Hazelnut, Pear & Sticky Toffee Tart

So along with the apple picking and autumnal weather, it also seems to be pear season. I’m not the biggest fan of pears, especially cooked pears. I’m also not the biggest fan of nuts. Or dates for that matter.

Want to know the weird thing? I absolutely LOVED this tart.

Like, seriously, seriously, loved it.

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The soft, crumbly pastry was so sweet and tasty. The warm, moist pears were to die for. And the actual filling was just on another level; the flavours and texture were simply incredible. I will most definitely be baking this one again.

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Don’t even get me started on the toffee sauce. I have my own standard recipe that I use, and it’s always been simple and yummy. Yet the double cream in this recipe completely transforms it.

I love love love sticky toffee pudding (recipe can be found here) and it’s definitely a classic. But if you want something slightly different, a pastry pudding full of flavour and texture, this one’s your man. Or woman. Can a tart have a gender?! (gosh this is taking me back to Uni days and writing my dissertation on gender difference)

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So…. Go bake this…. Now…. Seriously…. Can you tell I’m now passionate about pears, nuts and dates?!

Good ol’ Paul Hollywood, thanks for this one!

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Hazelnut, Pear & Sticky Toffee Tart (serves 8)

                      For the pastry:                     

200g plain flour

2 tbsp icing sugar

100g unsalted butter

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 tsp lemon juice

2 tbsp very cold water

For the filling:

150g stoned dates, roughly chopped

150ml milk

3 ripe pears

50g unsalted butter, softened

1 tsp vanilla extract

100g plain flour

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

50g ground almonds

2 eggs

100g light muscovado sugar

2 tbsp black treacle

75g shelled cobnuts or hazelnuts, roughly chopped

For the toffee sauce:

200g light muscovado sugar

50g unsalted butter

250ml double cream

  1. To make the pastry: mix the flour and icing sugar together in a bowl. Add the diced butter and rub it in with your fingertips until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs
  2. Mix the egg with the lemon juice and water. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and pour in the egg mix. Using one hand, work the liquid into the flour to bring the pastry together. If it seems too dry, add a splash more water. When the dough begins to stick together, gently knead it into a ball. Wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for at least 15 minutes
  3. For the filling: put the chopped dates and milk in a pan. Bring to the boil, and then set aside for 30 minutes to soak
  4. To make the toffee sauce: heat the sugar, butter and cream together in a pan over a low heat until melted and smooth, then bring to a simmer and let bubble for 5 minutes to thicken. Leave to cool
  5. Heat your oven to 180°C and have ready a 25cm loose-based fluted tart tin
  6. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface and use it to line the tart tin. Prick the base with a fork. Peel, quarter and core the pears; slice each quarter in two. Arrange in a circular pattern in the tart case. Drizzle over about 3/4 of the toffee sauce and place in the fridge while you prepare the rest of the filling
  7. Mash the date mixture to a coarse purée with a potato masher. Tip it into a bowl with the softened butter, vanilla, flour, bicarbonate of soda, ground almonds, eggs, sugar and treacle. Whisk together with an electric whisk until just combined. Stir in the chopped nuts
  8. Spoon the date and nut mixture over the pears in the pastry case, spreading it out evenly. Bake the tart on the hot baking tray for 40 minutes, until the filling is well risen and browned. Leave to stand for 10 minutes before removing from the tin
  9. Serve the tart warm, with clotted cream or ice cream and the rest of the toffee sauce.
  10. ENJOY!
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Pork, Apple & Cider Pie

It’s been apple picking season for us this past week or so. We’ve got delicious Reverend W Wilks and Worcester Pearmains. They smell so lovely and sweet, fresh off the trees. There’s nothing quite like waking up early, the air is starting to get a little crisp, the field is misty and the apples are ready to cook with.

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Watch out for more apple related posts!

A few dinners ago I decided on a pork, apple and cider pie; autumn is upon us! Shoulder is particularly tasty, and with the apple and cider, this pie is so so so simple yet so flavoursome. It’s sweet homely aromas filled the kitchen, the mash and greens complementing the pie perfectly.

