Category Archives: sweet melissa sundays

sms: chocolate caramel mousse tart

This week’s  SMS challenge – Chocolate Pie crust – offered us the chance to get creative using a filling from outside the book.  Based on comments from a few of the other bakers suggesting the crust lacked flavour, I doubled the cocoa powder as well as the amount of sugar called for in the recipe.  In a bid to spare the ol’ waistband after the gob-stuffing marathon I’ve indulged in over the past few months, I also opted to make it into a 7 inch tart filled with chocolate mousse made from tofu and agave syrup (from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World). That said, I went ahead and annihilated any health benefits by adding a chocolate caramel base layer with toasted hazelnuts (using my leftover caramel ‘sauce’ from last week). To be honest, the crust probably still lacked sweetness, but luckily my filling was so deadly rich that it worked out quite well.

Big thanks to Donna of L’Amour de Tarte for this one! Please check out what the other SMSers came up with too xx

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holiday catch up: thanksmas leftovers

After stuffing my face for the past two months with cakes, pies, cookies, crumbles, crisps and cheesecakes, I seem to have come away with very few pictures to show for it (and all too many pounds..dammit). What follows are the only souvenirs I could find of some memorable bakes served at a ‘Thanksmas’ dinner we hosted for friends (on Dec 12th, hence the name..otherwise it was my 4th annual Thanksgiving do here in the UK) and at my family’s Christmas Day meal.  First up, a beautifully moorish sour cream pumpkin pie from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking, followed by a sweet & gooey pecan pie made with Lyle’s Golden Syrup.  I can only offer the ‘before’ picture for that one because unfortunately I didn’t manage to snap the finished product before it was devoured.  Next up is an adaptation of Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Gascon Apple Pie from the Pie & Pastry Bible.  This boozy treat is actually my You Want Pies With That? entry for December.  I got to choose the theme this time, woohoo!!! So please have a look at what the other lovely piemakers have offered up as their ‘holiday spirit‘ pies.  And the final picture is really the only  snap I’ve got of two phenomenal cheesecakes: my celebration stalwart, a luscious White Chocolate (Orange-) Cranberry Swirl number, and the Chocolate Espresso Cheesecake from the Sweet Melissa Baking Book (with an oreo cookie crust, whipped cream piping and a gorgeous blackberry compote topping).

i suggest adding any leafy embellishments before you've got just 10 mins left on the timer.. ahem

pecan pie beginnings


Boozy Cran-Apple Pie

chocolate espresso cheesecake & white chocolate cranberry swirl cheesecake ...and another duck face pose.. i need a new look

You can find the recipe for the pumpkin pie here – this is the fourth time I’ve made it, and it won’t be the last.  Rose’s Pecan Pie can be found on page 302 of the P&P Bible and I think it’s earned it’s place as my new Go2, although (as I always find with pecan pies) I had to bake it about 20 mins longer than recommended.  Luckily my pie shield saved the crust from overbrowning.  The Chocolate Espresso Cheesecake was a recent SMS bake and you can find the recipe here on Shandy’s lovely site.  It cratered on me the first time around so I didn’t post in time (shame on me).  The one pictured above also cracked and fell slightly (I covered that up with piping and blackberry compote), but I think I figured out the culprit – I love crumb crusts so much that I always do enough to coat the sides of the tin too and that’s never been a problem with my stalwart.  But I’m pretty sure thatcheesecakes (without side crusts) usually pull away a bit from the tin, so I’m betting that with a crust and without the *give* offered by a fruit swirl for example, the poor cheesecake could do nothing but crack.  At least, that’s my guess…  I promise to post the YWPWT apple pie recipe after we get back from Dorset, as  I made some changes to Rose’s original based on what my liquour cabinet (haha, I wish) had to offer and what the holiday season called for – cranberries.

