Tag Archives: SMS

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



Filed under caramel, chocolate, pies & tarts, sweet melissa sundays

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.


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


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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Filed under cheesecake, chocolate, fruit, holidays, pies & tarts, sweet melissa sundays, You Want Pies With That

sms: the cake from hell


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.


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.


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


Filed under cake, caramel, chocolate, frosting, sweet melissa sundays

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..


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).


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..


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!


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


Filed under cake, chocolate, souffle, sweet melissa sundays

getting ahead of myself..

I’m heading off on holiday to France tomorrow (er.. in about 5 hours..), and since I may not have access an internet connection – let alone an oven –  I’ve done my SMS baking (and eating!) in advance because I would’ve hated to miss out on this week’s chewy peanut butter cookies chosen by Stephanie of Ice Cream Before Dinner.  So I thought I’d just put down a few comments now and try to post the pics etc on Sunday along with all the other lovely SMS bakers, if I can get myself connected somehow..

So. I love peanut butter – peanut butter sandwiches, peanut butter cups, peanut butter frosting, and peanut butter off a spoon.. that’s the worst, give me an inch and I’ll eat the whole jar.. And although my all time favorite is still this version posted by Bakingblonde, I have to admit that Melissa’s Chewy Peanut Butter cookies were good. really good.  try ’em. seriously.  I’ll comment more on the recipe when I post (hopefully) but for now:

I took the opportunity to use up last week’s gorgeous strawberry grapefruit preserves by making PB & Jam cookie-sandwiches.  The combo turned out to be really popular, so if you’ve got any preserves on hand, give it a go (because that’s just 2 cookies for the price of 1.. bonus!)

Having made peanut butter cookies quite a few times, I also tried mixing things up a bit with a chocolate peanut butter filling I found here on Bakingbites site.  I’ve been drooling over this recipe since stumbling across it about 6 months ago, and seeing as I’ve just munched 5 giant stuffed cookies (the guilt has already hit and indigestion is soon to follow after I scoot off to bed in a minute..doh) I’d say they turned out pretty well.  The one criticism raised was my fault I think – basically, in contrast to the cookie, the filling tasted a bit salty, which some people didn’t love – although I actually found it madly addictive…  This was all down to the PB I used (regular, smooth, Waitrose own brand because I’m posh innit).. Bakingblonde doesn’t specify salted or unsalted, but I might try it again with unsalted to see whether that pleases the critics more..
And as for aesthetics: I had rolled the filling into balls and chilled them before moulding the cookie dough around them (also chilled), but because the cookies spread during baking while the rebellious little filling balls refused to budge, I ended up with mini volcanos.  So I might try smooshing ’em down first.

All in all this was a great recipe and I’m so glad to be baking along with the other SMS bloggers!! You’ll be able to find the recipe on Stephanie’s site from Sunday and see what all the other lovely bakers have come up with on the SMS blogroll.

Right. My sugar levels are finally starting to dip (hopefully) and I’d better be off.

Hope everyone else enjoys this week’s recipe!! I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll be able to post the pics with you all on Sunday! xx

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SMS: We’re jammin we’re jammin we’re jammin we’re jammin…

This is my first post for Sweet Melissa Sunday and I’m so glad I got the chance to take part in this one!  I’m not a big fan of preserves generally – mostly because I rarely bother to grab brekkie before work in the morning, and if I get the chance to indulge in a leisurely breakfast, my choice will always be big fat American-style pancakes with buckets of syrup (forget the wimpie crepes)..  But this recipe for Strawberry Ruby Grapefruit Preserves was definitely a tasty suprise, so big big thanks to Margot from Effort to Deliciousness for choosing it! I made a half-batch and the whole process probably took about an hour, so I’ll definitely have a go with some of the other versions in the Sweet Melissa book – can’t wait to see how the Strawberry Rhubarb version that Hanaa made turned out.  The grapefruit added a lovely zing, and seeing as my boyfriend gave it a thumbs up, it must be good – I’ve never seen him eat jam or preserves before and as I’ve already mentioned, he generally avoids anything without salt, chilli or cheese in it.  But he dug into this stuff..!

Strawberry Ruby-grapefruit preserves with scones and cornish clotted cream

Strawberry Ruby Grapefruit preserves with scones and cornish clotted cream

I opted to make Dorie’s Cream Scones as an accompaniment, which was also a new one for me, and bought some Cornish clotted cream just to add a few thousand calories more… Well worth it.  You can find the scone recipe on this lovely blog.  I left out the suggested raisins and baked one round of 6 scones last night.  I froze the second round and baked that this morning.  I chose to limit the baking time to about 18-20 mins, and both the fresh & frozen batches turned out moist on the inside with nice golden crusts.


I’ve only had the traditional scones & cream once before – on holiday in North Devon with my boyfriend and his family. In my opinion, these turned out much better..! If you can get your hands on Cornish Clotted cream, make the jam & scones and load up.


Thanks again to the SMS bakers for letting me join in on the fun and offering such a warm welcome!  Check out the SMS blogroll to see their interpretations of this week’s recipe!

p.s.  MASSIVE THANKS to my brother for his jammin’ tips…


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