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 The cider pastry recipe is particularly scrummy, and might just have made it into my favourite pastry bakes.

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And what’s better than using your own apples in a yummy pie for dinner hey?!

ENJOY! 🙂

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Pork, Apple & Cider Pie (serves 4)

For the cider pastry:

1 egg, beaten

125ml dry cider

125ml olive oil

1 tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

375g plain flour

1 egg, to glaze

For the filling: 

1 tbsp

1 sweet onion

2 celery sticks, de-stringed and chopped

500g pork shoulder

2 tbsp plain flour

175ml dry cider

1 cooking apple (about 150g) peeled, cored and sliced

2 eating apples (about 250g) peeled, cored and sliced

4 sage leaves

Salt and pepper to season

  1. To make the pastry: beat the egg in a large bowl with the cider, olive oil, baking powder and salt. Slowly mix in the flour until you have a soft dough (you may not need all the flour) Wrap the dough in cling film and leave to cool in the fridge for around 45 minutes
  2. To make the filling: Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large pan over a medium-low heat. Add the onion and celery and cook for around 5 minutes, until soft. Remove the vegetables from the pan
  3. Add a little more oil and increase the heat to medium-high. Brown the pork well on all sides. Turn the heat down a little and return the vegetables to the pan. Sprinkle the flour over the ingredients and cook for 1 minute. Gradually add the cider and stock, stirring so the flour is absorbed. Add the apples and sage. Bring to the boil and reduce the heat, simmering for around 45 minutes, until the pork is tender. Taste the sauce and season to taste
  4. Heat your oven to 200 degrees and position a pie funnel in the middle of your pie dish
  5. Spoon the filling into the dish. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry and lift the pasty sheet over the pie, pressing down the edges to seal (I usually find sticking strips of pastry around the rim helps keep the sheet in place). Crimp the edges and decorate with pastry leaves and berries
  6. Brush the lid with a beaten egg and bake for around 35 minutes, until golden and crisp
  7. Serve with mash and greens 🙂

Quintessentially British Buttermilk Scones

Everyone seems to rave about using buttermilk in scones. I regularly bake scones; plain, fruity, sweet, savory, and so on. They are quintessentially British, and nothing seems better than a cream tea (check out my classic recipe here). When you become a regular scone baker (it’s not that hard – you’ll get addicted) you suddenly transform into a scone freak; I’m talking getting the perfect amount of raising agent, right amount of golden colouring, perfect combination of light yet somehow thick, creamy texture, with a sweet but not overwhelming flavour.
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But very rarely do I use buttermilk to achieve this. Mainly because I like my favourite recipes, so why branch out and use another, when I know I can rely on my trusty, classic, traditional, simple, sturdy, good ol’ scone recipe..? (here it is if you haven’t already found it 😉 )
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I branched out. I did it. I went there. I was pleasantly surprised – these were super moist and super thick. Very different to my classic recipe, and I’m still not sure I prefer using buttermilk, I suppose it depends on preference (using buttermilk gives them a bit of a twang – a good twang – and also a rich density which doesn’t suit everyone).
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Of course I added strawberries at a last attempt to claim summer before it leaves us here in England. Not quite as fresh as in June/July, but still pretty scrummy! Especially with my homemade jam – Plum this time – new obsession along with the doughnut panJAM MAKING! Recipes (for the jams) are still being put together and tweaked, each batch seems to turn out slightly more runny or slightly more solid than the last, I’m slowly (very slowly) learning the art!
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Enjoy ❤
P.S. I can’t believe it’s September tomorrow…. where did the summer go?!
Buttermilk Scones (makes around 15)
450g self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
75g unsalted butter, cubed
75g caster sugar
100g sultanas/raspberries/strawberries etc
2 eggs, beaten
1x 200ml buttermilk (or 200ml milk & 1tbsp lemon juice)
1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees and lightly grease your baking trays
2. Mix the flour and baking powder, then rub (using your fingertips) the butter in, until it resembles fine breadcrumbs
3. Stir in the sugar and any fruit you wish to add. Mix the eggs and buttermilk together in a jug and pour into the breadcrumb mixture (saving a little for later)
4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, lightly kneading for 1 minute until it gathers together
5. Roll and pat out, cutting as many rounds as possible from the first rolling (I used a 2 inch cutter) Keep rolling out until you have used up all the dough
6. Brush the tops of the scones with the reserved egg and bake for around 10 minutes or until golden
7. Remove and cool on a wire rack – serve with clotted cream and jam, with a cup of Yorkshire tea!