*RECIPE UPDATE*

Boozy Cran-Apple Pie

Adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Gascon Apple Pie

4 medium apples – peeled, cored and sliced 1/8 inch thick

1 cup cranberries

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

5 tablespoons light brown sugar

1/8 tsp salt

1/3 cup brandy (or cognac)

1/2 tsp orange extract

3/4 cups walnuts, lightly toasted and chopped

7 tbs unsalted butter, melted

12 sheets of filo

powdered sugar for dusting

Directions:

In a large bowl, gently toss the apples and cranberries with the sugars, salt and alcohol.  Cover tightly and allow to sit at room temperature for at least 2 hrs (or overnight – in which case, refrigerate them).  Drain the fruit, reserving the juice.  You should have about 1 cup.  Using a small saucepan, reduce the liquid until you have approximately 4 tablespoons.  Add the orange extract then pour the liquid over the fruit and mix in the walnuts.

Preheat the oven to 375F.  With a pastry brush, lightly coat the bottom of the pie pan with some of the melted butter.  Place the filo sheets between two sheets of plastic wrap and cover with a damp towel – re-cover each time you remove a sheet to stop the rest from drying out.  Remove 1 sheet and quickly brush it with unsalted butter (don’t worry about coating every inch, too much butter will just result in a greasy texture anyway).  Drape the filo sheet in the pan, molding it to fit and letting the excess drape over the sides.  Repeat with 7 more buttered sheets.  Empty the fruit mixture into the filo-lined pan, bringing the overhanging bits up and over to enclose the filling partially.  Brush another 2 sheets with butter and fold them crosswise in half.  Butter them again on both sides, then place them on top of the filling, covering it completely, and tuck the ends into the sides of the pie pan.  There will be a depression in the center.  Butter another sheet of filo and cut it in half.  Gather up each piece in loose ruffles and arrange it toward the centre of the pie to partially fill the depression. Butter the final piece of filo and fold it in the long way into thirds.  Coil it loosely to form a rose and place it in the center.  Bake the pie for 50 to 60 mins or until the filo is golden and a skewer inserted into the fruit filling meets with little resistance.  Allow the pie to cool to room temp as the moistened pastry can be a bit tough when warm.  Dust lightly with powdered sugar before serving.

This was the perfect end to my family’s Christmas Day meal. Biting into the crisp pastry to find deliciously caramelized apples & cranberries made for a lovely treat – and the boozy kick made things all the more merry. Enjoy!

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sms: the cake from hell

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This week’s SMS bake, Devils Food Cake, turned out to be a *%$£ing nightmare.  Yes folks, a big, fat, sticky, gooey, creamy, acrid, prolonged torturous nightmare.  Don’t get me wrong – Melissa’s cake itself was heavenly.  It’s a simple enough recipe yielding moist, dark chocolate layers..which, in my case, baked up a bit unevenly because I failed to scrape the bottom of the bowl as religiously as I should have.. the centres shot skyward, only to sink the minute they came out of the oven.  Thankfully, this just seemed to result in slightly denser, more level cakes though, so I wasn’t particularly worried.  Now, sticking with the suggested peanut butter frosting at this point would have saved much blood, sweat and tearful cursing.  But, having done peanut butter frosting to death before (I fell in love with a cream cheese version and refuse to stray), I decided to take this opportunity to conquer my caramel demons by making the Sweet & Salty Cake from Baked.

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Known as their signature creation, it consists of chocolate cake slathered with salted caramel sauce and whipped caramel ganache frosting.  After reading a few negative reviews of the Baked cake itself, in contrast rave rants about the phenomenal frosting, I figured Melissa’s devils food cake would be the ultimate base.  Now, I’m not even a huge fan of caramel taste-wise, but making caramel is something I swore to conquer after my first two attempts went up in smoke a few months back.  literally.  Unfortunately, things got smokey this time round too.  In fact, I ended up having to make 4 – yes, 4 – batches of caramel this time..!!  As I said, the first went up in smoke. The second survived to become a luscious whipped ganache which turned into an impenetrable mass after an overnight stint in the fridge.  So clever me decided to try softening it in the microwave, and – you guessed it – pulled out a liquid mess after getting distracted for a few crucial minutes.  Devil cake 2, June 0.  Back to the Coop for more butter. and chocolate.

