Tag Archives: dessert

Pear pie with cake filling

What is one to do with too much time on one’s hands and some very ripe pears plus a roll of shortcrust pastry that desperately needs to be used up in the fridge? That’s right, turn them into pear pie. The sliced pears (you could use apples or other fruit as well)  give this pie a refined look while really, it’s so easy to make.

Ingredients:

one roll of ready-made shortcrust pastry (quite easy to make yourself as well, if you have time! I have a recipe here, or use one of Martha Stewart’s)
185 gr soft butter
185 gr sugar
3 eggs (preferably at room temperature)
1 tsp vanilla extract
185 gr self-rising flour (or regular flour + baking powder)
4 ripe pears (I used Durondeau, but any kind will do)

1 pie plate (+/- 25 cm)

pear pie with cake filling

How to:

Take the shortcrust pastry out of the fridge, let it rest for a little bit, roll out or spread out and line the pie plate with the dough. If it’s home made, use butter and flour first to prevent sticking. Using a fork, poke some holes in the pastry.

Combine  butter and sugar in a large bowl. Use an electric whisk or stand mixer to beat them together until white and airy, don’t stop too soon. Add in the vanilla extract and eggs one by one and keep beating until combined.

Sieve the flour into the bowl and combine, don’t mix for too long this time, to prevent the dough from getting too ‘heavy’. Pour the dough into the prepared pie plate and distribute evenly with a spoon or spatula.

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius. Peel the pears, cut into four quarters, remove the core and slice lengthwise. Arrange the pear slices in a circle, pressing them into the cake dough. Start with one circle on the outside and then move on to the inside. I arranged the inner circle in the other direction for aesthetic reasons, though I doubt there’s a big difference in the end product. You may have to shift the outer circle a bit to fit in the inner one, depending on the size of the pie plate and the slices. When ready, pop into the oven for about 40 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean of the cake center of the pie. The baking time may depend on your oven and on the juiciness of the pears. If it turns too dark, cover with some foil.

Let the pie cool on a rack, in its plate. Enjoy!

 

Guest Post: Victoria Sponge Wedding Cake

Guest post: Victoria Sponge Wedding Cake

I have a little secret to tell you: my little sister and I share a love for baking. In fact, she’s probably a better patissier than I am. I’ve been trying to convince her to share her Mississippi Mud Pie or lemon squares as a guest post but it just hasn’t happened so far (don’t worry, I haven’t given up yet!). But when I got married three months ago, she baked my wedding cake and it was just too awesome not to share. So here it is: the story of my Victoria sponge wedding cake by my sister Eline.

Eline cake

When my sister told me she was getting married last year, I laughingly suggested that I could make her wedding cake as a contribution to all of the wedding planning madness. Little did I know what kind of project I was taking upon myself…

Now, I am quite an experienced amateur baker and have made my fair share of baked goods – mostly cookies, cakes and pies, but I’d never even attempted any sort of multi-layer cake, so this was quite a big project. After months of sending each other pictures of wedding cakes and Aude Pinteresting every monstrosity of a cake she could find, we still hadn’t settled on what it should be. 3, 4 or 5 layers? Chocolate cake, vanilla cake, fruit cake, biscuit (a firm favorite of our mom’s, it can be compared to a very light, fluffy angel food cake), or some other type? We pored over blogs and cookbooks endlessly and in my kitchen in Dublin I tried a few recipes. Luckily I still had a whole summer to figure out what this cake would end up looking like, so I wasn’t too worried yet.

As I don’t have any experience with fondant, I thought covering  a 4-layer cake with it would be too much of a challenge, so we settled on buttercream frosting and fresh flowers or fruit to decorate. However, after several tasting sessions with different types of cake and frosting including one crumbly frosting disaster, I was covered in frosting from head to toe and ready to throw in the towel. We all came to the conclusion that we’re simply not much of a buttercream family, and buttercream was ruled out. So on I went, experimenting with vanilla powder, gelatin and whipped cream to come up with a more stable frosting. Even though everyone was enjoying the endless stream of test cakes, it seemed about time to settle on something definite.

Then, one Sunday afternoon in August, I wanted to make a very basic cake and, as my mom and I have fallen in love with Victoria sponge cake ever since we’ve started taking trips to the UK, I settled on a Victoria sponge cake, the quintessential British icon, and looked up a good recipe. I came across a few pictures of stacked, gorgeous-looking sponge cakes and started googling some more. According to some wedding blogs, sponge cakes were all the rage; apparently they were the wedding cake vintage hype of the year (thank you once again, Pinterest). As Aude didn’t mind the cake looking rustic and homemade, and I was much more comfortable with this than with  some frosted monster, we’d finally figured it out!