Summer, Life, Honey & Jam

This post has been a long time coming, and I felt that it was necessary to FINALLY post it, as summer seems to finally be leaving us (here in England anyway!). So here are some of my special moments…..
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This summer has been one of my favourites. It’s been the hardest certainly, searching for jobs, working to earn little money with part time work to cover the summer and so on. But it has been a simple summer. I haven’t been able to afford much, but I feel as though I’ve done more than I’ve ever done before.
I’ve spent quality time with family and friends. I’ve walked Wilfy three times a day, breathing in the fresh country air and enjoying the wildlife around me. This summer I started to take in my surroundings, I mean properly stop, look, listen, smell (maybe not taste everything!) but truly take in what is around me. The plants, trees, flowers, animals and patterns of the weather. I haven’t turned ferrel or anything, as much as my boyfriend Gavin wants to camp out in our field and document everything that passes us by, but I’ve enjoyed the peace and simplicity of life in the countryside.
I’m lucky enough to live in a quiet village (on the border of Wales/England), where everything is green and kind of smells like manure all the time! I’ve enjoyed endless bike rides, picking homegrown fruit and veg, extracting honey from our bees and more.
Harvesting the honey was probably one of my favourite moments…. Here are a few pictures documenting the process and adventure (to anyone who keeps bees or knows anything about them, I won’t pretend to explain half of what goes into this – but here’s the dummie link with a basic overview, if anyone is interested!)
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My dad, not looking too pleased getting his photograph taken, and of course Wilfy trying to get in on the action!
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Dad didn’t have much time on his hands this year, hence the dishevelled look of the frame – however the honey never tasted better!
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It’s tricky work taking pictures with sticky fingers!
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We got 12 jars altogether 🙂
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For my lovely nephew George…
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We love the dark colouring and our thoughts are that it could be from the local hawthorn or clover that the bees absolutely love in our field, thus producing a rich colouring.   
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Making jam from our homegrown fruit was also a great moment. I’d never made jam before and don’t think I will ever stop making it now – it’s sooooooooooo easy! We had some lovely blackcurrants to use, creating a delicious dark and rich flavoured jam.
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This slowly turned into Blackcurrant, Strawberry & Raspberry jam, Plum jam and then Greengage jam! Each a little more runny or solid than the last, each with slightly more bits than the last, different shades of pinky purply reds, but ALL tasting simply AMAZING. *I will post the recipes for these in the next two weeks so watch out!*
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We even enjoyed some tasty peas somewhere along the way (around mid July, early August). These were lovely with some white fish and a creamy white sauce.
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So, saying goodbye to summer, I am now enjoying a lovely two week stay in Madeira. However a little part of me is looking forward to the autumn. Getting my woolly tights and boots out, and embarking on a long list of warming food; hearty broths, sweet pies, stews and scrummy treats (as always!).
Enjoy ❤

Queen Victoria Cake

So it was my birthday yesterday…. And this song is more than a little appropriate….

I’m definitely feeling 22!

Anyway, birthdays only mean one thing, baking and eating lots and lots and lots and lots of cakes. I’m currently carrying around about 6lb of birthday weight. But that’s okay, because I have thoroughly enjoyed myself. Gavin bought me a big Mason Cash bowl and a spiralizer, Mom and Dad bought me box sets of Hawaii 5.0 and NCIS, my brothers bought me vouchers, recipe books and a doughnut pan (how cool?!), and my aunties all pitched in to buy me a waffle maker.

I CAN’T WAIT TO TEST OUT ALL MY GOODIES!