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I finally scored a win in round 3 (which I did NOT put in the fridge), but still had to play out round 4 to make the salted caramel sauce.  The whole process took about 4 days and  I’m out a hefty load of sugar, butter and chocolate, but I finally know how to make caramel.  Unfortunately, I had planned to share this devil child with friends, but the dinner date came and went before batch 3… So at the moment, I’ve got a big fat chocolatey waste sitting in my fridge. It’s cursed, I swear.

Despite all my whinging dramatics though, I have to admit that the whipped caramel ganache is phenomenal. Paired with the salted caramel sauce and Melissa’s gorgeous chocolate layers, this is one deliciously evil cake.  I recommend you roll up your sleeves and get sugar-cooking.  You can find the cake recipe on Holly’s lovely site and check out how the other SMSers got on this week

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SMS: Fallen Chocolate Souffle Cake

Retomber comme une souffle

This edible idiom , which I found on Clotilde’s beautiful blog Chocolate & Zucchini, literally translates as “falling back like a souffle”.  It describes an abrupt loss of interest after an enthusiastic start, which sort of sums up my experience with this cake.  It’s not a bad recipe by any means, just not for me…plus umm I think I made some bad baking calls, which probably added to the disappointment.  Firstly, I think I overwhipped the egg-whites and, having opted for a 9-inch springform pan instead of the recommended 10-incher, I added about 5 minutes to the baking time because I was worried the middle would be undercooked.  I was wrong.  The end result was a very good looking cake with a perfect fallen centre.  The texture was light and fluffy, but not really my cup of tea.  I like my chocolate cakes to be rich and fudgy – just over the brownie/cake border – so this didn’t really deliver in my opinion.  My tasters, on the other hand, swore it was delicious – so don’t let me put you off..

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I took the cake to my friend’s fabulous housewarming party, where it made a perfect centre piece, all dressed up with fresh blueberries & strawberries soaked in syrup… We had it with ice cream and..er.. some of us also spooned on hefty globs of leftover cream cheese frosting. Because everything tastes better with cream cheese frosting.  (Don’t judge me).

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It was a fancy dress do (meaning everyone threw on their tackiest bling) and that cocktail was the first of MANY.. so by the end of the night, the cake was just as tarted up as the rest of us..

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Even though I didn’t love this one, I’d consider giving it another shot and reducing the baking time to see if that adds more moisture.  In any case, I’m really happy to have finally tried making a souffle – so big big thanks to Sarah, the Blue Ridge Baker, for choosing this one!! Head over to her lovely blog for the recipe, and check out the SMS blogroll to see how others have fared!

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blinged-up tasting posse (and me in the leopard print)

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SMS: Fresh Peach Muffins

“An apple is an excellent thing — until you have tried a peach.” George du Maurier (1834-1896)

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thanks to Sarah for the lovely me-plate!

I’ve been feeling slightly ashamed about  the fact that summer is nearly over and I’d so far failed to bake with any of the luscious fruit around at the moment.  So big thanks to  Jovonn (of Peach County, Georgia..brilliant) for putting things right by choosing fresh peach muffins as this week’s SMS bake.

It seems some of the other SMS bakettes found these muffins a bit dense and lacking in flavour,  but I was pretty happy with ’em – although I’m not sure how valid my view is if we’re talking about the original recipe, because I pretty much butchered it.  I threw in 1/2 cup more peach, 1/4 cup chopped pistachios and 1 cup white chocolate chunks.  I also attempted to top these off with a pistachio brown-sugar crumble but as you can tell from the pictures, that didn’t really work out.. As usual, I overfilled the muffin cases (yeah, I still haven’t learned my lesson..) so the tops kind of exploded over the sides.. and the crumble went along for the ride too apparently, spreading out so far that I was just left with random blobs of brown-sugar.