As you might imagine, the following weekends were spent trying out different sponge cake recipes and frostings, and finally, on September 6th, I produced the largest cake I’ll probably ever make (never say never though, I guess). Without further ado: here’s the recipe for the ultimate Victoria sponge cake!

Victoria Sponge Wedding Cake

Victoria Sponge Wedding Cake

Proportions are for a normal afternoon tea (21cm cake), not a wedding. Further down, I give you some basic tips on how to multiply the quantities and stack the cakes – but do test this beforehand.

Ingredients:

  • 3 large eggs

  • weight of the 3 eggs in self-rising flour, unsalted butter and fine sugar

  • 1,5 tablespoon baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 3 tablespoons milk

Filling

  • crème de framboise liquor or another fruity liquor (optional)

  • raspberry jam

  • Frozen fruit (mix of berries or raspberries), defrosted and mixed with few spoonfuls of sugar OR fresh fruit if available

  • 250 grams mascarpone

  • 250 ml whipped cream

  • bag of vanilla sugar or vanilla extract

  • 1 tablespoon sugar

  • powdered sugar for decoration

  • fresh fruit for decoration (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a 21 cm spring-form and put in a circle as large as the bottom of your tin, cut out from baking paper. Put the butter and sugar into a food mixer, or use a hand mixer to combine until light and really fluffy, this can take a few minutes. Add the eggs to the mixture one at a time while beating very well until everything is properly mixed, again this can take a while. Scrape down the sides of your bowl to make sure all ingredients are mixed properly.

Add the flour, baking powder and salt and mix this in properly. Then add the milk, making sure the dough is still firm but will easily drop off your mixer when you shake it. Don’t over-handle the dough, as this will make the cake less fluffy. Put the dough into the pan, smooth the top and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the cake is golden, has risen and a toothpick comes out clean. Then let the cake cool for a while in the tin, open it and let it cool further on a grid.

If you want a perfect-looking cake (or you need it to be flat for stacking several layers), cut off the top when it’s completely cooled to make it perfectly flat. If a homemade look suits you better, leave it on. Then cut your cake through the middle, take the bottom half and sprinkle the top with the crème de framboise so it’s well soaked. Spread a thick layer of raspberry jam on top.

Mix the mascarpone cream and whipped cream with a tablespoon of sugar and a bag of vanilla sugar or a few drops of vanilla extract. Beat with an electric mixer until it becomes very stiff and looks like thick whipped cream. Then take the defrosted frozen fruit or fresh fruit and spread a thick layer on top of the bottom cake. Top this with the mascarpone mixture until the whole of your cake layer is covered, then lay the top half of your cake on top. Dust with powdered sugar and decorate with fresh fruit if you like. Enjoy (as the British do, during some fine afternoon tea)!

(read on for the wedding cake instructions)

the cutting of the cake

 

If a simple Victoria sponge just doesn’t satisfy your inside megalomaniac and you’re ready to take on the challenge of making a 4-tiered (wedding) cake, here’s how I made mine, good for about 80 small portions:

The cake as seen in the picture consists of 4 layers, so you need 4 different spring forms: 30 cm, 26 cm, 21 cm and 16 cm.

Basically, you can recalculate the ingredients for the cake on the basis of the number of eggs, since you use the eggs to weight the other ingredients. Take 0,5 tablespoon baking powder per egg, one tablespoon of milk per egg and add a slight pinch of salt (don’t exaggerate with the salt). Use 2 eggs for a 16cm cake, 4 eggs for a 26 cm cake and 5 or 6 eggs for the 30 cm bottom cake. The filling isn’t as easy to multiply accurately, but if you’re going to make a large stacked cake you’ll need at least 1kg of mascarpone and 1 liter of cream, and you can easily make more from there.

When it comes to stacking, you essentially need two things: something that acts as a dowel to put inside the cake, and those golden cardboard pie plates to put underneath every layer (you can buy these at paper specialty stores, craft stores, large food or patisserie supply stores or ask you baker). Because I couldn’t find any real dowels, I used those plastic firm sticks they use to attach balloons to (can be found at party/craft stores). Some bloggers suggest plastic straws, but I’m not quite sure if these are strong enough – remember, the bottom cake carries the weight of all the others combined .

