Tag Archives: almonds

White chocolate and berry cheesecake

I’m mindful, at this time of year, of having lots of people to cater for at once, and also the value of being able to Do Things In Advance.

I made this at the weekend, for a lunch party at a friend’s house where I was asked to bring pudding. The value of this is that it feeds lots – easily 12*. It not only can, but has to be made in advance. It looks good, but can also be brought out after a meal, to sit on the table for many hours without spoiling and be picked at (‘I’ll just tidy it up’) as guests get drunker and drunker.

I didn’t have a tin big enough, so I made this in one large rectangular Mermaid tin and a smaller tart tin. But this cheesecake is so good that I think it’s worth buying the right size tin for it as I will be making it again.

A few notes:

I put in 300g of frozen mixed berries as that’s the packet I had, and didn’t see the point of keeping back a handful of berries.

Yes you do put the berries in frozen.

Do build the crust up to a good height at the sides, although this mixture didn’t (for me) rise up, there is a lot of it and if your sides aren’t high enough, you’ll be at a dam-bust situation.

It may be an idea to put the tin on a baking sheet to catch any drips – I didn’t have any but see my point just above.

It definitely took an hour in my oven, maybe a few minutes more.

That’s it. This is a good one to keep up your sleeve for party season and the other great thing about it is that * you can cut the slices as thin or thick as you want, so it could feasibly feed may, many more than the predicted dozen.

Here is the recipe.

Biscuits made with nut butters

My friend Emily, who originally gave me some starter that started (ha ha) my sourdough journey, told me about some spelt and peanut butter cookies that she had made and couldn’t stop eating. Her email made it sound as if she’d eaten four that day or something.

I have Emily down as a) super healthy and b) incredibly controlled where biscuit eating is concerned so the fact that she had eaten so many, and was trying to resist eating more, meant I had to bookmark the recipe. The original one is here, but Emily said she’d adapted them with some rye so this is what I’ve done too in the recipe below.

But when I looked at the recipe, I saw it was all in cups, which are the Devil’s measurements as far as I’m concerned. I have a set of US cups which I bought from Crate and Barrell when I went to San Francisco with my Ma but I’ve never used them because recipes using cups ‘n’ sticks ‘n’ stuff like that drive me to the very edge of insanity.

Then in this month’s Martha Stewart Living there was a recipe for whole-wheat almond butter sandwich cookies which looked amazing. The recipe, like all Martha’s goddam recipes, was in cups ‘n’ sticks. I emailed her team saying “look, why can’t you also provide metric measurements as you sell your magazine in the UK”. And to their credit they did reply.

Telling me that conversion charts were available on Google. Which I guess told me how much they think of their UK readers.

Donna Hay magazine (note: Australian cups are different to US cups, DH magazine is Australian) always provides metric in its recipes. So it can be done. And you’d think that Martha, with all her Harvard interns that she gets over to organise her photo library at home, would be able to provide this.

But no.

Anyway, there were now two recipes – for essential biscuits – asking for cup measurements, so I had to man up. And with the help of about 45 people on Facebook, lots of crying and shouting and, yes, looking things up on Google, I was able to translate these recipes into metric and here I have them laid before you. I’ve also tweaked where necessary because Martha, for example, was asking for a shed-load of cream cheese and, following her recipe meant the cream cheese was far too runny. When I looked at all my other cream cheese frosting recipes (which is what this is, but sandwiched between two bics) they all had butter in, so I put butter in mine and hey-presto, it worked.

The almond sandwich biscuits are tremendously good. And full of nuts which are great for you. You could use other nuts too. I bet hazelnuts would be fabulous. These biscuits can also be eaten on their own, but where’s the fun in that when you can eat two, joined together with a spoonful of cream cheese. You need to make these as you eat them, otherwise they go soft. They’re still delicious mind. But to keep that crunch you need to keep the biscuits in an air tight container, the cream cheese mixture in the fridge, and assemble them before eating.

The spelt/rye/peanut cookies are wonderful too. But different. Easy to make and filling. You don’t get sugar crashes after eating them. And you feel kinda virtuous. I’m actually really craving one as I write and I crave these little salty, savoury sweet biscuits quite often.

