Category Archives: holiday

Pumpkin Pie with Toblerone Swirl

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Pumpkin Pie with Toblerone Swirl
Until a couple of days ago I was convinced it’s impossible to improve on a pumpkin pie. Why mess with what is already perfection?  I still believe the classic recipe is pretty darn great but every once in a while it’s fun to try a twist on an old favourite, especially when this awesomeness comes into play. Ready? Pumpkin Pie meets…Pumpkin Pie with Toblerone Swirls
TOBLERONE. One of my favourite sweets ever! How could you not love those little crunchy bits of nougat in rich and smooth chocolate! It turns out that seams of light crunch mesh brilliantly with creamy pumpkin. A winning combination!Pumpkin Pie with Toblerone Swirls

I also topped each slice with whipped cream (a must) and a teensy bit of more crunch from crushed honeycomb. If you don’t have access to honeycomb you can use more crunchy nougat.Pumpkin Pie with Toblerone Swirls

Ingredients:

  • 9″ pie crust-1 (I used the same recipe as my Dulce de Leche Apple Pie )
  • Solid Pumpkin Puree- 400 gr/15 oz
  • Eggs- 3 large
  • Double Cream/Whipping Cream- 1/2 cup
  • Brown Sugar- 1/2 cup
  • Cinnamon- 1 1/2 tsp.
  • Cloves- 1/4 tsp.
  • Ginger- 1/4 tsp.
  • Nutmeg- 1/4 tsp.
  • Salt- 1/2 tsp.
  •  Toblerone (chopped)- 1/2 cup

For Topping:

  • Whipping Cream- 2 cups
  • Powdered Sugar- 1/4 cup
  • Vanilla- 1 tsp.
  • Honeycomb, crushed- 1/4 cup

Method:

Preheat your oven to 400F/200C. The recipe and directions for the best and flakiest pie pastry are found here.  Roll out your pastry on a floured surface, then drape on your rolling pin and transfer to the pie/tart plate.  This is a one crust pie so we want the edges nice and clean that come up to the top of your pie plate.  The next step is blind baking which is necessary for all tarts that are filled later or to ensure that the crust is not too soggy. Line your unbaked pie crust with parchment paper and fill the pie plate with rice or beans (or a combination like I did because I didn’t have enough of each to fill the plate!). Bake at 400F/200C for 15 minutes, then take out of the oven, turn the temperature to 350F/180C, let it cool for 5 minutes and then lift the parchment paper together with the weights out of the pie.

Making tarts (blind baking) Pumpkin Pie with Toblerone Swirls
While your crust is blind baking make your pumpkin filling. Beat your eggs with sugar, then add pumpkin puree, cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger and salt. Set aside for a moment.  Now chop up your toblerone bar and melt it in a double boiler, stirring continuously so it doesn’t burn. Pumpkin Pie with Toblerone Swirls
Pour the pumpkin filling in the pie crust, then drop in melted chocolate randomly.Pumpkin Pie with Toblerone Swirls
Then take a skewer or a tooth pick and swirl it lightly.Pumpkin Pie with Toblerone Swirl
Bake in the oven for 40 minutes until the filling is set. It will probably crack like mine did because of the different consistency of pumpkin filling and chocolate but I thought it made it look even cooler!
Pumpkin Pie with Toblerone SwirlsToblerone made some pretty amazing craters in that pumpkin. Don’t you think?

Whip some cream with powdered sugar and vanilla.

Do serve it with some whipped cream and crushed honeycomb or nougat, the extra crunch is heavenly!
Pumpkin Pie with Toblerone Swirls
For more pumpkin treats check out Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes, Toffee Honeycomb Pumpkin Muffins and DIY Pumpkin Spice Syrup.

Raspberry Limoncello Cake with Mascarpone

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Raspberry Limoncello Cake with Mascarpone
Are you tired of everything pumpkin yet? I have to admit I am getting there.  As much as I love seasonal baking once in a while I just have to break the mould and do something different. The days are usually dark and dreary in the long autumn months in England and we all crave sunshine to brighten our days and give us much needed Vitamin D.  Alas, that is not in the cards for this island dweller.  Luckily the Italians have it in abundance, so they gathered and bottled it for us less fortunate people  in the form of Limoncello.
My friend was having a baby shower which seemed like a perfect opportunity to try out my new bundt pan and to use up that tub of mascarpone I randomly picked up at the store. The life of a food blogger I tell ya! We often buy things with no firm plan or a recipe knowing that when the inspiration strikes we better be ready!

In this case, inspiration struck me late at night – when my mind was too tired to apply better judgement – causing me to bake not one cake but TWO! That’s right you are in for a treat, my friends. One recipe – two cakes. What could be better?