Cut the golden cardboard into circles the exact size of your cakes (if they’re too small they might not be supportive, but if they’re too large they will be visible). The dowels go into the ‘supporting’ cake at strategic points and are used to ensure the cake doesn’t cave under the weight. Put your bottom cake on a cardboard and then on a sturdy plate or pie stand. Always spread a little frosting on your cardboard circle before you put the cake on, this will make it less prone to sliding and moving around. Put the smaller cardboard circle on top of the supporting cake and put toothpicks right near the rim at four points so that they form a square. Remove the circle and carefully insert the dowel into the cake at about 1 cm inwards from the toothpick. Mark the top of the dowel with a food-safe pen and take the dowel out. Cut right under this mark and put the dowels back into the cake. Stack and fill the next layer on top, then repeat until you’re at the top layer (which doesn’t need to be done). Decorate the cake to your liking, I used more cream mixture and fresh berries (and of course the gazebo with the plastic wedding couple!).

 Jam layer

First layer

 

The stacking process

 

The fruit layer

 

IMG_0652

 

 

Divine pecan pie

Pecans are by far my favorite nuts, unfortunately the American classic of pecan pie hasn’t really made it big across the Atlantic. Time to change that! This is a slightly modified version of Martha Stewart’s pecan pie recipe, with a pastry crust from Jeroen Meus. I didn’t weigh out all the ingredients, so use this rule: 1 cup = 250 ml.

Ingredients:

for the crust:

250 gr baking flour
125 gr cold butter, in small cubes
90 gr icing sugar
30 gr ground almonds
1 egg
a pinch of salt

for the filling:

4 large eggs at room temperature
250 ml maple syrup or golden syrup (or 200 ml maple syrup + 50  ml Belgian kandijsiroop)
85 ml brown sugar and 60 ml white sugar
60 gr butter, melted
3 cups pecan nuts
2 tablespoons of brown rum
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Divine pecan pie

How to

Start with the crust, as it needs cooling. Sieve the flour and icing sugar into a large bowl, add the ground almonds and salt. Add the butter and rub with between your fingers or use a pastry cutter, until all is mixed and you have a collection of crumbs. Add the egg, knead into a homogeneous mass (avoid handling the dough for too long) and shape into a ball. Wrap in plastic foil and let the ball cool in the fridge for at laeast 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Before use, roll out the dough onto a flour-dusted surface until it’s large enough to fit a rimmed pie plate, mine was about 25 cm. Test by holding the pie plate over the rolled-out dough, it needs to be larger to fit the sides. Butter the pie plate and transfer the dough. Don’t worry if it breaks up a little, you can ‘paste’ it back together once it’s in the plate. Set this in the fridge until the filling is done (to my surprise, Martha Stewart didn’t recommend blind baking first, so I didn’t do this and it turned out fine).

Make sure your eggs are at room temperature, not straight from the fridge or they might clash with the melted butter. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, syrup, sugar, butter, vanilla, rum and salt together. Mix in the pecan nuts. Pour the filling into the cold pie crust and pop into the oven. Bake for 50-60 minutes until the filling is solid, it can still be a little jiggly in the middle. Keep an eye on the pie in the oven: my pecans started to turn quite dark after a while so I turned down the heat to 170 and covered the pie with aluminum foil to prevent it from burning.

Let the pie cool in its plate. Enjoy!

 

cheesecake-marbled brownies

One of my favorite coffee bars in Brussels is Coffee Company in the Zuidstraat. There’s a large choice of coffees, cold coffees and other drinks and the interior is filled with bazaar style sofas and bric-a-brac tables and seats. Besides offering some good salads, sandwiches and wraps for lunch, they always have a counter filled with sweet goodies like apple pies, homemade cake, brownies… In short: whenever I’m in the area (which happens now and then, since there are lots of nice clothing shops there) I have a hard time resisting a macchiato with a bakery treat. So one day I popped in and decided to try something I would describe as ‘cheesecake -meets-brownie': cheesecake on top and brownie on the bottom. Oh my, this thing honestly came close to baked goods-perfection!Brownie batter

So when I was considering what to whip up for my birthday treat at work (yes, I managed to make it to a quarter century the past weekend, thankyouverymuch) while scouring Smitten Kitchen’s recipe page for something to use up the excess of chocolate chips that occupy my shelves since the last baking party, I found a cheesecake-brownie recipe that looked a lot like what I had at the Coffee Company. Time to give it a try!

marbled batter

My square ‘brownie-baking pan’ – actually, this glass pan is probably the most multifunctional thing in my kitchen, it serves for anything that needs to be baked in the oven – is larger than the one in the recipe (8 inches or 20 cm, while mine is 25). So I multiplied the quantities by 1.5, and also changed the sugar ratios since I don’t have unsweetened chocolate (I don’t think it’s sold in Belgium, since well, Belgians only buy tasty chocolate). The original recipe can be found here. Here’s mine!

