Smoothies

Raspberry and Avocado Smoothie

I am a self-confessed gadget geek. This stretches to many things in my life, but most especially to my kitchen. Lakeland is a particular danger zone for me – whilst I can go clothes shopping and come away with nothing, put me in Lakeland and I could spend up. One of my most recent purchases was a smoothie maker, and this has got me very excited, and all in the name of healthy eating! A win-win situation!

Raspberry Avocado Smoothie

This particular recipe was my first attempt of a smoothie and it was a great success! Only four ingredients, and it makes 2 large smoothies – great for making first thing in the morning. If you do not have a smoothie maker, just use a food processor.

Raspberry Avocado Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1 avocado
  • 3/4 cup of orange juice
  • 3/4 cup of raspberry juice (cranberry juice would also work
  • 1/2 cup frozen raspberries.

Instructions:

Remove the flesh from the avocado and place in the blender. Add the frozen raspberries, raspberry juice and orange juice, and blend until smooth. Pour into a glass and serve.

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Baking · Cookies · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge · Pastry

Latvia: Alexander Torte

Flag of Latvia

Tracing the history of a cake can be tricky, particulary when several countries claim it for their own. Such is true with this recipe. Whilst many feel that it is a Latvian dessert (hence its inclusion here), it has also been claimed by the Estonians, Finnish and Swedish cuisines. The reason for its creation is just as murky; the generally accepted statement is that it was created for Alexander I, yet the reason for the creation of this dessert has eluded me.

Alexander Torte

On the surface, this dessert looks deceptively simple, consisting of two layers of sweet pastry, sandwiched together with a layer of raspberry jam and then coated with a thin lemon glace icing. The tricky part of this dessert is undoubtedly working with the pastry – sweet pastry is notoriously hard work with, being very crumbly, and one false move will lead to this delicate pastry falling apart. I used individual cutters to help combat this, rather than creating one big sheet as is traditional. I love the raspberry and lemon combination, but this recipe could be altered to choose any flavours that you wish. The result is a cross between a pastry and a biscuit, and is delicious served with a strong espresso for afternoon tea.

Alexander Torte 2

Alexander Torte

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups butter
  • 1 cup raspberry jam
  • 4 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 cups icing sugar

Instructions

Put the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix briefly before kneading in the butter. Chill for 20 minutes before rolling out and cutting into shapes of your choice. Place on a baking tray and bake in a preheated oven (350° F/180° C) for 12 minutes until golden. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Spread the pastry with the jam before placing the second layer on top. Mix the icing sugar and lemon juice and spread over the tops of the biscuits. Serve with strong coffee.

Baking · Cupcakes

Raspberry and Coconut Muffins

More summery muffins? Check. Raspberries and coconut. That’s right. One of my favourite combinations makes up these beautiful muffins – a coconut cake, filled with raspberry compote and topped with a raspberry buttercream. If you liked the coconut dream cake, you’ll love these!

Raspberry and Coconut Muffins

Raspberry and Coconut Muffins

Ingredients:

Cake

  • 8oz butter
  • 8oz caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 4oz plain flour
  • 4oz dessicated coconut
  • 3 tsp baking powder

Filling:

  • 2 punnets of raspberries
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar

Buttercream Topping

  • 160g butter
  • 500g icing sugar
  • 40ml milk
  • Fresh raspberries, to decorate
  • Dessicated coconut, to decorate
  • Other decorations as required.

Instructions: Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 5 and line a 12-hole cupcake tray with liners. Cream together the butter and sugar before beating in the eggs and vanilla essence. Stir in the baking powder, plain flour and desiccated coconut and mix until well combined. Spoon into the cupcake liners and bake for 30 minutes until form and golden brown. Remove, place on a wire rack and leave to cool. Make the raspberry compote by placing the raspberries and sugar in a pan, and gently cooking until thick and the raspberries have broken down. Leave the mixture to cool. Use a cupcake corer or sharp knife to make a small hole in the cupcake before filling with the raspberry compote (or jam), retaining half the mixture. Make the buttercream by beating the butter, sugar and milk until thick and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add in the reserved raspberry compote and beat until well combined. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a star-shaped nozzle and pipe onto the cupcakes. Decorate with the raspberries, coconut and other decorations.

Desserts · Ice Cream

I Dream of… Chocolate and Raspberry Ice-Cream

I love ice-cream, very much. However, the problem with living in England is that our range of ice-cream flavours is not that exciting. Yes,  Cornish clotted cream ice-cream is delicious and there are some really delicious ice-creams out there (notably a delicious blackcurrant ice cream that is sold at National Trust properties), but on the whole it’s pretty pedestrian. Many of my holiday memories revolve around ice cream – a dreamy dark chocolate gelato in Dubrovnik, a celery flavoured ice cream in Rome and my first taste of Italy – a canteloupe melon gelato.