Raspberry Limoncello Bundt CakeIngredients: (For the cake)

  • Flour, sifted-2 cups
  • Sugar- 3/4 cups
  • Baking powder- 1 1/2 tsp.
  • Baking Soda- 1/2 tsp.
  • Salt- 1/2 tsp.
  • Greek yogurt, plain- 1 cup
  • Milk-1/2 cup
  • Vegetable oil- 1/4 cup
  • Eggs- 2 large
  • Vanilla extract- 1 tsp.
  • Limoncello- 1/4 cup
  • Raspberries, fresh or frozen- 1 cup

Ingredients: ( For Mascarpone Frosting)

  • Mascarpone- 300 gr/ 1 cup
  • Whipping Cream/Double Cream- 150 ml/2/3 cup
  • Icing Sugar- 1/4 cup
  • Limoncello- 2 tbsp.
  • White Chocolate, melted for drizzling on top- 50 gr

Method: For the Bundt cake.

Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Grease your bundt pan. I like to use a pastry brush dipped in oil to brush all the little crevices of the bundt pan to make sure nothing sticks and then lightly dust it with flour.

In large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a smaller bowl whisk yogurt, milk, oil, vanilla extract, limoncello and eggs.

Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and combine until blended, then gently fold in raspberries.

Pour the mixture into the bundt pan, it shouldn’t be more than 2/3 full and bake for 60-65 minutes until the cake tester comes out clean. Cool until safe to touch and remove from the pan. Cool completely and dust with some icing sugar.Raspberry Limoncello Cake

Let’s be honest, baking is tricky and one little ingredient can throw off the entire recipe. So when I stumble upon a recipe I love I am very eager to use it in different ways. Why not elevate an every day bundt to a show stopping dessert! All you need is mascarpone. 🙂
Method: For Raspberry Limoncello Cake with Mascarpone

Follow the instructions above for the bundt cake. Pour your prepared mixture into a 9″ pan and bake in the preheated to 350F/180C  oven for 40 minutes.  I would strongly urge you to not just rely on baking times provided by  recipes as oven temperatures vary. Instead, always test your cake for doneness with a cake tester or a tooth pick (I use a long metal skewer).

Cool your cake and remove from the pan. When your cake is completely cooled split it in two layers. (My trick for getting two even layers is scoring the outside of the cake with a sharp knife first, then wrapping a thick thread around the cake so it goes inside the slit and then pulling two ends of the thread while crossing them over each other. It works perfectly every time).

Now let’s make the frosting. I have to say this Mascarpone Frosting is one of my favourites. It’s no fail and as easy as a regular whipped cream frosting but since it’s more stable so if you want to pipe fancy design you can.

Mascarpone Frosting:

In a large bowl whip together your mascapone, whipping cream, icing sugar and limoncello until firm peaks form but don’t overbeat. It usually comes together in 5 minutes.

Fill your layer cake with mascarpone frosting and decorate the top with drizzled white chocolate and slices of lemon.

Raspberry Limoncello Cake with Mascarpone FrostingRaspberry Limoncello Cake with Mascarpone Frosting I can’t even begin describe how fresh and delicious this cake tastes! Soft and buttery cake dotted with bright red raspberries and then that limoncello frosting. A dream. Try it. Have a tea party.Then tell me all about it.
Raspberry Limoncello Cake with Mascarpone Frosting

Dulce de Leche Apple Pie

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Dulce de Leche Apple Pie
Do you remember that episode of Friends where Monica goes through 10 batches of oatmeal cookies in attempts to re-create Phoebe’s grandmother’s famous recipe and fails?  Only to find out later that it was on the back of a Nestle chocolate chip bag all along!  Well, something similar happened to me when I was about to make this apple pie.
Here is how the story goes. My lovely mother-in-law has an amazing pie crust recipe that is called “No Fail Crust Recipe”. Her pies are so tasty and the crust is so flaky that my father-in-law requests a birthday pie instead of a birthday cake.  I always call her right before I need it and write it down on a scrap of paper, use it and lose it. Every single time.  The day before Canadian Thanksgiving I texted her asking for the recipe again! No reply. I so deserved that. Finally, I get a text, “Just Google Tenderflake pie crust recipe”. What!!! Her famous No Fail Pastry recipe is printed on every Tenderflake box.  For those of you who are not Canadian, Tenderfllake is a major Lard producer in Canada 🙂 and apparently the creator of the BEST pie crust.  The recipe they came up with is quite unique as it has a bit of vinegar in it and creates the flakiest pastry I’ve ever seen or eaten. As you break into your pie crust you can literally see layers upon layers. It’s phenomenal.