(Note afterward: It turned out quite well, but I might have to try with a larger proportion of cheesecake in the future. Let me know if you have your own favorite recipe!)

marbled and sprinkled with chocolate chips

Ingredients

170 grams butter
120 grams dark chocolate (chips)
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour

400 grams cream cheese (Philadelphia or the likes)
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

dark chocolate chips to ‘scatter’ over the batter

How to:

Preheat the oven 175 degrees Celsius and butter a square 25 cm baking pan. Melt chocolate and butter together on low heat. Remove from heat and whisk in sugar, eggs, vanilla, and a pinch of salt until well combined. Sieve and whisk in flour until just combined and spread in baking pan. So much for the brownies!

Mix the cream cheese, sugar, egg yolks and vanilla until fluid for the cream cheese part. Pour over the brownie batter. Now, take a small spoon/spatula/knife with round tip and ‘scoop’ into the brownie batter, swirling it around so it turns into a marbled pattern (see picture above).

Sprinkle with chocolate chips and pop into the oven for 30-40 minutes, until the sides start to puff up. Brownies are traditionally still a bit unbaked and moist on the inside, and as I’m still getting to know my new oven, I found it quite hard to figure out how much time it needed. The sides became ‘cracked’ and it was quite inevitable to bake the sides more than the middle in my case. If you’re not sure, cut out a small piece and give it a try, and remember that it will become less moist once it’s cooled. Enjoy!

The finished brownies

Rhubarb pie

Rhubarb is in season! It’s not that common in the supermarket, but fortunately my parents have it in the garden every year and they brought me some of this pink-and-green gold. This rhubarb pie recipe is pure nostalgia for me – I could smell the pies from my childhood as I was peeling away at the stalks. There’s nothing quite like the sour-sweet smell of this fresh fruit! Rhubarb can be quite different in taste (from sweet to sour) and color (from green to very pink). The kind we have is quite sour, so I used a lot of sugar – use according to the kind you have. You could also substitute with another firm fruit like apples or pears.

This recipe is originally from a cute little cookbook by two ladies called Liesbeth and Bie. I had to recreate it from memory, since I don’t have the cookbook and couldn’t find the recipe online. Usually improvising ratios is a ‘no go zone’ for desserts, but I relied on the usual quiche ratios and just added in sugar and flour from memory. You can do a ‘lazy version’ and replace the homemade crust by a storebought one. Enjoy this wonderful pie!

Rhubarb pie

Ingredients

For the crust:

155 grams all-purpose flour
90 grams cold butter, in cubes
60 grams fine sugar
2 egg yolks (save the egg whites)

For the filling:

500 grams of rhubarb, peeled and diced
250 ml cream
3 eggs
3 or 4 heaped tablespoons of sugar
1 heaped tablespoon of flour
1 teaspoon of cinnamon (or more if you really love cinnamon)
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

powdered sugar, for dusting

1 pie tin of about 25 cm diameter
dry beans, or rice, or lentils for blind baking weight

Start with the crust. Sieve the flour, then add in the butter cubes. Rub with your fingers until you have a crumbly mixture and mix in the sugar. Add the egg yolks and, using a fork or knife, bring to a more or less consistent dough. Because this gets pretty crumbly, I use a shortcut to avoid the traditional mess when trying to make a ball: spread out a sheet of plastic wrapping foil. Fold your batter into a ball as good as it gets, then transfer to foil. Add the rest of the crumbly stuff and form into a ball using the plastic foil to press it all together. Let it sit in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Put the ball between two sheets of baking paper, beat into a disklike shape and roll out until it’s a bit larger than your tin. Grease the tin, dust with flour and transfer the crust to the tin. Put a baking sheet on top with beans or rice as weights, put in the oven for 10 minutes (this is called blind baking, it makes your crust crunchier). Remove the baking weight and brush egg white over the crust (this prevents your fluid batter from seeping into the crust later). Bake for 10 more minutes.

Meanwhile, dice the rhubarb and prepare the filling by mixing all the ingredients except the rhubarb in a bowl. Spread the rhubarb out over the baked crust, sprinkle with some more sugar and then add the liquid cream mixture. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until firm. Let it cool down a bit before serving and dust with powdered sugar. Also great with some vanilla ice cream!