After our last holiday to Rome, and after many occasions of me mentioning how much I wished we could have the delicious flavours we sampled at home, I was bought an ice cream maker as a housewarming present. Now the first try of this was rather disappointing – the included recipes were rather lacking in flavour. However, I then bought possibly one of my favourite cook books, David Leibovitz’s The Perfect ScoopThis book is what ice-cream needed; the flavours in this book literally make my head spin with the possibilities.

Chocolate Raspberry Ice Cream

This ice cream was chosen to go with the Prinsesstarta made earlier in the year. Whilst not traditional to serve chocolate ice cream with it, the addition of raspberries to the ice cream gives a tart edge which contrasts well with the sweetness of the creamy cake. However, it is also delicious with fruit, cakes, scraped from the bowl… whatever floats your boat!

chocolate and raspberry icecream

[Note, home-churned ice cream will tend to be less set than the shop bought variety, and then set about a million times harder when frozen – remove it 10 minutes before serving which should make it easier to shovel out!

Chocolate and Raspberry Ice Cream

Ingredients:

  • 360ml double cream
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 40g cocoa powder, the best quality you can get.
  • 240g raspberries.

Instructions:

Place the cream, cocoa powder and sugar in a large saucepan and heat until it come to the boil, whisking regularly (it will start foaming up, this is normal). Remove from the heat and add the raspberries. Leave to cool for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pass the mixture through a sieve to remove the seeds and refrigerate until chilled. Churn in your ice cream maker according to the instructions.

Baking · Cake

Baking Brave: Chocolate Brownie Meringue Torte

imagesDo you have a competitive streak? Most of us will have a tendency towards a form of competition, whether it be in academic or social terms. Mine is generally dormant – usually I’m quite good at thinking positively and non-competitively towards my actions and those of others. However, there is an exception to this, and for me that exception is baking.

When it comes to the culinary arts, I have a real ‘can-do’ attitude. Paul Hollywood tells us how difficult macaroons are to make, I obsess over them for the next few months until I can make them right. Puff pastry is seem as too difficult to make for amateurs – I’ll prove them wrong! As the for the dreaded croquembouche, I’ve got you in my sights… Therefore when World Baking Day announced their bake brave challenge, with 100 cakes of different levels of difficulty, I imediately clicked on no. 100 – the hardest.

Raspberry Torte Final

Yes, my competitive spirit kicked in big time, but then reality struck. Whilst a choux pastry tower would be impressive, it was not going to be a suitable choice. Not because I couldn’t do it, but rather because we couldn’t eat it. So reluctantly I scaled down my ambition and settled on option 91 – the chocolate brownie raspberry torte. My sense of pride only slightly dented, I made this cake, constructed it and promptly had to hide the leftovers – what more needs to be said!

raspberry torte 4

This recipe also forms my entry for the Calendar Cakes Challenge, being hosted by Laura Loves Cakes and Dolly Bakes, which
challenged you to make one of the cakes from the Bake Brave 100 list

calendar-cakes

Chocolate Brownie Meringue Torte

Ingredients:

Brownie base:

  • 200g good-quality dark chocolate
  • 200g margarine
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 3 medium free-range eggs
  • 110g plain flour

Meringue topping

  • 4 medium free-range egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 100g chopped roasted hazelnuts

To fill:

  • 300ml whipping cream
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 300g fresh raspberries

To finish (optional):

  • 200g fresh raspberries
  • 100g toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped.

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5. Roughly chop the chocolate, set 20g aside for later, and put the remaining 180g into a heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over a pan of steaming water and leave to melt gently, stirring frequently. (Do use a bain-marie, rather than try and melt it in a saucepan like I did – first lot of chocolate had a nice burnt taste to it…)

Meanwhile, beat the soft margarine with the icing sugar until very light, creamy and fluffy before adding the eggs, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in the flour and the cooled, melted chocolate. When thoroughly combined, stir in the reserved chopped chocolate. Divide the mixture between the prepared tins and spread it out evenly. Bake for 8 minutes – the mixture will not be cooked but will have started to form a crust.

While the mixture is baking, whisk the egg whites with the cream of tartar in a bowl until stiff peaks form. Whisk in the sugar in four batches, to make a smooth and glossy, thick meringue. Fold in the chopped hazelnuts (I have also used almonds which also work well)

Remove the cake tins from the oven and reduce the temperature to 170°C/325°F/gas mark 3. Divide the meringue equally between the two brownie-filled tins, and gently spread it over the still soft mixture to cover evenly. Bake for another 35-40 minutes until the meringue is golden and the brownie cooked! If the meringue looks like it is burning, cover with foil.

To make the filling, whisk the cream until soft peaks form, then add the icing sugar and 200g of the raspberries. Whisk briefly, to make a thick, pink cream. Fold in the remaining 100g of raspberries.

Run a round-bladed knife around the inside of each tin to loosen the cakes. Turn out the flat-topped meringue cake on to a serving plate, meringue-side down. Spread with the raspberry cream and top with the second cake. Decorate with the remaining raspberries and hazelnuts if wished.