On another note, as much as I am a firm believer in butter, you just can’t beat lard when it comes to light and delicate pie pastry! Everything in moderation. 🙂Dulce de Leche Apple Pie
What is even funnier I’ve had a recipe card cut out of a Tenderflake box ages ago tucked into one of my cookbooks. All this time!
So the recipe I am about to share makes 3 9″ double crust pies which serves me just right. I usually make one pumpkin and one apple pie for the holidays and freeze the rest of the pastry for another occasion.
As you probably see from the pictures above I didn’t just make an ordinary apple pie. Not only does it have dulce de leche added to the apples but it also features a BEAUTIFUL top crust. Don’t worry it’s not difficult to make, in fact it’s easier than a regular method and I will show you exactly how I did it.
Dulce de leche Apple Pie
Ingredients {for the pie crust}: Yields 3 9″ double pie crusts or 6 pie shells

  • All purpose flour- 5 1/2 cups/1.4 litres
  • Salt- 2 tsp.
  • Lard- 1lb/454 gr
  • Vinegar- 1 tbsp.
  • Egg, beaten- 1 large
  • Ice cold water

Method:

  1.  Mix together flour and salt.
  2.  Cut in lard with pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
  3. In 1 cup (250ml) combine vinegar and egg. Add water to make 1 cup. Gradually stir liquid into flour and lard mixture. You might need to add a little more cold water to make the pastry dough come together. Please, don’t overmix. If you think you have a perfectly shaped dough you’ve probably gone to far. 🙂
  4. Divide into 3 equal parts, wrap them in plastic wrap and put them in the refrigerator to chill or a freezer if you are intending to use some of them later.

Ingredients {for the apple filling}:

  • Firm Apples- 6 large
  • Sugar- 2/3 cup *See Note
  • Cinnamon- 1 1/2 tsp.
  • Dulce de leche- 1/2 cup plus extra for serving ** See Note at the bottom of the post on how to make dulce de leche
  • Flour- 1/4 cup
  • Egg, beaten- 1 ( for brushing on top)
  • Coarse Sugar- 1 tbsp. (I used Demerara sugar)

Method: 

Peel and core your apples and slice them thinly. In a large mixing bow combine sliced apples, sugar, cinnamon, flour and dulce de leche. Make sure dulce de leche evenly coats the apples. Lick your finger. Mmm…

Now let’s make that pie!

Method: {How to put your pie together}

Preheat your oven to 400F/200C

  1. Take your pie crust out of the fridge and cut 2/3 off. Roll it out on a floured surface, drape it on your rolling pin and carefully transfer your pie crust into the pie plate. Make sure your pie crust hangs over the edges a little bit which will help to bring bottom and top crust together.
  2. Fill your pie crust with the apple mixture.
  3. Now the fun part.  Let’s get creative and make the top crust! Roll out the remaining pastry on a floured surface and cut out little shapes with a pastry/cookie cutter. I used my apple cookie cutter but you can you use anything you love that fits the autumn theme. 🙂 Dulce de leche Apple Pie (top crust prep)
  4. Brush the pastry that covers the rim of your pie plate with the egg wash and start placing the little pastry “apples” on the outer row making sure they are connected to the edges of the bottom crust, overlapping them slightly and brushing each circle with an eggwash to make individual cut out “apples” stick to each other and to give your pie an attractive shiny and golden finish. It’s okay to leave a little space betweens the pastry “apples” as it will act as slits and will allow the pie to ventilate while baking. Dulce de leche Apple Pie

Once you finished the first row, continue the same way until the whole pie is covered. Dulce de leche Apple Pie (top crust prep)

5. Don’t forget to brush it with the egg wash, it will seal all the individual bits of pastry and give your pie a beautiful golden colour. Sprinkle with 1 tbsp. of coarse sugar.

6. Put the pie in the oven on the lower rack and place a large baking sheet/pan to catch all the drips from the pie to eliminate a lot of mess in the oven.  Bake for 20 minutes then reduce the temperature to 375F/190C and bake for 40-50 minutes until the crust is golden and the apples are soft. If your apples are very ripe it will take less time to cook but it might take longer if your apples are not very ripe. In this case, loosely cover your pie with some foil and continue baking until the apples are tender all the way through. (Test with a knife for doneness, it should pierce them easily).

Once your pie is baked. Cool it for several hours. If you cut into it too early (like I often do) it will be very runny, however waiting a bit longer allows for all the juices to thicken so you don’t end up with an apple soup at the bottom of your pie plate. :-). Serve drizzled with a tablespoon of dulce de leche. I am sure I don’t have to tell you how indulgent it tastes. Pure heaven.