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So these beasts might not look very attractive, but they were tasty, I swear.. tasty enough for me to manage 3 in one go.  As for second opinions – the sweet-hater had only 1 (he’s not keen on pistachios or white chocolate) and the lovely RA I’m working with for my thesis had 1 too, but only because that’s all I brought her.  how stingy of me, sorry Hannah!

Head over to The Givens Chronicles if you’d like the recipe, posted by our lovely hostess Jovonn, and check out all the lovely, muffin-shaped specimens the other SMSers baked up.. in contrast to my mushrooming monsters..

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SMS: ‘Nana bread in the nick of time!

We decided to run off sailing this weekend (due to random coincidence: good weather here in the UK + one-off access to a fantastic sailboat, courtesy of friends) so I *almost* missed out on this week’s Sweet Melissa Sundays pick – ‘Mom’s Banana Apple Bread’….

SHOCK

HORROR

But luckily, we managed to get back in time for a bit of baking and I’ve got a lovely, cinnamon-scented loaf cooling on the counter.. Now, take note – this isn’t your boring, run-of-the-mill banana bread,  but a delicious spin on the old classic that calls for sauteing tart Granny Smith apples in a sweet brown sugar syrup.. yum.. And just to up the calorie-count even more, I decided to throw on a crumble topping too, haha… I’m not sure exactly what size my loaf pan is (yes, I could measure it.. but I’m lazy) but after filling it about 3/4 full and scattering crumble topping just shy of the lip, I still had enough batter left over for 2 giant muffins.  As usual, the artificial lighting in our flat leaves a lot to be desired so I’ll post better pictures tomorrow, but here’s a littler taster..

banana apple muffin

Big big thank you to this week’s SMS hostess Joy of Hot Oven Warm Heart for choosing such a sweet and relatively simple (lucky for me) treat !! Get the recipe & the historical low-down on banana bread from her lovely blog, and head over to the SMS site for a peek at what my fellow SMS’ers got up to with this one!

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SMS: Hazelnut truffles

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I’ve been waiting to post on this recipe since using it for my Truffle Nut Tart a few weeks ago.  I always assumed that making truffles (well confection of any kind actually) would be tricky and tedious, but these were actually super easy to whip up.  Some of the other SMS bakettes had trouble finding hazelnuts, but (for once!) my only challenge was sourcing ’em cheap since I wanted to enough for both the tart and these truffles. Most big grocery stores here in the UK stock hazelnuts at a mildly hefty charge (in my skint opinion), but I found a much better deal at this fantastic little shop down my street called the Nut Case.  (Shepherds Bush rocks!)

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As a big fan of frangelico, I stuck to the original recipe and the result was luscious.  It worked brilliantly in the tart as a rich, boozy chocolate layer topped with Frangelico mascarpone cream, and the truffles received a very positive review: my resident chocolate-fighter [credit to Betty for the perfect moniker!] actually asked of his own volition for one (vs the usual – me shoving whatever sweet I’ve made down his throat) and deemed it “good.. really good”.  So I’d say that equates to a 4/5 for visual appeal and probably a 3.5/5 on taste – only because he didn’t ask for seconds (but he rarely does!).  The only thing I plan to change when I make these again – and I will – is the chocolate I used.. I just chucked in my usual dark chocolate (Waitrose brand.. see above, I’m cheap) but next time I’ll try to splash out a bit.  Despite the added frangelico and nuts, I think the flavour of your chocolate really comes through with truffles, so I’d take Melissa’s advice to heart and use the best quality you can get your hands on.  These would make for a lovely gift and the recipe lends itself well to changes if you’d prefer to use a different liqueur or nut.

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Big big thank you to Annie of Living Life Foodcariously for choosing such a lovely treat this week!  Pop over to her site for the recipe and have a peek at the blogroll to see what the other SMS bakers have whipped up.

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