Poached Pear Chocolate & Hazelnut Tart.


This is a recipe I’ve been dying to try for ages and it took a couple of attempts to get it right. Pastry hasn’t posed me too much of a problem before (bar the soggy bottom Bakewell) but chocolate pasty was a new challenge. I’m not sure if it’s the cocoa powder but it just seems so much more dry and crumbly than normal sweet shortcrust, even this recipe that uses three egg yolks. In attempt number one the pastry bubbled and in the second it cracked when I lifted it out of the tin. It was third time lucky and about time too! The pastry is rich but not very sweet, which is just as well because the hazelnut cream and poached pears really are, the cocoa adds a depth of flavour which offsets that sweetness.


Start with your pears, doing these the day before will allow the medley of spices to infuse.

Poached pears:

  • 8 pears
  • 2 sticks cinnamon
  • Vanilla pod
  • Star anise
  • Cloves
  • 50g caster sugar (or honey)
  • 500ml water

 As I’ve said before, I love spices. I used bits of whatever was in the cupboard but to keep it simple just use a vanilla pod – sometimes less is more and the pear flavour won’t be overpowered by just using vanilla.Image

Peel, core and chop the pears in half.

Bring the sugar, water and spices to the boil and simmer for a minute or two before adding the pears. Image

Allow to simmer over a low heat until the pears are soft. Test this by poking them with a sharp knife, they should feel soft like tinned ones.

Take them out and allow to cool, put them in the fridge for a day to let the flavours come together. Image


Chocolate Pastry:

  •  175g plain flour
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 150g butter
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

Just as with normal shortcrust, sift the dry ingredients into a bowl and rub together with the butter.

Once you have a breadcrumb like consistency add the three egg yolks and mix into a smooth doughImage


Wrap it up in clingfilm and let it chill in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour.

Grease a tart tin ready for when the pastry is rolled and preheat the oven to 180C.

Dust a surface lightly with flour and roll the pastry out to fit the tart tin.

Drape it over and press gently into the sides, overhang is good because the pastry will shrink as it cooks.

Finally, line the pastry case with some baking paper and fill with baking beads

I know I normally use rice or lentils when baking pastry to keep it’s shape, however I have discovered that baking beads are much more effective.

Bake for 15 minutes before removing the beads and baking for a further 5.

Remove from the oven and let it cool in the tin.


Hazelnut cream:

  • 300ml milk
  • 50g cornflour
  • 60g golden caster sugar (I used a mix of brown and caster)
  • 3 tsp vanilla sugar (or a drop of vanilla essence)
  • 3 eggs
  • 100g ground hazelnuts

I roasted and ground my own hazelnuts using Mum’s fabulous food processor which, as much as I love it, puts my little hand blender to shame. The perks of being at home.

Turn the oven up to 160C

Place the nuts on a tray and stick them in for 10 minutes.


Take them out and remove the skins, they should come off easily but if not you can put them in a bowl of water and sort of squeeze them out. Into the food processor they go and whizz until they’re finely ground.

You can make your own vanilla sugar too; just stick a couple of vanilla pods in a jar of caster sugar, leave for a week or two and bob’s your uncle. Well, he might not be but you’ve got vanilla flavoured sugar anyway. I didn’t bother and just added a drop of vanilla essence.

Finally, for the cream!

Weigh out the sugar and cornflour and sieve into a bowl

Crack the eggs into the bowl.

Bring the milk to the boil and once it’s nice and bubbly pour over the sugar, cornflour and eggs – whisking all the time.

Return the mix to the saucepan and bring to the boil, simmer for two minutes stirring constantly.


Remove from the heat, add the hazelnuts, mix and set aside to cool. Image

Once cool pour into the pastry case and arrange the pears on top.




Dark chocolate

Chopped roast hazelnuts

Melt the chocolate and drizzle over the tart with a spoon (I ended up with a couple of dollops but who doesn’t like a good blob of chocolate…)

Sprinkle some chopped hazelnuts over the top et voila!