Dulce de leche Apple Pie

Can you see all the crumbs? I tell ya the flakiness of this pie crust is incredible!

Dulce de leche Apple Pie

Not to mention cinnamon apples in gooey dulce de leche sauce. A perfect holiday treat.

Dulce de leche Apple Pie

*Note: The amount of sugar will depend on the sweetness of your apples. Mine were very green and very tart so I used 2/3 cup sugar plus dulce de leche and it was the right call. However, you might need less sugar than I did so ALWAY taste your apples before you put them into your pie.

**Note: I always make my own Dulce de Leche. I recommend having it cooked and cooled before you get to pie making. Here is an excerpt from my post Banoffee Tartlets where I wrote about the method behind making the easiest dulce de leche.

Remove the label from the can of sweet and condensed milk and put it in the pot completely submerged in water.  Bring to a boil and continue cooking for 1.5-2 hours. Make sure your can is completely covered in water through the duration of cooking or it will explode.  Cool until it’s ready to use. When you open it you will discover that your “ole” plain can of sweet and condensed milk got transformed into glamourous and silky dulce de leche.

This step could be done well in advance. I had mine stored for a couple of weeks before I got around to use it. On a side note,  I have to brag about the fact that Russian babushkas have been making dulce de leche for years before it became trendy all over North America, so the taste of “sgushenka” is the taste of childhood for every Russian child.

Sausage, Pear and Sage Stuffing

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Sausage, Pear and Sage Stuffing
It’s Thanksgiving in Canada on Monday and although we don’t live there anymore we, as all Canada-adoring ex-pats, celebrate the holiday every year. September and the first week of October have been very busy for us, it’s often challenging for me to remember everyone’s schedules and events as organisation is not my forte. So last Friday when Brad looked at the calendar and yelled out with a sense of urgency. “It’s Thanksgiving on Monday!”, I didn’t think to double check but promptly ran to the only store in London that might sell turkeys in non-Christmas season and returned home triumphant carrying a 7 lbs bird and all the trimmings. I also invited our friends over to share the Thanksgiving meal with and carried on defrosting the turkey. The next day it dawned on me that we were a week ahead of the schedule!

I guess it didn’t really matter when you stop and remember being thankful so we celebrated last Monday. My dear husband was able to find the silver lining as usual. Being a week ahead allowed me to get the recipe out to you in time!  And you are going to love this stuffing recipe! It’s our family’s favourite. Once in a while I find a more exotic recipe and make it but we always go back to this one.
Sausage, pear and sage stuffing
To me,  this stuffing has the best flavour combination to complement roasted turkey. Sausage, sour dough bread, parsley and sage create a wonderful medley but the real winner in this stuffing is slightly sweet and fragrant pear!
Ingredients:

  • Sour Dough Bread, cubed (or any other crusty bread)- 4 cups
  • Italian- style sausages (I used Sicilian inspired from Sainsbury’s)- 6-8 sausages (375gr/3/4 lbs)
  • Chicken broth- 1 cup
  • Celery stalks, diced- 2
  • Onion, chopped – 1 medium
  • Pear, diced – 1 medium
  • Fresh Sage, chopped- 1 tbsp.
  • Fresh Parsley, chopped- 1/4 cup.
  • Egg, beaten- 1 large
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Olive oil- 1 tsp.

Method:

Preheat oven to 350F/180C.

Cut your bread in cubes and put it in a large bowl. You really want crusty bread because it will give your stuffing more texture.

Sausage, pear and sage stuffing
Remove your sausage from casings and cook it in the frying pan (no extra oil needed) breaking it up with a wooden spoon. I wouldn’t recommend using just bulk sausage meat. You want to use sausage with herbs and spices already built into it as it will only make your stuffing more flavourful! Cook your sausage over medium heat until slightly browned for 3 minutes and then push it to the side of the pan and add chopped onion and diced celery, cook for 5 minutes until softened, then mix it together and add diced pear, sage and parsley and cook for 2 minutes longer.
Sausage, pear and sage stuffing
Add the sausage mixture to the bowl with bread cubes, pour in chicken broth and mix to combine, then add beaten egg, salt and pepper, quickly stir everything together. Empty the stuffing into a buttered baking dish and brush the top with a teaspoon of olive oil for a beautiful and golden crusty top.

Sausage, pear and sage stuffing. (before baking)
Bake at 350F/180C for 30 minutes.

Sausage, pear and sage stuffing.
Note: This recipe was adapted from “The South Beach Diet Parties and Holidays Cookbook”.

Salted Caramel Pear Tarts

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Salted Caramel Pear Tarts
Have you ever walked into a European style bakery and felt absolutely in awe of the craftsmanship, skill and creativity? I know I am always amazed at all the tasty little things displayed. Would you be happy if I told you that for some of them you don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn and get baking?