Before all the craziness started and the huge family BBQ began, Gavin and I sat for hours making a million and one cake pops. I didn’t even think to take pictures, I think my hands would have been too sticky anyway, but they went down an absolute treat!! I’d say around a third of the birthday weight is from carrot cake pops and chocolate fudge cake pops…. Oops!

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I also baked probably one of the best yet most simple recipes I’ve come across. Whenever I bake a Victoria Sponge I sometimes find it can be a little egg-y or too vanilla-y. This recipe calls for a little zest of orange and it just creates such a deliciously light flavour – you can’t really go wrong.

  

 
  

After this recipe I will be posting an interesting piece about extracting and harvesting honey as well as making Blackcurrant, Strawberry & Raspberry Jam. Our field is really thriving at the moment and we’ve had such a blast harvesting the honey from our bees, as well as picking fruit for jam!

So this queen of sponges uses homemade jam, as well as freshly picked raspberries left over from when George visited (also used in my Raspberry, Almond & White Chocolate Blondies)

  

Spot the conveniently placed homemade jam in the background 😉

Enjoy!

*recipe inspired by Jamie Oliver*

Queen Victoria Sponge (serves 8)

250g softened unsalted butter

250g self-raising flour

250g caster sugar

4 eggs

zest of 1 orange

Handful of fresh raspberries

icing sugar, for dusting

For the Jam:

a few drops of rosewater, to taste

4 tbsp raspberry jam (or homemade blackcurrant, raspberry & strawberry jam!)

For the crystallized rose petals:

1 egg white

Handful of rose petals

Sprinkle of caster sugar

For the vanilla cream:

150ml double cream

½ a vanilla pod, split lengthways and seeds scraped out

2 tsp caster sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 190 degrees and grease/line your cake tins
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, ensuring you beat well after each addition. Now fold in the orange zest and flour
  3. Divide the mixture between your prepared tins and smooth with a spatula. Bake for around 20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool a little then transfer to a wire rack to completely cool (if the cake is still warm when you assemble the jam and cream with fly off!)
  4. Mix a few drops of rosewater into your jam, but make sure you don’t overpower it, it’s simply to get that light flowery taste!
  5. For the crystallized petals: Turn the oven right down to 110°C and whisk the egg white to stiff peaks. Using a pastry brush, coat the petals on both sides and then sprinkle over your caster sugar. Shake any excess sugar off and place on a lined baking tray. Cook for around 4 minutes, until they are nice and crispy!
  6. Whip your cream with the vanilla seeds and sugar until you get soft peaks
  7. To assemble the cake: Spread the jam and then the vanilla cream over one of the cakes, throwing in some raspberries before you place the second cake on top
  8. Dust with icing sugar and decorate with your crystallized rose petals

Raspberry, Almond & White Chocolate Blondies

I probably just had my favourite weekend. My favourite person in the whole entire world came to stay, (sorry Gavin 😉 ) my nephew George. Yes, he was George a few months before Prince George was George!

George is the chattiest, cutest, loveliest, most adorable, well-mannered, hilarious little two year old in the whole wide world. I never thought I could love a little person as much as I love him.

George also came bearing gifts; freshly picked raspberries from Linby (Nottinghamshire). As we are slowly nearing the end of the strawberry and raspberry season here in England, they were ripe and ready to munch on.

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Over the past few weeks I’ve made some crackin’ fruit related baking goodies: Strawberry n’ Cream Muffins, Strawberry & White Chocolate Shortbread, Extra Thick Strawberry Buttermilk Pancakes and Jumbo Raspberry Chocolate Muffins.

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So I’m thinking, hmmmm, what have I not made in a while….. BROWNIES! Or rather, BLONDIES! I’m a little obsessed with white chocolate at the moment, so these really have tipped me off the edge.

I’ve been in a blondie coma for approximately 3 days now.

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Simple to make, with a wonderful cake-y flavour yet moist brownie texture, these are heavenly. The almonds create a lovely crunch and subtle nutty flavour, you can’t really say no.

Enjoy!