Layered spice cake (Kue lapis)

This is a pretty special cake recipe – the cake is grilled in tiny layers, instead of baked! The minute I saw this in the book ‘Warm Bread and Honey Cake’ by Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra – a really cool baking book  with very traditionally Dutch and very exotic recipes that has also been translated into Dutch (Zelfgebakken) – I wanted to try this. So here it is! It’s not difficult, but it takes dedication and patience, as you basically have to stay very close to the oven for more than 40 minutes. In my experience, this amount of batter forms very very thin layers, so you can always go for  6 layers (2 times three) if you want more ‘visible’ colored layers, although the baking times will be a little different. The cake is quite heavy (cut small slices) but very yummy and spicy. Let me know if you give it a try!

Ingredients for a 20 cm tin:

250 grams of butter, at room temperature
200  grams of fine sugar
5 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon of vanilla-extract
125 grams of flour
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon of ground clove (kruidnagel)
1/8 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
50 grams of melted butter, for greasing

Beat the butter, with a machine mixer (handheld or standing) if you have one. Add 100 grams of sugar and keep beating until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks in small doses and the vanilla extract and mix everything well. Sieve the flour with the salt and set apart.

In a clean, grease-free bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff. Add the remaining sugar while beating, slowly but surely. Keep beating until you have good and sturdy egg white ‘blobs’ that don’t sag. Add a tablespoon of the egg whites to the butter mixture and spoon it through. Now slowly spoon the egg whites and flour through the butter, making large round movements with a spatula. Don’t mix for too long to preserve the fluffiness. Now, separate the dough in two bowls into two equal parts. Carefully mix the spices with one of the two bowls. Heat your oven’s grill. Grease the baking tin with some of the melted butter and add 1/4 of one of the bowls to the tin. Flatten the mixture with a palette knife and make sure no extra batter is sticking to the sides, as this will burn under the grill and distort your pretty layered pattern.

Put the tin under the hot grill until the top starts to ‘bulge’ and the batter is baked. The first layer will take about 5 minutes, depending on your oven and the distance from the grill. Take the tin out of the oven, using a brush, coat with a layer of melted butter and add another layer, from the other bowl (alternating light and dark batter). Repeat this process – the grilling will now take about 3 minutes for each layer. The layers have to rise, be golden brown and baked. You will have eight layers in total. Always spread the batter evenly and clean spilled batter, as this will burn. When all layers are grilled, carefully cut away from the sides of the tin and let the cake cool on a baking grid.

Mango speculoos no bake cheesecake

This cheesecake is one of the closest things I have to a ‘family recipe': I remember having it at birthdays and summer parties at home and helping my mother with the preparations. I first made it myself when I was studying abroad in Spain, because it’s such a refreshing and fruity summer dessert. Over time, I’ve created my own version, keeping the basics but substituting the ‘accessories’. The original recipe uses petit beurre biscuits that you arrange on the bottom (no crumbling) and canned abricots as fruit – in fact, I don’t think mangoes existed in the Belgian supermarkets when I was a kid. My version uses speculoos biscuits, fresh mangoes and passion fruit. Basically, you can use any kind of dry and sweet biscuits/cookies (no chocolate chips or any of the sort though) and fruit, I’ve also made it with strawberries for example. The recipe is not complicated, but there are some tricks you can apply to make it succeed, so follow the instructions. It takes about an hour to make and needs several hours to set properly, if possible you can make it a day ahead. Enjoy!


Ingredients for a 26 cm cake tin

8 gelatin sheets (I prefer these to powder, but powder will probably work too. If you’re a strict vegetarian you could use agar agar, but I have no experience with that. 8 gelatin sheets are about 13 grams.)
200-250 ml of (tropical) fruit juice/pineapple juice
juice of one orange
3 passion fruits
200 grams of sugar
500 ml of heavy whipping cream
4 bags of vanilla sugar
500 grams of no-fat fresh white cheese/quark/plattekaas (this is a very basic product in Belgium, but somehow it’s not always available in other countries. Use a fresh, soft, white, unsalted cheese, for example ricotta, if you can’t find it.)
200 grams of dry biscuits of your choice (I used Vermeiren speculoos)
75 grams of unsalted very soft butter (not melted!), use only if you’re going to crumble the bottom
2 mangoes

Soak the gelatin sheets in cold water. Squeeze out the orange into a measuring cup and add the contents of two passion fruits. Fill up with fruit juice (pineapple, tropical…) until you have 300 ml. Heat the juice with the sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Squeeze out the gelatin and add into the warm juice, stir well. While this is cooling down, stir every now and then so the gelatin doesn’t set too much yet.