These delectable pear tarts took me 30 minutes to make. True story.  What is even better I’ve prepared a step-by step tutorial on how you can do the same and perhaps even wow your friends and family at your Thanksgiving feast!

This dessert is beautiful and delicious despite the simplicity of preparation. I also love that it uses a very plain fruit like pear and turns it into a real star! I’ve used prepared and already rolled puff pastry which made the whole process pure joy. All you really need to do do is assemble the tarts – kind of like craft, actually.

Salted Caramel Pear Tarts

Ingredients: {Makes 8 tarts}

  • All Butter Puff Pastry- 1 sheet/375 gr
  • Egg (beaten)- 1
  • Pears-4 small or medium
  • Demerara Sugar (or brown sugar)- 8 tsp.
  • Double Cream/Whipping Cream- 8 tsp.
  • Coarse Sea Salt- a pinch

Method:

Preheat your oven to 375F/190C. Line your baking sheet with parchment paper.

Roll out your puff pastry. If you are using a block dust your work surface with some flour and roll out a rectangle 1/4″ thick. Divide your rectangular shaped puff pastry into 8 squares. With a sharp knife, cut an “L”  into 2 opposing corners, don’t cut all the way but leave  a ½-inch in two corners. Brush with the beaten egg . Pick up the cut corners of the pastry, cross them over each other (one over, one under) and lay them flat (now on opposite sides).
Salted Caramel Pear Tarts Brush the tops of the pastry with the eggwash and put the tray in the refrigerator to chill.
Salted Caramel Pear Tarts
Now prepare the pear filling. Peel the pears and split them in half lengthwise, core them, and slice in 1/4″ slices. Take the pastry shells out of the fridge and set it on your work surface, place one pear half in the centre of each tart. Then sprinkle with a teaspoon of sugar and a teaspoon of double cream per tart, then add a pinch sea salt on top. Brown sugar, cream and sea salt turn into salted caramel in the oven without you doing a thing! Genius.
Salted Caramel Pear Tarts
Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes or until pears are soft and pastry is golden.
Salted Caramel Pear Tarts
These tarts have a very delicate taste and are not too sweet. I’ve served mine dusted with powdered sugar.

Salted Caramel Pear Tarts
But some them got golden sugar treatment. 🙂

Salted Caramel Pear Tarts
Recipe source: Anna Olson

DIY Pumpkin Spice Syrup

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Pumpkin Spice Latte Syrup
Isn’t autumn glorious!! The colours, the smells, the flavours that are inspired by this time of the year are simply incredible.  Who doesn’t love curling up with a warm cup of coffee to read a good book while nature is getting ready for a long winter sleep. The only thing that makes a cup of coffee better is a slice of this Apple Spice Cake and a drizzle of Pumpkin Spice Syrup to go along. Pumpkin Spice Syrup
When we first moved to England three years ago Pumpkin Spice Latte at a local Starbucks was  something of a myth, a tale from a faraway land called America. The baristas heard of it but had not idea why anyone would want to consume pumpkins in a drink form. I complained loudly mostly on Facebook and a friend suggested making my own syrup. Now, since I own little and stylish Italian Gaggia, enjoying homemade Pumpkin Spice Lattes has become an everyday treat. 🙂 My bank account and my waist line thanked me. Happiness is…Pumpkin Spice Syrup
Ingredients: (Makes about 750 ml)

  • Water-2 cups/500ml
  • Demerara/Turbinado Sugar- 2 1/2 cups
  • Cinnamon- 1 tsp.  and 1 stick of cinnamon
  • Nutmeg- 1/2 tsp.
  • Ground Ginger- 1/2 tsp.
  • Cloves- 1/4 tsp.
  • Canned pumpkin (or use your own like I did)- 4 tbsp.

Method:

1. Combine all the ingredients in a medium pot and stir to combine, bring to a boil and then cook 5 more minutes over medium low heat.

2.  Strain the syrup through a fine sieve and bottle it. Keep refrigerated!

3. If you have an espresso machine chances are you know already how to make a latte, so just add 1-2 tablespoons of Pumpkin Spice Syrup  and a swirl of whipped cream for a special occasion. As for me, I rarely indulge ( by which I mean “never”) in a cream topping but I do love me some Pumpkin Spice Syrup!

4. If you don’t own an espresso machine, not to worry! Just brew some strong coffee and add steamed milk to it at 1:1 ratio,  then stir in some pumpkin spice syrup to taste. Relax and enjoy!