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Raspberry, Almond & White Chocolate Blondies (makes around 20)

200g self-raising flour

Pinch of salt

200g caster sugar

200g unsalted butter, softened

3 eggs

30g flaked almonds (I crushed them a little)

150g white chocolate chunks

150g raspberries

1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees and grease your baking tin
  2. Sift the flour and salt into a small bowl and set aside
  3. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy
  4. Gradually add one egg at a time along with a spoonful of flour
  5. Add the remaining flour and vanilla extract, until fully combined
  6. Gently fold in the almonds, white chocolate and raspberries – don’t be afraid of the mixture going pink and streaky from the raspberries – this adds to the appearance!
  7. Spoon into your tray and bake in the oven for around minutes
  8. Cool on a wire rack and then remove from tin – ENJOY!

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Extra Thick Strawberry Buttermilk Pancakes

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As I look in my fridge this morning, all I can see is the buttermilk I bought, sitting, waiting patiently to be used. Bought specifically for scones (recipe will be up soon – I do love a good plain buttermilk scone), I now have some left over. Hmmmm what can I use with buttermilk. Obvious suggestions would be bread or cakes, but at the moment I’m enjoying baking with natural greek yogurt, and I don’t fancy anything too big or fancy……

Pancakes anyone?

I think if I could pick one thing to eat for the rest of my life…. It might just be pancakes. Weirdly enough they’ve never made it to my blog; they are just a standard part of my week and I never really use a specific recipe anyway – I always improvise when it comes to measuring. In fact it’s probably one of the only things I make where I leave it down to guess work. I know stateside you guys like to have ‘em small and thick, us Brits tend to have ‘em big and thin.

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There is genuinely nothing better than a pancake for breakfast, or lunch, or dinner, or snack… served with fruit, or chocolate, or syrup, or lemon, or sugar, or Nutella….. I could go on.

As much as I love love love pancakes, I’ve never really branched out and tried different types of recipes, I always go by the standard of flour, eggs and milk.

No matter what happens, I always have those three things in my fridge. I also know they are no hassle at all for me and my boyfriend – gluten-free flour and lactose free milk and we’re sorted.

But the buttermilk was staring me down, and I thought, well I really should try something different. These cake-y, extra thick, strawberry pancakes are just heavenly. Simple to make, and even simpler to munch on. They are very similar to Scotch pancakes (has anyone stateside tried these?!), which takes me straight back to childhood.

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As always you can swap strawberries with pretty much any fruit you prefer, and go wild, adding chocolate chips, sprinkles etc etc. And if you don’t happen to have buttermilk in your fridge staring you down – an easy substitute would be to mix 250ml milk with 1 tbsp lemon juice. Yes, it really is as easy as that!

Perfect for lazy Sunday mornings ❤

For more recipes to fit the strawberry season that has finally hit England, check out my new section under Country Girl Heart called Seasonal Favourites – we’ve got Strawberry & White Chocolate Shortbread, Strawberry n’ Cream Muffins and Strawberry Swirl Cupcakes.  

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Strawberry Buttermilk Pancakes (makes around 6)

140g plain flour

35g granulated sugar

1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

220ml buttermilk, (splash more, if necessary)

1 egg

45g melted butter

1 tsp vanilla extract

Handful roughly chopped strawberries

  1. In a large bowl, stir the flour, sugar, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda together
  2. In a measuring jug add the buttermilk, egg, oil/melted butter and vanilla extract and whisk to combine
  3. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and whisk until just combined (if it’s too thick splash a little more buttermilk in)
  4. Spray your pan with cooking oil and set over a medium-high heat
  5. Scoop your batter into the pan (for this recipe I like to have smaller and thicker pancakes, but size is completely optional)
  6. Sprinkle a few strawberries onto each pancake and cook for around 2 minutes – I usually double check if the side is golden brown before attempting to flip
  7. Flip carefully and cook second side until golden brown, around 2 ½ minutes
  8. Serve with butter, jam, maple syrup, butterscotch golden syrup (mmmmm my favourite at the moment) and so on
  9. If you don’t manage to munch all these up, they keep in the fridge for around 2 days (with a quick zap in the toaster to warm up)