Whip up the cream with the vanilla sugar in a large bowl until stiff. Mix in the fresh cheese in large round motions, using a spatula or spoon. While the juice is still cooling down, crumble the biscuits, using a mortar or in a food processor. They don’t have to be completely crumbled, you can leave some small chunks. Mix with the soft butter and spread out over the bottom of a 26 cm spring cake tin. Cut a mango and one half into wedges and cover the biscuits with them.

When the juice is sufficiently cooled down (it can still be a little warm but not hot), add it slowly into the cream mixture. Start with a few spoons, mix well, and continue like this. It is really important to mix in the liquid very well, or you will have jelly-like inclusions in your cake later on (which are also yummy, but not very pleasing to the eye). Now comes the most crucial part: pour the cream-juice mix over the mangoes, but do this very slowly, or the mango wedges will come floating up (once again, just as tasty but not the intention!). Slowly keep pouring until you have poured out all of the mixture. Cover with plastic wrap or a cover if your cake tin has one and let it sit in the fridge for at least 3-4 hours.

To test if the cheesecake is ready, wiggle the tin a little bit. The white top part should move as one solid mass. You can decorate the top with leftover mango wedges and the extra passion fruit. Carefully cut around the sides with a sharp knife and then remove the sides parts of the tin. Don’t keep the cake out of the fridge for too long, or it will start to get wobbly again, and possibly collapse. Enjoy!

(the pictures below are my first version of the cheesecake and the one I made for my bake sale party, as you can see they’re always a little different)


 

Pineapple upside down cake

Ever since Bree Van de Kamp made this wonderful cake in Desperate Housewives (there’s quite a funny scene about Gaby and Bree making the cake, watch it here), I’d been wanting to try it myself. I finally had the opportunity at my charity bake sale last Sunday. The cake turned out quite well and was a lot of people’s favorite! My most important advice: if you have a regular cake tin instead of a spring cake tin, use it – the caramel on the bottom will run a little during baking, no matter how good of a spring cake tin you have. I didn’t have a full bottom cake tin and the cake still came out fine, but who knows, it might have been even better…

Ingredients (for a 26-cm cake tin), serves at least 8 hungry people:

One can of pineapple slices in juice (not syrup)
100 grams of butter, melted
100 grams of light brown sugar (or dark brown)
7 red sugar cherries (maraschino)
150 grams of butter, at room temperature
210 grams of sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
280 grams of flour, sieved
10 grams of baking powder, sieved (a bag of Dr. Oetker is 16 grams, you can also take one large tablespoon)
45 grams of ground coconut

Heat the oven to 180 degrees. Pour the melted butter in a closed cake tin and brush the sides of the tin with butter as well. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the butter. Let the pineapple drain and keep 150 ml of the juice. Spread the pineapple slices over the bottom of the tin in the butter-sugar mixture (one in the middle and the six others around it) and put a cherry in the middle of every slice.

Beat the butter soft in a big bowl (either by hand with a wooden spoon or with a hand mixer). Beat in the sugar and keep going until the mixture is fluffy and creamy. Add the eggs one by one and mix well. Add the vanilla extract. Now slowly add in the flour and baking powder, the coconut and the leftover pineapple juice. Stir with a metal spoon until the batter is smooth, stop when it’s all mixed well.

Scoop the batter out over the pineapple slices and smooth the top of the cake, which will later become the bottom. Make a bit of a hole with the back of a spoon in the middle, to prevent it from rising too much in the middle.  Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean of the middle. Let the cake cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning it over on a large plate to cool down. Enjoy!

Decadent hazelnut meringue pie

I decided to go all out yesterday and made this hazelnut meringue pie. The recipe is from the famous Holtkamp Bakery in Amsterdam via delicious. magazine (February 2011). I’d been drooling over the article for quite some time so yesterday I finally got around to trying it. The result is very pretty and about to be consumed this afternoon, but I have no doubt it will be delicious (I tried plenty of the mocha buttercream to be fairly certain about this). The only thing you need is a lot of time and patience (i.e. a free afternoon dedicated to cooking) and possibly some friends to eat this with you. Actually, the recipe advises to wait a day since the pie is at its best after one day. Have fun!

The recipe consists of several different parts. I have tried to list them according to the order in which I prepared them: 1. meringue pie layers 2. custard cream  3. hazelnut paste 4. coffee extract 5. butter cream 6. assembly. It’s not as elaborate as it sounds, if that’s any consolation.

