“Amalfi Lemon Tart” from “Jamie Cooks Italy”

The new season of the Great British Bake Off is back on our screens here in the U.K. (past seasons available on Netflix everywhere else), so that means it’s peak baking season at the shops. Suddenly, there are elaborate displays in the supermarkets with baking ingredients, baking equipment and baking tips. This country currently is all in on a home baked good.

Of course, at this house, it’s always baking season since it’s something I love to do. I always have a tin of cookies available, and if time permits, I nearly always make some sort of cake or pie on the weekend. This recipe, then, appealed for obvious reasons– mainly that it was Sunday and I was looking for something to make for dessert.

Tart cases are particularly fiddly and I don’t always get them right. There’s a reason why tarts feature on Bake Off, and I suspect it’s because other people struggle with them too. However, Jamie foolproofs the recipe by instructing you to chill the dough not once but twice– first in the refrigerator and then in the freezer. I’m thrilled to report my pastry didn’t shrink when I baked it, as has been known to happen in the past.

The tart case on this particular recipe, though, is a bit odd, because you use olive oil in it. That was a first for me. Also, I made the mistake of using Extra Virgin Olive Oil, which is extra peppery, and consequently less than ideal for a dessert. Once baked the pepper taste was less overwhelming, but still, next time I’ll just use regular olive oil. The filling, however, was delicious– very much like the cheesecake described in Jamie’s introduction.

And if you’re wondering who we’re backing here in the current Bake Off season, we proudly declare that we are TEAM RAHUL.

If you’d like to make this tart yourself, it’s currently on Jamie Oliver’s website, click through this sentence to see it yourself.

“Amalfi Lemon Tart” from “Jamie Cooks Italy”

“Chocolate chip cookie dough pots” from “Simply Nigella”

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This was one of the first recipes I tried from Nigella’s book, back last year. Chocolate chip cookie dough, but all melty in a pot…what could wrong? Well it turns out NOTHING. This recipe is perfect in every way and I’ve made it countless times this year. Super easy, you can prepare it in the fridge hours before your guests arrive (I use the clingfilm covering to push down the dough in the pots) and it’s always a winner. ALWAYS. Which is pretty much what Maureen said last year too! . So if you’re looking for an easy, crowd pleaser of a dessert then try this one. And enjoy!

“Chocolate chip cookie dough pots” from “Simply Nigella”

“Sticky Toffee Pudding” from “Bread Street Kitchen”

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Kirstin: I made this for Guy Fawkes Night, England’s annual celebration of the Houses of Parliament not being blown up. I’ve never made sticky toffee pudding, but I knew that it would have some fans as Ella always orders it off a menu. This version has added dates which add a particularly lovely sticky and deep texture. And even though I vowed I wouldn’t try any after seeing the quantity of sugar that went into the sauce, it smelled so lovely I couldn’t resist trying a piece. It was divine. Would I make it again? Heck yes! My family have already requested it!

“Sticky Toffee Pudding” from “Bread Street Kitchen”

“An Insanely Good Blondie” from “Stirring Slowly”

DSC03886BLONDIES!

Sorry, but I can’t even think– let alone write– about this food item without getting excited. We love them over here. In fact, we love them so much that in the spring, when I went on a Blondie kick (and kept making this recipe from Mark Bittman), I finally had to say, “I’m sorry but I need to stop making these Blondies. They are as addictive as crack cocaine.”

But after having made a fair few salads from “Happy Salads”– many of which were big hits– the boys were hankering for some good baked goods. So in a break from binge-watching “Stranger Things” (Have you seen it yet? It’s EXCELLENT, if nothing else for the memories it evoked for me of the 1980s), I made these Blondies.

To give credit where credit is due, the photo above was taking by the lovely Kirstin, because she, too, was hankering for some Blondies. What’s not to love? They’re basically dense chocolate chip cookies in cube form. Yum.