Image Image

I brought this to a friend’s for dinner and it went down well with a scoop of ice cream, and even better with a Ferrero Rocher to follow. Indulgence at it’s best.



*adapted from this recipe: Pear Hazelnut Chocolate Tart


Hot Cross Buns


Between Good Friday and Easter Sunday I thought this was an appropriate recipe to post. I love hot cross buns. Fruity spicy things always appeal to me and I’d most definitely rather have one of these than a crème egg. You’ve probably been eating them for months but if you’re looking to try something new this weekend give them a go. Like a lighter scone, they’re perfect for breakfast, an afternoon pick me up, or an after dinner treat.



For the buns

  • 300ml/ whole milk
  • 50g butter
  • 500g strong white flour
  • optional:
  • 2 sticks cinnamon
  • Cardamom pods
  • Cloves
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 7g sachet fast-action yeast
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 200g dried fruit e.g. sultanas (I used a mix of currants, raisings and sultanas)
  • 100g mixed peel
  • 1 apple, cored and chopped
  • 2 oranges, zest only
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp mace
  • 1tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ginger

For the cross

  • 50g plain flour
  • 75g icing sugar
  • Apricot jam (to glaze)


To make the buns:

Heat the milk gently, bringing it to the boil;

  • I like using a lot of spices when I cook so I infused my milk with some cardamom, cinnamon and cloves, you could also add some saffron.

Remove the milk from the heat and add the butter, stirring it in as it melts.

Allow to cool to hand temperature.

While that’s cooling mix zest your oranges and chop up the apple, put it all in a bowl with the mixed peel and dried fruit and spices (again, I like spices so added the mace, ginger and nutmeg, you could just leave it at cinnamon)Image

Put your dry ingredients, yeast, flour, salt and sugar, in a bowl.

Make a well in the centre and pour in the warm milk then add the egg.

Mix together to form a soft sticky dough, bring the dough together with your hands and knead on a lightly floured surface for about 5 minutes or until it’s smooth and elastic.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with oiled clingfilm, leave to rise for an hour or until doubled in size.

**Tip – leave your dough in a warm part of the kitchen as this will help the process**

Once risen remove the dough from the bowl and divide into 12 – 14 even pieces. Image

Roll the pieces into smooth balls and arrange them on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Leave to prove for an hour.

The buns should be quite close together, they’ll stick together a little bit when backing but pulling apart the soft edges is so satisfying and makes them look all the more rustic.

 Heat the oven to 220C

 To make the cross mix 50g plain flour and 25g of icing sugar with some water until it forms a smooth paste.


 Put the paste in a piping bag and pipe a cross onto each of your buns before placing in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes or until golden brown. 


Gently warm the apricot jam and when the buns come out of the oven, while they’re still warm, brush it over for a lovely glazed effect.


Let them cool or eat them warm. I had mine for breakfast, toasted and topped with plenty of butter. Delicious.


Happy Easter!

Simple Spiced Date Biscuits

I started off my new year baking with more of a puff than a bang. These cookies aren’t the most exciting but they have a nice sweet and spicy flavour somewhat reminiscent of Christmastime. The original recipe says to roll them in sesame seeds, but I’m not too keen on those. Seeing as I’d originally planned to make my favourite date and ginger flapjacks I rolled them in oats as a compromise.


  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 50g brown sugar
  • 50g treacle
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 175g plain flour
  • ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 175g chopped stoned dates
  • 100g, give or take, of oats


  • I had no plain flour so used wholemeal which I think worked well with the dates, I probably wouldn’t use it with a more tart fruit like cranberries.
  • I used 1 tsp cinnamon, ½ tsp nutmeg and ¼ tsp each of cloves and mace. You can easily hange up the spices to suit whatever fruit you choose.
  • I used oats but you could again, you could roll them in whatever you fancy – seeds, nuts, anything.