Neither are cheap to make though. But they’re not the sort of biscuits you’d ever find in a shop so if you want them, you have to make them

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Wholemeal almond-butter sandwich cookies

I found these made about 30

160g wholemeal plain flour

1 teaspoon of baking powder

a big pinch of sea salt

113g of unsalted butter

130g almond (or other nut) butter

220g light brown sugar

1 large egg

85g flaked almonds, toasted and chopped

for the filling:

300g tub of cream cheese (at room temperature)

50g runny honey

40g very soft butter

half a teaspoon of vanilla extract

Method

Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt and put aside. Beat butter with an electric mixer for about a minute on medium. Obviously you can do this by hand too, or get a Harvard graduate to do it for you. Add the nut butter and beat until smooth as Martha’s face. Now beat in the sugar and egg until as well mixed as one of Martha’s parties. Now reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture. Now, by hand, and gentle, mix in the almonds.

The dough is fairly soft at this stage, but you can form it into a long salami shape using baking parchment and a bit of swearing. Aim for about 12″ long. Freeze for about an hour or you can at this stage freeze until needed.

When you’re ready to cook, preheat oven to 180C take out the biscuit dough (if long-frozen let it be at room temperature for about half an hour, if you’ve only frozen it for an hour it’s ready to use straight away). Slice into thin rounds, just under a centimetre.

Bake on parchment lined trays for 8-10 minutes. You want them to be just gently golden. Imagine the sort of tan Martha lets herself get: nothing too extreme. If you were sure you’d want these to be eaten on their own, I’d probably cook them on the lesser side of done to give them a bit of chewiness.

Let them cool completely, then whisk together the filling ingredients, fill and go.

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Spelt/rye nut butter cookies

280g of spelt/rye flour. I used about 200g of spelt to 80g of rye, but use all spelt if you want

1 teaspoon of baking powder

1 teaspoon of salt

240g of nut butter of your choice

85g of tahini

165g maple syrup

50g of coconut oil/olive oil

1.5 teaspoons of vanilla extract

Oven to 180C. Mix together the salt, flours and baking powder. In another bowl mix together the rest of the ingredients. Introduce the two and mix gently until you get a dough. Drop spoonfuls onto a lined baking tray, or take bits of the dough off and roll, roughly into a ball and do the same (depends how easy the dough is to work with). Flatten with a fork. Bake for 8-10 mins.

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Apricot, amaretto and almond cake

It’s Monday morning as I write this. I was promised sunshine and warm weather and yet, as I sit here in my Uniqlo padded jacket and thermal socks, it is grey outside and I feel depressed.

This is why I am writing about cake. Cake is a happy, safe word, with its promises of tea, friends, chat and warmth.

I made this at the weekend, for a birthday treat for a loved one. It’s a recipe I’ve had for many years (from Waitrose magazine). Most unprepossessing, and even a little bit gauche to look at maybe, but what drew me in was the introduction (I love an introduction in a recipe) which said, briefly but fulsomely:

“This is one of the best cakes in my repertoire, it has a very intense apricot flavour”

(I don’t know who wrote it so apologies.)

That confident appraisal, “one of the best cakes in my repertoire”? Well it rather throws down the cakey gauntlet, doesn’t it?

This is a magnificent cake. Not, of course, if you don’t like almonds or apricots. And each time I make it, it’s slightly different. One time it was so moist at to be barely sliceable – but still delicious – yesterday when I made it, it rose more than ever before, and didn’t sink in the middle (it usually does, a dip which acts as a useful pool for the yoghurty, creamy topping) and was definitely a spongey cake. Anyway, try it and see. It really does have a wonderful flavour, and on a depressing, grey, Monday when the weekend is all behind you still, that’s what you need.

You’ll need, for the cake:

115g unsalted butter, softened

325g caster sugar

50g marzipan, cut into little pieces

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

50ml amaretto, plus an extra as a sip as it’s delicious

3 eggs

165g plain flour

25g raising flour

a quarter of a teaspoon of salt

a quarter of a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda

75g ground almonds

125ml sour cream

125g read to eat dried apricots, chopped

 

You’ll need, for the topping:

225g thick Greek yoghurt

4 tablespoons of whipped up double cream

125g soft set apricot jam

50g toasted almond flakes

a little icing sugar for dusting.

 

This is what you do:

Preheat the oven to 170C. I use this time to toast the flaked almonds for 5 minutes or so. Watch them carefully so they don’t burn. I use a spring-form 23cm cake tin which I parchment line the bottom of.

Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, either by hand or in a mixer. Then add the marzipan bits and blend well. Now add the eggs, beating well with each addition. Now add the vanilla and amaretto. MIx together the flours, salt and bicarb and the ground almonds. Now add these dry ingredients to the mixture, alternating with the sour cream. Finally, fold in the chopped apricots and bake in the oven for 1hour to 1 hour 20 minutes. A cake tester should come out clean, but the cake shouldn’t be too cooked, if you follow.