This recipe is very similar to the Mark Bittman recipe that we love so much over here. However, she recommends you use coconut oil or butter or a mixture of both, rather than the all-butter approach that Bittman uses. As it was an adventurous day– watching an 80s throwback series with your teenagers will do that to you– I decided to go with using all coconut oil.

This proved to be a controversial decision, as the Blondie traditionalists who aren’t coconut fans (the teenagers and I) did not like the overwhelming taste of coconut that this created. Tim, on the other hand, liked it, but as he’s a coconut fan that makes sense.

Would I make this again? I already have. Twice. However, I went with the all-butter option. Consequently, these blondies lived up to their name.

“An Insanely Good Blondie” from “Stirring Slowly”

“Dark Chocolate, Cardamom and Espresso Mousse Cake” from “Sirocco”

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Kirstin: It’s always a wonderful feeling to find a recipe that you know you will treasure and pass on to others. These recipes, for me, must be easy and delicious. I set the bar even higher when it comes to desserts and baking as our family is not a fan of sweet food. But this recipe might just make into our Hall of Desserts Fame. Fabulously easy and tasting rather special, this chiffon cake is a winner. I was a tad worried about the cardamom, but I shouldn’t have been as it set off the chocolate and coffee perfectly. I am already looking forward to making this again, and smile at the thought of the book page becoming more splattered as the years go by.

“Dark Chocolate, Cardamom and Espresso Mousse Cake” from “Sirocco”

“Peanut Butter Chocolate Cheesecake” from “A Year of Good Eating”

IMG_8147As soon as I read the title of this recipe, I knew I would be eating this in January.

What better way to cheer up a drab month with atrocious weather, grey skies and no holidays to celebrate? For what it’s worth, I’ve dubbed this month my Not Dry January. Unlike the legions of others who’ve decided that this will be the month they give their liver a rest and try to eat more healthy, I’m doing the opposite.

An American by birth– though not by location at the moment– I absolutely love the ambrosia that is the chocolate-peanut butter combination. After all, I was raised thinking that when it came to candy, there was nothing better than a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. In fact, I still think that.

I made this for a dinner party where we would be joined by fellow expat Americans (and a few random Brits). I made it the afternoon before, as per the instructions, as it needs an overnighter in the refrigerator to set.

It did not disappoint. In fact, the only disappointing thing about the experience was because I wanted to be a polite and thoughtful guest, I left behind the remaining 1/4 of the cheesecake to my hosts. But I certainly missed not being able to have seconds the next day.

Yum.

If you’d like to make this yourself, click through this sentence to find the original recipe in The Guardian.

“Peanut Butter Chocolate Cheesecake” from “A Year of Good Eating”

“Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Pots” from “Simply Nigella”

IMG_7936I’ve always been a sucker for a warm chocolate chip cookie, though I know I am not alone in this weakness. When I was at university in the U.S., a popular restaurant that students went to for celebrations offered up its own version of a warm chocolate chip cookie called “Killer Cookie for Two.” [Quick pause to check on Google Maps to see if it is still there. It is! The Killer Cookie lives!]

The Killer Cookie for Two (or one, if you have a broken heart) has: “Large homemade chocolate chip cookie baked to order, homemade ice cream, Guinness infused hot fudge whipped cream, maraschino cherries.” Yum. And can I just say, “God Bless America.”

In any case, this recipe reminds me so much of the Killer Cookie. This recipe is pure genius. Basically, you make half the quantity of a regular chocolate chip cookie recipe, put it in ramekins, bake, and eat warm. What’s not to love?

It was a monumental hit when I made it as a surprise after-school snack.

For what it’s worth, Nigella says to distribute the dough among six ramekins, but I distribute it among four. I think that was a popular decision.

Will I be making it again? You better believe it. Though I might have to rename it Killer Cookie Courtesy of Nigella.

Make this! Make this! Make this! The recipe is on Nigella’s website, which you can find by clicking through this paragraph.

“Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Pots” from “Simply Nigella”

“Nutella Brownies” from “Simply Nigella”

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Kirstin: I”m not a big fan of baking. Cooking, sure. But I just don’t have the time to spend whisking eggs and butter to make cakes, and all the more so as I don’t have a particularly good track record with baking in general. So I was intrigued when I saw this recipe. It has just three ingredients; salt, nutella and eggs. How could that even possibly make a brownie? I had to give it a go. I whisked up the eggs to their full fluffiness and then started to feel this might be another disaster as I slowly added the nutella and watched them lose all their air. I have to admit at this point I was desperately thinking what I could serve as an alternative dessert, but stuck them in the oven nevertheless. And wow, was it worth it! They were divine and quickly disappeared!

I know that this recipe will be made over and over. It is perfect for those short of time, ideal for students who want something quick and yummy, perfect for those who come home from work and want something home baked and easy after dinner and most importantly will ensure that this book stays in heavy rotation on the shelf in the kitchen. Give them a go yourself! You will not be disappointed.

Genius, Nigella. You are a bloody genius!

“Nutella Brownies” from “Simply Nigella”

“Chocolate Tart” from “Tom Kerridge’s Best Ever Dishes”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you’d like to make this yourself, find the recipe on the BBC website by clicking through this sentence.

I made this for Sunday lunch. I would have included some dialogue but for the presence of Pablo, our Spanish exchange student, at the table. So we let Pablo off the hook.

Not surprisingly, it was delicious. I say, “not surprisingly” because it used 750 grams of milk chocolate. That’s a lot of milk chocolate. Through bitter experience I know that you need to get good-quality milk chocolate for a recipe like this (and Tom Kerridge backed me up on this because he said to get “the best quality you can find”). So getting 750 grams of Green & Black’s milk chocolate meant I needed to get a second mortgage on the house.

Kidding. But it was still expensive.

I deviated from the original recipe in one crucial respect. It called for a 36 by 12 centimetre rectangular tart pan, which we don’t have. I’m sure you’re not surprised to hear that I am loathe to buy special equipment when I test out recipes for Cookbook a Month (I would need a second-second mortgage– or would that be second mortgage squared?). So I found out that my 9 inch round tart pan was compatible, volume size, with the one Tom said we should use, so I went with my own pan. I’m pretty sure it would taste the same if it was a rectangular shape or a round shape, but perhaps further testing is required.

The recipe for the pastry and the tart worked great. I was dubious that milk chocolate would work, as I usually use dark chocolate for this sort of recipe, but milk chocolate was also good. The coffee cream was a nice touch, but the majority of the table (i.e. those under the age of 16) were ambivalent, so I don’t know if I’d go to the trouble of making it again.

The aspect of the recipe that didn’t work at all was the topping of carmalised almonds. This might be down to operator error, or it might be down to vague instructions, or it could be a combination of them both. Either way, it was a faff and it was frustrating that it didn’t turn out how I expected it would. (However, having just watched him making this on BBC iPlayer, it turns out I did it exactly right. I guess I just didn’t like it.)

When it came time to eat it, I was surprised by how strong the amaretto was. I didn’t like it, and the reaction at the table was mixed. By the next day, I decided to give a fair portion of it to my friends who made appreciative noises when I told them I was making it the day before. They LOVED it. I still was unconvinced.

But by the time I had another slice two days later, the strong amaretto taste had disappeared and I can say it was absolutely delicious.

Would I make this again? Yes, but I don’t know if I’d go to the trouble of making the coffee cream or the topping. But the rest of it gets an A*.

 

“Chocolate Tart” from “Tom Kerridge’s Best Ever Dishes”

“Strawberry Poppy Seed Crisp” from “A Modern Way to Eat”

Kirstin: I don’t have any images of this cooked, even though I’ve now made it three times now. And that’s because it’s so yum it gets served and eaten straight away. I absolutely love this recipe. There’s something wonderful about the citrus and strawberries mixed together. And the poppy seeds in the topping works a treat. Yes, we will be having this again and again. But there’s something missing from the recipe in the book, so I use the web version of this.

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“Strawberry Poppy Seed Crisp” from “A Modern Way to Eat”