Pumpkin Spice Syrup
Note: If you do decide to prepare your own pumpkin puree here is what you need to do. Split your pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds. Place your pumpkin halves on a baking sheet cut side down and roast at 400F/200C for 45-60 minutes depending on the size of your pumpkin. Pierce it with a knife to check for doneness, it should go in and out easily.

Apple Spice Streusel Cake with Salted Caramel Drizzle

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Apple Spice Cake with Salted Caramel Drizzle
Don’t you think autumn is the ideal time to bake? There is plenty of fruit that’s been just harvested but the temperature is not scorching hot anymore which makes a warm oven is quite welcome. Especially when it is a cheaper substitute for central heating!

This cake is my take on a well-beloved zucchini loaf except instead of zucchini I am using shredded apples. They add the same amount of moisture to the cake and so much more aroma and flavour! Just look at the raw material I was working with!

Apple Spice Streusel Cake with Salted Caramel Drizzle
You are going to fall in love with this cake because it has the familiar taste of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves we so crave in the fall and the little extras like streusel top and salted caramel drizzle take it to the next level. I also lightned up the cake by using only 1/2 cup of oil and a reduced amount of sugar. I’ve used Demerara sugar, which has more nutrients and minerals than regular white sugar, it’s light brown, raw and has a natural caramel flavour that hasn’t been refined out!Apple Spice Streusel Cake with Salted Caramel Drizzle
Ingredients:

For the Cake

  • Apples- 4 medium (3 cups shredded)
  • Sugar ( I used Demerara/Turbinado sugar)-11/4 cup
  • Oil-1/2 cup
  • Eggs-4 large
  • Flour-3 cups
  • Baking soda- 2 tsp.
  • Baking powder-1/2 tsp.
  • Salt-1 tsp.
  • Cinnamon- 1 tsp.
  • Mixed Spice- 1/2 tsp.
  • Nutmeg- 1/4 tsp.

For the Streusel Topping

  • Flour-5 1/2 tbsp.
  • Sugar (Demerara/Turbinado)-5 tbsp.
  • Cinnamon- 1/4 tsp.
  • Mixed Spice- 1/4 tsp.
  • Nutmeg- 1/4 tsp.
  • Butter, slightly softened- 3 tbsp.
  • Walnuts (chopped)- 1/4 cup

Salted Caramel Drizzle ( I used pre-made Marks and Spencer brand)-2-3 tbs.

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 350F/180C

2. Grease the bottom only but not the sides of a 9″ round pan. Springform pan works the best as it makes it easier to remove the cake after it’s been baked.  Shred the apples with skin on and mix together with sugar, oil and eggs in a large bowl. Stir in the remaining ingredients (cake ingredients only). Pour the batter into your pan and smooth the top.

3. Mix together the streusel ingredients in a small bowl with a fork or use your hands.  The streusel won’t be crumbly but will have the consistency of a cookie batter. Pinch of small bits and cover the surface of the cake.

4. Bake for 60 minutes or until the toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean.

5. Let cool for 30 minutes, then loosen the sides of the cake and remove it from the pan. Drizzle with pre-made salted caramel in any way your imagination allows. (If you caramel sauce is a bit stiff put it in the microwave for 30 seconds, that should help to get it runny and only use a good quality brand you trust. :-))

Even though this cake is incredibly soft and flavourful, the best part of it is the crunchy streusel top drenched in caramel. Pure indulgence!

Apple Spice Streusel Cake with Salted Caramel Drizzle

Apple Spice Streusel Cake with Caramel Drizzle

Frasier Torte or Happy Birthday Mitchell and Canada

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Frasier Torte
Happy Canada Day, eh!

Like all Canadians I am patriotic but never more than when I am away from Canada which is why  this maple leaf cake is the first   one I ever baked in honour of the national holiday. In our family July 1st is more known as our first born Mitchell’s birthday but today it’s about both. There is a huge party on Trafalgar Square today and my little Canucks can’t wait to go and celebrate with the rest of the ex-pats in London. We hear the Mounties are making an appearance. I hope they are brining their horses!

I couldn’t think of a better cake for the occasion than a classic Frasier Torte- a layer of lemon and vanilla scented sponge topped with a light and silky strawberry mousse. A perfect cake for a perfect summer day for my beautiful boy. I still can’t believe he is 9!!