Ingredients for the meringue pie layers

2 egg whites (you can use the yolks for the custard)
110 grams fine sugar
75 grams powdered sugar
75 grams ground hazelnuts (I didn’t find this in the regular supermarket so I went with ground almonds, oops)

Heat the oven to 120 degrees Celsius. Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt. When they become foamy, add in a bit of the sugar, then add in the rest by the end when they’re completely stiff. Fold in the powdered sugar and ground nuts. You now have a kind of meringue batter, the recipe tells you to use a piping bag but I just used a palette knife. Spread this batter out on two baking tins dressed with parchment paper in a circle shape with a 22-24 cm diameter (it should be about 1,5 cm thick). Put in the oven for 45 minutes, take out and let it cool. Carefully remove from the parchment paper before use. These will be the meringue layers for the pie.

Ingredients for the custard cream (makes about 700 grams)

500 ml of full-fat milk
100 grams of sugar
half a vanilla bean
45 grams of custard powder (I bought vanilla pudding mix, like Dr. Oetker and noticed that one bag is about 45 grams)
2 egg yolks

Put 450 ml milk in a saucepan with 50 grams of sugar. Cut open the vanilla bean, scrape the seeds from it and add both to the milk. Put the saucepan on the  fire and bring to a boil, switch off immediately when it starts to boil and remove the vanilla bean. Meanwhile, mix the remaining 50 ml milk and 50 grams sugar with the custard powder and egg yolks. Add a bit of the hot milk to this mixture, mix well and then add the cold mixture into the saucepan milk. Stir, bring to a boil on a low fire and let it bubble for about two minutes  while stirring continually (this burns very quickly so don’t leave the pan). Pour the custard into a cold bowl and let it cool, while stirring occasionally.

Ingredients for the hazelnut paste (makes about 95 grams)

60 grams of white hazelnuts (without skins)
35 grams of sugar

Roast the hazelnuts in a hot skillet until they’re golden brown. Mix the hazelnuts with the sugar in a food processor  until this is a thick, almost fluid paste. I have no food processor so I used a stick blender, which also works, but it’s not ideal. You can conserve any extra’s in the fridge for up to a month.

Ingredients for the coffee extract

half a cup of strong, warm espresso (50 ml)
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp Nescafé (instant coffee)

Mix the hot espresso with the sugar and Nescafé until completely solved. Let it cool and preserve in the fridge.

Ingredients for the butter cream, or crème au beurre (for about 600 grams)

300 grams of custard cream (recipe above)
65 grams of sugar
200 grams of soft butter, beaten until fluffy

Using a mixer, beat the sugar through the custard cream. Now add the soft butter (if this doesn’t go easily, you can use a hair dryer to heat the bowl while adding in the butter). You can keep this cream in the fridge for 3 days or in the freezer for a few months.

The glorious assembly!

100 grams of hazelnuts, roasted and crushed coarsely using a mortar and pestle
a few whole hazelnuts for decoration
30 grams of powdered sugar

Mix 600 grams of butter cream with 25 ml of coffee extract and 35 grams of hazelnut paste. This is the coffee hazelnut cream that will make the filling of the pie. Put a few small dots of the cream on the plate on which you will assemble the pie. Put the first meringue layer on the plate. Put the coffee cream into a piping bag with a medium star-shaped tip and cover the meringue layer with a layer of coffee cream (I started at the outsides, making a circle drawing closer to the center). Add the second layer of meringue. Now, the recipe told me to add a thin layer of cream to the sides, but I found this very difficult as the outer parts of the meringue were rather thin and my cream was a bit too fluid. So I piped a layer at the side/top of the upper meringue layer, which then sort of fell into place on the side of the pie.

Now, decorate the sides and top with the crushed hazelnuts. I did this by sprinkling the hazelnuts on top of the cream and adjusting where necessary. When the sides are done, use the rest of the hazelnuts on top of the pie. Pipe a few decorations onto the pie and add a whole hazelnut (see picture). Finish by dusting with powdered sugar (it’s so pretty you don’t really need to do this, in my opinion). Enjoy!


