can let it cool first for a thicker glossy syrup that will “sit” on the cake.

Serve with whipped cream (optionally).

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A baking class with Martjie Malan

30 May

Martjie Malan with trays of gougères and craquelins, ready for the oven.

I’m such a fan of recreational baking and always keen on learning more and sharpening my skills. Yesterday I attended Martjie Malan‘s first baking class in her winter series of 2018, with a focus on choux pastry. Here are some of the pictures I took (in the short moments when my hands weren’t full of custard or chocolate!). Martjie is a talented baker who’s come a long way since being runner up in Koekedoor, kykNet’s super popular reality baking series/competition. A few years back, while she still had a bakery and restaurant in Stellenbosch called M Patisserie, I was a massive fan of her French pastries, especially her almond croissants and her petit fours. That being said, I jumped to take up the opportunity to learn from a master like Martjie.

Keen an eye on Martjie’s Facebook page for more upcoming classes, all held at The Styling Shed outside Stellenbosch on the Devon Valley Road. If you’re an avid baker, keen to learn more, book your spot for one of Martjie’s upcoming classes.

 

Tea, coffee and pastries on arrival.

A leafy corner of the venue, The Styling Shed.

Martjie welcomes us.

Crème de pâtissièr, or pastry custard, as demonstrated by Martjie.

Making perfect choux pastry.

How to pipe like a pro.

Scooping choux dough into pastry bags.

And now for the longer shaped choux pastries, or eclairs.

Freshly baked profiteroles, straight from the oven.

Assembling the craquelins.

Freshly baked gougères. They disappeared in a second – so delicious!

Everyone got a chance to fill the freshly baked pastries.

Elmarie taking a picture of the beautiful chocolate ganache.

My finished product: fresh chocolate profiteroles filled with chocolate custard and glazed with chocolate ganache.

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All-in-one breakfast rusks

10 Jul

Delicious buttermilk rusks with various seeds, nuts, oats, coconut and olive oil. (Bowl by Le Creuset. Linen napkin by HAUS.)

 

I’ve published the recipe for these winning rusks twice before – one of my first posts ever on this blog in 2011 and again on Die Kos Vos last year. These buttermilk rusks are exceptionally delicious, packed with oats, bran, coconut, pecan nuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and linseeds. I enjoy them with coffee or tea, first thing in the morning, then I’m good to go. These days I make the recipe with olive oil instead of canola oil, which brings a wonderful richness to the taste that I prefer. The oils and seeds contain precious Omega-3, -6 & -9 that keep our hearts healthy and enough fiber to keep our digestive systems in mint condition.

For smaller households I’ve found that a halved recipe is more than adequate. It fills one standard baking tray (roughly 51 rusks, depending on how thick you cut the fingers) and will last for many weeks after being dried out, stored in an airtight container. Take a smaller container to your office for a fantastic teatime snack.

Watch my video for an easy how-to guide. Happy baking!

Ingredients: (makes about 51 medium size rusks)

Note: This is the halved recipe. Feel free to double it up for a bigger batch.

  • 500 g self raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup linseeds (flax seeds)
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup regular oats
  • 1/4 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1 cup bran cereal flakes
  • 50 g pecan nuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 XL egg
  • 1 cup olive oil (or canola oil)
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Pre-heat oven to 180 C and line a standard shallow baking tray (about 30 x 40 x 2 cm) with grease-proof baking paper. Place the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl and mix well. Add the sunflower seeds, lin seeds, sesame seeds, oats, coconut and bran flakes. In a smaller bowl, mix the egg, oil and buttermilk, then pour over the dry ingredients and stir until it starts to come together. Use clean hands to work it into a ball, but don’t knead. Transfer the mixture to the lined baking tray, pat out evenly to fill all the corners, then bake at 180 C for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown and cooked. Remove from the oven, then carefully turn it out on a wire rack to cool.

When cool enough to handle, transfer to a cutting board, then cut into rectangular fingers. Remove an oven rack from the oven, then preheat oven to 100 C. Arrange the fingers slightly apart on the oven rack, then dry out for 3 hours or until crisp but not dark. Let it cool completely then store in an airtight container. Serve with tea or coffee (to be dipped).

Tip: Save money by buying the exact quantities of seeds and nuts at a weigh-and-pay store.

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Caramel, pear & pecan lattice pie

18 Mar

Pear and pecan nut lattice pie with extra pie crust shapes on top (photography by @Tasha Seccombe)

These days there are so many beautiful lattice pies all over Pinterest. The most beautiful golden strips of pastry, cut into so many different shapes, criss-crossed and layered, covering delicious fruit fillings. They’re almost too beautiful to eat.

I absolutely love the combination of pears, pecan nuts and caramel. I made a pear and pecan tarte tatin a few years ago and it still beats most apple versions by miles. So if you love a good pecan nut pie, this is something similar but with a fruity layer of pears at the bottom that adds to the moistness of the pie. Crunchy, buttery, gooey, fruity, nutty – the best of a pecan pie and a tarte tatin rolled into one.

Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche (or thick cream) and a swirl of caramel sauce.

Caramel sauce, for assembly and for serving (photography by Tasha Secombe)

Choose firm pears for baking (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Layers of pear and caramel sauce (photography by @Tasha Seccombe).

Note: Shop-bought shortcrust pastry delivers a fantastic visual result, but nothing beats the flavour of homemade all-butter sweetened shortcrust pastry with added vanilla. The choice is yours. I’ve found that the home-made pastry does lose some of its shape during the baking process, but by baking a few decorative shapes separately (like cookies on a baking sheet, baked for a shorter time than the actual pie) and placing them on top of the pie afterwards, you still get a phenomenal result.

Ingredients: (makes one medium size pie)

For the pastry:

  • 100 soft butter
  • 125 g caster sugar
  • 1 XL egg
  • 5 ml vanilla extract
  • 250 g cake flour
  • a pinch of salt

Using an electric whisk, whisk the butter until creamy in a mixing bowl. Add the caster sugar, egg and vanille and whisk until well combined. Add the flour and salt and whisk until the mixture starts to come together. Turn out on a clean working surface and knead lightly until it comes together in a ball. Flatten slightly to make a disk shape. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

For the caramel sauce:

  • 125 g butter
  • 250 ml demerara or muscovado sugar, tightly packed
  • 125 ml cream
  • a pinch of salt

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, then add the sugar and stir. Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar has melted and the mixture starts to become foamy. Add the cream and stir until it is completely smooth. Add the salt, stir and remove from the heat.

Assembling the tart:

  • 1 batch pastry
  • about 3 firm pears, peeled and cored and finely sliced
  • 100 g pecan nuts, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 batch caramel sauce (you’ll use the other half for serving)
  • 1 egg, lightly whisked (for brushing)
  • some granulated sugar, for sprinkling

Pre-heat the oven to 180 C. Roll out half the refrigerated pastry on a well floured surface to a thickness of about 5 mm. Line a greased fluted 23 cm pastry tin with the pastry, and trim the edges neatly. Use a fork to prick the pastry all over. Arrange the sliced pears (overlapping) on the bottom, filling it about 2/3 to the top. Drizzle with some caramel sauce. Arrange the chopped pecan nuts on top of the pears. Pour the rest of the caramel sauce all over the nuts and pears. Roll out the second half of the pastry, then cut out strips for plaiting and shapes for decoration (place some of the loose shapes on a separate lined baking tray, keeping them neatly in tact for decoration). Top the pie filling with the pieces and strips of pastry, making your own decorative pattern/design and trimming the edges neatly. Carefully brush with egg, then sprinkle with sugar.

Bake the pie at 180 C for 45 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly then remove from the oven and leave to cool on a rack. Bake the extra pieces of pastry on the baking tray for about 8-10 minutes until golden brown – they’ll brown much quicker than the assembled pie.

For serving: carefully remove the fluted ring, then top with extra pastry shapes. Serve warm or at room temperature th a dollop of cream, ice cream or creme fraiche and more (warmed) caramel sauce.

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Granola with almonds & cranberries

4 Jan

Freshly toasted granola with cranberries (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Freshly toasted granola with cranberries (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

With summer reigning supreme in South Africa, I am welcoming every chance for an early morning run before the heat sets into full swing. After runs like these, all I want to eat is something fresh, balanced, crunchy and sustainable (in terms of energy). The most popular breakfast in our house is a bowl of home-made granola with milk or thick Greek yoghurt, served with sliced fresh fruit on top. Although I’ve never been scared of butter, this granola recipe is made without the addition of any butter or oil and is a lot lower in fat than most mueslis and granolas. Perfect for getting back in shape after a the crazy festive season.

The granola can be kept in a tightly covered glass/plastic container, and will last well for several weeks.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups oats
  • 2 cups raw unsalted almonds (or nuts of your choice)
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup linseeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup honey or maple syrup (or a mixture of both), warmed
  • 1 cup dried cranberries

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180 C.
  2. Mix all of the ingredients together (except the cranberries), then spread out on a large baking tray lined with baking paper.
  3. Bake for 10 minutes at a time, stirring the mixture before returning to the oven. It will take about 30-40 minutes for the mixture to become caramelized and toasty – don’t let it go too dark.
  4. Remove, sprinkle the cranberries over and let it cool, stirring every now and then to prevent large clusters forming. When cool, transfer to a large container with a tight-fitting lid. Enjoy with milk or yoghurt for breakfast.

Credits:

Recipe, food preparation, food styling & text: Ilse van der Merwe

Photography & prop styling: Tasha Seccombe

This post has also been featured on The Pretty Blog.

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