Mitchell

Ingredients for the sponge:

  • eggs-3 large at room temperature
  • sugar-1/2 cup
  • lemon juice-1/2 lemon
  • finely grated lemon zest- from 1/2 lemon
  • flour-1/2 cup
  • salt-1/4 teaspoon
  • unsalted butter, melted-1 tablespoon
  • vanilla extract-1/2 teaspoon

Ingredients for Strawberry Mousse:

  • Eggs (separated)- 2
  • Superfine sugar-4 tbsp.
  • Strawberries (processed in a food processor to a pulp)- 3/4 cup
  • Gelatine-4 tsp.
  • Water-3 tbsp.
  • Whipping Cream- 1 1/2 cup
  • Strawberries, cut in half (to line the sides of the cake) -2 cups plus extra for decorating the top of the cake

Frasier Torte

Method for the sponge:

Preheat the oven to 325F/ 160C. Line your 9-inch springform cake pan with parchment, don’t grease the sides and set aside. Whip the eggs and sugar on high speed until they are white and more than triple in volume, then add the zest and juice of 1/2 lemon.

Sift the flour and salt together, add both to the egg mixture. In a small bowl melt a tablespoon of butter in the microwave and stir vanilla into it.  Spoon a cup of the batter into that bowl and stir everything together, then add this all back to the full batter and stir gently until blended, don’t over mix as it will result in a cake that won’t rise very much.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the centre of the cake springs back when gently pressed. Cool the cake completely in the pan.

While the cake is cooling prepare the mousse.

Method for the mousse:

Beat the egg yolk and sugar until light, then whisk in the processed strawberries. Sprinkle the gelatine over the water in a small bowl and allow to go spongy, then put in the microwave for 30-40 seconds until the gelatine has dissolved. Stir in the mousse.

Whip the cream until holding its shape and fold into the mousse. Whisk the egg whites until standing in soft peaks, then fold in. Let stand in a cool place until starting to set for about 30 minutes.

To assemble the cake:

Run a knife along the side of the pan to loosen the cake and take it out, peel the parchment off. Wash the pan and dry well and put the cake back in the pan. Cut the strawberries in half and arrange closely together alongside the walls of the pan with a cut side touching the pan. Pour the mousse in the pan and smooth the top. Cover with cling wrap and put in the fridge to set for at least 4 hours.

Before serving un-mold the cake and decorate with remaining strawberries. I went for the maple leaf design in honour of Canada Day at my son’s request.

Frasier Torte- Vanilla Sponge and Fresh Strawberries set in Strawberry Mousse
This cake is truly beautiful and impressive but if you prefer chocolate over vanilla you can try Chocolate Strawberry Mousse Cake I baked a few months ago.

Note: The sponge recipe was adapted for Anna Olson’s Frasier Torte

Lemon Scented Vanilla Cheesecake with Fresh Figs and Honey

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"Tvorog" Cheesecake
My dear friends, I’ve been holding out on you and for that I am sorry. I made the most delicious cheesecake this past Easter but just posting the recipe today. The good news is that cheesecake is not seasonal, it’s welcome for any occasion. The recipe for this culinary delight was a bit of a gamble-part tradition/part speculation and experiment but the result was nothing short of divine.

As I wrote in one of my previous posts Easter is one of the biggest holidays in Russia and I wanted to keep the traditions alive in my own family. The least I could do was to cook all the Easter treats. Paskha, Kulich and Coloured Easter Eggs are the three musts for every Russian household. Check out the links to Paskha and Kulich from my talented fellow bloggers, the treats are as delicious as they are beautiful!

I coloured eggs with my children this year but ended up buying Kulich or something similar from a Polish shop nearby instead of making my own. I really wanted to make a sweet cheese Paskha but I didn’t have a proper mould so I opted out for a modern day Paskha. Paskha with a twist.

Traditionally Paskha is made from a farmer’s cheese called “Tvorog” in Russian, eggs, sugar, vanilla and dried fruit and candied orange and lemon peel.  I thought it would be fun to try to use the same ingredients but make it into a cheesecake instead. Russian Cheesecake is called “Zapekanka” which translates as “Baked”, it doesn’t have a bottom crust and the cheese is often held together by eggs and semolina. I have vague and not the fondest memories of ‘Zapekanka’, something that was served for school lunches- heavier on semolina rather than cheese yellowish squares with burned top. It tasted far from stellar, so I successfully avoided eating it whenever possible. Needless to say, I set out to create different memories for my children.

My efforts were worthwhile because what they got as a result of my experiment tasted lighter than a cloud and looked… Actually, a picture is worth a thousand words so judge it for yourself!

Lemon Scented Vanilla Cheesecake with Fresh Figs and Honey
The recipe for this beauty is not too different from a standard cheesecake recipe but includes a couple of Russian twists.
Ingredients:

  • Farmers’s Cheese- 750 gr/24 oz
  • Eggs- 3 large
  • Sugar- 1 cup
  • Semolina-3 tbsp.
  • Lemon zest- from 1 lemon
  • Vanilla Bean seeds- from 1 bean
  • Digestive biscuits crushed( you can use graham crackers, unfortunately they are not available in England)-125 gr
  • Butter- 1/4 cup

Method:

Preheat your oven to 325 F/160 C

Zest the lemon and set aside…or take a picture like I did.