Layered trifle with red fruit

 

This is one of my all-time favorite desserts. A trifle is a typically English layered dessert that includes fruit, cookies or cake and some kind of creamy inbetween (and no, it’s not pronounced ‘triffel’ in Dutch). It’s really quite easy to make and it’s impressive because of the many differently colored layers. I usually make it in a big cylindrical glass bowl, which has a big wow-factor. The downside of that is that once you start dividing portions, the effect is ruined and it’s also not easy to give everyone a balanced portion (fruits-cake-mascarpone-custard-wise). The red fruit layer has blended in a bit with the cake layer in my trifle in the picture, because I was pressed for time and didn’t let the red fruit thaw properly, so that its juice thawed into the cake (sounds delicious though, doesn’t it?) If you’re more patient or using fresh fruit, making a pretty cake layer will be easier. It’s also an easy dessert to make in small portions: use glasses (regular glasses or wine glasses) or another kind of bowl, but make sure that you have something transparent so that the visual effect pays off. If you have small bowls, you can easily decorate the top with a sprig of mint or a strawberry with a bit of whipped cream. The original recipe puts whipped cream on the custard, but usually I find this a bit over the top (can a dessert ever be over the top though?). Don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients, it’s really not that hard or time-consuming to make.

Ingredients for at least 12 people

For the cake layer (I just use a regular 4/4 cake recipe but you’re welcome to use your own favorite recipe):
4 eggs
250 grams of sugar
250 grams of butter
250 grams of self-rising flour (or regular flour with a big teaspoon of baking powder)

For the red fruit layer
a sweetish fruity liquor like Grand Marnier, Cointreau, Kirsch… (not Passoa or Pisang!)
a cup or jar of red fruit jam (strawberry, raspberry or red berry mixture)
about 700 grams of red fruit (I usually use frozen in winter, let it thaw a bit before use)

For the white creamy layer
500 grams of Mascarpone
milk
sugar (I never measure this, sorry)

For the yellow custard layer
1 liter of full-fat milk
1 vanilla bean
8 egg yolks (you’ll probably have a lot of egg white leftovers, I try not to waste these – you can freeze them or make chocolate mousse with them, just melt at least 300 grams of chocolate au bain marie and add to the beaten egg whites)
200 grams of sugar
65 grams of corn starch/maïzena (the original recipe uses flour but I find it very hard to make the custard without clots then)
For the lazy ones among us: you can use pudding mix from a package but of course it won’t taste the same as the homemade stuff).

Start by making the cake. Heat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius and prepare a regular cake tin with butter and flour. Separate the eggs and beat the yolks with 200 grams of the sugar until it is a fluid and white mixture. Melt the butter in the microwave and add it slowly while stirring. Add the flour. Now beat the egg whites with the 50 grams of sugar: add in a spoon when you start beating them, then add another spoon when you’re halfway, then add the rest of the egg whitewhen they’re stiff. Mix the egg whites with the flour mixture, be careful not to stir them but sort of ‘shovel’ them under, leaving air in the batter. Pour the batter into the cake tin and put it in the oven for 40-45 minutes. The cake is ready when you can insert a toothpick and it comes out clean, or when it starts moving ‘away’ from the tin and it springs back when you push on the top. Le the cake cool down and cut off the crust on the top and sides. Cut into blocks and fill the bottom of the glass cylinder. Tip: you can also use store-bought cake, cake leftover that have been sitting around for a few days or crunchy cookies (I’d only use cookies if I was making it in small portions though).

Sprinkle the cake layer with some liquor, to prevent it from drying out and give it a more refined taste. Spoon the jam over the cake layer (if the jam is too rigid you can heat it up a bit first), then add the red fruit.

Make the custard layer before the mascarpone, because it needs to cool down. Start by putting the milk in a saucepan with the vanilla bean, after you have cut through in the length and scraped the black seeds out – add these to the milk. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat. In the meantime, beat the egg yolks with the sugar until it becomes whiter and fluid. Add the corn starch to the egg mixture. When the milk has boiled, add the hot milk to the egg mixture and beat with a wire whip. Put the mixture back on the fire and keep whipping and scraping the bottom so it doesn’t burn. Continue until the mixture is bubbling, let it boil for a bit (don’t stop whipping!), take it from the fire and pour it into a clean, cold bowl. Let it cool down and stir now and then to prevent it from forming a ‘sheet’ on top. Remove the vanilla bean before use.

Make the mascarpone layer by emptying the mascarpone in a big bowl and adding a few sips of milk, then crush with a fork and mix until it is a creamy mixture with the consistency of toothpaste. Add sugar to taste – if you want, start with 50 grams and then add until it’s sweet enough.

Put the mascarpone layer on top of the red fruit and smooth out the top. Add the custard layer once it’s cooled down and make it smooth as well. Done! Just at tip: if you make it at least a few hours beforehand and then put it in a cold spot, the flavors can work into each other really well (it’s also a great day-after-the-party leftover-munch). Enjoy!