Make sure the butter is soft then cream it together with the brown sugar and treacle

Add the egg yolk and continue to beat until the mix becomes fluffy

Spoon in the dry ingredients and stir until smooth

Finally add the dates and beat to combine


Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes (it will keep for up to a week in the fridge)

Preheat the oven to 180C /160C fan

Shape the mixture into walnut sized balls and place them on a plate

On another plate spread your oats out

Roll the dough in the oats and flatten to about 4-5cm wide and slightly less than1cm thick.Image

You should have enough to make 15 – 18 cookies

Place the cookies on a baking sheet and bake for 15 – 20 minutes, until the oats turn a golden brown.

Allow to cool and enjoy with a cup of tea or coffee!

Mince Pies


I love mince pies. It’s only really acceptable to eat them around Christmastime and the fact they aren’t a year round treat makes them all the more delicious. I made Nigella’s cranberry mincemeat last year, it was alright for a change but I prefer darker more traditional mincemeat. I used two types of pastry; some leftover from a bakewell tart and some that was specifically for mince pies. The mince pie pastry was much richer and shorter and the soft almond flavour really complimented the fruitiness of the mincemeat.

For the mincemeat:

  •  275g currants
  • 100g tart dried cherries
  • 250g raisins
  • 100g dried fruit
  • 1 bramley apple
  • 2 dessert apples (bog standard eating apples)
  • 1 lemon – Zest and juice
  • 50g butter
  • 250ml stout
  • 3 tbsp rum or brandy (or to your own taste)
  • 300g brown sugar
  • 1 tsp each of ground mace, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves  (you can change the spices up as you like but I really liked this combination in my Christmas cake so used it here too.)

Tip: Don’t use a normal apple in place of bramley apple as it won’t fall apart and make that lovely thick sauce.

Peel, core and grate your bramley apple

Heat the apple in a pan along with the brown sugar and stout.


Bring to the boil then simmer gently until the apple has started to dissolve making a lovely thick sauce.

While that’s simmering peel, core and finely dice your dessert apples (cox, braeburn, royal gala whatever you fancy).

Add your chopped apples, fruit, spices and finally butter to the saucepan.

Continue to gently heat until you have a thick mincemeat.

Allow the mincemeat to cool until just warm before adding your brandy or rum, stir well and let it cool completely before making the pies.

You can use this mincemeat immediately or store it for a while. I left mine for a couple of days before making mince pies but that’s because I didn’t have time on the day.

 For the pastry:

  • 75 caster sugar
  • 200g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 100g butter
  • 75 – 100g cream cheese
  • 50g almonds

Just as you would with normal pastry start by rubbing together the butter, sugar, flour and baking powder.

Once that’s well rubbed in and you have fine crumbs, add the cream cheese and almonds and repeat until you have a smooth dough.

Chill your dough for at least 30 minutes before using.

Once chilled roll the dough out between two sheets of baking paper, I find this easiest because it doesn’t stick – I lightly dust the sheets with icing sugar as well.

Roll it out to be about ½ cm thick.
I made 8 mince pies from this pastry but could have easily made 10 even with the holly decoration.

Using a circular cutter (or the bottom of an appropriate sized cup if you haven’t got one) cut out circles of pastry big enough to line your muffin/bun tin– approximately 8 – 10 cm depending on what kind of tin you use.

Use a slightly smaller cutter, or cup, to cut the same number of tops for your pies.

At this point the pastry has been quite worked and is a bit soft so I chilled mine in the fridge for 5 minutes before pressing it into the tins.

Spoon in your mincemeat, most bakers say ¾ full but my pies were quite shallow so I did them right to the brim. I ‘ve said it before about fruity pies, there’s nothing worse than a lack of fruit! I don’t want a mince pie with barely there mincemeat.


Dip your finger in cold water and run it along the edges of the pastry before pressing the tops of the pies on and pinching to seal.

Make a couple of little slits in the tops of the pies a knife to allow steam come out of the pies as they cook (you might end up with soggy tops if you don’t).


I decorated mine with bits of leftover pastry, but you could just as easily leave them undecorated and dust with icing sugar once cooked.


Cook for 20 – 25 minutes at 200C

Pastry is very temperamental in my oven so I stuck to the minimum cooking time and checked them a lot. Luckily they were a success, there wasn’t a soggy bottom in sight.