Lemon Crush the biscuits (I equipped my children with a rolling pin and a large bowl and told them to “go nuts” on those biscuits, they happily obliged.) then mix the crumbs with melted butter. Line the bottom of a 21″ springform pan with the crumbs and bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, set aside and cool.

Separate your egg yolks from the egg whites. Mix together farmer’s cheese, egg yolks, sugar, semolina, lemon zest and vanilla bean seeds with an electric mixer until well blended. In a separate bowl whip egg whites until soft peaks form and gently fold them into the cheese mixture.

Pour the mixture into your springform pan and set it inside a larger roasting pan filled with 1″ water. This technique called “bain marie” helps to evenly distribute heat when cooking delicate foods like cheesecakes and custards. I find it produces much lighter texture in cheesecakes as it infuses them with additional moisture which also helps with preventing cracks.

Bake at 320 F/160C  for 60-65 minutes until the edges are lightly browned and the centre is nearly set. Turn the heat off and leave in the oven for additional 20-30 minutes. If your cheesecake still cracks, don’t worry and cover it up with something pretty! Cool completely in the refrigerator.

I used fresh figs instead of dried fruits that are traditionally used in Easter Paskha and drizzled them with a touch of  dark and deep flavoured chestnut honey I brought from my last trip to Italy. An experiment that turned out to be a true winner. I couldn’t be happier with the end result. 🙂

Lemon Vanilla Cheesecake with Figs and Honey

Lemon Scented Vanilla Cheesecake with Fresh Figs and Honey

Easter Eggs and Our Traditions

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Easter EggsEaster Eggs
Every Easter I am taken back to my childhood in Russia where the holiday is steeped in century-old traditions and memories. The holiday so loved and revered by people that even Communism wasn’t able to erase it from the nations’ psyche. It seems like the early childhood memories are the strongest and what I remember is my babushka starting to collect onion peels in a plastic shopping bag weeks before the arrival of Easter, so there would be enough to colour dozens of eggs. How could we possibly eat them all? We didn’t! With the rise of the dawn on Easter Sunday we would start hearing little knocks on our front door and my granny with a big bowl of beautifully coloured eggs at the ready opening the door to hear cheerful choir of the neighbourhood children, “Christ is risen!” to which she would reply with no fail, “Risen Indeed!” and give them each an egg. That went on for hours. That is one of the Easter traditions that carried on through centuries and was carefully preserved during the tough years when Christ was not welcome anywhere in the country. I still don’t understand how it was possible but one thing I do know there was not one family that didn’t celebrate Easter in one way or another. Miracle.
Having moved away from Russia many years ago I’ve lost many traditions but I was not about to lose the joy and anticipation of Easter by not colouring eggs with my own children! We colour eggs each Easter to remind us of what Christ has done, paving the way to new life, new birth and new beginning.
Easter eggs
Easter Eggs
The design on the eggs I have here is so beautiful yet so simple to achieve and what is even better is completely natural, no chemicals involved! Here is what you will need:

  • Onion peels(red or yellow) from about 10 onions
  • White Eggs
  • Any leaves you like e.g. rose leaves, parsley, dill, anything interesting you can find in your back yard!
  • Salt -1 tsp.
  • Pantyhose
  • Thread

Take the onion peels and put them in a pot. The next step is quite simple but a teensy bit fiddly. Place a leaf of your choice on the egg and slide it inside a pantyhose, tie a thread on each side of the egg to prevent the leaf from sliding. Repeat the process until all the eggs are “dressed” in pantyhose. I learned that very stiff leaves don’t work as well because they don’t “hug” the egg too tightly and produce an unclear print. Fill your pot with water and boil the eggs for 15-20 minutes. Make sure the heat is not set on very high as you don’t want your eggs knocking around in the pot and cracking. Cool the eggs, remove the panty hose and the leaves, wipe any leaf remnants with a cloth. The last step is to make them shiny! Simply rub each egg with a little bit of oil.

Easter egg colouring-The Russian method
I am sure I don’t have to tell you how much fun you will have with your children colouring eggs! However, if you have very young children the above method might be a bit too intricate for their little fingers. Not to worry, this is what I did with mine.
Egg colouring
Egg colouring
Use food colouring pastes and a tablespoon of vinegar per each cup of colour, top up with boiling water. Drop a cooked egg and let it sit for 5 minutes. I recommend using gel colours as they produce more vivid hues than their liquid counterparts.
Easter Egg Colouring
Easter Egg Colouring