Let it cool completely, then run a knife around the edge and take out.

Now mix the topping ingredients together: the yoghurt and the whipped cream first, then marble through the apricot jam. Spoon on top of the cake. Some times, if the cake hasn’t sunk much, then I feel like I’m left with too much topping. In such cases, it’s best not to put all the topping on, but reserve it for spooning it up when you slice up and serve the cake.

Sprinkle the flaked almonds on top, dust with icing sugar and slice and eat.

Store in the fridge when not being eaten.

A totally wheat free cake: almond, pistachio and lime cake

I only realised this was wheat free when I was half way through making it. I do eat wheat. Lots of it, but I realise not everyone does or can, so I hope this helps some of you.

Despite the lack of any sort of flour, this cake does rise quite a bit, thanks to the four eggs. And it feels light. But it’s packed with protein so it’s quite filling and certainly you don’t get that huge blood sugar crash after eating it. Which can only be a positive thing (I’m choosing to only see it as a positive thing).

So in essence this is a light, moist, delicious cake which I think you’ll find hard to overeat. It needs no adornment or accompaniment other than a cup of strong coffee or, for you English peeps, a cup of tea.

It’s from the Donna Hay magazine, incidentally, which is my favourite foodie magazine.

You need:

150g unsalted very soft butter

165g caster sugar

The finely grated zest of a lime (equivalent to one tablespoon but I never measure it)

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

4 eggs, at room temperature

180g ground almonds

130g ground pistachios (I ground these myself in my electric grinder, stuff of five minutes)

Honey for drizzling a-top

What you do:

Oven to 160C.

Put the butter, sugar, lime rind and vanilla extract in an electric mixer and whisk for 10-12 minutes, until the mixture has turned pale and creamy. It’s a heck of a lot of mixing isn’t it? But there you go. Then add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the mixture as you go. This is the hardest bit.

Now take the bowl out of the mixer and manually, fold through the ground nuts. Spoon into a 2lb loaf tin which you have lined with baking parchment and bake for 1hr to 1 hr 10mins until a test comes out clean. Cool completely in the tin then spoon some honey over the top.

 

Nutty quinoa salad

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Today was the Big Storm. As we waited for it to pass and the 80mph winds almost bent our poplars in half and shook the beech tree like a deranged nanny, I thought about lunch. Something healthy, but not salad, something warming, but not soup.

I found this in the BBC Good Food magazine, which is about as comforting a magazine title as you can get. It says serves 2-3 and I’d say that’s about right. You can obviously up certain ingredients, such as the squash or the quinoa, if you need to make it go a bit further. I never weigh my squash incidentally. The only thing I found was that this was a bit salty for my taste – ergo delicious – so you may want to not salt the squash, for example. Anyway, this is packed with good things and if only I can resist the bourbon biscuit¬†waiting for me in the kitchen, I will have had a wholly good lunch.

A small butternut squash, peeled, seeds out, cubed into 3cm cubes (approx 500g)

10sprigs of thyme

50ml olive oil (not virgin)

50g whole almonds, skin on

250ml stock (veg or chicken) or water

125g quinoa, that lovely middle class staple, rinsed

100g feta, crumbled

4 tablespoons of chopped parsley (we grow our herbs but struggle with the parsley, so I always have some of this in the freezer. It also stops you paying out 80pence for herbs that then go off in the salad drawer).

Preheat the oven to 200C and toast the almonds (whole) for 5-7 minutes, watch them really carefully. When they’re done take them out and at some point before serving, chop them up roughly.

Now put the squash in an oven tray and pour over the olive oil, thyme and salt and pepper. Mix it up and place in oven for 30-40 minutes until it’s tender and slightly brown at the edges. When done take out and put to one side. You’re done with the oven now.

Put the water or stock in a saucepan and put the rinsed and drained quinoa in, cook for about 12 minutes, until the stock is mostly absorbed and the quinoa is tender to the bite. Now put the cooked quinoa into a large bowl or plate, put the squash on top, crumble the feta on top, scatter the almonds and some parsley and you’re done. You can have this warm (I did and it was superb) or at room temperature. Strikes me it would make an excellent packed lunch, too.

For extra veg, eat with a small green salad. I didn’t because I couldn’t be bothered to pick some salad from outside and rinse it, so I’ll, um, have that later.